Forecaster and surgeon weather tests of time to gain success


March 07, 1994|By DAN RODRICKS

Looks like ye olde "Hagers-Town Town and Country Almanack," the second ye-oldest almanac in the country, had a pretty good year predicting snow and ice and all the rest of that crud we're so sick of. William O'Toole, the almanac's weather forecaster -- he's a follower of sunspots, not Doppler radar -- accurately forecast, months and months ago, nearly every storm we had, including the blast we took last week. He nailed every storm either on the day it occurred, or within a day of its arrival. What a guy, huh?

"I was really lucky," O'Toole aw-shucked to an Associated Press writer the other day. "It just happens to be one of my best years." O'Toole is chairman of the math and computer science department at Mount St. Mary's College and, while he had a good year predicting our misery, he's had some bad years, too. He predicted March 13, 1993, would be fair and cool. If memory serves, we had a blizzard that day. But, hey, why snain on the guy's parade? He had a good year; Willard Scott quoted him, and Peter Jennings interviewed him. His success should help the almanac, which needs a circulation boost.

So don't take any chances. Prepare for next winter. Buy the second ye-oldest almanac in the country. Then, when January comes, fly to Aruba for two months.

Smart -- and honest

Dr. Benjamin Carson, chief of pediatric neurosurgery at Hopkins, was profiled big-time in a recent issue of Positive Living, the magazine of motivation and "personal selling power." This is a magazine that holds up the likes of Ed McMahon as one of America's "great motivators," so highlighting Carson was a considerable step up for PL. The magazine appropriates from Carson's life -- and his 1993 autobiography, "Gifted Hands," written with Cecil Murphey -- inspirational themes and advice on attaining success. Carson describes how, with his mother's push, he went from "class dummy" in fifth grade to best student in eighth grade. (At the assembly, the teacher who presented Carson with his award berated the white students for allowing a black kid to beat them out.) Later, while at Yale, Carson was in a psychology class of about 150 students who received a bulletin saying they had to retake a test because the first set of exams had been "inadvertently burned." The second test was incredibly difficult, if not impossible. Most of the students walked out, vowing to claim they had missed the bulletin. Not Carson. With 30 minutes left in the exam time, he was the last student in the room. The professor showed up with a Yale Daily News photographer. The retest had been a hoax; the prof wanted to know which student was the most honest. Carson won that title -- and $10.

No license to kill

How can anyone but a blockhead -- we've a disproportionate share of them in the General Assembly -- argue against the licensing of someone who wants to own a handgun in the state of Maryland? Last I checked, we had to take a driving test and pass an eye examination to get a license to operate a motor vehicle. But to own a handgun, one of the deadliest implements in the United States, we needn't be tested or licensed. A fella doesn't have to prove he knows how to handle or fire one. He has only to prove he's neither a criminal nor mentally ill, and he's off and running with his new bang-bang. Too bad. Licensing is not the answer to crime, but it is a reasonable measure. (And the comparison of guns to automobiles is fair. The number of shooting deaths in Maryland -- not all, but certainly most, by handgun -- totaled 708 in 1991, the same as the number of people killed in traffic accidents.)

Problem is, the aardvarks from the outback -- rural Maryland senators like Walter Baker, for instance -- refuse to see the horrific problems related to the widespread use of handguns in and around Baltimore and the District of Columbia. (A young person in the 15-to-34 age group in Baltimore is five times as likely to die from a gunshot wound as in an automobile accident. That includes murders and suicides.)

Narrow minds think alike. The rural pols can't see the wisdom in licensing or in the statutory limiting of handgun purchases to one per month, another legislative proposal. All they see and hear are gun-happy guys in Cabela's camouflage gear, grousing that handgun control means an eventual end to a fella's right to shoot a duck. The pols take no responsibility for the pain inflicted by the torrent of firearms our wounded society must absorb.

(Stats quoted are from the Maryland State Police and the Centers for Disease Control)

Wise crab move

The Schaefer administration's proposal for licensing recreational crabbers looks like a winner. At least, it should be. I can hear the whining now from civil libertarians who see this as still another government intrusion, but give Don Donaldo credit for supporting future-thinking about the Chesapeake. We're going to charge people seven bucks a year to go crabbing and limit the number of crab pots commercial watermen can take on the bay.

This time, we're not waiting until the situation is desperate -- as it was with rockfish, as it is with oysters -- to take steps to protect the blue crab from overharvesting. This should save the necks of a few chickens, too.

Contact This Just In on 332-6166.

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