Word by word.

Perhaps you wonder what the glamorous life of a blogger is like. Perhaps you wonder how I come up with the many fascinating topics I poke at like a dissected frog five days a week in this space. Perhaps you think, “I could do that, and get a few hundred unique visitors at a blog about nothing.”

Reader, you could. You want a shot at guest-blogging here? Maybe leading to a permanent spot? It could be arranged. God knows I could use a longer weekend.

Seriously, though, it’s one of those mornings where I wonder if J.C. will write me a program that keeps track…not just of posts, but maybe of total words published here. I’m thinking it has to average out to 3,000 a week, times 52… 156,000 words, or roughly two books’ worth a year. All over my morning coffee. This is either madness or graphomania, and maybe the same thing.

Last summer one of my blog fans said, “Surely there’s a book in this.” I said, “Yes, I’m sure people will buy a highly perishable product between hard covers that was previously — and still is — available free in 700-word chunks online.” But columnists still publish anthologies, don’t they? True, but I never buy those. Or rather, I buy them when they’re published by friends. And my favorites have been the ones vanity-published by friends, or on presses so small they might as well have been. Occasionally I still pick up those produced by Mike Harden, for my money still the best newspaper columnist you never heard of, a generalist out of the Jim Bishop mold, still writing in the Columbus Dispatch from retirement. I used to read his collected works when I was out of ideas myself, and over time got to where I can even recite chunks from memory. He once wondered what would happen if the great poets had labored on Madison Avenue. Like, for instance, James Whitcomb Riley:

When de frost is in de fuel line
And de DieHard’s kind o’ dead
And you 50 miles from nowhere
With icicles on yo’ head
You’ll be wishin’ an’a hopin’
As yo’ shoes fill up with snow
Dat you’d bought it at Sohio,
And let dem pay de tow.

That’s a joke only middle-aged Buckeyes would get. Sohio’s gasoline offered Ice-Guard ™ protection. No fuel-line freeze-up, or Sohio pays your tow. They sponsored the weather report on every radio station in town, always with that promise. Only once in my life did my car stop running in a cold snap, and I wondered, briefly, if I might have fuel-line freeze-up. How, exactly, would I go about collecting my reimbursement from Sohio? Would I have to prove that was Sohio gas in the tank? I paid cash for gas; surely they’d fight me. And then I’d have to provide testimony by a certified mechanic that yes, it was fuel-line freeze-up that had caused my car to stop on U.S. 33 between Lancaster and Athens, probably in some sort of legal deposition, and by the time it was all over, I’d get a few lousy bucks to cover just the towing charge. What a ripoff, and…

I twisted the key again. Car started right up. Reverie over.

No, one footnote: Sohio became Amoco. Amoco became? Yes: BP. Sohio was swallowed by BP. I will always miss their logo:

Better than 'Sindiana' or 'Swest Virginia.'

That cup was given to me by a fellow Buckeye, and I gave it to J.C., another fellow Buckeye.

And now I have bored the pants clean off you, and it’s time to get to the bloggage:

Jack Russell Terriers — little bastards. That story is equal parts hilarious and tragic, but at the end it’s about how a Jack Russell can chew off his owner’s goddamn toe, and still end up the hero.

Wife suspects something’s going on, finds out her husband has another wife and family. How? How else? Via Facebook.

Speaking of which, if you’re not reading the Wall Street Journal’s series on internet privacy — rather, the lack thereof — you’re missing a chance to get simultaneously terrified and infuriated. Particularly today.

And now, I should go do some real work. Maybe write a book.

Posted at 10:21 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' |

46 responses to “Word by word.”

  1. Sue said on August 5, 2010 at 10:50 am

    Jack Russell Terriers as medical diagnosticians: welcome to Today’s Health Care!
    Nancy, I thought you blogged to keep professionally fit or something, but if it’s (finally) taken its toll, I really encourage you to bring on a few guest bloggers. I recommend Cooz, Brian Stouder, Moe, MMJeff and LAMary, off the top of my head.
    Columnist anthologies that have held up: Mike Royko and Molly Ivins.

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  2. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on August 5, 2010 at 10:54 am

    How much madder is it to write thousands of words a year in comment boxes, he said maniacally? Bwahahahaha . . . .

    [edit] Oh, thank you Sue, for the implied compliment. I think that’s what Nancy does most weekends — posts a week’s closing twizzlestick and throws us all the keys and says “drive.”

    I’ve got those columnist complilations, plus Carl Hiaasen’s, which I had in my pastor’s study for a few weeks until it sank in that “Kick Ass” was not a spine that fit in well among the Anchor Bible Dictionary volumes. It was Carl, and I just didn’t see it as a vulgarity at first. For couples coming in for wedding planning, it was a bit, um, jarring.

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  3. Rana said on August 5, 2010 at 11:09 am

    The thing that got me about the dog story was the owner wondering if, after surgery to remove the rest of the toe, he could have it to give to the dog for a snack. (Insert small-eye-big-eye emoticon here.)

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  4. Deborah said on August 5, 2010 at 11:09 am

    That Facebook bigamist reminds me of a Raymond Carver story about a woman who dons a wig and goes to a resort to find her husband with another woman. She catches him red-handed and forever after whenever she suspects he’s been cheating she threatens him with, “wig time”. The weirdest part of the Facebook wedding was that the groom was dressed like Prince Charming??? Who are these people?

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  5. Dave said on August 5, 2010 at 11:24 am

    Not to be nit-picky but I’m fairly certain that Sohio was bought up by BP, which turned around and swallowed up Amoco later. I remember at the time that my father said he’d not buy one pint of gasoline from the British. I’ve never been quite sure exactly what it was he had against the British but it dated from his Navy days.

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  6. nancy said on August 5, 2010 at 11:28 am

    Dave, Wikipedia says you’re right. And Wikipedia never lies.

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  7. brian stouder said on August 5, 2010 at 12:00 pm

    “Seriously, though, it’s one of those mornings where I wonder if J.C. will write me a program that keeps track…not just of posts, but maybe of total words published here. I’m thinking it has to average out to 3,000 a week, times 52… 156,000 words, or roughly two books’ worth a year. “

    If you asked me, I’d say you pointed right at an interesting potential solution: recycling a random collection of “Best-of” NN.c posts from yesteryear. For example, when greybeard died, I clicked the NN.c collection on the side-rail, and spent most of an hour enjoying all the stuff; really, it was mostly all new to me again. (and quite funny)

    If you wanted to knock off for a day (or a week,or two; or three), you could have JC design a button you could push to generate a collection of those (based on whatever parameter – or NO parameter), and please everyone.

    Anyway, that’s one opinion from the cheap seats

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  8. moe99 said on August 5, 2010 at 12:21 pm

    I’m flattered Sue. Thanks for making my morning!

    In the 6 degrees of separation category, the attorney quoted in the FB article, Parry Aftab, used to be a poster at an attorney web site named Counsel Connect set up by Stephen Brill (who founded American Lawyer). We were all newbies then, but she’s gone off to fame and fortune with the internet as her client.

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  9. Deborah said on August 5, 2010 at 1:12 pm

    Excitement in the Chicago loop just now. Obama is speaking at the Palmer House, across Monroe from my office. I went outside to see if I could see anything, they have the streets all closed around the hotel with tons of cops in cars, on horseback and bikes, nothing to see but that. I spotted a bunch of official looking cars drive by with police escorts, I figure Obama had to be in one of them but couldn’t see through any of the dark windows into the cars.

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  10. nancy said on August 5, 2010 at 1:16 pm

    You should have waved your NN.C Cub Reporter press pass. Maybe they’d add you to the pool.

    My sister drove one of those cars, once, when (I think) President Ford was in Columbus. It was all the wire-service reporters, and they told her stories about Gov. Jim Rhodes. He liked to pee outdoors, I guess.

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  11. Linda said on August 5, 2010 at 1:39 pm

    A writer I always liked as a kid was Sydney Harris, and his collected columns have stood up well, too. Does anybody remember him?

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  12. Kim said on August 5, 2010 at 2:02 pm

    I’m no mathematician, but seems like you have already written a dozen books (at least). Read Heather Lende’s “If You Lived Here, I’d Know Your Name” for inspiration. You could – and should – hell, ya already have – done this.

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  13. Dorothy said on August 5, 2010 at 2:27 pm

    I have nothing of any importance to add to the discussion today. But I feel I must mention that I watched a cow give birth yesterday during my first visit ever to the Ohio State Fair. I took TONS of pictures too. My husband tells me a teenaged farm boy made a sour face to a friend and complained “There’s some lady over there taking PICTURES of it for cryin’ out loud!!” Hah! He’s used to it but I sure wasn’t. I was thrilled to have a front row seat (figuratively speaking since we were all standing) to the action. I was mostly impressed that the cow never whimpered or moaned or cried. What a trouper!

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  14. moe99 said on August 5, 2010 at 2:55 pm

    I’m watching the Blue Angels wrap themselves around the buildings downtown as they practice for the big SeaFair on Sunday. Any hydroplane fans here? I certainly can’t figure out how those races work.

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  15. Julie Robinson said on August 5, 2010 at 2:57 pm

    If You Lived Here is a terrific book, and Kim, I’m glad you mentioned it, because I just looked up the author and her new book is out, so it’s one more to add to my list. There have been so many great books out lately, or at least that I’ve just gotten around to reading. They are a constant temptation.

    nnc is unusual because most bloggers don’t update as frequently as our proprietress. Since I’ve never even been able to sustain a diary or journal, I find the output impressive. And back in college I loved writing.

    Dorothy, I tip my hat to you for not fainting at the birth scene. Even watching kittens being born made me queasy.

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  16. James Moehrke said on August 5, 2010 at 3:00 pm

    Speaking of cows birthing at state fairs – much outrage in Sacramento when a cow being delivered to the California State Fair for just such an exhibit was frightened by all the commotion and bolted out to the fairgrounds. After several attempts to calm her and contain her, and after several more successful evasions on her part, it was reluctantly agreed that she had to be put down before the gates opened to the public. The local SPCA felt so strongly about it that they gave back the money the fair had donated to them: http://www.sacbee.com/2010/07/31/2927151/spca-protests-killing-of-pregnant.html

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  17. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on August 5, 2010 at 3:18 pm

    There’s a whole angle of the internet porn discussion that still needs airing (not here, don’t worry) about how there’s a massive amount of confusion and curiosity that drives much of the youth and even young adult interest (addiction is, as always, another subject). Kids who grew up on farms or in small houses knew how the mechanics and the process worked, but even very smart, well educated youth are startlingly ignorant of “what’s going on” even when they’ve had the usual highly clinical school sex ed. So with farm animals giving birth, or doing what leads to that event, you get this bizarre mix of revulsion and fascination. Talk to kids today who regularly see the horses and cows and pigs doing what comes naturally, and they have a sense of quiet superiority over their fellows. It’s not a cure all, but it’s definitely a big chunk of what’s missing for kids growing up in the ‘burbs and in the city.

    If you live up in north-west-ish Indiana, there’s a factory dairy operation called Fair Oaks Farms that does bus tours of their barns (massive) and milking facilities (space-age); they are still dancing around how to integrate giving birth into the standard tour — it was going to be an automatic part, but the strong, excessively (IMHO) vehement reactions has made them consider making that an add-on option for the tour run, which I think is too bad. Good tour and interp center, by the way; super cheap ice cream & cheese at the cafe ending the tour.

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  18. Jakash said on August 5, 2010 at 3:19 pm

    As a native Buckeye, I was certainly not bored by the Sohio bit. Love the cup. But, whereas I recall fondly the fuel-line freeze-up pitch, I believe I preferred the Big O commercials. “Now, one man sleeps while the other man drives, on the non-stop Lawson run, and the cold, cold juice in the tank-truck caboose stays as fresh as the Florida sun.” They don’t make ’em like that, anymore…

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  19. Rana said on August 5, 2010 at 3:47 pm

    Jeff (tmmo) – one could make that argument about food (and where it comes from) and death (and what it looks like) too.

    Seems weird that we, as a species, have reached a point where we can be, and are, ignorant of such basic things as food, sex, birth, and death.

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  20. Dorothy said on August 5, 2010 at 3:59 pm

    Yay – Elena Kagan made it through the vote!!

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  21. LAMary said on August 5, 2010 at 4:01 pm

    My friend Orest in NYC had a brother who was the driver for then borough president Andrew Stein. Andrew was known for being something of a ladies man or at least a man about town. Orest’s brother told me that in the car, when no one else was around, Andrew Stein picked his nose and put the boogers in his pant cuffs. That and knowing he wore a toupee ruined the image for me.

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  22. Joe Kobiela said on August 5, 2010 at 4:10 pm

    So how did Lawson get around the log book entry for the drivers and how did the drivers switch if it was a non-stop run,what about fuel?
    Questions I need answered.
    Pilot Joe

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  23. judybusy said on August 5, 2010 at 4:34 pm

    Dorothy, one of my favorite memories is of a cow giving birth on a family friend’s ranch in Wyoming. My family was on an extended road trip. I was seven. On our farm, I’d seen lots of pigs born, but not calves. It was night. The help was out there watchin the situation, and there was trouble. They had to tie a rope to the calf’s leg, wind the rope around a couple strong peices of wood and wind away. I’m really glad I didn’t have over-protective parents.

    Knowing about sex, birth and death come with farm life. I also had nearly unlimited free time as a kid. It was the seventies, before everyone had to be in a sport (which would have been the death of me, lil bookworm that I was.) I’m so glad my sibs and I just roamed the woods creating our own fun. Until I was about nine, one of my favorite things was playing on the rock pile by one of the fields. Hours of entertainment.

    Of course, we were also all indentured servants, but let’s not wreck the romantic haze I’ve put on this….

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  24. Dexter said on August 5, 2010 at 5:08 pm

    “Saddlebags, A Collection of Columns and Stories”, by the late Shelby Strother of The Detroit News is the best book of this topic I have ever read. I was really sad the day I called the News and reached a security guard and asked him what became of Shelby Strother, and the guy told me he had died of liver cancer. This was nineteen years ago but I still remember Mr. Strother. You can still get the book on Amazon for about $17.

    As the loving owner of my beloved Jack Russell , Neollie, the story was just another ho-hummer for me…my dog does stuff every day; I ought to keep a journal.
    I thinks she has injured my rotator cuff by bolting after pedestrians and cyclists and other animals, stressing out the leash…I try to be aware, but she is so damn fast. My Labrador Retriever passed a year ago now, as I told you folks about then, and this Jack-dog is technically my wife’s, but I am retired and she ain’t…anyway, she’s my dog now, and I love her, but she can be a mean little bitch to almost everyone else in her worldview.

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  25. prospero said on August 5, 2010 at 5:13 pm

    Commoniss one world bike riders, Republicans are monitoring your unAmerican behavior and you’re not going to get away with it. That means you Nancy Nall.

    Again, I ask: shouldn’t the act of voting for a candidate this crazy be sufficient grounds for permanent disenfranchisement, or at least enough to bar participation until a doctor’s note is procured?

    I remember Sohio gas stations, and got enjoyed the bit, but in what twisted universe is James Whitcomb Riley a “great” poet. I mean, maybe not quite as excruciatig as Joyce Kilmer, but he ain’t no Vachel Lindsay, the Prairie Troubador, either.

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  26. Jen said on August 5, 2010 at 5:18 pm

    I’m increasingly finding that, even with the fact that I’m a copy editor now instead of a reporter, it’s hard to keep up a blog and try to find time, energy and creativity to write anything else. A friend and I are attempting to co-write a novel, and my blogs, both my personal one my sister and I just started (thebooktarts.blogspot.com) and my work one (www.fwdailynews.com/jenny) are getting neglected this week. I wish I had about 36 hours in the day.

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  27. moe99 said on August 5, 2010 at 5:20 pm

    Our dog, Mandy, went into heat while we were on vacation when I was in the 6th grade. We came back to a pile of neighborhood dogs lined up to service her. I remember watching the antics from the kitchen and turning to my mother in disgust, saying, “I’m sure glad humans don’t do that.” You would have thought that was a teachable moment but no. I had to wait til 7th grade when Julie and Holly set me straight as we were walking home from school. I was still disgusted.

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  28. Dexter said on August 5, 2010 at 5:20 pm

    Nice to see the Sohio logo once more. I felt like a foreigner when Dad would drive east fifteen miles , we’d cross the border and within a minute see the Edgerton Sohio sign, when in Indiana we had Standard.
    I was surprised when in 1995 I drove to Omaha and I saw a few Sinclair stations, with the big “Dino the dinosaur” signs in Iowa. I was shocked, actually and felt as if I was in a time warp.

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  29. Barbara said on August 5, 2010 at 5:38 pm

    I remember the Sohio ads, and I was in school in Cleveland when the big rubber stamp was (not) planted in front of their building. Caused quite a ruckus, as I recall…

    Considering making a book of your blog? One of my Twitter-friends was involved in Anthologize, which says it will turn your wordpress blog into an epub. Haven’t tried it, so I don’t know how nice it is. My blog posts are most definitely not book-worthy, not even vanity press.

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  30. Dexter said on August 5, 2010 at 5:44 pm

    More oil company talk: my attorney’s grandfather was in John D. Rockefeller’s “inner circle”. The grandfather had a tanker named after him. The tanker met a tragic end…check out the photo and the one-paragraph story.

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  31. jcburns said on August 5, 2010 at 6:55 pm

    The feature that calls up any number of Nancy columns based on a keyword has been there all along. It’s the damn search box! Give it a try! Put something really obscure in there. Put one of her catchphrases or tics. Knock yourself out!

    And Nancy, it looks like 1,123,927 words as of NOW, although I’d have to check for whether that counts links and so on.

    Your longest post was 2474 words.

    (Again, take these with a grain of mathmatical skepticism. I’ve been on jury duty today and my brain is jello.)

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  32. MichaelG said on August 5, 2010 at 7:31 pm

    The cow that was killed at the Calif State Fair last week was one of the birth exhibit animals. She broke loose very early in the AM before the fair opened. The only people around were employees. TV showed footage of the idiots chasing her with a car. Chase an animal and what happens? Right. They run. The accounts are a little vague. Some say that the animal tranks didn’t work. Others say they (whomever “they” were) didn’t want to use tranks for fear of hurting the very soon to born calf. Whatever, the cops comprehensively perforated her with their pistolas killing her and the calf. I’m not an expert and I wasn’t there but it sure has all the feel of one of those scenes that was very poorly handled.

    I read some Vachel Lindsay years ago and once heard a recording of him reading “The Congo”. Don’t play it at an NAACP gathering.

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  33. Deborah said on August 5, 2010 at 7:42 pm

    The architecture firm that I used to work for in St. Louis designed the Sohio building in Cleveland. A friend of mine was the lead designer for it. Don’t know where he is anymore, lost track of him. I had a very small part designing a very ornate Christmas wreath for the lobby years and years ago.

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  34. basset said on August 5, 2010 at 9:38 pm

    The Tennessee primary returns continue to roll in… Basil Marceaux is pulling a solid one percent.

    Bet Basil would pee on the ground too.

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  35. Dexter said on August 5, 2010 at 10:10 pm

    Deborah: My fave two buildings in the world are art decos. Number one, the telephone building in downtown Cleveland and #2, the Empire State .
    Here’s the Cleveland building.

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  36. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on August 5, 2010 at 11:01 pm

    Dex, what about http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LeVeque_Tower

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  37. Dexter said on August 5, 2010 at 11:53 pm

    JMMO: Love it! 1927 was such a good year. The reason I chose the Cleveland building is two-fold.
    1) I used to go to many Indians baseball games and I would walk past it every time and then stare at it during the games.
    2) Why, it’s also the model for The Daily Planet. It’s the Superman building!

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  38. Dexter said on August 6, 2010 at 3:11 am

    Eat a peach. This year’s peaches are scrumdiddily-icious. I can’t wait for the fresh pears. It’s after 3? I had no idea…been bloggin’. Ciao!

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  39. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on August 6, 2010 at 8:50 am

    Did all our Detroit friends know that consumer oriented air conditioning began in your city, at Hudson’s? http://inventors.about.com/library/weekly/aa081797.htm
    And for that, I must admit I thank you this week. After three weeks mostly without it, it’s a blessing.

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  40. LAMary said on August 6, 2010 at 9:34 am

    Dexter, locals here in LA say our city hall is is the Daily Planet building.



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  41. Bob said on August 6, 2010 at 9:41 am

    Prospero: Thanks for that link on one-world government taking over through bike lanes. I’ll remember this as the day parody stopped being in the least sporting.

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    • nancy said on August 6, 2010 at 9:42 am

      You know where they ride a lot of bikes, Bob?


      Think about it.

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  42. Jolene said on August 6, 2010 at 10:28 am

    More writing about dying. Not much fun to think about, but exceedingly graceful prose.

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  43. Dorothy said on August 6, 2010 at 10:42 am

    Okay at JC Burns’ suggestion I searched for one of my favorite Nancy phrases, which is “I ask you”. It has appeared in 68 entries since the beginning of the blog. This tickles me I know not why, it just does, damn it.

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  44. Dave said on August 6, 2010 at 11:35 am

    Interesting about the Daily Planet building. The building shown in the old TV series was the LA City Hall. However, I’m not sure what may have been depicted in the early days of the comic books but was it the Terminal Tower in Cleveland, since the creators were from Cleveland? Perhaps.

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  45. LAMary said on August 6, 2010 at 11:43 am

    Speaking of bikes and China, the LA distributor of these is at the bottom of the hill where I live. Flying Pigeons, the bicycle of the people.


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