December 30, 2004

unconnected brain offgassing

Random Observations:

I decided on the Noro Sillk Garden for th scarf - knitted the beginnings of it in both yarns to see how it worked out and the Manos was too heavy. Though if I do a second scarf of it, it might make a good shawl/lap robe for the office.

So far the Sillk Garden has broken three times on me (I don't think I knit all *that* tight) but at least it spit-splices well.

Watched VH1's 100 Best Heavy Metal / Hard Rock Bands last night. Why do they even try to make it suspenseful that Led Zeppelin was voted the best metal band of all time? And why didn't someone *tell* me Eddie Vedder was so good-looking? I mean, I've heard Pearl Jam, of ourse, but had never seen them.

Note to American Christians: As a semi-outsider I can report that the way you-all celebrate Christmas is terrible. Months of preparation for one day? It's just ludicrous and probably accounts for all those artificially high expectations that result in post-holiday letdown. I propose we all go to celebrating for all twelve days. Or we could do the Saturnalia thing, with the Lord of Misrule and all the role-reversals and such. And my company (and yours, if you're a wage-slave) should give me a holiday until Epiphany, too.

Besides, I've concluded I really need two weeks off: one to rest up and sleep and one to do stuff.

I rather wish some of you authorial types out there would read Diana Wynne Jones' Hexwood and let me know what you think. She's trying to do a lot of funky and confusing things with the structure - that is, some times the reader is supposed to be confused and sometimes I was anyway. I don't think it altogether succeeded; one indicator was that she had to explain a few threads in an Author's Note at the end. But it was interesting to watch her handling iof the tricky bits, and it's a good enough story that it kept me involved regardless. I'd rate it as a fascinating but not completely successful experiment. It reminded me of Fire and Hemlock more than anything else of hers I'd read, but I think the latter ties up the ends better. There aren't too many books I think ought to be longer, but this might be one.

I know part of the reason there seem to be so many miscarriages is because people know about pregnancies so much earlier, but I've known of far too many lately, some after the mother started showing signs of pregnancy. It breaks my heart, because some of these were so wanted.

Posted by dichroic at 09:23 PM | Comments (1)

December 28, 2004


Today I bought what can fairly be described as "a shitload of yarn":

What happened was I went to store#1 looking for yarn for Clapotis. They didn't have naything I liked in a silk/wool blend so steered me to the Manos del Uruguay (top row). I love the colorway but am concerned that all-wool will be too hot and heavy. (It's just a scarf, not sex, so there is such a thing!) I had a little more time so headed to store #2, which did have a decent selection of Noro Silk Garden. I like this colorway but not quite as much as the other. So the options are:

1) knit up one yarn and return the other (but which?)
2) knit two Clapotises (Clapoti?)
3) knit one and save the other yarn for some later hypothetical project
4) swatch both to see which I like (which means I won't be able to return at least one ball of each).

I'm not terribly good at inconsequential decisions. Then again, I'm not terribly good at knitting, either (see poncho in previous entry) so whichever yarn I pick, I'll be looking at it for a long, long time.

Posted by dichroic at 07:15 PM | Comments (2)

December 27, 2004

more FOs

Just in case I sound all happy about my low-gift ratio, I should point out it also had something to do with Rudder having gotten me few stocking things and no Santa gifts. I had so ridiculously many little gifts for him I gave some to other relatives and even wrapped up some peppermint bark (yum) and a mini zero fog blaster for myself - so I did have a coupl ecool things to unwrap. And Rudder's been playing with the fog blaster ever since, incidentally.

Me? Bitter?

Anyway, in happier news, here's the obligatory tree photo:

and not one but two finished objects:

First, a mini-Weasley sweater (top-down seamless raglan). The body is about as long as my finger and I'm still debating whether to duplicate-stitch an initial on it. I'll have to check whether Molly Weasley put initials on all her sweaters or only Fred's and George's.

And next, the poncho, with front and back views. Lots and lots of mistakes, as you can see, but at least it was a good learning experience.

Posted by dichroic at 08:41 PM | Comments (3)

end of Xmas

Well, yesterday's vegetable soup wasn't great - nothing really wrong with it, but it needed a couple extra hours in the crockpot. Other than that, I think my in-laws ae now convinced we're increedible cooks - the highlights at Xmas dinner were Rudder's deep-fried turkey and my cappucino pie. Yummy. The visit was a shining success in general. Rudder's grandmother commented that it seemed like we were always eating, which was true enough but funny, since I had the same reaction to visiting them last summer. Rudder's grandparents can't really walk far enough for any of the activities we'd have otherwise planned, so mostly we all just hung around, but I know everyone had a good time. Last night I dragged them all out to sit by a bonfire - I've been wanting to put floating candles on the pool for a awhile and this was my chance. It had been chilly but last night was cloudy, which holds heat in, so it was just warm enough for us not to freeze and cool enough to want to stay near the fire. The reflection of the fire and candles on the pol were magical and it turned out to be a great way to end their visit.

The only drawback was that I got very few gifts this year, especially compared to the loads of stuff I got everyone else. However, that was just because my family of course sent their gifts for Chanukah and some of our Xmas gifts were perishable things that we opened on arrival. For example we got lots of summer sausage and cheese, which were great to have with that many people around. Also, Rudder and I are giving each other a new bed, which we haven't gotten yet, and the grandparents' gift to us was their presence, which is a very nice sort of present but doesn't have a bow to untie. I did get a midweight fleece pullover from the in-laws, whicih is something I've been wanting - I've been jealous of Rudder's. Also, my MIL was delighted with the Moebius scarf and my GMIL seemed to like the scarf I knitted her, and I love giving gifts people love.

They left today because my FIL has to get back to work and they have a 2-3 day drive back. Now the big festive part of the holiday is over, Rudde is enjoying a nap and I'm looking forward to a whole week off work to do whatever I want. I'll post pics of the poncho later when Ruder's around to take pictures and, when I finish it, of the mini-Weasley sweater I'm knitting. (It's a top-down raglan and will be 3-4" tall - seemed lilke a good way to see how that works.)

Posted by dichroic at 09:54 AM | Comments (0)

December 24, 2004

knitting - nearly done and what to do next

So now with all the knitted presents finished last night I got back to the poncho I've been working on pretty much forever (where "forever"=since early September, not including the time since October when I've been working on hats and scarves for gifts). Rudder's parents and grandparents got here around 5 with no problems other than being a little stiff from 2-3 days of driving. His grandmother seemed impressed with both the poncho and the Gryffindor scarf I wore when we went out to dinner. She was also much taken with my set of Denise needles, which is a shame because we actually talked about getting her some but didn't know if she already had them or would like a set. It sounds like she has a Boyes set but doesn't like them as much.

I don't really know if I'll ever wear the poncho; it's very lacy and open so will onlky work over certain shirts. Also, when unstretched it's only 13" wide instead of the 16" it's supposed to be. It is very stretchy, though (which has also made measuring length to see if I'm almost done difficult - it's a different length every time I check). I might try blocking, but I don't know if that would help on cotton.

Anyway, I'll definitely wear it at least a few times just because of the work I've put into it, and it's been good practice. It's nearly done. What I'd really like to make next is a Clapotis, but that's a little silly for someone who lives in a hot climate, knits as slowly as I do, isn't terribly good at keeping track of rows and stitches. Still, it seems to be very wearable according to the many bloggers who've made one, the majority of it is a simple pattern (k1, k tbl, k3, k tbl) with purling on alternate rows (I don't mind that part because I can *see* whether it's a knit or purl row instead of having to remember) and it would be good practice.

What I should work on instead is the sleeveless shell I've started, which is simpler, requiring only knit or purl rows with a few increases/decreases, and which I could wear all year 'round out here, with a blazer over it in winter. But then, the majority of knitters do see to have multiple projects at a time.

Posted by dichroic at 08:53 AM | Comments (2)

December 23, 2004

yearly application of tact

My theme song this Christmas is from Stan Rogers:

At last, I'm ready for Christmas, I've even finished the tree, At last, I'm ready for Christmas, like I thought I'd never be, With feet propped up by a nice warm fire and a matching inside glow. At last, I'm ready for Christmas, with nearly two hours to go.

Granted, I'm more or less ready two days before, not two hours, but only because Rudder's family arrives today. MIL's hat is DONE! though not wrapped, the tree is decked and the ornament boxes put away, the house is straightened to Rudder's standards, and the turkeys are injected (with seasoning / marinade).

I have done my act of kindness and tact for this year, too. There's a woman on an e-list of mine who has put me on her list of "inspirational" forwards. These are almost invariably a) treacly, b) preachy, and c) about Jesus. Worse, this is the second time she's done this; she had me on her list years ago when we were both on a related e-list; I think then I just blocked her email address. I've made no secret of being Jewish on this list. I don't know in what universe it's acceptable to send stuff like that to someone not of your faith, and in my particular universe it's not acceptable to send ANY regular forwards to ANYONE unless they've asked for them. I might send the occasional joke or picture that I think a specific person might especially like, but her messages were coming several times a day. However, contrary though it might be to reason, I do believe her motives were benign; I think she's just honestly clueless.

I emailed her and asked her politely to stop, and it was one of the hardest messages I've ever had to frame. It was far more difficult than you'd imagine not to write "What part of "Jewish" do you not understand?" or "Please get your god out of my inbox," or some such. (As may be obvious, I am not a naturally tactful person.) But I did it, and I must have succeeded in non-inflammatory phrasing, because she agreed to take me off her list, told me with no hint of irony that she "appreciated my being Jewish" (arrgggh!) and asked for a copy of something I'd written.

I suppose there are things to be said for tact, in that it so often seems to succeed where direct speech would only raise defensive hackles. I'd feel better if I could think of a similarly polite way to educate her on why what she's done is unacceptable, but I don't think I can do that without being worse than the original offense, and using rudeness to teach manners is generally not productive.

(Of course, by venting here I've probably already voided any tact KarmaI'd earned, anyway. It's still not a skill I've fully internalized, clearly.)

Posted by dichroic at 08:55 AM | Comments (6)

December 22, 2004

the best present

TranceJen asked, "What was the best gift you ever got on Christmas morning?"

I can't really remember being all that excited by my Chanukah gifts, though I'm sure I was at the time. I suppose the best ones were probably the (increasingly larger) bikes my grandparents gave me when I was 4, 8 and 12, and I also remember getting various Barbie stuff. (My least favorite gift from the grandparents was the two sets of underwear - it might've been a birthday rather than Chanukah - with sort of training-bra tops like undershirts that ended mid-rib cage that they gave me when I was 12 or so and had absolutely no need for any sort of bra, training or otherwise.)

The best gift, the one that made me feel most warm and fuzzy, was just a few years ago and again it mght have been a birthday rather than Christmas. It was from my in-laws (as I've said here before, I lucked out in the in-law lottery) and it was the "gift of a relaxing evening". It wasn't so much that I really needed some de-stressing time just then, though I certainly did, as that the accoutrements were so perfectly me. As I recall, they sent me some nice tea, some fancy popcorn (on the cob) and a gift certificate to Amazon. I don't know whether they knew me well enough to do all that or whether they conferred with Rudder, but I think they get equal credit either way, even though they did say I sitll have to do the hard part and supply the evening to relax in. They also gave me last year a drawing (lithograph? I don't know about these things) of "She Who Loves to Read", of a woman wiht bushy brown hair curled in a cushy chair with a book (and two more books beside her), a mug of tea, and a cat. The only way you can tell it's not me (other than that the woman in the drawing has a blank face because that's apparently what this artist does, and I do have eyes, nose and mouth) is that I'd never be sitting straight in the chair; I tend to sling myself crossways.

Still to do: finish wrapping presents, finish knitting my MIL's hat, and do a bit of straightening. Also, maybe I'll make brownies this evening - though Rudder will be injecting turkeys, so that might not be the world's best idea if I don't want brownies redolent of onion and garlic.

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

December 21, 2004

new books, syndicated

Yes, I have pre-ordered my copy of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. (If you care about it at all you've probably already heard it will be released July 16, 2005.)

E. Nesbit's Harding's Luck is up online now. It's one of the hardest to find of Nesbit's books (that I know of), a companion book to House of Arden but - well, here's the review I wrote at Amazon a few years ago:

Many of Edith Nesbit's books are not so much novels as they are sequences of shorter stories (perhaps they were published, or meant to be read, serially?) Harding's Luck and its companion, The House of Arden, have far more complex and interwoven plots. The events in the lighter House of Arden form only a part Harding's Luck, as Dickie is a much fuller character than Edred and Elfrida. They must have been plotted together, as each contains references to the other. As in The Psammead and the Carpet, there are numerous instances of Nesbit's socialist views (not in the modern sense of big government, more along the lines of GK Chesterton's definition "A socialist is a man who wants all the chimneys swept and all the chimney sweeps paid for it."). Children will never notice these; adults may find them sweet but sadly naive.

In their richness of plot and character, and in the sense of something deeper and truer lurking behind the superficial magic, these two are probably the crown of Nesbit's work. Givn the fact that the paperback copy of Harding's Luck costs $10, it's worthwhile to shell out another $7 for the hardback, so you'll have it longer.

I bought my copy at Amazon when it was reprinted (I'd never heard of the book before I came across it there, but House of Arden had been my favorite of hers, so there was squee'ing and possibly sme jumping up and down) but that must have been a very small print run. The online version is the next best thing and even contains the original illustrations by H.R. Millar.

Speaking of books online, I've been experimenting with Livejournal syndication. The Online Books Page has a new RSS feed for its New Listings page, so I've created a syndicated LJ account for it, online_books, that can be added to your Friends page like any other LJ. One warning: on the RSS feed, each new book is listed as an individual entry, rather than having one entry per day, so the feed can eat up a Friends page. I've also syndicated this page; you can find it at Dichroic2. However, that's not nearly as helpful because the LJ page just contains the first few lines of each entry. It might be useful for someone who spends a lot of time in LJ, to see when I've updated, but since I do that most weekdays anyway, it's not a lot of help.

Posted by dichroic at 12:46 PM | Comments (1)

December 20, 2004

200,000 meters, year 4: done

I nearly forgot. As of yesterday....
Holiday Challenge: FINISHED!
Thankful for:That.

Posted by dichroic at 03:54 PM | Comments (1)

almost ready for Christmas

Excellent weekend. It's not that we did anything terribly special but I got Rudder back and that's enough. For some reason, even though he was only gone for a week it was a very long week.

We are now more or less on track for the holiday and for Rudder's parents' and grandparents' visit. What I really need is a big DONE! stamp like they use on the show Monster House.

Food shopping: DONE!
All we need to do is pick up some milk right before guests arrive.

Boughten gifts purchased: DONE!
Including way too many extra gifts (to be marked "from Santa") and stocking stuffers.

Tree decorated: DONE!
At least, it's at a point where it looks all right if we don't do anything else to it. If I have time, I'll add a few more plain red and gold balls to it.

Homemade gifts: in progress -- all done but the hat for my MIL, and that's secondary to the long-since-finished Moebius scarf.

The beading stuff is put away and the ping-pong table is moved outside. There's still a little neatening to be done and guest beds to be sheeted, but the guest towels are out and the cleaning service will be in Sunday. I won't make the pies (one eggnog and one cappucino cream - I wonder where the espresso maker is?) until at least Christmas Eve. Aside from those I'm totally cheating on baking, having bought slice-and-bake cookies and brownie mix. Rudder will inject the turkeys on Thursday and deep-fry them Christmas day. The fridge is groaning with indigestion and bulging at the seams; Rudder's family went in for food gifts this year so in addition to the two turkeys we're deep-frying (one to eat and one to freeze) there's a smoked turkey, five kinds of cheese (well, I bought the Brie and goat cheeses) and I don't know how many kinds of sausage (plus the chorizo we bought for breakfast fajitas. The rest of this week will feature quit times at work, a party tonight, feverish knitting, and gift wrapping. Lots and lots of wrapping. Between the company of people who know how to be guests (not universal knowledge, I'm finding, but if you want to see how it's done right, invite Mechaieh to stay with you sometime) and the time off work, this should be fun and even relaxing. I'm hoping that "Lakeview time" is a traveling effect and that Rudder's grandparents bring it with them; when we've visited them we notice that time goes slower there and there seem to be more minutes in each day.

After the family leaves, we have a few more pleaant things planned. I need to row a bit to get used to the boat again; I've got a cross-country flight to plan and fly up to our property on the rim (VFR so I can enjoy the scenery); Rudder and I are 80% sure that this is the bed we're buying as our gift to each other. And though it willprobably take some weeks for it to be delivered, I'll be happy to spend plenty of the holiday break snoozing in our old bed.

Posted by dichroic at 10:13 AM | Comments (3)

December 17, 2004

parenting extremes

I just read an article that persuasively claims that the current popularity of gangsta rap among teenagers is because a main topic of the songs is parental abandonment and so many kids can identify with that. The main effect it's had on me is to make me feel sorry for the parents, because I also recently read an article on how many of them are being overprotective and smothering their children. What's a parent to do? Damned if they care too much, damned if they don't care enough. Obviously the ideal is to care for their kids while teaching them independence at the same time, but I can see where one step on either side of the ideal middle path would get you accused of one thing or another. I suspect these two cases are about non-intersecting sets of parents, but still, when something like that becomes common enough to be a big societal issue it's got to be hard for any one parent not to be affected by the perception of leaning to one side or the other. No wonder I don't have kids.

Also, I've seen where even necessary divorces, where the incompatibility had become unbearable after a longterm marriage, even when both parents stayed involved and did care about and care for the kids, were perceived as abandonment by teenagers. Possibly some people at that reactive and hormonal age are apt to feel abandoned or smothered or both alternately no matter what. (Not all, though: I know some eminently sane and well-judging people in their teens.)

Just some family stuff below the cut tag - I needed to vent.

Thankful that:My parents didn't either abandon or overprotect me.
Holiday Challenge:Only 25800 to go!

Meanwhile I wish I could abandon a parent at this point. I don't like to talk about it in this public forum much because it's not my own story to tell, but my Dad is bipolar and is going through a manic stage right now. (I mean, right now: I just got off the phone with my brother who asked me to try to persuade him not to buy $90 shoes he doesn't need and usually wouldn't want.) I'm beginning to think that the stigma mental health issues have/had are at least partly because people who have them are so, so maddening to deal with. As Mom says, if you have a physical illness, you're generally willing to take your medicine and do something about it. Mania is lots of fun for the person having it, though not so much for those around them trying to protect their health/safety/career/finances/relationships, so the patient has little incentive to get better.

This is hard on me. It's much harder on my brother who's right nearby and has drawn a lot of babysitting (Dadsitting) duty, and it's becoming nearly unbearable for my Mom. Fortunately they've got good health insurance and Mom's got lots of understanding people at work (she works at an inpatient mental health center for people with longterm disabilities). I hope they can get him hospitalized, because I think he's getting worse.

Posted by dichroic at 12:34 PM | Comments (2)

December 16, 2004

plumbing and intellectual discomfort

I say it again: thank goodness for 24-hour plumbing services. The leak does seem to be fixed - there is no water more dripping off the roof. However, the floor and wall still still have wet spots in our bedroom, and there are wet patches in the ceiling in the bedroom next door and downstair in the family room under the wet floor. With a modicum of luck, the wet parts won't collapse, will dry out (this is a desert climate) and we can mend them at our (hypothetical) leisure.

Just to liven things up a bit I had two more small catastrophes yesterday. I'd stayed late for a telecon with Singapore and right around 5:30 I realized all the memos on my Palm had vanished. I keep from fairly important information in there, anything from the phone number I use for work telecons to poems to my old addresses. I knew what had happened: I sync with Outlook and they have the latter configured here to delete anything more than a couple of months old. I'd thought I'd exempted the memos from syncing, but apparently not. Fortunately, I did have a slightly older version of the memos on both work and home computers and was able to get them back. What I really need the Palm to do is to sync calendars and contacts with Outlook and other things like memos with the Palm desktop, but I don't think it will do that.

Also, less critically, while waiting for the plumber I noticed that all but the first couple of strings of lights on my tree were out. I jiggled the plug and they went back on but were off again in an hour or so. It's probably just a bad plug on one string; fortunately, I'd taken advice from Real Simple magazine and strung the lights up and down instead of around and around, so it should be easy enough to strip out and replace one string.

Plans for tonight and tomorrow are to finish knitting the dishrag and start the hat, fix the tree lights, finish my cards and maybe wrap some gifts, and to row 10K tomorrow morning. On Saturday and Sunday, I hope to fly, finish the Holiday Challenge (yay!) with 10K Saturday and a half-marathon on Sunday, wrap more gifts, pick up Rudder, finish the hat, finish decorating the tree and clean up all the ornament-storage stuff that's in the living room, decide what we're having for Christmas dinner and at least some of the other meals while Rudder's family are visiting, and shop for said ingredients. And maybe bake a batch of cookies. That doesn't sound too impossibly much for a weekend, does it? I'm tempted to go to the local Stitch'n'Bitch tonight, which is in a bookstore I like only a few miles away. If I do, I won't get any wrapping or cards done but should be able to finish the dishrag and start knitting the hat. The only argument against going is that after last night's drama and considering that I only erged 6K this morning and would like to do 10K tomorrow, I really should get to bed early.

This is a difficult time of year for me in some ways. I don't have the usual emotional difficulties with the season, because I only began celebrating Christmas as an adult and Chanukah is a blessedly angst-free holiday. In the milieu in which I was raised, decidedly Jewish but somewhat influenced by surrounding American culture, the only traumas of the season were whether you got the gift you wanted and maybe a few furtive tears when Rudolf and Denny the Elf got kicked out just for being a little different or when Charlie Brown's tree couldn't hold up its one ornament.

The difficulties of the season for me are more organizational and intellectual/spiritual. First, of course, there's the simple pressure of so many things to get done for the holidays. Generally either we're having company or we're going somewhere and there are just so many things to get done before the holiday and I never have enough vacation left to take time off just to work on it. Second, there's the conflict for me of celebrating this holiday at all. It may be paradoxical to be intermarried and yet try to resist assimilation, but that's where I am. I'm Jewish. I'm not particularly observant but my outlook and values are greatly shaped by the tradition in which I was raised. I'm not sure whether Jesus ever existed and I certainly don't believe in his divinity, at least no more so than that of any other mortal. I have no interest in celebrating his birth. On the other hand, I really like Christmas. I love having a live tree in my house so the air smells like pine and there are lights and shiny things in that corner. I love red and gold and shiny things at the darkest time of year; the dark is richer and the shine is brighter because of their juxtaposition. I love the rich tradition of holiday music (though not some of its less traditional manifestations, and I won't be upset at all if I never hear Jingle Bell Rock again.) I love any feast that brings a family together (and that purely is my Jewish tradition speaking, since that's how we celebrated Passover and Rush Hashanah and so on). I love getting and giving presents. I love seeing my in-laws. I love having a festive season to end the year; I would like it even better if we in America celebrated for all 12 days. And I love that one part of the holiday is that even in its most secular manifestation it's a holiday about peace, love, merriment and joy. Even the most blatant commercials pay lip service to that ideal. I really do love Christmas and I can't honestly pretend we celebrate it only because of Rudder.

On the other hand, I'm intellectual historian enough that I can't pretend that it's only a secular holiday, because a big part of it is firmly rooted in Christianity. Chistmas=Christ's Mass. I suppose I could celebrate Yule, but I'm not a pagan either and it takes too much explaining. Maybe the best way to look at it is as a blend of traditions, pulling the most from Christianity but also from a host of pagan traditions (the tree, the time of year, the idea of light in darkness), pure material secularism (duh), humanism (check out the messages in Rudolph and the Grinch), and even a touch of Judaism (Irving Berlin, after all). I'm a little more comfortable with that.

Thankful that: I do have such great in-laws.
Holiday Challenge:35800 meters to go - I hope to finish this weekend.

Posted by dichroic at 01:01 PM | Comments (3)

December 15, 2004

plumbing emergency

Note the time stamp on this entry. It's not one you'll often see from me, considering our usual weekday bedtime is 8. Not only do we get up early for rowing but we both find massive amounts of exercise demand extra sleep.

Last night I noticed water dripping off the roof. My first thought was the heat pump, because we'd had one of the two replaced last summer. So I called those people and they said, yes the heat pump could drip when defrosting. It seemed to be dripping a *lot*, though. Well, tonight it was still dripping. (Both nights I got home after dark and wasn't too thrilled about climbing up on the roof when I couldn't see anyway.) So called back and they confirmed it wouldn't drip *that* much so I thought and finally realized it must be the solar water heater. (OK, I'm not too bright in plumbing matters.) Oops. I've called the company who replaced our solar panel a few years ago. (I was actually very pleased and surprised that both of these places were open, since I didn't get home until 6:30 or so.) They told me to unplug the control unit for now and they'd call me tomorrow and arrange a time to send someone that day.

I had made arrangements for the solar panel guys to come out tomorrow, then finally was heading up to bed (8:30) when I noticed a bulging spot on the wall by Rudder's side of the bed. And though it wasn't dripping and neither was the ceiling, the floor there was wet. When I looked in the erg room (the bedroom next to ours) the ceiling over the bookshelf was wet, too. That's when I got *really* worried. I brushed my teeth, cleaned the litterbox, washed my hands from that, turned off the water outside and called a 24-hour plumber. Then I called work to say I'd be in late tomorrow.

The plumber got here an hour later. (Thank goodness for 24-hour plumbing services!!) He went up into the attic, got all around in there and couldn't find the problem. Went up on the roof and finally found it, thank goodness. Apparently there's a hairline crack in the pipe to the solar panel. Over time that saturated the cover around the pipe. I think most of the water dripped off the roof, but the saturation in the pipe covering backed up and that's what got behind the walls. So since the broken pipe's outside, he can get to it to fix it relatively easily (note: his first try just failed when he turned the pump back on, so only relatively easily) and all we'll have to do is patch the spot on our bedroom wall where the bulge was (it's not all that big; the bulge was fist-size) and maybe put some spackle on the ceiling in the erg room. Whew. Since it is the pipe to the panel that's leaking, at the very worst he can turn off the valves to the solar. The water heater uses a combination of electric and solar power and can works just fine on electric alone, so that wouldn't be a big problem.

My plan is to get to work 10 hours from whenever I get to bed - 8 to sleep, 1 to erg, one to shower, dress, and drive. It's probably a good thing I was there from 7:30 until 6 today.

On the plus side, I used the time to get a bunch more cards done and more of the tree decorated. It's not my first choice of ways to find more time, but at least I can hope for a happy ending....

Posted by dichroic at 10:46 PM | Comments (1)


I should really avoid reading WeirdJews. I keep getting sucked in to commenting on things I don't know enough about, at least not compared to some of the people there. Clearly, it's all Mechaieh's fault - that I get sucked in, I mean, since I had never heard of the community until she mentioned it. Not her fault that I comment when ignorant, or that I'm ignorant to begin with.

It is pretty interesting to see a community combining Jews who are weird because they are frum with ones who are weird because they are intermarried or into Zen Buddhism or pierced and tattooed. Sometimes there are fireworks but I suppose being there at all says a lot for people's willingness to build community.

And me with my menorah in one room (the holiday is over so I need to clean off the wax and put it away) and my tree and much assorted paraphernalia in another. Between the beading stuff and the tree-and-house-decorating stuff and the not-being-home-much, my place is a mess. I hope I can get most of it done and put away by this weekend.

Come to think of it, this will be Rudder's extremely rural paternal grandparents' first visit to our house - they don't travel much. They live in a town of 3000 people, the biggest one for a hundred miles or more in every direction. There are several churches, but I'm not sure if there's fast food (not much of a loss there) and they have to go to metropolitan (not) Klamath Falls for any shopping much beyond a supermarket or hardware store. And they have wonderful stories about life during WWII or growing up on a homestead. I wonder what they'll make of my menorah and mezuzah?

They know I'm Jewish, of course, though we haven't ever talked much about it. They must have met other Jews .... I think.

Posted by dichroic at 03:43 PM | Comments (0)

December 14, 2004

Chanukah: driving out despair

In the list of the Seven Deadly Sins, I never understood why Despair was included*. It just didn't make sense to include a mood as a sin; I thought of those as mutually exclusive categories.

Maybe that concept was clearer to most people at the time it was formulated, when for the most wretched serfs only the hope of Heaven provided relief from a life of drudgery. For me, what explained the concept was what I saw in this last US Presidential election and the reaction to it from those on the losing side. Most people who were upset at the results of that election have since moved on, I hope, and either learned to deal with it or gone to work to change and reclaim their future. Immediately after the election, though, a lot of the responses I saw looked a lot like despair, and that was when I realized why it was counted as a deadly sin: it's because despair paralyzes. Despair is like clinical depression, without the brain-chemistry issues; depressives turn inward instead of outward, do not try to impact the outside world, and can go into a death-spiral. If you believe that everything is horrible and we're all doomed and it will never get any better, then there's no point in having hope, thus no faith in God or in a better world to come.

To switch from a Catholic concept to a more Jewish view, if there is no hope then there is no point in working to heal the world. I think that may be a central lesson of Chanukah: not to despair. That kindling a light in darkness does matter, that fighting against ridiculous odds sometimes does result in victory, that (almost hardest of all) when near-victory has nearly collapsed into moral defeat, as when only enough oil for one day was found, a miracle is still not impossible. (Ask any Red Sox fan.) That's a lesson that can be learned from much of Jewish history, because there were so many near-defeats and near-extinctions, but it is particularly central to Chanukah. It goes with both the particular history of the Maccabees and the miralcle of the holy oil and the general ideas of solstice holidays, when the sun dies and is reborn. It's why the image of light in darkness is so vivid to those holidays. From Rachel's Chanukah ritual:

Let us remember our duty to seek freedom for all, because we remember oppression. Let us dedicate ourselves to tikkun olam, the healing of the world, as our holy sanctuary was once re-dedicated at this season. Let us carry Divine Light into the world in this season of darkness.

*Note: Dame Nora commented to say that despair is not one of the Deadly Sins, so I check and found this list at the University of Leicester's Art Historysite:
1. Superbia-Pride
2. Invidia-Envy
3. Ira-Anger
4. Avaritia-Avarice
5. Tristia-Sadness
6. Gula-Gluttony
7. Luxuria-Lust

That's the list as defined by Pope Gregory the Great (d. 604). I think it's fair to define Tristia as Despair rather than Sadness. Later, the list was changed to its current form by THomas Aquinas, and Despair has been replaced with ‘Accidia’, or Sloth. So Nora and I are both right.

(I like the earlier version, being better at combatting Despair than Sloth, myself.)

Posted by dichroic at 12:48 PM | Comments (4)

in the history books

This isn't the entry I was going to write, but it sort of expanded. Expect another along shortly.

My Google Guessing Rank (GGR) is 24625. What's yours?

I did get the tree lighted and some ornaments up, but didn't get anything knitted or written yesterday because last night was full of book-related surprises. The least surprising was one of the gifts Rudder had left for me, a Borders gift certificate. (The litle gray envelope with BORDERS embossed on it sort of gave that one away.)

In addition, two packages arrived in the mail. One was from Mechaieh, which confused me since she'd already sent a book she knew I'd like for a Chanukah present. It turns out that part of her modus operandi for clearing out bookshelves is to choose some of the surplus books and send them to friends she thinks might like them. That strikes me as such a good idea that I'd steal it, except that I never throw out any books but those I think are so horrible I'm sure I'll never read them again - not books I'd want to inflict on friends. Though I did just offer a duplicate copy of the third Thursday Next book on a list where I knew it would be appreciated. (Minor mistake: I offered it to anyone in North America, and the first person to ask for it is in Canada. I didn't realize that shipping it there will cost slightly more than the book's worth via the UPS store. It would probably be cheaper at the Post Orifice, but the extra few dollars are probably worth the not standing in line.)

The other surprise is that I am now in a history book. It's Oxford Circle: The Jewish Community of Northeast Philadelphia, by Allen Meyers. It's part of the Images of America series. The author must have gone to the local synagogues to ask people to share information and photographs with him. I had known my mom talked to him; what I didn't know was that 6 family photos (plus one of the first page of her high-school yearbook) were in the book. I'm in four of those and it appears she picked the goofiest ones to give him. So I'm immortalized as a funny-looking kid. Still, I'm pleased to have the one of me, my brother and my grandfather, and the one of my grandfather alone.

Thankful for: All of my grandparents and having had them until I was in college.
Holiday Challenge: 49000 meters to go.

Posted by dichroic at 12:14 PM | Comments (2)

December 13, 2004

the tree

What do the Rose Window of the (US) National Cathedral, a hiking boot, the Eiffel Tower, a kayak (two, actually), a Beefeater, the Sydney Opera House, a leaf from Walden Pond (dipped in gold: I'm not sure Thoreau wold approve), some Korean tassels, an Alaskan sled dog, a Waterford crystal goblet, a REMOVE BEFORE FLIGHT tag, and glass art from Oregon have in common?

Ans: They're all on my tree right this minute. We have a "travel" tree, for which we pick up ornaments wherever we go. I haven't even started on the shiny balls and icicles yet, because it's so much fun to hang these first for all the memories they bring. There are also the red and gold balls and crystal ornaments from our first Christmas tree together, and the tuna-can snowflakes from the tiny tree I had for a friend who visited me at Christmas before I'd even met Rudder.... those are good memories too. It's not my holiday, but I do love the accoutrements.

Posted by dichroic at 08:09 PM | Comments (1)

NASA's future

Maybe in his flurry of new appointments, Shrub will do the right hting and choose Bob Crippen to head NASA. I think there will be changes, if so - Crippen's a practical, get-it-done sort of guy from all the accounts I've heard. (Not only was he the pilot of the first Shuttle Mission, he was responsible for pushing through the development of the trainer for the Space Shuttle's toilet - they still call it "Crippen's Crapper". He saw a need, he got it done.) I think any of the three aastronauts being mentioned for the position would be good, though. Astronauts tend to be scarily competent; NASA picks the best of the best of the best, just because they can. And since they spend a lot more time working on mission planning and preparation than they do actually flying, they can deal with the admin side as well as the science.

What I hope Bush will NOT do is to choose another candidate being mentioned, retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Ronald Kadish, who until September directed the Missile Defense Agency. You will notice that we still don't HAVE a space-based missile defense system. One reason the original Star Wars system never got built, from what I heard in engineering scuttlebutt is that it would have been one of the most complex systems ever built, with each part built by groups who couldn't talk to each other for security systems. Not a recipe for success, and I've heard nothing to indicate later plans for space-based missile defense systems didn't have the same issues. I'm thinking this is not the person we need in charge of NASA ... unless, of course, you figure that if the government agency went down in flames (figuratively!) it would give a big boost to commercial space flight. That might be good too. Still, I think a sensible government research agency (is that an oxymoron?) collaborating with Rutan and the other commercial ventures would be the best of all worlds. Um, or planets.

Posted by dichroic at 04:23 PM | Comments (0)

in order (more or less)

This morning for some reason I have Jimi Hendrix's Stone Free running around my head. Now it seems to be some tiddly circus music. Of course, everytime I think about that the Hendrix comes back but only for a moment and then it's diddly-ump-ump-ump, deedaly-dump-bump-bump again.

One thing I'm pleased about is that with all the running around this weekend, I really did get a lot of stuff done and did it in the right order. (As in, "I need to do some holiday cards and also laundry this evening so I should start the laundry first so there's time to get it into the dryer before I go to bed.) And I worked steadily instead of running from one half-done task to another. That doesn't mean I'm becoming more organized or anything, but it is a good sign that I'm not sleep-deprived any more. Tonight I'll buy some more strings of lights (whose price will determine whether I throw away or try to fix some old ones that aren't working right), finish putting the lights on the tree and get at least most of the ornaments on, and then write some more cards. Or it might be better to wait until Rudder's back to decorate the tree and get my last bit of holiday knitting done. What was that about doing things in order again?

Thankful for: Libraries. Just in general. I like libraries.
Holiday challenge: 59000m to go.

Posted by dichroic at 12:47 PM | Comments (1)

December 12, 2004

running like a chicken

Bad idea: getting a 9' tree right before the taller member of the household leaves for Europe for a week in prime tree-decorating time. We, uh, got a little carried away; we'd decided to put the tree in the front living room instead of the famaily room this year and the ceiligs are higher, and Rudder does have that tendency to go a bit overboard, and.... Actually I overstate. I think it was only 8 1/2'. Either way, I couldn't reach the top to put the topper on, and we have the Coolest Tree Topper ever, that we bought a couple of years ago. It's a Santa in a biplane; there's a candy-striped pole with a star on top that's hitched to the tallest branch and the biplane hangs off a hook and flies in a circle around the tree. I finally got it on by the simple expedient of bringing in clippers and lopping off that highest branch. (What? The pole is meant to go well above it. I didn't make the tree any shorter.) Only problem is..... apparently I hooked Santa onto his wire facing the wrong way. So he flies backwards. Oops. I'm not taking him off; it was hard enough putting him on. I think it will be easy for Rudder to turn him around when he gets home.

Other issue with a tree that big: I need to remember to get some more lights when I stop at the drugstore tomorrow. But the 2/3 that are lit up look good.

This weekend I did my best imitation of a cheicken with its head cut off: lots of running, not much squawking. Yesterday I went to a very high-maintenence party. There was a gift-swap and an ornament swap AND you were supposed to bring a dish. Yeesh. The first two were optional but I didn't feel like sitting around watching everyone else get presents. So I spent all day preparing for that. Correction: first I dropped Rudder off at the airport at 8, then I went to the boatyard and erged 8km, then I got check out in a coaching launch (She-Hulk and I were scheduled to do that at 9:30 and I didn't feel like driving home in between, hence the boatyard erging. I'm spoiled. Those ergs are icky.) Then I went to Ikea to get a prty gift in case I didn't finish the scarf I was knitting (and about $80 worth of other stuff for the house) then I came home and knitted frantically for two hours, finished my scarf but decided to also give the photo frame I'd bought, then I went to the supermarket for ingredients, then I made Mexican Layer Dip for the party. Then I went to the party. Did I mention it was 50 miles away?

At least I got to sleep in a wee bit today. Other than that it was a similarly frantic round. The List for the next week:

Finish lighting the tree
Decorate the tree
Finish decorating the rest of the house
Finish the remaining half or 2/3 of my cards and send them out
Knit one more dishrag
Knit a hat for my MIL
Clean house for company arriving 12/23
Erg 67000 km
Wrap presents
Make several more ornaments


On the other hand this weekend we got the tree and set it up. I got Rudder off to the Netherlands. I erged 18000m. I put together and shipped a gift package. I got organized for a group donation to the Heifer Project I'm handling. I did lots of cards. I finished knitting a scarf, made 8 beaded stitch markers and 4 ornaments, did assorted kinds of shopping, did 2 loads of laundry, saw some former coworkers I like, got checked out in the launch, made some decisions about how I'm working on the instrument rating, made myself some earrings (just since starting this entry) and probably other stuff I'm forgetting. So at least I don't feel unaccomplished.

Thankful for: All the stuff that's finished and done.
Holiday Challenge:67000m left to go.

Posted by dichroic at 07:56 PM | Comments (0)

December 10, 2004

what I can do

What a great way to spend the morning - I got someoe to take me on a tour of this site, and he did it thoroughly. We manufacture airplane engines here, and I got to see everything from casting and machining rocesses to powder-spraying, shot-peening, chemical treatments, and engine assembly. Way cool, and all the better because the guy taking me around was enjoying looking at all this stuff. Also, he started out in the machine shop(s) and knows lots of people everywhere, so they were happy to tell me about what they do. Way, way cool.

It made me think of Outfoxed and his entry on tools yesterday. The stuff I saw today ranged from plain hammers and vises to incredibly complex computer-controlled metal cutting devices that use not only metal cutters but sometimes wires or water streams to cut metal, but he'd have enjoyed seeing them. I did, and I enjoyed seeing the complex shapes all those tools and the skilled people who use them produce. Machined metal parts are incredibly and unexpectedly beautiful, partly because of all the work evident in each one but more for their own sake, for the sheen of cut and polished metal and the precision of their curves. The precise fits of the pieces is also beautiful, as well as reassuring for anyone who flies much - all that sutff is in your engine.

That all dovetails into a post I started here yesterday. I'm not so much into vague self-esteem as I am into being proud of what I can do. Outfoxed got me thinking, but also, this has been a favorite quote of mine for years:

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, con a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyse a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects. Robert A. Heinlein
The usual meme is to list things you have done or haven't done. I think it might be more interesting to look at what I can do. I'm not much of an expert in anything, but I do have a fairly wide variety of skills, though I hope not to find out whether I can "die gallantly" for a good long time yet. So far, I know I can:
  • Drive a stick shift
  • Fly an airplane
  • Drive a boat
  • Knit
  • Purl
  • Adapt a knitting pattern
  • Change a diaper
  • Balance a checkbook
  • Do a Design of Experiment (DoE)
  • Solve a quadratic equation
  • Cook matzoh ball soup
  • Do a perfect cartwheel
  • Stand on my head
  • Row a racing shell
  • Paddle a canoe or kayak
  • Change a diaper
  • Coil an extension cord properly
  • Cut down a (small) tree with a handsaw
  • Flake a climbing rope
  • Put on a climbing harness and tie a rope on with a figure-8 knot.
  • Belay and rappel properly and safely
  • Change a tire
  • Write a sonnet (not necessarily a great one)
  • In calligraphy (of quality slightly worse than the sonnet)
  • Embroider in cross-stitch
  • Set up a stereo or a computer
  • Do beadwork and wirewrapping
  • Program a computer (Well. Depends. That's really too broad a thing to say. I have programmed everything from graphics to engine thermal models, though.)
  • Break and separate an egg neatly, with no tools
  • Make a good salad dressing
  • Write clearly and grammatically, if often not concisely
  • Teach
  • Speak in public, even in front of a crowd
  • Follow directions or instructions
  • Follow a map or diagram
  • Love
  • Like
  • Enjoy
  • Recognize happiness while I'm experiencing it
  • Recognize that sadness or frustration or anger will pass, while I'm experiencing it
  • Remember pi to seven decimal places
  • Recite hours' worths of poems and song lyrics
  • French-braid my own or others' hair (not cornrows, though)
  • Admit to what I don't know or can't do

For balance, there are quite a lot of things I can't do - some I can't do yet, some I never will be able to do, some I have actually done but only with step-by-step instruction. Of course this list could be nearly infinite so I'll try to keep it to things I want to do or that I could be expected to do or that other people around me can do. I can't:

  • Make pie crust

  • Do a handspring, front or back

  • Reliably saw straight using a handsaw.

  • Fly a complex or high-performance aircraft.

  • Fly an instrument approach (this is definitely a can't do yet).

  • Reliably keep a plant alive.

  • Deal with puke (human ... I'm OK on cat hairballs).

  • Pack a parachute

  • Use a metal lathe

  • Sing well enough that most people want to hear it

  • Parallel park well

  • Throw a baseball or football for any distance

  • Dribble a basketball while moving (except very slowly)

  • Pretend to be stupider than I am (being naturally stupid I can do very well)

  • Train a dog

  • Do almost anything for more than an hour or three at a time

  • Put up my hair in any complex style (Can do a French twist, more or less)

  • Blowdry my hair into style

  • Any but the simplest crochet - can edge a knit piece but that's about it)

  • Write fiction. (Well of course I can - anyone can to some degree - but it's awful.)

  • Erg 1K in under 4:20

  • Bench press more than about half my weight

  • Do more than a couple pull-ups

  • Saddle a horse or ride one much above a walk.

And of course that list could be infinite - I can't drive a tractor or harness a mule. I can't win an Olympic gold medal in rowing, can't climb Everest or scuba dive under the Antarctic ice sheet. Can't fly (without a plane) or read minds or bring the dead back to life. But that's an exercise in silliness so I'll stop there and be happy with the things I can do, and with trying to increase that list. I still think this is a more fun meme than listing only things I have done.

Thankful for: the things I can do and that my life isn't badly limited by those I can't.
Holiday Challenge: 85000 meters left.

Posted by dichroic at 01:55 PM | Comments (1)

December 09, 2004

running ahead and behind

Thank goodness, I finally got some extra sleep last night and now I feel a bit less like that mentally retarded guy in he book you read in 8th grade, who got smart and then dumb again. (Or I would feel less like him, if I could only remember his name or the book he's in. Algie?)

In athletic news, I am now a little over halfway through the Holiday Challenge just about on schedule, with fifteen days down and fifteen to go. I thought I had 109800 meters to go so did 10K this morning instead of the usual 8, but it turned out I'd added wrong, so now I actually have just 92100m left to do now. Also, and even better, I have COMPLETED! my 1000 mile goal for this year, having covered the distance with a combination of rowing, erging, and walking. (I don't wear a pedometer so only walking for exercise and some of the extra distance I cover at regattas counts for walking, not just the every-day mobility.) I'm still amazed to have done more than 200 miles more than last year. It's all Marn's fault, of course.

One unfortunate consequence of the brain fog is that Chanukah sort of snuck up on me this year, and I have hardly any small gifts for Rudder. I haven't gotten my usual basket full of things from REI or anything. Maybe I can stop there on my way home. (I do have his birthday gift and we have planned buy a bed (headboard and footboard, I mean) for our mutual Xmas gift.) I have a couple stocking-stuffer things I picked up for his parents and may just give him those instead. Oops.

Posted by dichroic at 12:50 PM | Comments (1)

Workout Entry

Took two weeks off working out after the marathon, so I haven't posted a workout entry for a while.

Tuesday, 11/23: Went to the gym. 1521m on the erg, lifted weights.
Thursday, 11:25: Thanksgiving - began Holiday Challenge on the erg. 7001m.
Friday, 11/26: Did half of my recommended daily eg allowance, went off to do stuff, and never came back for the other half. 3009m, avg split 2:45.5.
Saturday, 11/27: making up for Friday, 10014m, avg split 2:54.2.
Sunday, 11/28: 10687m, avg split 2:48.7, avg Watts 72.9.
Monday, 11/29: 8009m, avg split 2:49.5, 71.9 W.
Tuesday, 11/30: 7432m.
Wednesday, 12/1: flew.
Thursday, 12/2: Did 2004m warmup, then 6x1000m pieces. Best piece was in 4:27.9 min, with an 145.6 average Watts.
Friday, 12/3: 8015m.
Saturday, 12/4: 4013m then had to go do errands.
Sunday, 12/5: Did a 75 minute piece for a total of 14442m, 2:35.8 average split, 92.6 avg W. Within piece, set a PR of 11562m in 60.0 minutes. Also, 1620m for warmup and cooldown.
Monday, 12/6: 7623m, 2:57.5 avg split.
Tuesday, 12/7: 8014m, 2:45.6 avg split.
Wednesday, 12/8: flew.
Thursday, 12/9: 10018m, 2:50.6 avg split. I thought I needed this many to finish out my first 100km, but when I entered it on the Concept II website I found I had added wrong and have now done nearly 108000m.

Total: 1617.7 km - I have met my 1000 mile goal for the year!!!!!

Posted by dichroic at 09:00 AM | Comments (1)

December 08, 2004

holiday of light

I have a post brewing in my mind about Chanukah being about not giving way to despair, but I think this is almost a prerequisite. The first year I had this journal I posted the lyrics to Peter Yarrow's Chanukah song, "Light One Candle". Every year since then I have been unable to resist posting it again, because every year since then the lyrics have become more and more timely. This year, given Recent Events, the tune has taken a new direction in my mind, and I find when I sing it I'm less apt to think of the miraculous oil that burned for eight days in the long-gone temple of Jerusalem, and more to be thinking of the torch of Liberty, here in the US and in other places around the world. May it burn bright and untarnished.

Light one candle for the Maccabee Children
With thanks that their light didn't die.
Light one candle for the pain they endured
When their right to exist was denied.
Light on candle for the terrible sacrifice
Justice and freedom demand.
Light one candle for the wisdom to know
When the peace maker's time is at hand.

Don't let the light go out
It's lasted for so many years
Don't let the light go out
Let it shine through our love and our tears.

Light one candle for the strength that we need
To never became our own foe.
Light one candle for those who are suffering
The pain we learned so long ago.
Light one candle for all we believe in
that anger won't tear us apart.
And light one candle to bring us together
With peace as the song in our hearts;.

Don't let the light go out,
It's lasted for so many years.
Don't let the light go out,
Let it shine through our love and our fears.

What is the memory that's valued so highly
That we keep it alive in that flame?
What's the commitment for those who have died,
When we cry out they have not died in vain?
We have come this far always believing
That justice would somehow prevail.
This is the burden, this is the promise,
THIS is why we will not fail.

Don't let the light go out,
It's lasted for so many years.
Don't let the light go out,
Let it shine through our love and our fears.

Don't let the light go out!
Don't let the light go out!
Don't let the light go out!

Posted by dichroic at 02:49 PM | Comments (2)


Not even 8AM and I am already not having a good day.

My Dad's still got health issues. The purely physical stuff is better but he's also bipolar (though it's usually held in check with maintenance meds) and is in a manic episode. Ever talked to someone who was clinically manic? It might be amusing IF it were someone you didn't know and you didn't care what sort of trouble they got into. Not so much in this case. It seems to be a relatively minor episode (he's not planning any get-rich-quick schemes) but he keeps calling to try to get me to help convince Mom they should buy a new car, and his is only a year old. At least he wants a Honda Civic Hybrid, not a Lexus.

My husband's got this itchy spot on his face and scalp - I can't see anything there to cause it but it's been keeping him awake and it's infuriating enough to make him go see a doctor (he generally only goes for serious things). My guess is spider bite - I'm hoping they can give him something to numb it.

And early this morning I had a small accident. No, not in a car, in an airplane. We were on the ground at the time (fortunately), taxiiing out. It was dark, there was no taxi line painted on the ground, and we clipped the wingtip of a parked airplane. Sigh. There was no danger or injury, at least. I couldn't see any damage to the Cessna I was in; the other one (also a Cessna 172) will need a wingtip (a small separate part) replaced. With luck that will be all the repairs necessary.

Nope, not a good day. I suppose this could all be worse. Hopefully the appropriate people / airplane doctors will be able to fix things fairly easily in all three cases.

Posted by dichroic at 08:11 AM | Comments (0)

December 07, 2004

forgetterizing madly

Chanukah begins tonight. There are at least two posts (well, one real one, one with lyrics) that I've been waiting for this holiday to post. I'd better start writing.

This Holiday Challenge - or something - is leaving me very tired. Yesterday I stayed home from work just from exhaustion, and yet I felt good Sunday until I did the 75-minute piece. (It was a new personal record, did I mention? Or rather, within it I set a new record for distance in 60 minutes.) I was tired again this morning but I think it was just from this morning's erging, not a cumulative thing. Rudder and I had a long discussion last night; he's contemplating scaling way back on training after the World Masters Games this summer, but isn't sure what he'll do instead. He needs to have a project, preferably with lots of activity involved or as he says, he's neither happy or healthy. I only the other hand can be perfectly content with sedentary pursuits (reading, knitting, beadwork) punctuated by activity, instead of constant activity. I'm still not convinced about blood-type-based diets, but that book was frighteningly accurate about the type of exercise we each see to need.

Unfortunately, when I'm tired I also get stupid. For instance I realized today what went wrong with the coaster I was knitting (and then frogging) last night: five repeats of a three-stitch pattern plus two plain stitches on either side does not add up to seventeen stitches. I can fix that though; what's much worse is that I can't find the beautiful dichroic glass barrette I bought Saturday. I know I was looking at it yesterday and I'm hoping I didn't absent-mindedly throw it away. It'll probably turn up in the refrigerator or someplace similarly unlikely. I couldn't find the shirt I wanted to wear this morning either. How do you mislay an entire corduroy shirt? I don't even think I've worn it so far this year. I wonder if I ripped it last year and threw it away. Maybe it's eloped with my barrette?

Speaking of dichroic glass, since my new job isn't oo far from a large bead wholesale sort of place, I've been meaning to go and today I nipped over at lunch. I hadn't been there for a year or more and it turns out they're now selling beautiful dichroic beads at a bulk price, $1 / gram. I see more dichroic earrings in my near future - I feel like I should recall a beadwork gift I mailed out a couple of days ago, just so I could redo it with my signature glass. Oh well, too late, and it came out well anyway with the beads I did use.

Another thing I forgot: to take pictures of the things I mailed this weekend so I could post pictures here of my finished objects later, after the recipient sees them. Oh well again. My forgetterer is going at full speed these days.

One more thing I've been forgetting:

Thankful for: Chanukah starts tonight, reminding me that we Jews are still here. From Haman to Herod to Hitler, there were a lot of people who tried to make sure that either I - me personally, this affects the person living in this head, it's not just ancient history -- didn't exist at all, or that I wasn't Jewish, in which case if I existed (and would all my ancestors have married the same people, given a wider pool to choose from?) I would certainly be a different person in many respects. That's pretty amazing, that I am here despite them all. Glad to be here, even if I was clearly brainwashed in all those Hebrew School years.

Holiday Challenge: About 110000 m left to go.

Posted by dichroic at 03:06 PM | Comments (1)

December 06, 2004

spawning ideas

Given that I went back to bed and slept for two or three hours this morning, and that napping during the day is something I generally can't do unless I'm sick or exhausted, I think staying home from work was the right decision.

Since waking up for the second time I haven't done anything more athletic than knitting and reading (oh, and I made another snowflake ornament). I also got around to reading Stitch and Bitch Nation, having previously only looked at the patterns, and of course it gave me ideas. So far the tally is one good and one bad idea. Good idea: Trying out lace patterns by knitting coasters, the only thing in the world that should be quicker than dishrags. (At least I think that will be a good idea; I haven't started yet because...) Bad idea: threading beads on ribbon yarn. Way too much work because the beads had to be forced on (I used a beading needle and loop of thread to get them started) and a quarter of the beads wouldn't go on at all - there's a lot of variation in inner diameter. Still, they should look nice on the coasters, assuming the coasters look nice at all.

Next question: would a set of four handmade knitted beaded coasters be acceptable for a present exchange? I have one for a party on Saturday and it's supposed to be $15-20 value. I liked the idea of something handmade but not gender-limited (not too many men of my acquaintance wear fuzzy scarves, though I have known a few who might).

Posted by dichroic at 05:45 PM | Comments (1)


After yesterday's long distance piece (75 minutes) I'm totally wasted. I cranked out a very slow 7600m this morning, just so I wouldn't fall behind, and then called in sick. It's a perfect day for it, rainy and chill, and I'm sitting here with hot chocolate listening to the rain. I'm planning to mostly sit in one pace and just rest today. Well, and finish some knitting and beading but at least that's sedentary.

Posted by dichroic at 07:08 AM | Comments (1)

December 05, 2004


Dad's out of the hospital. Mom took him in on Friday for an alarming group of symptoms including dizziness, slurred speech, and short-term memory loss; it looks now like those were all caused by high blood sugar (he's diabetic and not particularly careful about it) and possibly a TIA (mini-stroke - he had one of those before when I was in high school). He says he feels better now than he has in 20 years, though from what my brother says I'm not sure I believe that. Still, though I know how serious diabetes can be, his is adult onset and not all that severe and I'm glad it's "only" that and not something new. At least that's something that's nonlethal, if he works harder at controlling it.

Meanwhile, my weekend was relatively calm and productive. I still haven't done anything on my cards, but I got two presents finished and mailed and another started. Also a small party on Friday night, a flying lesson today (ground, not in the airplane), a trip to the Tempe Arts Fest Saturday in which I only got to see maybe a quarter of the booths (it's enormous), 4000m on the erg yesterday, a 75-minute 144000 piece today incorporating a 60 minute personal record, a food shopping trip today, visits to two furniture stores looking for the bed Rudder and I have agreed to give each other for Christmas, calls to my parents each day to check on Dad .... I keep wondering, is this what other people's less frenetic weekends look like?

Posted by dichroic at 06:53 PM | Comments (7)

December 03, 2004

the roll of the year

Until I decide whether I want to retire or not, I need to keep training as if I won't. I'd want to finish out the Holiday Challenge anyway, because I'm far too stubborn to stop in the middle of it. It will be an easy one for me this year, because I'm neither traveling during part of it nor worrying about whether I can do it - this is my fourth time around so I know I can. I do have to compensate for missing one day a week when I fly instead (I fly twice a week but the other one is a weekend day) but to compensate there's more time between Thanksgiving and Xmas than in some years.

This is really the beginning of the rowing/training year, when we lay a foundation built of meter upon meter of solid distance. For this month, I don't have to do long distances; my focus is on doing it every day, or nearly, though I will do a half-marathon or two just to shorten the time to completion or get in a little extra meterage. Rudder, who trains a bit more seriously, is laying his foundation on the water as well as in the gym and is getting in his erg meters in long bursts.

Once I've completed this challenge, I will move back onto the water to augment the plain stonework of distance with the tracery of technique, and into the gym to bolster it with strength work from weightlifting, like adding in steel rebar. Next I'll start varying my workout with intervals, like laying a pattern in my brickwork. The periods of the intervals will grow shorter as I get through an early local race and move toward the time of my bigger races, until I'm doing pieces of 300 to 1000 meters in May as I prepare for the Goldrush, where I race those distances. Then I'll either take a week off and just try to maintain for a while, or train more intensely, concentrating on 1000m pieces, if I decide to race in the World Masters Games. (We're going anyway, because Rudder is racing; it's just a question of whether I race or only watch.)

In fall we move into longer pieces for head race season. I probably won't be doing head races because I just don't like racing over the longer distance, but it's possible that I'll be doing the marathon in a single, in which case I'll be doing lots of half-marathon pieces in the boat and on the erg, or coxing at the Head of the Charles again, in which case I need to prepare for that. Also, if we go to Austin for the PumpkinHead I may race it, just because I like their course very much. Or maybe I'll just play pit crew, helping Rudder and She-Hulk and any others there with their boats.

The training year is like the rotation of the season, the long slow beat of winter quickening to the staccato of summer then lengthening out again in the fall. The changes make training more interesting, and though the pattern is the same every year, like the seasons each year is just a little different, as we try to find the ideal training plan.

Maybe I won't retire. Whatever would I write about then?

Thankful for: a holiday season to look forward to, with parties and gifts and (best of all) visitors and time off from work to enjoy them. Also, since I forgot to do this yesterday, for a body that, which it may not be fast, is strong and healthy and lets me do anything I want to, at least at some level.

Holiday Challenge: 137829 meters left

Posted by dichroic at 09:23 AM | Comments (1)

December 02, 2004

this and that (and that and that and that...)

I'm just back from the department Christmas luncheon. Well, technically it was a "holiday" lunch and everyone carefully said "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas". But there were enormous wreaths on the restaurant walls including one with antique-ish but oddly disembodied Santa heads all over it (were their bodies cut off and used in the stew?) and the VP wore a Twelve Days of Christmas tie (which would come in handy as a cheat sheet if you were singing that song and had trouble remembering) so, you know, really it was a CHristmas party. However, it was free and there were steaks; I am not complaining. It was nice.

I am looking forward to this weekend. Aside from a small party Friday night and flying Sunday morning and some food shopping somewhen, I need to get finished making the ____ for ____ so I can mail it with the other things going out that way. (The scary part is that there's more than one object fitting in those dashes.) Then there's some other gift knitting I'm postponing because it doesn't have to be done until Christmas. And I need to do cards, though my decision to computer-print all the labels this year will help a lot there. (Does anyone really mind if the label isn't handwritten as long as the message in the card is?) And I need to read Mer's story because I promised and I want to give her feedback before it's too late to be useful.

Hmmm. So maybe if I print the story, since it will be on paper and not in a book and thus will lay flat, I can read that while knitting .... but not while beading. Drat. Or maybe I shouild try doing one thing at at a time to see if I finish faster. Or maybe I could figure out how to erg and read and put knitting needles in place of the erg handle.....

Not complaining, not at all. These are all pleasant tasks, with the possible exception of erging and food shopping. It all sounds to me like a good way to spend a weekend.

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

December 01, 2004

another Murphy day

Quite possibly this is the funniest thing you'll see this holiday season - at least if you're a geek like me.

Also, check this watercolor out - that's my lake and the rower could as well be me. I was able to find a phone number for someone who has the name of that artist; I'm thinking of calling him to see if he's done any others like it.

Today quite a few of the things that could go wrong did, though at least the first one to do so redeemed itself.

At ten 'til five, I got into my cold car (the garage door still being broken) and drove to the little airport a quarter of a mile away to meet my flight instructor. Five AM, no CFI. Five after, no CFI. At ten after I left a note and went home - I'd have waited longer but a convertible that has been sitting outside overnight is not the warmest of vehicles when temperatures are in the low 30s. At home I took off my jackets (fleece and shell), hung them off and had one shoe off and was considering whether to erg, work, or do some of the studying for the IFR I'd been neglecting, when the phone rang. Of course it was my instructor, who has just moved and who had seriously underestimated how long her drive to the airport would take. Back again to the airport, and we did have just enough time to get a good lesson in. ("Good" being a relative term. I don't like doing stalls, let alone doing them under the hood.)

Next it was home to wait for the garage-door repairman and to try to install the software and certificate onto my new laptop that will let me work from home in future. The repairman won that one; it was fifteen minutes after he'd finished that we (I and the person from the "Help" Desk) finally got the software in and almost working - that is, it seemed to be working and I got no other error messages but apparently the remote server was down so I couldn't actually log in. Then I walked over to tell my next-door neighbor his sprinkler-system pump was squealing. (He'd heard it but had thought it was a car alarm; I was afraid it might be his burglar alarm and was pondering whether to call the police if he hadn't been home.) Then it turned out the repairman didn't win after all, because as I was trying to leave for work the garage door wouldn't close all the way. By then, of course, the repairer was long gone, so I called his company, they had him call me back, and we arranged for me to leave the side door open so he could get in to fix it without me there.

The laptop had shown one odd behavior at home: when booting up the screen would go blank as if it were trying to use a projector or other monitor instead and I'd have to hit F8 to get the display back. This turned out to be foreshadowing. When I got to the office I found the silly thing had decided it likes its independence; now it goes blank while booting up in the docking station and will not show any display after the first Windoze splash screen, though it works well enough when not docked. I've called IT about it and after trying afew things they promised to send out one of their local people to address the problem. That was, oh five hours ago now. This laptop screen is tiny. There's a reason I used quotes when mentioning the "Help" Desk in the last paragraph. Eyestrain R Me today. But apparently the garage door is now working.

Posted by dichroic at 02:52 PM | Comments (2)