June 9, 2021

Greetings Cambridge City Councilor,

I am writing in support of the Cambridge Missing Middle Housing zoning petition before the city Council at the June 10, 2021 meeting.

Like many Cambridge citizens, I live in a building that could not be built under current zoning laws: an attached four family dwelling in a Residence B district on a 9,000 square foot lot with insufficient setbacks. …


If there’s a single activity that’s promoted and preserved my sanity during the pandemic year — a big if in a year of rocky sanity — that activity is spider solitaire. I kicked off empty pandemic hours with jigsaw puzzles, shifted to Sudoku, even tried crossword puzzles. But once I discovered spider solitaire, it instantly became my default form of soothing mental manipulation.

Conventional, seven-column solitaire dates from the eighteenth century, but the earliest record of spider solitaire isn’t until 1917. Even then, spider was a rare form of solo-card-play until computers arrived because, unlike solitaires that use a single…


A year ago today, the day after George Floyd was murdered, teenagers across the street stapled black block letters on yellow poster board to the guardrail along Huron Avenue. BLACK LIVES MATTER. That evening, I noticed a family and their dog taking a knee. Next evening, I joined them. As did a few others. Within a week there were a dozen of us, often more. Fresh signs littered the guardrail. Ever practical, I added: “Take a Knee. Nightly. 7:30 p.m.”

Some evenings brought a steady stream of honking horns. Occasionally, a passing driver stopped, bringing all traffic to a halt…


My first and most lasting lesson in the power of compound interest arrived on May 24, 1966. It must have been a slow news day. Toward the end of The Huntley-Brinkley Report, David Brinkley announced that 340 years ago, Peter Minuit purchased Manhattan Island from the Indians (as Native Americans were called back then) for $24 worth of trinkets. He continued, “if the Indians had invested that amount at a 6% interest rate, they could buy Manhattan back today…” Then he concluded in his sardonic tone. “…if they wanted to.”

My eleven-year-old-brain swirled at the idea that the most magnificent…


Among the many things I’ve undertaken regarding racial justice over the past year (My Summer of 75 Things), becoming involved with SURJ (Stand Up for Racial Justice) has been the most illuminating. SURJ is a national umbrella organization devoted to ending racism through the lens of white people: the idea being that the people we oppress don’t need to be laden with our baggage, even as it is essential for white people to own our role and participate in change.

Last summer, in the geographically compressed world of Zoom, I attended meetings of Aware-LA. Come winter, I was invited to…


Liberals have an uncanny talent. They shoot themselves in the foot trying to help the less fortunate; their hearts bleed out of the wound; leaving a blood trail for right-winged vultures to reframe good intention as folly. Such I fear, may be the fate of Cambridge RISE, my city’s pilot program for UBI (Universal Basic Income).

Universal Basic Income is a simple concept. Every person receives a direct payment simply for being here. UBI is radical, in that it anticipates the fall of capitalism by acknowledging that humans are no longer required as means of production. That our economy is…


Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

Robert Frost’s poem has always established my bounds for how the world will end. Extreme heat or extreme cold leaves plenty of latitude for middling particulars.

In an era of global pandemic, climate change, and persistent mass violence, anyone who doesn’t think about how the world will end is…


What is our responsibility — to ourselves, our family, and our community — for the assets we have accumulated during our lives? I confronted this question last year, when I turned sixty-five and reckoned with the good fortune bestowed upon me.

Fresh senior citizens in these United States are inundated with information about Social Security, Medicare, and Estate Planning. Silver-haired gents in boxy suits at Residence Inn function rooms dissect the minutiae of Parts A & B. They intone the virtues of revocable trusts. As a person blessed with comprehensive health insurance who’s allergic to any investment more complex than…


My object all sublime

I shall achieve in time

To make the punishment fit the crime

The punishment fit the crime.

  • The Mikado, 1885

One-hundred-thirty-six years since an operatic buffoon first pranced the stage bemoaning the consequences society inflicts upon its evil-doers, consider the Academy Award nominated documentary, Time. A film that assures us, no progress has been made.

I watched Time with prejudice: assuming I already know the harm our racially-skewed and excessive incarceration system lays upon fellow citizens. Not first-hand mind you: people like me rarely go to prison. Rather from reading, as if empathy-in-print equaled experience.

I…


An interesting virtual volunteer opportunity presented itself last fall. MIT was looking for alums to interview a pandemic-induced bumper crop of undergraduate applicants. Spending thirty minutes or so with an engaged high school senior with geeky leanings is a piece’o’cake for a guy who perfected the art of kibitzing any stranger who invited him and his bicycle overnight. Besides it would be fun to recall MIT years, time-rubbed to a fond luster, and bask in current aspirants’ enthusiasm.

Here are the ground rules. An Educational Counselor (fancy title for: me) is assigned applicants to interview. EC’s receive only an applicant’s…

Paul E. Fallon

Seeking balance in a world of opposing tension

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