Jul 17

Of timeless news men

I once worked with a man who (last year) retired after 61 years on the same station. I watched and admired another gentleman at the end of his career of 63 years on the air. And I’ve read columns by writers who spent their last days on memories of games or people that happened 40 years ago because they or their editors thought that was what their audience was interested in.

Even if you’re mailing in a memories column, even if you’re working part time broadcasting at the end of your career in a station where everyone calls you “Mr.” on air in deference to your time in the business, even if the new kid is printing things out for you because printers are a mystery to you … if you spend that long in the media, you’ve done something.

So I’d like to introduce you to David Perlman:

David Perlman was born in 1918 — a decade before the discovery of penicillin and the Big Bang Theory.

And, for the majority of his career, he covered scientific progress in the 20th century and beyond, writing thousands of articles about everything from the beginning of the space age to the computer age.

Until now.

The 98-year-old science editor is retiring from The San Francisco Chronicle after nearly seven decades at the newspaper, a decision he said had been coming for a while.

It is too easy to say “end of an era” but that is truly the case at the Chronicle. I hope all the young people on the staff there were smart enough to spend some time with Perlman. The man no doubt has plenty to teach us all.


And then there’s the next generation. I gave a tour of Franklin Hall to 15 members of the local Boys and Girls Club. It was a sort of last minute thing: Can you show these kids around in half an hour?

So they show up and they are younger than I expected. Know your audience and all of that, so I showed them the giant screen, the television studio and the video game design labs. Fourteen of them said they wanted to move in. Most did not seem dissuaded by the idea that there are no beds or showers or a real kitchen in the building.

I think they just liked that we could play Xbox or Playstation games on the giant screen.

One of them asks how old you have to be to come to college. And then she decides that’s too far off. Oh, but if you study hard and do well in school, my young friend, you too can sit here with us and watch the giant TV.

I wonder what Perlman would say to a gaggle of elementary school children who stopped by his corner of the newsroom in his last days on the job.

Jul 17

I don’t think I have published these here

These videos went elsewhere to the various social media places which you should follow, of course. They never made it here, though. So let’s fix that.

A few nights ago Allie had a very big play session, which means video, which means Allie’s theme song:

The original version of that was just for my in-laws, but I figured I’d “worked hard enough” to synch up the last bit of the music that I should use the footage elsewhere, so I put the tags on it, uploaded it and now I am using it to pad out a Thursday post.

This video was from the weekend before last. We’d gone up to Muncie for a bike ride where, at a park, we started out just behind a miniature tractor parade. “What are we supposed to do with this bit of Americana?” The Yankee asked, which was a line I laughed at for about 10 miles until I had to really start chasing her. Hey, we passed five moving tractors at the beginning of a 50-something mile ride. So that was good for the ego.

On the way back to the house after the ride, though, we found ourselves stopped at an intersection, by this fire truck that was controlling traffic for another parade of tractors. And, no kidding, on the local radio station at the same time:

My answer to the question about how to deal with that sort of Americana is that you follow them. The person on the tractor knows where the food is.

Jun 17

Happy anniversary to us

We were standing in the heat. We were with my family and hers. Her friends and mine. Someone was going to have to travel so we made them all travel. And everyone was there, in Savannah, where we’d taken our first trip, across the street from “our tree” and the place where we’d also gotten engaged. We had everyone sitting outdoors on the hottest weekend of the summer — you couldn’t reserve a space in August, I figured, because people would melt — and they were there for us.

My uncle was down there at the end of the aisle. He’d promised to tie us in a knot we wouldn’t easily get out of. I walked down and stood beside him. Then The Yankee came down on her father’s arm and she was smiling to light up the world.


Now we’re in front of everyone and I remembered that it would have been nice to say something profound and special to her parents, but how do you say in a whisper, in a moment, that you’re going to try your absolute hardest to spend all of your time watching out for their daughter and trying to make her laugh? How do you tell two people all the things you want them to hear in a single sentence? And how do you look back among the small group of people who have traveled from many points on the map and thank them for taking their time to be there? How do you apologize to them, with a wink, for the heat they are sitting in?

My uncle, he’s delivering this lovely service, and it is just perfect because I’ve heard him preach a little, but mostly sing my entire life. I can pick out his voice in a crowded church of singing people from the back of a room and now he’s putting words to thoughts about what I’m supposed to do with all of my days to come.


Almost all of our two small families are there, and the fullness of that is such a special and lasting thought. In all of this time and in all of my sentiment I can’t get the importance of that down in a statement. Our friends, meanwhile, are live-tweeting the thing. Everyone is waving a sandalwood folding fan. There’s a string quartet over there to the left playing a set list that she’s picked out and there’s a candle to this side that is probably just melting in the radiating Savannah summer heat. Later, our friends will say I turned white, but it was the heat and the wool as much as the moment. That heat defines most everyone’s memory of the day, because every wedding has some kind of character.

She’s saying a part and she’s tearing up a little and I whisper something about taking her time. Like she needs this advice. This is one of the strongest, smartest people I know and this platitude is silly even as I say it, but there should be no rush here. There is rushing aplenty in our lives and we’ll get to all of that eventually and sometimes you should just take your time more, and that ceiling fan hanging inside the tent is doing nothing.


Now it is time for the kiss and I did something funny and our friends and family chuckled and then the ceremony was complete and we went back inside and into this fancy restaurant attached to the mansion where we got married. We had a lovely dinner where I learned what it means when they tap a knife on a glass. We went outside for night photos and it was somehow hotter and muggier. The festivities went long into the night.

And they’ve gone far into the years that have followed on adventures with our friends and families and at home and abroad and in all the big and little and pleasantly unexpected and perfectly predictable parts of life. Eight years of laughter and a relationship that gets better all of the time. We were standing in the heat, and our relationship just gets warmer.


Jun 17

Back in the U.S.A.

We arrived safely and on time and only inconvenienced by the inconveniences of the modern convenience of air travel.

Which is, at times, inconvenient.

But we were well-fed. Customs was a chore, even in the fast lines. And, like all things in New York, the moment you stepped onto the curb you knew exactly where you were and why you didn’t want to be there.

We made it back to the in-laws to find that Allie hadn’t missed us at all:

That was Friday. I flew back yesterday. The Yankee dropped me off at the curb:

I made a video of the flight:

And, now I am back in town, back at the office, back to the regular routine, now with jet lag! If history is any guide, I still have another two days until I can walk that off.

The above video makes the 31st video I’ve produced in the last two weeks. Add to that 103 photos that have also been uploaded to the site. And that’s just what I’ve shared here. So, with the trip well-documented, it seems a good time to take a little break on the blog. There’s an anniversary post coming up, of course. And if anything interesting happens in the next few weeks I’ll throw it here as well. But, otherwise, let’s say hiatus until July. In the meantime, follow along on Twitter and Instagram. They never seem to stop.

May 17

Mors Ab Alto

I remember the 1970s. Not in realtime, because I was too young and my memory is too sketchy. But I remember the 1970s much better after the fact, because the 1970s did not end on December 31st, no. And they didn’t end, entirely, when Ronald Reagan was inaugurated. No. The 1970s were a decade that wanted to hold on —
because the Boomers couldn’t acknowledge the idea that the Sixties were even farther away, I suppose — and that’s how I have most of my memories of the 1970s.

Take the game of death from above. Yes, we had a lawn dart set. The Regent Jarts, as I recall. The packaging looked like this. We had those things long after every other neighbor was concerned for their kids safety. I don’t remember them being played much really, probably for safety reasons, but I do remember them being in the basement.

They’d been banned before, but that was somehow overturned in court. And then the lawn dart manufacturing special interests lucked out and found a huge hit on their hands in the 1980s. But there were injuries, too many injuries, thousands of them when people started looking at the data, and at least one death. A grieving father worked tirelessly to get the things banned and, just before the issue was to be considered by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, another child was put into a coma following a lawn dart accident.

So in 1988, just before Christmas, the things were banned in the United States. Soon after, Canada followed. Today, you can buy replacement parts, new metal points or the plastic fletching. But you can’t purchase the finished product.

You can, however, pick this up at Kroger:


I remember the 1970s. Back then, outdoor toys didn’t always use the word “fitness” as a marketing toy. That started in the 1990s.