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ArchiveFEBRUARY 2022


Most mornings, I listen to the radio (remember radio?) and occasionally hear brief commercials for auto parts stores.

Such retailers are all over the place nowadays.  According to Google Maps, there are 20 of them within fifteen miles of my apartment.  But I'm not familiar with all the names.  I've only lived in this area for 48 years, and I rarely buy replacement headlamps.

One commercial begins with a peppy jingle, “Huhvice Auto and Truck Supply!”  Then an announcer boasts of Huhvice's service and their 66 years in business.  He invites listeners to “visit huhviceauto.com.”

They'll have trouble doing so, however, because the announcer gives no hint as to how the URL is spelled.  It sounds like huvva sotto dot com.  Curious, I Googled “auto and truck supply” and discovered that this particular advertiser has 17 locations from Pittsburgh to Erie.  The closest is a half-hour drive from me, which explains why I never heard of it.

Oh, by the way, the sponsor is spelled Hovis.  You'd think the announcer could have mentioned that.




In college I had no trouble climbing the stairs to my third-floor dorm room or to the third-floor radio studio.  Now, at the age of 75 with arthritis starting to set in, I ascend much more slowly, one step at a time, carefully keeping my balance by holding onto the handrail.

Therefore I was impressed to see William Powell run up two stories.  This was in a clip from the 1936 movie My Man Godfrey, and he was carrying a presumably-fainted 112-pound Carole Lombard.  He climbed about 30 steps in nine seconds!  It could have been a stunt double toting a mannequin; however, we see his profile and her arms flopping, so it certainly doesn't look like early movie magic.

Powell was 44 years old at the time and lived to the age of 91.


2/22/22    TWO-ALL

Like most competitions, hockey can involve ties.  Two kinds, in fact.  A game can be tied, and so can the standings.

Unlike most competitions, however, a hockey game is not won by scoring more points.  Instead, you need to score more goals.

Nevertheless, hockey statisticians do keep track of “points.”  Two kinds, in  fact.  A player can earn points, and his team can earn a different kind.

In Multiple Possible Outcomes, I try to sort all this out.


FEBRUARY 20, 2012 flashback    THE TOM & GERI SHOW

I’ve been receiving my mail in this small Western Pennsylvania town for more than 31 years.  Throughout that time, I, Tom Thomas, have occasionally received solicitations intended for someone named “Geri Thomas.”  Her address is the same as mine, but I’ve never met her. 

I’d be happy to forward these letters to her real address, but I don’t know where that is, or whether she’s even a real person.  She might be merely a glitch on a long-lived mailing list.

Recently two envelopes arrived on the same day, inviting Geri and me each to sign up for an AARP life insurance program by the end of February.

As you know, today is a national holiday to celebrate my attaining the age of 65.  (Some people call it “Presidents Day,” but that's a misnomer.)  Apparently AARP believes today is Geri’s birthday as well.  But they aren't sure whether she’s my wife, because the envelope is addressed to “Ms.” Geri Thomas.  She must be my sister.  If we’re both the same age, she must be my twin sister.

Had I signed and returned the offers that Sis has received at my address over the past three decades, by now I would have dishonestly established an impressive second identity.

2022 UPDATE:  Apparently the Danbury Mint has decided that Geri must be my wife.  For Christmas, the postman brought an offer of a customized diamond pendant --- "a gift she'll cherish forever" --- for the low low price of three $36.30 monthly installments.

And on the right is the real Geri Thomas, or at least one of the 47 people by that name listed on LinkedIn.  She's an expert in staffing and consulting for arts and culture organizations.


FEBRUARY 17, 2012 flashback    I PREFER “ALTITUDE”

Maybe I haven't been paying attention, but I've just noticed a new quality for a college basketball player:  length.  Following South Florida's win over Pittsburgh last week, that term appeared in interviews with members of both teams.

USF's 6'6" guard Hugh Robertson said of defending against Pitt's 6'2" scorer Ashton Gibbs:  “He wasn't able to get his shots off.  I'm also quick enough to stay in front of him, but I think my length really did the job.”

And Pitt's Tray Woodall said of USF's team, “We played against the same big guys last year.  We knew how big they were, how physical they were, how long they were.”

I guess “length” must be another word for height?  And “long” must be another word for tall?

That reminds me of a certain Sally who was both long and tall in a Little Richard song.



So, John, you've written a book about your former teacher.

Indeed.  We called him The Master.  Have you read it?

Yes, I have.  I notice that you also mention some of your fellow students like “Andrew” and “Martha.”  But there's one of them in particular whom you've carefully avoided identifying.  For example, you've written that Peter turned and saw “the student whom The Master loved.”

I was trying to be discreet.

But I'm curious.  Elsewhere you haven't been afraid to name names.  Why didn't you write, for example, “Peter turned and saw Nathanael?”

Some matters should be kept private.

Why this matter?  It leads me to suspect that you were that beloved student!


Did you mean “Peter saw me” but modestly avoided identifying yourself?

If that were the case, would I have claimed to be “the” student whom The Master loved?  The one and only?  That could hardly be called modest.

So if “the student whom The Master loved” wasn't you, who was it?

Well, I'd rather not say.  I don't think we should be discussing His sweetheart, even on Valentine's Day.

I've taken the liberty of reimagining yet another section of the Bible, this time from that gospel attributed to John.

It begins at the supper table, where Jesus whispers something to his favorite.

Then He passes a piece of bread to the treasurer, who recoils and spills the salt.

Later, two separate piles of white cloth in a grave — one at the head and the other at the foot — resemble seated angels.

It's called The Disciple Whom Jesus Loved.



Fifty-five years ago tonight, Paul “CR” Lawn and I traveled to Berea, Ohio, for Oberlin College's basketball game against Baldwin-Wallace.  We called the action live for our 10-watt campus radio station, WOBC-FM.

Oberlin's small-college basketball is still being broadcast nowadays — via Internet video.  There's only one announcer, although he has access to a stats monitor which CR and I lacked.  There's only one camera, apparently without zoom capability, and there are no replays.

But the telecast does include a lower-third “clock and score” graphic interfaced with the Philips Gymnasium scoreboard.

Tomorrow afternoon you can watch as Oberlin hosts DePauw in a doubleheader, the women at 1:00 followed by the men at 3:00.

If the Yeowomen are able to upset their undefeated visitors, they'll be only half a game out of first place in the North Coast Athletic Conference with three games remaining.  Go Yeo!

FEBRUARY 10, 2012 flashback    WORD FOR TODAY: GARUM

Is this “tomato sauce,” because it’s made from tomatoes?  Or is it “spaghetti sauce,” because you put it on spaghetti?  And what would the Romans call it?

History buffs, inquiring into the dietary habits of ancient Greece and Rome, have encountered the Latin word “garum.”  We’re told that garum was a popular fish sauce.

But that doesn’t explain it completely.  Was it a thick liquid made from fish?  That sounds weird.  Or was it a condiment to be added to fish, like tartar sauce?

It turns out that garum was actually made by packing fish intestines in salt, then letting them sit for months and ferment!

In modern times, various types of fish sauce are used in East Asian cuisine, from Thailand to Korea.

Here in the West, the most popular modern garum was first concocted in Britain nearly two centuries ago.  Did you realize that Worcestershire sauce, pronounced “woostersheer,” contains fermented anchovies?



As a former physics major, I silently cringe at many expressions of hyperbole.

“I'm starving”?  You mean you're about to die from malnutrition?  Not even close.  Mahatma Gandhi went for three whole weeks without food in 1924, and in 1933, and in 1943.  You, on the other hand, are merely hungry.

“It's freezing in here”?  No, it isn't.  The thermostat is set to 72°, as of course it should be.  That's forty degrees above the freezing point.

“This cup of tea is boiling hot”?  Again, you exaggerate.  The brewing temperature was 182°, as of course it should be.  That's thirty degrees below the boiling point.  And it's been cooling for nearly a minute.

“The Super Bowl will be this Sunday; I can't wait”?  No, you can wait.  In fact, you must, because we have not yet obtained a time machine with which to jump the calendar ahead several days.  Bazinga.


As the high school basketball season draws to a close, I'm reminded of the long-ago evenings when I described games into a tape recorder.  That led to actual radio broadcasts when I got to college, and later to a career behind the scenes in sports television.

You might think that a play-by-play announcer makes up everything in the spur of the moment.  But as an inexperienced 16-year-old, I knew that I'd need to have some material pre-written, including commercials for glass cleaner and a word about ...... (wait for it) ...... my father's Oldsmobile dealership.

Those scripts, plus a link to some audio from one of my “broadcasts,” are in this month's 100 Moons article.



My first job was in Marion, Ohio, where the courthouse is on the corner of Main and Center Streets.  Fortunately the city's founders gave less obvious names to other thoroughfares.  The roads leading out of town were referred to by their destination cities, so Marion's major streets include (counterclockwise from the top left) Kenton Avenue, Bellefontaine Avenue, Prospect Street, Delaware Avenue, and Mount Vernon Avenue.

Later jobs led me to western Pennsylvania, where an opposite process seems to have taken place.  I worked in New Kensington (the larger city on the left below), 200 yards from Freeport Road.  But my apartment — in another town, on the opposite side of the river — is 150 yards from a different Freeport Road!  I've highlighted those more-or-less parallel thoroughfares in green.

All roads lead to Freeport, I guess.  It's a free port 24 miles upriver (northeast) from Pittsburgh whose founder proclaimed that all “boats, rafts, and other river craft landing here should be free of wharfage.”

But the town's outbound routes aren't called Pittsburgh Avenue, Butler Street, Kittanning Boulevard, and the like.  They're labeled inboundly, towards the town.  Until they get there (and only two of the seven numbered above even come close), they're all titled Freeport.

If I search online for CVS Pharmacies, the three nearest me are at 2661 Freeport Road, 1407 Freeport Road, and 95 Freeport Street, all on different green segments in different municipalities.  Needless to say, this could lead to confusion.  However, locals seem to know their way around.



Did you watch the Grammys on CBS last night?  No?

The Grammy Awards ceremony is staged annually by The Recording Academy to recognize “Outstanding Achievement in the music industry” in the United States.  But the live TV audience has been sagging for a decade.  From 40 million viewers in 2012, it has fallen to ZERO in 2022.

Well, that's not quite fair.  It is true that the ceremony scheduled for January 31 in Los Angeles drew a grand total of zero viewers, but that's because the event was postponed due to the pandemic.  It has been rescheduled for April 3 in Las Vegas.

Music writer Ted Gioia asks, “Can you imagine how angry fans would be if the Super Bowl or NBA Finals were delayed?  People would riot in the streets.  But the Grammy Awards go missing in action, and hardly anyone notices.”

He continues, “The entire business model of the music industry is built on promoting new songs; yet few listeners are paying attention.  Old songs now represent 70 percent of the U.S. music market, according to the latest numbers from MRC Data.”  How about streaming?  Three years ago 15% of total streams were from the 200 most popular new tracks.  Now, less than 5% are.

Some people tell Gioia that the reason is that new songs are lousy.  “Music used to be better, or so they say.  The old songs had better melodies, more interesting harmonies, and demonstrated genuine musicianship.”

My experience is that I'm totally put off by almost all the “current acts” that perform on Saturday Night Live.  I can't understand the words they're singing!  Either they're straining and screaming to put emotion into their voice, trying to be heard over the instruments, or they're rapping too fast for comprehension (and the closed captioning can't keep up).

I stopped listening to new music around 1985.