Every autumn thousands of runners converge on New York City for the annual Marathon race. This 26.2-mile race though the city attracts better than 30,000 runners. I wonder how many know the actual story behind the Marathon Race. I'm guessing about six. After you read this there will be seven.

Back in the year 490 BC there was a battle between the Athenians, from, uh, Athens, Greece and the Persians for -- well, nobody remembers why. It was called the Battle of Marathon because it took place in a town called, what else, Marathon. It wasn't actually called that. We call it that. In those days it really was known as Katharavousa or, when they said it quickly it was Μαραθών.

It so happened the Athens boys won the battle. They had a guy named Pheidippides (actually Φειδιππιδης) sometimes known as Phidippides or Philippides who carried messages. His nickname was Phil and his job was to carry messages, as their other methods of transmitting information were unreliable. So, he ran 22 miles to Athens, yelled something like "We won, we won" and died.

For all those runners who go to New York it's fortunate the battle was at Marathon instead of at the city of Delphi which was (and still is) 180 kilometers (112 miles) from Athens. Not only would would they need to run farther but no longer would it be the New York Marathon but would be in the annual New York Delphi, which just doesn't sound right. Or perhaps it might be called the New York City Katharavousa or the New York City Μαραθών.

However, according to a CBS report on 60 Minutes (03/27/05) there are people who wouldn't mind that run at all.

There is another race called the Badwater Ultramarathon and it takes place each summer starting at Badwater, California USA, which happens to be the lowest altitude in the country. They then ran across Death Valley, part of the Mojave Desert where the temperature was so hot the runners ran on the white stripe in the highway. Then they ran halfway up Mount Whitney (8,400 feet) to complete the 135 mile course. That was not a typo it was 135 miles.

Now I'm not making this up, this last summer there were 72 runners (7 were women) from 11 countries qualified for the race. There was no mention of what it takes to qualify but I'm not planning on applying anyway. In 2002 and again in 2003 a woman won the race.. The winner this year was a man who finished in 27 hours and 22 minutes. Out of the 72 starters, only 13 dropped out. All the women finished.

So much for the frail sex. Change your own tire!



In 1968 I was fortunate enough to have been selected to go to a small country in Africa called Malawi for two years on the behalf of the United States State Department. At that time Malawi, which is a very small and very poor country, had just obtained its independence from Great Britain. The United States offered to help this new country by building a technical school and staffing it for seven years. I was one of the teaching staff for two years. This two-year, three days and six hours adventure would make literally hundreds of blog postings but for this one I would like to describe part of the journey getting to Malawi.

My late friend, Wally, and I taught at the same college and he was also selected to go to Malawi. We were required to be there in early September so Wally and his wife, Norma, and I took off in late August. My family was unable to leave at that time and would get to Malawi about a month later.

We were able to select our own route for getting to Malawi and we chose to fly to our first stop in Copenhagen, Denmark. Through a travel agent we made reservations at a hotel in downtown Copenhagen. The name of the hotel escapes me now but I do remember it was a Danish name and we were to learn it meant, "Hotel Near the Railroad Station." When I got to my room I learned several things about Copenhagen. There are many trains that run in to, out of and through Copenhagen. Some of them are local trains similar to the subways or elevated trains in many large cities. All of those tracks converge to one location. That location was exactly outside my first floor window. All of the cross-country trains also converged at that same window. When I say "outside my first-floor window" I mean there probably were 10 or 12 tracks parallel to each other and the first track was within 10 feet of my first-floor window. There was a train going past my first-floor window every five minutes, day and night.

Wally and Norma had a room across the hall thereby missing the opportunity to come in close contact with the citizens of Denmark as I had. However, they did hear the noise.

In the morning Wally and I put our heads together and decided to move to a different hotel. We went to the front desk, expressed our displeasure and told them that we were checking out. We then got into a taxi and armed with some sort of traveler's guide went looking for another hotel.

It was then we discovered that Copenhagen was in the middle of some sort of celebration and we were unable to find an available hotel room of any description anywhere in Copenhagen! Remember, we had already told them we were checking out.

We went back to our original hotel and rather sheepishly asked if our rooms were still available. Luckily they were and we stayed two more nights in Copenhagen and I had a wonderful experience of seeing thousands of Copenhagen residents whiz by my window. Many of them smiled and some even waved. Nice people these Danes. They certainly taught me an important lesson. Don't jump until you have some place to jump to. I think that's in the Bible someplace but I had forgotten it. As Archie Bunker used to say, Look it up!



For better or worse, I am an American.
Recently I started wondering how old I was when I became smarter than the elected officials in the US government.
I don't really know but I'm guessing it was when I was around 10 or 12 years old. This conclusion is based on things I see our government doing regularly.
The latest thing I don't see any sense to is the Senate and the House of Representatives and the President getting involved in special meetings to enact legislation which might force some kind of decision in the tragic Terri Schiavo case in Florida.
At this time and in this place I will not react to the decision to continue her life or not. That is certainly being kicked around enough by others who have strong feelings in this area. I have no quarrel with either side. That's mostly because such arguments are unwinnable -- no one ever convinces the other side of anything.
However, I do shake my head I disbelief when I see special emergency legislation being enacted to reinforce either side. In my mind, that isn't what the Federal Government is for. Not even nearly.
To make sure I wasn't out in left field again, I read a copy of the United State Constitution again. It's quite a remarkable document and one that everyone should reread every so often. It guarantees all sorts of protection from almost everything imaginable. Yet I could see nothing that applied to cases similar to the Schiavo problem.
I wonder what would have happened if this case had been in a different state where the President's brother didn't hold the top office. I wonder if the Governor of my state could get the President to cut short his vacation and fly to Washington to sign a special interest bill in the middle of the night. I doubt it.
So, I see all the demonstrators and recognize they certainly can do that -- it's guaranteed in The Constitution. However, I think they are doing it in the wrong place and for the wrong reason. They should all be protesting against the actions of our elected officials irrespective of which side of the Schiavo case they support. While losing the life of this girl is indeed tragic, it doesn't compare to what might be lost if our government doesn't grow up.

P.S. In a way I apologize for this uncharacteristic rant. I really don't want to turn into that cranky old man who lives down the street. I hope it's not too late.

The Old Professor
March 27, 2005
Carmel, CA



Happy birthday to me!
82 years today!

I was talking with an old friend (they all are old these days).He asked if, when we were in our 40s, I ever thought about being this old. I said I didn’t and if I had followed all the suggestions for getting to be this old I’d probably be dead right now.

There will be no birthday cake.
Think about it.
Suppose you were in a restaurant and saw an 82-year old man presented with a cake.
Suppose you watched him take a deep breathe and blow as hard and as long as he could on the cake.
Suppose a waitress then came to you and asked if you would like a piece of cake for free.
Would you eat a piece of cake an 82-year old man had just wheezed all over?
Come on!

Seriously, I want to take this opportunity to thank all of you who took the time to send me an e-mail or to comment on my nonsense writing. Those letters meant a lot to me.
And for that other person who disagreed with me so violently, well -- no comment is necessary because, if he followed my suggestion, they don't have computers down there.
Or possibly it is solid ice now that we have elected George Bush for a second term.
I had heard that would happen.

The Old Professor
March 26, 2005
Carmel, CA



I was amazed to run across an interesting bit of information. Most everyone knows that Thomas Edison was involved with inventing a machine called the phonograph, which would record voices on a cylinder and then play them back. This was around 1877. About that same time, maybe a little earlier, Alexander Graham Bell was fooling around with a device that turned out to be a telephone.
Somehow, these two crossed paths and Bell’s first call to his assistant, Mr. Watson, is now fairly famous and it was recorded. I happened to find a copy of that original record of the first telephone call. Of course, it isn’t the original cylinder as I think that’s in a museum someplace.
You will need sound on your system to be able to hear it, and it is scratchy because it’s so old. But, if you click here you should be able to hear Bell calling Watson.


We have two computers. She has hers in one room and mine is in another. By no means is She a computer expert but She does manage to do her e-mail and check for recipes on the Internet. Oh yes, She did manage to meet me on the Internet a little over three years ago now.

The day before yesterday we were each working at our computer when She decided She wanted to unsubscribe from some particular e-mail. It was one of those that had a little note at the end saying, "To unsubscribe click here". So She did. As soon as She clicked her screen went blank. A little bit of panic set in because She thought She had done something that might have broken her new computer. Then She heard a loud voice, which She thought came from the computer. The voice yelled, "Son of a bitch!". Now She thought She had offended whoever had sent the letter.

In reality there had been a power failure. It had been raining heavily and when that happens around here usually some tree topples over on some wires near us and we immediately go back about half a century. Of course, it didn't take long to realize the electrical catastrophe had nothing to do with her "clicking" her message. And, obviously, the roar She heard was me suddenly realizing I had violated the advice I always give to her, "Save, save, save."

We chuckled about this several times during the next 22 hours while we were calling the power company to find out when power would be restored. They have a rather neat, fully automated system. If you call around 9 o'clock you will be told power will be restored between 9 and 11. If you call around 11 you'll be told power will be restored between 11 and 1. This goes on all day and all night until finally it turns out to be true. I suppose if I were to challenge their accuracy they would be quick to point out they never did say what day it would be restored.



Early this morning I was lying in bed listening. Apparently some rain and I had arrived in town about the same time today. For some reason I started thinking about rain. I suppose because we have been aware of rain since the earliest days of our childhood we tend to take it for granted. However, rain is a very special and important thing to all of us but perhaps in different ways.

A farmer, after many weeks of drought, would see some rain
as a good crop and his financial salvation.

A meteorologist sees rain as a predictable
event that he has no power to control.

Some poets have written of rain as a romantic subject yet
I imagine Hospital Emergency Room workers see it
as a source of incoming patients.

Several years ago when I was involved with an
Internet Match Maker service I observed more
than one woman, when describing things she liked,
listed "Long walks in the rain." I never quite
understood that. To me it read, "Do not own automobile."

So as I was lying there thinking of all the things, simple and complex, that rain means to different people I thought of myself. I don't have to go wogging today!



As I look back to the days when I was a youngster I realize I had learned many things then that have stayed with me my whole life. One episode, which was a major learning experience, was the Chicken Coop Window Caper.

When I was around 10 or 12 years old my parents decided to raise a few chickens. My father built a small shed attached to the side of the garage. It was a crude structure with small openings for the chickens to go out to a small area, which was surrounded by chicken wire. This allowed the chickens to get some exercise. To provide ventilation on the inside he also cut a window opening. It wasn’t actually a window but simply an area about 2 feet square that was cut out of one of the exterior walls. The cut out piece was then hinged at the top and a latch held it open in the summer but it could be dropped down when the weather was cold.

My assigned job was to feed the chickens and gather the eggs. One autumn day I decided it was time to drop the windows because the weather was getting colder. I unhooked the latch and let the board come down to close the open window area.

No one had told me that chickens will lay eggs in any convenient spot and they seemed to like that board when it was raised up. There must have been about 40 eggs there and they varied in age from a few hours to a few months. They all rolled out with many of them landing on me before they hit ground. As far as I can recall, not one egg survived the fall; all were broken. If you have even smelled one rotten egg, then multiply that smell by 40 and you get an idea of the way I smelled for the next few days.

However, a lesson was learned and it stayed with me the rest of my life (so far) and I will pass it on to you. Just remember one thing: Whenever you go in to a chicken coop and see a hinged board lifted up to make a flat area where a chicken might go to rest; Don’t let the hinged area down!

If you can remember that one thing you will save yourself much grief.

PS I am hoping future generations might read this little story in a Literature Class and have discussions about “What did he really mean?” Some will contend the meaning is that people should stick to doing what they know something about. Others might interpret the eggs to represent ideas and ambition and show how they are wonderful when acted on immediately but after awhile the smell bad. I hope someone will raise his or her hand and say, “I thought it was a little story about a kid who did something really stupid and paid the price.” That’s the way I’d interpret it.



I believe that things happening in this world need to make sense. I am not alone in this belief; there are many others who agree. Sir Isaac Newton and I pretty much saw eye-to-eye on that. Whenever I run across something that doesn't seem to make sense I try to study it and figure out why. If I think about it long enough I can usually see where it might make sense.

A good example is the recent tragedy in Atlanta where so many people were killed so needlessly. As was covered so thoroughly in the news media, the alleged killer finally met a young lady who talked him into giving himself up. Religious leaders were quick to jump in and point out the hand of God at work in bringing this young lady and the killer together. This is where I had trouble seeing how that made any sense at all.

For the moment forget my puzzlement as to why God allowed these killings to occur in the first place. I think I have finally figured out how and why God brought these two people together at 2:30 a.m.. If you recall, the young lady needed to go out and get some cigarettes. My current thinking leads me to believe that God realized this was a dangerous meeting so he arranged it with a young lady who was a cigarette smoker and therefore going to die pretty soon anyway.

Of course, that leaves me with the puzzle of why God allows cigarette smoking in the first place. I know when I die and pass through those gates I plan to look around. If I see AJ Reynolds or Phillip Morris I will know that some awful mistake has been made or I did some terrible thing while I was on Earth. Or both.



Yesterday I received my new driver’s license with the new photograph. I think the change over the last 5 years is rather dramatic.

There is one disadvantage of the new portrait. I had some minor business plans I hadn’t got around to implementing yet. When I look at the old photo I see it might be useful to scare children into behaving properly. Wouldn’t that make a good sideline business? I could post signs at markets and make house calls.

(Click on image to enlarge)

It could work.



I ran across something that's been around a long time. It's called the DOT. That's the Dictionary Of Occupational Titles. In there are listed 28,800 different occupations from Abalone Diver to Zoo Veterinarian. Each one is described and assigned a code number. For example, Bartender (AKA Bar Attendant) is number 312.474.-010 while a Baby Sitter is 301.677-010

Just browsing through the DOT I saw many interesting things I hadn't known. For example, did you know or even suspect this.

There are 241 jobs that are "Director" of Something.
I counted 304 job titles that were "Managers" of Something.
157 jobs are "Superintendents" and, as you no doubt suspect, there are more than 1100 different "Supervisors".
It makes one wonder who is actually doing the work.

One of the "Occupations" I found interesting was that of the STEMHOLE BORER. The DOT describes this job as:
Tends machine that bores stemhole in corncob-pipe bowls: Places bowl in holding device of machine. Flips switch or presses button to start boring machine and depresses pedal that moves bowl against rotating bit to bore stemhole in pipe bowl.May insert drill bit in chuck of boring machine, according to work ticket,using chuck key.
But don't think that limits a Stemhole Borer. If he tends to business he

May tend the machine that bores stemholes and sands bowl tops and be designated Stemhole-Borer-And-Topper

I am betting there are very few who qualify as Borers AND Toppers.



In case you missed it in the papers:

Senate shoots down minimum wage plans

WASHINGTON — The Senate defeated dueling proposals Monday to raise the $5.15-an-hour minimum wage — one backed by organized labor, the other salted with pro-business provisions — in a day of skirmishing that reflected Republican gains in last fall’s elections.
Both plans fell well short of the 60 votes needed to advance and signaled that prospects for raising the federal wage floor, unchanged since 1996, are remote during the current two-year Congress.
The Democratic proposal would have increased the minimum wage by $2.10 over the next 26 months. Republicans countered with a smaller increase, $1.10 in two steps over 18 months.
The Democratic amendment was defeated, with 46 votes for and 49 against. The GOP alternative fell by a wider margin, 38 for and 61 against

An unidentified Senator was chatting with an unidentified Representative from an unidentified State and he commented, "No, I'm not concerned. Most of them don't vote anyway."
The Congressman agreed saying, "
I know. I checked my district and during the last election campaign I didn't get even one contribution from a minimum wage person."
Then, both together, "If they don't care how can they expect us to care."

Disclaimer: It is possible that the above conversation never took place but it might have.



I feel much safer now. Click here.
(This will take you to my other web site and you can click Back to return.)


The other day I saw a short news item on TV that concerned a white-haired, 82-year-old man who was a runner. I pricked up my ears but quickly saw this man was a real runner - not a jogger and certainly not a wogger.

In addition, he ran the high hurdles and he really was serious about it. He would get down in the classic starting position and run to the first hurdle and soar over it. And he was 82 years old. I'm almost 82 years old and I can't do that, but I think I could if I started out small. After all, my first day wogging I barely made it around the track. The secret is to start small and gradually increase. I thought I could start with a strip of paper on the ground and gradually increase it, a strip at a time, until I was hurdling a whole ream of paper. But then what? This led me to think about inventing the Furdle. That's more than Flat but less than a Hurdle.

I think the mechanism of the scissors jack might be suitable.
Each day a small turn of the screw would increase the height until, without realizing it, a person would be hurdling at Olympic-hurdle height. I explained this idea to my lady here and I think she, not being a wogger, didn't understood the idea. When I mentioned finally getting to be able to hurdle the highest setting she asked,"What good would that be?" I explained how handy it would be if a person were being chased and came to a low fence. A person could go right over it. I don't think she understood that either because she just shook her head and walked away. Maybe it isn't for everyone. Maybe it's just for that old guy on TV and me.



Google is at it again.

They have a new map program that is now available, though it is the beta version right now. I was very impressed with the new look when compared to what we are used to with Yahoo. I tried looking up the high school where I go wogging each morning. I just typed in the intersection and the city and state and it came up.

Click on images to enlarge

The sliding scale on the left allows zooming in to find street names and such.

I found the accuracy to be nothing short of amazing. When I entered my street address it even put the flag on the proper side of the street. (That's the side we live on -- The Proper Side)

Personally, I could do without the cloud effect as I don't see it adding anything except cute and surely by now we have enough cute to go around.

By the way, the map shows the school located in the middle of an intersection. For those of you who might wonder, "No, I do not now, and never have, done my wogging in the middle of a busy intersection."
(If you feel a pressing need for a dictionary definition of wogging just click here.)