The Hoosierist: A Mighty Wind

A Mighty Wind

Illustration by Ryan Johsnon

Q: My dad says tornadoes can drive a piece of straw through a tree. Can they do that, or is this just an old farmer’s story?
A: Yes, a powerful tornado can definitely drive a strand of straw through a tree. But when it comes to the stuff twisters do, this barely scratches the surface. They’ve also driven garden hoses through trees (Google it), and can strip away pavement, knock over trains, and wad up cars like empty beer cans. In fact, most tornado victims don’t die from the wind, per se, but by colliding with the junk inside that twister. However, one tornado story—that opening your windows will equalize the atmospheric pressure indoors and out, preventing your house from exploding—is pure hooey. Houses in a tornado’s path aren’t smashed by differences in air pressure. They’re smashed because they’re in a tornado’s path. Rest assured that when a domicile is assaulted by 300-mph winds, it doesn’t matter if the windows are open or not.

Q: I know that the Ball Corporation still exists in some form. But do they still make jars?
A: This storied company, formerly based in Muncie, has gone through something of an identity crisis lately. Founded in 1880 by five brothers (you can guess their last name), its glass canning jars were once as intimately associated with Indiana as tenderloin sandwiches and high humidity. But as the home canning biz lost its luster, Ball struck out in other directions. In 1998, the headquarters moved from Muncie to Colorado, in keeping with its entry into, of all things, the aerospace business. Yes, the company once known solely for the jars in which Grammy put her famous tomato sauce now makes everything from fighter jet components to telescope parts. But it’s not as if they’ve entirely given up on their core industry. Ball still operates a large packaging division. However, their iconic jars were offloaded to another firm in 1996.

Q: Lots of old-school video game bars have popped up here lately. How do they keep those machines running?
A: Not surprisingly, keeping an arcade game from the ’80s in good order can be a huge pain. Which is why very little of the hardware in an “old-school” video game actually dates back to the Thriller era. According to Jason Wagner at Doc Pinball, a local repair shop, while that Pac-Man at your neighborhood bar runs the game’s original software, it often does so using updated electronics and a flat-screened monitor. “They don’t make the old tube monitors anymore,” Wagner says. You know what else can’t be found? The electronic guts for laser disc-based games such as Dragon Slayer. Pretty much every bit of technology they used is as dead as The Hoosierist’s Sega Genesis.

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