Friday, December 26, 2008

Why I Will Never Buy a Maxtor Product Ever Again

Couple weeks ago, I took a chance and declared Gov. Blagojevich of Illinois my douchebag of the year. Teach me to jump the gun.

Maxtor Corporation stepped up and took the prize with product behavior so douchebag'ish that it should be criminal (seriously). For the Maxtor weenies that are reading this, neither I nor the companies I have any influence over will ever buy any of your products ever again. That is a solemn promise, and one I will keep.

Here is the story for the curious, and for those unlucky enough to have been stung by these motherf**kers and are stumbling here through Google.

A couple days ago, I was doing a final backup of our old PC file server so I could complete the migration to our Mac file server over Christmas break: 200Gb internal drive being cloned to a 300Gb external drive in a Maxtor One Touch USB case. All our personal files, taxes, photos, etc. (the usual), with a backup procedure I've used >100 times with no trouble.

About 3 hours into the procedure, my old fileserver PC decides to die. It doesn't post, no fans spin, nothing. Dead as a door knob. I suspect a dead power supply. Alas, I now have a bad back up drive, and no easy way to back up the internal drive.

No problem, I'll pull the internal drive out of the file server and put it in the external USB case, and use the external case to copy the files to the new file server (unfortunately, the 300Gb drive in the external Maxtor case now has an incomplete backup and is useless to me).

Couple screws, pop it out, pop it in, plug it in, and my Mac tells me I have an unformatted 128Gb drive(!) Did I run into a Mac'ism? Plug it in to my wife's Windows laptop and the same thing: "E: drive unformated", with a disk size of 128Gb. Oh shit!

Fire up some low level disk management and recovery apps I have, and it finds the 12Gb C: partition, and also my data partition, which is now ~60Gb smaller than it should be with gobs of corrupted files and directories. WTF?

A Google search on "Maxtor One Touch 128Gb?" turns up the answer (take a moment and contemplate how close to magic that would have seemed to someone even 15 years ago)

Turns out the douchebags (a term I VERY rarely use, but much deserved) at Maxtor had decided that if a non-Maxtor hard drive was put into one of their external cases, they would intentionally cripple it by setting the Host Protected Area (HPA) limit of the drive to 128Gb. This is a firmware change on the drive itself, that makes it look like a 128Gb drive to the outside world, whether it is in a Maxtor case or not. Any partitions beyond 128Gb are now corrupt, and that data inaccessible.

Basically, for fear their case would be used with a non-Maxtor drive, these assholes had intentionally crippled and corrupted my harddrive, making a tremendous amount of data unreachable and unrecoverable through normal means.

(Un)Fortunately, others on the internet had already run into this mind-numbingly stupid behavior and solutions were available.

I recovered the disk by:

* Downloading and burning a bootable ISO image with the miraculous HDAT2 program from:

* Popping the now crippled 200Gb drive into an old PC case and booting up with the HDAT2 CD

* Following the instructions to quesion #6 in the HDAT2 FAQ (reproduced here):

Q6: Host Protected Area (HPA) vs. 28/48-bit LBA mode
A6: There is a problem of incompatibility on some hard drives (e.g. Seagate and/or in an external Maxtor One Touch) when you are using 48-bit command for removing Host Protected Area (HPA) created with 28-bit command.
48-bit command cannot remove HPA created with 28-bit command and vice-versa. Following solution is for disk supports 48-bit LBA mode only and if you have HPA greater than 127 GB.

"Some vendor-specific external drive enclosures (Maxtor) are known to use HPA to limit the capacity of unknown replacement hard drives installed into the enclosure. When this occurs, the drive may appear to be limited in size (e.g. 128 GB). In this case, one must use software utilities that use READ NATIVE MAX ADDRESS and SET MAX ADDRESS to change the drive's reported size back to its native size."


1. Power-on PC, boot and start HDAT2.
2. In 'SET MAX (HPA) Menu' select 'Set Max Address'. Change 'LBA mode' from 48 to 28-bit LBA mode and press 'S' key to set maximal address for 28-bit LBA mode (127 GB).
3. Power-off PC (Important !), power-on PC, boot and start HDAT2.
4. In 'SET MAX (HPA) Menu' select 'Set Max Address'. Leave the selected 48-bit 'LBA mode' (or change 'LBA mode' from 28 to 48-bit LBA mode) and then press 'S' key to set maximal address for 48-bit LBA mode.
5. After restart you should get the full (native) capacity of hard drive.

Now my hard drive again registers as a blessed 200Gb, and all the directory and file structures are sound (at least so far as I can tell).

I am doing a final clone to my external 300Gb drive, then I am taking a literal sledgehammer to the Maxtor case. If someone has the mailing address for these assholes (the home address of the CEO would be ideal), let me know and I'll mail the remains to them with a heart felt "F**K YOU!"

On a happier note, Lubomir Cabla (the author of the freeware(!) HDAT2) is a gentleman and a scholar of the first order. Lubomir my friend, I hope the $100 donation I sent you helps keep you a little warmer during the cold Czech winter. Thank you sir, you are a god send.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Earth Rising

I've written already about the time loop that is connecting us to the pain and schisms of 1968, and how the time has come for us to choose to break free.

While much happened in 1968 that turned us upside down, that year ended with the crew of Apollo 8 circling the moon on Christmas Eve, and sharing an image that did more to change our relationship with our world than any other before or since. For a moment, we caught a brief glimpse of ourselves as God sees us, and felt the awe of knowing how much more was in front of us to be worthy of all around us.

As we break free into the New Day, let's celebrate the Earth Rising that we first saw 40 years ago today, and remember that special obligation people the world over felt towards each other on that day.

May the blessings of health and hope for a better tomorrow be with you this Christmas, and may the special joy of being part of something larger than yourself fill your soul in 2009.

Said the king to the people everywhere,
"Listen to what I say!
Pray for peace, people, everywhere,
Listen to what I say!"

Friday, December 12, 2008

2008: Album(s) of the Year

Like last year (and again much to my surprise), my album of the year is a treasure from the distant past. More on that later. First, to the niche winners.

Best Album That Channeled A Soul: Songs in A & E (Spiritualized)

I didn't know what to expect with this album. Enough people recommended it that I took a leap (as an aside: how many people get exposed to unexpected books and music because they need to get to the $25 free shipping threshold on Amazon?)

From the very first track, you're listening to karmic reincarnation of Led Zepplin and early Pink Floyd as it should have been.

Listening to Songs in A & E is like mainlining emotion at its most raw. This is slap you upside the head emotional intensity, with an honesty that is shocking.

Anyone who can channel this much of their soul in a recording deserves our attention and respect, and certainly deserves a listen.

Best Album That No One Knows Existed: Love Bits (Unicorn Dream Attack)

In October I was driving home from work listening to our local public radio station. On came a story about a local Minneapolis band that absolutely mesmerized me (link to audio of the piece at the top of the article in the link). Unicorn Dream Attack is a local musician who has interfaced a keyboard to a Nintendo Game Boy and plays through the music synth chip in the device (aka, 8-bit music).

Before you roll your eyes and close the tab, this is not just a gimic. Listening to these tracks evokes the same feeling of impending greatness as watching Reggie Bush play in college or looking at an Andy Warhol painting before he jumped the shark.

There are flashes of blow-you-away-can-he-possibly-be-doing-this-on-purpose-absolute-brilliance in these tracks that made me thankful that an album could still surprise and touch me in this way. Wow.

After listening to the radio piece, I could not get Pill0w F0rt out of my head. Night and day, my brain worked overtime to get wrapped around this tune.

Do me a favor and drop the $10 to buy this CD. There are a lot of misses, but the hints of brilliance are transcendent. This is a talent that should be encouraged and emboldened. I can't wait for the next album.

2008 Album of the Year: Naked Songs (Rickie Lee Jones)

My album of the year is a Rickie Lee Jones album from 1995 that I did not know existed until a couple weeks ago (thanks internets). Naked Songs is a WONDERFUL live recording of Rickie, playing solo with sparse guitar and piano.

20 years ago, I took great pleasure in disconnecting my right brain and soaring with Rickie with her marvelous studio albums. Those that did the same have probably stopped reading so they can buy this gem from Amazon.

On this album, Rickie proves herself to be one of the finest singers alive. With nothing but sparse guitar and piano to accompany herself, she soars higher than I would have thought possible. I am in awe at the texture and sublty of vocals on this album. An extraordinary talent in her studio recordings proved to be even more extraordinary live.

Naked Songs includes the authoritative versions of all her finest songs. From the breathtaking take of Horses opening the set to Young Blood like it was meant to be to a rendition of We Belong Together that made me believe that we actually were.

This is the type of recording that we all wish Van Morrison had captured when he was in his prime.  If you had even a passing interest in Rickie Lee Jones back in the day, set your right brain free, close your eyes, and soar to places we all wish to be. Bravo Rickie.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

New Home

The Wolf has landed. Excited to be an honest man again.

Monday, November 10, 2008

For Maman

When Sen. Obama's grandmother passed away the day before her grandson was elected President of the United States, his touching tribute to her was a reminder of how much we are indebted to others, and how much they sacrifice to give a better life to others. It reminded me of my own grandmother, whom we knew as Maman.

My mother's mother embodied pure love and pure devotion for her family. I can't imagine a second of her life that wasn't dedicated to those around her.

Through the cruelty of geography and geopolitical conflict, we rarely spoke with my extended family, and we only saw my grandmother three times in the past 30 years when she came bravely across the ocean to see us.

My mother was the eldest of seven children, I was the first grandchild, and my older daughter was the first great grandchild in the family. Although all were loved, we symbolized something much larger for my grandmother: we were the embodiment of hope for the next generation.

Four years ago, my grandmother was dying of cancer on the other side of the world. We were visiting my parents for Thanksgiving, and they were about to go to Iran to be with her.

I do not read or write Farsi, but my parents do. I wrote her the following letter as my thank you to her, which my parents delivered for me. Four months later she was gone.

As Thanksgiving approaches, it is good to not only remember those you are thankful for, but also to remember to let them know.


I hope that this note finds you and the family well. My apologies that for all the education and I learning that I have been blessed with in my life, this "be savad" [illiterate person] is not able to write to you in my parents' tongue. I have imposed on my parents to graciously translate the note for you.

The family is all together this year in my parents home, with the added blessing of [my sister's] children crawling around, playing and laughing, and enjoying their time with their cousins. With 11 of us healthy and happy and enjoying each other so very much, it is a special blessing and a reminder of the many many things we are so grateful for.

For all that we are and all that we as a family have accomplished, not a day goes by where I don't remember and celebrate the incredible foundation that we have built our lives around.

That we have had the opportunity to do what we have done is amazing, but that opportunity would have meant nothing if we did not have the strength of spirit and character to make something of it. We may be standing tall, but it is only because we are standing on the shoulders of giants that have given so much to us. It is my hope that we will be able to repay our debt by helping our children reach even higher still.

As I think of the forces that influence my life, for me the Ataii family [my mother's family] represents what it means to be a warrior: strength, resolve, a commitment to justice, and integrity in doing the right thing. It also represents what it means to be a poet: joy, empathy, a sense of humor, a deep commitment to those in need of our protection, and an emotional connection to the people and world around us.

The combination of the warrior and the poet is remarkably unique and vital. The pieces together represent far more than the sum of their parts. Together, they create a light and aura that commands the attention and respect of those around us.

I would like you to know that the spirit of the warrior and poet is strong within our hearts, and not a day goes by where that spirit does not shine brightly and impact all that we do and all the people we do it with.

Even at this early age, I see the same dual fire burning in [my daughters]. The warrior and the poet is strong within them (potentially very strong). We will do our best to cultivate those fires as they find their own way through the world.

In this country, they say the eyes are the window to the soul. As we walk around town as a family, it is common for strangers to stop and stare in wonder at [our daughters'] beautiful eyes. Not only are their eyes beautiful, but so is the joy and humor and love of life and incredible depth that dances within them. Although the wind may have blown the seed far far from the tree, we tell everyone that our daughters have their great grandmother's eyes. We may not live in the same part of the world, but please know that you can see them through me, through the gorgi eyes I got from you [my grandmother was originally from Gorgistan province].

Please give our love, respect, and affection to the family. Although we look forward to fate and circumstance to allow us to be together again, not a day goes by that we are not together in spirit.

November 25, 2004

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Benediction for Redemption

The last couple days have been an amazing experience, and one that I will never forget. I feel privileged to have been part of this moment.

I've already shared my hope for a New Day, and my prayer for Redemption. Last night was a monumental moment in acheiving both. Rereading these posts today, they ring even more true.

As a closing thought on this election, below is the tweet I sent from the floor of the DFL election party in St. Paul, immediately after the networks declared Senator Obama to be President-Elect Obama:

El and Iz: I pray that we will be able to give you (and your generation) the legacy you deserve.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Electing Redemption (or, Requiem for the Culture War)

For those on the fence about this election, there are some excellent fact-based endorsements that are well worth your time and consideration.

As election day approaches, I've been thinking less about whom to vote for (readers of this blog will already know that answer), and thinking much more about what this election actually means.

I've previously talked about how this election is less about ideology and policy, and more about endlessly refighting the disputes of the past vs aspiring to create a possible future.

I am excited beyond words that this election is more meaningful than throwing scat at the wall to decide whom to vote for.

I am also very aware of the true pain this election has rekindled in those that had so much of their hopes and dreams and soul ripped away from them in the 1960s.

As my mind has been wandering around the overarching themes and arcs of this campaign, I believe November 4 will be a collective opportunity to finally step out of the Star Trek'ish time loop we've been stuck in, forever linking us back to 1968.

As we decide whether to break the time loop and fork an alternative time stream, I can't help but ponder:
  • How would our world have been different if the Dream of social equality and social justice had not been gunned down on a Memphis hotel balcony?

  • What if the moral embodiment of hope and our obligation to each other had not been silenced in the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel?

  • What if the children of the greatest generation hadn't been ripped into two Americas, forever at each other's throat?

  • What if they hadn't been lost to self indulgence, despair, and defining themselves by their anger/hatred of each other?

  • What if we hadn't doubled down in an unnecessary and unjust war just to make sure that those damn hippies didn't get their way?

  • What if we embraced our moral obligation to equality (civil rights, women's rights) rather than losing the message in the culture war of us vs them?

  • What if we were able to recognize sleaze and incompetence in our leadership and reject dirty tricks and smears, rather than trusting our leaders of having the best interests of the nation at heart?

  • What if we took our obligations to our environment and world more seriously, rather than any discussion of the environment becoming a cruel joke to denigrate those on the other side of the culture war?

Starting Tuesday, we have an opportunity to actually find out.

As we look around us, the echos of the 1960s are becoming tangible all around us: echos in music (Shins, King of Leon), echos in endless wars for reasons long ago forgotten, echos in TV and movies (Mad Men, Bond), and echos in language (socialist, communist, victory at all costs, drill baby drill). What has always been just below the surface is bubbling into plain view. 

After 40 years wandering lost in the desert, we are on the cusp of finally exorcising the cancer of our nation's soul that took root 40 years ago. Now that we can see the beast, how will we confront it? Will we ignore it for yet another generation?

It is time to confront these echos, recognize them for what they are and the importance they once had, feel compassion for the generations lost to the pain and anger of the culture war, and move forward to what could have been (and should have been) 40 years ago.

A New Day is breaking just over the horizon. It is time to look up and face the sun. It is time for the forever war to end, a nation to heal, and the Dream to be redeemed.

Regardless of whom you vote for Tuesday, let us all prey that we will finally move out of the desert, and once again move into the promised land of the American Dream. It is time for redemption.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Real Straight Talk From the Boss

This past weekend, Bruce Springsteen was in Philadelphia for a voter registration concert on behalf of Senator Obama. He delivered more straight talk in 5 minutes than I've seen from any politician during the entire presidential campaign.

Via Joan Walsh at Salon, the here is the must read text of his words, and a link to the concert (speech starts around 25:00). Hey Bruce, I want my country back too!

Hello Philly,

I am glad to be here today for this voter registration drive and for Barack Obama, the next President of the United States.

I've spent 35 years writing about America, its people, and the meaning of the American Promise. The Promise that was handed down to us, right here in this city from our founding fathers, with one instruction: Do your best to make these things real. Opportunity, equality, social and economic justice, a fair shake for all of our citizens, the American idea, as a positive influence, around the world for a more just and peaceful existence. These are the things that give our lives hope, shape, and meaning. They are the ties that bind us together and give us faith in our contract with one another.

I've spent most of my creative life measuring the distance between that American promise and American reality. For many Americans, who are today losing their jobs, their homes, seeing their retirement funds disappear, who have no healthcare, or who have been abandoned in our inner cities. The distance between that promise and that reality has never been greater or more painful.

I believe Senator Obama has taken the measure of that distance in his own life and in his work. I believe he understands, in his heart, the cost of that distance, in blood and suffering, in the lives of everyday Americans. I believe as president, he would work to restore that promise to so many of our fellow citizens who have justifiably lost faith in its meaning. After the disastrous administration of the past 8 years, we need someone to lead us in an American reclamation project. In my job, I travel the world, and occasionally play big stadiums, just like Senator Obama. I've continued to find, wherever I go, America remains a repository of people's hopes, possibilities, and desires, and that despite the terrible erosion to our standing around the world, accomplished by our recent administration, we remain, for many, a house of dreams. One thousand George Bushes and one thousand Dick Cheneys will never be able to tear that house down.

They will, however, be leaving office, dropping the national tragedies of Katrina, Iraq, and our financial crisis in our laps. Our sacred house of dreams has been abused, looted, and left in a terrible state of disrepair. It needs care; it needs saving, it needs defending against those who would sell it down the river for power or a quick buck. It needs strong arms, hearts, and minds. It needs someone with Senator Obama's understanding, temperateness, deliberativeness, maturity, compassion, toughness, and faith, to help us rebuild our house once again. But most importantly, it needs us. You and me. To build that house with the generosity that is at the heart of the American spirit. A house that is truer and big enough to contain the hopes and dreams of all of our fellow citizens. That is where our future lies. We will rise or fall as a people by our ability to accomplish this task. Now I don't know about you, but I want that dream back, I want my America back, I want my country back.

So now is the time to stand with Barack Obama and Joe Biden, roll up our sleeves, and come on up for the rising

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Sunday Afternoon with Hope

This afternoon, we caught the matinee performance of the new musical Little House on the Prairie at the Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis. A wonderful production, and one that is sure to hit Broadway in the next year or two.

Although the show has Melissa Gilbert as Ma Ingalls, it was about as far as could be from the old TV show.  Fast moving, great songs, great cast, wonderful story arc as the Ingalls girls learn responsibility to themselves and each other in the harsh homestead days.

For those looking for a glimpse into why fly over country is what it is today, I can think of no better way to do so than to watch this production. 

For the early settlers, risking everything they had (and everyone they loved) for a chance to make something their own. Overcoming hardships, many dreams were lost along the way. 

However, these fiercely independent people never lost their hope for a better life for themselves and their children. They also knew that hope is manifested in active doing, not passive waiting. Those who risked all to come west were those who believed more in their hope for the future than their fear of the present. They succeeded far beyond what they would have ever imagined in their lifetimes.

A wonderful musical.  Highly recommended.

The show was also the first our family had attended in the new Guthrie Theatre.  For those who haven't visited the new facilities, they are a profound statement of our community commitment to bring compelling live performance experiences to audiences of all ages and sophistication. 

Walking through the facility, one gets the sense that it also represents a generational commitment based on hope for what will be. As I walked through the complex with my daughters, I have no doubt that they and the other children there will someday walk through this same building with their grandchildren, sharing the magic that can only come from real people creating new worlds to share with a live audience. The building itself was the embodiment of the community's hope for the future over fear.

As we walked along the Endless Bridge, reaching for (but not quite reaching) the Mississippi River, I saw for the first time the new 35W bridge, recently opened after last year's devastating bridge collapse. A little over a year ago, I had been driving through downtown Minneapolis with my family within a mile or two of the bridge when it collapsed. When my parents first called, I thought they were joking. The pictures on the TV were a sight that I never thought I would see, and hope to never see again.

Now barely a year later, a new gleaming bridge was teaming with life on a Sunday afternoon.  After years of neglect (and perhaps incompetence) and pointless tragedy, we had rebuilt and embraced a New Day. I can only hope that our nation will choose to do the same.

The choice between fear of the present and hope for the future is the story behind the story of all pivotal moments in our history.  It is also the central crucible of our times. As a father, for me there only is one choice.

On this Sunday afternoon, I'm very glad that my daughters were able to enjoy Little House and see part of that story, and I'm grateful for a community that believes so much in itself to build something as enduring and extraordinary as the new Guthrie. 

Alas, I am also saddened that the choice between fear and hope is becoming so stark with 30 days left before the election. As the political temperatures rise and the smears fly, that sadness is tempered by an excitement beyond words that our collective choice on November 4 will signal a definitive New Day.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

I am so proud of our country today...

When I was twelve, I became politically active for the first time.

Jimmy Carter was frozen in uncertainty, and Ronald Reagan was spouting what even my limited math skills could tell was was pure nonsense. I was deeply concerned for the financial security of the country, and heard in John Anderson a voice of pragmatic reason and truth, being delivered by a man of integrity and action. It was my privilege to campaign for Representative Anderson that year, even though I could not vote for him. It was just the right thing to do.

In subsequent years, I was energized by Jesse Jackson's message of social justice, not as an entitlement, but as a morale obligation we all share for one another. Paul Tsongas and Ross Perot again brought fiscal pragmatism and generational responsibility to the table. This year, Barack Obama has reminded us all about the power of the American Dream.

When John McCain was twelve, Mayor Hubert H. Humphrey of Minneapolis rose to speak at the 1948 democratic convention and started a miraculous transformation of the party from one had made a deal with the devil of Jim Crow to the party that has put Senator Obama on the brink of being the leader of the free world.

Mayor Humphrey rose in a moment of singular moral courage to speak to the human decency that should be in all of us. He rose to speak to the then minority party position on civil rights:
We are God-fearing men and women. We place our faith in the brotherhood of man under the fatherhood of God.

I do not believe that there can be any compromise of the guarantees of civil rights which I have mentioned.

In spite of my desire for unanimous agreement on the platform there are some matters which I think must be stated without qualification. There can be no hedging - no watering down.

There are those who say to you - we are rushing this issue of civil rights. I say we are 172 years late.

There are those who say - this issue of civil rights is an infringement on states rights. The time has arrived for the Democratic party to get out of the shadow of state's rights and walk forthrightly into the bright sunshine of human rights.

Sunshine won out over darkness, beginning what would become a decades long struggle for the soul of the nation. A measure of the righteousness of Humphrey's cause was that it caused Strom Thurmond and the Dixiecrats to leave the party and run their own bigoted campaign, bringing their vile hatred into the full light of day.

60 years later, after so much pain and blood and humiliation and evil and shame and anger and despair and death, the sun is shining brightly in Denver today. It signals not just the end of one long night, but also gives us all hope for what we have yet to become.

I am so proud of our country today, and so grateful for the New Day.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The moment the tide turned...

Years from now, when history is finally written about the fear-induced night that has been the past 7 years, I believe Obama's speech today on national security will be held up as the moment when rationality began to return to our national discourse, and purpose to our national character.

Even in the doldrums of summer, I recommend everyone watch and listen to this speech, and embrace the challenge of creating our future, vs squandering the legacy built of dreams and blood over generations in a moment of self-induced fear.

Video can be found here.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

You know you're back in San Diego when...

We've been back in San Diego for the past couple weeks on vacation. Alas, heading back to the land of 10 trillion mosquitos later today.

Always fun to come back to a place where you lived for so many years. Through the magic of twitter, was able to capture all sorts of impressions while out here. Here is the omnibus collected edition:

You know you're back in San Diego when...'re arguing whether to get 4 or 6 almond croissants from Champagne Bakery for breakfast walk through botanical gardens with monster bamboo and trees bursting with peaches and figs

...the last mile of your 7 mile run is seriously uphill and seriously kicks your ass

...about 1/2 the tweets in a 25 mile radius are in Spanish

...your kids would rather go swimming than watch the Cubs/White Sox game with you see more BMWs and Mercedes than SUVs and minivans have the patio door wide open at sunset w/o a screen door (!) and you aren't being eaten alive takes your kids almost 24 hours to realize you've shaven your beard off

...on the 1st day of the hands free law, a cop drives by holding his cell phone to his ear

...the average body mass index is 30 percent lower than MN

...the ridiculously fit co-ed at Starbucks is having 2 venti frappuccino's for lunch

...friends profusely apologize for how terrible the weather has been (mist blocking ocean views)

...your calves and achilles are sore as hell from running that damn 1 mile hill 4x/week

...someone at the next table asks grandma "What's new" & she flashes her breasts & stomach (literally) can run to the top of Torrey Pines & back, & reward yourself with a Roberto's carne asada torta

...after 2 weeks of running that hill that seriously kicked your ass, you're now kicking its ass

...after 2 weeks you're sort of maybe thinking that you may be starting to get tired of Mexican food

...all the tourists at Legoland significantly raise the average BMI of the county cruise down the 10 lane highway at a very mellow 80mph, just like everyone else

Saturday, June 7, 2008

FROM THE ARCHIVES: 1987 U. of Illinois Engineering Honors Convocation

With graduation season upon us, I was thinking back to my graduation from University of Illinois - Urbana in 1987.

For reasons lost to the ages, I was fortunate enough to be the top graduating senior in the college of engineering that year. As punishment, I was asked to give the student response at the College of Engineering Honor Awards Convocation.

All these years later, it's good to see that I was as contrarian, presumptuous, and (extra) long winded at the age of 20 as I am today, although I would like to think that I have become a bit more sophisticated about capital and economics since then (ouch).

I have mentioned a couple times in this blog that I have been waiting 20 years for us to begin the revitalization of America in earnest, doing what I could along the way. Although it was shocking at the time to have anyone question the impact of the Reagan Revolution (let alone a punk kid with a funny name and an Electrical Engineering degree), it was amazingly gratifying to have so many parents and students come up after my presentation to thank me for putting into words the discomfort they were feeling for the direction of the country at the time.

To all 2008 graduates, my exhortation to you (with apologies to Harry Chapin): When in doubt, build something! Providence smiles when you break the second law of thermodynamics.

College of Engineering Honor Awards Convocation

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Friday, April 24, 1987

Student Response by Ray Ghanbari

When Dean Wakeland informed me last week that I was supposed to give the student response this afternoon, he neglected to mention what I was supposed to be responding to. This "oversight" was probably for the best since I was going to talk about what I wanted to talk about anyway.

The issue I would like to address today can best be described as responsibility. We students who are here today have, for the most part, 16 years of formal preparation behind us. As a group, we are almost ready to make meaningful the extravagant investment in time and effort we have made and, perhaps more importantly, others have made on our behalf (parents, teachers, and associates).

The questions we need to ask ourselves is how can we best apply our abilities to their greatest benefit. I suggest that in order for the answer to this question to be meaningful in an way, it is critical for us to be aware of what is happening, out here, in the "real world".

Towards this end, I will start with a little bit of history and a little bit of economics, then move into particulars.

During the period from 1960-70, the gross national product (GNP), after being adjusted for inflation, rose an average of 3.8% per year. Indeed, these were prosperous times for America. U.S. industry was the best in the world and had little difficulty competing in the world market. The baby boomer generation, who grew up during the amazing period of industrial growth following World War II, was entering the job market with a great deal of zeal and idealism. Their standard of living was significantly better than that of the previous generation and prospects for continued growth looked excellent.

During the 1970s, real growth in the GNP slowed to only 2.8% per year. This drop didn't really seem to bother people all that much. In fact, for the most part, this slow down didn't really significantly affect their lifestyles. As a group, Americans just kept spending like they were getting the same real raises they received during the 1960s. In these times of high inflation, it just didn't make any sense to save money. The general feeling was, spend it before you lose it.

When income fell short of expectations, the difference was simply made up by borrowing. The thinking was that since an anticipated raise was just around the corner, there was no reason to slow down the quest for the American dream. Unfortunately, when that raise finally came, it wasn't even enough to keep up with the increased cost of living, let alone get ahead.

In 1980, a new administration entered the White House, and the Reagan Revolution showed us the way back to prosperity. Since then, inflation has been brought down to virtually nothing, interest rates are sane once more, and America is seemingly standing proud once again. Indeed, what can be seriously wrong with an economy when there are now seven different types of Coca Cola to choose from instead of one?

The unfortunate fact is that since 1980, real GNP growth has been 2.4% a year (roughly 40% less than that experienced during the 1960s and 15% less than the 1970s). More startling is the fact that average real wages in 1986 were at the same level as 1969, and have actually declined since 1972. Even with the increased number of two-income families, median household income was 8% higher in 1973 than in 1983. What that means is that today, two people must work to hope to maintain the standard of living one person could provide in times past.

Another indicator of the current economic slow down, which has been in the news quite a bit lately, is the trade deficit. Since 1981, America's trade balance in manufactured goods has gone from a surplus of $18 billion to a deficit of $151 billion in 1986. Not surprisingly, in 1986, U.S. consumption was $150 billion more than U.S. production. Studies suggest that currently, the ratio of personal debt to income is 30% above that normally expected for this stage of economic expansion. It is readily apparent that we, as a nation, are simply living beyond our means.

The most distressing feature of the current situation is the increasing amount of money which is owned to other nations. Even in the best scenario, U.S. debt to foreigners will probably be $750 billion by 1990. Unlike internal debts, which for the most part can be continuously juggled and shifted around, these external debts will have to be repaid eventually, primarily in goods. A service economy, which many envision for the U.S., simply will be unable to generate sufficient exports to generate a surplus in the trade balance. It is clear that the U.S. must rely on manufacturing to deal with this situation.

It is we, as engineers, who must have a primary role in the required revitalization of American industry.

It is we, as future innovators, entrepreneurs, and managers who must spearhead an effort to update manufacturing processes to make them more responsive to changing technology, technology which is being developed here, in the United States.

It is crucial that U.S. industry be able to take the basic science advances, in which the U.S. is the world leader, and incorporate them into new technology and new products. New flexible manufacturing methods need to be developed and implemented so that U.S. manufacturing will be able to respond quickly and decisively to new technology.

As Mr. Hallene mentioned earlier today, it is the development and implementation of this technology which holds the greatest promise for increased productivity and increased U.S. competitiveness.

It is we, as future politicians, administrators, and businessmen who must aid in a reevaluation of societal priorities. It seems to me that, except for a few important exceptions, our society tends to emphasize the short term and the consumable. Unfortunately, this is usually at the expense of things like factories and education, which require long-term commitments.

Currently, U.S. corporations invest less in capital equipment than any industrial country except Britain. Nevertheless, corporate debt is up, but not to pay for new factories and equipment, but to finance mergers, acquisitions, and leveraged buyouts.

There is no question that those who are being honored today will succeed technically. It is my sincere hope that we will also succeed at a higher level; a level which requires awareness of the "big picture."

I urge those here today to develop this awareness. As was mentioned this morning, each generation seems to have a dilemma which must be addressed and overcome. I suggest that the responsibility of our generation is to revitalize and restore the promise of the American Dream. After listening to the credentials of the Bronze Tablet recipients this morning, I wouldn't bet against us.

Thank you for your kind attention.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

A New Day

40 years ago tonight - mere months after the Dream was shattered in Memphis - Hope was gunned down in a hotel kitchen, losing an entire generation. Over the next decade, the shattered generation scurried back to their respective corners, wallowing in self indulgence, anger, narcissism, and fear of each other and the godless devil across the sea.

I was too young to see what was happening at the time, but the scars and the pain are still real all these years later. Those who cared the most and wanted the most for their country were the most devastated, and have had every cause to look for reasons not to get sucked in again. The bitter fear of disappointment and betrayal is still too stark to confront, and schisms with the other shattered generation factions have hardened beyond healing.

For a new generation, those that have come of age in a time of division and segmentation defined by their elders, who have only seen their leaders define America as a place where those who "look and think like us" deserve a fair share of static or shrinking American dream, who have had leadership defined by those who highlight what we should be afraid of and (more importantly) who is to blame for our fear, we have finally grown up enough to ask "Why?"

Is this intragenerational war without end what we wish for children or our country? Is the Atwaterian/Rovian/Pennian deconstruction of American into progressively smaller groups that can be more easily influenced and brought into conflict with each other the American we aspire to?

Front Row To History

There was a time when attributes like decency, integrity, authenticity, and even intelligence were things that we took for granted in our leaders. With regret and great sadness, we have learned this is no longer the case.

Paradoxically, the profound betrayal of these attributes by our current President has galvanized a nation to question how we got here, and demand a better way. The darkness before the dawn presages the coming light.

After the Iowa Caucuses, we saw the first glimmers of light on the horizon.

As I watched Senator Obama's acceptance speech with my 11 year old daughter, I saw in her eyes the power of words to raise us up. I also saw in her the joyous news that her generation will look at gender and race in a presidential candidate the same way mine looks at religion: something that was a big deal at one point for those older folks, but really doesn't make sense. Dr. King's dream was becoming real before my eyes.

After the South Carolina primary, the glimmer had grown into full light. It was my privilege to vote for Senator Obama Super Tuesday.

Tuesday night, Senator Obama came to Minnesota to declare himself the democratic nominee. A journey that started 400 years ago when the first slaves were brought to our shores, to 221 years after a nation founded on liberty for all men ignored the cancer growing in its soul, to a bloody civil war that excised the cancer but did not heal the soul, and most recently has been churning in a 150 year struggle for basic decency and dignity was finally approaching the end.

The journey's end was made all the more worthy for being focused not on those 400 years of injustices, but rather on reclaiming the American ideal that had been shattered into fragments 40 years before, and restoring the ideal of America for all. By finally fulfilling the promise of America for all Americans, a leader was able to emerge to help us reclaim the ideal of America for all Americans.

The historic import was not lost on my fellow Minnesotans. With 3 days notice, it all came together. Where 60 of us had volunteered to help with the event, 400+ showed up Tuesday. The line to get into the Xcel Center started to build 8 hours before the event in the drizzle, and snaked over 2 miles through downtown St. Paul. The stadium was filled to the rafters with almost 20,000 people, with another 13,000 people outside unable to get in.

Inside the stadium, I was struck by the remarkable joy of those rushing into the arena, and the true diversity of colors, shapes, ages, genders, orientations, and national origins.

I was fortunate to have a spot immediately behind the podium along the rope line. The noise and intensity was that of a rock concert. When the wonderful Will.I.Am "Yes We Can" video was playing on the jumbotron, it was a profound moment that reminded all of us how far we had come.

Obama's speech was respectful, intense, and the crowd shook the foundations of the arena. Afterwards, the Senator and his wife were very gracious as they walked the rope line and shook hands with the crowd.

A little to my left, an older African American woman had worked her way to the rope line. In those eyes I saw a hard won wisdom and a history beyond what I could possibly imagine. As long as I live, I will never forget the Senator and his wife coming off the stage, and Michelle hugging that woman with a loving embrace for the ages.

You Can Blow Out a Candle, But You Can't Blow Out a Fire

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I have an exceedingly poor track record of voting for presidential candidates. I am excited that for the first time a candidate I am supporting is the presumptive nominee, and has a more than credible shot at the presidency.

That being said, whether Senator Obama becomes President Obama ultimately is not the real prize. The campaign of 2008 has rekindled passions and expectations for the America we want for ourselves and our children. After 40 years of schism, we are once again rising to our birthright of E Pluribus Unum.

"Change We Can Believe In" is nothing less than the rebirth of the American ideal: many peoples coming together to achieve something larger, and leave something better for those that follow.

Senator Obama may fail or fall short of that ideal, but reclaiming the ideal will not fail.

Sunday, May 4, 2008


About three years ago, my insides literally tied themselves in a knot, putting me in the hospital for about a week and requiring surgery to untangle the knot in my intestines. Quite the wake up call (and the kind of pain I wouldn't wish on anyone). As recently as 100 years ago it would have been a death sentence (and a very silly way to go).

During the recovery period, I found myself remarkably weak. Lifting even small things was almost impossible. I was running fairly regularly at the time, so the lower body recovered quickly. My upper body took forever to come back.

Out of that experience, I made a commitment to try and keep a balanced fitness routine. I set a personal goal of being able to (at any given time) run a half marathon, do a couple chin ups, and bench press my own weight.

Since then, I've been doing basic weight work for the first time since college (and hating it).

Yesterday, ran our local half marathon in 1:51:00 (and hurting the whole way...never got that second wind). Was able to do 5 chin ups, but bench capped out at 150.

Unfortunately I've been capped at 150 for a while. Unless I can figure out how to dropped 30 something pounds, will need to figure out how to break through that plateau without more lifting than absolutely necessary.

Any advice that doesn't involve needles and fits into 30 reps ~3x per week?

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Batting 0.000

Several months ago, I came to the painful realization that I have never supported a presidential candidate that has either won their party's nomination or the presidency (yup, batting 0.000). Unfortunately, I came to this realization a week or so after declaring my support for Obama.

My "out of the mainstream" streak actually extends back to 1980, when at the age of 13, I first became politically active/engaged for John Anderson in the republican primary, and later the general election as an independent candidate (hey, he was the only one that was saying stuff that made sense). Jesse Jackson didn't do much better for me in 1984, and Paul Simon (the one with the bow tie) fell flat in 88. Tsongas in 92 still breaks my heart (and I still hold it against Clinton), and we all missed a hell of a fun ride when Perot wigged out in 92 and 96. McCain/Gore in 2000, swing and a miss. Edwards and then Kerry in 2004? No we can't.

To confront my embarrassment, I sent out a survey to an extraordinarily unscientific population of people (n=11, 9 responses) selected because they actually read and respond to emails I send them, asking them to share their presidential batting average. The numbers were quite interesting.

In aggregate, there had been 12 votes for an eventual winner, and 42 votes for an eventual loser (0.286 batting average...more than good enough for the Cards this year)

A third of respondents had a 0.000 batting average(!) demonstrating that latte drinking contrarian (lower case l) libertarians with anarchistic leanings tend to cluster together.

Only one respondent (11%) had a batting average that was better than what a monkey would score throwing scat at a wall with two same-sized photos of the candidates.

For some odd reason, I was thinking of these survey results as I watched Rev. Wright's National Press Club presentation last night.

It was the capper for a very interesting weekend for Rev. Wright. His appearance on Bill Moyer's Journal Friday was remarkably intelligent, balanced, and thought provoking. His NAACP diatribe was a remarkable (and embarrassing) journey through the fun house of race "science" and seemed intended to offer nothing more than fodder for the eventual YouTube remixes. Yesterday's National Press Club Q&A was a rage of narcissism that could have only been intended to provoke and piss off "the man".

After that "feeling dirty as you watch a train wreck" feeling had passed, it crystalized for me that the election this year is not so much about ideology or policy, but is truly about generational values and aspirations. There are those defined and driven by their struggles around Vietnam, Watergate, Jim Crow, 60s Civil Rights, and Communism, and those who know this stuff was important to the grown ups in their life, but who don't quite understand why we can't move on.

When all is said and done, the events of this past weekend will either be remembered as the trigger that continued my unbroken streak of picking unwinners, or as the moment that there was a clean generational break with the issues and history and struggles that defined the baby boom generation.

I remain hopeful for the later. It is long past time to build the world our kids will inherit, and not endlessly refight the battles that a previous generation fought as they built a world for themselves.

If the former, I look forward at tossing the proverbial scat at the wall to decide my vote in November.

Remembering "The Rant"

Today is the 25th anniversary of The Rant. (NSFW if you listen to the MP3).

I was a junior in high school, and just getting into the Cubs. How could you not become a hardcore fan after hearing Lee Elia just go off on the fans?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

T.S. Eliot - The Wasteland

Tomorrow is national share a poem day. Since I'm on the road, getting my contribution out a day early.

My contribution is one of the finest poems to ever grace the english language: TS Eliot's "The Wasteland"

Text is below (and much worthy of contemplation) (courtesy of, and thanks to the intertubes, a reading of the poem by TS Eliot on YouTube.

T.S. Eliot (1888–1965). The Waste Land. 1922.

The Waste Land


APRIL is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering 5
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.
Summer surprised us, coming over the Starnbergersee
With a shower of rain; we stopped in the colonnade,
And went on in sunlight, into the Hofgarten, 10
And drank coffee, and talked for an hour.
Bin gar keine Russin, stamm' aus Litauen, echt deutsch.
And when we were children, staying at the archduke's,
My cousin's, he took me out on a sled,
And I was frightened. He said, Marie, 15
Marie, hold on tight. And down we went.
In the mountains, there you feel free.
I read, much of the night, and go south in the winter.

What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow
Out of this stony rubbish? Son of man, 20
You cannot say, or guess, for you know only
A heap of broken images, where the sun beats,
And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief,
And the dry stone no sound of water. Only
There is shadow under this red rock, 25
(Come in under the shadow of this red rock),
And I will show you something different from either
Your shadow at morning striding behind you
Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;
I will show you fear in a handful of dust. 30
Frisch weht der Wind
Der Heimat zu.
Mein Irisch Kind,
Wo weilest du?
'You gave me hyacinths first a year ago; 35
'They called me the hyacinth girl.'
—Yet when we came back, late, from the Hyacinth garden,
Your arms full, and your hair wet, I could not
Speak, and my eyes failed, I was neither
Living nor dead, and I knew nothing, 40
Looking into the heart of light, the silence.
Od' und leer das Meer.

Madame Sosostris, famous clairvoyante,
Had a bad cold, nevertheless
Is known to be the wisest woman in Europe, 45
With a wicked pack of cards. Here, said she,
Is your card, the drowned Phoenician Sailor,
(Those are pearls that were his eyes. Look!)
Here is Belladonna, the Lady of the Rocks,
The lady of situations. 50
Here is the man with three staves, and here the Wheel,
And here is the one-eyed merchant, and this card,
Which is blank, is something he carries on his back,
Which I am forbidden to see. I do not find
The Hanged Man. Fear death by water. 55
I see crowds of people, walking round in a ring.
Thank you. If you see dear Mrs. Equitone,
Tell her I bring the horoscope myself:
One must be so careful these days.

Unreal City, 60
Under the brown fog of a winter dawn,
A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many,
I had not thought death had undone so many.
Sighs, short and infrequent, were exhaled,
And each man fixed his eyes before his feet. 65
Flowed up the hill and down King William Street,
To where Saint Mary Woolnoth kept the hours
With a dead sound on the final stroke of nine.
There I saw one I knew, and stopped him, crying 'Stetson!
'You who were with me in the ships at Mylae! 70
'That corpse you planted last year in your garden,
'Has it begun to sprout? Will it bloom this year?
'Or has the sudden frost disturbed its bed?
'Oh keep the Dog far hence, that's friend to men,
'Or with his nails he'll dig it up again! 75
'You! hypocrite lecteur!—mon semblable,—mon frère!'


THE Chair she sat in, like a burnished throne,
Glowed on the marble, where the glass
Held up by standards wrought with fruited vines
From which a golden Cupidon peeped out 80
(Another hid his eyes behind his wing)
Doubled the flames of sevenbranched candelabra
Reflecting light upon the table as
The glitter of her jewels rose to meet it,
From satin cases poured in rich profusion; 85
In vials of ivory and coloured glass
Unstoppered, lurked her strange synthetic perfumes,
Unguent, powdered, or liquid—troubled, confused
And drowned the sense in odours; stirred by the air
That freshened from the window, these ascended 90
In fattening the prolonged candle-flames,
Flung their smoke into the laquearia,
Stirring the pattern on the coffered ceiling.
Huge sea-wood fed with copper
Burned green and orange, framed by the coloured stone, 95
In which sad light a carvèd dolphin swam.
Above the antique mantel was displayed
As though a window gave upon the sylvan scene
The change of Philomel, by the barbarous king
So rudely forced; yet there the nightingale 100
Filled all the desert with inviolable voice
And still she cried, and still the world pursues,
'Jug Jug' to dirty ears.
And other withered stumps of time
Were told upon the walls; staring forms 105
Leaned out, leaning, hushing the room enclosed.
Footsteps shuffled on the stair.
Under the firelight, under the brush, her hair
Spread out in fiery points
Glowed into words, then would be savagely still. 110

'My nerves are bad to-night. Yes, bad. Stay with me.
'Speak to me. Why do you never speak? Speak.
'What are you thinking of? What thinking? What?
'I never know what you are thinking. Think.'

I think we are in rats' alley 115
Where the dead men lost their bones.

'What is that noise?'
The wind under the door.
'What is that noise now? What is the wind doing?'
Nothing again nothing. 120
'You know nothing? Do you see nothing? Do you remember
I remember
Those are pearls that were his eyes. 125
'Are you alive, or not? Is there nothing in your head?'
O O O O that Shakespeherian Rag—
It's so elegant
So intelligent 130
'What shall I do now? What shall I do?'
'I shall rush out as I am, and walk the street
'With my hair down, so. What shall we do to-morrow?
'What shall we ever do?'
The hot water at ten. 135
And if it rains, a closed car at four.
And we shall play a game of chess,
Pressing lidless eyes and waiting for a knock upon the door.

When Lil's husband got demobbed, I said—
I didn't mince my words, I said to her myself, 140
Now Albert's coming back, make yourself a bit smart.
He'll want to know what you done with that money he gave you
To get yourself some teeth. He did, I was there.
You have them all out, Lil, and get a nice set, 145
He said, I swear, I can't bear to look at you.
And no more can't I, I said, and think of poor Albert,
He's been in the army four years, he wants a good time,
And if you don't give it him, there's others will, I said.
Oh is there, she said. Something o' that, I said. 150
Then I'll know who to thank, she said, and give me a straight look.
If you don't like it you can get on with it, I said.
Others can pick and choose if you can't.
But if Albert makes off, it won't be for lack of telling. 155
You ought to be ashamed, I said, to look so antique.
(And her only thirty-one.)
I can't help it, she said, pulling a long face,
It's them pills I took, to bring it off, she said.
(She's had five already, and nearly died of young George.) 160
The chemist said it would be alright, but I've never been the same.
You are a proper fool, I said.
Well, if Albert won't leave you alone, there it is, I said,
What you get married for if you don't want children?
Well, that Sunday Albert was home, they had a hot gammon,
And they asked me in to dinner, to get the beauty of it hot—
Goonight Bill. Goonight Lou. Goonight May. Goonight. 170
Ta ta. Goonight. Goonight.
Good night, ladies, good night, sweet ladies, good night, good night.


THE river's tent is broken: the last fingers of leaf
Clutch and sink into the wet bank. The wind
Crosses the brown land, unheard. The nymphs are departed. 175
Sweet Thames, run softly, till I end my song.
The river bears no empty bottles, sandwich papers,
Silk handkerchiefs, cardboard boxes, cigarette ends
Or other testimony of summer nights. The nymphs are departed.
And their friends, the loitering heirs of city directors; 180
Departed, have left no addresses.
By the waters of Leman I sat down and wept...
Sweet Thames, run softly till I end my song,
Sweet Thames, run softly, for I speak not loud or long.
But at my back in a cold blast I hear 185
The rattle of the bones, and chuckle spread from ear to ear.

A rat crept softly through the vegetation
Dragging its slimy belly on the bank
While I was fishing in the dull canal
On a winter evening round behind the gashouse 190
Musing upon the king my brother's wreck
And on the king my father's death before him.
White bodies naked on the low damp ground
And bones cast in a little low dry garret,
Rattled by the rat's foot only, year to year. 195
But at my back from time to time I hear
The sound of horns and motors, which shall bring
Sweeney to Mrs. Porter in the spring.
O the moon shone bright on Mrs. Porter
And on her daughter 200
They wash their feet in soda water
Et, O ces voix d'enfants, chantant dans la coupole!

Twit twit twit
Jug jug jug jug jug jug
So rudely forc'd. 205

Unreal City
Under the brown fog of a winter noon
Mr. Eugenides, the Smyrna merchant
Unshaven, with a pocket full of currants 210
C.i.f. London: documents at sight,
Asked me in demotic French
To luncheon at the Cannon Street Hotel
Followed by a weekend at the Metropole.

At the violet hour, when the eyes and back 215
Turn upward from the desk, when the human engine waits
Like a taxi throbbing waiting,
I Tiresias, though blind, throbbing between two lives,
Old man with wrinkled female breasts, can see
At the violet hour, the evening hour that strives 220
Homeward, and brings the sailor home from sea,
The typist home at teatime, clears her breakfast, lights
Her stove, and lays out food in tins.
Out of the window perilously spread
Her drying combinations touched by the sun's last rays, 225
On the divan are piled (at night her bed)
Stockings, slippers, camisoles, and stays.
I Tiresias, old man with wrinkled dugs
Perceived the scene, and foretold the rest—
I too awaited the expected guest. 230
He, the young man carbuncular, arrives,
A small house agent's clerk, with one bold stare,
One of the low on whom assurance sits
As a silk hat on a Bradford millionaire.
The time is now propitious, as he guesses, 235
The meal is ended, she is bored and tired,
Endeavours to engage her in caresses
Which still are unreproved, if undesired.
Flushed and decided, he assaults at once;
Exploring hands encounter no defence; 240
His vanity requires no response,
And makes a welcome of indifference.
(And I Tiresias have foresuffered all
Enacted on this same divan or bed;
I who have sat by Thebes below the wall 245
And walked among the lowest of the dead.)
Bestows on final patronising kiss,
And gropes his way, finding the stairs unlit...

She turns and looks a moment in the glass,
Hardly aware of her departed lover; 250
Her brain allows one half-formed thought to pass:
'Well now that's done: and I'm glad it's over.'
When lovely woman stoops to folly and
Paces about her room again, alone,
She smoothes her hair with automatic hand, 255
And puts a record on the gramophone.

'This music crept by me upon the waters'
And along the Strand, up Queen Victoria Street.
O City city, I can sometimes hear
Beside a public bar in Lower Thames Street, 260
The pleasant whining of a mandoline
And a clatter and a chatter from within
Where fishmen lounge at noon: where the walls
Of Magnus Martyr hold
Inexplicable splendour of Ionian white and gold. 265

The river sweats
Oil and tar
The barges drift
With the turning tide
Red sails 270
To leeward, swing on the heavy spar.
The barges wash
Drifting logs
Down Greenwich reach 275
Past the Isle of Dogs.
Weialala leia
Wallala leialala

Elizabeth and Leicester
Beating oars 280
The stern was formed
A gilded shell
Red and gold
The brisk swell
Rippled both shores 285
Southwest wind
Carried down stream
The peal of bells
White towers
Weialala leia 290
Wallala leialala

'Trams and dusty trees.
Highbury bore me. Richmond and Kew
Undid me. By Richmond I raised my knees
Supine on the floor of a narrow canoe.' 295
'My feet are at Moorgate, and my heart
Under my feet. After the event
He wept. He promised "a new start".
I made no comment. What should I resent?'
'On Margate Sands. 300
I can connect
Nothing with nothing.
The broken fingernails of dirty hands.
My people humble people who expect
Nothing.' 305
la la

To Carthage then I came

Burning burning burning burning
O Lord Thou pluckest me out
O Lord Thou pluckest 310



PHLEBAS the Phoenician, a fortnight dead,
Forgot the cry of gulls, and the deep seas swell
And the profit and loss.
A current under sea 315
Picked his bones in whispers. As he rose and fell
He passed the stages of his age and youth
Entering the whirlpool.
Gentile or Jew
O you who turn the wheel and look to windward, 320
Consider Phlebas, who was once handsome and tall as you.


AFTER the torchlight red on sweaty faces
After the frosty silence in the gardens
After the agony in stony places
The shouting and the crying 325
Prison and place and reverberation
Of thunder of spring over distant mountains
He who was living is now dead
We who were living are now dying
With a little patience 330

Here is no water but only rock
Rock and no water and the sandy road
The road winding above among the mountains
Which are mountains of rock without water
If there were water we should stop and drink 335
Amongst the rock one cannot stop or think
Sweat is dry and feet are in the sand
If there were only water amongst the rock
Dead mountain mouth of carious teeth that cannot spit
Here one can neither stand nor lie nor sit 340
There is not even silence in the mountains
But dry sterile thunder without rain
There is not even solitude in the mountains
But red sullen faces sneer and snarl
From doors of mudcracked houses
If there were water 345
And no rock
If there were rock
And also water
And water
A spring 350
A pool among the rock
If there were the sound of water only
Not the cicada
And dry grass singing
But sound of water over a rock 355
Where the hermit-thrush sings in the pine trees
Drip drop drip drop drop drop drop
But there is no water

Who is the third who walks always beside you?
When I count, there are only you and I together 360
But when I look ahead up the white road
There is always another one walking beside you
Gliding wrapt in a brown mantle, hooded
I do not know whether a man or a woman
—But who is that on the other side of you? 365

What is that sound high in the air
Murmur of maternal lamentation
Who are those hooded hordes swarming
Over endless plains, stumbling in cracked earth
Ringed by the flat horizon only 370
What is the city over the mountains
Cracks and reforms and bursts in the violet air
Falling towers
Jerusalem Athens Alexandria
Vienna London 375

A woman drew her long black hair out tight
And fiddled whisper music on those strings
And bats with baby faces in the violet light
Whistled, and beat their wings 380
And crawled head downward down a blackened wall
And upside down in air were towers
Tolling reminiscent bells, that kept the hours
And voices singing out of empty cisterns and exhausted wells.

In this decayed hole among the mountains 385
In the faint moonlight, the grass is singing
Over the tumbled graves, about the chapel
There is the empty chapel, only the wind's home.
It has no windows, and the door swings,
Dry bones can harm no one. 390
Only a cock stood on the rooftree
Co co rico co co rico
In a flash of lightning. Then a damp gust
Bringing rain

Ganga was sunken, and the limp leaves 395
Waited for rain, while the black clouds
Gathered far distant, over Himavant.
The jungle crouched, humped in silence.
Then spoke the thunder
D A 400
Datta: what have we given?
My friend, blood shaking my heart
The awful daring of a moment's surrender
Which an age of prudence can never retract
By this, and this only, we have existed 405
Which is not to be found in our obituaries
Or in memories draped by the beneficent spider
Or under seals broken by the lean solicitor
In our empty rooms
D A 410
Dayadhvam: I have heard the key
Turn in the door once and turn once only
We think of the key, each in his prison
Thinking of the key, each confirms a prison
Only at nightfall, aetherial rumours 415
Revive for a moment a broken Coriolanus
Damyata: The boat responded
Gaily, to the hand expert with sail and oar
The sea was calm, your heart would have responded 420
Gaily, when invited, beating obedient
To controlling hands

I sat upon the shore
Fishing, with the arid plain behind me
Shall I at least set my lands in order? 425

London Bridge is falling down falling down falling down

Poi s'ascose nel foco che gli affina
Quando fiam ceu chelidon—O swallow swallow
Le Prince d'Aquitaine à la tour abolie
These fragments I have shored against my ruins 430
Why then Ile fit you. Hieronymo's mad againe.
Datta. Dayadhvam. Damyata.

Shantih shantih shantih

Thursday, April 3, 2008

40 Years in the Desert

40 years ago today, Martin Luther King stepped into a Memphis church and delivered his "I Have Been to the Mountain Top" speech to striking sanitation workers.
As you know, if I were standing at the beginning of time, with the possibility of general and panoramic view of the whole human history up to now, and the Almighty said to me, "Martin Luther King, which age would you like to live in?" — I would take my mental flight by Egypt through, or rather across the Red Sea, through the wilderness on toward the promised land. And in spite of its magnificence, I wouldn't stop there. I would move on by Greece, and take my mind to Mount Olympus. And I would see Plato, Aristotle, Socrates, Euripides and Aristophanes assembled around the Parthenon as they discussed the great and eternal issues of reality.
But I wouldn't stop there. Strangely enough, I would turn to the Almighty, and say, "If you allow me to live just a few years in the second half of the twentieth century, I will be happy." Now that's a strange statement to make, because the world is all messed up. The nation is sick. Trouble is in the land. Confusion all around. That's a strange statement. But I know, somehow, that only when it is dark enough, can you see the stars.
Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn't matter with me now. Because I've been to the mountaintop. And I don't mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. And I'm happy, tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.

Of course, those closing words were prophetic. The next day Dr. King - husband, father of four, courage incarnate - was assassinated outside a Memphis hotel room.

After 40 years of wandering, is the promised land within our grasp? I am more hopeful than I have ever been that it is there for all of us to see.

UPDATE: Clarence Page reflects on the promised land. Mary Lyon asks whether we have found our Joshua.

UPDATE: teacherken has a wonderful reflection on Dr. King's Mountaintop speech...must reading

Sunday, March 30, 2008

This year, a century ends

Although the still ice covered lake outside the window would indicate otherwise (to say nothing of the 6-8 inches of snow predicted for today), today is the season opener for baseball. It is also the beginning of the hundred year anniversary year of the last time my beloved Cubs won it all.

I welcome this unofficial first day of summer wearing my faded and torn Cubs cap from the soul shattering 1984 campaign. In this summer of Hope, I Believe.

Go Cubs!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

We The People...

For the second time in as many months, Barack Obama has left me feeling humbled, and awed at his ability to take the higher path.

The first was during his remarkable victory speech after the South Carolina primary. After a week of the most distasteful pandering and race baiting, the man stepped forward riding an enormous victory and a ground swell of "not this time". I (and I'm sure many others) were watching with a sense of rightousness, glad that those that had behaved so poorly had been rejected so soundly. I was waiting for a firey rebuke of the race baiting tactics and a triumphant victory speech.

Sen. Obama showed himself the better man. In what was the third of a series of speeches that will change this country and be remembered and studied for generations, he moved beyond the passions of the now, and urged us to embrace where we are as the starting point for what we must become:

We are up against the idea that it's acceptable to say anything and do anything to win an election. We know that this is exactly what's wrong with our politics; this is why people don't believe what their leaders say anymore; this is why they tune out. And this election is our chance to give the American people a reason to believe again.

And what we've seen in these last weeks is that we're also up against forces that are not the fault of any one campaign, but feed the habits that prevent us from being who we want to be as a nation. It's the politics that uses religion as a wedge, and patriotism as a bludgeon. A politics that tells us that we have to think, act, and even vote within the confines of the categories that supposedly define us. The assumption that young people are apathetic. The assumption that Republicans won't cross over. The assumption that the wealthy care nothing for the poor, and that the poor don't vote. The assumption that African-Americans can't support the white candidate; whites can't support the African-American candidate; blacks and Latinos can't come together.

But we are here tonight to say that this is not the America we believe in. I did not travel around this state over the last year and see a white South Carolina or a black South Carolina. I saw South Carolina. I saw crumbling schools that are stealing the future of black children and white children. I saw shuttered mills and homes for sale that once belonged to Americans from all walks of life, and men and women of every color and creed who serve together, and fight together, and bleed together under the same proud flag. I saw what America is, and I believe in what this country can be.
The choice in this election is not between regions or religions or genders. It's not about rich versus poor; young versus old; and it is not about black versus white.

It's about the past versus the future.

It's about whether we settle for the same divisions and distractions and drama that passes for politics today, or whether we reach for a politics of common sense, and innovation - a shared sacrifice and shared prosperity.
When I hear that we'll never overcome the racial divide in our politics, I think about that Republican woman who used to work for Strom Thurmond, who's now devoted to educating inner-city children and who went out onto the streets of South Carolina and knocked on doors for this campaign. Don't tell me we can't change.

Yes we can change.

Yes we can heal this nation.

Yes we can seize our future.

And as we leave this state with a new wind at our backs, and take this journey across the country we love with the message we've carried from the plains of Iowa to the hills of New Hampshire; from the Nevada desert to the South Carolina coast; the same message we had when we were up and when we were down - that out of many, we are one; that while we breathe, we hope; and where we are met with cynicism, and doubt, and those who tell us that we can't, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people in three simple words:

Yes. We. Can.

This morning, as he took to the podium to address the concerns raised by his association with Rev. Wright, Sen. Obama humbled me again. The narrative had already been written: reject Rev. Wright and embrace the "mainstream", or stand firm with his pastor and become the latest in a long stream of "black" candidates. Rather than take the simple path, Sen. Obama seized the moment and with nuance and intelligence and honesty that shines a searing light on the absence of these traits in modern politics, urged us all to embrace where we are, as a starting point for what we must become. The speech is a remarkable one, and should be read or viewed in its entirety. The issues raised should also be discussed and debated by all those that are committed to a better America. Some excerpts:

Remarks of Senator Barack Obama
"A More Perfect Union"
Constitution Center
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

"We the people, in order to form a more perfect union."

Two hundred and twenty one years ago, in a hall that still stands across the street, a group of men gathered and, with these simple words, launched America's improbable experiment in democracy. Farmers and scholars; statesmen and patriots who had traveled across an ocean to escape tyranny and persecution finally made real their declaration of independence at a Philadelphia convention that lasted through the spring of 1787.
And yet words on a parchment would not be enough to deliver slaves from bondage, or provide men and women of every color and creed their full rights and obligations as citizens of the United States. What would be needed were Americans in successive generations who were willing to do their part - through protests and struggle, on the streets and in the courts, through a civil war and civil disobedience and always at great risk - to narrow that gap between the promise of our ideals and the reality of their time.

This was one of the tasks we set forth at the beginning of this campaign - to continue the long march of those who came before us, a march for a more just, more equal, more free, more caring and more prosperous America. I chose to run for the presidency at this moment in history because I believe deeply that we cannot solve the challenges of our time unless we solve them together - unless we perfect our union by understanding that we may have different stories, but we hold common hopes; that we may not look the same and we may not have come from the same place, but we all want to move in the same direction - towards a better future for of children and our grandchildren.

This belief comes from my unyielding faith in the decency and generosity of the American people. But it also comes from my own American story.
It's a story that hasn't made me the most conventional candidate. But it is a story that has seared into my genetic makeup the idea that this nation is more than the sum of its parts - that out of many, we are truly one.

Throughout the first year of this campaign, against all predictions to the contrary, we saw how hungry the American people were for this message of unity. Despite the temptation to view my candidacy through a purely racial lens, we won commanding victories in states with some of the whitest populations in the country. In South Carolina, where the Confederate Flag still flies, we built a powerful coalition of African Americans and white Americans.
I have already condemned, in unequivocal terms, the statements of Reverend Wright that have caused such controversy. For some, nagging questions remain. Did I know him to be an occasionally fierce critic of American domestic and foreign policy? Of course. Did I ever hear him make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in church? Yes. Did I strongly disagree with many of his political views? Absolutely - just as I'm sure many of you have heard remarks from your pastors, priests, or rabbis with which you strongly disagreed.
Given my background, my politics, and my professed values and ideals, there will no doubt be those for whom my statements of condemnation are not enough. Why associate myself with Reverend Wright in the first place, they may ask? Why not join another church? And I confess that if all that I knew of Reverend Wright were the snippets of those sermons that have run in an endless loop on the television and You Tube, or if Trinity United Church of Christ conformed to the caricatures being peddled by some commentators, there is no doubt that I would react in much the same way
I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother - a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.

These people are a part of me. And they are a part of America, this country that I love.

Some will see this as an attempt to justify or excuse comments that are simply inexcusable. I can assure you it is not. I suppose the politically safe thing would be to move on from this episode and just hope that it fades into the woodwork. We can dismiss Reverend Wright as a crank or a demagogue, just as some have dismissed Geraldine Ferraro, in the aftermath of her recent statements, as harboring some deep-seated racial bias.

But race is an issue that I believe this nation cannot afford to ignore right now. We would be making the same mistake that Reverend Wright made in his offending sermons about America - to simplify and stereotype and amplify the negative to the point that it distorts reality.
In fact, a similar anger exists within segments of the white community. Most working- and middle-class white Americans don't feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race. Their experience is the immigrant experience - as far as they're concerned, no one's handed them anything, they've built it from scratch. They've worked hard all their lives, many times only to see their jobs shipped overseas or their pension dumped after a lifetime of labor. They are anxious about their futures, and feel their dreams slipping away; in an era of stagnant wages and global competition, opportunity comes to be seen as a zero sum game, in which your dreams come at my expense. So when they are told to bus their children to a school across town; when they hear that an African American is getting an advantage in landing a good job or a spot in a good college because of an injustice that they themselves never committed; when they're told that their fears about crime in urban neighborhoods are somehow prejudiced, resentment builds over time.

Like the anger within the black community, these resentments aren't always expressed in polite company. But they have helped shape the political landscape for at least a generation. Anger over welfare and affirmative action helped forge the Reagan Coalition. Politicians routinely exploited fears of crime for their own electoral ends. Talk show hosts and conservative commentators built entire careers unmasking bogus claims of racism while dismissing legitimate discussions of racial injustice and inequality as mere political correctness or reverse racism.
This is where we are right now. It's a racial stalemate we've been stuck in for years. Contrary to the claims of some of my critics, black and white, I have never been so naïve as to believe that we can get beyond our racial divisions in a single election cycle, or with a single candidacy - particularly a candidacy as imperfect as my own.

But I have asserted a firm conviction - a conviction rooted in my faith in God and my faith in the American people - that working together we can move beyond some of our old racial wounds, and that in fact we have no choice is we are to continue on the path of a more perfect union.
The profound mistake of Reverend Wright's sermons is not that he spoke about racism in our society. It's that he spoke as if our society was static; as if no progress has been made; as if this country - a country that has made it possible for one of his own members to run for the highest office in the land and build a coalition of white and black; Latino and Asian, rich and poor, young and old -- is still irrevocably bound to a tragic past. But what we know -- what we have seen - is that America can change. That is true genius of this nation. What we have already achieved gives us hope - the audacity to hope - for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.

In the white community, the path to a more perfect union means acknowledging that what ails the African-American community does not just exist in the minds of black people; that the legacy of discrimination - and current incidents of discrimination, while less overt than in the past - are real and must be addressed. Not just with words, but with deeds - by investing in our schools and our communities; by enforcing our civil rights laws and ensuring fairness in our criminal justice system; by providing this generation with ladders of opportunity that were unavailable for previous generations. It requires all Americans to realize that your dreams do not have to come at the expense of my dreams; that investing in the health, welfare, and education of black and brown and white children will ultimately help all of America prosper.

In the end, then, what is called for is nothing more, and nothing less, than what all the world's great religions demand - that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Let us be our brother's keeper, Scripture tells us. Let us be our sister's keeper. Let us find that common stake we all have in one another, and let our politics reflect that spirit as well.

For we have a choice in this country. We can accept a politics that breeds division, and conflict, and cynicism. We can tackle race only as spectacle - as we did in the OJ trial - or in the wake of tragedy, as we did in the aftermath of Katrina - or as fodder for the nightly news. We can play Reverend Wright's sermons on every channel, every day and talk about them from now until the election, and make the only question in this campaign whether or not the American people think that I somehow believe or sympathize with his most offensive words. We can pounce on some gaffe by a Hillary supporter as evidence that she's playing the race card, or we can speculate on whether white men will all flock to John McCain in the general election regardless of his policies.

We can do that.

But if we do, I can tell you that in the next election, we'll be talking about some other distraction. And then another one. And then another one. And nothing will change.

That is one option. Or, at this moment, in this election, we can come together and say, "Not this time." This time we want to talk about the crumbling schools that are stealing the future of black children and white children and Asian children and Hispanic children and Native American children. This time we want to reject the cynicism that tells us that these kids can't learn; that those kids who don't look like us are somebody else's problem. The children of America are not those kids, they are our kids, and we will not let them fall behind in a 21st century economy. Not this time.
This union may never be perfect, but generation after generation has shown that it can always be perfected. And today, whenever I find myself feeling doubtful or cynical about this possibility, what gives me the most hope is the next generation - the young people whose attitudes and beliefs and openness to change have already made history in this election.

There is one story in particularly that I'd like to leave you with today - a story I told when I had the great honor of speaking on Dr. King's birthday at his home church, Ebenezer Baptist, in Atlanta.

There is a young, twenty-three year old white woman named Ashley Baia who organized for our campaign in Florence, South Carolina. She had been working to organize a mostly African-American community since the beginning of this campaign, and one day she was at a roundtable discussion where everyone went around telling their story and why they were there.

And Ashley said that when she was nine years old, her mother got cancer. And because she had to miss days of work, she was let go and lost her health care. They had to file for bankruptcy, and that's when Ashley decided that she had to do something to help her mom.

She knew that food was one of their most expensive costs, and so Ashley convinced her mother that what she really liked and really wanted to eat more than anything else was mustard and relish sandwiches. Because that was the cheapest way to eat.

She did this for a year until her mom got better, and she told everyone at the roundtable that the reason she joined our campaign was so that she could help the millions of other children in the country who want and need to help their parents too.

Now Ashley might have made a different choice. Perhaps somebody told her along the way that the source of her mother's problems were blacks who were on welfare and too lazy to work, or Hispanics who were coming into the country illegally. But she didn't. She sought out allies in her fight against injustice.

Anyway, Ashley finishes her story and then goes around the room and asks everyone else why they're supporting the campaign. They all have different stories and reasons. Many bring up a specific issue. And finally they come to this elderly black man who's been sitting there quietly the entire time. And Ashley asks him why he's there. And he does not bring up a specific issue. He does not say health care or the economy. He does not say education or the war. He does not say that he was there because of Barack Obama. He simply says to everyone in the room, "I am here because of Ashley."

"I'm here because of Ashley." By itself, that single moment of recognition between that young white girl and that old black man is not enough. It is not enough to give health care to the sick, or jobs to the jobless, or education to our children.

But it is where we start. It is where our union grows stronger. And as so many generations have come to realize over the course of the two-hundred and twenty one years since a band of patriots signed that document in Philadelphia, that is where the perfection begins.

I am again humbled by the courage and leadership example of this man. Better to lose the presidency standing tall for the future you believe in, than to gain the presidency by embracing the present you seek to change. He chose not to speak to the sound bite narrative and the least common denominator. Rather, he chose to take on the larger issue, the harder issue, the infinitely more nuanced and subtle issue and ultimately important issue. Sen. Obama's speech today was a profound example of political courage, and an extraordinary declaration of faith in our ability as We The People to move forward together towards that More Perfect Union.

I am here because of Ashley, and also for El and Iz, Alex and Emily, Ethan and Maddie, Jessica and Garrett, and countless others. I pray that our courage is worthy of their hope and possibilities.


John Nichols at The Nation offers a wonderful analysis of the speech.

James Carney at Time crystalizes the audacity of choice that Obama presented today.

Joseph Palermo and Stacy Parker Aab write wonderfully about the courage and truth of the speech today.