Sigmund Freud introduced the concept of psychological projection in the second chapter of Totem and Taboo (1913). The gist is that we hold ambivalent feelings toward everyone, including ourselves. Rather than acknowledge the negative aspects of vital relationships, we “eject [them] from internal perception into the external world . . . and push [them] on to someone else.” Freud considered projection a defense mechanism, a tool for protecting ourselves from vulnerability. …


I had to watch The Chair, the six-episode Netflix dramedy set in a university English department. I was an English major, I spent most of my career working at UC Berkeley, and Sandra Oh plays the lead. The clincher was the sub-head to Sophie Gilbert’s review in The Atlantic: “The near-perfect show elegantly skewers the subject of free speech on campus.” This show was made for me!

Wearing my risk manager hat through the first half-hour episode, I spotted ten glaring mistakes by Oh’s character, Dickinson scholar and newly-elected department chair Ji-Yoon Kim:

1. Initial faculty meeting: “I will not…


Today is the twenty-fourth anniversary of Princess Diana’s death. The date has enormous meaning for The Fabulous Wife and me, but not because of Princess Di.

Makeshift memorial to Diana at the Pont de l’Alma, Paris, February 1998.

Our first cat, Darryl, died the same day.

While co-author Adrienne Miller, The Fabulous Wife, and I proofread galleys of The Hamlet Syndrome one warm afternoon in 1988, I opened our South Berkeley apartment’s exterior French doors to let in air. A skinny gray kitten trotted in as if he belonged there.

I’m allergic to cats, but we let him stick around. Sensing my ambivalence, he waited for me to lie on a nearby…


I like this take from Andrew Sullivan about the reaction to the fall of Afghanistan:

There is something about the unreal huffing and puffing this week from the left-media, the neocon holdouts and the opportunistic Republicans that seems far too cheap and easy. It’s as if they have learned nothing — nothing — from the 21st Century. They are acting now as if we are snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, rather than finally ending the dumbest, longest war this country has ever fought.

I don’t agree that it’s the dumbest war the U.S. has ever fought — that…


When conversations with friends turn to the news, no one ever brings up California’s gubernatorial recall election, now a mere month away.

That’s bad for Governor Gavin Newsom. It means his base isn’t fired up, even though polls show him in trouble. I suspect that’s because he doesn’t inspire passion (you won’t find many Newsomsexuals, even though he’s way hotter than Andrew Cuomo) and because his supporters assume there are so many more Democrats than Republicans in California he’ll win even if millions of Democrats don’t vote.

Voter Information Guide for the California Gubernatorial Recall Election
Voter Information Guide for the California Gubernatorial Recall Election

My impression is the recall springs from Newsom’s alleged “mishandling” of the pandemic…


With the job market as hot as it’s been, those of you still in the workforce may be hiring. I participated in plenty of hiring committees at UC Berkeley, and often provided good employees with a reference or advice to help them get a new job. But what happens when someone undeserving pressures you for a letter of recommendation or a reference? If you tell the truth, but the job candidate doesn’t like your truth (hint: they never do), you may risk a lawsuit. If you lie, you have to answer to your conscience.

That may not rank with being…


After I finished Reza Aslan’s God: A Human History, I read several reviews. That’s typical: I read a book, form my own opinion of it, then see what the reviewers say. Sometimes they point out something I missed. In the case of God: A Human History, one critic snarked that Karen Armstrong’s A History of God (1993) is the superior take on the subject.

Thank you, critic whose name I forgot!

Karen Armstrong is a former nun who renounced her vows because years in the convent brought her no closer to god. She pursued god independently, reading (it seems) every…


Try to answer these questions honestly. Of all your friends, family members, neighbors, and acquaintances of various types and degrees, how many can you count on to:

  1. Help you find a job?
  2. Lend you money?
  3. Care for you if you’re sick or injured?
  4. Talk to you if have a problem, feel sad, or are depressed?

Have your answers? Okay.

This is one method researchers use to quantify social isolation, the college-educated cousin of loneliness. Loneliness is subjective: if you’re surrounded by others but feel lonely, you are, and if you’re by yourself but don’t feel lonely, you’re not. The four…


For The Fabulous Wife and me the COVID-19 pandemic is over, at least until a variant can pierce our vaccine shield. What a joy! We’ve been hanging out with friends at every opportunity. Invariably an early topic of our conversations is the unvaccinated. A month or two ago we’d express bewilderment at them. Now I’m starting to hear less charitable sentiments, along the lines of “they’ve been given every chance to get the vaccine, so if they get sick and die, screw ‘em.”

I don’t condone — but do understand — the anger. The unvaccinated not only endanger themselves, they…


One of many thoughts while reading Reza Aslan’s breezy but solidly-researched God: A Human History (2017):

I so feel for the editors of the Five Books of Moses, also known as the Torah or the Pentateuch. What an impossible task they faced! They worked either during the Babylonian Captivity (586–537 BC), when Nebuchadnezzar conquered greater Israel, destroyed the first temple, and exiled the editors to his capital, or after Cyrus, king of Persia, crushed the Babylonians and let the editors return to their devastated homeland. Perhaps they worked during both periods. …

Andy Goldblatt

Former Risk Manager at UC Berkeley, author of four books, ectomorphic introvert.

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