Friday, September 30, 2005

September's transition....

Autumn’s Wardrobe

Every September
a moment arrives when the sky changes her clothes.
A storm blows through,
and the deep warm blue turns pale
with a tinge of green;
it leaves behind thick white clouds
rimmed with black;
the hem of nature’s skirt flutters
as the wind turns the leaves inside out,
teasing us with the pale legs of the trees
before the dress explodes into the colors of fall.

I need a coat,
you cover your summer tan,
and we draw our lives closer to ward off the chill.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Death of a Friend

The web posting includes the letters RIP after Michael’s name.

This is how I learned that he has passed away. I have pursued no confirmation, not even sure how to go about it – his parents, his sister maybe.

We were never college roommates. But we were close friends: muse for each other, shared our creative writings, a love of history, international relations, and Yes. We even took the federal Foreign Service test. We were part of a group, as is the wont of college friends that age…Randy, Duffy, Kris, Jill, Sam, Michael, me. The type of friendships that you know could last forever – and still do, in certain shades of gray brought about by distance and time.

He was gay. We did not know that at Lycoming. In fact, he may not have realized it until his senior year. It was harder to share that sort of knowledge then, I suppose. He had had a girlfriend in Rockville, but they had drifted apart. It had seemed more platonic and intellectual than physical anyway.

We stayed connected for some time after college. He was in our wedding. We did Homecoming a couple of times, although he had soured on the College some time before. He moved with his jobs and his relationships: Washington, Norfolk, San Diego, Seattle, San Jose.

And he became sick. The web posting explains his physical ailments and pains. He became part of the lawsuit over California’s medical marijuana policy that finally made it to the Supreme Court. His deposition is here, along with a bio and picture. Again, those initials.

He became a Buddhist and a grief counselor, both of which fit his strong empathetic nature.

We last saw each other on election day about ten years ago, when he visited Boston and I drove out to see him. We hadn’t seen each other in some time, and there had been gaps in our correspondence. It showed. We had each gone through our own transitions, and the silences were long. I left too early that day, but had probably left long before that. My fault.

He left behind a great creative, and caring, spirit.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

The Yankee Group says your PDA is Irrelevant

Cell phones have far outpaced personal digital assistants as the electronic device favored by consumers - 187.7 million people, or 65.4 percent of the U.S. population, own cell phones, according to the Yankee Group, which has stopped tracking sales of handheld computers that lack cellular connectivity, calling them irrelevant.

From an AP story posted today

Palm Pilots have become irrelevant. Blackberries must include the cell component, awkward interface and all. Nintendo DS and Playstation PSP need to call home either to download the newest games or to connect with someone else to play with. Steve Jobs had better turn that nifty little iPod Nano into a cell phone. If your handheld device does not connect to something, then it no longer has the necessary power.

Is this because the consumer wants these bells and whistles? Or because, as the phone companies have discovered, the consumer will pay for the additional features – whether they truly need them or not? How much are our lives truly enhanced because we have multiple ringtones?

Novell had it right in their advertising campaign over ten years ago: The Network is the Computer.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

The Judge with Two First Names -- and ?

The next Chief Justice of the Supreme Court will have two first names. He will be white. He appears to be a nice person. He carries himself in a professional manner, shakes hands in a stalwart official way while directing his attention squarely on the other person. He is well-spoken, seems to have a sense of his legal obligations as an attorney, an arbiter, and a judge.

But thus far in John Robert's public persona – at least, that persona we see in short television or radio vignettes – I get no sense of the person. If he has a moral, social, intellectual, political, or emotional center, it is buried. He appears plain vanilla. That perception alone makes me nervous.

After all, this is a lifetime appointment.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

The Death of an American City

An American city is dead.

Over half a million people have left New Orleans and its surrounding parishes. Millions of houses were under water for days. The levees broke and the lake poured its water into the bowl, finding its proper level. The city became an underwater Atlantis.

Streets were covered. Power was out. No drinkable water. The sewer system became the lake, and the lake became the sewer system. Bodies floated between the debris. Cars intermingled with floating stuff churned up by the storm, or dislodged from buildings, or lifted up from lawns and sidewalks.

High-rise buildings rose from the dirty pools that lapped at their bottom floors. Seen from the air, most of the city looked like a collect of floating peaked roofs.

We have not experienced the total destruction of such a large city on this continent in this generation. Some have called it a diaspora, which may be giving the city’s population a cultural and ethnic face that it does not quite meet. But at worst, it is a geographic and human dispersion that we have never seen in this country.

New Orleans will remain dead, even when the water recedes. The power companies will restore the electricity, clean water will run through the pipes, the streets will reappear, houses will rise from the depths again. Physically, it will look like a city again.

But until people return, New Orleans will not return to life. Only people can make a city breathe. And we must expect that some percentage of the people will not come back.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Labor Day

Labor Day. The best way to spend a sunny warm day would be to sit on the back deck and read “Calvin and Hobbes” all morning.

George Bush makes a bold stroke this morning. He announced the appointment of John Roberts to be Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Logistically, he will withdraw the Roberts appointment to fill O’Connor’s seat, and resubmit his name to fill Rehnquist’s spot.

This would appear to be a master political step. Roberts seems clean, his record free of any pronouncements or decisions that color his judgements in any particular hue. The Senate appeared ready to confirm him with little opposition. Bush probably saw this as an opportune time to elevate Roberts quickly. He’s young, he is certainly conservative, he is free from controversy, and he would lead the Court for years.

The swift announcement also deflects, at least temporarily, the attacks that the administration has faced about lack of urgency in relief efforts on the Gulf coast. It took four days for the administration to send in troops to evacuate thousands of refugees from central New Orleans, and bring food and water. Meanwhile, television and the internet were full of pictures: squalor, chaos, hunger, unsanitary and life-threatening conditions among thousands of people, nearly all of them black. We had isolated the poor and minorities in the city, and now they were isolated and dying in the middle of a flood.

We’ll see if the Roberts nomination bumps the refugee stories from the front page of the paper tomorrow morning.