March 20th, 2004


When I'm beachcombing for stones, I have to continually remind myself to see into the future. The shiny rock at my feet may look totally bland tomorrow. And the unassuming one further from the waves may turn out to be the best there is to find.

As I was walking the shore today, I suddenly had the thought that finding a good friend is just like finding a good rock.

Personally, I've always been drawn to the perfectly formed black discs that make the lighter-colored stones around them seem awkward and insufficiently serious.

But when I unpack my favored finds later, they turn out to be a dull 75% gray.

Today I left the black stones on the beach, opting instead for the subtly patterned reddish brown ones.

If only we had that much control over the selection of our friends.

Sadly, though, we find them in settings where thinking ahead requires special powers.

Without a basis for comparison, it's hard to tell what a rock will look like when it dries.

The beach is disappearing and the sand is always damp.


The latest excavation is a letter I started writing to my former host brother Markus during the first days of my second semester at UC Berkeley, back in 1988. Annalee decided to join in:
Tagchen Marküsle:

Ich hoffe, daß du meinen Brief bekommen hast. Ich hoffe auch, daß mein Brief an deine Eltern angekommen ist. Ich weiß, daß der getippte Brief ein bißchen komisch aussieht. Als ich nach Berkeley zurückgeflogen bin, hatte ich ihn noch nicht gedruckt. Das hat meine Mutter machen müssen, und sie hat vergessen, das umlautdruckende Program an zuwenden. Auf jeden Fall ergibt der Brief keinen Sinn, denn ich habe vergessen, den englischen Brief über unser Universitätssystem beizulegen. Den muß ich immer noch wegschicken. Wie du schon erfahren hast, habe ich ein Problem mit Briefen. Ich schreibe Briefe, ohne sie zu schicken. Ich muß
The second half of the letter is in Annalee's handwriting:
[Hallo Markus. Ich heiße Annalee, und ich bin Charles Freundin. Ich schreibe Deutsch sehr schlecht, aber Charles hilft mir. Du hast ihn gefragt, was wir am Wochenend machen, und ich werde Dich erzählen. Wir gehen oft ins Kino, weil ich Filme gern haben -- Charles auch, aber nur ein bischel. Wir gehen mit Freunden aus -- unsere Freunden sind merkwerdig. Übrigens, ich studiere Englisch bei Berkeley. Now you understand why my German is bad!

P.S. Charles hat mir viel von dir erzählt. Du bist echt Berühmt!
My last complete sentence, "Ich schreibe Briefe, ohne sie zu schicken," is deliciously ironic. I should point out, however, that this blog represents an attempt to make up for all those letters never sent. Of course, there's also irony in sending letters to no one, isn't there?

My favorite part of this abortive letter, though, is Annalee' s portion. It's amazing how clearly her voice comes through to me now in her not-very-good German. It's not her current voice, but her voice back then, age 18. There aren't too many people who remember that voice. I'm not sure Annalee herself wants to remember it. But I remember it fondly.
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One of the best things about Google News is that it's easier for readers to peruse a wide range of news sources. I know some papers pay for prominent placement, but the overall effect is still a greater diversity of opinion that it's possible to get from one or two papers from one's home country.

This was one of the highlighted links on the top left headline a few minutes ago. It's a good sign that the Reuters wire story goes into such detail. I'm especially encouraged by the references to protests in NYC and Crawford, Texas.

I'm not sure the sentiment will pay dividends in the era of Diebold-doctored elections, but it doesn't hurt to hope.

Actually, it does hurt to hope, as any college basketball fan will tell you this time of year. But feeling is preferable to anaesthesia.
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