September 30, 2005

Small is Beautiful

These days, cartoons aimed at little kids generally have some sort of moral in them . I can deal with that as long as the story is sufficiently engrossing to sugarcoat the moral so that it slides down easily, but every once in a while you get one that doesn't quite convey the message it's meant to get across.

This morning I was erging (only 9000 m, despite having skipped Tuesday's erg piece because I am a wuss) and watching The New Adventures of Pooh. I'm not as fond of this as I was of The Book of Pooh, which I used to wacth until ^%$^ Disney changed the schedule on me (presumably either they ran out of episodes of that an Madeleine or they thought older kids would be up at 5AM once the school year started) because in this rendition Rabbit is grouchier (though his expressions are wonderfully drawn), thre's an annoying added gopher character, and Pooh has gone beyond being a Bear of Little Brain to the point of idiocy and is furthermore such a glutton that he usually can't talk about anything but Hunny for more than about half a sentence.

Actually, Pooh was a little better than usual in this particular episode. In this one, Piglet, after needing a bit of help from his larger friends, (who were nice about it but kept referring to him as Little Friend) became very depressed about being such a Very Small Animal. First, his friends decided to console him by sneaking in while he was sleeping, taping magnifying spectables to his eyes and big boxes to his feet so that he was much taller and everything else looked tiny. At this point he began calling everyone else Little Friend, helping them by dint of his superior size and strength (and Rabbit's pulley system, unbeknownst to Piglet) and all but patting them on the head.

AFter the ruse was revealed, Piglet was so depressed that he decided to leave and get out of everyone's life. (Various characters do this about every third episode, whereas in Milne's original writings, the Hundred-Aker Wood was the whole world to them.) First his friends tried making Pooh a subsitute best friend by dressing Eeyore in Piglet's clothing. When this was unsatisfactory, they settled down to throw Piglet a Welcome Home Party on the theory that he'd have to come back home for it.

Meanwhle, Piglet finally turned around after a bunch of ants he'd helped along the way made him a cupcake to show how thankful they were for his help, and he realized that at least he was bigger than they were.

Presumab;y Disney was trying to show that everyone is important, but if I were a logically-minded little kid (as I was), I think the messages I'd have gotten would be:

I. Bigger people tend to be patronizing to smaller people. (True, that, and it's something kids often know well before thy learn the word "patronizing", though many forget it once they become Big.)
II. Bigger people are better than smaller people. It wasn't realizing that he could help someone that consoled Piglet, or realizing that his friends loved him as he is (as they plainly did, and said so) but realizing that he was bigger than someone else.

I don't think those are lessons I'd want to teach my hypothetical kid. (Especially if said kid was, like her mother, the smallest one in class.) And I bet whoever wrote that particular episode was Big. I don't mind being a Very Small Animal; it has many distinct advantages (except for rowing purposes). But I do mind the unthinking attitudes that tend to assume Bigger is Better for everything except women's waist sizes.

Posted by dichroic at 03:59 PM | Comments (4)

September 29, 2005

worn around the edges but looking to trade

*Pout*. I want to make myself this or this. (Maybe from this, holding a couple of strands together to get gauge and give me a more tweedy effect.) But it's damned hard to justify when you live in Arizona. I could make it for my mom, I guess, but neither looks like something she'd wear. Pooh.

Rowing yesterday. Flying this morning. Erging tomorrow, or maybe rowing. FLying Saturday. Flying or ground lesson Sunday. Might row first. Also work's been very busy lately (but at least more interesting), all of which may explain why I haven't had much to write about here lately.

Also, I've still been mulling over that whole trading idea I mentioned a week or so ago. I have beads that will neer turn into anything I'll wear. I don't want to sell my stuff, because I don't know what the legalities are and don't really feel like mucking around with 3Bay or whoever. I can't think of any downside to offering things for trade, as long as I get to pick what I'd trade for and refuse nonreasonable offers. So, two questions: can anyone else think of reasons this might be a bad idea? Also, if I were to offer one or both of these pendants for possible trading, what sort of things would you offer? I'd be interested in other handmade goods (especially if you have a skill I don't), or in books, because books are always good, especially if you find yourself with a spare copy of something I might like, or in materials for my crafts, if you have yarn or beads in your stash that you don't want but think I might. This is not an exhaustive list, so if you have other ideas to trade, those might be OK too. And again: is this a stupid idea?

Posted by dichroic at 05:39 PM | Comments (1)

September 28, 2005


Actual progress - a teeny bit, at least. Numbers behind cut. I thought about posting a picture again but it's too dark to take pictures without a flash (not good, when you're taking it in a mirror) and I can't really see much change, anyhow.

1" below shoulders: 41.0
Upper arms, flexed: 11.0"
Waist: 28" (minor progress, but I'll take it)
Hips: 37"
Upper thigh, flexed: 21.0"
Middle of calf, flexed: 14.5"

August 25
1" below shoulders: 41.0
Upper arms, flexed: 11 1/8"
Waist: 28.5" (drat)
Hips: 37"
Upper thigh, flexed: 21.5"
Middle of calf, flexed: 14.5"

May 25.
1" below shoulders: 41.5
Upper arms, flexed: 11.5"
Waist: 28.5" (eek)
Hips: 37"
Upper thigh, flexed: 21.5"
Middle of calf, flexed: 15.5"

Posted by dichroic at 07:29 PM | Comments (0)

Review: Women and Judaism

I am so going to hell. When our department admin told me the boss is gone to a doctor's appointment, my very first thought was, "Good. Maybe he'll take a sick day tomorrow.

Bad Dichroic.

Outside work, I'm reading Women and Judaism by Blu Greenberg. It's fascinating: a discussion of the conflicts between feminism and traditional halakha (Jewish Law) with the ways in which they need to influence one another discussed, thoughts on what would be gained thereby, and concrete suggestions made on how to do it without doing violence to traditional Orthodox customs and family life.

Most of the books I read I couldn't write for one reason or another, lack of talent or lack of knowledge being preeminent among them. This one I couldn't write just because of who I am. No one but an Orthodox woman could have: one who was raised in a traditional home, runs one herself, loves the traditions she follows, and is a wife and mother as well as a scholar. A Conservative or Reform Jewish woman could write another book, of course, and maybe an important one, but not this particular book. It might have love, it might have knowledge, it might even have Yiddishkeit, but it wouldn't have had the insight and credibility Blu Greenberg has.

It's a little dated, since it was written in the 80s. It's using some feminist terms that have been changed or softened with time. On the other hand, the issues she discusses, such as when or whether women should be included in the minyan or should have the same prayer obligations as men, are still in flux. Also, there are still far too many people who see feminism as not a voice for equality, but as the shrill man-hating rhetoric of those who want superior privileges with no added responsibilities. Greenberg, on the other hand, wants rights but also the concomitant responsibilities. She says that Orhtodox women, not required to pray in public, have too often drifted away from prayer in private (something I wouldn't have known), and suggest that increased responsibilites might also lead to increased joy in those responsibilities. She speaks of the love and warmth of Jewish famly life and the need to preserve it in the face of any changes made, suggesting that, for example, women with young children would still be exempted from certain responsibilities, but not those without such ties to the house. (And she recognizes that over time, this would also need to apply to men who were primary child-caregivers.)

She also talks of growing up in a time when "a Jewish girl didn't really need to worry about supporting herself", which interests me because it's so far from my own experience and yet as close as my mother's girlhood.

I bought the book after encountering her as a character in The Jew in the Lotus, also recommended. This seems to be my year for Jewish education. I don't have the feeling that it's leading anywhere in particular, other than to more knowledge of course, but that's enough for me.

Posted by dichroic at 05:43 PM | Comments (3)

September 27, 2005

need a change

This morning I rebelled: totally skipped my workout and slept in until 6. Sometimes you just have to give yourself a little break.

On the other hand, I've been giving myself all too much of a break from flying. I haven't studied since having my stage check a week ago Sunday, and if I ever want to get this damned thing over with I need to get cracking. I am so looking forward to finishing and only being in one sort of training at once.

I think I've just been feeling a little overwhelmed in general lately: marathon training, IFR training, and most of all, work, which has just been annoying lately. I think what I need is the feeling of some change or progress in my life. Finishing the IFR would be a good one. Moving to someplace cooler would be even better. However, I'd even settle for finishing up the baby blanket I've been knitting for the last month or so and getting to start something new. (I did finally finish my Telecon Sock - actually based on the Crusoe pattern from Knitty, except I'm doing them toe-up, at a different gauge, and on two circs - but as that only means I get to start the second one, the excitement is less than overwhelming.) Of course I could just put the blanket down and start something else, but since it is for a coming baby, there's a deadline.

What I need is a) to study hard and finish the IFR, b) get in a properly reflective mood for Rosh Hashanah (I should read my old entries for that), and c) to start getting excited about JournalCon. Oh, and d) to remember that a major one of the things hanging over my head, the erg marathon, is both successful and OVER.

Posted by dichroic at 12:49 PM | Comments (0)

September 26, 2005

survival and advancement

I guess the training worked - I felt much better Saturday afternoon, yesterday, and today than I remember being after last year's marathon. Of course, I had that vertigo thing starting the day of last year's marathon, so that was probably part of it. (Actually, looking back at last year's entries, I'd had some mild instances of dizziness a couple weeks before that.) It also probably helped that we did the marathon on Saturday instead of Sunday this year, and so we had a day to recover. Last year's marathon was planned for Saturday, but I had to ask Rudder to reschedule because it fell on Yom Kippur. I sitll have a couple of residual sore spots, but I also have a massage scheduled for tonight that ought to help with that. (I hope so: this morning's 6K wasn't too bad, but I have to do 15K tomorrow, and 12K on the water Wednesday.)

My doubles partner from last year's marathon (the on-the-water one) did this marathon too. He finished about five minutes behind me - he'd pulled faster times, but those 63-year-old kidneys necessitated a couple of extra breaks. Still, "miles ahead of those who stayed on the couch" - which includes the vast majority of those in their seventh decade.

It was interesting looking back at last September's entries here. At that point, I was getting ready for my first marathon, as I am now; just beginning the IFR training I'm winding up now; and searching for the job I've been in for nearly a year now. I like having this ability to look back at a snapshot of my life at a given time. It's like when you're hiking up a mountain, and the peak looks high and far above you, so you stop and look back over the trail you've hiked because it's encouraging to see how far you've already come.

I have a feeling that if I were to search my archives more closely, I'd find I've said that before.

Posted by dichroic at 01:08 PM | Comments (1)

September 24, 2005

marathon survived

Marathon completed, in 4 hours 13 minutes. That's 7 minutes faster than last year: part of that is because last year, with the erg marathon in our garage, we blew a circuit breaker (we had lights, two TVs, a VCR, and two fans going) and I had to go flip it; partly maybe because this year it was air-conditioned, since we were able to have it at Rudder's work in their big break room; and maybe I'd prepared a little better.

We had seven participants today, plus another two who couldn't make it today but did their marathons earlier in the week. The funny thing is that when I logged it at Concept II, they wouldn't let me post my time in the Rankings section without emailing them first to get a special code, because it was in the top three times logged in my age/weight category (30-39, lightweight) and so they wanted to verify it. This of course is not because I'm fast, but because oly one other person in my category has logged a marathon time at all this year. (For the record, her time was an hour faster than mine.)

Posted by dichroic at 04:15 PM | Comments (2)

September 23, 2005

story up

Remember that story I mentioned writing a while back? I got several very gratifying comments and one set that sounded to me like, "This really doesn't work for me." However, that one was from the one of the reviewers that has spent the most time figuring out how stories are put together, and I'm inclined to give that person's words even more weight because they accorded with the comments of the editor who rejected it. I haven't really worked on it much since, not knowing how to fix it. (Having done my best at repairs, which in this case basically amounted to admitting when I didn't know how something worked, I probably really ought to try submitting it elsewhere now.)

Meanwhile, though, I started another abortive original story - abortive because it made me feel as trapped as my character did in its beginning, so that I haven't touched it in months - and have essayed another attempt at L.M. Montgomery fanfic. I suspect that using someone else's world is a good way to practice writing chops, and that attempting to write in an author's voice is good practice for writing in a character's. Since plot is where I feel weakest, I stole that from Montgomery, lock, stock, and semicolons, but have added my own trimmings. Since this story is six pages long, I won't post it here, but you can read it over there.

Thanks to Kiwiria and Monkeydoo

Posted by dichroic at 04:39 PM | Comments (0)

I ate a mutant

I can't say I'm thrilled at the idea of doing a marathon tomorrow. At least if I finish this one I can be relatively confident of finishing the one on the water in November. (Assuming Natchitoches, Lousiana is spared by this wretched hurricane season.) Rudder is probably even less thrilled about tomorrow, because he's got some kind of head cold or allergy thing going on. (On the other hand, he's the one who's organized this for the third year in a row, so he's got only himself to blame!) There's a faint possibility some local reporter will come out for the event, too (apparently, 8-10 people crazy enough to row a marathon indoors are newsworthy), so I may just end up in the local news. If so, I'm hoping for newspaper rather than TV, in the hopes that no one will have to look at me in spandex, sweat running down my back, and an expression on my face or either vacant stupor or teeth-gritting pain.

It's been a rough and tiring week, overall. Aside from some needed food-shopping, I may well spend Sunday in bed or on the sofa doing nothing more athletic than knitting or reading. I'd like to get my baby blanket done before its intended recipients (rather, their prospective parents) move across the country, but it may not be possible.

And what does it mean when, on Friday of a rough week, depressed that you can't even look forward to the weekend. you go to the admin's desk to get a couple of M&Ms to cheer yourself up and the little gumball machine they're in disgorges a mutant M? It had a bump of candy coating sticking out one side, white at the tip - either a horn or a zit, depending on how you prefer to look at it. (Having eaten it myself, I prefer to think of it as a horn. Less gross.)

Posted by dichroic at 02:21 PM | Comments (2)

September 22, 2005


Today I officially postponed the work thing that conflicted with JournalCon. (I don't think I'm going to ask to be reimbursed for the postponement fee, since it was my screw-up.) So I'll be there in San Diego. This is my first JCon and I keep hearing about how it will be smaller than usual. Also, I haven't met anyone there in person - let's see: one person I email back and forth with, one friend of a friend of a friend, a couple of people whose blogs I occasionally comment on. Oh well, if it feels too weird, there's always shopping and beaches.

Posted by dichroic at 04:50 PM | Comments (2)

the little gray house

In December of 1995, we sold our house in League City, Texas, and moved to Arizona. We'd lived in that house for only a year and a half, but it was the first one we'd owned; we'd had it built, had chosen the floor plan and all of the colors and flooring and fixtures. It was the house in which we planned our Pennsylvania wedding and to which we returned after our honeymoon. It was where we lived as we finished our Masters degres. League City is a Houston suburb today, but it's far enough southeast of the city and old enough that in its youth, residents traded mostly in Galveston. In the days before air-conditioning and before the devastating 1900 hurricane, Galveston was the queen city of the region, while Houston was a small inland city. And for residents of League City, it was much faster to go to Galveston by boat than to Houston over land. As Rudder reminded me yesterday, our old house is in Galveston County. There's no doubt that if we still lived there we wouldn't be home today. We'd have evacuated to somewhere further inland.

Specifically, our former home is in risk zone G3, which is considered to be threatened by any hurricane of Category 3 or higher passing over the area. Local building requirements, stricter than those in Houston's Harris County, required it to be built with hurricane strapping, metal commectors reinforcing the wood frame, but that's not going to do much good in Cat 4 or 5 winds.

We built our house new, but it's in the hundred-year-old historic part of League City, not far from the City Park with its bandstand or the West Bay Common School Schoolhouse Museum. The land had apparently been in contention for years, and several lots had just become available in the old part of town where live oaks spread out to make a canopy across narrow streets. Most of the houses in the area are original Victorians, mostly in at least decent shape, some beautifully restored. Our builder gave us a choice of lot and of several house plans, all with vaguely Victorian exteriors to blend into the neighborhood. This was his first foray into modest houses; because he was used to building expensive custom homes (and because he wasn't all that bright, a fact that worked in our favor in several places), he gave us much more freedom than most builders do. In addition to all the usual choices of colors and carpets and hardware, we were able to make slight changes in the floorplan: we added a vaulted ceiling in the master bedroom, raised the hearth of the living room fireplace, and added drawers in the walls of the master closet and the second bedroom that were built into the roofspace of the first floor, which extended out beyond the second floor. We moved the back door from the dining room to the kitchen, so that anybody coming in from the back yard would track dirt on tile instead of carpet.

We visited the house every day as it was going up. Those drawers were added at the builder's wife's suggestion (she ran the office) at very little cost to us, as she walked through the house looking at the then-naked frame. The lead carpenter hated the half-wall, telling us it would be wobbly. At his suggestion, we had him add a column from the end of the wall up to the ceiling, which made it much more stable. The tile guy liked the tiles, but the siding guy hated the colors we'd picked (dove gray, with royal blue and white trim) and tried to talk us out of it. We were firm, and when he saw the finished product, he admitted that he'd been wrong and ours was the prettiest house on the block. We had people come by occasionally asking if we had a bit of scrap siding in those colors and if we'd mind if they copied them on a house somewhere else.

We put in raised beds on the side and behind the house, planting flowers, tomatoes, cantalope, and hot peppers, and put a banana plant by the downspout to soak up the excess water. There was one big tree in front, surrounded by a ring of Mexican Heather, and several others in back. My favorite features of that house were the built-in drawers, the walk-in closet on the second floor, and the hall closet on the first floor that extended back and under the stairs. (When we brewed, that's where we left the beer to ferment, since it was in the middle of the house and the temperature was fairly constant.) That house, at 1350 square feet, taught me that a little house can be comfortable to live in, if it's well-designed and has enough storage space. I still miss it.

I have friends in Houston, and lots of former coworkers and neighbors. Obviously my first concern now is for them, but I'm sparing a little bit of hope that that little house survives the hurricane without too much damage.

Posted by dichroic at 01:28 PM | Comments (1)

September 21, 2005

embarrase de riches, or however you spell that

Today was crazy busy, but yay! My Amazon order finally came! It took a month because all but a couple of the books were waiting for the publication of Nail Gaiman's Anansi Boys. Besides that, I now have The Sword in the Stone and The Book of Merlin and other wonderful things I've either been wanting or heard others raving about: from Steinbeck's Travels with Charley to Elizabeth Bear's Scardown, Studs Terkel to Blu Greenberg, Knitting from the Top Down and Knitting Without Tears and a beautiful big book, the English translation of SeferHa'Agadah, which contains legends from the Talmud and Midrash. AND there are a couple more new book club arrivals, including the complete Madeleine books. I am a happy girl.

Also, here are last night's pendants - both are of jasper and sterling.

Posted by dichroic at 07:58 PM | Comments (1)

September 20, 2005

quick pic

Last night's earrings:
I gave away the dark stars and kept the auburn columns.

This evening I made a couple of pendants (pics later, it's bedtime). I guess I'm on a roll.

Posted by dichroic at 08:15 PM | Comments (2)

goods to trade?

With a lot of luck and preparation, two weeks from now I will have completed the erg marathon and passed my instrument checkride. I keep reminding myself to live my life as it happens and not wish time away, but someimtes that's difficult. And how sad is it that I'm looking forward to the month before a marathon (the "real" one, on the water) because I'll be able to rest more?

Last night, inspired by Elisem - both the earrings she's posted pictures of and the jasper that was part of her Bead of the Month club - I put together a couple pairs of earrings, one from brecchiated jasper stars and another from picasso jasper in an oval cylinder. One has gone to a coworker, because it's too dark to show up against my hair, but I took pictures of both and will try to post them tonight. I'm very pleased with the way they came out, especially the elegant picasso jasper pair I kept. I've got ideas for another pair of jasper earrings, with small striated disks (though those may wait, because they'd look wonderful dangling from long polished wood cylinderbeads in mahoghany or dark cherry, if I can find such a thing), and a pendant from a smoothly-shaped honey colored piece of jasper. I haven't decided whether to keep those or give them away; most likely I'll keep the pendant and give away the earrings if they seem to be right for any particular person I know.

Or maybe next time I make something that's not right for me, I'll offer it as a trade and see what people are willing to swap for it. That might be fun. I could list the cost of materials and amount of time, so people have an idea of what would be an appropriate value trade item - not that time and material would have to match precisely, but so that I don't get offered, say, a vase made of a soda can, masking tape and shoe polish (like one I made in summer camp!) for a silver necklace that took hours to make. Certainly material value could be traded for time value, too. I wonder what a fair selection process would be? Elisem's Artist's Challenge sparked the idea, but I would expand it to include handcrafts as well as art, basically bartering something I can create for something I couldn't. She takes the first respondant to those challenges I think: I'm not sure if I'm brave or trusting enough to do that. I would probably only ever do this with jewelry; I'd feel odd trading writing instead of publishing it freely, and my knitting takes so long to do that I only keep those pieces for myself or give them to someone I love. I might trade photos; I could show a low-res sample, then enlarge and mat one if someone liked it. Also, I'd have to commit to being prompt at sending out pieces. I don't know if this is something I want to do or not, but I do like the idea of bartering my handwork for someone else's. Also, I have some beads that are very nice but aren't likely to become something I'd wear. For example, I have some dichroic beads that seem to want to be a bracelet. I don't wear bracelets much, especially chunky ones, so these beads are languishing until I can find some other way to use them. At any rate, it's an interesting idea to play with, especially as the gift-related holidays approach. Maybe I should just try it once with an easily-mailable pair of earrings to see how it goes.

Posted by dichroic at 03:56 PM | Comments (1)

September 19, 2005

tell me, if you care

I've been writing this entry in my head since Friday afternoon and somehow it hasn't wanted to come out and play on screen. Maybe that's because the whole thing boils bown to four words: interested people are interesting. And its corollary, bored people are boring.

Friday evening, with Rudder away, I went out to a very nice bar with a coworker and a bunch of her friends. Let me put it this way: I enjoyed the drive home more than the time at the bar. I did get to have a nice glass of red wine, and some minutes pleasant conversation with the oldest woman in the group, an English woman who told me about the other countries she'd lived in and how much she had enjoyed it. Otherwise, though, no one seemed much interested in talking to me about anything, and though they were talking to each other, that didn't seem to be about anything much, either. On the way home, I listened to Alice Cooper on the radio, talking about how many rock riffs have been sampled into hip-hop, and how that works easily because of the 4-beat hip-hop uses (I think that's what he said). I don't care much about hip-hop or music sampling, but Alice does, and he knows a bit about it and it was interesting to hear him on the subject.

In contrast, last night some friends had us over for dinner, and had also invited a friendly acquaintance (that is, someone I've always liked a lot, but we've never quite advanced as far as friendship for whatever reason) and her boyfriend, whom we hadn't met. We talked about rowing, our common thread, even though three of the other four had stopped for various reasons and the fourth canoes instead. We talked about raising children, though only three of the six of us there have any. We joked a lot. We talked about friends, and our various jobs, and we talked a lot about our assorted travels. I wasn't bored for a second. (As a bonus, there were excellent food and adorable though shy toddlers.)

I've noticed that I can be interested in almost any subject, if the person who's talking about it has a passion for it. This applied in college, where I was bored out of my skull in Stress of Materials class and fascinated in Advanced Mechanics (gears and four-bar mechanisms): they were taught by the same professor, but the latter was his subject of interest. I've never been terribly fond of the Romantic Poets, but they were much better when taught by a professor who loved them. In more casual conversation, I've been enthralled by discourses on topics from the chemical behavioral cues of ants to when and why dams should be removed, because the people who were discoursing cared about those things.

Tell me about your hobby, your child, your thesis subject, your job (or even how you hate your job): if you have a passion for what you're speaking of, I'm probably going to be happy to hear about it, for at least a moderate length of time. I realize I'm spoiled. I'm a rower and a pilot. I spend a good bit of time talking to other people who are one or the other. Offline and online, the people with whom I hang out have a passion for something; it may not be any of the things I care about myself, but I talk about the things I care about, and they listen; they talk about the things they care about, and I listen. And everyone is entertained and educated.

Posted by dichroic at 04:51 PM | Comments (4)

September 16, 2005

drive-by comments

I. Have you ever noticed that the refrain of Harry Nilsson's Everybody's Talkin' has nearly the same tune as the chorus of Creedence's Have You Ever Seen the Rain? Yeah, me neither, and I have no idea why that hit me just now when I haven't heard either song for years.

II. Oh, yes, now I remember what happens this time of year. This is when you look up fine day in September or Ocotber and realize you're scheduled for every freaking weekend through the end of the year. No, it hasn't happened yet, but given that I've got to fit an audit, an erg marathon, and an IFR checkride in the next week or two it's only a matter of time.

Posted by dichroic at 05:26 PM | Comments (1)

don't feel much like thinking

Aw... one of the nicest compliments I've gotten, from Melissa. Check out the poem she mentions, too: I hadn't seen it before and it's well worth reading.

I may donate money to the fund my company's set up, because they're matching donations. They'll use it to help employees who lost houses rebuild and then for community rebuilding projects. (I'm still not entirely sure on that, because it might be better to donate to something helping people who don't have a job to go back to.)

Well, drat. Because I don't feel much like thinking, I was going to end here with a meme someone or other tagged me with last week, but darned if I can find who or what it was. SInce this entry has now been up for fifteen minutes while I cleaned the crud out of my phone (that has probably been there since I moved into this office - I cleaned the phone when I moved in, but this grot was inside the mouthpiece grooves and required much dredging), I don't think much more is getting written today.

Though I did actually do a little writing this week - a fic about Shirley Blythe, his daughter and his airplane, a decade or so after WWI. It only needs a beta-reader to help bring it closer to something LMM could have written, had she liked airplanes. Anyone?

(Hint: If the names "Shirley Blythe" and LMM don't mean much to you, you're not the right person to read it. But thanks anyway.)

Posted by dichroic at 03:16 PM | Comments (1)

September 15, 2005

enough luck

On my way up to bed, I walked outside for a minute to look at the sky. It isn't even full dark yet, just dark enough to see the stars right overhead, if I stand just so that the palm tree blocks the streetlight behind the easement. And the small airport next to our neighborhood seemed to have upgraded their beacon lately, so the flashes wash across our yard, one green and two white for a civilian aerodrome. But when I looked up, there was a satellite moving south to north, a big bright one. Wrong direction for the Space Station, but nearly that bright.

I would think that seeing a satellite is a sign of good luck approaching, except that, like a rainbow, seeing a satellite or shooting star is enough luck on its own that asking for any more seems greedy.

Posted by dichroic at 08:57 PM | Comments (0)

in the tunnel

I've been downright weepy lately, I begin to realize. Not depressed: depressed is when you don't see light at the end of the tunnel. I see light, but there is a tunnel. Part of that, of course, is the same reason everyone else who follows the news is depressed; part of it is because Rudder is away; part of it is because work is medium-sucky right now; part of it is due to various things not working out like the date conflict I just discovered, the vase I broke on my way out the door at 4:30 AM yesterday morning, the traffic jam on the highway this morning, the possiblity that I won't finish the IFR this weekend, and so on. I think it's all compounded by the annual elegiac wistfulness Fall generally brings. It's not a particularly unpleasant feeling, mostly (except when I think too hard about the news from Katrina or Iraq); it's more like having a quiet sniffle over a sad story, while seated in a comfortable chair in a warm safe house with a hot cup of tea handy and a purring cat on the back of the chair.

It's also a good feeling for moving into the season of the High Holidays, which have been for me a time of looking back and forward, regretting and hoping, leading into the endings and beginnings of fall and winter: the leaves and then the snow I know are falling elsewhere, if not here, as the world goes to sleep; the thankfulness for past gifts the harvest festivals of Shavuot, Hallowe'en* and Thanksgiving symbolize; and the defiant joy-and-light-in-winter of Chanukah, Christmas, and New Year. I love Fall and the beginning of Winter.

*Yeah, I know Hallowe'en isn't meant to be about harvest and thanksgiving: work with me here. There are corn and squash and pumpkins used for decorating, and there's candy. What's that if not a harvest, for a little kid?

Seasons, events, places, and books often have soundtracks for me, especially if they evoke any sort of strong emotion. NPR news has often brought me to tears, since Katrina hit: today they were of a different sort, brought on by their playing a snippet of "How Can I Keep From Singing?" during the news. That's the song for me right now, for its stubborn glow of hope in unsettled times. Yesterday they had a story on Eliza Gilkyson's song "Requiem": it's a beautiful song and very applicable, but it's also an invocation of Mother Mary, so I could never sing it without feeling that it's really someone else's song. "How Can I Keep From Singing?" hit me without being hindered by doctrinal differences. It speaks of love and hope in difficult and dangerous times. That's what I need to hear now, that and other music of hope and regret. In fact, I'm putting on the iPod now.

Posted by dichroic at 02:46 PM | Comments (3)

September 14, 2005

goofs and procedures

Son... of... a...BITCH!!

I've just realized that on the Friday and Saturday of JournalCon I'm signed up to take a class and then a test for a work-related certification. Getting said cert is supposed to be one of my goals for this year, and it's not given again until March. I've known about both of these dates for months, so I am an idiot for not realizing this sooner.

I'm investigating alternatives and options.

As it happens, this is the last time this particular certification will be given; next time around, the cert will be changed in a direction that actually matches one currently being emphasized in my company. I could change when I'm taking it, for a fee (that my sort-of boss has said the company would pay, though I think it's only fair for me to pay it in this instance). On the other hand, I signed up for this late (as stated, I am an idiot) and had to ask for special favors, so I hate to reschedule now. Also, it's a certification I don't much care about and am getting only because the boss said to.And it is supposed to be one of my goals for this year, as I wrote, but then again, the reorg has changed so many things that several of my goals are no longer valid.

There are a lot of 'then, agains' in this dilemma. I miss having Rudder around to talk stuff over with - this, and the issue of when I go for my IFR checkride. I've never been one to have a lot of close friends, and he's really the only one who knows all the background, plusses and minuses on both issues.

Speaking of job matters, something I heard on the Katrina-related news this morning hit me right where I work. Apparently, after the hurricane, the airport terminal in NOLA was used as an emergency medical clinic. The doctors there have had problems getting the supplies they needed, from drugs to catheters; apparently FEMA brought them in from elsewhere, but not their supplies (not for several days) and it was requiring properly filled-out forms for supply requests.

Not only does forcing people to fill out long forms in a disaster zone seem like a bad idea, but those physicians didn't have a fax machine handy to send the forms over to Baton Rouge. (Hello? Disaster zone?) The thing that really griped me, though, was a comment from a FEMA official:

"Those doctors are used to working in big emergency rooms, where when they want something, they just ask for it. They need to realize that this is the government they're dealing with, and we have procedures we need to follow."

Grrrrr. Grrrr on many levels.

This is what I do for a living. I read, write, explain, help implement, and improve procedures in an industry where faulty products can lead to major damage and even loss of life. If you get past all the regulations, standards, and requirements to their actual intent, this is what our procedures are for: they are there to make sure no equipment is damaged, no airplane crashes and most importantly no person is killed or injured because of any steps missed or corners cut in this company. That is why my job matters.

That FEMA quote is talking about the worst thing that could possibly happen in my field: lives put at risk, maybe even lost, because of bad procedures.

He's showing a fair bit of ignorance: hospitals certainly do have procedures. They are designed and streamlined so that no time is wasted in the emergency room, but someone has to make sure that the requisite objects are in place and organized to be ready when called for, and I'd bet it's done in a fairly standard way. Hospitals have a supply chain like any other business, and someone has to track drugs and supplies to know when to order more.

Done right, procedures can help things move along more quickly and enable a less-experienced person to do things right the first time, by following steps written by someone who knows what they're doing. Done wrong, they are called "red tape" and other less flattering things, and get in the way of doing the job - in this case, maybe fatally.

Procedures can be written to take emergencies into account, and I'd think FEMA, of all organizations, would have figured that out. An example in this case might have read something like, "Medical supplies must be requisitioned with the following form, which should be faxed to the XXX Adminstrator at XXX-XXX-XXXX. In cases of emergency, however, the prescribing physician may present a list of the drugs required, with signature and MD license number (or whatever doctors have). This must be supplemented by a full explanation on form YYY within 60 days from the time such supplies are issued."

See? Easy. Leave an out, but require someone in authority to take responsibility for taking that out, delineate the circumstances under which it can be used, and get it documented properly later, when the emergency is over, so you can keep track and so you have something to learn from for the next time.

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

September 13, 2005

assorted training

I think it's time to give some more money for hurricane relief, but I don't want to donate to the Red Cross this time. I've heard a few stories about places where they were blocked from going in, and about people getting frustrated with them - not many, but the few I've heard weren't counter-balanced by stories about all the good they've done. More importantly, they've gotten a huge percentage of all money donated to date, which is appropriate given that they're the designated first responder, but their focus is on immediate emergency relief (as it should be). Now I want to give money for use in rebuilding, either places or lives. Any suggestions?

I may be overtraining, or possibly just undersleeping. With Rudder away, I've been getting to bed a little late. I've been tired for the last couple of days, and my resting pulse rate seems to be up a couple of beats. I get to leave work early today for a dentist appointment, and even though I'll be dialing back in to work from home afterward, it should still make it easier to get to bed on time. If I'm not tired in the morning, I'll go row; otherwise I'll erg so I can sleep a little longer.

Part of the problem is the conflict between rowing and flight training. Now I've balanced y schedule with the FBO's and the examiners, it looks like I may be doing my check ride in two weeks, instead of early next week as I'd hopes. Sigh. I'd really, really like to have that all over with.

Posted by dichroic at 01:53 PM | Comments (6)

September 12, 2005

just sort of sitting here

Funny thing: I was all productive all weekend, but somehow I don't feel like doing a damn thing today. Unfortunately, I don't get the choice, on weekdays. I even cut my workout short this morning, though since in this case "short" means 13km instead of 15 km, I don't feel too guilty about that.

Thanks to those of you who responded and passed on the message in the previous post. Every once in a while I wish I had a bigger readership, for when I want to get a message like that out, but some of you who passed it on do, and at least a few people saw it from the countries who helped us.

(The only other times I wish I had more readership are to get some comforting responses on life-suckage posts, but since those tend to be job-related and so in friends-locked LJ posts for reasons of self-protection, that's a bit of a contradiction in terms. Oh, well. There aren't many of those anyway.)

Time to go be productive again, more or less. Or at least to sit here convincing myself I *shouldn't* go buy one of the many nice blazers now in stores for fall after work. Bad Dichroic. No bikkie.

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

a thank-you note

EDITED TO ADD: I've postdated this entry so it will stay on top for a few more days, so more people may see it. Scroll below for newer entries.

I want to start something here.

I have a challenge, or maybe that should be a request, for any US bloggers reading this. I'll write about that later in this post, however. First I want to talk to any readers who might be from other countries.

I have been hearing and reading about international offers of aid to the US after Hurricane Katrina - not just the UN and NATO, which make sense since that's part of what they're for, but from individual countries. A Mexican convoy is now moving toward San Antonia - "a headline that hasn't been heard since 1846", according to one news reporter. Canada has offered warships, shuttle flights, personnel and money, and as our biggest international supplier of oil and gas, has turned up the dials to get all refineries producing at top capacity to make up for the loss of those in the Gulf Coast. Australia has pledged money for the Red Cross. Russia has offered three transport planes full of generators, food tents, blankets. Denmark. Israel. Finland. Singapore. South Korea. Portugal is sending oil. Venezuela is sending gasoline, cash, water purification plants, volunteers. Cuba, after 50 years of standoffs, has offered doctors. Even the poorest countries, the ones that have citizens in grinding poverty every day, have pledged to send what they could. Bangladesh. Afghanistan, even. Sri Lanka. The Organization of American States. I haven't even come close to listing every contributor and don't want to exclude anyone: one more complete list is here.

What means even more is their reasons for sending aid. In some cases, they pledge aid because that's what you do when someone is in trouble. In some cases, they send aid because they remember getting help from us in their times of trouble. And in some cases, they send aid because they still consider us part of their family: Canada remembers that the Lousiana Cajuns began as Acadians until they were ejected 200 years ago. Pakistan is focusing their aid on Pakistani Americans. They know the amount they can afford is a drop in the bucket, so it makes sense to focus, though they still say they will help any who need it, not exclusively their own. It all strikes me as a way of saying, "In your time of need, you are a part of us."

The US will accept some of this aid,but not all. In some cases that's a case of stupid pride. In some cases it will be (or has been) delayed by the sort of despicable obstructionism that kept unfed people int he Convention Center for days. And in some cases it may be because the sincere gesture is appreciated to the heart, but we know it's really more than those offering can afford.

What I want you to know, you in other countries, is that I am humbled to the point of grateful tears by your offers. No matter what our government does about your aid, I know I'm speaking for thousands of others in saying that we are amazed and thankful at the world response.

Here's my challenge and request to other Americans reading this who have blogs or websites of your own: write your thanks to those in other countries who have offered help. Use your own words or borrow mine. Whatever the government's response is, they can see it in the newspapers. Let them see the thanks of ordinary Americans across the Internet, and see how their offers are appreciated.

I will cross-post this entry to my LiveJournal, so more people may read it. Use my paragraph above if you want, to pass on the request - some of you have much greater readership than I do, and I'd really like to see thanks given where they are due, across the Internet.

Posted by dichroic at 01:06 PM | Comments (5)

September 11, 2005

what I did

Well, I don't suppose I'd say it was a great weekend - I was adrift and Rudderless - but I suppose it was a productive one. Over the two days, I took Rudder to the airport, painted over the repairs I'd recently made to my boat, erged a half-marathon, went grocery shopping, put away all the food, did two loads of laundry, made matzo ball soup, made all of my swag for JournalCon, did a little knitting, did some desperately needed weeding in the back and front yards, did a little studying, practiced stalls and steep turns in preparation for my IFR checkride, wound 3 balls of yarn on the nostepinne I bought last week, installed a spiffy new PM3 monitor on our erg (which arrived as expected right after I finished erging 21097 meters Saturday morning), figured out why I couldn't get my iPod to play over a radio wrote two blog entries and took out the trash.

I do seem to have more time when Rudder's not here, but I like having him around anyway.

The funny thing about all of this is I recited that list to my mother, or at least the half of it I'd done by the time I talked to her yesterday evening, and she said, "That doesn't sound like all hat much. I get that much done on a weekend - well, not so much physical stuff, but I do that much." Maybe, but I'm a bit suspiscious (and I think I left a couple things out, too, when I was talking to her).

Posted by dichroic at 07:23 PM | Comments (0)

September 10, 2005


What do you know: apparently it's fall. It took me by surprise. I knew it was coming, because my mailbox has been stuffed full of catalogs for a week or so and the freeqays are more crowded in the mornings, but today took me by surprise. The number on the thermometer at 7AM began with a 6, instead of a 7, 8, or even 9. I dropped Rudder off to catch a flight out and then went to work on my boat, since the lake is right near the airport. It was only then I realized that it would have been much smarter to pack my rowing gear (socks, seat pad, StrokeCoach) to take advantage of the weather, instead of touching up the paint and then going home to erg indoors. At 3:30 in the afternoon, the temperature was still in two digits, and is predicted to stay there for the next week. I've been wearing a T-shirt all day, instead of a little camisole top.

After my half-marathon on the erg, I had to go to food-shopping anyway, and while I was there impulsively decided to celebrate the change of weather by making a batch of chicken soup - the kind where you start with water and a chicken, instead of a can. Rudder's away, so this is just for me - I don't think chicken soup is the sort of comfort food for him that it is for me anyway. I experimented a little, adding some extras here and altering the timing a little there, but it was essentially the same soup as always. Jewish Penicillin, good for what ails you.

Maybe I needed the comfrt and continuity because so many appalling stories on the news that I almost wished I was Catholic, so I could invoked someone else to pray for our poor sorry species. Maybe it's because making staple you've eaten all your life and your great-grandparents before you, one for which you don't need to consult a recipe, is a practical way of bringing something good into the world. I associate soup with this time of year anyway because my family always began our holiday dinners with chicken soup: Rosh Hashanah, and then ten days later the dinner to break the Yom Kippur fast. This year the holidays are unusually late, not until October, but soup and turning seasons still go together for me.

I did it up right: matzo balls and mandlen, carrots and celery, onion, garlic, tiny noodles. I have no idea whether I'll be able to finish the whole pot of it, but I feel a little better about the world now. What else is comfort food for?

Posted by dichroic at 08:24 PM | Comments (0)

September 08, 2005


Tagged by Swoop, sort of:

i d i o syn cra sy
1. A structural or behavioral characteristic peculiar to an individual or group.
2. A physiological or temperamental peculiarity.
3. An unusual individual reaction to food or a drug.

List five of your own idiosyncrasies and then tag five friends to do the same.

This one's easier than writing 20 things about myself, anyway, though I might eventually do that too.

1. I can't eat fat on meat - not "don't like", literally can't eat. It makes me gag. I like steak, but if you ever see me eating one there will be little cut-off edges pushed to one side of the plate. (Unless Rudder cooks the steak, in which case he generally indulges me by trimming it first.)

2. I'm a natural proofreader - can't help noticing misspellings or grammar errors in anything I read (except my own writing, which I can't edit nearly as well). That means that I can't read an badly edited story without being irretrievably distracted by the errors.

3. I like change - I tend to vacillate between long and very short hair, to want to change jobs every year or two (though it may be within a company or even a department - I just want to change what I'm doing), my wardrobe is best described as "eclectic", and I think ten years is way too long to have lived in this city.

4. I tend not to be able to find things stored above my eye level, even if they're visible. Since I'm 5'2", this leaves a lot of area. It also means I banged my head on the vent hood of Rudder's grandparents stove about three times this weekend, since it's just above the level of my eyebrows.

5. Cumulative lack of sleep makes me stupid; I tend to find myself missing basic routine steps - shaving one leg but not the other, for instance.

Posted by dichroic at 02:39 PM | Comments (3)

September 07, 2005

yesterday I bought a stick

Oh, my goodness. Go read this.(Especially you.) And then, once you're warmed up, read this, an essay on the fate of Susan in the Narnia books that will bowl you over. It's from the point of view of a brilliant, thoughtful conservative Christian. (I confess I don't string those four words together often, but they're appropriate here.)

Edited to add: Read the commentary, too.

After the adventures of the weekend, I took yesterday off to recuperate. The biggest excitement of the day was that I bought a stick. (A nostepinne, to be precise.) That's my life in a nutshell: some days I fly 800 miles in a tiny airplane, some days I buy a stick.

I'm back on schedule with the training now: 15km on the erg yesterday, 10km on the water today. I'd been sleepig in a little on the long weekend, but had to get up at 4 this morning, with the result that I woke in the middle of a dream. Sometimes the oddest thing about my dreams is not what happens in them but what happens after them. In this one, I had been introduced to a woman I liked very much, and we were going someplace on a train. She absently sang a snatch of a Richard Thompson song and, pleased that we had something in common, I sang a bit of another one to see if she'd pick up on it. (This is a perfectly normal thing to do in my world.) Her eyes widened in recognition, and we sang together, trying to top each other and remember lyrics. I woke up trying to remember the words to a song of his I liked that began, "She was seventeen..." but I kept getting sidetracked onto the Beatles' "I Saw Her Standing There." It wasn't until I had woken up much more thoroughly that I realized this was because Richard Thompson does not, in fact, have a song that begins with those words, at least not one I know. Pity: it was a good song. ("Beeswing", one of my favorites of his, does begin "I was nineteen when I came to town.")

Posted by dichroic at 03:38 PM | Comments (2)

September 06, 2005

a little bumpy

I don't think I even want to talk about New Orleans, except to say that turning down aid or, worse, blocking it from getting to the people who need it, just leaves me sputtering wordlessly. Also, I don't like lying at the best of times; telling desparate people, day after day, that aid is coming 'real soon now' is despicable.

OK. Now to not talk about New Orleans. Sorry, it's very hard not to, but I have nothing to say that hasn't been said.

Anyway, obviously, we're home now. I suppose it was a good weekend all in all, but the flight up was worse than I expected due to turnulence from Vegas on to Reno and then into Oregon. I'm a total chickenshit about turbulence, at least when I'm flying the airplane, so it was white knuckles all the way. (The first leg, up to Vegas, was actually quite nice.) It was too rough for the autopilot to maintain altitude, so I had to fly it by hand, and by the time we got there my right thigh and bicep were threatening to cramp up. I had t reasonably well trimmed, so that would be more due to tension in me than any undue control force required. It was all clear-air turbulence, heat rising over the desert, so no issue at all to a seasoned pilot. I'm just not seasoned. It took me a long time - years - to get over being nervous driving in heavy freeway traffic, so this isn't a surprise.

The way home wasn't bad except for some clouds that were threatening enough to worry me - the clouds were built up just a little, but the layer was broad enough that I was afraid there could be some embedded small storms, and there was some rain, though not much. Apparently they didn't worry Rudder, but I didn't find that out until afterward. He was flying calmly, but then that's what a pilot would be trying to do anyway.

I flew five of the six legs: Chandler to Jean (outside Las Vegas), Jean to Stead (on the north side of Reno), Stead to Lakeview OR, then on the way home Lakeview to Stead and Stead to Jean. Rudder flew the last leg home, because I was tired and also annoyed that ; coming into Jean he thought I was going too slowly in a landing and pushed the throttle in, not something you want your passenger to do without telling you even if he is a pilot. Other than that, he was a model copilot. He did apologize afterward. (I really was going too slow, but I maintain I'd have salvaged the landing or gone around in time.)

Rudder's parents met us at his grandparents'. So, unexpectedly, did an aunt, an uncle, a cousin and the cousin's girlfriend. It was nice to see them all, but having that many people around may have been a bit much for Rudder's grandmother, who's still recuperating from a couple of heart attackes and attacks of pneumonia this spring. It also meant the visit was quite as relaxing as I'd hoped for between flights, but Lakeview is so much slower-paced that we did get to rest a least a bit. And now I have all my required cross-country time, and just need to refresh my basic instrument maneuvers, figure out instrument approaches on autopilot, and bone up on all the questions for the oral. That's all scheduled to be about three flights and one ground lesson from now, but we'll see.

Posted by dichroic at 07:18 PM | Comments (1)

September 01, 2005

the heart of Texas

Dear Texas,

I lived in Houston for 7 years, beginning of 1989 to end of 1995. I can't say I enjoyed it, but those years did have their high points, including meeting my husband. One thing I did learn is that Texas hospitality is not just a legend.

You're proving it again this week: housing 75,000 refugees from New Orleans, 25,000 each in Houston, Dallas, and San Antonio. Working to help refugees with Medicaid, foodstamps, and WIC. Helping place foste children and finding beds in nursing homes. Taking Louisiana's students into your schools, relaxing paperwork and immunization requirements in recognition that their paperwork is mostly now mud and most important, doling out the budget to make it real, and finding the money to buy them backpacks and school supplies.

Your companies are setting up phonebanks in the Astrodome. I hear one man is grilling ribs and burgers outside; he's issued New Orleans refugees a blanke invitation to come eat. The airport where my husband learned to fly is busy with aircraft transporting patients to your hospitals. Texas A&M's Galveston campus is finding room for 1000 displaced students, charging them the state minimum fee (if that's the normal in-state fee, it's way low). I may never tell an Aggie joke again.

Texas, I'm impressed. I'm proud of you. Your state heroes would be proud, I think. And by the way, you might want take some of New Orleans on a tour through Galveston, with special attention to how you raised the whole island after the hurricane of 1900.


Posted by dichroic at 09:04 PM | Comments (2)

yet another NOLA post

This is the best and most reasonable article I've seen on New Orleans so far. Where he has facts, he gives them; where he does math; he shows it; where he makes assumptions he lists them. This is how you analyze data and make good decisions. (The way you argue those decisions is to show either where his data are wrong or how other conclusions can be drawn from the information. But oh, his conclusions are scary.

Thanks to Bear for the link.

There are consoling bright spots (I'm particularly impressed with what Texas has been doing, and all the people taking thoeir boats in to help), but the news is much more depressing than after other major disasters I can remember: arguments over whether looters are justified, gunshots fired at aid helicopters, infighting among government agencies, stupid decisions like stopping Canadian aid at the border. My theory is that we're just more comfortable with somenoe to blame. After 9/11 or the London subway bombings, we knew who to blame, and the vast majority of bile was funnelled to the bombers instead of the victims or the government. No person set this hurricane to hit New Orleans, so instead, we turn to blaming local and Federal governments, looters, people who stayed behind, rescue organizations, and whoever else is there.

SOme actually are at fault, of course. I don't know if reinforcing levees would have allowed them to survive a Category 5 hurricane, but it would have increased the chances; figuring out how to evacuate those without cars or stocking water in the stadium you designate as a refuge for the desperate seem like good ideas. But even so, it seems like a better idea to work on fixing problems now. Cast blame later, and use even it for productive purposes like deciding who to vote for next time, or setting up better emergency plans. National sniping isn't productive, and in a desparate situation, wasted energy isn't affordable.

In other more local news, work is still frustratingly indeterminate and I'm still pissed off about it, we're still getting record high temperatures here, we're still flying to Oregon tomorrow, I'm still a bit nervous about that but looking forward to seeing Rudder's grandparents, to cooler weather there, and to time to relax between flights.

Posted by dichroic at 01:16 PM | Comments (2)