December 30, 2005

2005: the year in review


Could have been better. Could have been a lot worse.

Posted by dichroic at 08:30 PM | Comments (0)

December 29, 2005

at home

Sorry I haven't been writing; it's just that I'm home until January 3 and here there are so many interesting things to do. Also, I'm hoping to finish my Banff sweater before going back to work - I have just one more sleeve to do. I won't make it in time, though, if it takes the usual two days to dry after blocking.

Christmas was nice but low-key, just the two of us. We decided to make a brisket instead of our usual turkey, but are going to deep-fry a turkey on New Year's Day, just because. We may go to the Fiesta Bowl Block Party the night before, because the bowl and presumably the Block Party are moving to the other side of town starting next year. Also fingers are still crossed that we won't be here by then, though we still have no further information on possible future moves.

In rowing news, I finished the Holiday Challenge the Monday before Christmas, and as of today I have done a million meters on the erg this year - that's erging only, not including actual water meters. Given that I did row a marathon month before last, those aren't inconsequential, either. In mid-January we'll be heading to San Diego again for a Masters' Rowing Camp - the one last year was helpful and fun.

And really, that's about it.

Posted by dichroic at 11:51 AM | Comments (0)

December 24, 2005

Christmas Eve

We're back. You know what, Vegas is expensive, and we don't even gamble much. (I did spend an hour at a craps table - started with $100, left with $75. Craps is (are?) good for being able to go for a long time on a reasonable amount of money, though Rudder did end up losing his stake. And of course I left all my change in assorted slot machines, as luck-offerings.) We got good rates on the hotel, and I will say that the higher-ticket items were, if not quite worth all that money, impressive enough to be worth at least most of it. We got tickets for Cirque Du Soleil's show Zutopia in advance, then ended up seeing David Copperfield at the last minute the night before. Both shows had me sitting with my jaw dropped open for substantial amounts of time. I didn't find the Cirque's compedy bits all that funny, but I guess you need to break up the astonishing acrobatics to give the audience a chance to absorb it all. And at Copperfield's show, even the bits we thought we'd figured out we couldn't have replicated - so much skill goes into the sleight of hand. The other high point of the trip was the Star Trek Experience - the Klingon ride, especially, was extremely well done.

After coming home, I finished wrapping the little things for Rudder (the big one is wrapped and under the tree already) and realized that once again, I have far too many things for him - gifts for all the nights of Chanukah (except the first night, tomorrow, because he'll have far too may things already) and several for the stocking. I solved the issue by wrapping one that was too big for the stocking and putting it under the tree with a tag "from Santa".

Not my fault if the man in red still thinks Rudder's a good boy, right?

And in case I don't write here tomorrow, Merry Christmas and Happy Chanukah to all.

Posted by dichroic at 07:50 PM | Comments (0)

December 20, 2005

tree pictures

The first year Rudder and I had a tree together, we bought a bunch of gold and red shiny balls and some special sparkly ornaments. We still have most of those, but everywhere (well, almost everywhere) we've traveled we've picked up an ornament fo the tree. This year we actually had enough to leave the balls off, but I put a few on, both out of sentiment and because they do make it look better when the lights are off because they show up better than most of our travel ornaments.

Here are pictures of our tree and a few of the ornaments:

The tree lit up - rudder had red, blue and green light strands left over from the holiday boat parade and decided to add some color to our usual white lights on the tree.

A Space Shuttle, from when we lived in Texas and worked on the space program.

A Beefeater, from the Tower of London.

A Mountie, from our trip to Edonton for the World Masters' Games last summer.

Our only rowing ornament.

A tassel from our trip to Korea.

Our tree topper - it actually "flies" in circles around the tree top.

A painted in peacock I picked up on a work trip to San Antonio.

The rose window from the Naitonal Cathedral in Washington D.C.

This ornament is pre-Rudder, from my very first tree. A friend was visiting me over Christmas and I didn't want him to be deprived of his tree so I bought a tiny table-top one. This ornament was from the shop of the nature center where I volunteered - it's actually made from a tuna-can lid.

On the left, Delft china Rudder bought on a business trip tot he Netherlands (one of many - his company's based there). On the right, Santa sleeping on a park bench. This probably requires some explanation. Not too long after Rudder and I had moved in together, he took me and several of our rowing friends on a trip to New Orleans. Our housemate J, seeing several homeless people sleeping on the benches not too far from the Cafe du Mondes (home of world-famous (really) chicory coffee and beignets) commented, "Look - they have a bed AND breakfast!" We were all drunk or tired enough for that to be extremely funny. So this ornament reminds me of J, and our other rowing friends from Houston, and that first trip to New Orleans.

The whole tree, unlighted. You can see a few cards stuck in the tree - Rudder's family does that, for cards that contain gifts (gift certificates, checks, or whatever).

By the way, this year we got a Grand Fir - looks a lot like a Doug fir but the branches are sturdier and easier to hang ornaments on, and didn't leave itchy red holes in us like a Noble Fir.

Posted by dichroic at 07:52 PM | Comments (0)

December 19, 2005


No idea if these changes are good or bad - I have a Tanita scale to check bodyfat % but it seems to be very erratic these days.

Oh yes, and:

Holiday Challenge: DONE!!
Thankful for: well, duh.

1" below shoulders: 40.5
Upper arms, flexed: 11. 1/8"
Waist: 28.5"
Hips: 37"
Upper thigh, flexed: 22.0"
Middle of calf, flexed: 14.5"

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

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

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

Posted by dichroic at 12:05 PM | Comments (0)

December 18, 2005

taking my time

V. much enjoying the free time. So far this weekend I have run a few errands, visited the bead store, finished all but 7km of the Holiday Challenge, got my mother's Chanukah gift finished, packed, and shipped, finished the back pf my Banff sweater, finished two more fingers of my father's gloves (it's an odd pattern in being knitted fingers first), attended two holiday parties, and reread Master and Commander, all at a lovely leisurely pace.

Not bad for being only 1:30 Sunday. Rudder's just off the erg, so we'll be going to get our Xmas tree soon.

Note half an hour later: I think we just set a landspeed record for tree selection and set-up. I ant to let it settle for a fwe hours before putting lights on, though.

Posted by dichroic at 01:25 PM | Comments (0)

December 16, 2005


Two quick points:

1. Yippeeee!!!!

2. On a much more trivial note, I'm disappointed my cubemate is out today, just because I wanted someone to appreciate my clever hosiery tactic for the day. I wanted light textured tights to wear under a denim skirt, so I actually layered two pair: flesh-colored fishnets over plain buff-colored tights. (Of course, the fishnets solo would have worked, but the shoes aren't comfortable with only them and also it's chilly out today.) Also, less trivially, I wanted to wish her a happy holiday.

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

17 days!

What a great start to a day. 8AM meetings aren't always the first thing I want to do in the morning, but at this one someone happened to mention that we have January 2 off and don't have to come back til the 3rd. Yay! A whole extra day off and a short first week back.

It would have been really strange to come back on Monday and find a totally empty and dark building. Except it probably wouldn't have really been dark.... I wonder how long it would have taken me to figure it out?

I totally finished my holiday cards last night, except for of course the odd one I might send if someone whose address I didn't have sends me one. That means that I have 17 days off, and hardly anything I have to do in that time. I need to pay a few bills, plan and cook Xmas dinner, wrap Rudder's gifts, make a few additions to one for my mom as soon as it arrives and send it to her, and that's really about it. Oh, and erg another 37 km. There are some things I ought to do - a little more decorating on the house, maybe some straightening up, rigging my boat - but nothing else that has to be done. That's not a lot of stuff, so I have 17 blissful days in which my time is almost entirely my own. I'm so excited.

All that said, it's ironic how scheduled tomorrow is: wake up, erg a half marathon, prepare and send my mom's gift, return some shampoo an idiot stylist said would be good for me (Aveda Blue Malva - I looked at the label and it said it brightens gray hair or tones down brassy shades in dyed hair - not what you want on dark brown hair with red highlights), buy some tights, and go to two parties. Except for the erging, though, all of that is either a quick task or is fun. Then I think SUnday or Monday we'll go see the Narnia movie, and later in the week we're going to spend a couple of days in Vegas, for the first time since about 1996 when I had a work trip there and Rudder joined me. And sometime in the next few days, I'll wrap up the poetry series by posting a list of the links I've used to research the poets and poems I've written about.

I'm excited to get the time to read and knit, cook or bake, and see Rudder when we're both awake. I'm excited not to be at work! And I'm looking forward to what 2006 might bring us.

On the down side, we got a Christmas card from Rudder's grandfather yesterday, and it was one of the saddest things I've seen. He wrote that Rudder's grandmother has been able to eat and to say a few words, a few of which could be understood, but that "It is unclear yet whether this improvement is enough to give us any hope." Ouch.

Posted by dichroic at 12:54 PM | Comments (2)

December 15, 2005

better news

Finally, my erging is coming back to me. I took two weeks off after the marathon, but from what erging has felt like since then, you'd think I'd taken two years off. I managed a half-marathon my first day back on the erg, but after that, it was always like pulling a weighted sled over bumpy ground to scrape out every kilometer. I was just going at an easy pace, too, not really trying to push it.

That may have been a part of the problem, actually. When you go faster on an erg, you've gotten the flywheel moving so there's less inertia to move with. Another problem is that our air has been incredibly crappy lately - so bad that Brooke even posted a picture. That not-a-cold thing I had last week was most likely allergies in reaction, and I'm still having to pause ferquently to blow my nose, especially in the first thousand meters or so. (Sniffling it back for too long gives me a headache or worse.)

Rudder's suggestion was to try some of the interval workouts I'd done for marathon training, or variants of them. I figured it couldn't hurt, and adding some changes in does break up the workout. I wasn't sure I could keep much pressure up for too long, though. So on Sunday I did a variant of one we use to practice racing starts in sprint season: 2 sets of 6 power tens (ten strokes as hard as possible) with three minutes rowing easy after each one, and a five minute rest between the sets (and a 1K warmup before). On Monday I did one of the marathon workouts that had a comparatively short intense part: 1K to warm up, then 3 sets of 1000 at a medium-hard pace, 2K easy. And on Tuesday, by gum, I finally felt like a rower again. I did 7500m in less than the times I'd taken for 7000m a few days before, with far fewer pauses. Yesterday I was a little short on time so just did 6500, but again it was a lot smoother. And today I had a little extra time, so I did 8K, without any real pauses in the last 7000. Whew. Feels good not to be slogging quite so much. TOmorrow I'll do another interval workout of some sort, and maybe even try for a half-marathon on Saturday, which would take out a lot of my remaining distance.

I'm off work for the rest of the year as soon as I leave tomorrow, so I'll have more time to do longer pieces. But Rudder and I have decided to go up to Vegas for a few days before Xmas, and I'd like to be done by then.

In even better news, Rudder talked to his father a couple days ago and apparently his grandmother's decline was all about the drugs she was on; since they've withdrawn a lot of them, she's able to eat on her own and even say a few words. (Apparently she ripped out the feeding tube herself. Ouch.) Of couse, she'll still never recover; senile dementia doesn't reverse itself. But it's a relief not to have to think of her being taken off a feeding tube. I support her wish to go and not be sustained beyond the point of hopelessness (not that a grand-daughter-in-law's opinion would be the crucial one) but that wouldn't have made it easy to watch or even hear about.

Posted by dichroic at 12:30 PM | Comments (1)

December 14, 2005

Z is for Townes van Zandt

I've been procrastinating on this, I guess, not wanting my series to come to an end. But I will go out with one more songwriter:

is for Townes van Zandt.

There is a distrinctive Texas style of music, not quite folk, not quite country, not quite blues, but at the intersection of all of them. Lyle Lovett, Bonnie Raitt, and Nancy Griffith are probably its most famous practitioners. Willie Nelson dips into it often, and you can hear it from Marsha Ball, Robert Earl Keen, Steve Earle, and others, but Townes van Zandt is surely one of its main architects. Last Saturday, I was in a bar and I was surprised to hear a Townes song playing in the background. I realized soon that it was actually Willie Nelson's cover of Pancho and Lefty, which made its presence in the bar a little less unlikely. For a guy so many people haven't heard of, he's been covered by a lot of people: Emmylou Harris, Willie Nelson, Guy Clark, Norah Jones, Nancy Griffith for a few. Like Richard Thompson, he's a musician's musician, with not quite as much recognition as he deserves, but fanaticism from a lot of those who know him.

The most famous quote on him is from Steve Earle: "Townes Van Zandt's the best songwriter in the world and I'll stand on Bob Dylan's coffee table in my cowboy boots and say that!" (Townes' response reportedly was, "It makes me nervous. I've met Bob Dylan's bodyguards and if Steve Earle thinks he can stand on Bob Dylan's coffee table, he's sadly mistaken.")

Van Zandt was a self-destructive type, with a lot of genius and a lot of problems. He gets compared to Hank Williams a lot. He believed that songs just came to him, but that to get them he had to let go everything but his guitar: family, money, whatever. Between that and some psychiatric problems, he had a hard life and not a long one. But he left a whole lot of music behind. He was capable of writing absolutely spare music and lyrics, saying nothing at all more than what needed to be said:

If I Needed You

If I needed you
Would you come to me,
Would you come to me,
And ease my pain?
If you needed me
I would come to you
I'd swim the seas
For to ease your pain

In the night forlorn
The mornings born
And the morning shines
With the lights of love
You will miss sunrise
If you close your eyes
That would break
My heart in two

The lady's with me now
Since I showed her how
To lay her lily
Hand in mine
Loop and Lil agree
She's a sight to see
And a treasure for
The poor to find

Bob Dylan was one of his big influences. He said so himslf, and I think the echoes show:

from Mr. Gold and Mr. Mud

The wicked king of clubs awoke
it was to his queen turned
his lips were laughing as they spoke
his eyes like bullets burned
the sun's upon a gambling day
his queen smiled low and blissfully
let's make some wretched fool to play
plain it was she did agree

And, since he wrote when he did, I think there may also have been some influence from Tolkien, at least in this song:

from The Silver Ships of Andilar

Perhaps this shall reach Andilar
although I know not how it can
For once again he's hurled his wind
upon the silver prow
But if it should my words are these
arise young men fine ships to build
And set them north for Valinor
'neath standards proud as fire

But most of his songs reflected the experieces of his own life, or of the people he met along the way. The ballad Pancho and Lefty is probablky his best known:

Pancho And Lefty

Living on the road my friend
Was gonna keep you free and clean
Now you wear your skin like iron
Your breath's as hard as kerosene
You weren't your mama's only boy
But her favorite one it seems
She began to cry when you said goodbye
And sank into your dreams

Pancho was a bandit boys
His horse was fast as polished steel
Wore his gun outside his pants
For all the honest world to feel
Pancho met his match you know
On the deserts down in Mexico
Nobody heard his dying words
That's the way it goes

All the federales say
They could have had him any day
They only let him hang around
Out of kindness I suppose

Lefty he can't sing the blues
All night long like he used to
The dust that Pancho bit down south
Ended up in Lefty's mouth
The day they laid poor Pancho low
Lefty split for Ohio
Where he got the bread to go
There ain't nobody knows

All the federales say
They could have had him any day
They only let him slip away
Out of kindness I suppose

The poets tell how Pancho fell
Lefty's livin' in a cheap hotel
The desert's quiet and Cleveland's cold
So the story ends we're told
Pancho needs your prayers it's true,
But save a few for Lefty too
He just did what he had to do
Now he's growing old

A few gray federales say
They could have had him any day
They only let him go so wrong
Out of kindness I suppose

He traveled a lot, wrote a lot of songs, met a lot of people, drank a lot, did a lot of drugs, and fought a lot of demons. ANd he played a hell of a lot of music. I think this one summarizes a lot of his life:

Highway kind

My days, they are the highway kind
they only come to leave
but the leavin' I don't mind
it's the comin' that I crave.
Pour the sun upon the ground
stand to throw a shadow
watch it grow into a night
and fill the spinnin' sky.

Time among the pine trees
it felt like breath of air
usually I just walk these streets
and tell myself to care.
Sometimes I believe me
and sometimes I don't hear.
Sometimes the shape I'm in
won't let me go.

Well, I don't know too much for true
but my heart knows how to pound
my legs know how to love someone
my voice knows how to sound.
Shame that it's not enough
shame that it is a shame.
Follow the circle down
where would you be?

You're the only one I want now
I never heard your name.
Let's hope we meet some day
if we don't it's all the same.
I'll meet the ones between us,
and be thinkin' 'bout you
and all the places I have seen
and why you where not there.

Posted by dichroic at 02:39 PM | Comments (0)

December 13, 2005

Boat Parade pics

Here are the pictures from the Boat Parade. And Rudder corrects me: we've (actually he's) won the human-powered division all 5 times.

Barge Fully Decorated
Posted by dichroic at 05:41 PM | Comments (2)

how to enjoy a holiday: celebrate someone else's

Unlike apparently almost everyone else, I am not sick of Christmas. I think this is because it's not really my holiday; my only childhood memories are of decorated malls, Rudolph and Charlie Brown on TV, and singing carols in school. And while we did occasionally gather together with my grandparents and uncle for a big dinner (because everyone had time off from work or school) it was fiarly low on the angst scale. I don't know whether that's because we have a small family (smaller now, unfortunately) or because we also had festive meals on all the major Jewish holidays, and saw each other throughout the year, so we didn't have to deal with all of our family issues in one burst.

I do celebrate it now with Rudder and his family, at least as far as having a tree (no crosses or angels on ours!), exchanging presents, listening to holiday music, and gathering over good food. I love my in-laws. I even like them. (Well, except my sister-in-law from heck, but she doesn't like any of us either and so just stays away.) Since I didn't grow up with any of them, I don't have any buried issues to erupt at the holiday table, or any hot buttons they've installed. (Rudder has a few, but they're comparatively minor and aren't really a problem over the few days at a time we normally see them.)

So in general, I get all of the good parts of Christmas with none of the tsuris and not much of the stress. With Chanukah being late this year, I'm not as beforehand with my presents as usual, but as of today they're all bought except maybe a few little things. We have no decorations up yet, but I only have about 20 more cards to write and send, and we have this weekend relatively free. My mom gave me some very pretty Chanukah candles, so I don't even have the hassle of finding them around here this year (though actually, I did see some somewhere). So even though we still haven't decided if we're staying home or driving to Rudder's parents' or grandparents', I will go on record as saying that I've been enjoying this holiday season, and I expect to enjoy it even more starting late Friday afternoon, when I leave work and don't come back until after New Year's Day.

I am a little sick of commercial Christmas music though. I like most of the classics, I love some of the more obscure ones, and I don't even mind Rudolph and Frosty until the umpty-ninth playing, But if I never hear Jingle Bell Rock or Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree again, I will survive easily.

Today I am thankful for: in-laws I enjoy
Concept II Holiday CHallenge: 58,600 meters to go

Posted by dichroic at 03:37 PM | Comments (3)

December 12, 2005

Y is for Peter Yarrow

I am brazenly, if pusillanimously, skipping the letter X. The obvious selection for Y is Yeats, of course, and I do like Yeats. But most of the pieces I know and love best are the ones everyone knows, the going to Innisfree and the strange beast slouching toward Bethlehem to be born. Also, anything I could say has probably been said better at one time or another by our resident virtual-neighborhood Yeatsoholic, the erudite Natalie. Instead, I'm going to combine this series with something that has become a tradition of mine in the years I've had this blog.

is for Peter Yarrow.

Every year at Chanukah, I've posted the lyrics to my favorite Chanukah song, "Light One Candle", by Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul and Mary. Every year it's seemed more topical, and 2005 is no exception:

Light One Candle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maybe because they've sung "Puff the Magic Dragon" (another song written by Yarrow) a few too many times around the campfire, some people don't take Peter, Paul and Mary seriously. But you have to respect people who have written songs that literally almost everyone knows, who have worked to foster younger songwriters coming up in their tracks, and most of all who have spoken, sung, and worked for what they believe in for some forty years now without wavering. The group marched with Dr. Martin Luther King and marched and sang against the Vietnam War, but unlike so many others, their activism didn't end with the 1960s. Yarrow specifically, since this entry is about him, was a founding member of the Newport Folk Festival, launched the New Folks concert at the Kerrville Folk Fest, is an advocate for the hospice movement, founded the “Save One Child” Fund at Beth Israel Hospital’s to provide free neurosurgery to save the lives of children from all over the world whose families could not afford the surgery, has worked with the Guggenheim Museum’s "Learning Through Art" program, and has launched Operation Respect: “Don’t Laugh At Me,” to build a climate of respect in schools. In other words, this is not just a happy little man who sings his little songs on PBS at pledge time. The Miami Jewish Federation summed it up when they gave him their Tikkun Olam award - "Tikkun Olam" is a Jewish idea that can be translated as "repairing the world".

None of that makes him a poet, of course. But try this: forget all those camp fires and just look at the lyrics of Puff the Magic Dragon with new eyes. It's a coming of age song, told from the imaginary friend's perspective. There's a reason it gets sung so much:

Puff, the Magic Dragon

Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honalei,
Little Jackie Paper loved that rascal Puff,
and brought him strings and sealing wax and other fancy stuff. Oh

Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honalei,
Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honalei,

Together they would travel on a boat with billowed sail
Jackie kept a lookout perched on Puff's gigantic tail,
Noble kings and princes would bow whene'er they came,
Pirate ships would lower their flag when Puff roared out his name. Oh!

A dragon lives forever but not so little boys
Painted wings and giant rings make way for other toys.
One grey night it happened, Jackie Paper came no more
And Puff that mighty dragon, he ceased his fearless roar.

His head was bent in sorrow, green scales fell like rain,
Puff no longer went to play along the cherry lane.
Without his life-long friend, Puff could not be brave,
So Puff that mighty dragon sadly slipped into his cave. Oh!

A lot of Yarrow's (and everyone else's) songs in the 1960s were about entering adulthood (or rejecting traditional models of adulthood) or about rebellion and individuality:

If I Had Wings

If I had wings no one would ask me should I fly
The bird sings, no one asks why.
I can see in myself wings as I feel them
If you see something else, keep your thoughts to yourself,
I'll fly free then.

Yesterday's eyes see their colors fading away
They see their sun turning to grey
You can't share in a dream, that you don't believe in
If you say that you see and pretend to be me
You won't be then.

How can you ask if I'm happy goin' my way?
You might as well ask a child at play!
There's no need to discuss or understand me
I won't ask of myself to become something else
I'll just be me!

If I had wings no one would ask me should I fly
The bird sings, and no one asks her why.
I can see in myself wings as I feel them
If you see something else, keep your thoughts to yourself,
I'll fly free then.

But they didn't stop there. PPM kept singing, and all three kept writing, and their songs grew past youthful rebellion. Yarrow wrote about surviving, about seeing idealists turn to cynics and about what it takes to keep singing:

from Sweet Survivor

You remember when you felt each person mattered
When we all had to care or all was lost
But now you see believers turn to cynics
And you wonder was the struggle worth the cost
Then you see someone too young to know the difference
And a veil of isolation in their eyes
And inside you know you've got to leave them something
Or the hope for something better slowly dies.

Carry on my sweet survivor, carry on my lonely friend
Don't give up on the dream, and don't you let it end.
Carry on my sweet survivor, you've carried it so long
So it may come again, carry on
Carry on, carry on.

from With Your Face to the Wind

Sometimes it takes the dark to let us see the light
You can't have that victory unless you've fought the fight
Sometimes it takes a winding road to lead us home
While you're windin' 'round my friend just don't go windin' 'round alone

Though it was Stookey who wrote about being Old Enough to be on the cover of Modern Maturity, and still singing. It's difficult to write only about Yarrow's work, because Peter, Paul and Mary have sung songs written by by each of the three, and some of their most famous songs are by other songwriters. But Yarrow is responsible for some of the trio's best songs, and like the other two, he doesn't seem to have slowed down much, or damped his fires with age:

from With Your Face to the Wind

I'm not saying the party's over I just wanted to tell you how,
very good it has been up 'til now
How very good it has been up 'til now
Isn't it so funny how time flies.

Remember when we used to laugh at old father time
All in all the joke's on him and he don't even mind
Sigh, and put your arms around me,
sway and look into my eyes
Isn't it so funny how time flies.

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

rowers on parade

Woody would be proud. Apparently Arlo Guthrie and friends will be riding on the City of New Orleans to raise money for musicians and clubs who lost everything in this year's hurricanes. More detail over at Bear's.

In other news (OK, it's not news) I really don't feel like being at work today. I did work from home Friday, on the theory that all my sniffling, sneezing, and other symptoms were due to being out in our incredibly poor air quality. Work is close to the major airport, and the pollution level seems mugh higher here. SUre enough, I felt much better on Friday than I had on the days before. Though even at home I've been sniffly: it wouldn't be such a problem but it's hard to erg when you have to stop and blow your nose every three hundred meters.

On Saturday, we rowed in the Tempe Holiday Boat Parade. I'll post pictures if any come out well. In his penchant for ever-increasing over-the-top-ness, this year Rudder managed to wangle the use of the rowing barge the city uses to train novices to row. It has eight rowing stations down wither side (for sweep rowers, obviously, with one oar apiece) and a catywalk down the middle for coaches. We had it manned by ten rowers, three of whom had never rowed before, but who were instumental in designing the decorations. At the stern was Santa (7' tall, inflatable) in his sleigh (foam) full of presents (plastic wrap over a plastic piping frame). In front of him were three windsurfing sails, each "manned" by an inflatable penguin, and there were lights strung all over everything, as many as the generator could handle. Santa was wearing an enormous Hawaiian shirt and a tinsel lei, because our theme was "Santa on holiday".

We won the human-powered division for I think the fourth time in the parade's six-year history; last year we didn't enter and the first year I'm not sure if they had a human-powered division. The first two years, Rudder decorated a double, then we did an eight and year before last, I think, a four. Unfortunately, we had no competition this year. Usually there are four or five kayaks entered. Of course, they couldn't have hoped to compete with the mighty juggernaut that was our barge this year, but then again, there's no reason the dragon boats or the Hawaiian outriggers that row on our lake couldn't have competed. (I'd think a dragon boat, especially, would be fun to decorate.)

The one disappointment was our prize. Last time, the city gave us a basket of things (we surmised) they had left over from donations to other events: certificates for a night's stay at a fancy local hotel, dinner at one restaurant, breakfast somewhere else, lunch at a third place, and so on. We divided them up among the rowers who participated, and later gave the hotel stay to someone who had trailered our boat back from Masters Nationals, so it all worked out nicely. This year, the parade was run by a local merchants' association, which you'd think would mean even more sponsorship, but apparently not: the prize was a basket with two jars of salsa and some chips.

Good thing Rudder does this just for the fun of designing and building the decorations.

Posted by dichroic at 01:36 PM | Comments (0)

December 09, 2005

enjoying cleaner air at home

I'm working from home today. For the last few days, I sat in the office ad got snifflier throughout the day. It's not a cold, since it hasn't gotten any better or worse, and I was curious if the problem was either my drive to work through the brown cloud Phoenix calls air or the building or the location of the building, right next door to our major airport. Today's newspaper confirms that one of these likely is the cause: apparently the pollution right now is the worst it's been in years. And in fact, I'm not sneezing or drippig nearly as much today, here at home. Now if they'd only decide I could telecommute regularly ....

I don't expect there to be any news on Rudder's grandmother for several days. He doesn't seem too upset at the moment. He's never talked to his grandparents anywhere near as often as I did to mine, and while he's fond of them, it seems to be in a more distant way. He's not a particularly emotional person, either. So I have no idea how he'll react if they do remove her feeding tube, though I expect it will be relatively calmly, no matter how upset he is. If we do end uo traveling up there, I think I'll give him the part of his gift that would be useful for traveling ahead of time.

Also, I'd better get to work ordering the last few holiday gifts I need and getting my cards out. That is, by the way, most deliberately, H-O-L-I-D-A-Y cards. And anyone who thinks Christmas is the only holiday that ought to be celebrated at this time of year is welcome to fold one until it's all corners and try to absorb its message of peace by the suppository method.

I mean that in the most tolerant way possible of course.

Posted by dichroic at 02:47 PM | Comments (0)

December 08, 2005

W is for William Carlos Williams

I promise, I will not quote you the thing about the plums in the refligerator, even though

is for William Carlos Williams.

I am thoroughly sick of those plums. They seem to be almost the only thing by William Carlos Williams that ends up in the anthologies. Clearly, I'm not the only one:

Variations on a Theme by William Carlos Williams by Kenneth Koch

I chopped down the house that you had been saving to live in next summer.
I am sorry, but it was morning, and I had nothing to do
and its wooden beams were so inviting.

We laughed at the hollyhocks together
and then I sprayed them with lye.
Forgive me. I simply do not know what I am doing.

I gave away the money that you had been saving to live on for the
next ten years.
The man who asked for it was shabby
and the firm March wind on the porch was so juicy and cold.

Last evening we went dancing and I broke your leg.
Forgive me. I was clumsy and
I wanted you here in the wards, where I am the doctor!

But the fault isn't in Williams himself not in his plums; they are hackneyed only because they are so often quoted, and they are so often quoted only because they were once so original: the matieral so mundane, but the purple juiciness of the fuits so palpable. He does seem to have a thing about plums, rather:

To a Poor Old Woman munching a plum on the street a paper bag of them in her hand

They taste good to her
They taste good
to her. They taste
good to her

You can see it by
the way she gives herself
to the one half
sucked out in her hand

a solace of ripe plums
seeming to fill the air
They taste good to her

But once he got out of the greengrocers', he also wrote beautifully about space, both spaceflight:

Heel & Toe To The End

Gagarin says, in ecstasy,
he could have
gone on forever

he floated
at and sang
and when he emerged from that

one hundred eight minutes off
the surface of
the earth he was smiling.

Then he returned
to take his place
among the rest of us

from all that division and
subtraction a measure
to and heel

heel and toe he felt
as if he had
been dancing

and of starry nights seen from Earth in my favorite of Williams' poems, one appropriate for this season of peace when the Hunter is high overhead:

Peace on Earth

THE Archer is wake!
The Swan is flying!
Gold against blue
An Arrow is lying.
There is hunting in heaven--
Sleep safe till tomorrow.

The Bears are abroad!
The Eagle is screaming!
Gold against blue
Their eyes are gleaming!
Sleep safe till tomorrow.

The Sisters lie
With their arms intertwining;
Gold against blue
Their hair is shining!
The Serpent writhes!
Orion is listening!
Gold against blue
His sword is glistening!
There is hunting in heaven--
Sleep safe till tomorrow.

The language is always simple and plain, but the poems are so richly experiential (is that what that word means? I mean, reading them is a very sensory experience. Even writing about something as etheral as poetry itself:

The Poem

It's all in
the sound. A song.
Seldom a song. It should

be a song—made of
particulars, wasps,
a gentian—something
immediate, open

scissors, a lady's
centrifugal, centripetal.

The experience is so sensory that they remind me of MacLeish's line that "A poem should be palpable and mute / As a globed fruit." And so we come full circle back to the plums.

Posted by dichroic at 03:45 PM | Comments (0)

not good news

I spoke to my MIL again today; it appears that I may be down one grandmother-in-law as soon as a week from now. There is a possiblity that her rapid decline is a reaction to the drugs she's on, so they've taken her off all possible ones and will watch her for a week to see if there's any change, so there is still hope. Otherwise, they'll remove the feeding tube then, in accordance with her own written wishes. (That decision would have been so much harder for her family if she hadn't left those wishes.) Even if she does revive a bit, though, I don't think it can be a long-term effect. (I would be ecstatic to be wrong.) I have been lucky enough to have had enough relationship with all of Rudder's grandparents that her loss will make me very sad, but obviously it's a lot worse for Rudder and his mother. When I gave him the news yesterday he didn't seem too upset, pointing out that her mind is already gone (demntia, not Alzheimer's, but the effect is similar) and that this isn't any surprise, but he's never lost anyone close to him before and I don't know how he'll react when he does.

We were in the middle of a big shouting fight when I got the call saying my grandmother had died (several years ago now). To his credit, he dropped the argument immediately. I don't suppose there's anything I can do but to be there for him as he was for me.

We had no real plans for Christmas, but we both have two weeks off, so we can drive up to Oregon to his parents' or to Sacramento where his grandparents are if that seems advisable. Hell of a time of year for all this, though.

Drat. I keep forgetting this:
Today I am thankful for: Having six grandparents when I was little, four grandparents until I was (almost) adult and then getting a whole new set when I married. Maybe things are different when it comes to parents and step-parents, but in my opinion, grandparents are purely additive, and the more, the more love in your life.
Concept II Holiday Challenge: Around 94000 meters left.

Posted by dichroic at 01:09 PM | Comments (5)

December 07, 2005

V is for Henry Vaughan

And now for something completely different, at least from yesterday's jingles and ditties.

is for Henry Vaughan.

I first came across Henry Vaughan in Madeleine L'Engle's A Ring of Endless Light, in which he is one of Vicky Austin's grandfather's favorite poets; there is no better way to appreciate an artist than to hear about him from someone who loves him, whether real or fictional. Born into the time of religious upheaval, of Oliver Cromwell and George Fox and the Pilgrims, Cromwell and the Puritans, Vaughan could see nothing, whether a waterfall or a Christmas celebration, but as either a symbol of Christ or a reproach to Him:

from The Waterfall: O useful element and clear ! My sacred wash and cleanser here ; My first consigner unto those Fountains of life, where the Lamb goes ! What sublime truths and wholesome themes Lodge in thy mystical, deep streams ! Such as dull man can never find, Unless that Spirit lead his mind, Which first upon thy face did move And hatch'd all with His quick'ning love. As this loud brook's incessant fall In streaming rings restagnates all, Which reach by course the bank, and then Are no more seen : just so pass men. O my invisible estate, My glorious liberty, still late ! Thou art the channel my soul seeks, Not this with cataracts and creeks.

The True Christmas

SO, stick up ivy and the bays,
And then restore the heathen ways.
Green will remind you of the spring,
Though this great day denies the thing ;
And mortifies the earth, and all
But your wild revels, and loose hall.
Could you wear flow'rs, and roses strow
Blushing upon your breasts' warm snow,
That very dress your lightness will
Rebuke, and wither at the ill.
The brightness of this day we owe
Not unto music, masque, nor show,
Nor gallant furniture, nor plate,
But to the manger's mean estate.
His life while here, as well as birth,
Was but a check to pomp and mirth ;
And all man's greatness you may see
Condemned by His humility.

Then leave your open house and noise,
To welcome Him with holy joys,
And the poor shepherds' watchfulness,
Whom light and hymns from Heav'n did bless.
What you abound with, cast abroad
To those that want, and ease your load.
Who empties thus, will bring more in ;
But riot is both loss and sin.
Dress finely what comes not in sight,
And then you keep your Christmas right.

Still, though I share little of his theology, the beauty of Vaughan's images stays with me. The poem from which L'Engle took her book's title is both one of his best-known nad one of his most beautiful:

The World

I SAW Eternity the other night,
Like a great ring of pure and endless light,
All calm, as it was bright ;
And round beneath it, Time in hours, days, years
Driv'n by the spheres 5
Like a vast shadow mov'd ; in which the world
And all her train were hurl'd.
The doting lover in his quaintest strain
Did there complain ;
Near him, his lute, his fancy, and his flights, 10
Wit's sour delights ;
With gloves, and knots, the silly snares of pleasure,
Yet his dear treasure,
All scatter'd lay, while he his eyes did pour
Upon a flow'r. 15

The darksome statesman, hung with weights and woe,
Like a thick midnight-fog, mov'd there so slow,
He did nor stay, nor go ;
Condemning thoughts—like sad eclipses—scowl
Upon his soul, 20
And clouds of crying witnesses without
Pursued him with one shout.
Yet digg'd the mole, and lest his ways be found,
Work'd under ground,
Where he did clutch his prey ; but one did see 25
That policy :
Churches and altars fed him ; perjuries
Were gnats and flies ;
It rain'd about him blood and tears, but he
Drank them as free. 30

The fearful miser on a heap of rust
Sate pining all his life there, did scarce trust
His own hands with the dust,
Yet would not place one piece above, but lives
In fear of thieves. 30
Thousands there were as frantic as himself,
And hugg'd each one his pelf ;*
The downright epicure plac'd heav'n in sense,
And scorn'd pretence ;
While others, slipp'd into a wide excess 35
Said little less ;
The weaker sort slight, trivial wares enslave,
Who think them brave ;
And poor, despisèd Truth sate counting by
Their victory. 40

Yet some, who all this while did weep and sing,
And sing, and weep, soar'd up into the ring ;
But most would use no wing.
O fools—said I—thus to prefer dark night
Before true light ! 45
To live in grots and caves, and hate the day
Because it shows the way ;
The way, which from this dead and dark abode
Leads up to God ;
A way where you might tread the sun, and be 50
More bright than he !
But as I did their madness so discuss,
One whisper'd thus,
“This ring the Bridegroom did for none provide,
But for His bride.”

That last stanza confuses me a little, rather. I have no reason to believe that Vaughan was a closet Catholic (it's believed he went to Oxford, so he was at least nominally a Protestant, and certainly it was far safer to be one). On the other hand, I don't know what the Bridegroom's Bride could be other than the Church, by which I usually think of the Catholic Church - unless the Anglican Church was claiming to be the heir of St. Peter? Whichever Church he refers to, Vaughan seems to be saying here that Eternity is only for its elect. Not my preferred theology ... but what beauty of language in saying so.

Posted by dichroic at 04:25 PM | Comments (0)

mostly yarn. some family stuff

Um. Oops. Apparently I'm making Rudder a sweater. I was in a non-diligent, holiday mood so I decided to go to the yarn store at lunch to get the yarn for the gloves for my dad. I'd never done that before; it's a little further than I usually like to go. Of the three on my side of town ("town" being a large area comprising the entire Valley of the Sun) this one is my least favorite, but the other two are much further from here. I got the wool for the gloves all right, some Filatura di Crosa 501 (color 1288) plus some size 4 needles because I only had size 5 and they might be too big. (The gloves need to be dense.)

I also got: an extra long Denise needle cable, some GGH wine-colored mohair yarn to make wristwarmers for me because my office is cold aaaand..... nine skeins of Lamb's Pride bulky to make a sweater for Rudder. It would, of course, have been much smarter to say, "Now there's an idea, I think I'll make a sweater for Rudder," and then take him to the store to choose his own colors, but I think he'll like this. It's a denim sort of blue, with one skein of gray to make a stripe across the chest. I plan to make it a top-down raglan, probably plain stockinette, since that much ribbing would take longer and is not really any more exciting to knit. If he's lucky he'll get it by his December 2006 birthday; for this year he'll have to be satisfied with store-bought sweaters.

His birthday is two days before Christmas, so coming up with enough gift ideas is always tricky. Unfortunately when I called his parents to make sure we didn't step on each others' toes (and all buy the same gift), I found out they're busy dealing with some serious health problems of his maternal grandmother's. It's looking like a very good thing that we got to see her this summer, when she was lucid at least part of the time. She's declined very quickly since then, from the sound of it. Her youngest grandchild is in college and the oldest is 40 or so, so it's hard to complain, but this may be a difficult Christmas for my mother-in-law.

Posted by dichroic at 02:26 PM | Comments (1)

December 06, 2005

about family

OK, that was cool. Over at, I was able to find my grandfather who came to the US in 1912, when he was 3. I knew his year of birth, but not his parents' exact names (at least, not how they'd be listed), and with a little detective work, I was able to find his mother and the three siblings he traveled with, plus his father and older brother who came over a few months earlier. I could see the passenger record and the ship's original manifest., and it was a lovely feeling, especially, to see the grandmother and great aunt for whom I'm named. My great-grandmother came over, in steerage, with a fourteen-year-old daughter, a 5-year-old, a 3-year-old, and a baby. Yikes. At least she knew her husband and a 16-year-old son were waiting for her on the dock. (I don't know why there's a 9-year age gap between two of my aunts; perhaps my great-grandmother was a second wife. Since she's listed as 30 years old and her husband as 40, even allowing for early marriage back then, the two teenaged kids make that theory sound likely.) I've also found my dad's mother and possibly his father (the name is a common one but the age and city are right). I couldn't find my mother's mother's father, but I know my great-grandmother's family on that side came over a little before Ellis Island was opened.

Speaking of family, I don't believe I've mentioned what Rudder did to me while we were in Philadelphia. He told my father I could knit him gloves. For those of you who don't knit, I should point out that gloves, while a nice small project, are nasty fiddly things to knit. There are all those fingers, you see, not to mention thumb gussets and suchlike. This is why the Internet contains a zillion patterns for mittens and only a few for gloves. And, though a small hole in a sock where a stitch has been added may be unnoticeable inside shoes, it's my experience that the wind seeks out and blows through any little hole in a glove, so I need to do a good job on the fiddly bits. I think I probably ought to use fiddly little yarn and needles too. At least I think I can get away with DK instead of going down to sock yarn.

Normally, I'd have explained the difficulty and told them both to take a flying leap (or at least to settle for socks) but Dad actually sounded interested. He is so rarely interested in anything these days, and never has been much in gifts at all. So I can't just tell him to forget it. I settled for explaining to Rudder exactly what he'd let me in for (he was joking, originally) and hinting to Dad, unsuccessfully, that maybe he'd like a nice pair of socks instead. He won't wear mittens, either; I don't even think he'd wear fingerless gloves with mitten tops. So I guess I'm making gloves. I did warn him not to expect them any time soon.

Posted by dichroic at 03:51 PM | Comments (1)

U is for Unknown

This is cheating a little, since I started out with A is for Anonymous, but I'm going to address a different subset of verse here.

is for Unknown.

For Anon., I wrote about the ballads that begin many poetry anthologies, whose authorship is lost somewhere back in time. For Unknown, I want to write about the verses, jingles and rhymes that come from nowhere and somehow lodge in the folds of our brains. These are the onews everyone knows. (Actually, the ones I know are the ones everyone in the US knows - I'm sure that there are different versions in other countries.) Some stay around forever, some sweep through a school or a city and eventually die away. They appeal to different ages, too - most of the ones that stick seem to be sung to or by children, but different types appeal to different ages.

The grandaddy of these jingles is one of the best known:

Ring around a rosy Pocket full of posies, Ashes, ashes, we all fall down.

I've variously seen it attributed to ancient Egyptian times and the Black Plague, though I'd have to say the latter seems more likely. The Mother Goose rhymes were first published in the 1700s, but some of them are much older than that.

There was an old woman tossed in a basket. Seventeen times as high as the moon; But where she was going no mortal could tell, For under her arm she carried a broom.

"Old woman, old woman, old woman," said I,
"Whither, oh whither, oh whither so high?"
"To sweep the cobwebs from the sky;
And I'll be with you by-and-by

But not all of these are ancient. I think Miss Mary Mack, a clapping rhyme I and my friends played, is of American origin - I'd guess not earlier than the mid or late 19th century just from the wording, but that's pure speculation.

Miss Mary Mack, Mack, Mack, All dressed in black, black, black, With silver buttons, buttons, buttons, All down her back, back, back She asked her mother, mother, mother, For fifty cents, cents, cents, To see the elephant, elephant, elephant. Jump over the fence, fence, fence. He jumped so high, high, high, He reached the sky, sky, sky, And he never came back, back, back, ‘Till the end of July, ‘ly, ‘ly.

Some of the other clapping rhymes were even later - I think the Oreo one came form a commercial. And there were rhymes I learned from other kids in school that must have been made up in the very recent past - they traveled around school a bit, then died away. Here's one:

Coca Cola came to town, Pepsi Cola shot him down Dr. Pepper fixed him up Now they're drinking 7-Up. 7-Up he got the flu, Now they're drinking Mountain Dew. Mountain Dew got shaken up, Now they're drinking Bubble-Up.
I have no idea where that one came from, or why anyone wrote it. (Bubble-Up was a short-lived soda, kind of like 7-Up or Sprite.)

Rhymes like the circle games or the Mother Goose ones are usually sung to toddlers, generally by older people. In contrast, the rhymes for clapping, jump rope or other games or for teasing are sung by older kids. That may make them especially vulnerable to change through the folk process. For example, there's:

[Hisname] and [Hername], sittin' in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G First comes love, then comes marriage, Then comes a baby in a baby carriage.

In my grade school, we'd have sung that last line as "Then comes [Hername] (or [Hisname], if he were the one being teased) in the baby carriage." It doesn't make a lot of sense that way, but it still sufficed if you wanted to embarass someone.

There were also counting-out rhymes, used to pick for example who would be it in a game of tag. We had a lot of those, and again they ranged from ancient:

Eeny, meeny, miney moe, Catch a tiger by the toe, If he hollers, let him go, Eeny, meeny, miney moe.

The nonsense syllables may first have been used to count sheep one of the Celtic languages. We sometimes used "Out goes Y-O-U" for the last line, and we did say "tiger", as opposed to "Indian" (which is used in the Mary Poppins books) or "n----r" which I have also seen in older sources. (I'm not sure if Mary Poppins originally said "Indian" or if my copies have been redacted.) Most of our counting rhymes had less illustrious pedigrees and fewer variants. Here are a couple more:

Doggy, doggy diamond, Step right up. Not because you're dirty, Not because you're clean, Just because you kissed the girl behind magazine And you are it!

Engine engine number nine,
Coming down Chicago line,
If the train jumps off the track,
Do you want your money back?
(person pointed to says "yes" or "no", counter spells the word out)
Y-E-S spells yes and you are it!

My mother and your mother were hanging up clothes,
My mother punched your mother right in the nose
What color blood came out?
(person pointed to picks a color, counter spells it out)
And you will now be IT!

The last line can vary in any of these depending who the person counting wants to pick. If you want to go on longer, you can pick who's NOT "it" and repeat the rhyme until only one person is left. And an obnoxiously precocious kid an make the last rhyme's target a little more uncertain by picking a color like "aquamarine". (Of course, I would never have done that, nuh-uh nope.)

Obviously, none of these are great poetry. But they were part of my life growing up; I think too many adults put away and even forget childish things. I want to remember them, especially when those childish things are links to centuries of children before me.

Posted by dichroic at 12:39 PM | Comments (0)

December 05, 2005

keeping memories

I'm not exactly sick, but I'm not exactly not sick either. I don't feel bad, but I do seem to be dripping rather a lot. Also, when Rudder brought me tea yesterday morning, I tried to drink some of it while still mostly lying down (it was a mug with a lid on it, so that was a stupid move but not as stupid as it would otherwise have been) which resulted in not so much burning my tongue as burning my whole mouth, including my tongue, the left corner of my mouth, the inside of my lower lip, and a spot on my throat. None of it really hurts but I can tell it's not quite right and it feels almost as if I have a sore throat. Also, the steak and baked potato I had yesterday turned out to be much saltier than I'd have normally realized they were - they stung my mouth.

I only managed to erg 3000m this morning, but I think that's mostly because of waking up three hours earlier than on either of the last two days, coupled with having to blow my nose every couple hundred meters for the first thousand. My body's been kind of logy in general; yesterday I wanted to do a half marathon but only managed 11000m. As I said, not quite not sick. Rudder seems to be feeling noticeably better, at least.

Today is the 50th anniversary of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. I still think that ought to be a case study for anyone studying management and leadership. Of course the people in it were inspired by a raging injustice, but it takes something more than demogoguery to keep hundreds of people organized, doing something that causes them great personal inconvenience for over a year. The logistics of organizing rides in a time and place when few people had cars, had to have been difficult at best. Many people walked to work, for miles in the cold damp winters and steaming Alabama summers. These would have been a normal cross-section of American people: old and young, fit and feeble. They walked. They put up with bombings of the leaders' houses and threats to their families. We have stories of the soldiers at Valley Forge, but they were soldiers. We have stories of the Pilgrims enduring scarcity in a new land and of the covered-wagon pioneers walking unimaginable distances, but in both cases there were few escapes: going home was either not feasible or was as difficult as continuing on. The people in Montgomery could have stopped at any time and simply returned to the status quo, which wasn't physically unendurable. They weren't starving or beaten (or at least, if they were beaten it was for the boycott itself). The buses were available, if only their back halves.

If the status quo was unendurable, it must have been their honor and spirits that were galled. And for that, they avoided the bus system for over a year. I don't know whether the drive and endurance came from the leadership of the movement, or the grassroots, though I would like to know. My guess is both.

The Montgomery Bus Boycott is a bit of history that is not forgotten, but too often reduced to a line or two in a history book. I think it ought to be remembered as one of the great American legends - I mean that not in the sense of something untrue but as one of the stories that has shaped our national character and should continue to shape our ideals. The Library of Congress has a project called StoryCorps, whose goal is to let people interview each other to recordtheir memories. I hope the idea will spread beyond the StoryCorps booths, so that people who remember the Depression, or WWII, or the Montgomery Bus Boycott will tell stheir stories to their children and to anyone else who wants to listen, so the stories will be remembered. We'll be losing most of those people in the next few decades; we need to keep their memories.

Concept II Holiday Challenge: 116300 meters left
Today I am thankful for: getting to sit in any part of the bus I choose.

Posted by dichroic at 01:45 PM | Comments (1)

December 03, 2005

present not accounted for

There's a meme going around about listing ten things you want for holiday gifts. I've been avoiding it because I'm having a very hard time thinking of anything I really want. Rudder's family has a tradition of giving each other wishlists; the idea is to list a variety of things at a variety of prices, so various family members cab get what they can find or afford. You get things you wanted, but the surprise lies in not knowing which things - also in the instantiation of the listed items, since we're often not all that specific. Anyway, neither of us has had an easy time thinking of items for the list this year.

Of course, there's a standard generic list of things I can always use more of - books, blothes, shoes, jewelry, and more books. If we were to do the RV thing, though (and Rudder's job's future is still up in the air) I'd be limited in the number of books and clothes and shoes I could take along. Then again, having a larger selection from which to choose what to take might be helpful.

The thing I was hoping not to be given was Rudder's nasty cold, or even my coworkers' milder ones. But alas, certain signs this morning are indcating someone may have been overly generous.

Posted by dichroic at 09:29 AM | Comments (1)

December 01, 2005

political niblets

Another 'dents in the steering wheel' moment: two days ago in a speech in this state, our hypocrite-in-chief said something to the effect that "we need to support our troops and give them everything they need." Yes, that would be Mr. BYO Body Armor himself. (I can't find the exact transcript online, because he's made a few speeches on the subject since then.)

This afternoon in a rather annoyingly patronizing and somewhat ignorant story on the phenomenon of Sherlockians, an NPR reporter mentioned that Harry Truman was a member of the Baker Street Irregulars and quoted from a letter he'd written to them during his presidency.
Reporter: "And when you can bring some relaxation to a wartime President, that shows you've really done something."
Dichroic, to the radio: "Yeah, it proves you've elected a President who can read."

(OK, elected a VP, to be precise. Still, I couldn't resist sharing.)

Posted by dichroic at 07:39 PM | Comments (1)

sleeping in the guest room

I will be so glad when Rudder is better - mostly for his sake, of course, but also for mine. I've been sleeping in the guest room for four days now, at his request (though he meant it for my own good). I've slept with earplugs the past couple of nights, partly because even two rooms down I can still hear his coughing, but also because the guest room is much closer to our heat pumps and they always wake me when they come on. (Fortunately, that's not until an hour or so before I have to wake up anyway; we have a programmable thermostat.) Also, the cats have both been sleeping with me - I guess Rudder's coughing bothers them too - and since this bed is a queen instead of a king they keep trying to sleep around the level of my knees, instead of down past my feet, which makes it difficult to turn over.

And then every conversation begins with "I feel like CRAP!", and the part about trying to figure what I can bring him to make him feel better (this is from my own caretaker side, not his request), the lack of company or anyone to snuggle with, and most annoying at all, the part about trying to get dressed almost in the dark so as not to disturb him more than necessary. I've been keeping my erg clothing in the erg room so I can change in there instead of in our bedroom. If he's still sick tonight, maybe I should lay out my work clothing for tomorrow as well. This is all getting very very old, though of course it's still not as bad as being the one who actually feels like crap. Poor Rudder.

So far, so good with the new cubemate. She talks the right amount (enough that I don't feel like I'm interrupting her work when I say something or like I'm talking to a blank wall, not so much that I can't get my work done) and shares the right amount about herself (enough that I think maybe we can be friends or at least work-friends, but not an unprofessional amount or TMI). She's an engineer by education, from a good enough school that it's safe to assume she got at least a somewhat-rounded education (as engineering educations go). And as I said, she's a rower - it's generally safe to assume that I have a lot in common with any female-engineer-rower. I haven't seen any evidence that she's a reader yet, but I can't expect perfection - and anyway, it's only been a few days. At any rate, it's nice to have someone around who can sympathize about split ends and erg pieces.

Concept II Holiday Challenge: 143, 400 meters left, or something like that (I need to check my math).
Today I am thankful for: not having caught what Rudder has!

Posted by dichroic at 01:27 PM | Comments (0)