adventure time 6: yosemite valley

So we went to see what all the fuss was about.

The first night, we stayed at the Wawona.

The absolute highlight of which was this handsome fellow vogueing in the shrubbery.

Next morning, brunch at the Ahwahnee.

Then El Capitan, or as I like to call him, Steve.

We stormed around the Merced River for a bit, which was painfully scenic.

Then I don’t even know, a meadow and some rocks and stuff.

A waterfall of excruciating beauty.

Tea back at the Ahwahnee with a mama mule deer and her twin fawns.

Pinot grigio on our balcony at the Yosemite Lodge, with our own personal mountain.

And our own personal sunset.

Glacier Point on the way home, for one last overdose on grandeur.

Buh-bye rocks and stuff!

I guess I would characterize all the fuss as “not wholly unjustified”.

adventure time 5: ai weiwei on alcatraz

We chose the most beautiful morning imaginable.

Even @karlthefog had come out to Alcatraz.

The flock of kites in prison made me think of my Dad.

The Lego portraits made me think of playing with my brother as children.

Each portrait is of a prisoner of conscience.

I was ashamed at how few of the names I knew.

It’s a powerfully angry and compassionate body of work.

We are all one family.

heather made me a picture

I love it immoderately.

a day in the life

One of the nicer uses of this blog is to capture Interesting Moments in Time for later perusal. My late-summer, Winter-Soldier-induced psychotic episode more or less resolved itself the week after Labor Day, and I’ve been feeling better ever since. It’s been a staggeringly beautiful few weeks in the Bay Area (when isn’t it) and I’ve been wondering how to take a snapshot.

Part of the problem, though, is that the days are extremely different from one another: days in Seattle, days at incubators and accelerators, days of meetings and days of working on documents, alone in my office or at home with the kittens.

What I noticed this week, though, is that though the days vary wildly, the weeks follow the same outline. Monday morning partner meeting. Tuesday, wushu in the afternoon and Salome and I drinking sake at the sushi place. Wednesday, Claire’s chorus rehearsal. Every other Wednesday, therapy with Naomi, who is hilarious. Thursday, Spanish tutoring with Meghan the brilliant law student. Friday, a riding lesson, two piano lessons and then maybe movie night. Saturday, wushu, meet Jack and Najah at the Greenhouse Cafe, order a BLT and Hong Kong milk tea, go to the farmer’s market and Julia’s swimming lesson. Sunday, a riding lesson and another chorus rehearsal.

It’s far too much driving (but my new car, Hedy Lamarr, the kittenbus, is a joy.) We are all overcommitted as hell – Jeremy and I sportsing 2x/week and the girls with three overlapping but nonidentical activities each. But it’s okay. It’s better than okay.

happy birthday alain!

You are delightful and I am so lucky to have you as my brother.

happy birthday daddy

I love you more than you can possibly imagine.

new plan

“I want to surround myself with younger, smarter people, and bask in their company, like X. does. And I want to use everything that’s happened to me to inform me, to make me a more compassionate person, like Y. does.”

“Sounds like you have some pretty decent role models there.”

“Yeah you know what, I think I do.”

american canyon

There was a house on the headland south of Dee Why beach. It looked out through Norfolk Island pines to the grey and silver sea. It was your typical San Francisco Victorian, 3br/2ba, and being in Bernal Heights… near Dee Why beach… it was priced at $1.6m. I worked out that if we put $200k down, our mortgage would come to a little over $7000/month, and I was trying to calculate that as a percentage of my salary, to see if it was over a third…

I woke up drenched in sweat and twisted up in the duvet. The cats were nowhere to be seen. I took deep breaths and waited for my heart rate to drop below 100. I pushed off all the covers but the top sheet and lay on my back staring up. It was as dark as it ever gets in our room with the plantation shutters closed: purple-orange with light pollution.

And then the whole house shook, exactly like the quake simulator at the Cal Academy. I could feel Bernal’s bedrock moving like the pistons of a giant machine. The house moved easily with it, a good rider on a disobedient horse.

My first instinct was to throw my body over Jeremy’s.

“In case the chandelier came down on us,” he said, amused, over coffee at St Jorge this morning. The chandelier is a IKEA Christmas wreath made of LEDs. It wouldn’t have hurt.

“The dream was scarier than the earthquake,” I said.

“Of course,” he said. “But did you hear that noise that went along with the quake?”


“It was property prices starting to come down.”


So how’s your year been? Mine’s been pretty harsh. To be honest, I just wanted to bump that last post out of the top of the blog.


I gotta say, these here shiny kittenses helped a lot.



best* practices for when your mother dies

  1. As soon as she gets sick, start calling her every day just to check in. Be grateful for the years of therapy and the births of your own children that it required for the two of you to get close. (Unfortunately this is also a worst practice, since after she has died you will miss her daily at the time you used to call (as well as at all the other times.))
  2. Be privileged enough that you can take ungodly amounts of time off work to spend just sitting with her. Watch documentaries about the Queen. Knit. Do needlework. Talk at length about the extreme cuteness of her cat.
  3. When you get The Call, purchase boxes of Kleenex in many sizes and distribute them around your office, car and home. Future self will thank you, through streaming snot.
  4. Although it may feel like tearing off your own limbs, go to the funeral director before your mother has died and make arrangements. Be grateful, again, that she is a person who has made her wishes as to the disposal of her remains known for the last thirty years. If you are lucky, the funeral director will be hilarious and kind, and it will not be as excruciating as you had feared (although still plenty awful.)
  5. Immediately afterwards, go straight back to your job and immerse yourself in hard, complicated work. Or lie in bed in the fetal position for three months. Either way, it doesn’t seem to make any difference.
  6. Remember that book you read once that said that most people are psychologically resilient, and recover from grief faster than they imagine they will. Wish you could put your hands on that book so you could throw it across the room. Notice, eventually, that the only books you can read without skimming impatiently are hurt/comfort slashfic or narratives of surviving PTSD. Call your therapist.
  7. Finally, finally have a dream about her that is not a nightmare, a dream in which you are shopping for a camping trip and mutually decide to it is necessary to have Magnum ice creams, and the treehouse in the shopping center has a swing rope and you dare her to swing on it and so she does.

*more like least worst

always safe to assume

…when I haven’t blogged for a while that I have been miserable. Couldn’t sleep, had headaches and gastric distress. Tweaking my thyroid and crazy meds didn’t cut it. Finally dragged my sorry arse to therapy and am the better for it.

Good things: July 4th at Oz Farm, a red woodpecker, three mule deer, snakes and frogs; Claire working as a junior counsellor at Heather Hill’s summer camp; picking Claire up today and getting to go on a trail ride, her on Gemini and me on Bethan. Out riding after work with my kid, no big deal.

machines of loving grace

I keep forgetting to blog my gratitude for the technology of palliative care: the bed that breathed, so that Mum didn’t get bedsores; the syringe driver that kept her on a constant dose of morphine; the lift sling. I can almost kid myself that her ghost is still in the machine.

adventure time 4: a walk in the woods

California is so crazy beautiful.

It really, really is.

i was in denver international airport today

My driver said they rarely get tornados. “People see the tornado shelter signs in the airport, they think we get ‘em all the time, but we don’t. Big thunderstorm coming though.”

It was big. People were lined up against the glass windows of Terminal B, looking south and east at the huge, slowly revolving storm cell. Its curtain clouds dropped fringed fingers towards the ground.


The tornado sirens started to go off.

I found a front row seat near the tornado shelter, next to an old man who determinedly read the paper through the whole event. The storm cell moved east across the prairie. Lightning lit it from the inside, giving it an eerie green glow.

It started to hail. The smell of ozone flooded into the terminal.

Compared to a good Sydney storm it was not all that. But it did spawn eight tornados and delay my flight by three hours. I was late to Salome’s birthday party.

adventure time 3: on the wing

Thought we might go hawking.

His name is Don Diego Alejandro Inigo Montoya del Gato.

We like him very much.

adventure time 2: over fences

Thought I might take Gunther to a show.


He was a good boy.


A very good boy!

Good boy!

adventure time 1: the high seas

Thought we might go sailing.


Sighted the enemy.

The enemy

Look how perfidious!


Told you so.


We showed them what for.

What for

Violence is never the answer.


a glass of blessings/no fond return of love, by barbara pym

We’re back in the first person. Wilmet, the narrator of Glass, is the smuggest and most unpleasant of Pym’s heroines. I should confess to my own feelings of unpleasant smugness when she gets her (surprisingly progressive) comeuppance.

I’m hugely enjoying the continuity in the Pym universe. Wilmet is Archdeacon Hoccleve’s distant cousin. She and her friend Rowena knew Rocky Napier in Italy, and Wilmet’s husband Rodney has a dalliance with Prudence. Best of all, Rowena reads to Wilmet out of a magazine, and what she reads is Catherine Oliphant’s fictionalized account of the moussaka scene.

But the weirdest moment by far in Glass is when *I* show up in it.

I thought he might be a colonial, perhaps a New Zealander. I remembered clever moody passionate girls, like Katherine Mansfield, striving to break away from the narrowness of their environment, almost nineteenth century Russian in their yearnings, hating the traditional English Christmas in the middle of summer and the sentimental attitude toward the Mother Country.

Since women like me are represented in English literature with considerably less frequency than most breeds of dog, it always comes as a bit of a shock.

Austen parallel: Mansfield Park. (It’s “about ordination.”)

Dulcie, the protagonist of Fond, is a tragic figure because she lives in a world without Google. Her ability to Googlestalk before the fact is both impressive and creepy. She gets one of the best proposal-rejection scenes so far. I was starting to think that this novel took place outside the Pymiverse until Dulcie ran into Wilmet at a castle.

Austen parallel: Dulcie thinks she’s in Persuasion, but I think she’s in Northanger Abbey.

This marks the break in Pym’s career. She was bumped off the midlist after Fond and didn’t get anything published for another eighteen years. A good time for me to take a break too, I think.

less than angels, by barbara pym

Sexy, independent Catherine Oliphant is the best Pym heroine so far. No frustrated literary yearnings for her: she writes romantic fiction for women’s magazines. Even as she catches her beloved in the act of having an intimate dinner with her replacement, she thinks to herself that their moussaka will be getting cold. She chooses her next crush on the basis of his resemblance to an Easter Island statue. I adore her.

The church takes a step back in this book and the vacuum is filled by anthropology. The resulting shabby-intellectual milieu is surprisingly reminiscent of Iris Murdoch.

jane and prudence, by barbara pym

This is a lot of people’s favourite Pym novel, including Jilly Cooper’s and Pym’s herself. Maybe that’s because it is in part a retelling of Emma, one of Austen’s most charming books. As well as shuffling her own deck of archetypes, Pym has shuffled in several from Austen’s pack.

Prudence disliked being called ‘Miss Bates'; if she resembled any character in fiction, it was certainly not poor silly Miss Bates.

No, when she thought it over, Jane decided that she was really much more like Emma Woodhouse.

The romantic stranger is the widower Fabian Driver, who was serially unfaithful to his dead wife Constance (ouch.) The clergyman is married again, but Jane, his wife, is neither fish nor fowl: too ineffectual to be a helpmeet like Agatha Hoccleve, too lazy to be a thinker like Helena Napier. In her notes on the novel, Pym’s thumbnail sketch of Jane is devastating in its cruelty:

The wife sits on committees. Is literary, but no time for that now – perhaps had even wanted to do research (‘The influence of Somebody on Something’). Missed opportunities. Jane felt she has not been really successful – but a happy marriage and a child, people might say rather reproachfully, wasn’t that something?

And yet readers love Jane, and for good reason. Like the children of Elfine Starkadder and Richard Hawk-Monitor, she blazes with poetry in her soul. Her well-intentioned but blundering efforts to hook Prudence up are, like Emma Woodhouse’s, not punished with success. Only one marriage proposal is accepted in this book, and it is heartily regretted by almost all concerned.

Cameos: Dora’s awful brother William interrupts Prudence and Geoffrey to warn them against ordering the pate. We are given tragic news about Mildred Lathbury.