news

Feb. 14th, 2017 10:53 am
dichroic: (oar asterisk)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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.

arrived

Dec. 21st, 2016 08:43 am
dichroic: (oar asterisk)

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.

dichroic: (oar asterisk)

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)

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)

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.

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