Friday, November 23, 2012

Popular voting and same-sex marriage (Nov. '12)

I sent the following letter to the Washington Post, hoping that if it was printed, Supreme Court justices would see it (not published):

The statewide approvals of same-sex marriage are a welcome breakthrough, but civil rights should still never be subject to a popular vote.

Monday, October 22, 2012

A childhood memory

Late one night when I was 7 years old, my father took me out in our front yard. It was a clear night, and we could see lots of stars. He showed me the Big Dipper and the North Star.

Then he paused, found what he had been looking for, and pointed out one "star" that was slowly moving. I wasn't quite sure I saw the right one.

He told me it was America's first satellite (Explorer 1), and he said I should remember the date: January 31, 1958.

I did remember the "January 31" but I forgot the year until I looked it up much later.

I'm sorry my dad didn't live to see me working at JPL! Today would have been his 87th birthday.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Keep religion behind closed doors ('12)

I sent this letter to the Los Angeles Times in August 2012 (not published):

Re: "An eruv in the Hamptons? Why not?" (Opinion, Aug. 15)

Helfand writes, "Even the most adamant belief in the separation of church and state should not spill over into the notion that religion belongs only behind closed doors."

He's wrong. That's precisely where I believe religion belongs. Keep it to yourself and out of my face. What's wrong with that?

Monday, August 13, 2012

Yellowstone (July 2012)

Link to more photos.

I made a short trip to Yellowstone National Park and vicinity a few weeks ago. I'd always wanted to see the park, and it didn't disappoint. The weather cooperated, too; no rain and mostly around 80 by the afternoon every day.

The geological features were amazing, and we had good luck viewing animals as well. I've never managed to see the bison on Catalina Island, but we had lots of excellent, close views of them in Yellowstone. We also saw elk, two grizzlies, and a glimpse of a wolf.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Fairbanks and Denali (1990s)


Rodney with salmon (see below)

My first project at JPL was the Alaska SAR Facility, a receiving station for radar data from Earth-orbiting satellites at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks.

JPL sent me to Fairbanks nine times in the 1990s. Because of my teaching schedule, almost all the trips were in the summer. What a deal!

On my first trip in 1993, I went a day early to do some sight-seeing. At a scenic overlook, a small dog came scampering up to me and wanted to jump in my rental car. No one else was there. The dog had tags with a phone number, and when I called, they had just realized the dog was missing. As a reward for returning the dog, they gave me a salmon they had caught the day before. I brought it to the B&B where I was staying, and we enjoyed it that night.

Alaska Range (Denali N.P.)

Fox with Arctic ground squirrel lunch (Denali N.P.)

I extended my second trip in 1994 to spend two days in Denali National Park, where I saw bears and moose and Dall sheep and caribou (from a distance), marmots, foxes, and lots of mosquitoes.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Cincinnati (Spring 2012)

The Ohio River seen from the Overlook in Eden Park.

Link to more photos

I've graded Advanced Placement Computer Science exams for the Educational Testing Service for many years. I began in 1987, but was out for 1993-1997. It's 7 to 12 days of work (depending on my position) each year in late May / early June.

The APCS Reading has moved around during those years. First, Trenton State College (NJ), then Clemson University (SC), then back to Trenton (where the same school has a new name, The College of New Jersey), then to convention centers instead of college campuses, in Louisville (KY), and finally, the last few years, in Cincinnati (OH).

I haven't previously written these up as travel. For one thing, since work is 8 am to 5 pm every day including weekends, we don't get a lot of time to sightsee. Also, I only have a few photos from earlier years.

This year, since I'm still trying to lose weight, I did do a little hiking in central Cincinnati a few times after dinner, and, since it was my last APCS Reading, I did take a few photos. The link is above.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Katmai National Park (Summer 2000)

Bear in a stream feeding Kaflia Bay

In 2000, I won a bear-watching trip to Alaska in a sweepstakes that I didn't even know I had entered!

Somewhere, I had read about Bears magazine, and I bought a subscription for bear-loving Victor. I didn't know that they were having a sweepstakes where some new subscriber would win a bear-watching trip! I was shocked when I got the email telling me I had won. After calling them, I convinced myself that it wasn't some sort of scam.

The only bad part of it was that Victor -- the one who obsesses over bears, the one for whom I bought my subscription, the one indirectly responsible for my winning the trip -- couldn't join me. (Instead, in 2006, Victor and I went bear-watching in British Columbia.) My friend Jerry, who was already planning to be in Alaska visiting his brother at the time of this trip, went along.

It was a fantastic trip. Photos and a map are here, and four of my video clips are on YouTube.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Autographs - William Samelson

(Click the image to enlarge it.)

William Samelson was one of my Hebrew teachers at Temple Beth-El when I was a boy. His first novel, All Lie In Wait, is based on his personal history as a Holocaust survivor who was in Nazi labor and concentration camps at the age of 11. Click here for a 7-minute video interview with Dr. Samelson from 2007.

(Index of autographs)

Monday, March 26, 2012

Index to autographs

For a general introduction to my collection of author autographs, click here. For a note about the science fiction authors, click here. Here is a complete alphabetized link list:

Autographs - Ray Bradbury



Besides enjoying his work, I've always admired Ray Bradbury for living in Los Angeles without driving a car. (See also my note on Frank Herbert.)

On the other hand, I'm with Cory Doctorow on Bradbury's silliness about others riffing on his titles

(Index of autographs)

Autographs - Frank Herbert




I heard Frank Herbert speak at Rice University while I was an undergraduate there, probably around 1971. What I remember best about his talk was that he asked everyone to pledge never to buy a new internal combustion engine automobile. (Search for "combustion" on this web page, and you'll find the pledge.) I've always been known for my hatred of automobiles, and I jumped at the chance to take the pledge. (I've honored it, too, only buying used cars until 2006, when I bought my first new car, a hybrid Prius.)

(Index of autographs)

Autographs - Samuel R. Delany


Samuel R. (Chip) Delany is one of my favorite writers. I own more books by him than by any other author. I've read his science fiction, his memoirs, his other non-fiction, his literary criticism, and his porn.

On a visit to New York City, I happened to spot a notice that he was going to be signing this new book at a Manhattan bookstore while I would still be in town. I bought the book, got his autograph, and asked if he ever visited Los Angeles. He basically said, "Not if I can help it."

(Index of autographs)

Autographs - Philip José Farmer




Philip José Farmer

(Index of autographs)

Autographs - Fritz Leiber


Fritz Leiber

(Index of autographs)

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Autographs - Roger Zelazny





I'm pretty sure Roger Zelazny was one of the group of SF authors I went to hear at UCLA. He hid his annoyance well when presented with four books to sign.

(Index of autographs)

Autographs - A. E. Van Vogt


A. E. Van Vogt

(Index of autographs)

Autographs - Theodore Sturgeon



Theodore Sturgeon was one of the group of SF authors I went to hear at UCLA.
I'm also a believer in Sturgeon's Law: "90% of everything is crap."

(Index of autographs)

Autographs - Norman Spinrad



Norman Spinrad

(Index of autographs)

Autographs - Robert Silverberg



Robert Silverberg

(Index of autographs)

Autographs - Thomas Disch



Thomas Disch

(Index of autographs)

Autographs - Science Fiction authors

I have autographs from 14 science fiction authors, on 28 paperback SF books, one non-SF book, and one business card.

With some exceptions, I can no longer remember where I got each autograph. Almost all were collected in the 1970s and early 1980s. Here are four locations where I got multiple SF autographs:

  • A woman who was planning to publish an SF magazine organized a series of evening sessions at USC with SF writers. There were just a handful of us who regularly attended, so the talks were quite informal. I loved them, and gathered quite a few autographs, too. I do specifically recall Harlan Ellison and Larry Niven. Maybe A.E. Van Vogt. We also took a group field trip to Forrest J. Ackerman's Hollywood home, the Ackermansion.

  • An event at UCLA's Ackerman Union with several SF authors on stage, including Theodore Sturgeon and Robert Silverberg, maybe also Roger Zelazny.

  • Once (or was it twice?), I hung around outside the annual SFWA Nebula Awards Banquet with a bag of books, collecting autographs. I remember Ray Bradbury. I also remember Robert Heinlein, who looked so frail in his wheelchair with an attendant that I couldn't bring myself to bother him and ask for his autograph!

  • Book signing events at A Change of Hobbit bookstore.

Here's an alphabetized link list of the SF autographs I have:

(Complete index of autographs)

Autographs - Larry Niven




Larry Niven was one of the authors who came to the informal USC SF series I attended. Because we were a short distance from USC's Doheny Library, I remember Niven telling us that he was a descendant of the Dohenys.

(Index of autographs)

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Autographs - Howard Cruse

(Click the image to enlarge it.)

I always loved Howard Cruse's Wendel.

(Index of autographs)

Autographs - Stuart Timmons and Harry Hay

(Click each image to enlarge it.)

Stuart Timmons is a personal friend. When The Trouble With Harry Hay was published, Stuart as biographer and Harry Hay as subject jointly signed the book at a bookstore event.



Stuart talked about and signed Gay L.A. at a get-together of our book discussion group. Stuart has attended the group irregularly. On this occasion, he brought a laptop computer and narrated a slide show about some of the stories in the book.

(Note: Years later, I got the co-author's autograph as well.)

(Index of autographs)

Autographs - MeatMen cartoonists

(Click each image to enlarge it.)

A Different Light bookstore held a mass signing event for several of the contributors to this book. I've always loved cartoons and comic strips, both mainstream and not. This collection ranges from innocent to X-rated.



The above spread shows autographs by Gregoire, Jerry Mills, and Tim Barela. Of course, hand-drawn cartoons such as the one here by Mills are always a treat.



The above spread has an autograph by Sean and two autographs by Brad Parker. Parker's drawing on the left was printed in the book, and he added the personalized caption. Then, on the right, he drew the creature as I watched, and autographed it. Of all the autographs I collected that day in this book, the two by Parker are my favorites.

(Index of autographs)

Autographs - Nancy Freedman


I knew Nancy Freedman through her husband and frequent writing partner, Ben.

Ben Freedman interviewed and hired me as adjunct faculty at Occidental College, where I continued to teach part-time for 33 years. I met Nancy socially on several occasions. When The Seventh Stone was published, she again visited Oxy and signed the book for several of us. Ben's faculty office and mine were both in Fowler Hall, and adjacent for part of the time.

(Index of autographs)

Autographs - Ivy Bottini

(Click the image to enlarge it.)

I think I first knew Ivy Bottini through the successful "No On 6" battle to defeat the 1978 Briggs Initiative. Later, in the 1980s, I worked with her and others to organize several conferences at Occidental for Whitman-Brooks (an LGBT organization of that era).

In 1990, Ivy was my real estate agent who helped me look for and then buy my first house, where I still live today.

(Index of autographs)

Autographs - Harlan Ellison


(Click each image to enlarge it.)


Harlan Ellison was one of the authors who came to the series I attended at USC. Explanation of the first autograph above: At the end of the evening, I was juggling his two books and some other papers and asked for his autograph. He didn't have a pen, so I pulled a pen out of my pants pocket, used my teeth to pull off the cap, and, pen cap in teeth, handed him my pen.

(Index of autographs)

Autographs - Andrew Hodges


First, some background: Since my college days, I have always been interested in Alan Turing and his work. His premature death by apparent suicide always made me wonder whether he might have been gay. By 1981, there were a couple of published mentions that he was.

In his May 1981 Metamagical Themas column in Scientific American, Douglas Hofstadter wrote, "[Turing] was homosexual and was much persecuted for it. In the end it apparently got to be too much and he killed himself."

A few months later, when I found an email address for Hofstadter, I wrote and asked him about his sources. (Yes, I've been on email a very long time!) He replied, "A fellow named Andrew Hodges, in London, is writing what will probably be the definitive biography of Turing, and it will give all the details ... Why don't you write to him? His [postal] address is ..."

I struck up a correspondence with Hodges, and after his book was published in 1983, I helped arrange some of his speaking engagements about it in the U.S. He even stayed in my apartment in L.A. one time.

By the way, this is the centennial year of Turing's birth. There are many activities. Click here for details.

(Index of autographs)

Autographs - Bruce Lemerise

(Click the image to enlarge it.)

Bruce Lemerise was a personal friend. He was a talented commercial illustrator. I crashed on his couch on several short visits to New York City. Bruce died of AIDS in 1989.

(Index of autographs)

Autographs - Gilbert Shelton


I must have obtained Gilbert Shelton's autograph at a bookstore when this book came out, but I can't remember! I was a fan of his from work such as the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers and Wonder Wart-Hog.

(Index of autographs)

Autographs - Arthur C. Clarke


This is one of the few authors whose autograph I have without having met them in person. (Others are Allen Ginsberg and Paul Hawken.) This is also one of the few author autographs I have that's not in a book! In this case, my father attended a conference and briefly met Arthur C. Clarke. Knowing I would love it, my dad asked for Clarke's autograph for me. Not having a Clarke book handy, he used his name badge.

(Index of autographs)