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DECEMBER 5, 2022   

The head of a drum is a circular flexible membrane, tightly stretched.  When struck in various places, it can vibrate in various modes and frequencies, transmitting to the adjacent air those vibrations which we perceive as sound.

My friend Jan and I learned this as college physics students.  We were given problems to solve something like this:  “Let the density of the membrane be one-tenth gram per square centimeter and the tension be 100 dynes in the x direction.  Write and solve the wave equation.”

I couldn't resist constructing a pair of rectangular flexible membranes as a gift.  I composed a parody of the problem to be solved, taking into consideration Einstein's theory of relativity.  To correspond about the problem, Jan and I employed obsolete Germanic characters.  Oh, and I wrote a Shakespearean sonnet.


To read more, click this box for a classic article I posted to this website more than a hundred months ago.

For the enjoyment of my fellow physics nerds, it's all in this month's 100 Moons article.

 

DECEMBER 3, 2012 flashback    FOUR WEEKS AGO

It was the eve of the election, and three of Mitt Romney’s nieces — Faith, Hope, and Charity, good conservatives all — were predicting what was going to happen.

Charity said, “I love Uncle Mitt.  I’d really like to see him win.”

Hope agreed, “I hope he wins, too.  The country would be in big trouble if Obama were re-elected.”

Faith said, “Don’t worry about that.  All our polls show us leading in the swing states.  I’m completely confident that by this time tomorrow, we’ll be the nieces of President-Elect Romney!”

“But to be fair,” interjected Charity, “the Democrats have other polls that show the opposite.”

“And,” added Hope, “the TV networks and the rest of the commentators pretty much agree that Obama is leading.  I hope they’re wrong, but that’s what they say.”

Faith exploded.  “Are you going to believe the evil mass media?  They’re all on Obama’s side, and they’re deliberately skewing the polling data to discourage us.  There’s no way that Americans would re-elect that socialist and give him another four years to destroy our country.  I don’t know anyone who’s voting for Obama.  Do you?”

“Well, hardly any,” Hope admitted, “but we really don’t know many folks outside our family and our church and our political organization.  This is a big country, and apparently there are people who disagree with us.”

“A lot of young people,” Charity noted, “support Obama.  Latinos, too.”

“They’re not really Americans!” Faith spluttered.  “They should deport themselves back to wherever they came from.  No, I have faith in our country.  I know true Americans will elect Mitt Romney.  He doesn’t even need to bother to prepare a concession speech.  Losing is impossible.  He’ll win by a landslide!”

“But the experts in Ohio say —”

“Don’t distract me with the facts!  My faith is firm.”

           And now abideth Faith, Hope, Charity, these three;
but the worst of these is Faith.

Deliberately ignoring disagreeable facts will always lead you astray.

When the truth is found, you will be dumbfounded. 

 

NOVEMBER 30, 2022    SOLAR PANELS AND A ROSETTE

Ohio's Union County is home to some 990 farmers and about 241,000 acres of crop land, worth an average of $7,272 per acre.

I grew up in Richwood in the northern part of the county, an area where solar panels are planned for some of those fields.

These renewable-energy projects will bring in revenue, so the county has approved them.  But they'll also remove acreage from agricultural production, so not all farmers like the idea.

Several residents last month asked the county commissioners to reconsider their vote in favor of one solar project's PILOT agreement, according to Michael Williamson of the Marysville Journal-Tribune.  The citizens alleged that “the information surrounding the financial benefits to the area wasn't accurate and should be looked at again.”

“Debbie Krieg, a resident in the North Union School District, joined the meeting virtually and asked the commissioners if a potential decline in enrollment at North Union was factored into their decisions.  ‘Did you factor in, when you were considering the impacts on the schools, any concerns about declining enrollment in the North Union School District in light of the aggressive solar development up here, in that you're looking to fund a certain school population today?’ Krieg asked.  ‘Are you factoring in potential declines in that, as more and more acres are consumed by panels?’”

What makes you think, commissioners wondered, that families will be moving away?  Commissioner Dave Burke said that on several occasions, the county met with school district officials who predicted enrollment “would maintain or grow at its present rate.  ...There was no discussion about a decrease in enrollment.”  Nevertheless, the commissioners did reconsider the measure and approved it again.  No votes were changed.  Burke remarked, “Certainly I hope this is the last time we ever have to vote on any of these.”

In other news, a marketing campaign for the Ohio Department of Health wants to counter the perception that people in rural communities can't go anywhere without a car or truck.  “Richwood is an ideal place to show that,” they declared, and promotional photos were taken in September showing folks happily walking and biking around town.

Now Richwood pavements are being repaired, as the voters on November 8 approved an additional five-year, 3-mill levy for that purpose by a margin of 342-287.  And the village could be getting an additional sidewalk.

At the top of this image is downtown, and in the lower left corner is my former home — the house on the eastern outskirts where I lived when I was a student at Richwood High School, the former site of which I've labeled with an orange RHS.

It seemed ridiculous to drive my car a couple of blocks to school, so often I'd walk to school along Ohio Route 47.  But for the first 600 feet, if cars were coming, I'd have to cut through people's lawns.  There were no sidewalks that far out of town. 

Nowadays, notes Mayor Scott Jerew, many people buy food not by walking downtown but by walking to the dollar stores that have sprung up across from my former home.

There's a proposal to make that journey less hazardous.  Ally Lanasa wrote in the Richwood Gazette in October, “The five-foot-wide concrete path, which is to be named the Rosette Way to Healthy Food, will ensure residents can safely access healthier food options as well as provide a designated space for exercise.”

I haven't seen the plans; I assume they involve extending the Blagrove Street sidewalk by 600 feet, as indicated by the yellow line.  There are utility poles and a gas line and a ditch along that path.  The cost of the project has risen to at least $65,000; the village has committed $10,000 and applied for a Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) grant, while the Central Ohio Rural Planning Organization (CORPO) is trying to secure funding to cover the additional $34,400 consulting fee.

On the other hand, if healthy exercise is a goal, I suppose they could follow the green arrow instead and cut through the woods.  That would make the walk twice as long.

 

NOVEMBER 28, 2022    I'VE LOST A THIRD OF ME

Are you still stuffed from last week's dulcem Thanksgiving feast?  Not as stuffed as I was on this week eleven years ago, when I weighed 257 pounds!  My BMI in 2011 was an “obese” 39.1.

The following year, and again this year, I noticed that for some reason I didn't have as much appetite.  Also, because of a slightly high blood-glucose level, this year I also cut back on carbs.

Now I'm down to 170 pounds, with a BMI of a merely “overweight” 27.4.  I'm told that “normal” (the green range) is 18.5 to 24.9, so I'm getting there.

 

NOVEMBER 26, 2012 flashback    PRIMITIVE GRAPHICS

My specialty, TV graphics, has come a long way since this contest that aired exactly 50 years ago tonight.  It was a CBS celebrity game show called Stump the Stars.

In a game of charades, Ross Martin tried to communicate a joke to his teammates.  The text crawled across the bottom of the screen, pulled in front of a camera by a stagehand.

Ross had a limited number of seconds, so above the crawl was a timer whose digits rolled past like an odometer.


After each round, the graphics camera showed us a scoreboard on which names and times hung from little hooks.

Let me show you another example from the early days of television.

You know, some say the crawl became a permanent feature of television news after 9/11/2001.  But news crawls have been around from the beginning.  Check out the kinescope of the very first Today show on NBC, January 14, 1952.

The program that morning showed off the new TV technology, when it worked, by going live to such sites as the Pentagon parking lot and Chicago’s Loop to watch people arriving for work.

But for part of the three hours, hosted by “communicator” Dave Garroway, the latest headlines were typed onto a long strip of paper.  This ticker tape was then formed into an endless loop, attached to a drum, slowly spun past a camera, and inserted into the bottom of the screen.

I recall watching a long-ago telecast of the National Invitational Tournament.  It was about 1959.  An announcer stood in a room off the basketball court at the old Madison Square Garden, and beside him was a blackboard that he used to explain the NIT bracket.

I recall reporting the local election returns on cable TV in Marion, Ohio.  It was about 1973.  For each race, I held up a piece of poster board with the names of the candidates and their pictures, which I had cut out of the local newspaper.  This card had windows to reveal another card behind it, on which I’d written the latest vote totals in Magic Marker.

Nowadays, of course, all such graphics are computer-generated. 

 

NOVEMBER 22, 2022
A DULCEM JOURNALIST

It's time to prepare a good old-fashioned vegetarian Thanksgiving feast.

``````

We'll have sweet potatoes and fried cornmeal mush with hot tea, and pumpkin pie for dessert.  It'll be dulcem!  (That's from the Latin dulce meaning “sweet.”)

But first things first.  As Pittsburgh songwriter Stephen Foster wrote in 1850, we must begin by redding up the kitchen and firing up the wood-burning stove.

Nelly Bly!  Nelly Bly!  Bring the broom along.
We'll sweep the kitchen clean, my dear, and have a little song.
Poke the wood, my lady love, and make the fire burn,
And while I take the banjo down, just give the mush a turn.

Hi, Nelly! Ho, Nelly!  Listen, love, to me;
I'll sing for you, play for you, a dulcem melody.

~

~

~

Nelly Bly!  Nelly Bly!  Never, never sigh.
Never bring a teardrop to the corner of your eye,
For the pie is made of pumpkins and the mush is made of corn,
And there's corn and pumpkins plenty, love, a-lyin' in the barn.

Hi, Nelly!  Ho, Nelly!  Listen, love, to me;
I'll sing for you, play for you, a dulcem melody.

~

~

~

Nelly Bly has a voice like the turtle dove.
I hear it in the meadow and I hear it in the grove.
Nelly Bly has a heart warm as a cup of tea
And bigger than the sweet potato down in Tennessee.

Hi, Nelly!  Ho, Nelly!  Listen, love, to me;
I'll sing for you, play for you, a dulcem melody.

Old Steve thought his fictional Nelly was great.  “The way she walks, she lifts her foot and then she brings it down.  And when it lights, there's music there in that part of the town.”  The song became a hit.

Three decades later, a newspaperman named George Madden, editor of the Pittsburgh Dispatch, wrote an editorial entitled “What Girls Are Good For.”  In it he declared that “women's work” ought to be nothing more than bearing children and keeping house.  If they absolutely had to get a job, they “should only work in feminine professions such as nursing and teaching.”

This incensed an 18-year-old girl named Elizabeth Cochran, who had grown up 15 miles east of where I live now.  She wrote a rebuttal.  It so impressed Mr. Madden that he hired her as a reporter!

But journalism was hardly a feminine profession, so it was assumed that Elizabeth would need to shield herself behind a pen name.  The editor dubbed her Nellie Bly.

Nellie didn't want to describe society and fashion.  Instead, she became a foreign correspondent in Mexico, then moved to New York and became an investigative reporter in 1887.  She went undercover as a patient at a lunatic asylum so that she could write a New York World exposé on the horrific conditions there.

In 1889, at her suggestion, the newspaper sent her around the world in a record 72 days to better the fictional standard from Jules Verne's novel.

After her industrialist husband died, she ran his factory, inventing an improved milk can and possibly the 55-gallon drum.  She provided her workers with an on-site doctor, day care, and a bowling alley.  But a manager's embezzlement ruined the business in 1913, so the next year she went off to Europe and became the world's first female war correspondent.

Now Nellie Bly, world traveler and breaker of glass ceilings, has been given the great honor of joining the statuary hall at the Pittsburgh International Airport.  It's located at the top of the escalators as arriving passengers exit the airside terminal.

The escalators' other two statues also celebrate local heroes.  In the center there's George Washington, who on December 29, 1753, tumbled into one of the three rivers while scouting the area.  And on the left is Franco Harris, who on December 23, 1972, made an “immaculate” reception at Three Rivers Stadium, enabling the Steelers to defeat the Raiders coached by one Mr. Madden.  A different Madden this time.

 

NOVEMBER 19, 2022
TOURING THE NEW HOUSE

Thirty-some years ago, I worked on University of Pittsburgh sports telecasts from Trees Hall (upper left on this map), Fitzgerald Field House (in red), and Pitt Stadium (the large ellipse in the center).  We broadcast technicians parked our cars in the large lot (OC) at the top of the hill.

But then they tore down the antiquated stadium and erected the Petersen Events Center inside its elliptical footprint, leaving a grassy lawn beside it for future development. 

Twenty years ago, when Pitt's basketball team moved across Sutherland Drive from the old Field House to the new “Pete,” only a few arrangements had been made for broadcast television.  Each time a network wanted to televise a game, they'd have to rent at least one mobile control unit which would drive most of the way up the hill and park in the loading dock (the green L) next to the building.  We'd have to carry cameras inside and string cables to connect everything.

We broadcast technicians were supposed to continue using the OC parking lot, but now it was ten stories higher than the mobile unit.  Eventually I became a senior citizen with difficulty walking down the rather steep hill and later walking back up.  So I cheated:  I got permission to park right beside the truck!

Before that, I sometimes parked in the O'Hara Garage (OH).  Taking a ticket upon entering, I usually wouldn't have to pay when I was ready to depart at 11:00 pm.  The game had been over for an hour, everyone else was gone, and the exit gate had been left in the up position.

I would not be able to park in that garage today, because ground has been broken to replace it with a $255 million Campus Recreation and Wellness Center (concept rendering on the left).

Anyway, back in 2002 we broadcast technicians were invited to tour the new Petersen Events Center in advance of the first telecast.  We needed to find out where we should go and what we'd be dealing with.  Most of our regular crew couldn't make it that day, however.

To read more, click this box for a classic article I posted to this website more than a hundred months ago.

Therefore, I posted what I'd learned online and emailed the link to my friends at the Pittsburgh Crewing Company.  My pictures, including updated comments, are this month's 100 Moons article.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
And now for The Rest of the Story.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

In 2018, anticipating the launch of the ACC Network, the university opened a $12 million Broadcast Production Facility inside the building, including three control rooms and multiple editing suites.

I never got to use it.  For my last couple of years as a freelance graphics operator before I retired, the non-ACC networks I worked for continued to park their mobile units in the loading dock.  We truck people were allowed to venture inside briefly for our pregame crew meal.

Then last week the Property & Facilities Committee approved plans for a $240 million athletic center with training and sports medicine facilities for 16 of Pitt's 19 athletic programs.  A 3,000-seat arena is included, so sports like wrestling and volleyball will no longer have to make do with the 71-year-old Field House.  “Victory Heights” will be built on the lawn next to the Pete and will have camera cables leading to those new control rooms.  But when it's finished, I'm afraid I won't be among the technicians taking the tour.   



 

NOVEMBER 16, 2022    GET OVER THIS HUMP

Professor PZ Myers complains about the midpoint of his week, a day when he always has to work.  “You know what else is annoying about Wednesday?

“We get three- and even four-day weekends now and then.  Which workdays get wiped out?  Usually a Monday or a Friday, or even a Thursday (Thanksgiving) or a Tuesday (fall break).

“But Wednesdays are always inviolate, standing alone and untouched.”

M|

T|

W|

T|

F|

 

Today is the Day of 8 Billion.  According to United Nations estimates, the world's population will reach that number at 9:00 ET this morning. 

(People, be not proud.  There are 20,000,000,000,000,000 ants on the planet, or 2.5 million of those insects for every one of us.)

Although humanity experienced slow and gradual population growth for millennia, we added a billion people from 1998 to 2010 and another billion in the next 12 years.  We can't keep this up forever.  Our next billion is expected to require 15 years, a sign that the overall growth rate of the global population is decreasing.


 

One guess is that we'll reach our maximum about 60 years from now with 10.4 billion, marked by the red star.

Why is the rate slowing?  This article from an Australian Broadcasting Corporation documentary offers some answers, including projections about the year 2050.  Which eight countries (in green) will contribute more than half the world's population increase between now and then?  Which countries (in purple) will actually lose population?

 

NOVEMBER 13, 2022    CONSIDER WHAT STATS MEAN

A recent article bemoaned NFL football nowadays.  The first statistic:  “Scoring is down, from 2.48 offensive touchdowns a game in 2021 to 2.31 now.”

But how big a difference is that, really?  Multiply by seven for the seven typical September and October games, in which there must have been 17 offensive touchdowns last year compared to 16 this year.  One measly TD in two months?  Could we really tell the difference?

In the wider world, numbers like crime statistics are cited to make a point.  Take a moment to see how they fit into the big picture.

 

NOVEMBER 10, 2022    VETERANS' DAY EVE

On this date in 1938, Americans listening to their radios heard a dramatic orchestral fanfare, followed by the familiar voice of Kate Smith.  

And now,” she said, “it's going to be my great, very great privilege to sing for you a song that's never been sung before.  By anybody!”

She praised it as “a song that will never die.”

And it indeed still lives today, because the composer had wisely replaced his original rhyme for the words my home, sweet home.

The rhyme had been The Gold Fields out in Nome.

 

NOVEMBER 8, 2022    NO SCHOOL FOR THE NEXT TWO MONTHS

During America's bicentennial in 1976, November 8 was a dark day in my old home town of Richwood, Ohio.  Not only was it the onset of the Ohio's coldest winter ever recorded, but because local conservatives refused to pay any more taxes for public education, the school doors would be shut until 1977.

I didn't experience the crisis in person, because I had relocated to Pennsylvania a couple of years before.  I did witness events being canceled because of the frigid temperatures and a shortage of natural gas.

This century, however, Richwood newspaper articles have filled me in on the North Union Crisis of 1976 and how a civic-minded minority joined together the following spring to accomplish a task that the majority of their neighbors had neglected.  Their financial support of key school functions continues to the present day.

 

NOVEMBER 6, 2022    SYNCHRONIZE WATCHES!

My computer knows the date and time.  So do my cell phone and my cable box.  But, due to retirement and social isolation, my mind sometimes loses track.  Therefore I need to consult many other devices that sometimes require manual resetting.

One that doesn't is a travel alarm which receives official radio signals from the government to stay accurate within a second.  Last night I checked it against my faithful Casio digital watch, except I set the watch forward 23 hours because daylight time was about to expire in favor of standard time.

Then I used the watch to reset more than a dozen other timepieces in various rooms.  Some are ordinary clocks, while others are built into devices like the DVR recorder and the microwave oven (both of which tend to run slow).  One is a digital watch with a broken strap; I set it to run 30 minutes fast so that its beep chimes the half-hour.  I even have two clocks in my car, because the illuminated one in the dashboard is hard to read if the sun is shining on it.

Other folks have different routines.  Perhaps you're a stickler for staying up in order to fall back exactly at 2:00:00 a.m., as required by law.  However, that's unlikely unless you're a professional in charge of a ladder and a public timepiece.  When I was a professional overseeing an automated TV channel, I made the change in advance.

Kristin Easter in Bellevue, Washington, is more typical.  Quoted by the New York Times yesterday, Kristin said she doesn't change her clocks until she happens upon an hour on Sunday she'd like back, “most of the time waiting until 11 a.m., then deciding that an hour of coffee, muffins and the paper would be great to repeat.”

Marcy Albin from Santa Fe, N.M., concurred.  “Have your book ready, a beverage of choice, read for an hour, stretch, turn the clocks back and read for another. Heaven!”

In my case, after resetting the clock time the next step was something I do every morning:  reset the calendar date, in quintuplicate.  One calendar magnet: move from Saturday/5 to Sunday/6.  Two prisms on shelves: rotate from Sat to Sun.  Two other sets of blocks: rotate to read 06.

The final task was to change the daily hue, from blue (which in my chromatology denotes Saturday) to white (which denotes Sunday).  Five devices cried out for recoloring, including the backgrounds for my TV's captioning and my computer's desktop.  Now my little world should be able to keep me oriented for another day!

Speaking of standard time and daylight time, by the way, to adjust our lives to the sun I have Three Alternate Proposals of decreasing practicality.

 

NOVEMBER 3, 2022    HOT GIRL

Back in my day, when I was a DJ on the ten-watt campus station WOBC-FM, we played all kinds of music from classical to jazz to folk to pop hits (the “top 88.7”).  We subscribed to Billboard magazine and kept an eye on its Hot 100 list.

The most famous version of that list dated to the week ending April 4, 1964, shown above.  The early Beatles claimed all of the top five spots and a dozen of the Hot 100 (including numbers 31, 41, 46, 58, 65, 68, and 79).

Of course, music has changed a lot in the intervening decades.

It was nevertheless quite an achievement when, for the week ending last Thursday, Taylor Swift became the first artist to claim every one of the top 10 slots.  All the songs are from her new 13-track album “Midnights.”

I AM IN SHAMBLES,” she exclaimed on Twitter. 

 

NOVEMBER 2, 2022    IT'S ALL THEIR FAULT

John Winsor has noted recently, “A preacher can rile up his flock by claiming that a recent natural disaster is God's punishment for the misdeeds of a particular group of sinners.  This is emotionally gratifying for his parishioners because somebody else has incurred God's wrath.  It incites bigotry by contrasting ‘us’ with ‘them.’  It enhances church attendance.  And it increases the preacher's revenue, because he purportedly needs more resources to combat the forces of evil.”

Ten years and two days ago — this is a Flashback of sorts — I wrote about blaming climate disasters on something that most parishioners don't like (same-sex marriage) instead of blaming something they do like (burning fossil fuels).

Still, some ignore repeated warnings and persist in building Houses on Sand.

 

TBT

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