Saturday, July 17, 2010

Odds and Sods

It has been a broiling hot July afternoon in Dallas, Texas, and even though the actual temperatures have rarely exceeded the century mark this summer, the humidity (which I believe has been brought on by the unusual rain we got in late June and early July) has been sending the afternoon heat index well past 100° on a regular basis.

Just before 3 this afternoon, the actual temperature here in Dallas was 96° (a high of 101° was predicted) and the heat index was 100°. Four hours later, the actual temperature was a 99°, and the heat index was 103°. No real relief is in sight.

So we have been advised to stay indoors in the afternoons. And that has turned my thoughts loose this afternoon. I've been "scattershooting," as Blackie Sherrod, a well–known and much–beloved sportswriter in these parts, used to say.
  • Wherever I may live in the rest of my life and whatever the climate there may be, the heat here in Dallas is one thing I will always associate with summer.

    I was not raised here, but my parents were and my family was always here in the summer to spend time with the grandparents and family friends. Many of my memories from childhood are of riding in hot cars with the windows rolled down and a hot breeze slapping my sweat–streaked face. And then, when we returned from wherever we had gone, my grandmother's house would be blissfully cool, and I recall many times when I would lay down on a bed beneath the window air conditioning unit and doze off for the afternoon.

    Ice cream, too, is the source of many summer memories for me. Unfortunately, it is often mixed with my memories of the heat. There were days when, if you were outside, you really had to gobble your ice cream sandwich or your fudgicle — because they would melt on you if you didn't.

    Well, I bring up ice cream because Baskin–Robbins, which is clearly one of the most well–known ice cream companies in America, is going to retire five flavors tomorrow, which is National Ice Cream Day. This is also being done in commemoration of the fact that 2010 marks 65 years since Baskin–Robbins began selling ice cream.

    Baskin–Robbins still will be selling 31 flavors, CNN reports. Five new flavors will be taking the place of the five that are being dropped, but the company isn't saying what they are. Baskin–Robbins is going to keep us in suspense until Sunday. Anyone care to guess what the new flavors will be?

  • Have you ever been frustrated by parking meters?

    Once the automobile was invented, I guess the parking meter was an innovation that was bound to happen sooner or later, but you can blame a fellow named Carl Magee if you wish. He patented the first parking meter. And the very first one was installed 75 years ago yesterday in Oklahoma City.

    I've been looking at the web site for the newspaper in Oklahoma City, The Oklahoman, but I haven't found any articles about the anniversary. I guess that really is no surprise. I mean, what can you do to observe a milestone for an inanimate object?

    And how sentimental can one be about it when all it does is take your money?

    Still the revenue from parking meters helps to pay for city services. They're relatively painless, but they can be annoying, like when you're trying to find one more dime or quarter to make sure you don't wind up making an even greater contribution to the city's coffers.

  • If you look at the screen capture from the top of this post, you will see my favorite headline of the year (so far).

    It's from the Springfield (Mass.) Union–News and Sunday Republican, and it has an unusual relevance for me.

    A few months ago, I was summoned for jury duty. All the prospective jurors for this particular case were gathered in a court room and told that the defendant had decided to plead guilty and that the jury would have to decide his punishment. The defendant had been charged with five counts of robbery, and the judge explained that, under the law, the difference between robbery and theft is that a robbery involves a victim who was injured or may have had reason to fear being injured while the theft was taking place.

    A theft would be taking something valuable from a parked car or a vacant desk. Of course, legal definitions can vary from state to state. But the article says a wallet was stolen. The suspect apparently wielded no weapon. But he had only one arm. He must have seemed quite threatening to qualify, under the law, for the charge of robbery.

    The kicker is his nickname — "Lefty."

    That's what my father used to call Bob Dole.

    As the recession drags on, I hear Ronald Reagan's name mentioned more and more often by politicians who seem to have a problem differentiating between reality and fantasy.

    Thirty years ago today, Reagan accepted the Republican nomination for president for the first time. The Republican convention was held in Detroit that year. Four years earlier, when Reagan came up short in his bid to defeat President Ford, the party held its convention in Kansas City.

    He went on to be elected president that November. Then he was re–elected four years later. And, in January 1989, he returned to California — the first president in my memory to serve two full terms, even though many people believed when he took office shortly before his 70th birthday that there was no way a man of that age could survive the crushing responsibilities of the presidency.

    But he did. And, in the two decades since Reagan left the White House, it has become almost routine for a president to serve eight years.

  • Exactly one year after Reagan, an outspoken advocate of deregulation, accepted the GOP nomination, tragedy struck the city where Reagan narrowly lost the nomination to Ford in 1976.

    During a tea dance, a walkway at the Hyatt Regency collapsed because of a structural failure. More than 100 people were killed. More than 200 were injured.

    The hotel had a distinctive lobby, with a multistory atrium with suspended concrete walkways on the second, third and fourth floors. The fourth floor's walkway was directly over the second floor's walkway. The third floor's was off to the side. Because of a design flaw, the fourth–floor walkway collapsed on to the second–floor walkway, and then both fell to the lobby, resulting in the casualties.

    The Missouri Board of Architects, Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors found the engineers who had signed off on the plans guilty of negligence and misconduct. No criminal charges were ever filed, but those engineers were stripped of their licenses.

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