Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Did He Miss The Blessing Of Throats?

The Blessing of Throats day is coming up, a Catholic devotion. Does it work? Well, if it does, you would not know; the bone would not stick in your throat, you would not choke on something. No, it’s not a cure-all, nor is it a superstition; it’s a prayer to a saint who had done something to that effect with someone a long time ago. So we ask for his help.

Of course, you have to be at least a somewhat devout Catholic – or one who knows when the blessing of throats takes place.

We had a fellow here who appears to have fallen away from his practice of religion. He was a nice person years ago: Boy Scout, Eagle Scout, good neighbor. Something went wrong and he turned into a nasty, evil-looking, somewhat reclusive person. He would have nothing to do with those who lived around him and only opened his door to friends of his who were strangers to all on the street.

It turns out he had gone into the porn video scene big-time, as one of the providers of tapes that no normal person would want to watch. It came out fairly recently that he was also a pedophile of some sort, possibly using underage boys as part of the porno tapes.

Despite neighbors’ complaints of nudity in his backyard and other suspected activities, the police did nothing. His biggest acting star had noisy, violent arguments in the house and everyone knew something was going to pop. Apparently, the star slit the guy’s throat and set the house on fire to cover it up. The blessing probably wouldn’t have helped much.

Monday, January 29, 2007

A Singular Person

To the best of my knowledge (or, to use the internet term, AFAIK – as far as I know), there has been only one person named Dinah in my life. I have heard of others, of course, but I’ve only been friends with one.

She and I were going to be married, when disaster struck: My family moved away when I was seven years old and my plans (I never really checked with her) went down the drain.

You don’t say to your father, “I want to borrow the car so I can go up to Stratford and see Dinah” when you’re only eight. The only photo I have of her is from my eighth birthday party at our new house, a light-year away (4.2 miles as the car flies, much too far as the boyfriend walks). Then they moved across the river to Milford, another light-year. Fate conspired against us and who knows where we would be now had we stayed next door to each other?

I like railroads. Would I have been introduced into her father’s line of work, the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad Company? At one point, he took a stroll off the back of a train going 60mph. Nobody knows why, and them that knows ain’t talking. Maybe I’d be in my father’s career, trucking. Close friends ran a machine shop and I’m pretty good at that type of work; could be I’d be machining parts for local industry.

Maybe we’d have another Dinah; then I’d know two. Of course, as we got to be nine and ten and beyond, maybe we would fall for other people and our lives would go in different directions ... just as they have.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Land Of The Midnight Newspapers

It used to be great, being a late-night disc jockey. You knew the Night People were out there and, when you left the radio station to go home, only the NP were on the road or in the diners. There was camaraderie amongst you that the day people never knew. I never could figure out exactly what it was; maybe a shared entity of being up and working at a time when the rest of civilization was tucked away in bed.

No matter who we were, what our ages or jobs, we had a common unity (which you can respell to “community”) as denizens of Those Hours.

As far as disc jockeys go, they’re pretty much gone now. Few stations have live talent on the air at night; many of the shows are networked out of some large city, while the music stations are fed from some remote point with automated voices doing what we call “liners” between the pieces. There aren’t many dj’s driving home in the wee small hours anymore.

So far, newspapers have avoided this late-night automation. They still need printers to get the presses rolling and working properly at midnight; the bundle people, with all the automatic equipment at hand, still need to do their work. And, backing their cars and trucks up to the loading platform, are the contract carriers, the people who bring the newspapers to their destinations. The presses stop rolling a little before 3:00; the carriers have loaded their cars and vans by 4:00, except for the New York Times carrier who does his local route and then carries the Times. It all wraps up by then and the Night People disappear into the darkness.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

The Saving Power Of Horses

There are two horses in the parking lot across the street from me. They were put there for a reason, most likely to keep people from some sort of danger. I can see the printing on them, “King’s College,” so they don’t belong to the construction company, which is working on a building down the street; theirs has “Sordoni” on them. They are used, variously, to block the workers’ on-street parking places and/or keep people from walking in a dangerous area. I don’t know why they aren’t called “barriers,” but “horses” have become the name of choice.

The cafeteria serves dogs as part of the choices for lunch. The senior center downtown also has them on the menu occasionally, but they are much larger. The dogs here are the usual size, same as you might get at a ballpark (although, now that I think of it, ballpark dogs might be longer and are sometimes called “franks”).

After working in my building for quite a few years, I found a mouse in the back office. “Now what do I do?” I wondered. First time this has happened and I didn’t want to admit not knowing how to handle the situation. “Do I call for help? Do I just play around with it until I can figure out how to handle it?” Finally, I called tech support and said I was quite computer illiterate; they said not to worry, as not too many offices had these and someone would come over to show us how to use it.

Friend of mine had an elephant, but never talked about it and neither did anyone else. It was in the parlor. Everyone knew it was there, but we avoided it in conversation for years. Well, only to him; we all talked about it among ourselves -- did we!

Friday, January 26, 2007

It's Going To Be 16 Degrees Overnight

“Whew,” I thought. “Good thing we’re not in Alaska. It may be cold here in Northeastern Pennsylvania, but at least we’re not living in Seward’s Icebox, as they called the place when we bought it from the Russkis.”

Temps tonight are going to be 16 frigid degrees here, which is a lot better than Juneau’s ...uh... 34? Thirty-four degrees overnight in Juneau, Alaska? Yeah; that’s what weather.com says: 34 in Juneau, 16 in Wilkes-Barre. Crazy.

Go to Alaska in the winter to warm up.

There is an explanation for that and it’s called the Japan Current. Similar to the Gulf Stream in the Atlantic Ocean, it flows up to the Pacific Northwest and on to Southeast Alaska where Juneau is located. That whole area of Alaska is a rainforest, the type of thing usually thought of as restricted to the upper areas of South America. True, you won’t be eaten by pythons dropping out of trees and there aren’t monkeys chattering as they jump from branch to branch, but weather conditions are idea for tree growth.

They are also conducive to fairly mild summers and winters. The temperatures usually do not go much above 75 and not much lower than 25. Within that 50 degree range lies the capital of Alaska, a place we usually identify with snowshoes, midnight suns and other events that really belong much further north. Igloos, too; but those don’t exist anywhere, as I learned when I visited the Arctic some years back. Just another urban legend in this very non-urban part of the state.

Looking Across The Planets

This is Thursday’s blog, done a bit after midnight.

I was on the ship one evening, just before sunset. As I sat there in the Lido buffet room, with my endless mug of tea and things to read, I watched the sun heading toward the horizon, I imagined the planets Mercury and Venus circling in this almost flat plane. Maybe they were between us and the sun, maybe they were way out on the other side.

I sat there for quite a while, taking this all in. How often are you in a position where you can see right to the end of the horizon? There lay the sun and, somewhere between us and it, a couple of planets. You are looking across the solar system, wondering if someone out there even further is looking across more planets toward the sun.

The sun has been burning for something like 16 billions years and maybe longer. It has quite a while yet to go as it turns its gas into fire and light. Some day, it will become a giant and expand out to about where we are now. That’s not particularly good news for those of us on Earth, but since it’s a whole bunch of hundreds of million years from now, it’s not worth getting worried over.

Astronomers think that the universe might expand forever. Well, at least for so long a time that we can use the word “forever” without fear of correction. Anyway, it will expand to such an extent that galaxies will move out of sight of telescopes, and even break apart internally. Stars and their planets will wander off and eventually everything poops out. But that’s a long way off, so don’t run out to buy bread and milk.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Easter Island On West North Street

Across the street from my house is the end of a hill, looking more like what it is: a small cliff. The rock is shale, a common formation in this area. A hundred feet away, you can find coal in it and, perhaps, in this stuff, too. This rock vein runs under my place and down the hill until the land becomes flat. Whether the cliff has been dug out, or is a natural formation, I don’t know; but there is a cutback where you could park a few cars, maybe put a garage, a small house or even a grotto filled with statues of all descriptions.

Go for option “D.” Jesus and Mary dominate, although there is one of the Archangel Michael with a red, white and blue shield. To the right is a staircase leading you up to a second level where there are more. Candles blaze day and night.

Some years back, undertakers used to leave flowers there and the grotto members sorted them out into displays. That ended when it became too much of a task for them. Currently, especially in the winter, it looks a bit like Easter Island. For those not in the know, try this URL:


In its honor, let me say that it fulfills a need and there are people visiting it for a moment of spirituality at all hours of the day and night. I have seen men in suits drive up and get out for a few minutes at two in the morning. It fills what they are looking for and, for that reason, it is a great success and long may it occupy that space.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

45 Flakes

It snowed here yesterday. The forecast said something like “snow showers,” or such. Yet, the day before there was a full parking lot at a nearby supermarket. You know the American custom: snow predicted, buy enough bread and milk to sustain your family for at least a week.

We got 45 flakes.

Bread and milk. It’s a tradition in this country; when you hear of snow coming, that’s what you buy and you get plenty of it. If you don’t, then you have to wait until (a) later in the day or, worst-case theory, (b) the next morning. The roads will be cleared by either (a) or (b) and you can head for the slopes for hours of skiing.

The ski areas here are making snow this season; we haven’t had much at all. I wonder, if it’s a year when the foliage is not plentiful, if the folks in New England make leaves. You can do it with snow, why not with them? You just get the leaf-making machine cranked up and in just a few hours you have the ground covered with them. After all, what is Fall without falling leaves?

What we feel will be inevitable is the snow machine. Sooner or later, it will start up, and not on the slopes. One of these days, Mother Nature will flip the switch and we will know what it’s like to be an ant when the bare ski areas start getting covered artificially. In our case, it will be straight down from the sky. I couldn’t even guess how many flakes.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Thoughts On A Monday Morning

Maybe I should be doing something useful, but I was wondering about some concepts.

I once worked in a radio station where someone put labels on the light switch. In the down position, it said, “Dark On.” In the up position, it was, “Dark Off.” Is that any less accurate than the way we usually think of it? In a few minutes, I will turn off my desk lamp and go to bed. Or am I turning on the dark?

The other day, I was looking at a picture of the solar system. The sun was there, of course, along with the planets and many of their moons. “That’s all very well and good,” I thought, “but what keeps them from falling?” After all, the planets and their moons are just hanging there, suspended by nothing. They could fall at any moment, and then where would we be? In a big pile on the bottom of the universe?

There are apples of various sizes, if you are an entertainer. An “apple” is simply a city. A “big apple” is a large city. “THE Big Apple” is New York City. You want to make it from a tank town (some small place where all they have is a water tank to fill a steam engine’s tender) to a big apple to The Big Apple.

What more could we accomplish if we had a prehensile tail, like monkeys? Think about that – a third hand, or a third foot. Something that could help us lean out over roof edges, or hold an extra bag of groceries. How many times have you wished for an extra hand while driving? But, alas, Mother Nature took it away; we will never know.

Max Ex

This is Sunday’s blog, appearing just after midnight.

My favorite late-night Sunday show is “Maximum Exposure,” also known as “Max Ex.” It is, generally, amateur videos of people doing pretty stupid things. I don’t mind seeing them running head-first into cliffs, or over them; they know what they are doing and, if someone’s going to do a idiotic stunt, I’d like to be there watching them.

It’s like an auto race: I don’t want anyone to get hurt and I hope the race goes without incident. But if they are going to pile up, especially if it’s an Olympic-class crash, I’d like to have the tv on at the time.

There’s something fascinating about watching people do really dumb things. I’d rather they don’t and often plead with them not to but, you know, they aren’t going to listen. They learn the hard way that, mayyybe, other people really do have good ideas. If we listened to each other’s wisdom, shows like “Max Ex” wouldn’t be on the air and I wouldn’t have my Sunday night mind-clearing tv.

As they say, anything’s funny when it happens to someone else.

Everybody’s got a story.
Joan Harris died the other day here. A retired entertainer, she once worked the Copa with ex-Army singer Joe Bari (a stage name, later changed to Tony Bennett).

Saturday, January 20, 2007

We're Better Off Just Dreaming Of It

I live on a hill, fairly steep one at that. It’s not a big deal except during the winter, and nights when there is an inch or two of snow. For some reason, this hill becomes rather difficult to climb without a good head start and a clear track to the top. What often happens is that there will be cross traffic when you get to the peak and cars waiting will melt the snow with their tailpipes; it freezes over after they leave and you have some ice beneath the snow for the next person. If there are two cars lined up, then you have two icy patches.

In other words, nobody’s going nowhere. It also doesn’t help that drivers will simply stand on the accelerator and let the tires spin. Doesn’t make the car go uphill at all, but it does tend to pack down the snow; the tailpipe melts some of it and now you have 25-30 feet of impassible road.

What brings this to mind is the cars which have been trying, with little success, to make it the last fifty feet up the hill, victims of not only the weather conditions, but of the drivers before them. You can tell, by the familiar noise, someone is hoping that spinning their tires will somehow magically gain the traction they so desperately seek.

I generally go over to the newspaper and get the morning’s edition around this time of night (after 1:00am, as late as 2:00 or so), but my car is in the short-stay unit of the local shop getting a belt replaced and I just don’t feel like walking over there in this mess. So I think I will gather implements of sleep and put them to good use.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Twilight Zone, Or Just Sort Of Happened?

I was laying underneath my friend’s toilet (see yesterday’s blog) fixing the screws that held the seat tight and worrying about getting the job done in time so I could rush home and write my weekly music column.

Only problem was: What am I going to write it about? I hadn’t the faintest idea. None at all. Except for a list of songs some old guy left with me that I used last week; there were some left and maybe I can pull out a column. Tokyo Rose used some of them on the radio during the war. Maybe I can do something about her.

So I did. “Orphan Ann,” as she called herself on the air, an American citizen visiting her parents when war broke out and she was stranded in Japan, forced to broadcast to the U.S. troops. There are some fine Internet sites which tell the real story about this woman who worked with the American POW’s to subvert the scripts written by the Japanese so they actually raised the troops’ morale, instead of lowering it.

It was published today, Friday. You know what? This is also the day, in 1977, that President Gerald Ford pardoned her. Huh.

Everybody has a story.
Robert Rowlands died the other day. He was a gunner on the USS Yorktown and fought in the Battle of the Coral Sea and the Battle of Midway where the Yorktown was sunk.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

The Very Important Call

So there I was, sitting at the counter in my optometrist’s office as my frames were being adjusted. They were the noisiest frames I’ve ever had and it turns out the screws were loose. Two had already dropped out, one taking a nose piece with it, the other taking a lens (which did not break).

Anyway, there I am when my cellphone rings. “Well,” I thought, “only two people have my number and I can eliminate one of them right away.” So I fumbled with the thing, trying to figure out how to answer it; I’ve only had it for a couple of days and not used it yet. So much for looking like a sophisticate.

So, first call on the new phone; what will the “first time” be like? It’s from the friend who is wondering if I am at her new house working on the toilet seat. I want to make it sound very important and very professional as I get my glasses adjusted, but there aren’t too many ways you can talk around the process without using the word “toilet” or “toilet seat.” Besides, I’ve already blown it when I said, “I wonder how I answer this thing?”

I did, eventually, get to her place and examine the toilet under consideration. Some stuff needed tightening and I had brought my toolbox with me. Something else looked as if it could benefit from being hit a few times with the handle of a large screwdriver, and I guessed right.

It’s not rocket science, but some items are more important than rockets.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Dance, Cowboy, Dance

Generally, the old westerns had a moment when a Black Hat guy would pull out his pistol and tell a White Hat guy to dance. The impetus for the WH was the sight of bullets kicking up dirt dangerously near his feat. And dance, he did. Where and when did he learn the steps? Right there, right then. You know that saying about necessity, mother and invention.

I would imagine that a good many non-swimmers pick up the ability rather quickly when their boats sink. Likewise, atheists learn the art of prayer, at least that of supplication, when in foxholes (or sinking boats).

It’s not a whole lot different for columnists. You have (a) A column due, (b) No ideas, (c) A deadline. Think of the deadline as a guy in a Black Hat with a pistol aimed at your feet. Think of the no ideas as your ability to dance. Think of the column due as the dance the BH wants you to do. When your editor says, “How’s the column coming? I’ll need the final draft in an hour?” it’s the same as hearing someone say, “Dance, cowboy, dance.”

Suddenly, the cowboy learns how to dance; the boater can swim; the atheist borrows a prayer book.

And me? I have a deadline, no ideas and my editor is confidently expecting a 14-inch column tomorrow morning. Dance, cowboy; swim, boater; pray, atheist.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The End Of An Era

I never owned a tv set and seldom watched one until I was something like 51. If I was at someone’s house and the thing was on, I might follow the program, unless there was a more interesting magazine handy. But as far as I was concerned, I could (and did) live without it for many years, perhaps 34.

So the day I decided there were many good cable channels with educational value, I bought a 13” set and carefully chose which, if any, programs I would watch that evening. One of my friends dropped by, saw the tv and said, “It’s the end of an era.” I was the only person he knew who did not watch television.

It may be the end of another era. Today, I finally bought a cell phone. Not anything fancy, just a low-tech TracFone with a small amount of minutes until I get an idea of how I will be using it. Sparingly, I can tell you right now. It has turned out that I need to be in touch with one or two people at odd times when I am not near my home phone.

I have 70 minutes for the next 60 days. That should be plenty, as I’m not planning to be one of those people who walk along the sidewalk chatting away about, well, whatever people chat about as they walk along. Don’t call; I’m not giving out my number.

Everybody has a story.
Marie Weir passed away at 94 this week. “She volunteered her time as an Air Raid Warden and hostess for the troop trains out of Kingston (PA) Train Station.”

Monday, January 15, 2007

A Drug Dealer Goes To My Church

The biggest drug dealer in Exeter was at Mass on Sunday. He’s there every week, then moving the drugs for the next six days.

He’s been taking care of my needs for maybe twenty years now. I need a prescription filled, he does it accurately and quickly. I, on my part, give him a week’s notice when I need a refill, just in case he is out of it, or has another customer and enough for only one.

There’s nothing quite like a good pharmacist. By “good,” I mean someone who keeps an extra hit of what you need; a professional who can tell you what meds will interact with others, or what will react with over-the-counter meds, so you don’t get yourself in trouble.

Of course, as I mentioned, you have to play ball. You can’t wait until just before closing time to run in with a bottle to be refilled; likewise, you can’t call and ask to have the store stay open for just a few minutes more so you can dash down to get your meds.

On the top of my meds, I write its name, when it will run out and how many refills are left. I do much the same on my calendar, but a week ahead I have a note indicating it’s time to call my druggist and let him know I will need a refill within the week.

It works well for both of us. I never get caught short, never have that awful feeling that it’s Saturday evening and I’ve just emptied the bottle.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Another Man's Treasure

I’ve got so much of what I consider treasure in my room that there’s hardly enough space for me to navigate, much less conduct my life. I need another room, just one more.

Are the three boxes of CD jewel boxes excessive? Not when you are someone who needs a dozen or so and does not want to spend 50 or 75 cents each to buy them. The radio station was tossing them and I was catching them.

Same for the videotapes one department was ridding itself of. Dozens of standard-length tapes that can be re-used. Why buy them when I can give you what you want for free? And I have. Another department had some outdated 30-minute (fast speed; 90 minute slow speed) tapes they didn’t realize could be recorded over. Dozens of them, now in my digs.

On the other hand, the local Methodist Church’s downtown used bookstore will soon be the recipient of my trash, a few boxes of what they will find are new treasures.

One of my friends told me about Big Trash Day or, rather, the night before BTD. It was like free day at the toy store. Their pile of trash ended up at about one-third its original size. Trash out, treasure in. It changes from one to the other in a moment, as a practiced eye and a trained mind looks at any object at all, sees worth in it, and brings it home.

A weed is a flower we haven’t found a use for. Trash is something one person can no longer use. Weeds or trash, the smart person finds a use.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

The English Channel

I was watching The History Channel earlier today when I saw an ad for The Golf Channel. “Huh,” I huhed, “that’s still on?” I remember it being one of the earlier niche cable offerings that I heard about some years ago. Never thought it would go anywhere, but it’s still here. I think I was watching The History Channel. Might have been The National Geographic Channel.

It wasn’t on SpeedVision, the racing channel; I haven’t watched The Outdoor Channel or Outdoor Life Channel in a while. It could have been on The Discovery Channel, or Discovery Health Channel, as I have them on fairly often.

We only get about half of the Discovery Network Channels here. We’re missing the Discovery New York Times, the Discovery Military Channel, the Discovery Science Channel and maybe something else. We do get Animal Planet, TLC and The Travel Channel, all part of the network.

We have two channels at the college, both internal only. PennDOT has a channel, which shows live road and traffic conditions at four locations plus Public Square and, no, it’s not more interesting than it sounds.

I forgot there was a Game Show Channel, but I do know that the soap opera channel seems to be popular around here. The English Channel? Still between England and Europe.

Friday, January 12, 2007

The Cost Of Getting Better

Ok, you’re taking the latest medication for your battle with Floogus Of The Moogus. They came out with a new pill that will practically wipe it out and return you to good health once again.

There are a few side effects. You might lose a kidney, get seizures, have memory loss, develop a breath that could melt lead, and possibly fall over dead after drinking milk. Side effects. Listen to them when you hear an ad on tv; there’s one as I write this: nosebleeds, coughing, viral infections.

It’s great to get well, but the road to good health could be dangerous. Irregular heartbeat, difficulty breathing, you-know-what might not work. And these are just side effects.

So you make a chart. On one column, you list what you have wrong with you. On the other column, you list the side effects. Then you step back, look at it and decide which is the better choice. Hmmm… maybe I’m ok with my illness, rather than put up with a nosebleed, sore toes and nightly itchy ears. On the other hand, I can put up with an excess of boogers, fast-growing green fingernails and drooling if I can stop some kind of cancer.

It’s a trade-off. Like choosing a spouse. You want good looks, brains, talent and a few other things, but you know they aren’t all going to arrive in one package. So you figure out what you really want vs. what you’re willing to accept. The side effects.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

A Book With Twelve Pages

Doing my radio show today and looking at the calendar I bought. Its pictures for each month are radio station antennas and I guess you have to be into broadcasting to look at something like that every month. Some of us can tell you what station it is just by showing us a photo of the antenna(s). It may be an illness to some people, but it’s just part of being in radio for us.

I got to thinking, “That’s nice, and all, but why twelve months? Why not five? Why not just one year with no divisions? Is it necessary to measure off our calendars by the phases of the moon, and then shift the days around to satisfy some ego-driven Roman emperors? Back when, what we know as January and February didn’t even have names; they were just a miserable winter period that the ancients endured until the New Year started on March 1. The swampy morass of the year, best forgotten.

So now we have calendars, but so many of them will not only say “January 11,” but will also say “11th day of the year, 354 days left.” It appears to be necessary that we know how many down and how many to go, regardless of which month it is and how many days into that month we are.

I wonder what would happen if we dated today’s checks “011, 2006”? They’d probably come back. I’m going on a cruise 101, 2006 and my brother’s birthday is 173, 2006. If the children are good, Santa will bring them nice things on 359, 2006.

“273 days hath September…”

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

No More Cold, Quiet Marble Palaces

I went to the bank today. Not the biggest deal in the world, but it is in what used to be a funeral parlor and the person who helped me was sitting about where the Guest of Honor’s head would have been lying. Sometimes I wonder if there will ever be a time warp of some sort and, either suddenly or with ethereal slowness, we see a former two-day resident of the premises appear.

In the old days, back when I was a lot younger, this would not have surprised me. Banks looked, and sounded, a lot like cathedrals. There was a sort of audible hush that quietly echoed off the walls and ceiling. As you walked toward a teller’s window, or to a table to make out a slip, your feet made that characteristic “walking on very hard stone” sound.

Tellers were serious people, behind glass and metal bars, and all inside these hallowed walls spoke quietly. There were no decorations. You presented your deposit and your bank book; the entry was noted and the book returned to you. Then, “click click click click,” you walked toward the door, half-tempted to genuflect while passing the President’s door.

Tellers smile now; they speak with each other and pass pleasantries with customers. There are no glass partitions, no metal fences; carpets have replaced marble floors and I haven’t seen a bank book in years. I don’t know if they even exist anymore; I’ll have to ask somebody. Somebody old.

Jacob Marley, perhaps.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

4 Out Of 5 Dentists

I forget exactly what those 80 percent of dentists were in favor of, nor did they say what the other guy did not like about the product under discussion. But four out of five recommended it. Maybe the fifth was a doofus, or perhaps the other four figured it was just as good as anything else, so why not?

Then, again, maybe the original sample was four out of a hundred and it was just too embarrassing to put in the ads. So they overlooked a whole lot of naysayers and left one in just for window-dressing.

“Four out of a hundred dentists recommend this product. The other ninety-six think it’s somewhere between useless and worse than rat poison.”

Worse, maybe there are only four dentists in the entire country who recommend the product. One is strung out, two are drunks, and the other is in the slammer for doing underage.

But I digress.

So what if 4/5 recommend something? That may be a good indicator, but you might also find that four out of five teens have had sex before marriage. Majority of numbers do not always represent ideal paths. Maybe it’s not how many people with titles tell us to do something, but how well we consider their words, ask around, add our own knowledge and make up our own minds.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Same Old Same Old

Years ago, I was reading a novel in which one character was giving advice to another. “When a person gets into his thirties, either he develops new energies or he dies.”

Not literally, of course, but maybe worse in some ways. We continue to live, but not much better than museum pieces, reflecting how we were at one time in our lives. Are now. And will be until we die.

In our obituary, somebody will write, “His/her life was ‘Same Old Same Old.’” While other people were starting flower gardens, spending a few hours each week volunteering, or trying a hobby they always wanted to pick up, they just did the same old thing, day after day. “What’s new?” Nothing; nothing was new last week or last year; nothing will be new tomorrow or next year.

Being around someone like that is like being stuck on a desert island with a newspaper. It never changes. Same stories, same editorials, same comics. How boring to be stuck with something that never changes! How horrible to be that calcified person!

Libraries are filled with books of all types, which can open our minds to knowledge we never knew existed. We can learn about the past, about our times, about anything that interests us.

Never again will we ever say, to the What’s New question: “Same Old Same Old.”

Sunday, January 07, 2007

The NAB Code

That’s not to be confused with the Morse Code or the daVinci Code. It’s the voluntary standards set up by the National Association of Broadcasters. Back in the days of family tv, it meant there would be no ads for liquor or “personal products.”

Personal Products can be defined, loosely, as things you would not pull out and hold up during a church service. You might hint at them, perhaps ask your pharmacist in quiet tones, or go through a check-out with a person of the same gender.

You certainly would not see them on tv. You would hear about Special-K, but not Preparation-H. They would talk about a Boutique, but not Feminique. Learn about Spartans, but not about Trojans. And, yes, John Barleycorn was taboo, as well. People even thought there was a law against advertising whiskey on tv.

Now? It’s hard to tell if they’re holding a tube of toothpaste or Prep H. Those little boxes we went to a drugstore in the next town to buy? You can see them on late-night tv. I doubt there’s a product, other than maybe an abortifacient, that’s not advertised day and/or night.

I know that drugstore clerks just run the products over the scanner and probably don’t even think about it. But I really feel uneasy with them seeing a few of the very ordinary, daily items I buy. What are they going to think, that I have this or that condition?

Or do they even give a rat’s ass? (Sound of chewing gum snapping.)

Saturday, January 06, 2007

The Alumni Are Visiting Tomorrow

We have various alumni events here at the college and, like such gatherings everywhere, they lie like only old alumni can lie. And forget things quickly.

The earliest classes like to talk about their loyalty to old Alma Mater and how they marched from here, yea did they march, all the way to Scranton for the King’s/Scranton big game. And they did it with class.

“Yes,” I said to one of them. “Real class. You puked in the bushes and pee’d behind them.”

“Well,” said the alum, “Yeah, I guess we were a bit drunk. How’d you hear about that?”

“Lane Kirkland was the president here,” said another. (Lane Kirkland? He was a labor leader; I think he meant Lane Kilburn. Did this guy really go here?)

“Hessel-Marian Administration Building,” mentioned another. I said, “Well, there’s Hessel Hall, Hafey-Marian Hall and the Admin Building; which do you mean?”

“I don’t like all the changes they’ve made on campus.” (Well, you’re getting a little long in the tooth yourself and don’t look much like your yearbook picture.)

There’s fact, there’s fiction and then there’s alumni.

Friday, January 05, 2007

This Is A Test. For The Next 60 Seconds...

We used to read that every week. “This is a test of the Emergency Broadcast System. In voluntary cooperation with the FCC,” etc. Voluntary –ha! We’d get our wings clipped if we didn’t “volunteer” to do this. “If this had been an actual alert (at this point, I always wanted to say: “Your ass would be grass”), you would be told what to do.” Yeah, save yourself anyway you can.

The tests for our internal use, never broadcast, came Saturdays at 9:30am and Sundays at 9:30pm. If the Commies wanted to attack America, those would be good times, because we never checked the AP teletype machine. The “extreme bulletin” light went off in the studio, but we ignored it until we had time to rip the test message off the machine, stick it on the clipboard and log its receipt. Major cities could be reduced to ashes before anyone knew.

Besides, as a safety, there was a Secret Code Word, same as you would get if you mailed in a boxtop and ten cents to your favorite radio super-person program. The folks at We’re Protecting You out in Wyoming would transmit the code word and we would know it was a real alert, a real attack. So, one Saturday morning at 9:30, a real alert came over with the real code word. Reactions varied from (a) Somebody screwed up, (b) Probably a screw-up but let’s check the network, (c) Holy Crap! Get On The Air Fast!

Our station went with (b) and, since neither the network nor the station we monitored in the nearby big city was doing anything, we stayed with programming.

The Disc Jockeys' Bad Dream

This was supposed to be Thursday’s blog but, darn it all to heck, I couldn’t access my account to get in here.

“What is your user name?” Well, let’s see … when Blogspot owned the site, it was one thing, but when Google bought it, then it changed. At least I have a binder with all my subscriptions in it, all the usernames and passwords for each site. But the first one didn’t work (Blogger), nor did the second. So I checked the Google name and pw; those let me in.

It was something like trying to get into your house late at night when you have to find your front door key almost totally by touch. You have several similar keys and, in the process of finding the right one, you try a couple of them twice before you finally hit it.

The unsettling dream every disc jockey has is that of arriving at the radio station, finding it empty, the previous record (or tape, or network feed) ready to run out. And you can’t get the studio door open, or you can’t find anything to play, or the studio has been moved and the room is vacant.

Other professions probably have their nightmares, as well, but for us in radio, this is the common dream. For internet people (all of us), it’s not being able to find the right user name and/or password for a particular account.

So, it’s overnight from Thursday and I finally got in to blog.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Passing Gas

My car passed a whole tank of gas before I realized it. I don’t drive much and, when I do, it’s not very far; the longest trip is to church, about twelve minutes away at the most. So I gas up every so often and don’t think too much about it.

Until this afternoon when the “check gauges” light came on. It’s a nice way of saying, “Dummy, you are about to run out of gas.” There was a gas station nearby, but I was not in a position to get there, due to traffic, road lanes and such. So I finished my errand nearby and returned in a way that I could pretty much idle down the hill to the station and put 12.9 gallons of gas into what I think is a 13.5 gallon tank. What’s that come out to? About four pints of gas? I didn’t even try to top off the tank when the nozzle tripped, so maybe I was down even lower.

If I drove any distance at all, I probably would fill it before any trip and never let it get below a third just for daily driving. You just don’t mess when you hit the highway; there might not be a gas station when you need one.

In the broadcast news business, if you’re on assignment and there’s food, eat it; if there’s a toilet, use it. You don’t know when the next time is that you will see either. When driving and you see a gas station, stop there. You might need some gas, maybe use the rest room and generally walk around for a few minutes.

And, if you personally need to pass gas, what better place than outside the car?

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Sounds Of Crunching In The Night

I have to get some crunchy cat food from my favorite pet food store in nearby Hanover Township. There’s probably an official name for the stuff, like “dry food,” but that sounds so, well, dry. Crunchy sounds like it sounds, especially in the middle of the night when I think there are a thousand termites taking part of the floor with them.

Cats are nocturnal by nature, although you’d never know it by this one. She curls up on top of the entertainment center, right above the tv, and seldom ventures out except to stalk prey in the night hours. And stalk she does; down from the heights, across the floor into the kitchenette to her bowl full of crunchies. After she has taken down a few, as a cat takes down small animals in the wild, she either sits in the window rejoicing in her abilities as a hunter gatherer, or returns to her perch as a proud stalker of nighttime denizens of the forest.

She is good at snatching fish from the nearby river. In her case, the river runs through my refrigerator, which she tries in vain to open. One of these days, she will learn how to do it and not depend on me to help her grab the salmon, or other species of piscatorial splendor. At 11:00 each morning and 10:30 each evening, she feels the ancient urgings to head riverward to where the fish head upstream to spawn. Upstream through that cool box next to my sink.

She has the local SPCA on my phone’s speed dial, just in case I am five minutes late feeding her or providing her with the morning or evening snack. Otherwise, contentment reigns.

Monday, January 01, 2007

There Are Worse Things Than...

…a president you can’t stand: …A president-for-life with unlimited powers, who is the very definition of corruption.

…being asked for a dollar by a panhandler: …Not having one to give him.

…shoveling the old widow’s driveway for free: …Being her deceased husband.

…having to drive slowly on the Interstate during a storm: …Being the driver of the quicker SUV who passed you and is now wheels-up off the road.

…finding there’s “nothing on” tv: …Not having books or good magazines to read.

…running into a constant complainer: …Being one.

…acting your age: …Taking yourself, and life, too seriously.

…occasionally spreading wild oats: …Letting them get moldy in the cellar.

…telling someone about a real strange dream you had: …Having that person decide to analyze you to death over something basically meaningless.

…the family Christmas letter: …Getting it from your spouse.