Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year

The following is a reprint of a piece I wrote to commemorate Independence Day 18 months ago. Read and enjoy, especially if you are a Western Pennsylvanian in fact or in spirit.

Fourth of July 2007

Happy 231st Birthday to America. As far as reflecting about Clairton, according to “Early History of The Peter’s Creek Valley and The First Visitors” by Noah Thompson, the Ravensburg Patent was granted in 1791 which defined what is now Wilson. Later tracts of land that collectively made up the City of Clairton were surveyed by Samuel St. Clair (1784) and Samuel Wyile (1788). More about the historical beginnings of our city can be found in the following link:

Clairton in the 1950s was a booming metropolis. We were known as the “Coke City of the World,” and the coke that our mills produced was neither drunk nor snorted but served as a component of the manufacture of steel. Virtually everybody had some family member who worked in a steel mill. We were naïve to the ways of the world although it was just about a dozen years after World War II had ended. Most of our fathers or uncles served in that war and many of us were the product of wartime relationships. The old joke was, “My parents wanted to name me ‘Furlough.’”

We did not understand the message of the KKK as most of us were an amalgamation of Europeans, Eastern Europeans, Catholics, Protestants, and Jews. CHS was naturally racially integrated and our common bond was high school football. Coach Neil Brown was spirited away from another school for his coaching prowess and his success coaching the football team was eventually rewarded with the principalship of CHS.

Benny Benack did a superb job with the marching band. On Friday nights the band would assemble at the high school and march the ten or so blocks to the stadium. Residents would crowd Miller Avenue and watch the parade. I can remember as a lad, watching the Honey Bears twirling their batons followed by the band in full regalia marching and playing fight songs. In fact for a long period of time I actually thought Notre Dame had stolen its fight song from the CHS band. Another memory of childhood was that It seemed the biggest, strongest band member was needed to carry that huge bass drum.

When I got into high school my athletic prowess was limited to shifting my Jeep into second and third gears and my musical ability tuned the radio. I was surprised when classmate who was the skinniest, scrawniest kid in the band, was the one to carry that big bass drum. I was also ecstatic when my own sister was selected to be a Honey Bear majorette.

And CHS was powerful on the football field. We won the WPIAL championship in 1954 led by Carl Pastore and Marion Vujevich, we had All State lineman Gary Kaltenbach and All American end Jim Kelly bringing glory to Clairton with their on-field exploits.

We were as patriotic to our country as we were loyal to our school. Reggie Desiderio went off to fight in Korea and was posthumously awarded our nation’s highest medal – the Congressional Medal of Honor. The Roll of Honor stood proudly near the police station and many families, including my own, erected a flagpole in their front yard to recognize the sacrifices of young men and women who served.

The patriotic holiday hoopla included Independence Day celebrations on the fourth of July. That was a day of “cookouts” and games and marked the halfway point of summer vacation. At night everybody sought the best vantage point to watch city sponsored fireworks displays. Since we lived at the end of St. Clair Avenue – there was no bridge to Clairton Park in those days; in fact, St. Clair Avenue was not even paved beyond Gumble Chevrolet at Seventh Street, we walked around the corner, to the edge of the hollow. From that vantage point we were able to see not only Clairton’s fireworks, but Glassport’s, and bits of McKeesport’s.

Remember and reflect where you might have been during those lazy crazy hazy days of summer and Happy 4th of July, 2007.

UPDATE: Happy New Year, and may 2009 bring us a little closer to those happy days of our childhood. Our children and grandchildren deserve no less.

A little blogging music Maestro… “Dream the American Dream” by Joseph Pokorny.

Dr. Forgot

Monday, December 29, 2008

New Year and Pardons

Had a Cool Yule? Have a Frantic First

Pardon Me George: The end of any presidential term is laden with pardons from the president. They’ve all done it. But the list of the current prexy is longer than one might think. According to Wikipedia, his list of pardons includes:

1. James Leon Adams (1965 selling firearms to out of state residents and falsifying firearms records)
2. Kristan Diane Bullock Akins (1990 Embezzlement by a bank employee)[
3. Charles James Allen (1979 conspiracy to defraud the United States. A former federal employee, Allen was convicted for approving payments to James Hilles Associates Inc., a Virginia firm, for office supplies that were never delivered. In return, Allen received car parts, a radio, a freezer and other gifts from the firm. Pardoned December 21, 2006)
4. William Thomas Alvis III (Possession of an unregistered firearm, distribution of cocaine)[
5. John Allen Aregood a/k/a Johnny (Sonny) Aregood (Conspiracy to harbor and transport illegal aliens)]
6. Tony Dale Ashworth (1989 unlawful transfer of a firearm)
7. Alan Dale Austin (1987 misapplication of mortgage funds
8. William L. Baker (1980 falsifying records)
9. William Sidney Baldwin Sr. (1981 conspiracy to possess marijuana. Pardoned December 21, 2006)
10. Timothy Evans Barfield (1989 aiding and abetting false statements on a Small Business Administration loan application. Pardoned December 21, 2006)
11. Bruce Louis Bartos (1987 transportation of a machine gun in foreign commerce)
12. George Francis Bauckham (1958 unlawful detention or delay of the mail by a postal employee)
13. David Thomas Billmyer (1978 military conviction for making a false claim)
14. Eric Charles Blanke (Making impressions of obligations of the United States)
15. James Allen (Albert) Bodendieck, Sr. (1959 interstate transportation of a stolen vehicle)
16. Clyde Philip Boudreaux (1975 military conviction for borrowing money from enlisted men, accepting a noninterest-bearing loan from a government contractor and signing and swearing to a false affidavit. Pardoned December 21, 2006)
17. Gene Armand Bridger (1963 Conspiracy to commit mail fraud, and mail fraud)
18. Marie Georgette Ginette Briere (1982 possession of cocaine with intent to distribute)
19. Kenneth Charles Britt (1998 conspiracy to violate fish and wildlife laws)
20. Jeffrey James Bruce (1994 possession of stolen mail)
21. Charles Wayne Bryant (1962 theft of U.S. mail matter by employee)
22. William Bruce Butt (1990 bank embezzlement))
23. Mariano Garza Caballero (1984 dealing in firearms without a license)
24. Carl E. Cantrell (1967 moonshining)
25. Charles Winston Carter (1964 conspiracy to steal government property)
26. Meredith Elizabeth Casares (1989 embezzlement of US Postal Service funds)
27. Ronald William Cauley (1980 Misapplication of bank funds by an employee)
28. Steve Doyle Cavender (Conspiring to import, possess, distribute and dispense marijuana; importing and causing to be imported marijuana; possessing marijuana with intent to distribute)[
29. Cathryn Iline Clasen-Gage (1992 Misprision of a felony)[
30. Leslie Owen Collier (unauthorized use of a pesticide and violating the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act)
31. Thomas Kimble Collinsworth (1989 Receipt of a stolen motor vehicle that had been transported in interstate commerce)
32. Charles Russell Cooper (1959 bootlegging)
33. Milton Kirk Cordes (conspiracy to violate the Lacey Act, prohibiting importation into the country of wildlife taken in violation of conservation laws)
34. Anthony John Curreri (1976 Mail fraud)
35. Morris F. Cranmer, Jr. (1988 Making materially false statements to a federally-insured institution)
36. Dale C. Critz, Jr. (1989 making a false statement)
37. Richard Micheal Culpepper (making false statements to the federal government)
38. William Charles Davis (1983 income tax evasion)
39. Randall Leece Deal (1960 and 1964 liquor laws)
40. Brenda Jean Dolenz-Helmer (reporting or helping cover up a crime)
41. Paul Jude Donnici (September 23, 1993) Use of a telephone in the transmission of wagering information
42. William Henry Eagle (1972 moonshining)
43. Mark Alan Eberwine (1985 conspiracy to defraud the United States by impeding, impairing, and obstructing the assessment of taxes by the Internal Revenue Service and making false declarations to the grand jury. Pardoned December 21, 2006)
44. Rusty Lawrence Elliott (1991 Making counterfeit Federal Reserve notes)
45. Marie Elena Eppens of Lynden, Wash. (conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute marijuana
46. Robert Carter Eversole (1984 theft)
47. Lydia Lee Ferguson of Sun City, Ariz. (conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute marijuana
48. Gerald Douglas Ficke (1992 money laundering)
49. Harper James Finucan (1980 marijuana possession with intent to distribute)
50. Kenneth Clifford Foner (1991 bank fraud)
51. Anthony Americo Franchi (1983 tax evasion)
52. Colin Earl Francis (1993 accepting a kickback of about $9,000 for helping a vendor for United Technologies Corp.'s Sikorsky Aircraft division, where Francis worked at the time, land a contract. Pardoned December 21, 2006)
53. Victoria Diane Frost (1994 conspiracy to possess)
54. William Grover Frye (1968 AWOL and 1973 sale of stolen car)
55. Joseph Daniel Gavin (1979 military insubordination, drunkenness, threats, and other offenses)
56. George Glenn (1956 accepting $50 bribe while in military)
57. Eduviges Duvi Gonzalez-Matsumura of Clovis, Calif. (aiding and abetting embezzlement of bank funds)
58. George Clarence Greene Jr. (Mail fraud)
59. Samuel Wattie Guerry (1984 food stamp fraud)
60. Adam Wade Graham (1992 Conspiracy to deliver 10 or more grams of LSD)
61. Charles E. Hamilton (1989 mail fraud)
62. Stanley Bernard Hamilton 1990 (money order fraud)
63. Brianna Lea Haney (1991 failure to report monetary instruments)
64. Andrew Foster Harley (wrongful use and distribution of marijuana and cocaine)
65. George Thomas Harley (1984 aiding and abetting the distribution of cocaine. Pardoned December 21, 2006)
66. Rufus Edward Harris (1963 Possession and selling tax-unpaid whiskey)
67. Jesse Ray Harvey (1990 Property damage by use of explosives and destruction of an energy facility)
68. David Custer Heaston (1988 false statement)
69. Melodie Jean Hebert (1984 defrauding U.S. with false claims)
70. Obie Gene Helton (unauthorized acquisition of food stamps)
71. Carey C. Hice Sr. (income tax evasion)
72. Geneva Yvonne Hogg (bank embezzlement
73. Patricia Ann Hultman (1985 conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and to distribute cocaine and other controlled substances. Pardoned December 21, 2006)
74. James Won Hee Kang a/k/a Won Hee Kang (Trafficking in counterfeit goods)
75. Bobby Frank Kay Sr. (1959 operation of an illegal distillery)
76. James Ernest Kinard, Jr. (1984 fraudulent firearms dealer records)
77. Richard Ardell Krueger (1979 mail fraud and 1980 and false statement on a loan application)
78. Devin Timothy Kruse (1979 AWOL from Coast Guard)
79. Margaret Ann Leggett (1981 false claims)
80. Raul Marin (1982 failure to appear in court)
81. Larry Paul Lenius (1989 Conspiracy to distribute cocaine)
82. Larry Lee Lopez (1985 Conspiracy to import marijuana)
83. Alan Stephen Maiss (Misprision of a felony)
84. Bobbie Archie Maxwell (1962 Mailing a threatening letter)
85. David B. McCall, Jr. (1997 False entry in bank books and aiding and abetting)[]
86. William Hoyle McCright Jr. (making false entries, books, reports or statements to a bank)
87. Paul Julian McCurdy (misapplication of bank funds)
88. Melvin L. McKee (1982 conspiracy to make false statements on a loan application)
89. Charles McKinley, (1950 moonshining)
90. Michael Mark McLaughlin (1983 mail fraud and conspiracy)
91. Craven Wilford McLemore (1983 Conspiracy to defraud the United States and Caddo County)
92. Denise Bitters Mendelkow (1981 Embezzlement by a bank employee)
93. Richard Harold Miller (Conspiracy to defraud the United States)
94. Michael Robert Moelter (1988 illegal gambling business)
95. Robert Earl Mohon Jr. (conspiracy to distribute marijuana)
96. Billie Curtis Moore (1977 income tax evasion)
97. Ronald Alan Mohrhoff (unlawful use of a telephone in a narcotics felony)
98. Richard Arthur Morse (1963 transportation of a stolen vehicle)[]
99. Gerard Murphy (1972 car theft)
100. Kenneth Lynn Norris (1993 unlawful disposal of hazardous waste)[]
101. Delano Abraham Nixon (Forging the endorsement on a U.S. Treasury check)
102. Joseph Mathew Novak (1994 possession and transfer of an illegal weapon)
103. Eric William Olson (1984 military conviction for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute, possession with intent to distribute, possession, and use of hashish. Pardoned December 21, 2006)
104. Glanus Terrell Osborne (1990 possessing a stolen motor vehicle)[]
105. John H. Overholt (Concealment of information affecting Social Security benefits)
106. Morris Keith Parker (Misprision of a felony)]
107. Jerry L.(2005 armed bank robbery)
108. Fred Dale Pitzer (1976 transportation of falsely made securities)
109. Charles Blurford Power (1948 transportation of a stolen vehicle)[]
110. Michael John Pozorski (1988 Unlawful possession of an unregistered firearm)
111. Daniel Figh Pue III (illegal treatment, storage and disposal of a hazardous waste without a permit)
112. Robert Truman Reece (Unauthorized absence,missing ship's movement)
113. Thomas R. Reece (1969 violating the Internal Revenue Code pertaining to alcohol. Pardoned December 21, 2006)
114. James Edward Reed (1975 marijuana possession with intent to distribute)
115. Cecil John Rhodes (1981 false statement on a loan application)
116. John Louis Ribando (1976 and 1978 marijuana dealing)
117. Donald Edward Roessler (Embezzlement of mail matter)
118. Larry Gene Ross (1989 making false statements in a bank loan application. Pardoned December 21, 2006)
119. Ernest Rudnet (1992 conspiracy to file false tax returns)
120. Gary L. Saltzburg (1995 theft of government property)
121. John Gregory Schillace (1988 conspiracy to possess cocaine for distribution)[]
122. Russell Don Sell (1995 aiding and abetting a false statement on a loan application)
123. Scott LaVerne Sparks (1989 theft of government property)
124. Wendy St. Charles (1984 conspiracy to trade narcotics and cocaine distribution)
125. David Lloyd St. Croix (1989 disposal of stolen explosives)
126. Jearld David Swanner (1991 making false statements in a bank loan application. Pardoned December 21, 2006)
127. James Walter Taylor (1991 bank fraud. Pardoned December 21, 2006)
128. Johnson Heyward Tisdale (1994 food stamp fraud)
129. Issac Robert Toussie (False statements to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, mail fraud)(Revoked a day later)[8]
130. Edward Rodriguez Trevino, Jr. (1997 theft, convicted in military court)
131. Janet Theone Upton (1975 mail fraud. pardoned December 21, 2006)
132. Orion Lynn Vick (aiding and abetting the theft of government property)
133. Jerry Dean Walker (1989 cocaine distribution)
134. Joseph William Warner (1995 arson on an Indian reservation)
135. Mark Lewis Weber (1981 Selling Quaalude tablets, selling, using, and possessing marijuana )
136. Roger Charles Weber (1969 Theft from an interstate shipment)
137. David Lane Woolsey (Aiding and abetting violation of the Archaeological Resources Protection Act)

Issac Robert Toussie (False statements to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, mail fraud) George W. Bush has revoked his pardon after discovering Issac Robert Toussie's father donated USD $28,500 to the National Republican Party in April

George never was the best of readers: Perhaps the president saw the name of Isaac Robert Toussie and thought it was Lewis Scooter Libby, but once he realized his mistake, he corrected it – something he was loathe to do in Iraq, Katrina, and the list of other blunders while in office. But in honor of the whoops pardon incident, we will dedicate our own version of a song. Think of the melody of “Chattanooga Choo Choo,” with apologies to Glen Miller nad his fans.

Pardon me, George
My Daddy donated 28 grand,
Or was that twenty-nine?
I can’t remember, gimme mine.
I can afford
To to skip out on my felonies
My Dad’s got my fare
And he will send it anywhere.

I falsified some documents and I lied to the feds
Evaded lots of taxes and put HUD in the red
Inflated my appraisal
And now my nights and days‘ll
Be spent on my spaghetti and basil

Thank you George the pardon is just what I need,
It really has nothing to do with felonies or greed.
I’m so glad you’ve spoken
But, WHAT??? You’re now revoking
My pardon, now my garden
And all my graft will be going out to seed.

A little blogging music Maestro… “I Beg Your Pardon” by Kon Kan.

Dr. Forgot

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Rudolph and Football

Merry Curmudgeonly Christmas + Football

Rudolph the Red-nose Reindeer: Is it just me or does the Rudolph song smack of hypocrisy? Let’s take a look, “All of the other reindeer, used to laugh and call him names, they never let poor Rudolph play in any reindeer games.” Rudy was the object of taunting and bullying. His peers ganged up on him, blackballed him from the fun and games. We can presume that if there was a reindeer fraternity at Reindeer University, he would have been blackballed from membership. In a word, Rudy was excluded. Why? Because his nose was red. Maybe some of the gossip held that Rudy was a drunk and not fit to pull Santa’s sleigh, although the Big Man himself was said to sip a toddy or two that awaited him at the homes of the little kids.

Then one foggy Christmas eve, the Boss decided to further humiliate Rudy by using him as a fog light. Seeing the outcast get attention, the other bullies became toadies, “…then all the reindeer loved him, as they shouted out with glee.” What a crew! It would serve them right if one of the tricks they played on Rudy that day was to serve him Ex-lax laden brownies and warm milk. Bah, Humbug! (P.S. I didn’t get the bailout I really wanted for Christmas).

Clairton legacy wins and loses: My favorite dentist and Clairton high classmate Dr. Ron, and his wife and fellow classmate Adele sent me a recent newspaper clipping about Pennsylvania State High School Football Championships. First, a little history about Clairton High School. During the 1950s Clairton was a mill town that personified the American dream. Many of the residents were first and second generation Americans whose families had migrated from Eastern Europe and beyond. They found work and prosperity mostly in the steel mills around the Pittsburgh area. By the late 1950s Clairton High School was bursting at the seams with war babies and was blessed with the best in music, sports, and academics. To alleviate the overcrowding a second school was built in a semi-rural bucolic location on Old Clairton Road. The inaugural class at Thomas Jefferson High School was comprised solely of former Clairton High School classmates. Curiously school rivalries did not develop between the two schools as their populations grew apart.

Fast Forward a half century: The demographics of both schools changed over the years. The recession in the steel industry of the 1980s crippled the Clairton economy and many of the best and brightest who left for college found more promise in jobs elsewhere. The community that fed Thomas Jefferson High School continued to thrive as white collar workers and business owners fled the rundown city whose tax base had withered, and moved to the newer, cleaner, more rural climes. The parent school struggled as the newer school thrived.

Football remained paramount: The one area in which the two schools stayed similar was athletics. Both schools continued to thrive. As Clairton shrunk in size and played in a smaller division the chances of the two schools playing one another faded. That is not to say strong links did not exist. One of Thomas Jefferson’s most successful coaches was a Clairton grad as were many parents of Jefferson students. Still, both schools played their sports in what Future Shock author Alvin Toffler might describe as “…in isolated proximity of each other.” Though their paths did not cross as opponents, they made history this year.

Class A and Class AAA championships: A couple of weeks ago the Pennsylvania high school football championships were held in the Hersheypark Stadium in Hershey, PA. Clairton High School played Steelton-Highspire for the Class A state title. Both teams sported identical 15-0 records coming onto the game. At halftime the teams were tied, not only in points but in speed and grit. But once the second half began, as so often happens in football, the ball bounced the other way for the Clairton Bears and they finished the game as runners up. Still, not too shabby.

The Clairton-spawned Thomas Jefferson Jaguars entered their AAA title game against heralded Archbishop Wood. The Jaguars stomped the Vikings 34-7 to become state champs for the second consecutive year and three of the past five seasons. Their record over the past seven seasons is 92-8. Just as the first year graduating class had an affinity to the Clairton Bears, so must many current and former Clairtonians be proud of the Jefferson Jaguars.

A little blogging music Maestro… “Rise to Glory” by DJ Quik.

Dr. Forgot

Monday, December 22, 2008

What it Was was Football

Football Playoffs and Bowl Games Begin

College and Professional Football: Ah the time of the year when footballs fly through the air and big ugly guys smack other big ugly guys around and get paid for it. College players don’t get paid per se, but they do get a “free college education,” or at least, thanks to strict NCAA rules they get to major in eligibility for four years. We’ll talk more about that later, but first, let me air a few of my pet peeves. They have to do with the English language. Announcers at all levels of athletic competition seem to have an affinity for murdering the English language. These are probably the same guys who mock immigrants for not learning English quickly enough or who don’t speak with grammatical perfection. Well, let’s take a look at a few of a few of the trite phrases and language butchers.

Whoa, Nelly: One of the favorite terms by Keith Jackson that has become his hallmark is fine with me. But the one that is like fingernails on a chalkboard to me is “True freshman.” As in, “The quarterback is a true freshman.” Are the other freshmen liars, or perhaps seniors masquerading as freshmen? No, the NCAA blesses college athletes five calendar years to complete four years of eligibility. If a first year academic freshman does not participate in sports, then the following year that player might be a sophomore academically, but is playing his first (or freshman) year of eligibility.” Thus an academic sophomore who participates in his first year of athletic eligibility is a “Redshirt freshman.” I guess the announcers believe that no freshman should be on the field without two descriptive adjectives. But fellas, the first year participant who is also in his first year of academic statue is a freshman; not a “True freshman.” Whew, I feel better.

Not to confuse all the Ohio State’s with one another: The next expression that rankles me goes something like, “The BYUs, Penn States, and Ohio States….” Uh, fellas, there is only one BYU, one Ohio State, one Penn State, etc. so they can’t be plural. The exception is Miami, which is found both in Ohio and Florida. Next, let’s talk about tense. After a player is tackled trying to run up the middle of the field, the announcer will often say, “If he runs to the outside, he scores.” Come on guys. Is it so difficult to say, “Had he run to the outside he would have scored?” Oh, don’t forget, coming up is a third down situation. I once counted “situation” used 27 times. How about “Third down coming up?” And if your team is doing poorly because, “they have yet to get untracked,” does that mean your team is tracked? How exactly does a team become tracked in order for it to become untracked?

Switching sports metaphors: It seems that anything that happens for the third time regardless of the sport becomes a trifecta. If a baseball team wins the last several games of the searon, that team will have “run the table.” A player who might be the best in a particular area is “arguably the best.” But I never hear an argument. Or, “he’s as (fill in the blank) as anybody in the country.” Often a team needs to amp up its energy, or it may need to hunker down. Can a team amp down or hunker up? If not, the direction is superfluous.

Individual achievement: A player of substantial size, especially in basketball, is often praised by announcers because he can “get up and down the court for a man his size.” But the king of redundancies and mispronunciations has to be John Madden. After each play Madden feels obligated to provide analysis of what has occurred no matter how redundant or irrelevant. He would be an ideal color man for radio or for visually impaired folks watching television, but PLEASE John, ease up on the paralysis of your analysis. My final comment has to do with words that are either misused or made up. How often does one hear of a player’s “athleticism?” We will close with a recent term that was spewed from the lips of an announcer when a football player leapt over opponents. In the words of the announcer he became “verticalized.

But those announcers went to college: Graduation rates among college athletes have been a hot topic for decades. Allen Sack, a professor in the College of Business at the University of New Haven, played football on Notre Dame’s 1966 national championship football team. He has written several articles critical of NCAA reporting of graduation rates for athletes. In a recent article Stack states, “For instance, the University of Florida, a top-ranked team in the Bowl Championship Series ratings, graduates 81 percent of its student body, but only 36 percent of its football players. Other top ranked BCS teams whose graduation rates fall 30 or more percentage points below those other students include Texas, USC, Georgia, BYU, Georgia Tech, California, and Michigan State. The average FGR for the top 25 BCS teams as of Nov. 3 was 52 percent, 18 percent below that of student bodies.

There are graduation rates and there are graduation rates: The NCAA uses a different method to calculate athlete graduation so schools appear to have a higher graduation rate. Some, like Sack say is tantamount to cooking the books. But even when giving the NCAA the benefit of the doubt, a closer look reveals what is referred to as “clustering.” According to a recent USA Today article, “the NCAA's toughening of academic requirements for athletes has helped create an environment in which they are more likely to graduate than other students — but also more likely to be clustered in programs without the academic demands most students face. Some athletes say they have pursued — or have been steered to — degree programs that helped keep them eligible for sports but didn't prepare them for post-sports careers.”

All so-called Division 1A school were studied and the results were that “83% of the schools (118 of 142) had at least one team in which at least 25% of the juniors and seniors majored in the same thing. For example, seven of the 19 players on Stanford's baseball team majored in sociology.

•34% of the teams (222 of 654) had at least one such cluster of student-athletes.

•More than half of the clusters are what some analysts refer to as "extreme," in which at least 40% of athletes on a team are in the same major (125 of 235). All seven of the juniors and seniors on Texas-El Paso's men's basketball team majored in multidisciplinary studies, for example.” And a Multidisciplinary Studies major prepares the young college graduate to do what? Oh yes, to apply at all those multidisciplinary firms that snap them up.

Graduation rates increase and the NCAA can boast that they keep the student in student athlete. Coaches who recruit can tell the parent of every athlete what they want to hear – that their son or daughter will leave their institution with a quality education. Even the athlete believes it. But the joke’s on him, or her.

A little blogging music Maestro… A little Beach Boys singing, “Be True to Your School.”

Dr. Forgot

Friday, December 19, 2008

Baby Its Cold Outside

Paralysis of Analysis

Don’t let your heart be snowbound: Yes, Las Vegas is in the Mohave Desert. Yes, the desert is hot and dry. Yes, the average precipitation in Las Vegas is about 2.75” annually, but when it rains, “gully washers” start high in the foothills on the west side of town and cascade down onto the Strip a little more than 300 feet below, then down to Henderson, another 300 feet or so, and finally into Lake Mead. The County has spent millions of dollars to tame the flooding with catch basins strategically placed throughout the Las Vegas Valley and for the most part it works pretty well. No longer do cars float in the Strip Hotel Casino parking lots, and those lucky enough to be visiting during a desert rainstorm are no longer treated to Mother Nature’s fury. But the snow… well, that’s another story.

Oh the weather outside was frightful: Earlier this week a storm blew down from Alaska and Canada and through the desert. This happens every 5-8 years or so and the Las Vegas valley sees a sprinkling of show but not very often and not for very long. But records are made to be broken, right? The 3.6 inches that fell on Vegas last Wednesday was the heaviest snowfall in recorded history. That is not a misprint 3.6 inches was a record. McCarran International airport was shut down tighter than the lid on a pickle jar, and I-15 northbound to Utah and southbound to California was shut down. U.S. 95 north toward Reno and south toward Boulder City and Arizona was shut down. The city came to a grinding halt. Thousands of airline passengers were stranded. Of course, there are worse places to be stranded than Las Vegas, unless of course, you gambled all your money and had your airline ticket pinned to the inside of your underwear. Nobody was Leaving Las Vegas.”

The fountain of knowledge was turned off: Nevada, like most other states is experiencing an economic slowdown. Two rural schools had meetings planned to see if they would be eliminated forever. One, on Mount Charleston, was set to have a town meeting Wednesday to discuss its future but the meeting was snowed out. So were Christmas concerts, plays, and other school activities were all canceled. School administrators got their heads together and fortunately didn’t hurt themselves, but decided to close the schools Thursday. Let me repeat, 3.6” of snow. Of course, as luck would have it, Thursday was bright and sunny and teachers and students had the day off but without an opportunity to play in the departed, melted snow.

Are there bargains in Vegas?: The MGM seems to think so.


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Kate Evans/Joan Bloom, M Booth & Associates
(212) 481-7000 or

About The Signature at MGM Grand: For a gratifying getaway, look no further than The Signature at MGM Grand, ideally situated away from the hustle and bustle of the Las Vegas Strip. Ranging from 550 to 1,500 square feet, suites feature king-size, pillow-top beds draped in 300-thread count sheets and soft, down comforters; bathrooms stocked with plush towels, cozy robes and June Jacobs’ spa products; and in-suite kitchens featuring top-of-the-line appliances and cabinets filled with bone china, glass stemware, sterling silverware and a selection of cookware. Guests also enjoy The Signature’s private pool complex, state-of-the-art fitness centers and superior concierge staff readily available to customize a dream vacation. While staying at The Signature’s non-smoking, non-gaming environment, guests are only steps away from the excitement of MGM Grand’s electrifying casino, award-winning dining, world-class entertainment, dynamic nightlife and luxurious spa and salon.

A little blogging music Maestro… One more time with Elvis doing, “Viva Las Vegas.”

Dr. Forgot

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Prisoner of Second Grade

Help, I’m being held prisoner…

More Clairton legacy: We have written about our old hometown of Clairton, PA on numerous occasions. See labels for other Clairton entries. Clairton was a mill town of about 20,000 people during the 1950s and was fairly diverse for that era. Those of Anglo extraction were for the most part the movers and shakers in Clairton although after World War II several second generation Americans became prominent citizens in politics, supervisory positions in the mills, and of course business owners. The town was prosperous boasting at least three movie theaters and about a dozen car dealerships. The high school boasted a winning football team and two All American football players; Andy Berchock and Jim Kelley. Ron Lancaster, “The Little General" is a legend in Canadian football. Capt. Reginald Desiderio won the Congressional Medal of honor. Other sons and daughters of Clairton include entertainers, congresswomen, doctors and poets.

My poet of choice: Joan Cutuly was an odd duck. Her dad was a prominent Clairton physician and her mom a scientist. They had six college degrees between them and Joan was genetically engineered to become a scientist as well. She was smart enough, earning top grades in school and her analytical mind could analyze a science problem as easily as it could diagram a sentence. But her heart was that of a poet not a scientist. She wrote poetry. Lots of it. She also published a book in 1993 about her days teaching English at Las Vegas High School. It sold well and Joan Cutuly’s name was added to the long list of Clairtonians who made their mark on the world. Then Joan just disappeared.

Clairton High School alumni are diligent about keeping in touch. Many graduating classes have reunions every five years. Some classes combine their reunions and there is an annual multi-class reunion each summer at Clairton Park. Clairton ex-pats living in Florida even have an annual Clairton High School reunion. During the reunions the “Whatever happened to…” question is invariable asked and when Joan’s name was mentioned nobody seemed to know. Didn’t she visit her Dad once driving up in a limo? Was she waiting tables at a lodge in the Grand Canyon? A ski bum in Telluride? Selling insurance in Seaside, Oregon? Then on to the next classmate.

The lost has been found: Turns out Joan was indeed in Oregon for the past decade or so writing poetry and compiling a book that was recently published. “Prisoner of Second Grade” is a sad and hilarious story of the author’s 50-year struggle trying to both reconcile the poet’s mind trapped inside a scientist’s environment and trying to make a perpetually broken system of education work. If you have any Clairton connections this book is a must read. If you ever felt your psyche was trapped in the wrong body this book is a must read. If you can answer “yes” to the question, “Are you now or have you ever been a member of the American education system?” this book is a must read. Go to Joan’s website at and see what you are missing.

More famous Clairtonians: Nancy Bekavac was the sixth president of Scripps College, one of the Claremont Colleges in California. She was the first female to hold that position. Nancy was a 1965 CHS grad who graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Swarthmore and then graduated from Yale Law where she was a classmate of Hillary and Bill Clinton.

Benny Benack was made famous by his song "Beat'em Bucs" and was a staple at Pittsburgh Pirate and Steeler games. He began playing trumpet at age five, and practiced for six or seven hours a day throughout his childhood. He was an innovative bandleader at Clairton High School, introducing jazz, swing, and high-stepping routines to the marching band's pregame and halftime performances.

Washington Redskins running back Larry Brown, born in Clairton, went to four consecutive Pro Bowls under Coach Vince Lombardi.

Dale Hamer a professional football referee for 23 years was an Algebra teacher at Clairton High School. He is now an instant replay official.

At 6’8” Stew Johnson was considered a giant in the 1950s when he played center and Forward at Murray State. He was drafted into professional basketball in the second round of the NBA draft by the New York Knicks in 1966.

Lance Michael Parrish, a Clairtonian, aka "Big Wheel" played professional baseball starting in the mid-1970s with the Detroit Tigers and playing catcher for several teams until he was beaten out by Mike Piazza.

Finally, Claudine Cmrada Schneider was born in Clairton and served ten years in the U.S. House of Representatives. She also was a faculty member at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

Just a few who got their start in the City of Clairton, Pennsylvania.

A little blogging music Maestro… The Clairton High School band pep song, “When the Saints Go Marching In” with Benny Benack directing.

Dr. Forgot

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Farewell Dear Friends

A Week of Legacy

Florie of China: A true era has passed with the passing of a dear friend. Florie was the last of the group of World War II era people who simply exuded class, good manners, grace, and a sense of worldliness. She lived in Shanghai, China as part of a class of people who rubbed elbows with heads of state. Her eldest son was born in Shanghai and her family’s textile mills produced a good portion of the Chinese GNP and exports. After the War ended and the infamous Gang of Seven began their takeover in China, Florie and her family were able to move to South America where although life was not as regal as it had been, she still was able to maintain her persona.

Years became decades and Florie’s family did as families do. Her parents passed on, she lost her husband, and her children got on with their lives throughout the world. Florie moved to Canada and lived alone in her apartment for decades as the world that she and her family helped define changed. Even into her nineties she visited her children regularly in New York and Thailand. One son moved to Canada and lived nearby.

Last week at age 99 Florie fell in her apartment, apparently after suffering a heart attack. She had rarely been ill or dependent and her children sensed the worst. Her eldest son raced to the Bangkok airport but in a cruel twist of fate the airport was closed by government protesters and remained so for more than a week. Unable to leave Thailand the eldest son depended on missives from his sibling in Canada for medical updates. There were few, as Florie passed away peacefully not long after entering the hospital. The tragedy is doubled as the son who devoted his life to making sure his mother was able to live the life she deserved, was prevented by political unrest from being at her side at the end.

James of Japan: Jim Wilson really wasn’t from Japan. He wasn’t even Japanese. Well, yes he was. Jim was born as Caucasian American as one could be. Jim joined the Navy and spent time in Japan as a cryptologist and computer expert. There he decided to stay for, oh, a quarter century or so. He became so prolific in the Japanese language and culture that he became a court reporter and Japanese interpreter. When his younger brother became a ward of the state Jim brought him to Japan and enrolled him in school. That’s just the kind of guy Jim was. But that is not only who Jim was. Short in stature and slight in build, Jim had more energy than the Eveready Bunny.

Jim became a businessman and taught himself the technology of the internet. His specialties included business and professional coaching, wireless networking, multimedia, and Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Also Consulting: Japanese-English DVD translations and conversions, site development and strategies as well as conference A/V Support, Multilingual Simultaneous Interpreting. Jim was a master promoter, developing dozens of media outlets including vegasnews, which featured himself as a columnist as well as Robin Leach and myself. If you wonder how effective he was at getting his clients featured on the net, Google Makino Green Tea, one of his recent Las Vegas clients and notice the plethora and placement of the product.

A small segment of Jim’s resume includes: “Developed 1.5 million + subscribers in Japan for streaming desktop product, Index-TV, and three strategic alliances for content and distribution mostly in Asia. Successfully negotiated Japan license for Canadian Playerless streaming media product which replaced Index-TV's original QuickTime-based product. Vice President, Business Development, Managed Staff of 27; Direct reports included directors of Marketing, Sales, Public Relations, Creative, Internet Broadcasting and related programming staff. Identified and developed 140 business alliances and partnering strategies for print and electronic media. Internet and business development services for corporations marketing to Japan and Japanese tourists in Las Vegas. Japanese Website Development. Owner at Wilson Productions, Vegas Buzz News & Radio .

Jim’s biggest venture of late was the Las Vegas Marathon, a project he worked on for several months. He did publicity nad planned to stream the even live across the world via his online news network. The run will take place Sunday, December 7, but Jim will not be there.

Last week, probably on Tuesday, Jim’s heart ceased to function. He lived alone and remained at home until he was discovered two days later after concerned friends asked the landlord to check on his welfare. The world is a less perfect place after the loss of my friends Florie and Jim. They were both single-mold people. Neither met the other but both made the world a better place. Rest in peace my dear friends.

A little blogging music Maestro… “Roses and Tears” by Capercaillie.

Dr. Forgot

Read me also for the last time at Jim Wilson’s:

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

A Little Pick-Me-Up

The Week of the Chuckle

No Phi Beta Kappa: Before we get to the serious stuff, let me share transcripts of some alleged 911 calls that I received. I will not reveal the city of origin but let’s just say it supposedly came from a city known for its Country and Western music:

Dispatcher : 9-1-1 What is your emergency?
Caller: I heard what sounded like gunshots coming from the brown house on the corner.
Dispatcher: Do you have an address?
Caller: No, I have on a blouse and slacks, why?

Dispatcher: 9-1-1 What is the nature of your emergency?
Caller: I'm trying to reach nine eleven but my phone doesn't have an eleven on it.
Dispatcher: This is nine eleven.
Caller: I thought you just said it was nine-one-one
Dispatcher: Yes, ma'am nine-one-one and nine-eleven are the same thing.
Caller: Honey, I may be old, but I'm not stupid.

Dispatcher: 9-1-1 What's the nature of your emergency?
Caller: My wife is pregnant and her contractions are only two minutes apart
Dispatcher: Is this her first child?
Caller No, you idiot! This is her husband!

Dispatcher: 9-1-1
Caller: Yeah, I'm having trouble breathing. I'm all out of breath. Darn...I think I'm going to faint.
Dispatcher: Sir, where are you calling from?
Caller: I'm at a pay phone. North and Foster.
Dispatcher: Sir, an ambulance is on the way. Are you an asthmatic?
Caller: No
Dispatcher: What were you doing before you started having trouble breathing?
Caller: Running from the Police.

Remember, these callers are the same ones who vote for our leaders.

Next, a little football humor to commemorate a great season despite the BCS providing their BS to Boise State. Quotes by coaches and players:

'After you retire, there's only one big event left... and I ain't ready for that.' - Bobby Bowden Florida State

'The man who complains about the way the ball bounces is likely to be the one who dropped it.' - Lou Holtz / Arkansas

'When you win, nothing hurts.' - Joe Namath / Alabama

'Motivation is simple.. You eliminate those who are not motivated.' - Lou Holtz / Arkansas

'A school without football is in danger of deteriorating into a medieval study hall.' - Frank Leahy / Notre Dame

'There's nothing that cleanses your soul like getting the hell kicked out of you.' - Woody Hayes / Ohio State

'I don't expect to win enough games to be put on NCAA probation. I just want to win enough to warrant an investigation.' - Bob Devaney / Nebraska

'In Alabama , an atheist is someone who doesn't believe in Bear Bryant.' - Wally Butts / Georgia

'You can learn more character on the two-yard line than anywhere else in life.' - Paul Dietzel / LSU

'It's kind of hard to rally around a math class.' - Bear Bryant / Alabama

When asked if Fayetteville was the end of the world. 'No, but you can see it from here.' - Lou Holtz / Arkansas

'There's one sure way to stop us from scoring- give us the ball near the goal line.' - Matty Bell / SMU

'Lads, you're not to miss practice unless your parents died or you died.' - Frank Leahy / Notre Dame

'I never graduated from Iowa , but I was only there for two terms - Truman's and Eisenhower's.' - Alex Karras / Iowa

'My advice to defensive players: Take the shortest route to the ball and arrive in a bad humor.' -Bowden Wyatt / Tennessee

'I could have been a Rhodes Scholar, except for my grades.' - Duffy Daugherty / Michigan State

'Always remember... Goliath was a 40 point favorite over David.' - Shug Jordan / Auburn

'They cut us up like boarding house pie. And that's real small pieces.' - Darrell Royal / Texas

'I asked Darrell Royal, the coach of the Texas Longhorns, why he didn't recruit me and he said: 'Well, Walt, we took a look at you and you weren't any good.' - Walt Garrison / Oklahoma State

'Son, you've got a good engine, but your hands aren't on the steering wheel.' - Bobby Bowden / Florida State

'Football is not a contact sport - it is a collision sport. Dancing is a contact sport.' - Duffy Daugherty / Michigan State

After USC lost 51-0 to Notre Dame, his postgame message to his team: 'All those who need showers, take them.' - John McKay / USC

'If lessons are learned in defeat, our team is getting a great education.' - Murray Warmath /Minnesota

'The only qualifications for a lineman are to be big and dumb. To be a back, you only have to be dumb.' - Knute Rockne / Notre Dame

'We didn't tackle well today but we made up for it by not blocking.' - Wilson Matthews / Little Rock Central High School

'Three things can happen when you throw the ball, and two of them are bad.' - Darrell Royal /University of Texas

'I've found that prayers work best when yo have big players.' - Knute Rockne / Notre Dame

'Gentlemen, it is better to have died a small boy than to fumble this football.' - John Heisman

A little blogging music Maestro… “Backfield in Motion” by Mel and Tim.
Dr. Forgot

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