Susan, the love of my life and my everything has decided to move on. With the help of my son, Scott, I put together this last goodbye. I wish her luck in the future.
It is an honor to have been asked to speak at this service for Rick. This is the second Eulogy I have given for an Odyssey of the Mind team member. The first was Yvonne Saville almost 20 years ago.
I thought I would give a brief history of my relationship with Rick. I first met him when he was a 7th grader at Capon Bridge Junior High. Mr. Sirianni, a fellow teacher, had told me before hand about an extraordinary young man coming to our school that I had not yet worked with. Mr. Hicks, another fellow teacher and I were working on a Texas T-1000 computer that the school had recently purchased. We were like monkeys in a Radio Shack but were giving it our best shot. Rick offered his assistance. I guess we sort of chuckled and said we were doing fine, despite the fact we were getting nowhere. Rick, seeing our increasing frustration approached us again to offer his help. So have you used one of these before, I asked? He said yes, “I own one and I know how to use it” he said with a great deal of self-assurance. Well, with that, we turned over the reins to Rick; his fingers danced over the keys as though he had been doing it since he was born. In short order, he completed the task before us and then went on to greatly improve on what we were doing. Needless to say, I was very impressed with this prodigy!
Rick continued to impress me and anyone who bothered to look throughout his junior and senior high school career. He won many science fair awards with several cutting edge projects and participated on several high school Odysseys of the Mind teams that all made it to the international competition.
The two of us spent countless hours discussing everything from astrophysics to artificial intelligence. He was a sponge, soaking up everything I was able to throw his way but his first love was computer programming. He learned computer languages the way most of us learn phone numbers.
He was a giving and gentle person who often was more concerned with others’ needs than his own. Most possessions were of little value to him unless they allowed him to expand his knowledge.
After Rick attended college for several years he decided that the pursuit of a formal education was holding him back so he quit and begin marketing his skills. As his reputation expanded, things went quite well as people learned of his ability, so the jobs began to roll in. It did not take long for people in company offices in the area to realize there was something special about this young man. He was smart, confident, articulate, and able to solve problems that others were unable to solve. More important, he was able to do it faster than anyone they had ever seen!
Permit me to pass on this brief antidote from Rick’s college days. Tom Pliska was Rick’s roommate his freshman year at Virginia Tech. He tells the story of waking up from a deep sleep with frost on his blanket and the wind howling through the room. He looked over to see Rick feverously typing away on his computer in front of an open window in nothing but his BVDs. Sweat was rolling off his forehead despite the fact that the room temperature was close to freezing. Tom jumped up and yelled for Rick to close the window! When he asked him what he was doing, Rick’s reply was, “I am programming.”
Rick stayed in touch with me on a regular basis with phone calls or text. He would often call me to bounce ideas off me in the hope that I might come up with something new and interesting. I always enjoyed the talks because you could never anticipate what it would be about. Sometimes we would talk for hours.
As an adult, (as close as he could get to being an adult) he continued to enjoy play or better said, the art of play. He had the most incredible collection of toys I have ever seen. When he became a father, he could not wait to share his extensive lego collection with his kids. As the good father, he was a mixture of strength, loyalty, fun and unpredictability which is, as most of us know, what lights the fire of a young persons mind.
Eric and Erin will both miss their father as much as any one could because they experienced him as their perfect father.
Your world and mine is a sadder place without Rick. His presence will be missed by many in various different ways. During my teaching career I met many extremely bright and capable students but, I have to place Rick at the very top of a very short list. He was in a league of his own.
I wish there were some perfect words to make this loss easier for all of us, but no such words exist. We will have to endure the pain of his absence for years to come. In order to fill that void, we must remember him as the happy enthusiastic young man who enjoyed immensely the people around him and loved with few limitations. It was his gift.
Rick, know that we will all miss you more than words can tell.
It all started with a simple device that allowed a driver to set the speed of a car without holding one’s foot on the gas while driving. Today most cars have cruise control and most take it for granted, but not too long ago it was a revolutionary technology that had some negative aspects: What if it got stuck and the car refused to stop? What if it turns but then refuses to go off? I am sure the debate was intense but technology finally won out so that the most expensive cars of the day were equipped with this new device.
Now move to our present when a new and similar debate is raging. We now have the emerging technology to create ‘smart cars’ that are able to self-navigate through our intricate road system. That’s right, you will not have to hold on to the steering wheel! Just set the car for a final destination and take a nap. Please do not bring up the old problem of malfunctions which may kill the passengers? Seriously, according to the Association for Safe International Road Travel, 37,000 Americans die each year in auto accidents and 2.35 million are injured or disabled. Worldwide, a staggering 1.3 million people are killed and between 20 and 50 million injured or disabled! So let’s not go there! No one is as accident-prone as good old Homo sapiens. So, back to the topic at hand, this technology will not just save lives, it will allow also to us use the time in our cars in a more constructive way; 1.e,s say reading a book, working on projects, takeing a needed nap or whatever one chooses to do.
Now, who is going to suffer from this technology? It dawned on me recently that the insurance companies would no longer be needed. Sure we may have auto insurance but, because we may have next to no claims, our insurance premium would be extremely small. Don’t think that the insurance companies aren’t looking at this. There is a lot of money on the line here! For example, auto-body repair would become a thing of the past. Hospitals would no longer have to attempt to put people back together who survive an accident, resulting in a major in a loss of revenue. A multitude of orthopedic devices which help people get around after being disabled would become passe. This does not even bring to mind entirely the emotional damage of an auto accident.
Yes, it will be a few years until everyone has a car that drives itself, but be ready to embrace the safety that will surely follow. Attendance at the race tracks will go up dramatically because people will have to attend to witness the gory consequences an accident. I can see it now, telling my grandson of the good-old-days when we banged around in our 3000 lb nearly all metal cars. I know this is scary to many of us, but just think of all those moments when our children set out on their solo road trip or prom night and knowing that they will be safe.
I just wanted to let folks know that I am still alive and ticking. I have encountered a few bumps in the road of life over the last month and I am working through them. I hope to begin writing real soon. I know that recent events will change many of my insights, which should make for some crazy reading. I have often said that in order to enjoy the highs of life you must have some lows. Hopefully I will be a better person from this experience.
Your personal amateur philosopher
I just finished reading another End of the World Scenario (which I refer to as EWS) that people send around the internet to keep all of us perpetually scared. It’s not as though I have not heard these suggestions as to how our existence will end, but this latest one caught me at just the right moment so that it really bothered me this time; not because it lacked supporting facts or was entirely made from fairy dust, but just because. So here is the idea: the world as we know it will end with a giant eruption on the sun. If it happens at just the right moment with the sufficient strength, it would pretty much wipe out all this worlds communications, power and all satellites in orbit. Ho-hum, yes the violent universe will eliminate our cell phones and government bureaucracy, I am not sure that is such a bad thing. Yes, these similar events have happened in the past and will inevitably happen, so unless we come up with a technology that is hardened to these high energy forces, all hell will break loose. Now, to the issue at hand, what can anyone do about it? Moving to Alaska (which seems to be the answer to almost every EWS) won’t help because end-timers will get more radiation exposure due to the shape of the magnetosphere surrounding the earth. One could burrow into the ground and perhaps shield cell phone from the energy, but that won’t be of any help since the towers will no longer function, anyhow, and unless one has a solar phone charger, the phone will certainly die. The underground does tends to stay warmer. If this catastrophe happen in the winter; how long can a person live underground? Burning wood, gas, diesel or any other type of fuel will only last so long, so what does one do after that’s gone?
Let’s consider a couple of other doomsday possibilities: aliens will maraud across the galaxy because they enjoy the taste of human brain; or this, secretly, the government tries to make us more docile with vaccines. Now, if you want to scare yourself witless, let me tell you a couple of truly possible ‘catastrophe narratives.’ With all the biological tinkering scientists are currently doing with all sorts of organisms, who is to say they may not make a pathogen that wipes most, if not all the human race. This is probably the most likely defensible scenario out there! On another line of thought, I once read that if a star should super-nova within 50 light-years of earth, this little grain of rock we call earth, would be vaporized. Put that in your pipe and smoke it!
I am not writing this to depress you- quite the contrary. I have done this to set you free! There is absolutely nothing you can do about the potential destruction of earth! If God, the universe or nature decide that earth is done, then earth is done! Now this does not take into account the fact that the children of earth are dangerously manipulating many things we do not completely understand. There is the chance that we will cause our own demise! Either way to repeat myself, there is little to nothing we common folk, can do about it.
So, here is my suggestion: Today is a beautiful day and tomorrow appears to be the same, so get your butts in gear and enjoy it; it may be your last! Did I mention that rouge meteor or that methane generating ocean?
While bouncing around Florida and avoiding the cold weather north of us, Sue and I heard of an animal reserve in the St. Augustine area. We found their website and purchased tickets to do the tour. There are only three visitations per week, and the cost is $30/person, and reservations are required.
These animals end up in the reserve as abandoned or abused creatures. Some were previously kept in small cages by their owners; others were mistreated in a variety of ways. The volunteers who care for these animals all appear to be in love with every creature there. Although the animal enclosures are somewhat small due to limited space and funds available. It is obvious that they are now treated like kings and queens. The tour was entertaining as well as informative, but I could not avoid the sinking feeling of these magnificent animals being confined to cages. As there wise gaze met mine, I visualized these noble beasts living and hunting in the plains of Africa, tracking wild prey that soon would become their meal.
The animals are here because of human interference and atrocious abuse! This is simply one more example of how man damages the natural world around us. Although here in the United States this kind of behavior is more closely monitored, it does occur all too often. In too many countries, abusing animals is a way of life and in many cases, a path to wealth! This all must change or many of the our most noble animals will soon become extinct!
I would suggest that all you snow-birds and permanent residents Florida visit the reserve as often as possible and use the following link to help fund their cause. It is not a donation but a link to Amazon.com that will contribute 0.5% to the reserve of any purchase you make. This could be a significant amount of money if enough people use this site. It is very simple to use the link; just log on to Amazon.com, using the following link and the rest will be taken care of.
This is a special time of year. After a long cold winter, the trees are coming alive, the crocuses are breaking through the ground and the smell in the air is like nothing else on this planet. And here to welcome the new season is my favorite spring time friend, the Gold Finches. They are fluttering around the bird feeder outside our windows laik a carpet of gold on the emerging lawn. I just wanted to share this picture with you.