Flights of Angels

Toward the end of this afternoon’s session on Open Broadband, I got a text message from Margaret. It didn’t say what was up, just told me to call her — which I knew was not a good sign. My father, Donald Geikie Adam, apparently will not come out of the sedation that has been enabling him to tolerate having a breathing tube; sometime tomorrow, the life support machinery will go off, and Dad will die.

Christmas Time 2007

I don’t have garlands of ornate rhetoric to offer in his honor. Give me a few weeks, and I might be able to compose myself and such a tribute. He will not have left a big footprint online; he was an early advocate of digital technology in education (I remember my recoiling in horror when he described the possible benefits of a spelling- and grammar-checker; I sniffed that people should just learn that!), but he didn’t share my involvement with the internet. But look at me: he was the one who lauded the Apple II to me back when I was a mainframe snob, and now I’m going to tech conferences about the Freedom to Connect. He was a lifelong teacher of English literature and composition, and I’m an Anglican priest who teaches interpretation theory and emphasizes writing skills. He taught a comedy seminar for years, and I. . . well, my preaching comes to a great extent out of what I learned from him about stand-up. Four decades of Chatham students learned from him how to write better, how to read with deeper joy and more expansive understanding. When I visited him this summer, he was teaching summer exchange students English as a second language. At Christmas time, he was grilling my kids on what they’ve been learning in their various studies. Once, when he came to visit me in college, my classmate John Cunningham described him to somebody who hadn’t met him before, saying “He looks exactly like AKMA, cut off at the knees” (my sister did call him “Stumpy” sometimes, for his short legs).
Seventy-threetwo is too few years, especially when he gave so many of them to teaching others. I’ve been plying the family trade for almost twenty years myself, and this spring I stand at the edge of turning in my professorial card. I can’t give a good reason, but his dying will make that harder to do. There’s so much left to do.
The Phone Call did not come as a shock; Pa had been in the hospital for ten days or so already. But knowing the odds and hearing the news are two different things. Tomorrow Margaret and Pippa will swing down to Maryland and pick me up to drive me to Pittsburgh, to be with other family members. Between now and then — and for a while after — I have some weeping to do.
Almighty God, look on Donald your servant, lying in great weakness, and comfort him with the promise of life everlasting, given in the resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

Ever Vigilant

For as long as I can remember, every time I’ve been to an airport, the public address system has reminded me that the “threat level” for air travel is orange. That means it’s “High,” a riskier condition than “Elevated” (= yellow). But it makes me wonder how long the “threat level” has to stay at a certain (“high”) level before that threat level becomes “pretty much average.” The Homeland Securitarians don’t tell you, but the “pretty much average” color code is beige.

Progressive Blogging

Not politically progressive, but I’ll just put notes in here as I observe stuff at F2C. Right now, Micah Sifry is announcing an initiative to get legislation onto the Web before it’s enacted.
The panel is interesting and impressive — Micah, Alec Ross, Matt Stoller, and especially Donna Edwards. They’re good-hearted, well-intentioned, alert participants in a weighty discussion.
By the way, I got my “it’ll all work out” count down to about 484 last night; I am sure Margaret’s job will work out just fine (483).
Lunch boxes from Whole Foods = teh nutritious. David I. threw me a t-shirt with a quotation from Thich Nhat Hanh; this happens, when the conference organizer knows you’re a theologian.
Afternoon session on Open Fiber, featuring Dirk van der Woude, John St. Julien, Adam Peake, Tim Nulty — moderated by Jim Baller. The topic is intensely important and intriguing, but the presentations fall somewhat short of vibrant. Plus, the roomful of geeks has overloaded the wireless network, so the backchannel and web access are molasses-slow.
Intriguing session this afternoon led by Rich Miner of Google’s Android project; Michael Calabrese, Director of Wireless Futures; Richard Whitt; and Brett Glass of Lariat, the first wireless broadband provider.

Greetings From Silver Spring

Woke up this morning, got myself a train. . . .
Woke up at 4:45 this morning, caught Amtrak to Washington DC, Metro to Silver Spring, walked up Colesville Road to the AFI, and ducked directly into the Freedom to Connect conference, where the first face I saw was Frank Paynter. Skulked into the conference room (already in session), grabbed the first open seat I could find, and turned out to be just down the row from Suw and Doc. David grabbed my hand and welcomed me at the break. It’s old home day.

Two Unrelated Things

First, Margaret keeps wondering whether her job [prospect] will work out. She asked, “If you tell me 500 times, will it be true?” So far, I’ve worked down to 487, but it’s only been two days. I’ll count this as knocking it down to 486: “It will work out, and it’s great, I’m very proud of you, sweetheart.”
Second, Bruce pointed to Cringely’s follow-up to his post on the pivotal change in “learning” that we’re about to confront. As with last week’s, I don’t agree with all this particular observations, but in his favor (a) he warns against assuming we know what’s coming down the pike at us, and (b) he is at least wrassling with the unknowable intricacies of the future, rather than insisting shrilly that the structures developed over the past hundred or so years must determine the next hundred.

Local Excitement

My sweetheart has a very intriguing job prospect; I long to blab about it to the world, but I have to wait till everything is signed, sealed, and delivered. Nothing can stop me, though, from beaming with pride and affection.

In A Rear-View Mirror Clearly

This article about Jim DeRogatis’s change of heart relative to a recent R.E.M. album underscores my interest in retrospective evaluation of popular culture. As DeRogatis admits, reviews written in the heat of anticipation (positive or negative) are liable to mislead; a glance through the yearly awards lists shows how great the difference is between “what seems like a great album/movie/book right at this moment” and “what has shown its merit by impressing listeners/viewers/readers over and over again.” Maybe next time I’m wrestling with writer’s block I’ll renew the Year in Retrospect series.

Much Going On

My dad’s in the hospital with some fairly serious lung problems. Margaret’s mom has had a persistent fever. Margaret has had a nasty cough for several days. She caught it from Jennifer, who is feeling a little better, and who went back to Manhattan for a couple of days. Josiah and Laura will arrive for a spring-break visit latter this afternoon. And more!