25 Random Things about Me
Friday the 13th, March 2009

1) I'm having a hard time with life these days, sometimes.  Most things are excellent, ya know, but there's so much turmoil and dashed hopes that it can bring me down.  Why won't they listen to me?!  Also, I can't keep up with everything, like I've got so many friends who I wish I could see every day, but I don't, and countless projects that are left unfinished or even worse unstarted.  I want to do it all, see it all, taste it all.  Sometimes the tension of possibilities and limitations drives me to despair.  Sometimes, though, the o'erbrimming of my life fills me with indescribable joy.  Go figure.

2) I am NEVER bored.  When all else fails, I always have a puzzle in my head that I can work on to occupy any unoccupied moments.  For instance, a friend gave me a logic puzzle that's been bugging me now for weeks, and in fact I'm going to stop typing this for a few minutes and think about that puzzle instead.

3) I shouldn't drink so much.

4) My heart remains wanting.  Though I have so much, I want more.  It's maddening ... pleasantly, deliciously maddening.

5) Right now as I type this the sunset air is oddly peachy and orange, the glow all around me is peachy orangey weird, it feels weirdly weird, and I'm feeling naked writing plainly about myself like this, but I'm going to keep going.

6) I've written 1.5 books so far.  The first one is pretty good, but not great.  Not yet.  It still needs lots of work, and I want to totally rewrite the ending.  I'm halfway through a second book.  The second one is a big arms-wide extravaganza with an international cast of characters, with love and sex and explosions and a treasure that may or may not exist, and a big big finale!  It will be a huge commercial success when I finish it, I'm sure ... but is it art?

Here's a dark secret about me:  I chickened out about being an author.  I always wanted to write books, and intended, when I was younger, to try to do that for a living.  I was filled with self doubt, though.  I feared that I would be condemning myself to a "starving artist" life.  When I discovered that I could be a computer scientist and get paid well for it, well, I bailed.  These days, all around me I have friends who live the starving artist life, and they are among the happiest people I know.  I feel I cheated myself.

7) After the end of one of my most stressful jobs, some of my best friends pushed at me really hard until I finally agreed to take some serious time away from the grind before starting another gig.  I did it.  I was faithful to my commitment and I took off for 6 whole months, far away from everything that had been.  After 6 months I came back to find that those friends had moved on with their lives, and the friendship we had had together was gone.  And it never came back.

8) I love to cook.  I love to make meals for people to eat.  I intensely enjoy the act of serving homemade food to people I love.  The cooking is art, but the making of meals, making food for us, and the serving of food to us, well, that's something deeper.  I don't know how deep, exactly; I'm sure a psychiatrist would have a field day with this.  I love to serve.  I think it's tied somehow to my profound love of children.

9) I love children.  All kids are good.  The beauty of a baby is almost unbearable to me.

10) Soup is my favorite thing to make, by the way.  I used to have a plaque in my kitchen that read, "De sopa y el amor, la sopa es mejor."  Of soup and love, soup is better.

11) My life has a strange emptiness to it now that the kids are mostly gone.  I talk with them plenty but they're going off to have lives of their own, and the noise and bustle of them here, underfoot, is reduced to the chaos of one kid now...and he ain't so noisy, and doesn't get underfoot very much.  I didn't think it would bother me, but surprise! it bothers me.  On the other hand, I had a video call with my daughter in Rome while I was in Tokyo, so that aspect of my life with my kids is getting pretty interesting.  And the one punk at home, I had a video call with him too, and swung my portable around so he could see Tokyo outside my window while we talked.  Pretty nifty!

12) But don't get all soft listening to me wax on about kids.  Remember my three most important rules for a happy life:  Whatever you do, no kids, no spouses, and no pets!

13) It's really weird how orange the world has become around me.  It's getting darker now, like a burnt melon, and streaks of odd blue are appearing where the clouds above are slashed open.  Sorta like my life, in a way.

14) I was wondering about the meaning of the phrase "J'ai guru de va om" from the Beatles song "Across the Universe" so I decided to do an online search, and I found some interesting but ultimately unsatisfying answers, so I decided to post my own helpful answer:

"J'ai" is French for "I had".

"Guru" has the same roots as "heavenly father" but actually refers to the metaphysical "Philosophy Sandwich" popularized by Nietzsche and often abbreviated as "Philly".

"Om" is the 20th century version of the current "Homes" meaning "A friend who is from my home area" as in "Sup homes?"

So altogether "J'ai guru de va om" means "I had a Philly sandwich to go, my friend."

I am available for other translation jobs, if you need help.

15) We got a new puppy into the fambly.  He's a little wiener dog, and as of this writing we have not yet settled on a name.  He's a bit too young to be neutered yet, so he's still "intact," and man is he a randy little doggie.  We've got two other dogs, a medium-sized spaniel and a large golden retriever.  The large retriever is too big for this new little wiener dog, but the old guy, our old English Springer spaniel, seems to be just right for the--ahem--attentions of the little wiener.  I have proposed that we call him "Humpy."  He humps and humps again and again at our ol' spaniel, who is mostly patient but does snap back now and then.  When the old guy snaps it puts Humpy off for a second, but then a second later, humpy humpy humpy.  The spaniel looks at me with these lugubrious eyes ...  but every once in a while I catch a hint of pride in those eyes.  He's thinking:  At 15, I still got it.

16) I am thinking about learning to play the cello.  Yes, it's true.  What inspires me to fly off on these tangents?  I wish I knew.  It's in my soul.

17) Speaking of souls ... I consider the vast bigness of the universe and I am in awe.  There are a hundred billion galaxies in the universe, and each galaxy has a hundred billion stars.  The number of stars is almost unthinkable.  But much more awesome than the number of stars is this fact:  The number of stars is finite.  The "universe" is finite.  The universe has a limit.  If you could freeze the universe, then (within a certain amount of uncertainty) you could count all the electrons in the universe.  There is only so much stuff, and no more, and probably there never will be more.

The scientist in me can believe that I am nothing more special than a grouping of electrons, that all of life, all human beings, the whole universe, it's all only electrons (OK OK, quarks and leptons).  There is no soul, no profound meaning, nothing more special than organized arrangements of matter and energy, and our consciousness is nothing more than lucky zaps of electricity.

But I simply can't believe that.  There are two things that keep me from accepting that bleakest of all perspectives.  First, I can't bring myself to believe that this whole unimaginably huge universe is just dumb stuff and nothing more.  It seems too big, too involved, to be only hourglass sand.

More than that, the finite nature of the universe begs the question:  What else is there?  The true nature of existence includes this universe, but because this universe is finite I believe that "everything" must include other stuff too, stuff outside our universe.  Other universes, maybe, or ... well, I don't know what, but more than only this.

We may be only electrons, or we may have a soul.  We may be the children of God, or we may be just a bubble in some kid's science experiment.  Whatever it is, I believe there is something more than us alone.  And I believe that the real truth of existence lies somewhere in that direction.

18) I use tape on my iPhone.  Heh heh.  This modern device has a vibrate mode switch on the side that I always manage to flick to the On position when I shove the phone in my pocket, which causes me to miss calls.  My solution: a small piece of tape keeps the switch turned off.  Heh heh, I use tape on my fancy iPhone.  A year ago I dropped my portable computer by accident and though it survived the fall the corner was smashed and a sharp fang of plastic and metal stuck out of the side.  I used duct tape to hold in the fang.  My computer was held together with tape, and now my phone is too.  Civilization marches forward, but it could go nowhere without tape.  As a wise person once observed:  If duct tape didn't solve your problem, you didn't use enough duct tape.

19) I have a recycle pocket.

Many years ago, when I was a teenager, I was madly in love with the older sister of my best friend.  She was one of the original environmentalists.  One day she saw me stupidly throwing some trash on the ground and she gave me a stern lecture about the world and our place in it.  I was humbled, and, though I was strongly motivated by a desire to please her, more than that I Saw The Light and realized that trashing up our planet really was a bad thing to do.  I was an instant convert.  I picked up that trash right away, but then was faced with what to do with it.  At that moment I made a life-changing decision:  I declared my right rear pocket of my pants to be my "trash pocket."  And to this day, the right rear pocket of my pants is my trash pocket, and I've never littered again.

Recently I have embraced the idea of recycling so completely that I have started to distinguish between "trash" and "recycling" with respect to my trash pocket.  So now my left rear pocket has become my recycling pocket.  Paper goes left, cellophane goes right.

When I start shoving cans and empty bottles in my recycle pocket, my transformation will be complete.  I am a hopeless nerd about these things.

20) Also when I was a teenager I worked at a restaurant in the Ford City Shopping Center in Chicago.  One day they gave us a painting job to do.  Afterwards, we had to throw away the rollers and unused paint.  To get to the garbage bins, we had to walk through the grimy cinder-block corridor that connected the back doors of the stores to the central trash area.  The other guy and I had fresh paint on our rollers, and we eyed those cinder-block walls with impish glee.  Before long, we had painted our names on the walls.  I did mine in big block letters:  BOB. 

Well, of course, soon the boss stood scowling before us with scrub brush and acid wash in hand, requiring us to remove our names from the wall.  My co-worker went first, and he dutifully scrubbed a huge rectangle into the wall where his name had been.  I saw this brightly clean area and had an idea.  The boss told us to remove our names, so I did exactly that.  Rather than scrub clean a big rectangle, I carefully scrubbed away only the paint but otherwise left the wall untouched.  When I was done, the wall still said BOB in big clean block letters.  The boss said she wanted to smack me, but instead she smiled and left it alone.

No one would ever bother to fuss with those back-corridor walls, so I bet my name is still there to this day. 

21) I know how to make grapes catch fire in a microwave. 

22) I took up paragliding a few years ago.  This is the sport where you strap a nylon wing to your body and then jump off a mountain and fly.  This may sound insane to you.  It sure does sound insane to me; that's part of why I do it.  The main reason is because I've always wanted to fly.  Once, I was up so high that the hawks were circling BELOW me.  So fine, so very fine.

23) I love to fly.  I love to travel.  I can't tell you how much I love to travel.  I started this list in California and ended it in Tokyo.

The air is not orange anymore, of course.  Here, now, as I'm typing this in Tokyo, the sky is as black as the space between the hundred billions stars in the hundred billion galaxies that I keep in my trash pocket.  Hey, maybe I should keep those galaxies in my recycle pocket!

24) I haven't made many enemies in this life, but the ones I've made have sometimes done some pretty mean things to me and it's caused me sadness.  I really don't want to be enemies with anyone.  I just want everyone to be happy.  I want to love everyone, and I want everyone to love me.

25) I love you.