AUGUST 31, 2010 DON'T TELL ME WHAT TO THINK
A Fourth of July letter to the editor of the Daily Herald reminded readers in Provo, Utah, about
I object. We arent forced to agree with professors. On the other hand, the know-nothings believe we should agree with what they say. Their clique or coterie claims to know, somehow, that the experts are wrong. As Texas State Board of Education member Don McLeroy declared during this years textbook debates, Someone has to stand up to experts!
Or consider the complaint of pastor Ray Mummert during the 2005 trial about teaching creationism in Dover, Pennsylvania (as quoted by Charles P. Pierce in his book Idiot America). Speaking on behalf of all stupid, uninformed Americans, pastor Mummert whined, Weve been attacked by the intelligent, educated segment of our culture.
Did the experts have their superior knowledge handed to them because of some pre-existing elite status? No, they studied. They earned the right to have their conclusions respected.
Others may have preferred not to learn, because they might have discovered that some of their cherished beliefs are wrong. But if they deliberately chose to reject knowledge, they have no grounds now to complain about unfairness.
Even Rush Limbaugh likes to point out, America guarantees equal opportunity, not equal outcome. In the capitalist system, if we work hard we should have as much chance as the next guy to achieve success and join the financial elite. Likewise, if we study hard we should have as much chance as the next guy to achieve wisdom and join the intellectual elite.
All people are created equal, as poor foolish infants. Those who dont apply themselves are likely to remain poor and foolish.
AUGUST 29, 2010 ANOTHER PERSPECTIVE
Google Earth keeps getting better. They took this picture last month. I added the yellow pushpin to identify my apartment. The dark rectangular object below the pushpin is my Chameleon Blue automobile, parked a little off-center in one of the building's two gravel parking spots.
According to Google, the "imagery date" was July 3, 2010. According to my appointment book, July 3 was a Saturday. Judging by the shadows, the imagery was probably captured between 10:00 and 11:00 in the morning. I would have been inside the apartment, reading Internet articles while listening to Car Talk. Before noon, I would leave to telecast that evening's Phillies at Pirates game. My neighbors, meanwhile, would have been readying their fireworks.
AUGUST 24, 2010 PERSPECTIVE
Sometimes we lose sight of the business model. Who are the customers? Whos the competition?
. . . television . . .
Most people think a TV channels viewers are its customers, and its programs are the products it sells to those viewers. Therefore the channel should want to offer us the highest-quality programs possible. That may be true of a pay channel like HBO.
However, its not true of a traditional broadcast station. In this case, viewers like us are not the customers. We are the product. Our eyeballs are delivered to those who actually pay the bills, namely the advertisers. The advertisers are the stations real customers.
Therefore the station doesnt really care what we want to watch; it merely wants to attract as many of us as possible to see its customers commercials. It doesnt care about the inherent quality of its programs, only their popularity with the desired demographic.
. . . baseball . . .
Recently in Pittsburgh theres been much discussion of baseball team finances. The difference between success and failure depends on how you define your goal. Do you want to earn a profit, or do you want to win a championship? As a business, the Pittsburgh Pirates are a profitable success. As a baseball team, theyre a spectacular failure.
The Pirates are beneficiaries of revenue sharing, in which teams in big cities like Chicago contribute to a fund that helps teams in smaller cities like Pittsburgh. Supposedly this improves the disadvantaged teams ability to compete and win on the baseball field. But, as one blogger noted yesterday, most businesses dont receive revenue from their competition.
From a business standpoint, however, the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Chicago Cubs are not in competition with each other. Are the Altoona Wal-Mart and the Meadville Wal-Mart competitors? No, theyre part of the same endeavor. Ball clubs are merely franchises, in different markets, of Major League Baseball.
From a business standpoint, the Pirates true competitors aren't the St. Louis Cardinals. Their true competitors are local amusement parks, movie theaters, and other places of entertainment right here in southwestern Pennsylvania. That's how the Pirates can lose two-thirds of their games (to their baseball competition) and still be a successful enterprise (against their business competition).
AUGUST 23, 2010 THE YACHT HAS BEEN DISPATCHED
AUGUST 17, 2010 THE FANS ARE HOOING
AUGUST 12, 2010 DESTROY AFTER READING?
Suppose you have several pieces of paperwork in front of you, including schedules for yesterday and today. You no longer need yesterdays schedule. How do you get rid of it?
Some people rip it up, either by tearing it into pieces or running it through a mechanical shredder. Im not that paranoid. [2020 update: Donald Trump is, however.]
Others crumple it up into a ball and throw it into the wastebasket, thereby sharpening their basketball skills. But a ball takes up more space in the trash than a flat sheet of paper.
Personally, I neither shred or crumple documents, because theres a chance I might need to refer to them again. I might fold yesterdays schedule once to distinguish it from todays. But when Im done with it, I merely set it aside. I'll discard it later, or maybe I'll use the other side or file it away for posterity.
This habit of preserving historical trivia about my life explains much of this website. How else would I have been able to tell you the combination of my high school locker?
Another part of the explanation: I remember things. Several people have read detailed articles here and marveled, You have a great memory. I think it works like this:
Something happens that interests me, like looking down via television on the stars atop the shoulders of Eddie LeBaron and the 1961 Dallas Cowboys. (See the previous post below.) Im a solitary person who spends a lot of time alone. Therefore, later that night, with no family around to distract me, Ill relive the interesting event several times. Ill simplify any details that seem unimportant. Then the next day Ill enjoy the memory a couple times more, and occasionally in the days after that. Every time the memory is played back, thats a new experience. A new copy of my reconstruction of the event is recorded elsewhere in the brain. Eventually there are so many copies scattered among my various mental file folders that it would be impossible for me to forget the old days, even if advancing age someday makes it difficult to record any new incoming data.
AUGUST 6, 2010 DÉJÀ VU
On Wednesday afternoon I was working a telecast of a Pittsburgh Pirates baseball game. My coordinator Jason Steele was monitoring the Internet for other news from around the major leagues.
Suddenly Jason found a report from Yankee Stadium. He asked me to call up graphic 2671, a shell for a news bulletin in the lower third of the TV screen. He began dictating what I should type on it. Alex Rodriguez (NYY)...
He finally did it?! I interrupted. Yes, he did. We had been anticipating this achievement for weeks.
Jason continued, ...hits 600th career home run. Youngest player ever to reach milestone. The graphic went on the air, and our announcer Greg Brown informed our viewers of Rodriguezs accomplishment.
AUGUST 2, 2010 WEEKEND UPDATE
Over the past weekend, I augmented some of the existing articles on this website by adding links to other peoples multimedia.
In this article, scroll down to the Automobiles section. Why was my hometowns speed limit in 1904 only eight miles per hour? The motion picture camera shows us actual business-district traffic from back then. You wouldnt want to drive much faster.
Another article now includes links to video of Groucho Marx and his daughter performing snippets from The Mikado.
And at the end of this article, you can find a link to a recent audio podcast featuring the mentalist whom I televised when he was just a teenager.
I also read in the Sunday newspaper that a kid in a poor neighborhood has to watch his back. Always on the lookout for trouble, he never learns to concentrate on a single task, because he cant shut out the rest of the world the way a child in a safer middle-class neighborhood can. Thus, as he grows up, his brain develops differently.
JULY 31, 2010 A BETTER PERCH
You could reposition your camera lower down in the stands, but then youd have to kick out paying customers to make room. Several hundred paying customers, perhaps. Its very disorienting in 3D when a fan jumps up to signal hook em Horns directly in front of the dual lenses, so several rows of seats in front of the camera would have to be left empty.
The best solution might be a MastCam on the sideline, which ESPN-3D will use for college football play-by-play this fall (according to reports in the trade press). Already deployed behind the pitchers mound during this months Home Run Derby, a MastCam is a robotic 3D camera atop a 20-foot pole. The cameraman operates a pan-bar remote control from elsewhere in the stadium.
A couple of years ago, I wrote about the Main Line that brought canal boats to Pittsburgh in the 19th century. Now Ive discovered the meaning of a recently-constructed water feature that I photographed near PNC Park.
There are no signs identifying it. I didn't realize its significance until, in a newspaper story about Pittsburghs fountains, it was referred to as Canal Square. Apparently it recalls the manmade waterway that connected to the Allegheny River near this spot 176 years ago.
Ive added a couple of additional photos to my earlier article.
JULY 21, 2010 COUNCIL CHAMBERS
Talk about transparency in government! Richwood Village Council now holds its meetings in this glass-walled room, looking down the main street of that Ohio town.
When my father built it more than 45 years ago, this was the showroom of Vernon M. Thomas Chevrolet-Oldsmobile. However, as I mentioned last year, the former automobile dealership has been reconfigured to serve as Richwoods municipal building.
Now another governmental body is also taking advantage of the space. The Claibourne Township Trustees are moving their files to the Richwood building, where theyre scheduled to meet monthly starting at 7:00 tonight.
JULY 18, 2010 MY FIRST REMOTE
In my article Radio and TV at Syracuse, I included a letter I wrote the day after the first TV sports remote of my career.
JULY 15, 2010 THE CONFIRMED BACHELOR
Fictional talk-show host Brother Billy is back with another edition of It's in the Bible. This time he's brought along his wife Bernice to help interview a famous man of letters. Click here for Talking with Paul.
JULY 12, 2010 BLOW, GABRIEL, BLOW
JULY 8, 2010 WE'RE HAVING A HEAT WAVE
In the winter, I set my thermostat at 65°. In the summer, I can handle indoor temperatures up to 80°. Above 90°, however, I cant get much accomplished.
Using a digital thermometer at my computer desk, Ive charted the indoor temperature over a 60-hour period this week. I've seen sunny days that I thought would never end (the orange portions of the chart). Every afternoon the merciless sun bakes my apartment building. Even after the sun goes down for a few hours (the blue portions), the day does not end, because the structure of the building continues to radiate its stored-up thermal energy into my living room.
The data for the first two days shows that the thermal lag could be as much as ten hours. The outdoor temperature peaked around 4 pm; my apartment temperature peaked at midnight one night and 8 pm the next, but it didnt really start to cool off until around 2 am. Thats not very conducive to sleeping. And there seems to be a longer-term effect: the building is getting a little hotter every day.
The larger, earlier peak on the third day can partly be attributed to a temporary problem with my window air conditioner. Its not really designed to cool the entire apartment. All I can do is sit directly in front of the AC vent, with another fan blowing from another angle, and hope for milder weather.
A news story yesterday used the obligatory sentence No relief is in sight, adding, Forecasters predicted the heat would continue to peak in the 90s and even approach 100. But then, a few paragraphs later, the same story admitted that relief is in sight. Although the temperature today and Thursday is expected to be in the low 90s, on Friday temperatures are expected to drop to the 80s.
Im not sure I can make it. Today is Thursday, predicted to be the last day of the barely bearable heat. My chart suggests that the interior of my apartment will reach 93° tonight. I may have to abandon this oven and spend the night elsewhere, somewhere with full air conditioning.
JULY 7, 2010 TO TAKE ARMS AGAINST THEM
Guns, like other implements of destruction, are repugnant to me.
If I had to personally obtain my own food, Id probably be a lacto-ovo vegetarian. Im perfectly willing to gather animals freely-offered milk and eggs and eat them, but I dont want to kill the animals and eat their corpses.
I dont want to murder anything not animals, not fish, not criminals, not enemies. Im neither a hunter, nor a fisherman, nor an executioner, nor a soldier.
Fortunately, there are other people who do like to kill. I can rely on them to slaughter animals and blow up bad guys for me. Therefore, I can eat meat and enjoy freedom while still claiming to have a clear conscience. Im not the one who did the killing.
Some Americans who do like guns worry that the government wants to take their firearms away from them. They remind us that such confiscation would violate the Second Amendment to the Constitution: A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.
Let's look at the language of the amendment. Why are citizens allowed to own weapons? So theyll have the equipment to join a militia if necessary. Will this militia be able to go around waging war on any and all perceived enemies? No, it will be well regulated. Regulated by whom? By the State, of course. The duly-elected government.
Some Tea Party supporters seem to have this backwards. Theyre in the minority at present, which means that the duly-elected government of the United States is dominated by their political opponents. Therefore, theyre itching to use their guns against the government of the United States.
Sharron Angle, running for the U.S. Senate, threatens, If this Congress keeps going the way it is, people are really looking toward those Second Amendment remedies and saying, my goodness, what can we do to turn this country around?
According to columnist Jay Bookman (click here), such Second Amendment remedies are treason. People who spout such nonsense are not patriotic Americans; they are not lovers of liberty or believers in the rule of law or self-governance. By claiming the right to impose their viewpoints through violence rather than the ballot box, they seek to become the very tyrants they claim to oppose, and wrapping their ugliness in the American flag does nothing to change its vile character.
However, with inflation over the years, we Americans can no longer buy anything for one cent. A lone penny is virtually worthless. Minting them wastes taxpayer money, and handling them at the cash register is a cost that businesses could do without.
Gasoline pumps already round off your $2.709 gallon of gas to the nearest penny, or $2.71. How about a federal proclamation that any retail store may, if it desires, round off your bill to the nearest dime?
Say that today you buy an item for 76 cents including tax. Tomorrow you buy another item for 83 cents. But the cash register is marked with a round ten symbol, and in both cases it rings up 80 cents. You hand the clerk a dollar bill, and she gives you back 20 cents change. No pesky pennies are required. And you aren't allowed to complain about being shortchanged, because (1) theres official permission to do this and (2) it all evens out in the end.
JULY 1, 2010 ENOUGH SPENDING FOR NOW
The Pittsburgh Pirates are back in town today after a 2-7 road trip, so its time for me to go back to work at PNC Park. Yes, its time to start earning money instead of carrying out my own economic stimulus program.
My biggest expense item this week was my car, which was due for its 90,000-mile checkup. Including changing the spark plugs and all the fluids and filters, it cost many hundreds of dollars, but Old Reliable should now be good for another couple of years.
Three other expenditures were in the $150 range.
When my DVD recorder gave out in April, I swapped my Comcast cable box for one that includes two DVRs. I use that for almost all my TV time-shifting now. The ability to record in high-def is a major plus. But I still sometimes need to record something on a standard-definition DVD: perhaps a third show at the same time, or perhaps something I want to keep indefinitely. Therefore, this week I installed a new DVD recorder, also taking the opportunity to simplify some of the wiring in my video rack. The new machine gets its first assignment tonight.
My desktop computer had been connected to the same 15 monitor as its predecessor. Fine print is gradually becoming harder for me to read, so this week I splurged on a 20 widescreen monitor. Now a line of text, formerly 11 inches wide, can be 16 inches wide. That means that a one-square-inch object is now 2.12 square inches a big improvement.
Finally, my 10-year-old pocket-size digital camera uses rechargeable battery packs, but after about five years they wear out and wont reliably hold a charge. Also, the cameras resolution is only 1.92 megapixels. Cell phones nowadays do better than that. So this week I got a new Nikon that uses easy-to-replace AA alkaline batteries. Its resolution is 12 megapixels, and it can even shoot 480p video. Now I merely have to spend a day next week learning how to use it. I promise I wont post any 4000 by 3000 pictures here without downsizing them first.