Aug 25 2014

First Day of First Grade

Look at that big kid!


Aug 24 2014


Because I’m getting e-mails and phone calls, let me say very quickly: yes, we felt the earthquake, but it was really mild here. I woke up, Sam didn’t. I could tell that it was either quite strong or quite close though, just from the duration of the shaking and the way the windows rattled. My thoughts are definitely with the residents of Napa.

But we are just fine.

Aug 23 2014

Flash Fiction: “Disclaimer”

“Do you ever worry that you’ve got…Earthling B.O.? Our Andromeda Body Spray(Galactic TM) will clear that right up for you! Smell as fresh as a nebula and as heroically well-muscled as a Gnorn! The knack-lings will swoon for you in…Andromeda Body Spray(Galactic TM)!”

Side effects may include but are not limited to: dizziness, drowsiness, weight gain, Terran olfactory syndrome, heart failure, weight loss, being devoured alive by knack-lings. Offer void where prohibited. Andromeda BodySpray(Galactic TM) is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Greater Knack-brood Corp.

Please consult your doctor before applying Andromeda Body Spray(Galactic TM). Contents not manufactured within the Andromeda Galaxy. Sentient beings reading this disclaimer are required to note that this communication and all related promotional materials are governed by the Gnorn/Knack-brood Peace Treaty of SSY 540 Million. Any Gnorn reading this communication is required to submit itself at once to the nearest Peace Center for immediate incubation. Ignorance of the law is no excuse. In the event that no Peace Center is available within the nearest 125 light years, Gnorn are required to self-incubate with a mixture of organic brain slurry and the nearest knack-lings to hand.

Please further note: as per Her All-Devouring Majesty’s decree of SSY 539.999 Million, knack-lings are ALWAYS to hand, in all parts of the multiverse heretofore or yet to be discovered. Knack-lings may be described in local lingo by such common terms as “ktashvish,” “pluuuarrrrghemon,” or “ear-wigs.” You may proceed to self-incubate.

Any sentient and sapient being continuing to read this disclaimer has failed to submit to the Sub-Neural Protocol of SSY 539.9998 Million. In the likely event that your species has yet to be contacted by the Knack-Brood Dominion (may the stars never set upon it) please have your law-grubs contact our law-grubs at your earliest convenience. Mutually beneficial trade networks and many free samples await your communique. You may already be a winner. Let’s do lunch.

Aug 19 2014

On the Sonoma Coast

We are just back from a long weekend at a beach house with Nanita, Markie, and Aunt Judy! The kids enjoyed hiking, tide-pool investigating, and a visit to historic Fort Ross. I enjoyed all those things as well, plus the luxury of having my extended family around to help out with the children. For once the adults actually had the kids outnumbered! There was always someone to rock a fussy baby to sleep, or read stories to the bigger kids, or just to keep a watchful eye out while they all ran around. I reflected (and not for the first time) that humans really aren’t meant to raise kids in these isolated nuclear-family units: my mother the anthropologist told me that in some societies the word for “mother” and “aunt” is the same, because traditionally all the women of the family would be living and raising their kids together. We love our home in Oakland, but the one enduring regret I have is that we weren’t able to arrange things so that we ended up living closer to our families.

It was a great vacation though. Robin befriended a seagull, who he named Dread Pirate Seagull. This is not the Dread Pirate Seagull, but sometimes he would come and perch on the carving:


The coast was rocky and the surf very cold, so there was no swimming, but the kids enjoyed the beach anyway:


And Sol took command of Fort Ross:


(Which is a very interesting place by the way, although its history is laced with pain. It was a Russian outpost until 1842, first as a base for sea otter hunting and fur trading, and then—after the otters had been hunted almost to extinction—as an agricultural base meant to supply the Russian colonies in Alaska. The Russians brought down Aleuts from Alaska to help with the otter hunting, and many of these ended up marrying Native Californian women: but the Indian laborers were cruelly exploited, a practice that continued even after the Russians sold the fort to John Sutter and the site was turned to a lumber operation.)


I took tons of pictures but most of them were of lichen or fenceposts or little wildflowers. Or all three:


Anyway, we had a great time and we’re glad to be home!

Aug 7 2014

Daily Science Fiction: Totally Recommended

So I recently signed up for the Daily Science Fiction mailing list, where they e-mail you a short (usually 1500 words or less) science-fiction story every morning. It is free! I don’t know why I didn’t do this ages ago!

Here’s an excerpt from today’s story, “A Note to Parents Regarding the Beginning and End of Time Diorama Presentations for Ms. Miller’s Third Grade Class”:

Dear Parents,

It’s diorama time again, and I thought I would send home a few notes for parents about this annual project. While your child is encouraged to approach this project creatively, there are a few ground rules that will help ensure success—as well as the safety of the class.


If your child chooses Eternalism or “brick time” he or she may not use marshmallows, M&Ms, or any other food item to illustrate the discrete blocks of time. Also, while space-time may be infinite, the dioramas are meant to be a representation to demonstrate your child’s knowledge of the beginning and end of time. Keep in mind that we have sixteen students in the class and all their dioramas must fit on two tables.

Any dioramas depicting N-dimensional space-time, or “time foam,” must not infinitely generate soap bubbles (it creates a terrible mess).

I would recommend restricting any diorama to 6 to 8 dimensions, even if standard string theory’s 12 dimensions are achievable, the results are both difficult to view and, in reality, cannot be contained within the confines of the class. Although it has never happened, we would hate to lose a child to another dimension on diorama day.

I don’t know how they make enough money to pay their authors (because they do pay their authors, which is awesome), but I hope they keep it up, as the stories are fun and just the right length to be a quick daily dose of imagination and possibility.

Aug 3 2014

23rd Oaklanders

Did I mention I started a new Scout troop? I think maybe I didn’t mention that.


I had a really good experience as a Girl Scout when I was a kid, and Sam has very fond memories of his days in the Boy Scouts—Troop 420, I kid you not. (I understand their number has since been retired, but he’s still got the t-shirt.)

Unfortunately, due to the discriminatory policies of the Boy Scouts of America, I refuse to support that organization. But I still really want my boys to have that traditional Scouting experience, sooooo…we started a new chapter of the Baden Powell Service Association! The BPSA is co-ed and does not discriminate on any basis, but the program goes back to the original principles and practices established by Lord Baden-Powell in 1907. It’s very old-school, wilderness-focused Scouting, with badges and neckerchiefs and the whole nine yards. Kids 5-7 get to be Otter Scouts, kids 8-10 are Timberwolves, and kids 11-17 are Pathfinders; adults are Rovers.

Our new troop is the 23rd Oaklanders BPSA Scout Group, and we had our first meeting today! It went really well—the kids were great, and they seemed to get into the program pretty easily. We had them tying knots and singing Scout songs, and we took them on a walk through Joaquin Miller park up to Lookout Point. They looked adorable in their little uniforms. So far we’ve got an Otter Raft and a Timberwolf Pack: Sam is leading the Otters and I’m leading the Timberwolves, with lots of help from other parents. There seems to be a ton of interest locally in the BPSA program.

Our next meeting will be on August 17th in Tilden Park—we’re going to walk around Jewel Lake and talk about otters and their habitats. Did you know otters are making a big comeback locally? I did not, until I started planning activities for a group of Otter Scouts!