November 30, 2004


Last night our garage door broke (the spring above the door is now in two pieces) so I had to park outside .... and this morning I had to scarpe frost off my windshield. Here in Arizona, ice scrapers are NOT something we habitually keep in the car.

Of course it was just a light frost so a credit card worked fine for scraping purposes, but still, for Arizona this is just Not Right. And I erged at home this morning, so it was 7AM when I was leaving for work - not like it was a 4:30AM drive to rowing. Just Not Right.

Posted by dichroic at 02:26 PM | Comments (0)

retirement age?

Yesterday morning I was driving to work when my biological clock went "Bong!" No, not that alarm. This was a sudden realization, at a time when I wasn't thinking of much but traffic, that maybe it's time to retire from rowing, at least for a while. Or perhaps it was something in the air, since the same realization seems to have hit both Matthew Pinsent and James Cracknell somewhere around the same time.

Though I've never trained anything like the 5 hours a day Cracknell and Pinsent have done, I've been rowing more or less seriously since about 2000, and a bit less so for all but about three or the years since 1990 when I first learned. I've done the Marathon. I've completed three Holiday Challenges. I've competed in Masters Regionals and Masters Nationals, and in eights, fours, quads, doubles, and singles, as well as in the coxswain's seat. I've won quite a few medals and come in DFL lots of times as well. I've beat other people even in singles. There's not really much left for me to do except win race in singles and doubles and that will probably not happen even with much more intense training, and the simple fact is that I have no desire to do much more intense training. (Actually, Egret and I did win one gold medal in a double, come to think of it, but it was a small regatta.) I don't have the size or strength to be national caliber even at the Masters level, so it's always an uphill fight, even more than for most rowers.

Also, I really, really hate waking up at 4AM and going to bed at 8PM.
Also, I always said I'd want to pull back from rowing for a bit while working on my IFR. I haven't really, so far, but I also haven't done nearly all the studying I should.

On the other hand, I love my shiny pretty boat and I've worked awfully hard to get a certain fitness level. I'm not particularly worried about my weight (on Thanksgiving Day after two weeks off I weighed 117.5; now six days into the Holiday Challenge I'm back up to 120) but it's difficult for me to gain endurance and I'd hate to lose ground there.

Also, there are sunrises over smooth water and me with my boat and oars whose design echoes the rising sun, and there's the sweating satisfaction of pushing harder and faster and faster yet.

No matter what I decide to do, I know three things. Barring accident or injury, I will finish my fourth annual Holiday Challenge, since I've already started. I will go to rowing camp in January, since I've already signed up and it should be fun and educational, and I won't retire forever. The wonderful thing about this sport is that you can compete at any age so I never feel I have to rush to get all the good out of my "good years". If I stop now I'll come back to it, either sooner or later when I can compete another age bracket up. I just don't know. It sort of feels like time, but it sort of feels like I shouldn't stop. At any rate, I'll be erging until Christmas, so there's all that time to think about it.

Thankful that: my alma mater has a dog in this fight. (Actually, Penn's law school is apparently not part of this suit but has brought a separate suit challenging the Solomon amendment, as has Yale.) This has been an issue on campus almost since the "Don't ask, don't tell" policy was instroduced. I'm proud of them.

Holiday Challenge: 153880 meters to go.

Posted by dichroic at 11:15 AM | Comments (1)

November 28, 2004

reading Jane

There's a particular pleasure in reading Jane Austen while knitting a _____ for _____ because it's so exactly the sort of thing Jane's first audience, her mother or her sister Cassandra, might have done as she read them her first drafts.

It's Mansfield Park, and I'm a little less impatient with poor timid Fanny this time around, as I'm noticing many more hints of how early she fell in love with Edmund, and many more instances of how selfish most of the Bertrams were toward her. Jane is the mistress of acerbicity and respects her audience more than most (modern?) writers. There's never a 'nudge nudge wink wink' to make sure you catch her jokes; she trusts your own wit to catch them.

Thankful that: Jane Austen gets the respect she deserves, which I don't think was the case fifty or so years ago (I think she was liked but possibly not viewed as a "serious" writer, because of her domestic settings and lapidary detail).
Holiday Challenge: 161280 meters to go

Posted by dichroic at 07:46 PM | Comments (0)

November 27, 2004

a little mystery

Several things:

1) Today I received a mystery package, presumably a Chanukah gift. It was addressed only to me, not Rudder and comes from Borderland Books, but there was no note on the box or in it to say who it's from. I got Rudder to unbox it, and the book (I assume it's a book) is still in brown wrapping, so there might be a note inside. I've asked Rudder to look, so that I don't see what it is until Chanukah begins. Rudder is into delayed gratification so we generally don't open presents until the holiday. I don't much mind this, though I think it's silly when even on his birthday he waits until dinnertime to open presents. However, being fonder of short-term gratification myself, and because it's addressed only to me, I will assume it's for Chanukah, not Christmas. Anyway, if it's from one of you out there (and if so, who?) it got here, and I thank you preliminarily. I'll thank you for real after I open it.

2) Our turkey on Thanksgiving was the worst I've ever made. No fault of mine, I don't think - we got just the breast and it was way too juicy and the injected juices didn't taste like real turkey. Bleah. On the other hand, my kasha was flavorful, the cookies I baked were/are excellent, and the pumpkin pastries were great. The only problem with the latter was that I made the full recipe and had way too much left over after I filled the pastry shells. I put the rest of the batter in the fridge, got a graham-cracker crust the next day, and made a pie. Tasty.

3) LJ appreciation meme. Maria is true-blue; you can absolutely rely on her to always try to do right and act kindly. She is honest, good, and giving, and tries to improve in a way that's now out of fashion, but that I appreciate because some of my own ideas are old ones.

I can't write about Maria without writing about her faith and I think she'd be glad of that. It's a funny thing. I previously wrote about LA, who is not religious - not sure if she's atheist, agnostic, or Deist, but she isn't into churches. I could make a good case that LA is a good person because she's not religious; if you don't believe that God ordered the estate of the rich man ad the poor man, or that anybody's second coming will make everything all right, it stands to reason you'd better get busy and fix the world yourself, best you can. Maria is almost the polar opposite: she's a Christian who lives her faith and who is both better and pleasanter because of it. I know something about this. Like many American Jews, I suspect, I have a rather Christianized morality, from keeping company with Jo March, with Aslan, and with the Christianized versions of fairy tales we get from Andersen and the Grimms. (Also maybe from Hillel and the rabbis who stressed a merciful God rather than a purely just one and the need for men and women to treat our neighbors well, but that's another story.) Maria lives more like Jo March than like many more vocal modern Christians; she uses her faith as a yardstick not to measure other people and find them lacking but to see where she herself needs to improve, and she preaches only by her own example. I don't know if she believes that different people have different paths to righteousness or only that they need to find their own paths to Jesus, but either way she refrains from forcing her views even on those she loves most. Her joy in her God is evident and so is her joy in her friends, her family and her husband. I hope they all work to deserve her as she does to measure up to them.

Posted by dichroic at 08:12 PM | Comments (1)

November 25, 2004

traditions begin again

I hereby declare that this journal has been around long enough (since March 2001) to have Traditions. Two things begin at Thanksgiving for me every year: from Thanksgiving to Christmas Concept II sponsors their Holiday Challenge, to row 200,000 meters from Thanksgiving to Christmas Eve, and I like to track the decreasing meters here. Also, the first year I kept this diary, I began listing one thing I am thankful for on each entry from Thanksgiving to Christmas (or at least once a day).

I haven't gotten my erg meters in today (though I have baked cookies, made kasha and bowties, and got my turkey in the over, so that will have to wait until after dinner. (Long after.) However, I promised to write about anyone who writes in and asks me to, so I'll combine two pleasant tasks here. (There's still time to get in on that. Yes, I'm talking to you.)

I'll give each person their own entry.

I'm thankful I know LA. I've been reading her now for a couple of years, during which she's variously amused, interested, educated and galvanised me, while talking about everything from politics to parenting to clothing to the Craft. I've seen her grow through difficult marital times and shrink herself down to where she's now longer camouflaging her fire in excess flesh. LA speaks her mind, always (at least always when she's online), but, and this is the beauty part for a data-driven person like me, she's never ignorant about it. She's opinionated but no matter how mad she may be she always has facts to back up her view. Even when her views are colored by her prejudices, she'll resist acting on them if the data points the other way.

Despite her views on "Chihuahuas", for example, she has taken pains to point out that she only includes in that class small helpless-looking manipulative bitchy women. As a small helpless-looking woman myself, I appreciate that. I also think it's kind of funny that tall, blonde, well-built, fiercely smart women sometimes think the world responds better to petite dark-haired women when it's so clearly the other way. :-) I wonder if Ellizabeth Peters had someone like LA in mind when she created the tall, blonde, well-built, fiercely smart and fearsomely educated Vicky Bliss -- who, Peters fans will recall, gets to sleep with one of the sexiest male leads *ever*, Sir John Smythe.

Another thing I'm thankful for is that the FDA has just approved a new drug for MS that apparently has a lot of promise. Because can you imagine an LA with nothing holding her body back from doing all her mind can accomplish? If this drug works as well as they hope, I'm standing back.

Holiday Challenge: The whole 200,000 meters to go. I hope to take 6600 of that off tonight.
Thankful for: See above.

Posted by dichroic at 02:52 PM | Comments (0)

November 24, 2004


I've cut down far too many trees over the past couple of years, due to drought and fire ad bark beetles. Maybe this is a better way to look at it. Anyway, it's a bit pedestrian in spots but it just came to me for no clear reason - usually a sign that someone in my head is trying to tell me something.

Apparently Chief Seattle never really said, "How can you buy or sell the sky, the warmth of the land? The idea is strange to us. If we do not own the freshness of the air and the sparkle of the water, how can you buy them?" but that doesn't make the idea any less valid. So here:

On Chief Seattle's Land, a Century Later

It's my land. I have the deed,
The title to it guaranteed.
With the bank, I own this plot
It's mine to sow or mine to plow
Mine to wreak or ruin. Not
A soul can tell me What to grow
Or harvest on my lot.

And yet.... and yet the pines I've sown
Have flourished, some, and some have grown
Then withered. Some died right away
And some, the best of all, have sprung
From seeds I never planted. They
Found soil they liked and and trees that hung
Above with sheltering shade.

There's flowers, too, the 'volunteers'
From breeze-borne seed in previous years.
They're not at all to do with me.
I could sow "wildflowers" from a can
But those aren't wild, like the free
Gift of the sun and passing rain
The winds leave in their lee.

I could, of course, rip out the weeds
Plow soil under, hoe and seed
And reap a docile, measured crop.
I could, but still, my planted field
Would be a hostage to each drop
Of water cloudbanks choose to yield
Or floods, if they choose not to stop.

However close I clutch my deed
My sovereignty's not guaranteed.
Those others who once lived here knew.
They held it jointly with the rain
No trace of them remains here, Who
As steward, not as suzerain
Lived on this land as now I do.

Posted by dichroic at 02:25 PM | Comments (2)

November 23, 2004

dinner and not much else

My current knitting project is supposed to be small and easy - and it would be, if I didn't end up pulling out almost as many rows as I knit. I keep thinking I'm done with the two-color part only to see a hole at the join where I forgot to wrap the yarns around each other. I think this morning's telecon was a draw: two rows knitted, two rows frogged.

I am unreasonaby excited about the long Thanksgiving weeked, maybe mostly because I have very little planned. Thursday there will be cooking, of course, but it's just the two of us. We're having a roasted turkey breast instead of our more usual deep-fried huge bird (the latter will be for Xmas), tomato-and-bread salad, asparagus, kasha varnishkes, possibly stuffing (neither of us is a huge fan, but I want to try a new recipe), cranberry sauce from a can (Rudder doesn't like it and I don't feel like making my own for just me), and pumpkin pastries (another experiment - I'll make pumpkin pie filling and cook it in Pepperidge Farm puff pastry shells). If I can find or make daiquiri mix there may be cranberry daiquiris, from Rudder's aunt's recipe. There may also be cookie-baking. It's been a long time since I've baked cookies.

Other than that, there isn't much planned - one flying lesson, a little work on the boats, more knitting, purchasing Mom's birthday gift, some reading because I've done so little lately that I'm in withdrawal, and oh yes, approximately 26400 meters on the erg. Concept II's annual holiday challenge to erg 200,000 between Thanksgiving and Xmas begins Thursday.

Posted by dichroic at 12:47 PM | Comments (2)

sharing the love

I like this meme. I'm always a little skeptical of those that say something like "Comment here and tell me why you love me," because it seems a little presumptuous to assume people do. So here's a new twist I like a lot better, where no one will get their feelings stomped on. Kipped from the (very cool) Kiwi Maria:

1. Reply to this post if you want/need me to tell you how cool you are!

2. Watch my journal over the next few days for a post just about you and why I think you rock my socks.

3. Post these instructions in your journal and give your friends a much needed dose of love and adoration!

CAVEAT: if I barely know you, this might be a bit difficult. Please don't be offended.

Posted by dichroic at 10:27 AM | Comments (3)

November 22, 2004

mangling trees and manipulating wood sticks

It seems like I spent the whole weekend mangling and macerating trees - and when I wasn't doing that I still had my hands on wood sticks. On Saturday we drove up to our airpark property, because we needed to cut down a few more casualties of drought and bark beetle. We've been getting more rain lately as well as snow in the high country, so I'm hoping these will be the last to die. Cutting down a dead tree feels like attending a funeral.

On Sunday there was even more fun with clippers and saw as we did a much-too-belated trimming of our pineapple palm. Even after stomping the assorted (lethally sharp) fronds and other tree parts down three times, they were heaped up so high in my pickup that we had to strap them down. Disposing of them at the town dump, where you back up to a ledge and toss your debris down into a dumpster, would have been a lot easier if the wind hadn't been blowing over the dumpsters and straight at us.

That wind got me a little more free time in the afternoon, though: I'd been scheduled to fly but my instructor called saying it was just too windy. The downside to that is that I haven't been up for nearly a month now. I filled in the time knitting, paying bills, printing labels for holiday cards and doing laundry. A wild life, it is. The conclusion from the bill paying is that I am still quite broke, between the missed paycheck when I transferred jobs, some money I owe Rudder from all our traveling, my holiday shopping,. I ought to be in better shape as I "borrowed" money from savings to cover the missed check, but in fact I have been spending like a fiend. My new raise would help a lot, except that less than half made it into my check after taxes. I think I may just have to run a balance this month and next on my credit card, a thing I usually try to avoid. However, I do still have the flight training reimbursement to look forward to and a bonus in February. And there ought to be a decent tax return, but that may go to replacing all our windows.

Anyway. On Saturday night I went to the local Stitch and Bitch group's sleepover at my friend Alison's business. (Alison was referred to as Pigtails in her rowing days, during the early years of this blog, but she uses her real name online so I suppose I can.) That was interesting - I never get out to S'n'B things due to lack of time but this one was at a time I could make and close to home. There were only about six of us there, but it was nice to meet people, and they seemed interesting. (Looking through someone's copy of Bust magazine was especially interesting as its content appears to be an odd combination of Jane, In Style, Ms., and Penthouse Forum.) I finally managed to get the eyelash yarn scarf for Rudder's grandmother untangled and completed, got a good start on another dishrag, and got some helpful advice on changing colors mid-row.

I also concluded that when subsituting powdered cumin for toasted cumin seeds in dressing, it's best to reduce the quantity by more than a little, and Rudder perfected his salmon-grilling technique (apparently a combination of butter and Jack Daniels is useful in getting the grill to flare up and give it just the right amount of blackening). Yum.

Posted by dichroic at 12:39 PM | Comments (0)

November 21, 2004

Candles, dammit!

Note to merchants in the region of Chandler, Arizona: I am Jewish and I am here.

Your Christmas displays are all very nice but Christmas, despite the marketing pressure to start the holiday season earlier and earlier each year, is not unti December 25. Chanukah begis December 7 this year. I want my candles, dammit.

I'm talking to you, Michaels, with your aisles and aisles of candles. Christmas doesn't even need candles, now most people put electric lights on their tree. Chanukah observations require it - so where are they? And I'm talking to you, Pier 1, who try to cultivate such an international atmosphere. You have ginger-scented candles and pine-scented candles and beach-scented candles. How about some that will fit my menorah? I'll even forgo the scent. I'm talking to you, Walgreen, with your seasonal aisle full of wiggling Santas and gift wrap. And most of all I'm talking to you, Cost Plus's so-called World Market. How about those parts of the world that aren't Xtian? And how can you have a floor-to-ceiling banner talking about Chanukah, the Festival of Lights on which we kindle the "sacred Menorah" [sic] yet not have a single Chanukah item other than a few gift bags in blue and white with six-pointed stars? (Even there I had to check closely because they were mixed in with blue and white bags featuring Santa's elves.) And please, while I appreciated your salepeople's helpful attitude, it doesn't help when they tell me the holiday goods are stocked in phases. Chanukah is two weeks away!!!! It's not going to do me any good getting my candles in time for Christmas.

American is not a Christian nation. It's a nation founded on values with a historically Judeo-Christian background and grown on contributions by people of all faiths. Today we are a pluralistic society with many beliefs and many holidays. So how about we stock our stores that way??

My non-Jewish husband and I celebrate both Chanukah and Christmas. I wouold prefer not to start the holiday season already pissed off at Christmas for totally taking over my culture.

Posted by dichroic at 03:55 PM | Comments (3)

November 19, 2004


Before my head got hijacked again by the Israeli situation, I was thinking on more pleasant lines: holiday gifts. I do enjoy trying to find the perfect thing for each person. Rudder and I decided to buy a bed together - we just have a mattress, boxspring and frame, no headboard or footboard, and it's by the window so there's not even a wall to lean pillows on, and they tend to slip toward the window even while we're trying to get to sleep. The hazard, of course, is that it's already a comfy nest that's hard to persuade ourselves to get out of, and making it more comfortable may not help matters. I also have to get Rudder a gift for his birthday on the 23rd; so far I'm going with a ###### (letters omitted just in case he sees this for any reason) but still could change my mind and return it or possibly add something else.

I have the same issue with my brother and mother - needing both a birthday and a Chanukah gift. I've made a scarf for Mom, and she's asked for gym gear. I want to get her good wicking fabrics rather than cotton so it's just a matter of seeing what I can find that doesn't cost a fortune. (I have the same problem with my own workout gear - as much as I Like some of the things in the catalogs, I have issues with $40 sport tops (or $80 for fleece ones) and $60 pants.) I have one gift bought and ordered for the brother and just need another one now. He and my uncle are both fairly easy to buy for, because they have so many interests, and because I share enough of those interests to know what to get. I'm thinking of a nice leather passport wallet for my uncle. (The only problem with some of these gift ideas is making sure I don't repeat ones from previous years!)

Dad is the hard one. He doesn't have any hobbies to speak of but reading and napping, so this year I am going to combine pastimes and buy my father a husband. (You know, one of those pillows shaped for reading in bed - I just like saying it the other way.)

Yesterday, I had a revelation as to the perfect gift for one friend, but it's something I have to make - between that and a few other things, like untangling the scarf for Rudder's grandmother, my knitting needles will be busy. (I was binding it off when I realized I waw out of yarn and should have done so a row earlier. I tried to back up a row, dropped a stiches and now, several pulled-out rows of eyelash yarn back, am still in a hopeless tangle. It so was fast to knit that I'm tempted just to start over, but that's probably not the best idea.) I've got the Mobius scarf for Rudder's mother done, and he can deal with the rest of the gifts for his family. We also have to buy something for AR and OG, and maybe for Rudder's young cousins, but shopping for toys is always something to look forward.

Oh, and then there's a gift exchange - need to find something for that person. She's a reader and a knitter, and collects children's books - maybe I need a knitting book for kids? And then there are cards, lots and lots of cards since I have been so foolish as to sign up for not one but two list holiday card exchanges. Also, I htink the parents and grandparents in-law are coming for the holiday, so I believe some baking may be in my forecast, as well as assorted meal planning. For the rest of the next month, I may be found either on the erg (for the Holiday Challenge) or drowning happily in holiday clutter.

Posted by dichroic at 10:03 AM | Comments (0)

left, right, right, wrong ... not so simple

I have no idea who wrote this, but the anonymous second comment on a recent post of Ebony's is perfect: "Why can't the left understand that just as so many of us in the US both love America and want to change its behaviors, so too do many of us Jews and even many Israelis love Israel and want desperately to change its policies?"

There's a story told about one of the early founders of the modern state of Israel - Ben Gurion, Weitzman, someone like that. He was asked, "Why do the Jews need to settle in Israel, when there are so many other parts of the globe that are less bitterly contested?" He answered, "Why do you drive across town to visit your mother when there are plenty of old ladies right down the street?"

I don't entirely agree with the premise, being enough of a wanderer myself not to be tied to any particular acre and unreligious enough not to worry about whether those few square miles on the edge of Africa are specially destined for my people. But the State of Israel is a reality now, no matter how many Arab countries wish to ignore it, and I do think it may be important for Jews to have a tangible country like other peoples. I just wish the government of said country would realize that they can't claim any special holiness exempting them from the standards of humanitarian conduct by which other nations are judged. In fact, the opposite should apply; a people who collectively remember being alternately welcomed and abused in the strange lands of our Diaspora ought to have a special responsibility to our neighbors.

It does bother me, as the anonymous poster said, that support of Israel tends to reside with right-wing conservatives and that the left often verge on anti-Semitism in defense of Palestinians. It's especially annoying because both sides seem to have all the wrong reasons. The right too often support Israel, it seems, because they like the military stories where a tiny country showed unexpected strength against bigger neighbors, and they don't want to see any of the land gains from those wars abridged. Even weirder is the idea - and I have heard this said almost this baldly - that the Jews are God's chosen people and thus Christians ought to be nice to them or else God's gonna git'em. Or something like that.

On the other hand, the left tend to be against Israel for its abuse of those poor "innocent" Palestinians, forgetting that if you kill someone with a rock or a suicide bomb, it's not unfair for his buddies to hit back, even if their weapons are bigger.

Jews have a right to have a country. It wasn't right to get it by summarily kicking Palestinians off land where they had been for generations. On the other hand the land of Palestine was divided into a Jewish and an Arab state (Jordan) which, as no one ever seems to notice, doesn't exactly welcome Palestinians either. That division by fiat of the occupying British empire may not have been the best way to solve that issue (dividing India from Pakestan along religious lines hasn't been a total success either) but I can't think of a much better solution offhand. Similarly today, Jews expanding into areas formerly agreed to be Palestinian are wrong, raids into refugee camps are wrong, suicide bombers are wrong, groups dedicated to the total destruction of Israel are wrong, there is wrong-doing galore and no shortage of blame to be shared.

None of that invalidates the right of Israel to exist and of Israelis to be safe in their country or the rights of Palestinians to have homes that are safe and to be treated with the same dignity as any other humans.

Also, none of the issues involved are simple or binary enough to be addressed by a simple right/left split in American politics. And none of this is what I meant to write today, but that comment was so perfectly expressed that it set me off.

Posted by dichroic at 09:04 AM | Comments (0)

November 18, 2004


I have a feeling work's about to be a little scary. Of the people who work in my department, one guy's off in military training about to be deployed to Iraq for a year, one guy's in the Czech Republic at our plant there for two weeks, and one guy's on vacation for two weeks. And then thee's me, in the job for about three weeks now. Yikes. There are other people in the department, but they all work on different stuff. Of course, the boss is still here....but I'm not sure if that's a helpful thing or not.

Posted by dichroic at 09:19 PM | Comments (0)

November 17, 2004

secretly Canadian

Isaac Asimov wrote in one of his autobiographies that while his genes were Russian Jewish, his intellectual heritage was mostly English. I had thought the same was true of me, with a strong Celtic admixture, but I'm feeling at the moment that maybe my id is actually Canadian, or at least from the whole Canadian-Maritime-through-New-England fishing area. Of course the strong English-Irish-Scots heritage in that area would easily masquerade as an Anglo orientation.

As usual, this small shift in my thinking is due to the words currently coming into my brain, though some of it is of long duration. Two of my favorite wordsmiths in the world for years have been the writer L.M. Montgomery and the singer and songwriter Stan Rogers. I'm also fond of Stan's brother Garnet, of Gordon Bok from Maine, and of the band Great Big Sea, who hail from St. John's, Newfoundland. And I'm happiest around water - one thing I loved about our trip to Antarctica last December was just being on the sea for 11 days.

The Maritime influence has been intensifying lately though. The two books I read on our trip to Natchitoches (where, of course, I spent nearly 6 hours on a small boat) were The Lobster Chronicles by Linda Greenlaw, and Frankie's Place by Jim Sterba. I had realized both books were set in New England somewhere but hadn't known in advance that they were from adjoining Maine islands. Greenlaw lives on Isle au Haut (about which Goron Bok has two songs, one of which is quoted on the book's frontispiece; Sterba and his wife Frankie have a "camp" on Mt. Desert Island. Acadia National Park stretches across parts of both islands and a few others. In fact, I've been on Mt. Desert myself, a few years ago. Also, I'm listening to Stan Rogers' first album Fogarty's Cove at the moment - the liner notes say that Fogarty's Cove is an imaginary place on the coast of Nova Scotia. Gordon Bok's CD Schooners is queued up next, full of boats and sailing songs.

This happens to me every fall from the time the L.L. Bean Fall and then Christmas catalogs start arriving, full of wool and fleece, rubber boots and harvest colors. I start wanting to be in a place where leaves turn red and gold, where apples are ripening, where the sea is starting to whip up foam, and the people are wearing wool over flannel because snow will fly sooner than later. I don't really have a favorite season; because I enjoy change, I love the beginnings of all of them and get tired of their soggy ends, looking instead of the promise of the next one. If I did have a favorite, thoough, it would be Fall, for the first chill in the air (and because out here the heat finally starts to go away), the colors of leaves and clothing, and the promise, no matter how stormy it gets, of eventually getting to come in from the cold and wet. And every fall, no matter how Eatern-European-Jewish my body's heritage may be, in my head "my fathers knew of wind and tide and my blood is Maritime." Fisherman's Wharf) At least for this season.

Also, I want to live somewhere where there are kitchen parties where people sing.

Posted by dichroic at 09:37 AM | Comments (2)

November 16, 2004

workout entry

Wed, 11/3: 12.1 km in single
Fri, 11/5: 12.1 km in single
Sat, 11/6:8 km in 2x with Old Salt
Mon, 11/8: 5012 m in 30:19 on erg
Saturday, 11/13: approx 43 km - the Marathon Rowing Championships plus rowing to the start and in from the finish.

YTD total as of 11/15: 1508.5 km

Posted by dichroic at 01:19 PM | Comments (0)

November 15, 2004

Marathon report

One marathon completed: check.

I don't feel too bad, actually. My hip joints are still a bit sore, and every once in a while I get twinges from my elbows. The elbows were hurting every stroke for about the last 5 miles, actually, and were very sore that night, but the two Motrin Rudder talked me into taking seem to have solved that problem. I'm still a bit groggy from all the traveling and racing, but fortunately I've got some nice routine work to do today.

I had a great time on the trip. D and his wife R (who will henceforth be referred to as the Old Salt and the Mobile Monet) and Dr. Bosun drove out with the boats; on Thursday Rudder, She-Hulk and I flew into Houston where they picked us up, then drove 5 or 6 hours to Natchitoches, Louisiana where we checked into our wonderfully cozy hotel, the Church Street Inn. That night we had some of Natchitoches' legendary head-on Cajun shrimp. (Well, legendary since She-Hulk and another rower were shocked, last year, to find their dinner staring back. Apparently the other woman burst into tears and Rudder and Old Salt's son gallantly removed the heads for both women.) This year, She-Hulk bravely removed her own shrimps' heads. I did the crustacean decapitation for myself, but then I'm a veteran of both shrimp in all forms and Cajun food in general. They were good but, I'm told, not quite as large and succulent as last year's.

We got to play tourist on Friday. First we went to the Courthouse Museum, where we learned about the Louisiana Purchase in general and about an 80-mile natural logjam on the Red River, whose existence is the reason Natchitoches is the oldest permanent settlement in the LA Purchase and whose removal (in the early 1800s) is the reason it isn't a city today. Outside the museum we ran into a couple of rowers from California who went with us on a carriage tour, during which the guide pointed out just about every B&B in town and every location that was significant in the movie Steel Magnolias. (It is not possible to remain in Natchitoches for more than an hour without being told that Steel Magnolias was filmed there.) Next we visited a local fort where some very small men in period costume were preparing deer and coyote hides and showing us how easy it wasn't to start a fire with flint and steel. (In fact, that was the only place we visited that day where we didn't hear about Steel Magnolias, presumably because the film and its subject material don't date back quite as far as the fort. However, one of them did tell us that a hollowed-out stump with a five-foot-long wood club resting in it was a "mortar and pedestal" used to grind corn. Next we went out to tour Melrose Plantation where the tour guide Lori Tate, a middle aged woman in glasses that made her look sort of like an alien, began with "Does anybody recognize me?" Apparently she played the groom's mother in Steel Magnolias. (I refrained from mentioning that I've never even seen the film, out of fear I mght get lynched.) Later on she told us that slaves had been locked up when they first arrived, "until they became domicile". Mrs. Malaprop is alive, well, and living in northern Louisiana, apparently. I did like the resident peacock, who was hanging out in the house waiting for Southern Living. No lie - we'd run in to their photographers in our hotel that morning and In fact, here's us as taken by their photographer:

I think he thought we wanted him because he was a pro, but the truth is it was just so we could all get in the shot. (D's wife R is missing because she was on the phone.) Apparently they were due out at the plantation to shoot Lori and the peacock that afternoon. So the photos below are my scoop on Southern Living:

After that we rigged our boats, headed to the Italian restaurant down the block for pre-race pasta. One of the best things about our hotel, besides the down comforters, was that it's right in the middle of old town near all the good restaurants, and right by the finish of our race. Our honorary Outlaw from Colorado and Old Salt's son Stevie Mo drove out and joined us in town that night.

On Saturday we raced. Don't tell anyone I said this, but it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. Mostly, this is because of Old Salt and the easy pace he set, not to mentin the four pee breaks, the several water/Gu breaks, and the innumerable short stops for everything from a branch only a few feet from our oars to a passing eight he wanted to let by. We finished in 5 hours and 42 minutes. I'm fairly sure I could do it faster in a single (I did it on the erg in 4:20) but this wasn't a bad way to do my first marathon. And Old Salt is a salty and funny man, good company for nearly 6 hours in a small boat, so even if it turns out to be my last marathon it was a good way to do it.

The biggest luxury was having Mobile Monet and Stevie Mo there. Not only was she the one who wanted to go in the first place (partly to spend time with the son, who lives in Houston) , which meant we could get our boat there, but they were pit crew par excellence. When Old Salt and I came in, between them and Rudder and She-Hulk, who had finished two and a half hours earlier(!) breaking the previous course record they'd set last year, we didn't have to do anything but roll out of the boat. Actually, I felt good, though, and had no trouble getting out and standing up - I kept trying to tell people I was OK and could carry my own things, but I don't think anyone believed me.

Results in brief: we all finished. Rudder and She-Hulk broke the course record int heir event, the one they had set themselves the previous year. She-Hulk was particularly eager to do that, because last year we were still racing under the club banner - she wanted the Arizona Outlaws in the race records. They won a gold medal, of course, as did our honorary Colorado Outlaw. Dr. Bosun came in third in her race, only about 5 minutes slower than the time she'd aimed for. (Five minutes over twenty six miles is negligible.)

In other trip results, the Arizona Outlaws are again a winning crew, I ate good Gulf shrimp every night, the scarf I was knitting in eyelash yarn is now hopelessly tangled and waiting for enough time and good light to be salvaged, the trip back was enjoyable but a bit quieter, and no one is permanently crippled. I think everyone had a good time, and the company was by far the best part of the trip. Watch for an Outlaws page, coming soon. Meanwhile, here are some more pictures.

The Outlaws' official "Before" picture, with a cannon borrowed from the fort: She-Hulk, me, Rudder, Dr. Bosun, Mobile Monet, and Old Salt.

Outlaws after the race: that's me in the center, then clockwise from left She-Hulk, Rudder, Dr. Bosun, Old Salt, and Stevie Mo, our pit crew, at the bottom.

Here's Rudder and She-Hulk - look how well that boat is balanced.

Dr. Bosun and the Colorado Outlaw:

And here's me and Old Salt. During the race:

And after:

Posted by dichroic at 04:22 PM | Comments (3)

November 14, 2004

Marathon Rowing Championships

5 hours and 42 minutes, but by God, we finished it.

Posted by dichroic at 09:04 PM | Comments (4)

November 10, 2004


I know wishing my life away is a bad thing, but I do wish it was Sunday already. Then I'd know whether I survived Saturday's marathon regatta. (Well, or maybe I wouldn't, if I didn't.) We're off to the races tomorrow morning - we fly into Houston, get picked up by the Oldtimer, who's driving the boats down, drive six hours to Natchitoches for the regatta, spend Friday being tourists (it's supposed to be a very nice old town), race Saturday, and drive and fly back Sunday. Or in other words, expect this site to be quiet until at least Monday. On the plus side, I'm told by those who went last year that there are extremely large Cajun shrimp to be had there.

Posted by dichroic at 02:47 PM | Comments (2)

you know WHO???

I am glad I posted those questions the other day. I wrote them not as a test but in hopes other people would share some of the off coincidences and bits of knowledge that please them. I'd have to say that succeeded, at least as far as coincidences go.

As a direct result of some ensuing conversation, one reader and I discovered some mutual friends.

Now, the world has always seemed smaller to me than the number of people in it would indicate. I was amused when we were two days out on a trail in Big Bend, one of the more remote parts of Texas, and someone hiking by the other way recognized me from Houston. I thought it was a little bizarre when we went to a rock-climbing class at Smith Rock in Central Texas and ran into someone I'd worked with at Penn. Aerospace is a smaller world, so I wasn't terribly shocked to walk through the halls at my company right before I left and run into a coworker from three jobs before who was just starting there, or to meet someone yesterday who had first hired a rowing friend of mine who used to work at yet another site in this company and is now in DC.

But this .... this is really weird. I'm not sure I can get across the oddness of this coincidence without lots of background and more details on other people than I want to give, but I'll try. This reader suggested that we might have some mutual acquaintances given our common interests and city of origin, so we exchanged a few details of who went to school where and so on, and I suggested a few names. Now, granted some of the interest communities are tight, but Philadelphia's a big, big city. It turns out that my best friend in high school was her best friend in junior high -- so I realized later on that some of the stuff she'd told me were things I'd already heard, back in about 10th grade from our mutual friend. We never had met, because none of us had driver's licenses yet so it was easy to lose touch after transferring schools.

That's not all of it, though. I have (still have) a friend I met when I was in college. He was a bit older but worked in one of the labs and used to hang out with some of my other friends. We became good friends when I got into folk music, because he'd been a fixture in that community for years. It turns out this reader has known him since she was a pup, because her parents were into some of the same groups. Now, he has no connection (that I know) of to my high school friends other than me and this reader; if they were ever met at all, it's likely to have been at my college graduation party.

This is just mind-numbingly odd. Or as she wrote, "There are only 87 real people in the world. All the rest are just bad special effects."

Anyhow, answers are below the cut tag.

  • What character appears in the works of both John Myers Myers and Susan Cooper? Golias in Silverlock is the archetypal bard; his use-name comes from medieval French romances and his other names are other mythical [song]makers throughout Western tradition. They include Widsith (Old English / Norse), Orpheus (Greek), Amergin (Irish), Demodocus (Greek again), Boyan (Russian) and the one I'm most familiar with, Taliesin (Welsh). It is Taliesin who guides Will and Bran through the Lost Land in Susan Cooper's The Grey King. Taliesin shows up also in Tennyson's Idylls of the King and, if I'm not misremembering, in Lloyd Alexander's Prydain trilogy, and in Charles de Lint's Moonheart (or maybe its sequel). He's an archetype and a well-known one; he makes appearances through a lot of fantasy.

    (And it's here I wish I were a fiction writer. You know how the subject of a wizard portrait in the Harry Potterverse can make appearances not only in adjacent frames but also in her or her other portraits hung anywhere in the world? What if Taliesin could rove throughout any of the books and myths in which he appears?)

  • Name one book written by the man whose own personal library has been transplanted to the top floor of the Philadelphia Public Library's main building.
    When he died, the book collector A. Edward Newton donated his books to the Philadelphia Free Library. Newton was a contemporary and frequent customer of Dr. A.S. Rosenbach. His wife and daughter decided that if the Library were getting his books, they ought to have the whole library as well and so it was dismantled and relocated from his house in the suburbs, Oak Knoll, tothe Central Library in Center City Philadelphia, on the sixth floor just past the rare books section. They even have lighted backdrops outside the windows to make it look as if the room looks outside. I visited the library in December of 2001. Nearly two years later I was reading Newton's The Book Collecting Game and was shocked to realize I had actually stood in his library. Other books by Newton include The Greatest Book in the World and Other Papers; A Tourist in Spite of Himself and A Magnificant Farce and Other Diversions of a Book Collector. I have The Book Collecting Game and The Greatest Book in my favorite section of my library, the books about books. (My library doesn't compare to Newton's by several orders of magnitude in almost any aspect, but I like it.)
  • When I was in college two of my favorite Japanese restaurants were named respectively Hikaru and Genji. For what literary reason is this amusing?
    The hero of Lady Murasaki's A Tale of Genji, which some people call the first novel ever published, is Hikaru no Genji, The Shining Genji. I think I learned about the coincidence of Hikaru and Genji while reading something speculating on Captain Sulu's first name. I still maintain a steady diet of F&SF is one of the easiest ways to become well-read, at least by proxy. (I mean, if you haven't read all the great stories and histories, you've at least read about a lot of them.)
  • Cite internal proof (in his songs or on his CDs) that Stan Rogers read Robert A. Heinlein.
    If the lines in Stan Rogers' song Lies, "So this is Beauty's finish / Like Rodin's Belle Heaulmiere / The pretty maiden trapped inside the ranch wife's toil and care" don't owe something to the analysis of Rodin's sculpture in Heinlein's A Stranger in a Strange Land, I will eat my copy of Stranger. There was something on one of Stan's album covers, too (From Fresh Water, maybe) but I can't remember now what it was.
  • In what way is John Adam's daughter Nabby's name the opposite of the word "apron"?
    The indefinite articles 'a' and 'an', and the possessive 'my' and 'mine' (archaic) sometimes bleed over into the next word. So "an napron" used to be "a napron" - this is also why you see "nuncle" for "uncle" in Shakespeare. John and Abigail Adams' daughter Abigail was called "Nabby" to distinguish her from her mother. I'm fairly sure that "mine" for "my" wasn't commonly used by the Adams' time but I'd bet Nabby for Abby, like Nan or Nancy as a nickname (originally "an ekename", meaning "an also-name" by the way) still sounded natural as sort of a survival from when "Mine Abby" would have sounded right.
  • Posted by dichroic at 10:14 AM | Comments (3)

November 09, 2004


FOs! I've got FOs! (Finished Objects) I haven't got a very good picture of me, but oh well. Better to get sleep and really minimized those bags under the eyes than to stay up late Photoshopping them. (Confession: OK, I did. Just a little.) The hat seems to have stretched a little. It is a bit small; I was thinking of doing yet another one but determined (by weighing the hat and then weighing my remaining yarn, after an epiphonic realization that I could use a scale instead of eyeballing the ball of yarn to see if it looked big enough) that I don't have enough yarn left over. I might try washing it to see if that helps, but it's superwash wool so won't really block.

The hat seems to have stretched a little. It is a bit small; I was thinking of doing yet another one but determined (by weighing the hat and then weighing my remaining yarn, after an epiphonic realization that I could use a scale instead of eyeballing the ball of yarn to see if it looked big enough) that I don't have enough yarn left over. I might try washing it to see if that helps, but it's superwash wool so won't really block.

Posted by dichroic at 07:33 PM | Comments (0)

ding, dong....

Not that I think this is a move toward preserving Constitutionally guaranteed liberties or anythiing, but still....

WaHOOOOOOO!!!!! Umbridge (er, yeah, whoever) is gone!!

Posted by dichroic at 04:56 PM | Comments (2)

more serious stuff

Since I've been impersonating Little Missy Sunshine in my writings here since the election, I want to clarify where I am. It's not that I think everything is all right. It's not that I don't believe we elected the wrong guy. (Though I'm not at all sure anyone running was the right person.) It's not that I don't think we have deep divisions in the US and deeper problems. It's not that I don't think hatred has found a festering foothold in our politics. And it's not that I'm not worried and scared.

It is that I don't believe being scared is a reason not to act. I believe that most of those who hate are scared and may turn around in time if we can get past their fear. (Logic is not often a good weapon against fear.) I don't believe the roar of millions with good will can't drown out the yappings of the hate-sowers, even when the latter are in positions of power. I snagged this quote from Caveat Lector:

Y aquí estoy, tratando, creyendo que no es tarde para hablar. Tiempo de encrucijada: lucha o retirada. (And I am here, tyring, believing that it is not too late to speak. It is time to choose: fight or retreat.)

Rubén Blades, “Encrucijada,” from Tiempos

All may yet be well, but only if we work and sweat and speak and fight and bleed, though I still hope the blood will be only metaphorical. Julian of Norwich said:

He did not say 'You will not be troubled, you will not be belaboured, you will not be disquieted;' but he said: 'You will not be overcome.'


Posted by dichroic at 01:05 PM | Comments (1)

November 08, 2004

a modest proposition

Here's a plan that's been fermenting in my head for a while, though I've been thinking about it more since the election. I don't understand why the government should have anything to do with marriage as a sacred rite. If it's "sacred", how can it be relevant to a state proclaiming its separation from any and all churches? Rudder and I had no problems getting married - there's one of us of each sex, both of us are US citizens, neither had been married before, neither had syphilis (we were married in Pennsylvania, where they test for syphilis - but not (at that time) AIDS) and so on. We had to go to the registrar, tell them our parents names and where they were born, go through an odd rigmarole to get our blood tested because we were living in another state, and then a few months later we had to pay an additional $1000 in taxes beyond what we would have aid if we'd just been living together.

I don't understand any of it - no, that's not true. I understand why the government needs to be involved when it's about to hand out a bunch of new rights, like right of survivorship, right to visit in hospitals, rights to make decisions for each other. common proprty in some states, and (putative) tax benefits (that turned out to be penalties in our case). What I don't understand is why any of that would need to be coupled (oops) to what a lot of people currently in government keep describing as the sacred union of a man and a woman.

Clearly we need to legislate civil partnerships - give declared partners tax benefits and rights of survivorship and next-of-kin and so on. But why should that privilege be limited to hitherto-unrelated pairings of one man and one woman? Instead, we could let *any* two people who intend to spend the rest of their lives declare themselves partners, not just straights and not even just romantic couples.

For instance, when their husbands died in the 1918 influenza epidempic and World War I, my great-grandmother and her sister moved into together. They raised their children as one family, and they stayed together a long time, until my grandmother was grown up and my great-grandmother remarried. I cannot see any logical or moral reason why those two sisters should not have had the same benefits a married couple could have had. Under today's laws they'd have gotten some of the tax breaks by filing head-of-household, and might have been able to claim to be each others' next of kin, but what if they had been unrelated friends rather than sisters? Or what if one had died and other siblings had wanted to split proceeds from a house the two had lived in?

This will only work if the partnerships are long-term, Restrict them any way you want - require people to be in only one civil partnership at a time, require cohabitation, make it difficult to get out of to discourage easy "divorce", whatever. That's fine. But don't restrict any unpartnered adult from entering into a partnership with anyone she chooses.

That leaves "marriage", as a religious rite joining two people in romantic love, just where it belongs, in the churches, synagogues, temples, mosques, meeting-houses, and so on. No religion should be forced to marry anyone they don't approve of, but conversely anyone who did want a religious wedding should be able to find someone to perform it.

The beauty of this system is that it ought to be hard for anyone to disapprove of it. (What? You want two little old ladies on Social Security not to have the benefits a million-dollar sports star and his wife can have??) The only flaw I can see is that it wouldn't help people who want to form families with more than one other adult - again, not necessarily polyamorists, but potentially also, say, a daughter living with her elderly parents. It would seem any number of people should be able to form a partnership, but not only would that likely not fly past at least 11 states I can think of offhand, it could also create some nasty situations when more than one person claims the right to make decisions in cases of incapacitation. ("What do you mean, you approved donating her heart after the fatal accident? I planned to have it bronzed and keep it under my pillow forever!") So for practical purposes, it may need to be limited to pairs of people, and larger families would just have to aggregate in even numbers.

Posted by dichroic at 03:27 PM | Comments (5)

the usual balance

The good news: Not only did I finish the Moebius scarf yesterday, late afternoon, but I thought I had enough yarn left for a matching hat -- and I finished that too! It's a simple hat with a roll brim. I got the basic pattern from the Yarn Girls' Guide to Simple Knits, but it was in fact very simple and I got bored a couple inches in so I added some mini-cables. I would have posted a picture, but Rudder had the digi-camera and he didn't get back until bedtime last night. I'll try to post one tonight or tomorrow.

The bad news: Well, they finally put me on the correct server for my new job site. Translation: I got here this morning and couldn't log in. We got that straightened out with one phone call, but somehow in the process they screwed up my email and I still can't get into that. Sigh....

Tomorrow I'll post answers to my trivia questions, so there's still time if you want to try answering them or (even better) post your own. Though the point was really not the answers but to share the nuggets of knowledge, or as Ruthie says, "Isn't it great how everyone has their own things they geek out about?"

Posted by dichroic at 09:39 AM | Comments (1)

November 07, 2004

my subconscious is reading ahead

First, the local news. I didn't get to fly once AGAIN this morning. As I began preflighting I discovered the plane I had reserved had its port nav light out - and it was still dark at that time, so it was really needed (though I think they're required even in daylight - seeing the red and green wingtip lights makes it possible to determine if another aircraft dead in front of you is flying toward you or away). Well, one advantage to flying at 6AM is that there are likely to be other aircraft available so my instructor went and got the book for another airplane. On this one everything was going fine until I went to check the oil and couldn't unscrew the dipstick. Neither could my instructor. It unscrewed a little then stuck, so the threads may have gotten stripped. I checked my toolbox but didn't have pliers and apparently the FBO locks up their toolboxes at night. The instructor proposed flying anyway - the last person would have had to check and the FBO's policies ask for a quart more than the airplane absolutely requires. Also, the cowling was clean so we knew the aircraft couldn't have been burning or leaking oil badly. I wasn't too comfortable with that, because first, the last person would have been that same idiot who screwed the oil cap down too tightly; second, how do I know they didn't use the same logic? ("Oh, the oil is a bit low but I don't fel like going inside to get more - we have a margin anyway.") As a last resort I got the Quikrench I use for rowing to see if that would help. It might have ... if I hadn't dropped it. Strike three, foreign object debris (FOD), no flying for me, and they'll have to take off the cowling to get the wrench out. (They can't get too mad at me, since I should have needed the wrench anyhow.) Between that, my travel, a broken turn coordinator and a broken engagement (my CFI's) I haven't gotten to fly since before Boston, unless you count one seesion on the simulator.

Also, somewhere in there I slammed into the edge of the step on the strut, just below my knee, and it still hurts like a motherfucker.

It's raining this morning, but I'm watering some plants in the backyard anyhow. Only in Arizona, where you can walk between the raindrops.

Next, the pondering. I've been reading Silverlock and appreciating NESFA's new edition with the Companion. What I'd like even better would be a version organized on the lines of Martin Gardner's Annotated Alice so I wouldn't have to bookmark two spots at once. (I'd also like a CD of the songs, since they include music notation but I don't sightread.) In view of my last entry here, my subconscious seems to be remembering the book ahead of my rereading. I hadn't remembered this passage:

At times the mind works on two levels at once and so it was with mine on this occasion. Half of it was giving itself gleefully to the moment, while th other half was revolving a new idea.What had impressed me was that this friar was well-informed and had a lot of fun out of that fact alone.In the past, if I had wanted to find out anything, it was always for a practical reason. Now I glimpsed the concept that to know a thing for itself could be a source of joy. Take the song we were bellowing. It was easy to appreciate, but I would have had more chuckles out of it if I had known, as the others did, about the personages involved [ed: Zeus and his bovine pecadilloes]. From then on I intended to begin picking up data from Golias or any other source.

But, as I say, this resolution, made with the solemn half of my mind, didn't interfere with the attention the other half was giving to making as much noise as possible.

And this next passage is for Keilyn, because somehow it reminded me of the positive side of all the Drama of adolescence: the feeling that you're closer to the things that Really Matter. (Er, not that Keilyn's adolescent; we had some conversation about the angst and drama of that age. And Silverlock's no adolescent either but he is doing the same sort of finding and evolving of himself that we all generally do in our teens.)

There probably wasn't as much melody as I remember - I had had some ale, too - but I experienced a pervasive sense of blending with life at its most dramatic.

That was the best of that age - nights with music and fireflies, unrequited crushes, new knowledge, infinite books I hadn't read yet, time to read them, the heady experience of finally making a few friends who read the same books, and a feeling that it all mattered immensely.

Posted by dichroic at 07:52 AM | Comments (2)

November 05, 2004

the Scarecrow's Brains

Sometimes I think my head's just a radian or so out of phase with the rest of the world. The things I know that delight me most are mostly not the things anyone else wants to know. I wonder if the converse is true and other people have little bits of knowledge they treasure that no one else knows about. I suspect it is for some values of "other people". So here's my proposal for a non-sheep-like meme: Answer the questions below. (I will be shocked if anyone gets more than one, unless you go look things up - ref. not the things anyone wants to know, above.) Then in my comments or your own journal, pose questions about the bits of information or trivia that delight you. I'll post my answers in a day or two, if anyone wants to play.

  • What character appears in the works of both John Myers Myers and Susan Cooper?
  • Name one book written by the man whose own personal library has been transplanted to the top floor of the Philadelphia Public Library's main building.
  • When I was in college two of my favorite Japanese restaurants were named respectively Hikaru and Genji. For what literary reason is this amusing?
  • Cite internal proof (in his songs or on his CDs) that Stan Rogers read Robert A. Heinlein.
  • In what way is John Adam's daughter Nabby's name the opposite of the word "apron"?

The other symptom of out-of-phase-ness is that my head is full of all these old catchphrases, only there's no one else around who knows them. I don't mean the ones that everyone everywhere said and then forgot, like "Where's the Beef?" I mean more specific things like "Keh" and "What a ripoff!" from my fifth-grade class, or "Doy!" (similar to Homer Simpson's "D'oh!" only not) from fourth grade, or "They've gone to Betson's!" which was from an old furniture store commercial, and used to be quoted during Philadelphgia showings of Rocky Horror. And there are all the songs some of my friends wrote in late grade school / early junior high, usually making fun of someone - I still know all the words. There just has to be a more productive use of neurons than that. Only I suspect this happens to enough of the rest of you that I'm not really out of phase, just full of a lot of odd bits of sawdust, tacks, and bran, like the Scarecrow's Brains that the Wizard gave him.

Posted by dichroic at 04:07 PM | Comments (4)

the real things

I don't see it. I've heard people complaining about all the hate and divisiveness they're seeing on the Internet, but it's not what I've been seeing. Obviously that's largely because I carefully choose the journals I read, but what I'm seeing is there too, and I see reasons to hope. There are the conservatives who understand the pain of their liberal friends, the people who believe in not outlawing love who are vowing not to retreat, the people who are trying to appreciate each other instead of automatically dividing all people into two sides and hating the other side. As for the politicians, sink 'em all. They're not the most important thing here, even when they think they are. I don't even like Frank Sinatra, but it's his voice I'm hearing in my head now, and the Internet looks like America to me.

What is America to me?
A name, a map, or a flag I see
A certain word, democracy
What is America to me?

The house I live in
A plot of earth, a street
The grocer and the butcher
And the people that I meet

The children in the playground
The faces that I see
All races and religions
That's America to me

The place I work in
The worker by my side
The little town, the city
Where my people lived and died

The howdy and the handshake
The air a feeling free
And the right to speak your mind out
That's America to me.

I promise, I may add further links to this one but otherwise I'll write about something other than the election next. I've got a post on book stuff brewing (really, really obscure bookstuff) and one on a political issue but with an actual detailed proposal.

Posted by dichroic at 10:31 AM | Comments (0)

November 04, 2004

What the ENT said

I finally got to an ENT specialist tonight. He opines that my "benign positional paroxysmal vertigo", or something like that, is caused by displacement of otoliths, crystals found in the ear. On looking up the website linked there, I'm surprised that he didn't do the Epley Repositioning Maneuver that seems to be mentioned in most of the websites. He did give me some exercises, though - maybe they do the same thing.

He also prescribed what may be one of my worst nightmares: the No-CATS diet. That is, no caffeine, alcohol, tobacco or salt until the dizziness goes away. So fine, I can avoid Cokes for a while. I can stay away from even my occasional beer. I don't smoke anyway. But no salt? No SALT???? How on earth is that supposed to work? And doesn't he know pretzels count as a major food group? I don't think we even have any food in the house that doesn't have salt in it, except maybe the container of pepper. For example, tomorrow is a rowing morning; that means today's typical meal choices would be a salad (salt in the dressing), soup (ever examined the label on a can of Campbell's?) or maybe a baked potato (salted butter). The potato or salad probably aren't too bad, especially if I made my own vinaigrette for the latte, but they aren't unsalted either. I ended up having tortellini instead, with cilantro pesto, which also had salt, but at least it was one of the last ingredients. (Incidentally, I would have thought cilantro pesto would be pesto made with cilantro, not pesto made from cilantro instead of basil. Not something I'll buy again.)

The theory behind the No-CATS diet is that it will keep me from adding more fluid to my ears, in case that exacerbates the effects. I don't see it listed on any of the websites as a typical therapy, but I can't suppose it would hurt, either. I'll do my best to at least cut down on the salt, and I'll do all my exercises. But I'd have to be much worse off than I am to get me to give up on pretzels.

Posted by dichroic at 07:51 PM | Comments (3)

November 03, 2004

the glove heresy

You know that winter season we supposedly don't really have in Arizona? Well, at 5 AM we do. It was cold this morning - the forties, I think. (Those of you in places like Detroit, Minnesota, or Maine, quit laughing. They stop rowing for the winter in your area when it gets that cold.) Also, it's dark for the entire practice and you start to think about just how narrow and tippy that boat really is.

I feel a little silly actually. When people look at my callused or blistered hands or when I coach beginning rowers, they often ask about wearing gloves. For years I've taught, said, and rowed by the same mantra: "Rowers DON"T wear gloves."

This morning I did wear gloves. It's true: for all normal purposes, rowers DON't wear gloves. Marathon regattas, however, are not normal purposes. Last weekend I bought a pair of batting gloves to take to the marathon so I have them there if my hands start to shred. It's a bad, bad idea to wear anything to the marathon that hasn't been previously tested or broken in. The first year Rudder rowed it, a few people from our old club wore gloves for the whole thing. They hadn't practiced with them on, and as a result their hands were raw by the end of the race.

I plan to start without the gloves and wear them only if I need to; oar grips are made to be gripped by skin. I still need to keep my hands as tough as possible. This morning, I decided to wear the gloves for my first lap, partly so I'd have them on while I was warming up and partly in case they were hard to get on after my hands got sweaty. I can't say I ever got that warm, but the gloves did work fairly well. Batting gloves were recommended to me because they're thin and fit tightly. I'd gotten the best-fitting pair of batting gloves (Youth Medium) with the fewest seams I could find, with no padding on the palm and breathable material on the backs of my hands. I had good oar-feel, no bunching and only a small problem with a seam near the wrist that I was able to fix. Also, they kept my hands from getting numb.

It's time to bring out the waterproof socks next. By the end of practice I couldn't feel my feet. I still don't plan to wear gloves regularly, but I may dig out some pogies for when it gets even colder.

Posted by dichroic at 01:52 PM | Comments (0)

neither shutting up nor giving up

I feel a little better this morning, since calling my local chapter of the ACLU and donating about four times my usual annual amount. The woman I spoke to said about five people have called this morning to join up.

What's bothering me now is that, given Mr. Bush's visual issues (that is, the congenital inability to see any shades of gray) I'm afraid he'll see only that he won and will take that as a mandate for four more years of the same. But 51%, or 50.5 % or whatever it is of the popular vote is not a mandate. What it is, is a "Yes, but..." It's some people that just don't like Kerry for whatever reason. It's some people that think changing leaders during a battle is a bad idea, no matter if some things are going badly. It's some people who worry more about terrorists than about losing civil rights, and many people (though a fwe less) who feel the opposite. It's people who didn't want sons and daughters sent to war, but who desperately need them to have been sent for a good reason, and people who hate that a supposed "conservative" President is spending money like water but who fear a Democrat (albeit one who was part of balancing the budget) might be worse.

What it is, is a call to self-examination, to re-examine what you thought was true, to keep on with what still looks right and to admit and change what doesn't. Unfortunately, I'm afraid it's a call our re-elected President won't hear. I hope I'm wrong.

I'm disappointed by the 11 states voting against gay marriage, too, but large-scale change is never easy. Take heart in the famous words of Governor George Wallage, speaking on a similar issue: "Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever." It's not forever - it's only forty years later and segregation policies have fallen in Alabama, and in the US, and in the world. Change in attitudes is a juggernaut that moves slowly - the change to Wallace's ideas isn't finished yet - but it's damned hard to stop.

Four more years isn't forever, and a country in which Mousepoet and Mechaieh can both write about the strength of our freedoms, though writing on opposing sides of the election, is not a country without hope. Meanwhile, I'm still here. I'm still mouthy, still Jewish, still pro-choice, still believing in shades of gray, in innocent until proven guilty, in the Constitution of my country and the freedoms it guarantees, and still convinced that everyone - Arab and Jew, gay and straight, liberal and conservative - deserve the freedoms I have. I plan to spend the next four years not shutting up. Bring it on.

Posted by dichroic at 10:27 AM | Comments (3)

November 02, 2004

workout and race entry

First, some photo links from the Head of the Charles.

Here's a great shot of Rudder, and another I like of him and others (he's on the bottom right. Here's the four I coxed. Here's one of me looking around, just so you can see my face to prove I was really there, and here you can see just why I was looking.

Apparently I haven't blogged my workouts since October 11. Of course, I've also skipped quite a few since then due to travel and so on. So from earlier to later:

Wednesday, 10/13: 2 km on the erg (I think I wasn't feeling well.)
Friday 10/15: Coxed for the City.
Saturday 10/16: 8 km in the double with D.
Sunday 10/17: 21000 meters on the erg.
Monday 10/18: 8.4 km in the single plus 2.4 km walk
Tuesday 10/19: 1.6 km walk
Wednesday 10/20: 12.2 km in the double with She-Hulk
Friday through Sunday, 10/22-24: walked a estimated total of 21 miles = 33.8 km (I estimate the distance by figuring how many times each day we walked the whole length of the racecourse. And I even bumped the estimate down a little.)
Wednesday, 10/27: 9.5 km in the single
Friday, 10/29: 14 km in the double with She-Hulk.
Saturday, 10/30: 11 km in the double with D.
Monday, 11/1: She-Hulk and I planned to row the double (because Rudder was still sick) but it was too windy.

YTD total as of 11/1: 1428.4 km or 89% of 1000 mile (=1609 km) goal

Posted by dichroic at 01:37 PM | Comments (0)

preserved to this day

Baruch ata Adonai, elohenu melech ha'olam shehechiyanu vikiyimanu vehigiyanu, lazman ha'zeh.

There were lines at my local polling place this morning despite the ease and large participation of early voting here. It looks like if there is a surprise this election, it will NOT be a dearth of voter turnout. (Of course things could still change - I'm sure it's the most committed voters who tend to be the ones out early. But still, this is unusual; there was no wait at all when I went to vote in the primary.)

And speaking of Shehechiyanu, I loved the prayers before voting over at Velveteen Rabbi:

Blessed are You, Adonai, our God, Ruler of the Universe, who has graced human beings with thought, enabling us to understand and to choose.

I also really liked the translation of "Yisroel" in the longer prayer as "God-wrestlers", both more literal and more inclusive than the usual implication that it applies only to the nation of Israel (in the sense of all Jews, not of literal statehood). What is a vote if not the result of a struggle to determine what you feel is right?

This large turnout really pleases me. I'm been embarassed for my country so many times, seeing the huge participation in the first free elections in places like South Africa and Afghanistan among people who know what it's like not to have a voice. It's reassuring to see that the way to get Americans to vote is so simple: just convince them that it matters.

In an odd way, this election and especially the NPR coverage of it has done a lot to bolster my faith in the people of my country. It has nothing to do with the candidates, neither of whom has fought an entirely clean campaign or of the parties, who have been worse. But NPR spends a lot of airtime talking to regular people at debates and rallies and on the street, and they are good about letting the people speak for themselves, in full explanations rather than short answers. There have been a few gung-ho stand-by-my-party's-man types (most of these were on one side, unsurprisingly) but in general the people supporting both sides had considered issues and made up their own minds in a thoughtful way. It was good to hear. It's not even just NPR. The first substantive political exchange I heard this election was on a local rock station from Alice Cooper of all people. They had Alice hosting a weekend show (he lives out here) and he was talking to a caller. Alice expressed a view, the caller disagreed, they both gave their opinions, and both were both rational and civil. It was wonderful. It was what the candidates should have been doing. It made me sure we'll survive whatever happens this election, somehow, despite the politicians.

Posted by dichroic at 09:05 AM | Comments (0)

November 01, 2004


Who in hell makes Caesar salad with pineapples? I mean, who other than the cafeteria here? Even though I got mine made without them (as did the guy in line before me) they toss it in the same bowl, so my salad still had a disturbing bit of sweetness. That just ain't right.

On the way to work this morning, I was considering superpowers. I came to the surprising realization that most of the ones in comic books wouldn't actually do me much good, in this life I've evolved. Take it hero by hero:

1) The Fantastic Four: It's fairly clear that setting things on fire or looking like a bunch of rocks wouldn't be much good to me. Sue Storm's and Mr. Fantastic's powers sound more useful at first gasp, but what good would they really do? At work it's usually better for me to be seen than to be invisible. I could sneak around and watch Rudder, but I'm fairly sure he doesn't do anything incriminating when I'm not there. There have been a couple of bosses where I'd have liked to find out what exactly they did in the office, but that's minor. As for Mr. Fantastic, I can just see it: I'm in a meeting, and realize I've left my tea in my office. I casually stretch my hand down under the table, along the floor, out of the room, down the hall, and into my office .... where I proceed, since I can't see, to knock over my monitor and spill the tea onto my keyboard. I'd get myself in trouble with that one. The one thing that would help: I could stretch my legs and torso until I'm about 6'3", which should help my rowing speed a lot. But then they probably wouldn't let me compete with all the non-stretchies.

2) Spiderman: There's a reason he lives in New York. Out here, buildings are widely spaced and not many are over two stories. He'd be going Swing! - thud. Swing! - thud. Spider-strngth? t might help in rowing, but then again, that wouldn't be fair in competition. Otherwise, the heaviest thing I generally lift is the bottle on a water cooler, and I can manage that now. It might be nice with the odd stubborn bottle cap, but it's usually easy enough to find help with those if I need it. The spidey-sense might be nice, though, when sitting at a computer with my back to the door - but reorganizxing my office this morning worked just as well.

3) Superman: As for super-strength, see above. X-ray vision? Might be useful if I were a mechanic or doctor. Heat vision might be good for cooking, but stoves work pretty well, too. Flying would be nice, I admit, and if I could fly faster than a car (Superman can; he can fly faster than the Earth's rotational speed) it would shorten my commute, so that would be valuable. I bet I'd get cold, though. If I could dress warmly enough, it would make getting to regattas easier: "Don't worry about the boat - I'll just fly it out there."

4) Batman: Now, here's a man with some useful attributes: filthy rich, motivated, wildly inventive. Only, of course, those aren't the superpowers he got from being Batman but rather the things that let him make himself into Batman. Those would all be useful to me, but they're not exactly superpowers. It might be almost as much fun to be Richard Branson ... except I bet his vehicle's not as cool as the Batmobile. No, wait, it is.

Posted by dichroic at 12:43 PM | Comments (1)

only one more day

What Scalzi said, but with some caveats. One is that while I don't think Kerry has descended to anywhere near the Shrub level in this campaign, there's still been enough nastiness and fact-twisting on his and Edwards' parts to make me feel unable to vote for them as whole-heartedly as I can vote against Bush. Another is the excellent point M'ris made; I don't want someone who will do whatever it takes, either. I want someone who will fight evil without using evil's tactics wherever possible, someone who will try hard not to kill children, not even foreign children, and who will not restrict civil liberties one iota more than what is absolutely required by the exigencies of war. (I keep thinking of a letter Robert A. Heinlein wrote to John W. Campbell, pointing out that in wartime it was (is?) illegal to speak against the war to a member of the Armed Services, for reasons of morale. I'm still ambivalent on that one.)

I think Kerry's chest-pounding in this instance is from a perceived need to appear as macho as his opponent, but I think it's the wrong tack. It's the same sort of thing Democrats have done since Republicans (was it Bush, Sr.?) began accusing their opponents of being "the L-word", and it's ridiculous. I'd rather see them do as other out-groups have done and take back the labels used against them. I'd like to see Kerry stand up and say, "Yes, I do have a nuanced position, dammit. We need to hunt down those SOBs who have killed innocent people and bring them to justice* - but we can't assume that everyone who doesn't like us or who gets in our way is a terrorist, either. And we can't do it by grinding down our own civil rights, either, or we become the thing we're trying to abolish." He won't say that, I don't suppose. He'll just keep trying to look as tough as Geordie in case a few more undecideds might be making their decision based solely on the aroma of testosterone riding from each man.

*Actually, he keeps saying he wants to "hunt down and kill" terrorists. And every time I hear it I keep thinking "Nuremberg Trials". Some of the worst human-born monsters known to history were given fair trial there, and I stand with those who call it one of the high points of civilization to date.

Putting together all the polls and predictions I've been hearing, the political pundits and prognosticators seem to posit that this election will have a record turnout, that there will be so many close calls and so much confusion that we won't know who will be President for some time afterward, and that Bush will squeak in to office eventually, after which he will once again not apply so much as a bit of spackle to rejoin this house divided. I'm going to go way out on a limb and predict that some part of that is wrong. Unfortunately the usefulness of my prediction is a bit limited in that I have no idea which part. I hope it's not the large turnout; I'm sadly sure is not the divisiveness of a putative Bush presidency. With luck, the wrong part will be the close call and the delay.

I've promised myself that if Bush wins, I'm making (another) donation to the ACLU.

Posted by dichroic at 12:17 PM | Comments (0)