The Dagley Dagley Daily  

By Janet Dagley Dagley
Covering the world from the waterfront in Hoboken, New Jersey, USA

ISSN 1544-9114

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The Dagley Dagley Daily

01/26/2003 - 02/02/2003 02/16/2003 - 02/23/2003 02/23/2003 - 03/02/2003 03/02/2003 - 03/09/2003 03/09/2003 - 03/16/2003 03/16/2003 - 03/23/2003 03/23/2003 - 03/30/2003 03/30/2003 - 04/06/2003 04/06/2003 - 04/13/2003 04/13/2003 - 04/20/2003 04/20/2003 - 04/27/2003 04/27/2003 - 05/04/2003 05/04/2003 - 05/11/2003 05/11/2003 - 05/18/2003 05/18/2003 - 05/25/2003 05/25/2003 - 06/01/2003 06/01/2003 - 06/08/2003 06/08/2003 - 06/15/2003 06/15/2003 - 06/22/2003 06/22/2003 - 06/29/2003 06/29/2003 - 07/06/2003 07/06/2003 - 07/13/2003 07/13/2003 - 07/20/2003 07/20/2003 - 07/27/2003 07/27/2003 - 08/03/2003 08/03/2003 - 08/10/2003 08/17/2003 - 08/24/2003 08/24/2003 - 08/31/2003 08/31/2003 - 09/07/2003 09/07/2003 - 09/14/2003 09/14/2003 - 09/21/2003 09/21/2003 - 09/28/2003 09/28/2003 - 10/05/2003 10/05/2003 - 10/12/2003 10/12/2003 - 10/19/2003 10/19/2003 - 10/26/2003 10/26/2003 - 11/02/2003 11/02/2003 - 11/09/2003 11/09/2003 - 11/16/2003 11/16/2003 - 11/23/2003 11/23/2003 - 11/30/2003 11/30/2003 - 12/07/2003 12/07/2003 - 12/14/2003 12/14/2003 - 12/21/2003 12/21/2003 - 12/28/2003 12/28/2003 - 01/04/2004 01/04/2004 - 01/11/2004 01/11/2004 - 01/18/2004 01/18/2004 - 01/25/2004 01/25/2004 - 02/01/2004 02/01/2004 - 02/08/2004 02/08/2004 - 02/15/2004 02/15/2004 - 02/22/2004 02/22/2004 - 02/29/2004 02/29/2004 - 03/07/2004 03/07/2004 - 03/14/2004 03/14/2004 - 03/21/2004 03/21/2004 - 03/28/2004 03/28/2004 - 04/04/2004 04/04/2004 - 04/11/2004 04/11/2004 - 04/18/2004 04/18/2004 - 04/25/2004 04/25/2004 - 05/02/2004 05/02/2004 - 05/09/2004 05/09/2004 - 05/16/2004 05/16/2004 - 05/23/2004 05/23/2004 - 05/30/2004 05/30/2004 - 06/06/2004 06/06/2004 - 06/13/2004 06/13/2004 - 06/20/2004 06/20/2004 - 06/27/2004 07/04/2004 - 07/11/2004 07/11/2004 - 07/18/2004 07/18/2004 - 07/25/2004 07/25/2004 - 08/01/2004 08/01/2004 - 08/08/2004 08/08/2004 - 08/15/2004 08/15/2004 - 08/22/2004 08/22/2004 - 08/29/2004 08/29/2004 - 09/05/2004 09/05/2004 - 09/12/2004 09/12/2004 - 09/19/2004 09/19/2004 - 09/26/2004 09/26/2004 - 10/03/2004 10/03/2004 - 10/10/2004 10/10/2004 - 10/17/2004 10/17/2004 - 10/24/2004 10/24/2004 - 10/31/2004 10/31/2004 - 11/07/2004 11/07/2004 - 11/14/2004 11/14/2004 - 11/21/2004 11/21/2004 - 11/28/2004 11/28/2004 - 12/05/2004 12/05/2004 - 12/12/2004 12/12/2004 - 12/19/2004 12/19/2004 - 12/26/2004 12/26/2004 - 01/02/2005 01/02/2005 - 01/09/2005 01/09/2005 - 01/16/2005 01/16/2005 - 01/23/2005 01/23/2005 - 01/30/2005 01/30/2005 - 02/06/2005 02/06/2005 - 02/13/2005 02/13/2005 - 02/20/2005 02/20/2005 - 02/27/2005 03/20/2005 - 03/27/2005 07/02/2006 - 07/09/2006

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Photo by Michael Dagley
Meet Bidshika, whose name I have probably misspelled — it’s in Romany, and I can’t spell very well in that language. Bidshika is one of the fish who live here with us, Malawi cichlids, said to be the most rapidly evolving species on earth, but nobody can be completely sure about that. If we ever get our webcam working, we’ll turn it into a fishcam now and then so you can see them in action.

To air is human

After taking some time off from radio to serve as Editor of AIRSPACE, journal of the Association of Independents in Radio , I’ll be returning to the air for about five minutes on Sunday, February 23, at approximately 10:30 a.m. Eastern U.S. time on WYSO in Yellow Springs (Dayton), Ohio, 91.3 on the FM dial, or streaming online here.
I’ll be doing an audio adaptation of my tribute to philanthropist Virginia Kettering, posted here on February 19 (scroll down to see it). She died Monday at the age of 95.

George Washington slept here (on occasion)

This date used to be a national holiday. It falls on Saturday this year, reminding us of why it’s not a national holiday anymore: what’s the point of a holiday if you’ve already got the day off? Of course, in consolidating George Washington’s birthday and Abraham Lincoln’s birthday into a hybrid, Presidents Day, we ended up with a net loss of one holiday, but at least the current holiday always occurs on a Monday, thus ensuring a three-day weekend for most.

In school I always took a particular interest in our nation’s first president, since both my father and grandfather share that name, along with, of course, George Washington Carver, whose biography I read (for the same reason) after I’d already gone through everything the school library had on the Father of Our Country.

He had no children of his own, which is probably just as well considering the responsibility he took on. He did, however, serve as a father to his wife Martha’s two surviving children, the other two having died before the age of 4.

They say George Washington was a frequent visitor to Hoboken: In the early days, as you may recall, New York was the capital of the newborn nation. Many of the leading politicians of the day had summer homes on this side of the Hudson. Washington was a member of something called the Turtle Club, which met in Hoboken near the Elysian Fields, a Revolutionary-War-era resort on the waterfront where the (alleged) first baseball game was played in 1846, four years after Charles Dickens visited Hoboken and presumably slept here as well.

Now they’d have a dickens of a time finding a place to sleep in Hoboken, since we have no hotels. The old ones have gone out of business, construction on the new one has just begun, and the city planning authorities refused to allow a midtown restaurant to convert its upstairs into a bed and breakfast because some of the neighbors thought it would encourage weekend partiers to stay here until dawn now and then.

My favorite biography of George Washington, by far, is the work of James Thomas Flexner, who died Feb. 13 at the age of 95; Here's his obituary in The New York Times.
You may have to register to read it. It’s free.

Even if you don’t have the time or the interest to read all four volumes of Flexner’s Washington biographies, or any of his other 26 books, I urge you to put one of his books, Washington: The Indispensible Man on your to-read list. Excellent work. They say Flexner was frustrated all his life because despite his accomplishments in nonfiction, he could never write a successful novel. Sounds familiar.

  posted by Janet Dagley Dagley @11:35 AM



The pretty birds of paradise are still here; just scroll down. Today's photo is not nearly as pleasant to look at: this is the cloud from the petroleum-depot fire on Staten Island, as seen from Hoboken. At the moment, fortunately, the wind is blowing away from us. Yes, we felt the explosion here at about 10:10 a.m.

  posted by Janet Dagley Dagley @11:14 AM



For those who may have forgotten what color looks like, Frank Hofmann sends this reminder, featuring a bird-of-paradise family that lives in his front yard in Yorba Linda, California. These beautiful botanical creatures toil not, neither do they pay rent, but they do need to be watered now and then.

  posted by Janet Dagley Dagley @5:33 AM



(Blogger's note: A certain reader in California has complained about all the snow pictures, so enough of that for awhile. Today's update is in text form, for a change, and it's not about snow.)

The Virginia who Outgave Santa Claus

By Janet Dagley Dagley

It doesn’t seem right, somehow, to applaud as a life ends. But in this case we must make an exception, because I am not only clapping, I’m on my feet offering my own standing ovation to Virginia Weiffenbach Kettering, who died Monday at the age of 95.

What a life she had! What a person she was! And what a legacy she leaves! Bravo!

(Yes, I know I’ve just used up my exclamation-point quota for the year. But it’s for a very good cause.)

Virginia Kettering gave millions — approximately $150 million — to charity. She gave of herself, steadily, persistently, thoughtfully. And on a cold day in the fall of 1982, she graciously gave me just what I needed, just when I needed it.

Even if you never heard of her — and most people outside Dayton, Ohio, haven’t — you probably know the name “Kettering” from New York’s famed Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center
or possibly from the city of Kettering, a Dayton suburb named after Mrs. Kettering’s late father-in-law, Charles Kettering, whose invention of the electric self-starter gave the automobile age a jump start in the early 20th Century. Mr. Kettering was also the co-inventor of Freon, the “miracle compound” that makes your refrigerator refrigerate, and he was one of the founders of (and largest stockholders in) General Motors. Other Charles Kettering inventions include the electric cash register, the spark plug, leaded gasoline, quick-drying paint for automobiles, safety glass, the portable electric generator, four-wheel brakes, the automatic transmission, the electric railway gate, and the first synthetic aviation fuel. So the Kettering family did end up with some money from all that, one of the greatest fortunes in the nation at one time, and by the early 1970s, after the deaths of Charles in 1958, his son (and Virginia’s husband) Eugene in 1969, and their son Charles Kettering II in 1971, she became the guardian of that fortune.

At that point, she could have just coasted for the rest of her life. Theoretically, that is: anybody who ever encountered Virginia Kettering knows that while Charles Kettering invented the automobile self-starter, his son Eugene did him one better by marrying the human version. Mrs. Kettering put herself, and the family fortune, to work, becoming a spark plug that year after year tried to bring downtown Dayton back to life. While the spark did catch a time or two to get the city center’s engine going for awhile, it never seemed to last for long. I still visit downtown Dayton now and then when I’m in the area (Hi Mom!), and despite Mrs. Kettering’s efforts, the place always seems like a 3-D illustration of a neutron bombing: buildings intact, but no people.

Of course, those who’ve studied the situation academically and/or professionally can tell you that downtown Dayton, and the downtowns of most every mid-sized American city, became ghost towns in part because of the automobile age and the simple fact that even in a city whose farsighted planners made the streets extra-wide to allow even the largest horse-drawn wagon to turn around, parking all those automobiles was problematic. While educated professional journalists can argue all they want about whether it was ironic or coincidental that Mrs. Kettering used automobile money to try to solve a problem caused largely by automobiles, I prefer another overused word: karma.

Only some of Mrs. Kettering’s charitable contributions went to downtown Dayton; she also bet on other long shots, such as cancer treatment, or even what some consider unnecessary indulgences, such as the arts. Even before her husband’s death, the Ketterings gave sizable donations to create what are now two of the city’s best-known landmarks: the U.S. Air Force Museum, and the Kettering Tower, a 30-story version of that mysterious black rectangular object in “2001: A Space Odyssey.” And in subsequent years, Mrs. Kettering gave and gave again to preserve, restore and expand an existing landmark: the old Victoria Opera House. But she didn’t just pull out her checkbook whenever she saw a need. Mrs. Kettering wisely saw no point in saving that building single-handedly. Even as she gave, she continually challenged her community to give — and work — with her. When she used the word “we,” it was not out of some haughty sense of privilege. She meant “we,” because she wasn’t about to do it alone.

It’s a cliche, so of course you’ve heard it: Give a man a fish, and he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he’ll be able to eat for a lifetime, and/or sit in a boat and drink beer all day. Contribute to a community by throwing checks around like lightning bolts, and you’ll get respect, even awe, but you won’t teach the community to do anything but beg. Challenge that community, as Virginia Kettering did, to renew and improve itself with your help, and you create something that just might keep going long after you and your money are gone.

In 1982, as a feature writer for the Dayton Daily News, I pulled the plum assignment of interviewing Mrs. Kettering for a Sunday magazine article. Not only did she agree to talk, but she invited me to her place for lunch. Several of my colleagues recommended that I trip and fall while on the property, so that I might get a share of the Kettering fortune myself. I laughed politely, but in truth I was quite nervous about sitting down for a meal with such a prominent and distinguished person. What to wear? What fork to use? What questions to ask? What if I spilled something on her, or myself? Then, a few hours before the interview, I was reading through the newspaper’s files on Mrs. Kettering when I ran across one small fact that put me at ease: she was born in Kentucky, just like the thousands of other Dayton-area residents who migrated from Appalachia in hopes of a better life in the big city. I wonder if anybody ever called her a briarhopper. Anyway, I figured that since she was from Kentucky, and I from Tennessee, we could communicate somehow.

I walked extra-carefully up the sidewalk and rang Mrs. Kettering’s door at the appointed time, and Robert, an older African-American gentleman who worked for her, answered the door, took my coat, and led me to Mrs. Kettering herself. She graciously explained that they were in the middle of some major cleaning, waving toward a stack of rolled-up rugs in the room behind her. “I hope you don’t mind; we’ll be having leftovers for lunch,” she said apologetically. The table was already set with silver and china and cloth napkins and soup, bread, and salad. Of course I didn’t mind leftovers.

I don’t remember what kind of soup it was, but it was delicious. And it was hot. As the steam from the soup, combined with the dust from the rug-cleaning, wafted up my nostrils, I began to sniffle, as discreetly as possible, but I could tell that before long I would need to blow my nose, or sneeze, or both. I reached for my pocket, hoping to find a tissue, only to realize the dress I’d chosen so carefully for the occasion had no pockets. I listened intently as Mrs. Kettering talked, nodding as appropriate, while my sniffles increased steadily in frequency and intensity. Finally, just as I was about to dab at my nose with the corner of one of Mrs. Kettering’s fine linen napkins — uncouth but better than letting my nose drip into the soup — she recognized my problem. “Robert, I’m afraid we’ve stirred up a lot of dust with our rug-cleaning. We need some tissues.” By the time she’d finished the sentence, he had the box on the table, and Mrs. Kettering pulled out a tissue and handed it to me just in time to catch the sneeze I could no longer hold back. And being the absolutely classy dame that she was, she took another tissue for herself and sneezed along with me.

A few weeks later, I was interviewing a young Dayton socialite on a completely different topic. She’d read the article I wrote about Mrs. Kettering, and I got around to telling her about the tissue incident. “I know just what you mean,” she said. “The first time I met her, it was at a big formal event, and I was rushing around getting ready, dealing with the kids, the baby sitter, putting on my dress and makeup. I couldn’t get the dress zipped all the way in back, and I was going to ask my husband to help but in my hurry I forgot all about it and just put my coat on over it. There we were at the event, standing there shaking hands with people, and Mrs. Kettering came up, put her arm around me and said, ‘Here, let me help you with that,' reaching around to zip my dress. I felt like I should be embarrassed but she was just so gracious that I couldn’t be.”

I don’t know what they’re going to put on her tombstone, but “Here, let me help you with that,” wouldn’t be a bad choice.

I left Dayton not long after that, and never encountered Mrs. Kettering again. I see by her obituary in the Dayton Daily News, written with the style and respect she deserved by my former colleague Ben Kline:
that she was active and involved with the city until the end of her long life. Ben reports that her survivors include her two daughters, her daughter-in-law, nine grandchildren and 19 great-grandchildren.

To that list I would make one small addition: ...and the city of Dayton, Ohio, which now must rise to Virginia Kettering’s challenge and go on without her.

Tissue, anyone?

  posted by Janet Dagley Dagley @11:16 AM



The blizzard is over -- today it's just snowing.

  posted by Janet Dagley Dagley @6:27 PM



Michael took this shot from our window.

  posted by Janet Dagley Dagley @11:24 AM



One of our neighbors on her cellphone as she tries to make it to the bus stop. All bus service has now been suspended.

  posted by Janet Dagley Dagley @10:33 AM


The salt truck attempts to clear a path in front of our building.

  posted by Janet Dagley Dagley @10:31 AM


Armed with the latest in snow rearranging-equipment, the hard-working staff of the Tea Building attack a snowdrift.

  posted by Janet Dagley Dagley @9:35 AM


Sponsored in part by the Bohemian Hillbillies
Click here to find out more about us or buy our CD

  posted by Janet Dagley Dagley @11:56 AM



Crying Wolf, Calling Les

By Janet Dagley Dagley

Les Nessman, we need you. Now more than ever.

Somebody find that Silver-Sow-winning veteran newsman and issue him a Blackberry forthwith. We must keep him on call at all times, and meanwhile we’d better prepare some all-purpose copy for him to rip and read, suitable for every imaginable contingency.

I was reminded of one of the fictional WKRP radio newsman’s career highlights this past week — no, not the Thanksgiving turkey drop, which is what you get the most references to on a Google search of the name, but the time tornadoes swept through Cincinnati, and he had to wing it as he read from a Cold War emergency manual, substituting words as appropriate.

“The godless...tornadoes...are invading our city...”

As Nessman read into the microphone, a group of Japanese tourists who happened to be visiting the station were instructed, in Spanish, to take cover by a translator who had been assigned to them by mistake, doing exactly what his job description specified, whether or not it was what the client needed or what the situation called for.

If Nessman were on the air today he would be plugging the words “duct tape” in there somewhere. And the listeners out there in radioland would know what to do with that duct tape about as well as those tourists understood their translator’s impeccable Spanish.

When I was in elementary school in Oak Ridge, Tennessee — “The Atomic City” created in secret during World War II for the development of the bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima — we had fire drills and the occasional bomb scare like anyone else, and every now and then we’d practice ducking under our desks in case what happened to Hiroshima ever happened to us. A few years later I read in John Hersey’s book, Hiroshima, about the people who were vaporized by the bomb, leaving nothing but shadows on the sidewalks where they had stood, and wondered why our teachers and government had put all those children through that pointless exercise in fear. I guess somebody must have thought it might be helpful, as an assortment of 21st Century experts explained when snippets of those old “Duck and Cover” educational films showed up again on television this week. “Even a small thing like that [ducking and covering] can make the difference in whether you survive,” one of them told CNN’s Talking Heads, and of course they didn’t have time to go into the subject of whether the schoolchildren crawling out from under their devastated desks would be any better off than those who didn’t make it.

Perhaps more helpful was the poster I saw on the wall at a high school party, a long list of instructions labeled, “In Case of Nuclear Attack.” The final step on that list: “Then kiss your ass goodbye.”

I was in 5th grade when the Cuban Missile Crisis happened; I wrote a will that night with instructions on who was to get my Barbie and my microscope.

And in almost half a century on this planet, I’ve lived through — and reported on — other threats as well: a swarm of F-5 tornadoes that tore through, among other places, the Cincinnati area (where, in the backstory, newsman Nessman surely must have been on the air) in 1974, the Blizzards of 1978 and 1995. I wrote Sunday feature packages about how to prepare for earthquakes in Southern California, and I watched from barely a mile away as the World Trade Center towers fell. I’ve traveled through and lived in exotic foreign lands, and though I have never experienced war firsthand myself, I have heard about its sleepless nights and daily struggle and random cruelty from dear friends who lived through the worst of war in Bosnia and Chechnya. I’ve raised two children and moved around a lot. I was even in the circus for awhile. Not only that, but I sat next to the Handy Hints lady in the newsroom for a couple of years, and I overheard a lot of her calls. Based on that vast experience, I can tell you that duct tape can be very handy to have around, period.

If I were a politician or a TV Talking Head, I would of course state that a bit differently: “Clearly, at the end of the day, make no mistake, since 9/11, duct tape can be very handy to have around, period. Wolf?”

Bottled water can be handy also. I bought my first 15-gallon stash in California, even before I interviewed those experts for the earthquake preparedness feature, because the tap water there tasted so bad. A supply of food can be useful as well, so if you’re one of those whose preparedness plan is to keep your house free of food at all times, you might want to reconsider. It might also be helpful to have some means of cooking it if the power goes out. To that end, in addition to my wind-up radio/flashlight, I have just ordered a candle-powered fondue pot, so that if we must subsist on naught but stale bread, we will at least be able to dip it in warm chocolate. Similarly, if you are among those who believe first-aid supplies should not be kept in the house or car, you might want to think again. One expert admitted to keeping "a little Scotch" in his survival kit, and I assume he wasn't talking about tape right then. Whatever you think you might need: we're keeping a copy of the U.S. Constitution in ours, just in case.

And here’s a hint I got during the anti-Vietnam War protest movement that is every bit as useful today: Carry a damp handkerchief sealed in a plastic bag in your pocket, so that you can breathe through it if you get tear-gassed.

Medicine would be good, too, especially prescription medicines. If anybody reading this is successful in getting their insurance company’s approval to follow the government’s advice about having extra medication around for emergencies, please let me know right away because I’d like to be the one to break that story.

This morning I read that the authorities are now considering lowering the terror alert level from orange to yellow, a move that I know building security guards everywhere will appreciate because they’ll be allowed to go back inside again now and then. And on the same news page, I see that a blizzard, godless or otherwise, may be headed our way. Les?

  posted by Janet Dagley Dagley @10:32 AM

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