Salute to women bloggers

Tip of the hat to BlogHer--

Listening to some of my favorite singers on KUT on this Memorial Day, Kerrville Folk Festival happening just west of here, a deep obeisance to the women who blog... Ruthie Foster, Iris Dement, Norah Jones, how lucky we are to have so many wonderful voices.

21st Century media literacy

There's an excellent feature on the UT Austin Web page about new media and learning.

Written by someone whose work I greatly admire, it's a thoughtful look at how media impacts our educational system, and some ways we can parlay that to advance learning. Not that I believe we have to make education entertainment, I think we need as a nation to use media to stimulate and compel young (or old) minds to curiosity. You can lead a horse to water...

I don't think for one second that kids don't learn because they don't want to, they're incapable, or they necessarily feel "entitled" (the new buzzword around campus), I think that we as adults and educators have failed to keep learning and knowledge relevant in a changing socio/political context.

Let's call it as it is: the US as a whole doesn't value education or learning, or it would put its money and resources where its campaign promises are. What work does go on is perpetually short-changed, a constant struggle to keep the collective mind of the country open and teachers' families fed.


Playa del Carmen, Yucatan

The new Mexican Riviera. Port of call for those who would have gone to Cozumel or Cancun. Both of which were wiped out in last season's hurricanes. Even at that, Playa del Carmen was battered with 125 mph winds for 36 hours, as the storm progressed by only inches an hour. In December of '05, there were still wide-spread signs of the disaster.

P del C is relatively undiscovered. Not as sexy as the jet-setting double C's, it's a favorite with the Nationals, not as many gringo turistas. This was my first cruise, a curious affair, interesting experience, most especially for the international crew, working to make money to send home to Romania, Lithuania, Thailand, enduring the demands of sometimes surly travelers with superhuman aplomb, one service person for every two travelers. Many of the younger crew were homesick, not having seen their family for eight to twelve months.

Could have stood more time in country, it took a couple of hours for the Spanish to begin to flow automatically again to the point that I could banter with the shop keepers and ensure they knew I was on their side, just a poor traveler who happened to luck into a free trip courtesy the kindness of a friend. Watched a bullfight on TV from the Distrito, had some great shrimp tacos and learned about the real estate boom going on now that C and C were swept away. Can still buy beach-front lots for a song.

High Sierra Honeymoon

1974, a scorching hot, blinding day in North Dallas. As we approach the front door of a solidly upper-middle-class, two-story house of pale, pink brick, sotto voce…"Don't tell mama you were married before. She hates divorced women." I came to dread that subtle detour on the approach to a party, a counseling session, a manipulative encounter--a last-second diabolical coaching. It was sure to mean "don't reveal this secret; it will make me look like a jerk"

May 26 or May 27? It became a running family joke--I could never remember the exact morning we crawled out of mismatched sleeping bags, consumed a hasty breakfast of porridge, and you said, "Today’s the day." A little reluctantly, it sounded, but for some mysterious reason, you were adamant about doing it. Reeking of sulfur from a high sierra hot springs in a cow pasture in the middle of nowhere, 200 feet from a small, crystal clear stream running frigid with snow melt, we broke camp and drove the Scout down from the mountains into Carson City in search of a justice of the peace.

The trip began as just another one of our customary hot spring adventures. Over a long Memorial Day weekend, we ventured further than usual from our home on the coast north of San Francisco at the tip of Marin County. The margins of my "Great Hot Springs of the West" were satisfactorily filling with annotations, accompanied by copious field notes penciled on a corresponding Forest Service map, much like a birder’s prized life list. Some of the springs had dried up, some had migrated, and others had been “improved.” Some were so scalding hot that only the brilliant red and orange heat-adapted algae could survive at the source--you had to splash up and down the crick connecting to the snow runoff to find a bearably attenuated spot to soak.

Best of all, natural springs exist in the most breathtaking, tasty locations--vast, empty deserts, with infinite skies that make your eyes ache. Old logging roads intimately caressing the shoulders and hips of California coastal mountains, tracing the swell of a switchback to reveal the sight of geysers spewing from crevices up and down the coastline, the agitated ghosts of wives and sweethearts gazing out over the treacherous deep, searching for their loved ones in herring boats lost to ancient storms. Corrugated tin shacks slumped at the heads of silver mines abandoned in magnificent desolation, coyotes barking in the cold, crisp air, stars beyond counting sparkling in tremendous vaults of inky darkness.

Nevada was convenient, no blood test, no waiting. This particular day, we found our rabbity bureaucrat, complete with matching wife and sister-in-law as witnesses, in the flats east of Tahoe, just south of Reno. We stank of Hades, our silver rings oxidized to a sickly yellow-black patina, mute prophecy of our troubled future.

I, nonchalant, a mounting suspicion that there might possibly be a script somewhere that I would never be allowed to read, and which would, at any rate, be constantly rewritten, “You know, it’s not the official paper that counts, it’s the intent and the commitment, what’s truly in our hearts. I really don’t care about the license.”

“Yeah, yeah, sure. You know I love you. We’re living together, aren’t we? It just makes it easier to deal with mama if we’re married.” The deed was done, papers signed, tarnished homemade rings removed and replaced in minutes.

We make a quick stop at the grocery store to replenish supplies, then continue south to an oddly upscale, sanitized Forest Service cool spring, cemented into a concrete box, brimming with families escaping the desert heat. A deeply bronzed, longhaired, bearded forest ranger in cargo shorts slouches on the lifeguard tower, his gaze that of a man accustomed to months of solitude searching great swaths of alpine forest rather than myopically sweeping a pool for floaters.

A suffocating sense of alarm sends me off to find a quiet corner beneath a shed, alone, sitting under a pipe that draws the spring water up to fill the crypt-like natatorium. I won’t find the reason behind the paranoia, won’t feel safe, for years. It takes a long time to venture from the womb-like water.

The next day, we drive back to our two by two cliff-clinging shanty, blasted by the wild, unforgiving Pacific. Nothing will be the same. The rules change abruptly and without warning, when I least expect it. The easygoing give and take of our relationship morphs into a stomach-wrenching realization that our life together is tragically flawed.

Unknowing, I sacrifice a vital part of myself to some mysterious disease, until I relinquish all but a tiny shred of my soul. Incessant flight from danger finds me, decades later, half way around the world on the opposite side of the Pacific, and back again. Our wedding rings clamor, Look at us, look at us! I am too blind to hear.

Sydney, Australia, 1996. Faces flushed from a stormy ferry ride, we walk up the path to our CEO's exclusive North Sydney harbor-front home adjacent to the Lieutenant Governor’s estate. Fresh from a dress rehearsal at the Sydney Opera House, voice a tiny bit hoarse, I’m wearing--at his insistence especially for the party--a large, stunning scallop shell, fossilized in opal, set in a gold bezel on a fine gold chain. The final unholy rites are spoken, sotto voce…”Don’t tell them I bought that necklace for mama…”

I know the year was 1975. I can’t remember if it was May 26 or May 27…it could have been the 28th. It doesn’t matter now--I finally made it back.

Life is too busy to write

except as necessary to make a living putting up Web articles and editing stuff. My daughter came to Austin on business end of March, staying with me part time, partly in a hotel to be closer to work. A week later, we flew separately to Amsterdam, where we celebrated my 60th and her 30th birthdays, in between the two actual dates. The trip was fantastic from beginning to end. The people, food, art, dogs, cats, houseboats, canals, poldors, bicycles, opera, cafes, everything was marvelous. E put us up at the Amstel Hotel International, a 5 star beaut that catered to our every whim. Within 24 hours, all the staff knew why we were there, and gave us extra special service--comped a massage, a 20 yr. old jiniver, l'accutaine toiletries for everyone, a pound of coffee to take home, a monogrammed umbrella to take to the countryside to see the windmills...

400? Moi? was the theme for Rembrandt's 400th birthday. A comparative exhibit of his work with Caravaggio. The Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum were unbelievable. The Dutch do revere their painters. They stand enraptured for hours in groups, the love palpable as they drink the paintings in with their eyes. Understandably so. I did the same, but sat where I could. The impasto was so rich that you could swear that the subjects were actually wearing jewelry. The still lifes were so realistic that you impulsively reached out to pick up a goblet, an oyster.

Everyone, young and old, rides bicycles. The week I returned I heard a C&W song about Amsterdam, with bikes featured prominently in the lyrics. Yepper...not the 10 speed ones, either, plain old fashioned pedal ones. With trailers, baskets, rear seats, baby carriers, stickers, beat-up, new, every color imaginable. We saw one completely covered in banana stickers.

Not too long after, I lost my supervisor and good friend at work. She was an editor par extraordinaire, worked in the publishing business for many years. She will be sorely missed. A wonderful intellectual person who shared my love of literature. Taught me the art of writing snappy headlines.

So now our information and Web design team is slightly adrift, dealing with the sadness and loss of a friend and colleague.

It's been a bad two weeks for losing people. Daughter's boyfriend's father passed away four days later, then our admin person's mother the next day. I can only practice and pass along the lessons I've learned from many losses along the way: never let an opportunity go by to tell someone how much you love and / or appreciate them--you may not get another chance. Don't sweat the small stuff--half the stuff that stresses you out is not important--let it go and concentrate on what is most important to you, what makes you feel good or what you can do to make someone else feel good.
Photo: Town Hall, Edam, The Netherlands


Great presenter series at UT on Gender and IT. Yesterday was about Age and IT. It bothers me a bit that for study purposes the Baby Boomer Age is defined as 1946 through 1964. As far as experience and events go, that time period actually encompasses two distinct generations. Issues that I'm facing RIGHT NOW aren't even on the radar for 40 year olds yet. Not to mention values, patterns, wisdom, reality, etc.

The talk was good, but left me wanting much more. Focused on Boomers caught up in wanting to recapture (buy) their youth. So much money, resources, value put into being, or at least looking young. But then there's a huge drop-off. Where do you go when you hit 60? According to the marketers, you cease to exist. Sounds like a horror/sci-fi movie flick plot to me.

Looking foward to what older bloggers have to say about this at SXSWi.

March 2, 2006

Typical INFP, never completing a project. House full of projects. House full, period. Leaving for Amsterdam in about a month. Lots to do in between. South by Southwest Interactive for 5 days, actual work. Learn more about information and Web design.

AVAE concert on Friday, March 24. Fabulous 21st century music. Tuneful songs, even with voicings a 1/2 step apart. Morten Lauridsen, one of the best composers of any time.