Category Archives: Life Experiences

Thoughts on Mortality

If you live long enough, eventually you will experience the loss of a close friend or family member. When it happens, it is a reminder of your own mortality. I watched the widow of a close friend throw a handful of dirt on his casket last week. I had lunch with him a week before his fatal heart attack. We reminisced about old times and then he told me that he was having a stent operation in a few days. He had been experiencing chest pains on his daily walks. His cardiologist’s examination showed Read more [...]

Does Faith Give Meaning To Life?

Religious believers say that faith gives "meaning" to their life. As a lifelong nonbeliever, I do not understand that.  My life is what I make of it...what I DO with it. How does sitting and praying to God or believing in God give meaning to life? It may give some people believe that death is not the end. Belief in an afterlife leads some to consider life here on earth just a temporary interlude before the REAL eternal life begins. Rather than giving life meaning, that devalues life. I Read more [...]

Fallen Heroes

We all have our heroes…people whom we admire and look up to, try to emulate, or just use as an ideal. Sometimes, sadly, they prove to have feet of clay and our adulation turns to disillusionment. It’s sad when this happens, as it did to me recently. I stumbled onto an article by Don Burleson a few days ago titled “On Religion.” It is a good piece, logical and well written.  I agreed with most of his arguments, although his style was a bit confrontational for my taste. Even Christopher Read more [...]

You are gonna do WHAT with a power pole????

Our power company, Southern California Edison decided it was time to replace the 50-year-old power pole in the back corner of our yard.  The pole is used to provide electric power and communications (phone and cable TV) to our house and our next door neighbor. When they told me that they were going to park a crane in the middle of the street and lift the pole over a 70-foot ash tree in our back yard and drop it in a hole over 200 feet away, I was flabbergasted.  What kind of a crane could do Read more [...]

What My Mother Saw

This would have been my mother’s 115th year if she were still alive.  She was born in 1898.  She lived a long, and for the most part, healthy life, dying in 1990 at the age of 91.  Even though she was born in the waning moments of the 19th century, my mother was very much a creature of the 20th, living all but her first year and a few days in that tumultuous century. The United States of her childhood was a much different place from the one we know today.  Over 60% of the people lived on Read more [...]

Written on September 11, 2001

This day Tuesday, September 11, 2001 is a day I will remember for the rest of my life.  I was too young to remember the events of December 7th 1941, but it is also there, burned into my brain.  They were both days of national tragedy and crisis.  Days when our nation's very foundations were threatened.  The assassination of President Kennedy and the Oklahoma City bombing were also terrible events, but not in the same way, or on the same scale.   This is an attack on every person in this country.  Read more [...]

The Nonsense of Airline Baggage Weight Limits

On our recent trip to Australia and New Zealand, we were unhappy to learn that domestic flights in New Zealand had severe weight restrictions.  Only one piece of checked luggage is allowed, maximum of 20 kilos, and one carry-on limited to 7 kilos.  The intercontinental flights did not have these restrictions, but our plans included domestic flights in New Zealand. Our trip was over three weeks in length, and included both cool and warm climates, and requirements for both casual and dress clothes.  Read more [...]

Post-Holiday Ruminations

My birthday is December 21st and our wedding anniversary is New Years Eve.  This juxtaposition of major milestones in my life has always made the holiday season a bittersweet time for me…a time for retrospection and introspection:  What have I accomplished in my life, and what do I still want to accomplish?   The contact with distant friends and relatives via Christmas cards, and family newsletters always brings back a flood of memories...of lost loves and missed opportunities, along with those Read more [...]

Fireworks and Civilizations

I love fireworks.  From the ground-level explosion that launches the rocket, it climbs quickly to its apogee, then blossoms into a spectacular explosion.  The show is short-lived, fading quickly, falling back towards the earth, with occasional splashes of color, reminding the spectator of its past glory.  And then, it’s over, and we watch for the next one. Most of the great nations, civilizations, and empires of history have had trajectories like a fireworks rocket.  They burst upon the Read more [...]

Miracles, Improbability and the Brain

I am an engineer by training, which means I place a great deal of “faith” in data, observation and analysis.  I tend to be a skeptic when someone makes a fantastic claim about some miraculous event.  UFO’s, ESP, out-of-body experiences, immaculate conceptions, resurrections, walking on water, turning water into wine, etc. I am also skeptical of superstitious beliefs.  I have no fear of the number 13 or Friday the 13th.  Black cats don’t scare me at all.  I love cats of all colors.  Read more [...]

Interesting times

“May you live in interesting times.” --- Chinese curse We live in a very old and quiet neighborhood.  Well, old by California standards.  We bought this home in December of 1960, a few weeks before we were married.  It was a few concrete slabs and foundations on a barren, empty lot at the time.  It was nearly six months before it was completed and we moved in. We have lived here ever since, raised our family, pursued careers, and eventually retired.  Nothing much ever happened here Read more [...]

How NOT To Buy A Tire

DUM da DUM DUM The story you are about to read is true; some of the names have been changed to protect the innocent.  My name is not Friday and I am not a cop. If you don’t understand the above, ask somebody over fifty about the TV show "Dragnet." I walked into the garage yesterday, and happened to glance at the right rear tire on my wife Suzanne’s aging BMW.  It was almost flat.  I try to check her tires fairly often because her car has a history of tire troubles.  The car is eleven Read more [...]


I really love fires. In the fireplace. A cold winter night. The percussive patter of rain on the roof. Wind moans mournfully through leafless trees. The fire, warm and toasty, reassures. Is it instinct or learned behavior? Did my fire-loving caveman ancestors pass it on to me in my genes? Natural Selection at work? Whoa.  Not so fast. Lamarck was wrong about "soft inheritance." What about the environment? Fires pump out CO2, a greenhouse gas. Making the whole world toasty. Too toasty. I’ve Read more [...]