Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Everything in its Place

Where are the scissors? she asked.

She had her finger pressing down on the wrapping paper and at that very moment needed to cut it off from the roll. She looked around her, expecting to find them on the table.

I put them away, I said. I have this bad habit of putting wrapping stuff away continually while the wrapping is still going on.

And I pulled the red-handled scissors out of a drawer in the kitchen.

Were those in the drawer? she asked when I handed them to her.

Yes. I put them there.

Oh no. Those don't go in the drawer. Those are the dry sink scissors. They go right here.

Everything in its place.


What would I do without her?

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 Monday, December 20, 2004

Bully Pulpit

He stood there at the podium before a room of perplexed reporters.

You're not going to get me to negotiate with myself, he said. I know what you're trying to do.

You're not going to get me -> I refuse:
    I refuse to negotiate with myself.

negotiate -> answer:
    I refuse to answer myself.

myself -> you:
    I refuse to answer you.

Which makes it so much easier to understand his emphatic follow-up, So don't bother to ask me.

Bully pulpit, indeed.

Hat tip: Political Animal

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 Saturday, December 18, 2004

I Watched Him Walking

I watched him walking down the road on the way to a friend's house this afternoon. He turned and looked back to the window where I sat and lifted his right hand and waved.

I watched him walk down the road with the afternoon sun lighting his frazzled hair and his sweater hanging down and his loose-fitting jeans.

He walked with the stride of someone who knows where he is going and so finds no need to hurry, the stride of an adult, not the stride of that little boy who used to roll on the floor are jump in the leaves.

Then as he walked away, he looked over at his right hand and shook it. He shook it like something was stuck to it. He shook it like he couldn't get it off. First his hand, then his arm.

In the sun, with the leaves of our young oak trees rustling in the northern breeze, this man who used to be my child walked down the road shaking his hand and arm wildly just like the child who used to be my child.

He isn't gone, yet.

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 Friday, December 17, 2004

I Had Something

I had something I wanted to say. It was on the tip of my tongue a moment ago, but the flashing lights in the yard outside, and the others wrapped around the tree across the street distracted me.

I had something I wanted to say. It was something important, but the fire in the fireplace snapped and the dog barked and I lost my train of thought.

I had something I wanted to say. It must have been profound, but I made the mistake of reading a little news and looking at pictures online. And the news and the pictures reminded me of those so much less fortunate than I am, with my flashing holiday lights on the lawn and my crackling fire and my dog curled by my sleeping wife's side.

I had something I wanted to say. But I think I will keep it for later.

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 Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Sliver of Night

A sliver of night was in the sky. I saw it sinking into the trees with black sky above me and deep indigo in the west. The thin crescent moon was about to set.

Day was done.

I saw that thin sliver of white and beside it a round globe of dark grey. If I had been up there looking back here, I would have seen a full blue earth staring down from the top of the sky.

Gone the sun.

But no one was there. There was silence. There was darkness. And on that night the full earth would have thrown down a dim light on the grey lunar dirt.

From the lake, from the hills, from the sky.

I saw that thin sliver sinking into the trees. And from here, so many miles away, I saw the dim reflected glow of the earth-lit dust on the dark side of the moon.

I do not say this lightly, but in moments like that, God is surely nigh.

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 Sunday, December 12, 2004

She Does That A Lot

Oh... Trudy.


You're in my Jumpingfish.

She came into the room laughing.

What am I doing? she asked.

You're smiling and agreeing.

She laughed again, louder this time.

I do that a lot in your Jumpingfish!

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In the middle of the produce section there was a bin of potatoes: small, red, new potatoes. I stopped at the bin and looked down at them. I picked one up between my fingers.

For a moment I was thrown back in time. It was many years ago. It was summer. The sky must have been blue. The sun must have been shining. We were outside, my brother and I, with my grandmother. We were standing in the garden where the goat pen stood years before they bought the house.

We were standing in the garden, and my grandmother was hunched over pulling new potatoes and carrots out of the ground. She handed us a couple small carrots to eat -- straight out of the dirt. And she collected the new potatoes -- in a bucket, I suppose. (She always had the perfect bucket to hold the things she gathered.)

And then I was back in the produce section of the grocery store.

Let's get some for this week, I said to Trudy. She smiled and agreed.

I pulled a plastic bag off the roll and gathered several handsfull of the potatoes, one potato at a time.

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 Tuesday, December 7, 2004

That Time of Year

Late that night something woke me up. We were sleeping in the living room. It was dark, but the glow of the coals in the fireplace cast an orange light around the room.

I opened my eyes. And as I did, a bright orange line of flame no wider than a pencil rose from the glowing embers around the remains of one log and climbed the updraft toward the flue.

It was a strange flame: bright, narrow, and tall. I watched it for a few moments, and then closed my eyes and went back to sleep.

Winter has arrived all of a sudden. From the warm, wet weather of our fall, it came crashing around the corner almost on cue as the month turned. The air got cold. The leaves fell from the oaks and ash trees up and down the street. The sky turned cloudy and bleak.

But there are glowing embers in the fireplace. There are flames to watch. And there are lights flickering on the houses, in the bushes, and in tree branches up and down the street.

It's beginning to feel a lot like that time of year.

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 Sunday, December 5, 2004

Lessig on IP Law, Technology, Blogs, and the Commons

A recording of a Larry Lessig-led session at Bloggercon III. (Recording from ITConversations.) Lots of good things buried in there. (Worth the listen.)

Some Lessig quotes...

The state of today's IP law...

I was once at a conference and somebody made the following analogy that I thought was really brilliant.

Imagine you buy a dining room table. And you decide you don't want to use it as a dining room table anymore. You want to use it as a desk. But before you're allowed to move it into your study and use it as a desk, you've got to call up the maker of the dining room table.

Say, Can I use it as a desk? Can I put an Apple computer on it?

No, no, no. We've got an exclusive deal with Microsoft. It can only be a Microsoft computer that goes on top.

The point is, the way that we think about IP in this context is really bizarre when you think about other property. People don't like talking about it as property, but let's talk about it as property.

If it were property, why can't I do with my property (You know, the CD that I bought.) certain things that I would be able to do with my computer? Right, because it's my property. But the law the way it's structured right now is a very feudal system of law.

IP Law and Blogs...

The problem with that retoric, the thing which Valenti succeeded in doing, is that it simplifies the issues too much.

And so that you think that it's black and white. You're either for property or you're a Communist. Right, so if you resist the existing regime, it's because you believe in anarchy.

Right, and I have been called a Communist and an Anarchist a million different times even though my position is never against copyright never against intellectual property. It's instead for a regime that makes more sense of the existing technology.

That matrix is not such a regime. That matrix may have made sense in 1970, 1980. It may have made sense given the Recording Industry in a time gone by. It doesn't make sense today.

It doesn't make sense for blogs. Right, it doesn't make sense to what blogs could be. And the fact is you're generating an industry of creativity that is inconsistent with that law.

Now you can shut your eyes to it, pretent the law's going to ignore you. And it will ignore you, until it becomes important what you are doing. And then it's going to come in and take its hatchet and shut you down.

Or we can begin to think about how to protect ourselves against that ultimate moment.

A Balanced approach to property...

Think about the Internet. The Internet was an architecture that was a commons. People built on top of it. Nobody owned the protocols. Nobody tried to control it. And we've been fighting people who have been trying to control it.

And that open-commons protocol has induced an extraordinary amount of business that gets built on top of it. Right, and so, I think the point to get people to see is that a world of no property and a world of perfect property, both of those extremes, is less valuable than a world where you've got a proper balance between property and the commons.

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 Thursday, December 2, 2004

In the Wake of the Twentieth Century

Who will build the bridges now, with the Twentieth Century racing away? We aren't interested in building bridges anymore. What a time that was when we were.

What an era for the lucky ones. An era of growth. Of prosperity. Of progress. Of bridges and highways across the continent. Of engines of commerce and power plants lighting up the cities.

What an era. For some. But now it has passed. And its hopes. And its dreams.

There isn't room for hopes or dreams anymore. Our eyes and our hearts and our minds are elsewhere. In the hatred and greed that is left behind in the wake.

Hatred and greed. Listen to what I say. Get out of my way. Shut your mouth. I'm not interested in what you think. That's all that is left.

So, who will build the bridges now?

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 Wednesday, December 1, 2004

Dented Range

It wasn't a good day to be delivering appliances. It rained more on that day than it has rained in a very long time. The curb was a raging torrent. The water was dripping off the roof and gushing out the downspouts and running down the driveway and lapping at the lip of the garage.

No, it wasn't a good day to be delivering appliances. But it was the day our range was due.

The truck pulled up early. One of the guys was charged with unloading our new, black range from the back, while the other did the paperwork and the installation. And he was the one who pointed out the dent.

Our new black Kenmore range had a dent in the side. They had noticed it at the warehouse when they picked it up. He said we had two options: reject the delivery or ask for a discount.

It was a no-brainer. This was the weekend before Thanksgiving, after all. And anyway, the dent wouldn't show.

Let me give you a hint, the paperwork guy said. When you talk to them about the discount ... start high.

We all chuckled. Then his partner (who had now finished loading the old range onto the truck and stashing all the trash) dialed the phone. He said something to the person on the other end and then handed me the phone.

Mr. Hasan?


I understand that your range is damaged.

Eventually she asked me how much I wanted, but I wasn't really prepared for that question right there on the spot. I figured I'd have some more time to practice my starting high. For a moment I was silent, and then I looked over at Trudy. She mouthed a figure to me, and I nodded.

Fifty-five dollars, I said.

Fifty-five. We can do that. she said instantly. The deal was done, and I hung up the phone.

I said seventy-five! she said as she erupted in laughter.

I didn't start high. I felt like a schmuck.

Later that night, as we lay in bed falling asleep, Trudy rolled over to me and whispered in my ear, I'm so happy I married a man who isn't greedy.

That made me feel better, but I wonder what the delivery guys thought.

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