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The United States Census Bureau estimates it won’t happen until March, but according to the United Nations Population Division, today is the red-letter day — the day when the number of people on our planet reaches 7 billion.  That’s three times what it was when I was born!

This graph spans my lifetime.  The bottom of it represents a population of zero billion, as in the days of the Garden of Eden.  Notice how rapidly we're moving away from the Garden.

Some of us enjoy the luxuries of the First World, using as much electricity and water and oil as we like.  Some of us barely survive in the Third World.

The Earth’s resources are strained to sustain us.  Fisheries are being depleted, reservoirs are going dry, the atmosphere is filling up with carbon dioxide, and the end of oil is in sight.  Yet we continue to add more people.

According to a WWF assessment, we were already living 50 percent beyond the planet's biocapacity four years ago, and by 2030 humans will effectively need the capacity of two Earths.

Anyone know where we can find a new world?



When I was a senior in high school, the 16-year-old pictured above was one of the top finishers for the title of Miss Teenage America.

The next year, in Dallas on the last Friday night in October, she won the title.

In its issue of November 12, 1965, Life magazine published the picture I’ve colorized on the left.  The new Miss Teenage America, Colette Daiute from Paramus, New Jersey, was “a language student who hopes to become an interpreter.”  She “won by demonstrating her talent as a baton twirler.”

Four years later, I watched her twirl her baton in person.  I think I mentioned that already.



In Las Vegas last weekend, we learned just how deadly motor sports can be.  But there are safer types of automotive competition.  Time-Speed-Distance road rallies, for example.

For a decade beginning in 1966, I competed in TSD events with my high school friend, the late Terry Rockhold.  Our average speed was only about 30 miles per hour.  As a matter of fact, it was precisely 30 miles per hour if that’s what the rallymaster specified.

Some of my letters about this sport appeared on this website nine years ago, along with other exciting material.  You can actually listen to Terry and me competing in a Rally!  That article is this month’s “100 Moons” flashback.


OCT. 16, 2011     BUMMER

A travesty of Beethoven, that's what it is.

As an adolescent, I played a piano solo preternaturally quickly.  Listen!

And I wrote nonsensical lyrics for it.  Read!

It’s all in a new article in my Poetry section called Bumm Dum Tillium.


OCT. 10, 2011     I'M SO EXCITED

How do you excite a pro athlete?  Change his circumstances.  At least that’s what he’ll tell you.  Interview him and notice how often he uses the word excited.

“I’m excited to be here!  I’m having a great time getting to know my new teammates.  Helping them make it into the playoffs — that’s gonna be a challenge, but I'm excited about it.  And is it true we’re getting a new practice facility in a couple of years?  I’m pumped up about that, too.”

That’s the typical athlete.  Mr. Excitement.  But how about you, Mr. Straight Talker?  The trade that brought you to our city — are you excited about it?

“Not really.  I’m kinda bummed out, to tell the truth.  My old team had a chance to win a championship.  The fans were great.  The weather was great.  I loved the city.  I just built a new house there last year.  And now I’ve gotta come here?  To this team of losers?  Where I don’t know anybody?  It’s depressing.  Have you seen that dump where we practice?  But it’s my job, so I’ll have to give it my best effort, I guess.”

What if more interviewees were that honest?  It’s an exciting concept.



Students at a small college generally are there to learn.  Sometimes the football coach finds it difficult to persuade enough of them to come out for the team.

But that’s not the situation at Allegheny College in Meadville, Pennsylvania.  The Gators were Division III national champions in 1990, and enthusiasm is still high.  As I prepared to work on the telecast of last Saturday’s game against Case Western Reserve University, I discovered that there are 131 players on Allegheny’s football roster.

A squad that large can cause problems for those of us in the media.  You see, each of those 131 players has been assigned a number to wear on his jersey.  However, three-digit uniform numbers are frowned upon.

If the equipment manager is limited to two digits, he might use hexadecimal digits, which can represent 256 numbers from 00 to FF in base-16.  But imagine a quarterback wearing E0 throwing to a receiver wearing 3B.  That would be frowned upon as well.  So he’s actually limited to two decimal digits, and that allows only a hundred possibilities.

Therefore, the Allegheny roster lists quite a few duplicate numbers.  In most cases, I could ignore one number of each duplicate pair.  For example, one 23 is a senior letterman, the other a freshman.  If I saw 23 in action, it was a safe bet I was looking at the senior.

But then I consulted the “two-deep,” a list of the positions naming the probable starter and his backup.  I was surprised to discover that even on this Depth Chart of likely participants, there are three duplicate pairs!  Is Allegheny trying to make my job more difficult?

In fairness, context allowed me to distinguish the pairs, provided that I could tell whether a given player was on offense or defense.  One 4 is the starting fullback, the other a starting cornerback.  One 9 is the split end, the other the placekicker.  And one 60 is a backup offensive tackle while the other is a backup defensive end.  In an added twist, the latter player actually wore 97.

But the makers of uniforms keep trying to confuse us.  I’ve heard that down in South Carolina that same day, the Gamecocks took the field wearing camouflage numbers!  It wasn’t actually a diabolical plot to cause consternation in the pressbox; it was a “Wounded Warrior” tribute to the troops.  However, Southeast Conference officials had trouble reading the numbers during warmups.  Citing league rules about visibility, they made the players change back to regular black home jerseys before the kickoff.



“Go away, kid.  You bother me.”

“But mister, I just wanna ask you a question.”

“You wish to make an inquiry of me?”

“Yeah.  What are you doing to save the rain forest?”

“What am I doing — !  Kid, you flatter me, but I lack the omnipotence which you seem to presume.  I cannot save the rain forest!”

“You can’t?”

“Not without a great deal of assistance.  What are you doing to save it, if I may ask?”

“I’m gonna recycle this comic book.”

“Ah, yes.  A great help that will be.  If we are fortunate, it might preserve an entire twig.”


“For my part, to conserve the world’s resources I have adopted an enlightened personal strategy.  My policy far exceeds the efficacy of any mere recycling efforts.”

“I don’t get it.”

“Exactly.  I’m not having any kids like you!”

And that is the gist of this month’s “100 Moons” article, which puts forth The Case Against Children.



To intrigue their customers, restaurants have been throwing more and more ingredients into the basic sandwich.

Maybe they add a second type of meat, plus multiple cheeses and multiple sauces.  They pile on jalapeños and chili and bacon and guacamole and sometimes even an egg.  Yum, doesn’t that sound good?

You can’t open your mouth wide enough to take a bite out of a sandwich this thick.

And it’s difficult to control.  The chicken breast slides out one side, the barbecue sauce drips out the other, and the spaghetti slithers every which way.

French fries and cole slaw are usually side dishes.  But here in Pittsburgh, Primanti’s even adds them to the stack of stuff between the slices of bread.

When I was served a crab cake sandwich last week, I eyed the inch-thick patty inside.  Inspiration struck.  I used my fork to remove the patty from its bun and condiments.

Now I had not one but two items on my plate:  the crab cake, and an easily manageable OLT sandwich.  (That's Onion, Lettuce & Tomato on a toasted bun with horseradish.)  There was also a pickle.  I took a bite from each in turn and enjoyed them all.

Who says it’s a good idea to mix all the flavors in every bite?



I haven’t heard this point of view expressed before.  So when a Pittsburgh blogger wrote about it, I decided to post the following edited version of what he had to say.

What's all this nonsense about disparaging class warfare?  What is capitalism, if not class warfare?

There is a natural tension between the poor and the rich, and there always will be.  The poor are trying to get rich.  The rich are trying to get richer.  Class warfare is built into the freakin' system!

Why shouldn't the rich want to keep their money instead of giving it to you?  Why shouldn't the poor want to take some of the money from the rich?  It's called human nature.  It's called greed.  It's called, welcome to reality.

The GOP says the rich are the "job creators."  Yet, the facts show the major corporations are sitting on piles of cash and creating zero jobs.  Taxes used to be higher on these "job creators" and the economy was better.  Hence, soaking the rich (a bit more than we are now) does not by definition kill jobs.

The rich are richer than ever before compared to the rest of us.  We're human.  We want to eat.  We can't find work, or if we can, it doesn't pay.  So we want the rich to pony up some more so we can survive.  What's wrong with that?  Guess what they're still going to be?  Rich.

I don't want to "tax the rich, feed the poor, 'till there are no rich no more."  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.

The only people who don't like class warfare are the rich.  And there ain't enough of them to win elections.  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 corporate lackeys get in, instituting policies which continue the trend where the rich get richer, and, well, you know the rest.

John McIntire



What contraption there is sitting?

Never moving, never flitting,

Odd vibrations still emitting

Just inside my chamber door?

I've added the explanation to Digression #2 of my earlier article about The Flying Yardstick.


SEPT. 14, 2011     IMPLODED

It’s official.  With a loss this afternoon to the St. Louis Cardinals, the Pittsburgh Pirates have extended their all-time record for North American professional sports teams.  They did so by clinching their 19th consecutive losing season.  Every year since 1993, they’ve lost more games than they’ve won.

Midway through 2011, the Pirates’ prospects looked much brighter.  As we can see from this Diamond Brick Road chart, they occasionally made it into the golden left half (a .500 record or better).  They even claimed first place in the National League Central Division for a few days (shown in blue).

The high point came on July 20:  a half-game division lead with a record of 51-44, seven games over .500.  The fans were excited, and baseball in Pittsburgh was fun again.  But were the Pirates that talented, or had they merely been fortunate?

They were still in first place on July 26, but late that night, the downfall began.  The turning point — as it had been in 1992 — was home plate in Atlanta.  In the bottom of the 19th inning, umpire Jerry Meals ruled a Braves runner safe at home with the winning run.

After that controversial loss, the Pirates won only one of their next 12, sliding into fourth place and out of contention for the rest of the season.  Now there’s no way to make it back into the gold half of the chart, even if they win every remaining game.

What happened?  A blogger called it a case of “implosion to the mean.”  Broadcaster Steve Blass explained, “The pitching went south, and that exposed the fact that we don’t really have much offense.”  In 35% of their games this year, the Bucs have been unable to put more than two runs on the scoreboard, and their record in those games is 6-46.

So why are these TV colleagues of mine so jolly?  Probably because the long season will soon be over.  I work only home telecasts, but these guys have also accompanied the Pirates on the road.

Adam Elmore and Jason Steele and Pete Toma, along with director Jeff Mitchell (not shown), live in the team’s hotels.  Virtually every day since March, they’ve been sharing their lives with each other and with the players and coaches and team officials.

Now there are just four series to go, three of them on the road.  As Chip Caray would put it, “Only 14 more days until we can pick our own friends.”



SEPT. 8, 2011     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.



(That's how one of my colleagues typed the name of the current month.  Anyway...)

We didn't get to hear Jerry Lewis cry his way through the song "You'll Never Walk Alone" at the end of this year's MDA Night-Before-Labor-Day Telethon.  Maybe I can make up for that with my 1978 instrumental rendition.  It's in the second quarter of Great Songs of Broadway.



If you can
Remark à la Kramer,

If you can
Spot pale laptops,

Or if you
Know a Toyota wonk,

Then you are palin-dromic.
Mail Palin a manila “P,” Liam!

(I found the first three palindromes as answers to the New York Times crossword puzzle No. 706.  I made up the fourth one.  Then I searched the Internet for ways to illustrate them all.  Googling “Toyota wonk” wouldn’t have gotten me anywhere, so I Googled “professor” and found a wonkish engineer from the University of Texas at Arlington who could be superimposed over a Toyota.)