Make way for copyright chaos

From New York Times http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/18/opinion/18lessig.html?ex=1331870400&en=5a2a6ea9bc52f3fc&ei=5124&partner=permalink&exprod=permalink

 

March 18, 2007

Op-Ed Contributor

Make Way for Copyright Chaos

By LAWRENCE LESSIG

Berlin

LAST week, Viacom asked a federal court to order the video-sharing service YouTube to pay it more than $1 billion in damages for some 150,000 videos that Viacom claims it owns and YouTube users have shared. "YouTube," the complaint alleges, "has harnessed technology to willfully infringe copyrights on a huge scale," threatening not just Viacom, but "the economic underpinnings of one of the most important sectors of the United States economy."

Yet as federal courts get started on this multiyear litigation about the legality of a business model, we should not forget one prominent actor in this drama largely responsible for the eagerness with which business disputes get thrown to the courts: the Supreme Court.

For most of the history of copyright law, it was Congress that was at the center of copyright policy making. As the Supreme Court explained in its 1984 Sony Betamax decision, the Constitution makes plain that "it is Congress that has been assigned the task of defining the scope of the limited monopoly," or copyright. It has thus been "Congress that has fashioned the new rules that new technology made necessary." The court explained that "sound policy, as well as history, supports our consistent deference to Congress when major technological innovations alter the market for copyrighted materials." In the view of the court in Sony, if you don't like how new technologies affect copyright, take your problem to Congress.

The court reaffirmed this principle of deference in 2003, even when the question at stake was a constitutional challenge to Congress's extension of copyright by 20 years. Challenges are evaluated "against the backdrop of Congress's previous exercises of its authority under the Copyright Clause" of the Constitution, it wrote. Congress's practice -- not simply the Constitution's text, or its original understanding -- thus determined the Constitution's meaning.

These cases together signaled a very strong and sensible policy: The complex balance of interests within any copyright statute are best struck by Congress.

But 20 months ago, the Supreme Court reversed this wise policy of deference. Drawing upon common law-like power, the court expanded the Copyright Act in the Grokster case to cover a form of liability it had never before recognized in the context of copyright -- the wrong of providing technology that induces copyright infringement. It announced this new form of liability even though at precisely the same time Congress was holding hearings about whether to amend the Copyright Act to create the same liability.

The Grokster case thus sent a clear message to lawyers everywhere: You get two bites at the copyright policy-making apple, one in Congress and one in the courts. But in Congress, you need hundreds of votes. In the courts, you need just five.

Viacom has now accepted this invitation from the Supreme Court. The core of its case centers on the "safe harbor" provision of the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The provision, a compromise among a wide range of interests, was intended to protect copyright owners while making it possible for Internet businesses to avoid crippling copyright liability. As applied to YouTube, the provision immunizes the company from liability for material posted by its users, so long as it takes steps to remove infringing material soon after it is notified by the copyright owner.

The content industry was a big supporter of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act in 1998. Viacom is apparently less of a supporter today. It complains that YouTube has not done enough "to take reasonable precautions to deter the rampant infringement on its site." Instead, the Viacom argument goes, YouTube has shifted the burden of monitoring that infringement onto the victim of that infringement -- namely, Viacom.

But it wasn't YouTube that engineered this shift. It was the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. As the statute plainly states, a provider (like YouTube) need not monitor its service or affirmatively seek facts indicating infringing activity. That burden, instead, rests on the copyright owner. In exchange, the law gives the copyright owner the benefit of an expedited procedure to identify and remove infringing material from a Web site. The provision was thus a deal, created to balance conflicting interests in light of the technology of the time.

Whether or not that balance made sense in 1998, Viacom believes it no longer makes sense today. Long ago, Justice Hugo Black argued that it was not up to the Supreme Court to keep the Constitution "in tune with the times." And it is here that the cupidity of the court begins to matter. For by setting the precedent that the court is as entitled to keep the Copyright Act "in tune with the times" as Congress, it has created an incentive for companies like Viacom, no longer satisfied with a statute, to turn to the courts to get the law updated. Congress, of course, is perfectly capable of changing or removing the safe harbor provision to meet Viacom's liking. But Viacom recognizes there's no political support for the change it wants. It thus turns to a policy maker that doesn't need political support -- the Supreme Court.

The conservatives on the Supreme Court have long warned about just this dynamic. And while I remain a skeptic about deferring to Congress on constitutional matters, this case is a powerful lesson about the costs of judicial policy making in an area as complex as copyright. The Internet will now face years of uncertainty before this fundamental question about the meaning of a decade-old legislative deal gets resolved.

No doubt the justices are clever, maybe even more clever than Congress. But however clever, it's hard to believe that their input is worth the millions in economic value that will be wasted long before they announce their decision.

Lawrence Lessig, a professor of law at Stanford, is a fellow at the American Academy, Berlin.

What would you do in this case?

The New York Times

 

 

March 18, 2007

Facing Life With a Lethal Gene

By AMY HARMON

The test, the counselor said, had come back positive.

Katharine Moser inhaled sharply. She thought she was as ready as anyone could be to face her genetic destiny. She had attended a genetic counseling session and visited a psychiatrist, as required by the clinic. She had undergone the recommended neurological exam. And yet, she realized in that moment, she had never expected to hear those words.

"What do I do now?" Ms. Moser asked.

"What do you want to do?" the counselor replied.

"Cry," she said quietly.

Her best friend, Colleen Elio, seated next to her, had already begun.

Ms. Moser was 23. It had taken her months to convince the clinic at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center in Manhattan that she wanted, at such a young age, to find out whether she carried the gene for Huntington's disease.

Huntington's, the incurable brain disorder that possessed her grandfather's body and ravaged his mind for three decades, typically strikes in middle age. But most young adults who know the disease runs in their family have avoided the DNA test that can tell whether they will get it, preferring the torture -- and hope -- of not knowing.

Ms. Moser is part of a vanguard of people at risk for Huntington's who are choosing to learn early what their future holds. Facing their genetic heritage, they say, will help them decide how to live their lives.

Yet even as a raft of new DNA tests are revealing predispositions to all kinds of conditions, including breast cancer, depression and dementia, little is known about what it is like to live with such knowledge.

"What runs in your own family, and would you want to know?" said Nancy Wexler, a neuropsychologist at Columbia and the president of the Hereditary Disease Foundation, which has pioneered Huntington's research. "Soon everyone is going to have an option like this. You make the decision to test, you have to live with the consequences."

On that drizzly spring morning two years ago, Ms. Moser was feeling her way, with perhaps the most definitive and disturbing verdict genetic testing has to offer. Anyone who carries the gene will inevitably develop Huntington's.

She fought her tears. She tried for humor.

Don't let yourself get too thin, said the clinic's social worker. Not a problem, Ms. Moser responded, gesturing to her curvy frame. No more than two drinks at a time. Perhaps, Ms. Moser suggested to Ms. Elio, she meant one in each hand.

Then came anger.

"Why me?" she remembers thinking, in a refrain she found hard to shake in the coming months. "I'm the good one. It's not like I'm sick because I have emphysema from smoking or I did something dangerous."

The gene that will kill Ms. Moser sits on the short arm of everyone's fourth chromosome, where the letters of the genetic alphabet normally repeat C-A-G as many as 35 times in a row. In people who develop Huntington's, however, there are more than 35 repeats.

No one quite knows why this DNA hiccup causes cell death in the brain, leading Huntington's patients to jerk and twitch uncontrollably and rendering them progressively unable to walk, talk, think and swallow. But the greater the number of repeats, the earlier symptoms tend to appear and the faster they progress.

Ms. Moser's "CAG number" was 45, the counselor said. She had more repeats than her grandfather, whose first symptoms -- loss of short-term memory, mood swings and a constant ticking noise he made with his mouth -- surfaced when he turned 50. But it was another year before Ms. Moser would realize that she could have less than 12 years until she showed symptoms.

Immediately after getting her results, Ms. Moser was too busy making plans.

"I'm going to become super-strong and super-balanced," she vowed over lunch with Ms. Elio, her straight brown hair pulled into a determined bun. "So when I start to lose it I'll be a little closer to normal."

In the tumultuous months that followed, Ms. Moser often found herself unable to remember what normal had once been. She forced herself to renounce the crush she had long nursed on a certain firefighter, sure that marriage was no longer an option for her. She threw herself into fund-raising in the hopes that someone would find a cure. Sometimes, she raged.

She never, she said, regretted being tested. But at night, crying herself to sleep in the dark of her lavender bedroom, she would go over and over it. She was the same, but she was also different. And there was nothing she could do.

A Lesson in Stigma

Ms. Moser grew up in Connecticut, part of a large Irish Catholic family. Like many families affected by Huntington's, Ms. Moser's regarded the disease as a curse, not to be mentioned even as it dominated their lives in the form of her grandfather's writhing body and unpredictable rages.

Once, staying in Ms. Moser's room on a visit, he broke her trundle bed with his violent, involuntary jerking. Another time, he came into the kitchen naked, his underpants on his head. When the children giggled, Ms. Moser's mother defended her father: "If you don't like it, get out of my house and go."

But no one explained what had happened to their grandfather, Thomas Dowd, a former New York City police officer who once had dreams of retiring to Florida.

In 1990, Mr. Dowd's older brother, living in a veteran's hospital in an advanced stage of the disease, was strangled in his own restraints. But a year or so later, when Ms. Moser wanted to do her sixth-grade science project on Huntington's, her mother recoiled.

"Why," she demanded, "would you want to do it on this disease that is killing your grandfather?"

Ms. Moser was left to confirm for herself, through library books and a CD-ROM encyclopedia, that she and her brothers, her mother, her aunts, an uncle and cousins could all face the same fate.

Any child who has a parent with Huntington's has a 50 percent chance of having inherited the gene that causes it, Ms. Moser learned.

Her mother, who asked not to be identified by name for fear of discrimination, had not always been so guarded. At one point, she drove around with a "Cure HD" sign in the window of her van. She told people that her father had "Woody Guthrie's disease," invoking the folk icon who died of Huntington's in 1967.

But her efforts to raise awareness soon foundered. Huntington's is a rare genetic disease, affecting about 30,000 people in the United States, with about 250,000 more at risk. Few people know what it is. Strangers assumed her father's unsteady walk, a frequent early symptom, meant he was drunk.

"Nobody has compassion," Ms. Moser's mother concluded. "People look at you like you're strange, and 'What's wrong with you?' "

Shortly after a simple DNA test became available for Huntington's in 1993, one of Ms. Moser's aunts tested positive. Another, driven to find out if her own medical problems were related to Huntington's, tested negative. But when Ms. Moser announced as a teenager that she wanted to get tested one day, her mother insisted that she should not. If her daughter carried the gene, that meant she did, too. And she did not want to know.

"You don't want to know stuff like that," Ms. Moser's mother said in an interview. "You want to enjoy life."

Ms. Moser's father, who met and married his wife six years before Ms. Moser's grandfather received his Huntington's diagnosis, said he had managed not to think much about her at-risk status.

"So she was at risk," he said. "Everyone's at risk for everything."

The test, Ms. Moser remembers her mother suggesting, would cost thousands of dollars. Still, in college, Ms. Moser often trolled the Web for information about it. Mostly, she imagined how sweet it would be to know she did not have the gene. But increasingly she was haunted, too, by the suspicion that her mother did.

As awful as it was, she admitted to Ms. Elio, her freshman-year neighbor at Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania, she almost hoped it was true. It would explain her mother's strokes of meanness, her unpredictable flashes of anger.

Ms. Moser's mother said she had never considered the conflicts with her daughter out of the ordinary. "All my friends who had daughters said that was all normal, and when she's 25 she'll be your best friend," she said. "I was waiting for that to happen, but I guess it's not happening."

When Ms. Moser graduated in 2003 with a degree in occupational therapy, their relationship, never peaceful, was getting worse. She moved to Queens without giving her mother her new address.

Wanting to Know

Out of school, Ms. Moser soon spotted a listing for a job at Terence Cardinal Cooke Health Care Center, a nursing home on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. She knew it was meant for her.

Her grandfather had died there in 2002 after living for a decade at the home, one of only a handful in the country with a unit devoted entirely to Huntington's.

"I hated visiting him growing up," Ms. Moser said. "It was scary."

Now, though, she was drawn to see the disease up close.

On breaks from her duties elsewhere, she visited her cousin James Dowd, the son of her grandfather's brother who had come to live in the Huntington's unit several years earlier. It was there, in a conversation with another staff member, that she learned she could be tested for only a few hundred dollars at the Columbia clinic across town. She scheduled an appointment for the next week.

The staff at Columbia urged Ms. Moser to consider the downside of genetic testing. Some people battle depression after they test positive. And the information, she was cautioned, could make it harder for her to get a job or health insurance.

But Ms. Moser bristled at the idea that she should have to remain ignorant about her genetic status to avoid discrimination. "I didn't do anything wrong," she said. "It's not like telling people I'm a drug addict."

She also recalls rejecting a counselor's suggestion that she might have asked to be tested as a way of crying for help.

"I'm like, 'No,' " Ms. Moser recalls replying. " 'I've come to be tested because I want to know.' "

No one routinely collects demographic information about who gets tested for Huntington's. At the Huntington's Disease Center at Columbia, staff members say they have seen few young people taking the test.

Ms. Moser is still part of a distinct minority. But some researchers say her attitude is increasingly common among young people who know they may develop Huntington's.

More informed about the genetics of the disease than any previous generation, they are convinced that they would rather know how many healthy years they have left than wake up one day to find the illness upon them. They are confident that new reproductive technologies can allow them to have children without transmitting the disease and are eager to be first in line should a treatment become available.

"We're seeing a shift," said Dr. Michael Hayden, a professor of human genetics at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver who has been providing various tests for Huntington's for 20 years. "Younger people are coming for testing now, people in their 20s and early 30s; before, that was very rare. I've counseled some of them. They feel it is part of their heritage and that it is possible to lead a life that's not defined by this gene."

Before the test, Ms. Moser made two lists of life goals. Under "if negative," she wrote married, children and Ireland. Under "if positive" was exercise, vitamins and ballroom dancing. Balance, in that case, would be important. Opening a bed-and-breakfast, a goal since childhood, made both lists.

In the weeks before getting the test results, Ms. Moser gave Ms. Elio explicit instructions about acceptable responses. If she was negative, flowers were O.K. If positive, they were not. In either case, drinking was acceptable. Crying was not.

But it was Ms. Elio's husband, Chris Elio, who first broached the subject of taking care of Ms. Moser, whom their young children called "my Katie," as in "this is my mom, this is my dad, this is my Katie." They should address it before the results were in, Mr. Elio told his wife, so that she would not feel, later, that they had done it out of a sense of obligation.

The next day, in an e-mail note that was unusually formal for friends who sent text messages constantly and watched "Desperate Housewives" while on the phone together, Ms. Elio told Ms. Moser that she and her husband wanted her to move in with them if she got sick. Ms. Moser set the note aside. She did not expect to need it.

'It's Too Hard to Look'

The results had come a week early, and Ms. Moser assured her friends that the "Sex and the City" trivia party she had planned for that night was still on. After all, she was not sick, not dying. And she had already made the dips.

"I'm the same person I've always been," she insisted that night as her guests gamely dipped strawberries in her chocolate fountain. "It's been in me from the beginning."

But when she went to work the next day, she lingered outside the door of the occupational therapy gym, not wanting to face her colleagues. She avoided the Huntington's floor entirely, choosing to attend to patients ailing of just about anything else. "It's too hard to look at them," she told her friends.

In those first months, Ms. Moser summoned all her strength to pretend that nothing cataclysmic had happened. At times, it seemed easy enough. In the mirror, the same green eyes looked back at her. She was still tall, a devoted Julia Roberts fan, a prolific baker.

She dropped the news of her genetic status into some conversations like small talk, but kept it from her family. She made light of her newfound fate, though often friends were not sure how to take the jokes.

"That's my Huntington's kicking in," she told Rachel Markan, a co
-worker, after knocking a patient's folder on the floor.

Other times, Ms. Moser abruptly dropped any pretense of routine banter. On a trip to Florida, she and Ms. Elio saw a man in a wheelchair being tube-fed, a method often used to keep Huntington's patients alive for years after they can no longer swallow.

"I don't want a feeding tube," she announced flatly.

In those early days, she calculated that she had at least until 50 before symptoms set in. That was enough time to open a bed-and-breakfast, if she acted fast. Enough time to repay $70,000 in student loans under her 30-year term.

Doing the math on the loans, though, could send her into a tailspin.

"I'll be repaying them and then I'll start getting sick," she said. "I mean, there's no time in there."

Finding New Purpose

At the end of the summer, as the weather grew colder, Ms. Moser forced herself to return to the Huntington's unit.

In each patient, she saw her future: the biophysicist slumped in his wheelchair, the refrigerator repairman inert in his bed, the onetime professional tennis player who floated through the common room, arms undulating in the startlingly graceful movements that had earned the disease its original name, "Huntington's chorea," from the Greek "to dance."

Then there was her cousin Jimmy, who had wrapped papers for The New York Post for 19 years until suddenly he could no longer tie the knots. When she greeted him, his bright blue eyes darted to her face, then away. If he knew her, it was impossible to tell.

She did what she could for them. She customized their wheelchairs with padding to fit each one's unique tics. She doled out special silverware, oversized or bent in just the right angles to prolong their ability to feed themselves.

Fending off despair, Ms. Moser was also filled with new purpose. Someone, somewhere, she told friends, had to find a cure.

It has been over a century since the disease was identified by George Huntington, a doctor in Amagansett, N.Y., and over a decade since researchers first found the gene responsible for it.

To raise money for research, Ms. Moser volunteered for walks and dinners and golf outings sponsored by the Huntington's Disease Society of America. She organized a Hula-Hoop-a-thon on the roof of Cardinal Cooke, then a bowl-a-thon at the Port Authority. But at many of the events, attendance was sparse.

It is hard to get people to turn out for Huntington's benefits, she learned from the society's professional fund-raisers. Even families affected by the disease, the most obvious constituents, often will not help publicize events.

"They don't want people to know they're connected to Huntington's," Ms. Moser said, with a mix of anger and recognition. "It's like in my family -- it's not a good thing."

Her first session with a therapist brought a chilling glimpse of how the disorder is viewed even by some who know plenty about it. "She told me it was my moral and ethical obligation not to have children," Ms. Moser told Ms. Elio by cellphone as soon as she left the office, her voice breaking.

In lulls between fund-raisers, Ms. Moser raced to educate her own world about Huntington's. She added links about the disease to her MySpace page. She plastered her desk at work with "Cure HD" stickers and starred in a video about the Huntington's unit for her union's Web site.

Ms. Moser gave blood for one study and spoke into a microphone for researchers trying to detect subtle speech differences in people who have extra CAG repeats before more noticeable disease symptoms emerge.

When researchers found a way to cure mice bred to replicate features of the disease in humans, Ms. Moser sent the news to friends and acquaintances.

But it was hard to celebrate. "Thank God," the joke went around on the Huntington's National Youth Alliance e-mail list Ms. Moser subscribed to, "at least there won't be any more poor mice wandering around with Huntington's disease."

In October, one of Ms. Moser's aunts lost her balance while walking and broke her nose. It was the latest in a series of falls. "The cure needs to be soon for me," Ms. Moser said. "Sooner for everybody else."

A Confrontation in Court

In the waiting room of the Dutchess County family courthouse on a crisp morning in the fall of 2005, Ms. Moser approached her mother, who turned away.

"I need to tell her something important," Ms. Moser told a family member who had accompanied her mother to the hearing.

He conveyed the message and brought one in return: Unless she was dying, her mother did not have anything to say to her.

That Ms. Moser had tested positive meant that her mother would develop Huntington's, if she had not already. A year earlier, Ms. Moser's mother had convinced a judge that her sister, Nora Maldonado, was neglecting her daughter. She was given guardianship of the daughter, 4-year-old Jillian.

Ms. Moser had been skeptical of her mother's accusations that Ms. Maldonado was not feeding or bathing Jillian properly, and she wondered whether her effort to claim Jillian had been induced by the psychological symptoms of the disease.

Her testimony about her mother's genetic status, Ms. Moser knew, could help persuade the judge to return Jillian. Ms. Maldonado had found out years earlier that she did not have the Huntington's gene.

Ms. Moser did not believe that someone in the early stages of Huntington's should automatically be disqualified from taking care of a child. But her own rocky childhood had convinced her that Jillian would be better off with Ms. Maldonado.

She told her aunt's lawyer about her test results and agreed to testify.

In the courtroom, Ms. Moser took the witness stand. Her mother's lawyer jumped up as soon as the topic of Huntington's arose. It was irrelevant, he said. But by the time the judge had sustained his objections, Ms. Moser's mother, stricken, had understood.

The next day, in the bathroom, Ms. Maldonado approached Ms. Moser's mother.

"I'm sorry," she said. Ms. Moser's mother said nothing.

The court has continued to let Ms. Moser's mother retain guardianship of Jillian. But she has not spoken to her daughter again.

"It's a horrible illness," Ms. Moser's mother said, months later, gesturing to her husband. "Now he has a wife who has it. Did she think of him? Did she think of me? Who's going to marry her?"

Facing the Future

Before the test, it was as if Ms. Moser had been balanced between parallel universes, one in which she would never get the disease and one in which she would. The test had made her whole.

She began to prepare the Elio children and Jillian for her illness, determined that they would not be scared, as she had been with her grandfather. When Jillian wanted to know how people got Huntington's disease "in their pants," Ms. Moser wrote the text of a children's book that explained what these other kinds of "genes" were and why they would make her sick.

But over the winter, Ms. Elio complained gently that her friend had become "Ms. H.D." And an impromptu note that arrived for the children in the early spring convinced her that Ms. Moser was dwelling too much on her own death.

"You all make me so happy, and I am so proud of who you are and who you will be," read the note, on rainbow scratch-and-write paper. "I will always remember the fun things we do together."

Taking matters into her own hands, Ms. Elio created a profile for Ms. Moser on an online dating service. Ms. Moser was skeptical but supplied a picture. Dating, she said, was the worst thing about knowing she had the Huntington's gene. It was hard to imagine some
one falling enough in love with her to take on Huntington's knowingly, or asking it of someone she loved. At the same time, she said, knowing her status could help her find the right person, if he was out there.

"Either way, I was going to get sick," she said. "And I'd want someone who could handle it. If, by some twist of fate, I do get married and have children, at least we know what we're getting into."

After much debate, the friends settled on the third date as the right time to mention Huntington's. But when the first date came, Ms. Moser wished she could just blurt it out.

"It kind of just lingers there," she said. "I really just want to be able to tell people, 'Someday, I'm going to have Huntington's disease.' "

'A Part of My Life'

Last May 6, a year to the day after she had received her test results, the subject line "CAG Count" caught Ms. Moser's attention as she was scrolling through the online discussion forums of the Huntington's Disease Advocacy Center. She knew she had 45 CAG repeats, but she had never investigated it further.

She clicked on the message.

"My mother's CAG was 43," it read. "She started forgetting the punch line to jokes at 39/40." Another woman whose husband's CAG count was 47 had just sold his car. "He's 39 years old," she wrote. "It was time for him to quit driving."

Quickly, Ms. Moser scanned a chart that accompanied the messages for her number, 45. The median age of onset to which it corresponded was 37.

Ms. Elio got drunk with her husband the night Ms. Moser finally told her.

"That's 12 years away," Ms. Moser said.

The statistic, they knew, meant that half of those with her CAG number started showing symptoms after age 37. But it also meant that the other half started showing symptoms earlier.

Ms. Moser, meanwhile, flew to the annual convention of the Huntington's Disease Society, which she had decided at the last minute to attend.

"Mother or father?" one woman, 23, from Chicago, asked a few minutes after meeting Ms. Moser in the elevator of the Milwaukee Hilton. "Have you tested? What's your CAG?"

She was close to getting herself tested, the woman confided. How did it feel to know?

"It's hard to think the other way anymore of not knowing," Ms. Moser replied. "It's become a part of my life."

After years of trying to wring conversation from her family about Huntington's, Ms. Moser suddenly found herself bathing in it. But for the first time in a long time, her mind was on other things. At a youth support group meeting in the hotel hallway, she took her place in the misshapen circle. Later, on the dance floor, the spasms of the symptomatic seemed as natural as the gyrations of the normal.

"I'm not alone in this," Ms. Moser remembers thinking. "This affects other people, too, and we all just have to live our lives."

Seizing the Day

July 15, the day of Ms. Moser's 25th birthday party, was sunny, with a hint of moisture in the air. At her aunt's house in Long Beach, N.Y., Ms. Moser wore a dress with pictures of cocktails on it. It was, she and Ms. Elio told anyone who would listen, her "cocktail dress." They drew the quotation marks in the air.

A bowl of "Cure HD" pins sat on the table. Over burgers from the barbecue, Ms. Moser mentioned to family members from her father's side that she had tested positive for the Huntington's gene.

"What's that?" one cousin asked.

"It will affect my ability to walk, talk and think," Ms. Moser said. "Sometime before I'm 50."

"That's soon," an uncle said matter-of-factly.

"So do you have to take medication?" her cousin asked.

"There's nothing really to take," Ms. Moser said.

She and the Elios put on bathing suits, loaded the children in a wagon and walked to the beach.

More than anything now, Ms. Moser said, she is filled with a sense of urgency.

"I have a lot to do," she said. "And I don't have a lot of time."

Over the next months, Ms. Moser took tennis lessons every Sunday morning and went to church in the evening.

When a planned vacation with the Elio family fell through at the last minute, she went anyway, packing Disney World, Universal Studios, Wet 'n Wild and Sea World into 36 hours with a high school friend who lives in Orlando. She was honored at a dinner by the New York chapter of the Huntington's society for her outreach efforts and managed a brief thank-you speech despite her discomfort with public speaking.

Having made a New Year's resolution to learn to ride a unicycle, she bought a used one. "My legs are tired, my arms are tired, and I definitely need protection," she reported to Ms. Elio. On Super Bowl Sunday, she waded into the freezing Atlantic Ocean for a Polar Bear swim to raise money for the Make-a-Wish Foundation.

Ms. Elio complained that she hardly got to see her friend. But one recent weekend, they packed up the Elio children and drove to the house the Elios were renovating in eastern Pennsylvania. The kitchen floor needed grouting, and, rejecting the home improvement gospel that calls for a special tool designed for the purpose, Ms. Moser and Ms. Elio had decided to use pastry bags.

As they turned into the driveway, Ms. Moser studied the semi-attached house next door. Maybe she would move in one day, as the Elios had proposed. Then, when she could no longer care for herself, they could put in a door.

First, though, she wanted to travel. She had heard of a job that would place her in different occupational therapy positions across the country every few months and was planning to apply.

"I'm thinking Hawaii first," she said.

Then they donned gloves, mixed grout in a large bucket of water and began the job.

To Vegas and Back Again

I went to Vegas for a conference and am back, with a lot of stuff in my mind. I think I've come to the realization that I am going to grad school somewhere in the next 18 months. I want to go to Georgia so badly now, it's kinda scary. But even if I don't get accepted on the first try, I also think it's good to put deadlines in front of me so it'll get my ass in gear to actually do it.

The trip was just amazing... it was a matter of relaxing and soaking in what other people are doing. I may even present next year, if I'm still around, that is.  It was also a time to continue reflecting on where I want to be and how I want to deal with things long-term. School is still the number 1 priority but, if I can get a job where travel is only 30% of the job and where I can ensure success for myself as well as others, then it may not totally conflict with what I want to do, does it?

They teach you to be proud and unbending in honest failure, but humble and gentle in success; not to substitute words for action; not to seek the path of comfort, but to face the stress and spur of difficulty and challenge; to learn to stand up in the storm, but to have compassion on those who fall; to master yourself before you seek to master others; to have a heart that is clean, a goal that is high; to learn to laugh, yet never forget how to weep; to reach into the future, yet never neglect the past; to be serious, yet never take yourself too seriously; to be modest so that you will remember the simplicity of true greatness; the open mind of true wisdom, the meekness of true strength.

From Gen. Douglas McArthur's Last Speech at West Point

WHat the hell, I'll apply and see what happens. It may be for naught, same as grad school, but I'll never know if I don't try.


Listening:

  • SIlvio Rodriguez 
  • Michelle Branch
  • Phil Collins
  • Random Stuff

Reading:

  • Echelon
  • The Art of Project Management

Doing:

  • Working on a website project

Warthicng:

  • Reruns of JAG on my Tivo
  • Serenity
  • Shadow Chronicles
  • Ghost in the shell: Stand Alone Complex 2nd Gig on my computer

Here's an example of arrogance, even though he's right

Subject: A bike shed (any colour will do) on greener grass...
From: Poul-Henning Kamp <[email protected]>
Date: Sat, 02 Oct 1999 16:14:10 +0200
Message-ID: <[email protected]>
Sender: [email protected]
Bcc: Blind Distribution List: ;
MIME-Version: 1.0

[bcc'ed to committers, hackers]

My last pamphlet was sufficiently well received that I was not scared away from sending another one, and today I have the time and inclination to do so.

I've had a little trouble with deciding on the right distribution of this kind of stuff, this time it is bcc'ed to committers and hackers, that is probably the best I can do. I'm not subscribed to hackers myself but more on that later.

The thing which have triggered me this time is the "sleep(1) should do fractional seconds" thread, which have pestered our lives for many days now, it's probably already a couple of weeks, I can't even be bothered to check.

To those of you who have missed this particular thread: Congratulations.

It was a proposal to make sleep(1) DTRT if given a non-integer argument that set this particular grass-fire off. I'm not going to say anymore about it than that, because it is a much smaller item than one would expect from the length of the thread, and it has already received far more attention than some of the *problems* we have around here.

The sleep(1) saga is the most blatant example of a bike shed discussion we have had ever in FreeBSD. The proposal was well thought out, we would gain compatibility with OpenBSD and NetBSD, and still be fully compatible with any code anyone ever wrote.

Yet so many objections, proposals and changes were raised and launched that one would think the change would have plugged all the holes in swiss cheese or changed the taste of Coca Cola or something similar serious.

"What is it about this bike shed ?" Some of you have asked me.

It's a long story, or rather it's an old story, but it is quite short actually. C. Northcote Parkinson wrote a book in the early 1960'ies, called "Parkinson's Law", which contains a lot of insight into the dynamics of management.

You can find it on Amazon, and maybe also in your dads book-shelf, it is well worth its price and the time to read it either way, if you like Dilbert, you'll like Parkinson.

Somebody recently told me that he had read it and found that only about 50% of it applied these days. That is pretty darn good I would say, many of the modern management books have hit-rates a lot lower than that, and this one is 35+ years old.

In the specific example involving the bike shed, the other vital component is an atomic power-plant, I guess that illustrates the age of the book.

Parkinson shows how you can go in to the board of directors and get approval for building a multi-million or even billion dollar atomic power plant, but if you want to build a bike shed you will be tangled up in endless discussions.

Parkinson explains that this is because an atomic plant is so vast, so expensive and so complicated that people cannot grasp it, and rather than try, they fall back on the assumption that somebody else checked all the details before it got this far. Richard P. Feynmann gives a couple of interesting, and very much to the point, examples relating to Los Alamos in his books.

A bike shed on the other hand. Anyone can build one of those over a weekend, and still have time to watch the game on TV. So no matter how well prepared, no matter how reasonable you are with your proposal, somebody will seize the chance to show that he is doing his job, that he is paying attention, that he is *here*.

In Denmark we call it "setting your fingerprint". It is about personal pride and prestige, it is about being able to point somewhere and say "There! *I* did that." It is a strong trait in politicians, but present in most people given the chance. Just think about footsteps in wet cement.

I bow my head in respect to the original proposer because he stuck to his guns through this carpet blanking from the peanut gallery, and the change is in our tree today. I would have turned my back and walked away after less than a handful of messages in that thread.

And that brings me, as I promised earlier, to why I am not subscribed to -hackers:

I un-subscribed from -hackers several years ago, because I could not keep up with the email load. Since then I have dropped off several other lists as well for the very same reason.

And I still get a lot of email. A lot of it gets routed to /dev/null by filters: People like Brett Glass will never make it onto my screen, commits to documents in languages I don't understand likewise, commits to ports as such. All these things and more go the winter way without me ever even knowing about it.

But despite these sharp teeth under my mailbox I still get too much email.

This is where the greener grass comes into the picture:

I wish we could reduce the amount of noise in our lists and I wish we could let people build a bike shed every so often, and I don't really care what colour they paint it.

The first of these wishes is about being civil, sensitive and intelligent in our use of email.

If I could concisely and precisely define a set of criteria for when one should and when one should not reply to an email so that everybody would agree and abide by it, I would be a happy man, but I am too wise to even attempt that.

But let me suggest a few pop-up windows I would like to see mail-programs implement whenever people send or reply to email to the lists they want me to subscribe to:

+------------------------------------------------------------+
| Your email is about to be sent to several hundred thousand |
| people, who will have to spend at least 10 seconds reading |
| it before they can decide if it is interesting. At least   |
| two man-weeks will be spent reading your email. Many of    |
| the recipients will have to pay to download your email.    |
| 				 			     |
| Are you absolutely sure that your email is of sufficient   |
| importance to bother all these people ? 		     |
| 							     |
| 		[YES] [REVISE] [CANCEL] 		     | 
+------------------------------------------------------------+

+------------------------------------------------------------+ | Warning: You have not read all emails in this thread yet. | | Somebody else may already have said what you are about to | | say in your reply. Please read the entire thread before | | replying to any email in it. | | | | [CANCEL] |

+------------------------------------------------------------+

+------------------------------------------------------------+

| Warning: Your mail program have not even shown you the | | entire message yet. Logically it follows that you cannot | | possibly have read it all and understood it. | | | | It is not polite to reply to an email until you have | | read it all and thought about it. | | | | A cool off timer for this thread will prevent you from | | replying to any email in this thread for the next one hour | | | | [Cancel] |
+------------------------------------------------------------+

+------------------------------------------------------------+ | You composed this email at a rate of more than N.NN cps | | It is generally not possible to think and type at a rate | | faster than A.AA cps, and therefore you reply is likely to | | incoherent, badly thought out and/or emotional. | | | | A cool off timer will prevent you from sending any email | | for the next one hour. | | | | [Cancel] |

+------------------------------------------------------------+

The second part of my wish is more emotional. Obviously, the capacities we had manning the unfriendly fire in the sleep(1) thread, despite their many years with the project, never cared enough to do this tiny deed, so why are they suddenly so enflamed by somebody else so much their junior doing it ?

I wish I knew.

I do know that reasoning will have no power to stop such "reactionaire conservatism". It may be that these people are frustrated about their own lack of tangible contribution lately or it may be a bad case of "we're old and grumpy, WE know how youth should behave".

Either way it is very unproductive for the project, but I have no suggestions for how to stop it. The best I can suggest is to refrain from fuelling the monsters that lurk in the mailing lists: Ignore them, don't answer them, forget they're there.

I hope we can get a stronger and broader base of contributors in FreeBSD, and I hope we together can prevent the grumpy old men and the Brett Glasses of the world from chewing them up, spitting them out and scaring them away before they ever get a leg to the ground.

For the people who have been lurking out there, scared away from participating by the gargoyles: I can only apologise and encourage you to try anyway, this is not the way I want the environment in the project to be.

Poul-Henning


Cheerful thoughts

Better Days
Goo Goo Dolls

And you ask me what I want this year
And I try to make this kind and clear
Just a chance that maybe we'll find better days
Cuz I don't need boxes wrapped in strings
And desire and love and empty things
Just a chance that maybe we'll find better days
So take these words
And sing out loud
Cuz everyone is forgiven now
Cuz tonight's the night the world begins again
And it's someplace simple where we could live
And something only you can give
And thats faith and trust and peace while we're alive
And the one poor child that saved this world
And there's 10 million more who probably could
If we all just stopped and said a prayer for them
So take these words
And sing out loud
Cuz everyone is forgiven now
Cuz tonight's the night the world begins again
I wish everyone was loved tonight
And somehow stop this endless fight
Just a chance that maybe we'll find better days
So take these words
And sing out loud
Cuz everyone is forgiven now
Cuz tonight's the night the world begins again
Cuz tonight's the night the world begins again

Here's an example of arrogance, eventhough he's right

Subject: A bike shed (any colour will do) on greener grass...
From: Poul-Henning Kamp <[email protected]>
Date: Sat, 02 Oct 1999 16:14:10 +0200
Message-ID: <[email protected]>
Sender: [email protected]
Bcc: Blind Distribution List: ;
MIME-Version: 1.0

[bcc'ed to committers, hackers]

My last pamphlet was sufficiently well received that I was not scared away from sending another one, and today I have the time and inclination to do so.

I've had a little trouble with deciding on the right distribution of this kind of stuff, this time it is bcc'ed to committers and hackers, that is probably the best I can do. I'm not subscribed to hackers myself but more on that later.

The thing which have triggered me this time is the "sleep(1) should do fractional seconds" thread, which have pestered our lives for many days now, it's probably already a couple of weeks, I can't even be bothered to check.

To those of you who have missed this particular thread: Congratulations.

It was a proposal to make sleep(1) DTRT if given a non-integer argument that set this particular grass-fire off. I'm not going to say anymore about it than that, because it is a much smaller item than one would expect from the length of the thread, and it has already received far more attention than some of the *problems* we have around here.

The sleep(1) saga is the most blatant example of a bike shed discussion we have had ever in FreeBSD. The proposal was well thought out, we would gain compatibility with OpenBSD and NetBSD, and still be fully compatible with any code anyone ever wrote.

Yet so many objections, proposals and changes were raised and launched that one would think the change would have plugged all the holes in swiss cheese or changed the taste of Coca Cola or something similar serious.

"What is it about this bike shed ?" Some of you have asked me.

It's a long story, or rather it's an old story, but it is quite short actually. C. Northcote Parkinson wrote a book in the early 1960'ies, called "Parkinson's Law", which contains a lot of insight into the dynamics of management.

You can find it on Amazon, and maybe also in your dads book-shelf, it is well worth its price and the time to read it either way, if you like Dilbert, you'll like Parkinson.

Somebody recently told me that he had read it and found that only about 50% of it applied these days. That is pretty darn good I would say, many of the modern management books have hit-rates a lot lower than that, and this one is 35+ years old.

In the specific example involving the bike shed, the other vital component is an atomic power-plant, I guess that illustrates the age of the book.

Parkinson shows how you can go in to the board of directors and get approval for building a multi-million or even billion dollar atomic power plant, but if you want to build a bike shed you will be tangled up in endless discussions.

Parkinson explains that this is because an atomic plant is so vast, so expensive and so complicated that people cannot grasp it, and rather than try, they fall back on the assumption that somebody else checked all the details before it got this far. Richard P. Feynmann gives a couple of interesting, and very much to the point, examples relating to Los Alamos in his books.

A bike shed on the other hand. Anyone can build one of those over a weekend, and still have time to watch the game on TV. So no matter how well prepared, no matter how reasonable you are with your proposal, somebody will seize the chance to show that he is doing his job, that he is paying attention, that he is *here*.

In Denmark we call it "setting your fingerprint". It is about personal pride and prestige, it is about being able to point somewhere and say "There! *I* did that." It is a strong trait in politicians, but present in most people given the chance. Just think about footsteps in wet cement.

I bow my head in respect to the original proposer because he stuck to his guns through this carpet blanking from the peanut gallery, and the change is in our tree today. I would have turned my back and walked away after less than a handful of messages in that thread.

And that brings me, as I promised earlier, to why I am not subscribed to -hackers:

I un-subscribed from -hackers several years ago, because I could not keep up with the email load. Since then I have dropped off several other lists as well for the very same reason.

And I still get a lot of email. A lot of it gets routed to /dev/null by filters: People like Brett Glass will never make it onto my screen, commits to documents in languages I don't understand likewise, commits to ports as such. All these things and more go the winter way without me ever even knowing about it.

But despite these sharp teeth under my mailbox I still get too much email.

This is where the greener grass comes into the picture:

I wish we could reduce the amount of noise in our lists and I wish we could let people build a bike shed every so often, and I don't really care what colour they paint it.

The first of these wishes is about being civil, sensitive and intelligent in our use of email.

If I could concisely and precisely define a set of criteria for when one should and when one should not reply to an email so that everybody would agree and abide by it, I would be a happy man, but I am too wise to even attempt that.

But let me suggest a few pop-up windows I would like to see mail-programs implement whenever people send or reply to email to the lists they want me to subscribe to:

+------------------------------------------------------------+
| Your email is about to be sent to several hundred thousand |
| people, who will have to spend at least 10 seconds reading |
| it before they can decide if it is interesting. At least   |
| two man-weeks will be spent reading your email. Many of    |
| the recipients will have to pay to download your email.    |
| 				 			     |
| Are you absolutely sure that your email is of sufficient   |
| importance to bother all these people ? 		     |
| 							     |
| 		[YES] [REVISE] [CANCEL] 		     | +------------------------------------------------------------+

+------------------------------------------------------------+
| Warning: You have not read all emails in this thread yet. |
| Somebody else may already have said what you are about to |
| say in your reply. Please read the entire thread before |
| replying to any email in it. |
| |
| [CANCEL] | +------------------------------------------------------------+

+------------------------------------------------------------+
| Warning: Your mail program have not even shown you the |
| entire message yet. Logically it follows that you cannot |
| possibly have read it all and understood it. |
| |
| It is not polite to reply to an email until you have |
| read it all and thought about it. |
| |
| A cool off timer for this thread will prevent you from |
| replying to any email in this thread for the next one hour |
| |
| [Cancel] | +------------------------------------------------------------+

+------------------------------------------------------------+
| You composed this email at a rate of more than N.NN cps |
| It is generally not possible to think and type at a rate |
| faster than A.AA cps, and therefore you reply is likely to |
| incoherent, badly thought out and/or emotional. |
| |
| A cool off timer will prevent you from sending any email |
| for the next one hour. |
| |
| [Cancel] | +------------------------------------------------------------+

The second part of my wish is more emotional. Obviously, the capacities we had manning the unfriendly fire in the sleep(1) thread, despite their many years with the project, never cared enough to do this tiny deed, so why are they suddenly so enflamed by somebody else so much their junior doing it ?

I wish I knew.

I do know that reasoning will have no power to stop such "reactionaire conservatism". It may be that these people are frustrated about their own lack of tangible contribution lately or it may be a bad case of "we're old and grumpy, WE know how youth should behave".

Either way it is very unproductive for the project, but I have no suggestions for how to stop it. The best I can suggest is to refrain from fuelling the monsters that lurk in the mailing lists: Ignore them, don't answer them, forget they're there.

I hope we can get a stronger and broader base of contributors in FreeBSD, and I hope we together can prevent the grumpy old men and the Brett Glasses of the world from chewing them up, spitting them out and scaring them away before they ever get a leg to the ground.

For the people who have been lurking out there, scared away from participating by the gargoyles: I can only apologise and encourage you to try anyway, this is not the way I want the environment in the project to be.

Poul-Henning


Missed chances and new beginnings

Heaven was needing a hero
Jo Dee Messina (single)

I came by today to see you
I had to let you know
If I knew the last time that I held you was the last time
I'd have held you and never let go
It's kept me awake nights, wondering
Lie in the dark, just asking why
I've always been told
You won't be called home
Until it's your time
I guess heaven was needing a hero
Somebody just like you
Brave enough to stand up
For what you believe
And follow it through
When I try to make it make sense in my mind
The only conclusion I come to
Is heaven was needing a hero
Like you
I remember the last time I saw you
You held your head up proud
I laughed inside
When I saw how you were standing out in the crowd
You're such a part of who I am
Now that part will just be void
No matter how much I need you now
Heaven needed you more
Cause heaven was needing a hero
Somebody just like you
Brave enough to stand up
For what you believe
And follow it through
When I try to make it make sense in my mind
The only conclusion I come to
Is heaven was needing a hero
Like you
Heaven was needing a hero
and that's you

Snakes and Arrows May 1st — Tour to be announced

Yay!!! I get to see Rush on tour once more

NEWS, WEATHER, and SPORTS
December 8, 2006

At the Gate of the Year . . .

When I was little, I used to admire a framed piece of needlepoint work that hung on my grandmother's wall. She had made it on the family farm in Southern Ontario during the dark days of World War II, her needle weaving the colored threads with precise, artful stitches into a field of white linen. In one corner, a brown-robed arm raised a golden lantern, and beside it meticulously sewn letters traced out a few lines of poetry that had been quoted by Britain's King George VI in a December, 1939, radio address.

It began, "I said to the man who stood at the Gate of the Year, 'Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.'"

That image and those words have stayed with me all my life, especially the idea of the "Gate of the Year" as a time for reflection and resolution. Right now I have no idea what's going to happen in 2007, or if I will "tread safely into the unknown," but 2006 has been quite a year to look back upon. (I am reminded that exactly twenty years ago, I sat down at the Gate of the Year and made a list entitled, "Why 1986 Was the Greatest Year." Nice to think that even then I knew enough to count my blessings--and now I know it even better.)

Exactly one year ago (to recap a story begun in earlier reports), my bandmates and I started talking about working on some new songs. Alex and Geddy got together in Geddy's home studio in Toronto and simply played, letting the new ideas flow out unguided and unedited, while 3000 miles away in California, I began drafting some lyrics and sending them up.

In March, the three of us met at my house in Quebec, and Alex and Geddy played me the six songs they had been working on. All of us felt very positive about their direction, and agreed that we needed to spend some time working together. In May we moved into a small Toronto studio, and started refining those songs and writing a few others.

As previously reported, in June I recorded three songs in Los Angeles with my friend Matt Scannell, and for me as a drummer, that was a challenging and inspiring experience. Also, the new set of purpose-built "recording" drums that my friends at Drum Workshop put together for me, which were intended to be used on Matt's project and become my "West Coast kit," sounded so good that I had them sent straight east, to use on the new Rush album.

Later that month, I also fulfilled a longtime challenge as a motorcyclist, doing a "Thousand-in-One"--1000 miles in one day--in the course of riding my R1200GS from Los Angeles to Quebec, 3000 miles, in four days. (Yes, I was in a hurry!)

Though obviously no leisure tour, it was still a powerful traveling experience, giving me what felt like a "snapshot panorama" of a wide swath of North America--California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ontario, and Quebec--in such a brief time.

And even on that express route, mainly keeping to the "mileage disposal units" of the interstates, and even in the fierce heat of early summer in the desert Southwest, there were still hours of sublime beauty: the Mojave Desert (always), I-70 through Utah and Colorado (perhaps the most scenic stretch of interstate in the country), and even the Great Plains. Unlike some travelers, I never find that part of the country boring. The highways are flat and straight, sure, but those endless green farmlands all around make a nice kind of "intermission" in a transcontinental roadshow, opening with the deserts and mountains of the West, and closing with the forests and rocky bluffs of upper Michigan and northern Ontario. On a journey like that, the prairies were a welcome pastoral interlude.

Des Moines seemed to be hosting a big vintage tractor event, and I liked seeing all the flatbed trucks and trailers in the opposite lanes carrying shiny old International, John Deere, Allis-Chalmers, Case, Ford, Massey-Ferguson, and Minneapolis-Moline tractors, and even a few massive old combines freshly restored. (You can take the boy out of the barn and the farm equipment dealership, but . . . )

In September, Alex and Geddy and I started working together in Toronto once more, feeling good about the songs we had put together back in May, but determined to do even better. The work seemed to come easier then, too, when we were feeling confident and committed, and we soon assembled a few more songs we all liked.

In the past, we had always found it immeasurably valuable to bring in a coproducer, someone who could help us be objective about our work, and--perhaps more importantly--to push us a little farther in songwriting, arranging, and performing. This time, we put out feelers for possible collaborators, listened to the work of several candidates, and began contacting the ones we thought most promising.

Meanwhile, a certain young producer and engineer in California heard we were working on new material, and asked his manager to contact our office, and send us some of his work. His name--Nick Raskulinecz--remained unspellable and unpronounceable for a while, but we liked what we heard.

Nick was best known for his highly successful work with the Foo Fighters, but before that he had a long history as a musician, engineer, and producer. He had started out in Knoxville, Tennessee, and more-or-less worked his way west, studio by studio. When we met Nick, we all liked his youthful, unbridled enthusiasm, but at 36, he was also experienced enough to have a strong background in music and recording. We agreed with the comments and suggestions he had for our new songs, and loved his excitement about them, so we signed him up.

By October, Toronto's days were often chilly, damp, and gloomy, with cold rains and occasional spells of glittering autumn sunshine, darkening earlier every day. Nick joined us in the little studio down by the old waterfront, and together we continued refining the arrangements and our individual parts. We had ten songs finished by then, and were working on one of our typical "mental-instrumentals" to be the eleventh. Nick was an irrepressible air drummer, and he would describe his suggestions for my drum parts with wild flailing arms and vocalizations: "bloppida-bloppida-batu-batu-whirrrrr-blop--booujze.'

That last syllable is onomatopoeic for a combination of bass drum and crash cymbal (of course), and before long it became Nick's, er, "nick"name: "Booujze." (There was considerable discussion over its proper spelling.)

We also recruited master engineer Rich Chycki, who had worked with Alex on the mixes for the R30 DVD, and (we thought) captured our best-ever live recording. So, adding in Lorne (Gump) Wheaton and Russ Ryan to look after the equipment, we had a great team in place by November, when we moved to Allaire Studios in New York's Catskill Mountains to start the "serious" recording.

This is the view from what was originally the summer estate of a wealthy Pittsburgh family. The rambling Adirondack-style country house of wood and stone was built in 1920 at the top of a mountain, looking north to this long valley, meandering river, and distant, rounded peaks. To the east the view opened on the wide Hudson Valley.

One sunny November morning, Gump, our visiting photographer, Andrew, and I walked through the woods to a quaint old wooden lookout tower. We stood above the brown and green forested humps stretching far into the distance, the sky of blue glass reflected in the shining lake just below (Ashokan Reservoir, part of New York City's water system), and I shared some of the local natural history I had learned.

(Unlucky friends. And readers. I am reminded of whe
n my brother Danny gave our mother all of his journals to read, and she reported, "They are good . . . for when I have trouble sleeping." Recently Mom and Dad got broadband service, and I wrote Mom that now she might find similar relief in my book reviews.)

Still, natural science can be more interesting, more dramatic,when you're looking right at something, and learning to understand what you see. All around Gump, Andrew, and me, those low, glacier-scrubbed mountains looked the same as the Appalachian chain to the north and south--some of the oldest mountains on Earth--but the Catskills were considered "geologically unrelated." In fact, that humped landscape was not made of "mountains" at all, but the isolated remnants of a high plateau of sedimentary rock--like the mesas of the Southwest, only clothed in soil and trees. Over millions of years, layers of ancient sea bed and river deltas had blended with alluvial material from the immense Acadian range to the east, once as tall and sharp-edged as the Himalayas. Those mighty mountains had crumbled into a plateau which itself rose as high as 10,000 feet, then compacted into layers of sandstone and shale, while water continued to erode the softer sediments away.

And if that scope of geological time wasn't dizzying enough, geologists theorized that those mountains were at least the third range to have risen and crumbled there over the eons. It makes the little moments that seem so important to us, like the Gate of the Year, seem so brief. As they are.

Twenty years ago, I wrote about such feelings in Time Stand Still, and ten years later, again in Dog Years.

I'd rather be a tortoise from Galápagos

Or a span of geological time

Than be living in these dog years . . .

Pointing up into that translucent sky, I said to Gump and Andrew, "Imagine during the last Ice Age, the ice might have been something like a mile thick here."

That ice sheet had gradually melted more than 10,000 years ago, and the turbulent flow of meltwater had carved the majestic Hudson Valley. Among the bare, young trees around us (none appeared more than about fifty years old, evidence of the history of repeated logging throughout the East) and the evergreens clustered in sheltered, damp groves, you could see the huge boulders, "erratic blocks," that had been dropped as the glaciers receded.

By then Gump and Andrew were nodding off (incidentally, "Rip van Winkle" was set in the Catskills), so we walked back through the woods to the present day. 

The buildings of the baronial Glen Tonche estate had been adapted around two state-of-the-art residential studios, in the most secluded and splendid of surroundings. The property still enclosed fifty wooded acres, and the single-lane driveway seemed to loop its way up the mountain (mesa) for miles. One misty afternoon, Gump, Russ, and I watched from the studio windows as a doe and two yearling fawns browsed across the slope of brown leaves below. The property manager, Colby, told us he had been seeing a lot of black bears that autumn, searching for food before their long hibernation.

So it seemed the nearby village of Bearsville came by its name honestly. Back in January of 1996 (in fact, during the "Blizzard of '96"), we had recorded Test for Echo at Bearsville Studios (now closed, unfortunately). In the summer of 2005, I spent a few days at Allaire shooting my Anatomy of a Drum Solo DVD, and I had simply loved the place, despite the near-constant fog and rain obscuring the view.

Indoors, the big attraction was the recording room (once the estate's "Great Hall"), a vast, almost church-like space of wood floor, galleries, and lofty beams, two huge stone fireplaces, and washes of glorious natural light from tall windows. It was a wonderful acoustic environment for drums, plus the accommodations were cozy and comfortable, and the food was great, so I went out on a limb and recommended Allaire to the other guys--hoping they would like it as much as I had.

Well, they did. It was like the old days of working at Le Studio in Quebec, the late '70s and '80s, when we would retreat to an isolated place in the country--where there was little to do but work--and immerse ourselves in music-making, and just hanging out together. (Volleyball was the sport back then, but we didn't really have time for any sports this time--unless you count eating and drinking well. We do.)

Rich and Nick consulted on how best to mic up my drumset for that big room, including the careful placement of some vintage microphones Nick had shipped from his own L.A. studio. Late on the first night after everyone arrived, Lorne and Russ had to throw together some amps for an impromptu jam session with the three of us and Nick (Booujze wasn't just an incredible air musician--he could play some fiery rhythm guitar for real, too).

All of the songs were mapped out in rough form by then, each of our parts developed and refined back in Toronto. However, any traveler knows that having a map is not the same as riding the road. Now we had to deliver performances as perfect, powerful, and musical as we could, because now they would be permanent. The first job was recording new drum and bass parts over those demos--and of course, trying to "beat" them. (My judgment of a recorded performance: "Can I beat it?" For a while I can, and when I can't, I know I'm done.)

The Mighty Booujze came into his own there, coaxing, coaching, and inspiring me into ever more outrageous drum parts and fills. "Bloppida-bloppida-batu-batu-whirrrrr-blop--booujze." Sweaty and sore, I would come into the control room to listen to a playback, and hear myself thrashing away at the very edge of my abilities, just barely pulling it off (or not), and I would have to laugh out loud at the audacity--and the excitement, if it worked.

Geddy was listening, too, and he shook his head slowly and smiled, saying, "Now that's comedy!"

In turn, Booujze also urged Geddy's bass playing into uncharted areas, playing along with him on "air bass" as he described his ideas. Geddy and I soon decided we were "the world's funniest rhythm section," and thought we ought to call the album Don't Try This at Home.

Earlier, back in Toronto, we had been working on a complex, syncopated section in one of the songs--a part that had taken me hours to learn--and Nick turned to me and said, "Do you think you could solo over that?"

Ha--what a question! Of course I could solo over it--I'd love to!--but I would never dare to suggest such a thing myself. When Nick pushed me like that, he would say, "Hey man, I wouldn't ask if I didn't know you could do it," and of course that was a kind of challenge. All of us picked up that "can do" spirit, and it came to express the mood of our sessions at Allaire--brash, confident, determined, inspired, challenged, fired-up, defiant, excited.

As I said to Rich and Nick when my last drum track was finished, "I have never enjoyed the recording process so much, nor been so satisfied with the results."

And when those final bass and drum tracks were done, and the two weeks we had booked there were over--the other guys simply stayed. With two separate recording rooms available at Allaire, Alex worked on his guitar tracks and overdubs with Rich in one room, while Geddy and Booujze worked on vocals in the other.

I hated to leave then, but I had already made plans and commitments. Like Robert Frost in one of my favorite poems, "Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening," I had "promises to keep." (Lately I have been thinking about Robert Frost's epitaph, "I H
ad a Lover's Quarrel With the World," because it echoes the point-of-view of some of my lyrics for the new songs. A couple of times I deliberately used the conventions of the typical "relationship song" to express my "lover's quarrel" --not with a single person, but with a whole bunch of people who were so foolish as to disagree with me.)

Anyway, by the original plan, after our two weeks at Allaire, Alex and Geddy were supposed to return to Toronto and work on guitars and vocals at home. I hadn't minded the idea of missing that, but it was different to have to leave Allaire after such a happy, productive time, knowing I would be missing out on the excitement and camaraderie we had created in that wonderful place. (I'm going back next week.)

The important thing is that all of that energy, excitement, and activity have sped the project along, and now it looks as though the recording will be finished by the end of the year--far ahead of schedule. We are planning on doing the final mixing early in the New Year, but have made no commitments beyond that. No doubt our manager, Ray, has plans of his own, but we simply haven't gotten to that yet. We all know by now that you can't take anything for granted, or be truly sure what's going to happen--in news, weather, or sports.

"I said to the man who stood at the Gate of the Year, 'Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.'"

Well, as they would say out East, "there ain't no such of a light," but like most other people in this crazy mixed-up world, we will carry on as if there were.

"Bloppida-bloppida-batu-batu-whirrrrr-blop--booujze."