JUNE 28, 2014 STILL NIL-NIL?
Soccer is far from my favorite sport, but I have been tuning in to parts of the FIFA World Cup being played in Brazil. As a TV graphics operator, I like the compact score bug that ESPN has been using.
Theres no need to squeeze in logos or flags, and the viewer can quickly determine which players belong to which team.
On most basketball telecasts, depending on the network, we also try to use the team colors on the score bug. But we complicate the issue. Suppose Notre Dame is visiting Pitt. Both teams have blue and gold as their colors. We could use blue for one team and gold for the other, but theres an added problem: the white letters ND and PITT are supposed to appear on top of the team colors, and white letters on a gold background dont show up well. (Nor would black letters on a blue background.) So after some debate, we decide to use blue backgrounds for both schools. It would be better if we could simply use a generic background plus jersey blocks like this: blue for Notre Dame, white for Pitt.
In this years World Cup, the United States unexpectedly won their first game, tied the next, and on Thursday lost the third but by only one goal. That stellar 1-1-1 record has entitled the USA to advance. Were in the Round of 16! Hurray, us! You and I had absolutely nothing to do with it, of course, but that doesnt stop you and me from feeling pride in our national accomplishment.
Some Americans arent happy, however. They still deride soccer as a communist sport. This is despite the fact that none of the 32 competing nations has a communist government. Russia and Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina may have been communist once, but they arent now, and none of them made it through to the Round of 16. Communist Cuba and China and Vietnam and North Korea arent even in the tournament.
For the Americans who dislike soccer, excuses have to be invented. Soccer is socialist, they say, with all the players working together toward a single goal. (Isnt that true of most sports?) Because its low-scoring, the team that loses 1-0 doesnt get its feelings hurt too badly. (Tell that to the losing team, except the USA on Thursday.) Games can end in an unsatisfying tie. (Until recently, all of these arguments could also be applied to the National Hockey League.) The game is somehow for sissies. (Jim Rome was quoted in The Guardian: My son is not playing soccer. I will hand him ice skates and a shimmering sequined blouse before I hand him a soccer ball.)
I suspect the disparagement of soccer as a communist sport began around 1948. Then as now in America, the Do-Nothing Congress and the Party of No resisted all changes. After all, America was exceptional. We were already the greatest nation in the world, so nothing new was needed. Certainly we shouldnt import alien ideas from other so-called nations. Here in the United States, the only legitimate football was the violent full-contact version. Also, the blacks knew their place, the gays stayed in the closet, and everybody in town went to the same church. Some people today feel the Real America should still be like this.
In Joe McCarthys day, the right wing looked with suspicion on any foreign concepts originating outside this country, including soccer. Congress actually formed a committee to suppress Un-American Activities, labeling the Un-American Activists as communists.
Recently C. Edmund Wright ranted, At its heart, soccer is the perfect socialist sport. ...When the World Cup rolls around, that's where the arrogance of soccer folks meets up with the one-world feeling and the can't-we-all-just-get-along crowd and all sorts of international bodies that want to treat the U.S. like just another country like Cuba or Iran.
Now I happen to believe that we are one world.
I tuned in the USA-Portugal match last Sunday. I was in my car at the time, so I listed on ESPN Radio. With the relative lack of action, soccer on radio was an interesting novelty. The game was described by ESPN Radios lead soccer announcers, JP Dellacamera and Tommy Smyth.
I introduced myself to John Paul. He told me he preferred to be called JP. He suggested that I should do the driving, since he had no idea where Terre Haute was and I had at least been in Indiana before. He also warned me that he had a special requirement, I forget what, something like having to drink some water at least once an hour.
Here in Pennsylvania, the Pittsburgh area has Washington Pike and Freeport Road and Butler Street, among numerous others.
But the nearby city of Indiana takes a longer view. Its main thoroughfare is Philadelphia Street, named for a well-known settlement nearly 300 miles to the east. If were no longer limited to towns within easy driving distance, I think we should rename my street Anchorage Avenue.
NAVIGATOR'S VOICE NEEDED
One gadget my new car doesnt have is a GPS navigation system. I dont use GPS. But its not that Im avoiding computers. I simply prefer to use Google Earth, in order to know in advance where Im going.
Last winter I got a flyer from a new restaurant at 3231 Leechburg Road. Im familiar with that road, but its a couple of miles long. Where exactly is 3231? I fired up Google Earth on my desktop computer and typed in the address. The program immediately showed me where it is: the former Quiznos sandwich shop. Set back from the other buildings and therefore easy to miss, Quiznos is no longer in business at that location. I may or may not decide to go to the new place.
When Im assigned to work at, for example, Hometown High School, Im given an address several days in advance. So when I have the opportunity, I ask Google to plot a course to 225 White House Road, 15163. Then I examine the map in detail, paying special attention to the turns. For the tricky parts, I use Street View and memorize the terrain.
Okay, Ill come up to a stop sign with a Sunoco station on my left. There's a big blue-and-yellow sign. Ill make a right turn, then immediately get in the left-hand lane to make a left turn at the traffic light, just before the golf course. Ill follow that road for 2.6 miles. Soon after passing Truman Road there should be a green sign on the right Ill turn right onto Eisenhower Road, which is rather narrow.
THEY ALL LOOK JUST THE SAME
Its after midnight on a starlit Wednesday night in Las Vegas, Nevada, so the temperature has cooled to 86° on the far northwest side of the city.
Youre Victor Thompson, a captain in the local fire department. Youre sleeping peacefully in your modern home in your quiet gated community.
Suddenly your wife wakes you. Someone is insistently ringing the doorbell! You get out of bed to find out whats going on.
Two young men are banging on the front door. Theyre shouting things like Hey, open up, stupid! Weve got the beer, but this #$% door is locked! Were locked out! Let us in, you #$%! You argue with them, but they become belligerent and wont stop knocking. You fear a home invasion. You take steps to defend your family. You grab the firearm you keep nearby. You shoot through the door. You hit one man in the chest.
Ive augmented the story by inventing details and dialogue, but the basic facts are there. According to this article last week in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the supposed intruders were at the door after confusing the home with another in the neighborhood. They had been celebrating a birthday with another person at a nearby house. They left for a short time and thought they were returning to the same house. They did not understand why they werent being let back in.
How could they mistake one house for another? Residents who live nearby, the article explained, described the neighborhood as quiet, yet easy to get lost in. Keith Patton, who lives on the street behind where the shooting happened, said he and his mother have confused the houses by driving or walking up to the wrong driveway several times.
How confoundingly alike could these little boxes be? On Friday afternoon, I decided to see for myself. I took a quick trip to Las Vegas. Yes, I did! I used my preferred mode of transportation for such exploration, Google Earth. Its much cheaper and faster than an airplane ticket, and I returned with these pictures in half an hour.
I found that the houses are indeed similar and very closely spaced, though theyre hardly identical unless its 2:00 in the morning and youre drunk. Thats Captain Thompsons home on the left, distinguished by a luxurious 300 square feet of grass in the front lawn.
And the streets are indeed easy to get lost in. Captain Thompsons community is a compact square only a quarter of a mile on a side. Several such squares have been carved out of the beige flatness of the surrounding desert. One example is the square shown below, ironically named Vista Verde (Green View). Construction has been completed on almost all of the houses.
The area of this square is forty acres. Now you young folks don't remember this, but back in my great-grandfathers day, forty acres was the ideal size for a single-family farm. When Vista Verde is finished its forty acres will contain not one but 170 single-family homes. (A few of those structures might be for general community use.)
Notice the efficient maze of streets, designed to slow speeders. There are only two ways in and out, through the gates in the middle of the north and south sides of the square. In the interior its left, right, right, left, left, right, right, left, left, right; and if you get caught in a dead end, you need to use the cul-de-sac to turn around.
Las Vegas is growing by 50,000 new residents a year, and they keep building developments like this. I wouldnt want to live in such a cramped residential area, crawling over the other workers cells to find an exit from the hive. The West boasts its wide-open spaces, but back here in the East there really are green views. It's almost heaven.
JUNE 5, 2014 REVISITING THE SQUARE
Here is a century-old postcard view of Varuna Park in my old hometown.
Here is the Oldsmobile curved-dash runabout that was brought to mind by the musical Oklahoma! For the first picture, I composited a modern photo from a vintage-car exhibition with an old black-and-white image of a driver at the tiller of the Olds.
Here's the Oberlin College marching band straggling across the football field a year before I matriculated at Oberlin. Meanwhile at the campus radio station, here we see an engineer doing some soldering in a equipment rack while an announcer prepares to announce.
I've illustrated my account of the college president's encounter
with sit-in protestors by adding this
photo of a similar confrontation two years before.
MAY 31, 2014 SPOKESMAN QUITS
Jay Carney resigned yesterday. You probably didn't hear about it. It wasnt discussed much in the news.
Carney had been the White House press secretary for 3½ years. Now he has resigned from that demanding job to spend more time with his wife and 12-year-old son and 9-year-old daughter. Its said that financial reasons are also driving him back to the private sector, where he previously spent 21 years in journalism.
Forty years ago, there was another resignation of a former journalist turned White House press secretary. This one did make all the newspapers, because it was in the aftermath of Watergate. And the man who resigned was my friends father!
Well, friend is too strong a word. Karen and I both went to Oberlin College. As undergraduates, we sometimes shared a conversation at the same dinner table. I asked her out once. I never met her father.
Ive always been a bit of a nerd. (I identify with the guys on The Big Bang Theory.) Ive never gone out much. During college, as nearly as I can recall, I got up the courage to ask five different coeds on dates. However, Karen was the only one who turned me down, so I wasnt a total failure.
Fortunately, I was unlike that kid at Santa Barbara who recently went on a killing spree because he hated girls who refused to go out with him. I knew better than to expect romance with anyone who was obviously out of my league in popularity. Those girls already had cool boyfriends, boys with whom I could never compete. So I accepted reality, as you can tell from my allegory in four chapters at the end of this article.
Instead, I tried to interact with a girl as a person, a colleague, a friend. And sometimes, under the right circumstances, we agreed to attend a concert or something together.
But as I hinted earlier, theres more to the ter Horst tale, beginning with Oberlin's Mock Republican National Convention the following spring when Congressman Ford returned to campus. Five years later, in 1973, he was appointed to replace Spiro Agnew as Richard Nixons Vice-President. The year after that, the Watergate scandal forced Nixon to resign, and Ford became President himself.
He promised a new era of openness and honesty. He appointed Jerald ter Horst to be his Presidential press secretary, to much applause from ter Horst's friends in the White House press corps.
A month later, in a surprise announcement, Ford issued a pardon to Nixon so that he would not be prosecuted for any Watergate misdeeds.
I happened to think this was a good move. It was time for the nation to return to normalcy. Nixon had already been humiliated by having to quit the nations highest office in disgrace. Dragging him through multiple criminal trials would accomplish little besides prolonging Watergate for years, giving the lie to Fords inaugural promise: My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over.
But others wanted to see Nixon behind bars. Many believe that Ford lost the Presidential election of 1976 because he had let Nixon go scot-free in 1974.
Jerald ter Horst also thought the pardon was a bad idea. For one thing, he had been telling reporters every day what he believed to be true, that Ford had no intention of pardoning Nixon. Then Ford proved him wrong. His boss had thrown him under the bus, and he had lost much of his credibility with the reporters.
However, there was a bigger issue of fairness. He wrote the President, I cannot in good conscience support your decision to pardon former President Nixon even before he has been charged with the commission of any crime. As your spokesman, I do not know how I could credibly defend that action in the absence of a like decision to grant absolute pardon to the young men who evaded Vietnam military service as a matter of conscience and the absence of pardons for former aides and associates of Mr. Nixon. ... Try as I can, it is impossible to conclude that the former President is more deserving of mercy than persons of lesser station in life whose offenses have had far less effect on our national wellbeing.
So Karens dad resigned as a matter of principle, after only one month. The next year, he received the Conscience-in-Media Award from the American Society of Journalists and Authors. I had nothing to do with it.
MAY 29, 2014 CHANGING FACES
But she cleaned up nicely for the actual ceremony on February 8. Hours into the show, just after the lighting of the cauldron by Mike Eruzione and his hockey teammates from the 1980 Miracle on Ice, the 19-year-old Miss Rimes began the finale by singing Light the Fire Within with the Olympic flame burning behind her.
She was accompanied by the 83-member Utah Symphony, and singers from the Utah Opera, and the choristers of The Madeleine Choir School, and 695 Children of Light carrying lanterns. Also, I think there were several thousand candles. Light the fire, indeed.
And for all my Pennsylvania neighbors who last week won the freedom to marry, for whom the night has been too lonely and the road has been too long, and you thought that love is only for the lucky and the strong, here's another performance by this wannabe vocalist.
In May of 1888, the editor warned gardeners not to buy small packets of seeds from possibly dishonest purveyors. It often happens, he said, that only a few seeds will actually grow. In the fall, what remains of these seeds are gathered up and mixed with the seeds of the coming year and sold again. The best way to avoid such imposition is to raise your own seed, dried and stored away.
It appears that Richwood was a dry town that banned liquor while its neighbor to the east was not. In May of 1913 the paper reported that fellows from Richwood have been causing Prospect officials untold trouble by going over there and getting drunk. Finally, Prospect asked Richwoods Mayor M.W. Hill to supply a black list of Richwood people to whom booze should not be sold. Mayor Hill promptly supplied Mayor Hough with over a dozen names. When those affected learned of this, they became madder than old wet hens and in no uncertain terms told Mayor Hill just what they thought of him and asserted that they intend to move out of town, but to date have not acted on that extremity.
Also in May of 1913, the Electric Light Plant had a failure. Until new parts arrived, the town was in total darkness from Friday until Tuesday. The residents were compelled to fall back on coal oil [kerosene], gasoline, acetylene and other methods of illumination.
But the shopkeepers may not have minded the first night of darkness on Friday, because that same spring the business houses had agreed to close at 5:30 pm on Tuesdays and Fridays to give their clerks a couple of nights off. The merchants expected to hear complaints, but instead, customers commended the stores for giving clerks time to themselves. Im reminded of the time 43 years later that my father unilaterally decided to close his doors at noon on Saturdays, for similar reasons. Nowadays most stores can stay open for longer hours because they've hired more than one shift of employees.
Model T Fords were not powerful enough in May of 1913 for drag racing. But motorcycles were, and young bikers were frightening their elders. The roads between here and Marion have become Sunday speedways for flying motorcycles.
In May of 1938, Richwood High School seniors came to class on the final Friday of the school year with the girls dressed in short dresses and hair ribbons and the boys in short pants in celebration of senior day. We had something similar in my era three decades later, except the seniors didnt dress like little kids; they dressed in scruffy clothes that would not normally be good enough to wear to school. I think we called it Senior Slop Day or something like that. Nowadays office workers call it Casual Friday.
And in May of 1963, the four local auto dealerships held a six-inning old timers ball game on Memorial Day evening. Although I was a high school sophomore at the time, I dont remember this at all even though the game was umpired by my father, Chevrolet dealer Vernon Thomas, along with Plymouth dealer Bernard Benton. According to the newspaper preview, the two teams represented Swartz Motors Ford, with Claud Casey Swartz and Whimp Advisor Jordan, and Gruber-Reidenbaugh Pontiac, with Merle Slow Ball Gruber and Jack The Man Reidenbaugh. Both sides have an exceptional lineup of slow and hard-hitting talent, with a few openings on both sides for local volunteers who have their wills and life insurance policies made out.
MAY 13, 2014 WHAT COLOR ARE MY EYES?
In a new article, I recall my college days and my second-year German course and my classmate Roberta, with whom I watched a movie.
MAY 7, 2014 MAGIC AMMO
Of course! Its simple physics. Check out this chart of various metals, with their densities in grams per cubic centimeter.
For two projectiles with the same velocity and size, the mass of a silver bullet is 8% less than that of a lead bullet. Momentum equals mass times velocity. With only 92% of the momentum, the silver bullet will be slightly less stable in flight and will do less damage when it hits the werewolf.
But there are other options. Compared to silver, gold is 84% heavier and platinum is 104% heavier. Bullets made from these precious metals would be much more effective. However, they would cost about 70 times as much as silver and 1,400 times as much as lead.
A more practical choice, with essentially the same density as gold: depleted uranium (DU), a byproduct of enriching fuel for nuclear reactors. The military loads DU projectiles into some of its weapons, such as the 30mm rotary cannon on the A-10 Warthog aircraft.
MAY 1, 2014 RELAYING THE REPORT
We have received this sports report from my old home town in Ohio: North Union High Schools boys track team has won the 2014 edition of the Virg Rankin Relays!
from a video by mapleguy43 (click here)
NUHS placed first in three of the thirteen events: the 4x100, the long jump, and the high jump. In the final event to be completed, the Wildcats trio of high jumpers totaled 186. That clinched the victory over Fairbanks High School.
Fairbanks (named after the Union County native who became Vice President of the United States) had been the Relays champions the last two years, and this year they placed first in five events. But although North Union had only three first places, they also picked up five seconds, three thirds, and two fourths to win the overall boys point total. (The girls team was not as successful.)
Back then, the athletes did not have todays pullover jerseys in team colors with competitor numbers on the back. Only boys competed. The girls could merely cheer them on and hand out the trophies.
Above is the 1964 Relay Court, in a picture Ive colorized from the yearbook. Left to right, they are sophomore attendant Pat Smith, senior Janet Johnson, Queen Dianne Wilson, junior Pat Ransome, and freshman Rose Sullivan.