Archive for June, 2015


I rode Colin’s favorite horse this morning and it was incredible. That would normally be the high point of the day, but today was in no way a normal day.

First, marriage equality. I married Jeremy in 2000 because I had secure visa status in the US, and he didn’t. The fear of him being deported was untenable. It was the vulnerability of migration that opened my eyes to what marriage is; it is forcing the state to recognize your found family. That definition of marriage was the gift of the people we lost to AIDS, whose partners were sometimes barred from the deathbed. Legal marriage means that your love matters, that it must be taken into account.

It’s hard, maybe impossible to convey to my own children just how staggering it is that we are here; how many people fought and died for this.

And even that wasn’t the high point of the day. The murderer of the Charlston 9 wanted a race war, not the occasion of maybe the most profound and beautiful moment of Obama’s presidency.

Grace is the unlooked-for gift, the undeserved kindness, a green shoot growing in the desert. Amazing.

summer’s here and i’m for that

Media Gulch likes to cosplay as Rome:

And the Community Music Center as, I don’t even know, some kind of solarpunk Utopia:

Jules is making new friends, as is her wont:

Good coffee has made it to a sunny courtyard near my office in Palo Alto:

Alice and I share a fondness for sunbeams:

It’s my favorite time of the year, and I’m glad that it’s here.

the curse of chalion, by lois mcmaster bujold

You have to make a cup of yourself, to receive that pouring out. You are a sword. You were always a sword. Like your mother and your daughter, too—steel spines run in the women of your family. I realize now why I never saw saints, before. The world does not crash upon their wills like waves upon a rock, or part around them like the wake of a ship. Instead they are supple, and swim through the world as silently as fishes.

do no harm, by henry marsh

Despite all this technology neurosurgery is still dangerous, skill and experience are still required as my instruments sink into the brain or spinal cord, and I must know when to stop. Often it is better to leave the patient’s disease to run its natural course and not to operate at all. And then there is luck, both good luck and bad luck, and as I become more and more experienced it seems that luck becomes ever more important.

Modern binocular operating microscopes are wonderful things and I am deeply in love with the one I use, just as any good craftsman is with his tools. It cost over one hundred thousand pounds and although it weighs a quarter of a ton it is perfectly counter-balanced. Once in place, it leans over the patient’s head like an inquisitive, thoughtful crane. The binocular head, through which I look down into the patient’s brain, floats as light as a feather on its counter-balanced arm in front of me, and the merest flick of my finger on the controls will move it. Not only does it magnify, but it illuminates as well, with a brilliant xenon light source, as bright as sunlight.

Cerebro-spinal fluid, known to doctors as CSF, as clear as liquid crystal, circulating through the strands of the arachnoid, flashes and glistens like silver in the microscope’s light. Through this I can see the smooth yellow surface of the brain itself, etched with minute red blood vessels – arterioles – which form beautiful branches like a river’s tributaries seen from space.

friday five

1. Yeah so that happened and it was awful. I ordered flowers for Milton’s funeral which made me mad and sad, not that I grudged him the flowers but that I was so angry with him for being dead. I think I also wanted to be at the funeral so that I could be with other people who knew him and could understand what his death meant. Jeremy met him a few times but didn’t know him well and otherwise I was alone with it, which always sucks and is boring.

2. Otherwise and weirdly I am feeling much better, having shaken off the last of the horrible Chicago cold and consequent lingering bronchitis and what was evidently some kind of post-viral malaise that plunged me back into the worst days of having an undiagnosed anxiety disorder in my teens and 20s. I gotta give myself credit for spending the last dozen years taking meds and getting enough exercise and sleep and healthy food, because given the opportunity to directly compare my current and former emotional states, it’s clear that in spite of all the, you know, wrenching grief, my baseline mood is way better than it used to be.

3. I am finally reading (listening in the car to) And the Band Played On, Randy Shilts’ beautifully furious book about the early years of the AIDS epidemic; uneasy stuff when you are well, let alone when you are paranoid and sick. Excellent narrative history turns you into the Doctor visiting a Fixed Point In Time: it is 1980 and I am standing in the Ice Palace on Fire Island at 1am, looking at all the gorgeous men on the dance floor, knowing that there is nothing I or anyone else can do to save them. I am so, so sorry.

4. Speaking of beautiful fury, the new Mad Max movie is an exquisitely-researched and historically accurate documentary about my childhood and it gives me life. I got properly into the spirit of it too, getting rear-ended hard on the way to the cinema, jumping out of poor banged-up Mercy of Kalr in the middle of Van Ness and screaming at the other driver and kicking his license plate. He was at fault like San Andreas, of course, so his insurance covers everything including the rental on the piece-of-garbage Chevy Sonic I am driving around while Mercy is at the body shop. Her name is Lieutenant Seivarden, and she self-identifies as a small war rig.

5. Last night I dreamed I checked into a hotel where I was shown to a suite that I had to share with strangers who invaded my personal space, and when I complained to the staff they made fun of my accent and lost my favourite jacket, and when I realized that I was in a dramatization of my own mundane fears and insecurities I decided I was probably dreaming and that if I was, I might as well see Mum, so I turned around and there she was, wearing red and orange and gold and looking radiantly well and laughing. So I hugged her a lot.