The cardboard sign I used when hitchhiking in 1971

It was nearly midnight when I got off the train in Milan. I had made it all the way up to Denmark during my spring break from studying in Rome but now I was heading back. I had hitchhiked south through Germany, but the rides had been short. Rather than stop for the night, I was hoping to get a train back to Rome. Sure enough, there was a train leaving soon for Rome. I got myself a ticket and found my way to the platform. A train pulled in just as I arrived at the platform. I hopped onto…

Kermit Skromme’s picture from a high school yearbook, I’m still looking for a better picture of him.

Forty-four years after I graduated from high school, I heard that one of my favorite teachers was not doing well. I was able to find an email address for his daughter. This is an edited and digested form of the letter I sent to her, for her to read to her father, Kermit Othello Skromme, who was an English teacher at Blackford High School in San Jose, California. Kermit Skromme died in 2015, but I’m thankful that I was able to let him know the impact he had on my life a couple of years before that.

The influence Kermit…

By Daniel McCoy

“Jim! Danny! You better get up! You don’t want to be late for school!”
My mom is holding the bedroom door half open and calling from the hallway.
She had called us a few minutes earlier, but both my brother Jim and I had drifted back off to sleep. A Monday morning is usually the hardest to wake up, but if we drift off again she’s liable to escalate by getting the cold water pitcher out of the fridge and threaten to dump it on us. She actually did that once, just once, to my brother. Once was…

Samuel Clemens, aka Mark Twain

I do love a good Mark Twain quote.

It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”

One thing I really love about that quote is how it kind of spirals in on itself if you try to track down where Mark Twain said it because it just ain’t so, he never said that.

But it’s still a great saying because we all believe things that just ain’t so. It’s impossible for a human to fact-check absolutely everything that they think they know.

With all of the talk of race, I’ve been thinking a lot about my experience growing up in San Jose, California, back when San Jose was known for orchards instead of silicon and software.

San Jose, when it still had orchards

Most of San Jose, and certainly the part I grew up in, was pretty white. The east side of town was where the “Mexicans” lived. North of downtown was a section called Japantown that had managed to reform after the relocations during WWII. All of the gardeners and nurserymen in town were Japanese. There were a few Chinese and very, very few black people. The blacks…

George Washington

I recently saw an ad for some slogan t-shirts and one particular slogan caught my eye. It was a quote attributed to George Washington that I wasn’t familiar with:

Photo: Pablo García Saldaña —

There have been many essays about problems with the old left vs. right political paradigm. I’d like to attempt a view from a higher altitude than usual and hope it might lead to some useful insights. In recent years I’ve begun to see many problems in terms of humankind’s tendency towards two general patterns which affect people regardless of where they sit on any political spectrum: absolutism and entrenchment. The usual solutions offered for our problems in government and economics tend to be alternative absolutisms that end up entrenching themselves if they gain favor. …

Tillie and baby Eleanor.

On July 23rd, 1926, a baby girl was born in the little town of Los Banos, California to Francis and Tillie McDonald. The addition of little Eleanor Lois made the McDonald family come out even, three boys and three girls: Roy, Lula, Buck, Jim, Molly Jean, and now, baby Eleanor. The age gap between her and her oldest siblings was enough that they were moving out and even bringing home little nieces and nephews while she was still a young girl. Her youngest brother, Jim, was older than her, but just close enough for Eleanor to idolize, and Jim had…

The Emerald City

It’s not every day that I connect Buddhism and L. Frank Baum, so I thought I would write this one down. The connection began recently when a friend posted this quote on Facebook:

“What we are today comes from our thoughts of yesterday, and our present thoughts build our life of tomorrow: Our life is the creation of our mind.” — The Buddha [via Gregory Fisher, 2011]

I love the sentiment, but I’m a bit of a quote nerd, always wanting to verify them, always wondering “did he really say that?”, always looking for actual sources. I perk up at…

We understand the world through stories. Many stories are buried so deeply in our way of seeing the world that they are not obvious to us and it takes some mental work to expose them and see that they are stories rather than objective reality. The story of money is a good example.


Money is a cultural invention; it does not exist outside of human culture. The existence of money, or something very like money, goes far back in our history. The story we base our understanding of money on is an ancient one, and may no longer be serving…

Daniel McCoy

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