It’s All Fun And Games Until The UPI Wire Breaks Down

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I don’t think I’ve ever told this particular story from my radio days – so stop me if you’ve heard this one before.

I don’t remember the exact date this happened – but it’s sometime in early 1992, and I’m working with the late Stan Major overnights at the Sun Radio Network at their old Feather Sound studios in Clearwater, Florida. For most of the night, the only two people in the building are us – which changed when morning newsman Frank Kinsman came in around 4:00 to 4:30 or so.

Our Sun Radio network feed is being simulcasted on WEND, 760 AM out of Brandon, plus various stations across the country large and small. A few times an hour, I hit a set of buttons in front of my console to trigger something called a “35 Hz” tone – which sends automation to the unmanned stations to play a brief, ten-second recording called a “liner” so that local stations can identify themselves or promote something.

If local news broke during the shift, we didn’t have the means to break whatever that news was. One night, an early-spring squall line is coming through central Florida, setting off various weather advisories such as tornado watches. Stan and I are debating: how do we get the information on our local station with no staff? If I did it, no one could run the board – and if Stan did it, no one would be doing his show. We reached the compromise of Stan giving out the local weather information nationally, apologizing for the awkward setup to everyone outside of Florida.

I have a open-air booth where I run the board, answer the phones, record the current show, and have playback standing up in the case of emergencies. Stan is in a soundproof booth with a window so he and I can communicate with hand gestures and through a private intercom. We’re using an old TRS-80 computer to log the calls Stan works through as the show progresses.

On occasion, news breaks through the night – but what if the news stops coming to you? One night, that happened when the print on the UPI machine – one of the two wire sources we used, the other being AP (though it couldn’t be acknowledged). On this one night, I’m hearing the UPI wire machine making strange noises – and I can’t remember whether or not the machine is jammed or it has run out of paper. Here I am, trying to run a nationally syndicated talk show and also playing a printing repairman – and this was back in 1992 when my computer knowledge is next to nil. It’s not an easily fixable problem back then as it would be today in the era of laser printers and the like.

It’s freaking me out, and Stan notices – saying that I looked like someone who needed his mommy. At this point, I’m just trying to stay off the unemployment line – which is where I think I’m heading, Stan Major or no Stan Major to save me.

I call the staff that would come in ahead of me and alert them to the problem – thinking I’ll get my ass chewed on for doing so. The one thing I can’t do was the one thing I needed to do – fix the printer to avoid a news-gathering catastrophe for our AM news show, American Sunrise. If I’m going to be screwed either way, I figure it’s best to be screwed trying to help people out – which was my intent.

The “crisis” gets solved – but I don’t seem to remember a procedure put in place so that something like that couldn’t happen again. A few months later, American Sunrise was cancelled – management must have figured out the futility of having a skeleton crew putting out these kind of possible fires.

Apprentice Deadhead

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One of the things I’ve learned to appreciate in the last decade or so has been the music of the Grateful Dead. You know, Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir – those guys.

I don’t know how it exactly began for me sometime in this first decade of the new century. (Did we ever decide what we’re going to call the 2000’s? The Oughts? Something else? Someone might want to figure that out now that we’re eight months shy of the 2020’s, right?) It might have been one night listening to the local community station, WMNF 88.5. Or it might have been all the material of theirs on Archive.org I discovered one day at the library.

One day, I “brewed” one of their recordings on a CD-R disc – I think it was one of their shows in the 70’s at the old Curtis Hixon Hall in Tampa. I was hooked right away, thinking those guys (and the one woman who was a vocalist for them at one point – Donna Jean Godchaux) were good, and that they knew how to have fun with the music.

Then I discovered this instrumental Jerry Garcia did called “Eep Hour” and instantly loved the spookiness of it – and that sold me even more.

It’s good music – and you don’t have to smoke pot or be on something to like it, although I imagine it couldn’t hurt.

Survey Says…

Actually, I have heard about the American Community Survey long before I opened up my mail earlier today to see I had been “selected” to answer same. The mailer came with the information that I am required by law to complete the questions asked.

Of course, they don’t give you a deadline as to when you are to complete the survey – they just say if you fail to do so (I guess they mean at some arbitrary deadline they don’t tell you about), you can be fined. Of course, the piece of mail addresses me as a resident at the address I live – and doesn’t refer to me by name, so already I have some legal ground to work with here.

I’ve been hearing about this particular survey for years, and how some well-meaning citizens have had questions over how constitutional and intrusive the survey is. In my life, either my family on my behalf or myself has always complied with the Census when asked to by law in 1980, 1990, 2000, and 2010. I intend to do so again in 2020, Lord willing – but I also view answering these additional questions as unconstitutional, so I plan on not complying with this “survey” for now.

If I get some push back for non-compliance, it might make for a good story.

Time Passages

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Sorry, folks – my cat Harry is pestering me at the moment I started typing this. There you go, bud. (I’m rubbing his belly, which for some reason he likes.) Good boy, good boy, good boy.

A lot of science fiction I’ve read as of late suggests that if you go back at travel back in time (a technology which doesn’t seem to exist – sadly), and if you went to find yourself – you would be able to do it. For example, if I went back to 1989 and hung around Largo High School in Largo, Florida, or the southwest part of the city – I would meet the 17 year-old version of me.

That’s the working theory anyways, but I don’t know if that would be true – that going back in time would necessarily create duplicate versions of myself. Wouldn’t one version of me replace the other – or wouldn’t the various incarnations cancel each other out?

I guess that’s the good thing about science fiction. Time travel is one topic that probably won’t be resolved in my lifetime – so I guess there’s room for perpetual debate.

Reimagining The Draft

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Today is the biggest off-season day in North American sports – the day that the NFL Draft commences. It’s a day where each franchise gets to wax philosophic and has enthusiasm for its future, because no matter who it is you pick – you can’t lose a game until September.

Crazy idea – and I have a few that careen in my brain from time to time. Wouldn’t drafts in the major pro sports be quicker if the draft-eligible players were randomly divided and awarded to teams, regardless of who the best player was perceived to be?

For example, say that there were 329 players who declared themselves eligible for the NFL Draft in a given year. Instead of each team having seven (or so) picks at finding their next superstar – what if the players who were draft-eligible were randomly and equally divided? For the purposes of this example, we have 329 players and 32 teams – so each team would get at least 10 players at random. Also for the purposes of this example, I would suggest that the remainder of nine players would go to the nine teams with the worst records, giving them an 11th pick.

To me, the draft is such a random thing anyways – because the 32 NFL teams don’t know what they get when they get it. Tom Brady was hidden deep in the 2000 NFL Draft – but a Ryan Leaf was one of the first picks and wound up being a total bust. It would seem to be a total time saver to do the allotment by a computer drawing, or by picking ping pong balls or something like that, and get everybody back to baseball, or the NBA or NHL playoff games.

Just my two cents.

Climbing Bars

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About four years ago, I mentioned I had this phobia at one point in my life regarding escalators.

Can you imagine how I felt about climbing things in P.E. class in elementary school – which I never had to do in middle school or high school, because no such apparatuses existed?

There was this thing called “the climbing bars” in my elementary school class, about ten feet wide and seven feet tall with wooden stumps on each side – five metal rods that you had to climb up and over. As you can tell, I hated the hell out of it and never did it.

Two things were going on in my mind, actually. The first and foremost thing being my own irrational fears – and I admit that freely. I should have done what was asked of me and not squawked as much as I did – but I would have done anything else than to climb those bars, including taking whatever punishment came with it. What could they have done – kicked me out of school for not climbing those silly bars? Even as a kid, I saw this as a battle I’d win if I stood my ground.

Then there’s the other factor: the thing really didn’t look all that safe with all of these kids climbing it all at once. I had big feet for a child my age, and those metal rods I had to climb up didn’t look like it could support them.

This PE coach (who was in fact a very nice guy) made it his life’s work to make me climb those bars for whatever reason he had – maybe he saw I had this “fear barrier” that I needed to be freed of. All these years later, those bars have long since been taken down – a victim of the expansion of the school.

But alas, I should have done the task asked of me.

The Paperless Park

A trip to Tropicana, May 27, 2015.

Even after being swept by the Boston Red Sox over this Easter weekend, the Rays have done surprisingly well to start their 2019 season. But the Tampa Bay club has a nagging problem that isn’t getting any better that might actually be augmented by changes its making.

Tropicana Field became the first park/arena in major North American sports (the NBA, MLB, NHL, and NFL) to not accept cash for anything you can get there – a Rays cap, parking, a hot dog, and so on. Anything you can get now requires a card – be it your credit card, a debit card, or a gift card you can get there in exchange for cash. On top of which, the barely reached stadium capacity shrunk yet again to around 25,000 – a ceiling that has so far only been touched once when the Rays opened the season against Houston.

Ever since the season began, fans have been very happy with the sudden rise of the club (who won 90 games last year) – but actually going to the game has become something the Rays fan in my “circle” don’t want to discuss. The “card thing” scares them from taking that trip to the Trop – they don’t want to share their personal information there, or risk some sort of unseen card fraud there.

I don’t think the ownership of the Rays is trying to scare their public away from attending the games – but at the same time, how does this club not wind up somewhere else in a few years under these current policies? Enjoy the Rays while you can – sooner or later, they will be somewhere else, like Montreal, Las Vegas, San Antonio, Portland, or somewhere else.

Slightly Changing Things

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You may have noticed in the past week or so that I’ve done two things: I’ve blogged every day at least once, and I changed the font of the blog a bit. I don’t have any plans to change the blog dramatically beyond that in the near future.

Blogging every day? That’s something I’ve done here and there on here for stretches. Sometimes my stream of consciousness is a trickle – sometimes it’s a flood, and sometimes my availability changes. I just felt like changing that up as of late, that’s all.

One of my goals for this blog is to keep it the way it is as a free blog – unless I hit the lottery or something. If I were to do that, I’d probably have to take a hiatus for a bit. My three other goals here are to make it to 2,000 blog entries (with this entry, I’m at 1,830), make it to the start of 2020, and then do the blog for at least ten years – which I’d hit on December 1, 2021.

With all that said, I’m taking Easter weekend off – be back Monday.