Archive for March, 2003

miss rach’s “entertain tiny human” chart

Pick up the phone – The Notwist (Neon Golden)
Getriebe – Laub (Filesharing)
A prayer for England – Massive Attack (100th Window)
Sugar free jazz – Soul Coughing (Ruby Vroom)
Duvet – Boa (Twilight)

proposed signage



(from Father Ted)


(all my own work)

Claire was three months old yesterday. She’s the hardest-working baby in San Francisco. Every waking moment is dedicated to achieving developmental goals. When she’s not making up avant-garde choral pieces to test her vocal range, or grinning maniacally at her parents and alloparents in the interests of promoting attachment, she’s riding diligently on an invisible bicycle to build up her muscle mass and gross motor skills. As an ex-Protestant, I regard her work ethic with awe.

The fun, we’re told, is just beginning. Human childbirth hurts because we’re both highly intelligent and bipedal. We have the biggest skulls that can possibly be forced through a narrow, upright pelvis. It’s the old engineering trade-off: smart, mobile and painless – pick any two.

To make sure that women don’t actually die giving birth, our babies are born very early, developmentally speaking. Some biologists think of the first three months as the fourth trimester, and the baby as an extra-gestate fetus. So Claire is now at the stage where, if she were a different species of chimpanzee, she’d be ready to be born.


Jeremy and I compete for Claire’s love.

R: So what’s it to be? A computer? …or a pony?

J: A computerized pony!

C: Goo!

the war for peace

Today reminded me a little of September 11. Same gorgeous weather, bright and cool, same TVs in cafes tuned to the news, same expression of strain and sympathy when you caught someone’s eye. We had lunch at Papa Toby’s and dinner, with Peter, at New Aux Delices. I did a spot of laundry and read Google News for hours at a stretch.

I thought of going to one of the protests but I didn’t want to take Claire, not to riot police and arrests, and I didn’t want to leave her behind either.

I’m reading Trollope’s novel He Knew He Was Right, a disturbingly accurate portrait of a man destroyed by an idee fixe. I see myself in him; a dog worrying a dry bone.


Less than three hours to go until the ultimatum runs out. The Monterey Institue for International Studies discusses likely outcomes. In Baghdad, Salam Pax duct-tapes his windows:

“the * star is good but with particularly big windows I have been using a plus and Xs in each quadrant.”

Somewhere in the desert, Noelle waits for us to send food packages to eke out her Navy rations. No hurry, though. She expects to be there for six to eight months.


claire, child scientist

Yesterday Claire met her first and second alligators. Also Cal Academy’s very good collection of minerals, various scarabs and a Foucault’s Pendulum. She did not object.

more with the happy

Dinner at Peter’s house. Claire met Doug and Arun’s beautiful African grey parrot, Loki. Spencer told us about a dream he had after placing second in Star Search and watching Shadow of a Vampire: Arsenio Hall turned to him and bared vampire teeth. Claire behaved beautifully all evening and as we left, Doug played her a Brahms lullaby on his lovely Steinway. She squeaked her approval. I had a moment of perfect happiness.

jeremy riffs on “the madness of george iii”

To Claire, who is dangling above him, cooing: “I have you in my eye, sir. I have you in my eye. I control the weather by means of my mental powers.” Pause. “If by weather, you mean Claire. And by mental powers, you mean hands.”

not covered in birth prep class

1. Nipples get hickeys.

2. If you hold the baby above your head, she can drip saliva up your nose.

found art

Outside… WUB wub WUB wub.

J: I was trying to work out if that car was playing some interesting electronic music, or if it was just really sick mechanically.

working from home mom

Today we are learning all about J2EE application frameworks.

Claire’s contribution is to sprawl peacefully on my lap, kicking me as I type. Occasionally she makes a noise like a small air raid siren and wakes herself up.

working mom

Back at the office. All changed, changed utterly, yet mysteriously exactly the same.

Poor Claire is now a latchkey kid, and has been mournfully playing contentedly with Jeremy and Salome all day.


One of the pleasures of being alive right now, and especially of having a child, is the vast improvement in the design of everyday things since I was a kid. We bought a good tent, oh, four years ago now. It has carbon-fiber poles and I can put it up, single-handed, in about five minutes. A far cry from the orange pointy thing that used to take the four of us half a day to pitch in the back yard.

Kids’ stuff is even better. No more scary safety pins, or even three-way-claws – today’s nappies are secured by purest velcro. Much as I love my nappy service, I have to admit the disposable nappies we use when we go out are even more impressive. They have some kind of super-absorbant gel which, according to an article in one of last year’s New Yorkers, wicks the “insult” away from Claire’s tender behind.

Best of all are the toys. About five people independently gave us different Lamaze toys for newborns. They’re awesome. They’re brightly colored and contrasty and clockwork and crinkly, and obviously based on a sophisticated understanding of child psychology that just didn’t exist when my mother scolded me for burning my doll Goldie’s foot on the gas heater. (I was just trying to keep her warm!)

It’s a scary and depressing world in a lot of ways, but people are still inventing small, useful things that simplify camping and make babies smile. Western civilization not a total waste of time.