Conceived above a saloon, delivered into this world by a masked man identified by his heavily sedated mother as Captain Video, raised by a kindly West Virginian woman, a mild-mannered former reporter with modest delusions of grandeur and no tolerance of idiots and the intellectually dishonest.

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Saturday, December 25, 2004

Christmas thought of the day...

Christmas is a strange season. We sing songs in front of dead trees and eat candy out of our socks.
(From the comic strip Maxine, by John Wagner)

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Friday, December 24, 2004

All dressed up...

All dressed up

... and bound for grandma's and papa's for the festivities.

Merry Christmas, yinz all.

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Thursday, December 23, 2004

A Festivus for the rest of us! (December 23)

Tired of Christmas? Why not explore Festivus instead? And now's a good time to start compiling your list for the traditional Airing of Grievances.

I'm going back to bed. As I feared, I caught some type of horrific upper respiratory bug on the short plane ride back to Pittsburgh.

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Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Murphy selfishly decides not to seek re-election...

...denying thousands the pleasure of voting against him.

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Monday, December 20, 2004

Bus Plunge! (The Web Site)

Yep, an entire website devoted to bus plunges in the news.

Thanks to The Covert Comic, a KGB link in the CIA, for providing yet another source of invaluable intelligence info.

Speaking of links, ol' CC has linked to us, and we're honored. Click here, and scroll down under the Navy Seals. That's my granddaughter, Scooter, wearing photoshopped shades, courtesy of CC and some high-tech, top-secret, ultra-expensive CIA software.

Probably Photoshop.

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Sure it's cold...

...but it's a dry cold. At least that's what I tell friends who've migrated south and to tweak me about the weather in Pittsburgh and Chicago.

Got a postcard from a bipolar friend who went on a cruise. "Having a wonderful time," he said. "Wish I were dead."

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I got yer wind chill right here, pally.

All you need to know:

The surface temperature of an object will never be lower than the actual air temperature. If it's 0°F and the wind is 20 mph, your automobile radiator's temperature will be 0°F, not -22° (the calculated wind chill temperature).

If it's windy, and the temperature is freezing, your skin will freeze faster, since the wind will cool off your skin more rapidly than your body can heat it. Sort of blowing on your soup to cool it.

Wind chill is of primary concern to bald nudists and morons. If it's below freezing, cover exposed skin or your skin will freeze.


NOAA redid the formula for wind chill calculation a few years ago, making the numbers less scary. The media didn't that, since it made their Storm Team Severe Weather Apocalypse Now forecasts less scary. Be that as it may, the new formula for calculating wind chill is:

WCT = 35.74 + .6215T - 35.75(V.16) + .4275T(V.16)
WCT = Wind Chill Temperature. T = Temperature (F). V= Windspeed (miles per hour)

Surprisingly, I haven't heard any PennDOT weenies on television this morning talking about how road salt isn't effective when the temperature drops below 20°, their traditional excuse for not having enough trucks dumping enough salt.

The real dope on road salt...

Ever wonder why water freezes at 32° on the Fahrenheit scale, and not 0°?

32°F is the temperature at which fresh water freezes. 0°F is the temperature at which salt water freezes.

Provided enough salt is used on the road to fairly well saturate the snow and ice, it won't freeze until the temperature drops to within a few degrees of 0°F. The weather station in my back yard is reporting 1°F right now, so throwing salt won't do anything to clear the snow on our driveway.

That's the story I'm giving to the missus this morning, and I'm sticking to it. But I will go out and warm up the car for her, though.

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Sunday, December 19, 2004


(From The Borowitz Report):

Latest White House Ceremony Raises Eyebrows

An interceptor rocket that failed to launch last week during a test of a proposed missile defense system confounded its critics today by receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom in a ceremony at the White House.

President George W. Bush presided over the ceremony, placing the Medal of Freedom around the part of the rocket that would be its neck if rockets had necks.

As he presented the medal, Mr. Bush made no mention of the interceptor rocket's refusal to leave the ground, saying only that the missile had "made our country more secure and advanced the cause of human liberty."

The award, the first of its kind given to an inanimate object that was involved in an abortive missile test, raised more than a few eyebrows in official Washington, especially amid rumors that President Bush was about to award Presidential Medals of Freedom to actor Ben Affleck and recording artist Afroman.

According to a source close to the president, Mr. Bush believes that Mr. Affleck, by starring in the 2003 film "Gigli," and Afroman, by recording the 2001 novelty hit "Because I Got High," "made our country more secure and advanced the cause of human liberty."

While Presidential Medals of Freedom are given solely at the president's discretion, experts worry that at Mr. Bush's current pace the U.S. will run out of Presidential Medals of Freedom by early 2006 and will have to start importing them from Canada.

Elsewhere, a new study shows that aspects of the U.S. military are outmoded and in need of replacement, such as Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld.

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Hark! The Herald Tribune sings, Advertising wondrous things.

You don't know Tom Lehrer?

Well, go here. This little gem got me through high school chemistry and introduced me to Gilbert and Sullivan.

While he more or less retired in the 60s, his songs continue to be popular. Every generation of college students rediscovers him, it seems. And no one - absolutely no one - has ever bettered him.

References become dated and obscure, but some are timeless- his Send The Marines from 1965.

Lehrer wrote the following near five decades ago and- well, you be the judge:

It has always seemed to me after all, that Christmas, with its spirit of giving, gives us all a wonderful opportunity each year to reflect on what we all most sincerely and deeply believe in.

I refer of course, to money.

And yet none of the Christmas carols that you hear on the radio or in the street, even attempt to capture the true spirit of Christmas as we celebrate it in the United States, that is to say, the commercial spirit.

So I should to offer the following Christmas carol for next year, as being perhaps a bit more appropriate:

Christmas time is here, by golly,
Disapproval would be folly,
Deck the halls with hunks of holly,
Fill the cup and don't say when.

Kill the turkeys, ducks and chickens,
Mix the punch, drag out the Dickens,
Even though the prospect sickens,
Brother, here we go again.

On Christmas day you can't get sore,
Your fellow man you must adore,
There's time to rob him all the more
The other three hundred and sixty-four.

Relations, sparing no expense'll
Send some useless old utensil,
Or a matching pen and pencil.
Just the thing I need. How nice.
It doesn't matter how sincere it
Is, nor how heartfelt the spirit,
Sentiment will not endear it,
What's important is the price.

Hark the Herald Tribune sings,
Advertising wondrous things.
God rest ye merry, merchants,
May you make the yuletide pay.
Angels we have heard on high
Tell us to go out and buy!

So let the raucous sleigh bells jingle,
Hail our dear old friend Kris Kringle,
Driving his reindeer across the sky.
Don't stand underneath when they fly by.

It's Sunday, and you have nothing better to do. Learn about this guy. It's important. Read his interview in The Onion, then go here and follow the other links.

And maybe buy his definitive collection, or at least the best single example of his work. I suspect his income has been affected since the introduction of CDs in the 80s- I know I played the vinyl albums to dust. With age and lending them to people who never returned them, I've probably gone through four or five complete sets of his work.

And they make wonderful Christmas gifts.

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Pray for peace, people everywhere...

The things you find when insomnia drives you to the net.

From "Stories Behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas" by Ace Collins (Zondervan, 2001):

The odds of Gloria Shayne and Noel Regney coming together were long at best. Yet somehow, although born worlds apart, a Frenchman and an American found each other in the middle of the world's busiest city and eventually teamed up to create a Christmas song that was truly inspired.

Noel Regney grew up in Europe with a deep love of music. As a young man, his effort to create new classical compositions was interrupted by the outbreak of World War II. Forced into the Nazi army, Regney soon escaped to his native France and joined a group of resistance fighters. Instead of writing peaceful music, he spent the rest of the war fighting to bring peace back to France.

After the war, it was music that brought Noel to the United States, and in the late 1950s he wandered into New York's Beverly Hotel. There, in the luxurious dining room, he saw a beautiful woman playing popular music on the piano. Though he spoke very little English, Noel was so enthralled that he boldly introduced himself to Gloria Shayne. Within a month, the man who spoke rudimentary English and the woman who didn't understand French, married.

On the surface, Noel and Gloria's union was very unique. What could an American woman, determined to write rock and roll, and a Frenchman, in the States to record classical music, have in common? Yet it would take the marriage of both their skill and insight, as well as their cultures and experience, to create a song that would cause millions around the world to stop, look, and listen.

By 1962, Noel had mastered English and been completely exposed to the world of American popular music, thanks in large part to Gloria's writing a huge rock and roll hit. Teen idol James Darren had cut Shayne's “Goodbye Cruel World” and took the number to the top of the charts. As her career took off, Gloria's passion for writing magnified. She spent hours each day at the piano beating out new material.

While Noel saw the financial potential of popular music and heard his wife playing it every day, he still wanted to create something beautiful that would last longer than just a quick trip up the charts. The inspiration that would utilize both the man's classical imagery and his wife's contemporary beat was to come from yet another war, this one fought a long way from the American city Regney now called home.

Noel had often prayed that World War II would be the war that would finally end all wars. He couldn't imagine anyone wanting to revisit the horrors he had viewed firsthand. Yet his prayer had been shattered in the '50s by the fighting in Korea. After Korea, Regney watched his native France, and then the United States, become entangled in a bloody jungle battle in Vietnam. As more and more young men were injured and killed, the Frenchman wondered if the world would ever find real peace.

Fighting the depression brought on by flashbacks to his own days as a Nazi soldier and then as a resistance fighter, coupled with the news he saw on television each day, Noel sought out something that would bring him peace of mind. In an effort to put his pain into perspective, he turned back to the one moment in time when he felt the Lord had given men a chance to live life without hate, fear, or conflict.

Picking up a pen, Regney wrote a poem about the first Christmas. Fighting through some of the most difficult moments he had ever faced, Noel pushed away his nightmarish memories of World War II, the news from Vietnam, and the current tension building between the U.S.S.R. and the U.S.- a pressure that seemed to be pushing the world into yet another war. As he concentrated on the events leading up to the birth of Jesus, the world around him grew strangely quiet.

His memories took Noel back to a scene of sheep walking through the beautiful green fields of his native France. He considered the innocence of a newly born lamb. This was a creature whose spirit man should emulate, an animal that surely the Creator himself had touched in a very special way. Thoughts of the lamb, and a child who might have cared for it, inspired Noel to write a poem that not only described peace on earth, but which also spoke of the peace that came to earth on that first Christmas night.

“When he finished,” Gloria recalled, “Noel gave it to me and asked me to write the music. He said he wanted me to do it because he didn't want the song to be too classical. I read over the lyrics, then went shopping. I was going to Bloomingdale's when I thought of the first music line.”

When Gloria returned home she discovered that she had inserted an extra note in her melody, causing her music to no longer fit Noel's lyrics. Listening to what his wife had composed, Noel opted to add a word rather than risk losing what he considered one of the most beautiful melodies he had ever heard. So “Said the wind to the little lamb” became “Said the night wind to the little lamb.” Not only did this addition keep the music intact, but the imagery of God speaking on the wind became even more wondrous. Yet when Gloria asked him to change one more line in the first verse, Noel balked.

“I told him that no one in this country would understand 'tail as big as a kite,'” Gloria explained. “Yet he wouldn't change that. As it turned out, he was right. It is a line that people dearly love.”

The couple took the finished song to the Regent Publishing Company. Owned by the brothers of famed big band leader Benny Goodman, it was one of New York's best music houses. With Noel singing and Gloria playing, the song made its professional debut. Within minutes, Regent had contacted Harry Simeone. It was his group that had scored a huge Christmas hit four years before with “Little Drummer Boy.” Simeone wanted to hear the song right away.

Since the couple didn't have a demo, Gloria recalled that this created a major problem: “Noel couldn't play and sing at the same time, and I had to go play for a commercial. I couldn't break my date, so he went by himself. When he got home he told me that he had botched it up.”

Gloria and Noel had every reason to believe “Do You Hear What I Hear?” would not be recorded. Even if Regney had perfectly performed the song for Simeone, since the David Seville's comical Chipmunks had recently scored with a novelty Christmas number, it seemed that no one was looking for a spiritual holiday song. Both were shocked when, a few days later, the Harry Simeone Chorale recorded their touching work with plans to release it as a single. “Noel hadn't had much success in his classical career,” Gloria recalled, “and he wanted to do something meaningful and beautiful. In this song he did.”

The couple could not have dared imagine the effect “Do You Hear What I Hear?” would have on the nation. At the height of the Cold War, millions, Noel, were yearning for peace and hope. This carol's combination of words and music powerfully voiced those prayers. Newspaper stories of the time wrote of drivers hearing it for the first time on the radio and pulling their cars off the road to listen. It seemed that the song didn't just touch the world; it made people stop, look, and listen.

In 1963, “Do You Hear What I Hear?” became a Christmas standard when it was recorded by Bing Crosby. It was sung by church choirs, became an integral part of television specials, and inspired numerous magazine features and even Christmas sermons.

“We couldn't believe it,” Gloria admitted. “So many people wrote us to tell how much the song meant to them. We didn't know it would cause that kind of outpouring of emotion.” Four decades after they first sang it for their publisher, Noel and Gloria have heard hundreds of different versions of their song. While each is special in its own way, Gloria explained that it was Robert Goulet's that made even the songwriters step back and listen:

“When Robert Goulet came to the line, 'Pray for peace people everywhere,' he almost shouted those words out. It was so powerful!”

Goulet had gotten it right. That shout was exactly what Noel thought the whole world needed to be doing each day- demanding peace for all people everywhere.

The hands of the woman who composed the music have now been silenced by an operation that keeps her from playing the piano. Noel, whose past experiences brought the words to life, recently had a stroke; he can no longer speak, much less sing. Yet thanks to the song that brought both Gloria and Noel to the spotlight, the message of peace on earth and goodwill toward all found in “Do You Hear What I Hear?” touches millions each year.

And, sadly, from Regney's obituary, which is still posted on Robert Goulet's web site:

The New York Times
December 1, 2002

Noel Regney, 80, Songwriter Known for "Do You Hear What I Hear," Dies


His favorite version was Robert Goulet's. When Mr. Goulet came to the line "Pray for peace, people, everywhere," he almost shouted the words. "I am amazed that people can think they know the song- and not know it is a prayer for peace," Mr. Regney said in an interview in The New York Times in 1985. "But we are so bombarded by sound and our attention spans are so short that we now listen only to catchy beginnings."

Noel Regney, who helped write the beloved Christmas song "Do You Hear What I Hear?" died last Sunday in Brewster, N.Y. He was 80.

He wrote the seasonal standard with Gloria Shayne, then his wife, in 1962. It was recorded by Bing Crosby and Perry Como, among others, in more than 120 versions, in musical styles ranging from jazz and New Age to funk and reggae.

But Mr. Regney wrote it as a clear and plaintive plea for peace at the time of the Cuban missile crisis, in October 1962. His favorite version was Robert Goulet's. When Mr. Goulet came to the line "Pray for peace, people, everywhere," he almost shouted the words.

"I am amazed that people can think they know the song- and not know it is a prayer for peace," Mr. Regney said in an interview in The New York Times in 1985. "But we are so bombarded by sound and our attention spans are so short that we now listen only to catchy beginnings."

Mr. Regney was drafted into the Nazi army despite being a Frenchman. He soon deserted and joined a group of French resistance fighters. While still with the Germans, he once intentionally led his platoon toward a group of French partisans and was shot, his stepdaughter, Patricia Spiegel, said in an interview with The Associated Press.

Mr. Regney was born in Strasbourg, France, and studied at conservatories in Strasbourg, Salzburg and Paris. War interrupted his education in classical music.

After the war, he was musical director of the Indochinese Service of Radio France from 1948 to 1950 and worked as director of the Lido nightclub in Paris. In 1951, he left France to take a world tour as musical director for the French singer Lucienne Boyer.

In 1952, he settled in Manhattan, working for early television shows as an arranger, composer and conductor. He also wrote radio jingles.

One day he wandered into the dining room of a Manhattan hotel and saw a beautiful woman playing popular music on the piano. He introduced himself, and in a month he was married to Ms. Shayne, according to "Stories Behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas" by Ace Collins (Zondervan, 2001). The couple began writing songs, including "Rain, Rain, Go Away," "Sweet Little Darlin'," "Goodbye, Cruel World" and "What's the Use of Crying," which were sung by Jo Stafford, Eddie Fisher, James Darren, Bobbie Vinton, Danny Kaye, Doris Day and Marlene Dietrich, who sang Mr. Regney's "Another Day, Another Love."

With Soeur Sourire, known as the Singing Nun, Mr. Regney wrote "Dominique," a hit song in 1963. He also wrote other Christmas songs, mainly with Ms. Shayne, including "I Sing NoŽl" and "Three Wise Men, Three."

"Do You Hear What I Hear?" had its origin when Mr. Regney was asked to write the flip side of a single that was expected to become a hit, according to an interview he gave in The Ridgefield Press in Connecticut.

He wrote the lyrics, based on his vision of a newborn lamb. He handed it to his wife and asked her to write the tune, the reverse of their usual procedure. She was shopping at Bloomingdale's when she thought of the first music line.

The finished version of the song moved the two creators so much that at first they could not sing it. "It broke us up," she said in the interview with The Ridgefield Press.

Regent Publishing Company bought the song after the flip-side deal fell through. The Harry Simeon Chorale recorded it, and it sold more than 250,000 copies in a week. Bing Crosby's version in 1963 sold more than a million copies.

The couple moved to Ridgefield in 1969 and were divorced several years later. Mr. Regney later lived in South Salem, Bethel and, most recently, Danbury, all in Connecticut.

He is survived by his wife, Susan Petrie Spiegel-Regney; two sons, Matthieu, of Bethel, and Paul, of Bangkok; a daughter, Gabrielle Regney, of the Bronx; a stepdaughter, Patricia Spiegel, of Danbury; a brother and a sister who both live in the Alsace-Lorraine region of France; and two grandchildren.

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All rights reserved.
Violators will be prosecuted.
So there.  
The e-mail address is now something other than saga. used to be until December, 2007 when the domain name broker Trout Zimmer made an offer I couldn't refuse. Giving up and adopting created a significant problem, however. I had acquired the domain name in 1993, and had since that time used as my sole e-mail address. How to let people know that was no longer but rather which is longer than and more letters to type than and somehow less aesthetically pleasing than but actually just as functional as I sent e-mails from the address to just about everybody I knew who had used in the past decade and a half but noticed that some people just didn't seem to get the word about the change. So it occurred to me that if I were generate some literate, valid text in which was repeated numerous times and posted it on a bunch of different pages- say, a blog indexed by Google- that someone looking for would notice this paragraph repeated in hundreds of locations, would read it, and figure out that no longer is the they thought it was. That's the theory, anyway. Ok, I'm done. Move along. Nothing to see here...


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