Remembering Bert

San Felipe, Baja, Mexico



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 Australia , 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 Australia's “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 journey to Melbourne, some 3500 km away.  He and his family eventually relocating to the larger metropolis of Perth where Joe became a builder.

Lambertus Streppel 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 Lambertus Broer, 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 tobacco. 

Australia 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 school. 

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 death, remember….

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.

  Wayne Marron


I first met Bert over twenty years ago while I was working at The Net, an internet provider for a small Mexican town beside the Sea of 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 Lentulus Batiatus, 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 Italy 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.

look at the links below

ceriana village

Gangi village in sicily

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 Vietnam memorial. 

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 years in Australia .   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 travelI remember running into him in San Francisco California 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 Baja Peninsula of 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 mountain in California 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.

Mark Molloy.

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 Mexico was for 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 El Dorado development. 

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 Mt. Saddleback, 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 gold.

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 foundI 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 L.A. 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 businessman. 

Bert moved to Mexico some years ago. I called him to ask him to join in as a director on a USA business venture I had in start-up mode at that time. We talked a few times then. He had settled into retirement.

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 classHis response reflects the humility and cheerfulness of the man, along with his priorities.

From: Bert Streppel [] 
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.

Vale, Bert

Wayne Marron


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 interests…


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 Sierra Nevada Mountains.  Bert emailed to inform me about his intention to perform some stylish bivouacking in that vicinity:

“…have just booked 4 nights at the mt whitney 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 France 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 and older.

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 Monday”

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 his feet. 

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 of Mexico , 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 bali i'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 cancer.”

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. 

Bert Streppel Slide Show

Content on this page requires a newer version of Adobe Flash Player.

Get Adobe Flash player