Content-type: text/html Ray Manning

Monday, March 20, 2000 7:06 AM

A Long Weekend?

After having lunch with Reem and Donna on Thursday, but being turned down by Lori, I go home and lift weights. And think about the activities to occur this weekend. And end up driving to the liquor store for a bottle of whiskey. It is empty by the time that I collapse into bed.

Friday afternoon sees me taking a nap. But only after a 30 mile bicycle ride, mowing the lawn, washing and waxing the motorcycle, and lifting weights. I need the sleep for a 10:30 ice hockey game tonight. We play the game and win in overtime - barely surviving a last minute scare by the other team where our goalie makes a fantastic save to keep the game tied. After the game, just past midnight, the truck has a hard time making it to Long Beach, misses the 710 North again, and continues down to Garden Grove and the Frat House. It is St. Patrick's day, or maybe the morning after seeing that it is now 12:30am on Saturday. The crowd is down. Probably people have gone to an Irish pub on this night. I leave at 1:45am. But I do not go to sleep. I decide to check my email and end up performing some data reduction on data taken from our recent Phoenix race. At 2:45am I decide that I have had enough and email the data reduction to other team members for their study. And go to sleep. (I eventually receive a number of comments from the team about the 2:45am email and am told that I should go to the the web site I don't bother to check if it exists.)

Saturday morning I wake up and go for a ride on the mountain bike. After 4 ice hockey games and three bicycle rides in six days, my legs are tired. The ride is eventful because a number of rear wheel spokes break on the ride and I end up riding the last quarter of the ride on a VERY wobbly rear wheel. I make it home and lift weights and wax the wheel rims on the motorcycle when I receive two telephone calls. One is from a friend named Danielle who wants to come over later and watch videos. I accept the invitation. The other telephone call is from Ta-Wei. (Ta-Wei is my Ta-Wei says that I need to meet some friends right now. It is urgent. I tell him that I need a nap, but I accept. Ta-Wei gives me the address for a warehouse in South Central or Vernon or some city near the warehouse district. Now the last time that I went to the warehouse district was many years ago for a wild party. For that time, I dressed all in the black and fit right in. I select all black clothing for this trip also.

I enter the warehouse and am introduced by Ta-Wei to potential investors. There is Mr. Hiramoto, (the CEO of the capital company) his chief financial officer, his accountant, his lawyer, his marketing guru, and one other person. A few other people are present and I do not quite figure out who they are. Everybody is dressed in proper, conservative business attire - including Ta- Wei. Ta-Wei has tried to stay up on the conversation, but his command of Japanese is rudimentary and he is unsure of all of the details. But he pulls me aside and tells me that I am expected to make a speech about the direction of our venture. And that everybody seems to be wondering why I am dressed all in black. And something about dampening.

Sometimes life comes down to a 5 to 10 minute window of opportunity that can completely change the course of one's life. I grasp that this is the situation now.

I start my sales pitch with "I came dressed entirely in black because our partnership signifies a death. It signifies the death of natural life and the birth of artificial life." Mr. Hiramoto smiles and I am on my way. I sprinkle the speech with the important topics: genetics, uncertain or fuzzy environment (and everything that that word implies), bottoms-up approach, Baldwin effect, the incompatibility of Lamarckian evolution, reconfigurable hardware, evolution vs. learning, and the need for predators in the life- making environment. Each time I hit an important point, Mr. Hiramoto smiles, the CFO frowns (because he knows this is costing him more money), the accountant adds another digit to the check, the lawyer adds another clause to the contract, the marketing guy sees another angle to sell the concept, and Ta-Wei....Well, I can see what is in Ta-Wei's eyes: Each time another digit is added to the check, he sees another personal purchase for himself. At first it is a large boat, then it is a vacation home, then it is many, many electronic play things. When I look at him for the final time, I see in his eyes himself surrounded by Thai women and dark-skinned Brazilian cabana boys waiting on him hand and foot. And now, now that I have hit every cue, have delivered the direction of the partnership "in the zone", and have brought Mr. Hiramoto to his knees, I must confess and tell the truth. I have noticed that Mr. Hiramoto has cringed everytime that I have used the terms "silicon test tube" or "silicon petri dish". And given me a puzzled look. And now I know that Ta-Wei has misinterpreted his Japanese word "dampening" for "wet". So I continue "Hiramoto-san, I must now confess that there is a step missing in the work that we would be doing with you. We have focused entirely on dry or silicon-based artificial life and we do not know how to make the leap to wet artificial life. And I am afraid that that is what you are looking for."

There is silence. And more silence. The look on Mr. Hiramoto's face changes, over the course of a 1-2 minute period of silence where not a word is spoken, from satisfaction, pride, and delight to puzzlement and bewilderment. The CFO is now starting to smile, the accountant is tearing up the check, the lawyer is tearing up the contract, and the marketing guy is wondering what just hit him. And Ta-Wei. Well, the look in Ta-Wei's eyes is not good. Besides the tears welling up, I see an ax.

Mr. Hiramoto breaks the silence with "Dr. Manning, I like you. I like you a lot. You are knowledgeable, but most of all, you are honest. We will work together in the future. But we do not have anymore money for dry." The meeting ends quickly with everyone getting up and leaving. I leave as quickly as possible because I do not want to deal with Ta-Wei.

I have never turned down so much money before in my life, but it feels good. It has never felt so good to tell the truth....and, unfortunately, screw myself (and partners) over at the same time.

Sometimes life comes down to a person's 5 to 10 minute shot at a big breakthrough. Mine comes on the way home when I stop at the liquor store and buy a bottle of whiskey and when I stop at the grocery store and buy a chocolate cake. (Both in celebration of Nopey's 12th birthday on Sunday.)

Danielle comes over and we watch a video from 1995 called "Kids". It is a harsh look at some New York teens wildly out of control. I am happy when the evening ends and Danielle does not end up staying over.

Sunday is a quiet day. Except for the telephone. I coincidentally receive a number of telephone calls from friends that I have not spoken to for a while. But there is Ta-Wei's telephone call. I apologize profusely to Ta-Wei but reinforce that I did the right thing. He understands, but also wonders if we couldn't have taken the money and brought biologists, chemists, and biochemists on board. I tell him that I scanned my memory for any of those people that I have ever known and drew a semi-blank: Shelley, who I never had the chance to go out with even though we spoke about it, and a number of others long gone. And I could not justify saying that we had the start to "wet" capability. Ta-Wei tells me that the warehouse that we met in was to be torn down and was going to be the site of the new research laboratory where the wet artificial life would be.

On Sunday I do not drink. I feel depressed and fight tears off a number of times. I go for a drive by the beach, by the Belmont pool, through the Broadway corridor, and, finally, past the liquor stores on PCH.

When I get home, I see that Nopey has invited some friends over to celebrate his birthday. Besides some neighborhood dogs, there is the "Hollywood contingent " consisting of Air Bud, Spike (the Long Beach Ice Dogs mascot), Spuds MacKenzie, Alex from Strohs, Buck Bundy, Dreyfus, and, "Why did I expect otherwise?", the Taco Bell dog. Actually the Taco Bell dog is already gone because Buck Bundy grabbed him in his mouth by the scruff of his neck and thrown him over the fence after he did one too many commercial imitations. ("Cont dees boat go any foster?") There is music on the stereo from Snoop Doggy Dog and all of the dogs have unlit cigars in their mouths. (Have you ever tried lighting a match without a thumb?) And, of course, there is doggie porn playing on the VCR. The two selections that I saw were "Driving Miss Doggie" and "Bitches in Heat". I throw everyone out and verbally scold Nopey, but take him for a long walk and quickly forgive him.