Statistics Saturday: Vice-Presidents of the United States Serving Two Full Terms, By Century


A note about methodology: Thomas Jefferson is counted as an 18th-century Vice-President and wouldn’t affect the count either way. Garret Hobart is counted as a 19th-century Vice-President but that hardly matters since he was dead at the time of the 20th century. Al Gore is counted as a 20th-century Vice-President and he would’ve affected the count one way or the other. Future Disgraced Former Vice-President Mike Pence is not counted as it’s too soon to tell when he’ll leave office. David Rice Atchison is not counted as Vice-President for good reason. John Adams is counted as having a full term despite the 1789-1793 Presidential administration being that far short of four full years. Ditto John Nance Garner although for the 1933-1937 term. Also hey, Daniel D Tompkins, good job pulling that off. I completely forgot about you so I’m glad I looked it up. Shut up, you’re the person who knows an unsettling amount about 19th-century United States Vice-Presidents for someone who isn’t a 19th-century United States Vice-Presidential historian.

18th Century: 1. 19th Century: 1. 20th Century: 5. 21st Century: 2.
Further note on methodology: While presented as a spot of whimsy the whole of it is factual and the only apparent comic value is in staring hard at Vice-Presidents of the United States. While there is some whimsy involved in that, it all amounts to things like Henry (1873-1875) Wilson’s servant not knowing he was Vice-President, or Thomas (1913-1921) Marshall’s working a side job roasting the uselessness of his office. None of this is on display here. Although it’s a little freaky the 19th century had such a lousy time keeping a Vice-President around, isn’t it? They had 23 of them, compared to 21 for the 20th century and hey, you know, if he were still alive Gerald Ford would be 103 years old. That’s something to make you go “huh”, isn’t it? Well, maybe it should be. Wait, so everyone agrees Dallas County, Texas, was named for George (1845-1849) Dallas, but there’s dispute about whether the city of Dallas, Texas, was? The heck, even for Texas?

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index rose by nine points today after a good look at the weather forecase and how nice it was looking and we really need it after the week we just had, don’t you all agree?

127

In Which I Am Concerned About My Shirt


It reached the temperature of Like Thirty Degrees Too Warm For Late March today and I put on one of my short-sleeved yellow shirts. It’s a kind I like: it has a pocket in case I need a pen in my shirt pocket. And it’s yellow, so that I show up in photographs. (I have this condition where I can’t be noticed in photographs unless I bug out my eyes and turn my head slightly to the side so I look like I’m doing a bad job pretending to be surprised by my birthday party. It’s inherited; my grandmother had the same problem. We carry on, proudly.)

Anyway, the shirt turns out to be incredibly faded. It’s still yellow-ish, but it’s gotten very near white since I last wore it and I can’t think why. Fading from the sun? Maybe, but who lets my clothes out in the sun? Fading from bleach? No, we put bleach to other purposes around the house. I have to conclude it’s fallen prey to a shirt vampire draining its essential dye and while it’s got a few more rounds left to it, it’ll soon join the legion of undead clothing. Which is a shame, but it is part of the cycle of clothing life.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index fell seven points today on allegations that having the number be a round figure like ‘130’ caused it to look made-up, and ‘125’ wasn’t really any better, is it? Maybe we need to start measuring in eighths of a point or something so it looks the more credible. What do you, the viewer at home, think?

118

On This Date: March 25


March 25th is the 90th day of the year or so. Something like that. Good grief, is the year that little done? It feels like more. Anyway there are some six days remaining in the month unless we find a stray Tuesday that rolled under the couch? Something like that.

1409 — Opening of the Council of Pisa following the belated discovery of the can opener. In resolving the Western Schism between the popes in Rome and Avignon the council settles on the innovative approach of declaring everyone who passes by the front door, including four stray cats and a flock of pigeons, to be Pope. The problem is left unsettled but it is still a major holiday in Rock Dove Orthodox Catholicism.

1584 — Sir Walter Raleigh receives a patent to colonize Virginia, catching him off-guard. “I thought I’d get a copyright or maybe a service mark on Virginia, but you know, I’ll make do with what I have,” he says in a telephone interview by Bob Newhart. Unfortunately unsettled trade conditions and unstable capitalization foil his efforts to make money in the manufacture and trade of Virginias, and by 1792 he admits it isn’t working out nearly like he figured. Today only the prototype Virginia and one late-run production model Virginia still remain, preserved in a special museum-grade display with inert gas.

1802 — By the terms of the Treaty of Amiens, France and England resolve to stop fighting and never go to war ever again for all time except for this one more time for last licks, that’s fair, right? Sure it is.

1821 — Traditional start of the Greek War of Independence, which actually began over a month before, but they say it’s this for symbolically important reasons, and that isn’t even me making a whimsical joke but just how things are really done if Wikipedia isn’t fibbing me.

1894 — Coxey’s Army begins its march on Washington to establish that unemployment is a failure of society to provide for its citizens and not the result of personal immorality among the jobless. Oh lord we’re not living up to the moral standards of the 19th century, what are we even doing?

1950 — 25th anniversary of March 25, 1925.

1979 — Delivery of the first fully-functional space shuttle, Columbia, to the Kennedy Space Center, although the vehicle is not launched for over two years owing to the keys being locked inside and nobody knowing how to get them out without breaking a window open. They ultimately have to wait for the completion of the space shuttle Discovery and hope the keys for that fit the first, and they do, with a little jiggling around. Discovery’s first launch is delayed while the space program finds a Two Guys that will grind out a duplicate set of keys. “Look, we just want to be sure someone else can open the trunk, all right?” explains Kennedy Space Center director Richard G Smith, reminding us how there used to be a whole different key for the trunks and why was that exactly? The past is weird, that’s all.

1995 — Establishment of WikiWikiWeb, the first user-editable web site, opens an innovative new way that people who read way too much of The Straight Dope as kids can argue about David Rice Atchison in the Talk page.

2000 — 50th anniversary of the 25th anniversary or March 25, 1925.

2017 — I’m like one day ahead of deadline.

Born On This Day:

Religious troublemaker John Calvin (maybe?), Army marcher Jacob Coxey (like a one in 365 chance), Vulcan inventor D C Fontana (Star Trek if I got lucky), probably some European royalty with a name like John IV or Jacob III or Katerina The Rather So (here I’m just playing the odds). You know what, let’s say Howard Cosell too, just so there’s a name that anyone can recognize if they’re not like four months younger than me.

Died On This Day:

Do we need this installment? It’s so depressing.

Special Observances:

This is the earliest day on which Seward’s Day can fall. Seward’s Day is the day when Alaskans observe William Seward. It should not be confused with Alaska Day, but I bet it is all the time and is fed up with it. It is observed as Wright Brothers Day by confused aviation enthusiasts. Until 1752 it was the start of the New Year in England, Wales, Ireland, and the American Colonies, which raises disturbing implications about just how many days there were between March 27, 1751 and March 22, 1751. Don’t stare to hard into that one. You won’t like what you find.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index fell five points today as everyone was busy watching the trailer for the new Mystery Science Theater 3000 and torn between bits that made them figure this was going to be as good as they needed it to be and bits that made them figure it was going to be off in all those ways that non-hardcore-fans can’t understand. The mood on the floor is described as “hope mixed with a sense that, really, the children of the original Mads is the fullest re-thinking done? But there’s a lot of people who know what they’re doing and maybe the Ready Player One guy can be harnessed to a good cause?”

125

Meanwhile In No; A Dream Report


So you know that extreme ping-pong sport where the competitors and table are all suspended from a beam extended from a skyscraper, far above ground? Sure, we’re all interested in that. OK, so apparently the dream world wants me to see a documentary about the crews that set up and test the harness and frames to make the game safe and playable. Including some daring footage of how they lasso a steel beam to get the first elements installed. And I’m not all that bothered by heights, but you want to see people tossing cables out to grab a steel beam 400 feet up some North Korean(?) skyscraper and I’m starting to get nervous.

The dream also included some relevant segments from one of those odd little 20-minute making-of documentaries narrated by that deep-voiced guy which they used to make for 60s and 70s films so that … decades in the future Turner Classic Movies would have some filler. I don’t know what their business model was. Anyway, they included clips from that because a lot of the fundamental technology for skyscraper-suspended ping-pong was developed for the famous(?) zipline sequence of John Wayne’s Chisum, a movie that I will now go my entire life without seeing, thank you very much.

I understand it might be odd to make a life choice, including a small one like whether to ever see Chisum, on the basis of a dream like that. But it was a documentary in my dream and therefore must be accurate.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index rose twelve points today out of fears that — wait, no, it doesn’t rise on fears. It rises on hopes. Must have got something caught in the copy filter. Let’s try again. The index rose twelve points today out of hopes that there were grasshoppers in the basement and getting up higher would avoid the issue. Ah, yes, I see where the ‘fears’ comes in then. Some people are just afraid of grasshoppers, is all. That’s normal-ish. Carry on.

130

In Which I Don’t Know Something About Texas


My love happened to chat about pinball with someone from Texas this weekend. He (the Texan) mentioned that no, nobody has basements in Texas. And, fine, that will happen. I didn’t think much particularly about that revelation, because I grew up in New Jersey, where we don’t get tornadoes. If a tornado forms in the New Jersey area it immediately strikes Brooklyn or, if it can’t afford Brooklyn (who can?), Staten Island. My love, growing up in Michigan, wondered then what Texans do in tornado weather if there isn’t a basement for shelter. I can only guess that when there’s a tornado siren in Texas everyone grabs a gun, rushes outside, and shoots it until the siren stops. And if there is a tornado it only gets worse treatment. I’m open to learning better from people with actual experience of Texas tornados, but I shall know you’re lying to me if you claim that afterwards they don’t barbecue the tornado’s corpse. There’s some things I know even before I look them up.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The Another Blog, Meanwhile index fell eight points when there was this scary sound outside and nobody was willing to investigate it.

118

In Which Things Are A Little On The Nose Here


Just saying.

Oh, also, I want to point out my mathematics blog, with its weekly review of comic strips that mention mathematics in some way. Yesterday I put in the comics for the week prior and that included Pi Day so you can imagine just what sort of merriment was filling the comics pages. OK, that was filling three or so strips worth. But it was there. There isn’t a lot more to say on this point, but I want to say just a touch more because of the Responsive Design theme I’ve got on this. It rearranges stuff based on how wide the browser is. And with the browser I post stuff in, at the width I like it being open to, I have this slender column on the left with a posting’s dateline and tags and Leave A Comment link and all that. And if I include a picture that’s far enough down the page that it’s past the Leave A Comment link then it gets to use that horizontal space for itself. So it gets to appear bigger by virtue of an optical illusion created by having more horizontal and vertical space. (It’s a very convincing illusion.) And I like the picture bigger, so that’s why I’m going on until I have enough words that I can

Sitting atop a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle pinball machine: a box of Little Caesar's pizza.
Technically speaking I do not know whether there was any pizza in the box or not, but the event which I did not stage works equally well either way. The instruction card mentions the “Bodacious Skill Shot”, which serves as a reminder that there are some bits of vocabulary shared between Manhattan-dwelling turtle ninjas and Great Smokey Mountains-dwelling moonshiner Snuffy Smith.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index dropped one point today as Dan thought he saw a sewing magazine promise “three alternatives to clapping” and he was stumped trying to think of a third. The trading floor broke out into one faction pointing out that the magazine cover promised alternatives to stitching and another faction saying sure, there’s snapping fingers, and there’s stomping on the floor, but what would be a third? And then the day ended in squabbles about whether it counts as an alternative to clapping if you slap your hand against some other body part, like your thigh or something.

126

What’s Going On In Mark Trail? December 2016 – March 2017


Mark Trail was the second story strip I reviewed as having had a sea change considerably improving it. And I’ve talked in passing about the major event of November and December. But let me recap the whole of the last few months as best I understand it.

Mark Trail.

4 December 2016 through 18 March 2017

When I last talked about Mark Trail he was off on a remote Hawai’ian atoll, there to document an invasive species of ant that was bothering the local birds. While human-induced carelessness will create ecological problems nature has its ways of restoring the balance. In this case, nature chose to go with “titanic volcano explosion that destroys the island, the invasive ants, and everything else on it”. Nature has a real problem figuring out the appropriate scale for its responses. This by the way isn’t the first time in James Allen’s tenure as Mark Trail author-and-artist that an invasive species has been solved by fire. Some kind of beetle boring into woods was solved by a particularly well-placed bit of semi-controlled wildfire.

At the smoking ruins of the island: 'I've been a charter pilot through the islands for many years and I've seen coral atolls rise and sink from time to time, but I've never seen one totally erupt, crumble, and sink into the sea before!'
James Allen’s Mark Trail for the 24th of December, 2016. And yes, this may look bad, what with Mark Trail having declined the insurance on Firecracker Island. But look on the bright side: now that the island has erupted, crumbled, and sunk into the waters there’s probably someone looking to build a Monty Python reference on the spot already.

Anyway, the volcano exploded a lot, and then exploded some more, and then went on exploding to the point that some readers got a bit cranky wondering if there was even any island left to explode. It reads better if you look at a week’s worth of strips at once, which Comics Kingdom’s web site makes easy to do, at least if you have a paid subscription. Once again, I recommend subscriptions to both Comics Kingdom and to GoComics if you like newspaper-grade syndicated comic strips. Both web sites do their jobs very well.

With the island escaped, Mark Trail observed the ritual of cleansing between storylines: eating pancakes while sharing stilted dialogue and promising his son Rusty that they’ll go fishing someday.

Cherry: 'I made your favorite!' Mark: 'Pancakes! - Indeed you did!' Rusty: 'I enjoy pancakes too! Thanks, Mom!'
James Allen’s Mark Trail for the 30th of January, 2017. So yes, that friend of yours who’s way too much into Mystery Science Theater 3000 would like to know whether any of these people would say “I like coffee”. (It’s a reference to the episode Red Zone Cuba, but I’m going to say it’s from The Skydivers in order to trick MST3K fans into commenting to tell me I’m wrong. I’ve always been an awful old-school Internet troll that way.) The rest of us are busy pondering the exact differences between the curls in Cherry Trail’s hair and the wisps of we-hope-that’s-steam coming off the mound of pancakes. Are they a life form trying to communicate? Surely not or Mark Trail would have known what to make of them.

Meanwhile, Lee Hunter, whom I don’t know anything about either, arrives in West Africa for a licensed safari hunt. In the West African village of Village, where all the lionesses and cubs have been shipped off to zoos, there’s an elderly male that’s turned human-eater. Possibly from loneliness; he’d hardly be the first person to go a little crazy at work because of an unsatisfying home life.

As she arrives she bumps into Chris, nicknamed Dirty, a guy who’d been in some Mark Trail story a couple years ago when the strip was all about poacher smuggling. He’s on his way to the United States, and we haven’t seen Lee Hunter again since that encounter. I don’t have any guess whether Village is going to have anything to do with the current storyline, or whether James Allen is setting up a future storyline, or whether the strip just wanted to put in a good word for licensed exotic-animal hunting. (It feels out of character for Mark Trail, but it is a difficult question of ethics, and a character is under no obligation to make choices that even the author thinks correct. A character is only obliged to make choices that the author thinks credible for the story.)

That’s also just about all we’ve seen from Chris Dirty, too. Since that airport encounter Mark Trail’s been talking about how his old buddy Johnny Lone Elk spotted a pair of gray wolves and some cougar tracks at the Cheyenne River Reservation. Also evidence of a bear, which is quite exciting stuff when Mark was just thinking about getting in on some black-footed-ferret and prairie dog census work. Cherry Trail mentioned that it isn’t tornado season, so we can look forward to a tornado catching on fire and blowing up in the near future.

Doc: 'Johnny found evidence of a bear? Does he have any idea what kind?' Mark: 'It's probably just a black bear. Not likely to be a grizzly!' Cherry: 'Wasn't someone out there doing a black-footed ferret and prairie dog survey? A bear isn't going to help that at all!' Doc: 'How's Johnny doing? We haven't seen him in years!'
James Allen’s Mark Trail for the 2nd of March, 2017. You might ask if Cherry Trail is too quick to judge the bear’s unwillingness to help with the black-footed-ferret and prairie dog survey. Perhaps. Me, I wonder if in the third panel that’s Lampy, finally finding work after the end of Apartment 3-G.

Cherry’s also mentioned some water park incident that I don’t know anything about. Trusting that it’s something that really happened back when Jack Elrod was writing and drawing the strip I’m going to suppose that someone was smuggling otters down the lazy river. I have no further information about this incident.

Animals or other natural phenomena featured on Sundays recently have included:

  • The Pink Frogmouth, 12 March 2017
  • Toucans, 5 March 2017
  • The Western Pacific Biotwang (whale noise), 26 February 2017
  • Flying Lemurs, 19 February 2017
  • Amethyst, 12 February 2017
  • This Leaf-Shaped Spider In Yunnan, China, 5 February 2017
  • Hooded Nudibranches, 29 January 2017
  • New Zealand Keas, 22 January 2017
  • Spiders and Giraffe Assassin Bugs, 15 January 2017
  • Good news for bats affected with white-nose syndrome, 8 January 2017
  • Pyrosomes (which are these giant glowing sea-dwelling worms so don’t say I didn’t warn you), 1 January 2017
  • Blue Nawab caterpillars, 18 December 2016
  • Frog rescue and this amphibian-threatening fungus, 11 December 2016
  • The Great Blue Hole off the coast of Belize, 4 December 2016
  • Dodder Vine, 27 November 2016

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index fell five points when someone saw a tweet talking about a Victorian epidemic of “poisonous socks” and thought we ought to be spending more time hiding under furniture about this.

127

Statistics Saturday: A Guide To Putting “City” At The End Of A City’s Name


Sounds Weird With “City”

  • London
  • Philadelphia
  • Cincinnati
  • Phoenix, Arizona
  • Northwest Stanwood, Washington
  • Paris
  • Warren, Michigan

Is OK Either Way

  • New York City
  • Bristol, Connecticut
  • Winslow, Arizona
  • Gloucester City, New Jersey
  • Boulder, Colorado
  • Paradise
  • Dodd City, Texas
  • Arkadelphia, Arkansas
  • Boulder City, Nevada

Sounds Weird Without “City”

  • Atlantic City
  • Mexico City
  • Tell City, Indiana
  • Kansas City, Missouri
  • Oklahoma City
  • Oil City, Pennsylvania
  • Kansas City, Kansas

Sounds Like You Made It Up Either Way

  • Belchertown, Massachusetts
  • Southington, Connecticut
  • Central Pacolet, South Carolina

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index rose four points, disappointing analysts who had figured on the index rising four points, but four different points from what they actually got. Some people are never satisfied and somehow they’re the ones we have to try satisfying for some reason.

132

Caption This: Running Like A Chicken Edition


As I promised my other blog, the serious one, talked more about comic strips with mathematical themes yesterday. At least it did if the automated posting worked right. I set that one and this to appear without my specific intervention because I think I’m going to be busy? I might be busy anyway.

I’d post an update with a later report of just how busy I was and when except I can’t figure that’s in fact interesting either. My point is, if I did have something posted there yesterday, it might be something interesting to you today.

And if it’s not then I’ll just go back to grabbing frames from Star Trek: The Next Generation, such as for instance this:

Data's disembodied head plugged in to one of the pull-down tray tables in Lower Engineering. From the episode 'Disaster'.
Shortly after this episode Data began reviewing music, if I may make a needlessly complicated Mystery Science Theater 3000 reference. Say what you will, but Next Generation had some great severed-talking-head effects.

“Counselor? Do you know when you might be able to resume my exploration of the idiom `would lose my head if it were not attached’ anytime soon? And in … I am not certain which corridor?”

Have something better? I’m not surprised. Give it a try.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

Traders lifted the Another Blog, Meanwhile by two points today after stretching carefully and bending at the knees before they realized the index was a lot hotter than they realized and nobody had brought any oven mitts.

129

What You Missed At The Record Show


Like five cups left out where someone put a teabag in and then discovered the hotel’s complementary coffee and tea service didn’t include hot water, just two kinds of regular coffee. Also one full cup of coffee-tea hybrid abandoned after two sips.

Supertramp’s Breakfast In America in the five dollar bin.

Oh wow this is totally Paul McCartney’s most embarrassing 80s single.

The greatest hits of the Beatles, 1962 – 1964, rendered by early computer synthesizer.

The daily high temperatures for Schenectady, New York, from the International Geophysical Year of 1957-58, rendered as a waltz, as the first album my hand even touched and I wasn’t even trying to make something like this happen. How does this happen? How does this keep happening? $3 and the woman selling it marked it down to $2 before I even said anything and then suggested if I wanted all four copies I could have them for five bucks.

Supertramp’s Breakfast In America in the dollar bin.

Wait, how could Allan Sherman have done a riff on the theme to Saturday Night Fever? Is that even possible? Can someone check?

The greatest hits of the Beatles, 1962 – 1965, rendered on xylophones.

Two guys trying to walk back the “White Disco Sucks” label on a Bee Gees album when the customer admitted to liking it although of course not so much as their pre-disco stuff.

Supertramp’s Breakfast In America in the two dollar bin.

A disco cover of the themes to 2001: A Space Odyssey, Star Trek, The Great Race, and Gone With The Wind.

The Belchertown (Massachusetts) Savings Bank 1968 gift to its listeners of select favorite memories from the golden age of radio … oh, I get it, they’re saving these precious memories, that makes thematic sense as a tie-in and oh that’s a lot of Amos and Andy to put on one record but at least they break it up with … good grief Life with Luigi? Was all the non-ethnic-humor stuff from old-time radio unavailable somehow?

The greatest hits of the Beatles, 1963 – 1965, rendered by a string quartet.

That table with all the concert video DVDs that couldn’t look more sketchy if he were underneath a giant flickering neon sign reading “SCAMMER” although hey, he’s got the whole Woodstock ’99 concert this says.

A box just labelled “prog rock” next to two boxes just labelled “Beatles”.

The great news events of 1944 as reported by Morse Code international transmission.

The Who’s Tommy sung by an all-twee children’s chorus for some reason.

An ever-growing bundle of people arguing over what was the best Kinks concept album, splitting off an argument about what was the best concept versus what was the best rendition of that concept, all united by the belief that more people ought to listen to Arthur.

Gene Pitney’s She’s a Heartbreaker, which on the cover explains it includes Gene Pitney’s hit She’s a Heartbreaker, which at least gets one thing clear and understandable in this confusing world.

No, no, this is totally Paul McCartney’s most embarrassing 80s single.

A read-along story cassette book for 3-2-1 Contact? I totally need this except by any reasonable definition of “Need” but look how much of the book is the Bloodhound Gang.

Kid whose family was at the hotel wandering in from the swimming pool to stare at the records and then leave without making eye contact with anyone.

Listen To History: John Cassavetes portrays John Cameron Swayze as the news reporter covering the Zimmerman Telegraph, the Paris Peace Conference of 1919, and Warren G Harding’s Death in a recreation of how network radio might have covered these events and what exactly is on sale for $6 here? What level of reality is in operation?

Supertramp’s Breakfast In America in the miscellaneous bin.

A disco cover of the themes to 2001: A Space Odyssey, Star Wars, The Gazebo, and A Face In The Crowd.

A bunch of interview clips the Beatles offered but stripped of all possible context.

The soundtrack to Midnight Cowpoke which turns out not to be the soundtrack to a porn film which would be bizarre enough but this leads to the discovery of “stag party records” that, okay, wait, they’re just music with women groaning? And this was a thing people were supposed to listen to in any context? Play this “sexciting” album in your car? Yes, we know car LP players were a thing but what? And they were still making these late enough in the day they could do an album riffing on aerobics? What the heck is the heck with this? What?

The cast of One Day At A Time sings the greatest hits of Motown.

A two-LP set of The Greatest Hits of Zager and Evans?

Haven’t got any idea what this is but it’s thick in a box of prog-rock covers so amazing I want to get a better look at it without making eye contact with the guy selling them because if I do he’s going to talk about them and I can’t have that much personal contact with someone can I?

A disco cover of the themes to 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Black Hole, 1941, and Klute.

Supertramp’s Breakfast In America in the Beatles bin.

The Fat Boys’ You Know, Only One Of Them Is Actually Kind Of Fat, The Most You Can Say About The Others Is They’re Slightly Chunky Or Maybe We’ve All Just Gotten Tubbier Since 1989.

Is it possible that Paul McCartney 80s singles are infinite and there is no most embarrassing one?

The Kinks debate approaching the conclusion that while it is impossible to define what exactly makes something a concept album, having a track subtitled “Part II”, “(Reprise)”, or “Entr’Acte” means you’ve got one.

How To Set Up Your Record Player, an instructional album that seems to present an impossible bootstrapping problem.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index dropped ten points today but then thought better of it and figured that just the one was sufficient.

127

An Apology In My Dreams


So to the seagull in my dream who was trying to apologize by delivering a fully functional rocket to my backyard: I appreciate the gesture. It’s a most impressive gift. And I do appreciate the work gone in to getting a Saturn I — not a V, not even the more hip I-B but an actual Saturn I as used in flight testing and development from 1961 through 1965. It’s a true connoisseur’s choice of rocket vehicle. Nevertheless, while I’ll accept presents as tokens of reconciliation they are not, by themselves, reconciliation. It is harder to deliver a simple “I’m sorry” from your own beak, but it would mean something that no present ever could, and I promise to accept it with as much grace as possible given our history. And I do thank you for the gesture.

Still, on another level, I can’t see any way to launch the blasted thing from my backyard, what with how the goldfish pond isn’t nearly deep enough a water trench for the necessary sound suppression. Not to mention not being deep enough for the goldfish to come out well afterwards. Plus who’s got a launch gantry in mid-Michigan anyway? I’ve got too much stuff just hanging around to show to accept something that hasn’t got practical use.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

Traders showed a sharp loss of confidence today when they learned that contestants on The Price Is Right are not drawn randomly from the audience but are instead screened while entering to see if they’d probably look good on camera and have a bunch of people cheering specifically for them.

128

Why I’m Still Stuck At The Meijer’s Check-Out Lane


The card reader wants to know if I had an extremely satisfying shopping experience? What would an extremely satisfying shopping experience be? I was just there to pick up a prescription and some toothpaste. I can imagine ways that this would be unsatisfying, like if I picked up a tube of Crest and it burst into fire, but that didn’t happen. Surely an extremely satisfying trip requires more than just toothpaste not combusting? Does toothpaste even catch on fire? If not, could you use it to put out a fire? Why? It would have to be an extremely small fire and in that case couldn’t you just spray, like, mouthwash on it instead? Would that work? How does that help me figure out whether I’m “extremely” satisfied? I guess I didn’t find a new pair of cargo pants, but then I didn’t figure I was going to either. I just checked in case they had some. I have a lot of stuff I can’t do without having in my pants, such as my legs, quarters for pinball, and my iPod Touch. Cargo pants are good ways to satisfy those needs, since there’s more pockets than there are things to put in them. But if I didn’t get something I didn’t really expect to get am I satisfied? Anyway, someone please go to the soup aisle, get a can of lentil, bring it to the microwave aisle, warm it up, and bring it to me at the checkout lane. Thank you.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index rose nearly nine points as investigators concluded that yes, all the clocks in the house are on the right time now and that yeah, the one in the guest bedroom did spend all winter on Daylight Saving Time after all and it didn’t bother anybody, just like Mike said it would.

136

Caption This: Supplemental: Hurrk.


As has gotten to be normal for Mondays I mostly want to point you over to my mathematics blog where I thrill folks by showing off a 1956 installment of Jimmy Hatlo’s comic strip Baby Schnooks’ll Do It Every Time. I don’t know, but it brings in the readers, so who am I to object? There should be another one of those installments come Thursday, so I’ve already got my Next Generation picture all ready to go for it. Also I’m not going out of my way to pick on Next Generation, it’s just that I feel like there’s only one thing to say about the Original Star Trek episode where they left a newspaper on the floor in the background and that’s to point out they left a newspaper on the floor in the background. As ever, if you want to put in your own caption, please do. I like what folks make of this.

Riker sitting on the captain's task chair in the Ready Room.
I get why the Captain would have a laptop on his desk, sure, and having a couple of circuit boards standing free? That’s just good resource organization. Why does he keep a chunk of crystal there, though? That’s way too blocky to be a piece of sea glass, so I’m forced to conclude the set designers don’t know either, they just set that down earlier in the episode and can’t take it out now without someone calling it a continuity error.

“Personal log. I now know how long is too long to spin in my chair.”

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index stayed at 127 today as some of the traders got into a talk about the standards and specifications of decade-old video game systems and everybody else hid under the desk until it all blew over. Not that it isn’t interesting to hear something about this stuff but then when they get into calling enhanced rame rate schemes “hilarious” you know you’re in trouble and should be doing something else.

127

What’s Going On In Dick Tracy? December 2016 – March 2017


I started out this strikingly popular series of “What’s Going On In” story strips by describing how Dick Tracy had gotten pretty good. I stand by that assessment: the comic has been telling stories at a pretty good pace and with enough energy and excitement to demand attention. I discover reading my earlier piece that I didn’t actually describe the then-current storyline except to say it was going to have a guy get eaten by a hyena. Let me fix that and bring you to the present day.

Dick Tracy

29 November 2016 through 11 March 2017

So, the guy did not get eaten by a hyena. I apologize for the mistake, but it was after all only my best projection as to where the story was going. The fellow was a new Tracy-esque villain named Selfy Narcisse, whose gimmick was that he was always taking selfies. They can’t all be The Pouch.

Narcisse had been embezzling campaign donations to Representative Lois Bellowthon (herself proposing some anti-Lunar-people legislation); he was fleeing with a literal satchel of cash after poisoning the finally-wise-to-him Congressman. Yes, he used his selfie stick to inject the poison, so at least that keeps on-theme. He took refuge in the zoo where he had a friend willing to disguise him as a zoo keeper, which is a thing that happens in real big-city zoos.

Selfy Narcisse panics as police close in. 'This is all Vic's fault! He blew my cover and wasted all my poison ... if he weren't already dead I'd kill him!' Tracy discovers Vic's corpse. 'It's the missing zoo worker! He doesn't appear to have been mauled, but my Wrist Wizard isn't showing any of his vital signs. Get Baker to open the door, Lizz. I'll check for another way in.' Meanwhile Narcisse plans: 'Better stay put, Tracy. There might be enough poison left in the selfie stick for you!'
Joe Staton, Mike Curtis, Shelley Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy for the 4th of December, 2016. While I admit I kept losing track in the climax of the difference between the Narcisse’s selfie stick and the electric prods used for pushing animals around, I don’t blame the artists: they’re hard things to differentiate. Especially when it doesn’t seem like that big a leap for a poison-dispensing selfie stick to also have an electric prod. Anyway, look at the center panel, bottom row: that’s a great rendition of a scene viewed through a window, and most of that texture is made by good color choice.

His cover fell apart when his hat fell off for a moment and zoogoers put pictures that happened to have him in frame on social media. So again, that’s good work by Mike Staton and Joe Curtis in being on-theme. His friend accidentally drank Narcisse’s poison stash, thinking it alcohol. Narcisse tasers Tracy and drags him into the water buffalo pen. One of the water buffalo, annoyed by the villain’s selfie-taking, gored Narcisse, but was scared away from Tracy when his Wrist Wizard handheld computer’s battery exploded. Yes, I wrote that sentence, and you read it. Go back and read it again until you believe it.

In December a major new story started and it involved a major crossover event because everything in Dick Tracy does anymore. Their Christmas strip was the characters singing Deck Us All With Boston Charlie, Walt Kelly’s great Pogo doggerel, for crying out loud. The main attraction for this storyline is The Spirit, the great superhero character created by Will Eisner in a line of books I never read. Sorry. I know, I know, everybody who’s stood in a comic book store more than ten minutes will tell you they’re the greatest things ever made. I’ve been busy.

Tracy: 'Spirit, I'd like you to meet a friend of mine, The Great Am.' Am: 'The pleasure is mine, Mr Spirit. I presume the object of your visit is to keep an eye on Perenelle Flammel?' Spirit: 'Yes ...' (Thinking: who is this guy?) Am: 'I've encountered her about five times through the years. In fact, the first time we met was at her funeral in 1397.' Tracy: 'So Perenelle Flammel is truly immortal?' Am: 'Yes, I am sure of it, Tracy.'
Joe Staton, Mike Curtis, Shelley Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy for the 1st of January, 2017. This strip may not convince the casual reader about Perenelle Flammel. But it is delivering to us the Word of God that Flammel is indeed immortal. The Great Am will be recognized by devoted longtime readers of Annie, where he’s God. All right, he’s Ambiguously God. But that’s who he is because that’s the kind of thing Annie was up to when Harold Gray wasn’t ranting against social security or the minimum wage law or stuff.

The Spirit’s in town because one Perenelle Flammel is auctioning off the immortality formula that’s kept her from dying since the 14th century. The auction brings together The Spirit, Dick Tracy‘s own super-science-industrialist Diet Smith, Oliver Warbucks (as Staton and Curtis are fostering the orphaned Annie cast), Mister Carrion (whom Wikipedia tells me is one of The Spirit’s recurring villains, and whom the story revealed to be an agent for The Octopus, which Wikipedia says is another of The Spirit’s recurring villains), and the Dragon Lady (allowed into the story via special passport issued by Terry and the Pirates). The preliminary auction helps convince bidders the formula might be legitimate because it checks out with a Doc Savage reference. Low-level con men Brush and Kitchen attempt to rob the preliminary auction’s treasury but get easily caught by Tracy and Spirit. And Tracy, doing some actual detective work for once, finds that Carrion brought cash from a bank robbery, so he’s out of the plot or so we think.

Early morning in Flammel's suite: 'Good morning, Mistress! Your Monte Cristo is ready. All the bidders will assemble at noon for the auction. Is there anything else you need, mistress? ... MISTER DOUBLEUP! COME QUICKLY! Mistress Flammel! Please, help her!' 'I cant. It's too late. Too late. She's DEAD. Go call Dick Tracy, Dick Tracy!'
Joe Staton, Mike Curtis, Shelley Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy for the 5th of March, 2017. Repeating the last two words he says is Doubleup’s gimmick. I suppose he’d repeat more if the word balloons were bigger. The valet’s gimmick I’m not clear on, but he seems to only be a minor character there because Flammel needs a valet.

And then Flammel turned up dead, because the immortality serum doesn’t protect you against strangulation. Flammel’s bodyguard, recurring Tracy villain Doubleup, seems a poor suspect as he was being paid in Scarlett Sting comic books, so we’re on to Flammel’s valet and then check out anyone else who’s been in the story.

In miscellaneous plot threads, since there’s a lot of those planted in spaces between the main action: Sam Catchem’s wife has finished chemotherapy and been declared cancer-free. A crime boss name of Posie Ermine noticed Mysta Chimera, who had been his daughter Mindy before the mad science treatment that destroyed her memory and made her into a synthetic Moon Maid replica. He crashed his car into hers to try to recover her. This didn’t get him permanently back in her life, but he’s undeterred. I’m sympathetic to Posie Ermine here and not even being snarky about that. There’s some deeply emotionally messy stuff going on here.

Somewhere deep in an Antarctic valley someone who appears to be a Lunarian pledges to investigate “the halfling”, “my granddaughter”, which has to be Mysta Chimera. This matches a couple references in October with Mysta asking Honey Moon Tracy if she’s heard any telepathic contacts from anybody else. Tracy and the Spirit have been trading stories including The Spirit mentioning how he went to the Moon too. I think that’s all the stuff that sounds like threads ready to go somewhere, but for all I know that Pogo reference for the Christmas strip is setting up a scene late this year when Albert Alligator mistakenly swallows Gidney and Cloyd. We’ll see.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

While the Another Blog, Meanwhile index rose another three points during trading nobody trusts the result and everybody is walking gingerly on the trading floor lest they tip something over.

127

Statistics Saturday: Some Shapes Which You Ought Not Use As Dinner Plates For Your Trendy Restaurant


  • Triangle-base pyramids
  • Whole spheres
  • Saddle curves
  • Vertical walls
  • Great Stellated Dodecahedrons (unless you are serving a food that can be usefully jabbed on spikes, such as pancakes or lumps of cheese ripped out of a whole)
  • Square-base pyramids
  • Sierpiński sieves (that triangle-with-interior-triangles cut out thing, as while it’s a great shape it actually has no surface area, so it can only hold food by way of surface tension)
  • Bipyramids
  • Doughnut-shaped toruses (unless it is an edible container, like those soup-in-a-loaf meals, itself containing many small doughnuts within, in which case I would like to invest in your restaurant)
  • The Great Rhombicosidodecahedron not because no food could be placed atop it but because when word gets out you have Great Rhombicosidodecahedrons in your restaurant the health department will begin an inquiry which will ultimately clear you but which will generate needless amounts of bad press in the meanwhile.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The Another Blog, Meanwhile index rose two points on reports that someone saw a pair of mice snuggled up against each other sleeping and one opened its eye just enough to yawn and doesn’t that sound adorable? We thought it was adorable.

124

About Our Appointment


I appreciate getting an automated reminder that the satellite TV guy was coming. But what I liked more was that its warning of the appointment for today said, in that slightly-overly-paused way that automated reminders get, that it would be “today … March … Tenth … Two thousand seven-teen.” Not just because I appreciate knowing it’s the call for the March 10th 2017 as opposed to the one we had for 2015 or 2022. But also because they had different voices recording the “two thousand” and the “seventeen”. And if you don’t understand why this has had me cheery all day then I can’t offer any explanation because I have no idea either. It just does.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index gained another point today when one of the analysts cleaned out the junk drawer and tossed what she found into the pile.

122

Probably Not A Good Idea To Get Them Playing Diplomacy Though


I was reading Eric Jager’s Blood Royal: A True Tale of Crime and Detection In Medieval Paris, about the murder in 1407 of Louis of Orleans and the criminal investigation headed by Guillaume de Tignonville, provost of Paris. It’s one of the earliest criminal inquiries for which we have really good documentation, like, depositions and all that. We can follow Guillaume de Tignonville’s careful investigation all the way through to when John, Duke of Burgundy, called the other dukes over to say he did it and then fled Paris. At that point the investigation was considerably simplified apart from John getting away with it. Anyway, in part of the backstory to the murder comes this event from January 1393:

… One of the queen’s ladies-in-waiting was to be married, and, to everyone’s delight, the king offered to host the wedding feast and the dancing to follow at the royal palace. A young nobleman, a friend of the king’s, proposed privately to Charles [VI] an entertainment to add excitement and pleasure to the ball: He and the king, and a few friends, would beforehand and in great secrecy put on linen costumes covered with pitch and stuck full of fine yellow flax that looked like the hair of beasts. Sewn into these close-fitting garments and completely disguised from head to foot as wild men or savages, the king and his friends would burst into the ballroom during the dancing to surprise and amuse the guests. The king thought it a splendid idea, and they set the plan in motion, telling only a few servants whose help they needed.

It all ended in tragedy, because everything in that era ended in tragedy, including for the person who thought to warn folks not to let the torches get too near the people dressed in linen with straw pasted all over them by oil and tied together by ropes. But what’s got me is that the King of France thought this sounded like great entertainment. And apparently the guests did too, just thrilled by how much fun it all was, at least until the tragedy started and spread out to help the nation plunge into civil war because everything in that era eventually plunged the nation into civil war.

So this was grand entertainment. Everybody thought a couple people dressed in linen and flax and tied together and running around was just the best idea. These people were starved for entertainment. One good parlor game could have changed the whole course of what tragedies plunged the nation into civil war.

There’s a longstanding tradition in science fiction stories where someone from the present falls into history and makes his fortune “inventing” new technologies. OK, I think there’s like four of them, one of which I refuse to read. And another of which debunks the whole story idea. Anyway, I realize now this inventing-future-technology stuff is useless. Even if I could figure out how to make a transistor there’s no market for it in 14th-century France. Plus the era was centuries away from even Alessandro Volta’s most basic prototype of the mini-USB plug that doesn’t fit any cord you, or anyone else, has ever had.

But the era still needed amusements. They had some, yes, but in impossibly primitive and needlessly complicated form. The chess board, for example, was three by forty squares wide, yet it held only five pieces, and four of them were bishops. And they weren’t allowed to move. All they could do is excommunicate the Patriarch of Constantinople. You could only take three turns per day, except days that allowed five turns, and none at all on Feast Days, except one after sunset. The game innovator who first introduced the “rook” was branded a madman and sentenced to live in Gascony. “That’s all right, I’m from Gascony,” he said (in Gascon French), so that at least had a less-tragic-than-usual ending, but still, it took his reputation decades to recover. They had backgammon boards, but hadn’t yet invented its rules. They just moved markers back and forth until they got bored, which is all I know about backgammon too. And the video games were none too good, what with the screens being embroidery taking upwards of sixty weeks to render a single frame.

So what I need to prepare for in case of being lost in the distant past is to be able to “invent” some games that don’t involve open flame. Even with my scattered brain I bet I could reconstruct a basic Yahtzee set or put together a minimally functional Connect 4. Paper football matches could change the whole course of how the nation plunges into civil war. And if I spent some time preparing? Think what society could do with eight centuries and the plans for Hungry Hungry Hippos. You may call this problem ridiculous, as long as I’m not in earshot, but I like to think I have this one solved, and that’s at least something going well right now.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

While the Another Blog, Meanwhile index rose five points nobody has any good ideas why and so they’re all very doubtful that this is the way anything should be.

121

In Which Barney Google Makes Me Unsure About The Point Of Existence


Way, way back in the day Barney Google and Snuffy Smith was a story comic. It was always funny or trying to be, but it was also doing a storyline. Comics Kingdom is reprinting strips from that time. In like 1940 or so Snuffy Smith got drafted and the strips since then have put him in a bunch of goofing-around-the-Army-camp stories. In the current one Barney Google, stationed in Australia, sent a kangaroo over to his friend. Snuffy used it first to set up boxing matches that turned into some pretty solid comedy, with the poor human begging outwitted handily by the kangaroo. And now as of September 1942 Snuffy Smith is using the kangaroo to pass messages along for money. And now we get to this comic:

'Gee Snuffy - I'm s'pose to meet my gal at the Mosey Inn, 7 o'clock sharp - but I can't get out! Would you send Chosef over there with a note?' 'Why, shore! Jes' scribble it off and I'll chase him right over - uh - that'll cost ye 50 cents messenger fee - cash on th' barr'l top.' (Later) 'Hey, yard bird!! Here it is past midnight and that !!@#* kangaroo ain't back yet!' 'Simmer down, cousin - your leetle pullet got th'message - ye can depent on it.' (At the inn) The kangaroo is dancing with the woman.
Billy DeBeck’s Barney Google and Snuffy Smith for the 25th of September, 1942. Say what you will, but that as an almost oppressively adorable kangaroo. Like, possibly the most adorable kangaroo to ever appear in a syndicated comic strip and if you know a better one please send it along. But I warn you: I can provide other strips with the kangaroo holding stuff in his paws.

And I guess I’m just stuck thinking, when this was published the Battle of Stalingrad was barely through its first month. US Marines were trying (unsuccessfully) to pass the Matanikau River on Guadalcanal. Four Royal Air Force bombers sent to Oslo on a civilian-morale-building raid failed to destroy the Gestapo headquarters but did kill something like eighty civilians, and lose one of the bombers in the process. The British destroyer Somali finally sunk in the Greenland Sea four days after being damaged by German submarine U-255. Four ships of Allied convoy QP 14 had just been sunk by U-435. Japanese forces landed on the Gilbert Island of Maiana. And the British destroyer Veteran and the United States Liberty ship Stephen Hopkins were days away from being sunk. And … Snuffy Smith’s kangaroo was dancing. And I feel like this is utterly mad and then I think, well, what am I doing, and why that? I think what I’m saying is I don’t want to feel like I need a hug just because a kangaroo’s dancing to swing music.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index jumped nine points, but its knees aren’t what they used to be, and it had to fall down two of them before finishing, wincing and groaning about it all.

116

Some Words Given Hyphens To Make Them Look Old-Timey


Courtesy hyphens, which my love pointed out are the official punctuation of old-timey-ness!

  • news-paper
  • nine-teen
  • space-ship
  • ice-cream
  • night-time
  • make-up
  • snow-fort
  • book-shelving
  • brick-layer
  • discon-nected
  • Play-station
  • architecture-school
  • ant-eater
  • web-site
  • pin-ball
  • dino-saur
  • Emmett-Otter’s-jug-band-Christmas
  • week-end
  • doubt-ful
  • tele-vision

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index drifted down just a little bit, and when it closed the day at 109.49 everyone asked if we couldn’t just round that up to 110. No, we can not. But then people point out we would round 49 up to 50, so why can’t we round 109.49 up to 109.5 and from there it’s a short jump to 110? And this is why people who do rounding stuff professionally get all bitey.

109

This Seems Like A Lot Of Sweden For Me


So here’s Twitter’s recommendations for who I ought to start following.

Who To Follow: Sweden.se; Radio Sweden; and @Sweden / Fredrik.
Sure, but does Sweden ever follow me? I hope not. I feel nervous enough I have like twenty people reading this on a regular basis. A whole country? My sole qualification for having a country follow me is that I’m pretty good at the Europa Universalis line of grand strategy games. Also when I play Tropico the economy is a weird swingy mess between boom and bust years but everybody feels really, really secure in their civil rights.

I don’t have anything against Sweden, since it’s almost never the problem when I play a grand strategy game. But I don’t see why Twitter is so sure I need to think about it so much suddenly. Also I feel like an account that’s called Sweden.se seems awfully on the nose. It’s like having a site that’s usa.usa.usa. At least as long as that actually is the flag of Sweden. It might be. A lot of those northern European countries have flags that are white crosses on a color, because they got to pick first. Also I don’t know who sweden/Fredrik is, or whether that’s just a joint account for everyone in Sweden who’s named Fredrik. I would hope they take turns with it. Oh, now, wouldn’t it be something if the account was really an enormous troll by Finland?

Also I figure to have only the one comic strip essay on my mathematics blog this week and yesterday’s was it. Enjoy!

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index rose five points today as traders were all confident everyone else knew something in bidding up the index and that if they went along with it maybe someone would tell them what they’ve heard.

110