March 31, 2006

a curate's egg of a trip

I suppose the trip could be called successful. The training sessions went well and several people came up to me or to the site person who arranged it to say how good the training was. The fact that in some cases their commendations were phrased as "Wow, I thought that would be much more boring than it was!" doesn't make me any less proud. There was remarkably little head-bobbing as well, though the fact that the training only took half as long as expected probably had a lot to do with it. Law of human nature: training a very large group take less time than training a smaller one because many fewer people will speak up and there won't be any dialog. I encourgae people to ask questions and there were a couple, though in one case it was (according to site personnel) "the guy who always wants to make trouble", and fortunately, it turned out my response to his comment on conditions at his site was almost exactly what the site leaders would have said. The best I could do with this group was to get them laughing at some points, or nodding their heads, so that at least there was some interaction. For me, and I think for a lot of people, it's just not possible to pay attention for long if all the information flow is one-way.

Oh. I just noticed, when I get to thinking about ways to training and communicating with people, at least in my head it begins to sound like Elizabeth Bear or Sarah Monette journaling about writing fiction. Not in "quality"-meaning-how-good-it-is, because I think they're better writers than I am a trainer, but in "quality"-meaning-what-kind-of-thing-it-is. And that applies to the whole range of that subject: talking and writing, design of slides and usability of websites, when to take breaks and when to use humor and so on. When I write about writing I don't sound that way at all. I think that says a lot about what I know, but it just might also say something that gets me a little closer to what my Proper Job is supposed to be. Closer, but not there; it's to do with teaching and training and mentoring and communicating, but it's not teaching kids. It might be teaching in a university, but that's such a complex system to break into and then you only ever get to talk about one subject. Corporate trainer, maybe, but I want to be involved with knowing the information and putting it together, too, not just transmitting someone else's information. I don't know, but it's something to percolate.

At any rate, the socializing part of the trip went well too; I got to meet up with a couple of people I've known from online lists for much of a decade, but had never met in person. They looked pretty much as expected, because I'd seen pictures. They didn't sounds as I expected, because even when I know someone is from New York, I don't hear that accent when I read her words. We went out for Chinese food and conversation. I was expecting the Chinese food to be much better than here, but I don't think it really was - the conversation, on the other hand was superb. We discussed people and books and conventions and lives. I also enjoyed the drive out; one friend picked me up and we drove out the the home of the other, who lives in a region of big single-family traditional houses. There were some jaw-droppingly beautiful ones on the way.

What didn't go so well was the aftermath of that dinner. I had planned to teach my class and then meet up with one of the friends to go to a nearby aviation museum. Instead, I woke up at 3AM with my stomach burbling and grumbling and spent the rest of the night returning to the bathroom every little while. I wasn't nauseous, but I was definitely uncomfortable. Once my stomach was empty I felt a little better and had evolved a plan by morning. The plant is fortunately right close to the hotel; I went out and was able to teach my remaining two class sections with no problems; one nice thing about stomach issues, for me at least, is that a good enough distraction can make them call a temporary ceasefire. Afterward, I returned to the hotel, where I'd been able to get a late checkout, and rested. (Note: Hilton's HHonors program apparently allows you to check out as late as 3PM without fee.) I ordered up some tea and toast, because I was worried about getting dehydrated or lightheaded if I didn't eat or drink at all, which would make things even worse. I was able to eventually nibble down a slice and a half of the toast, and was feeling a bit better by 3, when I had to leave for the airport. Traffic was mercifully not too bad for the drive there, and with almost no food in there my guts behaved well on the drive, the airport and in the airplane. I picked up some Powerade in the airport and slugged down that, some water, eventually some ginger-ale, and half a Clif Bar during the course of the two-hour airport wait and the five+ hour flight, and that all seemed to work out just right. So far today I'm doing much better; I've had my normal breakfast of a clementine and a little dry cereal, plus half a sandwich and a few fries I couldn't resist, all without mishap. I'll continue to eat more lightly than normal for the rest of today, and hope I'm in shape for the planned light row with the Cubemate tomorrow. Catching up on sleep should also help, because by the time I got to bed last night I'd been up for 22 hours. Oh, well, could be a lot worse.

Posted by dichroic at 01:08 PM | Comments (0)

March 28, 2006


The day did improve a bit when the gate agent was able to switch me to a window seat. Only one painful problem with that.

I was sharing the row with a big fat man and his big fat wife. No, they weren't the problem; the man was next to be but unlike many even much smaller men I've sat next to on airplanes, he was able to keep his elbows to himself and out of my seat. The problem was that it was a *long* flight, with the attendants bringing beverages by several times. I did get up to use the toilet once when the wife was already up, but after that I just decided to tough it out, because it seemed to be quite an effort for them to extract themselves from the tiny airline seats. (Purely my own fault; I'm sure if I had asked to get up they'd have been entirely polite about it as they were for the rest of the flight.). Unfortunately it took longer than I'd anticipated to get out of the holding pattern, into Newark, to the gate, and out of the plane from our row at the rear. In case anyone wants to know, the restrooms at Newark Airport are way too far from the gate I landed at. They should do something about that; I was beginning to mull over plots to leave a puddle behind a kiosk somewhere, because owowOWowow. After that, the driving seemed less of a challenge, anyway, and I found the hotel without incident. Oh, and free wirelss internet at the hotel, yay!

Posted by dichroic at 08:25 PM | Comments (3)


Yeesh. I could do without having to sit in a middle seat on a nonstop flight from Phoenix to Newark. Wish me luck, in getting neighbors who stay in their own seats instead of elbowing into mine. Also, the airline uses zones for boarding, and since I'm in Zone 5, the chances of getting a spot for my carry-on are looking low. (I don't usually like to be Mrs. Baggage, but I have a carry-on suitcase plus a laptop bag that will go under the seat.) Then I get to navigate from Newark Airport to my hotel, and driving at night in strange cities is always fun. Once there I get to teach 5 2-hour classes in two days.

On the bright side, I get to talk about my stuff to people at least some of whom want to know about it, and I get to meet up with a couple of very-long-time electron-friends whom I will now get to meat in the meat world. Plus no sitting at a desk for 2.5 days. I remember now why I like travel.

Posted by dichroic at 09:55 AM | Comments (0)


Yeesh. I could do without having to sit in a middle seat on a nonstop flight from Phoenix to Newark. Wish me luck, in getting neighbors who stay in their own seats instead of elbowing into mine. Also, the airline uses zones for boarding, and since I'm in Zone 5, the chances of getting a spot for my carry-on are looking low. (I don't usually like to be Mrs. Baggage, but I have a carry-on suitcase plus a laptop bag that will go under the seat.) Then I get to navigate from Newark Airport to my hotel, and driving at night in strange cities is always fun. Once there I get to teach 5 2-hour classes in two days.

On the bright side, I get to talk about my stuff to people at least some of whom want to know about it, and I get to meet up with a couple of very-long-time electron-friends whom I will now get to meat in the meat world. Plus no sitting at a desk for 2.5 days. I remember now why I like travel.

Posted by dichroic at 09:55 AM | Comments (1)

March 27, 2006


Logistics are kicking my butt. Apparently it is not possible to fly directly from Kansas City to Wichita, nor from Wichita to Tulsa on a weekday morning. You have to go around by Dallas instead, and by the time you've done that, you've spent as much time from first takeoff to second landing as you would if you drove. And that's not even counting time to get to the airport, check in, deal with the rental car, and so on. I think I'm just going to take the iPod, maybe check out a couple of audiobooks from the library, and tell myself that a road trip through the Heartland is a much nicer way to spend a spring morning that sitting behind a desk. Maybe I'll take a Bill Staines CD along, too:

I have known the wind. It's been a friend all of my days,
And I have seen it dance, across the prairie when it plays.
And I have known the freedom too, of a wheatfield's rolling scene,
And they have never left me blue, so play your song for me.

I'm a sucker for appropriate music, and Staines has a lot of evocative songs about American places. I used to drive Rudder and out friend Bob nuts with Staines' song Lost Mine of the Chisos when we'd go backpacking in Big Bend.

The trip I leave on tomorrow has its share of complexities too: five 2-hour classes to teach in two days, and two piffle-y friends to hook up with Wednesday evening, though at least that latter part is a more pleasant complexity. I'm really not particualrly looking forward to finding my way out of Newark from the airport tomorrow night, either.

I'm really hoping I can manage without much driving on the Germany trip next month, but the way things are going, I have Dark Fears.

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

March 23, 2006


We have some news on the Rudder's job front is good enough to get me excited, but indefinite enough that I can't get too excited just in case. ( Europe....

Meanwhile, between work and regattas, my upcoming travel plans include a work trip to New Jersey; a work trip to two cities in Kansas and one in Oklahoma; a regatta in northern California; a weekend trip to a cabin near our property; a work trip to three plants in Germany. There were also going to be a trip to Taos to meet my uncle, but out of sheer exhaustion I suggested the weekend near our property instead, and a work trip to Ohio that I've managed to talk down to a telecon instead. If this all sounds like it's not too bad, I should point out that this is just within the next two months. If I look out through the summer, I've also got regatta trips to Tahoe, southern Oregon and possible Seattle, and who knows what else from work. I'm tired already thinking about it.

There's similar confusion just inherent in the one regatta trip to California - there are three males and four females definitely going, three more people who we think are, and a couple of people from other clubs we often race with - so the trick is to figure out what boats we can put together so everyone gets to race as much as we want. There are events for men's, women, and mixed (that is, an equal number of men and women); lightweight and openweight; and age categories from 27 on up. Plus there's the factor of trying to put people of similar size and skill together, and of people's own preferences - some like bigger boats, some smaller, some don't want to be the one who steers, and so on.

It'll all work out, somehow or other. And it will be fun.

Posted by dichroic at 12:57 PM | Comments (1)

March 22, 2006

letters, we got letters...

Just heard back about that exam - I passed. The letter informed me that I am now entitled to put a (ridiculously long) string of letters after my name on business cards or in professional correspondence. So now, if I included all that plus a couple of previous certifications and added on my degrees, I could be:

Dichroic MyLastName, BS, MS, CQA, Black Belt, ASQ-CMQOE

Only I don't know where you get business cards big enough to fit all that, they wouldn't fit in anyone's wallet, and no one would know what it all meant anyhow. I think I'll stick to just my name, and leave all the initials off (unless I ever get a PhD, which would be so much more work than any of the above listed certifications that I suspect I'll want to advertise). Anyway, at least if I had to give up my Saturday morning for work, it'll do my resume some good.

To finish with something more substantive, I was looking through some old LJ entries today, and came across this over in one of Mary Ann's old posts. Molly Ivins is a favorite of mine, but I hadn't seen these words from her before:

On the general subject of political corruption, do not fall into the fatal error of cynicism. You do your country a great disservice by saying things like: "Eh, they're all crooks. Nothing anyone can do about it. Money will always find a way."

The answer is perpetual reform. Fix it, and if corruption comes back again, you just whack back at it again.... Don't blow the chance with cheap cynicism.

Posted by dichroic at 11:54 AM | Comments (1)

March 21, 2006

maybe I could use some black and white after all.

In that previous entry I praised complexity; I think I've gotten my comeuppance already.

The Arizona outlaws are sponsoring the Arizona State Junior Rowing Championships, meaning Rudder is doing a lot of the regatta organizing, a few of us will be volunteering at the regatta, and we bought a perpetual trophy last year and the first-place medals this year. In addition, She-Hulk is running a silent auction on the day of the regatta to raise some funds. Some large prizes have already been donated. I said I'd make a pair or two of earrings to auction off. She-Hulk suggested that a necklace might be easier to sell. Good thing; since volunteering to make the necklace, I've been looking for rowing charms. (The necklaces will look something like the bottom photo here, probably in the colors of the crews participating in the regatta.) That's been harder than expected. Given that I've bought charms for $5 or less, I figured I could find some online. No dice - I found ones for $$12 and $15 and $20 and up, which could get a bit expensive if I try to make a necklace in each crew's colors.

I knew that I'd bought the charm on my necklace from Whirling Girl - their own charms are more expensive (though very nice) but at some regatta I'd been to they were selling several someone else had made. I emailed and asked very politely if they could put me in touch with that person, and they did, promptly and graciously. (I tried as hard as I could not to sound like I was taking away business from them. They were so nice as to make me want to buy something, and as it turns out they have some hand balm I may try.) They sent the charm-maker's email. I emailed him. He replied and said he'd be out of town for two days and would email when he got back. I emailed again four days later. He asked for a phone number. I sent that back - that was Saturday. Today I sent it again, in case the mail had gone astray. He called, we discussed, he promptly sent me descriptions and pictures of his charms. Only one major problem: he's in Mexico and shipping would be $30 by UPS (these are $5-10 dollar charms, and I only need a maximum of four, but decided to order a few more to have on hand). So that cost is high enough that it would keep me from ordering.

Only then I thought to ask if he'd be at the big regatta early next month in San Diego. He won't but will be in San Antonio in a couple of weeks. I'll send him a check there and he'll mail my charms from there. So victory has been snatched from the jaws of defeat, but man. All I wanted was a couple cheap rowing charms to make necklaces for a good cause. This is all way too complicated.

Posted by dichroic at 03:39 PM | Comments (0) and die by shades of gray

People who are trying to make things look black and white need to just stop it now, because most things aren't.

Heck, take life itself - pro-lifers often claim to be just that, and they're just not. If it were what the name says, pro-lifers would not only all be vegetarian, they would take great pains to avoid stepping on an ant. If you say that to one of them, he or she would likely claim to be in favor of preserving cells with human DNA in them - but that's not it either, or cutting toenails would be outlawed. (OK, toenails are already dead - how about, removing an appendix would be illegal.) The next level would be to claim that anything that could become a human person is what's sacred, so perhaps we ought to outlaw male masturbation. So basically, what they are is pro-embryo (which is a perfectly valid viewpoint, though it isn't mine, and many of those people who happen to hold it but who are more prone to thinking than to shrieking will agree with the above) but that's not a catchy enough name for the shrieking types. On the other hand, pro-choice is often just that and not a euphemism for pro-abortion - many pro-choice people believe that the choice ought to be made by the party most concerned but that abortions in general ought to be decreased by non-legislative methods. Or even that they are, in fact bad, but that other things might be worse. But not even all pro-choice types agree that the choice ought to be available on demand at all times. It's a spectrum, and probably not a simple two-dimensional one.

Similarly with almost any touchy issue - I may believe in the right to gay marriage but that doesn't mean every individual gay marriage is a good thing, which is why it doesn't prove anything when one of those pioneer marriages ends in divorce. I can simultaneously believe that polyamory is good, if the term is used to mean a relationship among howevermany consenting adults and that polygamy is bad if it's used to mean a relationship in which underaged girls are forced into concubinage (it's not the numbers that bother me, just the lack of adult consent). I can think it's possible (though increasingly unlikely) that the adminstration actually believed Iraq had WMD, while still abhorring the way they've prosecuted the war since. I can despise Shrub without canonizing Clinton, because less-bad or even much-less-bad or even pretty-good-at-some-aspects still doesn't equal good. And contiguous Presidents may be fodder for odious comparisons, but that doesn't make them linked oppposites - vilifying one implies nothing about the other.

The current administration is particularly prone to reducing complex issues to simple dichotomies. Someone needs to slap some of them upside the head and explain that, for instance, opposing their particular methods of fighting terrorism does not equate to being pro-terrorism. I'm not convinced that anyone incapable of seeing shades of gray ought to be running the country, but it bothers me nearly as much to see people in provate life doing the same.

It's just not that simple. And it's good that it isn't - life's complexity is one of its glories.

Posted by dichroic at 01:55 PM | Comments (3)

March 20, 2006

not a-changin' fast enough

Small work related rant: Why is it so freaking hard to get people to do something a better (and not significantly harder) way instead of "the way we've always done it"? Why do those people include the very ones who are supposed to be dedicated to continuous improvement?

I think I'm going to change my nameplate to read "Sisyphus". Would that be unprofessional? Would it be more or less so if I told anyone who asked to go look it up for themselves? (Because God forbid anyone hould have an elementary knowledge of mythology in your average office.)

On the plus side, I may have a couple of interesting trips coming up in the next few months. (Not that anyone at those sites will know their myths either, but at least there will be new places to see.)

I do sometimes wish I could have lived in the days when any educated person would have a good grounding in Greek, Latin, the classic authors, and the Bible. Of course, once I'm done pining I remind myself just have low a percentage of the population (especially the female part of it) was in fact "educated", not to mention how many things we have making use of the same brain cells today that Macaulay and Gibbons never dreamt of. I'm always as shocked when I encounter a white-collar professional who can't, say, download and view an image from an e-mail as Lord Peter Wimsey might have been upon meeting someone at his clubs who had no acquaintance with Homer.)

Still, to the original point, grr. Change happens. Suck it up and deal, unless it's change in the negative direction.

Posted by dichroic at 12:37 PM | Comments (1)

March 17, 2006 speak out

There's an article I forgot to write last week, and I need to set it down to get this point into a few other people's memories. This is about a story that was all over the news, but there's an important point involved that I never did see widely discussed.

Let me start by rehashing the Dubai / Ports deal. Operations at some of the most important ports in the US were controlled by a British company, Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation. When that company was taken over by DP World, which is owned in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates. President Bush was all for it. Congress, both houses, both parties, was against it, so much so that the House passed a bill that would have blocked DP World from running or managing terminals at U.S. ports, with a veto-proof majority of 377-38. As it happened, the bill was largely mooted when DP World announced it would turn over operations at US Ports to an American company. All of that was in the news, over and over for weeks.

But think about this: why was Congress so adamantly against the bill that even members who are normally in lockstep with the President voted against him? Simple: they value their own seats more than they value their connection with the White House. Constituents were outraged at the deal, and for once they were irate enough to speak up in large numbers, and they were heard. That vote in the House wasn't really moot after all, or at least the furor leading up to it wasn't; DP World would not have agreed to hand over the ports if it hadn't been obvious there was very serious opposition to their takeover. (Whether the opposition was justified in thinking the Dubai-controlled ports would have been an opening wedge for terrorism is a different question, and one I'm not qualified to answer, but it's irrelevant to my point anyhow.)

In other words: when enough people cared about an issue and said so, Congress took action, even against the President's strongly-stated position. People spoke up and it made a difference in what happened. Remember that, next time you think your vote or your voice doesn't matter.

Posted by dichroic at 12:32 PM | Comments (2)

March 16, 2006

too blatant to miss

I've mentioned here before that I'm not the most empathetic person in the world. Therefore, while I'm ready to rail against prejudiced thinking whether or not it affects me personally, I confess I'm less likely to notice it when it's against a category I don't fall into. Sometimes, though, it's repeated or blatant enough that even I can't miss it.

One thing I've noticed lately is that even among people who won't stand for any prejudice against women*, prejudice against blonde women seems to be OK. (Including, in some cases, actual blonde women.) I've almost never encountered an assumption that pale-haired men are automatically stupid. I just don't get it. OK, at least it's something that can be changed, and maybe some people don't care because of the other stereotype that says blondes are more attractive, but I still don't understand why it's acceptable to judge anyone's brains by an accident of coloring. (Or even a deliberate coloring.)

An even more blatant example was in a book I read the other day. I'd picked up Emily Dickinson's Dead, by Jane Langton, because I've enjoyed her children's books. This one, though meaning to be a cozy mystery, was considerably more disturbing. The villain (yes, there will be spoilers here, but I doubt it will be a major issue for anyone) is an extremely obese, mentally unhinged, and quite unpleasant young woman. So far, fine, but there were frequent and unmistakeable insinuations that either she was fat because she was crazy or she was crazy because she was fat, most likely the latter. There are all kinds of little asides about how the character hides secrets from herself "in the folds of her neck or the creases under her belly" or wherever. I confess I may harbor some prejudices against fat people, in assuming that they are likely to be less active than thinner people (though I do know some exceptions) but I have not noticed larger people to be any less sane or more violent than smaller ones. (More annoyed at purveyors of retail clothing, yes, often, but that's a pretty sane reponse to provocation and hardly ever leads to murder.) As an antidote, to get the nasty taste out of my mind I'm rereading a bunch of Charlotte MacLeod. She has attractive heroes and heroines of all ages and sizes; petite and (relatively) young Sarah, Dittany, Helen and Janet may get their men, but it's the opulent Theonia and the charismatic Aunt Emma, the dramatic Aunt Arethusa, the Valkyrie Sieglinde and the bountiful blonde Iduna, all well into middle-age, who have men falling all over them. Refreshing.

Posted by dichroic at 12:07 PM | Comments (1)

March 15, 2006

time to buckle down

I really, really hate to say this, but I need to lose weight. I was hoping that, once I quit flying, I'd row enough more that the weight would just sort of melt away, but that doesn't seem to be happening. The summer before last, I weighed about 122. Right now I weigh about 130. However, before anyone starts thinking I've fallen prey to cultural standards and starts frantically commenting to tell me I'm fine the way I am, I should point out that I do have a good reason for needing to lose some: if I want to race as a lightweight in sprint races this spring and summer, I need to weigh in below 130. Last weekend's race didn't have lightweight events, but the one in May does. (Also, I'm 5'2". Unless I have enough muscle to compete as a body builder, I really ought to weigh a little less.)

At least some of that is muscle, and most of my clothes are either still size 4 or are size 6 and a bit loose, so I don't want to get rid of all the weight gain. (Some of it is breast, either due to the weight gain or the birth control, but I could happily get rid of that.) I used to go to weigh-ins and not even bother to remove my jacket and shoes. I don't really need to be able to show off like that, but I don't want to have to go without drinking anything or any of the other tricks people use to make weight. Most of them are no good for either health or performance. I've already cut out most sodas, but I never had more than one a day, so that doesn't make much difference. The sensible thing to do would be to cut out pretzels, but frankly I'm not sure I have the will power. I love pretzels; I crave the taste and the crunch and the salt. Substituting apples just isn't going to work. Celery might work better, but it's a little tricky at work (also loud). We've been eating a lot of popcorn at home, which is a way to fill up with a lot of bulk for relatively few calories. It works for Rudder to lose weight, but I think for me it's more an added food than a substitute for anything else (well, it might reduce the pretzel consumption a little). I refuse to do a low-carb or any other diet that restricts the variety I eat. I think I'll just start by putting the pretzels in a less accessible part of my desk and trying not to eat one unless I'm actually hungry.

I've tried monitoring what I eat in Fitday, but it's fairly difficult to figure out actual calories for, say, a stirfry of assorted veggies over jasmine rice. Someone told me the purchased version is easier to use than the online one, so that may be another option. I've never done a diet in my life, and I'm sort of hoping I can just lose a couple of pounds (two would work, though I'd prefer 5) by just eating a little less, in an unorganized sort of way.

Posted by dichroic at 11:46 AM | Comments (2)

March 14, 2006

only when love and need are one

Today, I'm enjoying watching the Womyn's Music Memory Festival developing over at Elisem's. It's not that I was ever big into womyn's music under that label, but that the music has a lot of overlap with the folkie stuff I love. A lot of the same people perform at both sorts of festivals, so that a lot of music identified as "womyn's" has both the sound I love and a message I agree with. Besides, maybe thinking about good music will help me ignore the toilet in the men's room across the hall that's been flushing every thirty freaking seconds.

Today I got another birthday card, written on which was something like, "Have a fabulous year, and carry the celebration through the entire month of March". I'm beginning to think that's a good idea, especially since last week wasn't especially birthday-ish. I finally got my parents' present yesterday - that "finally" is intended to express irritation not with them but with the Postal Orifice. the present was first delivered Friday, but since it was insured, the mail carrier couldn't leave it. I signed the slip, taped it to the door (with heavy tape because of the weather and left it there. Did the mail carrier drop off the present Saturday? No. Monday? Still no. I finally had to leave work early to go to the office and pick it up. So much for "neither rain not snow nor dark of night..."

Still, though Wednesday last week when we took off and buried the cat was sad, Saturday was cold and wet and miserable, and Sunday was cold and windy enough to still not be terribly pleasant, those days felt like life - like real life, as opposed to days at work, which even on good days just feel like marking time. I keep thinking that if I could just find that Proper Job, that thing I ought to be spending my life on, that work would be real too - "only when love and need are one and the work is play for mortal stakes / Is the deed ever really done for Heaven and the future's sakes". I wonder if Frost felt as real when he was farming as when he was writing?

Posted by dichroic at 04:13 PM | Comments (1)

March 13, 2006

regatta writeup

How was the regatta?

Cold. Very cold. Also wet.

The Old Salt and I came in last in our Mixed Doubles race, due largely to the fact that he had no desire to get to the finals (there were enough entrants in that race to have heats and finals) especially as we knew that, while we might make finals, we weren't going to beat some of the other crews out there. In my Women's Open Doubles race, we won and the row felt so good that I think we'd have won even if the only other crew in that race had bothered to show up. (Especially as one of the women in the no-show crew was one I beat last fall.) My last race of the day was against Dr. Bosun. We've rowed against each other enough to know how that goes (she wins) and it was late in the day. I wanted to go home, and she had another race very close to ours, so we mutually decided to scratch and cancel that race.

I think Rudder won two medals on Saturday, probably for the Mixed Quad and men's masters Single. After races we tried to change into dry clothing, but it didn't help. They were making singles and doubles launch at a boat ramp, reserving the dock for the bigger boats, so wet feel were inevitable, because my waterproof socks have begun to leak. It was just not possible to put on dry cothes and keep all layers dry, hard as we tried. And layers there were: I had on fleece socks, "waterproof" socks, rowing shorts, fleece tights, fleece pants, waterproof pants, a tank toip, a long-sleeved Coolmax shirt, an expedition-weight underwear top, my fleece-lined rowing jacket and my Goretext jacket, a hat and mittens. (To race, I wore shorts, fleece tights, waterproof pants, a tank and a long-sleeved top.) There was someone out there taking photos of every race (I'm impressed both at his endurance and the fact that he's even got them all online already) and I think he summed up Saturday very well in this photoof me and Dr. Bosun cheering on one of our crews.

Sunday was better, cold but dry. Rudder had the brilliant idea of wearing our wellies, which I'd totally forgotten about because we hadn't worn them since Antarctica. Pity he didn't think of it a day earlier, but at least on Sunday I had dry feet, even when helping boats to launch. Sunday I was reasonably comfortable with 4-5 layers on top and bottom. Since I didn't have any races Sunday I didn't have to take anything off or get anything wet. Also, the regatta was slated to run only a half day. We got to leave before noon and join a bunch of rowers at a local brew pub. I think Rudder won two more medals Sunday, too - a better experience all around. Still, brr.

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

March 10, 2006

good so far

My plans to celebrate a whole birthday week got quite thoroughly derailed. Can't blame the cat for his timing though - it was his birthday week too. It's a funny thing: I am reasonably good at remembering birthdays, but terrible at remembering death dates. Maybe it's a Freudian thing, about what I most want to remember. If so, it works well for me; I don't really remember the date my grandmother died, but I thought about her last Sunday on what would have been her 94th birthday, and it was much nicer to be thinking about her life rather than her death. Anyhow, I won't have much trouble remembering both dates for this cat. I'm not terribly upset about him, just a bit sad. He had a good long life and his decline was fast and didn't seem to hurt him - since this had to happen, it could have happened a lot worse.

But though the week was a bit rough, today has been good so far, with lots of unexpected birthday wishes. Rudder remembered to say Happy Birthdaynot only before Ileft but the instant he woke up, my cubemate (for whom I need a nom) gave me a card and present, someone to whom I'd mentioned the date a whole year ago (we were out having drinks for someone else's birthday) told several others at work, who have passed on good wishes, and I've gotten a few e-cards and good wishes online, all of which makes me feel both special and grateful. Even nicer, several of the birthday wishes have included good wishes for tomorrow's races!

Posted by dichroic at 10:53 AM | Comments (2)

March 09, 2006

feline funerary

Well, that was a day. Since we don't plan to be in our current house long-term, Rudder had the excellent and fitting idea of taking personal days off work and burying the cat up on our airpark property. For the rest of the day to make sense, I need to point out that though it's only a couple housrs from Phoenix, it's nearly 6000' higher, so there's a drastic climate change. I should also point out that while that area is pine forest instead of desert and does get more rain (and snow), it's not a lot more. Until yesterday, Phoenix had had no rain for a hundred forty-some days, and the airpark area had gotten a quarter of an inch for the year to date.

1) Load up truck with picks, shovels and other implements of destruction, plus lots of containers of water to water our trees since there's been so little rain.
2) Notice truck tires are visibly low. Make an otherwise-unneeded gas station stop to fill them before leaving.
3) Drive up 2.5 hours to property - at least it's a pretty drive. Get snowed on enroute - yes, in this year with no precipitation. Saddened at the thought of leaving cat to be snowed on.
4) Get there and spend half an hour chatting with neighbor, who's been on leave from his job in CA and staying at his adjacent property. Worry because his sweet but energetic dog is running around. I don't want him to dig up our cat. Rudder's occasional unaccountable reserve kicks in and he doesn't want me to tell neighbor what we're doing up there, so I can't just ask him to put his dog inside for a bit.
5) Dig large hole in clay soil. Hole had to be large because we'd decided to bury the cat in a box, so we wouldn't have to dump earth right on him. Good thing Rudder brought the pickax; the sequence was, Rudder use pickax to break up clay, Dichroic shovel it out. Would have been difficult with one person.
6) Bury cat. *snif* Only very light flakes of something between snow and sleet, fortunately, so they felt more like a blanket than an assault.
7) Drive to gas station to fuel up for drive home. Suddenly the truck key won't open the gas cap. Talk to nice people at DairyQueen attached to gas station, and decide to drive to local locksmith instead of waiting forever for AAA. Locksmith fixes problem quickly, only charges $10.
8) Drive home. Snow worsens as we drive over the Rim; visibility severely impaired. Rudder was driving; and I don't think he enjoyed that part.
9) Stop at local cycle store to pick up Gu for weekend race. Home. Shower. Change. By now it's 6:30. Off to Best Buy to buy a videocamera, expecting a quick choice between the three models Rudder has narrowed it down to. Turns into an hour-long ordeal with idiot salesman. Appears none will play frame-by-frame, one of the major capabilities Rudder wants (for analysis of rowing technique), but we can't fully test them in the store because some are anchored in a way that precludes putting in a tape and neither box nor salesman has the answer.
10) Go to restaurant, only to find it's packed. Decide to do takeout instead. Quick run to Apple Store while food is being prepared to find out if we could at least get a video to run frame by frame on the Mac. Answer appears to be yes, staff very helpful. Comment to Rudder, "So that's what customer service is supposed to look like!" Get dinner and get home, right around when we'd normally be going to bed.

Rudder and I agreed that, despite the aggravations of the day, it was a much more fitting way to spend it than if we'd dropped off the cat at the vet's to be cremated and gone into work as usual. At least his death was marked.

Posted by dichroic at 11:02 AM | Comments (1)

March 07, 2006

RIP Beast

No, not being trained, after all.

RIP, Beast.

The name is because he was a fairly feral kitten - a neighbor who worked with a local animal control unit rescued him and his brother when the shelter (a police one) there put his mom and the rest of the litter down. He's been with me since he was 5 weeks old, a year before either of us even met Rudder. We used to not be able to sleep with our feet outside the blankets, because he would attack our toes. He had blue eyes as a kitten that were startling against his long black fur; the neighbor who rescued him said he might have Siamese blood that would keep his eyes blue, but they did change, to a clear gold that showed up as well.

He was crotchety. He once treed a Houston cop (another neighbor) in my bathroom, and he scared more than one guest by hissing at them. But he was also empathetic and would always come to me when he knew I was upset. One day early on, when we had all first moved in together, the cat somehow knocked a closet door shut, trapping himself inside. Rudder got home first and opened the door - unfortunately, the cat then decided that the incident was Rudder's fault. When I came home I found Rudder fending the cat off with a tennis racket - I had to call the cat off and calm him down. After that rocky beginning he and Rudder because best buddies. From the winter of 2001 when I was away for three months, they went to sleep snuggled up together every night. He did mellow out a lot as he got older; he's had some trouble jumping upon things for the last few months, but it's only been the last few weeks that he hasn't been eating. It's been a quick way to go - actually, it reminds me of my grandmother (whose birthday was just Saturday). Same thing: she essentially decided it was time to go and stopped eating. In both cases, fortunately, they lived to a good age before making that decision. She met him the one time she visited me, in Houston. She didn't like him all that much, having superstitions about black cats, but they did have some things in common.

Anyway, I'm babbling now and I should quit writing. Rudder's trying to be comforting, but I should really go check if he's the one who needs comfort.

I've never had a real pet die before - as a kid, I only had goldfish and gerbils. My parents' dog died a few years ago, but that was long after I was out of the house and he and I only overlapped by a year or so. It wasn't the same.

Posted by dichroic at 07:11 PM | Comments (16)

taken advantage of

I'm beginning to suspect Rudder and I are being trained. Ever since the cat-shavingepisode it's been apparent just how thin our older cat had gotten. In the last couple of weeks, he's really seemed to be failing - a lot more litter-box near-misses (fortunately, the litter box is in a spare bathtub), one episode that resulted in our having to wash a down comforter and duvet, and a general lack of energy. He hasn't seemed to be upset or in pain, though, so we're guessing it's just age. We share a birthday, at least approximately, and he'll be 17 this week. He comes downstairs a lot less and just in general moves a lot less. The litter box is upstairs, but we've always kept the food and water in the kitchen. We added an upstairs water dish some time ago, but we've been so worried about how skinny he's getting that we've been bringing bits of tuna and canned food up to him. (Both cats have been getting dry Science Diet their whole lives.) He seems to be perking up a bit - the other cat is probably stealing the goodies, but at least we've seen the older one eating some of it. However, now he's feeling better, he just waits for us to deliver tidbits to him, and now we have sneaking feeling that he's wondering, "Hell, why didn't I figure this out years ago?" Nothing like being taken advantage of by a cat.

Actually, if you have a cat to begin with, there's also nothing UNlike being taken advantage of. Furry leeches.

Someone actually rendered me speechless earlier today. I was at a meeting in a conference room I hadn't been to before, trying to hook up to the projector mounted in there. Someone went out and got a local admin to help; it turned out to be a matter of selecting the approrpiate input via the projector's remote. In other words, something I should have figured out myself, and I said as much.

She said, "Oh, Paula, just be a girl. let someone else figure it out."

That was when my jaw dropped (literally, I think). Once I regained the ability to speak, I told her that if being girly meant dressing up in a skirt and makeup I was fine with it, but I didn't see any reason it should make me stupider around techniology - and that the relevant point was not that I'm a girl but that I'm an engineer.

People like that are one reason why the rest of us have to deal with stereotypes and glass ceilings. (The other reason, of course, is the people who believe the stereotypes and who build the glass ceilings.)

I can think of good reasons to play stupid, honestly. I just can't think of any that are worth the risk that someone might actually think you are stupid, or that are worth the self-respect I'd lose.

Posted by dichroic at 02:12 PM | Comments (1)

March 06, 2006

rest of the weekend.

The weekend did improve after Saturday morning. The board of the rowing's national governing body, US Rowing, was in town for their annual meeting, so rowers from all of the local groups were invited to have dinner with them. I enjoyed the dinner, taliking mostly to several board members and members of the referee committee, but probably not quite as much as Rudder did. He somehow ended up sitting with most of the athlete reps - these were all recent Olympian types, so I think he got to hear some interesting stories.

Where I was sitting, we talked more about work than rowing, but it was interesting - four relatively senior women, in four different fields, talking about dealing with bosses and such. I think I need to do that sort of networking more often.

On Sunday, Rudder went out for a row with She-Hulk and the two others who will be racing a mixed quad together next weekend, and I rowed with the Old Salt, because we'll be taking a double out in that race. It was a bit of a rocky row, but improved a lot once he got warmed up - well, the man turns 64 tomorrow, so it's not unreasonable that it takes him a few thousand meters. At least now we know, so he'll warm up a bit on the erg before our race. Only thing that worries me is that we were down to port the whole time; I'm afraid that racing that way might tweak my back a little and I've got another doubles race (with one of the junior girls) shortly after that, as well as a race in my single late in the day. I think it will be all right, though. The one thing that bugs me is that the race isn't handicapped, even though all the people in it are masters rowers. We'll be going against some fast crews (Rudder and She-Hulk, for one) and it's not like we're going to win anyway, but that handicap would have been nice. Any of this may change, though - they expect to post the final schedule today sometime.

After rowing, we all went to breakfast. Later on, I got to check out a new local yarn store - it's closer to my house than any of the existing ones and it's open on Sundays! The store was a little sparse on yarn, understandably as it was only their second day open, but did have a nice stock of various Cascade and Southwest Trading Company yarns (SWTC is a local company). I was also glad to be able to buy a little Denise add-on kit - extras of all the cables, and a few spare connectors and end-stops. They also had quite a variety of spinning wheels. (They looked intriguing, but I refuse to take up spinning, since I barely have time to knit. Also, I don't think I could read while spinning.) It was nice to hang out with the proprietors and some other local knitters including Brooke, too.

Then last night we went out to a fancy steak place for an early birthday dinner for me - it's not until Friday, but by then we'll be getting ready for the marathon and I won't be wanting steak that night (though Rudder will) much less wine. Good wine, by the way - it was a Spanish red, Bodegas Tarsus. (Rudder wanted me to write the name down, to remember it - I pointed out that that was unnecessary, since it shares a name with Dr. Who's spacecraft.)

Posted by dichroic at 03:27 PM | Comments (0)

March 04, 2006



Top-down raglan, knitted per barbara Walker's "Knitting from the Top Down". I'm still learning about proper amounts of eas; the body fits well, but I could have made the upper arms smaller and then decreased them less.

Posted by dichroic at 04:37 PM | Comments (5)

"Grr!" said the Manager

Well, NOW I am pissed off. Not only did I just spend half of my precious Saturday taking an exam that I don't care about for any reason but work (so why do they always schedule those on weekends? If I only need it for work, is it not a legitimate use of work time?) but I just found out I got one question wrong. I CHANGED it from the correct answer to a wrong one. I changed it BECAUSE I looked it up and my study guide turned out to be even suckier than I thought it was. I knew it sucked because of not having much of the info I needed, but I didn't know until I got home and did a quick websearch that it also had info that's flat-out wrong.


If anyone cares, the exam was for Certified Quality Manager, it's given and schedule by ASQ, the Aerican Society for Quallity, and the study guide is the CQM Primer from the Quality Council of Indiana. In the spirit of full disclosure I should note that the primer is for the pervious version of the exam (between last time it was administererd and now, they changed the exam from Certified Quality Manager to Certified Quality Manager / Operational Excellence. However, this mistake was in an area that hasn't changed. It was about one of Dr. Deming's principles, in fact, and those hadn't changed since he died over a decade ago.

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

March 03, 2006

a little history

Spurred by someone's link to some of its library's old handwritten catalog cards, I've just been having a grand time poking around in the archives of my school's history. I have to say Penn tends to fudge a little; the University claims to have been founded by Ben Franklin and to date back to 1740, and the two claims are a bit contradictory. (That is, the Franklin part is irrefutable, but the 1740 is shaky.) What apparently happened was that other leading Philadelphians began building a charity school in 1740, which never quite got off the ground, then when Franklin proposed an Academy in 1749, he proposed using this building as the center of cmapus. There was a provision made to continue the charity school as part of campus. (More info here.)

The Academy and the Charity School for boys opened in 1751, with a Charity School for girls added in 1753. Then in 1755 the College of Philadelphia was chartered, so for a while all three functioned together. It became officially a University (America's first) in 1765 when the Med School opened, then was renamed a University and briefly became the first state university in the US in 1779. There was some squabbling over this and, for a couple of years, the College and the University were separated until they were joined back together and re-privatized in 1791. (A brief general history is here.)

So as a school the idea of it dates to 1740, but no students were taken until 1750 and no college students until 1755. Then the first class graduated in 1757, which seems awfully quick - but then, as I understand it, Oxford and Cambridge students to this day generally only go for three years. I think Penn may have been the first university where the colleges were divided by subject; as far as I know, at Oxford and Cambridge thecolleges had specialties but weren't divided according to subject. (Their websites say that at both schools, courses and departments now belong to the Universities, while the Colleges offer only tutoring and small group seminars, not lectures.) I don't know anything about universities elsewhere in Europe, though, so the system may not be original with Penn though looking at the Wikipedia entry on the University of Paris, aka the Sorbonne, while the faculties were divided by subject, the schools seem not to have been.

Anyway, apologies to those not interested in academic history, but it's been a pleasant way to fritter away some time. I never was able to find a history of the Penn library itself, but there is a mention of some books being donated to it by Louis XVI of France in 1784.

Posted by dichroic at 12:22 PM | Comments (1)

March 01, 2006

Outlaw Ts

Rudder just got the Arizona Outlaw shirts he'd designed and had printed. Are these the Coolest T-shirts Ever or what?

They have the small logo on the front, the big design on that back, ARIZONA OUTLAWS spelled out down the sleeves, and in case you can't read it, the slogan on the back is, "More whisky and fresh oars for my crew!"

And a special little one for me:

Posted by dichroic at 07:02 PM | Comments (2)


I do feel better than yesterday, but still not great - I think I needed to get more rest than I did. Oh, well. Unfortunately, having taken stayed home sick yesterday and worked from home one day the week before, I won't feel right taking the vacation day I'd been considering next week. Don't ask me why, I know that's not entirely reasonable.

I finished and bound off Rudder's sweater, but when he tried it on, we agreed it could be a little longer. I unbound it, knitted another couple rows, and will see if I can do one more and still have enough yarn to bind off. (I have more, but don't really like have lots of ends to weave into the ribbing at the bottom.) Then I get to start a Trellis and Vine for me, which would be more exciting if the office hadn't been warm enough that I don't need it lately. It's pretty, though, and I think it will be fun to knit.

What with not feeling that great this week, I'v haven't gotten on the water nearly enough lately. The dealine with the regatta in two weeks is this Saturday, and I'm still debating whether to enter. I don't want to embarass myself.

So in general, I appear to be grumpy and without much to say. I ought to go study now.

And have I mentioedn that I'm now just a week and a half younger than Jack Benny?

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