Observations of a friend on his retirement from the NY Times

John Markoff, a college friend from years ago who has been a tech writer for the New York Times for 28 years, just retired.

His remarks at a retirement gathering at the UC Berkeley School of Journalism were just published by Backchannel.com, and are worth taking a few minutes to read (“I Covered Tech for the Times for 28 Years, And Now My Time Is Over“).

Yes, I’m retiring from the New York Times. This is obviously bittersweet, but it’s also very weird. Whenever I tell someone I’m leaving the paper they immediately say “congratulations.”

What the hell? Congratulate me for bailing on one of the best jobs in the world?

The simple fact is that I lasted longer than a lot of my friends. But until I changed my mind last summer and took the buyout, I was sure I was going to go out like those guys at the Examiner?—?the copy editors who worked at night in their t-shirts. And then keeled over on their CRTs and were taken out feet first.

But what the heck.

He goes on to share observations on the changing world of journalism, and confesses to still being a print journalist, despite decades on the digital beat.

Give it a read.

Palo AltoWe’ve been friends a long time. We met John when we were all students at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington, back in the 1960s. His family lived in Palo Alto, not far from my sister’s home at the time, and we spent time at their house enjoying his parents and sisters. One summer we crashed their family vacation on the beach on Kauai, and spent several days gathering sun tans and puka shells with the Markoff crowd. When Meda and I got married in Palo Alto in the summer of 1969, John was one of just two friends who attended our small celebration that followed. That’s John on the left in the photo.

He deserves congratulations on a great career with the Times. We’re looking forward to what’s next.

Feline Friday: Don’t miss this week’s update on the cats

I suppose there isn’t much exciting in the life of our cats these days. No roaming through the field looking for rats and mice, no border patrols to keep wandering cats away. And no injuries from fights, no unexplained absences or disappearances. Just 15-18 hours of sleep daily, restless activity around morning and evening meals, and an occasional fling with a dangling cat toy.

The low point of Romeo’s week was a large hairball that he would have deposited on our bed one night, except that his coughing woke me up and I immediately recognized the situation and lifted him away from the comforter. Annie went missing when we were cleaning the house, and I eventually located her hiding under one of our living room chairs.

No vet visits this week, although we need to schedule something so that we have an excuse to deliver the 2017 cat calendar to Ann Sakamoto, our favorite vet.

So here they are, the Kealaolu Four. Enjoy.

Feline Friday: December 9, 2016

Typed in darkness, a letter describes the day after the Pearl Harbor attack

“Another night, and we are again in darkness. It will be another long dark night of waiting and watching.”

That’s how my mother began a letter to her sister, typed in darkness during the blackout on December 8, 1941, a day after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Click on the letter, below, to read a larger version.

from my mom to her sister

The short, half-page typed letter reflected rampant rumors (continuing raids on Pearl Harbor or Hickam, and “skirmishes” involving planes flying over head the night of December 7, machine gun fire on Kahala Beach, flares fired by Japanese sympathizers, etc.).

My mother’s parents had driven from their home in Waipahu and moved in the day before. On the 8th, She wrote that my father had gone to his job as a manager at the downtown Honolulu office of Dohrmann Hotel Supply Company, a San Francisco-based wholesaler of restaurant and hotel equipment and supplies. Her father and younger brother drove back to Waipahu to retrieve their stored canned goods, fearing they might otherwise be lost in an uprising by plantation workers. Meanwhile my mother and my grandmother went up the hill to Kaimuki in search of food, and managed to to get “liver and meat for stew that will keep us in food for this week.”

It’s an interesting bit of family history that sheds light on the historical events of the day.

The Day After

I had my “Hallelujah” moment this morning following cataract surgery on my right (and dominant) eyes yesterday. I awoke, got out of bed, and took off the eye shield that had protected my right eye during the night. The first thing I noticed was that vision in that eye was sharp and clear. The second thing is that I was seeing a different world.

It’s like an oil painting rescued from a smoker’s home. If you’ve every done this, you know that colors, and most noticeably the whites, become covered with a thin layer of yellow-brown film from tobacco smoke. That shifts the colors dramatically, and usually requires extensive cleaning of the painting to restore the original colors.

Yesterday’s cataract removal provided the same cleaning of everything I’m looking at. Whites are actually white, not a yellowish cream color. I’m seeing the colors of our house for the first time. I even had to seek out each of our cats to reassess their colors!

Looking across the yard at a plant that has variegated and green leaves. If I close the eye that had the cataract removed, and look only through the other uncorrected eye, the leaves appear yellow and green. Close that eye, open the cataract-free eye, and they are bright white and green. A dramatic difference that I’m gleefully recreating everywhere I look this morning.

[reposted from Facebook]

December 7 was my dad’s birthday

I’ve recycled this post a couple of times in the past, as it is so appropriate for December 7. I’ve updated it slightly, but it’s otherwise unedited.

Kahala Beach 1940December 7, my dad’s birthday. He would have been 103 today. At one time, I thought he might very well live to this age. Instead, he passed away in 2010, shortly before his 97th.

Now that we’re here in Kahala, and walking on Kahala Beach every morning (with other people’s dogs), it seems appropriate to repost this photo of my parents walking the same beach, probably soon after they were married. That was in December 1939, so I’m guessing this was perhaps in 1940 or so. They rented a house for a while on Kealaolu, just past Farmers Road. Then in early 1942, they bought the house where they would live for the rest of their long lives. And we moved back to that property a few months ago after completing major renovations.

In the photo, they’re walking with Kiki, my mother’s dog. That appears to be Black Point in the distance. Familiar territory. And those look like large crab holes in the sand. You don’t see those along that beach any more.

We walk the same stretch of beach these days, at least on some mornings, a sort of continuity that I’m still coming to terms with.

And, of course, December 7 is synonymous with the attack on Pearl Harbor. My parents told of being wakened by a telephone call from my mom’s mother in Waipahu, telling about what she described as the unusually realistic maneuvers underway.

But years later, I found a letter my mother wrote to her sister on December 7.

Here’s what I posted about it a couple of years ago.

It was in a box of papers uncovered yesterday afternoon as I slogged through another section of a small storeroom at my parents’ home in Kahala. The papers are dirty, faded, and covered with a fine layer of dust and rather old looking termite droppings and other bits of unknown origin. The papers included bits of genealogy, a collection of British newspapers reporting the funeral of King George VI and the coronation of Elizabeth, a carefully tied bundle of Bonnie’s school work from first through third grades, etc., etc. Then there was a small sheet of blue paper, folded in thirds. I immediately recognized my mother’s clear handwriting.

It’s a letter from my mother to her sister, Marguerite, written late on the morning of December 7, 1941, my father’s 28th birthday, as machine gun fire could be heard overhead and puffs of smoke seen in the sky.

The paper is brittle, there’s some old termite damage, but this treasure survived.

I’ve transcribed it below. You can see the original letter here.

Dec. 7, 1941
11:30 a.m.

Dear Margot:

Something is brewing but we don’t exactly know what the score is. We were awakened by a telephone call from Ma this morning saying that Japanese planes were bombing Pearl Harbor. I had a big head from a party last night so didn’t talk very much. She told John the house was shaking like a leaf. We’ve been sitting here watching the shooting. I wish I were at Waipahu to see more of it. We have to be content with just watching the puffs from the shots.

Every 10 minutes an announcement is made over the radio for people to report for one thing or another. The latest report is total blackout tonight. We still don’t know whether this is real or not. Jimi was called for sea-scout duty early this morning. All ROTC students are getting their equipment. I guess they’ll patrol the streets. One funny thing happened today. We went out to the street to watch them haul cannons. The soldiers were throwing kisses to all the gals along the street.

Guess we’ll have to stay put today. We can’t use the telephone anymore & we can’t drive our cars, so here we are.

11:50 Well, there goes the radio. Station KGMB has been ordered off the air. Governor Poindexter is declaring a state of emergency on station KGU. There come the planes!! Oh, oh, and machine gun fire right above us. I’m getting jittery! Shucks, this letter won’t get to you anyway; might as well quit.

The letter was never mailed, and my mom saved the original all those years. At this point, I deeply appreciate her inability to throw things away.

See December 8: Another 75-year old letter written in the dark on the day following the attack on Pearl Harbor.