The Real Story

Tihamer Toth-Fejel

(What the resume doesn't say)

The real story of a person's life is described by a person's relationships with the most important people in his or her life. But that would be kissing and telling, wouldn't it? :-)

Born of East European immigrant parents who didn't care if Tihamer wasn't a common American name, I learned English in the first grade. Actually, they named me after the Hungarian bishop/theologian Tihamer Toth, and Tihamer comes from the Slavic "tiho" (quiet) and "mir" (peace, as in the Russian Space Station). As a child growing up in the orchards and suburbs of what eventually became Silicon Valley, I explored my surroundings extensively, and eventually found a dirt path to the ocean. I was a very picky eater, and always the smallest in my classes, though I was usually the fastest runner, and could usually do twice as many pull-ups as anyone else. My Mom forced me to play the violin, so I had beat up everyone who made fun of me (actually, only two of the school bullies). My Dad recycled and composted many years before it became fashionable (much to my Momís dismay) but both were against television, and they provided me with four younger brothers and three younger sisters with whom I could play and bicker. My junior high math teacher Mr. McMahon got me excited about algebra and gave me the basis for my engineering career. When I started attending Saint Francis High School, I was an 86 pound shrimp, and ended up at 126 pounds my senior year. My wrestling coach (and honors humanities teacher) Joseph Bruno introduced me to science fiction and made sure I did well on the SATs. Meanwhile, Br. Patrick Sopher, the Dean of Students, exposed me to the "proofs" of why God doesnít exist (it was a very interesting inoculation procedure), but he had to clean up the senior prank I cooked up my freshman year. St. Francis gave me a pretty good education, but their dress code made me hate ties and formal attire to this day. After driving my coachís car off a cliff near Pigeon Point (it was his fault) I survived to earn an athletic scholarship to Lehigh University in wrestling (thereby turning down a California state academic scholarship -- oh, well). At Lehigh, I majored in Electrical Engineering with concentrations in Humanistic Perspectives on Technology and Psychology (much to the dismay of my EE advisor). Becoming an All American whetted my appetite for glory, and Meadows et. al. "Limits to Growth" proved that there was no future anyway, so I stayed at Lehigh, pretending to study for a masters in EE. This luxury enabled me to make the '78 and '79 World teams, and qualify for the '80 Olympic Boycott team, but I flunked out in the process. Leigh does not pamper its athletes. Then I met Dr. Gerard O'Neill (author of "The High Frontier"), and found out that world was not going to end after all. After seeing a Cuban wrestler twice dislocate my teammateís elbow without penalty, I realized that international competition is not a game, but war. Later, I wrestled against someone from Campus Crusade for Christ, and he publicly testified about his life. He made me realize that I too had made wrestling into a false god -- and false gods always make false promises.

I enjoyed watching my friends win gold medals at the '84 Olympics, but instead of seriously training to do the same, I chose instead to pick up my EE masters and get married, both at the University of Notre Dame. At Notre Dame (through no intention of my instructors) I discovered Artificial Intelligence and Theology, while beating up, I mean coaching, varsity wrestlers for tuition and stipend. My thesis was on "Self-Test: From Simple Circuits to Self-Replicating Automata", and it was FUN!

I am an honorary member of the Keith Henson Memorial Pyrotechnics club for reasons known only to the nominating committee (and the people three blocks away who summoned the Ann Arbor Fire Department, the police, ambulances, etc.). Any rumors of my launching flaming Christmas trees drenched with gasoline and gunpowder sixty feet in the air are complete fabrications. First of all, it was the tower of flame that was sixty feet high, not the flight path, plus they were different Christmas trees.

Originally, one of my life's goals was to win an Olympic gold medal. Though I never did, I came close enough to satisfy my needs for success, and to discover that it was not a very wise goal.

My present goals revolve around three self-supporting concepts: survival, love, and truth. One must survive in order to have any hope of achieving the other two; Truth will enable one to insure survival in the real world and to love more fully; finally, Love makes survival worthwhile and gives meaning to Truth.

Regarding survival, one of my goals is to help build a spacefaring civilization that will establish communities outside of Earth. When my daughter was a month old, I brought her with me to the hearings of the Presidential Commission on Space, and testified that she and her generation were the reason we needed to settle the high frontier. My related goal is to use molecular nanotechnology to the fullest extent necessary to insure my survival consistent with my other goals.

Regarding love, I hope to love every person that exists. Easier said than done sometimes (or even often), though it helps to know that love is a decision, and not a feeling.

Finally, since my intelligence is limited and I feel that I can never achieve perfect wisdom, I hope to help build a system that responds to questions like "What is the meaning of life, the universe, and everything" with a better answer than 42. This will give me a better tool for finding Truth.

In the course of pursuing these goals as I bounce down the road of life, I intend to smell the roses, surf all the big waves, and bungy jump all the high places.

Favorite places on Earth: Yosemite Valley and Kauai.

Epitaph: The world never touched him (this assumes that I donít make it to the nanotech revolution and its successful application to the Hayflick limit).

Two-word Descriptions: Gentle Barbarian, Granola Technogeek, and Catholic Extropian

Jesus Christ, Lazarus Long, Mahatma Ghandi, Thomas Moore, Arnold Shwartznegger, Mother Teresa, Thomas Aquinas, Rachel McLish, Socrates, Eldridge Cleever, Bernard Nathansen, C. S. Lewis, Diane Medved, Scott Peck, St. Liebowitz, Mortimer Adler, Sarah Conner, Peter Vajk, and Robert Jastrow.

Favorite Fiction Books:
Canticle for Liebowitz by Walter Miller (#1 by far)
Time Enough for Love by Robert Heinlein
The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis
Marooned in Real Time by Vernor Vinge

Favorite Non-Fiction Books:
The Anthropic Principle by Tipler and Borrow
Doomsday has been Cancelled by J. Peter Vajk
The Evolution of Cooperation by Robert Axelrod
Engines of Creation by Eric Drexler
The Origin of Consciousness and the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind by Julian Jaynes
A Scientific Study of Morals and Ethics by Roger Sperry
People of the Lie by Scott Peck

Favorite Movies: The Mission, Terminator 2, Hook, The Spitfire Grill, The Navigator (from New Zealand), Last Action Hero, and Conan the Barbarian.