Happy Fourth of July!

Wishing everyone a safe and happy Fourth of July, which in the U.S. is the celebration of the birth of our nation! Let’s celebrate it by keeping our democracy alive and healthy! That’s what I want for America’s birthday! I want truth to prevail. I want all citizens to have an equal right to vote and to obtain justice. I want—well, so many things—but let’s go with this: I want us to work together to fix global climate change, and not keep watching heat waves and wild fires and hurricanes get worse, year after year. Man, if we could just do those things together, it would be a fantastic birthday for America!

Happy Birthday, nation I love!


(We celebrated from down south in Puerto Rico, courtesy of the internet, by watching the Boston Pops live at Tanglewood. Here’s Mavis Staples, photo by Christiana Botic for the Boston Globe.)

The Joy of Tools

I made tomato pie yesterday–inspired by a post on Facebook’s “Not the NY Times Cooking Community” page. I had never heard of such a thing before, but I not only liked it a lot, but I have ideas on how to improve the recipe, which means that it will happen again. The idea is simple: make a pie shell. Put down a (fairly well-packed) layer of ripe tomatoes, followed by about a layer of caramelized onion, a scattering of crisp bacon bits, a quarter cup of chopped fresh herbs… then do it all over again. Then you top the whole thing with a mixture of shredded cheese, mayonnaise, and pimentos, and bake.

The result is nothing like a pizza, but delicious and fresh tasting. Next time Continue reading “The Joy of Tools”

Meet the Mothership

Here at the Star Rigger Ranch (the Boston outpost of the Treehouse), we have made a major addition to our family: a 2010 Winnebago Era campervan, propelled by a Mercedes r/o/c/k/e/t/ diesel engine, with a mere 24-foot parking footprint. In other words, a whale. Hence one of the names we’ve given it: Moby Van. Mostly, we call it the Mothership. Continue reading “Meet the Mothership”

2020 Scree-e-e-ches to a Close

A year ago, I posted on my own blog that I fervently hoped 2020 would be a better year than 2019, which had been personally difficult. That, um, didn’t happen. At least not to the world and the nation. I’m not going to make that mistake again. In fact, I’m not even going to reflect on the obvious about 2020, as we head out to wherever the future takes us. I think I’d rather close out 2020 with dancing robots and Christmas tree-eating goats.

The latest video from Boston Dynamics. I leave it to the viewer to decide whether it’s enchanting or terrifying. I find it a little of both.

And here, from the Boston Globe, the latest in Christmas tree recycling

BTW, I’m saving my real New Year celebration for January 20, when an actual, functional president is sworn into the White House. That’s when the new year starts for me.

No Dogs on the Sofa! And for God’s Sake, Vote!

If there’s one firm rule we have in this house, it’s that the dogs are not allowed on the sofa unless specifically invited. How, then, to explain this:

No dogs on sofa, Jack!

And this:

No dogs on sofa, Duff!

Also, no squirrels are allowed on the porch!

In case you wonder, I’m an emotional tightwire (like many of you), waiting to find out what’s going to happen on  U.S. election day—or, more likely, several weeks after election day. Will we step back from the precipice we’re dancing on? Will we put responsible adults in charge in Washington? Before we all die of Covid or drown in the melting ice caps? Will we save our democracy from our worst impulses?

I can’t stand the wait, and that’s why we’re getting dog pictures on the day before the election.

An Argument for Watching Many Movies

This week I’m so tired I can’t talk about any of the things I’d thought of. I’d thought of telling you about my writing, about my cousin, about eh World Science Fiction convention. They’re all subjects that contain many aspects of interest. I finished a novel, and have to edit some non-fiction, and have so much writing news and I spent five amazing days sitting at my own desk and travelling the world.

Maybe I’ll tell you about my writing next time.

What I want to say this time is short and sweet. Four things. Four simple things.

1. I am through July. This not just a thing. This is a Thing. July and I have a mutually inamicable agreement. I hates it, as a rule. And I’m through it. If I could travel right now, the early wattles would be on the edge of bloom and the big road from here to Sydney will be lined with yellow in a measly two weeks. I have a bus ticket I was supposed to use in May. I intend to pretend to use it in about two weeks. I shall take out pictures from other bus trips to Sydney and I shall let my computer travel down that road for me this year.

2. Canberra has no COVID-19 reported right now. We have the most cases in the whole country to the south of us in Victoria and the second most in New South Wales, which surrounds us. I looked at a map. I then went online and ordered food to stock my cupboards, for there are a lot of people at this stupid moment in human history who carry that stupid with them and ignore closed borders and warnings and face masks. This is how Victoria went from one of the safest places in the world to a place where my cousin died alone, and I am unhappy with stupid, right now. I suspect all of us are. I won’t be happier after her funeral on Wednesday, but I will have said farewell, which is something. She was much older than me and I didn’t see her very often, but she was important, and her mother was important, and, anyway, no-one should have to die alone. I wasn’t going to talk about this. Let me return to not talking about it.

3. I couldn’t see all the planetary alignments tonight. I did see one, and the moon had a halo, and a friend said, “Go outside and take picture.” It was so cold that I put on my superwarm dressing gown. I didn’t care if people saw it. I got through July – I can go outside when it’s that cool. I can and I did and I came inside fairly quickly. I meant to make myself hot chocolate, but I had a glass of water and kept watching…

4. What does one do when overtired and overcold and has got through July safely and needs emotional escape? I could decide between a complete X-Men rewatch or a complete Avengers rewatch, or Stardust. I’m watching all of them. No more than two movies a day, but all of them. Also, I’m willing to add to the list if anyone feels there are things that ought to be on that list. (I don’t normally have access to this many movies, but I have Netflix and Disney+ until life returns to normal, for living alone requires company). By the time I’m finished, winter will be over and the wattle will be here. Yellow on trees in this part of the world is the harbinger of summer. In two weeks, everything will improve.

Creeping Back

I work at a museum in downtown San Francisco. Which is to say, for the last three+ months I have been working from home at a museum in downtown San Francisco: The American Bookbinders Museum. The hiatus, as horrible as it has been for all the cultural organizations around the country and in SF in particular, has permitted our staff of three (myself, our Executive Director, and the Collection Manager) to do a thing that otherwise would have been accomplished much more slowly and around the edges of all the other things that have to get done daily: we have crafted an audio version of the docent-led/self-guided tour.  Just in time, too. The docent tour is an artifact of pre-Covid life: people crowding around the docent, objects being passed from person to person… your basic contagion nightmare. With an audio tour, visitors can learn about the history and processes of bookbinding via earbuds and their phone, in a low-virus-low-risk way.

So well done us, and the minute the City gives us permission to open, all we have to do is open the doors and we’re ready to go, right?

Actually, no. As the Operations Manager, I handle a weird and diverse range of chores from designing our print materials to ordering toilet paper. So I am in charge of reopening, from the purely practical standpoint. You know what we have to do first?

Flush the pipes. We have several notices from the EPA about what has been happening in our pipes over three months of almost no water being run through them. Short form: still water breeds bacteria. So the first thing I do is open all the taps and flush the toilets repeatedly. Since this is California, where the threat of drought is pretty much a given, this feels distinctly chancy, and yet…

Next: dusting and cleaning in the usual way, and then disinfecting. Which, it appears, I’d been doing wrong all these years. You have to leave your wet disinfectant on the surface you are disinfecting for anywhere from 30 seconds to 10 minutes, depending on the disinfectant (the EPA and the CDC will give you charts of dilution and waiting time, and those bleach wipes that I was using before Covid? They’re great, as long as you use one wipe per about 2 square feet. The minute the wipe no longer feels dripping wet, it’s done, pull another one).

When everything in the museum is clean and disinfected, there will be new signage to put up: the “don’t enter if you’re sick” signs and the “maintain 6 feet of distance” signs, and the “wash your hands, and remember to close the lid on the toilet before you flush” signs. And checklists on display everywhere to show when each area was last cleaned.

In a museum with three employees and a relatively unusual subject matter, this may seem like overkill. Some of it is at least as much for the peace of mind of visitors as for us public-facing employees. But really, the more I learn about Covid and what kind of havoc it can leave in its wake, the more I believe you can’t take shortcuts with this stuff.

If you want me, I’ll be spraying things with a 5% bleach solution.