In those days…

30 04 2016

CascadeMountainsBecause I live up here out of town in unincorporated King County…at night I hear frogs, and bats, and the wind howling off the mountains. Sometimes when it rains, the rain comes in sideways and I better have closed my bedroom window. Sometimes on a clear early morning, I see the Cascades. The part I see isn’t high enough to have snow year ’round, but mountains are synonymous with majesty for a reason. I miss wilderness. When I was young, I remember outhouses, and all the creepy crawly things I imagined in the dark.

In Houston, a friend of the family built his own house out in the woods. I would go sleep over, and we would hear a mountain lion yowl, or a black bear snuffling in the night. The windows were small, and high, and the frames were thick and strong. Come morning, “Now don’t you children go outside without an older boy and a gun.” I was 5. That land is a suburb now, deep in the heart of Houston.

My parents would sit outside in the summer dusk with cigarettes and highballs, laughing at me as I walked on the grass to keep away from all the frogs that came out to warm themselves on the sidewalk. But there was also the DDT truck, moving slowly down the street in the evening, spraying poison in the air to kill mosquitoes.

My father had a massive heart attack when I was 3. He almost died…no one understood why he didn’t. Children weren’t allowed, so at night the nurses would sneak me in through the side door. Once, because of car trouble, we didn’t go. They killed an enormous copperhead lurking in the shadows by the door that night.

Now there is so much concrete. But I can see the mountains.

How To Not Be Unhappy

23 03 2016



“For me, curiosity is a helpful trait. What happens next? How will the future unfold? That helps to keep me going.”  Ben Bova

I was sitting around, drinking, moping, and complaining. I was trying to figure out when I would die. I was living like I would die tomorrow. My brother Ronnie died suddenly last year. My best friend Dink fell over dead. I have three other friends who just up and died. My worst fear was a stroke, being trapped inside my body.

Renowned writer Ben Bova is a friend. He wrote a book on immortality. He introduced me to immortality researchers. Science can now replace the telomerase, the endcap on our DNA strands. These deteriorate as we age. Science used to think the deterioration had something to do with avoiding cancer. But they have restored the telomerase in rats, and the rats got younger, and did not get cancer. We are so close.

Look at Jimmy Carter. He was dying of cancer. They used gene therapy on him. His cancer is gone, 100 effing percent gone. Gene therapy only works in 20% of the cases, but when it works…it really works! And there are many more new cancer treatments.

Every day we live, the odds of living longer increase. As Ben says, if you can live to be 100 or 200, imagine where science will be.

We’re almost there. Nanotechnology lets us store 3 terabytes on a drive the size of your thumbnail. Now there are  nanobots that can create new nanobots so small we couldn’t produce them without…well, nanobots. Nanotechnology is the true future of immortality. That and stem cells. Soon, stem cells will be used to grow a new prostate, a new heart!

I read short science articles daily. I read Flipboard on my phone.

There is great hope. I believe, Gulley Foyle, in The Stars My Destination, was looking for evidence of hope. He didn’t need the hope, he just needed to know it existed.

Now, how to change the attitude? Your computer has ROM chips, read-only-memory. What’s written there, stays there.

The amygdala is a very old part of your brain. Among other things, it records threats. You’re walking through the jungle. You see a snake. Before you can make a conscious decision, your amygdala has you jump back. Then your conscious brain takes over, and sees it was just a stick. This is why people develop fear of flying, and various other phobias. Something bad happens once, and that old reptile brain amygdala records it as a threat and you are done.

But the amygdala can be re-written. It takes patience and repetition. So I took something very simple. The Constitution of the United States of America guarantees us the right to pursue happiness. It does not guarantee happiness.

Many of us, me included, mistake the lack of happiness for unhappiness. We want happiness, damn it! Where’s my happiness?

Some weeks ago, I made the decision to settle for not-unhappiness. I’ll be happy if the Seahawks win the Super Bowl, or I get a bonus check, or I see an old friend. Happiness is not a constant state. Chinese Traditional Medicine has a treatment for too much happiness.

I constantly lived in a state of unhappiness, mainly because I wasn’t happy all the time. I found new reasons to be unhappy. I would wake up in the morning and wish I was dead so I wouldn’t have to go to work and face a difficult problem. Many, many times, I lay in bed in the morning, facing despair. I was an unhappiness generator. I threw out unhappiness all over the place. I criticized everything. I agreed with those who already were unhappy. The easiest solution—alcohol.

That was not working, so, I decided to rewrite my amygdala using positive feedback. I’m sick? So what? That too shall pass. Every time I found myself in a position to moan about poor little me, I changed it. Even if I griped about being ill, I added on at the end…”But my attitude is still great.”

I told people I was changing. I told myself 100 times a day that things were okay, and I would be fine. Through repetition, I am reprogramming my amygdala to accept not-unhappiness. And it is working. Never stop. Not for a second. I still wake up sometimes, like now when I’m sick, and think “Why should I go on?” And I stop that cursed thought right there. I am not unhappy. I AM NOT UNHAPPY. And it’s working. I swear to God, it is working! And when you stop being unhappy, your health improves.

One of my mentors, George Carl Ball, used to ask, “Who ever said you have to be happy?”

Repetition, repetition, repetition. What I say three times is true. “I’m not unhappy, I’m not unhappy, I’m not unhappy…”now say it one hundred times…one thousand times.

“My grandfather always told me, ‘Tom you get what you look for in life. Look for good things, you will find them. If you look for bad things you will find them too; it won’t make you happy.'”  Tom Doherty


From The Hunting of the Snark by Lewis Carroll

Fit the First


“Just the place for a Snark!” the Bellman cried,

As he landed his crew with care;

Supporting each man on the top of the tide

By a finger entwined in his hair.

“Just the place for a Snark!  I have said it twice:

That alone should encourage the crew.

Just the place for a Snark!  I have said it thrice:

What I tell you three times is true.”











20 11 2011

When I was a kid hanging around the drugstore, reading comics off of the wire spinner rack, the old men there, at the fountain, would give anyone a hard time who asked for mayonnaise on their hamburger. “Sissyburger” one of them would declare in mock disgust. Well, I wasn’t a sissy, “Put mustard on mine! Please. Ma’am. Thank you.”

Of course, home alone, as a child, were I to suddenly be seized about the throat by hunger and no nearby emergency mom present with a remedy, I made a simple sandwich. Mayo…well, not really, pseudo-mayo plus sugar means Miracle Whip. Miracle Whip…in Texas we pronounced it more like “murkul”…Murkul Whip on white bread. I would always eat the crust off first, and no one was around to see me eating some kind of sissy sandwich.

As I grew older and my palate matured, “Why of course I will have aioli with my sprouts, toma-a-a-to and avo-ca-a-a-do on whole wheat, old egg. What else?” Then tragedy struck, I was pronounced allergic to dairy and to…EGGS? No way man, no effing way am I NOT eating eggs. But I stopped. And now I travel.

Maoynnaise, that classy old French dressing, is ubiquitous. I travel, a lot. And, in a non-scientific poll of myself…”Hey, Chadao! How often do you encounter sandwiches, in your extensive travels, old bean…how often do you find mayo on a sandwich? Or aioli in the classier joints?”

Chadao: “Nine out of ten times.” So, there you have it folks, in modern America (Murka in Texan) nine out of every ten sandwiches are dressed with mayonnaise or some variation thereof. And me with my allergies. You know, having food allergies is kind of sissy-like…but, for me, make mine mustard. And not that old French’s yaller (yellow), but good old backwoods Texas Dijon. Ha, none of those sissyburgers for me, no siree, and yes, I would like the sweet potato fries, thank you, ma’am.

Come the Singularity

2 11 2011


Robert X. Cringely

Some interesting thoughts from Robert X. Cringely:

“How do you educate yourself to deal with the changes in your business knowing that whatever you do is going to be replaced by a computer sometime in the future?  First concentrate on the structural parts of any enterprise that are likely to never go away, computers or no: 1) finance; 2) marketing; 3) production or service…

“Jaron Lanier once told me that you can have enough money, enough power, but you can never have enough experience, so I plan to give my kids as much experience as they can handle, keeping in mind the fact that even post-Singularity it may still matter more who you know than what you know.

“Live in the coolest place, I tell Cole [Cringely’s son] and his brothers. Have the coolest friends. Do the coolest things. Learn from everything you do. Be open to new opportunities. And do something your father hasn’t yet figured how to do, which is every few years take off 138 days and just walk the Earth.”


I thoroughly enjoy Cringely’s blog:


What is the Singularity?

I Don’t Care If I Never Get Back…

14 07 2011

“…Ten thousand eyes were on him as he rubbed his hands with dirt;
Five thousand tongues applauded when he wiped them on his shirt.
Then while the writhing pitcher ground the ball into his hip,
Defiance gleamed in Casey’s eye, a sneer curled Casey’s lip….”

 from “Casey at the Bat” by Ernest Lawrence Thayer

 I travel…on business, a lot. So how did I spend my Fourth of July holiday? I traveled. Off to Chicago, or rather, to the village of Glen Ellyn, specifically, a former place of residence. I spent the Fourth with long-time good friends and the next generation.

 It was a swell trip, with barbecues and great conversation mixed with good food and wine. The weather was hot and muggy, but what should one expect in the dead of summer in Illinois?

 The fireflies were delightful, or would have been were the Chicago mosquitoes a tad less aggressive and blood-thirsty.

 There was an old-timey Fourth of July parade in Glen Ellyn including ancient fire trucks, horses, bag pipers, tumblers, twirlers, and cheerleaders. Ha, and a drachma of politicians.

 I saw the interior of a Frank Lloyd Wright house for the first time…built in 1911, where we held a potluck on Fourth-night, just before the fireworks began.

 And, with my pal George, now Uncle George, I went to watch the Cubbies play. We brought along two of George’s nephews: Alex and Dexter. The younger of the two had only attended a baseball game or three in his entire life.

 Uncle George had the brilliant idea of teaching the youths (youts?) how to score a game.

 We hopped on the Chicago Northwestern train and headed east toward Lake Michigan and Wrigley Field. The train was jam-packed on the day before the Fourth and our party was separated.

 Now, I’m not saying George is gregarious, but he could make friends in a graveyard. By the time we reached Ogilvie Station, George had met an octogenarian headed for A Taste of Chicago. This fellow provided us with explicit instructions for getting to Wrigley Field.

 We boarded the underground, and as it steamed toward Wrigley, each stop brought more and more passengers festooned in baseball finery. This was not just any old game, it was an intra-city rivalry, the Cubs against the White Sox, and feelings ran high.

 The last couple of stops, the train became so packed that the heat and lack of air brought on a momentary hallucination…I was in Tokyo at rush hour and white-gloved workers packed us in tighter and tighter until we could not breathe…pant, pant, pant, and then the doors opened and the train expelled us into the street where we joined the thronging thousands treading toward one of the finest baseball stadiums in the world.

 Wrigley is famous for its ivy-covered outfield walls. And beyond sat small apartments. When I had lived in Chicago in the 1970’s, folks used to watch the game from the apartments, holding small baseball parties. Now, bleachers sat atop each apartment and spectators paid for the privilege.

 Our seats were terrific, just behind the White Sox dugout on the first base line. . Low clouds blocked the sun and made the weather nicely warm.

 An ancient couple sat in front of us, regular Cubs fans for many, many years. Several rows in front of them sat three rowdies, White Sox fans in enemy territory, daring the Cubbies to try something. The ushers spent much time keeping these fellows in hand.

 After a fine rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner and America the Beautiful, the game began. The pitching was excellent. It was a tight game, one hit here, another there. Cubs fans and White Sox lovers jeered at one another and the game rose to a fever pitch.

 Finally, the Cubbies strung several hits together and pulled ahead 3 to nil. The Sox fans were silent, and sullen. A low muttering ran counterpoint to the cheering Cubs fans.

 Then came a signal moment. The Cubs starter was removed, having only given up two hits and zero runs. In came the beloved and much-injured fireball-hurling reliever…Kerry Woods. Oh ho, the tumult rose.

 But Woods was not the Woods of old, and a White Sox batter was on base. Next up was the aging Sox star, Paul Konerko, who was injured. Konerko in to pinch hit, fought off pitch after pitch and drove Woods out of the game.

 Tension rose…3-1 with the tying runs on base. Everyone stood. The rowdies were raucous and the din shook old Wrigley Field. But the new Cubs’ reliever held his ground and erased the threat.

 The Cubs had won, salvaging one single win from their cross-town rivals. The sun was shining and there WAS joy in Mudville on this very day.

 Baseball’s Sad Lexicon: Tinker to Evers to Chance

 These are the saddest of possible words:
“Tinker to Evers to Chance.”
Trio of bear cubs, and fleeter than birds,
Tinker and Evers and Chance.
Ruthlessly pricking our gonfalon bubble,
Making a Giant hit into a double –
Words that are heavy with nothing but trouble:
“Tinker to Evers to Chance.”

By Franklin Pierce Adams
New York Evening Mail July 10, 1910

Aloft withToots and a Kindle

25 02 2011

Xavier Cugat far Left

“Cuanto Le Gusta le gusta le gusta le gusta le gusta …Someone said they just came back from somewhere, a friend of mine that I don’t even know. He said there’s lots of fun if we can get there, if that’s the case… that’s the place, the place we want to go. We got to get going, where’re we going, what are we going to do, we’re on our way to somewhere, the three of us and you…”


As the snows reluctantly recedes—although the Midwest is once more beset and it is also snowing, albeit lightly, at my destination—I board an aeroplane again and become an harbinger of spring. The robins fly north every spring and I fly to the east coast.
New York City beckons in the east as Toots Thielemans performs “La Vie En Rose” on the mouth organ via my iPod. For lovers of science fiction, modern travel lends itself to the joys of high tech toys. Music from said iPod, blog posts written on a Lenovo Ideapad netbook (I mention the brand because it is so far superior to my two previous travel-computers—first was an Asus EEE which I still hate although it is long out of my life. The second was an Acer which performed well enough but whose death was only slightly preceded by the expiration of its warranty. The Lenovo functions wonderfully for having the slow Intel Atom processor. I upgraded the RAM to the allowable max of 2 gig, upgraded the execrable Windows 7 Basic to the very nice Home Premium, mais voila—a nice, light-weight travel companion for a small output of spondulicks.).
Now Toots is hitting it with “Hymne á l’amour” whilst visions of Kindles dance in my head. The Kindle III (WiFi only) came into my life late in the year of 2010. As with many unions, especially those involving extra-species (I promised my Martian son I would not speak of his mother, the Shenga joint bar maid in old Jekkara.) the beginning was not smooth.
My Kindle misbehaved on a regular basis, finally rebooting every five minutes on the last air excursion of the previous year. So I turned it in for another, but the bad behavior continued and I began to wonder what sort of relationship I had gotten myself into. Late one evening just after my Kindle had rebooted yet again, in despair, I began to yearn for a Nook and I dreamt of holding it near. Then, I remembered a technician asking about the Kindle cover which I had purchased. It actually inserted two prongs into the Kindle body. I disconnected my device from the cover and it began to function perfectly! A call to Amazon—they would not say there were cover problems, but they did not argue and allowed me to acquire a lighted cover at no cost.


Kindle III

Since, my Kindle and I are inseparable. We go everywhere together. She…I mean IT, reads to me as I drive to and from work. She It is not very musical, but the light works quite well and we cuddle in bed late at night and read books.
Now, airborne, I have listened to a book—Sten Book 1 by Cole and Bunch, a rousing science fiction adventure, I sold the book when it first came out. I was working for Warner Communications in those days and we distributed Del Rey. I used to bug Owen Lock constantly, “When’s the next Sten book coming?

Judy-Lynn & Lester Del Rey

Judy-Lynn used to send me photocopies of manuscripts of my favorite authors…” Owen was so nice and I loved the Chinese books he produced for Ballantine.—Today I have read bits of three books: Pathfinder by O.S. Card, several Clovis stories from H.H. Munro (Saki), “Fenimore Cooper’s Literary Offences” by one Samuel Clemens; I have used the OED which comes loaded on the Kindle, and I read a manuscript from a friend of a friend so that I might critique it. Glorioski but I do love my little burnt-orange-clad darling. Kindle, this blog’s for you.

Ha, couldn’t find Xavier but here’s his protege, Charo:

Reflections on a Hot Bath #1

12 12 2010

Japanese Macaques

Sitting IN a hot bath–When one stands or sits or moves in meditation, the sensation, the very first hint of the presence of qi is a feeling…in the fingertips. “Your qi is flowing.”

Western science says this sensation is the direct result of extended study. One of the foundations of internal martial arts is relaxation–Song (See “Everybody Wants Peng” When, through diligent practice, the proper amount of relaxation is achieved, a sensation is detected. Tingling or perhaps warmth is felt in the fingertips. This means the very smallest capillaries in the fingers are opening up, perhaps for the first time of years, and blood is filling them.

This is qi. Sublime relaxation.

When one steps into an excrutiatingly hot bath, a similar phenomenon occurs. But this is a sort of capillary rape. The hot water rips them open and blood rushes in. The sensation is a mixture of pain and pleasure and a mild sadness follows once the capillaries have achieved their maximum dialation.

What is qi? There are many answers and probably most of them are right. But be aware the next time you bathe.