Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Today's Standard of excellence is mediocrity.
(Note: In recent years I have observed a decline in the quality of many products, services and performance in general. Postings under this title from time to time will explore this hypothesis.)
Regarding a recent freezing rain event which caused a whopping 250 private residents to loose power in the Lexington and Bellville area for a brief time, this from that event's story in the Mansfield News Journal: "Jeff Walters, manager of the Lexington branch Post Office said, '...If we can't deliver safely then we won't go out.' "
What ever happened to the storied history of the post office which used to proudly proclaim, "Neither rain nor snow nor sleet nor dark of night shall stay these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds."
I'll tell you what has happened; our standard of excellence has become mediocrity.
Saturday, December 27, 2008
I treasure fond memories of model trains being an enchanting part of my youthful Christmas holidays.
About the time my father-Santa went to bed early Christmas morning I would be hurling down the steps to be sure ole Mr. Kringle had returned my toy railroad to our living room out on N. Benton St.
Its short legged 4 x 8 foot platform would always be there, supporting the Lionel trains with the gaily decorated tree right smack in the middle of things.
As I began to ponder this blog story I was delighted to meet veteran Mansfield city fireman Dale Clemons who oozes the enjoyment of my youth with his exquisitely detailed train layout of that exact same size.
For me it was raw, hair tingling magic way back then. For Dale it is “Sanity time.”
He can escape the bone bruising challenges of his profession there in his warm basement and wrestle with yet another small detail of his Lilliputian-sized railroad town.
On one street corner of his layout is Rosemary’s German House, a restaurant honoring his mother-in-law. He almost molded it into a house of questionable repute but doubted she would be too pleased.
The day I visited a two-story commercial building in his layout was belching real smoke and being attended to by a squadron of miniature firefighters while trains roared by on the nearby main line through town.
The smoke was coming from a carefully hand-crafted concoction hidden below his layout. The authenticity of his firemen’s attack on the blaze was from his 19 years of service in the real business of fire fighting.
Meanwhile, back at the model firehouse the stand-by squad of miniature firemen was enjoying a game of Corn Hole on Dale’s hand-crafted game boxes and tossing bags while just down the street things were normal at the town’s very-authentic, scratch-built greenhouse.
Dale started this layout just a year ago and hopes to double its size soon. His town has 30 plus buildings and a subway that goes somewhere. It has miles of fishing-line electrical wires whose realism compels any visitor’s amazement.
“I’d guess I have a couple thousand dollars invested here,” Dale smiled. “Maybe a wee bit more” he whispered.
It’s not important for wives to hear of such details.
We joked about that wee bit of adult male philosophy as he returned his attention (right) to some tender-loving-care of an old engine...
...and I sat quietly for a moment in the swirl of pleasant memories.
Thursday, December 25, 2008
We enjoy sharing the above image which was my cover photo on our holiday greeting cards this year. The lighted bubble ornament was delightfully suggestive of a time long past and the hint of a Christmas tree was compliments of a branch of white pine I found on the floor of the woods. Photoshop software provided the text "Noel".
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
For over 20 years the century-old Herlihy family home on West 2nd St, in Mansfield has been the showcase of local Christmas displays. Decorating for this year’s celebration began in mid-October and features 25 Christmas trees alone including the 16 foot behemoth pictured right which sports 6,300 lights.
Another popular feature of the display is a Lionel model train layout (below) first collected by the late Paul Herlihy 50 years ago. It has to be the most publicly enjoyed model train display in Mansfield history and stimulates many memories of the author’s own Lionel trains of childhood Christmases.
Please join us Saturday for a peek at some other local model railroading.
Saturday, December 20, 2008
The transcontinental route of the Lincoln Highway is depicted in the map above while below traffic moves through Mansfield’s square which still prominently displays the historic highway’s signs. In the first photo lower right looking north through the subway on Park Ave. East, you can see the route through town was different from 1913 to 1928 than in later years. In the next lower picture a gaily painted fire plug at Park Ave. West and Bowman St., is sporting the Lincoln Highway symbol in celebration of the city’s 200th birthday in 2008.
It was dedicated in 1913. Its first official length was 3,389 miles from Times Square in New York City to Lincoln Park in San Francisco and it soon became known as “The Main Street Across America”.
It also was the country’s first major memorial dedicated to President Abraham Lincoln, pre-dating Lincoln’s Memorial in Washington, DC by nine years.
Its entire route through Ohio was located on US Route 30 from East Liverpool to Van Wert and on into Indiana. That highway used to pass through downtown Mansfield. Now, of course, we know US Route 30 locally as the Mansfield Expressway.
US 30 originally came into Richland County from the east near Mifflin on what is now known as Ohio Route 430 and it exits our county to the west on Ohio Route 309. Notice the number “30” is contained in those new route numbers; a clue to the route’s original designation.
That is why you will see those familiar, red, white and blue Lincoln Highway markers on those roads today and not along the current four-lane version.
In 1912 railroads dominated our interstate transportation and only 8.6 percent of the network of mostly local roads was “improved” surfaces of gravel, or bricks for example. That era was long before asphalt or concrete paving were common.
The cost of constructing the highway was estimated at 10 million dollars in that year. Today, by the way, it costs an average of 15 million dollars to build one mile of interstate highway.
Blazing the trail for the new route west of the Mississippi River in 1913 involved a caravan of 17 cars and two trucks and took 34 days to reach the west coast.
Travel across the newly constructed “highway” was described in those years as “...somewhat of a sporting proposition.” Motorists were advised to wade through any water encountered to verify its depth.
Advice to travelers near Fish Springs, UT in those days was to build a fire of sagebrush in the event of trouble and, a Mr. Thomas would come to the rescue with his team of horses.
A young army Lt. Col. named Eisenhower was involved in another convoy across the US in 1919—that one took nearly two months to accomplish. It was that effort plus his experience with the German autobahn in the 1940s that ultimately led to today’s interstate highway system which was formed with legislation adopted in 1956 during Eisenhower’s presidency.
If you hop on the Mansfield Expressway today, turn east and follow US 30 you will wind up in Atlantic City, NJ. Head west and stop just before your feet get wet and you will be in Astoria, OR.
That coast-to-coast ride will take a good deal longer that a similar zip on the interstate highways.
If you follow the original Lincoln Highway you will travel on many, many routes in addition to US 30.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
The Lincoln Highway, the nation’s first transcontinental highway, passed smack through the center of Mansfield, OH following mostly US Route 30 on its course across the country. In this photo looking north on US 42 near Grace St., you can see the highway took this route from its construction in 1913 to 1928. Saturday, Fogeyisms takes a peek at this interesting piece of our country’s history.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
In a recent study it was sought to be determined, “Do Americans possess the knowledge necessary to participate wisely in the affairs of the nation?”
A whopping seventy one percent of all Americans, college-educated and otherwise, failed the test.
Fewer than half of the participants could name the three branches of government, “...a minimal requirement for understanding America’s constitutional system” according to experts.
In another finding it was determined “College adds little to civic knowledge.” People with bachelor’s degrees failed the test with an average score of 57%, only13 percentage points above the scores of folks with a high school diploma.
Further, elected officials were found to score lower than the general public. Their average score—44%.
30% of these officials did not know “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” are the inalienable rights referred to in the Declaration of Independence.
The overall average score was 49%. Included in that were Republicans at 52% and Democrats at 45%.
I’m tempted to chuckle at that final, depressing tidbit until the obvious dawning that both party results are incredibly far below the 70% threshold for success in most of life’s tests.
Click here for the Intercollegiate Studies Institute report, where you can * gulp * take the sample test yourself.
Saturday, December 13, 2008
The morning after my weekly square dancing lesson feels like, well, the morning after. I slither out of bed and wonder how my joints got rusty overnight.
My new friend Fran Hoeppner with her radiantly soft and charming smile recently invited me to join her in this form of a life-sized, pin ball game on the dance floor.
Danny Beck is our professorial caller with his pleasantly soothing voice inviting we dancers to spin through a choreograph of moves that, to this rookie, is like trying to comprehend quantum physics in three easy lessons.
The declining remnants of my brain cells feel, on those mornings after, as if they spent the night in a nuclear-powered blender.
The veteran dancers in this training venue are called “Angels”. They flow effortlessly through a zillion variations of what I remember as a simple Do-see-do.
They will collectively Allemande left from an Ocean Wave to a Grand Square and slide smoothly into a Promenade—while I am trying to remember how to begin the Alle-mande.
Not really. That’s just how it seems. Every time my face takes on a blank rookie-dancer stare, one of the angels will whirl by and point the way. I’ll begin to stutter-step into a Rollaway with a Half Sashay and another angel will give me a boost to the next angel thus cleverly hiding my confusion.
Once in awhile, to my horror, even the efforts of angels are insufficient and one of my not-so-gallant moves will cause our square to look like it just went through the aforementioned blender.
Toleration at such transgressions appears to exist in unlimited quantities and we somehow reassemble our smoothly oiled square with the occasional whispered comment from one veteran dancer, “That was caused by another veteran dancer, not you.”
While I know in my mind that comforting remark is not likely the whole truth, it makes my heart feel good.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
The Wettest County by Matt Bondurant
This novel is based on a true story of the author’s grandfather and two grand uncles of the same name and their tale of a notorious life as Virginia mountain moonshiners in the 1930s. In this period of Prohibition, then the depression, this story reveals the passion, violence and desperation of their often explosive lifestyle. The author has the annoying practice of jumping back and forth in the period of the story, but, if you are a fan of historical novels, this one is, well, interesting.
What’s the Matter with California by Jack Cashill
I’m surprised this PhD-endowed author could deal with this delicious subject in a mere 329 pages. One of my favorite quotes from his book; “She was enough of a Californian to resent being called an American....” These denizens of the left coast continue to provide ample material for such tomes; remember the recent skirmish between Berkeley apparatchiks and US Marine recruiters. Don’t read this if you have a misbehaving ulcer.
Spencerville by Nelson DeMille
Another dandy tale by DeMille; this one involves a corrupt western Ohio small town cop whose wife is in love with her college sweetheart/lover, Keith Landry—a retired, clandestine government operative. A real page turner. The good guys win and I love it when that happens.
State of Fear by Michael Crichton
This book appears to wander aimlessly through some 500 pages with an occasional inspired passage. Then, poof—a smashing conclusion, and all is once again well with my elevated view of this author’s work which has included such notable titles as The Andromeda Strain and Jurassic Park. Be sure to read carefully the “Author’s Message” at the story’s end and Appendix I, Why Politicized Science is Dangerous. Complete with footnotes and a bibliography this book blurs the lines between fact and fiction and uses the latter to puncture the “science” of global warming being man’s creation.
Saturday, December 6, 2008
As snow showers pestered my view of the woods I found myself pondering my road bicycle. You see, it lives in my living room—a furnishing violation only achievable by bachelors, of course.
With a delightful summer of riding experiences behind me, the bike’s inanimate continence compelled wistful thoughts of rides yet to come.
It also nudged my curiosity toward this marvelous machine’s history.
Yup, with a few keystrokes, I soon learned Baron Von Drais invented a walking machine that looked surprisingly like today’s bikes in 1817. It was made entirely of wood. The contraption was steerable and propelled by straddling it and pushing yourself around with feet on the ground.
The next appearance of a two-wheeled riding machine was in 1865 with the Velocipede (fast foot). This contrivance also was of wood with two identically sized wheels but, with pedals attached to the front wheel.
It also was known as the bone shaker because the cobblestone roads of the time were certainly not conducive to a smooth ride.
The first all metal machine, the high wheel bicycle, appeared in 1870. Prior to that metal was not strong or light enough for the small parts necessary. And, the large, front wheel equipped with the new solid rubber tire, metal rim and long spokes helped smooth the ride, but the high center of gravity brought considerable peril to the rider.
Their hey-day was in the 1880s and cost the average worker about six months pay.
About the same time high wheel tricycles came along and allowed the ladies, confined to their fashion of long skirts and corsets, to ride merrily about town. These cycles also introduced mechanical innovations such as the differential, rack and pinion steering and band brakes.
Further advances in metallurgy allowed the introduction of chains and sprockets which also brought gears thus giving the riders considerable mechanical advantage over previous designs.
The pneumatic tire was introduced to bicycles by an Irish veterinarian and patented in October 1888.
For the ladies the bicycle craze of the Gay Nineties killed the bustle and corset while introducing “common sense dressing.” In 1896 Susan B. Anthony said, “The bicycle has done more for the emancipation of women than anything else in the world.”
By the middle 1950s bikes had evolved into “The Classic Era”. These were the balloon tired, ostentatious 50 pound behemoths that today’s golden agers enjoyed in their youth.
Current bikes while of a decidedly modern look remain surprisingly similar to their counterparts of over 100 years ago. Metal frames have now morphed into carbon fiber material which is even stronger and much, much lighter.
And, as many or more than 27 gears are quite common; rather silly if your riding is mostly confined to bike trails, but, you will use all of them and sometimes wish for more if your preferred terrain is the hilly variety.
Now, let’s see; how many more days until spring?
Thursday, December 4, 2008
Please stop by.
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Take a peek low in your southwestern sky at dusk one of these clear evenings and you will see two very bright “stars” close together.
They, of course, are not stars at all; they are the planets Jupiter and Venus.
Jupiter is the higher one. Venus is the brighter one.
They appear close together simply because their orbits around the sun have them coincidentally in a similar line of sight from Earth.
It takes one Earth year for us to orbit the Sun at our distance of 93 million miles. It takes Venus 6/10 of an Earth year to complete its orbit because it is closer to the sun at just over 67 million miles. Jupiter’s distance from the sun is over 480 million miles therefore its single orbit takes 11.9 Earth years.
So, while they appear close together from our angle of view they actually are about 413 million miles apart.
Venus is the brighter of the two simply because of its relatively close proximity to the Sun and to us. Remember, light loses intensity over distance traveled and Jupiter is much further away.
At 5:30 p.m. on a recent evening these were the only two celestial bodies visible in the remaining daylight, and, your thumb held horizontally at arms length should just cover the distance between the planets.
Try it. One bright body directly above the other, the bottom one the brighter of the two, and separated by the thickness of your thumb at arms length. Nothing else low in the southwest sky at this time will meet those specifications.
And, this little exercise will prove you have good eyesight. You will be able to legitimately claim you can see a recognizable object at nearly 300 million miles distance.
Monday, December 1, 2008
This from ABC News 13 in Asheville, NC:
Battling cancer, Ted Kennedy to get Harvard honors
December 01, 2008 06:06 EST
"CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (AP) -- Harvard University's law school is set to bestow an honorary degree on ailing Senator Ted Kennedy...
Harvard says the honor recognizes Kennedy's 'lifelong commitment to public service'..."
Fogeyisms seriously doubts the family of Mary Jo Kopechne shares Harvard's view of this pathetic person's character.
Need to review the story of Miss Kopechne's death while in the company of Ted Kennedy, click here.