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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Giving Back at Williamsport Airport

This is a really nice small-city airport, with a coffee bar but no restaurant, and three TSA agents on the day shift to screen the 28 passengers who fit into the Piedmont Airlines/USAirways Express Canadair Dash-8 turboprop that appears to be the only plane scheduled to fly out of here until seven-something tonight.

Hence, the line at security was short, and the inspection was thorough.  As I went through security, the TSA agent pulled out my new tube of Crest toothpaste, which had come to Williamsport unquestioned in the same carry-on bag, declared it illegally big, and politely asked me to surrender it for immediate and official discarding.  Having no choice, I complied, put my shoes and coat back on, and found a seat in which to await boarding.

This will be my first homeward leg, a 45 minute jump to Philadelphia.  It was scheduled to leave at 12:38 PM, and I was supposed to catch a flight to Manchester with only a 42-minute connection in Philly. 

Then the weather delays started.  The plane will leave at 2:05.  No, fifteen minutes later, it becomes 3:27.  The US Airways agent has, thankfully, already re-booked me to Manchester on a 5:49 flight out of Philly, so I am cool.  Zen-like in my calm.

So, I am sitting here alone.  I reread last night's blog post, and crack up in laughter.  I call my brother Wally, tell him to read that "luncheon post," and he cracks up, which gets me going again, and we share a brotherly punch session.

So, I am the only passenger still inside the secure area.  The others have all gone out to get a bite at the coffee bar, or to visit the rest rooms, etc.  I am happily playing Facebook and blog games.  The TSA agent approaches.

"Sir, are you going to wait here for three hours?"

"Yes," I say, "That is my intention.  Why?"

He replies, "Because we have to stay in here as long as even one passenger is in the area."

I thought about leaving... but instead, I have eaten a Snickers bar for lunch, and kept on bloggin'.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

This Luncheon Conversation was a Problem

Just got back to my academic work in Pennsylvania after a delicious lunch at the student-run French restaurant in this technical college I am visiting.  It was a stuffed breast of chicken, with creole sauce and sauteed squash, zucchini, carrots and snow peas.

I confess that I might have enjoyed this gourmet lunch more if my visitation chairman had not chosen lunch time to describe, in graphic detail, his German shepherd's perianal fistula, and then go into further details on the treatment thereof.

Then, our third team member told a story about a computer simulation game wherein kids design amusement park rides.  He said, "Of course, they initially design the wildest roller coasters possible, with the result that the customers exiting the ride vomit all over the pavement. If the kid playing the game has not employed a clean-up crew, then no one else will go near the ride, and the kid loses the game."

Yep, I might have enjoyed that stuffed chicken with creole sauce far more.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Williamsport Whisky

Tonight is my first time in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, home of the Little League Hall of Fame, and of the Little League World Series, which is far mere deserving of that name than is the one in the majors.
Phil's was almost identical, but had its wheel pants removed because we flew it from Plymouth's grass strip. (Photo from Google Images)
But to me, Williamsport is where the O-360 Lycoming engine that powered N7968W ["November Seven Niner Siks Aight Whisky" to you air traffic controllers, Steve!] was built.  Back in the late 1970s, I logged many happy hours behind that reliable 180 HP air-cooled engine in Phil Tapply's Cherokee 180.

The Cherokee in the picture is a close sibling of Phil's bird.  Lycoming Manufacturing Company is still here in Williamsport, but the light plane market is not what it used to be, and I am told the company is much smaller than it was in its heyday.

P.S. Apparently my favorite bird, N7968W is alive and well, and sporting new pants and a fresh coat of paint. Visit to see her,

Friday, February 24, 2012

Habitat for Humanity Noncoincidence

I am at my Plymouth State University office.  I have just opened my University e-mail Inbox, and found the following message from Ms. Diane McDonald, whom I do not know:
I just brought up my website yesterday, (Diane C. McDonald) and thought I ought to check out in case it was something I didn't want friends to accidentally stumble upon.

Imagine my surprise when I saw that your website chronicles your travels in Romania, while mine is fundraising for a Habitat for Humanity trip to Romania.  

Just thought the coincidence was too good not to share.
And a good Scottish name to boot!

Diane McDonald
I have confirmed the authenticity of this project.  My donation to Diane's Romanian Habitat for Humanity project is already sent.  The link is at   I hope a few of my loyal readers will also be able to help.


Thursday, February 23, 2012

Near Miss

Mr. Kenneth Tarr died this week.  He was an amazing public servant.  A World War Two veteran of Patton's Third Army Tank Corps, he helped to relieve Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge.  Since the War, he had lived in New Hampshire, raising a large family, and among other jobs, serving as commandant of the Veteran's Home in Tilton for twenty years.  Yesterday afternoon, we of the NHPGR stood a flag line in his honor at a Concord funeral home, as his friends and family paid respects during calling hours.  We came in cages (cars), as February is hardly a motorcycling month in New Hampshire. 

Coming home last evening from that PGR mission on I-93, in "cruise" at about 70 MPH, I awoke to see the butt end of a truckload of logs directly in front of my windshield. I swerved left. The Santa Fe pulled a Klaus, and held the road without turning over, even though I had crossed the left lane onto the median shoulder, had heard the rumble strip, and had swerved back into the left lane. Thanks, God! Now, what hast Thou  preserved me for?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Angels and Arm Pains

On the long drive home from West Palm Beach in January, a straight-through marathon of some 1500 miles and 26 hours that Valer and I drove while Shirl rode along sleeping, I heard the singing of Christmas carols in the sound of the tires.  I listened in my head to beautiful multi-part harmonies to "Angels We Have Heard on High," over and over for miles on end, much like the linked version, and other Christmas songs, as well.  I sometimes sang along.  I told Vali and Shirl about it.  "I am hearing the music of the spheres," I said.  "The voices of angels."

Then, while driving I had a couple of hours of upper arm pain. It was in my left arm, and it was an ache from my shoulder to my elbow, not a sharp pain, but deep, and persistent.

In late January I had a regular appointment with my endocrinologist (diabetes specialist), Dr. John Turco of Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, New Hampshire.  When he asked about any new symptoms, I mentioned that arm pain to Dr. T., who replied, "You can expect a call from your primary physician.  You are a 68 year-old diabetic with left arm pain, so you have heart disease, until proven otherwise."

I gave the good doctor a wry grin.  "I see," I said. "Fair enough."

So, that same day at noontime, the local clinic where Dr. Alan Rosen, my primary care doctor works, called and told me to come in by 2:00 PM.  Dr. Rosen had a resting EKG done in the office, which he said showed no change from my last one of two years ago, then scheduled me for a "stress echo" test at Speare Memorial Hospital in Plymouth.

Hence, last week I ran on the hospital's treadmill until my heart rate had doubled, then flopped onto my side to be scanned.  (Have to admit, lying on my side having my chest stroked by a buxom nurse was not all bad.  And when I made a remark to that effect, she said, "Yes, I tell my husband that I spend every workday in bed with strange men."  I loved her style!)

The results of the test came recently by mail, following their reading at Catholic Medical Center in Manchester, NH's premier cardiac hospital.  Contrary to some reports, I do have a heart, and thankfully, it shows no signs of coronary artery disease.  The arm pain is still unexplained, but neither has it returned.

Maybe it just didn't like my singing.

Friday, February 17, 2012

I Love Cluj and ProTV

Andre MUTU, Founder of Facebook's "I Love Cluj"
I went to the office today expecting to spend the morning productively.  There is always plenty of work to do, and this morning it was to be ACBSP work, reading the voluminous self-study of a university business school seeking accreditation, and preparing to lead a visiting team to the school's campus in March to assess their readiness for accredited status.  But then my Facebook messenger lit up, and Andrei MUTU (above) of UBB-Cluj came online.

Dl. MUTU Andrei is the creator/owner of the beautiful FB site, "I Love Cluj."  The photos on his site have been contributed by hundreds (if not thousands) of us who share his feelings for the amazing city of Cluj-Napoca, Heart of Transilvania, Romania.

Andrei said to me in FB-chat, "ProTV is wanting to interview someone from outside the county [sic].  Can you do a one-minute Skype interview today?"  As it happened, I could, though I had neither Skype nor a camcorder in my office.  To do so I had to leave my office, drive to the Inn where Visiting Prof. Alexandra MuĊ£iu is living, borrow her PC, and log into Skype from her Inn's parlor.  I had 20 minutes to do all this.  Then, when I did make Skype contact with Domnisoara Loredana Danciu of ProTV, she could see and hear me, but I could not see or hear her.  And, she told me, via Skype's SMS Chat, that she would be on the air in 5 minutes.

Though Loredana never did solve her microphone problem, I looked into the camera, told the truth about my feelings for Cluj, for Romania, and for the I Love Cluj page in Facebook.  Loredana seemed satisfied, and thanked me in the Skype Chat box.  I replied, "Cu placere!" 

So, dear reader, if you are in Romania and saw me on TV today, now you know how I got there!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Son of a ------ ------?

Dugald Stewart McDougall, 1916-2007
Before you read further today, please Google Dugald S. McDougall and check out the Barnes & Noble page that appears.  Dugald (Mac) was my Dad.

Done it?

That's right, Mac was a patent lawyer.  I owe my education and at least half my brain to a man who argued intellectual property law cases before the U.S. Supreme Court.  So, to honor Mac's life and  memory, I now must state that I understand the need to curb the counterfeiting and theft of American artists' works, of American companies' trademarks, and of intellectual property protected by patents, trademarks and copyrights, globally.    I do not know if all of the provisions of ACTA are wise and fair, but clearly, something must be done.

And, dear Romanian friends, you know damned well that you are in that piracy game up to your eyeballs.  So, while I loved the RObotzi diatribe against ACTA, I do not on principle oppose the treaty's intent.

The answer to the dilemma of Internet freedom and legitimate monopoly rights of authors, artists, publishers and producers may lie in an I-Tunes approach.  Make the cost of legal access so trivial to the individuals wishing to access a movie or song that they are ashamed to pirate it in order to save so little money.  In our six-to-seven billion-person globe, the revenues to the producers of a film would be handsome, indeed, if people paid even a dollar each to view it.  But clearly, their ability to steal it and disseminate it to untold numbers of their Internet acquaintences without paying anything to those who spent millions producing it is unfair, and has the potential to dampen the enthusiasm of the artists and producers, and thus to stifle creative progress.

Should governments have a right to search secretly the contents of all computers that pass through airports, and to destroy or to confiscate those found to contain pirated files?  No.  That is an invasion of privacy.  Should those who sell for profit pirated or counterfeit trademarked or patented goods and/or pirated art or computer files be prosecuted, and their businesses fined heavily?  Absolutely.

I will take my steer on this from Mac, himself.  Back in DOS days, he and I used to share 3-1/2 inch floppy disks of such programs as Winchester Basic, or PCTools.  Mac's view was that while doing so was technically a violation of the copyrights, "Don't lose sleep over it, son.  Since we are not using these to make money, no one will come after us for it." 

Somewhere there is a rule of reason in these matters.  I hope that it can be found and applied, without destroying the free (and freeing) power of the Internet.

Dear Daddy Mac, our Pater familias, you who made us all take Latin, Requiescat in Pace!

Friday, February 10, 2012

RObotzi Tell Us Internet Freedom is About to End! Prepare to Mourn.

I was sent this link in Facebook.  Romanians roll on the floor when they watch the RObotzi.  This special is a diversion from the cartoon series.

Translation provided by PR professional Raluca TARCEA din Cluj-Napoca.  (Thanks, Ralu!):
"We are sorry but we interrupt this program because big corporations cannot adapt their business to the Internet and so they do everything they can to control it. We will now talk about ACTA – what it is and why it is so important to be against it.  ACTA – or Anti Counterfeiting Trade Agreement - is a legislative initiative whose purpose is to create standards unanimously accepted at international level , regarding protecting intellectual properties. It was first signed on October 1st 2011 by Australia, Canada, Japan, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and USA. 
Long story short, through ACTA, the signing countries wish to stop the production of counterfeit goods, generic meds and the distribution of pirated materials on the Internet. Sounds relatively innocent, they are just producers of different content, who want to protect their…content. Well, the situation is not so…bright (they say ‘pink’).  Behind positive intentions there is a desperate need to control the flow of free information on the Internet, who will soon be restricted and punished through different sanctions. There are already other laws who protect the copyright but for them it is not enough as long as they cannot benefit enough from those laws. If this treaty passes in the summer of this year, the Internet as we know it today will disappear forever. Let’s see how this affects you.
First, all the Internet providers, yes the little people from whom you have the Internet connection, are forced to play bad cop when it comes to their clients – that is, to watch and report everything you do on the Internet. To save all the websites you follow and all the files you share, in order to find out any trace of pirating. If you get caught, you either lose access to Internet, or you get sued for amounts of hundreds of thousand of dollars and up to 5 years of jail time. Yes, 5 years of jail for a bloody mp3 file. Apart from that, if you film yourself at a party, and in the background there is a song playing, and you drink, say…3 beers in 2 minutes and then show off by uploading the video on Youtube, you risk the same punishments – huge fines and years of jail for using that background music for which you do not have copyright rights.
Funny…Yes? But sanctions go even further than that. If you have pirated materials on your laptop, phone, tablets or any other device, when you are at an airport or a border, according to ACTA, the authorities have the right to check the content of that device and if they find anything wrong, they can destroy or seize that device and you end up paying a nice and shiny fine. And one more thing. As we all know, the Internet is a place where you can express your opinion about a political party or policy, right? Well, NO. If ACTA gets approved,  we can say goodbye to anti-governmental protests and videos in which citizens all over the world blow the whistle against political fraud or corrupt politicians. And that is because ACTA puts the power in the hands of political organizations – a power that allows them to silence this kinds of initiatives. With ACTA, we can say goodbye to websites like YouTube, Vimeo, Twitter or Facebook and all the rights we enjoyed so far on the Internet, out of which, the most important: the right to freedom. In January 2012, member states of EU have signed this treaty, making the number of signing countries reach 31. Representatives of Romania signed the treaty without bringing it to public attention.  Romanians were not informed about this decision. It all happened in silence, far from the public and press. 

Actually, before it leaked out, all talks regarding ACTA, starting with 2008, were done behind closed doors. Nobody asked the opinion of Internet users – our opinion, who ARE the Internet. The final decision regarding the implementation of ACTA belongs to the European Parliament, the ratification of this treaty will be happening in the month of June of this year. In Poland, over 10,000 young people went out on the streets protesting about their government signing the treaty. All over the world protests are happening against this treaty: signing petitions, publishing articles, blogs, images, anti-ACTA videos posted on social networks. Each of us can and must do something. Inform your friends, let’s fight together for our Internet."

Monday, February 6, 2012

First Movie: "Check Your Oil"

Jesse and Cally are back in New England, at Cally's parents' home in Gloucester, Massachusetts.  But. their trip took a bit longer than planned, and they arrived in a U-Haul truck, towing their car.

As they were going to be staying in Colorado for a bit over a full month, they'd driven the 2000+ miles out west from Vermont in their Suburu Impresa.  Bought used a couple of years ago, it has been a reliable car for them.  But, it lost power and they had to pull off the road as they were passing north of Fort Wayne, Indiana, on I-80/90, on their way home.  (See Jesse's video, above.)  The first suspicion was a broken timing belt.  But Jesse said he had replaced that belt less than a year ago.  They found a shop in Fort Wayne that would diagnose the problem on the weekend.  Ouch.  No oil in the crankcase, and hence a dead engine, for sure.

When I heard Jesse's sad lament, "Terminal stupidity, Dad.  I failed to check the oil," I had to smile.  Jesse (and all our kids) have made numerous road trips with their motorhead father, in cars and on bikes.  If they've learned anything by example, it is that checking the oil at every gasoline stop is a religious ritual.  That is one of the ways I have kept my motley collection of old iron running so well.