AUGUST 31, 2009 ¡ CUIDADO !
I bought a jump stick the other day, a USB flash drive. It came in one of those impossible-to-open plastic blister packs. On the back was one of those lawyer-inspired CAUTION statements.
What's dangerous about a jump stick? Were they admonishing me not to plug it into an electrical outlet?
No, the warning concerned not the product but the packaging. To open the package please use scissors. Do not use knives or cutters since they may cause injury.
AUGUST 26, 2009 HA HA
Many other sitcoms like I Love Lucy or the Danny Thomas show were filmed before a live studio audience. But I noticed that on this series, the actors never responded to the laughs, which all sounded the same (even during scenes outside the studio). Obviously there was no live audience.
If the laughter didnt come from people who were actually present, how were we hearing it? I knew each episode was shot on film like a movie, which gave me an idea. Perhaps after the film had been edited but before it was televised the producers showed it in a theater to a carefully-selected preview audience. Microphones captured their reactions, which were then mixed into the sound track before the episode aired on TV. It made sense to me. CLICK FOR UPDATE
Turns out that in most cases, the audience reactions were selected from prerecorded laughs and added in the appropriate places. Heres the full story.
AUGUST 21, 2009 DO NOT WANT
The other day, I was dining in a restaurant when a man with three young sons was shown to the table next to me. One of the boys was an infant dozing in a car seat; the other two were ambulatory.
The middle child considered himself too grownup for a highchair. His father helped him up onto a regular chair, but he warned the boy he'd have to sit still. Of course, he didn't. Within seconds he was trying to climb over the back. Then he fell off. He wasn't hurt, but he began crying for his mommy.
To my surprise, the father stood up, picked up the sleeping basket case, and led the other two boys back to the restaurant's entrance.
Now I've often heard parents in public places admonish their unruly kids, "If you don't behave, we're going home!" But this was the first time I'd seen the threat actually carried out. And so promptly, too! No second warning. No "this is is last time I'm going to tell you."
Alas, Dad didn't leave. He had just gone to fetch a highchair, as well as his wife, who apparently had been parking the SUV.
When the family reconvened at the table, the mother tried to insert the middle boy into the highchair. Predictably, he resisted. "No! Don't want to!"
You see, that's the problem with kids today. We try to make them happy by catering to their every whim. "What do you want to drink? Do you want orange juice? Apple juice? How about some chocolate milk?" The kids begin to feel entitled to have their desires always accommodated.
Why give them a choice? Can you always get what you want? You can't always get what you want.
Just tell them, "We're serving orange juice, and that's it, whether you like it or not. If you don't like it, you can just go thirsty. What's that? You don't want orange juice? You don't want to sit in a highchair? WHO CARES? Listen, kid, we're in charge of this family, not you."
End of rant from childless old codger.
AUGUST 15, 2009 CANDLES IN THE RAIN
My apologies to Lord Bulwer-Lytton, but I've heard that it was a dark and stormy night in upstate New York on this date 40 years ago. Rain poured down as the hour of eleven p.m. approached.
But the rain did not chase away, could not chase away, the half million people sitting in Max Yasgurs pasture. They had come to join in an Aquarian exposition: three days of peace and music known as Woodstock.
Ravi Shankar had just finished his sitar performance. The Incredible String Band was scheduled next, but they didnt want to play in the rain. In their place, a relatively unknown performer agreed to go on: a hippie folk singer with her guitar.
I wrote about Melanie last year; click here for that piece. It includes a link to a song she wrote later to capture the spirituality and magic of that moment, according to Ryan. To convey a sense of the warm crowd, she envisioned hundreds of voices joining her on the chorus.
[I wrote about Melanie again in 2015. Click here.]
AUGUST 11, 2009 ONCE SAVED, ALWAYS SAVED
Do dogs go to heaven?
In a story I wrote a couple of years ago, a little girl decides they do. But theres no real answer. We might as well inquire into the pay scale for elves at Santas workshop, or ask about next years enrollment at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Like heaven, the workshop and Hogwarts are fictional places. Therefore, no details that we dream up about them can be proven wrong.
Do born-again mass murderers go to heaven?
This has been a problem for Christianity ever since the very beginning. The Gospel proclaims that if we are born again, our sins are forgiven. Now, asks Paul in chapter 6 of his letter to the Romans (J.B. Phillips translation), what is our response to be? Shall we sin to our hearts content and see how far we can exploit the grace of God? What a ghastly thought! We, who have died to sin how could we live in sin a moment longer? Nevertheless, its tempting to consider Gods promise of forgiveness to be a blank check.
A week ago tonight, George Sodini shot up an exercise class in suburban Pittsburgh, killing three women before taking his own life. He had been told that Jesus would forgive any and all of his sins.
Found among his writings was a grievance against the non-denominational Tetelestai Church and its pastor, Rick Knapp. Guilt and fear kept me there 13 long years until Nov 2006. I think his crap did the most damage. ... This guy teaches (and convinced me) you can commit mass murder then still go to heaven. Ask him.
A reporter did ask Rev. Knapp. That's not anything I have ever said. ... The message of the word I preach never reflected such a thing. (link)
But members of his church werent so sure. Senior deacon Chuck Matone said of Sodini, Is he in heaven? Only God and he know.
Another deacon, Jack Rickard, suggested that Sodini is in fact on his way to glory land, but he wont enjoy it there. Apparently God is grudgingly keeping His earlier promise to let Sodini pass through the pearly gates, but theres no way Hes issuing him a harp. Rickard said that according to the Bible, professing a faith in Jesus as savior means you will have complete eternal salvation. ... We believe in permanent security once saved, always saved. ... He'll be in heaven, but he won't have any rewards because he did evil.
AUGUST 6, 2009 TWO SHORT DEBATES
I cannot believe the earth is billions of years old.
Is there anything I could say to change your mind?
Impossible. My faith is firm.
Youre locked into your opinions, are you? I have these scientific studies....
I refuse to read them. Theyre the work of the devil.
Then further discussion would be a waste of time. Youve reached your conclusions without bothering to consider the facts. Youre prejudiced, youre unyielding, and your mind is closed. Goodbye.
I cannot believe President Obama was born in this country.
But there were birth announcements in two newspapers in Hawaii. And heres his Certification of Live Birth.
That document could be faked. I demand to see the original Certificate from the hospital.
And if you saw the original, you would be satisfied?
No, I wouldnt. The so-called original could also be a forgery.
So no evidence would convince you that Obama is an American?
I dont really want evidence. I already know the truth. Obama is an illegitimate president. Hes not like me. I want my country back! I want my country run by white conservatives, as it was in the beginning, should be now, and ever shall be! World soon will end, amen, amen.
JULY 27, 2009 TWO OUTS
Baseball fans often complain about how many runs their team has allowed. Sometimes, they lament that most of them came after there were two outs in the inning.
Is that unusual? Im not so sure.
What are the Major League averages for runs scored with no outs, one out, and two outs? Are the runs evenly distributed at 33%, 33%, and 33%? Id guess it might be more like 25%, 33%, and 42%, simply because as the inning progresses there are more likely to be runners on base. But Ive never seen the actual numbers.
I suspect that the lament over runs allowed after two outs is actually a lament over missed opportunities. If we had only gotten one more out when we really needed it, we could have prevented those runs! (In this case, definition B is the relevant one.) This is similar to the lament over runners left on base. If we had only gotten one more hit when we really needed it, we could have scored those runners! And it may turn out to be just as meaningless.
Last weekend at a baseball telecast, there was a debate about an upcoming tournament we were supposed to promote. The event was billed as The First Annual Tournament.
This set off a buzzer in the minds of those of us who have peeked into the Associated Press Stylebook, a manual that warns journalists: Do not use the term first annual. An event cannot be described as annual until it has been held in at least two successive years. Instead, note that the sponsors plan to hold an event annually.
But isnt that rather strained logic, to insist that there cant be a First until theres a Second?
First annual is perfectly understandable and gets its point across succinctly. Upon further review, I find nothing wrong with the phrase. And Washington State emeritus professor Paul Brians agrees with me.
JULY 22, 2009 CAMPUSTOPIA
This past week, Scott Adams (the creator of the comic strip Dilbert) has been blogging about an ideal city called Cheapatopia, built from scratch as an absurdly cheap place to live with a ridiculously high quality of life.
So thats why I look back so fondly on college days! We lived in dorms, owned no cars, walked or biked everywhere, and ate at the dining hall. We knew that life outside, in what we called the real world, would never be like this. For four years we were living in a Utopia.
JULY 16, 2009 YMMIT
Hey, mirror! Mirror, on the wall! Why do you take all that you see and reverse it left to right?
I do no such thing. I take all that I see and reverse it front to back!
That's the key point in my little article on Mirror Images, if you'd care to take a look.
JULY 12, 2009 I SEE IN THE SUNDAY PAPER...
Not that it necessarily affects their fitness for holding their jobs, but according to this story, 21% of the employees in Pittsburghs Department of Public Works have faced criminal charges.
According to this map, I was born in pop country. So was my mother. But my father was born in Coke country, and I take after him. I dont feel comfortable saying either pop or soda; if forced to choose between them, Id pick soft drink.
JULY 4, 2009 DISOBEYING "THE POWERS THAT BE"
Fundamentalists claim that the United States is a Christian nation. Thats true in one sense: more Americans identify themselves as Christians than as members of any other faith.
However, the United States is not a Christian political entity. Our Constitution never mentions God, and it prohibits the endorsement of any official religion. Most of the founding fathers were Deists, not Christians. They acknowledged Natures God, not Jesus. The Treaty with Tripoli, negotiated by George Washingtons administration and approved unanimously by the Senate in 1797, reassured Muslims that the government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.
Not only that, the very birth of our nation 233 years ago was a direct act of disobedience to Scripture.
In 1776, Americans rejected divinely established authority. They rebelled against George III, by the grace of God the King of Great Britain. They asserted that the people have the right to invent their own form of government organizing it not according to Gods plan but according to mans own ideas, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
This Declaration of Independence can be seen as a great sin against God. Author John J. Dunphy has collected numerous proofs from the Bible:
In rebelling against the King and his royal governors, the Founding Fathers rebelled against God and against the authority He had established.
To explain themselves, they felt a need to publish a Declaration. Did they publish it out of respect to God, whose rules they were deliberately breaking? No, they published their Declaration out of respect to humanity, or as Jefferson put it, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind.
Therefore, we are not a Christian nation. We are a humanist nation.