Archive for August, 2004

a deadly game of cat and mouse

I’ve installed an RSS reader on Firefox at work. Last night I was dreaming about it, clicking and clicking on my mouse to check for updates on my favourite blogs. As I clicked, I felt a fang like a dagger-point press against the skin on my hand.

I woke up. Curled up next to me in bed, my savage little cat was giving me a very polite warning not to click on her any more.

ponies, yay

Kusia took me riding at Bay Laurel Arabians in Tilden Park. I planned it really badly, only allowed myself a couple of hours, skipped breakfast and chose the hottest day of summer so far. As we were saddling up I said to Kusia:

“So, this horse walks into a bar and the barman says, ‘Why the long face?'”

We both fell about laughing and then – this is true – my horse, Bey Shadow BL, turned around and bit me.

After that things went reasonably well, by which I mean I didn’t fall off. Quite apart from being as pretty as a summer sunrise and a Top Ten finisher in the Tevis last year, Shadow’s amazing to ride, strong and forward with all his power surging up through his hindquarters. Kusia rode Bartali, the exquisite bay gelding that she started under saddle. Kusia’s fighting fit and supple, and she rides like a centaur. I’m not at all envious, okay maybe a little, especially since today I rode like an elderly sack of potatoes held to the saddle with twine. Sigh.

We rode right up to the Seaview Trail and saw the breadth of the bay from Vallejo to the Golden Gate. Champagne sun, seaspray sky, red-tailed hawks. It looked very familiar, and sure enough Jeremy, Claire and I hiked to the exact same place on Mother’s Day last year. Despite my potato-sackitude and Shadow’s hunger for my flesh, Kusia seemed willing to take me out again in a couple of weeks. We talked about doing a Lake Anza ride. Jeremy, Claire and I had a fun picnic there with Salome and Jack last year. Tilden, which once seemed a mapless wilderness to me, is filling up with happy memories.

Anyway, the bite is coming up brilliantly. You can see Shadow’s teethmarks outlined in amethyst bruise. I told Shannon:

“You can push the double stroller today. I got bit by a horse.”

“That’s going to get old real fast,” she said.

Maybe for grownups. The kids loved it; any time Cian or Claire started to grumble or argue, I’d say:

“You guys want to see my bite?”

And they’d nod and gather round.

Great big family dinner at Angkor Borei, where they always seem pleased to see us in spite of our many toddlers. Cian, Rowan and Claire pointed out the carved dragon to each other, and danced a dragon dance. The sticky rice with mango at Angkor is out of this world.

And so to bed.

did i mention that australia is very very far away?

Date night. I’m drunk on a single glass of sangria. We pick up Claire from the Moores and stagger home along Precita. Jeremy is telling me the story of Singularity Sky:

J: And they have logic gates that work backwards in time…


We get home and I check my messages.

A: Hi, it’s Alain, just calling to let you know I’m out of hospital and okay.

J: Your brother was in hospital?

I’m dialling already; he answers.

R: So… you were in hospital?

Hell of a way to sober up.

the second piece of good news

…that I was not allowed to get excited about is now another land-related done deal. At some unspecified future time, Byran, Shannon, Cian, Jamey, Carole and Rowan will be moving here:


All they have to do now is tear down that house (it is quietly rotting, which is why the realtors opted not to provide a photograph) and replace it with two of these:


As you can see, the new house is rendered, rather than drawn, and in colour, rather than black and white. Which is a vast improvement.

not enough hours

I want to do the new bio course at UCB Extension, but I’m already working on the second draft of Breeding and the first draft of something else, traveling to Turkey and Europe, volunteering at 826, helping out on the Bernal Sustainable Homes Project and iLife Workshops, learning Spanish, holding down my job and raising Miss Claire. Oh, and I’d like to get back into horses.

It is awfully tempting, though.

still more celebrity dreams, a good weekend and a dictionary of claire

Although this dream was more in the nature of a nightmare. It was a kind of Deliverance thing (a propos of which, did you see Burt Reynolds on The Daily Show the other night, pronouncing “bugger” as “booger”? Now I understand why my mother didn’t like ten-year-old me quoting at length from “Fungus the Boogeyman”, but anyway.) I stumbled upon an isolated village, a bit like Groveland up in Yosemite, with the timber storefronts and the quaintness and so forth, and there was a mystery to be solved, and it turned out that the mayor and the chief of police were raping and murdering young women and burying them on the beach. Not a viable long-term strategy you will say, the beach burial that is, and I must concur as the sea washed the sand away and uncovered the broken bodies. By that time, though, I was confronting the culprits. The mayor, who now that I think about it looked remarkably like defrocked Sydney Anglican minister and confessed pedophile Victor Roland Cole, tried to strangle me, but I bit off part of his thumb and spat it out. I can still taste the blood.

It qualifies as a celebrity dream because Skud was having a latte and reading the New Yorker in the village’s feminist bookshop and cafe. For some reason she was dressed as Pink.

I am rereading for the nth time A Deepness In The Sky, probably my favourite SF novel of all time. I reread for comfort. My unhappiness is spreading out like the fog flowing over Twin Peaks. This morning on the 49 Van Ness I got so absorbed in Sherkaner’s trip along the spectacular coast road the spiders call Pride of Accord that I missed my stop and had to get out at the armory at 14th and Mission and walk back up to work. I haven’t had anything to eat yet this morning, which probably contributes to the fog and general malaise. It is unquestionably bagel time.

We had a good weekend in spite of the metaphysical weather. Thursday night we saw Outfoxed, which depressed me mightily, and discussed at length how to raise Claire to be a thinking and compassionate person, and not a Republican pundit. On Saturday we had lunch at the chocolate factory with Bryan, and went to visit the wildly expensive furniture at Berkeley Mills. We dropped by the Temescal Street Fair to sign up for Rough Cut Studio’s iLife Workshops, then headed back to the city for Kat’s birthday party at Stray Fish, which involved everyone but Claire getting royally drunk. On Sunday, grievously hungover, we had brunch with Peter at Foreign Cinema and went to the Campbell’s farewell picnic in Tilden. Dinner with Robert, Gayu, Kat and Ian at the wonderful Cafe Ethiopia, and I snuck next door to Borderlands to buy some soothing hard SF: the abovementioned Vinge, Iain Banks and Charlie Stross, who people are saying is the next Vinge or Banks, and by people I mean the Irish hard-SF mafia.

Finally, here is your cut-out-and-keep guide to key portions of Claire’s vocabulary:

I wish for some water at this time, puny human.

It is bath time! We will get naked and splash.

I approve of our cat.

You will read me this book at this time, puny human.

You bore me.

Give me the hot thing that I may smear!

1. Daddy. 2. What is this? 3. I like this!

Not “teeth”, silly white woman.

Here, slave!

The cat speaks more sense than you do, mother.

As does my toy cow.

It is time for me to daub myself with crushed fruit.

You bore me so very much.

That thing is HILARIOUS.

Not “eye”, silly white woman.

Not “zapato” and not “shoe”!

An appalling ordeal awaits you.

You can take it away now.

The dog also speaks more sense than most.

Life is good!

Time to sing and dance!

more celebrity dreams!

Danny, Quinn and I take Ada and Claire to UCSF to see Ishi. We’re amazed. He’s over a hundred years old, and still so courteous and sad.

Arnold Schwarzenegger is lying on a sofa at the old house at Bluegum. He’s feeling very sorry for himself. I point out that he’s richer than God, married to a Kennedy and governor of California, and that he should stop being such a baby. He is mollified. We talk about his work in fitness advocacy. He encourages me to buy a pair of running shoes.

Our conversation is interrupted when Mum and Dad arrive from the airport in an aviation fuel tanker they “borrowed” because the line for taxis was too long.

the ship that sailed to mars

Although it was difficult to believe, the Old Man had not always been old, and in his dim, forgotten youth, he had said “I will go to Mars; sailing by way of the Moon, and the more friendly planets.”

on a merrier note

Claire loved the aquarium:


…and has joined forces with Cian and Najih to have adventures and fight crime:


mad world

We had a video night last night, just like when we were kids, except that dinner was rack of lamb and apple pie instead of beer and pizza, because we have learned to cook. And it was a DVD, not a dumb old analog magnetic tape. Actually it sucks trying to rewind a DVD, so plus ca change.

The film was Donnie Darko, which was brilliant and amazing and beautiful and gorgeously acted and moving and engrossing with many unforgettably vivid and lovely scenes and a wondrous soundtrack. It depressed the shit out of me. Reading up on IMDB afterwards I realized it was the jet-engine-falls-on-a-house film that I opted not to see in the horrible weeks after September 11. Maybe I should have seen it then, maybe Donnie’s weirdly redemptive smile in the final scene might actually have cheered me up. But I feel much better generally now, so the film made me feel worse.

It solved a mystery, anyway; in a thrift store in Brisbane I heard a haunting song about how completely awful it is to be a child, but I couldn’t remember enough of the lyrics to Google it and find out who it was. Turns out it was Gary Jules’ cover of the Tears for Fears song Mad World, and it plays over the shattering conclusion of the movie and tears your heart into bite-sized shreds suitable for a nourishing salad.

Combined with the gut-wrenching end of The Towers of Trebizond, an otherwise extraordinarily funny Barbara Pym-ish picaresque novel about Anglicans in Anatolia in the 1950s, and a haunting scene a friend described in which her three-year-old daugher told her parents to Go away! then sat alone and wept silently, it has all tended to undermine my always-precarious confidence in the future. You worry throughout even the healthiest pregnancy that you will miscarry, that the baby will be stillborn or will strangle on the cord. Until they’re seven months old you watch over them obsessively while they’re sleeping, making sure they remember to keep breathing. Until they’re twelve months old the spectre of cot death remains in the back of your mind. And then, just in case you’re tempted to breathe a sigh of relief, you realize that they’re off and sailing, launched on their own lives into a world of unimaginable sorrow and danger as well as adventure and delight.

Donnie Darko sees people travelling into the future on worms of ectoplasm projecting out of their chests. Elizabeth Stone says having children is letting your heart walk around outside your body. One night on the beach at Santa Cruz Tina told me how she’d looked at Noelle on her sixteenth birthday and realized that at any moment, if anything happened to her daughter, her life could turn into a nightmare.

Knowing what I know would I do it again? In a heartbeat. Ouch, though.

eight months

I made the obligatory cute little executive joke: “It took nearly as long to write this report as to have a baby. Difference is, I’d quite like to have another baby.” Boom-tish. Brought the house down. Thank you very much, I’ll be here all week.

After I’d finished the presentation, I sat in the audience with a small bud of relief unfolding in my heart. My life need now no longer be dominated by the convergence of the incumbent network and systems management frameworks with the pure-play application performance monitoring startups. Thank you, kind fates.

I’m getting a cold, so I’m grumpy and withdrawn. I’ve been reading all around the end of the Victorian era in my efforts to avoid writing about it, but this won’t work much longer. I hadn’t read Wharton’s The Age of Innocence before: what a brilliant book. Ellen Olenska is the grown-up version of my beloved Judy from The Children. I love Wharton’s sly wit and compassion. I think she, and not ‘Enery James, is Jane Austen’s true heir.

(Could you do a PowerPoint as the basis of a stand-up routine? I’ve been thinking about it ever since I noticed that Muddy Waters has opened a new branch on 29th Street, under the new apartments. Ironic use of clip-art, as in Get Your War On. If done well could be hilarious. Would they publish such a thing in McSweeney’s?)

I’ve also been watching far too much TiVo. I am rotting Claire’s tiny brain. (At least I haven’t dropped her downstairs yet, as another parent of hers who shall remain nameless has done TWICE.) She’ll never get into Stanford at this rate. She’ll have to settle for UC. (Jeremy hates it when I say that; too much pressure, he says. Oh, and Brad deLong had a wonderful post the other day about soft marking at Stanford… yes, Chelsea, I AM looking at you.)

Anyway, TiVo: you can always tell when I start yearning for horses again. I sit through mediocre but pretty films like Seabiscuit (Tobey Maguire is my boytoy) and utter drivel like The Man From Snowy River (Tom Burlinson is totally funny-looking.) Claire hugely enjoyed Seabiscuit. She got on her Radio Flyer rolling pony, Najih, and rode him around the living room. When Seabiscuit starting rearing onscreen, she watched, round-eyed. Pause for thought.

Then lo and behold, Najih’s front wheels were in the air.

a good day

Woke up yesterday broken-hearted as usual, but cheered up immensely on getting three emails from cherished faraway friends. Lunch with Eben at Luna Park. After work, a beer on the sunny front steps at Hillegass with the Jaffe-Tsangs, Danika and Kusia. Dropped by Koryo Sushi for California rolls for Salome. A long conversation and a cup of tea. Home at ten, refreshed.