Thursday, December 14, 2006

Pune Barcamp

I'll be presenting some of my education and incubator ideas at barcamp this weekend.

Here's a quick outline.


"If you want to build a ship, don't drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea."

Marc Hedlund quotes Antoine de Saint-Exupery


premise:

there is a huge amount of high tech work to be done.
The internet itself is a resource for both education
and jobs. Self motivated people can both find jobs
online as well as learn the skills necessary to perform
them.

google certification:
increasingly the most significant reference employees
have is their reflection in the web sphere when an
employer types the candidates name into google. As such
students hoping to increase their attractiveness in the
job market would do well to conciously develop their online
profile. For software developers having publically visible
code goes miles for establishing legitimacy. Some ways to
go about this are :
- open source projects
- ngo projects
- social networks
- university tie ups

next gen teaching:
in the age of video, traditional lectures are (or should be) dead.
instead online video courseware should (and is) emerging which
combined with conventional web based tutorials and reference books
provides most of the vertical knowledge students require
- MIT open courseware
- Digital Study Hall

Learning Groups:
Especially for beginners, there are still strong needs for teachers
to help guide students thru the learning process. I see this role having
two primary aspects. One works with the more human aspects of helping
students progress thru their training providing encouragement and
navigating personal issues the arise. The other provides subject specific
help, assigns and evaluates homework, and leads group discussions.

Networking:
So, much of the main role for traditional education is in the
networking. A next generation institute might focus on these as
the real value add of the organization. To do this 'classes' should
have an emphasis on group programming projects, as the best way to
learn who you want to work with is by working with alot of people.

Practical focus on jobs:
Thru the educational process people should be watching the job boards
and many 'class projects' should be pulled from them. In this way students
should be very clear that the skills they are picking up are directly
relevant to getting jobs. And they develop the confidence to interact
directly with clients.
- rentacoder.com
- elance.com
- getafreelancer.com
- ether.com

Research:
In addition to gaining practical experience doing service jobs
there should be significant energy put into exploring new areas.
In my world this would be oriented around technologies with near
term product potential.
- amazon web services
- occasionally connected clients
- mobile computing
- video

Incubator:
By bidding on jobs people develop their portfolio, and learn
how to put together compelling proposals. If the students decide
to turn into entrepreneurs, this can be used to pitch investors.
A significant part of what the modern university provides is the
connection between alumni and industry and young people with
fresh ideas. Managing the funding and productization process of teams
deserves significant support.

Matriculation:
The goal of the system is to consistently produce students who
can work well in a modern software development environment on
peer level with their western counterparts. Experience working
with good tools, doing service work, and running start-ups is
all part of developing these skills in the individuals.


skills -

project management
- basecamp (37signals.com)
- hiveminder(.com)

source control
- svn or cvs

issue tracking
- bugzilla
- trac

database
- mySqL
- postgres

languages
- ruby
- php
- java
- javascript
- python
- perl

frameworks
- rails
- hibernate
- ...

design
- css
- html
- flash

ajax

os
- linux


resources:
- Teach yourself programming in 10 years
- How to be a Hacker
- Paul Graham - Great Hackers

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

gurukul

Im thinking about giving a talk at the upcoming pune barcamp about next generation education. I need to put something of a presentation by tomorrow evening.

Right now though, Im especially interested in past generation education - specifically the gurukul system, and how it might be applied today to provide modern education.

Im thinking that it takes clarity on the part of the teacher (aka. guru) about what they stand for. Since the gurukul method of teaching is much less structured than traditional classroom education, its less important to come up with a specific curriculum. Instead in the gurukul method the learning and guidance is transmitted by living together. Thru regular ongoing contact, the students are able to learn a great deal simply by observing the teacher, and the teacher can provide guidance to the students based on personal observation over time.

Because the teacher student relationship spans much more than just an hour of class time the nature of what is taught is much more holistic. The guru is basically transmitting a way of life to the students, not just a certain subject matter.

This is an important subject - how to live. By definition it touches all aspect of life. And while (also by definition) everyone knows how to live, very few people understand how to live sustainably. Communicating how to live sustainably, successfully, happily seems like a worthy endeavor. And its possible all it takes to get this going is to start with the confidence that as challenges and questions come up the information will be there to help navigate them.

This is what the guru provides, not all pervading knowledge, but the confidence to navigate the situations as they arise.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Structure for an Incubator

For my next trick, I plan to start an
incubator of sorts here in India. I see an
opprotunity to coach young hackers interested
in starting up to help prepare them for working
with Silicon Valley VCs or tech companies.

This is similar to how Paul Graham
pitches students on starting a company rather than taking an
internship with a large company for their
summer vacation.

Initially when people join they are entrepreneurs in
residence who research, prototype, and pitch
ideas within a few domains that look like high growth
fields.

Once a pitch solidifies with an idea and team behind it
we provide seed funding to take the team 6 months
to a year thru a public launch. During this time we
provide a great deal of mentorship encouraging people
to use the best development practices.

Since the most likely exit from the incubator is an
early stage acquisition, we need to build a reputation for
producing teams with strong development skills which can
integrate well with existing silicon valley based teams.
Starting and running an internet company has to be the
best training for learning how to work productively
in one, provided sufficient guidance is provided.

As teams mature and the winners net out, a small business
team can work the valley either filling out teams with
complimentary players in preparation for real venture
financing, or exploring partnership / acquisition opportunities
where we would bring well functioning teams with significant
experience in the emerging technologies du jour, some product IP,
and a user base to the table.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Capital Irrigation

when we think about connecting the next billion
people to the internet, its important to keep in
mind why those billion people want a connection.

buzzwords don't work in this conversation, if
the internet doesn't equate to some fundamental
need fairly directly its going to be hard to
convince another billion people why they want it.

so, it may be useful to talk about the internet
in terms of its ability to deliver money. how can
rural villagers tickle these pipes to make
money flow out of them.

some interesting sites which can be used to get
money out of the internet:

Amazon's Mechanical Turk
allows people to simply log on and start answering BPO
style questions on a web page. People can get additional
certifications which allow them to answer hire value questions.

Ether a personal call center
service lets individuals register themselves as experts in a
particular field and set the terms under which they are willing
to answer questions.

elance.com rentacoder.com odesk.com An increasing number
of sites helping individuals land jobs that can be performed
via the internet.

Kiva.org & prosper.com
let individuals apply for a loan to regular people on the Internet. Kiva is focused on microfinance and helping small entrepreneurs get started.

GlobalGiving.org lets NGO's submit
loan applications directly to the Internet.

DrishteeHaat.com EBay E-Commerce, DrishteeHaat is focused on
helping villagers sell crafts online.


---

Given the potential of the internet to be a source of capital for
its users, its worth examining the different business models Internet
Operators may use.

Freelance BPO / Call / Dev Center.
Now that individuals can connect with potential employers fairly
directly, there is a role for an upscale internet cafe type operation
which provides its users with an SLA which guarantees VOIP level
connectivity, and probably a dedicated virtual machine such that
they could setup their environment and store data in a secure persistant
way.

Internet Agent.
While the Dev Center is primarily concerned with enabling people
to actively earn money on the Internet, Internet agents simply represent
the internet to people working in the real world. So these would be
individuals familiar with the net and access to a connection possibly
as simple as a cell phone. They would talk with their customers and help
them represent themselves to the Internet. This could take the form of
selling goods via e-commerce, requesting a loan thru a service like kiva,
government assistance, or ngo assistance thru something like globalgiving.


***


I'm excited about the airjaldi(.com) coming up
in October. A number of friends are coming by
with interests in different aspects of the rural
internet equation. Its going to be lots of fun.

Laura Drewett & Ian Howard will be running a
workshop on Financial Engineering for rural
internet providers. I'm looking forward to it.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

happy

> have you ever wondered where you´re coming from?
> and why you are here?

the first half of last year
i basically sat around different
parts of india, wondering what
i was doing, what i wanted ...

i think its a particular neurosis
that comes from being free
and not having to worry about
basic necessities

i felt that if i couldn't figure out
in some sort of definitive way
what i wanted, then i wouldn't
know if i had it, and couldn't work toward it
in any kind of systematic way.

some things that came up for me:

i am still driven to create.
i want to make the world a better place
i want to be happy & healthy now
i dont want to sacrifice present health & happiness
for future dreams and ambition

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Vlogger In Residency Program

Its looking like im going to buy a flat in the San Mateo Ecovillage.
Its a gorgeous funky spot on the water in San Mateo. It just sorta seems
like too much my scene to pass up, even if I'm living in India.

http://www.greensolutions.org/smcc.htm

As I'm living in India tho, I don't really need a gorgeous funky spot
in silicon valley to live so I thought I would use it to support
Video Bloggers who are interested in useing their craft to make the world
a better place.

This idea is just being formed - I haven't even closed on the place yet,
but I think it looks likely enough that I put together a simple wiki

http://vloggerir.pbwiki.com/

and made alittle video intro
http://blip.tv/file/70482

Friday, September 01, 2006

Swajana

I've been working on this project for alittle while, and its beginning to bear fruit.
The basic concept is simply to use internet video to bring awareness to those parts of the world that need attention, and those people who are actively working to address the situations there.

My goal is to increase awareness of the diversity of people and lifestyles around the world, to evoke empathy for people living in remote areas by sharing their lives with people online, and to facilitate communication between the first and third worlds by providing very direct means for talking, giving, trading, lending, teaching.

The first project we've engaged is the dharmasala mesh network and conference http://airjaldi.org coming up in october. Videos are now available at http://swajana.blip.tv

Saturday, August 26, 2006

pallet racks

just made a pallet rack photoset on my flicker
http://www.flickr.com/photos/freeman/sets/72157594251251366/

and a talk on building a pallet rack university or living
structure on my videoblog http://freeman.blip.tv

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Against School

Against School

How public education cripples our kids, and why



This is an extremely good essay on compulsary education.

Education is definitely high on my list of areas
to address in the philanthropy I engage in.

In India I am routinely impressed by the intelligence
and vitality of the street children. Many children well
under 14 are holding down what seem to me serious jobs
with integrity and self respect. On numerous occasions
I have found myself negotiating on equal footing with an
8 year old about the cost of a wooden chess set or pair
of sandals.

A quick and wistfull sentiment I sometimes feel is
"wow, this kid is so smart, just imagine what he could
do if he went to school"

Im coming to believe that these kids may be so bright
and self assured compared with their american counterparts
because they don't spend their days in total boredom isolated
from any real (risky) interaction with the world.

I recently visited a school set up in a rural area here in India
where some very nice buildings had been constructed to provide
education to the local village children. The classrooms
were nice, the teachers seemed as competent as my own had been,
and watching them give sample lessons to the kids reminded me of
everything I hated about school.

As I engage in this process and try to 'help'
I need to be careful that I don't propogate some of the worst aspects
of my culture and background.

**
People at work talk about the gurukul system that used to be popular here
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gurukul

Monday, August 21, 2006

India Activity

india has some crazy potential.
1 billion people
600 - 700 million people still live in the villages
over 500 million people are under 25

in bombay there is a large population of well spoken
well educated people graduating from college in media
studies without specific prospects. typically they start
working in a BPO or call center for 10 - 15k rupees / month
(250$ - 350$) which is seen as a pretty good salary for someone
just out of college but has limitted opprotunities for
career advancement.

i have recently hired a couple of guys from these schools
to help me put together video blogs. they are very
excited as they can see the potential of internet TV to
change everything, and it is an opprotunity for them to be
a part of something very big.

the first vertical
we are going after is documenting the lives and works of people
dedicating themselves to service. http://swajana.blip.tv there are
many other ideas for videoblogs that we want to produce as we train
up a crew of people in the skills and culture necessary.

towards this i am trying to establish something like a node101
hub near the university district here in Pune, and then later in
central bombay where some of the larger schools are. this is
where the people working with me will operate from, and we
will also teach workshops on video blogging and other useful
technologies, and then recruit interns and eventually employees
to work with us.

so, in this way i think we can rapidly and inexpensively ramp
up a large population of cool kids trained in video production if
we can come up with vertical categories to produce video
blogs for that could generate at least enough thru advertizing
to cover our operating costs.


thru our ngo video blog project we have connected with a number
of interesting groups so far.

one is the digital studyhall project http://dsh.cs.washington.edu/
their goal is to produce a massive library of video education materials
that can be used to augment the inadequate education generally available
to the worlds poor. there is a massive amount of work to be done in this area.

another group we've met with is a very large ngo that was
started soon after independence by a friend of Gandhi. They
provide medical, educational and vocational services to villagers
around india.

they have a number of exciting projects going on focused around
three goals of teaching rural farmers sustainable and effecient
agriculture practices, developing non-farming employment in the
villages, and developing and educating the youth in the villages.

thru these objectives they hope to stem the flow of young people
from the relatively sustainable lifestyles in the villages to the extreme
poverty of the urban slums.

i have this notion that we may be able to train a large number
young people in bombay and pune to create video and basic
websites, and then connect them with different
villages where we can create videos of many stories out there
including documenting the history of the skilled artisans. we
would follow this up by developing simple ecommerce sites
enabling people to sell their crafts online.

i really like the idea of training the kids of people who came
to bombay to create video and work effectively with technology
and then sending them back to the villages to work on using
these skills to make money and improve the quality of life for
people there.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Microfinance - Rural Internet Kiosk Killer App

What started as a conversation about how to
enable would be rural internet operators apply
to the internet for start-up funding has broadened
into a larger conversation of how to train internet
operators to help members of their community submit
loan applications to online loan services like kiva.org.

Friday, July 14, 2006

more edu 2.0 ...

- videoblog training
make training videos for the web using all available
low cost technologies - esp. screencasting , but also
ppt presentations, and talking into the camera. develop
a standard format for this, which includes lecture, screencast,
and question and answer from the audience (probably asynchronous
online)

- blogging & forums, students should spend a substantial
amount of time blogging and answering questions on forums.
this will build up a reputation for them individual as well as for
the organization generally

- open source, the core technologies we work with are open source
contributing to these projects helps to establish us as experts in the
field, it also does alot for building up development process discipline,
and networking with high level people in the industry.

- probono, rentacoder, elance ...
fairly early in people's training they should start doing probono projects
for non-profits, and start to take very low paying jobs off of elance and
rentacoder. this will get people experience working on real projects.

- full price paying contracts

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Cyber cafe business potential untapped -Educational Centres

The Asianage (11/25/2005 10:43:55 PM)
Mumbai, Nov. 25: Cyber cafes in India have the potential to become the educational centres of our nation, said Mr R.N. Bhaskar, chairman, E-Convergence Technologies Ltd, at a seminar on Thursday on “cyber cafes future prospects and challenges.”

“While we have only 5,50,000 broadband connections, China has 30 million. Using cyber cafes for education can become big business with the advent of voice telephony and the increase in broadband connections in the nation,” he said.

With a major dearth of skilled teachers in the country and with only three per cent of the population having completed graduate study, cyber experts suggested the use of virtual education classes over broadband connections as an effective method in lowering the cost of education and in reaching out to rural villages. There are more than 1,05,000 cyber cafes in the country and cyber cafes were reported to be growing at 45 per cent annually.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

getting started

Brajeshwar whom i work with has some extra space in an office up in anderi, mumbai. Its already well wired and has computers, desks and some administrative support.

I've been working with Zack Rosen to set up a internship program for junior software developers in india to get experience working on Drupal. So far this has been a work from home project.

I am exploring with Brajeshwar the idea of doing something alittle more ambitious at his space in mumbai.

from a letter to zack:

my goals are to:
- actively improve the opensource codebase (and ancillary things like
testing and docs)
by having quality developers contribute to it.
- increase the number of open source developers
- increase the number of developers who are able to effectively
configure and deploy
drupal based websites
- create sites and provide support for ngo type organizations that
have worthy causes
but wouldn't necessarily have the skills or resources to build or
hire contractors to
build websites for them.


towards this i would like to hire a couple people to work on
civicspace full time.
this could be treated similarly as the summer of code trainings, only with the
expectation that this is an ongoing thing. additionally we might have a small
'class' of interns / students who would be going thru this as a
training process.

i would like them to:
- actively contribute to the codebase. possibly filling in holes that are hard
to get volunteer contributors to work on.
- provide training to other individuals and to create video training materials
helping people to understand how to use civicspace
- possibly as part of student projects provide support for non-profit
organizations
- eventually possibly opening up to do paid contract work



i would also like to establish a Node101 there. I feel the video production group is critical at all lecture / learning opprotunities. With people doing web development, software development, and video production for the web - we have a humble but sustainable beginning to a next generation technical institute.

capital irrigation

http://apiap.org

are cybercafes the technical institutes of tomarro ?
of today ?

apparently running a cybercafe in the developing world
isn't an especially lucrative business yet. in india the
average per hour rate for access is 15 rupees. ~ 27 cents.

education however is a big market. all the way down the
social stratosphere people are looking to gain technology
skills to help them rise out of poverty.

cybercafes have become very prevalent , even in very
impoverished areas.

if a concerted effort was made to produce video training materials
in the urban centers where there are a wealth of very educated and
technicaly trained people. this content could form the lecture base
to a very broad distributed educational system available wherever
cybercafes are.

to be maximally effective this should be developed into a program
in which a very large and explicit part of passing thru the system
was mentoring students younger in the program.

if structured correctly, this kind of thing could scale very largely
with minimal capital contribution, and would create tribes / clans
of people with experience working together.

this could also be tied to a system like mechanical turk , elance or
rentacoder which provides jobs that can be executed via the internet
such that an ecology is created in which the internet connection the
cafe operators bring in to a community are used both to deliver jobs
and the training necessary to perform them.

or more succinctly:
for those able to speak its language
the internet connection becomes a hose which spews money

think of it as capital irrigation

edu 2.0 part II

a supportive space for developers and apprentices
on open source projects to gather and ply their trade.


here are the rough categories i feel are important to developers
coming of age right now, especially in developing areas like india.

video & media production : fcp / premiere / ...
design : photoshop / flash ...
web development : flash / css / dreamweaver / ...
content management : civicspace / sugarcrm / ...
development : php / ruby / java / javascript / ajax ...
frameworks : rails / hibernate / dojo ...
database : mysql / postres ...
sysadmin : linux
networking : wifi / mesh / traditional ...
financing : ...
ecommerce : ...
logistics & import / export : ...

an interesting excersize is to go thru this list
and look for existing foundations which serve these
spaces now

video: node101, pixelcorps.com
cms: civicspace.org
ajax: dojo foundation
frameworks: apache foundation
database: ...

please let me know suggestions for others.


note:
video blogging is especially important to the mix
as the video people can create training videos from the experiences
of everyone else learning how to use their respective technologies.
this increases visibility for the vertical "expert", the videographer,
and also adds to the global knowledgebase, helping other people pick
up the technology easier.

edu 2.0

i've been thinking about what a university
or technical institute should look like in a web 2.0
world in which internet connectivity is given.

certification, long a major impediment to independent training
institutes seems less important in an era of google an ego surfing.

so, that aspect of training which is focused on helping you to
land a job (as contrasted with perform a job) could / should be
devoted to helping students develop online credible profiles which
demonstrate competence in the areas claimed by the resume with links
to actual code - ideally in use in popular open source systems.

long term involvement with the larger open source projects could
be invalueable to the aspireing technical worker. possibly most
importantly by immersing the student in a strict development process
in which the user experiences the interpersonal protocols surrounding
development on large scale software projects.

in an ideal scenario students would also receive meaningful feedback from
very senior people on the team which would do wonders for improving
the quality of code they were producing. These mentors could also become
references and possibly sources of jobs.

it may also lead to a scene in which the distinction between a persons
'student life' and 'work life' became less distinct and one in which the
bonds between groups of individuals who liked to work together became
stronger and longer lasting than the ties to the corporate funding structure
du jour.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Tech & Social Service - conferences

http://www.sims.berkeley.edu/ictd2006/ 5/25 - 5/26
ICTD2006 is a multidisciplinary forum for academic researchers
designing information and communication technologies for developing
economies.

http://barcamp.org/WineCamp 5/26 - 5/28
An ad-hoc gathering that brings together the best of the old world and
the new... wine, non-profits and geeks!

http://www.netsquared.org/conference 5/30 - 5/31
The Net Squared conference will bring a dynamic mix of international
leaders in emerging technology, politics and philanthropy together to
discuss the future of tech enabled social change work.

Monday, May 15, 2006

connecting the next 2 billion people

this weekend at barcamp(mumbai) was my own personal tipping point
in wanting to start puting something into action reguarding using
the internet to revitalize rural communities around india.

I've talked to a number of super bright people who also want to
do things in this area, so I figured it was time to push towards
defining a plan of action and working capital once thats established.

below are some thoughts that have been circulating in my head.
I'd love any help towards taking this in the direction of a concrete
plan we could execute and finance. I'd also appreciate any links
people could share of similar projects in existence or being planned

thanks

freeman

--------

i'd like to use the internet to bring jobs,
education, communication and general
vitality into rural areas.

my sense is that to do this we need to
define what services can be provided more
cheaply & effectively to these regions via the
internet than via other means.

one big area is media & education.
if we assume that via some low cost networking
solution we can deliver rich videos and other media,
then we can produce or distribute training or entertainment
out thru this channel. the content might even be relayed to
people via the local cable operator or local fm radio transmitter.

another big area is jobs. if we can make people aware of the
jobs that are available either BPO style working via the internet,
or by providing internet services to their local communities, AND
we can provide them the training (and potentially the financing)
to help execute this. thats a big win.

there are a variety of other services we may be able to provide
microcredit, e-government, email & voicemail, ....

I am interested in defining a systematic plan for how to role
this out. This will include setting up a local media center where
we produce a great deal of training and news type video materials,
as well as a program for how we actually train people and deploy
them into different villages to work on getting connectivity established,
facilitateing local training, producing some local media, and maybe
conducting commerce on behalf of the local communities.

a goal I would like to meet is to submit a proposal to newventuresindia
by june 30 so they will consider us for financing and mentoring in their
2006 round.

using the internet to deliver jobs and training to rural communities around
the world is cool enough that i believe we just need to come up with a
plausible plan for how to go about it to get the financial and political support
we need.

links -
new ventures india - application guidelines
http://www.newventuresindia.org/nvi/Content/index.jsp

high bandwidth high latency internet
http://unitedvillages.com
http://dsh.cs.washington.edu/postmanet_paper/

Thursday, April 20, 2006

unfortunately freeman

I saw this on the web somewhere. Type 'Unfortunately (your name)' into google and see what comes back.

Unfortunately Freeman is a convicted felon, convicted of armed robbery in 1974 and paroled in 1979.

Unfortunately, Freeman was forced to part with the "old me" until her husband's alcoholism and abusive behavior finally ended in his being committed to the ...

Unfortunately she met doctor Freeman in the 1950's and he convinced her to have a lobotomy.

Unfortunately, Freeman's arrangement smooths out the rhythm, mutes the accents and induces Osborne to deliver a bland vocal with none of the passion

Friday, March 03, 2006

Dying in America

I was talking with a friend from Russia about how her grandparents died. She said they just died. One of her grandfathers died in his sleep, another had cancer of some kind that made it impossible to eat.



They took him to the hospital. The hospital said they could do nothing. So, they brought him home, and he died a “relatively” slow death. It took about 3 weeks and was uncomfortable. On the upside, all the family was there and he was well cared for.



My grandma on my mom’s side also cannot eat. It’s not cancer. I want to call it old age (she’s 93), but maybe that’s unfair. I know not too long ago her stomach was sucked into her esophagus. She had surgery to fix this, but I don’t think she has been able to swallow since. Grandma is Italian, all my life she has been feeding me.



When the doctors explained the problem to my mom, she talked to my grandma and said something like, “Momma, there’s something wrong with your throat so you can’t swallow anymore. Either the doctors put a tube directly into your stomach and feed you with a machine, or you starve to death over the next few days.” My grandma said, “I guess I’ll take the machine”.



She is in a convalescent hospital now. She sleeps most of the time. The machine is always there, pumping “Fiber Blend” into her stomach every 15 seconds.



My grandpa is with her. It is nice they are together.



When people talk about dying in their sleep, my understanding is this is usually from heart failure. My grandpa had a small heart attack in his late 60’s, and another in his late 70’s. A computerized sales call hitting his bedside at 3am caused the second attack.



In his early 80’s, the doctors put him on medication to thin his blood, or slow down his heart, or something like that to help prevent more attacks. The effect was to put him to sleep for the great majority of the next couple of years.



One day a substitute doctor saw my granddad and was appalled at all his medications. He promptly cancelled most of them. Overnight grandpa woke up and rejoined the family.



Several years went by, and one night when he was 88 or so grandma got worried when he did not come back to the easy chair after getting up to go to the bathroom. Grandma wandered through the house looking for him. She found him in a stupor, sitting on the bedroom floor.



She called 911. The ambulance came and took them to the hospital. The doctor talked to my mom around 3am. He told her that grandpa had suffered a heart “event”, his brain was starved for oxygen for some amount of time, it was unclear how much damage had been done, his heart beat was erratic, and if they didn’t put in a pacemaker he would probably die that night.



My mom had them put in the pacemaker.



He is a favorite at the convalescent hospital. Physically he is relatively mobile, and he is gracious and charming. He did lose something that night. One time I came to visit wearing a red Che Guevara sweatshirt with a star on the front. My hair was very short after shaving my dreadlocks off a month before. Grandpa called me admiral, shook my hand and let me know how much he appreciated my visiting him while I was on leave, and asked me where I was stationed now – about 20 times.



Grandma and Grandpa were working class folks. People complain about the Teamsters, but the union was nothing but good for my grandparents. They weren’t rich but they received good pensions working in the canning and bottling mills of Canada Dry and Schlitz. They spent their money frugally, saving a little each month. Altogether, they managed to save around $150,000 by the time things got bad and they had to move into the convalescent home.



Each month costs them around $11,000. They have been there close to a year, and will exhaust their life savings probably by June. I don’t know what this looks like. Grandpa can go to the VA hospital. Grandma?



My grandma on my father’s side was bedridden ten years, the last three in a skilled nursing facility before passing away. She was hooked to oxygen for much of her last years, and slept most of the time. I remember talking with my mom about this when her mom and dad started having a hard time. Both of them had signed documents that said “Do Not Resuscitate” and “No Life Support”.



At the time these phrases seemed clear, but as we go thru this process I realize that the actual problems people face as they die are generally more gradual and complex. And at 3am when decisions need to be made no one is checking through documents. They are asking the nearest loved one questions like, “Should we save your father’s life?”