by dichroic in daily updates

I just learned that Worldcon 2015 is in Spokane. I was thinking it might be fun to go, maybe take the train there. But first, who else out there is planning to go? It would definitely be more fun if I know more people.

I realize everyone’s got friends they meet up with at cons and don’t plan to hang around anyone’s neck like a millstone! But it’s at least nice to be able to say hi or have the occasional meal / conversation with others.

So far, I know one coworker is going. Said coworker has also made the sensible suggestion that I volunteer at Orycon, in order to make more connections, and has floated the fascinating idea of proposing a panel, related to my book, to talk about standard processes as they relate to organizing cons.

new sweater!

by dichroic in knitting

I always know it’s going to be a good day at work when I get to wear something I’ve made for the first time. No matter what happens at work, I have proof of my competence, right there on my back – “Well, you may have worked at this company for twenty years and know everything about it, but I made some of my clothes!”

I feel particularly clever in this case, because I wanted this sweater to be slightly loose and long and now, after blocking, it is. (Before blocking it fit well but clung more closely.) This one is pretty perfect, though. The pattern is called Organic:

(I really need to set up a better way to take full-body selfies.)

I’ve had the opposite happen a few times, where something fit well and then sort of wilted and went limp. The best example is my Banff – it’s supposed to be oversized, but not quite that oversized:



by dichroic in musing

Forgive me if this is long-winded and driveling; something just hit me but I’m not sure I’ll be able to explain it.

When I was a teenager in the 1980s, I was friends with some neighbors whose kids I babysat – still am friends, at least in a vague Facebook-and-holiday-card way. Obviously they were older, 30ish or so when I was sixteen. His parents were Holocaust survivors; I’ve seen their tattoos. My husband still has both grandfathers, lucky man; one was a conscientious objector in WWII, and the other was a bona-fide hero in the Pacific war, Purple Heart and everything. So the thing is, I’m old enough to know people who showed extraordinary valor in that war, but they are / were old enough that we don’t just sit around and swap stories. (My husband’s grandfathers have been willing to share more of their stories in recent years, but they do feel like history.) As a young engineer, I did work directly with people who made history as part of the Apollo program, but I don’t think that’s a common experience.

Dorothy GIlman is famous for her Mrs. Pollifax mysteries, but I’ve just been reading one of her older books, The Clarivoyant Countess. It’s a series of short stories about a clairvoyant in the 1970s; in it, people discuss psychic powers, reincarnation, and a lot of the other arcane stuff in fashion then. (Some of the conversation in the stories has the feel of the dinner parties Madeleine L’Engle describes in her nonfiction, so I believe they fit with the zeitgeist.) The story that hit me hard has a minor character who went through the concentration camps and saved his wife from them by a brilliant ploy.

And it sort of hit me: yes, the fifties were mostly a time of nesting and reaction, but the young (and older) people trying to change the world in the late ’60s and early ’70s had an intimate knowledge people who had done exactly that – changed the world and won out over evil through heroism, courage, and determination. They knew them as well as my younger coworkers might know me – I’m not old yet and I have clear memories of the ’80s. No wonder they believed in their own abilities to measure up and change the world again. If their parents could do it, why not then?

And the WWII generation had at least a head start; I don’t know that I could say that people who lived through WWI changed the world exactly but they had it change around them, dealt with it and survived.

Now, when we see a need for change as in Ferguson, those examples are farther back in history from us. The amazing leadership and perseverance of the Montgomery bus boycott, the lunch-counter sit-ins, the feminist changes that meant I could major in engineering and get jobs with no real resistance are all forty to fifty years in our past now. They don’t feel like yesterday to the middle-aged, let alone to the young.

On the other hand, we know through direct memory that we can survive massive change around us – just look at the Internet. The WWW has only been around since about ’92. We know that with a concerted effort we can make real change happen now – look how many US states allow same-sex marriage, illegal in all fifty states within the lifetimes of people who aren’t old enough to drive. it might be harder for us – especially our youngest – to believe we can change the world when we don’t have so many obvious heroes among us, because it’s harder to see history made when you’re inside it. It’s hard to have a historical perspective on current events, but I think if we can take that step back to be objective, there are plenty of examples to build those hopes on.

Does that even make sense?

Penderwicks news, muse on vacation

by dichroic in books, daily updates

Nice way to start a week – apparently the fourth Penderwicks book, The Penderwicks in Spring, is due out next March.

Also, this, drafted on the lake last Saturday:

Puddles fade behind us
and a distant mountain rises
to overtop the tall tree
on which I center our stern
as we row the lake’s length.

I say “we” –
my boat possesses her own soul.
Like a lover,
All my work is to be worthy of her.

Maybe it’s because work has been busy and challenging lately; it feels like my well of poetry used to overflow, brimming with lines I could pull out at will, and now ia torpid, brackish puddle, more a remnant than a living thing. It’s not painful or terribly depressing; I have mental challenges and have even been making things. (I’m having a knitting pattern published in the book that will accompany next February’s Portland Yarn Crawl.) It just feels odd, as if something that used to be there isn’t. Maybe I just needmore time when I’m not really doing anything, like working or reading – these days I listen to audiobooks on the erg, so I don’t create poems as I did when I rowed on a lake several times a week. I did get out rowing on Saturday and kayaking Sunday, which is where the above poem grew). Maybe I need to be having more new experiences – I certainly wrote a lot both in junior high and when I was in Taiwan (though I also found work/school boring in the latter places). I don’t know.

“you are not free to desist from the work”

by dichroic in daily updates

A woman named Sharon Ann Burnston wrote this on Ravelry (reposted with permission) and I loved it so much I wanted to save it here. Tis is really the first thing I’ve ever read that makes the Judeo-Christian concept of a Messiah make sense to me, as anything more than idle wish fulfillment.

When I was a child, the idea appealed to me of a Moshiach who would show up some day and reward us for good behavior.

As I got older, that made less and less sense.

I have come to believe that when we have improved the world enough that we are ready for Moshiach, we will have created our own Paradise on earth, where all people are fed, clothed, educated, healthy, and living in peace. The Moshiach, if there is such an actual person, will be whoever is the leader of this initiative at that time.

Or maybe there is no personified Moshiach, just a Messianic Age, which we can create by our own efforts.

So, we will bring Moshiach, not by earning this, like good little children who get a reward for good behavior, but like adults who create a good situation by working for it, and then get to enjoy the benefits of it.

To paraphrase the words of the immortal Pogo, “We have met the Messiah, and he is us.”

To me, the Temple is irrelevant. And possibly a dangerous distraction from the tasks at hand. When we have earned that Messianic Age, then maybe it’ll be time then to think about that…

(It was in response to someone else’s question, “Would you want the Temple in Jerusalem to be rebuilt? Why or why not?” and I’d pointed out that in Jewish belief that only happens with the coming of the Messiah.)

one last gift

by dichroic in books

Well, that was a lovely surprise. I was poking around Amazon the other day,(yes, I still shop there, no I don’t care to discuss it) wondering if Diana Wynne Jones had written anything I hadn’t heard about …. and I found a new book. Apparently, when she died she left behind the uncompleted manuscript for The Islands of Chaldea, and her sister Ursula Jones (also a writer)has finished it. She’s done a gorgeous job; it sounds like Diana didn’t take notes and did write stories more or less in order, so that Ursula had to figure out how to finish the plot, but I can’t tell where one author leaves off and the other begins. This isn’t the best book the older sister ever wrote (the competetition is stiff for that), but it belongs among her good ones, I think.

The Islands of Chaldea: Amazon | Powell’s

the dead were *not* someone else’s friends, this time

by dichroic in daily updates

Somehow, the story about the Malaysian airplane that was shot down became a lot more real to me when I learned that it was flying out of Amsterdam and that more than half of the passengers were Dutch. It turns out to be even closer than that: one of Ted’s colleagues, someone he liked, invited to our going-away party in the Netherlands, and was hoping to have visit us here, was on Malaysian Airlines flight MH317 with his wife and 2 kids, on their way to vacation in Malaysia.

Ted heard they were on the flight yesterday (they found out while he was in a meeting with someone who reported to that guy) but didn’t have it confirmed until this morning. I was thinking about it yesterday and realized it didn’t even matter: whether it was someone I or my spouse knew or not, any direct flight from A’dam to Malaysia in July is by definition going to have lots of families on it, heading off to vacation.

What kept resounding in my brain were the poems in this Making Light comment thread, and their refrain: “At least I know that all my friends are fine — (The dead are someone else’s friends, not mine.)” Well, they’re my friends after all, or at least my husband’s friends. ANd maybe that doesn’t matter – no matter who they worked with, parents and children were shot down on that flight, as they headed off happily on vacation.

On an emotional level, that bothers me even more than the significant number of AIDS researchers on the plane (they were all heading to a conference in Melbourne), though I think the loss of the researchers may be an even greater blow to more people.

I feel a tiny bit better hearing now that it was likely a mistake, and that shooters thought they were firing at a military plane – better even that, even if it’s almost the most horrible mistake you can imagine (second only to “Oops, my finger slipped onto that big red button”) than that people shot down those families on purpose.

our Fourth weekend

by dichroic in daily updates

Before I tell the story, good news: the last of the repair work is being done right now and the new washer is supposed to be delivered tomorrow. Fingers crossed, we might be done with the whole washer saga in another day! ETA Nope, should have known better. Now for some reason Best Buy says it’s supposed to be delivered on Saturday the 19th. I’m in the middle of a 15-minute wait to talk to someone there. Do they just pick random dates???????????

The relaxation is finally starting to wear off from our long weekend.

We spent July 4 weekend visiting Ted’s grandfather, who lives in a small town out in the Oregon high desert, just north of the California border. His parents were there too (we split cooking duties – we did dinners, they did breakfast and lunch). We took it easy on the drive down – 2.5 hours to the lake house, stayed there overnight, then drove the other 4 hours. While there, I did a bunch of cooking – five people, especially people who consider dessert a normal part of the meal, take a lot more cooking for than two people! But my spatchcocked chicken went over well, and so did the sugar-free grain-free pecan pie (mostly nuts and honey) and the cheesecake-stuffed strawberries. (I tried to make version for MIL that she could eat, but it didn’t work – the special 10-hour yogurt she makes was too runny – so I made a yogurt-honey dip for strawberries instead for her. Meh.) Otherwise it was easy stuff, like steaks and burgers and corn. (Another pro-tip discovered by MIL for those who can’t eat bread: if you pile two hamburgers together, you can put your condiments and toppings between them.)

We did a lot of stacking firewood, and Ted returned to his Oregon-boy roots by splitting all the remaining wood by hand with a maul on the second day. Grandfather-in-law has a splitter, but Ted claimed this was “more fun”. I tried it, but the maul is too big and havy for me, which I conclusively proved by having it bounce off the log I was trying to split. My wrists were really bothering me that day, so I was sort of afraid to really swing it and tweak them further. (My wrists have tendonitis or something normally anyway, but now I have what the doctor has just confirmed is a ganglion cyst on the back of one wrist. Ted managed to roll off me and onto it the night before that, causing extreme pain and the cyst to deflate, though it has since come back.)

Other than that, the time was mostly spend hanging out, talking, and looking at GFIL’s collections of guns and chainsaws (he makes and repairs the former and uses the latter to cut down all that wood we stacked). One thing people never discuss about guns is that, from an engineering point of view, they are beautiful machines, with complex moving parts that fit together perfectly and every curve precision-engineered for a purpose. I asked about pistols for target-shooting and was treated to a tour through the handgun collection of some friends of his – fairly mind-blowing. (Potentially literally, because unlike GFIL, they store all of theirs loaded. I still haven’t figured out why that could ever be a good idea.) There were also well-engineered tools of a totally different type – he gave me a set of interchangeable knitting needles that had been Grandmother-in-law’s. (I think they’re an old Boye set. Nice joins, and they go all the wasy from size 2 to size 15, but the cables are pretty stiff. I value them though – I already have sets of interchangeables from Hiya Hiya, Webs, Addi and Denise, but I bought all of those in a store. Not the same as an inherited set.)

We got some great stories from GFIL of growing up herding sheep, fighting in the Philippines in WWII, and his time running a wildlife refuge. We also got to meet his new protegee, a very nice but woman our age, who is dumb as a whole quarry of rocks, who has pretty thoroughly screwed up her life but now has done her time and is trying to turn it around. There are different kinds of stupidity. The one I refer to here is that we kept having to explain relatively simple words and concepts to her, and after I’d mentioned that I was Jewish I heard her asking the in-laws, “that’s pretty much the same as Italian, right?” The screwing up of her life has nothing to do with either that or malice, just with a of lack of foresight and understanding of consequences that led to some very bad decisions that could have turned out all right – but didn’t. She works hard, and the GFIL is helping her with such concepts as getting to work on time. He’s got enough sense of self-preservation that I’m convinced he won’t be taken advantage of.

And we got to see fireworks – we never did figure out why they started much later than expected, but they were really good once they did. We sat across a field from the fairgrounds where they were let off and had a great view without being stuck in the crowds afterward.

Then we drove home by a different route; it was kind of fascinating to watch the landscape change. It’s all pine trees and mountains as you drive across the state, but there are the nearly olive-colored pines set far apart beneath bare mountains of the high desert, the snowy peaks of the Cascades, the jungly emerald overgrown pine forests near Eugene, and the pure green pine forests with undergrowth but without that layer of vines and mosses growing on all surfaces.

So basically, how we spent our holiday: lots of driving, lots of stories, lots of splitting and stacking wood, cooking a steak dinner for a convicted felon, handling guns, discussing the pros and cons of different chainsaws, and looking at fireworks, pine trees and mountaints. I can tell it was a good vacation because the relaxation took entire days to wear off.


by dichroic in daily updates

On the story of the three murdered Israeli teenagers and the murdered Palestinian boy: Just when I want to avert my eyes from the whole situation and say that we’re kindred in nothing but name (bonus Stan Rogers / Irish Troubles reference) comes a story like this one, about people snatching hopes for peach from the jaws of war and tragedy: Families of slain Israeli and Palestinian teens comfort each other. People read stories in the news and talk about God producing miracles; in my view, that’s just lazy thought and trusting to luck instead of building your own miracles. If God is in that situation at all, it’s as the spark of Light within those people.

On the ever-expanding washer saga, we still don’t have a date for repairs to begin, but now we have a date for the washer to be delivered – today. Yes, it would be smarter to have the new one put in after repairs are made, which is precisely why I rescheduled it for July 19 when they first told me (on July 4, surprisingly) that it would be today. Apparently that somehow never got into their system. So now we’ll have to have it installed (so we can do laundry) then removed to put in the new flooring and reinstalled. More chances for error and further damage.

I’m keeping a full timeline here; it is getting very long.

our boys

by dichroic in musing

Oddly, what brought me to tears over Eyal, Gilad and Naftali, the three kidnapped Israeli boys, is from another religious tradition already. John Gorka based his “Let Them in, Peter” on a poem found in a Philippine hospital during WWII:

Let them in, Peter
They are very tired
Give them couches where the angels sleep
And light those fires

Let them wake whole again
To brand new dawns
Fired by the sun not wartime’s
Bloody guns

May their peace be deep
Remember where the broken bodies lie
God knows how young they were
To have to die
God knows how young they were
To have to die

So give them things they like
Let them make some noise
Give dance hall bands not golden harps
To these our boys

And let them love, Peter
For they’ve had no time
They should have trees and bird songs
And hills to climb

The taste of summer in a ripened pear
And girls sweet as meadow wind
With flowing hair

And tell them how they are missed
But say not to fear
It’s gonna be alright
With us down here

Let them in, Peter
Let them in, Peter
Let them in, Peter

And hoping I don’t have to call to mind the words Tommy Sands wrote about yet another war: “another eye for another eye / ’til everyone is blind”. (My brain’s other native language is song lyrics, apparently, and it retreats there in times of emotion – witness the singing of Sunrise, Sunset at my Dad’s funeral. One advantage of a blog is being able to speak in them.)