privacy? what privacy?

by dichroic in daily updates

I mean, it’s not like I have any illusions about the privacy of anything I do or say online, but this one surprises me. Go head, put your street address into Google. (If you’ved moved recently, use the address of someone you know who has been in one place for a while. See what comes up – not on Zillow, that’s meant to guestimate the value of al houses, but on actual real estates like Trulia or I hadn’t realized this, because we bought our lake house in 2010 and our house here last year, so it’s reasonable that real estate sites would still have the info from previous sales.

Mom told me there’s now a real estate site on her lawn. (I am very happy about her moving, though there is some nostalgia since that house was home from when they brought me home from the hspital at a week old until I moved into a college dorm, and then for breaks until I graduated college and moved away. Still, it’s just a bit of misplaced saudade – I was eager to leave at 17 and wouldn’t live there again if you paid me.) Anyway, her house clearly isn’t listed yet – there’s no firm price, just an estimate. But there’s a picture of the outside (and they got the right house on a street of identical rowhouses), an accurate statement of the house’s size and features, number of rooms and so on, and an estimated price. They’ve lived there since 1966; it’s not like the house has been for sale in the entire lifetime of the internet. I checked out my in-laws’ house, too: same deal, complete with mention of the fireplace and type of heater. They built that house in the 1970s – it has never been for sale. THere’s a picture that’s quite recent; I can tell because it shows the landscaping they did a while back, all nicely grown in.

I knew Zillow had most of this, but the detailed info on houses that haven’t even been sold in decades, on sites that exist just to sell houses, just feels intrusive. I suppose they’d justify it by saying the information is on public record and that anyone buying a house nearby would want to know neighborhood values.

Dad update

by dichroic in daily updates

They moved him to hospice / palliative care yesterday. Thank God, the independent-living community my mom is planning to move to had an opening for him in one of their palliative-care rooms. I think trying to do hospice at home would have been an untenable burden on Mom (two-story rowhouse, only bathroom is upstairs – and he can’t move one leg). Of course my brother and SIL would have helped as much as they could, but they have to be at work all day. I will visit in a few weeks – I was going to go sooner, but it turns out my brother and SIL (who work together) have a business trip they can’t get out of, so I’ll go be supportive while they’re gone. I’ll have to go back again, whenever …. afterward, but Ted will go with me that time. It turns out the state of Oregon has family leave policies that are much better than the FMLA, so I should be able to use some of that leave. It applies after you’ve worked for a company for six months – I couldn’t have used FMLA< because that requires a year and I haven’t worked here that long. Also, they offer up to two weeks (unpaid) leave for bereavement, which is a huge relief when you have to travel across the country.

I am really pleased that Mom is still planning on selling the house and moving to the independent-care place, even though it will be just her. She’s a bit worried about being too young for it (they take people from a full ten years younger than she is, but of course there aren’t many of those unless they’re ill). There are a lot of good reasons for her to move, though. For one, the neighborhood is going downhill; there were two shootings on the next block a month ago, and her car got broken into last year. For another, she hates being there alone. She gets lonely, and none of the old neighbors (the ones who were there the whole time I was growing up) are there anymore. The older ones have died and their kids moved away; the last one (someone my age who bought her parents’ home) moved a few years ago. There are still a couple of newer neighbors Mom likes and talks to, but it’s not the support system it was (there’s a reason I was allowed to babysit for my brother from the time I was 11, during our parents’ occasional nights out). Mom is a very social person; she likes planned activities and people around her. She also worries about what would happen if something was wrong with her – she’s in good health, but she’s had a few issues (broke an ankle a few years back, for instance). This new place will provide lots of activities – she can even have a garden plot if she wants. Three will be carers nearby if needed; everyone gets an “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” bracelet. She’ll have people to eat with, and won’t have to cook but has a kitchen if she does want to. I think it will be very good for her, and now he won’t need to worry about whether she can get in later when her health does require it.

The other thing she likes, for now, is that Dad’s hospice room is in the same complex where her apartment will be. She can stop by anytime, leave if he’s sleeping, ask the nurse to call her when he wakes up, and go back.

Passover – interpreting and building on traditions

by dichroic in daily updates

I’ve declared myself Sephardic for Pesach. I’m trying to keep the dietary rules this year, which makes it the first time at least since I left the US and probably for a while before that. It was way too hard in Taiwan, where there were no Passover foods at all, and in the Netherlands, where there were non-kosher-for-Passover matzah because the Dutch eat it at Easter (which I still find fascinating) but nothing else. (Yes, I might have been able to find stuff somewhere in Amsterdam, if I’d really tried hard. I didn’t.) I’m not being terribly careful about it, not poring over ingredient labels looking for corn syrup or maltodextrin. And I’m going by the Sephardic rules instead of the Ashkenazic ones my ancestry dictates I should follow; that means I can eat rice, beans, lentils, and peanuts. And corn, I guess, though I’ll probably avoid it in flour or baking form and I felt a bit guilty using a smidgen of corn starch (not flour) to thicken a sauce yesterday.

I have two reasons for taking the easy way out; admittedly the prime one is that I’m lazy and weak-willed.But another factor is that I don’t think this is meant to be an ordeal; I think at Passover we’re supposed to remember what our ancestors went through, rejoice in our delivery from slavery, learn the lessons from being strangers in a strange land, but not to suffer. We reinforce the memories viscerally by eating matzah and refraining from unleavened bread – but neither Moses nor the medieval rabbis spent a lot of time worrying about whether their Coke contained corn syrup.

I got curious (wondering about the Last Supper, actually, after reading an essay on the problematic nature of “Christian Seders”), and it turns out that, as you’d expect, the way we celebrate now is only a bit over a thousand years old, out of the three thousand years we’ve celebrated this holiday. I’m not sure what it means to say any more that the Last Supper was a Seder; at that time, the Second Temple still stood, so Passover wasn’t the home-centered holiday it was now. You took your first lambs to the Temple for a sacrifice, then feasted on them (I guess the priests got a share but couldn’t eat it all?) and ate matzah. After the Temple was destroyed and the diaspora began, the rabbis brought the Seder into its current form. The first Haggadah was somewhere around 800 CE (Common Era, a way Jews avoid saying Anno Domini). I don’t know if Jewish literacy was as common then as it became later; before that, and until Haggadot became affordable, I don’t know if most people memorized the Seder or if it was more free-form.

So anyway, apparently what the Talmud actually says is “eat matzah” and “don’t eat hametz” (wheat, oats, barley, spelt, rye – actually, according Wikipedia, orginally only barley and wheat are forbidden, but the others were included in early on).

Since there are only two of us and Ted isn’t Jewish anyway, I didn’t take Monday off – not like it was going to be a real Seder, though I did make matzo ball soup the day before. At work Monday, I was asked to help in a Lessons Learned session – when you look back over a project, see what went well and what didn’t, and figure out how to change the bad stuff and perpetuate the good, going forward. With that in mind, I was thinking about the holiday, and realized: Pesach really is the ultimate Lessons Learned session. We relive the Exodus story, by talking about it, by eating matzah, and by all the parts of the Seder – the elements on the Seder plate, the recitation of the plagues, the Four Questions, and so on, telling the story over and over in bits and pieces. We repeat the catchphrases that remind us of what we’ve been through – “We were slaves and now we’re free,” “We were strangers in a strange land, ” “Dayeinu” and so on. Like any Lessons Learned session, there are a whole lot of lessons – I think the main ones here are meant to be “Treat other “strangers” (immigrants, visitors, minorities) well, just as we wre originally treated well in Egypt”; treat other strangers well and don’t do what the Egyptians did when they enslaved us,” and especially, “trust God, especially when he’s just saved your ass from slavery, pursuit, and starvation” (short attention spans are apparently not only a modern failing).

Thing is, usually the hardest point in any Lessons Learned session is institutionalizing the lessons, to actually make things better in a real way. If you look at Passover in that light, here’s a case where those learnings have been institutionalized for three thousand years; it makes me wonder if some of that could be applied in the corporate world, where making change persist over one year is exceptional. Could LL sessions use more storytelling, to make the learnings more memorable? Is there some way to add ritual (in a business sense, that would translate to habits or standard ways of working – I’m not suggesting prayers at work!) as reminders? It seems liek there ought to be something to be learned from tradition here, in addition to what it’s trying to teach.

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.