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Mid-century, not so modern

I’ve been on a kick of reading WWII vintage authors on and off for a while now, and it’s on again with a new bunch being republished as e-books. They might be classed as romances, but I don’t think of them that way; there’s usually a romance that comes out right at the end of the book, but it’s far from the only thing going on. Maybe these are what romances were before Mills & Boon started their assembly line. (I’ve also been rereading Miss Read, who has almost no romance, and enjoying her too.)

A lot of them are jarring in different ways. For instance, when you’ve read Theatre Shoes and Ballet Shoes and so on, it’s a bit of a shock seeing sentences like “People like Sara are always in a flap about something. Copulation isn’t one of the simple pleasures as it is to you and me, it’s a high-brow affair, which you go it as if it was an opera”. Or just the word “copulation”, maybe. I’m pretty sure none of the girls in the dancing classes knew that word.

The other odd thing was realizing that I understood the MC in Ursula Orange’s book, Company in the Evenings, more thoroughly than almost any other character I can think of … and knowing the author killed herself. Only thing I can say to that is that the character isn’t the author, and I can’t imagine the character doing away with herself except under the circumstances I’d consider it myself – say, if struck with a very painful and invariably fatal disease. Or maybe Orange did put herself into the character but left her depression out.

Of all of them – Noel Streatfeild, Ursula Orange, Angela Thirkell, Elizabeth Cadell, Richmal Crompton, Elizabeth Fair – that flourished from around the 1930s to the 1960s and are being reprinted now, I think my favorite is D.E. Stevenson.  There’s a sweetness to her books even when they’re in the middle  of war and scarcity. Streatfeild and Cadell are a bit uneven, some of the others get a bit arid after a while, and while Thirkell’s chief characters are great, some of her books are disturbingly xenophobic. Stevenson’s people are interesting and sensible and all different, and I like them.

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

Little things

Well, maybe the beauty of autumn trees is not so little.  The trees around here turn colors and lose their leaves over the course of at least a month, and since the ones along the roads are all planted rather than native, it tends to go street by street (since each street has trees of the same age and species on it). This means that, while the trees on the street in from of where I live have lost a lot of their leaves, I’m frequently getting the experience of turning into a different street and seeing a glory of red and yellow trees at the peak of their fall majesty – this morning it was all against a pink sunrise sky. Every time it happens I try to just … I don’t know, relax into the beauty and imprint it in memory, because fall is so evanescent. I know it will happen again next year and this year, unlike some past ones, I know that we will be in the same place next year (kinea hora, insha’allah) but still, next year’s leaves are a long time away. I wonder how often in later life AE Houseman was tempted to rewrite A Shropshire Lad:

And since to look at trees aflame
Fifty springs are little time,
Up to the woodlands I will fly
To see the maples hung with fire.

My big epiphany the other day was as mundane as it could be: the cafeteria here has peanut butter and jelly. I knew that, but hadn’t thought of it. The one nearest me has a station where you can make your own sandwiches, but the bread isn’t as good as in the other cafeteria, which has a staffed deli station – not the good crusty kind and often a little stale. But for PB&J I don’t care about that – even plain white bread is fine. Yesterday I had a choir rehearsal starting at 11:30, dollowed immediately by a critical meeting that I had to run. At around 11 I realized that if I were going to have lunch at all I needed to have it right away, I didn’t really have time to get anything that would take long to make or eat, didn’t want anything that would disagree with me an hour later (I have IBS, so this covers more things than you would think) or anything too heavy. Bonus for anything that I could eat half of and come back to after the meeting. Peanut butter and jelly to the rescue! THis isn’t an uncommon scenario, so I foresee a lot of it in my future.

This morning on the (satellite) radio I heard a song called The Call of the Wrecking Ball, by a group called The Knitters, about a guy who stomps on chickens. I have had my dose of surreality for the day.

Ted’s off today to the Netherlands on business, but I don’t think I’ll have trouble keeping busy this weekend. I have a party tomorrow night and a sweater I need to finish before then if I want to wear it to the party. (It’s the one I steeked. I just have to finish knitting the second placket and weave in the ends to wear it; blocking, adding buttons, and covering the shorn ends with a ribbon can wait.) I also need to erg 17km or more over the two days, go grocery shopping, probably do some work I haven’t had time for this week, and maybe some other shopping errands. I might go downtown to Title Nine’s big annual sale, though then again I have too many clothes and shouldn’t add more without getting rid of some I don’t wear first.

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

busy weekend. busy week.

Random thought: I really wish English would adopt the Dutch abbreviation t/m. It stands for “tot/met” which translates literally to “to/with” and practically to “up to and including” but is a lot more concise than the latter.

Tasks accomplished last weekend (met steeking):

Ripped back on a sweater and reknitted after realizing a stripe was supposed to start 11 cm down from the neck, not 11 inches!
Reviewed and tweaked the poster I’ll be presenting at the Women at Intel Networking conference in a few weeks
Erged 10 km Saturday
Went to a release party at one winery, visited another and decided to switch a wine club membership we’d been disappointed with to there, visited a third and picked up our wine club allotment from there (yes, we belong to four wine clubs, yes that’s silly, shut up)
Finished the increasing section and knitted 3 of 11 of the center sections on a shawl project
Planned meals for the week, with Ted
Errands: Visited the farmer’s market, replaced a CO2 canister for our Sodasteam machine at Kitchen Kaboodle, picked up bulk popcorn at New Seasons, tried unsuccessfully to trade in a dead iPad at Verizon, did the bulk of my grocery shopping at Freddy’s
Donated blood, since they had a truck out by the farmer’s market and there wasn’t much of a wait (I normally try to donate when the truck comes to my office, but have had times when I had an appointment but the wait was so long I had to give up because it was time to go to a meeting).
Sewed and steeked my sweater (took hours, since I didn’t even know how to thread the sewing machine)

The only thing I didn’t do that I had planned was to erg an additional 7.5 km on Sunday. I did that yesterday instead – not easy, because it was very much a “hit the ground running” sort of Monday. Almost literally – I was running between enough meetings that my watch said I was halfway through my daily exercise time by noon. It’s being a whole busy week, especially as I’ll be out half of next week presenting at a conference and presenting a poster at an internal one right after I get back. Whew!

At least we’re going to the lake this weekend. I may not do much. Except I have to, because this is the time of year to start building up meters on the erg / in the boat ahead of the annual Holiday Challenge.

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.


I think it’s fair to say that my steeking experience completely lived up to my expectations – which is to say, miserable. (Background: steeking is a technique in which you work a sweater as a pullover, sew or crochet some reinforcing lines, then but up the front to make it into.a cardigan. It’s faster to knit and provides more even results in colorwork sweaters, and is a traditional method in Norwegian knitting.)

Before steeking:

We have a sewing machine, but I hadn’t used it at all (and have only used any sewing machine a couple times in my life). Ted’s used it, but not enough to keep him from having to figure it out anew each time. So that was the first problem – it took me over an hour just to figure out how to thread the damn thing, and probably another hour to figure out everything else I needed to know about it and experiment on some scrap fabric and then a knitting swatch.

I considered running a basting line where I wanted to sew, but I tested that and it turned out to be nearly impossible to see; however, it wasn’t hard to see where I needed to go anyway because this pattern’s steeking section includes four purled stitches in the center with two knit stitches on either side. More or less easy to see, anyway. (First bad design decision; the stitch lines are supposed to run up the center of the outer purled stitches – any experienced knitter who’s done ribbing will know that the first purled stitch next to a knit section will try to curl up and hide behind its neighbor knit stitch.)

Practice lines
Successfully threaded!

I do not have a picture of my first sewn line – that would be the one where I sewed the front of the sweater to the back of the sweater (even though I knew this was a risk and was trying not to). This was compounded by the fact that I was using a turquoise thread that closely matched the main yarn (I was advised by different people both to do that and to choose contrasting thread. Guess which was better advice?) So ripping out those stitches one at a time was a slow process.

Once that was finally done I rethreaded the machine with red thread, and sewed my first successful line. Yay! Had a small hiccup starting the second line – I tried to oversee the first few stitches to keep them anchored and overdid it. The sewing machine tried to eat my sweater. But once I got that fixed, the second line was also fairly easy.

First successful sewn line

Cutting it was nerve wracking; the knitting designer’s second bad decision was to carry floats the whole length of the steek section, which made it hard to see where to cut. I had tried to use both yarns in a checkerboard pattern, but it looked terrible due to the knit/purl combination, so I gave up on that after a few rows and just tried to anchor my floats. Also, with the carried yarns and the superwash yarn used for the pattern (another bad design decision and not mine – it was sold as a kit and was a present to me) the edge stitches unraveled more than they’re supposed to, but not too far.

In contrast, my only previous steeking experience was a lot more pleasant. I crocheted instead of sewing to stabilize the edges, the steek section was knitted in a traditional checkerboard so there were no long floats, and the yarn was a traditional “sticky” one that didn’t try to unravel (Dale of Norway Helio). I don’t really grudge the time spent learning the sewing machine – at least I did learn something, and it will be easy when/if I use it again. I think if I were to make a simple skirt now, the cutting (and probably the dealing with elastic) would be more of an issue for me than the actual sewing.  So if I ever steek again, it’s at least possible that I will sew it instead of crocheting, especially if it’s a full-length steek like this instead of a shorter one for a sleeve or neckline zipper.  But for sure any other steaks I do will use traditional methods and yarn – they’re traditional for a reason!

After steeking – inside
After steeking – outside

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

More depressing than intended

I’ve been rereading Georgette Heyer’s The Convenient Marriage. It’s funnier than I’d remembered, but the prejudice against women is just appalling. It’s not the obvious stuff that’s bothering me, like the double standards the hero and heroine are held to – I can ignore that as an artifact of its time, and actually Horry, the heroine of this one, has a surprising amount of agency. Not only does she propose to Lord Rule (to Sacrifice Herself on the Altar of Sisterly Love, or in plainer terms to save her older sister, who loves someone else) though he does later solicit permission from her mother (not her brother!) but after her marriage at 17 she instantly becomes a queen of society, with a social circle independent of her husband’s. This one is set in the Georgian period, not Regency times; Horry has gorgeously decorated satins instead of plain muslins, has young men visiting her bedroom to help her decided which patch to wear, and perhaps more freedom overall for women.

It’s not even the fact that Horry is continuously outsmarted and outmaneuvered by her husband that bothers me; given that he’s literally twice her age I should hope that he’s learned something over those years! What appalls me here is the need to sacrifice any of the sisters: Lord Rule wants to marry into the Winwood family because of its prestige, for some reason that is never well explained, but one of the Winwood girls has to marry Rule for his money – because of their brother’s Fatal Tendency to gamble deep. The family needs money, so one of the girls must marry a rich man; originally the eldest and most beautful sister is betrothed despite her Love for Another and is only saved by her youngest sister’s initiative. And nobody sees anything wrong with this, with a brother’s bad habits forcing his sister to be sold to save the family. They treat his “tendency” as an inescapable family fate, and it does run in the family – Horry gambles too, as soon as she is married and is allowed to, but there is no indication that it might beworse than a bad habit, if it ruins someone else’s life. The brother, Pel, is presented as a sympathetic character – not too bright, but with a good heart. He’s willing to go to great effort to support his sister when she’s in trouble, but there’s no sign of guilt or that he owes her anything.

It would be easier to dismiss all this if it were truly a reflection of social mores in the late 1700s – but for all her research, Heyer published this in 1934. It’s a reflection of her time, not George III’s, and her time is not so very long ago. My maternal grandparents were married in 1936; in 1934 they were dating, trying to earn enough money to marry on in those Depression years. Heyer’s book would have been fluffy escape reading for people dealing with the realities of a harsh time, and though she might have been portraying the customs of an older time, she still needed to be writing plots that would go down easily for her contemporary readers.

Even more depressing, here we are 84 years on, a long lifetime later, and we’re still hearing people who think it’s reasonable when a boy’s light action ruins a girl’s life, who still say it’s OK if he didn’t really mean to harm her. Or didn’t realize. Or couldn’t help himself.

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

back again

So much for trying to re-establish a blogging habit – one disruption and I forgot all about it. I did decide to work from home (the lake home) all last week; it was wonderful and went very well, except for having to pay some data overage fees. However, the fees for 3 Gb of extra data were somewhere close to the minimum we’d need to pay every month to get wifi in that house (and were much cheaper than getting an unlimited data plan from Verizon!) so I guess this is what we’ll be doing any other time we work from that house, for the foreseeable future.

I was able to do a considerable amount of knitting while there, so I’ve now finished the initial knitting on this sweater.

Next comes the hard part: steeking, to turn the pullover into a cardigan. I need to sew (with a sewing machine, which is not something I have any experience with) along both sides of that from channel, then cut between the stitches, After that I need to pick up stitches and knit the plackets for buttons and button holes. I probably won’t get to that for a couple of weeks – I want to tackle it on a weekend at home, and we’re going to the beach this weekend. I’ve got a sock still in progress, but have cast on a couple other projects anyway: a sweater, because I want some plain knitting for car rides and telecons, and a shawl for a swap I’m doing.

(I was amused recently when John Scalzi announced the new “digest” topic he’d be using once or twice a week, because it sounds like the way I always have blogged, multiple topics at once.)

So back to my other usual topic, rowing. This is the time of year when I always start building up distance to get ready for the Holiday Challenge.  I did get out a bunch of times while we were at the lake, but in general, I’m in terrible shape this year. I still work out five times a week, but I am noticeably slower than I used to be (less speed at the same perceived level of effort) and a lot of my workouts are only 5 km or so.  I did do 10 km on Monday, but only 5 km yesterday.

Part of that is in the head rather than the body, and I do know from experience that as I begin to build distance my brain adapts; it learns to zone out so I can row longer distances without it asking “are we done yet? are we almost done?” every 200 meters. Part of it, I’m afraid, is age. According to the US Rowing Masters handicap table, speed drops off more and more precipitously with increasing age. In a 1km race, I would get about a 14 second handicap at my current age, so it seems reasonable to expect my splits (projected time to row 500 m at a given level of effort) to drop by about 7 seconds. It’s probably not linear in real life, in that I suspect the average split for a marathon would not really drop off at the same rate as that for a 1000m race, but that’s still an easy approximation.

Part of it, though, is needing to get butt on erg and do more meters. Sigh.

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

where to work

Today’s dilemma: work from home next week or come in? The ‘home’ in question would be the lake house, Rowell; Ted and probably the cats will be there all week, Ted on vacation and the cats just being cats. I can’t take the time off, but I could work from there. If I don’t, I will have to drive up and back twice myself, so it’s an extra 6 hours or so drive time, plus having to drive the other 6 hours (one round trip) by myself instead of with Ted. If I do, I will have to call in to one meeting it would be (somewhat) better to attend in person, and will miss the first rehearsal for choir for this season. (The advantage to belonging to a choir at work is that there is a general understanding that sometimes work happens and you can’t make a rehearsal. No one will be censorious if I don’t attend; I’ve just been looking forward to it for weeks.)

Also, it’s nice working while looking out at a lake rather than a cube wall, though admittedly my office desk is more ergonomic.

I am very glad to at least have the option – though my boss did say I needed to notify our next-level manager, who will be at that one meeting.

Oolong notes: the smoke has been gone for a week or so, but she’s still coughing and sneezing and being generally snotty. I’m not sure how much of that is a delayed effect, and how much is because the weather is now being volatile, switching between summer and fall in typical August fashion.

Otherwise, life is going well – real life, I mean, not work – because I’m halfway through the last Kate Daniels novel, which arrived yesterday, and in another few days the latest October Daye book will be arriving. I’m sure I’ll have Kate Daniels withdrawal, but at least there’s more by Ilona Andrews; I haven’t yet read the first book of the related Blood and Iron series, and I’m also enjoying the Innkeeper series, as the latest book has a new chapter posted online every week or so.

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

Local wine!

What’s better than a festival where you can taste wine from a bunch of local wineries in one place? A wine festival a little more than a mile from your own house … that happens a day after the weather has finally broken, with comfortable temperatures and no smoke. The air quality has been awful here for weeks due to fires all over the Western US and Canada but it finally cleared out yesterday, at the same time lowering the high temperature of the day from the 90s to the 70s.

We rode our bikes to Orenco for Taste the North Valley, and got to taste a couple wines from about ten different wineries. They didn’t have as much food as I expected – only one vendor selling shrimp couscous and chciken Cordon Bleu, which seem like odd choices if you’re only going to have two things. But the shrimp was excellent, and there are a whole bunch of restaurants right there anyway, for anyone who wanted more choices. Great way to spend a Friday night – and since the event started at 4 and we’d bought tickets in advance, it also gave me a great excuse to end a meeting that didn’t seem like it was going to end in any other way. (It was also clear that longer discussion was not likely to be productive.) So yay, though I probably do still need to do some work this weekend.

On a completely different note, how did I never before read Diana Wynn Jones’ Power of Three, when I’ve had the book (real book, not Kindle) right here for years? And also, how did I never read the very Elizabeth Goudge-ian novella “Everard’s Ride” at the end of Jones’ collection Unexpected Magics, when I’ve definitely read Little Dot and some of the other stories in the book? Not that I’m complaining about having new DWJ to read!

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

Looks like our respite from snot is ending; Oolong has been hacking and coughing though not quite as mucus-y as she was in spring (yet). It’s not surprising; due to fires across the PNW, our air quality is currently rated Unhealthy. Oolong is an indoor cat so she spends her life in an air-conditioned climate, but clearly she’s especially sensitive to pollens and pollutants.

It was nice while it lasted.

Meanwhile Tuesday was an expensive day. On the way back from last weekend’s family reunion, somehow my water bottle tipped over in my bag and wasnt completley closed. The water didn’t go all over the bag, but seemed to end up in my iPad, Kindle and knitting. The knitting is fine, of course, and luckily so is the Kindle. The iPad, not so much. I left it sitting in rice for two days, but when I pulled it out and plugged it in it still refused to power up. When I pulled out the sim card, it was still damp. That two-day delay also convinced me that I really missed having a tablet around; I use it for knitting patterns, GPS (easier to see than a phone), recipes, missing object games (hard to do on a phone) and generally just having information at my fingertips on a screen big enough to read it. So Tuesday after work, I first tried taking it to the Geek Squad and was informed they pretty much don’t fix water damage and that Apple might but it would cost weeks and hundreds of dollars. Then the Best Buy salesperson informed me they had no iPad Pros and no 9.7″ iPads with cellular capability in tthe store, so I went across the steet to Verizon. The person there confirmed the same story about getting it fixed, but sold me a new iPad. At least I “saved” around $400 by buying a regular iPad instead of replacing my iPad Pro; the Pro has a better display but not $400 better. Also one of the reasons I bought the previous one was to use the Apple Pencil – the regular iPads can do that now. I debated getting a Mini, but am not sure I want to go that much smaller – it’s enough bigger than my phone to definitely be useful, but I can imagine it still being hard to read street names or find hidden objects in a game.

Surprisingly, and very unlike the last few times I bought a device, I was out of there in under half an hour clutching my new toy. Of course that meant I had to go home and sync it to my computer but at least that can be done while I do other stuff. Unfortunately it had been nearly a year since I synced the old one! But it’s not like I keep a lot of data updated on the iPad; most documents I use are on the Cloud or Google Docs and other apps like Pepperplate, which I use for recipes, sync to an online account so nothing is lost. I’ve also been mostly storing new Notes in the cloud. The only thing I seem to be missing is all of my knitting patterns (even though I keep them in Goodreader, which was supposedly synced to the cloud). Ravelry saves me there; I can just re-load most of my patterns from there.

The one remaining issue is that the keyboard/cover from my iPad Pro won’t fit this one, and I hate carrying it around naked – it feels too fragile and too easy to drop.  In my experience it’s much, much cheaper to order a cover from Amazon than to buy one in either Beet Buy or Verizon; if I’m lucky the ones I bought Tuesday (separate cover and keyboard) will arrive before we head to the lake tonight. Yesterday I had a brilliant idea: I went looking for iPad keyboards on Amazon Prime Now, which delivers in just a few hours (the one I’d already ordered was only about $10, so having an extra would be OK). Not only did I find one, I found one that was $17 for a cover with built-in keyboard, that normally retails for $119. It was only an hour or two later, with the thing already out for delivery, that I realized I’d ordered an iPad *mini* cover. Oooooops. Not expecting this to work but figuring it was worth a try, I called Amazon to ask if I could just, like, give it back to the delivery person to return. Amazingly, they were able to cancel the delivery, refund the delivery fee, and even give me back a $5 credit I had that was used on the purchase. Shocking, in a very nice way.

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

We had a great weekend with Ted’s family celebrating his maternal grandfather’s 100th birthday (with luck, we’ll be able to do the same for his other grandfather in 3 years). All of his descendants were there except one who’s currently living abroad – the most exciting part was getting to meet the new baby who made this a five-generation gathering. I got some fabulous photos of people, though I won’t post them here because some family members don’t want pics of them online. Everyone was on good behavior and I got to spend time with some people I like a lot and don’t get to see often, as well as some of the kids before they reach an entire new life stage.

One downside, though – I came back to work Monday all peopled out. I am really not looking forward to an intense week of work (we specialize in those, around here) and then houseguests next weekend. Very welcome houseguests that I invited myself but still.

On the other hand, I’ve spent most of today in my cube typing, so now my wrists hurt and dealing with people sounds like a good break! (I’m sure that will change shortly, as I have to go deal with Best Buy. On the way back home, my water bootle spilled in my bag and it all seems to have gone in my iPad. Either the Geek Squad can fix it, or I guess I’m replacing it. Not the fun kind of ‘dealing with people’!)

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.