rougher than expected

by dichroic in daily updates, rowing

Well, this weekend ended up a bit more exciting than expected. We went down to the lake house and, having felt a bit sleep deprived since returning from Hawaii the previous weekend, slept in until 8 or so. Just as we were finally getting up, we noticed a metallic sound. We’d been wondering a bit about the roof there; during heavy rain, there’s been a plonking noise, like rain falling onto a tin roof, but it just seemed to be into the fireplace. This time, it seemed to be to the left of the bed – right where there was a bulging biut of paint that we’d poked at a while back, but that just seemed to be a loose flake. Then Ted noticed a drip onto the bed, right next to me. This is where I should mention that the ceiling in that room is about 18-20 feet high. So first we got to go out in the rain and figure out how to get the Really Big Ladder into our bedroom (answer: through the front door, up the stairs, out onto the back deck, then back into the bedroom’s door on the same deck). Then we got it set up, he sawed a hole through the ceiling drywall and pulled out some insulation, and was able to see a bit of daylight. Then we got the ladder back out of the bedroom and onto the deck so he could get up onto the roof – by then it had stopped raining and he found the crack. (He gets nominated to do all the high-up stuff by virtue of being nearly a foot taller. That roof is particularly scary, because that extra-tall bedroom and matching living room are on the second floor, so the roof is really 3 stories up.) It turns out that the roof vents there are plastic. That one had been screwed down too tightly, and a crack propagated until it was no longer covered by a roof shingle. He checked further and found a similar crack in another vent. He managed to fix them well (caulking and duct tape)enough to hold for a long time, but we’ll eventually need to replace the vents.

And then after all that we got to go out rowing, where I managed 13.3 km of the 15 I was supposed to do on the erg. It started out smooth but was getting rougher and since that was the longest distance I’ve done in a bost in years, my hands needed a break. Sunday morning, I was glad I’d planned to go out in the kayak, because even in that it was rougher than I’d really like – I did another 6km or so, then did a short interval piece on the erg to make up a bit more distance. Ow. We decided to stay a bit later than usual and it eventually calmed down, so Ted got to go out rowing – he doesn’t seem to like kayaking as much as I do. Also, I’m convinced that 1km in a kayak takes more energy than the same distance rowing since it’s less efficient, but he thinks it doesn’t count as exercise because your heart rate doesn’t get up as high. Whatever.

I do realize a leaky roof in your second home may be the ultimate first-world problem.

Then there are problems that are universal. Sadly, today I found out that one of our old rowing friends from our Texas days has just died of cancer. At least he was an older man – I think he was retired when we knew him there and we left there in late ’95. He was a crusty old guy, VP of our rowing club; that was where I learned that an organization can work really well if you have a second-in-command who doesn’t mind riling people up to get work done together with a chief who’s good at smoothing feathers.

We ran into him a few times after that when he was refereeing at various regattas; he’d never have been unfair in any way but it was always a good feeling to meet up with a friendly ref. I think our politics were diametrically opposed, since he was active in the local Republican party, but what we talked about was rowing and that was what mattered. Smooth water and clean catches, Tom.

in the air again

by dichroic in knitting, travel

I’ve been quiet because we were on vacation; I really need to write up a blog entry on our trip to Hawaii, but the short version is that it was wonderful. I’m not really a tropics person normally, but I loved Hawaii. I find laying out on a beach inordinately boring, but there was lots to do: playing in the waves, drinking Mai Tais, trying out a stand-up paddleboard, kayaking in the surf, visiting Pearl Harbor and Volcanoes National Park, snorkeling. One of the pleasant surprises was to find that Hawaiian culture isn’t only alive, it’s everywhere. I hadn’t realized how many of the people in Hawaii are at least partly Hawaiian (I suspect the Hawaiians’ willingness to integrate immigrants into their culture and their families helped ensure that their genes survived even though they had the same massive and tragic death rate that you’d expect once the Westerners brought their smallpox and other germs in). The majority of people we saw or talked to had Hawaiian features; many had Hawaiian names and used Hawaiian words. (Of course, some of that is that everyone in the tourist industry says Aloha and Mahalo.) We were told that lots of people speak the language fluently, though I’m not sure if many speak it as a native language rather than a second one. On the other hand, there’s enough Asian influence that Oahu had a bunch of little reminders of Taiwan for us, including the smell of tuberoses.

It was good to be traveling again! It’s felt like we got back to Oregon, after our years of traveling all over the world, and have just been sitting here not going anywhere. This was our first trip that wasn’t to visit family, aside from a couple of work trips. I do have a bit more travel to look foward to, at least: a surprise work trip to Toledo in a couple of weeks and then one to New Orleans in November to get together with Ted’s college friends. The former should be OK (except that flight times from OR to OH are always awkward – I can either wake up at 4AM or arrive after 11PM, so I chose the late arrival); the latter trip will be fun.

Also, on the Hawaii trip I got through the whole lace part of the shawl I’m making my SIL for Christmas. I also got a sock started, for times I needed something that required less attention, but I’ve only done a few inches of that. It makes me a bit twitchy to have two many knitting projects going, but I think the shawl will take only a few more days. The sweater I was working on was too big to travel with, since I was packing light, but has a body and half of once sleeve done, so I’m hoping to get that done while we’re in fall weather rather than winter. I’ve got a quick vest-ish thing I also want to do in fall, but it’s bulky yarn and should be quick; if I’m done in time I’m considering a pair of slippers for my nephew. Or maybe a bigger pair for Ted.

some thoughts about time off

by dichroic in daily updates

I just read that the Jewish year 5775 is the year of the Shemittah, the Sabbatical year when all loans are forgiven and people were supposed to desist from all field work. Think about that – that means that in a time when most people worked in agriculture, everyone had a year off. Or maybe it doesn’t; all tasks relating to animal care still had to be done, so if farmers specialized into raising crops or animal husbandry maybe only some people got the year off. Still, I suppose that meant there were more people to help with the animal care, and the animals themselves didn’t have to do plowing and such. I suspect it wasn’t as much fun as it sounded, anyway, since you’d be stuck eating only fruit, volunteer plants and grain stored from previous years.

Still, if you ignore the practicalities and just think about the base idea, it’s a beautiful one. Not only does everyone get at least one day off per week (in The Gifts of the Jews, Thomas Cahill makes the point that we invented the weekend!) but everyone gets a significant amount of time off every seven years. There’s something particularly humane about that. I don’t think it’s entirely practical to let everyone take off at the same time (though Germany and France do seem to survive July and August every year), but we could stagger the sabbaticals.

Intel’s been giving its workers 6 weeks off every seven years for as long as I can remember, and of course colleges do it for tenured professors. I took mine in the first half of 2013; I took the time off of my normal routine work and did something different. I wrote a book. Richard Feynman used to go explore different fields of science during his sabbatical years. What could you do if you had significant time off from your primary job? I know most people can’t afford to do it; my question is, why the hell not? THere have already been writeups about the benefits of guaranteed income, claiming that giving everyone a basic low salary is cheaper than dealing with the consequences of people not having enough to live on. What if instead we used that money to just give people a break?

an unexpected poem happened by

by dichroic in poetry

This comes from a bunch of things. Elizabeth Goudge sent me to Rupert Brooke (and wow – I’d never seen that sonnet before. What a wallop it has!) which of course made me think of the end of his life, which got me curious enough to look up his American contemporary (born just 3 years later) Christopher Morley. I’m sure the war must have affected Morley somehow, but you can’t see it in a brief biography, and it just seemed so odd to be so apparently untouched by an event that ravaged half the world. Add to that Ken Burns’ documentary on the Roosevelts, which seemed to have a lot of uncanny modern echoes (great show – it’s the first time I can remember when everyone at work is talking about a TV documentary) and this percolated through.

The Unlearned Lessons of 1914-1818

what was it like when the storm unfurled
for those whose raft lolled in calmer waters?
Across the ocean, rip currents swirled
swamping and drowning the sons and daughters
of cousins and uncles left behind
by those who fled to a newer world.

What was it like in ’17,
when the currents threatened the other side,
when the winds of war blew cutting and keen
calling a new tithe to sail a tide
flowing back to wash the wounded land
with wrack-strewn waters, incarnadine?

And what are we like as we doze, lulled to sleep
by the news of atrocities far away
denying the tides that rise and seep
and undermine the lands we say
(we echoing fools!) will keep us safe
….meanwhile, the waters are growing deep.

self-sabotage

by dichroic in daily updates

The litter box bit me! Then I made it worse myself.

At some point on Saturday I got a splinter from walking out on the wooden balcony barefoot. (In the lake house, we have real wood floors. They’re slippery enough that it’s fun to slide on them in socks – unfortunately there are enough rough edges that this sometimes results in splinters so I try to remember to wear slippers there. THe back deck, though, is made of cement “lumber” so no splinters. In our main Hilsboro house, the indoors is laminate so splinters are never an issue – but the small back deck is stained wood.) Anyway, I eventually got the splinter out of my foot, but apparently it imprinted in my brain. On Saturday night while I was cleaning the litterbox, I found that there was a split in the plastic, right where I always lean while scooping. That is, I “found” the split when a small fold of skin on my palm got caught in it. Afterward there was a small painful red bump on my palm.

Then somewhere in a semi-dreaming state that night, I thought I had a splinter in my palm. I was picking at it with my fingernails trying to pull out the imaginary splinter – I’m just not sure if I was really doing that or dreaming I was going it. Sabotaging yourself in your sleep is not a good idea!

That spot on my palm hurts. However, it’s going to be a good week, regardless – I get to work a short week, then it’s off on our first real vacation since coming back to the US at the end of 2012 (aside from a long weekend in Seattle).

Three fitness trackers (compared in great detail)

by dichroic in daily updates, rowing

Last Christmas, my big gift from Ted was a Fitbit Force. I liked it a lot; it fit my small-boned wrists reasonably well, was water-proof enough to wear while rowing, and displayed time of day, steps taken, distance covered, calories burned and flights of stairs climbed. It also could sync with my phone to show quality of sleep. I did have a few complaints, though; the biggest was that the sporty look didn’t go well with business or dressy clothing, but I still want to know how far I walk when I’m dressed up. Also, the short (8″ or less) USB charging cord was annoying, since I tend to charge USB devices from a plug adapter rather than from my computer, and it read erratically on the erg, sometimes giving me credit for as much as a thousand strokes for a 10 km workout and sometimes much less. It was a useful tool, though – but then they recalled it, because it caused skin irritation in some people. That wasn’t an issue for me, but shortly after the recall I lost the charging cord – and couldn’t order a replacement because it’s not a standard charger and the product was off the market. Once I gave up on finding the charger, I returned the Force to Fitbit as part of the recall (supposedly, they’ll send me a check someday – it’s been a few weeks).

I then waited a while for the announcement of the Apple Watch, but once it was announced that it wouldn’t be available until next year, I decided to order both a Fitbit One and a Misfit Shine to see which I like better. Incidentally, I found that I did really walk less in thos months without a fitness tracker, because I didn’t get “credit” for extra steps. For example, I’d wait until my next trip upstairs to put something away instead of just doing it right away. In theory, you get the real “credit” for increased activity in improved fitness levels, but apparently getting points or steps in a report I can see is more motivating for me. (Possibly someone needs to invent a fitness tracker that hands out gold star stickers.)

I’ve been wearing both the One and the Shine for about a week now, so it’s time to write a comparison. The cost of the two is similar; both are under $100 (I bought both for around $85-$89 at Amazon, but the price of the One seems to have gone up to around $99 there – it seems to vary a lot.

For form factor, the Shine is way better. It comes with both a clip and a wristband. They both feel a bit fragile, but seem to be holding up so far (necklaces and sturdier watchbands are available). The Shine is so flat and unobtrusive it’s easy to clip anywhere. Some women have said they clip the Fibit One to a bra strap but if I do that I get an unsightly lump. The Shine doesn’t show at all. Still, I like having it out where I can check the display. Places I’ve worn it so far include my wrist, my belt loop, my shirt collar, my badge lanyard, and even to my hair (while sleeping – on top of my head so I wouldn’t lay on it. The Shine’s wristband is sturdy enough that I often clip the Fitbit One to it as well, while rowing or sleeping – as noted, it feels fragile, but hasn’t broken yet. Without its clip on, The Fitbit One’s jellybean shape is so slippery and streamlined that it would be easy to just keep in a pocket – but much of my clothing doesn’t have pockets. (I suppose I could keep it in my bra without it showing – but as mentioned above, I like it out where I can check the display.) Also, without its clip on, the Fitbit seems like it would be easy to lose. Even with the clip, I’ve lost it once already. I had the One clipped to my pocket, with the clip on the outside and the One itself sitting in the pocket; when I came back from picking up lunch and a couple other walking errands, it was missing. I’d pulled my phone out of that pocket to make a call at one point, so I went back to where I’d made that call, and sure enough the One was still there on the pavement. (It was at a stop light that gets a fair bit of pedestrian traffic, so I was lucky – apparently it’s also unobtrusive enough not to attract others’ attention.)

The Fitbit One gives a lot more information on its display: time, steps, calories burned, flights of stairs, and distance traveled. THere’s also a flower that grows to show the amount of recent activity, and occasional random affirmations. (I can’t say I find having my fitness tracker giving me attagirls to be all that affiriming.) The Shine is a lot more minimal; lights around the bezel show how many points you’ve achieved toward the daily goal and then the time (you can change it to show time first, instead). The points seem to award one for about every 10 steps, so if your daily goal is 1000 steps, you’re shooting for 100 points. There are 12 lights around the bezel, so you’re not getting exact steps unless you feel like doing mental math, but for me at least, it’s enough to know if I’m halfway there, barely getting started, almost done or whatever. The time display is a bit odd, because it’s showing an analog clock on a digital display. Thus, if the time is 5:50, first it shows orientation dots at 12, 3, 6, and 9 to demonstrate the clock face (12 is slightly brighter so you know which way is up), then there’s a bright light at the 5:00 position and a flashing light at 11:00 to show minutes. This is different from a normal analog clock, which would show 5:50 with the hour hand at 6, not 5, and the minute hand at 11, so it takes a little getting used to. (It might be even more confusing in countries where 5:30 is described as “half six”.) The Fitbit One display is also easier to access – just push a button to bring up the display and cycle through the various readouts. A nice feature is that it always brings up whatver you displayed last, so if you always want to see steps or time first, it’s right there (my memory says the Fitbit Foroce always started with time, but I could be wrong). WIth the Shine, you have to double-tap it to get the display,a nd it usually takes me a couple tries. You also have to wait if you want to see the full information; if you have points set to display first and you want to see the time, you have to wait to see the points for a couple seconds, then the orientation dots, the hour dot, and finally the minute dot. That display stays up for a couple of second and then goes away.

Accuracy: the step count is usually pretty close on the two devices for me, but the Shine is WAY better at tracking exercises like rowing or cycling. You’re supposed to have to triple-tap it to tell it to begin counting cycling (or a few other activities) but it sometimes works for me without a triple tap and it does consistently count “steps” while I row. The Force was erratic in how it counted rowing; the One counts steps but not very many. However, the Fitbit app will let me log an activity later, which then counts toward the day’s calories (not steps). The Shine app doesn’t have that capability, though if it logs an activity as swimming, for example, when it should be cycling, you can change that in the app. On the other hand, the Fitbit system tells you how many stairs you’ve climbed, while the Misfit doesn’t.

The sleep tracker seems to be pretty close, as far as telling me how much restful sleep I’ve gotten. I’m not completely convinced in either case, because while they both can tell reliably if I’m awake or asleep, I can feel like I’ve gotten a great night’s sleep only to be told I was “restless” for most of the night. I think they’re implying that REM sleep isn’t restful, but it is a necessary part of sleep. The Shine can figure out on its own when I’m sleeping; the Fitbit Force and One both need to be told (by holding the button) when I go to bed. Both apps allow you to enter or correct your sleeping and waking times manually (after which it will tell you how restless you were between those times).

The apps are fairly comparable; the Fitbit (both Force and One) will sync from a little further away, maybe 10′ from the smartphone. All of the Misfit information says you have to lay the device on the phone screen and tap to sync, but they must have made unannounced improvements; it will sync any time the app is open and the device is within a couple feet. Both apps show a chart of activity for both waking and sleeping periods; the SHine’s Misfit app is easier to read to see what you did when (though you can tap the Fitbit graphs to see them bigger). I wish the Misfit app would let you select more different sports; so far they only list walking, running, cycling, tennis, basketball or soccer – of course I don’t expect it to sense if I’m rowing or kayaking or weighlifting, but it would be nice to be able to go in and tell it what I’ve done. Fitbit does have a wider range – but then again, it doesn’t seem to know that I’m exercising at all when I’m on a bike or erg and the Shine does.

Other features (most of which I don’t use): For those who want to track intake, the Fitbit app will let you add foods to track from a fairly wide menu, and will tell you how many calories you’ve consumed and how many you have left to go. The Misfit app takes a different approach: you use the phone to take a picture of your food to keep a video diary. This seems less accurate but also less troublesome, and might be good for someone like me who tends to snack througout the day. The Fitbit also lets you track how many glasses of water you’ve drunk (not a problem for me – ten years of living in the desert left me with a drinking (water) habit). Both apps let you track your weight and progress toward a weight target; at least you can set the target to whatever you want. Both apps let you connect to friends using the same app; I don’t do this because I just want to track how active I am – other people’s activity is their own business, though I know that for some people it helps to feel like they’re competing. The Fitbit One, like the Force and Flex, has silent vibrating alarms that will wake or notify you without alerting anyone else. The Misfit app has alarms but they’re just sounds played by the phone. It also has “sleep sounds”, allowing you to play different types of white noise to get to sleep (forest, waves, etc).

The Fitbit One information says it’s water-resistant; they tell you not to wear it while swimming, but it’s not clear if it’s OK to wear int he shower. The Misfit Shine is really waterproof, OK to wear in the pool.

Power: The Fitbit One is rechargeable, while the Shine runs on a battery. Normally I prefer rechargeable devices, but I’m not sure how I feel in this case; I always hated having to recharge my Force, because while that was happening it wasn’t tracking my steps! Like the Force, it has a special proprietary tracker, which is annoying. I’d prefer something like a micro-USB, to cut down on the number of chargers I need to carry. This charger also has an annoyingly short cable. The best compromise I’ve come up with is to charge it from my computer at work, at a time when I’m sitting still anyway. At least the One, like the Force before it, charges fast and only needs to be charged every week or so. I don’t know if the Shine will give me any warning when the battery is low; they claim you need to replace it every 4-6 months. One smart thing they did was to have it use a CR-2032 battery; that’s about the most common size among flat batteries and has been easy to find, pretty much anywhere I’ve been. (Just try looking for hearing-aid-size batteries in Asia, if you want a challenge sometime.) Because it’s commonly used, we tend to keep a spare on hand – but on the downside, it is an additional expense. Then again, losing that ridiculously short cable was the main reason I had to stop using my old Force in the first place!

I do think I’m more active when I wear a tracker. For one thing, I got *lots* more walking in the time I lost the Fitbit One and had to search for it! But they do remind me to take walks through the day, to stand up more, or to go put things away instead of trying to consrve trips.

I still tentatively plan to get an Apple Watch when it comes out next year. It looks like a watch, not sports equipment, unlike the Fitbit; it gives you full information on the screen, unlike the Shine. It’s waterproof. Unlike either, it uses a GPS (in your phone) for tracking distance and has built-in sensors to track heartrate. It has smartwatch functions as well as fitness functions – it shows texts, for instance. On the down side, it costs a whole lot more than the One and the Shine put together, and it’s not clear yet how functional it will be when separated from its phone (when on the water in a rowing shell or kayak, I don’t want to take a phone along but it would be nice to track my distance). But of the two toys high-tech pieces of fitness tracking equipment I have right now, I like the Shine a little better. The Fitbit might be nicer for someone who always has pockets and doesn’t tend to lose things, and whose main activity is walking or running, but for me the Shine works well. I wish it had a screen somewhere to show me all the information the Fitbits have, and silent vibrating alarms would be nice, but I love the flat shape and elegant design. It stays on better and there are more ways to wear it. It tells me the minimum I need to know, and the additional information I want is there in the phone app. I can imagine using it now and then even after the Apple Watch is released, because it can be worn unobtrusively at times when the Watch is too big and bulky (also, it still remains to be seen whether even the smaller version of the Apple Watch will fit on my small wrists). As well as form, the Shine functions better for me. since I rarely run (I tried the Couch to 5K program a few months ago, but my calves kept hurting) it matters a lot to me to have a tracker that registers the activities I do, whether cycling to work, rowing or erging.

Since I bought my trackers a week ago, Misfit has released a new device, the Flash. It’s similar to the Shine but is a bit thicker, and costs only $50. I think they’re trying to position it as a sportier look – it has a rubberized surface and comes in bright colors, whereas the Shine is slimmer, metallic, and comes in a wider range of colors – they’ve even added a few in the week since I bought mine. (I bought the black one since it was $10 cheaper at Amazon at the time; I wish I’d bought a different color, just so it would be easier to find when I inevitably lose it!)

If there’s anything I’ve left out that you want to know about any of the three fitness trackers I’ve mentioned, feel free to email me (dichroic@riseagain.net) or comment wherever this blog entry is published – on my own Dichroic Reflections site, DreamWidth or LiveJournal.

who needs real clothes?

by dichroic in clothing and style

It makes me happy that everything I’m wearing today from the ankles up is crypto-sportsgear: non-itchy wool tunic and tights from a women’s sports store online, underwear from a local sporting-goods place. (I guess Under Armour takes the “under” part of their name seriously. Also, the less-bombproof sports bras are a lot more comfortable than underwires for me.) On the one hand, you could say I overpaid for performance fabrics that aren’t really needed in an office, when all I really need are normal clothes. On the other hand, I was extremely comfortable biking in this morning (much more than if I’d worn trousers) and itchless wool is good under any circumstances. Also, I feel like I’m getting away with something, especially as my company’s new dress code, while very reasonable, says something about not allowing athletic clothing. (They just want us to look reasonably professional, and I do. That’s why I call it crypto-sportsgear.)

From the ankles down, I’m wearing socks knit by me and ankle boots that are comfortable enough to walk a couple miles in, so that’s also a win.

I have been wearing two fitness trackers for a few days now, and am almost ready to write up a review and comparison, but I will make that a separate post.

slightly less see-through

by dichroic in daily updates

I’ve been feeling a little better, more connected, since my “cellophane” post last week – maybe I just needed to vent. Certainly the responses to the post helped, so thank you to those who commented, on WordPress and DW and LJ. Also, work has been busier – I’ve had a bunch of local in-person meetings in addition to the usual telecons, and having more human contact definitely helps.

I’ve had slightly more time on actual water lately, too, which is probably good for my general well-being. On Labor Day weekend, we planted a dwarf Japanese maple, so we went back last week to water it, and we’ll be returning this week again. Two and a half hours is kind of a long haul, which is why we normally only go every other weekend. This will be the last time for a few weeks, though – next weekend is the airshow here, and then after that we’re going to Hawaii. THat will be good; I feel like after all those years of travel we got back to the US and then we just stayed put. Much as I love Portland, I’m looking forward to going somewhere else for a change. Anyway, we’ve hired a neighbor kid to water the tree a couple times a week so hopefully it will survive.

Meanwhile, all those trips to the house mean we get to row every weekend. Last weekend I actually didn’t go out on the water on Saturday due to the combination of rough water and some vertigo, but I pulled the erg outside and at least got to face the lake as I “rowed”. I did get to go out on Sunday, and also had a couple short outings in the kayak, chasing after Ted’s new radio-controlled model seaplane. Until he flew it into a tree where it lodged high up, turning it instantly into Ted’s former radio-controlled model seaplane. I must say I’m impressed at how cheerfully he took the loss.

The oddest thing about going to the lake two weekends in a row was that the season changed in between our two visits. When we went there Labor Day weekend, it was the end of summer, and then last weekend it was Fall, poof, just like that. The light was lower, the wind was higher and smelled of autumn, and the trees had actually begun to change color, just between the Monday we left and the Friday we returned. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it happen so suddenly.

I’ve started marathon training again too, because I felt like my endurance has been dropping. No guarantee I’ll finish out the whole six-month plan, but I’d like to get back up to doing half-marathons routinely on weekends. I’m up to the second 4-week cycle, and this Saturday I’m supposed to do 12 km, I think – I might need to do part of that on the water and finish it on land, if my hands aren’t callused enough for the full distance. (Ergs are easier on the hands – you don’t have to feather the oar, so you don’t get hand blisters.)

So yeah, doing a little better. I still need more socializing and more adventure in my life. I’m sure something

on goose poop and being Ms Cellophane

by dichroic in musing

I have two injuries from last weekend. The scrape on my elbow from picking up a kayak seems like a reasonable one to have, even if I did scrape my left elbow while picking up the boat on my right side. The other injury, though, is much more ridiculous: I had a blister and then ripped the skin off from sweeping goose poop off our dock. The first year, the geese avoided our dock; now they have found it. After two weeks away, it had a truly amazing amount of crap on it (“amazing amount of crap” is a phrase you never want to have to use when speaking literally). In case anyone cares, the best methodology for goose poop removal seems to be to start with a light sweeping (“light” being what I didn’t do and why I got the blister) to remove the dry stuff, followed by alternating buckets of water tossed with strategic aim and sweeping to get everything else off. Fortunately there’s enough of a current to carry it away once it’s washed or swept into the water, and I don’t feel guilty about sweeping it in since presumably geese poop there too.

WHINING AHEAD: YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED

I am feeling a bit invisible and isolated lately. Not so much online, really, but in meatspace. I’m grateful that I do still get responses here, considering how infrequently I post, and I do get a lot of interaction on Ravelry, my other main online space.

On the other hand, in physical space and even online areas based more on in-person acquaintanceship, things are different.

At work, I sit in an area with only a few other people. Most of my colleagues eat lunch at their desks; I miss the way my groups in Taiwan and the Netherlands would all go eat together. More more of my meetings are telecons than in-person, and I have somewhat fewer meetings and more solo work than in my last job. Lots of meetings get postponed, though always for valid reasons. I do get pretty good responsiveness to questions and requests.

Socially – there pretty much is no socially here. A lot of our social life both in Arizona and in the Netherlands was through rowing, but we don’t have any water close enough to make it practical to row during the week. We do have some rowing contacts at the lake house, but it’s not economically feasible to join their club when we only get out there every other week, or sometimes less (plus we use our own equipment and don’t need club boats). I take a longish lunch one day a week to go to my local knitting group, and that’s about it for social interaction. I try to go to work social events when they have them. I could do more knitting stuff – there are multiple knit nights a week around here – but it’s hard to drag myself back out of the house after I’ve gotten home and worked out, and the times I have gone were nice but not so great as to make me feel I’m missing a lot.

When we moved here, we did meet up once with an old friend of Ted’s but she’s way on the other side of town. I’ve tried to get together with a longtime acquaintance from the LordPeter list who lives very close by; she’s said she wants to but has pled illness for a year and a half. (No, I haven’t nagged. We emailed a couple times early on and then I checked back once recently.) If she wanted, she could invite me to come to her to to a neutral place close to her. I’d guess this is most likely an excuse but if not, then she’s clearly just not well enough to have new people in her life.

I’ve kind of run short on people to just call and talk to. I used to talk to my uncle and grandmother fairly regularly, but we lost her in 1997 or so and him in 2009. (Dad died a few months ago, but never liked to talk on the phone anyway.) Mom is a bit unsatisfactory to talk to these days because she focuses only on what and who she sees daily and isn’t that interested in much else – to the point that she’ll refer to “them” and “he” with no warning and I’m just supposed to know the former is my brother and SIL and the latter my nephew (because why would anyone want to talk about anything else?). I don’t really care what she ate yesterday or if everyone at her new place thinks her grandson is cute. (Of course I do talk to her regularly and listen to her talk about these things anyway, because I need to support her. And I don’t want to give the wrong impression, having met a few too many people with horrible uncaring mothers. She does try – she called just yesterday to check back because I’d mentioned on Monday that Ted wasn’t feeling well. It’s just the way her mind works – out of sight is out of mind, to some degree.)

As for friends elsewhere, I never did spent much time on the phone with them anyway – more to make plans than just chat. A lot of people don’t email much these days. Some of my physical-world friends do or did blog, but I can’t read blogs during the day from this job. Somehow it seems to be easier to catch up with Facebook’s two-line updates and skippable memes than to read blogposts in my very limited evening free time, especially with fewer and fewer people writing those posts. (I realize I am a part of the problem here and I keep resolving to do better.)

Even on Facebook (where my friendslist is a blend of people I went to school with, people I’ve met along the way, dnd people from assorted online contexts) I feel a bit isolated. People answer when I comment on their stuff, and they ‘like’ or comment on mine some, but of course you rarely get real conversation there. And, though this sounds silly, I don’t get tagged for stuff. I didn’t particularly want to dump ice water on my head (and I’m perfectly capable of donating to a charity on my own volition) though coming up with ten books that have hit me hard might have been fun. But it’s not really wanting to do those things, which of course I could do on my own anyway. It feels stupid to even complain – after all, I don’t like tagging other people, because I don’t want to inconvenience them and because some people dislike being called out in public. It’s just, I don’t know, sort of a graphic demonstration that I’m not particularly in the forefront of anyone’s mind. (Don’t get me wrong; I am not asking to be tagged for anything, either – that wouldn’t really solve the problem.)

Of course there’s Ted as a constant in my life; I couldn’t be luckier or happier to have him there. I just don’t think it’s either effective or fair to expect one person to serve as the majority of my human contact.

It takes a while to make friends after you move. Moving frequently means you will be more isolated for a while. Some jobs have less contact than others. None of this is problematic on its own; it’s just all hitting me together, and not having a local rowing club cuts off one more thing that’s been a support for me elsewhere.

People at this company like to quote studies about how no one can really multitask and you (=everyone) get more done if you focus. I’m not convinced. I like being interrupted now and then. I like having people around to bounce ideas off, and I like conversations that meander. Without those, I think I get a little down – not clinically depressed, just mild situational depression – and I function less effectively. The other point is that I’m not *really* alone; I was happier when I was working at home on my book and could wear what I wanted, work on the schedule I wanted, lounge comfortably on a sofa, take time to relax and let ideas percolate if I needed to. Right now I have all the constraints of working in an office, without the fun of talking to other people much, and without much people contact outside work to make up for it.

There are some problems that can be solved by throwing money at them. I think this is one you can only solve by throwing time at it – wait, meet people, be friendly, and hope things change gradually.

Oh, and also: the complete lack of reviews on my book doesn’t help. Even if someone said they hated it, at least you’d know they read it.

Worldcon?

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.