non-minimal packing

by dichroic in daily updates, travel

I thought I was doing well because everything fit in my backpack but Rebeccmeister’s packing list for her trip to Seattle now has me thinking that, as usual, I’ve probably overpacked for my four days in Philadelphia. At present, I have

knit dress
3 t-shirts (blue sleeveless, black ballet-neck, I forget what else)
knit skirt
jean shorts
sari silk skirt
shorts and top to work out in
bathing suit
one pair shoes (I will wear sneakers on the plane)
plus my knitting, Kindle, iPad, phone, chargers, etc

I wasn’t going to bring the sari skirt, but it arrived a couple days ago and is just too cool *not* to bring. As it can be a skirt, top, or even shawl, maybe I can ditch one t-shirt and either the skirt or shorts. I wish I could have the cardigan I’m knitting done and ready to wear, because it would be just right for this trip, but it still needs sleeves and edging. I could take it as my knitting project, but I have a pair of socks started that are much smaller to pack.

I’m really, really not good at minimal packing – part of that is just that I like clothes, like having options, and don’t like wearing the same thing for multiple days. I don’t feel freer when I have less stuff – I just feel constrained by my stuff’s limitations. I still need to put my purse and electronics into my pack, but I don’t think it will be overstuffed. Also, Ted’s decided to check a suitcase, because he wants to bring the good (SLR) camera instead of just using iPhones. So I can put my toiletries in there and not have to worry about digging them out for airport security, and there’s room for my shoes and probably a bunch of my other stuff too, if I don’t feel like carrying it.

holiday weekend

by dichroic in daily updates

It was a good holiday weekend; as best as I can remember, I spent most of it either on a boat (rowing shell or kayak) or on the deck looking out at the water. I also got some weightlifting in, since the lake house is where our weight set lives. I was worried that we wouldn’t be able to get outside at all because we’re in the middle of a heat wave (temps in the high 90sF) but it really wasn’t bad – row in the morning, and kayak in the afternoon. Sitting out wasn’t bad either, as long as you were in the shade.The sit-on-top kayak we bought a few weeks ago works very well for this; it’s a double but you can move a seat and row it as a single, and you get a lot wetter than in a sit-in kayak, which helps on hot days. We finally got to christen it, too, since we had chamgpage out on the dock on July 4, to celebrate our anniversary and watch the fireworks. (I know, it’s bad luck to take a boat out before it’s officially named. Oops. Those were just test paddles!) It’s Kayak Opportunity, because the two sit-in ones are Spirit and Curiosity.

I could have done without the neighbors’ calling over judgements on our wimpy fireworks but I’m pretty sure they meant it as friendly teasing. Our neighbors on the other side had some huge (illegal) ones, and the pro show was across the lake. It’s fun being ble to sit out and watch them all around. The house is pretty well sound-insulated, so I hope the cats weren’t too traumatized. If so, they just hid in their usual places. We had an earthquake, too – only 4.2 but quite close to us. Don’t know if the cats minded that one – it was the middle of the day so during their usual napping time. And of course Oolong might have still been sleeping off her usual carsickness. We had to take the backroad up, due to traffic, but unfortunately this time she reacted even coming back on the highway.

Also, there was knitting, wine, steak, salmon, and strawberry-rhubarb tarts (filling from this recipe in puff pastry. Next time I will make square tarts instead of round ones, so as not to waste pastry. Yum.

Too bad we couldn’t take any extra time off, but this weekend we have to go to a family reunion. Hope it’s as fun as the last one.

a clothing rant from a slightly different perspective

by dichroic in clothing and style, daily updates

What do you know, my marriage (to a person of the opposite sex) actually changed today – mostly, in that I no longer feel vaguely guilty about having taken advantage of a privilege that not all of my friends have. I can live with that – and now we can celebrate our 22nd anniversary next week with light hearts and clear consciences.

On a completely different topic… It’s a truism, among feminists, that men have all the advantages in clothing: they have pockets in everything, their trousers come in lengths as well as widths without having to be specially ordered online, and most of all they have “default outfits” so that it’s possible to dress for work in clothing that won’t be noticed as too ornamental, not ornamental enough, unsexed, inappropriately sexy for work or any of the myriad other contradictory criteria women are inevitably judged by.

Every one of those words in the above paragraph is true except for one: the word “all”. There are benefits women’s clothing has, that aren’t available to men in this society, and the hot weather we’re getting in this city reminds me of that.

For one thing, we have a lot more flexibility. In a ‘business casual’ work environment, I can wear clothing that are nearly exact replicas of what the guys wear (except for being more expensive, having fewer fit options, and having useless pockets or none) but I can also wear skirts, dresses, or even skorts. I can come to work in an outfit that is basically pajamas – knitting leggings and a long knit top – and with maybe a belt or jewelry can appear professionally dressed, in an outfit that doesn’t bind or cramp anywhere. On a hot day I can wear a knit dress that hangs from my shoulders, isn’t tight anywhere, and stops just above my knees, and no one will say I’m dressed inappropriately.

In a dressier environment, I can wear things that the guys can only get away with when they go casual: I can wear a fine-knit t-shirt to a job interview (which is about the more formally I ever dress) with a jacket over it, and no one will think it’s sloppy. I can wear sandals to the office – not just any sandals, but at least I have dressy and work-proper ones available to me. Men don’t. at least with current styles.

I’m not minimizing the problems with women’s clothing. Not having pockets annoys the fuck out of me – or only having ones too small to actually keep anything in. I was pissed off recently when I went shopping for pants in a store that carried clothing for both men and women, and found that they had different lengths for men right there in the store, whereas women had to order tall or petite sizes on line – and men had several lengths available, not only three. Worst of all is the way designers seem to be convinced that fashion trumps all other considerations in women’s clothing, even including professionalism in clothes that are designed specifically for work, so that at the moment I can’t find pants that aren’t skin tight. I noticed the other day that a new pair of cargo pants were tighter in the thigh than plain khakis made a few years ago by the very same manufacturer – even though the whole purpose of cargo pants is to be loose and have lots of pockets.

I’m just saying that our current system of clothing that’s rigidly separated by intended gender hurts men too. Why shouldn’t they be able to wear comfortable clothing to work, no matter what the temperature is?

summertime blues

by dichroic in daily updates

This year’s Father’s Day wasn’t as bad as last year’s, when my Dad had died only a month before and also it fell right on his birthday, but still I’m glad it’s over.

The next parental challenge will be Mom’s visit to us in August. I’m not sure how much time I want to take off from work – balancing not running out of vacation time with the fact that I’m not sure how self-sufficient she’ll be. I’m hoping I can convince her to take the train downtown on her own at least one day; then I can just dart out of work to give her a ride to the station. Or maybe she’ll want to just sit around the pool one day, not sure. Meanwhile, we need to take a couple days off for a family reunion on my side next month, and possibly another on Ted’s side – and I’m not convinced his doesn’t conflict with Mom’s visit. This could get tricky.
(Yup, I just checked – his reunion, 5 hours away, is scheduled for two days before my Mom comes in. Wish I’d realized that *before* booking her airfare last night!)

Today’s surreal moment was when someone I was good friends with in about 5th through 7th grade, and whom I last saw in Paris almost 20 years ago (which was surreal in itself – he and his wife were living there then and I crashed on their couch) messaged me via Facebook to ask for recommendations for a good sushi place in Portland. Unfortunately he’s only here on a short business trip and won’t have time to get together.


by dichroic in daily updates

1) It’s always pleasant when I can find a Jane Austen fanfic I can read without wincing. Sherwood Smith has a few stories (novellas?) out, available at Amazon: The Poignant Sting, a followup to Emma, and Henry and Fanny, an alternate ending. But what I wasn’t expecting was for the former to end with what might be two of the most powerful sentences I’ve ever come across, especially as I was reading in the wake of the Charleston shootings:

“Faith does not answer questions. All it does is sustain our belief that one day we will find the answers.”

2) I’ve also been reading the Corinna Chapman mysteries, a modern series by Kerry Greenwood, author of Phryne Fisher. Corinna is very different than Phryne, but she strikes me as someone who could have created Phryne if she (Corinna) were a writer rather than a baker. Thus I suspect that Corinna has a lot of Greenwood herself in her character. (Phryne always strikes me as wish fulfillment in exactly the same way Lord Peter Wimsey was for Sayers – not who you’d want to have, but who you’d want to be.) But I would just like to say that someone with a knowledge of astronomy, meeting a man named Kepler, is really, really not likely to start spouting off about his three lawas and how Newton proved them with GMm/r^2. And I say this as an engineer with an MS in space science who has known people named Fermi and Kelvin.

nowt so queer as folk

by dichroic in daily updates

We’re getting ready for the Black Sheep Squared Retreat – that’s people who hang out at my favorite local yarn shop, Black Sheep, staying at our house while attending the Black Sheep Gathering fiber festival in Eugene. (The shop owner didn’t even know about this festival two hours away when she named her store.) As usual, people are being squirrelly. One person initially said she wanted to come, then never responded to later posts – this was good because I don’t know her, and others who do informed me that she has a service dog who has been detrained to the level of very annoying pet dog. (She does function as a service dog, but also goes around getting in people’s faces, grabbing their yarn, asking for treats, and so on.) So I’m glad she’s not coming. Of the others who are coming, one person just bailed out because she sat outside the other night and realized her allergies are really too bad to be spending any time out of doors (ETA: she just IM’d that it seems to be a cold, so I’m glad she isn’t sharing it), another will leave early because she has to work Sunday, and the third asked if she can bring her husband and then told me that she’s not sure if he can come but she is bringing her adult son, who’s visiting. At least they all gave me some advance notice!

I wouldn’t mind the husband and son if they were coming to the fiber festival too, but at least the former just wants to hang out on the deck and read. This is fine, as long as he’s self-entertaining; I don’t think it’s fair for Ted to have to entertain my friends’ self-invited spouses while I’m gone – he’s not much of a people person.

We’ll pick up some pizza on Friday night and do a potluck Saturday, with me providing main courses (two spatchcocked chickens, plus some roasted tomatoes and onions because one person is a vegetarian). I was kind of worried how things would work out last year and we all had a great time; probably this year will work out the same way. The good thing about all this is that this really is the way we want to use this house: as a gathering place. Ted’s been wanting to have a group from work over, but hasn’t been able to get them to settle on a date.

On other fronts, work’s been reasonably busy. I haven’t been very good about working out – I’m still on the erg 5 days a week but am doing far too many 5km steady state pieces instead of longer/harder rows. I probably won’t do more than that today, because I’m going grocery shopping for the weekend, and then I might not be able to row on Saturday before we head out to Black Sheep. Maybe I’ll have time to kayak afterward. Maybe someone will want to come out with me!

We don’t really have any interesting travel planned this year, just spome family visits. Mom’s planning to visit here in August, but she seems to be more interested in seeing Portland than the lake house. (She’s been there once before, and just isn’t much of an outdoors person.) She’s only staying for a week, because she plans her schedule by her grandson’s social schedule; she cares for him three days a week. I don’t really understand the way this works. My brother has a business trip so my SIL has decided she can’t handle the four-year-old alone, so is having him stay with a friend for the week, thus Mom is free to travel. I don’t quite get it, but SIL does have some chronic pain issues that may explain it. Mom doesn’t really have the energy or stamina to just bring him with her, which would solve everything.

I believe Mom and Dad last visited us in approximately 2011. Dad’s illnesses provide some reasons for that, but my mother has visited about five times in 25 years – and two of those were because she used us in the Netherlands as a strongboard to visit London. Dad stayed home for those, so he only ever visited me three times. My brother has visited exactly once. I’d be ok with all of that, except they expect me to want to visit them in Philadelphia. At this point, I have no real wish to go there again – except that I have to, if I want my little nephew to remember me. Anyway, we’ll be there next month for a family reunion.

Alexa vs Siri

by dichroic in daily updates

Our Amazon Echo finally arrived. I’d originally wanted it for Ted’s birthday last December, but Amazon was doing a phased release. Once I signed up for the waiting list, it finally let me order in around March and the thing itself has just arrived. On the plus side, as a Prime member I got it for half price.

The Echo is supposed to do a bunch of stuff – tell you the weather, various other useful facts, play music, let you put stuff on a to-do or shopping list, set a timer. To let it know you’re talking to it, you start each utterance with “Alexa…” So far the most fun thing I’ve found to do with it is to have it compete head to head with Siri – giving the same command to the Echo and as a voice command to my Apple phone.

Alexa wins on hands-free use; I think you can set Siri to wake when summoned by voice, but only when the phone is plugged in.

Alexa is also better at music. You can tell her who to play and if you don’t have that artist in your Amazon library (which appears to consist of music you’ve downloaded from Amazon, but I didn’t think I had much) and are a Prime member, it will play that from the Prime music library. Siri will play any music on your phone, and will also play iTunes radio – but I tried that out the other day and was very unimpressed. (I set up a radio station similar to one I have on Pandora, with lots of different music I can sing to, and while Pandora grasps the concept of singable music (she refers to it as “acoustic sonority” and provides me a wide range of music where I can tell that the different seeds (songs or artists) I put in are influencing the music choices, with the iTunes radio even though I listed lots of songs and performers, the whole station seemed to be keyed to the first song I listed. As that happened to be “California Dreamin’ “, it decided that what I wanted was music that could have been performed on the Sonny and Cher show. It probably goes without saying that that was not what I wanted – I just like the song’s harmonies and folk-rock sound.)

Alexa and Siri both do well on the weather. I suspect this will be the prime use for the Echo – I can check weather on my phone or iPad, but it will be convenient to do it handsfree as I’m getting ready. Alexa also can provide a news report, which can be customized. It can read my Audible audiobooks, but I’m more likely to keep having my phone do this, since I need to use headphones t hear well when I’m erging. (I used to use earbuds attached to an iPod clipped to my waistband; now I use my phone with Bluetooth headphones.) It was nice that when I told Alexa to read my book, it went to my current location. (I have the audio version that’s synced with my Kindle so Amazon is supposed to be remembering where I am in it – this isn’t an unexpected invasion of privacy.)

But where Siri way outclasses Alexa is on information. Alexa can provide Wikipedia entries, but Siri harnesses true websearch capabilities. The result was that Alexa was totally confused by “What is the value of the Dow Jones index today”, and “what is the Dow Jones” just gave me the Wikipedia entry for it – not too helpful. Siri brought it right up. When I asked “What is the right temperature to cook fish to?” Alexa was again baffled. Siri websearched, and came up with a table of safe cooking temperatures at the top of her list of responses – but to see it I’d have had to open it up, which since I didn’t have my phone open at the time would have meant putting in my password or fingerprint. Not the most helpful thing when you’re cooking and have raw fish all over your hands.

Verdict: nobody’s perfect yet, but both are god enough to be useful. Siri is better – but only when your hands are free.

made it back in one piece

by dichroic in daily updates

I survived all that driving. The trip down may have been the hardest one so far, because I went at the end of (almost) a full workday. I think my eyes and brain play less nicely together when I’m tired, which makes highway driving harder. The way back was the easiest trip so far; I deliberately didn’t row out rowing or kayaking before leaving the lake so I wouldn’t be tired. But I think the bigger factor was that I followed Ted all the way home. That way, I was focused on his truck for much of the time, at a stable following distance (and it’s big enough to obscure what’s in the lane in front of it) so my eyes didn’t have to keep changing focus as much. He’s a good driver, too, and is beautifully easy to follow because he keeps a very consistent speed and it’s easy to predict when and why he’s going to change lanes.

I’m glad I won’t have to do that 2-3 hour drive again any time soon, but I think I’m close to the point where I wouldn’t let driving nerves dictate my decision on, say, the best way to get to the airport or whether I want to go to the mall in the next town over.

Also, we’ve now bought a nice 6-person table for the deck and a tandem sit-on-top kayak, in our continuing quest to make this house a great place to have guests. So we can feed more people at once, and if people with kids visit (or people like my mother who I’d be uneasy at allowing to kayak alone) we can take them out in the tandem. It also handles well enough when paddled solo – you get fairly wet in a sit-on-top kayak so that will be nice in hot weather.

In everything else, I’m being dilatory. Just bought our airfare to Philadelphia for a trip that’s only a month away, need to get moving on organizing this year’s Black Sheep Retreat (people from up here staying at our lake house to attend the Black Sheep Gathering), need to buy a ticket for my mom to visit us in August.

this is me, alternately pouting and waffling

by dichroic in daily updates

My husband and cats are still at the lake (because when you’ve worked at the same company for 19 years you get more vacation time, and when you’re a pampered housecat you get All The Benefits – unlimited time off, healthcare, food, housing…). Not sure the cats really enjoy the lake views, but they do like watching all the birds around there, as well as having more room to run.

Meanwhile I am at work, and the weather is absolutely gorgeous. Hence the pouting. (Also, I’m working on a very boring task just at this moment, and I don’t have a window.)

So now I just need to decide if I want to join them all at the lake this weekend. There’s only one thing against it: the drive there and back, solo again. There are lots of reasons for it: getting out on the water again (though Saturday is apparently going to be cloudy); time with Ted (though if I don’t come down, he might come back a little early); helping to load up the cats for the trip back (no fun, but necessary), getting to see the very nice outdoor table and chairs we bought last week that were delivered today. That one reason against it translates to 5-6 hours driving in exchange for < 48 hours there, though (same as any other time we head down for a weekend, but at least usually we can keep each other company. for the driving itself, of course I don’t really want to do it, but then it would be that many more highway hours between me and that incident in Taiwan, or that many practice hours for my eyes and brain to work together, however you choose to see it. I was looking at it in the most morbid way, earlier: which would I regret more, if I went and died in a highway fatality or if I didn’t go – and Ted was the one in the bad accident? The answer to that is surprisingly easy: I’d feel much better about trying and failing (though my last thoughts would probably be “told you so”) than I would about missing those last moments with him. Fortunately both of those outcomes are phenomenally unlikely, but I did just come up with another way to think about: if I go, I will regret it for the last hour or so of the drive each way (or maybe even only on the way back, like last weekend). If I don’t go, how long will I regret it? But the other way around is, if I don’t go, we’re likelier to go next weekend, whereas if I do go we might not. Sigh. Really, I’m OK at the big decisions – it’s the small ones that kill me.


by dichroic in daily updates

It’s very weird being home all alone without either Ted or the cats.

By which you can tell I survived all the driving. The way down went pretty well, except that due to the holiday traffic a trip that can be done as fast as two and a quarter hours took three and a half hours. In a perverse way that made the driving easier; the first hour and 3/4 was largely stop and go traffic. Even the lane changes in dense traffic weren’t difficult, thanks to a combination of my Taiwan-honed reflexes and the friendliness of Portland drivers. (I don’t think it’s widely known, but drivers here are amazingly polite – some of that stems from strict yield-to-pedestrian laws but it applies even on highways.) Ted took back roads (resulting in one predictably carsick cat) and arrived about twenty minutes after I did. Even with the delay, the whole drive went pretty well for me.

The way back was a bit rougher, even though it was a much quicker drive. I’d feared it might be: there’s a part on the way back that typically has me dozing off when I’m a passenger. I wasn’t feeling sleepy at all, but after about an hour and a half, whenever I’d blink my eyes hard (to keep them moist) I’d feel like my brain skipped out for a second, which did make me a bit nervous. So that part wasn’t fun, and it went on for a while. I think I’d have felt better with a wakeful passenger, there to spot if it seemed like I was dozy. I stopped at the last rest stop (thee are three along the way) to do a little stretching and a few jumping jacks, and that seemed to help, plus once I got into the last stretch off I-5 and onto 217 and 26 I knew I was almost home and would be OK.

Ted is staying there all week and would really like me to come down next weekend; I’d have to drive down on Friday and back on Sunday. My options are:1) don’t go; 2) drive and tough it out; 3) take Amtrak (train is about as fast as driving but add a couple hours between the walk to light rail, light rail ride to get there, and extra time to find and wait for my train since I haven’t been to that station, and time for Ted to pick me up in Eugene); 4) drive but get someone to go with me – which would be more feasible if we had actual friends here, but I could ask someone from work. Hmm.

I have canceled our CSA shipment, which I’d otherwise have to pick up on Friday after 5 to maximize my options. Thing is, staying in Portland for a weekend isn’t exactly punishment!