Top Stories

Luck Be A Lady

June, 2001

June, 2001, LOS ANGELES - What an undreamed of invitation -- the Kentucky Derby! I had been to Kentucky many times before. My niece, Akemi Takei, the broadcast journalist in the family, had worked at a television station in Lexington. So I had visited her when she was there. And, of course, there had been many Star Trek conventions in Kentucky. I like the lush and gracious landscape and the warm hospitality of the people of Kentucky. But I'd never expected to actually be at the legendary Kentucky Derby at fabled Churchill Downs. This was fantastic!

Before departing L.A., on my way to the airport, I swung around to Twentieth Century Fox studios. I was squeezing in a quick voice-dubbing gig on another episode of "The Simpsons." It didn't take much time. I was off to the airport and Louisville, Kentucky, in about an hour.

On the flight, seated in the row just behind me, I recognized actor Bill Brochtrup from "NYPD Blue." In conversation with him, we discovered that we were guests of the same host, Michael Berry of the Kentucky Derby Festival. We would both be riding in the Kentucky Derby Festival's Pegasus Parade and going to the same Derby festivities. This was going to be great fun.

Immediately upon arrival, we were swept up into a whirlwind of activities - lunches, dinners, parties galore, and, on the Thursday before the Derby, the Pegasus Parade. The parade's Grand Marshal was none other than the second man to walk on the moon, astronaut Buzz Aldrin. I had met Buzz and his lovely wife Lois before -- at a charity fund-raising event at Paramount Studios. Our paths seem to have a way of crossing in the most interesting ways, in fiction as well as in fact.

In the parade, our vehicles were, unlike the futuristic crafts with which Buzz and I are associated, handsome treasures from the past. Buzz's car was an elegantly restored antique that I couldn't identify and mine was a classic red Corvette. The crowd was wildly enthusiastic and I shouted myself hoarse. That night, we recovered over dinner at Jicama Grill, a trendy restaurant that serves delectably exotic Latin American cuisine.

Kentucky Derby day was sunny and hot. But the dress, we were told, was sports coat and tie. As we boarded the air-conditioned luxury bus that was to transport us to Churchill Downs, I couldn't help but be taken by the elegantly dressed women who, almost without exception, wore enormous confections of feathers, flowers, silk or gossamer on their heads. The practicality of a large hat on a sun-scorched day was contradicted by the preposterous creations that almost covered their faces like some fantastical umbrella balanced over their heads. But as the bus approached Churchill Downs, I noticed that the mass of people surging toward the grandstand carrying their picnic baskets and aluminum lawn chairs, wore tank tops, halters and practical wide brimmed straw hats. There was clearly a two-tier dress code.

Indeed, when the bus parked, we were escorted directly to a bank of elevators that swiftly lifted us up to the sixth-floor clubhouse. It was air-conditioned, well provisioned with a beautiful buffet and a panoramic glass window that provided a spectacular view of the sun drenched racetrack below. In this cool and luxuriously coddled setting, the colossal hats seemed even more wacky. Friends greeting the behatted women couldn't reach them under those massive canopies - all they could do was blow friendly air kisses toward the faces hidden under the huge hats.

They told me that you have to have a strategy in the betting process. I had never bet on horses before. I knew nothing about racehorses. What was I to do? The Kentucky Derby itself was the eighth race of the afternoon. I decided to prepare by observing the betting process during the first race. People were talking about the lineage of each horse, their track records, how they looked in their warm up runs the morning before. They might as well have been speaking in Swahili. I knew then that I was on my own. I would have to depend on sheer luck. Nevertheless, I would try to craft a strategy.

I decided to dive in on the second race. I studied the list of horses on my program. The third horse on the list was named Lake Pontchartrain. It reminded me of the delicious Blackened Red Fish from Lake Pontchartrain that I enjoyed when I was in New Orleans. Aha! I had a connection with that horse. This strategy should be as good as any. I bet $2 on Lake Pontchartrain to win. The race began and the horses were off and running. They were all bunched together. I couldn't make out which horse was Lake Pontchartrain. A batch of horses came thundering in with one nosing out all the others. I couldn't tell which one that was. We all waited for the scoreboard to show the final result. At last, the board lit up with the name of the winner. It said Lake Pontchartrain! I had won on my first try! Astoundingly, my $2 bet won me $32!!! Lady Luck was definitely with this beginner horseplayer.

But she is a fickle lady. She left me for others for the next five races. My $32 was reduced to $22. Now the big one was on us - the Kentucky Derby. I studied my program. There it was - the twelfth horse - seductively beckoning out to me. Startac! This was such an obviously clear message. Could anything be closer to Star Trek? But there also was another horse with the word star in its name -- Balto Star. Not as close as Startac, but it still had the word star in it. And if you dropped the B from Balto, you would have alto, which in Spanish means "high." Star Trek soars high. This too could be telling me something a bit more subtly. I decided to bet $10 on both Startac and Balto Star.

The gates opened and horses were off and running. The announcer's booming voice narrated the race. "Balto Star is second," he intoned. The crowd and I cheered. "Come on Balto Star," I shouted. Thank goodness I covered my bet with two horses, I thought. But after the second bend, Balto Star began to fall behind. "Come on Balto Star! You can do it!" I urged. But that horse continued to fall back. Then the booming voice announced, "Startac is passing Balto Star." My gosh, I still have a chance! "Go Startac," I yelled. But Startac wouldn't move ahead. It continued to maintain its place in the pack. "Go Startac. Go," I pleaded. Suddenly, out from nowhere - literally from the back of the pack - came an incredible horse. It galloped past every one of the others and was thundering toward the finish all by itself. "Monarchos is ahead by four lengths," the announcer's voice bellowed excitedly. It was an awesome sight to see. A magnificent animal moving with powerful grace dashed across the finish line. "Monarchos has won the Kentucky Derby," the ecstatic voice announced. It was later declared that Monarchos' time, 1:59.97 minutes, was the second fastest in the Kentucky Derby's 127-year history. The fastest was Secretariat with l:59.4 minutes in 1973. This was an awe-inspiring experience - but I was poorer by $20. Startac came in tenth and Balto Star was fourteenth. My $32 winning from the second race was reduced now to $2 - the very amount I first bet on Lake Pontchartrain. At least I broke even. Thank you Michael Berry and all the wonderful people of Kentucky for an unforgettable - and not too costly - experience.

Two days after returning to Los Angeles, I dove into another major event - this one, a binational conference called the Japan-United States Conference on Cultural and Educational Interchange at the Japanese American National Museum. As well as serving as the Chairman of the Board of the Museum, I am a member of the Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission, a non-governmental federal agency. So I was doubly invested in this conference. It turned out a great success. Our panelists from throughout the U.S and senior officials from the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Education, distinguished leaders from academia, business and culture were in accord that this conference in Los Angeles was one of the best ever held in its forty-year history.

I had another quick voiceover gig before flying off again. This one was the popular "Jackie Chan" Saturday morning animated series. I was the voice of a wise and benign Buddhist priest. Jackie Chan was voiced by a versatile young actor named James Tse. Then, I was off to Atlanta, Georgia, for Vulcon, another Star Trek convention.

The lucky bonus with this trip was that my good friend, gifted writer Peter David, was getting married to his love, Kathleen, a stage manager, puppeteer, editor and all around renaissance woman, in Atlanta on the same weekend as the convention. What blessed serendipity! I arranged with Joe Motes, the organizer of the convention, so that I could manage both the wedding and the convention. He was most cooperative.

Peter and Kathleen were married in a charming chapel on the picturesque campus of Emory University. It was a lovely ceremony. But it was the reception that really captured the spirit of the couple. The venue was a converted former warehouse now called the Shakespeare Tavern. It is a theater patterned after the old Globe Theater of Elizabethan London. So eminently appropriate. Both Peter and Kathleen are theatrical people - she literally and Peter in every sense of the word. His personality, if anything, is colorfully theatrical. His bountiful talent is of the theater as well as literature. Indeed, he even looks like he could play Shakespeare's Falstaff. To top off the theatricality of the reception, the best man at the wedding also became the master of the revels of the reception. He was none other than literary lion, incendiary raconteur and volcanically outspoken convention speaker - Harlan Ellison. He was touching in his fondness of the couple; he was hilarious with anecdotes about their relationship; he was ribald with his jokes; he was inexhaustible and never-ending. Finally, Peter broke in. Peter too is an expert raconteur. The afternoon became a bountiful banquet table of words, words, words as well as good food. Among the guests was Bill Mumy, who you might remember as young Will Robinson in the television series, "Lost In Space." We laughed, we ate and we drank - much too much. It was a fantastical wedding reception - as it should be for Peter and Kathleen. May this marriage live long and prosper.

People Reveal The Weirdest Thing About Themselves

Reddit user Isitjustmedownhere asked: 'Give an example; how weird are you really?'

Let's get one thing straight: no one is normal. We're all weird in our own ways, and that is actually normal.

Of course, that doesn't mean we don't all have that one strange trait or quirk that outweighs all the other weirdness we possess.

For me, it's the fact that I'm almost 30 years old, and I still have an imaginary friend. Her name is Sarah, she has red hair and green eyes, and I strongly believe that, since I lived in India when I created her and there were no actual people with red hair around, she was based on Daphne Blake from Scooby-Doo.

I also didn't know the name Sarah when I created her, so that came later. I know she's not really there, hence the term 'imaginary friend,' but she's kind of always been around. We all have conversations in our heads; mine are with Sarah. She keeps me on task and efficient.

My mom thinks I'm crazy that I still have an imaginary friend, and writing about her like this makes me think I may actually be crazy, but I don't mind. As I said, we're all weird, and we all have that one trait that outweighs all the other weirdness.

Redditors know this all too well and are eager to share their weird traits.

It all started when Redditor Isitjustmedownhere asked:

"Give an example; how weird are you really?"

Monsters Under My Bed

"My bed doesn't touch any wall."

"Edit: I guess i should clarify im not rich."

– Practical_Eye_3600

"Gosh the monsters can get you from any angle then."

– bikergirlr7

"At first I thought this was a flex on how big your bedroom is, but then I realized you're just a psycho 😁"

– zenOFiniquity8

Can You See Why?

"I bought one of those super-powerful fans to dry a basement carpet. Afterwards, I realized that it can point straight up and that it would be amazing to use on myself post-shower. Now I squeegee my body with my hands, step out of the shower and get blasted by a wide jet of room-temp air. I barely use my towel at all. Wife thinks I'm weird."

– KingBooRadley


"In 1990 when I was 8 years old and bored on a field trip, I saw a black Oldsmobile Cutlass driving down the street on a hot day to where you could see that mirage like distortion from the heat on the road. I took a “snapshot” by blinking my eyes and told myself “I wonder how long I can remember this image” ….well."

– AquamarineCheetah

"Even before smartphones, I always take "snapshots" by blinking my eyes hoping I'll remember every detail so I can draw it when I get home. Unfortunately, I may have taken so much snapshots that I can no longer remember every detail I want to draw."

"Makes me think my "memory is full.""

– Reasonable-Pirate902

Same, Same

"I have eaten the same lunch every day for the past 4 years and I'm not bored yet."

– OhhGoood

"How f**king big was this lunch when you started?"

– notmyrealnam3

Not Sure Who Was Weirder

"Had a line cook that worked for us for 6 months never said much. My sous chef once told him with no context, "Baw wit da baw daw bang daw bang diggy diggy." The guy smiled, left, and never came back."

– Frostygrunt


"I pace around my house for hours listening to music imagining that I have done all the things I simply lack the brain capacity to do, or in some really bizarre scenarios, I can really get immersed in these imaginations sometimes I don't know if this is some form of schizophrenia or what."

– RandomSharinganUser

"I do the same exact thing, sometimes for hours. When I was young it would be a ridiculous amount of time and many years later it’s sort of trickled off into almost nothing (almost). It’s weird but I just thought it’s how my brain processes sh*t."

– Kolkeia

If Only

"Even as an adult I still think that if you are in a car that goes over a cliff; and right as you are about to hit the ground if you jump up you can avoid the damage and will land safely. I know I'm wrong. You shut up. I'm not crying."

– ShotCompetition2593

Pet Food

"As a kid I would snack on my dog's Milkbones."

– drummerskillit

"Haha, I have a clear memory of myself doing this as well. I was around 3 y/o. Needless to say no one was supervising me."

– Isitjustmedownhere

"When I was younger, one of my responsibilities was to feed the pet fish every day. Instead, I would hide under the futon in the spare bedroom and eat the fish food."

– -GateKeep-

My Favorite Subject

"I'm autistic and have always had a thing for insects. My neurotypical best friend and I used to hang out at this local bar to talk to girls, back in the late 90s. One time he claimed that my tendency to circle conversations back to insects was hurting my game. The next time we went to that bar (with a few other friends), he turned and said sternly "No talking about bugs. Or space, or statistics or other bullsh*t but mainly no bugs." I felt like he was losing his mind over nothing."

"It was summer, the bar had its windows open. Our group hit it off with a group of young ladies, We were all chatting and having a good time. I was talking to one of these girls, my buddy was behind her facing away from me talking to a few other people."

"A cloudless sulphur flies in and lands on little thing that holds coasters."

"Cue Jordan Peele sweating gif."

"The girl notices my tension, and asks if I am looking at the leaf. "Actually, that's a lepidoptera called..." I looked at the back of my friend's head, he wasn't looking, "I mean a butterfly..." I poked it and it spread its wings the girl says "oh that's a BUG?!" and I still remember my friend turning around slowly to look at me with chastisement. The ONE thing he told me not to do."

"I was 21, and was completely not aware that I already had a rep for being an oddball. It got worse from there."

– Phormicidae

*Teeth Chatter*

"I bite ice cream sometimes."


"That's how I am with popsicles. My wife shudders every single time."


Never Speak Of This

"I put ice in my milk."


"You should keep that kind of thing to yourself. Even when asked."

– We-R-Doomed

"There's some disturbing sh*t in this thread, but this one takes the cake."

– RatonaMuffin

More Than Super Hearing

"I can hear the television while it's on mute."

– Tira13e

"What does it say to you, child?"

– Mama_Skip


"I put mustard on my omelettes."

– Deleted User


– NotCrustOr-filling

Evened Up

"Whenever I say a word and feel like I used a half of my mouth more than the other half, I have to even it out by saying the word again using the other half of my mouth more. If I don't do it correctly, that can go on forever until I feel it's ok."

"I do it silently so I don't creep people out."

– LesPaltaX

"That sounds like a symptom of OCD (I have it myself). Some people with OCD feel like certain actions have to be balanced (like counting or making sure physical movements are even). You should find a therapist who specializes in OCD, because they can help you."

– MoonlightKayla

I totally have the same need for things to be balanced! Guess I'm weird and a little OCD!

Close up face of a woman in bed, staring into the camera
Photo by Jen Theodore

Experiencing death is a fascinating and frightening idea.

Who doesn't want to know what is waiting for us on the other side?

But so many of us want to know and then come back and live a little longer.

It would be so great to be sure there is something else.

But the whole dying part is not that great, so we'll have to rely on other people's accounts.

Redditor AlaskaStiletto wanted to hear from everyone who has returned to life, so they asked:

"Redditors who have 'died' and come back to life, what did you see?"


Happy Good Vibes GIF by Major League SoccerGiphy

"My dad's heart stopped when he had a heart attack and he had to be brought back to life. He kept the paper copy of the heart monitor which shows he flatlined. He said he felt an overwhelming sensation of peace, like nothing he had felt before."



"I had surgical complications in 2010 that caused a great deal of blood loss. As a result, I had extremely low blood pressure and could barely stay awake. I remember feeling like I was surrounded by loved ones who had passed. They were in a circle around me and I knew they were there to guide me onwards. I told them I was not ready to go because my kids needed me and I came back."

"My nurse later said she was afraid she’d find me dead every time she came into the room."

"It took months, and blood transfusions, but I recovered."


Take Me Back

"Overwhelming peace and happiness. A bright airy and floating feeling. I live a very stressful life. Imagine finding out the person you have had a crush on reveals they have the same feelings for you and then you win the lotto later that day - that was the feeling I had."

"I never feared death afterward and am relieved when I hear of people dying after suffering from an illness."



The Light Minnie GIF by (G)I-DLEGiphy

"I had a heart surgery with near-death experience, for me at least (well the possibility that those effects are caused by morphine is also there) I just saw black and nothing else but it was warm and I had such inner peace, its weird as I sometimes still think about it and wish this feeling of being so light and free again."


This is why I hate surgery.

You just never know.



"More of a near-death experience. I was electrocuted. I felt like I was in a deep hole looking straight up in the sky. My life flashed before me. Felt sad for my family, but I had a deep sense of peace."



"Nursing in the ICU, we’ve had people try to die on us many times during the years, some successfully. One guy stood out to me. His heart stopped. We called a code, are working on him, and suddenly he comes to. We hadn’t vented him yet, so he was able to talk, and he started screaming, 'Don’t let them take me, don’t let them take me, they are coming,' he was scared and yelling."

"Then he yelled a little more, as we tried to calm him down, he screamed, 'No, No,' and gestured towards the end of the bed, and died again. We didn’t get him back. It was seriously creepy. We called his son to tell him the news, and the son said basically, 'Good, he was an SOB.'”



"My sister died and said it was extremely peaceful. She said it was very loud like a train station and lots of talking and she was stuck in this area that was like a curtain with lots of beautiful colors (colors that you don’t see in real life according to her) a man told her 'He was sorry, but she had to go back as it wasn’t her time.'"


"I had a really similar experience except I was in an endless garden with flowers that were colors I had never seen before. It was quiet and peaceful and a woman in a dress looked at me, shook her head, and just said 'Not yet.' As I was coming back, it was extremely loud, like everyone in the world was trying to talk all at once. It was all very disorienting but it changed my perspective on life!"


The Fog

"I was in a gray fog with a girl who looked a lot like a young version of my grandmother (who was still alive) but dressed like a pioneer in the 1800s she didn't say anything but kept pulling me towards an opening in the wall. I kept refusing to go because I was so tired."

"I finally got tired of her nagging and went and that's when I came to. I had bled out during a c-section and my heart could not beat without blood. They had to deliver the baby and sew up the bleeders. refill me with blood before they could restart my heart so, like, at least 12 minutes gone."


Through the Walls

"My spouse was dead for a couple of minutes one miserable night. She maintains that she saw nothing, but only heard people talking about her like through a wall. The only thing she remembers for absolute certain was begging an ER nurse that she didn't want to die."

"She's quite alive and well today."


Well let's all be happy to be alive.

It seems to be all we have.

Man's waist line
Santhosh Vaithiyanathan/Unsplash

Trying to lose weight is a struggle understood by many people regardless of size.

The goal of reaching a healthy weight may seem unattainable, but with diet and exercise, it can pay off through persistence and discipline.

Seeing the pounds gradually drop off can also be a great motivator and incentivize people to stay the course.

Those who've achieved their respective weight goals shared their experiences when Redditor apprenti8455 asked:

"People who lost a lot of weight, what surprises you the most now?"

Redditors didn't see these coming.

Shiver Me Timbers

"I’m always cold now!"

– Telrom_1

"I had a coworker lose over 130 pounds five or six years ago. I’ve never seen him without a jacket on since."

– r7ndom

"140 lbs lost here starting just before COVID, I feel like that little old lady that's always cold, damn this top comment was on point lmao."

– mr_remy

Drawing Concern

"I lost 100 pounds over a year and a half but since I’m old(70’s) it seems few people comment on it because (I think) they think I’m wasting away from some terminal illness."

– dee-fondy

"Congrats on the weight loss! It’s honestly a real accomplishment 🙂"

"Working in oncology, I can never comment on someone’s weight loss unless I specifically know it was on purpose, regardless of their age. I think it kind of ruffles feathers at times, but like I don’t want to congratulate someone for having cancer or something. It’s a weird place to be in."

– LizardofDeath

Unleashing Insults

"I remember when I lost the first big chunk of weight (around 50 lbs) it was like it gave some people license to talk sh*t about the 'old' me. Old coworkers, friends, made a lot of not just negative, but harsh comments about what I used to look like. One person I met after the big loss saw a picture of me prior and said, 'Wow, we wouldn’t even be friends!'”

"It wasn’t extremely common, but I was a little alarmed by some of the attention. My weight has been up and down since then, but every time I gain a little it gets me a little down thinking about those things people said."

– alanamablamaspama

Not Everything Goes After Losing Weight

"The loose skin is a bit unexpected."

– KeltarCentauri

"I haven’t experienced it myself, but surgery to remove skin takes a long time to recover. Longer than bariatric surgery and usually isn’t covered by insurance unless you have both."

– KatMagic1977

"It definitely does take a long time to recover. My Dad dropped a little over 200 pounds a few years back and decided to go through with skin removal surgery to deal with the excess. His procedure was extensive, as in he had skin taken from just about every part of his body excluding his head, and he went through hell for weeks in recovery, and he was bedridden for a lot of it."

– Jaew96

These Redditors shared their pleasantly surprising experiences.


"I can buy clothes in any store I want."

– WaySavvyD

"When I lost weight I was dying to go find cute, smaller clothes and I really struggled. As someone who had always been restricted to one or two stores that catered to plus-sized clothing, a full mall of shops with items in my size was daunting. Too many options and not enough knowledge of brands that were good vs cheap. I usually went home pretty frustrated."

– ganache98012

No More Symptoms

"Lost about 80 pounds in the past year and a half, biggest thing that I’ve noticed that I haven’t seen mentioned on here yet is my acid reflux and heartburn are basically gone. I used to be popping tums every couple hours and now they just sit in the medicine cabinet collecting dust."

– colleennicole93

Expanding Capabilities

"I'm all for not judging people by their appearance and I recognise that there are unhealthy, unachievable beauty standards, but one thing that is undeniable is that I can just do stuff now. Just stamina and flexibility alone are worth it, appearance is tertiary at best."

– Ramblonius

People Change Their Tune

"How much nicer people are to you."

"My feet weren't 'wide' they were 'fat.'"

– LiZZygsu

"Have to agree. Lost 220 lbs, people make eye contact and hold open doors and stuff"

"And on the foot thing, I also lost a full shoe size numerically and also wear regular width now 😅"

– awholedamngarden

It's gonna take some getting used to.

Bones Everywhere

"Having bones. Collarbones, wrist bones, knee bones, hip bones, ribs. I have so many bones sticking out everywhere and it’s weird as hell."

– Princess-Pancake-97

"I noticed the shadow of my ribs the other day and it threw me, there’s a whole skeleton in here."

– bekastrange

Knee Pillow

"Right?! And they’re so … pointy! Now I get why people sleep with pillows between their legs - the knee bones laying on top of each other (side sleeper here) is weird and jarring."

– snic2030

"I lost only 40 pounds within the last year or so. I’m struggling to relate to most of these comments as I feel like I just 'slimmed down' rather than dropped a ton. But wow, the pillow between the knees at night. YES! I can relate to this. I think a lot of my weight was in my thighs. I never needed to do this up until recently."

– Strongbad23

More Mobility

"I’ve lost 100 lbs since 2020. It’s a collection of little things that surprise me. For at least 10 years I couldn’t put on socks, or tie my shoes. I couldn’t bend over and pick something up. I couldn’t climb a ladder to fix something. Simple things like that I can do now that fascinate me."

"Edit: Some additional little things are sitting in a chair with arms, sitting in a booth in a restaurant, being able to shop in a normal store AND not needing to buy the biggest size there, being able to easily wipe my butt, and looking down and being able to see my penis."

– dma1965

People making significant changes, whether for mental or physical health, can surely find a newfound perspective on life.

But they can also discover different issues they never saw coming.

That being said, overcoming any challenge in life is laudable, especially if it leads to gaining confidence and ditching insecurities.