happy things: weddings and new books

by dichroic in books, daily updates

Weddings! We haven’t been to a wedding for a few years, but now all of a sudden we’re invited to two within a week of each other, both requiring travel. There’s one for a young cousin of Ted’s; I’d like to go, because it would be nice seeing all that side of the family, but I’m a bit uncomfortable with the idea of planning travel to North Carolina right now.

Then yesterday we got an invitation to the wedding of a former coworker (Ted’s worked with him closely, I have just a bit). This one is less than a week later in the small Dutch city we used to live in. In an ideal world, we’d go to the one then hop over to the other, but vacation time is limited. I don’t know what we’ll do. (Also, coolest wedding ever. It’s an older couple (by which I mean, older than me) and the invitation is made to look like the cover of a Penguin Classics novel, with their photos on it.)

Also, I can’t wait until next week. ALL of the following are coming out inside 3 days:

Trials of Apollo – new series by Rick Riordan in the Percy Jackson-verse, May 3
Lies, Damned Lies and History – next book in Jodi Taylor’s Chronicles of St Mary’s series, May 5 (Someone commented that she found these repetitive, but I think they’re hilarious – also, both characters and the stakes at hand have grown through the series.)
At least 3 books by Angela Thirkell – May 5 (Someone commented in racism in her books, but I still haven’t seen it except in Trooper to the Southern Cross, where it’s clearly from the character. Otherwise, not even as much as there is in Angela Brazil.)

The next fertile release period I know of will be September – at the beginning of the month we get Seanan McGuire’s new October Daye book, then at the end there’s Trenton Lee Stewart’s new series (he’s the Mysterious Benedict guy); the next Flavia de Luce, which seems to promise a new direction in the series, and then the second in Rick Riordan’s ASsgard series. Yay books!

Weekend plans:

by dichroic in daily updates

Noted here mostly as an aide–mémoire.

Tonight: trivia night at Ardiri. Fake matzo ball soup (Start with boughten broth, add carrots, celery, onion, dried dill, and of course matzo balls). I think what I’ll do is make these balls from a mix, which my husband prefers, and make the ones for the homemade soup from scratch, which I prefer. I suspect the main difference between them is a lot of salt.

Tomorrow: Erg, probably AN intervals (which means short, 1 minute or so, but very hard, at anaerobic threshold.) Release party at Gran Moraine for their Pinot Noir. Roast chicken for our ‘Seder’, aka dinner for the two of us.

Sunday: Erg a long piece, 10km or more, at marathon (slow) pace. Costco run. Make soup from the chicken carcass unless I did it Saturday night, as well as matzo balls. This is to have during the week – make enchiladas (with corn tortillas!) for dinner.

The sad thing is, this is supposed to be my relaxing cath-up weekend after last week’s regatta-that-didn’t-happen.

Racing (or not) and also Passover

by dichroic in rowing

I. No racing last weekend after all. The weather was absolutely gorgeous, but was windy enough to result in very rough water. Our visiting friend Rebecca and I were scheduled to race early on Saturday morning (heats A and B of women’s Masters singles). She was already at the start, and I was just about to cross the course to row to the start, when I told the Crossing Marshall to radio in that I wanted to scratch – as soon as I turned perpendicular to the course I realized it was too rough to be safe. He told me they were going to bring everyone in, so he wouldn’t scratch me yet. Apparently four people had fallen in so far. (They had plenty of safety boats to fish them out.) So everyone out on the course had to row back in through the rough water, a definite challenge. They kept postponing the race, and eventually decided to cancel the novice events that had already gone by entirely, and move the womens’ singles to Sunday morning, letting some of the bigger (wider) boats race. All in all we ended up walking back and forth to the park where the race was about four times, between the morning race meeting and then trying to figure out what was going on.

Rebecca and I comforted ourselves with a long kayak paddle in the afternoon, so at least she got to see all of the lake.

Unfortunately, moving our race put us right ahead of the men’s singles, so Rebecca couldn’t row Ted’s boat as planned (she’s much closer to his size than mine). She tried out my racing shell and established that it was at least possible to row it, but Sunday morning was again rough enough that she decided to take my open-water boat, which is much more stable and self-baling. It’s perfectly happy handling those conditions, as long as you don’t expect to go very fast. This time she got only to the park before being told the race was postponed again – they eventually ended up canceling the rest of the races all together. Rebecca did a row down the course just for fun, probably giving a heart attacks to any of the race officials who didn’t know she was in a boat that could handle rough water.

Care and (especially) feeding of a vegetarian athlete was something that worried me a bit beforehand, but we ended up just having pizza on Friday night (carbo-loading!) and a big varied salad with assorted grilled stuff that everyone chose their own to skewer, so that worked out OK, I think. We should have gotten more lunch food, but I was expecting the wonderful and diverse bakery sandwiches this regatta has provided in the past, and they didn’t have them this year.

So it was a great weekend, aside from the small issue of the actual race that was the reason we were there – beautiful weather, a chance to catch up with an old friend, and time at the house. Oh, well.

And also, after all these years it is really nice to have someone other than Ted understand why I don’t go into races expecting to win, and that no, it’s not just that I don’t train enough. (There are three components to being ready for a race: having your head in the game, boat feel/technique, and fitness. I definitely failed on the first one and haven’t gotten nearly enough water time this year, but I actually do feel like I was physically ready for this race – my training plan was very good and I followed it fairly faithfully, aside from breaks for a couple of business trips. I still would likely have come in at the back of the pack, though.

II. Passover is going to be a lot easier to keep this year. I decided last year that I was an honorary Sephard, but I didn’t really fully embrace the possibilities. Sure, I ate some popcorn and maybe a little rice, but that was about it. But I’ve realized that for instance the dinner we had last night (Grilled Chicken Marsala over rice) and the one I plan for Sunday (enchiladas, with corn tortillas) are both Pesadic under the new rules.Not that I really needed a rabbi to tell me what to do, but it’s nice not to feel I’m somehow cheating.

I made gnocchi the other night (having bought shelf-stable ones from the supermarket) and was wondering if they might be Pesadic also but alas, gnocchi contain potatoes, eggs …and flour. Apparently it might be possible to make my own, though, if I figure out what sweet rice flour is and where to buy it. (I doubt I will bother. Once Passover is done, though, the supermarket ones were very good and we’ll definitely be having them again.) Meanwhile, I’m just trying to figure out how to reconcile first Seder on Friday night with some other plans I had – trivia night at a local winery, that we were planning to go to anyway, to pick up our wine club shipment. And okay, a trivia game isn’t really the kind of thing you move around anything as important as a Seder for, but when it’s just a meal for the two of us somehow the importance is diminished a bit.

cool story bro

by dichroic in daily updates

Essential backstory:
1) Ted and I both have pilots’ licenses. We met when we were both working for NASA contractors at the Johnson Space Center. He used to say he wanted to build a kitplane in retirement, though I think that’s less of a dream for him than it used to be, since we haven’t been flying since we left AZ (late 2006).

2) On Tuesdays at lunchtime if I don’t have a meeting or other conflict, I “sneak out” and go hang out with the local knitters group. My local yarn store has groups at a few different times, but I started with this one when we first moved here, before I got this job, and I like the people that come then. Then I pick up lunch at the nearby fancy organic supermarket and eat it back at my desk.

So, today one of the women there was selling a fancy sewing machine that can do embroidery. She’s a snowbird and it sounds like they’re downsizing and getting rid of lots of stuff. (The store will sometimes sell stuff like spinning wheels or looms on consignment.) I asked about it, because Ted wants one to make things like covers for the firepit he’s building. (Have I mentioned the firepit here? Probably not – he made it out of concrete, in the shape of a rowing shell. The hard part now will be getting it upstairs to the back deck.) She’s asking $300 for it, and it sounds like it has lots of capabilities he doesn’t want or need. BUT! We were talking and it turns out she has another machine, from the 1930s or so. In working shape, very sturdy, can probably only do straight seams but can sew through anything, and she only wants $35 for this one. So I told her I wanted it … and then she told me her husband, a retired professional pilot, had used it to do the upholstery for a replica of the monoplane Louis Bleriot used for the first English Channel crossing in 1909. It was meant to be flown across the Channel on the 100th anniversary of that flight, but the guy who commissioned it died of leukemia. It was displayed in the Evergreen Museum of Aviation, though she’s not sure if it’s still there. (Great museum in the heart of the Oregon wine country – I recommend it.) So, for $35, though I may give her more, he’ll get a working vintage machine with a cool aviation history. Score!

Also, though the grocery store hasn’t been having the double-baked potatoes I liked, the samosas I got for lunch were excellent, so now I have a new lunch option there.

racing this weekend, yahoo

by dichroic in rowing

I am so not ready to race this weekend. It’s been a few years since my last one – looks like that was this same regatta in 2013. I’ve been doing good training on the erg, but we have way too little time on the water; not only has the weather not really cooperated, but it seems like there have been more wake issues than normal. A larger nearby lake has been drained while they’ve been working on the dams, so it’s possible some of the boats that would normally be over there have been coming to our lake instead. We went down to the house last weekend – we were there the week before and will be next week, but we needed the water time and also needed to clean a bit, since our friend R is coming. We did get out for a bit on Saturday, but there was a collegiate regatta going on which kind of limited where we could row. Then Sunday the weather was perfect, but there was a big boat casting up wakes so huge and constant we wouldn’t really have been able to row at all, so we gave up and came home.

So why am I racing? I hate almost everything about it – the anxiety beforehand, the difficulty of getting my gut settled in time to launch my boat at the time I need to (thanks, IBS!), pushing my body to the point of pain and (sometimes) dry heaves, and still often coming in last despite training and effort, because I do really have just the wrong sort of body for this sport.

I’ve thought of three reasons: one, because I do like the feeling of having done it, and of being part of the regatta; two, because it’s much easier to stick with a training program if I have a concrete goal to train for; and three, because what I hate even more is being at a regatta with everyone else around me pushing themselves to their utmost, and yet not being a part of it because I wimped out.

The other thing I’ve found I have to do is to not focus on others in the race. For many people it can matter to keep track of the others so for example you can put on a burst of speed if someone is about to pass. For me, it’s better to focus on my own race; win or lose I need to row a race I’m proud of. If I’m hitting the 750-meter mark as I hear finish horns going off (which has happened), I need to keep the pressure on and not slump in defeat. If I watch the video of this race, I need to seem myself racing the whole way through, not giving up. (This probably sounds defeatist but it’s just pragmatic. I have won races, but usually smaller ones; I’ve competed in this particular regatta twice before and know that they tend to have a lot of fast women in my age group and above.) Either way, by this time Saturday I’ll probably be all done it, and trying to figure out what I should do next for a training plan.

civil rights and good china

by dichroic in daily updates, politics

When Ted and I got married, we chose patterns: china, crystal, and silver. (Respectively, Royal Doulton Princeton, Waterford Lismore, and Towle Old Master, if anyone is counting.) We got some for wedding gifts and have added some more, either by buying it ourselves or from occasional gifts from family since then. It is kind of handy for people to have a fallback gift that’s always welcome. But those things are expensive, so typically we’d get one glass (or plate or whatever) at a time. Also, even though we tried to choose classic patterns that would always be around, our china pattern is no longer made. For those reasons, most of our and others’ purchases have come from Replacements, Ltd. They carry an enormous number of patterns of china, crystal, silver and collectibles, in both active and discontinued patterns. Their prices seem reasonable (or at least in line with everyone else’s, for those products that are still sold by other companies) and their service is good. We’ve never had a piece arrive in other than perfect condition.

Anyway, I get email from them all the time, but it’s normally just the usual advertising stuff. But today they sent me something different – the thing I hadn’t realized, you see, is that they’re based in North Carolina.

Here’s an excerpt from today’s email:

The reaction to North Carolina’s passage of HB2 last Wednesday has been swift and strongly in opposition. Calls for boycotts of our state have been answered by individuals and businesses who will not attend the $5.38 billion, 600,000 visitor High Point furniture market this April and, more generally, by the State of New York, the City of Seattle, and others. Amidst this deep concern, which I share, I want to make one thing clear: Replacements, Ltd. affirms the dignity and beauty of each and every person. You will always be warmly welcomed at Replacements, Ltd.

… At Replacements, Ltd., we are very fortunate to employ a number of extraordinarily talented people who are transgender. These people are like family to me. And having known and worked with many transgender friends over the years, I see in each a reflection of myself. The thought of being afraid to share space with any one of those good people is hard for me to understand, based on my personal experiences. If you had the opportunity to meet any one of them, I bet you’d feel the same way.

(And here’s a link to the entire message.) I have been pleased to see the number of companies stating that they would refuse to do business in the state of North Carolina while HB2, the law condoning discrimination, is on the books. But maybe there should be a flip side to that boycott: supporting the businesses that are already in North Carolina, and that are trying to protect their people. (All of their people.) This is a company I can honestly recommend, after years as a satisfied customer, and that I have recommended to others before just for their products and service. This letter has convinced me that maybe I need to support them with this wider recommendation as well.

Fennel Salad Recipe

by dichroic in daily updates

Tonight’s dinner, improvised from a few different recipes and the contents of the refrigerator, was tasty enough that I think it’s worth writing up the recipe.

Solo Fennel Salad
… or, what to do when the CSA gives you a one bulb of fennel, you have one beet left over from the minestrone, and your spouse has a dinner meeting.

image

Ingredients:
one bulb of fennel, with the stems and core removed, cut into narrow wedges – save a few of the dill-like leaves
one small to medium golden beet, peeled and sliced into 8 wedges
one orange, cut into one half and several crescents
one scallion, sliced into small pieces
3-4 radishes, sliced thin
romaine lettuce
parmegiano-reggiano cheese
olive oil
salt
pepper

Instructions:
Preheat the oven to 425. Toss the beet wedges with about 1 tsp olive oil plus some salt. Lay some foil in a small pan (less to wash!) and lay in the beet wedges in a single layer. Bake for 20-30 minutes, or until it’s easy to stick a fork into the beets.

Tear up a few leaves of romaine into small pieces, and use them to make the bottom layer of your salad on a dinner plate. Scatter the fennel atop the lettuce, and the orange slices on top of the fennel. Next, scatter on the radishes and the scallion slices. Squeeze the half orange over the salad. Drizzle olive oil onto the salad, and add salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with shavings of cheese and a few of the fennel leaves, minced finely.

book series rec: The Chronicles of St. Mary’s

by dichroic in books

I’ve been enjoying rereading The Chronicles of St. Mary’s series, by Jodi Taylor; these are time travel stories, excuse me, descriptions of investigating history in contemporary time. They are “kitchen sink” books; there’s humor of both the slapstick and more subtle variety, suspense, romance, fantasy, you name it, in a quasi-academic setting that allows for a strong team relationship among the major characters – “we are St. Mary’s, and we never leave our people behind.” At least, not forever.

The author’s approach is definitely, “What can I do to hurt these characters this time?”, especially the MC, Dr. Madeleine Maxwell (Max) – she wrings them out and leaves them to dry, though each book tends to have a happy ending. Her historic research is impeccable, as far as I can tell, so you get to visit everyone from Mary Queen of Scots to the Trojan Horse along with Max.

Flaws: I thought the writing in the first book was a little clunky but that has smoothed out – except that Taylor is not very good at showing time passing. Max is apt to think something about having been at St Mary’s for years, and the reader is left thinking “wait, when did that happen?”. Also, every once in a while a dire situation is saved by something that skirts a little close to dea ex machina – though at least this particular dea is set up in context.

Here’s the full list of titles. The 7th book in the series, Lies, Damned Lies and History is due out in May. (May is going to be a really good month for me, in terms of book releases!)

Also, if you like this series, Neve Maslakovic’s Incident Series, starting with The Far Time Incident, is similar in many ways. It’s less funny and the MC is much less of an expert on history than Max as well as more conventional, but she has her own Minnesota charm..

thyroid stuff

by dichroic in daily updates

It has been too long since I wrote here, so there may be a few rapid updates. Interesting – my memory seems to have gotten better lately. I think my thyroid levels must be up. When I first went on thyroid meds, the pharmacist told me I should take them first thing in the morning, because it was important to take them on an empty stomach. Problems were, I don’t like taking pills first thing in the morning (though at least these are tiny) and I have a hell of a time remembering to. At my last physical, my thyroid levels were better but still on the low side, so my doctor was going to up the dosage until I pointed out that I was missing a pill every 3-4 days. (I think she was shocked that I hadn’t talked to her about it sooner – but how would I have known she could do something more useful than just saying “Well, try to do better”?) Anyway, she said it was OK to take the pill at bedtime as long as I hadn’t eaten for half an hour. I haven’t been rigorous about the half hour thing – I do tend to snack a lot – but I haven’t missed a pill since then.

I need to go in and get my levels checked again, since it’s been about 6 weeks, but I think it’s working. There’s the memory thing – and I’d swear my eyelashes are longer, oddly enough. (Though I do think my hair got a bit thicker during my initial year on thyroxin, even with the missed doses, so this may not be new.)

mostly about books, just one thing to get out of the way first

by dichroic in books, politics

On a quick political note: the reason I do not believe Bernie Sanders can win the Democratic nomination, no matter how many more states he wins, is that the vote is quite literally rigged. At the moment, Clinton has won 745 delegates to Sanders’ 540 – so she has a lead, but not an insurmountable one. However, if you add in the superdelegates pledged to her, her lead widens to 1221 to 541. 2382 delegates are needed to win, of a total of 4763, so I suppose he still could beat her, but it’s a steep uphill climb. I do not know if any of the pledged superdelegates could change their minds – I don’t know either whether that’s allowed to happen, or how often it does. This isn’t meant as an indictment of either candidate; I’d be fine with either as President. (Not looking forward to hearing the vitriol conservatives will spew if Hillary Clinton wins, but that’s not her fault.) But I do not like this two party system.

Onto more important topics, because politicians

After reading A Quartet in Autumn, I have concluded that Barbara Pym is not for me. I’ve always been under the impressions that she wouldn’t be, but D.E. Stevenson and Angela Thirkell, whom I like a lot, are always being compared to her (with the clear implication that Pym is the standard to whom others are compared). But it turns out that what I like in Stevenson and Thirkell (henceforth DES and AT to save typing) is precisely what I don’t like in Pym. They all write quiet, observant, very English (or Scottish) sorts of books, but DES and AT are quiet, wholesome and hopeful. They can see the world is changing, but the changes aren’t all bad by a long shot, and at least some of the characters in each book really like and understand each other. (There aren’t many books with an older couple as happily suited as Jock and Mamie in DES’s Music in the Hills and Shoulder the Sky – all the young people hope to be like them. Though when I say “older” – Jock is a year older than I am and Mamie nearly a decade younger. But anyway.) In DES’s stories, people either have roots, or set them down during the story. In AT’s, people either have roots or don’t much seem to need them because they’re moving and growing too fast to want any just yet. In contrast, Pym’s is the quiet of hopeless decay – everything is changing too fast, everyone has such shallow roots they’re likely to fall over at any time, no one understands each other well enough to be a true support – or would want to.

At least reading Pym was just sad. It wasn’t nearly as bad as the time I read one or two of E.F. Benson’s Mapp and Lucia books because she gets compared to Gaskell’s Cranton and to Jane Austen. Mapp and Lucia left a nasty taste in my mouth – a thing no one does in Cranton and that the nicer characters are generally trying to escape in Austen.

I’ve also juse been reading R.L. Naquin’s Unfinished Muse and Unamused Muse, a completely different kind of thing. They are light fantasy; they’ve got a similar basic idea to Riordan’s Percy Jackson books (that is, centered on modern children of the Greek gods) but handled in a completely different way. The heroine, who’s never kept a job long, ends up working at My. Olympus Employment Agency and hijinks ensue. They are fluff, but fun fluff, and they have a gratifying way of avoiding the gender sterotyping that fantasy aimed at women too often falls into. (I was scarred years ago by one book whose heroine fell into a fantasy world, became a goddess, and kept whining about how she needed some “girlfriends”.) This one has friends of both sexes, and she’s trying to get her own head straight before falling into a romance. I also appreciate that, while she is straight, it’s made clear that that isn’t a just of course only possible way to be. When a woman hits on her, she notices, doesn’t freak out, and just says “sorry, no thank you” politely. (Not a spoiler: that’s just a tiny occurrence, not a plot point.)

Tomorrow is my birthday and then we are off for a 3-day weekend. Yay!!