Archive for October 11th, 2004

The Apple of Our Eye



Today, Phil’s Apple Farm, Harvard, MA

See No Evil


this picture first seen in this morning’s Boston Globe. Looks even better
in color.

Relatives of 20-year-old Palestinian Sager Sager, cover
his sister’s face to avoid seeing his body during his funeral at the
family’s home in the Khan Yunes refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip.
(AFP/Said Khatib)

Photo from AFP

Do the Wild Thing


At this juncture, a pregnant pause on the baseball calendar while the eternal enemies the Red Sox and the Yankees are girding their loins for the latest installment of baseballs bitterest battle, it is worth taking a moment to celebrate the implementation of the Wild Card in Major League Baseball on its 10th anniversary.

Let us not forget that if not for the Wild Card, our own Boston Red Sox would not have qualified for the post season either last year or this, and these Yanks-Sox series would never have happened. In addition to keeping the divisional races interesting until the end, in nine seasons since the first wild-card entry, three wild-card teams—the Marlins twice, in 1997 and again last year, and the Angels in 2002—have won the World Series. This means that wild cards, which make up 25 percent of the postseason contenders, have won 33 percent of the Series since they were included.

It is worth noting that in 1994, when the Major League owners voted on the Wild Card proposal 27 out of 28 of them thought it was a good idea. The lone owner who didn’t see the value of the Wild Card? The Texas Rangers owner – one George W. Bush.

Which is more foreboding? That just 10 short years ago our Commander in Chief was running a ball club, or that between opposing the Wild Card and trading Sammy Sosa to the Cubs he went a long way during his short tenure towards running the franchise into the ground?

The Three Second Rule


Readers who are constitutionally opposed to meandering posts which don’t
seem to make a point or lead anywhere are
excused from reading the following.

Recently at a stylish soiree we overheard an impeccably
dressed Dean holding forth on something called the "Five Second Rule,"
which we gathered had to do with the maximum length of time an edible
item which had fallen from a plate or table could be picked up and cleaned
off, rather than thrown directly into the trash. Of such irrelevant absurdities
academic careers are built.

This reminded us inevitably of the "Three Second Rule"
which had been the law of the land in the halcyon days of the Dowbrigade’s
youth.  For years, the Three Second Rule defined our leisure hours
in that quintessential formative American experience – watching TV.

Now, we know we are going to shock some of our younger
readers with the following admission, but when the Dowbrigade was a boy
there were only THREE television channels. And we lived in a major American
city! Furthermore, there was only one TV in the household, and it was
in a small den on the 1st floor called, appropriately enough, the TV

In the TV Room, by either unfortunate coincidence or a
Machiavellian plot by our parents to hone our competitive instincts
as a survival technique, there was only one comfortable chair, a big
soft overstuffed monstrosity sitting directly across from the TV.

The other viewers were reduced to squatting or lying
on the floor, physically and symbolically beneath the gaze of the exalted
presence on the overstuffed throne. In addition, by family tradition
and natural order, the occupant of the favored chair had the right to
choose which of the three channels we would all watch.

The problem to which the Three Second Rule was the solution
arose from the fact that that far back in television pre-history, as
hard as it may be to believe, there were no remote controls! A viewer
actually had to get up out of his or her chair, walk across the room,
and PHYSICALLY ROTATE A DIAL to change the channel.  Actually, it
was not too hard, as 8, 10 and 13 were the only choices. In fact, we
could do it in less that 3 seconds.

The rule was that anyone who left the magic chair for
MORE than 3 seconds lost it. Anyone else could jump into the Big Seat
and take control of the viewing session. Eventually, one was forced to
vacate the favored spot due to hunger, the urgent need to pee, a phone
call (we had TWO phones in those days, one upstairs and one downstairs)
or a parental summons. But until then, as long as you could change that
channel and get back to the seat in under 3 seconds, you could control
the set all afternoon or evening.

Of course, the floor-squatters were allowed to distract, interfere
with and otherwise delay the channel changer on his swift mission.
We remember many a time, leaping from the cushions just as a program
ended and flying across the room to hit another channel before losing
the seat. Number Two son (the Dowbrigade was the eldest, by a Dr, Spock
prescribed 3 years) would immediately start counting – "onethousandone,
onethousandtwo, onethousand three…" Number Three son would try to
throw pillows or stick a leg in the air to slow us down, but heck, he
was six
years younger than us so we would usually cut through the obstacles
like a stud runner through a depleted backfield.

We guess the hardest part of the whole story to believe,
other than the fact that Number Three son is now an important executive
with a major American corporation and Number Two son is a Federal Judge,
is the fact that in our youth there were only three television channels.  How
did we survive? Well, the sad fact, boys and girls, is that even today,
well into the 21st century, there are pockets of humanity around
the world that STILL only have three channels of TV!

In fact, we recently returned from a visit to our own
two sons, currently ensconced in a ramshackle, homemade, under-construction
Eco-tourism hotel in Parcha, Peru.  Parcha is nothing more than
a bend in a dirt road, where it crosses a small stream and climbs into
the inaccessible Andes, above the town of Carhuaz, deep in the valley
the Callajon de Huaylas, between the Black and White Ranges in Central

Up there in the Andean Redoubt, clinging to the side
of Mt. Huascaran, under a star-bedazzled sky, at 10 degrees south latitude
and 12,000 feet above sea level, our sons get a grand total of ONE television
station.  The
strangest thing is that the emission is in English, and it changes channel
own celestial three second rule.  For long stretches it shows the
Discovery Channel, then in the middle of a fascinating program on the
mating habits of Albino slugs it will suddenly change to TNT. On rare
occasions, late at night, it will even change over to HBO or the Playboy
Channel! The effect, huddled in a hand-hewn adobe hut, surrounded by
a million Indians and the Andean night, is surreal.

The operant theory between our sons is that somewhere
further up in the mountains a much more advanced and techo-saavy hotel
owner has established his own tiny broadcast network, receiving signals
from a satellite dish and rebroadcasting a single channel to his own
cabins and bungalows.  Personally, the Dowbrigade prefers to attribute
it to a randy and bored spook in a US Intelligence listening post somewhere
high up in the mountains entertaining himself by surfing the satellite
signals. In all probability, we will never know.

So thank your lucky stars, dear readers, that you had
the good fortune to be born or move to the mecca of broadcasting overload.
And remember that the real goal of the War on Terrorism is to bring 200
channels of broadband programming to the benighted backwaters of world
so that they, too, can dispense with the Three Second Rule.

Give Us Your Tired, Your Rich, Your Tourist Dollars


Once again the tour buses full of foreign leaf-peepers
are backed up for miles at the New Hampshire toll booths on Rte. I-95.
Once more the full fall festivities in Harvard Square are being captured
on hundreds of digital cameras in the hands of French, Argentine and
Japanese tourists. And most importantly to the Dowbrigade, the foreign
students who form the human fodder for our full-time gig, such as it
is, are once again arriving, wide eyed and culturally shocked, into our
waiting classrooms.

Of course, the reason for the resurrection is the fading
of the fear and memory of 9/11, and could be reversed or worse by another
catastrophic attack, but in the meantime it is music to our ears to listen
to the cacophonic multilingual babble at historic sites and tourist traps
along the Freedom trail.

The Boston
reports, "The number of international visitors to the United
States is starting to increase again this year after plummeting following
2001 terrorist attacks and the introduction of stricter security.

During the first six months of this year, the number of visitors increased
by 16 percent and the number of visas for visits rose 14 percent, according
to US government statistics.

International spending in the United States also has increased for the
first time since 9/11 and is projected to rise 7 percent to $69.4 billion
this year."

from the Boston Globe