SCRAPS FROM THE
These are excerpts from a regular column in The Vector an informal,
unofficial, and unheralded publication I edited during my years
teaching at Lock Haven University. In response to overwhelming
demand (a couple of people at least) these are being archived here
for those strange people who enjoy wallowing in nostalgia.
Some of the references to then-current events may be puzzling, but
feel free to skip them, or relate them to more recent events of similar
nature (which can always be found). References to internal politics
at Lock Haven University may be easily transferred to situations at other
academic institutions. A few explanatory comments have been added in
Number 20, 1991
Just when you thought it was safe to
pick up your mail, here's another Vector.
Actually, we space the issues in response to
reader response. When the frequency of
"Where's the Vector?" queries rises to several
a month, we seriously consider sorting
through the accumulated debris to see if
there's enough to fill an issue.
We call this section "scraps" because it
consists of random and unorganized bits
stimulated by items your editor has read or
heard. Inspiration can be found in strange
This item caught our eye in Windows
Shopping, A catalog of products for Microsoft
Windows, c. 1990 by Microsoft Corporation.
It's from an advertisement for Micrografix
Graph Plus, a tool for preparing graphs and
charts for computer presentations.
In today's world, the first step to
success is often just getting noticed.
Which is no small affair when you
consider that all it takes to produce a
professional presentation these days is a
Apparently you don't need solid facts or
good ideas, just a personal computer! You
don't even need to be able to construct
The typographical error is a
slippery thing and sly;
You can hunt until you're dizzy,
but it some how gets by.
Till the forms are off the press,
it is strange how still it keeps;
It shrinks into a corner and it
never stirs or peeps.
The typographical error, too
small for human eyes,
Till the ink is on the paper, when
it grows to mountain size.
The boss he stares with horror,
then he grabs his hair and groans;
The proofreader drops his head
upon his hands and moans.
The remainder of the issue may
be clean as clean can be,
But the typographical error is
the only thing you see.
From a report by weatherman Tom Casey
on WNEP-TV, Altoona, PA, Feb 23, 1991: "At
least it's Friday. Did you realize that on the
Celsius scale it's only Tuesday?"
I often tell physics students to concentrate on general
and important ideas, and not to waste effort on trivial non-essentials.
The same is true in other fields as well.
The January, 1990 issue of Classical
magazine had a number of articles paying
tribute to Vladimir Horowitz (1903-1989), one
of the greatest classical pianists of recent
history. John Pfeiffer relates that Horowitz
received a letter from Paul Muni, saying that
he, as an actor, could "never create the
electricity you do on the '88s."
Horowitz was puzzled by the reference.
"I don't understand ... I thought the 88
was an automobile." Horowitz's daughter
said "Maybe that's the number of keys on
the piano. How many are there, Papa?"
Horowitz responded, "I don't know. I never
Horowitz had been playing the piano
daily, practicing and performing before
audiences for most of his life, and honestly
didn't know how many keys a piano had.
That fact wasn't important to his playing.
Some trivia buffs know the number of keys
on a piano immediately, but they can't play
the piano as well as Horowitz.
[Note, 2007. How much of education is of this trival sort? In grade school we had to learn how many planets were in the solar system, and how many moons Jupiter had. Now that Pluto is no longer classed as a planet we have to reprogram our brains. No wonder students think that much formal education is a waste of time.]
We've mentioned Oral Roberts in this
journal before, usually with bemused
contempt for him and for those who take him
seriously. At his Tulsa, Oklahoma,
headquarters there's a huge sculptured
version of Durer's "Praying Hands" drawing.
You see small versions of this in gift shops
everywhere, so ubiquitous that they are
considered religious kitsch. Oral Roberts
likes his kitsch on a large scale, so his
version is over 25 feet high.
Vector reader Phil Klass tells us that
recently there was a mild earthquake in
Oklahoma, which toppled the two huge
hands, leaving them lying flat on the ground.
A contractor was called in to determine how
to restore the hands to their upright position.
"This will be a difficult job," he said. "Those
hands are so big and heavy that we'll have to
bring in huge cranes to hoist them back up
again. It will cost a bundle."
A skeptical sidewalk superintendent was
watching. He stepped forward and said,
"There's an easier way. I can raise up those
hands for a lot less. I'll do it for a quarter."
He reached in his pocket and brought
out a quarter. He tossed it high in the air
between the fallen hands, and lo!, the huge
hands sprang upright, capturing the quarter
This little miracle tale is already part of
the Oral tradition.
Rummaging through items which ought
to have gone into this column years ago I ran
June 1987, TV report: A Texas
farmer commenting on onion crop damage from wet weather:
"A disaster never comes at a good time." Another
farmer interviewed said, "We'll recover
from this, but it takes all the fun out of
it." At least they weren't crying over the
The children of a prominent family
decided to put together a book of their family
history. They wanted a thoroughly professional
job, so they hired an experienced
biographer to research and write it. They
warned him there'd be one problemUncle
Willie, the black sheep of the family, who
had gone to the electric chair for murder.
The biographer assured them that he
could get around that difficulty with a little
creative writing: "I'll just say that Uncle
Willie occupied a chair of applied electricity
at one of our leading government institutions.
He was attached to his position by the
strongest of bonds. His death came as a
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