a little knowledge

by dichroic in daily updates

I was thinking about the Australian bushfires and did a little looking around to get some data. Currently about 12 million acres have burned – compare that with 10 million acres in the US in 2017, a bad year. (That’s for the entire US across an entire year, but of course most of that was concentrated in summer months, in the western states.) For comparison, Australia is close to the size of the US.

Living in the PacNW, I have been through some bad years. I’ve seen the sky gray from smoke, smelled it even inside the house, seen the sun as a big evil orange orb. I’ve seen the firefighters, come from all over the US, bunked in tents in the park a short walk from our house because there was nowhere else to put so many of them. So do I know what it’s like in Sydney today? Nope.

See this map. Those fires are concentrated in a ring around the outside of the continent – because that’s where the fuel is, the green or not-so-green things that will burn. The middle is a giant desert, part of it as bare and sere as the driest parts of Nevada. That’s also where the people are, and the roads, in that habitable ring around the coast. There are nt a lot of roads inland, and not a lot of infrastructure there to house people if they tried to evacuate inland. So the blazing acres are vast, but they’re also focused in a discrete and heavily populated part of the country.

I’ve lived through some bad wildfire years out here. Do I know what it’s like in Australia now? No … but maybe I know just enough to know what I don’t know.

quiet holiday

by dichroic in daily updates

Just getting down a quick record before I post a thoughtpiece on the fires in OZ. We had a very quiet holiday – spent just an overnight with Ted’s parents between Xmas and NYE, but otherwise we were at home, at the lake, and didn’t even go out much. I finished the Holiday Challenge (it was a ‘hard year’, with a comparatively late Thanksgiving, and thus a shorter period to row in.) The weather wasn’t great, so I didn’t get out on the water at all, not even in a kayak. I finished two pair of socks and a cowl, and started a Waiting for Rain shawl – I’ve also got yet another pair of socks in work. Ted deepfried a pair of turkeys for Christmas dinner. I cooked a gratin Normande, a rib roast (prime rib, except it was technically USDA Choice) that came out very well, plus a roast spatchcocked chicken, made a batch of pretzels, and finished last night with red beans and rice.

We cleared out the last of the mess from the renovation, and the garage is now Ted’s pride. He framed a panel of moss to hang in my bathroom, but then managed to leave it there – it will probably die before we return, with no water. And we both had bad colds – his started just after Christmas and is still lingering. At least mine mostly cleared up quickly.

We acquired a new washing machine but are still waiting for a replacement microwave to replace the one that broke (a whole saga as the door latch refused to open – with my leftovers still in there!) We also got some barrel chairs for the new breakfast area and the great room – now we just need a lower table for the great room.

And we got lots of sleep, except for all the coughing. A very quiet break, boring but restful.


by dichroic in daily updates

Sorry, I know, still haven’t written about my Poland trip. I should also update the other blog, since I recently re-registered the domain (and am consequently, annoyingly, getting a ton of calls from people wanting to help me with my “business” site.)

The major annoyance factors are these:

  • Ted’s grandfather died. This was not unexpected, he being 98, in pain, in poor health, and more than ready to go, but it’s still sad. It also means we need to go to a memorial ceremony on Saturday
  • which is 6 hours away
  • on the other side of the Cascades mountains
  • And Ted is heading off overseas and will be arriving back Friday. (I’m still not that comfortable with highway driving or long driving.)
  • Also, I just found out my car, which we plan to take (his being a Very Large Truck) doesn’t have a spare tire. Apparently Mercedes sold it to me with run-flat tires
  • which I didn’t realize when I replaced them a couple months ago, and the tire place apparently didn’t realize either.
  • And also apparently, because it’s AWD, you’re not supposed to put tire chains on this car, which are legally required in this state. Since it is AWD and as all-season radials, it may, however, be legal for me to be driving it without chains as long as I am carrying chains (that I can’t use), which is spectacularly silly.
  • So my primary plan is to go to Les Schwab this afternoon after work and throw myself on their mercy, probably ending up with a cheap set of chains and a tireFit kit (or possibly I will need to go to Mercedes for that, which would be annoying).

    That’s plan A. Plan B is to get snow tires; Plan C is to trade the damn thing in for a Subaru or a Jeep.

    Also, the Concept II Holiday Challenge has started, which means I don’t really have time for any of this, much less a weekend trip away from my erg. In the grand scheme of life, grandfathers outweigh erg challenges – I just wish all the other challenges didn’t go along with the memorial.


    by dichroic in daily updates

    I do not understand why WordPress gives me so many issues with adding images these days, but I always seem to have to go back to Classic mode to do it. Blah.

    Anyway, I have just upgraded again and hopefully I can figure it out on this version because I have an awesome trip to write about!

    First we went to New Orleans for Tulane homecoming. We flew in on the redeye, and spent the next couple of days with Ted’s college gang revisiting their old haunts. So picture a bunch of guys their fifties partying like they dd at twenty, only with less-unreasonable alcohol consumption and nights that ended at 12 or 1 instead of 2 … or sunrise. That actually sounds awful but it was wonderful because of course they weren’t random fiftyish dudes but old friends. They’re Ted’s old friends, not mine, but I really enjoy these guys. So we got to go to their class party in the Aquarium, to Pat-O’s (Pat O’Brians) for hurricanes, to a couple of oyster bars (one for snacks Friday night, one for breakfast Sunday), to a football game in which Tulane beat Tulsa by a big margin, a nice wine bar, a very crowded restaurant for some slightly overcooked New Orleans BBQ shrimp, and Cooter Brown’s. Cooter’s is not recommended for tourists – it’s a dive bar they used to patronize as drunken undergrads. Good beer selection though! But Ted didn’t have any, as he and his old roommate of course needed to stop at the drive-through daiquiri place in order to relive the full drunken undergrad experience!

    The last night we were out until 1 – then I realized I’d left my phone in the Uber car. We were able to contact the driver and get it back but that took another hour – and Ted had to get up at 4 for an early flight out. So that left him 2 hours of sleep, which turned into 3 because the change away from Daylight Savings kicked in right then. I was flying out a couple hours later (to Poland, which will need to be another entry) but never got back to sleep so I passed the time contacting my credit card companies to notify them I’d be traveling. Not restful!

    boots and cats

    by dichroic in daily updates

    After 4 weeks with the new kitten, I have scrapes and scratches all over my body – but she’s still pretty adorable. She doesn’t do it on purpose – when she deliberately touches skin it’s with velvet paws. It’s just that gravity sometimes gets the best of her – yesterday, after I finished erging, she jumped from the back of my couch onto my leg. A short distance, and I didn’t mind since I was done working out …. until she started to slip backward and tried to hand on. I now have parallel scores across my left thigh. Ow. Oolong puts up with her reasonably well; Ted’s theory is that she’s viewing Pinot as her own personal Cat Entertainment TV channel.

    We’re taking them to the lake house tonight; here’s hoping this goes as well as their first trip there. (Might or might not. This time we’re in the truck, and they’ll be in the back seat where they can see us and we can hear them – last time they were in the back of my hatchback, a little further away. Not putting them in the truck bed, even with the camper top, after what happened to Macchiato there.

    But what prompted this tardy update is realizing my bootiversary is this month (probably already happened). In October of 2009 we were on a driving trip to Tasmania, after competing in Sidney in the Masters World Games. While in Hobart, I tried to buy a pair of the classic Australian boot, Blundstones – but the guy in the shoestore didn’t want to sell them to me. Blundstone had recently moved their manufacturing out of Tassie to Korea. He recommended a pair in similar style by Rossi instead. I’m wearing them today. Not the same style. Not even the black pair I later ordered because I liked my original brown ones so much, but that original pair I bought. They’ve been all over Europe and pretty uch any other chilly place I”ve traveled, and they’ve been my most-frequently-worn footwear for the cooler half of ten years now. I took them to the cobbler last year to be polished and spiffed up a bit last year because they were pretty scuffed, but I am still on the original soles.

    When I posted about them on FB, someone mentioned the Sam Vimes Economic Theory of boots. Much as I believe in that theory, that’s not the only thing at work here. If you happen to be in Australian and can buy a pair, you’ll spend about AUD$130, which is around $90 US right now. (Of course they’re more if you buy them from a US importer – a good reason to travel to Oz every decade or so!) That’s not cheap for shoes, but it’s hardly pricy designer range either – more like what you’d pay for a brand like Keen or Merrell, if not on sale. And those are good quality shoes – but they don’t last me a decade!!! So I think my bootiversary is worth noting, and when these do finally fall apart I will be finding an importer to order a new pair from.

    I have a new baaaaaby!!

    by dichroic in daily updates

    And I’m late posting, because I adopted her a week and a half ago. Meet Pinot Gris:

    She’s not perfect – for instance there’s her habit of walking straight up the nearest human to get up to a surface she can’t jump up to yet, not realizing that her claws go *right through* clothing 8nto skin, and I’m definitely getting a lot less knitting done as I try to keep her from biting the yarn. Also, she keeps trying to nurse on my face and neck, a very wet process.

    But she is pretty special. She likes to nuzzle into my neck and gently pat my face with her claws in. She doesn’t scratch or bite humans on purpose, though my skin is starting to look like and old map from all the lines she’s scratched into it by accident. She’s snuggly, not at all shy, and likes humans. I can’t say she and Oolong are BFFs yet but they have a pretty good truce going – I only had to keep Pinot shut in a spare bedroom for a few days. She likes music, even my singing. She likes to sleep on me – though I’m also getting less sleep because she gets rambunctious for a while til she settles in.ni don’t think there’s any such thing as a calm kitten, but she’s only reasonably destructive. She follows me everywhere and sits on my lap and lets me rub her floodgates belly without attacking. Ok, she’s pretty perfect (and I’m pretty besotted).

    But she does add new challenges to my morning routine!

    documenting silly body stuff

    by dichroic in daily updates

    Weird thing happened to me last night – documenting it in case it happens again, so I’ll know when it started.

    Around 2AM, I woke up feeling like I’d just swallowed a bit of acid – throat burning, acidic taste in the back of my mouth. Ensue coughing, retching and lots of saliva and mucus produced as my body tried to get it of it – not really vomiting, just bringing up clear liquid as you sometimes do when nauseated by a postnasal drip rather than by actual stomach upset.

    As best I can guess from consultation with Dr. Google, I had some acid reflux (= esophageal sphincter didn’t seal right, let some stomach acid up the esophagus) and then aspirated it down my windpipe, since I was lying down asleep.

    When I woke up the next morning at 6, my throat was burning and throat muscles were sore, and it felt like when you’ve been in a pool or exercising all day and you cough whenever you try to take a deep breath (exercise-induced asthma). Four hours later, the throat is still burning and swallowing is a little uncomfortable but my lungs are feeling better.

    Not a lot of fun – I hope it was a one-time fluke. I’ve never had GERD, though my Mom does, but the reading I did last night sitting by the toilet makes me think I might have laryngopharingeal reflux, however you spell that; I clear my throat a lot and often feel like something is caught in my throat.

    Also while I’m documenting, my back was sore again all last week while at the lake house, though it’s better now. It’s possible the bed there is the problem, though I think it’s more likely getting out in actual boats, both scull and kayak. Or maybe both things. (Ted used to have back issues there and says it turned out to be his pillows, rather than the mattress.)

    rough week

    by dichroic in daily updates

    Labor Day week was supposed to be wonderful. We planned to pack up the cats and spend the week at the lake – Ted took the week off, since he has more vacation time, and I’d get the long weekend and then work from home.

    Well, we did that but it didn’t go quite as planned. I should mention that one or both seemed to be off their feed all the preceding week (hard to tell which when they share a dish) but otherwise behaved normally except for one morning when Macchiato fell asleep behind my computer monitor and didn’t rouse when I petted her. Anyway, they both seemed fine when we caged them and took them out to the truck. We put them in the back of the truck this time – there’s a camper top, so it’s sae. We lashed down the carriers so they wouldn’t tumble, opened the doors so the cats could walk around, and laid out some blankets for their comfort. It wasn’t hot, but we opened a side window for ventilation.

    When we were nearly to the house, we called in a takeout pizza order. When we stopped to pick it up, we went to check on the cats and found them yelling their heads off. Oolong looked fine but Macciato was on her side, panting and legs all well. She did get up then, and jump forward as if to get out of the truck so we knew she wasn’t hurt. We figured we were only about 10-15 minutes from home, so if something about the truck bothered her we’d be home soon. We grabbed the pizza, got back out three minutes later, rechecked the cats …. and found Macchiato lying on her side, very still. So we peeled out of theparing lot and headed straight to the vet who was fortunately located right across the street, only to be told she was gone.

    A week later, back home, we had the annual check up for Oolong with our home vet canceling Macchiato’s appointment was a bit painful). We told her the full story and she noted in the records that Macchiato had a heart murmur, so best guess is that it was due to heart issues that escalated quickly. She was only 7. She used to like to sleep nestled in my arms – a bit painful, as that put her claws up by my armpits, but so endearing I didn’t have the heart to stop her.

    As for the rest of the week, a few days later Ted got a cold, then I got it, and the weather was often a bit rough for rowing. And lots did get done on the house, but not the long-awaited and wished-for 6-burner range.

    It wasn’t all awful and I’d have enjoyed the week a lot if not for Macchiato’s shadow haging over us. On the plus side we now have working pendant lights, wall oven, microwave, frige and wine fridge. And a week at the lake is still way better than a week in the office, even if I do have to work, and I did get out rowing 3 times and kayaking twice. It just … could be better.

    Next week we need to head down to Ted’s parents’ town. His dad is having surgery and his mom’s memory loss means they probably need someone else around. (Am I the only one whose own experiences with aging family make them very uneasy with not only Trump, but with people as old as Biden, Warren and Sanders running in 2020? Even the ones who are now in their 90s or over 100 and still mentally sharp were, by their late 70s, definitely not the forces they once had been.)

    Anyway, surgery is on Monday so we’ll head to the lake house Friday and the rest of the way down there Sunday. Hopefully the rest of the lights, the stove, and garbage disposals will all be functional when we get there, and the cabinet doors in place. I don’t think the garage will be done yet, but the kitchen remodel is much more exciting for me!

    playing Hestia

    by dichroic in daily updates

    This weekend we stayed home for once – with the renovations in full swing, we’ve been going to the lake house most weekends.

    Sunday we went to a wine blending event. We were given young Syrah, Merlot and Cabernet Franc wines, and challenged to try different proportions to create a tasty blend. We’ve been to a few of these. One winery does it as a Valentine’s Day event (“create a blend to reflect your love”, oy, but it’s fun), another did it more as an educational thing with lectures from their winemaker. This one did it as a friendly contest; I’m proud to say I won for our table and came in second overall.

    Then on Sunday I was a domestic goddess; shopping at both the farmer’s market and the supermarket, plus the toy store to buy a small birthday gift for my nephew. His family will be visiting us over his birthday; we’re taking him to a ropes course / ziplining place, but that will be a couple days after his birthday and I wanted him to have something to open (he’s 8, and lives on the opposite coast so I don’t get to see him often). Then I made soft pretzels and mozzarella cheese from scratch, plus a chicken tortilla bake for dinner. Also I did some finances and we dropped off my husband’s truck for some regular maintenance.

    Unfortunately I seem to have done something to my back. On Saturday before going to the winery, I did 10km on the rowing machine; while stretching afterward, something in my lower back went *sproing!* It doesn’t really hurt, but definitely feels a bit stiff and out of whack. I didn’t dare row Sunday (well, just a very light 1km to see how it felt), so I biked to the farmer’s market just to get in some exercise. It did make buying flowers and getting them home a bit more challenging!

    I miss the other house, though! Apparently they’re getting the cabinets installed, so we’ll have those to see next weekend. Unfortunately there has been some drama; when they shipped the stone for our new countertops, the slab broke! We went and picked new ones, but they are getting a new delivery in tomorrow that we want to go see, just in case there’s something we fall in love with. I like the soapstone we picked, but I think Ted would prefer something with more visible veining.

    the aging of Alanna

    by dichroic in daily updates

    Tamora Pierce’s first book, Alanna, was published in 1983 – the year before I started college at Pierce’s own alma mater. This explains why I never read her books at the proper age, why they’re not part of my formative canon as they are for so many younger fantasy readers, and why I’m just getting around to them now.

    I wonder whether they will fill that role for budding fantasy readers today, because this, Pierce’s first series, hasn’t aged that well. I read her Circle series a few years back and don’t remember the same issues, so probably these are mostly first-book (or at least first-series) writer issues. First, I recognize this as the source of some of those tropes Diana Wynne Jones’ Tough Guide to Fantasyland land and similar writings are making fun of – the violet eyes, for instance. Alanna is a bit of a Mary Sue, too, in the way everyone loves her – in some cases, instantly. Sir Myles affection for Alanna feels a little creepy to me and I was honestly relieved when the Mother Goddess herself told Alanna “He only wants to be your father”.

    There’s the gender thing. Even though the whole premise of the book is about Alanna being a girl set on becoming a knight, the gender stereotypes are reinforced heavily and often. “Alanna realized that boys didn’t understand girls any better than girls understood boys” – well, it’s understandable if her fellow squires and pages, having lived in an almost exclusively male world for years, don’t understand girls and view them as a thing apart, but I would hope Alanna is comfortable with boys by that point! The rigid gender roles seem a little odd in a country that has had warrior maidens in the past but gender perceptions have varied enough through Earth’s history, and have varied rapidly enough, that I think that bit is realistic.

    And then there’s the way a couple of male characters, sympathetic ones, forcibly kiss Alanna after she’s told them no, and this is presented as just peachy fine – in fact, she learns to like it. And she’s told, again by the Goddess, that wanting to avoid entangling relationships due to her career goals means she’s afraid of love and she needs to get over it.

    The important determination for if the book is dated, of couse, isn’t whether those things bug me but if they’d bug a 12-year-old. I think some of them might, though not as much as they bother me. In reverse order: the forcible kissing would not have bothered me at all when I was 12 back in 1979 – I know, because sex enforced through the the dragon or fire lizard links in the Pern books didn’t phase me. I think awareness has risen enough that it might be a problem for a kid now. Same for the suspicions of Sir Myles, and probably for the gender-difference reinforcement – then again, the last time someone told me men and women are inherently different was about half an hour ago, literally.

    As for the other items… common tropes are not a problem to anyone who is coming to them freshly, and I think the way everyone loves Alanna would have felt like wish-fulfillment to be as a reader. (Wish fulfillment is what you call a Mary Sue when you aren’t being critical! After all, there’s a reason there are so many of them. Overall, I think I’d have loved the series, even if I had a couple nits to pick.