February 28, 2006

on criticism

I'm having a remarkably unsuccessful sick day - "unsuccessful" in the sense that I've actually gotten quite a lot of work done. I'd been awakened by some fairly painfulstomach cramps and by morning was still feeling a bit shaky. I wanted to take a sick day, but I had three meetings to call into (two I'd set up myself), some training materials I wanted to get finished, and some necessary studying I need to do for that damned exam I have to take Saturday. Most important, I'd planned a luncheon with someone I haven't seen for years who, I recently found out, is working at another nearby site of my company's, and I didn't have her email address or phone number at home. So I drove in, picked up my laptop and study materials, and told my boss I was leaving again.

At least I've also gotten some dozing, pleasure reading and napping in as well, and knitting during meetings and while studying. Maybe I'll log it as half a sick day.

I'm pleased to be into the ribbing at the bottom of Rudder's sweater. Once I finish that, I just need to pick up and knit the ribbed neck and tuck in a few ends and I'll be done (unfortunately, just in time for 80 degree weather).

Someone commented here that she was annoyed by the Olympic commenters who asked every athlete about the flaws in their run, race, routine or game, and that she felt they were spending too much tme searching for negativity. (Unfortunately, I think I must have deleted the comment by mistake. I apologize to whoever wrote it - sometimes the real messages get lost among the blasted hordes of sp@m comments. ) She thought the commenters (I dislike the word "commentators") ought to be spending their time instead comgratulating the athletes on having achieved the level of excellence that is required to even compete in the Olympics. I've heard this argument from other people, including a college housemate who used to get upset if I made what he thought was a negative comment on any of these athletes who, after all, all have me far outclassed, but I don't really agree with it. For one thing, it would get very boring very quickly. For another, the commenters are mostly former athletes themselves in the sport they're reporting on. They know that after each run (or race or routine or game) the athletes are looking back over it, analyzing what they did right, what mistakes were made and what could be improved. I think that's what they're asking about. I have also heard, for example, the speed skater Ohno asked of his gold medal 500-meter race, "You went into that saying you needed a perfect race to win. So was that a perfect race for you?" which doesn't strike me as negative - but then perfect races are the exception, not the rule.

My gold standard, the most fun I've had watching the Olympics and the reason I try to watch them again each time in hopes ef recapturing the experience, is the 1976 Summer Olympics. Night after night my father and I sat in front of the TV, putting together a complicated jigsaw puzzle I can still visualize and watching the gymnastics. He was a former high-school gymnast and I would be one seven years later. (I was never very good, but I think he was.) The enjoyment for us was to pick each routine apart, spotting the mistakes and the things that went well. It turns out an eye for form in gymnastics allows you to critique ice-skating, the snowboarding halfpipe competitions and ski-jumping and, I realized this year, being able to spot a good race strategy in rowing has a lot of application to speedskating, so I enjoy watchig and critiquing all of those sports. What I think both the commenter here and my old housemate don't get is that this doesn't diminish the athletes in our eyes. If I say that the gymnast Olga Olgarovich has split her legs in her layout release from the unevens, or the skater Jane Doevitsch has a bad position in her spin, I'm never for a moment losing sight of her extraordinary skills, the dedication and work she's put into it, or the fact that what she's doing almost but not quite perfectly, I couldn't do at all. Rather, I'm enjoying an analytical exercise, comparing her to her Olympic peers and testing myself against the judges, to see if I can see what they're seeing and spot the tiny differences between competitors that they're spotting - or in a race where form matters, like luge or speedskating or rowing, to see if I can spot the tiny differences that keeps one athlete from catching up with another.

It's similar to when we do a video session out on the lake; we take turns videotaping each other rowing, and then we go watch and critique the video. If Rudder or She-Hulk or Dr. Bosun tells me I'm beding my arms too soon during the drive, or using too much body angle or whatever, it doesn't mean they think I'm a bad rower. It means they see where I can get better. And when they tell me about it, I thank them. My non-expert criticism will never do any of the Plympic athletes any direct good, but it won't harm them either, and it's made in much the same spirit.

Posted by dichroic at 02:08 PM | Comments (0)

February 26, 2006

party gras report

The party went fairly well; it wasn't hugely attended, but the people who came seemed to have a good time, and Rudder and I enjoyed having them. They were a hungry crowd but not a thirsty one; most of the turkey is gone, one ofthe king cakes and all of the gumbo and jambalaya, but there are a lot of drinks left. That's better than the other way around; I'll give away the diet soda, which we don't drink, but otherwise the sodas and beer will keep until we get around to drinking them. Someone brought glow-in-the-dark Mardi Gras cups, which were a huge success and party poppers which strewed streamers and confetti - festive, but annoying to clean. She also (having been the one who talked us into having the party and so feeling some responsibility for it) brought the gumbo as well as a pitcher of hurricanes, the one drink that did go fast. Lethal, too.

This party will shine all the more by contrast to next Saturday, when I have to take a 4 hour exam for a work certification. I don't expect to enjoy that nearly as much.

Posted by dichroic at 05:48 PM | Comments (0)

February 24, 2006

actually I just like writing "soul-suckers"

One thing I've been realizing lately is that sometimes in reading an online journal, you get almost a reverse view of the writer. For instance, I've often seen people who would characterize themselves as "nurturing", for whom that's a central part of their self-image, writing about how they needed to focus on themselves, or how they need to take case of themselves, or braggng about how they'd been pampering themselves. I'd concluded that for some people that nurturing image may actually be a fiction they maintain, like the mother whose overbearing devotion actually smothers her children and keeps them at her service forever.

I knew that wasn't true everywhere though, if only because of the demonstrable fact that other people around some of those nurterers clearly do feel nurtured.

Yesterday I had the epiphany that maybe it's because people talk about what they have trouble with. You will not, for instance, ever see me write about needing to be nicer to myself, or treat myself to wonderful things, or allow time for myself. Frankly, I do just fine for myself. I buy myself clothes or books or good food all the time and I do make the time I need to read quietly. What you will hear about from me is bragging about something nice I did for someone else or talking about a piece of tact I've managed. Those are things I have to work on.

So paradoxically I'm not as nice a person as I may sometimes sound in here, while people who often write about needing to focus on themselves may be much nicer than I am.

(Caveat:I'm thinking about a number of people here, and of course they vary. Some really are much nicer than I am, and some really are soul-suckers. If you're reading this and we've corresponded, or you know I read you, you're not one of the soul-suckers or I wouldn't bother.)

Posted by dichroic at 12:44 PM | Comments (2)

February 22, 2006

giant mutant turkeys in my fridge

It's been a day of accomplishment; my house smells good and there are three large turkeys marinating in the refrigerator. Rudder is off on a business trip, so I got to prepare the turkeys for our Mardi Gras party this weekend. (I got to go buy them myself, too, courtesy of his last business trip.) We deep fry them, Cajun style, and they have to have a spicy marinade injected. "Marinade" makes it sound simple, though; this stuff involves chopping up lots of onions, garlic, and celery, sauteeing them in butter and chicken broth, pureeing the whole mess, and injecting it all over the turkey. Or turkeys, actually. There are three duly injected and now residing in my fridge, two for the party and one for Rudder to carve up and freeze for assorted quick dinners.

I decided putting them in bags instead of Rudder's more usual large pan with foil on top would make it easier to fit them in the refrigerator, and it did, but the bagging wasn't easy. Today was my day off from working out, but between pouring the sauteed stuff from the cast-iron pan I used and lifting the injected and spice-and-goo covered turkeys into the bags, I feel like I ot a decent arm workout, at least. This sort of thing is why I lift weights: I'm strong for my size, but given that my size is extra-small, there are too many things in daily life I'd have trouble managing otherwise. (Did I mention that Rudder always wants big turkeys? These were 17-pounders. A 17-lb turkey is much harder to balance on one hand than a dumbbell of similar weight.)

It all went fairly smoothly, but it did take 3.5 hours. In the process I leanred how our blender's "pulse" feature works; unfortunately, I learned that while the lid was off. Oops. (There's one switch with high, low and pulse settings; high and low don't activate anything until other buttons are pushed.) I hadn't realized how vomitocious that pureed goop looks until it was all over me and the counter.

My boss gets a "Hero of the Mardi Gras" award for letting me telecommute today. Usually Rudder does this after work and we're up past our bedtimes. It wasn't a bad deal for the boss, either; I respomd to my first email of the day at 6Am and my last at 6PM and in between got to do a lot of other work including some I likely wouldn't have gotten to in the office. Some people like to keep work and home rigidly separated but I think I prefer mixing them up a bit. I don't feel so trapped when I can leave my work and go do something else for a few minutes and my breaks can be a lot more productive when they involve a load of laundry instead of chatting with a coworker. Now that I have a laptop with a wireless card I can work anywhere I'm comfortable - I checked email before getting out of bed this morning. Plus the food's better here . Unfortunately the boss's boss doesn't like the idea of any of us telecommuting on a regular basis.

I do hope this party turns out well. The food part will be fine, but I have no idea how many people will show up.

Posted by dichroic at 08:27 PM | Comments (2)

they like me ... except there's no "they" there

Lately most of the coment sp@m I've been getting here contains laudatory messages, instead of the ones I used to get asking if I wanted to meet hot girls, buy cheap drugs, or increase my penis size. They range from "very useful blog" or has "beautiful design! congrats to admin!" to "this site is realy very interesting" [sic], which always sounds like grudging praise, to "I have loved your site for its useful and funny content and simple design" and even "I love you so much!". (Of course, they still all contain URLs that refer to hot girls, cheap drugs or penis enlargement.) There's been a lot of it; this version of MovableType makes it easy to manage and delete sp@m but doesn't seem to have as comprehensive a list to block it.

It just feels odd to be getting such fulsome compliments from some anonymous company that's only out for my money. It's sort of simultanously gratifying and squicky to look at my comments and see that long list of "I love you, man", or words to that effect. I wish they'd just stop.

I don't understand sp@m anyway. Does anybody ever open an email from a stranger and think, "Why yes, I've been meaning to have my penis enlarged"? Or buy drugs that way? Ad if so, why?

Posted by dichroic at 01:10 PM | Comments (1)

February 21, 2006

still early to bed

Ow. Apparently it wasn't a good ide to come home from the gym last night and call one of my chattier relatives. Or at least it would have been smarter to use a headset or hold the phone in my hand, rather than between my neck and shoulder. Knitting while watching TV afterward probably didn't help either. I ended up with a muscle or nerve somehow pinched in my left shoulder. It was really hurting by the time I went to bed; a judicious combination of pressure on it and laying in a position where that shoulder wasn't squinched fixed it for last night, but it's hurting again.

So far, I have rowed Saturday (we were supposed to do a video session but couldn't get the camera working right) rowed 15K Sunday night, and did a fairly hard workout at the gym last night, with a bunch of stuff I don't usually get to in the mornings - an extended core workout, squats instead of leg press, and the incline leg press where you have to put actual weight plates on instead of sticking a little peg in a weight stack, and so on. The theory is that I'll row tonight and take tomorrow off, but we'll see. If I'm too tired to row I could take today off and erg tomorrow instead - I'll be telecommuting (yay!) so it seems silly to drive all the way to the lake, which is close to work.

I can't say that working out at night in order to watch the Olympics is being entirely successful. The problem is that, since I'm working out enough to really need 8 hours of sleep, I have to get to bed before the program is over in order to get up in time for work the next day. Even if I didn't worry about getting up at 6, by 9 or 10 I'm just tired. So I do get to watch a lot more of the Olympics than I would otherwise, but I don't get to see the medal-winning performances, since usually the top-seeded athletes are on last.

One more thing: I'm trying to figure out what to knit when I finish Rudder's sweater. Sine I can't (or at least don't know if there's a way to) have a poll here, I've put one up over at my LJ site. Go tell me what to do next. (In a nice way, of course.)

Posted by dichroic at 12:31 PM | Comments (0)

February 20, 2006

but siriusly

Holy shit. That was both seriously cool and seriously hilarious. (Seriously, Red.) I just heard the Del McCoury cover Richard Thompson's "1952 Vincent Black Lightning" - as bluegrass. It worked surprisingly well. The funniest part was when they changed Thompson's very English Box Hill (I always wonder if it was the same on which Emma Woodhouse and Frank Churchill picnicked) to a more Appalachian Knoxville. It worked surprisingly well, though as a folkie rather than a bluegrass fan of course I prefer the original.

I love me someSirius Disorder.

Posted by dichroic at 07:57 PM | Comments (1)

the flannel sheets are calling...

It turns out that erging 15 km while watching prime-time Olympics coverage is very conducive to sleeping like a dead thing, but not so good for getting up for work the next morning. Rudder's away again too, which probably contributed to my deep sleep. The cats may move more but they weigh so much less that they wake me less. Still, even though the sleep was deep, even though I got eight hours, it wasn't long enough. I'm meeting someone after work to row a double tonight, so I may just need to try for nine hours of sleep instead of eight.

My boss was saying the other day that he didn't see why people needed to waste so much time sleeping (instead of working - don't worry, he was mostly joking). On the other hand, Rudder and I find that the more exercise we get the more sleep we need, and I read something recently by a Olympian rower, now retired, that said that while in training she used to get 9-10 hours a night plus naps.

I can hear my bed calling and it's currently ten miles away.

Preparations are well under way for Saturday's Mardi Gras party. On Wednesday I get to telecommute, which will make injecting seasoning into the turkeys much easier. (Of course it will also mean more time spent unable to breathe, because of the amount of onions and garlic I have to sautee with seasoning.) I do hope enough people turn up to make it fun.

Posted by dichroic at 01:56 PM | Comments (0)

February 17, 2006

I'm back, and all booked up

Just in case anyone's wondering, I'm back. I actually got home last night, but didn't have much time then (I was a good girl: flew in, drove home from the airport, got here around 6::30, ate a quick dinner and erged 6K), and the Internet was down at work all day. Albuquerque was quite nice and I can highly recommend the restaurant El Pinto - apparently President Bush ate there just a few weeks ago, and the people we were with made us get nachos for an appetizer because he'd had them.

I'm also poud to say I've now cataloged the books I bought at a large local booksale last week - 29 books for $38! Actually, it was the two volume annotated Sherlock Holes plus a hardback copy of Chaucer for $21 and the other 26 for $17. The challenge now, of course, is finding room for them all.

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

February 14, 2006

our wedding, and some preliminary matter

First: if any of you who are US citizens are interested the ACLU is putting together a petition for an investigation into White House soy ing on citizens, here. (If you're not a citizen and you want to protest, the administration's certainly giving you no lack of options in their foreign policy.)

I think this knitting thing's getting a little out of hand. My stash still fits in one big plastic container, but right now I have in work one sweater for Rudder (one sleeve done, one nearly so, then there's the body from the armpits down to do), and one pair of socks to match (barely started). I have yarn for a shawl for me (debating between another Clapotis or some simple lace) and gloves for Rudder (same pattern I did for my Dad, since it worked so well), not one but two sleeveless shells, plus a couple of odd balls of yarn for which I'm considering something like this or maybe this. Also, I want to make a kipah (yarmulke) for my mom, so I probably need some nice colorful cotton yarn for that in a sock or DK weight. I'm glad I started the socks, though - I've got a short business trip tomorrow and Thursday, and the sweater would have been too bulky to take along easily. Also it sheds like a cat.

There are worse earworms to have than Tom Paxton's song "Gettin' Up Early". I mention this to share it with any of you stuck with more annoying songs, though obviously it only works if you're actually acquainted with the song.

For some reason, that reminds me: I've been thinking about our wedding lately, after talking about it to my cubemate who's at the very beginning of planning her own. There are really not that many things I'd change if I could. The hotel we had it at managed brilliantly: the ceremony was in one room, set up with rows of chairs for our guests, and then they shooed us out for drinks into a private lobby while they opened the room into the one next to it and set the two up for dinner and dancing. No one had to drive between the wedding and reception. Since it was out in the 'burbs (his neighborhood, in fact) instead of downtown, our in-town guests weren't charged for parking while there was plenty of history nearby for the out-of-towners. The hotel provided candles, mirrors, and greenery for centerpieces, while the florist got exactly the shades I wanted for our bouquets. The people we wanted there most were there, and the JP did a nice ceremony that we wish we could remember. I'm glad we picked our attendents by friendship rather than gender. The honeymoon in Jamaica was one of the very few relaxing vacations we've taken together, which was exactly what we needed then.

There are a couple of things that were OK, but that I wish we could have done better. It would have been nice to videotape the ceremony because neither of us can really remember our vows. (I know I didn't promise to "obey" though - I was listening for that!) This being 1993, I was unable to find a dress without big puffy sleeves, though I tried - I liked my dress otherwise. (Wedding dresses in general turn out to be much more flattering than I'd expected.) I wish I could have found dresses the female attendents would wear again, but they all rejected my suggestion that they all pick any white dress they liked. (The dresses were white and tea-length, with gentle scoop necks and slightly puffed sleeves. Not unflattering and none of them fit badly, but I doubt they got worn for anything else.) Still, it was a pretty wedding, in my biased opinion.

The one thing I wish I could change was the music. If I could do it again, I'd interview several DJs. (Actually, if I could do it now I'd choose each song, preload it on an MP3 player, and ask someone trustworthy to manage the music and call us up for our first dance. The DJ we had seemed to have only 60s and 70s music, none of the more current stuff Rudder wanted and not even the song his parents requested (Twelfth of Never, not exactly obscure.) Also, while I couldn't have picked anything more perfect than "Sunrise, Sunset" for my dance with my father and Rudder's with his mother (my family has a lot of memories around that song), Rudder and I danced to "Unchained Melody", and while the tune is pretty, the lyrics were just not appropriate for the wedding of a couple who'd been living together. I was in a hurry when I picked it. If I could do that again, we'd dance to Si Kahn's "Like Butter Loves Bread", or Garnet Rogers' "All There Is" (actually, that song probably didn't exist yet) or maybe even "Some Enchanted Evening", which is easy to dance to and quite appropriate for us.

On the other hand, that's a pretty minor thing, to be the biggest change I'd make if I could redo our wedding. I'd marry the same man, no questions and no hesitation. And really, as long as the marriage is happy these thirteen years later, who cares what went wrong at the wedding?

Posted by dichroic at 12:21 PM | Comments (0)

February 13, 2006

Monday braindump

I kept thinking I ought to update over the weekend, and I kept not getting around to it, so here's the Monday brain-dump.

I felt like I did good work on Friday. Due to all the reorganization around here and the resulting disruption of relationships and traditions, if it weren't for me, it's quite possible that a man would have retired after 35 years with this company -- all at one site, even -- and just walked out the door with no fuss or celebrations at all. And this is someone who's worked with people across that site and whom everyone loves, mind you, not someone whom nobody knows. Instead, we had a luncheon out with most of the people from my - and his - favorite group of coworkers. So many other people wanted to come along that I and a few others in that group did a little judicious pushing and as a result there was a proper cake in the cafeteria, with signs all over the plant, all organized by his current department. I hear a couple hundred people stopped by for that. Now he gets to embark on retirement feeling appreciated by the company he gave so many years to. It's possible someone else would have planned that, but as of three weeks before his retirement no one had, and I did, and now I'm feeling like I've done something of value.

I did get to watch the Olympic Opening Ceremonies on Friday night. It's funny, everyone always complains about NBC's intrusive commenting, but I could have used a bit more of it. There were a few points in the ceremonies where I could have used a bit more guidance as to what eactly was going on. For instance in the section where a mass of people formed up into the shape of a skater, a skiier, a ski jumper et cetera, I didn't figure out what they were doing until halfway through the formations. The earlier parts just looked like a giant walking, and a hint would have been nice. The 'splodey-head guys, with flames shooting out behind them were pretty cool, and I liked the krummhorns and the ladies leading each delegation of athletes with their skirts like mountains from a miniature railroad. Still, does anyone than me ever read the original Olympic ideals? This was not supposed to be about "America won two medals" and "Finland always wins the ski jump" and "The Netherlands owns speed skating": it's supposed to be about the athletes competing regardless of national rivalries. I know they all march together in the Closing Ceremonies, but that's after two weeks of nationalities. I'd like to see them all march in together - or, better, march in as countries and then swirl into one amorphous group, like a pre-Babel soceity based on sports instead of language.

I do like all the nicknames: "The Flying Tomato", and "The Exception", Tomba "La Bomba" and "The Herminator" and so on. I wish Michelle Kwan had decided to pull out a little earlier so Hughes could have gotten to march in the Opening Ceremonies - or maybe she could have anyway, as an alternate and just chose not to. I like Bode Miller's independence and refusal to conform, though I've concluded he lives deep inside his own head that I pity anyone he lives with.

My favorite moment of the Games to date was when some newswoman (Katie Couric?) was interviewing the female speed skater who had been elected to carry the U.S.A. flag in the parade of athletes and asked her, "Have you gotten a chance to practice with the flag? I hear it's very heavy - do you think you'll have any trouble with it?"

The Olympic speed skater responded, "Well, you know, I work out a lot. I think I'll be able to manage it."

With luck, that particular anchor won't view any future Olympians she interviews as poor weak little girlies.

Posted by dichroic at 02:44 PM | Comments (1)

February 10, 2006

Rudder back

I get a Rudder back tonight, yay! He did call yesterday, and we discussed the fact that taking a cab home is a trivial additional annoyance for him whereas driving out to the airport in the tail of rush hour and then finding parking is a PITA for me. He also pointed out that he's not conveying me to or from the airport for my business trip next week (we hadn't discussed it but it's close enough to work hours that I wasn't expecting him to). I felt guilty enough to offer a bribe er, an exchange of favors, but then I benefit from that as well. And I promised to tape the Olympic Opening Ceremonies for him, since we seem to be one of the few households in the US that is still lacking TiVo.

I did row before work this morning, and had the lake nearly to myself. Local rowing seems to be in something of a decline at the moment, or maybe too many people got tired of getting up early and are rowing late in the day. There was no one else at all rowing out of the boatyard, not even by the time I left. From the marina where the City program stores its boats, there was one four with a coaching launch, and another eight got out right around the time I was finishing, and that's it. Given that in earlier times there could be 50 or 70 people from several programs rowing in the morning, it felt strangely empty out there. But it's still fairly chilly in the mornings (high 40s today), and we do always have a down time in the number of rowers in winter.

It was nice having the quiet water, but of course rowing alone in the dark and cold isn't the safest thing. Still, at least I have some control over whether I fall in. What bothers me more is being in the boatyard area alone in the dark - it sets all my city-girl reflexes off. As far as I know, there hasn't been any sort or crime or violence there yet, but still.

Hey, did I mention I get a Rudder back tonight? With Dutch chocolate, even. (The nom's appropriate, too - I do feel a little adrift without him.)

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

February 09, 2006


How bad a wife would I be if I stayed home to watch the Olympic Opening Ceremonies instead of picking Rudder up at the airport tomorrow night? I mean, assuming I discussed it with him first so he's not just standing there waiting for me like a lost puppy. (Of course, if he doesn't get a chance to call me today, it will be a moot point and I'll have to go anyway.)

I'm having a ridiculously hard time deciding whether to row in the morning, go to work (which is right near the airport), go home, and then go back to the airport to pick him up, or row between work and the airport. (Another sensible option would be just to work until 7 or so, but frankly, yuck.) The reason this decision is so hard, I've realized, is that I'm not crazy about rowing at either time. I like rowing in the morning, but not the part about getting up at 4AM and immediately venturing out into the cold. I don't like rowing after work as much because I'm tired then. Also, the lake tends to be crowded for the first while, though it gets calmer after a bit, and is nice once the sun is setting. It would entail going to the airport in dampish rowing clothes, too, though of course I could put somethign on over them.

Right now I'm leaning toward rowing beffore work, then going home and setting up the VCR to tape the ceremonies before heading back to the airport for Rudder. Unless he calls and volunteers to take a cab home :-)

Posted by dichroic at 12:35 PM | Comments (1)

February 08, 2006

unrelated brain dribbles

I always knew Maria was bright. In a conversation we were having about an entry of hers she wrote, "I do agree that semantics is very important here." I get so annoyed with people who say, "Well, that's just semantics," as if that were a reason to brush something aside as unimportant. Come on, people, semantics are the meaning of words and words are all we have to express our hopes, wishes, dreams, faith, deductions, fears and thoughts! How much more important could they be?


Knitting certainly is an expensive hobby. My city's Stitch'n'Bitch (Stitch'n'Bitch Stitch'n'Bitch Stitch'n'Bitch!! - take that you greedy people claiming trademark!) group has a lot of smaller meetings in the different parts of town, and last night I finally got to the monthly gathering at an Australian wine store only a mile from my house. I enjoyed myself; I'd planned to take this morning as my off day from exercise, so I didn't have to rush home, and some of my favorite people showed up. Including this silly person, who actually flew in all the way from Atlanta just for this meeting! I didn't spend quite as much as she did, but between two glasses of wine and the bottle I bought for Rudder for Valentine's Day, because it was from a part of New Zealand we enjoyed and was rated as a top wine, it wasn't a cheap evening. (Shh, don't tell Rudder about the wine. I got him some good truffles the other day too, but that's sort of coals to Newcastle for someone who's in the Netherlands at the moment.) Hey, I didn't say the knitting supplies were the expensive part.


The other night I was watching that Celebrity Skating show. I could have predicted Bruce Jenner and Tai Babilonia would win - oddly enough, because of my rowing coaching experience. Granted Jenner was the oldest one there, and it's been quite a while since he was an Olympian, but he's just done enough different sports where he would have to have a good awareness of his body - where the different parts of him are in space. I figure things like wrist position must matter in shotput and javelin throw, and hip and leg angle on the high jump. He may be a bit rusty and his body will have changed a bit since those days, which could account for the fact that evidently the pair didn't do all that well in their first few showings, but once he gets used to moving his body as it is now, that knowledge must make him more coachable than anyone who hasn't done that kind of sport. As for teaching rowing, I'll take a ballerina over a football player anytime - the ballerina can straighten her wrists, can control the rollout of legs, then body, then arms during the recovery, and won't get upset if s/he gets big ugly blisters, even if they are on hands instead of feet.

Posted by dichroic at 01:41 PM | Comments (1)

February 07, 2006

geese & gonzo

I had one of those moments this morning in which you realize that you've been a complete idiot for most of your life on some tiny point. The Broadway station was playing on the satellite radio, and Julie Andrews came on singing about her fav'rite things. And all of a sudden, I realized that the line "wilde geese that fly with the moon on their wings" was meant to be about geese flying at night with the moonlight on their wings, synecdoche rather than literal image. Even so, though that's a pretty thought, I still prefer my original image, of a flight of geese with their V-formation lined with so that it looks like it's supporting a rising moon. It seems to me to be wilder and more mythic somehow.

(Characteristic. Too stupid to figure out a simple line in a song I've known all her life, but when I do figure it out, I know it's synecdoche.)

Another odd thing I was thinking about: why do I know how to curtsey? I do, and I think I learned how as a very small girl, but what I can't figure out is why anyone would have bothered to teach me. Curtseying was just not done much by the 1970s, at least not in the US or at least not in the part of it where I lived. Maybe I asked to learn after reading Alice? ("Curtsey while you're thinking what to say; it saves time.")

I've seen news today that was so funny I actually went and looked to make sure it was real. According to the Washington Post (which I think is actually our national papre of record) , Arlen Spector really did accuse Alberto Gonzales of "smoking Dutch Cleanser". As for Gonzales'claim that "President Washington, President Lincoln, President Wilson, President Roosevelt have all authorized electronic surveillance of the enemy on a far broader scale -- far broader -- without any kind of probable cause standard, all communications in and out of the country," he actually did say those words - but only *after*, in the beginning of his speech, giving examples of Washington intercepting letters, Lincoln intercepting telegraphs without warrants, Wilson getting copies of every cable into or out of the US, and Roosevelt giving the military authority to review, without warrant, all telecommunications passing into or out of the United States.

So the bit about Washington's electronic surveillance was a stupid thing to say, but it was a slip of the tongue rather than complete idiocy. I'm not denying Gonzales's whole argument is pretty stupid, however; apparently somebody, or a whole lot of somebodies, wasn't paying attention in fourth grade when they were taught about that whole checks and balances thing.

Posted by dichroic at 01:07 PM | Comments (3)

February 06, 2006

the flags

Me (to cubemate): So, not to be divisive or anything, but how come the flags were at half mast for Rosa Parks but not for Betty Friedan?
Her: Don't know. Who makes that decision, anyway?
Me: It's the President .... Oh. Guess I answered my own question.

Explanation: I don't begrudge a whit of the honors given to Rosa Parks or to Coretta Scott King; I was glad to see them. It's easy to make an argument that Coretta's case is different, that she was honored for a whole lifetime of leading the fight against prejudice, war and poverty. Rosa Parks fought prejudice her whole life too, but the thing for which she is most honored is for being the living spark that set off the latest and hottest fire in that fight. In that respect, I think the analogy to Betty Friedan is accurate. I hesitated before posting this, because as both women's predecessors like the Grimkes and Sojourner Truth knew, the two battles are not separate but are part of a larger war against injustice in general.

Still, I think the lack of honors given to Friedan are an accurate barometer of the current level of social acceptance of feminism. I'm happy with how far we've come (far enough that when I read The Feminine Mystique I was shocked by the attitudes Friedan described) but it's as if we're supposed to believe that we got here without a fight, presumably because male society spontaneously decided that the previous state of affairs was wrong and women deserved something closer to equal opportunities and equal pay.

It's important to ackowledge and study the fight to get where we are. If all this was a gift, it can as easily be taken away.

I'm not sure why we honor the fight for equality of the races but not of the sexes. Both have captured a lot of ground, but neither fight has yet been won. In both cases, there are plenty of people who declare that the battle is over and equality reached when that isn't the experience of the people concerned, in an effort to prevent more ground from being won. My instinct says that the more the fights for equality among races, genders, and sexual preference are separated, the worse for those fighting - I wouldn't say there's anyone actually strategizing against either, but divide and conquer is an effective strategy nonetheless.

Posted by dichroic at 08:48 AM | Comments (1)

February 05, 2006

I got rocks!

Rudder had a bit o a problem on Friday night. While packing for a trip to the Netherlands, he couldn't find his drivers license. We'd had to use them a lot when we were in Vegas in December, because they wanted to see them every time we used a credit card, and he couldn't remember using it after that. He finally recalled that he'd had to show it at the hotel in San Diego in January, and when he called them, they had the card. Why they couldn't have actually called to tell him they had it anytime in the past three weeks we have no idea. So they'll be sending it to him, but that doesn't help a lot with his trip, on which he was supposed to rent a car. This is another time when his anal-retentive tendencies have come in handy: he did find a photocopy of his license. It's possible they'll let him have the car with that and his passport, but I don't know how likely that is.

Fortunately, he'll be in the Netherlands as opposed to, say, the US. He can take a train from Amsterdam to Eindhoven, where he'll be working, and then he should be able to get rides in to work with other people.

I went for the traditional "Rudder's away" massage yesterday. Today I was going to go for a long hike, but I decided to go row after dropping him off at the airport, since the lake is right by it. So I did a shorter hike today, up a small mountain called Usery Peak. It's 1.6 miles to the end of the trail, which isn't at the top of the mountain but at a formation called the Wind Caves (so 3.2 miles round trip), and it's about 800' elevation gain. I always think of it as being a short and easy hike, and am always surprised at how steep it is. But I didn't stop for any breaks on the way up and didn't have any problems with my knees or ankles, which tend to be weak, on the way down. Also, on some hikes I've had an issue on the way down in which when I step at an angle, my boot feels like a knife cutting into a tendon below my ankle bone. I don't know if the problem is from the boot or from my foot, but at any rate it didn't happen today.

I think my favorite part of the hike was near he end, when a little girl, maybe four or five years old, who was going up with her family came up to me and said, "I got rocks!", holding up her hand to show me three rounded stones. (Actually, she said "I got wocks!") This was, again, on a hiking trail. On a mountain. In the desert. No death of rocks, from sand grains on up to boulders. But she was pretty excited about her three special "wocks".

Posted by dichroic at 06:56 PM | Comments (1)

February 03, 2006

long quiet weekend

I get to leave work a bit early today. Unfortunately, it's because we have an appointment to go do our taxes. It's sort of like when you have a dentist appointment during the day; you get to leave work for it, but you don't get to be happy about it.

(Actually, this is better than that. Rudder and I have never yet managed to get just the right amount taken out each paycheck, so we err on the side of overpaying so that we get money back instead of having to pay now. Just our own little short-term loan to the government.)

I'm going to have a long weekend, or at least it will feel that way. Rudder's off on a business trip starting tomorrow, and time always seems to expand when there's only me to consider. I have no idea why this happens, but I wonder if the perceived telecoping of time as we age is at least partly because older people are more likely to be married or otherwise partnered. I will do the erging I skipped this morning, and try to accomplish a few little things around the house, but there will also be a massage, plenty of knitting and reading, maybe a trip to my favorite shoe store, and whatever food I want to eat. (I suspect that dinner next week will consist of a bowl of popcorn more than once - I tend to eat my biggest meal at lunchtime anyway.) Maybe I'll skip the erg and go off on a hike, since the weather is still cool enough for that to be possible. (Though it is going up to 80 F this weekend.) I haven't been hiking in far too long a time, and I miss the mountains a bit.

Posted by dichroic at 12:56 PM | Comments (0)

February 02, 2006

A bunch of product reviews

One pan, three plaudits, though not in that order.

Ugg Boots
The problem with Uggs is they got to be fashionable - which still wouldn't be a major problem except that in that process people lost site of the basic concept. The genius of Uggs is that they are meant to be worn without socks, which puts snuggly absorbent sheeps' wool against your feet. This is a very good thing if your feet are cold. It's even better if your feet are cold and wet, as they tend to be if, say, you have just stepped out of your boat into the water, carried it up the sandy beach to the slings or boathouse, and washed the sand off it and your feet. This is why Uggs are very common among rowers at races in California during chilly parts of the year or day (which, in California, can be fairly random). It's also a good thing if you've just surfed in, put down your board, and taken off your wetsuit, and therein lies the clue to the etymUggology of the ugly boots. They're surfer gear. So while I have some sympathy for people who get annoyed at seeing them become a part of every other teenaged girl's dress-up-for-the-Mall outfit, I don't mind seeing people wear their surf gear casually. I think they look OK with jeans. They're much*] cuter with the tights and fleece top I'd wear for rowing - but note that these are not the things I'd wear out to socialize in.

Unlike most of their clones, Uggs have the same sheepskin all around your foot, including below it. Other manufacturers, maybe because they're reasching for the fashion-boot market, never seemed to get the wear-without-socks memo, and often seem to have either an inferior grade or fake sheepskin underfoot. Since I was worried about abosorbency, not to mention any sand that might still be on my feet, I didn't want that. The other facet of this is that the soles are fairly basic - you can get versions with soles that look more supportive, but the plain Uggs don't have anything like hiking insoles. I wouldn't wear mine for walking miles on hard surfaces, but they're blissfully comfy around the house and come my next chilly West-Coast regatta, my feet won't be chilly any more.

Martin's Pretzels
The claim on the website that these are "generally considered to be the best pretzels in the world" intrigued me enough to convince me to order a box. First I have to say that claim is just wrong. Martin's may be handtwisted, but they can't match the sourdough flavor of Snyders of Hanover - or the goodness of a real Philly soft pretzel (none of those awful Auntie Anne's abominations) though soft pretzels are really a different category. That said, though, the Martin's pretzels are pretty darned good, and quite addictive. The sourdough flavor is there, though not as noticeable as in Snyders. The best thing about them in my opinion is that they're baked very dark - I inherited a taste for nearly-burnt pretzels from my father. They're not as teeth-shatteringly hard as the Snyders, either, which is nice. They're available in salted and unsalted. (I myself will never eat unsalted pretzels until the day a doctor threatens me with dire effects if I don't - my blood pressure is just dandy, thank you - but I thought other people might like to know.) The salted ones tend to be a little too salty, but you can always rub a little off before eating. Oddly, the three-pound box I ordered from Martin's came fille with little bags of three or four pretzels. It's fairly convenient, actually, though I have a hunch that every time I eat a bagful I'm getting three or four times the recommended serving size. But they sure as tasty.

Tweezerman Mini
This is the one pan in these reviews. I guarantee that if you read any American fashion magazine's "best products" article, they'll list Tweezerman as the best tweezers. I've always been curious, but I couldn't quite bring myself to pay $18 for a silly pair of tweezers. Sure, they'll resharpen them for free, but that assumes you'll actually send them in for sharpening and I know myself well enough to know that's unlikely. This time at the drugstore, while I was facing the rack of tweezers, I decided to balance between the lure of the good stuff and the pinch of the wallet by getting the Minis, which are $6 cheaper than the full-sized version. Also, they come with a brightly colored case, helpful for finding with your glasses off.

Well, the case was nice. The tweezers, not so much. It is true that they were as precise as Tweezerman claimed, and it was easy to close on each little hair with them. Only problem is, they wouldn't grip on that hair - give a yank and the tweeze comes away with nothing in its grip. So yeah, they have nice sharp edges and all, but I was entirely unable to actually remove any hair with them, which is, after all, the raison d'etre of eyebrow tweezers, which is why my pair is probably now several feet deep in a landfill somewhere.

Sirius satellite radio:
This isn't something we'd have bought for ourselves. It was a gift last Xmas from members of Rudder's family who know we do a lot of driving trips. When we got it, Rudder seemed to have some issues installing it in his Hummer, and I was disappointed to find out that the folk music radio station listed on the box isn't there any more. Our tradition is that the driver gets to pick what we listen to, so on last month's trip to San Diego we got to hear a lot of the comedy stations and a little of the hard rock. I drive a lot more each day than Rudder does, so the obvious thing after the trip was to put in in my car, to see if I liked it enough to keep paying the monthly fee.

Well. Charge my card, because once away from Rudder's control, this is good stuff. While playing around with it in the house to learn its little quirks, I found a bunch of singer-songwriter songs on the Sirius Disorder station, and realized after a bit that none other than Pete and Maura Kennedy were the DJs. Then they did a nice long live interview, including several songs, with Janis Ian. I had no trouble installing it on my car (I didn't permanently attach the wires though, since this was just for a test) and had none of the problems Rudder had encountered in getting it to receive and play clearly (probably because his car is such a big hunk or metal. Then on my way to work that first morning I heard a number of folkie types whose CDs I have - Martin Sexton, Great Big Sea, Townes van Zandt,among others, and none of those get any play at all on the radio stations out here. Since then I've been switching between Sirius Disorder and the Coffeehouse for everything from those artists to Tracy Chapman, Paul Simon, Bruce Springsteen, Jack Jones, Dan Bern, Norah Jones, Chris Izaak - both the folkier and the bigger-name singer/songwriters pop up. I've also spent a good chunk of time on the Broadway station, with everything from Rogers & Hammerstein to Rent to Be Distressed (a parody about Disney taking over Broadway). And Christine Pedi hosts in the morning. I've also listened to the NPR stations (two!) and PRI and CBC for news, and a station that does nothing but traffic and weather for Phoenix and San Diego (I think it senses where you are - I haven't heard San Diego traffic yet). Since I have a convertible, I've been hiding the radio unit or taking it with me when I park the car in public - it pops right out of its cradle. I haven't had too much trouble locating and pressing the buttons while driving, even with the unit on the passenger side of the dashboard. (Remember: very small car.)

So, good stuff, and I'll probably keep the service. Only a few quibbles. 1) No trad folk music. 2) It only plays plugged in, not on a rechargeable battery like an iPod. I've only got one plug in my car and I can't listen to the satellite radio unplugged for a bit while I charge a cell phone. 3) At least with this car setup, we get lousy reception in the house. There is a house antenna / cradle I could buy separately that the radio unit plugs into, so I don't know if that would be better.

Posted by dichroic at 01:57 PM | Comments (1)

February 01, 2006

cosmogony part II: the positive side

Apparently I'm having a Mardi Gras party this year. Anyone likely to be in the area?

It occurred to me that everything I wrote about yesterday is a negative reaction to someone else's position. That's no way to build a cosmogony, a life, or a set of principles. (Or a political platform, as certain people in this country for whom I would like to vote if only they'd ever be for something ought to realize. But I digress.) And in the spirit of ecumenism, my brethren, I take my text today from the Sermon on the Mount: "By their fruits shall ye know them."

This morning while I was thinking about what I'd written, I was driving to work under a sunrise sky, some of it seen through the canopies of trees along the road. I saw a glint of silver as a jet plane climbed out of the city's airport. And I thought, all of those things are not only beautiful in their own right, but they're even more so if I know a little about them, what makes them that way and what is behind them. The plane flies because the air under its wings exerts more pressure than the faster-moving air on top of it's wings. The unmatchable pinks and peaches of the sunrise, so delicate and ineffable that those color-names seem to crude to describe them, come from unimaginably fast particles emitted by an incredibly hot, incredibly huge blazing furnace, viewed through particles of water vapor so tiny and light that they actually float in air, and what I'm seeing is just a part of a whole rainbow spectrum of colors contained in that light. And the tree - those graceful leaves aren't just pretty. Those delicate leaves make enough food to support the whole living tree, and over time to have built the thick sturdy trunk and branches. And even more, it's part of a whole system that co-evolved into a beautiful and complex codependent web of life that's powered by that same blazing furnace we orbit around, moving unbelievably fast on this whole planet that feels like it's anchored for all time. And out, so far we see them as mere pinpricks, are billions and billions of other infernos, some so vast they make our sun look like a dust most. Others are expanding or collapsing, pulsing, or so ridiculously dense that they contain the mass of our solar system in a body that's smaller across than the distance I drive to work each day. And these bodies are arranged in the most beautiful whorls and spirals, and our attempts to understand all of this complexity, little as we know to date, has let us see the beauty in those spirals, and in crystal patterns as small as the spirals are large, and to comprehend just a tiny bit of the relationships between all of these things......

Well. I get giddy if I think about it too long. And then on top of all that, there is love between people, and the warmth of friendships, the softness of a kitten snuggled against your cheek, the cozy domestic heat of a fire and the opposing coldness on your back beckoning you to adventure, your body and mind and the way they get stronger and smarter to deal with the challenges you give them, and a hundred million other everyday miracles.

There's a common belief that learning more about anything will somehow spoil it, that somehow scientists don't appreciate what's there once they begin to dissect it. I find just the opposite - more knowledge adds a whole new dimension of appreciation in addition to the simple pleasure in a beautiful object. I don't really feel a need to know more about God than that S/He is the spirit within that universe and in this life. I don't need to know if S/He created it or somehow grew within it all. My responsibility to live up to all these good gifts is to learn as much about them as I can, to enable me to appreciate them, if not as much as they deserve, than as much as my little mind can compass, and to try to live so that my life improves the parts of the world I touch or at the very least does as little harm as I can manage.

Posted by dichroic at 12:31 PM | Comments (4)