PrevNextTop85-04-12Letter replying to Jim, about Mexico Plans

[[ This is my response to Jim's letter. ]]
[[ Here is his response to this letter. ]]

Friday Night
12 April 1985
Cambridge, England

Dear Jim,

HELLO! How are you? It's been a long time.

I was stuck there for a while. I've got to just blab on here. I have plenty to ask and tell you but it takes me a while to get warmed up to writing again.


Thank you for your letter. [[ Click here to see it. ]] I want to respond to it in detail later but first a few things.

I will leave Thursday 18 April for Mexico where I will stay for two months to make a good start at learning Spanish. My address there:

Towards the end of June I will be returning home and I thought that instead of flying direct from Mexico City to San Francisco I would travel through Mexico a little using my new skill. More important I would like to meet you in San Diego. Are you taking a summer vacation to visit your parents and friends in San Diego and could you time it to be around the end of June? In San Diego or near San Diego? From my point of view I see 3 4 advantages:
  1. I could meet your parents and George, see where you taught high school, and see the gym where you were transformed from a scaly little runt to a strong scaly little runt.
  2. I'd like you to be the one I see first.
  3. You could help ease the culture shock I've heard some people tell about on returning to the U.S.A.
  4. I'd get a comfortable ride home in your wonder mobile.
How about it? Let me know.

Looking at my calendar I see that July 1 is a Monday. I want to be back by then and you probably want to return on a Monday to use the weekend effectively. I plan to ask Norman and Karen if I could spend the 4th of July with them. So, what do you think? What are your plans? When is your birthday? End of June sometime?

It's hard to write a letter. You We are so far away in time and distance. It's hard to read a letter. You imagine the other person in front of you speaking or showing you things but it's not the same. Not even close. On top of this, communication is difficult anyway - a topic we discussed at length one time if I remember correctly. Do you know what I mean? I can't hear you. Are you there?

I'd like to try to respond to your letter (click here to see it) stream-of-consciousness-like as I read it. But first I'll say that it's a good letter. You clearly put a lot into it. I now how hard it is to write a letter. Your letter has the clarity, balance, unity, and expressiveness of a good poetic program. You know me pretty well and know the kind of things I'd like to hear. I don't think you just sat down one night and dashed the letter off in an hour. I thank you for the care you put into it. As I respond, I'll assume you remember what you said in the letter though it's dated January 31.

At the top of your letter is “thursday evening”. Days of the week should be capitalized, you know.

Yes, Computer paper for a letter is tacky. Not much of a rush of hominess. I haven't been a full time programmer for a long time and never used listings much. As long as I had a full-screen editor.

Not dogs. Yah. How's ARAG? I include a few leaflets I have collected on my wanderings. Is the Animal Rights movement in the U.S. in touch with its “sisters and brothers” in other countries? Do you think the “Animal Liberation Front” is entirely counter productive? Do they wake some people up or just make them angry and defensive?

No, I have never lost a mouthful of milk as I plopped down on a bean bag. It must be you. Your general clutzyness clutziness, lack of coordination. I have nearly bitten my tongue in two on several occasions. When I asked my dentist whether my tongue was swollen or too big for my mouth he said, “No, you're simply not paying attention when you eat.”

Of course that was a snow covered Norwegian landscape! That was one of my most inspired works. Riding the train south from Bodø to Trondheim I opened the drapes of the compartment after having slept through the early morning. At least I thought I opened the drapes. I could see nothing. Upon blinking my eyes and squinting a little I made out some telephone poles. There was no blizzard. When I mailed the card in Oslo the postal clerk turned it over and over looking for something.

What do you mean my grammatical errors! To hell with you. I am capable of any kind of error. Some errors I might make on purpose to give added emphasis, punch, impact. Poetic license (tough word to spell) ya know.

Alan was fortunate to be able to split for a month. You could have if you wanted to. If we can arrange it, our travelling together from San Diego can be great fun, too.

So you're accruing acruing acrewing accumulating acummulating accummulating millions a little nest egg, eh? I'll bet you are. A large savings account gives one freedom of choice and security. Charlie, my mentor at the census bureau (two hard words to spell) once said, “More money may not make your life better but it won't make it worse.” My own attitude about money and work (when I worked full time) was: “I've taken a vow of poverty but just happen to have a $32,000 a year job.” I think you are in the same position. In Lyon, France I met a young woman from Oakland. She said, “When I return home my bank account will be very calm.” Mine, too.

Yes, I understand and appreciate your demonstration of “our inability to comprehend number of this magnitude” equalling “our inability to grasp the meaning of age”. Yet I'm sure that uncles and aunts and cousins and neighbors and friends will be looking at me at my brother's wedding reception and shaking their heads and shrugging their shoulders.

Layoffs! You must be a valued employee. I did tell Tom (your boss, right?) that you had great potential. I hope all these layoffs doesn't don't mean that I'll have trouble getting a job when I return. I've always assumed that there would be a demand. Maybe not.

Exclusively in C. Congratulations. 3 grand bonus! Uh, um. Is that 3 thousand? dollars? American?

COBOL, eh? When I return I'd like a little tutorial. I want to know a little about the language that perhaps 60% of all programs are written in. Looking at source code, eh? I never learned how to use a debugger effectively so looking at source code is the only way I know knew. I got good at sprinkling printf's, too. At this point you're a more experienced, up-to-date programmer than I and you could teach me a lot.

“Avocados on dark rye ... to avocado on light rye ...”. As a budding nutritionist I'd say that a mononotous diet is preferable as long as it's sound. Is the dark rye a whole grain bread of simply light rye with caramel coloring? As a final comment avacado is spelled avocado.

“Get out of the house and visit with other people more often.” Yup, it's hard. I'm a loner, too, and enjoy my own company and seem to need more time to myself than others. One of the few difficulties that Alan and I had travelling together was that he thrives on togetherness (and may be afraid of being alone) and I can only take so much. I don't like to go to bars, nightclubs or the usual social scene. Taking classes through adult ed or the city recreation department was my way of “getting out” and “mixing”. Meeting other people while travelling has proven very easy and natural. When I return “home” and settle down to whatever I'm going to do we'll see if I remember any lessons I've learned. Shit! My resonse to your letter is longer than your letter.

Happiness. Children. Play. You express it very well. You remind me of the conversations we often had (and will have). I sense the presence of Krishnamurti in your discussion. You might be interested in a book called The Conquest of Happiness by Bertrand Russell. Baba Hari Dass sums up his advice neatly: “Meditate every day, meet people without fear, work honestly, and play.” Yesterday on the train from London to Cambridge it was crowded. The seats faced like this:

One of the aisle seats was vacated when several people got off at a stop. A mother with 3 children aged (approximately) 2, 7, 11 came and put the two year old down and then they went off looking for more seats together. Next to the two year old was sitting a very well dressed, distinguished business man. The 2 year old said nothing just sat and looked at all of us with big open honest pure eyes. This powerful being made the distinguished one nothing. It knew something that we long ago forgot. Everyone's eyes turned. Looking, looking to find, to learn what it had to teach.

One little story before I run out of room. I visited my 78 year old great uncle in Minneapolis near the end of October. He asked me about computers. He said, “What the hell are they good for?” He had never seen or used one just saw all the ads. I dragged him down to see a Macintosh at the local dealer. He was tickled at first but tired quickly. He asked the your (~23-25) clerk - “Can this help me play better golf?” This young fellow had been thoroughly indoctrinated and started describing some existing programs that could be written connected to a wind guage gague guage gauge and distance meter, etc. I said, “Nonsense.” “People who are trapped/addicted to computers will find a way to computerize every aspect of their life, but Nonsense!”

Thanks again for your good letter, my friend. Let me know about San Diego.


[[ This is my response to Jim's letter. ]]

PrevNextTop85-04-12Letter replying to Jim, about Mexico Plans