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getting prepared

OK, I think I’m ready for my long drive today.

I’ve persuaded my car and phone to talk to each other. This is trickier than it sounds; the car has Bluetooth but not streaming audio, which means that phone calls and GPS directions from the phone are piped through the car speakers but not music (or audiobooks). For some reason plugging the phone in to the car’s USB port didn’t work, but plugging it in via old-fashioned headphone cable did. (I like living in the future but sometimes I’m not quite far enough into it! I hope to buy a car in the next year or so and will look for one with streaming audio. It’s not only expensive cars that have it; one I’m considering is a VW Beetle.) So now I have Phryne Fisher to keep me company on the drive, or I can switch back to the car’s satellite radio if I want something more upbeat.

I’ve also got my totem (not really) jewelry on: a glass pendant I bought on Etsy with a scene that looks very much like our lake, (this one) and a bracelet like this that is stamped with the phrase “There is no honour in turning aside from adventure”. It’s from the movie version of The Dawn Treader and Reepicheep says it. It’s not in the book – and I feel a little odd using the quote for that reason because I am so much more a book person than a movie person – but it encapsulate’s Reepicheep’s character so perfectly that I’m sure CS Lewis would have written the line if he’d thought of it.

There was something else I wanted to write about so there might be another entry today … if I can only remember what it was. Something trivial: I do remember that.

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

Or two, depending how you look at it.

Yesterday I had my birth control implant (Implanon) taken out, because it was at the end of its three-year life, and a new one put in (Nexplanon this time – same idea next generation and I have no real idea what the difference is). I wasn’t looking forward to this, since removal involves basically cutting a hole in your arm to pull the old one out, but it wasn’t too bad. A shot of Lydocaine and a small incision that didn’t even bleed too much; she started cutting right away and then stopped for a minute when I told her it hadn’t gone numb yet but even that first cut only hurt a little. Putting the new one in just uses a gun sort of thing (link has line drawings of insertion) so that’s easier than taking the old one out. I’ll be 51 when this one expires, so I may not need another one.

This thing has worked great for me; I haven’t had a period in three years (or a baby either – actually it has the same theoretical effectiveness as the Pill, but it’s more effective in practice because you don’t have to remember to take anything). This varies – some women do have periods or spotting, but for me it’s been completely bloodless.

Next challenge was this morning’s breakfast with the company CEO. This is one of those things where you can just sign up to get a chance to talk to the guy in person; he was going to be in town so I did. There were actually two of us, which I think made for much better conversation because we were able to bounce ideas off each other, remind each other of thigns, and offer slightly different perspectives on what’s going on in the local office. (The CEO mentioned to me afterward that he normally does this with one person at a time and often they’re a bit tongue-tied.) Good food, too; we took him to a local coffee grinder’s that has their own coffeehouse.

The next challenge this week (or maybe challenges plural) happens because Ted has been working at the same company since 1996. As a result he has about a week more vacation than I do. He’s taking all next week off, while I’m only taking Tuesday. As a result, I need to drive separately to the lake house this weekend, so I have a car to come back in. It’s about 2.5 hours each way, though the trip down might be up to 3 hours with holiday-weekend traffic. This will be my longest drive since that incident in Taipei, but I think the glasses have had their effect. My brain has had plenty of time to come to accommodation with the way my sight changed after LASIK, which is what I think sparked the original panic attack in November 2009. I’ve also had enough experience with this to feel sure now that even if my head feels odd or light, my brain isn’t going to explode and I am not going to have a stroke. It’s been 5 years and that is plenty long enough to be crippled as a driver. I’m still a little nervous but recent drives have been going well including driving on the highways across Portland to and from the airport a couple weeks ago. (I could take Amtrak if I had to, but that would be half an hour to the station there, a trip similar to the time to drive, and then another hour back to my house, riding MAX from the train station. An extra hour and a half for me plus an hour round trip for Ted, taking me to the train station.) I have a Phryne Fisher audiobook to listen to; it’s volume 20, the last one so far and the only one I haven’t read so it’s a special treat. Also, I think Phryne, fearless pilot and racecar driver that she is, ought to be a good influence.

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

It’s not that I haven’t blogged in the last week – but it was a work-related rant so I made it a private entry. Also, I spent last week on a work trip to Toledo, so I was mostly either at meetings or in transit. Landed back in Portland at 1, drove home (yay me – no issues or brain weirdness this time), transferred a few things to a backpak and headed to the lake house for the weekend. Unfortunately it was fairly windy all weekend so we didn’t get much rowing in; Saturday we kayaked a bit and then Sunday I took my open-water single out but only for 5km. (Poor Ted had a headache and didn’t get to row at all. So not much distance, but I operate on a general principle that any is better than none.

Another of my general principles is that I will only knit for other people is a) they are related to me or b) I really want to. I put a package in the mail today for someone who makes me really want to – we’re not close but she’s put conscious effort into maintaining our friendship over many years and it’s really meant a lot to me, especially with all of my travel. So I guess I just ruined that surprise somewhat – maybe I’ll write more about it later.

There have been another couple of entries I’ve been mulling over. One hasn’t gotten written because it’s going to take a lot more focus than I’ve had so far to give it, but I can summarize: if you actually read the Jewish and Christian Bibles, it turns out that they talk mostly about how to regulate your own conduct (the Torah is also about how to run a communit, but in those cases it’s about structured action and setting up laws, not making your own judgement). What they don’t talk about, and in both cases militate strictly against, is judging other people’s conduct. Similarly, an online acquaintance pointed out that in the Torah, “the prohibition against pork is mentioned twice. There’s 30+ instances of not engaging in various kinds of “evil speech.” So, really, there’s a better argument for eating a BLT than there is for critiquing someone’s choice to eat one.”

The other thing I want to talk about is in response to reading Sarah Vowell’s essay collection “Partly Cloudy Patriot” (which I liked a lot in general). She mocks people comparing all and sundry to Rosa Parks, with a couple of odd and egregious examples (Ted Nugent?) including people who were actually trying to stifle others’ freedoms. But where I disagree is where she goes on to say that really, no one can be compared to Rosa Parks “except maybe that young Chinese guy who faced down cannons in Tiananmen Square”. For one thing, I’d rather stare down an angry bus drive, even if he calls the cops, than a cannon. But avoiding that comparison (because there’s plenty of praise and respect to go around and it’s not a zero-sum game), there are lots of people even just in the US struggle for Civil Rights whose bravery, I’d say, was on a par with Mrs. Parks’ – all those young people on the Freedom bus, for example. Hosea Williams and John Lewis on the Pettus Bridge, on the March to Montgomery. Anyone who walked ten miles to work rather than taking a bus during the boycott. And all the people I can imagine in circumstances I don’t know of, putting out arson-born fires, facing mobs, sitting at soda counters. More importantly, if we put our heroes and hera on too lofty a pedestal, we make them unique and inhuman – and impossible to live up to. I’m not diminishing Rosa Parks in any way when I say that she was just a woman, a good and brave one – I’m just stressing the possibility and the responsibility to live up to her example.

(In My Life with Martin, Coretta Scott King discussed the question of whether Rosa Parks’ action was preplanned, and whether she was chosen to take that action. No idea, but if it was, I don’t think that diminishes her bravery either. It’s probably harder to have to look forward to danger than to do something dangerous on the spur of the moment. And if your character is exemplary enough that the people who know you choose you to be the prow on the ship of their movement, that’s a tribute.

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

not buying stuff I don’t need

Re the Hugo Awards: I wonder if “coming in below No Awards” will make it into the lexicon to mean something that’s terrible or that’s never going to happen. (This thought was sparked by a comment on Ravelry from someone whose relative had informed her that she was expected to make them a specific (and ugly) sweater: “stashed way down past the bottom of my to-knit list below the not gonna happen ever section”).

I wonder if I could go for some period of time – say a year or two – without buying any more items in certain categories, though with some exceptions allowed.

Clothes and shoes, for instance: I think I have everything I’d need to wear for any event or climate I’m likely to encounter, from a formal wedding (assuming I’m a guest, not in it!) to a business presentation to a hike in Patagonia. (OK, maybe I’d need more supportive boots if that hike was a backpacking trip. But I’m not planning on anything like that!) I do not need anything more unless I’m replacing something that’s worn out or gotten wrecked. This does mean I can buy one pair of shoes at the moment, because I’ve recently tossed two pair of Mary-Janes, brown and tan – the uppers are shredding on one pair and the rubber soles somehow turned hard and were cracking on the other. Also, if I ever find a replacement for my favorite skirt ever – or learn to make one, because it was just a simple tiered skirt of printed cotton with an elastic waist – then I won’t let rules stop me. It fell apart and had to be tossed probably fifteen years ago and I’ve missed it since then.

Yarn: I do not need any sock yarn for a very long time. I have enough yarn for about three sweaters for me (one winter, the rest light or short-sleeved). I don’t need any yarn unless it’s for a specific project, and I don’t need any knitted objects I don’t have yarn for, unless they’re gifts for someone else.

Jewelry: I have some earrings that I wear a lot. When those get lost they need replacing – though I also have lots and lots of beads and can make some of them myself. Otherwise, maybe some souvenir jewelry – museum gift shops sometimes have great earrings, and I value unique local things like my rhodochrosite necklace from Buenos Aires – but otherwise no.

Books: well… I’m not made of stone! I do think I need to start buying more of my books in paper copies rather than the easy gratification of Kindle versions. I don’t expect my e-books to be there for me in my old age. E-books of some sort, yes; the particular ones on my Kindle now? No, I don’t trust Amazon quite that much. If it’s a YA fluff and my life would be no poorer if I couldn’t reread it in ten years, an e-book is fine. For something I want to have with me in a decade or three, I need to go back to buying physical books, and probably hardbacks.

The problem with all of this is, I like shopping. Sometimes it’s a recreational activity rather than an errand, especially if I’m going something like going to the Portland Saturday Market. I know it’s supposed to be better to be a minimalist, but I enjoy having stuff, whether it’s wearing cool clothing (the problem is with the not-so great clothing that sneaks in!), petting colorful yarn, or wearing jewelry that has a story. The other side, though, is that my houses (plural) feel like they have too! much! stuff! in them, it’s frustrating to realize that you love something but haven’t work it in a while because you have too many other things, and I’m sure I could be using my money better (among other things, surely it would be better to give money to charity instead of buying things I don’t need or even entertainment that’s not a memorable experience). Not sure how to reconcile this.

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

a year’s time

Today is my dad’d first yahrzeit – the anniversary of his death in the Hebrew lunar calendar.

Memory is not circumscribed by a candle

For this first anniversary of your death,
I was so happy to find a proper yahrzeit candle –
plain white in a glass cup, made to burn the
prescribed twenty-four hours.

But I don’t have twenty-four hours to sit by it –
though you’re gone, I still have a living to earn
and candles aren’t safe when guarded only by glass.
You worked so hard for our welfare – you
would not want me to lose either my job
or my house to the irony of a rogue flame.

And so I blow the candle out when I leave,
though your day has hours more to burn.
but only the physical combustion has ended.
Your memory still glows, as it did yesterday
and as it will when this memorial day, too, has blown out.

I did go to the Chabad last Shabbat. It was a mixed experience – the rabbi was welcoming and a few other people talked to me. The service was mostly him chanting at the front of the room, very fast, with a lot less congregation participation than I’m used to (I think in a more traditional and long-established setting, everyone else would know the prayers as well as the rabbi does and would be chanting or mumbling on their own, not in unison). I wouldn’t have known when to stand for Kaddish anyway. I’m glad I went; it was interesting. Don’t think I’ll be going back, or not often.

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

I am having a hard time with this

My Dad died last May, but in the Hebrew calendar, the anniversary of his death is next Wednesday. Jewish practice is to recite Kaddish on the anniversary of a death or on the Shabbat (Sabbath) before. It's not something you do alone; this is one of the prayers that traditionally requires a minyan, a gathering a ten Jewish adults (traditionally, men).

There is one and only one shul near me (Jews of various inclinations use the words synagogue, shul or temple to mean pretty much the same thing. Shul is shorter to type.) It's a Lubavitcher Chabad, part of the Chassidic movement. Those three unfamiliar words have a ton of history and explanation behind them; the short version is that this shul proclaims that its mission is to serve all Jews in the area, and though they say that "We don't call ourselves Orthodox, just Jewish, and we serve all Jews," their practice is very traditional.

There is a cluster of shuls in NW Portland, about half an hour away by car, 45 minutes by MAX light rail. I'm not familiar with the area and don't know if there's much parking nearby. THere are two Conservative synagogues, one Reform temple and a Reconstructionist Havurah within a few blocks of each other. I probably lean closest to Reconstructionist, myself. (Their self description is "Reconstructionist Jews espouse a progressive, contemporary approach to Jewish life which integrates a deep respect for traditional, communal Jewish practices with the intellectual and political impulses of democracy and pluralism.") I don't know anyone at any of those places, and trying to phone just sends you to a machine.

I've spoken to the Rabbi at the Chabad. They had a place to email and he mailed me back promptly and set up a time for a call. I was worried about how unegalitarian they might be. They do have a divider between men and women, but it runs front to back, so men and women sit side by side. I can live with that. But he also told me that since I do have a brother, I am not supposed to say Kaddish for my father. All four of the other shuls are egalitarian, and the Reconstructionist havurah in particular says "Our overall community is progressive, intellectual, honest, egalitarian, and embracing of diversity. We include many interfaith families and people of various ethnic backgrounds and income groups. We are queer-friendly, and the congregation includes members in a wide range of professions."

So it should be no-brainer, right? But I don't know. For one thing, the Chabad Rabbi was extremely welcoming. He was very careful to say phrase it as "this is the way we do things, we're not saying it's the only right way", and to tell me that I was very welcome. He specifically said no one would stop me and he himself wouldn't say anything if I did stand to say Kaddish. He also said if I sent them my dad's name and his parents names, they'd study a Mishnah (oral teaching) in his honor - even if I didn't attend myself they would, if I emailed the names. They friended me on Facebook, even. And when I asked around in a liberal Jewish group on Ravelry, lots of people reported very positive experiences with Chabads, even when coming from more liberal backgrounds. And there's the anthropological aspect - I've never really been to a completely traditional service. Might be interesting.

My brother thinks I should just light a candle (Yahrzeit candle, another tradition) and say the blessing myself, but I think I really want the support of a community. So do I just walk in cold to one of the farther away places, where I don't know anyone but the outlook might be closer to mine, or go to the way more traditional place nearby that's welcomed me, whose outlook might make me uncomfortable in some respects - but that was gracious and respectful of my concerns?

Another possibility - the Reconstructionist place has a Wednesday minyan. I could do the Chabad on Shabbat and go there on Wednesday - but it's 8:30-9, so I'd be getting to work around 10 instead of my usual 7AM.

For the record, my dad wouldn't care much if or where I said Kaddish. As my brother remarked, his Jewish identity was strong but mostly secular.

ETA: Oh, and I forgot to say, this Saturday the Reconstructionist place's service is a "Camp Havurah service": a "musical, fun, upbeat Shabbat morning service that features sing-a-long style prayers". Nice, but maybe not when I want to come say Kaddish.
My copy of my recently stumbled-upon book Five Children on the Western Front finally arrived yesterday; I read most of it last night and finished it when I came home for lunch today. And it's pretty much everything I wanted it to be. The writing isn't perfectly in Nesbit-voice; for instance, I've definitely come across "Dad" instead of "Father" or "Pater" or "Governor" in books of that vintage (L.M. Montgomery used it, for one, and I think Angela Brazil did too) but I can't remember it in Nesbit, except for an instance of "Daddy" at a pivotal moment in The Railway Children. That's not an isolated example, but in general Kate Saunders sticks close enough to Nesbit's voice that it never threw me out of the story. (Which is more than you can say for most Austen pastiches I've read!)

She also does a good job creating two new characters, the Lamb (who was in Five Children and It and its sequels, but only as a baby with no character yet) and a younger sister, Edie. Edie especially is as likeable as Elfrida Arden or any of Nesbit's better characters, and another new character, Lillian, feels like she stepped out of one of Angela Brazil's books - I bet she was Hockey Captain at her school!. There are also some nice nods to Nesbit herself - Edie is shot for Edith, and the children's father, a newspaper editor, is a Socialist. The story really does have the feel of my own A Girl Called Alice, but Saunders does what I couldn't have done and makes a whole book out of it. I like the way the War goes from an adventure to the center of everyday life, and the way she shows the growing tragedy of it in a way that still fits into the voice - as if Rilla of Ingleside were mashed up with Five Children and It.

What was weird for me, though, was that, as I put the book down to go to sleep last night, I was thinking about why so many WWI novels, or stories set after the war and growing out of it, whether contemporary or recent, seem so resonant for me - the stories of Rilla, Lord Peter Wimsey, and Phryne Fisher for three. And I thought, "Of course, it's because they think like us." And "us", in my half-asleep mind, were so many of you guys - the readers and writers whose blogs I've been reading all these years. You think strange things, going off to sleep, but I think this one is true. Except for Harding's Luck, Nesbit's stories and others from pre-War are so idyllic - the golden time will go on, children can dream of growing up to be explorers or soldiers without every worrying about disaster, and children can be sheltered. The post-War stories have had their world shattered, as we've seen a few more times, but they hold on to ideals and still believe that somehow, not all of the sacrifice is useless (even while acknowledging how much of it was stupid) and that maybe the world will get better if we keep faith. I know plenty of people who don't feel that way, who think we're on a downhill track or who don't think about it at all, but I don't think they're part of my drowsing brain's "we". Maybe that's the common thread in the journals I've stuck with over the years.

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blog mechanics issues

Argh, I've been having a lot of trouble with my journal mirroring these days - my usual procedure is to write a post over at my own WordPress site, which is then mirrored over to LJ and DW via the JournalPress plugin. But lately I have to update each entry several times to get it to post both places - it says I have the wrong password (I don't, or it wouldn't work some of the time) or it can't connect to the socket or whatever. It might just be easier to copy and paste entries as I used to do, so that's what I'll do for the moment - apologies in advanc if anyone ends up seeing duplicates.

a quick one in three parts

I. I have to link to this essay by Spacefem about being a female engineer / engineering manager. I think she’s a decade or so younger than I am, but this is close to my experience as well.

2. I have a trip coming up to our main office in Ohio, in which I get to challenge myself both ways. I have to drive to and from the airport here in Portland, as well as both ways between Detroit and Toledo on the other end. The drive to the airport here will be at an ungodly hour (5AM or so) so at least there won’t be traffic; the rest will be in daylight. It should be all right (not that my brain doesn’t still actu up sometimes, but I’m getting better at ignoring it); I’ve been doing well drivingwise lately and have been meaning to get out on highways more, so this is a way to force the issue.

3. Last weekend we went down to the lake, but never got out on the water. Saturday was raining and windy (and there was a collegiate regatta on – poor kids! but we could have rowed around the outside of the lake) and Sunday was gorgeous but still windy. Still, it was good to be in the other house even if just for the views and the quiet. We took the cats this time; Ted is convinced that more travel experience will make them less unhappy about that. That might work for Macchiato, but i’m not convinced that practice is helping Oolong’s carsickness. This time we stayed on the highway, so she didn’t seem to get too queasy. She did show signs of distress at one point on the way up (sitting with mouth open, glassy-eyed) but we think that might just have been that she had to poop and really didn’t want to do it in the carrier. We didn’t particularly want her to either! But once she did, she seemed to feel better, and at that house there’s plenty of room to take the carrier out back and hose it off. Not sure what we’ll do as it gets warmer and there’s more traffic on the way down; taking the back roads can be faster but they seem to bother her more than going at a constant speed on comparatively straight highways.

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

Here’s the thing that’s bugging me about the current kerfuffle around the Hugo awards and the Sad Puppy slate:

Maia Drazhar.

That requires some explanation. You know how a lot of science fiction and fantasy fen go to cons, find their people and live geekily ever after? For one reason or another that never worked out for me. Thus, while SFF is very important to me, my interest in that world is all about the books, not the community (and it is mostly the books, much more than the novellas, novellettes, short stories or movies, though there has been stuff I care about in all of those categories). My interest in the Hugo, Nebula and Campbell awards is about what won, not who won. I like to see good books get the attention they deserve.

For that reason, of course I’m not happy about people who right-out-loud are admitting to creating an award slate based on who wrote what rather than what got written. I know the creators of that slate claim that they’re only reacting in kind to what others have been doing for years, but 1) the moral failures of your enemies are no guide for how a civilized person ought to behave (I’m pretty sure Maia himself would second me on that) and 2) bullshit. I see people fighting all the time for more inclusivity and fairer treatment within SF; some of those people are friends of mine. I see the same people talking about their craft and honing it; I’m sure there are exceptions because there always are, but the people I know and respect don’t want social justice to serve as an excuse for bad writing because that would completely miss the point. Nobody is going to get into the head of a character unlike him- or herself and be enriched thereby unless that character is as well-developed and as human as the author can possibly make it.

On the other hand I’ve seen a lot of posts about how the Hugos are completely devalued this year, with stress on the No Award option. I understand that people are hurt and want to hit back, but I’m hoping that no one goes around voting No Awards on a wholesale basis – and that’s where Maia Drazhar comes in. He’s the eponymous hero of Katherine Addison’s book The Goblin Emperor, and he spends a whole long book trying to do what’s right in difficult and confusing circumstances. It’s a fantastic book; I think it deserves to win the Hugo and Nebula this year, and would be a winner or at least a strong contender in any year. It’s that good. I’d like to see it win an award and I’d like that award not to be tainted.

I’m sure it’s not the only deserving thing there; I haven’t read anything in the other written genres but it ought to be interesting to see how the Lego Movie, Captain America, and Guardians of the Galaxy match up.

I’m not saying that no one should vote No Award at all – I understand that it can be used surgically, that you can say “this story should win so I’m listing it first, that one was decent so it’s second, this other story doesn’t really succeed but it attempts some very interesting stuff so I’m putting it third, and the rest of these are crap so No Award No Award No Award”. That makes sense to me.

I’d been sort of thinking about attending WorldCon this year – Spokane isn’t so far from here. But I was of divided mind and none of this is making it more appealing. I’ll probably just stick with reading books, talking about ones I like and cheering from the sidelines. And with luck maybe Goblin Emperor will win a Nebula.

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

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