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T. Buckingham Thomas: a personal website

FEB. 19, 2020    MINI ROMNEYS

Here's a Romney booster, Heather Partridge.  (Nowadays she's Heather Partridge Oppenheimer, Oberlin College '71.)  We were once in the same foreign-language class.  In this picture, however, she was playing a role at Oberlin's 1968 Mock Republican National Convention, supporting Romney for President.  George Romney, that is — Mitt's father.


We TV folks used to call this a “minicam” because it was portable, though bulky.  It had to be carried on the operator's shoulder.

Recently I saw the photo below of Senator Mitt.  Apparently news video is now shot on smartphones!

 
FEB. 16, 2020    LET'S START THE GAME AT HALFTIME

The University of Pittsburgh men's basketball team has played six road games so far in 2020, and Craig Meyer of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has followed their fortunes.  He couldn't help noticing that the young Panthers start out cold every time.

The most glaring example came on January 25 at Syracuse.  To be fair, most visiting teams do have trouble finding the range in the huge Carrier Dome.  Pitt was no exception, shooting only 23% in the first half and falling behind by 11 points.  In the second half, their talent began to show as they made 54% of their shots and outscored the Orange by 3 points, but that wasn't enough to make up the difference.

PITT FIELD GOAL PCT BY HALF

I've graphed the field goal percentages for the last five road games, all losses.  Each blue column represents the first half (average 31%); each gold column, the second half (average 46%).  The numbers at the bottom are the point differentials.

One senses a trend.

 

 

FEB. 13, 2020    TRAVEL TIP

Pittsburgh comedian Bill Crawford had a gig in South Carolina this past weekend.  However, as he told us later on WDVE radio, severe weather disrupted flight operations.  He was stuck for many many many hours at the airport in Charlotte, North Carolina, talking to American Airlines agents.

He could have rented a car and driven to his final destination, but because other travelers were in the same situation, no more cars were available.

I had a similar problem about 35 years ago at the Detroit airport.  Scheduled to connect via a late-afternoon commuter flight to South Bend, Indiana, 160 miles away, I discovered that the day's last flight to South Bend had been canceled due to fog.  And, of course, there were no rental cars available.  I was expected at dawn at Notre Dame's basketball arena.  I wouldn't be able to get there!

I went to a phone booth (remember them?) to call the office and give them the bad news, but then I had a bright idea.  Not all car rental offices are at the airport, especially in a big city.

Opening the Yellow Pages (remember them?) and looking up AUTOMOBILE RENTING, I phoned a nearby location.  Yes, they had cars.

I took a taxi there.  A few vehicles were parked outside a gas station.  I signed for one and soon was on my way west on I-94.

Last weekend, Bill should have called me for a suggestion.

 
FEB. 9, 2020    MEET JENNY

Letters that I filed away years ago include my correspondence with this sweet young lady.  In the final weeks before I graduated from college, a mutual acquaintance urged us to have a “fling.”  We didn't, but we kept in touch for years afterward.

I've edited highlights of those letters into a four-chapter retrospective, beginning this month with Jennifer: Introduction.

 

FEB. 6, 2020    WILL THIS LEAGUE BE LONG-LIVED?

The Super Bowl is over.  Are you ready for some more football?

Vince McMahon's 2001 “XFL” has been reborn to play in February, March, and April.  The first four games among the eight teams will take place this weekend.

I'm reminded of a similar venture that also played in the spring, the United States Football League.  It managed to operate for three seasons (1983-85).


But then it folded due to financial difficulties and the greed of one of the team owners, Donald Trump (“I have the best Generals”).  The story of his ill-fated lawsuit against the NFL is here.

RFK Stadium
April 4, 1984

I worked on the TV crew for two USFL games in 1984, televising them back to the teams' home cities:  the Oklahoma Outlaws at the Washington Federals, and the Pittsburgh Maulers at the Jacksonville Bulls.

Only one of the teams (the Federals) had existed in 1983, and only one of the cities (Jacksonville) would still have a team in 1985.  There would be no league in 1986.

Yes, the USFL lived for only three seasons.  It was short-lived.

RFK Stadium
June 22, 1984

It lived but was short-lived.  I always thought those two words ought to rhyme, but they didn't until recently.

Although the i in the first word is short, the i in the second word was traditionally pronounced long, so that “short-lived” rhymed with “derived.”  I speculate it was originally “short-life'd.”

Let us consider the works of William S. Gilbert.  According to his stage directions at the climax of Gilbert and Sullivan's 1879 operetta The Pirates of Penzance, “a struggle ensues between Pirates and Police.  Eventually the Police are overcome and fall prostrate, the Pirates standing over them with drawn swords.”  Refusing to yield, the Police Sergeant sings:

To gain a brief advantage, you've contrived,
But your proud triumph will not be long-lived!

I recall this couplet to remind myself of the correct long-i pronunciation, at least according to the standards of 141 years ago.

However, nowadays the short i is more common, so that “short-lived” rhymes with — well, with nothing, really, except “lived” and “outlived” and the adjective for a criminal's stabbing victim, “shivved.”  So there.

 

FEB. 2, 2010 flashback   CANDYGRAM

I had finally learned to tolerate the land shark, and now it has disappeared.  The stadium where the Super Bowl will be played Sunday has been renamed yet again.

I’m reminded of last Sunday.  On The Simpsons, Homer and Bart were treated to a private concert by Coldplay, held in Springfield’s “Naming Rights Available Arena.”

Since the venue for Super Bowl XLIV opened in 1987, it has been known as Joe Robbie Stadium, Pro Player Park, Pro Player Stadium, Dolphins Stadium, Dolphin Stadium, and Land Shark Stadium.  Now, for the next five years, it will be Sun Life Stadium.

Seven names in the 28 years between 1987 and 2015?  A new name every four years, on average?  We don’t always change Presidents that often.  

“It's nothing more than an example of the greed of the American private owner,” according to Richard Davies, a sports historian at the University of Nevada, Reno, speaking to the Associated Press.  “It reflects the greatly intensified commercialization of American sports.”

At least “Sun Life Stadium” sounds appropriate for sunny, lively South Florida — that is, until you learn that Sun Life Financial is a Canadian company.  There’s not much sun (or life?) in Toronto this time of year.

Even in Miami, there hasn’t been as much sun as usual this week.

A big square lid to protect the fans from the rain was part of a stadium renovation proposal announced four weeks ago.  The Dolphins hope the improvements will help attract future Super Bowls to  Joe Robbie  Pro Player  Dolphin  Land Shark  Sun Life Stadium.

But where will the money come from?  No one knows.  Maybe Wham-O Frisbees can sponsor the roof.

2019 UPDATE:  When the canopy was completed, Sun Life's deal had expired into the sunset, and for 6½ months the building bore yet another new name:  New Miami Stadium.

Then in August of 2016 the Dolphins did, in fact, resell the naming rights — not to Wham-O but to Hard Rock Cafe Inc., which paid $250 million to display its logo on the stadium for the next 18 years, including Super Bowl LIV.

"Land Shark Stadium" is just a distant memory, having survived only eight months in 2009.

 

JAN. 30, 2020    HOW CAN THESE THINGS BE FUN?

Tired of shivering through winter yet?  In Scandinavia they must actually like it!  Finding that hard to believe, I've been inspired to illustrate an excerpt from a recent Jim Gaffigan routine.


In Finland I was invited to take a sauna.  I was also invited to go cross-country skiing.

And all I could think is, "Is fun illegal here?"



What kind of antidepressant
do you have to be on to enjoy cross-country skiing?


Hey, you know that awkward part in downhill skiing where you're trying to get over to the lift?  What if we just did that?  Whoo!  This is fun!


And to turn around —

you know what?  Don't turn around.

Let's go across the country!


People who enjoy winter seem mentally unstable.  Right?

Some of those winter activities should get you committed.


It's like, Look, we love you; we're just worried.

I mean, yesterday we caught you walking through the woods with tennis rackets tied to your feet.


This morning we saw you sweeping the frozen lake.


What's next?  You sitting in a sled being pulled by ... dogs


Get some help!!!

 

JAN. 28, 2015   SCIENCE QUESTIONS

“Mommy, you studied engineering.  When I make a right turn on my bike, it leans to my right.  When you make a right turn in your car, it leans to your left.  What’s the difference?”

When your bike turns right, you keep your balance by leaning into the turn.  Inertia is trying to keep you going straight and seems to be pushing you > this way, so you lean and let gravity pull you < that way.   But I can't bank my car, because it has four wheels on the ground.  I have no way to offset what people call centrifugal force.  It’ll roll my car over onto its side if I take the corner too fast.

“Oh.  Another thing: I was looking at pictures of airplanes with propellers.  All the way back to the Wright Brothers, the first props had two blades.  Then they had three blades, four blades, and now even more.  The engineers must have figured out that more blades are more efficient, right?”


 

In general, yes.

It’s the same with windmills on the ground.  Dutch windmills had four blades.

But the windmill on Grandpa’s old farm had 18, to extract momentum from as many of the passing air molecules as possible.

“So on modern wind farms, why do the windmills have only three blades?  And skinny ones at that?  They’re letting a lot of wind go by unused.”

Uh, I know the answer, of course, but maybe you should figure it out yourself.  It’ll be a good learning experience.

 
JAN. 26, 2020    THE BIG ONE

Researchers say it happened in 1700, exactly 320 years ago tonight, around 9:00 Pacific Time.  Most members of a Native American tribe had gone to bed, but the chief was still awake when a magnitude 9.0 earthquake struck the subduction zone off the coast of present-day Oregon and Washington.  The land shook for several minutes, and it places it dropped more than six feet.

The tsunami crossed the Pacific Ocean and reached Japan as a 16-foot tidal wave.  The Japanese recorded its arrival, which is how we can pinpoint the time and date.

If such an event happened today, it would cause enormous damage to cities like Seattle and Portland.  And these earthquakes do generally repeat every 400 years or so.

 

JAN. 23, 2010 flashback   SIGN LANGUAGE

Signs must use as few words as possible to get their message across.  However, concise wording sometimes allows for multiple interpretations.  I’m sufficiently silly (some would say perverse) to deliberately misconstrue their warnings.

Perhaps, though not as readily as mud does.

But we're still permitted to pass it back, aren't we?

I thought law enforcement required cops on the ground.  How can aircraft do it?  Do they strafe the speeders?  Do they drop bombs on them?

I guess I'll have to go somewhere else to buy a shirt and shoes.  This place doesn't have any.  They don't even have anybody to wait on me.

(Another store's sign says "Shirts must be worn."  I can't go there either.  My shirt isn't showing any wear at all; it's brand new.)

I would gladly drop my safe, if I were carrying one.  But where is this USE that you want me to drop it into?

There, there, Door.  Don't be afraid.  I'd be scared, too, if I saw me coming.

 

JAN. 21, 2020    NOTHING BUT TV AND MIRRORS

In the early years of this century, it occurred to me that it made little economic sense for businessmen from Chicago, Boston, and San Diego to board three separate flights and travel to Fresno just so they could all sit around someone's conference table for an hour.

Why not construct a standardized TV studio in each of those cities, hooking them up to form a virtual conference table?  My proposal is this month's 100 Moons article.

Of course, in the 16 years since I dreamed up this concept, broadband Internet has eliminated the need for it.  Now those businessmen can hold virtual face-to-face meetings on their laptops.

I've participated in such a conference myself.  Most of it worked.

But the concept of simulating presence with mirrors has been finding some success in the field of entertainment, resurrecting deceased singers via on-stage “holograms” that aren't actually holograms in the technical sense.

Typically there's a half-transparent mirror suspended at an angle over the orchestra pit.  It should be very unobtrusive, but I've outlined it here in red.

On the floor of that pit, hidden from the audience, CGI footage of the performer is displayed.  It may come from a projector overhead, tinted here in green.  Then the mirror reflects the image toward the audience so the performer appears to be standing on the darkened portion of the stage. 

 It's an update of basic “Pepper's Ghost” theater magic that was developed in the 19th century.

 

TBT


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