Category Archives: Life/Times

Moving to Bend: some thoughts after my first week here….

I have now been a resident of Bend, OR for seven days.

Riverbend Park, which is adjacent to my office.

1: My apartment is nothing special. It’s okay – not terribly new, but in decent condition. It’s 150 sq. feet bigger than my last place, which is great, and has a huge ass closet. Which is good because the storage unit isn’t very large.

2: The neighbors seem nice enough.  Read more

Time to kiss off online dating: a long-overdue farewell to

Recently I was e-mailed, via, by an attractive woman (to the extent that profile pictures can be trusted, anyway) named Kathleen. I love that name, and her profile made her sound like someone I’d be interested in talking to a bit more, so I replied. We exchanged a couple of e-mails and I was thinking that maybe I’d like to meet her in person.

Then she asked me if I liked skiing. I answered honestly. I love skiing, although I’m not great at it and I haven’t been on the hill since I annihilated my knees a few years back. I’d love to get back into it, though, but haven’t so far because I hate doing things alone.

I knew as I hit the send button that I’d never hear from her again. Read more

Hard Times for the Pure of Heart: Is It Possible to Live Ethically in Modern Society?

I think we’d all love to live every phase of our lives in happy accord with high moral and ethical principles. We’d love it if we were never confronted by logical contradictions and cognitive dissonance, by cases where our walk was at odds with our talk. But the truth is that we live in a society that’s complex, at best, and a cesspool of corruption at worst. It’s just about impossible to get through a day without compromise, and every time we compromise it’s difficult not to feel as though we’ve failed a little.

Some people are better at dealing with the conflict than others, whether through denial or a well-developed, pragmatic knack for keeping things in perspective. Unfortunately, I don’t do denial at all and while I like to think of myself as having a strong pragmatic streak, in practice my principled side tends to dominate my decision-making in ways that occasionally deprive me of convenience and pleasure. Read more

Doc Sammy’s Slammin’ South Shore Kauai Tai

Those who know me will attest to my taste for fine single malt and American microbrews. But my little secret is now out. I’m also a rum-lover. Always have been. And I’m a sucker for a good rum punch, especially in the summer or Hawaii.

So I’ve decided to share some of my favorites with the world. Because clearly the world needs a drink, you know.

When we were in Kauai a couple years ago their take on the classic Mai Tai – they call their top shelf version the Tai Chi – sort of insinuated itself into my psyche. Loved Kauai, and I found that when I thought about it, I always imagined a Mai Tai in my hand. Read more


If your fairy godmother appeared and offered to send you on a trip to any place humans have ever been at any moment that has occurred in your lifetime, what moment would you choose?

I posed this question to several dozen friends, colleagues, family members, and stray acquaintances. Their responses are below, and we’ll start with my own answer.

I guess there are probably several dozen good answers to this one, and as you’ll see from the answers of other contributors here, many of them are of the noble variety. I have a few of these, to be sure, but since it was a selfish moment that gave me the idea for this little project, I’m going to go with it.

If I could go back to one event that occurred in my lifetime, I’d set the dial on the time machine to June 5, 1983, and point it toward Morrison, Colorado, the site of U2’s famous Red Rocks concert. Read more

More on Airport Security, and a Dash of Conspiracy Theory…

In my initial rant about airline security, I pondered the civil liberties trade-offs associated with a security clearance ID card for frequent air travelers. I still haven’t decided whether I’d opt into such a program or not – it’s bad policy, as a rule, to make decisions about your basic rights based on convenience issues, I think. I’m not the only one thinking about this question, as it turns out. An article in today’s NY Times (“ID Cards for ‘Trusted Travelers’ Run Into Some Thorny Questions”) looks at the idea, and in addition to considering the civil liberties implications, it also talks a great deal about the basic efficacy of such a program. It’s certainly worth a read, especially for anybody who has to travel.

But as I type this, a wonderful conspiracy theory presents itself. Say I’m somebody like John Ashcroft. And being a fascist, I want to know everything I possibly can about everybody in the world. But I’m also smart enough to know that overt intrusions upon people’s rights draw attention and resistance, so the sneakier I can be, the better. Read more

A Good Week at Airport Security

(Please, note sarcasm…) I traveled some more this week – Dallas and back Sunday and Monday, then to Kansas City on Tuesday and back today. So that’s four trips through the old airport security machine, and I only got yanked out for “random” secondary screening twice. Wow – that 50% clip for the week drags my yearly average all the way down to 72.2%.

According to a big, highly publicized audit a few days ago people actually get guns through these checkpoints about a third of the time. So, in principle, I could improve my rate of avoiding secondary checks by about 6% if I started packing heat.

The Problem with Post-9.11 Airline Security Policy

Do I look like a terrorist? No, seriously – I’ve been told I look “intimidating,” and cameras all seem to hate me on sight – but if you saw me boarding a plane with you would you worry that I posed a threat to your safe and timely arrival at your chosen destination, especially if I were wearing a business suit?

I don’t know how you answered this question, but I must scare the mortal hell out of the good folks working airport security. How else can I explain the damned-near automatic frequency with which I’m “randomly” selected for secondary security checks whenever I attempt to board a flight?

Since the new year I’ve taken several trips – mostly business – flying to Las Vegas, Anaheim, San Francisco, Kansas City, and Toronto via Frontier, America West, and Air Canada. Early on I noticed I was getting yanked just about every time I hit security, so I started keeping count. Read more

Nostrasamus Prophesies the 21st Century

What kind of place will the ground upon which we now stand be come January 1, 2101?

As we turn into a new millennium I imagine many people have pondered what the coming century holds for them, their children, and their grandchildren. Will the 2000s be a time of peace, of prosperity, an age of enlightenment and human achievement?

Or will humanity succumb to its darker instincts, engulfing the planet in war, environmental disaster, and economic inequity? Read more

Sam Gives Optimism a Try

I’ve been accused over the years – justly, I suppose – of being too much the pessimist. Negative expectations yield negative results, my friends tell me, and while I have argued that in my experience positive expectations yield negative results, too, I’ve been forced to admit that Murphy’s Law isn’t much of a philosophy to live by.

And so lately I’ve been attempting to think more optimistically on the assumption that, if my friends are right, positive expectations result in positive energy, thereby fostering an environment conducive to positive results. It’s working, too, and the events of the past few days bear it out. Life may be a good news/bad news proposition, but I’m beginning to see how the good outweighs the bad. Let me give you some examples.

Bad News: Last night around midnight a drunk in a junked 1937 Chevy Citation rear-ended my car, a perfectly nice 1989 Mazda MX-6, which was parked in front of my apartment building minding its own business. My car was totaled. Read more

Scatterlings of the Metrocene: Evolution, Education and the Dawn of the Cyberhuman Epoch

Samuel R. Smith, University of Colorado
Jim Booth, Surry Community College

She held out her hands, palms up, the fingers slightly spread, and with a barely audible click, ten double-edged, four centimeter scalpel blades slid from their housings beneath the  burgundy nails. She smiled. The blades slowly withdrew.
– William Gibson, Neuromancer (1984)

Pat Diener…is 26 years old, and she is going deaf. Landing her in the annals of science are the microscopic electrodes that doctors have buried deep inside her brain. Two fine platinum wires – as thin as a human hair and insulated in teflon – run underneath the young woman’s skull, connecting the electrical circuitry inside her head to a black plastic plug that sticks out from behind her left ear. From there, Diener can wire herself into a pocket-sized “speech processor” that picks up sound and transmits it to the electrodes, enabling the brain to interpret it.
– Associated Press Wire Report, 12/2/92

The technological explosion of the last few decades has made workaday fact of once-wild science fictions like genetic engineering, space travel, laser surgery and computer-generated animation – not to mention the handy little construct used to produce this document, the IBM-compatible 386-SX personal computer. Read more

Memphis, Tennessee: Mythbuilding by the American Nile

Elvis was not a phenomenon. He was not a craze. He was not even, or at least not only, a singer, or an artist. He was that perfect American symbol, fundamentally a mystery, and the idea was that he would outlive us all – or live for as long as it took both him and his audience to reach the limits of what that symbol had to say.

– Greil Marcus – Dead Elvis: A Chronicle of a Cultural Obsession

It’s a shame Flannery O’Connor didn’t live long enough to see “Death Week.”

Death Week, as most people know by now, is the ritual observance of the anniversary of Elvis Presley’s death on August 16, 1977. The festivities include, but are not limited to: tours of Graceland, the King’s palatial estate hard by the Memphis boulevard bearing his name; picnics; Elvis impersonators of every age, race, creed, sex, and religious persuasion; ample opportunities to spend one’s life savings on a brain-numbing array of Elvis paraphernalia; and, of course, the climactic candlelight vigil at the grave site.

This being the fifteenth anniversary of the King’s alleged demise, the size of the celebration and the amount of media attention it received were greater than usual. Read more

Looking at a Small Picture: Death of a Statistic

November, 1989

It’s a cruel crazy beautiful world
One day when you wake up I will have to say goodbye
It’s your world so live in it

-Johnny Clegg

On Tuesday, November 20 – two days before Thanksgiving – Robert Lewis, Jr., 34, was knifed to death in the parking lot of the Burlington Coat Factory in Raleigh, where he worked.

The man charged with the murder, Robert Leon Hill, is the estranged husband of one of Bobby’s co-workers. Hill apparently thought his wife and Bobby were romantically involved, but authorities have no evidence that this was the case. Read more