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November 2008
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January 2009

"Go away from my window..."

I can pull the little guy down onto the map and look up along Southlake Parkway, following the route that I take when I come back from my exercise walks.    As the little guy crosses the dam, we look to the left and I can just about pick out my dock.   We continue on a bit and I make the left turn, start up the hill. 

And then stop.  I can turn right and go up into the Cove, but Google Street View won't let me continue into our little neighborhood and stand in front of my house.

Street View has come to Birmingham and Lynn and I are amused and rather delighted that, for some reason, they didn't come up into our street.   Maybe whoever was taking the pictures thought ours was a private street (it's not).  Maybe they just forgot to finish up when they were done with the Cove.  Maybe they got lost.

I'm not terribly concerned with personal privacy.   Nearly a decade ago, the CEO of Sun Microsystems was famously quoted as saying, "Get over it.  You have zero privacy anyway."   That was in the days before hysteria over identity theft, when most people's concerns about internet privacy had to do with somebody stealing their credit card numbers when they shopped online. 

The credit card companies hyped that one.  After all, they were the ones who were liable if some thief rang up thousands of dollars of charges.  Most consumers didn't realize how well protected they were.  And I could never figure out why using my credit card on a well-designed shopping site was any riskier than handing my credit card to some young waiter in a restaurant.   The big worry now, though, is identity theft.   And there's no doubt that it is worth being concerned about, although statistics about how often it occurs and how much of a hassle it is vary quite a bit.  

But one's sense of privacy is fundamentally an emotional thing.  I was asked one time, by the person sitting next to me at an MLA dinner, how it felt for me to be revealing so much personal information on my blog, while not knowing who might be reading it.  My response was that there was so much that I didn't reveal that I didn't feel any conflict between what I put on the blog and my sense of myself as a very private person.  I always try to be as truthful as possible on the blog, but it still reveals only a tiny, tiny sliver of my real life.

So it wouldn't  bother me if I could walk the little guy up into our neighborhood and take a look at my house.    It's easy enough to find pictures of me on the web, so a picture of my house doesn't seem like a big deal.  Still, I like it that it's not there, that my street isn't fully googlized yet.  You can walk up to that intersection with the little guy, but then you're stuck, wondering what's really over that hill.

Rain and Snow

For reasons that I won't go into here, there's been an increasing amount of email chatter among my siblings, my mother and me over the past few months.   Yesterday, it was all about a snow day in Wisconsin -- that, and the plans that everyone is making to get together for a Christmas dinner on the 20th.

A foot of snow where my mother and youngest sister live.   Not quite so much, but still substantial, in the southern part of the state.    An unexpected day off from work and school, and a chance to do some baking and some decorating and some just relaxing instead of doing the chores that one had planned for the day. 

Here, it rained steadily all night long and when I got up this morning it was 62 degrees.  Yesterday it hit 70.  It had been quite cold for about a week (as in "cold for Alabama" -- hovering around freezing), and I thought it might stay there through the holiday.  Still, the forecast indicates that the temperature will drop again and we might actually get a little snow tomorrow -- nothing that will stay on the ground, though.

Mum is quite delighted that she's going to have a big group of kids and grandkids around for a holiday celebration this year.   I'm feeling envious and fantasize about flying up there for the day.  Not realistic -- I've got my own commitments here.

As inevitably happens when children grow up and begin families of their own, the arrangements and traditions change.   I suppose it's been a dozen years since I went back to Wisconsin for Christmas, and while I think that Mum does manage to see most of the others at some point during the holidays, I don't think there's been a family gathering for awhile.

When Lynn and I first got together Marian was still a teenager and she would spend Christmas Eve with her Dad's family.   So Lynn and I would have our private celebration on the Eve after we'd gotten everything wrapped and finished with the decorating.  Marian would come to our house very late that night, and then the three of us would spend Christmas Day together.

Marian's dad died the same year that Josie was born, and once he was gone, that family tradition began to change as the kids of Marian's generation began to make different plans.  So the last couple of years, Lynn and I moved our private evening to the 23rd, and we've done Christmas Eve and Day with Marian & Josie.

This year, it changes again -- now that her mother is gone, Lynn's asked her Dad to join us.  She'll drive over to Little Rock on the 20th to pick him up.  Marian and Josie will still come over to spend the night on the 24th and it'll be the five of us for Christmas Day.

At the moment, as I sit watching the mist over the lake (the rain having finally come down to a light drizzle), I see one of the hawks sitting on a low branch, calling.  I suppose it's looking for breakfast.  As a small child, when there was only one way for it to be Christmas, it would've been impossible for me to imagine the artificial Christmas tree, a December temperature approaching 70, and hawks and swans outside my window.  

It is still, ineffably, Christmas, and the changes that I've gone through to get to this one add to the mystery of it.  There's a bit of each of the past half-century of Christmases infused into this one, and still the excitement of things entirely new.

Which is not to say that in a completely nostalgic and sentimental way, I wouldn't mind waking up to a foot of snow.