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Be not afraid of dilettantes : some are born dilettantes, some achieve dilettanteness and some have dilettanteness thrust upon them

William Shakespeare said that – or something like that. Anyway, I belong in the last named group. I can explain how that thrust came about.

the making of a dilettante



Chapter 1

      is all about food

Chapter 1: The Ann Arbor Years

This was the 1960s near the beginning of the Women's Movement. We were pretty much kept in the kitchen – barefoot, pregnant, and bored – but arrogant for all of that. No place, we believed, had as many smart, talented, altogether superior women as Ann Arbor.

My family lived in an old house on Barton Dr., the Huron River burbling past our door. The trail running along the river was a favorite hiking place for Ann Arborites and our old house was a favorite waystation where weary travelers could stop and mooch some refreshments. One day, the local banker stopped by and, in the course of conversation, informed me that he had bought a newspaper. After some confusion, I determined that he did not mean something off the newstand, but the entire business of the local advertising throw-away, I suggested that he run a cooking column specifically aimed at the smart, talented, altogether superior women of Ann Arbor.

This suggestion was greeted by a thoughtful "Huh?" John told me to write one column so he could see what I was talking about. Then if he agreed that it was worthy of Ann Arbor women, he would hire someone to carry on. So I wrote it. Three years later I was still writing a column a week for the local throw-away. Then the Birmingham Eccentric, a real newspaper, picked it up and my career was born. Then it died when we moved to Washington, DC a year later.

Thus, the first thrust of Dilettanteness.

Chapter 2

      looks at
The Book 

Chapter 2: The Dilettante as Management Guru

We moved to Washington in 1973. You may remember 1973/1974. Among the various happenings: the Supreme Court ruled on Roe v Wade; Spiro Agnew got caught with his hand in the cookie jar and resigned as Vice President of the United States; Richard Nixon was drummed out of the Presidential office; Gerald Ford became president; and I went to a nondescript meeting on the Hill to see what in the world was going on. I was sitting next to a nice, funny guy who told me that he was with the Cable Television Information Center -- a minor appendage of The Urban Institute (a little-bit-left-of-center think tank). We got to talking and I told him about my aborted career as a journalist. He told me that he couldn't write worth a darn. He had an assistant who was supposed to do the writing stuff for him but she had been in an auto accident and was going to be out for a couple of months. We decided that this was Kismet. I agreed to put off decorating my new house for those couple of months and fill in. She never came back.

Anyway, for a couple of years I traveled up and down in the elevator at The Urb during which time I became acquainted with some of the research staff from the Evaluation Group. These were a bunch of (mostly) mathematicians and engineers who were devising a method to reliably evaluate the efficacy of Federal Programs. Don't laugh. They were trying to write a book on the subject but they never got farther than some bits and pieces. We cut a deal. They would teach me the evaluation method and I would write the book. Joe Nay (who died several years ago) would be my mentor. The book was written, published, and used by quite a few graduate schools of public administration.

Thus, the second thrust of Dilettanteness.

Chapter 3

      has Epic Limericks and the Ineffable Theme Park
Chapter 3: The Entrepreneurial Dilettante

For a few years, I honed my dilettantish skills at the National Bureau of Standards, finally migrating those skills to the newly formed company, Vertech Inc. There I was joined by a very talented group of computer scientists and engineers. After due consideration I was annointed president of the new company on the grounds that I didn't know how to do anything else. And so, while the others did all the work, I did what any self-respecting dilettante president would do. I played. No longer did I require dilettanteness to be thrust upon me. I had made it. I was a full-fledged, practicing dilettante.

But I needed a playground. And sitting out there, beckoning, was the Web. And boy, did I have fun. I started with a WorldWide Limerick contest, which ran for about 5 years, and then topped it with a longer run of Fine Art ThemeParks -- which are still updated monthly on these pages

Chapter 4

      looks at
The Novels
Chapter 4: The Dilettante Emeritus

When I hit my 80th birthday, I decided to expand my horizons. By that time, I had retired from Vertech and had taken up my dilettanish role as executive director of the Washington Academy of Sciences. Now it was time to move on and explore the Arts. But what Art? No possibility that I might write a symphony. I don't think I'm tone deaf, but everyone else does. I had already dabbled in the visual arts (See Chapter 3). Nothing left but to write a novel.

The question about novels that has always puzzled me is "How does the author know when the novel is finished?" Most of the novels I have read simply stop. Has the author become sick of writing the thing? Does the author just kill off the protaganist and call it a day? The only novels I recall that have natural endings are mystery novels. The bad guy is caught, God is in heaven, and all's right with the world. So I wrote a mystery novel. You can find it at All of the proceeds (if any should occur) are assigned to the Washington Academy of Sciences because they put up with me for all those years.

Not content with killing off one guy, I gave it a second try. This time I knocked off an astronomer. And so on and on and on ....

The novels are on Amazon both in hard copy and on Kindle (I think). All told, there are eight of them. And I think Eight is Enough.