the young Darwin

by dichroic in daily updates

Reading Voyage of the Beagle in preparation for our Galápagos trip, I am finding the young Charles Darwin unexpectedly charming, in a sweet and very geeky wayk.

The man is (was, but as long as I’m reading the book he’s still alive and speaking) an absolute monster for detail; he can go on for pages being excited about the the structure of bits of plant floating on the ocean. Also, he is a ridiculous polymath; he appears to be familiar with every published book or paper of note dealing with any aspect of zoology or geology up to that time, and a lot of the ones about plants, though he claims not to be a botanist. (Part of this is cheating; after all, he spent a lot of time revising his diaries for publication after he got back to England, working with a bunch of emininent scientists – he might not have known all those publications while he was still out in the field).

But part of what makes him so endearing is, unless he’s got good grounds for a theory, he’s got absolutely no compunction against writing “I observed (this critter) do (this-and-such a thing), but why it does that I am completely ignorant.” And when he does have a theory he supports it with data. Sometimes he’s wrong (as with the idea that earthquake-prone regions have lakes of lava underneath a skin of rock, whereas more stable zones are on hard rock all the way down) but when he is, his hypotheses are reasonable or partially correct – not his fault if plate tectonics wasn’t figured out for another hundred-plus years).

He’s got the paternal colonialist attitudes you’d expect of an 1830s Englishman, but he never misses the chance to get in a dig at slavery and he’s absolutely gutted when, while he’s making wild gestures to get a local man to understand something, the man thinks Darwin is about to hit him and just braces himself to get hit without making any protest. (At one point he uses the phrase “people of colour” – I don’t know if that was a particularly respectful term at the time as it is now, but there were certainly a lot more pejorative ones he could have used.)

And also, without Darwin, I’d never have known that according to Dampier (who visited the Galápagos Islands in 1684), cactus used to be called dildoe-trees.

assorted comments while watching the House sit-in

by dichroic in daily updates, politics

  • Holy fucking shit. The US House Minority Leader James Clyburn has just said that he’s divided Martin Luther King Jr’s “Letters from Birmingham Jail” into 46 parts, and they’re going to read it out loud in the course of the sit-in tonight.

    These are people intensely aware of their history and of the history they’re making. Just wow.

  • Twitter must be a very happy company right now (apparently they bought Periscope last year). You can’t buy publicity like having Congress members publicly praising you on live video feed!
  • OK, I’ve figured out how to get my Mac to sync to my Bluetooth headphones (I usually just use them with my phone or iPad). Because I need to erg, and it wasn’t going to happen while I was glued to the C-Span feed.
  • Granted I’m always open to excuses to procrastinate on erging, but “glued to the C-Span feed” is definitely a phrase I’ve never typed before!!!
  • Before I got home and could watch this, I was proud to find this photo of my Rep (Suzanne Bonamici) at the sit-in and to hear that both my Senators were there.
  • How cool is it that Senators are sending snacks??
  • OK, off to go erg – with headphones on and this screen sitting on the floor by my flywheel. I may add more comments to this post later.
  • Looks like this might just be a way for Ryan to get back control 🙁 I suspect the show’s over – but wow, while it lasted it was something
  • No, wait, they’re back! I have no idea what’s going on. OK, now the pirate feed is down, C-Span is back up, half the Congress is trying to conduct business as usual while the rest chant NO BILL, NO BREAK!

  • WIP and FOs, because why not

    by dichroic in daily updates, knitting

    I think it’s been a really long time, since I posted any knitting photos here. This weekend will be our third Black Sheep Squared knitters’ retreat – the ‘retreat’ is basically just me inviting people to stay at our lake house in order to attend the Black Sheep Gathering in nearby Eugene. I am hoping it will be as fun as the first one – last year got a little weird, as we had as many non-knitters (someone’s family) as knitters there.) So in honor of that, time to post some current and recent projects.

    This one is still on the needles, but has only a couple inches to go – it’s done when I run out of yarn. I’ll love wearing it, but am a little tired of knitting it – one thing about scarves, especially when knitted in fingering weight, is that they go on for a really long time. I’ve started another shawl (Antarktis, a simple pattern to show off the Abstract Fibers Alex yarn), and will reward myself with casting on a sock once I’ve finally gotten this scarf done and out of the way.
    image image

    The next is one of two squares I did for a group blanket project – the other was just a mitered square in blue and this same orange.

    Then there are the most recent socks – I loved this colorway in the skein, but I like it less knitted up. Oh, well.

    And two sweaters. The orange one (Wisteria, from Twist Collective), was a joy to knit all the way through. The blue is Cechetti, also from Twist Collective, and I got bogged down in the middle – somehow the body went fast and the second sleeve wasn’t bad but but the first sleeve took for-freaking-ever – and then I didn’t like the way it looked and decided somewhere during the second sleeve to frog the first one back and make them 3/4 sleeves. That’s better for a summer sweater anyhow. This sweater was the only Wollemeise I’ve knitted, and I think it’s a bit overrated – beautiful colors but it feels like string. I need a better picture of it. Ignore how the bottom arcs up – that was pre-blocking.
    wisteria2 wisteria

    cechetti2 cechetti1


    by dichroic in books

    Good heavens. I’ve just gotten a credit on Amazon from the Apple price-fixing settlement … for a hair under $250. The time span the settlement covers falls within my expat years; I bought a *lot* of books in those years. What I’d liek to do with it is to keep it until September in hopes that a new Apple Watch will be released then – I’ve wanted one since they came out, but have been holding off in hopes of getting one with better battery life.

    In some ways I’d rather be spending my money on paper books instead; I don’t really have any level of confidence that my e-books will still be with me and readable in 20 years. I have to admit, though, that I find reading on the Kindle a lot more comfortable than printed books, especially if I’m doing something else at the same time. (I usually am – knitting, eating, brushing my teeth.) Until someone invents a drone that will follow me around (that is, follow me one step ahead, like a cat) holding my book open and turning pages when I gesture, the Kindle seems like the way to go. Yes, I am in bondage to the Evil Empire of Amazon.

    Why it’s not good to set up memorial crosses for people you don’t know

    by dichroic in politics

    What I said on Facebook, about the guy who made 49 crosses and brought them to Orlando, to represent the people killed the last week:

    “If someone put up a cross for me when I died, I’d come back and haunt them!”
    I also noted that I do think the people wearing giant angel wings to shield mourners from picketers at the funerals are a more appropriate use of religious symbols – after all, you know in each case if they’re having the service at a place whose traditions include angels, like a church, synagogue or mosque.

    What I said on Facebook to respond to all the people who chided me because *clearly* the guy who made he crosses had nothing but loving intentions:

    “I understand that his intentions were good, and I’m certain that at least some (maybe most) of the victims would have appreciated the crosses. (I suspect all of them would have appreciated tolerance and outreach to the LGBT community while they were alive even more, but for all I know this guy already does that. Or maybe this was the event that first woke him to activism and he’ll be doing more in the future. ) I’m certainly not classing him as a hater. With all that said, though … You know how when you keep getting hot in one spot it gets sore, so that even a light tap or a friendly punch will hurt? For me and a lot of people in minority religions that kind of indifferent “hit”, where people just assume you’re Christian, happens day after day after day and creates a very sore spot. The Orlando episode so strongly highlights the need for us all to be not only sensitive to but even appreciative of each other’s differences, that the friendly “tap” of those crosses hits even harder than it might otherwise. So I’m not exactly condemning his actions, but I am saying ‘ouch!’ ”

    What I won’t say on Facebook but is the nonetheless:

    No, I don’t hate Christians. But do you know why I don’t? It’s because I work damn hard at not hating them, when so many seem to be going out of their way to make themselves either hateable (like the people who decry trans men and women in public bathrooms one week and are saying “we are Orlando” the next) or at least intensely annoying (like those in this case who think it’s just fine and dandy to assume everyone is Christian, or that those who aren’t naturally would be fine with having the label of a religion that’s not theirs being put on them when they can no longer speak for themselves – right after being killed for just being themselves, in another way. One of the ways I do this is to remind myself of the number of Christians I know who are not like that, who try to live by what Jesus did and said instead of using his name as an excuse for doing whatever the hell they want to do and hating anyone who does differently. We have a word, heteronormative, for those who try to describe the world as a place where it’s acceptable and respectful to assume everyone you might meet is straight. And the people who use that word are generally using it to make the point that it is NOT OK to make that assumption. For all I know, everyone killed at Pulse might well have identified as Christian – after all, it was Latin night and a high percentage of Latin@s do come from a Christian background(1). But not everyone sticks with the religion they’re born to, not everyone there was necessarily Latin@,, and most important, “a high percentage” is not synonymous with “all”. A lot of people are talking about tolerance and appreciation of diversity this week. It sure would be nice to see some of that in action.

    (1) by “Christian background” I mean both Catholics and Protestants. I will not even get into the argument with people like the guy last week who told me the Pope is not a “real” Christian.

    There *is* something you can do

    by dichroic in politics

    It’s a bit depressing to watch the reaction to this morning’s Orlando shootings. The right blames Obama. The left blames Trump. People screaming to ban refugees, ban guns, their solution will fix everything. It’s as if the most important thing in the wake of tragedy is to see who can seize it first to drive their own ends. I do believe in careful screening of refugees – which we already do. I do believe in sensible gun control – which we could do a lot better at. I just don’t believe that either – or any simple solution – is a complete fix to a complex problem.

    Meanwhile, still others are saying truly that offering hopes and prayers is just not enough anymore, and never really was, and they’re right.

    So what can you do to make a real difference? I do have an answer. This might not fix everything broken in the US, but it will at least help: civil discourse.

    You do it all the time at work anyway, right? Instead of arguing with your coworkers over every area in which you disagree, you focus on your common goals (work goals, in that case) and manage to work together on the things you agree on. Now try doing it with strangers, too. Do it with your political opponents. You do have a surprising number of goals in common, I promise.

    If you’re having a hard time thinking of examples, you’re not trying hard enough – and you’ve probably been part of the problem, at least so far. That doesn’t mean you need to continue that way. I can provide examples, and will in the comments if needed, but I’d almost certainly miss something important, which is why it matters for lots of people to be thinking about this stuff. Remember, you almost certainly do this in some arenas of your life. Just spread the net a little.

    Would this have saved the 50 people who died today in Orlando? I don’t know. Maybe not, maybe he was too far gone in hate. But if we quit sowing gardens with hate, mulching them with divisiveness and watering them with demogoguery, maybe we can grow a lot less of the fruit of evil.

    (Also posted to Facebook.)

    and on the medical front

    by dichroic in daily updates

    In other news, I had an odd but ultimately useful followup visit with my gastroenterologist yesterday.

    First I waited 10-15 minutes in the waiting room, because they tell you to show up 15 minutes early even though all I had to do was confirm I’m on the same meds. Then the nursing assistant showed me into a room, took my weight, blood pressure and pulse, and left, saying it would be a few minutes because the doctor was just returning from the hospital (across the street). Half an hour later (luckily they had decent magazines) I walked out into the corridor to ask what was going on. The scheduling person nearby asked what was the issue and started to check with the assitant, but right then the doctor finally rushed in. He stopped somewhere first (presumably to wash his hands and put his stuff down) then came in. So I said, “Do I get a rebate on this visit?” pointing out that for my previous visit there he’d charged $450 or so for a very brief consult (I walked in, told him my symptoms and family history, said I thought I needed a colonoscopy, and he agreed and sent me to the scheduler.) And then he said “Well, this one will be free.”


    Of course I protested and said I wanted to pay what was fair, but he stuck to it – I have never had a doctor do anything like that before.

    Anyway, then we had a very useful visit. The upshot is that I had a couple polyps, one large, that were benign but were of a type that can potentially become cancerous so I have to go back in 3 years. They were removed and everything is fine, so this is just to check it stays fine. He also discussed my IBS and had a useful suggestion (I wasn’t going to bring up, because I didn’t expect anything much could be done and mine isn’t bad enough to take any drastic steps but he had a non-medication suggestion that might help). He explained all his reasons, and didn’t dumb anything down or brush me off, so overall I was very happy.

    I thought maybe he’d given up the “freebie” idea but he mentioned it again on the way out, and when I protested, just said, “I want to keep you coming back!”

    So, you know, wow. Guess I will be going back.

    social media quicksand

    by dichroic in daily updates

    Yesterday, an old friend of mine (by which I mean we were good friends in maybe 4-9th grade, saw each other sometimes in high school and had no contact after that until Facebook came around) posted something on FB about how the difference between people who fulfill their dreams and those who don’t is that the former never stop believing. I have a low tolerance for ‘follow your bliss’ and affirmations with low meaning content anyway – they ring a lot of my bells, including the fallacy of assuming everyone has a singular dream that consumes their life (aka Proper Job), and the way “you just have to believe” can obscure the need to actually work for your dreams. I thnk a lot of them are actively harmful, because they set people’s expectations wrongly. So I commented something like “In my experience, the people who fulfill their dreams get there by working their asses off, and by having a bit of luck either in being supported by people around them or being able to move to be around supportive people.” I probably should not have posted – people who post feelgood aspirational stuff never seem to tolerate disagreement well.

    Well, she complained that I always seem to be either disagreeing with or ignoring her posts. I will admit to being more disagreeable than I intend all too often, but after more discussion it appears that her feelings are hurt because even though we have all this childhood history together I rarely Like or comment on her posts.

    Which leaves me somewhere between a headtilt and a WTF.

    I checked: all of her posts in the last month and a half have been either this sort of ‘inspirational thing’ or else about Bernie Sanders, except for with a picture of Multnomah Falls, to which I commented with some facts about how close it is to Portland (and how crowded – I think she’d thought it was off in the remote wilderness somewhere. SHe is in fact one of the three people who are part of the reason I voted for Hilary Clinton, because their incessant Bernie posts left me feeling bruised and bullied. (I did have some better reasons for my vote, as well – but I do tend to be recalcitrant when I feel like I’m being coerced.)

    Interestingly since she hasn’t commented on any of my posts so far in all of 2016 – I don’t keep track and hadn’t noticed (and don’t really care), just went back and looked out of curiosity. Apparently this has been festering for a while, because when I commented on that she told me she’d stopped Liking my posts because I didn’t Like hers “even though it’s not tit for tat” and now doesn’t get shown them. I think I like my method of regarding these things better, which is to be grateful for comments and attention I get, and assume the ones I don’t get are because people are off being busy doing other things.

    I would ignore the whole thing if I didn’t care about her, but I do like this person, or I did once, and I think I would like her now if only she’d shut up about Bernie. But literally all I know about who she is now is her city, her job, her Presidential candidate, that she’s close to her brother (another person who turned off the Bern for me) and that her mom died two years ago. And that apparently she views Facebook as a counting system you can use to determine who really cares about you. But she is not, currently, a friend. She is a Facebook friend, and despite their coopting the f-word, the two are not the same. I actually have a really easy way to tell, when it comes to Philadelphia people: when my dad died, two years ago, my actual friends were the people who showed up at the funeral or when we were sitting shiva, or who at least called/IMed/emailed to say they couldn’t make it but were thinking of us.

    I am irritated, and I refuse to feel guilty.

    Anyway, I ended up sending the following note last night, on the theory that if I didn’t say something she’d just continue to get madder at me for not responding. No comment so far; I don’t know if I’ve done more harm than good.

    “I’ve been thinking about how to respond to this – because if I don’t, the same thing will happen again down the line. I think you and I must use FaceBook in very different ways. I don’t consider it a test or a metric for how much someone likes me or vice versa – some of the people I care about most aren’t even on FB, or are on rarely, and there are people who comment on my stuff whom I barely know (as well as some I’ve come to know and like just from conversations we’ve had on FB). I like having conversations, but when someone “scatters breadcrumbs” in a public post, I don’t feel obliged to pick them up. On the other hand, if you want to talk to me, I’d be happy to talk to you – by phone, by Skype, by old fashioned letter, by email, by IM, or in FB messages like this. We were good friends back in about junior high, but we don’t even really know each other now – I know who you’re voting for, but not what you like to do for fun, what you like to read or watch, how you think or feel (aside from mad at me right now). I do know I liked you as a kid, and I bet I’d like you as an adult if I knew you better. And then you’ll know because I tell you or show it, not by how many posts here I respond to.”

    why buying milk made me sad

    by dichroic in daily updates

    I just bought a gallon of milk. I don’t drink milk. I buy it sometimes for cooking, but I don’t know if I’ve ever bought so much as a gallon. So why did I do it today? Because a woman at my lunchtime knitting group (who also works in the LYS part time) mentioned that they were having some trouble getting her husband’s disability paid, and that when he went to the food bank they didn’t give him milk and cereal, though they gave those to other people with kids (they may have run out; she wasn’t sure). They are a family of 7. She didn’t say any of this in an asking-for-help way, just that we all tend to talk about our lives as we sit and knit. Well, I go on Tuesdays at lunch to sit and knit for a while, then I go to the grocery store down the street, pick up lunch and bring it back to eat at my desk. So I asked if she wanted to go with me so I could get her some milk (I don’t think I said it that clearly but she understood what I meant). Bought some cherries too, because I wanted some for me and even people dealing with hard times need a treat now and then. Maybe especially people dealing with hard times. And told her about the time I was on unemployment and it turns out Arizona only pays $200/week, max.

    I love my country but some days I don’t like it very much. Our safety nets are too holey.

    On the other hand, in happier beverage news, we had a great long weekend – the in-laws came to visit us at the lake, and much wine was consumed.

    on immersion in October Daye

    by dichroic in books

    I’ve been rereading the October Daye series by Seanan McGuire. Their plots are very twisty, an I’d realized I was missing a lot of the connections when I read the books as they came out, a year or so apart (Seanan is amazingly prolific and the first few came out at a faster pace, but now she’s got several series running.) Reading the series in order is a much more immersive experience; whenever I put down a book, after spending a while in Toby’s head, it takes a few minutes to decompress and realize that no, I don’t have a propensity for putting myself and my friends in mortal danger, I don’t have accelerated healing or an affinity for blood, and I’m not a changeling. The sort of trouble I get in is not the same sort Toby gets in (good thing, as I don’t have her resources, though I wish I had her gift for gaining friends and allies). Total book hangover, and a thorough one.

    I realized the other day that the world Seanan has envisioned here may be unique in my experience . If I lived in Toby Daye’s world and Faerie existed, I wouldn’t want to know about it (assuming I was fully human) – and this is the first series I can remember thinking that about. In that world, humans are shut out of magic completely; I can only think of a single example where a human intersected the Fae world and didn’t ultimately lose out (and even then it led to major upheavals in her life). I can’t think of anything more depressing than learning that yes, magic does exist … but you are barred forever from having any part in it or even really seeing any of it. Your kid might – but if so they will be taken away from you. Normally I’d want to know what’s happening even – especially – if it might hurt me, but I think in this case knowing might actually be worse than not knowing.