Volume 6: 2004
2 February, 2004
by Robert Whitsitt
We are in the quadrennial silly season in the States: the beginning of the official process of choosing who will be the next President. So far, as has been true all of my life, everyone is sure they are right and that the other guy is wrong--and they'll go to any lengths in order to win out over the other guy, including doing and saying things that would have gotten me a sharp lecture on ethics and decency when I was growing up.
This issue of Amarillo Bay contains works to make you laugh, cry, look rueful, and even think. Several of the works challenged some of my strong beliefs, so I had to reconsider and decide not only what my beliefs are, but how willing I am to accept that others can reasonably have different beliefs without my regarding them as beyond the pale. Such considerations always make my head spin. I think that is a good thing.
3 May, 2004
by Robert Whitsitt
As I've mentioned before, my wife and I both work for a company named Google. They have just announced that they are going to take the company public, which might mean that we'll have some extra money. What actually happens remains to be seen. The stock market is frequently fickle, and we all know what happens when you count your chickens before they're hatched.
The authors in this issue would never use so hackneyed an expression as "count your chickens before they're hatched," which is why they're the authors and I'm the technical editor. I greatly enjoy reading the issue as I prepare it. I hope you get as much enjoyment as I do!
One of the good things about working at Google is how young it keeps us in spirit. Not much can be done about a body that has seen 57 springs (well, occasional workouts), but we learn the latest jargon, keep up with attitudes toward life and love, and live on the "bleeding edge" of technology. But there's only so far we can go. While we cheerfully say "No worries" and "Not!" we still use "whom" correctly and spell "night" and "light" with all of their unsounded consonants, and we know when to say "he and I" and when to say "him and me."
My wife insists that "email" is perfectly acceptable, but I hold out for "e-mail" based on the model of "t-shirt." Against all logic we both put punctuation inside of quotation marks, as required by American usage.
When I was growing up, I liked an animal that was named an opossum in what I read. That animal is now a possum. I guess in the next 50 years we'll see "nite" and "lite" become acceptable. I will adapt. What changes have you seen in spelling, usage, and attitudes toward language?
2 August, 2004
by Robert Whitsitt
I love young people.
Young people are so sure they're right, and yet (for the most part) are willing to listen to reason when they've taken a path that, while seductive, isn't a good idea. Even better, they have points of view that are different from mine so they often make me reconsider things that I "know" to be true.
Where I work, many of the employees were not born in the United States. That, as well as being young, provides a useful punch to my ego to keep me from getting too sure of myself. For example, I recently asked a young couple from Romania, who have been in the San Francisco Bay area for seven years, what surprised them about the U.S., what they didn't expect.
Well, they said, they knew that the U.S. was the land of plenty, that you could get where you wanted to go by hard work, and so forth. They came here and found out that we had no decent public transportation system! No one had ever mentioned that detail. So, at the age of 24 each of them had to learn for the first time how to drive a car.
A young friend, who grew up in the Central Valley of California, said one day at lunch that she is often horrified at the anti-woman and pro-violence words of many kinds of Rap music. We had a nice discussion about women as programmers (which is what she does) and how to get your job done while still remaining a woman in an area dominated by men. (My wife has dealt with those issues over the many decades we have both worked in the high-tech industry.) At the end of the discussion, my young friend said, somewhat sheepishly, that on her commute she listens to Rap music. At my incredulous look, she said, "I like the way it sounds."
I went away shaking my head. But that evening I turned on my favorite background music, which is on a Cable channel that plays the music of the 1950s and 1960s. Listening to it puts me in a nice nostalgic haze. I probably haven't listened to the words since the works came out. That evening, I listened to the words. Oh, my.
I hope that the works in this wonderful issue make you reconsider what you believe. I especially recommend that you read the three creative nonfiction pieces and consider what they mean to you. And what they might mean to a young friend. Or an old friend.
1 November, 2004
by Robert Whitsitt
A few months ago my wife's elderly mother died. The exact time was a shock, of course, but her actual death was long expected.
Her death mattered greatly to her husband, who at 86 also has to be considered elderly, and also to her four children, all in late middle age. Most of her grandchildren, all adults, were new to the idea that death might come to someone they cared about, although few of them have vivid memories of her before her Alzheimer's disease.
To her great-grandchildren, her death was interesting in an abstract sort of way, since they had never known her as anything but a confused old lady who smiled at them but never spoke.
I am writing this on the Sunday evening before the 2004 presidential election in the United States, which pits Senator John Kerry against President George Bush. Regardless which of these public servants is sworn in as President next January, he will have to deal with problems involving death and disfigurement not due to the natural causes that come with advanced age.
Several of the works in this issue of Amarillo Bay involve deaths in ways that can only be considered unnatural. Or at least will be considered unnatural until we get used to them.
I am particularly interested in your reaction to this issue. If you want to share you thoughts, please write me at Bob.Whitsitt@amarillobay.org.
Go to Publisher's Comments Volume 7: 2005.