My fortune cookie from lunch says, "Consolidate your interests while the lights are active." ?????
They're putting together a care package for a guy from work who is in the National Guard, serving in Iraq. I've never met him; he was called up before I started in this job. I've asked others about him, and if I can get to a bookstore in time, I will buy a book I think he'd like. ("Freakanomics", because they say he's very intelligent, argumentive, and political; I figure he'll like it whether or not he agrees with the book's arguments.) Meanwhile, I've put in a box of maxipads and one of tampons (in plain paper bags) with a note asking them to pass them on to some of the women in his unit. I keep hearing that there are shortages of such things over there, and that strikes me as an appaling way to treat women you've asked to put themselves in harm's way.
Speaking of the war, last week I was very excited by the news that moderates of both parties came together to broker deals first in relation to filibusters and next to agree on stem cell research. I get so frustrated with party-line politics, and was pleased with the recognition that one does not necessarily have to disagree on everything with members of the other party. However, the thing that annoyed me was the right-wing argument that "some people believe that stem-cell research is immoral so they shouldn't have to see their tax dollars used for it." Funny thing, there: some people believe that the war is immoral, yet I don't see those same senators heaving any trouble with applying their tax dollars to it. How come?
Look look look look! My very first sweater!
Guess what I'm wearing to work today?
Those pictures are pre-blocking. I blocked it after that, which didn't change it much. It was still damp this morning but I put it on anyway. I'm not good at waiting. Also, there are some advantages to living in a desert; it's very nearly dry now. Driving into work with the top (of my car!) down helped, too.
I should mention that it's this pattern. Mine is a little roomier because when I adjusted the pattern for yarn with a different gauge, I also added to it a bit. The original was for a 32" chest, which sounded improbably slim but might would have worked after all. I'm still a little scared of overdoing the "negative ease" and ending up with something so tight I can't get into it. Now on the needles: a tank top I'm adapting to knit in the round, in Rowan cotton braid. I've already ripped out once, reducing it from 86 to 60 stitches around because it was huge.
This is an expansion of something I posted earlier to a discussion list.
"And I'd discuss the holy books With the learned men, seven hours every day. That would be the sweetest thing of all...."
I may be in error in believing that Fiddler on the Roof shows a more or less accurate picture of how my ancestors lived, if you ignore the bursting into song (which would be believable, as I am given into bursting into song myself, except for the supposedly extemporaneous but none the less perfectly scanning and meaningful lyrics), and the conversion of grinding poverty into Colorful Ethnic Charm*. However, given that Fiddler is based on a story by Sholem Aleichem, who knew that world, I don't think it's all that far off.
*It's less prettified in the book. There's another story in the same collection about a man who celebrated every fastday he could find or justify - because there wasn't enough food and if he didn't eat, someone else in the family could have a little more. He dies of starvation.
I was listening to shuffled songs on the iPod on my way to work this morning and when "If I Were a Rich Man" came on and got to the lines quoted above, I
got a little teary eyed ... because it struck me that that is *exactly* what I get to do, and what my ancestors could only dream of.
I complain about a lack of free time, but I don't have to work every second from the time I wake up to early to the time I go to bed too late just to earn enough to keep me alive. The things that keep me over-busy are rowing and flying - Tevye never saw an airplane (not until he migrated to America, the Goldeneh Medineh!) and he and his daughters did not need anything so artificial as exercise. Hard work and insufficient food don't let you look buff, but they to tend to prevent much worrying about fat. I have time to read.
I have books to read. If Tevye was lucky, he owned a Bible and a Siddur (prayerbook). I have so many books that I haven't finished cataloging them in a desultory two years. A telling way to look at it is that I can buy a paperback at current prices and my current pay rate with about 10 minutes' work. (Double that after taxes and other deductions.
I also have a luxury that Tevye yearned for, that I mostly didn't have until the advent of the Internet: I have learned people with whom to discuss the boos I love. Granted most of the books I discuss are not exactly holy, but they are important to me. If I wanted to discuss anything from the Torah to the Mishnah to even the Kabbalah, there are communities for that. (Though I might have to do a lot of weeding to sort out the weirdos and the faddish mystics, if I wanted to discuss the Kabbalah. I can read and even comment on Baraita and Velveteen Rabbi's blogs for thoughtful discussion, look up a Hebrew Bible online or shop for one at Artscroll, or pose a question at WeirdJews to get a variety of viewpoints. Or I can choose to study secular matters, and the resources are limitless.
In the days in which _Fiddler_ is set, only the richest men had books and time to read and discuss their readings, beyond a bare minimum. Most women had no
time to do so at all, because of all the innumerable household demands. And yet here I am, and I can not only read, but find people to engage in learned discussion of any book I choose. Aren't I lucky? Aren't we?
I was very disappointed in Lillian Elizabeth Roy's Polly Learns to Fly, especially in contrast to Betty Cavanna's Girls Can Fly, Too!.
(The Polly of Pebbly Pit books are a series written from 1914 into the 1930s. In them, Polly ages from 14 into her twenties, finds a lost gold mine (left to her by its former discoverer), convinces her parents to mine their "Rainbow Cliffs" for the fortune to be had from marketing the stones as jewels, leaves her Colorado ranch home, learns to be an interior decorator, and travels around the world. Betty Cavanna wrote a series of high-school romances in the 1940s and 50s, most on a specific theme: skiing, Japanese vs American culture, and others.)
It's evident that Roy spent an hour or two talking to a pilot or airplane mechanic, probably at Mitchell Field in Long Island, the only aviation detail mentioned by name in the book. The airplane makes are never mentioned, nor are the instruments (such as they were) described. It's not even clear if they were mono- or bi-wing. They are staying at an ENglish estate whose clover fields are "perfect for flying and for soft landing". (Um, yeah, if the landowner doesn't mind his clover clop being spoiled.) There's a lot of detail given about the need for a thorough and meticulous preflight inspection, then Polly learns to fly in about two weeks, described in one paragraph. The rest of the story is weak too: while on her first flight with Tom, who has been her suitor for the entire series, Polly suddenly realizes that she loves him, has been unfair to him, and that it's time to marry. A telegram informs Polly that her mother needs an operation, and they book passage back to the U.S. accompanied by Polly's frind Carola and the latter's guardian. Half the book is spent describing the theft and reclaiming of her Carola's jewels, and the remainder describing the wedding preparations and the plans for a honeymoon in which they will fly to South America to examine newly found Inca ruins and look for links to lost Atlantis. The latter gives Roy plenty of space to expound on what was not yet called new-age beliefs and to plug her own book on the topic (not clear whether it was intended as fiction). The earlier books in the series are much better; if the situations are outlandish, the characters and settings are much better drawn. (I have just realized that Dodo's mother, in Polly and Her Friends Abroad, is borrowed intact, with only a veneer of modernization, from Jane Austen's Mrs. Bennet.)
In contrast, Betty Cavanna obviously spent some time either learning to fly, or investigating the whole process thoroughly. Her heroine learns to fly in a Cessna (probably a 140 or 150), a few years after WWII, and she and the other boy and girl who also take lessons have to work hard at them. The whole book only takes them through their first solos. They're not deep characters, but they're not unlikely either, and while the morals may not be profound ("girls can do it too; also, don't assume people are unfriendly just because they're popular"), they're stitched into the story instead of pounded in with a sledgehammer. Also, the characters, all high-school seniors, become friends without falling in love with one another. The more I think about it, the more I like Cavanna's methods: teach girls about all the things they could do, and sweeten the lesson with a spoonful of romance (most of her books are at least nominally romances) so they'll swallow it.
I'm still jonesing after a trip to a yarn shop, even though I probably won't finish my sweater this weekend (though it is possible). I get these odd episodes of product lust, for yarn or books or shoes, which probably account for the bingeing nature of my spending patterns. Even when I've been relatively poor, I haven't stopped splurging; it's just that the splurges were much smaller, $6 worth of beads instead of $150 on clothes. I don't spend more than I can afford to, so it's not really a problem, but it is true that I'd have more freedom in some ways if I were better at saving money. To clarify, I do save 15% of my pay to my 401(k) plus another sum automatically transferred weekly to a savings account. I'm not fiscally irresponsible, but it would be possible to save more. For the last few months I've had a balance on my credit card, too, due to the flying lessons; once those are done I intend to go back to paying it off monthly, as I had done for several years. Spending less, or planning better would be a good thing, but it would also remove some excitement from my life.
Of the things I splurge on, books are the easiest to justify. Once the excitement of New Stuff! wears off, there's the acquisitive pleasure of cataloging it and the promise of pleasure in reading and rereading it. Yarn has its virtue too: there is the sensual joy of handling it and being surrounded by it in the store, the process of choosing what to buy, the enjoyment of knitting it, and finally either the pleasure of giving a present or the getting to use or wear the finished article. That only applies if I don't buy much more than I can knot, however, which restraint I understand is rare among knitters. I am coming to the end of the project I've been working on, and could finish it if I spend a large chunk of this weekend on it. On the other hand, since I bought books last week (some of which are due to arrive today via UPS, though the rest got shipped by the ^&%(*& Post Orifice) I ought to have enough entertainment value without buying yarn this week. The yarn-buying is complicated by the fact that we're planning to visit the property this Saturday, the only day local yarn stores are open this weekend.
Clearly what I need is more days off. And more money. Don't we all?
I omitted one pertinent piece of information from the previous entry: if I stand really, really straight, I am 5'2" and a half. If I were 6 feet tall and built proportionately, I would be very happy with that 28" waist measurement; as it is, not so much.
For training reference.
Don't look; not a pretty sight.
1" below shoulders: 41.5
Upper arms, flexed: 11.5"
Waist: 28.5" (eek)
Upper thigh, flexed: 21.5"
Middle of calf, flexed: 15.5"
I seem to be reasonably symmetric, so have't listed both arms and legs separately.
Obviously, the pictures are with everything sucked in and flexed. (Well, maybe not obvious to look at, but how else would you take a photo in a bathing suit?)
You know what my town needs? A local yarn store, that's what. Not that there aren't several in the metro area, but the nearest is half an hour or more away. I want one in Tempe or Chandler, that I can stop at on the way home from work. (The one of the three on this side of town that I like least isn't entirely unreasonable for an after-work stop, but... well it's the one I like least. So why bother?)
I've been meaning to write that for the last week or so I've been trying to log what I eat and my exercise on Fitday. I was curious how many calories I consume. It isn't terribly accurate, because I have to estimate quantities and guess food equivalents, so I'm always trying to picture whether what I've just eaten would fit into an 8-oz measuring cup, and I entered today's work-cafeteria Mexican Lasagna as enchiladas. I ate about half of a 4" square and decided arbitrarily it was equivalaent to two enchiladas. That plus the Coke I had with it sent today's calories way up, but giving it my best guess as to portions, apparently most days I eat around 1400-1600 calories. According to Fitday, I burn about 1900 cal just from basal matabolic rate and normal activities, and lots more on days I work out. I've been told that calculator isn't terribly accurate though, and given that my weight is staying constant, it must not be. So the reports aren't extremely helpful, but watching the food has been interesting. I would have guessed that I eat 1800 or more calories; I'm suprised how low the actual number is, though of course I coule be underestimating quantities or forgetting foods. What I've learned is if I'm ever worried about making weight for a lightweight race, I need to skip the cafeteria Mexican food and avoid soda (which I should do anyway, for bone-density reasons). I think I've dropped a pound or two, and would like to get rid of a bit more fat - Rudder's away tonight, so if I get to fooling with the camera I may post a photo I can use for a benchmark. (I seem to have a lot more time in the evenings when he's not home.)
Awarded Most Egregious Phone-spam: It rang on my work phone, the caller ID showed up as 999-999-9999, and when I picked it up, an automated vaoice said, "Please hold for the next available representative." Not bloody likely.
Awarded Worst Hold Music: The maker of our boats uses automotive paint. We chose our exact colors by looking around car lots and then telling him the make and color name we wanted. When I called a local car dealer to find out idf they had touch-up paint in the color I need, they guy put me on hold while he went to look. The hold music was a song about the dealership. Ick.
I think I need a new trip to plan for. What I would like to do for our 40th birthdays is to take a trip we've talked about for a long time, where we'd take a year off, buy a horse trailer (so we could have living quarters up front, kayaks and bikes and boxes of books in the back) and travel around the country. For that to happen, though I need to start saving, uh, a while back. It would probably still be doable if we started right now, but there are two problems with that, for me: the IFR training, and the fact that I'd somehow have to convince myself to go into squirrel-hoarding mode, a thing which I've only done successfully when we were planning our wedding. Even that was easier because I got to buy and pay for things along the way (e.g. a dress) instead of saving one huge sum. Another problem would be holding Rudder to the at least theoretically affordable horse trailer. He dreams big. His fancy tends to run to a specially-designed Mega-Mover that would allow us to take our rowing shells along as well.
Failing that, I'd happily take a week in Italy or Scandinavia to celebrate the milestone birthdays. But I would like to have something big and exciting to plan for and anticipate.
There were some good things about this weekend's non-adventure. For one thing, I took along a sleeveless sweater I had started last fall and had abandoned in order to focus on gifts and then other projects. I've recently gotten back to it and had completed about half the first side when we left. I finished the first ball of yarn on Thursday's drive (this is why it was a good thing we turned back to get more yarn) and by the end of the trip had finished that side and gotten nearly halfway through the other. Now I have confidence that I can finish this, which is always a nice thing.
I think I may do another sleeveless sweater next. Given the combination of hot climate and (sometimes over-)air-conditioned office, I wear them a lot. I'd like to do the next one in the round; I haven't seen any patterns for sleeveless sweaters done that way, so I may either adapt a pattern from the Yarn Girls' book or make a top-down raglan and stop with cap sleeves instead of continuing the sleeves on down. I think that would look good in a rustic slubby sort of yarn. (Or if anyone has a pattern to recommend....)
Even better was the time we got to spend with Rudder's grandparents. His grandmother has some fairly severe Alzheimers or similar memory loss (I think they said it wasn't Alzheimers but the practical result is the same), and has been getting worse fairly rapidly in the last couple of years. It was good to spend time with her before it gets worse, and good to give Rudder's grandfather a break where he could get out, talk to other people, and have someone to help watch and talk to her.
She's still able to reason, though her memory is pretty far gone, which means that she has no idea (I don't think) who we are but is able to figure out that we must be family. On Friday evening, she walked into the bedroom when she wanted to get a glass of water, and had to be directed to go to the fridge instead. I couldn't tell whether she recognized the restaurant we ate in, though it's been in Sacramento as long as they've lived there and they used to eat there when they lived in the neighborhood (this would have been the 1970s and possibly the 60s). Several times she got into the back instead of the front seat of their car. At one point she called Rudder by his uncle's name (her son's) which seems like a good guess, though it's also not clear if she normally remembers names. The most interesting thing, from a cognitive perspective, is that her personality is still the same, despite the memory loss. She talks a lot less, but when she does, she still likes to be dogmatic and forceful as ever. She just lacks specific nouns. So she'll make statements like, "What you need to do, is to do that and then the other thing," or will finish statements with gestures, like miming eating while we were talking about Rudder and his grandfather bringing back the food. It was fascinating, and in some ways a little less sad than it would otherwise have been because she so clearly is still the same person she was. Of course, this is much easier on me, who met her as an adult, than it is on Rudder's mother and her sibs, and I expect the family gathering this summer will be both sad and happy. Rudder and I will probably be the ones playing with the little kids and telling stories to the not-so-littles. Some of those stories will definitely be about the grandparents, since I think only the oldest of the next generation will have any memory of their grandmother as she was, and the youngest of the grandchildren (now in college or recently graduated) didn't get to see those grandparents all that often.
We left work early Thursday afternoon. I picked the Antkeeper (she's a grad student studying social insects like ants and bees) up on my way home, feeling all proud that I'd remembered to drive the pickup that morning (since the Mozzie car would not have fit both her and her bags). We grabbed some sandwiches for the road and went to my house where Rudder had the Hummer almost fully loaded. The Antkeeper and Rudder had loaded the boats on tpop the day before. We were on the road out of town by 2:30, turning around only once - before we got out of our subdivision - when I realized I'd forgotten an extra ball of yarn. This turned out to be a good decision.
We talked and listened to music on the drive from Phoenix to and through LA, stopping as usual in Frasier Park, just on the north end of the Grapevine. The three of us shared a room that night - piling people into hotel rooms is par for the course on a rowing trip. Rudder and I didn't sleep especially well, probably because of the small bed, but we were up and on the road again by 8.
A couple of hours into the drive, my cell phone rang. It was She-Hulk, calling with bad news. The CSUS Aquatic Center, organizer of the regatta, had called to say the race had been canceled: floods had swept away the race course. I plunged into a flurry of phone calls, to CSUS, to our answering machine, to the race organizer contact, interspersed with fervent thanks for the invention of cell phones and was able to confirm the cancelation report.
We pulled into a gas station to confer. Since Sacramento was by now only about four or five hours away, and since the Antkeeper had a friend and Rudder has grandparents in town, we decided to continue on. We debated on whether to return a day early. Rudder and I decided to stay until Sunday, while after a few more calls, the Antkeeper decided to hang out with her friend that night and return home the next day Coach DI, who had driven the boat trailer up and had arrived before the decision was made to cancel.
Apparently, water had been released from the dam and the course had been washed out only the night before, which is why the race had been canceled with such short notice. Some rowers were already on a plane by then, some decided to go anyway since their tickets were paid for, and some decided to stay home. She-Hulk was among those deciding to stay home; fortunately we were able to cancel her hotel room (which Rudder had booked, and which she and the Antkeeper were going to share) for both nights. The Antkeeper stayed with Coach DI and another woman, since she'd be riding out with them.
That afternoon when we got to Sacramento, we unloaded the boats so as not to have to drive around with them, then headed out to the west side of town where both the Antkeeper's friend and Rudder's grandparents live. We spent an hour with the grandparents, got the Antkeeper hooked up with her friend, and headed back to the east side of town to meet another rower and his family for dinner. It turns out that a two-year-old is of great amusement value when you have a long wait at a restaurant. We enjoyed hanging out with both him and his parents; he's a fairly placid kid, a little shy with strangers, and easy to amuse. Toward the end of dinner, he and I were dancing (me sitting down, him standing on the bench on the other side of the table) and he was just having a ball. His parents have tried to bring him up to be easy to travel with and self-sufficient as two-year-olds go, but I also think he's just naturally a happy little kid.
It turned out that the hotel did have internet access, with some finagling (they had a kit to split from the the TV cable) and Rudder had brought my old laptop for the purpose of downloading race data from the boat computer, so I was able to get online to tell another diarist (who usually doesn't post about what city she lives in, so I won't name her) not to come out to the regatta, as she'd been thinking of doing. Unfortunately, that wasn't until night and she didn't check email so had to find out the hard way. Too bad, because I'd looked forward to meeting her.
On Saturday Rudder and I and his grandparents toured Fort Sutter and then went to the McLelland Field aviation "museum" - actually an outdoor display of static planes but quite a few were open, with volunteers to explain them. We fortuitously ended up having lunch at a restaurant the grandparents used to frequent years ago when they lived in that part of town. I would have liked to see the Governor's Mansion, but we'll be back in July to celebrate the grandparents' 65th anniversary with all of Rudder's aunts and uncles and cousins, so maybe then.
After that, we loaded the boats back on, then had dinner at a brewpub where we'd eaten after last year's regatta (after a lot of discussion about which exit it was on). The people who had chosen that place the previous year had done so because there was room to park with boats on top, so we knew that would be OK.
And yesterday we drove home, all 12 hours of it, with only one small spat to mar the trip (my not-so-faithful navigator was sleeping when he should have been guiding me though the tangles of LA, then wouldn't admit he'd been asleep). Other than that, it was a good trip, though not entirely the one we'd meant to take.
No, we didn't win.
That would be because seven hours into the 12-hour drive to Sacramento, we got a call that the regatta was canceled.
...more detail soon...
Ick. They're predicting highs of 112 here by Sunday, ourfirst really hot days for the year. Good weekend to get out of town.
I was talking to my mom the other day about her exercise program. She's not really erging any more, but that's OK because the reason is that she's taking some exerciseclasses in things like Jazzercise and Pilates. My mom is (or was) one of the most unathletic people I know. Her balance and flexibility aren't great - I mean, for working-out purposes; they're fine for daily living. Until recently I'd never seen her get any exercise other than walking (she shares her brother's ability to sightsee all day without getting exhausted) and the not-incidental amount you necessarily get in raising two kids. But she's been going faithfully to the gym for the last couple of years now. I'm impressed.
I give the credit to the gym, mostly. (Well, to her of course, for doing the hard work, but to the gym for providing an environment where she's comfortable and welcome.) It's a JYC, and that J is important to her. She's becoming even more active in her synagogue than she used to be, and is learning more about Judaism, so a Jewish community center feels like a homey place to her. Also, she's one of those who is motivated mostly by making connectins to other people, so a place where she can walk in and everyone knows her is perfect for her, and so is working out in a group class.
I love seeing older women being or becoming active and athletic. They're my future. Especially in this specific case: I've always figured that anything Mom can do, I can. And of course I'm liking the results the gym and synagogue classes have been having: they've made both her mind and body stronger and more active and alert. She feels better and is more interesting to talk to.
I'm grinning like a fool this morning. I don't suppose the story will have quite the same impact after all the necessary explanation, but bear with me anyhow.
Saturday is one of our biggest races. Before a big race, you do a taper for a week or two (or a month, if you train at Olympian levels) in order to build up energy for the race. Current recommendations are to decrease volume and maintain intensity, meaning you row hard but not as far. There's a particular workout Rudder has devised, in which you do three sets of one minute on, one minute off, rest five minutes after doing all three, then repeat. The catch is, you use those three sets to simulate the beginning, middle, and end of a 1000m race piece, so for the first set, you do a racing start, for the second you just row at race pace, and for the third you finish with a sprint. For a usual practice he does this about three times; for tapering twice. It's a fun workout. This morning, he and his doubles partner were doing this one and had also roped in another male double, a male pair (one oar each instead of two as in the doubles), and a female double.
The female double was two former collegiate rowers: one a couple years older than I am, one a decade and a half younger, both very strong and much larger than I am (though not all of that "larger" is muscle, not by a long shot). I'd been talking about doing this race with the younger of the two, but told her my feelings wouldn't be hurt if she fund someone faster, since I'm not training hard, and she did.
I should have known they'd be doing that particular workout because it is the last practice before a race; I figured it out just because they were doing such short race pieces. They were a little behind me on the lake after their first three sets, had rested, and were coming up behind me ready to do it again. There was enough separation to not have them run over me, so I started a 300m race piece (my second of the morning) as they started their first set. I kept all four boats behind me, and noticed that the pair and the female double hadn't picked up much distance on me. I paddled lightly to recover, and let them come up on me.
I started level with the other boats or just a little behind and took it up to full power as they did. The two male doubles pulled way ahead, as expected, but the pair didn't gain too much, and I stayed right with the female double. (I wasn't sure exactly what variation of the workout they were doing, and how long they were going for, so I took the power down a little before they did and let them get ahead then). But I stayed with them.
That's not really supposed to happen - two of them, one of me, both much bigger. Or in other words:
Nyeah, nyeah, nyeah, nyeah nyeah nyeah............
But the one of them who was steering kept looking over at me. I hope she noticed the big grin.
Incidentally, the grin was supplemented a little later when I was stretching out at the gym and noticed a shirt that read, "Motorcycles: helping ugly people have sex since 1901."
1. It's good to have friends who know not to give out your phnoe number. It's even better (and more rare) to ahev friends who know when to give it out, because you really want to talk to the person who asked for it.
2. I just learned over at Jessie's that Disney is making an anime-style movie of Diana Wynne Jones Howl's Moving Castle. I'd never have thought of a movie version of that book, and never would have connected it with either Disney or anime, but from the trailer it looks like the anime style works well. It doesn't look like it sticks completely to the story as written, but doesn't seem to depart too far from it either, but that's just a guess.
Next I want to see the Derkholm stories in live action - griffins!
No barking last night, thank goodness - either someone else filed a complaint of the dog's owners dealt with it on their own.
My week has begun an accelerating spiral toward the weekend. I need to pack today or tomorrow. We get out of work early and leave for Sacramento Thursday evening - we'll go as far as Frasier Park, north of LA, that night and then finish the drive on Friday morning. We'll go see Rudder's grandparents that night, the race is all day Saturday (it gets longer every year), then we'll drive the whole way back on Sunday. Then I have a full week of work followed by another long weekend for Memorial Day - I suspect that one will be devoted largely to lounging and laundry.
I am planning on competing, but only in the 300-meter dash they hold at the end of the day every year. This year there are so many races that won't happen until 8PM, so I may skip i if I'm too exhausted or if they want to pack up the boat I'm borrowing by then. She-Hulk is out of the race too, because she's had some back issues and is trying to be careful and get ready for World Masters Games in July, but she's doing a lot of organizing for this race (a lot more than she planned, actually, as the city person organizing has been dumping on her without exactly asking first, and some of the people he's coordinating tend to want their widdle hands held and their races spoon-fed to them. (I expect that from juniors, but grownups ought to take charge of their own damn races.) Anyway, at least it makes her feel involved, so she doesn't seem to mind too much.
We may have to call the cops on a neighbor tonight. Someone down the block has gotten a new dog that barks ALL NIGHT LONG, and has for the last several nights. It's not that close, but it's just loud enough to be annoying. Last night it even kept Rudder awake, and he's been known to sleep through ringing phones. I'd have called last night, except I'm not sure which house the dog lives in. Then again, I suppose a police officer could easily have figured it out by listening.
I suppose I could go over and ask them to bring the dog in, but by the time it bothers me, I've usually gone to sleep and woken up again and am not inclined to get out of bed and go bang on a stranger's door. Last night the barking stopped at about 3AM, but I'd much rather not have been awake to know that!
Tonight, right before bed I'm going to walk down the block or on the bike path behind us and try to figure out which house it is, then take the cops' phone number to bed with me in case it doesn't stop at a reasonable hour. (Why would it? It hasn't for the last few days.) What I don't understand is, why can' dogs bark all night? I mean, physically. I'd be hoarse if I yelled for half an hour. Even my cats go hoarse after too much yowling. Why don't dogs have some sort of physical limits?
P.S. I use the term "neighborhood" loosely. What this is, is a subdivision. We say hi to the people on either side of us and wave at a few others when driving by, but otherwise we don't know the people on our street at all, and we've lived here nearly eight years. What I grew up in was a neighborhood, where on summer nights you sat on the steps and talked to the neighbors. If I lived in an actual neighborhood, I'd know who had gotten a dog and I'd know the people and could go over and ask them nicely not to let it outside to bark all freakin' night. (Ahem. Nicely, I said. It might have taken a little practice beforehand.) On the other hand, if the people who had the dog knew their neighbors, maybe they'd be a little less inclined to keep them awake all night.
I was looking into a mirror today as I was fixing my hair, and thinking, "You know, I really don't look like nearly 40." Maybe it was the ponytail, or maybe it was the overalls - or maybe it's just that Gloria Steinem said and that this is now what 40 looks like. Anyway, here's the evidence, in inside and outside lighting. (Though I do think I look older in these than in my mirror. Cameras are not kind to me.)
Later note: I dragged out a few old photos to look at this morning, and it is true that I've aged. There is, of course, that deep line over one eye. And while I've always had dark shadows under my eyes - so the mirror has said - they didn't used to leap to the forefront of every photo quite the way they do now. I think the issue may actually be not the way I look but with my concept of forty. When I was a kid, forty-year-old women were teachers or moms. Their lives were focused on responsibility and they almost never did anything fun or spontaneous or challenging (probably because their daily lives were challenging enough already). Even their recreation was sedate. Of course, they may just not have done it while the kids were watching.
Also, and more importantly, here are some photos from yesterday's Dam to Dam regatta - me accepting my medal (don't get excited, I was the only female sculler in a single) and the whole outlaw crew. They handed out medals just for participating in this inaugural event, but those had red, white and blue ribbons. All the ones in these photos, on blue ribbons, are actual first place medals. Rudder and his partner were only disappointed that the winning eight beat them by 11 seconds!
Later note 2: I forgot to say, there's more about the race here.
There are thousands of tiny divorces going on all over my head. I'm not talking about my marriage; I'm talking about my dad-blasted split ends. They are both infuriating and addictive to break. Of course, it would probably be better if I either left them alone or used scissors instead of just pulling them apart at the break.... but they make such a satisfying pop when they break.
Meanwhile it's 4:13 on Friday the 13th, and I could leave now except that I need to meet people at the boatyard at 5:30 and it's only 10 minutes from here and there is no point in being there early so there's no point in leaving work early. Except of course there always is.
It's all Neil Gaiman's fault. Last night I went and bought the audiobook version of Peter S. Beagle's The Last Unicorn partly because I hadn't read it for years and remember being vastly impressed when I did, but more to get the novella-length sequel he's just written, Two Hearts. Signed! It's only available that way. (The audiobook is unabridged and is read by Beagle himself - it's available here.)
Note to Senator Lugar: there are what, 250 million people in this country? Wouldn't you think, with that many to choose from, that we could choose a UN ambassador about whom something better could be said that, "there is no evidence that he has broken laws or engaged in serious ethical misconduct"?
I'd be happier about tomorrow's race if it weren't forecast to hit 98 degrees. Fortunately, I think rowing events will be the first ones off, and I'm not really planning to do it at a serious race pace anyway. I wouldn't be surprised if there's only one or two other women's singles entered, or even none. Also, the nice thing abuot regattas is by definition there's always water there, so if it gets too hot it's usually possible to at least put your feet in the water.
On the other hand I need to row my boat to the marina on the lake where the race starts tonight - it's only a thousand meters or so, but that will be at the hottest part of the day (95 degrees forcast). Ick.
LA's entry today had me thinking. The older I get, the more I mind the idea of being cooped up. It's not really claustrophobia - I don't mind being in a cube or office or house, but I want places to get out and go from there. I still have recurring dreams where I'm in the rowhouse where I grew up (or my grandparent's, which was even smaller) and I go around a corner or through an attic door to find open decks with long green views, and quiet sunny rooms. (There was a trap door in the top of my closet, presumably leading to an area under the roof, but it was sealed. I always wanted to get in there, especially after reading The Magician's Nephew.) I like the idea of a big house, old enough to be comfortable, with lots of turns and corners and nooks and crannies - New Moon, say, or the Murrays' house in Wrinkle in Time (preferably a generation later, after they'd built the indoor pool). Or an apartment, but with an interesting city at its foot in walking distance. There are houses in the area where I went to college, big old three-story twins, that meet both criteria, if I had any desire to live in Philadelphia again. Come to think of it, a lot of this might be doing to growing up on the Narnia books, with all their places that have insides bigger than outsides. I have a feeling that what I really want is the Professor's old country manor, preferably complete with wardrobe.
Dear Abby: freedom fighter? (Scroll down to the second letter and its response.)
Though as I told Rudder the other day, the latest research showing homosexuality is linked to different response in the brain - supporting the idea that it's genetic - is still politically irrelevant. People who don't want to discriminate against others based on whom they sleep with won't care whether it's a choice or an inborn characteristic. Of the people who do, many simply won't believe the study, because "those damn scientists disagree with the Bible so they're wrong" or because while the urges may be inborn, the actions based on them are choices. (True enough. So is scratching an itch, and eeryone knows how hard it is not to do that. I'd think it would be far worse torture, lasting much longer, to be told the kind of love you can give is unallowable.)
There may be people in the middle whose opinions on gay rights would be swayed by the answer to the genetics vs. choice question. Sometimes it's easy to forget about those people in the middle; they do so much less ranting.
I've coincidentally been coming across a few FTM tranny diaries lately. The whole idea of transexuality makes me a bit uncomfortable in some ways, though I don't think they're the usual ways. It's not a squick factor even; in my case the issue is more about annoyance with gender expectations than with any of the physical aspects. I know exactly why it bugs me; from some perspectives, large fractions of my life can be seen as a rebellion against traditional gender roles. The fact that they didn't feel that way at the time is a gift of the times in which I was born rather than a reflection of my choices.
I mean, look at me. I'm an engineer; a pilot; a rower and weightlifter; an outspoken person, in both speech and writing. I'm neither modest nor demure, and tact is not natural to me. I don't blowdry my hair; comfort is a major fact in my clothing choice. I am an equal partner in my marriage and wouldn't stand for anything else. I am perfectly competent to earn a living, buy a car, wire a light fixture, cut down a tree. (Every time I get to thinking about it, I am thrilled that I am not especially unusual in being able to do these traditionally male things.)
On the other hand, if you were to look at me, "female" would be one of the first things you'd notice. I enjoy being a
girl woman. I wear skirts and sometimes heels. My hair is long. I wear earrings. I don't see anything contradictory about all these things: they're just me.
What bothers me about the idea of changing sex is that fear that someone might be so trapped in a gender role that they needed to have major surgury and permanent chemical changes in order to escape that externally-imposed idea. I once read an article quoting an FTM who had boasted, "My new girlfriend expects me to be the strong one," and my immediate response was, "Why? Why couldn't you just be a strong woman? Or even a strong woman with a girlfriend?" On the other hand I've also read of people who had just always felt that their bodies were somehow wrong, that the physcial object didn't match the self-image, and that's such a subjective internal thing that it can't be argued with.
It's easy for me to sympathize with those who identify as of gender "other" in order to be free of imposed roles. I can at least intellectually understand the person who makes major changes because hir body just always felt wrong, especially in the case of someone who has thought it all out carefully and has felt the same way for years. More power to them, for being able to be the way they want. (I worry about someone who wants to change gender who is at the age where many people hate themselves and their bodies and just want everything to be different, somehow, anyhow.) I do hope the people making the transition now are doing it for internal reasons, and not just because someone has convinced them that gender must determine how you act or look or love. I hope that's not it. If it is, it scares me. Too many people are fighting too hard for the right to have our choices less limited by whether we were dealt an 'X' or a 'Y', and for me, losing those battles is unthinkable.
I have a fascination with the way other people live, especially when they're ways of life that are very different than mine. I'm always interested in hearing about how other people make their living, what their houses are like and so on. Part of this is because I have an itch for change; eventhe things I like doing best, I don't like doing for very long, with the two exceptions of reading and marriage. (And even there, I usually have a couple of books going at once. Only one husband, though.) Part of it is because while most aspects of my life are good enough, few of them couldn't stand a change for the better.
A more ideal life for me would involve the same spouse, the same friends but more of them and more time with them, a house that is not necessarily fancier but bigger and more rambly (and my house is already more big and rambly than it is fancy), a job with more people-contact and a little more variety, the ability to work at home sometimes, a cooler climate, a little more travel (and not just to regattas). Most of those are surprisingly small changes, so maybe I'm even happier than I thought. The one major change would be that I'd like more disposable time, both in small chunks during each day to knit and read or even do errands, and in large chunks of several days, to go traveling or do projects or relax.
This morning I was thinking about some of the more intriguing alternate lives I've heard of. When we went to Antarctica at the end of 2003, the boat was staffed with a cruise staff with varying jobs: coordinating our itinerary, taking us out in Zodiacs, coaching us in kayaks, explaining what we were seeing, giving us photography tips, and keeping people happy and entertained - sort of a cross between professors, wilderness guides, and resort staff, with some jobs leaning more one way and some the other. They all live on the boat all (Northern hemispere) winter, from November through February or March, with only a couple hours' break in town to do laundry and send email between trips. Some of them work on cruises to Alaska in summer. One guy was telling us about his cottage somewhere in the backcountry of Ontario that he lives in during his two or three months off a year. It's demanding, but it sounds wonderful in some ways; their work is a part of their lives rather than a separate thing, they're in beautiful scenery, and they get large chunks of time completely off.
On the other hand, I realized, even if I were prepared to deal with no time off during the working months, I simply couldn't do that job. All of the cruise staff took us out in Zodiacs at one time or another, and the outings were always for a couple of hours right after breakfast or lunch. No breaks, no bathrooms. A couple of times, I asked to be taken back to the ship early, but the staff doesn't have that option. I couldn't do it. I couldn't be a flight instructor easily, either - at least, I could, but it would be difficult. Those guys fly all day, for a couple of hours at a time, with only short breaks between students. Often they don't get time to eat during the day, or just grab something from a vending machine, and (since our tap water isn't drinkable out here) they only have cans of soda to drink. IBS has had more impact on my life choices than I'd like to think; I like to believe I'm an adventurous person but I work in an office, with clean bathrooms and air conditioning and the ability to eat or drink whenever I want. I think it would be easier to be more adventurous if all my choices weren't bounded by the limits of my body, or if those limits were wider. On the other hand, what I think of as "normal people" - those who almost never have to consider issues of eating or digestion - too often have other physical limits. My IBS isn't bad at all these days; it rarely keeps me from doing what I want to do and when it does, it's usually my own fault for eating something I knew would be a problem. On the other hand, I have working arms and legs, heart, lungs, eyes and ears. I don't have to worry about falling asleep at inopportune times or going into insulin shock or disabling depressions. My limits are really not all that bad.
Damn it, it's hard to complain when your brain insists on looking at the big picture on every issue. It's extremely annoying having your own built-in Pollyanna.
I finally got to fly a cross-country as planned, yesterday, without having to cancel due to weather, aircraft issues, or anything else. And now, I only need to do it about twelve times more. (It's not a coincidence that the four or five I canceled were all when I was flying out of my previous FBO. At least, it's not a coincidence I left them.) This is the first one I've planned and have gotten to fly, though I did do a couple impromptu ones (no flight planning needed, just follow I-10 to Pinal with the instructor playing controller). So now I have about two more of the 50 hours I need, bringing me to about 26. Obviously it would make sense to do a few longer trips, but this one was exhausting. Trying to maintain heading and altitude when the thermals are determined you won't is difficult. Also, because it was warm out (hence less lift) and Rudder came along as a passenger, the aircraft just didn't want to climb. At least the turbulence was only annoying, not scary. I've been out in much worse.
You remember remember I wasn't planning to race this season, while working on the IFR. So guess what I'm doing this weekend? It's just a little local race, for which we had short notice, and it's not a proper regatta or the normal 1000m distance we do in spring and summer but a two-mile loop for canoes, kayaks, outriggers, and dragon boats as well as rowing shells. There's a separate category for singles, doubles, and so on, each for men and women. There was an option to just row it instead of racing, and I'm certainly not in racing form, but what the heck. I don't think there will be all that many people participating, and the race is against the clock, not all at once, so at least if I finish last it won't be too embarassing.
Also, the interview meme again, with questions from
1. Leave me a comment saying, "Interview me."
2. I will respond by asking you five questions. I get to pick the questions.
3. You will update your LJ with the answers to the questions.
4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post.
5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.
Next, the answers:
1) Are those crossed blades on your icon a particular pair, and, if so, what do they signify?
Yes, or at least a particular blade design. The design on my boat, blades, and uni (I think that's an all-in-one to Brits) are based on the Arizona state flag. I compete as part of a loose and amorphous group called the Arizona Outlaws. Incidentally, I've never flown a plane with a four-bladed prop; it just looked cooler for the design than the two-bladed one from a Cessna 172.
2) Do you ever get troubled by the contradictions in DLS's character, specifically the ringing defence of the life of the mind in Gaudy Night and some of her more startlingly narrow-minded assertions?
Actually, the defense of the life of the mind doesn't bother me so much (because Catherine Freemantle is so clearly spouting dogma against her own inclinations, and because even in Gaudy Night there is punting and rowing and climbing over walls) as DLS's anti-Semitism. That latter, I just have to sort of grit my teeth and resolutely ignore.
3) Have you ever met a public figure whom you admired in real life, and if so how did you find the experience?
No. I once met a state Senator I'd have admired if I'd known more about him at the time, but I was very young then, and there wasn't much opportunity for conversation anyhow. I did heroically restrain myself from spitting on my state's governor more recently when we flew on the same airplane. (This would be shortly before he was indicted and kicked out of office.)
4) What's the biggest single thing you'd change about the current set up if you were President for the day -
5) - or had Bill Gates's wealth at your entire disposal?
I'll answer these together. I'm not really sure money is the answer to the biggest problems I see, except in so far as it controls the media and that would need to be subtle to be effective, I htink. Subtle is not my forte. If I were President, I think one important thing I'd do would be to set a very public example of allowing absolutely no favoritism to my own family, state, religion, or party, and no discrimination against religion, race, ethinicity, age, gender or sexual preference in any area I controlled.
I was informed today that the copy of Polly Learns to Fly by Lillian Elizabeth Roy circa 1932, that I ordered last night is now on its way to me. This makes me unspeakably happy; I've been looking for it for yearsm since I knew there was such a thing. Last time I found one and ordered I got a note saying "Sorry, not in stock," which both confused and disappointed me. (Wouldn't you want to take it off your website, then?)
The Polly books are on the early end of those independent-girl series that flourished from the 1920s through the 1940s. The first one, Polly of Pebbly Pit, is dated 1921. I inherited three of them from my grandmother, along with various Judy Bolton and Connie Blair books from my mother, and read the Polly books to death. (Or else Mom snagged them. She has all the Judy and Connie books. Anyway, I don't have those.) I've been keeping an eye out for them in bookstores; I generally don't order them off the Net, because that's too easy. In this case I made an exception, because I've only ever seen this book available online once before.
Not only does this add to my Polly collection (I currently have the first three books, in which Polly meets her friend Eleanor, finds a gold mine, convinces her parents to let her go off to New York to school to to sell the "rainbow jewels" from a cliff on their ranch to finance it (while title to the gold mine is being worked out) and begins to study interior decoration. (She and Eleanor propose to make it an "art, instead of what the paint-slingers and upholsterers do for you".) It also adds to a collection I didn't realize was one until just now, of books about women flying. I also have Betty Cavanna's Girls Can Fly, Too! and a couple others - Patty Wagstaff's autobiography (she was the first female US aerobatic champion, and something about a race held by the Ninety-Nines. You know, someone needs to write a biography of Pancho Barnes. I am looking forward to seeing exactly what Polly learns to fly in, and how much detail there is. (Cavanna's heroine flew in a Cessna not much different than the 152 I learned in, except hers was a taildragger.)
I love the idea of having "special collections" within my library, even if each is only a few books.
Funny, one tangential mention of Charlotte MacLeod a few entries back and I got all kinds of response here. I think I know some of the reasons her books are so comforting. For one thing, the books are more about the characters than the mystery, so they can be read as mind candy, but they're not just that. They're sprinkled with quotations from Shakespeare and other poets, just little takeaways that you can notice or miss, and references to great authors - and her definition of "great" seems to be close to mine.
There are wonderful little tangential scenes, like when Dittany Monk reads her way through the Anne of Green Gables books as positive prenatal influences for her unborn twins. There are women of all ages, shapes, and descriptions who arouse the ardor of every man they meet, and it's noticeable that some of the biggest femmes fatale are also the biggest women physically, like Theonia Kelling and Iduna Stott. There are romances at all ages, from Janet and Madoc Rhys in their early twenties on up to Aunt Hilda Horsefall and Uncle Sven Svenson in their eighties (at least). There are happy marriages in which both participants get to contribute emotions and intellect.
I mean, really, if it weren't for all those corpses forever popping up and the getting marooned on tiny islets (which occurs in two of two of the last books of hers I've read), who wouldn't want to live in a MacLeod novel?
Rudder and I had the whole lake to ourselves this morning. No other rowers or coaches were out to see the sunrise over the water. You'd think it would be romantic .... if we hadn't been rowing in separate singles, generally at opposite ends of the lake!
Since 1989, I have lived in places that celebrate Cinco de Mayo (celebrations here generally involve more tequila than history). It's not my holiday, though. For me today is Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Since 9/11, I've become especially conscious of the overuse of the word "hero", and its confusion with the word "victim". One does not become a hero simply by being victimized, or even by being brutally tortured or killed. One becomes a hero by doing something about it. I recently saw someone referred to as a "heroine of Flight 93", for example. There certainly were heroes on that flight by anyone's definition, the ones who rushed the terrorists and brought the plane down in am empty field instead of a populated high rise. But the rest of the passengers on that flight were victims: tragedies, yes, but not necesarily heroes. A hero is one who fights back, whether the fight be physical, spiritual, moral, or a fight of endurance. A victim can be mourned, but a hero is also celebrated.
Today I will remember the thirteen million tragedies of the Holocaust and the additional millions who have died in genocides since then. It's already too late to promise "Never Again," but I will promise never to forget. And I will especially remember the heroes, hoping simultaneously that I'll never have to follow their examples, and that I could if I had to.
Here are some of them.
I operate best when I have things to look forward to, so this list is for my own reference. Now that my Houston reunion is over, upcoming events include:
And, one hopes, plenty of smaller or unplanned pleasures sprinkled in there - otherwise June would be a desolate month! Tonight, for example, there will be rereading of the second of the Sarah Kelling books I bought in Houston, probably followed (some other night) by the Peter Shandy book I also bought, and then a return to Joseph Ellis's bio of George Washington. One of the things I love about books is that they're always there when you want them.
Thanks to Ebony, I found a new poet again today whose work I love. By "new...again", I mean that I do not remember ever having read any of her poems before, but when I looked her up on Google, I found that her photo was familiar. Those glasses are unmistakeable. (Not to mention unflattering - I wonder if she wore them to hide or just didn't care?) So I must have read something of hers, sometime before.
Here's why I like her: I am a hopeless philistine. I want poetry to mean something to me. Sometimes, as with Kipling or some of Donne's, it's a literal story; sometimes, as with Yeats or other Donne it's a flash of feeling. But a lot of modern poetry (say, from the 1970s on) leaves me cold. Some poets seem to equate obfuscation with depth, when anyone who's looked at a muddy creek knows it's entirely possibly to be both opaque and shallow. Fortunately, there are others, and Mary Oliver is one of them whose work speaks intelligibly to me.
Also, in looking to see what I'd written about Oliver or modern poetry before, I found a poem I'd written a few years ago and hadn't indexed, so that was a bonus. Appropriately enough, it reminds me a little of her work - not in terms of quality but of similar theme.
The meme below is one I've stolen from LA. This one has been around for a while, but I've never done it before (I don't think.)
25 years ago
May 1980. I was 13 and in 8th grade. My Bat Mitzvah was two months before, so my mother and I were involved in using some of the money I'd been given to buy me a new bedroom set to replace the bed and dresser I'd had since graduating from a crib. I was probably still under 5' tall, wearing preteen sizes, and most of a year away from menarche.
20 years ago
May 1985. Spring of freshman year. I was finishing exams, then heading off to Ocean City, NJ, where the friend whose parents' beach house we were staying at would become my first serious boyfriend, the only person other than RUdder or family to whom I've ever used the 'l' word.
15 years ago
May 1990. I was 23 and had met Rudder 2 months before. He was coming over after work every night, and we never quite got to sleep as early as we'd planned. Within the next month he would talk me into taking rowing lessons, and we would select an apartment together. We officially moved in together that Spetember, when my lease was up.
10 years ago
May 1995. I was entering the last semester of my MS, working on simulating the Thermal Control System of the Space Station for the astronaut trainer, and soon to begin the job hunt that would land me in this city by the end of the year.
5 years ago
May 2000. We were in our current house. I was working at an internet company. The lake had opened to less than a year before, and I think I was finally giving in and joining the 5AM competitve rowing program. Coach DI was (in my opinion) unnecessarily hard on us, but I did get in better shape than I had ever been in.
3 years ago
May 2002. I had been working at this company for three months. I was getting ready for my first time competing in the GOld Rush Regatta, in which I'll be competing for the fourth time in a few weeks (though probably just in the 300m dash at the end of the day this time). With the month, I'd get my navel pierced (it still is). I'd been writing in this journal (in its Diaryland incarnation) for fourteen months.
May 2004. Nothing major going on. I was training hard for the same regatta, had written a story plot though not a story (the fiction urge seems to be a yearly thing), and began using a Diva Cup. (I still am - well, not continuously-still, but every-monthly-still, of course.) I passed my Biannual Flight Review.
May 2005. I'm working for the same company though at a site only half an hour from home, instead of an hour or more. I'm still rowing and lifting weights, but have scaled back a bit because I'm working on an Instrument Flight Rating.
I slept in until 6 and skipped the workout because I'd flown back from Houston and gotten in a little late the previous night. Rudder and I hit the local bewpub for dinner, and I reread one of Charlotte MacLeod's Sarah Kelling mysteries, having picked up several at Half-Price Books on my trip.
Erged 5000 meters, got into work by 6:30 AM to get ready for a big meeting. Tonight I'm flying with one of the instructors I like most.
I'd say the weekend in Houston was a success. The beginning was a little rocky, in that I finally managed to find what seemed like the very last parking space in the airport's humongous East Economy lot and then got to wait forever for Southwest Egg Rolls to go at the airport Chili's. Fortunately I had allowed enough time for parking and had checked in online, and the egg rolls were actually fairly tasty. In compensation, the flight to Houston was blissfully empty and I actually got a whole row of three seats to myself, so I was able to lie fetally and doze a bit. That was also fortunate, because I got to the hotel after midnight (only having gotten a little lost: I got off the freeway at the right place but couldn't quite figure out how to get from the feeder road - Houston has feeders alongside all freeways - onto the street, so I took the long way around).
I wanted to get to the boathouse before 7. I'd been in contact with their scheduling person and had been told I probably couldn't get into a boat (they have a regatta next weekend) but still wanted to go say hello to any oldtimers around. As it turned out, no one got to row that day; the wind was high and there were whitecaps washing over the deck. I spent some time talking to rowers new since my day and peeking around the boathouse, and then got to talk to a couple of old friends. They didn't know I was coming, but both recognized me right away, and they haven't changed much either. (Their daughter, who I knew from when she was remarkably untemperamental six-year-old, is now a junior in college.) I've had dinner in their house and they've celebrated New Year's at mine, and in fact after we sold our house Rudder lived in their old one (for sale at the time) for a month before moving out to join me here. It seems incredible that I didn't keep addresses for all of these people, at least for holiday card purposes, but somehow I didn't. We went off and had (at a Starbucks that wasn't there a decade ago) and then I went back to bed to rest before the party later on.
I was at that party from 11AM to 8PM. It wasn't particularly raucous by company standards; as someone commented, in the old days there had been parties that led to divorces. But it was a good gathering, with a few hundred people there including all but a few of the ones I'd wanted most to see. There were a few spouses who had swapped around, a lot of kids who had grown up, a few people who looked much older and a lot more who looked pretty much the same. Everyone seemed as happy to see me as I was to see them. I don't care how many beers the person has had, it's still nice to hear, "You can't believe how good it is to see you!"
I stayed until the bitter end, on the theory that I'd rather help clean up than sit around a hotel room, and of course the others who stayed were the same ones who were at all the parties back when. It was odd, though: as glad as we were to see each other, I still felt a little out of it, because of course I don't have the daily topics of conversation people who see each other more frequently have built up. Still, a good time, and a wonderful turnout for a reunion that had been planned on the spur of the moment two months ago.
The couple I'd met at rowing on Saturday called around and got a few people together for breakfast on Sunday. That was happy and sad: besides the couple who set it up, one old friend hasn't changed at all except to get a little grayer, and our old housemate and his wife (for whose first meeting and subsequent courtng we were present) haven't changed themselves but have a houseful of daughters (I'm sure three of them keep the house full), but an older couple (who also met via rowing) have had a lot of serious health issues, and he especially seems much older. We'd all always said those two were a perfect match; he is always nice and she has a veneer of sweetness covering more sweetness that goes to the bone. That hasn't changed, at least, and I think he was thrilled to be around a bevy of beautiful women (I am speaking here of the former housemate's three daughters). I got everyone's address and managed to snag the check because I'm obnoxious that way.
The former housemate and family invited me to go for a spin on their boat, so I did get to see all around the lake, and got better acquainted with the daughters. The little one was shy and stayed on her parents' laps, but the older two wanted me to hang out with them in the front of the boat - "it's bumpy up there!" Windy, too, but we did backbends across the cushions when the boat was going slowly and the middle girl (6 or 7, I think) pretended to surf. Fun. I'd had to go check out of my hotel room beore meeting them at the boat and when I showed up the older girl presented me with a sign with my name on it. I have no idea what I'm supposed to do with it, but I don't want to throw it out.
I spent the afternoon exploring the new Kemah Boardwalk area, riding a few rides and then eating an insanely spicy Cajun Shrimp boil at the Flying Dutchman - the rides and hotel and shops are new, the Dutchman and a few other restaurants are longtime landmarks. After that I walked a few blocks over to see all the new shops full of tchotchkelehs (not my style, though I briefly contmplated buy ing a Hawaiian shirt for my mom), then drove by my old house. It hasn't changed much, except for a new back fence and some different plantings. I was delighted to see that the used bookstore in an old house nearby is still there, but unfortunately it was closed on Sunday. I did treat myself to a stop by Half-Price Books, since the one in my area moved away. They are run individually, I think, so the Clear Lake one has a much different feel than that had had - more of a used bookstore, not so light and bright but with more crannies. I've always liked it. (Note: Clear Lake is the big lake there, and also what the whole area around the Johnson Space Center is called.)
I finished with a visit to the Space Center, the JSC's Disney-designed visitor center, which was a mistake. The only real changes were a huge playset for the 5th-grade-and-under crowd, and the prices are even worse than they were: $4 for parking (the only place in all of Clear Lake, that I know of, to charge for parking), $17 to get in, $5 for some fried mushrooms. It did feel right, though, to finish the weekend by looking at all of the pictures of all of the astronaut crews, and while I don't cry at movies much, I do still tear up at their Imax film, To Be an Astronaut. I skipped the tram tour of the real Space Center, having seen it all and being short on time. If you're in the area and have some spare $$$, it's probably worth seeing. Once.
The trip to the airport was smooth; the plane home was more crowded so I ended up sitting beside a small but imperious lady of 19 months and her mother. Happy and secure children are promiscuous with their touch; she had no problem leaning on me, standing up in her seat to flirt with the man behind us, and grabbing at my book. I averted one tantrum by letting her play with my tape measure - it retracts! (But it's plastic, not metal, and with no sharp edges.) That kept her busy for some time. She liked me; she even kissed my cheek once, and softly touched my chin a few times. (See "promiscuous" above. It's tricky for an adult; I could put an arm around my friends' six-year-old when she leaned on me, even though I hadn't met her before either, but of course I didn't want to reach out to touch a stranger's child.) Her mother was doing her best to get the girl to wear her seat belt when necessary, and there were a few crying jags due to overtiredness, and of course it's impossible to reason with a less-than-two-old about why she should sit still during takeoff, or eat her own crackers and not everyone else's, or not rest her feet on a stranger. But she was very cute, and reasonably well-behaved for someone entering her terrible twos. She entirely charmed the man behind me.
And then, I got to come home to Rudder. SO all in all, it was a weekend full of high points.