Field trip

Jan. 5th, 2019 10:29 pm
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Just about every time I go someplace on public transit, I see big groups of teenagers: girls, boys, mixed groups. Sometimes I also see them walking around the city. Today I went on a “field trip“ with a bunch of other knitting friends to visit a couple of fabric stores, have lunch, and just generally walk around a cool part of town, 7 of us in total. I’d describe us as more or less middle-aged (I’m the youngest, only one other is still working, with the rest being young retirees plus one visiting MIL who must be in her mid-to-late 70s – who was one of the faster walkers in the group). Everywhere we went, on buses and in stores people reacting to us as though they just weren’t used to seeing large groups of adult women. The bus driver laughed, people in stores said “wow, where do you come from? as if we were led by a tour guide with a sign. Do grown-ass women just not generally move in packs?

It was a lot of fun. Nobody bought fabric except some ribbon, but one shop had amazing Liberty of London prints – last time I saw that many I was actually in the Liberty store in London. We ended up having lunch at a Thai place that’s one of the most popular in Portland (Pokpok) with legendary long lines – but was empty at lunchtime. And we visited Citizen Ruth, where I debated between buying RBG earrings (but didn’t, because I have long hair and I don’t think the tiny images of her face would be visible), bracelets with sayings like Feminist as Fuck, and so on. (I did buy a couple items that will probably become gifts.)

On the way home I stopped and bought milk that is pasteurized but not ultrapasteurized for tomorrow’s adventure, making mozzarella with the cheese-making kit I got for Christmas. I started a batch of sourdough artisan bread dough yesterday, so I can have some of it with a loaf of that – or be nice and save it for when Ted comes back from the business trip he’s on.

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

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Books read: lots – I’ve never had much desire to keep track, though I’m occasionally curious to know how many I’ve read in a year. I’d guess somewhere between 100-250, but can’t say more exactly.

Knitting projects: 15 completed – 5(!) sweaters, two shawls, two hats (both gifts), 3 pair socks, a few other things. One sweater and one pair of socks in work, plus a cowl with a few rows in the yarn of each project.

Rowing: 1,328,398 meters for the year. (Not bad.) Of those, only 87,518 meters were on actual water (Not good.) and the rest on the rowing machine. 231586m were during the Holiday Challenge.

Add in work, the French Polynesia trip for our 25th anniversary, work, the trip for my GFIL’s 100th birthday, work, and a fair bit of cooking, plus a few other weekend trips (Yakima for my birthday, the knitting retreat at our lake house, Cannon Beach in September), a work trip to AZ where I got to meet up with old friends, another to TX to speak at a conference, and more work, and you pretty much have my year there.

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

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There are few things sillier than pre-emptive nostalgia. I’m a bit sad that my holiday season is almost over, and my actual holiday hasn’t even started yet.

Maybe it’s because “holidays” are a long and complicated season for me; this year included a Diwali event where my choir sang the Star Spangled Banner, gift buying, my mom and brother’s birthdays, Chanukah candle lighting, exchanging a couple presents with Ted (my family tends to run late) and still to come, buying and decorating a Christmas tree, time at the lake house, a visit from my in-laws, Christmas dinner and presents and biggest deal of all, time off from work! So by that rationale it is half over, even though the biggest parts are yet to come.

Or maybe saudade or hiraeth are better words for what I’m feeling, in which case it all makes more sense – that beautiful strain of sadness that adds piquancy to times of the greatest happiness, like the tradition of smashing a glass at a wedding.

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

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This is more what I wanted to say this year, though I’m not sure it’s as good a poem. I may still tinker with it.

Some darkness is only the absence of light
Sacred, cyclical
Clean and empty
Time to rest and gather in before regrowth.

A candleflame honors it –
Contrast, counterpoint
Dimming and flaring
Centring and setting off its velvet black.

Other darkness surges and seeks to overtake
Encroaching, enveloping
Resentment and envy
Quenching light and life in rot and death

A candle resists it –
Holding off, diminishing
Dancing, yet steadfast
Where it stands, the dark does not prevail.

In any kind of darkness, light a candle.

This is 2018, which means I’ve been writing Chanukah light-in-darkness poems for ten years now. (Possibly longer; I need to check my old Moveable Type blog that preceded the WordPress one.) Trolling the archives of this blog, I’ve found 18 Chanukah poems – I didn’t write any in 2011, but wrote 2 or 3 many years. Is that enough for a chapbook?

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

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I may add another poem, if I can write one – I still want to say something less about Chanukah in specific and more about kindling light in darkness in a more general way.

I light this candle as I choose –
to hold the darkness back, this night.
And we have gained too much to lose.
I light this candle as I choose
to honor heritage. We Jews
remember what it means to fight.
I light this candle as I choose,
to hold the darkness back, these nights.

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.


Dec. 13th, 2018 12:56 pm
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If I ever go back to regular blogging again (which I really ought to do, because I miss having a record of my daily life) I ought to log my Homemade number each day. Today my number is 2; I made the necklace and the socks I am wearing (two socks count as one item, I think).

Speaking of logging, despite still having an occasional cough from the cold that hit me before Thanksgiving, I am 138,404 meters done with the Concept 2 Holiday Challenge – more than 2/3 done. Assuming I complete the 12km planned for tonight, I will be 3/4 of the way through. (Erging is extremely good for your ability to do fractions, due to a combination of not much else to think about while you’re doing it and the desperate need to know how much you’ve done and how much you have left to go.)

While I’m setting numeric goals, I should probably set one for this weekend, to fill out and stamp some number of holiday cards, since we finally got ours yesterday! 

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

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I have been having a cold since early Thanksgiving week. I was a terrible guest at the in-laws for Thanksgiving – usually I help cook or take over part of it; this week I didn’t do anything involving touching food. The in-laws get vaguer and less willing to make advance plans every year, but hopefully they will come to us for Christmas and I can make it up then.

It was a bit depressing, too; MIL is at the point where she’s clearly being affected by the same dementia that killed her mother. It’s early days yet; she’s just losing words and retelling stories (I mean, more than would normally happen at her age). She can still drive and do everything else but needs a little more watching; FIL says she got lost going to a friend’s house not long ago. Since she recently got a smartphone, we’ve shown him how tech can help and made sure “Find a Friend” is turned on on her phone. I need to talk to him at Christmas about making sure she’s discussed this with her doctor; he’s not fond of going to doctors himself, despite or maybe because of being a retired pharmacist, so I don’t know if he’d push her to talk about it, but I know they do have drugs to help some forms of dementia.


I still have the remnants of the cold, mostly coughing and blowing my nose a lot. This is a problem since the choir I joined at work is in holiday recital season, singing for various groups at work and in the community. I’ve missed a few concerts so far and will miss another today; I just can’t sing! Symptoms are better each day, so I’m hoping to be able to perform at the ones on Wednesday and Thursday. (Or I could probably go sing bass.)

I lost several days of erging for the Concept 2 Holiday Challenge, too, but am more or less back on track. If nothing else happens I should be able to complete it well before Christmas Eve – and if stuff does happen at least I should be able to finish it on time. I’m at 76 km right now and will finish off the 100km level of the Challenge this week, but of course 200,000 is the “real” Challenge! (I have done the 100km version a few times when we had a lot of traveling during the holiday season and I just didn’t have enough days with access to a rowing machine to do more.)

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

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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.

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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.

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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.


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