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Notebook Worthy

SANATOGA  PA – Weekend (April 4-5, 2009) jottings from a reporter’s notebook, in no particular order:

Its 407 miles from Pottsgrove Middle School to West Holmes Middle School. Happy trails!

It's 411 miles from Pottsgrove to West Holmes Middle School.

A Pringle Vs. The Postal Service

The U.S. Postal Service, like many other institutions lately, is facing problems. Its costs are going up. Due to competition from Federal Express, UPS and others, its revenue is going down. And the care with which it handles packages is, well, occasionally questionable. Sometimes mail doesn’t get where it’s supposed to go. Sometimes it arrives in broken pieces.

As is often the case, though, American inventors are rising to the challenge. So welcome, ladies and gentlemen, the inventive heroes of today’s tale, the sixth grade classes of Pottsgrove Middle School in Pottstown PA, and of West Holmes Middle School in Millersburg OH, a village 86 miles south of Cleveland.

Their job: make tougher packages.

The classes are friendly opponents in what is called “The Pringles Challenge.” Their task is to create packaging that will allow a single Pringles-brand snack chip to travel via the Postal Service the 411-mile distance between Pottstown and Millersburg without breaking.

It’s a real learning experience that combines math, physics, general sciences, construction, design skills, and teamwork. Students at each school have been working in what Pottsgrove Principal William Ziegler calls “lab groups” to create cushioned packages of regulation size that withstand the pressures to which a thin, almost weightless chip might be subjected.

All package designs were shipped in mid-March. Winning packages are graded on the protection provided to their contents. A range of 100 points (a perfect, intact chip) to 1 point (potato dust)  is awarded for each arrival. Pottsgrove needed only a 56-percent success rate to win the challenge, Ziegler said, and the school is  “eagerly awaiting the results.” Us too.

What Day Would You Sacrifice?

The Postal Service has actively discussed suspending delivery on one of its six regular mail days, Monday through Saturday, to reduce costs. Tuesday, whose child in the ages-old nursery rhyme was full of grace, holds no grace with mail carriers; it currently seems most likely to go. If the decision were to be made by readers of The Sanatoga Post, which day would you favor? That’s the subject of our latest Post Poll. Participate below, won’t you?

[polldaddy poll=1518925]

Cell Phone Poll Results

Eleven days ago (March 27, 2009), the last Post Poll asked if readers favored a ban on handheld cell phones while driving in Pennsylvania. An overwhelming 89 percent of those who voted said yes; only 11 percent opposed the idea. The state Legislature hasn’t voted either way, yet.

When Worlds Collide

Spotted Saturday (April 4, 2009) on a southbound F Train in New York City, en route to Coney Island: a young man, no older than 20, reading a well-thumbed Bible held in his left hand while texting on a cell phone in his right hand.

Sign Of Our Times

Minutes later, the same seven-car train arrives at Fort Hamilton Parkway station in South Brooklyn. A band of four male musicians – two guitarists and two singers – boards and offers an energetic two-minute performance. One of the singers passes a hat, and collects a dollar each from two riders. The group leaves the train at the next stop and almost immediately enters a different car to begin performing for a new audience. This is known as making a living in the recession.

The Six Flags or Knoebel's of its day.

The Six Flags or Knoebel's of its day.

Accept No Substitutes

Winter hasn’t yet left the Coney Island boardwalk, no matter what the calendar says. The wind off the Atlantic Ocean is sharp and cold, and gusts raise clouds of beach sand that sting the eyes.

A block away, on Surf Avenue, the original Nathan’s Famous hot dog stand is operating and serving customers from an enclosed dining room. You could buy the same meal at Nathan’s franchise store inside the food court at Limerick’s Philadelphia Premium Outlets, but somehow it just tastes better where it was born.

Map from Google Maps; postcard photo from


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