I’m more Irish than I thought

In 1978 I was a business reporter for the Oregon Journal, assigned to cover a series of hearings being held in the four corners of Oregon.

I rode with several Irish staffers. We spent dozens of hours driving in Oregon’s hilly hinterlands. Radio reception was sketchy and there was often no source of sound in the car save the human voice.

Midway through the tour, Dick Feeney, a former reporter who was running an institute at Portland State, turned around from the front seat and said, “Paul, who are your people,” a question I hadn’t been asked since college.

“One-fourth Irish on Mom’s side, pure Swiss on Dad’s,” I answered.

“Well,” he said, “one drop of Irish blood makes you Irish, but you may be more Irish than you think.”

“How’s that?”

“What part of Switzerland?”

“The canton of St. Galen.”

He chuckled as did one of his colleagues.

“That explains it. You’ve held your own in conversation for hours. It is clear you've kissed the Blarney Stone.”

(He meant that figuratively, but a few years later I did it literally.)

“You see Paul, there was a wave of Celtic migration to St. Galen. There is a Celtic Cathedral in the capital. I suspect there’s more than a little Celt mixed into your Swiss as well.”

That may explain something I had noticed for years. I thought of myself as half Swiss, but all my Swiss relatives were taciturn. As Everett Dirksen almost said, Irish here, Irish there, the first thing you know you’re an almost Irishman.

Helpless is the face of Fonts

I know rag left, centered, rag right and justified aren’t fonts, but do you ever notice them?

And speaking of noticing, I noticed the name tags at Moraga Safeway are in various typefonts. Like the name tags at Disneyland (silver decoration for 5 years service, gold for 10, diamond for 25), I thought the fonts indicated seniority, and that’s what some employees told me. But the manager said the tags are made at corporate, and she had never noticed that some were Helvetica Bold (that is, sans serif) while others were in an Italic decorative font. Pay attention people!

Teachers: Overworked and Underpaid

Anyone who thinks teachers are underworked  and overpaid has not, I guarantee you, ever taught.

Most people with a college degree and a year of advanced training have, at least once in their life, given a presentation to a group of people.

How long would you need to prepare for this scenario: your audience is 30 young people who are there involuntarily and prepared to be disruptive and disrespectful. Your presentation has to last about an hour. You need to interest them in something they aren’t interested in.  So you have to make it scintillating, using every trick in the book.

Preparation of presentations that good, and grading papers, is what I did when I got home from teaching each day for 10 years (I always took one day off per weekend). Unlike the students, I was there voluntarily, and felt a mission to inform. That’s all that got me through.

The only near analogy I can think of is a lawyer arguing before a jury, but I daresay they don’t do it 180 days a year.

Asking My Muse To Get Armed

It occurred to me the other day that sometimes my Muse guides me to garbled garbage. So, I tossed a message in a bottle at the Lady Of The Lake, asking her to throw a sword to my muse, a sword named Editor.

All the best swords have names of course. A sword named Editor would be sharp enough to cut swiftly and cleanly on the down stroke, then correct spelling and grammar on the upstroke.

So, fingers crossed that the shiny hilt of Editor lands in my muse’s hand.

[The very best serious discussion of the muse I have ever seen]

Fourth Of July continued…

To be fair, when the founding Fathers (no founding mothers, alas, except the ones whose husbands were sock puppets) wrote “All men are created equal,” the authors of the Declaration of Independence meant white men who owned property. I do not think their narrow view of humanity erases the revolution they wrought. And, in fact, if not for them, we probably wouldn’t have painfully, gradually expanded that promise to include women and people of color

For example, while clearly a military and political genius, Washington was also a brutal slave master whose wealth came from the labor of the people he enslaved.  It's complex and nuanced, and Americans do not, as a whole, do complexity and nuance well.

Of course, the Supreme Court has now relieved women of the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, but maybe that will change again some day.

The Wisdom of Chairman Morrow

My friend and Computer Chronicles colleague George Morrow, with the assistance of his genius PR consultant Janis Ulevich, published a little red book of Sayings Of Chairman Morrow (Chairman Mao, get it?).

Many of the sayings remain relevant today. Chronicles expert S.M. Oliva noted this quote: “More money has been wasted in artificial intelligence than in any other area of computer technology.  We're still not close to having any real idea or model of how the human brain works.”

On the occasion of Morrow Design’s bankruptcy in 1986, the New York Times picked up on two other quotes:

“'Being in the microcomputer business is like going 55 miles an hour three feet from a cliff.. If you make the wrong turn you're bankrupt so fast you don't know what hit you.”

And, “Computer companies are like desert flowers. They bloom overnight, and they're gone.”

This and That

The Face of God
Almost certainly apocryphal, but you wish it were true. “What are you drawing,” asks the teacher. “God,” says the girl. “No one knows what he looks like.” “They will in a minute.”

Supreme Court Side Hustle
The Supremes have a side hustle, and it's not what you think it is. It isn't collecting lavish gifts from good friends. The Supreme Court o
bviously keeps a bull somewhere in the building; all the bullshit they don’t shovel into their opinions they sell for fertilizer.
Daily Mental Energy Chart
My mom used to say that the
Pickles comic strip had bugged her kitchen table for ideas. Similarly, I now think Pearls Before Swine has bugged my bedroom.