Jan. 18, 2009
The child you think you don't want
is the one who will make you laugh.
She will break your heart
when she loses the sight in one eye
and tells the doctor she wants to be
an apple tree when she grows up.
It will be this child who forgives you
again and again
for believing you don't want her to be born,
for resisting the rising tide of your body,
for wishing for the red flow of her dismissal.
She will even forgive you for all the breakfasts
you failed to make exceptional.
Someday this child will sit beside you.
When you are old and too tired of war
to want to watch the evening news,
she will tell you stories
like the one about her teenaged brother,
your son, and his friends
taking her out in a canoe when she was
five years old. How they left her alone
on an island in the river
while they jumped off the railroad bridge.
It's the birthday of the physician and lexicographer Peter Mark Roget, (books by this author) born in London, England (1779). He was a working doctor for most of his life, but in his spare time he invented a slide rule and a method of water filtration that is still in use today. And he wrote papers on a variety of topics, including the kaleidoscope and Dante. He was a contributor to the early Encylopaedia Britannica.
He was 61 years old, and had just retired from his medical practice, when he decided to devote his retirement to publishing a system of classifying words into groups, based on their meanings. And that became the Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases, published in 1852. The word "thesaurus" means "treasury" in Greek.
At the last minute, Roget decided to include an index. That index, which helped readers find synonyms, made Roget's thesaurus one of the most popular reference books of all time.
It's the birthday of Bill Keller, the executive editor of The New York Times, born in Palo Alto, California (1949), the son of an oil executive. He joined the Times in 1984 as a Washington correspondent and soon became a foreign correspondent. He moved to Moscow, where he worked 16-hour days. But he loved Russia, and he and his wife, Ann Cooper, adopted a Russian orphan.
In 1988, Bill Keller covered the deadly earthquake in Armenia, and he received the Pulitzer Prize for that reporting. He was given a lucrative book contract with a big advance, but he was never able to finish the book, and he had to pay back the advance to the publisher.
He moved to Johannesburg as a foreign bureau chief for the Times. He loved being a reporter. But after covering the fall of communism in the Soviet Union and the fall of apartheid in South Africa, he wasn't sure what more he could do as a foreign correspondent that could be as satisfying. So he accepted a job as an editor, back in New York.
He took over as executive editor in 2003 from Howell Raines, who resigned after two years during a period of scandal at the Times. Bill Keller said that on the day he was appointed, he looked around the newsroom and felt "like somebody had just handed you the keys to a Jaguar."
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®