A brief encounter with Ron Pelosi

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In 1969 I rented the second floor of 360 Kearny Street, San Francisco, from Ron Pelosi. It was only a block from his office on Montgomery Street, so once a month I walked over to his desk and paid my rent. It was an opportunity to chat for a minute. I had no idea what an important person he was in San Francisco politics and just enjoyed our brief conversations. He was on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors at that time and president from 1978 to 1980.

His brother Paul Pelosi is married to Nancy Pelosi (née D’Alesandro) who is presently 3rd in line for the Presidency of the United States. It is a political family!

The unusual brief encounter occurred one morning when paying my rent; Ron asked me if he could use the front room of my rented space as a viewing stand for watching the Italian Heritage Parade on Columbus Day which would be going directly under my office window.

This is the current Google Earth photo and the windows directly above Ramen Underground are where he wanted to take his family for viewing the parade. The Bank of America building, in the background, was under construction at that time. It is a perfect place for viewing a parade.

But I had a major problem. Unbeknownst to Ron Pelosi, my friend and business partner was Bill Murray, … Madalyn Murray‘s son. He was the one who didn’t want to say prayers in school every morning. That was only a few years before his mom took that problem to the US Supreme Court and prayer was removed from the public schools.

I had many conversations with Bill, some about religion, and he wasn’t an atheist, not even an agnostic, not even a humanist. He said humanists were just atheists hiding under a better sounding name. I really liked him and enjoyed our conversations. Later he got reinvolved with his mom, and huge problems erupted for Bill.

It might have been a wonderful event having the Pelosis and Murray together in that room for an hour or two. Or hell!

 

A brief encounter with Buzz Aldrin

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Probaway November 28, 2016 “The Probaway method for searching for the Person of the Year is to look back from a postulated five-hundred years in the future and pick the event that will still be remembered at that distant time. A good example of how that strategy is used is to compare President John F. Kennedy proposing to send a man to the Moon in the early 60s, which will be forgotten after 500 years, with Neil Armstrong’s actually putting his foot on the Moon, which will be remembered, if of course there are sentient beings to do the remembering. The only other contender for that permanent fame would be Buzz Aldrin because he spoke the very first words spoken on the Moon. He said, ‘Contact light,’ when the lander’s sensors detected the landing gear touched down. Of course the prepared words, ‘One small step for a man, one giant step for mankind,’ will be remembered, even though they were said hours later when Armstrong stepped off the spacecraft ladder onto the surface of the Moon.”

Probaway September 10, 2012 “We humans have considerable liberty of action and of imagination. We can dream and construct mental imaginings that are impossible in physical reality. These are wonderful and stimulating of ideas, but ultimately we live in a world constrained by what is possible. We must live our lives within natural laws and within what is available to us. It is possible to explore distant places in fantasy, as science fiction routinely does, but we personally will never go to distant galaxies, or cross the Planck limits. Few of us will even go to so close a place as our Moon, although I have had brief conversations with one who has – Buzz Aldrin. That journey was tightly constrained within the limits of physical macro-reality; it was an extreme example of fantasy for most of humanity.”

Probaway June 25, 2011 “Contentment is in one’s personal relationship with the reality around him and with the universe in general. It is easy to say those words, but the words are like telling someone to go walk on the Moon. They are easy words to say, but impossible to obey. I spoke to Buzz Aldrin once, who did walk on the  Moon, and he could say from personal experience that it wasn’t too difficult once you had done all the prerequisite steps. Contentment is as easy as walking on the Moon, once you have taken all the prerequisite steps.”

Probaway.comBuzz Aldrin – astronaut of Apollo 11. I met him during the dedication of the Aircraft carrier Hornet, to which he returned after landing on the Moon. We were walking up the stairs just inside of the ship where I asked him if just when he landed on the Moon he spoke the words, ‘Contact Light.’ He said ‘Ya’ and I said well then you were the first person to speak on the Moon. He said ‘Ya.’ An hour earlier I had taken a photograph of the Hornet and needed some people to give it scale. When I got home and was looking at that photo it became apparent that Buzz, then unknown to me, was that composition filler person. How perfect.”

This post was totally compiled from former Probaways.

A brief encounter with Ray Kurzweil

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I was in the audience for this symposium, April 1, 2000: Will Spiritual Robots Replace Humanity by 2100? – On YouTube – Ray KurzweilBill JoyDouglas HofstadterJohn HollandHans MoravecKevin KellyRalph MerklePanel Discussion part 1,  part 2.”

My brief encounter with Ray Kurzweil twenty years ago was during one of several breaks in the conference. Because of his great productivity, I want to help Ray Kurzweil in any way I can and I had a chance to do that.

During the hourly break, I was standing in line for use of a urinal and noticed that Ray was standing behind me in the line. How can I help this man who doesn’t know me? I intentionally stepped out of my line and went over to the sink and washed my hands and face. Then I went to the end of another line, the currently shortest line. I lost a minute before I got to pee but I made available to Ray Kurzweil one more minute to be creative. Here is a recent YouTube video of what Ray Kurzweil has done with his time.

No man has greater respect for another man than to let that other man pee first!

 

A brief encounter with Vint Cerf

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I was reading when the phone rang. Debbie said, “Quick you’ve got to get down to the IBM office!” “Where’s that?” “It’s in that tall building in downtown Berkeley, and the lecture starts in fifteen minutes.” With no more than that explanation I ran to the BART station where I saw that a train was approaching; thus I ran through the station and up the escalator and dodged through the closing doors. Puff, puff, puff. We stopped at North Berkeley station for a bit, then off to the Berkeley BART station. Ran up the escalator, thru the doors, and into the elevator, where I asked, “Puff, puff, where is the IBM office?” “Top floor.”

I stepped into a room crowded with a mix of business-suited people and shabby ones, too. All of them looked like Berkeley geeks. There wasn’t even standing room in the back, so I curled around the right side toward the podium, when a guy spoke to me. My first thought was this suited guy was going to ask me for my credentials … for crashing this lecture.

He transferred a small flat box to his other hand and held out his right hand in greeting and mentioned his name. However, in my super hurried state I didn’t even hear it, and we shook hands while I said my name. We chatted for a few seconds about the beautiful view out the top floor window of the University of California campus, the San Francisco Bay, and the crowd packed for the lecture.

Vint Cerf profile photo.

“Do you want to introduce me?” Without missing a beat I said, “I think the guy by the podium is scheduled for that” and stepped back with a smile and a gesturing hand in the general direction of the podium. In a couple of seconds, that guy said, “And here he is, the man we’ve been waiting for, a man we all revere who needs no introduction … Vint Cerf!” Everyone cheered and clapped enthusiastically.

Without a moment’s hesitation, he said, “A funny thing happened on the way over here. I was called to the White House in Washington DC and yesterday was sitting in the hall in front of the President’s office next to a guy who was also waiting. He said to me, “Who are you?” “Vint Cerf.” “What did you do?” “I invented the internet.” “What did you do?” “I went to the Moon.”Neil Armstrong?“No, Buzz Aldrin.” We laughed and shook hands and were called into the office, where I was given this.” He opened the box and showed us his Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Vint Cerf Google bag.

This is a Google photo, but when I talked to him he was holding his Presidential Medal of Freedom. Vint then gave a motivational talk to this crowd that included some people of well-earned distinction, like Andrew Kay of Kaypro computers. That was a successful portable computer before Apple and IBM-PC displaced them. I got to talk to Andrew Kay for a while.

An hour and a half after that phone call I was sitting in the Med having coffee. Things happen in Berkeley.

A brief encounter with Art Linkletter

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I was on a national radio show about 1947 when Art Linkletter came to Spokane, Washington. I remember the show as being called Ladies Be Seated. But Google claims it as House Party. My event preceded “Kids Say the Darndest Things” where he interviewed 23,000 children.

The show began normally enough with a moderately filled movie theater, I think it was the Orpheum theater. I was sitting at the center about ten rows back when Art said they needed someone to sing a song for the crowd to sing along with. Suddenly, everyone was looking at me. I shrank and practically slid under the folding seat, only to look up and see all of these women pointing down at me. “Here he is! Her he is!” they all shouted as I crawled deeper under the seats.

They pried me loose, and soon I was standing there on the stage with Art asking me dumb questions. He asked me to sing a song. I never knew many songs, and still don’t, but I did know “My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean,” so that’s what I sang, and the audience chimed in.

My pay for that experience was about five 78 rpm records with some opera singer. I might have listened to them once. A baseball mitt would have pleased me, but old opera records was a definite NO THANK YOU!

Another career opportunity down the drain.

A brief encounter with Jefferson Poland

The Sexual Freedom League was founded in Berkeley, California, by my friend at that time, Jefferson Poland. In Berkeley, in the 1960s I was friends with and participant with many people who became famous for what we did. The Sexual Freedom League came into being when Jeff, Ina, Shirley and I drove in my VW over to the beach just beneath the famous Cliff House and went for a naked swim in the Pacific Ocean.

Jeff had arranged for this to be videoed with a 16 mm camera for some publicity stunt, so somewhere in the universe, there may be a movie of us all running into and quickly out of the very cold Pacific ocean with the Cliff House as a well known background prop. We weren’t there very long because it was cold, so we headed back to Berkeley. About the time we went through Treasure Island tunnel, in the middle of the San Francisco Oakland Bay Bridge, Jeff started smoking a joint. I insisted that he put it out because a VW with Jeff, Ina, and Shirley smoking in it would attract enough police attention, and being caught with marijuana in my van would have created serious repercussions for me. This picture is of my VW van at another totally separate event.

Berkeley riots.

The National Guard holds off a protester, while Tiger watches from the open window on my VW van.

Jeff contacted the San Francisco Chronicle and told them what we had done and said he was going for another naked swim. He wanted me to drive him over again, but as he was intentionally challenging the law and inviting the press to watch, I didn’t. Apparently, he wanted to be arrested for a trivial offense so he could gain some notoriety and public leverage.

I have always obeyed the laws, and here in Bend people must consider me a rolling speed bump because I obey the traffic laws that most people here flaunt.

Going for a naked swim that day for about one minute with Jeff, Ina and Shirley is about as illegal an act as I’ve done in my eighty-four years.

A brief encounter with the Dalai Lama

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This afternoon I began reading the Book of JOY by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu with Douglas Abrams. On page 33 I read, “Paul Ekman, famed emotions researcher and longtime friend of the Dalai Lama, has written that joy is associated with feelings as varied as: pleasure, amusement, contentment, excitement, relief, wonder, ecstasy or bliss, exultation, radiant pride, unhealthy jubilation or schadenfreude, elevation, gratitude.”

Berkeley Marina

That brought memories back for me of walking my dog Tiger along the Berkeley Marina and meeting the Dalai Lama walking with Paul Ekman. It was 100 yards west from where Tiger and I lived for a couple of years with nothing but a beautiful park between our boat and where those two eminent persons were walking along the San Francisco Bay. Perhaps Tiger was feeling defensive of his property when he ran over and started barking at those two intruders.

I hurried over to settle Tiger down and apologize to the professorial-looking guy and his strangely orange-robed companion. It was a bit of a problem for me because I had Bell’s Palsy, the result of a bad cold, and had trouble speaking because my mouth wasn’t forming words normally.

Unbeknownst to me at that time, the professor was the world authority on facial expressions and the orange-robed guy was the Universal authority on human kindness. They seemed willing to talk to me about my facial problem but I hurried off in embarrassment.

It was only much later that I discovered those two celebrities liked to walk and talk in the Berkeley Marina.

Things commonly happen in Berkeley that rarely happen elsewhere.

You can’t change the present.

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It is common knowledge that you can’t change the past. It is claimed that you can change your relationship to the past by retelling it in ways that fit your current needs. And, with each retelling of your new story with an ever more positive spin, you can remake your past self into a whole new person. With a bit of lying to oneself, you can become that new person. I don’t recall anyone who actually did this, but it sounds plausible. Perhaps there are professional actors who change their persona to fit a theatrical role, and I’ve encountered some introverted people who can successfully play extroverts that have scripted characters.

Some personality gurus tell us to just be ourselves. If we do that we will soon be accepted as we are and be loved. That might be true for people who are totally loaded with positive lovable characteristics, along with being beautiful, rich, well-educated, and always saying the right thing at the right time. I have known and presently know people I really like, but not one of them matches that shortlist of easily attained qualities. Well, not so easily attained.

Looking at that spontaneously written list it now appears to me that being rich might be the easiest to attain. Just make more money than you spend. Being well-educated might sound easy, just go to school. But I’ve been there, done that and have seen many people with degrees who fail. Read George Vaillant’s Triumphs of Experience, 2012, for examples. Being beautiful is tricky; even George Clooney and Jennifer Aniston have had their bad days. Saying the right thing at the right time has many supposed masters, but you can watch the master of improv, Steven Colbert, make  major goofs fairly often, and there is some editing of his show.

The hardest thing to change is the present because the moment you think about it the present is already past. The only thing you can change is the future.

What is the meaning of life compared to gravity?

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“What is the meaning of life?” is a similar question to “What is the meaning of gravity?” They both have the same answer when looked at that way. Life and gravity  don’t have a meaning in themselves. They just are what they are. They are natural processes that behave as they do because it’s their nature. Obviously, that is a circular self-defining definition based on its own self-definition.

It circles back to the word ‘meaning’ and the circular definition from trying to define meaning using words. But there is a notch in this definition because it requires a thinker to give the meaning. Gravity doesn’t need a thinker to pull physical objects together because it came into being with the natural processes of the Big Bang creation of our Universe. But meaning does require a thinker, and to think requires a brain. And to create a brain requires some intervening living processes.

That begins with the early molecules stretching themselves into endless chains and that didn’t need meaning either; those atoms just did their natural bonding processes and linked. The local environment varied, and there were variations in these links and in the vastness of time, one joining together had the ability to break apart into two identical pieces of the original molecule. After that event, the rest is what we call evolution. For the evolutionary process to function it only needed an environment that was similar to where this first event happened. Those conditions were right where the first event happened so it was easy for it to happen again and again to these daughter molecules. The daughters that best fit the environment had more daughters than those that didn’t fit so well. But there wasn’t any thinking; there were simply chemical reactions, and without a thinking brain, there was no potential for meaning. There wasn’t any meaning to this level of life.

At this early molecular stage, there was no possibility of purpose because there were no thinking brains. But we humans do have the capacity for purposeful actions. So the question becomes, when does the transition between a nonthinking amoeba and a modern human occur?

A single-cell amoeba can move toward food and away from danger, but it is only in response to perceptions in the present moment. There isn’t any forethought, and without forethought, there is no purpose, because purpose has a goal in the unseen future. Squirrels search their worlds for food too, and they have much larger brains than an amoeba, and when their work is done they have the forethought to go to their homes for rest. Is this trek homeward founded on forethought or is it just a response to external reminders like it’s getting dark? During last year’s eclipse, people remarked that the birds behaved like it was resting time. Were the birds thinking or just reacting to a darkening of the sun? I didn’t hear anyone comment about squirrels.

At the animal level, it appears that life is a process of eating to gain energy, having sex to reproduce the species, and resting so they can do it again. But these actions are driven by responses to the animals’ inbred genetic history. They don’t think about reproducing the species, they just do what they feel is needed, which is driven by a genetic history of what works. Their DNA goes along for the ride and gets reproduced and the species continues, but it doesn’t think or possess meaning in its actions. DNA behaves like an advanced form of those first long chains of molecules that could break into identical daughters.

It now seems that most of our human meaning is to continue doing what we routinely do. It is only when we pause to consider what the effects of our potential behaviors might bring in the future that the idea of meaning begins to have a purpose. The purpose is guiding things toward a self-chosen goal that is set in the non-visible future.

What is called gossip is a form of predicting social interactions, and it is a driver of human evolution toward better prediction.

What to do with Halloween pumpkins?

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I walk two times per day for exercise, relaxation, and a chance to chat with Debbie and quite often various neighbors in our neighborhood. Usually, this is right before our first meal at noon, so the twenty-minute walk stimulates a mild hunger.

Today was a little special because there were several different families we talked to about Halloween. Each of the conversations was only a minute or two, so for each of our interlocutors it was about something specific, and then as Debbie and I walked along we would develop that idea a little more until we came to the next neighbor.

We would then begin that neighborly conversation right where our conversation had evolved to. First, it was about candy, and then about how much poundage of candy each kid collected, and the converse, or is it reverse, how much candy should an adult Halloween game player stockpile? Somehow, that candy bag grew to fifteen pounds. That’s crazy! Of course, the kid can’t eat that much candy in one day, so he will have to parcel it out for a month or two or possibly more.

It sets us to wondering if there will be some sort of candy swap meet at school, and how many Hershey’s Kisses trade for a Mars Snickers bar or a bag of Jelly Bellies? Does my favorite brand of chocolate-covered almonds even have a trading value? Maybe I should go to one of these candy swap meets, I might score big time. On second thought, I better not. These days people are squeamish of old dudes taking advantage of kids with candy.

Of course, the big problem the day after Halloween is what to do with those millions of rotting pumpkins. They were made to look scary, and we all have a smiley laugh at that, but there isn’t a smelly laugh at rotting pumpkin heads littering the neighborhood. So then the obvious thing occurred to us. Why not have a pumpkin day in the park? We could have some special games to play with the retired jack-o-lanterns, and at some convenient time in the afternoon, say 3.14, have pumpkin pie with real mom-made pies, and then play games with the scary jack-o-lantern pumpkins where the goal is to find some way to smash the pumpkin into the trash cans. Perhaps playing basketball like games where we toss the pumpkins into the garbage cans, and those who succeed get their choice of candy from the special pile of candy that was brought to give away.

This celebration would solve the twin problems of how to get rid of too much candy and too many pumpkins.