Noticing women mentioning women

I started reading Tamim Ansary’s Destiny Disrupted: A History of the World Through Islamic Eyes with Wikipedia in the other hand to get different perspectives on all the people Ansary mentions and the stories he tells about the history of Islam and various political figures. At some point this evening I got up to the Moghul Empire and while looking up Babur, felt very excited that his diary is famous. I love diaries and memoirs. While you can get a lot from an overview of history, it’s even better to go straight to some original texts. Well, to translations of them. There were a few versions listed online and on Amazon. I was hoping for a recent version for Kindle that would have decent footnotes and that might have left in any racy bits about crushing out on youths in the marketplace. But the only kindle version was from the turn of the last century. Translator Annette S. Beveridge. I bought it and interrupted my reading of Ansary to dive into the textual mind of Babur.

But first there is a 400 page history of Babur by Beveridge. She opens with a description of how Babur learned everything important from his mother Qut-luq-nigar who was well educated and accomplished. And from his grandmother Aisan-daulat and his older sister Khan-zada. About Khan-zada, Annette says tantalizingly, “Her life-story tempts, but is too long to tell; her girlish promise is seen fulfilled in Gul-badan’s pages.” As you can imagine, I immediately interrupt my reading of Beveridge’s introductory explanations of the important women in Babur’s life to look up all of them, Gul-badan, and Beveridge herself, promising myself that if Beveridge doesn’t have a Wikipedia page yet, she will soon.

She did have one and I scurried around adding some corrections to it (it left out that she translated the Baburnama… and she is mentioned in her husband’s article but incorrectly as a translator of Hindu rather than of Persian and Turki) and link-ifying her name elsewhere to point to her article. It turns out she also translated Gulbadan, Babur’s daughter and Akbar the great’s aunt, who wrote the biography of her brother Humayun (the Humayunama) including some of her own and her other relative’s histories.


From Annette’s gloriously boring 400 page preface to her translation of the Baburnama she is revealed as being extremely scholarly, at least it sounds like it! She compares different versions of the Baburnama and is very excited about the Haidarabad Codex.

I may interrupt this book and this blog post now to go read her translation of Gulbadan since in my mind this is basically a 16th century Princess Diary (even if she is writing about her brother).

If you know my interests in history and literature you’ll laugh, because this is so very right up my alley, it’s like catnip for me. (i.e. my projects like Building a Digital Feminary, or my anthology of translations of work by women poets) It will be very interesting to read Gulbadan’s thoughts and Annette’s layers of added meaning as she was a champion of women’s education and, well, at least their right to education (if not to suffrage) as she campaigned to found a women’s college, Hindu Mahila Vidyalaya (School for Hindu Women), later Banga Mahila Vidyalaya. I have no doubt there were hideous colonialist aspects to this, but I also liked reading about her struggles against sexist dudes who wanted to limit women’s education. What I mean though is that whatever mythos she was looking to construct of the elite womanhood of empire, that will likely be revealed in her framing of the Moghul royal women as educated, literary, and “civilizing” influences on the men of the ruling class.

Ansary’s history of the world centered on the Islamic world will be enhanced several layers more deeply by my following these threads of the shadows of the women who by the time it is hundreds of years later and halfway around the world in dusty books, are often left to unnamed roles or relegated to the footnotes. How nice it is to see their names, imagine their lives, and read their translated words. Even when we don’t know their names we know they were there and can work to add them into the dimensions of our mental landscape of history. For me, it is something like an absolute faith or belief — “you were there” and to read some writing like this is deeply validating. (for my own mythos, you might notice, which may be something like, “women can, and do, find each other’s work and make some kind of connection, and pay attention to each other, despite thousands of years of oppression which leads women to do otherwise, across time, cultures, and languages” so that even if I am embedded in the problems of imperialism and translation some form of resistance is there in the process or the result).

Meanwhle, yesterday was Ada’s birthday party, which we all worked a lot to make happen and make it interesting. It was a sort of role playing puzzle game or scavenger hunt in Glen Canyon park. The two teams of teenagers and children ran around the park for hours, guided by Ada and Milo, finding clues, translating the runes and unscrambling the words to give me and Danny (the guardian stone dragons of the hidden amulet) a passphrase. Then, a (confused and confusing, but great) battle between the two teams and the rebels, which was a combat card game a bit like Magic the Gathering, invented and designed by Ada and Milo and drawn by Ada. Puzzles by me, booklet and team badges designed by my sister Laura.


Today the children have been gaming and reading the monster manual all day, and they cooked chocolate chip pancakes for themselves and brought breakfast in bed to Danny, on a tray nicely set up with a bud vase with flowers from the garden. I think Milo may have been the cook and Ada the tray-fixer and flower-picker.

This, on the one morning I sneaked out to the cafe to translate. I am about 2/3 of the way through my raw rough draft of Carmen Berenguer‘s new book Mi Lai which should be published later this year or early next year by Cardboard House Press. It is an exciting book and I’ll have more to say about it soon.

Pak protector in utility vest

Sometimes when I’m bitching about joint pain Danny points out I am probably becoming a Pak protector. Uncanny since I really love wearing vests and eating sweet potatoes and would love to be the superintelligent fighting machine protector of entire planets, ringworlds, or whatever, while fixing and inventing things and reading libraries full of books.

Anyway, someone stole my tool bag which was crammed full of many years full of useful things. My mini soldering iron and my tiny level and well, nearly everything. The less useful tools are in the house in a tool drawer if you feel like coming to take them to complete my inability to fix things. OMG! Anyway, I have been slowly researching and plotting my new tool collection. Everything will be either very nice, and tiny as possible so it fits my hand and is maybe super ergonomic, or old, well made, vintage tools with really nice heft and design that I will magically find in garage sales and flea markets. I may go with the technique of having several canvas rolls with pockets, inside a big bag without a lot of separate compartments.

Today I went off to go to Workingman’s Headquarters which is that shop run by two old guys in the Mission (planning to just explain my list of tools and trust to the one of them who is nice’s judgement) I had been planning to stay in bed most of the day but the sun came out and I felt so tempted to wander around. Since the shop was shut I got a burrito and sat in the amphitheater-like area in the back of the 24th St. BART plaza listening to cheerful music and watching people. I nearly got a chair massage but instead I was looking at all the people with kind of janky old wheelchairs and who were having trouble carrying their stuff while on crutches. I took some notes on what I thought people might need for repair or modifications but didn’t go around talking with people, I want to think about it first and try some things out.

While on crutches myself I arrived as many people do at the idea that you can have a drink bottle with clip attached to your pants or belt or backpack loops. Mine would clank around but I got used to it. It is too hard otherwise to carry a drink. I also wore my keys and bus pass around my neck or on a Key-Bak type of device (which always makes me think of my friend Sabina since her grandfather invented it).

I was also thinking of talking with Corbett the other day about putting d-rings and webbing on available bits of wheelchair, and knob things to keep my backpack from slipping off my seat back, and how I was talking with Claire about Design Patterns and how there are mobility/accessibility patterns and antipatterns. Most crutches and many chairs lack places to attach or hook other things. You can go into a bike store and find things designed to clamp around bikes. Some of these work with wheelchairs and some don’t. Anyway, attachment points, or attachability, should be a design pattern for mobility equipment.

When you enter the Cripsterhood you should be issued a crapton of sticky backed velcro, cable ties, duct tape, hose clamps, pvc pipe lengths, and bungee cords along with your Durable Medical Equipment!

My foam padding with velcro strap and buckle hack is still KIND OF working on my TravelScoot front pole. Looks gross but it protects my knees from being bruised on the adjustable clamp. I also have a wire frame water bottle holder I got from a bike shop clamped on with velcro straps. The image in my mind here was that I want several rings or hooks that stick out from the scooter frame, so that I can attach stuff to them. I am not sure what. A beer opener would be a good start.

At the hardware store I came up with the idea of getting some cheap pipe straps, bending them around the scooter frame tubes, and fastening them with eyebolts or s-hooks. I tried it out and it worked pretty well. A 2-hole pipe strap is curved in a half circle and meant to be fastened to a flat surface. Instead I fastened it to itself. The size I got cost 50 cents and the eyebolt a dollar fifty. That is probably cheaper and less messy than velcro in the long run. Now I can hang something from a keyring or keyback or carabiner from my scooter steering column. I may do the same at many points around the frame to see how that works out. The problem is that it sticks out and the end of the bolt is a bit too long. A shorter bolt or a plastic cover to screw onto the end would improve the design.

I also wonder if the bolts might get in the way when people are folding or carrying the scooter. The nice thing is I have not had to drill into the scooter frame and taking off the eyebolts is super easy if I don’t like them.

While I was hypnotized by mobility gear at the BART plaza and wandering around the hardware store aisles I also realized I could fix my loose footrests. The foot rests on my TravelScoot fold upwards for compactness, like folding bike pedals. I often want to fold them upwards on the bus so that the sticking out bits won’t trip anyone. They are floppy and tightening them didn’t help. So, I found some neoprene washers intending to put them inside the footrest joint.

This didn’t quite work as planned since even after I got the bolt out, the pedal itself would not come out. I think if I had several more, and stronger, hands, I could have bent the metal a little and popped out the footrest. Since I don’t have either I just put the neoprene on the outside of the joint on both sides of the bolt. Hey! It now holds the pedal nicely folded upward. But when I look at it, clearly it isn’t going to last. I think one or two metal locking washers would be a better fix if I have to stick to the outside of the joint.

footrests flipped up

I got a lovely new tiny vise grip which is much better than trying to do this with an adjustable wrench or needlenose pliers like every other time I have messed with this beast. Yay vise grip! It’s so cute. The few tools that escaped are in the Mozilla Taiwan bag that I got at our last work conference which had chopsticks in it. Mini hex key with just 2 sizes (one perfect for scooter), 2 screwdrivers, pliers, scissors etc. And now my new best friend the tiny clamping thing.

tiny vise grip

The best way for me to tighten this (keeping in mind my hands hurt and are not strong) was to carefully stick the vise grip on the bolt, set it, then put a screwdriver through the eyebolt and turn it like a sort of handle or lever.

Meanwhile today Danny messed with our servers and Ada and Milo designed a card based combat system for her birthday party’s LARP’s climactic battle. Zach came over to get his packages and we discussed tools and comic books and I cooked him an omelet. His sound engineer guy is now hanging out at Noisebridge and Zach made him a glowing programmable LED sign with his DJ name on it (I only saw photos.) It was a nice day…

If you have tools to recommend to me, please have at it in the comments!

Weird patters

In El Farolito today by 24th and Mission it was crowded but everyone was super smart about negotiating the narrow lanes in between the ordering counter and the tiny narrow tables. After I ordered I went to wait for my burrito by the door and the trash cans and newspaper rack where other people were obviously also waiting for their magic you-win-a-delicious-burrito number to be called since it got me out of the narrowest part of the aisle. Unlike many other crowded situations no one was bashing into me or acting like I was in the way and I felt at home and happy… Everyone just sensibly edging by each other very politely. I think it helped we are all salivating with desire for our food while staring through the sneeze shield at vats of carnitas and beans.

Then from behind! A patter! A rare but hideous, sugary voiced patter didn’t just pat me but kind of slid her arm around my shoulder from the back and down my arm. “Do you need me to move things so you can get out?” she cooed as if I were 2 years old. I recoiled in horror and turned around. What is in this gross woman’s mind! What the fuck! I didn’t have a snappy reply but just said “No I’m waiting for my burrito… like everyone is…” Then a couple seconds later I said “You know, if I needed help to get out, I would say excuse me to the people I needed to get past!! Like people do!” and put some extra WTF into my incredulous look.

I wish the patters would quit their bullshit. Offering help… ok I guess, though I was to any person of sense, I was obviously waiting in a crowd of other people waiting who were all holding little numbered receipts and idly looking around. But what is with the hug and arm slide from behind. Gag me!!!!

As she left I realized that the guy a few people behind me, nearer the door, was with her and she collected him with the same tone of voice and hug and that he was developmentally disabled. I then was extra annoyed that she talked to him like that too and that must be her special “disabled people voice”. I then had a hilarious image that maybe she just interacts with every person that way and is from the Planet of Alien Sugar Hugs. I imagined her sneaking up behind the line of burrito making dudes and giving them a snakey little hug as she condescendingly ordered her burrito. I would pay to witness this scene. Anyway, it made me start mysteriously laughing as I waited for number 93 to come around.

Making a puzzle scavenger hunt

I spent most of today working on the map and puzzles for A.’s birthday party in the park. My sister is drawing kick ass badges for the two teams, the Dragonthorne and Bloodsphinx clans, which will go onto the little booklet with map and runes and the doggerel that contains the hints. Her designs are so cool that I want to also print temporary tattoos for the clans.

I re-read the entire Vorkosigan series last week (or so) and now am re-reading Blue Remembered Earth by Alastair Reynolds so that I can catch up on this series which is now a trilogy, Poseidon’s Children.

Also up soon on my reading list is Crystal Society by Max Harms, which sounds very amusing!

My mom is visiting and we went to spend an afternoon at Land’s End and Ocean Beach. Perfect day for it!


Danny and I also went out and had a drink at Virgil’s Sea Room where I was also able to groove out to a band next door at El Rio (great bar but too crowded for me to get around well in my scooter) playing Cuarto de Tula. We went over to Ruben’s cupcake house where he fed us thin mints or something and made us watch horrible videos like Becky and Joe’s Creativity Song and the fucking brilliant ad for Cloaxia. Make yours a bird hole!

I am just over halfway through my first draft of translating Mi Lai by Carmen Berenguer. I’m getting to the poems about San Francisco and a long one about being on an airplane (a theme I particularly love).

Meanwhile, I am reading Altazor by Vicente Huidobro in the original and with Eliot Weinberger’s translation. I learned a lot reading his translations of Octavio Paz in the 80s and it is cool to see how he approached Huidobro. Of course I love the end bits where language flies free. Nothing is more fun to translate than the untranslatable!!

Looking backwards from the Wave Organ

Today (ACTUALLY A MONTH AGO… I thought I already posted this) I had a specially fabulous time as I realized I was up at 8 or so while everyone else would sleep till at least noon. My sister was up for adventure and came over to take me driving around. We went to the Wave Organ. I thought I knew what it was and that it was some sort of art and sound thing by the historic ships. No!!! Totally different thing. We fooled around taking pictures and game-playing by the sea wall and then got to the end of a long long jetty.

The Wave Organ was very cool looking, not making any noise at low tide, but super beautiful, made of big slabs of granite and marble which I guessed might be from buildings from the 1915 Exposition but which turned out to be from an old cemetery. After we were there for a little while and I was considering walking around I realized there was a ramp down to lower levels. That was an amazing feeling. I felt really open and free and peaceful and safe. I was not going to annoyingly hurt myself attempting to clamber down there, or feel sad and pissed that I was wisely NOT hauling myself or limping or crawling to the fun bits of the park. Unexpected extra awesomeness.


My sister sketched in the sun while I sat in the little cave-like seat working on a poem about spaceport hookers. (Not even making that up.) We drove off, pausing to look at the Palace of Fine Arts, had lunch, drove through the Presidio to a scenic overlook, saw the “Spires” giant sculpture (neat but kind of underwhelming) and came back the long but nice way along the beach highway. I have been prudent in not doing too many things most of the time so it felt like a huge treat to go all over town and see things on a sunny day.

To get to the Wave Organ I could take the 49 and then 30 buses, or the 49 to the 101 bus and get off at the Palace of Fine Arts on Baker and Broderick. From there it’s a couple of blocks to cross to the marina and a sort of donut shack. There’s a pretty accessible bathroom there too. Then if you go far to the right down the jetty, past the St. Francis and Golden Gate yacht clubs, the wave organ is at the very tip of the jetty.

Thoughts on the past year. Lots of stuff happened! I changed jobs, went to Mexico twice on vacation with Danny and the kids, and went to Paris (with my sister), Orlando, and Whistler for work. I changed teams at work, and was release manager for two Firefox versions, 39 and 43. Mobility and health were about the same as usual, holding steady with small ups and downs. I had a few weeks on medical leave as I suddenly came down with shingles and there were definitely some low points with weeks in the ankle cast boots, but otherwise ok! I hung out with my fabulous family. I read a lot of books. Played a bunch of Ingress, did some swimming in the warm pool, scootered around in my TravelScoot, bought a new bed.

I wrote an article for The Recompiler and I feel sure wrote and published some other things (???) Maybe not though, maybe just a lot of interviews (“feminist hacking”, Double Union). I gave some talks but no really big ones. I performed some long poems at a show in Berkeley, “Iapetus”. I didn’t write any code or do any translation, sticking to more long weird experimental poems. Felt burned out on activism. But I do what I can and rallying round to support people in my usual way. I’m very lucky to know so many talented and amazing and loving people.

Our sweet cat Dyson died from ongoing kidney issues. After some months of cat-lessness we ended up adopting the first cat we got as a foster from the SPCA; Dashboard who is lively a young Siamese.

We had Thanksgiving & Christmas at my sister’s house in Oakland which as usual was super relaxing as they cook a ton of nice things and there are board games, cats, chickens, videos on a huge screen, general cosiness.

Last night we had a small party at a scale we could handle at our house. People dropped by all evening. We all worse sprouts on our heads. Some of us drank a non-alcoholic drink called a “Brain Fuzz” (lemon soda and ice cubes, with whipped cream on top). In general we made a mess with the blender, fruit, ice, chocolate, and some very gross “food” spray paint that you spray cake frosting with. Pro tip: it is really disgusting if you spray it on crushed ice.

One of my issues for the year has been slowing down a little. I worked on saying no a bit more, taking on fewer projects, going out less, trying to scale my life better to my physical ability and pain levels so I don’t burn out. Working less in the evening, writing less in the evening too, and instead, reading a lot in bed with periodic bustling around. I have gone out of the house every day for the last month (this is REALLY great).

Resolution type of things for 2016: Keep on with my attempt at balance of realistic activity, work, and rest and creativity. Swim and do pilates. Keep practicing languages in Duolingo steadily. Do some writing about work stuff. Write physical cards and letters to friends. Write with Milo and support the kids and Danny in their goals and generally make our lives nice. Work on my poems. Do a few new translations. Usual trickle of publishing things. Finish a new zine (the wheels one, or the Ida B Wells one, both in progress.) Edit Wikipedia occasionally as is my wont. Move along with project for producing that song by friends (more on that later). Support some more small artistic projects if I can. And, I will travel at least twice for work (London and Hawaii). Small steady progress seems like the key. Maybe a few more days off here and there when NOT sick and in pain would be helpful. While I am built more for emergencies and heroic bursts (creatively, in how I like to work) my body and mind can’t take it so I have to be really careful to be satisfied with smaller bites of … whatever it is… life… things… action… doing stuff… and not go with wild energy and enthusiasm until I drop. What if I didn’t do new stuff and projects all the time? Well, I’ll worry about that when I have to. I’ve been at that point and had to accept it many times. Right now I’m in between, holding steady!