July 31, 2006

book non-discussion

Still a bit swollen in the throat, still coughing a bit more than usual. Nothing hurts, at least. I had thought my energy levels were up to normal, but I went rowing this morning, my first time in the single since Regionals (a.k.a. since the first day I had this crud), and I can tell they're not. I did manage an easy 8500 meters, though. Also, did I mention that WE WON in the double Saturday? (I did? Oh, sorry.)

Book clubs have a lot to answer for. At least, they're my best guess as to the proximate cause of a disturbing trend. Why is it that so many people are incapable of discussing books these days? I don't mean people who simply don't read books, though Lord knows there are too many of those. I don't mean people who read books but don't particularly want to talk about them, either. I mean people who read books and then go to a club on- or off-line to discuss them. What seems to be happening a lot is that said people end up discussing themselves instead.

There's a quote from Eleanore Rooselvelt: "Great minds discuss ideas; Average minds discuss events; Small minds discuss people." As it happens, I don't agree with her. I happen to think people are endlessly fascinating (after all, who had all those great ideas?) in their variety, and I don't mind someone talking about themselves, as long as they can do it interestingly. (Else I'd probably not be reading or writing blogs.) However, it does get old when people talk only about themselves, especially when they do so while pretending to talk about something else. (People falling in love and sending each other veiled messages are exempt from this, but only while talking to each other.) I get annoyed when I see a list of questions for book discussion (and in editions expected to be used for book clubs, they're often printed right there at the end of the book!) that go something like,

1. At one point in this book, [Secondary character] tells [protagonist] [something meant to be profound]. Do you agree? Why or why not? 2. Have you ever been in a situation like [protagonist's]? What did you do? 3. Which character in this book are you most like? Which would you want to have as a friend?

and so on. That is not book discussion. Or at least, it is not all book discussion ought to be, though it may be a useful technique for teaching beginning readers how to "put themselves in the story". (I'm not sure whether that can be taught, but then I haven't taught people to read, either, and don't really have the experience to judge.) Book discussion is when you analyze the book, trying to figure why its characters acted as they did or why an event occurred. It can involve comparisons to other books or real-life situations, speculation as to what the author was thinking or how his or her life or times influenced the work, or, certainly, discussions of the reader's reaction to the book. But at some point, it really ought to circle back to the book.

It could be claimed that really a book can only be discussed in terms of the reader's reaction, that the experience of the book is unique for each reader. That may be true, but there have to be commonalities too; otherwise we wouldn't even have the shared vocabulary to make discussion possible. Besides, a book ought to bring something from the outside to a reader; we may see each book though a glass tinted by our own experience, but if everything we read is nothing but a mirrored view of ourselves, why bother? Mirrors aren't that expensive, and you only have to buy one.

Of course, that's all just a pet peeve of mine. Really, there's nothing wrong with applying a book to the reader's own life. I just think something's lacking when that's all that happens in a book discussion.

Posted by dichroic at 01:21 PM | Comments (0)

July 30, 2006

FO pictures

Here are the recently-finished object pictures, finally. First the socks for Rudder:
stripeysocks.JPG I forget what this yarn was, but I didn't lilke it nearly as much as the Cascade Fixation or the Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock I've used in my other sock attempts. (There are 2 skeins of Shepherd Sock in my yarn box calling me right now, as a result of this experience and my visit to Jimmy Bean's in Truckee.)

Next the Picovoli sweater for me. This is Artyarns Candy, and it was wonderful to knit with.

Yesterday after our little local race (which a novice Outlaw and I WON in the double!!!) I left early, showered then slipped off to Fiber Factory, where I was lucky enough to find that they had a few signed copies of Knitting Rules left over from the Yarn Harlot's visit the other day (which I'd skipped because it was on a weeknight and because I wanted to rest and hang with Rudder, who left this morning to begin a series of trips that will keep him away much of the next couple of months). I also came home with some size 1 needles, because I want to try knitting the socks more densely this time, and with some wonderfully soft alpaca silk for another Clapotis and an Artyarn cotton silk blend for yet another sleeveless sweater. I love sleeveless sweaters; because they're perfect for the climate here and you can wear them with a sweater or jacket anywherre else.

Posted by dichroic at 02:04 PM | Comments (0)

July 28, 2006

your life, in 60 kg or less

Here's an interesting and nonhypothetical question. Say you were contemplating a move that required serious downsizing - to a place half the size of your current house. Say further that you were told you could take 60 kilos of your stuff. (The new place is furnished.) The rest of your gear will go into storage. What would you take?

Another way to put that is, how many clothes and books fit into 60 kilos, and what else do you need? That's a bit more than I weigh, but while I can visualize a 60-kilo person, I don't have a good idea how much stuff that is.

You also have whatever suitcases you carry with you. You could pay to send more stuff if you want, but it's expensive - the US Postal Service charges about $50 for a 20 kilo box, if you don't mind waiting a few weeks. (There are probably cheaper ways to ship freight.) It may be cheaper to buy some things new after you move but you don't want to waste money on duplication. Plus you have good reason to want to save as much of your money as possible, either for travel in your new place or for whatever happens next.

So what do you take? Clothes are fairly easy. You leave all the stuff you keep only for sentimental reasons, or that you hardly ever wear. You take your favorite clothes, and the stuff most suited to the climate and to what you'll be doing. Easy. You need your home computer, of course - what does a computer weigh? At least ours has a flat monitor. Or do you replace it with a laptop?

If you're me, you take your beading gear. That's small and light - it won't quite fit in one case, but two will leave plenty of space for expansion, and these cases are only about 12"x12"by6". You leave the odds and ends of yarn but take the knitting needles and any yarn you have enough of to make something. Yarn is light, too.

But what about the books? Apparently plenty of people relocate without books but I can't even imagine that. Say you have 30 kilos left, what books can you part with for a year or three? The textbooks, those won't hurt to leave. The dictionary and thesaurus and maybe even the omniscient New York Public Library Desk Reference, because their information is available online. All the coffee table books, the ones that were gifts or were on sale cheap, because you hardly ever read those and they're heavy and bulky. Maybe all the comic collections - they have a low content-to-weight ratio.

Some things obviously need to come along, because they have an extremely high entertainment-to-weight ratio: the single volume containing 7 Jane Austen novels. The complete Aubrey and Maturin novels in 5 volumes - this is exactly why I bought it. Either the Norton Anthology of Poetry or the Oxford Book of English Verse, though probably not both. The Complete Pooh (the Milne books, not the Disney ones). Maybe Barzun's extremely dense From Dawn to Decadence, which I bought in Korea in 2002 and still have only half-finished. Maybe the Steven Jay Goulds.

Then there are the things I love too much to leave behind. The hardcover of Freedom and Necessity. The few LM Alcotts I own (because I've read the others so many times I don't need to own them) and all of the LM Montgomerys - the latter fortunately almost all in paperback. The Harry Potter hardcovers - or maybe not, this would be a good time to buy the English editions in paperback. All of the Dorothy Sayers, which are mostly beat up paperbacks. The set of Dark is Rising paperbacks.

But then what else? The obvious answers are to weight it heavily toward paperbacks, and to leave behund anything I've only read once, because anything I don't reread I don't like all that much. But that still leaves a wide and varied field.

What would you take?

Posted by dichroic at 01:22 PM | Comments (0)

July 27, 2006

And the results are in

Apparently I don't have mono. No, I just have some other virus that causes low energy, low-grade fever, clogged sinuses, sore throat, and low appetite and that hangs on forever. The low energy and appetite were just the first week or so, though. My tonsils are still swollen, but now they've gone back to hurting when I swallow. For some reason, swallowing hurts much, much more when I wake up in the middle of the night than it does during the day - right now it hurts, but not badly. What has been really annoying is that my tongue has been very sore for several days now. When I look at it in the mirror, it's got little bumps sprinkled over it, like some of the papillae have gotten enlarged. I've never heard of any illness causing a sore tongue - Google has, but they mostly seem to involve ulcers rather than tiny bumps. I thought at first maybe I'd burned it, but it's lasted too long and covers too much of my tongue to be that. It's an annoyance rather than a major problem, but that and the painful swallowing do make eating a fairly unrewarding experience.

Atfer I complained that the cafeteria has only vanilla pudding and low-cal chocolate frozen custard, then grabbed a plate of fries to go with my soup, the Cubemate pointed out that I seemed to be craving fats. Probalby true, but I've been craving cold food as well - a large part of last night's dinner was an experimental smoothie Rudder made and froze. (Not a complete success.) Giventhe combination of cravings, it's clear that what I really need to do is stop and pick up some ice cream or sorbet on my way home. It's a virus; they can't give me meds to fix everything. I figure ice cream is as likely to be the cure as anything else. And even if not I'll enjoy the process.

The doctor also told me that it's OK to race this weekend, but I should avoid getting dehydrated or overheated. Hm. Racing in Tempe. In July. During daylight, without getting overheated. How is that supposed to work?

Posted by dichroic at 12:43 PM | Comments (2)

July 26, 2006

boat damage photos

Here's what happened. That entire heavy rack of oars got blown onto the boat. (Odd; I'd have thought it was placed to be a little sheltered from the wind, but there may have been eddies.) Rudder heard that the wind was 90 knots or so last night.

After they removed the oars, you can see the boat damage a little better. Rudder's is the second one down, the red, yellow and dark blue Hudson. It's not nearly as bent but just about as damaged as the sky-blue Sykes above it.

Posted by dichroic at 08:51 PM | Comments (0)

storm damage

Rudder's boat is totalled.

We had a hellacious storm last night, tons of rain (over an inch at our house - very rare in the desert), thunder and lightning right there. I didn't notice a lot of wind, or at least I couldn't hear it from my bed. I didn't get up to look out. But apparently there was plenty of wind at the boatyard. It knocked over a whole rack of oars into the rack where his boat is stored. He went out to row this morning, fdound the damage, and asked me to stop by with a camera on my way to work.

His single and the one above it are both bent. Boats are not supposed to bend. Each boat sits on two arms of the rack, spaced about six or eight feet apart, with the cockpit (the area with the seat and foot stretchers) between them. The section of Rudder's boat and the one above it from the rear rack on back to the stern is bent downward at a sharp angle, with shards and corners of fiberglass bulging out. Just to add a final insult, Rudder's boat came down onto the one below it (which appears undamaged) and that boat's skeg has pirced deep into his boat.

It's very painful to look at.

If it had to happen, this is almost the best time, since he was planning to take the boats up to his parents' on the way back from Masters Nationals, since our sojourn abroad is beginning to firm up. The only problem, of course, is Masters Nationals itself. The double and my single are undamaged, which is ironic, since I've decided not to go to Masters Nationals. A couple of people have already offered to loan Rudder a boat for the race, including She-Hulk, whose single is nearly a twin to Rudder's, so he has options. But still, it always hurts to see something as beautiful as a rowing shell ruined.

EDITED TO ADD: Yes, the boats are insured. Rudder's just hoping the insurance guy agrees that the boat is totaled and doesn't think it can be repaired. (It probably could be repaired to look OK, but it would be heavier, less balanced and not nearly strong or stiff enough for competition - or possibly for safety.)

Posted by dichroic at 08:33 AM | Comments (6)

July 25, 2006


Arlen Spector is trying to enable Congress to sue George Bush. We do live in historic times.

Speaking of historic times, here's a take on the Israel / Hezbollah conflict from a current Israeli soldier. It comforts me greatly to know that at least some of the people involved think about the human lives on both sides.

In less historic matters, I have taken the plunge and bought a membership to Worldcon in LA, so barring sudden drama or disaster I will be going.

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

I may have what?

So I went to my doctor today. And guess what I may have? Guess what she ordered a blood test for, that may account for my having been ill for over two weeks, with symptoms at various times including sore throat, swollen tonsils, low-grade fever, swollen lympg glands, lack of appetite and lack of energy?

Yup. I may have mononucleosis. Again.

On the positive side, though it does tend to come in waves, I really feel like I'm on the downside of the illness. I'm eating normally again and have something approaching my normal level of energy. Rowing on Sunday was only an issue because of the heat, and I did 6K this morning, with a couple of harder 1km pieces in there. I did have a little trouble with the swollen tonsils whenever I was breathing hard past them, but otherwise no problems. And I had some wine with dinner last night, with no issues. (Come to think of it, that may mean it isn't mono. For a while after I had mono the first time, I was a very cheap date. Alcohol affected me pretty drastically for a few months after I was officially better.)

If it is mono, it's not nearly as bad as the first time I had it, in the summer after my freshman year. That time it really knocked me out, keeping me at home for a solid month. Even after I was pronounced better, I didn't have much energy for months; I had a lousy job rating for the fall semester then suddenly a much better one in spring. Other than the tonsils, I really feel pretty much back to normal.

Mono can vary a lot, though, so it's possible I just have a much lighter case. the doctor said my spleen didn't feel swollen. She pointed out that since I have had it before, I likely have some immunity built up. And in general, my immune system is in much better shape now. I weigh fifteen pounds or so more. I get eight hours of sleep a night instead of six, I eat much better now (not being limited to Dining Service food), and I'm stronger and in better aerobic shape. (I think. I worked out much less then, but walked a lot more.)

I went for the blood test right after the doctor's appointment. (Didn't doctors used to take blood right there in their offices? I don't know if they tested it themselves or sent it out, but it seems odd that now I have to go to a lab to get stuck.) They said they'll have the results to my doctor in 2-3 days. Another possibility she mentioned was cytomegalovirus (CMV) but looking at how it's caught and how it manifests, that seems less likely. I suspect that "unidentified virus" is a contender, too. Given that the treatment for mono and CMV is basically "Wait until it goes away (well, for CMV just until symptoms fade) I don't suppose it makes much difference.

Rudder's not very happy with me, especially given the competitions and work travel he has coming up. Oddly, though, he seems to have gotten what I had and mostly thrown it off already. And the antibiotic seems to have helped him. It's possible I had more than one thing, as well; the doctor mentioned that mono is accompanied by strep 20% of the time. Still, it's not likely to have been strep, if only because if Rudder had had that, we've have known. Because of a kidney condition, it hits him very hard and can be serious.

The other worrying possibilities with mono are that it could ramp up again, since it apparently goes in waves, and that you're not supposed to exercise with it due to the possibility of rupturing your spleen. Since the doctor says I don't have an enlarged spleen, I don't think I'll worry about that for the moment. I certainly didn't work out during the more acute phase of this - the disease took care of that for itself.

More details in 2-3 days. I'm actually betting on "unidentified virus", myself.

Posted by dichroic at 01:32 PM | Comments (3)

July 24, 2006

knitting update

I haven't mentioned knitting in a while. That would be because I just wasn't interested in knitting while I was sick. (Also, more than one cup of tea got me thoroughly wired, chocolate made me cough, and beer tasted awful. It's been an odd illness all around.) However, I did knit quite a bit before I got sick, and started getting back to it this past weekend. While we were still at my in-laws, I finished this top. Only problem is, it's a little shorter than I'd like, since I'd like to be able to wear it to work. I'm going to see if blocking helps. If not, I'll undo the bottom (which will be a pain, since it's stitched down) and make it a bit longer. (First I should check whether I have enough yarn to make much difference.)

I'd also finished all but the last few inches of a second sock in a pair I made for Rudder, so I knocked that off this past weekend. I've decided I really don't like the wrap-and-turn style of short-row heels; I much prefer the versions that involve a yarnover instead. Same thing in the final result, I think, but it's easier to knit and I seem to end up with fewer holes in the ankles.

I'll try to get pictures of both projects soon.

My trellis scarf seems to be running much longer than predicted, so I'm going to skip the middle section and just do one pattern repeat there instead. The very soft yarn I'm using doesn't show the pattern nearly as well as the photo on the pattern, and it's slow for me to knit, but it's a gorgeous color and I suppose knitting the pattern is good experience. I want to do another Clapotis just because it was so much fun to knit and this yarn would have been good for that, but on the other hand a pattern that repetitive would be better in a patterned yarn. (I'm thinking maybe this stuff, in the grays or maybe reds.)

Finally, I've begun knitting a wine cozy that I intend to felt. I don't have a pattern for this; I've started from the bottom and am through that and maybe an inch up the sides. This is from the crimson Cascade 220 yarn I bought from the crazy yarn-store lady at the shop I visited with my mother-in-law. I haven't done a swatch (bad knitter!) so I make try to hand-felt this to make sure it doesn't shrink too small. On the other hand I think I'm going to rip it back all the way, because the bottom part that's supposed to lay flat, isn't. I increased 5 sts on every other row. Apparently that wasn't enough, so I'll try 8 or 10 instead. I've knitted one purl row to give it an edge at the border between the bottom and sides, what I intend to do is to crochet navy yarn on to make that ridge more pronounced, then crochet a spiral up the side. I haven't decided whether to knit or crochet the handles. This should leave a lot of leftover yarn, so if it works well I may make another one in navy with crimson trim. And if it works really well, maybe I'll submit the pattern somewhere.

Besides the cozy and the trellis scarf in work, I have yarn for two pair of socks and gloves for Rudder. I have enough Southwest Trading Company Bamboo yarn for a tank top for me, one skein of Kidsilk Haze I tried actual lace with (that would be when I decided I hate knitting lace because it takes too much attention), about 3 skeins of Manos I'm contemplating another Moebius scarf with (the wavy freeform one at the back of Cat Bordhi's book, and various odds and ends left over from completed projects. That's it. Not much of a stash, compared to what I hear from other knitters.

Posted by dichroic at 03:12 PM | Comments (1)

bye bye boat

Grah. My tonsils are still very swollen. They don't hurt much most of the time, but when I sneeze there tends to be a little whimpering thereafter. It's now 15 days since I first got sick.I'm going to the doctor again tomorrow morning (my regular one this time) because this is ridiculous and I'm very tired of it.

On the plus side, I feel OK otherwise and this weekend actually featured some normal activity: I went to the mall, we went out to eat last night, and I got in a boat for the first time since my race two weeks ago. We have a small local sprint race next week, and I'll be racing in a double with someone I've never rowed with before. I hadn't really wanted to race at all, because racing during daylight hours in July in Phoenix strikes me as a profoundly stupid idea (which tells you what I think of the guy who organized this race). But it's only 500 meters and very low-pressure, so Rudder realized it would be a good time to build experience for some of our less-experienced local people. He set up several doubles with one more experienced and one less experienced racer. I couldn't bring myself to turn down the chance to do that sort of mentoring. And as I said, it's a quick race. I may take a separate car so I can leave right after the race instead of staying through the whole regatta. (Have I mentioned I don't do well in heat? More than a couple hundred times?) Then again, they're actually predicting temps below 100 (and thus well below this past weekend, which ranged from 112 to 118) so I'll stay if the heat doesn't bother me too much.

The whole moving to Europe thing is beginning to seem a little more real, but still nothing's definite. Rudder will be doing a lot of traveling there in the next couple of months, plus his trip to Seattle for Masters Nationals in mid-August. (I've elected not to go because I don't have enough vacation time and don't want to burn that I do have until things are definitely definite.) On his way back from the regatta, he'll be dropping off our boats to live in his parents' garage for the duration, so I will only have my boat here to row for another two weeks. I'm going to miss it. I may sniffle. (I'm going to miss Rudder too, especially since one of his trips is 4 weeks long. But I know he'll be coming back.) I may be able to borrow other people's boat to row in the interim, but it won't be the same.

Posted by dichroic at 12:58 PM | Comments (0)

July 21, 2006

a hair piece

Hm. Thanks to a bit of serendity, I think I've just figured somethuing out.

(Warning: what follows is a totally shallow hair post, and also quite stupid in the sense of "It took you HOW long to figure that out?")

My hair is now long, enough (not to mention frizzy enough) to get in my way sometimes. Most recently I've noticed tendrils getting caught between my arm and body when I lean on something, which is not annoying but does feel odd. Also, several times this summer i've noticed that it can be hot, which I don't remember ever before for some reason. Because of all that and out of a desire to look at least vaguely professional, I often pull it back, either in a low ponytail or just the top half with a barrette. For regattas, I'll even sometimes do braids, because while they may look a little silly, they hold very well. However, I very rarely pull it all up into a bun or a French twist. I've more or less mistressed the knack of using a comb or hair fork which let me put it up both quickly and in a way that will stay put, but I don't don't like the way it looks very much. This has always seemed odd, because I tend to fluctuate between long and very shortl, and I think it looks all right short. You'd think "up" and "short" would have similar appearances, but no.

One thing I have realized for years is that when I have very short hair, I dress differently than when it's long. With short hair, I tend to wear more open necklines, fewer collars, and darker colors. The ideal top is black with a boatneck. That looks all right with long hair too, but the hair obscures the lines of the neckline. I wear lighter colors and collared shirts more often with long hair, just because I can and because I do like the look of fitted button-downs for work. Most of the clothes that work with short hair work with long hair, but not vice versa; when I have long hair I still wear the same clothes as with short hair but less often because more of my wardrobe begins to work well.

Today I happen to be wearing black and silver, a combination that always makes me feel good: a black sleeveless top with pale green accents, black stretch jeans, silver jewelry. I pulled my hair up just for variety, securing it with a wooden hair fork. The top is fitted, and because the jeans stretch, I feel a little like Catwoman. I could do a spinning roundhouse kick in these clothes, if I could do a spinning roundhouse kick at all. In other words, this is the perfect platonic ideal of a short-hair-friendly outfit for me. When I caught a glimpse in the mirror, I realized that I do look OK with my hair up with this outfit. It adds to the general lithe effect. ("Lithe" is a relative term and is only to be compared to the way I look at other times. Halle Berry I'm not.) So apparently, putting my hair up can be flattering, as long as I wear the same sort of clothes that look well with short hair.

You'd think that would have been intuitively obvious, but apparently my intuition has very large blind spots in some area.

Posted by dichroic at 01:07 PM | Comments (0)

July 20, 2006

all good gifts around us

First, check out the pictures below. (Scroll to the previous entry.)

I tried erging this morning. I just did a very light 2K, but it wasn't really an unqualified success. I ended up coughing a bit more crap up, can't take a very deep breath without coughing, and never really got going. I'm not sure if this means I should avoid exercise a while longer, or just that I need to build back up, but I suspect the latter.

The other day, I got lambasted a little bit (politely), in this discussion. It seemed to be trending toward a general consensus that anyone who would drive a Hummer must be a Bad Person or a Victim of Advertising. (Admittedly, the Hummer commricals do foster those viewpoints, positioning the vehicle as a way to prove one's own importance or put someone else down.) So I jumped in where angels fear to tread to point out that Rudder actually bought one for a utilitarian purpose. As it happens, there are very few vehicles that can transport several boats with attendant parts as well as 2-4 people long distances to regattas. The only one one I've seen do it with more than one boat is Old Salt's cargo van, and its gas economy is only a gallor or so better. Most people put their boats on a trailer pulled by a large truck, and again the MPG is as bad or worse.

"Lambasting" is probably too strong a word. The person who was disagreeing with me pointed out that taking one's boats to a rowing regatta is by no means comparable to her own quest to find a cheap way to transport her weelchair. I agreed, but reiterated that it is still a use. Her point was that our use of the H2 is for luxury purposes rtaher than needful ones. I agreed and said so in so many words, but pointed out that luxury or not, we had the vehicle for our own uses and comfort, not in order to make ourselvesfeel more powerful or to compensate for our insecurities. I understand her argument, I think, but I don't think she was willing to understand mine, or she couldn't accept that I was defending a privilege not avaioable to everyone. (Of course, it's also possible that I was coming across as a spoiled brat, though I was trying not to.) She became a bit upset and elected (again, politely) to discontinue the discussion, so I didn't pursue it but am still turning it over in my head (and now on this screen).

The problem I have is that if I take her words to a logical conclusion, then we ought not to have this luxury beat, even though we use it for something for which it is relatively efficient, even though we mostly try to take a more efficient vehicle for errands where we don't need the Hummer's space. (Rudder does drive it to work, but he's got a very short commute and my 1996 pickup, our spare vehicle, is old enough that we don't want to put the wear and tear of daily short trips on it.) So the question is, is it irresponsible to have more than one needs, or to pursue a pastime (rowing competitively) that puts unnecessary wear and tear on the environment? We could row without doing these long trips, but except for a couple of small local regattas (that are not all that competitive) the nearest regattas are 6 hours away or more. Most local rowers don't compete all that much, so there usually aren't trailers going that we could put our boats on, and again, a big dualie towing a trailer isn't too gas-efficient either - and we'd still need to get ourselves there, either by driving or flying.

(And of course the person with whom I had the original discussion didn't know anything about me other than what my husband drives, whether I had lived in the depths of poverty or been a trust-fund baby, whether I live now like Mother Teresa or like Donald Trump, which made her objections a little harder to swallow.)

Will Shetterly has discussed the issue several times. He concludes that it is irresponsible to live with a bigger footprint than necessary. I respect his view all the more since he seems to live up to his beliefs as much as practical in this society, but it's a bit too ideal for me. I leased my current car, the Mozzie, specifically because I had a very long commute and wanted something more fuel-efficient than my pickup. I try not to waste too much extra gas, to recycle where I can, to give some of my disposable income to charity. I don't do as well in any of those things as I probably ought to, and worse, I use the true but not excusing justification that my wasted money or contributions to pollution are insignificant compared to what's going on in the world.

On the other hand, at this point in my life I live in a pleasant, quiet house with a person I love, with a minimum of drama. II have a fairly healthy body. (Well, not this minute, but usually.) I drive a vehicle I enjoy, and if I want books or clothes or yarn or beads, I can generally afford to buy them, as long as I don't start wanting rare first editions or designer clothes (or am willing to cut back in other places to buy one wonderful thing.) I know a lot of it is luck and not anything I deserve. I know that though I've taken opportunities and worked for them, that not everyone has those opportunities in the first place. I know a lot of people are not so fortunate and that though a lot are, the second lot is statistically much smaller than the first lot. Still, I think, as long as I don't use my powers for evil, as long as I remain conscious of how much I don't deserve and don't treat my luck as a reason to look down on other people, and long as I realize that I do still have a responsibility to respect and help those who aren't as lucky, then I think failing to enjoy the good gifts I have would be irresponsible in another way. Not all of the joys of living are to be bought with money, and some of the most important aren't. But is it immoral of me to enjoy those that have been bought as well as those that haven't?

It's the question of Bill Gates, on a lesser scale. I don't approve of some of the ways in which he made all those billions, but I respect him for giving them all away. He may do more good for aggregating the money and then putting it where the economies of scale mean it has a great effect, than if he'd stayed more and let the money stay in its original hands, or even if he gave it away as fast as he made it. I do'nt think he's giving it away to enhance his own image, because if he were, he'd find sexier charities. And even if he were, he'd still be bringing a lot of benefit to those who need it.

I don't think Bill Gates is immoral for amassing his millions before beginning to distribute them. I don't think I, on my smaller scale, am immoral for enjoying my luxuries and the chance to pursue my sport in comfort, even though I don't pretend that those things are among the necessities of life. But I think it's one of those things where each person has to set her own boundaries.

Edited to add: I wrote the above before reading the very relevant post at Making Light. the commentary there is, as usual, interesting. I wouldn't say there's a consensus, but a lot of it seems to agree with my own conclusion: it's not evil to enjoy luxuries, especially if you're willing to work for them, only to view them as necessities or entitlements. And it's generally better to give something back.

Posted by dichroic at 01:44 PM | Comments (1)

July 19, 2006

I declare the Portrait Project officially over!

So in the spirit of the Jully 4th fireworks that show up in some of these photos, here's a Grand Finale to finish it off in style. The pictures are in more or less chronological order, from our trip through Oregon and California. I'm putting it behind a cut because there are a lot of images.

Fireworks in my in-laws's back yard - this was actually the first time I'd set off any but the tiniest fireworks. Small ground-based fireworks are far cooler than I'd ever have thought.

Since retiring, my in-laws have gotten serious about their gardening. Here are some of the results. (The next-to-last photo is of an artichoke gone to seed.)

Here are the two of us at the Lava Beds National Monument, in Tule Lake, CA.

And the rest of these are at the races. Adjusting my foot stretchers:


On the water:

After the Rural Henley Regatta, with medals and commemorative plate:

In Sacramento after Regionals - me with my Henley medals and Rudder with medals from both regattas:

Posted by dichroic at 07:19 PM | Comments (1)

not silenced but improving

I'm a bit better today, though I still start coughing if I talk too much. It's been very interesting, actually, especially the end of last week when I had no voice at all or very little. It was frustrating not to be able to talk, the more so because I was in a country where English is a second language and so communication in both directions was impaired. That is, I couldn't read all the signs, and though most people in the Netherlands can speak English, since it's their second language they can't always express themselves with complete fluency. Plus I felt a little embarassed at the imbalance of effort, that they have to make all the accomodations for me because I can't speak the language in which they're most comfortable.

It had me thinking about the fairy tale about the seven swans, the one where seven brothers were turned into swans and their sister could not cry out of speak until she had sewn a shirt of nettles for each one. That was more appropriate as my voice came back and I could speak but knew I shouldn't for fear of making things worse again. Not to be able to communicate verbally for a couple of days was annoying, especially since it was a time when I had a lot to tell Rudder. I can't imagine being silent for years, when the constraint was self-imposed rather than physical. And yet it's not a totally improbable situation, just an exagerrated one. People silence themselves all the time on a particular topic or in a particular company, out of fear or shame or disgust or the feeling that no one's listening anyway. Most people have some topics they won't discuss, just for reasons of basic privacy or reticence. Other than those, I tend not to silence myself on any issue I care about, but in my case, I think it has less to do with bravery and more with lack of having the self-discipline to shut up.

On the food front, things are improving. Where two days ago lunch was half a bowl of soup and dinner was a banana, yesterday I had an actual dinner - a small chicken filet and two spears of asparagus - and today's lunch was half a quesadilla. I've been eating whatever on the theory that any calories were better than none, but I think it's probably time to go back to avoiding empty calories again (she said, finishing her Coke). And my weight's gone up a whole pound and a half. I'm right where I started a couple of years ago, which means I wouldn't mind keeping it here but even better would probably be to add on a few more pounds of muscle. Now I have a window to do so without risking my lightweight status.

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

July 18, 2006

back, still not well

Well. We are back home, having brought our germs with us. Rudder resisted valiantly, but finally conceded he was sick Sunday morning, just in time for the trip home (factoring in the time change, nineteen hours door to door, which is miserable enough if you're healthy). Symptom-wise, I seem to be down to a cough (not quite as hectic today as it was but only occasionally productive), the tail-end of laryngitis, and a lack of energy, and the last is probably attributable to the fact that I've been eating very little since this whole thing started eight days ago. My symptoms are lessened since I began the antibiotics Friday, so I guess they're working. Rudder seems to be affected more lightly, but some of that may just be stoicism. I'm a bit worried because some people at work have had similar sinus infections that lasted weeks, and Rudder can't afford weeks, with the Masters Nationals regatta coming up in August.

My own dismal finish in my race at Regionals convinced me not to race in Nationals this year, though it's certainly possible that having raced the day before and coming down with this illness later that day both contributed. I may or may not go to the regatta with Rudder depending on my work situation.

What with the not-eating thing, my weight is back to where it was a couple of years ago, before I pulled back from training to do more flying. I can't tell whether the loss is fat or muscle; my Tanita scale says my body-fat percent is about the same. I feel very weak, but that may just be from the illness, so I'll see about that once I'm better. I'm not planning to row or erg until I feel better - one nice thing about skip[ping Masters Nationals is that I can do that. I do have a local race here the weekend after next, but that's just 500 meters in a double, nothing too competitive.

I'm feeling a little guilty about not exactly throwing myself back into work, but this lack of energy is not helping my motivation level. Hopefully, once I feel more lively I can be more effective.

Posted by dichroic at 10:46 AM | Comments (1)

July 14, 2006

ill still

Last night while laying awake snorfling, I decided enough was enough and that I needed to see a doctor. I felt a bit better or at least more able to breathe when I woke again in the morning, because everything is always worst at 3AM, but did reconfirm my decision. Five days of illness with no real diminution in symptoms is just too much, and wasting time in bed on only my second time in Europe is maddening. Fortunately, this hotel has a concierge, so I asked Rudder to ask him to get me a doctor's appointment (it's not entirely easy to explain things on my own when I can't talk).

Oddly, Rudder didn't even discuss whether I really need a doctor. I think for some reason the laryngitis has him worried. I don't know why; for me it seems like a normal thing to have toward the end of a cold, though I don't remember any this total before.

The concierge was able to get me a morning appointment and a cab there. Due to the communication issue, I took the precaution of writing down my current symptoms and their history in advance. She examined the list, asked a few questions, looked at my throat and ears, and told me I had an "infection". Sinus or throat, I didn't find out, though I'd guess the former. She sent me around the corner to a pharmacy with a scrip for amoxicillin, then I came back to the office to ask them to call me a cab - good thing, as I'd blindly walked out of the office without paying. Oops. I suppose they're used to people who are a bit distracted there, though.

The meds are a little different; you dissolve the pill in a glass of water, which is much nicer than swallowing a big pill with a sore throat. And the doctor told me to get a nose spray to clear my sinuses, instead of Sudafed pills or something.

I've wasted most of another day in the hotel room, though I'm trying to persuade myself to go check out a grocery a block away - to see what sorts of things might be hard to find here. Tomorrow we're supposed to go to Amsterdam, and unless the 'cillin kicks in quickly, I'm afraid Rudder may be sightseeing there on his own. Phooey.

Posted by dichroic at 07:34 AM | Comments (2)

July 13, 2006

Some additional notes:

-- Yesterday was the first time I've been asked if I were Italian, and it was by someone who actually is Italian. My brother used to get it all the time, but he's got darker skin than I do. Mostly it was the hair, I think; it's long and a little wild and it was being especially big at the time because I'd had it pulled back earlier.

--Last time I was herre, around 9 years ago, the Dutch were wearing mostly black, stovepipe pants, and chunky high heels before those caught on in the US. This time, the fashion's nearly identical to that in the US.

--At first I thought this was a sinus infection. Now I think it's just a cold. I am quite ready to be done with it, either way.

-- The unusually (for me) long and even nails I had as of July 1 did not survive all that boat loading, unloading, racing, and rigging. The nail polish I bought here reeked worse than any I've had before and began chipping fairly promptly, but at least it camouflaged the unremovable dirt under where two nails that had broken short were splitting right where it met skin.

-- Rudder is snoring. I hope this doesn't mean he's getting the cold - he was sniffly during our flight, but seemed better today.

-- I haven't had much interest in food since Monday. Today as of 7:30 PM I'd eaten about six chunks of cut-up fruit, orange juice, tea, and a Luna Bar. At that point I gave up on Rudder being home soon and went and grabbed some ice cream and pasta - about ten bites of each, but at least it's calories. Of course Rudder was in the hotel room as soon as I got back with my food.

-- Or rather, without my food - they didn't take plastic so I had to scurry back to the room for cash.

-- This is the worst case of laryngitis I've had in years or maybe ever. Very comical but not helpful at meetings. It's also one reason I didn't just call room service.

-- I need to go take Nyquil and try to sleep now. But first -- did I mention I won not one, not two, but three medals last weekend???

Posted by dichroic at 01:30 PM | Comments (1)

a hectic trip, even for us

Since I've paid for the hotel Internet and I don't really feel up to sightseeing at the moment, I guess it's time for the trip-report-to-date. This trip was unfortunately planned backwards; we had all our relaxing time at the beginning and all the strenuous stuff toward the end (we do get to do a wee bit of relaxing the last couple of days, which for me began about two hours ago).

We loaded up the boats Friday morning, then started our trip with the luxury of being able to leave on a Saturday morning, instead of having to rush out after work. We drove about 10 hours north that first day, stopping at Los Banos, CA, then drove the remaining 8 hours to Rudder's parents' house in Grants Pass, OR, on Sunday. Our time there was all about eating well, sleeping well,and good conversation. We got to see some updates to their house and their beautiful front and back gardens (pics later) and my MIL helped me make a repair to my boat cover on her sewing machine. She also went with me to the local yarn stores, where I carefully refrained from pointing out to the exuberant character who ran one that she (MIL) was a local knitter for fear of entrapment. The highlight was July 4th, our 13th anniversary. The four of us visited several of the wineries which have sprung up in the Rogue Valley of Oregon - Rudder and I came home with a Wooldridge Chardonnay, a John Michael blush champagne, and some artisanal garlic-olive cheddar (sold at RoxyAnn winery, not sure who made it). Then on the way home we stopped at one of the ubiquitous fireworks shops. I'd never bought any before, because Pennsylvania is strict about such things and AZ is too hot, but I've gained a new appreciation for small ground-based fireworks. I kept thinking of the Bastable children, setting off their Guy Fawkes-day Catherine Wheels. Pictures of those to come too - Rudder took some great ones.

On Thursday, we drove two scenic hours to Klamath Falls, where members of the local Ewauna Rowing Club kindly let us store our boats in their boathouse and even gave us the combo so we could come row at any time. Rudder's parents followed us down, and on Friday his paternal grandparents came from two hours away in the other direction, and an aunt from another nearby town, so most of those days was spent hanging out, chatting, and taking family photos in the big comfy leather sofas in the hotel's lobby or it's little loft seating area.

On Saturday Rudder and I raced in the Rural Henley Regatta. This was the first time these grandparents had seen Rudder row (the other set are in Sacramento, where we race often) so that was a major reason to do this small regatta, but it was great fun in its own right, warm people and lovely cool weather. The Royal Henley, in England, is one of the world's most famous rowing races, a stake race (that is, between two stakes) of about 1.3 miles. In the Rural Henley, the top two finishers of each 1000 event get to race the Henley distance, after all the morning races are done. And the winner of each race gets a gorgeous commemorative plate with a steak (raw, sealed) on it, so it's a steak race.

Here's where the trip got exciting. The weather was perfect, except for one minor point: the wind was so strong that the waves in the first half of the course were scary. I was in the very first race, and Rudder was in the second. Rudder won his race, of course, so he got to compete with someone who won in the other heat of the men's singles. The women's singles only had one heat, but I came in second of four (second! I got second!) so *both* singles Henley races featured Arizona Outlaws. Only after that did they decide to hold the small boats to 500 meters because the water was so rough. We raced again in the double, our very first race rowing together. (We'd raced together before, but with me coxing a four or eight he rowed in.) We won by 5 seconds in raw time, but when the age handicaps were added in, we came in second by only 0.3 seconds, out of six boats.

By the time of the Henley races, the water had calmed down just enough to let us row the full course. Rudder won his, I lost mine - no surprise, since the woman who won was well ahead of me in the morning. The people running the regattas were generous enough to give medals for the Henleys as well as the other races, so the Outlaw take was three silver medals for me (!!!!); two golds, a silver, a plate, and a steak for Rudder. (He gave the steak to his parents.)

Right after that we had to load up the boats, say goodbye to the in-laws, and drive 6 hours south to Sacramento. And yes, I did wear my medals for the entire drive. The weather was getting warmer than it had been even while we were loading, and it got much hotter as we went South. By the time we got to Sacamento the outside air temp reading on Rudder's car was claiming 109 degrees. She-Hulk met us to unload the boats, but even with three of us it wasn't fun doing that in the heat, leaving us worried about the races. We went out for pasta and got very nearly a full night's sleep before the next set of races, the Southwest Masters Regional Championships. This was a much bigger race, but I didn't enjoy it nearly as much, though I think Rudder did. I came in DFL by a long shot in the women's lightweight singles, the first race of the day, then served as photographer and pit crew for the rest of the day. The other Outlaws did much better, with three gold medals and one silver for Rudder, two gold and two silver for She-Hulk. They were especially pleased because both felt they'd rowed extremely well, and done well in very competitive races and in trying conditions. The water was perfect and smooth here, but the heat was fearsome. Rudder and She-Hulk dealt well with it, mostly by keeping their shirts wet with ice water or the almost equally frigid lake water (it comes down from the mountains). Despite similar measures, the heat was really getting to me, and by around 2PM I apologetically borrowed She-Hulk's rental car and went back to the hotel to lay down and cool down. After a short nap, I woke up with sore tonsils and a feeling that my body economy was still fragile enough to make staying put a better option than returning, though I felt bad about leaving them to load up without me. They called when they were nearly done, and I did go back briefly for a few photos, and to join them for dinner and celebratory beers (margarita for She-Hulk).

Sometimes beer seems to help me feel better, but not that time. I woke up feeling much worse, with a very sort throat and snorting crap from my sinuses. Rudder and I had a twelve hour drive (She-Hulk was flying home) and no possible leeway, so I made the best of it by trying to get as much sleep as possible while not driving. Rudder drove most of it, as always, but this time we had me doing two shorter legs (120 miles or so each) which gave him enough of a break and a nap. The sore muscles didn't help, especially the ones in our sides from balancing on Saturday's rough water. The cold sapped my appetite, so I ate a few pretzels, a little dried fruit, and not much else all day.

We'd left early enough to get to the boatyard at about 6, where She-Hulk kindly came out to help us unload in yet more 109-degree weather. (According to the truck; it actually felt a little cooler.) The three of us got that done in under half an hour, then Rudder and I went home, ripped everything out of our suitcases and packed them up again with different clothes. The cat complained vociferously about our absence.

Once again we got very nearly enough sleep, got up at 5 and left for the airport before 6. I wasn't feeling any better, except that the muscle soreness was gone. Once we got on the plane, I took some night-time sinus meds on the first leg of the flight, then Nyquil on the international leg. It turns out those very long flights are much better when you spend large chunks of them asleep or half-conscious. The quarter of the airline meal I ate was my biggest meal in two days - not queasy, just uninterested in food and painful swallowing. When we got into Amsterdam, we had another two-hour drive into Eindhoven, in the southern Netherlands. Poor Rudder had to go to work right away; I got to walk around the very nice shopping area opposite the hotel, then try to balance resting (to get better) with not sleeping (to acclimate to the time zone). His meetings ran late, and it wasn't until 8:30 PM that he called to ask if I wanted to eat dinner with him and some coworkers. I did want to socialize, though still not to eat much, so I went and just picked at an appetizer. I did enjoy meeting the coworkers, though.

Today, my throat was slightly less painful, though I still didn't want to eat more than a little fruit at breakfast. I had meetings, four of them in four hours, for which I prepared with a 12-hour Sudafed and rode in with Rudder. The meetings went well, or would have if I had been able to talk. Still, the people I met with were patient with my croaking, and fortunately only one wanted to ask me many questions. By the last one, though, the cold or the Sudafed or the caffeine from the tea they kept feeding me (from complex mqachines that prodcue varied types of coffee, chocolate or tea) had combined to have me very ready to lay down. Rudder had talked about meeting me for lunch, but a bed seemed like a much better idea, so I got someone to call a cab, which brings me to dateresting here in the hotel room. Tomorrow, I hope to feel well enough to visit an open-air history museum in town, and on Saturday Rudder and I will go to Amsterdam for a day there before we fly home Sunday.

And then I have to go to work Monday!!!

Posted by dichroic at 07:00 AM | Comments (4)