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APRIL 30, 2013     THE GARAGE

In a world where college students are locked in their dorms every night to protect their innocence ... in a world where coeds are allowed visitors of the opposite sex for only two hours a week, and then only if the door remains ajar and three feet remain on the floor ... in a world without computers and without cell phones, where music lovers resort to Morse code to flash their requests ... a group of young scientists with names like Edison and Fermi take over an abandoned garage behind an old gabled house.  There they conduct experiments that will change their world, experiments that will help bring men and women together.   These experiments are called RADIO.

Behind Grey Gables ... a new article by T. Buckingham Thomas, now playing on this website.



In the latest "It's in the Bible" interview, Brother Billy asks three distinguished experts about the Breath of Life.  The topic of discussion:  When does life begin?



"Hi, there!  Do you know how much we have in our jackpot today?  No?  Oh, that's too bad.  If you had been watching you would have known that we have $29 On Deposit at National City Bank of Marion.  Well, we'll add another dollar to the jackpot, and better luck next time."

When we placed these mid-morning calls to cable TV subscribers in the winter of 1972, 40% of those who had their televisions on were able to answer correctly.

In this month's 100 Moons article, I remember moments like these from local cable shows of 40 years ago.


APRIL 15, 2013     DAD SAYS MORE

I’ve augmented the article Dad Says with more than two dozen additional items from 19th-century editions of my hometown weekly newspaper in Richwood, Ohio.  Among them, under the topic of Weather we learn of a June thunderstorm in which even the geese drowned under 12 feet of rain.  Or something like that.

The new material is in blue.

There was one item of interest that I didn’t include because I suspect it doesn’t actually relate to my hometown.  Dated May 12, 1887, it begins “Last week, H.W. Conley drove over to the Winnebago Indian Reservation, about 20 miles south.”

Measured from Richwood, that would have been in the vicinity of Plain City, Ohio, but I don’t find any references to a reservation there.  More importantly, the Winnebagos never lived in Ohio.  The geography would make sense if this item were reprinted from a newspaper in Sioux City, Iowa.

Here’s the rest of it.  I’ve added the illustration of lacrosse from another source.

“Some of the Indians are industrious and are becoming industrious farmers, but most of them are still ‘injun.’

“I was an interested witness to their great ball play.  It is an indescribable game.  Each Indian had a club about 2½-foot long with a pouch on the end which is used for slinging the ball.

“The players dispense with what they call unnecessary clothing.  They wore a garment abbreviated at both ends and profusely decorated with beads which were very attractive to the young squaws who were there in large numbers.”



You can’t fit a square peg into a round hole.  Nor can you fit a round peg into a square hole.  But which comes closer to fitting?

Last Friday night, we broadcasters had just finished televising an exciting hockey game; the Pittsburgh Penguins defeated the New York Rangers in a shootout.  As we put away our TV toys, cameraman Chris Dahl reminded me that I had once posed and answered the peg question.  It must have been 20 years ago.

First consider a square hole, one inch on a side.  The cross-sectional area is 1.000 square inch.  The largest round peg that can be inserted into this hole has a diameter of one inch and a radius of one-half inch, so its cross-sectional area (pi times r2) is 0.785 square inch.

Then consider a round hole with the same cross-sectional area as the first hole, 1.000 square inch.  Its radius is 0.564 inch (the square root of 1/pi), so its diameter is 1.128 inch.  The largest square peg that can be inserted into this round hole measures 1.128 inch along the diagonal.  By the Pythagorean theorem, the peg measures 0.798 inch along the side.  Its cross-sectional area (0.798 squared) is 0.636 square inch.

So 78.5% of a square hole can be filled by a round peg (or dowel), but only 63.6% of a round hole can be filled by a square peg.  (Compare the size of the empty space in the corners.)

Now we know.  Dowels rule!



When my mother was in high school, “a man held to be irresistibly attractive to romantic young women” was called a sheik.

In the spring of 1930, my mother was voted the Prettiest Girl in school for the second straight year, while her boyfriend Durward McKee was voted the Biggest Sheik for the second straight year.

And the May 17, 1930, edition of the popular Liberty magazine featured an illustration by Leslie Thrasher entitled “The Sheik,” in which a girl draws a monocle and mustache on her little brother to make him “irresistibly attractive.”

I noticed a framed copy of this cover hanging on the wall next to my table at a local Cracker Barrel restaurant, and I found an image of the cover on the Internet.

What was inside this edition?  The Internet knows everything.  Further research reveals that in one passage, the humorist Robert Benchley described falling briefly asleep every minute, a phenomenon I would later experience in window seats on airplanes.

The article was entitled “Sporting Life In America: Dozing.”

Dozing before arising does not really come within the range of this treatise. What we are concerned with are those little lapses when we are fully dressed, when we fondly believe that no one notices. Riding on a train, for example.

There is the short-distance doze in a day coach, probably the most humiliating form of train sleeping. In this the elbow is rested on the window sill and the head placed in the hand in an attitude of thought. The glass feels very cool on the forehead and we rest it there, more to cool off than anything else. The next thing we know the forehead (carrying the entire head with it) has slid down the length of the slippery pane and we have received a rather nasty bang against the woodwork. They shouldn't keep their glass so slippery. A person is likely to get badly hurt that way.

However, back again goes the forehead against the pane in its original position, with the hand serving more or less as a buffer, until another skid occurs, this time resulting in an angry determination to give the whole thing up entirely and sit up straight in the seat. Some dozers will take four or five slides without whimpering, going back each time for more with apparently undiminished confidence in their ability to see the thing through.

It is a game that you can't beat, however, and the sooner you sit up straight in your seat, the sooner you will stop banging your head.



“The founders of religion are always extraordinarily intelligent people.  ... The great problem with religion is when what is said by the founder of the religion, which was supposed to be taken metaphorically, is taken literally.  And that’s where you get complete nonsense being made of what the founder of the religion said.”  — John Cleese

“On the night of his arrest the Lord Jesus took bread, and after giving thanks to God broke it and said: ‘This is my body, which is for you; do this in memory of me.’  In the same way, he took the cup after supper, and said: ‘This cup is the new covenant sealed by my blood.  Whenever you drink it, do this in memory of me.’”  — The Apostle Paul, in I Corinthians 11

Jesus obviously realized that the food on the table was not his own body and blood.

He meant that every day in the future, when his followers broke a loaf of bread they should let that commonplace act remind them of his broken body.

And whenever they drank from a cup of blood-red wine, they should remember the blood that he shed to seal the new promise.

“No, that’s wrong.  Jesus clearly said that when the Church stages a reenactment of the Last Supper, the bread will magically turn into his actual flesh!  Really!  And the wine will mysteriously be transformed into his blood!  What a miracle!  And then we can all eat the Lord’s body and wash it down with his blood!”  — Literal-minded would-be cannibal


MARCH 22, 2013     BIBO ERGO SUM

So Caesar walks into a bar and orders a martinus.  The bartender asks, “Don't you mean martini?”  Caesar retorts, “If I wanted a double, I would have said so!  But on second thought, bring me a shot of hoc.”

The bartender hasn't heard that one before.  “A shot of what?”  Caesar repeats, “Hoc.  You know:  hic, haec, hoc; huius, huius, huius.”

Time passes, but his drink doesn't arrive.  “Didn't I ask for a shot of hoc?” he asks.  “Yes,” the bartender replies, “but then you declined it.”

This nonsense might have made sense had you been with me in Latin Club at Richwood High School 50 years ago this month.  I wrote a comedy sketch (which did not include the above bar joke), and four of us performed it.  We got big laughs when our Latin teacher's daughter spoofed her mother's mannerisms.

We subsequently reprised this sketch for the PTA, and it's this month's 100 Moons article.



The redcoats are coming!  To Niagara Falls!  And to Syracuse!

Yes, it's time for the second half of Super 8: Canada, my latest compilation of images from home movies.  Stand well clear of the cannon, please.


MARCH 11, 2013     WINTER BALL

“Don’t blame me for this,” Angelo Falconi seems to be saying.  “This wasn’t my idea.  Playing baseball outdoors in Pennsylvania during the first week of March?  Ridiculous.  I’m frozen.  I’m so cold I can’t move.”

Actually, Angelo’s statue is welcoming visitors “with open arms” to Consol Energy Park, the minor-league stadium his 2001 donation helped to build  in Washington, PA.  The park’s main tenant, the Washington Wild Things, won’t begin play until May 17, when the weather is warmer.

But when I passed through town last week, I found that baseball was indeed being played.  You see, the park also serves as the home field for Trinity High School and for California University of Pennsylvania, 25 miles to the east.  On this unusually mild day with temperatures in the thirties, the snow had been cleared away and several dozen spectators were watching CalU host Clarion University.  The hot tub behind first base was not yet open for the season.


MARCH 6, 2013     OUTTA MY WAY!

We're having several inches of wet snowfall today in western Pennsylvania.

Over the years, I've heard more than one person complain that "Pittsburghers don't know how to drive in snow."   They never elaborate.  Do they think local idiots are too reckless, or too careful?  Which is it?  What exactly don't we know?

One man called a radio station this morning to gripe.  He's apparently in the "others are too careful" camp.  He sounded like one of those guys in big four-wheel-drive pickups who regularly blast down Route 28 at 70 miles per hour.  He wanted to do so today, but traffic wouldn't allow it.  He was going to be late to work.  In an aggrieved tone, he wailed, "I'm going 40 miles per hour on Route 28!  Only 40!  People should just drive!"

But most calls supported the position that "others are too reckless," reporting numerous accidents that have closed some roadways and slowed traffic to zero miles per hour.

We all hope this is winter's last gasp and we can soon forget this issue.