You Call this Cold?

“Darn the wheel of the world! Why must it continually turn over? Where is the reverse gear?”

—Jack London, American novelist, born January 12, 1876

300px-Sargent - Lord RibblesdaleThe Apollo Grill provided Don’t Eat Lunch Alone with a commodious and friendly home for its entire life in Easthampton. InCommN is currently taking a break from the lunch networking racket; but we wish the Douglasses the best of luck with their new venture, and look forward to visiting their new restaurant, Galaxy. Easthampton continues to grow and get better.

Jack London’s “To Build A Fire” puts this frigid winter we’re enduring into perspective. “The trouble with him was that he was without imagination. He was quick and alert in the things of life, but only in the things and not in the significances.” I’ve never really read London; going to have to give him a try.

John Singer Sargent was one of the greatest portrait painters of all time. He the invaluable talent of endowing his subject with superhuman glamor. Nobody can be that beautiful, woman or man, but the subjects of his portraits are, at least on the evidence of the very expensive canvases he produced for them. Sargent, as his last word suggests, was at best cynical about his trade.

Continue reading “You Call this Cold?”


“It would be wonderful if I could see the end of civilization during my lifetime.”

—Hayao Miyazaki, Japanese director, born January 5, 1941

Porco Rosso Movie PosterIf you don’t have children you may not be familiar with Miyazaki’s work. He has now retired from active film production but leaves a long list of masterpieces, including My Neighbor Totoro, Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle, and my favorite, Porco Rosso. Do yourself a favor and watch them in Japanese with subtitles. Avoid the dubbed versions with the egregious Fanning sisters. I think Disney employs them to train adults to loathe the sound of small children’s voices.

When I was a boy, my bicycle was magic to me because it extended my range of exploration by an order of magnitude. I never knew that that my trusty Schwinn shouldn’t actually be able to, y’know, stay upright.

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My Way Or…

“I am not disposed to complain that I have planted and others have gathered the fruits.”

—Charles Goodyear, American inventor, born December 29, 1800

Jesus-hugging-a-dinosaur-750x1024On reflection, it’s clear that what’s at issue between the study participants is not really gender, although this sounds like the mordant joke about male error and female judgment (“If a man is alone in the forest with no woman to hear him, is he still wrong?”). It’s something more fundamental: power.

Couple of things:

  1. Situations where one side is objectively correct about something repugnant to the other side? Refusal to accept the theory of evolution. The age of the earth. Uselessness of vitamin supplements. The errors of “scientific” racism. Although the correct view may be considered settled, the wrong one continues to be widely held and angrily expressed.
  2. Nothing can ever be settled definitively except by killing one or more participants in a disagreement. Not a winning strategy for enforcing one’s views, right? Thomas Kuhn cannily observed in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions that paradigm shifts in science finally succeed because of generational change, not by convincing everyone.
  3. Normally the Wrongs have significant ability to resist accepting what’s Right. That’s why the study had to be terminated early. By the rules of the experiment, the guy had to agree to everything. This isn’t what happens in the wild. There’s always brokerage or negotiation. Failing a satisfactory compromise, we find divorce in marriage, secession in nations, and/or violence.

Very interesting that the authors of the study couldn’t find any “similar articles.” Power is a dangerous subject.

My new favorite restaurant in Holyoke: El Rincón Boricua, 216 Lyman Street. Open 7:00AM to 6:00PM. If you order a medium platter of pernil with a side of rice with peas, you’ll have enough for two people to overeat (I had to skip dinner last night after having lunch there yesterday). I cannot imagine what a large platter must be like. Try it. Delicious food and friendly service.

Happy New Year! (I guess Andrew Johnson did not count spelling among his many accomplishments.)


The High Cost of Always Being Right

“This might be the first study to systematically assess whether it is better to be right than happy; a Medline search in May 2013 found no similar articles. Our null hypothesis was that it is better to be right than happy.

“The intervention was for the male to agree with his wife’s every opinion and request without complaint. Even if he believed the female participant was wrong, the male was to bow and scrape…. The data safety monitoring committee stopped the study because of severe adverse outcomes after 12 days. By then the male participant found the female participant to be increasingly critical of everything he did. The situation had become intolerable by day 12. He sat on the end of their bed, made her a cup of tea, and said as much; explained the trial and then contacted the Data Safety Monitoring committee who terminated the trial immediately…. It seems that being right, however, is a cause of happiness, and agreeing with what one disagrees with is a cause of unhappiness.”

Being right or being happy: pilot study

The Last Word

“It’s a damn poor mind that can only think of one way to spell a word.”

—Andrew Johnson, American president, born December 29, 1808

The Road to Zero Population Singapore

“Young people everywhere have been allowed to choose between love and a garbage disposal unit. Everywhere they have chosen the garbage disposal unit.”

—Guy Debord, French writer, born December 28, 1931

320px-Garbage disposal from aboveAlmost everywhere the trend is toward zero population growth. There are a number of good reasons for it:

  • Social security provision in advanced economies replaces the need for children to care for aged parents.
  • Women are educated and participate in the workforce.
  • Housing is expensive in advanced economies. Large families take up more space.
  • Sex is no longer the only cheap entertainment available to most people. There’s a lot more to do in the dark today.
  • Birth control means that even when people are still having sex (see the piece about Japanese young people and the remarks in today’s link about rising “singlehood” among Singaporean women) they don’t have to have children if they don’t want to.

Model Railroads. Back in the day, there wasn’t much choice: you could either buy what Lionel or American Flyer offered or you made your own. People would have miniature machine tools to make their own rolling stock, even, as well as making landscapes out of sponges and houses out of balsa wood. Now you can buy it all.

I’m reminded also of John Phillip Sousa’s fears about mechanical reproduction of sound. We can listen to all of the music in the world (gain) but fewer of us can make music ourselves (loss).

I love to cook. I got there by loving food and wanting to eat things that I couldn’t get in the United States like Italian cooking as practiced in Italy and non-Americanized Chinese cooking. Much as I enjoy a meal in a good restaurant, I’d almost always rather eat my own cooking. I regret that I can’t play the piano or guitar: because I love music I’d like to make it with my own brain and hands, just as I do with cooking.



Zero Population Growth in Singapore

“Right now the total fertility rate in Singapore is at about 1.2 and at times it has slipped down as far as 1.16. ”

Why does Singapore have such a low birth rate?

Model Railroads, Yesterday and Today

american flyer“What we do today, and brilliantly, is model the entire railroad: We actually fill out the paper forms and “operate” the railroad more or less prototypically, even — here we find class again — modeling (reproducing) the social relations that make the General Code of Operating Rules come alive (leaving out the Jay Goulds and Jim Fisks, of course). And we model the landscape (the “scenery”) infinitely better today than we did forty years ago, although we model the contours of the land by carving pink slabs of (petroleum-based) styrofoam, spraying electrostatic (petroleum-based) model grasses, gluing down the track with caulking guns like Martha Stewart, instead of using metal spikes for pity’s sake….”

Happy Boxing Day: My Train Set, Devolution, and Evolution

The Last Word

“Men are able to trust one another, knowing the exact degree of dishonesty they are entitled to expect.”

—Stephen Leacock, Canadian economist, born December 30, 1869

Looking Backward at the Automobile Age

“Art is a kind of illness.”

—Giacomo Puccini, Italian composer, born December 22, 1858

Fuzzy dice detailA retrospective look at the transition from the automobile-dominated world of the early 21st century to the mostly carless world that came later. Cars really were right smack in the middle of everything back in the day, weren’t they?

10 Exhibits from the Phenomenology of Automobiles

  1. Hood Ornaments
  2. Hot Rod Magazine, 1948-Present
  3. Chickie Run (Rebel Without a Cause, 1955)
  4. “The Fo’d Got Hot and Wouldn’t Do No Mo’ — Maybellene, Chuck Berry, 1955
  5. The Edsel
  6. Chevy Corvair aka Unsafe at Any Speed
  7. Lizzies of the Field, Mack Sennet, 1924. I want a 40hp Snoozenberg.
  8. “Daisy Duke” — Catherine Bach in the Dukes of Hazzard, 1979
  9. On the Road Jack Kerouac, 1957
  10. Traffic Accident Compendium, U.S. Census, 2012


A Carless Future

184px-Bonnieclyde f“Workers no longer “go” to work 6 days a week. Workers got Saturday off in the mid–20th Century. Getting every-other Friday off (the 5/4 schedule) became standard by 2015, establishing the 3-day weekend every other week as the norm. By 2020, this was every weekend, as people moved to a 9 hour day, 4 days per week at the office, and the other 4 hours were “at home” work – checking email on the long weekend, erasing once strict separation of home and work. By 2025 taking every-other Monday off (the 4/3 schedule) was established in most large employers. Today we are seeing half-days on Wednesdays for many office workers, with only Tuesdays, Wednesday, and Thursdays as interactive collaboration days. The “flipped” office, where people were expected to do “work” at home on their own computers, and only show up for meetings is now standard.”

What happened to traffic?

The Last Word

“Every politician should have been born an orphan and remain a bachelor.”

—Lady Bird Johnson, American first lady, born December 22, 1912

Home for the Holidays

“The sacrifices of friendship were beautiful in her eyes as long as she was not asked to make them.”

—Hector Hugh Munro, British novelist, born December 18, 1870

keatingRead this piece about how the Federal government has addressed the potential criminality involved in the financial crisis in 2008 by Jed S. Rakoff, United States District Judge for the Southern District of New York. Comparisons with how the Savings and Loan and Junk Bond débâcles were treated are highly instructive. The five year statute of limitations on prosecutions is just about up, you’ll be happy to hear. Then it’s home for the holidays with Jamie Dimon, CEO of JP Morgan Chase, and his family.


Today and Tomorrow in #westernma

7:15-9:00AM Holyoke Chicopee Chamber December 2013 Salute Breakfast
8:45-11:45AM Holyoke River Valley Investors
5:00-8:00PM Longmeadow East of the River Chamber Time to Get Your Holiday On
5:00-7:00PM Holyoke Greater Holyoke Chamber After Hours
12:00-2:00PM Easthampton Don’t Eat Lunch Alone
12:00PM Springfield Exchange Club of Springfield
12:00-1:00PM Northampton Pioneer Valley Wellness Alliance
6:00-9:00PM Springfield How to Start Your Own Business


Michael Milken 1

The Last Word

“I find, in being black, a thing of beauty: a joy; a strength; a secret cup of gladness.”

—Ossie Davis, American actor, born December 18, 1917

Freakin’ Geopolitics

“History is a pack of lies about events that never happened told by people who weren’t there.”

—George Santayana, Spanish philosopher, born December 16, 1863

lossless-page1-157px-USSR Postcard Soviet Dominance over the Arctic.TIFWilliam Lyon Mackenzie King’s crack (what a great name!) about his country is oddly appropriate for this week when Canada announced plans to claim the North Pole as its territory. Because of climate change (in case you haven’t heard, the ice is melting fast up north), the Arctic is a geopolitical timebomb. Petroleum and other mineral resources attract attention from strategists in every country with claims to territory in the Arctic. New sealanes are opening: ice free Northwest and Northeast Passages will be a reality in a few more years. Canada has joined Russia, which planted a flag on the seabed 14,000 feet under the Pole in 2007, in asserting expansive new claims to sovereignty in the Arctic.

HitloHI did not know that Mackenzie King, the longest serving Prime Minister in Canadian history was a convinced Spiritualist who shared a deep love for Richard Wagner’s operas with Adolf Hitler. King believed that Hitler was a great man like Wagner’s heroes, who embody the struggle between good and evil, and would reject the dark side and redeem the German people. King always explicitly rejected the anti-Semitism and brutality of Nazi Germany, and strongly supported the Allies once the war started.

When did people start saying “frickin‘“ for ”friggin’”? And why did they change? There’s the alternative “freakin’” that you hear from time to time also. I’m a foul-mouthed baby boomer and tend to cut to the chase. More about words that we erroneously think are offensive novelties in 16 Words That Are Much Older Than They Seem.

Today and Tomorrow in #westernma

7:30-9:00AM Hadley Northampton Chamber Incite Breakfast
8:00AM Agawam Market Right
9:00-10:00AM Easthampton G.R.I.S.T. – Get Real Individual Support Today
6:00PM Holyoke Easthampton Chamber Holiday Dinner Dance
6:30PM Indian Orchard The Geek Group of Western Mass
8:00PM Amherst UMass Amherst Entrepreneurship Initiative Social
7:15-9:00AM Holyoke Chicopee Chamber December 2013 Salute Breakfast
8:45-11:45AM Holyoke River Valley Investors
5:00-8:00PM Longmeadow East of the River Chamber Time to Get Your Holiday On
5:00-7:00PM Holyoke Greater Holyoke Chamber After Hours


Dude, D’ya Have to Use So Many Cuss Words?


“No frigging way! Frigging has been around since the late 1500s, though it originally referred to masturbation and would not have made your sentence sound any more polite than it would have with that other word that frigging usually replaces. Since the beginning of the 1900s it has served as the more family-friendly substitute for that other word. In this 1943 quote, it can be seen in action alongside a few other ingenious substitute words: ‘This shunting frigging new arrangement…has got every flaming thing foxed up.’”

16 Words That Are Much Older Than They Seem

The Last Word

“If some countries have too much history, we have too much geography.”

—Mackenzie King, Canadian statesman, born December 17, 1874


“Selfishness must always be forgiven you know, because there is no hope of a cure.”

—Jane Austen, British writer, born December 16, 1775

3-ball cascade movieJane Austen and John Selden remind us to take the world as it is, not as we would like it to be. People can be reliably assumed to not be angels; governments and businesses can be expected to be chaotic and to demand improvisation and adaptability. The trick is to “juggle” realism, charity, and humor.

I was confounded by encountering a young Russian woman at Valley Venture Mentors last Wednesday who was smiling. I asked her what kind of Russian goes around smiling, which made her smile even more, and explain that she’s probably been out of Kirghizstan too long to be properly in control of her face. I linked a few weeks ago to Why Russians Are Not Smiling, which does a great job explaining the cultural reasons for Russians’ solemn demeanor. Go visit the young woman’s husband’s jazz website if you would like something to make you smile this morning.

Other cultures besides Eastern European ones have rules about smiling different from ours, too. Here’s a piece from reformed non-smiling Englishman Geoff Dyer that resonated with me: “Not smiling seemed a sign of high seriousness, the badge of the intellectual and reader of Adorno.” Ah, youth: we’re better off smiling. (By the way, the smiling Englishman was a great favorite of my mother’s, Terry-Thomas, often found leering in comedies in the fifties and sixties. Maybe guys like him convinced people that they were better off not smiling at all.) 

Today and Tomorrow in #westernma

7:30–9:00AM Hadley Northampton Chamber Incite Breakfast
8:00AM Agawam Market Right
9:00–10:00AM Easthampton G.R.I.S.T. – Get Real Individual Support Today
6:00PM Holyoke Easthampton Chamber Holiday Dinner Dance
6:30PM Indian Orchard The Geek Group of Western Mass
8:00PM Amherst UMass Amherst Entrepreneurship Initiative Social


Should Englishmen Smile?

189px-Terry-Thomas in Where Were You When the Lights Went Out“I remember very distinctly my parents insisting on the importance of being honest, of never telling lies, of always being dependable. What I don’t recall is their instilling in me the importance of a nice smile. Maybe they did and I just forgot, but that seems unlikely since although I turned out to be the soul of honesty and reliability, I ended up greeting the world with the face of an undertaker arriving – precisely on time – at the home of the bereaved. So was this, in order of specificity: just a familial oversight? A generational thing – I mean, are kids now taught to smile in the way that we learned our multiplication tables? Or is a paucity of smiles a persistent feature of British life?”

The Last Word

“The world cannot be governed without juggling.”

—John Selden, English statesman, born December 16, 1584

All About the Benjamins

“Democracy is not about making speeches. It is about making committees work.”

—Alan Bullock, British historian, born December 13, 1914

287px-Gavel PSFHaving spent much of the last four or five years working on committees, I can assure you that a good deal of speechmaking gets done. I sometimes wonder if the symbolic point of the chairperson’s gavel is to remind committee members that the chair can make herself thoroughly unpleasant if necessary, and has the weaponry at hand.

Now I know why a mild-mannered, benevolent person such as myself is so often forced to get snarky. I knew there must be a reason other than having been raised by wolves in New Jersey.


I knew that you can fold a one dollar bill so that George Washington morphs into a mushroom or mushroom cloud, and the close resemblance of Benjamin Franklin on the hundred to Jack Benny has often been noted, but I never knew how to turn Abraham Lincoln on the five into Bill Murray until Merlin Mann explained it.

Today and Tomorrow in #westernma

5:00PM Northampton Northampton Area Young Professionals Networking Social
6:00PM Southwick Expand Your Network Western Mass
7:15-9:00AM Westfield Greater Westfield Chamber Holiday Breakfast


320px-Lewis Carroll - Henry Holiday - Hunting of the Snark - Plate 8“Smarm, on the other hand, is never a force for good. A civilization that speaks in smarm is a civilization that has lost its ability to talk about purposes at all. It is a civilization that says ”Don’t Be Evil,” rather than making sure it does not do evil….The idea of success, or of successfulness, hangs over the whole subject of smarm. It is not true, after all, that the crisis of postmodernity has left us without any functioning system of shared values. What currently fills the space left by the waning or absence of traditional authority, for the most part, is the ideology and logic of the market….Snark is often conflated with cynicism, which is a troublesome misreading. Snark may speak in cynical terms about a cynical world, but it is not cynicism itself. It is a theory of cynicism.

“The practice of cynicism is smarm.”

On Smarm

The Last Word

“If you keep making jokes like that, somebody is going to shoot you, father.”

—Mary Todd Lincoln, American first lady, born December 13, 1818

What Should InCommN Do About Don’t Eat Lunch Alone?

“Time is a great teacher, but unfortunately it kills all its pupils.”

—Hector Berlioz, French composer, born December 11, 1803

200px-Blue question mark.svgWhat should InCommN do about Don’t Eat Lunch Alone? We schedule it twice a month in Easthampton, Greenfield, and Northampton. We get pretty thin turnouts. Maybe the DELA idea has gotten stale and we need to try something else. Any suggestions for what you would like to see (if anything) would be welcome. All of us are pretty busy and it’s often not possible for any of us to show up to host the various lunches. We don’t like doing that.

Continue reading “What Should InCommN Do About Don’t Eat Lunch Alone?”