dichroic: (oar asterisk)

To the people who want to take “This land is your land, this land is my land” out of copyright: there’s really no need. I bet Woody’s heirs would be glad to let you use it if you just use ALL the verses he wrote:

There was a big high wall there that tried to stop me;
Sign was painted, it said private property;
But on the back side it didn’t say nothing;
That side was made for you and me.

In the shadow of the steeple I saw my people,
By the relief office I seen my people;
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking
Is this land made for you and me?

Nobody living can ever stop me,
As I go walking that freedom highway;
Nobody living can ever make me turn back
This land was made for you and me.

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

dichroic: (oar asterisk)

I’ve just realized a corollary to the Sam Vimes theory of economic injustice. I don’t have a catchy name for it yet, but the gist is that having enough money – and being confident that you will have enough in the foreseeable future – saves you from making unnecessary purchases.

Here’s how it works. Let’s say you have three pair of jeans. That seems to you to be about the right number of jeans. And then one day jeans go on sale at a store you sometimes shop at. You feel like you need to buy a pair nownowNOW! Because they’re on sale! And even though all the jeans you have are in perfectly fine shape, some day they will wear out and you will need a new pair, and they may not be on sale then.

Problem is, by the time this happens, you may be a different size. Or you may prefer a different style of jeans, or you may have decided to wear exclusively kilts. Even if none of these things is true, you have had to store the extra pair of jeans all that time, and they’ve been cluttering up your closet. (Also, there’s the fact that you could have been earning interest on the money tied up in those jeans, but I think we can assume the interest on the price of jeans for 6 months or a year is negligible).

If you are in a state of financial comfort, you don’t have to buy the jeans when they’re on sale. So what if they cost $10 more when you’re ready to buy them? You’ll be able to afford it then – and if you don’t buy them or if you decide to buy a different version, then you’ve saved yourself from buying something you can’t use or no longer like.

(This post derives from me trying to persuade myself not to buy a gray sweater to replace the one that has just developed a hole. Not only do I have plenty of sweaters, I actually already have multiple gray sweaters, even though all the others are heavier, lighter, longer or differently styled than this one. If I decide I can no longer live without a dark gray merino pullover, I can do something about it at that time.)

Why, yes, I did just spend (pause to count) four paragraphs explaining that not having enough money leads to making decisions based on anxiety. In other news, water is wet – and falls from the sky in Oregon for 8 months of the year.

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

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I heard a story the other day that made me sad. It’s not my story to tell so I won’t give details, but in summary, the guy wanted to buy something and was offered it at a price so low that it could have hurt the naive former owner (FO). He told the FO that he should be charging more, and left his card so the FO could call when he’d thought it over.

The wife of the guy telling the story was mad at him for not buying the thing at the low price, and that’s the part that makes me sad.

There’s a happy ending; FO talked to his wife and called the guy back offering to sell at the price he’d originally quoted. Their children were dead so they had no one to pass the thing on to, and they’d make some money over what they’d originally paid years ago, so they decided they’d rather sell to an honest man than maximize their profit.

It’s a nice story, overall, but I can’t get past the wife’s complaint. It seems to me that if marriage is for anything at all, it’s for supporting each other. Some of that is sharing the chores of running a life and raising children, if you have them; some of it is holding each other up during hard times and cheering each other on during good ones. But surely some of it should be about supporting each other to become better.

Shouldn’t it?

Also, this purchase was not a thing the family really needed. You might have more responsibility to your family than to strangers when all else is equal, but screwing over someone else to get your family a luxury is what I think of as the “I Got Mine” mentality, and I think it’s one of our biggest failings as a society.

Years ago, there was a Hagar the Horrible Sunday comic strip, in which they portrayed the family’s motto as “I Got Mine!” and showed various images of how happy each family member was with their particular “mine” people/stuff. Ever since then I have thought of the sort of thinking you describe as the “I Got Mine” school of thought, and I think it’s downright evil:

  • My family came over here as refugees, but no one else should come – my family wanted to work and make a better life for ourselves and just needed a little help, whereas all these new people just want to suck us all dry.
  • I had my abortion for the right reasons, but all these other women shouldn’t be allowed that option because they just want sex without consequences.
  • I need freedom to celebrate my own religion because everyone hates us, but I want to ban these other religions because they’re full of violent people and anyway they’re wrong.

(Note: I copied my explanation of the “I Got Mine” mentality, and those three examples, from a Ravelry post I wrote on November 2 – before the attacks in Paris.)

I Got Mine is not my family motto, and I hope my own spouse would hold me to a higher standard – or at the very least, help me hold myself to it.

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

dichroic: (oar asterisk)

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

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

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

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

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

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

dichroic: (oar asterisk)

Some days I’m amazed at how much Christians and Jews differ in their approach to theology. Some Christians, anyway.

I am not even talking about Indiana’s recent “religious freedom law” now (I’m embarrassed to see in the Indy Star that people present at the private signing of that bill include Orthodox Jews as well as Catholic monks and nuns, conservative lobbyists, and so on.)

Yesterday, I received a postcard from a local church advertising their Easter service, talking about how they offer a “fresh message”. That’s the part I don’t get. First of all, if you’re going to be a Christian at all, how could any new message be more powerful than the age-old “He is Risen?” Second, isn’t some of the power of that precisely because it isn’t fresh at all but because people have been celebrating that same message for the last two thousand years? This confuses me, but maybe that’s because the whole point of Passover is to repeat the same story we’ve been telling for a few thousand years.

(Said church also mentioned their “authentic worship”. I take that to mean “we really mean the words we’re saying – we’re not just repeating set prayers”. This is also different from Jewish tradition where it’s important to say the words in community, even if they get mumbled more as a mantra than a literal prayer, but that discussion probably needs a better theologian than me.)

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

dichroic: (oar asterisk)

I post the lyrics to Peter Yarrow’s song Light One Candle every year at Chanukah, because I believe deeply in the message in it. It’s also relevant to a couple of articles I’ve recently read; one describes the song as being controversial because it’s “not Jewish enough”; in my opinion if that whole Chosen People idea means anything, it means that we have certain responsibilities toward other people that come out of our own experiences. “Light one candle for those who are suffering the pain we learned so long ago.”

Tikkun Olam, healing the world, is a Jewish value; to quote the Velveteen Rabbi quoting the Pirke Avot, “Jewish tradition teaches us to cultivate hope in place of despair. It’s not incumbent on us to finish the work, but neither are we free to refrain from beginning it.” That is also why I agree with another article, that “Black Lives Matter!” is indeed a Jewish issue. All lives matter.

Light one candle for the Maccabee children
With thanks that their light didn’t die
Light one candle for the pain they endured
When their right to exist was denied
Light one candle for the terrible sacrifice
Justice and freedom demand
But light one candle for the wisdom to know
When the peacemaker’s time is at hand

Don’t let the light go out!
It’s lasted for so many years!
Don’t let the light go out!
Let it shine through our love and our tears.

Light one candle for the strength that we need
To never become our own foe
And light one candle for those who are suffering
Pain we learned so long ago
Light one candle for all we believe in
That anger not tear us apart
And light one candle to find us together
With peace as the song in our hearts


What is the memory that’s valued so highly
That we keep it alive in that flame?
What’s the commitment to those who have died
That we cry out they’ve not died in vain?
We have come this far always believing
That justice would somehow prevail
This is the burden, this is the promise
This is why we will not fail!

Don’t let the light go out!
Don’t let the light go out!
Don’t let the light go out!

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

dichroic: (oar asterisk)

In honor of Curt Schilling, I’m going to ramble on about theology for a bit. I’m just noodling; the below is speculation, not to be construed as a statement of everything I believe and certainly not an attempt to convince others. But I do believe that if you’re going to espouse a faith, then you ought to examine it and yourself, and make sure that what you say you believe is consistent with what you do believe.

Also, it’s pretty clear that Schilling doesn’t have the faintest understanding of evolution, since he’s made comments about “missing the intermediate stages between monkey and man”. No one ever claimed that humans were descended from monkeys; the fossils of stages between the earliest hominids and later ones like us certainly do exist, as well as the fossils of stages between those hominids and their ancestors, from primates on back to microfauna.

Anyway, those disclaimers aside, what bothers me is that Schilling espouses an almighty God but seems to actually believe in one created in his own image, who populated the earth in the same way as I might create a diorama – first drawing the background, then putting in little figures here and there. I don’t need a God who’s just a slightly bigger version of me. If I’m going to believe in a deity I want one who contains cosmoi. It’s been understood since Darwin’s day that evolution isn’t inconsistent with religion; the preacher Henry Ward Beecher said “Who designed this mighty machine, created matter, gave to it its laws, and impressed upon it that tendency which has brought forth the almost infinite results on the globe, and wrought them into a perfect system? Design by wholesale is grander than design by retail.” For that matter, it’s been understood since at least St. Augustine of Hippo that science in general isn’t incompatible with belief and that ignorance is not next to godliness.

If I’m going to believe in a God who is worth believing in, I want one who set the universes in motion, who laid out the physical laws that allowed drifts of primordial dust to develop into suns and comets, black holes and galaxies, amoebae and fungi and plantlife, other animals and us, and for all we know other forms of life that are currently beyond our ken.

I want a God who is beyond my understanding; I don’t need one who looks like me. Still, I have to think even a transcendental and omniscient deity would want me to use my brain, whether it’s personally marked with the Shekhina’s “thumbprint” or the outcome of a million infinitely complex processes, to understand the universe in which I exist and to delight in its beauty and intricacy. However they developed, intelligence and free will are gifts, the best we’ve been given, and I have to believe that the best I can give in return is to use mine to make the best choices I can and to try to understand, within the limits of my mortal comprehension, where I am and how we got here.

Literal Bible believers dislike the idea of evolution because it doesn’t match the Bible’s precise words. But even if you believe in the Bible’s inerrancy, the stories in Genesis are a few thousand years old. They weren’t even written down for the first part of their existence; they had to speak to the people of that time in order to be remembered. When you tell a three-year-old about where babies come from, you don’t tell her about gametes and zygotes or the growth stages of an embryo and fetus; you tell her some variant of “the Daddy puts the seed into the Mommy and it grows into a baby”. (I don’t have a kid; maybe those discussions are slightly more accurate these days, but I bet they’re just as simplified.) What you tell the three-year-old is true, but it’s only a platform for her to build more understanding as she grows up. You’d be a bit appalled if her understanding hasn’t progressed beyond that when she’s twenty-three. One of my less favorite Biblical quotes is “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, but when I became a man I put away childish things.” I’d prefer “when I grew up, I saw childish things in a new light,”; either way it applies here. Like the average twenty-three-year-old, we’re far from knowing all there is to know about our world, but hopefully we’ve learned a few things since our species’ early childhood.

Mostly, I just want people to stop telling me I should follow their God, when all they can offer is a version of themself, just with better toys.

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

dichroic: (oar asterisk)

I have two injuries from last weekend. The scrape on my elbow from picking up a kayak seems like a reasonable one to have, even if I did scrape my left elbow while picking up the boat on my right side. The other injury, though, is much more ridiculous: I had a blister and then ripped the skin off from sweeping goose poop off our dock. The first year, the geese avoided our dock; now they have found it. After two weeks away, it had a truly amazing amount of crap on it (“amazing amount of crap” is a phrase you never want to have to use when speaking literally). In case anyone cares, the best methodology for goose poop removal seems to be to start with a light sweeping (“light” being what I didn’t do and why I got the blister) to remove the dry stuff, followed by alternating buckets of water tossed with strategic aim and sweeping to get everything else off. Fortunately there’s enough of a current to carry it away once it’s washed or swept into the water, and I don’t feel guilty about sweeping it in since presumably geese poop there too.


I am feeling a bit invisible and isolated lately. Not so much online, really, but in meatspace. I’m grateful that I do still get responses here, considering how infrequently I post, and I do get a lot of interaction on Ravelry, my other main online space.

On the other hand, in physical space and even online areas based more on in-person acquaintanceship, things are different.

At work, I sit in an area with only a few other people. Most of my colleagues eat lunch at their desks; I miss the way my groups in Taiwan and the Netherlands would all go eat together. More more of my meetings are telecons than in-person, and I have somewhat fewer meetings and more solo work than in my last job. Lots of meetings get postponed, though always for valid reasons. I do get pretty good responsiveness to questions and requests.

Socially – there pretty much is no socially here. A lot of our social life both in Arizona and in the Netherlands was through rowing, but we don’t have any water close enough to make it practical to row during the week. We do have some rowing contacts at the lake house, but it’s not economically feasible to join their club when we only get out there every other week, or sometimes less (plus we use our own equipment and don’t need club boats). I take a longish lunch one day a week to go to my local knitting group, and that’s about it for social interaction. I try to go to work social events when they have them. I could do more knitting stuff – there are multiple knit nights a week around here – but it’s hard to drag myself back out of the house after I’ve gotten home and worked out, and the times I have gone were nice but not so great as to make me feel I’m missing a lot.

When we moved here, we did meet up once with an old friend of Ted’s but she’s way on the other side of town. I’ve tried to get together with a longtime acquaintance from the LordPeter list who lives very close by; she’s said she wants to but has pled illness for a year and a half. (No, I haven’t nagged. We emailed a couple times early on and then I checked back once recently.) If she wanted, she could invite me to come to her to to a neutral place close to her. I’d guess this is most likely an excuse but if not, then she’s clearly just not well enough to have new people in her life.

I’ve kind of run short on people to just call and talk to. I used to talk to my uncle and grandmother fairly regularly, but we lost her in 1997 or so and him in 2009. (Dad died a few months ago, but never liked to talk on the phone anyway.) Mom is a bit unsatisfactory to talk to these days because she focuses only on what and who she sees daily and isn’t that interested in much else – to the point that she’ll refer to “them” and “he” with no warning and I’m just supposed to know the former is my brother and SIL and the latter my nephew (because why would anyone want to talk about anything else?). I don’t really care what she ate yesterday or if everyone at her new place thinks her grandson is cute. (Of course I do talk to her regularly and listen to her talk about these things anyway, because I need to support her. And I don’t want to give the wrong impression, having met a few too many people with horrible uncaring mothers. She does try – she called just yesterday to check back because I’d mentioned on Monday that Ted wasn’t feeling well. It’s just the way her mind works – out of sight is out of mind, to some degree.)

As for friends elsewhere, I never did spent much time on the phone with them anyway – more to make plans than just chat. A lot of people don’t email much these days. Some of my physical-world friends do or did blog, but I can’t read blogs during the day from this job. Somehow it seems to be easier to catch up with Facebook’s two-line updates and skippable memes than to read blogposts in my very limited evening free time, especially with fewer and fewer people writing those posts. (I realize I am a part of the problem here and I keep resolving to do better.)

Even on Facebook (where my friendslist is a blend of people I went to school with, people I’ve met along the way, dnd people from assorted online contexts) I feel a bit isolated. People answer when I comment on their stuff, and they ‘like’ or comment on mine some, but of course you rarely get real conversation there. And, though this sounds silly, I don’t get tagged for stuff. I didn’t particularly want to dump ice water on my head (and I’m perfectly capable of donating to a charity on my own volition) though coming up with ten books that have hit me hard might have been fun. But it’s not really wanting to do those things, which of course I could do on my own anyway. It feels stupid to even complain – after all, I don’t like tagging other people, because I don’t want to inconvenience them and because some people dislike being called out in public. It’s just, I don’t know, sort of a graphic demonstration that I’m not particularly in the forefront of anyone’s mind. (Don’t get me wrong; I am not asking to be tagged for anything, either – that wouldn’t really solve the problem.)

Of course there’s Ted as a constant in my life; I couldn’t be luckier or happier to have him there. I just don’t think it’s either effective or fair to expect one person to serve as the majority of my human contact.

It takes a while to make friends after you move. Moving frequently means you will be more isolated for a while. Some jobs have less contact than others. None of this is problematic on its own; it’s just all hitting me together, and not having a local rowing club cuts off one more thing that’s been a support for me elsewhere.

People at this company like to quote studies about how no one can really multitask and you (=everyone) get more done if you focus. I’m not convinced. I like being interrupted now and then. I like having people around to bounce ideas off, and I like conversations that meander. Without those, I think I get a little down – not clinically depressed, just mild situational depression – and I function less effectively. The other point is that I’m not *really* alone; I was happier when I was working at home on my book and could wear what I wanted, work on the schedule I wanted, lounge comfortably on a sofa, take time to relax and let ideas percolate if I needed to. Right now I have all the constraints of working in an office, without the fun of talking to other people much, and without much people contact outside work to make up for it.

There are some problems that can be solved by throwing money at them. I think this is one you can only solve by throwing time at it – wait, meet people, be friendly, and hope things change gradually.

Oh, and also: the complete lack of reviews on my book doesn’t help. Even if someone said they hated it, at least you’d know they read it.

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.


Aug. 20th, 2014 08:11 pm
dichroic: (oar asterisk)

Forgive me if this is long-winded and driveling; something just hit me but I’m not sure I’ll be able to explain it.

When I was a teenager in the 1980s, I was friends with some neighbors whose kids I babysat – still am friends, at least in a vague Facebook-and-holiday-card way. Obviously they were older, 30ish or so when I was sixteen. His parents were Holocaust survivors; I’ve seen their tattoos. My husband still has both grandfathers, lucky man; one was a conscientious objector in WWII, and the other was a bona-fide hero in the Pacific war, Purple Heart and everything. So the thing is, I’m old enough to know people who showed extraordinary valor in that war, but they are / were old enough that we don’t just sit around and swap stories. (My husband’s grandfathers have been willing to share more of their stories in recent years, but they do feel like history.) As a young engineer, I did work directly with people who made history as part of the Apollo program, but I don’t think that’s a common experience.

Dorothy GIlman is famous for her Mrs. Pollifax mysteries, but I’ve just been reading one of her older books, The Clarivoyant Countess. It’s a series of short stories about a clairvoyant in the 1970s; in it, people discuss psychic powers, reincarnation, and a lot of the other arcane stuff in fashion then. (Some of the conversation in the stories has the feel of the dinner parties Madeleine L’Engle describes in her nonfiction, so I believe they fit with the zeitgeist.) The story that hit me hard has a minor character who went through the concentration camps and saved his wife from them by a brilliant ploy.

And it sort of hit me: yes, the fifties were mostly a time of nesting and reaction, but the young (and older) people trying to change the world in the late ’60s and early ’70s had an intimate knowledge people who had done exactly that – changed the world and won out over evil through heroism, courage, and determination. They knew them as well as my younger coworkers might know me – I’m not old yet and I have clear memories of the ’80s. No wonder they believed in their own abilities to measure up and change the world again. If their parents could do it, why not then?

And the WWII generation had at least a head start; I don’t know that I could say that people who lived through WWI changed the world exactly but they had it change around them, dealt with it and survived.

Now, when we see a need for change as in Ferguson, those examples are farther back in history from us. The amazing leadership and perseverance of the Montgomery bus boycott, the lunch-counter sit-ins, the feminist changes that meant I could major in engineering and get jobs with no real resistance are all forty to fifty years in our past now. They don’t feel like yesterday to the middle-aged, let alone to the young.

On the other hand, we know through direct memory that we can survive massive change around us – just look at the Internet. The WWW has only been around since about ’92. We know that with a concerted effort we can make real change happen now – look how many US states allow same-sex marriage, illegal in all fifty states within the lifetimes of people who aren’t old enough to drive. it might be harder for us – especially our youngest – to believe we can change the world when we don’t have so many obvious heroes among us, because it’s harder to see history made when you’re inside it. It’s hard to have a historical perspective on current events, but I think if we can take that step back to be objective, there are plenty of examples to build those hopes on.

Does that even make sense?

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

our boys

Jul. 1st, 2014 04:16 pm
dichroic: (oar asterisk)

Oddly, what brought me to tears over Eyal, Gilad and Naftali, the three kidnapped Israeli boys, is from another religious tradition already. John Gorka based his “Let Them in, Peter” on a poem found in a Philippine hospital during WWII:

Let them in, Peter
They are very tired
Give them couches where the angels sleep
And light those fires

Let them wake whole again
To brand new dawns
Fired by the sun not wartime’s
Bloody guns

May their peace be deep
Remember where the broken bodies lie
God knows how young they were
To have to die
God knows how young they were
To have to die

So give them things they like
Let them make some noise
Give dance hall bands not golden harps
To these our boys

And let them love, Peter
For they’ve had no time
They should have trees and bird songs
And hills to climb

The taste of summer in a ripened pear
And girls sweet as meadow wind
With flowing hair

And tell them how they are missed
But say not to fear
It’s gonna be alright
With us down here

Let them in, Peter
Let them in, Peter
Let them in, Peter

And hoping I don’t have to call to mind the words Tommy Sands wrote about yet another war: “another eye for another eye / ’til everyone is blind”. (My brain’s other native language is song lyrics, apparently, and it retreats there in times of emotion – witness the singing of Sunrise, Sunset at my Dad’s funeral. One advantage of a blog is being able to speak in them.)

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.


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