Loving Kindness, Tactically

My reason for being here is to spread loving kindness. At a tactical level, besides being super-polite as a driver and overtipping (small to me, huge to the recipient), I work to bring smiles and chuckles. Any interaction with customer service that produces a chuckle makes my day. I got a guffaw today from a woman working from home in Alabama, by saying, "That sounds Ducky Dandy."

I spend a lot of time at the hospital these days. I strive to produce a smile or a chuckle (no belly laughs) from everyone I interact with, desk staff, nurses or doctors. Lately I have been scoring .750 or 1.000. Doctors are the toughest. A smile almost meets my goal.

Did I Write This?/Am I The Only One?

Frequently, I say to myself, after stumbling across my own writing from some time ago, “Gosh, that’s a nicely turned phrase, I wonder who wrote it,” only to realize I did.

In a recent example, I gave my nephew some text to train his AI, then asked it a question. The answer included:

“The looks of scorn she heaped on me as I departed her domain were matched only by her efforts to translate my effrontery into lower grades, an effort at which she never succeeded.” I was impressed with the AI’s use of the word “effrontery” until I realized that was my word. OK, in this case the writing was 20 years old.

This is a recurring effect. I frequently listen to love songs I wrote for Vicki during the last few years. And yet… and yet… sometimes I hear a familiar lyric, and ask myself, “Wow. Did I write that? It’s pretty clever.”

I used every search term I could think of to find out if anyone else has ever written on the Internet about “my own writing looks unfamiliar to me sometimes.” Mostly I get articles about imposter syndrome, or what to do if you feel you’re a failure as a writer. Not what I’m looking for. If you’re better at this than I am, let me know.

Life Gets Narrower

It happened to Vicki’s parents, and mine, and now it is happening to us. Life gets narrower. You go out less, do fewer things, see fewer people. Novelty becomes irregular.

We used to belong to the SF Ballet, ACT, Berkeley Rep, and California Shakespeare. Now: no performing arts.

We used to be in SF several times a month. Now: none.

We used to endeavor to try each new SF restaurant (or even the occasional Berkeley/Walnut Creek restaurant) that got a good review. Now: not.

Other than weekends away within a few hours driving distance, no travel.

An inevitable part of aging, it appears.

This and That

Words I Live By
As long as you are breathing
There is more right with you than there is wrong. (Self-obvious). Best to be above room temperature.

This too will pass
You have real character if you remember to say this in the good times as well as the bad.

Middle Names 3/UPI and AP

 At AP and UPI in the mid-70s, middle initials were mandatory when available, and the amount of time and effort required to attain them was virtually unlimited. Seems odd, given perennial short-staffing. But allegedly the client newspapers insisted.

Frantic phone calls in the middle of the night (no Internet back then), “What’s their middle initial?” (Or, “Ms. or Miss?”).

Jerry Brown was running for president during 1976. At UPI he was never Jerry, always Edmund G. “Jerry” Brown (he was a “G” Jerry, but apparently newspapers didn’t care about that). When you had to mention his father, the California governor, he was Edmund P. “Pat” Brown.

Did anyone ever call either of these men Edmund to their face? Was there a chance that any literate American of that era would be confused into thinking that “Jerry Brown” was a guy down at the bowling alley?

What Art Does

A Tip of the PSACOT Hat to Semi-Rad (and Kottke.org)

There's a lot of great stuff in this piece about how to enjoy art, but one of the best bits was this quote from cartoonist Lynda Barry: “That’s what the arts do. In the course of human life we have a million phantom-limb pains — losing a parent when you’re little, being in a war, even something as dumb as having a mean teacher — and seeing it somehow reflected, whether it’s in our own work or listening to a song, is a way to deal with it.” (via Kottke.org)

Or listening to humor. As Homer Simpson says, “It’s funny because it’s true.”

Love advice to young Paul

I am one of those people who truly loves to while away idle moments in a cloud of speculation about “what ifs.” Vicki thinks it is silly, and although she IS the boss of me, if I do it silently, she can’t tell.

I long ago realized there is no way I could have met her sooner and that it would ruin my life if I could avoid all of the rough patches of the first 28 years of my life. Without pain, there is no joy.

 In essence, since the life path I took ended up with me here, having the best moment of my life, any change would just have made it worse. So what-ifs are idle amusement, but not regrets or yearnings.

Which leads me to my love advice to a younger me. It wouldn’t change anything, but it would have been nice to know why the pain was so important.

There’s a reason it is called “hopelessly in love.” If you do it wrong, it’s hopeless. Fall in love (or not) with the person in front of you, not the one you create in your head. I had to cycle through three lovers before I saw one with clear, open eyes.

As the lyric goes in You’re The Only Woman Man Enough (To bask in my love), “Turns out it was easy to do. That girl, that girl was you.”

What Again? Fonts

I recently recalled some font obsessions I had forgotten. I was down a Google hole when I discovered that the BBC had its own custom typeface, BBC Reith, named after its first Director General, John Reith.


I already knew the London Underground had its own font, which I first discovered on a trip to London in 1974.


Get a load of those lower case L’s!

A quarter-century later, when I was teaching 8th grade U.S. History, I used PowerPoint slides daily. So, I took an online course, which taught me (among other things) that black letters on white were terrible, but yellow on blue were perfection (even though they were, incidentally, UC Berkeley colors).

It also said to use sans serif fonts. Goodbye Times New Roman. I bought and used a copy of P22 London Underground (who the hell pays for fonts? An obsessive, that’s who).

Of my 1,000 students, I would wager none ever noticed, but I was warmed every day when P22 Underground was used to convey U.S. History.