So long, mom

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Mom died yesterday afternoon, 11/2/2011. She was 87 years and one month and one day old, and I loved her very very much. It was a long battle, as she'd been ready to go for quite a while, fighting off the things that encroach on most people's lives when they reach that age.

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Mom was a softie with a steel core. A swede, she toughed it out when I was five and she discovered that her son had cancer, and that she was also about to become a divorced mother of two. We all survived that, and she saw my sister and me though our childhoods and out into the world as her own world contracted down around her condo. In the end, she was housebound, bored, and, as she put it, "over it." The last days before her death, she was occasionally feisty, somewhat mobile, played her beloved piano a bit. She went quietly, in her own bed, just the way she wanted to.

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She was my friend. I recall the exact conversation when that happened, when we evolved past mother and son to become friends who could speak their mind to each other, keep each other honest, support each other, and love each other.

Most of all things, I will miss you, my friend.

RIP, Steve

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Whoa. I can't say I was surprised at the announcement this week, but I was surprised by my reaction. First, the disclaimer: I'm not quite an Apple fanboy, but I'm pretty close. Still, while I appreciated the role Steve Jobs played in the Apple mystique, I feel I've always been pretty centered in the sense that I knew Apple was more than simply an outlet for Steve's creative energy. There are lots of very smart people there, empowered to some extent by the single-minded attention to the experience that was promulgated by their CEO, granted, but there's more than one voice contributing to that chorus. I continue to have faith. But the announcement, and later contemplation, brought tears. For someone I'd never met, never dreamed of meeting. Someone about whom I'd heard both good and bad, about the creative genius and the autocratic despot. In Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game series, the main character becomes a "Speaker for the Dead", someone who speaks the truth about the departed, good and bad, without regard for politics or social subtleties. To accomplish that end, the Speaker had to become intimately familiar with who the deceased truly was, a sometimes awkward and even painful exercise. But the catharsis, the clarity, provided by this feat, simultaneously epic and humble, incorporated an intrinsic value: truth. I hope we have Speakers to remind us who this flawed and yet amazing person really was.

Steve and I share a birthday. There's a year between us, but it's still strange to see that date in print, to grasp that he's gone, to mourn the loss and at the same time appreciate the life he led and the impact he had. Indulging in a bit of geeking out, I watched the original iPhone keynote, re-experiencing the feeling that the earth was moving, just a little bit, as he described those capabilities that are now considered table stakes.

I look forward to feeling the earth move again, to be surprised and inspired. I have a taste for it now.

Thanks Steve.

Summonsed

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So, I was "summonsed" (yes, Virginia, that is a word) to jury duty this week. I went in naively expecting drama and tension, and what I got was quite different. For a large part, the selection process is, well, pretty boring (I can't speak to actually sitting through a trial because that didn't happen). But the chairs in the juror's room are amazingly comfortable, and the wifi is actually pretty good. The coffee, on the other hand, was even worse than the staff warned. But the atmosphere was chill, they worked hard to keep us all informed, and while there was a lot of waiting around, it felt, overall, purposeful. That was the juror's room. Then I was called two different times, in a group, to go up to a court and participate in the selection process.

Voir dire revolves around the concept of telling the truth under oath. It's Anglo-Norman, for crying out loud. Basically, the prosecution and the defense vet the jury by asking a bunch of questions to try to get  a feel for who they want and who they don't want. Sort of a more sophisticated version of choosing sides for dodgeball, evolving into something more like a game of chicken, or poker, as each attorney uses up their last challenges, trying to shape the jury to be sympathetic to their respective side. After two selection experiences, I'm hardly an expert, but there were consistencies across those two experiences:

  • Can you support a law you don't agree with?
  • Do you understand the concept of reasonable doubt?
  • Are you bringing any prejudices with you into this court?

While the first two sorts of questions met with a fair amount of confusion (in no small part because of the way the counselors presented them), it was the last one that elicited surprises; we may have gone through full airport-like security to get into the courthouse, surrendering all weapons, but there were plenty of axes to be found grinding once the jurors started answering questions: there was the juror/lawyer whose native american family had seen their share of abuse. The asian juror who'd been mistaken for someone who didn't speak english - 30 years ago. Many jurors who'd had their property stolen and felt they would tend to convict anyone charged with such a crime regardless of the evidence or presence of reasonable doubt. The Vietnam-era conscientious objector who still needed to vent. The elderly juror who turned a question about a lost tourist couple into an story about a driving lesson for their niece, because that's what was on their mind at the time. The people who felt compelled to declare their position and the people who went to great lengths to avoid having a position, even when pressed.

All up, the process impressed me by how intensely personal it was. This wasn't the grim set of folks from Twelve Angry Men, this was a bunch of normal, conflicted, vulnerable people who'd been pulled into the court system to decide the fate of someone, and many of them were uncomfortable with that. Some of it was interesting, some of it boring and even tedious, but if you took it as an honest cross-section of our community, it was quite a reality check.

During the process, I discovered that there is no provision in our legal system for allowing a person to volunteer for jury duty. It precludes the advent of the "professional juror", and it's a pretty effective means of guaranteeing a certain amount of randomness and, so the theory goes, a lack of collective bias.

Make your case and then throw the dice.

Honey!

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Hive inspection today. We opened up the hive and found the top super weighed something like 10-15 pounds - amazingly heavy! We also added a prototype of a new super I've designed after looking at all the versions of observation hives I've seen. It's not perfect, but it's close, and the next ones well be better.