Category Archives: Happiness

Why you don’t want your city to become Silicon Valley

Silicone Valley NewsSilicone Valley News

For the last few years I’ve heard and read that St. Louis just might be the next Silicon Valley.
I haven’t just heard that about St. Louis. I’ve heard the same thing about Pittsburgh, Kansas City, Denver, Houston, Columbus, and just about every decent-sized city in America.

Of course, Silicon Valley has a lot going for it. The region is a source of a whole lot of innovation, and the people who work there can become (or already are) very, very rich. But even if we could make St. Louis, Kansas City, Omaha, or any other midwestern city the next San Jose, would we really want to? Silicon Valley isn’t exactly problem-free. Some of the challenges facing residents and communities of the Bay Area prove that a staggering amount of money isn’t just a blessing.

It can also be a curse.

The cost of housing in Silicon Valley is astronomical, forcing many relatively well-paid workers into less-than-desirable living situations. In fact, Silicon Valley is one of the most economically unequal places in the world. There’s a reason why Task Rabbit thrives in the Bay Area: Teachers, police officers, nurses, and other employees working in professions that are critical to a functional and safe society often cannot afford to live in the communities they serve without trying to monetize their every waking minute.

Personally, I’m glad I live in a metropolitan area where I can afford a decent home without having to pick up someone else’s dry cleaning. In fact, earlier in my career, I had opportunities to move to California for jobs that offered a significant salary increase. However, that salary increase was more than eaten up by the cost of living. In other words, a 20% raise and a move to Silicon Valley would end with me, my wife, and our three kids moving from a home with enough space for all of us to a 600-square-foot apartment.

When I envision that scenario, I immediately think of those movies where unsuspecting tourists get sent to a cramped prison cell in Thailand.

No thanks.

For a whole lot of people, Silicon Valley is exactly the community they want to live in, and they can either afford the high cost of living or find Task Rabbiting their way through what little off time they get to be a perfectly acceptable way to live.

And that’s okay.

However, it doesn’t mean that other cities should strive to recreate Silicon Valley. Branding your city “the next Silicon Valley” is also an exercise in futility. Silicon Valley has its roots in the defense industry and the need to protect the West Coast during World War II. Before the Japanese blew up Pearl Harbor, the west coast wasn’t the center of American innovation. Instead, cities like Chicago, St. Louis, and Detroit were the birthplaces of some of the country’s biggest and most innovative companies.

We should build a Silicon Prairie that isn’t an imitation of Silicon Valley, but instead is a place where a low cost of living means that a full-time worker (whether he or she is a programmer or 4th grade teacher) can afford to buy a home and spend their off-time enjoying the community they live in.

A few years ago, I was invited to visit the San Francisco offices of LinkedIn. During my visit, several employees mentioned the extraordinary cost of living, the fact that they knew they could never afford to raise a family in the city, and how frustrating and demoralizing it was. They had great jobs, could smell the ocean 24 hours a day and lived in one of the world’s most beautiful and unique cities—but many of those workers couldn’t afford to enjoy it.

I can’t smell the ocean from my front yard, but I do live in a unique and beautiful city. I don’t want to see that city become the next Silicon Valley. I want to see it become the best version of itself it can possibly be, and I believe that making that happen will depend on creating a base of technology-focused jobs.

Let’s let Silicon Valley be Silicon Valley. It can be the place where you find gigantic social media companies, good seafood (it’s true), and teachers living in vans.

And the Silicon Prairie can be home to great cities, good BBQ, and communities where teachers can still afford to live down the street from the founders of pretty exciting startups.


Most of Our WebSites are very Popular…BUT Some Need Help

Most of our WebSites are extremely popular. Others are not. A lot of these are because of their titles. They don’t tell enough about the WebSite!

An example is the Second Avenue Subway. It is A LOT of blogs about the Second Avenue Subway.


Another one is Commuters Conspiracy. The theme is “Did auto, oil conspiracy put the brakes on trolleys?”
Ever wonder what happened to the public transit system in California that included this Red Car in Los Angeles in 1936.


In the Amsterdam, New York, area, a short spur leaves the old New York Central mainline and goes up a hill to the upper portion of Amsterdam. Once this was a separate railroad. It has continued as a branch under Penn Central, Conrail, and now CSX.

It was known as the Amsterdam, Chuctanunda and Northern Railroad

We have added a section on Adirondack Power and Light: Amsterdam Steam Generating Station.


When the Elgin, Joliet & Eastern was sold to Canadian National; the trackage on steel mill property was split off of the purchase and became the Gary Railway

Updated (and changed horrendous picture of Erastus Corning)

Protecting your holiday packages from ‘porch pirates’

OMG where you live is Always a problem. Nobody can find you (like me) or EVERYBODY can find you.

I live in a little house in the middle of a courtyard. It is isolated, but that is fine. UPS and FedEx are a problem. I do not buy all that much online so only a small problem.

A solution that is used in France is a “RELAIS”. A relay address. A small store that you can send packages to. Go to store, show drivers license, passport, or in France a National ID; pick up your package and go. Don’t drive. NO National ID (I am a worker here, not an “EXPAT). Just show passport.

I Was Invited To Buy “DRONE INSURANCE”!

No I do not usually look at email advertisements.

Before I clicked on “SEE MORE”, I tried to imagine what I needed drone insurance for. I thought it was a delivery person who was PO’d at me because I am very difficult to deliver anything to.

I live at the same address as about 50 other people. Yes I have a mailbox with my name on it, but many things (like checks) sometimes need a signature. The difference between me and the other 50 people at my address is location. They all live in a 6 story building. I live in a “cottege” at the end of the entrance corridor in a big courtyard surrounded on three sides by 6 story appartments.

Yes, they usually call my cell phone (usually when I am busy writing or washing my hair or cooking).

Nobody has tried a drone on me yet! I have a 110-year old palm tree right in front of my house! Now THAT should keep most drones away without buying insurance!!!

Maybe if a drone crashed in front of my house somebody would listen to my idea: Deliver to what the French call a “relais”: a nearby store that accepts packages for people in the neighborhood. Certainly smarter than paying a delivery person to wander around “like a chicken with his head cut off”.

Finally my curiousity got the better of me and I looked at the advertisement before hitting SPAM!

It was for MY DRONE!


Southern California Metrolink Trains Now Allow Surfboards

US News & World Report via California Rail News

Catch a wave — after you catch a train.

Surfers can now bring their boards along when taking Southern California’s Metrolink train service to the beach.

The railroad said Thursday it has added surfboard storage to cars that previously were designated for bicycles.

Metrolink says every train on all lines will have a bike-and-board car, each with room for five surfboards

More Bar Cars On The New Haven Railroad?

The best-known bar car V XI-GBC a.k.a. Five Eleven Gentlemen’s Bar Car

When the government stepped in with modern “Cosmopolitan” cars (1970’s). At that time, someone sent us an article that had a proposal for bar cars. After 30+ years we seem to have lost the source, but will reprint it below anyway.

Read more interesting stories about the New Haven Railroad

Students Ditch The Limo And Hop On Train To Get To The Prom

Los Angeles Times via California Rail

In  the run-up to prom, Golden Valley High School in Santa Clarita made its students a special offer. Whoever won a raffle would get to ride in a school-sponsored limo with their friends while the rest of the class took a Metrolink train.
It didn’t go as planned.
“It was hard just to sell the raffle tickets,” said Vincent Wheeler, an administrator at Golden Valley. “The students were like, ‘This is great, but, uh, we want to take the train.’”

Say what you will about Southern California’s car-obsessed culture, but for two high schools in L.A. County, public transportation was the vehicle of choice for that most American of rituals.

Two trains packed with glitzy commuters sporting corsages and boutonnieres departed for Union Station on Saturday evening. One carried more than 500 students from A.B. Miller High School in Fontana. Another ferried about 500 Golden Valley students who made their connection to the red line and traveled on to Madame Tussauds Hollywood.

Cubs win 1st Series title since 1908, beat Indians in Game 7

The Chicago Cubs celebrate after Game 7 of the Major League Baseball World Series against the Cleveland Indians Thursday, Nov. 3, 2016, in Cleveland. The Cubs won 8-7 in 10 innings to win the series 4-3.

For a legion of fans who waited a lifetime, fly that W: Your Chicago Cubs are World Series champions.

Ending more than a century of flops, futility and frustration, the Cubs won their first title since 1908, outlasting the Cleveland Indians 8-7 in 10 innings of a Game 7 thriller early Thursday.

They even had to endure an extra-inning rain delay to end the drought.

Cleveland was trying to win its first crown since 1948, but manager Terry Francona’s club lost the last two games at home.

World Series favorites since spring training, Chicago led the majors with 103 wins this season.

After defeating San Francisco and the Los Angeles Dodgers in the playoffs, Chicago became the first team to earn a title by winning Games 6 and 7 on the road since the 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates.

Here’s what Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer said that really made me angry

These recent comments by Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer are the epitome of Silicon Valley arrogance, says Basecamp programmer Dan Kim.
This commentary originally appeared on the Signal v. Noise blog.

Recently, I read this article about Marissa Mayer . This quote infuriated me (emphasis mine):

My husband [the venture capital investor Zachary Bogue] runs a co-working office in San Francisco…And if you go in on a Saturday afternoon, I can tell you which start-ups will succeed, without even knowing what they do. Being there on the weekend is a huge indicator of success, mostly because these companies just don’t happen. They happen because of really hard work.

I read my fair share about the tech world. I haven’t encountered statements this utterly arrogant and silly in a while.

Let’s break down that quote. She’s saying…

Weekend work is a leading indicator of being a successful company
She can predict success based on the people who are physically in the office on a weekend
She can predict success without knowing anything about a company’s business

What in the actual f—?

This idea that someone could “tell you which start-ups will succeed, without even knowing what they do” is so comically arrogant, I honestly can’t tell if she was being serious.

I guess this kind of thinking from Mayer shouldn’t be all that surprising.

After all she’s the CEO who banned remote working. To her, working together in person, in the office, is the only way to do great work.

As a refresher, here’s a snippet of the leaked memo Yahoo (NASDAQ: YHOO) sent to its employees:

To become the absolute best place to work, communication and collaboration will be important, so we need to be working side-by-side. That is why it is critical that we are all present in our offices. Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings. Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home. We need to be one Yahoo!, and that starts with physically being together.

Because let’s not forget — being physically present means you are doing your best work! Speed and quality can only happen in person! Never mind that many other companies have been successful with remote teams.

So maybe that helps explain why Mayer believes she can walk into an office on a Saturday, survey who’s there in person, and can declare the winners.

Because to her, if you’re not there physically, you’ve already failed.

In the same article, Mayer talks about her experience at Google (NASDAQ: GOOGL):

The other piece that gets overlooked in the Google story is the value of hard work….The actual experience was more like, “Could you work 130 hours in a week?” The answer is yes, if you’re strategic about when you sleep, when you shower, and how often you go to the bathroom…For my first five years, I did at least one all-nighter a week, except when I was on vacation — and the vacations were few and far between.

While that might sound crazy to most of us, I don’t really have a problem with it.

She was making a decision for herself. She decided to work long hours, pull all nighters, and eschew vacations. That’s her call. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

But it’s not OK to imply that kind of work/life imbalance is a key to success for others.

Hey, if someone wants to work themselves into the ground, that’s up to them.

But spreading the message that hard work and success can only be achieved through long hours and weekend work — that’s not OK. It’s patently false, and it’s already far too pervasive in our industry.

Look, I get it — by every objective measure of Ha Ha! Business Success™(financial, title, industry stature), Mayer is insanely successful. She has achieved far more in her professional career than I ever will.

But I also don’t work weekends. I don’t work 130 hours a week. I don’t commute to an office.

My measures of success are way different. I goof off with my kids a lot. I read. I watch movies. I eat donuts and pizza. I occasionally travel. I sleep 8 hours a night. I’m rarely stressed. I revel in being boring and old.

And I do that all while genuinely enjoying my job and the people I work with (who I rarely see in person).

In Mayer’s world, I could never be a success.

I’ve never been so f—-g happy to be a failure.

On weekdays, for about 40 hours a week, I help build Basecamp 3 and its companion Android app. And we somehow managed to build it 100% remotely.

Follow Dan Kim on Twitter @dankim.

8 Things Exceptional Employees Hate (and Toxic Employees Love to Do)

The very worst employees don’t actually cause the biggest problems. Whether totally incompetent or unbelievably lazy, they’re easy to spot — so, although it’s never fun to fire anyone, at least you know there’s a problem and you can let that person go.

The biggest problems are caused by employees who appear to be doing a decent job but who in fact are slowly ruining the morale, attitude, and performance of other employees — and in the process, ruining your business as well.

What do they do?

1. They love to have the meeting after the meeting.

You have a meeting. Issues are raised. Concerns are shared. Decisions are made. Everyone in attendance fully support those decisions. Things are going to happen.

Then someone holds the “meeting after the meeting.” Now she talks about issues she didn’t share in the actual meeting. Now he disagrees with the decisions made in the actual meeting.

And sometimes those people even say to their teams, “Look, I think this is a terrible idea, but we’ve been told to do it, so I guess we need to give it a shot.” That means what was going to happen never will.

Waiting until after a meeting to say “I’m not going to support that” is like saying “I’ll agree to anything … but that doesn’t mean I’ll actually do it. I’ll even work against it.”

Those people need to work somewhere else.

2. They love to say, “That’s not my job.”

The smaller the company, the more important it is that employees think on their feet, adapt quickly to shifting priorities, and do whatever it takes, regardless of role or position, to get things done.

Even if that means a manager has to help load a truck or a machinist needs to clean up a solvent spill; or the accounting staff needs to hit the shop floor to help complete a rush order; or a CEO needs to man a customer service line during a product crisis. (You get the idea.)

Any task an employee is asked to do — as long as it isn’t unethical, immoral, or illegal, and it’s “below” his or her current position — is a task an employee should be willing to do. (Great employees notice problems and jump in without being asked.)

Saying “It’s not my job” says “I care only about me.” That attitude quickly destroys overall performance because it quickly turns what might have been a cohesive team into a dysfunctional group of individuals.

3. They love to act like they’ve already paid their dues.

An employee did great things last year, last month, or even yesterday. You’re appreciative. You’re grateful.

Still, today is a new day. Dues are never paid in full. Dues get paid. The only real measure of any employee’s value is the tangible contribution he or she makes on a daily basis.

Saying “I’ve paid my dues” is like saying “I no longer need to work as hard.” And suddenly, before you know it, other employees start to feel they’ve earned the right to coast too.

4. They love to think their experience is all that matters.

Experience is definitely important, but experience that doesn’t translate into better skills, better performance, and greater achievement is worthless. Experience that just “is” is a waste.

Example: A colleague once said to younger supervisors, “My role is to be a resource.” Great, but then he sat in his office all day waiting for us to come by so he could dispense his pearls of wisdom. Of course, none of us did stop by–we were all busy thinking, “I respect your experience, but I wish your role was to do your job.”

How many years you’ve put in pales in comparison with how many things you’ve done.

Saying “I have more experience” is like saying “I don’t need to justify my decisions or actions.” Experience (or position) should never win an argument. Wisdom, logic, and judgment should always win — regardless of in whom those qualities are found.

5. They love to gossip.

Before a meeting, some of us were talking about supervisors in another department when our new boss looked up and said, “Stop. From now on we will never say anything bad about anyone unless they are actually in the room. Period.”

Until then, I never thought of gossip as a part of a company’s culture — gossip just was. We all did it. And it sucked — especially because being the focus of gossip sucked. (And in time, I realized people who gossip suck too.)

If an employee has talked to more than one person about something Mark is doing, wouldn’t everyone be better off if he stepped up and actually talked to Mark about it? And if it’s “not his place” to talk to Mark, it’s definitely not his place to talk about Mark.

Saying “Did you hear what he did?” is like saying “I have nothing better to do than talk about other people.”

Not only do employees who create a culture of gossip waste time better spent on productive conversations, but they cause other people to respect their co-workers a little less–and anything that diminishes the dignity or respect of any employee should never be tolerated.

6. They love to use peer pressure to hold other employees back.

A new employee works hard. She works long hours. She’s hitting targets and exceeding expectations. She rocks. And she eventually hears, from a more “experienced” employee, “You’re working too hard and making the rest of us look bad.”

Where comparisons are concerned, a great employee doesn’t compare herself with others — she compares herself with herself. She wants to “win” that comparison by improving and doing better today than she did yesterday.

Poor employees don’t want to do more; they want others to do less. They don’t want to win. They just want others to make sure they don’t lose.

Saying, “You’re working too hard,” is like saying, “No one should work hard because I don’t want to work hard.” And pretty soon very few people do — and the ones who keep trying get shunned for a quality you need every employee to possess.

7. They love to grab the glory.

OK, maybe he did do nearly all the work. Maybe he did overcome almost every obstacle. Maybe, without him, that high-performing team would have been anything but.

Probably not. Nothing important is ever accomplished alone, even if some people love to act like it is.

A good employee and good team player shares the glory. He credits others. He praises. He appreciates. He lets others shine. That’s especially true for an employee in a leadership position–he celebrates the accomplishments of others secure in the knowledge that their success reflects well on him, too.

Saying “I did all the work” or “It was all my idea” is like saying “The world revolves around me, and I need everyone to know it.” And even if other people don’t adopt the same philosophy, they resent having to fight for recognition that is rightfully theirs.

8. And they love to throw others under the bus.

A vendor complains. A customer feels shortchanged. A co-worker gets mad. No matter what has happened, it’s someone else’s fault.

Sometimes, whatever the issue and regardless of who is actually at fault, some people step in and take the hit. They willingly accept the criticism or abuse, because they know they can handle it (and they know that maybe the person actually at fault cannot).

Few acts are more selfless than taking the undeserved hit. And few acts better cement a relationship. Few acts are more selfish than saying “It wasn’t me,” especially when, at least in part, it was.

Saying “You’ll have to talk to Martha” is like saying “We’re not all in this together.” At the best companies, everyone is in it together.

Anyone who isn’t needs to go.

 Jeff Haden

Contributing editor, Inc.