Friday, February 23, 2007

My daughter the transformer

I became a father for the third time 20 years ago this month. I began dating a very nice woman with a daughter who was a junior in high school. Now, not everything lasts forever, but by the time we said goodbye, the daughter was in grad school and had become my oldest child.

The first thing her mother said in that bittersweet conversation was, "I don't want this to affect your relationship with Paige." And it didn't. She was, by then, well on her way to becoming an Episcopal priest, and, since then, has married my youngest and his wife (see above) and baptized two of my (now) four granddaughters. And, as it happens, she's now my geographically-closest kin, being about two hours away in York Harbor, ME.

When she isn't marrying folks or dunking babies, Paige is busy transforming the world, and has come up with something called the U2charist, a eucharist service that uses the music of U2 to help spread the gospel of mercy and charity, and, specifically, the Millennium Development Goals of eradicating poverty. As you'll see (and hear) here, the movement has spread throughout this country and has extended to England, New Zealand and Hong Kong as well.

I'm not a churchgoing type, and I'm not a big U2 fan, either. But I'm a huge fan of getting to watch a person reach out and transform the world -- especially when it's somebody I'd love anyway.

Here's to 20 more years of voluntary kinship.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

It seemed like such a good idea at the time

I came across this ad in an issue of the Press-Republican of Plattsburgh NY published just after WWII. They had come up with some terrific inventions during those years and were trying to figure out how to use them in civilian life.

This one doesn't appear to have caught on.

(click on image for larger version)

Sunday, February 11, 2007

My first Maine moose!

(not visible in picture)

You have to understand what went into this picture -- coming around the curve by the high school, about 2 miles from the house and there's the moose, standing by the side of the road. I slowed down, took the camera from my pocket, switched it on, rolled down the window and was able to get off one snapshot without aiming before he was completely gone into the woods.

Considering he turned and started galumphing off at a pretty good clip as soon as I began slowing down, a hoof or two is plenty of evidence. Next time, maybe I'll get one of the kind that pauses to strike a pose.

Saturday, February 10, 2007


Friday night I went up north to cover an informational meeting about the various plans to reform Maine's educational system. The main one is from the governor, who has written the purported savings into his proposed budget, making it problematic. For the rural folks out here in one of the last schools before you get to Quebec, the prospect of being pulled into a consolidated district is upsetting, and not at all because of cost. One woman noted that she knows a kid whose father is a border guard and he's already spending two hours on the bus EACH WAY -- sending him, and these other remote kids, to a school nearly another hour away seems cruel and counterproductive.

People mentioned cost, but only because the governor's proposal allows them to keep their teacher/student ratios intact, if they want to pay the full cost of the additional teachers, and would guarantee that no schools would close -- if they wanted to pay the cost of running a school in addition to the taxes they'd be paying to the consolidated district.

But their chief concern is distance and quality of education. They can't see putting their kids on buses for another hour each way in order to go from grade level sizes of 75 to grade level sizes of a couple of hundred -- especially since their little district was rated sixth best in Maine a few years ago. "It's like trading a Cadillac for a Yugo," said a truck driver in the audience.

And he was fairly typical of the people there -- articulate, passionate blue-collar country people. I looked around and I felt like I was back in Star Lake. As you can see in this picture, there were plenty of people in the audience much too old to have kids in school. But they have grandchildren or great-grandchildren or neighbor kids in the school and a sense that these are THEIR kids we're talking about. This is the kind of place where people go to the Senior Play even if they don't have a kid in it. As it happened, there was a middle school basketball tournament going on in the gym at the same time, the parking lots were full and cars were parked down the road for quite a way.

The four guys facing the crowd were the speakers. There are no neckties in this part of the country, as far as I can tell. (Actually, that's an exaggeration. The town manager in Farmington wears one, as does the local Edward Jones guy.) At the rostrum is the school superintendent. The guy in the red shirt is our State Senator, Walt, who I was meeting in person for the first time but have talked to on the phone. I think he's a retired teacher. The guy in the flannel shirt and vest is one of our reps, Tom, who is an environmental engineer for International Paper. The guy in the maroon sweater is also a state rep, from the far northwest, and a retired dairy farmer.

They each got up and spoke for a little while, but certainly less than 10 minutes each. Then it was a back and forth with the people in the room, very casual, only one "speech" and that from a genial old guy who everyone seemed to expect it from and who was pretty interesting anyway. The meeting lasted for about an hour and a half and then, of course, we all stood around and talked to each other for another half hour or so.

I got home a little after 10. It was nine degrees above zero and every star in the universe was visible overhead -- it was hard to pick out the constellations, you could see so many other stars.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Sarnoff says public will not pay for radio programs
(December 28, 1923)

With the general trend of thought among radio enthusiasts leaning towards the question, "Who will pay for broadcasting?" the remarks of David Sarnoff, vice-president and general manager of the Radio Corporation of America, in a recent address are especially timely:

"It has been said by a great many people and a great many corporations, some very large and able," said Sarnoff, "that broadcasting depends upon a solution of the problem whereby the consumer will pay for the entertainment which he receives. In other words, it has been said that unless some method is provided whereby a means is created for collecting revenue from the user of a broadcast instrument, that the whole industry is founded on sand and that it is bound to collapse in time because there will be no means of supporting it."

"It is my firm conviction," continued Mr. Sarnoff, "that that sort of solution to the problem is not necessary, that broadcasting can be made commercially practicable without any means being found for collecting from the consumer, that the greatest advantage of broadcasting lies in its universality, free entertainment, culture, instruction and all the items which constitute a program, in doing that which no other agency has yet been able to do. It is up to us, with intelligence and technique and broadness of spirit and vision as to the future, to preserve that most delightful element in the whole situation -- the freedom of radio."

"Just so soon as we destroy that freedom and universality of radio and confine it to only those who pay for it -- those who pay for the service, in other words -- just so soon as we make of broadcasting 'narrowcasting,' we destroy the fundamental of the whole situation. And, therefore, I believe very definitely that broadcasting as constituted today is commercially sound, and that it will remain so in the future, although there may be selective methods and narrowcast methods which will do no harm. These may supplement the situation. There may be wired-wireless and the like. All of these will make their contributions. But fundamentally there will remain, and there must remain and be preserved, that element of the broadcast situation which makes it possible for grand opera to go to the slums and to the districts of the poor as well as the rich, everywhere in the world, without any charge. The real picture of a $15 or a $25 set in the home of the slums, if you please, receiving the magnificent things in the air, is the picture we must preserve."

(I'm not sure the date of the cartoon but it was roughly contemporaneous to this article.)