Monday, June 27, 2011


I have a piece that I’ll post before too long on earthquakes and faith. As a introduction or forward I’ll post these thoughts I shared with some work colleagues right after the devastating Haitian earthquake in response to a quote in a newspaper. “A British seismologist says the 7.0-magnitude earthquake that struck Haiti was "the big one" the Caribbean had been dreading.”

True to a point. It was a bad quake largely because of the population concentration coupled with the universally poor building construction in Haiti. Here’s the Richter scale below. A 7.0 quake just barely makes the “Major” category – this was almost a “Strong.” By comparison, the devastating Alaskan quake of 1964 was over 9.2 on the scale (second worst ever recorded in the world). Each full point on the Richter scale represents a 10x increase. So the Alaskan quake was 100x the magnitude of this Haitian quake. A 7.0 quake wouldn’t even make the Top 20 historic US quakes:

Can you imagine if a 9, or even 8 scale quake had hit Haiti? Al Gore should worry more about earthquakes than climate change (Wait, don’t go telling him that, he may follow your advice and try to muddy that arm of science as well). Scale:

Great  >8
Major 7.0 – 7.9
Strong 6.0 – 6.9
Moderate 5.0 – 5.9

Association Fixation

From bankers to bakers, beekeepers to bison farmers, tin merchants to tortilla handlers, everyone has an association to call their own. Americans claim individuality with an overstated passion. Yet we choose, quite voluntarily, to band together in more than 7,500 organizations, academies, associations, societies, councils, brotherhoods, institutes, alliances, boards, and leagues, according to the National Trade and Professional Associations of the United States (NTPA). We are witnesses to a virtual epidemic of modern-day collaborations from a nation of self-proclaimed rebels.

In fact of course, trade associations are not new and their origins well pre-date our American Revolution. Craft guilds, merchant associations, common traders banded together in ancient times. China, Egypt, Japan, India, and Rome all possessed trade groups to set wages and prices and foster apprentice training. During the Middle Ages craft and merchant guilds increased in power and developed strict regulations and numerous member services. Before our Civil War most United States’ trade associations were local or regional. The Spermaceti Candlers formed in Rhode Island as early as 1762 and 20 merchants formed the New York Chamber of Commerce, the oldest trade association still in existence in North America, in 1768. The early 1900s saw a steady growth in national business and trade associations due to increasing foreign competition, but also the advantage of sharing ideas and techniques and in consolidating the power to influence others.

Has cooperation and fellowship run amuck though? Is there a trade, industry, or interest group out in the American hinterlands without a formal organization to call its own? Apparently not, judging from the diverse associations listed in the NTPA directory. It may be hard to believe but some among us are dues-paying members of these prestigious organizations:

Accordion Federation of North America, Academy of Accounting Historians, National Society of Mural Painters, Sunglass Association of America, American Association of Railroad Surgeons, Allied Underwear Association, American Alligators Farmers Association, Wild Bird Feeding Institute, American Association of Variable Star Observers, Vinyl Siding Institute (they only call their members at home during suppertime), Tree Ring Society, American Fern Society, The Oxygen Society, Acrylic Council, Third Class Mail Association, Karaoke International Sing-along Association, National Hay Association, AM/FM International (Automated Mapping/Facilities Management, that is), Adhesion Society, and Air Distribution Institute (isn’t that called “wind”?).

Hungry for more? Check out the Association for Dressings and Sauces, Pickle Packers International, American Association of Cereal Chemists, the Vinegar Institute, National Barbecue Association, American Association of Swine Practitioners, and the National Association of Chewing Gum Manufacturers, to name but a few. If some of these food organizations are looking to consolidate, my humble suggestion: merge the Salt Institute with the Popcorn Institute and both with the Paper Bag Institute and have the Leafy Greens Council join the American Blue Cheese Association.

A sampling of professional associations that could make even Dilbert cringe: National Association of Reunion Planners, Society of Company Meeting Planners, Academy of Marketing Science, the National Infomercial Marketing Association, the Fulfillment Management Association, the American Professional Sleep Society, the Sports Turf Managers Association, and of course, the Affiliated Board of Officials.

In the interest of self-preservation, I will totally refrain from questioning society’s need for the American Association of Nurse Attorneys, the American (I-feel-your) Pain Society, the Professional Bail Agents of the United States, or the Aftermarket Body Parts Association (four-wheeled or human variety?).

I’m certain that these organizations serve a worthy purpose and are critical to America’s economic health, well being, and global competitiveness. I just can’t quite rise to their defense right now or I’ll be late for the start of my council meeting.


The Author confesses that, in addition to being addicted to several professional and trade associations, he is a card-carrying member of the New England Moxie Congress.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

H Towns

I do love exploring small towns when I travel for business and often I find myself visiting a manufacturing plant far removed from a major city, especially in the Midwest or South. This past week I was about an hour west of St. Louis for a client (yes, prime tornado country I know) and stayed in the small town of Warrenton (pop. ~5,000+). The facility I was visiting was actually just across the town line into a bustling burg of ~375 folks – funny because the plant employs 200 itself.

Leaving St. Louis, Interstate 70 cuts east to west and its right of way alignment skims the edges of each small burg it encounters, including Warrenton and Wright City.  For the most part I-70 parallels old State Route 40 which now serves as a continuous two-lane “service road,” as transportation planners like to call them. Because the interstate divides one area of town from the other, a second access road was constructed on the other side of I-70, also in parallel fashion.

But the net effect of this interstate construction was to create towns with a distinct “H” pattern of main thoroughfares and traffic flow as development built up along each leg of the H. The interstate’s interchange and overpass forms the connecting bar of the H.

An H on its side with the service roads forming the legs.
When you find yourself way down one leg of the H and need to travel to an opposite leg, it’s up to the overpass across the highway and down the leg on the other side. Just something I’m not at all used to here in New England. And since there are no guard rails or fences separating these service roads from the interstate payment, I do find it a little disconcerting to be driving 50 miles an hour on a two lane road but facing semi trucks that are coming toward me at 80 mph. I guess your brain probably adjusts with time. But if one of those rig drivers loses his attention and wanders in my direction, we’re closing at 130 mph! Some small planes don’t fly that fast.

A sampling of Warrenton and Wright City – at least the sights that interest me and my cell phone camera.

Lots of elbow room on Main Street Warrenton

One chair, possible waiting
When was the last time you saw a Sinclair station?

Truesdale, MO

Sign bones, Warrenton

Availability on the service road, Wright City

Wright City shops

Friday, June 24, 2011

A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Cast

Peter Falk passed away this week at the age of 83. Aside from his career in theatre he was best known as the slouchy, disheveled detective Colombo on the long-running TV show. A good series it was but I will remember him most for playing the part of a taxi cab driver in my favorite comedy, It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. That epic film had dozens of name brand actors and comedians, some famous ones just in bit roles. Most have left us, several within just a few years of the film’s 1963 release:

Buster Keaton – 1966
Spencer Tracy – 1967
Jack Benny – 1974
Paul Ford – 1976
Andy Devine – 1977
Jimmy Durante – 1980
Ethel Merman – 1984
Phil Silvers – 1985
Dick Shawn – 1987
Jim Backus – 1989
Terry-Thomas – 1990
Sterling Holloway – 1992
Norman Fell – 1998
Milton Berle – 2002
Buddy Hackett – 2003
Don Knotts - 2006
Edie Adams – 2008
Arnold Stang – 2009
Dorothy Provine – 2010

Who among the august cast is still living?

Sid Caesar, Mickey Rooney, Jonathan Winters and Carl Reiner, all born in the 1920s. Oh, and Jerry Lewis who is in the news today as being ill had a bit part.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Would You Like a Doctrine with that Corolla?

Sometimes I’ll be occupied by an activity but have the radio or TV playing in the background when a news item or ad jars me back to full awareness.  That happening this morning with a radio ad for Lexus used cars: “Our cars are not just pre-owned, they’re pre-selected.”  What? I can buy a Presbyterian Lexus now?  I wonder, can Buddhists get a Lexus that was a Yugo in its former life?

Friday, June 3, 2011


Some of my favorite love songs are the sad, pensive, moody ones. Oh wait, that covers about 95% of what’s out there. Heck, some artists made an entire career on “When will I be loved?" lyrics (Linda Ronstadt are your ears burning?). But that won’t deter me from listing my top five favorite sad/pensive/moody post-doo-wop era love songs anyway. In order even.

#1. Sad Memory by Buffalo Springfield off their second album, recorded September 5, 1967 in LA. Richie Furay wrote this and sang the lead. Neil Young played lead guitar. No other band members were in the studio. Haunting.

#2. Caroline No was the last cut on the Beach Boys Pet Sounds album, composed and sung by Brian Wilson. This was released as a Brian single but did not chart particularly well. Haunting II.

#3. Listen to Your Heart by DHT, which reportedly stood for Dance House Trance. The more popular version of this song has a strong dance club flavor. But dance clubs and sad/pensive/moody don’t go well together. DHT was a Belgian duo: singer Edmée Daenen and Flor Theeuwes.

#4. Love Is by Vanessa Williams and Brian MacKnight. Great song that got a good bit of airplay in its day but then fell off the radar screen.

#5. I Can’t Make You Love Me by Bonnie Raitt. Well written & well performed.

That’s it. I bet you can’t listen to all five without tearing up. Come on, fess up!