OCT. 16, 2019 COUNT ON THIS IN OHIO
For doing well on some math test when I was a student at Richwood High School, I was awarded the golden lapel pin you see below. It depicts the Mathematical Association of America's iconic icosahedron (20 faces) over a nonagonal background (nine points).
Thirty miles to the southeast, a dozen Democratic Presidential hopefuls held a big debate last night. I wasn't watching, but I understand that one candidate, Andrew Yang, had a numbers-based pin of his own.
His political numbers aren't encouraging; today's Economist poll shows him in seventh place with only two per cent support. But his pin promotes MATH. Mr. Yang says that's an acronym for Make America Think Harder.
OCT. 15, 2019 WOMAN IN THE MOON
When we humans first dared to travel a quarter of a million miles away, nothing humbled us more than looking back at the small, vulnerable place from which we had come.
Of an even more distant image, Carl Sagan wrote, That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. ...There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits ... [and] our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known.
But a similar image had already thrilled humans four decades earlier. It appeared in a motion picture that opened ninety years ago today!
See my article about the woman and her friends who traveled to the moon, Frau im Mond.
Buzz the engineering student was home for the weekend. His cousin, still in high school, invited him to the homecoming football game Friday night at Ourtown High.
Youll have a blast! Cuzz enthused. Theyve installed all new seats in the stadium, and I can get us a spot front-row center!
When they arrived at the field, Buzz had to admit the refurbished stadium looked good. On both the home and visitor sides, there were twenty rows of seats between the 30-yard lines. Buzz did a quick calculation and estimated the maximum capacity at about 3,600 fans. It was hardly the Rose Bowl, but it was the perfect size for their high school.
Cuzz was true to his word. He led his cousin to two seats on the home side of the field, and they were in the very front row.
Couldnt we see better, Buzz asked, if we were up higher? How about those seats back there?
Nah, Cuzz scoffed, the upper half is the parents section. Old folks sit up there. Were down here, right in the middle of the action!
It was true. The front row was unusually close to the sideline, though five feet higher. The wall was padded for the players protection, all the way up to the railing in front of the fans. When a player stood behind the bench, Buzz and Cuzz could have kicked his helmet if not for that padded wall.
In most stadiums, the cheerleaders would have been deployed between the bench and the stands. But there was no space for them here; the players claimed the whole sideline between the 35s. The cheerleaders split into two groups, Left-End and Right-End. They stood on the sideline near each 30, where the seating section ended. Theyre going to be lonely down there, Buzz thought.
The teams took the field for the kickoff. Ourtown High would receive and defend the goal to the left.
In Buzz's section, gates closed to block off the entrances, and he felt his seat shudder slightly. At first he thought the fans were standing up in anticipation of the start of the game. But no, his seat and 900 others were actually moving to the left!
Across the way, the lower half of the visitor section was also on the move.
The kickoff was returned to the 19-yard line, and when the seats came to a stop after about half a minute, Buzz and Cuzz were sitting on the 18! They were as close to the action as the head coach was.
Ourtown methodically moved the ball down the field, and with each play the section of seats followed along at one yard per second, always centering itself five yards beyond the ball.
That meant that when Ourtown was on offense in the first quarter, Buzz and Cuzz found themselves just one yard behind the line of scrimmage, alongside the wideouts. When the visitors took over and started driving from right to left, their seats were now eleven yards ahead of the line, alongside the safeties.
Ourtown got the ball back and completed a 40-yard pass play down to the 6. The seats traveled much slower than the receiver They arent allowed to go any faster, because of safety, Cuzz explained but they had almost reached their new station by the time the next play was run. The Right-End cheerleaders welcomed the fans arrival, then turned to cheer the Hometown touchdown.
Wasnt I right? Cuzz shouted over the din. Arent these seats great?
Buzz had to admit they were. Whose idea was this, anyway?
Oh, said Cuzz, I think Coach heard about it several years ago. It was on a website page by some guy named Tom Thomas.
UPDATE: 3-D TELEVISION AGREES THESE SEATS ARE GREAT
OCT. 12, 2019 A SOFT BUZZING SOUND
Some kids threw Frisbees. I threw a yardstick, kept aloft by the Magnus effect beneath the blooms and beans of the spreading catalpa tree. I also photographed the trunk of the tree, viewing the photos with a stereoscope made from Tinker Toys.
OCT. 10, 2019 IT'S ENOUGH TO CURL MY TOES
I've written before that unfamiliar large rooms frighten me. Since childhood, I've been scared to look up towards a high ceiling. In such situations, I cringe.
Perhaps cringing is a symptom with more than one cause. Noting that humans likewise tend to duck when we hear nearby thunder, I speculated that our species had learned the safest response to lightning is to lie flat, hugging the ground with your hands and your toes, so that the lightning strikes not you but something taller like a nearby bush. ...Evolution would have eliminated (by electrocution) any humans who did not react properly to a thunderstorm. Similarly, there are few dogs left that do not fear thunder.
As an member of AAA, I recently was e-mailed a little feature claiming to describe What Your Car Color Says About You.
I currently drive a blue sedan, and both of the blue descriptions fit me. But my previous car was dark red, and I definitely am not a stereotypically aggressive red-car driver.
Ive also owned a green car and a gold car. Where are those hues? And where are other possibilities, like purple and orange and yellow and brown and pink and turquoise? Those were available when I was growing up in the Fifties.
PPG Industries confirms my observation. The paint company reports that silver has been the No. 1 color for nine straight years. It now accounts for 25% of vehicle paint choices in the United States. White and black get 18% and 16% respectively, while red is in fourth place with 12%.
Apparently most drivers have become elegant and fastidious and only one in eight is speedy. That does not square with my actual experiences on the highway, but color choices don't lie, do they?
OCT. 5, 2019 AN AUSPICIOUS OCCASION
OCT. 2, 2019 FIVE GOOD DAYS AREN'T ENOUGH
However, 142 games still lay ahead. Late in April there was a slump. Early in June there was a deeper slump, shown here in red. The Pirates were in last place for a while, indicated by the green shading.
But after June 13 they put together another .667 run (14-7). Local fans remained hopeful. In the first five games of July, Josh Bell hit five home runs! He went 8 for 19 with 14 runs batted in! A few days later, he was in the All-Star Game! More to the point, our team's record at the break, shown above in gold, was 44-45. We were within striking distance of first place, only 2½ games out.
Then came disaster. The second half of the season began with a .143 crash (4-24), also shown above in red. The first nine of those losses dropped the Pirates permanently into last place. By August 11 they were 15½ games behind first, and they would finish 22 games out. (Actually, that was the closest divisional finish among the six cellar-dwelling teams; the Tigers ended up a disheartening 53½ games behind the Twins.)
Two weeks later, the paid attendance was 10,933, but visiting comedian Craig Gass (who's learned to count a house) reported that just 600 fans actually showed up.
The following week, I myself went to PNC Park to work the Chicago Cubs' next-to-last telecast on WGN. After 72 seasons the station will no longer have broadcast rights; the Cubs will produce the telecasts themselves.
I know very few people, says Betsy Stevenson, who would tell me they wish they hadnt had kids. In other words, they wouldn't admit that they regret being parents. However, thats at odds with her Wharton School study called The Paradox of Declining Female Happiness. She was quoted in Maureen Dowds column earlier this month. And what were her findings?
The one thing in life that will make you less happy is having children.
The conclusion applies universally. Its true whether youre wealthy or poor, if you have kids late or kids early, Professor Stevenson says.
SEPT. 29, 2019 THE DATE IS IN THE STARS
SEPT. 26, 2019 THE CANARY NO LONGER SINGS IN THE MINE
I'm told that when robins arrive in the spring, they sing to claim their breeding territories, but then in the summer they seem to disappear from our yards because they're foraging in the woods. Nevertheless, I can't help thinking that the local birds must have migrated back to Canada because of the warming climate.
Scripture predicted this would happen. The Old Testament warns of a coming day when the grasshopper can only drag itself along, a day when the street doors are shut, when the sound of the mill fades, when the chirping of the sparrow grows faint and the songbirds fall silent. (Ecclesiastes 12:4, Revised English Bible)|
SEPT. 23, 2019 STANDING OVATION
When the Oberlin College Class of 2019 graduated in May, my old classmates also got together on campus to celebrate the 50th anniversary of our Commencement.
months earlier I had been assigned to administer a website
so that our reunion would have a presence on the Internet. The
template came from a company called Class
Creator, and the home page looked like this.
The site provided a place for messages like Remember me? I'm a retired physician now. I'm looking forward to seeing you at the reunion! Classmates contributed pictures and other content. There was a copy of our yearbook, plus memorabilia from our student years and historical tidbits from the century that preceded us.
I received many compliments on the website. Several class leaders credited my work for our fine turnout. Of 554 living classmates, 250 joined the site and 167 came to the reunion. Thirty percent attendance isn't bad, considering that we're all now at least 70 years old. Over the last half century, we've been scattered across the country, even across the world.