On Religion (excerpt)

Below is a brief excerpt from my BIO autobiography project.

This is the End Note I promised, agnostically speaking, though I wasn’t entirely sure I should write it. I was just never religious in any conventional sense. I wasn’t raised in a faith. I studied faith because I wanted to understand its draw for humanity, but I was never tempted to embrace any religion. If I was forced at gunpoint to adopt a faith and stick to it, I suppose I would adopt Zen, and I imagine I would end up teaching its spirituality to others, but they can keep their bells, pagodas, gongs, incense and cymbals.

In some slightly different lifetime, I can imagine myself set up with a little shrine on a busy street corner in the Financial District, dancing along in tatty garment discards behind irritated passers-by, shouting “But please! You don’t understand! Perl is a wonderful programming language!”

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On Family

‘On Family’ was originally written for my forthcoming e-book autobiography. It is preserved here for space reasons.


“The time has come,” the Walrus said,
“To talk of many things:
Of shoes–and ships–and sealing-wax–
Of cabbages–and kings–
And why the sea is boiling hot–
And whether pigs have wings.”
Through the Looking-Glass, Lewis Carroll



Despite the loss of Dad and Nickie we functioned (or tried to function) more or less as a core family group until around 1969, which happens to be the year I graduated from college – not itself a significant family event. The year 1969 feels about right as a crossover for our present purposes. It’s not that there was some event special to 1969; it’s about then that we effectively stopped trying to function as a family. Dana did not yet seem to be completely transmogrified by his bad LSD trips down into Dante’s Inferno, but he had problems getting along with people on even very basic social levels, and I was already warning him about his rants. Mum was still formidable, but changes in us both, which would soon give rise to our “Golden Years” together, were beginning to shine like a distant new star out of the blackness of night. You could see it, but it didn’t yet illuminate anything.

So, in our family, the most prized and truly heart-warming “good times” didn’t start to roll until about 1969. Most of my own truly game-changing events in my life would still be years or decades away.

And this certainly seemed ironic to a kid who, young once, worshipped the family of Wally and Beaver Cleaver as an ideal. I suppose this shattered another icon of youth, but, looking at the record, I’d rather have it the way it was, than the way it wasn’t. For others, perhaps, the time to make a difference in the family is while they are all still here, and we can smile and tell them it’s OK, we can make all this work and everything is going to be all right. For me, short of some scary Dr. Who scenario where I would go back in time using today’s hindsight to resolve yesterday’s failures, it is best just to cherish the good that was in each of us … and appreciate those times we did enjoy together.

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Age Meets Youth

‘Age Meets Youth’ is an excerpt from my forthcoming e-book autobiography.

Quotes about “the trouble with youth today” go back so far that bibliophiles and scholars argue over attribution. Socrates and Plato are often cited as first sources. Our Junior High Latin teacher offered us a version from ancient Rome: “The trouble with youth today is that they don’t listen to their elders, and they ride their chariots recklessly through Roman streets.”

Today’s youth are literally wired into social networks on a scale totally inconceivable to even the young princes and princesses of my 1950’s world. Today’s youth read much more on the average than youth of my time, yet the average length of a document today is about four sentences. One uses “aggregators” to keep up, conceptually combing and integrating hundreds of distinct documents every day. A cloud of hundreds of collaborators, none of whom has ever met the others, may produce a single conceptual thread or quality software product, and distribute it for free while the Microsofts scramble to provide the equivalent of staplers. Rolodexes and in-boxes for the modern office. The unparalleled productive potential of the new paradigm hasn’t yet even been fully unleashed, but it is coming. Continue reading

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Personal BIO

This is just a short post to say I’m still very much hanging around summitlake.com, and to comment on my remaining so behind the scenes since January 19th.

I finally decided to write my autobiography in early December. I’d prefer the phrase “personal biography” but we’re probably stuck with what the culture expects. 247 pages and 43 revisions later, I’m up to around 1997. I hope to see the work completed by year end.

I’m writing for for-sale publication in print or e-book, which requires more planning and care than we usually see in, say, a weblog. It is possible I may publish it myself in one or more e-book formats. At some point I may post draft preview snippets.

There are some obvious problems with publishing draft content that may change again and again, not least of which is that readers who buy content should not expect to find a lot of previously-published material they can read for free and may even have read before.

For now, my January 3 post Great Whites Breaching, in My Notes, contains the only available “sneak preview”. You may have seen that before, but, with the foregoing context now having been declared, you might want to take a second look. 🙂

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A Life in the Days of a Biker

We’re honored to host Dave Norton’s major new article, A Life in the Days of a Biker. (Click the link to read this article.) Dave’s autobiographical chronicle isn’t just about dirt bikes, motorcycling and hair-raising adventure (but it’s all of that). It’s also about an era.

If you ride, or ever rode bikes, this story brings alive the shop talk, competitive riding, and classic manufacturing brands you haven’t heard of in decades. Even if you never got into motorcycles, you’ll remember the can-do attitudes, the foolhardy stunts of youth, and the wonder that we survived any of it. This story spans the stubborn risk-taking of youth to the more cautious perspective of a retired engineer. It also tracks development of Dave’s celebrated Norton Shrike, as … well, you’ll see! Generously illustrated with current and vintage photos, drawings and scans. 55 page PDF requires Adobe Reader. Download or page-load time is about 8-10 seconds (depending on internet connection). Highly recommended for a really good read.

Dave Norton is a frequent contributor to Summitlake.com, with articles in our Writing and Outdoors departments, including B-29 and Backpacker’s Journal, and galleries of remarkable photo images in PHOTOS.

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