January 31, 2006

personal cosmogony

I was just reading, in a blog I read regularly, someone's explaination about why she is absolutely, unutterably sure she's going to Heaven. I'm writing my response over here instead of in a comment and am not linking to her on purpose, because I have no desire at all to question or shake anyone else's faith; I just want to delve into why the whole idea seems so bizarre to me.

To start with, not only can I not imagine it, but I have no desire to be that sure. I like the idea that "The Universe is not only stranger than we imagine, it is stranger than we can imagine." I can understand the idea of debating what happens after death because it's the biggest puzzle we have and so why wouldn't you want to think about it? I can understand trusting in a benevolent Creator* that if you do your best to live a good life things will all work out; I can't see wanting to spoil the grandest adventure by knowing all the details ahead of time. (Which doesn't make a ton of sense for someone who often peeks at the endings of books, but there you have it.)

*My use of the word Creator does not in any way imply belief in a literal six day creation. I suppose it would be possible to create a universe with all the clues to its history ready planted, but 1) Why bother? 2) It seems natural to assume that even if such were the case, said Creator would have placed those clues there to be followed.

Second, one facet of her reasoning was that the way to get to Heaven was to believe in Jesus because God said so.. That theorem derives logically from the postulate that the Gospels are the literal truth. Problem is, I don't see why I should accept that postulate. We don't have independent historical records of Jesus words or even of his life (though we do of some of the milieu in which he existed). If he did exist and did speak truth, there's no way to know it was captured in the Gospels - there doesn't seem to be a solid agreement on their dates, but current guesses put them all from decades to a century after Jesus's death. And then there are all the possibilities of change from early to later versions of the books, either from deliberate theological differences or errors in copying, and the even likelier chance of erros in translation.

There are a couple of other ways to look at it that don't depend on historical record. One is to believe because so many others are sure of the truth of those words - the obvious problems with that is that there are so many people equally sure of the teachings of Mohammed or Buddha or the Rabbis or the Vedas. Even among Christians there are equally fervent believers in the primacy of good works versus faith, or in both. Another is to believe because of the internal proof of truth - C.S. Lewis's point in Mere Christianity. When I read that book, I found his argument for the existence of God compelling, for Jesus specifically not so much. Since those were exactly the prejudices with which I went into the book, I concluded none of the arguments could be trusted. (Disclaimer: I actually listened to an audiobook version from the library, and a few parts were garbled. I really ought to reread the book, in fairness.)

There's also the case that one ought to believe in the teachings of Jesus because many of them coincide with the teachings of other great leaders or with the innate sense of good Lewis postulated in us. That makes sense to me, but I can do that without believing in the divinity of Jesus. Lewis's argument against that was that to believe some of his words but not others is to believe Jesus was a liar, but I disagree. If he was a mortal man, he was prone to error like the rest of us. Or his words could have been misunderstood or mistranslated (I often wonder if "I am the Son of God" was really meant to mean "I am the only son of God.").

These things I do believe: it is worth living the best life you can given the definition of "good" as you understand it; at a minimum you will know you have lived up to your own standards and done good work with the tools you were issued, and at a maximum you may please Someone Else. And if there is an afterlife run by a truly benevolent and merciful God, as some people claim, S/He will not say, "Well, you did your best but you picked the wrong set of books. I hope you like things hot!" because that would betray those very qualities.

Of course if things turn out to be run by Loki or Murphy, all bets are off. But in those cases there's no safe way to bet anyhow, so you may as well not plan for them.

I hope it's clear in all of the above that I am not trying to attack or discredit anyone else's faith, just explainng why some things don't work for me. Feel free to comment politely in either agreement or disagreement. Don't bother telling me I'm going to Hell unless you can prove that one of my points is false, and I mean a real proof with actual logic.
Posted by dichroic at 11:57 AM | Comments (5)

January 30, 2006

Mardi gras?

I seem to have all kinds of ideas of things to write about ... until I sit down at the computer, then they all go away.

We're debating whether to have our more-or-less annual Mardi Gras party this year. I feel that it's important to have it, this year of all years - but Rudder's travel schedule for work isn't conducive to a party Mardi Gras weekend or the weekend before, and since the whole traditional point of the event is to get your celebrating in before Lent begins, having one afterwards just feels wrong. If we do decide to have one, I'll need to do all the turkey-injecting (of seasonings) on my own. It's a formidable job. (So is cleaning up the kitchen afterward.)

On the other hand, someone else has volunteered to make and bring gumbo, so that's a big inducement. And the Olympics closing cermony isn't until the SUnday of that weekend. Oh, and by the way, I will not be doing the Knitting Olympics this year. More stress, I don't need. While I am looking forward to the chance to knit while watching much more TV than usual (at least, when I'm not erging in front of the Olympics) I'm more intrested in getting farther on the sweater I've already started. I do plan to start some socks soon (I like to have a small portable project going) but don't expect I could finish them in two weeks unless I didn't do much of anything else, which sort of takes away from that whole "knitting for fun" idea.

In other news, Rudder is convinced that the cat's fur is already growing back noticeably. I'm just convinced Rudder is imagining things.

Posted by dichroic at 01:39 PM | Comments (0)

January 29, 2006

shaving the cat

On our way to a rowing social yesterday afternoon, I pointed out to Rudder that if I told people that we were a little late because we were having the cat shaved, they would think that was some strange euphemistic way to say that we were having mad passionate sex. Thereupon, he forbade me to tell them that (he likes to keep some things private), but I pointed out that I'm not responsible for other people's assumptions upon hearing a plain statement.

Unfortunately, that statement is the literal truth. Yesterday, we had the cat shaved. He's been losing weight and getting mats in his fur. When we took him to the vet, she had some ideas for getting him to et but didn't really address the matted-fur issue. We've been brushing him, but the mats won't come out and are only getting worse, so yesterday we took him to the groomer. She told us that if left untreated the mats would indeed grow worse and could lead to sores on his skin. She tried combing a few, then told us that cutting them out was the only answer. So now we have a semi-shaved cat. He looks pathetic, and of course he hated the crating, the drive, the groomer, and the grooming, but I think the end results bother him far less than they do Rudder.

Posted by dichroic at 10:35 AM | Comments (2)

January 27, 2006

creation and elaboration

Drat. I don't know why the line breaks in yesterday's poemlet were all screwed up, but they're better now. Funny thing: I started out heading to work in a crappy mood. Then I started thinking about this poem built around an image I'd been playing with, of a round peg in an ill-fitting round hole, and suddenly I felt much better. I don't know whether that was just because of the feeling of accomplishment from making something, or from converting the things that are bothering me into something I like, or what, but it's something to remember.

Today I did get up and go rowing; I've been erging instead most days, because it lets me sleep an hour later and not go out into the cold. It was nice and calm today, but COLD. I spent half the row trying to put together a slightly goofy sonnet (these things would get finished much faster if I could take notes in the boat!) and the other half thinking about the connection between my arms and legs during the stroke and between my right arm and the water, because that didn't feel as solid as it ought to be. (I think some of that was due to wake, though.) It felt good, anyway; I wanted to keep the rating low but the pressure high through the practice and I'm satisfied that I did, for 10.2 km. Then since I skipped yesterday, I'll probably go to the gym tomorrow while Rudder does a half-marathon on the erg.

The other thing we need to do tomorrow is take our cat to the vet. He's been losing weight and getting lots of mats in his fur on the back half of his body. We went to the vet a couple of weeks ago, and she discussed the weightloss but didn't seem too concerned about the matted fur. It's getting worse, though, and we've found several mats entirely removed and laying on the rug. So tomorrow we'll take him into the groomers at the vet's office, and see if they have seen anything like this. We're wondering if he's just getting too old to groom himself, though you'd think the other cat would pitch in in that case. Whatever's causing the styling problems as well as the weightloss doesn't seem to be bothering him any; he's slowed down considerably but seems happy, and he is nearly 17, after all.

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

January 26, 2006


I do not fit.
Things are not right.
And yet I would not say
That I felt like
A square peg
Trying to fit
A round hole.

I chose my path; I walked my ways
I would not pick a clear misfit.
What I am, I think
Is a round peg
Trying to fit in
A round hole.
Only the hole
Is too small
Or too big

Or maybe the sides are rough and leave splinters.

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

January 25, 2006

Ms Pangloss speaks

Workwise, this has just been a frustrating day in a frustrating week in a frustrating month in a frustrating year.

Of course, that all loses some of its dramatic force when you recollect that we're still in January. Some other parts of my life are frustrating too, like my finances (savings still a little lower and Visa balance a little higher than I'd like - how I wish I'd quit flying sooner! - though they're still both in decent shape by most standards, I think) and my lack of decisions about competing and training this year, but all of those things are my own fault and are not nearly as annoying to me. The issues heterodyne, though: I will feel freer to take risks and make changes once my finances are slapped back into shape.

Am I just a privileged girl whining because she can't have cake and a pony too? Totally. There are more things right with my life than there are wrong with it.

On the way home from work after a crappy day, I like to play the "best thing possible" game: What's the best thing that could happen today? It has to be in the bounds of possibility; no fair dreaming about winning the lottery if I haven't bought a ticket. They can range from things that are barely possible (winning the lottery) to virtually certain (an evening with Rudder). Today's best possible things include the arrival of any of a few expected packages and knitting while rereading "Le Ton Beau de Marot". Come to think of it, I think Rudder has a meeting tonight, but I still get to snuggle with him before going to sleep, plus I can make one of my favorite dinners that he's not especially fond of (gambas al ajillas and dilled potatoes). And the one package I most confidently expect contains the fuzzy boots (fuzzy on the inside) I finally broke down and bought, so my feet will be happy. In addition, there could be beads, pretzels (I ordered some that claim to be the "world's best), a blazer, or even, remote possibility, a much delayed Chanukah present from the relative who tends to be vague about such things. Plenty of possibilities plus virtually assured Rudder-snuggles - lots to look forward to.

Except I started thinking about them too soon and now I'm anxious to go home. Oops. What are your best possible things today?

Posted by dichroic at 03:15 PM | Comments (3)

January 24, 2006


All done - well, except for working in the ends in the second one. All I can say is, my Dad better wear them.

That's my hand they're on - they look all bulgy just because they're too big for me.

Posted by dichroic at 08:03 PM | Comments (1)


This is my 2000th entry! That makes me verbose even among bloggers. I thought about trying to write something profound .... for about a microsecond. Instead I'll write something totally frivolous because it seems more appropriate, on one of my core subjects (rowing, books, flying, knitting, clothes).

I'm a little disappointed today. I'm wearing a vest I bought this weekend, buttery soft cherry red suede with laser cut-outs. I got a smokin' deal on it, less than half price, but the thing was, when I tried it on this weekend, while wearing jeans, boots, lace tank top and a straw cowgirl hat I was trying on just for fun, it looked cool.

I was figuring I could wear it with my floaty long brown skirt and feel like a wood nymph. (I've always had a fondness for Maid Marian sort of clothing, to the point that I was thinking of this not as a vest but as a jerkin.) Both the vest and the skirt come from (different) stores that cater to women of a certain age (that I am fast approaching), but I shop there because they also cater to women who like interesting detailing in their clothing. I was enjoying the idea of pairing a vest and skirt aimed at middle-aged women to achieve a wood-nymph look.

Only problem was, provenance overpowered me. When I tried them on together, the two pieces, with a fitted white long-sleeved T-shirt under vest, looked less wood-nymph/Maid Marian and more, well.... middle aged. I tried again with a brown shirt matching the skirt, and the effect was better but still not what I wanted, plus I wasn't thrilled with the cherry-red right on top of the brown. So I gave up for yesterday and just wore brown on brown with boots, to achieve something much closer to the look I wanted.

Today I tried again with the jerkin / vest over the white shirt, first with a black skirt with red and white embroidery, then when I decided that was still too middle-aged, over dark gray pants and black boots. It's better, but still.... I'm going to try again, with a black shirt underneath, or jeans on a Friday, or a tank top in summer. I think the lesson is, one item from the middle-aged store can be cool, but I need to be very careful in putting two or more together, because apparently middle-aged-ness is an additive property.

Or maybe I should have bought the cowboy hat.

I'm actually up past 2000 entries, because there have been a few in my LiveJournal instead of in here. I tend to put memes in there, because the memes usually come from the LJ community. One I posted yesterday, though, is so lovely I'm going to cross post it. It's below the cut tag, to spare anyone who's already seen it at LJ.

Leave a list of fictional characters in your journal that you would love to get a message from. It is your friend-list's mission, should they choose to accept it, to write you an in-character "letter" from a character on that list. Then they post their own list in their journal and the process continues!

1. Danny Dunn (from Danny Dunn and the ... series
2. Oswald Bastable (E. Nesbit)
3. the Dowager Duchess of Denver (ditto)
4. Meg Murray (Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time and sequelae)
5. Valancy Snaith / Redfern (of L.M. Montgomery's The Blue Castle
6. Susan Voight (Bull & Brust's Freedom and Necessity)
7. Anne Elliott (Jane Austen's Persuasion)
8. John (Elizabeth Peters' Vicky Bliss books)
9. John (Manly Wade Wellman)
10. Hermione Granger (JK Rowling)
11. Jacqueline Kirby (Elizabeth Peters)
12. Peter Shandy (Charlotte MacLeod)
13. Cecelia (of Wrede and Stevermer's Sorcery & Cecelia: or, The Enchanted Chocolate Pot)
14. Jane Brailsford (Caroline Stevermer's A Scholar of Magics)
15. Nick Mallory (Diana Wynne Jones, Deep Secret and The Merlin Conspiracy
16. Will Stanton (Susan Cooper, The Dark is Rising)
17. Stalky (Rudyard Kipling)
18. Puck (Kipling's version)
19. The Thing (Fantastic Four)
20. Merlin (T.H. White's version)

Posted by dichroic at 03:26 PM | Comments (3)

January 23, 2006

training solution

My (very) local training expert, Rudder, has come up with a brilliant solution for me. Or possibly, it's not so much that his plan is brilliant as that I'm an idiot for not thinking of it myself.

I've been contemplating the Winter Olympics. While I don't love them as much as the summer Olympics (no gymnastics, no rowing), I'm still fond of them. I have good memories of vegging out in front of the TV with my Dad when the Olympics were on as far back as '76, with housemates and friends in 1988, and with Rudder more recently, and I watch them as much for those memories as for themselves. The problem was that evenings in front of the TV are not terribly compatible with a workout schedule that requires waking up at 4 or 5 AM on weekdays (going to bed late and just getting less sleep isn't really an option if I want to be at all useful at work the next day; Rudder and I both find that more exercise requires more sleep).

His brilliant solution? Erg at night in front of the Olympics instead. It's not perfect, because erging after eating dinner isn't ideal, but it means I can watch the Olympics until 10 (not later, because of still having to get up for work at 6.) I'll either bag the weight lifting in favor or more erging or do it after work before the Olympics prime time coverage starts. And of course, when not erging I expect to get a good bit of knitting done, in addition to reading during the sports I don't care about.

Yesterday I took my cubemate out in a double - it was her first time rowing a scull (two oars) instead of sweep (one apiece), so for a lot of the row only one of us was rowing, with the other balancing the boat. We did get to row together some, though there were a few nervous moments. It's definite a different though related skill. My back was hurting a little by then end. This morning I did my first real race workout in a very long time: 6x 500 meters at a 2km race pace, with 2 minutes rest between. (I confess I lightened up a little on the last two.) In all the marathon training, I never did anything faster than about a 5K pace, and since I wasn't going for time, I confess I went easy on my estimate of a 5K pace. Either from this morning or from yesterday, I'm definitely moving slower and more stiffly today, but I figure I need to do this in case I cave in to the peer pressure to do a 2K erg race in two weeks.

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

January 20, 2006


I'm having a Good Pants day. Back in October, I was shopping in San Diego (at JournalCon with LA - shopping with a friend was a treat for me, as I usually do it alone and LA is a fabulous shopping partner) when I came across a pair of cords I liked in the Levi's store. They were nearly perfect: great fit, good color, low-waisted enough for comfort but not low enough to put my underwear on display, and they made my butt look good. (Because really, why else wear tight pants?) But they were too long by several inches. LA suggested I buy them anyway, take them home and hem them, but I know me and it wouldn't have happened. By the time I'd gotten around to it, those pants would have grown whiskers.

LA's other suggestion was that I check the website to see if I could buy different lengths online. Brilliant idea, but Levi's didn't cooperate. Jeans came in three lengths, cords only in Too Long.

So I've been on a mission ever since then to find a similar pair. A week or so ago I finally found a pair online at the Gap's January sale. I'm wearing them now. Similar color and fit, shorter length. They're wonderfully comfortable, thanks to soft corduroy and some spandex, and Rudder approved the back view. Maybe a little, er, fitted for work, but I've found that stretch fabrics do tend to loosen up over time, and anyway it's Friday.

Not that it matters much, but it's nice to get something that's exactly what you want even when it's something frivolous.

Posted by dichroic at 11:39 AM | Comments (1)

January 19, 2006

the latest

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Google Inc. has been subpoenaed by the U.S. Justice Department to turn over a database of search terms as part of a government probe of online pornography but Google rejected the demand as overreaching by the government.

Just in case the government wins, I have just Googled the search strings "Bush is an idiot", "Bush is a dick", and "Impeach Bush".

I don't suppose it's much of a blow for freedom, but it surely was satisfying.

Posted by dichroic at 05:44 PM | Comments (4)

grammar rant of the day

I just noticed someone's word-of-the-day calendar. Today's word was "carpe diem" (two words, but even I'm not that picky. What riled me was that it was classed as a noun, defined as "an enjoyment of today without regard for tomorrow, and given in an example sentence beginning, "In the spirit of carpe diem..."


Carpe diem is an exhortation, "Seize the day!" It is a verb phrase, with seize as the verb and day as its object. In an English sentence, it can be used as a gerund, as can most English verbs. "The rising of the moon." "The running of the bulls." "The verbing of the nouns." Since it's still in its original Latin form (after all, we don't say "Carpe the diem") you can't really add an -ing suffix, because "In the spirit of carpe-ing diem" would sound even sillier. So OK, the gerund form, which is a noun, is identical to the original verb form. But it's not exactly a freestanding phrase, just an Example of how flexible English is. A fluent English-speaker, once having heard the phrase "Carpe diem properly defined (which this WASN"T) can work out the implications of its usage for himself for herself. I can't imagine being able to use the phrase properly if this was all you had.

The calendar had Miiriam-Webster's brand prominently displayed on it. Sad.

Posted by dichroic at 11:42 AM | Comments (2)

January 18, 2006

goals? what goals?

Even after coming back from rowing camp, I'm having real trouble getting fired up to train this year. Part of it's the weather: right now it's in the high 30s / low 40s at 5AM most mornings. (Those of you to whom that doesn't sound that cold: how often do you go out at 5AM in the dark alone on the water at those temperatures? It's not all that bad once you're working hard, but getting started is a bitch, especially when you've just woken up and your body temperature is down. And of course there's a safety factor, too.)

I think, though, that more of it is just a cyclical thing. I'm ready to scale back on the rowing for a while and get fired up about something else. Rowing takes over your life to an extent where it cuts down on what else you do - can't stay up late, too tired to go hiking or climbing on the weekends, using up mos tof our vacation on regatta trips. Some people like being driven by a single goal; one woman once told me, "I don't do anything half-assed."

Well, I do. If I can't do something well, I'm still going to do it if I enjoy. In fact, that philosophy would have kept me from getting into rowing in the first place, because I just don't have the right genes to excel - not only the height, but the slow-twitch / fast twitch muscle fiber ratio and other things. For exampleRudder feels better the more he trains, up to a fairly high point, while I just burn out more quickly, either physically or mentally. Also, I'm generally going to enjoy doing several things at a time (on in closely proximate times, anyway) more than focusing on only one, even if it means that I don't do as well in any one thing.

I've been talking about cutting back on rowing for a couple of years now, to the point that anyone who reads here regularly is tired of hearing about it. Last year I actually did it, though that would have been more successful if I hadn't found that I wasn't really enjoying the flying I did in its place. It's hard to set longterm goals, because I still hope to move out of here and don't know if we'll be anywhere we can row, but I need to decide soon, at least for the visible time horizon, whether I want to race this year and train harder or scale back. And if I do scale back, I can't just sit and read and knit, because I've worked too hard to get such fitness as I have to just let it ooze away. And of course, there are other considerations: for example, I'd like to try yoga, but most classes I've seen are at night, which means I'd never get to see Rudder, since he'd still be on a rowing schedule. And of course, work always gets in the way. Oh, well, no better time to decide on the year's goals than at the beginning of the year.

Posted by dichroic at 01:13 PM | Comments (0)

January 17, 2006

still good

If I had to describe the rowing camp in one word, it would be "chilly". My biggest regret of that weekend was that I didn't pack a hat. The local San Diego residents were in Ugg boots and fleece-lined pool parkas, and I am now lusting after one of each. (Well, two, in the case of the boots.) It was fairly windy, so we didn't get as much on-water coaching, videotaping, and feedback as last year, which was disappointing. On the other hand, I got a lot more out of the seminars this year, mostly stuff about planning my training, so that was a positive. I think Rudder was disappointed because he knew a lot of it already - he plans his training in much more detail than I do. We both enjoyed the chance to make new friends and contacts with rowers from other areas.

All in all, I don't think it was as much fun or as helpful as last year's. On the other hand, at one point yesterday when I was going around in circles repeating the first few strokes of a racing start over and over, I was able to fend off boredom by thinking, "Well, what would I be doing now otherwise?" It only took a short look around the blue skies over Mission Bay and a sniff of the clean breeze, contrasted with a visualization of my small cubicle in an industrial building set in the brown air next to Sky Harbor Airport to convince me that I was just where I ought to be.

Also, I got a good bit of sweater knitted, solidified some relationships with San Diego and Seattle area rowers, breathed clean air for three days straight (Rudder and I promptly started coughing (him) and sneezing (me) as we drove back into town) and had my gut behave well for a whole weekend of travel, which is rare. Usually I feel icky for at least a couple of hours somewhere, what with different food, water, stresses, and sleep schedule. So it could have been a little better, but it was still pretty darn good.

One other thing I learned: don't leave She-Hulk alone with a box of Williams & Sonoma's peppermint bark. Not that Rudder wouldn't have been just as bad if we hadn't just finished off two more boxes of the stuff over Xmas break.

Posted by dichroic at 12:04 PM | Comments (1)

January 13, 2006

time and stories

I wrote the folowing originally as a comment to Ebony, but it's long enough to deserve its own entry. Edited a little to stand alone.

I was thinking about time and immediacy earlier today - about history and experience. The radio had a bit on about MLK Jr, and it occurred to me that even in the 1960s, slavery was still close enough to be family memory for a lot of people rather than history.

I can very nearly do it myself - my grandmother, born in 1912, had stories about Prohibition and the Depression. I can remember my great-grandmother, who died when I was 9; she was born in 1892. My grandmother had a story or two about her grandfather, and he would have been born in the 1860s or 1870s. Beyond that there would be barriers of different countries and languages. And we're not a story-telling sort of family, particularly. If you were, and if you had something as life-altering as slavery or the end of it to talk about, I can imagine that the experience would have still felt vivid to the civil rights fighters in the 1960s.

Now it's forty years further on and as we lose a sense of history, past victories and defeats, righted wrongs and wrongs still unrighted don't matter as much to too many people. Movies may help some, when they do it right, to make history come alive. Maybe they should make one of the Delany sisters' books. I knew a lot less about the aftermath of slavery and about the Jim Crow days before I read their books. And maybe we should tell more stories, in general.

Off to rowing camp!

Posted by dichroic at 01:34 PM | Comments (0)

January 12, 2006

nos moritori te spernimus, or something like that.

I think I'm about to get attacked, lambasted, hulled up one side and down the other at my meeting in a few minutes. They may even say mean things to me. I am consoling myself with the fact that I believe the work I've done is good, and that some of these people are just having it's-not-mine-so-it must-suck brainsets, and that at least it's not going to be like a Supreme Court nominee meeting. For one thing, it can't go on for more an a couple of hours. Also, I'm trying to regard it as practice, just on the off chance that I ever do get nominated to the Supreme Court. If that doesn't work, I'll try the approach of staying quiet for as long as I can (I'm not particularly good at it) and maybe taking notes, so people can get all of their frothing at the mouth finished before I respond. This would be much more fun if I could stay quiet and smile a secret and superior smile, but I think that's a bad tactic.

Oh well. Ave, Caesar.

Later note: well, not quite as bad as expected. I didn't actually have any skin flayed off, at least.

Posted by dichroic at 11:48 AM | Comments (0)

January 11, 2006

the vanishing lens

Well, that was weird. I've been having some problems with my contact lenses since last spring; the left eye was getting irritated, so the eye doctor told me to leave them out for a while, then taken them out every night until my eye was better. (I wear Focus Night & Day, which are meant to be worn for a week at a time, then thrown away and replaced at the end of each month.) They've never really gotten completely better, so I've been wearing my glasses a lot more and have only recently been experimenting for leaving them in for one night, then taking them out the next.

But this is really odd, and it's the second time in a week. I think I'd just rubbed my lower eyelid slightly, maybe a quarter or half inch under my left eye, and next thing I know the contact lens has gotten lost in my eye. It's gone far enough back into the eye socket that I can't even see it until I roll my eye around and push on the upper lid to being it out a bit. Not a major problem, but not something I'd want to happen while driving.

And this can't be a good thing, really.

Posted by dichroic at 12:17 PM | Comments (1)

what's up and what's coming up

I finished my first glove last night. I just hope it fits - the fit is a trifle hard to figure out when the hand it's for is a few thousand miles away. I don't have any measurements; I could ask my dad to take some, but I'm afraid he'd measure to somewhere different than I would so all the numbers would be off. (Because really, how do you define the *exact* length of a finger? You could measure to the webbing between fingers on one side, or on the other, or to the knuckle, or....) I know he has small hands, for a man, so I've been trying to get the size somewhere between my hands and Rudder's. The only thing I'm not thrilled with is the cast off at the wrist, which looks great but is a little tighter than I'd like. Rudder was able to get his hand in the glove, so it's not too tight, but I may try to find a better way to redo it. (Technical note: I used a suspended bind-off, but it's still too tight. There's one from Elizabeth Zimmerman I considered, where you thread a tapestry needle and go through two stitches purlwise, then one knitwise and drop the stitch off, but EZ says it's not recommended for ribbing. I don't want anything ruffly.)

This all would have been easier if a needle I bought Saturday hadn't promptly broken on Sunday. Unfortunately I probably won't get to replace it unti the weekend after next because this weekend we'll be traveling.

I spent yesterday in a meeting up at the site where I used to work. It was an odd feeling: there were people I knew from each stage of my career with this company. Sort of a little "This is Your Life on the Job". Very handy for establishing contacts and picking up gossip. I also got to have lunch with a couple of my favorite former colleagues, and got some advice from one that may prove useful in dealing with my boss. (They're from the same culture, and apparently workplaces in that culture use a much more hierarchical model than is common in the US, which may account for some of the boss's quirks.)

This weekend we'll be going to San Diego for their Masters Rowing Camp - yes, Rudder and I are going to camp. Last year it was fun, though with all the rain and ensuing lake closures we didn't get to apply what we'd learned for a long time. This year that shouldn't be a problem, since we haven't had any rain at all since about October. (It's going to be a bad year for wildfires. Again.) I really need to decide soon how much racing I want to do, because if the answer is anything but "Not much" I need to ramp up my training. On the one hand, it's been so nice not to get up at 4AM and go out in the cold! On the other hand, Rudder is still doing just that, which means I get woken up anyhow, though at least I get to stay in bed until 5, when I get up to erg or go to the gym. I can can erg some days, but if I want to be anything like competitive, or at least as close to it as I can get, I need to spend more time on the water.

My cubiemate is trying to convince me to do the local erg competition, in February. Ugh. 2000 meters is an unpleasant distance, short enough to be sprinting as hard as you can, long enough to feel like it's going on forever. (Top female rowers do it in under 7 minutes; my best time to date for that distance is just under 9 minutes.) Very pukeworthy distance.

Posted by dichroic at 09:23 AM | Comments (1)

January 09, 2006

of age and work

It turns out that the vet's office is remarkably uncrowded on Friday nights. I suppose most people have better things to do.

We were there to get one cat his shots and to get the other one checked out; lately he's lost an alarming amount of weight and we've been finding mats in his fur. I suspect most of it is due to the inroads of age (he's 16) but we're going to try using a water fountain to get him to drink more, giving them occasional wet food to get him to eat more, and some thyroid meds to help him gain weight. He seems happy enough otherwise.

Speaking of the ravages of age, the saddest thing I've heard about Ariel Sharon's condition is that if it had been anyone else, they probably wouldn't have operated - sad, both because of the idea that important people get more attentive care than normal people and because of what it says about how lost Israel feels without him.

It was a calm and reasonably productive weekend: I rowed, we had breakfast out with the Old Salt and Dr. Bosun, I got one glove mostly done, all but the wrist cuff, we braved the local warehouse store, we had an enjoyable dinner out, and so on. The worst thing that happened was that a circular needle I bought Saturday (Addi Natura) broke on Sunday, forcing me to finish the gloves with a couple of DPNs on one side. And if that's the worst part of a day, it's a good day - in fact, I didn't have to get far into Monday at all for it to be worse.

This working for a living stuff is not my idea of fun. I feel there's got to be a Proper Job out there for me someplace, one I'd look forward to going in to on Mondays, but damme if I can figure out what it is.

Posted by dichroic at 01:14 PM | Comments (1)

January 06, 2006

lap blanket pattern

Apologies to nonknitters; you may just want to skip this entry.

While trying to fall asleep this morning after Rudder left for rowing (and then again after he came back because it was too windy), I invented a pattern to knit a lap blanket with a pocket to keep your feet warm. It's an unpattern, really, adaptable to any yarn and gauge. I probably won't knit this any time soon, what this that whole living in Phoenix thing, but I want to at least record the basic idea. I've worked out the math for two versions, one in garter stitch and one in stockinette with cables. My math skills are somewhat better than my knitting skills, but please let me know if you spot any errors!.

Feel free to use this pattern, but not to publish it elsewhere or sell it. Let me know if you do try it. Once again: I warn you I have NOT knit-tested this pattern!

For both styles:
You'll need a bulky or super-bulky yarn and an appropriately-sized circular needles 40" or so long. I think the garter-stitch version would look good in a chenille, while I'd want a smoother yarn for the cabled one.

Swatch (garter for the garter style, stockinette for the cable style). A flat swatch is fine; it's a blanket and exact size doesn't matter. Measure. Call your stitches per inch X, your rows per inch Y. To figure out the total number of stitches to cast on, which I'll call N, multiply X by 48. Use a provisional cast on of some kind (like casting onto waste yarn or a crochet chain - Google "provisional cast-on" to find instructions) to CO N stitches. PM and join sts.

Garter Stitch Foot-Pocket Throw:

Row 1: Knit
Row 2: Purl.
Repeat Rows 1 and 2 for 18" or so. When you get to the marker on the next row, instead of continuing around in a circle, turn and go back the other way, going back and forth instead of around. If you want a wider blanket, when you switch to flat knitting, CO 6 times X stitches at the end of each of the next two rows. Knit every row from here out until the blanket is long enough to cover your lap with your feet in the pocket, longer if you want to fold it over for extra thickness. Pull out the waste yarn or crochet chain at the original cast-on and Kitchener graft the stitches together as you would for a sock toe.

Cabled Foot-Pocket Throw

This will be a stockinette throw with one bigger cable in the middle and two smaller ones on either side; obviously, the width of the cable (in inches, not stitches) will depend on the thickness of your yarn.
C4F: Slip 2 sts on a cable needle and hold in front of work. K 2, then K the 2 sts off the cable needle.
C6F: Slip 3 sts on a cable needle and hold in front of work. K 3, then K the 3 sts off the cable needle.

Row 1: K N/2-13 sts. P2, K4, P4, K6, P4, K4, P2, K N/2-13.
Rows 2-5: Repeat Row 1.
Row 6: K N/2-13 sts. P2, C4F, P4, K6, P4, C4F, P2, K N/2-13.
Rows 7-11: Repeat Row 1.
Row 12: K N/2-13 sts. P2, C4F, P4, C6F, P4, C4F, P2, K N/2-13.
Repeat Rows 1-12 for 18".

Switch from circular to flat knitting. From the marker, turn and:
Row 1(WS): K2, P N/2-15 sts. K2, P4, K4, P6, K4, P4, K2, P N/2-15, K2.
Row 2(RS): K N/2-13 sts, P2, K4, P4, K6, P4, K4, P2, K N/2-13.
Row 3(WS): Repeat Row 1.
Row 4(RS): Repeat Row 2.
Row 5(WS): Repeat Row 1.
Row 6(RS): K N/2-13 sts. P2, C4F, P4, K6, P4, C4F, P2, K N/2-13.
Row 7(WS): Repeat Row 1.
Row 8(RS): Repeat Row 2.
Row 9(WS): Repeat Row 1.
Row 10(RS): Repeat Row 2.
Row 11(WS): Repeat Row 1.
Row 12: K N/2-13 sts. P2, C4F, P4, C6F, P4, C4F, P2, K N/2-13.

What you're doing on this flat part is garter-stitching the first two stitches on every row to provide a nice edge. Repeat these 12 rows until the blanket is long enough to cover your lap with your feet in the pocket, longer if you want to fold it over for extra thickness. Pull out the waste yarn or crochet chain at the original cast-on and graft the stitches together as you would for a sock toe.

What I'm doing here is putting cables in the middle 26 stitches, with stockinette on either side.Obviously, this would be easy enough to adapt for different types of cables. If you want to get really adventurous, try one of these. I confess I haven't tried them because I usually read while knitting and I'd have to put the book down and pay attention for them.

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

January 05, 2006


The upgrade is complete. It was a little easier than I expected. Comments should be working properly now, but will now be held for approval before being posted. The new user interface is a bit better, especially in how comments are handled and I'm very pleased that the new install didn't run roughshod over my template or previous entries.

I'd planned to post a bibliography (list of links I used) from my Poetry Alphabet yesterday. Unfortunately I didn't save it, and when I stepped away from my computer for too long, it spontaneously shut down. Once I get over being annoyed by that I'll try to reconstitute and post it.

Posted by dichroic at 12:35 PM | Comments (0)


It looks like the MT Blacklist plugin isn't supported any more, because it's been superseded by the anti-spam features in MovableType 3.2. So if you've been having trouble commenting in here, that's probably why. And that's why I'm upgrading to MT 3.2, so if this site goes wonky for a bit, that would be why.

Posted by dichroic at 11:17 AM | Comments (0)

January 04, 2006

sweater girl

Here we go - two poses mimicking the ones from the original pattern and the one in the middle because Rudder liked it.

Posted by dichroic at 06:00 PM | Comments (2)

Banff rides out

Guess what I'm wearing today? It's really more of a casual floppy sweater than something for work, but I had an excuse. I like my boss, but he is undeniably quirky. One of his quirks is that he likes to give us a hard time about the dress code - the company is business casual, but he'll always comment favorably on people wearing ties or skirts, or give us a hard time for wearing "ranch pants" on Fridays. (He just likes giving us crap, basically - if we didn't give him something to complain about he would be bored.) Yesterday, he was telling my cubemate (who doesn't work for him) that she could be "gatekeeper" for our staff meeting today, to make sure no one got in whose clothing didn't cost at least $300 excluding jewelry.

I'd wear a $300 pair of jeans in, just to needle him, except that would require actually spending that much money to buy them.

I told him that just for that, today I'd wear a sweater that, considering the speed of my knitting and my hourly rate, was worth a couple thousand dollars. And I am. Of course, I neglected to mention that the yarn cost me a whole $35 or so on sale.

Though you'd think such an expensive sweater would be a bit more flattering.

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

January 03, 2006

holiday breakdown

I never did write much about my holiday this year; I guess I was too busy enjoying it. So now it's over, this is the time to seal it into memory.

We decided to have a tree this year even though we'd be away for a few days before Christmas. To help keep it moist, we got a watering system that feeds into a hole drilled in the trunk, as well as having the tree set in the large reservoir of our cast iron stand. I'm not convinced the new system helped much: it seemed to be sealed over by the time we got back from Vegas and the tree never drank much more from there, though it did from ther main reservoir. Still, it did get some extra water in early on. The main thing I want to note about the tree is that we got a Grand Fir this year and it worked very well: it looked like a Douglas fir but has more rigid branches, better for hanging ornaments on, and it stayed fresh and green all the way until we took it down yesterday. (I've have liked to leave it up until the 12th day of Christmas, but we had yesterday off and the recyclers will pick it up tomorrow.)

We enjoyed the time in Vegas, but three days once a decade or so is enough for us. The only thing we'd have liked to do with more time would be to go hiking in the Red Rocks area. Otherwise, we walked through most of the major casinos, rose the monorail and the roller coaster in New York, New York, saw David Copperfield and Cirque du Soleil, watched white lions and dolphins, heard some musicians, saw some acrobats (besides CdS, I mean), enjoyed the Star Trek Experience, and even gambled a little. I don't really feel much need to go back until something changes or something new is added.

I finished the Holiday Challenge on Monday 12/20, but erged a bit more to bring my erg meters for the year up to a million meters. My total distance, water and erg, is somewhere around 1.5 million meters for the year, not quite a thousand miles (1.6 km), which is actually a little less than last year. Not too bad.

FOr Christmas Day, it was just the two of us, and we'd been away for several of the previous days, so we opened presents and then just had a brisket. (I'm the only one I know for whom kasha and bowties is a usual Christmas dinner side dish.) Rudder goofed slightly, present-wise: he gave me a ruby pendant to go with some earrings he'd given me a few years ago, which would have been lovely except that he'd already given me the matching necklace at the next gifting occasion after the earrings. I liked the original one better, anyway, because the newer ruby was a deep pink instead of the original's beautiful port-wine color, but also the first one matches the earrings better. Other than the color and stone shape, though, the pendants were very similar. So with Rudder's permission, I went back to the store to exchange it. I put in some extra money and was able to get something I'd been wanting for a while - diamond stud earrings. (Similar to these, though about half the size.) Since I have long hair, I wanted something that would sparkle more than the one small stone I'd have been able to afford. I could afford these because since price goes up exponentially with size, three small stones are much cheaper than one bigger one. I think the three-stone design is prettier anyway.) I still feel a little guilty about echanging his gift, though, even though he was OK with it.

On New Year's Eve, we headed out to the Fiesta Bowl Block Party on Mill Ave. We got to hear Blues Traveler and Roger Hynes and the Peacemakers as well as several other bands, to see some fairly incredible motocross jumping, and to do a lot of people-watching. My favorite thing was a break-dancing troupe, who danced to their own percussion, made mostly on trash can and other scavenged instruments. New Year's Day we drank the champagne we hadn't had the night before and deep-fried a turkey, this time without injecting the spices a few days before. I like it this way - Rudder tends to overdo the spicing - but he likes it better the other way, and he does all the work.

I didn't get to do all the things I'd thought of, like updating the creaky old version of Movable Type I use here, but I finished the sweater I started only a short time before my break, I'm caught up on sleep for the moment, we spent lots of time together, I completed erging 200km for the month and a thousand km for the year, my house is (very slightly) neater than it was before the break, and I've read or reread the first five and a half Aubrey and Maturin books. (Before I buy any more of the paperbacks, I'm thinking of just springing for the 5-volume omnibus set Amazon is selling - wish I'd seen it before buying volumes 3, 4, and 5 recently. I have the first six and two or three others; each paperback volume costs $14 or so, while the hardcover omnibus set is $83, so it makes economic sense. Or I could read them from the library.) Throw in a visit to Vegas, and it was a satisfying vacation.

Oh, and Rudder's grandmother is doing much better - her memory will continue to degrade, of course, but she can swallow and talk and respond now. Definitely a satisfying holiday.

Posted by dichroic at 02:13 PM | Comments (0)

back to work

Back to work, feh. Except my email server is down, so there's not much I can do at the moment. (I keep trying to think of reasons to be glad to get back to work, but have not yet succeeded.)

I did manage to finish assembling my Banff sweater and knitting the neck last night, so it's all done except for weaving in the ends. I'll try to get a picture tonight. I like the short body length, but probably should have made the sleeves a little shorter. It's a bit floppier than I think it's meant to be, because I used a very soft wool and knit it at a fairly loose gauge. The latter is a good thing, though, since I live in Arizona rather than Canada (like Jenna, the sweater's designer). It's plenty loose, as it's meant to be, and I think more flattering than some I've seen that came out too tight on their creators, though probably not as much as it would have been if it were a little stiffer. But it's wicked comfortable, which I think is the point of this sweater.

Next I need to finish the gloves for my dad (the pinky, ring and middle finger of each hand are done - two more fingers and two thumbs to do, then assembly of the whole) and to start on a sweater for Rudder. This one will be basic top-down raglan, knitted all at once with no seams. He's asked for ribbed cuffs and waist and a slightly extended neck, somewhere between a crew and a turtleneck.

It's going to be a lot harder to progress quickly with all this work stuff taking up my days.

Posted by dichroic at 09:38 AM | Comments (0)

January 01, 2006


Here are some of the things that have kept me busy this vacation. Actually, the knitting kept me busy; the beadwork has just been a product of today while my sweater parts are drying from their blocking. I had a small sweater emergency last night: as soon as the knitted parts got wet, they stretched out entirely; the knit was see-through and the ribbing laid as flat as the stockinette section. Banff is supposed to be roomy, but I don't want the sleeves to be gorilla-length! I've got it drying outside today to speed the process (it's 65 degrees or so and sunny) with the ribbing squinched together and the rest of it sort of pushed together a bit, and now that it's almost dry I think it's regained some elasticity.


Most of the beads in these earrings are from Elisem's Beads of the Month program; you can't tell, but the top left white earrings are quartz (November, Quartz and its Imitators), and the top right silvery glass ones have a tiger-eye effect (December, Optcal Phenomenon). The middle ones are lampworked (Sepember, maybe), and will go to Bozoette Mary, who won them for her contribution to JournalCon, unless she tells me those colors aren't good for her. (Mary, if you prefer, you could have either of the top pair, but I'm afraid I'm being selfish and keeping the bottom ones. Or I could make you something different.) The lowest ones are a style I haven't tried making before. I'm very happy with the way they turned out. The silver pieces are from a local bead store; I had some of the Swarovski beads, but the others, as well as the inspiration, are from Elisem's Colors of Fire package.


Posted by dichroic at 02:43 PM | Comments (0)