What I Need To Give Up

My excellent meditation ap, Daily Calm ($80 annual), asked on the first day of Autumn, “What do you want to give up?” Seemed like a fair question. My five-year-old daily meditation practice plus daily prayers of gratitude, seems to have helped with the process.

I want to give up grudges and resentment. I come from a long line of grudge holders on both sides of my family. I saw the toxic effects. I’m trying to break free. It took me a half-century to accumulate this baggage; it may take a while to unpack it. In the meantime, I thank God daily for grace and mercy, and for my multitude of blessings. I wake up every morning filled with gratitude, joy and love, which I am trying to spread.

I am not working on this alone. People from my past and present (you know who you are) are working with me. Also, some great psychotherapists. Brain Spotting. Crystal Bowl Music. Soul Retrieval. All part of the process.

And of course, my friends, going all the way back to college, when they threw out my ridiculous wardrobe and taught me how to disguise my roots as a working-class nerd from the sticks. And, the woman who ignored my desperate efforts to attract her attention, and the other woman, who said “We could have a shitty six-month affair and never see each other again, or we could not sleep together, and be friends for the rest of our lives.” We’re still friends.

Screed: Self-Made Person

(If you like this preview, or don’t, read the whole screed here.

I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again. People who declare themselves “self made” are full of codswallop that tastes very similar to its cousin, “no government help.”

We are, none of us, self-made. We are a happy (hopefully) accident of genetics, environment and social influences. And of course, we all think ours are best. All those accomplishments? You owe them as much to your great-grandmother who walked from Independence, Mo., to Portland, Ore. in the 1800s.

People say they have never taken a penny from the government, so “why pay taxes?” Well, bozo, the road you drove on, the water you drank, the legal system that protects you and your contracts, the air traffic control system that insures your private jet arrives safely at Aspen, are all paid for by taxes. Taxes are the price we pay for civilization.

Grammar Gripes From Geezers

Put together a chat room full of retired and working journalists, and you are likely to hear things like this:

Why do we use “people” instead of ”persons”?  If “people” is better, why don’t we write, “One people was killed today…” etc.

The misuse of “murder” continues to increase.. “Murder” is a legal term and properly is used in an indictment or charge or in a jury verdict. Often murder becomes something less, like “manslaughter.”  I like as a better term, ”slay,” or its derivatives like “slain..

What about "unnamed person" vs "unidentified person." How about the phrase "take a listen?" Often used on television. Or a reply, "That's a good question" to the interviewer.

I have been chafing lately over reporters' misuse of the word "per" when "according to" is meant, as in this example from today's Baltimore Sun:  "Bolden is not licensed to practice in Maryland and needs to co-file all papers with someone who is, per the court’s rules of attorney conduct."

My own peeve: use of the word “over” for “more than,” as in “over a million dollars.” Even the New York Times has caved in on this one.

Falling in Love With History

Helen Cox Richardson, whom I blogroll every week (Letters from an American) mentioned recently that she fell in love with history early in life.

History and I have a had a rocky relationship for 58 years. We’ve been friends, even friends with benefits, but I’m not sure the relationship ever rose to the level of love.

I kissed her first in 1962, a month after my tenth birthday, when, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, my mom put my brother and me to bed one night by telling us there might be nuclear war before morning. That dalliance continued for a decade of duck-and-cover, during which she was an overhanging presence.

Then we started going steady in my teens. I understand that it wasn’t uncommon in my generation for teenage boys to be interested in World War II. I read all the books I could find on the subject…

[See this entire entry here]


[length warning] My wife recently decided to cull the museum that I call a clothes closet. I could not have made the decision alone.

One of the first things to go: all my suits, including my first custom-tailored suit: a three-piece black pinstripe made for me by the Scottish tailor in the back alley behind what was then Bank of America world headquarters at California and Kearny. Given downtown SF’s regular icy fogs, it was made of sturdy wool. In sunny Contra Costa County, it was less suitable. I had only worn it once or twice a year for a decade, so out it went. Since my weight has varied by 80 pounds over the years, that suit had been taken in and out more than an accordion.

Fortunately my high school letter sweater escaped, so I wore it for the first time in decades this spring. Shockingly, no moth damage. Also shockingly, it still fit.


Tux sweater-piecesofstring1

The 1940s white Tuxedo jacket bequeathed me by my father-in-law (my dad only owned one tie, and I got that too; so far, no tie culling) is still there; I wear it once a year at a band concert.

I wear my tuxedo at least four times a year at band concerts, and although it was tailor-made for my in 1985, it looks as good as new because a) it is seldom worn, and b) I paid a ton of money for a quality job.

Cull to the contrary notwithstanding, I still have shirts that are older than my daughters.

I am certain my 30 ties will end up being worn in some of the Bay Area’s finest homeless settlements, but I am slightly saddened that my two dozen cufflinks, unwanted by my sons-in-law, are going to end up scrapped―not even used jewelry stores want them. Outside of acting, television and politics, there is no man left in America who still wears French Cuff shirts.

I, on the other hand, wore then in high school 57 years ago, at a school where most boys wore tee-shirts.

Now you know more about me than you ever imagined you would. Throughout history, people have judged others by their clothes. I used to wear bow ties because I thought they made me memorable. As one colleague said to me at the time, “Bow tie or not, no one who has ever met you will ever forget you.”

Retiring Old Subway Cars

BART recently announced the retirement of all its 53- year-old subway cars. I could not help remembering my July 1975 interview with MBTA Chairman Robert Kiley, new on the job after stints at the CIA and Boston City government. I have a copy of the article, and found I didn’t include this exchange, although I recall it distinctly.

“Why is it that the first train on the Blue Line each morning is a 1923 car?” [Then 52 years old]

“Because the 1923 cars will start reliably in bad weather, while the 1956 cars will not.”

I am hoping that the experience will not be repeated here, since the old BART cars will not be available the way the MBTA 1923 cars were. Maybe the new ones will be able to run on wet tracks.


There is a Computer Chronicles story I have been dining out on for decades, especially any time I am being micced up for a TV appearance. My voice is loud and booming. During a sound check, a Chronicles sound engineer once said, "Paul, the reason you wear a mic is so that you don't have to speak directly to the people at home. Could you bring it down a little?"

Jealous of Mick LaSalle

If I learned nothing else in debate, I learned it was a cheap shot to start with a definition, so here is the definition of inductive reasoning:

“Inductive reasoning aims at developing a theory while deductive reasoning aims at testing an existing theory.” Seems simple, right? Inductive reasoning allows you to induce the existence of forest when you see hundreds of trees. I can look at a thousand trees and never induce the existence of a forest.

Curse you inductive reasoning my old nemesis. I have never been successful at inducing. It’s been a weakness since college. It was particularly difficult during my years as a technology journalist. You were supposed to attend a trade show with hundreds of booths, then write a story about the trend that tied them together. I was worse at this than my colleagues and competitors. So I sniffed around the consultants and trade show staff until someone offered me a plausible theory to which the facts could be twisted. 

I thought of this as I read a column by Mick La Salle of the San Francisco Chronicle. He and I both have the same information available; the number of women starring in Hollywood movies. Of course, he had precise numbers, since that is an obsession of his, whereas I had only an impression, but he was able to find an overall theory about the increasing number of starring roles for women, through the process of inductive reasoning, where all I saw was a more women in films.

That I know of, there is no training course or seminar to improve your inductive reasoning,  and, at 70, I don’t expect much call for it. Still… I don’t have a lot of writing weaknesses, so this one irks me. No writers’ block, ever. As many words as you want. I write better than anyone who writes faster and faster than anyone who writes better. My grammar is excellent thanks to my English teacher mother. My spelling is . adequate; my typing speed is good enough (for a guy who hunts and pecks. Real typists weep when they watch me type). I write good newspaper-style stories and acceptable magazine-style stories.