alert and healthy natures remember that the sun rose clear

Pretty Good, Not Bad, Can’t Complain

“How’s California?” “Good, warm, we have lemons in the back yard.”


I’ve been having this exchange often, so for anyone who wants more detail…

Since we moved from England to California last autumn, there have been two major seasons in the San Francisco area. 1) Rain. So much rain. Epic-drought-ending rain. Accompanied by many, many drips of thoughts about how I’d rather be in rainy Cambridge if it was going to rain all the time. This era also included the brief interlude of Election, which further drowned my spirit. 2) Allergies from all the happy flowers that loved the stupid rain. Billions of bright showy flowers. Not the sweet little English snowdrops in chuchyards that signal winter’s end. No, absolutely fascinating and eye-scouring pink bottlebrush, orange poppies, yellow sourgrass and mustard. It was a never-ending flower flu.


Foraging with the family. Why!? The mustard is laughing at me.

So, I’ve been at a disadvantage in enjoying my new habitat. I’ve been exhausted, snot-filled, depressed, homesick for England, homesick for the east coast, and just generally blah.

But I feel the new life growing. Not like gaudy spring flowers. (I secretly adore them but don’t want to reward their pollenous behaviors.) But like our first-ever garden with its knobbly green tomatoes and awkward rows of kale. Life-veg includes: funny geeky new friends, blue skies, free toes in sandals, magical little bits of San Francisco, hills, our kitschy neighborhood, open-armed Unitarians, and churros.


Garin hills, about 15 minutes from our front door.

It’s not a bold leap into the future, but I’m crawling that way. I’m starting to feel less overwhelmed, more inspired to make some necessary changes. There are events to look forward to. And supportive friends. And fuzzy cats.


Me, all winter. Cats don’t judge.

That’s the skinny. Or would be, except for all the churros. Let me know if you have any questions about life in sunny (hah) California. Now that I’m emerging from hibernation I also want to share more sailing stories from last summer – the Captain is returning to Newfoundland soon to sail Rincewind back to the Chesapeake Bay. Stay tuned for adventures old and new.

Modern Blues



Modernity is dark and serious and blue. And Fantasia was ahead of its time.


Bonus podcast: Future Screens are Mostly Blue, 99 Percent Invisible.

“…in our representations of the future in science fiction movies, blue seems to be the dominant color of our interfaces with technology yet to come. And that is one of the many design lessons we can learn from sci-fi.”

Pity Party

I am sad. I have been sad since the move to California from England and especially since the election. It’s exhausting and I’m tired of it. SO – inspired by my Aunt Michelle – I will be throwing myself a solo Pity Party on my unfortunately-timed January 20th inauguration birthday.

The homesickness, seasonal depression, and political blues are all tangled up in a heavy knot in my stomach. It’s time to untangle and mourn.

Then Saturday is Fierce Activist Day, in which I take to the streets of San Francisco to express that I rather wish we wouldn’t undo the progress of the last 100+ years – but I’ll be more fierce than that. And Sunday is Profound Gratitude Day, in which I will attempt to refocus on what’s good and where I’m going.

That’s the plan. Stay tuned, if you like.

October 4-Word Book Reviews


Sandman Overture: weird sad fever dream

Ms. Marvel: fun but not subtle

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A Darkling Sea: watery classic first contact

Windswept: rollicking tale of economics!

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Double Entry: first half = fascinating history

Mattie Mitchell, Newfoundland’s Greatest Frontiersman: pure old world badassery

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Flamingo Sanctuary

Scenes from my new California neighborhood, where flamingos roam free. I am in my happy kitschy place!



September Book Review Haiku

Belated September books. I was in the midst of an international move so didn’t have as much relaxing reading time as usual. Sadly, only The Fair Fight caught my fancy.

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Too Like the Lightning, Ada Palmer

Toys are talking what?

Enlightenment fan-girl squee

Too clever by half


Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, Ransom Riggs

Creepy photographs:

Lame excuse for a novel.

Film better than book?


The Fair Fight, Anna Freeman

Fib that cully, girl!

Destroy the piano leg myth,

And make a new friend.


Huh, just realized I pronounce piano with two syllables. Another new discovery via Goodreads: I have only rated four books with a lowly one star. Twilight, March, The Lovely Bones, and Elric “I sense there is tragedy implicit in our love” of Melniboné. My review of latter concludes, “Oh, and there’s a magical anus.”

Port Saunders Rescue Party

From the personal log of s/v Rincewind’s shwabbie as she and the Captain sailed around the northern peninsula of Newfoundland.

August 1, Port Saunders

By the time I was up, tacking out 12mi and back in toward Port Saunders. 5pm sailing past Keppel Island on a broad reach.


Sailing into Port Saunders, graceful as a swan…and the engine won’t start. We’ve had problems before but now black smoke and no water. Managed to motor/jib onto an industrial wharf, coming in scary-fast but thankfully with the help of a man on the dock. But no: “Can’t stay here, setting off fireworks later.” And sure enough there was a line of incendiaries along the pier. We’d seen bunting everywhere in town on our way in – turns out it’s Come Home Week. Every 10 years Pt S has a town-wide family reunion – more on that, but first we had to find a nook for Rincewind.


Morris Ryan, the harbormaster, solved our problem by calling his first cousin who was out on a power boat drinking with his buddies. So, “Skipper Rob,” Andre, Clarence, and George came to our rescue. They were “feeling good,” as Morris put it, so it was a wild ride, but they got us over to pretty much the right place. Morris helped us tie up and took off, but we had a grand gam with the other lads, still drinking on their boat. Impossible to capture the accents and cadence, but the chat ranged from genealogy, hockey (note: do some research before next Canada trip), to moose hunting. Lively group – one of them even peed off the bow of Rincewind!


After the gam and a can of soup for dinner, sure enough: fireworks! Terrific view from the boat.


Then Bill talked me into going to the nightly Come Home dance at the old high school gym – complete with Looney Tunes sports murals and their mascot, a red-eyed cowled Dorset Indian. The band was good, country mostly. We witnessed two local traditions before we left: Seven Ugly Women folk song (men dressed as women) and the Tina Turner lip-sync. We were a bit mystified. Good fun! We even did two “Keppel Island” shots in honor of our safe arrival.


[We were early birds – the party picked up just as we tired sailors headed back.]

Next: Come Home Week, family reunion, historic First Nations trail, shed crawl, handmade boat race…and then a day of doom.




Newfoundland Books

I’m a bit behind on my personal log of summer sailing adventures in Newfoundland, though Bill, Captain of our s/v Rincewind, has kept the official ship blog in good order. And now it’s time to pack for our move from England to San Francisco. I’ll try to get back to the swashbuckling tales soon, but in the meantime: quick notes on ten books I read before and during the trip:

Theatre Of Fish: Travels through Newfoundland and Labrador

Absolutely essential, the book I’d highly recommend to everyone who has confessed, “I don’t know anything about Newfoundland.” The frame of the book is personal to the author, following in the footsteps of a charitable ancestor. Unfortunately for me, his ancestor didn’t spend much time where we were sailing around the Northern Peninsula. But the historical anecdotes are delightful – though often dark – and knowing something about Newfoundland history was an automatic “in” with the locals.

Dictionary of Newfoundland & Labrador

I’m glad I picked this up on a whim in a gift shop. It’s fun! Half an informal dictionary of the Newfoundland language (what’s after happening now, b’y?) and half an encyclopedia of traditional culture. Also highly recommended, especially for anyone traveling there.

The Shipping News

The only famous Newfoundland book, and it never came up in conversation. I’d read it ages ago and didn’t get the chance to re-read until after the trip. My updated impression is that her characters aren’t much like the outport Newfoundlanders we encountered. First, hardly anything of the accent, which I love. And little of the sense of humor and kindness we met with in every port. She does tap into some of the darker history, though, and that most important island preoccupation: the weather.

The Day the World Came to Town: 9/11 in Gander, Newfoundland

Cap’n just told me that this true tale has been turned into a musical! It’s a sweet story about the profound kindness of local folks toward the people stranded in Gander on 9/11. Worth a read, especially when you start getting the feeling that humans deserve to go extinct. (I call these my Meteor Days.)

Death On The Ice: The Great Newfoundland Sealing Disaster Of 1914

This sounds highly specific, but it’s a variation on the particularly Newfoundland theme of government/corporate disregard for the horrifyingly poor working class. Also a good, if sad, yarn. My second-hand copy of the book came with a Reader’s Digest article and photo of the book-owner with the captain of the unfortunate ship.


Hold Fast

Newfoundland coming-of-age story about an outport orphan adapting to a new life in the city. Could be a good intro to the culture if you’re not quite ready to dive into The Shipping News?

Wildlife of the North Atlantic: A Cruising Guide

Indispensable for our cruise, and especially beloved of me for its literary asides – birds of Beowulf! Favorite new bird: fierce white gannets.

Icebergs of Newfoundland and Labrador

Geeeeky! Ergo, loved. Originally a booklet for the iceberg tourist industry, now printed in color with everything you didn’t know you need to know about icebergs.

Rain Drizzle & Fog: The Joys and Sorrows of Newfoundland Weather

I adore weather-talk, but this was intense. Not, as expected, quirky anecdotes but a hardcore weather nerd history. I am in no way being snarky when I say it was perfect bedtime reading when I wanted to fall asleep quickly. What better way to drift off?

Newfoundland and Labrador Book of Musts

Newfoundland doesn’t overflow with guide books, but this was my favorite of the few. The theme of local recommendations makes for quirky lists that reveal what’s valued locally. And there is so much to explore!


Questions? Thoughts? Tall tales? Haiku? Comment away, friends.

And geek out with me on Goodreads!

Personal Log: Woods Island

From the personal log of s/v Rincewind’s shwabbie.

July 29-31, Bay of Islands and up the west coast, Newfoundland

7.29 Recovering from 2:30am airport run. Zzz. Pancakes. More zzz. Evening park walk, watching a wedding rehearsal and mackerel fishing. [Separate events.] Mac’n’cheese dinner. Reading Death on the Ice: The Great Newfoundland Sealing Disaster Of 1914.


7.30 Instead of Corner Brook day, wind good enough to leave Bay of Islands. Lots of hand-steering (v. auto, though Erika is great) and tacking – great sailing. 8:30pm into Woods Island through Scylla and Charybdis rock and shoal. Nice bit of navigating! Snagged a mooring after hailing nearby sailboat Lifestyle – all good. Monica‘s delightful dehydrated chilli w/ rice for dinner + Andy’s blueberry wine – posh! Oh, and jazz on CBC2.





7.31 Pancakes! Then underway around 9am. Strong winds = shwabbie naps. Some Emily and Erika [our autopilot] time while the Captain naps. 5pm passing Trout River on land. Starting to have real engine troubles. Bill installed rebuilt water pump. 5:45pm Official log: “Emily mucked out the head with a butter knife from the galley. Yay” [Not one of my fondest memories from the trip.] Most incredible night. No moon, all the stars and milky way, and phosphorescence like electric sparks around the boat.




[Little did we know what adventures the failing engine would lead to…! Stay tuned…]




Personal Log: Trout River

From the personal log of s/v Rincewind’s shwabbie.

July 28, Trout River, Newfoundland

First stop: Discovery Center for wi-fi. Then a bit of the Green Gardens walk, adding a stone to the cairn. Seemed like a good moose spot but we never did see one.



Lunch in Trout River: partridgeberry scallops!



Trout River cat memorial. Rest in peace, Kibbles.

Walked up to a lookout and could seen an old man scything his garden. On the way down we talked to him but could barely understand a word – the first truly difficult accent. If I hadn’t read at the Discovery Center that “whippersnipping” = weed whacking [“strimming” in England], I would have been completely lost. Old-fashioned real place.



Snagged Tablelands and Woody Point geocaches on the way back, the former in a parking lot but the latter a pleasant waterside walk. All of this, I should say, in the sun. We’ve had the best weather luck this trip.


Final s’mores and then some sleep before taking Mom to the airport at 2:30am.



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