opinion polls prove very little, but maybe they can enlighten us.
Rhode Island, a judge decreed that posting a prayer inside a
government building violates the establishment of religion
clause of the Constitution. MSNBC asked online readers whether
they agreed. Do you think a federal judge was right in
ruling that the school prayer hanging on the wall of the Cranston
High School West gym was unconstitutional?
imagine that a typical reader might respond this way:
The judge was not right! Whats wrong with a
prayer in a high school gym? None of my friends would have a
problem with that. Were all Baptists. We have a
prayer framed on the wall in our kitchen, and there are several
others at church. The school is no different. All right,
Im voting no. Everyone else will do the same,
and thatll show those pushy atheists this is America.
check the results. ...What? Only 17% no and
82% yes? Thats impossible! The poll
implies that 82% of us 250 million Americans actually
believe in separation of church and state! But, as the saying
goes, 60 million Frenchmen cant be wrong.
Maybe Im the one whos wrong. At least it
gives me something to think about.
going on here? Some of us realize that even though everyone in
your family or your church may be a Baptist, not everyone in your
school is. And the government must respect all faiths, not only
yours. The government mustnt be a party to proselytizing
students by advertising your beliefs to them with a
sign on the wall.
as he often does on his blog, Minnesota biology professor PZ
Myers helpfully posted a link to the MSNBC poll. Many
of his 100,000 daily visitors clicked on it. Being of like
mind, practically all of us voted yes. And
yes won by a vote of 130,189 to 26,794 (the last time I checked).
skewing a public opinion poll by encouraging participation by a
large bloc of people who agree with us what a pointless
prank! But is it? It forces tens of thousands of people
who dont agree with us to realize, to their horror, that
not everyone shares their smugly-held opinion. Perhaps a few of
them will actually give the issue some thoughtful consideration.
During the 2016 Presidential race, Dr. Myers remarked, I used
to do these pointless poll posts, sending readers off to mess with
these dumb click-baity online polls, but I stopped. The point
was to show that these things are totally pointless, and dont
reflect anything of significance ... but people started thinking they
were an end in themselves. They werent.
same thing has happened to the news polling has consumed
ideas completely. What I would like to see is a complete ban on
speculation about who is winning on the news.
a broadcast where Wolf Blitzer was totally silenced because he
wasnt able to portentiously declare that Candidate X was
leading Candidate Y by Z percent in Bumbledump County, Nebraska, but
instead had to say something about the issues in Bumbledump County
and how X and Y would address them.
would completely change the dynamics of the news. It would
suddenly require that Wolf Blitzer know something and have the
intelligence to comment on it, beyond saying that 53 is bigger than
47. So itll never happen.
27, 2022 VIBRATO
solo singers have to hold a note for more than a second or two,
they'll switch on the vibrato. YES THEY
DOOOOO...oOoOoOoO. Otherwise the unvarying tone would be boring.
a cellist is using his left hand to press the strings, you'll notice
that his hand is constantly quivering up and down to vary the pitch
slightly. That gives the notes a beautiful texture.
Hammond electronic organs were new, Don Leslie added a spinning
speaker. As it rotated toward you, the sound got louder
and higher in pitch; then as it pointed the other way, softer and
lower. Big improvement.
#1, pipe organs don't have speakers. Their pipes are binary;
either they sound or they don't. YES THEY
DOOOOOOOOOOOOO. How boring, like the blaring of a foghorn.
When I played a melody at church, I turned on the tremolo
to rapidly modulate the air pressure, thus varying the loudness, but
how could I vary the pitch?
I found myself trying to emulate a cellist by holding the key down
and wobbling my finger back and forth. Didn't work.
#2, I'm told that keyboards for electronic organs and synthesizers
can be rigged to respond to this sort of wiggling. Good for them.
#3, I've learned something about the obsolete instrument called the clavichord,
a transitional technology (1400-1800) between the harpsichord and the piano.
strings are plucked by quills, piano strings are struck by hammers,
but clavichord strings are strummed by tangents
tiny metal blades that don't hit the strings head-on but
merely rub against them to make them vibrate, very softly.
Because the tangent stays in contact with the string, a clavichord
does respond to key wiggling: not side-to-side to vary the
pitch, but up-and-down to strum out a little more volume.
tremolo effect is called die Bebung. Here's a demonstration.
11 years ago, I complained
about the dilemma that we graphics operators face when the text on a
row is too long for the space available.
we abbreviate words? Do we compress the font horizontally,
resulting in an unattractive mismatch with the other rows?
Neither solution seems ideal.
I've noticed that a Pittsburgh newscast captions the B-roll video of
important stories with headlines or footlines, I
suppose one might call them. Two rows of text are employed, and
usually there's no problem.
sometimes the second row has to be squeezed until it no longer
appears to be a continuation of the first, making the combination
hard to read.
A committee is investigating January 6th.
An attack is expected to receive new documents tonight.
suggestion would be to abbreviate the date to Jan. 6
(thus allowing attack to join the first row) and
least the TV station isn't following the technique of the designer
of this poster for an 80-year-old Pittsburgh-set movie.
name of every actor, even Shemp, appears in all capital letters
with two glaring exceptions.
suggestion would be for Louise to drop the All from her
billing and for Samuel to drop his middle initial, but then there'd
be trouble with the Screen Actors Guild. Besides, it's far too
late for that now.
SO WHICH FOOD ARE YOU?
the backstage greeting in Season 7 of The Simpsons?
Billy Corgan, Smashing Pumpkins. Homer
Simpson, smiling politely.
reminded of a similar encounter which might actually have happened.
great throng was milling about at Pittsburgh's Three Rivers Stadium
on a Tuesday afternoon in July 1994, getting ready for that night's
MLB All-Star Game. I was there to operate a video still store
for the international telecast.
TV crew's pregame meal couldn't be served in its usual location, so
we trudged nearly half a mile to the Clark Bar.
on hand for the event was local sports journalist Gene Collier.
If I correctly remember his story, Gene was approached by a
long-haired stranger who held out his hand and said Meat
Loaf. Baffled, Gene shook the man's hand and replied
course, as it turned out, the late Mr. Loaf was there to sing the
well, too, as I recall.
like to plan ahead by at least a month. Do they make calendars
like this, with the current month and the next always visible?
odd-numbered months are stacked on the left, with the even-numbered
ones on the right. Once you've finished January, you'll tear
off the left half of the page (or flip it over) and you'll find March underneath.
I haven't located this kind of calendar in the office-supply store.
do have blank whiteboards, so I've made my own scheduler by dividing
a board into 42 boxes in which I can note upcoming tasks, such as the
day my monthly rent is due.
is January 19, so I've erased 16
from that week. I'll erase 19
20 21 22
when I'm done with them, then relabel the row with the last two days
of February and the first five days of March:
28 Mar 2 3 4 5.
continue moving down the board, always with at least 35 future dates
in view besides the current day.
might find this confusing, but I've found it useful, especially in
earlier years when I had to be prepared for baseball road trips and
other long-planned events.
17, 2021 UP?
TO THE RIGHT!
cultures have chosen to write from left to right. Also, we
generally visualize numerical quantities increasing from left to
right. Might our preference be hard-wired into our brains?
According to Jordana Cepelewicz in Quanta magazine, even
animals lean in that direction.
Rosa Rugani found that chicks associated smaller numerosities with
the left and larger ones with the right, much as humans spatially
represent ascending values on a number line. That was
thought to be our human invention, said vision scientist Adrian
Dyer, but it may just be something which is within some brains
how we process information.
JINGLE BELLS, THE MUSIC OF LOVE
Christmas is over, we stop singing Christmas carols, I noted
on this website eight years ago. But why must secular
carols be suspended as well? Why must we take down our
is relatively mild, I noted back then. (It was especially
mild this winter. We had a few snow squalls and flurries, but
not until yesterday was there so much as an inch of snow on my sidewalk.)
continued, More so than in December, we need songs and
lights and happy traditions to keep us going through the next four
dark months: the bitter cold of January, the snows of February,
the storms of March, the lingering frosts of April. We should
sing about sleigh rides and snowmen and winter wonderlands when our
frozen spirits most need a lift.
time is now! We need to be reminded that blizzards can
represent fun, not merely travel headaches.
right, I have fun in January 1956.)
Christmas carols should we still be singing? Not
those that celebrate the baby in the manger, of course, nor Santa in
his workshop nor halls being decked for the new year. So what
is left? Mainly songs about sweethearts cuddling.
Heres a medley.
the ground is white.
it while youre young!
the girls along
sing this sleighing song:
bells! Jingle, bells!
all the way!
what fun it is to ride
a one-horse open sleigh!
cheeks are nice and rosy,
snuggled up together
two birds of a feather
take that road before us
sing a chorus
on! It's lovely weather
a sleigh ride together
through the snow
a one-horse open sleigh,
the fields we go,
all the way.
on bob-tail ring,
fun it is to laugh and sing
sleighing song tonight!
learned this version
high school, in Mrs.
tantum est gaudium
vehimur in traha!
day or two ago,
thought I'd take a ride;
soon Miss Fanny Bright
seated by my side.
horse was lean and lank;
seemed his lot.
got into a drifted bank
we we got upsot.
horas, gratas horas,
away is the bluebird.
to stay is a new bird.
He sings a love song
As we go along
in a winter wonderland.
the meadow we can build a snowman,
pretend that he is Parson Brown.
say: Are you married? We'll say: No, man;
you can do the job when you're in town.
on we'll conspire,
we dream by the fire,
To face unafraid
The plans that we've made,
in a winter wonderland.
the weather outside is frightful,
the fire is so delightful;
since we've no place to go,
it snow, let it snow, let it snow!
doesn't show signs of stopping,
I brought some corn for popping.
lights are turned way down low.
it snow, let it snow, let it snow!
When we finally say good night,
How I'll hate going out in the storm;
But if you really hold me tight,
All the way home I'll be warm.
fire is slowly dying
my dear, we're still good-bye-ing;
as long as you love me so,
it snow, let it snow, let it snow!
clearly arent Christmas carols. What should we
as soon as Santa departed, the shopkeepers immediately turned their
attention to encouraging us to buy+buy+buy for the next big day,
February 14. Valentines Day decorations went up in all
our retail establishments.
submit that lyric celebrations of winter romance should henceforth
be sung not in the autumn months of November and December but rather
in the winter months of January and February. And they should
be known as Valentine carols.
A NONFERROUS METAL
thisThursday night exactly 56 years ago, near the end of my first
semester at Oberlin College, I attended a performance
by the Gilbert & Sullivan Players of Patience a
scene from which is shown on the right.
in Act II, the idyllic poet Grosvenor is surrounded by adoring
maidens but tells them, Poor, poor girls! I know that I
am loved by you, but I never can love you in return, for my heart is
fixed elsewhere. They sigh in disappointment. He
explains, Remember the fable of the Magnet and the
Churn? They don't. Then I will sing
it to you.
Magnet hung in a hardware shop,
And all around was a loving crop
scissors and needles, nails and knives,
Offering love for all their lives.
for iron the Magnet felt no whim.
Though he charméd iron, it charmed not him.
needles and nails and knives he'd turn,
For he'd set his love on a Silver Churn!
A Silver Churn?
A Silver Churn!
most aesthetic, very magnetic fancy took this turn:
I can wheedle a knife or a needle, why not a Silver Churn?
iron and steel expressed surprise.
The needles opened their well-drilled eyes.
pen-knives felt shut up, no doubt.
The scissors declared themselves cut out.
kettles, they boiled with rage, 'tis said,
Whilst every nail went off its head
hither and thither began to roam
Till a hammer came up and drove them home.
It drove them home?
It drove them home!
this magnetic, peripatetic lover he lived to learn:
no endeavor can Magnet ever attract a Silver Churn.
Gilbert's words struck a chord with me, for I was developing an
impossible crush of my own.
was inspired to write my own poems that spring. See this
month's 100 Moons article.
my uncle, who lived in Cleveland, pointed out a huge lake freighter
in the Cuyahoga River. He said it was so lengthy that we
couldn't even see the far end. I almost believed him.
of long haulers: Most cars sold in the United States are
assembled in North American factories, although some are shipped here
from Europe or Asia. Specialized trucks then transport the cars
from their factory or port of entry to local dealerships, where
individual buyers take delivery.
was not always so. Here are a couple of stories. But
don't hold me to the details; my memories are hazy, because I was
only about eight years old at the time.
1952 my father became a Chevrolet dealer in Richwood, Ohio, and he
added an Oldsmobile franchise a few years later. However, at
first he didn't have many Oldsmobiles on hand to sell. He
learned that a few were available in a city 140 miles away. As
far as I know, the cars had been transported by rail (black line)
from the factory in Lansing to a port near Detroit, then shipped
across Lake Erie (blue line) and unloaded at a dock on the east side
Richwood, two of our salesmen got in the back seat of a car.
My mother drove (brown line); I rode along. When we arrived at
the lakeside warehouse, each salesman was given the keys to one of
the new Oldsmobiles. Then we all convoyed back to Richwood.
grandfather wanted to buy an Olds from his son the dealer. The
only problem: H.F. Thomas lived 400 miles away in Livermore, Kentucky.
solution: My father simply drove the Oldsmobile to Kentucky
(bringing my mother and me along) and delivered it. After we
all visited for a couple of days, my proud grandfather used his new
Olds to take us to the Owensboro-Daviess County Regional Airport, 20
miles away. From there, we flew home.
boarded what was probably a DC-3; I recall that it was a
tail-sitter which required us to climb up a sloping aisle
to our seats.
parents were experienced air travelers who had recently flown to New
York City for some fancy General Motors shindig. They described
being served dinner on their airplane, which fascinated me.
would be my first airplane ride. But I was disappointed to
learn that there would be no meal service on the initial 80-mile hop
to Louisville (green line). A tantrum ensued, and the
stewardess tried to comfort the crying little boy.
Louisville we boarded a larger plane, also propeller-driven, which
took us to Dayton (red line) and then on to Columbus. One of
the salesmen drove to Port Columbus to collect us and bring us the
rest of the way home.
had been quite an adventure, and I was now a member of the
7, 2022 LUMJEB
syndicated word game Jumble has appeared in newspapers
since 1954. I remember my father and his friend working on it
30 years ago, and I still try my hand occasionally. I can
decode some anagrams at a glance, but more often it's literally a puzzle.
sitcom Young Sheldon supposedly takes place in about
1990. Peg, the lady in the church office, was killing
time in one episode. She had already solved Jumble One,
HABITS. The circled letters H and A would later be used to
assemble an amusing pun about the woman under the hair dryer.
Jumble Two I immediately perceived an answer, POINT, but Peg
didn't. Is NIPTO a word? she asked. Oh,
it's PINTO! Hmmm. Usually there's only one
possible answer, but here we could have either POINT or PINTO.
Or, for that matter, PINOT or PITON. There are multiple
possibilities, which (in my experience) is almost never allowed with
real Jumbles. This might be an acceptable exception if the
circle were in the first square, which has to be the letter P.
However, the circle is actually in the second square, which I would
have filled with an O but Peg would have filled with an I.
Therefore, Jumble Two is disqualified!
was stumped by Jumble Three. An anagram app reveals
that the answer has to be FORMOL, an aqueous solution of
formaldehyde, but most folks don't know that word. Also disqualified!
this is a real syndicated feature from 1990, the quality control
must have been lower then. Or is this a fake page created by a
clueless prop department?
time, I've discovered some solving tips. For example, if a
given consonant appears twice, there's a good chance that those
letters will appear side by side in the answer. And if the
letters G and I and N are in the Jumble, there's a good chance that
the answer will end in ING. So you can figure out what this one
adds up to, right?
a single guy living alone, I don't bother creating fancy meals.
Usually I grab a packaged entrée from the freezer and
once, in a hotel restaurant in University Park, Pennsylvania, I saw
a lox and bagels breakfast" on the menu and tried it and
loved it. Now I'll occasionally buy a four-ounce package of
New York Style smoked salmon at the grocery store.
New Year's Eve, I was in the mood for a celebration, so I opened the
package. Instead of bagels I used Arnold Sandwich Thins (longer shelf
life and easier to chew). Instead of traditional cream cheese I
used the whipped kind (easier to spread). I added the necessary
accompaniments of onions and capers. The hotel's version
included a couple of tomato slices; since I don't like tomatoes, I
squirted a glob of ketchup onto the side of the plate as a garnish.
I didn't pile all the ingredients into an open-faced sandwich, as
shown in this stock photo. Instead, I savored the thin slices
of salmon separately, bit by bit, letting them slowly melt in my
WHAT YEAR IS THIS NOW?
recently was asked a simple question. And reader, I got
quiet. Real quiet. Okay, let's see, 1995 was ten years
ago and the pandemic started 657 months ago, carry the one.
Regroup. Subtract the leap days. Solve for X.
Square root of the triangle. And my answer was, no joke,
What year are we in? Is it 2020?
TIME HAS NO MEANING.
Let's just cancel it. Related, I'm 36 again. Next year
I'll be 32. Make a note. Virginia
don't know whether this is a consequence of having lived through too
many decades. Or maybe it's genetic; I sometimes had to correct
my father when he referred to a 1966 Chevy as a 1956 Chevy.
any rate, I find myself confusing 2012 with 2102 or 2002. And
I can't believe that since 1992 it's already been not ten years nor
twenty years but thirty!
least now that the year is 2022 I shouldn't be making the centenary
mistake of miswriting 2021 as 2121.