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ArchiveMAY 2019



I've complained before (three times!) about my difficulties in removing stubborn lids from jars and cans.  The designers of some containers have tried to help by adding a little pull tab.  For example, the plastic film that covers this serving of rice is wider on one side, forming a flap.

Unfortunately, the film is not as strong as the glue that seals it to the rim of the cup.  I tug and I tug on the flap, but the seal doesn't yield.  Finally I give up, stab a hole in the film, and cut it off with scissors.

When I'm president, bags that say "Tear here" will actually tear.

Some sardine cans have a thin metal lid.  It's even thinner in a scored line around the perimeter.  For the purpose of pulling off the lid, a handy ring is attached with a rivet.

But a couple of times I've found that despite the scored line, the metal refuses to be torn asunder.  The lid is stronger than the rivet, and when I yank mightily on the ring, it rips right off!

Time to get out the tools.



An annoying radio commercial, as well as a streetcar ad from a defeated politician, were two methods once used to sell these cans of coffee.

The trick is to Make Ads Memorable.


MAY 22, 2019    STILL ROAD?

When my 25-year college reunion rolled around in 1994, I was too busy to attend.  Within one 90-day period I worked 60 days in 30 different cities, approximately.

In a letter to a college classmate, I quoted Bob Dylan:

All the people we used to know, they're an illusion to me now.
Some are mathematicians; some are carpenter's wives.
Don't know how it all got started.
Don't know what they're doin' with their lives.
But me, I'm still on the road.

Other letters in this month's 100 Moons article describe my work as a TV electronic graphics operator (mostly sports) during that eventful era.

There's an account of working on a live HBO telecast, nearly seven hours long, dedicating the new Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.

Now it's 2019, and time for my 50-year college reunion.  I'm traveling and working much less.

But those people we used to know?  They're much more real to me now.  Even classmates who once were only pictures in the yearbook have become real people, because I've been administering our reunion website.  There they tell what they're doin' with their lives.

I plan to talk to many of them this weekend and maybe even revisit that Hall of Fame.  I'll tell you something about it later.



Recently I heard from two staff members at radio station WOBC.  Promotions Director Abby Lee and Station Manager Katie Wilson are Oberlin College seniors, and they'll be graduating a week from tomorrow.

But before leaving their animation class behind, they chose the campus radio station's 70-year legacy as the subject for their final film project.

Click on You're Listening for a link to the result.


MAY 16, 2009 flashback   BRAND THIS

Several months ago, I worked on the closed-circuit telecast of a corporate meeting.  The company president was excited about this concept he’d recently discovered called “branding.”

He’d learned that while consumers can buy a hundred generic aspirin caplets for only $1.99, they will happily pay $6.79 for the exact same pills if they’re labeled Bayer.

“Eureka!” thought the boss.  “We can get people to pay us 241% more than they pay our competitor.  All we have to do is convince them our brand means higher quality.  We can increase our revenue without increasing our costs.  Free money!”

The boss asked his employees, gathered in the ballroom and watching on TV, to split up into small groups and come up with operational improvements to turn branding into profits.

Unfortunately, the company was not one that sold low-priced name-brand products.  It sold services.  And I’m sorry to report that the brainstorming employees failed their assignment.

Their best idea had nothing to do with branding.  It was, "New employees just sit around for their first two weeks unable to use their computers because they're still waiting for their passwords.  We should speed up the password-assignment process."

A valid point, but probably not the kind of thing the boss had in mind.




Are you a good driver?  An Allstate commercial says 94% of us think we are.  We're invited to plug in this monitor to prove it.

But what's “good”?  Does that mean SKILLFUL, as in being able to white-knuckle through tight spots at high speed without running off the road?  Or does it mean SAFE, as in being considerate toward others while carefully observing the traffic laws?

I obey the speed limit and avoid swerving quickly from one lane to another.  I think I'm a good driver of the second sort.  The insurance company would be happy.



Delazon Smith gradually fell out of favor with Oberlin College.  His opinions were suppressed, and the Faculty cut him off from both dining and lodging.  Also, the Society of Inquiry expelled him for swearing.  Also, the local church excommunicated him for infidelity.

Finally he gave up.  On Sunday, June 18, 1837, having written out his complaints in great detail, he made ready to leave town.  At the time the town looked something like this.

1838 watercolor by H. Alonzo Pease

My guess is that we're looking east from the location of today's King Building.  That would make the dirt road on the right West College Street.  The building I've labeled T is probably Tappan Hall; the one at O would be Oberlin Hall.

On Monday morning, Smith boarded a wagon.  But then a constable arrived to arrest him and confiscate his manuscript!  His antagonists, fearing embarrassment if the tell-all book were published, accused him of trying to skip out on a bad debt.

Everyone proceeded to the county seat, where the authorities dismissed the bogus complaint.  That enabled Smith to continue on to Cleveland.  There he found a printer for his manuscript, which became known as Oberlin Unmasked.  And that's how I've been able to bring a condensed version to you these past ten fortnights.

This final installment is titled, appropriately enough, Concluding Remarks.


MAY 7, 2014   MAGIC AMMO

Faced with a difficult situation, sometimes we try to find a “silver bullet” that will provide an easy answer.

Silver bullets are a metaphor for “simple solutions to complicated problems,” writes columnist Landon Y. Jones.  “In folklore across many cultures, a bullet made of silver is the only way to kill a werewolf or devil.”  However, he adds, real-world experiments suggest silver bullets are less accurate than lead ones, and they wreak less havoc.

Of course!  It’s simple physics.  Check out this chart of various metals, with their densities in grams per cubic centimeter.









Radioactive Uranium


Depleted Uranium






For two projectiles with the same velocity and size, the mass of a silver bullet is 8% less than that of a lead bullet.  Momentum equals mass times velocity.  With only 92% of the momentum, the silver bullet will be slightly less stable in flight and will do less damage when it hits the werewolf.

But there are other options.  Compared to silver, gold is 84% heavier and platinum is 104% heavier.  Bullets made from these precious metals would be much more effective.  However, they would cost about 70 times as much as silver and 1,400 times as much as lead.

A more practical choice, with essentially the same density as gold:  depleted uranium (DU), a byproduct of enriching fuel for nuclear reactors.  The military loads DU projectiles into some of its weapons, such as the 30mm rotary cannon on the A-10 Warthog aircraft.

You want depleted uranium bullet, kemo sabe?




In his first 27 months in office, President Donald J. Trump told more than 10,000 lies!  That was the word this week from Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler.  Our head of state has been averaging one false or misleading claim every hour, day in and day out, since last September.

Today, however, I prefer to ponder a different 10,000.  I propose to picture a group of ten thousand graduates from my college singing our century-old alma mater, “Ten Thousand Strong.” 

When we sing it, we pledge that “Our hearts shall be thy throne.”  That is, if we remember the words.  Or the tune.  I've written a new article to jog the memories of my classmates, The Story of 10,000.

But why that number?  Oberlin has had well over 10,000 alumni for a long time, and today there are more than 40,000.  I went looking for the source, which is a reminder of the institution's historic efforts to abolish both slavery and segregation while encouraging all students to “smile a recognition of a common humanity.”



We have received this sports report from my old home town in Ohio:  North Union High School’s boys track team has won the 2014 edition of the Virg Rankin Relays!

from a video by mapleguy43 (click here)

NUHS placed first in three of the thirteen events:  the 4x100, the long jump, and the high jump.  In the final event to be completed, the Wildcats’ trio of high jumpers totaled 18’6”.  That clinched the victory over Fairbanks High School.

Fairbanks (named after the Union County native who became Vice President of the United States) had been the Relays champions the last two years, and this year they placed first in five events.  But although North Union had only three first places, they also picked up five seconds, three thirds, and two fourths to win the overall boys point total.  (The girls team was not as successful.)

Half a century ago, I wrote about this track meet when it was called the Richwood Relays.  Back then, the athletes did not have today’s pullover jerseys in team colors with competitor numbers on the back.  Only boys competed.  The girls could merely cheer them on — and hand out the trophies.

Above is the 1964 Relay Court, in a picture I’ve colorized from the yearbook.  Left to right, they are sophomore attendant Pat Smith, senior Janet Johnson, Queen Dianne Wilson, junior Pat Ransome, and freshman Rose Sullivan.