Tuesday, May 31, 2005


First, it's nice to see that Mark Felt has been identified as Woodward and Bernstein's "Deep Throat", though it does shoot down my long-held theory that Deep Throat was actually Mel Blanc doing a revised Yosemite Sam voice.

Also, those of you trying to figure out why the title to this post is a bunch of squares or other gibberish will want to download the Japanese language pack for your operating system of choice.

So I've been down in the Greater Phoenix Metropolitan Statistical Area, known in these parts as the Valley of the Sun, for the past five days. Two of those days were spent working on a story about a team of Japanese minor league baseball players, while much of the rest of the time was spent around a pool, attempting a) to enjoy the sun without turning into a smoldering lump of charcoal, and b) seeing if I could strain every muscle in my back while using one of those foam 'pool noodle' things. I'm pleased to say I scored on both counts.

Five days in the 95-105 degree heat (would someone please explain to me whose idea it was to build a city in the Arizona desert?) left me relatively unscathed, sunburn-wise. Accomplishing this feat required sunscreen with progressively higher SPF levels -- starting with my standard SPF 15, moving on to my 11-month old's "Water Babies" SPF 45, borrowing a friend's SPF 70, and then finally graduating to the "towel over the shoulders" method of sun protection.

The back straining business was easier to accomplish, involving as it did, said pool noodle, something called a "noodle hammock", a large red inflatable ball (retail value: 93 cents), and an improvised game which could best be called "Smack the Ball Willy-Nilly Around the Pool Until Someone Has to Get Out of the Pool (again) and Retrieve the Ball from the Bushes". All was going well, and I was just getting to the point where I was plotting my effort to make the game an Olympic sport, when I lunged for the ball and... didn't notice anything. Until like 9 hours later when my back shrieked me awake at 3:30 am and, in effect, called me an idiot. It also asked: "Was Willy Nilly a real person? You should really stay up for the next 2 hours, puzzling that over."

As noted, covering the Japanese minor league team took up much of the other two days. There were noteworthy figures from the world of Japanese baseball and the world of American baseball on hand, so it would serve to figure that the first person I'd interview on the story was... Pat Sajak.

Seriously, I got to the Samurai Bears' opening night about an hour and a half before game time, dutifully trudged up to the press box, where the first guy I ran into had me thinking, "Gee, he looks a whole lot like Pat Sajak." He turned around, away from me. I thought, "Hey, the back of his baseball uniform says 'Sajak'. I bet that is Pat Sajak." So, using the standard "Hey, How Often is Pat Sajak Just Standing There?" reporting technique, I snared the Wheel of Fortune host for an interview. It turns out that the former host of the ill-fated "Pat Sajak Show" on CBS is an investor in the Golden Baseball League, and was on hand to throw out the opening pitch and coach first base for an inning.

The interview was chipper enough. I actually chatted with Sajak more in one interview than I did with Alex Trebek in the three "Jeopardy!" shows I was on in 1999. (Plus, Sajak didn't remind me to phrase everything in the form of a question, which I guess I was doing anyway, so never mind.) The highlight came at the end of the interview, in which the one-time desk clerk at a Washington, DC, hotel was talking about the trained falcon that would deliver the baseball for the opening pitch. It went like this:

Sajak: ...so I'm a little concerned that I might become the first game show host ever torn to shreds while throwing out the first pitch at a ballgame.

Me: Yeah, like, "How do you spell 'carrion'?" could be the next Wheel puzzle.

Sajak: Ha ha! That's pretty good -- that's like an NPR-style joke!

Whoo-hoo! Quite the knee-slapper. We agreed I'd be on the call-back list if Vanna ever retires.

Anyway, the Samurai Bears story is tops on the agenda in the 19 Minutes World Media Headquarters this week, as it's scheduled to run on Saturday on NPR's Only A Game. If you just can't wait, you can check out another story on the team, from Japan's Fuji News Network, a story that is entertaining even for those of us who don't speak Japanese. Hopefully, my story will be equally entertaining for those of us who don't speak English. Though I wonder, how do you say, "I'd like to buy a vowel" in Japanese...*?

(* - see the title of this post)

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Ahhhh...Bach. For real.

For the third time in the past six years, the 19 Minutes staff is pulling a classical music shift this morning. We're currently jamming to the sounds of Bach's Brandenburg Concerto #3 (in G, for you classical music snobs) in Studio 102 in 19 Minutes World Media Headquarters.

For news people, things like "Konzerstuck for Clarinet in F, by Gustaf Adolf Heinze" roll off the tongue approximately as well as the names of Croatian politicians, or even "Seewoosagur Ramgoolam". But what's even more difficult about a classical music shift is keeping from descending into the public radio classical music announcer stereotype: "[music ends]...that's music from Pietro Baldassare. His Sonata number 1 for trumpet and strings, performed by the Southwest German Chamber Orchestra under the direction of Vladislav Czarnecki. It's 23 minutes past the hour of 10 o'clock, on this, the 26th day of May, the year of our lord 20-ought-5..." You know the stereotype.

You'd think a typical stressed out news person, would have to ingest great quantities of quaaludes, or go under general anaethesia to sound like this. And this morning, just before our shift, I was wandering around the newsroom, talking about baseball, finding goofy lounge music for a colleague, and otherwise acting perfectly normal. And yet, when I opened the microphone (that's radio-speak for "turned on"), what was the first thing out of my mouth? "Stay with us. We'll have compositions by Haydn and Johann Sebastian Bach in just a few minutes. But first, music by Jacques Offenbach. It's six minutes past 9:00..."

So I've decided to counter this by making the classical music studio feel a little more familiar -- a little friendlier. I broke out the Pop Tarts (a technique honed by the professional announcers at the BBC). And the sports section is open on the desk next to the control board. My only fear is that instead of crediting the "Mother Goose Ballet" to Maurice Ravel, I'll announce that it's by Bronson Arroyo, or even AJ Eathorne.

Worse yet, I'll try to find the Brandenburg Concertos in the NFL-Europe standings. Come to think of it, that would be a terrific name for a team.

Speaking of sports, I'm off on assignment in the Valley of the Sun for the next few days, following the travails of an all-Japanese minor league baseball team, the Japan Samurai Bears of the Golden Baseball League. With luck, I'll be able to update from down south. Otherwise, I'll check back in on Sunday.

First, though, this music from Sergei Prokofiev...

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

I get press releases, Volume 15: Have it your way or the highway

A busy day in 19 Minutes Newsland. The aversion of the Nuclear Option on judicial filibusters by the coalition of 14 centrist, or moderate senators -- ranging from Arizona's John McCain to West Virginia's Robert Byrd -- demonstrates a number of things, not the least of which is how the term "moderate" has evolved in the past decade. But the highlight of the story is the fact that the deal was apparently clinched in short order because McCain had to run out the door to go to a screening of a made-for-TV movie. About himself.

Elsewhere, the 19 Minutes staff's colleagues at the mother ship produced two stories this morning that touched on the possible loss of lifetime health insurance benefits for large groups of workers -- teachers in a variety of California school districts and GM auto workers. You'd think that such a discussion would lead to at least a debate over the concept of national health insurance. You'd think. In GM's case, what it led to was a debate that ranged from cutting the retired workers off entirely to just maaking them pay a lot more. Makes you want to run right out and buy a Pontiac, huh?

But the real news today comes courtesy of a couple of press releases that found their way to the 19 Minutes inbox. Let's start with the most important one:

Clarification: Miss America 2005 Deidre Downs Is Not Hosting Nor Associated With the Miss 500 Hawaiian Tropic Pageant in Indianapolis

INDIANAPOLIS, May 24, 2005 -- Miss America 2005 Deidre Downs is scheduled to attend a private Pre-Race Celebrity Party on Saturday, May 28th, 2005 at the Vapour Lounge and Vizion Restaurant on the Northside of Indianapolis, this race weekend. A Hawaiian Tropic pageant will be going on simultaneously on the property, but not in conjunction with the Pre-Race Celebrity Party.

This VIP Pre-Race Party will be an ultra-elite soiree, with invitees including celebrity race fans such as Sergei Fedorov, Kato Kaelin, Tara Reid, and Patrick Dempsey, top racecar drivers, and athletes. Party will feature performances by local Indianapolis favorites Five Apples and Dave & Rae, along with national breakout rock group The Franchize. Additional sounds provided by world renown DJs Slater Hogan, Unorthodox, and Noah the Arkitech.

Miss America 2005 Deidre Downs is on a national speaking tour promoting her platform of Curing Childhood Cancer. During her year of service, Deidre plans to increase awareness and research funds in the fight against cancer in children. An aspiring pediatrician, Deidre has already spent many hours on this issue in her home state of Alabama, creating the Making Miracles Program. Throughout her participation in the Miss America Program, Deidre has been awarded more than $107,000 in scholarship assistance.

It's a good thing the 19 Minutes staff bought refundable tickets to Indianapolis, because that definitely takes the shine off the Miss 500 Hawaiian Tropic Pageant. It would be nice to drop by the 'ultra-elite soiree', if only to listen to the conversation between Sergei Fedorov and Kato Kaelin, no doubt on the topic of universal health coverage. It would also be nice to learn how far such an ultra-elite soiree will go towards Curing Childhood Cancer (we personally were looking forward to the guest lecture by respected health professional Noah the Arkitech), but unfortunately, the 19 Minutes social staff has misplaced its invitation. The press release does offer to help us on that front, and in doing so, illustrates the somewhat different clienteles the two events are shooting for:

Tickets: A limited number of VIP tickets for the Pre-Race Celebrity Party are available only at http://www.vapourlounge.com. [Mitch's note: They're $200.00]

Tent tickets for the Hawaiian Tropic pageant are $10 available at the event.

The other news features the latest important polling data -- this sampling of American opinion:


FINDLAY, Ohio -- Thirty-five percent of Memorial Day travelers plan to visit fast food restaurants over the holiday weekend with another 30 percent visiting sit-down/family-style venues, according to an opinion survey of 9,000 adults released today by Corporate Research International, a national leader in tracking trends, issues and quality service. These findings mimic a national trend of increased fast food consumption.

When visiting fast food restaurants, 28 percent of respondents ranked ease of access off the highway as their number one criteria, with cleanliness of restrooms and variety of food options as runner-ups.

"Despite recent hikes in gas prices, Americans plan to travel by car and spend money on fast food this Memorial Day weekend," said Mike Mallett, CEO of Corporate Research International. "Where their dollars will be spent has a lot to do with location and store appearance."

Survey findings also indicated that when shopping for the traditional Memorial Day cookout, 70 percent of respondents will make purchases at supermarkets, while 27 percent will visit warehouse clubs or superstores for their needs.

Several key questions arise from this survey data -- first, it's nice to know that Americans are making such detailed and comprehensive plans for Memorial Day weekend that they already know they're going to be stopping at fast food restaurants. It's more of an impulse thing for the 19 Minutes staff, when the need for a Burger King Enormous Omelet Sandwich becomes simply overpowering, forcing our car to the drive-thru.

But more entertaining is the thought that Americans are making their fast food choices based on the cleanliness of the restrooms. The survey doesn't say how the respondents ascertain how clean the restrooms are, so it leaves us to imagine people pulling their RVs, Suburbans and Grand Caravans off the highway in Sandusky, Ohio, and going from Burger King, to Jack in the Box, to McDonalds, before deciding that the Arby's back in Elyria had the cleanest floor and the best functioning hand dryer.

The press release intrigued us enough to take a swing by the polling company's website, where we learned that among the survey respondents, female PhDs ranked the "speed of drive thru" as their leading criteria for choosing to use a fast food drive thru lane. Their second criteria was "number of cars in line", which tells you that women with doctoral degrees, if nothing else, have enough faith in the fast food workers that they don't necessarily believe more cars make for a longer wait in line.

There's lots more terrific data to be found, like the cleanliness ratings for convenience stores (something called "Beacon" scores the lowest among people with technical college degrees), but I'd better wrap up -- I'm feeling a craving for something greasy. I'm going to go hop on the interstate and see who has the cleanest bathrooms.

Monday, May 23, 2005

All this and poopy, too

As you're preparing for parenthood, you watch the behavior of other parents. You immediately decide these people are employing a different parenting model than the one you're going to work from. You wonder what could drive the behavior you see: Why would parents scream at their kids in the mall? Who would feed her six-month old french fries at the zoo? And what is it with these parents that discuss their kids' various waste products in public? In an introspective moment, you tell yourself that you'll never be the kind of parent that engages in any of these behaviors.

I still wonder what kind parents think they're setting a good example by screaming at their kids in the mall. I'm still more prone to fishing through the diaper bag, looking for the little container of Cheerios than to giving my daughter the crud I'm ingesting [editor's note: The red licorice I'm currently eating is, however, the best red licorice ever made.).

Alas, I found myself at the bookstore a few days back. Buying a Mother's Day gift. Daughter in the stroller. We're browsing among the stacks, while also engaged in Sylvi's favorite new game, the Let's Toss Our Toys Out of the Stroller and Make Dad Go Get Them game. Her Whoozit hits the carpet. I lean down to pick it up. Sniff. Sniff. And then, the voice of the Parent I Swore I'd Never Be: Are you poopy?! Subsequently, the actions of the Parent I Swore I'd Never Be: Remove child from stroller, hold her up at my nose level, sniff child's rear.

The story does have a happy ending - she was not, in fact, poopy. (Thus leading me to wonder what else at the bookstore I might have been smelling...) But since that fateful day, I've caught myself doing things that a year ago, seemed a little far-fetched -- i.e., starting to work on a baby-sized booger with the Evil Blue Nose Vacuum, then deciding it'd be faster, easier, and slightly less-invasive to just pick my daughter's nose.

This afternoon, my wife and I are taking Sylvi to the doctor for a follow-up to her ongoing Medical Issue: An abundance of ear wax. For the past four days, we've been faithfully putting drops into our daughter's left ear (which she doesn't seem to mind) and then plugging it up with a piece of cotton ball (which she minds a lot), in the hopes that the drops will dissolve the ear wax, and thus her pediatrician won't have to again use a forklift to remove another sequoia-sized wax log from her ear canal.

More importantly, once the ear wax issue clears up, I can stop talking about it in public, and go back to being the Parent I Swore I'd Actually Be -- the Dad Who Actually Remembers to Bring the Diaper Bag to the Bookstore With Him In the First Place.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Was Glenn Frey right? Is the heat on?

It's apparently "Be Cruel to the 19 Minutes Staff" week. Located as we are in Flagstaff, Arizona -- elevation 7000 feet -- we're generally immune from heavy-duty heat waves. And to be fair, I guess, the mid-to-upper 80s we're currently dealing with wouldn't qualify as a 'heavy duty heat wave' in many areas. But we're a mere 92,999,999 miles from the sun - a mile closer than most of the country, and dealing with somewhat less oxygen here, so 88 degrees feels pretty darn hot.

This is especially cruel because I hate hot weather. Easy to say when it's 88 degrees, but I hated hot weather when we had three feet of snow on the ground, and I hated hot weather in January of 1998, when I bunked down on the floor of my office for 9 days while my part of the northeast was slammed by an ice storm. When I lived in southern Minnesota a few years back, a co-worker and I routinely went in on a hotel room, rather than suffer through stifling heat in our respective, un-air conditioned apartments.

And it's especially cruel because my daily commute is done in an '87 Volkswagen equipped with a currently non-functional air conditioner. This wouldn't be so bad, except that the passenger side window is also currently non-functional, as well. And it's, of course, powered by steam, which means that I continually have to feed coal into the boiler car trailing behind.

It's particularly cruel, too, because my normal 7-minute commute would get me to my pleasantly air conditioned office. However, the air conditioning at 19 Minutes World Headquarters chose yesterday to go on its summer vacation. So filling in, until the crack HVAC squad can crawl up into the ceiling, is a vintage table fan rescued from my wife's grandmother's garage. (Can I call her a grandmother-in-law? Does that sound as ridiculous as it looks?) Still, the promotional digital thermometer from the BBC on my desk tells me it's currently 78.6 degrees. Seventy-eight-point-four would be one thing, but seventy-eight-point-six is completely unacceptable.

I realize this may seem a trivial complaint. There are people each year who die as a result of heatwaves. Global warming has impacts that extend far beyond pushing my anti-perspirant envelope. Inncoent eggs fry on sidewalks.

And yet this pernicious heat claws its way into my consciousness, seizing my brain, reminding me of, god help me, an old Andy Rooney column, in which he recalled sneaking out of his Army barracks during heat waves to steal huge blocks of ice and make ice water for his fellow soldiers. He wrote that to this day (or to like 1982, when he wrote the column), he always feels for people living through heat waves, and wishes he could bring them ice water.

It's a nice thought. But frankly, I'd be happier if he could fix the damn air conditioning in my car.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Wildflower pictures (updated)

Not that I'm going to make this a habit or anything, but, by popular demand, I'm going to try to upload a few photos from my wildflower reporting trip. Stay tuned.

Audio from the story is now available, too.

A meadow of wildflowers in bloom at the Boyce Thompson Arboretum Posted by Hello

Another picture from the Boyce Thompson Arboretum Posted by Hello

Red bottle-brush plant in bloom Posted by Hello

Flowering cactus Posted by Hello

Belated audio alert

This late word from the folks at NPR's All Things Considered, who have sent the show's preliminary rundown from today:


(4.) WILDFLOWERS -- Mitch Teich from KNAU in Flagstaff reports that Arizona's spectacular wildflower season has a downside. All of that showy vegetation is now drying out and causing a wildfire hazard. (3:15)

What this means, in normal human scheduling terms, is it leads off the second segment of the show's first hour -- on the east coast, we're talking 4:20/6:20 pm. Those of you in other time zones can do the math.

More details are here.

Raising the speed limit on slowness

Here at 19 Minutes World Media Headquarters, we recently interviewed journalist/author Carl Honoré about his thought-provoking book, "In Praise of Slowness." A couple of ironies about that interview: a) For an author who's become an expert in the so-called "Slow Movement", he's an amazingly fast talker; and b) I'm now on a pretty tight deadline to get the interview edited and ready for air.

All this to say, I'll be back when the edits are, uh, edited.

In the meantime, if you're at all into Scottish/Celtic music, you can check out an interview we recently did with the band "Old Blind Dogs" here. And, Catherine Seipp's NPR commentary about why she blogs is engaging, and perhaps worth a listen. It does sort of play into the media's fascination with All Things Blog, but at least it keeps us off drugs.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Ahhh.... box. Redux.

Those regular readers of this feature will remember that the city in which the 19 Minutes Media Empire is based was in the midst of a weeks-long mail-in election over whether to allow enormous box stores (big box stores of the 'supercenter' variety) to set up shop here. The polls closed at 7:00 last night, the ballots were counted by 9:00, and the pro-big box side (which, oddly enough, was represented by voting 'no') came out on top by just over 350 votes out of the 17,000+ cast.

This has caused much anguished hand-wringing in some circles here in 19 Minutesland.

Mike Royko, who the 19 Minutes staff considers its spiritual mentor, once comforted then-newly elected Chicago Mayor Harold Washington's foes by writing, "So I told Uncle Chester: Don't worry, Harold Washington doesn't want to marry your sister."

And so I reassure my fellow Flagstaffers: Don't worry, you won't have to buy your hiking boots, your organic produce, or your lycra biking outfits at a Wal-Mart Supercenter.

As has been noted, Flagstaff has a difficult enough time hanging onto its small box retailers that a massive influx of big boxes still seems to be in the pipe dreams of the Chamber of Commerce. Wal-Mart will put up its Supercenter, we'll gripe about the traffic jams outside, we'll continue to buy camping gear, incense, and pottery at a downtown retailer, and occasionally we'll hold our noses and sneak into the Supercenter to buy a humidifier.

The sun will come up, smoke from prescribed burns will settle in the early morning air and make us sneeze, passing trains will still delay our trips everywhere, and coffee will still be available in copious amounts.

Royko concluded his Harold Washington column by writing, "Who knows -- we might even like him." Something tells me the parallel with the Wal-Mart Supercenter in Flagstaff might end at that point.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Stand down, everyone

It looks like the wildflower story has been bumped to a later date.

On the other hand, NPR is doing a story on the mysterious "Piano Man", which is a pleasantly weird diversion from the other news of the world.

Further bulletins as events warrant.

Audio alert (a.k.a. gratuitous self-promotion, part 4)

Some other story may yet bump it to another day, but the story that had me in the car for hours and hours last week is slated to run on NPR's All Things Considered this afternoon.

It's an interesting sequel -- some five months later -- to the last story I did for NPR, about the heavy rain and snow that were dumping water on the west. That story ended by noting all the rain had led to predictions of a spectacular wildflower season in the desert this spring.

Today's story details what happens When Wildflowers Go Bad. The downside to a huge bloom of wildflowers in the desert is that, well, they're in a desert. The temperature hits 100+ degrees and the flowers stop growing and start -- frying. And all the dried-out, fried-out wildflowers are perfect fuel for wildfires, some of which are already burning in Arizona.

Anyway, the story may or may not air this afternoon. A slightly revised version will definitely air on the northern Arizona airwaves on Thursday, paired with another story about fire danger in the higher elevation forests.

Monday, May 16, 2005

I get press releases, Volume 14: Sneezing out some common sense

It's always nice to come in on Monday morning with some fresh news waiting for you. Unfortunately, the following news release was all that was waiting in my e-mail inbox. It showed up at 5:12 this morning, the theory, I suppose, being that anything looks like news at 5:12 am:


Expert on Subject Considers Common Sense
A Life Skill that Can Be Learned

It'll come as no surprise, I'm sure, that this news release comes to us from the people who make Scott tissues and toilet paper:

NEENAH, Wis., May 11, 2005 – Underscoring the importance of sharing practical information, eight of 10 Americans claim that exchanging common-sense information with others makes them smarter, and 68 percent believe it even makes them more successful. Indeed, a new national survey on common sense and sharing commissioned by SCOTT® Tissue and Towels finds that 99 percent consider common sense important to their everyday lives.

Even more amazing is the fact that the 1 percent who don't believe common sense is important are all driving cars and bikes in Flagstaff, Arizona, at the exact time I'm commuting to work. But I digress.

While Americans think common sense is important, they don’t realize it can be developed. In fact, 40 percent don’t believe it can be learned, and only one-in-five Americans thinks people are born with it. But Robert J. Sternberg, IBM Professor of Psychology and Education and Professor of Management at Yale University and an expert on practical intelligence, differs strongly with that view. He contends that common sense is a life skill that can be learned and improved, especially by sharing ideas and information with others.

This is sounding suspiciously like another example of industry funding university research. It's no wonder the New England Journal of Medicine hasn't printed the results. But common sense dictates that we move on...
Recognizing the importance of sharing ideas, the SCOTT® Brand is beginning a nationwide Common Sense Tour in May 2005. The 15-city tour kicks off in New York City on May 11 and will bring residents together to share their common-sense tips and ideas. The tour will feature the House that Common Sense Built, an interactive common-sense exhibit and “think tank.” In addition, SCOTT continues the year-old online Common Sense Community, at www.ScottCommonSense.com, a resource for everyday common-sense tips and information.

There's a lot more from this amazingly long press release, for example the fact that "people in Boise, Salt Lake City and San Antonio think it’s easy to find people in their community with whom they can share tips. Whereas, residents of Los Angeles and Denver say it is more challenging to know who to go to in their cities." But at this point, it seemed wise to check out ScottCommonSense.com, to see what important common sense tips we can glean from a company which used 3.1 million metric tons of virgin wood pulp in 2004. (This has nothing to do with common sense, per se, but was an interesting number gleaned from the Kimberly-Clark corporation's sustainability report.) Anyway here's some purported common sense:
Reducing Static Cling
Pin a small safety pin to the seam of your slip and you will not have a clingy skirt or dress. Same thing works with slacks that cling when wearing panty hose. Place pin in seam of slacks and - voila - static is gone.

Maple Rapids, NH

I think it's safe to say that this is exactly the kind of tip that'll make the House That Common Sense Built a much bigger draw than the new Star Wars movie, the forthcoming Harry Potter book, or even, say, the upcoming exciting interleague baseball matchup between the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Kansas City Royals.

The quite-funny comedian/commentator, Lewis Black, has made quite a life for himself, railing against the lack of common sense apparent in American society today:
"The problem is that none of us have a lick of common sense. it's be great if we could find someone to teach common sense, but [flapping jowl noise], who are we going to get?"

Lewis Black has obviously not met "Kerry from Canada", who also contributed to the ScottCommonSense.com website:

Use your hair conditioner to shave your legs. It's a lot cheaper than shaving cream and leaves your legs really smooth. It's also a great way to use up the conditioner you bought but didn't like when you tried it in your hair...

So, maybe this is just an argument over semantics, but since when has the term "common sense" become synonymous with "Hints from Heloise"?

One can only assume that it's only because it lacks any laundry or personal grooming tips that this quote didn't make it on the Scott® website:
To talk of friendship with those in whom our reason forbids us to have faith, and our affections wounded through a thousand pores instruct us to detest, is madness and folly.

Thomas Paine
Colonial America

Of course, at 5:12 am, even Thomas Paine might have shaved his legs with hair conditioner.

Friday, May 13, 2005

...and even more names in the news

If you've ever been to a high school or college commencement ceremony, you've no doubt listened to the littany of names being read as the capped and gowned graduates parade across the stage and get their ceremonial handshake from the high school principal or college president. Some of the names are easy ("John Smith"), some are a little more difficult ("Mitch Teich"), and some guaranteed to make the name reader start, stop, look at the student, start again, and plow through with questionable success ("Seewoosagur Ramgoolam"). And you've thought, "Man, I'm glad that's not me reading those names."

Alas, I don't get to think that thought, because I am the guy reading those names. For the past few years, the 19 Minutes parent organization has engaged my services to read names at commencement ceremonies. There are a couple key reasons behind this.

First, as an experienced radio professional, I can read the names in such a way that I sound authoritative, even when I've screwed them up so badly that parents don't recognize their own children as they walk across the stage. And second, as long as I'm reading the names, it means university administrator aren't the ones making idiots of themselves by messing them up.

And so, today is Spring commencement around the corner from 19 Minutes World Headquarters. There's a morning and an afternoon session, and I'm sharing the duties at each with a colleague. Generally, the university has sent over a list of names a couple weeks in advance, so we can practice and get so used to saying the names wrong that we don't have a prayer of getting them right on commencement day. This year, for some reason, they didn't send the names over. So the first time I see the students' names comes as they hand me their card en route across the stage.

That gives me roughly 1 1/2 seconds to look at the name, decipher the sometimes illegible handwriting, and -- if neccessary -- lean over to them and whisper, "So is that 'see-WOO-sagur ram-GOO-lam'?" To make matters worse, some students feel compelled to fill in the name pronunciation blank, no matter how easy their name is (e.g., "JOE-ns"), which naturally causes me to second guess a name I would never have thought twice about.

Some of the students (speech pathology majors, mostly) are smart enough to use pronunciation symbols on their cards. This would be helpful, but I can never remember what those upside down e's (schwas?) connote under normal circumstances, much less in the split second before they head across the stage.

So this gets back to the theme of our previous post. When it comes to deciding on a name for your next child, consider closely how it's going to sound when an experienced radio professional screws it up as he or she receives a college degree.

And for those of you who want to experience the vicarious excitement of reading names at a college commencement, you can check out the webcast from Flagstaff here.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

I get press releases, Volume 13: Name that... name

The folks at Random House have sent along a press release for a semi-new book that sounds intriguing:

A Magical Method for Finding the Perfect Name for Your Baby

by Laura Wattenberg

Does it seem as though every little girl on your block is named Olivia? What kind of names would sound good with a brother named Dylan? Is George too old fashioned? Why is Brianna more popular than Mary, Karen, and Margaret – combined? Where does the name Marley originate?

All good questions. When my wife and I were expecting our daughter last year, we owned roughly 73,000 baby name books, each purporting to feature 100,000 names, so long as you count "Kaden", "Kayden", "Caden", and "Caidynne" as four separate names. of course, we had pretty much already settled on a name, so we bought the books essentially to confirm that there were no famous axe murderers, or characters on UPN sitcoms with that name.

However, I'm not sure what we would have done if we had this information at our disposal:

Laura Wattenberg is the first expert guide structured to direct you along your own personal path to the perfect name for your child. THE BABY NAME WIZARD gives you real-world facts and analysis. It uses groundbreaking computer research to identify trends, general ideas, and explain each name’s image. And, like any good wizard, it uses special powers to guide you to the choice that's perfect for your family's unique tastes. [Mitch's comment: Yeah, that's how Harry Potter named his kids...] Wattenberg offers this must-have guide as an alternative to the traditional and dull dictionary naming books. This is an enchanting and practical guide to name fashions, history and style that lets you start with one name you like and end up with a list of ideas tailored to your tastes. Each name has an entertaining buyer’s guide-style entry to answer these, and many more questions:

 How popular is it? Each name is accompanied by a popularity graph so you can see where the name ranks among all boys’ or girls’ names and track its use over the last century.
 What else might I like? Look up any name and get a list of others with a matching style, including suggestions for boys and girls – ideal for sibling naming.

That would avoid the embarrasing situation where you name your first child, say, "Josh", and your second child "Seghen", which you're no doubt aware means "ostrich" in several east African dialects.

The book also purports to answer other questions, including:
 Where does it fit in? Learn about a name’s distinctive style, from “Antique Charm” and “Old Testament” to “Brisk and Breezy” and “Nickname Proof.”

This really would be useful, as I (and anyone else named "Mitch") can attest, especially when it comes to being "nickname proof". Though I've always felt that I possessed antique charm. One does wonder which names earn the 'brisk and breezy' distinction. "Windy" would be my guess. (I mean, hey, everyone knows it's windy.)

The news release does not note, however, whether the book tells prospective parents which names sound best when read over a PA system at a sporting event. (Playing goalie for the Columbus Blue Jackets tonight, Number 63, Seghen Teich...!"

The book does also have a pretty interesting website associated with it, where we learn the name "Mitchell" was the 89th ranked boy's name during the 1990s.

"Jane" has reportedly fallen to the #432 spot among girls' names. Even so, that didn't stop the folks at Pampers from sending me the following piece of e-mail with the subject line "Pampers Technical Error" (and what parent of a young child hasn't had one of those):

Dear Mitch,

We're sorry for a technical error that appeared in our Pampers e-mail to you on Friday, April 29. The message addressed to "Jane" should have been personalized with your name. We're sorry for any confusion or inconvenience caused by our mistake.

Fortunately, the original e-mail caused me neither confusion nor inconvenience, mainly because I hadn't read it until they sent me the correction. But it did shock me - and crush my faith in the Pampers marketing department. I had imagined a whole team of disposable diaper e-mail experts, sitting by their computers, and banging out relevant and helpful e-mails about my own personal diaper situation. But no more.

It was so shocking, in fact, that I nearly had a Hanes Technical Error.

The kind of thing you read about in new wave blogs

First, a word of warning -- this is going to be one of those iPod-related posts that will touch on the kind of subject that iPod owners prattle on about, but may make everyone else's eyes glaze over. That much said, it's not really that iPod-related.

Arizona distances are impressive. I've been in my car a lot the past couple of days. You'll recall I was headed out Monday to rap with a horticulturist for a story I'm working on. The story brought me out to the Boyce Thompson Arboretum in Superior, Arizona, a round-trip totaling 430 miles to and from Flagstaff. I barely thought twice about the drive, until it dawned on me that it was approximately the distance from suburban Washington, DC, to Boston. So, just to be amusing, I did the drive today, as well.

We're (in this case, 'we' means my family, as opposed to my usual royal 'we' posts) entertaining guests this week, and to accommodate them, we've secured the services of a genuine minivan. This has dropped my coolness index -- which was already suffering -- to dangerously low levels. We'd rented some quasi-minivans before -- a Pontiac Aztec, a Chrysler Pacifica -- and they at least give off a veneer that suggests that, hey, maybe you're toting around a basketball team. But when you rent a Dodge Caravan, there's no mistaking what's going on. And even if there was any question, the two child car seats inside put any debate to rest.

So knowing that I had a day ahead of me with a minivan and childrens' music, I made certain that Monday's trip was choc full o'coolness -- sort of a midlife crisis in miniature. Well, perhaps that's overstating things, but I did have the radio station's jeep, my iPod shuffle, and one of those converters that lets you play it through a cassette deck. And the seven hours' worth of iPod listening yielded a couple of thoughts, or roughly one thought for every three-and-a-half hours I was in the car.

First, the song "Rio", by Duran Duran may not be the most clever song in the world ("Her name is Rio and she dances on the sand/Just like that river running through a dusty land..."), but driving across the Sonoran Desert, it kind of works. ("Oh Rio, Rio dance across the Rio Grande...")

The other thought concerned the song "Super Freak", by Rick James. The eyes of our older readers in the audience will continue to glaze over at this point. Our younger readers will want to note that this is the song MC Hammer sampled out the wazoo in his hit "U Can't Touch This". Readers too young to remember MC Hammer will be reminded that it's probably past their bedtime.

Anyway, "Super Freak" came out when the 19 Minutes staff was in 8th grade, and it was scandalous. The song was about a music groupie, decribed by Mr. James as "kinky", and "the kind you don't take home to mother." If I remember correctly, there was quite the buzz when it was played at an 8th grade dance.

But looking at the lyrics as a whole, they actually seem kind of quaint:

"The kind of girl you read about in new wave magazines..." New wave magazines? You mean they're, like, written by Gary Neuman? Or the Human League? I'm sure President Bush puzzles over this precise topic as he jams to his iPod.

"When I get there she's got incense, wine and candles/It's such a freaky scene..." Oooh -- incense, wine, and candles. If it had been just incense and wine, that would have been pretty tame. But the candles just push the whole thing past the kinky threshold.

"Temptations sing!
Super freak, super freak
That girl's a super freak

Actually, I have no comment about this lyric, except it amuses me to see it in print.

There was a third thought that troubled me a little as I drove, stereo blasting away. What are "Rio" and "Super Freak" doing on my iPod in the first place?

Sunday, May 08, 2005

On the road, but not flattened like some sort of carrion

When I was small (okay, smaller), I was already sure I wanted to be a journalist. I actually had occasion to meet a few journalists in those formative years, and almost to a person, they all told me to run, screaming, frlom the profession, and never look back. I always laughed off that response.

Years later, I know what they meant. It's rare that a dentist, for example, needs to wake up at the crack of dawn in order to drive 200 miles to extract someone's tooth. Long distances are not uncommon in the news business, however. And once you get there, sometimes the interviews are a little like pulling teeth.

Even after 14 years, there are still some cool things about reporting, though. Those little reporter note pads are pretty spiffy. So is getting to say I'm "on assignment".

All this is to say, I'm headed out on assigmnent tomorrow. I'll be rappin' with horticulturists. No guarantees that I'll rejoin the blog world until late.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

The Great Arizona Moth Hunt

I'm beginning to change my tune on the whole concept of hunting. My general philosophy has always been that hunting animals, no matter how large, with a gun, is just the tiniest bit unfair, unless you figure out a way to arm the animals. If you want to head out into the woods and get into a fist-fight with a deer, that's fine. Bare-knuckles, even. But otherwise, hunting seems like a one-sided proposition.

Now before you dismiss me as a namby-pamby wuss who's never enjoyed the smell of burnt feathers and gunpowder and cordite, I have actually gone out shooting on a couple of occasions. At the previous 19 Minutes World Headquarters, I once produced a story about the phenomenon of 'sporting clays'. It involved going out on a wooded course, with 18 different traps -- sort of golfing with a shotgun. Each trap sent a clay disk scurrying through the underbrush in a way that was supposed to represent a different type of animal, provided the animal was small and disk-shaped. An hour later, I had hit exactly one disk. It took a while to produce the story, too, since I could no longer hear well enough to listen to the tape I'd gathered.

A few years later, I went out to the desert with my brother (a law enforcement-type with an undisclosed agency) and his service weapon, where we successfully shot up a target and a couch that some thoughtful litterbug had left. My shooting was sufficiently and frighteningly accurate enough that I decided I should stay the hell away from guns thereafter.

But I'm reconsidering.

A few days ago, my wife and I had dinner at the house of some friends. Jill and Mike have a daughter the same age as ours, but who goes to bed significantly earlier than our daughter. (Our child was born 11 months ago with an innate desire to watch Letterman.) So we were still at their place as they went to get their daughter to sleep.

Fifteen minutes later, sleep was at hand, but tenuously enough that everyone was speaking in hushed tones as my wife and I got ready to leave. It was at that moment that their dog, Kuma, decided she needed to come in from the deck. Mike opened the sliding glass door to let Kuma in -- only she was accompanied by a moth apparently from the Pterodactyl family. If the 'sporting clays' had been the size of this moth, I may have had a greater affinity for shotguns.

At this point, you're probably thinking: So what? So a moth flew in the house. Big deal. And you may well be right. But we were pretty sure the moth was big enough to carry off either of our children, so something had to be done.

And it was clear it would be up to Mike and I to do that something. Jill had already fixed him with the 'You let it in the house -- you get it out of the house' look. I recognized this look, because it's the same one that my wife would have hit me with had the moth gotten into our house.

Their house was a rough place for the moth hunt, however, since their living room has a roughly 20-foot ceiling. So rolling up the Land's End catalog wasn't going to work. To make things more exciting, the moth decided to alight just above a cutout in the wall -- a cutout located conveniently next to where the baby was sleeping.

The circumstances surrounding this assignment required some pretty specific weaponry. We considered our options. (Rubber band? Nah. Foam basketball? Nope.) With no bug spray on hand, we settled on a combination of Windex and Time magazine.

Mike tip-toed upstairs and positioned himself in the cutout directly underneath the moth. He let loose with a double-barreled blast of Windex. Direct hit. The moth took evasive action, but soon, the added shine -- or perhaps the added ammonia -- from the Windex caused it to spiral downward, like Snoopy's World War I flying ace after his Sopwith Camel is shot down by the Red Baron. A quick Wimbledon-like anti-aircraft swat with the magazine finished the job.

It crash-landed on the carpet, and I (in a reconnaissance mission) swooped in with the Time magazine. I dropped it on top of the moth, and commenced jumping up and down on it. After a couple of jumps, Mike suggested that perhaps they didn't need it to become a permanent addition to the carpet. So we peeled back the magazine, revealing our first good look at the moth. That first good look also revealed that the jumping-up-and-down technique barely stunned the giant moth, so we hastily threw Henry Luce's legendary weekly newsmagazine back atop the moth.

Adding some paper towels to the mix, the moth ended up in the trash, under the rationale that flushing it might unnecessarily result in a large mutated moth in the Flagstaff sewer system.

But the adrenaline rush of the giant moth hunt has me reconsidering the whole hunting concept. I can just imagine a stuffed giant moth hanging above our fireplace, should we ever have a fireplace.

But we probably wouldn't have used a shotgun in our friends' living room, anyway.

Friday, May 06, 2005

I get press releases, Vol. 13: Betting on a slow news day?

You read plenty of alarming things coming out of Las Vegas, but you're never going to believe this item, thoughtfully dropped into the e-mail in-boxes of a select few million journalists, including this one:


No Coffee at the Casinos

With hotels all over the country adding amenities to lure guests, the opposite holds true in Las Vegas, where in-room coffee makers are as rare as clocks in the casinos according to a survey published at LasVegasAdvisor.com. A canvassing of 68 casinos turned up just 13 offering a make-it-yourself brew option, and they weren't the resorts that you'd expect -- no Bellagio, no Mirage, not even the new Wynn Las Vegas.

"While the model is changing, casinos still withhold certain creature-comforts in their rooms to keep guests down in the casino," says LasVegasAdvisor.com's Anthony Curtis.

Casinos breaking with that tradition include Green Valley Ranch, the Palms, and downtown's venerable Golden Gate. The complete survey results appear in the Web site's March 9 "Question of the Day."

Actually, it does seem a bit surprising that most of the Vegas casinos wouldn't include in-room coffee-makers. You would think that a guest full of caffeine is a guest who's likely to head right back down to the casino floor to engage in a complete stimulus overload.

On the other hand, it's also surprising that it took the crack statisticians at LasVegasAdvisor.com a full two months to compile the results of their March 9th "Question of the Day". [Meanwhile, 'Question of the Day' continues to ask the hard-hitting questions. Today's Question of the Day: "What are the odds on the Lucky Ladies side bet at blackjack?" Tune back in around July 6th for the answer.]

Las Vegas is a relatively easy 3 1/2 hour drive from the 19 Minutes World Headquarters, and I've made the trip a handful of times in the past few years. With math skills to rival a 7th grader, I've generally steered clear of most gambling activities. The whole 'spectacle of Las Vegas' business gets old as you begin to realize that sitting in traffic on the Strip isn't really that much different than sitting in traffic on Rockville Pike, or the New Jersey Turnpike, or I-10 through Los Angeles.

So the innovative tourist will seek out oddball activities for a change of pace. My two favorites are Cashman Field, home of the Las Vegas 51s minor league baseball team, and the Liberace Museum.

Going to a baseball game in Vegas is something of an oddball activity, because it's roughly the largest place in town without slot machines. The Liberace Museum also has no slot machines, and as an added bonus, displays a diamond ring His Liberaceness used to wear, and which is approximately the size of a Subaru. It's also a good place to pick up a Liberace postcard featuring his recipe for sticky buns.

You can eat the sticky buns wherever you'd like (a phrase I don't believe I've written before), but if you want coffee with them, you'll have to leave your hotel room.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Apparently, the only beaters around here are eggs

So driving into work today through the campus where the 19 Minutes World Headquarters are located, one couldn't help but notice the car with the bow atop it in the parking lot of one of the dormitories. Now, it's Flagstaff, Arizona, and there is no shortage of old cars with strange objects (beer bottles, "Star Wars" action figures, etc.) glued to old cars. But this was one of those Nissan SUVs that looks like a cross between a slug and a bowling shoe, and so it led me to believe some lucky student was getting it as a gift; one might guess 21st birthday or a graduation present.

At the risk of turning this into one of those "Back in my day..." rants, the number of upscale cars on this campus is staggering. When the 19 Minutes staff went off to college 18 years ago, we were driving a 1978 Ford Fairmont that featured a bumper sticker that read "This Vehicle Not Purchased With Drug Money". (Hey, it was 1987, and with "Miami Vice" on TV, that sort of thing was funny. Or maybe it wasn't.)

This was a car that, if you wanted to be charitable, you could describe as 'having a lot of character'. A less-charitable person would have described it as 'a piece of crap.' By the time it died a glorious, rod-throwing death on the highway outside Cumberland, Maryland, nearly all the dashboard lights were out, most of the little lines on the rear defroster were non-functional, the wipers were unintentionally intermittent, and in order to get the FM radio to receive stereo brodcasts, you had to shove a plastic spoon in the mechanism that changed the band from AM to FM. (Don't ask me how I figured that out.) In the end, I was actually a charitable person, donating the decomposing car to the Allegany County vocational and technical program.

My wife was smart enough not to actually take her high school car on to college, as the 1976 Chevy pickup may have caused unnecessary biohazard problems. And I recently ran across a picture of my college girlfriend's original car, which was a Chevy Malibu of (I believe) early 1970s vintage and remained in Colorado through her college years. My brother's wart-shaped 1978 Toyota Celica was the exception -- an unlikely candidate to make it all the way to New Hampshire -- but one which actually lasted all the way through his freshman year.

The point is that your high school and college cars are supposed to set you up to appreciate the better cars you'll drive later in life. For example, had it not been for my '78 Fairmont, I would never have found a car my '85 Subaru wagon (one part paint, five parts rust) could have compared favorably to.

So my theory is that these college kids are going to get into a retro-car thing. Within a few years, they'll have their jobs as investment bankers and athletic trainers (or, perhaps, fry cooks), and they'll drive their 2005 Nissan Muranos and Jeep Cherokees into the Verde River, and go off in search of 1978 Fairmonts. And if any of you are reading this, and you're traveling through Maryland, let me know. I think I may have a line on one.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

I hope those greeters are keeping warm

You may recall that we poked a little fun at one side of the campaign here in northern Arizona regarding a big box store referendum, noting their press release was crafted from the "Nanny Nanny Boo Boo" School of headline writing.

The 19 Minutes staff is nothing if not an equal opportunity nitpicker, which is why we were interested to note the fine print on the yard signs distributed by the "No on [Proposition] 100" campaign: "Paid for by Wal-Mart Stores, Bentonville, AK".

[Note for the Postal Abbreviation-impared: That'd be Alaska. Wal-Mart is actually based in Bentonville, Arkansas.

Color me reactionary, but it does make one want to read the rest of the details in their campaign literature more closely.

Meanwhile, the Arizona AP this morning reported the following story:

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) _ A 25-year-old political novice plans to seek the Republican nomination for governor.

Scottsdale resident Teresa Ottesen says she's going to file paperwork this week to make it official for 2006, and will run using public campaign funds.

Ottesen says Arizona is ready for a young G-O-P governor.
A quick Googling of the young Ottesen reveals no campaign website yet. But a self-penned profile appears in the alumni section of the Maricopa Community Colleges website, and includes the following illuminating passage:

I have lived in Arizona all of my life and have been to every city in the state except for one border city down south.
Which, if nothing else, demonstrates a firm grasp of Arizona geography, or at least a knowledge of where the border is.

And finally this afternoon, this information from the crack Duh Squad of the Beaver County (UT) Sheriff's office, via the Utah AP:

MINERSVILLE, Utah (AP) _ Burglars knocked out service to 15 hundred telecommunications customers when they cut lines in a utility box before stealing an automated teller machine at a Minersville gas station.

An undisclosed amount of cash was in the teller machine, which was stolen about 2:30 a.m. yesterday.

Beaver County sheriff's Sergeant Cameron Noel said the crime was believed connected to a string of burglaries over the past 18 months.

Obtaining cash is the main objective, and more than 100 thousand dollars has been stolen to date, Noel said.

What would really mess up the investigation is the possibility that the burglars are actually just taking the ATMs to add some ambiance to their basement gameroom, along with the pinball machines and disco balls.

Monday, May 02, 2005

A sign of dubious significance

First of all a big welcome to those of you stopping by 19 Minutesland as a result of the reference at the end of my column in Mountain Living. We know you have a lot of places to waste your time and bandwidth, and we thank you for choosing this one.

19 Minutes World Headquarters is located in scenic northern Arizona, which means there's a significant Native American influence on culture here. We hear a lot about the significance of various signs -- snow on the San Francisco Peaks, the appearance of white buffalo, etc.

On my ride back to work from lunch today, I saw a raven carrying a sandwich.

I have no idea what this means, except I'm pretty sure it has to do with Nevermore-brand mayonnaise. (possible TV ad: "Are you hungry? Yes, I'm ravenous for new Nevermore-brand Mayonnaise! It's the feather-light way to brighten any sandwich...")

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Pomp and circumstantial evidence

It's May first, which means another installment in the ongoing dubious public service I perform at the beginning of each month: The monthly posting of "Last Laugh", my humor column in Northern Arizona's Mountain Living Magazine. It's also a good reminder that my deadline for the June column is today. Huh. Anyway, enjoy. It doesn't appear to be nearly as bad as it seemed when I wrote it:

I’ve never been invited to give a speech at graduation. That’s most likely because my own academic career was, to use some cutting-edge academic terminology, “bad.” I was one of those college students that the counselors always described as “having a lot of potential”, because it was more diplomatic than saying my math aptitude was the same as a bowl of goldfish. Pepperidge Farm.

I lasted a year-and-a-half at my first university, about enough time for my grade point average to reach a level that would have looked great – had a been a pitcher trying to win the Cy Young Award. I was, well, lazy. The academic highlight of my first 18 months of college was failing “Introduction to Computer Science” – the kind of class where you receive a “C” for successfully identifying the monitor. My problem with the course was that it met at 8:00 am, which effectively dissuaded me from ever attending. I actually filled out the necessary paperwork to drop the class but, being lazy, never got around to getting it signed, or sending it in.

It took five years and three colleges, but I finally learned the importance of going to class, and the last of the three schools finally gave me a diploma. But they never invited me to speak at graduation.

Here in Flagstaff, I’ve been privileged – thanks to my radio career – to speak at commencement ceremonies for the last three years. But reading thousands of names as gown-clad college students cross the stage hasn’t allowed me to impart the wisdom of my life experiences on departing students. Thank goodness for this column, as I now present the Class of 2005 with some key lessons. As an added bonus, I’ll try to use the term “pomp” without also mentioning “circumstance.”

Class of 2005, as you head off into a world that not only features “Mini Oreos” but also “Chocolate Lucky Charms”, keep a few things in mind:

You weren’t nearly as cool a college student as you think you were. My roommates and I thought we were the coolest thing since fish-shaped neckties when we hit on the idea of bringing four TVs into our suite to watch sports one Sunday afternoon. Had we been cool, we could have invented the sports bar. As it turned out, we ran out of football games after three TVs and were forced to tune the fourth to “Bowling for Dollars”.

It doesn’t matter how many varieties the dining hall has on hand -- cereal is not one of the major food groups. Ramen isn’t either, but get to know this important substance well.

In the high finance boardroom, the question “Is this going to be on the final?” is rarely heard. Nor is the word “pomp.”

And finally, now that you’ve finished the last of 73,000 essays you’ve written since 6th grade, I’ll let you in on a secret: There are relatively few jobs where you have to crank out 500 words on a different topic all the time. Writing a column is one of them. That’s what you get for failing Intro to Computer Science.