Michael Gollin
January 2016

To live

To be comfortable.

To relate closely with loved ones, family and close friends.

To be happy.
To cause happiness.  
To interact with  interesting people.

To amuse
To give
To inspire??
To be an example of how one can behave in adversity.

To publish.
To help clients and colleagues.
To teach.
To advise.
To witness.

To say. Thank you, I love you, I’m sorry, please forgive me, I forgive you, and goodbye.”

Facing Death to Take Charge of Life

Facing Death to Take Charge of Life
Michael Gollin

What are the most important questions when we and loved ones face serious illness? The article below sums up the inquiries succinctly.

From The New York Times
Seeking a ‘Beautiful Death’
Before making an advance directive, talk with your doctor and your caregiver about just how far end-of-life care should go at the cost of comfort.

The kinds of questions doctors should be asking:

■ What gives your life meaning and joy?

■ What are your biggest fears and concerns?

■ What are you looking forward to?

■ What goals are most important to you now?

■ What trade-offs or sacrifices are you willing to make to achieve those goals?

Everyone can answer these questions although based on personal experience they become more directly relevant and therefore less frightening when you have a serious disease or are older.

The book Being Mortal, by excellent writer and surgeon, Atul Gawande, tackles these issues in a very personal and comprehensible way. Our late in life decisions should be driven by our humanity, not the health industry imperatives. Key questions include the following.
What do you understand about your disease?
What are your priorities for your remaining time?

There was a TV show about this book.

I found the book more helpful. For example, I have made it known that I don’t want 911, ambulance, and emergency room treatment. Maybe for a broken bone, but otherwise I can be treated at home for ALS and my ventilation better than at an ER, if treatment is viable, and avoid massive discomfort and dislocation. I have rushed to the doctor in my own wheelchair in our van and returned home the same way to live my life as best as I can. I’m fortunate in that sense.

Everyone will face their health fate however they can. But it helps if a loved one or doctor or nurse asks the right questions.


Answering My Son’s Questions- Part 1: How to Start A Career

Answering My Son’s Questions- Part 1: How to Start A Career

Michael Gollin (with help from Max Gollin)

Follow curiosity, find a way to serve others, consider various jobs that fit, research pay, competition, and long-term advancement prospects. List jobs you might like, then choose those that have reasonable prospects for success. You will always do something you like if you do this, instead of choosing a high-paying job at the outset or something you like that doesn’t allow success. Meet people in the area and see if you like them and their values.

Choose options that tend to open doors and lead to various follow-up jobs rather than dead-end jobs.  The modern career may look a lot different from mine, which only had one major jump or three. My career went from bio to law, patent law to environmental, and gradually back to IP law.

I chose science because it expands boundaries of knowledge and can improve lives, but can be used for ill effects too, like pollution and war. It has lots of cool equipment and smart people. Law is the alternative to anarchy and hunger.  Lawyers serve clients and the law.  I help the law promote innovation and help my clients be rewarded for creative work.  Smart and creative people are my regular colleagues and clients.

But I write, lecture, teach, and have had many hobbies beyond patent law. If you remain curious, keep learning, find ways to serve that you feel good doing, and maintain a network and support group of like-minded people, you will discover your career or it will discover you.

Editor’s note: this is part of a series of advice letters my dad wrote for me in September 2014 when I asked him for some guidance on the big things in life –Max

Book from Blog

I am extremely pleased to announce the launch of my new book, Innovation Life Love: Reflections on Living with Mortality.
It’s available on Amazon already although we’re still working on the descriptive material.


The book compiles most of the poems, essays, speeches, and other material from this blog, with new material. It is more an eclectic journal of my recent years than a memoir.

For the earlier posts, I was still touch typing. Now I struggle with my left thumb on my phone. But it’s all good. Thanks to endless help, support, and encouragement from my family, especially my sister and my wife, and many others, including readers in more than 85 countries, here is a dream come true.

If you do buy it, don’t forget to write a review on the Amazon page!


Here are some excerpted comments posted on the blog. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

– Michael, you are an amazing writer. This captured, with your typical grace, the battlefront you’re on and what that means. You continue to be an inspiration ….

– Michael – Thanks for the inspiration. When I think I’ve got too many challenges, I remember that an attitude of gratitude, along with acceptance, is the key to positive thinking. Amen.

–  Well said, my dear! I am so glad you soldier on tablet in hand–every campaign needs a good chronicle.

Such a lovely post, it just encapsulates the ups and downs of life.

Wow, Michael. For a guy who types with one finger, you did an amazing job here … Great post!

– So beautiful, Michael, I’ll return to it again and again. Thank you.

– Gorgeous and timely.

– Your grace, strength and dignity are both amazing and inspiring.

– Spoken from the heart, and you have a very big heart, Michael! Your heart is far bigger than the ALS.

– What a fantastic blog!! Thanks for spreading happiness!!

– I read your autobiography and I was amazed by the things you have accomplished and continue accomplishing. How do you find the courage and stamina to keep going? Wow! I will continue checking your blog as I find it very enriching. I wish your life continues full of love and happiness. You are an inspiration!

– Your poetry is beautiful and I wish you the best!

– Your website is beautiful and inspiring. Sending love.

It brought tears to my eyes how you know you are part of nature. How we all are part of nature. Comforting and deeply beautiful. Thank you for your wisdom.

– A world of wonder, and endless inspiration.

– A fine series of metaphors and flowing sounds for the sense of a generous and growing self connected (by e.g. vapor, reflection, heat, spark, intent, sound, mind, attitudes and actions) to a greater other. Not easily conceived or sustained, but the short lines make it all possible! Congratulations!

– Lovely imagery!

– Magnificent Michael. Thanks for the reminder to be still and listen.

– So wondrous. We are all cherry blossoms, seems like. You are among my cherry blossoms, Michael. That, too, is all I need.

– What a lovely poem. Really, just lovely.

– I love this poem and I am very honored, proud and happy to be a part of you.

Galapagos Heptagram

Galapagos Heptagram
July 2013
Michael Gollin




Ruin and death rule the Galapagos.
Animal vegetable land surf and sky.
Life begets life as everything flows.
More will come, and all will die.



The Bishop’s ship drifted here
bound for Peru half a millennium ago.
Becalmed, dying of thirst, rowing away,
he reported to the Spanish King:
Abrupt, desolate, mysterious rocks
“as if God had rained stones.”
Raining stones is poetry.

At the beginning of time,
from void, star dust formed.
A molten ball then cooled and crusted.
Turbulent magma punched —
Punches —
holes to reach the sky,
volcanoes blast the earth’s inside out
hurling ash and lava,
gas and scoria, gargantuan amounts,
forming craggy masses above the sea,
not born, they explode,
cosmic stuff,
free of life and death.

But only for a moment.
Washed in restless currents of sea and wind,
the isles are immediately assaulted
in a slow concerted biological invasion,
begun a short five thousand millennia ago,
continuing today and on,



500 miles away, the continent swarms
with every phylum and order of life, survivors.
Reefs of fish swim here to feed and shelter
among the tumbled rocks,
Sea lions climb out to rest and mate.
Sea birds fly and find the fish,
with stowaway seeds concealed in their feathers.

In the sky, a solid mist of aerodynamic seeds
wafts for days above the humid ocean,
then, wet with Garuá mist, rains on cool volcanic rock.

Most cannot grow. But one succeeds,
in moistened ash.
A plant appears, then more.
Moss, lichen, cactus, and shrub,
vegetable colonists.

2013-07-20 077

Insects, too, hitch rides and die,
but one and more find how to live in the new land.

Andes snow melts and runs down to the coast as rivers,
with logs and rafts of twigs stuck together,
floating out to sea.
The current, slow and steady,
delivers the load to Galapagos in weeks.
Few, but some, reptiles and insects survive
and join the colony.
An iguana here and there,
a tortoise but no hare.

What strange profusions these creatures seem.
and different on each volcanic isle.
Forced to fit this harsh mold,
by death’s inevitable
curse and blessing,
natural selection:
Those that fit breed more,
the rest breed less
and vanish from these shores.
And so pass millions of years.
Optimal not perfect.



Why do they come?
Restless and alive,
living, dying or dead
or simply doing their job,
feeding the predator and scavenger.
Reaching day’s end for one,
enabling another day for the other.
It’s all about dinner.

Drifting, en route somewhere else,
carried by the currents.
Searching for a new home.
Equatorial sun and days, polar currents,
South American roots, but a South Pacific home.

Why do they come?
Chance, bad luck,
instinct, survival.

No melting pot for immigrant survivors,
this hardened lava and ash.
Species diverge and become unique
until each island flaunts
its own finch and lava lizard,
marine iguana and tortoise.

A simple basic plan –
live, adapt, survive, breed,
pass down your genes.
Incremental steps on an endless road
towards: more road,
more traveling, or more settling down.

Death and ruin in Galapagos,
for some it’s yes, for others no,
creation and rebirth,
easy come and easy go.

2013-07-16 163



Floreana Island

The Baroness kept her lovers guessing,
As neighbors died in mystery, secret.
A deep lava tube dark and wet.
Above, rusty ruins of a fish canning experiment, failed
And a barrel for a post office –
put in your cards and take out those
for where you’re going.
It’s still in use.

2013-07-17 102


Espanola/Hood Island

Black marine iguanas, mottled red
in ghastly cuddle puddles
by the score, but there lies one alone,
a sort of peace, bloated,
with eyes and tongue plucked out by a hawk.
Another one lies on the rocky beach,
eviscerated by a male hawk bringing food to its babies,
mortal Prometheus,
punished for bringing this
species here.

2013-07-16 088


South Plaza

A sea lion mummy rests on the rocky shore
not forever. Something or someone will scatter the
skull and bundle of white ribs and vertebrae wrapped in sea lion leather
open on the side for a view into the private life and death of that pup.
Brown piles of lingering mothers nursing pups
and barking while males lumber over the lava rocks,
polishing them on the way to the sea.

2013-07-20 024


North Seymour

Blue-footed boobies enjoy their courtship dance,
Left, slow, right, slow,
whistle and chatter, beak clatter.
White guano ring defines the nest.
Abandoned, with pieces of broken shell.
Where’s the rest?
Hatched or eaten?

2013-07-20 044



Female boobies are bigger than male boobies
but male beachmaster sea lions are bigger and tougher
than their mates, who carry a series of fertilized eggs in their wombs,
in case the males don’t find them.
The pups playing on the volcanic beach try to be like them.

Bleached sea lion bones, ribs, fin, and tail,
every beach a graveyard and nursery,
orgy, boudoir, toilet, and living room all in one.
The tuff pups frolic in the waves,
rushing and twisting at our masks,
big brown eyes stare me down,
then woosh past, a whisker away.
Flopped on beach, or flopped on rock
10 meters down, they are at home.
Why do they not fear us?

2013-07 616 - Copy6.

Darwin came with FitzRoy’s Beagle,
In 1835.
He saw the variation and had a hunch
that natural selection could explain it all.
But he was busy chronicling barnacles and coral islands,
while Wallace wrote of evolution.
(I saw plant specimens Darwin collected.)
Then Darwin made his case
that fixed creation makes no sense.
Creation continues, today, right now.
Reproduction, variation, struggle for life,
natural selection, migration, isolation —
Life brings change,
change brings death and extinction
and new life.

Darwin expected a fight
from those who believe what they’re told,
he was right about that,
now the argument’s old.

Melville wrote of Las Encantadas in 1854,
the enchanted isles, bizarre even to him.
Sailors came from time to time,
some found water and wood.
Most exclaimed and left in disgust
at the inhospitable terrain.
They hoisted giant tortoises onto their ships,
livestock for later slaughter
200,000 over the centuries.

Settlers came again and more,
but most could not survive.
They died, or being crafty,
hitched a ride away again.

Convict, fisher, farmer, explorer —
To strangers’ eyes the sprawling land
might seem a paradise from afar.
But not when landed on the ashy shore.

The beginning of life
was in the Galapagos for many species.
Man, not so much.
Vonnegut had humans evolve into sea lions here
after the end of the world in war.
A fitting place to make a last stand.

People think it lacks creature comforts.
But there are comforts for the creatures.



25,000 Ecuadorans live on Santa Cruz.
At the fish market the sea lions and pelicans
enjoy the guts thrown their way.

2013-07-18 111

We live for seven days on a boat
that moves from island to island,
burning 250 gallons of diesel a day.
We refuel near the US Air Force base on Baltra,
as hundreds of boobies weave their way miles
around the harbor, plunging to seize the schooling fish.

We fortunate few come to see the famous place.
we are visitors,
but our captain said
“Make this boat your home this week.”
Why do we come? Curiosity, homage, adventure
by air, by sea but not by land.
I spotted over 50 species.

Why do we stay anywhere? Because we live.
We eat, play, nest, mate, rear young, explore. Survive.

Rome wasn’t built in a day
and neither was I.
The Galapagos wasn’t built in a week,
even a busy one.
But life begins anew each day
and ends again each night
until it doesn’t.
And so it goes for us all.
Rome was sacked
but took a long time to fall.
And it is still Rome,
the beautiful city of seven hills.

It’s all about dinner, said my friend,
all around the world.
Heinlein’s Stranger fed himself to his friends.
Al Capp’s Shmoos cooked themselves
to serve us a meal.
We raise animals and grains to feed ourselves.
We make the world our home.

Dillard wrote lyrically how soft life
and hard rocks shape each other in these islands.
So she understood the world:
“Everywhere freedom twines its way
around necessity.”

2013-07-20 088

Life brings change,
change brings death and new life.
We live we die
we leave our paths behind
and others walk beyond.

It all makes sense
if you dare
to go look at it all
and care.



June 2014
Michael Gollin


| – – |

Two posts hold a hammock
slung between them.
And we must swing.

Two tall pillars –
birth and death –
rock solid facts,
conglomerated cause and chance,
secure both ends of life.

[Your name here]
19XX – 20YY

Each was born one day
somewhere by a mother –
Each will die one day
somewhere somehow.
No one asked to be born,
and few will choose to die.
All we control is the hyphen in between.

A hyphen printed has more atoms of ink than I have days.
A digital hyphen’s electrons outnumber us all.
Every living day is a birthday –
and there’s only one deathday –
until then we are ageless.
There’s only one age – alive.
So have a happy hyphen!


Cool Green Flame

Cool Green Flame
May 2014
Michael Gollin

The oak tree blooms with a cool green flame,
not the orange fire of seasoned wood.
Sunlight coils inward, photons kiss chlorophyll
with energy that fuses sugar from air and water,
and busy enzymes do their duty,
conceiving leaf, growth, tree, life.

Green are the photons that are not used, wasted,
reflected back to please my eye.

I am a tree.
I, too, breathe air, drink water,
take energy, and burn (but with biothermal warmth).
I lose my leaves. My limbs break and fall.
Yet I grow taller, adding rings,
as long as I can find the light.