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 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.