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Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Accounting for my (Lapsed) Judaism

Debits on the left. Credits on the right
This post celebrates the 80th birthday of  Dick Asebrook. He teaches accounting at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. 

I guess I'm one of those secular Jews. Many factors are to blame, but none more so than my Bar Mitzvah itself. For me, the run-up to that great day in June of 1963 was nothing less than an Old Testament ordeal, given my growing teenage disinterest and  incompetence with  Hebrew. But I grunted it out. The payoff: reading  a portion from the Book of Numbers enumerating bulls, rams, sheep, and goats for distribution to the righteous. Sour grapes (mercifully not Manischewitz):
my friends got all the juicier portions like the Abraham/Isaac sacrificial showdown and the Red Sea beatdown. (I'm not doing well here with the Seventh Commandment--Thou Shall Not Covet.)

Here's some Book of Numbers bookkeeping:

Each half included 337,500 sheep and goats, 36,000 cattle, 30,500 donkeys, and 16,000 young women [Oy!]. From the half that belonged to the soldiers, Moses counted out 675 sheep and goats, 72 cattle, 61 donkeys, and 32 women [Oy Vey!] and gave them to Eleazar to be dedicated to the LORD. Then from the half that belonged to the people, Moses set aside one out of every 50 animals and women, as the LORD had said, and gave them to the Levites.

More Accounting Karma
Fast forward twenty years and I'd begun my forty-year vacation as a writer/editor at UMass Amherst's Isenberg School of Management. Call it chance; call it Divine punishment--more than half of my friends turned out to be accounting professors, most of them former CPAs. How could I resist their company? A
ccountants have more fun. Unlike other academics,  accounting professors, seldom talk accounting in social settings. That's because, Professor Asebrook remarks, they have better things to discuss.

Anderson Cooper Regrets
Earlier this year, I was perplexed to learn that Anderson Cooper, my favorite (non-Jewish) news anchor, had suffered from a chronic case of Bar Mitzvah envy. Anderson explained that during his wonder years, most of his friends were Jews and, forgive the verb, Bar Mitzvahed. Poor Anderson was the odd man out. My  advice to him: Be careful what you wish for.

Monday, August 22, 2022

Queuing for Cones: We All Queue for Ice Cream

On an August afternoon in Hadley, Massachusetts, temperatures soared above eighty degrees in the shade.  (Who would be crazy enough to stand in the shade?)  Not the sturdy souls queued up for twelve or so minutes in the scorching sun for cones and sundaes at Maple Valley Creamery's  ice cream stand. Why endure such torture? Is it the decline of the neighborhood ice cream man? Or the ironic, dubious tradeoff of hellish heat for conic comfort?  "The wait sucks, but it's worth it to get it straight from the cow," remarked one wincing customer. 

Social scientists and engineers have sought to improve efficiency in lines.  But there isn't much to be done at stands like Maple Farm's, which sport only one server. (Perhaps acrobatics by trained bovines might distract customers from their predicament.) That places the challenge squarely on the consumer. Malia Wollan, in the New York Times, recommends several research-based tactics: distract yourself with a book or music; look at the unfortunates behind you and feel superior; and, conversely, consider your shared predicament with others an opportunity to embrace "community." 

Then again, miscreants pursue a seamier solution: They cut.  Here's a memorable tactic in a clip from Larry David's Curb Your Enthusiasm.




Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Healthcare's Word of the Day: " PERFECT!"


Not sure when it began, but today's bon mot among health care providers and their minions is "PERFECT!" "Bend over on the examination table; open wide;--PERFECT! Thanks for completing that five page form--PERFECT!" Next time you visit your cardiologist, urologist, or GP be on the lookout for perfection. Like Covid and the common cold, "perfect" has gone viral.

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

APB: Where Is Sarah?


Lovely design, but its message fails to do justice. The Punch Brothers and Watchhouse (formerly Mandolin Orange) are both best of class on America's vibrant "Neo-Acoustic" music scene.  But so is Sarah Jarosz, whose name (get out your magnifying glass)  appears on the poster just south of the headliners. That name suggests an appendage, an afterthought. True, the Punch Brothers and Watchhouse have substantial followings in the Northampton and national markets.  But Jarosz, who has toured and recorded for over a decade, enjoys a similarly strong  critical and popular following. And over the long haul,  her exceptional songwriting may well set her apart--some of it earning a place in the "Great American Songbook."

The poster, then, offers a less than ideal cohabitation of function and form. In concert, all three musical acts should fare better on that account. So peruse the poster and don't miss this exceptional concert.

Where Is Sara? Don't know--Greek to me.
Where Is Sarah? Not sure--Greek to Me