some good, some bad, some really f’ing irritating

by dichroic in daily updates, politics

The weekend’s good thing: driving out to the lake house went well again. Ted had taken the week off, since he’s got vacation time to burn, and gone down there with the cats, though I’m under the impression that he still ended up working more than not. He’s not good at working less. I drove out to meet him, so being bak together was nice, and also the drive does seem to be getting easier. Partly I’m sure it’s practice, but I do think the DARE book has helped too. I listen to one of the audios at the start of each drive, just as a reminder.

The weekend’s bad thing: After a row on very rough water, I was putting my oars down Saturday when I threw my back out – something went twannng! and hurt for a few seconds, and then it felt achy and fragile for a while. It is mostly better – a massage I happened to have scheduled yesterday helped – but still aches it I sit too long. I haven’t rowed or erged since then, but planned to try it last night.

Yesterday’s good thing: my new desk finally arrived! It took forever because Pottery Barn managed to omit one essential piece while shipping it to their warehouse. I don’t think it would ever have arrived, if I hadn’t kept calling and escalating. But it got there yesterday morning, and then I realized that since I was working from home anyway, I could take a lunch break and go get the peripherals I needed, because working at a nonoptimal setup was not helping my back. Ted has an office in our house for his home conputer, plus another setup in a spare bedroom where he has a table and monitor he can plug his work laptop into, but I’d never had a real desk because I don’t like working at a proper desk if I can be on a couch. I wrote my whole book at the dining room table. But now, with early and late meetings, I’m doing enough work that I need a big monitor and proper keyboard, which means it needs everything else for a functional work environment. So now I have my very own desk and all the accoutrements (except I’m still stealing one of Ted’s chairs, because I’m not sure what I want for myself).

Yesterday’s (slightly) bad part: four skeins of yarn arrived in the mail, as part of a traveling swap – the idea is that you take one or more yarns you like, replace them with comparable yarn from your own stash and send it on. But there was nothing in there I liked, so I guess I will be sending on the whole box. (It’s good quality, but not to my taste.)

The good part of today: I was waiting for a conference room and as the people from the previous meeting were walking out, one of them took a look at me and said “Paula???” It took me a few minutes to realize who he was, but we shared a cube once for about six months – a different company in a different state, about a decade and a half ago. It was fun to see him; it’s been a looooong time. Since then we’ve both moved into other industries; all my Six Sigma, expat and author experience have happened since then. Back then, he was a recent grad in his first software engineer job, wearing a t-shirt and holey jeans; now he’s mid-career, with apparently some direct reports of his own. He’s grown up well. It’s been a looooong time – since then we’ve both moved into other industries; all my Six Sigma, expat and author ex

(Unfortunately, the main shared experience I remember was that one of his close co-workers, a fit man in his fifties, droped dead while jogging. So I didn’t want to bring that up!)

The bad part of today is that I may need to back off on some of my social media, because people are beginning to irritate me – and in both cases, it’s mostly other feminists. In one case, someone who has a history of being condescending and spiky said something that felt denigrating to me. I’m not denying that it doesn’t seem to be what she intended, and she herself did apologize a bit if she’d worded it badly, which is all I was ever hoping for, so it’s better not to engage further anyway. But I am bemused at the people who normally are all about “you have the right to your own feelings” jumping out to tell me how wrong I am.

And then there is the “me too” thing. As it happens, I have never been sexually harassed, abused or raped. I appear to be in a small minority here. I realize it’s nothing but luck on my part, having seen women smarter and stronger than I am go through some horrible experiences. Of course I’ve had catcalls, but very few – a couple of whistles, and maybe one disgusting call-out. Of course I’ve encountered systematic sexism. I live in the world as it is. But I haven’t been groped, I’ve never been pressured into sex, I’ve never been threatened, or treated unfairly in overt ways – or the couple of times things might have gone that way, I’ve had people to notice and stand up for me – even when it was as innocuous as girls being required to wear skirts to a fifth grade dance when boys could get away with jeans, my mother wrote a note to the teacher. I’ve had at least one teacher who (I just found out) harassed some other girls – but he didn’t do it to me (possibly because I looked like a child at that age) and I didn’t even know about it at the time. The closest thing to inappropriate touching was a coworker who came up behind me and rubbed my shoulders – and I told him to stop. He wasn’t in any position of authority and our company had clearly stated anti-harassment policies they stood behind, so I had recourse. Or there was the stranger who literally leaned across me to hit on a friend of mine. I was not sexually harassed; I was inconvenienced by rudeness and ignored in a stunning display of bad manners – though I bet my friend feels she was harassed, because he was a bit creepy and kept telling her how much he was like his old girlfriend.

I am going into this level of detail (and have detailed other instances on FaceBook) to make the point that I remember the things that have happened to me. I am not in denial. I am not denying there has been some sexism, and I certainly do think these sorts of microaggressions contribute to the rape culture we have. But it has never risen to the level of harassment and abuse, and I find it paradoxical that I am now being told by avowed feminists that I am not competent to judge my own life experiences.

I think this is an important point. I’ve even seen it drawn as a triangle, with common microagresssions at the base rising to rape, shown as a rare thing, up at the point. I’m somewhere within that base, for sure, but I think it’s very important to make people realize that rape and abuse are not rare. I know woman after woman after woman with horrible stories to tell. Life-changing stories. Violence, or betrayal by people in positions of power and trust, or climates that left them unable to live their lives as they want and take the jobs or classes they chose. It’s epidemic. Yes, we need to crack down on microagressions because they contribute to the acceptance of macroaggression – but I will not be part of anything that allows anyone to assume that all the “me, too” comments are speaking of minor problems. Each woman, including me, has the right to determine for herself what rises to the level of aggression and harassment, and I know enough of my sisters’ stories to know what a huge festering sinkhole this is. I’ve been lucky, and somehow haven’t fallen in. What I want to say is, DON’T push me.

Blanche DuBois had a point

by dichroic in daily updates

This image has been my icon on Ravelry for over a year now.

I created it soon after the Orlando nightclub shootings, borrowing the words from the sonnet Lin-Manuel Miranda read at the Tony awards, right after and in response to the shootings. (Go sonnet“>read it again; it’s the right words for today. I’l wait.) World events ever since then have been such that I haven’t once been able to bear the idea of taking it down and going back to a ‘normal’ icon. Clearly I won’t be taking it down today, either.

But yesterday a random stranger on Ravelry sent me a note. She’s een my icon and loved it. She told me about the pretty Black Lab in her own user icon there, then sent another note sying she’d read about me and we sound a lot alike. I’m not convinced of that part, entirely; for one thing, she added, “In my town there is no majority — we are all people” and well, I don’t live in Utopia yet. She also sounds a lot more cheerful than I am!

So I told her the story of my icon, and why I’ve kept it up so long (typically on Ravelry, LJ and elsewhere I’ve always used pictures or drawings of myself, since the icon is there by my words). She answered back,

Paula –

Hugs and more hugs and a spare one to put in your pocket (it does not expire).

No, you are not a downer. Looking at your lovely icon reminds me of a tea cup I have in as many colors-red, orange, yellow, blue, darker blue, and don’t know what to call it.

First saying is Whatever your mind can conceive and beleive, it will achieve.

Dream great dreams and make them come true.

Nothing in the world can take the pace of persistence.

and on and on and on. Were it possible, I’d hand it to you right this instant. Full of tea/cocoa/coffee/cafe con leche or whatever you like best.

I’l think of you every time I use it henceforth.

So like I said, I’m not entirely sure she got what I was saying, and she’s clearly way more cheerful than I am feeling today … but damned if I don’t feel a little better on account of these kind words from a total stranger.

Some Yom Kippur thoughts

by dichroic in politics

This morning as I was getting ready for work, I was thinking about the approaching holiday. Between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, Jews are supposed to repent for their sins in the previous year, and ask forgiveness from Lowe’s they have injured or offended.

I’m sure that this year, as every year, I have Knight at my husband, remove about my family, then annoyed at coworkers who are only trying to do their best, goofed off when I should have work harder, or not done the kind act that was in front of me, And for all those things I am truly sorry.

This year, though, repentance for everything comes harder. I suspect that the times when I have most offended others were when I was speaking out in favor of love and freedom against hatred and repression. I am not sorry for speaking out. I am proud. I’m sorry for those. Probably, though, there were times when I could have spoken better. There may have been times when, in the satisfaction of righteous indignation, I offended someone when I could have actually change their mind. I’m sorry for that. There may have been times when I was unclear, and thus alienated someone Who might otherwise they’re on my side. I am sorry for that. Maybe there were times I could’ve been more persuasive if I have chosen my words more carefully I’m sorry for those missed opportunities. here may have been times when I didn’t recognize the common humanity in those I opposed – not the true haters, but those with a legitimate grievance who then got swept along on a riptide of demagoguery. I know that happens with the best intentions: you don’t have to be much of a student of history to have seen it again and again. Did I ever put a hand out to those in the riptide? Was I swept along myself? I hope to do better in future.

Most of all, I am sorry there were times when I should have spoken up, but didn’t.

starting the new year with an outing

by dichroic in daily updates, knitting

Last night, I met up with 5 other local knitters, took the MAX (lightrail) downtown, had dinner at Kenny & Zukes (so I got to have matzo ball soup for Roash Hashanah dinner, yay – and it was good, too) and then went over to Powell’s to hear Clara Parkes speak about her new book, A Stash of One’s Own (a collection of essays about the yarn stashes that every knitter tends to accumulate, revel in or guilt-trip over, pet now and then when no one is watching, and sometimes *gasp* cull).

It all felt like such a Portland thing to do 🙂 It might not have been the most traditional way to spend Erev Rosh Hashana, but I heard a speech by a rabbi the other day in which he talked about how we try to begin the year as we want it to go on – I could deal with a year full of friends, fun outings, knitting and yarn talk, and good food.


by dichroic in daily updates

New iPad, complete with keyboard and Pencil. Am typing this just because I can, and noticing that my brain seems to be wired to think that keyboard+mouse is an inseparable set. I keep wanting too grab a mouse instead of touching the screen to select stuff. (This also keeps me using the touchpad when working on my work laptop, which actually has a touchscreen.) The iPad arrived yesterday, so I went to Verizon to turn in the old one for credit – good thing I remembered to ask about the keyboard, which the person last time I was there apparently had marked as having been a sale rather than an order. I only ordered it because they didn’t have any in stock – I bet that was wrong too, since today they found only one, that had been shelved in the wrong section. I got suspicious after noticing they’d emailed an order confirmation for the iPad itself, but an order receipt for the keyboard. And, come to think of it, neither one for the Pencil – I got a paper receipt for that one.

Next week they will be rolling out iOS 11, so I should be able to have even more fun with the pencil then.

at least I get to knit on the way

by dichroic in daily updates, knitting

Tomorrow should be interesting, if somewhat lacking in the sleep department – I’m traveling to the Santa Clara office. One of the better perks of working for Intel is getting to go on the shuttle (corporate jet) between the major offices. However, to get the maximum time there, I need to check in at 5:45 AM and I land back home at 8:30 PM (and still have to drive home, but it’s only ten minutes or so). This is way better than flying commercial, because you apparently just show up, show ID and get on, no major security hassles.

Also, I had a midyear review today (my first formal review since starting here) and was nervous, but the boss seems to be happy enough with me, so that’s good.

Meanwhile, I figured it was time to post a few more finished objects. Some socks, a toy for a coworker’s new baby, cowls (the blue one for me, the dark red for a swap)
and a couple summer sweaters.

Charlottesville: two points

by dichroic in daily updates, politics

I have a question. Is there *any* accurate (non-alt-right) evidence that the “antifa” engaged in unprovoked violence in Charlottesville? I am seeing a few well-intentioned people saying that they deplore racism yada yada but that they deprecate violence on *both* sides.

I went combing through the news and the only evidence I could find of violence from people on the left was that the protests and counterprotests devolved into ‘taunting, shoving, and brawling’. Of course I’d like to believe that the Nazis started it, and others were only defending themselves – but either way, in my opinion, brawling with people who are brawling with you is waaaay different than

1) Arranging a riot and showing up armed and ready to fight
2) Trapping activists inside a church where they’re holding a prayer vigil
3) Surrounding and roughing up a small group of UVA students trying to defend their campus from interlopers
4) running your car into counterprotestors and then reportedly backing up over them to cause maximum damage

So, OK, I’m against initiating violence, but even violence has degrees – and defending yourself and others is not only OK but required. It’s not a binary “did it happen or didn’t it” thing, and while I’m perfectly prepared to call out my own fellow travelers for conduct unbecoming when required, I don’t think there was any here that needs to be called out.

While I’m at it, another quick question: I first saw that term “antifa” or “anti fa” used by the alt-right. Now I’m seeing it everywhere. Are we reclaiming it? Is “anti fa”, with the space, meant to mean “anti fascist”?

I just heard a fascinating and somewhat depressing discussion on Federal prosecution of the man who killed Heather Heyer. Apparently this may be tricky for them (this applies only to the Federal case; VA laws may differ).

  • They may not be able to make a hate crime charge stick because, no matter who he was aiming at, the victim in this case was white. (Maybe they can still get that to stick because others were injured? I don’t know.)
  • The Federal KKK law will only apply if he turns to to have been conspiring with others, not if it was a lone-wolf attack
  • If they call it terrorism, that gives the investigation more power but they can’t prosecute it as terrorism because the Federal law only covers the international variety, not domestic terrorism.

Sounds like we need to rethink some laws. At least murder is still illegal.

the second stage

by dichroic in books

I have been reading Victor Kloss’s Royal Institute of Magic series – a somewhat depressing endeavor, since I just finished book 5 and he died (tragically, of lymphoma at age 35) while writing book 6. They are fun, though there are klunky bits the size of speed bumps throughout. One question I’m left with is, why does everyone in the vignettes from Queen Elizabeth’s time speak and write in a completely modern style? Even a house furnished in the late 1600s and deserted since then has “all the modern conveniences”. Also, since most of the book is set in modern England, why is everyone white, cis and able bodied?

A thing I’m liking about some children’s books today is that more and more are second-stage diverse. What I mean by that, is that it always seems like when authors are trying to introduce more diverse characters, the first stage is always “I’m ____ and that’s the central issue of my story,” where the fill-in characteristic could be poor, Black, geeky, fat, gay, Jewish, unathletic…. whatever. Those books are important and I’m not putting them down; they serve a needed purpose for broadening the world of literature, for providing representation to readers in those groups and for letting other readers step in the shoes of people not quite like themselves – or maybe surprisingly like themselves. But they’re not what I want to read, at least not as a steady thing. And they have a danger: read too many and you might start thinking that being (poor, Black, geeky, fat, gay, Jewish, unathletic, trans…. whatever) is in itself a problem.

What I want are the second-stage books, and I’d like to see even more of them. If I’ve got an old book that starts with a few (probably white, cis, reasonably prosperous) children in 1903 or 1955 or 1978 finding a magic amulet or garden or creature and having Adventures, and a somewhat newer book that starts with “It’s Mississippi in the summer of 1955, and Rose Lee Carter can’t wait to move north. But for now, she’s living with her sharecropper grandparents on a white man’s cotton plantation. ” (like one Amazon just recommended to me) then what I want to read is where young Rose Lee in 1955 gets that magic and those adventures. I don’t want her to become a Nesbit character with brownwashed skin, either; she’s got real problems in her life, and no Psammead or half-magic coin is going to change the entire Civil Rights movement. But she’s still a kid, and still deserves Adventures. Maybe along the way they change a few minds in her town, or fortify her to face what’s coming in the next few years. Or maybe it’s a different kid in a fictional setting with fictional challenges, but whose ethnicity or gender identity influences who they are and how they defeat their particular bad guys. I’m flexible that way. 🙂

For some concrete examples, Rick Riordan does a nice job – more so with each new series – of having kids with a variety of backgrounds fighting fictional guys. I can’t think of a good example of a “Rose Lee Carter the sharecropper’s granddaughter gets magic” sort of thing, though I’d love to hear of one. The closest things I can think of are Adam Gidwitz’s The Inquisitor’s Tale: Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog or maybe Chris Moriarty’s Inquisitor’s Apprentice – don’t ask me what it is about inquisitors! Jane Yolen’s Devil’s Arithmetic and Delia Sherman’s Freedom Maze do the opposite, sort of, using magic to send a modern girl into the rougher parts of her family’s history. Kate Saunder’s Five Children on the Western Front turns my question around, showing what happens when Nesbit’s privileged children face some real adversity. (Also, though I wouldn’t credit the series with very diverse characters, I was amused by a moment in one of Victor Kloss’s Royal Institute of Magic books where a character wonders if he’d have issues dating a half-elven girl.)

For adults, diversity might be a step ahead. I can think of a number of examples of characters who have some trait lower on the privilege scale being involved in fantasy adventures that happen more or less in our everyday world – the Twenty-Sided Sorceress series has a bunch. Patricia Brigg’s Mercy Thompson is a native American MC, Ben Aaronovitch’s Peter Grant is biracial, and I know there are a couple different lesbian superheroine stories in my Kindle’s to-be-read folder. Kate Daniels doesn’t live in our current Atlanta but hers is a direct descendent of ours and the population is realistic. It took me a few minutes, but I thought of a few historical (or alternate history) fantasies involving characters who are unprivileged in the worlds they live in- Gail Carriger has a trans character who shows up in a couple of her series (and Lord Akeldama, who might be gay, but doesn’t really count – he’s rich and powerful enough to never have to deal with prejudice). And there’s Sherwood Smith’s Coronets and Steel trilogy, especially the third book with its biracial heroine (and her Jewish friends) in Napoleonic Europe).

It has occurred to me more than once, though, that the above paragraphs can be summarized as “Sure, I’ll read books about diverse characters … as long as they’re exactly the sort of thing I already like.” I have no defense, except that they’re not the *only* kinds of books I like. But I do like them when I find them!

McCain (warning for spitting)

by dichroic in daily updates

One problem with not blogging often enough is that you can get overtaken by events. I’d been meaning to write a post about John McCain. When he was diagnosed with the brain cancer, I saw a lot of posts on social media lauding him for being independent, with a history of putting country over party.


My awareness of McCain goes back well before his Presidential campaign, because I was his constituent during the decade we lived in Arizona (not that long after the Keating 5 scandal, in fact. I have a special feeling for him; I’m not sure how to describe it, but it’s strong and it’s negative. It’s not the same feeling of utter disdain I have for someone like Ted Cruz, who has never been anything but vile, or even the feeling I have for Lindsay Graham, a man whose politics I’ve generally disliked but who has been known to surprise me with the occasional principled stand.

My dislike for McCain is based on disappointment; he’s had so many chances to be a hero and he’s failed at all of them. (In his Senate years I mean – did he use up his lifetime supply of cojones in his POW years? That would be understandable and even pardonable – but in that case, don’t run for the Senate!) So many times he’s stood up to his party to defend the country and constituents … and then they turned up the pressure and he crumbled. (Also, there was the Palin thing.)

Well, now everyone knows it. He flew back from cancer treatment for the healthcare vote, made an inspiring speech, voted for open debate (I can even understand that one – I do believe in open debate, even of reprehensible bills, so we can see who is reprehensible enough to stand behind them) and then promptly voted to take away access to healthcare from millions Americans.

Pfui again.

I don’t wish harm on McCain, because I hate cancer even more than I hate politicians who put power and party ahead of compassion or Constitution. I just despise him for not having the decency and fairness to want others to have the same level of care he himself is getting.

ETA: McCain’s people have rebutted the criticism that he gave a fiery speech, then promptly voted to kill the ACA, saying it was just a procedural motion to advance the bill to a vote, and that he would not vote for it in its current form. We’ll see.

Given that he has nothing to lose now, and unlike, say, Ryan or McConnell seems to have some idea of ethics even if he doesn’t always act according to it, this really would be the time to step up!

wellness and cooking

by dichroic in daily updates

Update: Whatever I did to my chest muscles this time, it either wasn’t the same thing as last time or was a lot less of a strain. That one lasted for weeks. This one just hurt Sunday and Monday, and was better yesterday. So I did a light erg piece – still seemed to be coughing a bit and it’s always hard to get onto the erg after a couple of days off, but I finished 5K, anyway. My plan is to erg either harder (interval pieces) or longer today – I haven’t decided which. Then I’ll try to do a strength and conditioning class tomorrow, work demands permitting.

We plan to head out to the lake house again this weekend since we can’t go next week, so hopefully I can get in some real rowing time. (Last week I only kayaked on Saturday – they were having dragboat races so I needed to go to the upper lake and I don’t like rowing there. Too many snags and shallow places.)

Also a cooking note: last night’s dinner was stuffed mushrooms, salad and sourdough bread – I stuffed cremini mushrooms with breadcrumbs, mushroom stems, garlic, leeks, parmegiano, and seasoning. I liked them, Ted said they were OK but wasn’t wildly enthusiastic. Next time I’d use less of the breadcrumbs and more of everything else. Last week’s new-recipe experiments succeeded better: We had Welsh rabbit one day and a wine/mushroom sauce over flatiron steak another day. The sauce was easy and very tasty – basically just saute mushrooms and scallions in about a half stick of melted butter, add a cup of wine, simmer until it reduces, then add another pat of butter and parsley at the end. The Welsh rabbit might be a better dinner for winter than summer, but it was taty and filling. We had lots of the sauce left over, so Ted used it to make homemade mac & cheese later in the week. That was OK, but needed more stuff in it than just sauce and noodles – even when we have the Kraft version, we add hotdogs!