My day so far (#blogboost)

I was ready to start writing the post for tomorrow when I realized that I hadn’t done a post for today yet.

Mary and I are now considered “senior citizens,” at least by the Kroger in the neighborhood, which meant that we went today to get a five percent discount. Didn’t buy a whole lot, but they had a sale on Chili’s bacon mac and cheese, so we picked up a couple and had them for lunch. Mary’s comment when she was done was “We should have gotten more.” They also had a really good sale on Oscar Meyer Smokies, so we picked up a few packages.

Oh, and we got a pie…

Made at Quozio.com
Made at Quozio.com

The phone hasn’t rung all day. It had been ringing off the hook (figuratively speaking) since last week, because yesterday was the runoff election from the primary two months ago. When we first moved here, that was new; in Chicago, whoever got the most votes won the election, regardless of how many candidates there were. Here, if no one gets fifty percent, the top two vote-getters from the primary meet in a runoff. While it’s true that voting is important, we didn’t bother for the runoff this time. We took PJ O’Rourke’s advice.

For those of us who use WordPress, they’ve changed the Add New Post window (the one you get to from the dashboard) so that the text portion just gets bigger as you type, rather than adding a scrollbar on the side. I like that, because you can see the whole post. It might mean having to type in HTML tags because the buttons on the editor have scrolled off the screen (I use the text version rather than the visual), but that doesn’t bother me.

How’s your day so far?

Two for Tuesday: Harry Chapin (#blogboost)

I was a sophomore in high school when I first heard Harry Chapin’s “Taxi.” At the time, I just thought it went on and on and on and thought the guitar part was just D-Am7 over and over. The more I heard it, the more I liked it, though, and eventually I saw him do it on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. It really blew me away: he was accompanied by a guitarist (Ron Palmer), a cellist (Tim Scott), and a bass player who did the part in the middle that I thought had been done by a woman (“Big” John Wallace). And the four of them played the song almost exactly the same way as I had heard it a thousand times before. NO ONE in the 1970′s played the same song the same way twice, and it NEVER sounded the same as on the record. I got his first album, Heads and Tales, for Christmas, and played it constantly.

About ten years later, (July 16, 1981) I was at work after lunch. My manager sat near me, so naturally I could hear everything he said in his cube. His phone rang, and I could hear him desperately trying to calm his wife down. Naturally, I was curious, but sat and waited. A few minutes later, he came in to my cube. “Harry Chapin died,” was all he could say.

Harry had been driving on the Long Island Expressway when the emergency flashers of his car went on. Could have been car trouble, could have been a heart attack, but he veered into the center lane and slowed down, almost hitting another car, then veered the other way into the path of a tractor-trailer. The driver of the car and the truck managed to get him out of his car before it caught fire, but by then it was too late. Not long after his death, his widow said that Harry was supporting 17 relatives, 14 associations, seven foundations and 82 charities. Harry wasn’t interested in saving money. He always said, ‘Money is for people,’ so he gave it away.”

Fortunately, we still have his music. Here are a couple of examples…

Our first song is the aforementioned “Taxi,” from his 1972 album Heads and Tales. It spent 16 weeks on the Hot 100, peaking at #24.

Our second song is “WOL*D,” from the 1973 album Short Stories. It peaked at #36 on the Hot 100 and at #34 in the UK, the only song to have charted there.

Harry’s official website, run by his family, is here. The website for the Harry Chapin Foundation is here.

Harry Chapin, your Two for Tuesday, July 23, 2014.

For your reading enjoyment… (#blogboost)

I didn’t get a whole lot of sleep last night. I woke up at about three AM feeling wide awake, and surfed the Internet for a while finding good stuff and sticking it in my Pocket. Here are a few that I think you’ll enjoy.

Have you seen anything good that you’d like to share?

#ROW80: Another good week

Click to visit the challenge!
Click to visit the challenge!

It was another good week at this end. To summarize:

So, that’s the story here. I’ll be around to check in with y’all next. Straight ahead!

Schoolhouse Rock (#blogboost)

Yesterday, after I posted Weird Al Yankovic’s “Word Crimes,” I got a comment from Arlee Bird that it was “more like an education promotion done to music.” And you know, strip out the adult humor (there isn’t much) and it could be like an episode of Schoolhouse Rock!

(Source: Wikimedia Foundation, under Fair Use)
(Source: Wikimedia Foundation, under Fair Use)

I was a little beyond the age that was being targeted for these, but I remember them anyway, because even when I was in high school I would get up on Saturday morning and watch the cartoons. They were interstitials (a show that was wedged between two longer shows) that taught multiplication, grammar, science, American history, economics, and later computers and earth science. There were 64 episodes made in all, and a few of them played every Saturday between the cartoon shows.

ABC schedule for Saturday morning, February 10, 1973 (source: The Museum of Classic Chicago Television)
ABC schedule for Saturday morning, February 10, 1973 (source: The Museum of Classic Chicago Television)

Here’s a taste of what we saw. First, here’s an episode called “I Got Six,” which appeared as a Multiplication Rock! episode on February 10, 1973 (the schedule above). It was written by Bob Dorough and performed by Grady Tate.

Now, “Conjunction Junction,” which showed on November 17, 1973, written by Bob Dorough and performed by Terry Morel and Jack Sheldon.

Finally, here’s “I’m Just A Bill,” written by Dave Frishberg and performed by Jack and John Sheldon. It first showed on March 27, 1976.

The entire set is now sold on DVD’s by Disney Educational Productions. They make great gifts for the kids in your life, or for you, if you want to relive your early days.

Do you remember Schoolhouse Rock?

What this blog is all about (#blogboost)

I’d like to talk a litle bit about this blog, and why I do it.

I can hear you right now: “Yeah, right, you’re just stuck for a topic.”

All right, I admit it: I’m running a little short of blog ideas right now.

Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, who ran a little short in general. (Public Domain, source: Wikipedia)
Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, who ran a little short in general. (Public Domain, source: Wikipedia)

When I started this blog in January 2012, the subhead was “The Writer’s Blog of John Holton.” And I wrote a few blog posts about writing and being a writer, and to be honest, I wasn’t enjoying myself. See, I’m a writer, and I’m serious about it, but I’m not one of those people who can write about writing. It wasn’t my thing.

So, without writing to write about, I could either shut the thing down, or I could work with it a little bit and see what I could make it. Fortunately, I heard about the A to Z Challenge, the wildly successful blog challenge that takes place every April, and said, yeah, why not? So I signed up and chose as my theme the NATO spelling alphabet. The idea is, every day during April except for Sundays, you write a post that starts with the letter of the day April 1st is A, April 2nd is B, etc.). And I had a ball. So much so that, the next year, I did the challenge again, this time using members of the Chicago White Sox from the 1960′s and 1970′s. And I had more fun. I couldn’t think of a theme this year, so I went sans theme. I just figured out a word for each letter of the alphabet, and wrote about it. You can click on “A to Z Challenge” in the tag cloud if you’d like to see some of the entries.

Doing A to Z showed me that I love writing about a lot of topics: baseball, music, TV, my family, technical topics, science, math, what it’s like being a guy who types with one hand because of a stroke… just about anything that comes to mind.

There are a couple of regular features here.

  • Two For Tuesday: In the spirit of almost every radio station in the country, I feature two songs by a musician or musical group every Tuesday, and try to write a short article about them. Typically it’s an act that I’m familiar with, though there have been times when it’s been a learning experience. In March of last year, for example, I chose to feature artists whose birthdays are the same as mine (March 25). I knew some (Aretha Franklin and Elton John), but needed a couple more, and picked Bonnie Guitar, a West Coast performer, and Arturo Toscanini, the great conductor of the NBC Symphony. If you click on the “Two for Tuesday” tag in the tag cloud, you’ll be able to see them all.
  • The Thursday Ten: I just recently resumed this feature a few weeks ago, because I really needed practice in building blog posts around lists. Again, the topics are varied and often something that strikes me. One of the early ones was songs about rain, because it was raining outside. Yesterday’s topic was a highly-technical one on light; one of the early ones was a list of ten elephant jokes. Click on “the Thursday Ten” in the tag cloud to see some examples.
  • ROW80 Checkins: I participate in A Round of Words in 80 Days, or ROW80, “the challenge that knows you have a life.” Each quarter of the year is a round, during which participants declare what their goals (writing or other) are for the coming three months. Then, each week, on Sunday and/or Wednesday, we tell what our progress has been during the previous period. I’m one of the ROW80 sponsors, and think it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread, and would like to encourage one and all to try it. Anyway, you can see my check-in posts (usually on Sunday) here, and can select “ROW80″ in the tag cloud if you’re interested.

A few weeks ago, my Thursday Ten post was about my favorite newspaper columnists. It never ceased to amaze me how they could come up with something new and fresh to write about every day. During this round of ROW80, I decided that one of my goals was to try and duplicate their efforts and to post to the blog every day. I had entered the Ultimate Blog Challenge, the challenge being to blog every day in July, and thought, what would happen if, at the end of July, I just kept going?

So that’s a little bit about the blog. I want to thank everyone who has come by for the last two-and-a-half years and left comments and struck up a conversation. If you have any ideas on features you’d like to see, or would like to see an artist featured on Two for Tuesday or a topic you’d like to see covered in a future Thursday Ten, leave me a comment. To quote one of the best bloggers around, Kristen Lamb, I love hearing from you!

And, again, thank you!

Source: candu239, photobucket.com
Source: candu239, photobucket.com

The Thursday Ten: Some Light Reading (#blogboost)

Okay, maybe not light reading, more like reading about light.

A friend of mine and I were talking the other day, and he came out with a philosophical question: “What is light?” And I couldn’t answer him. Then I thought, “that would make a great Thursday Ten!” So I found several resources on the Internet, starting with Wikipedia and landing on NASA’s Tour of the Electromagnetic Spectrum. It’s a tremendous resource that I’ve bookmarked and plan to come back to on a regular basis. Anyway, here we go…

TEN FACTS ABOUT LIGHT

  1. Light is electromagnetic radiation. On the electromagnetic spectrum (which includes the radio and TV bands) light resides between microwaves and gamma rays.

    The electromagnetic spectrum (source: NASA)
    The electromagnetic spectrum (source: NASA)
  2. Visible light has wavelengths between 400 and 700 nanometers.
    Color Wavelength (nm)
    Red 650
    Orange 590
    Yellow 570
    Green 510
    Blue 475
    Indigo 445
    Violet 400

    The first letters of the colors spell out the name Roy G. Biv.

  3. Infrared (IR) waves are between 1 and 100 microns (1 micron=1/1,000,000 meter) long. You can feel infrared waves near sources of heat. Night-vision goggles allow you to see thermal images of people and other warm bodies. Your TV remote uses infrared energy to communicate with the TV, and heat lamps use it to overheat food at fast-food restaurants and buffets.

    An infrared light (source: ekosmet.com)
    An infrared light (source: ekosmet.com)
  4. Ultraviolet (UV) light is generally expressed in terms of energy, from a couple of electron-volts to 100 eV. Ultraviolet light is what causes sunburn, so make sure you wear sunblock. I’m serious about that. Forensic analysts use UV light to see things like blood residue and other secretions. It’s also used by TV stations to show you how gross hotel rooms are.
  5. Light exhibits properties of both waves and particles. A light particle is called a photon, and it’s a quantum particle. If I were Sheldon Cooper, I’d explain it.

    3201210-sheldon

  6. White light is a combination of light of all colors. Sir Isaac Newton noticed that, when white light passes through a prism, you can see the individual colors. This is also the principle behind rainbows, where water works as a prism. You can see the spectrum on Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon album.
    source: amazon.com
    source: amazon.com
  7. Light travels through a vacuum (for example, outer space) at approximately 186,000 miles per second, or 299,792,458 meters per second. Rounding it to 300 million meters per second make calculations a whole lot easier.
  8. A light year is the distance that light travels in a year, about 9.4605284 × 1015 meters. A parsec is 3.26 light-years. The closest star to the Sun is Proxima Centauri, about 1.3 parsecs or 4.24 light-years away. That means, when we see light from Proxima Centauri tonight, we’re seeing light that happened in May 2010.
    Proxima Centauri, as seen through the Hubble Telescope (source: Wikipedia)
    Proxima Centauri, as seen through the Hubble Telescope (source: Wikipedia)
  9. The refractive index of a medium is an indication of how much light is slowed by it. Glass has a refractive index of 1.5, and light passes through it at about 124,000 miles per second. Water’s index is 1.3, and air’s is 1.0003. I’m not sure what the refractive index of a glass of water is.
  10. LASER originally was an acronym for “Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation,” but it’s more commonly written in lowercase (capitalized at the beginning of a sentence) today. A laser produces a spatially-coherent beam of amplified light that can be focused into a tight area, making it good for laser cutting, lithography, laparoscopic surgery, pointing things out on a screen in a darkened room, groovy light shows, and driving your cat insane.

    cat-and-laser-pointer-with-writing-400x300

And there’s your Thursday Ten for July 17, 2014.

RIP Saturday Morning Cartoons (#blogboost)

A TV like the one we had at home when I was younger. (source: homeimprovementbasics.com)
A TV like the one we had at home when I was younger. (source: homeimprovementbasics.com)

A couple of weeks ago, in my Thursday Ten post about things you don’t see on TV any more, I said that Saturday morning cartoons were one of the things that have disappeared.

Well, one of my readers (and a very dear friend) wrote me a note offline and said that didn’t sound right, that in fact her grandchildren watched cartoons on Saturday morning. I checked the TV listings for her area, and lo and behold, there are a couple of stations in her neck of the woods that are showing cartoons on Saturday morning. I’m sure that I were to check the schedules in other markets, I would find the same thing.

So, yeah, you still see cartoons Saturday morning and just about any other time. The difference is that, up until the end of the 1990′s, the major networks (ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox) scheduled a four- to five-hour block of cartoons for Saturday morning. They aren’t doing that anymore.

Why not? A lot of reasons. This article from 2002 suggests that one reason was the Children’s Television Act, which gave the FCC the power to “increase the quantity of educational and informational broadcast television programming for children.” Another reason was that cable networks like Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network were drawing more viewers. The audience for the network fare was moving on.

Since then, we’ve seen an increase in the number of cable and satellite cartoon stations and the streaming services (Hulu, Netflix, iTunes, even YouTube) have curated lots of cartoon content, both new shows and classics. And kids have better things to do on Saturday mornings. So, the Big Four are programming Saturday morning like the rest of the week, with news shows and infomercials, and giving their affiliates more latitude to do programming.

So, the Saturday morning network cartoonfest is a thing of the past. Oh well.

If you’re still interested, Google “death of Saturday morning cartoons,” and you’ll get a good-sized list of articles on the subject. As for me, I’m going to check out Betty Boop on YouTube

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