What’s the buzz? Tell me what’s happening

The Conversation asks, “How do you vaccinate a honeybee?”

Little tiny needles, I guess. The hardest part is afterward, trying to make them stay still for 15 minutes in the waiting room.

I took this picture in a university’s student union the other day and posted it on Facebook, “Kids, next semester, sign up for Uncle Jay’s three-credit course and he’ll teach you how to use these mysterious objects.”

The poor campus phone seems so lonely by itself.

I can remember not that long ago, when there was a pay phone practically everywhere. I even had a calling-card, issued by Westinghouse Communications, which allowed me to call anywhere in the country and charge it to my home phone. Then, I can remember the desperate search to find a pay phone (especially while I worked for a place that issued us company-owned beepers but not cell phones), and then the current state of affairs, where pay phone booths or poles still occasionally exist, but the phones are long gone.

I could see a need for payphones on a university campus, especially for international students who may need to call overseas to a country where the infrastructure doesn’t support Skype or Zoom calls. But I do wonder how often they get used for anything other than someone looking to get out of the hallway and use their cell phone.

Trivia question: Alexander Graham Bell patented the telephone in 1876. The first telephone networks and exchanges — allowing users to call other users — debuted one year later. How long before the first coin-operated payphone appeared? Answer at the end.

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Someone painted ‘April Fool’ in big black letters on a ‘Dead End’ sign

“Dead End” by Drew Maust via Flickr. Licensed under Creative Commons BY NC 2.0

I was reading a story in The New Yorker about the pending threat of a strike against United Parcel Service by their Teamsters drivers, and this paragraph brought me up short:

Twenty-six years ago, the sort of friendly rapport that he and many UPS drivers have with their customers helped fuel public support for UPS’s workers when they went on strike with their union, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

I thought, well, wait a minute, that can’t be right. I covered the last UPS strike, and it couldn’t have been 26 years ago. I was working at the McKeesport Daily News and photographer Wade Massie and I went out to take photos of scab drivers crossing a picket line in Pitcairn.

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Oops! All spam

If you subscribe to the newsletter feed of this website, you probably got something like 14 messages yesterday from me. My apologies … I uploaded a bunch of old cartoons to the site and had no idea WordPress would send them all out individually until my phone blew up and I saw that I had 14 emails … from myself.

I’m very sorry if you were spammed, and I’ll try to make sure that doesn’t happen again.

The big news is the announcement that the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is buying the region’s alternative weekly, Pittsburgh City Paper, from the owners of the Butler Eagle in Butler County. (The two companies have already been friendly. Butler Eagle has been printing the Post-Gazette during the Post-Gazette’s ongoing strike, and tried to stop City Paper from reporting it, which led City Paper’s then-editor, Lisa Cunningham, to resign in protest in October 2022.)

The Butler Eagle is a conservative paper, both in its editorial outlook and business operations. So the idea of them owning City Paper — which had long been a champion of progressive causes, including police oversight, government accountability, social services and racial and LGBTQ equality — always seemed odd, even back when it was announced in 2016.

But given the Post-Gazette’s hard right turn in recent years, both on its editorial page and in how it’s dealing with its own employees, City Paper is an equally bad fit there.

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So long and thanks for all of the giant, fanged Funky Winkerbeans

The comic strip “Funky Winkerbean” is ending a remarkable 50-year run this week. I’ll admit, I never paid much attention to the strip during its heyday in the ’80s, mostly because it didn’t run in any of the newspapers we received.

In fact, the first time I heard of it was as a punchline in Berke Breathed’s “Bloom County” in which one of the characters (Opus, I think) snorted newspaper ink and began hallucinating “giant, fanged Funky Winkerbeans” and I didn’t actually realize a “Funky Winkerbean” was a real thing.

The first time I actually saw it was in the Greensburg Tribune-Review (I think). I then began reading “Funky” regularly in the 2000s, when the McKeesport Daily News picked it up; and, of course, syndicated comic strips became easy to find online at around the same time.

“Funky,” created by northern Ohio artist Tom Batiuk, spent the first 20 years or so of its existence as a standard gag-a-day newspaper comic strip about life in a small-town Ohio high school. Batiuk, who started the strip while working as a high school teacher, based the characters and settings on people he knew around Akron, Kent and other northern Ohio towns, not far from Pittsburgh.

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