Pinky-Swearing In Time


I was looking up the plot to the gratuitously stupid movie The Butterfly Effect, because I was thinking of the gratuitously stupid movie A Sound Of Thunder instead. This happens. It led me to discover there was a Butterfly Effect 2 and even a Butterfly Effect 3: Revelations (“Death Repeats Itself”) for some reason. And then in its Wikipedia page plot description we get this sentence:

Sam complains he is now `too stupid’ to fix things; Jenna pinky-swears him to not time-travel anymore.

That’s not really a sentence. It’s a pile-up of a couple sentences. Also it’s about pinky-swearing to not time travel. And despite the power of pinky-swearing and the Wikipedia page about that, Sam breaks his promise before the paragraph is even out. What is the point of pinky-swearing if you’re just going to warp the fabric of history anyway? I guess he might set it so he didn’t ever pinky-swear but that still sounds like cheating to me.

From this I learn that there isn’t a Wikipedia category for “films including broken pinky-swear promises”. Also that when the page was created, in August 2008, the movie’s title was given as Butterfly Effect: Revlelation.

Where Kids Go


We were at this event with some friends, one of whom brought kids. That’s all right. The odd thing is the kids vanished now and then, but came back later. Where did they go? I don’t know. I’m inclined to suppose that any kids not being observed are off doing what kids do at that age. I believe this to be “climbing trees” or “having impossibly complicated adventures to explain why they returned from the gumball machine you watched them walk to and from with neither a gumball nor the quarter you gave them to buy one” or maybe “gathering alarmingly huge piles of yellow dandelions to tie into knots and drop on the table. I mean, we’re in the middle of the Tri-County Expo Center. We’re inside Meeting Halls C-through-E. There’s like a twenty-foot patch of lawn outside the far side of the complex, in the middle of forty acres of parking lot. Where are you even finding dandelions? How are you doing this? How?”.

My figuring is the kids eventually come back if you leave them alone, although crying, and passing every cold going around North and South America to you. My love tells me that while kids vanished like that when our, Generation X, cohort was raised parents don’t do things like that anymore. I don’t see why they don’t. It isn’t like before our generation was eight we were all dragged off by binturongs to their bintur-lairs to become the victims of unspeakable acts of giant Southeast-Asian-civet-ness. Or buried under a mountain of pine cones.

Although, come to think of it, our generation cohort is a small one. There’s about 960 people in Generation X. There are more living former members of the United States Congress than there are Generation Xers. This is much smaller than the Baby Boomers, who numbered about 144,823,002,038 million all told. And it’s smaller than the Millennials, whose numbers are large but can’t be counted because the Baby Boomer and Generation X researchers can’t stand to talk to them long enough to count one. There’s got to be as many of them as there were Baby Boomers, though, based on IP address usage. Looking over the numbers now … my generation’s count is pretty low. Maybe most of our cohort was dragged off by binturongs etc etc while out dandelion-gathering. Well, you know whose fault that was? The Baby Boomers’.

We’re happy to blame the Baby Boomers. Everyone is. I’d say the Baby Boomers themselves started that, but their parents were blaming them before even the Baby Boomers were. And it’s a safe bet, too, like blaming something on “historical factors”. As if there were anything that weren’t a “historical factor”. They’re just this big, irresistible demographic target. Some Baby Boomers will defend their generation. They can point out how their generation saw transcendent artists like the Beatles, civil rights greats like Gloria Steinem and Dr Martin Luther King, inspirational heroes like the Apollo astronauts, or transformational political figures like Lyndon Johnson, not a single one of whom was a Baby Boomer. But the Baby Boomers were looking very hard and saw some or all of these figures, so that’s something. But for the most part, if you want to say something bad about a generation, say it about the Baby Boomers, and everybody will go along with you.

It’s hating on the Millennials that takes some explaining. For the most part the only thing they’ve done that’s really awful is not put their cell phones away. I’m not saying that isn’t bad. But when you compare it to, like, the time in 1983 when the Baby Boomers laughed Manimal and Automan off the air despite their being the coolest TV shows ever, the cell phone business is nothing.

My hypothesis is that we Generation Xers hate on Millennials because of water pistols. When we were kids, water pistols were water pistols: small, hand-sized things made of translucent yet kind of pink plastic. You filled them with water, then got ready to shoot someone, and then the stopper in the back fell out and most of the reservoir spilled on your wrist. Then you pulled the trigger and the rest dribbled down your finger. Your target remained the dryest thing to have ever existed, what with being outside the maximum six-inch range anyway. Millennials have real water guns. They’re capable of holding enough water to douse the Great Fire Of New York, 1835, each. And they can spray them far enough to threaten Panama Canal shipping all the way from Grand Rapids, Michigan. And if that weren’t enough some of the soakers are made to look like dinosaurs even though there’s no way they can tastefully shoot a fluid stream like that.

I’m not saying the Generation X/Millennials thing is entirely caused by envy. For one thing, who invented water pistols that actually work? Baby Boomers. For another, my generation can actually afford to buy them. The only Millennials who’ve been hired are there so Baby Boomers would have someone to call the worst. They tried sticking Generation X with that label two decades ago, you know. But there were too few of us, and we were too hard to find, up in the trees, gathering dandelions, and talking over intergenerational politics with the binturongs.

The Thing Is I Almost Think I Get This


Bill Rechin’s Crock. It’s a slightly baffling comic strip, since it’s one of those anachronistic-humor-workplace comics like Hagar the Horrible except nobody you ever met ever saw it in any newspaper ever. It seems like it only exists online for comic strip snarking web sites to review. And more, Rechin died several years ago, and his son said he wasn’t going to continue the comic. And yet there it is, day after day, no matter what. Are these reruns? Are these new ghost-written strips? Who are they made for? Why are they made?

The prisoners in the hot boxes: 'Do you realize we get out of here in ten years?' 'We've got ELEVEN years left!' 'Boy, I hate to pack and unpack.'
Bill Rechin’s Crock rerun the 23rd of April, 2016. You know it’s hot when the sun has melted into a caramel-covered peanut.

And what does this past Saturday’s comic strip even mean?

What I can tell you: I had another bunch of mathematics comics to talk about, and I did, and I try to work out what 117 multiplied by 45 is.

Why My Love Accuses Me, Correctly, Of Being A Consequentialist


I was reading Robert E Conot’s Justice at Nuremberg, possibly because I was feeling too good about humanity both as a concept and in the way it was actually implemented. Conot mentions how following a series of suicides and suicide attempts:

At night the Nazi leaders were required to sleep with their hands outside their blankets, and were not permitted to turn their faces toward the wall. Whenever one rolled over in his sleep, the guard took the long pole designed for opening the high windows, pushed it through the porthole in the door, and poked and awakened the sleeper.

And so help me, this got me thinking. Sleeping with hands over the blankets? Not being able to roll over? Getting jabbed awake whenever I do roll over? I can sleep through a lot, but I’m sure the Allies could jab me with a stick enough that I woke up. At least the Americans and Soviets could. The British I suppose would if someone lent them a stick because they couldn’t afford one themselves. The French might if the other Allies would just let them in. Sleeping in those conditions? Never. I would be a lousy war criminal.

Then I remembered: oh yeah, I want to be a lousy war criminal. If there’s one field in which you should ignore the advice “always do your best even at stuff you don’t like to do”, committing the atrocities that defined “atrocity” for the 20th Century is it. So if there were any doubt in my mind about whether to be one of history’s greatest monsters — and there isn’t; I’m on the “don’t be” side and won’t even hear arguments the other way — the sleeping conditions would push me towards “don’t be”.

And this made me realize: I have found literally the worst reason imaginable to want to not be a war criminal. Besides everything else I can’t figure who would be undecided or leaning-toward-yes right up until they hear about the postwar prison conditions regarding sleeping with your arms over the blankets. I guess I’d be kind of glad-ish to hear this turned someone away from unleashing the cruelest demons of human nature on other people. It’s still a weird thing to come to, is all.

Dogs Make News By Acting Like Dogs


You might have seen this on Reuters in which case I’m sorry but you probably already thought of my jokes about it. I hope we can still be friends. Anyway at England’s Manchester Airport they’re reviewing their team of drug-sniffer dogs just because in seven months of work they never found any smuggled drugs. To be fair this compares well with my track record of finding illicit drugs.

And it isn’t like they found nothing. According to a review the dogs did manage “multiple accurate detections, but most were of small amounts of cheese or sausages, wrongly brought back by returning British holidaymakers and posing minimal risk to UK public health”. And they’re reviewing how it is the project spent £1.25 million on dogs who recovered somewhere around 181 kilograms of meats. I’m a bit unsure about it myself. I would think you could train dogs to sniff out smoked meats and cheese without much more advanced training than saying, “Who’s a good doggy?” while waving a slice of pepperoni. You could do this in an empty room and a good doggy would appear, and then follow you around, pleading for more. I suppose they did get six dogs, and that’s got to be more pricey than one. Still, it seems like there’s something missing here.

I guess the surprising thing is that in seven months British holidaymakers only bring something like 181 kilograms of illegal meat back home through Manchester. I mean, that’s not nothing. The Apollo 17 mission only brought 110 kilograms of moon rocks back. But there were just the two astronauts on the moon, and the whole trip took less than two weeks, and there was just the one of it. Also they probably declared their rocks and didn’t land in northern England. And for another comparison, the early “Schreibkugel” model typewriter which Friedrich Nietzche owned weighed only 75 kilograms. But if the British holidaymakers are sneaking a lot of other meats in, then how are the dogs missing them? Definitely a scandal here.

Meanwhile, Letting Our Pet Rabbit Outside Some More


A Flemish Giant rabbit buried past his eyeballs in periwinkle, which he's eating.
“Would you like a napkin, perhaps?”
“What for?”
“… Palate cleanser?”
“I’ll take four.”

Much of the backyard is given over to what we had been calling myrtle, but is actually periwinkle. Gardening and animal-care web sites are all but universal in declaring that it is a bitter-tasting plant. (Hi, Ben!) My love nibbled on a bit, as if it were a perfectly normal and ordinary thing for a person to eat plants from their own yard, and agreed with the bitter assessment. It is commonly listed as an inexpensive and natural way to keep one’s garden deer- and rabbit-proof, as the animals find the taste so repulsive they’ll leave it — and your garden surrounded by it — alone. Here, our pet rabbit shoves his head into a huge pile of the stuff and does. not. stop. eating.

Statistics Saturday: What I Worry Are All The Comments I Ever Write On Every Social Medium


  • Hey, that’s great!
  • Fantastic! Good luck.
  • Oh dear. That’s not right.
  • Criminy. That’s just horrible.
  • I guess I can understand what the person might be thinking, but I still wouldn’t imagine doing that.
  • It’s all right. Take care of yourself.
  • That’s awfully interesting. I’ll have to think about it some more.
  • You know, this reminds me of a movie from the 30s I will now tell you about.
  • Aw, gosh, thanks.
  • I’m stunned to think it could be like that.
  • Um … let me just click ‘like’ then?
  • Oh yeah, I saw that too. Neat, isn’t it?

I’ll try to do better, I promise. (This might be the next one on the list.)

Story Free To A Good Home


So a modern-day genie can’t find an oil lantern and so takes up the first bottle available. It’s a shampoo bottle. Now, the genie’s all right with granting wishes and all that, except they come out all goopy and in need of a rinse and maybe conditioning. Also, the bottle-owner can always get a little bit more out of a wish by standing the bottle upside-down for a few minutes, as long as it doesn’t slip on the wet surface. And I’m not sure about this part but there may be an enchanted loofah.

Well, if you can’t do anything with that, I talk some more about mathematically-themed comic strips over on my mathematics blog. You can use that, surely.

When Do I Get To Sing _My Way_?


What’s playing at Karaoke Night:

  • Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, sung by the first person who got to pick anything, and also everyone else there.
  • R.E.M.’s It’s The End Of The World As We Know It, performed by someone who starts two bars late and has to give up about twenty percent of the words each verse to return to the chorus anywhere near on time.
  • Let It Go, from Frozen, performed by someone who loves the song but doesn’t realize that it’s awesome because it’s an incredibly hard song to perform.
  • Bill Joel’s Piano Man, sung by everybody when the person who had signed up for it is nowhere to be found when it’s their turn.
  • Weird Al’s Yoda, performed by someone horrified there isn’t anything by the Kinks in the catalogue somehow and trying to reconstruct the real words as best as possible in the circumstances, which include nerds crying out to do it “right” with the Weird Al version.
  • P F Sloan and Steve Barri’s Secret Agent Man, done by someone who figures if he’s loud enough about the key phrase “Secret Agent Man” it won’t matter that he sings it in a different, yet still previously unknown to humanity, key every time. This someone, dear reader, is me.
  • Wings’s With A Little Luck, performed by someone who forgets it has an instrumental break about as long as fourth grade in the middle and stands with wide-eyed terror through three-quarters of it before awkwardly trying to dance, and then remembers the fade-out is even longer still.
  • Gerry Rafferty’s Baker Street, performed by someone who has pretty solid voice control and seems out of place in the proceedings.
  • Johnny Cash’s Ring of Fire, unenthusiastically performed by someone who tries to use the close to say he wanted to do the Wall of Voodoo version, although this explanation gets lost underneath the DJ calling the next singer up.
  • Some Kinda Romanticky Gushy Ballad I Guess, from the closing credits to the film Any Given 80s Movie, Which You Could See Any Time, Day Or Night, In The 90s By Turning On Any Cable Channel Including The TV Listings, sung by someone mumbling so you can’t make out the words anyway, but the glurgey music alone brings back great memories.
  • A-Ha’s Take On Me, until it gets to the first “I’ll be gone” and the performer’s voice locks up at the high pitch, and she runs off stage and can’t be coaxed back up however much everyone promises it’s okay. Post-karaoke-night discussion focuses on whether that was a deliberate joke, and never reaches a definitive conclusion.
  • Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, sung by someone who came in late and also everyone else there.
  • Somebody or other’s Unintelligible Hip-Hop Song, performed by a most white guy who is neither hip nor hop, who possessed no idea this would require having a strong sense of cadence and rhythm, and also didn’t realize there were three spots where the verse uses the n-word, something he had failed to establish the necessary policy for well ahead of time.
  • Don McLean’s American Pie sung by a guy who realizes twenty minutes in that he’s still not even halfway through, though everyone feels great joining in the chorus.
  • Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing, performed by someone who picked it just to complain about the reference to South Detroit, also everyone else there.
  • Nena’s 99 Luftballoons, sung by someone who just assumed the karaoke machine had the English-language version. Live and learn, huh?
  • Jefferson Airplane’s White Rabbit without any inflection or change in tone, possibly by me because there’s no way of controlling what note my voice has chosen to sing in this time.
  • U2’s With Or Without You performed by Ron Mael of Sparks after he found, to his disappointment but not surprise, there isn’t anything of his in the karaoke catalogue.
  • Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs’ Little Red Riding Hood done about two octaves low so it sounds 226 percent more pervy than normal.
  • Any Given Indie Band’s Song With A Lot Of Whoa-oa-oa-oaaahoos In It, sung by someone using his pretty good voice to do it as if by Fozzie Bear for some terrible reason.
  • The Champs’ Tequila, by someone who figured this would be funny and had no idea everyone was going to groan like that when it was announced and now he’s stuck with it.
  • Let It Go, from Frozen, as sung by someone who either just came in or didn’t learn the lessons from earlier.
  • The Who’s Pinball Wizard, sung by someone snarking about how there hasn’t been pinball since 1982 and can’t be convinced to look over in the alcove where there’s like eight tables and six of them are even turned on. Seriously.
  • Billy Joel’s We Didn’t Start The Fire, by someone who was sure she knew the lyrics, and then saw what the karaoke machine has, which was apparently transcribed by YouTube’s automated-worthless-closed-captioning. So the screen’s giving stuff like “Denny footfall rocky cockerel unsteamed chess team brook lamprey snotty beam” and now she has no idea what to do.
  • Duran Duran’s Hungry Like The Wolf, picked by someone who was thinking of Warren Zevon’s Werewolves of London because he wanted to do the wolf howl part, but recovers pretty well with the DO-do-do-DO-do-do-DO-do-do-DO-do-do-DO-do-doo part and doesn’t look too disappointed by the end of it all.
  • The Animals’ We Gotta Get Out Of This Place, sung by someone who once again just assumed he was the last person performing for the night and who is confident this will be funny when he finally is.
  • Queen’s We Are The Champions, picked by someone making way too big a deal over the Tigers beating the Rays 5-3 this early in the season.
  • George Michael’s Faith, by someone who didn’t realize how tricky the meter could be, but has a friend who jumps on on stage for the last third to guide her through safely.
  • The Theme To M*A*S*H, selected by someone who wanted to show off he knew the words to it, and wasn’t thinking how the karaoke machine was going to give him, and everybody else, the words to it anyway.
  • Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, which is just signing itself up to play at this point.

When Time Came To New Jersey


New Sweden was established in the Delaware River valley, in what is now southern New Jersey and southeastern Pennsylvania and the Twelve Mile Circle of Delaware, by exactly the nation you’d imagine, in 1638. It carried itself along for just under two decades. In 1655 the colony was conquered by, and absorbed into, the Dutch colony of the New Netherlands. But this expanded New Netherlands, with outposts along what they termed the North River (the Hudson) and the South River (the Delaware), would stay in Dutch control for barely a dozen years. In 1667 the whole colony was conquered by the English, New Amsterdam famously surrendering without firing a shot. History moves on: in 1673 the colony would be reconquered by the Dutch, New York less-famously surrendering without firing a shot. But they would be returned to England a year later, in the peace treaty which concluded the Third Anglo-Dutch War. The settlement would be exchanged for various East Indies spice islands, including Run, the legendary fount of nutmeg.

The many states of Europe adopted Pope Gregory’s reformed calendar — our modern calendar — at different times, mostly based on the religious politics of the state. Sweden held fast to the Julian calendar until 1700, when it made an attempt to switch over which went so wrong they had to create a February 30th to clean up the mess. (They would finally adopt the Gregorian Calendar successfully in 1753.) The states of the Netherlands switched to the Gregorian calendar or stuck, ten days behind, with the Julian calendar, depending on the religious preferences of the state. The colony of the New Netherlands was settled by the West Indies Company. The company was organized in the Catholic state of Holland, and so would be on the Gregorian calendar. England stuck it out on the Julian calendar through 1752 while telling itself it was so Protestant that the other Protestant nations couldn’t even see its Protestant-ness from where they were.

Presumably at least some part of the conquest of territories by new powers is to adjust the calendar for the residents. The courts, the tax assessors, all the business of government will naturally cling to the time which the regent keeps. North America may be far from Europe, and farther in the 17th century, but it would be intolerable to have European outposts not even agree what day the 21st of April is.

Therefore a resident of New Sweden should have seen her calendar switched from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar sometime after the Dutch conquest in 1655, losing ten days but getting a spring that actually starts in mid-March. And then she would have to see ten days stuffed back into the calendar somehow in 1667, with the English conquest. Possibly the Dutch would take the ten days back out again in 1673, if they didn’t have bigger problems to tend to what with being at war with both the English and the Anglos. If they did, then the resident had to stuff ten days back into her calendar as it switched back again a year later.

This surely annoyed and baffled the locals. It was confusing and frustrating enough in Europe where the calendar standards were fairly well-established and known for the whole 17th century. On what they regarded as the frontier these standards must have been even more whimsical and arbitrary. And yet I’ve never heard of any incidents involving the alternating calendars. I don’t even know when New Sweden’s calendars were changed, or New Netherland’s, or whether it changed for the Dutch interregnum. I know about the annoyances of 1752, since that’s renowned in calendar studies. It’s like hearing about the Beatles; if you haven’t, you just don’t know the subject at all. Of course, 1752 I know from the British perspective and people talking about William Hogarth paintings and whatnot. It’s just assumed that the North American colonies went along, things unfolding about the way they did in London. Or at least Sheffield.

I don’t pretend to be an expert on the history of New Jersey or the surrounding states. I doubt I own more than ten histories of New Jersey, and fewer than half of them are academic texts. But I don’t remember it ever getting a single line of mention ever. The dates must have changed, but when, and how was it done? And what did the people living with the change think of it all? How much of a hassle was it, and what were people saying about the trouble, especially when it kept coming up over and over again? They must have told at least some jokes about the absurdity of this all; what were they?

So with this to ponder, I think you’ll agree I was right not to do a lick of work today, and I appreciate your understanding, boss. I can’t make promises for tomorrow either. But if you do have any contacts with the New Jersey Historical Society we just might be able to come to some arrangement. Isn’t that everything you could ask for?

In Which I Wonder About Slylock Fox and Count Weirdly


So Count Weirdly has created a handheld ray beam to alter the genetic code of creatures. Only it has terrible aim. That’s all right. I understand Count Weirdly’s thing is that he doesn’t really have to have a purpose to all this stuff he’s doing. He’s just in it for the kicks.

Count Weirdly's morph gun shoots a beam of genetic code that instantly alteres the anatomy of the living target. Fortunately for Slylock Fox and Max Mouse, Weirdly has lousy aim. What did Slylock see that shows what anatomical change the count had intended to inflict? (A spider's got antennas.)
Detail of Bob Weber Jr’s Slylock Fox for the 17th of April, 2016. The narrator seems sure that Count Weirdly has lousy aim, but isn’t it possible the spider thing was his plan all along? “Ha ha ha, I shall add antennas to the heads of spiders all over the world and none of you can stop me!” I guess the narrator knows his business but it seems like the deliberate spider thing is at least as plausible a plan as some of Count Weirdly’s schemes, considering how he poorly applies things like his holodeck and his timeship. Not included: the six-differences panel in which a poor raccoon has his dinner, an even poorer fish, stolen by a not-poor-at-all bird, while being watched by a mouse, a frog, and a bunny whose states can’t be determined from the action depicted.

So he’s made a gadget that gives you antennas. I don’t want to tell Slylock his business, but let’s think things out here. Of all the insect body parts, the antennas are about the only ones that aren’t creepy or horrible or possessed of a name like “mandible” that I don’t even want to know what it does. OK, an insect antenna can be long enough to be unsettling, but the ones on the spider there aren’t nearly it. So hey, free insect antennas! Why is Slylock dodging this? OK, antennas would make his hat more complicated. And I agree his hat is an important part of his style. But isn’t having to work out a modified hat policy a reasonable price to pay?

I Live In Lansing, Michigan


Roll over numbers to find hope near you, at the University of Maryland Cancer Network. Sites in Baltimore, Baltimore County, Anne Arundel County, and Harford County. Maryland.
I mean, there was one time I interviewed in College Park, Maryland, for a job that I didn’t want and that would’ve sent me to Guam or maybe South Korea. But from either place this would be only even farther away yet.

The consoling thing about every company building up massive databases of every bit of information about all of us is that they’re all fantastically incompetent at it. By this I mean, yes, Best Buy, do keep asking if I’ll consider buying the cable modem that I bought from you seven weeks ago. I could easily use a second in case I need to crush walnuts between the two, I suppose.

Meanwhile, At Record Store Day


Me, to my love: “I wasn’t out to do this, but I just looked in a bin and came up with a recording of Aesop’s Fables as told by Boris Karloff.”

My love: “Stop doing that.”

My love is correct, of course.

Meanwhile, I’ve had two recent mathematics-comics posts over on that blog. Thursday’s sent me off in search of trivia. I found it. Sunday’s gets us closer to the present day.

Statistics Saturday: Word Counts Of Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? Episode Titles


Word Appearances
a 10
afraid 1
an 1
and 1
ape 2
away 1
backstage 1
bad 1
bedlam 1
big 2
business 1
castle 1
clue 1
Creeper 1
decoy 1
delight 1
dognapper 1
don’t 1
fair 1
fool 1
for 3
foul 1
fright 2
frozen 1
Funland 1
gaggle 1
galloping 1
ghost/ghosts 3
go 1
going 1
hang-up 1
hassle 1
haunted 1
hex 1
house 1
Hyde 1
in 3
is 4
it’s 1
jeepers 1
knight 1
kook 1
man 1
mask 1
mine 1
mix-up 1
mummy 1
mystery 1
never 1
night 3
no 2
nowhere 1
of 3
on 1
own 1
phantom 1
play 1
rage 1
scare 1
Scooby-Doo 2
Scooby’s 1
ship 1
snow 1
space 1
spooky 1
that’s 1
the 7
tiki 1
to 1
too 1
top 1
werewolf 1
what 2
which 2
who’s 1
witch 1
with 2
your 1

I’m honestly surprised the word ‘mystery’ doesn’t turn up more.

Waiting On The Auto Repair Sign


You might remember there’s an auto repair place down the street. I mean my street. I don’t know what’s down yours, and before you get all smug about that when’s the last time you checked yourself, mmm?

Last winter the auto repair place used its sign board to deliver a message of despairing optimism, that “Everything Is Going To Be Alright”. I think the tone came out wrong, but maybe I’m just seeing ambiguity where they didn’t intend it. They change it every couple months. Right after that was congratulations to somebody graduating and there’s no snarking on that. I forget what they went to after that one.

Auto service center sign: 'Everything Is Going To Be Alright [sic]'
I hadn’t even despaired before I saw this.

This winter they had “The Cost Is Zero To Be A Decent Human Being”. And this is a beautifully balanced message. It’s a reminder that the kind, gracious society, the one in which all people receive the dignity and decency that they need to thrive, is always at hand. It requires only that we each take a moment to remember the basic humanity of those around us, and that the cost of respecting that humanity is smaller than we fear. And on the other hand, it’s the perfect thing to yell in the quarrel that finally incinerates the corpse of a deceased friendship. “The cost is zero to be a decent human being, Lisa, and somehow that’s too much for you!”

Yesterday I noticed they had the ladder out, and they took down the reminder about the cost to be a decent human being. They haven’t put a new message up yet. But I’m eager to see what there is.

Picturing Me Some More


OK, so, Pinball Selfie Leagues. That’s what I meant to describe some. It’s a new thing in the world of Competitive Pinball Which Is So There. This is a new kind of tournament where your seeding is based on games you play on your own. And we know there’s no cheating because SNAKE! Totally a snake right over there! Look at that! But really, who’d do anything underhanded in the search for glory in competitive pinball rankings? And here I pause to consider the number of rules that the United States Lighthouse Society’s Passport Program has in place regarding how to count visited lighthouses. I do not know how many there are, other than there’s at least one. But why would we expect cheating in competitive pinball leagues from a species that has people who would try to gain renown for a fraudulently great ability to see lighthouses?

I’m still not sure what I think of Selfie Leagues, other than that they aren’t leagues. Also the first one I participated in wasn’t all that Selfie-bound. After some consideration the organizer ruled we didn’t need to actually take selfies. We could just photograph the score instead. Sometimes that’s the only way. There’s older games where they only show the score a split second. We’d be fumbling for weeks trying to catch that moment if we weren’t looking directly into the camera viewfinder. “Has that got my score?” players would ask. “No, you just took a picture of the hipster bar’s fan-made poster of Rocksteady and Be-Bop confessing they secretly love turtles.” “How many points is that worth?” The answer is 4.5, but only in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle fan rankings.

My love and I decided to respect the concept of the selfie. We’d put a hand or thumb or something into the pictures too, although we always used one of our own. But in the main I tried to respect the integrity of something called a Selfie League and take actual selfies with my pinball scores. After all, there’s good reason to have yourself in the picture with your score. It lets the league organizer know if you’re a playing vampire, and so wouldn’t be able to make it to playoffs before dusk. I’m assuming vampires don’t show up in photographs. It seems like something that would fit with the not-appearing-in-mirrors business. But I wouldn’t be surprised if they just made that up for the movies anyway. I guess vampires would have to just coordinate these things with their league president.

As said I’ve never been much for taking pictures with me, or any identifiable human being, in them. I’ve photographed statues of people like Benjamin Franklin, such as Alexander Hamilton, that didn’t even have the statue in them. And the history of photographs of me hasn’t been promising. Every picture of me used to look like a dough-filled guy who dressed himself just ripped out of bed and posed in front of something. Unless I was trying to not look asleep, in which case I look like a dough-filled guy who dressed himself just ripped out of bed and with my toes set on fire.

But since those days I’ve lost a lot of weight. And I’ve internalized my love’s advice on how to dress so I look less bad. (I have to not pick out the clothes that I would pick out to wear. Yes, there’s a logical paradox here. Isn’t that a merry bit of fun? To resolve it I have to start picking my clothes out early. Usually as early as 8:30 pm two nights prior. And I still come out with “maybe the green shirt that hasn’t got any holes visible from under my not-really-a-hoodie thing?”) And it’s produced dramatic improvements in how I get photographed. I mean improvements for me.

Because I’m pretty sure the ideal for this would be a picture of me standing beside a good game score and smiling. At least grinning. Not what I do manage, which is to be just far enough off-center that I appear to be creeping up on what’s otherwise a fair enough score on Indiana Jones: The Pinball Adventure. Or hanging around acting suspicious around a respectable score on Game Of Thrones: Not Subtitled The Pinball Adventure. Or, worse, looking on in despair at a score of Lord of the Rings: Not Every Pinball Machine Is Actually A Licensed Tie-In To Something Although It Does Seem Like It Anymore. “Oh, don’t cry,” I can imagine other people in the Selfie League saying. “64 million isn’t so abominable a score, given that you probably had somewhere else to be. You are going to go back and try again, right?”

I don’t know. I do like the pinball side of this but having a whole bunch of pictures of me hanging around is suspicious. There might be something better to try.

Oh yeah, A Labor Of Like is posting again


And if I may I’d like to offer a heads-up to people who need things to read but can’t find them on the Internet themselves somehow. I have this problem often. I’m not saying that’s why I own multiple histories of containerized cargo, but it might be why I’ve read a mid-90s book about then-current innovations in pasta technology. That or how many times I found the word “extrude” when I opened to whatever page to try it out.

But after a several-month hiatus A Labor Of Like has got to posting again. I enjoy the style of writing there and, who knows, you might also. Here’s a sample of a recent posting, built on the most universal of human experiences. That is wondering what can possibly explain this thing you’re staring at in the supermarket. Enjoy, insofar as that’s wise.

In short, yes, I’m running like a week behind answering comments and I’m sorry. I’m grateful for everyone who writes here. It’s just been kind of busy and I should maybe spend less time hiding under furniture instead of writing back. The furniture thing is just easier to do.

Caption This: Why Even Spend The Whole Episode In Smooth-Floored Caves


Picard, Data, Spock, and some Romulans standing around the cave.
Decades of work figuring out Romulan Tasha Yar’s plot from the episode have finally revealed that the only way it makes a lick of sense if you suppose everybody involved was lying to each other about what the scheme actually was, even when they were doing the big reveal of what the evil scheme of evilness was all about.

“My parents! They’re home already! Guys, we gotta clean this cave up right now!”

[ Do you have a better caption? Maybe. I like this one, but what the heck. Use the space below as you like. Winners to be informed. ]


So over on my mathematics blog, I wrote all about a bunch of comic strips for the 5th of April. I posted it there on the 9th of April, and I’m posting this pointer to it on what WordPress’s servers says is the 13th of April but which my own personal time zone which I let many people share say is the 12th of April. I do this in the hopes of clearing up any confusion.

On The Convenience Store Shelves


So there sitting on the bottom row of the convenience store cooler, beside the Towne Club flavors, was something new to my experience. Snap Punch. I didn’t get it, what with their having Diet Ruby Red Squirt. But if I read the label right, they’re offering the decent yet slightly watery taste of Snapple, plus interesting and I guess true enough facts like “Beavers were once the size of bears”, topped off with way more hitting. So we’d get to ponder things like, “Wait, does this mean beavers used to be a lot larger, or did bears used to be smaller? Ow! OW! Quit that! OWWW!” It’s a weird business model, but you never really know what’s going to work until you try it.

Whew!


New High Powered Flashlight Is Now Available In Michigan.
So, uh, too bad for you, Indiana? I guess? Also this is clickbait somehow?

I had worried!


Does that seem skimpy ? That seems skimpy. Well, how about this . I was reading Lisa Jardine’s Worldly Goods: A New History of the Renaissance. In the last chapter she quotes a letter by the master artist Albrecht Dürer to one of his patrons. Dürer’s quoted as passing on his nephew’s thanks for two florins sent as Trinkgeld, money to get a drink. I’m delighted to learn that 16th Century German apparently had a perfectly legitimate word for “beer money”. Also that it’s adorable! I can’t imagine a more adorable term for this unless it’s whatever the Dutch version of “Trinkgeld” is. There must be a word for the joy of discovering an adorable German word for something. I bet it’s in French.