dichroic: (oar asterisk)
2017-02-20 03:42 pm
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leaving and being replaced

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

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

dichroic: (oar asterisk)
2017-02-16 01:32 pm
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the satisfaction of accomplishment, one inch at a time

There are some goals you get to by leaps and bounds (for instance, if you’d always wanted to travel abroad and then you did). There are some goals you work at for a while and then finish, like getting a driving or pilot’s license or writing a book – those are harder. And then there are the ones you work on forever, being excited to reach new levels. Maybe that’s the number of books you’ve read in your lifetime, or growing your hair out to knee-length. Some of those get less exciting as you get further along – reaching 50 professional publications is probably not more exciting than reaching 30. Some get more so – it’s probably more exciting to see your net worth hit $100,000 than $100. (Or maybe not, if it was negative for a long time and this is your first $100 in the black.)

With those accretive goals, I think they are even more satisfying when they’re ones you’ve reached entirely on your own efforts. Or maybe not entirely – if you bike a million lifetime miles, clearly you’re helped out by the people who made the bike, the people who built the road, and especially the person who watched the kids while you were putting in some of those miles. Still, every one of those miles went by through your peddling alone. It’s an entirely subjective thing in which others will disagree with me, but I think the achievement of that solo goal is more satisfying than covering those same miles on a tandem bike. (Teamwork has pleasures too, just slightly different ones.)

I’ve got a couple goals of that kind in which I should be able to reach milestone levels within a few months for one, years for the other. One is financial and I hope to get there within a couple years: this is a milestone Ted and I reached together a while back, but getting to that same point entirely on my own is going to be a pure and peculiar satisfaction. (I’m sure some other people feel the same, but and equally sure others don’t – for instance, couples who pool all of their money don’t reach solo financial goals, and presumably decide it’s not something they care much about – or that they care less about than other goals that are better served by completely merged finances.)

The other one is about erging; I’m up to 14,916,498 kilometers on the erg, lifetime. I’m up to a lot more than that in all forms of rowing, including erging, rowing a single, rowing in bigger boats, etc. but the erging is all me, every single meter cranked out by my body. I would have already hit 15 million by now, if not for illness – and now it’s been postponed further, because the doctor says that pain when I cough is a sprained rib and I should avoid rowing or other upper-body exercise. (Unfortunate, since my main alternate would be walking / hiking and it’s too wet to make that pleasant.) But I will get there sometime in the next few months, and when I do, the prizes Concept 2 sends out for milestone distances will be nothing compared to the satisfaction of getting there.

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

dichroic: (oar asterisk)
2017-02-14 10:53 am
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news

It’s been ettling at me this past week, not to be able to talk in public about an upcoming change, just because people had to be told in the right order. But now I can say, I have been assimilated by the Borg. Which is to say, I have accepted a position as a Software Quality Engineer for the biggest employer in these parts, a place famous for its pervasive corporate culture.

I’m a bit nervous; that culture tends to be a love it or hate it thing, so here’s hoping I love it. There are all kind of little perks (gym, excellent cafeteria, etc) but of course those things come at at the expense of being expected to work long hours. But most people in my current job work even longer hours; I don’t, as a Quality person, and that’s actually symptomatic of a big problem here. I’ve been feeling for too long like I don’t have enough to do because I’m always working on process improvement in the background, not able to be part of our day to day project work. (Many companies have an issue with the quality group being too much of an ivory tower; this is just our particular manifestation of it.) In the new gig, I’ll be getting back to software engineering and out of architecture and engineering – I think I’ll like that, and I’ll be working directly with project teams.

Also, there’s a lot more flexibility – I’m wondering if it might translate to more time at the lake, even if that means we need to get real WiFi there instead of just using our phones as hot spots. Working in a beautiful location can still be productive!

My boss is here this week, for her first visit in a couple of years, so I hit her with this news first thing Monday morning – it didn’t feel like a nice thing to do, but doing it in person seemed best. So far, she’s shown an odd lack of desire to discuss any transition or negotiate my last day.

The nice thing is that they really seemed to want me. They cold-called me, and the whole hiring process went very fast. I haven’t even worked around software since approximately 2004, and I was was absolutely honest on that both in the interview and on my resume, but they just said “It’ll come back to you.” I won’t be writing code (though there might be an opportunity to build some tools) but I do need to be able to understand and analyze defect reports.

Anyway, I really hope I like the new job – I start it the same week I turn 50, so with luck this will be my last employer.

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

dichroic: (oar asterisk)
2017-01-31 02:11 pm
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assorted WTFery

The White House’s web page had now posted descriptions of each item of the Bill of Rights (“summaries” about as long as their originals) in which they consistently replace “the people” with “citizens”.
Whitehouse.gov page
Original Bill of Rights

But I’ve just had the most graphic proof that political delusions and ridiculous euphemisms are no new thing.

WTF, Louisa May Alcott? In the second edition of Aunt Jo’s Scrapbag, she’s in the French city of Dinan, where she’s discussing how the local women seem to do the hard work of the town, and how strong and capable they are while never complaining:

The washerwomen were among the happiest of these happy souls, and nowhere were seen prettier pictures than they made, clustered round the fountains or tanks by the way, scrubbing, slapping, singing, and gossiping, as they washed or spread their linen on the green hedges and
daisied grass in the bright spring weather. One envied the cheery faces under the queer caps, the stout arms that scrubbed all day, and were not too tired to carry home some chubby Jean or little Marie when night came; and, most of all, the contented hearts in the broad bosoms under the white kerchiefs, for no complaint did one hear from these hard-working, happy women. The same brave spirit seems to possess them now as that which carried them heroically to their fate in the Revolution, when hundreds of mothers and children were shot at Nantes and died without a murmur.

Having no idea what had happened at Nantes, I looked it up. I find it horrifically unlikely those ‘hundreds of mothers and children …died without a murmur”. Or maybe they weren’t heard because many of them drowned. But I did come up with a way to avoid argument with Trump supporters: instead of comapring him to the early days of Hitler, you just compare him to Jean-Baptiste Carrier instead. I’m certain the administration that came up with “alternative facts” would admire the elegant obfuscation of “vertical deportation” (i.e. drowning). (If you’re wondering about the shootings she mentioned vs the drownings in the Wikipedia article, LMA is just a little confused. People definitely were shot all over the Vendee region – it’s just that Nantes is specifically known for the drowning of prisoners.)

I do wonder if, maybe, the French Revolution would be a more accurate comparison for Recent Events than the Holocaust.

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

dichroic: (oar asterisk)
2017-01-27 02:37 pm
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my design “career”

I have mentioned previously that I’d designed a jacket for Betabrand, who do crowd-funded clothing and executive designs. That jacket will *finally* be launched for crow-funding Feb 23 – I’ll let you know when it’s up and you can see the prototype.

But in the meantime, I’ve entered their contest to “Hack the Dress Code”. My entry is a mini-capsule wardrobe of my favorite work ‘uniform’: a long-sleeved fine-knit t-shirt, matching leggings (which makes me feel like I’m in my jammies, or dressing up as a superhero!) and a skirt to make it off-appropriate. Plus a scarf, for a little extra flair. I love wearing that outfit because it’s totally comfortable yet flattering and worksafe, so I feel like I’m getting away with something. You can see my entry here, or all of them here.

If you want to vote, you need to be logged in, but can log in with your FaceBook account. (And if you like my outfit enough to vote for it, thank you!)

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

dichroic: (oar asterisk)
2017-01-27 02:16 pm
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Arthur, W.S., and Lin-Manuel

I finally got around to something I’d been meaning to do for some time: googled “Hamilton Miranda Gilbert Sullivan”, to see if anyone has noted the (IMO) very obvious similarities between Gilbert and Sullivan’s work and Lin-Manual Miranda’s Hamilton. And…. nope. Yes, they list G&S as one of Lin-Manual’s influences, and they note a reference or two in his lyrics, but they don’t do an overall comparison. (Maybe it’s just so obvious that no one else thought it needed to be said? My 11th grade Spanish teacher said I was a mistress of the obvious. She meant it as a sneer (Sra Valchin was not a nice person) but so often it actually does need to be said, because it’s not that obvious to everyone.) There are so many correspondences:

  1. It’s operetta. I’m not entirely confident I’m using the term correctly, but what I mean is that all or almost all of the story is carried by the music. You could do a musical like Oklahoma or Aladdin without the songs – it would be boring, but you could do it. There’s nothing that you couldn’t explain with maybe an added line or two of dialogue. You can’t do that with Hamilton or Penzance.
  2. The cleverness. Quick patter and ingenious complex rhymes paired with catchy tunes, a matched mastery of language and popular music.
  3. The topical references. Both kinds – quick glancing references to events and music of the day as well as exploration of bigger timely issues beneath the badinage.
  4. And finally, the stardom. I don’t know: maybe Rodgers and Hammerstein were this popular in their day, but I think theater as a whole was much bigger then. G&S were as hyooooge (sorry!) in Victorian England as Miranda is now.

Probably either no one cares, everyone thinks this is obvious, or no one else thinks the correspondence is anything unique, but I’m still surprised it doesn’t get said more often.

My status otherwise: almost but still not quite all over the bronchitis / pleurisy. Might try erging again this weekend, I guess.

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

dichroic: (oar asterisk)
2017-01-25 06:42 pm
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if I can’t sing, it’s STILL not my revolution

We need songs to march to – I’m not enough of a musician to create new anthems from whole cloth, but filking I can do. Feel free to improve it further, especially if you’re familiar with the original (well, the original was written for the Bread and Roses march in 1911, but the video I linked is an update the original marchers would have been proud of).

As we go marching, marching
Through cities nationwide,
From fact’ry, home and lab floor,
From town and countryside,
From coffeehouse and office,
From minaret and steeple,
We join our song together,
We are people, we are people.

As we go marching, marching,
We stand and stake our claim:
We each own our own bodies,
Though different, we’re the same,
All disrespect and hatred,
We bury in one deep hole;
We march and sing together,
We are people, we are people.

As we go marching, marching,
We bring the better days,
For able and disabled,
For straights and trans and gays,
For baby girls and elders,
We reach out and we keep whole,
Together we’re proclaimimg
We are people, we are people.

I think the Battle Hymn of Women is probably due for an update too.

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

dichroic: (oar asterisk)
2017-01-22 05:47 pm
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Been sick, still/again

I thought I was finally getting over the cold I’d had since about January 5. Wednesday I took the day off (to do a supersecret thing I’m afraid to jinx by talking about it). Unfortunately by the time I was done doing the thing, which involve talking to a lot of people (and apologizing for my hoarseness and lingering cough) I was feeling like the best thing to do would be to go back to bed. Which I did, which is where I found out I’d spiked a101.4 fever. I was able to get an appointment at my doctor the next day luckily (just to see the PA, but I figured that was fine) and she diagnosed bronchitis. So I’ve been at home since then, doing some telecommuting and mostly just taking it easy.

Between the thing where it took me three tries to fill in Wednesday’s time sheet (which was just 8 hours of PTO) and the time when Ted asked me Thursday night whether I’d actually intended to put a box of dry noodles in the fridge (nope!) it was pretty clear I wasn’t exactly functioning at my best. I pointed out to Ted that, in recent years where he’s been working a lot more overtime than I do, even though he’s always pretty good about doing his share around the house, I had taken on a lot of the responsibility of running the house – not that I was doing all the cooking, but that I was doing more deciding what to cook which day (we decide together, ahead of time, on a few major meals for each week, but we don’t tie them to a specific day), and when, and making sure we had the ingredients, and that we didn’t run out of cat litter, and so on. I told him that while I’m down, we need him to step up and take over – make the decisions, consulting me for opinions as I usually consult him, figure out the timing and make sure it all happens.

I think he’s taken it more to heart than strictly needed, or he thinks I’m in worse shape than I currently am (after my 4th day on antibiotics). We just discussed when to have dinner, he suggested an hour, and I said ok but could we actually eat in an hour instead of just atartying to cook then. Next thing I know I hear him taking stuff out of the fridge and pantry. I pointed out that if I make the salad while he does the main course it will only take us half an hour to make dinner, but I got shooed back to bed and told it’s “all under control”.

Can’t complain – except that I feel like a bit of a freeloader, especially as he had the cold too, though not the bronchitis, and is still coughing.

Back to work tomorrow, hoping that’s not pushing things too far. It’s less than ten minutes away, so if I start feeling bad I’ll go back home. I do miss the Dutch way of doing things, where the doctor just says you can’t go back to work til you’re completely well – and sometimes you even need to be checked by the doctor onsite.

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

dichroic: (oar asterisk)
2017-01-12 03:19 pm
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a week for nesting

It’s been a weird week, between cold (the illness kind) and cold (the weather kind). After spending all weekend firmly planted on the couch, a roll of toilet paper and trashcan beside me to deal with the nonstop nasal discharge), Monday I worked from home because I woke up with a fever of 100.6. Tuesday I managed to get to the office, then Wednesday I was at home again for Portland’s snowpocalypse. I know they got over a foot downtown; it was probably closer to 8″ by us. Today a lot of people are still out, as is Ted who now has my cold, but I decided to come in because it was just all getting a bit silly. Since I’d have had to completely clear off his truck anyway to get my car out of the garage, I just ended up taking the truck. Its advantage is, not only does it have 4WD, but the way you drive a behemoth like that is pretty much the way you drive in snow anyway: careful gradual stops and starts, wide easy turns, no sudden movements.

Tomorrow I was supposed to take a half day off, but the thing I was taking off for is being postponed, because the cold weather will continue a few more days and many people still won’t be able to get to work. Also, between ice and illness, I think we’ll probably stay in Hillsboro instead of heading out to the lake this weekend. I have plenty to read, plus enough tea, popcorn, pretzels and yarn, so I’m good no matter what. I may even venture back onto the erg today. Or maybe tomorrow.

The weirdest thing has been that I’ve had no sense of smell for the last several days, even though most of the time I’ve been able to breathe through at least one nostril. I sniff and just smell nothing, not even very strong scents (we’ve been using a vaporizer with some Vicks’ stuff in it. I’m told its scent is overpowering but I totally can’t tell). It’s oddly disconcerting – it’s nice not to have to gag because I got too strong a whiff from the cat food sack, but I hadn’t realized how much pleasure I get from the scents of soaps, sweaters, teas, wine, and so on. My sense of taste isn’t gone, but seems to be impaired: I can taste sweet and salty just fine, along with some woody, earthy or bitter flavors, but I seem to be missing out on subtle flavors and aromatics. For instance, someone gave me a tea blend with just a hint of berries; I can taste the tea and sugar just fine, but the faint fruit flavor is gone. And either I’ve got a particularly tasteless box of pretzels going, or I can’t taste sourdough either. Last night’s shrimp and broccoli tasted fine, though, as did the supermarket sushi I had at lunch. Apparently it’s possible to look your sense of smell with a cold and have it be gone for weeks, years or forever. Here’s hoping that doesn’t happen!

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

dichroic: (oar asterisk)
2017-01-06 02:17 pm
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slightly ill and also sad

Vacation was very nice – I spent days and days organizing my books, ate well, etc. But apparently my body is not so happy to once again be around people other than Ted, because I’m sick (ill, not nauseous). I hab a code in by head. I haven’t been ill for years and years, and apparently I’ve forgotten how – I keep being surprised I don’t feel worse. Mostly I’m being a giant mucuous faucet, with occasional headache from sinus congestion or sore throat from drippage and maybe a lowgrade fever (99F), plus a sore and swollen gland on my neck and that’s about it. I don’t feel achy (except my nose is sore!) or lethargic. I probably could even erg, but I’m not going to.

It’s kind of upsetting to find out about instances like the shooting in Fort Lauderdale by phone notification that friends are checking in to say they’re OK. Of course I’m very glad they are (though whenever I say something like that, Jo Walton’s line “Someone else’s friends died that day” haunts me) but it’s not a pleasant thought that we actually need systems for this. But on the third hand (because I am a metaphorical Shiva) I remember the big California earthquakes of the 1980s, and what a blessing it was for people to be able to share notes on the nascent Internet about who was known to be OK, when the phone systems went down. Mass shootings still suck, though.

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

dichroic: (oar asterisk)
2016-12-21 08:43 am
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arrived

I almost forgot to say that Ted’s present arrived Monday! So I don’t have to worry about faking something up for him to open. Now I just have to hope he likes it – it’s an original painting by an old friend, loosely based on a photo I took, so he will certainly like the idea of it. I just hope he loves the painting in esse, as well as in posse. (Assuming that’s the right way to use those phrases.)

That’s his birthday present. His Christmas present is a thumbdrive made to attach to an iPad. You can apparently store movies on it and play them directly from the drive. We don’t have wifi at the lake house, so he loads up a few movies before heading down; I have already craftily pointed out to him that if we watch the movies he’s already got loaded early in our holiday, he can load up more while we’re visiting his parents (assuming his mom either hasn’t changed the wifi password or remembers what it is – she favors long and complex ones). So having this drive to load extra movies on should be welcome.

There’s only one package yet to arrive before we head south tonight: my present for the cats. At least they won’t feel deprived if it’s late.

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

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2016-12-21 07:18 am
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odd things I miss from the Netherlands, part #9234

At this time of year, when I’m getting read to take a long vacation from work, I miss the phrase “t/m”. It is very useful, and we have no good equivalent in English. It stands for “tot/met”, literally “to/with” and is used in the sense of “up to and including” as in “I will be on holiday from tomorrow t/m January 2”. There’s no easy way to say that in English that doesn’t involve a lot more typing!

But the thing I think we both still miss most is still living in the center of town and being able to walk to millions of restaurants within a 10-15 minute stroll. (Even if they all serve so slowly that every dinner out takes two hours!) OK, maybe not millions, but I bet there are over a hundred bars and restaurants within that distance from our old flat. We could live in the Pearl here, but even there the restaurant density is not nearly as high, plus our house would cost three times as much as the one we bought in Hillsboro and our commute would be forty minutes instead of five (except when there was bad weather or accidents, when it could double). And the rowing club – we miss the rowing club a lot. Portland has them, they’re just a bit far to make rowing on workdays practical.

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

dichroic: (oar asterisk)
2016-12-19 09:34 am
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holiday concerns

On Saturday we went to Ruth’s Chris, as an early birthday dinner for Ted. Normally we’d prefer to try some of Portland’s unique restaurants but there are actually only a few specializing in steak and more importantly, I had a gift card. My company always used to send out an AmEx gift card to every employee at the holidays; I always thought that was a little strange, since this is also when profit-sharing bonuses happen, but OK, not complaining! Anyway, this year we have a new recognition and rewards program where you can earn points and pick your prizes, so they used that instead. In addition to everything from jewelry to blenders, they had several gift cards available, so I chose the Ruth’s Chris one.

We’ve been to their restaurants in Houston, Scottsdale and Taipei, and it’s always been a true fine-dining experience. This one, however, only partly succeeded in that regard. The steaks were as good as ever, and the service was quite good, except for a minor bobble where the server gave me the wine to taste (I’d done the ordering) and then handed me the cork afterward. Not a big deal and certainly not something that would affect the tip I left, but it does show a lack of clearness on the whole concept. The idea is to sniff the cork first, just in case the wine has gone so bad that even one sip would be unpleasant. (That happens so vanishingly rarely these days, or maybe ever, that it doesn’t really matter much, but that is the idea.)

Anyway, the problem was the restaurant itself. You walk right in to a large, very high foyer facing a stairway to the second floor. (Here’s someone’s photo) It’s a single door, not a double “airlock” style of door. The bar is on your right and the restaurant seating on your left; the upstairs seems to be devoted to rooms for private parties. It’s all very open. Of course, the upstairs and the bar were both very busy, since it was the Saturday before Christmas Eve. This was also an usually cold weekend in Portland (when I drove to work to work this morning, there was still a little snow on the road). We were seated at a table right on the edge between the dining area and the lobby. So it was noisy, open, and very cold – not the atmosphere I’m expecting when I’m paying those kind of prices for a special-occasion dinner.

The server did apologize for the cold, and they comped our dessert – I think they felt guilty after noticing that Ted kept his winter coat on the whole time. But the nicest part happened when we went to pay. When I’d ordered the gift cards, I had a choice of “spending” $50 or $100 of my points; I chose the $100 option, so when two cards arrived in the mail I just assumed they were two $50 cards. Nope – apparently someone somewhere made an error and sent me two $100 cards, so our dinner was free – even after I made sure to tip based on the original cost including dessert, since the server really was trying her best.

And then on the way home, Uber quoted us a higher-than-usual price, as we expected due to Saturday night high demand, but only actually charged me the normal price.

I almost feel a little guilty, since I was supposed to be treating Ted – but not quite. I may end up feeling guilty about his birthday present, though. A while back, I posted a photo of our lake to Facebook, and an old friend asked if I’d mind if she based a painting on it. Of course I said that was fine, and asked her to send me a photo of the completed painting. That was a few weeks ago, when I was still deliberating about a present for Ted – it’s a milestone birthday, so I needed something special. So I asked if I could buy it. Unfortunately, she wasn’t able to ship it for a couple of weeks – apparently it takes a while for all the layers of paint to dry. It’s in the mail now, but while I told her I was hoping to get it for his birthday, I forgot to tell her in time that we’d be heading down to the lake a couple days ahead of time. (I was going to email her the very day a note arriving saying she’d shipped it – my fault entirely.) So it may not arrive until after we’re gone. At least it won’t have to stand out in the weather; when I grumbled about this on Ravelry, someone smart suggested asking the Post Office to hold our mail while we were gone, and that turned out to be surprisingly easy to do. (Really, the usps.com site lets you do a lot of useful things very easily.) So I’ll be wrapping up a printout of the painting with an IOU; I’m trying to figure out a way to make it more special (like maybe faking up a frame, or wrapping it in a box if we have one the right size).

Three workdays left before break!

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

dichroic: (oar asterisk)
2016-12-14 08:40 pm
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Shrimp po’boys, rethought

Last night’s dinner was so tasty that I wanted to write it up. These are not proper shrimp po’boys; proper ones have the shrimp breaded and fried, and the remoulade sauce is much more complicated. However, these are easier to make at home for one or two people, mostly involved stuff I had on hand (I just had to buy the bread) and are extremely tasty with a real Cajun flavor. Quantities given are for one sandwich; it would be easy to double or triple.

Ingredients:
small baguette (I used half of what the local fancy supermarket calls a mini French baguette), sliced in half for a sandwich
about 6 medium shrimp per sandwich – big enough to be satisfying to bite into, small enough to fit on the bread
small tomato
Lettuce (I used red-leaf, that being what I had)
Cajun seasoning
Cooking oil

Hasty Remoulade sauce approximation
mayonnaise – about 2 heaping Tbsp
pickle juice
Worcestershire sauce
Tabasco
1 clove garlic, minced or crushed

In a small bowl, mix the mayo with around 1/2tsp pickle juice, a dash of Tabasco, a sploosh of Worcestershire sauce and the garlic. Stir and set aside. Heat a bit of oil in a saute pan. Meanwhile, toss the shrimp with a generous amount of Cajun seasoning. Saute the shrimp until pink all the way through; while they’re cooking, slice the tomato and cut the lettuce into ribbons. Toast the bread (I just put it under the broiler for a couple minutes). Spoon the remoulade sauce onto both halves of the bread. Line up the shrimp on the bottom half, top with the lettuce and tomato.

THIs time it was actually possible to eat the sandwich as a sandwich; other times I’ve had to use a knife and fork. It probably depends most on the relative sizes of bread and shrimp. But I cooked nearly half a pound of shrimp, and cut up too much lettuce and tomato (as i always do) so whatever didn’t fit on the sandwich I ate as a salad. It was awfully good.

Tonight Ted had his third work dinner in a row (apparently the snow we’re having didn’t make them cancel it, silly people) so I had bangers and mash, if that’s the proper term for andouille sausage and mashed potatoes made with garlic and sour cream. This may actually be the first time in my life I’ve used up an entire container of sour cream without having any of it go bad (excepting times when I bought the container and used it all in a single recipe).

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

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2016-12-12 01:45 pm
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the story of three menorahs

Quick note: Technically I’m talking about Chanukiot (plural of chanukiah), which have nine candles and are used for the holiday Chanukah. THe word “Menorah” can also refer to the seven-branched candleabra used as a symbol of Judaism, but it’s the more common term and we often talk about Chanukah menorahs, and that’s the term I’m more likely to use.

Some people have the tradition of letting each member of a family light their own menorah each night, but we (and everyone else I knew growing up) just had the one. Now I have three, though I only light one at a time.

First came the brass one I bought for my first apartment, for my first Chanukah on my own after college. It’s sturdy and solid, except that the edges of some of the candle sockets have sort of started to come off the rest of the metal. I’m not sure where I got it, because there wasn’t really a Jewish community where I lived and online shopping wasn’t a thing yet – probably I asked my mom to send me one. This one is smallish and easy to store, so it lives in the Hillsboro townhouse with us.

The other two menorahs are bigger and live on display shelves at the lake house. My favorite of all of them is the one I’ve probably used least in recent years, because I mostly haven’t had it with me. It consists of a big thick piece of glass with a picture of Old Jerusalem etched or incised into it, slotted into a wooden foot. There are metal discs along the top, upon each of which sits a ceramic candleholder with a magnet base. It’s a beautiful thing, but I didn’t take it with us during our expat years for fear of breaking it, and for the past few years, Chanukah has mostly been far enough ahead of our Christmas break that I wasn’t at the lake house to use it.

The third menorah is the one I didn’t need, but it jumped on me and declared it was mine. In the middle of a (somewhat miserable otherwise) 3-month business trip to Woostuh, MA, in the depths of winter, I drove up a couple of hours to visit a longtime online friend who lives just on the far side of the Maine border. She took me to Portsmouth, NS for lunch, and at a small gallery there I saw it. This was in 2001, when I was doing a lot of flying while not on business-trip Siberian exile – it was just three and a half years after getting my VFR rating. So when I saw a colorful menorah that was not only a biplane, but also had a pilot that could be taken to be female, I was hooked. But I didn’t need another menorah, and it was more $$ than I wanted to spend for a thing I really didn’t need. I was haunted by thoughts of it for about two weeks, until I caved and drove back up to buy it (and visited my friend again). I’ve never regretted that purchase, and it taught me something about going ahead and buying the thing, if you can afford it, and if it’s something that you really want, and might not be able to find again.

Maybe when we head down to the lake for our holiday break I’ll remember to post some photos. We’re probably not having a tree this year (because we’re spending Christmas itself with Ted’s parents) so it’s a good time to focus on Chanukah! Come to think of it, I need to remember to pack the small brass menorah to take with me to their house, since Chanukah begins on Christmas Eve this year. We had a Seder at their house once, so I’m sure they’ll be good with me lighting Chanukah candles. (By “good”, I don’t mean “they’ll allow me”, I mean, “they’ll make a nice space for the menorah and probably come listen to the blessings each night, with love for me and respect for my traditions”. I won the in-law lottery.)

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

dichroic: (oar asterisk)
2016-12-11 01:13 pm
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Holiday Challenge update

I haven’t talked much about this year’s Holiday Challenge, but it’s proceeding apace – I’m up to 182km and expect to finish midweek. That was fostered by the 25km piece I just finished (“just” as in haven’t even showered yet – I’m heating up lunch first). (Actually yesterday – I wrote this piece and forgot to hit Publish, because erging is not good for braining. This morning I’ve now done another 15km.)

I did it at marathon pace, which is to say not fast, and I’m a slow rower to start with – it took me 2:28:37 to finish, giving me a split (time to row 500m) of 2:58.2. That equates to a pace of about 6 minutes per kilometer or around 9.5 minutes per mile. These long pieces can really eat up a weekend day 🙁

I’ve also concluded that The Martian is a terrible audiobook for erging. Somehow, you don’t want a book about endurance when you’re actually doing an endurance piece; you want something with a lot more quick action. As audiobooks usually run from 8-20 hours long, even with an action book you don’t really have to worry much about it not lasting the length of multiple pieces. Also, at one point I looked at my phone and noticed he’d already survived the accident, figured out how to make soil and water, planted the potatoes, and Earth had figured out that he was alive – and yet the book had 9 hours left. Unless the book is farther from the movie than I expect, I think it might get a little tedious – and even for an engineer, it’s a bit technical for a workout book.

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

dichroic: (oar asterisk)
2016-12-09 11:19 am
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more holiday stuff

Pursuant to yesterday’s dilemma, I returned the expensive beeswax candles and told them why. The guy I spoke to didn’t seem to be unduly concerned. He told me they rarely carried “petroleum-based” candles, but that the reasonably priced ones I’d bought there last year probably were petroleum based. Meanwhile, I note that Amazon prices for similar candles are more like $11$16 – Whole Paycheck is living up to its nickname. (Amazon’s are not marked as being discounted from a higher price – I don’t think they’re undercutting prices here, because if they were they’d brag about it.)

Of the other local stores I frequent, I forgot to check whether Fred Meyer has any Chanukah candles, but if they do they won’t be the nicer looking ones. Meanwhile, New Seasons has done away with their Jewish and other “ethnic” sections – they still have the same products, just integrated with everything else. For instance, if you want kasha, you need to look with the other grains. I can see advantages to this – for one thing, it normalizes eating Jewish, Mexican, or Asian foods. On the other hand, it makes it harder to figure out where to find specialty or seasonal products like Chanukah candles or Passover matzah. If I see candles there, I might buy a box for next year – just to establish that there is a demand.

I’m about two-thirds done my share of our holiday cards. This has been a very boring year for us, so much so that our holiday letter was a very short one this year. Sad when you can’t think of much to say about a whole year!

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

dichroic: (oar asterisk)
2016-12-07 02:19 pm
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because all lives matter, just not after they’re born

Tin soldiers and Trump is coming,
We’re finally on our own.
This winter I hear the drumming,
More dead in Ohio.

I think it’s time for Neil Young to do an update. When I was in college, I had a button that read “Pro-abortion … or amateur abortion?” with a picture of a coathanger. I stopped wearing it because it grossed out even my most pro-choice friends, and I probably wouldn’t wear it now on the theory that wearing buttons doesn’t do much good anyway, but I wish I still owned it.

In other annoying news, today I spent $26 (!) to buy Chanukah candles at Whole Foods, the only one of the local supermarkets that reliably carries them (or used to; I had to ask for help finding these, as they were tucked in back of a display full of other kinds of candles. I haven’t decided whether I should return them and buy cheaper ones from Amazon, or keep them to demonstrate there *is* customer demand for them out here.

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

dichroic: (oar asterisk)
2016-12-02 02:39 pm
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nearly ready

It feels deeply weird to me to have Chanukah so late this year. It’s also harder, because my mom and brother have birthdays in Early December, so though I generally try to give separate presents for each thing, I can usually do them all at once. This year, I need to handle them in two lots. Ted’s birthday is always right near CHristmas, but I’m not sure that’s good either. (For one thing, I don’t need to ship his presents!)

Still, I’m in decent shape holiday-wise. I have the ‘thing’ part of Mom’s gift and just need to figure out what to do for the donation part (I don’t usually do both, but a) it’s a milestone birthday and b) this year it feels particularly important to support charities that support those who will be hit hardest by the recent US election. I’m trying to decide between Planned Parenthood, the ACLU, the Southern Poverty Law Center, Rescue.org (International Rescue Committee, or maybe something Jewish. The Chanukah gift for her and my brother’s family is tickets to go see a musical aimed at kids (Elephant and Piggie) in the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia – I think they’ll all enjoy that.

My brother is accounted for – I knit him something last year that took way longer than expected, so he’s getting it this year plus a few other things. He’s got enough enthusiasms to be easy to shop for. (His wife is much harder!) I just need to get his box packed up and shipped this weekend.

Ted’s becoming harder to buy for, because we really just. don’t. need. more. STUFF in the house!! But a friend had recently asked if I’d mind if she painted a picture based on a photo of mind, and sent me a photo of the finished piece yesterday. I loved it and hope he will too, so I asked her if I can buy it. Luckily she was businesslike about it and just quoted the price she normally sells for, so we didn’t have that awkward friendship dance – I prefer to pay what art is worth, if I can. (Though it’s true that we have three other paintings in the house needing to be better displayed. One was a gift from another friend – it’s displayed but just sitting on a bookshelf, unframed; the second was a gift someone gave Ted when we left Taiwan – not someone we were close to and I don’t love it; and the third Ted painted himself at one of those painting group events. The first one of those, the gift from a friend, is the only one I really care about, and we probably should protect it with a frame.

He takes care of his side of the family (aside from some socks I’m almost done knitting and a couple dishcloths I need to do), so a couple things for friends and one knitting gift exchange, and I’m about done.

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

dichroic: (oar asterisk)
2016-11-30 10:31 am
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book: Fallen into the Pit (Inspector Felse)

One of the books I’m recently read is Fallen Into the Pit, by Ellis Peters. She’s best known for Brother Cadfael, but this one is an Inspector Felse mystery (contemporary, published 1951). Lately I’ve been reading a lot of BritLit from WWI to just after WWII (DE Stevenson, Angela Thirkell, Elizabeth Cadell), and in the past I’ve read lots more from then and earlier: Miss Read, Sayers, Christie, Tey, Conan Doyle, R. Austin Freeman (Dr Thorndyke mysteries), Gaskell, Dickens, Trollope, etc, etc. I can only conclude that English writers up through the 1950s or so just really don’t like Jews. At best, you get a Jewish character who is not too bad, or alien-but-really-a-decent-person, like a couple of Dr. Thorndyke’s clients or the jewel dealer Lord Peter Wimsey works with. This book is really about the only one I can remember that has a completely sympathetic portrayal of a Jew.

She’s a German Jew, a Holocaust survivor who had made her way across Europe, ended up in England, married a farmer and lived a very quiet life. Her whole family were killed by the Nazis. Peters does a remarkable, sensitive job in imaging what her inner and outer life would be like, how she might think about her past, how she could be able to reach toward happiness again. It’s also good to see that she is completely accepted by not only her husband and their shepherd but all the locals. There is some anti-Semitic ugliness, but it’s from an intruder, a German POW still in England, and Peters means it to be ugly and intrusive – it’s not shown as ‘normal’ or OK in any way, and it’s not accepted by her family or the neighbors. Even Felse, the local police inspector, offers his support once he finds out she’d been harassed, though it’s too late at that point.

It’s a very pleasant change from having to shut your eyes and hurry past the icky bits in Sayers and the rest of them.

Only problem is, I liked this book a lot but now I’m not sure I want to read the read of the Felse mysteries, because from reading reviews I get the feeling she switches focus to other locales and to a grown-up Dominic Felse, and doesn’t really develop this setting or these characters further.

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.