racing this weekend, yahoo

by dichroic in rowing

I am so not ready to race this weekend. It’s been a few years since my last one – looks like that was this same regatta in 2013. I’ve been doing good training on the erg, but we have way too little time on the water; not only has the weather not really cooperated, but it seems like there have been more wake issues than normal. A larger nearby lake has been drained while they’ve been working on the dams, so it’s possible some of the boats that would normally be over there have been coming to our lake instead. We went down to the house last weekend – we were there the week before and will be next week, but we needed the water time and also needed to clean a bit, since our friend R is coming. We did get out for a bit on Saturday, but there was a collegiate regatta going on which kind of limited where we could row. Then Sunday the weather was perfect, but there was a big boat casting up wakes so huge and constant we wouldn’t really have been able to row at all, so we gave up and came home.

So why am I racing? I hate almost everything about it – the anxiety beforehand, the difficulty of getting my gut settled in time to launch my boat at the time I need to (thanks, IBS!), pushing my body to the point of pain and (sometimes) dry heaves, and still often coming in last despite training and effort, because I do really have just the wrong sort of body for this sport.

I’ve thought of three reasons: one, because I do like the feeling of having done it, and of being part of the regatta; two, because it’s much easier to stick with a training program if I have a concrete goal to train for; and three, because what I hate even more is being at a regatta with everyone else around me pushing themselves to their utmost, and yet not being a part of it because I wimped out.

The other thing I’ve found I have to do is to not focus on others in the race. For many people it can matter to keep track of the others so for example you can put on a burst of speed if someone is about to pass. For me, it’s better to focus on my own race; win or lose I need to row a race I’m proud of. If I’m hitting the 750-meter mark as I hear finish horns going off (which has happened), I need to keep the pressure on and not slump in defeat. If I watch the video of this race, I need to seem myself racing the whole way through, not giving up. (This probably sounds defeatist but it’s just pragmatic. I have won races, but usually smaller ones; I’ve competed in this particular regatta twice before and know that they tend to have a lot of fast women in my age group and above.) Either way, by this time Saturday I’ll probably be all done it, and trying to figure out what I should do next for a training plan.

civil rights and good china

by dichroic in daily updates, politics

When Ted and I got married, we chose patterns: china, crystal, and silver. (Respectively, Royal Doulton Princeton, Waterford Lismore, and Towle Old Master, if anyone is counting.) We got some for wedding gifts and have added some more, either by buying it ourselves or from occasional gifts from family since then. It is kind of handy for people to have a fallback gift that’s always welcome. But those things are expensive, so typically we’d get one glass (or plate or whatever) at a time. Also, even though we tried to choose classic patterns that would always be around, our china pattern is no longer made. For those reasons, most of our and others’ purchases have come from Replacements, Ltd. They carry an enormous number of patterns of china, crystal, silver and collectibles, in both active and discontinued patterns. Their prices seem reasonable (or at least in line with everyone else’s, for those products that are still sold by other companies) and their service is good. We’ve never had a piece arrive in other than perfect condition.

Anyway, I get email from them all the time, but it’s normally just the usual advertising stuff. But today they sent me something different – the thing I hadn’t realized, you see, is that they’re based in North Carolina.

Here’s an excerpt from today’s email:

The reaction to North Carolina’s passage of HB2 last Wednesday has been swift and strongly in opposition. Calls for boycotts of our state have been answered by individuals and businesses who will not attend the $5.38 billion, 600,000 visitor High Point furniture market this April and, more generally, by the State of New York, the City of Seattle, and others. Amidst this deep concern, which I share, I want to make one thing clear: Replacements, Ltd. affirms the dignity and beauty of each and every person. You will always be warmly welcomed at Replacements, Ltd.

… At Replacements, Ltd., we are very fortunate to employ a number of extraordinarily talented people who are transgender. These people are like family to me. And having known and worked with many transgender friends over the years, I see in each a reflection of myself. The thought of being afraid to share space with any one of those good people is hard for me to understand, based on my personal experiences. If you had the opportunity to meet any one of them, I bet you’d feel the same way.

(And here’s a link to the entire message.) I have been pleased to see the number of companies stating that they would refuse to do business in the state of North Carolina while HB2, the law condoning discrimination, is on the books. But maybe there should be a flip side to that boycott: supporting the businesses that are already in North Carolina, and that are trying to protect their people. (All of their people.) This is a company I can honestly recommend, after years as a satisfied customer, and that I have recommended to others before just for their products and service. This letter has convinced me that maybe I need to support them with this wider recommendation as well.

Fennel Salad Recipe

by dichroic in daily updates

Tonight’s dinner, improvised from a few different recipes and the contents of the refrigerator, was tasty enough that I think it’s worth writing up the recipe.

Solo Fennel Salad
… or, what to do when the CSA gives you a one bulb of fennel, you have one beet left over from the minestrone, and your spouse has a dinner meeting.


one bulb of fennel, with the stems and core removed, cut into narrow wedges – save a few of the dill-like leaves
one small to medium golden beet, peeled and sliced into 8 wedges
one orange, cut into one half and several crescents
one scallion, sliced into small pieces
3-4 radishes, sliced thin
romaine lettuce
parmegiano-reggiano cheese
olive oil

Preheat the oven to 425. Toss the beet wedges with about 1 tsp olive oil plus some salt. Lay some foil in a small pan (less to wash!) and lay in the beet wedges in a single layer. Bake for 20-30 minutes, or until it’s easy to stick a fork into the beets.

Tear up a few leaves of romaine into small pieces, and use them to make the bottom layer of your salad on a dinner plate. Scatter the fennel atop the lettuce, and the orange slices on top of the fennel. Next, scatter on the radishes and the scallion slices. Squeeze the half orange over the salad. Drizzle olive oil onto the salad, and add salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with shavings of cheese and a few of the fennel leaves, minced finely.

book series rec: The Chronicles of St. Mary’s

by dichroic in books

I’ve been enjoying rereading The Chronicles of St. Mary’s series, by Jodi Taylor; these are time travel stories, excuse me, descriptions of investigating history in contemporary time. They are “kitchen sink” books; there’s humor of both the slapstick and more subtle variety, suspense, romance, fantasy, you name it, in a quasi-academic setting that allows for a strong team relationship among the major characters – “we are St. Mary’s, and we never leave our people behind.” At least, not forever.

The author’s approach is definitely, “What can I do to hurt these characters this time?”, especially the MC, Dr. Madeleine Maxwell (Max) – she wrings them out and leaves them to dry, though each book tends to have a happy ending. Her historic research is impeccable, as far as I can tell, so you get to visit everyone from Mary Queen of Scots to the Trojan Horse along with Max.

Flaws: I thought the writing in the first book was a little clunky but that has smoothed out – except that Taylor is not very good at showing time passing. Max is apt to think something about having been at St Mary’s for years, and the reader is left thinking “wait, when did that happen?”. Also, every once in a while a dire situation is saved by something that skirts a little close to dea ex machina – though at least this particular dea is set up in context.

Here’s the full list of titles. The 7th book in the series, Lies, Damned Lies and History is due out in May. (May is going to be a really good month for me, in terms of book releases!)

Also, if you like this series, Neve Maslakovic’s Incident Series, starting with The Far Time Incident, is similar in many ways. It’s less funny and the MC is much less of an expert on history than Max as well as more conventional, but she has her own Minnesota charm..

thyroid stuff

by dichroic in daily updates

It has been too long since I wrote here, so there may be a few rapid updates. Interesting – my memory seems to have gotten better lately. I think my thyroid levels must be up. When I first went on thyroid meds, the pharmacist told me I should take them first thing in the morning, because it was important to take them on an empty stomach. Problems were, I don’t like taking pills first thing in the morning (though at least these are tiny) and I have a hell of a time remembering to. At my last physical, my thyroid levels were better but still on the low side, so my doctor was going to up the dosage until I pointed out that I was missing a pill every 3-4 days. (I think she was shocked that I hadn’t talked to her about it sooner – but how would I have known she could do something more useful than just saying “Well, try to do better”?) Anyway, she said it was OK to take the pill at bedtime as long as I hadn’t eaten for half an hour. I haven’t been rigorous about the half hour thing – I do tend to snack a lot – but I haven’t missed a pill since then.

I need to go in and get my levels checked again, since it’s been about 6 weeks, but I think it’s working. There’s the memory thing – and I’d swear my eyelashes are longer, oddly enough. (Though I do think my hair got a bit thicker during my initial year on thyroxin, even with the missed doses, so this may not be new.)

mostly about books, just one thing to get out of the way first

by dichroic in books, politics

On a quick political note: the reason I do not believe Bernie Sanders can win the Democratic nomination, no matter how many more states he wins, is that the vote is quite literally rigged. At the moment, Clinton has won 745 delegates to Sanders’ 540 – so she has a lead, but not an insurmountable one. However, if you add in the superdelegates pledged to her, her lead widens to 1221 to 541. 2382 delegates are needed to win, of a total of 4763, so I suppose he still could beat her, but it’s a steep uphill climb. I do not know if any of the pledged superdelegates could change their minds – I don’t know either whether that’s allowed to happen, or how often it does. This isn’t meant as an indictment of either candidate; I’d be fine with either as President. (Not looking forward to hearing the vitriol conservatives will spew if Hillary Clinton wins, but that’s not her fault.) But I do not like this two party system.

Onto more important topics, because politicians

After reading A Quartet in Autumn, I have concluded that Barbara Pym is not for me. I’ve always been under the impressions that she wouldn’t be, but D.E. Stevenson and Angela Thirkell, whom I like a lot, are always being compared to her (with the clear implication that Pym is the standard to whom others are compared). But it turns out that what I like in Stevenson and Thirkell (henceforth DES and AT to save typing) is precisely what I don’t like in Pym. They all write quiet, observant, very English (or Scottish) sorts of books, but DES and AT are quiet, wholesome and hopeful. They can see the world is changing, but the changes aren’t all bad by a long shot, and at least some of the characters in each book really like and understand each other. (There aren’t many books with an older couple as happily suited as Jock and Mamie in DES’s Music in the Hills and Shoulder the Sky – all the young people hope to be like them. Though when I say “older” – Jock is a year older than I am and Mamie nearly a decade younger. But anyway.) In DES’s stories, people either have roots, or set them down during the story. In AT’s, people either have roots or don’t much seem to need them because they’re moving and growing too fast to want any just yet. In contrast, Pym’s is the quiet of hopeless decay – everything is changing too fast, everyone has such shallow roots they’re likely to fall over at any time, no one understands each other well enough to be a true support – or would want to.

At least reading Pym was just sad. It wasn’t nearly as bad as the time I read one or two of E.F. Benson’s Mapp and Lucia books because she gets compared to Gaskell’s Cranton and to Jane Austen. Mapp and Lucia left a nasty taste in my mouth – a thing no one does in Cranton and that the nicer characters are generally trying to escape in Austen.

I’ve also juse been reading R.L. Naquin’s Unfinished Muse and Unamused Muse, a completely different kind of thing. They are light fantasy; they’ve got a similar basic idea to Riordan’s Percy Jackson books (that is, centered on modern children of the Greek gods) but handled in a completely different way. The heroine, who’s never kept a job long, ends up working at My. Olympus Employment Agency and hijinks ensue. They are fluff, but fun fluff, and they have a gratifying way of avoiding the gender sterotyping that fantasy aimed at women too often falls into. (I was scarred years ago by one book whose heroine fell into a fantasy world, became a goddess, and kept whining about how she needed some “girlfriends”.) This one has friends of both sexes, and she’s trying to get her own head straight before falling into a romance. I also appreciate that, while she is straight, it’s made clear that that isn’t a just of course only possible way to be. When a woman hits on her, she notices, doesn’t freak out, and just says “sorry, no thank you” politely. (Not a spoiler: that’s just a tiny occurrence, not a plot point.)

Tomorrow is my birthday and then we are off for a 3-day weekend. Yay!!

assorted updates

by dichroic in cooking, daily updates, knitting, rowing, words

Sorted into what they used to call “heads” in old sermons (gratuitous L.M. Montgomery reference there) so I don’t just meander confusingly.

I. Rowing and such
My shoulder has been bothering me this week, to the point where I didn’t erg Wednesday or yesterday. Nothing really wrong, I don’t think, just a strain that hurts enough that it seemed smart to rest it. This is not good, partly because of that race coming up next month, and partly because my blood pressure seems to be up lately and the only thing I know to fix that is to lose a few pounds (literally a few, just 5 or so seems to help). At least it wasn’t raining yesterday afternoon, so since I couldn’t row I got in a couple miles’ walk.

II. Yarn Crawl
Tomorrow is the Rose City Yarn Crawl! Or rather, it runs from yesterday through Sunday, but tomorrow is the day I’m going on it. I really, really don’t need more yarn – what I need is time to knit the yarn I have – but I enjoyed it last year, and the LYS is once again fielding a limo to visit several of the participating stores. It’s a bit expensive to ride along ($80) but I’m considering it as a birthday treat.

III. Birthday
Next weekend for my actual birthday (well, the day after) we’re going to spend a three-day wine weekend in Dundee, a town a little south of here where you can’t throw a stone without hitting a grapevine. I’ve been wanting to go for a while, so asked to make it this year’s birthday trip. There will be much wine tasted and probably some great food as well.

IV. Parallax and poetry
There is a really cool parallax effect I see when rowing on our lake, and I’ve been trying to get it into a poem, but it’s resisting with all claws out like a cat being put into a carrier. (Actually, our current cats are more cooperative.) I tend to row fairly close to the shore, especially in cold weather, because it feels safer. There’s a park on the far side of the lake, with some fairly tall trees near the water’s edge. When I’m close to them, the trees are all I see; as I paddle further away from shore, of course the trees sink into the distance – but magically a mountain rises up behind them. Close in it’s hidden by the trees and some low hills, but from further out you can see that the mountain is way higher than the trees. There is a fairly obvious analogy in this for daily life, too, about the big things being hidden by near-term petty concerns, but it might be too didactic to add that to the poem.

V. On a foodie note – cod is still not my favorite fish, but I can recommend this recipe for it with mustard-caper sauce. What a pleasant change, to try a new recipe that only takes about 15 minutes and very little effort to make. Ted suggested that the sauce might also be good on asparagus, as well as other white fish. One warning: that recipe is from Real Simple, who have an annoying habit of giving instructions for a whole dinner at once, with ingredients and instructions for each thing all muddled up together. The Bibb lettuce, red onion and cucumbers are for a salad on the side and are not part of the fish recipe. (We had Brussels sprouts with it instead, that being what I wanted to use up). On the other hand, the spaghetti squah we had the night before will not be repeated – it’s clear that winter squashes in all forms are not welcome in my household. Though I may serve this tomato sauce with gremolata again, only over actual pasta. I used a mix of canned and fresh tomatoes, but it would be better with fresh ones only – maybe Roma ones for cooking and an heirloom one on top.

VI. Knitting
I cast on another project last night, bringing my total WiPs to four. Annoyed at myself for this. I know lots of people enjoy having many projects in work at once. That’s great if it’s what you like, just not for me. I try to keep not more than two in work, because I like finishing things – I get tired of a project when it’s been in work too long. I don’t really seem to have that much time to knit – or don’t focus on it when I do – so having too many projects going just drags everything out.

Currently I’ve got 1) a lightweight sweater (Cecchetti) that has the body and one sleeve done, second sleeve barely started. The body on this went nice and fast, sleeves seem to be taking for-freaking-ever. Also, I put it aside with the advent of cooler weather, because it’s more of a summer sweater. Unfortunately I think the sleeves may end up a little tight. 2) a Dr. Who tie for my brother Hitchhiker necktie). Speaking of taking forever! I thought I’d knock this out in a week for his December birthday, but here it is March and it’s only 36” done. I’m into the narrower part, so it’s going faster now, but moss stitch is an unfortunate combination of slow to knit and boring. 3) Another, heavier sweater (Wisteria) – this one has the body done and I’m into the cabling at the bottom of the first sleeve. I’m still loving this one and would be happy to spend all my knitting time on it, but it has gotten too bulky to carry around to knitting outings or on travel, so that does justify one other project. Also, I’m sad that it won’t be done in time to wear this winter, because it’s beautiful. And 4) a shawl I cast on a few days ago, for no good reason but the desire to do something different. (All Things Oregon). I don’t know why. This is part of a local MKAL and it just looked like fun. Also, I’m doing it in rustic brown and beige yarns, so it will be different from any other shawl I own, while still going well with some colors I wear. At least the clues only come out every two weeks, so I’m hoping it won’t be too hard to keep up with.

going back to the Sun

by dichroic in travel

My trip to last last week was wonderful, actually. I got to meet up with J and his wife, also J for lunch – I worked with him in about 1997-98. I got to meet up with my friend K, the Rower Formerly Known as She-Hulk in this blog for dinner (time to retire that nom – she’s not even all that big, it’s just that at one point we were in a crew together and the rest of us were around my size, which is considered absurdly tiny for a rower). I got to meet up with some of my old Six Sigma group, which was one of the two best teams I’ve worked on in my whole career, and had a wonderful night out. Also, I got to spend the workday with a youngish programmer who has a good reputation but whom I hadn’t met before, and I both enjoyed hanging with him and approved of him professionally.

Also, the places. I was in a hotel about 4 miles from work (which is no distance at all, as roads go in the Phoenix area) and our old house is on a direct line between the two, so this was very much my manor, my old stomping groups. I was surprised at how much hadn’t changed in ten years – for instance I got to the bead warehouse store, which was having a 50% off sale on most stuff, and Changing Hands bookstore, both of which moved into their current locations while I lived there and haven’t changed since. K and I ate at Abuelos, a Mexican chain Ted and I used to like. With the Six Sigma group, we ate at Caffe Boa, on Mill Ave (which *did* move, though just down the street, but apparently that was before I left), I always liked that place, but now it’s really amazing – my caprese salad had homemade bufala mozzeralla and burrata on it. I also snuck in a visit to the mall that was built while we lived there – the Nordstrom’s there is exactly the same, and hadn’t even moved their departments around. It was always a good one, so I got fitted for a bra while I was there since it had been a while. One new thing – a Dutch store I liked, Oil & Vinegar, has now expanded to the US and had a branch in that mall, so I was able to stock up on the dippling spice we like (you add it to olive oil). Somehow I’ve never been able to make my own blend that works as well, and Ted hasn’t had a trip back to the Netherlands in a while.

And to crown the trip, on our last workday, I was able to talk my coworker into going out to Chandler Airport to have lunch at the Hangar Cafe, which lets you sit near the flightline and watch the planes take off. I never worked near enough to go there for lunch, but we used to love having weekend breakfasts there.

What surprised me was realizing how fond of the place I am, when it’s not doing its celebrated imitation of Hell in summer. It’s easy to get around, there’s great shopping, great scenery and hiking, and I miss the community we had there. By the time we’d left, I was just sick to death of the heat, we’d lived there for ten years and I was more than ready to move, so I needed this trip to remind me that I actually like Phoenix. In season, at least.

tiny decisions are the hardest

by dichroic in daily updates

I am spending way way way too much time vacillating on whether to drive or take the MAX to the airport Saturday.

Pros: Faster (about 40 minutes vs 86).
Cons: Long drives still bother me. Ted wouldn’t have the use of my car while I’m gone – though he wouldn’t want me to use that as a determining factor.

Pros: No need to drive. The trip is longer but I can doze or knit.
Cons: I wouldn’t get home until 9:30 at night on the return trip. I think being on the train itself is safe enough, but I’d need to change trains (though I can do that in a part of downtown that will be lively) and then walk from the train to my car at the station. Ted would need to leave my car at the train station since I don’t think you’re supposed to leave it there for days – though that’s not a really problem since he’s taking MAX to a work retreat that night.

On second thought, the time difference is not quite that dramatic. Figure ten minutes waiting to get on the airport shuttle, ten minutes riding it to my car, ten minutes paying and getting out of the lot, so that makes it closer to 70 minutes – though to be fair I should also add ten minutes waiting for the train. So 70 vs 96 minutes. And as for driving desensitization, I’ll be doing plenty of driving in Chandler – it will all be in an area that used to be my home turf back in the days when I was most confident driving (not the nervous new driver I was in Texas, but before the issues stemming from vision weirdness that developed in Taiwan) so I think that will help.

Sounds like I’m taking MAX. I do find that writing things out like this can help.

plans and appointments

by dichroic in daily updates

Life is speeding up again. Business trip to AZ next week (I fly out Saturday). Then when I come back we head down to the lake for some much-needed water time. The weekend after that is the Rose City Yarn Crawl – my LYS is booking a van again for the Saturday. I’m going to go just for the fun of yarn crawling, even though I don’t really need more yarn! (I’m sure some will come home with me anyway, and there are a few notions I hope to acquire along the way.) Then the next weekend is my birthday – we are planning a long weekend in Dundee, in the heart of the local wine country. And it’s probably back to the lake the weekend after that, because if we want to race there in early April, we need to get in as much water time as we can.

Add to that a ridiculous number of doctor’s appointments, for someone who is basically healthy. So far I’ve had my work physical (in the office) at the end of January, followed a couple weeks later by a real physical with my own doctor (because the work one doesn’t check thyroid function) following a visit to their lab the previous week so they could draw blood and have results ready for the doctor to discuss with me. There was also a dermatologist appointment, because I’m close to the end of my 40s and it seemed like a good idea to have one, and now in March I have an appointment with a more expert dermatologist to check up something the doctor “is pretty sure is fine – but I can’t say for 100%, so…” (There is a faint dark stripe that runs the length of one toenail – apparently this can be the result of a mole at the base of the nail. However, the doctor pointed out something the dermatologist missed – a matching but fainter line on one thumbnail. How likely is it that the skin on my entire body is fine except for two moles in hidden spots? Not very likely, I’m thinking. But getting it checked still seems smarter than not doing so.) Anyway, so that’s in March. And so is a dental check-up and an annual eye doctor exam. I guess at least they’ll all be out of the way after that!

It is illustrative that I called yesterday for a haircut appointment and had to book one three weeks out, between my calendar and theirs. Good thing I have long hair, so a cut or lack thereof doesn’t really show.