What are the measurements for the goalposts in professional football? - Anonymous


Anon:  I assume you’re asking about the American NFL as opposed to soccer or arena football.  I have to keep in mind that readers from countries all over the world read this column.


Anyway, in the NFL, the goalposts (also called the uprights) are 18 feet 6 inches wide and the crossbar is 10 feet high.


Aside:  Many years ago, I was watching a football game on TV with my sons.  A field goal was attempted and the announcer said something like, “Oh no!  He missed!  The ball hit the left upright!  Can you believe it?”


My youngest son, Jeremy, was who about 6 years old at the time, turned to me, and said, “Why do they say ‘left upright’?  That sounds dumb.  Why don’t they call those bars the upleft and the upright?”  Sounds logical to me.

God Willing . . . Heavy Stuff

Doc, love the column. Here’ something to ponder . . . Recently the leader of the Taliban said that "God willing, America will be destroyed," and that he prays to God to make that happen. Is that the same God that we go to church to pray that the Taliban is destroyed? The same war that U.S. Bishops have declared moral. Who is right? Is all religion this hypocritical? Thought I’d ask a question a little more thought-provoking than rotations and standard deviations. - Anonymous


Anon: I need to say immediately that I am not a religious expert. Keep that in mind.


You insinuate that your question is more thought-provoking than questions about music rotations and standard deviations. That is your opinion and it may not be shared with others. Let me explain.


Your question is about God, an abstract word and/or concept that has a countless number of definitions (as you mention), none of which is universally accepted. Rotations and standard deviations are concrete terms that have universally accepted definitions. While some people enjoy discussing abstract terms and concepts, others would rather discuss concrete terms and concepts. That doesn’t make either group right, nor does it make either group wrong. What is thought provoking to one group may not be thought-provoking to another.


With that in mind, I will say that I do not judge the "rightness" or validity of any question I receive for this column or in my everyday life. I assume that if a person asks a question, he/she is interested in the answer—and therefore makes it a thought-provoking question to that person. So, although you don’t consider music rotations and standard deviation as thought-provoking (and that’s OK), I do.


Now let’s get to the God question. I’m sure you know that your question has been asked before in one way or another. I’m also sure that I’m not the only person who has attempted an answer, but I will do my best. What I’m sure about is that this is a very complex issue.


It’s a complex issue because, first of all, we have to make the assumption that God is real. I would imagine that anyone who doesn’t believe in God would say that your question is moot and therefore not worth discussing. So we can eliminate this angle and we have to assume that God is real. OK?


Now, there are at least two "sides" to God being real. One side is that there are several Gods and human beings throughout the world worship a different being/entity/image. The other side is that there is only one God and people throughout the world worship the same being/entity/image, but do it in their own unique way. Which is correct? I don’t know, but I do know that this dilemma is crux of the matter and may never be solved. However, we can at least address your question now that the two "sides" are acknowledged.


Your first question refers to the Taliban leader who said that "God willing, America will be destroyed, " and that he prays to God to make that happen. OK fine. He can say anything he wants to say. Just because he says, "God willing," doesn’t mean that God (whichever God he is referring to) agrees with the statement. It also doesn’t mean his statement is legitimate just because he says it. And it also doesn’t mean that God would grant the request or answer his prayers.


The Taliban leader’s comments are speculative statements only and they are made by someone who is trying to place, by virtue of the words he uses, the outcome of an event (destruction of America) on God. Those are just his words— words requesting an action to take place that is obviously out of his control. No control, eh? The best thing to do in this type of situation is to place the success or failure of an event on someone else (or being/entity/image). In this case, he places the outcome of the action on God. But…they are his words, not the words of God.


To the Bishops. In their final statement, about 260 Bishops said that, "military force, even when justified and carefully executed, must always be undertaken with a sense of deep regret." Now read the next sentence carefully. I am not equating the Bishops to the Taliban leader. What I am doing is equating their statements.


The Bishops say nothing about God wanting anything. The only thing they say is that military force must be undertaken with deep regret. See what I mean? Just like the Taliban dude, the Bishops are making a statement. Does God agree with the Bishops? Who knows? They are only making a unified statement.


OK. So there is your debate. You ask which side (or which God) is correct? That’s not the question because both sides say nothing even insinuating that God has sanctified the comments. To ask if religion is hypocritical may be OK with some other question, but not from the information you include. It’s not a debatable issue here. However, it would be legitimate to argue whether the Taliban leader is right or wrong, or if the Bishops are right or wrong. But don’t put God in the middle….that don’t be right.


Finally...and I know this is a long response…your question is really good in reference to saying (between the lines), "Hey, if there is only one God, how can God be on both sides of this turmoil?" I honestly don’t think this question is relevant. I don’t think it’s relevant because "taking sides" is not the role of God. From my understanding, human beings are not puppets under the control of God. Instead, God grants human beings the ability to do many things. Some people use these things for good and others use them for evil. I believe the intent here is to allow human beings to deal with frustrations, anger, and hatred themselves, and in the end, the side that wins will be the side that promotes human dignity and unconditional human regard. But it’s up to human beings to make the choice, not God.

Golden Mean

What is the relationship in today’s popular music with the Golden Mean?  Or is there one? - Anonymous


Anon:  While there are thousands of articles on the Internet about the Golden Mean (Golden Ratio) and the Golden Mean in music, two good explanations are here and here.  OK, about your question…


I’m open-minded about almost everything, but I’m sometimes a bit of skeptical about things that supposedly relate to so many other things.  If you read some of the articles on the Internet about the Golden Mean, you’ll see that people relate it to many, many things.  Many people also say that the Greeks, Romans, and a whole boatload of other people knew about the Golden Mean and used it in architecture, art, philosophy, and just about everything else.


Is this true?  Is the Golden Mean some type of natural or unnatural universal phenomenon?  I don’t know.  But as I said, I’m skeptical about some things, especially when they follow the approach of inductive reasoning as opposed to deductive reasoning.


The inductive approach looks at things and applies current thinking, which you can see in the interpretations of the Pyramids in Egypt or Stonehenge in England.  We may conclude that the ancient people aligned these structures toward certain stars or constructed them for specific reasons, but the fact is we really don’t know.  We’re guessing.


So I’m sure that someone could “prove” that today’s popular music is based on (or relates to) the Golden Mean, but I’m not sure if it’s true or if it really means anything.  I think it would also be interesting to see how today’s popular music relates to the sale of chocolate in England.  In other words, if we stretch thinking enough, we can relate anything to anything else.  However, the bottom line is:  So what?

Golf Balls and Water

I have a sports talk show and a listener called in and asked if a golf ball loses any of its “liveliness” if it is submerged in water for a length of time.  I tried to find the answer on the Internet, but didn’t have any luck.  Would you help, please? - Anonymous


Anon:  I found one good article with your answer: click here - go down the page to the section titled, “Water, Water, Everywhere.”


You’ll see that a submerged golf ball doesn’t travel as far as a new golf ball—too bad for all those folks who constantly search golf courses for lost (free) golf balls.

Golf Question - Number of Holes

Why are there 18 holes on a golf course? - Anonymous


Anon: When golf first started to become popular in Scotland and other areas nearby, there was no set number of holes. Courses had anywhere from 10 to 22 holes. The Royal and Ancient Golf Club in St. Andrews, Scotland had 22 holes. In 1764, the story goes, many players complained that some holes were too short and should be combined to make longer holes. That was done and the course consisted of 18 holes. Since the Royal and Ancient Golf Club was considered the premier golf course, other courses soon followed and 18 holes became the standard.


Now that is what is reported. The typical golfer does not like to get a high score. In fact, many golfers take 7 or 8 swings on a hole and record a 4 on their scorecard. ("I would have had a 4 if I were really trying.") With that in mind, I have a feeling the story about why there are 18 holes goes something like this: Too many golfers were shooting high scores with 22 holes. After finding they couldn’t improve their scores no matter what they did, they decided to cut the number of holes to 18. Their scores improved immediately and they were all happy. "Hey! I finally broke 100!"

Golf Question - Tiger Woods

I was watching the Memorial Golf tournament on TV this weekend. On one hole, Tiger Woods was 240 yards from the hole. He hit the ball exactly even (pin high) to the hole, but six feet to the left. Is there any way to figure out how many degrees the club face would have had to be changed in order for the ball to go into the hole? - Anonymous


Anon: Interesting question. I’m going to calculate a rough estimate.


You say that Tiger was 240 yards away. That’s 720 feet. You can estimate the degrees by using the 720 feet as the radius of a circle—meaning that the diameter of the hypothetical circle is 1,440 feet. (From the position where a ball lies, a golfer can hit in any direction of a 360° circle.)


So…with a diameter of 1,440, the circumference of the circle is 4,521 feet. (The circumference is 3.14 (pi) x 1,440.) With a circumference of 4,521 feet, each degree of the circle, at the 240 yard range, is about 12.5 feet. Since he was about 6 feet from the hole, it means that Tiger’s clubface was less than one-half of one degree too far to the left…an amount probably equal to less than the thickness of a match.

Golf Terms

Doc:  In reference to golf, where did the words "birdie" and "bogey" come from? - Anonymous

Anon:  If you have been reading the column for a while, you'll know that I don't like to reinvent the information wheel.  So . . . all your answers are on this web page on the USGA website.

Good Pipes vs. None

It seems that in the last several years, radio stations across the country have gone from hiring men with big voices (pipes) to men with a lot higher voices. Is this really the case and if so, why? What’s a guy with good pipes to do? Thanks. - Anonymous


Anon: I don’t know if your scenario is true or not. This is the first time I have encountered this perception. However, your analysis of "good pipes" is subjective. Your perception of good may not be shared with radio listeners. (I’m assuming that "good pipes" means a low voice since you say that men with higher voices seem to be hired.)


You’re making the assumption that a deep voice is preferred over a higher voice. I have heard references to deep voices many times in discussions with radio listeners, but what I remember most in talking to listeners is that a deep voice is not the main attraction of an on-air radio personality. The main thing most listeners talk about is the personality’s ability to talk TO the listeners, not AT them—the ability of the personality to relate to them. If a personality talks to listeners as their friends, it doesn’t matter much if the person sounds like Pee Wee Herman or James Earl Jones (according to what listeners say).


It may be that the men you hear (with higher voices) were selected because of their ability to relate to the listeners. I don’t think it’s fair (or logical) to assume that one male personality is better than another male personality only because of sound of his voice.


You ask, "What’s a guy with good pipes to do?" My answer is: Good pipes alone don’t guarantee an ability to communicate with listeners.

Google Image Search

Doc:  A friend of mine sent an email to me with a suggestion of an image to search for on Google Images.  I entered the same word he did, but didn't find the images he found.  Why are my search results different from his?  - Anonymous


Anon: There are several ways to search for images on Google Images, and one specific option may be the reason why you don't see the same images your friend does.  The option relates to "SafeSearch."


If you go to Google Images, enter a word or phrase, and hit the "Search" button, under the search bar, you'll see these two options:


Moderate SafeSearch is on

Strict SafeSearch is on


Left-click your mouse and you can change that option.  In the box titled, "SafeSearch Filtering," click on "Do not filter my search results."  You'll probably find the same images your friend mentioned.



Let me warn you, or anyone else reading this, that if you select, "Do not filter my search results," you will see a wide variety of images for even the simplest words or phrases.  You may object to these images and many are definitely not appropriate for young people.  With that in mind, I do not suggest that you show a young person (or anyone who may object to very explicit images) how to disable the "SafeSearch" option on Google Images.

Google Meaning

The word “Google” (the search engine) is a strange word.  Do you know where it came from or what it means? - Anonymous


AnonGoogle is based on the mathematical term googol, which is the number 1 followed by 100 zeros.  The word was invented in 1938 by Milton Sirotta, who was nine years old at the time, when his uncle Edward Kasner (mathematician) asked him what name he would give to the number.


By the way, you may also be interested in the term googolplex.

Grains of Sand and Stars

Yo Doc:  What’s the truth about the information that there are more stars in the universe than grains of sand on the earth.  Is that true?  - Anonymous


Anon:  True?  Oh, I wouldn’t use that word because both the number of stars and the number of grains of sand on the earth are estimates—very broad estimates.  I think the comparison is used to give provide some type of visual picture about how many stars there are in the (visible) universe.


Which begs the question:  How many stars are there?  In 2003, Australian astronomers estimated that there are about 70 sextillion (7 followed by 22 zeroes) stars in the visible universe.  Is this accurate?  Maybe.  The estimate could be way off, but we’ll probably never know because no one knows how big the universe is—it could be infinite.


Back to the grains of sand….I found one source that estimates the number of buckets of sand it takes to represent the number of stars in a galaxy—only 80 buckets according to this estimate.  And here is an article that dismisses the stars/sand comparison…Don’t be right.


I set up an Internet search for you in case you want more information…Click Here.


Now, if you read any of the information, you’ll see why I said that the comparison is basically just a “fun” thing.  There are too many unknowns.  But for some people, it’s a cool thing to think and talk about.

Grammar and Nicknames

Do you have a ghostwriter?  I was shocked to read this in your reply to somebody:


"Since your looking for a job, I set up a search for you that has some good references…"


I assumed that somebody of your caliber would know that your use of your should have been "you're."


Anyhow, do you have any idea how the nickname Bill ever came from William?  Will, I understand.  There's no B in William though!  What about Jack from Jonathan, or Dick from Richard? - Like I'm gonna tell you my name after I clowned ya for the grammar.  I can assure you that I am not Dick, Jack, or Bill


Not Dick, Jack, or Bill:  Hmmm.  Ya, no…your write.  Occasionnally, after righting for to or three hours, their are tymes when I type two fast (as if I have more than too hands), and I dont' re-reed the materiel.  I may think that all of the errors are corrrected, but sumetimes their just they’re—as if they appear on there own (probably inserted by my gostwriter).  I apolijize for the eror.  It won’t happen agin, especially from a persson of my kaliber.


About the nicknames….There are several Internet sources about nicknames.  Virtually all of them refer to a nickname as variation of the original name (known as diminutives.  In some cases, the nickname may originate from another language and that’s where you may find some interesting derivations.


The nickname Bill is a version of the diminutive, Will, which is a shortened form of William...Jack is a form of John, which is a form of Jonathan.  Finally, Dick is one of several diminutives of the name Richard.


Thanks for writing, but please don’t tell Joel Denver about my grammatical error.  He may dock my pay.


Grammar: "I seen"

Doc: One of my new jocks often says “I seen” when talking on the air. I know this is incorrect grammar. Should I correct him? Thanks in advance. - Anonymous

Anon: The use of “I seen” is definitely incorrect. In fact, there isn’t even one situation in the English language when “I seen” is correct. In every instance, the word “saw” should be used instead of “seen.” For example, “I seen the accident on the highway” is incorrect. The correct phrase is, “I saw the accident on the highway.”

The use of “I seen” has become more common in the past few years and I don’t know why. In your case, I don’t think your listeners expect perfect language and grammar on the radio station, but I do think, from what I have seen in research over the years, that most listeners don’t expect to hear blatant grammatical errors from on-air personalities, and “I seen” is a blatant error.

Grandparents - Average Age

Do you have any idea how old the average grandparent is in the United States?  It seems to me that some people who are grandparents are very young. - Anonymous


Anon:  Interesting question and I agree with you that some grandparents seem young.  I checked the 2000 Census and found that the average age for first-time grandparents in the United States is 47 years old.  That doesn’t fit with the perception many people have about grandparents—old people who can’t do very much.

Grandparents' Scam

To All Readers:


I'm using my column to spread the word about a widespread telephone scam that has affected many people.  It's called the Grandparents' Scam and here is how it works.


Slime bags from other countries, usually Canada, make random phone calls to households in the United States.  If an older-sounding person answers the phone, the caller says something like, "Grandpa (or Grandma)!   Do you know who this is?"  Grandparents who don't understand what's going on will often "guess" who the caller is by giving the name of one of their grandchildren.  If the grandparent "guesses" a name ("Is this Larry?"), the scam begins, and here is what happens.


The caller, acting as the grandchild, claims to be in trouble somewhere in Canada.  In most cases, the caller claims to be in jail somewhere in Canada after being arrested for drunk driving, a car accident, or some other illegal activity.  The caller pleads with the grandparent about the urgent need for money (and the seriousness of the "crime") and begs the grandparent that to send money to get out of the situation (usually around $5,000).  The caller needs the money now to get back home; otherwise, he/she will be stuck in jail.


The caller then asks the grandparent to go to the bank and withdraw the amount of money needed.  Next, the grandparent is told to go to Wal-Mart and send the money to Toronto (or other Canadian city) via MoneyGram (no specific address, just "Toronto" or other Canadian city).  The caller pleads with the grandparent not to tell anyone and that he/she will pay him/her back when back in the United States.  The caller tells the grandparent that he/she will call back in about two hours to get the MoneyGram transfer number so he/she can pick up the money at a local MoneyGram office in the Canadian city where he/she is supposedly incarcerated or detained.


The grandparent, feeling a sense of duty to the grandchild, gets the money, buys the MoneyGram transfer, and goes home.  About two hours later, the "grandchild" calls back, and in a sense of urgency to get off the phone because there is only one phone in the jail (or where ever) and others want to use it, the "grandchild" gets the transfer number and hangs up.  (Do you see a problem here?  If the grandchild is supposedly in jail somewhere in Canada, how can that person get the money at a local MoneyGram outlet?  The grandparents who fall for this scam say they never thought of that because of the sense of urgency to help their grandchild.)


Result?  The grandparent loses thousands of dollars.


Is this real?  Yes it is.  I know because it happened to my father-in-law.  My stepson is now in college, and grandpa received such a call three weeks ago.  He thought his grandson was in school, but the "grandson" explained that he went to Canada to attend a wedding.  My father-in-law is 86 years old and wears hearing aids.  After the ordeal was over and he was explaining the story to my wife and me, he said that the voice didn't sound like his grandson, but he wasn't sure because he has a tough time hearing on the phone and he got nervous.  He said he felt it was his "grandfatherly" duty to help out, so he did.  He went to the bank, went to Wal-Mart and transferred the money via MoneyGram, and went home so he could tell his "grandson" the transfer number.  Grandson called back, got the number, and my father-in-law lost $5,800.


What I have learned since then is that there isn't much being done by anyone to try to solve this problem.  Law enforcement officials in the United States try their best, but nothing seems to work.  One of my good friends is a Deputy Sheriff in Illinois and he says they continually send theft reports related to this fraud to Canadian officials, but they never receive any response from anyone in Canada.


In addition, I don't know of any actions taken by Wal-Mart and MoneyGram to try to stop the scam.  It seems as though there are insiders involved in this huge scam, but there is no way for me to prove it.


So, I'm asking you to do a few things: (1) As radio people, you have the opportunity to communicate instantly with millions of listeners.  Tell them about this scam; (2) Tell any grandparent you know about this scam so they will not be duped; and (3) Copy this information and paste in an email and send it to everyone you know (just highlight the entire comment, copy it, and paste it into an email).


Finally, tell the grandparents you know that there is one thing they can do to help verify that the person on the other end of the phone is legitimate.  When someone calls and says, "Grandpa/Grandma — do you know who this is?"  Tell them to say, "No."  If the caller says, "I'm your grandson/granddaughter," tell the grandparent to say, "Which one?"  If that doesn't work, tell the grandparents to ask the caller a very personal question that only the grandchild could answer (the name of a pet or something).  If the caller can't answer any of the questions, tell the grandparent to hang up the phone.


The scammers make thousands of random telephone calls to households in the United States every day and continue until they find someone who falls for the scam.  They prey on elderly people who care for their grandchildren, but may be nervous on the phone, have hearing problems, or something else that might make them fall for such a scam.  It's a sick thing to do and I'm trying, through this note, to help stop older folks from being the targets of the slime bags.


If you want more information, here is a search on the Internet — click here.

(Graupel) Weather Question

Doc: I heard a weather report about the strange Spring snowstorm in Denver yesterday, and the reporter said the area had several inches of grovel or groffle or something like that.  It was a strange sounding word and I have no idea what the person said and I don't even know how to search for it on the Internet.  Do you know what the word is?  - Anonymous

Anon: I have always wondered why some people prefer to use complicated-sounding words when a simple word is all that is necessary.  I don't think you would have been confused if the reporter said that Denver had several inches of snow pellets, because that's what (here is the word) graupel is—snow pellets.  I found this picture on the Internet for those people who have never seen snow pellets (graupel):



The interesting thing is that most of the Denver TV weather people are using the same word and I imagine that about 99.9% of the viewers have no idea what they are saying.  It's just another example of how some media people have no understanding of who is in the audience.  They are talking AT the audience, not TO them.

Group Branding IDs

I have heard some radio stations add their corporate identity to their legal IDs, such as "KIIS – FM, Los Angeles . . . Clear Channel Worldwide. I see no advantage to the listener in this. Do you? - Anonymous


Anon: If you’re interested in how listeners perceived this identity in your market, you need to ask them. However, I can say that in all the years I have been conducting radio research, I have never heard one listener voice a concern or interest in the company that owns the radio stations they listen to.


My opinion of the corporate identity approach, according to what listeners say, is that’s it’s merely a "corporate stroking"—it makes the corporate suits happy I guess, but doesn’t seem to be important to listeners.

Guaranteed Music/Elements or What?

Hi Doc, What does your research experience say about stations using empty guarantees?  Such things as fewer commercials, the most music, and weather every 10 minutes…guaranteed.  Guaranteed or what?  What if the weather forecast happens 11 minutes after the last one?  What does the audience get if a station blows it on one of its guarantees?  Nothing!  Wouldn’t this hurt a station’s credibility?  Aren’t listeners turned off by empty promises?  An obvious exception to this would be stations that do offer something tangible as a guarantee—20 in a row or $10,000, for example—although I’m not really sold on that either because the audience doesn’t benefit as a whole.  What’s your take on this?  Thanks, and, keep up the excellent work!  This column rocks! - Chris


Chris:  Thanks for the comment about the column.  I learn a lot from the people who submit questions.  So, on to your questions.


What I have learned from listeners over the years is that they know their favorite radio station’s programming very well.  For example, if the radio station has weather every 10 minutes, they expect to hear that.  Do they care if it’s a minute or so off?  Not really because most listeners don’t know what time it is anyway.  What they know is that they won’t have to wait long until the next weather report.


Does the radio station’s credibility go down hill because of a missed weather report (or other element that is supposed to be on)?  That depends on how bad the “miss” was.  A minute or so is OK, but if the radio station doesn’t have frequent weather reports as indicated by reports every 10 minutes, then the audience would probably question the station’s credibility.


But let’s move to something other than a weather report (or news or traffic report).  While these service elements are important to most listeners, the listeners aren’t going to be upset if something is off by a minute or two.  However, this isn’t true with “bigger” promises such as “20 songs in a row.”  (By the way, the number of songs in a row doesn’t mean a thing.  To the listeners, any number of songs in a row is OK.  For example, most listeners do not think that a radio station that plays “20 in a row” is better than a radio station that plays “10 in a row.”  The listeners don’t care about the number of songs in a row.  They care about the quality of the songs in a row.  A typical comment is something like, “Yea, WAAA plays 20 songs in a row, but 10 of the songs are usually terrible.  At least WBBB plays 10 good songs in a row.”)


In the long run, and I agree with you here, is that selling a radio station on the number of songs played in a row is virtually meaningless to most listeners.  What’s is meaningful to listeners is which songs are played, not how many.  In addition, selling a radio station on a specific number of songs in a row doesn’t follow the logic of persuasion.  For decades, persuasion theorists have said that the most effective form of persuasion is an ambiguous message that allows each person to “fill in” his or her own message.  Following this understanding, it is much better for a radio station to sell itself as a “More music radio station.”  What does that mean?  Who knows.  But when I conduct perceptual studies for radio stations that use that type of message, the listeners say, “They play the most music.”  That’s the way ambiguity works and most radio stations don’t take advantage of what is known in persuasion theory.  They just don’t.


Although most radio listeners are somewhat flexible in their expectations from radio stations, I need to add that they do expect consistency.  If you tell the listeners that you’ll have certain elements on at (or around) certain times, then you better have them at those times.  Many listeners schedule their day by what programming is on their favorite radio station.  It’s very common to hear listeners say something like, “I know I’m late for work if the news comes on.”


Just as with any product or service, there is the element of “promise vs. performance.”  If you promise the customers (listeners) something and the performance doesn’t follow through, then you have probably created a person who won’t come back.  (This refers to your comment about listeners being turned off by empty promises.)  But that doesn’t mean that you have to have things so perfect that they appear at the same second every day…listeners will give you some leeway.


By the way, I also agree with you about your $10,000 prize.  If you’re going to have a contest, it’s better to have 10 winners of $1,000 than one winner of $10.


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