Saturday, January 31, 2009

Some Stats For Those Who Keep Them

Will you be hosting a Super Bowl party? If you are, the average number of people at those parties is 17.

The Super Bowl is the top at-home party event of the year, surpassing New Year’s eve.

More drivers are involved in alcohol-related accidents on Super Bowl Sunday than any other day of the year (except St Patrick’s Day).

Super Bowl Sunday happens to be the biggest winter grilling day of the year.

72 footballs are used for the Super Bowl, out of 700,000 produced annually for the NFL.

Most popular choices of takeout or delivery items on Super Bowl Sunday are pizza (58%), chicken wings (50%) and subs or sandwiches (20%).

The Super Bowl is the second largest day of food consumption behind Thanksgiving Day, and the sales of antacids increase 20% the following day.

Super Bowl weekend is the slowest weekend of the year for weddings.

(Information gathered from Barbara Pitcavage’s weekly column in the Wilkes-Barre “Citizens’ Voice” newspaper.)

Friday, January 30, 2009

Laid End To End

The Food Network just showed a corn dog factory and the owner said their daily output, if laid back to back, could circle the world 1.something times with a few dogs left over. Or was that their yearly output? I can’t see one day’s work being able to cross the Atlantic, much less sections of China and the endless boredom of Nebraska.

If all the college students in Philosophy 101 were laid end to end, I’m sure they’d be a lot more comfortable. Especially with a little warm milk and dim lighting.

I’ve heard of some products that would, if laid end-to-end, would reach the moon and halfway back. Exactly how these items would be stacked is a mystery to me and, given that NASA can’t even launch one of those giant rockets in a thunderstorm, how it would be done in bad weather.

I’m waiting to hear from someone who knows, if anyone really does, just how far all the sands in the world would reach if laid in this time-honored fashion.

How many flapjacks? Automobiles? Starbucks, fast food restaurants, gas stations and convenience stores all together?

If, laid end-to-end, how far would you get if you put together members of every religion that battled every other religion over the years? Just for fun, include those who condemned the others to hell. Just for fun.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Glacial Harbor Seals

I have an Alaskan Harbor Seal figurine sitting in front of me, on my window sill. It’s a cute little thing, one of those fairly small aquatic animals which roll over and over to get their fur smoothed out just right. They also lie on their backs to eat and do whatever else harbor seals do when a cruise ship comes by.

It’s made from glacial silt, a very fine sand created when a glacier softly and slowly grinds over rock. When I was on the Tanana River in mid-Alaska, you could see this sand suspended in the water.

Someone local takes the sand and fashions it into these small little amphibs, fairly delicate, and then paints whatever facial features need adding. They are about three inches long, maybe two inches tall at the head.

Mom had two or three of these, I think, and the others may be scattered around; this one is safely here.

She had another, a carving of a harbor seal, much like the local Inuits or Athabascans might make, but on the bottom there is a scraped-off tag that seems to say, ”… en …co.” I’m not sure if that means “Mexico,” or if it’s an indication of a native Inuit or Athabascan product, ending in “…co.”

The first is from Sitka, Alaska; it has primary place here.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Mascot Here, Mascot There

The late comedian Jimmy Durante would often say, “Everybody wants t’get into da act.” Indeed, they do.

Remember Woodsy the Owl? Maybe Mr. Woodsy is still around, working for some wildlife prevention thing.

Smokey Bear (only in a jingle was he Smokey The Bear to keep the proper rhythm) has lasted quite some time, much longer than the now-deceased Mr. Smokey.

Speedy Alka-Seltzer just came out of retirement to hawk how speedy is the remedy. You haven’t changed a bit.

We now have some un-named bears in the woods and, guess what! They’re doing just what bears do in the woods. Except these are advertising toilet paper.

Now I notice the yearly appearance (well, second year in a row) of Iris on the front of a compact disc for our radio station to air. “Iris,” it says. “She’s back. With more tips to help you through tax season.”

The IRS has adopted its own mascot, “Iris,” as a friendly reminder to file your taxes and proclaiming “the IRS is here to help.” So was, as I recall, the Spanish Inquisition. Iris is in Room 7017 CL:C:MT. Don’t ask.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Just How Boring Can It Get?

I wonder what could be more boring? And in what order?

Watching paint dry has always been the standard of boredom, or supreme lack of interest relative to some other event (sports, for me).

Watching an iron pole rust?

How about watching a Quartermaine die on “General Hospital”? I visited my parents once and found my father watching one of them passing on to glory. Three months later, another visit, same Quartermaine still in the death throes.

Counting fence posts on Interstate 80, from start to finish. Or Interstate 95, ditto. Or the number of items in a very large supermarket, then starting over just to check your addition and see if anything has been added.

Listening to someone talk about a subject in which you have absolutely no interest, never did and never in your lifetime will. That person has just begun, with great gusto and enthusiasm, the night is young and you are stuck in his house/car for a long time.

Here's something, perhaps boring to you but not to my family: Watching the tide change. For you, that’s probably as bad as it gets. For us, seeing those three or four ripples as the sea changes from low to high is pretty neat.

Monday, January 26, 2009

The Meter Maids

New York City was the first, if memory serves, to hire “meter maids”: women who would give out parking tickets, thus freeing police officers for, well, police work. No sense in putting cops out on ticket duty when they could be doing cop work.

This now-standard idea caught on and police policed, while ticketers ticketed. No-brainer … except in Our Fair City. The head of the police union liked his parking enforcement job and convinced fellow officers that criminals would run rampant in the streets, parking violators would violate your children, and police alone could touch the Sacred Parking Summons.

Eventually, after hiring two non-cops, firing two non-cops, re-hiring two non-cops, everything settled down and we rejoined the rest of the country’s municipalities. Peace reigned at last.

Until it turned out the previous mayor’s administration was so messed up nobody had bothered to follow up on the tickets thus issued. Piles of them, large bundles of them, overflowing school auditoriums of them. Well, let’s just say a whole ****load.

Back to the meter maids. All of them, both of them, are guys and there seems to be proof they tend to hang out near the two colleges, as reported in the newspaper’s statistics. You’d think two schools whose budgets and students keep the city afloat would deserve a break. Nah; makes too much sense.

Sunday, January 25, 2009


Stop me if you’ve heard this. Or, move on to the next post, ‘cuz I’m going to recount it anyway. It’s about the Christian school in Dallas, Texas, that wiped out the perennial losers by making sure everybody knew they were the best. Or:
Jesus 100, and Dallas Academy 0.

Ok, Dallas Academy hasn’t won a game in several years. Not a single game; they are mostly in it to play, as it’s a very small school and the students are learning-disabled. They know it and it’s part of life on the court.

Covenant School is a Jesus factory with a high-powered team. Should the two even be in the same league? Beats me, but it also beats me how you can’t put in the third-string, maybe a janitor or two, run up the score to a decent, winning level and let it go at that.

Our Lord’s coaches cheered from the sidelines as His students neared the 100-point mark. Or, maybe His students were still at the zero point, while someone else’s was nearing the 100-point mark. Whatever, it was a massive, all-out, beat-you-to-a-pulp trouncing.

“The Covenant School regrets the incident of January 13. It is shameful and clearly does not reflect a Christ-like and honorable approach to competition. The school in no way supports or condones the running up of a score against any team in any sport for any reason. The Covenant School is submitting a formal request to forfeit the game recognizing that a victory without honor is a great loss.” (Web site.)

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Scranton Sirens

Andrew Sordoni called up today; for the vast majority of you, he’s unknown. But around here in Northeastern PA, as well as in New York City, he is the head of a respected construction company, is a member of several boards, and a jazz enthusiast. The latter is a big deal in his life and his next project is producing a program for our local PBS station.

It’s about “The Scranton Sirens.” Who? What? When?

Current bandleader Jack Morgan, son of equally famous Russ Morgan, said: "There was an old, kind of a dixieland band, called the Scranton Sirens. At one time or another, I think, almost everybody of that era who later became a bandleader himself, had gone through and worked with the Scranton Sirens. Both Jimmy Dorsey, Tommy Dorsey, I believe Bix Beiderbecke, you could go on forever. It was a fantastic band, and when one guy would leave... Tommy Dorsey, I think was first, Tommy Dorsey left and dad came in, so there was just star after star... stars-to-be, you know.”

Someone named “Kim W.” on this Blogger site wrote: "Billy [Lustig, founder] was already something of a showman himself – he sometimes amused children in the audiences with an unconventional bowing method; he would hold the bow to his violin between his knees, grasping one end of the violin in each hand, and sawing the violin back and forth across the bow. Apparently he was able to successfully play 'Yankee Doodle' in this way."

Friday, January 23, 2009

Without One Of Each?

We could stand on one foot, I suppose, but we certainly could not walk. Not only do you need two to tango, but you also need two in order to make forward (or backward) locomotion. Not locomotives, just locomotion. Ambulation, as an example.

We could not pat our heads and, simultaneously, rub our stomachs without having two hands. The “cocktail party effect,” where we can pick out one voice from another at a gathering, would be impossible – as any person wearing a hearing aid can tell you. You can shrug your shoulder, but it’s a lot better when you do both at one time.

What’s not equidistant from the center is right there in the middle, thus keeping us balanced. Amazing.

Well, amazing except for our faces. They are not quite the same left vs. right. If you make a photo of one side of a person’s face and put it over where the other side would be, you might not recognize said friend. We aren’t built quite the same above the neck, odd as it might seem.

We recognize people by the lack of symmetry in their faces, not because of it.

So now I shall walk, not hop, to the studio for my regular two-handed radio program, during which I will have some tea with one hand while occasionally bringing up an insert with the other and listening with both ears.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The First Of All Inaugurations (For Us)

1952 … St. James School, what there was of it, gathered in the auditorium to watch the inauguration of Dwight Eisenhower and the departure of Harry Truman. I don’t recall if they arrived in the same car; possibly, but if so, it was in silence so thick you could cut it either with one of Ike’s swords or one of Harry’s well-chosen swear words.

We kids, of course, wouldn’t know until later the phrase, “You two-timing, adulterous war hero,” any more than, “You dirt-poor farmer should have stayed in Missouri.” But they made nice in front of the cameras and the government changed hands peacefully. (Actually, Truman ripped up Ike’s fun folder, saying it was nobody’s business.)

So there we sat, waiting for the festivities and, finally, it was lunch time. I don’t know how many students rushed to their homes to catch the rest, as tv was new in those days, but my grandparents had one and I had the best seat in the house. Eisenhower took the oath while I was home and all was well with the world.

The nuns did the best they could, but they were not able to stretch classes and lunch periods through the Presidential Baptismal Hour.

Later, Ike would put into practice many of the salutes, coinage and other things the old folks claim were always around: God this, God that, God the next thing. No, much of it did not exist before the fifties, no matter how much we stretch our memories. “Under God,” “Over God,” “Whatever God,” was Ike’s work.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A Perfect 10, Of Several Kinds

It all started with a plumber. The whole thing: God, the Ten Commandments, the Holy Angels, the Perfection and, ultimately the prostitutes. Oh, the trip to Mexico, as well.

Y’see, the plumber started an escort service based on the Ten Commandments, God’s Perfection and the Holy Angels. They weren’t really escorts as we think of them, oh no; they were simple, innocent girls who would, uh, escort men to places they wanted to go.

Girls who were, like God, perfection. Like the Command-ments, a perfect 10. Like the Angels, angelic. All very holy, all very above board.

How could anyone ever accuse this gentleman of running a prostitution ring? He was all in accord with God, etc. How insulting could you be? He was so persecuted it was necessary for him to leave for Mexico, where he could run his operation without fear of retribution from all those unholy cops.

Somehow, they got him back. He’s in the slammer now for having some less-than-perfect angels under his wing. Some of the Perfect 10 Commandment girls seemed to be breaking a few. God was not pleased.

I guess you can have God on your side for just so long, and then it’s “so long.” The time span for this would be, maybe, until you transgress a commandment or two. Adultery might be one, coveting your neighbor’s wife could be another.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Jesus Was An Amputee

Baby Jesus started off in dreadful shape. Or so I noticed at church this past Christmas, when I discovered the Big Secret of the Little Child. He was an amputee, the Odd’s Bodkins (“God’s Little Body,” in Shakespearean times) with but one arm, needing a miracle to grow it back in time for his public ministry.

Oops; someone, perhaps an altar server, dropped it on the floor. I don’t imagine the pastor was too happy about that.

I happened to notice a cleverly-draped infant being carried up the aisle at Christmas Mass and thought nothing of it. Then I remembered a teenager’s wake in which the boy had lost a hand in a tragic accident and wondered…

Sure enough, when everyone was gone, I peeked. It was worse than peeking through the nun’s habit back in the forties to see if they had ears (was it really a mortal sin?). I pulled up the swaddling clothes, ever careful not to look too closely, and discovered the missing arm. a-HA! It wasn’t Jesus at all, but Captain Hook.

Should I buy a proper Jesus for next Christmas? I was tempted to, being (despite the sentence above) a proper Catholic. But this diocese is closing churches faster than the French Revolution. It’s probably a waste and there won’t be another Christmas here to enjoy the Crèche set. Pity. I like doing little anonymous things that don’t cost a whole lot and this would have been ideal.

Monday, January 19, 2009

There Used To Be NAB Standards

Long Ago & Far Away, in the deep reaches of forests long forgotten, there used to be such a thing as the NAB code. This has nothing to do with the Morse Code, a computer code or the DaVinci Code. It was manual of standards that governed what radio and tv stations could advertise and/or program.

No “feminine products.” No “masculine products,” as well. Never was heard a discouraging word about products of latex designed to limit the race of humans.

Products to stick up your *** when it hurt like ****? Neither the product nor the definition was allowed to sully the airwaves. Speaking of sticking stuff up your ***, you couldn’t advertise pills for the other side where all the fun action took place.


I’m not sure when the break came; maybe it was when late-night programs began to advertise More Effective Beverages (ok, whiskey and its friends). You could always sell the stuff; it never was against FCC rules, just the NAB code. But sometime around then came Prep H, Condoms and Intimate Products beyond measure.

Things you would never hear mentioned at the ladies’ society of your local church. Things you would hear a customer ask the soda jerk, “Could I speak with the pharmacist, please?” And the lid was off.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Taller Than It Used To Be

Sir Edmund Hillary had it easy; when he climbed Mt. Everest, it was 14 inches shorter than when people ascend it today. Ok, that’s hardly a big deal, but when you are within a little more than a foot of the summit, that 14 inches can make a big difference.

What’s it like for your vascular system? Well, think of it this way: Your blood becomes as thick as motor oil, perhaps a better brand of 10W-30, and if that were acceptable, you’d get it checked at a gas station instead of a physician’s office.

The Tibetans believe there is a Mother God who holds an animal that vomits wealth. Don’t laugh; they make a bundle off the explorers who attempt to climb The Mountain. The vomit-spewing animal is puking coin of the realm, specifically the Renminbi, and the locals are scooping it up by the bucketful.

What happens to those who don’t make it, squared? That is, they don’t make it to the top and they don’t make it to the bottom. They stay put, where they are, and become part of the mountain; nobody will risk taking them down those dangerous slopes. It may sound inhumane, but that’s how the mountain is.

The other one? That’s K2, known as the Savage Mountain for the difficulty of getting up there and, incidentally, due to the little fact that for every four people who make it, one dies trying. Just in case you wanted to. It has the second-highest death rate after Annapurna, which comes in at 40%.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Why Can't We Be More Like The Jews?

Their day starts at sundown. Ours starts at sun up.

Think of the difference there: you finish supper, get the dishes done and it’s the start of a whole new day, depending on where you live. So you start with some activities of your choice: maybe some television, perhaps social affairs, temple outreach. It’s all a very good start to the day.

Us rest-of-the-religions-or-not: come home, supper, dishes, and end the day with the same good things as the Jews. But for us, it’s the end of the day, not the start. We’ve finished that 24-hour-period, rather than starting with it.

I rather suspect the mind-set makes a difference. How would you like to start the day, rather than end it?

The Catholics have it just barely right, as we can attend Sunday Mass anytime after 4:00 on Saturday. That’s a bow to our Jewish heritage which admits of the day starting sometime in the afternoon. We fudged a bit and set one specific time, rather than having services at various times, depending on when local sunset occurred.

As to when any day starts, we choose midnight. Whether it’s Lubec, Maine or South Bend, Indiana – all are on the same time zone. When you think of it, that’s a lot of Real Estate; midnight there sure isn’t midnight here.

Friday, January 16, 2009

You Could Freeze The Ears Off A Statue

There are other expressions, of course, but this will do as an example of the weather around here.

No, this does not show just how bad the global warming people have messed it up; one week does not a century make. Nor does it even a decade make. Thanks to our big push and even bigger denial on industrialization, our planet is going down the crapper even faster than some friends are heading into hot flashes.

However, all this makes zero difference when you are out there freezing any part of your anatomy off trying to walk the dog and thinking of how much nicer fish might be as pets. The fellow on tv who tells us the weather says later this week it will be in the high twenties. The twenties! A veritable heat wave which still will not thaw our pipes, empty the shelters or lead to the return of the bluebirds of happiness.

But we’re pretty much stuck here, barely above 41 Degrees North Latitude, even in our misery wondering just how bad it must be for the people in Florida with their never-changing weather and how dull it must be. Character, we feel, is built upon weather and only the good die weathered.

As do what the Floridians think, I don’t know. Maybe they soothe themselves with the sure knowledge that life is good and sunshine is sweet. We do, too, but only when there is a cold, biting wind part of the year.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Cleaning My Room, Part 1,547

Joe Myers lived across from us. Actually, just slightly at the corner of ours and down the street which faced us. A corner lot, of which he owned probably two parcels. From the start of my awareness, I began to notice that, when he came home from work, he trimmed about 1/5 or 1/6 of the hedge which went around the front and down the street.

I asked my mother about it and she said if he cut it that way, there was only a small amount he’d have to do every day, rather than a whole lot once a week. That made sense to me: for big jobs, attack it in small portions.

My DNA admits of no particular sense of order. I know where everything is and you will find no crumbs or other detritus on the backs of ants. Nonetheless, things tend to pile up and you’ll just have to live with it.

My next project is my bedroom closet, but right now I’m working religiously (or, with any atheists out there, determination) on my day room and making rather good progress. It’s amazing at just how much “put aside” junk mail you can toss, videotapes which have accumulated around the tv and need only to be put back on the shelf.

I gave away my record collection when I woke up one morning and said, “Y’know, I’m really never going to be a disc jockey again.” This was about ten years after the fact, which shows it takes some people a while. Felt a loss? Not at all; I was relieved that it was gone and life moved on.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

By The Way, I'm Sprung

It’s not exactly, “Free At Last! Free At Last!” as this was merely the end of a hospital stay and not a major civil-rights demonstration. But it certainly was nice to have my primary physician come into my room and say, “As soon as the paperwork is done, they will send up transport and get you out of here.”

That’s a lot better than sending up transport and going one room to another, eventually ending up in a room with a view … of the city cemetery.

While I was down in the lobby making a call for a friend to pick me up, another was walking through and we negotiated arrangements:
Me: Hey, gimme a ride?
She: Sure.

Waiting for me at home, which only a writer, librarian or other reference person would appreciate, was the new 8th edition of the National Geographic Atlas. Just like a little kid with his new baseball glove, I slept with that baby for the first night. It was a little lumpy, but it did cover the four corners of the earth.

Perhaps the greatest gift of all, trumping even my own large bed, the softly-playing classical music radio station by its side, a few munchies during the day, is the chance to make my own perfect mug of tea. Not hot water with a bag next to it, but hot, steaming perfectly, brewed tea. Life is complete again.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

BFF, As The Girls Put It

My Best Friend Forever was Dinah Kelly; that lasted until I was eight and then my family moved away. Tommy Krickscuin was next, although he was about five years younger and that made a bit of a difference in how you define as “best friend.” Let’s say he was a good friend, but not best.

Best friend might be Kevin Condon, from St. James grammar school. We saw each other only during class, but had a lot of fun then; too much, in fact, as we were always “staying after,” as we called it. The nuns missed nothing.

Peggy Snow wasn’t a BFF, but we got along well. I guess the best definition of this term was that, when her mother passed away many years later and I showed up at the wake, we connected immediately and it seemed almost normal that I, regardless of where I was living, would be there.

I had another BFF, but I can’t remember his name right now. Isn’t that true for many of us? I’d bet if I took a survey, there would be many who would say the same.

I’ve had a few who I do remember that fall into the general realm of radio, both Amateur and Commercial. One who brought me into the hobby, others who befriended me in my career at various stations – perhaps not quite BFF’s, but certainly quite close.

And those who paved the way: my parents and ‘bro.

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Food's Not That Bad

Ok, so it’s not exactly cruise ship quality, either, but it’s made by a food-service company and I’d say it’s well above average.

What I’d prefer, given my idea of cruise ship service, is something like this for breakfast: Individual check in, escort to a table by a steward who also pulls the chair out and places the napkin around me, decaf coffee served by yet another, pastry by a third, order and delivery by the waiter.

If a cruise ship can do this, why not a hospital?

Then we get down to room amenities and let’s compare that to our shipboard cabin. That’s our home away from home, but not in a hospital. What we need is a personal butler or maid, maybe a midnight snack, some real tea (not that hot water with a tea bag next to it) and things like that in general.

It would be good to have several music channels, non-repeating for at least 24-hours, with your own earphones to avoid the nurses chattering away very pleasantly at 2:00 in the morning.

This certainly would make the hospital stay somewhat more tolerable, if not definitely the local vacation spot. Not only that, but if the place had empty beds, it could advertise such in the paper as the “Staycation” of choice.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

And Then There Was This Hospital Stuff

Some days you’re sitting there as innocent as a kitten. Well, in my case, perhaps not quite as innocent, but you get the drift. Anyway, I was minding my own business and that of several other people when I began to see the possibilities of a hospital visit in my near future.

This, from a person whose last visit to a hospital was when I woke up in the arms of another man’s wife – which, I assure you, was my mother of just moments earlier.

I had hoped to make it from livebirth to somewhere this side of Going To Glory without having a nurse sticking something into one or more of my orifices. Last I checked, there were seven of them and I have personally known nurses to go for a royal flush.

So there I am, in Level I of the emergency room, the part where they actually have beds and which leads me to believe, if I may quote myself, “I’m not in here for observation and this is an ER?” After the first night with a squalling baby (fortunately, I can sleep through most anything), they transfer me to Level II of the emergency room; this is the equivalent of Business Class, or so I hoped.

Then up through the spiral of this room and that, then to this test and that. I’d say I had more tests than the average student and, unlike the average student, had no previous class notes for the final. There were no cheat-sheets for the tests, just things done in strange and unusual ways – not that unpleasant, once I think of it.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Bleakness Of Life Doth Overtake Me

Well, not of life of course – just this Wilkes-Barre weather.

Y’see, back when the first few snows fell, it was fun watching the students and their snowball fights. It was even fun walking through the snow over to the newspaper, fun if not great adventure.

After that, we put up with it. Grudgingly, but at least with some modicum of bravery, of stoicism. We face the future, the threat of new snow, with a stiff upper lip, with a head unbowed, with (as the Queen of England put it) “your pecker up.”

Yeah, she really said it. “Keep your pecker up,” she instructed each soldier in the reviewing line. They’d love to, but not with the likes of her. That, if nothing else, shows the difference between English as spoke here and English as spoke there: it ain’t the same. What Her Majesty meant was “Keep your courage up,” which was, actually, the original meaning of pecker, the nose. Not what you perverts think.

So now we face, with resignation, this crummy WB weather, the likes of which would, as they say, try the patience of a saint. Not an Irish saint, of course; they would simply revel in the idea of more suffering and a hit on the “craither,” as they called the good juice. The Italians would leave it to others; Central Americans would put it off until tomorrow, Alaskan saints are used to it, as are those of Central Europe. That leaves the American saints, us, and you know how few we are.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Friday Into Snowterday

We’re having a few flakes this afternoon, sort of like a drink before dinner or the slightest of appetizers before the banquet. Or Mother Nature’s foreplay before she screws us tomorrow.

The “light dusting” has turned into “three to five inches” when last heard. just predicted “four to eight,” although that probably includes what we call the Higher El’s. They are the hills, which are alive with the sound of snowplows.

I live on the top of a hill, as noted earlier in another posting. It’s great when there is a heavy rain, because we don’t get any flooding. It’s bad when there is a heavy snow, because we can’t get up here and, once up, it’s dangerous going down.

Locomotives in the north have plows on the front, which keep the tracks relatively clean. That would not be such a bad idea for cars, and I think we could have two small plows mounted just ahead of our tires to keep our wheels steady. Maybe a small V-shaped plow across the front of the car to clear a path for when the snow is deeper.

What with the economy the way it is and towns having to cut services, this might be a viable way to get our streets at least passable during and after snowstorms. There would still be a need for snowplows, but it would be more of a clean-up than a full assault on the road. I would imagine a lane open in each direction during the storm and, after it’s over, a few plows out there trimming up the streets.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

The Big Game

We’re coming up on The Big Game. You know, the big game you hear about on tv ads when they tell you to stock up on this beer, or those potato chips, or them there bar-bee-q fixin’s. The game between this city’s team and that city’s team.

Oh, you mean the [censored][censored], between the [censored] and the [censored]? Yeah, that Big Game. Oh; why didn’t you say so? Because we can’t; we aren’t licensed by NFL Enterprises, Inc.

So there are people tied in with the Super Bowl who can say it’s between, maybe the Carolina Panthers and the Pittsburgh Steelers, because they are advertisers. But if you aren’t, then it’s the Big Game with Carolina vs Pittsburgh.

Yeah; all the rest is trademarked by the N.F.u.L. And you better not cross the line or several quarterbacks will be visiting your place of business to, uh, convince you not to do it again. Assuming, of course, that you are out of the hospital this time next year.

Nuthin’ poissonal, y’unnerstand; just business.

Oh, I unnerstand. Uh, understand. Nothing personal. Those guys in three-piece suits with the attaché cases, they can go now and they can stop muttering something about seeing me in court. The Super … Big Game hasn’t even happened yet and, besides, I don’t give the end of a rat’s large colon.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

I Posed A Question

Some time back, I noticed a curiosity of geography – not an unusual thing for me, as I am often poring through my atlas or looking intently at maps.

And so I posed this question to several of my highly educated confreres at the college, assuming they would get it and we would enjoy this odd fact.

Ok, they didn’t. Neither get it nor enjoy it.

“There are two islands off the coast of Alaska, the Little Diomede and the Big Diomede. They are two and a half miles apart in clear, open ocean with no current between them. Yet it takes a day to go from one to the other. Why do you think that is?”

Typical replies: “There are icebergs … there’s a strong current … there’s a land mass in between.” I reminded them that such was not the case.

Our maintenance man said, without a pause: “The International Date Line.” Yeah; you can look into tomorrow or back to yesterday. He guessed right and we enjoyed it.

Everybody has a story.
Mary Beard Clapp died in Fairfield CT. She and husband Russ were aboard the luxury liner Ile de France in 1956 when the vessel aided the Italian ship Andrea Doria after its collision with the Swedish liner Stockholm.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

A White Christmas

It’s Russian Christmas today, the day the rest of us celebrate the Three Wise Men, also known as the Epiphany.

Nobody really knows how many guys actually made the trip; the Book that is Good does not mention the number. Nor does it state if they asked directions, which may mean that there was someone of the female persuasion with them to do just that.

Anyhow, the Russkies got their snow today, which is more than the rest of us could say for our Christmas back in December. A friend told me it always snows on Russian Christmas, so maybe we should move our celebration to their calendar.

Reminds me of the local Fine Arts Fiesta and July’s lack of rain. The Fiesta almost always gets rained out, and that’s if they’re lucky; one time we had a horrid wind storm in addition to a drenching rain. We also have a dry July and sometimes we need the rain very badly. The solution to both? A letter to the newspaper recently.

The writer said that since the Fiesta is always rained out and July is always dry, if we moved the wet Fiesta to July, we would be guaranteed of rain that month.

You know, in some odd way that makes sense. No matter what we do, it rains during the Fiesta; you can count on it. So why not move it to a time when we can really use the rain and use the bad weather to our advantage? What do you think?

Monday, January 05, 2009

Time For A New Atlas

You should update your atlas every ten years, so the smart advice says. The smarter advice says you should have one, and then update it every decade. The best advice says, “Buy the best, use it, update it.”

My book of choice has been the National Geographic Atlas of the World. As recommended, about a third of it is index because it’s not worth much if you can’t easily find what you are looking for.

My grandfather put me onto the value of a good atlas. He had (and I have it now) the best atlas of its day, published by Rand McNally. It helps to know where the countries are, what they are next to, how they have interacted over the centuries.

The countries haven’t changed, you say? They sure have. Borders change, countries come and go, names change; there can be any number of differences between what you learned in grammar school and now. There are many just between different editions.

I found that our main east-west street here in the city will (eventually) take you down the main street in Beijing, China, if you go in a straight line. The city was known as Peiping in that 1949 atlas, in case you were curious.

One of these fine days, the 8th Edition of the NatGeo Atlas will arrive in the mail and I will pass mine on to my insatiably curious brother.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

A Penny Here, A Penny There

I guess it adds up, especially when you are dealing with enough pennies. But it seems to make more sense just to round it up or down and get rid of the pesky little critters. We’re not in the days when a penny could buy a newspaper or a postcard.

My favorite restaurant no longer bills to the penny; add up the check and you will see it’s been brought to the nearest nickel, either to your or their benefit. When you’re paying $7 or $10 for a meal, what’s two cents?

It wouldn’t bother me if, over ten dollars, we eliminated the nickel; even at the five dollar range. Let’s start with the dime as our basic coin of the realm, because the ten-cent piece is really the lowest coin we really care about.

I just checked the price for my cruise this July. It ends in .80 and last year’s ended in .94; you can see Holland America Line knows that pennies add up to dollars. If I were running the company, I’d just round it up or down to the nearest dollar; when you are talking about the price of a cruise, fractions of a dollar don’t count and nobody’s going to cancel because their cruise is $1550 instead of $1545.35.

When RCA began making tv cameras in the late ‘40s and early ‘50s, their price list said, “TK-15 camera … $15,000.00” Not $14,999.99 or something like that. It was 15 grand, take it or leave it. You got no change back from your pile of thousand dollar bills, nothing for the penny bowl at the drugstore.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

The Second Television

My first television is still working fine, but…

But, (1) the people who make analog, or Standard Definition, tv’s probably won’t make them much longer.

Plus, (2) I’m on cable and don’t really need to buy a High Definition tv; an analog set will work quite well and without a converter box.

In addition, (3) I don’t know how much longer my 15-year-old set will continue working. Maybe another 15 years; maybe 1 year. It’s a crap shoot.

So I pulled my 13” out of its place and replaced it with a 20” standard-def. Easier said than done, as many people before me have said about many jobs before mine.

After a while, you have settled in with little bits and pieces of things fit in around the existing equipment. Also, in this case, I had to move the audio gear up one level on the entertainment center because it was easier to put the tv one shelf lower. Wires out, plugs out, cables out. Everything up, tv in, stuff re-wired.

The floor is now a mess with those little bits and pieces, mentioned above, scattered around waiting to be put where they actually belong. But those places are already filled with things that belong elsewhere. Alas.

Friday, January 02, 2009

City Mouse, Country Mouse

(This originally appeared as a second post on Sept. 20 '08. I moved it to its own spot for today.)

I’m a country mouse and never did make the transition to being a city mouse. I think it’s in my DNA or something. Or maybe imprinted from my earliest days.

When I was 7 ½ (to the day), we moved out to what Mother Nature and a glacier had made into an island a half-mile offshore. River silt and the Hand of Man (no women involved) had turned that half-mile into swamp with a causeway and more-or-less solid roadway which the aforementioned Ma Nature on a yearly basis reclaimed just to remind us who was in charge of her makings.

It wasn’t really country, but there weren’t any sidewalks or traffic lights. Two “main” streets; one was perfectly straight, going from the marshes to the lighthouse, and the other went from the marshy causeway, curved, and eventually met the other road that also connected us to civilization.

I lived in another, rural, town. No traffic lights, no sidewalks. My evening bike ride around the block was ten miles long. At least the streets had names; unlike the town next to one place where I lived in Vermont – no house numbers, no street names, no business district, but a stop sign across from the church. My town was a wide spot in the road, where the restaurant/bar owner scooped up money from the till, stuffed it into a bag with a blank deposit slip and asked someone to run it over to the bank. The gas station owner kept a gun stuck in his belt; “you never know,” he said, darkly. His back room was where the local fiddlers met each Monday to make music.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Our Planet Spun Into A New Year

We live on a rock, a fairly big one. It spins about 1,000 mph, but we don’t notice it. It also goes around the sun at 67,000 mph and we still don’t notice it. Our sun and the solar system zip around the rest of the galaxy at 470,000 mph; still nothing you might take note of without some fancy ‘scope and equally fancy calculations.

At some point in its rotation around the sun, after the mistaken and unknown birth date of a person, at a certain spot in its spin, a lighted ball descended at the cross-section of two streets at a location on this planet and everyone went wild as we entered the new enumeration of the calendar most of us keep.

Oddly enough, we don’t celebrate New Year’s Day; it’s New Year’s Eve that’s the big thing in our culture. There’s a big build-up all through the day and evening but, when it’s over, it’s over: the crowd disperses in about an hour and that’s it.

The planet keeps spinning, the solar system continues to revolve, the galaxy itself has its own ever-moving circle at one revolution every 248 million years; I don’t know what its speedometer reads, but I’m sure it’s fast. To the outside observer, of course, it would seem to barely be moving, but for the size of it (light takes 100,000 years to go across the disc), it’s probably whipping along quite well.

I wonder if the universe has its own soul, its own calendar, from Instant One to now. If the solar system knows its own age, it’s own Happy New Year.