if I can’t sing, it’s STILL not my revolution

by dichroic in daily updates

We need songs to march to – I’m not enough of a musician to create new anthems from whole cloth, but filking I can do. Feel free to improve it further, especially if you’re familiar with the original (well, the original was written for the Bread and Roses march in 1911, but the video I linked is an update the original marchers would have been proud of).

As we go marching, marching
Through cities nationwide,
From fact’ry, home and lab floor,
From town and countryside,
From coffeehouse and office,
From minaret and steeple,
We join our song together,
We are people, we are people.

As we go marching, marching,
We stand and stake our claim:
We each own our own bodies,
Though different, we’re the same,
All disrespect and hatred,
We bury in one deep hole;
We march and sing together,
We are people, we are people.

As we go marching, marching,
We bring the better days,
For able and disabled,
For straights and trans and gays,
For baby girls and elders,
We reach out and we keep whole,
Together we’re proclaimimg
We are people, we are people.

I think the Battle Hymn of Women is probably due for an update too.

Been sick, still/again

by dichroic in daily updates

I thought I was finally getting over the cold I’d had since about January 5. Wednesday I took the day off (to do a supersecret thing I’m afraid to jinx by talking about it). Unfortunately by the time I was done doing the thing, which involve talking to a lot of people (and apologizing for my hoarseness and lingering cough) I was feeling like the best thing to do would be to go back to bed. Which I did, which is where I found out I’d spiked a101.4 fever. I was able to get an appointment at my doctor the next day luckily (just to see the PA, but I figured that was fine) and she diagnosed bronchitis. So I’ve been at home since then, doing some telecommuting and mostly just taking it easy.

Between the thing where it took me three tries to fill in Wednesday’s time sheet (which was just 8 hours of PTO) and the time when Ted asked me Thursday night whether I’d actually intended to put a box of dry noodles in the fridge (nope!) it was pretty clear I wasn’t exactly functioning at my best. I pointed out to Ted that, in recent years where he’s been working a lot more overtime than I do, even though he’s always pretty good about doing his share around the house, I had taken on a lot of the responsibility of running the house – not that I was doing all the cooking, but that I was doing more deciding what to cook which day (we decide together, ahead of time, on a few major meals for each week, but we don’t tie them to a specific day), and when, and making sure we had the ingredients, and that we didn’t run out of cat litter, and so on. I told him that while I’m down, we need him to step up and take over – make the decisions, consulting me for opinions as I usually consult him, figure out the timing and make sure it all happens.

I think he’s taken it more to heart than strictly needed, or he thinks I’m in worse shape than I currently am (after my 4th day on antibiotics). We just discussed when to have dinner, he suggested an hour, and I said ok but could we actually eat in an hour instead of just atartying to cook then. Next thing I know I hear him taking stuff out of the fridge and pantry. I pointed out that if I make the salad while he does the main course it will only take us half an hour to make dinner, but I got shooed back to bed and told it’s “all under control”.

Can’t complain – except that I feel like a bit of a freeloader, especially as he had the cold too, though not the bronchitis, and is still coughing.

Back to work tomorrow, hoping that’s not pushing things too far. It’s less than ten minutes away, so if I start feeling bad I’ll go back home. I do miss the Dutch way of doing things, where the doctor just says you can’t go back to work til you’re completely well – and sometimes you even need to be checked by the doctor onsite.

a week for nesting

by dichroic in daily updates

It’s been a weird week, between cold (the illness kind) and cold (the weather kind). After spending all weekend firmly planted on the couch, a roll of toilet paper and trashcan beside me to deal with the nonstop nasal discharge), Monday I worked from home because I woke up with a fever of 100.6. Tuesday I managed to get to the office, then Wednesday I was at home again for Portland’s snowpocalypse. I know they got over a foot downtown; it was probably closer to 8″ by us. Today a lot of people are still out, as is Ted who now has my cold, but I decided to come in because it was just all getting a bit silly. Since I’d have had to completely clear off his truck anyway to get my car out of the garage, I just ended up taking the truck. Its advantage is, not only does it have 4WD, but the way you drive a behemoth like that is pretty much the way you drive in snow anyway: careful gradual stops and starts, wide easy turns, no sudden movements.

Tomorrow I was supposed to take a half day off, but the thing I was taking off for is being postponed, because the cold weather will continue a few more days and many people still won’t be able to get to work. Also, between ice and illness, I think we’ll probably stay in Hillsboro instead of heading out to the lake this weekend. I have plenty to read, plus enough tea, popcorn, pretzels and yarn, so I’m good no matter what. I may even venture back onto the erg today. Or maybe tomorrow.

The weirdest thing has been that I’ve had no sense of smell for the last several days, even though most of the time I’ve been able to breathe through at least one nostril. I sniff and just smell nothing, not even very strong scents (we’ve been using a vaporizer with some Vicks’ stuff in it. I’m told its scent is overpowering but I totally can’t tell). It’s oddly disconcerting – it’s nice not to have to gag because I got too strong a whiff from the cat food sack, but I hadn’t realized how much pleasure I get from the scents of soaps, sweaters, teas, wine, and so on. My sense of taste isn’t gone, but seems to be impaired: I can taste sweet and salty just fine, along with some woody, earthy or bitter flavors, but I seem to be missing out on subtle flavors and aromatics. For instance, someone gave me a tea blend with just a hint of berries; I can taste the tea and sugar just fine, but the faint fruit flavor is gone. And either I’ve got a particularly tasteless box of pretzels going, or I can’t taste sourdough either. Last night’s shrimp and broccoli tasted fine, though, as did the supermarket sushi I had at lunch. Apparently it’s possible to look your sense of smell with a cold and have it be gone for weeks, years or forever. Here’s hoping that doesn’t happen!

slightly ill and also sad

by dichroic in daily updates

Vacation was very nice – I spent days and days organizing my books, ate well, etc. But apparently my body is not so happy to once again be around people other than Ted, because I’m sick (ill, not nauseous). I hab a code in by head. I haven’t been ill for years and years, and apparently I’ve forgotten how – I keep being surprised I don’t feel worse. Mostly I’m being a giant mucuous faucet, with occasional headache from sinus congestion or sore throat from drippage and maybe a lowgrade fever (99F), plus a sore and swollen gland on my neck and that’s about it. I don’t feel achy (except my nose is sore!) or lethargic. I probably could even erg, but I’m not going to.

It’s kind of upsetting to find out about instances like the shooting in Fort Lauderdale by phone notification that friends are checking in to say they’re OK. Of course I’m very glad they are (though whenever I say something like that, Jo Walton’s line “Someone else’s friends died that day” haunts me) but it’s not a pleasant thought that we actually need systems for this. But on the third hand (because I am a metaphorical Shiva) I remember the big California earthquakes of the 1980s, and what a blessing it was for people to be able to share notes on the nascent Internet about who was known to be OK, when the phone systems went down. Mass shootings still suck, though.

arrived

by dichroic in daily updates

I almost forgot to say that Ted’s present arrived Monday! So I don’t have to worry about faking something up for him to open. Now I just have to hope he likes it – it’s an original painting by an old friend, loosely based on a photo I took, so he will certainly like the idea of it. I just hope he loves the painting in esse, as well as in posse. (Assuming that’s the right way to use those phrases.)

That’s his birthday present. His Christmas present is a thumbdrive made to attach to an iPad. You can apparently store movies on it and play them directly from the drive. We don’t have wifi at the lake house, so he loads up a few movies before heading down; I have already craftily pointed out to him that if we watch the movies he’s already got loaded early in our holiday, he can load up more while we’re visiting his parents (assuming his mom either hasn’t changed the wifi password or remembers what it is – she favors long and complex ones). So having this drive to load extra movies on should be welcome.

There’s only one package yet to arrive before we head south tonight: my present for the cats. At least they won’t feel deprived if it’s late.

odd things I miss from the Netherlands, part #9234

by dichroic in daily updates

At this time of year, when I’m getting read to take a long vacation from work, I miss the phrase “t/m”. It is very useful, and we have no good equivalent in English. It stands for “tot/met”, literally “to/with” and is used in the sense of “up to and including” as in “I will be on holiday from tomorrow t/m January 2”. There’s no easy way to say that in English that doesn’t involve a lot more typing!

But the thing I think we both still miss most is still living in the center of town and being able to walk to millions of restaurants within a 10-15 minute stroll. (Even if they all serve so slowly that every dinner out takes two hours!) OK, maybe not millions, but I bet there are over a hundred bars and restaurants within that distance from our old flat. We could live in the Pearl here, but even there the restaurant density is not nearly as high, plus our house would cost three times as much as the one we bought in Hillsboro and our commute would be forty minutes instead of five (except when there was bad weather or accidents, when it could double). And the rowing club – we miss the rowing club a lot. Portland has them, they’re just a bit far to make rowing on workdays practical.

holiday concerns

by dichroic in daily updates

On Saturday we went to Ruth’s Chris, as an early birthday dinner for Ted. Normally we’d prefer to try some of Portland’s unique restaurants but there are actually only a few specializing in steak and more importantly, I had a gift card. My company always used to send out an AmEx gift card to every employee at the holidays; I always thought that was a little strange, since this is also when profit-sharing bonuses happen, but OK, not complaining! Anyway, this year we have a new recognition and rewards program where you can earn points and pick your prizes, so they used that instead. In addition to everything from jewelry to blenders, they had several gift cards available, so I chose the Ruth’s Chris one.

We’ve been to their restaurants in Houston, Scottsdale and Taipei, and it’s always been a true fine-dining experience. This one, however, only partly succeeded in that regard. The steaks were as good as ever, and the service was quite good, except for a minor bobble where the server gave me the wine to taste (I’d done the ordering) and then handed me the cork afterward. Not a big deal and certainly not something that would affect the tip I left, but it does show a lack of clearness on the whole concept. The idea is to sniff the cork first, just in case the wine has gone so bad that even one sip would be unpleasant. (That happens so vanishingly rarely these days, or maybe ever, that it doesn’t really matter much, but that is the idea.)

Anyway, the problem was the restaurant itself. You walk right in to a large, very high foyer facing a stairway to the second floor. (Here’s someone’s photo) It’s a single door, not a double “airlock” style of door. The bar is on your right and the restaurant seating on your left; the upstairs seems to be devoted to rooms for private parties. It’s all very open. Of course, the upstairs and the bar were both very busy, since it was the Saturday before Christmas Eve. This was also an usually cold weekend in Portland (when I drove to work to work this morning, there was still a little snow on the road). We were seated at a table right on the edge between the dining area and the lobby. So it was noisy, open, and very cold – not the atmosphere I’m expecting when I’m paying those kind of prices for a special-occasion dinner.

The server did apologize for the cold, and they comped our dessert – I think they felt guilty after noticing that Ted kept his winter coat on the whole time. But the nicest part happened when we went to pay. When I’d ordered the gift cards, I had a choice of “spending” $50 or $100 of my points; I chose the $100 option, so when two cards arrived in the mail I just assumed they were two $50 cards. Nope – apparently someone somewhere made an error and sent me two $100 cards, so our dinner was free – even after I made sure to tip based on the original cost including dessert, since the server really was trying her best.

And then on the way home, Uber quoted us a higher-than-usual price, as we expected due to Saturday night high demand, but only actually charged me the normal price.

I almost feel a little guilty, since I was supposed to be treating Ted – but not quite. I may end up feeling guilty about his birthday present, though. A while back, I posted a photo of our lake to Facebook, and an old friend asked if I’d mind if she based a painting on it. Of course I said that was fine, and asked her to send me a photo of the completed painting. That was a few weeks ago, when I was still deliberating about a present for Ted – it’s a milestone birthday, so I needed something special. So I asked if I could buy it. Unfortunately, she wasn’t able to ship it for a couple of weeks – apparently it takes a while for all the layers of paint to dry. It’s in the mail now, but while I told her I was hoping to get it for his birthday, I forgot to tell her in time that we’d be heading down to the lake a couple days ahead of time. (I was going to email her the very day a note arriving saying she’d shipped it – my fault entirely.) So it may not arrive until after we’re gone. At least it won’t have to stand out in the weather; when I grumbled about this on Ravelry, someone smart suggested asking the Post Office to hold our mail while we were gone, and that turned out to be surprisingly easy to do. (Really, the usps.com site lets you do a lot of useful things very easily.) So I’ll be wrapping up a printout of the painting with an IOU; I’m trying to figure out a way to make it more special (like maybe faking up a frame, or wrapping it in a box if we have one the right size).

Three workdays left before break!

Shrimp po’boys, rethought

by dichroic in cooking

Last night’s dinner was so tasty that I wanted to write it up. These are not proper shrimp po’boys; proper ones have the shrimp breaded and fried, and the remoulade sauce is much more complicated. However, these are easier to make at home for one or two people, mostly involved stuff I had on hand (I just had to buy the bread) and are extremely tasty with a real Cajun flavor. Quantities given are for one sandwich; it would be easy to double or triple.

Ingredients:
small baguette (I used half of what the local fancy supermarket calls a mini French baguette), sliced in half for a sandwich
about 6 medium shrimp per sandwich – big enough to be satisfying to bite into, small enough to fit on the bread
small tomato
Lettuce (I used red-leaf, that being what I had)
Cajun seasoning
Cooking oil

Hasty Remoulade sauce approximation
mayonnaise – about 2 heaping Tbsp
pickle juice
Worcestershire sauce
Tabasco
1 clove garlic, minced or crushed

In a small bowl, mix the mayo with around 1/2tsp pickle juice, a dash of Tabasco, a sploosh of Worcestershire sauce and the garlic. Stir and set aside. Heat a bit of oil in a saute pan. Meanwhile, toss the shrimp with a generous amount of Cajun seasoning. Saute the shrimp until pink all the way through; while they’re cooking, slice the tomato and cut the lettuce into ribbons. Toast the bread (I just put it under the broiler for a couple minutes). Spoon the remoulade sauce onto both halves of the bread. Line up the shrimp on the bottom half, top with the lettuce and tomato.

THIs time it was actually possible to eat the sandwich as a sandwich; other times I’ve had to use a knife and fork. It probably depends most on the relative sizes of bread and shrimp. But I cooked nearly half a pound of shrimp, and cut up too much lettuce and tomato (as i always do) so whatever didn’t fit on the sandwich I ate as a salad. It was awfully good.

Tonight Ted had his third work dinner in a row (apparently the snow we’re having didn’t make them cancel it, silly people) so I had bangers and mash, if that’s the proper term for andouille sausage and mashed potatoes made with garlic and sour cream. This may actually be the first time in my life I’ve used up an entire container of sour cream without having any of it go bad (excepting times when I bought the container and used it all in a single recipe).

the story of three menorahs

by dichroic in daily updates

Quick note: Technically I’m talking about Chanukiot (plural of chanukiah), which have nine candles and are used for the holiday Chanukah. THe word “Menorah” can also refer to the seven-branched candleabra used as a symbol of Judaism, but it’s the more common term and we often talk about Chanukah menorahs, and that’s the term I’m more likely to use.

Some people have the tradition of letting each member of a family light their own menorah each night, but we (and everyone else I knew growing up) just had the one. Now I have three, though I only light one at a time.

First came the brass one I bought for my first apartment, for my first Chanukah on my own after college. It’s sturdy and solid, except that the edges of some of the candle sockets have sort of started to come off the rest of the metal. I’m not sure where I got it, because there wasn’t really a Jewish community where I lived and online shopping wasn’t a thing yet – probably I asked my mom to send me one. This one is smallish and easy to store, so it lives in the Hillsboro townhouse with us.

The other two menorahs are bigger and live on display shelves at the lake house. My favorite of all of them is the one I’ve probably used least in recent years, because I mostly haven’t had it with me. It consists of a big thick piece of glass with a picture of Old Jerusalem etched or incised into it, slotted into a wooden foot. There are metal discs along the top, upon each of which sits a ceramic candleholder with a magnet base. It’s a beautiful thing, but I didn’t take it with us during our expat years for fear of breaking it, and for the past few years, Chanukah has mostly been far enough ahead of our Christmas break that I wasn’t at the lake house to use it.

The third menorah is the one I didn’t need, but it jumped on me and declared it was mine. In the middle of a (somewhat miserable otherwise) 3-month business trip to Woostuh, MA, in the depths of winter, I drove up a couple of hours to visit a longtime online friend who lives just on the far side of the Maine border. She took me to Portsmouth, NS for lunch, and at a small gallery there I saw it. This was in 2001, when I was doing a lot of flying while not on business-trip Siberian exile – it was just three and a half years after getting my VFR rating. So when I saw a colorful menorah that was not only a biplane, but also had a pilot that could be taken to be female, I was hooked. But I didn’t need another menorah, and it was more $$ than I wanted to spend for a thing I really didn’t need. I was haunted by thoughts of it for about two weeks, until I caved and drove back up to buy it (and visited my friend again). I’ve never regretted that purchase, and it taught me something about going ahead and buying the thing, if you can afford it, and if it’s something that you really want, and might not be able to find again.

Maybe when we head down to the lake for our holiday break I’ll remember to post some photos. We’re probably not having a tree this year (because we’re spending Christmas itself with Ted’s parents) so it’s a good time to focus on Chanukah! Come to think of it, I need to remember to pack the small brass menorah to take with me to their house, since Chanukah begins on Christmas Eve this year. We had a Seder at their house once, so I’m sure they’ll be good with me lighting Chanukah candles. (By “good”, I don’t mean “they’ll allow me”, I mean, “they’ll make a nice space for the menorah and probably come listen to the blessings each night, with love for me and respect for my traditions”. I won the in-law lottery.)

Holiday Challenge update

by dichroic in daily updates, rowing

I haven’t talked much about this year’s Holiday Challenge, but it’s proceeding apace – I’m up to 182km and expect to finish midweek. That was fostered by the 25km piece I just finished (“just” as in haven’t even showered yet – I’m heating up lunch first). (Actually yesterday – I wrote this piece and forgot to hit Publish, because erging is not good for braining. This morning I’ve now done another 15km.)

I did it at marathon pace, which is to say not fast, and I’m a slow rower to start with – it took me 2:28:37 to finish, giving me a split (time to row 500m) of 2:58.2. That equates to a pace of about 6 minutes per kilometer or around 9.5 minutes per mile. These long pieces can really eat up a weekend day 🙁

I’ve also concluded that The Martian is a terrible audiobook for erging. Somehow, you don’t want a book about endurance when you’re actually doing an endurance piece; you want something with a lot more quick action. As audiobooks usually run from 8-20 hours long, even with an action book you don’t really have to worry much about it not lasting the length of multiple pieces. Also, at one point I looked at my phone and noticed he’d already survived the accident, figured out how to make soil and water, planted the potatoes, and Earth had figured out that he was alive – and yet the book had 9 hours left. Unless the book is farther from the movie than I expect, I think it might get a little tedious – and even for an engineer, it’s a bit technical for a workout book.