Archive for March, 2010

fear my gardening fu

I actually slept last night, because Julia didn’t wake at 1am or something and demand to sleep in my armpit as has been her wont. I lay in my warm bed this morning blinking wonderingly and snuggling my cat. Jeremy brought me hot tea.

Then Salome called so I dragged on some clothes and we ran to the farmers’ market for dried apples and apricots, pistachios, pink lady apples, broccolini, tangerines, bread, eggs, dandelion greens and a pot of live basil. Then home to weed the wilderness that our front patch and the jacaranda’s tree well had become over winter; then to Flowercraft for pansies and violets and petunias. I cut back the bougainvillea so that now it is possible to reach the faucet without being eaten by triffids. The Icelandic poppies survived, to my joy. We planted the annuals and the garden looks adorable.

Then to Crissy Field where the girls swam excellently, then home to eat Jeremy’s roast chicken with a caprese salad with the fresh basil on it, and last week’s bok choi revived in peanut and sesame oil and a lashing of soy sauce. Nom. Then greek yogurt and strawberries and blueberries for desert, drizzled with orange blossom honey. Om nom nom.

And then we crept out into the San Francisco twilight and released a tub of ladybirds into the garden to eat the aphids. One caught a ride in on my shoulder and is now buzzing around the back of the sofa while Jeremy exhorts the children to sleep.

Another bright jewel of a day, rounded out with this.

Nature by Numbers from Cristóbal Vila on Vimeo.

betty flint – ada lovelace day

My heroine this Ada Lovelace Day is Dr Elizabeth Flint of Christchurch, New Zealand. Dr Flint is New Zealand’s leading expert on desmids, which are single-celled freshwater algae of considerable beauty.

Dr Flint took her MSc degree at what was then Canterbury College in 1931. She moved to England where she monitored London’s water supply before working for the RAF’s Operational Research Section in World War Two. She returned to New Zealand in the fifties and wrote the three definitive books on desmid taxonomy.

Betty is also my mother-in-law’s godmother. I met her on a trip to Christchurch in, I think, January 2001. We talked nonstop for two hours at the cafe in the botanic gardens – for all her stature she is generous and curious and pragmatic and fiercely funny – and then she dropped us at the airport in the 1958 Ford Consul that she had bought brand new. She was working then but has since retired, although not particularly early: Betty will be 101 this year. She was, and is, tireless.

To women of her generation – to the Bettys and Rosalind Franklins and Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hoppers and to my Auntie Barb – my geek feminist sisters and I owe more than I can possibly say. These women light my way and let me see what I can be, and what my daughters can be.

my new favourite top gear presenter

James May’s Toy Stories is ridiculously optimal family viewing material. We simply provide the children with the relevant toys. Claire produced a very fine playdough flower during the plasticine-at-Chelsea-flower-show show. It’s still in a vase on the kitchen bench. Last night the children watched Lego and built their own tall, frail towers.

also epona, goddess of horses, helps me find parking

When I met her in Sydney in January my childhood friend Anna asked if I still believed in God, and I said “Oh, no,” which felt at the time and still feels like an evasion (and also unfairly dismissive.) That said, I still don’t have anything well-formed to put in its place, though, so consider these notes towards… um, something? Maybe a provisional explanation of why the Hubble Ultra Deep Field helps me to be happier, more compassionate and more mindful of my own death.

In her fantastic Somewhere Towards the End, Diana Athill says:

People of faith so often seem to forget that a god who gives their lives meaning too often provides them with justification when they want to wipe out other people who believe in other gods, or in nothing. My own belief – that we on our short-lived planet are part of a universe simultaneously perfectly ordinary in that there it is and incalculably mysterious in that it is beyond our comprehension – does not feel like believing in nothing and would never make me recruit anyone for slaughter. It feels like a state of infinite possibility, stimulating and enjoyable – not exactly comforting, but acceptable because true. And this remains so when I force myself to think about the most alarming aspect of what I can understand, which is that we will eventually become extinct, differing from the dinosaurs only in contributing a good deal more than they did to our own fate. And it also remains so when I contemplate my personal extinction.

Recessional puts it this way:

Innocence looks at the stars and says “look at the lights of the gods in heaven! I am in awe.”

Experience says, “Eh, it’s just burning gas lightyears away. I’m bored.”

Grace says, “look at the burning gas lightyears away! I’m in awe.”

or maybe salome

Last night’s turnout included a Rachel, a Rebecca, a Naomi and an Elizabeth. We need to recruit a Mary or an Eve so we can start a Biblical Heroine Fox Force Five.

monday night writers (with drinks)

Me: “I’d like to write a writing group. ‘Have you thought about writing it in the first person?’ ‘I think your story really starts on page 9.'”

Liz: “The poetry group would be ‘Why don’t you make it rhyme?’ or ‘I think you should replace every third word with the word after it in the dictionary. To make it more postmodern.'”

“People really say that?”


“Don’t they have medication for that?”

Later I read out a line of dialog and Liz says “I have to show you a woman I know who writes really good dialog.”

“Are you saying my dialog is shit?”


“I’ve had a quarter of a glass of wine so I’m paranoid. WHAT OF IT?”

Naomi: “They do have medicine for that.”

Liz silently hands me chocolate.

“There’s some dialog I would have liked to have written.”

babbling like happy fule

Such a day I have had! Brunch with Seth and Meryl at Sun Rise, then present shopping for Ada (a sparkly unicorn, of course) then home to paint cat faces on children, and then I went off to ride Bella Bella Bella Bella! Three months of flat work on Scottie and my maniacal determination to fix my lower leg all paid off in a few moments, when I rode her over fences with my ankle against her side and still! I dropped her in a terrible spot in front of a fence and because she is the honestest mare in the world she jumped out of it and because I have a lower leg now it wasn’t even very sticky…

And the rest was balanced and forward and unbelievably freakin FUN! And Erin used me as a GOOD EXAMPLE of how to ride corners with a correct leg! THIS NEVER HAPPENS! Oh! I am still warm and happy at the thought of it!

Then home and up through my lovely neighborhood to Ada’s party where I met all our delightful friends and SLID VERY FAST. Note that I shall no longer attend parties that do not feature slippery slides the length of a city block. Then grocery shopping with a still-cheetah-faced Julia, who greeted her public with great naturalness and charm. Then baths and James May’s Toy Stories and roast chicken and bedtime and Bebe curled up in my arms.

You should try it! It is so great!

ETA: Um. And then something completely amazing happened.

a dozen-odd things that you might like, if you were me

  1. Sanjay Patel’s Ramayana: Divine Loophole (he’s the Pixar animator who also did the totally cute Little Book of Hindu Deities)
  2. Gama-go’s poppy tee
  3. Jeremy, who gave me both for my birthday
  4. Leo the taxi driver, who brought back my wallet, CONTAINING MY GREEN CARD, after I left it in his taxi; and who laughingly refused any kind of reward
  5. our neighbour Naomi’s mom and dad and their beautiful home in stunning Big Sur, where we spent last weekend
  6. sea otters like the one we saw swimming off Jade Cove when we hiked Point Lobos
  7. yummy last-minute dinner at La Provence with nineteen of my closest friends
  8. a series of intensely technical and awesome rides on Scottie as I figure out how to fix my lower leg
  9. OK Go actually outdoing themselves in their latest video, with help from the Maker community
  10. Synth Britannia
  11. kissing goodnight to my girls as they sleep in their new bunk bed
  12. my lucky, lucky, happy life.