Hello, Goodbye

Another flaw in the human character is that everybody wants to build and nobody wants to do maintenance. – Kurt Vonnegut, Hocus Pocus   One of my habits is to look at Wikipedia’s on-this-date page. That’s how I learned of the Arecibo Message. On November 16, 1974, the Arecibo Observatory sent a greeting to the […]

Burying the Lede

  John Noble Wilford knew that he was writing one of the most important stories of the century: The first human landing on another world. His article — for the front page of The New York Times on July 21, 1969, needed to begin with a sentence that conveyed the immensity of the moment. And […]

November Surprise

Earlier this year I volunteered for a primary campaign up in New Hampshire. On occasion I’d chat with other volunteers about the state of the race. We were, obviously, all in for our candidate, but we also were – or appeared – able to analyze the race with dispassion. The consensus was that the race […]


  There’s a French term, le rhythme scolaire. Predictably, it’s more elegant than its English translation. I like it because it sounds like a dance or something. Also, it calls to mind circadian rhythm. Monday found me back in the classroom for the first time in six months. I’m back with a few other teachers, […]

School Daze

“There are some imaginary solutions, but no real solutions.” – Sal Khan   I heard him say that a while back and thought “By George, he’s got it!” It was in a lesson on finding zeros of polynomials, but his conclusion does have a broader validity, no? If you too are stressed about the lack […]


America has only three cities: New York, San Francisco, and New Orleans. Everywhere else is Cleveland. – Tennessee Williams   I spent a few days in Cleveland in June. It really liked it, and into the bargain found the ten-hour drive each way positively restorative. That’s lockdown for you. To my additional surprise, I found […]


Now and then my mailbag fills with queries à la “O! Pete! How might I, like you, increase the brotherhood of man?” Three practical steps follow.   Catch Up Get a spare baseball glove. Playing catch is satisfying and socially distant amusement.   Ides Every 15th of the month, meet up with your local friends. […]