The AMPA Receptor Affinity for Bert Streppel-shaped Ligands
Remembering Bert Streppel
The first line of Allen Ginsberg’s
poem HOWL paints a grim portrait of a
subculture disenfranchised by addiction and social rebellion...
“I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by
madness, starving hysterical naked,
dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn
looking for an angry fix,”
Bert Streppel didn’t subscribe to the letter of this grito, but he certainly seemed to enjoy the spirit of it.
In 1953 the Streppel family steamed away from post-war Europe toward the island continent of
, leaving behind their native
Holland. They joined the centuries-old Dutch Diaspora
in search of lower housing costs and better employment opportunities. Joe (Johannes) Streppel,
the family patriarch, was a carpenter. He was among a large number of émigrés attracted by
“populate or perish” immigration program, which underwrote part of the passage
cost. Joe knew his skills would be
highly valued in
Melbourne which, unlike
Holland, was enjoying a
season of growth and post-war prosperity.
Johannes and his wife Mia,
together with their three sons Antonius, Herman and nine year old Lambertus, landed near Moora,
West Australia. During their stay, Joe realized his talents were needed locally and decided
to settle in Moora, thereby avoiding the arduous
some 3500 km away. He and his family
eventually relocating to the larger metropolis of
Perth where Joe became a builder.
LambertusStreppel was conjecturally named after a saint, a physicist or a boxer. Good arguments can be made for any of the
three. I suspect Bert’s eponym preference would be the physicist LambertusBroer, who was known for his non-linear partial
differential equations and whose work was the subject of a book called, Flow, Turbulence and Combustion, a title
which artfully alludes to Bert’s own three loves, -wine, jet travel and
of the 50’s was strongly
British in flavor. Even with that
country’s more egalitarian approach to life, it still managed to adopt some of the
social practices that stratified its parent culture. One of these standards was the boarding
Unlike the experiences of many
adolescents, Bert’s boarding school years were among his fondest memories. They formed such an intrinsic mental bedrock
that toward the end of his life he began researching a proposed book about his
fellow alumni and their years together at St Ildephonsus,
in New Norcia,
Western Australia. Old classmates, writing after Bert’s
The first time in my life I heard someone playing the piano turned out
to be Bert Streppel in 1959...and told me that it was
"Fur Elise"...I can still picture the moment...mille grazie Bert...I
look forward to hearing some music from you hopefully...
I remember you with fond memories and condolences to the family Franco Smargiassi
Bert was different from most at school at New Norcia. He played piano and there were only around 10 who did. He spent lots of his after school and Saturday time in the science
laboratory, often with Br. Albertus, and on that
score he was alone. Many in our year had difficulty
staying in the lab for a complete lesson. But, at
school, Bert was always very cheery, looking like he loved life, loved the
school. That made him very different indeed, at least
to me, as it was not a happy place for many others.
I first met Bert over twenty years ago
while I was working at The Net, an internet provider for a small Mexican town
Cortez. Tony Colleraine,
the owner and ‘O Captain! My Captain!’ of the fledgling IT company,
invited Bert into his offices one afternoon. Looking very much like Peter Ustinov in the Spartacus role of LentulusBatiatus, Bert warmly introduced himself to the staff. Two things about him impressed me enough to
mentally survive the twenty years. First, his face had the perpetually pleased expression you see on people
who have the glandular affliction of continual endorphin floods. And second, his hair clustered in sheep staples
and was worn in the style so well advertised by busts of ancient Roman
orators. Perhaps there was no other way
to deal with hair like that. His voice was
full of Australian vowels and didn’t in the least subtract from the Ustinov
impression, although it registered slightly lower than Ustinov’s and was devoid
of any of the actor’s elocutionary affectations.
Like many Australians, Bert was
amiable and garrulous. This talkative
tendency quickly revealed one of his strongest traits, something not seen in survivors
of public schools and was perhaps a byproduct of his boarding school
curriculum, --a keen and questioning mind. This thirst for knowledge was either the result of, or reason for, his
long association with the sciences.
Bert often visited The Net. He appeared drawn by the technology. The Australian’s eclectic interests were
unbiased, in the same way a pickpocket is without prejudice. Computers, networking, cooking, gardening, classical
music, piano and organ playing, carpentry, sewage treatment design, gastronomy,
astronomy, cosmology, aviation, oenology, geology, geography, cartography, chemistry,
travel, architecture, genealogy, medical sciences, genetics, subatomic physics
and civil engineering are just some of the interests he broached during our
friendship. More can undoubtedly be added
to the list by other acquaintances. Bert
was the Ed Rickets of San Felipe.
Like most people trained in the sciences,
Bert was a consummate hoarder of data. Many scientists treat their own bodies like recording instruments. Whatever their eyes see, hands touch, nose
smells and ears hear, is committed to graph paper or a spreadsheet. Bert was no different. He kept careful records of all his expenses
and every mile he traveled; he indexed and organized various media records of
his family and ancestors; he kept redundant backups of all his business
information; he inventoried recipes, music, liquor, government red tape
procedures and likely kept meticulous documents on nearly everything that engaged
his physical sensors.
One of Bert’s passions was what
some would call ‘nesting’. He liked the
process of setting down roots and building a home. It wasn’t a domestic instinct but rather the
reflex of someone who is exploratory by nature and occasionally wants to stand
in one place and admire the view, -a kind of flag-planting behavior. He loved the logistics of house-building, the
designing, planning, ground-breaking, materials and workmen selection,
navigation of civic bylaws and permits, the rumble and tumble of cement mixers,
trucks and backhoes, the sketching of services diagrams, the landscaping,
sewage solution, fencing, --every aspect of construction. Following the completion of a project, after
a period of porch-sitting, Bert would mentally weigh arguments and reasons to
begin scouting for another location, just to begin the whole process again. He once told me about a town in
he discovered on one of his global trots.
i may be off to sicily and ceriana (the italian riviera) next month to look at some 'fixer-upper' houses.
both places are medieval villages 4-600 years old. one of my friends is living in ceriana and will check out the place for me.
this one shows some interest -
a total of 1,300 sq ft on three floors, the roof has collapsed and the floor between top and 2nd has collapsed, ground floor is intact . Roof work is fairly simple, you just have to finish with the classic half tiles, the collapsed 2nd floor should also be straight forward with solid beams and plank flooring
Even before producing a down
payment, Bert was busy with a home-design CAD program, introducing broad
changes to the building’s layout and room appointments. One could argue his building penchant was in
his blood. His father, the Master
Carpenter, would have approved.
There was always a project. Perhaps that is one of the consequences of a
scientific approach to life, a desire to solve problems. Science not only tries to explain Nature, it wants
to resolve it.
Bert was very proud of his Campo
Ocotillo sewage treatment solution. The
fact it never worked very well didn’t weaken his promotional claims. Having been a dedicated cigarette smoker all
his life, he denied what was obvious to anyone whose olfactory instrument was functioning
properly, -the effluence of Bert’s black water system, even after its careful “Streppel treatment”, hung an unpleasant bouquet over the
property. Maybe his plan was to discourage
door to door salesmen. If it was, that
part of his strategy didn’t work either. Every time my visit coincided with garden irrigation, I had the urge to
sell gas masks.
Bert neglected his health to a remarkable
degree. He drank wine as if it was a
dying friend’s last request, but never before 4PM. He felt this demonstration of willpower
excluded him from the ranks of alcoholics that constitute a rather large wedge
of the San Felipe population pie. He
never seemed to exercise. He didn’t
hike, walk, bicycle, row, lift, stretch or even energetically yawn. And then there was his fondness for
food. But not just any food. Burt had the palette of an 18th century French courtier. He loved exotic
flavors, savory sauces and rich meats. Whenever he visited foreign cities, he sought out the grocery markets,
searching for rare condiments and seasonings. And Bert was steadfast in his cigarette habit. It was as natural as breathing for him. The irony of the inverse relationship between
cigarettes and breathing was perhaps lost on him, being a man of limited
introspection. His Type II diabetes was
presumably marginalized by his thirst to gratify his various sensory interests. As a consequence of this lifestyle, Bert was
nominally stooped, pear-shaped and easily winded. Toward his end-times he began to exhibit a
nose overwhelmed by rosacea and the eyelid spinnakers of a dedicated dipso. One presumed his arteries
wore more plaque than a
Bert talked frankly about the
things he would like to do before ‘falling off the perch’. These mostly involved collecting, indexing
and archiving family memorabilia. I believe
he accomplished most of this before he died, although he admitted he didn’t
know why he bothered. He felt there would
be little interest for such things among his children.
One of Bert’s pet projects, one he
failed to realize before his death, was the purchase and installation of a
wireless weather station, one capable of uploading streams of data to a host
server that allowed browser-access to the information in the form of graphs and
charts. Graphs and charts are the
pornography of the scientific mind. Bert
did the requisite research for the best (and of course cheapest) product for
the job and settled on a device manufactured by Oregon Scientific. But the notion passed along the conveyor of
his numerous actionable proposals until it faded from view. It proved to be a fair-weather idea.
Burt’s penchant for travel adventure strangely
dovetailed into a surprising streak of altruism. He was selfless with his time and help when
someone was in dire need. New
experiences were welcomed from any source. He’d drive an infirm woman a thousand miles just for the road campaign.
A good bonfire was a magnet for Bert. He enjoyed a controlled conflagration. When I was amassing a deep pit full of palm
remnants from one of my own building projects, Bert emailed regularly for updates,
wanting to know the ETA of the blazing. On the evening the kitchen match was struck, Bert and his wife arrived with
folding chairs and wine bottles in hand. They sat near the shore of the pit. Although the pit was 10 feet deep, the flames leapt fifteen feet into
the air. Bert was thrilled. He sat meditatively in his chair and stared
at one of earth’s strange mysteries, atmospheric plasma energy, until the great
pyre burned to embers.
Bert was a born spendthrift. He approached the opportunity to save a
dollar with the lock-pick resolution of a chess Grandmaster. One of the tools he enjoyed applying was his
prolific gift for haggling. Bert loved
to barter for a better deal or press for a fulfillment of a warranty. His method was completely non-adversarial. In fact, when you listened to Bert haggle,
you would think two brothers were trying to come to an agreement over a borrowed
book. His confidence in his own
brokering ability was such that he once invited an audit from the Mexican
government just so he could renegotiate his business taxes. His
monthly payments dropped from $25 to $13. He
seemed disappointed that San Felipe did not embrace the heroics of the haggle
as much as the oriental countries he frequented. Yet his skill in the practice was such that
he always managed to get better local prices than almost any other gringo.
I don’t know much about Bert’s
. A casual sentence here and there doesn’t
illuminate the volumes left unspoken. For example, in all the years I knew him, Bert never once mentioned he
had been an educationalist. Yet the
State Records Office of Western Australia records that Lambertus Joseph Streppel was a school teacher and taught
between Jan ‘68 – Feb ’69. Such a short
tenancy suggests Bert preferred learning to teaching. Further research on the internet revealed his
strong ties to the computer industry. He
helmed a company in
western Australia that focused on Datapoint computers. One of his former employee recalls…
Bert was the Managing Director of Sigma Data, WA in the mid seventies. I was employed by Bert in 1975 as a programmer/analyst. There was at that point a staff of 5 including me. Sigma Data was a company that sold, programmed and
maintained Datapoint computers.
Datapoint was a leading edge computer with an advanced programming language.
I had never worked for a company before Sigma Data. I
was always a contractor. Bert recognized the strengths
in all his staff and gave us leadership without micromanagement. He was always available to talk through ideas and problems. Bert had a formidable intellect and a plethora of good
stories and anecdotes which made spending time, in and out of the work
environment with him hugely amusing. Bert was generous
with praise and was a pleasure to work for.
Before Sigma Data, Bert worked for a company where he seized on an
opportunity to develop an interface of a mass spectrometer to a PDP-11 computer. This was an extraordinary example of Bert's vision and
abilities as this interface had never been attempted before.
One of Bert's many personal strengths was that of a salesman. He steered Sigma Data WA from its inception in 1975 to a
hugely successful company with sales to 8 or 10 WA Government sites. He mentored all his growing list of technical staff to
fulfill stringent government contracts successfully. Sigma
Data became so successful in WA that Datapoint in the
1980s bought the company back from Sigma Data.
In 1980 Bert left Sigma Data and founded his own hardware company, DP
Resources. This was a major supplier to the WA
government and private enterprise in WA and became a very successful business.
Bert and I shared a love of travel. I
remember running into him in
one time in the 80s. I am not sure what either of us
were doing over there but we joined up and explored all the areas around
San Francisco. There was no tourist spot or seedy bar that was safe from
Bert's enthusiastic sight-seeing.
I worked in
Hong Kong for several
years and Bert was a frequent visitor. I was a regular
witness to his good natured haggling with the local hardware suppliers. All the deals he transacted were completed in good humor
and with mutual respect. I am sure he could have got
similar deals in WA, but the joy of the travel and the negotiation process
brought him back to
Asia time and time again.
Bert and Adrienne established a home in San Felipe on the
Mexico. They welcomed visitors as they did at all their abodes. In 2004 my daughter, Imogen (then 11yo) and I stayed with Bert for a week or so. I
saw the much spoken about Campo Ocotillo and the house that Bert had designed
and built. Bert was, as always, full of plans for
expansion and consolidation and over the ensuing years he achieved most of them.
To find out that Bert passed away was a shock. I was,
however, cheered by the fact that he took his last breath whilst camping on a
accompanied by his beloved wife, Adrienne.
Good bye Bert. The memories will live with me
forever. My heartfelt condolences to Adrienne and
family on the loss of a wonderful man. The world is
considerably poorer for his passing.
I never knew the full story, but
Bert alluded to a nefarious incident that stripped him of his riches. He never spoke ill of anyone and I gather
his silence on the matter was a kind of reluctant benediction aimed at a
distant partner who had perpetrated a costly deceit, -not an unusual refrain even within our own community. I assumed Bert’s relocation to
the purpose of rebuilding his injured financial portfolio. Toward that end, he invested in local real
estate, buying lots in the ejido, Campo Ocotillo and the town of
San Matias. At one time he talked about purchasing an
entire campo, just north of the
One of Bert’s abiding interests
was Plate Tectonics. When he was a young
man, he fell in love with the image of the earth’s floating plates and their
suture-like seams where tremendous collisions and forces of friction pushed up
whole mountain ranges and sounded the gongs of earthquakes. This interest encompassed an active geological
curiosity, which he incorporated into his business world. As one of his former classmates recalls…
There was the time in the exploration days at
south of Boddington. In 1969
my company was commissioned to do the drilling and surveying of the drill holes
for the Rupert Murdoch owned Alwest. That company had the exclusive rights to mineral reserves on the East
Darling ranges. We were looking for Bauxite.
As I understand it, Bert was 2 I.C. at Ron Sheen Laboratories where the
analysis of the samples drilled was completed. Bert
approached Alwest and informed them that he had an Xray Fluorescence machine he had designed and built himself
which could give the results of 40 minerals at only twice the cost of the one
mineral result from an Atomic Absorption Spectrophotometer sample cost. Alwest accepted, and then
struggled to name 34 minerals, naming minerals with little or no prospect of
being found. Number 35 was Platinum, and number 36 was
And, in sending out exploration drills north south and west of Mt
Saddleback drilling holes every ½ mile searching for more Alumina which
was not there, three holes returned positive and strong results for gold, and Worsley gold mine was found. I
believe that without Bert´s commercial intuition,
scientific ingenuity and inventive ability, we very well would not have Worsley Gold Mine. Conventional
geological wisdom was that there would not be gold there.
So, the unconventional Bert shone.
Later he headed up the on-line computerization of the branches,
hospitals and clinics of the Health Department of WA in the early 1970's, a
huge task, a breakthrough in mass on-line computer communications, unique at
the time, daunting to those on the fringe.
I bumped into Bert about every 5-10 years. Around
1980 I got a booming voice call from
from Bert who was buying for his WA business. ‘Mathew
Bach of LA just asked me if I had heard of a Wayne Marron',
Bert boomed out, down the line, from the other side of the world. ‘Know him, I went to school with him'.
Mathew Bach turned out to be Barbara Bach's brother. She
married Ringo Starr. So Bert
and I had that three way connection for a few years, and Bert always got a
great chuckle over the small world aspect of it, taking mirth from this for
years interspersed with news of Ringo via Mathew.
Bert at that point had taken the leading supplier position of computer
systems and peripherals, system design and supply, in
Western Australia, and became a successful
Bert moved to
some years ago. I called him to ask him to join in as
a director on a
business venture I had in start-up mode at that time. We
talked a few times then. He had settled into
Bert and his family had bought a large Winnebago and toured a lot
within USA in it and I believe that included Mexico, which he told me that he
had selected as the place to retire to.
Bert was so highly thought of he was invited to join the 50th reunion
gathering of the class of New Norcia, one year below his own class. His response reflects the humility and cheerfulness
of the man, along with his priorities.
From: Bert Streppel [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Tuesday, 11 September 2012 7:10 AM
Subject: Re: 50 year reunion Leaving class of 1962
Venue: UWA Club. Time: 12 noon November 17th , 2012, Saturday
hi wayne et al,
how kind of you to include me.
presently i'm in mexico having just finished building my second house. this one is in the mountains in a place called san matias (you won't find it on a map as it is very small). it is only 60 miles from my first house in san felipe overlooking the sea of cortez.
adrienne left here on saturday for perth to give birth ;-) to our second grandchild and will be there for six weeks. i may go over near the end of november to be present for the birth of my youngest sons baby due 26 nov.
Occasionally Bert would wax
nostalgic about small plane piloting. Like any other avionics enthusiast, he loved to fly. He said he learned on an Airtour,
an Australian 60’s plane, slightly shorter than a Lincoln Continental Limo. Victa Ltd, an
Australian company interested in entering the aviation industry, produced 168
all-metal versions of the plane.
Bert described the Airtour as “…fully aerobatic with a joystick. I was petrified in having to change halfway
through the training to have to use a Cesna 'wheel'.”
Victa’s principal business at the time of the plane’s introduction didn’t appear to
disturb him. They built lawn mowers.
Bert’s Scientific American subscription was likely the source of many late
night emails I received, abetted by internet searches, no doubt. Particle Physics was one of his fondest
what is interesting is that the higgs boson cannot be detected directly but only by it's decay/collision products. it took a lot of computing power to analyze these byproducts to get to the source. i was surprised that they got to the 5 sigma confidence level to conclude that they had discovered the particle.
the theoretical physicists however had gone beyond the 'discovery' and had worked out what it should be including the quantum mechanical state . their conclusion was that the state was in a elevated energy state (inside a caldera) and that quantum mechanics gave a probability that it could escape this state by tunneling through the energy barrier.
in the current particle physics every particle has a heavier associate and i think that the article refers to this particle as the 'doom' particle to make you bend down and kiss your arse goodbye.
the proton is considered as a stable particle as no decay has yet been detected, yet they do predict that the proton will decay.
perhaps the 'heavier' higgs boson is the 'brane' of the stability of the universe.
i was delighted to read that the universe will/may collapse at the speed of light not at the speed of the 'great expansion' following the 'big bang'.
Whitney Portal Campground resides
in a thick pine forest at an elevation of 8,000 ft. in the eastern
Mountains. Bert emailed to inform me about his intention
to perform some stylish bivouacking in that vicinity:
“…have just booked 4 nights at the mtwhitney portal campground at the end of october. going to see if we can still do some 'primitive' tent
camping but with a few luxuries, ribeye steak, royal
salute (25yr old) whiskey, etc.”
Bert had recently turned 70. A brief search on the internet would have
informed him that the prudent policy for elderly individuals, particularly
those with coronary artery disease, would be to limit their activity during the
first few days at high altitude to allow for an acclimatization process to
occur. With acute altitude, PaO2 and oxyhemoglobin saturation decreases and pulmonary
artery pressure increases up to 43%. This is exacerbated when the weather is cold. A large study from
showed that blood pressure
in elderly people varies significantly with the seasons, with rates of high
blood pressure readings rising from 23.8% in summer to 33.4% in winter . An increase in blood pressure was seen in both the
systolic (top) and diastolic (bottom) numbers. Overall, the average systolic blood pressure was 5 points higher in
winter than in summer. But researchers say the
temperature-related effects on high blood pressure were greatest among those 80
During the week or two before his
trip, Bert kept an eye on the weather.
“…it was 28 F at the whitney portal this
morning. hope it climbs a bit before we get there on
On October 27th, 2014,
Bert and his wife Adrienne arrived at their campsite, erected their tent and
stored their perishables in the bear-proof food locker. Photographs show Bert smiling in front of their tent, libation in hand. The following
day, noticing that a vacated campsite had unused firewood stacked beside
its burning barrel, Bert trudged down the sloping path to retrieve it. It was purely a spendthrift reflex. He gathered an armload of wood, turned to
begin the ascent and collapsed. His wife
ran to his side but even during her efforts to revive him, she knew it was too
late. Bert Streppel was gone. The perch was no longer under
Friends back in San Felipe were
saddened when they heard the news. But at the same time they marveled at how
lucky Bert had been. He had died outside
which saved his family the horrors of trying to transport a body north across the
Mexican border. The Mexican bureaucratic
red tape is Sisyphean in its requirements and moves at a snail’s pace. In addition, Bert had died suddenly, like a light switch turning
off. People over seventy find this kind of exit strategy admirable. There's no lingering disease,
failing organs or episodic senility. You just simply “fall off the perch”. Bert would have been delighted to know how his final
day above ground ended. In an email he
wrote to me three months before his death he said…
“…since returning from balii've been having problems with my bowels as they say the
bum is the most important organ in the body it can stop all the others working. i started to have some heartburn
and took pepto-bismol which also stops diarrhea
exactly the opposite of what i wanted. i can reset my watch again at
the regular time. i'm going
to take some stool next week to the dr in valle to test for blood, helicobacter pylori and other
parasites which i could have picked up in bali. i would prefer to die from cirrhosis of the liver, lung cancer but not bum
Bert is missed. He was a gregarious man so his absence is
felt by many. But he would be the
first to point out that at an atomic, and perhaps even asubatomic level, none
of us really go away.