how the world works

by dichroic in daily updates

I’ve been taking a class in Operations Management (free course from Coursera; it’s taught by a Wharton professor and is pretty good). I’ve just realized that now I know the math behind something I learned from experience back in college: why it’s better to have 2 bathrooms for 8 people than 1 bathroom for 4 people. Same utilization, less waiting time!

a poem and some mental holiday prep

by dichroic in daily updates

Trapped in the Office

My body sits, desk-bound, eight hours a day;
The paycheck, though, is meant to rent my brain
To ponder on their problems, find a way

Around, across or through, accomodate
Opposing viewpoints, make the complex plain -
And yet my body sits, eight hours a day.

Who was it thought that butt in chair would pay,
Mind focus tighter with the clay constrained,
And ponder on their problems, find the way?

I think they’re wrong. If I could run astray,
I’d rest or wander, nevermore restrained
to sit, congealing, eight hours every day.

With body chained, I think mind too is stayed –
With body freed, mind has the breadth to range
and pondering on problems, find new ways

And new solutions, bringing untold gain.
Are we but cowering, afraid of change
When we stay in a cube eight hours a day?
Let’s ponder on this bondage, find new ways!

Maybe not my best, but my poetry muscles are creaky, and it feels good to exercise them a bit.

Now that I’m back in the US. I’m thinking of trying to keep Passover this year – a thing I haven’t tried for a decade at least, and I’m not sure I’ve ever made it all the way through. Some of my reason is about reclaiming a bit of me I’ve strayed from, some of it is residual guilt, and some is purely physical – I’ve gained some weight since last fall, for no reason I can figure out, and I want it to go away. (As always, pretzels are one likely culprit; We’re also drinking more wine these days. I don’t mind having wine with dinner 3-4 times a week, but I don’t think we need to finish the bottle!) In the past, maintaining at a set weight has been standard for me, so unless something has changed in my body, I feel like it should be possible to get to where I want to be and stay there. I may, of course, be vastly deluded.

I don’t think keeping the holiday will be horribly difficult except for the pretzel thing – mayne I can get salted matzah. Breakfasts may be a bit tricky (I tend to have an orange and a granola bar) but my supermarket seems to have a lot of fruit-and-nut bars and snacks these days.I’m certainly not going to be overly conscientious about it; I will not be checking ingredients for corn syrup or malto-dextrin. The hard decision is what to do about kitinyot’ basically, Sephardic Jews eat rice and legumes (beans, lentils, peanuts, etc) during the holidays while Ashkenazic Jews (which I am) don’t. The reason given is that they can be easily confused with grains, and may be stored with them and thus get cross-contaminated. My feeling is that it was mostly that rice and beans were just not that big a deal to my ancestors – not a big enough part of their diet for the constraint to hurt much. I think the the Sephardic Jews probably allowed them because they used those incredients a lot more.

My gut feeling is that Passover is just not meant to be that hard – I think it’s supposed to be a joyous feast, not an ordeal, and that we restrict ourselves from foods our ancestors didn’t have as a memory, not a challenge. (My ancestors fleeing Egypt didn’t have potatoes or kiwis or sparkling water, either, yet those foods are perfectly kosher l’Pesach.) SO I will probably be eating rice and beans and peanuts during the holiday.

(Also, for those who prefer arguing from authority over arguing from logic (which may not include anyone likely to read this), my mom’s rabbi says he thinks they’re OK, too.)

:-) :-) :-)

by dichroic in daily updates

Wow, what a great day!.

I got new glasses. I got a new person on my project, someone who has a lot of knowledge about company history in this area, that’s going to be very useful – and whom I like, as well. I got sushi for lunch (just the supermarket kind, though) and spent a fair bit of the day bending some data to my will.

But in the big news, I got my first reader comment. Oddly, it came to me forwarded from someone at work. I was wondering if he happened to know her, then realized what must have happened: she’s the contact on the press release my company put out about the book. He mentioned that he’d actually bought it in a bookstore and been surprised to see it there, so my guess is he saw our press release, happened to see the book, bought it, liked it, and then was kind enough to send an email saying so. I suppose it’s not quite cricket to post something that was sent to me in a personal email, but apparently he really liked the approach I took and that I addressed basic concepts instead of a specific approach.

And in the other big news (totally unrelated to the book), I’m getting moved from my cube into an office at work :-)

well, that felt good

by dichroic in daily updates

That felt so good to write.

Title Nine is a company who, in my opinion, make really great clothing for women athletes and for women who just don’t want their clothing to get in the way of doing stuff. Their catalogs and ads typically show real women, not models, doing the sports they love. Still, they’re always women who look strong nad fit, lean though not skinny, mostly young. They wrote a challenge to their customers:

Perhaps you think the real women on our pages are super women. Perhaps you think their lives are unattainable. Perhaps you think the whole thing is just a marketing mirage. You would be wrong. To illustrate, try this exercise: Take a minute to think about what your own caption might look like, a caption that gives voice only to the good, a caption that does not let negativity or self-censorship creep in. Could you even see yourself in your own caption? Jump on and post your caption. See if you recognize the woman in the words. If you don’t, I hope you’ll start to. She’s pretty amazing.

Which is nice and inspiring and all, but I don’t think it goes far enough – because the problem with woman today is not too much modesty. The problem, for too many of us, is internalized self doubt stemming from too many outside messages about how we don’t measure up. I appreicate what Title Nine is trying to do, but they need to take it a few steps further. So I wrote back, but instead of coming up with a caption for myself, I said:

Dear Title Nine: if you really mean that challenge, then why not show women of all shapes in your catalog? OK, OK, I understand that you’re trying to sell clothing and you want to show your clothes off by showing how great they look on young healthy women with bodies that fit our perception of what an athlete looks like. Well, keep those women – they are us too, “us” being the women who buy your clothes to fit our active lives. But include the rest of us too. One thing I’ve learned as a masters rower and someone who’s been to the World Masters Games, where masters athletes (people from 25 or 30 all the way to 80s, 90s, even a 101-year-old swimmer) compete in nearly 30 sports is that athletes come in all shapes. Let’s see some people with saggy breasts, and how your bras let them run. Let’s see people in your swimsuits. Or someone who does yoga in your yoga pants to keep arthritis from locking up her joints. And how about maybe some wheelchair cyclists or adaptive rowers, competing in their chosen sport despite not being able to use their legs. Yeah, I can come up with a caption for me, no problem. But can I see people like me in your photos?

I’d've attached a photo, bu I’ve drunk too much of the Kool-Aid myself – the only ones I like to show are the ones where my belly isn’t showing, which kind of defeats the point here. (And also, all my good rowing photos are in rowing-specific gear, not T9 clothing, which would rather defeat their point, I think.)

Seattle post is up

by dichroic in daily updates

… or rather a post about our trip to Seattle last weekend, posted over at the other site (which I have been neglecting badly). Lots of pictures!

It’s here!

by dichroic in The Book

Look what I have in my very own hands!!


In theory it goes on sale sometime in April, but Amazon is saying they’ll have it by March 23. And now as well as have it, so my Dutch friends / former coworkers can get it too! (Er, assuming they want it, of course.)

I’m famous!

by dichroic in books, The Book

I think this is my very first press release – at least, the first one that’s actually about me rather than just mentioning me tangentially.

Seems a little funny to have my company publicizing csomething I actually wrote before coming to work here, but it’s even better publicity for me than it is for them, so I’m pretty happy about it.

a bunch of things

by dichroic in daily updates

The important thing: Dad seems to be doing a lot better. He has a nasal feeding tube now and they’re replacing it with one through his mouth tomorrow. More importantly, he’s being much more rational and, according to my brother, is now saying he *wants* to get better. I think that’s a huge thing.

The other stuff:
Thing 1: As I was thinking about how quickly today went by, I realized it’s the last Monday of my mid-forties. Next time it comes around I will be arguably in my late forties. I’m definitely noticing more little physical creaks and quirks, and it seems to be a bit harder to get in shape. I’m getting the feeling that if I did train hard, my best rowing times would be slower than a decade ago (then again, I think I set a PR or nearly in a half marathon last fall, so maybe not). What I probably really need is a regular coached rowing practice, in a bigger boat (I mean a coxed four or eight, or a quad I wasn’t steering) so vertigo wouldn’t matter. I should probably go out in a double with Ted next time we’re at the lake. I don’t really feel like my age has changed me other than for rowing purposes, anyway.

Thing 2: We canceled our gym memberships. We miss doing weights, but it’s just too hard to get out to the gym when we have two ergs in the house. We do have a big set of resistance bands, so I should start faking weight training with those.

Thing 3: We’re going to Seattle this weekend. (What do London, Venice, Lisbon and Seattle have in common? We’ve visited all of them for my birthday.) The one thing I’m worried about is what to wear. I’m fine for normal purposes, but we’re going to a fancy restaurant where Ted will have to wear a suit, and all my dressy dresses are at the other house. (I forgot to bring one back last time, and we decided not to go down last weekend.) I have some more formal clothing here, but it’s all more businesslike. My choices are: a satiny taffeta-ish gray skirt, sort of swagged, but I don’t know what to wear with it; a navy sheath dress, below the knee, with the turquoise satin embroidered jacket I bought in Taiwan to wear to my brother’s wedding rehearsal, which is dressy enough but maybe a bit staid?; a plain black jersey dress from Title Nine, dressed up with a lace shawl (this is where being a knitter comes in handy, because I have at least two that would work); an above-the-knee dark red sleeevless sheath with a shawl (would I be too cold?); a plain cashmere sweater dress in either cranberry or gray that’s really a bit short but I could wear it with opaque tights and heels and pearls; a trouser suit of my own (no – too businesslike) …. I think that’s it for choices. Hmm.

Thing 4: work continues to be a bit uneasy – my boss seems to have plenty for me to do, but in general things have been a bit scary at this site, and I don’t know if she’d want to keep someone out here if it really cratered. I recorded my podcast today, though – it went well except that I’d forgotten to silence my phone’s ringer. Oops. Also today, I started a Coursera class in Operations Management. I’m hoping to learn more about Lean; I was afraid it would be a lot of stuff I already know, but just the first module was full of business concepts that are new to me, so it will be worthwhile. Definitely worth the (complete lack of) tuition!

Thing 5: Knitting finished objects:

The hat I made for Ted during the Olympics:

My first shawl from the Follow Your Arrow knit-along:


I’m finishing up some slippers for Mom (too bad I didn’t get them done before the latest East Coast storm!) and then I’ll finish off the second Follow Your Arrow shawl.

Five random things after all. And I wasn’t even trying.

follow-up (better news)

by dichroic in daily updates

Just talked to Mom again. They’re giving him a feeding tube, apparently this one is designed so that he can put a cap on it if he wants to eat normally, and it can stay in place for a while as needed. He can get meds as well as protein through the tube (unlike a normal intraveneous, which can’t do protein). The best part is that the doctors stressed to her that this can potentially cause a real turnaround – he could get better and even go home, with the feeding tube still in place. They said if there wre no hope, they wouldn’t put in the tube and would send him to hospice instead. Also, apparently today he was lucid, not paranoid or delusional or hostile at all. (He told Mom he’d been hallucinating earlier and had seen a sock on the floor; she told him there really was one there. I think I might just be disappointed if I had hallucinations that mundane – then again, the other night I dreamed about doing pushups. Maybe we’re just a boring family.)

Mom feels a lot better and so do I. I do want to also thank the people who commented on the earlier post; knowing people care always helps.

blogs are for kvetching

by dichroic in books

Because at least here is one place where I don’t need to hold back on bad news for fear of oversharing (like at work) or unduly burdening others.

Mom just called to ask my opinion of feeding tubes for Dad.

She and my brother and SIL seem him every day; I think it would be a bit obnoxious for me to do anything but defer to their decision, but at least I can help clarify their thoughts. As we were talking about it, I said, “I have to ask the hard question. You’re not going to like hearing this, but are they just trying to keep him comfortable at this point or are they still hoping he’ll get better?

She said, “I don’t know … oh, I need to write that down to ask at the meeting with the doctors. I hadn’t thought of that question.”

From which it may be seen just how stressed my mom is. At least I can be useful by providing an outside viewpoint.

Dad weighs 114 lbs now.

We’re planning to go to Seattle next weekend, for my birthday; hopefully if things come to a head and I need to fly back to Philly before then we’ll be able to cancel things. Well, hopefully things won’t come to a head and Dad’s doctors will make him all better. This is why we’re so in limbo because that could still realistically happen. (Another sign of Mom’s stress: When I told her we were going to Seattle, she said, “Oh, any special occasion?” Under the circumstances, I don’t hold it against her – she probably doesn’t even know today’s date at this point.)

On a more upbeat note, I plan to spend this weekend practicing for the podcoast I’ll be recording on Monday, and writing a guest blog entry – both in relation to my coming book. I’ll also be finishing one of my Follow Your Arrow shawls (maybe even tonight – two rows plus a bindoff left) and then I should probably do the second of a pair of slippers for Mom. Also, I did enjoy D.E. Stevenson’s Mrs. Tim of the Regiment, but possibly the main character should have been named Mary Sue rather than Hester. As I was finishing it (because Amazon is convinced, probably correctly, that any one who likes D.E. Stevenson will also like Dodie Smith): has anyone yet compared Walton’s Among Others to Smith’s I Capture the Castle? I’m remembering the latter with memory blurred by a few years, but somehow the tone of the two books feels very similar to me. That might be accentuated because I read Smith’s book decades later and in a different country than where she wrote it, so the world in it feels as different to me as Walton’s Wales – in fact, one difference between the two is that Walton knew she was worldbuilding whereas Smith thought she only had to explain the quirks of one family. But that family life is so encompassing that she really ended up doing a lot of worldbuilding anyhow.