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The Slice

Archive for March 2012

Avoiding Easter Egg Hunt Carnage

Spent a few minutes at lunchtime today watching people hide Easter eggs on the grounds outside the Emilie Court assisted living facility on Eighth Avenue.

In all, there were 1,200 plastic treat-containing eggs, I was told.

This, of course, was the calm before the storm. The kids had not arrived yet.

Have you ever watched a big Easter egg hunt? Not a pretty sight. The dominant themes tend to be survival of the fittest, might makes right and frontier justice.

No matter how well coached the older children are about leaving a few of the easy-to-find eggs for the littlest kids, the start of the proceedings makes youngsters go crazy. Almost invariably there are nasty blind-side hits, brazen acts of poaching and demonstrations of wild-eyed greed that would awe Wall Street.

Often, these melees produce tears in the eyes of the slower, shy hunter gatherers left to ponder empty baskets.

I gently alluded to these cold, hard facts of life and an Emilie Court staffer told me they had a plan. The kids were going to be divided up by age groups and kept in separate areas.

Sounds like a good idea. At least then it should be a fair fight.

Please meet the other Priest Lake

This is J. Percy Priest Lake in Tennessee. According to what I read, it's a reservoir near Nashville. It is named after a guy who was a teacher before going to work for a newspaper. Having thusly acquired a taste for goofing off, he then became a congressman.

Making the case against fluoride

Ladies and gentlemen, Gen. Jack Ripper.

“I can no longer sit back and allow Communist infiltration, Communist indoctrination, Communist subversion and the international Communist conspiracy to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids.”

Remember horse racing in Spokane?

I do. It made for an entertaining outing with friends. I think the last time I smoked a cigar was at Playfair, back around 1988 or 1989.

It was a fun way to wager small amounts and assure companions that you had a fool-proof system.

I still remember winning $11 with a $2 bet on a horse named Spectacular Bud. (No, not “Bid.” It was “Bud.”) 

But I suspect that the more you knew about the lives of the animals, the less palatable the whole thing became.  

How I’m like Brando in “The Wild One”

Earlier this week, the good people in the newspaper's HR department sent out a notice of amendments to the SR Employee Handbook. You are supposed to sign and return a form indicating that you read the notice.

I haven't done it yet.

“What are you protesting?”

“Whattaya got?”

When you don’t give a damn about M’s

My rain hat is a Detroit Tigers cap.

I've been wearing one now and then for years. But this morning, walking over to my accountant's office a few blocks away on Riverside, a question occurred to me for the first time.

Is someone going to see this cap and suspect that I am a frontrunner?

The Tigers are expected to do well this season. So a stranger could see my cap and conclude that I am jumping on the bandwagon. Or something.

It almost makes me want to hand out cards that say “I started wearing Tigers caps back when they had the worst record in baseball. So give me a break with the snarky looks. God Bless.”

Of course, it's silly to worry about what anyone thinks.

A year or two ago, I saw a friend in a South Hill grocery store. He was wearing a spiffy Tigers cap. This puzzled me because I know he is a serious (though good-natured) Kansas City Royals fan.

I asked him about the cap. And he said he just liked the way the Tigers cap looks and has ever since it was a fixture on “Magnum, P.I.”

Every once in a while, we meet people who are not bound up by unnecessary neuroses. We should strive to learn from them.

Correlating laughter and IQ

Do you make assumptions about someone's intelligence on the basis of how that person's laugh sounds?

It's probably not a wise practice. I have known some smart people whose laughter sounded like chickens and/or drowning victims going down for the last time.   

A little bit west of a good idea

One of the angriest calls I have ever gotten came in response to my suggestion years ago that not everyone looks great in a cowboy hat. The reader was experiencing volcanic rage. Really amazing.

But I stand by my statement.

Give a kid a toy bus

And he or she will immediately begin to take liberties with the published route and schedule.

But that's nothing. In the hands of action-craving children, there tends to be an appalling number of accidents.

At least that's the way it used to be.

Fifty years ago on the big screen

The good old days weren't all that great for everybody.

That's why it is dangerous to get caught up in thinking that everything about the way things used to be was superior to life today.

It could be argued that tomatoes and watermelons tasted better. And basketball refs used to call traveling violations at least now and then. But one wouldn't want to get carried away with saluting yesterday. After all, some adult Americans were not allowed to vote.

Still. A list of movies that came out in 1962 sort of speaks for itself.

Consider: “Lawrence of Arabia,” “The Manchurian Candidate,” “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “Jules and Jim,” “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,” “The Miracle Worker,” “The Longest Day,” “Cape Fear,” “The Music Man”…

Somewhere in Spokane this afternoon

A person hosting a visitor from out of town — someone who hasn't been here before — is hearing the guest say, “Uh, I thought you said this was the dry side of the state.”

It turns out that, with luck, we all age

The Internet doesn't really let you grow older normally.

That's because the Web can freeze you in your youth. At least it can if there are ancient photos floating around.

I thought of that the other day after I got a note from a woman I met almost 30 years ago. I suspect she has spent much of her life downplaying the fact that she was a Miss Tennessee in the 1970s. But if you do a search on her in 2012, here's what you see.

OK, there are also more up-to-date references to her and more current photos. She looks just fine today, has a good job, et cetera. I fully suspect that she is an excellent person in every way.

 But for some of us, the past refuses to go away.

Just for the record

It's possible to consider yourself a bicyclist and not enjoy beer that tastes like aspirin-flavored liquid tar.

There seems to be some confusion about this. So I wanted to clear it up.

Stunningly unnecessary use of “State”

The following passage appeared in a book review published in The New York Times this week.

“…when she was 26, hiking alone on the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washingon State.”

Now I ask you. Is there any chance in the world that a reader really needed that tacked-on “State” to understand that the trail didn't wind up in the District of Columbia?

Let me be bold enough to suggest that the sentence would have been quite clear without the “State.” In just about every situation I can think of, going north from California through Oregon does not lead you to Washington, D.C.

Of course, this insanity has been going on for a long time. And sometimes the wounds are self-inflicted.

Dialing up memories of party lines

“I remember growing up with a 10-party phone line on Five Mile Prairie,” wrote Phyllis Rollins. “The ring for our home was four shorts. You had to listen carefully before answering as we also heard all the other rings.”

“Our ring was two longs and a short,” wrote Steven Stuart. “Or two shorts and a long. I forget which.”

“No privacy,” said Marjorie Carper.

“The Facebook of its time,” wrote Gary Rust.

“I grew up in Utah (Ogden, west of the city in farm country),” wrote Barb Beck. “My dad worked for the Southern Pacific RR (as an engineer) and the telephone was the way he got his calls to go to work. One of the families on our party line was Italian. When they would call another Italian family, they would talk in Italian and nothing we said or did could make them get off the phone.”

Karen Botker said her husband grew up with a party line in rural Minnesota. “His family consisted of eight people, the neighbors were a family of nine, there was another family of 11, another family of eight, another family of 14 and an older couple. I believe that adds up to 52 people sharing one phone line.”

An 85-year-old Slice reader named Pat recalled that her grandparents in the Silver Valley had a party line. “And my dad's younger sisters listened in.”

Ken Stout, who is 62, remembers not having a phone at all when his family lived in Lewistown, Mont. Then they moved to Spokane and had a party line until he was about 18.

Laurie Newell's family had a party line when she was a kindergartener in Seattle in the mid-1950s. “You couldn't call the person you shared a line with unless you went through the operator.”

“I remember picking up the phone to make a call and hearing the neighbors chatting,” wrote Arlene Stromberger.

Jean Brustkern grew up with a party line in Iowa. She recalls how, if you were on the line and someone in another household picked up the phone, you could hear a distinct clicking sound. “You always knew when someone came on the line.”

Pam Thompson recalls being baffled by a phone company employee's comment at the end of the party-line era. He said, “Now, when the phone rings, it will always be for you.”

Thompson misunderstood. “My husband will never receive a phone call? There will never be a wrong number?”

No. 1 song on this date in 1972

'Cause there ain't no one for to give you no pain.

Always be blogging

Do you have a favorite line from “Glengarry Glen Ross”?

The movie version turns 20 this year.

I asked a similar question in print a few years ago and learned that “Coffee's for closers” gets said in the North Side home of a married couple with whom I once worked.

Haven't noticed this film on non-premium cable channels lately. Perhaps the absurdity of dubbing in “Forget you!” over and over eventually struck programmers as just too ridiculous. 

Red Sox manager played in Spokane

I might have used this card already. I can't remember. But I'm willing to risk a repeat because this player-trivia cartoon is one of my all-time favorites.

One plus re: Pacific joining the WCC

Sports stories/columns including obscure references to set-in-Stockton “The Big Valley.”

The Wednesday Slice

One reason some workers in the New West experience a vague dissatisfaction with their careers is that a lot of us have uninspiring job titles.

“Hi, I'm Chip Douglas, executive vice president in charge of strategic blah blah.”

So maybe we should bring back job titles from Old West cattle drives.

I mean, who wouldn't want to be called trail boss? Or drover? Or scout?

“Hi, I'm Shelly Dubinsky. I'm ramrod here. And I'd like you to meet Greg Brady, he's our drag rider.”

Let's move on.

Multiple-choice: When little boys take a look at their adult male relatives and first wonder if they themselves will eventually go bald, what goes through their minds?

A) “Maybe I am not really related to these guys.” B) “Surely they will have a cure by the time I am a grown-up.” C) “You know, it's really not a bad look.” D) “Perhaps it will keep me from getting carded.” E) “Maybe hats are going to make a big comeback.” F) Other.  

Just wondering: Do little kids ever play with fake money anymore or is cash an alien concept?

Slice answer: One reader suggested that Julia Sweeney could record the public service announcements for Spokane International Airport. Perhaps she could use her “It's Pat!” voice.

Of course, several generations — both young and old — would be totally baffled by that. But not getting pop culture references should be second nature to most of us by now. You can't know it all. And, frankly, you wouldn't want to anyway.

My 16th favorite moment in Sunday's two-hour “Mad Men”: The fleeting allusion to trying to go after the Oldsmobile account. 

Just wondering 2: How often has the airport's Todd Woodard been asked about running for political office?

One of many differences between writing a newspaper column and a blog: In the case of the latter, readers realize you could make a bothersome item, uh, post, go away.

That's only happened two or three times since The Slice Blog started last May. In one case, a former colleague was worried that my rehashing some arguably off-color office banter (about an unnamed Spokane woman not involved with the newspaper) would come back to haunt him. So I deleted it.

Then just yesterday, someone at Avista was upset about something I wrote regarding the power company's online listing of safety categories and their possible application as names of condoms. I don't recall that he actually asked me to remove the post in question. And he was entirely civil on the phone.

After mulling it, though, I wrote him saying I found the post too ridiculous to be genuinely offensive. I added that I respected his right to disagree.

I think there was another instance, but I cannot remember it now.

Warm-up question: Have you ever recommended a TV series to someone and NOT looked on in horror as the very first episode he or she watched turned out to be atypically terrible? 

Today's Slice question: Do you note the anniversary of your starting work for your current employer?

Write The Slice at P.O. Box 2160, Spokane, WA 99210; call (509) 459-5470; email See you in the funny papers.

This date in Slice history (2002)

Today's Slice question: How many Spokane kids have their birthdays nine months after spring break?

Young kids’ questions for old cats

They include:

“Are you trying to sleep?”

“Am I bothering you?”

“Does that sound you are making mean I should slowly back away?”

“What if I try to pick you up?”

“How can you be hungry again already?”

“Is that you under those covers?”

“Why are your claws out?”

Spokane: Home of ET look-alikes

Below is a picture of Ernest Tubb. I am convinced that there must be at least 10 guys in Spokane who look exactly like the late country singer. Without the hat and tie, that is.

Avista utilities/condom names

If you go to the power company's website, there's a “Your safety” heading. You can click on it and get a list. Which of the following subheads would make the best name for a condom?

A) Electric safety. B) Natural gas safety. C) Call before you dig. D) Power outages. E) Safety around dams. F) Fire safety. G) Vegetation management. H) Kid central. I) Meter testing.

Update on Slice HQ decorating scheme

A big version of this Colin Mulvany photograph now adorns the wall behind my desk. So if you ever manage to get past security and want to find me, just look for this scene.

Any guesses about where these poles are?

“Celebrity” is a relative concept

If you paged through the Coeur d'Alene Resort advertising insert in today's paper, you might have come across an interesting “Celebrity guests” list.

It was fun to read. Who knew Andy Griffith had stayed there?

Still, I'm guessing many of us could not identify each and every individual. Take “Adam Deadmarsh,” for instance. Not exactly a household name.

Here he is during his National Hockey League playing days.

But I have no idea who Julianne Hough is.

How about you? What names on that list stumped you? 

Just wondering

How blase have you gotten about the sight of auto glass crumbles on the street where a car got broken into?

This date in Slice history (1999)

Warm-up question: What local preschooler sounds the most like a film critic after watching a movie?

A little more than 20 years ago

I'm sure my former features department colleague Rick Bonino was at this show. Were you?

They walk among us

You know. People who attended these 1960s shows.

This date in Slice history (1996)

Today's Slice question: What injuries or property damage have resulted from two people in your family enjoying a game of catch? 

Wondering what I might be missing

The problem with not watching local TV news is that you might miss something special.

I won't bore you with a detailed rehashing of the reasons for my casual boycott. After all, you might be one of those who is genuinely interested in how the anchors feel about the day's weather. But I am willing to admit that I sometimes fear I could be missing some good stuff.

Like the time a reporter covering a story that dealt with the owner of a local building supply store said the name of that place was “Ziggy's Yeah Ziggy's.”

Or the time a neighbor asked to comment on an urban livestock issue appeared above a graphic reading “Lives near pig.”

I could go on.

OK, sure. The SR certainly has had its share of goofball moments. We've addressed “pubic education,” written about a recipe for “honey fried children” and so on.

But the thing about the newspaper is it's easy to turn the page.  

No, you definitely are not alone today

There are a few others sporting slight sunburns as souvenirs from Sunday.

Local connection

Thursday's New York Times had a feature on the coach of the UMass-Lowell men's hockey team, which was about to take part in the Division 1 NCAA tournament for the first time in 16 years.

(The River Hawks subsequently won their first game and then lost their second.)

The story dealt with how coach Norm Bazin's current players didn't know he was almost killed by a drunk driver just north of Spokane in 2003 as he headed up to British Columbia on a recruiting trip while on the staff at Colorado College.

The story has been told in the S-R before. Still, it's something to be paging through the Times and come across mentions of Deaconess Medical Center, Dr. Dan Coulston (after whom Bazin and his wife named a child) and other local references.

When your evil rival plays dirty

Note to younger readers: There are spelling and style problems with the beginning of that composition.

Onetime Spokane Residents Department

It’s OK to admit it now

Those of a certain age can tell you. Being a fan of “America” didn't earn you any style points back in the day.

Though unquestionably popular for a few years, the group was way too pop to be considered cool.

But a few of their songs can still launch a time-travel reverie. Yes, even “Muskrat Love.”

Did you have a favorite among the following five?

A) “Daisy Jane.” B) “Tin Man.” C) “Sister Golden Hair.” D) “Ventura Highway.” E) “A Horse With No Name.”

You can forget all your troubles

If your schedule is a little different, it's possible to go downtown every day and still miss Spokane's version of daily bustle.

That's true for me. I'm always at my desk before the morning rush and headed home hours before most call it a day.

I was reminded of this dynamic this morning, a day off for me. I drove one of our cars out to Spokane Valley to drop it off for servicing. And though someone at the dealership would have driven me home, I opted instead to take the bus.

According to the transfer I got from the driver, I boarded the downtown bound No. 90 at 7:16.

A preschool-age boy across from me asked this guy who looked to be about 70 what he had in a bag he was holding. “I got me a chicken leg,” the man said, before turning his attention to the youngster's snow/rain apparel. “Say, are those new boots?”

Anyway, after arriving downtown and waiting to head home, I couldn't help but notice that Spokane seemed wide awake and ready to go. Maybe the wet streets added to the sense of a city shifitng into gear.

Even the sparrows outside the STA Plaza seemed a bit more urban than when I normally see them. Not having a schedule with me, I asked one of the birds when the No. 43 would arrive. But as it didn't know me, it declined to make eye contact and continued about its business.  

This seems like caption-contest fodder

Four things to consider, for starters: 1. Is there one hellacious dust storm headed her way? 2. What is she thinking about as she gazes at that back seat? 3. Are those ejector seats? 4. Where is the driver and what is he doing?

A dog and a mail carrier

We're used to the notion of dogs barking at mail carriers.

But this seemed ridiculous.

An occupied postal service van was parked on a South Hill street. And a dog that looked like a schnauzer stood in the adjacent yard barking at it.

Talk about holding a grudge. The mail carrier can't even get out of the vehicle before the dog starts in?

Eventually the dog put its front paws up on the white van and continued speaking out.

Sometimes, though, things aren't always as they appear. After a moment, the woman taking the dog for a walk came over and picked it up. It seemed she was going to have to haul it away from the van and the female mail carrier inside.

But no. This hadn't been canine hostility. It had been a greeting. Or maybe a request.

The woman held the dog up and leaned the front half of it in through the open passenger's side window. Maybe there was a cookie or dog biscuit presented. I couldn't see.

In any case, it was a reminder. There is barking and then there is barking. The two are quite different.

Here’s the secret to sex appeal

Consider this a promo for Tuesday's Slice column.

Just wondering

If you had a dollar for every time you have forgotten to release your car's emergency brake, how much money would you have?

If you have zero interest in “Mad Men”

When conversation turns to this coming Sunday's long-awaited season opener of the AMC series, here are three things you can say:

1. “As I've noted on numerous occasions, I don't watch that.”

2, “You lost me at Hello.”

3. “How about if you go back to talking about basketball.”

Re: The stoner kid in “The Descendants”

OK, it was make-believe. But did getting to know Sid remind you that, with young people, sometimes there's more there than initially meets the eye?

Body work

What would you guess is the No. 1 most popular Spokane area structure, inhabitant or natural feature used as inspiration for locally-themed tattoos? The Clock Tower? The jail? Lilacs? Feral cats? An RV?

Plot suspected

I've finally figured out why certain Spokane drivers have issues with us bicyclists.

It's not because some of us are unbelievably arrogant and do all sorts of annoying things on the road. It isn't because a few of us can get a tad preachy about the environment and all. And it isn't even a matter of drivers resenting the very idea of other people having the gall to make different lifestyle choices.

No, it's because they are on to us.

They have seen us give one another that knowing little nod out on the streets of Spokane. You know, the one that — if it were in a prison movie — would unquestionably signal that “it's on.”

And they have figured out that we're up to something.

So I guess there's no use trying to pretend any more. The only thing left now is to synchronize our watches.

It's on.

Just wondering

Do you take a shower before going out to exercise on a weekend morning — knowing you will have to take another shower when you get home? What if you haven't taken a shower in 24 hours and there is a chance your exercise outing will include interaction with others? What if you will be sitting down and having coffee with friends while you are out? What if your case of bed hair is so severe that it looks like you have undergone a Kafkaesque transformation into some kind of burrowing animal?

How does your garden grow?

Something unprecedented happened Saturday.

I found a flier on our front porch and did not immediately throw it away.

It was from Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church and it described plans for a community garden.

If you are interested in finding out about the project, call 747-6806, Ext. 27.

I've always liked the idea of community gardens.

But here's my question. If you are one of those devoting hours of hope and effort to the undertaking, how do you avoid worrying about the possibility that someone will come along and rip off your plants or simply vandalize the whole garden?

As it is a church effort, I suppose one answer might be that you simply need to have a little faith.

That can be a challenge, though, when we all know there are people who are just no damn good.

Cleaned and disinfected

This caught my eye because of something I heard Friday at work.

The wife of one of my colleagues had her car stolen a couple of weeks ago. And it was found Friday. It had not been totally stripped or anything. But, from what I heard, the interior didn't smell so great now.

A city on rails


1. It's possible to approach Saturday evening with a slightly more carefree attitude because you managed to get something in the outgoing mail just before the final weekend pickup.

2. I've seen no evidence that Spokane's potholes reduce speeding.

3. Ever been stumped by an abbreviation that comes from someone else's subculture?

I bumped into a couple who each happen to be church leaders in their mainline denomination. They are friends of mine. So I asked about their adult daughters and a while later one of them used the expression “PK.” I was reasonably sure that we weren't suddenly talking about hockey (where the shorthanded team refers to a penalty kill as “PK”). Eventually, context was the key. It means “pastor's kids.”

Reading the paper

Loved Jesse Tinsley's sports section photo of the GU women's coach and several of his players visiting with the legendary Rutgers coach.

Something about the scene just seemed so, well, sane.

Sure, the teams will compete hard later today. But there's no reason everyone can't be normal human beings until then.

I'm sure such scenes are not unheard of in top-level men's sports. But the people involved in women's athletics have always struck me as being a tad more feet-on-the-ground when it comes to keeping the big picture in perspective. 

Privilege of age

How old do you have to be before you no longer give a rip about what anybody thinks if you let out a yell every time you commit to a minor physical strain?

I was behind this guy who might have been in his 70s in a grocery checkout aisle this afternoon. He dropped a penny. I would have reached for it but I was holding my bike and it would have been an unwieldy maneuver.

Anyway, when he bent over to get the coin he let out a yell. A loud, raspy one. It seemed like a sound one might associate with crocodile attacks.

I could tell from his face that he was fine and had not suffered an injury. The vocalization was just part of his exertion routine.

So, assuming relatively normal health and mental well-being, how old do you have to be before you are apt to feel OK about a similar lack of self-consciousness?

 A) 58. B) 61. C) 65. D) 71. E) 79. F) Other.

Puddle rage

It's not unheard of for a pedestrian splashed by a car or truck zooming through a street puddle to entertain suspicions that it was a deliberate act.

But then someone will ask, “What makes you think that?”

And often the person now sporting wet clothes has a hard time making a case. He or she just stammers.

So it's a good idea to mentally outline your argument even before you get splashed. Here are five key talking points to keep in mind.

1. Some Spokane drivers seem to enjoy splashing people as a way of expressing disdain for pedestrians and their so-called rights.

2. With hardly any slush season this winter, splash-seeking Spokane drivers have a pent-up urge to demonstrate their dominance over strangers who may well hold views and opinions with which these drivers disagree.

3. “The guy veered out of his way to go through the puddle.”

4. Micro-phallus syndrome (an admittedly speculative explanation).

5. Wild-eyed expression/maniacal cackling audible even through closed windows.

Radioactive half-life of mailing lists

Was just pawing through some unsorted newsroom mail and noticed an envelope addressed to the city editor.

That's not unusual, of course. But the person named on the envelope had already left the SR before I came to work here 24 years ago.

Junior High vs. Middle School

Got a note from a friend who read today's Slice column.

“And what about those of us who went directly from grade school to high school?” he wrote. “I would suggest we were slightly better behaved because we were told to be role models to the primary-grade kids. Also, it was easier to pull us aside if we acted up because we constituted only a small portion of the student population.”

Reader with a question

Jim Markley emailed me an image of a 1605 Italian master's watercolor called “Marmot with Plums.”

That was nice of him.

“What could possibly be a better way to start Friday?” he wondered.

Good question.

A) Sleeping in. B) Time travel and activities involving the young Ann-Margret. C) Getting a call about having been named in the will of some secretly wealthy individual you were nice to way back when. D) Seeing a moving van in front of the house across the street rented by the human noisemaker with the “Hell Riders” sticker on the window of his truck. E) Being able to answer someone's obscure question off the top of your head. F) Other.

Today’s obscure NCAA reference

Something tells me Ron Patimkin would not have made this year's OSU team.

“Do we know an S Revie?”

One problem with Caller I.D. is that the readout can be a bit cryptic.

Of course, it's still helpful to be able to see if the call is coming from an area code you recognize.


If you have even the slightest interest in the S-R's handling of this, you will definitely want to check out Shawn Vestal's column tomorrow.

The right beer for watching basketball?

Maybe not. For one thing, the name summons allusions to professional basketball, not college. And secondly, the company went out of business ages ago. But I doubt if it was ever available around here anyway.

So what exactly is the point of this post? To show you a picture of a Knickerbocker. 

This device would wear itself out today

The mute button is a bit easier to use. Plus, some viewers will be switching from channel to channel today.

What is Betty looking at? How about Archie? And why isn't he looking at Betty?

Vintage VD poster

Of course, the guy who took the treatments also wound up having to wear overalls. So I guess you take the good with the bad.

Spokane, Washington, 6:10 a.m.

It's probably safe to assume that most people on the bus wearing earphones are listening to music of their own choosing.

But when some stranger across the aisle laughs at the exact same instant you do, it might be reasonable to conclude that you are both listening to the same radio station.

It's a visual moment, but it sort of cries out to be part of the next Spokane Public Radio pledgeathon. 


This date in Slice history (1997)

Today's Slice question: If every Inland Northwest business with 12 or more employees produced a swimsuit calendar featuring its own staff and management, who would have have the hottest seller?

(Answers to that 15 years ago — I only mentioned places that got multiple nominations — included the Cheney post office, Goodtymes Pub, Safeco Insurance on East Sprague, the Albertson's at 37th and Grand, and the downtown Bon Marche.) 

Visions of post-apocalypse Spokane

There's a sign outside a gas station mini-mart in downtown Spokane advertising a special on milk.

It's for something like two gallons or several half-gallons. In any case the price listed is $600.

Maybe they didn't have any decimals for the reader board. Or maybe they reasonably assumed that would be understood as meaning six dollars.

But since I started seeing it a couple of days ago, I always think “That is how much milk will cost after the zombie uprising or whatever.”

“OK, if I put that on my charge card?” 

Happy Ides of March Eve

Be sure to gather with friends and loved ones to plan tomorrow's festive backstabbings.

Thursday quiz

This would be easy to solve with online help. But you'll get extra credit if you can answer this without Google.

What connects the following?

1. “Rawhide.”

2. “Purple People Eater.”

3. “Hoosiers.”

If you had a do-over on high school

“I would have married my high school sweetheart,” wrote Nadine Joubert. “Yup, after 43 years I'm still regretting that one.”

Wednesday’s Slice question

With less than a week of winter left, it's time to ask…

On how many days did you wear your warmest, heaviest, last-line-of-defense coat this winter?

A) Zero. B) 1-5. C) 6-10. D) 11-30. E) Other.

Another hippie bicyclist

Of course, anyone who read “Ball Four” might quibble with the suggestion that he was dedicated to fitness as a player. Still, I like this picture.

One of drunken driving’s lesser tolls

Compared to the serious mayhem caused by inebriated motorists, lawn damage is nothing.

But at this exact time of year, when the turf is mushy and vulnerable, drunks who veer onto lawns while trying to navigate their way home really make a mess.

Of course, there's no proof that these tire-caused gouges in moisture-softened yards are alcohol-related. Maybe the person responsible simply cannot drive and that's why he or she took a corner way too sharp and created a divot the size of a kayak. Or simply over-corrected up onto the grass on a straight stretch.

But the fact that many of these yard incursions seem to happen in the middle of the night does raise suspicions.

If you do any early morning walking, you might have seen one or two of these ripped-up swaths. 

We like to joke in Spokane about yelling “Hey, get off my lawn!”

But some late-night drivers deserve to hear that. And to be in jail.

Divided loyalties, continued

I have a Spokane friend whose daughter went to Rutgers. She married a Gonzaga grad.

I asked my friend how his extended family would be dealing with the looming GU vs. Rutgers game.

“I think Ted would defer to Kathryn or at least keep quiet,” my friend wrote back. “Kathryn teaches with a former Zags player. Apparently they look similar enough that people confuse them for each other occasionally. Not now, of course. Kathryn is carrying her own basketball which is due next month.” 

This date in Slice history (2001)

Today's Slice question: What specific behavior in meetings tends to test your nonviolence credo?

Re: Today’s print Slice

Here are the TV shows from which those tweaked themes came.

1. “Flipper.” 2. “The Brady Bunch.” 3. “Maverick.” 4. “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” 5. “Rawhide.” 6. “The Flintstones.” 7. “The Love Boat.” 8. “Gilligan's Island.” 9. “Mr. Ed.” 10. “The Beverly Hillbillies.” 11. “Green Acres.” 12. “The Partridge Family.” 13. “Happy Days.” 14. “The Addams Family.” 15. “The Monkees.” 16. “The Patty Duke Show.” 17. “Daniel Boone.”

Divided loyalties

Spokane's Chuck Huggins grew up in West Virginia, near Wheeling.

But he has multiple family ties to Gonzaga University and normally cheers for GU.

So who will he root for when the Zags play the Mountaineers?

“I'm a hillbilly West Virginian,” he said.

Plus, he is pretty sure he is a distant relative of the West Virginia coach.

Huggins, a Navy retiree who operated a real estate business here, is being pulled in both directions.

One caller from West Virginia said,  “You're not going to root for Gonzaga, are you, Uncle Charles?”

And his wife has suggested that his presence in the living room might not be welcome Thursday if he did indeed cheer for the Mountaineers.

Sometimes it's not just the players in the tournament who could use a little luck.

Show that you care about environment

But maybe wait until Saturday.

Would you drink it in a house?

Would you drink it with a mouse?

NCAA divided loyalties, et cetera

Well, I didn't hear from any West Virginia alums living in Spokane. Nor were there any messages from couples where he is a Montana grad and she went to Wisconsin. And so on.

But one colleague, online producer Alison Boggs, noted that her brother is a Syracuse alum. The Orangemen are the No. 1 seed in the East regional, where GU is the No. 7.

The two could meet down the road. Alison, a GU fan, would love to see that happen. She's ready for a little revenge.

“The last time Gonzaga and Syracuse met, my brother called me BEFORE the game to offer his condolences,” she said. “Sadly, Gonzaga was thrashed and my big brother was right again.”

Many years ago: Two kinds of people

One kind loved The Association.

The other kind did not.

Almost a home game for West Virginia

You don't need to know much about geography to realize that GU's game with West Virginia is practically a home game for the Mountaineers.

All you need is a familiarity with the 1983 Tom Cruise movie “All The Right Moves.”

Set in a dying Pennsylvania steel town reasonably assumed to be near Pittsburgh, the movie has a moment when a star player on Cruise's high school football team is revealed to be headed to a nearby college on a sports scholarship.

That institution of higher learning? That's correct. West Virginia.

Who remembers Debbie Drake?

She was a national exercise/fitness/grooming fixture in the 1960s. She had her own show.

Speaking of 1960s TV…I was just reminded by something I read that “Rawhide” aired on Friday nights for most of its run. And I found myself feeling retroactively sorry for those whose Friday nights would have been tied up with high school athletics. Surely some of those football coaches and basketball players hated to miss that show. And, after all, there was no way to record it.

What you can say to co-workers Monday

“I'm underwhelmed by your body of work.”

“Your nonconference schedule was weak.”

“I had you penciled in as a solid No. 17.”

“Hate to be the one to tell you, but you were never even on the bubble.” 

Just wondering

If you have been prescribed a medication that you take every 12 hours, how do you adjust for the time change?

A) Start taking it an hour later. B) Split the difference. C) Become a Christian Scientist. D) Other.

It’s the late Albert Salmi’s birthday

Here he is with Fess Parker. 

The great 7th grade basketball draft

The only time I experienced moving to a new town in the middle of the school year was in seventh grade.

I had not been at my new junior high long before it was time for the intramural basketball season.

For reasons known only to Mr. Kangas, the shop teacher in charge of that Saturday morning extracurricular activity, I was chosen to be one of four team captains. A nice honor and all. But I had no real idea who was good and who wasn't.

So when the boys who had signed up for intramurals gathered in the school cafeteria one afternoon for the selection of teams, I was at a serious disadvantage.

Knowing next to nothing about the basketball skills of the assembled lads, I had to rely on an alternative drafting strategy.

I chose boys who had been friendly to me, the new kid.

There was a boy named Rich. One named Peter. The Ketola twins. And three or four others.

And you know what happened?

No. This was real, not a movie. We stunk.

Whoever said “Nice guys finish last” apparently knew what he was talking about.

My family moved again before 10th grade. I lost touch with the boys who were on that hapless team.

But I hope they went on to lead happy, fulfilling lives. My guess is that most of them did.

Those guys weren't really losers.

They just couldn't make a lay-up.

True or false

This is a scene from the locally filmed movie, “The Basket.”

Old school tweets

You might recall a classic episode of “The Andy Griffith Show” called “Opie the Birdman.”

It includes a brief comedic bit in which Barney Fife suggests that he can understand bird language. That is, he can tell when chirping means “I'm feeling good” or when it is saying “I feel sad.”

Well, I could have used the good deputy's assistance this morning. I rode my bike up to the North Side to get a haircut. And both going and coming, I heard an astonishing amount of avian chatter.

I wonder if others noticed this today. One cat I saw seemed to be pretty interested in the nearby bird talk.

Anyway, my guess is that a lot of the discussion had to do with nest siting and construction plans. But, of course, I can't be sure.

Friday question

How did you learn to operate a standard transmission vehicle?

Re: Kids wanting be veterinarians

What's the appropriate thing to say to them after they declare a desire to become a vet?

A) “Well, you had better get off your ass and start bringing home some decent grades for a change.” B) “That's fine, honey. But there's a lot more to it than just loving cute animals.” C) “That would really make us proud.” D) “Yeah, right.” E) “I'll alert WSU.” F) “Well, if you think that is a way to practice medicine without having to deal with idiots, I have news for you. People — irresponsible, stupid, dim-bulb people — are behind the dog and cat overpopulation and are directly to blame for a high percentage of the sad cases that will come through your door.” G) “It will take you forever to pay off your loans.” H) “Well, maybe one day you will be able to tell someone who is about your age that Blackie or Queenie is going to be OK and that grateful kid will look up at you in a way that you will remember for a long, long time.” I) Other.        

‘Tis the season

“What is the latest (earliest) Christmas letter ever received?” wondered Denice Lucas. “Here it is March 9 and I just received a 12 page missive billed as — yep — a Christmas letter.”

To be fair, the author does cover about two years' worth of activities. But still.

Said Lucas, “Hark, do you hear angels singing?”  

Julianne Moore through the years

In filmed-in-Spokane “Benny & Joon.”

In “The Big Lebowski.”

As a University of Idaho grad.

Welcome to White Shirt Fridays

I'll be wearing one each Friday for the remainder of winter.

You are welcome to join me.

Yes, I realize this isn't much of a commitment. But most futile and stupid gestures wear out their welcome pretty quickly. So a couple of weeks sounds about right for this.

Countdown to the weekend

OK, it's actually a few hours away. But you get the idea.

This was back when we were still exploring space.

This is why everybody needs an editor

I wouldn't wish to rush to judgment.

But it is beginning to look as if a lot of people do not use the Associated Press Stylebook as their guide to everyday conversation.

According to the AP, it's “daylight saving time.”

Not “savings.”

Just wondering

When their computers tell them it is time to change their passwords, do conspiracy theorists suspect a plot?

A modest proposal

No, this has nothing to do with eating children.

Rather, I was thinking perhaps we could simply declare this afternoon to be the prettiest of 2012 and then consider the nominations closed for the remainder of the year.

If we devoted the time wasted talking about the weather to more productive pursuits, just imagine what we could accomplish in Spokane before 2013.

Defining “nearby” in Big Sky Country

Got a note from a Spokane friend who grew up in Montana.

He is a graduate of the University of Montana and he watched his alma mater's basketball team playing in Missoula on TV last night.

“I was taken aback when the ESPN announcer was talking about Derek Selvig from 'nearby' Eastern Montana,” he wrote. “Selvig is from Glendive, 567 miles away. That's farther away from Missoula than 'nearby' Salt Lake City and just little closer than 'nearby' Edmonton, Alberta.”

Which are not Hitchcock characters?

A) Lisa Fremont. B) Jennifer Rogers. C) Kimberly Lusk. D) Jo McKenna. E) Carolyn Lamberson. F) Madeleine Elster. G) Rebecca Nappi. H) Eve Kendall. I) Lorie Hutson. J) Marion Crane. K) Melanie Daniels.

Blake Shelton to begin doing autopsies

“Do you ever glance at something and read it quickly…and get it wrong?” wrote Jim Markley. “At the very top of today's Spokesman is a headline that begins, 'Country crooner to play…'

“When I took a quick glance at it this morning, I thought, at first, that it said 'County coroner to play…'

“Who knew that Spokane had a crooning coroner?”

Jim Malm had a similar stumble.

“After a quick glance at the top of the front page this morning, I was wondering just what kind of show the county coroner was going to put on at the Arena. I was relieved to later discover that it was actually a 'country crooner' putting on the show.”

Thursday quiz

We all know Spokane's airport code is the inscrutable (to most) GEG.

But what's the three-letter code for our Amtrak station?

This is what newspaper work looks like

Except there's often more women and fewer ties.

Remembering the Dave Clark 5

If you are not a certain age, you probably wouldn't understand this.

But once upon a time, purchasing this particular record was considered in some circles to be a flagrant act of disloyalty to a another British singing group you might have heard about.

What did Walter Neff say before kiss?

A) “You're oversharing.” B) “Try not to speak.” C) “Chip and Robbie will be home any time now.” D) “No, that's not Flubber.” E) “Actually, I came here to see Audra.” F) “Shut up, baby.”

Up against the wall

Remember when I mentioned the remodeling going on in the SR newsroom and solicited a new round of readers' pictures and what-not that I could put up on my wall?

Well, a number of people were kind enough to send me things. And I intend to find a proper home for all of that.

But I've decided against essentially repeating the decorating scheme I had in place before the portable room-divider behind me was replaced with a permanent wall. Instead, I'm opting for a new approach.

One possibility is blown-up pictures taken by the SR's fine news photographers. But making that happen would not be as simple as you might suspect.

So what do you think of this idea?

“The Slice Gallery.”

I could ask my friend Karen Mobley, the city arts director, to curate a rotating display of locally produced art that would be exhibited on the freshly painted wall behind my desk.

Sure, it's not really a public space. Still, my colleagues and I might enjoy the variety.

And I suppose I could post pictures of the art on this blog.

But first let me check the SR's ethics code and see if there would be any problem with me acting as the sales agent for the artists whose work I might display on my wall.

I'll get back to you.

Bad moon rising

Actually, the coming full moon should be perfectly congenial. But I think we can all agree that no opportunity to borrow CCR lyrics should be squandered.

How do you like Ted in “Sally Forth”?

Some readers of the comics page cannot stand him. He's not their idea of a man. But the fact that the guys who work with him don't like him almost makes you think he's OK. Plus, he's certainly had his moments as a husband and father.

But is he in denial about adulthood? Sure, it's only a comic strip. Still, there's something a bit annoying about an alleged grownup who hasn't had the whimsy kicked out of him by life.

But I guess we all have our own sorts of protective shells. 

The votes are in

And a clear majority of those I heard from gave a thumbs-down to Daylight Saving Time.

Of course, I'm not kidding myself. I realize that probably isn't representative of the prevailing attitudes out there. For one thing, people are more apt to speak up when they don't like something. And then there's the fact that at least some of my readers are aware that I am no fan of the switch to DST.

Still, I have to admit I enjoyed hearing others wonder why we couldn't tinker with our schedules instead of with the clock.

Colville's Ellen Hodde summed it up for those of us who regard the time-change as unnecessary: “This is crazy.”

Nothing to do with public television

Kettering is outside Dayton, Ohio. When my father was stationed at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in the 1960s, we lived near there.

My brother was co-captain of his high school football team, which played against the Kettering schools at the time, Fairmont West and Fairmont East. He once saved the game against Fairmont East by stopping an attempted two-point conversion in the final seconds.

The Dayton morning paper that noted his big-play tackle, The Journal-Herald, no longer exists.

When did you learn to not trust adults?

The picture below is of what used to be called the Ojibway Hotel, in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. I think it's called something else now.

The Ojibway was the sponsor of my bantam league hockey team back when I was about 14.

We were not very good during my first year with the team. But in my second season, we won the city championship. And the hotel manager was so pumped, he told us about a special treat he had planned for us. He was going to take us all down to far-away Detroit to see a Red Wings game.

Never happened.

Recalling another election day

Long ago and far away, I was assigned to do a feature on the mood and scene at various polling places.

The story I wrote contained an error. I called a woman I quoted “Julia S. Long.”

Her name was Julia S. Lopez.

At that paper, creating the need for a correction meant you had to go have a visit with our in-house ombudsman, a curmudgeon named Leo Della Betta. The idea was to determine if there might be some way to avoid making a similar mistake in the future.

I told Leo that I had the woman's name right in my notes. And, even though I knew it would sound ridiculous, I then mentioned that I was sitting next to fellow reporter John S. Long while writing my story and maybe that's how the error happened.

“Well,” said Leo. “Sitting next to that goofy bastard, it's a wonder you got anything right.”

Thus exonerated, I headed back to my desk. 

I know it is not a toy

But overhearing well-behaved little kids getting a bang out of riding the escalators at River Park Square is enough to make you think it's good that we survived the Cold War.

What do these schools have in common?

Gonzaga, Idaho, Boise State, Nevada and Cal State Northridge.

This date in Slice history (1999)

Today's Slice question: If some toy maker lost its mind and decided to produce an action figure based on you at your workplace, what would be some of the accessories? 

Did you ever try this?

Eventually the Silly Putty started to turn gray. But it was sort of fun to do just what this ad suggests.

One way that we’re definitely not No. 1

You don't have to be a soccer fan to admit that the stadiums where English Premier League teams play tend to have better names than the corporate-monikered temples of U.S. sports.

Here are a few of the English facilities: Anfield, Craven Cottage, Ewood Park, Goodison Park, The Hawthorns, Old Trafford, St. James' Park, Stadium of Light, Stamford Bridge, White Hart Lane.

Sure, there are a few English stadiums with corporate names. But it is not the norm.

Of course, teams in the Premier League sport sponsors' names right on their uniforms. But when you don't stop the action every five minutes for commercials, I suppose you have to generate revenue in other ways. 

There are two different kinds of people

There are those who attended school in clearly defined, physically separate buildings.

That is, K-6 was in one school. Then 7-9 (or just 7 and 8) was in an altogether different building. And then the high school years were spent at a third location.

On the other hand, some people — usually in smaller communities — went to school in a setting where all of the grades have classrooms practically right next to each other.

I suppose there are advantages to either arrangement.

But here's my question.

Did 12-year-old boys who regularly encountered high school girls in the halls find their academic progress retarded by a persistent pattern of daydreaming?

So is Spokane a good place to live?

Back in either 1980 or 1981, I covered an air show and aircraft display at the Air Force base next to Tucson.

One of those I talked to that day was a member of a B-52 crew visiting from Fairchild Air Force Base. I'm not sure how I remember that. But I do, and the archives of the Arizona Daily Star would back me up.

Though I am certain I brought up the fact that my father had flown in B-52s well before the Fairchild officer's time, I don't remember one thing we said. Maybe we talked about the heat.

But I have wondered about that guy a time or two. Did he retire here? Do I know one of his children? Have I talked to his wife on the phone? Did he start a business that I have visited? Does he own rental property I go past evey day? Has he flipped me off in traffic?

You know those movie plots that hinge on a chance encounter that sets off a cascade of unforeseeable events? I wonder about that, too.

Perhaps he was the first person to wise me up to the fact that Spokane's weather isn't at all like Seattle's.

And maybe…maybe I need to try harder to track down the clipping that would tell me his name.

This was an actual baby boomer toy

So was this.

And somehow many of us grew up to be people who didn't long to crash real cars into walls or launch grenades.

Ever been described as a sign of spring?

I have.

As of today.

A colleague, noting that I had ridden my bike to work this morning, proclaimed that I was a you know what.

Well, take it from this sign of spring. Don't put away your coats just yet.

More on dogs fetching the morning paper

Here's some spill-over from a theme addressed in today's print column.

“Libby, our black Lab, has been faithfully bringing us our paper for eight years,” wrote Carol Bending. “She listens at the front door for the delivery car and the plop of the paper in the driveway. If she's slow to return, we know it's icy and her coat tells us if it's rainy or snowing. Then she drops it inside the front door for the young Lab in-training to carry it to the treat bowl where they both sit pretty for their reward. It's all about the food, you know.”

Then there was this from Cheri Knox.

“Our loyal Labrador, Maizey, knows that her job every morning is to retrieve the newspaper from our driveway. She always brings it to the front door and waits patiently, newspaper in mouth, for someone to open the door. From time to time, we have forgotten to let her back in, so she carries the newspaper to the back kitchen door and peers through the glass, newspaper in mouth, until someone notices. We have sometimes failed her, but she has never failed us.”

University of Idaho’s flagship status

Too bad the folks in Moscow can't do what they did in Columbus, Ohio, a few years ago.

You remember. They started referring to the school there as The Ohio State University. Emphasis on the THE.

But that doesn't really work for colleges that have a “University of…” name. Saying “The the University of Idaho” would be ridiculous.

Besides, you wouldn't want to give the people in Pocatello any ideas.

Name Sally Field’s character in this film

A) Frances “Gidget” Lawrence. B) Sister Bertrille. C) Megan Carter. D) Reg Dunlop. E) Sybil. F) Mrs. Gump. G) Other.

An insanely easy one-question quiz

Name the man who grew up in Spokane and was a part-owner of baseball's Pittsburgh Pirates.

Hey, kids! Can you identify that object?

You know. What's that thing on which his head is resting?

Just wondering

We all know that people around here have wildly varied ideas about what constitutes “back East.”

But here's my question.

Has anyone over on the West Side ever referred the Inland Northwest that way?

Meet Joe Black

One summer day back in the mid-1960s, my older brother and I were at a baseball game in Cincinnati, in a ballpark that no longer exists.

My mother had driven the three of us so that I could see Willie Mays play.

I had a pristine, white baseball on which I had a few autographs. (Still have it.) My brother was going to leave our box seats and head up to a concession stand. He took the ball, in case he saw someone who should sign it. Sounds crazy. But our thinking at the time must have been “You never know.”

When he came back he was embarrassed to report that he had gotten an autograph all right. Problem is, it was not someone either of us had heard of.

People had been clustered around this man in a suit and my brother thought the center of attention might have been Jackie Robinson.

Instead, the signature read “Joe Black.”

As I recall, I was less than gracious.

Joe Black later came down to the rail by the playing field and I saw him. Some of the Reds and Giants walked over and greeted him. That was my first glimmering that he must have been somebody once upon a time.

Reading about him after that summer day in Ohio made clear that he had been a fine player who had been a really good man.

When my brother was still alive, I occasionally reminded him of the time he thought he saw Jackie Robinson. And how I gave him so much grief about his error. 

There are the signatures of some star players on that ball. But over the years, Joe Black's became my favorite autograph.

When others want to choose for you

There were a fair number of people out walking, jogging and riding bikes this morning.

Here's hoping everyone looked both ways and paid attention to lingering slick spots and potholes.

But, for a few of us, there was another issue.

There was a young border collie being walked by a woman in my neighborhood. And he clearly wanted to herd people.

You can't blame these smart dogs for thinking we would benefit from their guidance. I mean, left to our own devices, look at the choices some of us make.

But if you feel certain that you are OK to proceed on your own recognizance, what do you say to the black and white canine wanting desperately to tell you where to go?

A) “Thanks, but I'm going to keep heading this way.” B) “You have mistaken me for livestock.” C) “That'll do, Pup. That'll do.” D) “If it's all the same to you, I'll go ahead and exercise free will.” E) “It's OK, my house is right down there.” F) Other.

Rank “Rawhide” lyrics as lifestyle advice

3. “Keep them dogies rollin'.”

2. “Keep movin', movin', movin'.”

1. “Don' try to understand 'em.”

Do tellers hear it all?

I've long wondered if bank tellers at drive-through locations overhear interesting tidbits of conversation when people out in their cars forget that they aren't really alone.

But what the tellers hear probably isn't all that exciting.

If other people's cell phone coversations are any guide, the stuff said in cars outside the bank probably redefines mundane.

Still, it's always fun to imagine that people are leading interesting lives.  

But something tells me that those who are keep it to themselves. 

Just wondering

It's not a hard and fast routine. But Saturday mornings are when I usually wrangle with bills.

I wonder how many others also tackle that chore at this time.

I can see thinking this would get the weekend off to an iffy start. But I like the small feeling of accomplishment. It sort of allows me to think about other things for a little while.

Do you have a regular day and time to pay bills?

Before email

Had you watched PBS Clinton 2-nighter

You would have seen the onetime Speaker from Spokane, Tom Foley, in this very setting. Except it wasn't Nelson Mandela at the microphone.

Have you noticed pronunciation trend?

Maybe it's my imagination. But it seems like people saying “Spokane” on national broadcasts are getting it right more often than in the past.

Coverage of the recent women's boxing competition and the Washington GOP caucuses nudged me toward this conclusion.

So I guess writing this all but guarantees that the next national radio voice I hear will say “Spo-cain.”

“Hey kid, whattaya think you’re doing?”

In the mid-1960s, Coca-Cola bottlers around the country ran a promotion featuring the images of pro athletes inside bottle caps.

The idea was, you collected complete sets of NFL players or whatever. Then you could redeem them for various modest prizes.

I'm sure the marketing concept was to get little kids like me to badger their mothers into buying more Coke products. But there's only so much sugar water one family can drink. So, I devised a plan.

If I taped a magnet to the end of a long section of wire clothes hanger, I could reach into vending machines and withdraw the caps from the cap-catching chamber directly below the built-in bottle-opener.

That's what I did. And my haul was impressive, if gooey.

Oh, there were a few run-ins with store employees who initially suspected that I was helping myself to coins. But mostly I was unmolested as I went around town making my rounds.

I ended up exchanging my many completed bottle-cap sheets for footballs, NFL pennants, NFL book covers and what have you.

I can't remember if other kids caught on and copied my magnet gambit. Maybe every town had one of us.

If the Internet had been around back then, we could have formed some sort of association and traded tips.

“Hi, Bob in Evansville. I understand what you are saying about the merits of asking permission to harvest caps when you first go into a store. But I've found that just gives someone the opportunity to say No.”

Recalling horse droppings on Riverside

By the way, I'm referring to the animal in the postcard scene, not to the S-R.

Maybe this will spur a memory or two

I've been wondering about something, and perhaps you can help me.

If you are old enough to remember being a little kid who clomped around in small cowboy boots, you might also remember toy spurs.

I guess the idea was that a 6-year-old saddle tramp would feel more authentic if he jingle-jangle-jingled as he headed out the back door to rejoin the cattle drive.

Here's my question: Were those things a menace or what?

I honestly don't remember (and a Google image search doesn't really clear it up).

It stands to reason that the makers of toy spurs would have been aware of the need to make them safe for children's use. But the era I'm recalling featured cars with steel dashboards and javelin-like yard darts, so who is to say that spurs for kids necessarily would have been harmless little affectations.

Chances are, though, they probably weren't all that dangerous.

After all, adults of that era might have been slow to recognize certain potential risk factors. But they were all over the need to protect the furniture.  

50 years ago tonight: “To Serve Man”

One of everybody's Top 10 episodes of “The Twilight Zone.”

Just wondering

Is this seating arrangement generational, socio-political or purely a matter of couples dynamics?

And if it is a comfort thing, surely Wilma and Betty had longer legs than Barney.

When the grocery receipt is a mystery

You know how item descriptions on grocery store receipts sometimes get cut off in the middle of a word?

Sure. If the line says “BELL PEPPERS & FIRE ROA” you can be reasonably sure that the last word was supposed to be “ROASTED.”

But once in a while, the cut-off word is impossible to decipher. That was the case in my home this week.

The receipt had a line that read “YOG SMOOTHIE 4PK PROBIOTIC PUS.”

What the? I've heard of all-natural, but that's ridiculous. Maybe there is such a thing as being too organic.

Examining the product packaging for words that started with the letters P-U-S failed to yield any clues.

So eventually I had to call the store.

The guy who answered the phone was nice about it and I could tell he planned to be helpful.


“Yes, P-U-S.”

He got on his computer. After a bit, he suggested that the complete phrase was “Push-berry.”

That didn't really make any sense to me. And that word isn't on the yogurts' packaging or labels. But OK, pushberry it is.

That's not a real word, but at least it sounds better than what showed up on the receipt.

Case solved. I guess.

Name game

I'm interested in names.

And sometimes I ask my correspondents if there is a story behind theirs. After hearing from Moses Lake's Vaughn Blethen, I first inquired if she was related to the newspaper publishing family.

She is, if you go way back. But that's really a different branch of the family.

Then I asked about her first name. She told me the story.

“I was supposed to be a Catherine, after my great grandmother. But the day I was born, a little girl in Texas fell down a well and died. So my mother didn't want to use that name.

“I think she must have been under the influence of anesthesia, because she decided to name me after my father (Vaughn Owen Carey). So my name is Vaughn Ann. I've had chance encounters with one weatherman named Vaughn (a male) and one woman with the name Vaughn (not sure how she got hers). But yes, you're right. It is unusual for a female name.

“I get a lot of mail to Mr. Vaughn Blethen. As a teen, I was invited to join the Boy Scouts.”

Rough night for Edmonton Oilers

I knew the National Hockey League team was having a dismal season.

But I hadn't realized things had gotten this bad.

On page B2 of today's sports section, I read that last night Edmonton managed to lose to Chicago 5-4, and lose to St. Louis 5-2.

Talk about a bad night.

I feel OK about noting this because the features section has never gotten anything wrong.

Hitchhiking used to be fairly common

I admit that's going back a ways, maybe about 40 years or more.

But it's true. Hitching a ride used to be an almost mainstream activity.

What's your theory about why that changed?

A) We became more aware of the deviants in our midst. B) Society embraced paranoia. C) Too many movies or TV shows depicted bad things happening to hitchhikers or to the motorists who pick them up. D) We became convinced that one out of 10 strangers is a serial killer E) More people working from home. F) The percentage of dangerous lunatics in the population has grown exponentially. G) Other.

This date in Slice history (1996)

(Here's one that really illustrates how times have changed. Just imagine everyone in a household having to use the same phone line. Oh, the humanity!)

Warm-up question (for teenagers only): What's the most annoying thing adults do when you call a friend's house and a parent answers?

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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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