Blogs > Jim Collins' Editor's Notebook

Jim Collins is editor emeritus of The News-Herald and also serves as executive in residence at Lakeland Community College. His popular weekly column appears each Sunday in Comment in The News-Herald.

Friday, May 29, 2015

All types of music can inspire us

What I am doing at this moment can only be described as an act of human kindness, because I am doing a favor (I hope) for a friend.
I am preparing a care package. At least, it was known in the Big War as a care package. And by the way, be careful when you type that, because if you are a slipshod typist, as I tend to be from time to time, the words can come out “cafe package,” and that is not what I have in mind.
There is a big difference between care and cafe, and spell check on the computer doesn’t know the difference.
I am putting together a package of CDs to send to Don Miller of Eastlake. We are both music lovers and have exchanged jazz recordings many times.
The last one I sent him, by the McGill University Jazz Orchestra, he liked so much he said he had to play it twice, back-to-back, to really understand how good it is.
But we both love all kinds of music. And that includes pop and country music as well as jazz.
That is something of a mea culpa on my part, because there was a time, not many years ago, when I would have echoed the words of Buddy Rich, the greatest drummer the world has ever known.
He was receiving medical care, and was asked by a nurse: “Are you allergic to anything?”
He famously replied: “Yes. County music.”
I thought it was pretty funny at the time, and would have agreed with him — until I learned to listen to, really hear and appreciate country music.
My transformation came after my sister, Molly, her husband and their two sons, moved to Nashville more than 30 years ago and became involved in a style of music I have come to warm up to a lot.
Their whole family is immersed in country music in one way or another. Their older son, Colin, tours the country with a couple of very well-known, high-profile country bands. I have seen him twice at the House of Blues in Cleveland.
And Molly has worked for many years with Moraine Records, which has a lot of superstars under contract.
My four or five visits to Grand Ol’ Opry merely enhanced my appreciation of the art form.
Meanwhile, Don Miller sent me a couple of discs by Moe Bandy. This was country music at its best. Songs like, “She’s Not Really Cheatin’ (She’s Just Gettin’ Even).”
And, “Our Love Could Burn Atlanta Down Again.” And, “Hank and Lefty Raised My Country Soul.” They really hit the mark with me. Simply outstanding!
I called Molly and asked if she had heard of Moe Bandy, because I had not. Silly me. Of course she had. She knew everything there was to know about him. Naturally she would. Her knowledge of popular and country music is encyclopedic.
I recalled that she had once sent me a CD called “Moraine Country Gold.” It was a promotional CD, not for resale. I asked if she had another one I could send to Don Miller.
She replied with a mini-treasure trove of country music, plus a different volume of “Moraine Gold.”
There was also a CD by Tim Wilgers featuring five songs written by Mike Reid, who plays piano and was at one time one of the best defensive players in the National Football League with the Cincinnati Bengals.
There was a CD by an Irish artist, Gareth Dunlop, whom Moraine is working with.
Molly was kind enough to send me two copies of each CD, so I now have one to play in the car when the lady of the house and I are out for a ride, and one to send to Don.
He, by the way, is a retired business teacher at Willoughby South but is a graduate of the former Willoughby Union High, as I am.
I am still trying to determine if his sister, Patricia, knew Molly at either Union High or at Eastlake North, where Molly brought notoriety to the family when she became the first homecoming queen there.
That would have been the fall of 1957 – I think. But I digress.
There is some confusion in my mind about the two “Moraine Gold” recordings because one has two CDs and the other has one but both are called Volume 1.
Oh well, I am going to stop worrying about it and get on with my chore of assembling the care package.
If all goes well, Don may receive it before this piece appears in the paper. But I can’t guarantee he will get it before it is posted on the Internet, because I have no control over that.
Everywhere I go, people comment about something they read in this column three or four days before it was intended for publication on Sunday.
It is the age we live in, and is a sign of progress. And who can be against progress?
Certainly not I. I am a typist, not a philosopher.


Friday, May 22, 2015

Creating a new password provides unexpected fun

I may have misled you last week when I gave the impression that I know next to nothing about computers.
In point of fact, as the late Willoughby Councilman Don Prindle was so fond of saying, there is actually A LOT that I know about computers.
I shall attempt to summarize the vast storehouse of information I have on the subject. But first, I must share with you some knowledge on another topic which I find fascinating.
The subject is palindromes. I cited, as examples, Mom, Dad, Radar, and one I have always believed to be the mother of them all. Or the father, as the case may be.
That would be “Able Was I Ere I Saw Elba.”
I reprinted one that Bud Boylan of Lyndhurst sent me: “Go Hang a Salami; I’m a Lasagna Hog.”
But in the interregnum since that little exercise (I am still tired from it all), I received one in the mail from Joann Rogers of Waite Hill, and it is equally spectacular.
Get a load of this one: “A Man, A Plan, A Canal – Panama.” If that doesn’t tickle your fancy, then perhaps nothing will.
And if you don’t know the backwards and forwards of palindromes, then this conversation is probably lost on you, so we will return to our assigned topic today, and that is computers.
Sorry about the lengthy digression, but sometimes I cannot help myself. I know it is probably a mental condition, but at least I am not homicidal. That I know of.
Anyway, there is one phase of the computer business (sickness?) that I probably know more about than anyone in the world. At least, in the world that we inhabit. I don’t know about the other places because I have never been there and I have no plans at the moment to visit there.
Janet Podolak is probably familiar with those places because she has been EVERYWHERE, and I have not.
I have been to Europe only once in my lifetime, and that was a trip to Germany which I took in her place because she was already booked for that week. But I digress.
What I know so much about in the World of Computers is passwords. Everywhere I go, if I use a computer, I keep getting instructions: “Change your password.”
For some users, and I use the term in its most innocuous sense, that is a terrible burden, because they are unable to come up with new passwords.
Not me. I can think of new passwords quicker than you can say Jackie Robinson. They literally roll off my tongue.
Well, not literally, but you know what I mean.
The trick to a good password is one that cannot be hacked into by someone in Bombay or Rangoon, you know, a thief in the night who wants to get access to your bank account, or your credit cards, or worse yet, the list of girls you dated in high school who attended the former Andrews School for Girls.
I don’t know what a thief would do with that list, because they are somewhat long in the tooth by now, but you get the idea.
The “experts” tell us that anyone who uses a birthday, mother’s maiden name or anything that can be learned at the drop of a hat is, in a word, stupid.
And believe me, if you have ever dropped your hat, you know how painful that can be. Especially if you are still wearing it.
I invent passwords no one could ever figure out. For example: 14159265358979323846. That is pi to 20 places. Who knows that, other than I?
Here is another one a hacker would have trouble with: RA15355077.
That was Don Slagle’s service number when he was in the Army. He was a high school classmate, and I haven’t
seen him since. Why would I remember it? I have no idea. That is just the way my mind works.
(I won’t tell you my Army serial number because I use it myself from time to time in passwords.)
Here is one you might like to use: Bob19Bernie19.
Here’s another one I like: JimmyCaseyDoak37.
I could go on all day making up passwords, but there is no profit in it unless clients start paying me for them.
By the way, there are missing names in the above passwords, and I will fill them in for you, in case you haven’t figured them out.
They are, Feller, Kosar, Piersall, Stengel and Walker.
Those are some of my favorite people in sports, mainly because I like their numbers.
I also liked Jim Otto’s number because it was 00. If you say that is not really a number, keep in mind, I am the person (a true story) who made up the phone number for The News-Herald when it was changed 40 or so years ago.
When I came up with 951-0000, the general manager told me, “That’s not a real number.”
“Sure it is,” I said. “Just call up Ohio Bell. They’ll tell you it is.”
He did, and they did. And I rested my case, which needed the relaxation because I was getting a little tired.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Remembering what it was like before computers were invented

The Computer World is a place that is almost entirely foreign to me.
I can do a few of the basic things, for example, typing on a screen, which is what I am doing right now.
But that is the extent of my expertise. I can’t do much else, and that is a shame, because I cannot share in the joys of social media. It is all over my head.
Everything to do with electronics is over my head. It is not because of my IQ. I am quite satisfied with that. At least, I was happy with it at Fort Hood, Texas, because they told me at G-1 I was the smartest guy in the Army.
Or maybe it was in the barracks. I forget which.
Nevertheless, nothing goes right for me when I sit down at the computer. I am glad I am not a concert pianist. The wrong stuff would keep coming out.
If I tried to play a little Chopin, I would probably get something by Billy Strayhorn. And that’s not a bad idea, come to think of it. I can take a few bars of “Take the A Train” any time.
I have the use of a computer both places where I work, at Lakeland Community College and at The News-Herald. I am always having to ask people how to do things.
At the college, I ask the ladies who sit in the area outside my office for help. They are very nice ladies, but please, don’t ever call them “girls.” That is, in a word, offensive. Funny thing, they look like girls to me. But they are very patient with me. They explain things which I retain for a short time, but then it’s right back to the same old problems again.
It would be best if I would take notes, but real men don’t take notes. That is what I tell the lady of the house, but she believes I should relent a little bit in these matters, like in stores where I refuse to ask anyone where things are.
She is a great believer in asking for directions. My belief is, “I can find it myself.”
Oddly enough, when we are in a store looking for something, she always seems to find what we are looking for first.
She claims it is because she asks for directions and I don’t. I say it is just luck. Be that as it may, things work out for the best.
At the paper, I ask John Bertosa, the managing editor, for help. He not only understands the system, he is also within shouting distance, so when I holler, “Hey John, I need help,” he is one of the people who can hear me.
That is because newsrooms are so quiet nowadays. Carpeted and all that.
In the old days, the floors were wooden, reporters were hammering loudly on typewriters and a dozen or so teletype machines were bringing in news from all over the world.
They clacked away at a monotonous 88 words a minute, and when they were all clacking at the same time, it managed to drive a few people crazy.
I could name some of them, but their families might still be in the area, and would probably claim it was something other than the clacking that drove their loved ones nuts.
I have my own computer at home. It is a Dell. It never works right. I insist that my computer adviser/guru, Greg Patt, told me to buy it. He is equally as insistent that he told me to buy an Apple. I called him a couple months ago to come over and pick up my computer. Greg knows everything there is to know about computers.
I am glad he took it. It made room at the dinner table for one more person in case we had company.
He brought it back the other day. He said it was fixed. Hah! It may have been fixed when it was at his house, but now that it is home, it does not work so well any more.
He said he “cleaned it up.” I don’t recall getting it dirty. It is as slow, in the words of Grandma Sherman, as molasses in January.
Some of that may be Time Warner’s fault. Those folks brag about their speed. I did a little research on that matter, and found out they have five different speeds. The more you pay, the faster it gets.
I have the cheapest speed. They are not getting any more money out of me to speed up my computer. It’s just a shame they can’t increase the speed without jacking up the price.
Greg had a parting shot as he left. It is something he has told me many times in the past: Hang on to your computer only to copy CDs (which gives me an opportunity to share some straight ahead jazz with my friends) and get an ipad for emails and looking up stuff on Google, like college football scores.
Swell. Now I’ve got to learn to use another gadget.
Look, I do not have Facebook and I do not have Twitter and I do not do social networking on the computer.
Despite a hundred thousand people asking me to be their friend on the internet, I have never responded to any of them.
At heart I am a very friendly kind of a guy, but I do not believe in electronic friendship.
I respond to emails. Period. I understand that neither Thomas Edison nor Alexander Graham Bell ever owned a computer.
I respect their privacy – and their decisions to be left alone.

Friday, May 8, 2015

What is and is not politically correct?

I fully intended to be writing about something entirely different from what you are about to read.
I had a different topic in mind as I left the house Monday morning (an aside to Wayne Beck, that would be May 4) and I had been mulling it over much of the morning as I thought about sitting down at Robin Palmer’s computer at The News-Herald to a little composing.
Hey, if Beethoven could do a little composing when the mood struck him, why can’t I?
But I digress.
Monday morning, and throughout the lunch hour, I got so much response to the final thoughts expressed in this space last week that I felt compelled to have a few more things to say about political correctness.
The first half of last week’s column, about Andrews Osborne Academy and about Dan and Carol Fishwick, also got a thumbs up from everyone who had something to say about it.
But so many readers made unsolicited comments about the other subject, political correctness (PC), that I feel I must say a little more about it.
It was used here in the context of the opera that was rescheduled at South High in Willoughby because of an anonymous complaint that it violated the so-called “separation clause” of the First Amendment.
But the often-abused amendment says only that Congress shall not enact any laws to establish a religion in the United States.
The word “separation” exists only in the minds of people who have nothing better to worry about at a time when the Indians have lost more games than they have won this season.
Which brings us to baseball and further onslaughts against common sense in the name of PC.
I must point out that I love the Indians, and I have since 1936, when Grandpa Sherman used to take me to League Park in his stately Buick and pay residents who lived near Lexington and E. 66th Street 50 cents to park in a front yard so we could go to the ball game.
The Tribe is near and dear to my heart, and nothing will ever change that. But there are three things about them that drive me batty.
Maybe it is deliberate on the part of the team. Driving me batty, that is.
The first thing I hate about the Indians is the Sunday uniforms that have no names on the back. This is an extreme disservice to fans watching the game because there are only a handful of players who can be recognized by their appearance. There are so many new relief pitchers marching in from the bullpen that there is no way of knowing who they are solely by the numbers on their backs.
I have complained to team Vice President Bobby DiBiasio about this situation more times than I can count. But he is a company man, and defends the practice.
I even complained once to the owner, Paul Dolan, when he spoke at a meeting I attended, but he shrugged it off.
So they will be happy to hear that I have now decided to stop worrying about it.
The second thing that bugs me, which I attribute solely to PC, is the mindless manner in which Chief Wahoo is being phased out on the telecasts and being replaced by the Block C.
Yes, I know. Chief Wahoo is still around. He is on some of the baseball caps and sleeves of the players. But have you noticed what representation of the team adorns the clothing of the vast majority of fans at the games?
It is not the Block C. There may be some of them in the grandstand, but by far most of the symbols in evidence are of Chief Wahoo.
The voice of the people is clear. No matter what the team, the protesters and the PC people think, average folks really like Chief Wahoo – and always will.
Here is something a little more subtle. When Rick Manning and Matt Underwood, two outstanding analysts, by the way, show a replay, the TV screen dissolves and a Block C appears.
It used to be Chief Wahoo that appeared in that space. Now it is the Block C. Pay attention next time. You will see it. Not that there is anything you – or I – can do about it. It is a corporate decision that reeks with PC.
Here is the third and final thing that makes my skin crawl. Figuratively, of  course. My skin has never actually crawled since I was in third grade and I was out in the rain and my corduroy knickers got soaked.
It is the name of the place where the Indians play. Progressive Field. I am fully aware that it is the name of an insurance company which paid a handsome sum for the privilege.
But to me it reeks of politics. And it is not my brand of politics.
If you disagree, it is your First Amendment right to do so. So don’t bother telling me about it. You have a right to your opinion and I have mine.
Please respect mine. But when you are in my company, keep yours to yourself. I say that with all appropriate kindness and understanding of our differences.
But if you don’t mind too much, my brother and I will continue to call the place where they play “The Jake.”
We are not politically correct.