Sunday, October 31, 2004

This Is He

The phone rang. I said, "Hello," but there was a moment's silence on the other end.

Hello? a voice asked.

Hello? I said.

Hello? the voice said in a distinctly Indian accent.

Hello, I said.

May I speak to Mr. Hussen, he said, pronouncing Hasan perhaps more like it ought to be pronounced on that side of the world than how I pronounce it here.

This is he, I said.

There was silence on the other end.

I have learned that the construction, This is he, is not well understood by outsourced phone center callers on the other side of the world. And as a result, I have continued to use the construction with vigor, in spite of the fact that this use of predicate nominative has an archaic sound to it.

May I speak to Mr. Hussen?

This is he, I repeated.

Mr. David Hussen? he asked after another moment's silent.

Yes, I said tersely. I was now sure this phone call was junk.

He proceeded into a pitch in which he was evidently trying to sell me long distance service. I confess I couldn't follow what he said, which is saying something about how quickly he spoke, as my ears are well tuned to Indian accents.

I suppose he got two or three sentences into the pitch before I was positive this was indeed a junk call. He wasn't even stopping for a breath between his sentences.

I hung up without saying another word.

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 Saturday, October 30, 2004

An Orange-Shirted Performance

There were drummers drumming on drums and pads and cafeteria tabletops. There were silver euphoniums racing up and down chromatic scales. There were three tubas sitting side by side, warming up as they gazed out a window. And there was one tall boy with dark, curly hair in an untucked, orange shirt standing in the middle of the room playing his trombone.

We found a place to wait, Trudy and I did. When the coffee was ready, she had a cup. I got a bag of popcorn -- which I later surrendered to the untucked, orange-shirted boy once I tracked him down outside portable C-1 amidst a clutter of tuba, euphonium and trombone cases and kids.

As it happened, the trombones played last. Eventually the boy returned to the cafeteria, and everyone waited for results. We sat down at the edge of the room. He leaned against a wall in the busiest part of the room in his untucked, orange shirt and talked to kids and teachers and other parents as everyone waited. Periodically, he looked over at us and smiled or waved.

Finally there was some commotion at the wall. And happy faces. And patting of hands on shoulders. The untucked, orange-shirted boy left his spot and walked toward us. He moved slowly and tucked his elbows close to his ribs. He held up one finger on his right hand and smiled ear-to-ear.

Trudy stood up and hugged him. I stood up and hugged him. And a friend of his, seeing us, turned with arms outstretched and hugged him, too.

First Chair District Band.

Middle School District Band Competition
KeelingKealing Junior High, Austin TX

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Barlow, the election, and Dancemob

In a long piece about the days-away election, John Barlow says:

I support John F. Kerry for President of the United States.... There. I've said it.... He still irritates me, but that seems like a personal problem.
We simply cannot allow America to look as simultaneously laughable and terrifying as it will if we keep these lunatics in power. ... Time is very short.
No matter who emerges ... we are going to have to start getting along better or we'll be like Hutus and Tutsis in a couple of years.
and finally in reference to Dancemob,

... I believe that if we can keep the streets safe for dancing, so liberty remains assured. But I can tell you that we are very close to the threshold here. The policeman ... really believed that his life was in danger as he waded into our dancing midst...

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Mark Bernstein has some comments about Eminem's Mosh video and then ends up on a remarkably hopeful note about the election:

[Bernstein/Eminem]: But these are the times that try men's souls, and right now we're either witnessing the liberation of a great nation or the foundation of a great resistance movement that will -- no doubt after struggle and sacrifice -- defeat ignorance, superstition, and greed to free that nation and rescue the world.

Three days more.

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Gone Thoughts

Sometimes I have random little thoughts -- little yet worth remembering. I try, but too often they slip thru the cracks.

And are gone.

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 Friday, October 29, 2004

Autumn comes on a big wind...

at Watermark:

There is that bitter winter taste
in every gust; rime on the grass
in the mornings.

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Far Side Night Sky

It was dark. It was night. The warm day was gone. The evening air was cool, and there was a little bit of a breeze.

We were parked on a hill, just over the crest, on the far side from the city. As I looked over my shoulder, I saw something strange: a black sky filled with stars.

You have dark skies here, I said, half to Vicki, half to the others, half to myself.

You can only see the night sky on the far side of a distant hill, I lamented to myself, although as for that, I really have known this for quite some time.

And then I turned and opened the door of the car. And the three of us got in and drove home. Back into the white light of the soccer fields and freeways lined with Super-Target parking lots and 24-hour gas stations. Back into the perpetual glow of this city that doesn't like to think of itself that way, back into Austin.

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 Wednesday, October 27, 2004

A Bedside Manner

After the urologist finished the exam and after he pointed out the relevant features on the ultrasound image and after they printed out a copy of the picture for me, he and I walked back to his office.

It was sumptuous in comparison to the cramped office where we had just looked at the images. There, we were shoulder to shoulder, huddled over the monitor. Here, I sat in comfort looking up at a Persian miniature on his bookshelf, gazing down at a oriental carpet on the floor.

I leaned over to flip the edge of the carpet over. It was wool. The pattern on the back was almost as fine as the one on the front.

Nice carpet, I said to the doctor, who was busy behind his desk fiddling with something.

Oh, he responded, Thank you.

He said nothing more, and that was the end of that.

Perhaps now that all the examining and explaining and diagnosing was done, perhaps this was the time he set aside for the reality to sink in, to help with the coping. Maybe this was his technique for giving me some space, giving me some time.

But he was not looking at me. He wasn't even talking to me. Ok, that isn't quite right. He was talking -- talking about his Yahoo email account and fiddling with his tiny laptop computer.

He stood up and came over to me. He showed me how it worked. It had a pen instead of a mouse. But he confessed that since the screen was so small and the typeface of most web pages was so correspondingly tiny, he usually couldn't read it.

It seemed a bit surreal to me. Here I've been told I probably have cancer, and the doctor is dinking with his laptop computer nervously and making conversation evidently just to fill the quiet space in the room.

Imagine if it had been my first time!

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 Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Perfect Seats

1. A Meal on the Way

How long would a bowl of oatmeal and one veggie taco take to make? Just a few minutes at most is what we figured. So since we were early for the concert, we stopped on the way there for just a little something to eat.

But things as they are, it took forever for the waiter to appear (even though they got us our tea right away). And after he turned in our order, it seemed to take a very long time for the food to appear.

Of course, appear it did. And the food at Magnolia Cafe does not disappoint.

As we left the parking lot, I said to Trudy, Man, they make great veggie tacos!

She agreed.

2. Arriving On Time

As we were sitting in the restaurant, we both nervously watched our watches. But as we pulled into the parking lot outside the high school auditorium, we saw we had plenty of time left. Plenty of time.

But there was no one standing around in the lobby as they usually do before the concerts. Did we get the time wrong? Sheesh.

As we looked at each other wondering how we could have messed up, the kids began streaming out of the practice hall, headed to the auditorium.

Jazz Band that way. The rest of you follow me, their director commanded.

The golden tubas. The black and silver clarinets. The trombones. The trombones! There was Ben with his trombone. He was standing there looking at us smiling ear to ear. And then he turned and followed the jazz band musicians down the hall.

We squeezed in line between two bass clarinets and went the other direction. We were right on time.

3. In the Auditorium

The auditorium was almost full. But Ben's mom had saved us two seats in the middle. She motioned for us to sit where she had set her purse. When we sat down, we could clearly see Ben behind his music stand.

What perfect seats! I said.

I think they thought I was joking. I wasn't. The trumpets would be aimed straight at us. And the trombones, too. Sure, the saxophones would be buried behind the heads of the rows of people in front of us, but the brass is what we came to hear, anyway. The trombones. One trombone.

They were indeed perfect seats.

4. In The Mood

The Jazz Band played first. And their last piece was In the Mood.

Halfway thru, soloists started standing up. A saxophone. A trumpet. A trombone. There they were, playing the music, the saxophone section swooning as they do in that song, and then he stood up with his golden shining trombone held up high, bell pointed straight at us in those perfect seats.

He stood tall, the chaos of his hair in stark contrast to his black pants, white tuxedo shirt and black bow tie. He stood tall and blasted out the solo he had written.

He blasted it out with volume and tone that surprised me. Just two days ago, he was struggling with two measures where the eighth notes climb up quickly and then fall away. Just two days ago, he would get to those measures and his tone and volume would diminish and he would struggle to get the notes out -- the notes that he had written himself.

Just two days ago, he didn't have it down. But tonite he did. He belted out that solo as if he were warming up.

And we had the perfect seats to hear it.

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Eminem video

Here is a link to a Quicktime version of the new Eminem antiwar/antiBush video. It made me sit up.

Come along, follow me, as I lead through the darkness.
As I provide just enough spark that we need, to proceed.
Carry on, give me hope, give me strength, come with me, and I won't, steer you wrong.
Give your faith and your trust, as I guide us through the fog, to the light at the end of the tunnel.

(Hat tip: Talk Left for the link, gnn.tv for the snippet of lyrics.)

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 Monday, October 25, 2004

Doing Nothing Right

A single pound of it brought down a jet on Lockerbie.

Yet thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands of pounds of the stuff managed to disappear from under our noses.

Can we do nothing right over there?

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 Saturday, October 23, 2004

How I Found Out

In July I had surgery for what the doctors thought was testicular cancer. This would have been my second case. I went through surgery and radiation and chemotherapy for the same thing in 1985. As it turned out, this tumor was not malignant.

This is the story of how I found out about the tumor.


1. Recovering from Jet Lag [synopsis] [next]

I seemed to take it the hardest when we all returned from our trip to France. Trudy and Ben were back to normal in a couple days, but I was exhausted for a week. Finally, after about seven days, I started feeling human again.

So feeling normal, I did a little yard work, although my body was still used to the cool weather of northern France and recoiled at being thrust into the Texas swelter again. And I wrote a note about my grandmother, who had recently died.

Sitting down to write was, I think, the sign that I had finally recovered from jet lag: I was recharged enough to shed some energy thru my fingers and keyboard out onto the net. But when I logged off the computer that night and stood up to go to bed, I felt feverish. And as I got ready for bed, I noticed that I couldn't pee even though I really needed to.

2. The Physician's Assistant [synopsis] [back] [next]

I was up and down all night, from bed to bathroom, bed to bathroom, with no luck. By the time morning came around, I was delirious from fatigue. And I had a fever.

Trudy called our doctor.

The doctor was out for two weeks, they told her, but his physician's assistant, Ginger, could see me. Trudy asked if I was willing. She didn't say it explicitly, but it was obvious from the look on her face that she was wondering if I was willing to see a woman for male problems.

Yes, I said. I didn't have the energy to be shy or proud.

3. That's Sensitive [synopsis] [back] [next]

The nurse who took me to the patient room was young and cute and fit. I, on the other hand, am well into middle age, have gained weight since I stopped running almost a year ago, and hadn't been able to pee for 12 hours. The contrast between the two of us made me wonder if I should have held out for a male doctor.

However, when the physician's assistant came into the room, she immediately put those anxieties to rest. She was also trim and fit, but unlike the nurse, Ginger well into middle age, too. And her years gave her an air of experience and competence, something that I felt I could use.

She said the blood work showed I had an infection. But given my history, she wanted to do an exam -- actually two. We don't need to go into the details. Let's just say that they both seemed to go well, except that at one point I said to her (with a wince on my face), Ouch. That's sensitive.

I am conservative, she said when she was finished. Since you said it was sensitive I'd like to do an ultrasound.

She made the appointment for me.

4. The Ultrasound Technician [synopsis] [back] [next]

Al was the ultrasound technician. He took me into a room that was dimly lit and mostly bare. There was a humming computer next to the examination bed, and that was it.

We did the renal ultrasound first. I didn't have to pull my pants down very far for that.

Take a deep breath, Al said. Now don't breathe.

I did as he said. He seemed to take several images, but he never told me to breathe. At first, I thought how impressed he must have been that I could hold my breath for so long. But he never said anything. I finally let my breath out on my own.

Oh yea, he said. Breathe any time you like.

So that was how we did things. He would tell me to hold my breath, and I would hold it until I was blue or until it seemed (from the sound of things) that he had finished taking the image. And the testicular ultrasound went pretty much the same way, except my pants were down farther and periodically I winced in pain.

When we were done, he said a radiologist would come out to the lobby to see us in a few minutes.

5. Your Doctor Will Call You [synopsis] [back] [next]

We waited in the lobby more than a few minutes, although it wasn't long. Eventually, Al came out to talk to us. He had an apologetic look on his face that mixed in a strange way with his smile.

They weren't able to interpret the image yet, he explained, and he started to say something else. We told him that wasn't a big deal -- that we already had a follow-up appointment scheduled with the doctor in four days and we could just get the results then.

He said no, mumbled something about lunch, and said the radiologist would be able to call the doctor in about an hour.

We said we'd call the doctor in about two hours. Al nodded. His apologetic expression now just looked plain awkward.

6. A Complex Mass [synopsis] [back] [next]

We spoke to the doctor's office after we had been back home for a while. Frankly, I'm not sure who called whom. At this point I don't remember much of the phone conversation. However, I do remember Ginger, the physician's assistant, explaining that they found a mass: more than a cyst, a complex mass with calcifications.

Ginger patiently explained that the mass was of some concern to her and that I should see a urologist. She offered to make the appointment.

She asked if I had a preference on doctors. Not really, I said, but then my experience with testicular cancer in 1985 came to mind and I told her one doctor I did not want do see -- a kind of anti-preference.

She didn't ask anything else.

7. The Doctors' Office [synopsis] [back] [next]

I guess all the urologists in town are at the same address. At least the three I have seen in the last twenty years are. And Dr. R's office was not only in the same building as the doctor I had asked not to see, but it was on the same floor, behind the same door, and had the same waiting area and receptionists. So much for consumer choice, I thought, but frankly, I just needed to see the doctor.

In the event, the nurse and the doctor seemed quite pleasant. He was distinguished looking, and had a calm way of talking that was reassuring. She was friendly and understanding and radiated competence. She appeared to be the one who kept the place running.

The only distressing part of that visit was how they went about viewing my ultrasound images.

8. The Urologist [synopsis] [back] [next]

Do you have them with you? the doctor asked, wondering if I had brought the images.

I said no and mumbled something about how the radiology lab had talked to the doctor's office directly and never to me. I don't think he heard what I said, because shortly later he asked the same question and then added, We will need them.

I mentioned that I thought the images are digital and that the technician talked about sending them electronically. He walked out of the office to talk to one of the nurses.

What followed could have been a scene out of a comedy movie. The doctor and several nurses and staff and I shuffled from office to office trying to view the ultrasound images on various computers in various doctors' offices up and down the hall.

Every time we tried to look at them, we got some sort of permission error. (You know: bad password.) And every time, the admin who seemed to know the most about doing this would mutter, That's odd. I was able to see them from my machine.

Finally we all traipsed out the door, down a dark, narrow hallway, into the admin's office. It was small and cramped. It didn't have the fancy paneling and bookshelves and diplomas and licenses and photographs and artwork of the doctors' offices but did have a computer that successfully brought up the images.

9. The Diagnosis [synopsis] [back]

Dr. R pointed to the screen and explained. He said that the mass on the image was cancer. I've been through this once before, so the impact was not devastating, and I was able to ask some sensible questions to make sure that I understood what he was saying and had some sense why he thought he was right.

The doctor's answers to my questions made it obvious that he was virtually certain that it was cancer, and he did not want to give me any false hopes.

We scheduled surgery for the following morning.

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 Friday, October 22, 2004

Seven Cheesecakes

Seven cheesecakes arrived by Trudy delivery yesterday, seven cheesecakes stacked up high.

And I like cheesecake.

So I wonder why they still sit in the freezer. In the freezer, those seven cheesecakes sit, far from my fork, not a one available for eating.

What a pity.

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 Thursday, October 21, 2004

We Talked About Stuff

On Thursday, he comes to our house. Actually, he comes to our house every day, but on Wednesdays and Thursdays he stays. (On Mondays and Tuesdays, he eventually goes to his mom's.)

So on Thursday I came home from work early, and we got into our running gear and drove up Mopac to the river to go running. But on the way there, traffic came to a standstill. We exited early and parked at the old Zilker bathhouse.

As we walked to the bridge on Town Lake trail, we talked about stuff. And then we ran four miles. It wasn't too hot, so the run was pleasant. Still, neither of us had run there for a while, so we were tired when we finished.

As we walked back from the trail, we talked about stuff. And then we sat for a half hour or so and watched the intrepid swimmers swim up and down the long, cold length of Barton Springs. We sat there under the rustling Pecans on that sunny afternoon and talked about stuff.

A good day to come home early from work.

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Adam's Mother

Adam Curry talks about his mother's lung cancer in his Sourcecode podcast from yesterday:

this morning I started recording and I lost it for the first time in I think more than 20 years ...

this is exactly how these things go, right? Like, Murphy pops up and says, Ohh, yeah! ...

You think you're riding on top of the world, you know. ... and life throws you a curve ball and says Hey dude. ... This is what's really important.

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 Wednesday, October 20, 2004

2 Distractions

0. Our meeting.

He came from out of town. From north of the border. From a land where summer had long since gone. He seemed to have brought some of his Canadian weather with him, because it was cold outside, although the sun was shining brightly.

We met in a small room (with too many chairs in it). It was a corner room with floor-to-ceiling windows that looked out on the parking lot and across to the railroad tracks.

1. A distraction.

We were writing on the whiteboard or talking on the phone to someone else a long way away or something like that. And the ground began to rumble and shake. His eyes widened, and he looked at us.

What is that, an airplane? he asked as he turned his head to look outside.

We didn't know what he was talking about at first. We looked out the window and saw four Union Pacific diesel-electric locomotives rolling northward. And we laughed. We don't even hear those trains, anymore.

2. Another distraction.

Later in the day, when we came back from lunch, we picked up where we had left off. We were in the same room. We were writing again on the whiteboard or on a pad of paper on a big easel or something like that.

He leaned back and stretched. And as he did, two dozen or so jet black birds landed on the grass just outside the window. Their motion caught his eye, and he turned to look.

Big crows, eh? he said with a startled look on his face.

We laughed. We don't even think twice about the grackles, anymore.

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 Tuesday, October 19, 2004

In the Interest of Public Safety

Someone told me once, late in 2001, I don't care if the police break my doors down, I want my children to be safe at school. Well, it's happening. Perhaps most of us don't get our doors broken down, but the old saying You can't do that. This is America. is losing its meaning. Perhaps this is stating the obvious, but this is what is different about the before and after 9/11 worlds.

[Thomas Hawk/Clampdown]: I began to explain to the officer that I was a photo artist and was in New York doing a series on the images of Manhattan at autumn time ... Put the tripod away, tourists can't use tripods, only professionals can use tripods

(Hat tip: Furdlog)
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GrannyD (a guest writer in Lawrence Lessig's blog) talks about Economics:

[GrannyD/Whose Economy Is It?]: Economists ... tend to make such deadly abstractions that they lose sight of this, as if the Economy were a demigod or at least a being unto itself, whose health we must serve by sacrificing our own.

... The rationalization that the Good will Eventually be served in a widespread manner is rather a crock, as Eventually, like the Leisure Society, never really comes. Let's have a democracy that really expresses our need for good jobs and health care and all the rest, and see if, in fact, we don't craft a better society than the horror show now being crafted by the abstracted free market.

She's running for the Senate in New Hampshire.

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Fishbucket Hope

Some words on cancer are at Fishbucket.

Faced with my own mortality, i finally learned how to live.

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All Ready For Halloween

Funny thing about the timing, but I saw a picture of Superman today. He was sitting on a fence, his hand on his knee, a smile on his face. His red cape was hung about his shoulders, clasped in a perfectly tied bow.

The sky was blue. The leaves in the trees behind him were golden-brown. The hay was harvested and stacked up neatly in mid-October fields.

Did I say that there was a smile on his face? A big one-tooth-missing smile. And although the photo didn't show it, you could feel his mother behind the camera. Or his father. Or his grandmother, full of visions of Metropolis. Or all of them.

All ready for Halloween with (what?) more than a week to go! In all my years of Halloweening, I don't think I ever accomplished that.

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 Monday, October 18, 2004

My Brother Would Freak Out

I suppose I would be shivering if I were there now, in Illinois. Many years ago at about this time of year I shivered on the way to class walking across campus on cold and drizzly fall mornings. I tried riding a bike for a while, but holding onto the metal handlebars in the rain didn't offer much refuge from the cold.

That was many years ago in mid-October.

Outside today the Texas sun shined and the sky was blue and the grass was green and the trees soaked up the sunlight. Outside today our lone bluebonnet tracked the sun as it crossed the street and disappeared behind the ash trees, who are lucky that we've had such an easy spring and summer and now fall. And the Blackfoot daisy raised its two white blossoms. And the lantana by the mailbox exploded in pink and yellow. And the lantana by the edge of the yard exploded in lavender.

Trudy turned and looked at me in the car this afternoon. Your brother would freak out at this weather, she said. He would. And he would go running. Because I know darned tootin' well that it's not as nice running today in Chicago as it is down here in Austin.

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 Sunday, October 17, 2004

Rain-Slicked Streets

Reflecting about Matthew Yglesias' comments about the creeping Putinization of American life, Jim D. at Burnt Orange Report conjures up a good metaphore for our current situation:

[BurntOrange/Comrades]: ... walking the rain-slicked streets of the gray present, I must wonder what is happening to America, and worry what will happen if we keep on the road we're on.

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We Missed the Bus

We missed our transfer. It was a long way to walk from the one bus stop to the other, and there were two busy streets to cross. And as it happened, the #10 bus we were trying to catch got to the stop just a minute or so before us -- far enough ahead that running would have done no good, close enough that we knew at that moment that we had a half-hour wait ahead of us.

The sun was bright, and there was no bus stop bench. The traffic raced by just a few feet in front of us. We sat on a limestone shelf sticking out of the hill and gazed longingly at the man across the street selling watermelons from the back of his old Chevy pickup truck.

Taking the bus involves a certain sacrifice of control. You are not the master of your own destiny. Time is not yours to manage. The keys and the wheel are in someone else's hands.

But there is this...

If you can get past the loss of a half-hour now and then. If you can enjoy a cool fall breeze even while the fall Texas sun is blazing down on your waiting face. If you can convince yourself to smile while you sit there. If you can fold a little dragon out of an old twist-tie just to pass the time. If you can laugh at the ticking minutes running down the drain. If you can do these things, your life is certain to be longer and happier than it would otherwise be.

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Ignoring the Burning

There are serious things to do. Serious things to say. So what do we do?

  • We sleep late and eat fried eggs almost at noon.
  • As the sun burns thru the morning clouds and climbs into the sky, we dig in the dirt and water the plants and move squirming earthworms from one bed to another.
  • And we sit. While there are all these other things to do and say, we sit in the shade and let the breeze blow by and let the dappled light dance on the grass at our feet.
  • In the evening, the setting sun lights up the high clouds and wisps of pink spread out before us. Look, I say. I saw it, she says. And we stand and point and look and marvel.

There is so much we should be doing. The world about us is burning. We should be quenching the fires somehow, carrying buckets. But our hands cannot help. Our voices cannot be heard. Our votes will be recorded, but they will not count -- not our votes from here.

So instead of agonizing on this day, we chose to do other things and ignore the burning for just a little while.

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 Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Tollway Bunnies

May I have a receipt, please? I asked the woman at the toll booth.

She smiled and said yes and handed me the receipt along with my change. I took what she gave me and smiled back. But when I looked up at her, she wasn't looking at me anymore but rather gazing into the distance.

I thought I might see some bunnies today, she said. I saw some yesterday, but I haven't seen any today.

I looked over at the field, long grass waving in the breeze with a dark black thunderstorm sky in the background.

Maybe the rain scared them away, I said.

I looked at her, and she looked back at me.

What do you do when it rains? I asked. Do you get soaked?

Oh no, she said, pointing to the roof many feet above us. I don't get wet.

I felt a little silly for asking, since it was clear that roof was meant to keep the elements away. I was about to drive off.

Although, she added, the other day it was raining and I looked up and a single rain drop came down... She pointed to the roof, and then she slowly traced a line down to her face. ... and it hit me right on the nose.

I laughed. A car pulled up behind me. I said goodbye and drove off.

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 Tuesday, October 12, 2004


The locker room seemed empty at first glance. I walked in, as I do on Mondays and Tuesdays, and sat on the bench to take off my shoes. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw someone come around the corner. So the locker room wasn't empty, after all.

He said something to me. I didn't understand what he said. I turned to look at him.

Oh-lah! he repeated.

What? I asked.

Hola! he said, and I understood what he was trying to say this time.

He had blonde curly hair and pale skin and rosy cheeks. I have dark hair and brown skin. I figured I knew why he was speaking Spanish to me.

That is all I know: Hola! he said with a broad, sincere smile on his face.

I smiled back and said, Well, that's a start!

Perhaps I should have added amigo. No. His smile was sincere.

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 Monday, October 11, 2004

A Jacket

We got home late from work. It was dark. She was going to do some laundry. And cook some okra -- she was also going to cook some okra, too.

I was going to read and write. I was seated here doing just that (reading and writing) when she poked her head around the corner.

The dog needs to go for a ..., she said, silently mouthing w-a-l-k.

I looked at her. I looked at the screen. I looked back at her. I tried to say something.

I'm doing ..., she said, making some kind of l-a-u-n-d-r-y motion.

So I got up to do the least I could do while she did all those things that she does. And just before I made for the door, I asked her if I should wear a jacket. (Why she should know any better than I, I don't know.)

A jacket!? I think now in retrospect. I am astonished at myself. We've just finished with summer and the air is finally pleasant, and I'm asking if I should wear a jacket!? What is up with that?

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 Sunday, October 10, 2004

Progress or Regression

1. Progress

Out of the Middle Ages came the Renaissance. From the Renaissance came the science and rationality of the Enlightenment. From the Enlightenment came the Constitution of the United States of America. From that constitution, a great nation was born, a nation which blossomed and flowered in the late 20th century. And in the late 20th century, from amidst that blossoming and flowering, it was tempting for Americans to look back at the Middle Ages with scorn and pat ourselves on the shoulder in recognition of our progress.

2. Regression

But have we come that far? Have we really come all that far? Or is this just a story that we tell ourselves, a story to let us think highly of ourselves, a story to let us sleep at night.

Do we not live in a world filled with superstition, greed, violence, inequality, hatred, war, death, disease, starvation? No, you say? Look around you, you say? Look at the differences, you say? I understand your point. I see the differences. I see them, and I see them dwindling away.

We are regressing.

3. Helen asks a question

In the 8 October Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Helen Thomas asked,

[Post-Intelligencer/Thomas]: How else can one make sense of the fact that the president continues to do well in the polls despite the total collapse of his credibility about the reasons for invading Iraq?

(Hat tip: Common Dreams.)

The mistake she makes is assuming that the people are responding rationally, that they are forming their opinions based on a reasoned look at the evidence. They are not. Reason and rationality and details examinations of the facts have nothing to do with anything.

We are regressing.

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A Different Gospel

In the 10 October issue of the Charleston Sunday Gazette-Mail, Denise Giardina has 20 verses from the Gospel of George Bush:

[Gazette-Mail/Giardina]: 15. And if anyone oppose you, yea even if they wear an insulting T-shirt, shake the dust of your shoes in their face, have them arrested, fire them from their job and confine them in a pen called a free speech zone where they may enjoy their freedom in security.

My politics lean left, but I don't think I'd have the courage to write or say anything like this in public today. Is it just me, or has the tenor of the press changed of late?

Hat tip: Common Dreams.

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Just finished listening to Adam Curry's Daily Source Code podcast. He apologized for running longer than an hour. Have I really been listening that long?

Across the street, Bill's elephant ears are standing motionless in the still night, lit up by his porch light. Somewhere between here and there is the Blackfoot daisy we planted this afternoon, its white blossoms invisible in the dark.

I turn my head to look to the bed where we planted the daisy. But it's night. It's dark. There's nothing to see -- nothing but the silhouette of our cat stretching on the rocks and walking back to the garage to go to sleep.

Going to sleep. Trudy did that hours ago. I guess it's my turn, now.

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 Saturday, October 9, 2004

Kerry and Foreign Policy

An article (registration required) in the New York Times Magazine (hat tip: The Agonist/Kerry's Undeclared War), paints a picture of John Kerry's thinking on foreign policy.

Kerry was among the first policy makers in Washington to begin mapping out a strategy to combat an entirely new kind of enemy. Americans were conditioned, by two world wars and a long standoff with a rival superpower, to see foreign policy as a mix of cooperation and tension between civilized states. Kerry came to believe, however, that Americans were in greater danger from the more shadowy groups ... who might detonate suitcase bombs or release lethal chemicals into the subway just to make a point. ...

... Kerry's view ... suggests that it is the very premise of civilized states, rather than any one ideology, that is under attack. And no one state, acting alone, can possibly have much impact on the threat, because terrorists will always be able to move around, shelter their money and connect in cyberspace; there are no capitals for a superpower like the United States to bomb, no ambassadors to recall, no economies to sanction.

So why doesn't Kerry himself say it this clearly?

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Rain Lilies

Where did those come from, those green shoots and that white flower?

Just the other day I looked down on that spot to lament that where there had been green there was now nothing but dead leaves and withered stalks.

But look now: thru the leaves and between the old stalks, a dozen green shoots have shot up. And look: a white flower.

Is this really fall?

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 Friday, October 8, 2004

Counts for Nothing

Looking way back... In 2002 Unqualified Offerings had some comments that Americans generally find difficult to understand. We would be well advised to contemplate them today.

[Unqualified Offerings/Barber of Beirut]: The fact that we launched our interventions in the name of Good Things counts for nothing with people like Mr. Nawfal. That the interventions may have accomplished at least some good things doesn't either.

This is not fancy-schmancy analysis. This stuff ought to be obvious. But to (us) Americans, it's usually not. With great pronouncements of our principles and proclamtions that god is on our side, we are unable to understand why other people don't see things quite the same way as we do.

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Who Was That?

It was a cloudy day. Dark, grey clouds were streaming across the sky, carrying with them promises of rain. Somewhere behind them, the afternoon sun was descending toward the western horizon. We had our eyes on the clouds, thinking positive thoughts of long-soaking showers, green grass, and full-to-the-brim rain barrels.

But we were stuck. We were headed home down the west side of town from a day at work as were thousands of people beside us, and the traffic was moving slowly.

As we inched down the hill and approached the overpass crossing the greenbelt, I looked to the right at the feeder road where the hikers park their cars. On most days many are lined up there, angled onto the shoulder one after another up the hill. But today there was only one lone vehicle sitting on the gravel at the edge of the woods.

One lone vehicle was parked there. One lone somebody was hiking somewhere out there under the oaks and juniper or along the creek. Who was that?, I wondered. Who was that somebody hiking out there on a day like that with storm clouds in the sky? Who was that out there walking alone in the woods while the rush hour traffic inched along and curious onlookers looked on?

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 Tuesday, October 5, 2004

Trees and Grass Again

Oh me, oh my. I'm so ready to be done writing that travelogue. So ready. Two weeks of travelling in France, and I'm stuck after the fact writing and writing and agonizing and agonizing for, what, months! Oh, my. I am so ready to be done.

So I'm sitting here, finished. Finished with the travelogue, I mean. Sitting here in the pleasant afterglow of being done. And sitting here happy about it -- being done that is.

I'm sitting here and Trudy looks at me with a squint on her face.

So will you now start writing about ... about trees and grass and sunshine and things again? she asks.

I laugh. That's funny. Yes I will. Tomorrow.

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The Final Photo

We went to get sandwiches for dinner. I was (again) almost incapable of functioning, no doubt due not only to hunger but also to thirst and the massive infusion of sugar from the Berthillion ice cream we stopped to get with Laure on our way back from the Marais.

Incapable of functioning, I was. So just what is up with that? Here we are, our last day in France, and I'm in the middle of some kind of biochemical reaction that turns me into a monster. Oh well, it wasn't the first time. We were all used to it, by now, which is where the whole sandwich thing comes in -- you see sandwiches were easy to find and to snarf in just such an emergency. By this time we knew sandwiches were key, and we didn't waste any time looking for anything else.

So we got our snarfable sandwiches from some place along Boulevard St. Michel, and we took them and our drinks back across the river and found a place to sit and eat.

The rain was gone now, and the sun was periodically peering thru gaps in the gray clouds. We found a place along the Seine to sit, dangling our legs over the edge and watching the bateaux mouches go by. And when we were done and the hunger had passed, we climbed up the stone stairs from the riverside back to the bridge and began to walk back to our hotel.

Then the sun came out and lit up the towers of Notre Dame -- lit them up for the first time in several days. And the sun hit our backs as we gazed across the bridge at the towers of the cathedral on the island. And our shadows stretched across the street.

As we stood there with the sun at our backs and our shadows before us, I took out our camera and took a picture of the view: Notre Dame, the skyline of Paris, the river Seine, and the shadows of the three of us late in the evening of the last day of our Trip to France.

And that was it.

Trip to France - Day 15

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The Question was About Jobs?

The Vice Presidential debate is going on. They're at it, duking it out, somewhere in Cleveland. They've spent a lot of time talking about foreign policy, but Gwen Ifil asked a question about poverty and jobs:

The question was about jobs? John Edwards asked.

It was about jobs and poverty, Gwen Ifil said.

I thought the question was about jobs and poverty, Edwards responded. I hope we get to talk about education, which is what the Vice President talked about, but the question was about jobs and poverty.

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House-bound Reporter

Wall Street Journal reporter on the ground in Baghdad writes home about the situation there (emph. added):

[Common Dreams/Farnaz Fassihi]: I am house bound. I leave when I have a very good reason to and a scheduled interview. I avoid going to people's homes and never walk in the streets. I can't go grocery shopping any more, can't eat in restaurants, can't strike a conversation with strangers, can't look for stories, can't drive in any thing but a full armored car, can't go to scenes of breaking news stories, can't be stuck in traffic, can't speak English outside, can't take a road trip, can't say I'm an American, can't linger at checkpoints, can't be curious about what people are saying, doing, feeling.

... The genie of terrorism, chaos and mayhem has been unleashed onto this country as a result of American mistakes and it can't be put back into a bottle.

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 Sunday, October 3, 2004

A Package Deal

John Barlow realizes that who we elect President does matter and talks about the package deal we got this last time around:

[barlowfriendz/supporting kerry anyway]: We got pharmaceutical companies designing our health care systems, the prison-industrial complex designing our sentencing schedules, Exxon and Enron designing energy policy, Halliburton and the Carlyle Group and the Center for the New American Century designing foreign policy, Louisiana-Pacific designing forestry policy, and Con-Agra designing agricultural policy. We got the super-rich and multinationals designing tax policy to their personal benefit, creationists designing school curricula, fundamentalists designing scientific research agenda.

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We Walked the Marais

Saturday was a cold and rainy day. Not exactly the best for a walking tour of the city, but that is what we did.

Before we began out trip, we sent a note to Laure who lives in Paris, and she offered to spend some time with us. When we talked to her on the phone, she said that she had set the entire day aside to show us around.

We started with tourist-y stuff -- Sainte Chapelle and the Conceirgerie. And then we got to the good stuff: a walking tour of Le Marais. Even though it was cold and sometimes rainy, Laure seemed undaunted, although she did point out that the weather was cold even for Paris.

Laure knows and likes the Marais well. She took us down narrow alleys with buildings that leaned out over us, leaving only a thin sliver of sky above. Periodically she would stop and turn and say, Look at that building over there, or I like this view a lot.

After a while, we ended up at Place des Vosges, which is one of Laure's favorites. If the weather had been dry, we certainly would have sat there for a while, as there were plenty of benches and the light under the trees had an inviting green hue.

But it was cold and rainy, and sitting on the benches didn't hold much appeal. Instead we stopped for a drink (coffee and hot chocolate à l'ancienne) at a café Laure knows. We sat inside out of the cold and rain. The darkness away from the windows and the timber construction of the place made it seem as if we had been cast back into the middle ages.

We sat there and drank our drinks. We were dry. We were warm. And we were happy.

Trip to France - Day 15

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