Community Events: Neighborhood Warning Night


Lesser Pompous Lakes, All Residential Neighborhoods, 6:30 – 8:30 pm: All residents are requested to go to their windows and look up and down the block to identify the most petty things their neighbors are doing that still annoy them. Get some sheets of paper and write these things down, then wad the papers up around rubber erasers and after ten or fifteen minutes go out and throw these things at the relevant neighbors. Meanwhile in the confusion a small squad of pranksters from South Lesser Pompous Lakes will be able to sneak in to City Hall and leave the cow. No don’t write that part in the e-mail to the newspaper, Jeremy. No, it isn’t funny to pretend we’re going to tell them why we’re doing it, now delete it before you hit send

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Statistics Saturday: The Whole Numbers Zero Through Twenty In Alphabetical Order


  1. 8
  2. 18
  3. 11
  4. 15
  5. 5
  6. 4
  7. 14
  8. 9
  9. 19
  10. 1
  11. 7
  12. 17
  13. 6
  14. 16
  15. 10
  16. 13
  17. 3
  18. 12
  19. 20
  20. 2
  21. 0

Georges Melies: Baron Munchausen’s Dream, and, yes, that includes spiders


To kick off the weekend and give myself time to prepare statistics, let me offer another Georges Méliès short, 1911’s Baron Münchausen’s Dream. This is longer than last week’s entry, and it’s just about as long as his famous A Trip To The Moon, but the short still has much of what makes Méliès films so distinctively him. Most of the story is set up as a dream, which gives Méliès free range to have bizarre stuff just happen. I’m also amused that there’s scenes featuring Münchausen and his reflection in the mirror, which sounds like nothing until you realize that if there were a mirror there then you’d clearly see the camera and stage crew and, for that matter, the street outside the glass-lined studio where they filmed. You’ll figure out the sensible way they did the trick.

Again I apologize for not having a proper archival-quality link, but, if this embed should die please let me know and I’ll try to do something about it.

What You Missed, At Lunch


Here are some of the things you missed at the fast food place during lunch:

Karen-with-a-y (we don’t know either), the cashier, is explaining the new Reuben sandwich to Craig, who’s never liked Reubens, although not to such an extent that he’d volunteer to jump into an alternate timeline where he sandwich was never invented. Actually, sometimes he gets a Reuben just because he enjoys how much he doesn’t like the taste or the texture or anything about it, especially grilled. Karen-with-a-y is explaining that their particular Reuben substitutes a chicken-based bologna-like substance for the corned beef, and uses cheddar in place of Swiss cheese, and the sauerkraut is replaced with a very dry cole slaw, and they’re making it with bleu cheese dressing. At this point Craig is just dragging out questions about what else is substituted because as far as he can tell the only actual part of the Reuben left is the rye bread, and he’s about to learn they’re serving it on a kaiser roll instead. Neither knows why the billboard out front spells the sandwich “Rueben”.

Underneath the ventilation system pumping enough heat to melt the styrofoam cups, the Books We Were Supposed To Read In School literary society is going over this month’s text, E M Foster’s Howards End, to correctly rank the order in which each character needs to be punched senseless. Mary-Lane, trying desperately to remember any of the characters from the book she’s spent the last two weeks reading, nominates “the fellow who’s starting a little automobile factory”, which draws general support as definitely deserving to be in the top five at least. A careful examination would reveal that they seem to be bringing a character from Orson Welles’ The Magnificent Ambersons into the book, and not really fairly at that, but then Helen-with-an-e (no idea) is still sufficiently angry at Alec Clare from back in Tess of the d’Urbervilles that this drives the entire conversation, and everybody agrees he’s the most punchable character even in the eight books they’ve read since that one. While agreed to this point, Jack finds he is completely unable to deploy the trivia he found instead of reading the last quarter of the book, that the words “here”, “our”, “thought”, “through”, “Tibby”, and “why” all appear in the book 126 times each. James-with-a-j (as you’d expect) meant to agree to all this more prominently but found that a little too much work and settled for putting slices of lemon in his Diet Coke.

Carol is repeating to her group the story of how she went out of her way to warn the person watching over the self-service check-outs at the supermarket that someone, not her, abandoned a bag of frozen shrimp by the start of the check-out lane, and something should be done about that. She expects her friends to be more in agreement that the ages she spent at this — others would estimate it at about ten seconds — are probably why she’s been running behind schedule all month. While her heroic acclaim is slow to come everyone does agree that the shrimp shouldn’t have been abandoned like that and certainly somebody ought to have done something about that.

Vladimir, who had been staring at an empty table with a pile of napkins atop, has noticed that a button’s popped off his winter jacket. He’s never buttoned his jacket, not even when he tried the jacket on in the store, because he’s always afraid of buttons popping off and now to have it just come off by itself feels like a particularly unnecessary insult on the jacket’s part. He buries the loose button in the jacket pocket, which he never uses because he’s always sure he’ll forget whatever he’s put in there, and discovers the button that came off the other side of the jacket last winter that he resolved to get sewn back on just as soon as he thought of it. On reflection, he can’t figure where either button should go.

Pamela, taking her order out, crossed the street not because she needed to but because cars in both lanes of the road opposite saw her and came to a full stop. Given this attention it was too embarrassing to keep going where she actually meant to be.

Overall it was probably less awkward to bring lunch today.

Are they really kitchen science comics?


Over on my mathematics blog is a fresh collection of comic strips that talk about mathematics subjects, and a couple of those get into talking about stuff you might eat or at least have around the kitchen. I’d like to offer something else for loyal readers here or those who’ve already seen the mathematics blog, but I just haven’t found anything to match, because I’m hard at work trying to think of a way to build my normal once-a-week long-form essay out of the best idea I have right now, which is, “unconvincing declarations of innocence”. It’s going to be a heck of a ride until press time, for me at least.

Robert Benchley: How To Understand International Finance


[ I am surprised I haven’t posted this before. In this essay from 1922’s Love Conquers All, Robert Benchley explains modern finance, using the example of the German war debt to make it all surprisingly clear. As with all great humor, it’s pretty true. ]

It is high time that someone came out with a clear statement of the international financial situation. For weeks and weeks officials have been rushing about holding conferences and councils and having their pictures taken going up and down the steps of buildings. Then, after each conference, the newspapers have printed a lot of figures showing the latest returns on how much Germany owes the bank. And none of it means anything.

Now there is a certain principle which has to be followed in all financial discussions involving sums over one hundred dollars. There is probably not more than one hundred dollars in actual cash in circulation today. That is, if you were to call in all the bills and silver and gold in the country at noon tomorrow and pile them up on the table, you would find that you had just about one hundred dollars, with perhaps several Canadian pennies and a few peppermint life-savers. All the rest of the money you hear about doesn’t exist. It is conversation-money. When you hear of a transaction involving $50,000,000 it means that one firm wrote “50,000,000” on a piece of paper and gave it to another firm, and the other firm took it home and said “Look, Momma, I got $50,000,000!” But when Momma asked for a dollar and a quarter out of it to pay the man who washed the windows, the answer probably was that the firm hadn’t got more than seventy cents in cash.

This is the principle of finance. So long as you can pronounce any number above a thousand, you have got that much money. You can’t work this scheme with the shoe-store man or the restaurant-owner, but it goes big on Wall Street or in international financial circles.

This much understood, we see that when the Allies demand 132,000,000,000 gold marks from Germany they know very well that nobody in Germany has ever seen 132,000,000,000 gold marks and never will. A more surprised and disappointed lot of boys you couldn’t ask to see than the Supreme Financial Council would be if Germany were actually to send them a money-order for the full amount demanded.

What they mean is that, taken all in all, Germany owes the world 132,000,000,000 gold marks plus carfare. This includes everything, breakage, meals sent to room, good will, everything. Now, it is understood that if they really meant this, Germany couldn’t even draw cards; so the principle on which the thing is figured out is as follows: (Watch this closely; there is a trick in it).

You put down a lot of figures, like this. Any figures will do, so long as you can’t read them quickly:

  • 132,000,000,000 gold marks
  • $33,000,000,000 on a current value basis
  • $21,000,000,000 on reparation account plus 12-1/2% yearly tax on German exports
  • 11,000,000,000 gold fish
  • $1.35 amusement tax
  • 866,000 miles. Diameter of the sun
  • 2,000,000,000
  • 27,000,000,000
  • 31,000,000,000

Then you add them together and subtract the number you first thought of. This leaves 11. And the card you hold in your hand is the seven of diamonds. Am I right?

The Thing About Medusa


So, if Ben “The Thing” Grimm were to fight Medusa, would he have to avoid seeing her? I mean, what’s the worst that could happen, he’d be turned into even more stone? I feel like there’s probably an implicit answer in that The Thing is still around in comics, I think, and surely the Fantastic Four battled Medusa at some time in the 60s because if it was the 60s and you were a superhero you just did that sort of thing, battling ancient Greek mythological figures, possibly in space. So The Thing is still around, and you don’t see Medusa’s face slapped all over comic books, but that’s surely just because she’s waiting to be rebooted into a new movie series of her own, right? And that means he probably handled things just fine.

Anyway, I feel like there’s probably someone well-versed in the details of the Marvel comic books universe who could tell me with certainty about their fight and whether he had to do anything special, but, I dunno. I feel vaguely bad when I can effortlessly explain subtler points of 1980s G.I.Joe episodes to people, and I don’t want to make the Marvel comics expert have to feel like that too.

Dream World Investment Tips: My Little Pony Edition


I admit normally my dreams seem to contain warnings about how to practically navigate various life scenarios. This one seems different. I’m pretty sure that this dream is telling of the next big fad in indoor mall-based entertainments, and it’s obviously got to be acted on soon because indoor malls have maybe four years left before the last one closes down.

Anyway, according to my dream, the next big fad especially among fraternity brother-model young males, is going to be renting these cheap but surprisingly well-crafted My Little Pony costumes and wandering around the mall just looking like the one that’s a kind of dusty grey. I don’t know why this would suddenly be a fad, much less how you could make these surprisingly flexible foam costumes, which are seamless except for the zipper up front, wearable for only five bucks an hour, but I have to admit, I love seeing the ordinary crowd wandering around a shopping mall with a surprising number of grey My Little Ponies puttering around silently.

This may be because along the way, all the vacant stores in shopping malls are apparently turning into unattended arcades, with another big attraction being a two-person replica of the contestants booths from Hollywood Squares, I’m guessing so people can play their own version of the game against a video monitor and recorded answers and all that. As a game show fan from way back, I approve, even if I never much cared for Hollywood Squares. It’s all a step towards getting Card Sharks back on the air.

Statistics Saturday: Where I Am Ticklish


Place Am I Ticklish There?
The belly Yes.
Armpits Hoo yeah.
Knees Yup.
Lower Back Yes, really.
Shoulder Blades Honest.
Hair Don’t roll your eyes. It’s true.
West Virginia What? I’ve been tickled there.
Wrists Well, I am very ticklish.
Forehead Not so much, there, actually.

Georges Melies: The Skipping Cheeses (or: Is Brie Murder?)


I’m afraid this short doesn’t appear to be at archive.org, so I can’t be so confident that the embedded link will work indefinitely into the future. If it doesn’t, well, let me know and I’ll try to do something about it.

I wanted to share Georges Méliès’s 1907 short Les Fromages Automobiles, and if you think it’s a whimsical fantasy about cars made of cheese I’m afraid you’re just being silly. The English title at least as rendered on a recent set of DVDs of Méliès films is The Skipping Cheeses and that’s surely more something to giggle about.

The story meanwhile enjoys the simplicity of a dream: a cheesemonger boards the trolley, with her cheeses hid in a basket; the smell of them causes everyone else to look around and suspect everyone but the new arrival of causing the strange odor. When she’s found out, the police are called, and she’s hauled off on a count of transporting cheese on a public conveyance. Then the cheeses hop out of their basket and follow her into court, whereupon the brie (at least according to the DVD narrator) leaps up and smothers the judge. It’s really the classic story, inspiring as it does grand thoughts of “Wait, what?” If you get past that, you can file the image of vengeful cheese away for a more conveniently-timed nightmare.

Escaping to Lansing


Disasters not afflicting Lansing: Hurricanes, tsunamis, volcanos, pop singers, scorpions.

The local newspaper mentioned that at South By Southwest a trade group from the Lansing area advertised to whoever’s interested in this sort of thing the proposition “Escape To Lansing”. The big selling point — and the one that’s on their web site — is that Lansing is free of many disasters which make it annoying to do business, to wit:

Hurricanes. True. Mid-Michigan is admirably hurricane-free, what with most hurricanes refusing to tromp over the Appalachian mountains and deal with trying to follow the highways around Toledo.

Scorpions. I can’t dispute that the Lansing metropolitan area has a pretty low number of scorpions, and most of those who are around are either in their designated pens within the pet shops or are work-study students helping make sure that visitors to the college or university library are briefly examined by eye and grunted at before they finish entering or exiting. I have to question whether scorpions are a major problem in most business districts, however. If they are then maybe startup businesses just need to buy screen doors.

Radioactive Gas. I hadn’t imagined that Lansing ever had a problem with radioactive gas emissions gathering to dangerous levels, but now that they’re going to the bother of telling people there’s no radioactive gas it’s started to make me worry. They maybe shouldn’t have raised the issue.

Earthquakes. Michigan has a very low earthquake risk, with the greatest hazard being earthquakes which other states or Canadian provinces hold and which spill over owing to inadequate soundproofing in the walls between states. The upper peninsula was subject to a series of earthquakes in the mid-19th century as the copper underneath it was dug out and turned into telephone wires in New York City and Boston, and the remaining crust collapsed over and over again, but the ground has mostly settled since then, and any attempt to get an earthquake going will be dampened by abandoned mining equipment. No serious risk there.

Justin Bieber. This seems petty. Pop stars are a fundamentally unpredictable, whimsical force of nature, prone to blowing into our lives and inspiring tiresome conversations about how we don’t like them and then blowing back out again, sometimes leaving us with a song we can’t quite get out of our heads. We have little to fear from them, and they pay for their existence by giving entertainment journalists something to talk about which isn’t lists of TV shows you won’t watch. They should be appreciated for how they enrich life’s tapestry of things we don’t really have to do anything about.

Tsunamis. Actually, the adorable little wave they use here makes me think of the original Bell Atlantic logo. While it’s true Michigan had very little phone service by Bell Atlantic before it changed its name and become a more annoying company, I don’t see why South By Southwest attendees would be particularly impressed by this. If they didn’t want to do business with Bell Atlantic they could as easily do that in Austin.

The 1984-era Bell Atlantic logo, with a little wave for the crossbar of the A.

Volcanos. Michigan hasn’t had an active volcano in about 2.5 billion years, but it seems presumptuous to say that companies would want to relocate to mid-Michigan just to avoid volcanos. Obviously companies that do volcano tours are going to be attracted by having volcanos, but what about places that hope to get in on something igneous? Maybe they’re figuring corporate headquarters can be away from the magma action and this will be somehow worth it in the end. I don’t know.

Sharks. I’m fairly sure there aren’t many shark attacks even in the business districts of coastal towns. I have to imagine a company that’s routinely losing key personnel or equipment to shark attacks, and isn’t in the shark-annoying trade, is screwed up in fundamental ways. If they relocated to Lansing they’d probably just get lost in the woods and see their business plan get eaten by squirrels.

I notice they don’t say a word about the ice storms causing blackouts or that stretch in early February when it got so cold all molecular motion ceased. Well, it was a harsh winter but we do generally have indoor heating. They also don’t mention that in Lansing you’re relatively unlikely to be surrounded by Texans, which I’d think would be a selling point in Austin. But they didn’t ask me to contribute promotional material.

Also, apparently Lansing has a 3-D Printer you can use, if you need it. Sold!

Next, the Comics


Over on my mathematics blog I had a fresh collection of mathematics-themed comic strips to talk about, and I want to make sure people who missed that had some kind of warning about it. So, ah, warning.

Mort Walker's _Beetle Baily_ of 24 August 1957. Apparently the General has a niece.

For those who weren’t so interested in that, I offer the above installment of Mort Walker’s Beetle Bailey, from the vintage comics collection at comicskingdom.com. One of the wonderful things about the Internet has been that comics syndicates have made the ancient runs of comics more available. At its best, this lets you see now-stagnant comics in their prime and understand why (say) Hi and Lois became part of the default comics page. When it’s not doing that, you can at least get interesting observations such as (a) apparently General Halftrack had a niece, at least in August of 1957, and (b) this comic strip originally ran three days after the Soviet Union launched the world’s first successful intercontinental ballistic missile.

Little Bits of Gratitude


When I got to thinking the other day about stuff to be grateful for, most of my thoughts came back to me not singing. I don’t want to suggest that you should stop being grateful I’m not singing for you. It’s just there are plenty of other things to think about with gratitude. Some of them are obvious; for example, if you’ve got a roof over your head, that’s something to be grateful for. There should be a bit of sub-gratitude reserved for the walls which hold the roof up above your head, since if the roof is just resting on the ground you’re probably doing a lot of crouching and that’s not good for your knees, if they’re very much like mine. I don’t want to complain about that, and you can be grateful for that too.

Warnings From The Dream World: Trans-Dimensional Travel Edition


So, yeah, apparently I’m getting warnings about possible troubles while I’m dreaming again and I share this one with you because it seems like it could be of use to pretty near anyone. I’m breaking up what is really one sentence into a couple paragraphs for easier reading. You’ll thank me when you see the wisdom my subconscious is depositing on you.

Suppose that you should happen by some means to fall into an alternate timeline and are in the San Francisco of a much more totalitarian, police-state United States.

If the only way you have of getting home is to make a desperate cross-country trip to New York City, with your only real guidance a crude, placemat-type mat that promises if you head far enough north from San Francisco you’ll meet I-75, which in this abomination of a timeline then goes more or less due east towards Manhattan …

And if you reason that before setting out with precious little of the cash currency for the alternate-United States that it’s worthwhile stopping in to a relentlessly average San Francisco-area shopping mall to take in a movie at the multiplex …

And if you try to pay for the movie using your credit card from this your home timeline and the cashier keeps fingering it curiously and ultimately has to go back to discuss it with the manager and this sets off a long series of negotiations among the multiplex’s staff about the validity of this curious negotiable instrument …

Then you should really cut your losses and just give up on seeing the movie, because the argument with the multiplex staff about it after they’ve swiped your card and whether your payment is in a valid tender or whether it’s even remotely compatible with the credit card swiping devices of this alternate history is not a productive use of your time. Bluntly, even if you argue yourself into the theater, the kerfluffle is just going to attract the local police — as it likely would even in our non-dystopian timeline given how heated it is getting — and their report is just going to call attention to the really terrible secret police, and the movie just is not worth it. Seriously. Let it go. Save the argument about the negotiability of a credit card from another timeline for something worthwhile, like the gas station.

I probably shouldn’t have to explain all this, but believe me, it’s very frustrating especially when you realize that the movie ticket argument is not the one you should be having right then and there.

The Chuckletrousers Decades


So back on the 17th of March, 1994, the newspaper-syndicated humorist Dave Barry was reading something on Usenet, which was becoming a thing back then, and he wanted to write back to his friend who was there, and as is the fashion, he wrote a snarky little thing that used a couple of the words you can’t use as a newspaper-syndicated humorist, and made prominent use of the name “Mister Chuckletrousers”, which he’d recently picked up on a trip to Britain from a headline he didn’t understand. And after finishing his little reply he realized that instead of replying to the author, he’d replied to the post, putting it out for everyone in the newsgroup to see.

The newsgroup, where he’d been lurking, was alt.fan.dave_barry.

This was rather an exciting time to be in alt.fan.dave_barry, as you might imagine, as it set off a lot of debate about whether this was actually Dave Barry or just someone pretending to be him, and what the “Mister Chuckletrousers” thing could possibly mean, and, well, if it was him then what did it mean that the guy the group was gathered round to talk about was actually there in the group listening? Which doesn’t sound like anything today, but back in 1994, you only got direct contact with people you were a fan of by the traditional methods, like, their being minor characters on a Star Trek series and your going to a convention and paying money to get their autograph.

Anyway, somehow, the guy Dave Barry was responding to didn’t see it, and asked if someone could send him a copy of the post, and the newsgroup displayed an electrifying energy and complete lack of common sense and a few days later the guy asked that people please stop as he had received 2,038 copies and didn’t need any more.

Over the coming weeks there’d be confirmation that the Chuckletrousers Incident really did happen and really did involve Dave Barry: a guy who shared his ISP said it was him (and who could doubt that?), a mention of Chuckletrousers came up in his columns, and then, the number 2,038 started getting mentioned when the text needed some arbitrary number to be included. Eventually Dave Barry himself described the incident for his book Dave Barry In Cyberspace, which is the sort of late-90s explain-the-Internet book that’s fascinating because it captures a bunch of the memes and obsessions of the Internet of the summer of 1997. Both Chuckletrousers and 2,038 still turn up in Dave Barry’s writings, a little joke sent out to a community of people who witnessed flaming Pop-Tarts (which is what the Internet did back before the Mentos and Diet Coke thing was discovered) that has long since left behind alt.fan.dave_barry.

I also delurked on alt.fan.dave_barry in the middle of March, 1994, but nobody noticed at the time.

I also meant to write this in mid-February, because my brain insists on thinking this all happened shortly after Valentine’s Day that year, but it didn’t, so I didn’t, after I checked.

Statistics Saturday: Unsuccessful Search Terms


Here are some search terms which have not brought anybody to this blog:

  • advanced dishwasher repair
  • unnecessary parts of the horse
  • what philosophical school was founded by anophelinae
  • bricks without brickiness
  • ironical HTML tags
  • when does a trapezium become a trapezoid
  • how to draw circles
  • dont the beatles have this song about kangaroo dave
  • when do you say ironical instead of ironic now that its not like 1925 anymore
  • misspelled kinks lyrics

[ Meanwhile, over-researching this has revealed to me that people have come to here after searching for, among other actual things I did not make up, “collared lemming ogilvie”, “iso 9000 humor”, “genius hamsters”, “you might also like:”, “do indianapolis 500 rules prohibit snails from racing”, and “change tagline in wordpress”, all of which brings me more delight than making this stuff up does. ]

Betty Boop, MD


To continue the theme of a cartoon on a Saturday morning, I have here the 1932 Fleischer Studios cartoon Betty Boop, M.D.. Unlike last week’s A Hunting We Will Go this one isn’t able to structure its “big heap of jokes” into a way that feels quite natural: it looks much more like the animators thought of everything they could do based on Betty Boop, Bimbo, and Koko the Clown selling the snake-oil Jippo, and whatever was best made the cut.

But what it lacks in a narrative structure it makes up for in weirdness. Fleischer Brothers cartoons have a reputation for seeming deranged, with a reputation for psychedelic weirdness. That’s put to good effect here. A succession of characters drink some of the Jippo, and something weird happens, and the weirdness just keeps ratcheting up. Any cartoon studio might think of the joke where an old man drinks Jippo and becomes young, and an infant drinks it and becomes old; but it’s very black-and-white Fleischer to have the guy pouring the Jippo on his peg leg and … well, just see, and if your jaw doesn’t drop at least a couple times you aren’t paying attention to the cartoon. It’s a short which inspires the question, “Wait, what?”

I’m No Good At Music


There are a number of things that any of us should be grateful for. I estimate the number of things to be at least fourteen. But I think the biggest thing any of us can be grateful for is that I’m not singing for you right now. Very likely I’ll never sing for you. You probably won’t believe just how very good this is for you. Fundamentally, I’ve got a deep incompetence about music.

I used to play the violin in elementary school. They trained us in the classic sequence: “Jingle Bells”, and then “Memory” from Cats, and then the Theme to Masterpiece Theater, and I was all right on the notes where you don’t have to put your fingers on the strings, which are like one-eighth of the notes any song expects. For the rest, again, there’s this wondrous sequence of approximate notes that nobody even knew violins could produce, and certainly not that they’d produce on purpose. The violin teacher was nice, though, and often interrupted class to ask whether the song was “Memory” or “Memories”, which could take the whole day to not resolve, while she walked down to the far end of the hallway. I gave up the violin in middle school, where the hallways were shorter.

Heck, I’m even shaky at listening to music. Like, I’ve seen other people turn on the radio and they get all kinds of songs and musicians and musical styles and such. I try it and it’s pretty near always playing “Friday I’m In Love”. It’s a fine song, sure, but there must be something I’m getting wrong if that’s always on. If I try the Internet radio then they’ve got Dennis Day singing “Clancy Lowered The Boom”, which is a less fine song, the kind that makes me want to walk to the far end of the hallway.

I’m not talking about my voice just being untrained, although it is, because the last music teacher who listened to me singing looked sadly at me and walked to the far end of the hallway, and that was elementary school, when they had a good thing to say about your skills in coloring because you managed to stay mostly within the bounds of the school building.

There’s this part of singing, though, where your voice is expected to hit some note. Most songs are kind of fussy, you’re supposed to get this one particular note that the songwriter expected and was planning around. Maybe you can go into a different octave and find some compatible note, but, that’s not me. I have a hard enough time hitting any note, whether or not it’s in the song and whether or not it’s any note that any human agency has ever been capable of. The correct response to stop paying attention to me and hope I’ll stop, and since I’m not paying attention to me, I keep going. I know, but it makes sense in the middle of the tune.

Worse, most songs require whole dozens of notes, some of them not the same one you started with, and there’s just no hoping I’ll get to any of those either. My chance of getting back to the note I started on are pretty much nothing either. This is why I’m better off sticking to my skill in turning songs into Morse code and a string of humming. Nobody cares about what note you’re humming, because if you’re humming people either don’t pay attention or else they’re looking for things to complain about what you’re doing, and either way it doesn’t matter what you’re doing.

You’d think some practice could train me out of this, but, no. I’ve tried playing Beatles Rock Band, for example, and that gives this little indicator about whether the pitch is too low or too high, and I find, like, in the midst of “Mrs Brown You’ve Got A Lovely Daughter” that Ringo gets out from behind his drums and slugs my avatar and George just walks sadly down to the far end of the hallway. Paul and John just bury their heads in their hands.

Overall, I like music, and think it’s a fine concept. I’d like to be on better terms with it, but I just haven’t got the knack. I’ve got the Cure, but see where that’s gotten me.

Disappointed In Big Banana News


I guess I just was thinking the wrong thing is all. When the headline said that Fyffes and Chiquita were going to create the biggest banana firm, I imagined they were working together to produce truly astoundingly big bananas, ones of such massive size that they fit even more awkwardly in the shopping cart, ones that dominate the breakfast nook table where we keep them until we realize we forgot we have bananas and have to throw them out. I was thinking of bananas that reach to a brobdingnagian dimension of, like, maybe an inch longer than the ones I already buy. (I don’t expect miracles in giant banana-ness, not right away from a new firm.)

But no, they’re not trying to do anything awe-inspiring with bananas. They’re just making two banana companies into one banana company that’s worth more money but doesn’t have so many pesky employees to pay. Boring. Anybody can do that and they don’t even have to show off an impressive banana for it. But at least they’re figuring to call the merged company ChiquitaFyffes, so they’re making some advances in Silly Things We’re Just Going To Pretend Are Words.

They’re hoping to sell 160 million boxes of bananas annually, although I wouldn’t be surprised if they ever realized it was two days after Christmas and said, “You know, 159,750,000 is not that shabby. Let’s knock off till after the new year” and did.

News From Beyond The Weird


I hope you won’t think worse of me for admitting that I read stuff like the BBC’s “Also In The News” page of stories that are maybe unimportant but are interesting and odd, often about eggplants having surprising uses in automobile manufacture or galaxies being found to be akin to peanut butter or, if it’s been a slow-quirky-news day, something got noticed about Genghis Khan. Something that’s had me fascinated popped up on Reuters’s “Oddly Enough” page back on the 4th of March, and I’d like you to savor the piece:

Oops, Congress asked to fix slip-up in Myanmar aid bill

BY ANNA YUKHANANOV

WASHINGTON Tue Mar 4, 2014 7:47pm EST

(Reuters) – The Obama administration is asking Congress to fix a 2012 bill that left a World Bank agency out of a list of 12 international financial institutions that could receive U.S. support to promote development in Myanmar.

The Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) promotes foreign direct investment in emerging markets by protecting private investors from various forms of political risk.

“Because of this technical problem, the United States is still required to oppose guarantees provided by MIGA for private investment in Burma,” the Obama administration said in its budget request submitted on Tuesday to Congress for fiscal 2015, which begins October 1.

Now I realize that you’re all chuckling heartily from that opening, but the article carries on in that vein, explaining how MIGA, with 130 employees, is — brace yourself — one of the World Bank’s smallest institutions, and that the error would if uncorrected prohibit MIGA from carrying out several of its projects in Myanmar, and that relations between the United States and Myanmar have improved rapidly since the military government stepped aside and economic and political reforms began.

I admit I’m just fascinated trying to work out how the article got put into the Quirky News folder and who wrote the headline that promises a giggle at the folly of humanity. But who reports on how that sort of thing happens?

Things My Prepaid Cell Phone Tells me


Message I Receive How Often
Low Battery Like 80 percent of the time
Dad’s Texting to Ask if I Saw His E-mail Every six weeks
Somebody’s Sorry That They Got Me Instead Weekly
I Have To Put More Money On It Or For Some Reason Verizon Will Take Away The Money Currently On It Annual
Chefmongoose Thought I Dialed Him By Accident While I Was At A Rifftrax Live Movie Event Once
Boss Called, Is Too Busy To Talk, Will Call Back Every five weeks
It’s Just Making Some Tone I Never Heard Before Every six to nine weeks on average

Franklin P Adams: Office Mottoes


I’d like to bring out another of Franklin Pierce Adams’s poems, as collected in Tobogganing On Parnassus. And for a poem from (at latest) 1911 it’s nevertheless mocking something that I guess is stil relevant, at least assuming that anyone ever actually buys and hangs those inspirational Successories posters in an actual office.

Office Mottoes

Motto heartening, inspiring,
   Framed above my pretty ‘desk,

Never Shelley, Keats, or Byring*
   Penned a phrase so picturesque!

But in me no inspiration
   Rides my low and prosy brow —

All I think of is vacation
When I see that lucubration:

DO IT NOW

When I see another sentence
   Framed upon a brother’s wall,

Resolution and repentance
   Do not flood o’er me at all

As I read that nugatory
   Counsel written years ago,

Only when one comes to borry*
Do I heed that ancient story:

TELL HIM NO

Mottoes flat and mottoes silly,
   Proverbs void of point or wit,

“KEEP A-PLUGGIN’ WHEN IT’S HILLY!”
   “LIFE’S A TIGER: CONQUER IT!”

Office mottoes make me weary
   And of all the bromide bunch

There is only one I seri-
Ously like, and that’s the cheery:

GONE TO LUNCH

[*] Entered under the Pure License of 1906.

Statistics Saturday: The Most Common Days Of The Week


For Saturday or Sunday or what have you, I offer this list of the most common days of the week, as experienced by current territories of the United States, July 1776 – present. Accurate as of March 8, 2014.

  • 1. Friday
  • 2. Thursday
  • 2. Saturday [ tie ]
  • 4. Sunday
  • 4. Monday [ tie ]
  • 4. Tuesday [ tie ]
  • 4. Wednesday [ tie ]

Betty Boop: A Hunting We Will Go


For this Saturday morning, I’d like to offer a cartoon, the 1932 Fleischer Brothers short A Hunting We Will Go. It’s part of the Betty Boop line of cartoons, although Koko the Clown and Bimbo the Dog are much more the protagonists of the cartoon. It’s got a setup that allows things to be relatively plotless — do a joke about Koko or Bimbo ineptly hunting an animal and get to the joke — but the story comes out stronger than the same cartoon in, say, 1927 would have.

Partly I think that’s because having two inept hunters means the blackout-joke nature flows better: as soon as Koko is done with his joke, the cartoon can jump to Bimbo just getting into his, and that there isn’t a segue doesn’t hurt. The cartoon also features a lot of what I consider a distinctive Fleischer cartoon trait, that of being playful in setting up gags, especially ones that seem to play on cartoon convention. I’m thinking particularly of a bit where a moose (or something) starts seasoning the grass he plans to eat. Considering that old cartoons, especially black-and-white ones, can be easily seen as being a bit stuffy and sluggish it’s great seeing them be playful.

Now Starring … Food


I got to thinking more about Olive Garden’s big plans for Fiscal Year 2015, for which I fully expect to be thanked by the powers at Olive Garden Master Command. Like their PowerPoint slide says, they’re figuring on getting “new plateware that lets the food be the star”. The picture makes it look like the food being the star means the food has to be much closer to the eye. That’s easy enough to attain in photographing, given how starved so many cameras are for fast casual food, but how do you get the same effect in restaurants?

The new plate ware will feature being much closer to the food so it looks bigger.

The obvious way is to keep the patrons’ heads closer to the plates. The simplest way to do that, like I realized, is to take on staff who’ll keep going around and pushing heads closer to the plates. But I’ve realized this can’t work, because incidents will arise when the patrons remember they have access to knives and forks, unless Olive Garden decides to do without cutlery altogether. Perhaps they have, since their PowerPoint slide distinctly spoke about getting new plateware and many people, if you call them and ask if they think forks are plates, will answer, “What? Who are you? How did you get this number?”

Anyway, if Olive Garden is taking this course then I think it’s safe to rule out that they’re going to chopstick-based services because those still allow for a lot of poking. It implies by the end of Fiscal Year 2015 Olive Garden patrons are just going to be tearing their Chicken Somethingorother apart with their hands and chewing it down while hoping the waiter won’t rap them on the back of their necks for sitting too straight.

But that’s madness, because if Olive Garden were to hire a bunch of people to push patrons’ head closer to the plates then they’d have to start paying the employees, and there’s no place in modern business for hiring people that you have to keep paying. The solution has to be technology, because investors are always excited in buying devices and gadgets and other kinds of infrastructure, because those wear out and they can buy new ones later on.

The cheapest thing to do is to have Olive Garden go around and replace all their tables with ones that are taller. Maybe one foot taller, maybe two; it’s going to take maybe the rest of Fiscal Year 2014 to figure out how tall their tables and their customers are, and maybe a couple weeks to go back and double-check when they realize they forgot to write down which measurement was which. This is a promising approach because you just know there are going to be customers who won’t get into the spirit of the thing, and they’ll try bringing yellow pages to serve as a booster seat.

This would be profitable for the yellow pages industry, which right now has to go around stuffing phone books into the dusty spaces underneath the furniture you never move until you’re getting ready to sell the house. But the Strategic Action Plan doesn’t say a word about Olive Garden getting into the yellow page industry, so I have to conclude they either aren’t going the higher-table route or they’re hoping to get into the yellow pages market before anyone else catches on. So I guess I just spoiled it.

Affixing to each plate one of those book-magnifying type plates, I mean the kind you see through instead of eating on, seems like a good way to make the food bigger. But that’s got the objection that they’ll just encourage people to practice their sneezing. Also there’s a chance kids might eat there and there’s the obvious issues of sibling cudgeling.

So I conclude that this is going to require getting new chairs, ones with backs that arch steeply forward. By this simple act of encouraging people to lean forward faces will be that much closer to the plates, and the food will look that much bigger, and the only operating cost is in developing new ways to stack chairs. This will also solve the problem of people swinging their chairs around backwards to sit, which is a major problem, according to people called at random who thought they were finally going to get to use their answers to that plateware question.

Why I Shouldn’t Run A Department Store


I don’t see that I’m in any imminent danger of having to run a department store, even a discount department store, but I sometimes worry about being put in charge of personnel management of one, like I think most of us do. I’m thinking that if I ever do have to pick who to hire for one, though, that I’d go looking for people who had been convicted of shoplifting in the past, because that way I’ll know that if any of my employees do start stealing stuff, we’ll see them.

That’s a terrible reason to hire someone, of course. But there’s other benefits to hiring the most incompetent shoplifters you can find, by which I’m thinking of break room stories. Imagine overhearing, like, “Oh, man, I was totally trying to shift that 42-inch flatscreen from electronics to the back room, then into my friend’s car, but we got the timing all crossed up and instead swiped the futon out of my apartment and set it up as an endcap in children’s vitamins.” Wouldn’t you like to see a department store run with the goal of making things like that happen? No, of course not, and my pointing out how I would run things means I should be safe from any corporate headhunters looking to catch me by surprise and put responsibility for an Jamesway or a Steinbach’s on my shoulders. I can’t take that kind of pressure.

Mark Twain: Awful, Terrible Medieval Romance


It’s hard to imagine anyone not being aware of Mark Twain, although whether they read him when it isn’t for an assignment is a fair question. Oh, his influence is staggering and much of it is so woven into the public mind that it can be plundered freely — I realized once that while I’ve seen enough versions of The Prince and the Pauper to be sick of the idea I’ve never read the original — but it could be that his status as a great and important figure gets in the way of reading him for fun. So, I’d like to summon from Mark Twain’s (Burlesque) Autobiography, published in 1871, the closing half of this (his third book).

It’s as the title describes, a Medieval Romance, and if it doesn’t show Twain’s prankishness enough, first in existing, second in padding out a mock autobiography, then please consider LibriVox’s note that “the illustrations form an interesting aspect of this book. They have no relationship to the text of the book. Rather, they use cartoons illustrating the children’s poem The House That Jack Built to lampoon the Erie Railroad Ring (the house) and its participants, Jay Gould, John T Hoffman, and Jim Fisk”. And isn’t that wonderful? (I’m sorry that I didn’t find a copy of the illustrations to go with this.)

AWFUL, TERRIBLE
MEDIEVAL ROMANCE

CHAPTER I

THE SECRET REVEALED.

It was night. Stillness reigned in the grand old feudal castle of Klugenstein. The year 1222 was drawing to a close. Far away up in the tallest of the castle’s towers a single light glimmered. A secret council was being held there. The stern old lord of Klugenstein sat in a chair of state meditating. Presently he, said, with a tender accent:

“My daughter!”

A young man of noble presence, clad from head to heel in knightly mail,
answered:

“Speak, father!”

“My daughter, the time is come for the revealing of the mystery that hath puzzled all your young life. Know, then, that it had its birth in the matters which I shall now unfold. My brother Ulrich is the great Duke of Brandenburgh. Our father, on his deathbed, decreed that if no son were born to Ulrich, the succession should pass to my house, provided a son were born to me. And further, in case no son, were born to either, but only daughters, then the succession should pass to Ulrich’s daughter, if she proved stainless; if she did not, my daughter should succeed, if she retained a blameless name. And so I, and my old wife here, prayed fervently for the good boon of a son, but the prayer was vain. You were born to us. I was in despair. I saw the mighty prize slipping from my grasp, the splendid dream vanishing away. And I had been so hopeful! Five years had Ulrich lived in wedlock, and yet his wife had borne no heir of either sex.

“‘But hold,’ I said, ‘all is not lost.’ A saving scheme had shot athwart my brain. You were born at midnight. Only the leech, the nurse, and six waiting-women knew your sex. I hanged them every one before an hour had sped. Next morning all the barony went mad with rejoicing over the proclamation that a son was born to Klugenstein, an heir to mighty Brandenburgh! And well the secret has been kept. Your mother’s own sister nursed your infancy, and from that time forward we feared nothing.

“When you were ten years old, a daughter was born to Ulrich. We grieved, but hoped for good results from measles, or physicians, or other natural enemies of infancy, but were always disappointed. She lived, she throve–Heaven’s malison upon her! But it is nothing. We are safe. For, Ha-ha! have we not a son? And is not our son the future Duke? Our well-beloved Conrad, is it not so?–for, woman of eight-and-twenty years–as you are, my child, none other name than that hath ever fallen to you!

“Now it hath come to pass that age hath laid its hand upon my brother, and he waxes feeble. The cares of state do tax him sore. Therefore he wills that you shall come to him and be already Duke–in act, though not yet in name. Your servitors are ready–you journey forth to-night.

“Now listen well. Remember every word I say. There is a law as old as Germany that if any woman sit for a single instant in the great ducal chair before she hath been absolutely crowned in presence of the people, SHE SHALL DIE! So heed my words. Pretend humility. Pronounce your judgments from the Premier’s chair, which stands at the foot of the throne. Do this until you are crowned and safe. It is not likely that your sex will ever be discovered; but still it is the part of wisdom to make all things as safe as may be in this treacherous earthly life.”

“Oh; my father, is it for this my life hath been a lie! Was it that I might cheat my unoffending cousin of her rights? Spare me, father, spare your child!”

“What, huzzy! Is this my reward for the august fortune my brain has wrought for thee? By the bones of my father, this puling sentiment of thine but ill accords with my humor.

“Betake thee to the Duke, instantly! And beware how thou meddlest with my purpose!”

Let this suffice, of the conversation. It is enough for us to know that the prayers, the entreaties and the tears of the gentle-natured girl availed nothing. They nor anything could move the stout old lord of Klugenstein. And so, at last, with a heavy heart, the daughter saw the castle gates close behind her, and found herself riding away in the darkness surrounded by a knightly array of armed, vassals and a brave following of servants.

The old baron sat silent for many minutes after his daughter’s departure, and then he turned to his sad wife and said:

“Dame, our matters seem speeding fairly. It is full three months since I sent the shrewd and handsome Count Detzin on his devilish mission to my brother’s daughter Constance. If he fail, we are not wholly safe; but if he do succeed, no power can bar our girl from being Duchess e’en though ill-fortune should decree she never should be Duke!”

“My heart is full of bodings, yet all may still be well.”

“Tush, woman! Leave the owls to croak. To bed with ye, and dream of Brandenburgh and grandeur!”

CHAPTER II.

FESTIVITY AND TEARS

Six days after the occurrences related in the above chapter, the brilliant capital of the Duchy of Brandenburgh was resplendent with military pageantry, and noisy with the rejoicings of loyal multitudes; for Conrad, the young heir to the crown, was come. The old Duke’s, heart was full of happiness, for Conrad’s handsome person and graceful bearing had won his love at once. The great halls of tie palace were thronged with nobles, who welcomed Conrad bravely; and so bright and happy did all things seem, that he felt his fears and sorrows passing away and giving place to a comforting contentment.

But in a remote apartment of the palace a scene of a different nature was, transpiring. By a window stood the Duke’s only child, the Lady Constance. Her eyes were red and swollen, and full of tears. She was alone. Presently she fell to weeping anew, and said aloud:

“The villain Detzin is gone–has fled the dukedom! I could not believe it at first, but alas! it is too true. And I loved him so. I dared to love him though I knew the Duke my father would never let me wed him. I loved him–but now I hate him! With all, my soul I hate him! Oh, what is to become of me! I am lost, lost, lost! I shall go mad!”

CHAPTER III.

THE PLOT THICKENS.

Few months drifted by. All men published the praises of the young Conrad’s government and extolled the wisdom of his judgments, the mercifulness of his sentences, and the modesty with which he bore himself in his great office. The old Duke soon gave everything into his hands, and sat apart and listened with proud satisfaction while his heir delivered the decrees of the crown from the seat of the premier. It seemed plain that one so loved and praised and honored of all men as Conrad was, could not be otherwise than happy. But strange enough, he was not. For he saw with dismay that the Princess Constance had begun to love him! The love of, the rest of the world was happy fortune for him, but this was freighted with danger! And he saw, moreover, that the delighted Duke had discovered his daughter’s passion likewise, and was already dreaming of a marriage. Every day somewhat of the deep sadness that had been in the princess’ face faded away; every day hope and animation beamed brighter from her eye; and by and by even vagrant smiles visited the face that had been so troubled.

Conrad was appalled. He bitterly cursed himself for having yielded to the instinct that had made him seek the companionship of one of his own sex when he was new and a stranger in the palace–when he was sorrowful and yearned for a sympathy such as only women can give or feel. He now began to avoid, his cousin. But this only made matters worse, for, naturally enough, the more he avoided her, the more she cast herself in his way. He marveled at this at first; and next it startled him. The girl haunted him; she hunted him; she happened upon him at all times and in all places, in the night as well as in the day. She seemed singularly anxious. There was surely a mystery somewhere.

This could not go on forever. All the world was talking about it. The Duke was beginning to look perplexed. Poor Conrad was becoming a very ghost through dread and dire distress. One day as he was emerging from a private ante-room attached to the picture gallery, Constance confronted him, and seizing both his hands, in hers, exclaimed:

“Oh, why, do you avoid me? What have I done–what have I said, to lose your kind opinion of me–for, surely I had it once? Conrad, do not despise me, but pity a tortured heart? I cannot–cannot hold the words unspoken longer, lest they kill me–I LOVE you, CONRAD! There, despise me if you must, but they would be uttered!”

Conrad was speechless. Constance hesitated a moment, and then, misinterpreting his silence, a wild gladness flamed in her eyes, and she flung her arms about his neck and said:

“You relent! you relent! You can love me–you will love me! Oh, say you will, my own, my worshipped Conrad!'”

Conrad groaned aloud. A sickly pallor overspread his countenance, and he trembled like an aspen. Presently, in desperation, he thrust the poor girl from him, and cried:

“You know not what you ask! It is forever and ever impossible!” And then he fled like a criminal and left the princess stupefied with amazement. A minute afterward she was crying and sobbing there, and Conrad was crying and sobbing in his chamber. Both were in despair. Both save ruin staring them in the face.

By and by Constance rose slowly to her feet and moved away, saying:

“To think that he was despising my love at the very moment that I thought it was melting his cruel heart! I hate him! He spurned me–did this man–he spurned me from him like a dog!”

CHAPTER IV

THE AWFUL REVELATION.

Time passed on. A settled sadness rested once more upon the countenance of the good Duke’s daughter. She and Conrad were seen together no more now. The Duke grieved at this. But as the weeks wore away, Conrad’s color came back to his cheeks and his old-time vivacity to his eye, and he administered the government with a clear and steadily ripening wisdom.

Presently a strange whisper began to be heard about the palace. It grew louder; it spread farther. The gossips of the city got hold-of it. It swept the dukedom. And this is what the whisper said:

“The Lady Constance hath given birth to a child!”

When the lord of Klugenstein heard it, he swung his plumed helmet thrice around his head and shouted:

“Long live. Duke Conrad!–for lo, his crown is sure, from this day forward! Detzin has done his errand well, and the good scoundrel shall be rewarded!”

And he spread, the tidings far and wide, and for eight-and-forty hours no soul in all the barony but did dance and sing, carouse and illuminate, to celebrate the great event, and all at proud and happy old Klugenstein’s expense.

CHAPTER V.

THE FRIGHTFUL CATASTROPHE.

The trial was at hand. All the great lords and barons of Brandenburgh were assembled in the Hall of Justice in the ducal palace. No space was left unoccupied where there was room for a spectator to stand or sit. Conrad, clad in purple and ermine, sat in the premier’s chair, and on either side sat the great judges of the realm. The old Duke had sternly commanded that the trial of his daughter should proceed, without favor, and then had taken to his bed broken-hearted. His days were numbered. Poor Conrad had begged, as for his very life, that he might be spared the misery of sitting in judgment upon his cousin’s crime, but it did not avail.

The saddest heart in all that great assemblage was in Conrad’s breast.

The gladdest was in his father’s. For, unknown to his daughter “Conrad,” the old Baron Klugenstein was come, and was among the crowd of nobles, triumphant in the swelling fortunes of his house.

After the heralds had made due proclamation and the other preliminaries had followed, the venerable Lord Chief justice said:

“Prisoner, stand forth!”

The unhappy princess rose and stood unveiled before the vast multitude. The Lord Chief Justice continued:

“Most noble lady, before the great judges of this realm it hath been charged and proven that out of holy wedlock your Grace hath given birth unto a child; and by our ancient law the penalty is death, excepting in one sole contingency, whereof his Grace the acting Duke, our good Lord Conrad, will advertise you in his solemn sentence now; wherefore, give heed.”

Conrad stretched forth the reluctant sceptre, and in the self-same moment the womanly heart beneath his robe yearned pityingly toward the doomed prisoner, and the tears came into his eyes. He opened his lips to speak, but the Lord Chief Justice said quickly:

“Not there, your Grace, not there! It is not lawful to pronounce judgment upon any of the ducal line SAVE FROM THE DUCAL THRONE!”

A shudder went to the heart of poor Conrad, and a tremor shook the iron frame of his old father likewise. CONRAD HAD NOT BEEN CROWNED–dared he profane the throne? He hesitated and turned pale with fear. But it must be done. Wondering eyes were already upon him. They would be suspicious eyes if he hesitated longer. He ascended the throne. Presently he stretched forth the sceptre again, and said:

“Prisoner, in the name of our sovereign lord, Ulrich, Duke of Brandenburgh, I proceed to the solemn duty that hath devolved upon me. Give heed to my words. By the ancient law of the land, except you produce the partner of your guilt and deliver him up to the executioner, you must surely die. Embrace this opportunity–save yourself while yet you may. Name the father of your child!”

A solemn hush fell upon the great court–a silence so profound that men could hear their own hearts beat. Then the princess slowly turned, with eyes gleaming with hate, and pointing her finger straight at Conrad,
said:

“Thou art the man!”

An appalling conviction of his helpless, hopeless peril struck a chill to Conrad’s heart like the chill of death itself. What power on earth could save him! To disprove the charge, he must reveal that he was a woman; and for an uncrowned woman to sit in the ducal chair was death! At one and the same moment, he and his grim old father swooned and fell to, the ground.


[The remainder of this thrilling and eventful story will NOT be found in this or any other publication, either now or at any future time.]


The truth is, I have got my hero (or heroine) into such a particularly close place, that I do not see how I am ever going to get him (or her) out of it again–and therefore I will wash my hands of the whole business, and leave that person to get out the best way that offers–or else stay there. I thought it was going to be easy enough to straighten out that little difficulty, but it looks different now.


[If Harper’s Weekly or the New York Tribune desire to copy these initial chapters into the, reading columns of their valuable journals, just as they do the opening chapters of Ledger and New York Weekly novels, they
are at liberty to do so at the usual rates, provided they “trust.”]

MARK TWAIN

Better Eating for 2015


I don’t think I’m saying anything too outrageous if I assert that Olive Garden is a restaurant which exists and has some definite traits in addition to its existence. I wouldn’t make many more strong assertions about it because I can’t really work up the energy to, but that might change come Fiscal Year 2015. According to the Strategic Acton Plan put forth by Olive Garden corporate overlords Darden, Olive Garden has a Strategic Action plan to put forward, and it’s easily the most gripping Strategic Action Plan I’ve read in hours. Among other things their Holistic Core Menu and Promotion Plan (page 21) says they hope to offer “New Culinary-Forward Platforms”, with a side serving of “Simple, Compelling Price-Pointed Promotions,” for which I think everyone who’s struggled to chew down the old, bland, price-unpointed promotion will be grateful.

The new plate ware will feature being much closer to the food so it looks bigger.

I also appreciate that, according to page 23, Fiscal Year 2015 will see “New Plateware That Lets The Food Be The Star”, as opposed to the current plateware, which upstages the food by pulling all those first-year drama student tricks like standing upstage and dropping props and coughing during key moments in the food’s monologue. But I also appreciate the preview from the Strategic Action Plan since, as the picture indicates, apparently the major breakthrough in Olive Garden plateware is that they’re finally using their digital cameras’ Macro feature. Either that or the plan is to have newly-trained staff keep pressing patron’s heads closer to the table, at least until they admit the stardom of their “Smashed Chicken Meatball Sandwich” or “Pappardelle Pescatore”. Either way, it’s going to be exciting.

And now I just wonder when the Olive Garden Fiscal Year starts, and I bet you weren’t thinking at all about that question when you got up this morning (Olive Garden financial affairs experts excluded from this bet). Also “plateware” is a thing that’s not just dishes and cutlery, I guess?

Over There, Mathematics Comics


Over on the mathematics blog I’ve posted some discussion of a half-dozen comics that mention mathematics themes. If that seems a little vague to you, I’ve also included an alleged mathematics joke that I’ve never seen anybody actually tell and why it should be termed a joke.

I’m embarrassed that I don’t have anything more to offer in terms of comic strips right now, not even one that I thought was funny like the Mary Worth where everybody’s horrified at having to talk with Mary, so let me offer the search term poetry that has brought people to here the past couple weeks:

  • spoof text title math and cartoon strip
  • cricket nebus
  • nobody ever died for dear old rutgers
  • pearls before swine math comic
  • cool facts about the turbo movie
  • if- then form in mathematics comics strip
  • rbert benchley jokes of the day

I’m not surprised that searches for mathematics comic strips are bringing people here. And I’m not surprised that somebody searching for “nebus” might find me because it’s a pretty distinctive name, but how cricket gets into the mix I don’t know. I’ve stared at the game without understanding what’s going on, certainly, and can kind of see how it’s related to baseball, and years ago my office computer in Singapore had a bookmark for a pretty nice cricket simulator Java applet (remember Java applets that did anything besides provide advertisements and security flaws?) and I could fiddle around with that without ever knowing what I was doing.

Also I’m curious about the writings of this “rbert benchley”, and imagine that on finding some I’ll be a fn.

(Well, seriously: Robert Benchley Jokes of the Day? He’s funny in small amounts, sure, but his Benchley touch really needs paragraphs, preferably essays, to be funny. A Benchley line by itself doesn’t show the writing off well.)

Statistics Saturday: The Ten Movies of 2013


For your Saturday evening or whatever statistical roundup I’d like to offer the ten movies of 2013 which made my list here, and some useful data about them.

Movie Did I See It?
Iron Man 3 No
Oz The Great And Powerful No
Turbo For Some Reason Yes
Metallica Through The Never Wait, What?
Top Gun 3D Did I make that up?
Admission Dear Lord No
Free Birds Come on
Fast Times at Ridgemont High [*]
Snake and Mongoose What?
Star Trek Into Darkness [**]

[*] Not in theaters. My Dearest was horrified that I had never ever seen it, so got the DVD and we had a movie night with that and the classic 80s film Some Other Ubiquitous 80s Film I Never Saw Either And I Forget Which One But It Wasn’t Say Anything, and sometime we’ll get around to Raiders of the Lost Ark, which I hear a lot of people say has some good parts.

[**] We saw it in May but I only last week got why the other starship in it was called the Vengeance, which tells you how slow I am on the uptake.