Archive for the ‘My life’ Category

What have you done with your life? The LGBT department

May 18, 2018

It began a little while back with a request from the Daily Beast for an interview in a series about “unsung (or, at least undersung) LGBT heroes” — people of significance in both a professional field and the LGBT world. A daunting request, to which I’ve responded in three postings on this blog:

on 5/9, “The way I write now”: about my eccentric genre of flânerie

on 5/10,  “What have you done with your life?”: about my contributions to linguistics, via a huge list of things I’ve worked on in my academic career, plus two lists of characteristic terminology I’ve used, some of which has become associated with me personally

and now this one, about my contributions to the lgbt community. There’s some straightforward institutional stuff, and then it runs off into the weeds about my speaking out in a way that makes me highly visible and so a possible model for others.


trigger finger

May 16, 2018

I had this affliction, for about three months. It involved myalgia — that’s the name of the symptom, muscle pain — that limited my movements, produced frequent nasty cramps in several parts of my body, made me miserable and depressed. Among the affected muscles were those in my fingers, which cramped up painfully without warning. Especially my ring finger (third finger, left hand).

Eventually, it was seen to be a side effect of the very powerful statin drug I was taking (for blood pressure and cholesterol control), generic atorvastatin, trade name Lipitor, a very powerful statin prescribed at maximum dose. Which was breaking down muscle fibers. Essentially, I was being poisoned by one of my medicines.

That’s now over — I went off the Lipitor three months ago and recently started small doses of the steroid prednisone for symptomatic relief —  and I feel very much better, but an odd effect remains. My ring finger occasionally gets stuck in a bent position. No pain, no swelling or anything, just stuck, as here:

(#1) Stuck bent finger (workdesk spathiphyllum plant as background)

I can push it back with my other hand, and it makes a little pop! as it resumes its normal working position.

It’s called trigger finger, fancy name tenosynovitis. And it has nothing to do with the Lipitor poisoning.


The turquoise dish

May 15, 2018

Plant news from my house, a song in silver, gray, and blue (and of course green).

Off to the nursery yesterday to upgrade the pots for several plants: a much larger pot for the big Spathipyllum houseplant I call Spathy (see my 1/4/18 posting “Spathy in maturity”), which was grotesquely potbound; and a larger dish for a succulent garden I wrote about in a 4/26 posting “New on the patio”–  #2 there:

(#1) Blue Curls, plus four other succulents, three of them quite blue, one green and juniper-like

Freed from the confines of their little plastic containers from Trader Joes, they all set out to bulk up and spread over their new world, and almost immediately needed a bigger territory. That led me, eventually to the Turquoise Dish, where they live now, with some new gray sedum ‘Cape Blanco’ companions.

Along the way I picked up a creeping lamium with silver leaves, which goes by the name ‘Lami Mega Purple’.

Variety in foliage color, beyond nature’s basic green, is a developing theme outside my window. Coleus with red and yellow in their leaves; a Cordyline (ti plant) hybrid with bronzy-burgundy leaves; and now the silver / gray / blue succulents and  lamium.


Paperback Booksmith

May 15, 2018

Paperback Booksmith, Paperback Booksmith.
Dear Sir or Madam, will you buy my book?
It took me years to write, will you take a look?

Fallen out of my copy of Dwight Bolinger’s Interrogative Structures of American English (1957), this yellowed bookmark from the early 1960s:



Beat Me, Daddy, Eight to the Bar

May 12, 2018

(On the social and sexual lives of gay men, with photos, so not to everyone’s taste. Almost surely not to Facebook’s taste.)

Recent Facebook conversation, initiated by poster J1:

First time being called “Daddy” while playing with a guy at a bar. Bittersweet!

With a response from J2:

Yeah, I can see the bittersweet part, for sure. Heh. I remember you as a total twink.

And from me:

Ah, those days. For me, it was papacito from a cute server at a Mexican restaurant. I was charmed.

daddy here is the name of a social identity, a gay “type” (like twink, bear, muscle-hunk, or leatherman); and by extension, of a subculture of men of this type; and by a different extension, of a role or relationship between men, between an older and a younger man. Such identities, subcultures, and roles can intersect and combine, as here:


What have you done with your life?

May 10, 2018

An innocent-sounding request a few days back, from a Daily Beast reporter on its lgbt beat: [I’m] “working on a series of interviews with unsung (or, at least undersung) LGBT heroes. … I’m wondering if you’d be interested in being interviewed about your contributions to linguistics?”

Two claims here: I’m a person of significance in a professional field, linguistics; I’m a person of significance in the lgbt world. I am now asked to defend these claims, to demonstrate that I have done important things in both these areas of my life.

Difficult fieldwork moments in the linguistics-lgbt interface

This is where I curl into a ball of misery, in two ways at once. What have I done with my life, that people should read about me? I’m very proud of what I’ve done, in the academic world and the lgbt world, but I’m not even remotely a magisterial figure, a Great Person, in either. Sigh.

Reflections on my academic work to come. There will be lists. Long lists. I can’t promise quality, but quantity I can deliver.


The way I write now

May 9, 2018

Or: Arnauld le flâneur.

(Edward Gorey caught unawares.)

On 3/15/17 in “Lauren la flâneuse”:

[from Wikipedia] Flâneur … means “stroller”, “lounger”, “saunterer”, or “loafer” [the person of leisure, the idler, the urban explorer, the connoisseur of the street]. Flânerie is the act of strolling, with all of its accompanying associations.

Here flânerie refers not just to the act, but also to the reporting of the act — to a literary genre, of which I am an exponent.


Food news in the neighborhood

April 30, 2018

Two recent developments: the closing in December of the neighborhood homey Mexican restaurant La Morenita (at 800 Emerson St., across Homer Ave. from Whole Foods and around the corner from my house, to the southwest) and its replacement a week ago by Taverna, a stylish Greek restaurant; and the recent opening of the Georgian restaurant Bevri (at 530 Bryant St., a couple of blocks from my place, to the northeast).


Personal anniversaries in 2018

April 21, 2018

… some in big round numbers. The biggest is 100, commemorating the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918 — which has personal meaning for me because my maternal grandfather Irwin Rice died in the pandemic that year (as did my aunt Mildred, then a tiny baby). For comparison: my parents were both 4 years old that year, and my paternal grandfather Melchior Zwicky was 39 (my dad was the baby of the family). I was reminded of all this by the publication last year of a new book on the pandemic, the excellent Pale Rider by Laura Spinney:



The world out my front door

April 20, 2018

I post a lot about the world out my front door: what can be seen and appreciated within a few blocks of my house on Ramona St.: buildings, businesses, public art, parks, food, and (especially) plants.

“The world out my front door” is an allusion to the wonderful 1978 book of photography by Ruth Orkin: The World Through My Window:


What’s out my front door is downtown Palo Alto, and at somewhat greater distance, Menlo Park, Stanford, and the Professorville, Old Palo Alto, College Terrace, and California Ave. neighborhoods of Palo Alto. What was out of Ruth Orkin’s window (on Central Park West in NYC) was Central Park, which she captured in photographic images (mostly in color) that have become iconic. Central Park in mist and haze, Central Park in the snow.