No. 99

Miami Heat center Shaquille O’Neal has offered to pay for the funeral services for George Mikan, who died Wednesday. I was very pleased by this.

George who?

George Mikan was, by all accounts, the first truly dominant basketball player. Because of him, they widened the paint (the area under the basket), so he couldn’t just stop everything. The goaltending rule (blocking a shot after it begins its downward arc) was created because of the 6’10” Mikan, as was the institution of the shot clock.

Mikan was named best player in the first half century, and one of the 50 greatest of all time, according to people who select these things.

Mikan was the first great Laker center, back when the team was in Minneapolis. (The Lakers were named for Minnesota’s 10,000 lakes. The “Los Angeles” Lakers makes as much sense as the Utah Jazz, who USED to play in New Orleans.) Shaq was the last great Laker center, after the late Wilt Chamberlain, who used to clog the lane like Mikan, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, whose sky hook was similar to Mikan’s hook shot.

I liked that Shaq is offering to care of the Mikan family because it shows his sense of history, and because it shows that he recognizes the disparity of the kind of money players were making then as opposed to the current pay scale. The Mikan family was struggling financially with George’s illness and a pension plan for old-timers a pittance compared to what later players would receive.

As Shaq said, “Without No. 99 (Mikan’s number), there is no me.”

Save our bus route!

May 30, 2005

Dear Capital District Transportation Authority:

I was extremely interested to read the story in last Tuesday’s Times Union, “Complaints stall CDTA plan.” When I heard of the plans for the changes, I was quite disappointed, but assumed that the decisions were final. I was pleased, therefore, to discover that you have at least delayed the proposed route changes.

I never knew of the petition signed by people protesting the proposed changes on the route, but certainly would have signed it had I known.

I am not a current rider of that bus. However, our daughter is going to day care starting in September. Part of the decision for selecting that specific facility (and subsequently putting down a deposit to secure a slot) was its easy access by the bus from our house. The new schedule would have meant an extra couple block walk, which would have been OK in the good weather, but problematic in the winter and in inclement weather. The new times were also less desirable.

Thank you for reconsidering this matter.

Sincerely, Roger Green – posted to www.rogerowengreen.blogspot.com on 6/3/05

I write this, not so much to mention this fairly parochial matter from my point of view, but to remind me, and perhaps remind you, that sometimes you can fight City Hall (or at least the bus company.)

There’s a lozenge for that

W. Mark Felt? What a disappointment.

If you were of a certain age (and a certain political persuasion), you might have spent hours trying to figure out just who was Deep Throat, Bob Woodward’s secret source during the investigation of the Watergate scandal during the Nixon administration. The existence of DT came out in Woodward and Carl Bernstein’s best-selling book “All The President’s Men.” In the hit movie based on the book, Hal Holbrook played the mysterious character.

Felt, who was second-in-command at the FBI in the early 1970s, was on the short list of most Watergate observers. According to a Vanity Fair article, Felt felt that disclosures about his past somehow dishonorable, but at the age of 91 found it desirable to clear the air, if only for his family’s sake. Conversely, his family believes he should receive praise for his role in exposing the Watergate scandal before he dies.
There were always a number of people suspected of being the background informant for the reporter: Assistant Attorney General Henry Peterson, deputy White House counsel Fred Fielding, White House press officer Diane Sawyer (yes, the one now on ABC News), Nixon press secretary Ron Zeigler, White House aide Steven Bull, speechwriters Ray Price and Pat Buchanan, White House counsel John Dean, FBI director L. Patrick Gray, Nixon advisor Alexander Haig, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and even former U.N. ambassador (and later president) George H. W. Bush.
I never believed it was Zeigler (too loyal), Buchanan (too verbose) or Dean (too obvious). Haig, Kissinger and Bush weren’t on my consideration list, either. Gray probably had the most to gain, being squeezed out of power by Nixon’s loyalists. My pick, though, was none of these. It was current Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist, who was Assistant Attorney General in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel. The increased recent interest in Deep Throat, Woodward’s renewed promise to reveal the source only after DT’s death, and Rehnquist’s failing health obviously led me in the wrong direction. Glad I didn’t have money on it.

But pardon my political naiveté: I had no idea that there would be a debate 30 years after the fact over the propriety of the leaks – “Was it criminal?” I read recently. Clearly, Felt was a reluctant hero, but a hero nonetheless. What were his options? Tell Attorney General John Mitchell? A criminal. How about White House Chief of Staff H. R. “Bob” Haldeman? Also, a criminal. So the chief law enforcement person for the country, and the head political operative, not to mention their many minions, could not be trusted. And President Nixon himself? My favorite Watergate term: “unindicted co-conspirator.” I believe Mark Felt did the right thing, and I hope he lives out his remaining years in peace.

Boomers weep

I get this e-mail from Lenny Gaines from Empire State Development, forwarding this Census report. He says: “For all you baby-boomers out there…. Seems like we’re no longer the largest school-age cohort.

“This report contains only national data.”

Yeah, yeah, whatever…

This is the kind of e-mail I get all of the time. I eat this stuff UP. It’s a disease, I know. Alas, no known cure.

I promise to NOT subject you to this stuff TOO often.

School Enrollment Surpasses 1970 Baby-Boom Crest,
Census Bureau Reports

The number of students enrolled in elementary and high school in 2003 – 49.5 million – surpassed the previous all-time high of 48.7 million set in 1970 when baby-boomers were of school-age, the U.S. Census Bureau reported today.

After peaking in 1970, total elementary and high school enrollment fell during the 1970s and early 1980s. The enrollment increase of children of baby-boomers is expected to decline slightly between 2005 and 2010. This is due to a small decline in annual births from 1990 to 1997.

In 2003, 75 million people – more than one-fourth of the U.S. population age 3 and older – were in school throughout the country, according to School Enrollment – Social and Economic Characteristics of Students: October 2003. Nine million children, age 3 and older, were enrolled in nursery school and kindergarten, 33 million in elementary school and 17 million in high school. There were nearly 17 million college students.

In addition to an increase in births during the late 1980s, immigration also contributed to the growth of the student population in elementary and high schools. In 2003, more than 1-in-5 students had at least one foreign-born parent.

Other highlights:

— Nursery school enrollment has increased dramatically, from about one-half million in 1964 to about 5 million in 2003, an increase from about 6 percent to about 60 percent of children ages 3 and 4.

— The vast majority of 5-year-olds (92 percent) were enrolled in school in 2003, likely reflecting the availability of public kindergarten in most states. During the past three decades, the share of children this age attending all-day kindergarten increased, from 1-in-5 in 1973 to more than 3-in-5 in 2003.

— Elementary and high school students today are more diverse than the baby-boom generation of students.
In 1970, the student population was 79 percent non-Hispanic white, 14 percent black, 1 percent Asian and Pacific islander and other races and 6 percent Hispanic. In 2003, 60 percent were non-Hispanic white, 16 percent black, 4 percent Asian and 18 percent Hispanic. (Data by race for 2003 refer to the single-race population, and Hispanics may be of any race.)

— The high school dropout rate of 3.8 percent in 2003 was not significantly different from the 3.3 percent rate in 2002, but was lower than the 4.7 percent rate in 2001.

— In fall 2003, 46 percent of high school graduates ages 18 to 24 years old were enrolled in college. College enrollment, totaling 16.6 million students, was up from 14.4 million a decade earlier.

— In 2003, 1-in-3 of the nation’s 13 million undergraduate college students was attending a two-year educational institution.

The data are from the October 2003 Current Population Survey. As in all surveys, the data are subject to sampling variability and other sources of error.

Editor’s Note: The report can be accessed here

"What have you learned, Dorothy?"

This month:

I’ve learned that this blogging thing can be very addicting. I’ve learned when I don’t have Internet access to posting, I get quite verklempt.

I’ve learned that creating an outline of what I want to address on specific dates is a double-edged sword. I can have a piece done two weeks early for one date (but inevitably, I always tweak it one more time), or I can have nothing planned for the next day and hope for divine inspiration. I KNOW (I believe) what I’m going to write about for 7 of the 8 days between June 14 and June 21, and also July 10, August 10, and August 28, but not for June 3.

I’ve learned that I can prepare something for a date, then bump it for something that’s more urgent, or intriguing, or whimsical. (I’ve bumped one completed piece thrice, another twice.)

I’ve learned that a kernel of an idea can lead to a (less than satisfying) one paragraph, or it can surprise me by expanding into directions I didn’t expect. (The May 20 Gilmore Girls was one of the latter – that piece, BTW, bumped a completed piece.)

I’ve learned that I don’t know what it means when one sister writes about my blog, “INTERESTING” in 24-point type.

I’ve learned that my story on Lydia’s name (May 22) was probably the most popular piece of the month. It hit some sort of universal nerve. Lydia, BTW, is all well now (May 7).

I’ve learned that there are actually people who want to read about the JEOPARDY! and FantaCo stories. One must accede to the public in these matters.

I’ve learned that Comic Book Galaxy has a link to my blog.

I’ve learned that when someone tells me that Greenland is part of Europe, I have to check to prove that, in fact, Greenland is part of North America, it is, it is, just as I thought. (Actually, I’ve known for a long time that I have the “need to know” -it’s a librarian disease.)

I’ve learned that the new Stevie Wonder CD (May 13 entry) is apparently delayed until this month, but that my wife will get it for me for our anniversary when it comes out.

(And speaking of my wife’s and my anniversary, I wrote in my May 15 entry about the NC pastor who had forced out the Kerry-supporting parishioners. Well, the pastor in my parallel story is still there, and I’ve learned that he is expected to be there for another three years.
The Pastor Parish Relations Committee chair in that story received a rude awakening. When she retired from her career job, she served as secretary of the church. She was astonished to find that the pastor, who she considered a friend, would treat her as badly as he had done with previous secretaries. I learned that she moved to Florida.
And the Hispanic pastor who had been booted out was embraced by the Troy Conference of the United Methodist Church, and is most definitely in a better place.)

I’ve learned that it’s interesting to me to keep up with Methodist stuff. It’s like being an expatriate in the United States who becomes a citizen, but still keeps up with the goings-on in the old country.

I’ve learned that when I listen to some mixed Hembeck mixed tape, there’s invariably a song with which I’m not that familiar, but that seems to be appropriate for my state of mind.

The more we learn, the less we believe to be true.
The more we prove, the more remains to be proved.
We’ve gotta be strong men and follow a path again.

We’ve got to have faith in something bigger,
Faith in something bigger,
Faith in something big inside ourself, inside ourself.

I own The Who’s Odds and Sods on vinyl, but I’ve learned that I can hear an old song for the first time. I’ve learned that I can ignore bad grammar in pop songs…sometimes.

I’ve learned that the hardest part of these pieces is the ending.