I want to achieve immortality by not dying.
-- Woody Allen
I like to think of life as a vacation, during which I try to meet lots of people, be intellectually stimulated, and have a good time. But towards the end of a vacation, I always find myself thinking sadly that I've only got a few days left. Like a vacation, life does have to end - we don't have the option of "not dying". So, with (probably) less than a quarter of my life to go, I'm reaching towards the second best thing - "immortality through my works". Note 1
Of course, it's a bit too late for that, too. In the last few months of my mother's life, I asked her if she was unhappy that I had not lived up to her high maternal expectations for me. Was she disappointed that I had never won a Nobel prize? Her answer to her sixty-year-old about-to-retire son surprised me. She said, "I still expect you to win a Nobel prize." No, Mom, it's not in the cards. There are people who are immortal through their works - people like Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, and Adolf Hitler ("works" are not always good). They will be remembered as long as our Western civilization survives; I will not be.
But I can at least leave my heirs a bit of a sketch of my life, some memories, stories, and thoughts. I'm planning on adding about one entry a week, and I've made a list with enough ideas to keep me going for at least two years ("at least", because I keep thinking of new ones). This may be mainly of interest to my family and friends, but some others may wish to follow along. And since I'm writing in HTML ("Hyper-Text Markup Language"), the language of web pages, it may as well be (mostly) on-line.Note 2
What will I write about?
Since this is primarily for my family, I'll include stories from various phases of my life - childhood, schooling, marriage, family, career, and retirement. The summer camp "Robinson Crusoe", in Sturbridge, Massachusetts, was important in my life, and there will be stories from there. I may also include a few essays not attached to any particular time period, with musings on various subjects, if I think they might be of interest.
Since I'm an electrical engineer, I'll write about technology, and will include various stories from my time as a student at MIT Note 3, and from my engineering career of 33 years. Since I'm writing in a form that I hope will endure for a while, I'd like to help people recall when technology was more primitive. People should remember a time, during my lifetime, when we really did "dial" our telephones, when a "long distance" telephone call was a special, expensive event, and when a remote control to open your garage door would have cost hundreds of dollars, would have been housed in a cube 15 cm. (6 inches) on each side, and would have required 15 seconds for its vacuum tubes to warm up.
If my writings endure for a very long time, perhaps some day, people reading these words will be surprised to hear that, "The earth was once covered with large plants called 'trees', and we used to grind them into pulp and press and dry and bleach the pulp to produce thin white sheets called 'paper' onto which we pressed letters using a black liquid called 'ink'. These sheets were bound into collections called 'books', you had to go to a store to buy them, and that's how we used to read."
Although I'll cover technical issues, I'll always write for a non-technical audience. I'm particularly interested in conveying a flavor of what technology was like when I was growing up, of which the younger generation is generally unaware.
I'm also interested in the study of natural languages. In addition to my native (American) English, I speak French, Spanish, Italian, and a little bit of German, some of these better than others. Studying and speaking these languages has given me a great deal of pleasure, so some of my writing will be about them.
Going along with my study of foreign languages, I like to travel. But there's a lot of travel writing on the web and elsewhere, so I don't think I can add much in that department. I may tell stories of events that took place during some of my trips, but I won't be writing much about travel per se.
If you're a new reader, click the next link for tips on Getting started. I generally add one new entry each week, posting them Thursday evening by midnight Eastern Standard Time (05:00 Friday Greenwich Mean Time). Comments are appreciated, and I'd particularly like to encourage you to let me know if you see any errors, be they factual errors, or trivial typographic errors. There's a link at the bottom of each web page that tells you how to send me e-mail.
So these are my works. Immortality, it's the best I can do.
To pick and choose, click on Blog index, here or below.
Note 2: I'll talk more about this choice of format in entry #0003 in this blog, entitled "Why write using the HTML and JPG file formats?", about long-term document preservation. If you want to read it now, click on that link, and then use the "Back" arrow on your browser to return here (if you've visited footnotes on that page, you may need to click "Back" more than once). [return to text]
Note 3: The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in Cambridge, Massachusetts (USA), where I spent eleven years as a student. There I obtained the degrees of Bachelor of Science (in 1963), Master of Science (1964), and Doctor of Philosophy (1970), in the field of electrical engineering. [return to text]