Samples of columns

Random Thoughts
By Tim Rand
For May 8, 2002 

Where’s the dog 

Election day is less than two weeks away.  The campaign for which I’ve seen the most advertising is the race for US Senate between Senator Tim Hutchinson and Attorney General Mark Pryor.  The thing is this election is not May 21st . . . it’s in November.  Sure Senator Hutchinson does have an opponent in the Republican Primary, Jim Bob Duggar of Springdale, but that’s just a formality.  Tuesday, November 5th is the real thing and we’ll be bombarded with advertising until then.

This election is not only drawing the interest and the dollars in Arkansas but throughout the nation.  The balance of power in the United States Congress is teetering between the two top parties.  The Democrats see this as an opportunity to add another senator.  The Republicans see maintaining the seat as crucial.  That’s why the advertising is so intense in spring for a fall election.  Since we get a chance to learn more about these two folks in the next six months I thought it might be nice to look at more than what they are saying.

Campaigns are approached on a sensible intellectual level with philosophies and issues.  On another level the campaign is seeking an emotional response from the viewer, listener, or reader.  Take the recent commercials for these two candidates.

My favorite is Pryor’s commercial.  It has his wife, his Senator Dad, a cup of coffee, and an American flag.  Hutchinson is seen in one of his commercial’s talking to a bunch of elementary students emphasizing education and what he has done for education on the intellectual level.  On the emotional level he is seen addressing the future of America.  A young girl says she wants to be a senator when she grows up.  At the end of the commercial we see a light moment when Hutchinson suggests she run for Governor instead.  Of course, there is an American flag in the commercial.

Okay, we’ve got the idea of the emotional level.  My question is this.  Where’s the dog?  Campaigns have been won with a pooch.  Richard Nixon touched the hearts of Americans in his famous “Checkers speech” about his dog, Checkers.  We remember Buddy from the Clinton years.  Reagan had Lucky and Rex.  FDR had Fala, Harding had Laddie Boy, and Teddy Roosevelt had Skip.  Yes there was a Fido.  He was President Abraham Lincoln’s dog.  There are others.  You’ll see them in photographs with their masters in the White House, strolling the White House Lawn, at vacation residences, and simply held in the arms of their owners. 

These are positive images . . . something the people warm up to.  President Lyndon Johnson got the opposite reaction when he was photographed pulling on the ears of one of his two beagles (either “Him” or “Her”).  President Kennedy had several dogs. 

The fact is a dog is a candidate’s best friend.  So when are Pryor and Hutchinson going to wise-up and put a dog in a commercial?

These guys have already had one election sparring match.  Pryor was Al Gore’s Arkansas campaign spokesman while Hutchinson was Bush’s Arkansas campaign chairman.

Hutchinson is the incumbent in this race and has gotten a lot of press.  A senate position is the plum spot for any politician.  He or she becomes a member of the country’s most exclusive club.  The term is six years so a senator can almost ignore his home state until the last two years.  People forget the first four or forgive due to the actions in the last two. 

Name recognition is important.  The governor gets the most press.  He is in the news every day.  Both Dale Bumpers and David Pryor used this office as a stepping-stone to the senate. 

Who gets the second most attention?  It’s the Attorney General.  They’ve used the office to get their name in front of voters.  I remember it coming to the forefront when Jim Guy Tucker was AG.  Radio stations and newspapers ran a program or column from the Consumer Protection Division of the office of Attorney General Jim Guy Tucker. 

Others have used it well to promote name recognition – Bill Clinton, Steve Clark, and most recently Mark Pryor.  Pryor went further than news releases.  He ran a ton of ads for his “Do Not Call” list.  Not only was his name included in the ads but also his picture.   This campaign promoted a service that has a list of exceptions to the rule . . . people who are still allowed to call you.  Basically, they are people I don’t want calling me.   There was a charge to get on the state Do-Not-Call list and a yearly fee.   Ten years ago I signed up for the national list at no charge through the Direct Mail Marketing Association.  Within six months the unsolicited calls dropped dramatically.  I now get probably fewer than twelve of these calls a year . . . and none from telephone companies wanting me to change my long-distance provider.  But the state list was a good way to promote name recognition for the AG.  So where did the money come from to buy all these ads with Pryor’s picture?

The election is still a tossup.  I haven’t seen an ad for Hutchinson with his wife in it.  We might not.  He divorced his wife of nearly 29 years who helped get him elected to the senate and then married a former member of his staff. 

So I’m going to watch the ads and see what they have to say about issues.  I’m also going to watch the emotional marketing techniques.  And I think probably the candidate who uses a dog to the best advantage will be the winner.  Keep watching. 

Tim Rand’s email is

Random Thoughts
By Tim Rand
For August 14, 2002 

How much was that pizza again? 

             I got a good education at Paragould High School back in ancient times.  The theme of one of our class reunions was “Once a dog, always a dog”.

            I furthered that education with college.  In assessing my life I realize I took a lot of math both in high school and college.  I had some trigonometry in high school and a full semester my freshman year in college.   Thirty-two years later it dawned on me there has not been a day in my life when I have used trig.  From time to time I go off on a tangent but that’s as close as I have gotten.

            So I decided to put some practical math skills to use . . . stuff I learned in high school in algebra and geometry. 

            The area of a circle can be determined if you know the radius or the diameter.  Basically, the diameter is the longest distance from one side of a circle to the other and the radius is half this length.  You take the radius, multiply it times itself, then multiply that times π (called “pi”).  Now pi is a not easy to put a value to but it is generally rounded off to “3.14” or “3.1415927”.  Either way, by using this formula (πr²) you can find the area of a circle that is close enough for government work.

            Now the practical part comes in.  You are used to ordering pizza, right?  What size is the most economical?  Are you sure?  Well we’re going to find out right here class.

            I called a local pizza place.  I actually called two of them but one of them didn’t know the diameter of their small pizza . . . at least the people on duty at the time I called.  However, the second place knew their small was 10 inches, the medium 12, and the large 14.

            We now do the math and find a small pizza has 78.5 square inches, a medium has 113.1 square inches, and a large has 153.9 square inches.  Yes class, a circle can have square inches.

            I also learned for a one-topping cheese pizza the cost is $6.68 for a small, $8.98 for a medium, and $11.99 for a large.

            Now the fun part – we are going to find the cost per square inch for each of these.  We do this by dividing the cost of each pizza by its respective square inches.  For example, we divide $6.68 by 78.5 to determine the cost per square inch of a small pizza.  The answer is 8.51-cents. 

            Further math tells us the cost for a medium is 7.94-cents per square inch.  And finally, a large is priced at 7.33-cents.

            So the large is the best value at this particular pizza place.  You can check your favorite store and see if this holds true for them but you may have to take your ruler to find the radius.  Of course, this does not take into account that the outer edge of the pizza is simply crust or that some crusts are stuffed with cheese.  Nor does it take into account the amount of cheese they put on each particular size. 

            But we had fun using math.  Actually, I’m convinced math and science are two areas of study that are invaluable to this and all future generations.  People who are proficient will certainly find jobs and many high paying.  The computer industry, as so many industries, uses math extensively.

            But for a fella who sits at a computer typing columns and can only find digits 0 through 9 at the top of his keyboard this exercise in math was quite fulfilling.  And the pizza was most filling.

 Tim Rand’s email is

Random Thoughts
By Tim Rand
For July 24, 2002

Radio-controlled airplanes and three paper sacks 

            There’s been press about model planes being flown on the Paragould High School parking lot.  That should not be news to anyone who has lived in Paragould over two years.  I remember quite vividly attending soccer games on Saturday mornings and seeing these miniature planes circling above.  It’s also impossible to miss the sound of their engines.

            The problem is the close proximity to the airport.  We have a lot more air traffic today.  The lengthening of the runway made it possible (and legal) for jets to land and they do regularly.  While I’m not a pilot I did solo on October 4, 1971.  I can tell you with my limited time behind the stick that the most dangerous times in a flight are at takeoff and landing.  A lot can happen.  A pilot seeing a plane (or what he perceives as a plane) suddenly appear can stall his or her airplane and it quickly fall like a rock to the ground.   A final approach is not a lot above stall speed to begin with and the throttle is pulled all the way back.

            In addition, a jet coming in for a landing is moving at a tremendous clip.  It’s a thrill for me to see one take off and disappear in a matter of seconds.  Someday I hope to ride in one of those babies. 

            It’s my opinion radio controlled planes should not be flown in close proximity to the airport.

            On the other hand, I’m not opposed to RC planes.  I think they’re great!  I have three sacks of them in my basement.

            Somewhere in the neighborhood of 23 or 24 years ago I bought my first one.  I didn’t know how to fly it and I had never seen anyone fly them.  I read a story in a Memphis newspaper about a group of folks who flew them every weekend on a parking lot on a closed shopping center.

            John Bland and I went to Memphis with the plane I had put together following the included instructions.  Sure enough, we came upon a parking lot with guys holding controls, their eyes to the skies, and roar of several radio-controlled planes coming from above. 

            We got out and watched.  Then we got my plane out.  All the veterans were cool toward us and barely acknowledged our existence.  Finally we started our plane and I’m at the controls for our maiden voyage.  I was going to say “flight” but “voyage” comes closer to the actual experience.

            I did not have the elevator controls “trimmed” properly before we began so the up and down control was not level.  I think it was up too much.  I could level it by giving a slight downward pressure on the control stick.  Of course I didn’t know that at the time so I pushed that baby way down. 

            The plane took a nosedive toward the ground at full throttle so I pulled the stick all the way back.  Had I returned to the neutral position it would have been a much greater than necessary correction since the elevators were not correctly adjusted. 

            Yes, it was a voyage . . . up, down, up, down, up, down.  For some reason I had attracted all the attention of the veterans and the others in attendance.  John did a wonderful job of telling me to go down when I was going straight up and to yell “up” when I was going down. 

            Somehow I managed to fly it behind us where there was a hill of dirt.  The plane disappeared below the hill.  We all thought it crashed but it miraculously reappeared after one of my “up” moves.  The “oohs” and “ahs” and gasps from the crowd were repeated as I managed to do this disappearing/reappearing act two more times. 

            The fourth time it did not reappear.  John and I retrieved the pieces and brought them back to where we started.  People were talking to us then.  They may still be talking about us 24 years later.  Anyway, they showed us how to mix up the epoxy to glue the plane back together and gave us tips on both applying the glue and adjusting the elevator setting.  When you crash a plane enough times that it is no longer repairable you stick it in a paper sack and use the parts for future crafts.

            I learned to fly that plane and the two that followed.  I never was as good as the guys who have been flying at Paragould High School but I did fly them.   And I’ve got three sacks to prove it.

            It is my hope that a suitable area becomes available for the people who participate in this enjoyable hobby. 

Tim Rand’s email is