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The Knowledge Vampire

The following is a piece I wrote to myself nine years ago on May 19, 2006

The knowledge vampire. Yep, that’s me. I’m a knowledge vampire. I don’t suck the juice out of anything, I absorb. I have this hunger for knowing. I just gotta know. I remember when I was a kid. Sitting on the front porch in summer or on the living room sofa waiting for breakfast. Reading. I love to read. I love to discover stuff. Find out why things are. I got up early every Saturday morning to watch Mr. Wizard. Made my own breakfast too. Why would a kid, or at least any normal kid want to get out of bed early on Saturday. Saturday was the day you’re supposed to be lazy. No school, nothing to do or at least nobody telling you what to do all day. Except when dad would give me the hose and expect me to wash all the dirt down the alley. Why didn’t we sweep the alley with a broom?

Waste of water. But what did we know then. Water was free and there was always more where that came from. The water squirted out of the hose as long as you wanted it to. Besides, sweeping was work and crouching with the hose was easy – the hose was doing all the work. Me? I’m just holding the hose and moving it back and forth.

What chore did I hate the most? Weeding the garden. I had to get down on my knees and get dirt under my fingernails. Nasty bugs and stuff on my hands. Ech! I wanted to be sitting in the back yard with my soldiers. Now that was real playing in the dirt. Same dirt, but it was my dirt instead of the garden dirt. I was playing instead of working.

So, why did I get up on Saturday morning? Because Mr. Wizard was cool. He did all kinds of neat stuff and I learned things. Same reason I got so many books out of the library. I found out about all kinds of stuff. Stuff I never knew. Was it useful? Did it matter? No. I was having fun.

I was left to my own devices? Crazy way to talk. Who ever talked that way? As I was saying, they would usually leave me alone so I could read or whatever. I liked reading better than baseball. I was never much of an athlete. Nobody made me and nobody took the time to show me. So, I learned things on my own.

I had a magnifying glass. I had a few of those over the years. I liked to shine the sun on leaves and burn holes in them with my magnifying glass. Burned up a few ants too. Looked a bit closer that I could with my regular eyes.

So, I’m a knowledge vampire? Maybe better to call myself a knowledge sponge. Absorb all I can then wring me out and start over.

I was a good little boy too. Never deviating from the rules they gave me. Memorize the catechism. Every day with the rules. Break one and go to confession and all would be right again (after I said the hail Marys and our fathers.)

Remember walking over to DeSales on Saturday afternoons in the summer to confess my sins. Wearing a nylon shirt outside my pants. Long pants and combed hair. Wouldn’t do to show up in church looking like a regular kid, even though I was a sinner.

Knowledge. Asking questions? Yeah, but I didn’t ask too many questions when I was a kid. I just did what I was told to do (most of the time.) Never a rebel, but I always had my secret world. If I didn’t share by telling people, then they never knew what I was thinking.

Confessing sins sucks. Having to kneel there and share intimate things with this priest guy. Share my secrets with a guy in a black dress. Never went to Fr. Gallagher because I was afraid he’d recognize my voice. Poof, there go the secrets. Bad enough you had to kneel there, but imagine how bad, even scared I’d be if the guy in black knew who I was.

Am I different now? Hope so. I’m 61 now. Bit older than the scared kid who sat and read books all the time, but I still want to suck all of the knowledge I can. I want to know more stuff!

Afterword (written today) I’m 69, soon to be 70 and I’m still a knowledge vampire.


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Johnny is Back Again

The new chemo regime, second session beat the crap out of me and I landed in the hospital for nine days in the regular unit followed by nine more days in the rehab unit for a total of 18 days in the hospital. Got home Thursday evening. Boy did it ever feel good to be home sleeping in my own bed.

Now I come downstairs in the morning and stay there until bedtime. The first trip up the stairs Thursday night was a real bitch. I found a better way Friday night. I used my walking/stick to help my stronger left leg and held onto the handrail mounted on the right. Made it to the top slower but easier and a major triumph for me.

Have my computer set up downstairs and am slowly catching up and adjusting to my new ‘normal.’ I grow stronger each day and will be back with new posts shortly.

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2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 22,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 5 Film Festivals

Click here to see the complete report.

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I’m Back … Sort of

I’ve been out of circulation for a few weeks. Was in the hospital for 12 days. Home since June 8th recovering from surgery, going for radiation treatments, etc. Plenty of time for thinking and writing now. My computer is a hard wired desktop and I’m only online for brief periods every few days. Hey old Johnny is in top spirits and recovering.

Funny thing is that I don’t miss the constant Internet connection at all. I have time to read, meditate (very important part of my life), think, write and will be doing all of the above. Photography will be on the back burner for awhile until I’m out and about. Meanwhile, I think I’ll compose a few posts on my Neo and post when ready over the next days and weeks. Stay Tuned.

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2011 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Syndey Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 15,000 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 6 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Tracy and I went to the Christmas concert at the JMT school tonight. JMT is the local grade school and both Sara and Emily are in the choir. The entire gang was there — kids (all six), parents and grandparents. It was fun.

Photo of the girls taken by Tracy

Tracy took this group picture of our granddaughters in the lobby after the concert. From left to right: Megan, Livvy, Sara, Julia, Maddy and Emily. Maddy loves having her picture taken. Can you tell?

JMT choir photo by Tracy

Here’s a shot of the choir, another photo taken by Tracy under difficult lighting conditions with her tiny Canon digicam. We didn’t get pictures of the school band. They performed first.

Maddy conducting the school band photo by John

Here’s one I took. It’s Maddy standing on her chair directing the band. She was waving her arms and swaying from side to side. That’s mom (Sue) with the big smile behind Maddy. The people behind us thought Maddy’s performance was one of the funniest things they ever saw.

The kids in the band and the choir sounded pretty good and we all had a fine time. Merry Christmas.

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Imagine a solitary person seated in a huge, windowless waiting room, staring vacantly ahead, life outside passing by unnoticed. Why are they sitting there? Are they waiting for the perfect opportunity that never arrives? Maybe they’re waiting for the ideal person to come along but who never does. Do they huddle alone because they judge themselves not good enough?

Waiting and never accepting. The curse of perfectionism paralyzes the perfectionist, condemns them to a life in limbo and puts a life infused with creative energy on permanent hold because perfectionists are never ready.

Perfectionism is an obsession. WordNet describes perfectionism as “a disposition to feel that anything less than perfect is unacceptable.” Wow, that pretty much excludes life doesn’t it.

Vibrant life is like a swift mountain stream, sparkling in the sunlight, always changing, forever new. Becoming is the joy of life. Life is change, a journey of discovery and creativity, always reaching for the better.

Perfectionism confuses the goals with the journey. Perfection is the end of all things…really. The universe, indeed all of us strive for perfection, but we’ll never get there and that’s a good thing. If all things were perfect, what would be the point of life? We can savor the deliciousness of life, the thrill of the creative journey, but only when we act.

Action is the cure for perfectionism. Take that next action. Will it be perfect? Not likely and you might even (shudder) fail. No, wait. Failure is impossible because failure is a state of mind. Take an action and no matter what you do, you’ll move closer to your goal. You’ll either find a solution or you’ll discover new information that you didn’t have and never would have gotten by waiting. Each action propels us forward and upward one step at a time.

Perfectionism is ironic because inaction and waiting for the perfect solution short circuit our creative being, remove all options for progress and guarantee failure. All life strives toward perfection, but perfection is elusive and always out of reach. Each time we create something better, we raise the bar. We reach higher and higher and that reaching is the real joy of life.

The why of perfectionism isn’t important. It may come from procrastination, or born out of fear. Fear of success, fear of failure, fear of not good enough or fear of the unknown. Without action, we’ll never know. Perfectionism is the polar opposite of positive living. Perfectionism puts us out of the game of life, sidelined on the bench waiting and that’s a shame. The denial of life and the joys of the creative journey are the real pitfalls of perfectionism.

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Happy Birthday Mom

Mom is 88 today. Happy birthday mom! I think longevity depends on keeping the kid within all of us alive and well. Don’t believe me? Take a look at the real mom.

Mom in 1927

Here’s a picture of mom the kid. This photo was taken in 1927 when mom was 4 1/2 years old. We found a small suitcase filled with old family photographs among my aunt’s things stored in the garage. I’m glad I decided to look in the suitcase. This image is the first one I scanned. There are lots more where this one came from.

That little girl is still very much alive and today is her birthday. Happy birthday kid.

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Police_BoxMaxThink is, in the words of it’s author, Neil Larson, a HyperText Outline / Idea Processor. It’s still alive and kicking in a windows incarnation after all these years. I bought MaxThink from Neil around 1990 and upgraded to Max94 a few years later. I still have the wonderful printed manual. I figured out how to get the old DOS program running in dosbox on my ubuntu linux system. It’s still better than anything out there today, including the mind mappers.

I think I stepped out of the TARDIS into the past because I found a piece I wrote over 25 years ago. I’ll have more to say about my adventures with outliners in general and MaxThink in particular in another post.

Meanwhile, here’s the piece I wrote in the early 1980s.

Need method of getting raw ideas into a computer in a smooth, natural flow. As ideas occur to the user, that person should be able to transfer the ideas to the computer quickly. But ideas are not isolated symbols. To have real meaning as an idea, many? symbols are ‘related’ to form more coherent thoughts.

Ideas could be thought of a patterns of smaller symbols that make up a whole that is greater than the sum of it’s parts (GESTALT?). The ‘linkage’ of these ideas is the tough part of using a computer as a ‘thought processor’. PROCESSOR? The human brain is the ‘idea generator’. How do you process ideas? To process something seems to imply that you DO (act) on something. Maybe to process something you ‘change’ that something so that something becomes something else.

Using a computer only makes sense if the particular task is easier to perform with a computer. If a task can be better performed by ‘hand’, then the task should not be put on the computer.

The following is an example/analysis of the though process of a person who is thinking freely (intuitively if you like), and a possible method of using the computer productively as an organizing tool. Computers are much better at ‘remembering’ details than a human brain. The computer’s process is strictly a ‘left brain’ type of activity, while the creative process is a ‘right brain’ type of activity.

It’s fair to say that the idea of AI or artificial intelligence is more concerned with the ‘right brain’ type of activity. Think of the implications of being able to enter right brain thoughts directly into the computer, then being able to easily establish linkages in the computer. That is what I would call an idea processor.

The earliest programs that call themselves idea processors are just now hitting the market. These programs are tools that allow the user to create an outline that can be expanded/contracted on command. What I have in mind goes beyond the outline type program.

The first step in my program would accept free form words/phrases, allow a screen display of the words/phrases, and also allow linkages between words/phrases to be created and shown graphically. This could be accomplished using keyboard, graphics tablet, [no mice yet — remember this was written in about 1983] or voice input. The idea is to allow the user to enter a screen full of words/phrases that have been freely generated from a key word or phrase and to allow the user to establish linkages between the words/phrases that show on the screen.

Once the words/phrases have been linked, they can be further organized using a hierarchy beginning with the linkages, extending through various outlines leading to the final product that can be thought of as the same as a product delivered by a ‘word processor’.


I typed this word for word from an old printout. I changed the paragraphing and corrected a few spelling errors but left the wording and punctuation alone. I wrote the above piece on a TRS80 Model 100, the first real laptop computer, and printed it out on a pen plotter on adding machine paper. I pasted the printout onto a blank 8 1/2 x 11 and made a copy in the office. I didn’t date it, but the method did.

This was written before desktop computers used DOS and Microsoft was a startup. It was written 4 or 5 years before I had my first desktop. It was written long before I bought MaxThink.

I look back and wonder. After more than 25 years, people still use their computers like expensive typewriters. Good outliners are things of the past and that’s a shame. Computers should be helping us think better and mostly they do the opposite. I’ll have more to say later. I’ve gone on long enough this time.

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I’ve been so busy with my photography that I forgot to write. Duh! I’ve also been busy learning to write software programs. What will I think of next?


Say hello to Maddy and Liv, my new favorite photo subjects. I love photographing my granddaughters. Maddy’s the happy kid on the left. Liv wasn’t feeling too well last Sunday. Poor kid has an infection in both ears.


There’s no stopping Maddy though. She had a good old time. My wife was getting her to do the so big trick.


Liv fell asleep in my son-in-law’s arms. She does look peaceful.

I’ve been reading some interesting books lately. I have some ideas that I’ll be sharing with you soon — just need to get my writer’s hat on straight. Maybe I’ll have a long talk with my dragon. That’ll do the trick.

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