From what Mrs. Dewey did…to A.I.


You know that feeling of happiness you get when you see someone you know? I spotted my 89 year old walking inspiration striding by as the sun rose this morning and I stood in the living room sipping my coffee. He was wearing his regular florescent green and black. He does five miles a day, every day of the week. If he had seen me he would have told me to stop lounging around and get busy. I love him.


So I got busy. We have a few lemons, and oranges.


In the kitchen—


I filled a bowl of soapy water, put on rubber gloves, picked up a vegetable brush and scrubbed the fruit clean. It was relaxing. Then I went on my weekly trip to the market and I took all my fruits and vegetables and washed them. Emerald green onions, kale, and lettuce sparkling with water covered the countertops. Berries dripped from a sieve. Even bananas get the once over.

It’s excessive, I know. My rational is that it makes me feel good, and with everything spread out in plain view I could tick off five to seven dishes in my mind. Roasted beets with mint and feta cheese, sweet potato and fennel salad, Parmesan grits with garlic and tomatoes, frittata with corn and basil, spice rubbed slow cooked pork with sauteed greens, pasta with shaved carrots and onions, homemade pizza with salami and peppers and mushrooms…

I wing it with the fresh pizza dough but it’s generally a packet of yeast dissolved in a little less than one cup of lukewarm water, mixed into about two cups of flour, as much salt as you like to give it flavor, and a glug of olive oil (you know, like when you tip the bottle for a second, a tablespoon?). Once you’ve got the ingredients incorporated let the dough sit for twenty minutes and then knead it until it’s elastic and smooth — about five minutes, maybe a little less. Cut the dough into two pieces, shape into balls, cover with a dish towel and let rise for three and a half hours. You can use both if you’ve got a lot of people at home, or you can freeze the extra dough at this point. When you’re ready for dinner roll out the dough on a floured surface. Place the dough on a sheet pan or baking stone spread with semolina (or lots of flour – so the pizza can slide off  when it’s done). Top with your favorite things — I don’t put on tomato sauce because in a home oven you usually can’t get the temperature high enough to make the pizza crispy all the way through if there’s a lot of moisture on your pie. Bake in the hottest setting on your oven for 8-10 minutes. I let everything get bubbly and the crust dark and then slip the pizza right onto a wooden cutting board to slice and serve.

After the menu planning I started cleaning out desks and drawers and found the most fabulous letters. People, once upon a time, wrote informative, funny, long letters. I found one from a graduate student at Berkeley who was in a field where biology intersected with computers — yes — an early glimpse into A.I. If I can track him down (this letter is from the 1992) I will ask if I can publish his letter.

Hold on. I’ve just taken a cursory look on the web, it looks as if my young friend of all those years ago became a professor, and then launched a very interesting company (now with offices around the world) that can verify original written content. So interesting! And congratulations to him! I’m going to take the liberty now of quoting just a little of the letter in my hand that accompanied an article from Scientific American that addressed some questions I had about the idea of a genetic Eve that I was trying to incorporate into a script…I think. It was, after all, twenty-eight years ago!

I apologize for leaving this letter in its current condition but I must return to the old grind of the electroneurophysiology laboratory. Maybe I will have the opportunity to speak with you on some later occasion about these movie ideas that keep floating around in my head with regards to a science fiction thriller which concerns the genealogy of thinking machines. I look forward to that day.

I hope I responded, and if I didn’t I will say now I think that’s a terrific idea for movie. Once this pandemic is under control there will be a huge demand for new content.

Look after one another, find old friends who you’ve lost touch with, and by all means if what you’re craving is Jello, go for it.






  1. Good to see you’re writing again in this space. I hadn’t posted in a very long time at but did so today. I pretty much wrote about not being able to write on the topic of the pandemic. And I also mentioned Joan Didion and your beloved state of California. Take care.

  2. George Kaplan

    Good to see you letting your voice be heard, Vickie. Or should that be Julia Childs II? You will have some of the cleanest vegetables in the continental United States at least! Keep your heart flag flying and your head held high. Stay protected.

  3. I write long letters all the time… on a 1959 Torpedo typewriter! It has cursive font, which is so awesome it’s criminal. There are loads of working vintage typewriters on ebay and elsewhere… wouldn’t it be awesome if folks rediscovered the wonders of analog typing? You can still buy the ink ribbons, and if you keep the machine in good nick, they’ll work forever! They’re gorgeous, too (photos on my blog). LONG LIVE LETTERS!

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