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A Funny Thing Happened On My Way To Graduation

It took lots of breaks for me to get my MIT degree. There was my pity pass in 18.02. There was Prof. Will Watson, who, weeks before graduation, heard I only had 351 of the 360 units required to get my degree. So, he gave me a pass in his history seminar instead of an incomplete.

And there was the deal cooked up by the Sloan School faculty the week before I graduated.

In Course XV ( management), if not in other courses (at MIT, courses with roman numerals, not departments), the faculty meets shortly before graduation to vote on granting degrees, even undergraduate degrees. The process is usually pro forma. I was interviewing Sloan School Dean William F. Pounds for The Tech that week.

He said “Paul, the faculty voted the degrees yesterday. You were the only one about whom there was any discussion. The faculty asked me to ask you to never practice management, for the sake of the reputation of the Sloan School.”

I was happy to oblige in 30 years of journalism. Imagine my surprise when I read the memoirs of the first managing editor of Fortune. The same thing happened to him at MIT.

Since every job I ever had was the result of MIT on my resume, my gratitude is boundless. Dean Pounds and Will Watson heard from me personally. I am still looking for the 18.02 TA so I can thank her.

In Schindler Music News

A greatest hits compilation of all my love songs. No novelty tunes! The title is simply Love Songs: (You’ll love the cover)




Sam Patch Overture

This will only really make sense to the four people who read this blog and who have ever heard any part of Sam Patch, The Greatest Story Ever Told So Far. But if you enjoy great Broadway show overtures, you should  like this

Overture to the Musical Sam Patch

arranged by Jordan Grieg. The brisk fanfare that starts it literally brings tears to my eyes.


Capitalist Crapola Redux: Playing the Game

Since we began the topic of raising a capitalist last week, I will continue with the formative capitalist experience: oppressing labor. I’m sorry, did I say that out loud? I meant becoming a capitalist by owning shares.

Society (by which I mean my parents and me) starts you off on the soft stuff before peddling you crack. I had a pretend investment account: a school project I took home and took too seriously. During the first year, I made money on Comsat (and rode it straight back down). I did reasonably well otherwise.

So, the next year, half my summer crop-picking earnings went to my share of the ValueLine Investment Survey (about $700 in today’s dollars), which Dad (for real) and I (for imaginary) used to make investment decisions.

That, and of course, Life Magazine. Like thousands of other Americans, I was woohed and wowed by an interview with former NBC executive Sylvester “Pat” Weaver (Sigourney’s dad, the father of the Today and Tonight shows).

The other half of my money went into a custodial account at Merrill Lynch; my parents let me make my own investment decisions, so I bought a share or two of his company, Subscription Television Inc., another great American idea born too soon.

And, for that matter, another great American idea trashed by California Voters. They, with the help of a ton of TV money (masquerading as the wisdom of the market), made subscription television illegal. The referendum was overturned, but not before wiping out Pat and me.

And yet, I remain a capitalist still, because we are taught that wipeouts are our own fault and that the market is perfectly wise (except for the occasional multi-million dollar thumb placed on the scale by a wealthy industry).

Irritating My Wife

There are certain traits and habits I have carried with me my entire life. I have, since childhood, been easily amused, often by my own “wit” and wordplay. I am also easily amused by others, leading to my wife’s maxim, “You’re easy to amuse.” This goes with being an incurable optimist, I suspect.

Another major aspect of my character is my love of repetition. Maybe it was caused by a too-early exposure to the most consistent meme of early to mid 20th century broadcast humor (and also, in the opinion of professional comedy writers, the cheapest laugh there is): the catchphrase.

I have so many, and repeat them so frequently, that my daughters once suggested I number them, so we could all save time. Instead of saying, “Last time I used that, I put it away,” I would just say “Number 29.” That’s a phrase I learned from my mother; later in life she decided it was too sarcastic, and asked me to stop using it with my daughters and never use it with my grandchildren.

Now to the irritating my wife part. I tend to speak the same catchphrase every time I hear the same triggering phrase. There are a half-dozen of these. So, when Vicki says something she knows is a trigger, she just says: “Don’t say it.”

I was put in mind of this by one of my favorites, which I have been asked to give up entirely, “Don’t inhale as if you are about to say it. Don’t get  that look on your face like you’re thinking of saying it.”

What is “it?” Her: “I’m going to change,” meaning her clothes. “No, No, Don’t change. I like you just the way you are.” It never gets old… for me. After 43 years and several thousand repetitions, it apparently gets old for her.

My Grandkids: Crawling

My granddaughter

After weeks of anticipation, the big day has arrived. She no longer pulls herself  along on her belly. She is crawling! Now she moves everywhere at lightning speed, in Mom and Dad’s childproof house.

We got her a little musical toy. She adores it. Her mom says she doesn’t yet grasp the nature of cause and effect, so she is just randomly pushing buttons because she likes the sounds it makes.

She is eating solid food every day, but nothing with any texture. She insists that it be puréed until it is almost a liquid. Since she has almost no teeth, I can understand.

This and That

Songs and Images, The 1950s
Thank you Clark Smith; this collage of our natal decade is a hoot.

Great Movie
Three Thousand Years of Longing. Tilda Swinton and Idris Elba. Based on the novel of the same name. Really, what else need I say. Streaming everywhere.

The Science Changes
The Right-Wing Nut Job Media (RWNM) complains that the guidance on Covid changed several times. D’oh. Another tragic result of the lack of science education in this country. Science changes in the face of new facts. That what it does.

Peace over Winning

My dad said the key to his 50-year marriage was “yes dear.” My friend Caden says Oprah put it better: “Choose peace over winning.”

Fun With Words
I created a kludge this week. That is a term I haven’t heard since I left MIT in 1974. A kludge is an agglomeration of dissimilar parts put together to perform a specific task.

Humor: ChatGPT Jokes

Chatanooga Choo-Choo

Thanks to Daniel Dern for figuring out the interface. Apparently, AI can’t understand Chatanooga Choo-Choo jokes (Pardon me Goy, are those the chatty guru's new shoes), but it did hatch an interesting variation:

Pardon me, boys, is that the Chattanooga choo-choo? No, it's the Chattanooga chew-chew. It's a train that's always hungry for more tracks.

Pardon me, boys, is that the Chattanooga choo-choo? No, it's the Chattanooga clue-clue. It's a train that's always searching for answers.

Pardon me, boys, is that the Chattanooga choo-choo? No, it's the Chattanooga brew-brew. It's a train that loves to stop at every brewery on the way.

Pardon me, boys, is that the Chattanooga choo-choo? No, it's the Chattanooga flu-flu. It's a train that's always sick of delays.

Pardon me, boys, is that the Chattanooga choo-choo? No, it's the Chattanooga chew-chew. It's a train that's always hungry for more tracks.