Friday, August 31, 2007

There's Farms And There's Farms

I once lived on a farm in Vermont, the kind with cows and chickens and milk and eggs and cow manure and hay. Ages ago, I remember reading a book (sponsored by Ralston Purina Feeds) with drawings about this very neat and clean farm. Ha! You'd think the animals never pooped.

Now I live near a farm on top of a mountain, an antenna farm. That's what it's called in broadcasting. All the tv stations are there, as well as most of the FM stations and a few business radio transmitters. You look up there at night and it’s a big area of tall rows of flashing red lights.

To the average citizen, it’s just a bunch of blinking lights on the mountain; to anyone in radio or tv, it’s the glowing curtain in front of the Ark of the Covenant, nearly worthy of worship. It’s a symbol of electronic energy transmitted to radio and tv sets within a sixty mile range, people in a small studio whose voice and/or face will be in thousands of homes and cars.

It’s racks of equipment with lights flickering and meters waving back and forth, digital dials with numbers going up and down or holding still and only we know what they mean. It’s leaving the building, looking up on an overcast day and not being able to see the top of the tower in the clouds.

It beats shoveling cow plops any day.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Round And Round They Go

For reasons that I can never figure out, I occasionally get fascinated by the role of circles in our lives. Small circles to enormous, beyond measuring, circles.

Measuring cups are circular; so are fry pans and many cakes. The rotary dials on old telephones, clock faces, wheels, traffic lights and incandescent light bulbs. All of them are as round as your coffee cup, dinner plate, tea kettle or water pipes.

There must have been some person, or persons, unknown, who realized that circles have an excellent reason to be an essential part of our life.

Could it be they figured out the earth was a circle? Or that our trip around the sun is a circle? They never knew it took our galaxy revolves in a 284 million year circle.

We instinctively draw our wagons into a circle when attacked. Dogs often go around in a circle before they lay down in the grass. We talk about going around in circles when we are confused. Hula Hoops would never have sold in any other shape.

Everybody has a story.
Jean Hickey went to glory(*). Former Copacabana girl, Johnny Weissmuller Water Show girl, and champion ballroom dancer, she went on to become an actress performing in more than 200 Broadway productions. (*)She was a deeply religious person.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007


Half a thousand; no repeats that I know of and no missed days except for vacations.

Welcome once again to one of the quiet spots on the Internet, a site designed to be a gentle conversation during a slow walk down a country lane. We’re not going anywhere, not doing anything. It’s always a sunny June day and the lane is shaded by large trees.

We walk in silence until someone has an idea, whatever it may be, and talks about it without interruption. Maybe the other person comments at the end, but you say whatever’s in your head.

It’s so hard to speak of all the little things on your mind. We’re afraid to talk about what we see in the clouds. I once saw Donald Duck, but the professionals I work with are trying too hard to be professionals to enjoy that little bit of frivolity and would diss me if I ever told them. Imagination was fun when I was a kid; I want to make sure it still is.

My mother, when I was all of maybe four years old, took me on nature walks and we would look at the small, the tiny, the insignificant. From there, I learned to appreciate the smallest piece of work people have done to make our society work. I also learned to watch nature, such as the two birds across the street that often jump up in the air (without flying) while they are pecking for seeds.

As we continue on this country road, invite your friends.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Going Through Life Butt First

Actually, it's "but first."

I've got to write my blog, but first:

-Got to put my radio show together; but first,
-Want to put on the Canadian radio station I like that streams on the net; but first,
-I should make some tea and get a muffin from the kitchen; but first,
-There's that box of mail and junk I threw together when company came and I should go through it; but first,
-The cat is letting me know she hasn't been fed; but first,
-I've got to get some clean bowls from the kitchen; but first,
-Her perches need to be brushed while she's not in them; but first,

Well, you get the idea. The blog never did get written last night and I had to cheat with the date to keep it as “Tuesday.” I did get the show together, got the Canadian music station ok, had my tea and muffin, cleaned out all the junk in that box, fed the cat, got the clean bowls and cleaned the cat’s perches.

I rather doubt I’m the only person going through life But First. It would be interesting to have a poll somewhere, an anonymous poll of course, to see just how many others do the same thing. I suspect we’re not putting off the inevitable as much as we’re seeing the little stuff that we also need to do and can get out of the way quickly.

Monday, August 27, 2007

The Self-Fulfilling Moon

The moon looked full Sunday night, but it probably has a day or two before it’s really full. I just glanced at it and didn’t look for the shadowing at one edge.

For several months, I was on rotation at a mental hospital. Full moons came and full moons went and we never noticed any change in the patients’ behaviour. The tales we heard of these people going even further out of their minds just did not happen to us and, I suspect, did not happen elsewhere. I remember that a fellow went absolutely bonkers one day, but there seemed to be no correlation with the moon.

I had a friend who was in AA. He said that he told people the full moon drove him to binges of drinking, but when he got into the AA program, he admitted it was just an excuse to drink more than usual.

Also, I’ve heard that “Auntie Flo” pays her monthly visit around that time more than any other during the month. But now I learn it’s all anecdotal and the gals sometimes notice the near-full moon I mentioned up top; it’s got a spread of, perhaps, five days. The stats just don’t work out and seeing what you think is the full moon a few times, plus hearing of others, tends to make facts out of erroneous data.

I hope it’s not a case that the moon doesn’t like us, but it’s moving away at the rate of 1.5” a year. At one point, it was 17 times closer to us than it is now; there will come a day when it’s not much more than a large, brighter spot in the sky.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

You Go, Girl

I saw an ad the other day which had to do with guys not being able to go, or having to go often, or getting up several times a night to go.

Be right back; I gotta go.

The new English-speaker says, “Go? What do you mean by ‘go’?”

So you explain that it means you have to, uh, take a leak (or words to that effect). Short for “go to the bathroom.” But somewhere between coarse and refined society, it’s the acceptable term for that particular bodily function. You really don’t need to spell it out.

When I was a lot younger, it was common to hear someone say, “I have to see a man about a dog.” It was a very old expression, used to excuse oneself for a greater or, usually, lesser amount of time. Generally, it carried the same weight as “I gotta go,” and I would imagine that it’s seldom heard these days.

Euphemisms; how could we get along without them? There are certain things you just don’t mention, so you talk around them; in the old days, we would sort of dance around them and hope people would get the idea.

Now it seems we see ads for products that take care of all sorts of difficulties that occur between the neck and the knees. Even the fart-controlling Beano.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

The Stages Of Life

I got to thinking about the guys’ stages of life. The real ones, not what you study in books.

Babies: “Isn’t he cute? He’s got Mommy’s nose, Daddy’s smile, and he’s holding Grandpa’s teeth.”

Ten: “I’d like to get my hands on whoever gave him that little tool kit. Once he got a hammer, he’s found a lot of things that need pounding."

Teenager: “He’s a fine young lad, and someday he’ll take over the family business, whether he wants to or not.”

Twenties: “Oh, he’s so handsome! Girls are fainting and old ladies are thinking back to when their husbands looked like that.”

Sixties: “My, what a distinguished gentleman.” (Meaning: He’s still got it and he could still get it, but brown has turned to gray and desire has turned to wisdom.)

Eighties: “Doesn’t he look wonderful?” That is, he can still walk with assistance, he managed to recognize a few relatives and it’s time for his nap.

Nineties: “Better bring another blanket; it’s only 80 in here. No, grandpa, I didn’t say ‘sank it, we need a beer.”

Friday, August 24, 2007

From A To Zzzz

It’s one of those late evenings when I fall lightly asleep at the keyboard while wondering what to write as my daily blog.

You probably know what it’s like: You are sitting here, then you are thinking of strange things and realize that you’ve been out for a matter of minutes. So you rev up again and try to think of a topic that you haven’t covered in the nearly 500 days since you started the project.

Then you wake up again.

Is it normal to drop into dream-sleep that quickly? Or do I have it down to a fine art? Regardless, the movie show starts pretty quickly as I nod off here. Sometimes, fairly often actually, I dream I’m on the cruise ship for my next trip in about five months and two days. After I run over to the newspaper to get tomorrow’s edition, I’ll see what dreamtime brings.

Everybody has a story.
George Triffon, a trumpet player, passed away recently. He played with the touring Count Basie Orchestra, was a member of the Merv Griffin Show’s studio orchestra, along with being part of the Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, Les Brown and Lionel Hampton bands. He was also at the Copacabana, backing people like Frank Sinatra, Peggy Lee, Paul Anka, Tony Bennett, Nat Cole and Pearl Bailey. He was also in the pit band for many successful Broadway shows. [Source: NY Times]

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Grocery List

I keep a sort of “grocery list” in my head of things I want to do eventually. Not all of them work out, at least so far, but I’m surprised at how many do. I’m also mildly amused at those which are added to the list as time goes by.

Always wanted to be a disc jockey on the radio. I began in the news department of a radio station and eventually I did “air,” as we call it. I wanted to be a tv cameraman, but that hasn’t happened yet; I did run the old RCA black and white cameras, as well as some newer color cameras, but never during a regular show. I also worked Master Control in a tv station once. Story there.

I wanted to play the piano and had to teach myself; also wanted to play a brass instrument and found myself both a trumpet and a teacher. The cello was dropped from the list because it would cause problems with my “reading finger” – I am a Braille transcriber and need that sensitivity. I thought it would be good to learn Braille and Morse code, which I can do both.

On my “to do” list are: Fly a Cessna 172, or similar airplane. The chances of having a pilot’s license are remote, but I’d like to get up there and fly around for a bit. I always wanted to drive an over-the-road bus; again, chances are remote but maybe there is a possibility out there, so I remain hopeful.

Always wanted to have a newspaper column and, by darn, I do.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Does The DNA Match?

It’s a quiet day in the area; the chatter on the scanner is just little stuff and hardly worth listening to. Then this comes over:

“A male got out of a car, nailed a target to a tree and is now shooting at the tree.”

That’s got to be in the Back Mountain area, or in one of the strippins (local name for an abandoned strip mining area). At least I hope so.

Reminds me of the hillbilly joke: If an infinite number of rednecks, in an infinite number of pickups, shoot an infinite number of rifles at an infinite number of street signs, eventually they will reproduce the entire works of Shakespeare in Braille.

It’s just a retelling of the old monkey joke: A million monkeys at a million typewriters will eventually reproduce the entire works of Shakespeare. “And your point is??” Monkeys plagiarize.

Chimps, or some such animal, have DNA that is so amazingly close to ours it’s scary. Of course, hillbillies are pretty close, too, which is also pretty scary. You’ve seen those ads on tv where the guy is working in an office full of dressed-up monkeys (or chimps). When you go to work, look around and remember that your co-workers’ DNA is 98.something the same as those animals. Check out that particularly hairy guy and wonder what he would be like with a prehensile tail. …hmmm…

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

How's The Weather Where You Are?

Met a fellow from Kenya who was studying over here in Pennsylvania. It had been raining for several days and he wanted to know if it would ever stop. I told him that we have storms like this; it can go several days of being overcast and rainy. He said where he lives the rain comes, really hard, then stops and that’s it.

Along the East coast, there are Nor’easters which come up the eastern seaboard with the winds out of the northeast and act a lot like hurricanes. The Midwest has tornadoes, Texas has its Blue Northers in the winter; you can get lost and freeze just yards from your house.

In the Spring, we don’t worry about the snowmelt in our area; it’s what happens upriver in New York State that makes the local news. Our melt will affect people downstream, while the events in NY’s southern tier will eventually (about two days) end up going down South Main Street. Keep it to yourself, Binghamton.

Everybody has a story.
Perry Knowlton ended up with the angels last month in NY. “Among his childhood cohort was a young Barbara Pierce, later Barbara Bush. At 19, Knowlton and a friend crossed the Atlantic from New York to England in a 21-foot sailboat. He later became a literary agent representing authors and estates such as Ogden Nash, Ayn Rand, Betty Friedan, Samuel Eliot Morison, A.A. Milne and C.S. Lewis. He also was a teacher, falconer, editor, actor, model, sailor, horseman, athlete, airplane pilot, navigator, scuba diver, beekeeper, farmer and chef."

Monday, August 20, 2007

Class A, B, Class III, IV

For reasons unknown to me, I got to thinking about radio stations where I worked. Maybe it was something on the news, or some commercial. Beats me; trying to keep up with my thoughts is hard enough, but at least I have enough to blog here daily and write a newspaper column weekly.

I was thinking, specifically, of this Class B FM radio station where I worked in the Midwest. These operations are licensed for a maximum of 50,000 watts with a max antenna height of 500 feet, or some equivalent balance of the two (more height, less power). I forget what our stats were, but in the flat Midwest, it doesn’t matter; anything over 3000 watts at a bunch of hundred feet will take you a long way.

We went a long way; we were the primary classical music outlet for parts of at least two states, if not three. When I opened the mic to introduce the weekly Metropolitan Opera broadcasts, I knew that a lot of people were listening to me and I tried hard to make a seamless, yet interesting join.

I worked at some Class A FM stations, smaller operations with lower power and lower antennas. You are talking to your friends and neighbors around the city and the ‘burbs.

I began at a Class III AM station, licensed for regional broadcasting that will hit a bunch of cities and outlying areas. It was neat, knowing that every word I wrote or spoke was going out to all these people. But I also did Class IV’s, which barely left town, especially at night.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Back When I Had All The Answers

A few years ago, I read an article by a fairly old gent who included a photo of himself as a young professional, barely out of graduate school and placed in a managerial position. “This was me when I had all the answers,” he wrote.

Old age brings wisdom and truth. Or, it better or we have been fooling ourselves for a lifetime. Some people do that; they started life feeling they had all the answers, long before they knew what the questions would be. Life was black and white; situations were this or that; there was a book somewhere with everything spelled out clearly.

Then you get older and realize that there is an increasing amount of gray area. Life is not that simplistic, answers are not that easy and sometimes there are no answers. Instead of finding the right choice, there are occasions when all the choices are bad and you have to see which is the least bad and go with it.

Not only is life not that simplistic, but it can be terribly complicated and we learn to beware of people who come down the street with the easy answers, with the absolute answers. We have to ask ourselves if their heads have been in the sand or up their ass. Have they really matured, or are they dodging the issues of life by remaining emotionally children, where all issues are still this or that?

I think there should have been an Eleventh Commandment. Something like this: “And do your best; that’s all I can ask of you. Do your best.”

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Which User Name And Password?

In some ways, I’m quite methodical, even if my room looks as if it’s been ransacked. Still, everything has its ideal location. Books of one type here, magazines there, cd’s in another rack, etc.

Internet user names and passwords are in a folder, every last one of them, regardless of whether or not I might use them again. If I register for something, it’s entered more or less alphabetically in the folder so I can find it easily. And that includes magazine subscriber label numbers I have copied and use to gain entrance to their web sites.

You know what it’s like: Exactly what *is* the formula for getting into this or that account? It’s like trying to remember your own phone number: you don’t call yourself often enough to remember it, nor do you have to sign in to most accounts if your computer and the site remember each other.

So when I can’t get in to one of my regular sites, I go to the folder to find just how I set it up. I might have one user name “tomcart,” while another is “ducks313,” and yet another is “ncr1718.” I have no idea why one of my passwords is “jet four” (unless it was assigned to me), or another is “8117,” or even “areca245.”

So there they are, sites I use and others I may have hit once or twice and can’t even remember what they are about. That is, assuming they even exist. In the fleeting moment that describes the Internet, they may have perished ages ago (a year = an age).

Friday, August 17, 2007

I Think You Spell His Name . . .

The New York Times has what it calls “The Public Editor,” who represents the readers. Last Sunday, he spent an entire long column about misspelled names.

A name is the only thing you really have; a job can come and/or go. But you remain who you are, John or Jane Doe, and you deserve to have your name spelled properly.

How did the reporters try to get out of this one? “I was operating from memory and didn’t bother to check.” Or, “I assumed the name was spelled the ‘normal’ way and didn’t check.” And even, “I was checking names on the internet and was misled by other people’s misspellings.”

When you don't spend the time and energy to be exact it means, “I didn’t give a rat’s ass about the details.”

We had a saying back in New England that “good enough isn’t.” I used to tell my writing students, “When you leave a note for the milkman, you should do three drafts.” What you write should be clear, with words spelled right; that’s why God invented dictionaries.

Does it matter? Sure; just look at message boards on the internet and see which posts seem valid and which you dismiss quickly. It’s probably the writing, the punctuation and the spelling that make the difference. Fuzzy writing comes from a fuzzy brain.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Monster Under My Bed

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus; and yes, dear readers, there are monsters under our beds. They hide there at night, ready to grab us by the ankles when we get up to take care of matters in the wee small hours. They wait until we are in a vulnerable position and then they try to carry us off into their horrid lair underneath our cellar.

And during the day? They hide in our drains. Go into your bathroom, IF you dare. Go ahead. Ok, now look into the bathtub drain and what do you see? HA! The top of a monster’s head. That’s his hair you see. He’s hiding in the drain during the daytime and if you’re not careful where you stand in there, he will reach up and GRAB YOU by the toes and pull you down the drain into the sewer system.

Why do you think all those little boys and girls are on the milk cartons?

Look underneath the kitchen sink. See that little curved thing? That’s called a “trap,” and it’s to keep big and little monsters (usually little) from getting into the kitchen. The bottom part is always filled with water, because monsters are afraid of it. But occasionally a real obnoxious little bugger will get through it and stick his head up through the drain when it’s very quiet. That’s how all the leftovers in the sink disappear. You don’t clean it out and you can be sure your father would kiss his mother-in-law before he’d lift a hand. So that leaves your mother or the monster.

Yes, dear reader, monsters exist and they are all over your house right this very minute.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Lastly, But Not Leastly

The guest who gives the Senior Citizen Center menus each morning on my radio show is a nice guy who can add a few words and get away with it. As he reads the next five days’ offerings, he will tag either the final day or the final dessert with, “And lastly, but not leastly…”

We talked about it and, one day, I used the big studio dictionary while he was reading to see if the word actually existed. Dead end. Later, I checked the Internet and found that, while it appears often, it’s mostly by pinheads who I don’t trust.

Yet, words do make themselves into the language one way or another. Substandard usage (ain’t), slang, regional and a word which gains currency simply by widespread acceptance. Some words are fine now, while a hundred years or so back they were obscenities. Some words now that can’t be said in polite company were just fine in the past.

Everybody has a story.
Philip Pack died today. “Phil swam competitively and often recalled a 3-man relay he swam in at the YMCA against Olympic swimmer and movie star Johnny Weismuller. Although he lost, he claimed he would have beaten the original Tarzan if it were not for the diminished lung capacity he suffered as a result of working in the mines. While crossing the Atlantic on the SS Chatham, his ship was torpedoed by a U-boat and was sunk; he later served in the Pacific. Living in NYC, he used to buy shoes and sandwiches for homeless people in Grand Central Terminal.”

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

A Nice Piece Of Tail

And a cute pussy to go along with it.

Now that I’ve had shared custody of a cat for a bunch of years, I’ve noticed a few cat things that escaped me before.

When they are confident and unafraid, they walk around with their tails straight up in the air. Got to be a reason for this and maybe I should pause here to find out. [pause] Ok, I did a search and didn’t find out any more than I’ve learned from living with a cat.

Upright tail equals happy cat. End-of-tail twitch is curious. Full-tail wave is “keep away, and don’t you dare do to me whatever you are planning on doing.”

The slowly-waving tail I’ve only seen when I’m getting her breakfast or supper ready (or twice-daily treats) and she is waiting with a modicum of patience. The whole tail sort of switches back and forth in happy anticipation.

Cat sitting up, tail wrapped around it, looking out the window, is pondering the mysteries of the universe. You will never know the results of this meditation, as these are The Secrets Of The Cat, unknown to all but God.

On occasion, I wonder what she might do with a prehensile tail, like a monkey. Would she hang from a cabinet handle and get into the canned food while I put it in the bowl?

Monday, August 13, 2007

Six Feet Under And Not Likely To Get Higher

Life has its many tragedies and one of the inevitable is the separation (brief, our faith tells us) that comes when a spouse, parent or child passes on. The soul goes to its Creator, the body dies and is buried with respect, the living go back home to grieve the loss and somehow go on with their lives. Occasionally it doesn’t quite work out that way and the tragedy grows worse.

I have seen a wife trying to pull her deceased husband’s body off the gurney in a hospital emergency room, screaming to him that she wanted to take him home. I’ve seen a parent practically jump onto the casket to get her son back.

These past two weeks, I’ve seen a retired professional woman talk about visiting her recently deceased husband’s grave and seeing how much weight he has lost. “If I could only dig him up,” she told me, “bring him home, get him something to eat and have him walk around, he would be fine.”

Reminding her that he has passed away makes no difference; talking about his funeral doesn’t make it through; her prior experience with people who died hasn’t dawned on her.

“I know he’s in heaven with God, but I have to get him out of that cemetery. I want to bring him a tray of food, dig down to the casket and give it to him. He needs to eat.”

Daily, as she slowly unravels, her personal tragedy grows to an end we can’t see yet.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

That Ol' Yeller Bulldozer Down In Back

Th’ gub’mint folks tells us we gots t’ clean up the land after we’s done pickin’ it clear of coal and stuff like that. Cover it over with dirt and other ‘spensive things. Make it look durned pretty. But they’s nice enough to let us at least finish th’ job a-fore we’s gotta git to cleanin’ it all up.

“Take yer time,” th’ gub’mint agent sez. “When yer done an’ gone, after th’ last piece o’ gear is off th’ property.”

Well, now, ain’t that th’ coincidence. Seems as how we wuz workin’ out near th’ end with that ol’ broken-down dozer what ain’t seen an honest day’s work in a year. Gonna cost us plenty t’ get rid of it. Gonna cost us plenty more t’ clean up this strip mine. Gonna cost us nuthin’ t’ leave th’ junker here.

Gub’mint guy told us we don’t have t’ fix th’ land till th’ last piece o’ gear wuz gone. Well, it ain’t goin’ nowhere till th’ Second Comin’ and I don’t plan t’ be around t’ fix up th’ patch when that happens.

* * *

And so it goes throughout the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. As you drive along and see rusted yellow pieces of equipment, you have just passed a worked-out strip mine. But it’s not over until the fat lady sings and/or moves the last piece of gear.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Cheap New England Yankee

Where I come from, that’s a compliment. Where I live now, that’s a description people use of me. I consider it a talent.

Blog on cruising #3. I try not to repeat, but some things are too important, especially when the next cruise is so close that I have to start packing. It’s just five months, two weeks and one day – or, roughly, coming down the street at the speed of light or (my figures), 164.4 million knots per hour. Anyone better with math can correct this and I’ll fix the post.

Anyhow, I occasionally have dreams of boarding the Noordam and trying to find my way from stern to stem. Why we enter up its @ is a mystery to me, but even more mysterious is why I dream there is no direct route, but we have to go up a deck here, down a deck there. Eventually, I finally find my way around and all is fine.

Last night, I had *the most vivid* dream about my mother, an inveterate (not invertebrate; that’s something else) HAL cruiser, showing up on the Noordam. She left us for the Great Cruise Ship In The Sky ten years ago and, in this dream, I said, “What are you doing here??” She led me around to where she was hanging out with someone and I’d never seen her so happy and animated. This is a person who was always perky in her earthly life.

It ended there. I would have stayed, but the alarm clock went off and here I was, back in reality. Once, on the ship, I met about five people who looked just like her!

Friday, August 10, 2007

"Dial Nine-One-One"

When the national emergency telephone number went into effect, there was a joke that people of a certain nationality never got through because they couldn’t find the “eleven” on what was, at that time, known as “nine eleven.” Well, that was kinda true, but it turns out that people would panic in an emergency and really did look for the “eleven” on the dial. The FCC told broadcasters to say “nine-one-one,” and thus it has remained.

I’m pretty sure it came from the English and/or Irish system of dialing “999,” as those numbers are the first on their dial. Or so I’ve heard. Our system uses “1” as the signal for a long-distance trunk call, so we can’t use our “first on the dial,” and 999 would be too slow on a rotary dial phone.

Yes, you can advertise whiskey and such types of firewater over radio and tv; always could. There just was a gentlemen’s agreement for many years that it was not something which should be broadcast because tv and radio could not be segmented, as magazines could, for age groups. In recent years, these more effective beverages have shown up at the later hours.

Other products were also on the “let’s not go there” list: Preparation H, for one. Tampons, for another. Now, depending on the program and the hour, you will find ads for "get it up" (Viagra) "and use it" (Trojans) products. We already have commercials answering the age-old question about bears crapping in the woods.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Mom Said, "When You Hear A Siren . . ."

. . .Someone’s day was just ruined.”

I thought about that a bit. Sounds right to me; no matter what sort of vehicle it’s on, that sound lets us know that there’s a person whose day was just changed for the worse.

Cop snagged someone, or is going to some “can’t wait” affair; ambulance going to pick someone up or take them to the hospital; fire truck isn’t out for a pleasant day or night ride.

Years ago, and maybe even today in some places, we tested the air-raid siren on Saturdays at noon. The fire company would crank the thing up and we would generally ignore it, except to say, “It’s noon already?” We always thought it would be a good time for the Commies to attack, as nobody paid attention to the sirens.

Some of the boroughs around here let the kids know that the curfew is about to be in effect by setting off their fire alarms for half a minute. That certainly doesn’t ruin anybody’s day, but it puts a wet blanket on whatever the kids were doing at night.

Sirens: “Move to the side of the road; we’re going to help someone and we need to get by you folks.”

Siren: “I’m the train and I’m that big thing you see coming at you, blowing its whistle at the stations and when I see people along the track.” Good luck, Mr. Locomotive.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Ditch The Portable Power Saw

As a public service to the traveling public, especially those who faithfully read this blog, we would like to remind you of the restricted items for airplane flights. I don’t mean the tiny scissors, the 3-ounce containers of hair tonic, etc.

I mean ice picks. In case you are not aware, you cannot have them in your carry-on bag, or in your pockets, when you board the plane. Sabers and spear guns are also forbidden, in case you wanted to bring an extra-large size ice pick.

Forget about meat cleavers, too; they're really not welcome.

You’d think it would go without saying that dynamite and hand grenades would not make it past the screening, but we’re put on notice not to bring these little toys with us. In fact, you can’t even bring toy dynamite or grenades.

Don’t even try cattle prods. I know; they may make it quicker on arrival when everyone is standing in the aisle and not moving, but you can’t bring one with you, so don’t.

Leave the blackjacks and brass knuckles at home. If someone takes your window seat, speak with a cabin attendant or just eat it. Don’t bring your “persuaders” to fix the problem.

Since you won’t be doing any woodworking, don’t bring the cordless portable power saw.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Don't Bother; There Ain't No More Road

When I’d take the train from NYC to Stratford CT, I’d call Mom from the train station to let her know I was in. She’d say, “I’ll pick you up at the police box near Stratford Center.” Good spot, as all she has to do is make a right turn, another right and we’re headed back home.

There hadn’t been a police box there in –what?—ten years, maybe twenty years. The only thing left was the concrete foundation. We still went to the drugstore that closed its pharmacy some years back and was now a general store.

Today, I was walking up Jackson Street and, as I crossed North Franklin, glanced to my left to check for oncoming traffic. On a street that’s been closed for maybe four years and made into a pedestrian mall. Old habits, if they do die, die hard.

Radio people often move from station to station and I know the feeling. For years, I kept a 4x6 card on the control board with my current station’s callsign, city of license and frequency on it. The other announcers laughed at me, but I never came out with the wrong call, city or spot on the dial – an occupational hazard. You’re on the air and, in the heat of battle, you have to identify the station and you can’t remember where you are.

People sometimes ask me if they are having some sort of blank spell while they drive to someplace familiar. They remember leaving their house and arriving, but nothing in-between. “No,” I tell them, “it’s just so familiar you drive by habit."

Monday, August 06, 2007

3 Kilometers Of Mattresses

A mattress company in Canada, with a whole bunch of stores, is having a big sale. Their goal is to sell enough of their product to make a pile three kilometers high, and that’s piled one on top of another. I wrote to them in an attempt to find out just how many “zzz machines” that would make, but they haven’t answered.

My own quickie figures indicate they hope to unload somewhere between ten and twelve thousand units. That’s a lot of sales for something which people already own; it’s not as if they are trying to move a new gadget to an empty market. You already have a saturated customer base and you’re trying to sell even more. It’s as if you are hawking red-hots at the yearly Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest.

I wish them every success and, more than that, I wish they will answer my note.

Do you remember the “L’il Abner” comic strip of some years back? He was a hillbilly, as were almost all the characters, and held a job of sorts in a local mattress factory. His job was to test them by sleeping on each one as it was finished. Having done this, he arrived back home exhausted from the day’s work and immediately went to bed.

If we live to be 75, we will have spent the equivalent of 25 years on a mattress. One-third of our life unconscious, lying there sleeping – and nobody knows why we do it, or need to. One of Mother Nature’s big secrets. Actually, we do less of that than other creatures; my cat needs 14 hours of sleep a day and others animals need more than we do.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

The Silence Of The Cat

I came back from doing my radio program and the cat was waiting for me on the rug. Not on the wall-to-wall carpet, but on the extra rug I put down to keep the person under me from hearing every step I take. It’s where she sits or stretches out when she wants her twice-daily treat. One around noon and the other around ten or eleven in the evening.

She says nothing but just looks at me. Often, she does not even make eye contact and just lays there waiting for some refrigerator action.

Speaking of which, this cat can sit and look at the fridge as if staring at the thing will cause its door to open and, presumably, the cat food can to march out. So, stare she does. Eventually, I get around to going where no cat has gone before: pulling on the handle and opening the door.

Later, she hops up to her perch on top of the entertainment center, sometimes to sleep and sometimes to quietly watch what’s going on. She sees all, but she makes no comment on the action in my room. When the day comes that she can speak with us, I’d like to be first in line to find out what’s been going through her mind all these years.

Everybody has a story.
Bernadine Mooney passed away last week. “Many children will remember her as the little old lady who would slip them a dollar during the sign of peace at St. Vincent’s Masses.”

Saturday, August 04, 2007


Somebody, or something, supposedly tied Hank Aaron’s homerun record tonight. Who, or what, depends on how you view a few things.

If you view numbers, then Barry Bonds just tied the record and most likely will break it soon.

If you view actual performance, then Hank Aaron is still way out in front and will stay there until someone can hit 755 using what God gave them and not what comes in a bottle or out of a needle.

I saw a sign months ago, “Babe Ruth did it on hotdogs and beer.” Those were the most performance-enhancing drugs he ever used and, looking at him, he used them well.

There is something about an athletic event that demands all participants, in general, be evenly matched. When one (or more) start using gadgets or enhancement drugs, you have as much as conceded you can’t do what you want with your own abilities.

With every such “record,” we should have an asterisk, with an explanation at the bottom of the page explaining what the person felt justified doing in order to make this status. Then the fans can decide for themselves if the player is really worthy of the adulation that usually comes with such an achievement.

Friday, August 03, 2007

The Dog Days Of Summer

It’s hot here; the radio station in Toronto I listen to on the internet says it’s hot there, also. These are the Dog Days of August, the time of year we dread. But despite what I’ve heard, they have nothing to do with dogs. has a good explanation: “The brightest of the stars in Canis Major (the big dog) is Sirius, which also happens to be the brightest star in the night sky. In fact, it is so bright that the ancient Romans thought that the earth received heat from it. (Well, it does, but the amount is insignificant.) In the summer, however, Sirius, the ‘Dog Star,’ rises and sets with the sun. During late July, Sirius is in conjunction with the sun, and the ancients believed that its heat added to the heat of the sun, creating a stretch of hot and sultry weather.

“They named this period of time, from 20 days before the conjunction to 20 days after, ‘Dog Days,’ after the Dog Star.

"The ‘precession of the equinoxes’ (a gradual drifting of the constellations over time) means that the constellations today are not in exactly the same place in the sky as they were in ancient Rome. Today, dog days occur during the period between July 3 and August 11. Although it is certainly the warmest period of the summer, the heat is not due to the added radiation from a far-away star, regardless of its brightness. No, the heat of summer is a direct result of the earth's tilt.” And, of course, it’s winter south of the Equator, so this doesn’t work for them.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

The Swiss Cheese Theory

You put several blocks of swiss cheese in a row and you can’t see through them, unless the holes line up. Maybe a couple of holes will and you can see through a couple, but it’s not until all of them do that you can pass an object from one side to the other.

Pilots use that analogy to describe the causes of airplane crashes. There’s never just one cause, they will tell you; there are many and very often, more than we think. There are holes present. but it’s not until all the holes line up that we have an incident.

The National Geographic Channel’s “Seconds to Disaster” is good at explaining this. Had one link been missing in the chain of events, there would have been no disaster.

The I-35W Bridge collapsed last night in Minneapolis. CNN found a bridge inspector and asked him what he thought the cause was. Basically, he said, “I haven’t the faintest idea. I’ve never seen anything like this type of collapse.” When pressed for his speculation on what it might have been, he said, “We don’t even know what caused the Tacoma Narrows Bridge to fall [and that was in 1940]. There are theories, but we don’t know. There are many causes for any accident, not just one, and it will take years to figure out.”

Bit by bit, they will find the holes in the swiss cheese and see which ones line up. It will take a long time. By tomorrow, the tv news anchors will have all the answers and when the actual causes are discovered, only The Daily Show will run their “shoot from the hip” reports along with the actual causes. The newsmen sure won’t.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Going Over Town

It’s August already. The month of slow dread for grammar school students, because we know the end of our summer vacation is slowly heading our way. For us, it was time to go Over Town.

That meant going to Bridgeport, the nearest city, leaving our car in the railroad station parking lot, and walking to Howland’s Department Store, Thom McAn’s Shoe Store and maybe lunch at Leavitt’s or Read’s Department Store.

Lunch with Mom! And doing it Over Town! As I remember, the restaurant was in the store’s basement and we took a ticket from the turnstile as we went in. I don’t know why and it’s been a long time, but that seemed to be the drill. We’d have a leisurely lunch, then either continue shopping or go back to the parking lot with a brief detour to the railroad station (it was elevated, so we climbed up the stairs and, in this warm weather, got a good whiff of the creosote-soaked ties). After I watched a train or two go by, we left for our home out at the edge of the world.

It also meant that we had about four weeks left. Ok, that’s a bit of time, but as sure as I could see the locomotive coming toward us from a distance at the railroad station, I could also see the first day of school approaching. We never, ever, went Over Town except for things like school shopping; it was the first cool breeze in our warm summer life. But for now, there was the boat, the beach and catching bait in The Gut, a place too smelly for outsiders, but like perfume to us.