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two out of three still ain’t bad

December 5, 2011

I’m certain that all of you have used Meatloaf’s “Bat Out of Hell” album to

guide you through life since October 1977.  No other song has captured the

urgent and evanescent nature of adolescent angst better than “Paradise by

the Dashboard Light”.  No other album has dared to include “Heaven Can

Wait” with the title track, which chronicled the rare medical condition of

one’s heart bursting from one’s chest and flying away after a motorcycle



So you can understand why I had “Two out of Three Ain’t Bad” on my mind

by the end of Saturday.  First the bad:


Jude and I have been studying to test for ham radio operator licenses because

we’re part of Emergency Social Services on our island.  This is a provincial pro-

gram to provide shelter, food, clothing and other needs for people displaced by

disasters.  Because our community is so isolated, we are developing plans to

evacuate or get by without outside assistance for at least three days.


Communications with others is vital to that, of course, and ham radio is the

best chance to maintain that.  It’s what will get us through the Zombie Apoc-

alypse.  So we train and prepare for something we hope will never happen.


Our approach and attitude for the course were polar opposites.  Jude listened

attentively in class, taking notes and constantly studying.  I, far less motivated,

was bewildered by the technical part, and sometimes wrote parodies of songs

from “The Sound of Music”.  Early on, I found out that our textbook had the

questions AND answers that would be on our test.  I told Jude that would be

the extent of my curiosity.


Ham radio licensure is controlled by Industry Canada.  That was the first ques-

tion on the test.  Our book had a pool of about 2000 questions from which the

test is drawn.  About 200 of those are commonly used, so that’s all I studied.

I read only the question and the correct answer, with the belief that the less

I crammed into my brain, the better the chances I just might remember it.


Mind you, my mind is already stuffed with information of virtually no value.

I can sing Ray Stevens’ “Furthermore” at the original tempo.  I know that the

population of Quito, Ecuador, is 2 million plus; but that has been useless to me

until just now.


We were told in class that we had to get at least 60 of 100 questions correct to

pass.  Jude and I took several practice tests and scored in the mid-60’s each

time.  So I sat down to the test fairly sure I could muddle through.  Jude, a

brilliant person with a doctorate, fretted the whole time.  I started buzzing

through the test.  We were going to celebrate later with a hamburger at the



I recalled well or guessed with some confidence for 3/4’s of the test.  Then I

hit a patch of questions that I’d never read and had no grasp of.  It was like I’d

missed a handout or a chapter assignment.  Daunted, I gave it my best shot

and finished up.  Jude finished about 20 minutes later.


While I was waiting, the chap administering the test said to me “It looks like

you missed it by a few points.”  I had.  Although I scored a 67, the minimum

passing score had been raised to 70.  “But I only studied to 60 percent effic-

iency,” I explained.  Industry Canada didn’t care.  Jude also just missed it.


We passed on the pub and drove home heavy and light of heart.  Jude’s was

heavy because she had studied so hard and thought she had enough points 

to pass.  Mine was light because it was over for now and I could get on to more

pressing things, most specifically the LSU – Georgia football game.


Now the two good things.  Minutes after we left the house to take the test, LSU’s

Tyrann Mathieu returned a punt 62 yards for a touchdown to wake up the

Tigers.  Georgia scored the first ten points, LSU the last 42.  If the Bayou Bengals

beat Alabama in the BCS national championship, they’ll become just the third

team in NCAA Division I history to win 14 games in a season.


As LSU’s slow start was worrying me so, I got an e-mail from my son Chris to

call him.  He had just returned from Hannibal, Missouri, where his son Sean

had shown his soccer skills to the coaching staff at Hannibal-LaGrange Uni-

versity.  They were impressed to the point of talking scholarship with Sean.


HLU established its soccer programs for men and women just 13 years ago, but

this year both teams went to the NAIA national championship.  Sean is stoked.

And his grandmother and uncle live in Hannibal.


So, as Meatloaf pointed out 34 years ago and ever since, two out of three ain’t

bad.  Jude fixed me a turkey burger and we watched a recording of the LSU

game, then the cheerfully creepy Steve Buscemi hosting “Saturday Night Live”.

I drifted off to sleep later wondering if anyone in Quito, Ecuador, could sing




  P.S.    I had planned on calling this post “Oh, Hammy Day” in celebration

              of our passing the test.  It’s a reference to this remarkable song by

              the Edwin  Hawkins Singers.  A Grammy winner in 1970, it still

              electrifies me.  I believe gospel singing might be our most potent

              way to bring light to darkness.  So, in this season marked by the

              hope that love can triumph over ignorance, drink of its power.


  1. Diane (friend of Kathy) permalink
    December 5, 2011 12:32 pm

    Take the test again. I passed by memorizing the Q&A and I’ll get my next step up that way too. Meanwhile my hubby actually knows all this stuff and builds the antennas and might actually survive the Zombie Apocolypse while I try to memorize my defense .. LOL!

    • December 6, 2011 9:02 am

      Hi, Diane. Any friend of the Coach is welcome here. To try to memorize the 2000 or so questions would melt my brain, and something resembling guacamole would ooze out my ears. In fact, that might inadvertently trigger the Zombie Apocalypse. We will retest in the spring. Fortunately, one of our neighbours easily passed and is planning his set-up as we speak.

  2. Gordon Raley permalink
    December 5, 2011 1:39 pm

    And I thought I was the only one listening to Ray-mond Stevens all these years. Actually during the Zombie Apocolypse it may be sufficient just to sing “Futhermore” in it’s original tempo to force them slowly back to the nether regions. Of course doing that over a ham radio should just hasten the effect, especially if done by a bonified Lustrous Potentate.

    • December 6, 2011 9:06 am

      You’re right, Gordie. After all, it only took a Slim Whitman yodel to repel the aliens in “Mars Attacks”.

  3. kris (lower case) permalink
    December 6, 2011 7:40 pm

    slim whitman…i remember the tv commercials of his ‘songs’ in the 70’s.. those were the days.. another fine song! any way…take the test again when they offer it.. you can only do what you can do.. watch out for the zombies.. i guess zombies are the new vampires..

    • December 7, 2011 7:36 am

      Hi, kris. Thanks for the encouragement on the test. I do watch out for zombies. According to the movie “Zombieland”, they can now run much faster.

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