NOV. 14, 2015 A CAMERA ON A WALL?
NOV. 8, 2015 RED STATES, GREEN STATES
As an eighth-grade student in 1960, I followed the unusually close Presidential election campaign. From school I had obtained the map you see below. I added little rectangles for the states of Alaska and Hawaii, which were too new to have outlines of their own. For each state I wrote in its number of electoral votes.
Then, 55 years ago tonight, I was glued to the TV as the returns came in. Whenever Walter Cronkite and his colleagues called a state for Republican Richard Nixon, I colored in that state with a red pencil. And when they declared that Democrat John F. Kennedy had won a state, I used a green pencil. (Had I been aware of 21st-century coloring rules, these would have been blue states, not green.)
When I had to go to bed we did have school the next day, you know the results of some far western states were still uncertain. Alaska hadnt been called at all, and California and Hawaii had been called incorrectly, as it turned out.
What about that area in Mississippi and Alabama that I colored chartreuse? Most people there had sworn never to vote for a hated Yankee from the Republican party, the party of Lincoln. But they didnt like the liberal Democratic nominee either. Their uncommitted electoral votes eventually went to a conservative Democrat, Harry Byrd of Virginia. Nevertheless, Kennedy was elected, in large part because the key state of Illinois narrowly remained green.
The liberal Democrats subsequently passed civil rights legislation. That provoked Southern bigots to abandon the party and actually vote Republican. Eight years later, when Nixon ran again, only two states south of West Virginia went to Democrat Hubert Humphrey. Even today the South consists mostly of red states.
NOV. 2, 2015 TUBES
Construct an empty tube from here to there. Insert a cylinder containing documents, or even people. Use compressed air to push the cylinder from one end to the other.
Its a simple concept that powered New York Citys first subway. It also powered New York's pneumatic tube mail, which carried letters from downtown to Harlem in only 20 minutes under the streets. The early subway closed in 1873 and the mail system in 1953, but when I was a boy, an Ohio department store still used pneumatic tubes to whoosh customers money upstairs to the office and return with their change.
Many bank branches employ this technology even today. We used to drive up to a bank branch's window and pass things back and forth to the teller using a sliding drawer. Nowadays tubes and intercoms allow us to interact with a teller who can be somewhere else inside the building.
This bank in nearby Russellton, PA, needed a drive-through like that, but the only available land was across the river. Excuse me, across Little Deer Creek. Solution: bridge the creek with an 80-foot tube. Mega-pneumatics in action.
OCT. 29, 2015 STEGOSKELETUS
The doctors in my neighborhood have passed their dinosaur through some sort of mysterious X-ray device, thereby rendering him even scarier to any passing Halloween trick-or-treaters. Boo!
OCT. 27, 2015 EIGHTY-SIX YEARS AGO TODAY
This is the 36th anniversary of the 50th anniversary of a nonprofit landmark in Washington, PA. I was present for the 50-year celebration in 1979, and I recall televising the ceremony. More importantly, I bring you up to date on the plans for the building in a new article, YWCA Becomes TRIPIL.
OCT. 23, 2015 FIELD OF MEMORIES
Memorial Field behind my old high school in Richwood, Ohio, has been empty for decades, following the construction of a new football stadium near the new school building. Now a similar fate has befallen another small town.
Like the fans, we had a slightly obstructed view. The center-field light standard is in front of the stands. This tower was usually occupied, halfway up, by a man on a platform filming the game for the coaches. His silhouette floated in front of the action on our TV screen.
The photo above was taken by Jason Bridge for Trib Total Media last Friday night, as James Swartz Memorial Stadium hosted its final regular-season home game. The school has buildt a new modern campus three miles outside town, and thats where the Freeport Yellowjackets will play next year. Time marches on.
OCT. 22, 2015 NICE GUYS FINISH FIFTH
When I was growing up (before 1969), baseball's American League and National League each consisted of only eight teams.
Times have changed. Now the word Division has a different meaning and we have several rounds of post-season playoffs.
This year, the New York Mets won the NL East but were only fifth in the overall league standings. In my day, fifth place was a failure, a spot in the also-ran Second Division. But in the 2015 World Series, guess who will represent the National League?
OCT. 20, 2015 WHAT IS A FAIR?
OCT. 17, 2015 HIGHWAY DESIGN QUESTION
trucks have a low ratio of power to weight, so they tend to slow
down when they have to climb a long hill. Highway engineers
often add an extra lane on the right for slower traffic.
Wouldnt it be safer to extend their lane well past the top of the hill, to C, to give the truckers a chance to get back up to speed before they have to merge?
OCT. 11, 2015 CAUGHT IN THE ACT
According to the date on the pictures, two years ago this month Googles Street View camera vehicle made a pass down Amazon Alley, which runs beside my apartment.
Youll notice that my parking space is simply a graveled rectangle in the corner of the lawn, which otherwise consists of a 60 by 60 square of grass. Several rabbits graze here and on the neighbors lawns. We dont consider them pests because we dont have gardens, and theyre welcome to nibble our clover.
When I reach the street I often look back and see a rabbit next to my parking space, watching me depart. He may be almost tame, but for some reason he never waves goodbye.
OCT. 6, 2015 ALWAYS MATCHING OUR WINS
On the Fourth of July, the St. Louis Cardinals led the National League Central Division by 6 games over the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Chicago Cubs were in third place, 8½ games out. There was a lot of baseball yet to be played, but if the season happened to end that way, the Cardinals would claim the division title and the Pirates and Cubs would claim the two wild cards.
Guess what? All three teams did hold those positions the rest of the way! The playoff spots were filled as long predicted. The race did tighten towards the end, as the Cardinals finished with 100 wins, the Pirates with 98, and the Cubs with 97. These were the best teams in all of Major League Baseball. No other club won more than 95.
To Pirates fans, it seemed like every time their team won and could have gained ground, their hopes were dashed when the Cardinals won too.
One example: although the Pirates went 19-9 in August, they actually lost 1½ games in the standings. On those 19 winning days the Cardinals went 13-6 (.684).
Another example: the Pirates were 5 games back in mid-September but reeled off eight straight wins. Did they catch the Cardinals? Of course not. On six of those dates, St. Louis also won, maintaining a 3-game lead.
Checking the standings each day was like déjà vu all over again.
OCT. 3, 2015 COLLEGE EDUCATION: A GOOD DEAL?
The federal government has introduced a website called College Scorecard that allows families to compare universities on several different metrics. One of them is how much money a graduate can expect to make.
At one end of the scale, alumni of North Dakotas Sitting Bull College earn an average annual salary of only $11,600. At the other end, SUNY Downstate Medical Center graduates are paid nearly 11 times as much. In between are institutions youve actually heard of: MIT $91,600, Harvard $87,200, Penn State $47,500. My alma mater, Oberlin College, barely beat the national average at $38,400. In fact, 48% of Oberlin graduates earn less than people with only a high school diploma!
But thats okay. Im not surprised that Oberlinians are paid less than SUNY doctors, or MIT engineers, or Harvard lawyers, or Penn State executives. We tend to heed less lucrative callings. We may become educators or social workers or classical musicians or organic farmers or pastors or poets or performers. Our treasures are not necessarily in our bank accounts.
If you ask whether college is worth it, dont just compare how much youll make to how much itll cost. Consider more than return versus investment. A college is not merely a trade school to prepare you for a specific career. A college particularly a liberal arts college like Oberlin is a place where young performers and politicians, poets and physicists, talk to each other. It prepares you for life.
SEPT. 27, 2015 CADOGAN DISCOVERY
Fifty years ago I wrote a nonsense genealogy. In a way, it anticipated George Foreman and his five sons all named George. And his grill, I suppose.
My story ended with a $1.47 bill for food and drinks at Tim & Clydes place. Prices were cheaper then. But whatever happened to Tim & Clydes?
A couple of weeks ago I happened to be driving through a tiny town along the Allegheny River, and I found it! Or what it has become, anyway.
SEPT. 24, 2015 THE TROUBLES YOU'RE REAPING
The Beatles released their White Album when I was a college senior, and we featured it prominently on our campus radio station WOBC. One of the great songs on the first of its four sides was George Harrisons While My Guitar Gently Weeps. I didnt discover until recently that George didnt play the solo; the gentle weeping was provided by uncredited guest star Eric Clapton, who also joined in this performance.
Half a century later, what is it that we should be bewailing? Pope Francis and I would say its the slow death of our planet.
The Associated Press reported last week that according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the month of August smashed global records for heat. So did the entire summer. That's the fifth straight record hot season in a row and the fourth consecutive record hot month. Meteorologists say 2015 is a near certainty to eclipse 2014 as the hottest year on record.
Many of us dont want to hear it, but scientists have been trying for years to alert us to global warming. As more and more people burn more and more oil and gas and coal, the atmosphere is being polluted by greenhouse gases. In the coming years, low-lying lands will be flooded by rising seas, temperate farmlands will be transformed into dusty deserts, species will go extinct, and billions will starve.
But we cant do a thing about it!
Why not? Because we dont want to.
The rich and powerful can buy and sell us, but they wont restrain the use of fossil fuels because that would reduce their profits. None of us want to sacrifice. We might have to make drastic changes to our lifestyles. Will we not be able to drive our cars as much? Will coal miners have to find other jobs? No, we dont want to do anything about global warming. And commentators divert us with excuses to avoid doing anything.
Sean Hannity: I dont believe climate change is real. I think this is global warming hysteria and alarmism. Tucker Carlson: You cant tell me that global warming is destroying the earth. Rush Limbaugh: Its already a hoax, its already been established: There is no man-made global warming.
The worst catastrophe, if it comes, is still decades away. I wont be alive to see it. Younger folks figure theyll be able to find a way to cope. Besides, it wont happen at all because Rush says its a hoax.
I regret to inform you that Rush is the one whos lying. He and the other perverted deniers are full of hot air. Theyve inverted the facts. The real hoax is their insistence that we can carry on as usual.
SEPT. 21, 2015 INSIGNIFICANT STAT
Starling Marte of the Pittsburgh Pirates, who usually hits left-handed pitchers well, has been slumping since July. An article in yesterday's paper gave the numbers and ended with the factoid that his walk rate against lefties (3.4 per cent) is only half what it was in 2014.
That sounds like a drastic falloff. It isnt. Its a drop from 6.3% to 3.4%. Had it been a drop from 63% to 34% it would have meant something, but Martes bases on balls have always been infrequent. In 2014 he walked six times against lefthanders. So far this season, only four times. Thats a whopping difference of one walk every three months.
SEPT. 16, 2015 GOD HATES, AND OTHER OPINIONS
When the angels arrived in Sodom, Lot hospitably invited the strangers to stay with him. However, Lots neighbors had resented him ever since he had immigrated to their town (19:9). Surrounding his house, they demanded that he hand over the undocumented aliens. The mob wanted to rape the angels (19:5). Lot came out and offered his daughters instead, because its more virtuous to give up some of your own property than to allow your guests to be treated unkindly (19:8). But the angels yanked Lot back into the house and warned him to get his family out of town before the rain of fire began.
Aside from the mobs threat, theres no indication here that homosexual activity was more common in Sodom than anywhere else. So why did God destroy the city? What was its sin? Hostility to outsiders? Sodomy? Something more? The Bible gives us the answer. Its in Ezekiel 16:49.
To me, the Sodomites sound like present-day Republicans who dont think taxes on the wealthy ought to be used to assist the less fortunate.
Ezekiel 16:50: They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them, as you have seen.
This summer on the Internet, Ive found much other material that interests me. In many cases, the topics are politics and religion, which we really arent supposed to discuss in polite company. Nevertheless, I wanted to pass along some of what Ive found. Ive added a new article to this website: a collection of what Im calling Retweets. Take a look.
Penn Hills had to take out a $12 million loan to balance its budget. If money is that tight, maybe they should consider once again employing old-school methods: metal cops and adolescent escorts, no salary required.
SEPT. 10, 2015 CAN HE LAST 'TIL THE WORLD SERIES?
Baseballs best pitchers especially those who are relatively inexperienced or recovering from surgery are burning themselves out during the long regular season, then having to sit out the more important stretch drives in September and playoffs in October.
In 2012, the Nationals shut down Stephen Strasburg on September 9 after 159.1 innings. This year, Matt Harveys agent Scott Boras warned last week that the Mets will put his client in peril if they use him for more than 180 innings; the latest guess is that Harvey will make only one more regular-season start. And Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole already has thrown 180.2 innings, many more than his previous career high; because the Bucs would like to keep Cole fresh for the postseason, hes skipping his regular start tonight.
How can we avoid these situations? Let me make two off-the-wall suggestions.
Replace the customary five-man pitching rotations with six-man rotations. Granted, a manager will still try to find a way to get his ace onto the mound every five days, thus using him up before the postseason. To minimize this, add a rule that anyone who pitches five innings or more on a given day is ineligible to pitch again until six days later. If a game is a blowout, the manager might replace the pitcher after 4.2 innings so he could make another start in a few days. No problem; that would tend to save his arm, while giving a long reliever a chance at a win.
Or . . .
Shorten the season from 162 games to about 142, provided that you can somehow convince the owners to give up the revenue. Forget the first half of April, when weather in the North can be challenging. Start the season on April 15 as it did in 1947 and call it Jackie Robinson Opening Day to honor Robinsons debut with the Dodgers on that date, meanwhile ending the silly custom of making every player wear #42. Then finish the season early enough to allow the wild-card teams to play five-game series (not one-game playoffs) during the last week of September.
SEPT. 7, 2015 WHAT'S THE SCORE?
It was a recent Sunday. I tuned the TV to an afternoon baseball game and curled up on the couch, my back to the screen and my face buried in a pillow and my eyes closed, listening to the commentators.
It wasnt until late in the 1980 football season that NBC and Don Ohlmeyer were confident enough in their pictures to broadcast an announcerless game. I remember watching that one-time-only experimental telecast, Jets versus Dolphins. We viewers heard only what we could have heard in the stadium: cheering, PA announcements, and the sounds of players hitting each other. I rather enjoyed the realism.
On this recent Sunday, I wasnt paying nearly as much attention. Within a few minutes, I had slipped into an afternoon nap.
When I woke up a couple of hours later, the baseball game was still on. I wondered, Whats the score? I could have bestirred myself to roll over and peer at the corner of the screen, where the score bug is always visible. But I was too lazy. I lay there and waited for the announcers to tell me.
For a long time, they didnt.
Much play-by-play commentary is superfluous. We can see Theres a ground ball to shortstop, so we dont really need to be told. Therefore, TV narration has gradually become less comprehensive. Sometimes if the guys are telling a story, they may not feel the need to interrupt themselves to say Ball two outside, and the count is now 2 and 1.
This attitude has now extended to the score. Ive heard of radio announcers using an egg timer to remind themselves to give the score every three minutes. TV announcers dont worry about that. An attentive viewer can be expected to know whats happened in the game so far, and if he forgets, the score bug can remind him.
As an inattentive viewer, I had to listen for clues. If a certain batter had grounded out in the fourth inning, that implied we were now in about the sixth inning. If the announcers started worrying about the Pirates bullpen, the Pirates were probably protecting a small lead. Eventually, about the eighth inning, when a walk was described as bringing the potential tying run to the plate, the mystery had been resolved. I could remain in my comfortable semi-napping position.
SEPT. 2, 2015 CORRECTING A MISCONCEPTION
Those who worship the Bible as an inerrant guide to all aspects of life often claim that their sacred book forbids abortion.
It doesnt. There's even a chapter prescribing how to perform one.
As Brother Billys guests pointed out in my earlier article and this minister agrees the Bible does not define life as beginning at conception. A developing fetus is not yet considered a person. Life doesnt begin until the newborn emerges and begins to breathe the breath of life.
And as cervantes posted on the Internet, August 28, 2015: If human life begins at conception and the gamete is a person, then the greatest public health catastrophe and most urgent medical crisis confronting us is the more than 50% of unborn babies that die naturally. God is the most prolific abortionist of all time. 100% of NIH funding should be diverted immediately to saving those millions of innocent lives that God is murdering every year in this country alone.
Sometimes people want to play God by deliberately ending a pregnancy that's resulted from an illicit or adulterous relationship. Believe it or not, for those situations the Bible gives a detailed recipe for concocting an abortifacient from holy water, as well as detailed instructions for using it to eliminate the misconceived fetus.
I explain in my article Biblical Lie Detector.