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T. Buckingham Thomas: a personal website

SEPTEMBER 20, 2021    MANDAWHATTIAN?

One of the favorites going into last night's 73rd Primetime Emmy Awards was The Mandalorian, with 24 nominations.  It won a grand total of zero.

 
Earlier, it did pick up 14 Creative Arts Emmys, but non-acting categories aren't as prestigious.  Even I have one of those statuettes.

I'm not really familiar with The Mandalorian.  I've occasionally encountered the title, ever since Season 1 was released with the launch of Disney+ in 2019, but I had no idea what it meant.  (I did see the first Star Wars movie when it hit theaters 44 years ago, but I'm slightly older now and I've lost interest in that franchise.)

So what is a “mandalorian”?  I thought perhaps it's a piece of furniture.

Or perhaps it's a musician, as in this photo from Fake KDKA News.

Or maybe it's a weird six-footed creature — a hybrid Man/DeLorean.

 

Now I'm informed that the actual Mandalorian is a lone helmeted gunfighter in the Outer Rim of a galaxy far, far away, “far from the authority of the New Republic.”  His ancestors came from a planet there called Mandalore.  (A likely story, no?)


  


flashback  Ten years ago, I quoted from the blog of Pittsburgh's John McIntire.  Here are excerpts:

What is capitalism, if not class warfare?  The poor are trying to get rich.  The rich are trying to get richer.  Class warfare is built into the system!  It's called human nature.  It's called greed.

The rich are richer than ever before compared to the rest of us.   So we want them to pony up some more so we can survive.  What's wrong with that?  They're still going to be rich.  I want the rich to be around so that when we need money, we know where to find it.  Welcome to the Willie Sutton School of Economics.

If we're a democracy and most of us happen to be poor, why can't we tell the greedy selfish minority what to do?  But because they've duped so many of you into believing one day you'll be rich, you join forces with the wrong side, and the rich get richer, and, well, you know the rest.

 

SEPTEMBER 19, 2021   IS IT ALMOST ONE ALREADY?

I wake up after having fallen asleep in front of the TV.  With bleary eyes, I check the clock on the wall.

It's signaling “touchdown.”  Does that mean the time is around 11:00 or around 1:00?

I can blink and figure it out.  The hour hand is slightly shorter than the minute hand.

But I'd prefer clock designers to make it easier to tell one hand from the other.

 
Some clocks add a second hand and an alarm hand to confuse me by pointing in four directions.

 
Maybe I should simply join the digital age.

 

 

 

SEPTEMBER 17, 2021    BACK TO SCHOOL

Above is a glimpse of how I looked when I joined more than 600 other young people enrolling at Oberlin College.  During freshman orientation, 56 years ago on this very Friday morning, I wrote my first letter home.

My proud parents saved all my letters in a drawer.  In due time the Internet was invented and I inherited the saved letters.  Thus I've been able to post nearly 15,000 words and some pictures to this website, chronicling the weekly details of my college career.

If you're curious, that entry is this month's 100 Moons article.  Be forewarned:  it consists of four rather lengthy chapters.

 

SEPTEMBER 15, 2021    A WORRISOME PERSPECTIVE

Americans should get the COVID-19 vaccine, not only to protect ourselves but also to protect others whom we might infect.  And we're told that until 85% to 90% of us are vaccinated, the virus is likely to continue evolving new variants that may be better able to evade our defenses.

But we usually consider only our own country.  The United States has a pool of about 150 million people who are not yet fully vaccinated, but in India there are eight times as many!  Plus a similar number in Africa!

Our puny efforts here aren't going to change the world, especially the regions where the virus has free reign.  And due to global travel and commerce, as new variants emerge over there, there's little to prevent them from coming over here.

 

Another issue:  To slow catastrophic global warming or hopefully stop it, humanity must reduce its carbon dioxide emissions.  President Biden has pledged to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030, which seems unlikely.

But that's just for America.  The rest of the world is producing six times as much CO2!  And it's going into the atmosphere that everyone shares, all around the globe.

America's efforts can set a good example.  Unfortunately, by themselves they won't be enough to save the whole planet, which has more than 20 times our population.

We are not the world.

 

SEPTEMBER 13, 2021    COME ON IN, BUT DON'T ENTER

Across the river from where I live is a shopping plaza.  If you look carefully at the right edge of this photo, you'll see a sign inviting you to “ENTER HERE.”  But as you start to make the left turn, you're confronted with a big red sign ordering “DO NOT ENTER.”  Which is it?

I shamelessly ignore the latter sign every week.  Actually, of course, it's meant to ban wrong-way drivers from the exit lanes farther to the left.  It could be better placed — or better worded.

If I were the guy in charge of signage instead of just some persnickety local fellow with a computer, I'd arrange things this way.  Much more welcoming.

 

SEPTEMBER 11, 2021    ISN'T "LIMU" EDIBLE SEAWEED?

Insurance commercials need amusing mascots.  Otherwise they have nothing to say besides their claim to save you money.

But what should that mascot be?  The folks at GEICO, tired of hearing their company name mispronounced as if it were GECCO, decided their spokesman should indeed be a gecko.

Since 2019 I've wondered why some Liberty Mutual Insurance commercials feature a giant Australian bird, a partly-CGI emu called “Leemoo.”  This human-sized Australian ratite has much less personality than, for example, a lizard with a Cockney accent.

Finally I noticed that the mascot's name is spelled “LiMu.”  Aha!  It's a portmanteau of the first syllables of Liberty and Mutual. 

But the vowels aren't correct!  The i in Liberty is a short i.  The u's in Mutual are not “oo” but rather “yew.”  The same goes for the u in emu, at least the way Australians pronounce it.

Wrong:

Right:

LEEB-er-ty  MOO-too-al

LIBB-er-ty  MYEW-t'yew-al

LEE-moo the EE-moo

LIMM-yew the EE-myew

If the mascot's name were pronounced more like “Lemuel,” I would've caught on sooner.

 

SEPTEMBER 8, 2011 flashback   DIRK

We buried Dirk Kruger today, in a cemetery 20 minutes west of where I live.  Many of his family and friends from the Pittsburgh area were there, including about 20 of us from the TV sports community.

I’m a graphics operator for sports telecasts, including the Pittsburgh Pirates and Penguins.  In the mid-1990s we added a second device, the “Fox Box,” to display the score and other information continuously in the corner of the TV screen.

 

Dirk, an account executive at the Pittsburgh Business Times, added a part-time job:  he became our Fox Box operator.  He arrived at the stadium a couple of hours before each game to set up the specialized computer.  Here he is in 2000.

Dirk trained other operators to run what we now refer to as the “score bug.”  He sometimes got to travel with our TV crew.  I remember sharing a long ride (and a long talk) with him one evening in a rental car, returning from a Southern Miss football game in Hattiesburg to the airport at New Orleans. 

Four years ago, Dirk’s day job took him to another city to work for Crain’s Cleveland Business, and he moved to the Chagrin Falls area in eastern Ohio.  But he continued to make the two-hour drive back to Pittsburgh (where his wife’s family lives) for most of our home telecasts.

He also made the time to spend with his two teen-age sons and their sports teams.  And he found yet more part-time work closer to his new home.  He operated the score bug for a few Cleveland Indians games.  On July 27 of this year, he finally achieved a long-time dream:  televising a no-hitter.  Ervin Santana of the visiting Angels didn’t allow a hit in defeating the Indians that afternoon.

Last Thursday, the Pirates were playing a single 4:05 pm game at Pittsburgh’s PNC Park, rescheduled from an earlier rainout.  I wasn’t going to be there, as I had a prior college football commitment, but Dirk was driving in to run the score bug as usual.

Early that afternoon he was southbound on a straight though slightly hilly two-line highway, Ohio 44, only about 20 miles from his home.  The entrance to the Ohio Turnpike was a mile ahead.  But an oncoming Dodge Dakota crossed the center line and struck Dirk’s BMW head-on.  An hour later at a hospital in Ravenna, he was pronounced dead at the age of 47.

When he didn’t arrive at PNC Park, the TV crew tried to find out why.  There was no answer on his cell phone.  It was several hours before their worst fears were confirmed.  Needless to say, everyone was stunned.


Image: Google Earth

How quickly a friend can be taken away from us!  A week later, I still don’t know what to say.  So let me quote from some of the online condolences.

“I am so sorry I don't have the words to express my feelings.  I worked with Dirk at PNC.  He was a wonderful, kind person and will be greatly missed.  My deepest sympathy to your family.”

“It was with a profound sense of loss that I learned that Dirk would no longer greet me with that lovely smile — or regale us with proud stories about his beloved family. You will so be missed, Dirk.”

“Worked with him with Indians broadcasts; he was always a pleasant and professional person to work with.”

From a statistician on our high school football telecasts:  “Dirk was a role model.  He was a wonderful family man, wonderful at his job, and a wonderful person.  His TV crew co-workers are all heartbroken.”

From the head of our baseball crew:  “Dirk always added laughter to our TV truck.  His smiling face and great sense of humor will be greatly missed.  He was a great man, father and husband.  I will miss you, Dirk.”

And from the director and producer of our hockey telecasts:  “Our hearts and prayers go out to Dirk's beloved family.  What a profound loss to us all!  I will never forget his kind, patient manner or the generous spirit that he shared with everyone.  ... For those that had the pleasure of knowing Dirk, we are better people because of him.  I always looked forward to seeing him.  He had a way of making everything better just by his presence.  Dirk was liked and respected by all. He was a very special man, and he will be missed ... but never forgotten.”

Rest in peace, Mr. Kruger.

 

SEPTEMBER 6, 2021    LOSING AN "IC," ADDING AN "S"

America has two major political organizations, the Republican Party and the Democratic Party.  But for some reason, when members of the former speak of the latter ...

... they call them the “Democrat party.”  Their committee's request is referred to as a “Democrat order.”

What happened to the democratic “ic”?  To me, this seems like intentional disrespect.  It calls for retaliation in kind.

So listen up, Republans!  When you're confronted with something you don't want to do, why do you immediately object that your “freedoms” are under threat?

According to PZ Myers, members of the Republan Party “can't say their ‘freedom’ [singular] is being taken away, since they aren't about to be enslaved.  They aren't going to jail.  They don't even seem to suffer any consequences.  But putting that ‘s’ on the end somehow implies a numerous and unspecified set of privileges are being taken from them.”  Those icky Republans!

 

SEPTEMBER 3, 2021    ZEROTH DOWN ON THE ZERO

Western Pennsylvania high school football has returned for its 108th year, although at least five schools (Butler, Beaver, Riverview, Westinghouse, and Hopewell) have canceled games scheduled for tonight due to multiple COVID-19 cases.

One week ago, local television screens brought us North Hills at Mars.  As the teams lined up for the season's opening kickoff, I noticed that the Martians (no, they aren't really called that; they're the Fightin' Planets) had extended a generous welcome to their guests.  On the TV scorebug, North Hills had been spotted 24 points!

A closer examination revealed that 15 minutes remained in the 12-minute first quarter, and the situation was 2nd down and 18.

Undoubtedly I was seeing a rehearsal version of the bug, never intended to make it to air.  (The points were a reasonable prediction; North Hills ultimately won 37-0.)  After the first play from scrimmage, the scorebug was “flown off” and replaced by the actual live 0-0 score, and all was well.

Except, that is, for a minor oddity.  The white box to the right of the clock occasionally read FLAG, but otherwise it always displayed down, yards to go, and yard line — even if those numbers had not yet been determined.

The last time I was involved with high school football graphics (three years ago), if we were still waiting to see exactly where the ball was going to be spotted, we weren't forced to guess.  We didn't have to display 2ND AND 3 ON 47.  We could temporarily say simply 2ND DOWN.

Or we could say nothing.  Awaiting last week's second kickoff, the scorebug read 0TH AND 0 ON 00.  I threw up my hands and changed channels.

 

SEPTEMBER 1, 2021    ABANDONED?

In the last two months, a massive effort by the U.S. military evacuated 123,000 people through Hamid Karzai International Airport, including about 6,000 Americans.  But a much smaller number of Americans, maybe 200, are still in Afghanistan, some by choice and some because they were unable to get to the airport.

Ellen Carmichael tweeted on Monday, “Really galling to consider there are hundreds (if not more) of Americans and American allies knowingly left behind enemy lines, praying they won't be brutally killed, and not one member of the Biden Administration has even RESIGNED, much less been fired, over it.  Absolutely disgusting.”

However, those left behind had months of forewarning to flee.  Jennifer Rubin of the Washington Post writes that the State Department sent “one notice after another containing dire warnings to Americans, imploring them to consider the coming pullout.  A State Department communication warned on April 27, ‘U.S. citizens wishing to depart Afghanistan should leave as soon as possible on available commercial flights.’  Many Americans ignored these warnings.”

I don't want to seem cruel and uncaring, but if you're told to evacuate because of the approaching Taliban or the wildfire or the hurricane — or to get vaccinated because of the virus — and you refuse to comply, in most cases that's on you.  You're responsible for whatever happens.

 

TBT

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