a gesaelig life

by dichroic in words

I figured it out – I think the reason I have so much trouble keeping an updated blog these days is because it’s not a conversation, the way it was when Diaryland and then LiveJournal were real communities. I’m not a diarist – I’ve never managed to keep a private journal going for more than a few days. But give me a chance to say “Hey, I found / learned / thought of this cool thing,” and a chance for others to respond – or for me to respond to their cool things – and apparently I can go on for years.

The thing I’ve been meaning to write here is that I am still liking the new job – but then it’s three months in and I always like new jobs at this early stage – and that I am enjoying the flexibility. Lately I’ve been working my ass off, on a project that involves talking to people in several other countries. Due to time differences, I’ve had telecons at 8 or 9 at night, and a few as early as 5AM, though I’m trying to avoid any more of those. The flip side is that my boss doesn’t care where I work, so I can do early calls at home then wander into the office, or go do an errand then finish working at home. For instance, this morning, ‘d set the alarm 15 minutes early so I rolled out of bed, made a cuppa, had a 6AM call with Poland, and then showered and came into the office.) I know there are people who prefer to keep work and home very separate, but for me, I think having my life be one continuous entity feels a lot more freeing – I can do what I need to do when I need to do it, and I feel like I’m regarded as a professional rather than a prisoner.

Ther thing that prompter this entry was coming across an Old English Christmas greeting in one of the Chronicles of St. Mary’s short stories: Glaed Geol and Gesaelig Niw Gear!
So OK, the Christmas part of that isn’t far off the Swedish “Glad Jul” – not surprising since as I understand it, Old English and Old Norse were mutually intelligible to a large degree. But check out the new year part: while in modern Dutch you’d say “gelukkig nieuwjaar”, I don’t think you’d be completely out of line in wishing someone a cozy New Year’s Day with “gezellig nieuwjaar”. See the resemblance? “Gezellig” is one of those words that often gets mentioned when people talk about words in other languages (like hygge or wabi-sabi) that have no exact English equivalent – but it looks like we did have it, we just lost it!

A bit of googling tells me we didn’t completely lose it; the meaning morphed from happy to pious to innocent to foolish and ended up as our modern word “silly” – and of course the Dutch words is likely to have changed over time too and at least one view says they’re not related. (In general, it’s much harder to Google etymology in other languages, because the references tend to be *in* those languages – or in another one altogether.)

Jackson and the inevitability of war

by dichroic in politics

President Trump said something very silly about Andrew Jackson. This is no surprise, because I don’t expect him to have any knowledge of history (or morals, which are reqruird to realize that maybe the guy who kicked native Americans off their land or kept slaces didn’t have such a “big heart”). What’s a bit annoying are all the comments along the lines of, “Ha, ha, how can he be so stupid? Jackson died 16 years before the Civil War!”, as if the war’s roots weren’t in place unil just before the shooting started. There was always going to be conflict between the states on the slave issue; it was revealed in the argument on the wording of the Declaration of Independence (1776), codified in the Constitution (1789), and cemented into place with the invention of the cotton gin (1793). Slavery died a comparatively easy death in places like England or New York, that weren’t suited to growing cotton, but the cotton gin made large-scale cotton agriculture profitable, and it required a large low-salaried workforce.

By the time of Jackson, who was in office 1829-1837, it didn’t take a crystal ball to see the conflict coming, only to tell whether it would end up in a shooting war or if there could be a less violent solution. I’m certain Jackson would indeed have preferred the latter – as long as that solution allowed him and other slaveholders to retain their human “property”. Jackson was known as a populist, but only certain voices mattered in that particular vox populi – white ones, to be specific.

One thing that scares me at present is whether Trump will be impeached. I can see one scenario where the Republicans in Congress turn on him, declare his incompetence to serve, present themselves as the champions of the American people, ride a tidal wave into office in 2018 …. and work closely with President Pence (shudder) to kill national health insurance, restrict women’s and LGBTQ civil rights, and set up an oligarchy that only has a somewhat larger group in power than Trump intended. I don’t really want to see Tump impeached unless Pence goes with him and Ryan is either kicked out, running scared, or overpowered by a strong Democratice / Independent majority.

A more hopeful view is that the just-voted budget is a sign of a new maturity and bipartisan mood in Congress, leading to cooperation and good-faith negotiation on what’s best for the United States. Not sure that’s really the way to bet, but it could happen.

by dichroic in cooking

You know what’s really frustrating, in that “good problem to have” kind of way? When you’ve made a really amazing dinner, and have no idea why. Herewith, an analysis of the components.

  • Flatiron steak: we have these all the time – for some reason, they’re a lot cheaper than flank steaks where we live, though when visiting family in Philadelphia I’ve found flank sakes as reasonably priced there as they were when Mom served them to us. This one might have been a little thicker than usual, because it was a perfect mix of charred on the outside with (pink on the end parts I eat, red in the middle for Ted who likes his steaks medium rare). I usually cook this for 8 minutes on one side, 5 on the other, but gave this one a little extra time until the thermometer said it was done. We let it ‘rest’ 5:00 or so
  • Grilled endive: I had this once on ausiness trip to Toledo – not my favorite city, but I did like this restaurant, which I think was the Registry Bistro. I’ve made this at home once before, but this time was much better – I just cut the endive in halves, made a cut in the base as most recipes instruct, drizzled them with oive oil and salt, and put them on the grill for a few minutes less than the meat – maybe 5′ and 3′.
  • When I had bruschetta for yesterday’s dinner there was some tomato mixture left over, so I topped the endive with it.
  • Then we had bread, from the easiest recipe ever (recipe makes dough for four or so loaves, you pull off a chunk and bake it when you want some) and some olive oil with herbs, pepper and salt to dip it into.
  • And finally, some not too fancy wine we picked up during my birthday weekend in McMinnville: Three Wines Remy’s Red, which was redolent of cherries and balsamic, is reasonably priced, and went so well with this meal that we’re wondering if we should head back to McMinnville and buy a case of it. Tasty stuff, and might be very interesting to age a few years.

So, no idea why this dinner combined so well, but yum. Timely, too: today I took Ted in for his first colonoscopy (just because we’ve hit the age where theey start perpetuating such indignities on us) so after a day on a liquid diet and various other unpleasantries, he needed a good dinner. Tomorrow: shrimp etouffee.

family visit and other stuff

by dichroic in daily updates

A bunch of little stuff

The family visit went well, and I think everyone enjoyed it. The 5yo only broke one thing in our non-child-proofed house, which seems reasonable. (A three-dimensional cat puzzle carved out of a single piece of wood. He’d been told to be careful with it; problem was, after the first time I let him play with it under supervision, he kept grabbing it to take apart and put back together, and wasn’t too good about not forcing pieces in when they didn’t fit quite right. I was able to fix the piece he broke to where it doesn’t show.) He also knocked a bunch of pieces I’d completed in a jigsaw puzzle off the table; I responded to that one with (intentionally) very loud shock, so that he definitely realized he’d done an upsetting thing. Overall, less damage and brattiness than I’d expected, and he kept seeking us out so even when he clearly felt in disgrace for doing a Bad Thing, he knew he wasn’t being outcast and that we weren’t being mean to him. (In fact, at one point I took him aside for a private, quiet, and Very Serious talk about how hurtful it was when he ignored his bubbe, my mom, for the shiny fun new people around. Not sure that one made an impression, but maybe. He got a little caught up in explaining how it “hurts his heart” if people are mean to him or ignore him – it wasn’t clear if that translated to how other people feel when he ignores them. But hey, five years old. I always figure something that didn’t make sense at the time might recur to him later on.)

I still have scars on my hand and knee from when I tripped on uneven sidewalk, ‘racing’ with him. He wanted to race everywhere – I did more running that week than I normally do in a year. I did think it spoke well for his compassion that he was willing to go home and not do the fun things we’d planned to do in the park, when I was all bloody – lucky the park bathroom was open and I had a bandaid, so we didn’t have to abort our plans.

The sad part of the visit was seeing how old Mom has gotten, not in looks but behavior and abilities. She fell twice in airports on the way home. In many ways, her independent living center has been wonderful for her. But she’s on the young side for the place, and she’s a bit of a sponge, picking up ideas from people around her; I think being around people a decade or two older all the time has aged her perceptions of her own capabilities, and that’s definitely an area where perception is reality.


Random other thoughts and happenings:

Yesterday my company had Holocaust survivor Alter Wiener speak. It was a good and moving talk – I’d called in, instead of driving to the site he spoke at, and bought his book on Amazon before the speech was even over. My favorite part of the speech was a quote from Voltaire: “Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.” Pretty perceptive for a guy who died a few years before the French Revolution. (However, I can’t help thinking that a name like Alter Wiener is just begging for a bilingual Yiddish-English pun. (I had a vague memeory and looked it up – Alter, meaning ‘old’, was a Yiddish name given to sickly babies in the hopes of confusing the Angel of Death. As my husband pointed out, given that more old people die, the logic there is not entirely clear.))

***

Gap seems to be delving into their archives for designs lately – just recently I’ve bought new versions of my favorite dress from the 90s (though the fabric has changed a bit) and my favorite henley shirt from the 80s. So anyone who still misses a beloved item of clothing that you outgrew or outwore, that happened to be from the Gap, might want to go take a look.

***

Still enjoying the new job. For a while there things were going too slowly as I waited for my projects to really get started, but as of yesterday that doesn’t seem to be a problem any more. Rather the opposite – which is good. Still, if I ever get as busy as Ted is, for more than a short while – someone please shoot me. (He works 6:30 AM to 6 or 7 most nights, plus additional work on weekends. Bloody ridiculous.)

***

Having a gym at the job is definitely upping my exercise intensity, not to mention lots more walking and stair climbing. However, so far I’ve been working here going on two months and the only change I’ve seen is that maybe my calves are a little more defined. (We’ll see how well I can continue with the gym classes I’ve been taking as my job heats up – but having the gym right here means that even if I miss a specific class, I can go any time I’m free.

War is not healthy

by dichroic in politics

When I was a small child, back in the days when hippies roamed the earth, there was a poster above my bed with the words:

WAR
is not
healthy
for children
and other
living things

Apparently I internalized that message, because my immediate gut response to Trump launching “the mother of all bombs” into Syria was along the lines of “Oh, crap. I don’t want to die.” I do not want to die in WWIII, and I especially don’t want it to happen soon. I do not appreciate that blowhard who wormed his way into the White House trying to prove his manhood by playing chicken with Syria and its Russian supporters, or conversely with North Korea and its China supporters. People get hurt playing chicken (just ask my spouse, who spent half of his fourth grade year in a full-leg cast). The bigger the scale you’re playing on, the more people who are likely to get hurt.

(Yes, we just had a visit from my whole family; it was very nice and I need to write about that, but I had to get this off my fingertips first.)

if you give a kid a sandwich

by dichroic in daily updates

There’s a Facebook meme going around lately that’s bugging me. It says “I don’t want to feed hungry children so they’ll do better in school. I just want to feed them because they’re hungry.” I think it’s supposed to show the compassion of the poster, because they’re all about feeding the hungry instead of worrying about outcomes, or something. Like so many FB memes, it’s ridiculously oversimplified – as if you could only have one reason for feeding a hungry child.

The thing is, if you feed a child today, she’ll be hungry again tomorrow. It’s a bandage, not a long-term healing. I don’t say that to deride bandages – without them you can bleed to death before any healing occurs. Acute problems need immediate actions to give you time to ceate a systemic fix. But if you only apply that bandage, then you’ve still got the main problem – a child who isn’t getting fed at home.

On the other hand, if you feed that child today, and again tomorrow, and the next day, and the rest of the term, he’s got a reason to keep coming to school and the resources to pay attention once he’s there. If you keep feeding her as long as she needs it, she’s got more reason to stay in school.

Maybe that kid will grow up to be Ray Fields. Ray was probably the most financially successful person I knew growing up – he started a grocery store, built it into a small chain, and eventually sold the chain to Safeway. he still lived on our block because he liked it, but drove a nice car and wintered in Florida. He was a happy man, I think, with a stable marriage, a son he got along with and eventually two beautiful granddaughters. He was also a good man and a wise one; everybody on the block liked hanging out and talking to him, because he was always interesting and interested in you. He told me once that school lunch was sometimes the only good meal he got in a day, growing up during the Depression, and that it was the main reason he and his brother went to school.

Or maybe that kid won’t be Ray Fields. Maybe he’ll just be a kid who doesn’t drop out of high school, and who doesn’t have all the later health issues that childhood malnutrition can lead to. That’s still a pretty good outcome – and one that will help the kid earn enough of a living that she and her own kids won’t go hungry in the future.

So one school meal feeds a hungry kid so he isn’t hungry anymore, and a whole program of them can change lives and improve society. It’s both a bandage and a long-term solution. Pretty good for an intervention that isn’t even all that expensive (compared to, say, sending 100 Secret Service agents to Aspen and getting them skis). I agree that helping a hungry kid to not be hungry anymore is a worthy goal; I just don’t think it’s any reason to scoff at the long-term benefits of that school lunch.

birthday and Objects, Finished and Otherwise

by dichroic in beadwork, daily updates, knitting, photos

My birthday Friday was good but unremarkable. At work, I started doing some actual useful things and joined a small weightlifting class in the gym that was actually pretty good. In the evening there was the monthly Chardon-knitting (which is where you drink wine and try not to screw up your knitting) at my LYS. I brought Prosecco and Tina, the LYSO, provided a delicious marionberry pie. The Prosecco itself has a story; because I had the gym class at 11 in building 2 and another meeting at 1 in building 3 and there’s a cafeteria in building 3, I brought my laptop and wallet with me to the gym so I could get lunch in between and didn’t have to go all the way back to my desk in building 4 (they’re all connected, but the distances are much farther than those sequential numbers make them sound). Unfortunately I forgot to take my wallet out of my gym bag and put it back in my purse afterward, a fact I realized just when I went to pay for the Prosecco. And the woman in front of me in line insisted on paying for it – she didn’t even ask first how much it was. Luckily I had a $14 bottle, not a $40 one! Of course she had no way of knowing it was my birthday and a milestone one at that, but I promptly told her so she’d feel even better about her kind gesture. And I guess I have a favor to pay forward now.

I didn’t have any presents to open – maybe that’s just a fact of adulthood, because it wasn’t that people didn’t care. A couple of people made donations in my name to organizations I care about (which has the major advantage of not having to find house room for more stuff!); my mom is trying to get something online but seems to be having technical difficulties; and Ted’s gift will be a wine-tasting trip to McMinnville next weekend.

Yesterday I did get a good gift – I got Ted back home! (He was only gone a week, but he had business travel on three out of the previous four weeks.) And yesterday afternoon I did something I hadn’t done in a while and got out my beading supplies. So here are a selection of recent objects, finished and otherwise. All photos taken with my iPhone, a few with a macro lens from Photojojo added.

Earrings – only the spotted ones are new; the rest are pairs I’d made a while ago, where I’d lost one and have just made a replacement. (A major advantage to making your own jewelry!)

I made this treasure necklace a long time ago, but it had broken – I restrung it and added a few new items:

Then there’s the knitting. First, socks: there are the self-patterning socks, of which I knit most of the first one while helping out at the LYS during the recent yarn crawl and am still early on the second one; plus the purple two-at-a-time pair I started months ago, that keep getting pushed aside for other projects:

There’s also the Rogue sweater, which has the body and most of one sleeve done; a linen-stitch Moebius cowl made from various leftover sock yarn; and a hat I finished back in January. Not shown are two pink pussy hats I made for friends and a baby hat for a pregnant former coworker.

upcoming

by dichroic in daily updates

Gonna be a hell of a week.

This morning Ted left for Taiwan.

Tomorrow I’ll be volunteering at my local yarn shop all day – last day of the Rose City Yarn Crawl.

Monday I start the new job.

Friday I turn 50.

And Saturday Ted returns.

I’m lucky the Yarn Crawl is this weekend – I volunteered yesterday too, and though it was a bit claustrophobic spending all day in the back room, I enjoyed being social for a change. I spent today at the Portland Art Museum. Years ago I went to the Portland Craft Museum, and spent the day in great company but hated the actual museum, which is probably why never got to this one before, but I liked the Art Museum as much as I despised the Craft Museum. It didn’t hurt that they were having a Rodin exhibit. And the birthday alone won’t be as bad as it sounds, because Friday night is Chardon-knitting back at the LYS, and Ted and I will celebrate the weekend after.

Aaronovitch and Anglophilia

by dichroic in books, daily updates

After reading the latest of Ben Aaronovitch’s Peter Grant books, The Hanging, Tree, I started over from the beginning of the series to refresh my memory of the details, and also because it got me thinking. In this series, which is written in the first person, Aaronovitch does a thing that’s rare in US and UK fiction: every time Peter Grant meets someone new, he mentions their race or ethnicity in his description – including if they’re white. This makes sense: Grant himself is not white and neither is his London. It’s a diverse place and assuming any sort of ‘default’ human would just be silly. Another thing Aaronovitch does well: Grant is mixed race, and his mom is not generic African; she is Fulani, from Sierra Leone, and this shapes who she is and thus who her son is. (His dad’s most salient defining feature is not his ethnicity, but his musical genre: jazz.)

But because of all that, and because of the way Aaronovitch reflects England’s current population into its traditional mythology, he solves a wider problem for me. A lot of American Anglophiles have sort of a cognitive disconnect: this might not be a problem for those whose thing is Swinging London and Mod fashion, but if what you get off on is Sherlock Holmes and his gasogene, or Lord Peter and his brother planting oaks; or if you’re a mad partison of York vs Lancaster; if you find the Cavaliers Wrong but Wromantic; if you’re still rooting for Hereward and his Saxons against the Normans; or wondering what it would take to wake Arthus if WWII didn’t do it; then you’ve got a bit of a problem. Because however much you think there’ll always be an England, it’s plain that the England you see today is a different place – and not in a bad way. So there’s a cognitive dissonance, because on the one hand you can applaud the NHS and the vibrance of today’s England, you can be wondering if the heart of Logres still beats, if Kipling’s Puck is still there and feeling nostalgia for a magic that is so pervasive in fiction that it must have existed, at least a little.

(Maybe I should be saying “London”, more specifically, since that’s specifically where the Peter Grant series centers, and because all that diversity still centers in the cities, though it’s changing some.)

Grant reconciles those two worlds; in fact, he does what England has always done with its waves of invaders, settlers or refugees. The land absorbs the newcomers and doesn’t close over them, but adds their weave into its tapestry. Maybe that should have been completely obvious, but since the last major one wave of incomers was a thousand years ago, it wasn’t clear if that would still work, but in Aaronovitch’s England it does – fortunately involving a lot less sheer misery than the Norman conquest. The clearest example is the parallel river spirits, though to avoid spoilers I can’t go into more detail.

And clearly I am a hopeless Anglogeekiphile because that disconnect was something that always troubled me in the back of my mind, so this all actually makes me feel a bit better.

leaving and being replaced

by dichroic in daily updates

This is my last week at this job. I’m taking bets on whether there will be a going-away lunch or drink – I’d give about 70% odds against. I’m not taking it personally; when our well-liked previous admin left, there wouldn’t have been one if I hadn’t pushed her boss into it. Since my own boss is halfway across the country (and didn’t say much of a goodbye when she left at the end of her visit last week) I doubt it will happen. That feeling of isolation is one of my least favorite things about working here. On the other hand, a few people including one of the senior managers have gone out of their way to tell me I’ll be missed, and I’d probably prefer that to any other kind of farewell.

I have clearly been thoroughly replaced on the family front, anyway. When my mom gave my SIL tulips for Valentines’ Day and not even a card for me, she probably wasn’t thinking about the fact that my SIL lives her life on Facebook and I’d see it. (More probably she was thinking that Ted and I never do much for V-Day and I always forget to send her – my mom- a card though she often sends me one, while my brother and SIL do make a big deal of it.) Anyway, because I am not a saint, I had to give Mom a little bit of a hard time the next time I spoke to her, and she said something about “Well, I just decided to because Vicki hasn’t been feeling well.” It wasn’t until well after we’d hung up that I realized the irony – given that Mom was calling to see how I was, since I’d had some lingering symptoms after being sick for a solid month! (In fact, I had a doctor’s appt the next day – she thinks my soreness in the rib area when I cough is a sprain rather than pleurisy, and said I should probably rest it as far as possible and not row for a while.)

You’d have to know my mother to understand why “being replaced” is actually a joke, not an awful hurtful thing. She operates very much on a principle of out of sight, out of mind – for instance, wanting to know I’ve arrived safely if I’m coming home from visiting her, but not for any other travels. Remembering to call because I’ve been sick is a statement of love because it’s going outside the boundaries of how she normally thinks