OCT. 30, 2019 CLEVER MEASURING
I'm sure other folks have figured out the following, but just in case . . . .
Suppose you want to slice a board into six equal strips. You need to lay out the dividing lines. The board is almost eight inches wide, but it's an eighth of an inch shy. In other words, its width is 7 and 7/8 inches.
How can you divide 7 and 7/8 six ways? Remembering what you learned in elementary school, you have to begin by converting it to 63/8 inches. But 63 is not divisible by six. If you double both numerator and denominator, the fraction becomes 126/16 inches, and 126 is divisible by six.
So you decide to use 16ths of an inch. You get out your ruler and mark off five dividing points as follows:
That's a lot of arithmetic. A couple of tricks will make your task easier.
OCT. 27, 2014 HALLOW-EEK
Youre probably familiar with the phrase eke out a living. Eke, pronounced eek, is a verb that means to achieve with difficulty.
There was once a different English word also spelled eke, except it was an adverb and was pronounced ache. Like the German auch, this eke meant also. William Shakespeare sometimes used it. Geoffrey Chaucer eke employed it two centuries earlier:
Mickey Rooneys passing earlier this year prompted me to watch his 1935 appearance in the film of Shakespeares A Midsummer Nights Dream. Comic actor Joe E. Brown eke was in the movie, playing the character called Flute. In Act III, he had a punning line describing the young Pyramus: most brisky jew-venile and eke most lovely Jew.
And eke? There are alternative possibilities like and also or and at the same time or as well as. However, those would not have fit the iambic meter, so Shakespeare chose and eke though the word had already begun to fade into obsolescence. (He also spelled the preceding word juvenal.)
But Joe E. Brown must not have been familiar with Middle English vocabulary. He knew not eke (ache), but only eke (eek) as in Eek! A mouse! The actor raised his pitch and squeaked the word as eek! The meaning seemed to be most animated juvenile and horrors! most lovely Jew. I cringed slightly.
Herewith, I wish you ghostly dreams and eke a happy Halloween!
I have a plan that would solve two problems with postseason baseball. All times are Eastern.
Problem one: the Three Rivers Stadium effect. That ballpark hosted the first night game in World Series history in 1971. Since then, baseballs "Fall Classic" has become an exclusively prime-time event, featuring titanic marathons that often are not decided until after midnight. Last Saturdays ALCS contest at Yankee Stadium (not even part of the World Series) wasnt decided until 1:07 AM. Thats well past the bedtime of many young fans. Old-timers like me wonder why some Series games cant be played in the afternoon, at least on weekends, as all the games were when we were kids. Of course, the answer is money. But we can dream. The sun ought to shine on part of the Series.
Problem two: the Koufax/Drysdale effect. In 1965 the Los Angeles Dodgers had two ace pitchers, Sandy Koufax (26-8, 2.04 ERA) and Don Drysdale (23-12, 2.77 ERA). Nowadays, two pitchers in a five-man rotation start only 40% of the teams games. Back then, Walter Alston used a four-man rotation and managed to assign 51% of the Dodgers starts to his aces. And he gave them 71% in the World Series, as Drysdale took the mound for games 1-4 and Koufax for games 2-5-7. The Dodgers won in seven games, demonstrating how in a short playoff series with several off days a team built around a couple of dominating starting pitchers has the edge over a team (in this case, the Twins) that might have been better during the everyday grind of the regular season.
My plan: schedule some World Series games as split day/night events. Each ticket consists of two parts, one for the day session and one for the night session. A fan might choose to attend only one session and give the other half of his ticket to someone else, someone who might not otherwise have been able to see the Fall Classic in person.
The on-field ceremonies commence at 1:30 in the afternoon. Network TV coverage begins at 2:00 with a quick preview of the matchup, and the first pitch is thrown at 2:08.
At the conclusion of the fifth inning, maybe around 4:30, its halftime! The grounds crew goes to work as if it were a rain delay. The players leave the field, the network signs off, the fans leave the ballpark, and everyone has a nice supper.
If a Koufax or a Drysdale started the game, theyve thrown five innings, enough to qualify for a win. But now they have to cool off during a long halftime break. The way pitchers arms work, they wont be able to go back out there tonight. Someone else will have to take the mound for the sixth inning. The pitching duties are spread around the staff, thereby lessening the unfair advantage of the Koufax/Drysdale effect.
Network coverage resumes at 8:00 with highlights of the first five innings. Celebrities are introduced, the National Anthem is sung, and lots of prime-time commercials are aired. The sixth inning begins at 8:38.
Assuming the game is a typical five-hour World Series struggle, it should be over before 11:30.
OCT. 19, 2019 THOSE SNEAKY PRIESTS
OCT. 16, 2019 COUNT ON THIS IN OHIO
For doing well on some math test when I was a student at Richwood High School, I was awarded the golden lapel pin you see below. It depicts the Mathematical Association of America's iconic icosahedron (20 faces) over a nonagonal background (nine points).
Thirty miles to the southeast, a dozen Democratic Presidential hopefuls held a big debate last night. I wasn't watching, but I understand that one candidate, Andrew Yang, had a numbers-based pin of his own.
His political numbers aren't encouraging; today's Economist poll shows him in seventh place with only two per cent support. But his pin promotes MATH. Mr. Yang says that's an acronym for Make America Think Harder.
OCT. 15, 2019 WOMAN IN THE MOON
When we humans first dared to travel a quarter of a million miles away, nothing humbled us more than looking back at the small, vulnerable place from which we had come.
Of an even more distant image, Carl Sagan wrote, That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. ...There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits ... [and] our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known.
But a similar image had already thrilled humans four decades earlier. It appeared in a motion picture that opened ninety years ago today!
See my article about the woman and her friends who traveled to the moon, Frau im Mond.
Buzz the engineering student was home for the weekend. His cousin, still in high school, invited him to the homecoming football game Friday night at Ourtown High.
Youll have a blast! Cuzz enthused. Theyve installed all new seats in the stadium, and I can get us a spot front-row center!
When they arrived at the field, Buzz had to admit the refurbished stadium looked good. On both the home and visitor sides, there were twenty rows of seats between the 30-yard lines. Buzz did a quick calculation and estimated the maximum capacity at about 3,600 fans. It was hardly the Rose Bowl, but it was the perfect size for their high school.
Cuzz was true to his word. He led his cousin to two seats on the home side of the field, and they were in the very front row.
Couldnt we see better, Buzz asked, if we were up higher? How about those seats back there?
Nah, Cuzz scoffed, the upper half is the parents section. Old folks sit up there. Were down here, right in the middle of the action!
It was true. The front row was unusually close to the sideline, though five feet higher. The wall was padded for the players protection, all the way up to the railing in front of the fans. When a player stood behind the bench, Buzz and Cuzz could have kicked his helmet if not for that padded wall.
In most stadiums, the cheerleaders would have been deployed between the bench and the stands. But there was no space for them here; the players claimed the whole sideline between the 35s. The cheerleaders split into two groups, Left-End and Right-End. They stood on the sideline near each 30, where the seating section ended. Theyre going to be lonely down there, Buzz thought.
The teams took the field for the kickoff. Ourtown High would receive and defend the goal to the left.
In Buzz's section, gates closed to block off the entrances, and he felt his seat shudder slightly. At first he thought the fans were standing up in anticipation of the start of the game. But no, his seat and 900 others were actually moving to the left!
Across the way, the lower half of the visitor section was also on the move.
The kickoff was returned to the 19-yard line, and when the seats came to a stop after about half a minute, Buzz and Cuzz were sitting on the 18! They were as close to the action as the head coach was.
Ourtown methodically moved the ball down the field, and with each play the section of seats followed along at one yard per second, always centering itself five yards beyond the ball.
That meant that when Ourtown was on offense in the first quarter, Buzz and Cuzz found themselves just one yard behind the line of scrimmage, alongside the wideouts. When the visitors took over and started driving from right to left, their seats were now eleven yards ahead of the line, alongside the safeties.
Ourtown got the ball back and completed a 40-yard pass play down to the 6. The seats traveled much slower than the receiver They arent allowed to go any faster, because of safety, Cuzz explained but they had almost reached their new station by the time the next play was run. The Right-End cheerleaders welcomed the fans arrival, then turned to cheer the Hometown touchdown.
Wasnt I right? Cuzz shouted over the din. Arent these seats great?
Buzz had to admit they were. Whose idea was this, anyway?
Oh, said Cuzz, I think Coach heard about it several years ago. It was on a website page by some guy named Tom Thomas.
UPDATE: 3-D TELEVISION AGREES THESE SEATS ARE GREAT
OCT. 12, 2019 A SOFT BUZZING SOUND
Some kids threw Frisbees. I threw a yardstick, kept aloft by the Magnus effect beneath the blooms and beans of the spreading catalpa tree. I also photographed the trunk of the tree, viewing the photos with a stereoscope made from Tinker Toys.
OCT. 10, 2019 IT'S ENOUGH TO CURL MY TOES
I've written before that unfamiliar large rooms frighten me. Since childhood, I've been scared to look up towards a high ceiling. In such situations, I cringe.
Perhaps cringing is a symptom with more than one cause. Noting that humans likewise tend to duck when we hear nearby thunder, I speculated that our species had learned the safest response to lightning is to lie flat, hugging the ground with your hands and your toes, so that the lightning strikes not you but something taller like a nearby bush. ...Evolution would have eliminated (by electrocution) any humans who did not react properly to a thunderstorm. Similarly, there are few dogs left that do not fear thunder.
As an member of AAA, I recently was e-mailed a little feature claiming to describe What Your Car Color Says About You.
I currently drive a blue sedan, and both of the blue descriptions fit me. But my previous car was dark red, and I definitely am not a stereotypically aggressive red-car driver.
Ive also owned a green car and a gold car. Where are those hues? And where are other possibilities, like purple and orange and yellow and brown and pink and turquoise? Those were available when I was growing up in the Fifties.
PPG Industries confirms my observation. The paint company reports that silver has been the No. 1 color for nine straight years. It now accounts for 25% of vehicle paint choices in the United States. White and black get 18% and 16% respectively, while red is in fourth place with 12%.
Apparently most drivers have become elegant and fastidious and only one in eight is speedy. That does not square with my actual experiences on the highway, but color choices don't lie, do they?
OCT. 5, 2019 AN AUSPICIOUS OCCASION
OCT. 2, 2019 FIVE GOOD DAYS AREN'T ENOUGH
However, 142 games still lay ahead. Late in April there was a slump. Early in June there was a deeper slump, shown here in red. The Pirates were in last place for a while, indicated by the green shading.
But after June 13 they put together another .667 run (14-7). Local fans remained hopeful. In the first five games of July, Josh Bell hit five home runs! He went 8 for 19 with 14 runs batted in! A few days later, he was in the All-Star Game! More to the point, our team's record at the break, shown above in gold, was 44-45. We were within striking distance of first place, only 2½ games out.
Then came disaster. The second half of the season began with a .143 crash (4-24), also shown above in red. The first nine of those losses dropped the Pirates permanently into last place. By August 11 they were 15½ games behind first, and they would finish 22 games out. (Actually, that was the closest divisional finish among the six cellar-dwelling teams; the Tigers ended up a disheartening 53½ games behind the Twins.)
Two weeks later, the paid attendance was 10,933, but visiting comedian Craig Gass (who's learned to count a house) reported that just 600 fans actually showed up.
The following week, I myself went to PNC Park to work the Chicago Cubs' next-to-last telecast on WGN. After 72 seasons the station will no longer have broadcast rights; the Cubs will produce the telecasts themselves.