15 July 12

This Week, Not on Facebook

accordion-fold sketchbook, Sketchcrawl 36

1) I went to the Delta, twice, to sample ducks for avian flu. The second time we saw a mink run across the path and I strained my left large toe trying to extricate my foot in a wader from some black mephitic ooze.

2) I wore some lipstick, for the second time in about five years, to a retirement party. It lasted through half a glass of lemonade, so I feel it doesn’t really count.

3) I started rereading Ulysses.

4) I got stung by two bees in the sunflower field while looking for the runaway Charlie in 104° heat (Charlie’s escapades did appear on Facebook, thanks for the mojo everyone). The second bee sting left a big red welt under my right eye which has still not really gone away.

5) Our hot water heater was leaking gas and had to be replaced. This is very bad if you’ve been sloshing around in, and then fallen into, mephitic ooze (see 1 above) and need to get ready for a retirement party with lipstick (see 2 above). Showers trump lipstick in this case. (Actually showers trump lipstick in all cases.) (Lipstick also does nothing to distract from large red bee sting welts, either.)

6) The pocket gophers have eaten three eggplants, two chile plants, one green pepper, three tomato plants, and are working on what’s left in that patch. They seem to be avoiding the basil, which is something of a consolation.

7) Charlie is never going out again without a leash if I can help it, so he will not be available for gopher control. This patch may be a lost cause.

8) I have spun yards and yards of merino silk but the bobbin seems never to grow. I am strongly reminded of Penelope.

9) During yesterday’s Sketchcrawl, which WAS on Facebook and is pictured above, I felt all smug when I actually knew what Pete was talking about when he invoked the famous Uruguay World Cup team of 1930 in Paris. I’m still not sure Spain’s light blue alternate kit is a homage to that team (why would it be?), but it’s fun to think about.

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30 January 12

Native Daughter

I spent the weekend with my Farm Club friends in San Francisco. We stayed at the home of the Native Daughters of the American West, a house on Fulton and Baker you’d almost miss if you didn’t notice the modest plaque and the flags five floors above the street (US and California).

I have mixed feelings about these organizations. On one hand they’re harmless groups of people doing good works like the Shriners and Rotary, involving arcane and zany initiation rites. On the other they are exclusive by gender, race, birth, status, and no doubt other secret criteria.

Fun: We knit and spun and wove in our jammies in a Julia Morgan parlor and ate buttermilk lemon pie for breakfast (I was skeptical, but am a convert). We shared the floors with the Girl Scouts of America scrapbooking club. We explored the basement and the roof, the rooms decorated by individual chapters (also called Parlors, up and down California). We looked at the museum (tiny boots for six-month-olds, fans for grand San Francisco or Pasadena ladies in improbably sized corsets). We looked in the archive room where lists of all pioneer families who made it to California (and some that didn’t) are listed.

We wandered around the neighborhood stumbling across a silkscreening workshop-in-progress (they also offer cheesemaking classes), two excellent restaurants, and not a single Starbucks.

I was born in California, so I technically qualify to join the NDAW. It provides a very cheap way to stay in San Francisco. But San Francisco is easily close enough for a day trip for us and I can’t handle the politics. I am technically qualified to join the Mayflower Society, the Daughters of the American Revolution, the Colonial Dames, and the United Empire Loyalists for the Tories among you. I don’t sound like I belong in any of them, but my accent would be seen by all of them as a plus, as opposed to my skin color or last name which can so easily be a minus, a fact which writes them off for me. I left all this behind when I left the UK, I thought, 23 years ago. But no. Exclusion comes in many forms and I am not an excluder.

Posted by at 07:32 AM in Miscellaneous | Link | Comment [1]

18 October 11

Stolen Children

The scandal that’s been brewing in Spain for some time — that over the course of 50 years the Catholic Church stole babies and sold them to couples wanting to adopt — has moved outside the country. The BBC is going to air a documentary on the subject. There’s a crazy figure of up to 300,000 stolen children being thrown around.

I suppose nothing should surprise me any more about the abuses carried out in the name of fear (that the children would grow up in subversive households) or greed (on couple paid 200,000 pesetas for a baby, which at the time was a fortune, it would have bought an apartment).

This one’s close to home, though. I know at least two people who might have been adopted under these circumstances. Tim, if you’re reading this, you’re not one of them, but you might have inspired Mari and Tito to adopt.

These photos are making me very, very quiet…

Posted by at 06:33 PM in Miscellaneous | Link | Comment

31 August 11

White Waterfalls

Driving back from the Sierra on Monday — into the sunset, as we had driven into the sunrise; at least our reward was the green flash — we passed a Bridal Veil Falls. There must be hundreds of waterfalls so named throughout North America.

We had walked in 3+ miles only to find out we had way overshot our trailhead, and had to double back. We found our party — a group trapping an alpine relative of rabbits named a pika — and proceeded to follow them around glacial boulder-falls trying to photograph them. Two colleagues, two students: this was the perfect setting for photos that were to illustrate “training,” something I’m called upon to do a lot in my work. (Good thing, because they didn’t catch any pika, though we did see one and heard several.)

At some point during the day, though, it hit me. In earlier centuries, I’d be “going blind.” I used to have better than 20/20 vision, could identify a hawk at enormous distances, read roadsigns that would leave fellow travelers incredulous. Now the white waterfall descends on my right eye and will follow on my left.

I don’t mind, much. Not as much as I thought I would. For one thing it’s an easy outpatient surgery these days, but this is part of what it is, growing older. I shouldn’t expect to have the eyes of a 16-year-old, where something I spotted could cause Francisca to exclaim “Hay la vista que tienes, Dios te la bendiga.” No: whatever surgery they perform will never return me to those times. At this point, according to my opthalmologist brother-in-law, it’s all about minimizing decline. Gone, gone, gone beyond: gone beyond beyond.

Waterfalls. I have a new appreciation.

Posted by at 07:41 PM in Miscellaneous | Link | Comment [1]

29 April 11


The dress was lovely and all, but really today’s been all about the hats, about Victoria Beckham’s superglued-to-the-forehead hat to mimic her pregnant bump (she looks so sour ALL of the time and who can blame her with that double whammy) and the astonishing blue vulva hat and the revival of the Fascinator. But the prize goes to Princess Beatrice’s concoction which I’ve read of today as a reincarnation of Cthulhu, Mickey Mouse on acid and the Eye of Sauron, to mention just the tip of the iceberg.

My poor father would be rolling in his grave if he knew I was paying attention to any of this. From the north of England and of staunch anti-monarchical stock, he was of the opinion that all queens did was sit around and look beautiful, that they were sucking the coffers dry and a disgrace to democracy.

And yet… I had to wear a hat once. To Buckingham Palace. A dark green faux Russian faux fur hat, it was, something we picked up at Selfridges on the way, because you needed to wear a hat when your father was getting an OBE. (You didn’t, it turned out.) We arrived at the palace in a borrowed jag with Bob the borrowed chauffeur and emerged to lines of waiting and lines of recipients of the royal pleasure. I have no idea what went through my father’s head as he waited in morning dress in the antechamber before heading out to meet HM who referred to him in the document received as “our most beloved and loyal subject” but I did get an overwhelming sense of the number of people it must take to get this kind of thing to run smoothly on a daily basis, quite a bit more involved than just sitting around and looking beautiful, in the end.

These kinds of people were apparently absent when Beatrice was getting dressed this morning because her Cthulhu hat facebook page now has more than 50,000 fans. People are saying it’s Fergie’s way of flicking the vees/flipping the bird at the palace. Who knows. I wish I owned more hats than just baseball hats and straw gardening hats and chullos for birding in cold places, though, even if I never had anywhere to wear them. Maybe I need a Cthulhu hat after all.

Posted by at 07:54 PM in Miscellaneous | Link | Comment [2]

25 October 10

Weaving for the World Series

weaving at Meridian Jacobs I had a two-day weaving workshop this weekend at Meridian Jacobs with Robin Lynde (who also taught me to spin). Robin took one look at my Giants Ishbel and handed me some black and orange yarn to weave with. There wasn’t quite enough of the orange to make a scarf-length piece so I added some gray at either end (all of the wool is from Robin’s Jacobs sheep).

weaving at Meridian Jacobs My mind is still spinning with the language of weaving and the giddy sense of how fast it moves in terms of fabric length. I tried several patterns (plain weave, twill, broken twill, and pebble weave, settling on broken twill for the scarf). The warp is all black except for four strands of gray either edge.

weaving at Meridian Jacobs I got home just in time for the first pitch on Saturday night, having woven about 5-6” of orange. Orange and black. The Giants won their game and the pennant, moving on to the World Series. I went back yesterday and finished my scarf, which I now have to full (wash and agitate a little to get the wool to settle).

Go Giants. (And thanks, Robin, for an excellent weekend and for these photos.)
weaving at Meridian Jacobs

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12 August 10

The Small Red Triangle

It came upon me while I wasn’t looking, this thing. Someone I know knows someone who does therapy and by the way she also teaches qigong. What I knew about qigong was that it’s a great Scrabble word and is somehow related to, but not the same as, tai chi, which I’d seen someone’s Shanghaiese mother doing outside Dryden House in Cambridge. It looked strange and flowing and mesmerizing and sure, I’ll go.

Breathing. The medical set. Hitting (it our case it’s a lot more like tapping). Sequences I still haven’t memorized but that become familiar as C. describes the pathways, the flow. The end of our session often — always? — consists of sitting, of meditation. We are an unruly lot of women who’d mostly prefer to be moving about rather than facing whatever it is that sitting still for five minutes will reveal; C. knows this and she just works it in at the end, when we’re all pliable, when there’s no ducking out.

Picture a small red triangle, smaller than a pea, she says. Draw a line from your cranium through your center to three fingers below your navel. The triangle sits there. Red and luminous. Focus on the triangle. (She knows unruly minds will race and she is trying to keep us here, rather than thinking about what we will have for dinner or the laundry or the paintings we want to paint or the words we want to write. Think about the triangle. Here. Be present.)

The dreaded five minutes come and go and still we sit, moving the energy up into our hearts and back into the circle where it is offered back out to the suffering world…

Posted by at 10:29 PM in Miscellaneous | Link | Comment [1]

11 July 10


Ganaste, ganó, ganamos, ganasteis, ganaron.

(I’m still in shock but we are back from Oregon where we saw Rana Rachel and Dan get married in the most gorgeous spot, had a lovely Thai lunch with Dale prior to a focused expedition to Powells, met the Knitting Rabbi as Numenius mentioned, and watched two football matches. One of which was very, very key. It involved my wearing a red shirt and I’m afraid I made a bit of a spectacle of myself in a bar at the Portland airport, but I may well get over it.)

Posted by at 09:15 PM in Miscellaneous | Link | Comment [3]

7 July 10


Spain face Germany in a few hours. Like Maradona and his rosary beads, elaborate wardrobe shifts, and no doubt favorite drawers, I am filled with the irrational urge to don a red shirt, but wonder whether that will jinx the team.

Many athletes have elaborate superstitious rituals some of which border, like Maradona’s, on the theatrically absurd. Fans do as well. I’m trying to resist, trying to talk myself out of it. But what I’ve noticed for sure is that my syntax has become more British in the fast three weeks. It’s something to do with the language of football and I don’t think it’s a superstition, it’s more elemental.

So do I believe Paul the Octopus in his prognostications? do I believe they are always flawed when he is pitching Spain against Germany? Sigh. To any non-soccer types reading the blog, at least it will all be over soon, one way or the other.

Posted by at 06:57 AM in Miscellaneous | Link | Comment [6]

23 May 10

Maker Faire

This year we split up to cover the areas we wanted to see independently. Numenius spent time at a couple of panel discussions — including open source hardware — and looking at electronics. I spent time with the fiber folks and paper people. We both liked the robotic gamelan. I wanted to buy a geeky sketching canvas kilt you could ride a bike with. I learned how to knit a klein bottle (3 dimensions only, not 4). We bought this amazing stuff called Sugru (a silicone-based substance you can use to repair or enhance things, like ergonomically sculpting handles — it dries overnight with exposure to air).

A long day. Now we find a bee swarm in one of the guava bushes, which are flowering copiously…

Posted by at 09:37 PM in Miscellaneous | Link | Comment

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