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EXCURSIONS IN LATERAL THINKING FROM

AMHERST, MASSACHUSETTS AND THE PIONEER VALLEY








Tuesday, March 30, 2010

From Northampton, Massachusetts' Spring Social Calendar


The Book of Esther is the Bible's only book named for a woman.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Great Moments in the Global Economy #1: USA Distributed with Pride


Several years ago I purchased a siphon pump from my local hardware store. With the halo of 9/11 still luminous, American flag waving remained all the rage—for American businesses as well. Displaying the flag at one’s place of business was a no-brainer, but for many firms, putting flag images on their packaging was more challenging--because most American firms no longer make anything. Not a problem for the weasels at Chicago Tools of Illinois—the purveyor of my siphon pump. Witness their packaging--illustrated above--which proclaims:

USA DISTRIBUTED WITH PRIDE

The back of the package revealed the pump’s origins in China. But why not exult in Chicago Tools' patriotic role at the American end of the supply chain?

Did I mention that Chicago Tools of Illinois is located in Fort Campbell, Kentucky?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Seven Sandwiches to Contemplate


“The Lust for me; the Sloth for him,” an auburn-haired college sophomore urged a waitstaffer across the counter at the Newman Catholic Center Cafe on the UMass Amherst campus.

It’s sinfully appetizing these days at the cafe, where the Seven Deadly Sins sandwich menu offers customers a septet of alternatives that infuse lunch with added meaning. Sandwich prices run from the $3.95 Greed—four unadorned hamburg sliders on a bun—to the $6.95 Envy—a wrap swaddling two varieties of cheese melted around fried chicken and broccoli.

The themed sandwich menu was the inspiration of cafe operations manager Jason Wonsey, who has run the establishment since early in the last decade. “I’d wanted to do this from the beginning, but I waited a couple of years to test the waters,” he confesses. Whether patrons themselves have tendered their own confessions about sandwiches to the Newman Center’s priests-in residence seems improbable, but the Church does have its miracles.

Participate in a Profane Survey. How much/how often do you indulge in the Seven Deadly Sins? Psychology professor Richard Wiseman at the University of Hertfordshire and the author of Quirkology and The Luck Factor is conducting an on-line survey on the subject. To learn more about the survey, which is associated with the Edinburgh International Science Festival, visit his web site here.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Real Time Cross-Cultural Negotiation Exercise: U.S. and China












Click here for a piece that I wrote last week about a real-time cross-cultural negotiation exercise between UMass Isenberg School MBA students and their counterparts in an economics class at Shanghai Normal University.

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Brand that Was You


This blog installment means neither to praise nor dis the burgeoning craft of branding. What a growth industry it has become! Just like power tools, ping pong balls, universities, and New Age retreats, individuals have their own brands too. What hopes I had for the improvement of my own personal brand 13 years ago after discovering Tom Peters’ heady article, The Brand Called You !

But even though I’ve repeatedly let myself down, it’s a comfort to grasp at future opportunities for revisionism, if not in life, then afterwards via my local newspaper’s obituary column. For several years, The Daily Hampshire Gazette has turned to reader-penned obituaries. In the title line, beside the honoree’s name, the author gets to distill a life’s impact in a word or two:

Here are my own favorites from the past half year. (I’ve changed the names and ages of the innocent, but left the brands intact.):


9. Eunice Banks, 83, Very active in Haydenville church

8 . Biff Webster, 57, “Totally Perf” person

7. William Langley, Lionel Trains Enthusiast

6. Jerold Hadley, 91, Promoted Local Asparagus

5. Kathleen O’Day, 96, 6th Generation Vermonter

4. Martha Wobst, 72, Loved Clocks

3. Consuela Juarez, 74, of Texas

2. Lisa Koch, 86, Hummel Collector

1. Webster O’Brien, 81, Loved to Cut the Grass

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Habib Koite at the Iron Horse


Malian singer-songwriter-guitarist Habib Koite is playing the Iron Horse this Sunday at 7 p.m. His ensemble, Bamada, is one of Mali’s tightest, most accomplished bands. Here’s a link to my review of their concert in Shelburne Falls from several years back. You could do worse than spending time with them at the Horse this Sunday.

Job Creation during Recessionary Times: An occasional series












When times get tough, the tough get tapping.

Maple Syrup and Tombstones: Cemetery, East Street, Petersham, Massachusetts
Worcester Telegram & Gazette (T&G Staff/Christine Peterson)

Blaming the Victim









After an especially poignant dope slap, the inimitable Curley Howard would sometimes times protest:

I’m a victim of coicumstance!

Forcibly departed Amherst ex-superintendent Alberto Rodriguez will soon fade from the memory of most Amherstites, but one of his protestations deserves special treatment. It's worthy, I think, of Bartlett’s:

I'm a victim of transparency!

That was in response to the avid villagers who publicly rummaged through the news of his 40 days away from his $175,000 job between last August and the end of April.

When I last checked, transparency was a virtue--in the accountability of well-paid public servants, the financial records of publicly traded businesses, and the aspirations of aspiring water borders. Not that Mr. Rodriguez was a miscreant, but that he was, for the sake of the town, accountable--sooner rather than later.