Archive for November, 2002


Sadists are working on the roof of the house two doors down. Our bedroom overlooks the rooftops, which is usually very Aww, how gorgeous, except when people attack nearby roofs with crowbars at 8am on a Saturday. I’d been awake until 2am (novel); Jeremy didn’t get to bed until 4am (code). We reviled our neighbors in our hearts.

The roofies have technique, I’ll give them that much. After a good session with the crowbar, they gave us just long enough to doze off again while they set up the Loud Noise-Making Device. When the delight of this apparatus had palled, they resorted to simple hammers.

“I hope they bang their thumbs,” I told my sleepy spouse, who replied:

“They’d just yell.”

a suffusion of yellow

Ever have one of those days when the universe just wants to rub your nose in the fundamental interconnectedness of things?

3.30pm: Write thank-you note to colleagues for huge pile of gifts for baby.

4pm: Send wreath to Christchurch, New Zealand, for Jeremy’s grandfather’s funeral.

poetry and prozac

An heiress who – and much of the coverage missed this (I think) very salient point – was declared mentally incompetent in 1981, has donated $100m to a tiny Chicago poetry magazine called (imaginatively) Poetry Magazine. The fallout is already hilarious: Zyzzyva editor Howard Junker with his nose very decidedly out of joint in the letters pages of the New York Times, and so forth.

It is, as critics accuse, very bad philanthropy, yet the possibilities are tantalizing! Will poets become wildly rich and fawned-over celebrities, as in Henry Fool? Will the thirty thousand surplus screenwriters of Los Angeles up stakes and move to Windy City to try their hands at haiku? Will Charlie Kaufman favour us with a villanelle?

Did I mention she’s one of the heirs to the Lilly fortune, as in Prozac? How can you not love modern America when it just transcends parody?

i swear, he’s doing it on purpose

J: I’ve got my accounting principles undies on!

I look at him blankly. He turns around. There’s a seam between two of the logos on the waistband of his boxers, so instead of saying GAP it says GAAP.

short cuts


R: She’s kicking me in the bladder again! I ask you is this right is this fair?

J: Blad the impaler.


R (of Michael Jackson): He dangled a child off a balcony. Apparently they’re going to charge him.

J: With child endanglement?

charlie go surf!


(It’s actually not finished yet; I still have about four chapters to write. That said, it’s my longest sustained piece of fiction, ever. And it doesn’t entirely suck.)

love in a time of crypto

Jeremy’s parents have been staying with us, and seem mystified by certain passages of our banter. This morning Jeremy had the Black Ops of TCP/IP slide show on screen.

R: Alice and Bob, up to their old tricks. I don’t know how they stay out of gaol. They’re clearly nefarious.

J: Those pesky kids.

R: I should have put them in the novel.

J: Still can!

R: “Alice and Bob got married… it was a very private wedding.”

J: “Oh good, so Bob overcame the man in the middle then?”

We fall about laughing.

Jan, J’s mother, frankly: These are dreadful jokes.


I have inadvertantly greatly offended someone with a novel excerpt that he read out of context.

R: And the moral is, never date a satirist. Too late for you!

J (laughing): Too late for you!

why didn’t i think of this before?

This has been been ecky Two Thousand And Two-sday.


J: Grant says we shouldn’t use our cat as a duster, especially where animal rights activists can see us.

R: But she purred!

charlie smells victory

I had a funny conversation with Blair down at Tina’s Master’s degree presentation on Sunday morning, and by 3pm I had modified it for use in Charlie Ravioli. I have become a shameless carrion-eater. But hey, Charlie cracked the 43,000 barrier last night.

It was a delicious morning, all drenched in sun with a spectacular brunch laid on and two particular reasons for celebration: Tina’s excellent research project, on the use of the Old Masters Art Collection in couples therapy, and Recheng’s appointment as co-director of the up-and-coming Oakland Art Gallery. It’s fun to bask in reflected glory!

Jonathan and Re brought Tina the perfect gift: a DVD of The Graduate.

fun with cats

My demon-cat Bebe appears to be mellowing out. As proof, I offer two games we invented today.

1. show all working

We’ve put up a whiteboard next to Jeremy’s computer. Ian’s asked a fairly straightforward question about trigonometry, and the whiteboard is covered with pictures of trapeziums (trapezia?) The sock we’ve been using to clean the board has gone in the laundry basket.

J: Here, kitty, kitty.

I pick Bebe up. She curls trustingly around my hands, and I erase trapezia with the fur on her back. She purrs.

2. spinning cat

This one’s pretty self-explanatory. Put Bebe on my office chair; spin.

J: Change direction!

R: Won’t she fall off?

J: Won’t that be even funnier?

I change direction; she holds on.

J (relenting): Oh, the poor kitty.

I stop spinning. Bebe pauses for a moment, then marks the chair back with the scent glands in her cheeks. She purrs.


Van Gogh vs the Swedish Solar Observatory.

hijinks, as usual

R: Adaptation is supposed to be good.

J: What is it?

R: They got Charlie Kaufman, the Being John Malkovich guy, to do an adaptation of the Susan Orlean novel The Orchid Thief. So it stars Nic Cage as Charlie Kaufman, trying to do an adaptation of the Orchid Thief, and he has an evil twin, also played by Nic Cage, who gets all the girls. Then Susan Orlean turns up as Meryl Streep, or vice versa. Hijinks, as usual, ensue.

J: What’s the Orchid Thief again? I saw someone reading it in Atlas.

R: Just another po-faced novel.

J: Well, they weren’t so much reading it as waving it around…


A well-dressed black man leans over an ill-dressed and apparently intoxicated black man, who is sitting in 16th Street outside Pancho Villa.

“Yes,” says the well-dressed black man, “but what transpired?”

day of the angstweevil

So we’ve hired a new chap, Chris, to write about networking for us. He’s a fellow refugee from the old company, so he knows our founders, Nick and John.

Chris (to Nick): I’ve been trying to IM you all morning, but you’ve been spurning my advances.

Nick: Oh, that was you, was it? I thought you were touting porn.

Chris: Maybe I shouldn’t have started with “Increase Your Penis Size!!!”

John: Your IM handle doesn’t help, Chris. It’s not very …readily identifiable.

Chris: “Angstweevil”? No, I s’pose not. It’s a long story…

I think he’ll fit right in.

charlie reaches half way

25,454! A very productive morning.

This afternoon, I slept.

My brother went to the bike races at Phillip Island, and all I got was this super-cool annotated map.


We like fresh air. We usually sleep with both windows next to our bed wide open. Even that’s a compromise, since our last bedroom had French doors, which were almost never closed.

“Our dream house will have balconies off every room,” I tell Jeremy.

“It will look like a forest log with shelf fungus,” he says approvingly.

It’s still pouring with rain and we had to close the windows last night. The house got too stuffy and I had fever-dreams and woke up with a headache.

“I dreamed about competing Olympic bids,” I say, “but I got confused. Redwood City was in Rushcutter’s Bay.”

“That is confusing.”

“Yes. I found out about the bid, by the way. They were going to use Oakland and San Jose and Stanford as well as the city. They wanted Sacramento and Monterey too, but the IOC said it was just too far. Even the revised plan had some things 70 miles apart, whereas in New York it was 30 miles. Much more convenient for the terrorists.”

“I don’t think that’s fair,” says Jeremy. “The terrorists would have brought their services to wherever the event was held.”

“Ideally, though, we’d hold it in Nevada, every event on its own salt flat with a dedicated missile silo.”

Jeremy pretends to be a general: “‘We had to destroy the Olympic Village in order to save it.'”


The thing is, it can go nine months here without raining. I used to forget that it rained here at all, and every November I’d be freshly startled, like a goldfish swimming round and round in its bowl. “Oh look, a little plastic castle.” “Oh look, a little plastic castle.” “Oh look, a little plastic castle.” I liked to point out that I had been assured in song that it never rains in California, and that apparently I was misinformed. This is the sort of joke that never gets old, chiefly because it wasn’t funny in the first place.

Last night as the first drops hit our Sutro Tower-facing bow window, husband, cat and I were sprawled on the futon watching South Park.

“Ah, rain. Must be November,” I said. “See what I did there, honey? I maintained state!”

Very good,” said J.

This morning Hedwig the wonder car was festooned in scarlet threads washed from the bottlebrush trees.


So at the physics lecture on Saturday night, Savas Dimopoulos talked about parallel universes folded up into higher-dimensional cylinders less than one millimeter away. I couldn’t picture this at all until he threw up a slide showing an elongated s-shape. Two points on different bars of the s might be thisclose together, but if the light has to go many light years around the curve of the s, you wouldn’t necessarily be able to see your near neighbour. What you might be able to feel is gravitational force from an invisible nearby mass.

Lying in bed this morning with Claire spider-monkeying around inside my belly, I decided that she’s in a precisely analogous state. She’s only millimeters away through my abdominal wall, but she’ll have to go the long way around to see the light of day.

Meanwhile I feel gravitational force from an invisible nearby mass.