What’s Got Me Hopelessly Distracted Today


I’m sorry to get nothing done. But I’ve just learned of the Tonawanda Kardex Lumbermen, a team which played one game as a member of the National Football League. This was the 6th of November, 1921, when they lost to the Rochester Jeffersons by a score of 45-0. They didn’t re-join the league in 1922, possibly because the league fee went up from $20 to $1000.

Wikipedia lists the team as, in 1921, having played two other games that season. One was the 9th of October against the Syracuse team, which had no known name, and which people used to think was a member of the National Football League because the Syracuse team claimed they were. The National Football League doesn’t think they were, but maybe all the paperwork saying they joined or were in the league or left got lost? It was a scoreless tie when, seventeen minutes in, the rain was too bad to continue. Their other game was scheduled for the 30th of October, against the Rochester Scalpers, but got cancelled.

Also the article says that professional football was played in Tonawanda by no later than 1913, saying, “this terminus ad quem comes from records that show the team lost to the Lancaster Malleables”. And I am lost in admiration of whatever Wikipedia editor jammed the term “terminus ad quem” in to a paragraph about when we know professional football was played in Tonawanda, New York. So, anyway, you can see why there’s no hope of my doing anything when I have information like this on my plate.

Can’t lie, I kind of miss this era of professional sports.

How To Have A Small Business


There are over nine ways to get your own small business. The quickest to start is to locate some large business that nobody’s paying particular attention to, and hit them with the full might of your shrink ray. If you then have a large enough bottle you can keep the business in your home as a convenient profit-generating center. If you do this make sure to poke some holes in the lid to let fresh air in. But this approach, while it skips many of the harder parts of getting set up, does have its lasting costs, not to mention the trouble of dropping in needed business supplies like shrunken lunches and miniature dry-erase markers and ISO 9.001 certification. Plus if they develop superpowers in the shrinking you’re in for all sorts of headaches. Small headaches, yes, but they might be persistent.

Taking a medium-size business and shrinking it a little bit is generally safer. But this, ironically, requires a larger floor plan to fit the appropriate scale. Putting the businesses close enough to HO scale means the disparity will be noticed only by the most exacting train enthusiasts. Three-quarters of all model railroad layouts are former commercial districts plucked out of their original communities by train enthusiasts running their own businesses. Utica, New York, was formerly a bustling megalopolis of over two million people before it was dispersed into thousands of model sets, and there are concerns the city disappeared in 2014, but we haven’t had the chance to get back upstate to check. Its residents have suggested they could swipe Rochester which is somehow a completely different upstate New York city, but they haven’t had the chance to get over there and check either. Anyway, check whether your business district is right for you before shrinking it.

When it comes to starting a small business of your own the basic idea is to provide some goods and, or, or services. Goods, though, are right out. The trouble with goods is you need to extract them from wherever they come — the ground, probably — which is a lot of digging and hard work for stuff that turns out to be worth as much as stuff found in the ground around your home would be. There is a market for moldy leaves and sun-faded empty cans of Diet Dr Pepper Cherry Vanilla. But it’s not one that pays well to the people who actually find stuff. And unless you expand your resource-gathering territory vastly it just won’t bring you that much money. If you don’t extract them, then you have to make them out of something someone else found. And that seems like it should be workable, except that it turns out anything you have to do a lot of, a robot can do better and cheaper. So they’ll cut you out of the doing of it and then where are you? Goodless, that’s where.

Services, then, look a lot more promising. In services you don’t necessarily find or make anything that can be definitely traced back to you. You just do something, and trust that someone else will realize they need to pay you for it. Where this breaks down is that you need to convince someone who has money that they should give it to you for that. But there are already plenty of people earning a living by rhetorically asking the television whether the people who make the News at Noon understand how they look, or engaging convenience store cashiers in elaborate stories about how much change they have, and there’s no need for more of them. What you need is your own niche.

A niche is a little spot where your project can thrive, kind of like Mrs Frisby’s cinder block home, in the vast farmer’s field of capitalism. A good (not goods) niche should be several paces from one side to the other, be reasonably dry, close to good sources of food, and should come with a team of genetically modified super-intelligent rats who can put together a block-and-tackle system to move it from peril. You can carry on without rats for a while, but the crash will come. Many observers credit the collapse of Pacific Electric Railway and the disappearance of Pan Am to well-intentioned pest controllers who relocated their rats to the American Broadcasting Company and to Cisco, respectively.

If you can’t stand the rats you might make do with a couple of guinea pigs with master’s degrees. But that’s really only appropriate if you regard your business as a bit of a lark (not the bird). And if you don’t mind when it comes to a sudden tragic end as the guinea pigs look on indifferently and squeak. The lesson is clear, and should really be made plain by someone or other.

When Time Came To New Jersey


New Sweden was established in the Delaware River valley, in what is now southern New Jersey and southeastern Pennsylvania and the Twelve Mile Circle of Delaware, by exactly the nation you’d imagine, in 1638. It carried itself along for just under two decades. In 1655 the colony was conquered by, and absorbed into, the Dutch colony of the New Netherlands. But this expanded New Netherlands, with outposts along what they termed the North River (the Hudson) and the South River (the Delaware), would stay in Dutch control for barely a dozen years. In 1667 the whole colony was conquered by the English, New Amsterdam famously surrendering without firing a shot. History moves on: in 1673 the colony would be reconquered by the Dutch, New York less-famously surrendering without firing a shot. But they would be returned to England a year later, in the peace treaty which concluded the Third Anglo-Dutch War. The settlement would be exchanged for various East Indies spice islands, including Run, the legendary fount of nutmeg.

The many states of Europe adopted Pope Gregory’s reformed calendar — our modern calendar — at different times, mostly based on the religious politics of the state. Sweden held fast to the Julian calendar until 1700, when it made an attempt to switch over which went so wrong they had to create a February 30th to clean up the mess. (They would finally adopt the Gregorian Calendar successfully in 1753.) The states of the Netherlands switched to the Gregorian calendar or stuck, ten days behind, with the Julian calendar, depending on the religious preferences of the state. The colony of the New Netherlands was settled by the West Indies Company. The company was organized in the Catholic state of Holland, and so would be on the Gregorian calendar. England stuck it out on the Julian calendar through 1752 while telling itself it was so Protestant that the other Protestant nations couldn’t even see its Protestant-ness from where they were.

Presumably at least some part of the conquest of territories by new powers is to adjust the calendar for the residents. The courts, the tax assessors, all the business of government will naturally cling to the time which the regent keeps. North America may be far from Europe, and farther in the 17th century, but it would be intolerable to have European outposts not even agree what day the 21st of April is.

Therefore a resident of New Sweden should have seen her calendar switched from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar sometime after the Dutch conquest in 1655, losing ten days but getting a spring that actually starts in mid-March. And then she would have to see ten days stuffed back into the calendar somehow in 1667, with the English conquest. Possibly the Dutch would take the ten days back out again in 1673, if they didn’t have bigger problems to tend to what with being at war with both the English and the Anglos. If they did, then the resident had to stuff ten days back into her calendar as it switched back again a year later.

This surely annoyed and baffled the locals. It was confusing and frustrating enough in Europe where the calendar standards were fairly well-established and known for the whole 17th century. On what they regarded as the frontier these standards must have been even more whimsical and arbitrary. And yet I’ve never heard of any incidents involving the alternating calendars. I don’t even know when New Sweden’s calendars were changed, or New Netherland’s, or whether it changed for the Dutch interregnum. I know about the annoyances of 1752, since that’s renowned in calendar studies. It’s like hearing about the Beatles; if you haven’t, you just don’t know the subject at all. Of course, 1752 I know from the British perspective and people talking about William Hogarth paintings and whatnot. It’s just assumed that the North American colonies went along, things unfolding about the way they did in London. Or at least Sheffield.

I don’t pretend to be an expert on the history of New Jersey or the surrounding states. I doubt I own more than ten histories of New Jersey, and fewer than half of them are academic texts. But I don’t remember it ever getting a single line of mention ever. The dates must have changed, but when, and how was it done? And what did the people living with the change think of it all? How much of a hassle was it, and what were people saying about the trouble, especially when it kept coming up over and over again? They must have told at least some jokes about the absurdity of this all; what were they?

So with this to ponder, I think you’ll agree I was right not to do a lick of work today, and I appreciate your understanding, boss. I can’t make promises for tomorrow either. But if you do have any contacts with the New Jersey Historical Society we just might be able to come to some arrangement. Isn’t that everything you could ask for?

Statistics Saturday: Counting On The Splendid Bowl


If current trends continue, then in the year … … there will have been as many Splendid Bowls as there are or were:
2020 Faces and vertices of the medial rhombic triacontahedron
2026 Days in January and February (non-bissextile years)
2026 Minimum number of games in the National Hockey League postseason (per rules in effect for 2015)
2027 Days in January and February (leap years)
2028 Counties in New York State
2031 Years between a Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania groundhog’s first being recorded to predict the weather and the predictive groundhog’s receiving the name “Phil” [1]
2034 Secretaries of State of the United States (as of 2015)
2044 Inches of height of Michael Jordan
2048 Games in a regular National Basketball Association season (as of 2015)
2049 Episodes of the original Star Trek
2054 International Astronomical Union-recognized constellations
2071 Maximum number of games in the National Hockey League postseason (per rules in effect for 2015)
2173 Recipients of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (as of January 2015)
2331 Days in the year
2686 Species of Pokemon revealed as of 2015
9886 Elements of the sporadic Mathieu group M11

1: Wikipedia’s description is very breezy and chatty, causing me to doubt that the topic has been the subject of credible historical inquiry.

The State of Snacking, 2014


Maybe you remember New York State getting into some comic parliamentary-procedure hissy fits over whether to declare an Official State Snack, since it was pretty funny as state legislators get in declaring Official State things plus The Daily Show and I think The Colbert Report featured it a couple nights running. Certainly I remember it when I think about shortly before deciding not to snack on yoghurt. Apparently everybody in Albany got tired with the issue because they approved it last week and now New York has an Official State Snack, in case you want to snack in a stateishly official way.

According to the Reuters report on it, there are other states with Official Snacks, some of which make good sense: Texas has tortilla chips and salsa and Illinois has popcorn, both of which I have to agree are unmistakably states. Utah, apparently, declared Jell-O its official state snack, taking the Jell-O corporation almost completely by surprise. You can almost hear the ghost of Jack Benny going “What?”

The startling thing is that South Carolina has an Official Snack of boiled peanuts. I’ve read the article multiple times and read it out loud to make sure I haven’t got it wrong, but there it is: boiled peanuts. I would guess they had translated something wrong, maybe going from roasted peanuts or peanut butter through Google Translate and coming out with something obviously nonsense like “marsupial cactus”, and taking their best guess at fixing it knowing it should be something-or-other peanuts. But the article was posted by Reuters and I’m pretty sure they have English speakers over in Reuterland. So as ever, learning something new causes me to feel like I know less about the world.

Robert Benchley: The Most Popular Book Of The Month


[ In Of All Things, Robert Benchley includes a review of the phone book in a mode of deliberate misunderstanding that’s at least still current. Benchley though goes on at greater length with deeper thought than most people writing this sort of piece do, which is one of the things which made Robert Benchley turn out to be Robert Benchley, and includes one of his less-common but still popular pithy quotes. As he predicted elsewhere, though, the quote gets better if you take more than the single sentence from its paragraph. I confess also not being sure just what’s meant by “clb bdg stbls”. ]

New York City (including all Boroughs) Telephone Directory— N. Y. Telephone Co., N. Y. 1920. 8vo. 1208 pp.

IN picking up this new edition of a popular favorite, the reviewer finds himself confronted by a nice problem in literary ethics. The reader must guess what it is.

There may be said to be two classes of people in the world; those who constantly divide the people of the world into two classes, and those who do not. Both classes are extremely unpleasant to meet socially, leaving practically no one in the world whom one cares very much to know. This feeling is made poignant, to the point of becoming an obsession, by a careful reading of the present volume.

We are herein presented to some five hundred thousand characters, each one deftly drawn in a line or two of agate type, each one standing out from the rest in bold relief. It is hard to tell which one is the most lovable. In one mood we should say W. S. Custard of Minnieford Ave. In another, more susceptible frame of mind, we should stand by the character who opens the book and who first introduces us into this Kingdom of Make-Believe— Mr. V. Aagaard, the old “Impt. & Expt.” How one seems to see hinm, impting and expting all the hot summer day through, year in and year out, always beading the list, but always modest and unassuming, always with a kindly word and a smile for passers-by on Broadway!

Continue reading “Robert Benchley: The Most Popular Book Of The Month”

Flight To Ohio


While looking for schemes to fly around the holidays I discovered that United Airlines is willing to fly me, or possibly anyone, from White Plains, New York, to Akron, Ohio, on January 6th, leaving at 7:36 am and arriving at 3:24 pm, for only $883. Of course it’s not nonstop. For that kind of cash you’re lucky they’re landing at all instead of just circling around Akron, pointing it out to you, and laughing as they sail off to Louisville.

That’s intrigued me. United appears to believe that there are people who need to get from White Plains to Akron on the first Monday of the new year so desperately that they’ll pay nearly a thousand dollars for the privilege. Or else United really, really hates the idea of getting up in the morning, for which I can’t blame them, although they’re the ones who don’t think they could just get started two hours later and let people get into Akron in time for dinner. Maybe United is trying to insult one of the towns, but in that case, is it White Plains or Akron they’re being snarky about? I’m guessing it’s not White Plains, given how that municipality has such convenient access to Rye Playland, but beating up on Akron seems just mean-spirited. Maybe it’s January 6th that they’re trying to insult, supposing that the day has too much going for it and needs to be taken down a peg?

I wonder how many people are taking them up on the offer. Will the people who do gather in the lounge at White Plains Something Or Other Airport and swap stories about what’s in Akron that’s worth nearly a thousand dollars, eight hours of travel time, and a stop in O’Hare for. “I dunno,” I imagine their saying, “Just wasn’t hep enough for the flight from Binghamton to Moline, Illinois, I suppose.”

Finley Peter Dunne: Casual Observations


I had enough fun flipping through Finley Peter Dunne’s Mr Dooley’s Philosophy, including a section of “Casual Observations” at the end, that I’ll bring a couple of them up as today’s entry.


Th’ nearest anny man comes to a con-ciption iv his own death is lyin’ back in a comfortable coffin with his ears cocked f’r th’ flatthrin’ remarks iv th’ mourners.


A fanatic is a man that does what he thinks th’ Lord wud do if He knew th’ facts iv th’ case.


It takes a sthrong man to be mean. A mean man is wan that has th’ courage not to be gin’rous. Whin I give a tip ’tis not because I want to but because I’m afraid iv what th’ waiter’ll think. Russell Sage is wan iv Nature’s noblemen.


The last particularly delights me since I attended graduate school in Troy, New York, just up the hill from Russell Sage College. According to campus lore passed around Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, the things Russell Sage hated most in a life spent hating people and things were education, women, and educating women; and his widow, Margaret Olivia Sage, donated much of his fortune to schools, particularly schools for women. This is a good enough story I’ve never looked closely enough into Russell Sage’s biography to tell whether it’s true.

Clipped


I know it’s time to get my hair cut because my hair turns into this shaggy and unruffled attitude that makes me look like someone set off a small tunneling detonation inside a guinea pig. Then my hair catches any gusts of wind, and billows up into this enormous shaggy cloud. Then the wind picks up, and the hair cloud catches enough air that it lifts me up and I go drifting into a nearby municipality.

It used to be worse. I lost a lot of weight a couple years ago, so back before then my hair had to get much longer to lift me off the ground. People in Piscataway, New Jersey, would call in reporting this strange man-sized figure with a puff of shaggy hair a dozen feet in diameter drifting in the air, and the police wouldn’t believe them, because they knew full well I’d gone to graduate school and was drifting over Hoosick Falls, New York, by then.

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