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The Slice

Archive for November 2011

Was looking for Expo stuff…

…and found this.

Not sure if this has anything to do with Spokane. But who cares? 

The best state flags

Here, according to The Slice Blog, are the Elite Eight.

No. 8 Wyoming

No. 7 Arizona

No. 6 California

No. 5 Texas

No. 4 Maryland

No. 3 Ohio

No. 2 New Mexico

No. 1 Alaska

This day in Slice history (1999)

Maybe the problem you're having with your outdoor holiday lighting display is that you lack a theme.

So here are a few ideas, just to get you started.

“Visions of garishness danced upside their heads.”

“Ground zero.”

“The Shining.”

“Frosty the Glowman.”

“Three wise men and an extension cord.”

“Candle power to the world.”

“Rudolph, you're cleared to approach on 6-1-Niner.”

“Commercialization's victory.”

“Merry and bright — extremely bright.”

“The Revenge of Reddy Kilowatt.”

“A luminescent tribute to Holly Jolly Burl 'Big Daddy' Ives.”

“We don't need no stinkin' fuse box.”

“Viva Las Spokane.”

“Let heaven and nature scream.”

“Yule put your eye out (if you stare at the lights without sunglasses).”

“Intent to injure.”

“How do we do it? Volume!”

“Waiting for the governor's pardon.”

“The littlest fire hazard.”

“Are you ready to rumble?”

“Hello out there in outer space.”

“This isn't what Linus meant.”

“Hydroelectric Ladyland.”

“Get a load of my next Avista bill.”

“George Bailey does peyote.”

“Gigawatts on parade.”

Apparently nobody else got presents

And what's with that backdrop? Is that house on the edge of the flat Earth?

Re: shared hospital rooms

There's no need for a Top 10 list of the potential drawbacks. I assume most of us know about loud, bathroom-hogging roommates whose visitors tend to be foul-smelling, braying jackasses.

But that's not the whole picture.

If you are extremely fortunate, you might encounter people like Ron and Marsha Feller on the other side of the drawn curtain.

A few months before my father died here in Spokane in 2007, he shared a room with Ron Feller, a teacher and artist.

At that stage of his life, my father was a challenge to deal with, to put it mildly. He had lost the ability to recognize the problem in loudly calling out for assistance with some non-pressing matter at 2 a.m. And then, after getting some exasperated attention, doing it again at 2:17. Et cetera.

But Ron and his wife, Marsha — who spent hour after hour in the room, treated my dad with superhuman patience and compassion. My mom and I were awed by their generosity of spirit. We still talk about it.

Four years later, Marsha and Ron keep in touch with my mom, just to make sure she's doing all right.

A lot of people talk about what great people we have here in Spokane. But there's nothing like seeing a couple of them in action to make you a believer.

Just wondering

What was the drinking age in your state when you were a teenager?

I lived in a state where the legal age was 18. That meant, for all practical purposes, some 16-year-olds could buy beer.

That had some advantages at the time. But I would not endorse it as public policy.

That experiment didn't last long and the age was changed back to 21. 

This date in Slice history (1994)

One way America has changed: “The wonderfully greater sense of moral purpose with which the affluent and the comfortable defend their well-being and specifically their income against the claims of the unfortunate and the deprived.” — economist John Kenneth Galbraith, in American Heritage magazine

A different era

We all know the rip-roaring office Christmas party is a thing of the past. But that doesn't mean we can't still enjoy film/TV depictions of how it supposedly used to be. My own favorite is in the 1960 Academy Award winner, “The Apartment.”

Though there's something to be said for the treatment of this theme in “Mad Men.”

What's  your favorite scene featuring a booze-fueled office Christmas party?

This date in “Flintstones” history

On Nov. 28, 1963, an episode of “The Flintstones” called “Kleptomaniac Pebbles” first aired.

According to, a jewel thief hides a diamond bracelet on Pebbles. Comic confusion ensues. 

This date in Slice history (1997)

Someone should alert that moving and storage company: Tim and Joyce Crabb's 5-year-old niece Makena heard all about the Pilgrims the other day in kindergarten. And she was delighted to share some of what she had learned.

Contrary to what you might have heard, it turns out those intrepid settlers came over on a vessel called the “Cauliflower.” 

Re: Today’s Slice column

Spokane's Steve Becker said he still likes to scan the modern version of the radio dial to see what far-away stations he can pick up.

He said it is not unusual to tune in stations from Salt Lake City, Los Angeles, Calgary, Edmonton and other cities out West. 

But his No. 1 long-distance story comes from a time his own voice was the one someone heard.

It was back in the mid-'80s and he was working for a radio station in Seattle. He got a card in the mail from a guy in New Zealand who had picked up one of his broadcasts. This guy wanted Becker to confirm that he had been on the air on the date in question.

Becker said the fellow reported that he had been on a mountaintop when scanning the radio dial for distant stations.

“I guess the signal must have taken a big skip off the ionosphere,” said Becker.   

Multiple sheets to the wind

A jolly drunk provided a bit of a distraction last night in the Sacred Heart ER waiting room.

He was inappropriately loud, smelled like the men's room in a dive bar and had a glazed out-of-it look.

In a word, the twentysomething guy was 'faced.

He had come in with some sort of a problem with one of his hands. “But you can't see it,” he helpfully explained to a member of the ER's intake staff.

He chuckled during the end of some TV drama about a serial killer. He whooped about something else. And the 11 o'clock news, which led with a story about someone getting shot downtown Sunday morning, really cracked him up.

“Do you have an ash tray?” he asked one of the staffers.

He was told there is extremely no smoking on hospital grounds.

Sor-ree, he said.

I don't know if his hand problem was ever diagnosed. But I suspect he stopped laughing sometime this morning.


Birdcage liner syndrome

As you are no doubt aware, there are people who have a tendency to read only about subjects they have previously identified as personal interests.

Many of these individuals have turned their backs on the traditional print newspaper. That is their right, of course.

Apparently they aren't attracted to the possibility of turning a page and discovering a small surprise — a story with a picture perhaps, about something totally off their radar. And nothing I could say about how that's different from web surfing would change their minds.

But I wonder about these people as Christmas draws near.

What do they do when receiving packages from friends and family in distant states? When opening newsprint-stuffed boxes containing gifts, I never fail to find something interesting on those wadded-up pages from out-of-town papers.

But maybe that's just me.


This week in “Seinfeld” history

On Nov. 25, 1992, an episode called “The Airport” first aired.

After their original flight is cancelled, Jerry and Elaine end up on a flight where Jerry is up front in first class sitting next to a model and Elaine is in coach experiencing some of the indignities familiar to anyone who flies a lot. 

The perfect morning for stringing lights

Why? OK, I'll list the reasons.

1. Saturday after Thanksgiving. (We're now in the classic window for putting up outdoor holiday lights.)

2. Gray skies symbolically shouted “Let there be light!”

3. No electrocution-enhancing precipitation.

Oh, are you going anywhere fun?

Maybe this takes place everywhere.

Perhaps it is not just a Spokane thing. But it definitely happens here.

You're in line behind someone at the pharmacy or grocery store. And without judging the person or, frankly, giving it much thought at all, you conclude that he or she is definitely not prosperous.

That doesn't mean you think less of the person or look down on him or her. It's just one of those countless assessments we make thoughout the day.

Then you overhear the stranger telling a store employee that he or she is going to Hawaii for a vacation.

OK, there are trips to Hawaii and then there are trips to Hawaii. They don't all cost the same.


We all know the problem with judging people by their appearance. You can be dead wrong.

Either that or there are some pretty amazing travel packages to be had right now.   

Stuff my mom says

A twentysomething nurse at Sacred Heart was adjusting an I.V. port in my elderly mother's arm this afternoon.

My mom (who is going to be fine) looked at the young woman's name tag.

“Ashley,” she said, rolling it around in her mind. “That's an unusual name.”

Now that friendly, competence-exuding nurse has no doubt been surrounded by a thicket of Ashleys her whole life. In every year from 1985 through 1995, it was the No. 1 or No. 2 most popular name given to female newborns.

But this Ashley was kind enough to go along with my mother's observation. She fibbed and said she had only encountered a couple of others with that name.

I wish I knew how to contact her parents. I'd like to tell them that their daughter has some new fans. 

Thanksgiving sports trivia

I have attended a grand total of one National Football League game. But as it happens, it was the Green Bay Packers visiting the Detroit Lions.

I'll give you two hints about how long ago that was: 1) The game was played at Tiger Stadium. 2) The guy pictured on the football card above caught two touchdown passes.

The game ended in a 14-14 tie.

I'll send a coveted reporter's notebook to the first person who can answer two questions.

1. Was it a Thanksgiving game?

2. In what year was that game played?

This date in Slice history (1994)

The problem with turning Thanksgiving into an eating contest, apart from gluttony's inherent offensiveness, is inadequate auditing.

By the time you and your Uncle Ed are on your third piece of pie, it's easy to forget who had how many helpings of dressing. (And as Americans, aren't we required to keep score and declare a winner?)

So if you are going to treat this holiday as a competitive pig-out, do everyone a favor. Keep an accurate accounting of your consumption. And don't talk with your mouth full.

What’s the ideal Thanksgiving weather?

A) Nippy and overcast. B) Sunny and unseasonably warm. C) Snow. D) Blue skies, cold. E) Rain. F) Other.

The Wednesday before Thanksgiving

Not to get all Jean Shepherd on you, but today is one of the best days on the kid calendar.

Sure, there's still school. But in the sense that anticipation often trumps the actual event, the day before the four-day Thanksgiving holiday is tough to beat.

Four days. Just think. That's practically 100 hours. The possibilities are endless.

And then, even when children have to go back to school next week, they are armed with the knowledge that it won't be long before Christmas vacation.

I suspect that more than a few Spokane area teachers will notice that some of their students have a far-away look today.

Can't blame them. It's the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. And now, finally, the storied “holiday season” is upon us.  

This date in Slice history (2000)

Warm-up question: What Inland Northwest woman is most ferociously territorial about her kitchen?

Today's Slice question: In your family, when people refer to “the saying grace incident,” to what are they alluding? 

Perhaps winter should not shock, awe

Here are just 10 of the cities that are south of Spokane in terms of latitude.

Bismarck, North Dakota

Duluth, Minnesota

Green Bay, Wisconsin

Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan

Buffalo, New York

Montpelier, Vermont

Concord, New Hampshire

Bangor, Maine

Montreal, Quebec

Ottawa, Ontario 

Re: “Planes, Trains & Automobiles”

“Thanks so much for today's column,” wrote Annette Barfield. “That is one of our favorite movies to quote from and we have a couple of lines that we say that weren't in your column. The first one that we say a lot is 'YOU'RE GOING THE WRONG WAY!' We find that quote works for all sorts of life situations.

“Another one we say a lot is Del's response to the officer who stops them in the burned out car and asks 'You feel this vehicle is safe for highway travel?' and he emphatically responds 'Yes, yes I do.'

“And finally, when Del is trying to find a comfortable position in his car seat and finally finds one he says 'Ah, lovely, lovely.' We say that a lot also.”

Some things change, some do not

I always enjoy depictions of newspapering in old movies and TV shows.

That's why I was watching “Leave It to Beaver” the other day. 

Wally and the Beav wanted a new bike. The one they had their eye on cost more than $50, which was a lot of dough back then. This led to Ward giving them a money-doesn't-grow-on-trees talk.

So the boys went out and landed a job delivering newspapers after school.

Naturally, antic confusion ensued.

And after well-intentioned Ward and June unwittingly contributed to Wally and the Beaver getting fired by the Courier Sun, Ward went down to the paper to try to get their jobs back.

The guy he dealt with in the circulation deparment was sort of annoying. But no more so than our man Mr. Cleaver when Ward pulled the oldest squeeze-play in the book.

When things get a little testy, Ward tells the guy that his company buys a lot of advertising in the newspaper. He clearly insinuates that said advertising could be yanked if he, Ward, doesn't get what he wants.

The circulation department guy doesn't totally cave. But here's what he should have said.

“Well, I assume your company buys ads because your bosses know that advertising in the newspaper works. Do you mean to tell me that they would be OK with you threatening to interfere with that basic part of their business plan simply so your kids can get their paper routes back?”

This date in Slice history (1994)

It's time for Inland Northwesterners to stop feeling ashamed of hat hair, also known as hat head.

You know, that's when your coiffure takes on some weird mashed-down, ridged shape because you were wearing a hat.

Folks, this just shows you have enough sense to dress properly for cold weather. So wear your hat hair with pride.   

Which would you have married?

Many women of a certain age are familiar with having once wondered which of the Beatles they would want to marry.

But the Fab Four were not the only subjects of such fanciful speculation. No, a girl could also play that game with the Cartwright sons from “Bonanza.”

One Spokane woman remembered her evolving attitude about the Ponderosa lads.

At first, she thought Adam would be the real catch. He was the oldest and had a certain smoldering if occasionally petulant air about him.

Then she thought maybe Little Joe would be the way to go. He was cute, after all.

But after this woman was a bit older and wiser, she realized Hoss might well make the best husband. He was good natured and would be loyal and hard-working.

Feel free to discuss.   

Most STA drivers are probably too young

To have heard Bob Newhart's take on bus driver training on this classic album. And that's too bad.

You never know until you ask

So I was walking from the Review Tower to the STA Plaza this afternoon.

Coming toward me as I crossed Lincoln was a woman I know slightly. She has a terrific smile.

She was carrying a brown paper grocery sack. It looked full.

“Whatchya got?” I asked.

“I have chard,” she said.

Don't think I've ever heard that sentence uttered before.

But she stopped in the crosswalk and tipped the bag to show me. And there it was, the green leafy vegetable with blood red stalks. A lot of it.

A couple of follow-up questions came to mind. But we were standing in the middle of the street. And a “Chinatown”-like ending seemed appropriate.

Forget it, Jake. It's Thanksgiving week. 

We have a winner

beekeeper75 gets the tickets to the GU basketball game. She suggested “giblets” could be used as a name for young marmots.

There were about half a dozen finalists. But the winners are a retired couple excited about getting to go to the game Saturday. So I'm OK with my selection.

A majority of entrants ignored the rules and sent their answers directly to me via email (bypassing the blog), which disqualified them.

I had thought about saying “Please follow the rules or your entry will not be considered.” But that sounded too scolding. Besides, I would have thought that was implied.

Well, live and learn.

The Cougars are undefeated vs. UW

At least they are in the two Apple Cup football games yours truly has witnessed in person.

One of the WSU victories took place at Martin Stadium in Pullman. The other was at Husky Stadium in Seattle.

I realize that is not a huge number of games. But how many people who have attended more than one Apple Cup contest can say they've never seen the Cougars lose one?

Seems like WSU officials would try to encourage me to show up at more Apple Cup games. But maybe they have other ideas about what's required to win.

What’s your Thanksgiving TV policy?

A) No TV on Thursday. B) No TV except for seven hours of football. C) It can be on until there is a fight over control of the remote. D) The TV is never off at our home. E) Other.

This date in Slice history (1995)

As low as you can go: A Coeur d'Alene 6-year-old named Colin explained that the worst grade you can get in school is an “F minor.”

Zags Tickets Contest

The prize? Two tickets to next Saturday afternoon's GU men's basketball game vs. Western Michigan at the Spokane Arena.

How to enter? Just follow these simple steps.

1) Come up with an altogether new definition of “giblets.” Your definition should have nothing to do with the actual meaning of the word. And if you want to tackle “giblet,” “gibleting” or whatever, that's fine. Noun or verb, it's your call.

2) By 8 a.m. Monday, enter your definition as a comment on this blog post. You can enter two times, but no more.

3) Send me a private email — — in which you note the name you used with your comment, your real name and your daytime phone number.

That's it. A winner will be chosen by noon on Monday.

Because of the time factor and the holiday week's implications for mail delivery, it seems like the best plan would be for the winner (or someone he or she designates) to plan on picking up the tickets in person at the Review Tower.

Good luck. 

The countdown has begun

Yes, it's just a week until we start responsibly enjoying vintage Christmas beer ads here at the Slice Blog.

Here's a quick preview.

Don’t you love it when…

…a grandfather points to some animal tracks in the snow and tells a little kid that it looks like a woolly mammoth had passed this way?

A lesser online mystery

Different websites seem to disagree. So perhaps an actual human has the answer.

Was there a Jethro Tull concert in Spokane in 1972?

Of course, assuming it happened, there is a chance that many of those who attended would not/could not remember.

List of those born in Spokane includes…

John McIntire, star of “Wagon Train.”

And here he is in “Psycho.”

Jolly old economic indicator

If your department or work group at the office has a long-standing tradition of having a picture taken with a stand-in for Santa, it could be that a look at all these photos over the years tells you everything you need to know about the economy and the vibrance of your particular industry.

Just wondering

Did it bug anyone else that on numerous TV programs ranging from Bob Newhart's set-in-Chicago show to “Frasier,” the titles “psychiatrist” and “psychologist” were often used interchangeably?

It did not occur to me ask if it was OK

But my father never seemed to mind that I spent a fair amount of time building models of planes that had been flown by people trying to shoot him down once upon a time.

This date in “Big Valley” history

An episode of “The Big Valley” called “Hell Hath No Fury” first aired on Nov. 18, 1968.

A female outlaw — Carol Lynley as pepperpot Dilly Shanks — falls for Heath but he doesn't want to marry her. 

State of redundancy

Here's what I want to know.

Why do people gathering signatures in front of grocery stores say “Are you a registered voter in Washington state?”

Do these folks with the clipboards fear that a lot of people heading into Rosauers or Super 1 might actually be registered voters in the District of Columbia?

Do they think that if they leave off the “state,” stealth signers from Washington, D.C. will march up and ask for the pen? 

This date in Slice history (1994)

Warm-up question: Why do so many people feel qualified to discuss books they have not read?

Try to resist the urge to den up

Chances are, there are still a few things on your before-winter to-do list.

Drink up

A guy got on the bus this morning carrying a thermos or self-sealing mug with a label saying “Xtreme Gulp.”

I have no idea how much liquid it could hold. But I would guess it's a lot.

This fellow, who also had a separate container for what might have been his lunch, looked as if he might be on his way to a job in the building trades.

Maybe he plans to sip from his “Xtreme Gulp” and make it last all day. Still, it was impossible to resist imagining an exchange perhaps often repeated at his job site.

“Where's Bob?”

“Taking a leak.”


“Well, you know, he's got the Xtreme Gulp.” 

Who is speaking here?

Ms. Blue Suit? The train? The Neighborhood Guy?

Just wondering

Around what Spokane grade school is the picking up of kids by parents the cause of the most widespread 3 o'clock traffic insanity?

Live at 5

Broke my already erratic viewing boycott to check out how the local TV news would handle the weather.

Would they be in full “Storm Team” mode?

Wasn't disappointed. All three led with the news that it still might snow.

It's good to know that there are some things you can count on in this world.  

This date in Slice history (2000)

Holidaze: At least one Spokane kid thought she didn't have school last Friday because of Veterinarians Day.

Today's Slice question: If you were a computer hacker, what message would you want to make pop up on every screen in the Spokane area?

Win two tickets to a GU basketball game

Check The Slice Blog this coming Saturday for details.

Which was not a foe of Tom Terrific?

A) Crabby Appleton. B) Scablands Meanie. C) Captain Kidney Bean. D) Isotope Feeney. E) Badlands Meanie.

Which did you learn as a kid?

“Over the river and through the wood,

“To grandfather's house we go.”


“Over the river and through the woods,

“To grandmother's house we go.” 

A Top 10 for Wednesday morning

My bike ride to work this morning was a bit brisk. And I couldn't help but wonder what drivers of cars passing by thought when they saw me.

My guesses:

10. “What a maroon.”

9. “Bet he's sorry about that DUI now.”

8. “That's about as silly as those high school kids wearing shorts when it's frigid.”

7. “I've heard of being concerned about your carbon footprint, but that's ridiculous.”

6. “Wonder how many layers of gloves he's wearing.”

5. “Nice array of lights.”

4. “He probably thinks he's cool.”

3. “Those cyclists don't pay any taxes!”

2. “What's he going to do if it snows this afternoon?”

1. My presence didn't even register. People tend to be lost in their own thoughts about MasterCard balances, constipation issues and resented promotions of workplace rivals. 

What were your school’s teams called?

At my high school, we were the Seahorses. Really.

Some sought to defend that name on the merits of it being unique. I mostly just tried to look the other way.

Our school was right next to beautiful Lake Champlain. But it wouldn't be until an upstart new school was built in nearby Colchester that someone in our area claimed the obvious choice, “Lakers.”

Lost and never found

Ever lose an article of clothing that you just can't forget?

In the summer of 1988, I left a jacket in a little restaurant in Choteau, Mont. Though I called the place and everything, I never got it back.

I really liked that jacket. I had not had it long. But I remember wearing it made me feel more confident and capable than I really am. I enjoyed that.

I think of it whenever I see one vaguely like it. Or when I hear Choteau mentioned, as I did last night when watching a few minutes of “Jurassic Park.” 

I used to hope that whoever walked off with it went on to live a life cursed with puny dreams, thwarted ambitions and insane women.

Still do. 

She played a fan of blogging on TV

True or False: Before she was on “Mad Men,” this actress was known for — among other things — saying “I love blogging” in a candy commercial.

That's true.

The lure of sex vs. chilling in a recliner

Who could resist a woman wearing Go-Go boots? And I guess she is wearing a skirt or hot pants. But maybe not.

The lost art of making newspaper hats

Would it qualify as ironic that one way to find out how to make them is to go on the Internet?

This date in Slice history (2001)

Check your clothes for fabric softener sheets.

If Springsteen had been from Spokane

Would any lines in “Born to Run” besides “Sprung from cages on Highway 9” have been different?

And if the movie “The Wild One” had been set in Spokane, when Brando's character responds to the question about what he's rebelling against with his own question — “Whaddya got?” —  what would the answer have been?

Maybe something about well-tended lawns and people wanting you to turn the music down.

This date in Slice column history (1995)

Overheard in a store (an excited preschool girl talking to two equally young companions): “Let's all hop!”

She then proceeded to do just that, singing out “Hop, hop, hop.”

But nobody else joined in. So she turned to the other kids and asked them the only question that made any sense: “Are you ready to hop?”

How many remember this sign?

courtesy of the Spokane Valley Heritage Museum

Did the designers of this sign think that motorists coming from Idaho needed to be reminded that they were not entering Washington, D.C.?

And “The Valley That Has Everything”? As hyperbole goes, that seems a tad bland. 

This date at Expo 74

Just kidding. The fair was closed already by this date.

Are you used to it yet?

You know, not having a big deal figure skating competition here seemingly every year.

What was that again?

Walked out to the street in front of my house this morning shortly after 4:30.The pavement was covered with that fuzzy frost you sometimes see on car windshields.

Not ideal conditions for predawn bike riding. So I took the bus.

Today's driver, a friendly and competent woman, is kind enough to call out some of the intersections as we approach. The thing is, it is impossible to understand her.

It is easy to pretend that you are on a bus in some distant land, listening to a driver speaking a language other than English.

I blame the microphone and speakers. Because that driver is often comprehensible one-on-one.

But a couple of today's intersections were “Sabbatha and ConCon” and “LinkedIn and Fortesque.”

Or at least that's how it sounded.

Maybe my ears are the problem.

A favorite of Spokane outdoors types

Jean Morefield and her husband were coming out of R.E.I. the other day and counted 13 Subarus in the parking lot. 

Good grief, Christmas lights already

“Just in case you are thinking of running a contest to see who first spots Christmas lights, you are too late,” wrote Jim Markley Saturday morning. “I saw a home in Coeur d'Alene near the public golf course last night with an Xmas display in full glory.”

He continued. “In case you decide to have the contest anyway…Woo Hoo! I WIN!” 

Jim added a postscript. “Christmas lights on November 11th? Are you kidding me!?”  

This date in “Twilight Zone” history

An episode that ought to be on a lot of Top 10 lists first aired on Nov. 13, 1959. Titled “The Lonely,” it stars Jack Warden as James A. Corry, a convict being made to serve his sentence (he killed a man in self-defense) on a distant asteroid. He is alone.

A supply ship captain feels pity for Corry and secretly brings him a robot in the form of a human woman (Jean Marsh as Alicia, long before “Upstairs Downstairs”).

At first, Corry bitterly resents the android. But he soon grows attached to it/her.

Then comes the news that Corry is going to get to come home. One problem: There isn't room for Alicia on the space ship. 


Not shaving on the weekend

Makes a man look… A) Off duty. B) Like he has yet to come to terms with growing up. C) Relaxed. D) Lazy. E) Young and virile. F) Like he wants people to know that there is more to him than what they see when he is at work Monday through Friday. G) Like a rebel. H) Like someone trying to look like a rebel. I) Like he thinks facial hair is a little affected but regards shaving as a bit of a chore. J) Like he is not a churchgoer or Republican. K) Other.

Feedback on today’s column

“Your column today about the ignorance of young people was good and, of course, humorous,” wrote retired teacher Jeff Brown. “But it also is a particular hot button of mine. We live in interesting times — runaway technology is proof positive that Eric Toffler was right with his concept of 'Future Shock.'

“That said, I have a standing offer/bet with detractors of modern education. Whenever someone complains that students are ignorant of — they seem to prefer history and/or geography — a particular piece of knowledge, you can be sure that piece of knowledge is something said detractor already possesses.”

His bet? Take that critic of modern education. Then match him or her up against a randomly selected 16-year-old. “Find some piece of knowledge that NEITHER possesses. See which one of them finds the answer first. I'll bet on the 16 year old.

“A philosophical question for you: In this day and age, which is more important — having specific knowledge, or knowing how/where to find the knowledge?

“With information and data multiplying in quantum leaps, maybe it's not import for the 16-year-old to know where Samoa is located on a map if he has the ability to FIND OUT where it is.

“End of rant and GET OFF MY LAWN.”      

Does your family have photos like this?

If anyone wants to write a caption for this picture, there could be a coveted reporter's notebook in it for you.

There are two kinds of people here

There are those who see or hear the words “crafts fair” and immediately think, “Hey, I'd like to check that out.”

And there are people who react to those two words by thinking “Please God, no, make it stop.”

The right stuff: Baby boomer girls

There are plenty of reasons I admire women my own age.

They have faced dizzying twists and turns in what society expects of them. They have had to cope with an often confused generation of men. And they can be counted on to know what a good song sounds like.

But there's another reason they have my respect.

When they were girls, these women played jacks. And the game pieces they used were not made of safe rubber or plastic. No, they played with cold, skin-piercing pointed metal.

This was an angry toy.

A girl who fell on those babies came up adorned with imbedded jacks. It happened.

I'm not saying that was as bad as getting hit by shrapnel. But any boy who ever saw a girl pluck a couple of those nasty little stingers out of her tender, fawn-like flesh intuitively realized he was seeing in action a gender not to be taken lightly.

Perspective on Marmot Lodge finances

Please bear in mind that Marmot Lodge dues are and have always been zero dollars per month.

What follows is in response to something that appeared in today's Slice column.

“I must protest Gardner Bailey's proposed 50% increase in Marmot Lodge dues,” wrote Tomas Kelley Lynch. “That is a big chunk all at once. Perhaps a 20% increase for 2012, then incremental increases of 7-10% each year for the next five years. In the meantime we could all look for ways to reduce overhead. We are in this together, so we need to look for solutions that will keep the integrity of the lodge and its members intact and not become an elite group only for those who can pay such dramatic increases in dues.”   

Slice answers

What are you going to say to veterans tomorrow?

“Been there, done that.” — Gary Polser

“Thank you.” — Marilyn Othmer

“Thank you.” — Tawnia Penick

“I never say 'Happy Veterans Day' to anyone, especially those I know who have lost friends or family in combat. It is more appropriate to wish them a peaceful Veterans Day.” — Carol Edgemon Hipperson 

Refrigerator art exchange program

Just put a second batch in the outgoing-mail cubbyhole.

While I was at my desk slipping the kids' art into envelopes, an email arrived from Sande Paulson.

“Steve and I were with our granddaughter, Caty, as usual on Monday. All three of us were down in the basement. She and I were doing art at my craft table. Steve told Caty about your plea for children's art. We suggested she might be interested in sharing some of hers.

“She thought about it, then said, 'Oh, no. I love my art. I make it for you, Nana, and Gampa, and Mama and Daddy, and Poppa and Lili.”

OK. Well, perhaps another time then. 

An unusual affliction

I suppose it's because I saw a few minutes of “The Wizard of Oz” the other night. That and all the election talk.

But I can't stop hearing the line “As mayor of the Munchkin city…”

Over and over, in that diminutive actor's exact inflection.

It's one thing to get a song stuck in your head.

But “As mayor of the Munchkin city”?

I'm totally on the level about this. But I would understand if you felt you had to verify it legally.

Bicycle commuting in Spokane

I have been riding bikes to work since the spring of 2008. And the thing I think most people are curious about is this: Is it dangerous?

They don't always word it quite like that. But I can tell that's what they're getting at.

It's a fair question. And while I'm no expert, I'm always willing to share my experience.

There is risk involved, of course. A bike rider is vulnerable.

But my only commuting wreck (quite minor) occurred when I was all by myself on 29th before dawn.

It happened on this day in 2009. (Not sure why I remember, but I do.)

I wiped out on some black ice. It happened so fast that the mishap didn't really register until after I had slid a fair distance.

I was wearing a brand new pair of pants. The keys in my against-the-pavement pocket wore a hole in these slacks as my bike and I experienced horizontal travel.

Except for a scuffed pedal edge, my rugged bike was fine.

It's not like I was unmindful of the possibility of icy streets. But I had not had to call it quits the previous year until early December when a major “snow event” emphatically concluded my riding season. So I must have persuaded myself that Nov. 9 was simply too early for truly treacherous conditions.

I'm smarter about this now. I rode the bus last Friday because it had rained Thursday night and, with the streets still wet, the temperature hovered near freezing when I got up the next morning.

In all honesty, though, I should have known better back in '09. Years of walking to work — sometimes in those pull-over cleats — had schooled me in the fact that streets and sidewalks can start getting icy at 5:30 a.m. as early as October.

So, to answer the question. I don't think too much about the possibility of a pickup driver maniacally running into me because he doesn't like hippies. But when the streets are wet at night, I do take a keen interest in what the thermometer has to say in the morning.

Mystery solved

“Every Sunday, my husband gets up and cooks breakfast — hashbrowns and eggs,” wrote a reader who asked that I not use her name. “Every Sunday I sleep in, get up, eat said breakfast, and mop the kitchen floor, which every Sunday has a mysterious, slimy spot on it.

“This Sunday I woke up in time to see him peeling the potatoes, and the dogs trying to catch the peels before they hit the floor. A few times they succeeded. Mystery solved.” 

How not to dress for leaf-raking

Though as the keeper of the blog credited for this picture notes, the high heels might do a good job of aerating the lawn.

Creative dog-breed name

“I told my vet my dog was a curbstone terrier (as opposed to setter) and found out later that was what had been entered in her file,” wrote Lynn Lowery. “Closest I could get was a beagle/basset/terrier mix. She had a big bark and looked like she shoulda been taller. After that, I started telling people she was a fuzzy-butted cookie hound and am still surprised/horrified at how many people think I'm serious.”

Maybe people think they heard it mentioned by the master of ceremonies at the Westminster Kennel Club dog show.

“The fuzzy-butted cookie hound is descended from a long line of kitchen-floor cleaners and dining table beggars. Originally bred in Germany as a ratter and herding animal, this dog today excels at watching nature shows from the couch and accepting belly rubs. Intensely loyal and good with children, the fuzzy is an ideal family companion. Here now is fuzzy-butted cookie hound No. 43, Miss Elizabeth Bennet.” 

Before voting by mail

Here is where I voted after moving to Spokane in 1988.

1. Fire station.

2. Lutheran church.

3. Elementary school.

4. Methodist church.

How about you?

This date in “Twilight Zone” history

I suppose, at this stage of the game, there is no need for spoiler alerts.

An episode called “The Old Man In The Cave” first aired on Nov. 8, 1963.

Set in a future (1974) that takes place 10 years after a nuclear war, it features a small band of survivors who rely on the counsel of the aforementioned “old man.”

He turns out to be a computer.

Re: Today’s print Slice

Apparently at least a few subscribers did not read the first item carefully.

They seem to have missed where I noted that I don't really care what anybody else thinks about the whole spouses with different last names thing.

Rooting interest

Maybe this has changed.

But, as I understood it, there was a time when kids on my nondescript South Hill block went to LC. And kids living across the street were within the enrollment boundaries for Ferris.

Maybe that's still the case.

If so, it raises an issue. By rights, I suppose I should root for LC. But there are two preschool boys belonging to two families across the street. Their first names are Franklin and Finnigan. They might grow up to be star running backs or power forwards for Ferris.

I would have to root for them. Even when they played against the LC Tigers, my boundary-line home team.

Of course, I will root for F&F even if they show no interest in sports.

But I think there probably will be a simple solution to this minor dllemma.

All of us might have moved by the time the boys are ready for high school.  

Brushes with greatness/obsession

Thinking about my college days (see earlier post) reminded me of the late Professor Harvey Butchart. I took one of his math classes.

He is said to have logged 12,000 miles hiking/rafting in the Grand Canyon over decades of exploring the big ditch.

Some of the kids in his classes thought he was just this genial Mr. Peepers nobody. They were wrong.  

Just wondering

What is it with young people and exclamation-point overkill?

A theory about why people drop things

It has something to do with fingertips being about as dry as the Dead Sea Scrolls.

His band made appearances in Spokane

That was back before he spent all day hanging around the house, wearing sweaters and asking Rick and Dave what they were up to.

Ash-tray dumpers can procreate

Yes, Halloween was a week ago.

But there is still plenty of scary stuff out there.

Johnny Deadline’s awful secret

Something in the air this morning reminded me of a story.

When I was in college, I had a creative writing class that required everyone to attempt to commit poetry. So that's what I did. And I didn't think much more about it.

A year or so later, I was working for the small daily newspaper in that same town. And while I hope I wasn't one of those absurd rookie journalists who pretend to be all jaded and hard-bitten after half an hour in the business, I'm sure my self-image wasn't based entirely on reality.

Anyway, I found myself in the office of Coconino County Superior Court Judge Richard Mangum. I cannot remember what I was interviewing him about.

In the middle of our conversation, he sorted through a stack on his desk and extracted a copy of the college's latest annual literary publication, “The Pine.”

The judge then opened it and proceeded to read aloud one of the poems I had written for that class. It was called “A Singer in the Woodsmoke.”

I don't think he was being mean. He was just having fun.

But any notion I might have had that he viewed me as a hard-boiled reporter went out the window. Which, in retrospect, was OK. Because I wasn't.

One final note. The guy who had taught that creative writing class was an odd bird named Judson McGehee. He was theatrical and guileless to an extent that could be irritating. He had a high, raspy voice that only dogs could hear when he got excited.

There were those who enjoyed doing mean-spirited impressions of his seemingly giddy love of poetry.

But once, while I was visiting a rowdy detox center while reporting a story late on a weekend night, I encountered Professor McGehee. He and his wife were there as volunteers, helping the police and attendants.

Sometimes people show their substance in ways you don't always see at first glance.  

This date in Slice history (1998)

Here are a few things you can say right after placing your cold feet on someone in bed (immediately following that person's scream).

1. “Now that you're awake…”

2. “Sorry. I thought you'd want an update on my circulatory problems.”

3. “Guess I should have warned you.”

4. “What?”

5. “I think the problem is that you're too toasty.”

6. “It wasn't me,” or “The cat did it.”

7. “You probably shouldn't leave bare, exposed spots like that.”

8. “Calm down. In about five minutes, you'll be used to it.”

9. “Do you think I'm still alive?”

10. “Want to feel my hands now?” 

Simple seasonal science for Spokane

You know what it's like here.

We get some snow. And then our thaw-and-refreeze cycle makes road conditions an early-morning guessing game.

That's why it helps to have been a kid who grew up obsessed with the ice conditions at a nearby outdoor rink.


Well, if you were such a kid you wouldn't have relied on the news media for your predawn information about overnight temperatures. No, you would have put out an ice tester the night before. An ice tester could be just about anything that holds water and is placed outside away from your heat-spilling home.

Did it freeze overnight (where you live…not at the airport or downtown)?

Just consult your ice tester. It can tell you what you need to know. 


“Ed Sullivan Show” on this day in 1966

Lou Rawls, Corbett Monica, circus elephants and Topo Gigio, among others.

Back to the future

There isn't a fan club or an association of devotees.

At least not that I know about.

But for some longtime TV watchers, there are few program themes quite so beguiling as old sci-fi stories that depict life in the future — a future that, for us in 2011, was actually quite a few years ago.

Consider a terrific 1963 episode of “TheTwilight Zone” called “On Thursday We Leave for Home.”

It's about a weary contingent of settlers from Earth who tried to establish a colony on a planet in a solar system with two suns.

So when did they journey to this distant world? Answer: In the far-in-the-future year of 1991.

Of course, TV has no monoply on this. Didn't one of the “Terminator” movies forecast a specific date for the end of the world that in real life has come and gone?

And, of course, there is Orwell's “1984.”

The amusement value is part of the appeal of this dynamic. But perhaps there is more to it.

Any sci-fi fan can tell you that the future can be a scary place.

So any time we actually pass one of those imaginary milestones, it is further evidence that sometimes hope trumps fear.

And despite everything, we endure.

Remember the Fifth of November

If you notice an outbreak of huge bonfires tonight, don't be alarmed.

It's not necessarily civil unrest or something to do with zombies and the citywide breakdown of social order.

It might just be some transplanted Brits observing Guy Fawkes Night.

Although, on second thought, that seems unlikely.

So go ahead and be alarmed.

“Oh, Daddy, you’re making that up”

Parents tend to be taken aback the first time one of their kids doubts something they say.

But that's been happening for a long time.

My father knew Jack Palance during World War II. I believe they were in the same unit being trained for action in B-24s.

They weren't best buddies or anything. But they did spend some free time together.

Anyway, years later, my family was at a drive-in movie. (This was several years before I was born.) Palance was in the picture.

My dad mentioned that he had known him. And my sister didn't believe him.

Must be rough to have your kid all but call you a low-down Yankee liar. 

Some signs of season heard, not seen

Sometimes our neighbor's cat appears on the front porch as if Scotty beamed her down from the starship Enterprise.

One moment you're checking the mailbox or whatever and she's nowhere to be seen. And then, out of thin air, she materializes at your feet. If the door is cracked open, she might just appear as a gray blur on her way in to investigate opportunities for seafood treats.

But last night, I could tell she was coming.

Long after dark, I opened the front door and looked out. That's when I heard it.

The sound out there in the blackness was not really a rustling. It was more like a fast series of little splashes.

She was on her way. But because the yard is covered with leaves from our maple tree, I could hear her running. The leaves robbed her of her usual stealth.

I guess it's about time to do a little raking.

One time Spokane got top billing

Eastern Air Lines ceased operations in 1991.

Not to be confused with Tinker Toys

If blindfolded, could you identify the smell of these? Of course, you could.

Purchase a copy of Saturday’s paper

No, even though Don Adair is a friend, it's not because of the Auto page.

The photo above relates to a readable item that begins The Slice column tomorrow.

Plus, I'm sure there will be good stuff on some of the other pages, too.

What guy would want a woman who…

…regarded this line as creative or amusingly charming?

Oh, I've got it: A guy who has been drinking. Or perhaps one who admired women wearing “statement” outfits.

Slice answer

Spokane's Gisela Dalke is not a fan of monkeying with the clock. She scoffs at the whole spring-ahead/fall-back routine.

So what's she going to do with the extra hour this weekend?


This date in Slice history (1999)

If real people talked like TV promos: “It's the laundry load everyone's talking about.”

“Tonight, in a very special Lean Cuisine.”

“Get ready for a report-card excuse that will shock and amaze.”

“You've read the Visa bill. Now see the spouse's tantrum.”

“The critics are calling my blouse the runaway hit of the season.”

The mass transportation experience

Rode the bus this morning for the first time since last winter.

Three observations.

1. The Old 43 was right on time, as always.

2. Glad I got a flu shot.

3. Looks like the Niko's space at Post and Riverside is now Rex's Burgers & Brews. Say what you will about Spokane, pretentious we're not.    

Do you miss album covers?

Should Sally Forth stab her mother?

Would that be wrong?

Every time Sally's mother appears in the strip, the words “shallow grave” come to mind. 

Tankers lined up and ready to go

This picture was taken at a base in Kansas.

This date in Slice history (1994)

Today's Slice question: Are there any words sweeter than “No Emission Inspection Required”?

If you had it to do over again

It might have been a good idea to hang on to your old lunch boxes.

And you probably should have kept your “Fantastic Voyage” board game.

One way things have gotten better

No, the oblivious passenger ahead of you can still recline his seat into your lap.

But at least people can't smoke on planes anymore. Isn't it amazing the think that it was ever allowed?

50 years ago today

On Nov. 3, 1961, a memorable episode of “The Twilight Zone” aired for the first time. Called “It's a Good Life,” it told the story of 6-year-old Anthony Fremont. He possessed diabolical supernatural powers.

Anthony could read minds. And if he didn't like what you were thinking, well, you had to hope that didn't happen.

Looks like actor Billy Mumy got a haircut in the middle of the show's shooting schedule. 

Today’s morning commute road report

Some slippery spots due to all the de-icer on certain streets.

Three weeks to go

I know a Harry Wilson. Good guy. He's a store manager on the South Hill. I don't know what his middle initial is, but I'm pretty sure this isn't him.

Is it still too early?

There's a famous 1993 cartoon from The New Yorker magazine.

A businessman is sitting behind a desk, holding a phone to his head.

He says… “No, Thursday's out. How about never — is never good for you?”

Few would be quite that direct. But there's another line that many people actually do employ when scheduling a non-urgent lunch, meeting or whatever. The question is when can you start to use it?

Perhaps you have heard it: “Why don't we plan on getting together after the holidays?”

It is a proven time-management tool.

Maybe Nov. 2 is too early to say that. But soon that line will have credible resonance.

And the thing is, a lot of times it has nothing to do with not wanting to see someone. The truth is people will start getting extra-busy in the weeks to come. Delaying a get-together near the end of the year should not necessarily be considered an insult.

After all, some of us know how annoying it is to be around a self-dramatizing sort who revels in being overscheduled. We don't want to be that person. We don't want to engage in flitting, flouncing performance scurrying.

Besides, it's always nice to have a few things to look forward to in January.

What if this ad from 1968 ran today?

Would consumers wonder if this was really all about service?


Here's my theory about why you never see the police cite those flouting the ordinance prohibiting bike riding on sidewalks in downtown Spokane.

Sure, the cops are busy with other things. But I think the real reason they don't spend time on this is the fact that they know not one of the offenders would or could pay a fine.

To be fair, many of these law-breakers might not be aware that they are in violation of the municipal code. I say that because I would further speculate that many of them couldn't name the president of the United States.  

Four questions

When do the first Snow Birds pack up the RV and head south?

Isn't an honest effort to be virtuous all you can ask of someone?

What's keeping you from joining the ranks of Spokane residents up to their elbows in auto projects?

Did you know her in school?

Going to bed just got interesting again

The official start of winter is still seven weeks away. But cold-weather sleeping season has arrived in and around Spokane.

And you know what that means. Instead of just flopping into bed without a second thought, preparations must be made.

Different people take different approaches, of course. Some go the quilts and comforters route. Others spend time carefully selecting sweatshirts or thick pajamas. And there are those who have been known to layer on the sheets and blankets like a short-order breakfast cook stacking pancakes.

Maybe I'm making this sound like a chore. But we all know it isn't.

Getting ready to turn in when the outdoor temperature is going to dip below freezing is a smiling trip to Snugsville. I suspect that even some winter haters might admit that sleeping in a warm, cozy bed on a cold night is a simple pleasure worth celebrating.

Don't like the whole flannel sheets scene?

Well, I suppose one option is to keep your thermostat set high overnight. But I think you would be missing out on a delightful seasonal ritual. And I wouldn't want to see your Avista bill. 

This date in Slice history (1996)

Five-year-old Spencer Price said his male cat had to go to the vet to be “noodled.” 

“Doubles for the homeless”

A Logan neigborhood reader who always calls and reports her Halloween headcount left me a phone message.

She had 50 trick-or-treaters last night, up slightly from the last few years but nothing like the costumed tsunamis of the '70s.

The kids were well-behaved and all. And she had enjoyed the night.

Except for one incident.

At one point, three kids in costumes approached the porch and one of them started to chant “Doubles for the homeless!”

Another explained that they were homeless and that other candy dispensers had been kind enough to double their allotments.

Meantime, two adults my caller assumed to be their parents stood back and looked on without comment.

My caller didn't say what she decided about how much candy to give them. But apparently she didn't care for the social guilt-trip extortion.

“It left a bad taste,” she said.   

10 ways leaves get inside your home

1. They attach themselves to children's hair, shoes and clothing.

2. They attach themselves to pets.

3. Family members hold the front door open for extended stretches on windy days as part of your “Let's Heat the Whole Outdoors” program.

4. Art projects.

5. Your maple tree is equipped with the latest stealth technology.

6. Some leaves decide they would like to see what it's like being indoor foliage.

7. It's all part of some “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” deal.

8. Family members secretly invite them in because it is entertaining to hear a certain someone say “As soon as I get done sweeping up leaves in here, more appear!”

9. Once inside, they breed.

10. Magic.

If you think people around here…

…are going to stop wearing sandals just because it has started to get a bit nippy, you don't know Spokane.

Road conditions report

Clear and dry at lower elevations this morning, with isolated pumpkiny patches.

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About this blog

Features writer Paul Turner is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review in the Features department. He writes "The Slice" column, which appears six times a week and produces general features stories for the Today section.

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