Saturday, July 30, 2005


Got a call from my tenant in my father's house in Massachusetts today. Apparently the plumber thinks the well has collapsed. God only knows what this is going to cost. Land rich, coin poor, that's me. Pfui.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Backstroke of the West

Some enterprising soul bought a DVD of Revenge of the Sith which had been translated into Chinese and then subtitled in English. If you can call this English.

My favorite is "Nooooooooo!" which translates as "Do Not Want!"

Chickie Done Fly

This morning we all rose up early so I could drive Emphatic Girl down to San Mateo to get the bus for her eight days at Camp Sugar Pine. Within two minutes of reaching the bus pick up point she had found her favorite counselor from last year (her nom de Girl Scouts is Sunshine) and within another 15 minutes a friend from last year had arrived and they were thick as thieves. About ten minutes before I left, she bounced off the bus into my arms and announced that she had been made Sunshine's assistant, that her new camp name is Hamster, and that she had already cheered up two girls who had been crying and anxious. By the time they reach the camp, I fully expect the child to be running things.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Seen on Shelves

Finally, I have found Point of Honour on bookstore shelves out here! Imagine The Author doing a little capering dance of auctorial glee.

They have shelved it in Romance, which dismays me--I understand why, but to me (I'm only the author, after all) these books are not romances no matter how much they partake of the English Regency, and they do. They might better be labeled as that standby of my youth, "romantic suspense." I would have said mystery, me; I spend a lot of time and brain effort making them into mystery. The spine says "fiction" so it's not like that's a pointer. Still, I suspect that Borders has the book shelved in Romance because that's where they believe it's going to sell. And the point, from their point of view (and the distributor's and the publisher's) is sales, for which I cannot blame them.

Meanwhile, I have a short story rattling around in my brain which is not quite ready to come out and declare itself. I wish it would. It would be nice to finish it and send it away to find a home before I head off to Scotland.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Space Geek is Happy

We got YG out of bed a hair early this morning to watch the shuttle launch. She, all nine years old, was impressed by the camera work (as was I--this time they had a camera mounted on the booster rocket itself, so that you could see the solid fuel rockets peel off and, later, the shuttle take to solo flight) and managed a "cooool" at the actual launch. But space flight has been a given for her entire life. I'm old enough to remember sitting through most of the Gemini and Apollo launches with a sense of awe and pleasure. Every time we go back into space, I am nine years old again and filled to the brim with Wow...

Monday, July 25, 2005

Chimp Haven

If I were a chimpanzee, I would want to retire to Chimp Haven. It is one of several "retirement communities" for former lab-subject and entertainment chimps, and the thought and work that have gone into the design and construction of the communities is striking: animal behaviorists, ASL specialists, veterinarians, caretakers, nutritionists. Finding a home for "retiring" chimps is relatively urgent, partly because very little medical research is done using chimps anymore--there was a big push to breed chimps for AIDS research, and then it was discovered that while chimpanzees can be infected, they very rarely sicken from the syndrome, and are therefore not particularly useful for research--and partly because, with increasing understanding of just how close to us (that is, humans) chimps are, the idea of simply warehousing them is no longer acceptable to the public.

Chimp Haven is taxpayer supported, though some of the retirement communities for chimps are privately run. It is, of course, a little bizarre to consider that Our Tax Dollars are supporting chimps in their declining years, at the same time when the Bush administration is hacking away at Social Security (to be fair, the funding for Chimp Haven was approved under Clinton; I'm sure, given the chance, Mr. Bush would insist on "privatization" of chimp retirement funds too).

I was particularly struck, reading the article, by the affection and knowledge of the people caring for the chimps. The behaviorists and caregivers talk about their charges much the same way teachers talk about the kids in their care:

"That guy Waylan,'' Noon said, pointing to an outsize male muscling his way toward us, then settling alongside a female named Dana, ''is the largest chimp I've ever known. And the sweetest. Waylan is very shy. Born in captivity. Didn't know how to be around other chimps. So when it was time to get Waylan to meet somebody, I said to myself, Who out of all these people can he meet? And I thought, Dana. She's 42, born in Africa, and she's so socially sophisticated. So nice. So I open the door to let them meet. Waylan's afraid. She climbs up and sits in the doorway. She looks at Waylan and literally takes his chin in her hand and lifts his face so he can look at her. That's Dana. She is the queen.''

When I wander off to the Old Writers' Home, I hope the director of Old Writer Socialization is as concerned for the way I settle in.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Political Romantic

"I always get a great kick out of that part of the Declaration of Independence. Now, you're not going to have a country that can make these kind of rules work if you haven't got men that have learned to tell human rights from a punch in the nose."
--Jefferson Smith, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

Friday, July 22, 2005

A Useful Answer

At one point in the new Harry Potter book, someone says that the dementors have been breeding. This of course begs the question: how do dementors breed? Fearlessly, someone on the net has come up with an answer.


Thursday, July 21, 2005

Grouchy Question #1

I'm always asking myself grouchy questions. Here is this afternoon's: when did "au jus" become a noun, as in "served with au jus?" Ick.


Sarcasm Girl finished reading Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince on Monday morning (Saturday and Sunday having been too full of other stuff to permit her to read straight through) and came downstairs, distraught over some of the events in the book, sure, but also distraught because the series is coming to a close. "There's almost no more!" she wailed. Boy, do I remember this.

When I was ten, and read the last of the Narnia books I wept because I had gone through all the books and none of them would ever be new to me again. It wasn't about the Wow finish (in fact I think I was rather irritated that poor Susan Pevensey was locked out of heaven just because she'd grown up); it was the sort of sense of loss you have when a friend moves away. You might visit that friend or revisit the characters in the book, but the relationship changes, and what you get from the relationship may not be what you prized. An intangible sense of comfort and support is being taken away--comfort and support you very likely didn't realize had become important to you.

I'm not saying this feeling relates to literary quality; it's more about finding a universe that makes sense to you however harrowing the events that take place in it might be. So if the Harry Potter books are getting darker, or Jane Eyre has had to leave Thornfield, or Buffy is dead, for God's sake, there's still the feeling of knowing the rules and believing in your companions. It's comfort reading, and I say it's a force for good.

Sunday, July 17, 2005


There's a TV commercial playing out here for a closeouts store called Big Lots! (the exclamation mark is part of their name). And this week's special is...remaindered books. They show maybe a dozen paperback and hardcover books--romances, mysteries, thrillers, you name it (I don't think there was any SF shown, but that doesn't mean there wasn't any there).

Imagine you're the author of a book and you see a TV ad which essentially says (to those who understand how the publishing industry works): hey, your book was a drug on the market. As well to say, hey, your book is going to be used to wrap fish! Big Lots! isn't to blame--they're selling books the same way they sell anything else: Hey, it's cheap, come buy it! The publishers really aren't to blame: they have inventory they want to sell, and this is a way to do that. But still: ouch.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

All Potter's Eve

Gavin Newsom, our local mayor, has officially declared tomorrow night "All Potter's Eve" in San Francisco, in honor of the release on Saturday morning at 12:01 of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. We are, of course, participating in the madness, going at midnight to pick up the copy we've reserved at our local independent bookstore.

This made me think: how odd must it be to be Jo Rowling? I mean, really. Imagine knowing that there are 100 million copies of your books in print around the world. Imagine knowing that the first printing on your new hardcover is 10 million copies. And imagine the weird weight of knowing that at 12:01 am local time all over the world, kids (and adults) are going to be buried in your work, only coming up for bathroom breaks and sustenance. Aside from the money and the castle and the Officer of the British Empire thing, the sheer weight of expectation--especially if you take your work and the people who love it seriously--must be enormous. I think it would stop me in my tracks. Since I enjoy the books, and the girls love them, I'm glad that she seems to be bearing up under that spotlight. But really, how odd must it be to be Jo Rowling?

Tight Pants

So there I was at Target this morning buying school uniforms for YG (I wish someone would tell me why school uniforms went on sale a week after school let out and will likely not be available when school starts) and got into one of those casual conversations with an utter stranger about the buying of school clothes. At one point the woman said "Well, at least the uniforms don't shrink like their other stuff."

At which point an employee stocking a rack nearby said, "Oh, but that's what people want." At our frankly dubious stares she insisted: "You know, that's the fashion, everything has to be tight tight tight. Unless you're one of those hip hop boys." And she went back to her work.

I dunno. It's one thing to want to wear your jeans a little snug; it's another to have the legs shorten so you look like a red shirt on classic Star Trek. Just another case of customer support telling you that what you've called about is a Feature, not a Bug.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Good One

Meanwhile, seen this morning as I was driving back from dropping YG at the camp bus: a Toyota Prius with a license plate that said EXXON HA.

Book Meme

I probably wouldn't post this if I didn't generally like John Irving, but:

You're A Prayer for Owen Meany!

by John Irving

Despite humble and perhaps literally small beginnings, you inspire faith in
almost everyone you know. You are an agent of higher powers, and you manifest this fact in
mysterious and loud ways. A sense of destiny pervades your every waking moment, and you
prepare with great detail for destiny fulfilled. When you speak, IT SOUNDS LIKE THIS!

Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.


Monday, July 11, 2005

Yesterday Upon the Stair...

I've found a new place to write: a Starbucks downtown on Market near Van Ness. It's a big place, with a corner filled with arm chairs, and several well-placed electric outlets for those of us who occasionally need more juice. Lots of sunlight, which has been in short supply in SF of late. But Market near Van Ness is also home to a good chunk of San Francisco's homeless population and, like cities everywhere, its own share of the intriguingly crazy.

So I'm sitting there this morning and note a woman come in; she's neatly dressed in navy blue slacks and a short sleeved white cotton shirt (both of them clean). She's wearing a trenchcoat with pastel checkered lining, and a querulous expression as if she just had a fight with someone and didn't get the last word. She ditches two backpacks and goes up to get her coffee. I go back to my writing. Every now and then I look up (partly because there's a homeless guy out in front of the store who clearly knows all the skateboarders in the neighborhood, who drop by, buy him coffee, and gossip, and I like watching him holding court) and note that the neatly dressed woman is having an argument--not just talking to herself, but arguing full out, sotto voce, but with all the body language you get from someone who is confronting another human being. Every now and then I get a snatch of her rant: "But nobody does, nobody does! Do you hear me?" But mostly I was involved in inserting a new character into a previously written scene, so my attention was mostly on that.

Half an hour later she's still arguing and I'm moving on in the chapter. I hear a loud, half-deaf voice from the back of the shop, joking with one of the baristas. From the conversation I gather that the guy is mentally retarded and possibly has some hearing loss as well. However, he's cheerful, seems to interact well, and other than the inappropriate loudness which draws attention to him, he's not causing any trouble. Except for the woman in the blue slacks, who breaks off her argument with the unseen opponent and starts speaking, in increasingly loud tones, to the guy in the back. "Get a job. Stop following me around. Get a job. I'm not paying for you, and neither is Karl Rove." She gets increasingly loud. "Get a job! Just because you're retarded doesn't mean you can drag me down with you. Some of us work for a living. Get some training, find a counselor. Get a job! Get a job! I'm not paying for you. You can stop following me. Follow Karl Rove, follow Cheney. Get a job!"

Finally the loud guy left, and the woman in blue slacks returned to continue her quarrel with the person who wasn't across the table from her. An hour later, she had taken out a dog-earred spiral bound notebook and was writing something, pausing occasionally to glare balefully at the person who wasn't across the table. I had finished my chapter and had to go. I wonder how long she stayed, and if she ever got her point across to her opponent.


Yesterday morning before we went off to have a Family Day (miniature golf, go-karts, batting cages, bumpercars...and a severe allergic reaction for Sarcasm day is complete without etc.) Spouse went in to brush his teeth. Imagine his surprise when he discovered a large slug lying in the bottom of his water glass. No trail, no hint of how the creature got there, nothing useful to aid in detection of its point of origin. The girls deny complicity. The slug itself was not much help.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Moths, Fog, Bubbles and Baseball

It's the tail-end of a long day. Got three solid hours of work done this morning, went to the gym, then came home to bake a cake (birthday celebration for two of the people in my writing workshop tomorrow). At 5:30, with SG and Spouse in tow, I took off for SBC Park to go to a ballgame...with the inevitable logistical catch: we had bought parking in advance, so I was taking the Girl and The Dad to the park to pick up the parking ticket and give it to me; then they went and got pizza while I went all the way across town to pick Younger Girl up from the camp bus. Immediately--like, within two minutes of leaving the house--things began to go awry: we left the tickets for the game at home and had to turn around and get them. Still, even with traffic, we got to the park, and with only the usual amount of brain-dead stress, I got the parking ticket from Spouse and turned the car toward Pacific Heights, where the bus comes. Of course, every idiot with a pulse (not to mention the drunks and crack addicts and bus drivers) were out in force: my favorite was the scrawny woman (a drug addict, I'm pretty certain) who got out of the passenger's side of her car at a stoplight, kept the door wide open while she turned in circles like a dog beating down the tall grass, drooling and cackling. Finally the driver of the car got her back in and, after the light had gone from red to green to red again, got the car door closed so that I could squeak by and make my turn.

I got to the bus stop five minutes late; fortunately the camp bus was nine minutes late, so it all worked. Drove back to SBC Park, parked in the exorbitantly expensive parking lot, and, carrying extra jackets and a blanket and two umbrellas, started toward the park. We were delighted to find that they ran shuttles from the lot to the Park, so we got there only ten minutes after the game started. By the time hotdogs and soda had been procured, we were into the second inning. The Cardinals did some brilliant fielding tonight, and the Giants--with momentary exceptions--were not at their best. But the park...Oh, the park.

I realize I'm not always appreciative of My New City, but I have to say, SBC Park is great. And tonight it was particularly charming, because we had fog. I realize I have been downright surly about fog, but that's fog around my own personal home, and seeping into my bones. Tonight, even before the sun had set, fog settled around the ballpark, blurring the skies and the water of the cove, so that it seemed like we were looking out at a distance lined with gray cotton batting. We were sitting high up in the right field, which gave us a wind break and meant we stayed warm, relatively speaking. And as the night went on the fog rolled in over the top of the stadium and down over the field in soft, billowing clouds. The stadium lights made the fog glitter slightly; moths flitting through the fog glowed like gigantic fireflies. Then some enterprising child started blowing bubbles on the level below us, and the glittering foggy night was suddenly dotted with shimmering flocks of bubbles, moths, and the odd seagull.

The Giants lost, but it was a very pretty night.

Thursday, July 07, 2005


There is little I can do--except keep the dead, the hurt, and the terrified in my thoughts. London has been through worse. But I am angry and saddened and horrified beyond saying. This morning there were people eating their Wheatabix and buying Time Out and thinking what to do for the weekend, getting into the Underground or on the bus to get to a job they might not have loved...gone. Thank God for the internet, through which I have heard that many of the people I know there are OK; just as on 9/11 people got on line to say "we're all right."

London is my second-favorite city in the world, after New York. I loved the city from the first visit I made there, when I was one of those people on the underground going to work in the morning. And, barring a complete and utter shutdown of the UK, I'll be there in just about a month, right after the Worldcon. It's hard not to be apprehensive about the trip, and I'm rarely the stick-my-chin-out-and-say-Oh-no-you-don't type, but... Oh, no you don't. And if you're looking for a way to change the world, blowing up a precious piece of it is not the way to start. (Any precious piece, for that it's worth...precious to me or precious to someone else.)

Wednesday, July 06, 2005


I have tried, honestly I have. But the next time someone who learns of our relatively recent relocation from New York to San Francisco tells me that I must love the weather here, I'm going to strangle him/her with his own Timberlake fleece vest. We are just over the fog line between Noe Valley and the Mission, where the sun often shines, and the ridiculously named Sunnyside, where the fog in summer just sits and sits like a malevolent gray brainsucking monster. It is cold. If I want to drive over to the bay-side, say, around Burlingame, there's sun. If I want to go downtown or to Potrero Hill, there is more likely to be sun. If I wanted to go to day camp in Orinda with Emphatic Girl, I'd be at a toasty 90 degrees most of the time. But here it has been gray for days, and even when it's not gray, it's cold. Windy. Not T-shirt weather, at least not if you're me and have sluggish circulation. And these days and days of grayness are wearing on me, to the point where I wonder if I'm developing Seasonal Affect Disorder.

I don't gotta love the weather. I have to put up with it, but that's a whole different thing. Pfui.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Beyond Cool

I am a big fan of space exploration. You know: child of the 50s-60s, one of those who watched every Mercury, Gemini and Apollo launch. I wept at the Apollo-Soyuz mission (hey, look, id we can't have peace on Earth, maybe we can achieve it in space!) and still feel awe at the fact that we've made it off the planet and--robotically, anyway--to Mars. So of course I think that these photos of the NASA probe with the Tempel comet are extraordinarily cool.

I have to add, in the interest of equal time, that last week when YG was doing her summer workbook, she had to read and comment on an article on John Glenn. One question was: "Do you think John Glenn was a hero? Explain your answer." YG's response was: "I do not think he is a hero, because the world could live without space travel."

Well, maybe, kid. But I'm not convinced.

Be Careful Among Dem Scottish*

So I have my final programming schedule for Interaction (this year's World Science Fiction Convention, to be held in Glasgow in early August), which is curiously frontloaded--maybe they didn't have enough people showing up early in the program? (Or programme, to be locally correct.)

Thursday 2:00pm Fem-Bots and Faeries (1.5 hrs)
Judith Clute, Paul Cockburn, Karen Haber, Madeleine E. Robins, Jannie Shea, Delphyne Woods
"Although we no longer live with the nipple shortage of the 1950s, fantasy art remains unreconstructed." Why hasn't feminism affected sf and fantasy art - or has it?

Friday 10:00am Kaffeeklatsch

Friday 12:00 noonThe Return of the Queen: Writing Feminism in a Medieval World
Lillian Stewart Carl, Ellen Kushner, Julianne Lee, Diana L. Paxson, Madeleine E. Robins (M)
The "real" Middle Ages is not known for fostering feminism. Apart from the upper aristocracy, few women had any power or freedom of action, and that was limited by the conventions of male society. What are the effects of introducing feminism to a medieval setting?

Sunday 11:30am Reading (0.5 hrs)

Monday 11:00am Autographing

I suspect I'm on the Feminism in Art panel because of my sordid history in comic book publishing. That could be fun. And while I'm interested in the Medieval World (the next book I write may be set in Medieval Italy, so I've been reading up) I am not a specialist on the Medieval World--but I'm moderating, and it might be all I need to do is show up and keep order.

As for the rest, I have yet to have a kaffeeklatsch anywhere except at Boskone where anyone showed up to talk to me, but at 10 am, if the coffee's there, I'll show up and see what happens. Ditto the autographing (especially since Terry Pratchett is scheduled for the same slot, and I suspect there will be a few more people lined up to see him than me). But I like doing readings, and I generally enjoy doing panels. Just hope, since my plane gets in to Glasgow at 8am on Thursday morning, that I'm not too totally fried to navigate a successful sentence or two for my two p.m. panel.

*adapted from Jan Rubes's line in Witness, which my father quotes at me from time to time.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Playdate Diplomacy

Next year YG's class of twenty is going to be split up, with half the kids going to one classroom and half to the other for fourth grade. Because of this, YG and a friend decided they needed to hold a party this summer. Because of course, these kids are never going to see each other again, except maybe at lunch and twice a day at recess, and in the morning and in the afternoon and...


So YG and her friend cooked up a party. Actually just a cookout (although the damned fog is rolling in, and it may be a bit brisk for outdoor eating when the time comes). And thus began a huge phone campaign, with literally dozens of calls back and forth. It looks like we'll have eight kids--two boys, six girls including YG. And in a huge coup for Our Side, two of the girls coming are from Chinese families. This is Big. In the two and a half years that we've lived here YG has repeatedly asked for playdates with these girls, and been assured that someday it would happen--but it hasn't. Partly it's a language thing, as many of the parents of her classmates don't speak much English. Partly it's a cultural thing. Frequently it's a logistical thing: in order to get two girls here, we had to pick up and return them to their homes, since their parents have to work or have other commitments. At this moment we have the two Chinese girls, one girl whose parents are from India, and YG, out in the yard playing Twister very loudly. We're waiting the Latino kids (two boys, another girl or two) to show up. I'm hoping they arrive in time to eat before we have to start ferrying children home!

Friday, July 01, 2005

Bad News

Sandra Day O'Connor announced her resignation this morning. Try driving down a foggy street trying to explain to the nine-year-old in the back seat why you're swearing. Given the President's nominee for Ambassador to the U.N., one can only imagine who he'll nominate to the Court. Oh very dear.