April 29, 2006

photo project, weekend 1

Rachel has inspired me to start a collection of self- and Rudder-portraits. Partly this is because we don't have enough good pictures of us around; partly this is because I photograph badly most of the time (this would be why we don't have a ton of pictures of us around) and partly it's because my landscape photo skills are decent but my portrait photo skills suck, and I'd like them to improve. Unfortunately, I may have to buy a separate flash and diffuser to get this to go well. Rachel's project is to do one self-portrait every day for 30 days, but given my time constraints, I'm going to do one (or more) each weekend, and one of Rudder too. (He's much easier to photograph well, so that will be the carrot on the stick.)

I did the Rudder one first, and am happiest with that one. I was going for a very protective feeling here.
I cropped it, softened the focus (using a film-grain filter) and turned it to black and white in Photoshop.

Here's the one of me.
"This is what almost 40 looks like"
I wanted this to be very uncompromising: no makeup, hair pulled back, the clothes I knocked around in all day. I've done a little Photoshopping, but only to crop the photo and adjust brightness and contrast; no soft-focusing or air-brushing or anything like that. Oh - I did edit out the logo on my shirt.

An outtake:
I was thinking the bare wall would help with that uncompromising feeling, but I didn't get any with that level gaze in them against the wall. I do like the shadows here, though.

Posted by dichroic at 08:16 PM | Comments (6)

April 28, 2006

my worst training

The other thing I like about this time of year is the rowing. It's not too cold any more in the mornings when we get out there, before we warm up, but it's not too hot after we warm up, either. (It would be at midday, but not at 5AM.) And it's the season for egrets and herons: flapping slowly overhead or standing in line on the side of the lake for all the world like spectators. Though, at regattas when we do have spectators they tend to be less stately, more motley and considerably louder.

Today I gave probably the worst training session I've ever done. Not my fault, really, and I think I did OK in the circs. I was asked to give my lecture at yet another site, tied to the one I spoke to Monday. Someone from the first site arranged the training, and worked with the people at the second site to set it up. We went together to the training site, where I was supposed to speak to all hands int he cafeteria. When we got there, none of the guys who were supposed to do set-up showed up until about 5 minutes beforehand. Then there was a problem with the projector - I think the one mounted on the ceiling had been removed. They got someone to bring another one down (by now the audience had all shown up), but it was antiquated. We finally got it turned on and projecting from my computer, but then the problem was that it was cutting off the top of the slides. (The whole projected image was onscreen, that is but the top third of the slides wasn't included in the image.) I fiddled with it a bit, but then found that the remote wouldn't turn on at all and the menu accessible from the main controls wouldn't let me adjust the image manually.

At that point I gave up, and made myself instantly popular, but not entirely educational, by saying, "All right, that's enough. I won't waste your time any longer." I spent five minutes giving them the main highlights, promised to get my slides sent to everyone at the facility and emphasized that they should call me with any questions. Short of keeping them there for as long as it took to fix the system, which would have made everyone too resentful to listen to anything else I said, or bringing my own projector, which I had no reason to expect to have to do, I don't see what else I could have done. I think the people who asked me to do the training were at least happy to have the high points communicated and that I didn't panic and fall apart - fortunately, I'm not really prone to stage fright in this sort of thing.

Posted by dichroic at 05:40 PM | Comments (1)

April 27, 2006

bloom time

We have three distinct blooming seasons here. March is the wildflowers, when there are wildflowers. Unfortunately, all but two of the ten years I've lived here have been drought years, and the wildflowers were scanty. But those two years had blakets of yellow covering the mountainsides, starred with orange and purple for variety. A desert in bloom sounds so Biblical, somehow, though I don't think the Sinai blooms. But it is as glorious as it sounds.

Now, in April is my favorite of the blossom season, the blooming of the trees. The palo verdes are covered in tiny bright yellow blossoms, the same color forsythias bring to spring in climates farther north. I'm not sure if it's those or something else that fill the air with a sweet, sweet scent in early April. My favorite, though, are the jacarandas used in a lot of landscaping around here. The blossoms are an improbable Crayola lavender against a tender green of the new leaves. You can see a bit of the one in my backyard here.

In May it feels like summer here, and outdoors is best experienced in the dark or through the window of an air-conditioned car. One thing worth looking at through those windows is the saguaro blooms. First there are the buds, comically on top of the trunk like hair on a head. The the flowers open. Nothing subtle about them; they look like the Tim Burton version of daisies, white petals around a yellow center, but much bigger, stiffer, and sturdier and somehow a bit freakier. But they're still flowers nad still beautiful. They're one of the redeeming features about the onset of summer here.

Posted by dichroic at 04:20 PM | Comments (1)

the rolling river shores of changes

Lately I've read about more and more silly acts by the government, coupled with growing distrust of them on the one hand (record negative ratings, for one, protests on the other) and alarmist warnings about the coming Holy Wars on the other. I've heard about fundamentalists who believe women should be subjugated (note: I also know fundamentalists who believe in respecting women; the others are just so much noisier that it's hard to tell if they're gorwing in numbers or just shrillness) and secularists who want religion entirely out fo the political sphere. There seems to be more and more religious and political division. What I can't tell is what all of it means or whether it does mean anything at all. It feels like change is in the air, but it could just be useless venting. (Sorry, but I'm too lazy to go look up links to all of this).

It is about time; we seem to have been having periods of great change every forty years or so. But I'm not old enough to remember what the sixties and seventies felt like, in terms of the public sphere. I have no memory at all of the 1960s, having caught only the tag end, and the 1970s just felt like being a kid. On the other hand, communications are so much faster, more ubiquitous and more complete than they were then that I'm not sure I could tell anyway. How do you distinguish the rumblings of change from the results of negative news being perceived as a better story? How do you tell whether more people are becoming dissatisfied enough to act, or are only now speaking publically because the Internet has provided the means to complain to millions instead of to the water-cooler crowd?

The only thing I know is that these are interesting times. I do believe that the US and the other free countries will ultimately survive and continue providing unprecedented leavels of individual liberty and rising standards of living, but how much of that is stupid optimism based on a lack of understanding of the real factors in place? I bet plenty of people thought ancient Rome would endure, too. The most we can do is try to keep an eye on things and learn useful skills to deal with whatever happens. I don't plan to build a bomb shelter in the backyard; I do try to keep up with the news in a general way. We don't keep a survival kit at hand, though we do have all the components of one in the house - not deliberately, we just used to camp a lot. And we have that handy reservoir of water in the back yard, though it's cleverly disguised as a selling feature of the house. One other thing about the future: it's not apt to be boring.

Posted by dichroic at 01:43 PM | Comments (1)

April 26, 2006

tonight's work

Sure enough, Rudder had the camera. So here are the pieces I was working on tonight. Unfortunately, neither photo shows the flash AB (aurora borealis) finish on the crystals on the earrings.


This last one is just something I'm noodling around with. Some of the work I've seen from other people just leaves me frustrated at how much I'm not doing with my materials, so this is an experiment. Some day it may grow up to be a necklace. Actually, one reason I haven't done much with wire is the worry that it would just be too soft, that the curves would collapse at a slight pressure wherever they weren't firmly wrapped. (I use semi-soft wire, mostly, so I can do the wire wrapping I need, and I currently have a couple gauges on hand.) This piece seems to be relatively firm, though. It's a good way for me to get a feel for what can be done with this wire.

Posted by dichroic at 09:28 PM | Comments (0)

on being leaned around

Grump. Silly old husband appears to have hidden the digital camera, just when I've finished a pair of earrings and a lariat-style silver oar necklace. Maybe I'll just wait until this weekend and photograph them along with the nearly done Mother's Day set - the kipah is done and the matching socks only need one toe grafted and some ends tucked in.

Work's been fairly busy, as the lack of entry at lunch today can attest. I've now given my little training to some 1500 people, with another 300 or so expected on Friday. Hopefully those numbers will impress my two-levels-up boss, because rumor has it there may be some shake-ups at work in a direction I'm not crazy about.

I got a lot done at work today, but didn't have much energy to sare anyway, after doing two 1000 meter race pieces this morning. I was a good girl and did them flat out, really at race pace. The downer is, they still weren't as fast as I'd like, especially with our big race a week and a half away. I'm only in one race that will really kill me, though, in my single. Of the other two, one is in a quad, sohst will go fast. My cubemate from work is in it, and she has a huge amount of power. She's just learning to scull (she rowed in college, but in a sweep boat with only one oar) and the differences take a lot of adjusting, but she's beginning to get the balance comfortable now. Actually, I think if we don't catch any crabs, we may finish respectably. She-Hulk was a bit worried about being in the boat with such a novie, but as our fourth rower pointed out, we'll be there and it's jst one more trip down the course, not a priority race for any of us. And as I pointed out, if all three of the other (bigger!) women had a high level of skill, they'd be looking for someone stronger than I am to fill out the boat to get a serious competitive crew.

It does get annoying. I don't have anything llike the power and reach these other women have, but I can more than carry my own lighter weight in the boat. I really don't appreciate being in a conversation where one person leans past me to say to another, "Hey, wan to do a quad in the next race? Great! We can get a couple other women from (insert name of club) and have a good composite (meaning, multiple-club) boat." It reminds me of college. I had one friend who, though not outstandingly gorgeous was somehow insanely attractive to me, and once or twice someone in a circle or at a table actually leaned past me to try to pick her up. (It wasn't her fault at all. I was there and she did nothing to invite it, and she was polite enough to be embarassed at the rudeness - and to downrate the guy accordingly.) So anyway, I've no idea how this boat will go, but I don't row in quads often and I think it will be fun. My third race is a 300 meter sprint - as She-Hulk once said, after I persuaded her to try one in practice, "Just when it starts to really hurt, you're done!" They hold that sprint every year at the end of this race, and it's pretty much my favorite event ever. Don't let those marathons fool you; I'm emphatically not a distance person. I like my pain to be over quickly.

Posted by dichroic at 08:14 PM | Comments (0)

April 25, 2006

the ever-lovin' brown-eyed Dichroic on a swingin' comix tear

I've been reading a collection of Fantastic Four comics from about 1961. I have no idea why I like the old Marvel comics but I do; they're oddly compelling. They're also dated and repetitive and isn't trying to be anything else. A new device with a name like "the magna-sonic transducer" shows up roughly once per page, and there are regular visits from aliens and from other races who have been hiding out on Earth all along, jaunts into the "negative zone", people with superpowers like changing parts of their body into sand and no attempt to come up with a scientific explanation for any of it. Anyone who describes himself (always himself) as a "scientist" seems to acquire the ability to instantly understand any device and figure out how to use it from a quick inspection, no matter how complicated or alien the device might be. Everyone speaks as if he or she is being recorded for posterity except the Thing, who keeps complaining about it. ("Sheesh. Can't we ever fight a villain who doesn't lecture all day?") Actually, he's never just the Thing, he's the "ever-lovin blue-eyed Thing", and his "Aunt Petunia's favorite nephew"; Johnny Storm is "the blazing boy" and "Hothead", and Mr. Fantastic is "that egg-headed square lunk" if the Thing is speaking, "Leaderman" from the Torch, super-scientist Reed Richards from Stan Lee in authorial voice, and "Reed, my darling" if it's Sue Storm, the Invisible Girl. It's cheerfully hokey and mostly great fun.

I also give them some credit for the low level of racial prejudice. The "noble Indian" language used about and by Wyatt Wingfoot gets a little old ("I should be able to train Lockjaw [the Inhumans' dog] if anyone can, for have I not the blood of my Comanche forebears, who trained the wild mustang?") but on the other hand, he mixes freely with people of all colors, drives an extremely hot sports car (thanks to a "with-it" oil-baron grandfather) and gets the same education Johnny does. When the FF and Wyatt meet the Black Panther, again, he's rich and cultured (despite living in the middle of an African jungle) and courteous, and there's no implication of any status tied to skin color.

What does bother me is the blindingly blatant level of sexism in the books. Sue Storm apparently gets to wash dishes and do all the cooking, in addition to fighting bad guys alongside the boys. She is a bending reed, clinging to Reed for protection, but only before and after the battles. The word "feminine" is never used alone; it's always "weak and feminine", as in, "I apologize for being so weak and feminine as to burst into tears after we finished kicking bad-guy butt together." other female characters, like Medusa and the Enchantress, want to stand on their own, but tend to be ignored or viewed as second-rate despite their formidable powers by their male associates. (After Medusa wiped the room with the Trapster - this was before she reunited with the other Inhumans and became a good guy - he informed her, "I like a dame who's feisty!")

I think this probably bugs me so much because, like racism, sexism has retreated and gone underground but not vanished. I read regularly on blogs and elsewhere complaints from modern-day Sue Storms who are expected to kick bad-guy butt or at least satisfy the requirements of a demanding career and then go home and make the dinner every night. It's good to see the progress we've made, but it's sad not to see more of it.

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

April 24, 2006

Monday surprise

I found out just this morning that the training I'm doing at a local site in, oh, just over an hour is going to be for hundreds and hundreds of people. Good thing I spent all last week practicing it, huh? Oh, and this is just after lunch, so keeping them all awake will be a large challenge. (Later note: they estimated over a thousand people there - the extra-large turn-out is not so much due to any fame of mine but probably to the fact that the organizers of the training provided cookies and gave away a pair of Suns tickets. Still, I take it as a personal victory that I saw very little snoozing in the crowd.)

The junior regatta Saturday went swimmingly, or rather non-swimmingly, which is a good thing in boats that narrow. Even the crew from upstate that had been on the water a grand total of five times, ever, stayed upright, though slow, and the kids reportedly had a blast. My necklaces raised a chunk of money for next year, and reportedly the first-place winners couldn't stop talking about the medals Rudder designed.

Posted by dichroic at 12:49 PM | Comments (1)

April 20, 2006

nearly done

This is the last night of my trip. One thing I have figured out on this trip is that mid-range hotels are more likely to have free internet - the expensive ones have it, but charge outrageous rates. I paid $10 yesterday for the one day - not sure my company will reimburse it, but I got back to the hotel at 3PM and figured otherwise I wouldn't have much to do that evening. (Having left my companions of the previous evenings back in Kansas City.) Also, the staff at the less fancy hotels seem to be friendlier, on average. I will say that the bed at the last place was lush, though. (For reference, my hotels in order were Residence Inn in Olathe, Marriott Wichita, and Holiday Inn in Owasso, OK.)

Other things I now know are that in Tulsa, one can order iced tea either sweet or unsweet, and that on Kansas highways people are religious about using the left lane only for passing. Also, this has been an extremely valuable use of my time - the training I'm giving, yes, but more the relationships and most the conversations that come up about the site's issues, stuff they didn't realize or hadn't even discussed internally.

Next, I get to go home, drive straight to the lake, help with registration for the junior regatta this weekend, then spend Saturday AM being dockmistress (getting people in and out to and from the races) and then probably the rest of the weekend recovering. I do hope they get lots of bids on the auction for the necklaces I made.

Posted by dichroic at 07:26 PM | Comments (0)

April 19, 2006

I am deliberating avoiding quoting "Wichita Lineman" here

I was right; there definitely are worse things I could be doing than driving across Kansas on a morning in spring. Like sitting at a desk in a cubicle, for instance. It was a lovely April morning, with trees in bud and a cloudless sky. There may even have been snails on thorns, for all I could see. The rolling hills near the Missouri border gave way to the flatter waving Flint Hills; my iPod and the occasional cow near the road provided company.

The training I was here to do went well too, and sparked a conversation that raised an overlooked issue at the site that needed to be dealt with, so that was good.

For some reason, the hotel I booked on the company website turned out to be on the other side of town. Hoever, it only took about 20 minutes to drive across Wichita, and it is conveniently close to the highway I came in on, that I need to get back on tomorrow. The hotel is much fancier than the previous one, but less friendly. And they're charging for internet, while the last one (a different section of the same chain) gave it to me for free (well, no additional charge, anyway). At least the fitness center had a little more equipment. But the would-be fancy steakhouse in the hotel lobby, where I ate because I didn't feel like driving, gave me what looked like butter and turned out to taste like margarine with my baked potato. I'm sorry, no. You cannot qualify as a fancy restaurant unless you provide real butter. Or, even better, a choice, since I suppose some people prefer oleo. (And the Petit Filet was tres petit, only 4 oz. But at least the server warned me in advance, and I didn't feel cheated because I wouldn't have eaten more anyway.) A little while ago, someone came and knocked on my door, asking if I'd like the bed turned down. I refused. The bed looks wonderfully fluffy, but I think I can find my own way in. I'd trade that service for free internet, actually.

Posted by dichroic at 06:44 PM | Comments (1)

April 18, 2006

I got to Kansas City on a Monday

Kansas, at least this corner of it, has turned out to be unexpectedly lovely and maybe a little sad. I was expecting the whole state to be pancake flat. (In fact, someone once conclusively proved that Kansas is flatter than a pancake. The proof is in the Annals of Improbable Research and Google turns up a number of articles on the study.) Actually, though, this part by Kansas City, Lawrence and Olathe is green and hilly, with redbuds and dogwood blooming everywhere, the trees just beginning to leaf out, and houses set amid fields next to red barns that look just as a barn in the Heartland should look. (Robert Heinlein was from Missouri, come to think of it. I bet "The Cool Green Hills of Earth" was inspired by hills very similar to these and maybe not too far from here.) The sadness is because now the fields are broken up by encroaching subdivisions and it's clear that in another decade a lot of these rolling green hills will be built over with lookalike tract mansions. It is to be hoped that the builders will at least learn from some of the older developments, where individual houses are set on curving streets, under arching trees, and wherre the houses don't all look alike. Or even better, if they leave some farmland and woodland here and there.

Tomorrow I'll drive out to Wichita, and apparently I'll be driving along the flint hills and on to the prairie, where you can see forever. Someone told me they've been reintroducing antelope, though I'll likely be a bit late in the morning to see those.

If there's one thing I have learned this evening, it's how to go to Carabba's (chain of Italian restaurants in the US). First I went down to the hotel lobby, to have some lemonade during the hotel's Happy Hour and to see whether the gentlemen I ate with last night were around. They weren't, so I went off to Carabba's, taking the hotel manager's advice to tell them she'd sent me. Also at her advice, I ate at the pizza bar. This turned out to be excellent advice. The cooks all talked to me. The servers all talked to me. The cooks gave me a free sampler of calamari (very fresh and with an excellent sauce for dipping - somehow I wouldn't have expected great calamari in the landlocked Midwest). Israel the pizza guy talked me into ordering the tiramisu and taking it back with me, since I couldn't have eaten any more while there. The tiramisu did not show up on the bill. When I pointed this out, along with the fact that my company was paying for my meal, they told me to forget it, that their comany liked to be generous too. When I got back to the hotel, the gentlemen were there. We hung out and talked (and they drank wine) for a while, and after hearing of my adventures they decided to go to Carabba's. I went back with them, me and my tiramisu. (I drove, because they appeared to have had a few glasses each.) The restaurant staff seemed to be pleased as punch to have me back at the pizza bar with two companions, eating my free dessert and drinking only soda water. This time they gave us calamari and mussels, and gave each of the men a small glass of a certain wine to taste. We argued amiably about the music (mostly old standards) in the background, politics, and the need for tolerance among world religions (as I said, they'd had a few). I won't be back to this Carabba's, since I'm leaving town tomorrow morning - but now I'm curious as to whether the staff in the one near home is as friendly. Yeah, it's a chain, but if the food is tasty, who cares?

Also, for reasons not entirely clear to me, one of the men I ate with (twenty years older than me and apparently happily married) has decide he wants to meet my mother.

Posted by dichroic at 08:18 PM | Comments (3)

April 17, 2006

upgraded and amused

It's been an interesting trip so far, in terms of people and upgrades.

People: I found an aisle seat only two rows back on the place, next to a man in the middle seat consoling a crying boy by the window. When I asked the man if the seat was available, he told me he was getting off the plane soon anyway. So it was me and the 7-year-old - I decided to chance his not crying the whole way and making himself sick. It was a good choice; he stopped crying shortly after his dad left, and became more cheerful as he got distracted, except for a sad little I miss my daddy every so often. He addressed me as Ma'am, poked me for attention now and then, and we talked about airplanes and Kansas and his big blue stuffed Easter bunny. Aside from the fact that poop jokes are the FUNNIEST THING EVER when you're seven, he was good company.

Upgrade: They were out of midsize cars so I ended up with a big ol' Pontiac. It handles well, once I got used to having to be extremely gentle on the brakes if I didn't want to stop the car in a millimeter.

Upgrade: The hotel was out of the normal studio rooms... so I'm in a two-bedroom suite. Itfeels like such a waste.

People: I did have company for dinner. I ran into a couple of guys in the hotel lobby who turned out to be not only from my company but from another side of the Quality department. I know their boss well (and conversation provided enough substantiating evidence that they really did work for her) so I decided to trust her judgement in people and went out to dinner with them for some classic Kansas City barbeque. Nice to have company, and they were pretty amusing.

I hope the rest of the week goes as well.

Posted by dichroic at 07:57 PM | Comments (0)

April 16, 2006

junior regatta medal and necklaces

This is the medal Rudder designed and had made for the Arizona Junior Rowing Championship Regatta, along with the necklaces I've made (one last weekend, the rest yesterday and today) to be auctioned off as a fundraiser for the regatta. Those charms from the Mexican guy I went through all the trouble to get haven't arrived (yet), but I ordered four charms from someone on eBay and they worked out well. The necklaces are in the colors of the various crews, one for each. Each is carefully made so that it can be comfortably worn while rowing - no rough edges, not too long or too short.

Below the cut are more pictures and a bit about each necklace. I was experiementing with my bead picturing skills, so these are with flash and without, in the sun and out of it. What I'd really need to do is to use our bette digital camera, but those pics are so large they take forever to download, so I just used my little 3.2 MPix Canon Elph.

Here's the medal alone:
And the necklaces:

Here are the individual necklaces. I made most of them from stuff in my stash, because it's easier for me to let the beads themselves inspire the piece - the variety of beads from Elisem's Bead of the Month Club was a big help in this respect, and I think those beads appear in all five necklaces. The only things I went and bought specially were the necklace clasps and the purple beads, because I didn't have anything in that color. All necklaces are strung on Beadalon, a 7-cable plasticized beading wire that's pretty indestructible.

Ashland Rowing are coming all the way down from Oregon. I was going for a tailored sort of look with their crisp red and lack colors. Their necklace contains glass and sterling silver.

Xavier is a local Catholic girls' college prep, with a very large rowing program. This was the first necklace I made for this series. Their unis are blue with a white stripe; it's hard to tell from the pictures, but I think there's a narrow stripe of green down the sides, and their boats each have a green alligator, so I wanted to include a bit of green in the necklace. It contains sterling and glass including a few Czech fire-polished beads and a cats-eye bead.

Rio Salado is a rowing club that's been around long before there was even a lake to row on. Their colors are green and white, and they sometimes use a bit of yellow. I had only a few tiny white beads and no yellow ones, so I was worried this would be a boring necklace. But I sorted out all my green beads, let them talk to me, and ended up with what I'm thinking of as the Emerald City Fantasy necklace. It contains glass, silver, and Swavovski crystal. I only had four of the Crew charms; this one is a single oar, from an earring of mine. I'd lost one of the pair and this seemed like a good use for the other one.

This is for the City of Tempe rowing program.I like the effect of those long orange sead-shaped beads dangling down. They and the big orange bead (which may be lampworked) are part of my BotMo stash. This necklace contains sterling, glass, and Swarovski crystal.

This one does double duty: the colors for the local Tempe Junior Crew and the Tri-City College Prep school in Prescott are close enough for them to share this necklace. (Maybe that will send the bidding up!!) I saved this necklace until last, because while black and purple have some drawbacks as rowing colors (hard to see on the water) they're great colors for jewelry, and I knew I had a lot of beads that would work. This necklace contains sterling, glass, and freshwater pearls.

Posted by dichroic at 02:48 PM | Comments (0)

April 15, 2006


I want new shoes. Dammit. However, I know exactly the sorts of shoes I want and I couldn't find them yesterday, not in the local shoe-warehouse place or even in a department store or two. Actually, I did find some in one of the department stoes that were nearly perfect, but if I'm paying full retail I also want them to be comfortable and I got the feeling that these were the sort that, immediately upon wearing them out of the store, wouldn't be. Actually, even at discount prices I still want them to be reasonably comfortable.

I'm tempted to go back for one pair the the discount place, but am trying to be strong and persuade myself that I already have too many shoes and should really not be spending money on ones that aren't exactly what I want. (For the record, what I really want are the Candie's shoes with the high wooden heel I had in about 1980 or a reasonable approximation thereof, and a pair of loafers with a heel rather like the black ones I own, only in brown.)

I think what I will do instead is to go work on socks and jewelry for other people. Maybe that will put me in a less acquisitive frame of mind.

Posted by dichroic at 01:17 PM | Comments (0)

April 14, 2006

a cooking day

I have a confession to make: I'm cheating on my chicken soup. Since I have today off, I'm making a Passover-ish dinner (just the two of us, no Seder service). But since there are only two people to eat it, and since I'm going to be away all next week and Rudder doesn't have the correct genes to appreciate Jewish chicken soup properly. I didn't want to make a whole pot of soup. What I'll do instead is to use the Manischevitz mix (assuming it tastes OK) to eke out some chicken broth from the grocery, and toss in some carrots, celery, garlic, parsley and dill. At least it will smell right.

The rest of the dinner will consist of balsamic poached chicken with roasted new potatoes and asparagus - the recipe for all that is from the magazine Real Simple. I've never poached chicken before (putting it in boiling liquid, immediately taking it off the burner, and letting it sit for 15 minutes - but it's supposed to be sliced thickly before serving, so it will be obvious if it's not cooked through. Dessert will be M'ris's pear crisp, made with matzo meal instead of oats. That part is done already, so the house smells all nice and cinnamony. That's the only problem with the poached chicken, in fact; I can't figure out how to get rid of the boiling vinegar smell (the recipe warns of it) without also getting rid of the wonderful smells of cinnamon-covered baked pears and chicken broth with dill.

Posted by dichroic at 02:12 PM | Comments (2)

April 13, 2006

quick status

This should be fun. The other day, we were discussing Rudder's disappointment that the site's open house was held on a weekend and nothing would actually be happiening then, and my boss volunteered to give him a plant tour on a weekday. I'm not sure if he really meant it, but in keeping with my general philosophy of "Don't miss opportunities to do cool stuff," I took him at his word. Besides, we make all kinds of cool stuff here, but my job generally entails staying at a desk and not seeing any of it. So Rudder's coming in for lunch and to tour around the plant.

The training of the last three days was quite good, and I learned all kinds of useful tips in addition to the main meat of the course, so that was time well spent. Next week I'll be out teaching and driving through Kansas and Oklahoma. As long as the food-poisoning incident (or whatever - I don't think it was actually food poisoning, just a bit of disagreement between the ingested and the ingester) isn't repeated, it should be reasonably fun. Meanwhile, three day weekend! Wahoo! I expect to spend it in a thrilling combination of beading (the other necklaces for next week's regatta), rowing, knitting, and packing. In other words the usual. Plus, we'll have a sort-of Seder, meaning the food and some discussion of the holiday but not much ritual, tomorrow.

Posted by dichroic at 11:38 AM | Comments (0)

April 11, 2006

elliptic (or is that the word I want?)

Not dead yet, just in training through tomorrow. It's on managing global projects, which is good since I had a telecon with someone about doing exacly that Monday morning before the training began. The exciting thing about this week is that I have training through tomorrow, one day at work and then Friday off. Then I have all of next week traveling for work in Kansas and Oklahoma, about which I'd feel a little better if I had this week to make sure I was all ready for it. I suppose it'll all turn out well, particularly if I remember to pack the iPod for those long drives.

Meanwhile, life is complex as usual, but all of the possibilities are looking good at the moment. I hope. Sorry for being elliptic but this is one of very few things I'm superstitious about talking about. (No. Not pregnant. You can just assume that's the default any time I'm vague about things, unless it's April Fool's Day.)

Posted by dichroic at 08:33 PM | Comments (1)

April 10, 2006

We've been Merdled!


That's Lindley, a.k.a. Mrs. Merdle, pointing to our location on the map, after sharing Mexican food and then tea with us. She stopped by on one of the early legs of her 'round-the-world tour; after us she heads to Albuquerque, then Denver, then on a circuitous path around the country, before hopping over to Europe, maybe Asia, and then Australia. We considered stowing away in her Subaru, but reasoned that with both of us squashed in there, she'd no doubt notice us before we got anywhere interesting.

Posted by dichroic at 09:16 PM | Comments (0)

April 08, 2006

some finished objects

I finished this a few weeks ago, after mulling over it and ocasinally experimenting on it for a year or more, but I don't thik I've posted it here before. It's based on a necklace of mine (that was inspired by some I saw in Alaska; I liked how the varying colors worked together to intensify the perceived color of the necklace as a whole. Everytime I've worn my necklace around my mother-in-law I've thought of giving it to her because it so well matches the colors she wears and looks good in, but I decided to make her one of her own, a bit longer than mine. I couldn't find anything I really liked to be the centerpiece of this necklace, until that large lampworked bead with a little dichroic in it arrived in the mail in one of Elise's Beads of the Month shipment (the stones in the matching earrings came with it). That changed the scale of the necklace; I tend toward tiny, delivate jewelry, but that bead required bigger ones around it. We're going to give her this set for Mother's Day.


The second picture is my MIL's necklace again, along with two I finished today. The middle one is the pearls Rudder gave me when we got engaged. The silk gave way during my flight home a couple of weeks ago. (Does anyone really get their pearls restrung every year?) Fortunately I didn't lose any. I decided to try restringing them myself instead of having someone else do it, after a local jeweler informed me they'd charge $64 and would have to send it to Florida. I think my first effort in pearl-restringing was reasonably successful, but it took me several hours to first cut all the old ones apart and then get every knot in the right place. It did get faster after a while, but there was one pearl I couldn't reuse; the old silk somehow got stuck in the drilled hole and I couldn't clear it. I saved it, and if I decide to get them restrng proessionally the next time I can take it in with the others.

The blue beaded necklace is the first of a series. Rudder's doing a lot of work organizing the Arizona Junior Championship Regatta, and we (the Outlaws) are donating the medals. As a fundraiser for the regatta, there will be an auction (prizes are listed here) and I'm going to donate necklaces with rowing charms made in the participating crews' colors. This one is for Xavier high school's rowing program.

This last picture is a bookmark I pt together this evening, while I had all the beads out. I've been wanting to play with some of those briolettes (the teardrop shaped bead on the bottom). The hole is drilled horizontally so it's a little hard to figure out how to use them in something vertical like earrings.


Posted by dichroic at 09:36 PM | Comments (2)

progress and lack thereof

Some pictures and measurements below the cut, mostly not of general interest.

1" below shoulders: 40.5
Upper arms, flexed: 11.5"
Waist: 28.5"
Hips: 36.5" (that counts as progress, at least)
Upper thigh, flexed: 21.5"
Middle of calf, flexed: 14.5"

December 19
1" below shoulders: 40.5
Upper arms, flexed: 11 1/8"
Waist: 28.5"
Hips: 37"
Upper thigh, flexed: 22.0"
Middle of calf, flexed: 14.5"

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

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

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

I'm including this picture in clothes to demonstrate why I'm still a bit uncomfortable with the recent increase in boobage (best guess is that it's due to a change to supposedly lower-dosage birth control pills), after having been a 32A since puberty.

Posted by dichroic at 01:09 PM | Comments (0)

April 07, 2006

another week down

Thank goodness for Friday. It's been a long week. Weekend plans? Nothing special. I'm looking forward to it. Monday is actually going to be far more exciting than the weekend. Among other things, I get to have dinner with a pifflefriend! She's on sabbatical and is embarking on a world tour, that involves driving with many stops across the US, then heading off for Europe, and Asia. I don't remember all the details but I am wildly envious. I wish we could go with her. Still, I get to head off myself a bit out of my usual routine: training next week, a day off for Good Friday (I have no idea why they give us that, but a holiday is a holiday) and then a work trip through Kansas and Oklahoma. It's no world tour, but I expect I'll enjoy it.

I did have a small adventure yesterday. I was scheduled for a mammogram and bone density scan, the latter at my request and the former because the nurse practitioner thought I should. (I'm 39 and had one a few years ago, so I don't really understand why I'd need to be getting them regularly yet. I'm not ina high-risk category at all.) For the DEXA bone-density scan, the forms asked if I had any "metal devices implanted below the waist". I decided my navel piercing qualified and listed it, though technically it's at, not below, the waist. The tech asked about it specifically, and told me I could leave it in, but depending where it was in relation to my spine, it would obscure the pictures of one and possibly two of the four vertebrae they X-ray. I decided it was stupid to go in there and not get the benefit of it, so I took out the piercing, for the first time since it was inserted.

That wasn't the adventure. The adventure was putting it back in. I was afraid it would be difficult, but wasn't that bad. It was more like when I first had my ears pierced, and when I'd put in an earring it would want to hide behind a fold of skin instead of poking all the way through. This was actually a little easier because I could see it, and it only took a minute to get back through. I have changed out the little ball-end on it before, which is twiddly fine work, but that only involves metal-to-metal contact, not metal through skin, and I got that on relatively easily.

Posted by dichroic at 04:02 PM | Comments (1)

April 05, 2006

on using heirlooms

I was reading Lene's comments about using heirlooms earlier, and mostly I agree with her. I do believe that I put too much work in a knitted item for it not to be used - of course, the flip side to that is that if I expect someone to use the things I make, I'd better put in the effort to - oh, dear, my professional side is coming out here, I want to say to "validate" the item and make sure it's fit for its intended use. Or in knitting terms, to make sure it fits, and that it isn't going to fall apart when used.

I'm a little worried right now, in fact. I'm making a gift for my mom for Mother's Day consisting of a matching knitted kipah and socks, because Mom is learning to read Torah and at her synagogue women wear kipot to do so, and because my mother is just the kind of person to get a kick out of the matching socks. The worrying partis that I've just finished one of the socks, and in retrospect, it would have been better on smaller needles. It's a bit looser and more loosely knitted than I'd like - Mom's feet are a size bigger than mine, which should take care of that first problem. This is one reason I prefer toe-up socks, which are less likely to come out too big. I wanted to try this pattern this time, though, and it was fun to knit: just enough like lace to be interesting, not so much that I had to concentrate Every SECOND AND OMG A MISTAKE WHAT WILL I DOOOOOOO??? Since the yarn's not fuzzy and every other row is plain knit, you can see where you are and what you're supposed to do next and can rip out mistakes with little trauma (or no more than ripping back usually produces, anyway).

Back to heirlooms, I agree that they should be used. I also agree that they should be saved for special occasions. I just don't believe that "special" needs to mean "so special that it never happens", like an old-time parlor no one is allowed to walk through. I think "special" can mean, "because I cooked an especially good dinner tonight" or "because it's Friday" as well as "because it's passover" or "becaue we have company over". I believe in special occasions, just not so special that they never do occasion.

There is also a problem with having too many heirlooms. I have three strands of pearls, for instance, two from my grandmother and one from my husband when we got engaged. That's two more than anyone really needs. I do try to wear them all at least occasionally, to honor my grandmother and because it's good for pearls to wear them, though I confess I wear the one from Rudder most because of the sentiment. If my brother ever marries someone I really like, I may pass one strand on to her. (Though possibly not, if he doesn't get a little better at things like birthday presents. Hmph.) Similarly, I have a set of good china from Rudder's grandparents, given to us when they moved into a smaller place. I'd be happy to use it, except that I have the good china we chose ourselves, that we've received as wedding and then as anniversary presents over the years. Unfortunately, the two don't coordinate well enough to use together. I should really give a tea party some time; I have a couple of my grandmother's flower-shaped tea cups, a couple from Rudder's great-grandmother's collection, some from both sets of china, of course, some Rudder brought back from Taiwan, and a small jadeware tea set we bought in Korea. I keep trying to serve people tea when we have them over to dinner, but I never feed enough people to use more than a couple of cups. At least those look nice in our china cabinet. Someday, perhaps, I'll have a tea party just so I can use all those pretty cups. Just don't expect me to bake petit-fours.

Posted by dichroic at 02:20 PM | Comments (4)

April 04, 2006


Zacharias Moussaoui dies, and is greeted at the entrance to Paradise by One who is unmistakeably Allah. Allah asks, "My child, what did you do to make My world a better place?" Moussaoui replies, "Lord, I tried to murder the infidels, to make the world more free for Your true believers who follow the Holy Quran. At least I was able to die as a martyr to make my cause known before the world." Allah answers, "But do you not see, the infidels are My children too. And by killing them, you would have taken away their chance to turn to My true teachings. Your act does not honor Me, but is born of hate and fear that deny My Presence in all people."

Tom DeLay dies, and is greeted at the Gates of Heaven by Jesus, looking as He is imagined in all the portraits of the Old Masters. "Tell me, My son, what did you do to make your world a better place?" DeLay replies, "My Lord, I did my best to ensure that my nation was governed by your principles. I spoke of Your Law in public places and changed our laws to prohibit those things that are an abomination unto You. I worked to help those with the money and the power to make these changes." He is surprised to see that Jesus is weeping. "My son," Jesus says, "You forget that the poor and the powerless are My children too, and that as you do the the least of them so you do to Me. Even even those forms of Love you would outlaw are also born of Me."

Dichroic dies, and is met by a shifting Being, now male, now female, now inhuman, but always too bright and glorious to be looked at directly. The Being speaks, and the world around it rumbles. "Tell me, daughter, what did you do in your time on Earth to help heal the world?" Dichroic is fearful. "Your Holiness," she stammers, "On Earth I was humble and powerless. I tried to treat others as I would be treated, according to Your Law, but I was not always successful. But I did try to speak against hate whenever I could, to remind others that all of us are equally Your children, and to encourage others to bring down the rich, those in power, and those who purported to teach Your laws while spreading hate." "Foolish daughter," rumbles the Being, with gentle affection. "Do you not understand that the rich and powerful are My children too?"

Anyway, sorry if the above looks like sacrilege to anyone. It's mostly a reminder to myself. My first reaction to the news about DeLay can be summarized as "Yahoo!" But I couldn't stay that happy - much as I despise the man, it's sad to see someone's whole life derailed like that. Stupid conscience.

Posted by dichroic at 02:07 PM | Comments (4)

April 03, 2006

not too rich or too thin

Last week's little gastric upset, during which I consumed a total of a slice and a half of toast and half a Clif Bar (plus tea, water, Powerade and ginger ale), and then considerably less than the usual amount of food for the next couple of days, appears to have shrunken my stomach. Is that possible in such a short time? Saturday night I walked into a restaurant hungry and walked out again feeling somewhat overfilled after eating a cup of French opinion soup, half a Caesar salad (with shrimp) and a slice or two of bread. I feel like I've had my stomach stapled. I've even been eating fewer pretzels.

I have a feeling that it would not be terribly difficult to stretch my stomach back to its normal size, but since I do in fact need to lose a few pounds, I'm trying not to do that, to eat lightly and slowly and let my satiation reflex catch up before I overstuff myself and begin feeling all oogy again. I haven't noticed any lack of energy (I rowed both Saturday and Sunday and erged today) so it feels more like not loading myself with extra calories I'd then have to dispose of one way or another rather than actual dieting. I am having to exercise a little conscious effort not to just keep eating until the normal amount is consumed, though. That's especially difficult with pretzels, where eating one induces cravings for another and it's all about mouth-feel and taste rather than actual hunger.

I haven't noticed any actual difference in weight, after the initial water-weight loss came back, but I never know how soon after a calorie deficit that actually shows up. Also, I'm at the heaviest part of my usual cycle just now, so I'd expect my weight to be lower by the end of the week. I keep reading that most people in good shape stay that way by making small adjustments when they see a trend they don't like; I walked miles every day, got enough exercise not to worry about that in my 20s, rowed more seriously in most of my 30s, and so am just needing to think about such things now. But it sounds like a good practice.

After that, it may be tempting fate to mention that I've finally gotten my credit card paid off from last year's flying expenses and my savings started back on the way up. I'm not at the status quo ante volarum (I have absolutely no idea how you say "flying" in Latin, actually) but at least I can see some progress on the way there.

I do hope Murphy (the guy with the Law) isn't reading this entry. Writing about starting to get calories and dollars under control just seems to be asking for either system or even something else entirely to fall apart.

Posted by dichroic at 02:15 PM | Comments (0)