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Coordination Is a Beautiful Thing . . .

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. . . if and when it exists!

Street Activity

Lurching into its third month, the Ingraham Street construction in Hyattsville continues.

Having put in spanking-new sewer-feeder pipes, which required tearing up the street that had been newly paved two years ago, the WSSC’s contractors are hard at work today. They’ve replaced a lot of the concrete curbing that had been damaged in the last two months. They’re replacing driveway aprons that were messed up (including ours). They plan, by the end of the week, to have a newly paved street for us, curb to curb, as they put it.

Isn’t that nice? I think so.

New Apron 1

What strikes me as bizarre is that the following week, the Washington Gas contractors plan to tear up a chunk of the brand-new street to replace the gas lines damaged last month; these lines serve the house next door and one across the street.

Honest to God. Tearing up a week-old street.

Hyattsville’s mayor, Marc Tartaro, who is a hard-working and intelligent person, responded to some of us in an email that the city has little control over what the public utilities do to our streets. Marc promised to try to get the utilities to coordinate their efforts to avoid having to patch a brand-new road surface, but I got the sense that he may not be able to do it.

Hyattsville Communications Director Abby Sandel with Mayor Marc Tartaro. Photo by Chris Suspect.

City Communications Director Abby Sandel, Mayor Marc Tartaro. Photo: Chris Suspect.

Sometimes you just have to laugh because crying does no good. Updates to follow!

UPDATE; TUESDAY MORNING:

This is good news!

Getting To The Gas

It appears to me that our mayor, Marc Tartaro, has managed to do what I frankly thought was impossible: The contractors are digging on the street this morning, which implies to me that the gas main is being repaired before the street will be totally repaved!

So, our snazzy new street might stay snazzy looking for a while.

Thanks to Marc, his staff, Washington Gas, WSSC and all the contractors! Good work!

FURTHER UPDATE:

As impossible as this is to believe, today’s giant hole in the street is being dug by the WSSC contractors exactly where the Washington Gas folks need their hole to be dug, but the gas line isn’t being replaced today. This particular hole is to repair a sewage line not the gas line.

So, I spoke too soon! The new street will be torn up according to the original schedule, one week after being totally repaved.

Bureaurocracy wins! How could I have doubted it?!?!?

Sheesh!!!

Is Twitter the CB Radio Fad of the 21st Century?

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I suspect so; it seems kinda goofy, too hip by half and annoying. Who really cares what you’re ordering at the coffee shop? I tried it for, I believe, three days.

Many of the folks tweeting around now may not remember how hip Citizen’s Band radios were in the United States around 1976-1978. They were hugely popular in that time before the internet and cell phones.

CB Radio

Perhaps spurred by the C.W. McCall song, Convoy, and certainly spurred by the Smokey and the Bandit movies, folks all over had these radios installed under their car’s dash and sent in their coupon to the U.S. government for a license to use it. Then the hipster had to learn how to talk on the thing, which was an art form. Anything had to be said in a fake Arkansas accent if at all possible.

 

Here’s The Bandit as played by Burt Reynolds:

That's a big 10-4, Snowman!

Very important was your CB radio name, or “handle.” Much thought was given to this important item, much like screen names today. My handle, of course, was “Boy Howdy.”

Much of the CB radio traffic had to do with highway travel and avoiding police while speeding. Some valuable info, like traffic jams, closed roads, speed traps or other things to avoid, was sometimes provided.

I worked with a guy who couldn’t afford air conditioning for his car, when cars often didn’t come with it as standard equipment, or a CB radio. He bought a broken microphone with a coiled cord, rolled up his windows in the Florida heat and drove around hoping to look cool. Didn’t work. He’s probably a super tweeter today.

Some CB enthusiasts had high-power transmitters on their radios; I knew several people with radios so powerful that keying the mike could make a nearby fluorescent tube light up even if it wasn’t connected to a fixture!

After about 1978, all the excitement was over and CB radios were as old-school and unhip as eight-track tape players, multiple gold chains, mullet haircuts and vinyl tops on automobiles.

CB radios famously had their own lingo. Here’s a sample of what was considered cool twenty-five years before LOL, ROTFL, BRB and so on:
10-4: Affirmative. Can also be used to denote agreement (“That’s a big 10-4.”)
10-7: Out of commission
10-20 (more often simply “20”): Location, as in “My 20 is I-95 at exit 13.”
Anklebiters: Children
Bear: Police officer
Bear in the air: Police aircraft
Bear taking pictures: Police with radar
Breaker: Telling other CB users that you’d like to start a transmission on a channel. May be succeeded by the channel number, indicating that anyone may acknowledge (“Breaker one-nine” refers to channel 19, the most widely used among truck drivers).
Clean and green: No police or obstructions ahead
Convoy: Group of three or more truckers in a row, usually exceeding the speed limit
County mountie: Deputy sheriff’s car
Double nickel: The 55mph speed limit
Driver: Polite form of address when you do not know someone’s on-the-air nickname. (See “Handle”)
Drop/put the hammer down: Pressing the accelerator pedal to full speed
Feed the bear: Pay a traffic fine
Handle: Nickname a CB user uses in CB transmissions. Other CB users will refer to the user by this nickname. To say “What’s your handle?” is to ask another user for their CB nickname.
Negatory: No
Reefer: Refrigerated trailer
Smokey: Law officer, particularly state police or highway patrol

UPDATE:
A friend asked me to give some guidance to the CB radio terms in the C.W. McCall Convoy tune that I didn’t already identify, so here goes. I got most of these off Net sites; the plot of the song is that a bunch of truckers are going from California to New Jersey or maybe New York City.

C.W. McCall, by the way, was the fictitious name used by the writer and singer of that song, who was really Omaha ad agency art director, Bill Fries.

10-Roger: Cute form of 10-4
Cab-over:
Style of semi-truck tractor with a flat front due to the cab being over the engine
Catch you on the flip-flop:
“I’ll talk to you on my return trip (on the way back home).”
Chicken coop: Weigh station
Chi-town: Chicago, Illinois
Copy that: Message received
Got a copy?: “Do you hear me?”
Flagtown: Flagstaff, Arizona
Front door: The first vehicle in the line of a convoy
Headin’/huntin’ for bear: Coming up on a police blockade
Jimmy: a GMC truck
Keep the bugs off your glass and the bears off your . . . tail: The real phrase is “keep the bugs off your glass and the bears off your ass.” A typical CB sign-off that means to drive carefully and watch out for speed traps.
Longhaired friends of Jesus: Hippies
Microbus: Volkswagen Microbus or van. Very popular vehicle among the hippies during the 1960s and 1970s.* Another popular song that mentions the Volkswagen Microbus is Alice’s Restaurant Massacree by Arlo Guthrie.
On the side: A break in the conversation
Rigs:
Semi-truck brands, like Kenworth, Peterbilt or White, or types of semi, like cab-overs or reefers
Shakeytown: Los Angeles, California
Suicide jockey: Driver of a hazardous material truck
Swindle sheets: Truckers’ logs. Truckers have to keep logs of what they were hauling; these “swindle sheets” must be presented to Department Of Transportation officers on request.
Ten-nine (10-9): Repeat message
Tulsa-town: Tulsa, Oklahoma

*My VW Microbus (owned from 1969 to 1974) was a 1963 blue-and-white one with Budweiser-label fabric curtains and quality eight-track sound pushed through a Fender Showman speaker cabinet.
— Jim

FURTHER UPDATE:

This is turning into a mammoth post; there’s more interest than I anticipated!

Now some folks want to know why police, especially state police or troopers, are known as Smokeys or bears. Most of you already know this, but it’s the hat.

WWI Campaign Hat
When Smokey the Bear was chosen as the cartoon mascot of the U.S. Forest Service in 1947, he was drawn wearing a campaign hat. This cool-looking hat, known in the U.S. Army as the 1911 Hat, Service, M1911, is a broad-brimmed hat, usually made of felt, with a high crown, pinched symmetrically at the four corners (the “Montana crease”). The Montana crease was developed so that rain would not collect in the creases of the hat.

Smokey The Bear
These hats are still worn by Army drill instructors, forest rangers and such, but they’re most often seen on state police or highway patrol officers. In Canada, they’re worn by the Mounties.

Mountie
So that’s why, in trucker’s and CB lingo, state police are called Smokeys or bears!

Robots I Have Known

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My grand-daughter, Maddie, is fascinated by robots. Considering that she’s just over three years old, that’s a good indication, to me at least, of the prevalence of robots in our culture.

The word “robot” was created by a Czech painter in 1920 for his brother to use in a play to describe the machines who did drudge work. It’s a spinoff of the Slovak word for “serf.” Here’s a photo of three robots from that play, Karel Capek’s R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots), which debuted in 1920:

So from the beginning, robots had to have some resemblance to humans and be capable of movement. There are many robotic machines in use today but few are what we think of as robots. They’re just machines designed for repetitive tasks.

This cute stamped-metal toy from the 1950s is what a robot looked like to kids of my generation, though not all of them carried little red lanterns:

In the movies, one of the most iconic robots was Robby in The Forbidden Planet from 1956:

Robby was created by the prop makers at MGM and appeared in later TV shows and movies under other names. His best feature was the gears moving inside the transparent dome on his head.

The most famous film robot was probably R2D2 from Star Wars:

His buddy, C-3PO, was more of an android, I guess, but here he is:

Television had had many great robots. The Simpsons creator, Matt Groening, had a robot named Bender on a show called Futurama:

Here’s the 1948 comic book cover that Bender was based upon:

My favorite television robots were the wisecracking Crow T. Robot and Tom Servo from Mystery Science Theater 3000; here they are with their creator, Joel:

In comic books, unrestrained by having to be a physical object, robots were everywhere and of all shapes and sizes. A 1941 Action Comic shows Superman smashing a couple of crude robots:

On the early ’50s television show, The Adventures of Superman, there were a couple of robots. You can see they, too, were crude, reflecting the cheap budget of that truly wonderful show. Superman, as portrayed by George Reeves, was much kinder to this robot than his comic-book counterpart had been a few years earlier:

Side comment: In my opinion, George Reeves’ portrayal of Superman was flat-out the most successful by any actor. We now return to the robots.

In the later 1950s, DC editor Mort Weisinger created a Superman ethos that included a ton of great robots. Superman made an entire platoon of robots to cover for him in emergencies, and, as this Action Comics cover from 1961 shows, he had a few Clark Kent robots, too:

I love the expression on the face of that Clark Kent robot! He is really confounded by his predicament. And how do you like that expository dialog? Weisinger was famous for that and I find it one of the coolest things about the comics he edited; it was so over-the-top. One of his assistants once argued with Weisinger over the editor’s insistence on having a sign over a crook’s secret hideout that said, “Secret Hideout!”

These later Superman comic-book robots looked so much like humans that even close friends of the original subject couldn’t tell they were artificial. These high-end robots often had emotions, and, to my way of thinking, started crossing into what are more properly called androids. An android is a synthetic human being, and folks are busily creating them nowadays!

Here’s one called DER 01, made by the Intelligent Robotics Lab in Japan:

Spooky, huh?!?!?

How many robots and androids do you know?

I Can’t Wait!!!

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Christmas isn’t that far away, my friends, and this cover from a December, 1937 issue of The Modern Boy promises us great things are coming our way!

The Modern Boy was a weekly magazine that had exciting stories and pictures aimed at ten-year-olds in England. This cover showed a Dad and his son deciding on which toy they preferred.

All joking aside, this is a fairly accurate forecasting of us ordering stuff via the internet. The microphone sticking out of the set is a trifle alarming but remember that when this cover illustration was created, television in the home was at least ten or twelve years away. The artist based his TV set of the future on the large radios of the day and scored pretty near the mark. I like what appears to be a rotary telephone dial on the set; I guess that’s how you connect with the toy store.

Of course, two-way television communication was further off but it’s still a cool guess by folks 75 years ago at what our world would be like today.

Here’s another cover from an old publication; this one’s a dust-jacket cover from the 1912 book, Tom Swift and his Photo Telephone. Tom clearly anticipates iChat.

The form factor isn’t as accurate on this vision of the future, but it must have been a mind-blower to kids 100 years ago. Here’s some dialog where Tom and his dad discuss Tom’s amazing idea:

All right, Dad. Go ahead, laugh.'”

“‘Well, Tom, I’m not exactly laughing at you … it’s more at the idea than anything else. The idea of talking over a wire and, at the same time, having light waves, as well as electrical waves passing over the same conductors!'”

“‘All right, Dad. Go ahead and laugh. I don’t mind,’ said Tom, good-naturedly. “‘Folks laughed at Bell, when he said he could send a human voice over a copper string …”

One senses Tom’s frustration at his dad’s attitude, but we all know who came out looking foolish at the end of the book, don’t we?

There was another series of Tom Swift books when I was a kid; these were the adventures of Tom Swift, Jr, and he also had nifty ideas like space stations and solar batteries and a host of different metal alloys which were considered far-out at the time.

Early Voting Debacle, Maryland Style

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I live in Prince Georges County, Maryland, which has a population of 871,233 and covers 498.45 square miles. There were five designated early voting locations in this county.

Five.

Whomever the Braniac was that figured five early-voting locations were enough for this county should be made to stand in line for, say, the next two years as punishment.

For comparison purposes, the District of Columbia has a population of 617,996 and covers 68.3 square miles. They had eight early-voting locations; that’s with a 30% smaller population and only 14% of the size of Prince Georges County. They had 70% more early-voting sites than PG County.

I tried early voting Saturday at 2pm. The closest early-voting location to me is the College Park Community Center, and I couldn’t get near the place. Police officers were there to attempt to handle the traffic nightmare, but I was stuck on a residential street for thirty minutes in absolute gridlock. When a policeman walked by my car, I asked what in the world was going on; I though that perhaps there had been some sort of accident or catastrophe.

He replied that all the cars were folks trying to get to the polling place, and that we all had to try to turn around and go home; officials hadn’t realized how many people would show up.

When I tried again yesterday afternoon, accompanied by an impatient friend, we stood in line for 45 minutes, and gave it up when we were told that we would have to spend at least another 45 minutes before we’d reach our turns. I was all for staying, but my friend Bob was livid and refused to spend another minute in line. I really couldn’t blame him.

So to Hell with early voting. Maybe one day some official can make an intelligent decision and designate a reasonable number of early-voting sites. I seriously doubt it.

Son of It’s a Gas Gas Gas

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Yesterday afternoon, we began smelling gas out front and it seemed to be coming from in front of the house next door, where we had had a major gas leak a couple of weeks ago. Some of the smell also seemed to be coming from the driveways between our houses; there’s a small iron access cover there that may allow gas to escape.

Washington Gas came out in the middle of Hurricane Sandy and determined there was a leak, coming out of the ground itself and from under that cover, but that it wasn’t dangerous because of the wind. They promised to be out today to fix it.

As good as their word, the Washington Gas crew is out front with a big digging machine on a flatbed truck and they’re hard at work to solve the problem.

What it appears to me is that the rain caused the temporary asphalt patch put in by the WSSC sewer-line replacement crew to sag, which may have popped the repaired gas line. So that means the Washington Gas folks will have to dig up the street yet again to put that pesky line in place.

This entire sewer-repair effort has been fraught with interest, as my Granny used to say.

I sure don’t envy those Washington Gas staff’s job today; it’s a cold, wet miserable day to have to dig up a street in search of a gas leak. I’m sure these folks have places they’d rather be, homes or family that may be feeling the aftereffects of Hurricane Sandy, and there’s surely an element of risk in such an undertaking. And, let’s face it; they’re really having to fix a problem someone else created for them.

Yet they are efficient, cheerful, informative and dedicated. Thanks, Washington Gas! Anyone who helps keep my family, neighbors and me from being blown to atoms has my unstinting support and admiration!!!

Inside Hitler’s Bunker

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These stills are from a YouTube video. They show my dad in one of Hitler’s underground bunkers. I thought all this time that the bunker my dad had been in (and grabbed some souvenirs in the process) was the Berlin one; the caption on this video says it was the bunker under Hitler’s private home, called the Berghof. The caption also says that Dad was the first American G.I. to enter the bunker. Whether that’s true or not, I can’t say.

Just after the war, my dad was temporarily assigned to the 101st Airborne Division; in the video, you can plainly see the Screaming Eagle embroidered patch on his shoulder. Why he was chosen for this little film, which is in an early version of color, is not known to me. Maybe it was because he was a photogenic person or maybe it was because he was persuasive and talked his way into it. Don’t know; my dad never mentioned any of this stuff to me, other than to say he had grabbed a bunch of junk in Hitler’s bunker after the war. Anything I learned about his wartime experiences was from overhearing his conversations when a couple of other WWII vets visited our home in the mid-1960s.

Anyway, he sent home a roll of about a dozen water colors and a larger oil pastel that Hitler, an artist earlier in his life, had stored in that bunker. I gave away the watercolors to some friends in Naples in the early 1970s and burned the painting in the early 1990s. I reasoned that destroying an artist’s work is the biggest insult one can do him. All the paintings were of street scenes or of buildings; I guess people weren’t important to Adolf Hitler.

So here are some images illustrating one tiny portion of the aftermath of a hideous episode in the history of our world.

War Trophies

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I just submitted this photo to Shorpy.com, my favorite web site, and figured I’d post it here, too.

My dad served with the 82nd Airborne in WWII, and sent home an enormous batch of trophies, as seen in this photo taken on the front porch of our family farm after the war. Many of these guns, flags and uniforms were loaned to a museum in Fernandina Beach, Florida, and went astray. We were able to recover a few of them in the early 1970s and the automatic-weapon stamps from the ATF cost us a fortune; I believe it was $500 per gun. You should have seen it when the Naples police chief, my mom, two of my friends and I carried this stash of weapons into the Bank of Naples to store in their safe-deposit vault!

They were all sold or given away long ago, except for a 7.65mm Walther PPK I’ve kept. Dad picked that pistol up in the bunker in Berlin where Adolph Hitler had committed suicide with a pistol of the same make and caliber. Now, that model pistol is much more famous for being the pistol that James Bond keeps under that well-tailored suit jacket of his. [Edit: just learned that the bunker may have been the one under Hitler’s home, not the one in Berlin. No way of knowing for sure.]

My dad even brought back that dog in the photo; her name was Beulah.

Here’s a photo of Dad showing the campaign ribbons and such that he had earned in that war. I guess he was about 21 years old in this photo taken after the war.

My grandmother had an 8″ x 10″ glossy of the following Associated Press photo on the wall in her den. It shows my dad in WWII; she also had the yellowed newspaper clipping which identified him in the photo. Its headline, I remember, was Local Trooper Advances Under Enemy Fire.

On the 82nd Airborne site, it has this caption:

An infantryman from the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division goes out on a one-man sortie while covered by a comrade in the background, near Bra, Belgium, on December 24, 1944″

The three-week battle, of which the above photo illustrates one brief moment, was later called the Battle of the Bulge or the Ardennes Offensive; one of the last desperate efforts of Nazi Germany to survive. I think that’s a Thompson submachine gun in one of my dad’s hands; those might be wire cutters in the other.

Pretty grim situation for a kid just out of his teens. No helmet, either. No one likes to wear a helmet on Christmas Eve.

I Like the Way You Walk!

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Any kid who read comic books in the 1950s and ’60s– and what kid didn’t?– had to have read a story or two that involved Easter Island statues either being alive or being brought to life to attack mankind. These statues, properly called Moai, were built between the years 1250 and 1500 and they are huge. Hewn from rock quarried on the island, they can be as tall as 33 feet– almost as high as a three-story building– and weigh over 80 tons. There are over 850 of these amazing statues scattered over the island. Some are buried in the earth up to their necks, but their bodies are under the soil, ready to erupt from the earth and smush us whenever they feel so inclined.

These Moai originally sported red stone hats, made of a different stone than the bodies, but that’s something not essential (as if anything could be) to this little post.

But comics with walking Easter Island statues were guaranteed to creep out the bravest kid and, most importantly, get his money out of his pocket and into the cash register!

Here’s a classic example, drawn by Jack Kirby for DC Comics’ House of Mystery, cover date April, 1959:

Here’s another Kirby cover, this time drawn for Marvel/Atlas’ Tales to Astonish, cover date February, 1961:

Here’s a third from either Ron Wilson or Larry Leiber for Marvel’s Chamber of Chills, cover date July, 1974:

And finally, another Kirby example from Marvel’s Tales of Suspense, cover date April, 1962:

Why am I bringing this up? Because I just read a Scientific American article by Nature writer Ewen Callaway which describes how the folks living on Easter Island got these ungainly statues from the rock quarry to the platforms made for them. Evidently, they walked them into place!

Here’s a YouTube video of this being done and you have to admit, it’s rather creepy!

I Can’t Wait For The UPS Truck!

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As many of you may already know, I’m not an impulse buyer. All my purchases are well-considered and thoroughly thought out far in advance. Still, there are opportunities that arise, chiefly on eBay, that require a snap decision and a firm commitment to furthering one’s stable of useful and necessary items. Hence the auction below, which I just won:

Just click to enlarge!

Yes, within days, I will have my own Little Blue Thing to fool around with. Sometimes Patty isn’t in 100% alignment on the things I buy, but this purchase is sure to meet with her approval. I can see it now:

“Hey, Patty; the LBT and I are up early and rearing to go! Is there anything around the house that you need smushed this morning?”

“Why, yes, my Darling Husband! Howzabout having your new mechanical friend smush that fat ugly empty thing perched on top of your neck?”

“No problem! Where’s my LBT remote control?”

Well, as you know, there wasn’t really a Little Blue Thing for sale on eBay, at least today. But maybe one day . . .

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