November 30, 2005

rudder adrift

Rudder is still sick. It came on gradually: siffles last Thursday, a feeling that he might be getting sick Friday, actually ill Saturday. It doesn't look like anything worse to me than a cold, with a low fever (100 or so), cough, copious snot, and so on. But he's perturbed that he hasn't started feeling better yet, that his lungs are congested, and that he's been feeling very tired - perturbed enough that he actually went to the doctor today and took the rest of the day off work. From the brief discussion I had with him, it sounds like the doctor didn't think it was anything major either, but gave him some antibiotics (which confuses me). He sounded pretty groggy, so I might have woken him up. At any rate, I'll be continuing to keep a close eye on him, because for Rudder, going to the doctor and taking a sick day are in themselves major symptoms.

So far I don't appear to have caught anything. I've been coughing and sneezing for than usual, but don't feel ill at all. I think it's just because of some construction work they're doing in the office. The admin here, who has asthma, felt bad enough because of it to go home in the middle of the day one day before the holiday, and I've been hearing a lot of drilling today.

I'm not enjoying cubicle-dwelling, but at least it's a relatively private cube. It's not one ofthose where my work is on display to anyone passing by. And there is one positive benefit: it turns out that my cubemate, whom I hadn't met before and who's only recently moved to town, is a rower!

Almost forgot:
Concept II Holiday Challenge::151400 meters left
Today I am thankful for: Decent health insurance.

Posted by dichroic at 03:52 PM | Comments (3)

T is for Tennyson

is for Alfred, Lord Tennyson.

I'm not really a huge Tennyson fan; I don't really have the patience to plow through the Idylls of the King, I find the Lady of Shalott annoying (the person, not the poem), and I don't much care what In Memoriam says about his sexuality. (My guess is that if Tennyson (or Shakespeare, for that matter) felt romantic or sexual love for a man, he didn't view it as a matter of his identity in a modern way. But that's an unsubstantiated guess, and not one I feel much of a Need to Know.)

But, but, but. There is one poem of Tennyson's which with I am hopelessly and passionately in love, so instead of quoting bits of several different poems, I'll just include this one whole one here.

Ulysses IT little profits that an idle king, By this still hearth, among these barren crags, Match’d with an aged wife, I mete and dole Unequal laws unto a savage race, That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me. 5

I cannot rest from travel: I will drink
Life to the lees: all times I have enjoy’d
Greatly, have suffer’d greatly, both with those
That lov’d me, and alone; on shore, and when
Thro’ scudding drifts the rainy Hyades 10
Vex’d the dim sea. I am become a name;
For always roaming with a hungry heart
Much have I seen and known: cities of men
And manners, climates, councils, governments,
Myself not least, but honor’d of them all; 15
And drunk delight of battle with my peers,
Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy.
I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethro’
Gleams that untravell’d world, whose margin fades 20
For ever and for ever when I move.
How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnish’d, not to shine in use!
As tho’ to breathe were life. Life pil’d on life
Were all too little, and of one to me 25
Little remains: but every hour is sav’d
From that eternal silence, something more,
A bringer of new things; and vile it were
For some three suns to store and hoard myself,
And this gray spirit yearning in desire 30
To follow knowledge like a sinking star,
Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.

This is my son, mine own Telemachus,
To whom I leave the sceptre and the isle—
Well-lov’d of me, discerning to fulfil 35
This labor, by slow prudence to make mild
A rugged people, and thro’ soft degrees
Subdue them to the useful and the good.
Most blameless is he, centred in the sphere
Of common duties, decent not to fail 40
In offices of tenderness, and pay
Meet adoration to my household gods,
When I am gone. He works his work, I mine.

There lies the port; the vessel puffs her sail:
There gloom the dark broad seas. My mariners, 45
Souls’ that have toil’d, and wrought, and thought with me—
That ever with a frolic welcome took
The thunder and the sunshine, and oppos’d
Free hearts, free foreheads—you and I are old;
Old age hath yet his honor and his toil; 50
Death closes all; but something ere the end,
Some work of noble note, may yet be done,
Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods.

The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks:
The long day wanes: the slow moon climbs: the deep 55
Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends,
’T is not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths 60
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’ 65
We are not now that strength which in old days
Mov’d earth and heaven, that which we are, we are:
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield. 70

I have a poster with a rower and a stanza of this on the wall next to my desk. Unfortunately, the creator of the poster apparently thought a computer spell-checker was sufficient proof-reading. Three lines of the poem as shown in the poster should be sufficient:

How dull it is to pause, to make and end, to rust unburnish'd, not to shine in use! As tho' to breath were life! Life piled on life Were all to little, and of one to me

Humph. Sacrilege.

Posted by dichroic at 01:44 PM | Comments (0)

November 29, 2005

S is for Robert Service

This one's an easy choice:
is for Robert Service.

I like Service for the same reason I like Kipling: he makes my blood pound. Like Kipling, he also sometimes shows me ordinary lives in extraordinary places that I wouldn't have known otherwise; most of his work is about the gld rush in the Yukon territory. His most famous poems are probably The Cremation of Sam McGee and The Shooting of Dan McGrew, and The Men that Don't Fit In hits me hard enough that I once wrote a reply to it (women were scarce both in the Yukon and in Service's work). But my favorite of his poems, no question at all, is

The Call of the Wild

Have you gazed on naked grandeur
where there's nothing else to gaze on,
Set pieces and drop-curtain scenes galore,
Big mountains heaved to heaven, which the blinding sunsets blazon,
Black canyons where the rapids rip and roar?
Have you swept the visioned valley
with the green stream streaking through it,
Searched the Vastness for a something you have lost?
Have you strung your soul to silence?
Then for God's sake go and do it
Hear the challenge, learn the lesson, pay the cost.

Have you wandered in the wilderness, the sagebrush desolation,
The bunch-grass levels where the cattle graze?
Have you whistled bits of rag-time at the end of all creation,
And learned to know the desert's little ways?
Have you camped upon the foothills,
have you galloped o'er the ranges,
Have you roamed the arid sun-lands through and through?
Have you chummed up with the mesa?
Do you know its moods and changes?
Then listen to the Wild -- it's calling you

Have you known the Great White Silence,
not a snow-gemmed twig aquiver
(Eternal truths that shame our soothing lies).
Have you broken trail on snowshoes? mushed your huskies up the river,
Dared the unknown, led the way, and clutched the prize?
Have you marked the map's void spaces, mingled with the mongrel races,
Felt the savage strength of brute in every thew?
And though grim as hell the worst is,
can you round it off with curses?
Then hearken to the Wild -- it's wanting you.

Have you suffered, starved and triumphed,
groveled down, yet grasped at glory,
Grown bigger in the bigness of the whole?
"Done things" just for the doing, letting babblers tell the story,
Seeing through the nice veneer the naked soul?
Have you seen God in His splendors,
heard the text that nature renders?
(You'll never hear it in the family pew).
The simple things, the true things, the silent men who do things --
Then listen to the Wild -- it's calling you.

They have cradled you in custom,
they have primed you with their preaching,
They have soaked you in convention through and through;
They have put you in a showcase; you're a credit to their teaching --
But can't you hear the Wild? -- it's calling you.

Let us probe the silent places, let us seek what luck betide us;
Let us journey to a lonely land I know.
There's a whisper on the night-wind,
there's a star agleam to guide us,
And the Wild is calling, calling. . .let us go.

Even some of those who went for the money are caught in the spell of the North, in his telling:

from The Spell of the Yukon There's a land where the mountains are nameless, And the rivers all run God knows where; There are lives that are erring and aimless, And deaths that just hang by a hair; There are hardships that nobody reckons; There are valleys unpeopled and still; There's a land -- oh, it beckons and beckons, And I want to go back -- and I will.

They're making my money diminish;
I'm sick of the taste of champagne.
Thank God! when I'm skinned to a finish
I'll pike to the Yukon again.
I'll fight -- and you bet it's no sham-fight;
It's hell! -- but I've been there before;
And it's better than this by a damnsite --
So me for the Yukon once more.

There's gold, and it's haunting and haunting;
It's luring me on as of old;
Yet it isn't the gold that I'm wanting
So much as just finding the gold.
It's the great, big, broad land 'way up yonder,
It's the forests where silence has lease;
It's the beauty that thrills me with wonder,
It's the stillness that fills me with peace.

But the Yukon was undeniably brutal, as Service makes clear. We saw his work quoted in any number of history exhibits in Alaska:

from The Law of the Yukon
This is the law of the Yukon, and ever she makes it plain:
"Send not your foolish and feeble; send me your strong and your sane --
Strong for the red rage of battle; sane for I harry them sore;
Send me men girt for the combat, men who are grit to the core;
Swift as the panther in triumph, fierce as the bear in defeat,
Sired of a bulldog parent, steeled in the furnace heat.
Send me the best of your breeding, lend me your chosen ones;
Them will I take to my bosom, them will I call my sons;
Them will I gild with my treasure, them will I glut with my meat;
But the others -- the misfits, the failures -- I trample under my feet.
Dissolute, damned and despairful, crippled and palsied and slain,
Ye would send me the spawn of your gutters -- Go! take back your spawn again.

Not all of the characters in Service's ballads were uplifted by adventure. Some, even some of the strong ones, were just beaten down. This one depresses me every time, because it reminds me of someone I love. He did have "a woman and child"(ren), but still, the pain is too similar:

Song of the Wage-Slave

When the long, long day is over, and the Big Boss gives me my pay,
I hope that it won't be hell-fire, as some of the parsons say.
And I hope that it won't be heaven, with some of the parsons I've met --
All I want is just quiet, just to rest and forget.
Look at my face, toil-furrowed; look at my calloused hands;
Master, I've done Thy bidding, wrought in Thy many lands --
Wrought for the little masters, big-bellied they be, and rich;
I've done their desire for a daily hire, and I die like a dog in a ditch.
I have used the strength Thou hast given, Thou knowest I did not shirk;
Threescore years of labor -- Thine be the long day's work.
And now, Big Master, I'm broken and bent and twisted and scarred,
But I've held my job, and Thou knowest, and Thou will not judge me hard.
Thou knowest my sins are many, and often I've played the fool --
Whiskey and cards and women, they made me the devil's tool.
I was just like a child with money; I flung it away with a curse,
Feasting a fawning parasite, or glutting a harlot's purse;
Then back to the woods repentant, back to the mill or the mine,
I, the worker of workers, everything in my line.

Everything hard but headwork (I'd no more brains than a kid),
A brute with brute strength to labor, doing as I was bid;
Living in camps with men-folk, a lonely and loveless life;
Never knew kiss of sweetheart, never caress of wife.
A brute with brute strength to labor, and they were so far above --
Yet I'd gladly have gone to the gallows for one little look of Love.
I, with the strength of two men, savage and shy and wild --
Yet how I'd ha' treasured a woman, and the sweet, warm kiss of a child!
Well, 'tis Thy world, and Thou knowest. I blaspheme and my ways be rude;
But I've lived my life as I found it, and I've done my best to be good;
I, the primitive toiler, half naked and grimed to the eyes,
Sweating it deep in their ditches, swining it stark in their styes;
Hurling down forests before me, spanning tumultuous streams;
Down in the ditch building o'er me palaces fairer than dreams;
Boring the rock to the ore-bed, driving the road through the fen,
Resolute, dumb, uncomplaining, a man in a world of men.
Master, I've filled my contract, wrought in Thy many lands;
Not by my sins wilt Thou judge me, but by the work of my hands.
Master, I've done Thy bidding, and the light is low in the west,
And the long, long shift is over . . . Master, I've earned it -- Rest.

Service's people range from footloose heroes to whores beaten by a life in which they couldn't find any alternatives that weren't tragic, but he makes them all noble, at least a little, and real, quite a lot. He shows joy in a sublime landscape and in a little harmonica, though he's enough of a Romantic that his real tragedies are generally brought about by people and social traps and the love of money, while Nature is aloof, apart, and always beautiful, and with great reward for the man (always a man) who can, ot tame it, but learn to live with it.

Posted by dichroic at 03:41 PM | Comments (0)

being a lady

Something Sartorias wrote today reminded me of a small incident last week. One perk to visiting my parents or my uncle is the chance to reconnect with my grandparents, by hearing stories or using things they owned. So last week,I was browsing through my mom's baby book one day, looking for the family chart that shows my great-grandparents and a few of their parents (as far back as we know; I'll never do any further geneological research because of the overwhelming likelihood that records either weren't kept or were destroyed in wars and other upheavals.) In the 'A Message to My Daughter' section, my grandmother had written, "I always hoped you would be a young lady by the time you reached 11 years of age," and I thought to myself, "I have no idea what that means." No ball playing in the house? No belching in public? No inadvertent displays of underwear? Wearing gloves and hats? And why the fixed deadline?

I asked my mom, and she has no idea either - in fact, as soon as I started to ask the question, she said "I have no idea either," before I could even finish asking, so apparently it's something that's been puzzling her too. (Just for context, my grandmother was born in 1912 and my mom on Pearl Harbor Day, so consciousness raising came along only after my mother was grown and married. Like her mother, she would have grown up wearing gloves and hats and rigid undergarments.

I left most of the above as a comment to Sartorias, and she guessed that above all, it meant being nice and conforming. This would make sense, especially given that blending in was a way to minimize the anti-Semitism still around then.

I think it might largely have been about her perception of femininity. I always found it ironic that my grandmother used to scold me for not wearing enough jewelry and makeup, given that she was becoming an adult during the flapper era, and her grandmother would probably have yelled at her for wearing rouge or lipstick. She also used to complain that my hair "just hangs there and doesn't do anything. (At this point, I usually was envisioning it learning to sit up and beg.) In her defense, none of this was mean scolding, and she never tried at all to restrict my interests to traditional girl-things.

In the 80s, when she'd see me wearing, say, one earring or a cut-up sweatshirt, she'd just ask, "Is that what they're wearing?" and seemed perfectly happy as long as it was. So maybe this was all about her vision of womanhood. Maybe I was more of a tomboy, at least in appearance, than she wanted me to be, or maybe she was trying to make sure I got as much attention from men as she seems to have enjoyed in her youth. That turned out not to be a problem by the time I got to college, but she wouldn't have realized that going to engineering school is a much better way to get masculine attention than dressing in the height of fashion or wearing lipstick and pearls. (It's also a much better way to get the kind of attention I wanted, or to get attention from the kind of men I wanted.) Anyway, I wish I could ask her. I don't know whether or not she thought my mother became enough of a lady, or whether later decades made her revalue ladyhood, but I do know her children's happiness was a top priority for her until she died, so I suspect her goal for my mother was something she thought would give mom a better life. And whether she ever despaired of my grooming, when I graduated college, she sent me a note so proud that I still have it.

Posted by dichroic at 12:51 PM | Comments (1)

November 28, 2005

meeting friends, new and old

SO: Last Saturday night was Prattbunnymallcon. The other revelers gathered at noon at the Pratt house to see the bunnies. I'd have liked to see them and Mrs. P's lighthouses, but we'd gotten in at 2 AM the night before. My brother had picked us up (useful sometimes, having relatives who are nocturnal) and we'd stayed at his place. Since we were going to be out for dinner with friends our first two nights in Philadelphia, I figured we'd better stop in to visit with Mom and Dad before heading out to King of Prussia. The mall is easy enough to find, and the brother, who's only had his (first) car for a couple of months, did well driving out there. We found the brewpub with no problem and the rest of the group tore themselves away from the bunnies and met us there:

From left to right, that's Wolf, Bozoette Mary, LA and Mike, me, Mrs. Pratt, Mary's Joe, Rudder, Deb, Pratt's forehead, and my brother's right cheek. Art the waiter took the photo. (He wasn't much better at waitering.) The dinner was good as reported elsewhere; the JournalCon alumni were as easy to talk to as before, and none of the assorted spouses, kids or siblings seemed to feel too out of place. I didn't get to talk to Mike much because of the layout of the table, but my brother was at his end of the table and reported that he'd been telling some fascinating stories of his life. I think Deb's son felt a little out of place with all the grownups, but it didn't phase Wolf, who was being charming and so interactive with all the adults (pretty typical, at his age) that I would not have recognized him as the same kid in LA's descriptions of his early years. Mary's Joe was likewise charming and very funny and the attractive Mrs. Pratt put herself out to be a gracious local tour guide (possibly with thoughts of lighthouse gatherings in future compensation!)

Funny, none of us are really the type of female to go to the restroom in herds, but LA, Mary, and I sort of ran into each other there:
. Yes, I have special powers and my true self shows up in mirror reflections.

After the meal, Deb and son had to leave (I thought that was a shame at the time, but reading her explanation I'm sort of glad they did. Kids who mention the possibility of vomiting make me nervous too.) but the rest of us walked around the mall for a while. It was already full of Christmas regalia:

though I don't think Wolf found any toys he liked better than his camera - what a great way to keep a kid busy:

though he did like the rocket ship ride.

Sunday, Rudder and the brother and I met up with an old friend of mine from college days (I was in college, he worked in one of the labs there). I'd wanted the bro to meet him for some time. It was sort of funny: one of my sibling's less endearing traits is a tendency to brag about all the people he knows (many from SF cons) and all the things they've done. One of the cooler things about his apartment is the library he's somehow managed to fit in there. This friend has him vastly outclassed on both counts: the bro got very quiet (rare!) on first seeing his nineteenth-century West Philly house with the mahogany and cherry wood trim, and again when he casually mentioned a conversation with a Big Name Author. (I don't think the story was meant to have that effect, actually). But the best part of the evening was the restaurant he took us to: a high-end Italian place in a small town across the bridge in jersey. The owner hugged him when we walked in. The local Italian teacher (possibly the owner's wife) hugged him. The server hugged him. The service was about as good as you'd expect from those reactions. And the meal was phenomenal: all the authenticity of an Italian place in an Itallian neighborhood run by a guy from Italy, along with the cooking skills of a master chef. My friend brought the wines, plural, carefully picked to go with the various things we might order, and the owner, wife and server sampled each one as well. The conversation sparkled as well, and though I wasn't entirely pleased with either when my friend and brother went out to smoke - I liked that they seemed to bond over the cigs, but the bro was my partner in nagging our Dad to quit for most of our llives, so I hate to see him smoking himself now, and the friend has health conditions that make it seem like a bad idea. I tried not to nag much, but when I did say something they both took it in good part, and I was touched when in response to my comment that I didn't have big-sister nagging rights over him, the friend commented that I had at least little-sister rights. Beautiful place. Great dinner. If you're in the Philly area and you want an excellent Italian meal (fancy, not cheap), I have the restaurant's card somewhere.

Also, while I'm here: voila, the socks I finished on the way home from the marathon, the scarf I finished in Philadelphia, and the blanket I finished just before this last trip with the hat I started on the flight home. The blanket and hats are for twins; they'll have to share the blanket, but the second hat is on the needles now.

Posted by dichroic at 05:31 PM | Comments (3)

R is for Christina Rossetti

My holiday mood has officially begun. I even listened to the Medieval Baebes' holiday album, this morning on the way into work.

Therefore, is for CHristina Rossetti.

The connection may be more obvious if you've heard Pierce Pettis' gorgeous rendition of her "In the Bleak Midwinter", which is on Windham Hill's Winter SOlstice III. I don't know whether Pettis wrote the setting himself; when I first heard it, I thought it was a medieval carol. This is a clear case of my not having listened closely enough to the words, but the melody does sound like something from the fourteenth century (I think it's Holst's melody). However, even though on closer reading they don't quite sound medieval, the words themselves are gorgeous:

In the Bleak Midwinter In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan, Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone. Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow, In the bleak midwinter long ago.

Our God, heaven cannot hold him, nor earth sustain.
Heaven and earth shall flee away when he comes to reign.
In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.

Enough for him, whom cherubim worship night and day,
A breastful of milk and a mangerful of hay;
Enough for him whom angels fall down before,
The ox and ass and camel which adore.

Angels and archangels may have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim thronged the air.
But only his mother, in her maiden bliss,
Worshipped the beloved with a kiss.

What can I give him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd I would bring a lamb.
If I were a Wise Man I would do my part.
Yet what I can I give him: give my heart

It's the echo of Old English kennings in the "Earth lilke iron, water like stone" line that makes it sound old to me, and for some odd reason, the repetition of "snow on snow" that makes it sound later. (The somewhat lame line that seems stuck in just for the rhyme, "If I were a Wise Man I would do my part" isn't particularly unusual for old folk songs, though.) At any rate, it's not surprising that the poem did first sound medieval; Rossetti, like her brother Dante Gabriel, was a member of the Pre-Raphaelites, whose goal was to recapture the beauty and simplicity of the medieval world. I'm not entirely sure why they thought medival art was simple, but they may just have meant unfussy - this was the early part of Victoria's reign. At any rate, the medieval influence shines like light through a stained glass window in her work, such as the fairy tale elements in The Goblin Market or the folk-song ones in some of her shorter poems:

A birthday My heart is like a singing bird Whose heart is in a watered shoot: My heart is like an apple-tree Whose boughs are bent with thickset fruit; My heart is like a rainbow shell That Paddles in a halcyon sea; My heart is gladder than all these Because my love is come to me. Raise me dais of silk and down; Hang it with vair and purple dyes; Carve it in doves and pomegranates, And peacocks with a hundred eyes; Work it in gold and silver grapes, In leaves and silver fleurs-de-lys; Because the birthday of my life Is come, my love is come to me.
Posted by dichroic at 03:51 PM | Comments (0)

pedicure time

I am a bad house ape - Rudder and I both are. One of the cats has an ingrown claw, which we found out about by noticing a couple little blood spots on the floor. This isn't even the first time this has happened; it happened last winter right before his last vet appointment and of course we meant to check him and clip his claws more regularly. We have checked them a few times since and there hasn't been a problem - maybe he just runs around less when it's colder? But with all the travel last month, well...

Unfortunately we can't get him into the vet until tomorrow, but the person at the desk didn't sound worried and the Beast doesn't actually seem to be bothered by it, at least not nearly as bothered as he is about our messnig with his feet, even at the best of times. I have met cats for whom claw-clipping is as simple as: pick up cat, grab paw gently, clip claw carefully. This is not the case for either of ours. The process takes both of us and the steps are more like: find cat, who has mysteriously vanished as soon as we decide to clip; saunter casually up to him pretending nothing is going on, carefully hiding clipper; hold cat (one of us) and attempt to mobilize his head so he can't bite; grab paw (the other of us) and clip as many claws as possible before cat squirms away. (If you're going to suggest holding him by the scruff, we have and it doesn't seem to have much effect.) Getting him into his carrier used to be almost as much fun, until someone suggested using a pillow case. It's much easier to sneak up on a cat with a pillow case than with a carrier, and easier to put him into it, then decant cat and case together into carrier.

For the other cat, the reactions are similar but involve less tendency to bite and more struggling to run away. And no, we don't abuse our cats: one was feral as a kitten and the other is so scared of everything we think he may have been abused before we adopted him.

Is it my imagination or do female cats tend to be more placid? Both of ours are male.

For the last several years, every day between Thanskgiving and Christmas I've listed two things: my progress on the Concept II Holiday Challenge (200,000 meters on the erg from Thanksgiving to Christmas, and something I'm thankful for. (In fact, one major thing to be thankful for is that it's never too terribly hard to think of something each day.) So:

Concept II Holiday Challenge: 164900 meters left.
Today I am thankful: that both of our cats have been so healthy for the past 16 and 14 years.

Posted by dichroic at 12:19 PM | Comments (1)


In case anyone is wondering, I did write about the gatherings with friends last weekend, but my computer didn't so much eat my entry as refuce to post it (Internet connection was down). I'll put it up tonight, along with photos of the Prattbunnymallcon and (bonus!) several recently finished knitted objects.

Posted by dichroic at 10:02 AM | Comments (0)

November 27, 2005

Q is for Quiller-Couch

Resuming the poetry series after Thanksgiving, I'm departing from poets to address instead a teacher, critic, and anthologist of poetry:

is for Arthur Quiller-Couch.

Helene Hanff wrote an entire book, Q's Legacy, describing how a man she never met educated her and changed her life. I can't say that he's had quite the effect on me that he did on Hanff or on his students, but the effect is definitely there. Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, M.A., King Edward Proessor of Literature in the University of Cambridge, was the first editor of the Oxford Book of English Verse, the Oxford Anthology of English Prose, some collections of fairy tales and the collections of his lectures titled On the Art of Writing (my copy of which is doubly dear for having been given to me by Mechaieh) and On the Art of Reading. The Oxford anthologies, especially, have had a large impact on many later anthologies; the selection in the Norton Anthology of English Poetry shows it clearly. Q wouldn't have minded, I don't think; in the Preface to his anthology he acknowledged his debt to earlier anthologists, writing, "Having my heart set on choosing the best, I resolved not to be dissuaded by common objections against anthologies - that they repeat one another until the proverb [something in Greek that an Oxford or Cambridge student of his time would surely have understood, but that I don't] loses all application - or perturbed if my judgement should often agree with that of good critics. The best is the best, though a hundred judges have declared it so."

His anthology isn't only meant for scholarly readers, either; the Preface continues, "My wish is that the reader should in his own pleasure quite forget the editor's labour, which too has been pleasant: that, standing aside, I may believe this book has made the Muses access easier when, in the right hour, they come to him to uplift or console."

Though possessed of the sort of scholarship which this series makes it evident I don't have, Quiller-Couch shared my belief that poetry is not only to be studied, that it also needs to live in the life of its readers. His words resounded especially for me when I first read On the Art of Writing at roughly the same time I read Apsley Cherry-Garrard's The Worst Journey in the World, the latter of which hit me even harder because I'd just come back from Antarctica. Quiller-Couch delivered his second lecture the day the news came back of the death of Captain Scott's party. That fact forwarded his belief that great poetry could not be allowed to become a dead husk breathing only of the dead past:

"I hold ‘gymnastic’ to be necessary as ‘music’ (using both words in the Greek sense) for the training of such youths as we desire to send forth from Cambridge. But I plead that they should be balanced, as they were in the perfect young knight with whose words I will conclude to-day:—

Having this day my horse, my hand, my lance
Guided so well that I obtained the prize,
Both by the judgment of the English eyes
And of some sent by that sweet enemy France;
Horsemen my skill in horsemanship advance,
Town-folk my strength, a daintier judge applies
His praise to sleight which from good use doth rise;
Some lucky wits impute it but to chance;
Others, because of both sides I do take
My blood from them who did excel in this,
Think Nature me a man-at-arms did make.
How far they shot awry! the true cause is,
Stella looked on; and from her heavenly face
Sent forth the beams which made so fair my race.

‘Untrue,’ you say? Well, there is truth of emotion as well as of fact; and who is there among you but would fain be able not only to win such a guerdon but to lay it in such wise at your lady’s feet?

That then was Philip Sidney, called the peerless one of his age; and perhaps no Englishman ever lived more graciously or, having used life, made a better end. But you have seen this morning’s newspaper: you have read of Captain Scott and his comrades, and in particular of the death of Captain Oates; and you know that the breed of Sidney is not extinct. Gentlemen, let us keep our language noble: for we still have heroes to commemorate! "

Posted by dichroic at 04:14 PM | Comments (0)

November 26, 2005

the short version

Somehow I just don't feel like writing. It's cold in my house. My fingers are stiff.

Short version is: didn't get to see all the people I wanted to, but did see most. Had a wonderful time with JournalCon folks on Saturday (more later about that, probably, but rest assured I will inform my brother of the reactions to him). Got to visit with assorted family-by-choice Sunday: went to see the new home of the couple who were big siblings to me during my adolescence, whose house down the block was my escape and whose kids I babysat, as well as another friend who touched me by informing me that I have little-sister-nagging rights. Thanksgiving, of course so it was about food and family: among the former, we had a decent brewpub meal and a phenomenal Italian one, a decent Chinese one and a good turkey one. Unfortunately, all the leftovers are a couple thousand miles away now. Among the latter, we saw my famly enough to appreciate them and to laugh to each other about their quirks, not enough to get too annoyed at anyone, so it was good. Also, we caught up on sleep. The futon at my parents' place is much harder than my bed and accordinglly less comfortable, but I do sleep well on it.

The only bad parts are the cold Rudder came home with (not to serious, I take it, since he's erging now) and the note from the catsitter about how she "couldn't find our mailbox", necessitating a run to the post office to pick up all our mail. (Two, actually, because they didn't open when they were supposed to.) And yes, she did have our phone number, not to mention the number of the woman she works for, who knows where our box is.

And now I have survived all the challenges of November and October, unless you count going back to begin working in a cubicle. ecember should be much easier, I think.

Posted by dichroic at 04:49 PM | Comments (2)

November 17, 2005

getting through

A couple quick notes:

I doubt I'll get to Q in the poetry series until after Thanksgiving, given my travel plans and the fact that I really need to be at home with my references to write it.

Anyone else I haven't made plans with for the Philly trip (or who wants to get in on the mini-JournalCon reprise (squee!) Saturday, email me for my cell phone #.)

I got a phone message from my uncle the other day: "I guess you're back from the marathon. I'm leaving for Berlin tomorrow so I won't tlak to you before you go to Philadelphia. You haven't been there for that long for a while, have you? I hope you survive staying there for a whole week."

It just amused me, because most people would consider rowing a marathon to be a more difficult feat of endurance than staying with your parents for a week, at least if your parents aren't evil, and mine aren't. They are well-meaning and they love us and are excited about this visit. The only thing is .... well, think of Mrs. Bennett. I wonder how often Elizabeth went back for a visited after moving to Pemberley? If it is possible to imagine a somewhat less vulgar set of Bennetts without the drive to marry their daughters to the richest man possible, but with the narrow outlook that made Longbourn the center of the universe and all other places not worth caring about, and if you couple that with Fanny Price's sense of oppression at the crowding and the noise in her family's small house when she had become used to Mansfield Park, you will have a fair picture.

In other words, that is, I'm spoiled. I'm used to living in a large and quiet house, its only other occupants two cats and a man with a decent sense of privacy. I'm used to my own comfy chair and my own big bed and more bathrooms than residents in the house. Going back to a smaller and noiser house, where people yell up and down stairs after I've gone to bed and will want to be with us every second, is going to be exhausting. Even if it is a perfectly reasonable house to live in, one where in fact I spent my first 22 years, even though (unlike poor Fanny Prise) they will be glad to have us there.

I'm not sure if it's easier or harder for Rudder. Harder, probably. He won't have all those pent-up annoyances from adolescence or years-old arguments that have me going from calm to annoyed in a microsecond (similarly, I think I find his parents much less annoying than he does, though we both enjoy their company) but he and my parents are oil and water. It's not that they dislike each other or anything, just that they might as well be separate species, with few interests or experiences in common. Maybe I can send him to the gym with my mom to work on a training plan for her (with me along to temper the workout and remind him she's not trying to win any races). He also suggested asking whether there are any home improvement projects around their house we could do while there, which isn't a bad idea. We might work on our Christmas letter. (Dear All: after flunking the instrument test twice, Dichroic has given up on flying....) And, as I said yesterday, I think going to the movies a few times may work out for all concerned.

Posted by dichroic at 12:46 PM | Comments (2)

November 16, 2005

P is for Poe

Another easy choice. Yeah, OK, the Raven, "Nevermore" and all that, everyone knows that one. Actually, it turns out that's just one among many.

is for Edgar Allan Poe.

Is a poem about child marriage and early death suitable for reading to a child? I don't know, but the Victorians would have thought so, and so did my mother, who read Annabel Lee to me as her father did to her. (My family has peculiar taste in poetry, judging by the fact that I, a Jewish kid, knew all of The Night Before Christmas before I could read.) I loved Annabel Lee though, I think because of its ringing rhythm, because it was about children like me (I was a literally-minded child) and because of its defiant assertion that the love of these children was more powerful than that of "many far older than we":

Annabel Lee
It was many and many a year ago,
In a kingdom by the sea,
That a maiden there lived whom you may know
By the name of ANNABEL LEE;
And this maiden she lived with no other thought
Than to love and be loved by me.

I was a child and she was a child,
In this kingdom by the sea;
But we loved with a love that was more than love-
I and my Annabel Lee;
With a love that the winged seraphs of heaven
Coveted her and me.

And this was the reason that, long ago,
In this kingdom by the sea,
A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling
My beautiful Annabel Lee;
So that her highborn kinsman came
And bore her away from me,
To shut her up in a sepulchre
In this kingdom by the sea.

The angels, not half so happy in heaven,
Went envying her and me-
Yes!- that was the reason (as all men know,
In this kingdom by the sea)
That the wind came out of the cloud by night,
Chilling and killing my Annabel Lee.

But our love it was stronger by far than the love
Of those who were older than we-
Of many far wiser than we-
And neither the angels in heaven above,
Nor the demons down under the sea,
Can ever dissever my soul from the soul
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee.

For the moon never beams without bringing me dreams
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And the stars never rise but I feel the bright eyes
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side
Of my darling- my darling- my life and my bride,
In the sepulchre there by the sea,
In her tomb by the sounding sea.

Poe, of course, was just simply not good at happy endings, in poetry, fiction or real life. You can see it in The Bells (notice the neat tie-in to Phil Ochs yesterday) where he starts pleasantly enough with merry sleigh bells:

Hear the sledges with the bells- Silver bells! What a world of merriment their melody foretells! How they tinkle, tinkle, tinkle, In the icy air of night! While the stars that oversprinkle All the heavens, seem to twinkle With a crystalline delight; Keeping time, time, time, In a sort of Runic rhyme, To the tintinnabulation that so musically wells From the bells, bells, bells, bells, Bells, bells, bells- From the jingling and the tinkling of the bells.

moves on to mellow happy wedding bells, and then suddenly stabs into that golden rapture with the terror of loud brazen "alarum" bells, segueing into solemn mounrful iron church bells, the sort rung for a death, then finishing with a weird twist:

And who, tolling, tolling, tolling, In that muffled monotone, Feel a glory in so rolling On the human heart a stone- They are neither man nor woman- They are neither brute nor human- They are Ghouls: And their king it is who tolls; And he rolls, rolls, rolls, Rolls A paean from the bells! And his merry bosom swells With the paean of the bells! And he dances, and he yells; Keeping time, time, time, In a sort of Runic rhyme, To the paean of the bells- Of the bells: Keeping time, time, time, In a sort of Runic rhyme, To the throbbing of the bells- Of the bells, bells, bells- To the sobbing of the bells; Keeping time, time, time, As he knells, knells, knells, In a happy Runic rhyme, To the rolling of the bells- Of the bells, bells, bells: To the tolling of the bells, Of the bells, bells, bells, bells- Bells, bells, bells- To the moaning and the groaning of the bells.

Not a cheerful man, no. A bride is a betrayer, every beloved dies, and happiness is only in a dream. Still, for all the horrors he wrote, Poe believed in a love that outlived death and death itself was no tragedy when it came with love, or brought him back to his love, or separated him only briefly from his love:

For Annie Thank Heaven! the crisis- The danger is past, And the lingering illness Is over at last- And the fever called "Living" Is conquered at last.

Sadly, I know
I am shorn of my strength,
And no muscle I move
As I lie at full length-
But no matter!-I feel
I am better at length.

And I rest so composedly,
Now, in my bed
That any beholder
Might fancy me dead-
Might start at beholding me,
Thinking me dead.

The moaning and groaning,
The sighing and sobbing,
Are quieted now,
With that horrible throbbing
At heart:- ah, that horrible,
Horrible throbbing!

The sickness- the nausea-
The pitiless pain-
Have ceased, with the fever
That maddened my brain-
With the fever called "Living"
That burned in my brain.

And oh! of all tortures
That torture the worst
Has abated- the terrible
Torture of thirst
For the naphthaline river
Of Passion accurst:-
I have drunk of a water
That quenches all thirst:-

Of a water that flows,
With a lullaby sound,
From a spring but a very few
Feet under ground-
From a cavern not very far
Down under ground.

And ah! let it never
Be foolishly said
That my room it is gloomy
And narrow my bed;
For man never slept
In a different bed-
And, to sleep, you must slumber
In just such a bed.

My tantalized spirit
Here blandly reposes,
Forgetting, or never
Regretting its roses-
Its old agitations
Of myrtles and roses:

For now, while so quietly
Lying, it fancies
A holier odor
About it, of pansies-
A rosemary odor,
Commingled with pansies-
With rue and the beautiful
Puritan pansies.

And so it lies happily,
Bathing in many
A dream of the truth
And the beauty of Annie-
Drowned in a bath
Of the tresses of Annie.

She tenderly kissed me,
She fondly caressed,
And then I fell gently
To sleep on her breast-
Deeply to sleep
From the heaven of her breast.

When the light was extinguished,
She covered me warm,
And she prayed to the angels
To keep me from harm-
To the queen of the angels
To shield me from harm.

And I lie so composedly,
Now, in my bed,
(Knowing her love)
That you fancy me dead-
And I rest so contentedly,
Now, in my bed,
(With her love at my breast)
That you fancy me dead-
That you shudder to look at me,
Thinking me dead.

But my heart it is brighter
Than all of the many
Stars in the sky,
For it sparkles with Annie-
It glows with the light
Of the love of my Annie-
With the thought of the light
Of the eyes of my Annie.

Posted by dichroic at 03:47 PM | Comments (0)

coming and going and busy both ways (also a mild labor rant)

Regatta photos below - go look. I'll wait.

-- files nails --

Things are stacking up to do both before we leave for Philly and after we get back. Given what November has been like, I was sort of thinking of not bothering to get out of bed the weekend after Thaknssgiving, but it's looking like that may not be an option. Of course after all that travel, the house is a disaster and the larder is empty. My socks are self-destructing at an alarming rate, and so far I've bought approximately one holiday present. That wouldn't be a problem, with Chanukah not beginning until Christmas Eve this year, but my mother and brother's birthdays are toward the beginning of December. I think I'll just wait until we visit to see what they might need. Rudder's birthday and Christmas gifts are also complicated by the fact that we still have no idea what we'll be doing next year, and two of our possible options include putting most of our stuff into storage.

Among other things I have to do before we leave is to pack up my entire office. Thanks to a new corporate policy I'm being moved out of my nice private roomy office into an eensy cube. A duoible one, in a room with ten other people. As you might imagine, I am not thrilled about this. I dislike cubicles both in practice and in principle; I don't believe people get as much done with no privacy and no space. The noise from others is distracting and I don't think it says much for the respect given to employees' dignity.

Someone said, "Well, at least you still have a job," and I don't like that philosophy either. The company doesn't hire me as a kind gesture; it pays me the amount it thinks I'm worth to perform a necessary job. If it decides that job is not necessary, it will not keep me around out of charity. In other words, I think I'm as valuable to my employer as they are to me. I even think my company realizes it, though they may forget it now and then in zea to reward stockholders. It's a two -way street, though; that principle implies they need to treat me with respect, but it also means I need to make damn sure I earn my paycheck, because they don't give it to be just because they like me just as I am. That may be a radical view on both sides, but I don't think it should be.

Posted by dichroic at 12:13 PM | Comments (3)

November 15, 2005

Marathon pics

Me at the end of the race:

All the Outlaw rowers just after the finish:

With my medal:

Old Salt with his medal:

Loading up the van to go home:

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

More marathon memories

Assorted other memories from the weekend:

It was only yesterday that I realized on Saturday after the race, I'd had dinner with (among others) three men over sixty who had just rowed a marathon. And who all look OK in shorts. I mean, when I was young I used to see old men in shorts at the swim club. They had nasty pasty legs with no muscle and they'd wear black socks with their shorts and it all just seemed unnatural and uncomfortable for them. These old rower guys were wearing shorts or jeans because that's what you wear when it's fairly warm out and you're eating dinner at a pub. It looked right on them, and comfortable, and I won't mind at all if I look like a female version when I'm in my sixties.

The funniest part was when Old Salt, who is all of 6 years younger, commented about another rower, "Do you believe he's sixty-nine??" Well, he is a pretty young 69, but from down here, rowing a marathon at 69 doesn't look a whole lot more improbably than rowing it at 63.

It turns out that the Mobile Monet has her own website. It's always more comfortable when you can look at the work of someone you like and realize you like it a lot, too. Take a look. I can just about draw something so it's recognizable, so I'm always impressed at people who can paint at all, let alone paint well. Judging by the awards list, though, in her case other people think so too.

They've just gotten home, so we'll be getting the stuff we sent in the van tonight. This includes the camera bag, so with luck I'll have time to post a couple of race pictures before leaving again Friday.

Stevie Mo's girlfriend is learning to knit, and is just at the garter-stitch scarf stage, so both he and she were very impressed with my socks. I was going to show her how to purl, but then realized there might be something even more basic she needed, so I asked whether she knew how to undo a stitch. She didn't, so I showed her. Funny how differently people learn. I think as soon as I knew how to knit a stitch, it was pretty obvious to me how to undo it; apparently an engineering mind is more useful in knitting than one would suppose. On the other hand, she's majoring in Pastoral Studies, learning to be a hospital chaplain. I'm not sure I could possibly learn to do that job well at all, having all the empathy of your average rock. (I have compassion, just not empathy - can't read people well.)

I've figured out what we can do if we get bored in Philadelphia next week: movies. Generally, there are either too many movies I want to watch, or more commonly, nothing. Right now there are too many: Goblet of Fire, Chronicles of Narnia, Pride and Prejudice, Walk the Line, Mirrormask, even Chicken Little. This might be a good time to catch up, and that might even be something we can do with my dad, who is difficult to interest in anything.

Posted by dichroic at 03:57 PM | Comments (0)

O is for Oliver and Ochs

The final tally was: 3 votes for Mary Oliver, 4 plus an email for Phil Ochs, and 5 for both, which sounds to me like a mandate for both, for some definition of "mandate". (Mostly, in this case, because the votes for each of the two are close.)

So, is for Mary Oliver and Phil Ochs.

Mary Oliver is a poet I keep discovering, forgetting, and rediscovering. All this proves is that my memory has gone to shit, because her poems are certanly not forgettable. Each time I rediscover them, they strike a chord in me and I remember that I'd loved them before. (Also, some websites that list her poetry include a photo, and the thick black glasses she wears are instantly recognizable.) A lot of recent poetry strikes me as deliberate abstruseness simply for a sake of showing off, a sort of "I'm deeper than you" one-upmanship. (I do realize this may show a lack in me, rather than in the poets I've read.) Oliver's poems are like a good novel: layered enough to repay further study, but telling a good story clearly enough to get you hooked on first reading. In the poems of hers I love best, there's always that top note of a clarion call that rings in your blood. In this one, one of her best known, she somehow combines that clarion call from the wild geese with a reassurance that it is OK to be only human - and that we are still part of the thrill of the natural world.

Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting--
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

Her poetry is balanced on a fine edge; it tends to be instructive, teaching how to live, while avoiding the didacticism of Pope or the empty urgings to "Live!" that seem to cycle back into fashion every few decades, and she has a deep connection to nature that avoids the sentimentality of the Romantics or their convition that only man is vile:

The Swan

Did you too see it, drifting, all night, on the black river?
Did you see it in the morning, rising into the silvery air -
An armful of white blossoms,
A perfect commotion of silk and linen as it leaned
into the bondage of its wings; a snowbank, a bank of lilies,
Biting the air with its black beak?
Did you hear it, fluting and whistling
A shrill dark music - like the rain pelting the trees - like a waterfall
Knifing down the black ledges?
And did you see it, finally, just under the clouds -
A white cross Streaming across the sky, its feet
Like black leaves, its wings Like the stretching light of the river?
And did you feel it, in your heart, how it pertained to everything?
And have you too finally figured out what beauty is for?
And have you changed your life?

Phil Ochs is best known for his protest songs, like the Draft Dodger Rag or Outside of a Small Circle of Friends. Some, like There But for Fortune are painfully topical still. But Phil was nothing if not prolific both as composer and lyricist, and it's easy to lose track of some of his most beautiful songs becaue there are just so many of them. His appreciation for poetry is evident in his settings of Edgar Allen Poe's The Bells and of Alfred Noyes' The Highwayman (same poem, different setting than Loreena McKennitt's version). In the later, he pulls a neat trick: Noyes' original poem is much longer than most songs now (the folk process has tended to shorten the length of older ballads) and each verse has the same rhythm so there's no chance to vary the tune for a refrain. So what Ochs did to shorten it was simply to omit every other verse. The story the ballad tells doesn't suffer at all from the omission, and the loss of repeated detail makes the poem more evocative.

Ochs' own more poetic works have also tended to be lost. My favorite is one on aging and growing out of childhood, a subject that produced sweet and nostalgic songs in the late 1960s and early 1970s ranging from Kenny Loggins' House at Pooh Corner to Bob Dylan's Dream to Jim Croce's Alabama Rain and A Long Time Ago, not to mention some a little too sickly-sweet like Seasons in the Sun and Those Were the Days, My Friend. But Ochs avoids that pitfall, even while mixing in a little mysticism:

Changes Sit by my side, come as close as the air, Share in a memory of gray; And wander in my words, dream about the pictures That I play of changes.

Green leaves of summer turn red in the fall
To brown and to yellow they fade.
And then they have to die, trapped within
the circle time parade of changes.

Scenes of my young years were warm in my mind,
Visions of shadows that shine.
'Til one day I returned and found they were the
Victims of the vines of changes.

The world's spinning madly, it drifts in the dark
Swings through a hollow of haze,
A race around the stars, a journey through
The universe ablaze with changes.

Moments of magic will glow in the night
All fears of the forest are gone
But when the morning breaks they're swept away by
Golden drops of dawn, of changes.

Passions will part to a strange melody.
As fires will sometimes burn cold.
Like petals in the wind, we're puppets to the silver
strings of souls, of changes.

Your tears will be trembling, now we're somewhere else,
One last cup of wine we will pour
And I'll kiss you one more time, and leave you on
the rolling river shores of changes.

And sometimes he managed to combine a sweet tune and pretty words with his bitter messages, as in Flower Lady and the sadly prophetic No More Songs. I don't know whether he was contemplating his suicide yet when he wrote this:

No More Songs

Hello, hello, hello
Is there anybody home?
I've only called to say
I'm sorry.
The drums are in the dawn,
and all the voices gone.
And it seems that there are no more songs.

Once I knew a girl
She was a flower in a flame
I loved her as the sea sinks/sings(?) sadly
Now the ashes of the dream
Can be found in the magazines.
And it seems that there are no more songs.

Once I knew a sage
who sang upon the stage
He told about the world,
His lover.
A ghost without a name,
Stands ragged in the rain.
And it seems that there are no more songs.

The rebels they were here
They came beside the door
They told me that the moon was bleeding
Then all to my suprise,
They took away my eyes.
And it seems that there are no more songs.

A star is in the sky,
It's time to say goodbye.
A whale is on the beach,
He's dying.
A white flag in my hand,
And a white bone in the sand.
And it seems that there are no more songs.

Hello, hello, hello
Is there anybody home?
I've only called to say
I'm sorry.
The drums are in the dawn,
and all the voices gone.
And it seems that there are no more songs.

It seems that there are no more songs.
It seems that there are no more songs.

By the way, I couldn't do this series without all the sites online paying tribute to the poets I've written about, both the anthologies and the sites attempting to collect all or a sampling of the works of one particular writer. At the end of this series, I'll collect the links and post a bibliography.

Posted by dichroic at 12:43 PM | Comments (0)

November 14, 2005

marathon roundup

I am being brave and trying prepackaged cafeteria sushi. It's cooked stuff (krab) but still, if I don't show up to write tomorrow, you may all blame the sushi.

Slightly later: Bleah. No better than you'd expected cafeteria sushi to be, but with the added bonus of Extreme Wasabi. I have a reasonably high wasabi tolerance, but this stuff was painful, so much so that I actually wiped some of it back off my sushi. (With my finger, which I hope won't be a problem eight hours and several handwashings from now when I remove my contact lenses.)

So, the marathon report. It was a very good weekend, possibly not quite as much fun as last year when we had both an extra day and She-Hulk with us, but very good nonetheless. We had several things go wrong and several right; the former were (ultimately) fixable and the latter pleasant.

First, when I checked into security, they confiscated my rower's wrench. This thing is about six inches long, 1/8" thick aluminum, with an open wrench at one end and hex-shaped holes in it to act as wrenches in other sizes, and is about as innocuous as a small piece of metal can be. Apparently there's a "no tools" rule, though, so security had to take it just in case I figured out how to commit mayhem with it. (Tweak someone's nose, maybe?) Meanwhile, apparently bringing on sharp metal knitting needles is not a problem. The next issue was minor, but annoying. When Rudder and I got on the plane, I realized that I'd forgotten that on last weekend's trip I'd finished out the skein of yarn on the cabled scarf I'm knitting, and hadn't brought any more. Fortunatley, I'd brought the Telecon socks as a backup project, so I did have something to knit on the flight and the drive, but the scarf is intended for a present and so has a deadline, and it was disappointing to miss out on all that knitting time. At least now I know what to do in this weekend's flight to Philly.

We got to the airport in Houston just as the Old Salt and family were getting ready to leave their son Stevie Mo's place to come get us, so didn't have too long to wait (cell phones make complicated trips so much easier). They picked us up, then we went to get his girlfriend, who lives in the Rice Village, which is pretty much the coolest part of Houston. (She's a grad student and bartends at our former favorite pub there, even.) The drive to Louisiana was fairly uneventful. Once we got there, we went straight to the race start, to unload and rig our boats. This is an extremely well-organized event; one aspect of this is that the race organizers, Northwestern State University, have students camping there overnight to make sure the boats are OK. While unloading, I was standing on the van's driver seat, and went I went to get down I slipped, hurtnig my hand as I grabbed the van on the way down. It left swelling and bruising on the fleshy pad below my right thumb, a it worrying with 26 miles to row the next day. When we began to rig, we ran into the next snag, the most serious problem of the trip: in the fuss of packing, the Old Salt had somehow managed to leave the foot stretchers for his double back home. The foot stretchers are the shoes and the assembly that braces them and connects them to the boat, and it is not possible to row without them, because rowing shells have sliding seats, and the feet are the fixed point. We were terrified that after three days of driving, the Old Salt and Dr. Bosun wouldn't be able to race.

We took a two-pronged approach, after much discussion and throwing ourselves on the mercy of the locals and anyone who'd brought a trailer. The Mobile Monet, Dr. Bosun, Stevie Mo and his GF went to a hardware store, where they bought various chunks of wood, tools, nuts, bolts, washers, and anything else they could think of to construct some sort of substitute foot stretcher from scratch, while the Old Salt went with one of the local crew's students to their boathouse to see whether they could find anything to borrow that might fit. During all the talking, Rudder and I had finished rigging our singles, so we rode with the Old Salt and the students. We were in the back of the pickup and it was glorious: rolling through a rural Lousiana sunset on a warm November evening. All we needed were a couple of beers to make it perfection, though of course on the day before a marathon, we wouldn't have been able to drink them on the day if we'd had them. The college crew didn't have any spare doubles that weren't racing, but someone at the boathouse had the brilliant idea of borrowing the stretchers from the bow seats of a couple of their more beat-up old eights, because the boats are narrowest at the bow ends. The students couldn't have been more helpful, and as a result of the Old Salt's appreaciation there will now be a coupole of Arizona Outlaw hats sported in Northern Louisiana. After drilling out the attachment holes to make them into slots and a little work from the fancy new Leatherman tool Stevie Mo had fortuitously brought along, we were able to get the footstretchers to fit well enough to work for the race, a huge relief for everyone.

The next issue was that the PortaJohns didn't show up when they were supposed to before the race. When you're about to spend 3-5 hours in a boat, believe me, you want to empty out a bit first. Thhe truck finally showed up, naturally, right after Dr. Bosun and I had given up and found a couple of bushes.

The race itself was painful, of course, but no more than expected. I tried to pay attention so I'd remember the whole experience, but I mostly remember it in flashes. There are some gorgeous houses along Cane River Lake. The weather was much better than last year, so there were a lot of people sitting out on their porches to watch the race go by; since I was in a single this year it was reassuring to think there were people around in case I'd had any problems. Since I was rowing harder than last year, no pee breaks were required, which of course helped my time a lot. The high point of the race for me was when a men's four from my old club in Texas went by. I yelled "Go, BARC!" and they hollered back over. Their bow rower was in a men's eight that I coxed and Rudder bowed for a few years, so we know him well. As they went by me, he called to his crew, "Let's give Dichroic a hip hip hurrah. Hip, Hip!" The other rowers responded, "Hurrah!" "Hip, Hip!" "Hurrah!" "Hip, Hip!" "Hurrah!"

There were some gusty headwinds that made it impossible for me to maintain the splits I wanted the whole time, though otherwise I wasn't too far off. As the Old Salt said, the most frustrating thing was that just as you'd come around a turn that should have changed the wind into a tailwind, it would die down.
My back and butt hurt afterward, and though I was able to slide out of the boat, I needed help standing. The worst injury was my hands. I think it was because I did a higher percentage of my training on the erg than on the water this year that they weren't as tought as they should have been; there were not only the expected blisters, but also heat and tenderness in the rest of my hand, in areas that don't even touch the oar all that much. Fortunately, the bruise form the day before didn't cause any problems. I put my gloves on at ten km into the race, took them off at 20, put them back on at 30km and kept them on from there out; the gloves themselves cuased a few extra blisters in odd spots, but rowing with them didn't hurt nearly as much as rowing without them. Even so, I rowed the final ten km trying to figure out how to row without touching the oars with my hands. I'd get a hold in a position that was just tolerable, then have to readjust to minimize the pain again after every stop. Final tally: sore butt, sore lower back, sore elbows, hip joints that felt inflamed (better by that evening), about 5 blisters per hand, and glowing red, sensitive palms. Not too bad for five hours in a boat.

I didn't quite make my goal of finishing under 5 hours, and I think the hands were the reason. I had more power in my legs, but just couldn't apply it to the oars. Still, I finished in 5:02, which is pretty close, and it's a full forty minutes faster than in the double last year. Rudder didn't quite break the course record, and the double finished in 4:17 and change, More importantly, Rudder, the Old Salt and Dr. Bosun, and I all won our races! That's four Arizona Outlaws, four gold medals!

Granted, that's because I was the only one in my race, but I'll take it - and after rowing a whole marathon in a single, I feel I earned that medal no matter who was or wasn't there. Plus. I came in ahead of quite a few other boats, not only the eights who started way after me but also some singles who should have started around when I did, so I'm waiting eagerly until results are up to see all the other times.

After the medals ceremony, Rudder and I went to our hotel room to shower and lay down and recover. Having taken the whole course at a much higher speed, he was feeling worse than I was despite having been off the course for two hours longer. After an hour or so, I decided to go for a walk to stratch out. Almost as soon as I left the hotel, I ran into the Old Salt and Dr. Bosun, and walked around with them for a while. We made sure to see the Natchitoches Walk of Fame, then headed home to meet everyone else for dinner. We met a couple of rowers from Los Gatos (a club in San Diego) for dinner at a pub down the street, and enjoyed conversation and beer over po'boys and etouffee. This is a pub the locals hang out at, not just for tourists. The row of them out front as we entered and left made sure we knew it, too. "We like tourists. We hear they taste like chicken!" I answered, "Reassuring that you only know from hearsay!"

The ride back to Houston was OK, and I did manage to finish my second sock (Despite not having the ends woven in, I'm wearing them now, in fact.) Though we got to the airport unreasonably earlyl again, somehow the wait there wasn't quite as excruciating as it was last year, and the flight home wasn't too bad. Fortunately the seats in the van, at the airport and on the plane were cushy enough not to abuse our still-sore butts. I'm enough better by now to be sitting on my usual Swiss Ball/office chair; the joints are all fine, the palms are better, the back is only a little stiff, and the blisters have deflated.

And did I mention I won a medal??

Posted by dichroic at 02:33 PM | Comments (7)

November 10, 2005

N is for Ogden Nash

I won't get to O until next week after the marathon and associated trip, so if anyone else wants to vote, there's plenty of time.

While I'm on N, I'd like to start by giving thanks to the editors of the Norton Anthology of Poetry. I was assigned it as the textbook for my Poetry class freshman year, and it's probably gotten more post-class reading than all of my other college texts combined. I think I have the Third Edition. The covers are creased and curling, the page corners are bent, and it gives the general impression of a book that has been well-loved. It's a huge book, with everything from anonymous fourteenth century ballads on up to what may have been almost the first twentieth-century poetry I'd read that wasn't either magazine doggerel or part of a book and meant to advance the story. It was probably my first exposure to the world of poetry beyond the Victorian- or frontier-influenced collections of Favorite Verses or the standard Great Works included in high school or junior high text books. I have several other poetry volumes now, but the Norton is still my go-to anthology when I want to look something up, and the only collection I know that has a broader selection of English verse is the Internet itself.

This is an appropriate choice for two days after I discussed Edward Lear:

is for Ogden Nash, who in some ways did for adults what Lear did for children.

Though his verse is as silly as Lear's at times, it shows a sardonic sensibility that conjures up the great Hollywood comedies of the 1930s and 1940s:

What's the use? Sure, deck your limbs in pants, Yours are the limbs, my sweeting. You look divine as you advance . . . Have you seen yourself retreating?

The verse form varies with the subject, and the scansion is perfect except when it deliberately isn't, reminding me of the advice to abstract artists to learn the rules so you know how to break them. Like Lear, Nash never let lack of a rhyme stop him:

Introspective Reflection

I would live all my life in nonchalance and insouciance
Were it not for making a living, which is rather a nouciance.

As a pilot, I can't resist this one:

No, You be a Lone Eagle

I find it very hard to be fair-minded
About people who go around being air-minded.
I just can't see any fun
In soaring up up up into the sun
When the chances are still a fresh cool orchid to a paper geranium
That you'll unsoar down down down onto your (to you) invaluable
I know the constant refrain
About how safer up in God's trafficless heaven than in an automobile
or a train
But ...
My God, have you ever taken a good look at a strut?
Then that one about how you're in Boston before you can say antidis-
So that preferring to take five hours by rail is a pernicious example of
At least when I get on the Boston train I have a good chance of landing
in the South Station
And not in that part of the daily press which is reserved for victims of
Then, despite the assurance that aeroplanes are terribly comfortable I
notice that when you are railroading or automobiling
You don't have to take a paper bag along just in case of a funny feeling.
It seems to me that no kind of depravity
Brings such speedy retribution as ignoring the law of gravity.
Therefore nobody could possibly indict me for perjury
When I swear that I wish the Wright brothers had gone in for silver
fox farming or tree surgery.

And yet, Nash's humor is rarely more than a little biting, and never cruel. His love for his family and joy in life come through often and vividly:

Always Marry an April Girl

Praise the spells and bless the charms,
I found April in my arms.
April golden, April cloudy,
Gracious, cruel, tender, rowdy;
April soft in flowered languor,
April cold with sudden anger,
Ever changing, ever true --
I love April, I love you.

Posted by dichroic at 01:00 PM | Comments (2)


I didn't realize anything was going on when I noticed I'd gained back a pound or so after thinking I'd lost a couple (and by the way, how do people report such precise weight gains and losses? My body can lose two pounds overnight, and there's also a noticeable monthly cycle - any weight I ever mention is no more than a rough average). I'd normally be on the heavy end of my cycle now anyway. Then this morning, even thoughI'd erged about 6km, I caught myself bounding up the stairs instead of plodding. You know what this means? This means glycogen stores! This means the taper I've been gdoing is working well and I'm storing energy for the day after tomorrow's marathon.

I'm sad that She-Hulk isn't able to go this year. She's prioritizing wisely, babying a back injury so it will heal completely and dealing with family issues, but last year was such a blast that I hate to see anything change, and of course Rudder and I both enjoy her company. I told her yesterday that I'll dedicate a thousand meters in there to her. Maybe I'll make it toward the end of the marathon, so I can make it a fast(er) thousand without having to worry about burning myself out. It probably won't be quite as much fun as last year, anyway, because last year we took an extra day to sightsee in the area, whereas this year we're just going for the race. Still, I'm looking forward both to the marathon itself and to the company on the trip there and back. The weather is predicted to cooperate, and there will be big Gulf shrimp to reward me at dinner after the race. I'm excited!

And I get two weeks off training after this. I'm excited about that too. Then the Philly trip will include getting to reprise JournalCon with a few of my favorite people from there, dinner with an old friend and a chance to see the progress on restoring his hundred-year-old house, getting to see another couple of friends' new house and to meet the new wife of their son (who I babysat as a pre-schooler, and of course a chance to catch up with family and hopefully to rest. I'm still working on a couple of other fun possibilities in the area, too *cough*Baltimore*cough*.

Posted by dichroic at 10:11 AM | Comments (2)

November 09, 2005

La lettra 'O'

There's a poll on whom I should write about for 'O', over at my LiveJournal site.

Posted by dichroic at 04:41 PM | Comments (1)

M: a doubleheader

Today, I'm doing two poets, because the coincidences amuse me.

is for Marvell and Millay.

When I posted some of Queen Elizabeth's works, someone commented on how adolescent some of it sounds. Some things never change; witness Andrew Marvell's most famous poem, To His Coy Mistress, which finishes:

But at my back I always hear Time's wingèd chariot hurrying near; And yonder all before us lie Deserts of vast eternity. Thy beauty shall no more be found, 25 Nor, in thy marble vault, shall sound My echoing song: then worms shall try That long preserved virginity, And your quaint honour turn to dust, And into ashes all my lust: 30 The grave 's a fine and private place, But none, I think, do there embrace. Now therefore, while the youthful hue Sits on thy skin like morning dew, And while thy willing soul transpires 35 At every pore with instant fires, Now let us sport us while we may, And now, like amorous birds of prey, Rather at once our time devour Than languish in his slow-chapt power. 40 Let us roll all our strength and all Our sweetness up into one ball, And tear our pleasures with rough strife Thorough the iron gates of life: Thus, though we cannot make our sun 45 Stand still, yet we will make him run.

Or in other words, "Someday we're going to die, so you need to sleep with me right now." I wonder how often that line's been used, in poetry, and at keggers.

Millay wrote the gamut of youth, the good and the bad. It's not the only thing she wrote about, of course, and I don't even think it's what she meant to write about in this poem. I think she meant to capture the small moments of beauty in life, and how much they can mean when not much else in beautiful. But maybe because I first met it in a teenage book, this poem, for me, has always captured that moment when you're walking with your friends at the mall on a Friday night, and The Boy walks by, and he looks at you, and you decide it means you are in True Love Forever:


My heart, being hungry, feeds on food
The fat of heart despise.
Beauty where beauty never stood,
And sweet where no sweet lies
I gather to my querulous need,
Having a growing heart to feed.

It may be when my heart is full,
Having attained its girth,
I shall not find so beautiful
The meagre shapes of earth,
Nor linger in the rain to mark
The smell of tansy in the dark.

On the other hand, I think I read "First Fig" as Millay meant it to be read. It conjures up the moments, maybe in college, where you stayed up too late every night because if you had missed those nights and the people and conversations in them, the rest of your life would have been poorer:

First Fig

My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends ­
It gives a lovely light!

Millay herself tried to describe exactly that sort of night:


WE were very tired, we were very merry—
We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry.
It was bare and bright, and smelled like a stable—
But we looked into a fire, we leaned across a table,
We lay on a hill-top underneath the moon;
And the whistles kept blowing, and the dawn came soon.

We were very tired, we were very merry—
We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry;
And you ate an apple, and I ate a pear,
From a dozen of each we had bought somewhere;
And the sky went wan, and the wind came cold,
And the sun rose dripping, a bucketful of gold.

We were very tired, we were very merry,
We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry.
We hailed "Good morrow, mother!" to a shawl-covered head,
And bought a morning paper, which neither of us read;
And she wept, "God bless you!" for the apples and pears,
And we gave her all our money but our subway fares.

She also wrote about sex, both within and without love, about being alive, and about being a woman. I don't know what else Marvell wrote, but I think they would have liked each other. For a night, at least.

Posted by dichroic at 04:34 PM | Comments (0)

I wost my special widdle boddle, wah

Not that I usually mind a trip to REI, but twice in one week is a little excessive. I went on Monday, bought a dry bag so I can take my cell phone along on the marathon in case of emergencies and a whole slew of other stuff because, well, it's REI and I'm like that. Then I got home and realized I couldn't find my water bottle anywhere. My best guess is that it got overlooked in a pile of stuff on Sunday in Newport.

*pout*. Not that we don't have shitloads of water bottles around the house, but this was my special bottle. My special blue bottle, highly customized. Basically, it's a flexible Nalgene bottle with its top cut off and a mountain-bike top put on instead, in a holster originally designed for another brand of bottle. (I gave up on the original bottle in that holster, after it came open unexpectedly a couple of times.)

It holds more water than a standard bottle, which is important both for normal summer practices and for this weekend's marathon, but isn't as fat as a regular 32-oz bottle. This is important because I have small hands and because when our hands are full carrying a boat, rowers tend to shove our water bottles into the back of our spandex shorts for hands-free carrying. I really don't want a bottle that's so big my shorts will fall down, or one that pulls them out so far my whole butt is on display. The mountain bike lid allows me to drink with one hand, which is important while managing two oars in a tippy boat, and the flip top keeps sand out of the mouthpiece if I drop it on the boach. The holster protects the bottle from punctures, makes it easier to see and grab, provides a belt clip in case I need to hook it on to something, and probably feels better when shoved down shorts as described above.

Or to put it briefly, I am NOT happy about losing this bottle. I was able to buy a new soft bottle at REI today, plus another bottle with a mountain-bike lid I can use on it (Rudder just had a mtn-bike bottle fail aftrer years of use, so the extra bottle won't go to waste. Unfortunately, though, they didn't have the holster. At least it's still available on the website.

What I may do for the marathon, anyway, instead of taking the two separate bottles I'd need, is just to throw in a Camelbak instead. One container, 100 oz, and the tube should make it easy enough to drink from while racing. We are not shy on hydration-related gear in our house.

Fluids in the bottle will consist of diluted Gatorade: not too sweet, but it seems to work better for me than plain water. I will also bring 2-3 Luna bars, energy gel (Gu or similar) and possible Clif Blocks, which are sort of like solidified Gu. Tasty, huh? No worries, though: between the big Creole shrimp with heads on that seem to be common in Natchitoches, and the gumbop they'll serve us after the regatta, I'll make up for it.

Posted by dichroic at 01:30 PM | Comments (0)

November 08, 2005

L is for Edward Lear

I thought about the comparative merits of Amy Lowell (whom I know better from A. Edward Newton's stories of her as a book collector) and Vachel Lindsay, whose troubling Congo (another ambivalent case of what would not be considered racism at the time) is remembered, while other works are forgotten. And doubtless any real poetry appreciator worth her salt would write about Robert Lowell, but I'm not familiar enough with his poems to have much to say about them.

Instead, like the deep and thoughtful person I am, I will write about the undoubted master of the clean limerick.

is for Edward Lear.

There was an Old Man with a nose, Who said, 'If you choose to suppose, That my nose is too long, You are certainly wrong!' That remarkable Man with a nose.

Lear never let lack of a word (or of sense for that matter) get in the way of a good poem, whether in the limericks he is best known for:

There was a Young Person of Crete, Whose toilette was far from complete; She dressed in a sack, Spickle-speckled with black, That ombliferous person of Crete.

or in other works:

EPITAPH "Beneath these high Cathedral stairs Lie the remains of Susan Pares. Her name was Wiggs, it was not Pares, But Pares was put to rhyme with stairs."

I could try to analyze Lear's rhythm and his nonsense words and their appeal, but why both. I'm much too lazy, and anyhow, no child (or adult) who has had Lear read to him or her ever doubted the meaning of the verses, any more than those who were read Lear's spiritual descendent, Dr. Seuss. Lear's verses are best aloud, and best read with someone who will giggle over them. I like his longer works better than the lyrics; they're still silly, and still melodious, and the story is better. Anyone who wants to go off adventuring can sympathize with the Jumblies, beset by their doom-prophesying friends:

I They went to sea in a Sieve, they did, In a Sieve they went to sea: In spite of all their friends could say, On a winter's morn, on a stormy day, In a Sieve they went to sea! And when the Sieve turned round and round, And every one cried, 'You'll all be drowned!' They called aloud, 'Our Sieve ain't big, But we don't care a button! we don't care a fig! In a Sieve we'll go to sea!' Far and few, far and few, Are the lands where the Jumblies live; Their heads are green, and their hands are blue, And they went to sea in a Sieve.
Five verses later, they triumph, however:
VI And in twenty years they all came back, In twenty years or more, And every one said, 'How tall they've grown! For they've been to the Lakes, and the Torrible Zone, And the hills of the Chankly Bore!' And they drank their health, and gave them a feast Of dumplings made of beautiful yeast; And every one said, 'If we only live, We too will go to sea in a Sieve,--- To the hills of the Chankly Bore!' Far and few, far and few, Are the lands where the Jumblies live; Their heads are green, and their hands are blue, And they went to sea in a Sieve.

They sailed away in a Sieve, they did,
In a Sieve they sailed so fast,
With only a beautiful pea-green veil
Tied with a riband by way of a sail,
To a small tobacco-pipe mast;
And every one said, who saw them go,
'O won't they be soon upset, you know!
For the sky is dark, and the voyage is long,
And happen what may, it's extremely wrong
In a Sieve to sail so fast!'
Far and few, far and few,
Are the lands where the Jumblies live;
Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,
And they went to sea in a Sieve.

Your favorite of Lear's (or Seuss, for that matter), is probably still the same one you asked for over and over. Mine will always be:

The Owl and the Pussy-cat went to sea
In a beautiful pea green boat,
They took some honey, and plenty of money,
Wrapped up in a five pound note.
The Owl looked up to the stars above,
And sang to a small guitar,
'O lovely Pussy! O Pussy my love,
What a beautiful Pussy you are,
You are,
You are!
What a beautiful Pussy you are!'

Pussy said to the Owl, 'You elegant fowl!
How charmingly sweet you sing!
O let us be married! too long we have tarried:
But what shall we do for a ring?'
They sailed away, for a year and a day,
To the land where the Bong-tree grows
And there in a wood a Piggy-wig stood
With a ring at the end of his nose,
His nose,
His nose,
With a ring at the end of his nose.

'Dear pig, are you willing to sell for one shilling
Your ring?' Said the Piggy, 'I will.'
So they took it away, and were married next day
By the Turkey who lives on the hill.
They dined on mince, and slices of quince,
Which they ate with a runcible spoon;
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
They danced by the light of the moon,
The moon,
The moon,
They danced by the light of the moon.

I suppose it would be too much of the same thing to write about Milne tomorrow, for the M's. Bother.

Posted by dichroic at 01:35 PM | Comments (0)

getting ready to row really far

I had better not be coming down with a cold. Germs can have their way with me on or after November 26, but they are not allowed to have any effect before.

I'm optimistically choosing to believe that I woke up with sinuses fuller than usual and swollen tonsils because of the change from coast back to desert weather, or a pressure change or something. My tonsils and sinuses do often react that way, so it's more likely than not true.

After work today I'll be meeting the Old Salt, his wife the Mobile Monet (she paints in the car on long trips, as well as while stationary on an easel), and Dr. Bosun to load up our boats. (Rudder will get there late, because he's got a telecon with Japan.) They'll be driving out to Houston; we'll fly there on Friday, meet them and their son who lives there plus his girlfriend, then all ride together the rest of the way to Natchitoches. The Old Salt and Dr. Bosun will be rowing a double in the marathon, while Rudder and I wil be in singles.

A lot of Rudder's and my rowing gear will be going with them, so I don't have to carry it on the plane. I've been making a list to make sure everything I need makes it into either in their van or my suitcase; it worries me a bit that I'm up to 21 items and I haven't even gotten to clothes to wear while not racing, just stuff I need during or just before the race. However, it's not as bad as that sounds. Some items are small, like band-aids and first-aid tape; some are things that hold other things, like the bottles to hold water and Gatorade or the dry bag to hold my phone for emergencies; some are things I may or may not wear depending on the temperature or will take off right before I get in the boat.

We all have goals for our race. Ironically enough, Rudder's and mine are similar; we both hope to beat our time in our respective mixed doubles boats last year. Of course, the specifics are a little different: he and She-Hulk set a course record in their category, while the Old Salt and I were slower than everyone except a few of the canoes and kayaks. Actually, I'm hoping to break 5 hours, and I think I have a good shot at it, but failing that I'd be happy enough to beat last year's 5:42. The Old Salt and Dr. Bosun have been doing a lot more training than he and I did last year, and they're hoping to break 4 hours. It's what the corporate types call a "stretch goal" for them, as is Rudder's, but they should be doable. I cheated a little; my own goal only requires an average split of 3:30, including breaks. I hope to row at a split of 3:00 or not much slower, so as long as I don't take as many breaks as we did last year, I'll be good.

Also, an artifact of yesterday's drive home, coupled with an NPR story on short poetry and something I'd been thinking about a while back:

Or, The View From My Office Parking Lot

It's always a perfect sky, he said,
It's always a perfect sky.

Where the earth has been ravaged
Where Nature is savaged

Wildflowers plowed under
And trees torn asunder

The land has been paved,
And no beauty is saved,

Look up! to a still-perfect sky.

Posted by dichroic at 12:42 PM | Comments (0)

November 07, 2005

"Why, you naughty boy. I've never Kippled!"

Today's choice is easy for me, a poet about whom I've written before, another one whose work my mother used to read me when I was too young to read it myself. It was when I was older, though, that I learned how much he'd written and found the pieces that rang truer for me.

is for Kipling.

"Something hidden. Go and find it. Go and look behind the Ranges -- "Something lost behind the Ranges. Lost and waiting for you. Go!"

That phrase rings up and down my spine every time I read it. Rudyard Kipling understood discontent, understood always wanting to know more, to go elsewhere, to see something new.

"Because my price was paid me ten times over by my Maker. But you wouldn't understand it. You go up and occupy."

He never quite understood that the White Man's Burden was a fallacy with tragic results, made up by himself rather than a law of nature, or that love for your own country doesn't have to mean trying to make the rest of the world look like it. Imperialism and its attendant racism were bred into the Victorians and Kipling never managed to escape it. But he had a few moments of glimmering on the verge of insight, with Tommy's respect for Fuzzy-Wuzzy, who "broke a British square" and for Gunga Din, who "didn't seem to know the use of fear":

'E would skip with our attack, An' watch us till the bugles made "Retire." An' for all 'is dirty 'ide, 'E was white, clear white, inside 45 When 'e went to tend the wounded under fire!

So I'll meet 'im later on
In the place where 'e is gone— 75
Where it's always double drill and no canteen;
'E'll be squattin' on the coals
Givin' drink to pore damned souls,
An' I'll get a swig in Hell from Gunga Din!

Din! Din! Din! 80
You Lazarushian-leather Gunga Din!
Tho' I've belted you an' flayed you,
By the livin' Gawd that made you,
You're a better man than I am, Gunga Din!

But even when Tommy wants to desert his twenty housemaids for a "neater, sweeter maiden in a cleaner, greener land", he and apparently his creator never quite managed to generalize individual nobility to general equality of worth.

So why read Kipling? Because his country's Imperialism is dismayingly reminiscent of my country's sometimes. It is a foul upsetting thing that we still send soldiers off to battle and then forget about them.

Because every so often, the variety of people the Empire let him meet did seem to teach something about respecting different paths:

IN FAITHS and Food and Books and Friends Give every soul her choice. For such as follow divers ends In divers lights rejoice. There is a glory of the Sun (’Pity it passeth soon!) But those whose work is nearer done Look, rather, towards the Moon.

There is a glory of the Moon
When the hot hours have run;
But such as have not touched their noon
Give worship to the Sun.

There is a glory of the Stars,
Perfect on stilly ways;
But such as follow present wars
Pursue the Comet’s blaze.

There is a glory in all things;
But each must find his own,
Sufficient for his reckonings,
Which is to him alone.

And mostly because, past the eminently singable words and the tarnish of time passed and the muck of Imperalism, sometimes Kipling's words flashed truth and poetry. So many of them are war poems, whose truths I hate to hear because they still apply so vividly. Some of them tell of days that are gone, ones I'm glad are past and ones I wish I'd seen. Some are just funny. Sometimes, no matter how much repetition has made them sound hackneyed, there's a truth worth hearing again. I have a few words taped on my rowing machine at home; when we've had our erg marathons I've copied them and taped them to the machine I was using. And I will copy the same words and bring them with me to Lousiana this weekend, and if I remember to bring tape, I will tape them on my boat where I can look at them for 42,195 meters up Cane River Lake:

"Hold On" --- the Will
Posted by dichroic at 03:46 PM | Comments (1)

three down, two (or three?) to go

Well. Three down and either two or three to go. JournalCon was great, as squee'd about here, and even the only part I was a little nervous about, the solo drive to and from San Diego, was enjoyable. (How characteristic is it that I was nervous about two 6 hour solo drives and maybe a touch about finding my way through San Diego, but not much at all about spending a weekend in a hotel partying with near-strangers? Of course, once you've read someone's diary for a few years, they're not really strangers at all.) Last weekend's regatta went better than expected, since dock traffic was light enough that working as Dockmaster didn't tire me out for my race and I missed winning my race only because of another woman's age handicap. This weekend's races weren't quite as good, but I got to practice survival in adversity and Rudder got to win some spousal brownie points.

The weather was perfect for both days' races. At Marina del Rey, the race course actually is through a huge marina, and it's not possible to see more than a tiny bit of the end of the race. Instead of sitting around all day, I asked the race's Dockmaster if he could use a spare pair of hands. That was my big mistake.

He was glad to have the help; launch for that race is from a couple of cconnecting docks. The biggest one is not generally used for rowing, because there's a big supporting post and railing sticking up from the end of it. Normally in launching a racing shell you get in, then use your hands to push yourself down the dock, starting to row only once the oars are clear. On this dock, the railing would be in the way. Maybe this will help:

Direction of motion would be toward the top of the diagram. Anyway, for races they do have to use this dowck, so someone needs to be on it to push boats out and away from the dock so their oars don't get stuck on the way out, and to help pull them in, reaching out if necessary to help pull them in around the pier. It doesn't feel like hard work while you're doing it, but apparently it wears me out far worse than even racing does. It probably didn't help that I didn't drink any water while doing it. I was fine while working and even during the post-race breakfast, but got progressively tireder as we drove to our hotel and unloaded, then more or less collapsed and slept for a while. (I'm not a napper, and usually when I do there's something wrong.) By the time I woke up, I was feeling generally lousy. I tried to eat and drink some of the food we had with us, but it didn't help much. At that point, too, I was driving myself frantic with worrying about all the things ahead: the race, the next much longer race, the week-long stay at my parents. (Not that they're horrible to be with, and I'm looking forward to both the holiday dinner and to seeing friends, including a mini-JournalCon reunion. But a stay in a one-bathroom house is anxiety-provoking when you have IBS and one of the residents of the house has colitis.) I think for me that kind of squirrel-brain worrying that goes around and around and feeds on itself is a symptom and also a contributor to illness or exhaustion. I finally had to tell myself to slow down and stop thinking about it, that of all the things coming up I only had to deal with one at a time.

Rudder likes to eat a lot of protein before race days, so we picked a restaurant and I scraped myself off the bed and out into the car. By the time we got there I still wasn't feeling great. We elected to sit outside since the restaurant was on the beach, but asked to be by a heater because we're from Arizona. Unfortunately the heater smelled of gas and I think that was the last straw. Nothing on the menu sounded good. We discussed our options; I tried to tough it out and just have a salad, but as Rudder and the waitress were discussing the merits of twice-baked potatoes, I felt worse and worse. I asked Rudder to ake me home after all, which he did with no complaint or argument. (That was the point at which he won serious husband points.)

Right after we got back to our hotel, someone from one of our local rowing clubs called to tell us they were going out to dinner, in case we wanted to join them. Rudder decided to go, and I had some pasta with a little olive oil and garlic from the Italian place next to the hotel. I was still feeling off in the morning and was considering scratching my race entry. But I had some motivation to race: I needed to get in a little rowing, preferably at an intense pace but ont too much volume (distance) as part of my taper for next week. Also, I'd ordered a new two-piece uni for the marathon. The maker had messed up the order, but had the fixed version ready to give me at this race. So this would be the perfect time to try it out before wearing it for 26.2 miles next week.

By race time, I did feel a little better so I went out. I began feeling better as I rowed out to the start, a row just a bit less than the race distance. I had no trouble staying at the pace I expect to use next week for the marathon during this warmup. I wouldn't say I was rowing at my hardest race pressure. On the other hand, even at the top of my form I wouldn't have been able to beat the other woman in my race, so it wouldn't have made a difference. Also, I beat my time from the last time I'd rowed this race by over two minutes. Looking at the time of other racers makes it clear that conditions were better and faster overall yeesterday, but not enough to account for that much difference. So while I don't feel great about this race or this weekend, I do feel pretty good. I survived exhaustion and managed to race the next day. Rudder dealt well with me falling apart. I got to test my equipment for next week, I didn't acquire any new blisters, and even while feeling a bit off I had no issues rowing nearly a quarter of next week's distance, half of it near race pressure and all of it at or above marathon pace.

Three things down. Now I have the marathon, the family visit, and possibly a short race in LA a couple of weeks afterward. I can do those.

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

November 04, 2005

nothing much to say but have a good weekend

I'm getting ready to leave early for the drive to LA, so won't be getting to K in the poetry series until Monday or so. I can't think of anything major I want to write about, so just a couple little random points.

Yesterday, I got the strangest s p @ m comment here. It was a real comment, with lots of detail about a specific book I'd written about, but with interpolated links for some damn site or other that I have have no interest in. Yet it was obvious the writer had actually read the book I was discussing and it's not even that famous a book. I hope the %#^%# creators of that stuff have not figured out how to inset it in legitimate comments now.

On the way to work, I heard an NPR piece by a former journalist about the atrocities he'd seen in Rwanda and how hard it was and how shameful he felt at shaking the hand of some of the perpetrators of that genocide, in pursuit of interviews from them. He spoke of his interpreter, who had had to watch his own wife killed before his eyes, and who had actually paid her killers to shoot her instead of hacking at her with a machete. (The interpreter himself had been spared because he was Congolese.) I was thinking how it awful it must be when all you can do for someone you love is to give her an easier death. Then I got to thinking of a local rower, who can only wish he'd been abler to pay someone to give his wife a painless death. He has no one to blame, because she died of disease rather than murder. I forget the specifics of her disease, but I will never forget his description, "like Lou Gehrig's disease, only painful". I suppose in a way he did give her the easiest death he could, putting her into a hospice where I'm sure they did all they could with morphine and such, but it was still long and painful. So yeah, there are worse things. Or maybe this is why orderings and comparisons are silly in some cases. Some things are just awful, period.

I have no idea why I wanted to share all of that. Sorry for the downer.

On the upside, I was pleased to see that the Vatican does still remember St. Augustine's teachings, though I wish they'd managed to say so without phrasing it as a slur on other wings of Christianity.

Once again, I am annoyed at my clothing. My jeans are a little tight, fresh from the wash, but otherwise fit except for being too tight in the thighs. My sweater sleeves are so tight that the sleeves of the T-shirt I'm wearing show through. This is just silly. I even went and looked to see if Athleta or Title Nine had some cords cut in a more athletic fit, but I have some trouble getting past the fact that their pants are not only in a very casual cut, but $30 or $40 more than the basic cords that are really all I want. On the other hand, the Levis I tried on the other day were no only too long (no petites offered) but were so tight in the legs that they're not really suitable for work wear.

I'll be back here Monday, after the race. Maybe I'll be able to write about something more interesting then.

Posted by dichroic at 12:04 PM | Comments (0)

November 02, 2005

More rowing and some politics

Drat. I hate when blisters rip off. Actually, this was more of a fossil blister - no fluid inside any more, just an unconnected layer of skin - so the skin under it is healed. But now the remaining flap will harden and want to rip back and back until it hits the part where it's still attached. I'm going to try and see what Neosporin (or equivalent) and a band-aid can do to prevent that.

We're definitely going to Philadelphia Thanksgiving week - I've emailed the dates to some of the people I hope to see there. If you're in the area and I didn't email you, please assume that I'm having a premature moment of senility or that I had an old address for you, not that I don't care to see you, and let me know if you're available.

I've just put my rowing / boat-packing / traveling schedule for this month on my white board, and it's scary. From now to November 25, there is no span greater than 3 days during which I'm not packing or unpacking boats, traveling, or racing (some of the last week of that is traveling around to see friends while we're on the East Coast).

I have one more rowing story from last Saturday's head race thatI'd forgotten to tell, until just now when I included it in an email to a friend. At the regatta, they had Yosemite Sam announcing. (For the first few years of regattas here, he used to be Dockmaster. There was a lot more screaming than when I do it.) The sound system this year was very good, and he could easily be heard from the launching area and even from on the water. It was unfortunate when he claimed that competitive rowing goes back 300 years (more like 2000), but I could have lived with that - after all, maybe he just meant in the (future) US. That would have been OK, but then I got to hear him announcing my race as I came into the finish. Few things are more dispiriting than coming into the last 1000 meters of a 5K race and hearing, "And here's Rudder's wife...."


He also told the crowd, "You know, Dichroic's only about 5'1" and 110 pounds, so she's real proof you don't have to be big to row."

Frankly, I could happily deal with having my height and weight announced to the whole freaking crowd (even though he got both wrong), if he'd only started by introducing me with my *name*. I'd have even been fine with it if he'd said, "Here's Dichroic .... you saw her husband Rudder in the last race with the same boat, oar, and uni design..."

GRRRR AGAIN. (I have mentioned this to the race organizers.)

I've been watching the mourning for Rosa Parks with interest. I have mixed feelings about her lying in state in the Capitol. I'm glad that she's been given the deserved honor, but I'm appalled that she's the first woman to receive that honor. (That was unclear, sorry. She is worthy of the honor, but I think it sucks that apparently no other woman has been deemed worthy of such respect.) I think it's an odd decision, considering that until now the Capitol has been so used only for Presidents and high-level political figures, but if this is the start of a new policy in which people who have had a great force for good in this country are paid an attention usually only bestowed by politicos to those in their own game, then that's a good thing. The worst thing about it, though, is that this honor implies that there's no controversy around Rosa Parks, that she is a bloodless icon, the relic of an earlier period in history on which we can now shut the book. Nope, sorry. I'm glad Miss Rosa lived long enough to see how things have changed, but she surely also had a front-seat view on what is left to do. You don't get to pay honor to a legendary fighter unless you're part of continuing her fight, not shoving it into the attic and pretending it's yesterday's history.

Posted by dichroic at 03:34 PM | Comments (4)

J is for John MacCrae

I'm not really that big a fan of Ben Jonson, though I've seen the case convincingly made that he'd have been viewed as a colossus if he'd lived in any other age. I was considering writing about Lewis Carrol's Jabberwocky, but when I checked the authoritative source (Martin Gardner's Annotated Alice I found seven pages of commentary, but felt no better understanding of the poem than when I first memorized it, at age 10 or so. Like Alice, it "fills my head with ideas - only I don't know exactly what they are". Gardner relates the poem to everything from group theory to Anglo-Saxon, but somehow, I like it better just as read, without too much thinking.

So instead, I'll use J as my entry to write about a group poets who wrote about the horror and tragedy they lived - and who, in many cases, never came back.

is for John MacCrae and the other poets of the Great War.

Poetry of WWI ranges from sublime to searing, sometimes within the work of the same poet, sometimes in the same poem. As L.M. Montgomery showed in her WWI story, Rilla of Ingleside, at least some of the soldiers in WWI went in believing they were there to root a terrible thing out of the world, once and for all, to keep faith with those who went before and to light a torch for those who followed:

In Flanders Fields

John MacCrae (1872-1918)

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

They went in, perhaps expecting a difficult fight, but often with high ideals. Alan Seeger (1888-1916) wrote:

But I've a rendezvous with Death
At midnight in some flaming town,
When Spring trips north again this year,
And I to my pledged word am true,
I shall not fail that rendezvous.

But what they found in the trenches was obscenity, and their words departed from the romantic ballads, love songs, and ideals of earlier poets to show it starkly. In one of the best-known poems of the war, Dulce Et Decorum Est, Wilfred Owen (1893-1918) wrote of a man "drowning" in mustard gas:

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight, He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,--
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

Ideals were shattered, in some cases never to be rebuilt, and lives were ruined. Isaac Rosenberg (1890-1918) wrote of the miasma of a rotting God. Sigfried Sassoon (1896-1967) wrote of living with wounds, both physical and mental :

Does It Matter

Sigfried Sassoon (1896-1967)

Does it matter? -- losing your legs? . . .
For people will always be kind,
And you need not show that you mind
When the others come in after hunting
To gobble their muffins and eggs.

Does it matter? -- losing your sight? . . .
There's such splendid work for the blind;
And people will always be kind,
As you sit on the terrace remembering
And turning your face to the light.

Do they matter? -- those dreams from the pit? . . .
You can drink and forget and be glad,
And people won't say that you're mad;
For they'll know that you've fought for your country,
And no one will worry a bit

The war was not kind to women, neither to those who lived in the war zones, those who watched and waited, nor those who tended the wounded and had to try to comfort the suffering:


Eva Dobell (1867 - 1963)

Crippled for life at seventeen,
His great eyes seem to question why:
With both legs smashed it might have been
Better in that grim trench to die
Than drag maimed years out helplessly.

A child – so wasted and so white,
He told a lie to get his way,
To march, a man with men, and fight
While other boys are still at play.
A gallant lie your heart will say.

So broke with pain, he shrinks in dread
To see the 'dresser' drawing near;
And winds the clothes about his head
That none may see his heart-sick fear.
His shaking, strangled sobs you hear.

But when the dreaded moment's there
He'll face us all, a soldier yet,
Watch his bared wounds with unmoved air,
(Though tell-tale lashes still are wet),
And smoke his woodbine cigarette.

And afterward, the world was never the same even for those who served and survived:

from On Account of Ill-Health

Edward Shanks (1892-1953)

Men that have marched with me shall march to peace again,
Bringing for plunder home glad memories of pain,
Of toils endured and done, of terrors quite brought under,
And all the world shall be their plaything and their wonder.
Then in that new-born world, unfriendly and estranged,
I shall be quite alone, I shall be left unchanged.

Some of the poems I've quoted here are well-known, some are less known. They are only a small sampling. Additional collections of World War I poems can be found here, here, and here.

Posted by dichroic at 12:48 PM | Comments (0)

November 01, 2005

fall holidays

back in normal clothes for an especially hectic day at work. (No, really, yesterday's costume wasn't all that exciting. No lats or other body parts on display. Rings on fingers, bells on toes - well, ankles, but rings on toes), coin belt, bra top, all over a long-sleeved black shirt and long wide skirt. No photos were taken. No loss to anyone, I assure you.) I was glad I wore a costume, though, because few people here did, and somebody needs to make a fool of herself and give a holiday its due. I like holidays of all sorts. I like special days, and small traditions, special foods, dressing up (whether fancy or costume) and things to look forward to. On the other hand, Rudder and I were Hallowe'en grinches last night and didn't give out candy, mostly due to feeling like things are too hectic lately. Anyhow, I'd be more inclined to give kids candy if I ever saw or talked to at least some of said kids the rest of the year. It's not like there's a relationship there. When I was young enough to trick or treat but old enough to go a bit afield, we might walk a block or two over to where we didn't know many people - but we always started on our own blocks. And with thirty or so houses on each side of the street, really, we didn't have to go too far afield to get a weighty haul. Rowhouses have some advantages, after all.

Speaking of rowhouses, we're batting around the idea of going to Philly for Thanksgiving. Airfares look reasonable, if we don't travel on weekends. If we do, we'll be there for a week or so, long enough to visit the friends we haven't seen in far too long. We'll be wanting to do day trips, too, to escape the confines of some of the family, but might also have some with us. There are for example a few of the local skiffy types I really want to introduce my brother to. (You for one, N. I think you'd like each other - or at least each other's libraries, which is always a good start.) once we figure it all out, I'll be putting out an email to all of my friends who can reasonably be considered as being in the area with dates and specifics to figure out who will be there and free when.

Posted by dichroic at 12:28 PM | Comments (3)

I is for Iambic pentameter

Sorry, can't think of any 'I' poets I like. But if Geni can use her letters for both artists and masterpieces, surely I can bestow mine as freely. And so,

is for iambic pentameter.

If you should take a ride on Shakespeare's horse
To some imagin'd iambic Banbury Cross
The characteristic rhythm of its trot
Would be dit-DOT dit-DOT dit-Dot dit-Dot

Though on trochees you might sometimes founder
You'd come back to iambs as being sounder
While other rhythms help to vary pace
Iambic is the one that wins the race.

Pentameter, too, suits English-language poems,
As Japanese for haiku is the home
Though no quintepedal horse in nature's found
In English poetry, he is most sound

In iambic pentameter Shakespeare's sonnets run
As well as those of Milton, Keats, and Donne.

A few disclaimers: Yes, I got a little silly here - but really, it takes about two lines to explain iambic pentameter and then what else do you have to say? Yes, I know I didn't keep strictly to iambs or even trochees here. Yes, I know that neither did Shakespeare, Milkton, Keats, or Donne. So sue me.

Posted by dichroic at 10:49 AM | Comments (0)