Archive for July, 2007

miles to go

Peter Chubb slept on our couch for a few days recently, looked over all my spine-cracked paperbacks and said: “People who like O’Brian and Trollope usually like Lois McMaster Bujold as well.” So I bought the very first Miles Vorkosigan book, Cordelia’s Honor, at Stacey’s – I’ve been dropping by regularly since Cody’s Stockton Street closed, out of pure guilt. And I read the first page or two and was bored, and put it aside. I took it and Antarctica to Boston and New York on the theory that I wouldn’t mind leaving either of them behind and thus lightening my luggage.

Of course Antarctica was really, really good. Jeremy and I once had the delight of touring the Australian Antarctic Division’s Aurora Australis, and the Treaty, like the United Nations and the CSIRO, has always belonged for me among those clear-eyed, idealistic Fifties-era efforts at a Higher Good that we as a species never quite lived up to but still should. Well, Robinson’s book is basically that impulse writ large, so you can imagine how I lapped it up.

So I didn’t actually pick up the Bujold until the flight home, and even then I only read the first part, Shards of Honor. And then I had to sit looking out the window for a few hours blinking back tears, because I had just discovered a new author who took her place immediately among my all-time top ten and who is prolific to boot, so that besides the basic joy of flying home to Jeremy and Claire and Julia there was the prospect of many weeks of the sheer pleasure of reading books that would challenge and move me and make me laugh.

It was, for those few hours, just too much happiness to bear.

in which i become my dad

Thinking of Squid

Originally uploaded by Goop on the lens

…only with blue hair. Took the girls to the Berkeley Kite Festival.
Now Claire wants a kite. It’s her Chalmers blood.


“In Australia they have this disgusting gruel called Tex Mex. It makes Chevy’s look authentic.”

“There’s a chain called Montezuma’s.”

“There is not.”

“Is. The tacos are like corn chips and you have them with shredded iceberg lettuce. I so never saw the point of Mexican food.”

“Sounds like America in the fifties.”

“It is America in the fifties. Cross the equator, lose fifty years of progress.”

“It’s the International Decade Line!”

Flight of the Conchords was also, in part, about Australia and its shortcomings. I laughed so hard, Claire came padding out of her bedroom.

“Mommy you were cackling. I thought there was a witch in our house.”

soup and salad

An energetic Rainbow run led to pan-fried kale with cherry and grape tomatoes and bocconcini balls, cream of cauliflower soup and a rhubarb and strawberry compote with meyer lemon juice that may be one of the yummiest things I’ve ever made. Finished dying my hair blue, which took forever and is unlikely to be repeated, so everyone relish the colour while you can. Then a remarkably successful date night with J; dinner at Liberty Cafe, a long and cheerful walk to Flora Grubb and a lovely Burning Man-y party where we ran into all our friends as we were trying to leave. Isn’t San Francisco nice?

and that’s not nearly ALL

R (sings): Once I ran to you (I ran!)
Now I run from you (I run!)
This tainted love you’ve given
I give you all a boy could give you
Take these tears and that’s not nearly ALL!

J: I see.

R (sings): Tainted love, oo-oo-ooh! Tainted love.
Don’t touch me please I cannot stand the way you tease!
I love you though you hurt me so, now I
Have to pack my things and go!

J: You’ve had lunch then.

R: Yes, it was quite good. And you?

J: I’m hungry.

R: Go eat, then call me and sing.

Yes, dear readers, where the hell have I been? An excellent question. I was doing so well through June and July with the daily updates, and then I fell off the map. Work, actually; I was being paraded around temples of commerce as a John Hodgman-esque Resident Expert, complete with nerd glasses. I actually felt very shiny in my new suits until some blog made a snarky comment about people who wear Ann Taylor and earn only $100k being “poor”, at which point I got the fuck over myself and laughed for some not inconsiderable time.

Then a weekend in Oz. All the long drive up, every time, I try to temper my own expectations with the conviction that it can’t possibly be as good as I remember it. Expectation-tempering was greatly assisted, this time, by Julia having violent projectile carsickness all along 128 and Mountain View Road. Then I get there and it’s better than I remembered. Words and even shiny cameras can’t do it justice; it’s just a river valley with an apple farm, and redwoods, and I don’t know a more beautiful place on earth. Especially when it has swashbuckling heroes and punk dyke heroines and feisty and ingenious kids swarming around. And soup. And roast lamb. And pie. Pie!

Lots more! Books and owl grief and an insanely busy weekend planned, with films and parties and kites! All in good time! Lunch included a double espresso! Can you tell?


ghougle (v): to Google ghoulishly


last photos….

Originally uploaded by artolog

i heart it

I wasn’t going to drink last night but Matthew bought me a glass of very good champagne, and then a bottle of Chateauneuf-du-pape; I should have known. I woke abruptly at 5:30am, two hours ago, from a dream in which Danny nursed me through appendicitis at an Oz Farm magically superimposed on Samarai Park Riding School, with Colin and Maya having a picnic lunch nearby. Between that kind of weirdness and a killer hangover, it was clear I wasn’t getting any more sleep.

So I dragged on my running gear after all and headed out into a light drizzle, which by the time I reached the Apple cube at the corner of Central Park was a wall of water, that thunderstormy rain that comes down in fat warm teardrops. I was soaked to the skin and my glasses were so fogged I had to stand under the street signs to read them. Chivalrous New Yorkers cried out encouragement, and one nice Englishman asked the way to the nearest diner.

“Sorry, I have no idea, I’m from California!” I said cheerfully, before thinking wait – since when have I been from California? The doorman gave me a wink and the woman who shared my elevator did a fantastic double-take.

“Why are you so wet?”

“Ran in the rain.”

“Oh, I’m so sorry!”

“No no!” I said fervently: “It was absolutely great.”

It does feel rather like I had sweaty sex with an entire city full of handsome and tremendously gifted men and women. Whaddaya know, I’m poly for New York! Of course everyone is poly for the right girl.

les halles

“I’m working on Chili Pepper magazine.”

“You told me about that! With articles of interest to chili pepper aficionadoes.”

“It’s a weekly?”

“Bimonthly – there’s not that much chili pepper news.”

“How’s the trip going?”

“It’s all very 30 Rock, with my boss as Alec Baldwin and me as Tina Fey.”

“I love your dress, by the way.”

“Thanks! Aaron Sorkin has the same one but his is longer, and not funny.”

“Oh! That was a joke!”

“What was?”

“She asked if there were cross words exchanged at the puzzle convention, and she did it with such an innocent expression that Francis completely missed it -”

“Puns are decadent, anyway.”

“We used to have great fun with geographical puns. Like, I have a Turkish bovine. Is it a red cow? No, is tan bull.”

“Oh very good!”

“I took Middle Eastern transportation. Is bus? No, is rail.”

“I did macrame with gems. Hippie art? No, wool-stone-craft.”

“Matthew’s brother had a great one. In New South Wales – was it New South Wales? No, Victoria, in Victoria a woman crumples up a piece of paper. No, wait, it was a cleric.”

“A cleric, in Victoria, crumples a piece of paper.”

“Right! Nunawadi!”

“It’s a suburb of Melbourne.”

“Kathryn, you are the best joke teller EVER.”

“So I know this couple back in San Francisco, and they’re married right but get this: they only ever have sex with each other.”

“Dude, that’s weird.”

“Yeah! Get a house.”

she means it in an affectionate way

R: This year we are all perfect squares!

Salome: What?

R: Jules is one, Claire’s four and J and I are 36.


S (feelingly): You dork.

R: Next year we’ll all be prime!

all the small mammals in the house say “zzz”

Julia was really ill this week. I mean, not like rush her to the ER ill, but her temperature hovered around 104 degrees for three days. What’s that in real numbers? 40 Celsius. I’ma have to relearn metric now I’m English. Probably have to stop using I’ma, too. But I digress.

She kept waking at 2am in fever and pain, and then throwing up all over Jeremy. Lucky Jeremy! He was going above and beyond because I had some very intense stuff on at work – despite which I came home early on Tuesday and Thursday to ferry her to the doctor and then just to hang out with her. The fever broke Thursday afternoon and she was mostly okay yesterday and fine today.

Have I mentioned that, seriously, thank the stars for antibiotics? Seventy years ago that might have been a fatal illness; seventy years from now it might be again. Thank the stars and amoxicillin for my irresistible, extraordinary little daughter, made of sunshine and pure steel, who at nineteen months is reading books to me by naming the pictures – “Duck! Apple! Gato!” – and who is constantly trying to figure out how to make me laugh.

I keep forgetting to mention that Bebe our vicious and unpredictable so-called companion animal, who surprised us by tolerating Claire, is actively fond of Jules. Jules is clearly our animal lover, drawn to and gentle with both cats and dogs – I intend to conceal the existence of horses from her altogether – but the surprise is how tenderly the poisonous little cat responds. This evening as Julia fell asleep in my arms, Bebe was stretched out beside us in the Ikea armchair. I could feel the cat purring against my thigh and the baby snoring on my breast, and I thought remember this, remember this, burn this moment into your memory; because this is as good as it gets.

two hundredth kilometre!

Rock and roll! Saw owl. Mike Lynch firmly believes that seeing the owl is a mystical experience you get every hundredth kilometre. Maybe he’s right!

buddhist tech analyst recycles jokes from the it crowd

“You know how when you call tech support they say ‘Have you tried turning it off and on again?’ This lets them turn it off and on again for you.”


In brief, since work is crazy and Julia has two ear infections:

  • Green card news cautiously hopeful.
  • Today’s mail included an invitation to my British citizenship ceremony, August 6.

claire and ada at the window

C: From here you can see the whole cities! San Francisco AND London.

A: I can’t see London.

C: Past the bridge!

A: I can’t see a bridge.

C: Well… see harder!

A: Oh! I can see it… no, I can’t.

notes to self

Don’t be big baby.

No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.

(Waitaminute. Beckett used to drive Andre the Giant to school???)

perpetual reading machine

I was going to say something about how much I enjoyed Foreign Babes in Beijing with its shrewd, clever description of Chinese characters as pieces of Lego you can click together in different shapes, and how harrowing Persian Girls is when the author Nahid Rachlin is stolen away from the aunt who has raised her as her own. But then I picked up Jonathan Raban’s Surveillance which is just ridiculously good, Hari Kunzru’s Transmission by way of Dean Gray’s American Edit.

Have you ever seen the INS jail down by Union Station? They’ve got hundreds of Hispanics locked up in there. You see them standing at the bars like animals in cages, crying, yelling out messages to friends and relatives. Every time I go past, my blood ices up. I hate the INS. I hate the INS more than I hate Lee, even more than I hate the fucking FBI. For pure, cold, bureaucratic cruelty, I’d give the INS a perfect ten.

As lots of people have pointed out, this novel captures life in America right now so precisely that there are little shocks of recognition on every page. I got the same narcissistic pleasure from Nick Hornby’s Polysyllabic Spree, which Jamey forced into my hands the other day and which reads just like one of these book-posts only wittier, and about books I personally haven’t already read :)

will franken at the marsh

“Coming up next. On the five-year anniversary of the San Francisco Cold Snap of 2007, we interview survivors of that tragic event.

“‘You literally, walked out of your apartment. Literally, felt the weather. Literally, turned around. Literally walked back into your apartment. Literally, put on a coat. It was freezing! Figuratively.'”

close encounter

She wasn’t there the first time I ran around the hill so I wasn’t particularly hopeful when I looked on the second loop. And then she FLEW OVER MY HEAD AND LANDED ON A LIGHTPOLE.

“You can fly!”

“I’m an owl.”

“I’ve never seen you fly before!”

“Are you listening? I’m an owl.”

A bunch of songbirds started shrieking at her, and seriously, she was messing with them. She did little flits from branch to branch to get all up in their beaks. I couldn’t believe my luck; and then one of her downy breast feathers floated s…o… s…l…o…w…l…y… over my head, about three inches above my outstretched fingers. And then it drifted into the path of the sun and out of sight.

in search of an episode

“we shall examine the torrent of bits and the bay of pirates
we are resourceful little australians”

“outside your little bandwidth prison, you go wild”

“we build internets out of bush tucker and songlines”

“and call it “dreamtime””