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C-Notes, Part 6
Assorted thoughts in 100 words or less

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JUNE 17, 2004:

When things don't go as planned, Joe tries to explain to his supervisor what happened, in hopes that a similar situation can be avoided in the future.  “I was distracted by the frammis problem, and I miscounted the widgets,” he admits.

The boss won't accept that.  “I don't want excuses!” he shouts.

So what's the difference between an explanation and an excuse?  As far as this boss is concerned, is there a difference?


FEBRUARY 10, 2005:

On a related topic, “Smallpotatoes” complained today on a message board:

I know it's what bosses do, but telling somebody what they should have done after the fact is pointless.  All it does is aggravate the situation.  Unless you have access to time-travel, it doesn't help at all.

Actually, it does help, provided the boss takes the proper tone:  not berating the employee but saying, “If a similar situation comes up again, I think you should handle it this way.”  We can't change the past ... but we can change the future.


MARCH 10, 2005:

Early in 1916, according to my hometown Richwood Gazette, Mr. and Mrs. William Swartz had twin daughters.  They named them Ethyl and Ethel.

I wonder how that worked around the house?  “Ethyl, please come here.  No, not you, Ethel.  I was speaking to Ethyl.”

Maybe they called them Y and E.


FEBRUARY 8, 2005:

In June of 1929, on the black roof of a local building, the Chamber of Commerce painted  RICHWOOD, OHIO  in 10-foot yellow letters.  This navigational aid for airplane pilots was legible from an altitude of 3,000 feet.  I once saw an old aerial photograph of such a sign; I was told it was on the building that housed the service department of my father's auto dealership from 1952 to 1964.

Today, we should paint 150-foot letters on a football field in every city, so that airline passengers can identify the anonymous clumps of buildings they see far below.

A recent article reveals that when Southern California was being developed, many residential projects identified themselves with big signs like this, except the signs were on hillsides.  Most of the HOLLYWOODLAND sign is still there.  But Richwood doesn't have hills.

Italy does have hills, especially the Apennine Mountains.  Near the top of Monte Giano, looming over the town of Antrodoco far below, there's a living sign.  The pine trees were planted in this formation in 1939.  But they don't spell out ANTRODOCO.  They spell DVX.

That's Latin for IL DUCE, and it's a tribute to Benito Mussolini!  The letters are 200 meters high.  By my reckoning, they should be legible at 300 times that distance, or 37 miles.  Ken Jennings says that on a clear winter day, when the dark green pine trees are surrounded by snow, the letters can be read 45 miles away at Rome.

MARCH 9, 2005:

In 1955, it was said that America soon would launch into space an artificial satellite of the earth.  As an eight-year-old boy, I read with interest the predictions of this great scientific feat.

But on Friday, October 4, 1957, the Soviets beat us to it with their Sputnik.

Around noon the next day, CBS television aired a special report about the satellite, which I watched with even greater interest.  To my disappointment, the report ended and a hockey game came on.  After that, for some reason I never really learned to like hockey very much.


MARCH 9, 2005:

Other Saturday TV circa 1957:

Often around noon I watched Big Top on CBS, sponsored by Sealtest ice cream.  Live in a studio, a ringmaster introduced circus acts.  This was shot “in limbo” (against a black background) without an audience. 

One Saturday afternoon, a college basketball doubleheader was scheduled in upstate New York:  A vs B, followed by X vs Y.  But due to a winter storm, the only team that had arrived was A.  Finally X walked into the gym.  Because network television was waiting, the pairings were rearranged and X got to play A on TV.


DECEMBER 6, 2004:

Want to avoid shootouts or never-ending overtimes?

Is "home court advantage" worth at least half a point?  Of course.

I checked National Basketball Association statistics on March 15, 2004.  So far that season, the home team had outscored the visitors by 3.44 points per game.

Before the game begins, give one team a bonus half-point.  Perhaps the half-point goes to the visitors to offset the other team's home-court advantage, or maybe the half-point goes to the team with the better record in the regular season.  Whatever the tiebreaking procedure, it's spelled out in the rules and agreed to before the game starts.

When the game ends, if both teams have the same number of points on the scoreboard, the team with the extra half-point is the winner.  Ties are now impossible, and there are no more extra innings.


FEBRUARY 7, 2005:

A half-remembered story from around 1959:

My father either was co-sponsoring a local parade or had booked entertainment for the introduction of new models at his Chevrolet-Oldsmobile dealership.  At any rate, the Richwood High School marching band was scheduled to perform.  Since my father was paying for it, he asked the band to play “See the USA in Your Chevrolet.”  (The alternative selection:  “In My Merry Oldsmobile.”)

It came as no surprise to me that director Robert Shoemaker couldn't find the music in an arrangement for band instruments.  I don't think the band was able to honor the request.


MARCH 15, 2005:

On March 3, 1962, astronaut John Glenn returned to New Concord, Ohio, near my birthplace.  I watched the celebration on TV.  My father went upstairs to listen to basketball on the radio:  #1 Ohio State (54-1 over the last two years) at Wisconsin.

Later that afternoon, Columbus's Channel 4 aired the game on videotape.  OSU led the country in shooting with 51%, but this Saturday, Wisconsin built a big lead while holding Lucas, Havlicek & Co. to 32%.  As the telecast neared its end, I asked, “Ohio State did win, didn't they?”  But my father wouldn't say.  Wisconsin won 86-67.


JANUARY 29, 2005:

Duquesne basketball coach Mike Nee had this to say about communicating with his players:  “You can't talk too much.”

That's one of those odd sentences that can have two diametrically opposed meanings, depending on whether Nee was using the word can't to mean should not or are unable to.

The sentence can be interpreted as either

“Stop talking!  To avoid overdoing it, you must not talk excessively.”


“Keep talking!  No matter how long you speak, it's impossible for you to talk too much.”


MARCH 14, 2005:

A new record loomed when a Cleveland newspaper listed the ten snowiest winters in local history (red dots) and the ten least snowy (yellow dots).  All the driest winters came before 1932; all but one of the snowiest winters came after 1977.  Isn't this is a clear indication of climate change?

Well, maybe not.  Procedures for measuring snow have changed over the years.  Also, early measurements were made downtown, within a mile of Lake Erie.  More recently, official measurements have been made at the airport, on high ground four miles farther inland and more likely to receive “lake effect” snowfall.


MARCH 9, 2005:

I sometimes listen to a “classic rock” radio station that apparently has been playing the same 30 songs for the past 30 years.

My college radio station also had a short playlist of popular songs; but the list wasn't written down, and we changed it weekly as new records were released.

We also broadcast classical music, and I recall that the rules were much different in that department.  To discourage the classical hosts from all playing the same “warhorse” symphonies, any given recording could not be aired more than once in a six-month period!


MARCH 9, 2005:

This graceful shape is called an escervaire.  I gave it that name while sketching it when I was about seven years old.  It's the profile view of a sort of underhand eephus pitch:  the path taken by a tossed rubber ball, from the backswing of my hand (left) up into the air (top) and then down to the ground (right).

Actually the name meant “ess curve in the air” and I spelled it “S-curvair.”  But the pseudo-French escervaire seems more elegant, don't you think?



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