Doing something about the weather

Even now that even the mountains of plowed-up snow have finally (I think), melted, pretty much all the conversation here on the Outer Cape consists of complaining about the miseries of this winter, the endless shovelling and hacking at ice, the days stuck in the house, the concussions from falls, the backs thrown out from over-exertion.

Hearing so many complaints, you could be excused for thinking that most people would move south in a second if they didn’t have jobs, families, lives here. But you would be wrong about that. In fact the complaining is less evidence of genuine dissatisfaction than it is pleasureful compensation.

Cape Codders complain about most of our weather, all of it in fact except for that very short interval, sometimes as little as a day or two, between weather complained about as too chilly and the weather complained about because it’s too hot. (Some call that interval Spring; some think it’s too short to be given the standing of an actual season.) Just as in the song about the West where “seldom is heard a discouraging word and the skies are not cloudy all day,” here, where the skies last December were cloudy for—count ‘em–23 straight days, rarely is heard an encouraging word—and that’s how we like it.

What’s hard for us to imagine is weather like they have in California, day after sunny, temperate day, where your picnic never gets rained out, and there’s no excuse for creative whining. Whatever, we wonder, do they talk about at those picnics?

Mark Twain is supposed to have made the remark that “everybody talks about the weather but nobody does anything about it.” Cape Codders know he’s wrong. Talking about it—more specifically complaining about it—is all you can do about it.

Are solar panels ugly?

A recent letter to a local paper, evidently in response to the new Solarize Provincetown initiative, expressed the opinion that solar panels make houses ugly and that the town is unwise to make that sacrifice for energy efficiency. As a cautionary example he points to the cape-style house on Briar Lane in Wellfleet (across from […]

Is a defanged NFL a contradiction?

I’ve been reading about the 24 year-old NFL player, veteran of just one season, deciding to get out while the getting’s good. It was a very good first year and the young man has what looks like a great career ahead of him. But he’s been paying attention to the concussion story that’s emerged in […]

Was the Cuban revolution a failure?

The opening of the US toward Cuba seems a good moment to evaluate Castro’s 1959 revolution. The impression I get from the media and comments by even liberal friends is that it is widely considered a failure. Those of a liberal bent give Castro credit for getting rid of the dictator and the dominance of […]

Native Americans and the meaning of “we”

This is something that never occurred to me before spending time in Mexico (where we go for a few weeks to reduce the length of winter). A very big difference between north and south of the border is in the content of “we.” Mexico is a much more racially homogenized society than ours. It’s one […]

Impossible but true: a city without traffic lights

One of the most striking things about this small city of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, is that there are no traffic lights or stop signs in the whole city. How can that be? By what we know and how we live traffic-wise in el norte, such a thing is impossible. Traffic lights and signs […]

Opiates, anti-depressants, soma

Everybody knows that opiates such as heroin are evil, life-ruining drugs, while anti-depressants such as Prozac are good drugs, gateway only to mental health and reasonable happiness for many millions. An article in the professional journal “Psychotherapy Networker” ( Mary Sykes Wylie, “Falling in Love Again,” July/aug 2014) provides an illuminating historical perspective, pointing out […]

The limits to “ protected speech”

In the wake of Charlie Hebdo we are hearing a lot about “protected speech,” the sort we congratulate ourselves on having in this and other “free, democratic” countries. (And deplore the lack of in, say, Castro’s Cuba.) The term is commonly held to apply to a wide variety of speech but to exclude the sort […]


In a world with so many big and possibly insoluble problems (cancer, climate, income inequality, religion), this seems a little thing. But it has the advantage of seeming doable, and probably has a connection to the big things. I hereby nominate junk mail reform for my short list of no-brainer improvements in the quality of […]

Hebdo:Free speech is not a damsel in distress

About the Charlie Hebdo massacre, what is to be said beyond the widespread righteous indignation over what seems to most in the West a shockingly—and tragically– out-of-proportion reaction to mere cartoons? One thing seems clear, Charlie Hebdo exposes the limits and naivete of the old saying: “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words […]