Things that I used to know

North Macedonia used to be the Republic of Macedonia

pay phoneAmong the things that I used to know were area codes. The phone rang; I see the unidentified caller and the number, starting with 513. And I tell my daughter, “It’s from Ohio.” And it was.

What’s no longer true, thanks to changes in telephony, is the area code limitations. It used to be that area codes in the United States and Canada, the middle digit had to be 0 or 1. And the last digit was never 0 except for the toll-free 800 calls.

So I can tell you that 205 is an area code in Alabama. Back in the second season of American Idol, Ruben Studdard had a 205 shirt. But I had no idea that the state now has 251, 256, 334, and 938.

If the fourth digit of a seven-digit number were 9, there was a good chance it was a payphone. Youngsters, you should go to a museum and see one of these contraptions.


I was pretty good with countries and capitals. But that’s pretty much limited to their configurations prior to about 1975. So if the country split in two, such as Czechoslovakia, I might know that Czechia’s capital is Prague and Slovakia’s is Bratislava.

But the former Yugoslavia or those Asian countries in the former Soviet Union, not so much. I can suss out the countries through convoluted mnemonics, but the capitals don’t stick to the mind.

(I did get this recent JEOPARDY clue watching the Tournament of Champions that none of the contestants answered. Category: 1921. “Alexander I became ruler of the kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes, which would soon be renamed this.”)


As I’ve noted, my father painted the solar system on the ceiling of my bedroom when I was a kid. I believe there were 12 moons for Jupiter, 9 for Saturn, 5 for Uranus, 2 for Neptune, and 1 for Pluto.

But now, we know Jupiter has 79, Saturn 82, Uranus 27, Neptune 12, and Pluto 5. At least Mars still has two, the Earth only 1, and none for Venus or Mercury.

And other stuff

Last I checked, there were 103 elements. Now, there are 118. Nihonium (element 113)? Flerovium (element 114)?If you insist.

While I can learn new stuff – I work on knowing the Cabinet members, e.g. – some changing facts remain beyond my grasp.

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

4 thoughts on “Things that I used to know”

  1. Roger, DAMN RIGHT about Bill Cosby! And I feel bad writing this, as he is (or was) a big jazz fan, friend of Miles (of course, Miles was not a stellar citizen either) and many other jazz guys. On a personal note, I didn’t realize your parents lived in Charlotte (I’ve been in the CLT area for 12 years now) – and I’m sorry they’re gone. My dad died in 1981, mom in 1993 – but they were both around 85 (I was adopted)….I miss them (and the Binghamton that was) very much. Are you going to the BCHS reunion in September? I’m not 100% sure that I can, due to health issues, but will try.

  2. Armen – I understand that you are a fine musician in your own right!
    My baby sister still lives down there. (My other sister, Leslie, lives in CA)
    I’m probably going to the reunion, in part because I need to go to Binghamton anyway for some genealogical research. Specifically, finding the record of my paternal grandmother taking legal action v. my biological grandfather, whose name I didn’t even know until about a year and a half ago.

  3. Yeah, I think Leslie and I are FaceBook friends. Thanks for the compliments about my music. Binghamton was an important part of my early musical training; not only did I play in orchestra, but I saw Miles Davis when I was 16 at Harpur (and I think Cecil Taylor) – and do you remember bassist Slam Stewart’s Sunday afternoon concerts (maybe at Roberson)? Binghamton had a thriving musical scene, with the Guarneri and Lennox Quartets as artists-in-residence. Even saw the Dead in 1973 or so at Harpur….

  4. I saw Slam Stewart at various venues in Binghamton, even have an unlabeled album of his on vinyl in this house, maybe put out by Sertoma(?). But the last time I saw him was at Saratoga Performing Arts Center in the late 1970s or early 1980s.

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