Archive for November, 2007

more than ready to go now, thanks

Every half hour or so in the evening I hear trotting hooves on the cobblestones. It’s a horse and carriage, probably carrying tourists from Boston Common.

Business hotel districts are eerie at night.

work bought me a pony

A toy pony. But even so!

hard truths

“What, you mean they’re not really laughing at my jokes? And I thought I was funny.”

“Oh, you’re charming. You’re just not as charming as you think you are.”

“No one is as charming as I think I am.”

if it’s monday this must be boston

Adrift in the affectless between-world of airport lounges, plane cabins and hotels marketed to business travellers. Equipped with my laptop and Advil PM. Missing my daughters ferociously, their noise and hot breath and incessant demands, their wowsomeness. Falling asleep at my laptop.

…well, one day’s not so bad

Is it?

He was declared a “heartless snake” by the Aboriginal leader Noel Pearson after swinging to the right of Howard on Aboriginal reconciliation in the final days of the election. His claim to be strong on climate change rings hollow when he has promised a subsidy of A$110m to Gunns Ltd, a company intending to build one of the world’s biggest pulp mills in Tasmania, which will burn half-a-million tonnes of native forest a year in the monstrosity of its electricity generator alone.


For the first time since the morning of Mardi Gras 1996, I am not ashamed of Australia’s Federal Government.

Rudd will disappoint me in, oh, let’s be generous and give him ten days or so. But today? Today is sweet. Today the government that brought us Tampa and Woomera and Iraq and the Orwellishly named “NT intervention” and union-breaking twenty years after Thatcher fucked the poor, the government that made race-baiting an accepted part of the national conversation, the government that made me incandescent with rage every time it caught my attention; the Howard government is OVER.

are we from the past?

Salome, Julia, Milo and I dressed up for the Dickens Fair, but Claire steadfastly refused to wear anything but jeans and a t-shirt.

It’s one of the ridiculously fun, only-in-San-Francisco events, like Maker Faire and the Mime Troupe, that have become fixtures on my calendar. The organizers take two cattle sheds at the arse-end of Cow Palace and decorate them as Victorian London. Actors dress up as Father Christmas, Sherlock Holmes, Alice in Wonderland, explorers, chimney sweeps, pickpockets, fine ladies and so forth. There are fish and chips straight out of the fryer, best I’ve ever had in America. There are choirs singing sea shanties, pantomimes in the music halls, shops selling a slightly anachronistic range of hastily-adapted Renaissance Faire merchandise.

It is an insanely good time. Highlight of this year was the ball, Claire being just the right age to be swept away by the actors. Everyone danced until they melted down and fell asleep on the way home.

what i’m grateful for

  • Claire getting out of bed the other night to return her cup to the kitchen. Jeremy and I paused the DVD and monitored her progress. As she headed back to bed she gave us one thumb up.
  • Julia when I got home from work the other day, standing on the baby gate and laughing her fool head off. Also Julia piling on when we’re all lying in bed in the morning and exclaiming “APPY PEOPLE.”
  • Bebe snuggled next to me at night. She is well gone before the children pile on, of course.
  • Everything about Jeremy. He’s a very cool person.
  • A world wide network of beloved friends and family to each of whom I have owed email or a call for months now. You’re accomplished and witty with great bone structure, and I think about you all the time.
  • Critical mass of brilliant, amusing friends right here in darkest Mission District.
  • Paravirt_ops.
  • Viable Paradise.
  • On which note, books! Kage Baker, Elizabeth Bear, Lois McMaster Bujold, Naomi Novik, Kim Stanley Robinson and Connie Willis. Hari Kunzru and Jonathan Raban, Calvin Trillin and Sarah Vowell, Graham Greene and Lytton Strachey. God, I love books.
  • Food, too. Fried clams at The Bite in Menemsha. Fish tacos in La Paz. Cherry tomatos growing on our terrace. The farmer’s market. The strawberries this year! Oh my Lord.
  • Consequently, running.
  • Music! Claire on the piano, Spencer Day, Dean Gray, Frontalot. My iPod! My camera! And for that matter:
  • Architecture, photography, film.
  • Trees, mountains, rivers, the sea. Oz Farm.
  • San Francisco.
  • Oh, I nearly forgot: British passport, forward movement on green card.
  • A glimmer of hope that St Luke’s won’t be shut down. A field of Democratic candidates that doesn’t induce coma, one or two of whom could perhaps make passably competent presidents. An Australian Federal election Howard is going to lose. That last one feels good.
  • But most of all Jeremy, who has fallen asleep at his laptop at the end of the sofa and is snoring. And Claire and Julia, the binary system we orbit. Also snoring. And Bebe, who is just a pretty, cranky cat. That snores.

Happy Thanksgiving.

rach goes mad with vector graphics


Originally uploaded by yatima

I find these images more evocative than the original photos.


QOTD: “If you didn’t want to be associated with a bunch of sniggering, scaremongering, middle-class racists, you should have joined another political party back when you were at uni.”

Dear Australia, please vote for anyone but Howard. Thanks!

(And happy birthday, Mum. You’re wowsome.)

nerdcore marriage, now in its eighth year

“This book is so great. It makes the point that human extinction is inevitable, and just another kind of death.”

“Exactly the same thing as death, since there’s no such thing as a species, just a genetic continuum.”

“Picky post-Darwinist. You know I wanna be cremated, right?”

“I’ll cremate most of you. I want to freeze your head.”

“I love you too.”

jules sings the toothbrush blues


Originally uploaded by Goop on the lens

…accompanied by Claire on keys.

i want debussy

Claire and I spruced ourselves up a bit, and this week’s piano recital was much less formal than last week’s – one of the students was in fact punk rock – so sartorially speaking we all met somewhere in the middle. The music was gorgeous, lots of Chopin and Beethoven and Brahms and hey! Music-knowing people of my acquaintance! Why the hell hadn’t you told me about Debussy? Well, you probably had and I didn’t pay any attention. A boy called Harrison played Debussy’s Clair de Lune, all swoony and divine, and young Miss Claire, who was worn out from the day’s shenanigans, fell asleep in my arms.

I looked into her sweaty damp face and marvelled at how dear and brilliant she is, and how very much she and her sister are the sun and anchor of my life. After the concert I carried her back to Mission Street where a greatly escalated police presence and a sizable party of Code Pink protesters marked the spot, at Foreign Cinema, where Hillary Clinton was having dinner. I thought, Good for you, lady! Have the steak, it’s excellent. Then we caught the bus home to Julia and Jeremy. Our three-week-old tradition of Sunday night roast is starting to catch on.

love is stronger than death

…although probably not in any of the ways you were hoping. From The Bone Woman:

…because the inhabitants of Srebrenica had lived under siege for several years, they didn’t have access to new clothes, so the women had repaired the same garments, month after month. Thus, they could recognize their own stitches, could describe the type of mending they did and what material they used, and remembered exactly what part they had mended. In the morgue we found that where, say, head hair was no longer present on a body, a triangular fabric patch was still holding together the inside of a trouser pocket, the color of the thread still vibrant, a beacon illuminating the varied stitchwork that could identify the man whose trousers they were.

Macabre as it is, The Bone Woman turns out to be a heartening read, if only because of Clea Koff’s sense of mission. She believes she was born to exhume mass graves and let their occupants tell their stories, and for all I know she was. I know I wasn’t. And her work is a gift to the families of the dead, who speak of: “their need to hold even just one bone if that was all that was left.”

That line cut me to the quick.

In other news of ghosts, Moira wrote to point out what I had already begun to suspect, Googling around for links. A lot of sexual abusers who claim to have been victimized as children are probably lying.

22-82% of people convicted of sexual abuse report being victims of sexual abuse themselves.

Salter is understandably dubious about any self-report of being sexually abused, querying the motivation of someone who has been convicted, or is going to court for allegations of perpetrating abuse. In support of her position, she refers to 3 studies where the reporting of being a victim of sexual abuse dropped from 67%, 65% and 61% when subjects were given immunity, down to 29%, 32% and 30% respectively, where the subjects thought a polygraph (or lie-detector) would be involved.

Round and round we go. In other other news, The World Without Us, like The Bone Woman, turns out to be not half as depressing as you would think. In fact, it’s a guilty relief.


It was like an Enid Blyton picnic: fresh coffee and champagne and orange and tangerine and apple juice, and chicken apple breakfast links and roast potatoes; Croque Monsieurs and chocolate eclaires from Tartine; waffles with maple syrup and fresh strawberries and cream; three galettes, one apple, one mixed berry and one raspberry and mango; a pumpkin cake that Heather and Gilbert brought from Patisserie Philippe; and the rest of the cupcakes, with birthday candles and singing.


For a blog whose main purpose is Blessings, Quantification Of, Yatima has been very whiney of late. So let the record show that after a tiring and unpromising day, tonight was great. Bob called and we chatted, then Salome called and asked if she could come over. This is the advantage of having her live one minute’s walk away. Jeremy made a yummy dinner and we all ate and talked. Claire and Milo had a bath together. Now Jeremy is putting Julia to bed and Claire is practicing her piano, on the electric keyboards, with headphones on.

ETA: Now she is playing the piano with her feet.

i can has cupcake?

I can has cupcake?

Originally uploaded by yatima

My shoulder’s a bit better today, by which I mean I can move it without wanting to throw up or cry. Progress!

pain: i do not like it

I feel embarrassed complaining about this while various friends are having real health crises, but not embarrassed enough not to complain about it. My shoulder is fucked up and it hurts a lot. Claire snuck into our bed on Monday night – I know, I know – and I ended up falling asleep with my left arm hoiked up over my head. Now every time I breathe it feels like getting stabbed.

Respect to my perky crip girl homies who put up with this sorta shit day in day out. Pain isn’t character-improving. It just sucks. I have been impossible to live with all week.

I expected to catch flack for editing those bitter ex-church posts last week, but it came from a direction I wasn’t expecting. That hurt, too. I had three reasons for changing the entries. One is that I got off my ass and called David to get Ann’s number, then called Ann and chatted to her for a while. We were best friends as children and I hadn’t spoken to her in nearly twenty years. On the off chance that she Googles me, I didn’t want her to end up face to face with that.

The second reason is that a few days later even I didn’t agree with what I had written. David’s father’s crimes have nothing to do with David’s ministry now, and to drag them into a discussion of what David is doing amounts to an ad hominem attack. I still disagree with the position he took on the smoking ceremony, so I left that in. Of course to me there’s no difference between the various invisible superheroes in the sky. I imagine if you still believe that some are real and some are not, it changes your perspective.

The third reason I changed it is also embarrassing. Many abusers are themselves survivors of abuse. I’ve known this for decades, but it took me until Monday night to make the connection that Vic himself may have been a survivor of abuse. So here’s me carrying on this great crusade for years, imagining that I was standing up for the little children, completely overlooking the fact that he was a little child once, and chances are no one ever stood up for him.

That hurts, too. When it hit me I just started crying, in the middle of explaining it all to Salome. That was on Monday night. Maybe God smote me in the shoulder. It’s just the sort of thing He would do.

So there is truth and the central importance of truth and the need to tell it, to tell stories honestly, to not lie, ever, about anything. This is a given. But there is also the need to be kind. The Dalai Lama says “My religion is kindness,” which seems to cover it, pretty much. Or Primum non nocere. And sometimes these two imperatives are hard to reconcile. Is it even possible to tell the truth and be kind? I don’t know. But I know I have to try.

julia-woo! now you are two!

Happy birthday, little daughter. You are the joy of the world in toddler form. I love you so much I don’t even mind when you wipe your snotty nose on my favourite shirts. You’re the reason I get up in the morning. I mean that literally: with you standing there yelling “I WANT LECHE. I WANT DORA,” who can possibly sleep in? It’s like living with a bouncy little white dwarf star on legs.

I thought that lightning could never strike the same place twice. I was wrong. I can’t imagine my life without you. Thanks for everything, Miss Jules.

bukes and such

Gorged on genre in the wake of the workshops. I loved the coincidence engineers and the ranids in Bear’s Undertow. Scalzi’s Old Man’s War scratched that old I-read-Heinlein’s-juveniles-when-I-was-a-juvenile itch. Steve Gould’s Jumper is a kickass boy coming-of-age story, and there’s a World Trade Center scene that will make the hair on the back of your neck stand up, because it was published in 1992.

I liked The Hallowed Hunt even better than some of the Miles Vorkosigan stories, but it’s getting harder for me to ignore the messed-up sex politics in Bujold’s work. Connie Willis’s The Doomsday Book, on the other hand, has five or six brilliantly drawn female characters who get to do just as much as the men, even when they’re stuck in the fourteenth century. This was my favourite of this clot of reading. It’s a bit impenetrable at first in its attention to detail and insistence on the present tense, but the work pays off in spades in the last third. The fates of various characters hurt me a lot. I can already tell it’s going to be a reread.

Now I am reading Clea Koff’s The Bone Woman, which has given me an idea for a new short story called “Externalities.” The main disadvantage of this book is that it’s difficult to read over a lunch of Wolfgang Puck roast chicken, because the clinical descriptions of saponification and the white fatty liquid that pours out of corpses in a particular state of decomposition take a lot of the savour out of the meat.

Next up: King Leopold’s Ghost and The World Without Us. Because apparently I am hell bent on feeling bad.