Sunday, February 26, 2012


After Hunter College Elementary School, Junior High School 152 was my next rung on the academic ladder.

Another year, another couple of fights, winning one and losing one.

Girls? I can’t recall. I do recall one teacher, Miss Kupersmith, however; she had a set of low-cut dresses that made big impressions. I doubt she remained “Miss” Kupersmith for long.

As I write, some incidents are coming back to me. We moved to Payson Avenue, across the street from Inwood Park, near Dyckman Street, a mile north of the Riverside Drive apartment. Mom’s friend let us rent her lovely apartment. It must have had a third bedroom, because I got one of my own, instead of sharing with the other sibs.

I also got a dog, a Siberian Husky-Golden Retriever mix, about one year old. Handsome, smart, brave, tough, that was Duke. That same friend of my mother had him but couldn’t keep him. They had called him Pericles, after the Athenian general of ancient Greece. This was too ritzy for us, so I changed his name to Hercules, thinking it sounded close enough that he would respond. Then he became Herky, and finally Duke. He took it in stride.

One evening early in our relationship, when Duke became thirsty while in my bedroom, and seeing that I was not responding to his banging his aluminum dish with his paw, he picked the dish up in his mouth, placed it on the pillow in front of my face, and licked it to demonstrate it was empty. I told you he was smart.

Sometimes Duke was smarter than his master. I took him with me to the grocery store one afternoon and tied him to a pole by the curb. I bought the groceries and came home ... without him. He never said a word. Hours later, I scoured Inwood Park trying to find him. “He came home, didn’t he?” I asked my puzzled parents. Only then did I realize I had left him behind. I’d like to think I was just focused, but those who thought me forgetful can be excused. My mother is now in her mid-90s and an invalid. Just recently, I took great pains to attach her calling button to her bed, to prevent its falling, as had happened several times before. Having secured it, I forgot to plug it in to the wall outlet. Operator error.

A kid from Inwood Park demanded a quarter from me. I refused. A fight ensued. He won. He demanded the quarter. I refused again. He moved on. With a different kid, I won a one-punch fight: faked with my left, smashed with my right. Done.

Yes, I had a crush on a lovely, tall, slender black-haired girl. Vivian. If she had been interested, she would have gotten more space here. What does not go around does not come around.



Wednesday, February 22, 2012


“Do it now” urged Chicago billionaire W. Clement Stone, author of, among others, The Success System That Never Fails. Be Here Now, urged Dr. Timothy Alpert, in this million-copy best-seller on spirituality written after Alpert had become Ram Dass, a student, and then yogi, of the Hindu tradition. Both emphasized the power of now.

DO IT NOW. Don’t just think, DO. IT is what is here in front of you, needing to be done, though you might be tempted to put it off awhile. NOW is not tomorrow. Much of our problems would be reduced if we were to get down to business rather than procrastinate. We know that. This is the blog I might have put off until tomorrow.

BE HERE NOW. BEing is even more important than doing, though doing affects who we are and what we become. HERE is not somewhere else, not some other time. The past is over, though it influences our present, The future is yet to come, though it, too, influences our present. Most important is NOW, when we can do what we can, be who we can. Put regrets and hopes aside, brighten the corner where we are. Now.

I'm taking a nap. Now.

Thursday, February 16, 2012


Preparing for a possible part-time job at the Catholic Guild for the Blind, teaching blind and nearly blind students to help them get their GED certificates, I browsed through’s listing of books concerning teaching the blind. The first thing I noticed was that many of them were surprisingly expensive. This specialized area apparently commands higher prices. I ordered a few of the less expensive books plus Belo Cipriani’s Blind: A Memoir, published in 2011 by Wheatmark of Tucson, AZ, this last sent to me for reading on my Kindle e-book reader. This book opened for me a window into the world of the blind.

Cipriani’s blindness was caused by a severe beating given to him by former friends who felt he had shunned them by going on for higher education that they themselves could not obtain. Belo is openly gay, as were these friends, and had feared the intolerance of straight society, but as his book demonstrates, he was often victimized one way or another by those with whom he shared the homosexual lifestyle. As a blind gay man, so rare that he jokingly called himself a “unicorn,” Cipriani used his intelligence and inter-personal skills eventually to overcome or accommodate to the losses his blindness produced.

Those of us who still have our sight, and mine has deteriorated a bit, cannot fully appreciate the implications of its loss. Some of life’s simplest things become difficult, and almost everything takes much longer than it would if one could see. Cipriani’s description of these frustrating incidents make them clearer to the sighted and helps explain the anger with which he often had to cope.

His being gay is an important sub-theme of the book, but it is presented in a tasteful way, so that even a straight male such as myself need not find the passages repulsive. There is no explicit sex, and one gets used to his having a boyfriend, rather than a girlfriend, fairly early in the text. My now deceased gay friends prepared me for some of the themes dominant in this area of the book, the emphasis on looks, youth, physique, finances and fashion. These near-obsessions are not so different from those I found recently in reading a romance novel evidently written for women in their 20s and 30s. My own tastes lean more toward action and detective novels, as do those of most other heterosexual men, and even these are often spiced with beautiful and sexy women.

Cipriani grows from being a rather superficial party-boy and “clubber” to a serious, contemplative, skillful writer. This development was assisted by introspection, interactions with others blind and not-blind, and organizations such as Lighthouse for the Blind, the Orientation Center for the Blind, and Guide Dogs for the Blind, whose adaptive techniques and equipment and --- finally --- a guide dog, Madge, gave Cipriani renewed capabilities and freedom that he thought he would never regain.

Both the sighted and the vision-impaired or blind need to be more empathetic toward each other. Just as Cipriani finds shortcomings in his treatment by those who can still see, his book reveals his somewhat unjust impatience with those who still have their sight. He criticizes those who, on learning that he is blind, say that they’re sorry, which he interprets as erroneously taking on some blame for this misfortune. I think that saying they are sorry really should be translated to “I think it’s a shame that….” Not everyone knows not to pet the guide dogs without permission. Having returned to his college, Belo finds himself isolated by the reluctance of almost all the students to strike up a conversation with him, for example at meal times. People are typically somewhat uncomfortable with those they view as different, and they are not sure how not to offend those who are handicapped. Still, many people tend to find guide dogs, such as Belo’s Golden Lab an inviting topic for conversation, for breaking the ice.

Eventually, the students who first welcomed Cipriani among them were the athletes, football and basketball players, for example, and as these friendships developed, and as his writing classes continued his education, Cipriani has faced his future with renewed confidence.

Who are the blind? A small fraction have been blind from birth. Others, like Cipriani, have been blinded by trauma, others by diabetes, HIV, age-related macular degeneration, as well as sickle cell disease and retinosa pigmentosa. Among the vision-impaired themselves the first questions revolved around the degree of vision loss and the causes thereof. One young woman is cited by Cipriani as saying that she would not want to be not-blind, because her blindness now defines who she is.

I think we would each agree that of our five senses the one we would find most difficult to lose completely would be our sense of sight. Fortunately, science and engineering are giving us increasingly useful adaptive technologies for the blind, for the near blind and even for those of us still with sight. This fascinating book was read to me using Amazon’s Kindle, which I find very convenient, allowing me to listen as I rest or drive or search the book. I am dictating this with my eyes closed using the Dragon Naturally Speaking program. Of course, to edit it, I find it convenient to have my eyes open, but the Dragon program would indeed read it back to me for editing, and there are other similar programs used by the vision-impaired to read, to write, and to edit using their computers.

Adaptive technologies and greater understanding of the needs of the blind and the vision-impaired, and deeper insight as aided by the material in Cipriani’s book, will certainly help to make a brighter future for those who cannot see and those who care about them.


Douglas Winslow Cooper, Ph.D., a retired environmental physicist, lives in southern New York State with his beloved wife, Tina Su Cooper, who has been bedridden for two decades due to multiple sclerosis, quadriplegic and ventilator-dependent at home for the past eight years. Tina is the central figure in Dr. Cooper’s book, Ting and I: A Memoir of Love, Courage, and Devotion, available from Amazon. Barnes and Noble, or their website,

Sunday, February 12, 2012


In an earlier blog posting, I bravely noted that the pedophilia alleged of Penn State football ex-coach Jerry Sandusky was homosexual in nature, a fact little alluded to in the media coverage of the affair. If it had been done with a young girl, I noted, it would be heterosexual pedophilia. I also noted that homosexual promiscuity has been documented to be far greater than heterosexual. This was one of the few blogs of mine that stimulated an irate response, leading me to write another on the importance of careful reading and writing of essays.

A columnist recently noted that Rush Limbaugh, with whom I generally agree, skirted something about the Sandusky issue as too hot to handle, and the columnist [Prof. Michael Brown] speculated it was that the sex was gay sex:


Yes, 2012 is a leap year, so we have an extra day to accomplish what we hope to get done this year, an extra day to appreciate what we already have. This extra day, February 29th, is also the back-up date [the “snow date”] for my book-signing talk, “Love in a Leap Year,” at the Wallkill River [NY] School of Art. Chosen by the lecture series director, the title has made me wonder: do we “fall” in love or do we “leap”? First, I fell. Twenty years later, I leaped.

Su Ting-ting, now Tina Su Cooper, my wife, my one true love, was born in a leap year, 1944, in Kunming, China. We fell in love in college. We parted tearfully in 1964, another leap year, when I graduated from Cornell, where we had fallen rapidly and deeply in love, an interracial love the “outside world” was not ready to accept. Twenty years later, 1984, another leap year, we married; we leaped joyously into it. Twenty years after that, in February of 2004, another leap year, Tina nearly died from a respiratory, and then systemic, infection due to an exacerbation of her multiple sclerosis that left her quadriplegic and ventilator-dependent. The physicians and nurses at the Orange Regional Medical Center (Middletown, NY), by saving Tina’s life, perhaps it was on February 29th, gave us not an extra day or week or month or year, but almost, so far, an extra decade, for which we are profoundly grateful. These thousands of extra days have been filled with love, laughter, happiness, caring, and occasional sadness.

The Earth revolves around the sun in such a manner that it returns to the same relative position every 365.2422 days [see], a little less than 365 and ¼. . Thus, the day with the shortest daylight hours in the Northern Hemisphere, is December 21st each year. If we did not add a day every four years, almost, that shortest day would soon become December 22, then 23rd, and so on. In a century, this winter solstice would be in mid-January, twenty-four days later. No longer would the vernal and autumnal equinoxes be March 21 and September 21, the summer and winter solstices June 21 and December 21. Our calendar and our seasons would be out of synchrony, with spring, for example, coming later and later in the calendar year. Of course, the extra day in the leap year does not add a day to our lives, just to our year. It makes the year 0.27% longer, not so much.

“Little things mean a lot” --- this small leap-year adjustment keeps our seasons coming when expected: a cool September, a cold January, a blossoming April, and a warm July. The 1950’s song with that title, sung by Kitty Kallen, reminds us of that truth for our relationships: “Give me a hand when I’ve lost the way / Give me you shoulder to cry on / Whether the day is bright or gray / Give me your heart to rely on.” Such “little things” are not so small, after all.

Just as those extra Leap Year days, Leap Days, make the calendrical cycle complete, so have the extra years to be together that Tina and I have been granted made our marriage more nearly complete --- without those “extra” days, weeks, months, and years, too much would have been missed.

Celebrate February 29th! Leap Year gives us an extra day this year to participate in the miracles of life and love. Perhaps, though, Leap Day should come with a warning: “look before you leap,” as love changes everything.

Submitted to .
Published in

Douglas Winslow Cooper, Ph.D., is a freelance writer, writing coach, and retired physicist, author of Ting and I: A Memoir of Love, Courage, and Devotion, available from Outskirts Press,,, or from the web site, . His email is .

Saturday, February 4, 2012


Two sisters were negotiating, arguing actually, over possession of their last orange, so the story goes. Finally, they decided to split it in half. The elder sister took her half of the orange and used only the rind for baking, throwing away the pulp. The younger sister squeezed her half to make juice and threw away the rind. If they had been better at negotiating, they would have realized that both could have come out ahead, one getting all of the rind and the other getting all the fruit. This simple parable shows one of many aspects of negotiation.

The Truth About Negotiations is the title of a recent book by Prof. Leigh Thompson [©2008, FT Press, Upper Saddle River, NJ]. She is a distinguished professor at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. She has authored nearly 100 research articles as well as seven books. My article is based almost entirely on her excellent book. I obtained the book through and had it read to me using their Kindle’s text-to-speech feature, which I find very valuable.

Prof. Thompson emphasizes the value of doing your homework before becoming involved in any serious negotiation. This makes sense. What came as a surprise to me was the value of making the first offer in the negotiation, which seems to contradict the conventional wisdom about such things. “How much do you want for that?“ “How much will you pay?“ Such a dance is common, each reluctant to tip his hand, reveal his “reservation price.” .

Take as an example the purchasing of a house. You are the buyer, negotiating with the seller. Going first, the seller has presented an asking price for the house, probably somewhat more than she expects to get. By making the first move in the negotiations, the seller has already to some degree framed the issue, indicating to you roughly what price range the negotiation will be covering. Both parties will tend to make their offers and counter-offers in relation to this initial “framing” price-setting.

Your first bid in response will be informative as well. You might choose to accept the asking price. If you do so, you are likely to suffer later on “buyer’s remorse,“ the feeling that you could have gotten it for a lower price if you had negotiated more skillfully, offering less at first. You would probably be right about that. Alternatively, you might decide to make a much lower bid, perhaps only half the asking price. This is also likely to be a mistake, being viewed as insulting by the seller of the house, who no doubt expected to drop her price by some percentage but certainly not by half. She may cease negotiating with you.

Prof. Thompson emphasizes that both parties to this kind of negotiation likely have, in their minds, reservation prices, the highest price the buyer is willing to pay, the lowest price the seller is willing to take. If there is a gap between these two prices, the deal is unlikely to be consummated, unless some side issues can be negotiated successfully as well. Perhaps the terms of payment, the timing of payment, and / or the purchase of some associated furnishings and equipment can be negotiated simultaneously, so as to make a package deal that is attractive to both parties.

Often the seller’s reservation [lowest] price is somewhat lower than the buyer’s reservation [highest] price, and the deal can be consummated. Neither party is wise to reveal his or her reservation price to the other. The negotiating dance of offer and counter-offer will ensue. Each party should keep track of the offers, and try to judge from these what the other party’s reservation price really is. Typically, at some point in the negotiations one party or the other will suggest that they “split the difference.” While this sounds fair, it may or may not be a wise choice, depending on how the bidding process has proceeded and what the actual reservation prices are.

Prof. Thompson emphasizes that skilled negotiators are involved in creating value and claiming value. They create value by finding new combinations or packages that let both sides gain. They claim value by skillfully working to gather as much of the created value for their side as they can, while still satisfying their negotiating partner. The goal is a win-win outcome, where possible.

In the simplest buyer-seller negotiation, it seems that whatever one gains, the other loses, a “fixed-sum” negotiation. However, by introducing side deals or subsequent deals into the process, the participants can look for trade-offs, concessions and gains, that can leave both better off than they would be otherwise. I have used this myself in some circumstances, seeking to find additional areas of possible agreement to “sweeten the deal” for each. The situation then becomes “variable-sum,” with a “win-win” outcome more likely.

Prof. Thompson lays out four golfing-analogy “sand traps” of negotiating. The first is not getting all one might have gotten, “leaving money on the table.” The second is somewhat similar, settling for too little, which often would be the case if one immediately gives the seller her initial asking price. The third error or Is walking away from the table prematurely, especially when done in anger, and when further negotiation might well have been productive. The fourth, surprisingly, is settling for terms to leave you worse off than if you had made no deal at all. She emphasizes that each party has what she calls a “BATNA,“ the Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement. In the context of buying and selling a home, for the buyer it might be getting another house that is for sale or just staying where he lives. It is in his interest to continue to look for other homes to buy even as this negotiation proceeds. Similarly, the seller’s BATNA is either not to sell the home or to sell it to another buyer, so she should continue to look outside this negotiation for another buyer.

Negotiating styles can make a difference. Studies indicate that being perceived as manipulative, or as a push-over, are particularly ineffective. Being firm but fair or, better yet, seeming to be quite reasonable, has generally produced better results in controlled studies.

Prof. Thompson presents her material in a series of “truths,” 53 truths to be exact, and there is not space in this article to go into all of them, but I will summarize a few more: To the extent possible you want to understand the interests of the counter-party. To do this, light but probing questions can be very valuable, and you may need to reveal more about your interests as well, in the hope of reaching a mutually beneficial settlement, such as the sisters in our sharing-the-orange example could have done. Giving in on some issues in return for concessions on others is often productive. Personal styles matter as well, and if possible you should try to be friendly and try to emphasize areas of similarity between the two of you. A sense of humor helps. Keep in mind that it may be necessary to allow the other party to “save face” by giving him tangible or cosmetic concessions. There is leverage in “I have to check with my spouse [or with my boss].”

Where possible, try to have your negotiations face-to-face rather than over the telephone. You should develop a reputation for being an honest negotiator, one whose word can be counted upon. Very often you will end up in a negotiation with the same party again in the future, or at the very least the proceedings of the negotiation will become known to others. Finally, if for some reason you have made an error in your negotiating, you must do what you can to repair the damage and restore trust.

I thoroughly enjoyed Prof. Thompson’s very informative and interesting book, and I highly recommend it to you. Keep some of the lessons in mind the next time you buy a car or a home or determine a curfew for your teen-ager.


Douglas Winslow Cooper, Ph.D., is a retired environmental physicist, a current care-giver, and the author of Ting and I: A Memoir of Love, Courage, and Devotion, available through,, or the web site, He is also a freelance writer and book coach. At one time, as a faculty member, he ran the Environmental Health Management Program at the Harvard School of Public Health.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012


Excerpted from TING AND I: A MEMOIR...

“The fault, dear Brutus, lies not in our stars, but in ourselves.”

What’s your astrological sign? A silly question. Or is it? I have always thought it coincidental that Tina’s birthday and my mother’s are the same, April 3. A little spooky, what?

In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell reviewed studies that show that the birthdates of those who succeed in some activities, such as certain sports, are not randomly distributed. If your league or your school cuts off eligibility as of December 31, then those born toward the beginning of the year will be almost a year older than the youngest entrants, an advantage that continues year after year in some situations.

We chose to hold Phil (born August 26) back from first grade for such reasons, so he was nearly 19 when he graduated from high school. I started first grade at nearly seven rather than nearly six, with my December 21st birth date. Skipping second grade put me right back behind the pack, however, dooming me. It did get me out of the house at seventeen and a half, though.

More seriously, Tina and I like to think we were “fated to be mated.” It seems amazing that the girl from Kunming and the guy from Manhattan could have found each other.

How lucky is that? There are over a billion folk in China. We have here in the U.S. currently a few million Chinese. That’s roughly 1000 to 1 odds of being here, out of China. MS is a one-in-a-thousand illness, twice as frequent among females as males (X chromosome-related: XX vs. XY probability). Without MS, Tina would likely have been unwilling to leave her marriage. Maybe she would have had the energy to continue her Ph.D. studies, as she had qualified for. I nearly went to M.I.T., but my scholarship application was a few days late. Less than one student in a thousand at Cornell was in Chinese 102, so the probability of a randomly picked pair being there was less than one in a million. The random nature of genetic combination means that she could have been born a very different person than she was, the same being true for me.

It does seem miraculous, designed. For the other side of such speculation, see Frost’s poem “Design,” which I will not quote here, as it undercuts my thesis, grimly.

I prefer to believe “You were meant for me....”