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ArchiveNOVEMBER 2023



Sentences sometimes lose a little something in translation, even between related languages.  As an experiment I used Google Translate to convert a piece I wrote in 1965 into Latin, then into Spanish, then into French, and finally back into English.  Here are some excerpts.


4X translated

A Ford hardtop with a loud engine turned at the traffic light.

A Ford hardtop with a big engine spun at the traffic light.

Its headlights lit up the fog rather unsteadily as it accelerated past me, its red taillights mirrored in the wet pavement.

His head searched the mist more unsteadily as he passed me, its red tail visible on the wet ground.

[Rain] may be as wildly animated as a gypsy dance, pelting down everywhere, flowing away madly, carrying the mud with it in a frenzied rush.

Perhaps the Egyptian is so graced with dances, on all sides of the rocks, mad with lymph,  carrying mud with angry reeds.

It may come shouting out its thunderous prophecies of doom to the world.

He thunders around the world shouting his predictions.

That last translation may actually be more poetic.  However, I must insist:  dance ye not on all sides of the rocks, ye angry reeds mad with lymph!



I was watching on TV yesterday as 11-0 Michigan hosted 11-0 Ohio State in an epic college football battle.  The Wolverines won and remain undefeated.

However — as careful readers of this website may recall — both those teams lost, at home, to my school!  My school was Oberlin College, located in northern Ohio roughly halfway between the two larger universities.  Having been Oberlin's radio play-by-play announcer for the past three seasons, I received my diploima along with 600 classmates in 1969.

But I must admit it was decades earlier when we last defeated a Big Ten team.  That was so long ago that the Big Ten was still called the Western Conference — western, that is, compared to the traditional Ivy League powers.

In 1921, as I noted here, Oberlin upset Ohio State in Columbus.  It was the final season for old Ohio Field, which was wet and unconducive to a lot of scoring.  The next year the Buckeyes would move to the “Horseshoe.”  Never again would they allow another Ohio school to beat them in football.

And as I noted here, 29 years before that at the predecessor to Ann Arbor's “Big House,” Oberlin was ahead of Michigan 24-22 when time expired.  Winning coach John Heisman led his undefeated team off the field to catch the last train home.  But the Michigan umpire, insisting that there was still injury time remaining to be played, allowed a Wolverine to walk unopposed into the end zone, whereupon his team also claimed victory.  We Obies still say we were the rightful winners of that 1892 contest.


NOVEMBER 25, 2023   Z0000000000M IN

TV crime dramas have only an hour to solve the mystery.  Therefore, they often pretend that their investigations can be expedited by miraculous technology.

For example, take the lighthearted BBC mystery series Shakespeare and Hathaway: Private Investigators, set in Stratford-upon-Avon.  Many episodes include the English version of a Miranda warning:  “You do not have to say anything.  But it may harm your defence if you do not mention, when questioned, something which you later rely on in court.  Anything you do say may be given in evidence.”

In one episode, Frank Hathaway has learned that the police have CCTV footage of a car park, showing a man standing next to a black MG.

“Can you give me a closeup of that licence plate?”


Click, click.  The detective sergeant magnifies the image 20 times.

And here's the result.  The original CCTV picture must have been extremely high resolution.  It must have contained a billion pixels!

In the real world, if there had been a camera operator standing by, he could have obtained a closeup of the plate via an optical zoom (adjusting the lens to increase its focal length).  But once the image had been recorded as pixels, it became impossible to add additional information between the existing lines of resolution.

I've digitally magnified this picture merely 10 times.

Now can you read the plates?  Of course you can!

It's the magic of television!



“We will have such a prologue.  And it shall be written in eight and six.”

“No, make it two more.  Let it be written in eight and eight.”

Why are these two Shakespearean characters discussing numbers?  And which of them is about to be turned into a donkey?

I explain in 8 and 6.


NOVEMBER 19, 2013 flashback  

A couple of years ago, I wrote a piece recalling Where I Was on a certain November afternoon in 1963.



If Poseidon was the violent and ill-tempered god of the sea, what was he doing carrying around a pitchfork like a mild-mannered hay farmer?

Wrong answer:
Poseidon stole the pitchfork from Satan.

Right answer:
It's not a pitchfork.  It's a three-toothed fishing spear known as a “trident.”

A gladiator called a retiarius used a trident when he pretended to be a mighty fishing man, throwing a net to ensnare his prey and then going in for the kill.


NOVEMBER 14, 2023   

Years ago on this website, I posted excerpts from letters I wrote home from college, beginning with an event during Orientation Week when we freshmen learned our school's traditional songs.

In a new article called Did It Really Happen? my classmates, reminiscing around the time of our 55th reunion, agree that freshmanhood was not just a bad dream.

They also point out the sexism of those old paternalistic traditions and how we eventually moved past wearing beanies.  “We had to step back and question fundamental assumptions,” writes Judy Klavans.  “And we did.”



Here's a condensed version of what two-time Pulitzer Award winning journalist Dave Philipps wrote for the New York Times last November 21.

COLORADO SPRINGS — Richard M. Fierro spent 15 years as an Army officer and left as a major in 2013.  Now he was trying to get better at going out.

In Iraq and Afghanistan he'd been shot at, seen roadside bombs shred trucks in his platoon, and lost friends.  He was twice awarded the Bronze Star.

For a long time after coming home, crowds put him on edge.  In restaurants he sat against the wall, facing the door.  No matter how much he tried to relax, part of him was always ready for an attack.  He was too often distrustful, quick to anger.  It had been hell on his wife and daughter.   He was working on it.  There was medication and sessions with a psychologist.

Mr. Fierro was at a table in Club Q with his wife, daughter and friends on Saturday when the sudden flash of gunfire ripped across the nightclub and instincts forged during four combat deployments instantly kicked in.  Fight back, he told himself, protect your people.

Without thinking, he hit the floor, pulling his friend down with him.  Bullets sprayed across the bar, smashing bottles and glasses.  People screamed.  Mr. Fierro looked up and saw a figure as big as a bear, easily more than 300 pounds, wearing body armor and carrying a rifle a lot like the one he had carried in Iraq.

The long-suppressed instincts of a platoon leader surged back to life.  He raced across the room, grabbed the gunman by a handle on the back of his body armor, pulled him to the floor and jumped on top of him.  “I grabbed the gun out of his hand and just started hitting him in the head, over and over,” Mr. Fierro said.

What allowed him to throw aside all fear and act?  He said he has no idea.  Probably those old instincts of war, that had burdened him for so long at home, suddenly had a place now that something like war had come to his hometown.

When police arrived a few minutes later, the gunman was no longer struggling.  Mr. Fiero said he started yelling like he was back in combat.  “Casualties.  Casualties.  I need a medic here now!”

His daughter's boyfriend was nowhere to be found.  The family got a call late Sunday from his mother.  He had died in the shooting.  When Mr. Fierro heard, he said, he held his daughter and cried.

In part he cried because he knew what lay ahead.  The families of the dead, the people who were shot, had now been in war, like he had.  They would struggle like he and so many of his combat buddies had.  They would ache with misplaced vigilance, they would lash out in anger, never be able to scratch the itch of fear, be torn by the longing to forget and the urge to always remember.

The death toll could have been much higher, officials said on Sunday, if patrons of the bar had not stopped the gunman.  “He saved a lot of lives,” Mayor John Suthers said of Mr. Fierro.

Postcript:  In 2023, Anderson Aldrich admitted to opening fire inside Club Q.  Aldrich, 23, was given five consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole.


NOVEMBER 9, 2023

During World War II, industrial Pittsburgh was the “Arsenal of Democracy.”  Later, during the Cold War, the ciry's steel mills were protected by a ring of a dozen Nike missile sites.

This was launch site PI-02.  From these abandoned pads on a hilltop next to the former Rock Airport, just 4½ miles from where I live now, surface-to-air missiles (below) once stood ready in case Soviet bombers appeared over the horizon. 

Four miles farther west were three underground missile silos (left).  They were decommissioned by the time I moved to Pennsylvania in 1974 because intercontinental ballistic missiles had rendered them obsolete.  Those old silos have been covered by a parking lot, and their location is now called West Deer Nike Park.


NOVEMBER 6, 2013 flashback    COPY EDITING

I’m mildly annoyed when reporters split their writings in ways that make it difficult for readers to follow.  Perhaps it’s because of my background in broadcasting, where poorly constructed sentences must be avoided because listeners have no chance to go back and “re-read” them.

For example, from an article this morning about local election results:

“Yes, I definitely do,” Pryor-Norman said when asked if she felt the fliers impacted the race.

You definitely do what?  We eventually find out, at the end of the sentence.  Better:

When Pryor-Norman was asked if she felt the fliers impacted the race, she said, “Yes, I definitely do.”

A columnist wrote this about a local alcohol tax:

Money is running like a river of wine (and beer and harder stuff such as ouzo, though the latter is a drink one should be very cautious with, based on personal experience) through the county’s coffers.

I would have begun with a cohesive statement, “Money is running through the county’s coffers like a river of wine,” and only then followed “wine” with the parenthetical booze joke.

Here’s one more example:

It was after A-Rod added lawyers from the firm Jay Z and his Roc Nation sports agency uses that talks went south.

What did you say?  His “sports agency uses that talks?”  I had to read the sentence again to figure it out.  “A-Rod added lawyers” and “talks went south” are separated by too many other words.   I would have arranged the sentence in this easier-to-comprehend order:

Talks went south after A-Rod added lawyers from the firm that’s used by Jay Z and his Roc Nation sports agency.

Newspapers are having a hard enough time keeping readers; don’t force the readers to work harder than necessary.



I started to watch this morning's Dolphins-Chiefs “American football” game live from Frankfurt, Germany.  However, I was immediately distracted by an odd though minor detail:  the captioning of the national anthems.

NFL telecasts' closed captions may be automatically generated, speech-to-text, instead of being manually entered by a stenotype operator.  This is good, as the captions promptly appear onscreen with a delay of only three or four seconds.  But sometimes the generator misinterprets what it hears.  Once the referee announced an illegal shift which we read as a “chemical” shift.  Or when a vocalist was performing, echoes in the stadium might have added a syllable here or there.  Kontra K was identified as Coach K, who as far as we know has never been a Berlin-based rapper.

Anyhow, when the anthems were introduced, the TV director first showed us the waiting German singer listening to the American singer.  That error was soon corrected, and we read:

Oh, you can use me by the dawn's early lights.
Was so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming chain.
Who whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight
or the ramparts we watched were so gallantly gently streaming in.
And the rockets red glare, the bombs bursting in air
gave proof through the night that our flag was still there
O'er oh, say, does that star spangled banner yet wave raise
or the land of the free We and the home of the brave

Not that bad, considering.  But then the automatic captioning generator heard German words it didn't recognize, and it gamely tried to interpret them as English words and names.

Here's the German anthem, line by line, in groups of three.  First is the English meaning, second is the German wording that we heard, and third is the closed captioning that we read.  (The generator apparently imagined it was a chef, denied it was Muslim, then threw up its hands after the second Freiheit and began babbling and swearing.)

Unity and justice and freedom
Einigkeit und Recht und Freiheit
I need Nick right on entrees. Right on fry. Right.

For the German fatherland!
Für das deutsche Vaterland!
Further as a far time light.

Towards these let us all strive
Danach lasst uns alle streben
And I'm not license Allah driven.

Brotherly with heart and hand!
Brüderlich mit Herz und Hand!
Rudolph Limit heads on to that

Unity and justice and freedom
Einigkeit und Recht und Freiheit
shiny car It Rached on flight Zendesk Look on top finds bloom glance

Are the foundation of happiness;
Sind des Glückes Unterpfand;
Jesus Lucas blue blue die just far tonight Hands

Flourish in the radiance of this happiness,
Blüh' im Glanze dieses Glückes
blue glance deep Jesus look just

Flourish, German fatherland!
Blühe, deutsches Vaterland!
blue It's all just far Tyler.



The art of photography had been around for 80 years when a cameraman captured this lovely view of a bicyclist on a college campus.  It happened to be the campus where I would enroll 60 years later.

But that 1905 photographer had a “panoramic” camera, in which the lens pivoted horizontally during the exposure to produce a much wider view.  Thus he was able to “pan right” and include the Memorial Arch which had been dedicated only two years before.  The result is below; click here for a larger version.

Modern smartphone cameras also allow you to accomplish this.  You press and hold the button while you rotate yourself horizontally in one direction.  Then the camera's software automatically stitches all those pixels into a single wide view, like this one I posted four weeks ago.

But I started producing panoramas more than 40 years ago, using a much older technique:  shooting several pictures and displaying the prints side by side.  Some examples are in this month's 100 Moons article.

To read more, click this box for a classic article I posted to this website more than a hundred months ago.



As Garrison Keillor would have described it, it's been a quiet week in my old hometown.  The local weekly newspaper keeps me informed, but there's not a lot happening in that part of Ohio these days.

On October 19 the front page of the Gazette announced:

• The high school principal has been be promoted.

• Dr. Jill Biden visited 82,000 nearby hens for World Egg Day.

The neglected tennis courts over by the lake also made that edition when Mayor Scott Jerew called them the current “eyesore” of Richwood Park.  “Hardly anybody plays tennis,” he observed.  On his recommendation, the village council voted to include a rehab as part of the next capital grant request.  The project, costing over $150,000 including new fencing, would involve tearing up the pavement and laying down eight inches of stone and blacktop for six pickleball courts.  The mayor said that if residents still wanted tennis courts, lines and netting could be added.

With a shortage of current news, Page 3 reprints news of the past.  I've been known to quote some ancient items.  Now the feature is called “In Retrospect,” and the October 12 edition recalled other sports that were delayed.

• Fifty years ago, shuffleboard courts were dedicated at the rear of the senior citizens apartment building known as the Richwood Civic Center.  Residents, board members, and friends attended the ceremony.  But the strip of concrete was not quite ready for play because the discs and cue sticks had not yet arrived.

• One hundred years ago, a different competition was hampered when “the playing time was shortened by the non-arrival of officials.”  However, the abbreviated game eventually did get under way, and “from the word go” the competitors held nothing back.  “Battling grimly up and down the field, line thudding against line, Richwood High School and North Lewisburg High fought through a powerful football game that tested each team's mettle to the utmost.”

• And that 1923 newspaper also complimented the “splendid corps of teachers” at the local school.  “Attendance has been very satisfactory this month.  Now let us keep up this good attendance all the year.  It is important the children be in school every day.  They cannot be taught at home.”