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ArchiveOCTOBER 2018


OCT. 19, 2008 flashback   VIET NAM REVISITED

Elsewhere on this website, I've transcribed a nine-minute extemporaneous speech that was captured by my cassette recorder at Oberlin College in 1969.  The speaker was one Howard Emmer, an “outside agitator” visiting from Kent State University to encourage opposition to the ongoing war in Viet Nam.

I've recently unearthed some additional information online.  It turns out that that  two months after his Oberlin talk, Emmer was arrested at Kent State and jailed for a year.  Five days after his release in 1970, the Kent State shootings took place.  The newly discovered details are in a red box at the end of the transcript.

I myself was not a demonstrator, either for or against the war.  My feelings about it were so ambiguous that I even found my opinions changing from one side to the other according to my environment.  At home in conservative rural Ohio, I tended to agree with everyone around me that we should support our President and our troops in the battle against Communism.  But on Oberlin's liberal campus, I tended to agree with everyone around me that we should pull our troops out of a conflict where thousands on both sides were dying for no good reason.

A recent UCLA study indicates that my flip-flops are not unusual among college students.  Excerpts from an article by the AP's Justin Pope:

“College students shift noticeably to the left from the time they arrive on campus through their junior year.  The reason, according to UCLA's Higher Education Research Institute, isn't indoctrination by left-leaning faculty but rather the more powerful influence of fellow students.  And at most colleges, left-leaning peer groups are more common than conservative ones.  After college, students — particularly women — move somewhat back to the right politically.”

Why do most colleges have more liberal students that conservative ones?  The right-leaning students tend to go elsewhere and concentrate in a smaller number of schools, including Bible colleges and other religiously-oriented institutions.  “So at most colleges,” explains Pope, “there are more left-leaning peer groups, and students on balance move leftward.”  He quotes a researcher:  “If you find yourself in a peer group where on balance the attitudes lean left, you'll tend to move in that direction.”

And if later you find yourself in a small town where on balance the attitudes lean right, you'll tend to move in that direction.


OCT. 16, 2018    MOONSTRUCK

It's late in the afternoon.  A youngster hears honking overhead.  He looks to the southern sky and spots a goose, flying at an altitude of maybe 500 feet.  He also sees a first-quarter moon, and to his horror, the bird flies very close to it.

“Look out!” he cries, throwing up his hand, but the goose can't hear him.  Both the bird and the moon are far above.  They both appear about the size of his thumbnail.

He asks his grandfather about it, as in this “Pluggers” cartoon from June 9.  Are heavenly bodies really a hazard to migrating wildlife?

That's a naïve worry, of course.  The youngster has not yet read a science book, so he's still a flat-earther.

His common sense tells him the earth is level like a floor.  His common sense also tells him the sky above is a flattened dome.  This dome, or “firmament,” seems to be  about 500 feet over our heads.  Both the goose and the moon are up there on the ceiling (G).

When the goose flies to the western horizon (H), which is miles away, it will appear much smaller to us.  We naturally assume that by midnight, when the setting moon also reaches the horizon, it too will appear much smaller.

But our surprise, it still looks as big as our thumbnail!  Has someone blown up the moon?  It's no longer goose-size; it's now skyscraper-size!

The illusion is discussed in great detail by John Roderick and Jeopardy's Ken Jennings in this edition of their podcast.  (They also mention the belief that a full moon brings out the crazies.  I offered an explanation for that idea here.)

As educated people know, the earth is not flat.  The sky is not a flattened dome.  The moon is not on the ceiling, merely 500 feet up there.  It's much, much higher — 1.3 billion feet away!

And six hours later, when the rotation of the earth has apparently moved the moon from overhead X to horizon Y, it's still about the same distance from us.  It remains thumbnail-sized.

Our astonishment that it still appears so large leads to the sense that it must have grown.


OCT. 13, 2008 flashback   WE'RE NUMBER ONE

I remember attending some event in the 1950s in the basement of our church.  The speaker gave thanks for how blessed we were to be living in America, the greatest nation on Earth.  The audience applauded.

As I was just a humble young boy, this was the first time I had heard that concept expressed.  Life in the United States is certainly good, at least for most of us.  But on the planet there are more than a hundred nations, each with its own national customs and virtues.  The speaker was saying that this nation, the one where we happen to have been born, is the best of them all.

That might be true, I thought.  But surely it's a claim that could be debated.  In the meantime, it seems immodest for us as Christians, and impolitic for us as citizens of the world, to assert superiority over all other peoples and to look down upon our inferiors.

Moreover, if we're already #1, what incentive is there for us to improve?

However, since then I've learned not to object to the smug patriotic conceit that we're better than everyone else.  After all, if you doubt that America is the best, you hate America.

And statistics show that the U.S. is in fact the leader in a number of categories.  These include military might, carbon emissions, and divorce rate.  Among developed nations, the United States has the most preventable deaths per capita and the most prisoners per capita.  We couldn't be better.

Not only that, but our national debt topped $10 trillion last week.  In New York's Times Square, the National Debt Clock had to be reworked to squeeze in another digit.

Associated Press writer Marcus Franklin found a visiting couple from Switzerland, pilot Svet Stauber and his doctor wife Roberta, snapping a picture of the sign that had run out of space.

Svet said, “It's symbolic.  It's a very big symbol.  It's a complete failure of the system.  It's the most powerful country in the world with a conservative government for the last eight years, and it's running the biggest debt ever.”

Roberta hoped that the country's current predicament would deflate its “ego” and “arrogance.”  She said, “You think you are the best country in the world.  I hope America reflects about this.”

update — ten years later, another $11 trillion

At 8:00 EDT this morning (Oct. 13, 2018), the Debt Clock passed $21,624,600,636,281.
The smaller number on the sign, your share as a taxpayer, is now $177,284.


OCT. 11, 2018    FOR P.O.G., READ 3# AND PRESS FONT 3

I operated the Duet graphics machine for high school football telecasts from 2008 through 2016 on the regional channel once called Fox Sports Net Pittsburgh, later called Root Sports, and now called AT&T SportsNet.

Usually this job is truly a “duet,” with a Graphics Coordinator telling the operator what to do.  However, for these lower-budget shows I had to be my own coordinator.  Therefore I had to be organized.  Using mnemonic systems and abbreviations and other tricks, I managed to get all the important numbers I’d need during the game onto a single sheet of paper (plus another sheet listing the rosters’ key players).

I last updated my charts two years ago.  You probably won’t be interested in the details, but lest all that work fade into the mists of time, I’ve posted it here under the title Football Duet for a Soloist  


OCT. 9, 2018    WHAT I LEARNED

In my last post I showed you many of my college classmates with whom I shared the previous weekend.  Now it's time for some details including innovative buildings, pronouns, a strange poem, and eight million dollars.  From the class after mine, I also talked with a former WOBC DJ whose old family friend had helped found the NAACP in 1910.

My new article's all about A Summit at The Hotel.



Last weekend I returned to Oberlin College to join eighty other alumni on campus.  We were there to prepare for an event to be held May 24 through 27, 2019:  the reunions of graduating classes from 10, 30, 45, 50, and 60 years before.  The Class of 1970 was also represented to get an early start on their 50-year reunion, even though it won't happen until 2020.

The 50th is the big one, of course.  The chart shows that nearly half the attendees at our “summit” were from 1969 and 1970.  We all got together for socializing and dinners, such as the one above in the Tappan Room of the Hotel at Oberlin.  But the individual classes, including my Class of 1969, also held breakout sessions to plan their particular activities.

Below are some photos.  The ones with the crimson borders should be credited to John Kramer; those with the gold borders, to George Spencer-Green.

Left to right in the first group are Mr. Kramer, Biz Glenn Harralson, Mr. Spencer-Green, and the Class of 1969 officers:  vice-president Carol McLaughlin Fishwick and president Wayne Alpern.

Our reunion committee got down to business, led by chairman Walt Galloway (here flanked by Mike Jarvis and Bill Truehaft).

Walt was very organized, and we accomplished a lot.

David Eisner

Bonnie Wishne

Chip Hauss

Tom Thomas

Bob Weiner

Les Leopold, Wayne Alpern

Bill Truehaft

Mike Jarvis

John Bowman

Mimi Lam

Christie Seltzer Fountain

Carol McLaughlin Fishwick, Bob Shay

Debby Horn Roosevelt

Various classmates volunteered to coordinate such events as a panel on liberal activism (Bob Weiner points out that the term nowadays is “resistance”), a service project, and another panel on the ways Oberlin has changed us.

But the weekend won't be all seriousness; it will also be a time for fun and reconnections.  Our plans include a talent show, a story-telling session, and the traditional men's and women's breakfasts.  We might even get together as early as Wednesday, May 22, 2019, to enjoy the attractions of the big city of Cleveland!

Then the Commencement/Reunion Weekend will find us all gathering at Oberlin.  Stay tuned for further details.



I'm watching old TV.  In a documentary about a 1958 plane crash, the control tower notes the time as “three-one.”  Then, near the end of the 1936 movie The Great Ziegfeld, an actress arranges a phone call for “after the second act; that's right, about ten-five.”

Have I been wrong?

All my life I've written times like these as “3:01” and “10:05,” with a colon acting like a decimal point and a zero holding the tens-of-minutes place.  And I've pronounced them “three-oh-one” and “ten-oh-five.”

Should I have been writing “3:1” and “10:5” instead?


OCT. 1, 2018    FALL FOLIAGE

Serious conversations and comical gift-giving were part of the scene in October 1968.  But there was also a soprano folk singer.  There were athletes protesting during the National Anthem.  And there was my football broadcast partner, who wouldn't stop talking.

Click here for the latest installment in the 14-month series recalling my life 50 years ago.