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Remembering "Long Distance"

From my rental car I called my cellphone company four times yesterday to fix an error the company made, and it's possible that during one or two of these protracted conversations my voice betrayed impatience. I'm not saying this as a fact, just as a reasonable supposition, given that after the first call to the company I was dashboard-pounding mad, and after the second I wanted to drive off a cliff.

At one point I begged and pleaded with a very nice lady to stick with me and not transfer me to a computer, and she did just that, and stuck with me until finally she turned my case over to a fellow who then told me that he had to transfer me to the computer. The computer asked me to enter the digits of my credit card number, which I declined to do, as I was, at that point, on I-40 searching in the dark for the exit to the Nashville airport.

After a couple more calls I finally found a chap who fixed the problem (I just needed to make a very small billing change). And in the midst of standing by during that final 23-minute call (what exactly takes so freakin' long??), I thought fondly of the days when we had to worry about the cost of long distance calls.

Fondly, because "long distance" was always an escape hatch. You know: "Well, this is long distance, so I better get going!" Like the meter on a taxi, you were always conscious of the call racking up charges. For poor folks a long distance call was the equivalent of going out to dinner at one of the better fast-food joints, like Burger King. You made those calls on Thanksgiving and Christmas and on birthdays, all the while imagining the miles and miles of wires, strung on poles, slicing through the pineywoods and up over the Appalachians and across river valleys and somehow leading to Grandma's house.

Even with Grandma and various other people you genuinely loved and cared about, you'd get squirmy on the phone, because this was all fundamentally the pre-communicative era of American life, when no one knew how to talk via apparatuses, and the basic rules of what to say were so unfamiliar that invariably you defaulted to a weather report and then angled to get off the dang phone.

These kids today don't even know what it means to give someone a jingle. "Direct dial" means nothing to them. Nor does "station to station," or "person to person," and I wonder if they grasp the concept of a collect call. I used to call my Dad collect and he would ritually refuse the call, and then call me back direct, which was cheaper. (From birth some of us learn to game the system.)

The weirdest thing was the party line. You'd pick up the phone and strangers were talking on it! And naturally you didn't listen in, because that wouldn't be classy.

Anyway, the big casualty in the switch to cellphones has been the notion of long distance. The world isn't just smaller: There's no distance at all, or at least, all points are equidistant. If someone calls you from the West Coast you don't feel special. Communication is devalued. In the future all communication will be an undifferentiated mush, just a soggy, swampy mass of words and data-points endlessly pumped through multiple channels without any value added or value discerned.

Or maybe that's today we're talking about.


More on the history of telephony here.]

By Joel Achenbach  |  November 28, 2007; 12:31 PM ET
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Next: Rough Night To Be a Republican



O joy!

Posted by: Curmudgeon | November 28, 2007 1:20 PM | Report abuse

Hi, Cassandra. Hi, Martooni.

Posted by: daiwanlan | November 28, 2007 1:21 PM | Report abuse

Another casualty in the switch to cellphones is the notion that driving a car is an important activity that requires the driver's full attention.

It's hard to imagine a billing issue that's more important than other people's lives. So shut up and drive, already!

Posted by: Mandy Cat | November 28, 2007 1:28 PM | Report abuse

"In the future all communication will be an undifferentiated mush, just a soggy, swampy mass of words and data-points endlessly pumped through multiple channels without any value added or value discerned." Whadaya mean, "in the future"? It's like now, man. See our boodle discussion earlier on the quality of journalism, or what's in the top Nielsen ratings on TV these days.

Speaking of the vast wasteland, and I know this may be flip, but didn't you somehow miss not seeing one of those big silver Hummers parking outside Sean Taylor's house on the news footage? Way too much CSI for me, I guess.

Posted by: ebtnut | November 28, 2007 1:29 PM | Report abuse

This reminds me of the early internet days, when accusing someone of "wasting bandwidth" was one of the worst things you could say, and a sure to set off a flame war.

Posted by: slothrop | November 28, 2007 1:39 PM | Report abuse

"..and a sure WAY to set off a flame war. "

Posted by: slothrop | November 28, 2007 1:40 PM | Report abuse

See? If I cared about bandwidth I'd have proofread my message first. This is how bad things have become!

Posted by: slothrop | November 28, 2007 1:42 PM | Report abuse

As usual, my new blog item regarding the previous Kit turns up just a hair too late:

Here's my take on A Simple Theory of Everything, or is it all One Big Lie?


Posted by: bc | November 28, 2007 1:43 PM | Report abuse

Last kit, bia said, "In my experience as a graduate student at a major research university, the TAs are often better, more motivated teachers of undergraduates than the professors, who are hired and promoted for their research and publication records much more than their skill or interest in teaching, especially what they consider basic material." In opposition to this view, I'd like to present my brother, who is a tenured prof at a large and prestigious school "far above Cayuga's waters." Motto: "Let's kick Harvard's butt in hockey!" Although he is in the last decade of his career, my brother teaches an intro bio course for non-majors. The course is large, typically 400 or more, and requires a lot of preparation and administration of multiple TA's who handle test grading, attendance, etc. This course fulfills an undergrad requirement and is regarded as a total pain in the tuchus within the department. My brother teaches it year after year and spends hours working on his lectures and notes, more probably than he would on a graduate seminar. His reasoning is as follows: This is the last chance for many of these students to be exposed to the concepts of ecology, evolutionary biology, biodiversity, etc. in a truly meaningful context. If they don't learn the meaning and value of the complexity of the natural world at this point, they may never do so. And they're all going to be future voters, asked to make important policy choices. The world needs more snakes and lizards, more butterflies and bats, more wolverines and orchids, more lions and tigers and bears oh my, but the world definitely does not need another Bush.

Posted by: kurosawaguy | November 28, 2007 1:45 PM | Report abuse

Joel, you mean you're such a klutz you can't unbuckle your seat belt while doing 75 on an Interstate to get out your wallet to get out your credit card to read the numbers over the phone in the dark while looking for an exit? Have you never heard of multi-tasking? Sheesh.

Actually a certain govt. agency I am distantly familiar with has put out a couple of studies on people driving while talking on cellphones (or is it talking on cell phones while driving? guess it depends on your priorities). Turns out at any given time, about 6 to 8 percent of all drivers are yacking on the phone while driving. And it has become an entirely new category of traffic crash, called "distracted driving" (which also includes eating, fiddling with the radio/CD, etc.).

What I miss most about the [hellaciously old] old phone system were actual human (almost always female) operators, who you could actually communicate with on a human level ("Hi, Milly, can you get me the drug store, please....yeah, Sally's coming down with a cold.") as well as the old prefixes such as "Murry Hill 9" and "Butterfield 8" and "Pennsylvania 6-5000" and "Beechwood 4-5789" and all those great names that very often told you what neighborhood you were calling into. Sometimes they just had the four-digit number without the single-digit prefix, "Melrose 2394."

I wonder if a kid today heard the songs "Pennsylvania 6-5000" and "Beechwood 4-5789" they'd understand what the jargon referred to. I doubt it.

When my parents retired and moved to Florida, they used to call up "long distance" every week (always on Saturday morning). Invariably it was my father who called, and invariably it always went like this:

Me: Hello?

My father: Hey, how's everything?

Me: Oh, fine, fine. [No matter the actual, truthful answer.]

My father: Is it [hot, cold, raining, snowing, tornadoing, ice caps melting, solar flares shooting out intense radiation or other general weather condition, which he already knew because he's seen the weather report]?

Me: [Yes or no, depending, and only after looking out the window, 'cuz I had no idea.]

My father: OK, here's your mother. [We were never "Reach out and touch someone" kinda guys.]

And then when my mother came on the line an actual human-to-human conversation would take place, which might last 8 or 9 minutes, it being "long distance." Actual information and ideas might be exchanged, the health and well-being of third parties might be discussed, humorous anecdotes exchanged, book reviews and book information passed back and forth (invariably "Read anything good?" would be asked), etc.

And like Joel and his dad, after I got married and we had kids who needed picking up at school, we too used the "phone code." If somebody needed to be collected after school (football practice, say), they would call collect, and we'd refuse the call, which was the signal to go get them.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | November 28, 2007 1:46 PM | Report abuse

Okay. I am deeply ashamed to make this admission, but some of you may have suspected it. See. Well.

I don't own a cell phone.

Okay. Glad that's out there. Now, we are not entirely troglodytes. We have a family cell-phone that my wife and son trade off on. My son uses it mostly when coming back from band trips to indicate that he needs to be picked up. My wife uses it to call me at work to complain about something I did.

Anyway, I don't have one because I routinely spend large portions of my day in places that forbid their use. So, for all intents and purposes it would be a car phone. And I drive poorly enough as it is.

If I am in an accident I plan on borrowing the phone from the other person involved.

So, I am afraid that I am kind of out of whack with this topic. Because, you know, I still use that long distance excuse when talking with my father.

Posted by: RD Padouk | November 28, 2007 1:48 PM | Report abuse

Yay for k-guy's brother! I mean it. That's the kind of professor I want to be.

Posted by: bia | November 28, 2007 1:51 PM | Report abuse

bia - you make some good points in the last boodle. I shouldn't have been so hasty in my blanket indictment of TAs. There are always notable exceptions.

Posted by: RD Padouk | November 28, 2007 2:06 PM | Report abuse

Wilbon's article was a nice one. Part of getting ahead in life is the need to shed harmful acquaintances and toxic friends BEFORE you make enough or seem successful enough to engender jealousy or vendettas.

RD, you had trouble in trignometry? You must not talk with your hands enough. I liked it a lot; of course I did go into the class knowing that it was used for calculating distance at sea and heights and such and I was all jazzed about it.

Also, seeing angles as degrees of motion came natural to us hand-wavers. I got a better grade than average.

When the semester on trig ended, I had problems with vectors, probably because I didn't grasp the explanations too well.

Calculus I was fun, probably because of the teacher. It was fast-paced enough that I never was bored in class, and it was nice to be taught by a native ASL signer again, a lot more kinetic learning going on there.

However, it was not a class to slack off study in, at all if you wanted a good grade.

Posted by: Wilbrod | November 28, 2007 2:06 PM | Report abuse

RD, have you ever considered carrying firemaking materials and a blanket so you can make smoke signals?

I suppose signal flags, mirrors, or the big naval signal lights with the shutters could work, too.

As long as everyone understands Morse, of course.


Posted by: bc | November 28, 2007 2:11 PM | Report abuse

Don't forget, unless it was an emergency everyone waited to call until after 5 pm because long distance calls were cheaper than. In college, law school, and well into adulthood, I called my mother long distance every Sunday, after 5 pm, to check in. If there were a special occasion she or my dad might call on a weekday -- after 5.

Our telephone prefix was "Greenfield" or "GR".

I avoid using my cellphone when actually driving; I try to pull over if I must talk. The hardest part was training myself to ignore the ring. This may possibly be due to the phenomenon Joel noted, that I learned to use the phone in what was essentially a pre-communicative era. One always ansered the phone because it could be an emergency or an important call. Now, of course, there are ways to discover that before we answer a phone. However, the impulse remains.

Posted by: Ivansmom | November 28, 2007 2:13 PM | Report abuse

I just wanted to point out that "telephony" is real fun to say.

Posted by: RD Padouk | November 28, 2007 2:28 PM | Report abuse

Go Big Red, k-guy!

Posted by: jack | November 28, 2007 2:29 PM | Report abuse

When I was growing up, you just had to dial the last 5 digits of the phone number. I remember the outcry when we had to move to 7-digit dialing. My mom still only has to dial 7. And yes, she does dial--the phone in the kitchen is still the old rotary. You just do not want to call any number that is zero or 9-intensive on that phone.

Posted by: Raysmom | November 28, 2007 2:29 PM | Report abuse

Of course you listened on party lines. The people next door weren't strangers they were your cousins and your aunt and uncle, and they had far more interesting conversations than anything happening at your house.

Till mom caught you.

Posted by: dr | November 28, 2007 2:32 PM | Report abuse

Speaking of telephony, one of my favorite childhood poems:

by Laura Elizabeth Richards

Once there was an elephant,
Who tried to use the telephant--

No! No! I mean an elephone
Who tried to use the telephone--

(Dear me! I am not certain quite
That even now I've got it right.)

Howe'er it was, he got his trunk
Entangled in the telephunk;

The more he tried to get it free,
The louder buzzed the telephee--

(I fear I'd better drop the song
Of elephop and telephong!)

Posted by: bia | November 28, 2007 2:33 PM | Report abuse

wilbrod - The limiting factor with trig was my poor penmanship. I am cursed that way.

Posted by: RD Padouk | November 28, 2007 2:34 PM | Report abuse

But the aliens don't know Morse code. That's what did them in in "Independence Day." That and a MacBookPro with a firewire port. Nice of those BEMs to comply with IEEE-1394.

Posted by: yellojkt | November 28, 2007 2:36 PM | Report abuse

My first real job was as a telephone operator on Saturday mornings. With a switchboard of those snaky things that plug into various slots. I was 16, and I was paid a dollar an hour. None of my girlfriends had a "real" job --- I was tremendously proud of myself.

("Full of myself" works, also.)

Posted by: nellie | November 28, 2007 2:38 PM | Report abuse

You know the trouble today is that people, companies, systems don't listen. Everyone is so busy talking that no one takes the time to hear.

Posted by: dr | November 28, 2007 2:38 PM | Report abuse

Once there was an elephant,
Who tried to use the telephant -
No! no! I mean an elephone
Who tried to use the telephone -
(Dear me! I am not certain quite
That even now I've got it right.)

Howe'er it was, he got his trunk
Entangled in the telephunk;
The more he tried to get it free,
The louder buzzed the telephee -
(I fear I'd better drop the song
Of elephop and telephong!)

Laura E. Richards

Posted by: Ivansmom | November 28, 2007 2:40 PM | Report abuse

bia, clearly great minds think alike.

Or are cursed with the same trivia.

Posted by: Ivansmom | November 28, 2007 2:41 PM | Report abuse

I am unhappy to report that I am now on day 3 of the "Copacabana" tune cootie. This is worse than the "Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" incident.

Posted by: Raysmom | November 28, 2007 2:48 PM | Report abuse

My children ask me why we "dial" telephone numbers since they have never seen an actual telephone dial. They do not understand the joy of giving your finger the free ride back.

Having been raised with wireless telephones, they have never risked accidental asphyxiation from the telephone cord.

To them a seven digit number seems odd, for in their memory we in Fairfax have always included the area code.

Finally, they do not understand that the phrase "Thornwall-5," the prefix to my home phone, always gives me flashbacks to the Johnson Administration.

Posted by: RD Padouk | November 28, 2007 2:50 PM | Report abuse

About 50% of teens ADMIT texting while driving. They have no choice they say, how could they stop every 45sec-1 minute to follow a conversation?
Now that is multitasking. That slacker Achenbach should start writing his 2 cents and blog things while driving the Interstates.

I think I told the story that both the Fungi and Witch no. 1 were stumped by my mother's rotary dial phone. Ha!

Posted by: shrieking denizen | November 28, 2007 2:51 PM | Report abuse

Oh my. Is that Casey from Sports Night at the top of my screen? *pausing to ogle and sigh*

Posted by: Raysmom | November 28, 2007 2:51 PM | Report abuse

sd, how in the name of all that is holy do you *text* and drive? I can barely manage it as a single activity and using both hands at that. I'm so old...

Posted by: Raysmom | November 28, 2007 2:54 PM | Report abuse

We finally broke down and got a cell phone about 3 years ago. We really don't use it much, though it does come in handy once in a while. Mostly its calling home from the grocery store to ask, "They don't have any sage, will marjoram do?". Or, "I'm passing Frederick, will be home within the hour". We have a pay-as-you go plan, and I don't think we have ever come close to using up all our minutes. We usually run out of time first. It's $15 minimum, which buys a month of use. When we looked into a new phone/new plan, we decided we had a pretty good deal, so we're stick with it for now. I do remember party lines (my grandparents had one), and the phone exchange names (ours was Whitehall out here in the DC 'burbs). When I first went to work, we had a building swtichboard with operator who answered the calls and then patched them through. That lasted about 5 more years before they automated.

Posted by: ebtnut | November 28, 2007 2:55 PM | Report abuse

SCC: ...sticking with it... It's getting late!

Posted by: ebtnut | November 28, 2007 3:00 PM | Report abuse

tel OF any as in cacophony


tel ah PHON ey as in well, baloney

OR is that

bologna as in ba LOG na

My granny pronounced it many immigrants she adored processed food options like potato buds, tater tots, fish fingers, Velveeta (with baloney)....and something really weird from the space race days...

Space Food Sticks.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 28, 2007 3:02 PM | Report abuse

tel EFF a nee

And if you say "Acoustic Telephony" it positively makes your lips tingle.

Posted by: RD Padouk | November 28, 2007 3:07 PM | Report abuse

Technology the kids don't understand:

My mother teaches at a preschool, and they use all the materials they've gathered over the years. A mother of one of the kids reported her child's announcement: "Mommy, Mommy! At school, they have these big black CDs that go around and around!"

Posted by: bia | November 28, 2007 3:11 PM | Report abuse

Raysmom - great. You've gone and activated my suppressed Barry Manilow synaptical connections. And here I thought I had gotten rid of them all.

Posted by: RD Padouk | November 28, 2007 3:20 PM | Report abuse

Take some consolation that it's not the ABBA brain sector that went flashing and sparking RDP...

Posted by: shrieking denizen | November 28, 2007 3:29 PM | Report abuse

We had the Lehigh prefix to our phone # in Chicago. I remember that we had a person from the telephone company come to school to teach us phone etiquette. The talk back then was that the future would see the advent of picturephones.

Posted by: jack | November 28, 2007 3:33 PM | Report abuse

Her name was Lola, she was a showgirl...

Durn, it's contagious. Fix that fast, r-mom.

And I'm not getting any hunky banner ads. At the very least, I deserve Felicity Huffman just to keep things fair.

Posted by: yellojkt | November 28, 2007 3:34 PM | Report abuse

Great. That did it. Now I have "Take a Chance on Me" fighting in a cage match with "Copacabana" in my brain.

I'm going to go home now.

Posted by: RD Padouk | November 28, 2007 3:35 PM | Report abuse

True, Cos Sin and Tan can look rather alike in poor pensmanship, RD. Thank goodness we were allowed to use calculators to look up those numbers instead of tables.

A good book to get any kid interested in trignometry before they take it: "Carry on, Mr. Bowditch". Good sea tale, with the brutal truth about indenture and apprenticeships in Colonial New England and how good math skills can be used in a career. Newbury medal winner.

Posted by: Wilbrod | November 28, 2007 3:36 PM | Report abuse

mamam mia,
here I go again,
my, my,

I'm sorry it was the only way to get Barry Manilow out of my head.

Posted by: dr | November 28, 2007 3:38 PM | Report abuse

I grew up with pushbuttons and rotary dials... these rotary dials were getting to be antiques by then, but they have such a feel that button-pushing doesn't match.

Just the other day, I was missing owning a typewriter. I had one I bought for 5 bucks at a garage sale, but eventually threw out in favor of my computer.

Screw all that art, old guns and such in "Antiques Roadshow". I want to see outdated technology on that show again.

We even had one of the first video games ever-- Atari Hockey once (manufactured in the 1970's) that had knobs on an console. This was way before joysticks were invented.

Posted by: Wilbrod | November 28, 2007 3:41 PM | Report abuse


I'm sure a little of Michael Martin Murphey's "Wildfire" would shut Barry and the Swedes up.

You're welcome.


Posted by: Scottynuke | November 28, 2007 3:42 PM | Report abuse

I can't quite tell if I'm ashamed to admit this, or simply "supposed" to be ashamed to admit this, but here it goes anyway: my wife and I cell phone each other *when we're in the same store.* Usually it is Lowe's, and I am wandering around lose somewhere like the tool section, blissfully reading the specs on a sabersaw carton, when my phone will ring and my wife will say, "Did you get lost again? Come over to the wallpaper aisle and tell me if you like this pattern I found." Or she will call to say, "I'm at the check-out now." Which means get your slow-poke a$$ up front because I've got the Lowe's credit card (for some reason the only one I'm authorized to carry). To which I reply, "But I'm looking at molly bolts." (My wife isn't quite sure what molly bolts are, but I use them as an all-purpose excuse, such as "Sorry, dear, I can't do that honey-do you assigned me unless I go to Lowe's to get the right size molly bolts.")

Posted by: Curmudgeon | November 28, 2007 3:43 PM | Report abuse

Mudge, Mr. T and I do that all the time, especially in Lowe's! Otherwise, we would be lost in there forever.

Posted by: Slyness | November 28, 2007 3:50 PM | Report abuse

Mudge you are not alone, we have done that many times. I rarely use my cell phone - most often it is my husband calling - about half the time he is calling from a store asking questions about items he wants/needs or think I want/need to buy.

Posted by: dmd | November 28, 2007 3:50 PM | Report abuse

I need a cell phone! I can't count how many times I've had to find people in a crowd for Wilbrod, and I'm not even paid extra to be a bloodhound. Hmph.

Posted by: Wilbrodog | November 28, 2007 3:53 PM | Report abuse

Mudge, we do it too. The cell also comes in handy on busy days at Costco. He drops me off and goes to the outer reaches of he11 to park. Then I call him after checkout and he picks me up out front. This has the added benefit of keeping him out of Costco, which keeps the $$ spent much lower.

Posted by: Raysmom | November 28, 2007 3:54 PM | Report abuse

Thank you Slyness and dmd. It feels so much better to know I'm not alone with this shameful secret. Perhaps we can form a support group.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | November 28, 2007 3:54 PM | Report abuse

ABBA... Dancing Queen..."Muriel's Wedding" This Australian gem is the first film I ever saw with Toni Collette and Rachael Griffiths and I love them and it. Collette porked up to play the strange sad sly disfunctional title character and she is terrific. And Rachael Griffiths, well, I've always been a sucker for brunettes with an overbite (Gene Tierney!). The flick's a mishmash just like Muriel's life, but it has so many funny memorable moments- the talent show, the record shop, the bridal shop, and the means by which one character discovers her husband's infidelity (she recognizes her best friend's lipstick and it ain't on his collar and it ain't on his lips). If you've seen Baz Luhrman's "Strictly Ballroom," and you should, you'll recognize a lot of the actors in this film.

Posted by: kurosawaguy | November 28, 2007 3:56 PM | Report abuse

Hm-m-m, Mudge, you must be in a really good signal area. I get mid-way into either of the Lowes I frequent and I lose all use of the cellie. Same at Home Despot. In these modern times, one might think those mega-stores would install repeaters inside that would provide full service. Then, hopefully, I won't have to explain about gazing at Molly Boltz after the fact. ;-)

Posted by: ebtnut | November 28, 2007 3:57 PM | Report abuse

Baker 9-6231
my parents still have one rotary phone and my dad still can't figure out how to use a cordless!

Posted by: jg | November 28, 2007 4:01 PM | Report abuse

jack, re: picture phones, given the web cam, we're there. Not that it's universal, but I think it's increased a lot just in the last couple of years. My parents use theirs to see and talk to their grandkids. Wilbrod, do you sign with people over the video phone?

Posted by: bia | November 28, 2007 4:04 PM | Report abuse

So, speaking of ABBA: have I been mis-hearing it for, like, 2-3 decades, or do they have a song in which they declaim "Waterloo! Yada yada, yada yada..." (what else could it be? Otter glue? Toddler goo? What're you?). Assuming I have heard the opening word correctly, what is the song about? I have never been able to decipher any other words in the lyrics. Does it extoll the virtues of Wellington's victory? Bemoan Napoleon's loss? Praise flush toilets? What is it?

Posted by: ScienceTim | November 28, 2007 4:09 PM | Report abuse

Feel no shame my friends. None have used a cell phone as frivolously as I do.

My friends and I do brunch every Sunday. And almost every Sunday I phone my roommate(or he phones me) to advise that it is brunch time, when it would be easier and faster to walk the three steps out of bed to knock on the others' door. Or shout.

Posted by: Kerric | November 28, 2007 4:09 PM | Report abuse

There is a very funny ad running right now for one of the cell phone companies new video phone, a wife calls her husband and says she wants to show him somthing, he at work, closes his door and shuts his blinds in inticipation - you then see a red mustang all scraped along one side.

Posted by: dmd | November 28, 2007 4:11 PM | Report abuse

SCC something....anticipation scrapped - THAT was awful even for me.

Posted by: dmd | November 28, 2007 4:12 PM | Report abuse

Gee, SciTim, if only someone would invent a way to search the internet for song lyrics. Perhaps even a box where you enter the name of the song followed by "lyrics". Naaah.

My my, at waterloo napoleon did surrender
Oh yeah, and I have met my destiny in quite a similar way
The history book on the shelf
Is always repeating itself

Waterloo - I was defeated, you won the war
Waterloo - promise to love you for ever more
Waterloo - couldn't escape if I wanted to
Waterloo - knowing my fate is to be with you
Waterloo - finally facing my waterloo

My my, I tried to hold you back but you were stronger
Oh yeah, and now it seems my only chance is giving up the fight
And how could I ever refuse
I feel like I win when I lose


And how could I ever refuse
I feel like I win when I lose


Not that reading the lyrics makes the song any less silly.

Posted by: yellojkt | November 28, 2007 4:20 PM | Report abuse

Well, um, see, that box thingie only works if you sort of have the correct word -- which I guess I did -- and, um, if you think of using it.


Posted by: ScienceTim | November 28, 2007 4:30 PM | Report abuse

ABBA songs have lyrics? OOOOOOOOOOOOh my eyes, my eyes AAAUURGH!

Posted by: kurosawaguy | November 28, 2007 4:31 PM | Report abuse

Yes, but I need a specific kind of webcam that has good streaming speed... too many webcams you can get in stores have CMOS sensors which are OK for filming short videos even, but tend to jam and freeze over the internet, which can be aggravating. CCD sensors are better.

I liked my D-link videophone but it's difficult to set up by yourself since it requires connecting the videophone, TV, and computer; you really need the company's guy to come over and set it up.

I use IM a lot in lieu of the phone, actually.

Posted by: Wilbrod | November 28, 2007 4:32 PM | Report abuse

But yellojkt, you know those internet lyrics aren't always accurate. You have to proofread them. The words you quoted missed part of the song, the part where it goes, "Woh, woh, woh, woh Waterloo..." Where's the respect for the poetry?

Posted by: kbertocci | November 28, 2007 4:33 PM | Report abuse

ABBA=aural ipecac

Posted by: crc | November 28, 2007 4:35 PM | Report abuse

I did a brief stint with one of the cell phone companies. We had the usual cube farm in a nondescript office building over near Beltsville (we did cell tower location work; the world hated us). Many of the people there (and most were 20 or 30-somethings) were so wrapped up in their tech stuff that they would e-mail stuff to folks sitting in THE NEXT CUBE, rather than vocalize. Talk about wrapping up in your cacoon!

Posted by: ebtnut | November 28, 2007 4:55 PM | Report abuse

My kids and I text each other from different rooms within the house. We IM each other from opposite ends of the couch.

Sometimes the kids text each other, sitting side by side, right in front of us; I'm assuming they're making fun of us.

Posted by: TBG | November 28, 2007 5:11 PM | Report abuse

In some fairness, the advantage of emailing your cube-mate is that the question is there when he/she returns from the bathroom or gets off the phone, which may be at an inconvenient time for you. If it's work-related, it makes a permanent note that the information was conveyed, and so on.

Of course, if you're just asking about where to eat lunch, or office gossip, that is a bit sillier.

Posted by: ScienceTim | November 28, 2007 5:12 PM | Report abuse

I am so going to call mrdr the next time he waits in the parking lot while I have to get the groceries and amuses himself by finding a better parking space.

I ended up getting a cell phone. Work made me. To date 1 person has called me on it. 3 weeks one call, I have this for...? I have called out 4 times, once to return said call, and the rest to get my cell number to my kids phones.

Kerric that is so you.

Posted by: dr | November 28, 2007 5:17 PM | Report abuse

kguy, I was watching Muriel's Wedding just last night. Sons Girlfriend says she just doesn't get it. She is so young and so wrong.

Maybe ABBA is in the air? Maybe we should be worried.

"Woh, woh, woh, woh Waterloo..."

Posted by: dr | November 28, 2007 5:21 PM | Report abuse

On a totally different topic of connectivity: autistic children are found to have more gray matter in areas relating to social processing.;_ylt=Aofn7ONL3KuyVvpMedrz8GGGOrgF

Gray matter is glia, cell bodies, etc, which can differentiate into white matter, but is the bulk of your brain. Gray matter mass peaks in your mid-20's.

White matter are axons and dendrites of neurons that are myelinated (shielded with proteins). They act something like cables or circuits to connect everything in pathways. White matter generally increases with age (and learning, perhaps).

So this increase in gray matter in social processing and learning by sight might indicate a lot of redundant processing and lack of trimming for easy learning and associations.

The right amygalda seems to be essential for normal emotional regulation.

Patients with borderline personality, depression, tend to have exaggerated left amygdala activity (which correlates with fear and anxiety responses).

Bipolar patients tend to have reduced amygdala volumes overall.

Toxoplamosis (which seems to be linked to schizophrenia) taking up residence in the brain apparently tend to develop cysts in the amygdala, which may explain their influence on host behavior.

This next paper proposes that visual processing is in part key for social processing. This does not mean blind infants can't learn social processing or language; their brain wiring is intact, just receiving different input and develops accordingly.

The reduced amygdala may be causing the heavier grey matter in the social or visual processing since there is not much for that area to connect to (when it normally would connect to the amygdala) and get feedback on how to organize itself.

Many people with Asperger's report seeing faces (or the world) in pieces and bits, rather than as a whole, and that they have to remember and put it all together. That does seem to fit the MRI evidence.

If the roots of autism originate in a deficiency in the right amygdala, it may more strongly suggest an infective basis for autism, as well as a genetic component for increased suspectibility to infection or innately asymmetric brains/amygdalas.

This would steer away from a heavy-metal hypothesis as the primary cause of autism since it has far more documented effects on the brain than just autistic-like symptoms (seizures, for one).

It may be that MRIs will eventually show that mercury or heavy metal poisoning has an overall brain damage pattern different to autism.

It is possible the amygdala (either or both halves) produces some specific proteins that helps label it for white matter connection from other parts of the brain, and which also makes it prone to parasites. If so, it is also vulnerable to specific damage from autoimmune causes, diet, or genetic mutations.

Back to knitting and telephones now.

Posted by: Wilbrod | November 28, 2007 5:25 PM | Report abuse

Knitting and telephones and ABBA. Don't forget ABBA. ABBA knitting telephone slipcovers.

Posted by: ScienceTim | November 28, 2007 5:50 PM | Report abuse

"Everybody screamed when I knitted my slipcover..."

Okay, that gives even me a sappy tune cootie. Enough.

Posted by: Wilbrod | November 28, 2007 5:53 PM | Report abuse

Knitting? I'm in. My students really reacted to the surfer-wisdom dude. Positively, I mean. A great story and I want Spirograph for Christmas, the deluxe model.

Here is a nifty Spirograph machine from Anu Garg of wordsmith dot org :

Posted by: College Parkian | November 28, 2007 5:55 PM | Report abuse

Afternoon all!!
I still have a rotary phone out in my shed, the old reliable. when the power goes which is often I can still contact the outside world.

Bc, I carry all the stuff you mentioned before in my car,mirror,candle, a blanket and food, just in case i slide off the road some night where my cell phone won't work,which is the last 20 miles of my commute. Oh a bottle of something to keep my blood pumping if you know what I mean.

Funny this kit is about phone, i just recently switched back to dialup, DSL is too expensive at this time for me, anywho the number it dials sounds like the opening of the looney tunes tune. Everytime it dials I have to start to chuckle and think about bugs,elmer and yosemite sam!!

Posted by: greenwithenvy | November 28, 2007 5:59 PM | Report abuse

I'm surprised that Joel is old enough to remember party lines.

Odd, no one has mentioned, or mentioned having, a wall phone! I remember the one that hung on the dining room wall in our dining room in Bakersfield. Desk phoones, when they came out, were a huge improvement.

In October, after my mom passed, my sister and I split what precious few family trinkets there were. One thing that I chose was a small lapel-type pin that had to have belonged to my mother, since she was an operator, that has a stylized logo: TPTTCO (The Pacific Telephone and Telegraph Company) and a bell that reads, with lots of magnification, "Local and Long Distance Telephone." The days of the Baby Bells are relatively ancient history. How many phone companies today have the word "telegraph" in their business name? *l*

Posted by: Loomis | November 28, 2007 6:04 PM | Report abuse

I don't like it when the new improved thing is worse than the old thing. It used to be, you got a phone bill that was pretty cheap; no 5 different taxes attached, no extra charge for "pushbutton dialing," no charge for caller ID, and if you racked up $2.40 long distance, there would be an extra $2.40 to pay. Nowadays, however, you have to have a "plan."

"We have several plans!" they croon. "This plan, and that plan! Just pick your plan!" Well, I don't want a danged "plan." I want to pay the $2.40 for the long distance call if I make it, and not pay it if I don't. How's that for a flippin' plan?

And bandwidth? It used to be young lovers could talk on the phone, and you could have a brief moment where no one said anything, and you could HEAR each other being quiet - breathing, and the oh-so-faint but actual ambient noises, faintly, through the phone. You were connected through the wire. Nowadays? Your cell provider has advanced computers that determine no audible tone needs to be encoded and transmitted, and the silence is absolute and tomblike. No lovers' breathing over the cellphone is allowed!

Posted by: Jumper | November 28, 2007 6:06 PM | Report abuse

Mamma mia, jag har blivit kär
Se mig, titt i mina ögon
Mamma mia, om det inte är kärlek
Vad med mig att göra.

Try the tune-cootie in Swedish (ja, sure).

Posted by: firsttimeblogger | November 28, 2007 6:07 PM | Report abuse

We just picked up new phones for the house that are like that. Silent and tomblike when no one is talking.

Hey wait a minute, is it going to be like cell phone rings where you can choose the 'old' style ringer for your cell phone, only with new phones, you can choose to have ambient noise on your handset?

Posted by: dr | November 28, 2007 6:14 PM | Report abuse

"And, oh what heights we'll hit; on with the show; this is it!"
Now THAT'S a toon cootie!

Posted by: Jumper | November 28, 2007 6:15 PM | Report abuse

It is really a pain not to be able to boodle from work. I read the comments and want to say, "me too, me too," to so many of them. For instance, I always call "S" when we're at Lowe's because he's always hanging out in lumber while I'm in hardware or the nursery. It's so much easier than walking all over the darn store looking for him. The first time I called him at Lowe's he thought it was hilarious. My cell is a mixed blessing, half the time I forget to turn it on, or if it's on, I forget to shut it off and the battery dies. I like having it as security when I'm driving but don't like to talk and drive. My daughters always talk and drive - not good. #2 daughter doesn't have a land line anymore, just her cell.

I agree with crc regarding ABBA, their music makes my skin crawl.

Cassandra, I'm thinking about you and sending good thoughts your way. I wish I could do something to help you.

Posted by: Bad Sneakers | November 28, 2007 6:51 PM | Report abuse

By the way, that E8 thing reminds me of Queen Anne's Lace seen from the back. Katherine Hepburn once said that no one could look at that flower and not believe in God.

Posted by: Bad Sneakers | November 28, 2007 6:54 PM | Report abuse

SciTim re: ABBA and Waterloo

Oh, yes, ABBA were actually big Napoleonic era history buffs. Sadly, "Waterloo" is the only one of their songs in the original form. Their other big hits before they sold out and changed all the lyrics were two odes to Napoleon's marshals: "Take a Chance on Ney" and "Bernadotte" and another "Jena, Jena".

Posted by: SonofCarl | November 28, 2007 7:37 PM | Report abuse

There were three payphone booths attached to the phone company office in the town where I grew up. In those booths, you didn't need to put in money until after the first 15 or 20 seconds of the call -- it would connect you, you could talk, and then if you didn't pay, it would disconnect you. Naturally we used the phones to make 15-second calls for free. "Hi, Mom, I'm fine, will be home later, not sure when, hey, gotta run [CLICK]." I don't know if the phone company did this as some kind of public service, or if somebody goofed when programming the phones. In either case, thanks! They were that way for years and years, and people (intentionally) never mentioned it to the phone company.

Posted by: David | November 28, 2007 7:40 PM | Report abuse

Hmmm...front page alert, but under a distinctly different header than what Joel has up top.

Howcome WaPo gets to use he11 in a headline but it won't get past Moveable Type here?

Posted by: Slyness | November 28, 2007 7:40 PM | Report abuse

Took some digging, but here's the original of Take a Chance on Me from ABBA's Napoleonic phase.

When it's on the line, like the Lutzen time
Like the Grande Armee
Take a chance on Ney
If you need him, let him know, gonna stand his ground
Although at Borodino, he once went down
If you're all alone when the eagles have flown
When you're in the fray
Take a chance on Ney
Gonna do his very best and take Quatre Bras
When you put him to the test, il est notre etoile

Take a chance on Ney
(that's all we ask of you Monsieur)
Take a chance on Ney

Posted by: SonofCarl | November 28, 2007 7:55 PM | Report abuse

Didn't Bernodette become King of Sweden?

Posted by: Anonymous | November 28, 2007 8:07 PM | Report abuse

I used a pay phone in Mexican Hat, Utah during the fall of 1972. The instructions were: "1. Pick up the handset. 2. Wait for the operator to contact you."

Posted by: Anonymous | November 28, 2007 8:07 PM | Report abuse

SoC, leave the funny tabaccy alone and resume taking your medication, please. Man, those ribs hurt.

Posted by: Shrieking Denizen | November 28, 2007 8:10 PM | Report abuse

This conversation reminds me of this article the other day about "the last known working public phone booth in the region and one of only a handful left in the United States."

Posted by: TBG | November 28, 2007 8:16 PM | Report abuse

Thanks SD, I had some pent-up boodling, but am better now.

Unknown poster re Bernadotte: indeed he did. Maybe I need to read more about the context, but that always struck me as somewhat akin to inviting Rommel to come on over and be your head of state.

On topic: as a kid we were on a party line. The eavesdropping trick was to hold the receiver upside down.

Posted by: SonofCarl | November 28, 2007 8:28 PM | Report abuse

The summer of '90 a friend and I had a team in a Capitol Hill rotisserie league. He was stationed in DC but I was newly out of the army and here in our little town for a couple months before starting work in Lawton, OK. I needed a touchtone phone to be able to make trades and otherwise manage the team and none of the local residents had one. The only alternative was visiting the pay phone on a pole outside the grocery store. The phone, and store, are both long gone.

Our local telephone cooperative offers all the bandwidth, television channels, and long distance phone calls you can stand to make plus a premium movie channel for $142 a month, including tax and all those stupid fees. The nearest pay phone is over 40 miles away. They'll let you use the phone at the gas station for nothing if you don't act like a jerk from the cities, or have Iowa plates.

Posted by: frostbitten | November 28, 2007 8:45 PM | Report abuse

SofC-bravo! Need to get that tune up on youtube.

Posted by: frostbitten | November 28, 2007 8:51 PM | Report abuse

Second on the kudos to SoC. Had me in stitches.

Posted by: yellojkt | November 28, 2007 9:17 PM | Report abuse

Looks like Hizzonor let the good citizenry of Gotham city foot the bills of his extra-marital activities. He would have been a darn good French politician.

Posted by: shrieking denizen | November 28, 2007 9:46 PM | Report abuse

All of these years I thought ABBA was singing "take a chance on me". Knowing the real lyrics doesn't make me like the song any better. When I was younger and more foolish there was a jukebox on the back wall of the watering hole. Whenever a song would play that someone didn't like, the jukebox would get a swift kick in the side, a scrrrrriiiiitttttch would ensue and the offending tune would reject. Such was the case with ABBA and other such drivel of the era.

Posted by: jack | November 28, 2007 9:47 PM | Report abuse

Bravo, SoC.

Posted by: bill everything | November 28, 2007 9:52 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: Anonymous | November 28, 2007 11:46 PM | Report abuse

Already testy

Posted by: Wilbrod | November 29, 2007 2:16 AM | Report abuse

*simply-happy-to-be-here Grover waves*


Posted by: Scottynuke | November 29, 2007 5:08 AM | Report abuse

'Morning, Boodle.

Talking about the writer's strike, WaPo's Paul Farhi takes this shot at our friends to the north:

"More important is the general loss of swagger and sass on TV. What would we be as a nation without our nightly ridicule, our daily back-talking to, and humiliation of, the pretenders to power? Answer: We'd be Canada."

Oh, and note to Weingarten: "Canada" in that piece is hyperlinked, just in case anybody wants to learn more about it.

'Morning, Cassandra. Martooni, let's get that sawdust flying.

May I suggest a moratorium on Abba tune cooties? Let us vow to use the power of the tune cootie for good, not evil. I suggest a couple of verses of "Thunder Road" to get us started. difficult though the rhyme scheme may be.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | November 29, 2007 6:45 AM | Report abuse

btw, ABBA does also sing "Take A Chance". Other tune cootie worthy Swede-pop songs include "Fernando" and "Dancing Queen".

But I must take mudge's suggestion. May I say:

Tramps like us, baby, we were born to run!

Posted by: yellojkt | November 29, 2007 6:50 AM | Report abuse

yello, go to your room.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | November 29, 2007 6:52 AM | Report abuse

Mudge, it's too early in the morning to make me laugh like that!

G'morning anyway, everybody.

Posted by: Slyness | November 29, 2007 7:07 AM | Report abuse

CP, Thanks for the link to spirogragh. It is interesting.
Good morning Cassandra, May you have a blessed day.
Good morning Martooni; your story is always inspiring to hear. Have a great day.

Posted by: daiwanlan | November 29, 2007 7:24 AM | Report abuse

Farhi said what about Canada?

I guess he's never seen This Hour Has 22 Minutes, or The Mercer Report, or Little Mosque On The Prairie, or even that creaking old goat The Royal Canadian Air Farce.

Beats According To Jim hands down....

Posted by: byoolin | November 29, 2007 8:10 AM | Report abuse

Good morning all! Hope things are working out for you Cassandra.

I'm amazed no one has stolen Rick's Rant from the Mercer Report and put it on a US show. And, can one of you Canuckistanis explain to me why the Maritimes all seem to have boy premiers?

Substitute teaching and coaching robotics today. What was I thinking?

Posted by: frostbitten | November 29, 2007 8:24 AM | Report abuse

SoC, that was snortworthy, sir. Bravo.

Mudge, I cannot believe you didn't suggest "Paradise by the Dashboard Light."

I *think* that's one of your favorites - aren't you a fan of the Steinman/Meat Loaf school of '70s-era Teenage-Leaning Rock Opera (I'd add that "Thunder Road" might be one of the #1 song in that genre)?


Posted by: bc | November 29, 2007 8:26 AM | Report abuse

I'm just plain conflicted over the Post deciding it's news to talk about the 'Net flotsam and jetsam concerning Sen. Obama's religious affiliation, particularly because most of that crap is a double-smear effort to tag Sen. Clinton as well...


Posted by: Scottynuke | November 29, 2007 8:30 AM | Report abuse

'Morning all. It snows so hard it's hard to tell where the sky finishes and the land starts. It has been a snowy November, unlike last year when we got our first serious snowfall on Christmas day.

Omni, you out there? Just to say that Fred Chichin, the other half of the Rita Mitsouko you were blogging about the other day, died yesterday of a cancer that has been diagosed a couple of months ago. The cancer was qualified as "fulgurant" in the press release. I was wondering why they kept cancelling their shows of the Variety tour. Now we know. He was 53. RIP Fredo.

Posted by: shrieking denizen | November 29, 2007 8:34 AM | Report abuse

Good morning,friends. I have not worked out the problem, but still praying and trusting in God and Jesus. It is will be well, I believe that. Please don't worry about me, I don't want to be a burden to the boodle. It seems there is always something with me, and for me, it feels like I'm taking advantage of your kindnesses, and I don't want to do that. Yet I do thank you much for your kind words and thoughts. They so bring comfort and peace to a difficult situation.

I cannot solve the problems of my community or those of this world by myself, but I've always been a person that believed one person can make a difference. It all starts with one.

I'm good, let us think about Christmas and the New Year, and the promise of both.

As to the telephone conversation, when I worked I was a telephone operator. When I started with the phone company,(the one there in the district) they still had the old cord board, where when you picked up the phone to make a long distance call, you got an operator. I was an information operator, but able to make local calls there in DC in cases of emergency. Telephone service during that time was much more personal. Now it's air.

Morning, Mudge, Slyness, Scotty, and all.*waving*(slightly weak)

God loves us so much more than we can imagine through Him that died for all, Jesus Christ.

Posted by: Cassandra S | November 29, 2007 8:40 AM | Report abuse

Good morning all. Cassandra, continued thoughts (Roo's Strengthening Medicine) to you.

The Maritime Provinces have boy-premiers because they are of fresh-faced Celtic stock and live among cleansing sea breezes and supportive small-town culture.

One of the the guys I work with grew up with grandstanding Danny Williams in Bay Roberts. His family ran the local ladies' dress store.

In his day, my mother had an absolute but unrequited passion for Clyde Wells. Can't see it myself, leaning more toward the dark and dangerous likes of Jeremy Irons and, were I only half my age, Daniel Craig.

Posted by: Yoki | November 29, 2007 8:42 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, Cassandra, Scotty, Slyness, yello, Mudge, and everyone.

Cassandra, you have a lot of us out here in Boodleland sending good thoughts your way, thank you for accepting them.

Getting back to the Kit for a second, I cannot believe that no one has mentioned Lilly Tomlin and her character Earnestine, the snorting, wise-cracking telephone operator.

Or Nick Lowe's classic tune, "Switchbox Susan."

Watched some of the Republican Debate last night, and it occurred to me that I would not buy a used car from *any* of those guys, particularly Romney.


Posted by: bc | November 29, 2007 8:53 AM | Report abuse

"It will be well, I believe that."

Posted by: Cassandra S | November 29, 2007 8:57 AM | Report abuse

Re. used cars: I could consider a possible exception with Fred Thompson. And not just because he was in 'Days of Thunder' with Cruise, Kidman, John C. Reilly (who curiously was also in 'Talledega Nights' with Will Ferrell) and Duvall. By Ishtar, how could such a great group of actors make such a bad movie?


Posted by: bc | November 29, 2007 8:59 AM | Report abuse

You potty-mouthed Yoki, don't pollute the boodle with bad words such as C***e W***s.

I watched 10 minutes of the debate and realised that 8 out of 9 were debating how far and how high over the wall they would throw the "illegal aliens".
As opposed to the anal-probing legal alien I suppose.

Posted by: shrieking denizen | November 29, 2007 9:14 AM | Report abuse

Oh, bc, I see the Mittster selling insurance and mutual funds. Maybe timeshares, but used cars, nah. Maybe "certified pre-owned Lexus." Maybe. On a whole nuther topic, I was sitting on the bridge this morning controlling my heartrate and BP, when I turned my head and observed the guy in the next lane utterly absorbed in picking his nose, at length and in depth. This got me thinking, not about mucus mining, but about privacy. Specifically, just how often do we all imagine that we have some level of privacy despite obvious evidence to the contrary? We talk about people being "off in their own little world" but we all do it. People in cars shaving, appying make up, changing clothes, playing tonsil hockey, etc. People who leave the blinds open or the shades up in the bath and bedroom. Politicians who write emails on non secure computers. How often and how deeply delusional about privacy are we all anyway? How much do we value privacy and do we really know what it is anymore?

Posted by: kurosawaguy | November 29, 2007 9:16 AM | Report abuse

bc, you remember correctly: I'm a great fan of Meat Loaf and the entire "Bat Out of He11" album/cd, and in general I do tend toward the over-the-top, overwrought bombastics in music. But I'm not sure "Paradise" is the best tune cootie from BOOH; the title cut tends to stick in my mind more, as do "Heaven Can Wait" and "For Crying Out Loud."

At the moment I'm listening to the Gipsy Kings "Cantos De Amor" cd, which blows my mind (speaking of over-the-top tune cooties).

Did anybody see "USA Today" this morning? The lead story is the fact that the GB-Dallas game won't be broadcast to 60% of the country. Sometimes ya just gotta wonder what the NFL and/or the network execs are thinking. Jeez. NFC game of the year, and more than half of the country can't watch it. They'll probably get the Jets-Miami Special Olympics cliffhanger instead.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | November 29, 2007 9:23 AM | Report abuse

I don't imagine the debaters last night would have appreciated anyone bringing this article to light:

Posted by: Scottynuke | November 29, 2007 9:31 AM | Report abuse

OK, Scotty, ya got me with that one. Be a helluva one-hour movie, wouldn't it?

Posted by: Curmudgeon | November 29, 2007 9:44 AM | Report abuse

Mudge, the NFL wants cable companies to make their network part of basic cable and the cable companies only care about the 8 games that the network carries. The cable co's think that they will get more money out of subscribers than they'll make in ad revenue for 8 games -- in the end, we football fans lose.

If you think the screaming is loud now, wait until the Patriots play their last game of the season on the NFL network, and that same 60% of the country won't be able to see the culimation of the first perfect 16 game regular season in history. Ay carrumba!

k-guy, the On Faith people are tackling privacy of public figures this AM, might be worth a look.

Me, I don't think I'm going to. Afraid I'd get turned into a pillar of salt.


Posted by: bc | November 29, 2007 9:46 AM | Report abuse

BTW, dear Canucks, I've been meaning to tell you guys for some time that I really like the name of one of your provinces in particular, which you will immediately guess correctly is "The Maritimes" or the Maritime Provinces. And it brings to mind this tune cootie sung by Levon Helm and Emmylou Harris in "The Last Waltz." The song, although heavily "southern," was written by the great Jewish-Mohawkian Canuckistani Robbie Robertson of The Band (born in Toronto).

Here we go:

She stands on the banks of the mighty Mississippi
Alone in the pale moonlight
Waitin' for a man, a riverboat gambler
Said that he'd return tonight

They used to waltz on the banks of the mighty Mississippi
Lovin' the whole night through
He was a riverboat gambler off to make a killin'
And bring it on back to you

Evangeline, Evangeline
Curses the soul of the Mississippi queen
That pulled her man away

Bayou Sam from south Louisian'
Had gamblin' in his veins
Evangeline from the Maritime(s)
Was slowly goin' insane

High on the top of a Hickory Hill
She stands in the lightning and thunder
Down on the river the boat was a-sinkin'
She watched that queen go under

Evangeline, Evangeline
Curses the soul of the Mississippi queen
That pulled her man away

Evangeline, Evangeline
Curses the soul of the Mississippi queen
That pulled her man away

Posted by: Curmudgeon | November 29, 2007 9:56 AM | Report abuse

Didja see the pledge that the Va. GOP wants primary voters to sign?

Now I can see pledging to support the candidate that you vote for. But *any* candidate of that party? Who needs comedy writers with these guys in action?

Posted by: Raysmom | November 29, 2007 9:57 AM | Report abuse

Rick Sanchez (CNN: Out In the Open) did an interview wtih the county sherrif that most probably had custody of the man that saved the child before the rescuer was sent back across the border. The question Sanchez posed regarded the appropriateness of expediting a green card application for this gentleman based on his deed. I watched the debate on and off last night. Gov. Romney sounded like Arbusto a lot, Mayor Guliani came across as kind of petulant, Sen. Thompson bumbled about a bit too much, Sen. McCain had some good moments, particularly on the swubject of the Geneva conventions, and Rep. Paul was shrill. The latter is an interesting fellow.

Posted by: jack | November 29, 2007 9:58 AM | Report abuse


One word for that movie:



Posted by: Scottynuke | November 29, 2007 9:59 AM | Report abuse

Rep. Henry Hyde has passed...

Posted by: jack | November 29, 2007 10:02 AM | Report abuse

Thanks for Evangeline, 'Mudge. I need to put The Last Waltz on my wish list. Lots of great Canadians celebrated that night.

Posted by: jack | November 29, 2007 10:07 AM | Report abuse

Jeez, Raysmom, has the Va. GOP gone daft? They must be out of their freakin' minds.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | November 29, 2007 10:08 AM | Report abuse

Thanks, Mudge. I wanted to name my daughter Evangeline. Such a beautiful name, and close to my grandfather's name, which in Greek is Evangelos.

Posted by: TBG | November 29, 2007 10:09 AM | Report abuse

Here's Lily Tomlin's comment for this kit:

[Ernestine.....Lily Tomlin]

Ernestine: We handle eighty-four billion calls a year. Serving everyone from presidents and kings to the scum of the earth. We realize that every so often you can't get an operator, for no apparent reason your phone goes out of order, or perhaps you get charged for a call you didn't make.

We don't care.

Watch this.. [ she hits buttons maniacally ] ..just lost Peoria.

You see, this phone system consists of a multibillion-dollar matrix of space age technology that is so sophisticated, even we can't handle it. But that's your problem, isn't it? Next time you complain about your phone service, why don't you try using two Dixie cups with a string?

We don't care. We don't have to. We're the Phone Company.

Posted by: kbertocci | November 29, 2007 10:15 AM | Report abuse

I have voted in two Republican primaries in Virginia. Once to keep John Warner as their candidate; the Grand Ol' Party was trying to punish Warner for his nonsupport of Oliver North in the previous Senate election.

And once to try to put the lesser of two evils on the ballot for our local County Chairman. Not necessarily the worst candidate... the one I would have preferred if the Republican was going to win. My guy lost that primary, but fortunately his opponent was so far to the right that she lost in the November election that year.

I kinda always wondered about the ability to do so even if I had no intention of voting for the Republican in the general election. But in Virginia, we don't register as a member of a party, so it's anyone's game, I guess.

I have always felt I voted honorably in both of those elections, choosing the person I would rather see win if the Republican party was victorious.

The only pledge you have to sign when you vote in a primary is one that says you'll only vote in one party's primary that year.

Posted by: TBG | November 29, 2007 10:15 AM | Report abuse

Mudge wrote yesterday at 1:46 p.m.:
What I miss most about the [hellaciously old] old phone system were actual human (almost always female) operators, who you could actually communicate with on a human level...

Mudge's words made me think of an essay, "Women and the Switchboard" in a book that is a collecion of essays in a book that I still have, "The Social Impact of the Telephone," (ed. Ithiel de Sola Pool) from my telecomm management courses at Golden Gate U.

For the sake of trivia...and since Nellie, my mom, and Cassandra worked as operators...

The lede: "One of the major social effects of Bel's invention was to open a vast new field of employment for women, not only in the United States, but in Canada and northern Europe, where the telephone put down early roots. The invention of the telephone came when women were beginning to seek white-collar work outside the home."

The essays states that previously women, particularly immigrant women, had been relegated to work in factories or jobs as teachers when the creation of free elementary schools were on the rise.

The essay continues:

The swift transition of the telephone from a curiosity to a commercial service came as a godsend to these young women. It offered easy entry to white-collar work, with no special training. The switchboard provided jobs not only in the public telephone service but in business offices as well.

When the first commercial switchboard went into operation, in New Haven, Conn., in January 1878, boys were employed as operators. This was logical enough for males had been used in the 40-year-old telegraph industry. Two to four boys had to work together to complete a call, as they dashed from board to board to make connections. They also swept the floor, heaped coal on the fire, and collected bills from subscribers.

But boys did not last long. The first woman operator, Miss Emma Nutt, was hired by the Telephone Despatch [sic] Company in Boston in September that year. Women operators were on the job in New York by 1881 and the female's superiority was so immediately apparent that within 1o years 3,000 women were working as operators. Boys had been virtually eliminated, even at night.

The boys, it seems, were rude. They talked back to subscribers, played tricks with the wires, took St. Patrick's Day off, and, in the words of one of the early female operators, were "complete and consistent failures."

Histories of the telephone are full of explanations about why women were faster, politer, and more capable than men. ... Dexterity, patience, forbearance. One other attribute of the female worker was rarely mentioned: cheapness. She worked at anything from a half to a quarter of what was paid to men. HHrrpmhh!

By 1932, the Bell System provided work for nearly 3 percent of the female labor force, excluding farm workers and servants.

Posted by: Loomis | November 29, 2007 10:18 AM | Report abuse

Good one, kb. I can hear Ernestine snort when she loses Peoria.

Posted by: jack | November 29, 2007 10:20 AM | Report abuse

You know, I just love Cassandra's line: "Telephone service during that time was much more personal. Now it's air."

Posted by: TBG | November 29, 2007 10:21 AM | Report abuse

SCC: He11's Bells, it's Bell!

Posted by: Loomis | November 29, 2007 10:22 AM | Report abuse

Dawkin's op-ed today at is nothing if not thought-provoking:

A censorious culture in which public figures are forced to answer impertinent questions about their past, or their private affairs, would lead to open season on everybody. Who, if challenged with a point blank question, could honestly deny some secret from the past that they know society would condemn? What is more, the revolting hue and cry that our religiously inspired society habitually raises over private sexual 'morality' serves as a dangerous distraction away from important matters of public morality such as the Blair/Bush lies about Iraq's weapons.

Posted by: Loomis | November 29, 2007 10:30 AM | Report abuse

Too right Loomis. My older sister paid her 2 college degrees (French letters and Speech Therapy) working for Bell Canada. She was doing "intercepting", that is giving the new number, or telling them the number has been discontinued or changed to a confidential number, for people who had moved of changed number for some reason. The operators'opening line was "Quel numéro-What number?". Depending if the answer was "Comment?" or "What?" they would continue in French or English. 30 years on she till has us in stitches with her 25 different pronunciations of "Comment?" and "What?".

Also, she has a couple of funny stories about people trying to get a confidential number. The number didn't even show on their dumb terminals but the operators were sometimes pulling the customer's leg quite a bit.

Posted by: shrieking denizen | November 29, 2007 10:46 AM | Report abuse

New Kit, of course.

Posted by: shrieking denizen | November 29, 2007 10:47 AM | Report abuse

Great Britain is playing Dallas? Will the Queen be there?

Posted by: Ivansmom | November 29, 2007 10:49 AM | Report abuse

HM is QB.

Posted by: byoolin | November 29, 2007 10:54 AM | Report abuse

Back in the late Pleistocene, aka the 60's, there was a film called "The President's Analyst" with James Coburn. It was a sort of spy spoof full of plots and agents and conspiracies featuring the FBI, CIA, KGB, and even the Canadian Secret Service, but the ultimate arch villains were the agents of TPC, the most powerful, hated and feared organization on earth, whose ultimate aim was total domination of the human race. Near the end it was revealed that the letters TPC stood for The Phone Company. Although a critical success, the film failed at the box office. I always suspected that the satire was too subtle.

Posted by: kurosawaguy | November 29, 2007 10:56 AM | Report abuse

I used to call my dad collect when I needed a ride home from somewhere and when the computer asked for the name, my name would be "Dad pick me up, I'm at school."

Posted by: Janet | November 29, 2007 6:12 PM | Report abuse

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Posted by: hand | December 23, 2007 8:29 PM | Report abuse

fun search test!

Posted by: Anonymous | January 3, 2008 1:28 PM | Report abuse

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