Thursday, November 30, 2006

How Many Days Has What?

"Thirty days hath September" is still used to remind people how many days there are in each month. We really don't know where this came from, and I found a whole lot of variations, maybe two dozen, with no problem at all. The origins of the lyrics are obscure but use of Olde English can date this poem back to at least the 16th century. 'Fess up ... when was the last time that you found yourself muttering the words of the "Thirty days hath September" poem?

A medieval version is found in a 15th century manuscript, in the British Library:

Thirty days hath November,
April, June, and September:
Of twenty-eight is but one,
And all the remnant thirty-one

This one was definitely not found in the British Library:

Thirty days hath September,
All the rest I can't remember.
The calendar hangs on the wall;
Why bother me with this at all?

Anyway, November has thirty days and it’s November 30th.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

A Good Time For Fish

It’s coming up on 10:30 in the evening, just about the time my shared custody cat will be coming out of her box on top of the entertainment center. She stretches, makes her way down and sits off to one side of me. After a while, she moves around to the kitchenette to my left, walks around, then returns to her original sitting position.

It’s time for her late evening snack, a good time for fish. I pull out a few scraps of whatever is in the fridge (tonight it happened to be salmon) and she meows as if she has not had any food for at least a day, if not two. The dish is down, the cat is hunkered and she enjoys the repast.

The evening snack is a daily ritual; if she is up and around, if she gives the right signals, there is a noontime bit of fish (or chicken, whichever is available). If she gave her signal, but I was not ready and she walked away, I have my own “snack is on” whistle, unlike the others I use, and she’s back here before I can put the dish down.

Cats will eat only what they need. If they’ve had enough, they will leave the rest until later. Dogs, on the other hand, eat each meal as if it’s their last, grabbing it quickly. This kitty has her little snack and goes wherever cats go when they wish to be alone to ponder the mysteries of the universe. This usually happens in front of a window.

The next day, it starts again. Breakfast at the usual time; a small snack around noon, if she tells me she wants one. Supper around 8:00pm when I have her, with snack on demand usually around 10:30 or 11:00. A good time for fish.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Way To Go!

On the day the Good Lord calls me (you know, when my number’s up), I’d like it to be in a way that will guarantee its making the front page of the New York Times. Now to figure out how to do it. Have a piece of the Hubble Space Telescope break off and land on me? Get run over by the President’s limo? How about being shot by a deranged Pope? Interesting ways, but hardly even remotely possible.

I’m afraid that it will be something real stupid, like choking on a piece of lettuce in some dumpy restaurant, or tripping on a sidewalk and knocking my head on an ashcan.

But to make the front page of the Times … ah! … the glory of it all. To so few people is given this honor. “Tom Carten cashed in his chips yesterday, after being hit by an asteroid.”

Everybody Has A Story:
August Kreuzer died locally the other day. “He was part of General Patton’s tank division and fought against Germany’s General Rommel, ‘The Desert Fox.’ As part of his Airborne battalion, he glided into Bohno, Burma, to build an airfield and relieve the few remaining members of Merle’s Marauders. It was the only operation of its kind during the war and few survived the glider landings. He also took part in the building of the airstrip for the Enola Gay airplane that dropped the first A-bomb on Japan.”

Monday, November 27, 2006

He's Hiding Under Your Bed

In Portugal, it’s a Bag Man like a hobo, who collects mean disobedient children in his sack to sell. The Czech Republic’s guy weaves cloth on the full moon, making clothes for his stolen souls, and has a cart drawn by cats. The guy in Denmark hides under the bed and grabs children who will not sleep. The French have an evil fellow who puts bad children in a big bag and hits them with a whip. In Persian culture, he is used to threaten small children to eat their meals. He's the Bogeyman, the Boogeyman, and this is what Wikipedia says about him.

Italy has its own fine Bogeyman custom, of a tall man wearing a heavy black coat, with a black hood which hides his face. Sometimes, parents will knock loudly under the table, pretending that someone is knocking at the door, and saying, “Here comes the bogeyman! He must know that there’s a child here who doesn’t want to drink his soup!” He takes them away to a frightening place for a month.

Meanwhile, in Quebec, the “7 o’clock man” is said to visit houses around 7 o’clock to take misbehaving children who not go to bed back to his cave where he feasts on them. Spain isn’t far off; theirs is a shapeless figure, sometimes a hairy monster, that eats children that misbehave when they are told to go to bed.

Most of these evil people tend to hide under children’s beds at night and either take them away and/or eat them. Not a good thing to ponder as you lay there in bed, wishing you hadn’t sassed your mother.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

The Wichita Lineman

There they were, lined up like ducks in a shooting gallery: dozens of birds on telephone wires across The Avenue. (There are many avenues here in Northeastern Pennsylvania, but only one The Avenue -- Wyoming Avenue.) The birds sat there on the wires and, as I waited for the light to change so I could pass under them, I remembered that birds don't wait; whatever has to be let go will be let go without warning. NIMBY, Not In My Back Yard, gives way to NOMC, Not On My Car.

Are they flying south for the winter, and just happen to stop at a good-looking wire? Or are they year-rounders and this is the time of year they start hanging out together talking about the wusses that flap their wings and head for Florida?

They sit there, ominous figures against the sky, waiting to swoop down on the unaware, the elderly, the sickly. They are plotting, sizing up their prey, choosing their victim.

The light changes. I go my way, protected by the steel and glass cage that moves so smoothly and quickly that even these evil-eyed denizens of the intersection pass on taking me out and return to their business.

Everybody Has A Story:
I occasionally run across the obituary of a person who was in the Normandy invasion. With all those who died on the beaches those days, I think it’s close to a miracle that anyone survived to live a full life. It must have been horrid and affected them for years.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

There's Frost On My Cavalier

My little subdued-red car had a mild case of frost early this morning (1:15 early), but not bad enough that I couldn’t clean the windows quickly. It’s not a good sign; you don’t get a first frost unless there will be a second, and subsequent, frosts.

In other words, Spring is just around the corner, but that corner is a country mile away and there are snowplows parked just down the road apiece. This is supposed to be a cold, snowy winter, according to the weather experts. But the same people said we were going to get some pretty awful hurricanes this past season and I don’t recall much of anything happening. We shall see.

This area isn’t called Wyoming Valley for nothing. “Wyoming” is an Indian word meaning “Plains” and we have a lot of flat ground on either side of the river between large hills on one side and large hills on the other. If you don’t take a North-South route, you’re going to climb and/or descend. One route coming into town has two runaway truck roads, if that’s any indication of what can happen coming down the hill. The other should. That’s in the summer; in the winter, they are plowed first, but it’s still an exciting ride.

I’m prepared for the winter snow driving season: in case of nasty storms or barely-plowed roads, I have plenty of hot chocolate, oatmeal and good music in my compact disc collection. And a scanner to listen as others slide into the ditches.

Snow is best viewed behind a table, rather than a wheel.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Bright Friday

No, Virginia, you DON'T have to shop at 5:00 in the morning. What's more, you equally don't have to camp out overnight at Best Buy to make sure you get some "gotta have" item a month before Christmas. There is not the faintest reason the day after Thanksgiving must be a Black Friday when shopping is tension and pain, when the season of thanks turns into a day of fatigue and frustration.

I checked the weather map this morning (, click on "radar"); it's clear pretty much all over the country. It's a Bright Friday and, for those fixated on mobbing the stores, a good day to walk around the block, invite a neighbor in for tea, rake the leaves leisurely. Anything.

If it was on the shelves waiting to be sold last night, it will be on the shelves again before Christmas. If lining up in front of a store is part of a post-Thanksgiving national ritual, so be it – but do think how you will explain this to your grandchildren without sounding like an idiot. Perhaps this has become the opening ritual of our observance of the birth of Christ: first we journey to the store, as Mary and Joseph journeyed to Bethlehem, then we camp out as they did when the inns were filled, then we triumphantly return home with our “baby,” the item we longed for these many months.

I may have started something here. Send this to all the Sociology profs you know in the secular colleges and let’s see how far it gets. We could have a new understanding of how America participates in the Nativity story.

Thanksgiving Day Blog

You really didn't expect me to be here, did you? I was having too much fun with my brother and his wife, down from the Quebec City area, to think about blogging. It's 12:15 a.m., overnight from Thanksgiving.

Having fun with the family beats being here anyday.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Twenty Weeks

You enter graduate school and there’s a Ph.D. waiting for you, but it’s on the other side of a lot of study, dissertation writing and defending. You know you will someday be a partner in the law firm you joined yesterday, but there will be years of hard work, billable hours and cases to win.

I know there’s a cruise in just twenty weeks from today, but I have to go through what has been predicted as a long, very cold and snowy winter. It’s going to be a long twenty weeks.

Ten weeks is not going to be much of a consolation when I have to tramp over to the parking lot where my car is covered in snow and ice, where the heater will not do much of anything before I get where I am going.

It’s hard to be excited, as you slip and slide through one of those real lousy slippery storms and realize that your destination is maybe 85 degrees and sunny. They haven’t seen snow since, maybe, the Little Ice Age 10,000 years ago. Even then, the area is volcanic and might have been the Cro-Magnons’ vacation spot.

I guess it could be worse; Mars has dust storms that last three or four months, Venus is 900 degrees, Mercury is horribly hot on one side and horribly cold on the other, the Moon is romantic if you are making out on the beach but not so if you are living there.

I guess twenty weeks isn’t so bad.

Better Him Than Me

My brother and his wife showed up this evening, having driven nearly 12 hours from their home outside Quebec City. I don't know how they do it, either this trip or their combined treks through 40 of our continguous states. I'd jump off the first bridge after about two miles if I had to do that.

Yuk. I hate traveling. Someone said, "You don't mind traveling on a cruise ship," but I carefully note that it's not traveling. One gets on the ship, stores the week's duds and you're there until the cruise is over. You aren't traveling anywhere. Oh, sure, you go to bed and wake up in another port; but you aren't dodging traffic, traffic lights or looking for clean diners.

Nope; you just sit there like a hedonistic grand poobah and snap your fingers.

This is Tuesday's blog, which didn't make Blogspot's fast clock.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Uh, What Part Of "No"...

I came to the conclusion, one fine day that someone else's decisions for my life do not have to then become my decisions. Too many times I've seen people go along with another's demands "just to be polite," but ended up miserable and, ultimately, always putting their own likes aside "just to be polite."

Perhaps we should, as Nancy Reagan once proposed, "Just say 'no,'" and say it without excuse. If you come up with an excuse, or a reason, people can get around it. If you say, "No, thank you," it's a polite door-closer. "Why not?" "Because I don't want to, thanks."

It's nice to pick up on opportunities; people can open us to experiences we might not have had otherwise. But there are times when we just do not want something, or we don't want this or that person dictating to us. That's when we drop the "just to be polite" leash and run our own lives.

There are plenty of people who will suggest things they think we might like and will leave it up to us to decide if we’d like to do it right then. They are friends; they know us and know in what new directions we might like to explore. But that’s it; they’ve planted the idea and in time we might want to try it out.

Getting people excited about something is an art. It takes knowing the other person and knowing what they might like even before they do. You also have to know just how far to go when you present it as a possibility. Then you step back and let the plant grow.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

The Mayor, The Hispanics And ... Who??

“60 Minutes” did a piece tonight about the mayor of Hazleton PA, who has been leading a campaign against the illegal Hispanic immigrants in his city. So far, so good. Unfortunately, his original law was way overboard and the current re-do, while legal, is making the legal Hispanics look like criminals. He is playing the high road, the “elected to uphold the law” road. Steve Kroft, the reporter, apparently did not ask the mayor’s wife ... or anyone else in his life ... what they thought of all this. I guess the mayor was too busy upholding the laws and doing a pretty good job at it.

Someone mentioned state flowers, animals, etc. I think the Official Shield of the new casino here (actually a slots parlor at the moment) should be a caricature of a guy pulling his empty pants pockets out. The place didn’t pay the Commonwealth a $50 million license fee just to give patrons huge payoffs.

We had about three inches of rain here the other day; more than expected for the rainy afternoon. As one cop put it, speaking to headquarters on the scanner, “People broke the first rule: Don’t drive through standing water, because you never know how deep it is.” It was up to their doors, sometimes up to their windows.

My brother and his wife will be coming here on Tuesday night and staying around for Thanksgiving. They get *two* Thanksgivings, seeing as how they are Canadians. One in October and one in November.

…and that’s the news for this Sunday night.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

I Want, I Gotta Have, I Need

The PlayStation 3 just hit the shelves, to which I say, “oh.” People have been camping out at the local Best Buy and there were some pictures on the news of people stampeding into a store, pretty much mashing each other to pick up this thing.

It reminded me of when these two women got into a fight up in Pittston over a Cabbage Patch doll, when they were the latest thing. One doll was left, two women with daughters who just could not keep living on this planet without one were battling each other over it. They wanted it to commemorate the birth of Jesus.

There are some things we need, some stuff we just gotta have and lots of things we want. It helps if we can realize into which category each falls. When that happens, we don’t get into fights over some stupid doll, we aren’t running over each other because of a game that just came out.

Food, shelter, clothing, among other things; these are needs. Computers, tv, lots of other items; these are gotta-haves in today’s world, but not quite needs. Then there is everything else; these are wants and we have no right to get all upset and snarky when they don’t happen. Traffic lights that don’t stay green, this thing we wanted, that thing we expected, and so on.

Save being irate for times when it’s appropriate. Most of the time, just go along with the ride. Life’s a lot more fun when you roll with it, and you will be, too.

Friday, November 17, 2006

The Moon Looks Down With Favor

My brother ended last night’s Instant Messenger session by saying that he spent the morning cutting wood. He has quite a bit piled up and not because he’s a pack rat. It’s because he has a furnace to feed and, during the winter, it gets hungry. Often. He has it stacked in his back yard, he has it stacked in his podnah’s back yard, he has it stacked in a barn somewhere.

I know the feeling; when I lived on a farm, we also had a wood furnace and when the weather turned cold, the furnace turned hungry. For us, the wood came from the tree surgeons who dumped their trimmings near one of our barns.

For my brother, his came from Bois de Lune. That’s not a town in Quebec; it’s “Moon Wood,” the kind of stuff you see during the day, never on your own property, and pick up quickly at night. The trees are dead, they’re leaning over or even flat on the ground, they need to be removed. So you cut and hide them, come back the next day and, with speed beyond description, stick them in your pickup.

High above you, the moon looks down with favor. You are clearing the woods of trees that would otherwise rot, trees that could fall over on people passing by, trees that have outlived their usefulness. And any other excuse you can come up with to get that stuff into your furnace.

It’s been said that Bois de Lune has a higher heat value and produces a more satisfactory glow.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Here's Looking At You, Kid

Someone once asked how our ancient ancestors (think “people hunting mastodons”) got along without wearing glasses. If they got along ok for however many millions of years, why can’t we?

They did not have to read bank statements, telephone books or newspapers. They had nothing to focus on closer than the cooking fire. Their work was at a distance, so their eyes needed to see only far off.

So are we using our eyes for what they were never designed for? When you look around at how many people have frames balanced on their noses when they are reading, you might think so. Except for people who are nearsighted and can’t see ten feet beyond their nose without a couple of Coke bottle bottoms in front of their eyes.

So has Mother Nature (known worldwide as “God”) created some of us to be the lookout people, always vigilant for the next mastodon, the next enemy? Has God also created some to be the people who stay within the confines of home, to be the readers, the cleaners, those whose excellent near-vision is needed?

Or are we supposed to invent a means to even the playing field, something that will allow the far-sighted to see close, and the near-sighted to see distant? A very religious person might say we are violating God’s will; those born such should remain such. The rest of us, those with any brains at all, regularly visit our optometrist.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Temperatures Up, Leaves Down

It’s 66 degrees and sunny, up here in what we call NEPA – Northeast Pennsylvania to you. Outside my window, the leaves have gone through whatever color they might have had and are now brown as pennies. They are increasingly going from their spring and summer home to cover the ground and street/roof gutters. It’s the smart people who sweep them away from the storm drains before a rainstorm, as well as during, so we don’t get lakes where the streets used to be. They’re much too fragile to do anything with, but I wonder if we could mash them up and use them in our driveways and on hills to give our cars some traction in the snow? They would not damage the road surface, pollute our streams or track salt into the house.

Everybody has a story…

Joseph Knorr, a local resident, passed away recently. "Prior to his retirement, he was employed as a tool and die maker by Diamond Manufacturing. He was responsible for making the die for the front grill on the first Mustang."

Sara Schafir, another local resident, also left us the other day. "Sara was a Holocaust survivor."

Tragic deaths are just that, but sometimes their reporting makes you stop and read it twice, wondering if the coroner can spot the obvious. "A man was run over by a train [two locomotives and 23 freight cars]… an official cause of death was not determined yet." (Yes, there can be other reasons, but it sure reads odd.)

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Sky Is Wet

It’s not really raining here tonight, but it’s not not-raining, either. Nor is it a situation where I’m just waiting for the rain to start. There’s no fog. The sky is wet, that’s all.

I used to marvel (and occasionally still do) at how something warm and wet can feel so nice, while something cold and wet is repulsive. You could sit on a cottage porch at the beach in a warm puddle of water and it was fine; try it in the spring or fall when that puddle is cold and it’s a whole different matter.

Sixty degrees is great on a winter day; it’s just so warm and nice. Sixty degrees on a summer day is a cold snap we don’t enjoy and we hope doesn’t last. Sixty isn’t just sixty, it’s "sixty compared to what."

One time, I flew from Fairbanks, Alaska, to New York City. When we landed, I seriously wondered why the heat was on so high in the terminal building. At this point, I can’t remember the temperature in Fairbanks, but it sure was a lot lower than the 97 in New York. It soon dawned on me that, perhaps, NYC was hotter than Alaska.

"It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity," we often hear. I don’t know about that; there’s not any humidity in a fire, yet I bet we’d feel the heat if we fell into it. Maybe Hell is this 95-degree place with 95% humidity and no showers. We’re all going around sweating like race horses and smelling up the place; as time (or eternity) wears on, it just gets worse and worse. Hardly worth whatever bad you did here.

Monday, November 13, 2006

The Rubber Cockroach

I got myself five rubber cockroaches and a couple of long green bugs from the Party Time store. There’s something that looks like a cricket and another bug whose identity is lost on me.

It’s good to have a couple of fake cockroaches with you, especially when you go on cruises each year. After your waiter has learned you are a nice, friendly sort of person, you stick a cockroach under your plate and, when he takes it away, there’s this huge bug on the table. It should be, as they say, “a Kodak moment.”

I know the kind of crew members on the cruise line I use and they will probably want to keep these bug things. They have quite a sense of humor and something like this helps take away the tension that comes from working long hours.

Years ago, I had a zipper that came from an old pair of pants. When I was eating at friends’ houses, I’d have it up my sleeve and, as I said, “There’s a fly in my soup,” I’d pull it out. Usually went over pretty well.

Reminds me of this real wussy typing teacher we had back in high school. Skinny little guy, could not handle a class. We had an imaginary student we made up and, when he called the roll each day, someone would answer for this “person.” Anyway, one day a student brought in a fake puke and put it on his open book. He faked a barf and, when the teacher came over, said, “That’s ok; I’ll take care of it,” and slammed the book shut.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Such & So

So-and-So told me a good rumor about the Mayor during my daily walk downtown.

"So-and-So." How did two "so's" plus an "and" come to mean a person unnamed? We've been doing this for slightly over 400 years, but nobody seems to know why, or where it originated.

Odd, how our phrases come about; odder, how we don’t think about them. Ever wonder who those two So’s are? And why they refer to only one person?

* * *

Such-and-such an item was left on my front porch this morning.

“Such-and-such.” Now we have two “such’s” plus an “and” to mean some item we haven’t otherwise identified.

So-and-So gave me Such-and-Such an item this morning. How do you explain that to a Chinese person who has learned English very well, but has not learned our idioms? Even to a lifetime U.S. resident who has?

Most of ours make sense in some way; others are a little more obscure. But when you get to these two, all bets are off. Such-and-So, So-and-Such, whatever.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

George Washington Slept Here

It’s almost a tradition in New England, and probably elsewhere on the east coast, that George Washington slept in just about every other house. At least, that’s what you would be led to believe by all the signs on them. “George Washington slept here,” and there, and the next place. Guy couldn’t stay awake, it seems. Or all the motels were filled and he had to find a bed anywhere he could each night.

Captain Kidd, it has been said, buried a fair amount of treasure somewhere on the shore in Long Island Sound, quite possibly in Connecticut, or maybe the North Shore of Long Island. I lived on one of the beaches where that treasure lies, waiting to be discovered – so the story goes. There is good reason to believe it’s there … or a mile or two eastward, or possibly across the Sound and a bit further Eastward on Long Island.

Witches; we had them. Goody Basset was one. Goodwife Bassett was her given name, as far as we know, although she probably had a Christian name but was known as “Goodwife” or “Goody.” There’s a little monument to her memory up the river from us, something to the effect of her demise during the time when witches prowled the Colonies and there were clergy a-plenty with little more to do than flush them out and send them to their eternal punishment.

We supposedly had a witch out where we lived. I think it was handed down from boy to boy, perhaps over campfires on the beach or at Boy Scout camps. Nobody had actually seen her, you understand, but that didn’t mean she never existed.

Friday, November 10, 2006

The Mayan Calendar's Dire Predictions

The ballgame’s over on December 21, 2012, according to their calculations. Has something to do with the earth’s natural wiggle, how we or the sun lines up with the central plane of the galaxy and something else that escapes me at the moment.

Anyway, don’t spend heavily on Christmas cards six years from now, because the Indians say there isn’t going to be one. You can’t sass them if they turn out to be wrong, because they made this prediction many centuries ago.

Around 1988, some well-meaning and possibly self-taught Bible scholar published a book in which he said the end of the world would come during the present month of September. He said that he would be very surprised to see October 1. Shortly after that, he was interviewed in a newspaper and said that he would have to check his calculations.

Nostradamus, the world’s most misquoted and, possibly deliberately, misunderstood Predictor of That Which is Yet to Come, may or may not have written one of his very broad and equally vague verses. Ever read one of them? I mean in the original. They could mean just about anything you want, especially if your job is to put together a cable tv show after some disaster.

Even the Apostles were pretty well convinced the Second Coming would happen during their lifetimes. One of these days it will; one of these people will be right. Stay tuned.

My Cell Phone

That’s like "My Lincoln Town Car": Not happening and not gonna. But nice to dream about.

I want a cell phone more than anything I can think of. I need a cell phone less than anything I can think of. For the past four years, I have been trying to find an excuse for buying one, but no matter how hard I try, I just can’t come up with anything.

Long-distance driving? I don’t go more than 20 minutes away from home. Keep in touch with family? Only got one and he doesn’t have a cell phone either.

I’m a communications guy, been in radio since forever, love gadgets that I can talk into. What’s better than a cell phone? It rings, I answer it, drive along and chat with people, walk along the street, right in step with the times.

It’s just that I’m too cheap to buy something that I’ll never use. I want it so bad, but I’m not going to put out the bucks and have it hanging on my belt weighing down my pants.


Some day. When we have moved on to another technology, I’ll suddenly find a reason to have a cell phone.

This is my Thursday post. Blogspot's clock, which used to be five minutes fast, is now seven minutes fast. Not good for those of us who cut it close to midnight.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The Song Is Gone, But The Melody Lingers On

It is the flower of our streetside this time of year: "Vote for Pachinski, ... Katsock 2008, ... Casey for Senate." It would not be an election year without these signs around us everywhere. Whether we pay any attention to them or not, I'm not sure anyone is really sure; but they sprout like weeds every two years and are part of the landscape.

It's been said that nothing is over like Christmas. The "all Christmas music, all the time" radio stations are back to their usual "all top hits, all the time" format the next day; stores dump their remaining stock as fast as they can and life goes on as the Valentine's Day hearts go up (yes, they really do). But nothing is over as slowly as an election; the signs stay up and we think, "The winners won, so have your gleeful staff take them down." Or, "Ok, you losers, don't remind yourselves that you got hammered this time around."

But they remain. Thanksgiving approaches, happens and leaves; still the signs urge us to vote. Christmas is in the near distance and we are reminded that the future of our planet lies in the hands of this or that state representative. New Year’s rings in and there stands a lonely testament to our electoral process … or, perhaps, lies flat in some vacant lot. Vote for Smith, a Voice for Change.

How excited those signs must have been in the heady days of October! How willing to be placed where the winds and rains would hit upon them! How expectant when they saw the polls open and the citizenry voting. Then how forgotten when their candidates could not even come fetch them after their job was done.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

You REALLY Approved That Ad?

This guy came down the mountain, see? And he had these two stone tablets. On the second one it said, "You shall not bear false witness." There were ten of these sayings and they came from the person who created the entire universe, everything, every one of us. They were pretty important and began with "You shall" or "You shall not." Strong words.

Anyway, that eighth one, about the false witness, was included, so it’s important. The creator of everything gave it a "You shall not," which means What part of ‘no’ don’t you understand? Don’t do it. Don’t lie about people or things as if you really are telling the truth."

Today’s the mid-term elections and, unlike many other years, it’s going to make a big difference. If you weren’t sure about that, just take a look at some of the campaign ads; the mud was flying worse than an episode of Mike Rowe’s "Dirty Jobs" series on The Discovery Channel. Charges, counter charges, accusations, hints; nothing was out of bounds this time around.

After you saw all this character assassination, some of which was probably flat-out lies, much probably so misleading that it might as well have been a lie, then the candidate appeared and had the bad taste to say, "I’m Joe Smith, and I approve this ad." You want us to vote for a person who approves what might be a direct lie, or, at best, something taken out of context and used against a perfectly competent opponent?

You approved that ad, but I don’t approve of you. I hope others don’t, either.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Winter North Atlantic

My brother sent me some photos of his backyard near Quebec City. The wet snow hangs heavy on the clothesline and flower branches. I just returned from the Caribbean, where the temperatures were in the high 80’s and low 90’s with occasional rain and/or downpours. Our parish has a priest in residence for two years who lives in the mountains of Peru and wonders about the afternoon thunderstorms we had during the summer; something new to him, as are our Gulf and East Coast hurricanes. He’s also never lived through a tornado.

Each area has its own typical weather. When I lived on the coast, we never thought twice about hurricanes and, in fact, my brother and I went through the eye of one on an unprotected beach. During the time I lived in the Midwest, we could almost feel a tornado hours ahead of its coming. In thunderstorm areas, you just know when you will get one, especially in Texas where the lightning is worse than anywhere. In other parts of the world, it’s monsoons, cyclones, blinding downpours and anything else Mother Nature thinks up.

I don’t think my friend has seen fog. We used to have it back at the beach – what my father, the fisherman, called "shutdown fog," when nobody went anywhere unless you had radar. Other areas have it, too, but we seemed to have it more often and small craft would get very lost in it because they never carried a compass.

Oceans, too, have their own weather. The Roaring Forties, at 40 degrees south latitude, has almost no land mass to stop the ocean’s worldwide flow. "Winter North Atlantic" is perhaps the worst and freighters must be loaded lighter here than anywhere else.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Denizens Of The Night

When the Day People are safely a-bed, the lights are out and the shadows dance, it is the time when Night People come out to play. Late-night disc jockeys take to the road for the ride home; it can be on deserted streets with few other cars, but with your choice of radio stations skipping in from all over the country.

Newspapers have to be printed and distributed sometime; that "sometime" is in the middle of the night. Presses roll around midnight or so and the trucks (or cars) start taking the bundles out to the carriers' homes. Aside from the press crew, the insert and bundle crew (Mailing Room) are there all night, along with the truck and car drivers.

Shortwave radio stations are available anytime, but they never sound better than at night, especially late at night. The "utility" stations -- those that send reports in Morse code -- send out their messages until you are so tired the dots and dashes start running together and you can't make sense of it. It's the magic of the night.

I can remember, when I was younger than 7, being left off at home very late at night and watching the shadows through our oak tree. That was my first experience of being a denizen of the night. It was so late. It was probably about 9:00 or 10:00, but it seemed like three in the morning to me. I was hooked.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

If You Are 90 Or So...

My favorite incident is the head of the Patent Office resigning in, I think, the late 1890's. He felt that everything which could be invented had been and there was little reason to stick around.

My favorite quote is: "These are modern times! This is 1912!"

We usually think we live in fast-changing times, but most of what we have was invented quite some time back; there haven't been many new things recently. Yet, if you are 90 or so years old, you've lived through, and adapted to, an awful lot of changes.

Cars, rare then, became common; the same with airplanes. Many roads were just one or two lanes and quite a few of those were not paved; who realized the Interstate road system was not that far away? Small, sleepy towns grew into large towns or cities; crossroads became prime business locations. Radio was yet to be invented; at its peak, television came along and its three or four channels became sixty to seventy cable channels. Big adding machines changed to small hand-held calculators. Computers became common even among the elderly; instead of writing occasional letters, e-mail or the faster Instant Messenger were common.

Possibly the time period from 1910 to 2000 might be the greatest adaptation era we have ever known. Those who experienced it may have grown as the times changed, or they may have felt overwhelmed and gradually fell into themselves. Or, we may be in the midst of another adaptation, perhaps not of things, and the next generation will marvel at how well we did.

Where Did The Day Go?

Short blog today; I don't know where the day went, but it sure as heck is gone. More tomorrow, to be sure. But for today ... well, hey -- it's only a blog. Not a cure for cancer, not a way to end war and certainly not anything that will affect Tuesday's election.

Be sure and vote.

I did this so late Friday that it didn't publish until midnight, showing it as Saturday. You'll have this.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

24,000 Feet Up And Still At Sea Level

We went over the Puerto Rico Trench during our cruise. Twice we did it; once down and once back. It's the lowest spot in the Atlantic Ocean. So here we are at 24,000 feet above ground but still at sea level, and we never noticed a thing.

I was not aware of any physical differences. The air pressure, constantly at sea level, naturally did not change. The ship still drew the same amount of water, we did not tilt as we went over the edge. But the ground dropped away from us fast; fast and deep.

I felt just a little disappointed that we went from "not that deep" to "wow! holy mackerel! deep" without any noticeable effect on us or the ship. You'd think there would be some sort of indication, some bump, a little side roll.

At 24,000 feet and still at sea level, I expected more.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

You Don't Know What We Say

My friend Dave Kessler, over at "Cathedral Voice" ( just blogged about kitchen lingo, something he knows much about. Those of us in broadcasting have our own language, as do those in every profession. Here are a few examples:

-Backtime: To start something so that it will end at a desired time.
-Deadroll: Having backtimed something, to keep the volume at zero until a previous event is finished and then bringing it up.
-Kill: To end something abruptly.
-TFN: Running, for instance, an announcement "Till Further Notice."
-Network Join: Leaving your program to join your network, usually for news.
-Slapping the net: More or less, a high-powered end of program that joins the network without a moment's pause.
-System cue: The way a network indicates it has finished its "feed." The CBS "eye" is an example of a system cue.
-Ducker: An electronic device that automatically reduces the volume of whatever is playing when you start speaking.
-Roll it under: To manually reduce the volume of something when an announcer or other person is about to speak.
-Donut: Recorded announcement (open and close) with silent section in the middle for live announcer to fill with local information.
-Fill: Do something, anything, to fill spare time.
-Since Jesus (or Moses) did weekends: A long time ago.
-Crossed index and middle fingers: 30 seconds left.
-Two fingers against index finger: 15 seconds left.