30 December 2011

The annual end of the year blog post composed high over North America

Imagine the shock you may encounter that I’ve unexpressed thoughts on the departing and incoming years. 2011 was a great and awful year in many ways. We’re hoping that 2012 will have more great, and less awful. Here’s my list of hopes, fears, joys, and discoveries from 2011 and for 2012 In no particular order:

1. Aging parents create new challenges for which there are no textbooks, no magazine articles, and no roadmaps.

My mother, at 88, is more childlike all the time. The medical term for her cognitive change – loss, really – is “senile dementia,” which is both cruel and accurate. There are many known causes. There is no cure. For now, compassion and routine are enough to allow her to live independently, comfortably, and with a measure of dignity. I’m terrified that progressive cognitive loss will tip the balance and require a change in her living situation. I’m hoping that after a long and eventful life, one night she will breathe her last breathe, and spare me the horror of seeing her infantilized and her the horror of being the child to my adult. Does this sound horrible or insensitive to you? Tough. I’ve had to make a horrifying decision at the end of my father’s life, too: remove him from a respirator and watch him die, or allow him to continue to exist, trapped in a failing body. I chose to watch him die, with comfort and compassion surrounding him. It’s far more humane to understand that the end of life is the end, rather than to beg and plead for a few more hours, days, months or years bound by increasing limits and mounting losses. My mother talks often about being “ready to go.” I understand and support her.

2. When work is the majority of your life, the appeal of home is greater than any amount of luxury.

Both G2 and I have work that we love. (OK, I love my work more than he does). But the sheer volume of work, and the expectations that we have of ourselves (not to mention other have of us) mean the time devoted to work has grown radically, for both us. Add to that a travel schedule that includes two to three weeks a month away from home for Graham, my regular trips to Oregon for elderwrangling, and you can understand how we’ve grown to resent travel. Upgrades? Fur lining on the shackles. Exotic destinations? I’m tired of novelty right now, thanks. While I believe that home is wherever you are with the ones you love, I prefer that the one I love share the same physical space at certain 85 year-old house in Washington, DC.

3. Music which sounds like it is from the past and future at the same time is what I want to listen to right now.

TV on the Radio. Caetano Veloso. LCD Soundsystem. Luisa Maita. Criolo. Joni Mitchell. Deathfix. Brian Eno. Afrika Baambaata. Brad Melhdau. Talking Heads. Joshua Redman. Monk. Bebel Gilberto. Marvin Gaye. J.S. Bach. The Clash. David Darling. Yeah, it’s a pretentious list. Sue me.

4. When the world is running down, get fucking furious and make it better.

I wish I could live this better. Alas, I’m no Caldicott, Gandhi, or Maathai. But for those of us who are privileged, but not obscenely wealthy – let’s say the 90 - 99% -- we need to recognize that while our road to hell is cosseted with good woolens, fine leather, and the best food the Earth has ever produced, we’re burning our planet to the quick along with the 1%. There is no genetic replacement for me – by choice. For the people I love and with whom I’ve a parental relationship, I’m horrified of the world that I’m bequeathing to them. Increasing inequality, increasingly scarce resources, and a climate that is changing in ways even the best modeling can’t predict: that’s not something I’m proud of leaving behind, and I will do more to change it.

5. Making and taking care of things is a great gift, and one that we undervalue.

My parents imbued me with values that encourage do-it-yourself. I’m grateful for those values, and try to live it. Yes, it’s in small ways – we have a garden that we care for ourselves, we clean our house, and we minimize our use of services provided by others when we can (see item 2). But when we do purchase things made by, or use the services of others, we try to make sure that the providers are well and fairly compensated for the work that we engage them to do.

6. Live, love, laugh.

Three simple words to live by. We’ve already resolved to do more of all three in 2012, and hope that all of our friends and family will do the same.

02 October 2011

Truth to Power and the Power of the Prophetic Voice

Professor Cornel West, whom I first wrote about here, and whose acquaintance I am proud to acknowledge, is on fire here.  There's not much more to add, other than I hope that Occupation Wall Street will find a way to give voice to what Brother West spoke of in this video.

17 September 2011

Faites attention

The United States has a pretty significant history of labor and social unrest as a result of economic inequality and ownership abuse of labor.  Conveniently, it's been expunged from our current education's curriculum. 

The period from 1900 - 1950 saw the development of organized labor and the evolution of its relationship from a threat to ownership into an effective collaboration with ownership and management.  The reason why it was effective is that ownership correctly understood the threat to it that organized labor represented.

People need to pay attention to what's beginning to happen.

14 July 2011

The apocalypse of words

From my beloved.  I've added a bit.

We are on the brink of a new age. 
It's all about community. 
Float this. 
Clear that. 
"ASL" is geezer speak. 
Roll your own roll-your-own. 
The words aren't what they were. 
Cry out, blogosphere! 
Splog is an aggregate noun. 
Single. Word. Sentences! 
Always be launching. 
We're about what Web 2.0 is about. 
An AJAX-driven GUI. 
The new is old. 
This will change everything. 
Hack it. 
MSM just doesn't get it. 
The buzz is loud and clear. 
It's all changing. 
You need someone who gets it. 
Social is the new push. 
We shall transcend borders. 
Label what defies categorization.
2.0 is the new New. 
This is newer media. 
Faster. Faster!
On-demand streams. 
News clouds
What's the value proposition?
Chase the short

This sounds like a fuckin' TED or Gartner Symposium keynote presentation.  No wonder I try and avoid them like a plague.

22 May 2011

Still here

Why it's May 22nd and we all appear to be here, as fractious and joyful and broken and perfect as before.  I'm willing to bet that's the plan, contrary to recent efforts to make money off of absurd hopes from some kind of spacelift salvation.

Now, back to gardening, elderwrangling, and cat herding and rat whispering.

09 April 2011

Lucy v. Charlie Brown

The final budget bill, and the entire manufactured crisis appalls me.  It reminds me of the advertisement for the National Lampoon many years ago: "If you don't buy this magazine, we'll shoot this dog".

Every year, the budget gets held hostage by some idiot -- I'm sorry, Representative or Senator -- who believe their re-election hinges on some marginally important issue. 

Many, if not all of the appropriations bills for FY 2011 were written and out of committee almost on time last year, well before the mid-term elections.  The Republicans used delaying to prevent them from being acted on.  They thought they could create outrage by delaying action, which they could used to their electoral advantage, and they did.  Score one for Lucy v. Charlie Brown. 

The Democrats never made the case at the time that they faced Republican obstructionism, or if they did, the message was so muddled as to have no effect.  The Village is complicit, because most of them don't understand the process, and their salaries are paid for by revenues from advertising sold to corporations which benefit from the broken process. 

The opportunity to discuss and debate policies and programs proposed in the President's budget request is intended to be in the Spring, by the committees responsible for governance and oversight of the programs to be funded.  You wanna wack funding for Planned Parenthood?  Great -- propose striking the funding line from the appropriation, and propose rewriting the authorizing legislation for the agency that is responsible for administering the grants to elminate their authority to do it.  Then vote on it.  If you don't win, you try again next year.  It's not sexy, but it's how our government is supposed to work. 

What makes for good goverment and good governance is so radically different than what is useful for electoral success -- particularly after Citizen's United and Gore v. Bush -- that I can't see a way out of the woods.

19 March 2011

What Reich says

Busy with work, busy with life, and pretty much disgusted with the world.  What's truly appalling to me is that sound, sane voices like Robert Reich's aren't heard, aren't respected, and aren't heeded. 

That's all for now.

22 January 2011

The Man in the High Castle

Not that I believe in conspiracy theories, but it's becoming more and more apparent that Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes are the direct descendants of Joseph Goebbels.  This little gem should put allow us to cast aside any doubt.

09 January 2011


I know that I'll sound like a DFH and a socialist but: a developed country treats its mentally ill citizens with respect and provides medical care and support for them.  A developed country controls and limits access to deadly weapons.  A developed country encourages civil disagreement on political issues, but recognizes -- and when necessary, limits -- speech that incites violence. 

What, exactly, does this make us?

Much more to follow.

02 January 2011

Mini Killer

I love small, fast, well-built cars.  They're fun, practical, and the tiniest bit socially responsible.  It's also a market segment that is barely acknowledged in the United States: we get the BMW Mini Cooper, while Europe has the Alfa MiTo, Fiat 500, Ford Escort -- you get the idea.  Americans, it's said, won't buy small premium cars.


Take a look at how many Minis are driving around in cities.  That's a market segment, kids.

Audi seems to have realized this.  Or at least I hope so.  The pictures were taken on New Year's Day in Adams-Morgan.  Yes, it's an Audi A1, with Michigan manufacturer plates.  It's a sweet car.  Mind you, the copy  of Albert Speer's "Inside the Third Reich" sitting on the passenger seat was a bit off-putting, but still. 

01 January 2011

Christmas Curmudgeon

I'm on Frontier Flight 790, flying from Portland to Denver on Christmas Day. It’s remarkably quiet and peaceful, and my row mate, her infant son and I have as a gift that rarest of modern travel situations, an empty middle seat. The air is remarkably smooth, and the snow-covered Sawtooth Range below me is a beautiful sight. I’m returning home to Mr. Gunn and the Dauphin, Tick Tock bin Trouble after a bittersweet visit with my mother – not because there was any particular flaw, fault, or fight – but because it’s painfully clear that with each day, a little bit more of what made Virginia Jean Kuehner Cory so special is lost to her, to me, and to the world.

For as much as we live in a material world, most of what matters to me is intellect, experience and memory. Thirty years ago, I rather spectacularly celebrated Christmas by buying my mother a stereo so we could listen to classical music for Christmas (never mind that I bought it out of money that I neither had, nor had any right to expect – but that’s a different story). Mom has used that stereo off and on for the last thirty years, happily pushing the analog buttons and turning the weighted tuning and volume knobs to pull classical and jazz music, and news out of the turntable, tuner, and CD player.

So watching her punch vainly at the buttons of the television and DVD remote, and seeing her increasing agitation with its failure to effect a desired response from the old stereo equipment was painful beyond words. My mother’s loss of what seemed to be an almost intuitive skill shocked me. I’ve long been accustomed (if disconcerted) to her memory lapses, her increasing repetition, her agitation at the new or unexpected. But this, this was completely other – every bit as disconcerting as her reaction to anesthesia after her most recent knee surgery. Here was something she had known and used for 30 years – 30! – and she was incapable of understanding that the modern remote would not work on her vintage stereo.

So much of what I’ve shared with my parents has been experience. That I can’t share that with my mother any longer is a cruel gift to receive. Was she happy I was with her, and that we shared a few simple meals, a couple of games of Scrabble, and some simple kindnesses? Yes, without doubt or question. Was I happy to be with her? Of course; and yet not one moment spent with her was without an underlying sadness and questions. How much more of her is there to loose? How long will she be able to live independently, as she does now? How pained is she by her loss?

I’m grateful that I spent four days with her, and that we shared some of our cherished holiday traditions – decorating the tree, shopping for clothes (for me – she wasn’t interested in shopping for herself), eating ridiculous Belgian chocolates – which seemed to bring her real happiness.

The greatest gift to her, however, will be peace: to sleep, perchance to dream, and to gently leave this life. I can’t offer that gift – but I hope and pray that she soon finds it.