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Wednesday, August 06, 2014

45

Once a year I get seriously self-indulgent on this blog and reflect on where I am in my life. There are worse things I could do with my time.

So: 45 years old today. I guess one of my b-day cards got it right: you know you're getting old when you start getting old-age jokes on your birthday cards. The grey hair remains grey--though, remarkably, it hasn't retreated too far up the forehead yet. The weight is down through a random, solemn decision to eat and treat myself better. I'm avoiding fried foods as a lifestyle choice. I'm snacking on things that are recognizably natural foods. I walk more.

And my oh my, is my professional life different from where it was a year ago! This time last year, I was still in Huntsville, Alabama, gainfully employed with a space/technology-focused small business. This year, courtesy of some government budget-cutting, I now AM a small business, back in the city I love, Orlando, Florida. I struggle here and there with finding business and paying bills, but thanks to the kindness of friends, I've been able to house-sit in genteel poverty, an arrangement that will continue through early November. I've had the breathing space to find and build clientele, for which I'm duly grateful.

Having come close to the bottom of my reserves in late spring, I'm now on a path to steady bill paying and taking steps toward improving my ability to expand my line of work (taking a grant-writing class, getting help from a coach, getting in touch with local friends to find new opportunities). Progress!

And here's the thing about freelancing that I'm coming to realize: I have no problem supporting customers, it's bosses I don't deal with well. I'm always willing to help or answer to a customer. A customer has come to me voluntarily, seeking my services. A manager, however benevolent, is there to tell me what to do. I don't mind that most of the time, it's a fact of life; however, the fewer layers I have above me, usually the better I'm able to function. I'm picking the type of work I do, the workload, and my hours of operation. I probably could and should have gone freelance earlier in life, but better late than never, I suppose.

*

Do I have any deep, new wisdom at the ripe old age of 45? Just one thing: the most important thing I've learned to do this past year is be me happily, with all the good, bad, and weird that entails. I...
  • Wear Hawaiian shirts and shorts for my standard "work clothes."
  • Try to stick with aerospace work because that is what I love to do and am passionate about doing. 
  • Take a lot of the low-key, low-visibility jobs with the Science Cheerleaders because I'm not particularly gung-ho to get on stage. 
  • Can speak on stage (if I must) without much fear or trepidation. 
  • Am blatantly geeky about some things, blandly conformist or mainstream about others. 
  • Am mildly to terribly conceited, and a linguistic snob. 
  • Am back to being a libertarian (with a conservative flavor).
  • Have a taste for philosophy, science fiction, history, and terrible puns. 
  • Cannot shut up on Facebook. 
  • Walk around theme parks, play John Williams soundtracks, and light up aromatherapy candles to relax. 
  • Read self-help books because I want to make myself a better person. 
  • Live and travel alone because I recognize my social strengths and limitations. 
  • Am an introvert with extroverted moments. 
  • Have a list of things I want to do, and I take steps to make them happen. 
  • Am not in any big rush to change the world or to boss around others. 
  • Love Orlando's afternoon thunderstorms and lack of snow. 
  • Don't share secrets, am not particularly interested in learning the secrets of others, nor do I wish to share whatever secrets I have with everyone I know. 
It's not a perfect life, by any wild stretch, but I prefer the problems I have to any others. My willingness to be honest with myself about myself allows me to be honest with others--as much as I think they can stand--and that's not so bad for 45. I'm pretty happy being Bart.

Again, better late than never.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Doing What's Important

It seems to be human nature that, as long as things are going well or predictably, we don't think too much about what we're doing with our lives. Are we doing the right things? Are we focusing on what's important? Et cetera. Usually it takes a crisis for someone to get off their duff and to do something important or constructive or meaningful with his/her life.

Luckily, in my case, no crisis was needed. I had the first adult conversation with myself when I was around 25. I was writing an "alternate history" in which I tried to imagine what my life would have been like if my parents hadn't divorced, and how it would have been better had they not. It was a faintly ridiculous exercise, and I realized--even as and after I wrote it--that I did not believe the premise. All the life circumstances I'd described in the story were relatively achievable, I realized, if I just did something. The reason I call this my first "adult" conversation was that this was the first time I stopped asking, "Why me?" and started asking, "What do you want to do about it?" The specific question I asked--jeez, 20 years ago now--was, "What do you want to do with your life?" And a scared but determined little voice in the back of my mind said, "I want to go into space."

So what this answer led to was a simple question and a few realizations. The question was, "So what are you going to do about it?" From there arose the following realizations:
  • My life wasn't going to get better waiting for some magical thing to just happen to me.
  • I could change my life's narrative.
  • I could take constructive steps on my own behalf to live the sort of life I wanted and make the sort of world I wanted to have happen.
That was some heady stuff at 25. I still need occasional reminders at 45 that this is what I'm doing. But at 25, that meant changing my attitude for the better at work (I did); getting smarter about space (which I did, first in the form of reading a lot of the eminent books on the subject, later through formal schooling); and trying to figure out what sort of career I could have to make "space" a reality. Eventually I became a space advocate, got myself a better degree, and developed a daily habit of doing something constructive every single day. That last habit continues. Mind you, it took about 15 years to realize that going into space might not be the best career choice for me, given my biological susceptibilities to claustrophobia, motion sickness, and fear of heights. But I'm still working in the space business. I can't help it. It's what's important to me.

Why?

Funny thing, that. From a very young age, I've just always believed that going into space was fundamentally a good thing. Call it an article of faith, if you like. The words coalesced around that kernel of faith later, but here they are: If human beings are out in space, they're expanding their literal and figurative horizons. They're looking outward, trying to understand the universe and gaining knowledge for themselves rather than looking inward and meddling in the lives of their neighbors. They don't see life as a zero-sum game. They have an expansive view of themselves and their place in the universe. They believe that they have the abilities necessary to learn what's out there and how to survive in it. A society that's going into space believes that it's worthwhile to do so because it believes that it's worth expanding; that their way of life is worth replicating on other worlds; that it has confidence; and that is worth emulating, and worth duplicating on other worlds.

My way of supporting that cause is to write. In my case, writing takes on many forms: some glorious, some complicated, some mundane. I write outreach materials for NASA. I write technical documents and proposals for organizations that do aerospace work. I write policy papers and manifestos. I create documents and processes so Science Cheerleaders can go out and get kids excited about science.

So that's what motivates me. Your mileage might vary. In any case, I'm living my life in line with and in support of my ideals. I am not waiting for some major catastrophe to rip me out of my world and ask, "What have I been doing with my life?"

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

The Machines Are Taking Our Jobs: Now What?

This set of speculations was spurred by a YouTube video technological creator/guru/advocate/author Peter Diamandis posted on Facebook. Check this out:



I tried to write some fiction along these lines last year, so naturally I have a few opinions. Here are the challenges, as I see them:

What do you do with (or for) people who have nothing to do?
While all people are considered equal under the law in theory, in reality, individuals have differing and varying levels of ability, accomplishment, and insight. In the U.S., many people whose jobs were shipped overseas or downsized went on unemployment or "disability," and stopped working. We're a rich country, but if we are to provide for the necessities of the unemployed or unemployable, to what level does that beneficence reach? $50,000 per person? $100,000? $1 million?


In America, individuals are defined by what they do for a living, whereas in Europe asking someone about their job is considered almost or seriously rude. I recall asking someone over there (France, maybe?), "What do people talk about, then?" The bartender laughed and said, "Sex, religion, and politics," which are all taboo or rude subjects in America. So maybe technological unemployment would be a bigger problem in the States than elsewhere? The question becomes: "Lacking the need to work for the necessities of life, what purpose does human life have?" It's only been in the last two centuries that more than a very, very few people had the luxury of asking that question. 

How will a world of abundance affect the shapes of nations and governments?
Governments exist today to ensure any number of things, from protecting private property to ensuring domestic tranquility to ensuring that every citizen has the basics of physical existence. If "the basics" are handled by in-house 3D printers/replicators, the issue of private property becomes effectively moot, as does the perceived political need to attack others for "resources." Would governments be responsible for the safety, welfare, and education of large populations anymore, or does governance become a more localized effort? Do we see one world state or thousands or millions of city-states?

Also, given a future of human abundance, is there any need for people to gather together and live in cities? Or, lacking the need to go out in the fields and work, will everyone move to the cities and leave the spaces between them untouched?

What happens if mass technological unemployment comes before a future of abundance.
As history shows, human beings are not particularly rational in response threats to their livelihoods. The writers of Star Trek VI reminded us, the term sabotage came about because workers threatened by automation threw their shoes (sabots) into the machinery. Such resentment against technology, however irrational, is not unprecedented. Science fiction writer Isaac Asimov depicted a future in several novels where humans not only resented but actively destroyed robots that were taking their jobs. Are those machines lowering the prices for necessities? Maybe--but maybe not enough to prevent poverty, even of the technical variety. All people know is that "those machines" are taking their jobs away and leaving them a little poorer.


What becomes of money in a future of abundance?
Money exists as a uniform means of exchange so that people can acquire limited goods and services using a common standard of value. It is a substitute for bartering, because not everyone has something we want, and it's much more difficult to trade with multiple people if you just want one item in the first place. But again, if everyone has access to the necessities of life--food, water, clothing, shelter, tools--money becomes less of a concern, except for rare luxury items/activities, such as space travel, long-range travel on Earth, or exceptional aesthetic experiences.


How do we educate people in a civilization of abundance?
We're already facing the first wave of this problem now: we have millions of people who have been put out of work through improvements in technological productivity. Those who remain in the workforce work longer and harder until they, too, are replaced by improved processes and machines, leaving an ever-increasing number of people unemployed and with no useful skills as currently defined by the economy as it is currently constructed. Do we train the unemployed to "seek their true calling?" Do we train them to pursue other lines of work that are still useful but not as suited to their abilities? Do we train everyone to become "creative geniuses," knowing full well that not everyone has those abilities?

The purposes of education will necessarily change. If "the basics" are provided or done by machines, is there still a need to teach "basic skills?" What do people do if the machines break down? Are they fixed by other machines? What if an area is wiped out by electromagnetic pulse (EMP), who will have the ability to restore the technologies that make abundance possible? Human beings could be educated to better find and exercise their innate talents. But what if those talents are made irrelevant by automation?

Do we still fight each other?
The motivations and tools for antagonism between nations and individuals would necessarily change. Would warfare even be necessary? Possible? Or would weapons become ever more vicious, as molecular machines become capable of targeting and killing specific individuals, slowly and viciously, at the molecular level? Would benevolent machines and computers restrain our violent tendencies, as Asimov would have had it? If we are modifying our bodies at the molecular level to monitor and control our internal body chemistry, will violence-inducing anger even be possible? We could learn to tame ourselves and our violent urges or we could learn to direct our tendencies to violence into more constructive channels.

What does humanity do with itself on a healthier, safer, freer, and more advanced world?
It is conceivable that a future of abundance could lead to a future like Star Trek, where people challenge themselves by exploring and settling other worlds. However, I'm not so sure. What need would a happy, comfortable population have for "adventure?" Exploration entails risk, and a world of safety and comfort would appeal to many--especially older people who remember what a world of "adventure" was like and feared it. Perhaps our misfits would go off into space--those who, despite every advantage, would seek life elsewhere because they are unable to get along with their peers or stay content in a life without challenges. Or do we try to genetically modify (or breed out) "restlessness?" Perhaps our machines--more capable, smarter, and faster than us--might insist on "taming" humanity...not enslaving us, merely ensuring that no one gets any ideas about leaving home.


I have tried to frame my concerns under the assumption that Diamandis's future of abundance is possible. I do not necessarily believe that that is the case. "The Singularity," for example, might be absolute bunk. But a future of high technology, mass good, and massive disruption is upon us, and Diamandis is right about the fact that we need to consider what direction that future might--and should--take.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Book Review: Rules for Radicals

I picked up this book because it's supposed to have strongly influenced our current President and a potential future candidate (Hillary Clinton). Writing as a GenXer with little to no interest in '60s activists, I had no previous experience with the author, his activities, or his writings, so this review will focus entirely on the text of Rules for Radicals: A Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Radicals. If you're interested in politics--left, right, or other--I believe you'll find this brief read (196 pages) worthwhile.


I'm not 100% certain what I expected from this book, but the way folks on conservative talk radio use Rules for Radicals or "Alinsky" as shorthand for this or that political vice of the President, one would assume that this was the political version of The Anarchist Cookbook--all fire and brimstone and down with The Man. This would be incorrect.

Background
Let's start with the subtitle: A Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Radicals [italics mine]. This book was written in 1971, after much of the wildness of the 1960s had already happened--and in many ways this book is a reaction against the chaotic and at times violent activities of that decade. Alinsky saw dramatic, screaming activism as counterproductive to effecting actual, lasting change. As an activist and professor, Alinsky is at turns lecturing and speaking from experience. He's taking the tone of an elder statesman saying, "Look, kids: you can yell and scream all you want, but if you actually want to change the world, you need to play a different game." His primary lesson is, surprisingly (to me), to work with people and the system as you find it.

To introduce his topic, Alinsky starts by explaining his purpose for writing the book: to teach serious activists how to make lasting political changes without alienating a large section of the population, which he believed was the general reaction to much of what the hippies did. He is out to win hearts and minds, and he believes that that can only happen by working with people as they are and the political system as it is. He is trying to explain how to obtain greater political access for the Have Nots in a world comprising three main groups:
  • The Haves
  • The Have-Nots
  • The Have a Little, Want Mores

Alinsky also provides definitions of specific concepts, such as power, self-interest, compromise, ego, and conflict. He lays out these terms in realistic, non-threatening, and terms so the willing reader/activist understands how they operate within the U.S. system of government. His analysis is not so different from what you hear about America today: unnecessary war, government overreach, corruption, and minorities being kept under thumb by an oligarchical majority.

Community Organizers and Ego
One thing that caught my attention in this section was this description of a "community organizer," which is a favorite epithet of my friends on the right to describe the President:

"The ego of the organizer is stronger and more monumental than the ego of the leader. The leader is driven by the desire for power, while the organizer is driven by the desire to create. The organizer is in a true sense reaching for the highest level for which man can reach--to create, to be a 'great creator,' to play God."

However, he bookends this statement with the following two warnings:

"Nothing antagonizes people and alienates them from a would-be organizer more than the revealing flashes of arrogance, vanity, impatience, and contempt of a personal egotism."

"An infection of egotism would make it impossible to respect the dignity of individuals, to understand people, or to strive to develop the other elements that make up the ideal organizer."

Taking Action
Gradually, Alinsky moves from a theoretical discussion to more concrete, action-oriented content. He states that the first step in community organization is disorganizing the status quo. This is followed by organizing something new to replace it. One observation he had, which a conflict-averse person might have a problem with, is that there is no such thing as a "non-controversial" issue. If there is an issue, there will be conflict, and that must be managed through politics. If there is an issue but only one opinion on it, that amounts to tyranny.

Another Alinsky point: no one can negotiate without the power to compel negotiation. A protest against an entire nationwide corporation, for example, would be impractical for a local group; however, a protest at a single branch could have more impact.

So what does Alinsky mean by "take action" or protest? Perhaps one of the most important "rules" Alinsky writes about community organizing is that organizers must take people as they are--and that not all of them are going to join a group just because of the rightness of the cause, but for personal, self-interested reasons that are only partially connected to the overall "cause." Another favorite Alinsky ploy is to get one segment of the "Haves" to fight with another segment, resulting
in a win for the Have-Nots simply because the second segment of "Haves" did not want the aggravation of facing a protest themselves.

In the end, Alinsky's tactics are devious and at times cynical, but they were often effective because he understood the American political system. A recent example of effective activism in the Alinsky vein was the combination of pressures put on the L.A. Clippers following the racist comments of its owner. In that case, NBA players wore their jerseys inside-out and several teams threatened to boycott Clippers playoff games. The combination of bad publicity, threatened boycotts, and sponsorship losses (as well as the NBA-level ban) hit Donald Sterling where it hurt--his assets--and got him to sell his team. While more a case of Haves vs. Haves, the massive pressure put on Sterling was a loud message that his behavior would not be tolerated. Still, it was a campaign of which Alinsky would have approved. In the end, winning political battles come down to using the available, appropriate means to get your way. It might not always be pretty, but American politics very much wears the stamp of Alinsky's Rules for Radicals.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

The System is Not Set Up for Introverts, Reconsidered

The recent public shaming of several public figures has brought to mind several aspects of the culture that irritate me as an introvert. The internet is merely exacerbating behaviors I didn't like as a kid. Below are a few more reasons why the internet-fueled media culture is not set up with introverts in mind.
  • Sharing comments originally intended for one person. Perhaps you've spoken in the heat of the moment, but obviously not intended for the entire world. I'm not going to even speculate on Mr. Sterling's state of mind, for example, but I know that the reason I trust the friends I have is that they don't share my angry comments with everyone. Not saying what Sterling did was right--clearly he's said similar things in the past. That's a discussion for another day. For the moment, let's de-Sterling the conversation and make it about me, you, or someone close to you. Let's say I've said something rather rude, like "I think X is an blankety-blank jerk and I can't stand him." I say this to a friend in confidence, but said friend, for whatever reason, has started recording our conversations and posts my diatribe on YouTube. Or they don't even have to record it; they could just repeat the comment to someone...maybe the subject of the comment himself, creating unnecessary hard feelings with that person and creating embarrassment for me. No, I probably shouldn't have said what I said, but my "friend" probably shouldn't have repeated it, let alone recorded it. That's a level of low that's hard for me to process.
  • Ganging up on someone. Are you perfect? Have you said only kind, culturally sensitive, perfectly politically correct words with every single solitary person you've ever met? Never mind, let's cut to the chase: no, you haven't. I haven't. No one has, not even those who decide what's socially appropriate/polite and what's not. So let's say you're better than average and you only slip up once a week or once a month. Take your most obnoxious comment and imagine having it shared with everyone you know. With perfect strangers. Multiply that by a factor of a few hundred million. You know what you did was wrong. Now so does everyone around you, and every self-righteous scold now wants to pile on and tell you how to change your behavior. Or maybe you're not sorry for what you said or did, but you're now surrounded by a lot of people who detest you for it. The loneliest minority in the world is a minority of one, and it becomes nearly impossible to live a normal life with your beliefs intact if you believe that the entire world hates you because of one comment.
  • Bringing up old issues. This has been happening in human relationships for hundreds of years. Person A says or does something stupid or hurtful to his or her significant other, and that significant other brings it up in the heat of an argument months or even years later. The internet allows not just Person A to bring it up but anyone who has seen or heard what you did. And the internet never forgets. Years later, decades later, anyone can go back to that moment of ill-timed stupidity and throw it in your face. I read an article recently that brought up the fact that forgetfulness is one of the human attributes that allows us to forgive others and to heal. The internet does not allow anyone to forget and does not allow the perpetrator of social faux pas the right of forgiveness. (Let's assume here that I'm not talking about high crimes and misdemeanors.)
  • Always being "on stage." This is a particular pet peeve for introverts. We usually don't enjoy being the center of attention. I write on the internet and usually go out of my way not to post pictures of myself unless I deem it necessary--in fact, I once asked a friend to remove a photo. My standard internet avatar is the gopher armed with a machine gun. And most authors (unless they're major money makers) manage to enjoy a bit of anonymity not possible for actors, actresses, or other media figures, whose faces tend to be everywhere. Different introverts respond to the internet--particularly Facebook--in different ways: 
    • Carefully control or limit the amount and type of information shared.
    • Create an online "persona" that resembles, but isn't a 100% representation of what the individual is actually thinking.
    • Not participate at all.

  • Many of my friends take the first approach. My parents take the last approach. I favor the middle approach, where I share humor, opinions, or stories that interest me. However, I usually don't share all my personal information (address, financial status, relationships, etc.) about how I live my daily life. So far as the internet knows, I'm a sarcastic, cerebral introvert with an odd writing career and gopher for an avatar. Is that "me?" Yes and no. I've seen in some places that "You are your data" now, and that anything you do that interacts with a computer is kept somewhere and explains who you are and what you are like. The internet is gratifyingly free of Bart Leahy-related videos. Part of that is the result of not doing much worth capturing on video; part of it is from a studied effort not to put myself in front of the camera. As a t-shirt now says, "I'm glad I'm old enough that all the stupid stuff I did as a kid isn't on the internet." So if you read my data, you might get some insight into my interests and how I spend my time and money. Does that mean you "know" me? No. You don't know what I'm thinking right now. You don't know what my facial expressions are. You don't know how I react when I'm happy or hurt. You don't know who all my friends are or how they feel about me.

    It used to be that only movie stars had this problem--fans thinking that they "knew" the celebrity in question because they've read every tabloid and newspaper story about them. On the flip side of that, the celebrities themselves found themselves in a fishbowl, unable to find a moment to themselves to just be a regular person because any unguarded moment was captured by a voracious paparazzi.

    Now we're all paparazzi, if we choose (I usually don't because, quite frankly, what other people do with their personal lives is usually none of my damn business). Yet if our face and data are out there on the internet, we're "celebrities" whether we would wish it or not. This is a doubly problematic issue for introverts: we don't share ourselves as easily as extroverts. The assumption of the internet is that if you post anything "out there" (or someone posts something about you) people assume that they know you. Yet I am sometimes taken off guard when I talk to someone who has been following my doings on Facebook and comments on them when I see him or her in person. Mostly that's a function of forgetting what I've posted...but, again, the internet remembers.

    Right now it's just my words and occasionally my pictures out there. How will I behave if I think "the camera's on" every moment of my life. George Orwell considered a horrific form of constant surveillance in 1984, as I do. Yet in 2014, we're doing it to ourselves. I don't know why people worry about the NSA spying activities sometimes when so much of people's lives is being shared. Some people "ham it up" if they know a camera is on. Others, like my parents and me, become very still and very quiet.
  • If the camera is on all the time, the extroverts will win. Introverts need time to compose arguments refuting bad things that are said about us or what we think. This is why many of us become writers--because we aren't as adept at the think-on-your-feet interactions required for public debate. We're self-conscious about being the center of attention. We have to expend a lot of energy to interact with lots of people at once, and that can impact how effective we are as public speakers--it's not the quality of our thoughts that is lacking but our confidence in speaking about those thoughts. We might have very well-thought-out reasons for doing or saying something, but sometimes it takes us a while to work out that reasoning--at which point the topic has changed. TV and the internet are all about the now.

    I might be wrong, but I think a lot of those people who think up great retorts an hour after the argument ends are introverts. I'm one of them, to be sure. And, again, video is all about what's happening now, in the moment. If it looks like an introvert is losing because they're pausing to think out their answer, the extrovert will be perceived as the winner. A brilliant response two hours later does the introvert no good--the extrovert will be perceived as the better debater and better speaker now. I can't help wondering if that's why televised presidential debates have shaped the presidents we have gotten over the past 50-odd years.

    To close this essay, I'm left to wonder how introverts will find advantages in a culture that is increasingly driven by the immediate, the verbal, and the "live action." I'm open to suggestions. Right now, however, I need to turn off this machine and go take a walk.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Pains and Joys of Consulting

Many of you have heard more than you need to about my wild and crazy life (not) as a consultant. This has been a simultaneous blessing and curse. On the one hand, I've been free to pursue whatever work I want to do (a lesson learned from Jason Hundley); on the other hand, I've been living with major ups and downs in my work load and income, with mostly downs on the latter. So I've got maximum freedom coupled with maximum uncertainty. Since leaving larger corporate environments, I've learned to enjoy the freedom of small business life, and I want to hold onto that. If I want to keep the consultant lifestyle, I'm going to have to work for it. The uncertainty can only be overcome by getting out there and hustling for more work to keep the bills paid. No, that's not my favorite thing in the world--I'm getting more introverted as I get older--but if it means I get to run my work life the way I want it, including wearing Hawaiian shirts and shorts while working from home, that's a goal that's worth enduring a little social discomfort. It also might mean a little less time on Facebook (maybe). Starting today, I'll be trying to get smarter about this career thing. That'll mean pushing myself harder and in different directions than I've tried before. The support of my friends and family means a lot, so thanks to one and all for your help.

And, seriously, if you know someone who needs a technical writer--in Florida or via internet--you know where to point them. I specialize in translating engineering language about new technologies into words other people can understand.

Bart D. Leahy
Writer
http://heroictechwriting.wordpress.com/
http://www.zeropointfrontiers.com/
http://www.linkedin.com/in/bartleahy2007
http://vizualize.me/ZPGopher#

and 

Event Manager
http://ScienceCheerleader.com 

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Poetry Interlude

Reminder

Just because I gave birth to you doesn't mean I understand you.
I never wanted a boy, didn't know what to do with them.
But God saw fit to send me you anyway.
Perhaps it was good for both of us.
You weren't too fussy or rambunctious--
   a sensitive boy more interested in books than ball games.
You were reading things I didn't understand when you were ten--
   --science, science fiction, philosophy, and I don't know what else--
   but you always had trouble with people.
You needed to learn to care and to have a discerning heart.
I could give you that.
You might be some wizard writer working on great things
   and I'm proud of you.
But in the end, if you learn to listen and be wise and be kind to your sister
   I'll have done my job.

I won't forget, Mom.