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Articles written by Tom Purcell


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  • Memories of my free-range childhood

    Tom Purcell|Jun 3, 2024

    It was the first time in my childhood I had an excuse for coming home late for dinner, but nobody – not even the cops – would listen. In the summer of 1972, when I was 10, Tommy Gillen and I built a dam in the creek on the other side of the Horning Road railroad tunnel. We'd been building up the dam for days to create our own three-foot pool in which we chased after crayfish and minnows – our own cool spot to while away the hot summer afternoons. We'd just completed adding another row of blocks...

  • Longing for the days of email rudeness

    Tom Purcell|Apr 29, 2024

    Boy, is technology making us ruder. It all started with email. You see, long before the era of nasty Facebook posts and mean tweets – long before people had such an easy means to be rude to each other – there was a much tamer version of email rudeness. Let me share an email incident I experienced firsthand in 1999. Having just moved to Washington, D.C., I joined a large writer's organization, hoping to meet other writers – or, to be more precise, WOMEN writers. I got permission from the writer's...

  • Reading more books is good for America

    Tom Purcell|Feb 26, 2024

    When I read about the “silent book club” trend, it filled me with instant calm and hope. As it goes, in 2012, two friends in San Francisco came up with the idea for a non-formal social event in which book lovers can gather at a coffee house or pub, then read together in silence for an hour or so, after which they may discuss any thoughts about what they are reading and socialize. There is something very special about being immersed in a great work of fiction or nonfiction that brings about a p...

  • The sad future of AM Radio

    Tom Purcell|Feb 5, 2024

    You had a great 100-year run, AM radio, and your demise is breaking my heart. According to the Wall Street Journal, carmakers such as Tesla, Volvo and BMW are no longer providing AM radios in their new vehicles. Why? In part, because of the emergence of electric vehicles. As the WSJ explains, quoting the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, a car-industry trade group, the onboard electronics on EVs “create interference with AM radio signals – a phenomenon that ‘makes the already fuzzy analo...

  • Our over-coddled kids

    Tom Purcell|Jan 22, 2024

    Get this: Gen Z job applicants are bringing their parents to job interviews, reports the New York Post. As it goes, for several decades America's children have been over-coddled by their "helicopter parents" – parents who zoom in to resolve any challenge their children may face, even as they become adults. Now they can't even conduct a job interview without mom or dad holding their hands and guiding the outcome? Geeze. That makes me kind of worried. Aren't the Zs the generation I'm supposed t...

  • The urgency to become cyber-secure in 2024

    Tom Purcell|Jan 15, 2024

    Cyber attacks will be significantly worse in 2024 for anyone who uses a digital device. Yet few are aware of, or prepared for, the threats they face – or how their poor cybersecurity skills are putting them and their families at incredible risk. Case in point: Last year, the top 10 weakest passwords were pretty much the same as they were in prior years, which offers a tremendous opportunity for cyber scammers to rob us blind. You see, scammers are really good at guessing passwords – the wea...

  • A win-win New Year's resolution

    Tom Purcell|Jan 1, 2024

    Here's a great New Year's resolution: get a pet. As we wrap up a very inflationary 2023, pet shelters across the country are at maximum capacity and they don't have room to house the pets people are turning in. ABC News reports that animals entering shelters began to climb in 2021. During the COVID pandemic, you see, many people adopted pets, but as they began to go back to the workplace, some decided they no longer wanted to care for a pet, so they turned them back in. The past year was...

  • How to restore the gift of giving

    Tom Purcell|Dec 11, 2023

    Here’s an unpleasant holiday statistic: Average Americans are giving significantly less to their favorite charities this year than they did just four or five years ago. Average Americans have long been among the most generous people on Earth. But this year, thanks to an economy disrupted by COVID-19, soaring interest rates and three years of high inflation, many are unable to give. Americans are hurting in their pocketbooks. This past year credit card debt jumped faster than ever before in h...

  • The dying art of Halloween costume humor

    Tom Purcell|Oct 30, 2023

    Halloween is upon us, which means you'd better be cautious about the costume you choose. Halloween has long been a staple of childhood, but in the past few decades it has been increasingly celebrated by adults – and for good reason. Until recently, it was the one day where adults could dress up in funny, outrageous costumes that satirized popular culture and the complexity of modern life. Dressing up as a rock star, Albert Einstein, a famous sports figure or some other pop icon could be fun a...

  • We need a rebirth of empathy

    Tom Purcell|Oct 16, 2023

    When I read a news piece about the passing of longtime California senator Dianne Feinstein a few weeks ago, some of the comments left at the bottom of the online article made me sad. Feinstein suffered a very public health decline before she passed. Anyone with the slightest sense of empathy would think “there but for the grace of God go I” – as every one of us could suffer a similar decline before our time finally comes. Empathy is in short supply these days, however. I don’t recall the exact w...

  • A smaller home is a happy home

    Tom Purcell|Sep 4, 2023

    Houses are getting smaller again – which is going to make many Americans happier. Americans faced with high mortgage rates and a shortage of affordable homes for sale are opting for new, smaller homes that do not have dining rooms, living rooms, spare bedrooms and even bathtubs, reports the Wall Street Journal. Builders are building smaller homes partly to give cost-constrained buyers a more affordable option. But it’s mostly because it’s the only way home builders can turn a reasonable profit,...

  • A/C hasn't only made life cooler

    Tom Purcell|Jul 31, 2023

    As a heat wave hits America from coast to coast, it’s hot outside – but cool inside, thanks to the triumph of air conditioning. For most of human history, there was little people could do to avoid heat. During the day, it drove people outside of their homes to enjoy the shade of a tree or to take a refreshing dip in a lake or river. At night, folks in cities slept outside on their porches, roofs and even fire escapes. When I was a kid in the suburbs of Pittsburgh, few homes had air con...

  • The American dream is a life without debt

    Tom Purcell|Jul 17, 2023

    I dream of the day I will be 100% debt free! I took on debt fairly early in life, when I borrowed money to help cover the cost of my Penn State degree. That turned out to be a terrific investment – I got a good communications job at a high-tech company right out of college and paid it all back without incident – so that modest debt turned out to be a wise decision. Debt in and of itself is not a bad thing and often a good thing. I've been lucky to buy a house and a few other properties bec...

  • Americans rediscover the summer picnic

    Tom Purcell|Jun 5, 2023

    It’s a positive trend that I hope continues: the resurgence of summer picnics. According to Mental Floss, the COVID-19 pandemic caused a picnic boom beginning in 2020 that is showing no signs of letting up. In 2020, with restaurants shuttered and experts telling us the bug didn’t spread so easily in outdoor air, many people, in particular younger people, began picnicking. I was lucky to grow up only a few miles from a county park that offers 3,000 acres of rolling green hills, walking and bik...

  • Curing our loneliness epidemic

    Tom Purcell|May 22, 2023

    There is a loneliness epidemic in the United States, but there are some simple ways we can address it. A few weeks ago, the U.S. Surgeon General released a report titled "Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation." The report found that even before the COVID lockdowns chased us into months of isolation in our homes about half of U.S. adults reported experiencing measurable levels of loneliness. Loneliness brings with it considerable health implications. When a human lacks connection with other hu...

  • The incredible life of bees

    Tom Purcell|May 15, 2023

    It's an excuse I've been dreaming of: A reason to NOT mow my lawn. A "No Mow May" movement is afoot to nurture our bee population for a good reason: bees are incredibly important to our own survival. According to Bee City USA, an initiative of the Xer-ces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, bees are highly important pollinators whose busy work enables the creation of one-third of the food and drink we consume. Here's how bees work: They are drawn to plants for their sweet nectar, which they...

  • Let's get our kids behind the wheel

    Tom Purcell|Apr 3, 2023

    The sun is shining today and Spring is upon us. Such days remind me still of the excitement I knew when I turned 16 in April and was finally able to get my driver's license – a wondrous rite of passage fewer and fewer teens choose to experience today. According to a 2019 article in The Wall Street Journal, in the 1980s half of all 16-year-olds were driving. But by 2020 it was just 25 percent. Why? Driving tests began getting stricter and more challenging in many states in the mid-1990s – tho...

  • Hey, ChatGPT, don't quit your day job

    Tom Purcell|Mar 6, 2023

    It’s at once amazing and troublesome. I speak of ChatGPT, an artificial intelligence application that was launched last November by OpenAI. In a matter of seconds, it can write apparently accurate articles or answer questions on a multitude of subjects. When I asked ChatGPT what it is, it responded this way: “I am designed to understand and generate human-like language based on the input I receive.… My purpose is to assist and communicate with people in a variety of ways, from answering gener...

  • Grateful for National Freedom Day

    Tom Purcell|Feb 6, 2023

    It’s one of the best days of the year and we owe our gratitude to the remarkable man who made it possible. Feb. 1 is National Freedom Day and its origin is as wonderful as is freedom itself. The creation of this day dates back to 1863, during the thick of the Civil War, when President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. His proclamation changed the legal status of more than 3.5 million African Americans from “enslaved” to “free.” Following the war, with the passage of the 13...

  • Hope is all we have

    Tom Purcell|Dec 26, 2022

     I’m filled with a renewed sense of hope all of the sudden.  Truthfully, I don’t know why I feel such hopefulness.  Last Friday I went to the hospital to have a hernia surgically repaired. They stuffed a hose down my mouth and pumped me with air, then sliced and sewed and got my torn parts back in order.  My throat is still throbbing. My torso feels like someone drove a locomotive into it. I slept much of the dark, cold weekend, recovering.  And yet I just woke from a Monday afternoon nap filled...

  • Digging the return to vinyl

    Tom Purcell|Dec 5, 2022

    Vinyl records are making a comeback, and it’s not just nostalgic old fogies who are driving the trend. According to Readers Digest UK, millennial and Gen Z consumers are digging the distinct sound of vinyl — and especially digging its imperfections and limitations. The scratch and crackle of a needle dancing atop a record’s grooves is a sound you don’t get with digital music. The typical LP — “long-playing album” for you digital music people — plays only 22 minutes or so per side, which req...

  • Halloween is for kids, isn't it?

    Tom Purcell|Oct 31, 2022

    It's a question worth asking in these nutty times: how old is too old to trick-or-treat? On the question-and-answer website Quora, some people ask if the age of 12 is a good time to hang up the ghost costumes. That sounds about right to me. My mother would have decked me if I'd tried to collect candy in the ninth grade. Trick-or-treating has long been a rite of passage of childhood - that is, it used to be. Other people responded to Quora that they see no reason for older people - adults in...

  • Hung up on rudeness

    Tom Purcell|Oct 10, 2022

    Changing communications technology is one of life's never-ending annoyances, and now we have a new agitation: voice messaging. Voice messaging allows smartphone owners to record their voice and send the recording to others as they would a text or a chat. According to the Wall Street Journal, some people consider the technique bothersome and rude - a camp I am clearly in, and I'll happily explain why. I've experienced a lot of phone-technology changes in my life. When I was a kid in the '70s and...

  • On winning the lottery

    Tom Purcell|Sep 26, 2022

    I bought my first lottery ticket recently.  It was a $20 scratch-off that paid me a $40 prize.  Winning produced a nice little thrill, so I bought another $20 ticket right away. And lost.  I put out $40 to win $40 that day.  I’ve bought three $20 scratch-offs since then and won nothing.  To date, I’ve paid out $100 to win $40.  The house always wins in the end.  Still, some people enjoy big paydays playing the state-sponsored lotteries.  I know a fellow who hit twice for over $100,000 or so...

  • The elephant in the college classroom

    Tom Purcell|Sep 5, 2022

    "Half of that goes to the bank for your college fund!" That's what my father told me in the 8th grade, when I got my first paycheck for waking up at 5:30 a.m. to ride my bike a few miles to Cool Springs Driving Range before school, where I plucked golf balls for a dollar an hour. My dad had six kids to feed on a single income, after all. Paying my full college tuition bill was never going to be an option. There was only one option for me: work. When I got a little older I started mowing lawns...

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