Sunday, August 31, 2014

Doctor Fraser is Back on My Duck Soup

Creating this Blogger wasn't such a bad idea to start but it didn't pan out as I had hoped and I have brought it back up again on My Duck Soup / Alex.  Duck Soup is where the material was originally written so now it's back.  There are many other Features as that's what made it Duck Soup in the first place.

This blog will no longer be updated but neither will it be deleted. 

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Starstruck - Life with Alex Fraser

Alex was well aware of his capability and his contribution to genetics.  His confidence in his direction was one of the most intriguing and attractive things about him.  He wasn't without his share of arrogance but he carried it with flair and of course he was right.  I don't believe I ever get caught him when he wasn't although I did murder him at Perquackey.  On points of fact, he was ever the scientist and something was never presented as fact if he did not consider it scientifically-valid to call it true. That he was right on so many things either alienated people altogether or drew them into life-time bonds.

Some of those bonds resulted in extraordinary gatherings at home and I had no idea of the significance of it at the time but Sir Otto Frankel, Thomas Dobzhanksy, Dick Lewontin, and I'm sure others were in the living room with Alex for a private gathering.  Sir Otto was close to a father in the respect my father held for him and we kids called him Uncle Otto as he always visited on his frequent trips around the world.

I know through my father that these men are Big Names in Genetics but there would no way of knowing it otherwise.  The significance of it to me was that I wanted to ask Uncle Otto whether I should continue with the guitar or pursue science.  It seems banal relative to whatever they must have been discussing but from my standpoint he was my Uncle Otto and this was a huge question.

He said, in effect, you've got to follow what you believe.  These scientists did that and achieved extraordinary things.

Note:  Some of these articles are reflections from hard scientists and you can click the Index tab for a quick link to them.  Other articles are reflections from the family as he was unique but they don't make movies about geneticists so the blog will tell the story instead.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Addition of Family Members to the Blog

All members of the family are invited to contact me via email or Twitter to provide a link address for listing in the sidebar.  This includes children, wives and ex-wives, grand-children, and great-grandchildren, although the invitation to the latter will likely be somewhat premature for most of them.  While any of this information can be obtained online, I don't feel it is my right to include anyone without permission.

Suggestions for additions, improvements or contributions of photographs or commentary can also be delivered the same way although the latter preferably by email.  Alternatively or in addition, any family member can be added as an author and, if your preference, as an administrator to contribute and/or moderate material personally.  I'll expect everyone to show the same restraint and respect you'll find here as this isn't an appropriate forum for debate.

I'll be happy to proofread and submit any contributions if that is your preference and my commitment is that nothing will be edited for content, only for formatting and minor spelling or grammatical errors.

The family can be fractious at times but I also remember six kids lined up in their pajamas in front of a Boeing 707 on the runway in Honolulu.  The blog is not my property and all of you know that his first response to fractiousness would be to make everyone stand in the corner.  Please treat the blog as if you are speaking in front of him as, in my view, you are and so am I.

With all love and respect to Alex and Anne Fraser and everything they brought into the world.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

IEEE Transactions on Evolutionary Computation by David Fogel

A remembrance by David Fogel

IEEE Transactions on Evolutionary Computation
Vol. 6. No. 5, October 2002

The evolutionary computation community lost one of its pioneers on July 14, 2002, when Alex Fraser passed away as a result of complications from a heart attack. Fraser was one of the first to conceive and execute computer simulations of genetic systems, and his efforts in the 1950s and 1960s had a profound impact on computational models of evolutionary systems. The simulation algorithms he used were important not only in the simulation of genetical problems, but provided a menu of techniques that enriched the entire simulation effort in any problem that involved probability sampling among a population of alternatives, the heart of Monte Carlo methods.

Fraser was born in London, U.K., and lived in Hong Kong for most of his youth; however, he studied at the University of New Zealand, and later went to the University of Edinburgh, and subsequently to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) in Sydney, Australia. It was at the CSIRO where Fraser made his seminal contributions to evolutionary computation. Following the construction of the ILLIAC computer at the University of Chicago, CSIRO designed and built their own version, called the SILLIAC, and Fraser began using it to simulate genetic selection processes.

Beginning with [1], Fraser embarked on a comprehensive series of simulations of evolutionary processes [2]-[13], and encouraged and collaborated with others on many related publications in this series [14]-[18]. Fraser published extensively in the Australian Journal of Biological Sciences, and his efforts influenced colleagues in evolutionary biology significantly [19]-[21].

Fraser's first efforts [1], published in 1957, studied the case of diploid organisms represented by binary strings of a given length, say n. Each bit in a string represented an allele (either dominant or recessive) and the phenotype of each organism was determined by its genetic composition. Reproduction was accomplished using an n-point crossover operator where each position along an organism's genetic string was assigned a probability of breaking for recombination. Interactions between genes could be addressed nominally by forming linkage groups. This was accomplished by varying the probability of crossover occurring at each locus along the strings.

The general procedure was for a population of P parents to give rise to P' offspring via recombination. Selection would then eliminate all but P of the offspring (as well as all of the parents) for the next generation based on a function of the assigned phenotypic value. In general, the rule for determining phenotypes could be arbitrary, but Fraser [1] offered some specific possibilities to model the effects of dominance and recessiveness. Selection could then be applied toward the extreme values of the phenotype (essentially performing function optimization, either maximization or minimisation) or the mean values (stabilizing selection against extremes). The possibility for varying the number of progeny per parent based on the parental phenotypes was also introduced.

Subsequent efforts in Fraser's series of publications studied varying effects of linkage, epistasis, rates of reproduction, and additional factors on the rates of advance under selection, as well as the genetic variability of a population and other statistics. His work inspired other efforts in computer models of population genetics [22]-[26], all of which relied on recombination and mating, which had become routine practice. By 1968, Fraser had placed his work in the context of purposive learning systems [8], and included an inversion operator to reorder alleles and build arbitrary linkages between genes. In retrospect, his computational procedures presaged the mechanisms that would later become common in traditional genetic algorithms. In 1970, together with Don Burnell, Fraser published the book Computer Models in Genetics [11], which provided a comprehensive treatment of his efforts spanning over a decade and was the second book in the field of evolutionary computation.

Sadly, Fraser suffered a stroke in 1983, after he had moved to the United States over a decade earlier to take on a visiting professorship at the University of California at Davis, before taking the Headship of Biological Sciences at the University of Cincinnati in 1967. The stroke left him unable to converse normally, and he would rarely engage in telephone conversations. The timing of this unfortunate event was most tragic because Fraser was left unable to engage his colleagues just at the time when interest in evolutionary models and simulations was beginning to rise within computer science.

In the mid-1990s, I began research for the book, Evolutionary Computation: The Fossil Record [27], which offers an historical review of efforts in evolutionary algorithms from the early 1950s to the early 1990s. With a bit of fortune, I was able to locate Fraser, and communicating through his wife, Anne, was able to identify and research the vast majority of his early efforts, as well as have him review my editorial introduction to his work, which appears in [27]. Two of his papers are reprinted in [27].

In 1999, Fraser received the 1999 IEEE Neural Networks Council Pioneer Award in Evolutionary Computation. I believe this was but a small recognition, and it came too late. Yet, even though Alex could not come to accept the award in person--it was accepted by his son-in-law who read a gracious statement on Fraser's behalf--he was grateful for the award. His wife would later write to me that he was very proud of this recognition.

I found Fraser still keen on the idea of computer models of evolution, and was extremely pleased and honored to be able to co-author with him the paper "Running races with Fraser's recombination," [28] which I presented at the 2000 Congress on Evolutionary Computation in San Diego, CA. This paper studied the effects of competing different forms of recombination, including one-point, two-point, and uniform crossover, with Fraser's recombination method that could assign arbitrary probabilities to crossing points, with these probabilities evolved online with a self-adaptive mechanism. Individuals were tagged with bits that identified which operator would be applied. Over generations of optimization on alternative functions, different operators showed greater or lesser degrees of match to the problem (in line with [29]), with uniform crossover and Fraser's recombination providing generally better results than one- or two-point crossover across the test suite.

Although my own direct interaction with Alex was brief, it will stay with me forever. Once, while finishing the preparations for [27], I had phoned Anne to assist me with some final clarifications on his early work. She informed me to hold on, and Alex came to the phone. For what could have been no more than 30 seconds, he thanked me, as best as he could while slurring his words, for helping bring attention to his work. Knowing how difficult it was for him speak following his stroke made this moment all the more poignant.

I regret that Alex is no longer with us to share in the bright future of the field that he helped create, but I feel fortunate to have been able to bring light to his efforts and even collaborate with him. I hope that others in the evolutionary computation community will be encouraged to revisit his contributions and explore his lines of thought using our modern high-speed computing machines. We have the capability to take these explorations far beyond what Alex could have imagined when he constructed the SILLIAC. In doing so, we can return only a small contribution of what he has given us.

DAVID B. FOGEL, Editor-in-Chief

Natural Selection, Inc.

La Jolla, CA 92037 USA


Thanks are owed to Anne Fraser, Larry Erway, and Richard Lewontin for assisting with this remembrance.


[1] A. S. Fraser, "Simulation of genetic systems by automatic digital computers. I. Introduction," Aust. J. Biol. Sci., vol. 10, pp. 484-491, 1957.

[2] ----,"Simulation of genetic systems by automatic digital computers. II. Effects of linkage or rates of advance under selection," Aust. J. Biol. Sci., vol. 10, pp. 492-499, 1957.

[3] ----, "Monte Carlo analyses of genetic models," Nature, vol. 181, pp. 208-209, 1958.

[4] ----, "Simulation of genetic systems by automatic digital computers. 5-linkage, dominance and epistasis," in Biometrical Genetics, O. Kempthome, Ed. New York: Pergamon, 1960, pp. 70-83.

[5] ----, "Simulation of genetic systems by automatic digital computers. VI. Epistasis," Aust. J. Biol. Sci., vol. 13, no. 2, pp. 150-162, 1960.

[6] "Simulation of genetic systems by automatic digital computers. VII. Effects of reproduction rate, and intensity of selection, on genetic structure," Aust. J. Biol. Sci., vol. 13, pp. 344-350, 1960.

[7] ----, "Simulation of genetic systems," J. Theoret. Biol., vol. 2, pp. 329-346, 1962.

[8] ----, "The evolution of purposive behavior," in Purposive Systems, H. von Foerster, J. D. White, L. J. Peterson, and J. K. Russell, Eds. Washington, DC: Spartan, 1968, pp. 15-23.

[9] A. S. Fraser and D. Burnell, "Simulation of genetic systems. XI. Inversion polymorphism," Amer: J. Human Genet., vol. 19, no. 3, pp. 270-287, 1967.

[10] ----, "Simulation of genetic systems. XII. Models of inversion polymorphism," Genetics, vol. 57, pp. 267-282, 1967.

[11] ----, Computer Models in Genetics. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1970.

[12] A. S. Fraser, D. Burnell, and D. Miller, Simulation of genetic systems. X. Inversion polymorphism," J. Theoret. Biol., vol. 13, pp. 1-14, 1966.

[13] A. S. Fraser and P. E. Hansche, "Simulation of genetic systems. Major and minor loci," in Proc. llth Int. Congress on Genetics, S. J. Geerts,

Ed. Oxford, U.K.: Pergamon, 1965, vol. 3, pp. 507-516.

[14] J. S. F. Barker, "Simulation of genetic systems by automatic digital computers. III. Selection between alleles at an autosomal locus," Aust. J. Biol. Sci., vol. 11, pp. 603-612, 1958.

[15] ----, "Simulation of genetic systems by automatic digital computers. IV. Selection between alleles at a sex-linked locus," Aust. J. Biol. Sci.,
vol. 11, pp. 613-625, 1958.

[16] J. L. Gill, "Simulation of genetic systems," Biometrics, vol. 19, p. 654, 1963.

[17] ---- "Effects of finite size on selection advance in simulated genetic populations," Aust. J. Biol. Sci., vol. 18, pp. 599-617, 1965.

[18] ----, "Selection and linkage in simulated genetic populations," Aust. J. Biol. Sci., vol. 18, pp. 1171-1187, 1965.

[19] J. Felsenstein, private communication, 1998.

[20] C. Taylor, private communication.

[21] R. Lewontin, private communication.

[22] E G. Martin and C. C. Cockerham, "High speed selection studies," in Biometrical Genetics, O. Kempthome, Ed. London, U.K.: Pergamon, 1460, pp. 35-45.

[23] J. L. Crosby, "The use of electronic computation in the study of random fluctuations in rapidly evolving populations," Phil. Trans. Roy. Soc. B, vol. 242, pp. 415-417, 1960.

[24] ----, "Evolution by computer," New Scientist, vol. 17, pp. 415-417, 1963.

[25] ----, Computer Simulation in Genetics. New York: Wiley, 1973.

[26] K. E. Justice and J. M. Gervinski, "Electronic simulation of the dynamics of evolving biological systems," in Cybernetics Problems in Bionics, H. L. Oestreicher and D. R. Moore, Eds. New York: Gordon and Breach, 1968, pp. 205-228.

[27] D. B. Fogel, Ed., Evolutionary Computation: The Fossil Record. Piscataway, NJ: IEEE Press, 1998.

[28] D. B. Fogel and A. S. Fraser, "Running races with Fraser's recombination," in Proc. 2000 Congress on Evolutionary Computation. Piscataway, NJ: IEEE Press, 2000, vol. 2, pp. 1217-1222.

[29] D. H. Wolpert and W. G. Macready, "No free lunch theorems for optimization," IEEE Trans. Evol. Comput., vol. 1, pp. 67-82, Apr. 1997.

Remembrance by Bob Caster

I met Alex Fraser in my office in 1974 after he was appointed by Warren Bennis, the President of the University of Cincinnati, to  serve as a liaison between the academic and administrative offices and assist in the possible organization of a computer consortium between Miami University and the University of Cincinnati.

Ed: Miami University refers to the school in Oxford, Ohio

Our first task together was for him to get familiar with the computer center budget and for me to explain our computer hardware and staff capabilities. We had been providing  computer services to US EPA, NIOSH, and local high schools during 1973. I was charged with finding resources outside the University due to budget cuts in 1972. The President wanted to make sure we would not over-extend our computer and 'short change' the academic and administrative services to the University of Cincinnati through the sharing our resources with Miami University.

After Alex was satisfied we could handle the Miami load and our finances were sound, we mapped out a plan. The first project in which Alex was involved was a trip to Raleigh, NC, to visit Triangle University Computer Consortium (TUCC). Two vice presidents and two financial directors from both the University of Cincinnati and Miami University along with myself met with the TUCC president and discussed organization, budget, and politics in forming such an organization. Alex and the group mentioned above met again at Miami University to appoint the Director of the South Western Regional Computer Center (SWORCC) and this turned out to be me.

Ed: Modesty will prevent Bob from saying this but he led SWORCC to the point at which windows were required in the primary conference room so the many visitors could look into the computer room to get a better idea of what had been built. SWORCC was a spectacular achievement and there isn't anyone who was a part of it who doesn't look back on those times fondly.

After my appointment, the Vice Presidents from each University appointed members who would best represent their Departments and have some knowledge of computers and business matters. Alex was appointed Chairman of the SWORCC Policy Committee and there were monthly meetings at each University in which Alex introduced Robert’s Rules of Order to the members, most for the first time. He had the uncanny ability to keep things on track while keeping the respect of the committee.

Alex spent a great deal of his time in meetings and university politics but was always available when I would have questions concerning proposals on grants and contracts that we were trying to win. These negotiations were to provide the best computing for both universities while keeping their cost of computing down. It is hard to determine how many hours he devoted in the five years that SWORCC existed and I was very grateful that I had him as a friend and professional acquaintance.

Ed: Again modesty is holding back a significant part of the story. Bob's entrepeneurial talents were a huge contribution to building SWORCC from a second-rate data center to one of the largest computing organizations in the area.

It is too bad he never got any recognition for his work. One reason was the high turnover in the university administration and another problem was that not many understood the nature of SWORCC and what we had accomplished. The financial people understood but politics prevailed and SWORCC was terminated.

Ed: SWORCC was terminated through severance of the relationship with Miami University. It was the end of an era as that which followed was not even in the same league as SWORCC. That's one of the reasons I left.

I was very close to Alex and I can count on one hand how many academics and administrators I admired and respected. He was one of the five. I miss him.

Robert R. Caster

Past Director of SWORCC

Past Asst. Vice President of Management & Finance, University of Cincinnati

Theoretical Population Genetics References

The following links contain references to a great deal of information on the topic of theoretical population genetics and you'll find Alex's name popping up fairly regularly. The content is not for the faint of heart as you will find hard science in the material. If you want to skip directly to the reference(s) to Alex, use your browser's Find command to locate 'Alex Fraser.'

P.S. Thank you to Dr Larry Erway of the University of Cincinnati Biology Department for his persistent efforts to recognize the work Alex did in computer simulations of population genetics.

Memory Book

Alex Fraser and Anne Fraser

Memory Book

Anne Fraser

Anne has now joined Alex, physically in the urn they share and spiritually in whatever way makes sense to you. It makes no sense to talk of them separately as they were married for fifty years but always maintained their senses of themselves and their children. They were remarkable people and they will be remembered by the great many people who knew them.

There are two CDs with Interviews with Anne in recordings made a few months before she got sick. Hers is a story that goes all over the world and you won't hear the tiniest fear of death in her. She was an extraordinary woman who lived to see five great-grandchildren and she knitted blankets, despite being nearly blind, for every one of her children, their spouses, her grand-children, and her great-grand-children. That kind of determination is unstoppable and that might have been the best lesson she taught.  (The CDs are not for sale but you might consider making similar recordings with your own family.  It's not difficult with modern tools and they become treasures over time.)

During many years of Alex' teaching at the University of Cincinnati, she worked with him in the class rooms and in his office as her memory of the students was extraordinary.  Between the two of them, they developed quite an amazing rapport with the students, many of whom stayed in-touch for years and years after leaving the school, and a few even up to shortly before she died.

She typed all of his manuscripts back when one used paper instead of some cheesy word processor.  She was typing his papers back before the IBM Selectric, an electric typewriter, was anything but science-fiction.  All this on top of doing everything else housewives of the time did already plus with six maniac kids complicating every part of it.  People are often stunned by how much Alex did but that overlooks how much she did to make it happen.  While what she did seemed secretarial, it was much more than that and he knew it.

She even tried go-kart racing with him but every time Alex got a kart ready to send her out, something would break and that made for some great stories but they probably weren't so amusing at the moment they happened.  In those days, brakes failed, motors caught fire, or you could lose the steering.

While I don't think a motor ever caught fire in a race, the other incidents definitely happened and she just laughed them off as part of her incredible range of experience.  (For the younger siblings, the Mermaid motors in Australia routinely caught fire and there was nothing for it but the driver to slow the kart as much as possible and jump and run!)

Her ability to stay calm during extraordinary circumstances was remarkable as, on top of everything else, tea had to be ready whenever Alex wanted to 'have a cuppa.'  However, she did become a little indignant when Alex questioned whether she had given him a 'cuppa' after a rest stop during a cross-country lecture tour.  Alex thought for a moment and then slowed the car before getting to the end of the entrance ramp to the freeway and, sure enough, she had given him the cup and it was still on the roof of the car, the tea still in it.  He thanked her and we drove on.  That's just how they were.

Some in the family have considered the 'cuppa' stuff to be subservient but in her reflections of their lives together she was very clear that one of the things most endearing to her about him was that Alex was always ready to do whatever she wanted.  Much more than it seemed, it worked both ways.

There may have been another lady somewhere on the planet who could have kept up with him but she would have been very tough to find.

Written on 5/14/10 and updated on 4/12/12


This introduction was written several years after the memory book. Looking back on the memory book, it's a little cheesy but consider it from the perspective that it was written not long after he died when the family was in a state of chaos. He was indestructible and yet there was the phone call at three in the morning to tell me he had died. It was shocking and it was a relief, all in one. He would not have tolerated slowly drifting away so he left the world pretty much as quickly as he entered it and there is considerable comfort in knowing that he ended the game in just the way he anticipated. So this section is primarily for the family but there are no dark secrets and you may find it interesting.


Memory Book

My purpose is to remember things others may have forgotten and perhaps to add a different perspective to things others do remember.

Alex grew up in Hong Kong and Anne grew up in Shanghai but didn't meet each other until they moved independently to Edinburgh. They married and, shortly thereafter, gave me life. Within a year, Alex accepted a position at the CSIRO in Sydney so he moved his new family, via steamship, halfway around the world.

My earliest memory in Australia is of sitting on a horse and this took place when I was eighteen months old. It must have scared the hell out of me as I've been terrified of horses ever since. But that's not the point. Alex put me on that horse because he wanted to share something that he had loved when he was a kid. One of the worst punishments he ever got from his father was when his horse was taken away. He loved horses even though he was so badly injured by riding that he nearly lost his right leg. When Alex developed a passion for something, he would invariably try to share it.

In fairly short order, Andy, Alexis, Annette, Alistair, and Aileen were given life. All of us, except one, were unplanned. The identity of the one who was planned has never been revealed and I'm glad of it but it does amuse me to know that it certainly wasn't me! I remember when Alex took us to pick up Anne from the hospital after one of us was born. Since there were at least three of us in the car, it was probably Alistair or Aileen. Even after having taken this trip multiple times before, he was so clearly enjoying it. There has been a varying degree of guilt in each of us regarding how much time any one of us spent with him or gave him in our lives but never forget that our mere existence gave him joy.

There is a memory that all of us would rather not have: the belt. We all know of our own pain but the next step is to learn about his. The thing that hurt him the most was that, despite his genius, he didn't know any other way to dispense punishment. He acted in the way he had been taught and he could not break out of it. Our job is to remember, consider, and forgive.

Forgiveness is something that Alex gave but that no-one ever really understood. While it's true that his anger was fearsome, he never held a grudge against anyone and always forgave. I never knew him to hate anyone and this is one of the greatest gifts he bestowed. Just as he forgave, so should we. His anger was sometimes disproportionate but it was never without reason.

The next memory, regarding forgiveness, will take a little introduction: Go-karts are regarded by the general public as amusing little toys but the reality is that the family, almost unanimously, had and still has an endless thirst for speed and go-karts were the only things that would satisfy it as there was virtually nothing else that would accelerate or decelerate faster. Important to the next story is that go-karts require portable starter devices that are fairly heavy and require a wheeled device to transport them.

There was a time when Andy was driving his kart onto the track but the motor stalled at the bottom of the pit lane. I grabbed the handle to the starter as Alex headed down toward Andy. I was running with the device in front of me and thought I would impress Alex with a tricky move by turning it as I ran past him. Unfortunately, I miscalculated and it hit him directly in the middle of his shin, putting a deep gash there that was well over an inch long. The pain must have been absolutely blinding but he never said a word at the time and never said anything afterwards.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. The last story took place in California and there was so much more in Australia.

The youngest of us aren't directly aware of his celebrity in Australia and have only read of it in news clippings. Here's a story that wasn't in the news. Jack Brabham was the World Driving Champion in Formula 1 and may have been the first Australian to achieve it. Alex invited Brabham and another Formula 1 driver to be on one of his television shows and he thought it would be interesting if he set them up with Ferraris. The objective was to get some film footage of Brabham and the other driver doing some laps around the parking lot in them. He thought it would be even more interesting if he shared this with his kids so he put Andy in the passenger seat of one of the cars and he put me in the other. That which began as a staged event soon turned into a flat-out race between the drivers and Alex could do nothing but film while Andy and I, absolutely loving it, would wave to him as we roared at some incredible speed past the doors to the television studio.

The show that really put Alex into the limelight was "Doorway to Knowledge." What isn't commonly-known about the show is that it ran at eleven in the morning. He was bringing science to housewives and they absolutely loved it. I have no doubt that a certain number of them were simply lusting after him but that sort of thing doesn't last very long. Perhaps Alex's strongest talent was to take complicated things and present them in a way that was neither mysterious nor patronizing and this is what really built the audience.

One of Alex's dreams was to go heads-up with "Gunsmoke" in prime time. He didn't actually get the opportunity but he came close with "Science in Close-Up," a show that, due to its controversial nature, aired later in the evening. He walked out on the studio when he tried to present the birth of a child on television and it was censored. Forty years later, "The Baby Story" is doing exactly that presentation and viewers are charmed by it.

You would think the previous stories would have occupied all his time but they were actually just a sideline. During this period, he was changing the future of genetics and evolutionary theory. He was a visionary and he recognized immediately the power of computers. The American version of one of the first was ILIAC and Australia's implementation was SILIAC. I don't know the exact years but I'm thinking that this would have been in the late 50's or very, very early 60's. (For an extensive discussion on Alex's contributions to research in genetics, please see David Fogel's Remembrance.)

Alex loved animals and this was another thing he gave us. One day he brought home a boxer and named him Butch. What we didn't know until years later was that Alex had checked with the local police and chosen a boxer because that was the only breed that had no record of attacks on children. (The youngest in the family may not remember but Butch was a celebrity as well. The set for "Doorway to Knowledge" was simply a desk with Alex sitting behind it. Butch was always lying under that desk in full view of the cameras.) Anyone else would have left Butch behind when we left Australia but Alex had him sent to California and I suspect that none of us will ever forget how happy Butch was to see us when he got out of quarantine.

We left Australia after dark in a QANTAS 707 and we could see the lights up and down the coast as it as it disappeared behind us. Once again, he was taking the family, now much larger, halfway around the world. To this day, I would rather call myself an Australian than an American but that's a different story for another time. For all of us, except perhaps the youngest, there was the knowledge that we were leaving something beautiful behind but Alex was embarking on an adventure and he was taking us with him. He did so love adventures.

I'll return to skiing later but something that may have been forgotten is that relatively soon after we arrived in California, Alex took us all up into the Sierras to teach us to ski. It was a complete disaster as none of us had ever even seen snow much less ever been cold. There wasn't one of us who ever went near the mountains again until much later.

Alex was a great one for combining his passions and he arranged series of lecture tours across the U.S. so he could drive from one to the next, race the go-kart on the week-end, and have his family with him throughout. Long-distance driving was no reason to abandon tea-time so he would take periodic breaks at freeway rest stops and Anne would make tea. After one such stop, he decided that he would like to have a second 'cuppa' (Australian for cup of tea) for the road. We were well down the on-ramp back to the freeway before Alex asked Anne to pass the 'cuppa' to him. She told him she had already given it to him. He thought to himself for a few moments and then gently slowed the car to a stop. He retrieved the 'cuppa' from the luggage rack on top of the car and found the tea was still in it! He turned to Anne and said, "Thanks, love," and, with the 'cuppa' in hand, off we went down the road.

There was a routine called 'check-in' and when Alex called out those words all the kids were to line up according to age. He has been criticized for being militaristic but there was much more to it than that. The Australian beaches are among the most beautiful in the world but they're also among the most dangerous. On any trip to the beach, he was constantly counting heads and, if he fell short, one certain way to make sure all the kids were safe was to call 'check-in.'

It wasn't until years later and we were old enough that he didn't think check-in was needed anymore that we learned why he had really been doing it. After a go-kart race in Illinois during one of the cross-country lecture tours, we were quite some distance from the track before he realized that Andy was not in the car. He has been criticized for this but it was an easy mistake to make. None of us had assigned seats! One of the younger kids would sit in-between Alex and Anne in the front seat, three others would sit in the middle seat, and two others would sit in the back with Butch and there was constant competition as to who would sit where. No-one realized he wasn't with us because everyone assumed he was sitting somewhere else. Andy will probably never forget the terror of finding himself alone in the middle of an unfamiliar country, over a thousand miles from home, but what he won't ever really know is the speed at which Alex drove to go back to get him.

There was the chess boom after we moved to Cincinnati in which there would be five or six boards set up on the path to the front door of the house and Alex would come outside every so often to see what was going on. He would check out the progress in each game and, once in a while, he would accept the challenge to play. This was a high compliment for whomever was selected as he would not play unless he considered his opponent capable of a reasonable game. After a time, satisfied that we were all doing well, he would go back inside. The objective in recalling this memory is not to talk about chess but rather to show that you didn't have to be in front of him to make him happy. He only needed to know that you were alright.

I'm not sure when I got fed up with Cincinnati's winters enough to learn how to enjoy them. The family was amused by the fact that I had taken up skiing in a place where the vertical drop wasn't more than a couple of hundred feet but I was determined and went out after work and on week-ends to learn. I'm also not sure as to the sequence in which the rest of the family joined me but it wound up with virtually everyone skiing together. While I'd be happy to say that I introduced skiing, it isn't really true. Regardless of that, I had to drop out after a time because of work and various physical injuries (none of which had anything to do with skiing).

Whenever you wonder what you gave him and perhaps consider that it wasn't enough, remember that your existence was a joy to him. All he really asked of any of us was to enjoy life as much as he did. In the years after I moved to Rhode Island, there was only one thing that he really wanted to know: was I still playing guitar. He didn't have any more interest in the bank than do I but he knew exactly what drove the guitar playing and, so long as he knew I was doing it, he knew everything was alright. That was all he needed. And the same applies for all of us. He knew in every one what would make us happy and, so long as we were doing it, he was happy too. Your gift to him then and most especially now is to keep on doing it.

After Alex had his stroke, I wrote Webster to help him with his speech drills and Alexis worked with him daily to build the dictionaries to help him use it. What you don't know about this period is that I wrote a letter to the family to tell everyone how happy I was to have had this opportunity to help him. After reading it, he asked if it might hurt anyone if I sent it and I realized that it was, to some extent, self-congratulatory and I didn't do it. I'm not seeking a medal for this act but what I would like is for everyone to know that writing Webster didn't make any difference in his regard for any of us. He certainly appreciated Webster but his concern for the well-being of anyone in the family wasn't raised or diminished by one iota.

Alex had developed an incredible passion for skiing but, due to his stroke, he couldn't legally drive. It was during this time that Anne, Andy and Alexis sustained, by either driving him or meeting him, what was probably one of the great joys of his life. Anne didn't ski but she was very much a part of the extended family of the Perfect North Slopes. Alexis wasn't a great skier but she was a wonderful teacher and she introduced many of the kids to the sport. Andy became an excellent skier and his son, Shawn, became the best skier of all. After so many years, Alex had finally found a way that the family could come together. I'm not sure that he was consciously trying to bring the family together but I have total certainty that he loved the fact that it did.

There are all kinds of measurements that could be applied to skiing. Who gave Alex the most joy in skiing? Was it Andy? Was it Alexis? Was it Anne even though she never skied at all? The answer is that the measurements are meaningless and they're not something he would ever make so your gift to him now is to realize that. The gift you have been giving, perhaps without knowing it, is surviving as adults and developing in areas that he had never guessed. He loved your kids but he didn't love you more because you had them or me any less because I didn't. Your gift to him was your life and the knowledge of your happiness in it.

There is a topic that was so frequently assumed but never discussed. We were always atheists or 'happy heathens' and there was no discussion of the matter. I'll offer several memories on this. Alistair revealed to me one day that he decided that he believed. I completely lost it and said, in effect, that he was out of his mind. I don't know the steps of escalation but both of us wound up in front of Alex and the key thing to remember is that Alex did not present any judgment whatsoever. At another time, I had taken some LSD and it was during a time that Alex insisted that everyone who still lived in the house, even if we spent no other time together, should have dinner with each other. LSD hallucinations aren't like watching a movie; they vary in intensity from one individual to the next and for me they were absolutely real. The trip turned bad and Alex realized that I was in deep trouble. His response was to have me sit with the family in the living room and I don't remember saying anything else but I do remember specifically asking him if he believed in God. His answer was yes.

My purpose isn't to talk about the existence of God but rather to emphasize the fact that Alex would support you in whatever you believe although I suspect he might ask for some clarification if you became a Rastafarian and started blowing joints while worshipping the now-deceased Emperor of Ethiopia (these are, in fact, key components of Rastafarianism). I've felt his presence more since he died than I did when he was alive and this is something I can't explain nor do I wish to explain. Now, more than ever, he lives through all of us and the best way to return his love is to seek fulfillment in your life with the same fervor that he would.

How can you give love to him now? Support Anne, the love of his life. She has never believed that she was as important to him as he was to her and that he was as lucky to have her as she was to have him. Science, even though it seemed it, wasn't the love of his life. As soon as he had the opportunity, he abandoned it for painting and he would have abandoned that too if the family needed it. He had no need to come to Rhode Island; he came here because Anne needed it. Such was his love for her and such was his love for us all.