Thursday, February 24, 2005

Bashing, Breaking, Borrowing

Stirling Newberry presents a powerful framework for understanding the dynamics of early 21st century American politics.

[Newberry/Rise of Rove's Rebublic (Agonist and Kos)]:

Bashing creates polarization, Breaking destroys people's ability to resist that polarization, Borrowing means that ultimately people must fall into line behind where the money is.

Many believe the elite have almost absolute power over the lives of little people. It isn't true now, but they have a coherent plan to force little people into line. ...

Everything the Republicans do is part of this three tier attack: everything advances bashing, breaking or borrowing.

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Doing Fine

But there's one more thing that bothers me, she said.

What? he asked.

She didn't really miss a beat, so he really didn't need to ask his question. She probably didn't hear him ask it, anyway.

What you wrote worries me -- that thing about the headache. What was that? Are you ok?

Yes. I am ok.

But the headache. Are you ok?

It was a headache. It went away.

There was silence for a moment. A kind of disbelieving silence. He recognized it.

I'm fine, mom.


It happens again and again, this conversation. One would think that a man in his mid-40s might have escaped this.

What, would she prefer silence, instead? No, of course not.

But would he prefer silence? Would he prefer that his mother not call? No, of course not.

They're both doing fine.

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 Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Supposed Headache Fluff

It came on with a fury. One moment we were driving along on a sunny Saturday, and the next I was holding my head in pain.

The blue sky went gray. The sun passed behind a cloud. The ringing in my ears increased to a dull roar. Blood pulsed thru my veins. I rubbed my temples for relief.

Then I looked up.

There were trees in front of the parked car where I sat -- three leafless redbuds. And one was blooming. I looked up at the pink blossoms just starting to open and put my hands in my lap. My veins weren't pulsing so hard anymore. The roar in my ears diminished. The sky became blue again.

And the sun shined down on the redbud tree.


Oh, come on now. Give me a break.


You looked up and saw a flower and your headache went away. Give me a break.

Not a flower. A blooming redbud. That's what happened.

Sheesh, what fluff.

I suppose it is.

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 Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Ends and Means

The Supreme Court Justice looked down from the bench and asked, Could the city then take a Motel Six and give the land to the Ritz because it would pay more taxes?

The lawyer for the city answered, Yes.

He said this before the bench, which the justices above him and the hushed gallery behind. No more explanation was needed.

Yes, the city has the right to take the land because some developers have a scheme and that scheme will generate revenue.

Ends, meet means.

The quotes are from an All Things Considered report by Nina Totenberg on today's arguments before the United States Supreme Court.

The commentary is my own.

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Making Municipal WiFi Illegal

Pennsylvania did it (granting Philadelphia an exception). Texas might do it. Across the country, the telcos are bidding the politicians to eliminate the thorn of municipal competition in providing wireless.

Here is a Wired is a article by Larry Lessig about our state politicians keeping the nation safe from the red threat of municipal WiFi:

if you look closely, you'll see the communist menace has infiltrated governments everywhere. Ever notice those free photons as you walk the city at night? Ever think about the poor streetlamp companies, run out of business because municipalities deigned to do completely what private industry would do only incompletely? Or think about the scandal of public roads: How many tollbooth workers have lost their jobs because we no longer (since about the 18th century) fund all roads through private enterprise? Municipal buses compete with private taxis. City police departments hamper the growth at Pinkerton's (now Securitas). It's a national scandal. ...

City and state politicians should have the backbone to stand up to self-serving lobbyists. Citizens everywhere should punish telecom toadies who don't. Backwater broad-band has been our fate long enough. Let the markets, both private and public, compete to provide the service that telecom and cable has not.

And while we're on the subject, here's a weblog dedicated to fighting Texas House Bill 789, which would ban municipal wireless networks in Texas.

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 Monday, February 21, 2005

Off He Went

The parking lot under the freeway was full. There were parents with baby strollers. There were dogs on leashes and dogs being carried. There were fast runners kicking up the gravel. There were bike riders weaving back and forth.

We got a drink and then started off across the pedestrian bridge under the freeway. We started out slowly. (This is how I have always been, preferring to warm up slowly, but lately it hasn't been so much a preference as a necessity.) So we ran slowly across the bridge.

On the other side, where the trail runs beside a field and along the top of a ridge looking down a wooded slope to the water, the fourteen year-old[*] broke our initial silence.

So how far are we going, three or four?

I thought for a moment and reflected on the fact that although we had been running for a while, I felt no more limber than when we had started.

Three, I said.

The sky was blue. The air was warm. Everyone was happy to be there. We ran past the soccer fields and turned up Barton Creek. There were canoeists and kayakers and a fisherman standing up in his boat showing off a large bass he had caught. There were dogs jumping into the water. There was a dad with his two boys feeding bread to the ducks.

We stopped to get water before the Pfluger Bridge, and then we crossed the river and headed back. We talked about his band practice and about his assignment to discuss who won the War of 1812. We talked about the meaning of winning a war and strategies for writing a convincing argument.

As we got near to the end, the conversation ran out (or perhaps just my contributions). It wasn't hot. We weren't running fast. But I felt like I was lumbering on about as fast as I could. We had about a half mile to go. I was looking forward to sitting down and stretching.

He turned his head and looked at me.

Shall we go faster? he said in an eager voice.

I smiled and said, You go ahead.

But he wouldn't.

Really, I said. I tapped him on the shoulder. Go ahead. I'll see you at the stretching area.

And off he went.

[*] I must acknowlege my use of this term the fourteen year-old, for as generic as it might sound, I have lifted it directly from the stories periodically told by Brad Delong in his Semi-Daily Journal (for example, in this story about his fourteen year-old's tackling Roman history).

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Gilliard on Hunter S. Thompson

Late last night the blogs started announcing the death of Hunter S. Thompson. This morning, Steve Gilliard had some thoughts on Thompson's passing, and at the end he pulled up Thompson's biting comments on the passing of Richard M. Nixon:

[on Nixon]: If the right people had been in charge of Nixon's funeral, his casket would have been launched into one of those open-sewage canals that empty into the ocean just south of Los Angeles. He was a swine of a man and a jabbering dupe of a president. Nixon was so crooked that he needed servants to help him screw his pants on every morning.

I didn't read Thompson when his Fear and Loathing was all the rage. But I can see from this snippet how his fury could light a fire. Fury like this is a rare thing.

Later today, Gilliard reflected at length about Hunter S. Thompson and on journalism, blogs and contemporary fiction. It's an excellent analysis on our culture and I suppose is a fair tribute to Thompson:

[on journalism and blogs]: Thompson had been a newspaperman, had worked for Time and hated it. He didn't fit into the neat box that people wanted to place journalists in. ... He was a refugee from American journalism, just like many bloggers are today. ...

Bloggers are not some new creation, but the newest set of the barbarians at the gates. They are the people who don't trust the system and it's artifacts. It is to writing, what rap is to music, the coming of democracy to a trade. What Thompson and his peers did in the 60's and 70's, we do today. But free of the constraints of editors and publishers and the need to hustle up work. ...

So you have journalists, Washington journalists, who report but do not question, getting squeamish when people do, like Helen Thomas, seeking to live off the handouts of their sources, and get the hand-fed scoop which will sell papers.

[on contemporary fiction]: And [you have] fiction writers more concerned with apartments and cheating mates than the world around them. ... Their self-absorption and lack of interest in the wider world. It is masturbation in print for the most part, and irrelevant. ... So when you need a brutal, honest fiction to deal with lives in Bush's America, and it's contradictions, you get bitter drivel.

[on blogs again]: The outlets to discuss American life are now closed off because [journalism] is afraid and [contemporary fiction] indifferent.

Which is why blogs are so popular. There is no other outlet to explain the contradictions in American life cleanly and clearly. The outcasts are more unwelcome now than ever in newsrooms battered by greedy owners and vindictive politics, fiction created to explain the anger at middle class suburbia. Honesty and truth have no place in either forum.

[and on Thompson's legacy]: It's odd to think of the outsider Thompson having won the day about what we call journalism, but blogging allows for a world of outlaw journalists, working cheap and fast ans supporting each other in ways he couldn't imagine. It's not a bad legacy.

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 Sunday, February 20, 2005

I Took Your Dog Out

I took your dog out to the track tonite.

He ran alongside me as we jogged in the darkness. As we ran around in circles with a half-moon above, he kept his nose forward and mostly resisted the lure of the shadows and the sounds in the woods.

Who would have guess that this little black dog with his barking and jumping would do this so well? Who would have guessed that this nervous tail-wagger would focus himself and run beside me so long?

I took your dog out to the track tonite, and he's been mighty quiet ever since we returned. But he did a good job, and I know that tomorrow he'll come into the study after dinner is through and sit on the carpet and look into my eyes and ask if we can go do it again.

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Social Security

Joshua Marshall/Talking Points Memo has been closely covering the difficulty the White House seems to be having in translating their mandate into the beginnings of the end of Social Security. In an entry today, he posts some eyewitness reports to a public meeting called by Representative Jim Kolbe (R) of Arizona. It seems that he and Social Security Deputy Commissioner James Lockhart were faced by a less-than-accommodating crowd:

Several times Kolbe called for people to allow Mr. Lockhart to continue his presentation, at one point testily exclaiming, "Folks, come on!" One of Mr. Lockhart's slides, a quote from President Bush's recent State of the Union speech, drew loud boo's and even raspberries from the crowd.
But take a look at the coverage of the event by the so-called liberal media:
on the only local news that carried the story that evening, the reporter barely covered the strong opposition, then gave both Kolbe and Lockhart time to make their points and concluded by stating that something needs to be done.

One step forward: the public isn't playing dead.

One step back: far from being liberally biased, the media go out of their way to lob softballs to the Republicans.

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 Friday, February 18, 2005

It Will Always Make Me Happy

You have no idea how important it is to me that we are here, you and I together connected by these words, as we are by so many other things. You have no idea what it means to me that you peer over my shoulder as I click at the keyboard. You have no idea how fulfilled it makes me feel that you read these words and remember them and laugh at them and always seem to understand.

And so I will ask you once in a while, perhaps too often, Did you read what I wrote today? And I will wait for you to chuckle or smile or roll your eyes.

And it will always make me happy no matter what you say.

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Why Potpourri and Incense?

I wonder why I say such silly things -- stories about grass and flowers and growing trees, stories about stars at night or boxes on a stairway. Why write these things when there are serious things to write. Why this potpourri and incense?

The fact is, I talk in curlicue ways about nice and innocent things because I am afraid to talk about those other things. Afraid to utter darker thoughts. Afraid to voice unspoken words. Afraid to shine light where nobody really wants to see. Afraid of what might happen if I do. Afraid of who is listening.

The world is a different place, they tell me, you see. And deep in my bones I feel I can no longer speak the way I used to just several years ago.

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 Thursday, February 17, 2005

Milton Glaser

A nail stuck out from the woodwork on the wall at the bottom of the stairs. The wallpaper was worn and wrinkled. The paint was cracked. An old box of miscellaneous things sat on the steps, halfway up, where it might have been sitting for a very long time. Some papers and what looked like an old discarded shoe (although it was hard to tell for sure) sat on the step immediately below.

The building was old. The stairway was narrow. The boards creaked as a man with a rainbow colored scarf took hold of the railings on each side.

None of us had the ability to understand our path until it's over, he said.

He reached the top of the stairs, turned to look back down the stairway. Then he disappeared thru a door, leaving behind him that paint and that box and those papers and that nail. Leaving behind him the golden sunlight pouring in thru a window.

QT film by Hillman Curtis about Milton Glaser (I <heart> NY)

(Hat tip: Creative Bits)

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 Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Gazing at the Sky

They turned the lights on the soccer fields off a few minutes ago. Now I have only a dim moon shadow below me. Without those blazing lights, the long shadow that reached from here to the edge of the woods is gone.

They turned out the lights, but the sky is still filled with the glow of the city. There are flood lights on the side of the middle school. There are parking lot lights a quarter mile away at the elementary school. And there is the orange glow of the highway lights (accompanied by the non-stop rush of tires on concrete).

Once upon a time, not so long ago, someone lying here in this spot looking up like this would have seen much more than there is to see now. On a night light this, with only the wispiest of clouds blowing overhead, the heavens would have been a wonder to see.

I have seen skies like that. From the darkness of the panhandle, driving to Colorado, I have gasped at the stars. From the Big Bend Basin in the early spring, I have seen them. In my boots and winter coat standing on an icy lake in Michigan, I have seen skies like what might have been here to see once upon a time. But not tonite.

Look, there's Orion!

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 Monday, February 14, 2005

With A Quarter Mile To Go

We were standing along the final quarter mile of the marathon route. The runners going by us had covered 26 miles and were within sight of the finish line. From here it was all downhill. The slight breeze was behind them. The voice of the finish line announcer shouted out their names.

I don't know what happened to her, but from among the runners a woman came staggering toward us standing by the side of the road. She had evidently been running with the 3:40 pace team. One of the pace team leaders was holding her up. And he needed to hold her up, because she could barely stand on her own. As he and she came toward the crowd, he motioned for us to step aside so that he could help her sit down.

Her eyes were dazed -- not focused and rolling around as if she were about to faint. The man lowered her gently, and someone in the crowd held her other arm as they sat her on the curb. A bystander offered her some Gatorade, but she couldn't drink it. It just ran down the front of her jersey.

A race volunteer in an orange jacket came over from across the street. He was talking into a radio.

Time passed. No one came. Nothing seemed to be happening. I walked over to the man in the orange jacket.

Is someone coming? I asked.

He looked around and muttered something about his radio not working.

Do you want me to go get someone?



The medical tent, he said, and he pointed toward the finish line a quarter mile away.

I turned and started walking quickly through the crowd. When I got nearer to the finish line, I started running. Eventually I came to a gate and a volunteer with a badge hanging around his neck. I explained that there was a runner down who needed help. He turned to go get someone, but after a few steps he came back. He pointed across to a woman standing 30 yards away and said that she had a radio.

She was 30 yards away. He wasn't going to let me in. Instead, he wanted me to run twice that far around the periphery and behind a semi-truck trailer to get to her. So I did. I was breathing hard and could barely talk when I got there. She was talking to a man. He had a radio. I didn't see one on her. I looked at them and interrupted their conversation with a stare.

The man turned to me, and I explained that a runner was down on the left side of the road about a quarter mile away, just beyond the barricades. He acknowledged what I said and immediately began talking into his radio.

They'll be there, he said.

I jogged back.

When I got there, the woman was still sitting on the curb. No one had showed up, yet. The runners who had held her up were still there. She had a silvery blanket around her, and it sparkled in the sun. Someone had given her an ice pack. Her eyes were still glazed. She had been crying.

I looked around, expecting to see paramedics on bikes or maybe an ambulance, since we were so close to the end. Instead, two men came walking up from the finish line. Neither appeared to be a paramedic. One was pushing a wheel chair. They were on the other side of the street. We waved to them so that they could see us.

The pace team runners and the two men helped the woman into the wheel chair. She slumped back and looked up us standing around her. We must have all looked very worried. Her eyes were filled with sadness.

I'm sorry, she said, as they turned her chair and pushed her towards the medical tent.

2005 Freescale Marathon, Austin TX

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 Sunday, February 13, 2005

Town Lake

How cruel the winter gray had become -- yesterday. But one cycle of the sun and the winter has taken on a different personality. This morning, the sun burned thru yesterday's gray, and breezes hinting at a coming spring blew the remnants away.

The blue sky was reflected in the water of the lake downtown. Kayaks and rowing teams worked their way up- and downstream, coached by a man with a blow-horn standing up in his small motor boat as they prepared to make another sprint.

Joggers and walkers made their way along the trail in the sun with their iPods and baby strollers and happy dogs with panting tongues. Some were sweating. Some were smiling. Some were straining as they took each step.

On a stage in a grassy field, a band played out tunes (Beatles, Doobie Brothers, Johnny Cash, ...). Recovering runners soaked up the sun at the end of their 26.2 miles, happy to just sit and listen and eat and drink, happy for the sun.

And a mallard duck chased away a swan from his place by the shore under the blue in the shining sun along the green banks of the park along the lake. They chased along the shore. They chased across to the other side. They took to the air with wingtips grazing the water and running feet splashing.

What a difference one day can make.

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 Saturday, February 12, 2005


The air has a chill in it that creeps into your bones. The light from the sky is a homogeneous gray. The leafless trees up and down the street are motionless, although the green leaves of the Monterey Oak rustle a bit, and the songs of some birds a half block away hint at spring.

Down the street, on the way back home, we saw the blooms of a flowering quince -- pinkish, reddish flowers on leafless gray branches. The blossoms, like the birds a half block from here, suggested that something besides this chill and drear is on the way. But the sky was not so hopeful.

And so sitting here, looking out the window, with a fog come over my mind, I feel like the Writing Man clambering out of his pit of sloth. Except that I'm about to clamber into mine.

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 Friday, February 11, 2005

Green on Black Reprise

She came into the office after she ate her stir fry. She had a smile on her face and offered her lap to the (barking) dog.

Show me that graphic you told me about -- that graphic on your weblog.

I took her to the page. I scrolled down a line or two. And then I stopped.

Show me the graphic, she said.

I pointed to the screen.

Her smile disappeared. A half-frown/half-scowl crept over her face. She wasn't quite sure how to put it.

No, she said. That's not a graphic.

I pointed to the screen, as if to say it was.

Nooo, she insisted. That's not a graphic. That's ... that's ... coding.

Evidently the green text on a black background didn't really impress her. You know what they say about beauty.

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Green on Black

I sometimes prefer to use simple tools, tools that let me feel what I am creating as I create them. Sometimes this slows me down a bit, but I like to think that the understanding that comes from these hands-on tools benefits me more in the long run.

So today, I'm sitting at my desk using one of these simple tools. I'm sitting there using the command line and vi in a terminal window -- solid, proven tools often unused by many of my friends who often opt for integrated WYSIWYGs with their mouse-clickable widgets and their ability to hide all the irritating detail.

Anyway, I'm sitting there editing a makefile to fix a library problem I'm having. A friend watches me from behind. And as I type, he comments on the terminal window colors: green text on a black background. (These are comfort colors for me -- reminders of true terminals of a day gone by.)

all: libs tests
libs: libbio.a
libbio.a: ${MODULE_OBJS}
        ar -rcu $@ $^
        ranlib $@
libbiotests.a: ${TEST_OBJS}
        ar -rcu $@ $^
        ranlib $@
tests: bio_TEST_main
bio_TEST_main: bio_TEST_main.o libbiotests.a libbio.a
        ${CC} ${CFLAGS} -o $@ $^ ${LIBRARIES}
bio_ser_TEST_main: bio_ser_TEST_main.o libbiotests.a libbio.a
        ${CC} ${CFLAGS} -o $@ $^ ${LIBRARIES}
        ${CC} ${CFLAGS} -c $<
        $(RM) *.o  bio_TEST_main *.a

Your terminal colors remind me of programming in the 1990s, he said.

I chuckled, happy that he had noticed in the first place. But I didn't have the heart (the courage?) to tell him that my motivation came from memories of the decade before.

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 Wednesday, February 9, 2005

The Stacks

The stacks were closed to undergraduates. Too much wear and tear on the books, I suppose. Years later I would see the consequence of open stacks at a different library at a different university in a different state -- books torn out of their covers, books thrown onto the floor, books marked up with yellow highlighter and pen.

So the stacks were closed to undergraduates -- unless you had a note from a professor. And that semester, those of us in a particular comparative literature class all had notes that granted us access.

I spent a lot of time there that semester, and the next, and the next. The library was ahead of its time in technology. Most of the catalog was available on computers that sat in the middle of the main room. The green characters glowed against black and competed for attention with the traditional card catalogs that still lined the walls.

Beyond the computer screens and tall card catalogs, you came to the main desk. If you needed a book, this is where you brought your scribbled note with the title and Dewey decimal number. You brought it to the desk where a runner would take it from you and disappear into the stacks, coming back after a while with the book you needed.

But if you had a note from a professor, you could get a card. And with this card, you could go into the stacks yourself. Instead of passing slips of paper to the runners at the desk, you could walk around, hold up your card, and pass thru the door yourself.

Thru that door, the smell of books was thick in the air. The ceilings offered barely enough clearance for your head. The shelves extended from the floor thru the ceiling into the next level above without stopping. Looking up, you might see someone browsing. More often you would only see darkness. Around the corner, you might see an old wooden desk where if you found the right book you might sit and study in the midst of an impenetrable silence.

If you had a note from your professor.

The University of Illinois, early 1980s.

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On Judgement / On Knowledge

In a long discussion that has actually been going on for some time, Juan Cole dukes it out with Jonah Goldberg on their disagreements about Iraq and about each other.

In the process, Cole hits the nail on the head:

[Informed Comment/Goldberg v. Cole Redux]: An argument that judgment matters but knowledge does not is profoundly anti-intellectual. It implies that we do not need ever to learn anything in order make mature decisions. We can just proceed off some simple ideological template and apply it to everything. This sort of thinking is part of what is wrong with this country. We wouldn't call a man in to fix our plumbing who knew nothing about plumbing, but we call pundits to address millions of people on subjects about which they know nothing of substance.

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 Tuesday, February 8, 2005

Filling Brandon's Silence

Brandon was gone. The band had to play without him and several other students who were not in class that day. There was some kind of testing going on, and the jazz band was notably thin.

The thing is: Brandon had a guitar solo.

Still, you have to practice with the band you've got, so the band played on. And when they got to the place where Brandon should have played, as they prepared to count out the measures in silence instead, a kid in the middle of the band stood up.

Behind the saxophones and in front of the trumpets, he stood up in place of Brandon and played his horn. He played Brandon's solo on his trombone while all the others looked at him in surprise. And then he sat down.

And the band played on, again.

This is the story as it was told to me. I wish I could have been there.

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 Thursday, February 3, 2005

Meeting Already In Progress

The conversation started out innocently enough but then somebody asked a question that got everyone talking. Their voices went faster and faster. Their tones rose an octave, and their volume increased. The question had hit a nerve.

I was sitting back listening to all of this, safely removed from the melee, and my computer beeped. I turned away from the late afternoon sunshine that was painting the leafless trees by the railroad tracks and looked at my screen.

I had mail.

We are in the teleconference now. Can you join us?

Rats. How did I forget this? I looked at my electronic calendar. There was no appointment there. Rats! Why didn't I enter it into the calendar? I looked at my PDA. No appointment there, either. Rats. Why hadn't I entered it there!? I was rattled.

These were people who should think highly of me. How did I mess up and let this meeting fall thru the cracks? Isn't this just typical, I thought to myself. I began to sweat. I felt the blood drain from my face.

Meanwhile, the conversation on the phone was accelerating towards frenetic. The words were arriving in a swirling stream. What was I going to tell them? How was I going to excuse myself? Would there ever be a break in the talking?

But before I excused myself, I needed to find the dial-in number for the second conference. There was none in the email message, just Can you join us? There was a link, but when I clicked on it, I got a browser error. I was 22 minutes late, and I didn't know how to get in. And I still didn't know how I had forgotten it. I started looking around in my email folders: inbox, trash, appointments, architecture, inbox again. I couldn't find the announcement anywhere.

And the conversation in my ear rattled on.

Now I was really sweating. In desperation, I turned on the fan on my desk and aimed it at my face. It didn't help. I was too flustered. My forgetfulness had done me in again. I was late to an important meeting; I had to bow out of the one I was on; and I didn't know what the number was I needed to dial.

I did, however, have an invitation to a previous meeting hosted by the same guy, so I wrote down his conference number, and I sat back down to wait for a break in the words coming out of my phone. Eventually, I interrupted and apologized that I had to skip out.

I have to leave now, just as this is getting interesting, I said.

There was sudden silence, and then someone said, It is?

And then I was free, but I was still sweating buckets, embarrassed by my memory dysfunction. And then I read the message again.

We are in a teleconference now. Can you join us?

No wonder I didn't schedule it. This wasn't the teleconference. This was just a teleconference. I didn't forget anything. He was asking me to join a meeting to which I wasn't originally invited.

The embarrassment receded. The color came back to my face. I turned off the fan and dialed into their meeting already in progress.

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 Tuesday, February 1, 2005

Oh, Never Mind

I was leaving Denver, flying home. The morning had started out gray and wet, and the temperature had been dropping steadily all day. As I dropped the rental car off, the rain turned to snow. Once I was inside the airport and thru security, I stopped at a window to watch the snow fall. It felt good to be inside.

A bank of shiny stainless steel telephone booths lined the sloping hallway that led to my gate. I noticed a man in one. He stuck out from the rest.

He held the phone tightly and had a stressed look on his face. Sitting in the phone carrousel with the sound-proofed stainless steel around him, he was mostly concealed except from people walking by directly by.

I walked directly by.

But I'm only trying to..., he was saying. He never finished the sentence.

Oh, never mind, he sighed. Then he hung up.

And just as I was about to pass out of range, I heard him mutter and cuss to himself.

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