Friday, September 30, 2011


Brandy and I inspected the lake perimeter today. For the first time in my eleven years here it was over the road, both at the east end, near Claire, Rochelle and Norman and Tatyana, and at the west end, near the Lishes.
The lake does not have surface streams in or out, so it pretty much responds to the level of the water in the saturated ground around it, the water table, with some added influence of underground springs.
Each acre of water a foot deep, one acre-foot, is approximately one-third of a million gallons of water. To bring our 18-acre lake down a foot would take about 6 million gallons of water removal ... and a place to put it.
Pumping at 100 gallons per minute would take about forty days.
At least the drought is over.
Douglas Winslow Cooper, Ph.D., 264 East Drive, Walden, NY 12586
TINA's site:
BOOK site:
BLOG site:

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


We received sextuplets today! The stork, masquerading as a UPS delivery man, put a bundle of joy on our doorstep tonight. Their proud father is glad their faces all resemble their mother‘s. Each offspring is 6” by 9” by 0.75” and weighs one pound one ounce. The first set will soon be followed by more. We’ve named these: Tawny, Teenie, Tiny, Toni, Tootsie, and Sue. We have enrolled them in the nearby Montessori School, lest they fall too far behind their peers.

 28 September 2011


I downloaded our book with ease from Amazon  [] for our Kindle ebook reader on Saturday, 24 September 2011 for $0.99. They provide free "apps" to allow this ebook format to be read in several others. Amazon has the paperback available now, too. Amazon in Britain sells the ebook for 86 pence.

I downloaded our book with ease from Barnes and Noble [] on Saturday, 24 September 2011 for $0.99. They provide free "apps" to allow this ebook format to be read in several others.

Outskirts Press [outskirtspress/tingandi] has a descriptive page and a downloadable $5 ebook version and links to buying it at Amazon or Barnes and Noble.


From Ting and I: A Memoir

In late 2007, Phil wrote what follows in response to the MBA application question: “If you could step into someone else’s shoes for a day, whose would they be, and why?” (500-word maximum)

I would like to spend the day in my mother’s shoes, but she has not worn a pair of shoes for years. Every day my mother goes through extraordinary means just to live another day. Despite great obstacles and setbacks, she continues to live her life in a determined, selfless, and gracious way.

Diagnosed with multiple sclerosis 30 years ago, my mother has slowly succumbed to the unpredictable, debilitating disease. She began walking with a cane when I was in fourth grade, moved into a wheelchair when I was in eighth grade, and was bedridden by the time I started high school. During my senior year of college, she nearly died from pneumonia. She is now completely paralyzed from the neck down, reliant on life-support equipment and 24-hour nursing care.

From one day in my mother’s shoes I would learn true determination, the kind that transcends an all-nighter at the office or running an extra mile. My mother’s determination is not only to survive despite the incredible odds against her, but to continue to live life to fulfill her purpose: to be there for her family as a loving, caring wife and mother.

She accomplishes this goal in small but meaningful ways, looking beyond her own problems to focus on those around her. For example, although she seldom leaves the house, she is still an avid viewer of the Weather Channel. As my father heads out to walk the dog every day, she reminds him to wear sunscreen or to take an umbrella. Ignoring the fact that she hasn’t been able to eat solid food in years, she always asks what I’ve had for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, making sure I have had enough to eat. And as a nurse holds the phone to her ear, my mother regularly calls relatives and friends to recommend a TV show or movie that she thinks would interest them.

A day spent in my mother’s shoes would teach me to live life graciously and without bitterness. In the face of tremendous personal losses, she remains thankful for what she has: a loving husband and sons, a dog that keeps her husband in shape, and a new flat-screen HDTV. Rarely feeling sorry for herself or seeking sympathy from others, she treats those around her with kindness. She politely thanks the nurses for every task they do, whether it is administering her afternoon medication or changing the channel to Oprah promptly at 4:00. Asking after the nurses’ families, she treats their problems like her own.

Early last year, I moved back to New York City to be closer to my mother and to help her whenever possible. However, she is the biggest supporter of my decision to pursue an MBA, despite the fact that it could mean moving away from her.

It is my mother whom I could learn the most from if I stepped into her shoes for a day, and it is her unflagging determination and selflessness that make her my constant source of inspiration.


FROM TING AND I: A Memoir...

During my IBM employment, the John Hancock Insurance Company got IBM to allow them to offer a special deal for the IBM employees to obtain long-term care insurance. The options had fixed total payouts, with the middle option that we chose being a total of $210,000, several times my annual salary at that time. They could not deny participation due to prior medical conditions, and we were open about Tina’s multiple sclerosis, the symptoms of which were mild back then.

Five or ten years later, when we met the disability requirements to qualify for weekly supplementation of our home health aide’s salary, Hancock started paying about $250 per week to reimburse us. This went on for fourteen years, paying about half to two-thirds of the cost of our aides, who typically worked a thirty-hour to forty-hour week.

Thank you, John Hancock.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


Now 67, my wife, Tina Su Cooper, was paraplegic for ten years and for the last seven years quadriplegic, on a ventilator, fed through a gastric tube. She has endured this bravely, stoically, like the heroine she is. We fell in love in college, but our interracial marriage was opposed by both sets of parents, so we waited twenty years, both first marriages having failed, to be wed to each other. Our wedding rings read, “A dream come true.” So it is.

We married in the shadow of her impending disability from multiple sclerosis, but our days have been brightened by our mutual love. We are like a binary start system, warming and shining on each other.

Tina has always been quiet, reserved. She personifies the adage that “still waters run deep.” In my book, Ting and I: A Memoir of Love, Courage, and Devotion, I tell this anecdote:


When Tina talks, we must sometimes listen between the lines. She almost never insists and only rarely requests, not wanting to impose on us.

Recently, we were on the porch, looking at Lake Osiris. I was getting ready to brush her teeth. She said she likes to have that done after she’s been fed. That was scheduled half an hour later. I asked her if she would like to have her feeding sooner. Yes.

After the feeding through the gastric tube, we continued to chat a bit and enjoy the view. I forgot all about doing her teeth. She said, “My tummy feels full.”

“That’s good,” I replied. I thought awhile. “Does that mean that you would like me to do your teeth now?”


When I was done, I asked her whether reminding me that she had been fed was the way she wanted to communicate that I should give her tooth care. She dodged the question a couple of times, then admitted that I had gotten it right.

After twenty-six years of marriage, I am getting a bit better at listening between the lines.


Published at

“Outside and Above” is how I characterized my wife’s Chinese American family in the book I just completed, Ting and I: A Memoir of Love, Courage and Devotion, largely a tribute to Tina Han Su, my love of 48 years and wife of the past 27 years.

Tina (Su Ting-Ting) was born in Kunming in April of 1944, second daughter of Dr. and Mrs. G.J. Su. Dr. Su was running a liquid-fuel-making factory in that city, to which most of the Nationalist government had moved in the latter part of World War II. In 1946, at his wife’s urging, they took a trip to the U.S., a vacation trip that became a permanent relocation. Soon after, Dr. Su became Assistant Professor Su at the University of Rochester’. Eventually, this M.I.T. - trained scientist / chemical engineer became Associate Professor, Professor, and Professor Emeritus, a very important member of that faculty, one in demand by industry for consultation,, as well.

A third child, their first son, was born in America, easing their path to full American citizenship. Su Ting-ting became Tina Han Su, “Han” the Mandarin word for “reserved,” fit this quiet, thoughtful little girl. The family was one of the very few Chinese families in the Rochester area. The eldest daughter became an orthodontist; Tina became an Asian studies expert at the Encyclopedia Britannica; the son became an MD, a rheumatologist.

In my book, I address the family’s attitudes about being minority group members:

"The three children 'often felt like outsiders, coming from one of the very few Chinese American families in the Rochester, NY, area at that time. But in contrast to some members of other minority groups, they did not feel themselves to be in any way inferior to the Caucasian majority. If anything, there was a sense of innate superiority that softened the impact of any slights done to them because of their Asian ancestry‘.

“In reading Elaine Tashiro Gerbert’s recollections of Tina (see ‘Tributes,’ at the end of the book), I’m struck by the difference in their experience or in their responses to their experience. Elaine was highly aware of anti-Japanese or anti-Asian feeling around her. Tina was not. Some people may have distinguished between Elaine’s Japanese and Tina’s Chinese ancestry, leading to some disparity in treatment. Both women were very smart and very pretty. That’s not the difference. Tina had been high school valedictorian, something she earned, and high school president, something her peers bestowed on her. At Cornell, she was invited to join all of the sororities she had ‘rushed’ (visited), another indication of the favorable response she received from non-Asians at school. As a pair, she and I received some stares, but no hostile act ever, and we were accorded genuine hospitality at ‘our’ fraternity, Phi Epsilon Pi. Some of the credit for differences in treatment and for differences in perception about that treatment must go to Tina’s personality. She radiated a quiet, good-natured confidence in herself and in others. "

“The year I graduated from high school, 1960, the student in New York State with the highest New York Regents Scholarship test results was Steven Chinn of Middletown, almost certainly Asian American. When he decided to go to college outside of New York State, I became eligible for the Regents scholarship to Cornell University that he had forfeited. Such scholarships were awarded to New York State students who scored exceptionally well on special exams given to all high school seniors, but the funds had to be used in-state. I note that today, in a competitive exam recently given in New York City, Asian Americans still excel. Half the Asian American students reached the highest level, a quarter of the whites, and roughly an eighth of the blacks and Hispanics.”

“Until the post-World War II era, the Chinese most Americans came in contact with, if any, were generally from the laboring classes, often poorly educated and from the southern provinces. Unless they were well-spoken, they were likely assumed to be relatively unintelligent. These days, as more than one Chinese American I know has noted, the assumption is that if you are Asian, you are probably smarter than average.”

“It is no surprise that the Su children—having highly educated parents, and being themselves smart, attractive, talented—handled what discrimination they experienced as though they were above it.”

“Tina was accepted at almost every one of the top schools to which she applied, choosing Cornell partly on financial grounds, too. She had been class president her senior year, indicating that any negative feelings about her race that may have existed were overwhelmed by general approval of her personal characteristics and her achievements.”

“Talent, parental example and encouragement, personal strength –all played roles in the Su children’s successful transitions to adulthood.”



The case for anthropogenic (human-caused) global warming has weakened somewhat recently, not only among scientists but also in the public mind. Data from NASA satellites for the years 2000 through 2011 indicate significantly more heat is lost from the Earth than is predicted by the models on which the United Nations has based it dire warnings about global warming. An atlas recently published, purporting to show substantial melting of the Greenland icecap, was found to be seriously in error, overstating the ice loss.

According to the Wall Street Journal this September 15th, the Obama administration’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has decided to delay issuing more regulations concerning the emission of “greenhouse gases” by power plants. Perhaps coincidentally, a New York Times + CBS poll has found that a minority of those surveyed (42%) thought both that global warming was occurring and that it is caused by mankind. That poll indicates global warming was not among the issues of greatest concern, either. As described below, scientists are having second thoughts about the models that claim to show that human activities threaten the planet’s climate. Emails exchanged by a coterie of climate researchers have disclosed that some of the “warmist” climate modelers violated scientific mores in order to suppress scrutiny and criticism of their work.

The ten-year period 1999-2009 showed no global temperature increase, leading the magazine SCIENCE to ask in a headline, “What Happened to Global Warming? Scientists Say Just Wait a Bit.” Many are still waiting. Meanwhile, global warming alarm-sounder Al Gore recently purchased a California home by the Pacific Ocean shore, indicating little fear about the rising sea levels that he and his followers have been predicting. In fact, sea level measurements, by NASA, show a one-quarter-inch drop from summer 2010 to the summer of 2011. The sea level measurements reflect average global temperatures, but only approximately, as warming will lead to slight expansion of the water volume and melting of land-based ice will raise the water level, too, but precipitation over the Earth’s land masses can be slow to reach the seas.

Tens of thousands of years ago, ice covered much of the land we now inhabit. Wholly natural causes warmed the earth, melted the ice, allowed plants and animals to thrive where once they were excluded. Within our recorded history, we have had periods significantly warmer (Medieval Warm Period, 900-1300 A.D.) and periods significantly colder (Little Ice Age, 1300-1500) than the modern era, none of these changes being attributable to human activity. Some climate researchers believe that there is a 1500-year climate warming / cooling pattern due to the overlapping of several solar cycles of shorter periods. Recently, the prevailing “scientific consensus” has been that humans have been contributing somewhat to a general global warming by their emissions of carbon dioxide, primarily due to industrial and agricultural development.

United Nations’ panels have concluded that if we do not drastically reduce such industrial activity and emissions, the atmosphere will become dangerously warm; the polar ice caps will melt; the seas will rise; widespread destruction will ensue. A set of agreements reached in Kyoto (1997) called for emissions control limits subsequently found to be impractical, with some of the more egregiously emitting nations exempted for economic and political reasons.

In the past few years, ardor for control of “greenhouse gases,” principally carbon dioxide and methane, has cooled, at least among the public, as reflected in public opinion polls. Some notable scientists have called the global warming modeling and warnings into question, as well. This September, the 1973 Nobel Laureate physicist Ivar Giaever resigned as a Fellow of the American Physical Society in protest against the Society’s, to him dogmatic, position that the evidence for global warming is so strong that it is “incontrovertible” that global warming due to these emissions is occurring and that therefore we “must reduce emissions of these greenhouse gases starting now.” In his resignation letter, Dr. Giaever noted that the claimed change in the average temperature of the earth was less than two degrees Farenheit over the last 150 years, while human well-being has clearly improved.

This year a dissenting group of scientists, including some eminent atmosphere and climate specialists, issued the report “Climate Change Reconsidered,” casting doubt on the accuracy of the predictions that dire consequences would occur in the absence of stringent carbon dioxide emissions controls. The data on which such predictions had been based are spotty. Temperature measurements are missing over much of the globe. Those made on land can be corrupted by local effects. Despite their sophisticalion, the models used in predicting climate change cannot capture many crucial phenomena, including the influence and variability of clouds. The report concluded that we do not have the kind of information yet on which to base sweeping economic and political changes to limit further industrialization.

Why is it so hard to predict the impact of “greenhouse gases” on climate? In short, because there are so many potentially important factors still inadequately understood., especially the impact of clouds.

Most of the Earth’s surface is covered with water, primarily the oceans. As the wet (or merely moist, as for land) surfaces heat up, water evaporates, rises thorugh the atmosphere, cools, condenses, forms clouds, and precipitates as rain, hail, snow. This is where modeling becomes more difficult. Clouds reflect some of the sunlight, lessening the energy reaching the Earth. If the Earth were wholly covered by clouds, as in the “Nuclear Winter” scenarios associated with nuclear war, the temperature of the Earth’s surface and of the air would fall drastically, leading to widespread plant and animal extinction. If the clouds were primarily dust, as in the Nuclear Winter scenario, they would dissipate in time due to precipitation and settling (“fallout“). If the clouds were primarily water, they would produce rain and snow, etc., and become diminished in total weight, in thickness, in extent. As the clouds diminished, their cooling effect would diminish and the Earth would heat up, leading to more evaporation and the replenishment of the clouds, eventually restoring the former temperature equilibrium..

This tendency of clouds to correct over-heating or over-cooling is “negative feedback,” an important feature of the atmosphere as yet to be successfully modeled. The impacts on cloud formation due to cosmic rays, micrometeors, volcanoes, sea spray salt, and other open sources like deserts and quarries and unpaved roads, etc., complicate the physical situation greatly and make modeling extremely difficult. As Science News of December 4, 2010, noted, there is little known about “how tiny particles called aerosols influence climate.” Somewhat of an expert in aerosol science myself, I believe that these airborne particles are likely to be quite important and yet difficult to model correctly.

Often the modelers must introduce adjustable parameters, “fudge factors” in laymen’s terms, to “account” for all that cannot be carefully described. The models are “tuned” by comparing with past data and adjusting these factors. As we are warned with respect to investing, “the past is no guarantee of the future.” A model that fails to match the past is certainly suspect, but even one that is tuned successfully to match the past may not be reliable for prediction.

The past ten years have shown no unambiguous global warming. Since there are myriad possible measurements, by “cherry picking” the data the “warmists” can make the case for warming and the “deniers” can make the opposite case. Currently, the carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere is nearly 400 ppm. The 2 to 4 ppm per year of the carbon dioxide added to the atmosphere that is attributed to human activity (is “anthropogenic”) is unlikely to become a problem in the next few decades. Doubling the CO2 level in the atmosphere is predicted to increase mean global temperature by roughly two degrees Farenheit. Doubling the carbon dioxide level would require roughly a hundred-fold increase in mankind’s “contribution,” not impossible, but unlikely, especially as energy technology continues to improve. The impact would be warmer nights, with relatively unchanged days, the modelers predict. Plants should grow more rapidly. A somewhat greater fraction of the Earth’s surface will become temperate, suitable for plants and animals, the biosphere. Recently, sea levels have been rising at a rate close to 1 foot per century, likely to be manageable. Granted, any changes produce winners and losers. There are reasons to believe that the scariest consequences will not result, but there are too many issues to analyze them all here.

We will likely not see calamitous results from “global warming” in the next few decades. Meanwhile, we will probably learn to adapt to those changes that do result. Unfortunately, there is no way to prove this, so the debates between “alarmists” and “deniers” can be expected to continue. In time, the data should tell which side was correct.


“I need this like I need a hole in my head,” I was tempted to say to my neurosurgeon, Michael G. Kaplitt, M.D., Ph.D., FACS, of the Weill Cornell Medical College of New York-Presbyterian Hospital. Soon he would be making that hole in my head. I wanted all his good will I could muster, which ruled out a typically wise-guy comment from me. I would not want to induce a “Freudian slip” in the vicinity of my brain.

In late spring of 2008, my neurologist, Dr. Baradaran, had listened to my symptoms, sent me for some tests, evaluated them, and had given me, gently, the bad news: I had hydrocephalus, “water on the brain.” If not treated, I would likely experience dementia, depression and death. Outside of that, I joked, nothing to worry about. I saw more neurologists and also neurosurgeons, getting the same message: I needed a hole in my head to relieve the internal pressure from the improper flow of my cerebral-spinal fluid.

My investigations led me to choose Dr. Kaplitt and his group at New York - Presbyterian.

The operation was September 4, 2008. Dr. Kaplitt and team drilled a hole, perhaps a quarter of an inch in diameter, into the upper right-hand region of my forehead, penetrated the dura matter protecting my brain, made a passage through my gray matter to a cavity, the right lateral ventricle, and put one end of a tube there. Several inches from that end, a pressure-regulator valve was attached to the tube, followed by more tubing that was run under my skin, “tunnelized,” back behind my ear, along my neck and chest, finally into my abdominal area.

Recuperation took a month or two. Bedridden and doped up with painkillers, I had a drowsy first few weeks. Your body does not want to have a couple of feet of “tunneling” under the skin to get a hose from hither to yon. I was instructed to take it easy, a command I obeyed, leaving dog walking and other strenuous activities to hired help.

I endured some complications that were not direct results of the operation, and I will not describe them here. You do not really want to know.

The pressure regulating valve is a work of genius. A tiny stopper on an adjustable spring controls the flow through a small orifice to give a selected pressure difference from one side of the valve to the other. The pressure adjustment is made by an external magnetic wand, which signals the valve the degree of tension desired on the spring. Amazing. My initial setting was average for an adult, but subsequent computerized tomography (CT) scans of my brain showed that the setting needed to be higher or my brain would contract and put me at risk for a “subdural hematoma,” the leaking of blood into the space created between the gray matter of the brain and the dura brain casing. My brain had gotten so used to the higher pressure it had for so long, that the valve setting needed to be at or near the maximum pressure. Subsequent CT scans and visits led to a pressure about 10% lower than the valve’s maximum setting. This somewhat high pressure is what I attribute my frequent mild morning hangover symptoms to, but I have been medically advised that putting up with this is better than risking too low a setting.

From this, I emerged the Bionic Doug. No longer was I experiencing three classic symptoms of hydrocephalus, a.k.a. “water on the brain”: trouble walking, urinary incontinence, short-term memory deficits. I had a fourth symptom that was fixed, also, a narrowing of my emotions, less cheerfulness, less gloom, a dull, mellow emotional middle ground. Upon recovering, I preferred my ups and downs to this emotional numbness, but it had not been all that bad.

Three years later, I feel fine. I can walk our dog and get some other exercise. Still profoundly retired, I’ve written a book about my wife and me, Ting and I: a Memoir of Love, Courage and Devotion. I’ve become a freelance writer, or so it says on my business card. I thank Dr. Kaplitt and staff and my own neurologist, Dr. Baradaran of Middletown, NY, for this successful outcome.

It turned out that I did need a hole in my head.


Published at

Why are couples with a Caucasian male and an Asian female relatively common? There has been much discussion of this in, which is “connecting Asian American women to the world.” I will approach this issue cautiously, telling you why one Caucasian male, “Doug,” loves one Chinese American female, “Ting,” Tina Su Cooper, my wife. It is one side of one story, but I think it has some broader validity.

Let’s rule out obsession. None of my other near-loves was of Asian extraction. I found Nancy Kwan lovely, but so were Debbie Reynolds, Audrey Hepburn, and Grace Kelly, rather different types. My girlfriends ranged from the buxom to the slender, slender prevailing. Some were Christian, as I was, some Jewish. No strong patterns emerge, though my first wife was slender, dark-haired, quiet, Christian, more rational than emotional, much like Tina though Caucasian.

I met Tina Han Su (born Su Ting-ting, Kunming, China, 1944) in Chinese class at Cornell. She entered mid-year, having learned some Mandarin at home. Her parents were Professor and Mrs. G.J. Su, and they were among only a few Chinese families in Rochester, NY. Professor Su taught chemical engineering. Mrs. Su, a headstrong Chinese daughter from the merchant Qiao family [Google “Qiao Family Compound”] was a trained chemist who stayed at home for her family of five. They prized education and achievement, values my own family held as well. Tina and I share many values.

At first sight, I found Tina beautiful, the essence of femininity. A portrait photograph taken when she was 23, shows loveliness, serenity, warmth. Many people have commented to me on her beauty. I plead guilty to superficiality, It is easier to fall in love with a beautiful girl than a homely one. She had a slender but definitely feminine figure that she did not show off. Her modesty was appealing. Her middle name, “Han,” is Mandarin Chinese for “reserved.” She dressed carefully, neatly, and appropriately. She was “pretty to walk with, witty to talk with.” I was proud to be seen with her, proud of her as a person.

True to the Chinese American stereotype, as recently portrayed in Amy Chua’s Tiger Mom, Tina and her siblings were sent to study music after school. Tina graduated from twelve years of piano at Rochester’s eminent Eastman School of Music. She had a debut recital with the Rochester Civic Orchestra. She loved to play piano, and she played exceptionally well. What does such an accomplishment do for a person? Did it contribute to her sense of self-worth, her serenity? Much as my modest success in high school football gave me a feeling of masculine achievement that was valuable to me apart from my academic success, so her piano mastery supported her self-confidence, as an addition to her academic honors. When the sororities at Cornell interviewed candidates for membership, all those who had met her invited Tina to join. She was clearly among life’s winners.

Compared with others I dated, I found Tina to be kind, considerate, thoughtful in the extreme. This concern for the welfare of others went far beyond allowing them to “save face.” Her concern to do what was right might have been Christian or Confucian. Whatever, it was admirable,.

Valedictorian of her high school class, Tina was clearly smart and studious. Valedictorian of my high school class, I was clearly smart and studious It was a match.

We respected each other, were proud of each other.

There is or was a stereotype of Asian “inscrutability.” One man’s inscrutability is another man’s quietness. Talkative people are interesting, until they become boring or pushy. A quiet person thinks before she speaks, listens before she talks. Nice. My quiet person laughs readily, smiles easily, almost never cries. Sometimes I would like to be more certain of what she is thinking, though.

My dearest Ting often deferred to the wants of others, even on small things. Her ex-husband told me she always let others have the best of their food. Her motto could have been, “After you.“ In response sometimes, I would joke, “We can’t all go last.” In our memoir, Ting and I, the following vignette describes an incident from roughly twenty years ago:

“Tina has consistently put the interests of others ahead of her own. Whenever I see my Automobile Association of America roadside assistance card in my wallet, I am reminded of this. Sometime during the Ledgewood Commons phase (1986– 93) of our marriage, she did someone a favor by editing a manuscript, for which that person insisted on paying her at least a nominal sum.

“When Tina received that payment—her first “paycheck” during our marriage—she insisted on treating me to an AAA renewal, something I was considering discontinuing. I was touched and accepted with gratitude.”


Tina Su Cooper is now 67, quadriplegic, ventilator-dependent, still the love of my life.

An example of Tina’s considerateness occurred this afternoon. She had been out in the kitchen with me, in her wheelchair, for almost an hour. I had been reading to her, and we had been discussing it. “Do you want to take a rest?” she asked me, meaning: did I want to take a nap? I replied that perhaps she herself would like to go to her bed. She agreed. Later, when I asked her whether her question to me was a gentle hint that we should wheel her back to her bed, she said it was not. Rather, feeling tired herself, she feared I might also be fatigued. So typical of Tina.

Tina and I have been married 27 years, basking in the glow of our mutual love, despite the shadows of her increasing disability due to multiple sclerosis. She has weathered a traditional Chinese marriage, a difficult divorce, breast cancer, paraplegia, quadriplegia, and a near-fatal systemic infection. She has survived, prevailed. The Chinese workers in the U.S. in the nineteenth century were often called “Coolies,“ a currently derogatory term that comes from the Mandarin ku li, for “bitter strength,” strength they demonstrated in enduring hardships both here and abroad. Tina’s strength is not bitter, but she is made of tough stuff. She is, surprisingly, happy. She helps make us happy.

Douglas Winslow Cooper loves Tina Su Cooper. Tina loves Doug, “with all my heart.” Draw what conclusions you will.



Published at

In Franz Kafka’s novelette, “The Metamorphosis,” Gregor Samsa awakens one morning to find he has been transformed into a giant insect, a giant beetle. The story continues with the shocked response of his family and others who come to the home, his alienation from them all, and his rapid demise, partly out of consideration for his family.

When Tina awoke from her medically-induced coma in early March of 2004, she was herself in a shocking situation: no longer able to move arms or hands, still unable to move legs or feet, given oxygen through a tube passing over her lips, past the larynx, into the windpipe. Gregor Samsa could speak, with difficulty, but Tina could not at all. I cannot imagine how she felt.

Fortunately, we had a nurse she knew, Terry Bush, there in the mornings, and I was there in the afternoons, and we could help with her care, with assurance, with communicating with a list of common words or by spelling out very short sentences, guessing the letters and getting her blinks or smiles in response.

It was at this time when one of the attempts to get us to sign a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order was made. A couple of medical professionals (doctors? nurses?) had come into the room and were urging this on her. She was in no condition to disagree with the people she was so dependent on, but I had her Power of Attorney and was in fine condition to say, “No!”

When your life has been turned upside down, you are in poor shape to give “informed consent.” Health Proxies, predicting what you would want done, do not necessarily reflect how you will feel at the time they come into play, nor how you would feel about the consequences, if you were alive later to reflect on them.

Tina chose to live, and we are all grateful for that.


Excerpted from Ting and I

A few times each year I have dreams about Tina that I remember after I awaken. There may well be others that I do not recall. Invariably, she is healthy, without disability, though in her sixties. Usually, the scene is our bedroom, and she moves without hindrance.

Yesterday morning, the day after Easter, I had a particularly vivid dream. Tina was lying undressed on our bed, surrounded by hundreds of pastel - colored Easter eggs, inviting me to join her. She looked about twenty years old, as beautiful as she was at that age. Her movements showed her to be fully healed, as though never ill.

I wondered: is this a preview of Heaven?


Excerpted from  Ting and I

My mother has been a brilliant woman. Did I mention that she went through U. Mass. Amherst in three years rather than four and graduated second in her class? An English major, she did some journalism work after the family nest was empty. Before that, though, during a slow period in Rosendale, NY, population 2000, she thought it would be fun to join MENSA and see whom we’d meet.


MENSA is an organization for people in the top 2% of intelligence, as measured by an intelligence-quotient [IQ] test. She took the test, passed easily, and signed up. Somewhat later, she held a little get-together for other MENSA folk in the area. I think we had a half-dozen at our house. All were undoubtedly bright. Except for my mother, they seemed to rank low on the social-skills-quotient [SSQ?] scale. Some were obvious misfits. We got to know one, whom we would see occasionally wandering free from the group home he occupied in Kingston, NY.


A memorable moment occurred when one described how she handled a job interview at a company that specialized in construction materials. She told them, “I love cement.”


A second MENSA meeting we never held.


Published at

One good reason to be at a university is the opportunity to meet, perhaps eventually marry, someone with whom you are compatible, somewhat similar to you, but different enough to be interesting. Even when this does not happen, dating is instructive.

In my book, Ting and I, the dating and mating process was modeled as follows:

“It occurs to me that during the dating phase of our lives we get to know well, say, a dozen potential spouses, more or less. We hope to pick one and mate for life.

Enjoying modeling things, as I do, the model I have for this is as follows: A deck of cards is shuffled. We are dealt a dozen cards in a single pile, face down. Dating is picking a card. If you get to know the person pretty well, you have turned over the card and seen its value, from deuce to ace. You can discard it and continue through the pile, but once you decide to hold a card, to marry it, you do not get to see the rest of the cards in your pile.

If the first card you pick is a deuce, you know you’ll surely do better with a subsequent pick. If it is an ace, you have won, as there will be no higher card. What if it’s a king or a queen or a jack? Nice cards, not necessarily the best in the pile, but each might be. If one of these is the next-to-last card in the pile, which is to say your future dating opportunities are very limited–– your biological clock is ticking, perhaps–– you’ll probably pick it, knowing that it is unlikely that the last card is higher, though it might be. To be kind, we won’t show you the last card. Well, sometimes life does later show you that last card, the person who is even better than the person you married, so the model might have to adjust for that. You might ‘divorce’ that first pick and try to ‘marry’ that higher card. The costs of doing that can be very high.

I know people who discarded a high card, then settled for a lower one as the pile of opportunities ran low. I nearly did this myself. They might have been satisfied with that lower card if they had never held the higher one.

Others misread the cards, mistaking a 6 for a 9 or a jack for a king. I did this myself.

Some refuse to play the mating game at all, which is a shame.

Unfortunately, the stakes in the real mating game are very high, and the opportunities for fooling ourselves or being fooled are very great.

Sometimes you win, and winning is wonderful.”

We hope to win at the mating game. Even when we do not, we learn about ourselves and others– – valuable lessons, worthwhile memories.


Published at and


Phil’s Father’s Day card to me came a little early this year. He signed it, “Thank you for being a great Dad! Love, Phil.” Some of the sweetest words in the English language, from my younger step-son, not long before his thirtieth birthday.

We don’t have, to my knowledge, a Stepfather’s Day. If we had one, my elder step-son, Ted, might send me a card to commemorate it. It likely would be friendly, signed “With warm regards, Ted.” Fair enough, we do care about each other.

The differences in the two cards would reflect the tale of two stepsons. Neither the best of relationships nor the worst, but two very different histories.

I had fallen in love with Tina Han Su at Cornell in 1963. Our story is told in my newly published book, Ting and I: A Memoir of Love, Courage, and Devotion (Outskirts Press, Parker, CO, 2011). A mix of parental pressure and parental persuasion kept us from marrying in the mid-1960’s. Asian-Caucasian interracial marriages were much less common then than they are now. A mixed-race child was viewed as neither Asian nor Caucasian and could find it hard being in this “marginal” status. Then, too, we were young, and our futures were bright but uncertain. When I graduated in 1964, we parted sadly.

Almost exactly twenty years later, we married. Our wedding rings are inscribed, “A dream come true.” Each came from a first marriage that had failed. Each was still very much in love with the other. Two shadows made the occasion more somber than it would have otherwise been: Tina was slowly becoming disabled due to multiple sclerosis (MS), and her two sons from her first marriage had been separated, the elder, Ted, ten years old, staying with his father, and the younger, Phil, three years old, coming with his mother. Tina’s father graciously toasted us, “Love conquers all.” When Tina’s good friend, Judy, asked about Ted, Tina burst into tears. Despite that, Tina and I were ecstatic about being “together forever.”

As I describe in Ting and I:

When Phil left Chicago with Tina, I was “Doug,” not “Dad,” to appease Tina’s husband, who was “Baba,” Chinese for “Papa.” In my heart I was Dad, and years later we changed to that. I was determined be a loving father to Phil and to have whatever relationship would be allowed with Ted. For years Ted was estranged from us, and I am still “Doug” to him, but “Dad” to Phil. Ted and I are, at least, good friends.

Phil has his parents’ genes, with brains, good looks, a strong, tall body. People have commented that his gestures and speech resemble mine, which makes me happy to hear. I say that he has my smile. Tina and her ex-husband are both very serious people. Ted is quiet and somber. Phil is outgoing and cheerful. He has had our love and encouragement, but not the pushing that some parents exert.

When Tina was a young girl in a suburb of Rochester, she and a few friends had a tree house, where they would get together as the “Gloom Club.” Play and poetry were somehow part of this, but I don’t know the mix. She was a very quiet and serious child. We have a picture of her at about five years of age, neatly dressed in a jumper over a sweater over a blouse. She is refusing to smile for the camera. She is adorable. It’s on my dresser, “To Doug, Love, Ting.” Close by is her engagement picture, a large version of the one that ran in the New York Times, in May 1967: beautiful, though still serious…. Next to that is one of Tina and Phil (age 6), and me, all smiling radiantly. History summed up in three photographs: gloom to glee.

Guidelines for successful interracial stepparenting are, in my opinion, much the same as those for “routine” stepparenting, though cultural differences between the parents can increase the likelihood of misunderstandings or disagreements. Dr. Phil McGraw, in his book, Family First, has listed seven steps to successful stepparenting, steps we had taken before we knew of his work:

1. Unless the stepparent starts with a very young stepchild, keep involvement with disciplining to a minimum. When Tina’s elder son visited, I stepped back. For Phil, I was much more involved, but he was so good that little disciplining was needed. Praise worked better than criticism to guide him.

2. The parents should support each other’s decisions. We did.

3. The stepparent should be an ally, a supporter, of the child, though not in opposition to the biological parent. I helped coach soccer, encouraged sports and studies, cheered and congratulated Phil. Ted was out of reach.

4. The expectations of the stepparent concerning closeness of the relationships with the children should be reasonable. I hoped to be, ultimately was, as close to Phil as I could be to any child. I knew Ted blamed me for “taking his mother away,” and I did not expect him to want to be close. His adoption of a serious Christianity led to his reconciliation with his mother and me, much more than we expected.

5. The stepparent should support the relationship of the children with the absent parent. We did what we could to facilitate visits both ways and did not criticize the absent father in front of either child.

6. A situation with children from both first marriages and / or from the current marriage is fraught with complexities. Ours was simpler: I had no children, and Tina and I decided not to have “a child of our own.” Both boys were “ours.”

7. Each member of the couple should make clear what is desired of each other as parents. We did.

Being an interracial stepparent answers one question immediately: am I the biological father? Clearly not. A second question might come up in the case where a real or perceived racial slight occurs: whose side am I on? Ours. A third question might be, “Will you let your son marry a …?” Depends on who she is, not what race she is. A fourth question might be whether you and your spouse and stepchildren can see beyond race to love each other. We have.

You might say our twenty-seven-year-long marriage has had three strikes against it: interracial, step parenting, multiple sclerosis. MS proved the hardest: ten years of symptoms that were slowly getting worse, ten years of paraplegia after a severe MS exacerbation, and the past seven years of quadriplegia, with Tina on a ventilator and receiving her food and medications through a gastric tube. Phil lived with us through the first sixteen years, learning to help take care of himself, learning what real problems look like. Near the top of his high school class and senior class president, earning a B.S. in business from Boston College, followed by four years of successful employment, then an M.B.A. from the University of Chicago, he has done very well indeed. Ted has had a tougher time emotionally but is making his way as a computer systems engineer, with a B.S. from M.I.T and an M.S. from Columbia University. They’ve got talent.

Phil’s Father’s Day card to me this year credits a father’s strength, integrity, and love with building and maintaining a nurturing home: “A feeling of security, a steady growing confidence, the knowledge of what is good and right---they all began with you.”

Thank you, Hallmark. Thank you, dear Phil.





Simply put, business takes inputs, transforms them, produces outputs. A branch of engineering, control systems theory, has studied this input-transformation-output system in great detail. Here, we hit the highlights.

When you turn on your radio, you allow electrical energy to be transformed into sound. If the sound is too loud, you turn down the volume control, reducing the gain (degree of transformation) and thus the output (sound). You are acting as part of a feedback loop, where the output is compared to a desired level and the transformation is adjusted to reach that level. When there is little delay in the response, this works well for us. We can make changes and rapidly hear the results, correcting our corrections, if need be. A car with responsive steering allows us to make quick adjustments, but one with loose steering, a sluggish or incorrect response, can put us dangerously close to the median strip or the road shoulder. Much the same is true in business. If we can get a rapid and correct reading of how close our output is to the target, in quality or quantity, we can fine-tune our operations. Incorrect or slow measurement and response can be costly. As we produce more and measure our results, we can ascend the “learning curve,” improving quality and efficiency, as desired.

Feedforward is less well known than feedback. In a feedforward loop, one measures the input and adjusts the transformation to accommodate input variations so as to produce appropriate output. If we recognize that the road is slippery, we drive more slowly. If our feedstock is too damp, we will dry it longer. If our customer is short-tempered, we will try to be even more patient. Once again, accurate and rapid information assists appropriate correction.

When we push a child on a swing, we anticipate and we learn, feedforward and feedback. We have to respond rapidly and appropriately if we are to do it right.

Accurate and prompt information, speedy response, and real adaptability are three important elements in business success. Anticipate and learn.


Published in Chamber U

Yes, I know the phrase is “fount of knowledge,” not “font of knowledge," but bear with me. Somebody could get rich with what I am going to reveal.

We are all getting older. As we age, our eyesight gets worse. I have various vision problems: nearsightedness, cataracts, epi-retinal membranes, distortion of the … well, never mind. You get the idea. Tersely put, I have trouble seeing. Not so much trouble as to warrant taking away my driver’s license, of course, but trouble. I am not alone. The Baby Boom generation is right behind me, their vision worsening, too.

The Big Idea is this: larger type fonts on almost everything, especially that which you want us to read. I love my electronic book, my Kindle, especially two of its features: I can adjust the type size and I can also have it read to me from those books that have not disabled the reading-out-loud function. My peeve with my device is that there are areas which do not allow increasing the too-small type face. Worse yet, my keyboard has tiny type with poor contrast. Redesigning the keyboard should allow for a somewhat larger font. Do it, Amazon.

Concerning contrasts, please use black on white whenever possible. Those of us with cataracts, common in the “mature” citizenry, need more contrast. Gray on white or light green on white or any pastel on white no longer suffice. White on a dark background is not as good, either. Sorry.

A favorite magazine, Guideposts, has a Large Print edition, a blessing. I’ve told my publisher to use twelve-point type for my memoir, Ting and I [this is a not-too-subtle plug]. I wish the daily newspaper came with larger type, too. Physics Today has sections I can read and some I cannot. Listings of ingredients on packages, directions for use, could benefit from larger fonts. I know there would be room for fewer words, but “brevity is the soul of wit.” Be pithy, in a larger font, please, black on white, where feasible.

Readers, the race is on. Who among you will bring LARGE PRINT to us masses?


“Don’t run away,” she said to me. She pierced my heart.

Last night [14 July 2011], I stopped in at my wife’s bedroom to see how she was. Quadriplegic and ventilator-dependent, Tina Su Cooper has outlived medical expectations, thank God. We are still very much in love after twenty-seven years of marriage, another blessing. When I am at home and awake, I check on her almost hourly. Often she is asleep and unaware that I have looked in. Last night she was seemingly engrossed in a romantic movie I was pleased to note. Commercials began. I asked her how she was doing, gave her a quick update on myself. We restated our love for each other. Commercial break over, the movie restarted, and I headed out of the bedroom.

“Don’t run away,” Tina said.

“I’m not running away. Your movie is back on. I’ve got things to do.”

“What things?”

“Among others, finishing the payroll receipts and checks for the nurses.”

I could have added that I wanted to do more email corresponding and to read some more of Stephen King’s On Writing, which I had just begun.

In various forms, this conversation between the cared-for and the care-giver is like many others of a similar pattern: the request; the refusal; the questioning, with it’s implied accusation; the defense, with its underlying guilt. Both sides have merit. Both have legitimate needs or desires. Each cares about the other. Neither wants to be a burden or to feel burdened.

I sat back down beside her. We spent a few minutes more together. When her eyes wandered back to the movie on the TV screen, I knew I could go without disappointing her, and so I did. This morning, I still feel a bit bad that she had to ask me to stay longer. I don’t want her to have to ask. She doesn’t want to have to ask, either. That’s just the situation we find ourselves in.

Our brief interaction is a microcosm of a distressing phenomenon: well spouses deserting their disabled mates. More often a man deserts a women than a women deserts a man. I wrote about desertion in my memoir, Ting and I:

“Around this time, when Tina was newly paraplegic, we were introduced to a couple from a church [which] we had visited from time to time. Namie was an attractive and articulate Japanese American, wheelchair-bound with Parkinson’s, and Doug was a handsome, charming and intelligent Ph.D. chemist. We were in our fifties, and they were about ten years younger. We had them over to have lunch, and they were able to come because we had a convenient ramp into the porch where we would be entertaining them.

“Parkinsonism is a progressive neurological disorder affecting primarily the motor nerves. The jerky motions characteristic of the ailment can be controlled with medication, but this often leads to lethargy. There is little loss of thinking ability, if any at all. Namie was very active during lunch, and I found myself –to my shame –wondering whether she was going to knock our nice China cup and saucer off the table. Her husband was uneasy about that, too, unfortunately. The conversation flowed readily, however, as we had lots in common. We parted on good terms, and Tina and I expected to get invited by them to get together again. This never happened. Instead, we learned a few months later that Doug had taken off, putting her in some faith-based nursing home. This did not raise churchgoing to a higher priority for us.

“Recently, I checked the Internet to see where Namie was. I found her picture in a publication put out by a charitable nursing home in upstate New York. She had continued her hobby of painting (!), and some of her pictures were in the photograph. I have read that a large fraction of marriages (perhaps 85 percent) with a disabled spouse do break up, especially if it is the wife who is disabled. Shameful.”

Perhaps there are “two sides to every story.” Perhaps the departing spouse has a defensible position. Leaving certainly seems to violate the wedding promise of staying together “in sickness and in health.”

Where is one running to? Can one out-run the memory of someone abandoned? Can one be proud of what one has done?

I won’t run away.


Published in The OCCofC Business Viewpoint

As I learned in French I under Monsieur Pierre Wrinn at Walden High School, the coup de grace is the final, winning stroke in a contest. These days, coupons can serve much the same purpose in building and retaining a customer base.

“I don’t buy anything any more without a coupon” our home health aide told me while clipping coupons on her break. Another staff member chimed in, “Me, too!” I Googled “couponing” and found 8 million items, including “extreme couponing,” “true couponing,” and “the Krazy Coupon Lady.”

Our nursing staff (my wife, Tina Su Cooper, is quadriplegic and ventilator-dependent) regaled me with tales of large savings racked up by “extreme couponers.” They themselves, of course, never take things to extremes: “Moderation in all things…except morality” as Dwight David Eisenhower was reputed to have said. I pressed the crew for the downside of newspaper coupons: finding and clipping are time-consuming; expiration dates are in tiny print and often too soon; the prices may have been raised to be able to give some people a discount. I, myself, have trouble with scissors, having scored poorly on cut-and-color-aptitude in kindergarten. Fortunately, no glue is needed, but I always worry about what I am losing on the backside of the page from which I am extracting the coupon. Internet coupons overcome some of these negatives.

There was a time, back in my youth, when only the elite “clipped coupons,” which was how they cashed in their quarterly interest payments on their bonds. Today, coupon clipping is almost an indoor sport. Inserts in the Sunday papers are passed around among the clippers, each excising those she wants. Are men doing it, too? Definitely. I’ll be doing it today, but on my computer.

Let’s see how this goes: [click]

[At the banner] About the chamber [click]

Coupons [click]

There they are: Fourteen companies, alphabetically from Advance Fire Safety to VALUE CHARGE/VALUE OFFICE have little “coupon” buttons to click on. We use Advanced Oxy-Med, so I’ll go there first: 10% off our first order, good to 11/29/2011. This would be far from our first order, so I’ll try another:

Debby Porco, Independent Beauty Consultant, Mary Kay will give me $10 off my first order of $50 or more. Shall I get body wash? Wrinkle remover? Mud mask? Lip gloss? Which would do me most good? I’ll have to ask my wife. E-Sales Masters, L.L.C., will give me “10% discount up to $500 on fine art plus free shipping.” I may need another Rembrandt, for the foyer. Wait --- I see what I need: “Life Cleaners!” At 10% off, they could start with my office, then upstairs to the bedroom, and the porch needs help, too. Another element of my life that could benefit from cleaning up would be my relationship with some in-laws. Oops, they are “a full-service dry cleaner that operates an automatic kiosk in the ShopRite in Vails Gate.” Would they do a leisure suit?

Some of the other offers include: a free fire extinguisher, discounts on storage, dental work, and submarines (the sandwiches, of course). Janco Security would give me a year’s worth of free monitoring, allowing us to rest easy, cut-rate.

According to the Web site, last year 3 billion coupons were redeemed in the U.S. In a country of just over 300 million people, that works out to about ten coupons per person per year. Half of the coupons that were redeemed came from the Sunday newspaper supplements. They note that typically 1% of the coupons offered by such print media are redeemed but 10% of those offered on the Internet are redeemed, making Internet coupon offerings particularly effective.

The Orange County Chamber of Commerce welcomes its members to participate in establishing coupon offers as well as in taking advantage of the bargains they offer. Contact to place such an ad and to join the Chamber.


A brief rest can restore, temporarily. My four-cell Maglite flashlight made that point this evening. A lasting restoration requires more.

My red-headed companion, Brandy, a twelve-year-old Golden Retriever, and I were out on a short “business trip” before bedtime this evening. If you are a dog-owner, you know what kind of “business” I mean. The darkness at 10 P.M. yielded to my mighty Magtlite, at first. Half-way home, the color of the beam turned from white to yellow and the intensity dropped. The batteries were dying. We know our way home and the road is well paved, so we didn’t need the light … unless there was something surprising like a skunk. Close encounters of the skunk kind must be avoided. Granted, we would smell him coming, probably. Probably is not good enough.

I turned the flashlight off for a few seconds, to give it a rest, then turned it back on. I got several seconds more of intense light before it faded out. I could qickly survey they path ahead. I repeated this several times, and we made it home without being subjected to olfactory offense.

This recovering is neat, I thought: The chemical reactions that charge the batteries continued while the switch was off, leading to some electrical charge storage that could later be converted, briefly, into current to light the bulb when switched back on. A fan of cat-naps during the day, I understood this perfectly. The Maglite and I can resume activity, for another short burst, then rest is needed again.

Home now, I’ll change the batteries for new ones. My family, on the other hand, will just have to hope that a night’s sleep will restore me. Frost’s poem’s protagonist had “miles to go before I sleep.” I’ll have miles to go once I awake.


I went to an art exhibition last night [6 August 2011], not my normal activity for a Saturday. I saw quiet courage on display.

Mike Jaroszko and two other local artists had their works on walls and in bins at the Wallkill River School of Art in Montgomery, NY. Mike’s works were primarily beautiful outdoor scenes, reminiscent of the Hudson River School of art of an earlier era. A second artist’s work featured animals, lovingly and realistically drawn. The third artist was a photographer, again with beautiful work adorning the walls of a third room. What a far cry from the trash I have seen at modern art exhibits, which I will ---- mercifully --- not name.

I met Mike half a year ago. I was looking for someone to paint a portrait of my wife, Tina Su Cooper, from a four-decades-old professional photograph. Mike’s work is on the cover of my first book, Ting and I: A Memoir of Love, Courage, and Devotion. It is rendered realistically, as I wished, yet has something more. It seems he incorporated some of what I told him about my heroine

What struck me about the exhibition was how many excellent works were on display, for sale for hundreds of dollars each, typically. Think of the effort the artists had invested without the assurance that the works would ever sell. Is that courage, optimism, foolhardiness, compulsion? Certainly, courage is a part of the mix. Each piece Mike did represented days of painting, perhaps more. The skill needed is rare, indeed, as are the courage and discipline needed to persevere.

One of the photographers works was labeled “3/125,” a limited run. If all 125 are sold, it will be a great financial success. Right now, #3 was up for sale. No doubt one can produce multiple copies of photographs far more easily than paintings, but one had to admire the artistry and the optimism of the artist. Perhaps he had only printed 3 so far, with the other 122 to come as needed.

Stephen King, wildly successful novelist of our times, advises would-be writers to read a lot and write a lot. Write for whom? You can choose an outlet and try to get published there. Lots of research involved, less writing itself. Alternatively, you can write about what interests you, hoping to find a home for it, hoping that at least you will like it. A short piece like this of mine requires little effort, little courage. The saga, the monster novel, requires much more artistic bravery.

I think Michelangelo did the Sistine Chapel on commission, but I doubt that Tolstoy had a contract for War and Piece. Some art is pre-paid, some is done on speculation. If you have been paid already, you might worry about disappointing your sponsor. If you are hoping for a market, your hopes may not be realized. Courage, courage.

Thinking of artistic courage, our thoughts rightly go to those who speak unpleasant truths to others in power. Less dangerous, but still admirable, is the courage to create without the guarantee of reward, beyond one’s own satisfaction. Admirable, too, is the courage to go against trendy artistic conventions with which you disagree. They have my respect, my admiration.


Published by The OCCofC Business Viewpoint 

“Hi. I’m Doug.” It was my first meeting, not of a twelve-step recovery program, like Alcoholics Anonymous, but rather it was the Orange County (NY) Chamber of Commerce Business Networking Blast, a continental breakfast meeting with almost a score of other small business people. Not pygmies, understand, these are normal-size people who are active in businesses that have relatively few employees. Actually, I started with, “Hi. I’m Doug Cooper.” There was no desire to be anonymous, just the opposite.

I had joined the Chamber a few weeks before, and Cheryl Cohen, my Chamber den mother --- not her real title, for which she is too young --- encouraged me to sign up for this 7:30 AM get-together: fun group, interesting people, I would get some good ideas. OK, Mom. [She has “adopted” my wife and me and our book, Ting and I.] What do I have to lose, except perhaps some sleep?

I’m not vain, but I did need to figure out what to wear. My August standard attire of sneakers, shorts, and short-sleeve shirt might not meet their minimum sartorial standards. I could disinter a dark suit or gray slacks and a navy blazer, but did a freelance writer really need to dress way up for a breakfast meeting? I settled on boat shoes plus socks, khaki chinos, a white button-down short-sleeve shirt and a smile. The other author at the meeting, former golf pro Gil Anderson [Going Fore It], had made roughly the same decision, it turned out. Other attendees were somewhat better dressed, but we writers claim literary license, akin to poetic license.

“Chamber Muses”? Before the Internet and Google, some artists drew their inspiration from their “Muses,” originally Greek goddesses of art and literature. We moderns must look elsewhere. Looking to my left, I found Gerson Levitas of 911 Medical ID Emergency Card, developer of a digital medical record memory card with a USB port that can store gigabytes of your medical records, for rapid recording or recovery when visiting one medical installation or another or in the event of a medical emergency. This was clearly several levels beyond the Medical Alert I.D. bracelet I wear to tell emergency personnel that I have a brain-to-belly shunt because of “water on the brain,” hydrocephalus. Great idea and costs only $40.

To my right was Dr. Richard Murphy of Chiropractic Health Care. When his three minutes of presentation time came, he explained how chiropractic has gone beyond pain relief by physical manipulation to more general health maintenance. When we chatted afterward, I realized he could write his own material, without my guidance. His brother-in-law, however, has a story that could well use my help to become a book: a Green Beret, he became paraplegic three decades ago due to an automobile accident that nearly killed him. He has lived a “more than normal” life since then, motivated to achieve beyond the apparent boundaries of his disability. Having just written my own book, a memoir about my quadriplegic wife and me, I offered to help this hero write one, too. We’ll see.

Author Gil Anderson spoke convincingly about the power of strongly envisioned goals, “the law of attraction,” that can be applied to any sphere of life. He had made a phenomenal come-back from life-saving surgery in his forties and at 64 has dedicated his “next thirty years,” to helping other people achieve their aspirations. I had met him earlier this year at a book signing and have not forgotten that he wrote Going Fore It by hand from 3 AM to 6 AM each morning until it was done. Already being translated into many languages, the book has opened up many new opportunities for him, including life coaching. Fine man, excellent messages.

Some of the other speakers had services to offer I was less likely to use. I initially thought that about Ken Butler of Met Life Insurance, too, as I am 68 and not in the market. Then he mentioned long-term care Insurance. My wife and I had gotten a long-term care package from John Hancock through IBM when I worked at the IBM research center in Yorktown Heights, NY. To get the IBM business, Hancock had an “open-enrollment” period, where pre-existing conditions were not disqualifying. At that time Tina’s multiple sclerosis (MS) was of minimal hindrance, but her medical future was cloudy. We signed up for a mid-level policy, and ten years later we started collecting on it weekly to fund a home health aide, as Tina was no longer able to walk. We receive fourteen years of partial coverage. While I could not help Ken Butler with an endorsement of his company’s policy, I could and would write an endorsement for long-term care insurance policies in general. I’ll see if he is interested.

Niki Jones, of the agency that bears her name, described a range of business information products and services her eight-person firm supplies. I asked her if she would take a look at our web site,, and give me a quick critique, which she generously agreed to do.

I don’t want this piece to be longer than the meeting itself. In sum: I have been glad I joined the Chamber, and this “blast” was yet another benefit, the source of some good ideas and contacts, not quite Chamber Muses, perhaps, but close.


Published at

Two of the smartest women I’ve known have had one-syllable surnames: Tina Su and J.J. Wu. Tina was prettier, but J.J. was smarter, smarter than I. I married Tina, and I co-authored technical papers with J.J., who had a deep, eventually unhappy, romance with another Caucasian scientist. Tina’s first marriage, to a Chinese scientist, had been unhappy, too. Neither brains nor beauty nor both guaranteed success. American poet Robert Frost wrote about the unexpected consequences of the options selected by a very pretty woman in “The Lovely Shall be Choosers.“ Still, one would like to be bright and good-looking, along with rich, and artistic and ….

I will immodestly quote myself from my memoir Ting and I:

Would you rather be beautiful (handsome, for men) or smart?

To sharpen that question, let the choices be

—average intelligence, 1 in 1,000 in good looks

—average looks, 1 in 1,000 in intelligence.

The advantages of being good-looking are many and well-known. Life, at least while young, generally goes more smoothly. People respond more favorably. Your other abilities are probably over-estimated because of it. People are drawn to you. And yet, and yet, you can draw the wrong kind of attention from the wrong people. Incest or recruitment into homosexuality or sexual molestation is more likely. You may tend to try to “get by on your looks,” rather than cultivate your other strengths. Your early choices may result in bad results.

Unusually pretty and unusually smart, Tina has been blessed. One of our nurses speculated that her wealthy ancestors in China were able to be highly selective in whom they chose for mates for their children. Eugenics in action.

In my mother’s era, women often found it wise to hide their intellects. Beauty trumped brains. I think that has changed, for the good. Being average in looks is not a major hindrance, and being smart is clearly a plus. Still, whether you are a man or a woman, you can make those around you uncomfortable by showing off your intellect. Use it to make better decisions, to progress at home or work. Don’t be too proud: Even if your intellect is as rare as 1 in 1,000, this country has 300,000 people as smart or smarter.

My brother is much more handsome than I. I realized this most dramatically when the two of us walked somewhere together and I noted women’s heads following us, something that had never happened when I walked alone. He’s had a fine career and a very happy marriage, but his best friend died in a motorcycle accident and an early deep romance dissolved painfully. Neither good looks nor high intelligence insulated him from loss.

When I was a researcher at IBM I was puzzled by the rapid rise in management of a fellow scientist of only moderate credentials and achievements. Those in the know pointed out that his tallness and good looks gave him the “IBM management look.” When you and I watch the news on TV, we are not surprised that the featured “journalists,” actually “news readers” turn out to be unusually good looking. A recent study of women in New York City showed they would find a shorter man making tens of thousands of dollars per year more about equally attractive as one an inch taller.

I could console myself that my intellect allows me to understand such issues, and thus compensate for my less-than-stellar looks, but life is not fair. The beautiful but not-so-smart may have no inclination to ponder such things. They shall be the choosers. I wish them well: they should choose wisely, if they can.