if you give a kid a sandwich

by dichroic in daily updates

There’s a Facebook meme going around lately that’s bugging me. It says “I don’t want to feed hungry children so they’ll do better in school. I just want to feed them because they’re hungry.” I think it’s supposed to show the compassion of the poster, because they’re all about feeding the hungry instead of worrying about outcomes, or something. Like so many FB memes, it’s ridiculously oversimplified – as if you could only have one reason for feeding a hungry child.

The thing is, if you feed a child today, she’ll be hungry again tomorrow. It’s a bandage, not a long-term healing. I don’t say that to deride bandages – without them you can bleed to death before any healing occurs. Acute problems need immediate actions to give you time to ceate a systemic fix. But if you only apply that bandage, then you’ve still got the main problem – a child who isn’t getting fed at home.

On the other hand, if you feed that child today, and again tomorrow, and the next day, and the rest of the term, he’s got a reason to keep coming to school and the resources to pay attention once he’s there. If you keep feeding her as long as she needs it, she’s got more reason to stay in school.

Maybe that kid will grow up to be Ray Fields. Ray was probably the most financially successful person I knew growing up – he started a grocery store, built it into a small chain, and eventually sold the chain to Safeway. he still lived on our block because he liked it, but drove a nice car and wintered in Florida. He was a happy man, I think, with a stable marriage, a son he got along with and eventually two beautiful granddaughters. He was also a good man and a wise one; everybody on the block liked hanging out and talking to him, because he was always interesting and interested in you. He told me once that school lunch was sometimes the only good meal he got in a day, growing up during the Depression, and that it was the main reason he and his brother went to school.

Or maybe that kid won’t be Ray Fields. Maybe he’ll just be a kid who doesn’t drop out of high school, and who doesn’t have all the later health issues that childhood malnutrition can lead to. That’s still a pretty good outcome – and one that will help the kid earn enough of a living that she and her own kids won’t go hungry in the future.

So one school meal feeds a hungry kid so he isn’t hungry anymore, and a whole program of them can change lives and improve society. It’s both a bandage and a long-term solution. Pretty good for an intervention that isn’t even all that expensive (compared to, say, sending 100 Secret Service agents to Aspen and getting them skis). I agree that helping a hungry kid to not be hungry anymore is a worthy goal; I just don’t think it’s any reason to scoff at the long-term benefits of that school lunch.

birthday and Objects, Finished and Otherwise

by dichroic in beadwork, daily updates, knitting, photos

My birthday Friday was good but unremarkable. At work, I started doing some actual useful things and joined a small weightlifting class in the gym that was actually pretty good. In the evening there was the monthly Chardon-knitting (which is where you drink wine and try not to screw up your knitting) at my LYS. I brought Prosecco and Tina, the LYSO, provided a delicious marionberry pie. The Prosecco itself has a story; because I had the gym class at 11 in building 2 and another meeting at 1 in building 3 and there’s a cafeteria in building 3, I brought my laptop and wallet with me to the gym so I could get lunch in between and didn’t have to go all the way back to my desk in building 4 (they’re all connected, but the distances are much farther than those sequential numbers make them sound). Unfortunately I forgot to take my wallet out of my gym bag and put it back in my purse afterward, a fact I realized just when I went to pay for the Prosecco. And the woman in front of me in line insisted on paying for it – she didn’t even ask first how much it was. Luckily I had a $14 bottle, not a $40 one! Of course she had no way of knowing it was my birthday and a milestone one at that, but I promptly told her so she’d feel even better about her kind gesture. And I guess I have a favor to pay forward now.

I didn’t have any presents to open – maybe that’s just a fact of adulthood, because it wasn’t that people didn’t care. A couple of people made donations in my name to organizations I care about (which has the major advantage of not having to find house room for more stuff!); my mom is trying to get something online but seems to be having technical difficulties; and Ted’s gift will be a wine-tasting trip to McMinnville next weekend.

Yesterday I did get a good gift – I got Ted back home! (He was only gone a week, but he had business travel on three out of the previous four weeks.) And yesterday afternoon I did something I hadn’t done in a while and got out my beading supplies. So here are a selection of recent objects, finished and otherwise. All photos taken with my iPhone, a few with a macro lens from Photojojo added.

Earrings – only the spotted ones are new; the rest are pairs I’d made a while ago, where I’d lost one and have just made a replacement. (A major advantage to making your own jewelry!)

I made this treasure necklace a long time ago, but it had broken – I restrung it and added a few new items:

Then there’s the knitting. First, socks: there are the self-patterning socks, of which I knit most of the first one while helping out at the LYS during the recent yarn crawl and am still early on the second one; plus the purple two-at-a-time pair I started months ago, that keep getting pushed aside for other projects:

There’s also the Rogue sweater, which has the body and most of one sleeve done; a linen-stitch Moebius cowl made from various leftover sock yarn; and a hat I finished back in January. Not shown are two pink pussy hats I made for friends and a baby hat for a pregnant former coworker.

upcoming

by dichroic in daily updates

Gonna be a hell of a week.

This morning Ted left for Taiwan.

Tomorrow I’ll be volunteering at my local yarn shop all day – last day of the Rose City Yarn Crawl.

Monday I start the new job.

Friday I turn 50.

And Saturday Ted returns.

I’m lucky the Yarn Crawl is this weekend – I volunteered yesterday too, and though it was a bit claustrophobic spending all day in the back room, I enjoyed being social for a change. I spent today at the Portland Art Museum. Years ago I went to the Portland Craft Museum, and spent the day in great company but hated the actual museum, which is probably why never got to this one before, but I liked the Art Museum as much as I despised the Craft Museum. It didn’t hurt that they were having a Rodin exhibit. And the birthday alone won’t be as bad as it sounds, because Friday night is Chardon-knitting back at the LYS, and Ted and I will celebrate the weekend after.

Aaronovitch and Anglophilia

by dichroic in books, daily updates

After reading the latest of Ben Aaronovitch’s Peter Grant books, The Hanging, Tree, I started over from the beginning of the series to refresh my memory of the details, and also because it got me thinking. In this series, which is written in the first person, Aaronovitch does a thing that’s rare in US and UK fiction: every time Peter Grant meets someone new, he mentions their race or ethnicity in his description – including if they’re white. This makes sense: Grant himself is not white and neither is his London. It’s a diverse place and assuming any sort of ‘default’ human would just be silly. Another thing Aaronovitch does well: Grant is mixed race, and his mom is not generic African; she is Fulani, from Sierra Leone, and this shapes who she is and thus who her son is. (His dad’s most salient defining feature is not his ethnicity, but his musical genre: jazz.)

But because of all that, and because of the way Aaronovitch reflects England’s current population into its traditional mythology, he solves a wider problem for me. A lot of American Anglophiles have sort of a cognitive disconnect: this might not be a problem for those whose thing is Swinging London and Mod fashion, but if what you get off on is Sherlock Holmes and his gasogene, or Lord Peter and his brother planting oaks; or if you’re a mad partison of York vs Lancaster; if you find the Cavaliers Wrong but Wromantic; if you’re still rooting for Hereward and his Saxons against the Normans; or wondering what it would take to wake Arthus if WWII didn’t do it; then you’ve got a bit of a problem. Because however much you think there’ll always be an England, it’s plain that the England you see today is a different place – and not in a bad way. So there’s a cognitive dissonance, because on the one hand you can applaud the NHS and the vibrance of today’s England, you can be wondering if the heart of Logres still beats, if Kipling’s Puck is still there and feeling nostalgia for a magic that is so pervasive in fiction that it must have existed, at least a little.

(Maybe I should be saying “London”, more specifically, since that’s specifically where the Peter Grant series centers, and because all that diversity still centers in the cities, though it’s changing some.)

Grant reconciles those two worlds; in fact, he does what England has always done with its waves of invaders, settlers or refugees. The land absorbs the newcomers and doesn’t close over them, but adds their weave into its tapestry. Maybe that should have been completely obvious, but since the last major one wave of incomers was a thousand years ago, it wasn’t clear if that would still work, but in Aaronovitch’s England it does – fortunately involving a lot less sheer misery than the Norman conquest. The clearest example is the parallel river spirits, though to avoid spoilers I can’t go into more detail.

And clearly I am a hopeless Anglogeekiphile because that disconnect was something that always troubled me in the back of my mind, so this all actually makes me feel a bit better.

leaving and being replaced

by dichroic in daily updates

This is my last week at this job. I’m taking bets on whether there will be a going-away lunch or drink – I’d give about 70% odds against. I’m not taking it personally; when our well-liked previous admin left, there wouldn’t have been one if I hadn’t pushed her boss into it. Since my own boss is halfway across the country (and didn’t say much of a goodbye when she left at the end of her visit last week) I doubt it will happen. That feeling of isolation is one of my least favorite things about working here. On the other hand, a few people including one of the senior managers have gone out of their way to tell me I’ll be missed, and I’d probably prefer that to any other kind of farewell.

I have clearly been thoroughly replaced on the family front, anyway. When my mom gave my SIL tulips for Valentines’ Day and not even a card for me, she probably wasn’t thinking about the fact that my SIL lives her life on Facebook and I’d see it. (More probably she was thinking that Ted and I never do much for V-Day and I always forget to send her – my mom- a card though she often sends me one, while my brother and SIL do make a big deal of it.) Anyway, because I am not a saint, I had to give Mom a little bit of a hard time the next time I spoke to her, and she said something about “Well, I just decided to because Vicki hasn’t been feeling well.” It wasn’t until well after we’d hung up that I realized the irony – given that Mom was calling to see how I was, since I’d had some lingering symptoms after being sick for a solid month! (In fact, I had a doctor’s appt the next day – she thinks my soreness in the rib area when I cough is a sprain rather than pleurisy, and said I should probably rest it as far as possible and not row for a while.)

You’d have to know my mother to understand why “being replaced” is actually a joke, not an awful hurtful thing. She operates very much on a principle of out of sight, out of mind – for instance, wanting to know I’ve arrived safely if I’m coming home from visiting her, but not for any other travels. Remembering to call because I’ve been sick is a statement of love because it’s going outside the boundaries of how she normally thinks

the satisfaction of accomplishment, one inch at a time

by dichroic in daily updates

There are some goals you get to by leaps and bounds (for instance, if you’d always wanted to travel abroad and then you did). There are some goals you work at for a while and then finish, like getting a driving or pilot’s license or writing a book – those are harder. And then there are the ones you work on forever, being excited to reach new levels. Maybe that’s the number of books you’ve read in your lifetime, or growing your hair out to knee-length. Some of those get less exciting as you get further along – reaching 50 professional publications is probably not more exciting than reaching 30. Some get more so – it’s probably more exciting to see your net worth hit $100,000 than $100. (Or maybe not, if it was negative for a long time and this is your first $100 in the black.)

With those accretive goals, I think they are even more satisfying when they’re ones you’ve reached entirely on your own efforts. Or maybe not entirely – if you bike a million lifetime miles, clearly you’re helped out by the people who made the bike, the people who built the road, and especially the person who watched the kids while you were putting in some of those miles. Still, every one of those miles went by through your peddling alone. It’s an entirely subjective thing in which others will disagree with me, but I think the achievement of that solo goal is more satisfying than covering those same miles on a tandem bike. (Teamwork has pleasures too, just slightly different ones.)

I’ve got a couple goals of that kind in which I should be able to reach milestone levels within a few months for one, years for the other. One is financial and I hope to get there within a couple years: this is a milestone Ted and I reached together a while back, but getting to that same point entirely on my own is going to be a pure and peculiar satisfaction. (I’m sure some other people feel the same, but and equally sure others don’t – for instance, couples who pool all of their money don’t reach solo financial goals, and presumably decide it’s not something they care much about – or that they care less about than other goals that are better served by completely merged finances.)

The other one is about erging; I’m up to 14,916,498 kilometers on the erg, lifetime. I’m up to a lot more than that in all forms of rowing, including erging, rowing a single, rowing in bigger boats, etc. but the erging is all me, every single meter cranked out by my body. I would have already hit 15 million by now, if not for illness – and now it’s been postponed further, because the doctor says that pain when I cough is a sprained rib and I should avoid rowing or other upper-body exercise. (Unfortunate, since my main alternate would be walking / hiking and it’s too wet to make that pleasant.) But I will get there sometime in the next few months, and when I do, the prizes Concept 2 sends out for milestone distances will be nothing compared to the satisfaction of getting there.

news

by dichroic in daily updates

It’s been ettling at me this past week, not to be able to talk in public about an upcoming change, just because people had to be told in the right order. But now I can say, I have been assimilated by the Borg. Which is to say, I have accepted a position as a Software Quality Engineer for the biggest employer in these parts, a place famous for its pervasive corporate culture.

I’m a bit nervous; that culture tends to be a love it or hate it thing, so here’s hoping I love it. There are all kind of little perks (gym, excellent cafeteria, etc) but of course those things come at at the expense of being expected to work long hours. But most people in my current job work even longer hours; I don’t, as a Quality person, and that’s actually symptomatic of a big problem here. I’ve been feeling for too long like I don’t have enough to do because I’m always working on process improvement in the background, not able to be part of our day to day project work. (Many companies have an issue with the quality group being too much of an ivory tower; this is just our particular manifestation of it.) In the new gig, I’ll be getting back to software engineering and out of architecture and engineering – I think I’ll like that, and I’ll be working directly with project teams.

Also, there’s a lot more flexibility – I’m wondering if it might translate to more time at the lake, even if that means we need to get real WiFi there instead of just using our phones as hot spots. Working in a beautiful location can still be productive!

My boss is here this week, for her first visit in a couple of years, so I hit her with this news first thing Monday morning – it didn’t feel like a nice thing to do, but doing it in person seemed best. So far, she’s shown an odd lack of desire to discuss any transition or negotiate my last day.

The nice thing is that they really seemed to want me. They cold-called me, and the whole hiring process went very fast. I haven’t even worked around software since approximately 2004, and I was was absolutely honest on that both in the interview and on my resume, but they just said “It’ll come back to you.” I won’t be writing code (though there might be an opportunity to build some tools) but I do need to be able to understand and analyze defect reports.

Anyway, I really hope I like the new job – I start it the same week I turn 50, so with luck this will be my last employer.

assorted WTFery

by dichroic in politics

The White House’s web page had now posted descriptions of each item of the Bill of Rights (“summaries” about as long as their originals) in which they consistently replace “the people” with “citizens”.
Whitehouse.gov page
Original Bill of Rights

But I’ve just had the most graphic proof that political delusions and ridiculous euphemisms are no new thing.

WTF, Louisa May Alcott? In the second edition of Aunt Jo’s Scrapbag, she’s in the French city of Dinan, where she’s discussing how the local women seem to do the hard work of the town, and how strong and capable they are while never complaining:

The washerwomen were among the happiest of these happy souls, and nowhere were seen prettier pictures than they made, clustered round the fountains or tanks by the way, scrubbing, slapping, singing, and gossiping, as they washed or spread their linen on the green hedges and
daisied grass in the bright spring weather. One envied the cheery faces under the queer caps, the stout arms that scrubbed all day, and were not too tired to carry home some chubby Jean or little Marie when night came; and, most of all, the contented hearts in the broad bosoms under the white kerchiefs, for no complaint did one hear from these hard-working, happy women. The same brave spirit seems to possess them now as that which carried them heroically to their fate in the Revolution, when hundreds of mothers and children were shot at Nantes and died without a murmur.

Having no idea what had happened at Nantes, I looked it up. I find it horrifically unlikely those ‘hundreds of mothers and children …died without a murmur”. Or maybe they weren’t heard because many of them drowned. But I did come up with a way to avoid argument with Trump supporters: instead of comapring him to the early days of Hitler, you just compare him to Jean-Baptiste Carrier instead. I’m certain the administration that came up with “alternative facts” would admire the elegant obfuscation of “vertical deportation” (i.e. drowning). (If you’re wondering about the shootings she mentioned vs the drownings in the Wikipedia article, LMA is just a little confused. People definitely were shot all over the Vendee region – it’s just that Nantes is specifically known for the drowning of prisoners.)

I do wonder if, maybe, the French Revolution would be a more accurate comparison for Recent Events than the Holocaust.

my design “career”

by dichroic in clothing and style

I have mentioned previously that I’d designed a jacket for Betabrand, who do crowd-funded clothing and executive designs. That jacket will *finally* be launched for crow-funding Feb 23 – I’ll let you know when it’s up and you can see the prototype.

But in the meantime, I’ve entered their contest to “Hack the Dress Code”. My entry is a mini-capsule wardrobe of my favorite work ‘uniform’: a long-sleeved fine-knit t-shirt, matching leggings (which makes me feel like I’m in my jammies, or dressing up as a superhero!) and a skirt to make it off-appropriate. Plus a scarf, for a little extra flair. I love wearing that outfit because it’s totally comfortable yet flattering and worksafe, so I feel like I’m getting away with something. You can see my entry here, or all of them here.

If you want to vote, you need to be logged in, but can log in with your FaceBook account. (And if you like my outfit enough to vote for it, thank you!)

Arthur, W.S., and Lin-Manuel

by dichroic in daily updates

I finally got around to something I’d been meaning to do for some time: googled “Hamilton Miranda Gilbert Sullivan”, to see if anyone has noted the (IMO) very obvious similarities between Gilbert and Sullivan’s work and Lin-Manual Miranda’s Hamilton. And…. nope. Yes, they list G&S as one of Lin-Manual’s influences, and they note a reference or two in his lyrics, but they don’t do an overall comparison. (Maybe it’s just so obvious that no one else thought it needed to be said? My 11th grade Spanish teacher said I was a mistress of the obvious. She meant it as a sneer (Sra Valchin was not a nice person) but so often it actually does need to be said, because it’s not that obvious to everyone.) There are so many correspondences:

  1. It’s operetta. I’m not entirely confident I’m using the term correctly, but what I mean is that all or almost all of the story is carried by the music. You could do a musical like Oklahoma or Aladdin without the songs – it would be boring, but you could do it. There’s nothing that you couldn’t explain with maybe an added line or two of dialogue. You can’t do that with Hamilton or Penzance.
  2. The cleverness. Quick patter and ingenious complex rhymes paired with catchy tunes, a matched mastery of language and popular music.
  3. The topical references. Both kinds – quick glancing references to events and music of the day as well as exploration of bigger timely issues beneath the badinage.
  4. And finally, the stardom. I don’t know: maybe Rodgers and Hammerstein were this popular in their day, but I think theater as a whole was much bigger then. G&S were as hyooooge (sorry!) in Victorian England as Miranda is now.

Probably either no one cares, everyone thinks this is obvious, or no one else thinks the correspondence is anything unique, but I’m still surprised it doesn’t get said more often.

My status otherwise: almost but still not quite all over the bronchitis / pleurisy. Might try erging again this weekend, I guess.