June 30, 2005

assorted body-related stuff

No luck with the clothes shopping last night, but we did get to hang out at the brewpub with some of Rudder's more entertaining coworkers,. It was the sort of evening that led to a shot of me attempting to create cleavage (you know, lock your arms together and squeeze) being loaded on someone's camera phone. She probably should have known better than to leave it on the table when she went to the bathroom. And of all the people I know, she's one of the likeliest to find that funny, or I wouldn't have done it. Especially not with only one beer in me. That may be the only time in my life anyone has ever said "Nice rack!" to me. (Not one of Rudder's coworkers, a spouse. I don't think he gets out much.)

This morning, I got up at rowing time (4AM) but decided to erg instead, partly due to the beer and chili from the night before and partly because when I left work yesterday the air was disturbingly opaque, because of all the fires in this area. The lake isn't far from work, and I didn't really want to be exercising in that stuff. I did 11km, though; normally I do less distance on erging days because I sleep in until 5 and try to finish a little earlier than I do when I row. But I needed the exercise, especially after trying on the dressy clothing I hadn't worn in a while and seeing how much of it was a little tight. I need to fix that.

I was appalled yesterday, though, when this BMI calculator told me my BMI is at the 23% percentile for American women. I am overweight, people. I'm in the recommended range, but not at an ideal weight. My mirror says so. (Just ask it, but only if you really really want to know.) Not all of my weight is bad; I wouldn't want to lose more than, say, 5-8 pounds as long as I'm still working out and lifting, but it still sends my weight up. And unless a lot more American women are lifting weights than I think, I should not weigh less than 77% of my peers of the same height and age.

Posted by dichroic at 02:01 PM | Comments (3)

June 29, 2005

wardrobe maunderings

Sigh. I was trying to be good about not buying any clothes or books not absolutely necessary until we figure out whether there any of the possible-futures involving a spell of joblessness will come to pass. (For anyone not keeping up, these are good futures, involving either extended travel or a move to a new place. So don't worry. I suppose in this decade, nonintentional joblessness is also always a possibiliity, but though that chance is more likely right now than normal for both of us, given out various reorgs, I still don't think it's imminent.) Anyway, it's not like I don't have shelves and shelves full of books and closets full of clothes.

But we have this do for Rudder's grandparents this weekend, and the main affair is supposed to be fairly dressy. I was planning on wearing either a silk sleeveless shift dress, which has the additional merit of being reversible, or the very full, long raw silk black skirt I got at the RenFaire, but the shift didn't quite look dressy enough and none of the tops I tried with the skirt looked right. So tonight may involve a quick trip to Nordstrom.

Hmm. Maybe if I wear the red twin set with that skirt. The underneath part is a camisole with ribbon straps, the same ribbon trims the cardigan, and it's even got a bra built into the cami. I think that may work.

I just called my mother-in-law to check how dressy this affair is, and she told me how she'd worked with a personal shopper at Nordie's (she doesn't get to the city too often, so works with one to save time when she does) to get just the right outfit. This is one reason I enjoy talking to her much more than to the people who told me before that reunion in Houston, "Oh, it's casual, just wear anything." She understands that worrying about clothing may mean not that you're obsessive or shallow but that you want to look nice beause you care about the people you're seeing. (It could mean you're obsessive and shallow too, but I don't really do this often.) Also. I wouldn't spend time dithering over clothing if I didn't enjoy it.

I'm lookng forward to seeing all of the in-laws this weekend. Unfortunately, the ones with the little kids we haven't seen since we visited them in Korea won't be able to make it after all, but all the rest will be there. Should be fun.

Posted by dichroic at 01:47 PM | Comments (2)

June 28, 2005

not as far along as I thought

Sigh. I think I'm going to have to unravel the heel and about fifteen rows after it on my Telecon Sock. It's just too tight when I put it on, and better a little more work to get something I'd actually use. I think I'm taking it to Sacramento this weekend (my other next project is much bulkier) so at least I'll get some more done on it. It will be too hot here for socks for a while, anyway.

Last night I finished and bound off the tank top I've been working on, but unbound it this morning; I want the front to be a little higher. (There's a picture at an earlier stage here.) I hadn't cut the yarn, because once the knitting is done I need to crochet on edging and straps, so at least I don't need to start a new strand. It won't be much more to do, only about 2" in a fairly bulky yarn, so I may finish it (for the third time) tonight. The crocheting will go quickly too; it's fluffy enough that I could actually skip the trim and only crochet on the shoulder straps, but I'll probably do the trim just to keep the straps more securely attached and to make the neckline a little higher still.

And this morning once *again* I mistook the day I was scheduled to fly. I went all the way to the FBO at 6AM only to find I'm actually scheduled for tomorrow. (My error, not theirs. Somehow I managed to misremember that tomorrow was the only day they had free when I tried to do the scheduling.) I didn't lose sleep because of it - I'd have been up at the same time anyway - but I did miss a gym day. And now I need to come up with *another* outfit that's both functional for flying and professional enough for work.

Funny thing, though: I can't keep my own life straight, but I seem to be going heavy on the logic and analysis in offering advice to other people today. If you need some, come see me. But if commiseration is what's required, come back tomorrow. Or at least tell me so, so clearly that even I can't misunderstand, and I'll try to be a little more Watson and less Holmes.

Posted by dichroic at 11:04 AM | Comments (1)

June 27, 2005

imprefect present

One thing I'd nearly forgotten, in the rush to get ready for the trip for Rudder's grandparents' anniversary and all the other July travel, is that it's our anniversary on Monday. We're flying home that day, so we can go out for either a nice dinner or fireworks that evening, but I really ought to get him something. Only problem is, I have no idea what. Dang.

Posted by dichroic at 02:11 PM | Comments (1)


Re the last entry: commenter who said "I'd love to" without leaving an email or webpage? Um, yeah, not the most helpful thing ever. (Unless you're one of the ones who emailed me, in addition.

I had a long IM conversation with my brother last night - long in terms of time, anyway, which got me thinking about the medium. I'm not convinced IM is the most efficient means of conversation ever. If you want to get things said, phones are faster. If you want to get complex messages across, email is better. It's too slow to feel like real conversation, but not slow in the same convenient ways email is. Where I think it shines in in cases where for some reason you can't talk, during a class or meeting, say; to bring in different people conversing from different areas, as in a chat room; and to keep a desultory background conversation going while you do other things. But not for primary communication, in most cases. I'm likely showing my age, but I'm not sure if it's that I'm old, inflexible, and unable to adapt to this technology or that not being affected by trends, I can take a step back and look at it dispassionately. I'd prefer to think the latter.

We're still looking at the RV-travel thing, though we're also still exploring other avenues (i.e. the ones where we stay with our career path).

The logistics of the travel are a bit forbidding. One thing is that in going fulltime but for a limited period, we'd be doing it the most complicated way, almost. We'd be selling our house, but eventually coming back and buying another, so we have to put our furniture in storage instead of leaving it where it is or selling it off. And then there's the issues we'd have anyway. Phone (easy enough). Internet (not so simple). Life insurance. Health insurance. Disability insurance. Choosing the vehicles. Buying the other things we'd want - two kayaks, probably a new laptop Figuring out the minimum number of books I can stand to live with and choosing them. There would need to be some purchases there, too - a Writer's Market for writeup of the trip, a paperback dictionary so we wouldn't need the big one. Lots of maps and lists of campgrounds and such. Figuring out minimum clothing. Figuring out what we'd need to do to the house before selling it (possibly not much, in the current bubble, but the upstairs carpet is trashed). Listing the places we'd want to go (which is not a choore but a pleasure - we did some of that last night). Figuring a loose itinerary based on it. (A bit harder.)

But the hardest part of all, even harder than choosing books, would be what to do about the cats. If they were kittens, I'd give them to a pet adoption place. If they were nice mellow adult cats, I'd ask all my friends if anyone could give them a home. What they are, though, is old and crochety. And they have their claws. I can't in good conscience give them to anyone with small children, because I don't know how they (the cats) would react, and the possibilities are dire. And at 14 and 16, it's likely they'll be having health issues soon, though they've been extremely healthy so far. (I credit Science Diet.) I think between the two of them they've needed maybe two vet visits, other than for shots, yearly exams, and the exams required before taking them on the plane when we moved here. We've considered taking them - maybe adding a cat flap in the door to the 'garage' area and putting a litter box there. They hate riding in cars, but have always been in carriers. I don't know whether this would seem like a car to them. Another possibility would be seeing if Rudder's parents can take them. Or mine, but mine have made their opinion of cats clear over the years. It's a quandary.

Posted by dichroic at 01:44 PM | Comments (1)

June 26, 2005

The news

1. I have registered for JournalCon. San Diego, October 21-23. See you (some of you) there.

2. Somehow I didn't want to talk about his until now: part shyness (stop laughing), maybe part jinx, part a feeling that to mention it would be almost presumptous. I started writing fiction a little earlier I mentioned here; I got the story idea on my trip to Seattle at the end of March, wrote the story up, and submitted it to an actual paying market. (I knew I was shooting above my head, but couldn't and still can't think of a reason not to start at the top.) I finally heard back from them today, a rejection. My first ever. I guess that means I'm a real writer now.

The editor who wrote was kind enough to explain exactly why the story didn't work for him. I was crushed at first, not because it had been rejected (I figured that was likely) but because the flaw he'd pointed out seemed like an insurmountable problem with the logic. On further thought, though, I think if you look at it a certain way, the logic does work. I think I may be able to just add one explanatory sentence (the main character can see the problem and figure it out herself) to make that the natural way to look at things. I will add that sentence before submitting anywhere else.

At any rate, because I couldn't bring myself to talk about the story before, I wasn't able to get as much advice as I could. I did ask My Brother the Writer to look over it, and he was able to offer some very useful and detailed criticism (actually, I was impressed) but other points of view are always helpful, especially as I don't think he's submitted as much of his own stuff as he ought to. Now it's had its first rejection, I feel freer somehow. So: would anyone out there be willing to beta (or is that gamma) read it? I don't want someone to look at it and tell me it's good. I'm fairly sure it's not acutely painful to read, as slush goes. (At least it's grammatic.) What I want is dissection: what bits work or don't work for you and why. Sugar-coating's not necessary; if you tell me it reads like a first effort that should be used only to hone skills and shouldn't be published anywhere, at least you'll save me effort and postage. Also, any suggestions on what market it might work for would be very welcome. I'm new at this. (I know about Writer's Market and it's even in my library, but subjective feeling that there's a match would be helpful.)


Posted by dichroic at 01:03 PM | Comments (4)

June 25, 2005

change of plans

Well, shoot. Change of plans. We were planning to do what pilots call a "hundred-dollar breakfast" - fly out to Payson, eat breakfast, and come home. (The lunchtime version is a "hundred-dollar-hamburger".) Plans were changed because there are so many brushfires in the area that we'd have been threading between restricted zones. Also, the taxiway at Payson is closed because they're using it for heavy-lifting helos. We still could have done the flight and been legal, but fires can move, and the smoke can range far out of the restricted zone. Also, there was no real reason we needed to go other than to eat breakfast and score another hour cross-country time, so it seemed like a more prudent decision not to go.

Instead I did some much-needed weeding, including disposing of the brittle corpse of what had been one of my very few horticultural successes. Rosemary loves out sun and dry soil, and the two I had planted in front spread out nicely. Unfortunately there's an overtemp drain into that bed from the hot water heater; apparently last time we'd had it fixed, the plumber had set the threshold too low and hot water straight from the solar panel was cascading onto the rosemary. Apparently it wasn't fond of being boiled. I cut most of the mostly-dead one out, leaving the two living sprigs in a vain hope that it will come back, and left the one that's only half-dead to see what will happen.

I forgot to tell a story yesterday: I'm wearing glasses for a few days, on the advice of my eye doctor. One eye was getting irritated, and responding with mucus that clouded the contact lens further in a vcous cycle. I have to wear glasses for 2-3 days and then be very careful to take my extended-wear lenss out a least one day a week. If that doesn't work, I'll have to begin taking them out every night. I don't normally wear glasses to work, and yesterday one of our weirder directors told me I looked like a librarian in them. I told him, "Well, I know some very attractive librarians, so I guess that's a good thing."

Y'all are welcome.

Posted by dichroic at 08:40 AM | Comments (2)

June 24, 2005

on the road again, big time

This is what my July looks like:
First weekend: travel to Sacramento for Rudder's grandparents 65th anniversary.
Second weekend: Fly (as pilot) to Santa Barbara and back the next day.
Third weekend: possible trip to San Diego to get boats on their trailer to Edmonton.
Fourth week: Travel to Edmonton for World Masters Games.

I don't think I'll bother putting the suitcase away between times.

I may get a break the 3rd weekend; that trip depends on when they decide to load boats and on whether I can find an alternate method to get my Harry Potter fix. It's also possible either they won't load that weekend or I'll send Rudder without me and will stay in my chair from the time HPVI arrives until I finish it. If necessary I could probably buy it at midnight at a local store. If I don't get enough notice to cancel the one I have pre-ordered, well, I'm sure I can find a good home for my spare copy.

I did get all my photos moved over here yesterday. However, when I moved my old archives here, the script didn't handle line breaks well. So old entries have odd line-wraps and the links to photos and pages are mostly broken except in the cases where I've fixed them by hand. Also, the first three months or so didn't transfer over, for some reason. I think what I'll do is try to import the missing old entries (will probably edit the file by hand, since it's not more than 90 entries) and will gradually fix old entries with photos and links. (I can search on .jpg and http.) There are just far too many to fix them all.

Posted by dichroic at 12:40 PM | Comments (1)

June 23, 2005

housecleaning and stuff

I've actually managed to fix the issue with the story being all narration and no dialogue. I haven't gotten any farther on the plot, or figured out how much Antarctica I need, though.

Several people ahve commented on my post about writing fiction, and from some of their comments, I think I may have been unclear. The reason I don't do it much is not just because I'm not good at it; it's that I have no real drive to do it the way I think some of you do. I don't have characters coming to me and asking to see the light of day. It's very rare for a plot to come to me and want to be written; if I spend time trying to think of some I can grind out a few. Maybe one will taken wing to the extent that writing it is fun, or maybe not. It doesn't feel like my metier.

It doesn't feel awful or painful, either, and sometimes it's kind of fun, and sometimes it's satisfying, and sometimes I want to do it, because the alternative is to do something less fun. Rather like housecleaning. Braincleaning, maybe. When I've talked about what parts are hard for me to do, it's not meant as a complaint, but as a data point. I'm actually finding it fascinating as a matter of cognitive science to see what aspects come easily and what things are hard, especially as I've read the journals or books on writing from enough writers to suspect that at least some of the issues are different for them. I haven't yet figured whether it's just that each person has native strengths and weaknesses, or if fiction writers as a class have a different knack. Maybe there's a thesis in there for someone; it's an interesting question. I love learning about learning - metalearning, I guess.

Meanwhile, while things are slow, it's occurred to me that this is a good time to do some other housekeeping I've been putting off: downloading all the images on my old Diaryland site so I can stop paying for GOld membership, moving them here, and changing all the links to point to where they should go. (Fortunately, I think I can do a search-and-replace operation for that last part.) After that, I may migrate from MovableType to WordPress; the Outlaw site uses WordPress and it's been generally well-behaved, though I haven't entirely figured out all the template stuff. Setting up a new blog on WP was incredibly easy; I suspect migrating is a little trickier and riskier, though my host does have some tools to help.

Anyway, just a warning: if this site goes down in the next few days, that will be why.

Posted by dichroic at 12:01 PM | Comments (0)

June 22, 2005

what happens when

F*ing cafeteria is out of F*ing Gatorade. I nearly cried. (There was a little sign saying how much it would have cost if they'd had any. I found that less than helpful.)

Rowing 9500 meters (including some interval pieces) in 90+ degree weather has made me demonstrably stupider. (I turned onto the wrong street on the way to work. Quod erat demonstrandum.) Stupid and emotional, not a pretty combination.

Oh yeah, this is what happens when I row hard. I had forgotten.

Somehow listening to the Charlie Daniels Band singing The Devil Down to Georgia seemed like the appropriate thing to do, though I can't say it helped any. Apparently when I'm stupid and emotional I want to listen to country music. Not sure if that says anything about either me or it.

By now, I'm more or less coherent and able to take the stairs at something better than an arthritic crawl. (I'm currently listening to the score from 1776. Back to my roots.) I've been immensely enjoying a discussion in her comments with RJ Anderson on matters of religion. One part of that enjoyment is because it's weaving in so nicely with what I've been reading in The Jew in the Lotus, and another major part is the articulate RJA herself. What a pleasure to debate with someone who disagrees with me on the postulates in question but who is civil, knowledgeable, and logical. I've had arguments with too many proselytizing Christians who claimed to believe every word of the Bible but who knew less of their own New Testament and history than I do, not to appreciate one who doesn't proselytize but simply sets out her own beliefs, and who knows not only her own history and theology but some of mine as well. Educational.

Posted by dichroic at 02:05 PM | Comments (2)

June 21, 2005

filling time with fiction

Would the person who's been Googling Dichroic Reflections along with my full name please leave a comment to tell me who you are? Then we can figure out if I'm the one you're looking for; there are at least four of us in the US with this same first and last name. Thank you.

I have been extremely bored lately, for large parts of my day. One result of this, in me at least, tends to be that I'm driven into creativity. Apparently I'm too lazy to create things unless I have nothing else to do. (Or multitasking - I knit because it's something I can do while reading.) Since I owuld be conspicuous taking knitting with me everywhere, I've been venturing into new territory and trying to write fiction. It's something I can do inconspicuously anywhere I have a pen and paper or computer. Or even without, if it's just a matter of thinking up plot ideas.

I say "just" but the truth is that figuring out what should happen is the hardest part for me and is the main reason I've never really been a fiction writer. One thing I've noticed, though, in recent years is the number of books, even great books, which really have no plot in the classic sense of a story with crisis, climax, and denouement. Tristram Shandy is probably too weird to be a good example, but, for instance, what happens in Little Women, other than that the characters live grow up? (Or don't in Beth's case.) The same could be said of Tom Sawyer, but in that case the book is really a string of episodes with a different plot in each section - the whitewashing, the raft episode, Injun Joe and the cave. On the other hand, I'm not quite bored enough to want to write a whole novel, and short stories do tend to have something resembling a plot - a small one at least - with some sort of problem that is solved. One way to avoid that is to write something that's not a story but just a vignette, a peek into a window, as I did here, but really, that's cheating a bit.

Next, there comes the technical challenge of assembling the story. I can write grammatically, and if not well at least fluently, and in different voices to some extent. Those things could definitely be improved, but at least my prose isn't going to cause the casual reader actual pain on the first glance. But it is interesting to realize what else there is to writing a story that I simply don't know. The thing is, though I'm only a so-so fiction writer, I am a very good reader. This means that I can often see what's wrong, but have no idea how to fix it. For example, I can write conversation, I can write description, and I can write narration, but I have no real idea who to balance them and move between them. (That's exactly why the Una story is almost all dialogue, with one long chunk of description cribbed from -- well, heavily influenced by -- Montgomery at the beginning.)

The current story is in omniscient third person, and the heroine is said to have done this and that and even thought this and that, but she never actually talks to anyone. Mark Helprin did write a story like that, but I think I need to assume that's because he knew what he was doing, and I don't. Also, the point of his story is that his hero really is very isolated and hardly talks to anyone. Mine is hanging out with her friends, and presumably chatting to them. I think the solution may be to introduce another character or three, sketchy ones, just so that she can be talking to them and telling her own story. Another way would be one L.M. Montgomery used, in which the character addressed various remarks off into the ether, to herself or no one, but that seems artificial. (Even though I've been known to do it myself.)

And then there's the problem of how much. I suspect this is an authorial problem in general, not one that's specific to me while I don't know what I'm doing. For example: This is a short story. In the middle of it, the heroine needs to go off to Antarctica. (Actually, she just needs to go somewhere remote, with wide spaces, and unlike home, but since I've been to Antarctica and can describe it, that's where she goes.) So she could go there and back in one line, and I could just spend some time discussing what she thought over while she was there, or I could talk about where she went and what she saw and how long it took, or I could talk about how she got there and the people that she met, her opinions of Buenos Aires and Ushuaia on the way and how she found penguins enchanting and seals dead boring. The trip could be anything from a paragraph to pages and pages, and the trick is to figure out what is actually necessary to the story.

And then there's the fine-tuning, making sure that every sentence is necessary (I can't really get it down to the word level now) and that the voice speaking is never out of character. That I know for sure is something all authors have to work on, though clearly they're skills that can be honed to work better and faster.

There's definitely an unevenness in quality between different stories, too; for instance the current one isn't nearly as good as Una's story. I don't knwo whather that stems from the compellingness of the original idea, the characterization, or the execution.

Also, there are some daily-life issues. It turns out that I can get pretty far back inside my head while figuring out a character or story point, which is not always a good thing while driving or in a meeting, about like being unconscious real world while reading a very good book.

I'm still bored - for one thing I can't think of enough plots to keep myself entertained - but at least I'm learning some of the dimensions of what I don't know.

Posted by dichroic at 02:26 PM | Comments (3)

June 20, 2005

a few reviews, from Dorothy

A coworker commented today that I look "just like Dorothy". The hell of it is, she's right (MGM version, not the original illustrator). I hadn't realized quite how reminiscent of Judy Garland's pinafore this dress (blue plaid, sleeveless, calf-length, slightly high-waisted) really is, nor that I really shouldn't wear it with my brown hair parted in the middle and pulled up and back on both sides. Oops. At least I'm not wearing actual ponytails or hair ribbons.

I've been reading quite a few things recommended by various people I read on the web lately; they've ranged from OK to mindblowing. Here are few quick opinions. All of these are in print, available at your friendly internet bookstore.

Wild Life, by Molly Gloss. I'm not sure where I read about this one, but it was in someone's list of favorites and someone else had commented that they'd loved the book and had never met anyone else who'd read it. I didn't love it. It had interesting ideas, but strikes me as a partially but not totally successful experiment. The vignettes of other characters' lives seemed gratuitous, mostly. Charlotte's actions were generally not consistent with her man-hating principles, though that may have been deliberate. And one particularly annoying thing was that if you carefully watched the dates of the other interspersed writings, they didn't seem tro show much change in Charlotte from what should have been (or why write about it?) a life-altering experience. I'll probably read it again, someday, but not often.

Hammered, by Elizabeth Bear, lauded by practically everyone who comments on Bear's blog. Wow. It took me a while to get to this, just because it's harder-edged than most of what I've been reading and I needed to get in the proper mind set. It was a much faster read than I had expected and very worth the reading. I did have to pay close attention. I found myself loving the characters not because they were sweet and likeable but mostly because they weren't (except Gabe, who is, but can be rughtless when necessary - and the subject for a great line - "it's hard to miss that aspect of a man who is willing to blow off your arm to save your life, on your first meeting" (quoting from memory)). I am fascinated to see what happens further between Gabe and Ellie and Jenny, because it's a sort of thing I see more and more in real life and very rarely in fiction. I have only two minor quibbles: I'm frustrated that I'll have to wait for the sequel to find out what happens to Leah - most of the other plot threads were drawn together up just enough to make this book end satisfactorily but leave plenty of room for the next book. And Alberta Hunter isn't developed enough as a character to seem to need to be present in the book, except to enable Valens to be not totally evil. But those are minor. I recommended this book to Rudder, who doesn't read much SF but who likes complicated political thrillers, because I think it will be complicated enough for him and better than Clancy and some of the other stuff he reads.

When I Was Older, by Garret Freyman-Weyr: I got this one based on Mrissa's review, and I agree with her comments. There is some L'Engle in it (Vicky Austin, specifically) and also maybe some Norma Johnston. I'd have loved it even more at 14, but I'm glad I've read it now, anyway, and it's perfect for a girl geek. How can you not love a book whose main character thinks, in all seriousness, "Apparently I like kissing more than doing math homework. Who knew?" (Note to Swooop: might be very good for Herself.)

Jew in the Lotus, by Roger Kamenetz: Recommended by Rachel. Mind-blowing in a different way than any of the books above. It's about the visit of a delegation of Jews from across a fairly wide spectrum to the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala. I'm not done reading it yet. It's teaching me more about Judaism than about Buddhism, including some of the principles of Kabbalah in an authentic, nontrendy - and how that fits into mainstream Judaism. It addresses some of the same concerns about assimilation as Anne Roiphe's Generation Without Memory, but by contrasting Judaism to Buddhism and examining some of the people who are in a spectrum between the two ("JuBus") comes closer to finding some answers. It's also making me grateful that somehow, between Hebrew School and in my own reading, I've come to a better understanding ("better" in my mind, anyway) of what Judaism is and what it is for than a lot of young Jews get, as witness Kamenetz's state of Jewish knowledge going into the book or some of the JuBus' accounts of their Jewish religious training or lack thereof. It's also clear that Kamenetz himself learned a lot during the events he writes of, and the book makes it possible to ride on his shoulders through that process.

Posted by dichroic at 01:21 PM | Comments (2)

June 19, 2005

quiet weekend

It's been an unusually quiet weekend here. Yesterday morning I flew, eking out alittle more cross-country time and practicing instrument approaches with the autopilot. (It's still easier without the autopilot, if you ask me.) Yesterday afternoon we went to see Howl's Moving Castle, which was good but not great. It doesn't still especially closely to the book, except for when it does. Given all the things they changed - Sophie having no magic, to name one large omission - I was surprised at some of the little things they didn't, like Howl's emitting green ichor in depression over a bad hair day. The animation was wonderful. My biggest complain is that of the parts of the story that got changed, too many of the new story points didn't have enough explanation to make sense. I realize this isn't unusual in anime; however, that may be one reason I don't spend much time watching anime. I am not really a subtle audience, and far less so in watching movies than in reading books. (There are some advantages to this, in the matter of rereading; every time I reread Pride and Prejudice, Mr. Darcy falls in love with Elizabeth earlier in the book. I am on tenterhooks to see what I find when I'm ready to reread Lord of the Rings.)

Today, we attempted to eat breakfast out, but had forgotten it wa Fathers' Day, so we did a few errands and then picked up bagels. (One pleasure of national chains is that Breugger's actually comes up to my East-Coast-Jewish standards , as long as I don't order lox.) Since then I've gotten a lot of craftwork done. Here is the tank top I'm knitting, with about half the lower body redone since I ripped it out:

This is a necklace that's been laying dormant a long while; I've finally fnished it. It's Swarovski crystals wire-wrapped )for one value of that word) and hanging on a silver chain; I'm including two pictures because, though the Cooldeck background isn't ideal, some details show up better against it.

This is a necklace I did a few weeks ago, intended for wearing to regattas - it's in Arizona Outlaw colors. Actually, I made two (the other is blue), but I forgot to take a picture of the other before giving it to She-Hulk.

Posted by dichroic at 07:02 PM | Comments (0)

June 17, 2005

of sin and redemption

I am one of those people who often figures things out as I speak or write. The drawbacks to this system are obvious; it can have me looking as if I don't know what I'm talking about because my first answer is still in a larval stage. I need to be careful not to do it around my boss, because when I do he will often interrupt with, "No, that's not right," leaving me wanting to respond, "Wait, I wasn't finished with that idea yet!" The advantage to the process is that I sometimes end up figuring out things I didn't know I knew, especially when I'm responding to a provocative idea of someone else's. That's what happened in commentary following Rebecca's explanation of why she believes that the Adam ad Eve story in Genesis must be literally true. I felt free to ask questions and posit ideas because I've known her tangentially for years, through blogs and a few different book discussion groups, and knew I could trust her intellectual honesty - meaning, if she believes something she has a reason for doing so, and it's not just because someone told her to. Also, she's mature and secure in her faith; somehow I wouldn't want to risk shaking the belief of someone young and inexperienced even if I thought their beliefs were wrong, unless of course those beliefs were likely to lead them to hurt others. I don't know why; maybe it's a fear of responsibility, or just the realization that I myself may always be wrong.

At any rate, while responding to a comment on her post, I did figure out something for myself. I'm going to take the liberty of posting the snippet of the previous column I had been responding to.

Shawn said:

Just a note to Paula... the idea of theistic evolution has been around for quite a while. One argument against it is that some of the events in the 6 days of creation are different than the order which evolutionists say life evolved.

My response was:

Shawn: True, and obviously important to those who believe the Bible literally. On the other hand, if you take it as metaphor, I'm not sure the order matters. The beginning of Genesis (those words sound really silly if you think of the book as Bereshit rather than Genesis, because they would then be "The beginning of 'In the Beginning'". But anyway) would reduce more or less to "God created the world in all its glory and complexity. Humans were given free will, which they have sometimes used in ways that bring them further from the All-Good". Which is a reading I can believe. It's obviously not what Rachel and presumably you believe (or rather, not all of it; those words are not incompatible with a literal Adam and Eve) but I'd argue that it's far from unimportant or meaningless, nonetheless. A problem for you, I'm guessing (not trying to put words in your mouth) is that my reading would not create a need for redemption beynond the choices each individual can make and thus Jesus would not be required, as he is by a literal Fall. Come to think of it, I think I've just explained why Jews (I am a more or less secular one) don't feel a need for Jesus, in case you ever wondered.

I would really love to see a non-literalist Christan weigh into that discussion now; I'd be curious to read a discussion of sin and the consequent need for redemption therefrom for those who don't start from a literal Fall of Adam and Eve.

Posted by dichroic at 12:04 PM | Comments (3)

June 16, 2005


In his quite wonderful book Downtown: My Mahattan, Pete Hamill says, speaking of the early 1960s, "It seemed possible, as Camus once said, that you could love your country and justice too."

I almost cried when I read that.

Posted by dichroic at 06:35 PM | Comments (0)

whatever was wrong, isn't anymore

I do feel a little better today - did a slightly light routine in the gym this morning. And I figured out why my tonsils are probably sore and swollen due to our high pollution levels - there's been an alert yesterday and today. So that's good.

Posted by dichroic at 01:57 PM | Comments (0)

writing to the Rep

Yesterday I was elated to hear that the House of Representatives has blocked renewal of the part of the soi-disant Patriot Act pertaining to the government's right to seize library and bookstore records. I was disappointed but not surprised to find that my state representative voted against this blockage. I have sent him the following note:

To The Honorable J.D. Hayworth:

We met once, when you were gathering signatures to get on the ballot, in front of the Sunset Library in Chandler. I signed your petition, but told you then that we disagreed on many major issues. I am dismayed to find now that we once more disagree on a most crucial issue, your vote note to block the part of the Patriot Act pertaining to government seizure of library and book records.

The freedom to read without fear of persecution and prosecution is invaluable. A society that scrutinzes the reading habits of its citizens and uses those reading habits against them is not a free, open, or democratic society. It is a society on the slippery slope towards totalitarianism. Moreover, an intelligent and educated populace is the best and most invincible national security this nation can have. It protects us from the threat of tyranny within as well as terrorism without.

Why are you afraid of that, Representative Hayworth?


Thanks to LibraryGrrl for providing the links to how each Representative voted, and to send a message to yours. (Alert readers will notice that I also plagiarized a few powerful sentences from her letter.)

Posted by dichroic at 09:51 AM | Comments (2)

June 15, 2005

an audacious idea

No beef last night. I was still a little on the low-energy side this morning, having again slept like a dead thing, but was able to manage 4k, on the erg with slightly less frequent stops. I've also gained about 4lbs since the weekend, so I'm beginning to wonder if it's a thyroid thing after all, or what. I've got an unexplanied sore spot on my neck, too, but probably not in the right place.I think I'll give it until after next weekend and see if anything's changed. It probably will, but if not I'll go see a doctor.

I'm beginning to like the Madeleine and Pooh cartoons shown at 5AM on the Disney Playhouse, for erging purposes. I especially like the way all the Madeleine characters will exclaim something in French and then repeat it in English - that way it's still clear but they don't have to dumb it down to far. Also, all the narrator's lines are in rhyme, in the meter Bemelman originally used:

In an old house in Paris, all covered in vines, Lived twelve little girls in two straight lines. The smallest one was Madeleine.

Because really, how could I not like a story in which the smallest girl got to be the heroine?

I've been cleared to mention here that with changes going on in both our companies, if the worst happens to both of us (or the best , depending on your viewpoint) Rudder and I are playing with an idea we've been talking about for years: take to the road for six months or a year, in an RV with space in back for bikes, windsurfers, kayaks, and whatever. We spent Sunday afternoon going around looking at RVs to see the costs and possibilities. It looks like this would actually be financially feasible, given what's going on with real estate prices in our area. Of course, it's a giant leap of faith, making the assumptions that we could stand each other for that long a time in that small a space and that we could get back to work fairly quickly after we were ready to leave the road, and the logistics are very complicated. And most likely, we'll just stay with our jobs and ride out the waves. Still, what an adventure!

Not the least of the logistics is figuring out how few books I could get by with, for a year or whatever. We'd occasionally swing by wherever our stuff was stored, so I could rotate the stock then, but it wouldn't be frequent, and without much money or space, I wouldn't be able to buy new books. Thank goodness I'm a rereader; that makes it far easier.

Another issue is how to get mobile internet access; I'm sure this is a solved problem, but I just don't know the answer. One way would be to get a wireless internet card in a laptop and just take it to wireless access zones, but I'd like something at "home" as well. I'm sure there's a satellite method of some kind.

Another nontrivial issue is what Rudder will do when we're not sightseeing or doing something active and we're stuck indoors. As he pointed out, he does't really have any sedentary hobbies other than watching TV, which he mostly does only when he's pinned down by the need to eat. I'd love to get a book, or a column (hello, Outside?) or both out of the adventure, so that's one thing we could work on together.

And then there's the issues of how much stuff we need / can do without, how much it all would cost, health insurance, and such. And right now it's only a contingency plan, not a real one. We do have careers to worry about. Still, it's a lot of fun to think about and plan, sort of like the "if I won the lottery" game. If anyone reading this has done such a thing or knows someone who has (and who has actively traveled, not just pulled up a trailer somewhere and parked) I'd love to get in contact.

And if it really does happen? Then you'll hear lots about it. I'll be checking with everyone I know to find people and places to visit.

Posted by dichroic at 02:09 PM | Comments (6)

June 14, 2005

a bit of history

Two of my lists are reading books about or influenced by World War I the war that may have changed the world more thoroughly than any other in the last couple hundred years: LordPeter is discussing Dorothy L. Sayers' first book, Whose Body, and the True Kindreds are talkng about L. M. Montgomery's Rilla of Ingleside.

That's why, when I saw in the list of books newly online that a book of Mary Roberts Rinehart's called Kings, Queens, and Pawns: An American Woman at the Front, from 1915, had been published, I clicked over to look at it. Here's the thing: this book is not fiction. Apparently Rineharts actually crossed over to England (through submarine-infested seas), then got permission to go to France (more subs) and on up to the actual warfront by virtue of her membership in the American Red Cross. Her mission was to tell Americans what the situation was actually like and what things were needed by the Belgians, especially. At that time, of course America was not in the war but had been sending supplies to her English, French, and Belgian allies. Two-thirds of Belgium's army was gone, and most of the country was under German occupation; when Belgian soldiers fired at the enemy, they were shooting at their own towns, having no idea whether their families were still there or still alive at all. The capital was moved to the small town of La Panne, where the King, Queen, and Crown Prince remained despite the dangers of shelling not far off and German planes flying overhead daily. Rinehart was received by King Albert, and was much impressed with his bravery, love and care for his men.

Here's an excerpt, from toward the end of the book. I have to repeat again, this is not fiction.

The day after the declaration of war the Belgian scouts were mobilised, by order of the minister of war--five thousand boys, then, ranging in age from twelve to eighteen, an army of children. What a sight they must have been! How many grown-ups can think of it with dry eyes? What a terrible emergency was this, which must call the children into battle!

They were placed at the service of the military authorities, to do any and every kind of work. Some, with ordinary bicycles or motorcyles, were made dispatch riders. The senior scouts were enlisted in the regular army, armed, and they joined the soldiers in barracks. The younger boys, between thirteen and sixteen, were letter-carriers, messengers in the different ministries, or orderlies in the hospitals that were immediately organised. Those who could drive automobiles were given that to do.

Others of the older boys, having been well trained in scouting, were set to watch points of importance, or given carbines and attached to the civic guard. During the siege of Liege between forty and fifty boy scouts were constantly employed carrying food and ammunition to the beleaguered troops.

The Germans finally realised that every boy scout was a potential spy, working for his country. The uniform itself then became a menace, since boys wearing it were frequently shot. The boys abandoned it, the older ones assuming the Belgian uniform and the younger ones returning to civilian dress. But although, in the chaos that followed the invasion and particularly the fall of Liege, they were virtually disbanded, they continued their work as spies, as dispatch riders, as stretcher-bearers.

There are still nine boy scouts with the famous Ninth Regiment, which has been decorated by the king.

One boy scout captured, single-handed, two German officers. Somewhere or other he had got a revolver, and with it was patrolling a road. The officers were lost and searching for their regiments. As they stepped out of a wood the boy confronted them, with his revolver levelled. This happened near Liege.

Trust a boy to use his wits in emergency! Here is another lad, aged fifteen, who found himself in Liege after its surrender, and who wanted to get back to the Belgian Army. He offered his services as stretcher-bearer in the German Army, and was given a German Red Cross pass. Armed with this pass he left Liege, passed successfully many sentries, and at last got to Antwerp by a circuitous route. On the way he found a dead German and, being only a small boy after all, he took off the dead man's stained uniform and bore it in his arms into

There is no use explaining about that uniform. If you do not know boys you will never understand. If you do, it requires no explanation.

Here is a fourteen-year-old lad, intrusted with a message of the utmost importance for military headquarters in Antwerp. He left Brussels in civilian clothing, but he had neglected to take off his boy scout shirt--boy-fashion! The Germans captured him and stripped him, and they burned the boy scout shirt. Then they locked him up, but they did not find his message.

All day he lay in duress, and part of the night. Perhaps he shed a few tears. He was very young, and things looked black for him. Boy scouts were being shot, remember! But it never occurred to him to destroy the message that meant his death if discovered.

He was clever with locks and such things, after the manner of boys, and for most of the night he worked with the window and shutter lock. Perhaps he had a nail in his pocket, or some wire. Most boys have. And just before dawn he got window and shutter opened, and dropped, a long drop, to the ground. He lay there for a while, getting his breath and listening. Then, on his stomach, he slid away into the darkest hour that is just before the dawn.

Later on that day a footsore and weary but triumphant youngster presented himself at the headquarters of the Belgian Army in Antwerp and insisted on seeing the minister of war. Being at last admitted, he turned up a very travel-stained and weary little boy's foot and proceeded to strip a piece of adhesive plaster from the sole.

Underneath the plaster was the message!

Posted by dichroic at 03:55 PM | Comments (1)

woolly headed

First, the calming things meme. Tagged by Taelle.

Things you enjoy, even when no one around you wants to go out and play. What lowers your stress/blood pressure/anxiety level? Make a list, post it to your journal... and then tag 5 friends and ask them to post it to theirs.

1. Reading. Actually, if it's to calm down, then it's more likely I'll be rereading.
2. Pedicures. The end result is nice but it's the process I enjoy..
3. Massage. Either by Rudder or by a professional. The latter last longer and are technically better, while the former convey love as well as feeling good. Both kinds are wonderful.
4. Hot showers. I don't tend to take one unless either I feel dirty or it's first thing in the morning - I mean, I don't think "I need to calm down, I'll go take a shower." But they do have that effect. Emma Bull wrote something along the lines of "A quantity of hot water poured over the head is a sovereign rememdy for most ills."
5. Rowing, but only if I remember to take the effort to clear out my mind and concentrate on what I'm doing, instead of what I need to do better or do next.

I am a total hypocrite about these memes, because I like being tagged but don't like tagging others for fear of being a nuisance. Also, I think most people I read have done this one. But if you haven't and you want to, please take yourself as tagged.

I'm still feeling unenergetic and woolly-headed, especially first thing in the morning. I stayed home and took it easy yesterday, and skipped working out this morning, but it didn't seem to help. I've been feeling this way since sometime Saturday, I think, and it kicked in fully while I was at the gym Sunday. I'd do two reps and my body would sort of coast to a stop, without my really planning to. Same thing on the erg yesterday morning - I did 2km in over 14 minutes, and that's only the time the erg counted - it pauses the timer when you stop moving. (Rudder's comment was, "I didn't know you could row so slow.") I've been getting enough sleep, food, and water, so that's not it - I was beginning to wonder this morning if it could be some sort of thyroid thing, but that probably wouldn't hit so abruptly. One unusual thing is that I've had beef for dinner each of the last three nights (homemade tacos, brisket, then burritos from Chipotle). I do know that my body seems to have a harder time digesting beef - I surmise it's too much protein at once, but don't really know. So I wonder if that could be it; I'll avoid it for the next few days and see what happens.

It's supposed to hit 107 here today and our unusually cool temperatures (only in the 90s until the last few days) are probably gone until fall. I wish the weather reporters weren't so damned chipper when they tell us that.

Assorted TMI below the cut tag.

I've never really noticed the reported effects of eating asparagus, but I sure can tell when I've had coffee.

Another sign of aging: my days of roaming free, mammarywise, seem to be over. I realized it yesterday - after I decide to stay home and rest, I changed to a halter top without underpinnings, and by afternoon was noticing an ache in an odd place (not quite where I'd have expected for that cause, though I'm not sure what I did expect). I'd done a pretty heavy workout the day before so that could have been it, so I'm testing today by wearing decent-for-work but not terribly supportive underpinnings, and noticing the same thing. Damn. Still no sag, courtesy of being fairly flattish for so long, but I think if I want to stay that way, I'd best start wearing underwires and other constructed garments more often. Damn damn damn. And I proabably need to take that into consideration when figuring out how far to taper the top of the tank top I'm knitting. I wasn't planning to worry about hiding straps - I don't care if they show a little, but they look stupid if they're in an entirely different line.

I'm going to try to spend less and save more for a while - no new clothes or books. I do need some cosmetics and toiletries, and I won't change to cheaper brands at the moment, but I'm just going to replace the things I use every day. Both of our companies are in flux, and the better our financial situation, the more freedom we have to explore different options if necessary. I'm a little too superstitious to say more now though, for fear of Murphy butting in. his ugly head.

Posted by dichroic at 01:19 PM | Comments (1)

June 13, 2005

a visit to the frog pond.

The good news is, I finished the entire bottom and the top front of the tank top I'm knitting in the round. The bad news, I've decided to frog the whole thing and reknit it using a size or two smaller needles. There are just too many holes, and it's probably better to do nearly twice the work if it means I end up with something wearable. Even with the smaller size I'll probably probably end up gettng 3 stitches or less per inch, so it'll be fairly quick, anyhow. (It's this yarn, in the Dali shade.)

Also, I'm working from home today because I feel a little crappy in a no-energy sort of way, so I can frog as I read email or whatever.

Posted by dichroic at 08:44 AM | Comments (0)

June 12, 2005

review: Cirrus SR22-GTS

Yesterday, Rudder and I got to test fly a Cirrus SR22-GTS. The Cirrus people were in town and had brought three aircraft, two for test flights and one for ground show.

We were impressed.

For one thing, it's considerably more powerful than the Cessna 172SP I normally fly, with a cruise airspeed of 185 knots, as opposed to about 120 kt. (The lower model, the SR20, has a cruise of 156 kt, according to the Cirrus catalog.) It's so stable that it can do steep turns in slow flight, and climbs like a bat (in a normal climb off the runway, we were making about 1000 feet/minute instead of 5-700). Still, it wasn't the power that was most impressive; after all, for what a SR20-GTS costs, Cessna will sell you a Turbo Skylane that cruises at 158 kt.

What impressed me most was the design. Some of the improvements are obvious ones, taken from military and commercial aircraft and even cars: four-point harnesses, a glass cockpit with large Primary and Multifunction Flght Displays, leather seats and rear cupholders. But some showed a lot of thought into how private pilots fly and what they need. For example, there's a variable-pitch prop but it's controlled by the throttle, instead of a separate control, to get the best angle at a given airspeed. The transponder switches from Standby to Alt at a certain airspeed and then back again so you never have to remember it. The PFD is similar to the ones on the big planes; well-done and easy to readbut not revolutionary; it's the MFD where the design gets really thoughtful. Checklists are on the MFD and you can mark each item as you check it, so you don't skip a step. They worked with Jeppeson to produce an available option that has instrument approach plates on show up on the MFD, and you can toggle around to see different parts of it close up. This means if you divert to a different airport in instrument conditions, you always have the right plate. It also means updating plates is not a tedious page-by-page event (anyone who has used old MilSpecs knows exactly how much fun this is) but just a matter of plugging in a zip drive. There's also an engine monitor page that can be used to lean out the mixture more efficiently and to see what's going on at a number of checkpoints.

I should also mention that the Cirrus pilot who flew with us was one of the best CFIs either of us has encountered: calm, positive, totally not flaky, concise, able to explain well and to listen to our explanations (we knew the local area better, of course, and there are some peculiarities of how the hold around a VOR that's used a lot for practice approaches at an uncontrolled airport gets used). I'd be happy to learn from her any day. Of course, she has a plum job job for an instructor, but still I hope Cirrus appreciates just how good she is.

So yeah, we were impressed with the Company and the airplane. If I were buying tomorrow I'd probably choose the SR20-GTS, because you sacrifice 20kt cruise speed to get a $100K cheaper price, but still get all those handy options like a traffic watch, Stormscope, the built-in approach plates, and terrain avoidance.

Anyone got $330,000 to loan me?

Posted by dichroic at 08:44 PM | Comments (0)

June 10, 2005

tired and a little needy. also impressed.

I didn't row Wednesday due to lack of sleep (Rudder woke up with an unsettled stomach, and when he's up, I'm up, because I sleep too lightly to be a asleep in a room with someone who's awake. He felt better by morning but we were both a little short on sleep. You didn't need to know any of this.) so I did today. (Yesterday morning I went flying before work, to get ready for a stage check - practice checkride - that's supposedly going to happen this weekend.)

So anyway. Short-interval workouts are insidious. 30 seconds on, 90 seconds off, with the "on" being at race pace or actually a bit higher, more like the all-out effort I'd use for a racing start or a power 10, and the "off" at a paddle. Eighteen of those, plus about 3500 meters etady state to start and maybe another 500 at the end, and I'm beat. I'd like nothing so much right now and to go home and take a nap. Or just close the door and crawl under my desk.

It's a little annoying that the place we fly out of hasn't scheduled either my stage check for this weekend or Rudder's flight in a Cirrus, whose company reps are bringing one in for people to try, considering that it's now Friday and thus the weekend is TOMORROW. Perhaps they haven't noticed.
(While I was typing that someone called me and told me they have Rudder scheduled in the Cirrus for 8AM tomorrow. Wonder when they were going to tell us? Still no word on the stage check, though.)

So that's today. Back to yesterday-matters. First, if you haven't read the fanfic story I posted yesterday, scroll down and read it. I'll wait. (Unless of course you've never read L.M. Montgomery's Rilla of Ingleside, in which case don't bother. It's not a standalone sort of story.)

Back? Good. Tell if you like it. If you don't, tell me why not. I don't intend to make a practice of this, but I didn't really intend to write this one either, so in case it happens again, I should learn what I can from this. I have gotten some nice comments from people whose opinions I respect (and one sort of confusing one) but it's kind of bugging me that none of the people in the group I actually wrote it for have commented. (One exception, but she beta'd it for me, and she's too nice not to comment on the finished version after I asked for her help earlier.) There is no reason on earth this should be bothering me; I sid it was a gift for the list, and once you've given something you can't attach strings to it. Also, as I keep reminding myself, not everyone reads their email every day.

Also also, it's just a little fanfic: I took some care with it, but it's not really a serious effort. It's short and simple. I wrote it in a couple of days and didn't take as much effort as I would have if it were to be published somewhere other than my own site or maybe a fanfic hive where it will sink unnoticed and rarely read among a horde of other stories, many with the sort of grammar that discourages reading past the first paragraph. (Note: I'm taking about this one story only. I have read and enjoyed fanfics that were very well-written carefully crafted stories that undoubtedly took loads of time and effort. This wasn't one of those. I know because I was there.)

But this has given me a small insight into what it must be like to have written a book. Magnify my feelings a thousandfold and I can glimpse what it must be like to send your craft, your oeuvre which you've labored for years to built, then polish and make water-tight, out onto the wide oceans, and then wait for news of it, for people to tell you they've seen it and it's afloat, trim and trig and on course. Or before that, when you're sending out the manuscript to only a few people, but a few whose opinion matters, because if they like it they will publish it and then it can venture out into the wider world. Very scary. It makes me think authors must be stern and resolute people, with strong stomachs. (I can think of a few who might laugh to think of themselves in that light. Unless you can honestly say you really do write for yourself and not for the world's opinion, at all at all, t's probably best to just go around the corner and laugh quietly to yourself. Let me keep being impressed and take the compliment as it's given.)

Posted by dichroic at 01:13 PM | Comments (4)

June 09, 2005

Una's Story

First, a little explanation. I've often said there that I am not a fiction writer, and mostly that's true. I can do the writing part, but creating the characters and finding what's happening to them is not something that my mind generally does. Every once in a while, though, it surprises me. A while back, a couple of the L.M. Montgomery discussion groups were discussing a fanfic about Una Blythe, and what happened to her after Rilla of Ingleside. I don't have the link to the fic, and don't want to give too much away, but in it, Walter turned out to have survived the war after all and eventually all the loose ends from Rilla were tied up neatly. It was well written, and satisfying to have everything end neatly and happily, but it bothered me. My problem was, things don't end happily in wars, and even though Walter-from-the-fic was emotionally scarred, still, having everyone from Ingleside survive seemed somehow to devalue the courage and the suffering and the pain Canadians went through in that war that changed the whole world.

Anyway, I never said I was a good fiction writer; for one thing if I were I'd have done the research to make sure that the area around Toronto has oaks and pine groves. But here's my answer to that fic, to what I think Una really did after the war. It's dedicated to the True Kindreds, with special thanks to my beta reader Maria for her gentle suggestions for improvement.

Oh, one more thing: any suggestions for a fic site to post it on?

Click below for the story

Una's Story

Cavendish Street, near the western edge of Toronto, seemed to have one foot in the country and one in the city. It was not far from the city shops, and the city ‘buses stopped at one end of the street, but the other end of opened into a road that led through an unspoiled pine grove whose breath blew down the road, cooled on summer days by the oaks that arched between the houses. The oaks, which had bordered a farm lane before the city ever thought of growing out so far, whispered secrets to each other on summer nights. Below them, the houses too seemed to be good friends, old enough to be mellow and redolent of the happy families who had lived in them. Their gable windows were always exchanging amused glances at the antics of the children who gathered on their gracious porches at twilight to play games that seemed more adventurous and mysterious in the purple gloaming than they would in the bright day. Impish rabbits whisked through gardens and around corners in the early mornings before the day had wakened to its business, and on sunny afternoons bees hummed so loudly that they seemed to be trying to keep up with the happy shouts of the children playing in front of the houses.

On this day in June, the children's games seemed to have a waiting quality, as if they were expecting something unusual to happen to break the calm of the summer day's spell. When the city 'bus paused to let out a passenger, the expectancy rose to its highest pitch.

"Auntie Una, Auntie Una!" The three freckled Ford boys pelted down the porch steps and along the sidewalk to throw themselves pell-mell on the tall, sweet-faced, black-haired woman coming up the walk from the 'bus stop. Their older sister Leslie followed at a pace that was only slightly more sedate.

Aunt Una submitted happily to the violent bear hugs of the boys and kissed Leslie on the cheek. "Walter, you're nearly as tall as I am! And Gilbert, you're catching up to him!" Taking four-year-old Leo by the hand, she looked at Leslie. "How old are you now, my dear? Fourteen? You look just as your mother did at that age, and you have her coppery hair and creamy skin. I predict by the time you're eighteen you'll be as lovely as she is."

Leslie blushed. "Do you think so, Auntie Una? Mother is so -- so -- she always walks as if she were about to fly. Will I really be like her?"

Una Meredith smiled. "You will. When Rilla was fourteen she was incredibly gangly. Jem and Walter -- her brothers -- used to call her Spider. She hated it." Her dark blue eyes, always shy except with children, smiled too, and dimples flashed at each corner of her mouth.

"I heard that!" said Rilla Ford, coming to the kitchen door as they came up the steps. "Come inside and have a cup of tea, Una. It's so good to see you! It's been months!"

"We know all about Mother's brothers," said nine-year-old Gilbert, as he clumped up the steps, forgetting as usual to wipe the mud from his boots. "We see Uncle Jem and his family every time we visit Grandma and Grandpa at Ingleside."

"And I'm named for Uncle Walter! He died in the war," added Walter. Only Leslie and her mother noticed the shadow that clouded Una's face at the mention of the older Walter.

"And I'm named for Grandmother Ford," interposed Leslie, quickly. "Do you know her, Auntie Una?"

"I saw her whenever your father's family came to visit the old House O' Dreams at Four Winds. Even as a little girl, your mother was only interested in your father," said Una, a mischievous smile brought out her dimples again. "But I used to stare at your Grandmother Ford. She was the loveliest woman I ever saw. Your Grandmother Blythe said it was because she'd known full measure of both sorrow and joy."

"And I'm named for Una and the lion!" shouted Leo, ignoring the adult talk over his head. "Do you have a real lion, Auntie Una?"

"No, dear. That was a different Una, in a very old story." Una rumpled his hair as he scrambled off her lap, shouting, "I'm a real lion! Rrroowwrr!"

"Scoot, you wild animals! If you're going to play circus, play outside!" said his mother, putting down the teacups and opening the side door pointedly. Leo and Gilbert ran out, but Walter lingered behind. "No one *really* has a lion in their house," he said, scornfully, in the voice of one who has put away childish things, at the mature age of twelve. "But, Auntie Una, you don't have any children, either, do you?"

"Yes, I do," answered his aunt. "I have all the children I work with at the Settlement House. They are my children, in a way. And I have you lot," she reached out and rumpled his hair as she had his little brother's, "to dote on whenever I can get away long enough to visit."

"But you don't have any children of your very own," Walter pushed on, stubbornly. "Didn't you want to have any boys and girls of your own?"

"Yes--" Una bit her lip, tremulously. "But I never married. And anyway," she went on, more forcefully, "The parents and children I work with at the Settlement keep me busy."

"But why..." went on Walter, who had never outgrown his childish habit of wanting to know the whys and wherefores of everything.

"A lot of women didn't marry after the war," his mother interposed. "Too many men ... never came back." She took Walter firmly by the shoulder. "We can talk more about it later. Would you please keep an eye on your little brothers? I think the circus needs a ringmaster."

She sat down and poured the tea. "You take milk, don't you, Una?"

"Yes, thank you. And Rilla -- it's all right. I don't mind the boys' questions." A small smile reappeared on her face. After all, the War is long ago now -- to them it's ancient history. Even Leslie wasn't born until after all the boys came back ... those who did come back, anyway." She blew on her tea, to cool it.

"Speaking of the war, Leslie, did you tell Una about the prize you won?"

"Not yet, Mother." Leslie was clearly bursting with her news. "Auntie Una -- I won First Prize in the High School Story Contest with my story about the war! For the whole city!"

Rilla glowed with pride in her daughter. "No freshman girl or boy has ever won the contest before. I think she inherited her talent from both Mother and Ken's father Owen. Her story is called, “The Piper’s Call”, and she based it on Walter's poem, so it's truly a family triumph. But it’s an uncanny story, for a girl of fourteen to write -- I'm afraid she has inherited something more from Walter than his poetry."

"The Piper--" whispered Una, unnoticed, as Rilla bustled up and stepped out of the room.

"I want to show you the letter that came with the award," she called back.

Leslie sipped her own tea, clearly pleased at being considered grown up enough sit with the women instead of being relegated outside to play with the children. "Auntie Una..." she paused, suddenly diffident at making adult conversation on her own." I wanted to ask..."

"Yes, dearie?" prompted Una.

"Well...I suppose we're just silly girls," hesitated Leslie.

"It's all right, you can ask me anything. I was a silly girl too once, you know," replied Una, encouragingly.

"Well, some of my friends and I were talking about when we get married, someday. And we were wondering if there's a true love for everyone, somewhere in the world. And oh, Auntie Una, what if there is, and he's too far away? Or," she gulped "what if he got killed in a war or something? Oh, Auntie Una, was there ever someone you wanted to marry? And did he get killed in the war?"

"Yes..." Una whispered. "I never told anyone, though - girls had to wait for the boy to speak first, in those days, you know -- and I was always too shy anyway. But I think your mother knew..."

Yes," Rilla reappeared in the doorway, clutching an envelope and a certificate. "I did know. The letter..."

"The letter--" breathed Una. The two women exchanged a glance of understanding, compassionate on Rilla's side, grateful on Una's.

"But I am happy with the work I do at the Settlement House," Una went on, more briskly. "It's work that needs to be done. Rilla, did I tell you I'm thinking of taking nursing training? I can go to classes in the evening, over at the University. Some of those families are in such a condition when we first see them. Those young mothers sometimes have no idea what a baby should eat or how to dress it and care for it. And when Faith visited, she went on my rounds with me and she was such a help! You remember she trained as a nurse while she was with the VAD."

“I’m sure you’ll do well in the training, if you don’t overstrain yourself,” Rilla said. “I’m afraid sometimes you don’t take proper care of yourself, with all your care for others.” She sipped her tea. "But I know how much good you do, and how the Settlement people love you.”

She put her cup down, and looked at her daughter, through the window at her sons, then at her guest. “I have tried to bring up the new generation -- at least my four of them -- to know what has gone before, and to honor the freedoms so many died for. I know the news from Germany is worrying Ken, and I pray every day that peace will endure, that my boys will not have to face what their father and uncles did nor we women endure the anguish of waiting once more. This home and family are my part of making the better world those soldiers died for. But Una, you are making a difference in so many homes."

Again, she looked out the window, whence issued a shrill piping, then turned resolutely away from the sight of the three boys, now marching in military fashion with Walter in the lead. The memories of the girl she had been looked out at Una from the eyes of a woman who still heard an irresistible call. "It is you who have truly 'kept the faith' ".


This takes place in about 1934, to allow time for Rilla to marry Ken in about 1919, when she would have been twenty, and to have a daughter who is 14 here. I wanted the boys to be old enough for WWII. (Leo isn't, quite. He saved for War Stamps, collected scrap metal, and studied aircraft silhouettes in case the Germans flew over Canada, while keeping a scrapbook of clippings about his brothers' units all through the war.) The Settlement House Movement Una mentions had its peak from the 1880s through the 1930s; it was started in England, spread to the US and Canada. An article about its work in the US is here. There is still an International Association of Settlements. The Settlements provided services for immigrants, refugees, and other poor people, and in some places fought for reform, as well.

At the end of , Una goes off to study "Home Science". I thought she would want to use her training to help those with no advantages and little knowledge of how to keep a sanitary home, rather than keeping house for her father or brother.

Posted by dichroic at 01:25 PM | Comments (7)

June 08, 2005

you're special

There's been a lot of serendipity in things I've been reading on the web lately. Sometimes things reinforce each other, sometimes they contradict. It's easy to see the connections, a lot harder to come to any useful conclusions. But here's what I've seen today.

An article in USA Today tells of a program designed for Girl Scouts to improve self-esteem of 8 to 14-year olds, in which the girls create a "Me-O-Meter" for each to show how "awesome" she is. I do see a small problem with the Girl Scouts' program, in that most other studies I've seen say that it's after puberty that girls, especially, tend to begin to think worse of themselves. I haven't seen evidence one way or the other about whether gains in self-esteem in childhood persist through adolescence and into adulthood. Still, it's the younger girls they get to work with, and you have to start somewhere.

A larger problem is whether the program will do any good. The article goes on to quote a study in Scientific American ("Exploding the Self-Esteem Myth.") The authors found pretty much no correlation between self-esteem and success academically, on the job, or in love. They also found no connection between the hgher self-opinions of people with higher self-esteem and objective rankings. (That is, people with higher self-esteem are more likely to describe themselves as attractive or popular, neither of which correlate with objective reality. They conclude,

"We have found little to indicate that indiscriminately promoting self-esteem in today's children or adults, just for being themselves, offers society any compensatory benefits beyond the seductive pleasure it brings to those engaged in the exercise."

It's easy enough to find anecdotal evidence that there really is a lack of self-esteem in adults. When a large number of people find it difficult to think of a mere three positive things to say about their own bodies, it's hard not to think something is wrong. Also, the authors of that study did find one correlation: people with higher self-esteem tend to be happier.

It's "indiscriminate promoting of self-esteem" the Scientific American article decries. Helping people who actually have a problem isn't indiscriminate. Neither is wanting to help your friends think as much of themselves as you do of them - and maybe come a little closer to happiness in the process.

Come to think of it, I like Mr. Rogers's approach too. I think he might have liked blogs, with their capability to show that other people have some of the same doubts and oddities you thought only you did.

Please don't think it's funny, when you want an extra kiss, There are lots and lots of people who sometimes feel like this.
Posted by dichroic at 02:00 PM | Comments (6)

June 07, 2005

maundering around my brain

Maybe it's something in the air, or the heat of summer, or the swirling divisions in this country, but I've read three posts (the third one is friends-locked) on different but related subjects just this morning: cynicism, depression, bipolar depression, attitudes, and the result on all those of choosing attitudes, prayer, and medication. For me, Matociquala's approach of "choosing joy" is the one that resonates, the one that applies in daily life. I realize, though, that in cases where depression is checmially caused (hormones, mental illness) that there's a lot more than a simple choice involved. I've seen cases where medication was indubitably required. But I do think choosing joy has to come first, even to allow the decision to seek medical or other help.

There's enough evidence that the world is going to hell to convince anyone. But there's evidence of hope as well, and the two balance so nearly and both are so subjective that this is a decision that can't be a mechanical matter of sifting data. Madeleine L'Engle once wrote that she didn't know for sure whether God existed, but found that she had to live as though He did, for her own peace. It's like that for me; I can't say for sure that the cynics aren't right that the good is draining from the world, but I choose hope and joy as the way I want to live, and I will until and unless forced to do otherwise.

Later note: in her comment to this entry, Rachel mentions Jack Gilbert's A Brief for the Defense, which enumerates the reasons for joy far better than I could. And he even mentions the faint sounds of oars!


I was listening to songs from Fiddler on the Roof again this morning. My favorite song from the musical has always been Far From the Home I Love. I've always figured that's because I was a soppy sentimentalist at heart, and maybe that was the first reason, but this morning I realized that maybe it's because I identify a little with Hodel in her rebellion. Tzeitl marries Motel, and while she goes against the usual matchmaking system, still, he was her childhood playmate and they settle not far from her parents. Chava, it's true, rebels most drastically in marrying a non-Jew, as I did, but she doesn't have any reason for it other than falling in love with this particular man. (Also, she doesn't get a song.) Hodel is the only one who leaves her home (before everyone is expelled at the end), and while she leaves it specifically for a man, she also seems to share something of Pertchik's dreams. They are the only two who have dreams of something outside the little town of Anatevka.

As I did. I left my city after college and moved 1500 miles away. Now I live even farther. (Unlike Hodel, I met my man along the way - but I wouldn't have met him at all if I hadn't left home.) I can't say I love the neighborhood where I grew up as she loved Anatevka, but I do miss some of the people I grew up among, and I do love the greater city of Philadelphia still. But I left looking for a bigger, more open life than I'd have been able to live there - that's the best I can put it. No wonder I identify with Hodel.

There are only a few stories where I think I know what happened to the characters after the end, and this is one. Tevye and his family sailed to New York. His brother helped them get started; Tevye and Golde worked in whatever jobs they could find, maybe she in the garment factories and he delivering milk. They learned some English but always spoke with thick accents. Their children were fluent in both Yiddish and English, and had better jobs, maybe in retail or working in a government office. And their grandchildren were... well, me, and my brother and all of our cousins and the Jewish kids like us. Tzeitl and Motel worked in the factories too, but got to advance up the ladder as they aged. They were a bridge between the older generation and their own children, as well as Tzeitl's younger sisters. Chava and her husband left Russia. They went to Germany or England and their children assimilated. Pertchik was released or escaped from Siberia. He and Hodel went first to the US, where there was a joyous reunion with her family, but they couldn't stay put. He got involved with the workingman's associations and the Socialist groups, which led to involvement with the Zionists. They fled to Palestine, where they joined a kibbutz and worked hard to build the land, planting trees and irrigating farms - backbreaking labor, but leavened by the belief that what they did mattered. Maybe they lived long enough to see the State of Israel established, and died happy.

It's sort of like when you're buying a gift for someone and you find something that's perfect, even though it's not something you'd want for yourself. Their dreams aren't mine, but I can see where they led and feel their power.

Posted by dichroic at 10:41 AM | Comments (4)

June 06, 2005

book meme

Nobody has tagged me for this < / unjustified pouty lip > But books are such a large part of my life that I'll do it anyway.

Total number of books owned: Estimated around 1500, might be a little higher (the SF paperbacks are not yet catalogued).

Last book bought: Freakanomics, for a gift. Last bought for me, a whole boxful from Amazon, largely fantasy of one sort or another, ranging from Mark Helprin to Garret Weyr to Zenna Henderson. Last book to enter the house and plan to stay there, The Balloon Man _ thanks, L'Empress!

Last book read: Last one finished, Freakanomics. (Shut up, you know you read gift books too.) Currently in progress, Zenna Henderson's Ingathering: The Complete People Stories and Joseph Ellis's bio of Washington, His Excellency.

Five books that mean a lot to you: This is the hard one. Actually, maybe it's not so bad, since it's not asking for the *only* five, or five that mean the most. Here are five that matter or mattered, but in some cases I can't separate books from series. Also, I'm going to list six, just because that's how it worked out:

  • The Poky Little Puppy, because that's the one I demanded to have read over and over, until one day I tried to fool my mother by telling her I could read it, when I had actually only memorized it. I don't think real reading lagged much behind - if you know what certain-shaped words on a certain page say, and you know those symbols are meant to be words, reading isn't far off.
  • The Danny Dunn books: Reading for the protogeek.
  • The Magnificent Barb: I loved Black Beauty, too, and later read most of the Black Stallion books, but the Magnificent Barb was something no one else I've ever met knows about (except maybe Mom, since I inherited it from her) as if someone had written a book just for me. I don't know where that old copy is - either at my parents' or disintegrated - but I recently found another copy. It's still an odd, dreamy sort of book.
  • Madeleine L'Engle's Meg Murray and Vicky Austin books, Norma Johnston's Keeping Days and Glory in the Flower series, and Anne McCaffrey's Dragonsong and Dragonsinger. Not to say I didn't have friends as a teenager. I did. In general, though, we talked about boys and school and clothes and generalities. As I got older there were more with whom I could discuss books and science and college and futures. But it was those books I went to to really feel understood.
  • Robert A. Heinlein's Number of the Beast: When my brother won a copy in a grade-school math contest (awarded by a teacher who must not have actually read the book!) and brought it home, I read it and that's what got me into Heinlein and then into general SF. Before that, my science fiction reading was mostly limited to Isaac Asimov and the kids' books like Danny Dunn, and my fantasy to McCaffrey and kids' books with magic in them (which I still read) but for some reason I didn't branch out further.
  • Dorothy L. Sayers' Peter Wimsey mysteries: I didn't read these until I was in my early thirties. By then, Rudder and I had well established our relationship, but Sayers put a lot of it into words for me, as well as the related ideas about Proper Jobs. (As I said recently to Natalie, there's a lot of parallel in the idea of whether one has one true love and one Proper Job.) Also, at least half the online friends I've made are originally from discussing those books, either directly or by following links.

Posted by dichroic at 01:52 PM | Comments (4)

June 05, 2005

the flight to San Diego

It went well, largely because the weather couldn't have been better - cool (relatively - under 100F) in Phoenix, and with a marine layer over San Diego that gave me some actual instrument conditions but was calm and easy to fly through. Also, George (the autopilot) did most of the work on the way there and back. We could practically have been playing cards in the cockpit.

The whole thing took much longer than I expected: we got to the FBO at 9, but between filing a flight plan and preflighting the plan, didn't take off until 10. We flew to Palomar, waited bloody forever for them to gas up the plane ("Oh! You want fuel? We didn't realize, even though you told both the line guy and the girls at the register!) Grr. Stlil, impressive pilots lounge: free popcorn, coffee and muffins, and then another room with a big screen and home-theater comfy chairs with controls built in. Then we flew to Montgomery (tower-to-tower clearance - those are nice but I still think it's excessive that my instructor practically creams his pants very time he talks about them) ate at the not-bad Mexican restaurant there, and flew back. We got home around 6:30. I got 6.7 hours of flight time including .8 hours of actual instrument conditions.

And then I went up again this morning, as safety pilot while Rudder practiced some approaches. I'd feel a little better about that if I were better at actually spotting other planes in the area - I generally knew where they were from their calls over the radio, but Rudder can figure that out himself, even under the hood. Safety pilots are supposd to be able to see around them.

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

June 03, 2005

a feelig of unnameable dread

Two observations:

I. I'm not really all that good at enjoying things while they're happening, though I try. I do better with anticipation and memory.

II. We're in the middle of a corporate reorg at work (I can write that because it's been officially announced in the news and everything). We won't know what's happening down at my level for at least another week or three. It's really not helping that I'm being earwormed by "The Sword of Damocles" from The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Posted by dichroic at 05:13 PM | Comments (1)

adjusting attitude and altitude

Today's features: a short story, some dithering, and some musing. I'll tell the story first, because it's inspiring.

I've been hearing stories for a few years of how colleges are so desperate to meet their Title IX requirements that they've been giving rowing scholarships to tall athletic girls even if they haven't rowed before. I hadn't seen any concrete examples until now, but I met one this morning.

The college who gets this girl will be happy with their bargain, though. She'd been burned out on her other sports and is looking forward to trying rowing, but she's never done it before (she did visit a practice at the school she'll be attending). This is the only city in this state with any rowing at all (well, one new junior program is just starting in another town). So she got in touch with someone here, arranged for a private lesson, and drove three hours to get here. She'll be coming to town on weekends to take lessons the rest of this summer. I was impressed - I haven't seen that kind of initiative even from most masters rowers. With that committment, I'm sure she'll do well.

And I checked - the coach at her prospective college didn't tell her to do this.

The dithering: I am not, as may be obvious from yesterday's entry, enthusiastic about tomorrow's flight to San Diego. In fact, I've been very nervous. This morning I went rowing, did a hundred meters, and thought, "OK, if I'm doing 10,000 meters today, that's 1/100th down, only 99 more like that to go. I can do this."

Now, I do tend to do fractions like that to keep myself going, and it's OK to do it sometimes - to think, "OK, I'm starting the middle third of the practice now," or, "Last half, it's all downhill from here." I count off hundred-meter bits to get through the end of practice, too, sometimes to the tune of "99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall" or "She'll Be Comin' Round the Mountain", with improvised lyrics. (In my head, not out loud.) That's all fine. But to start a row counting it off as one more series of ordeals to get through, especially at a time when I'm rowing for pleasure and maintenance, not intense training, is a bad thing. It makes rowing one more stressor, and in me, it's a sign that I'm pretty stressed out already. Of course, tomorrow's flight is the main thing hanging over me right now.

So I sat up straighter, tried to row more smoothly, and tried to appreciate the milky reflection of the sky right before the sun rose, the way the sun seemed to pop up all at once, the motion of my boat, the feel of the horizontal lines I was pulling, and so on. And I'm trying to convince myself that tomorrow's flight will be an adventure, a fun challenge, and even a little bit miraculous, that I can fy a tiny airplane all the way from the desert to the ocean. It hasn't entirely sunk in yet, but I'm working on it. (It will help if Rudder can keep from nagging, "Have you considered this? What about that?" Having another pilot in the house is not always as helpful as you'd think, especially when I'm better off not dwelling on this more than enough to get everything ready.)

The Musing
Sometimes you see a face that seems to belong to another period - it's not clear if it's a matter of expression or what, though I don't know why faces ought to change by decade. Connie Willis, in To Say Nothing of the Dog has Ned initially thinking that Verity must be a Victorian contemp because of her perfect Waterhouse face; I once knew a woman who always seemed like she ought to be wearing 1940s outfits. I can't say what the changes stem from, or even if they're real. Some of it is probably hairstyle, too.

But bodies really have changed over time. If you look at a random group of people today, you'll see a few really fat ones, a majority who ranging from a little to a lot puffy around the gut or the hips, and a few hardbodies who obviously spend a lot of time in the gym. There will be only a few people who are somewhere in the middle, without either extra fat or bulging muscles, and maybe a couple of skinny ones. If it's a young group, there will be a few more in the middle group, and several who have that stretched exaggerated leanness of adolescence, but there will still be quite a few carrying extra weight.

Now go look at an old group photo - here are some from the building of Hoover Dam and here are a bunch of WWII bomber crew photos. It's easier to see in men, because there are just more group ohotos of them, and because they're likely to be wearing more form-fitting clothes. It would be easier still to see in a photo where some of the men are shirtless, and I have seen some like that, but not online. What you see in those is very, very few overweight people - but notice also that none of them look like gym rats. You rarely see bulging biceps or pecs, or carved washboard abs in old photos. What you see are barrel chests on some guys, and long stringy - but obviously strong - muscles on others. (The military guys may be a special case, because they're young and in military training, but remember this is just after the Depression. Some of those guys were eating better than they had at home. And some were flying missions nearly every day, which doesn't leave a lot of time for jogging or lifting weights.) I think there are two factors involved: fast food hadn't been invented yet, and peope got their muscles not by working out, but by plain working.

There is one place you do see the older physiques still, though: in athletes. I don't mean Olympic athletes, so much: for those people, working out is a full time job and they do have the carved washboard abs - though even there, only the weightlifters have large bulging arms. Other athletes' muscles are defined, but compact, because they can't afford any wasted weight. But think of the athletes you know: soccer-playing women, surfers, people who play Ultimate Frisbee twice a week. Think even of some of the pro sports: baseball players don't tend to be bulgy (or when they do, steroid rumors arise). Most basketball players have muscles, but they're not huge. Weight lifters do get huge, because they're building muscle for one quick all-out effort, and have no penalty for carrying excess around. Body builders look good, of course, but they just look fake to me, especially the ones with the dark even tans that you know come from a bottle or a tanning bed. Maybe it's the engineer in me, but I do like the idea of a body built more for use than for show.

(Now if I could just get rid of a little of that useless flab....)

Posted by dichroic at 12:37 PM | Comments (0)

June 02, 2005

popping and flying

Last weekend when RUdder and I went shopping, the supermarket was entirely out of popcorn. Popcorn! I ask you, how can a grocery store be out of popcorn? Oh, they had box after box of microwave popcorn: with fake butter, with less fake butter, with "lite" fake butter, with fake toffee, with roasted corn flavor added (we grill corn all the time; it doesn't taste like that), with fake caramel or toffee make with fake sugar. They had all those. What they were missing was plain ordinary popcorn, the kind you pop in a pot that you shake, or in a hot air popper, or, as in our case, in a stove-top popper with a crank to turn. I'm not even all that picky: I'll take "gourmet" or garden-variety, white or yellow or even black corn. I just want real popcorn.

As of last night, we seem to have solved that problem. In fact, we may have solved it for the next decade. We had some errands to do, one of which involved a visit to the local evil warehouse store. ("Evil" because shopping there is always grueling and because I don't like the politics or policies of the associated empire. But some stuff is really cheap there, and more importantly, they're the only place we know that sells peanut oil (needed whenever we deep-fry a turkey) so we maintain a membership and stop in occasionally.) Anyway, we figured we'd look for popcorn there, and by gosh we found it. In 50-pound sacks. We debated for a while about how silly it would be to buy it, but Rudder, as I have mentioned before, thinks big. He is also extremely good at finding places for things. And I eat a lot of popcorn. (So does he, now. When he was trying to lose a couple of pounds to compete as a lightweight at our last regatta, he realized it's filling without a lot of calories, and I think now he's developed a taste for it.) So, we now have fifty pounds of popcorn, at least five years' worth. It won't go bad, especially in this climate, though after a couple of years I might have to soak it in water so it won't be too dried out to pop. I stlil feel a little silly about it, though.

On Saturday, I will be flying to San Diego, for the long cross-country flight required for an Instrument Flight Rating. We'll fly from the local airport southeast of Phoenix to Mclellan-Palomar, do one instrument approach and land there, eat, fly down to Montgomery, fuel up, and fly home. I'm not looking forward to it; it will probably take nearly three hours to get there, depending on wind, and maybe two and a half coming back. I don't even like to drive for more than a couple hours straight. And there will be turbulence over the deserts, and lots of traffic in the city, and controllers to talk to the whole way. At least the traffic won't be my problem: since this is instrument training I'll be under the hood (wearing a visor so I can't see anything but the instrument panel) for a lot of the flight, including all approaches to airports. Also, there are no bathrooms in a Cessna 172. I keep reminding myself there will be an instructor along to help with anything that gives me trouble, and he's very familiar with this run. (That won't help with the lack of bathrooms, however.) On the other hand, it would be awfully nice to be comfortable flying to San Diego or LA for regattas, whenever we don't have to take our own boats. At least this is a little step toward that. The big problem is that I'm a nervous pilot. On this trip I'll have to deal with turbulence, boredown, navigation, busy controllers, air traffic, and strange airport procedures (that is, procedures at strange airports, not strange procedures). Even with cars it took me a long time to get comfortable driving; I didn't get my license until I was 22 because I didn't need it, and maybe because I was a little older I was never the sort of kid who wants to drive everywhere, as much as possible. Now, of course, I can drive a Hummer with boats hanging off the front and back through LA traffic, and did so two weeks ago. I keep reminding myself of that, too.

Posted by dichroic at 02:55 PM | Comments (3)

June 01, 2005

review: Mrs. Darcy's Dilemma

I've been rererereading Pride & Prejudice; it's a funny thing, but every time I do, Mr. Darcy begins falling in love with Elizabeth Bennet earlier in the book. I was sparked into reading P&P by the recent acquisition of one of the crop of new sequels, Mrs Darcy's Dilemma, by Diana Birchall.

Disclaimer: I've known Diana online for several years, and have met her in person a couple of times now, even staying with her once to enjoy a weekend with a mutual friend.

It feels odd and a little dangerous to review a book by someone I know; I don't doubt she'll see this - at least, if I were an author, I would certainly be periodically Googling my books. To shorten the suspense and preserve my own safety, I will therefore state up front that I liked it. It's a lightweight story, as I think it's meant to be, but it's amusing and pleasant and, most important of all for a sequel by another author, not annoying. By that I mean I didn't get hit across the eyes with anachronistic phrases or ideas that screamed "NOT BY JANE!!"

However, truly, it's not Jane Austen. On the other hand, it's very good Diana Birchall. The characters have a recognizable provenance in Austen's, and are very likely thirty-year-later outgrowths of the originals. I don't think this book has the rapier point or the delicate irony to its observations that P&P has; on the other hand, sheltered Jane would not have been capable of creating Lydia's wild daughter Bettina, or at least not of making her sympathetic in the end, as the considerably less sheltered Diana has done.

Diana has written a few Austen sequels; Mrs. Elton in America has also recently been published. As I understand it, she wrote her first one (I can't remember whether it was Mrs. Darcy's Dilemma) long before sequelizing Austen became a trendy thing to do but was unable to get it published at that time. She's not following the trend just to be in fashion, having been a longtime active member of AUSTEN-L and the Jane Austen Society of North America - but as I have found in knitting, sometimes doing something that happens to be in fashion makes it considerably easier to get the resources you need to do what you want to do. The longterm immersion in all things Austen has obviously benefitted the book: the language is nearly perfect, which is an immense relief. It's upsetting to be reading something supposed to belong to a certain period and to be violently cast out of time when some idiot author has King Arthur say, "OK, I'll meet you at 3 o'clock on the dot." (A made-up example, but you get the point.) I thing the most important thing after the language is that the characters are concerned with being and seeming truly good, in a moral sense; a lot of modern authors don't quite get how central that is to characters from Austen to Alcott.

In summary, a recommended romp.

Posted by dichroic at 02:33 PM | Comments (0)