September 30, 2004

a lot of prologue

I was feeling better yesterday, but the drive home turned out to be a nightmare - dizziness even when I didn't move my head, some stomach cramps. I was very upset by the time I got home. I think I may have gotten a bit dehydrated, which just made everything else worse.

I'm not an idiot: it's just much harder than you'd think avoiding dehydration when you live and work out in a desert.

I didn't eat much dinner, which may have contributed to some vivid dreams. I didn't go to the gym this morning, not wanting to push things. When I woke up to Rudder's alarm, I was thinking about work and what I needed to do today. After I feel back asleep, I dreamed that I was trying to enter to-dos into my planner, while Hermione Granger was traying to explain to several of us about some much more important problem we were facing. (Voldemort-related, no doubt. I do hope he's not coming to work here.)

I suspect Hermione was in my dreams because I was reading a discussion of whether HP is fantasy over at Patrick Neilsen Hayden's place. Some of that was a discussion of the exact definition of "genre fantasy", but at least one person was claiming that HP is not primarily fantasy because the plot could be easily rewritten to omit any fantastic elements (positing Harry as an alien or whatever). I disagree strongly; I don't believe that that claim is correct anyhow (a rewrite might be possible but it would be very extensive and could not be automated, in my opinion) but more because I don't read the books for their plot. In fact, what plot? "Harry finds out he's a wizard, Book 1. Book 1 and all subsequent books: Harry, generally in company with Hermione and Ron, learns things, gets in trouble for poking in where he shouldn't, overcomes obstacles, and inconclusively defeats Voldemort. I presume Volume 7 will end with "conclusively defeats Voldemort". I grant some of those obstacles are fascinating in their own right and range from dragons to merpeople to Umbridge to his own friends. Still, the plot in itself is simple and satisfying (to me at least, because I have a simple mind). That's not a bad thing; I'm not convinced a plot is strictly necessary for all books. what's the plot in Little Women, or Tom Sawyer, or Tristram Shandy? "Jo grows up" or "Tom lives for a year or two" or "My uncle likes fortifications" isn't much of a plot - individual episodes have plots, like Tom's running away or his being lost in Indian Cave, but the overall arc, doesn't to any extent. Harry does have a plot, both in each book and over the series, but I don't read it for that. I read it for the world: I want to live in Hogwarts. I want to hang out in Hagrid's hut and sneak around under an invisibility cloak and prove I have the courage to be in Gryffindor. I want to find out magic isn't impossible. I want to be Harry, and fortunately I can, at least while the book is open.

I'm writing all of this here because the PNH discussion is a month and a half old and because this has all already been written there, mostly better.

And that was a long prologue, but I was thinking about HP and its (lack of plot) in connection to my current rereading of Caroline Stevermer's A College of Magics. (Spoilers below.) In addition to a world I'd like to live in and characters I'd like to know or be (I loved Jane and was delighted to find her again in A Scholar of Magics), ACoM has lashings of plot. On the other hand, it also has a lot of little holes and inconsistencies and loose endings. It reads like a first book, though I don't think it is Stevermer's first. For example, the whole first half of the book is at Greenlaw college; Faris does grow up a bit but otherwise the transition from school to Galazon seems a little abrupt. The college is so lovingly limned it's impossible not to feel interrupted when Faris is simultaneously called home and expelled and just leaves, forever. Also, why do we have the character of Odile? How did Faris make it through her first year without so much as learning any other first-years' names? Why does Menary hate Faris and what is Uncle Brinker's motivation? (Those two may be answered in the book; it's been a while since my first reading.) Can Faris rebuild her love of Galazon? If not, why does she still care what happens to it? Will Julian age normally? And so on. None of that keeps me from enjoying either ACoM or A Scholar of Magics, though.

Posted by dichroic at 01:25 PM | Comments (0)

workout entry

Workout entry:

It's been a while since I did this but I think I've reconstructed accurately. I'm working out a little less frequently now because of coxing practice and flying lessons and have had to cut some practices due to early meetings, but have added in some longer pieces, like last Sunday's COMPLETED MARATHON (and the crowd goes wild!).

Wednesday, 9/15: 14 km in the single.
Friday, 9/17: 8.2 km in the single.
This is making it really obvious which days I had early meetings.

Saturday, 9/18: half-marathon (21097 m) on the erg.

Monday, 9/20: 8 km in the single.
Tuesday, 9/21: 1605 m warmup, weights, 1000 m cooldown on the erg.
Thursday, 9/23: 7 km on the erg.
Friday, 9/24: Coxed instead of rowing, but did walk 2.4 km.

Sunday, 9/26: Marathon! (42195 meters or 26.2 miles)
I took Monday and Tuesday off due to vertigo after that.

Wednesday: Rowed 6.1 km - only one lap because the wind and waves were rough, and , 9/29walked 2.4 km.

Thursday, 9/30: Slacked off, after spending Wednesday evening in bed whimpering due to rejuvenated vertigo.

Year to date: 1268.0 km as of 9/30

Posted by dichroic at 11:23 AM | Comments (0)

September 29, 2004

here we go again

My getting-out-of-bed line each morning is, more or less, "Here we go again". (Imagine a sardonically humorous tone here.) Of course it varies: the general gamut runs from "Oh, shit, here we go again," to "Here we go again - hey I get to do something fun today!" You wouldn't necessarily hear me say all that if you were actually in my bedroom (in fact, if you were actually in my bedroom when I woke up, my line would be anything from "Who the hell are you?" to "Uh-oh," depending how menacing you are). The usual soundtrack to my getting up is more like "Rrrrrr," or, if I'm particularly sore, "RrrrRRRrrR". You can take it from me, though, it more or less translates to "Here we go again."

What we also have here is a perfect illustration of how certain authors manage to establlish a foothold in my brain that lingers a while after I finish the book. The above can be blamed on my rereading a couple of Bill Bryson books in the last fwe days. Anyway.

I've often wondered what it would be like to have such a superlatively wonderfully Proper Job that I bounded out of bed each morning with a song on my lips. (Actually, it would probably still sound like "Rrrrr," at least until I had splashed water on my face and brushed my teeth.) I'm not really sure it's realistically possible. As I've said before, I do like my current job quite a lot, though I wouldn't call it my Proper Job in the Gaudy Night sense of the words. Anyhow, my bed is large and very comfy. Sheets are flannel. Pillows are feather and down. Comforter is down and flannel covered. (We've discovered that flannel, being soft and absorbent, is as comfortable in Arizona summer as in northern winter.) Most of all, Rudder is snuggly, and it's finally getting cool enough for me to begin appreciating his thermal properties. I'm not sure there's any kind of work in the world that would make me eager to leave that bed.

That said, I've been offered a new job (same company) so we'll see how my mornings go - I'm just hoping for a good ratio of "Oh, good" to "Oh shit" before the "Here we go again" part. At the very least, I'll be spared the part about "Here we go again with a forty mile drive to work."

Posted by dichroic at 12:54 PM | Comments (0)

September 28, 2004

conflicting causes

Baxk to work today - fortunately it's been a calm sort of day, relatively. Actually, driving in wasn't a problem and neither is sitting at a computer. Both are activities where you tend to keep your head fairly still. What's been more of a problem are "real-life" sorts of activities, like getting water or going to the bathroom, where I might happen to look up or down. Still, I think the dizziness has been less frequent than yesterday. I can't quite tell whether that's because I move my head less in an office setting or because it's really better.

I'd have to say I don't really understand the reasons for this. The doctor said it was most likely due to a combination of some fluid he saw behind my eardrums and low electrolytes. Considering it came on right after doing a marathon, the electrolytes seem far more likely.On the other hand, if that were the main cause, I'd think the dizziness would just be more or less constant, not only when I tilt my head. That seems more like an inner-ear thing.

I'm not dwelling on this because I'm a hypochondriac - it's just that I'm an engineer and I'm frustrated because the proximate and ultimate causes don't seem to be matching up in a logical way. At any rate, there's no queasiness so the whole experience is just a little strange, not particularly unpleasant. I do expect to row tomorrow (but a light workout, in case the low-electrolyte thing is true).

On the positive side, there may be some good things about to happen at work. More tomorrow or so on that.

Posted by dichroic at 03:29 PM | Comments (1)

September 27, 2004


Oig. I think I was a little behind on my hydration Saturday (though Egret's excellent matzo ball soup certainly helped) and was feeling just a wee touch unbalanced going into the erg marathon. After it and ever since, that "wee touch" has become the sort of dizziness that necessitates holding on to a handy sofa cushion, railing or husband when tilting my head - not every time, oddly enough, but frequently.

On the plus side, it made me feel much more jusitified in calling in a post-marathon sick day. Rudder took one too (after rowing in the morning, the masochist) so he was nice and handy when I needed to hold on to him.

I did go see a doctor just in case it was something to worry about; after hearing the whole story and checking me out he concluded it was probably just a combination of a bit of (allergy-induced) fluid behind the eardrums and low electrolytes. He prescribed taking it easy for a few days and trying to drink a lot and eat fruits rich in potassium. I will say it's an entertaining sort of malady, sort of like having a roller coaster in my head.

I canceled my flying lesson tomorrow, though, just because it didn't seem like a great idea to fly dizzy. I hated to, because I hadn't flown over the weekend, but better rusty than risky.

Posted by dichroic at 06:15 PM | Comments (0)

September 26, 2004


Just finished erg maarathon....and yes it s the same distance, 26.2 miles, 42195 meters....can't walk....can't type...everything hurts.

But I did finish!

Posted by dichroic at 02:18 PM | Comments (1)

September 24, 2004

family at holidays

As ways for resetting your moral compass, there's solitude and reflection and then there are friends. Maybe there's a reason that, though the High Holy Days are a time for introspection, they begin and end with big services that are held in community, usually with big crowds showing up.

My family has never been that observant. We went to holiday services and some Shabbat services, lit Shabbat and Chanukah candles (though not Havdalah candles) and my brother and I went to Hebrew school, but we didn't keep kosher, recite the Shema when we woke up and other blessings through the day, or go to daily services. For holidays, we'd have a big family dinner, but without doing a full-blown Seder at Passover or all the blessing of bread and wine before and thanksgiving prayers after other meals.

Now that I'm a few thousand miles away without too many other Jews around, I like to celebrate major holidays with a big dinner of my own. We usually invite friends over (even though I generally have to explain what the holidays are) and have had T2 and Egret several times.

I didn't get to do much for Rosh Hashanah this year: too much going on and it happened midweek. But Egret decided we'd had them over too many times and she needed to reciprocate, so she invited us over for dinner for Yom Kippur.

I will wait while you all go "Awww...." and then "Uh-oh."

No, I didn't have the heart to point out that it's traditionally a fasting holiday. I don't fast these days anyway, so it didn't seem terribly relevant. But what a gesture of friendship. She's not Jewish, mind you (actually, I think she has about 1/4 or 1/8 Jewish blood, but was brought up Catholic). I did have to laugh the other day when she asked she needed to put out salt water and parsley or if that was another holiday. Then I had to sniffle today when she told me her menu: Chicken soup. Matzo balls. An apricot chicken recipe she found at a Jewish site. Again: not Jewish. Just trying to make a friend feel loved. (Oh, and also homemade bread and chocolate cake. Mmm.)

Now you can go "Awwwww...*snif*" without the "Uh-oh" afterward.

Posted by dichroic at 01:35 PM | Comments (0)

September 22, 2004

setting a compass

I just read an entry in a journal I enjoy that's got me thinking. It's written by someone I respect a lot and disagree with on most issues. The writer is a Christian, a religious one who would probably use that as one of the first three nouns in describing herself. She's just back from a retreat and feels her life has changed, that her memories will forever after be divided into Before and After. I'm sure she's right; she knows herself more directly and frankly than most anyone I've met and tend to be very sure about her choices for herself. At the same time, it felt too sudden for fickle humanity. I have never yet come across a person who's changed all at once and forever. Even people who have made a real change (and it does happen) usually wobble in their direction a bit, especially at first. Sometimes there's real backsliding, but even that doesn't mean a change hasn't been made, as long as each step backward is matched by one or more steps forward.

I may not be reading what she intended to write and it's probable she never intended to imply she thought the change would be instant and total. She was trying to use limited words to explain something not entirely explainable and so the words might have oversimplified something not meant to be simple. Yes, I'm hedging here. I'm trying to say that the rest of this is about what her words made me think, not necessarily a comment (and certainly not a criticism!) on what she was actually saying.

Anyhow, it got me thinking about compasses. Most airplanes have at least two compasses, a magetic one and a gyroscopic one. The gyrocompass is easier to use while flying; it has less of a lag and it turns the same way as the aircraft, only mapped vertically instead of horizontally. (I mean, the aircraft's nomarlly-horizontal yaw axis, the one that swings north, east, south, or west, is shown on the vertical instrument panel.) However, the gyrocompass in a light aircraft doesn't have any permanent reference point. It just responds to the resistance of a turn against its own spin. A mag compass, on the other hand, has a bit of a lag before it responds to a turn, and it turns the opposite way to he aircraft (same axis but when I go clockwise from North to East), it goes widdershins to get from the N to the E) so it's a little harder to use. On the other hand, it has the Earth's magnetic field as a permanent reference, so it always knows where magnetic North is. That means that I use the gyrocompass for normal operations, but occasionally when I'm flying, itwill precess and I have to reset it to match the magnetic compass.

I think people are like that. In normal operations we use our own sense of what feels right as a guide. Sometimes, though, a moral compass may precess and you need to reset it to match true North, whether you do that from the Torah or the Koran, the U.S. Constitution or the Ethical Humanist Manifesto, from talking to an advisor or just thinking about your own ethical poles for a while. I think that's the best explanation I've come up with in words for why, in each of the last several years, I've felt a need to spend some time at the High Holidays just thinking and what I've done and thought and what I should do. I'm resetting my compass.

Posted by dichroic at 03:44 PM | Comments (0)

September 21, 2004

mighty big car (not!)

It was actually in the high 60s this morning as I drove to work. Driving in with the top down and the heater on just a touch to warm my feet.... ahhhh. And Fred Eaglesmith playing to set the driving mood.

At least half of Fred's songs are about car sin one way or another. It was funny, the only time I drove Rudder's Hummer, the Orange Crush, in to work, listening to the Eaglesmith CD for the first time, when his song "Mighty Big Car" came on. It was even funnier today, hearing it as I drove the Mozzie, my tiny convertible. I felt like a mosquito with delusions of elephancy.

The KnittingNovices discussion group has been having a thread lately on things to do while knitting, like watching old movies or listening to books on tape. One woman mentioned using a cookbook stand to read while she knits. (An idea I should try.) I replied with the following, which I suspect may not be a popular view on that particular list:

I've used books on tape while driving and for long pieces on the rowing machine (Harry Potter V will take you through quite a few 10-20 km pieces :-) but if I'm downstairs in my house, as I usually am while knitting, there are *all those* books around and I can't resist their siren song. In fact, one of the reasons I took up knitting was to having something to do with my hands while reading. (I can't do beadwork and read.) I tend to sit sideways in a big comfy chair, so my book rests on my knees and my knitting basket is on the floor beside me. It can't be more than a few inches from the chair or the trailing yarn is long enough to fascinate the cats.

I won't say it's always easy doing both at the same time; this is why I don't anticipate doing any complex lace patterns any time soon. But if I had to give up one or the other, it would be no contest - the knitting would have to go. I read about like I breathe - constantly and by necessity. Incidentally, one tip that may be useful is that magazines are a bit easier to combine with knitting than books. They stay open flat and tend to require a bit less focus.

I can just see people reading that and thinking, "Rowing machine? People actually use those? Lots of books in a house? Why would you do that? And giving up knitting for reading? Is she mad?"

On the other hand, someone else remarked about knitting while listening to audiobooks, "Don't they get in the way of the conversations you have with yourself?" That struck me for a moment, until I realized that my first reaction had been, "You need silence to have conversations with yourself?" I don't even need quiet to have conversations with other people. I know people who require an uninterrupted block of time in which to read, or who can't talk when there are interruptions; I can participate in one conversation while casting asides into another (at a party, for example) and will always rather read than not even if I only have time for half a page. I think it may be easier for me to multitask than not to. Born that way, I guess. It's just as well, because I think my life would drive me insane otherwise.

I may also try to scale back keep only my hands busy this Saturday, Yom Kippur, when I would like to pay a little more attention to the "conversations I have with myself." Or Whoever.

Posted by dichroic at 02:30 PM | Comments (0)

September 20, 2004

nope, didn't win

Bummer. Didn't win a contest I entered. I didn't really expect to, both on the logical premise that loads of other people were bound to be entering, some of them more talented, and on the less-logical grounds that I had a strong hunch I owuld win and my strong hunches are so invariably wrong as almost to constitute real psychic powers, just in the backwards direction.

I can console myself on two grounds. First, I honestly thought my own essay was better-written than most of the several winning ones I read, much of the credit for which should go to my proof-readers. It was just a different sort of thing, less personal than any of the winning ones. (Except perhaps the one about mushrooms. How you can give a "power of purpose" award to an essay on mushrooms with only a small and inconclusive digression on an unnamed person's story defeats me and my logical brain.) I mean here "better written" mostly in terms of style, I should say; several of the winners had excellent substance, delivering more emotional impact than my essay.

Second, I entered because Mer told me to. She thought my writing would suit the contest and was good enough, and I take that as a huge compliment.

So now I have an essay on the common theme of a driving purpose and its power to unite people to a common and difficult goal, and no idea what to do with it. It's sort of an exhortatory thing. I can't think of anyone who does much with that except motivational organizations like Franklin Covey, and they seem to lean more towards epigrams than essays. Oh, well. I suppose honing a skill can never be entirely a waste, and I probably got enough fun to be repaid for my work just in thinking what I'd do with $100,000.

Posted by dichroic at 02:43 PM | Comments (0)

September 19, 2004

a yarn-store yarn, or a real-life parable

Rudder has spent the last hour watching a TV show about making the world's biggest slice of toast. For a man who is so hyperactive, he has a surprisingly high tolerance for TV inanity between his spurts of activity.

Yesterday I went to check out a local yarn store I hadn't been in befor. I meant to get two sets of needles (metal for some boucle yarn that wasn't sliding over bamboo ones, wood for another project I want to take on a plane next month), needle gauge, and some better stitch markers. I got talked into trying a Denise set (only about $15 more than the individual needles would have been) and also ended up buying the markers and gauge, a book (Treasury of Magical Knitting by Cat Bordhi on knitting Moebius-strip scarves) and of course some yarn. Oops. After that splurge I'm attempting to talk myself out of a visit to the shoe store today.

On the more virtuous side, I set a new PR for a half-marathon erg yesterday (21097 meters, 13.1 miles) and took my 3rd IFR flying lesson today.

While I was in the yarn store, a woman bustled in talking on a cell phone and briefly interuppted her conversation to say that she was a teacher directing a group of children making masks, and could the store donate any yarn? Some of the girls wanted it for hair. The store employee referred her to the owner, who was at a worktable in back of the store. The teacher said, "Oh, I'm really in a hurry, could you just ask her for me?"

It gets worse. The employee patiently explained that the teacher would do better asking for herself. She ungraciously told the person on the other end of the cell phone she'd call back, turned off the phone, walked to the back of the store and explained her mission again. The store owner explained that they had several charities to whom they already donated scrap wool. The teacher said, "But I'm a teacher! And I don't have much money for these things. Well, could I at least be put on your list for next year?" The store owner explained that there was a waiting list. At that point a customer working at the back table offered to donate her own scraps for the students. The teacher spent at least five or ten minutes bustling back and forth kooing for her cards, not finding them, and making a production of giving the woman her phone number. Then she said something like, "I used to do all this stuff (gesturing around the store) but I'm way too busy to just sit around a yarn store knitting these days."

To her credit, the other customer did not immediately withdraw her offer to donate yarn. Instead, she told the teacher, "Actually, I work taking care of homeless back home in Puerto Rico," and then listed several other things she does, all both noble and time-consuming. I wanted to go over and cheer for her after the teacher had left (reminding the other woman several more times to call her about the yarn) but I settled for talking to her while I was trying some sample needles to see if I liked them. She was very interesting. I think still another customer did say something about her being a "good person", because I heard her respond, "No, I am not a good person. But I try to be one. That is all you can do, to try."

Pity she couldn't send herself along with her scrap yarn to those kids making the masks, I think they might have learned more of value from her than from their own teacher.

Posted by dichroic at 03:03 PM | Comments (0)

September 17, 2004

dolphin illusion

Very sleepy. Unfortunately, 1:38 is a bit too early to go home, even on a Friday afternoon.

As I was rowing under a bridge this morning before sunrise, when the dawn was only just lightening, I saw the usual ROTC cadets jogging across the bridge and someone else walking the other way. I was facing into the eastern sky, so I saw them all only in silhouette. This person seemed to have a low ponytail, was walking with his or her head down, looking at the ground, and was wearing some sort of backpack that stuck out at the bottom. At a certain angle as I rowed away, the bowed head, smooth line from the head down the back, pack sticking out, and legs hidden behind the bridge rail made him or her look just like a porpoise, standing vertically with the head forward, curved back, and fin.

It's not often you see a porpoise on a bridge over you.

Posted by dichroic at 02:45 PM | Comments (0)

September 16, 2004

what did I just do?

There is a strong possibility that I am a masochist after all. Witness the following series of emails between me and my prospective doubles partner in the marathon (his are indented):

Any decision on the double in the Natchitoches marathon?

What with working on an instrument flight rating and getting ready to cox at the Head of the Charles, I need to know how much of a slacker I can be on my rowing :-) Also, Rudder's planning his annual ergathon Sept 26 (it was the 25th but I asked him to change it because of Yom Kippur) so I have to decide if I should actually do it this year or if I should just be the designated movie changer.

Sorry but I won't really have time to train which wouldn't be fair to you. Plus I have only been in a double a couple of times, so I probably wouldn't make a very good partner. Why not row a single?

Because I'm not a complete masochist! Actually, if I were all that worried about training I'd have found someone to train with, like Rudder and She-Hulk. I just need to do a little training on distance because I am NOT naturally a high-endurance person. I want to do the race in a double because (a little known fact) doubles are less effort to row than singles, not to mention faster, and I asked you because I wanted to do it at a leisurely pace rather than with someone who'd want to do it at a race pace.

So maybe we should try rowing together and see how it feels. Though if you want to stick with the single just to see if you can beat your previous time, or if you just flat prefer rowing a single I understand. Either way, I'll be there, whether I row or spectate.

Dam, you are far too logical, what you say makes a lot of sense in spite of my creeping feelings of old age onset machoism. I am presently planning on doing an open water race on October 3rd, so I will plan on getting together with you after that weekend and we will take the double for a test drive. For a change it will be great to share the public humiliation.

I keep telling people what someone told me an older woman runner says about coming in last in every 10K she enters, "But I'm miles ahead of the ones who stayed on the couch!"

Right, It still sucks!!! Oh yeah you are in charge of determining crew uniforms and all travel accessories and lining up corporate sponsors and working with the media.

I think crew uniforms translate to "comfort first". And come to think of it I may not want to wear a uni because I'll warn you, I cannot go 5 hours without a bathroom (or bush) break.

I think we should be sponsored by Energizer..."still going, and going, and going..."

What a Sissy, I only stopped 3 times last year. I know all the key bushes and overhanging trees. I'm thinking like running shorts which I usually row in. I need to buy a new pair anyway. The beauty of the double is you can take several changes of clothes and a barbecue.

Oh, I think a barbeque is way too heavy. But we've got a good camp stove....

So yes, I just talked myself into several hours of pain and suffering I could easily have avoided, not to mention the chance to slack off this fall. But at least he'll keep me entertained during the marathon.

Posted by dichroic at 05:32 PM | Comments (0)

the good and the ugly

They're forecasting us a high of 98 Saturday, 91 Sunday, and 88 Monday. Yay!!!! Finally down out of the 100s. With luck, and given the way our seasons tend to change all at once, it will stay out.

Tomorrow I have meetings from 10-11:30, 11-12:30, 12:30-1:30. Even aside from the not-unusual overlap, this is a problem, given that the cafeteria is open 11-1 and that I am Not Functional if I go too long without food.

Posted by dichroic at 03:54 PM | Comments (0)

yet another no-free-time rant

How not to portray a professional image or impress people: arrive 15 minutes late for an 8AM meeting. I allowed 40 minutes for a drive that should take 25 even during rush hour, and it ended up taking me an hour or a little more. Which is pretty scary when you consider it takes 40-60 minutes to drive tomy current office, more than twice as far away. This is not a good way to get away from having to make that commute.

Meanwhile my job is busy enough that I won't be able to work from home Friday, as I had hoped. Actually, if I had been smarter I would have gone home and telecommuted after my morning meeting today, since that was on my side of town and I only have one other meeting today which I could have called into. Drat. (No, wait, I did have one more. It just got canceled. So I'm not colluding in my own lack of time.)

I notice this particularly in reading other knitters, in blogs or newsgroups. People are always writing about finishing a sweater in five days or a poncho in a week or whatever. Me, I'm lucky if I get to knit more than one row in a day. O course, it would be faster if I weren't trying to read at the same time, but I'd be far more likely to keep reading and quit knitting than the other way around. Books are my sine qua non.

Posted by dichroic at 01:36 PM | Comments (0)

September 15, 2004

booking it

Some people just shouldn't be allowed into a bookstore when they're even mildly ticked off. I decided to spend my luch hour spending on my favorite vice. Fifty dollars later...
...I remembered why I don't generally go into bookstores on my lunch hour.

The ticked off part was just because of the way work's been going; the boss has been edgy and I've had meetings starting at 8AM, meetings ending at 5PM, and everywhere in between. At least the boss seems a little calmer today, though my schedule's not.

Also, I had a pleasant moment of self-realization when I was asking someone at work if she knew just where this bookstore is (it's in a very confusing shopping center). I happened to mention that I could as easily go to DSW (discount shoes) in the same center, and she said, "Oh, shoes! That would be much better than books!" My visceral reaction was, "Not even close," much as I do like shoes. So yes, I'm still me. I may have to act all professional sometimes and even (gasp) pretend to be tactful, but it's kind of nice to know basics don't change.

One of the things I bought was Maggie Righetti's Knitting in Plain English. Paging through it, I think I've figured out how to make my poncho project much less of a pain in the ass. The problem is, it's only a 3-stitch repeating pattern but when I make a mistake I can't see it on this openwork pattern so it tends to be much later when I notice it and this pattern is hard to unknit. I'm spending way too much time recounting to make sure I still have 45 stitches in each row. I think the solution may be to place markers every 6 or 9 stitches, so I can see where I am more easily. (This is probably a "Duh" moment for experienced knitters, of whom I am emphatically not one.)

Posted by dichroic at 05:31 PM | Comments (0)

September 14, 2004

avgas WHERE?

I feel like an undercover superhero today. Mostly it's just the clothes, though.

It actually took me some time to decide what to wear today, since I had a flying lesson before work. I needed something I could climb around an airplane in (which lets out tight short skirts). A bigger problem was that it's hard not to get dirty - it's even worse with the newer Cessna 172s (which this was) because instead of having to check the fuel at a sump point (to make sure it's avgas and to look for water or grit in the fuel) on each wing, you now have to check it in 13 places. Thirteen! There are five on each wing and three on the underside of the belly, which necessitates getting down on the ground. For obvious reasons, the ground at an airport is often not a miracle of cleanliness. That is probably my least favorite engineering decision on the new Cessnas. Also, since I was flying at 5AM, I'd be doing all that in the dark.

I didn't want to be too hot, knowing I'd be sweating anyway by the end of the lesson. (Instrument flying is hard!) I didn't want to have to change for work because I knew I'd be in a hurry, since it's forty miles and I had an 8AM meeting. And of course, there's that annoying professionalism thing.

What I came up with was a black camisole, black jeans, and a long loose plum-colored shirt to be left in the car during the lesson and worn over the outfit for work. I got a glimpse of myself in a mirror after the lesson and realized I looked like an extra for Charlie's Angels in the camisole and black stretch jeans. (Maybe an extra who would need a bit of digital touchup, but still.) If I could do a spinning kick at all, I could do one in this getup. Moreover, the tunic on top is closed with snaps, not buttons, so if the need arose I could rip it off dramatically without even needing a phone booth.

I did manage to keep relatively clean, except for a spritz of avgas down my cleavage. Think Rudder would consider that sexy?

Posted by dichroic at 01:31 PM | Comments (0)

September 13, 2004

wine, flying, ponchos, elves...yeah, I'm rambling again

I'm just going to have to give up drinking red wine on the evenings before rowing. It just unsettles my stomach too much, drat it. This morning I got all the way out to the lake and then decided it wasn't going to work and came back home, which of course is a serious waste of potential sleeping time. I tought about erging but decided not to by virtue of yesterday's half-marathon in two parts (12.2 km in the boat, 9 km on the erg). Unfortunately I'm also going to miss tomorrow's workout because I've got a flying lesson. I've really got to ping D about that marathon. This would all be a bit easier to manage if I knew I weren't doing it, and it would at least have a point if I am.

After all that fuss about having the erg marathon on Yom Kippur, it turns out I have an (internal) interview on Rosh Hashanah. I'm not sure whether to regard that as a Bad Thing or an appropriate augur of new beginnings.

On the clothing front, I'm wearing the poncho I bought yesterday, and it seems to be working; I've gotten three compliments, one effusive, and no cries of "What the hell are you wearing?" It's a dressy, indoors one, lightweight in a delicte lacy knit, waist-length and with slits at the side that come up to my elbows, so it's not in the way for writing or typing, and is in shades of green and brown. More elf/sprite clothing. (Do elves wear ponchos?) . I like elf clothing, actually, and have a distressing paucity of it in my wardrobe these days. It's hard to be both corporate and elvish - good thing I don't actually have to be terribly corporate, engineers as a group not being known for their fashion senses. Or for being elven, I suppose.

Posted by dichroic at 03:13 PM | Comments (0)

September 12, 2004

my sports: flying, rowing, shopping

I shouldn't be here. I should be over on my bank site paying bills, or over on Excel preparing some stuff I have to do later in the week or possible somewhere else productive.

Yeah, right. I like to think of it not so much as "procrastinating" but as "getting warmed up to work". That would be more convincing if it didn't take as long as the actual work.

Yesterday morning I went flying, piloting a Cessna 172 for the first time in a couple of years - we did both some under-the-hood instrument work and some basic landing practice. I actually was less rusty than expected, and got compliments from both the instructor and, by far the harder to impress, from Rudder, who was riding along in the back seat. After that I went for a massage, having been sore as a consequence of making some changes to my rowing stroke, and then completed my financial ruin with a binge at the mall.

J.Jill was especially productive; I came away with a skirt and microsuede shirt that when combined, need only soft boots and pointed ears to make a perfect elven costume (it's my hippie side coming out) as well as a pair of pants that, unusually for that store, actually fit. Well, almost; I had to order the petite size. Petite Sophisticate was nearly as forthcoming, with a plain but perfectly fitting black blazer and Oxford shirt that I can rationalize as being classics I can wear forever or until they self-destruct. There was also a poncho because I like them and am hoping they'll be more than a one-season fad, and the phone charger than was one of my reasons for being in the mall lin the first place.

Today I rowed a double this morning - I was hoping to get in some distance but the woman I was rowing with hasn't sculled (two oars) for a while. All her calluses are from sweep rowing (one oar) which means they're in the wrong place and so she was getting blisters halfway through our first lap. She taped them up and we did finish two laps (12.2 km) and then I came home and (this is where I prove what a virtuous and diligent rower I am) pulled another 9km on the erg just to finish out a half-marathon distance. And now I really need to go do real work.

Posted by dichroic at 02:59 PM | Comments (0)

workout entry

Thursday, 9/2: 1K warmup and 1K high-resistance low-rate on the erg, weights (1 set of 20, added more stations), another 1K on the erg.

Friday, 9/3: drills in the single, 9200m. Walked 1600m.

Saturday, 9/4: videotaping in the single, 8500m.

Monday, 9/6: pick drills and readjustment of height at the finish on the erg, 3143 m.

Tuesday 9/7: 1200 m on the erg plus shortish weight set. That evening, did 1110 in 5:53 on the erg - got Rudder to observe and coach.

Wednesday, 9/8: two laps in the single, 12200 m.

Thursday, 9/9: 1K warmup plus 200m cooldown plus 2x10 on erg - 1508 in 8:58 min plus extended weight session.

Friday, 9/10: 11000m in the single.

Sunday, 9/12: 12,200m in the double with R, plus 9008 in 53:12 on the erg to finish out the half-marathon.

Total YTD distance as of 9/12: 1154.0 km.

Posted by dichroic at 02:50 PM | Comments (0)

September 10, 2004

good news and luck

I guess it's not too bad to get a little teary at work (lunchtime, if you're wondering) over a good cause: Jen has finally heard back. She gets to be a mommy to a lucky girl named Li.

I've known Jen via electrons since before she was even married, and it's been clear for most of that time that she's one of those people for whom one of the highest callings is to be a mom. It's also been clear from reading about her stepson that she's very very good at it, and I can't say how glad I am that she gets to have a baby (toddler) of her very own. I'm hoping hard that everything goes smoothly from here out.

Is it just me or has the whole month of September so far been like something out of a Liavek story? It's not my birthday (well, today I am exactly 37.5, come to think of it) but for a week or two the luck has been flying furiously, not all good but tending more that way. Approved for the IFR reimbursement. Being asked to cox in the Charles and then the boat being picked in the draw. Work things heating up. Rudder driving into the garage a bit more literally than one usually does but not damaging the trim or his truck, other than the rack. Figuring out what may be one of the major reasons I'm slower in the boat than I ought to be. I've got a couple more major decisions that will affect me int he next week or two, and now I'm really curious what will happen.
Posted by dichroic at 01:50 PM | Comments (0)

September 09, 2004

turn-out rates

I think I have a new explanation for low US voter turn-out. If the November election had instead happened a month or two ago, I think turn-out would have been high - it's obviously an important election and we have the memory of last time's narrow margins to coax us to the polls. The longer this goes on, though, the lower each campaign stoops. By November, we may just see voters staying home en masse not through apathy but through disgust.

Posted by dichroic at 01:49 PM | Comments (1)


As I wrote in the previous entry, yesterday Rudder called to ask me to meet him at the garage. Apparently when he went home for lunch, in a moment of brainfade he drove into the garage with the boat rack on the Hummer. The garage roof is only about 4" above the Hummer roof rack sans boat cradle.

Damage to the boat cradle was nil and to the garage roof was minimal, but the Hummer rack to which the boat cradle was attached is not not quite connected at right angles. When I left work I went to pick him up in the Mozzie, my teeny teeny car already full with my gym back and the small tote I carry in to work. I put my gym back behind my seat, a maneuver that is only possible because I'm in about the 10th percentile for height, and then somehow got him and his briefcase stuffed into the passenger seat. We then compounded the problem by deciding to stop for dinner.

I had to laugh a bit at Rudder's goof, but avoided rubbing it in too much for karmic reasons, a wise move in restrospect.

While waiting for food at a local Pan-Asian place we grabbed a table. I had taken my purse out of its usual spot in the work tote and taken it in with me, so slung it over the back of my chair. I may or may not have taken it with me when I went outside to call my parents and wish them a happy 41st anniversary (Rudder stayed at the table.) We somehow got the food into the car with us and all our stuff, drove home, and unpacked: me, Rudder, gym bag, tote, briefcase, food......

No purse. Looked around: car floor behind the seat, passenger footwell, tote, gym bag, even in the food bag incase it somehow jumped in there. Then Rudder drove me back to the restaurant (in my pickup) because I dislike driving without a driver's license, which of course was in my purse. I spoke to the servers, the manager and the busboy and loooked at the seat where I'd been sitting to no avail. No purse. The manager took my number and promised to call if it turned up, which I thought unlikely if it hadn't turned up already. Then it was another ten minutes' drive back home, during which I was resigning myself to replacing credit cards and license trying to figure out how I'd replace all the little things like AAA and health insurance cards.

Just to be sure I checked around one more time ....

and found the purse on the tiny and hard-to-see-onto shelf under the back window, where it must have landed because there was so much other stuff behind my seat. Sigh.

At least it paid back all of the effort of not being obnoxious about Rudder's blunder, and at least my goof only took half an hour to fix and didn't cost several hundred dollars.

Posted by dichroic at 12:46 PM | Comments (0)

September 08, 2004

the Yom Kippurathon

Egret brought a slight problem to my notice Sunday. She had kindly invited us to dinner for Yom Kippur - since I like to celebrate the Jewish holidays as my family always did, with a big dinner, we've had her and T2 over for that a few times, and she kindly decided it was her turn. I thought that was so sweet, since it's not their holiday, that I didn't quite have the heart to point out that this is a fasting holiday. It's not as if I would have been fasting anyway. But that's not the problem.

The problem is that, after asking what day the holiday was, Rudder pointed out that it was the same day he'd invited people over for his annual marathon erg seesion. (It's a BYOE - Bring Your Own Erg - deal). I would rather like to do the marathon this year, at least if I end up competing,but more than that, it's a solemn holiday and even if I'm not participating I don't even want to be around a raucous event like that.

If I were frum (observant), fasting and all that, I'd have no compunction about telling him to reschedule it. (On the other hand, if I were observant I'd be in shul all morning, so it owuld be a nonissue.) However, I don't fast. I do like to observe the holiday season, Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur, in my own way, paying respect to its tradition of reflection and contemplation of the past year. A couple of years ago, I did a "media fast" on Yom Kippur, avoiding TV, radio, and computer on that day and I was thinking of doing that again because it worked well for me. I felt refreshed afterward.

I've asked Rudder to see about rescheduling. He only knows of two other people who plan to do the ergathon this year, so it shouldn't be impossible. If he can't manage it, I may just need to find somewhere quiet to go - the library maybe. I don't feel right asking him not to do something in his own house when I don't have what feels like a real reason, but I don't feel right having it there either.

On the other hand, while I was writing this Rudder called to tell me he'd done a really stupid thing that would have been much more characteristic of me - he accidentally drove into the garage with the boat rack on the Hummer, and the garage roof is only about 4" above the Hummer roof sans rack. Oops. Apparently the boats rack survived nicely but it tore the Hummer's rack track apart. He wants me to meet him at the mechanic's this evening, so this may be a good time to put in a request.

Posted by dichroic at 01:53 PM | Comments (0)

September 07, 2004


Drat. A vote wasted.

For a while there, anyone registered in any party in this state could choose to vote in either major party's primary. That didn't last too long, unfortunately. So for years, though I'd prefer to be registered Independent for accuracy's sake, I've been a registered Democrat purely so I could vote in primaries. Despite our excellent Democratic governor, this state is Republican enough that the Dem. primaries are often unimportant, with one or no candidates for local office. On the other hand, I did get to vote in the Presidential primary in February, which I wouldn't have as a Rep.

A few weeks ago, I was informed by some nice vote-registering volunteers that as it happens, Independents here still can vote in either primary. I happily reregistered and asked for an early ballot for both the primary today and the general election in November.

Unfortunately, as it turns out, these were volunteers with bad timing. It must have been about three weeks ago and apparently it takes four weeks for registration changes to take effect. My first indication was when I got a Democratic early ballot. I was hoping that the news just hadn't quite sifted through, so I went to the polls in person, but no luck. I was only allowed to vote as a Democrat - I think of all the open offices there was only about one where I actually had a choice between two people. I wouldn't mind, but there is a Republican primary that really matters, between an ultraconservative and a moderate for State Representative, that I had wanted to vote in.

The voting volunteer staff helpfully assured me that my reregistration should go through in time for the November general election and so I would then be able to vote for whomever I wanted. It scares me a little that I had to explain that I'd be able to do so anyway, that being sort of the point of a general election.

Still, at least I have once again earned my right to gripe about my government.

Posted by dichroic at 03:20 PM | Comments (0)

September 06, 2004

done and yet to do

It's been a good weekend, by our standards: we got exercise (rowing for videotaping), socializing (had people over to watch tapes from the morning video sessions, as well as some from Masters Nationals and some from the Olympics), and outdoor time (flying this morning).

Also, I finally got around to taking pictures of works finished and in progress. Here's the Gryffindor scarf:
My only regret is that I almost wish I'd used Ravenclaw colors; around here, assuming it ever gets cold enough to wear it around here, people are more apt to assume the colors are those of the ASU Sundevils.

Here are the two new projects I've started. The top one is meant to be Turkish stitch (I mention this because it may not be immediately obvious). This is a simple pattern with only a three stitch repeat (or two or four, depending how you look at it - yarnover, slip, knit, pass slipped stitch over, repeat) but I stilll have to concentrate while doing it, which means I can't read at the sae time effectively, dagnabbit. Also, it's hard to see what I've done with the big stitches and the bumpy yarn, which means I need to be especially careful not to make mistakes. Considering how much more complicated patterns can get, I can only assume the need for concentration is because I'm still so new at this and that it will get easier. I think it would be a lot easier in a smooth wool than this bumpy cotton.

The bottom one will become the front (or back) half of a sleeveless sweater. This one is more portable and blessedly mindless; the only pattern comes from horizontal ridges in a Fibonacci series, so the only consideration is whether a row should be knit or purled and I can see what I've just done - in fact, I got most of what you see here done in the back seat of a Cessna 172 this morning. This is all a good argument for more than one work in progress at a time. Also, I'm beginning to think that though I like both Clover bamboo and Addi Turbo metal needles to work with, the Addis really are a lot faster and much easier to move fiber along. Some of that may be the smoother and slightly stretchier yarn, however.

Posted by dichroic at 05:15 PM | Comments (1)

September 03, 2004


I had a feeling this was going to be feast or famine, and it's starting to look like feast. I may not survive this fall :-) I've talked about most of these things here before, but I think some explanation is needed to give the full picture.

Some of you will remember I have a pilot's license (VFR - visual flight rules), though I haven't really flown that much since qualifying for it. A couple of months ago, someone pointed out to me that my company has a program where you can apply to get reimbursed for the costs of getting either the initial pilot's rating or an instrument flight rating (IFR - this would be the one that could have saved JFK Jr.'s life). I try not to miss opportunities like that so I applied to get the IFR. Since I'd probably want to do this in the evenings after work, in the dark so I get something resembling actual instrument conditions, I figured I could just cut way back on rowing for the fall.

Last November, Rudder rowed a marathon in Natchitoches, Louisiana (he'd done it once before, aboout ten years ago). He and his partner She-Hulk set the course record for mixed doubles, a bit over 3 hours. Another guy from our lake, D, also rowed it last year, only he took about two hours longer, stopping to talk to people on the way and even to use their bathrooms. I figured that's my speed, so in a weak (masochistic) moment, I asked D if he wanted to row it in a double with me this year. He's considering it - he's got some other stuff going on, with a daughter getting married in October and another due to have his first grandchild. On the other hand, he was pretty excited to win a medal next year, and I think he likes the idea of our being, in his words, "the only Jew boat in Lousiana" (yes, he is too).

On our way back from Masters Nationals a couple of weeks ago, we got to talking to a woman across the airplane aisle, who's from a rowing club in Colorado where we have some other contacts. (In fact, one guy from there often rows a double with Rudder at races.) In the course of discussion, she asked me to cox her boat at the Head of the Charles in October in Boston. I didn't know how seriously to take her, but then when it turned out she couldn't go, she passed my name on to someone else at their club (who knows me) and she asked me to cox their four. For perspective, you need to know that the HotC is the biggest rowing event in the world, with 7000 participants this year, and that it's on a very winding river with several bridges to go under. In other words, it's one of the biggest challenges there is for a coxswain. So many people apply that they hold a drawing to see which crews get to participate.

Also, my job is supposed to be an 18-24 month posting, and I'm supposed to "repatriate" by December. I want to transfer to another division that's a lot closer to home, but have no idea whether or how this will affect the IFR reimbursement.

To recap, there are four opportunities:
A) get a company-reimbursed IFR rating (company picks from applicants)
B) row a marathon in November (potential partner is considering)
C) cox the Head of the Charles (depends on draw)
D) change jobs within my company (requires applications and interviews, just like changing companies)

Notice that the flight training would be best done in the evenings, the marathon requires rowing practice which as long as it's hot out is better done in the mornings, the HoTC requires I get some coxing practice in since it's been a while, and the job thing just adds general stress.

Yesterday afternoon, I heard back on the IFR reimbursement. I'm in.

The HoTC application deadline was September 1. They said they'd have draw results posted by September 5. This morning, the results were up. We're in.

Now my potential partner just has to decide on the marathon and I need to work on the repatriation. If those all happen in the next few months (plus all the normal stuff with work and life's other minutiae) this could be an *extremely* full Fall. I may not get to sleep until December.

Posted by dichroic at 12:13 PM | Comments (0)

September 02, 2004

nothing consequential

For some reason, switching my gym workout really seems to have kicked my butt. I was feeling bad enough this morning to consider staying home sick for at least a few hours - not queasy-sick but tired and out of it. It might still be whatever was bothering me earlier in the week too; I felt OK until I bent backward over a ball to stretch my back and got a rush of vertigo. Other than that the dizziness has mostly abated. The other odd thing is that my weight's gone down a little. It's only about two pounds but if that persists and if there's any remaining dizziness I will call the doctor.

The weight loss could also be an artifact of the time at the races or of the days I missed workign out afterward. The problem is that I don't really understand how weightloss works, in terms of time. That is, if you burn more calories than you ingest one day, do you instantly lose weight or does the effect take a little while to show up?

Whatever. I really could use a day off just to rest. Good thing it's a long weekend - I may have to have a Talk with Rudder, my local whirling dervish, about this.

And speaking of Rudder, yesterday I got home from work a little late, having called to say when I was leaving, and walked in five minutes before dinner was ready: grilled salmon and asparagus, couscous with sundried tomatoes, and a bottle of Chardonnay opened.

I may keep him.

Posted by dichroic at 12:58 PM | Comments (0)

September 01, 2004

unexpected flash of intelligence, promptly steamrollered

I don't know who it is I should be more scared of, Bush or his handlers. The other day he answered a question with a level of intelligence and a grasp on reality I don't generally expect from him. He said, "I don't think you can win it [the war on terror]."

That happens to be logically true. "Winning a war" is a phrase that generally means the cessation of hostilities. No matter what we do, we will never get to a point where there are no terrorist actions, not unless the Apocalypse happens and there is no more hatred in the world.

Is that a reason for not fighting? Hell no. What is possible (I believe) is to get to a point where there's much less terrorism, where the vast majority of sane people abhor the idea and refuse to support or knuckle under to any form of terrorism. An analogy is the US Civl Rights movement of the 1960s; there are still racists and we're not done even forty years later, but we don't have anywhere ner the sort of institutionalized hatred we once did. It's a battle worth fighting.

Bush sounded like he realized this, as I'd hope my country's President would ... and then all the spin doctors rushed in with "damage control" and creating more damage to truth than they were controlling, insisting that no, no, no, Bush didn't really mean that, he wasn't going soft, of course he believed we'd win the war. Then Kerry rushed in, seizing the chance to be the tough one and vowing up and down that he believed we could win this war no matter what those sissies on the other side said.

I'll be glad when this election is over and we can go back to seeing things in shades of gray.

On the domestic front, my scarf is done, at least the knitting part, and now I just have to tuck in ends, add fringe, and figure out where I can wear it or who to give it to. With luck I'll have time this weekend to start on the next thing; I'll probably take Nora's suggestion and do my poncho in Turkish stitch. Other plans for this weekend include buying airfare to Boston for October, doing some rowing videotaping for coaching purposes, having people over to watch Masters Nationals and Olympics videos, and maybe some flying with Rudder.

Posted by dichroic at 11:30 AM | Comments (0)

small workout entry

Thursday, 8/26: only 3K on the erg - I had the headache that led me to believe the ensuing dizziness was due to a sinus thing.

Friday, 8/27: Rerigged the single after its journey back from Tennessee and rowed one lap, about 6km.

Monday, 8/30: Rowed 2 laps, 12.2 km.

Tuesday 8/31: took the morning off because Monday like to killed me. (Rudder rowed FOUR laps Monday. Showoff.)

Wednesday 9/1: At Rudder's nagging suggestion, did a railroad bridge-to-railbroad bridge time trial, which was about 5300m in 28:41.6, avg split 2:42. Total distance 11,200m in about 70 minutes.

Total to date as of 9/1: 1080.4 km. The good news is that even with being a little behind because of the racing, I'm only 3km off where I ought to be for the end of August. Maybe I'll row 3km tonight just for the heck of it. Or not.

Posted by dichroic at 09:40 AM | Comments (0)