In sports, as in life, sometimes an unusual event occurs. But overenthusiastic reporters often cant believe it.
That was an unbelievable catch! What? You dont think he actually caught the ball? Was it some sort of magicians sleight-of-hand trick?
Theyre behind by ten; if they manage to win, it would be incredible. What? Youll refuse to accept the result because of its alleged impossibility?
Extraordinary catches and comebacks might be rare, but we shouldnt doubt that they can and do happen. We can call them remarkable. But unbelievable? Incredible? Id reserve those terms for events that are truly beyond belief.
What might those events be? Well, baseball announcer Jerry Coleman once described an attempted catch by Dave Winfield in which he accidentally decapitated himself. Winfield goes back to the wall. He hits his head on the wall, and it rolls off! It's rolling all the way back to second base! This is a terrible thing for the Padres.
Or for another example, suppose a sportscaster describes the quarterback impaling the football on the point of a javelin, sprouting wings like an angel, flying downfield at an altitude of 20 feet, and using the spear to deliver the ball to a receiver in the end zone. I might consider that unbelievable.
But how did Mr. Gordon locate six sets of words with this extremely unusual property? After an appropriate amount of pondering, I've realized that his computer could considerably reduce the possibilities by scanning the dictionary and eliminating every word that doesn't contain two I's.
Now Mr. Gordon could inspect each row, trying to think of a word or phrase that, by stretching logic, could go in front of both the sans word and the avec word.
Hmm: Tape and Taipei? Books on tape and books on Taipei, of course. Dots and idiots? Polka dots and polka idiots, I suppose. Panst and pianist? Cargo panst and cargo pianist ... probably not.
DECEMBER 26, 2021 ENUMERATE THOSE PERSONS
When the Constitution of the United States was drawn up, Article I specified that the Congress would be divided into two co-equal parts, so that neither large nor small states could feel disrespected.
The decennial enumeration, or census, would determine how many Representatives each state could elect. States then divided themselves into districts, each electing one Congressman. But as early as 1810, politicians began gerrymandering, drawing district boundaries to the advantage of their own party or race.
Now we jump ahead more than a century. Following World War I, soldiers returning from France no longer wanted to live down on the farm. The 1920 census confirmed that agricultural states were losing population while urban states were growing. And rural Congressmen refused to give up their seats to those citified folks! They defied the Constitution and blocked any reapportionment from taking place at all. Finally, by the end of the decade, a bill was enacted calling for automatic reapportionment beginning with the results of the next census.
Government agents came knocking on doors in April 1930, when both of my future parents were living in small towns. Twenty-year-old Vernon was a bookkeeper in Falmouth, Kentucky, while 17-year-old Anna (whose family had left the farm only six years before) was a high-school junior in Byesville, Ohio. The ever-helpful ancestry.com has provided me with images of the relevant Population Schedules carefully filled out by enumerators Paul G. Browning and Alice Sutton respectively.
Armed with this information, I now know my future parents' 1930 addresses! This was eight years before they met, ten years before they married, and seventeen years before I was born. And I even know the name of my father's 63-year-old landlord and how much my grandfather the dairyman was paying for rent.
Maybe I'm the only one who cares about this, but for the sake of completeness, I've obtained aerial and streetside views of those addresses from Google Earth and added them to existing articles here on this website. Click my parents' names below. (You're allowed to peruse the rest of those articles as well.)
DECEMBER 23, 2021 THE RALLYIST WHO DWELT IN A SMIAL
When I got into road rallying with my former high school classmate Terry Rockhold around 1967, we learned that one of the more successful competitors called himself Frodo Baggins. I was pretty sure that wasn't his real name, but I failed to get the reference.
I mentioned this to my college classmate Jan Olson. Smiling, she informed me that Frodo Baggins is a hobbit. Ah, a hobbit. That explained it, kind of. I had heard of hobbits, though I had never read Tolkien. Still haven't.
Some eight years ago I began to see mentions of a hobbit movie called The Desolation of Smaug. The title reminded me of The Wrath of Khan. However, this wasn't a Star Trek movie; it was from the Lord of the Rings franchise. Once again I failed to get the reference.
What or who is this Smaug? Is it a kind of air pollution, a combination of smoke and faug?
Is it a ruined village poor desolate Smaug, with all the Smaugians suffocated?
There will be a great disaster next week!
The end of the world! It's coming, a week from Sunday!
I have proof!
Look at this calendar! After Saturday, December 31, the next page is blank!
Theres no Sunday! Its the end of days! Were doomed!
Silly, on Sunday well simply start a new year. Look, I bought a 2012 calendar just last week. See here? Sunday, January 1, 2012. Monday, January 2. And so on.
Oh. Well, forget about that. But there definitely will be a great disaster one year from today!
One year from today, huh?
It will be the end of the world! I have proof!
Look at the Mayan calendar! Scholars have figured it out. According to the Mayan Long Count, the thirteenth b'ak'tun of the current era will end on December 21, 2012. And that will be the end of civilization! Were doomed!
Silly, the Mayans never said there wont be a fourteenth b'ak'tun. Well just start a new period of another 5,126 years. As Sean Sturgeon writes,
We shouldnt worry that the sun will explode or tidal waves will wash over the Himalayas. However, we should worry that fanatics, in their misguided religious belief that Armageddon is at hand and there will be no 2013, may take reckless actions in 2012 that will destroy civilization.
There may never be an apocalypse. If it does come, it will also be a human event humans being killed by humans who, in the words of PZ Myers, really believe in an apocalyptic messiah and are wishing the world would end in a catastrophe before they die.
DECEMBER 19, 2021 SORT OF LIVE
Saturday Night Live seemed rather somber last night.
Several Broadway shows were forced to cancel performances this past week due to positive Covid-19 tests among the cast or crew. Yesterday, the state of New York set a record for the second day in a row with more than 21,900 reported daily cases a warning of what may be to come elsewhere. The numbers in Ohio and Illinois were not far behind.
Some SNL pieces were prerecorded a day or two in advance, but with multiple cast members reportedly testing positive for the coronavirus, changes had to be made. On Saturday afternoon, NBC announced, Due to the recent spike in the Omicron variant and out of an abundance of caution, there will be no live audience for tonight's taping of 'Saturday Night Live' and the show will have limited casts and crew. Scheduled singer Charli XCX tweeted that my musical performance will no longer be able to go ahead. I am devastated and heartbroken. I am currently safe and healthy but of course very sad. Please look after yourselves out there.
So at 11:30 pm, we saw a truly cold open. Tom Hanks came out to explain that there was no audience. He was joined by fellow Five Timers Club member Tina Fey and new inductee Paul Rudd along with Kenan Thompson, who's been a cast member since 2003. These veterans introduced the pretaped segments and some classic holiday sketches that the staff had hurriedly dragged out of the vault to fill the air time.
A few years after that, when I became old enough, my father showed me the standard shaving procedure the one that H.F. had taught him when he was a boy. I had to fill the bathroom sink with hot water, wash my face, smear my face with shaving cream, scrape the cream and the whiskers off with a razor, then remove the remaining cream from my face and neck and shirt. Finally, I had to stop the bleeding from numerous small cuts with the momentarily painful application of a styptic pencil.
DECEMBER 9, 2021 WHY WE NEED ALGEBRA
On a science webinar this evening, Candice Basterfield and Shauna Bowes pointed out that smart people sometimes believe dumb things; for example, Isaac Newton also dabbled in alchemy. A possible pitfall is using intuition to jump to conclusions rather than actually taking the trouble to figure them out.
If a ball and bat together cost $1.10, one presenter asked, and the bat costs a dollar more than the ball, how much does the ball cost? Most people say ten cents. But it's actually five cents. And then she never explained why!
DECEMBER 7, 2021 GREEN LANTERN MYSTERY
One of my seasonal decorations is a short battery-powered string consisting of multi-colored plastic shells with lights inside, powered by a pair of AAA batteries (totaling 3 volts when they're fresh). The weird thing is that as the batteries start to give out, the blue and yellow and red bulbs dim, but the green ones remain glowing brightly!
What's going on? My guess is that there are green LEDs inside the green-tinted shells but white LEDs inside the others. Each white LED requires a full 3.0 volts to glow (VF tvp). A more efficient green LED will continue to glow brightly when powered by only 2.2 volts, and dimly even longer. Science!
DECEMBER 5, 2021 BENT ON BENDED KNEE
I work on sports telecasts, but not often at major events. Ive never done a Super Bowl or a World Series, for example. And Im actually happier working minor events like a Friday-night high school football game. The pay rate is the same, and theres much less pressure.
I was surprised to read this column
from the Los Angeles Times, in which Mike DiGiovanna lists eight of
the Biggest Upsets in Sports History. I was actually on the
broadcast crew for 25% of them! Namely, yours truly worked
Buster Douglas over Mike Tyson in 1990
and Appalachian State over Michigan in 2007.
Thats more than my share.