The newspaper in my old hometown, the village of Richwood, Ohio, features old news items. Yesterday I received an inquiry from one of my high school classmates:
Well, Roy Rogers did advertise Chevrolets on a national basis. For example, he and the Sons of the Pioneers filled in 14 times for Dinah Shore on her Sunday-night NBC-TV Chevy Show from 1958 through 1960. But I dont think he ever made a special pitch for my fathers dealership.
Most likely, General Motors prepared artwork showing Roy with a Chevy pickup and sent it to Chevrolet dealers so that they could use the picture in their local newspaper advertisements. The suggested copy was probably something like Western star Roy Rogers is spreading the good word for Hometown Chevrolet ... 0000 Main Street, Anytown, USA. Wed fill in the local details.
However, my parents and I had in fact crossed paths with Roy two years earlier.
We were on a three-week vacation trip, driving through the West. As we passed through Idaho on Friday morning, July 17, 1959, I began checking the guidebooks to pick out a place to stay when we arrived at Salt Lake City. We planned to visit the Mormon Tabernacle that evening, so my first choice was the Utah Hotel Motor Lodge, located on the other side of North West Temple Street. (On this Google Earth image, the site where the Motor Lodge used to be is marked with a yellow pushpin.) It sounded like a very good place, but perhaps a little too expensive.
Across West North Temple Street from the Motor Lodge, in the right foreground of the above picture, there was a cheaper place: the Salt Lake City TraveLodge. Thats where we stayed. It was quite close enough; our room was only 800 feet from the domed Tabernacle.
The next day kicked off the week-long Days of 47 celebration, commemorating Mormon leader Brigham Youngs arrival in 1847 when he proclaimed, This is the place. On this Saturday night in 1959, there was going to be a big rodeo at the State Fairgrounds, located on land thats now a part of the airport. The star was going to be Roy Rogers. That morning we went downtown and bought three $1.50 tickets, then visited an open-pit copper mine 28 miles southwest of the city, then returned to our motel.
Before heading out to the rodeo, we wanted to eat supper. The nearest restaurant was the café in the Motor Lodge across the street, so we walked over there, were seated in a booth, and placed our order. Then Roy Rogers and Dale Evans and their family were seated at a large table not far behind me!
My mother remarked, And you thought that we should get a room in this hotel! This is the fancy place, where the movie stars stay. She asked whether I wanted to switch sides with her in our booth so I could watch the famous folks dine. At first I declined, not being one to get all excited about celebrities, but later I changed my mind and switched places. However, we didnt approach the celebrities for autographs or anything like that.
Later that evening, we and Roy and 11,000 other spectators traveled about four miles west to the big rodeo. (The photo above, showing the family in a 1959 Chevy but probably at a different event, comes from strangecosmos.com.)
APRIL 25, 2011 HIT THE ROAD, JACQUES!
During the Stanley Cup playoffs, National Hockey League teams are paired up in best-four-out-of-seven series.
The team with the better regular-season record is awarded home-ice advantage. That means they get to play as many as four games at home: the first two, plus (if necessary) Games 5 and 7.
The other team gets at most three home dates: Games 3, 4, and (if necessary) 6. Financially, thats not as good because, compared to the higher seeds arena, their building potentially earns revenue from one fewer event.
However, on the scoreboard during the week just concluded, home ice did not prove to be an advantage. The visitors won at a .739 clip with a record of 17-6. In the 2011 playoffs as a whole, the visiting teams are 24-18 (.571).
This surprising effect has been noted before. Do the comforts of fan support and familiar surroundings rob hockey players of their grim determination? Pittsburgh Post-Gazette columnist Ron Cook went looking for possible explanations.
It's easier on the road to be focused, the Penguins Mike Rupp told him. You're playing in an arena that's hostile and you know if you dont respond the right way it will be really ugly. ...At home, you might look for a hit and get out of position. Or you try to make a pretty play rather than just the simple play.
Everybody says you've got to win your games at home, said Lightning coach Guy Boucher. ...It puts pressure on you [and] might make you play a little tight.
Im thinking that the NHL shouldnt automatically schedule Games 1, 2, 5, and 7 for the building of the higher-seeded team. Instead, handle it like football, where the winner of the coin toss gets the option of kicking off, receiving, or defending one end of the field. In the hockey playoffs, the higher-seeded team should have the option of improving their chances by declining the home-ice handicap.
And while we're throwing ideas out there, it's been suggested that maybe a team with a power play as woeful as the one the Penguins have should have the option of declining penalties. Lately they've been more apt to score while playing 5-on-5 than with the supposed advantage of 5-on-4.
APRIL 21, 2011 CONVERSATIONS IN A CLOSET
Hypocrites love to pray standing on the street corners, to be seen, Jesus observed. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. (Excerpted from Matthew 6:5-6 NIV)
APRIL 17, 2011 ACHOO!
Even when I dont have the sniffles, I generally sneeze a few times each week. It clears out the nasal passages. But if this happens at work, several colleagues will pipe up God bless you.
How should I respond? I usually apologize for possibly spreading my germs. I guess Im supposed to thank them for their blessing, but Im against that in principle.
Bless you is based on an old superstition: If a person sneezes, hes momentarily vulnerable to an invasion by the Devil's little demons, unless the proper magic words are spoken promptly to ward off the invisible evil spirits.
Im not superstitious. And as Scott Adams wrote in his blog on December 30, If someone sneezed where I grew up, there was no reason to say God bless you, because either God was already handling it or he didn't exist. God didn't need a middleman to handle a simple sneezing transaction.
I prefer the response of my German ancestors: Gesundheit, which means health.
APRIL 11, 2011 THE STANDINGS ARE FROZEN
Last night the National Hockey League concluded its regular season. Heres my final Ice Cube Road, as explained here.
The diagonal line of red dots at 93 points represents the approximate minimum a team needs to qualify for the Stanley Cup playoffs. As it turns out, the New York Rangers (red cubes) were the final Eastern Conference team to make the playoffs, just reaching this line to finish with exactly 93 points. The New Jersey Devils (green cubes) had a winning percentage of .857 from games 41 through 69 and appeared to be on course to reach this line as well, but their percentage the rest of the way was only .423.
The Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins each finished with 106 points. The Flyers won the tiebreaker, so theyre the Atlantic Division champions. More below.
Until this year, when two teams finished the season with the same number of points, the tie in the standings was broken according to which team had more wins (W). But some of those wins are the result of shootouts. Although the fans love this method of settling a tied game, NHL insiders have never liked the shootout. The ability to score on a 1-on-0 breakaway is only a tiny part of whats required to play hockey, so the NHL feels its somehow wrong to decide a contest based merely on a glorified skills competition. Therefore the standings tiebreaker was changed this year to include only Regulation and Overtime Wins (ROW), not shootout wins.
The Penguins won 49 games this season: 39 ROW and 10 by shootout. The Flyers had 47 wins: 44 ROW and only 3 by shootout.
Under the old tiebreaker, the Penguins would have won the division with 49 wins to the Flyers 47. But under the new rules, the Flyers win the division with 44 ROW to the Penguins 39.
APRIL 8, 2011 CLASS OF 1969
More than 45 years ago, we college freshmen each received a copy of the Wolfbook, a photo directory of our classmates. So did our families.
For the edification of my parents, towards the end of the first semester I wrote short descriptions to go with dozens of the pictures in that directory. And a new article on this website, also called Wolfbook, includes many of those photos and profiles. Get to know the Class of 1969!
APRIL 3, 2011 AN "AMAZING" PRE-DIXON
To make electricity, the fission reaction that powers an atomic bomb can be controlled (hopefully) in a nuclear reactor.
We could generate power even more abundantly and safely if we could likewise control the fusion reaction that powers a hydrogen bomb. However, that achievement is still 25 years in the future. It has remained 25 years in the future for many decades now.
As a college student in the 1960s, I read that Soviet scientists were making progress toward a fusion reactor. They were developing an electromagnetic containment device called TOKaMaK, which is a Russian acronym. Of course, most Americans didnt know about this; they werent involved in science as I was.
Then I read a prediction by Jeane Dixon, the astrologer and alleged psychic. She prophesied that in the coming year, the Russians would announce an invention that would provide the world with unlimited energy. She added that the name of this machine sounds something like Tomahawk.
The name was the key. I realized that Dixon had needed no supernatural insight to arrive at her unusually specific prediction. She had merely read an obscure news story.
(Her prediction turned out to be incorrect anyway. Tokamaks still have not produced usable power, though construction of a 2,000-megawatt reactor is currently projected to begin in the year 2024.)
Until then, I had hoped that perhaps psychics could make better predictions than ordinary folks because they could magically foresee the future. But this incident, followed by further research, eventually led me to realize that they cant.
MARCH 28, 2011 THE MULTI-SPIN ZONE
Josh Frulinger writes in his blog, True story: Up until fairly recently, I thought that a spinning class involved spinning around in circles, and couldnt figure out why everyone seemed to think they were so difficult! Ha ha, isnt that funny? Anyway, apparently they actually consist of working out really intensely on stationary bicycles.
For my part, until fairly recently I thought a spinning class was a session in which women learned how to spin yarn.
update: Here's another composite I've made to show a spinning
class in session.
MARCH 22, 2011 HEY, PIRATE FANS!
After Saturday's spring training game in Florida, Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle told reporters that his Opening Day starter on April 1 will be either Paul Maholm or the recently acquired Kevin Correia.
Its instructive to consider last season's Earned Run Averages. There were 52 National League pitchers who threw at least 140 innings last year.
Note that the Pirates' Opening Day starter will be either the third-worst or the second-worst on this list. Fortunately, it wont be the absolute worst. In November, the team traded Zach Duke to Arizona (where he is currently sidelined with a broken left hand).
MARCH 21, 2011 YESTERDAY
MARCH 19, 2011 NIGHT LIGHT
Crazy things are happening. There must be a full moon tonight.
Actually, there is. And its a supermoon, brighter than usual because the moon appears larger than usual. Its orbit has brought it within 221,565 miles of Earth, the closest approach in 18 years.
But contrary to popular belief, the full moon doesnt cause people to go temporarily insane. Recent studies have shown no statistical connection between full moons and crimes, suicides, epileptic seizures, or other unusual human events.
The legend is not without foundation, however. Those were recent studies. If they had been conducted during the Dark Ages, I suspect the results might have been different.
Before gaslights illuminated streets in the 19th century, our nocturnal activities used to be constrained by the phases of the moon. And in rural areas, until electricity reached farms in the 20th century, nocturnal activities were still constrained.
I remember printed calendars with four little symbols for each month, helpfully pointing out the dates of the new moon, first quarter, full moon, and third quarter. People couldnt do much on dark nights, so they simply stayed indoors. But on other nights the moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow/Gave the luster of midday to objects below.
MARCH 18, 2011 MARCH SADNESS
Of course, theres a downside to spreading all the NCAA tournament games over four TV channels. If you dont subscribe to cable or satellite or the Internet, you receive only one of those four channels: your local CBS affiliate. And that means theres a 75% chance that the game youre dying to see is not available at your house.
For example, writes Michael Malone of Broadcasting & Cable, Cincinnati has around 130,000 homes where TV is watched over the air, 14% of the market. They also have four teams of local interest playing in the round of 64. Although Kentuckys game yesterday at 2:45 was in fact on CBS, the rest were assigned to cable: Cincinnati on TBS at 9:50, Ohio State on TNT at 4:40 today, and Xavier on truTV at 7:27 tonight. In past years, CBS affiliate WKRC would have picked up all four of those games, but this year they cant. Some viewers have never heard of the Turner networks and don't understand what happened, says Les Vann, WKRC VP and general manager. We're very disappointed and our viewers are very disappointed.
Malone continues: WBNS Columbus, in the heart of Buckeye country, will have a phone panel on hand as part of its damage prevention plan to address calls when Ohio State faces off against Texas-San Antonio [today]. I think all hell is going to break lose, says Tom Griesdorn, president and general manager at WBNS. In years past, viewers would just go to channel 10. It's going to be interesting.
I suggest that in a similar situation next year, another Columbus broadcast station should be allowed to air the TNT feed of the Ohio State game much as a local station can carry ESPNs Monday Night Football if their local team is involved. To be fair to the CBS affiliate, WBNS should be allowed to sell most of the local advertising time on the other station.
In the meantime, if theyre among the 14% or so of Americans who dont have cable or satellite or Internet, fans of 48 schools have been shut out from seeing their teams opening game, including:
MARCH 17, 2011 MY VIEWING STATION
Ive mentioned in earlier articles that because I view a monitor wall at work, I also need multiple TV screens at home.
MARCH 15, 2011 IT'S MADNESS, I TELL YOU
The NCAA mens college basketball tournament includes 31 teams (blue boxes) that have earned automatic bids by winning the championships of their respective conferences. The field is augmented by inviting another 37 non-champions from the more talented conferences, the at-large teams (red boxes).
These 68 are then ranked or seeded on a scale from 1 (best) to 16 (worst), with at least four in each category.
To reduce the field to a more manageable 64, two of the four worst conference champions (#16 seeds) will be eliminated tonight and tomorrow in games at Dayton. So will two of the four worst at-large invitees, except that none of them are #16s. This year, only two at-large teams are seeded as low as #12. So the competition at Dayton will eliminate one of them plus one #11.
The 64 remaining teams begin the tournament proper on Thursday and Friday, with #1 seeds playing #16 seeds, #2 against #15, and so on.
I find it interesting that practically three-quarters of this years league champions are seeded #9 through #16. On paper, theyre expected to lose to a higher-seeded team in their first game. Unless they can pull an upset, the champions of the following 23 non-power conferences will be out of the tournament before the weekend: America East, Atlantic Sun, Atlantic 10, Big Sky, Big South, Big West, Colonial Athletic, Conference USA, Ivy, Metro Atlantic Athletic, Mid-American, Mid-Eastern Athletic, Missouri Valley, Northeast, Ohio Valley, Patriot, Southern, Southland, Southwestern Atlantic, Summit, Sun Belt, West Coast, and Western Athletic. But, like a Little League bench-warmer, at least these schools get a trophy for participating. See you next year.
MARCH 14, 2011 HERR KARTOFFELKOPF
Having discovered a couple of color photographs published elsewhere, Ive borrowed them for this website. They serve as added illustrations for articles about my early career.
MARCH 5, 2011 NOT ALL MORMONS
This week, Brigham Young Universitys #3-ranked basketball team suspended its top rebounder, Brandon Davies, for the rest of the season after he admitted violating the Mormon schools honor code by having sex with his girlfriend.
If he played for almost any other school, Davies would have been congratulated for his conquest, not kicked off the team. Why are these Mormons so strict and humorless?
Actually, they arent, not all of them anyway. At least a couple of them are funny. I mentioned in 2008 that I follow two BYU graduates blogs.
reviewer Eric D. Snider
will soon be reviving his weekly Snide Remarks column for
our amusement, thanks to the financial support of