Marta's Journal
talk to me


26 april 2003

Hey, it's my birthday! 55 big ones. Yes indeed. So far, my birthday swag consists of  a two-CD set of Dark Magus: Miles Davis at Carnagie Hall for which I have been faunching for a while now, so I am very pleased.

After a bit more than two weeks of feeling good, C's side-effects have resurfaced, so he's twitchy and itchy and anxious again, but still capable of assuming silly expressions while gargling. He and K are off at an A's game, and happy: it's Miguel Tejada Bobble-Head Day at the Oakland Coliseum (I refuse to call it by that paid-for advertisement that passes as its name these days), the rain has cleared up, K's looking forward to eating ballpark nachos, and life is good all the way around.

I cut my first bouquet of the season from the garden this morning: roses and Dutch irises, now sitting in a bowl on the dining-room table. Off to lead the monthly workshop, eat chicken pot pie, and generally enjoy the day. Hope you do, too.

22 april 2003

From Rock and Rap Confidential Date: 4/18/2003 11:06:32 AM Pacific Daylight Time 
Steve Rosenbaum, a NYC television producer. 

At 8:15 Monday Morning Today Show host Mat Lauer introduced the controversy that has been kicked up by the cancellation of the 15th anniversary of Bull Durham at the Baseball Hall of Fame. 

In a letter made public on Wednesday, Dale Petroskey, the President of the Hall, suggested that his venue was not the appropriate venue for a highly charged political expression. 

Lauer then introduced Tim Robbins, who along with his wife Susan Sarandon, had had their initiations revoked. 

Lauer quizzed Robbins on free speech, and pointedly asked Robbins if he had planned to use the Hall of Fame event as a platform for a political statement. Robbins said 'of course not.' 

The discussion went back in forth for a few minutes, with Lauer being neither accommodating nor confrontational. And Robbins' responses were equally measured. But Robbins did end up saying things that have hardly been heard since before the war began. "The message is if you speak out against this administration you can and will be punished" Robbins explained. 

"We're sending out messages on an almost daily basis that they have no right to protest against this President" said Robbins. To which Lauer responded with a question about the Dixie Chicks and their controversial comments against the President. Robbins responded - pointing to the fact that the protest and banning of the Dixie Chicks was by Clear Channel Radio and it's connection with the Bush Administration. This conversation was unheard of in the current environment. Robbins was talking serious politics on a morning chat show - and clearly hackles went up. By 8:24 Robbins was explaining "We're fighting for freedom for the Iraqi people right now so that they can have freedom of speech, yet we're telling our own citizens they have to be quiet" 

Lauer could have called it quits there -but he went on "When you see pictures of Iraqi's dancing and celebrating - does it change your mind?" "No" Said Robbins - "I'm ecstatic that they feel this freedom, I hope we have the resolve to get in there and make it work." 

It was at this point that something happened that has perhaps never happened before in the history of morning television. 

The music swelled under Robbins... Mid-sentence answering a question that had been asked just 10 seconds earlier... "We have a terrible track record" said Robbins, clearly not able to hear that music was coming up to literally 'play him off the stage'. 

The camera cut to a wide shot. Lauer was leaning in and very much in conversation. Either Lauer was ignoring what must have been the deluge of invectives in his earpiece, or he just determined that he wasn't finished with this line of questioning. 

But the music ended. The bumper music ended and the studio was in the two shot as Robbins said... "It's for some reason not in our best interest to keep it going and pursue it to the next level." Lauer nodded, and the camera faded to black as Robbins - mid sentence - had his microphone turned down. 

A conversation about free speech. An anchor asking reasonable questions. A guest responding in equally reasonable tones. No attempt to close out the discussion - to say "Well thank you Tim". This was not a filibuster. Robbins was not hogging the spotlight. Someone in the control room simply decided that it was time to pull the plug. And without grace or ceremony, or even the face saving of letting Lauer say "We're out of time" as morning shows do on so many occasions. 

A conversation about free speech and free expression was cut off mid sentence as the network went to black. 

Television history was made, as million of Americans got to watch in real time just how powerful and inescapable censorship can be. Robbins wasn't revealing troop locations, or giving aid and comfort to the enemy. Remember the war has been won - by all accounts. He was discussing freedom, free speech, and why his appearance has been canceled at the Baseball Hall of Fame. NBC should invite him back and let him finish his thought - or admit at least who was on the phone to master control demanding that they pull the plug. 

18 april 2003

C's monthly check-up at UCSF happened last Wednesday, and went well. They confirmed that the level of virus in his system is zero, zip, zilch -- or near enough to it as to be zero etc. -- and that he will remain in the program for the remainder of the 48 weeks. This continued treatment helps make sure the virus doesn't recur, so we're all for it.

In some ways it makes the side-effects easier  to bear, knowing that the treatment is working. In other ways it makes it more difficult: he's virus free, after all, so the bumps and rashes and anxieties and insomnia and hyperactivity and headaches and traces of melancholy all somehow seem beside the point, although we know they're not. 

K continues her rush to complete all her high school units by the end of May, so that we are clear to take her graduation-present trip to New York. She and I have our plane reservations, hotel bookings, and orchestra tickets to Cabaret all lined up and ready to go -- as are we.

Spam of the week:  I.L.L.E.G.A.L  P.E.E.I.N.G  T.E.E.N.A.G.E.R.S

16 april 2003

"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children... This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron." Dwight D. Eisenhower

14 april 2003

This is the one-year anniversary of the death of my sister's partner Jerry. Jerry was a fire captain, and died of a very fast-moving pancreatic cancer -- cancer seems to be the fate of many of the firemen of Jerry's generation, who did most of their work before adequate protective gear was common,  and often before the long-term bad effects of the smoke from some burning materials (plastics, etc.) were fully understood.

Jerry worked in the Bay Area but his home was Sutter Creek, and that's where he was buried. The funeral was attended by at least 150 firefighters, policemen, etc., and as many townfolk; his station emptied and all the firefighters came up, together with firefighters from San Francisco to Santa Rosa, from the Mother Lode to Sausalito. Many fire engines and trucks, lights flashing and sirens moaning as we drove along Highway 49. A fly-over by a Medevac helicopter and one of those big brute Army copters. Cops stopping traffic and saluting as we went by. My sister and one of Jerry's friends rode with K and me, in the car behind Jerry's mother and kids near the front of the cortage -- it felt strange to have my little white Maxima saluted so often, and so seriously. Flags in the town at half-mast. Tourists along the street pulling hats from their heads and watching. The lead fire truck draped in black bunting, with Jerry's turnouts hanging, empty, on the back and nobody riding in the Captain's seat. A small, rocky Gold Rush cemetery. Cold wind and bright blue sky. Bagpipes. 

By the time the funeral home part was over and the cemetery part was over and we were back at the house eating and drinking, every man there sported dark glasses, both inside and out under the trees. The geese yelled and waddled through the grass, chased by toddlers. My sister, bless her, kept on keeping on. 

Boxelder bug 12 april 2003

Well, there's one mystery solved. My huge, beautiful tree is a boxelder (often classed with maples because of the leaf structure), which I finally figured out by clipping a twig with a few leaves and flowers, and sitting down with it and with the Audubon Field Guide to Western Trees. 

It's a female box elder.

Which means that the bugs that infest the backyard (see left) are boxelder bugs. According to the midwestern websites I've checked, they are a nuisance, especially if they find they way inside a house, but are otherwise innocuous. Huh. 

The good news is that, apparently, I can control the ones on the ground with an application of  laundry detergent mixed with water. The bad news is that if I really want to go after them full-tilt, I should have the tree sprayed at least once a year by a professional. The really bad news is that if I want to try to get rid of them, the tree should come down. This is so not going to happen: that tree is my comfort and shelter from the elements, its branches full of birds and the sound of wind in its leaves like surf on a long, sandy beach. It shelters the back building from too much sun, and shelters me, too, and one of the great solaces of the summer is to retreat into the sky-chair I have hung from a branch of the tree and hang out there with iced tea, a book or magazine, and the sound of birds and wind.

The bugs and I will come to some arrangement. We always do.

11 april 2003

There ought to be a law. Or if not a law, then a test. That's it, a test people have to pass before they're allowed to drive during commute hours. Especially on Fridays. Especially on Friday evenings. Yes! That's the ticket: no non-commuting civilians on the roads between 4:00pm and 8:00pm on Fridays, ever ever ever. And I don't want to hear any crap about late appointments and early theatre tickets, either. They can either be early, or be late, or get a room. 

"Ooooh, looook, we must beeee innnnn the countreeeeee.  Loooooook! There's a mooooooo cowwwww!  Oooops! Loooook, twooo laaaanes! Howwww quaint! I'm going to use booooooth of them! Ooooooh!  Rooooaaaad killll!  Ewwwwwwwww. Birdie!"

You know what these people are? They are tampons in the flow of traffic, that's what they are.

I'm being moderate. I don't think they should be taken out and shot. That wouldn't be fair. That would be extreme. No, I think they should just be taken out and locked up, and released at some time when they can't possibly get back on the road during commute hours.

Second offense, no car keys for a week.

Third offense, they've got to move to Nevada.


This is a photo of the
blossoms and new leaves
on the huge maple in our
back yard. I thought the tree
was a silver maple, but the
flowers are dissimilar.

Any help with identification
will be gratefully received.

6 april 2003

Sunday evening again: Pegasys injection night. We've had a busy and productive couple of days; one reason C chose to inject on Sunday nights is that we could have the weekend together at the end of his side-effects cycle. For the most part, this works well although there are some side-effects which seem to come and stick, regardless of the injection schedule.

The weather's been strange. It's a beautiful spring. The apple is blooming, the persimmon has leafed out; the big maple in the back yard is covered with blossoms that look like Chinese tassels. Iris and sunrose and rockrose in bloom; wisteria blossoms perfume the front porch;  the Lady Banks rose is still going strong and the other roses are seriously budding; the callas are in bloom again (thank you). The local roads are bright with lupines and California poppies and mustard and wild radish and ice-plant, and magnolias blooming and cherry trees. When the maple is in such bloom it buzzes with the noise of a million bees working the blossoms. Usually I'd try to spend some of the daylight hours outside, but this weekend has been clear and blue and decorated with a frigid wind. So instead of spending time outdoors, I did a thorough spring-cleaning on the 55-gallon aquarium: vacuumed up fish crud, threw out the old greenery, scrubbed algae off rocks, scrubbed algae off the tank walls – at all looks bright and clean and fresh in there, and the fish are thoroughly intimidated. Cooper was fascinated by this entire process: the combination of water and fish almost more than he could stand.

This upcoming week promises to be an exhausting one: three on-line classes start, we have a new secretary/receptionist coming in tomorrow and I will need to train her; a new client who wants to "meet the team" comes in on Tuesday; also on Tuesday the Hybrid goes in for an oil change (she uses some strange kind of oil) so I'll drive C's Maxima to work. I agreed to serve as a judge for a young-adult s.f. writing contest and need to turn in comments on the stories, which I read this week-end. I'm tired just thinking about it, but this isn't odd – I seem to be tired much of the time these days. But (brighten up) Mapping Winter is off at another agent's who promises to get back to me by the coming week-end, and I am, as always, interested in the sorts of students I'll find on-line. As my first mother-in-law once told me, "It's a great life if you don't weaken."

Off to help my beloved stick himself with a needle. 

2 april 2003

a letter to the editor of the Santa Rosa Press Democrat:

Editor: In an April 1 letter, T.J. Vecchio says that continued opposition to the war "only serves now to aid the enemy" and that such continuing opposition is irrational. I am puzzled by this assertion.

So if one believes that this military adventure is badly-conceived, motivated by self-interest, and damaging to America and its people, it's okay to say this only to the point when the military adventure starts, after which ... it becomes well-conceived, unselfish, and helpful for America because it is ... what? Happening? Once it starts, it's okay? I'm afraid the logic just fuzzes out for me here. Follow this far enough, and bank robbery becomes acceptable once the bank is actually being robbed; lying is bad in contemplation but fine in commission. 

I suspect that what T.J. Vecchio actually means is that once the fighting starts, we should voluntarily abridge our First Amendment rights. The idea that we can preserve our American freedoms by not exercising them is another puzzling assertion. In order to defeat an enemy, we should become like them?

I need an aspirin.

Marta Randall

1 april 2003

UCSF says: 
"Almost undetectable viral load."

It worked.

1 april 2003

A Washington Post reporter embedded with the Army's 3rd Infantry Division reported that a vehicle approached a U.S. checkpoint carrying 15 people and that 10 of them -- including five children who appeared to be under 5 -- were killed by American soldiers at that checkpoint.

"You just [expletive] killed a family because you didn't fire a warning shot soon enough!" the reporter quoted the captain as yelling at the platoon leader.

"On the battle field we have this phenomenon called 'fog of war,'" CENTCOM spokesman James Wilkinson said. "We continue to see reports from embedded reporters that have discrepancies from our headquarter's reports. What I can tell you is that right now as we speak, we are working to reconcile this."

An army medic said, "It was the most horrible thing I've ever seen, and I hope I never see it again."

"They absolutely did the right thing," Pace, a Marine, in an interview on PBS' The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer.

This is K at age 10, with lorikeet. At times like this, I need to look at her.


Can you say

incestuous amplification?

I knew you could.

30 march 2003

I learned an interesting term this morning: "incestuous amplification," defined by Jane's Defense Weekly as "a condition in warfare where one only listens to those who are already in lock-step agreement, reinforcing set beliefs and creating a situation ripe for miscalculation."

The term showed up in a column by Paul Krugman of The New York Times, discussing Dick Cheney and the California energy crisis. (For those with short memories, in the spring of 2001 the cost of natural gas in this state skyrocketed: there followed brownouts and blackouts, business closures, and a disastrous budget deficit as the state government bargained for the means to keep California running. One of the major players in this megilleh was Enron – remember them?) Cheney led an energy task force to investigate the crisis, which concluded that the emergency was the result of a natural gas shortage and of meddling by bureaucrats and environmentalists: his proposed solution was to subsidize the energy business and pull the plug on environmental regulation.

Cheney refused to make the proceedings of his task force public, even when subpoenaed by the GAO (which then faced threats, after the mid-term elections, of having its funding cut; the subpoena disappeared).  Because the task force papers are unreleased, we must look to outside information for the force's make-up, but it appears that Cheney consulted only other energy executives. Incestuous amplification.

As it turned out, important parts of the solution to California's energy crisis were energy conservation by individuals (which Cheney had derided as nothing more than a "sign of personal virtue") and price controls (also mocked by the task force). Within months of the Cheney report's release, we were advised of a long-term energy capacity glut, and analysts down-graded energy company stocks . Unfortunately, the effect on California's budget has not been so easily resolved. *

A report issued recently by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission concludes that the California energy crisis was due to pervasive market manipulation: "California's power shortages," Klugman summarizes, "were largely artificial, created by energy companies to drive up prices and profits." **

So we have a situation in which oilmen investigated the doings of oilmen, and concluded that the oilmen couldn't be to blame. Incestuous amplification. Great phrase.

Klugman goes on to relate the term to the current Iraqi crisis, specifically to such Cheney gems as his belief that the Iraqi people will welcome American troops with open arms. And he concludes with a solemn warning: the Bush administration has come up wrong on energy, the economy, and the budget, and now looks to be coming up wrong on the war, too. "But political muscle has insulated them from any adverse consequences. So they, and the country, don't learn from their mistakes – and the mistakes keep getting bigger."


* California's governor was then, and still is, a Democrat; the majority of Californians did not vote for George W. Bush.

** Gasoline prices in California briefly skyrocketed before the start of GWII, and have now dropped a little. During this time, the amount of available oil has not fallen and the cost of crude has not gone up: we're looking at the oilmen playing us like suckers once again.

28 march 2003

You've got to try this: take a bunch of asparagus -- preferably thick ones. Break off the woody ends. Put them in a single layer in a baking dish, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt or kosher salt and roll them around until they are both nubbly and slippery. Bake at 475 for 5-15 minutes depending on the thickness of the stalks. If you like to twitch your cooking, you can roll them around a time or two while they are baking. Serve piping hot. You may never steam asparagus again.

27 march 2003

The image to the left came from the latest batch of K's shots for photo class; Cooper the Reprehensible in one of his favorite spots. I confess that one exasperated morning, after he had leaped into the sink as I was rushing to get ready for work, I lost my temper and turned on the water. He couldn't have been happier, writhing about to stick his head under the faucet. He lurks on the toilet tank to watch the water swirl; he likes to participate in showering activities. No dish can be washed without his supervision. He has fur between his toes and a tail the size of a baseball bat. He is Very Strange.

So is Patch, aka Weederman, who looks and acts like the Evil Amazon Queen from a 1950s sciffi epic. That's a look of contempt, by the way: That one. Flay him and bring him to my room. Likes to entice innocent humans to pet her, then offers to eat their faces.

I'm waiting for a photograph of Decibel, the world's loudest and most elegant cat -- so naturally skinny she looks like a SuperModel. 

It's a times like this that I remember that we live in a small house.

26 march 2003

C had his monthly appointment at UCSF this morning. 

They drew a zillion gallons of blood: one test on same will determine whether he remains in the program. They are looking for a zero HepC virus count: this first test looks for a gross number. If the count has dropped below a certain point, they will take another test in two weeks to determine  a more precise number. If his viral count has not dropped below the first threshhold level, he will have to leave the program; if he meets the first threshhold level but not the second, he will leave the program two weeks later. If the viral count is below both threshholds, he remains in the program and on the medications until the end of the entire 48-week period.

It seems strange, that if his viral count shows that he no longer has the HepC virus, he remains under treatment, but there is a method to all this: if he is responding to the treatment, another 20+ weeks of it will help assure that the virus does not come back. If he is not responding to the treatment, then it's time to try something else.

So we're left in a strange position. First, we won't know the results of the viral test for a week, and we need to remember to breathe. Second, if he's no longer in treatment he won't be experiencing the side-effects that currently beset him (we're back to anxiety again, among other things), but if he's no longer in the program we will have to explore other options to treat the disease. Third, continuing treatment is cause for celebration, but it might be more trying to cope with the side-effects knowing that his HepC is, essentially, gone. 

Up one side of the roller-coaster, down the other.

23 march 2003

Fertilized the roses today (better late than never, right?) All 27 of them  -- love those Jobe fertilizer spikes. Lots of fresh growth out there, buds opening on the Lady Banks rose, the wisteria starting to open, the recently-planted nasturtiums under the Silver Maple doing well. When I went out this morning, a dutch iris sported a huge closed bud; during the course if the day it opened to a bright yellow and white flower. It felt like a present.



22 march 2003

To keep my mind off of things that make me furious, I thought I'd list the books I've read in January and February.

O'Hanlon, Redmond - Into the Heart of Borneo - Wonderful, funny, touching, entrancing. I recommend this one unreservedly.
Quammen, David - Wild Thoughts from Wild Places - Essays reprinted from Outside Magazine. Quammen is an entertaining writer although I think these essays are too short to carry the impact that they should.
Halprin, Mark - Memoir from an Antproof Case - Slog, slog, slog. Kept with it only because I was on vacation and had read through everything else. 
Grabien, Deborah - Famous Flower of Serving Men - draft of Grabien's recently finished mystery-with-ghostly overtones, and lots of fun.
Roberts, Nancy - The Girl in the Mini - draft of Roberts' memoir about touring Britain in the 70s, in an aging second-hand Mini. This is a wonderful, engaging book, part travelogue and part commentary on the times and the place, and deserves to be beautifully published to great publicity.
Austen, Jane - Pride & Prejudice (audio) My favorite Austen, and nice to revisit, especially during the long commute.
Kane, Joe - Running the Amazon - From its source down to the Atlantic. Good, funny, true, and very human. Recommended.
Yourcenar, Marguerite - The Abyss - Oh, dear. Probably very important and seminal and all that, but my god, is it a dreary book to plod through.
Smith, Betty - A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (audio) - I was surprised at how untrite this was, and am glad that I listened to it. I now have a range of people and images in my memory that I would not otherwise have had, and I'm glad to see them there – which is about as much as I can ask from a book of this type.

Handke, Peter - A Sorrow Beyond Dreams - A strange little book, in which Handke tries to write a biography of his mother in an attempt to understand her suicide. Among other things, Handke ends up making it obvious how much, in trying to view others, he views himself.
Spoto, Donald - Marilyn Monroe (audio) - A good biography, in which Spoto, like Handke, also views himself (and his infatuation with Monroe) but is far more informative and entertaining. Spoto seems very detailed about her life, and very passionate about those details.
Bourke, Angela - The Burning of Bridget Cleary - Irish politics near the turn of the last century, as illustrated by the exorcism by burning of an Irish woman. Good. Not great, but good.
Frazier, Ian - Great Plains - Frazier is wonderful when he's not trying too hard. 
Auster, Paul - In the Country of Last Things - An awesome book: evocative, touching, cooly passionate, compelling. 
McGregor, Elizabeth - The Ice Child - see comments at 10 February 2003.
McMurtry, Larry - Paradise - See comments at 9 February 2003. I haven't changed my mind about the book -- a waste of time.
Auster, Paul - Leviathan - Young man in New York City has artist friends, gets confused, bombs things.
Kistner, Alzeda Carlisle - An Affair with Africa (audio) - Entomologists in the bush, searching for the bugs that hang out with termites. Not very good, but unintentionally funny. 
Auster, Paul - Moon Palace - Young man in New York City has artist friends, gets confused, doesn't bomb things.
Austen, Jane - Emma (audio) - Not my favorite Austen. The problem with listening to Austen being witty by letting exasperating and/or boring characters speak for themselves, is that you can't skim forward to the next paragraph break, as you can in a printed book.
Burgess, Anthony - A Dead Man in Deptford - God, but I love Burgess. Here's what I said about the book in a discussion at Post & Ripost, the website for The Atlantic magazine:

I loved this book, but I'm a major sucker for Burgess. I found it full of meaning and emotion and action, and toward the end kept putting it down because I didn't want to watch what I knew was going to happen.
Pat says, "Kit [Christopher Marlowe] never conforms except when it's toward his aim, and even then it's only in that Machiavellian way." Except that I think Kit is driven to nonconformity: it is the overthrow of Kit's common sense by his wit and his intelligence, that ultimately drives his tragedy at the book's end.
"A man can be identified with his creation. Create a villain and you become a villain." Burgess is likely talking from experience here. There's always a certain segment of the reading population (probably incapable of imagination themselves) who insist on believing that everything a writer's character says is something that the writer him/herself believes. In a highly charged political atmosphere, such as that of Kit's time and, increasingly, of our own, a writer could easily be hanged for his antagonist's opinions.

"I may be jumping a bit, but I would like it if some members of the group would think about why theatre people and poets were sought after as spies." WS, I suspect it's because players (and the poets who wrote their plays) moved about quite a bit and so had unquestioned reason to enter new situations – and have historically been supposed to have squiffy morals and slender purses, so would be easily bought to spy. In addition, as others have pointed out, actors can assume a role: Kit's role in Rheims foreshadows his playwrighting. It all ties together. Damn, that Burgess was good.

Cate says, "Burgess has a lot of fun in this book." God, yes, drunk on language as usual, and found lolling about in the gutter with a grin on his face and the crumbs of verbs at the corners of his mouth. And so is his Kit, to the point where he seems too often to care more about the quip than the feelings of the quipee – which in the case of Poley and Skeres leads to their happy involvement with Kit's own death (Frizer, I think, was just flat-out jealous of Kit's relationship with Tom W). Drunk on the wine of words and spurning the meat of reason, that's our Kit. 

Irving, Washington: Legend of Sleepy Hollow & Rip Van Winkle (audio) - Yeah, yeah, I know.

20 march 2003

we're bombing iraq.

19 march 2003

Life's a drama again, stage-managed by the side-effects to C's treatment. The Paxil prescribed for anxiety and hyperactivity last January, worked fine for those symptoms but put C to sleep for about 14 hours a day. He's used to being active and productive, so these great stretches of sleep and attendant waking-hour fuzziness were not good. Last month, the Paxil was gradually replaced by Celexa, another SSRI. The transition period went very well (lowered dosage of the Paxil for a week, then a low dosage of the Celexa for another week), but the full strength dose of Celexa has brought some weariness with it, together with more anxiety. So the dosages are being fine-tuned again, and in the meantime C's doing his best to cope with being unfamiliar to himself. He still spends time with his mouth full of gargles meant to alleviate the unpleasantness of the oral sore spots, but it's not as funny as it used to be. 

A problem with all this, over and above the physical and chemically-related psychological side-effects, is that we can't tell what's a "real side-effect" and what can be attributed to the normal everyday exasperation of being human. C didn't sleep well last night, despite the sleepiness of earlier in the week: Celexa's fault, or the fault of tax season, or reaction to worry? No way to tell unless and until it becomes a pattern, but nothing escapes scrutiny and concern, and this very level of care is also draining. 

He was planning to attend the draft meeting for his fantasy baseball league tonight, but realized that he couldn't manage it physically, so while his buds are gathered in convivial middle-aged male joyfulness, slugging back the designer water and insulting each other's draft picks, he's handling it on-line and by phone. The inability to attend is especially trying because he was last year's champion, managing a winning team to victory throughout the season, and I know he wanted to be able to gloat in person. (This league works through an intimidatingly clever computer program that takes everything that happens in the American League through the course of a week, translates it into the doings of each "owner's" individual team, plays the teams against each other, and comes up with winners and losers. Just thinking about the kind of programming this takes, give me hives.)

In my usual unhelpful fashion, I have carried  much of this stress around in my shoulders, which decided to spasm on me today and sent me home to Motrin and a heating pad. No walk, no Lake Merritt, no Jack London Square, no fun. One chorus of "Poor Poor Pitiful Me," if you please. 


17 march 2003

Walked down to Lake Merritt at lunch today. I haven't walked to the lake in two years, although it's not that far away. I've spent the time vegetating in my office instead, but All That is Going to Change, according to my Vernal Equinox Resolution,* which is to Get Off My Ass. So far so good: the equinox isn't until Friday and I've managed two walks last week and one today. Am I good, or what?

I love Lake Merritt. It's very much an Oakland kind of place: coots being coot-like on the water; seagulls alternately crooning and screaming; every walking and jogging style imaginable, including my own determined clomp. Tiny black and Asian kids on bikes, wobbling along the path wearing helmets bigger than their own heads. The stables where the horse cops keep their horses. Occasional dead bodies in the shrubbery. The bird sanctuary. Corporadoes in walking shoes, exercise buffs in very little at all (it's a great place to admire pecs and calf muscles, is the Lake). Wonderful old apartment buildings across the road from the lake. Sometimes I catch a glimpse of the high ceilings and beautifully proportioned rooms, and then I fantasize about living in one of them. 

Since my last walk by the Lake, the big stucco wall is gone from the front of Children's Fairyland, so that you can look in at the plaster houses and rides. I remember being taken there as a child, and taking my own kids there when they were little. It's strange to be able to look right into it; almost like peeping. Blush. In addition, the Clarion Suites Lake Merritt has been completed. They have built the place so that the part of the hotel fronting the lake, with what should be the best view, is not a restaurant or bar or guest rooms, but an enclosed parking garage. What were they thinking of? Where they thinking? 


* I've decided that the "New Years Resolution" business is hokum: there's nothing to prompt it save the arbitrary turning of a calendar page and the optimistic belief that at some point the days will lengthen and it will warm up. God knows there's little in the bleak December to warrant this assumption (although at least there's still the memory of autumn to go on, unlike Dismal February which is pretty much useless (except for some family birthdays) and gives rise to a belief that spring is a cruel hoax). No, I have turned my back on such things and am putting my money on the Vernal Equinox as a good resolution-time: the days are longer, flowers are blooming, little birds are singing, and this turning over a new leaf business makes more sense when there's all that real-life new-leaf-turning business going on.

14 march 2003

Obviously somebody high in California Government Circles is reading this journal: according to today's San Francisco Chronicle, Gov. Davis is investigating the price of gas in this state. Petroleum gas, presumably, and not political gas. In this case, one makes political hay from petroleum gas, which is a pretty nifty bit of transformative magic.

Had dinner with my close friend earlier this week. We went through old photo albums making fun of everybody, including ourselves; she made me a copy of the thing to your left. Marta in the Smug 70s, being smug. My friend says that's the look I get when I have pulled off a particularly outrageous bit of linguistic silliness.

13 march 2003

On the political front: there are two Shell stations in Novato, northern Marin  County, just off highway 101. I pass each of them twice a day during the commute. At the low-class, cheap joint, regular gas is now $2.49.9 a gallon. The pricier joint wants $2.51.9 per gallon. What fries me about this is that as far as I can tell, the supply of gasoline has not decreased in the past month; there's no shortage; nobody's declared an embargo. There is, in fact, no reason other than greed  for gas prices to have risen at this rate. This is what we get when we allow oilmen to run the country. But don't look at the gas prices, look at Saddam! He's a bad guy! You just keep staring, and never mind that I'm shouting in your ear and stealing your wallet at the same time.

On the side-effects front: logorrhea and sore spots in the mouth. We presume that these are coincidental.

9 march 2003

I've been getting a giggle out of this love duet which, interestingly enough, I can no longer make to work at its original site. Enjoy.

7 march 2003

My sensible little Honda Civic Hybrid sports a home-made sticker in the back window that says NO WAR. Yesterday after work, I found a sticky note on my windshield in which someone with surprisingly non-fanatical handwriting tried to convince me that without war, there can be no freedom. Where do people come up with such  fuggheaded opinions, anyway?

5 march 2003

Had lunch with my wonderful 84-year-old writing student today. As we left the Rotunda in downtown Oakland, we were passed by hordes of high school kids marching to protest the war. Did our hearts good to see it, even though some of them weren't quite sure what to shout and didn't seem averse to ignoring an old lady in their way. Most of them appeared cognizant and committed, but some appeared mostly to be enjoying taking the day off from school (rumor has it that today is the day the school administers the Dreaded Exit Exam). Our temp secretary/receptionist  reports that she was sitting outside at lunch when a bunch of kids went by: they couldn't manage to chant in unison, engaged in a moment of confused silence, then began shouting "No Justice, No Peace" which seemed rather contrary to the spirit of events. Also, another group tried to sing the "Bomb Iraq" song* but while the group as a whole was unsure about the verse, they all knew the chorus so "Bomb Iraq" was the only loud, in-sync part that could be heard. I said to my friend, "Gangbangers Against the War?"

But every voice matters and every little bit helps, say I. 


* If You're Happy and You Know It Bomb Iraq, by John Robbins

If you cannot find Osama, bomb Iraq.
If the markets are a drama, bomb Iraq.
If the terrorists are Saudi,
And your alibi is shoddy,
And your tastes remain quite gaudy,
Bomb Iraq.

If you never were elected, bomb Iraq.
If your mood is quite dejected, bomb Iraq.
If you think that SUVs,
Are the best thing since sliced cheese,
And your father you must please,
Bomb Iraq.

If the globe is quickly warming, bomb Iraq.
If the poor will soon be storming, bomb Iraq.
We assert that might makes right,
Burning oil is a delight,
For the empire we will fight,
Bomb Iraq.

If we have no allies with us, bomb Iraq.
If we think that someone's dissed us, bomb Iraq.
So to hell with the inspections,
Let's look tough for the elections,
Close your mind and take directions,
Bomb Iraq.

If corporate fraud is growin', bomb Iraq.
If your ties to it are showin', bomb Iraq.
If your politics are sleazy,
And hiding that ain’t easy,
And your manhood’s getting queasy,
Bomb Iraq.

Fall in line and follow orders, bomb Iraq.
For our might now knows no borders, bomb Iraq.
Disagree? We’ll call it treason,
It's the make war not love season,
Even if we have no reason,
Bomb Iraq. 


1 march 2003

Beautiful, sunny weather. Buds opening into bloom on fruit trees, black callas lurking in the driveway, the sound of mating cats at night.  Ah, spring. We bought seed potatoes today. I think I'll put on long sleeves and tall gloves and clear the weeds out of one of the raised beds.

In honor of the season, herewith a link to one of my favorite scientific websites: Peeps Research

My mother was discharged from the hospital late last week and appears to be doing well. C hasn't popped any new side effects in the past few days; the switch in his medication is going smoothly. Fingers crossed, please.

The first Barnes & Nobel s.f. writing course is winding down. I don't think I've mentioned these before. B&N contracted with Gotham Writers Workshop to produce, among others, a "Start Writing Science Fiction" on-line workshop. I've taught SF writing through Gotham for a while now; I developed the course materials (lectures, exercises, etc.) and lead the classes. There are four of them a year, each lasting for ten weeks, and for the most part the student population has been of pretty good quality. The course covers everything from finding ideas through characterization, dialog, world-building, etc.

I developed the curriculum for B&N late last year, concentranting primarily on world building. This curriculum also differs from the Gotham curriculum in that it is designed so that anyone can teach it (the Gotham course is far more individual), is presented in four weeks of  two lessons per week, and can have, they tell me, up to 100 students at a time, if not more. Rather daunting, but the work I do is not as in-depth as for Gotham. B&N offered the first course in February, and for the most part it went very well.

I've signed up for two more months with B&N. The pay's good, and it, together with the Gotham class and  my long-term f2f workshop and my job, keep me more than busy.