FEB. 24, 2012 A MEMORABLE SPRING
More than a quarter century ago, I enjoyed nearly eight weeks in Miami Beach, New Orleans, and Maui with a large group of my friends.
FEB. 20, 2012 THE TOM & GERI SHOW
Id be happy to forward these letters to her real address, but I dont know where that is, or whether shes even a real person. She might be merely a glitch on a long-lived mailing list.
Recently two envelopes arrived on the same day, inviting Geri and me each to sign up for an AARP life insurance program by the end of February.
FEB. 14, 2012 I PREFER ALTITUDE
Maybe I haven't been paying attention, but I've just noticed a new quality for a college basketball player: length. Following South Florida's win over Pittsburgh last week, that term appeared in interviews with members of both teams.
USF's 6'6" guard Hugh Robertson said of defending against Pitt's 6'2" scorer Ashton Gibbs: He wasn't able to get his shots off. I'm also quick enough to stay in front of him, but I think my length really did the job.
And Pitt's Tray Woodall said of USF's team, We played against the same big guys last year. We knew how big they were, how physical they were, how long they were.
I guess length must be another word for height? And long must be another word for tall?
FEB. 12, 2012 SCARY MOVIE
FEB. 10, 2012 WORD FOR TODAY: GARUM
FEB. 4, 2012 IT TAKES A VILLAGE
Most of these ten trucks will be involved in NBC's coverage of the game, although Denali (lower right) is for Madonna's halftime show and Supershooter 25 will provide the international feed to 180 other countries. NBC will be employing 57 cameras and more than 475 people, which is at least an order of magnitude bigger than the games I usually work.
JAN. 30, 2012 INFLUENCING OPINION
Public opinion polls prove very little, but maybe they can enlighten us.
In Rhode Island, a judge decreed that posting a prayer inside a government building violates the establishment of religion clause of the Constitution. MSNBC asked online readers whether they agreed. Do you think a federal judge was right in ruling that the school prayer hanging on the wall of the Cranston High School West gym was unconstitutional?
I imagine that a typical reader might respond this way:
No! The judge was not right! Whats wrong with a prayer in a high school gym? None of my friends would have a problem with that. Were all Baptists. We have a prayer framed on the wall in our kitchen, and there are several others at church. The school is no different. All right, Im voting no. Everyone else will do the same, and thatll show those pushy atheists this is America. Lets check the results. ...What? Only 17% no and 82% yes? Thats impossible! The poll implies that 82% of us 250 million Americans actually believe in separation of church and state! But, as the saying goes, 60 million Frenchmen cant be wrong. Maybe Im the one whos wrong. At least it gives me something to think about.
Whats going on here? Some of us realize that even though everyone in your family or your church may be a Baptist, not everyone in your school is. And the government must respect all faiths, not only yours. The government mustnt be a party to proselytizing students by advertising your beliefs to them with a sign on the wall.
So as he often does on his blog, Minnesota biology professor PZ Myers helpfully posted a link to the MSNBC poll. Many of his 100,000 daily visitors clicked on it. Being of like mind, practically all of us voted yes. And yes won by a vote of 130,189 to 26,794 (the last time I checked).
Deliberately skewing a public opinion poll by encouraging participation by a large bloc of people who agree with us what a pointless prank! But is it? It forces tens of thousands of people who dont agree with us to realize, to their horror, that not everyone shares their smugly-held opinion. Perhaps a few of them will actually give the issue some thoughtful consideration.
JAN. 24, 2012 PHONES & MARTIS & CABLE LOOPS
In the pre-digital age, when the idea that everyone could carry a wireless telephone was still science fiction, I started my career in Marion, Ohio.
A new article recalls some technical details and drawbacks of Communicating in the '70s. You also can listen to one example: a call from a Marion Today viewer commenting on the early stages of the Watergate affair.
JAN. 19, 2012 THE BOOK WITH ALL THE ANSWERS
Forget that old conundrum about the chicken and the egg. Todays question: Which came first, the human or the bird?
The bird, replies the scientist confidently. The fossil record tells us that birds evolved from dinosaurs roughly 150 million years ago, but it has been only a few million years since humans evolved from apes.
Youre lying, retorts the creationist. Your so-called evolution is only Satans attempt to lead our children astray and make them question their faith. We know that God created everything at the same time. That time was 6,015 years ago, in October of 4004 BC.
But I was under the impression, the scientist objects, that your book of Genesis says creation lasted for a week. So God could have created birds on Tuesday and humans on Thursday, for example, or it could have been the other way around.
Well, Ill have to check my Bible. Im a little fuzzy on those details.
JAN. 14, 2012 JINGLE BELLS, THE MUSIC OF LOVE
When Christmas is over, we stop singing Christmas carols, I noted on this website eight years ago. But why must secular carols be suspended as well? Why must we take down our illuminated decorations?
December is relatively mild, I noted back then. (It was especially mild this winter. We had a few snow squalls and flurries, but not until yesterday was there so much as an inch of snow on my sidewalk.)
Which Christmas carols should we still be singing? Not those that celebrate the baby in the manger, of course, nor Santa in his workshop nor halls being decked for the new year. So what is left? Mainly songs about sweethearts cuddling. Heres a medley.
Well, as soon as Santa departed, the shopkeepers immediately turned their attention to encouraging us to buy+buy+buy for the next big day, February 14. Valentines Day decorations went up in all our retail establishments.
I submit that lyric celebrations of winter romance should henceforth be sung not in the autumn months of November and December but rather in the winter months of January and February. And they should be known as Valentine carols.
JAN. 12, 2012 CITY OF CHAMPIONS
Pittsburgh sports fans are used to winning, but they havent had a lot to cheer about during the last three weeks.
The Steelers 2009 champions of the National Football League (and 2011 runners-up) were eliminated in the first round of the 2012 playoffs by the 8-8 Broncos.
The Penguins 2009 champions of the National Hockey League have scored a total of only six goals in their last six games and have lost them all.
The Pitt mens basketball team 2011 champions of the Big East regular season fell to 0-4 in the conference last night with their fifth straight loss. In that game, the Panthers missed 28 of their 32 first-half shots (a 12.5% shooting percentage) and finished with only 39 points (their lowest total at home since the 1949-50 season).
Also, the Pitt football team was blown out in its bowl game.
Since Christmas, these four teams have rewarded their fans with a combined record of 2 wins, 12 losses.
JAN. 9, 2012 DO POORLY ON THE TESTS!
Sometimes, as in Socrates and Leadfoot or Its in the Bible or the conversation about bowl games just below, I like to cast my essays in the form of a dialogue between a naïve person and another who has a bit more information. Rarely does the naïve person win the argument. But the tables may be turned in my latest article, Give to the Rich.
JAN. 3, 2012 REMEMBER THE VALERO ALAMO BOWL
When I was young, Sonny, we only had four bowl games. All on New Years Day.
There are a lot more now, Daddy. Six of them are still played on New Years Day, which this year was January 2nd
I dont understand that, either. Something about Leap Year, I guess.
but before that, in the last two weeks of December, we had 20 other bowls.
A total of 26 bowl games. Too many! But today is January 3rd. At least I think so; its not still New Years Day, is it?
Then the bowl season should be over.
Not by a long shot. We have another half-dozen left, one almost every night for the next week.
Football after dark! Thats something else I dont like. College football should be played on Saturday afternoons, in the sunshine.
Well, one of those six is actually scheduled for this Saturday afternoon. But the other five are in prime time. Better TV ratings, you know.
Yeah, I know. Well, they played the Rose Bowl yesterday. New Years Day, January 2nd. Whats left?
Tonight we'll have the Allstate Sugar Bowl. Tomorrow is the Discover Orange Bowl. Then theres no game on Thursday
Hold on. The Discover Orange Bowl? Whats a discover orange?
Nothing. The game is actually the Orange Bowl, sponsored by Discover. You remember the Orange Bowl, dont you, Daddy?
Yes, they played it in my day. They played a Sugar Bowl game, too, but it wasnt named after Allstate Sugar. I didnt know Allstate sold sugar.
They dont. They sell insurance.
Then why isnt it the Allstate Insurance Bowl?
Because its the Sugar Bowl. They just stuck the sponsors name on the front, Allstate.
Humpf. So whats scheduled this weekend?
On Friday we have the AT&T Cotton Bowl
Brought to us by AT&T Cotton. I guess all these newfangled cell phones made AT&Ts copper wires obsolete and drove them into dry goods, huh?
Now youre just being silly, Daddy.
Yes, I am. Im familiar with the Cotton Bowl. It was around in my day. And I know what AT&T is: American Telephone and Telegraph. They dont do much telegraphing any more, but I guess they can sponsor football.
Then the following afternoon
Wait a minute. Didn't Penn State play in the Cotton Bowl already? That was one of those six games yesterday, wasn't it?
Penn State played at the old Cotton Bowl Stadium, but the game was called the TicketCity Bowl. The game on Friday is at Cowboys Stadium, and that's the actual AT&T Cotton Bowl.
I give up.
But there's more. On Saturday, down in Alabama, we have the BBVA Compass Bowl.
Never heard of it.
It used to be the PapaJohns.com Bowl, but now its the BBVA Compass Bowl.
A bunch of letters. BVD, you say?
No, BBVA Compass.
Like a Boy Scouts compass?
Or a compass for drawing circles?
Not that, either. Compass is the name of a bank. The BB part stands for the Bank of Bilbao.
Bilbao. Its the tenth largest city in Spain, Daddy.
We have to get Europeans to sponsor our football now? I thought they liked soccer instead.
The bank has been buying up other banks, including Compass here in this country. Some of its acquisitions are represented by the V and the A. The V stands for Biscay; dont ask. Anyway, the company is now called BBVA Compass.
Humpf. I cant keep up with all this.
Next, on Sunday night theyll play the GoDaddy.com Bowl.
Good idea. Its time for me to go.