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Blogger Profile: TheBigHenry

The normblog profile 232: TheBigHenry (February 29, 2008):

TheBigHenry was born in Nazi-occupied Poland. He came to America in 1949, and at the age of 13 became an American citizen in 1955, the same year the Brooklyn Dodgers won their first and only World Series. He graduated from Hicksville High School (yes, that one - Billy Joel attended several years later) in 1959. He received a bachelor's degree from Cornell, and a master's and doctorate from Columbia. Before retiring from Los Alamos National Laboratory, he became an ACBL life master. He and wife Trish, a grad student at Duke, are happily unemployed in Durham, North Carolina. Henry blogs at Remembrance in Spacetime.

What has been your best blogging experience? > Collaborating with wifey, 'tristein' (her web moniker), on my semi-autobiographical novel The Pilot's Saga, which we are serializing on my blog.

What would be your main blogging advice to a novice blogger? > Get a wife. She'll make sure you remember to eat.

What are your favourite blogs? > normblog; Fat Man on a Keyboard; Last of the Few. Surprisingly, all Brits.

Who are your intellectual heroes? > Einstein; Lincoln; Tolstoy.

What are you reading at the moment? > Proust, Remembrance of Things Past; Podhoretz, World War IV; Nemirovsky, Suite Française; Montaigne, The Complete Essays. Three translated from the French.

What is the best novel you've ever read? > Anna Karenina.

What is your favourite movie? > Sea of Love has the most satisfying final scene I have ever seen. Fateless (Lajos Koltai) includes a scene I cannot watch without sobbing. On the Waterfront will always be my favourite contender.

What is your favourite song? > Schubert's 'Ständchen' is the most beautiful melody known to man.

Who is your favourite composer? > Beethoven.

Can you name a major moral, political or intellectual issue on which you've ever changed your mind? > I used to be a liberal, until the Democratic Party became an insane asylum.

What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to disseminate? > Can't improve on Winnie, can only paraphrase: 'Democracy imperfect; everything else a bloody disaster'. A close second is Truman's exhortation for personal accountability: 'The buck stops here'.

Can you name a work of non-fiction which has had a major and lasting influence on how you think about the world? > Montaigne, The Complete Essays. Montaigne himself said it best: 'I have no more made my book than my book has made me'.

Who are your political heroes? > Abraham Lincoln; Winston Churchill; Harry Truman.

What is your favourite piece of political wisdom? > Lincoln's Gettysburg Address.

If you could effect one major policy change in the governing of your country, what would it be? > IQ testing of candidates for elected office should be mandatory, with results made publicly accessible before the election.

What would you do with the UN? > Move it to Baghdad.

What do you consider to be the main threat to the future peace and security of the world? > Fascism of any stripe, including liberal.

Do you think the world (human civilization) has already passed its best point, or is that yet to come? > The critical conflict between clockwise and counter-clockwise forces is on. If the former prevail, humanity will witness a virtual heaven on earth. If the latter, humanity is doomed to repeat its history, beginning with the dark ages, only next time with depleted resources. To doubt the criticality of this conflict is to accept the inevitability of civilization's counter-clockwise downward spiral to an irreversible phase transition.

What would be your most important piece of advice about life? > Get one. Strive for more.

What do you consider the most important personal quality? > Recognition that the brain is your friend.

In what circumstances would you be willing to lie? > To save a life worth saving.

Do you have any prejudices you're willing to acknowledge? > I lead A from AK, unless it's a doubleton.

What is your favourite proverb? > 'Thou shalt not f*ck with America.'

What, if anything, do you worry about? > The adjoint list - of what I don't worry about - is much shorter.

If you were to relive your life to this point, is there anything you'd do differently? > I should have listened to Mom and learned to play the piano. She also wanted me to be a real doctor (MD), but I think I made a good choice anyway.

What would you call your autobiography? > Remembrance in Spacetime.

What is your most treasured possession? > Wifey's heart.

Which baseball team do you support? > Brooklyn Dodgers.

How, if at all, would you change your life were you suddenly to win or inherit an enormously large sum of money? > I would become a renowned philanthropist, like Bill Gates.

If you could have any three guests, past or present, to dinner who would they be? > Imagine the conversation: Moses (ethics, justice, investing); Lincoln (leadership, wisdom); Einstein (what it all means).


“I ceased in the year 1764 to believe that one can convince one's opponents with arguments printed in books. It is not to do that, therefore, that I have taken up my pen, but merely so as to annoy them, and to bestow strength and courage on those on our own side, and to make it known to the others that they have not convinced us.”
Georg Christoph Lichtenberg, The Waste Books, Notebook E, 1775-76

Manifesto: In which I address the question, "Why do you blog?"

"Cogito, ergo sum [I think, therefore I am]." — René Descartes
"I am, therefore I may [timshel]." — TheBigHenry
"When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle." — Edmund Burke
I ascribe significant value to structure in my life. Perhaps that is a manifestation of my OCD "persuasion". Be that as it may, I think of my life having consisted of several stages so far:
  1. Preschool (ages 0—3)
  2. Schooling (ages 3—28)
  3. Research (ages 28—60)
  4. Retirement (ages 60—present)
It is obvious that my principal tool from birth to retirement had been my mind, which by most accounts served me well. Although some of my colleagues suggested I had lost it by retiring, I am inclined to believe that my mind is still intact. I plan to keep it that way.

In planning for my retirement, I understood that to optimize that stage of my life would require care and feeding of heart and mind — physical as well as mental exercise, in addition to a healthy diet. All three are important, of course, but for me the most interesting to contemplate has always been the mental exercise.

During my research stage, my mental exercise derived primarily from my work-related activities, and even from my favorite pastime, duplicate bridge. In my retirement, I needed to find a suitable alternative for my professional research. The operative word was "suitable".

Several aspects of intellectual activity are important components for my personal notion of a suitable mental exercise: reading; comprehending; analysis; writing; joking; musing; and documenting. All these and more are available through the publishing of a blog. I also derive satisfaction from the creative process of maintaining such a living and evolving document.

Having maintained my blog for more than two and a half years now [written November 8, 2009], I have come to realize another important motivation for what has become part of my daily ritual. I have reached the stage of life when thoughts of posterity "trespass onto the radar", to coin a phrase. And with such a mixed-emotion realization, I have also recalled a quote that is often mis-attributed to Edmund Burke:
"All that is needed for the forces of evil to succeed is for enough good men to remain silent." — (William Safire?)
I refuse to be shoved into tomorrow's gas chambers without speaking out while I still can.

This is why I blog at Remembrance in Spacetime.

Post #993 TheBigHenry Manifesto (rev.2)