© 2014 Grant Cunningham Click to email me!

FRIDAY SURPRISE: Talk shows where people really talked.

There was a time, believe it or not, when one could actually become educated by watching television. There were great plays, shows that deeply explored various musical styles (hosted by real musicians, composers and conductors), documentaries about art and architecture, and programs which discussed the issues and topics of the day.

In the latter category sat Dick Cavett. Cavett's show was renowned for being intelligent and probing. His guests included actors, scientists, artists, writers and political figures. His was the only show where you could watch Gore Vidal and Norman Mailer argue about their relative contributions to the intellectual fabric of society, as opposed to trailer trash unwed mothers fighting over a shared loser of a boyfriend. Cavett was witty, informed, and a consummate interviewer.

It is that skill which
he recently discussed in an interview on In it he goes into detail about how he prepares to interview someone, how he deals with difficult subjects, and how to keep a conversation going.

Well worth reading, if for no other reason than to develop an understanding of the difficulty of the job. Just because he makes it look easy doesn't mean it is!

-=[ Grant ]=-

My Adult ADD strikes again!

I had a number of things I wanted to talk about this morning, but something shiny (and Italian) caught my eye and I've forgotten about everything else!

Forgotten Weapons posted an amazingly cool video of a Lorenzoni Flintlock Repeating Pistol. These things are almost mythical; I'd seen a drawing of one, but never any really descriptive pictures let alone an operational video. Ian got his hands on one and shows it off; I now have a much better understanding of the design and operation.

What struck me was the quality of workmanship. Remember that this thing is circa 1700, long before modern machine tools. Notice how precisely everything fits; listen to the sound of the barrel being unscrewed, which gives you a feeling for how exact the threads are. This is amazing for any era, let alone three centuries ago!

Note also the attention to detail; at the 42 second mark, where he's showing off the magazine, you can see the little "bump" of wood on the stock which matches the hinge protrusion, serving to keep the hinge pin in and also preventing the hand from contacting a metal edge. The maker could have simply rounded off that end of the hinge and staked it so the pin couldn’t come out accidentally, but that wouldn't have been nearly as intriguing!

Looks like you don't need CNC machining equipment to do good work! (Which reminds me: I really need to do an article on the misconceptions which abound about the capabilities of CNC. Most people really don't have a clue and use those three letters as an indicator of quality. 'Taint necessarily so.)

-=[ Grant ]=-

FRIDAY SURPRISE: Red flags. And blue ones, too.

For some reason, I recently found myself looking at a picture of our state flag (for those who don't know, that would be Oregon.) I've seen this flag my entire life, and today it dawned on me: our flag is ugly.

Ugly and boring.

Our flag is also the only one in these 50 states whose reverse side is different than the obverse side - and the back is even uglier and more boring than the front. As if that were even possible.

I know that not all state flags are so ugly and boring, so I went to Wikipedia to find out if we are saddled with the most ugly and boring flag in this Republic.

You know what? If we don't have the ugliest and most boring flag, all we have to do is turn it over - then we do. Yeah for us!

Our neighbor to the north, Washington, can't be accused of having a particularly interesting entry, but it's still more interesting than ours (and at least it's unique in having a green field.) Alaska's is simple - simpler than ours by far - but at least makes one think about the heavens. Nevada's isn't particularly inspiring, but at least it's the same on both sides. I'm not sure why, but I expected a better effort from Vermont - and they still outdo us. Texas is surprisingly lame for a state with such a large personality, but not as lame as Oregon's.

Some state flags are really cool. Maryland gets my vote for the neatest state flag, and Arizona's isn't far behind. I love New Mexico's minimalist design, while Rhode Island's appropriately small entry is bright and nautical. Ohio gets huge style points for being the only burgee (swallowtail pennant) format, a refreshing break from the quadrangles used by every other state. Florida's makes a bold statement with their red "X" and state seal, while Alabama uses just the "X" - they don't need no stinkin' seal on their flag.

Have a look at the Wikipedia entry, and ask yourself: is my state's flag as ugly and boring as Oregon's?

I doubt it.

-=[ Grant ]=-

P.S.: You can also get the stories behind each state’s flag at

FRIDAY SURPRISE: Does Mammoth Falls ring any bells?

When I was just a young lad one of my favorite books was
"The Mad Scientists' Club." It was the collected stories of a group of kids in the fictional town of Mammoth Falls (out near Strawberry Lake) who were, as the title suggests, very much "into" science and technology as a hobby. The characters were inspiring to me, as I too was a techno-geek. (I had a chemistry lab perched in the rafters of our farm's shop, and my bedroom was full of electronic bits and pieces that I'd repurposed into a hi-fi system.)

These were kids to which I could relate, which was encouraging - because almost no one in the logging/farming town in which I grew up was anything like me. In retrospect, that was probably a good thing for rest of the citizenry - who knows what destruction a small tribe of Grant clones could have wrought?

I checked that book out of the school's library so often that my name was the only one on the checkout card. (We didn't have library cards in school - we signed our name to a checkout card which sat in a small envelope attached to the inside back cover. When the card filled up, a blank one was stapled to it for more capacity. I think there were three stapled cards in this book, with my name filling two of them.)

It's been a long time since I thought about that book, but
Alibris - the source for used and out of print books of all descriptions - has many copies. Turns out the book was reprinted a few years back, though I suspect that most of the buyers were of my generation, attempting to recapture some of their mis-spent youth.

I think I'll do the same thing.

-=[ Grant ]=-