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You Can’t Change History But…

Gratitude is a choice. You can’t change history, but you can change the way you feel about the people and events in your past.

I was angry and hurt that, after 20 years of loyal service, the Brits laid me off from CMP on Oct. 2, 2001. I ran an annual item in my blog complaining about the layoff for almost as long as I was employed, then stopped running it.

[By the way, I never once indicated empathy for the hundreds of others laid off that year in the Dot.Bust―now I do feel empathy.]

I realized the layoff was a golden opportunity to take up the family tradition of teaching. There are 1,000 students out there whose lives I changed (slightly) by doing a good job of teaching them 8th grade U.S. History. In decades of journalism, no one ever said to me, “You’re doing God’s work,” but now, even a decade after I retired, parents and students still stop me on the street and say that.

I am now grateful to CMP for laying me off.

As a result of some spiritual experiences, I re-examined all the people and events in my life that I had hated, and realized they were actually good for me. It’s true: hating someone is like drinking poison and hoping the other person dies. Shoveling all that hatred and anger out of my heart improved my cardiac, mental and physical health.

About Writing 2: Inverted Pyramid

There are some shibboleths in journalism. The first sentence should answer the four w’s: Who, What, When and Where. Great ledes (that’s how we spell it, to prevent confusion with the molten lead once used to set type) also include Why, when available.

Another is that the story should be an inverted pyramid: the most important information first, the least important last. This was done so that illiterate press operators (yes, there were such) could cut stories in the pressroom without editorial intervention.

It is still done because a busy reader may not finish the story, but should walk away with the most important information.

Pardon me if I have told this story before (perhaps even recently). When I worked at the Bank of America in 1977, memos were a thing. Generally, they were written like good paragraphs. Topic sentence, information, concluding sentence. Action requests came at the end.

I wrote mine as inverted pyramids, starting with what I wanted done. Most important information first, least last. This so impressed several of the senior VPs I worked for that they asked me to write memos for them and teach their assistants how to do it.

Memos, I feel certain, have gone the way of Dodos, but the inverted pyramid is not a bad idea for your emails either. Start with what you want done, then explain how and why. You could throw in When and Where if you like 

This and That

Now Showing: Jules
A delightful, heartwarming, sentimental piece of entertaining fluff about family, love, caring, several lonely old people and an androgynous alien (whom, we are assured, is NOT CGI!) who loves apples. They had me at Ben Kingsley and Jane Curtin, then blew me over the top with 90 minutes. Must-See!

Woke Joke
Tip of the PSACOT hat to Daniel Dern for this Shoe comic.

Attention MIT Musicians
The MIT Music Production Collaborative seeks MIT community members with vocal songs: MIT Verses. I sent If Offered A Choice, on Vicki’s advice. She’s not as fond as me of You’re The Only Woman Man Enough (To Bask In My Love),   which I also sent.

Seattle Vs. Portland
Usually, it’s the smaller city with an inferiority complex that snipes at the larger one. But Seattle can’t help itself; it puts Portland down.

Cognitive Bias
Every reason you’ve ever heard of for making bad decisions, (downloads as a PDF file) and a few you haven’t heard of. Thank you, LinkedIn.

Copperpacolypse: Farewell Copper―Y2K Redux in the Making

[READ THIS!] Who cares, you may say, I haven’t had a copper phone line in years. Do you ride in elevators? Have a monitored burglar alarm at home or work? Buzz people up from the front door of your apartment building? Use a credit card in stores? Is your heart monitored? God Forbid, do you have a fax machine? Ready or not, here it comes. Do nothing, and in a few years there will be trouble.

This country, indeed, the world, has been well served by telephone service over copper wires for more than 147 years, but all that will end soon. I never thought I’d kiss copper farewell; there are MANY good reasons to keep a landline (know as Plain Old Telephone service or POTS) but they are clearly doomed. See this intelligent and balanced discussion of the copper sunset.

Britain will turn off all its landlines (an event known as PSTN Sunset) during 2025. AT&T has asked for a U.S. PSTN sunset, but the FCC hasn’t authorized one yet―although in August of 2022, the FCC did say that US Telecom companies needn’t provide new copper landline services anymore. What Telcos are not required to do, they won’t do.

The problems of copperpocalypse will be enormous and expensive. For example: phones in elevators will cease to work on Sunset Day. As will most burglar alarms and fax lines (hello 1985; they’re big in the healthcare business).

This is an emotional issue for me, as I started phone hacking in high school, providing touchtone service at my house, free, before it was free and legal on my phone exchange. I was then privileged to work on a real phone system at MIT. I have maintained an avid interest in telephony ever since. I owned a cellphone when they were still an automobile accessory that took up all the space between the two front seats, or the size of a brick or briefcase.

Just as copper wasn’t designed for data, the Internet was not designed for voice. Internet phone service, Voice Over IP (VOIP), is crap. But cellphones aren’t always a viable alternative. For example, there are numerous pockets in hilly Orinda with essentially zero cellphone service from any provider... 25 miles from downtown San Francisco.

The headline refers to the Year 2000 bug (Y2K), when all the computer programs storing two-digit dates would think that Jan. 1, 1900 was the day after Dec. 31, 1999. The apocalypse was projected, but didn’t occur because everyone was so scared they fixed the problem in advance.

The same thing could (and I hope will) be true when copperpacolypse occurs in the United States. We’ve got a few years at most. Of course this doesn’t affect 90% of my readers directly, since they gave up copper a long time ago. But if you have a burglar alarm, a fax machine or a heart monitor, it will affect you. If you’re stuck in an elevator, it very well could lengthen your stay. If you’re attacked in a college parking lot, those lovely kiosks may well be useless.

AT&T doesn’t care. The firm’s unofficial motto is: “We’re the phone company. We don’t care because we don’t have to.”