Only Child

People who know me assume I am an only child, since I never talk about my old family, or as some call it, my birth family. (The 'old' family is in contrast to my 'new' family - that is, my current family, which is to say, my wife and kids. I first mentioned my old family here.)

In fact, I have a sister Marilyn, who is seven years older than me, a brother Tom, who is five years older than me, and a brother Tim, who is about two years younger than me. My mother passed away and my father remarried a woman I have never met.

The only person I talk to is my brother Tom. It's not so much that I dislike the other people in my family as that it is really hard to talk to them since the basis of their world is that evil is an illusion and I don't share that view. How can you have a conversation with people that don't believe that anything bad ever really happens?

I have piles of cousins, but I never see them.

I first discovered that my Dad had remarried when I received mail from a woman named Susan who said she was cleaning out some old things and came across some pictures of me as a kid.

I wrote to my brother Tom: "Who the hell is Susan?"

The answer: Dad's new wife. Wow.

I learned that my grandmother on my father's side had passed away when I was talking to my sister. This was a long time ago. We were chatting and she said, "Oh, by the way, Grandma died." I had to ask - why didn't Mom or Dad tell me? "Oh, they were busy getting ready for a trip to Hawaii."

So, you can tell, it's not too surprising that I don't talk to these people. I can talk to Tom, because he believes in physical reality, so we have a basis for conversation.

Speaking of which, my brother Tom, like me, is a very early on blogger. When both of us started writing online there was no such thing called a blog, but going by the current definition ("a web site with dated entries"), we both have been doing it for close to ten years I think.

My brother's is in a very original format. Part of it takes the form of an online trading forum where people trade futures in things like ego, denial, greed, humor, paranoia, and what not. There is another section where he posts longer essays (with dates, which makes them blog entries).

Tom's site is called Salmon Jack and here it is. It's Java based, so you need a Java runtime system installed.

© 2005 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.


Cardboard computer

This is a cardboard implementation of a Digicomp I computer created by a person known only as "Sven". I came across this on a Yahoo group dedicated to the Digicomp I computer, which came out in 1966 or so.

The Digicomp I computer was a plastic computer that I was given when I was in third or fourth grade. My parents bought one for me (I can only believe that a teacher at school asked them to, since they had no interest in computers.)

The original Digicomp I is a collector's item now, fetching up to $450.00 on eBay.

The computer is "cycling" and performing some kind of logic in the animation. The Digicomp I had three bits in an ALU (Arithmetic/Logic Unit) and could count from 0 to 7 or simulate a traffic-light and that sort of thing. I learned Boolean algebra and about Venn diagrams and that kind of stuff

I spent the summer inside the house every day playing with it. I was about eight or nine at the time. My parents were quite distressed. "Go outside more!" I remember I had the soundtrack to Chitty-Chitty Bang Bang going in the background the entire summer. The record player just looped through it all day.

More stuff about the Digicomp I is here. The Yahoo group is "Friends of Digicomp".

(BTW, in real life you "cycled" the logic by moving the slide on the lower right of the animation. This is a stop-motion animation of the computer working.)

[Wait! There's more!]

Here is one made out of wood.

And here is one made out of K'Nex.

Text © 2005 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved


Stephen Sez

Somebody's idea of me as a game producer:

Stephen Sez Caricature

It was probably mostly Al Eufrasio but I think some other people contributed.

© 2005 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.


Christian Science

Christian Science by Mark Twain.

I was raised a Christian Scientist.

Yes, that is an oxymoron.

I was taught that the world - the material world - is not real, but an illusion.

I could live with that - lots of smart people (Plato comes to mind) have thought that over the centuries.

The part of Christian Science that drove me crazy was that the idea that the illusion was an illusion too and was in fact an impossiblity, and that by realizing that, any disease would instantly vanish.

If that makes any sense to you, by the way, then your ability to hold opposing concepts in your mind simultaneously is very well developed. Or you are crazy - more likely the latter case.

Various attempts at healing me over the years were failures. For instance, I got Chicken Pox as a kid. After much praying, it went away over the same time period as for everyone else that had Chicken Pox and didn't do a lot of praying.

I had acne in high school. I went to a "practitioner" - that's a person that can see the Truth with a capital T in spite of the supposedly non-existent illusion that surrounds us. I went once or twice a week for a year or two.

Eventually my acne cleared up, at about the same rate as for other kids that had acne like mine and didn't go to a practitioner once or twice a week for a year.

Most disappointing, on the practitioner front, was that my practitioner was really fat and the wife of another practitioner who later went on to become the president of the Mother Church in Boston. So these were supposed to be really whiz-bang practitioners.

The link is to a book by Mark Twain who had some choice comments to make about Christian Science. In particular, Mark Twain says that Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy was so massively edited as to become another work not really written by Mary Baker Eddy.

There are also stories that Mrs. Eddy stole the original idea from a guy named Phineas Quimby which I personally believe. As the work (Science and Health) was modified and edited it came to make less and less sense - not that Quimby’s stuff made a lot of sense to begin with. Still, he at least stuck to his guns – that the world is an illusion – a dream (or a nightmare) – that we can modify any time we want if we would only realize our power to do so. Mrs. Eddy had to go a step further and say that the illusion could never exist. Somehow realizing the illusion was an illusion that couldn't exist would be the truth that sets you free.

I can tell you it is very hard to grow up in a family that doesn’t believe in physical reality. It’s a perfect environment for the most horrific denial. Anything that goes wrong is just an “error in perception” and should be denied and cast out with great forcefulness. And if that doesn’t fix things, then you didn’t do it right, so repeat until you get it right.

I gave it all up when I was about 22. My older brother Tom gave it up too. My younger brother Tim believes in it in spite of a knee injury that has never healed. My father still believes it even though his wife (my mother) of many years died a miserable and horrific death from cancer which remained untreated until she wasted away over a period of a year and a half. My older sister Marilyn still believes in it even though her husband felt a little strange at dinner one night and died within a few minutes.

Overall, Christian Science is a shrinking religion, primarily because members of the church have a good chance of dying from a lack of proper medical care.

To be sure, there is truth in Christian Science. Not every ailment needs a doctor. If people would just calm down then about 1/3 to 1/2 of all disease would vanish.

But it is that other 2/3rds or 1/2 that can kill you.

It’s important to distinguish between the stuff that your mind – your brain – which is the largest generator of chemicals and hormones and what-not in your body – is screwing up – and the genuinely physiological problems; it is diagnosing the difference that requires true skill.

As for me, I am left with a deep sense of the mystery of life. I believe there is much more to the world than what we can sense directly. I believe there are principles that guide the universe. I'm with Einstein - the amazing thing isn't that there are principles that guide the universe - the amazing thing is that we can understand them.

And deep down I believe reality is an illusion - but an extremely detailed and very powerful one - and if one loses one's respect for reality then one is going to suffer the consequences.

© 2005 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.

Sony admits proprietary standard was a mistake

As I mentioned here, Sony blew it by endorsing their own proprietary standard that implemented SDMI - an annoying copy protection scheme.

Now an executive at Sony (Ken Kutaragi) has admitted as much. This is a bit historic, as Sony doesn't normally own up to mistakes.

Ken Kutaragi is some kind of genius - he's done a lot of things right in the video game world. Everybody hates the hardware of the PS2 though - it's basically the Cray architecture implemented for video games. Ken thinks it is cool to take the space normally reserved for fast memory on a computer chip and replace it with vector processing.

Well, to my way of thinking, there is a reason nobody uses the Cray system architecture anymore - it's better to use that chip space for fast cache memory. And programming all of those vector units is a pain in the ass. The PS3 is going to be like the PS2 except 10 times more annoying.

© 2004 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.


Another Disneyland Knock-Off

Miceage.com: Another creepy Disneyland knock-off - this one is in Japan. (Scroll down the page to get to the Nara park.)

Also, the article mentions roller coaster videos by Robb Alvey. Robb and I worked together at Virgin Interactive. Robb introduced me to the Sherman Bros who wrote so many of those great Disney songs. We took the Shermans out to lunch at South Coast Plaza. One of them does all the talking while the other one sits in the background and ruminates. I don't collect autographs as a matter of course but I managed to get them to autograph my Mary Poppins DVD.

(I think Mary Poppins is easily one of the greatest movies ever made. Yes, I know, it's not 'serious' or 'important' like Lawrence of Arabia, another great movie, but it's still great nonetheless.)



We were considering last summer what to do with the rather large wasp nest in our front yard. Should we fill it full of poisonous gas? Knock the thing down and run like heck?

After some research on the all mighty internet we discovered that Wasps create a nest, lay eggs and raise their children, and then split! We decided to leave the Wasps alone primarily because they were leaving us alone and we thought it was probably better for the gene pool to allow less aggressive Wasps to breed.

One day late in the fall I was out mowing the lawn and it dawned on me there was no activity at the Wasp nest. Indeed, as predicted, the Wasps had left, and the nest, which was no longer actively maintained, was falling apart.

Abandoned Wasp Nest

We don't know where the Wasps went. Our only guess is that they moved to the suburbs as many WASPS do.

© 2005 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.



This is me (25 years ago) with my ARP synthesizer. All things considered, it was a piece of crap, but it was loads of fun to play with. It was a load of crap because none of the components in it would stay in tune for more than 10 seconds.

Stephen and his ARP synthesizer

I haven't fooled with synthesized music for about five years or so, but here is some electronic music I composed sometime in the last ten or fifteen years.

© 2005 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.

Stage Show

I love playing ragtime piano.

Stephen playing piano at the 'Stage Show' at Corona Del Mar High School

This is me playing at "The Stage Show", a show my old high school, Corona Del Mar, would put on every other year. I taught myself to play by watching Rod Miller at Coke Corner at Disneyland every weekend for two years and then going home and practicing for a couple of hours. Plus, like Rod, I bought a player piano that I could slow down or even stop to learn the notes.

More about that, and sample music is here.

© 2005 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.



I've taken 25,332 digital pictures (give or take a dozen) since I bought our first digital camera in October, 2000.

I was going to wait until digital cameras were better when a friend, Charles Vollum, said, "Why are you committed to throwing away money?" I had to admit he had a point.

Anyway, you take enough pictures, and some turn out okay!

This isn't the most spectacular picture - it is a Wasp's nest that was in our front yard. But it's a picture that I never could have or would have taken with an analog camera.

Wasp Nest

© 2005 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.

I'm famous

KING5.com News for Seattle, Washington Weather Pix

I took a picture last night of this incredible orange sunset that occured during a hail storm - then submitted it to King 5 (one of our local news stations) Weather Pix. And now it's online.


(Apparently you need registration to see the picture... Here it is:)

Picture of Orange Sunset


Female Inventors: Hedy Lamarr

Female Inventors: Hedy Lamarr

WTF happened to all the great female actress inventors?

(We were watching Jeopardy when this crazy question come up - what famous actress invented the technology used in cell phones? Hedy Lamarr invented "frequency hopping" which is used all over the place now, from phones to Wi-Fi.)

From the site:

"Any girl can be glamorous," Hedy Lamarr once said. "All she has to do is stand still and look stupid." The film star belied her own apothegm by hiding a brilliant, inventive mind beneath her photogenic exterior. In 1942, at the height of her Hollywood career, she patented a frequency-switching system for torpedo guidance that was two decades ahead of its time.


Basketball Courts

Speaking of churches, did you know that every church of the Latter Day Saints (the Mormons) has a basketball court in it?

(Don't confuse the church with the big bad-ass temples - the church is a small local meeting place that is shared by several "wards". A ward is a geographical grouping of followers that more-or-less run themselves with a mostly lay administration.)

How cool is that? How often are they used? Do they use it as a recruiting tool?

Enquiring minds want to know.

p.s. Did you know that the Matterhorn at Disneyland has a small half-court basketball court in it? Huh, did ya? (Visit the link for some happy music.)

© 2005 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.

Saddleback Church

+++ Saddleback Church +++

Amazingly, since I am not really the church going type, another church I went to from time-to-time in California was Saddleback Church. The head pastor-dude there, Rick Warren, wrote a huge bestseller, The Purpose Driven Life. Back ten or eleven years ago when I used to go, the place was still in a giant tent in the middle of a big field.

I loved going to the big tent at Christmas time because they put on a terrific show. One young woman in particular would sing "Oh Holy Night". She had this huge vocal range and her performance was just terrific. There were probably 5,000 people in the big revival tent.

I had completely forgotten about Rick Warren and his (ahem) crusade until I saw him on 60 minutes. "Hey, I know that guy!"

Well, I didn't really know him, but I listened to him preach (in his non-preachy way) about 20 times.

You want to get me into church? Put on a great music show. And be a really big church so I can hide in the crowd.

That's the ticket.


Take Me for a Ride

Project Gutenberg Edition of Take Me for a Ride: Coming of Age in a Destructive Cult

This is Mark Laxer's excellent and incredibly accurate (from what I know) story about his involvement with Rama.

This is really great stuff and a great read and I highly recommend it, even if you don't care much about cults.

Everyone is looking for leadership from somewhere - from a boss, a friend, a minister, a sacred book, or whatever, and it's a big disappointment when that person or inspirational thing lets you down. As a result, of course, many people go into denial, and just ignore the little things that are starting to indicate that their spiritual (or business) guide isn't all he or she is supposed to be.

Mark, who was "in tight" with Rama from the early days, did pay attention to the warning signs, and was able to move on and grow from his experiences.

We should all be so lucky.


Lego Crystal Cathedral

Speaking, as I just was, of the Crystal Cathedral, in Southern California, reminded me of these pictures that recently arrived in my email. Naturally I do not know the origins of these pictures.

I believe this is a Lego model of the Crystal Cathedral.

Lego Crystal Cathedral

Lego Crystal Cathedral

Lego Crystal Cathedral

Lego Crystal Cathedral

(No, it isn't - it's amazing what a little web searching can turn up. It's the Abston Church of Christ. Well, it has the same open feeling as the Crystal Cathedral.)

From the FAQ on the Lego Church:

13. Where is Abston?

Abston is a fictional town, named after the plastic that LEGO is made from (ABS).

14. What is ABS?

Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene. It's the plastic that LEGO is made from.

Rama in Wired

Wired 7.09: Street Brawl in the Twilight Zone

This is an article from Wired about Rama and his hijinks.

BTW, I think I spent a total of $2,500.00 over several years on my Guru. Luckily I never got super-involved - I was busy finishing my Ph.D. as Rama sank into super-maniacal craziness.

I was pretty sure that Rama wasn't especially enlightened - although his charisma level was very high - because he never tapped me for one of his computer companies. I was working on my Ph.D. in computer science and even as a starting consultant I made more money than most of the people that took classes from him.

People that studied with him reported seeing all kinds of strange manifestations. I never saw any of that, except one time when we'd been out in the desert and I was fairly sleep deprived. Even then what I saw wasn't overly spectacular - he was walking around and suddenly it looked to me like he went shooting backwards about ten feet. But this was at about 4:00 a.m. in the desert and from what I know now about how sleep works I probably had a quick shot of REM sleep. Not a big deal.

I kept going though because he was funny, interesting, and could keep a room full of hundreds of people dead silent for 45 minutes or an hour of meditation. Regardless of whatever power Rama had or didn't have, it is a very powerful experience to sit in meditation with hundreds of people.

Sometimes I would go to the Crystal Cathedral with Robert Schuller and experience the same thing. It's cool when hundreds of people are focused on one thing and there is a charismatic dude up front leading the proceedings.

It doesn't mean the leader is particularly enlightened - it just means the person is very charismatic and can control a big crowd.

I consider myself lucky, of course. Since I never got drawn into the inner circle I avoided the craziness and in the meantime I learned a lot about meditation and eastern religion and philosophy.

© 2005 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved

Rama-Lama-Ding-Dong Home Page

Rama-Lama-Ding-Dong Home Page

Rama, aka Fred, was my Guru for awhile, say, around 1982 to 1986, maybe. I had a lot of fun learning to meditate with him.

When I first met him, his name was Atmananda, well, actually it was still Fred, but his "spiritual name" was Atmananda, and he talked a lot about how to meditate. He was very charasmatic and very funny and had really done his homework on eastern religions.

Later, he started to go crazy, and he changed his name to Rama, and he told people he was the last incarnation of Vishnu, and that when he died, the world would end.

He finally took a long walk off a short pier and drowned. (No kidding, that's exactly what happened.)

The world continues in spite of his passing.

Of course, in the long run, he could still be right about the world ending after his death.

Here's a joke about scale:

Person: "God, isn't a thousand years like a second to you?"

God: "Yes."

Person: "Isn't a million dollars like a penny to you?"

God: "Yes."

Person: "Can I have a million dollars?"

God: "Sure, just a second."

© 2005 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved