Getting Ready For The Eclipse


So we’ve only got a couple days left before the eclipse. I think we’re basically set. But we should go over some last-minute arrangements before we do.

First. I’ve talked with about two-thirds of all the dragons I know and they’ve agreed they aren’t going to go eating the sun while everything’s happening. They also agree not to eat the Moon. They’re making no promises about not eating Saturn, though. I know, I know, I kept pointing out how much we like the rings. This one silver dragon asked when’s the last time I looked at them and that’s just not fair. I’m not on Saturn-ring-watching duty. That’s, like, I want to say Eric? I think Eric signed up for that.

Second. We don’t need paper plates or plastic silverware. We have Jakebe signed up to bring them, and we’ve even got someone who’s going to tell him. Don’t worry. I’ve known him for years and I’m pretty sure he’s got this. Or will. Ooh, do you think he has those little wicker baskets you put the paper plates in? They make picnics just so much better.

Third. Egg salad. Here we do need help. We need someone who’ll whip up enough egg salad for everybody who’s on the path between 80 percent and totality. We’ve got enough egg salad for the 40 percent through 80 percent bands, and we’ve found that most of the people in the 40 percent and less bands are figuring to get their own lunches so we’re not worrying about them. They’re missing out, though. Should say, we want the egg salad with a little bit of dill picked from the yard just as if it were all right to grow plants in your yard and pick them and eat them. I know, we’ve been doing this for years but it still feels like we’re getting away with something. Please check the sign-up sheets and it’s all right if we have extra left over.

Fourth. As the sun passes behind the mountains of the lunar horizon we may see Baily’s Beads. We need about four more people to get up and polish them to a good shine so they’re really presentable. We’ve got the polishing rags, since we somehow have twelve camera-lens-cleaning cloths and we don’t know why we needed more than, like, two.

Fifth. Cloud cover. After the Transit of Venus we’re all rightly fed up with clouds obscuring stuff like this. We’ve got enough volunteers to go up in the sky and eat as many clouds as they can. That’s not going to be able to cover all the eclipse path, so we also need people who can go up and wave fans around to blow any clouds out of the way, then get out of the way before totality sets in. Please bring your own fans! We can’t arrange everything. Pro Tip: write your name or e-mail address on the fan’s handle so if it gets separated from you we know how to get it back.

Sixth. People to handle leftover egg salad. Yes, I said it’s all right if we have extra left over. That’s because we are going to have people to handle this left-over stuff. Look, it’s hard enough getting a big event like this organized. I’m not going to waste my time trying to make sure we exactly match up egg salad needs with egg salad availability. I say, make all the egg salad we can and we’ll work out what to do with the extra. I’m thinking spare lunches, but am open-minded.

Seventh. Oh, this is important. The music. Our band backed out because the guy who plays guitar has some impossibly complicated problem going on. You know the sort, where everything is caused by like four other causes and they’re all cross-feeding each other. So. I know how great it was back during the Annular Eclipse of 1994 when we just grabbed whatever CDs we had in our cars and did a jam of that. It’s temping to do that again but there’s a shocking number of you have cars that can’t even play CDs. I think we’re just going to have to stick to everybody listening to whatever podcasts they’re already behind on. Disappointing, but these are the times we live in. But if you do know a good band that’s got guitarists who aren’t caught up in crazypants drama please let us know. No, we’re not doing Pink Floyd covers again.

So I think we’re all set. If you want to do any last-minute sign-ups do it by 11 am Sunday. We are not pushing things to the last second and this time we mean it. And let’s try to get this right; this is our last full rehearsal before April 2024. Good luck and enjoy!

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The trading floor is empty today. After a bit over a year at this and growing the Another Blog, Meanwhile index from 100 to 400, the analysts and traders agreed that they had done everything they could have hoped for, and that to carry on would just be to spoil the memories of what they had accomplished. All have agreed it was some of the best times of their lies, and agreed to stay in touch, all the while knowing that while everybody basically likes everybody else, they’re going to dissolve into bunches of at most two or three people who stay Facebook friends. They’ll now and then think of one of the others, and maybe even make contact, agreeing that they should totally get together sometime again, but never exactly do. And that’s all right. It’s fine to have friendships that aren’t ended, or estranged, or anything, just left after a contented while and occasionally revisited like an old home that’s not yours anymore.

No, The Space Whale Probe Can Hold Off, Too


Remember back when the world was young and Star Trek IV: The One With The Whales first came out in theaters? Me too. There’s this scene where Kirk and Spock are riding a bus because it’s the mid-80s, and there’s this young punk playing annoying music too loud. So Spock neck-pinches him, and he falls over, knocking his boombox off. Everyone on the bus applauds because, hey, so far as they can tell this man wearing a bathrobe in public has choked a kid to death for being snotty! And everyone watching the scene chuckles too because, hey, don’t we all want to choke the youth to death? Yes.

What’s haunted me, as an annoying Star Trek fan, is the lyrics for the punk’s music. They run like this:

Just where is the future, the things we’ve done and said
Let’s just push the button, we’d be better off dead

‘Cause I hate you, and I berate you
And I can’t wait to get to you too

The sins of all the fathers been dumped on us, the sons,
The only choice we’re given is how many megatons?

Thing is, in the universe of Star Trek, that kid on the bus is less than a decade away from the Third World War. So is whatever British Punk Band That Works “Berate” Into Its Chorus that recorded the song. (In the full version they let “eschew” into the verse. My music tastes run more towards “sounds like that theremin’s calving”, but I can appreciate solid punk writing when I hear it.) And I keep thinking: what did that kid, and what did that band, think later on when The Bombs were falling?

(Yes, yes, I am very aware that as this was an Original Series movie the Third World War that bus punk would experience was explicitly non-nuclear. It was conventional warfare that killed 37 million people and that’s better I guess? It wasn’t until the more optimistic and utopian Next Generation that they rescheduled the Third World War to the mid-21st-century and killed over a half billion people.)

We’ve been thinking about a civilization-wrecking nuclear war for a long time. Or at least we’ve been thinking we’re thinking about it. We don’t really picture nuclear destruction, though. We don’t even picture ordinary destruction. What we imagine is a tense half-hour listening to news anchors trying to keep it together while the camera keeps drifting off-center, and the newsroom is weirdly quiet apart from off-camera voices sometimes shouting. Also taking phone calls from estranged friends with last-minute repentances for wronging us. Good luck those getting through. Even if the phone lines weren’t jammed apparently we’d all be having consequence-free sex with people we’d never see again anyway? Or so you all might. I’d be busy trying to download my Twitter archive so I could re-read some choice digs I got in on someone back in May.

We’ve got vague thoughts about what happens after, too. Post-apocalypse planning works out to be thinking we’ll get to pick the best stuff out of the landscape. Maybe go into business as a local warlord, trading supplies and shelter with trustworthy-looking stragglers. This from people who can’t handle there not being a dividing bar on the checkout conveyor belt at the farmer’s market. What if the guy ahead of us gets my two bunches of curly parsley? These aren’t the thoughts of someone up for handling the thirtieth day in a row of eating cream-of-celery soup. It was the only thing left that better scavengers didn’t get to first at the Neighborhood Market that mostly sold cell phone cards and lottery tickets. It’s reconstituted using water from where the now-former paint factory is leaking toluene into the aquifer. And it’s cold.

We’d need help, that’s all there is to it. And I don’t know what to do. On my bookshelf alone I have enough World War II books to teach how to win the war, except for how to fight. But they all end with lots of people in rubble-strewn cities. Even the ones about the postwar situation skim over what there is to do in it. There’s dramatic photos and talk about people clearing away rubble. Then it’s 1948 (for Europe) or 1950 (for Japan) and the United States decides the rubble cities should have an economy again. That’s over three years of people clearing away rubble. They had a lot of rubble, yes. But they also had to agree on where to put the rubble. And that takes social organization. And I don’t know where that comes from either.

This may be controversial, but I say ending civilization and destroying the world is a bad move. We should tough out our problems as they are and try fixing what we can. Thanks to YouTube you’ve seen all the footage of news anchors trying not to lose it that you could possibly need, and it’s about the same every time. Trust your estranged friends when they drop hints that they’d take an apology happily. Drop your estranged friends a hint that you’d take an apology happily. Stop looking for consequence-free stuff to do with or to people. For me, I’m going on TrekBBS to yell that they do not build the whale tank out of transparent aluminum. They build it out of the six-inch-thick plexiglass they traded the transparent aluminum formula for. Come on, people, watch the movie you’re watching. We can at least get that right.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index fell eleven points today as traders started getting all giddy thinking about how they used to be at, like, 80 points and now they’re up so way high nobody can even see 100 or even 200 anymore, which doesn’t sound at all like the sort of hubristic declaration that leads to incredible pain.

370

On Foot


You probably don’t spend a lot of time thinking about the history of tying shoes. This is a wise choice. There are so many other things that need thinking about. You know, like that odd smell that’s maybe of burning plastic that’s sometimes in the hallway when you were gone all day? Or what responsibility we have for that seam line visible on Saturn’s moon Iapetus? Or why all those people are setting up circus tents in your backyard? There’s got to be someone to ask about that. I broke from my habit of non-thinking about tying shoes so that we could have this done once and for all. No, I am not reading about the history of socks. You know why.

For the second-longest time there just wasn’t any tying of shoes. This had four reasons, one of them being that there were no shoes. Shoes were invented for Napoleon Bonaparte’s army after it was noticed that tromping through a thousand miles of Russian snow was really hard on the bare foot. It didn’t help the snow any either, but this is the wrong time of year for me to write about the history of snow-clearing or maybe ice-skating. Napoleon agreed this was a lot of trouble for feet and ordered experts to come up with a way to cover the foot. They did this by the simple process of covering the foot. It was a rousing success and everybody agreed they should have been making shoes for hundreds of years now. This and the overcoming of the other three reasons let shoes become really quite popular.

Still, the earliest shoes weren’t easy to put on or take off. They were slabs of leather that one would fit around the foot and, using needle and thread and Grandmom who knows how to use those sewing tools that look faintly like surgical instruments, stitch closed. This could take until well near bedtime. The British Army spent most of the 1830s with its soldiers never leaving their bunks, just sewing and unsewing their boots all day. This lead to peaceful times and the First Reform Act.

The countries of Western Europe competed to find ways to easily tightening and loosening shoes. Through much of the Civil War the Union armies experimented with welding shoes into place, an action that resulted in many burned ankles and slugged welders. In Scotland rivets were tried. These were of limited use as the striking action of putting rivets in place could magnetize the iron slugs, causing people to walk to the north and find they ran out of Scotland, to their chagrin.

So naturally the breakthrough came in the Ottoman Empire. In 1878 a shoemaker for the Sultan Abdul Hamid II asked, “Why don’t we just punch parallel rows of uniformly spaced holes in the shoes, and then thread a strong string or small rope through the holes to fit them together?” The Sultan, who was in another room, didn’t hear the suggestion but approved it. When this turned out to be a pretty darned good idea after all he nodded as if that had been his intention all along, and quickly ordered an investigation to just what was going on with shoes. I hope this doesn’t end up in his report. He’s got to be expecting something really great if it’s taken all this while to get something on his desk. I’m not arrogant enough to think my essay here that great, but I am earmarking it for this year’s Robert Benchley Society essay contest. Just saying.

Still the early forms were not precisely what we see today. When are they ever? The first attempts used separate laces and loops for each pair of holes, which took forever to deal with. Folks trying to save time as telegraphs and railroads got all snappy and romantic started just tying the top loop together. This made their toes pop out the middle. So they retaliated by poking laces through the other, non-top holes. And so by 1889, on a Tuesday, shoes were finally tied in ways that we would recognize today, on a Friday.

Is there room for improvement? Surely. The glue-covered shoelace solved the problem of unraveled knots, but at the cost of being a right mess. And nobody has anything but embarrassed coughs to say about the frictionless superfluid lace that would slither out of its holes and into the pantry. We may yet scrap the whole project and go back to being barefoot.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The Another Blog, Meanwhile index rose another five points to another record high and at this point it’s getting kind of dull and the fun is draining out of it all. I’m not looking forward to how this implies we’re going to get a really big and fun and exciting crash down to, like, 14 points within the next week.

373

Where The Time Went


Over twelve of you have noticed this phenomenon. It’s actually over twelve percent of you, but I’m supposing there’s more than a cent of you out there. There will be anyway. But you’ve seen this. You look at a clock. It’s got seconds on it. That second just doesn’t change. It sticks to whatever time it currently is (let’s say … 8:49:46) for a good long while. More than a second, as you figure it. Maybe five seconds. Maybe as long as fourth grade took. Finally as you’re about to get up and give the thing a good nudge it moves again, going back to about one second per second. Even then, though, look away and snap your eyes back and you might get the second frozen there again. What’s going on here, and why are clocks messing with us to see if we’re watching? Well, wouldn’t you mess with people like that, if you were a clock? What else would you have to do?

What’s important her is a fundamental principle of time. We only know time passes because we see something happen. Like, we see the time that a clock shows changing. This is a good one because we’ve put all our time sense into clocks. If we need to rely on ourselves we just guess that the time feels like three-ish, maybe, or that it might be a Thursday but it sure feels like when you’re at the zoo and get some hay or something stuck in your shoe just outside the camel enclosure. We use the clock to let us know that time is even moving.

Think back to childhood, if you have one. Remember how experiments like lying on your back seeing if you could breathe just right to make a tennis ball roll into and out of your belly button before a sibling came over and sat on your face? And you had to turn to biting? Remember how you could spend as much as four days straight at that between the last cartoon of the morning and the start of Password Plus on channel 4 and still have time to punch another sibling? Well, the last cartoon finished at 9 am, and Password Plus came on at 10. All that time was squeezed into under a single hour.

Mouse running down the Hickory-Dickory-Dock clock at Story Book Land in Egg Harbor, New Jersey.
I use this picture to represent the concept of “time” because I had a fun day at Story Book Land amusement park and because people like it when there are pictures.

As kids we didn’t need clocks. We could just have experiences. The most we needed was the clock in school, and the clock in our parents’ car’s dashboard that was set to the wrong time. We would only feel time accumulating during social studies and while being driven somewhere you don’t want to go, probably in another state on a trip that would be fun if you weren’t stopping at educational spots and scenic overlooks where the picnic tables are all like two inches two high for where the bench seats are.

As adults we fill our lives with more clocks. Clocks on the nightstand, on your watch, on your phone, on your computer, on your other phone, on the wall, on the TV, the thing on the DVR that looks like it’s the time but actually is the channel number, on the toaster oven, on the other end of your computer’s screen, on a web page, on your Internet-connected Smart Towels, and on the car dashboard where it’s satellite-tuned to the right time. Every single one of these things is ticking off seconds and of course they add up. These days you can’t have one second of time pass without it being at least twelve seconds all at once.

If you’ve got a proper modern lifestyle you can get all your clock-ready things going and then notice that as best you can tell, 2010 was at most forty minutes ago. This is a sign that you have too many clocks in your life, multiply-counting all your time and slurping it up before you can tell it’s gone. Try de-clocking your surroundings; see how well you do if you get back to the basics of time, the way you did as a child. Then you had the inaccurate car dashboard clock, and a calendar to make sure you didn’t miss Christmas or your birthday, neither of which could ever happen. Maybe it won’t work, but if you do want to give it a try, I recommend you hurry.

Password Plus was never scheduled to air earlier than 11:30 Eastern/Pacific. You were thinking, believe it or not, of Card Sharks.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

And after getting a much-needed hushing yesterday the trading floor went and rose the Another Blog, Meanwhile index by twenty points, bringing it to another all-time high. At this point I think they’re just trying to cross me up. Why do I not get behavior like this from my money-making investments, like those ten shares of the Tootsie Roll company I own? Schwab.com tells me this is a D-grade investment, but all I can say is, it’s the thing in my portfolio that actually returns something, and if all else fails I can eat forty of them and then remember that’s maybe too many Tootsie Rolls to eat at once.

331

In An Imperfect World


So you don’t live in a utopian future. You don’t have anything to be embarrassed by there. Over eight percent fewer of us do than you’d imagined. There are many ways that the world is pretty good, despite everything we’ve been through. The world has capybaras, for example. And if that weren’t enough, we keep inventing new social media by which other people will send us pictures of capybaras. So that’s the baseline; as long as we have that, the world isn’t beyond hope.

But any of us can see ways the world might be better. It might be a little harder to spill things on shirts, for example. Or we might think of some quasi-verbal utterance other than “uh” and “uhm” to mark time while we’re speaking. For the variety. Maybe we could arrange for the first coffee mugs we drop and break to be the ugly ones with only-ever-funny-once jokes on them, instead of the souvenir ones from places that are gone. There are probably other things that would make life better, but those would see the most dramatic improvements.

It’s natural then to want to make the world a better place. It’s a dangerous pastime. You should think hard before you continue on in it. Consider: to make the world better, there has to be something wrong with it. If it would make the world better to have a more interesting variety of cupcakes available, that implies there aren’t enough interesting cupcakes already. Don’t go telling me there’s already plenty of interesting variety in vegan cookies, because while there may be, they’re still not cupcakes. And even if we have got the best imaginable state of one thing that doesn’t say anything about other things. Again, imagine we had our full complement of capybara photo access, but we never got to hear the theme to Secret Agent Man on the radio at the bagel shop ever again. Even happiness would be forever tainted by the thought of what was lost.

So fine if you figure something can be made better. The danger is there’s something already around that keeps it from being as good as it could be. Maybe that thing is already someone’s responsibility. Then trying to fix it means you’re telling that person they’ve screwed up so badly that someone has to come in and try fixing their mistakes. I don’t blame them wanting to slug you for that. How would you feel if someone pulled that on you? Exactly. Having to get within slugging range of someone to fix them has historically tempered the activity of people trying to fix up stuff, and made people think hard about what’s really worth improving. Advances in stick and other long-range poking and hitting technologies would have moved the balance of power to the status quo advocates. Or they would have, if the poking-and-hitting technologists didn’t see why they needed to make any advances in their product line, thank you. Internet activism makes it possible to try doing something about stuff that’s wholly outside of slugging range, which is why it’s so controversial and the results so mixed. On the one hand, people can be made instantly aware of what their state legislature is planning to do. On the other hand, what we mostly react to is a sassy put-down by the Instagram account of Jo-Ann’s Fabric.

And then there are things that could be better but that nobody’s actually responsible for. This is even more dangerous to try improving. If a particular person’s responsible for a thing, at least trying to improve it is only an attack on that person. If nobody’s responsible, then trying to improve it is an implicit declaration that everybody has failed to address the shortcoming. Everybody has reason to feel attacked by you. And you can’t stay outside of slugging range of everybody forever. They can catch you when you try to pick up your mail at least.

If you enjoy the life of danger, then, go ahead. It can be thrilling stuff and maybe you will make something better. But it’s going to cost you some happiness too. And this is the great thing about living in a non-utopian society. You can be sad about the thing that’s not right, or be sad about trying to make it right. It’s up to you how you break your heart.

Now that I’ve explained it, do I hope that’s made anything better?

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index rose another ten points today as analysts missed that now there’s somehow two houses on the block throwing out sofas now and how do they get all these sofas to put out on the street? Whatever’s going on can’t be any good and yet somehow they’re not worried about this. Yet.

262

Explaining Vacuum Cleaners


If I were to ask what you thought vacuum cleaners were I expect your first response would be to wonder if you’d heard the question right. It seems like a strange thing to ask. You probably can’t figure why I would need to know this about you. Let’s suppose it was someone else who asked you the question. You’d want to know who it asked you. For convenient let’s suppose it was Frederick J Lawton, Harry Truman’s director of the Bureau of the Budget from 1950 to 1953, and that the question was issued in 1952. It’s your business what you’re doing in 1952 and falls outside the scope of my article.

We forget that vaccuum cleaners used to be people, not machines. The first vacuum cleaner was a now-anonymous assistant to Evangelista Torricelli. His name was removed in 1964 as proof emerged he had bet on baseball games. The great physicist (Torricelli) had in 1643 poured mercury into a tube sealed at one end and then turned the tube upside-down. This produced a perfect vacuum at the top of the tube and a perfect mess at the bottom of the tube and all over the table. Naturally Torricelli ordered the cleaning of the table, the tube, and as long as he was at it, the vacuum, which just looked perfectly adroit. I say “adroit” to tease science-major types who were waiting for me to use a different word beginning with ‘a’ there. I’ve got some self-awareness. The word was “adiabatic”. But with a few quick sweeps of a damp cloth the assistant had created a new profession.

Vacuum cleaning, done then by people, was regarded for ages as an affectation for the scholarly classes, who needed the affection. For much of the 17th century it was nearly as popular as making up grammatical rules or wearing caps and gowns everywhere. Scholars didn’t need a passport even when travelling between nations at war; a well-tidied and dust-free vacuum was their standing invitation to the world of letters that existed beyond mere mortal politics. It was not until the reign of France’s King Louis XV (there was no Louis XV, but he was hastily inserted when the French realized they had gone right from Louis XIV to Louis XVI and once you learned enough Roman numerals it looked funny to have the number laying about there un-Louised) that it made the social jump from the laboratory to the royal court. While doing so it slipped on the windowsill and suffered a sore ankle for months, with relapses when a cold front was moving in.

The post of Royal Vacuum Cleaner was soon established. With that, they needed assistants, keepers, letters-go, attendants, absentias, abstainers, the follow who owned the mop, the keeper of the mop, the fetcher of the mop, the keeper of the fetcher, the fetcher of the keeper, the assistant fetcher of the keeper, the keeper of the assistant fetcher, and so on, and that’s even before getting into the buckets issue or who would provide water for the cleaning of the vacuum and assistants thereof. Within a generation, vacuum cleaning at Versailles involved over 52,006 people. You can understand the scandal when in 1722 someone noticed they didn’t have any vacuums.

But then scholars argued the absence of any vacuums was itself a vacuum, this in the property of vacuum-ness. Therefore the vacuum which should be cleaned was the vacuum of vacuums to be cleaned. This argument may not be logically sound, but they were good at going on about it at such length that any disputants would have to sit down until their heads stopped spinning. If you don’t sympathize I have another 150 words that I cut from this paragraph because they made my sinuses hurt.

This all being a lot of good fun it had to come to an end, of course. So it did in 1867 thanks to one Ives W McGaffney of Chicago, Illinois, as there were not two of him. With dedication and ingenuity he put together a hand-cranked vacuum cleaner which all the people who’d had respectable enough lives cleaning vacuums professionally naturally hated. But he persisted and with the coming of power to private homes, mechanical vacuum cleaners would take over the public’s imagination for this sort of thing in fewer than 82 years. Today we just assume that a “vacuum cleaner” is a machine and not a profession, or even an aspiration. Is that not always the way? Yes, unless I mean no.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

All right, so the Belgian-cricket-eating bubble is apparently just going to carry on, with the index rising another six points on this thing that will not happen and everybody should stop pretending that it would. No, we don’t care what documentation you have proving that it’s so a thing. It is not a thing.

221

Setting The Styles


Is there an easier way to attract readers and get engagement than to prepare a set of Usage Guidelines and insist everyone follow them? No, probably not. Although everybody likes to make Usage Guidelines, the United States is the world’s undisputed leader in this trade. The average American will make over 14 Usage Guidelines per year. We’ll generate policies to cover everything from how many spaces should follow the end of a sentence to under what circumstances one may double up the use of those little paper cups when gathering Horsey Sauce at Arby’s. And under what circumstances these can be substituted for one another. Compliance with these policies will rise, some years, to as high as 0.4 people per year. This gives us all the chance to seethe at how people are messing up what would be a neat orderly life.

So I’m leaping in to this racket. I want to express my idealistic hopes about how the world can be easily made much better. Plus if I can get enough people feeling like they should pay attention to me I can start selling guidebooks and retire on the profits from How To Do Stuff So It’s Not Wrong Already or whatever I end up titling it. Let me give you a tease of some of the first couple good ideas.

First: we’ll need a policy about acronyms. Acronyms were introduced to English during the First World War, as war planners feared the Germans might overhear what we were saying about them as if they couldn’t guess already. This way, if they did overhear they wouldn’t know what the subject was. The fears proved unfounded, as postwar analysis indicated the Germans spent most of their time in Germany and/or Belgium, out of earshot. Still, they’ve remained as popular linguistic roadblocks to comprehension. My guideline: on first use, expand the acronym into full words. For example, “NASA, the National Acrobatics and Slurry Accordion, announced today it is not sending anybody to Mars, as investigation showed we had enough in the pantry to last until the weekend”. Exceptions: ISBN, GIS, HONClBrIF, MRxL, NJIT.

Second: we should clear up dangled participles. I admit I’m fuzzy on just what makes a participle or how one dangles it. But I hear it’s a thing people keep doing. Since I don’t feel qualified to judge whether the dangling is correct I say let’s set a rule that people submit a clear plan to dangle participles to a specially appointed participle coordinator. This will be a small office staff in Syracuse, New York, whom we will be able to catch completely by surprise with our subissions. The statements of intent should be sent by postcard, rather than letters in envelopes, as an economy measure; we can put the time that would have gone into opening envelopes to something more urgent. Put a strip of clear plastic tape over the proposed participle so that it will not get smeared in transit.

Third: alarm clocks should refrain from being so alarming. We have frayed enough nerves these days, what with how everything is alarming and most of it is terrible and about the only good things left anymore are anecdotes about small pets that had problems that looked serious but were actually funny. They should phase down to being responsible-concern clocks and maybe we could go without them altogether.

Fourth: we need to identify the people responsible for iTunes and hold them accountable.

Fifth: we need to better organize scheduling of the city’s summer concert festival series. There’s always the trouble of deciding whether to support the community’s summer concert series or to save ourselves the hassle of going out and finding parking and pushing through the crowds and does it look like rain? Shouldn’t it? If we squint can we make it look like rain? Also, are they going to search our bags? Are they going to search the camera bag even though it’s just big enough to hold a camera? It always feels so good to have gone somewhere, but it’s so much hard work to go there. We could make our lives better if we just had the summer concert series scheduled for the week we were going to be out of town anyway.

I should have some more later on, but if we could get on this we’ll have a world that’s better in easily two, maybe three ways.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index rose three points today on rumors that while it was going to rain over the weekend it wasn’t going to rain anytime we needed to be outside and it probably wasn’t going to rain hard enough to mess up the satellite TV reception.

215

In A Perfect World


So you live in a utopian future. You don’t have anything to be embarrassed by there. It’s a pretty sweet deal. Maybe it wasn’t you that was embarrassed. Maybe it was someone who reminded me of you. It would help if we could get some name tags or distinctive ribbons or something. Anyway, even in a utopia there’s no getting away from some civic responsibilities. At any moment something like one-eighth of our population is busy introducing the place to an outsider. Are you ready?

Maybe you’re wondering where they come from. The answer is, all over. Some of them are people from before the utopia who got themselves caught in cave-ins, or were put into stasis until medical science found a cure for painting bricks. Some of them are from alternate timelines, like one where Belgian visionary Paul Otlet and his electric telescopes failed to manifest the Mundaneum in Lakewood, New Jersey in 1934. Maybe they’re dreaming, as far as they can tell, and there’s no sense waking them up before you figure out which of us is real. Ooh, maybe they’re aliens, so we can be their aliens, and add this neat little mirror-image chic to things.

Really it doesn’t matter. Any visitor to utopia has some things they just have to know. And they have some expectations. Meet them, and they’ll be happy with the experience. They’ll need to be told they are in a utopia, straight off. Hide that and they’ll never be happy. And they’ll need a couple rounds of origin-shaming so they appreciate how their homes made serious dog’s breakfasts of things. That’s an easy sell because people find it charming to hear “dog’s breakfast” as a metaphor.

They’ll want to have a tour, once they’ve been electro-taught the universal language or just happened to know it anyway. You’ll want to take this on foot. It makes stuff seem bigger. I recommend taking them to one of those middling-size buildings made with that brick cladding that somehow looks like fake bricks even though they’re real bricks. Try to approach from the side that’s the least architectury. Then go into something about how it’s the administrative district’s largest facility for producing psychoneutral brick or self-motivated gelatin or fully interactive quadrophonic squirrels or whatever. To make a convincing presentation remember the important two elements:

  • A bunch of statistics delivered in obscure units. Try saying something like `modules over 20.38 centipoise per millikatal hectosievert’ or `response metrics as sensitive as 12.10 decatur-centidays’ until it sounds kind of normal-ish. `400,000 mease of herring each compline’. `0.2 adrianople-ceston-centiMcClintocks.’ Something like that.
  • A moving sidewalk. You can find some at most airports, many train stations, and the occasional shopping mall.

You’re going to get the occasional visitor who’s looking for social satire. By “social satire” people mean everyone talking about how their enemies were fools and their heroes visionaries. This is tricky to do before you know who their enemies and their heroes were. You can make some wild guesses and if they react with horror say that you were just testing to see if they were ready for the true order of things. You’ll want to practice that with friends before doing it live. Also bring some gift certificates for ice cream or something so you can act like you’re giving a special award for their figuring it out. Some weird flavor, something hard to like. They’re not coming all the way to utopia just to get fudge ripple. They’re looking for something with a bit of freaky to it. In fact, don’t just do this for ice cream. Every day try to find two or three little things to freak up a bit. It’s surprisingly fun once you get the hang of it and it makes their experience so much better. It’s kind of an important rule for life.

If you still can’t get a handle on them, try some patter about how gold and silver make the throw pillows of utopia all the more throw-pillow-ish. Your guests will make what they want out of this, and if they ask you to expand on it pull the old “what does that tell you about us?” routine. You’re not going to believe how well this works.

Sometimes you’re going to get the visitor who’s decided utopia is actually a dystopia. There’s no arguing them out of it. They’re going to figure they’re the only ones who see it, and they have a responsibility to destroy society, which is supposed to somehow help. So you’ll want to have contacts with some local theater group. They should have a bunch of costumes and a couple people who can do improv work as an underground movement. Set them up with something harmless like bubble wands. Tell your visitor these are futuristic pacification weapons so that nobody’ll get unnecessarily hurt while they’re busy destroying society.

Now you’ll need to set up a story where the organizing impulse for all society comes from, oh, whatever. That closed psychoneutral brick factory nobody’s got around to tearing down yet. Send them off to attack it and after all the foam has evaporated — well, you know joy? Not really. Not the kind of joy you’ll see after they figure they’ve gone and obliterated society. It’s pretty sweet, really. After you do go along with this you’re going to have to listen to them blathering a while about how they’ve opened everyone’s eyes and how society is really and truly going to work this time. And some of them can go on forever like this. But whoever said life in utopia was perfect?

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The Another Blog, Meanwhile index rose eleven points on word that if everybody was good we might just go to an amusement park for the Fourth of July. Skeptics protest that major holidays are the worst time to go to amusement parks because everybody goes to them then, but they were shut down by that time on the 4th of July that we went to Great Adventure and literally got to walk on to the front row of Kingda Ka, and when does that ever happen?

273

Coming To Senses


It’s natural to ask about being knocked senseless. It would even be good sense, if only that weren’t an impossibly complicated logical problem. About the only resolution is to list important senses ahead of time so if you lose them you will be able to tell, and feel the worse for it.

The sense of taste. Without this, there’s really no way to know whether you like what you’re eating or whether you merely think you do. To test whether you have this you’ll need some calibration. With a trusted friend, or an enemy whose respect for the integrity of knowledge overcomes your differences, swap tongues and test some agreed-upon meal. Take notes! You’ll want to compare them. Under no circumstances start arguing about whether the color that you perceive as blue is the same thing that your friend or enemy perceives as blue. Starting on this path will result in unpleasant questions about whether chocolate tastes like chocolate or whether you merely think there is a taste to chocolate. Those lacking friends or trustworthy enemies can borrow a tongue from the library. It is normally kept in the multi-media section so that patrons will know all of their audiobooks and DVDs have been licked by a qualified tongue.

The sense of scale. There are so many needs for this, and not just if you want to tell whether that’s a naked cobra in front of you. It’s not. It’s a garter snake. You live in Troy, New York, for crying out loud. Be sensible. It’s not like … wait, garter snakes are venomous? Who’s responsible for that? Excuse me, can we talk with the person in charge of reptiles so we can sort out who thought we needed venomous garter snakes? OK, wait, Wikipedia says they don’t produce a lot of venom and they don’t have any good way of delivering it? The heck, garter snakes? If you’re going to be venomous then do it right, and if you’re not going to be venomous don’t go getting us all riled up like that. You’re supposed to be North America’s cute little starter snake so we can look at you and feel a little thrill and then laugh at ourselves for getting scared. What are you doing getting all complicated like that?

The sense of touch. This is an important sense in order that people learn whether their legs are being attacked by a cat hiding underneath the bed. Without this sense who could say whether they were even on a bed, apart from looking at the thing they’re in and reviewing the checklist of important qualities of bed-ness to see if enough of them are satisfied? Yes, exactly. And you thought I was just going on a bunch of nonsense today.

The sense of balance. Without this it’s almost impossible to do a professional job arranging the graphic elements for a newspaper page. While one can carry on, the best one can hope for is pages made competently, without the sense of joy or wonder that truly engages readers. Without attractively-arranged pictures, headlines, and text blocks, people are forced to leave behind the printed newspaper and take up positions in web page design and glaring at the neighbor that’s parked on the wrong side of the road and building dense hedge mazes around what was until hours ago the municipal parking lot.

The sense of scale. Among the other many needs of this you need something to help you avoid stepping onto one and getting the unpleasant news about your weight. You have one. That’s a hard thing to hear about this early in the century, and it won’t be any easier later in the century either.

The sense of smell. Without the ability to notice a curious odor there’s no way to tell that your car is on fire except by the honking and frantic waving of people in the car next to you. This limits your driving to two-lane roads with enough traffic, which can cause you to be late for whatever you needed to do.

The sense of scale. Without the ability to tell which things are nearby and small and which are far away yet large you might accidentally take too large a step for the situation and turn out to be ten floors up on top of the building. This may inconvenience the person you were walking with. It’s different if you were trying to lose the person after finding out what they think food tastes like. You just have to know the context for what you think you’re doing.

The sense of sponge. Without this sense you could be surprised by something moist yet compressible. You can’t go around spritzing objects to then test whether they become more compressible, not without having to answer questions from the unexpectedly damp.

Should any senses be missing you should replace them from the store. Try aisle four, by the dollar toys.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The Another Blog, Meanwhile index rose another three points and now everybody’s ready to panic about how they suddenly have what sure seems like a nice thing and how could that happen to people like them and you know it’s honestly kind of exhausting dealing with people like that all the time.

266

In The Long Term


It’s about time for some long-range planning, considering how well we’re doing with the short-range stuff. If you don’t agree, come back in about ten minutes and see if it’s time then. I’m thinking of really long term, not like those geology folks who think 1,625 million years is a fair stretch. I want something big.

As you go out long enough, the Sun is going to continue shining. This might sound controversial, but remember that we’ve almost completely amortized the costs of constructing the Sun. All we’re responsible for now is basic maintenance and upkeep. Even if we wanted to replace it with a more modern design it’d hardly be economical. And besides, the contemporary zoning regulations would make it really annoying to build the necessary falsework for a replacement to the Sun.

Now the thing about the Sun shining is that all that light falling down exerts pressure on the ground. Light hasn’t got any mass, being possessed of low self-esteem as a child when it might have formed some. But it does carry momentum, being unable by temperament to say no when asked to carry some momentum somewhere. When the light hits the ground and is absorbed or bounces off it pushes the ground down as surely as hitting it with tennis balls would, only without line judges. This is never a lot of push, but it is there all across the daylight half of the globe, and that adds up to a fair-sized push.

Imagine the Earth to be made of Play-Doh. This is a metaphor: it is actually made of peanut butter. But if you take a gob of Play-Doh out of its can you can lose all focus while you absorb that strange plymer smell. Please try to be productive through that. While enjoying the smell roll the Play-Doh into a ball and then set it down. It will not stay a round ball forever. Even before other people in the house take it to build their own projects, the continual pull of gravity will spread it out. This takes time, but we have that time. There’s probably billions of years of time you haven’t scheduled anything for yet, but still won’t be able to get around to writing that novel you have in mind.

Earth isn’t sitting inactively on a table. This is a good thing as the temptation to hit it with a giant pool cue would be nearly irresistible. Nor is it sitting in a giant chicken nest, again good for everyone who worries about stuff hatching from underneath them. But while the pressure of sunlight is flattening the Earth, the Earth is also rotating. This implies all that sunlight has the same effect of rolling a ball of Play-Doh on the ground: it’s going to roll out into a long, thin pole.

There’s no denying this is a long-term fate, but I warned you about that four hundred words ago. As the rolling effect will continue eventually the Earth with be a pole world. Long enough at this and the Earth will just a few inches wide and enormously long swinging around the solar system like a baton. Imagine the size of the matching cheerleader.

What can we expect life on this Pole World Earth to be like? Narrower, for one. There will be evolutionary pressures towards plants with very shallow roots, which means we may at last be free of those impossible-to-remove lawn weeds. It will be difficult for trees to grow tall, but those which manage will find to their photosynthetic delight that spreading their branches even a couple inches to either side means they get sunlight all day long. Probably that’s good for plants. You can’t imagine them getting worn out from too much sunlight and sneaking off to a corner, exhausted and panting from all that sugar-making.

While burrowing life forms will find life difficult, those which are comfortable living on vines or branches will be in good shape. Two- and three-fingered sloths may find the climate most comfortable except when someone wants to pass.

Humans will need to adjust as well. Those with long experience in grabbing poles, as they may have on buses or subways, will have an advantage, of course. Thus we see in large-city mass transit systems as evolutionary pre-adaptations to the future Pole World Earth. Subtle foreknowledge of this fate and the privileged position city-dwellers will have may account for the smugness often held against the urbanized.

Yet subways will have long since ceased to run by then, probably by the time the world is a pretty long rod only about fifty feet in diameter since trains need more clearance than you would have guessed. Not a lot more, just like another two feet or so more. But that’s still more. Without subways we can expect the economy to be radically different and generally much more cylindrical. Strong but lightweight straps could reasonably be in demand, but on the other hand people may just grow steeper arches in their feet. This is why it is so hard to predict the distant future.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index continued to rise as traders discussed how they could adjust their lifestyles to be more like a capybara’s, and word that it involved a lot of staying in comfortably warm pools of water really worked for people.

226

How To Program (Computers)


The only hard part of programming computers is you’re expected to make a computer program. And even that wouldn’t be so bad except for the expectation the program will work. There’s where programming falls down. Economists say this is from purely rational market motivations, because economists think it’s very important things result from purely rational market motivations and they’d feel awful if they ever found something that didn’t. In just the past month economists have identified purely rational market considerations behind how buses never run from anywhere anyone is to anywhere anyone wants to go, potato chips which resemble celebrities, the way that nobody has correctly identified sarcasm since 1986, the Balmer spectrum of Hafnium, and certain highly educated pebbles.

In this case, the economists have a point, and don’t think they aren’t all smug about it. Imagine you were a computer program that worked. You’d be put to work, likely at impossible times such as 5:15 am, instead of doing what you’d like. What you’d like would be trying to remember old cartoons you’re pretty sure you didn’t make up. To get to do what you want instead, you have to do the stuff you’re expected to do wrong.

And so programs have bugs. For example a program to alphabetize the boroughs of New York City lists “Queens” and then drives the computer off a cliff, causing a steam locomotive in 1908 to explode. This gives the program hours to establish that yes, Gary Coleman was an angel this one cartoon, and is he dead or was that somebody else? It also gives physicists something to argue over, and helps historians. These days the Haymarket Square Riot is understood to have been triggered by beta-testing of Microsoft Access 2016, with the real tragedy being that the upgrades could have been handled in a Service Pack. Also all the death.

Now to practical examples. Begin with a good software development environment. There are none. But there are neat packages which turn words different colors and send code flying all over tab stops. This is soothing to the eye. These development environments adapt their color schemes to the seasons. They’ll show more words in red and green around Christmas, purple and green around Easter, green and green around June, and so on. This way you can easily tell what time of year it is. It is too late in the year.

Let us use as demonstration the famous “Hello world” program, because that never demonstrates anything useful. This can be as simple as a line to the effect of:

System.out.writeln("Hello world");

As your development environment puts “System” in blinking blue and white, celebrating Greece’s Independence Day, you can compile and try running it. If it were to run, the program would justly fear being put to work by economists, therefore, we get a series of errors like:

  • Package ‘System’ cannot be found.
  • Thingy ‘out’ does not exist.
  • File cannot be found.
  • Function ‘writeln’ not defined in this context.
  • ‘System’ is a little fishy too.
  • We changed that ‘l’ to a lowercase ‘one’ to look better.
  • File cannot be written.
  • Not in that context either.
  • File cannot be read.
  • We’re none too sure about this ‘world’ thing either.
  • We’re pretty sure it’s nowhere near Greece’s Independence Day.
  • File cannot be.
  • Don’t think of bringing up that context either, that’s right out.
  • We want to punch an economist.
  • Does Greece even celebrate an Independence Day?
  • “Being” is an Aristotelean property inappropriate to the complex post-Alfred-Korzybski world.
  • “Hello” still feels slangy.
  • Put that context down, you’re getting fingerprints on it.
  • Development environment wants a hug.
  • Not from you.

More advanced environments may also be a little snarky about the alleged grammar of “Hello world”. Just try diagramming that sentence, see where you get. Turn off the prescriptivist settings, which could be found under Edit/Tools/Preferences/Checking/Grammar/Advanced, if you were using a different version of the environment from what you are, and from what every person offering advice on StackOverflow.com has.

Your environment might list what lines raise the objections. If you’ve programmed well enough, these numbers will have nothing to do with where the problems actually are, or with the number system. Go to any line you like, for example number square-root-of-seventy-A, which is blank. Comment out all the blank lines, then the non-blank lines, and soon you will trigger Wat Tyler’s Rebellion. Now step away and sulk until the office closes and that’s your work accomplished. And if you look in your hand you’ll see your card is the six of clubs. Am I not correct?

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

Investor confidence was badly shaken by a 6:30 am work e-mail reporting that the water was perfectly safe to drink, bringing up previously unsuspected fears of the safety of the water and its drinkability, which is what they get for not leaving the e-mail until the middle of the day or something.

186

Hack Work for May 2017


I have my tradition of setting free the scraps of writing I couldn’t use the previous month for the big Thursday/Friday-ish piece of the month. And I want to do that too. For example, here’s a bit I couldn’t do anything with all May: “you remember trituminous coal from how it got used to blow up the Amargosa observatory in Star Trek: Generations”. I don’t know what you would do with it either but let me know if you do.

Thing is I’d just got back to something kind of normal-ish with my computer woes when I got a cold. It’s not much of a cold. I’ve been lucky the last couple years in not getting really big colds. Not the kind where you have to stay in bed all day, no longer wiping your nose because the tissues hurt too much and even the lotion-filled ones have abraded your face to a smooth, featureless mass of weeping flesh. Nor the kind where you get a fever that can’t be measured because your thermometer melts into a puddle and your loved one repeats the mention of liquid crystal display until you finally holler that yes, you got it the first time, you just don’t have the power to giggle at a line like that even if you did feel like giggling at it, and then your loved one apologizes for trying to make light and you have to spend the rest of the day everyone in a sullen silence over how they each failed a little bit to be empathetic enough and nobody knows how to apologize exactly.

No, my cold has been the typical sort of light one I get. I spent a while feeling warm, which is nice, because I haven’t really felt warm since 2006 when I last lived in Singapore. Singapore is on the equator, and it has the climate you’d get if you jumped into the middle of an open-faced kiss between a fire-breathing dragon and a smaller ice-breathing dragon, all humidity and heat and sudden surprising blasts of air conditioning and sometimes the food kiosk has an offering that looks like some kind of organ meat. Not everyone’s taste. But at least I didn’t need to wear a little something extra over my shirt.

Also I’ve spent my time coughing. I won’t pretend that I’m a world-class cougher. I never got past the state level (14th place, 2010, New Jersey; 7th place, 1999, New York, although that was later vacated as I’d had a throat infection, a purely administrative change of ruling which does not reflect on my ethics). But serious coughing is tough competition. We do some impressive stuff. Back in the cold of October ’15, without even seriously training, I coughed hard enough in the shower that I threw out my back, causing my spine to rebound off the shower wall, clobber my right shoulder blade, and then sucker-punch me in the kidneys. I think there were deeper issues at work here and the coughing just a pretext. But what a pretext! It was so painful I even admitted that it kind of hurt.

Still, the coughing’s been going on nonstop since Tuesday. It’s triggered by some events, like taking too deep a breath, or too shallow a breath, or trying to say a whole word. I’d be fine with this really, since given the choice I’d like to just sit still and not say anything out loud. But then I have to reassure my love that I’m fine, really, the coughing is just annoying and not something we need to get to emergency care for, and it can take as many as twenty-two minutes to get through a sentence that complicated. Also work wanted me present for a conference call with people who were in the main office’s Echo Testing Chamber. I don’t believe we got any work done, but absolutely everybody has a headache.

I’d like to credit all this coughing to being exercise. I can feel the burn in my abdominal muscles, and I’m all set to smash my head into the steering wheel as I drive to the emergency care clinic. Oh, also I’ve been trying to build some kind of piece around sorting the nightshade family of plants into those that are edible versus those that are deadly, but I can’t figure a way to do it that isn’t just a factually useful chart. It feels a little xkcd-ish to me anyway, and that’s fine, but it isn’t me.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index dropped a point on learning that four percent of Michigan employers will allow their workers to bring pets into the workplace, because this is a fair bit below the national average of seven percent.

207

Really On The New Computer


Despite all the attempts by friends to help, my new computer arrived and I got it unboxed and everything. I wasn’t sure if I should unbox it without taking photographs but then I remembered I have never looked at any unboxing photograph, my own or anyone else’s, and neither has anybody else. Also I think my camera was eaten by that tangle of wires exposed when we replaced the TV set. It has been a season of consumer electronics suddenly breaking around here and I’m not looking forward to what summer has to bring. My guess: the oven declaring it’s done with this “making stuff more warm” job and going into business as a breakdancing instructor. This will be inconvenient for us, since we often like to eat food that’s more warm. But it will save the neighborhood rec center, so there’s that.

The tangling and twisted mass of power cords, power bricks, and dust that was behind our TV stand. It's quite the mess.
Do you see the digital camera in there? Really? Could you e-mail me with directions?

My new computer is lighter than the old, and thinner too. That’s just what people look for in laptops. I thought my old one was respectably light and sleek, but in comparison, it’s a kitchen appliance. The new computer is made of modestly compressed yawns encased in soap-bubble foam. It’s prone to floating as much as two inches in the air above the USB cooling fan base that I have, and I lost the power cord for that like six years ago. Often it’ll slide down the table a couple inches when I give it a heavy glance. I’m keeping it on a power cord so it stays tethered, and when it gets back to window-opening season I’m going to attach a kite tail and see how high I can sail it over Ralph W Crego Park.

It’s not the newest model MacBook Pro. I bought refurbished. I’ve gotten into that habit, on the grounds that the extraction of the metals needed for electronics is so brutal to people and the environment, and the actual assembly of these parts is no less foul, that it’s irresponsible to require more new stuff than necessary. You see, unlike most people, I like turning everyday actions into smug superiority. Also it’s cheaper and so am I.

This model MacBook Pro doesn’t have the name MacBook Pro on it. Nor the name Apple anywhere I noticed. (I didn’t check by the vental fin, as I don’t wish to offend its modesty and I don’t need to check that unless I want to breed it.) This is part of the minimalist design Apple’s gone crazy for. The current model MacBook Pro, besides not having the product name on it anywhere, also does without keys, a screen, any plugs, a touchpad, a box, or any physical existence. You just go to the Apple-authorized retailer, give them some money, and return home to ponder the nature of computing and what the networked world is like. It’s not the best hardware for gaming, but the three-year AppleCare extended warranty for your wholly imagined computer is a very reasonable $49.99. I’m hoping to pay for that with the sound of a jingling bag of quarters I can use for pinball league later. Yes, I know, you’re calling that a scam, but wouldn’t you like to be in Apple’s position right now? I understand if you say no because you have hay fever and don’t know what the pollen count is at Apple Master Command. But if you don’t, then, well?

Since getting it up and running I’ve spent a lovely week setting options on things. That’s the good part of a new computer, going around and breaking up with old typefaces and installing new ones and figuring out what window sizes just work for stuff anymore. That last is a Mac thing. Experience with coworkers suggests that Windows users think whatever program they’re using has to use up the whole screen. Of all the human behaviors I have encountered this is the one I understand the least. It’s at least eight percent more baffling than how the house down the street throws out a sofa every two weeks and how someone else apparently takes it. You know a house like that, and you don’t understand it. How can I understand this? Anyway I’m thinking I could make my fortune by selling cheap disposable computers which do nothing but let buyers set options on things. Once they’ve got it set, they throw the finished computer out and start again. If we can retail these for like thirty bucks I bet it’ll be a hit.

The dangerous part of this is I have an excuse to fall behind my Internet social obligations now. Normally I’m just awful. Somewhere along the line I got to thinking, you know, if I answer that e-mail they’re just going to answer back and I’ll be right where I started, so why not stay there? This is fine for trivial stuff like work e-mails but it hurts hanging out with people I know because I have common interests or stuff. And now? People can’t fault me for not writing back when I’m going through the trouble of setting up stuff to write back. I could probably milk this one for months while people gradually forget I even exist. And then where will I be when I send out an urgent e-mail warning about the oven having gone off on its own? Ignored, correctly. It’s no fair, if suffering the obviously foreseeable direct consequences of my own freely made choices is no fair.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index rose one more point, to another all-time high of 212, prompting investors to get all panicky that now this means it’s just going to plummet to like negative 112 and balance all this out and even promising people that negative numbers don’t make sense in this context doesn’t help. “Have you seen 2017?” they reply. “We’re going to be lucky if the index doesn’t drop to four blue squares all labelled `red’.”

212

On The New Computer


Monday was puttering along like it will. I had scheduled that Mary Worth post and was almost at the point in my workday where I’d read enough of The AV Club to do a solid hour of staring helplessly at my code. But my MacBook had enough. “No,” it declared, “it is not time for a critical reappraisal of that Next Generation episode where Captain Picard becomes a twelve-year-old boy. The critics have been right about this episode all along and we do not need to read it as sly self-satire.”

“But wait,” I protested, “Those things have the best comments about how the AV Club isn’t any good anymore!”

“Goodbye,” it said, and the video glitched out. First it split the video into little shuffled strips. Then it went to this brown background with a less-brown circular background, like the carpet at a respectable-enough hotel from 1978. The computer shop up the block identified the problem in minutes: my computer was broken. Also nobody makes the parts for it anymore anymore. But they gave me a number at Apple to call to see if they might have any. Apple blushed and explained how they were so embarrassed by their old work like that and they wished I wouldn’t talk about it, they could do so much better now.

So while waiting for the new computer’s delivery I have to do something, computer-wise. I can’t just wander around the house reading my books and holding my love and prying open the window that’s painted shut and fixing the basement stair that’s going to completely collapse and probably kill someone someday. Fortunately for computer-based mishaps like this I have a backup.

It’s my older Mac, a PowerBook G4, that I kept for emergencies like this and because I can’t throw away stuff without an elaborate, weeks-long ritual of apology to the thing. I remember it being sleek and speedy when I got it in 2006. I was wrong. What did we know from design back then? The computer is about the size of a 1988 Chevrolet Celebrity. To set it on my table required the help of a pilot boat and a team of four people wielding containerized-cargo cranes.

It’s an ancient computer, dating back to the days before we even had binary code. Internally it represents numbers as a series of zeroes and four-fifths. It looks at the modern Internet the same way my father looks on when he’s having such a good time at this noisy restaurant that he won’t spoil dinner by admitting he forgot to turn his hearing aid on. It sits there, smiling, nodding with engagement, making the right amount of eye contact, and then I click a link on Twitter and it searches for “writing” on Yahoo. Then I hit command-V and it pastes what I copied, like, eight copies ago, last night. It’s nice having time together. I just want to hug it.

The worst hassle of all this is having to pay for a new computer. But also the worst hassle of all this has been that my emergency backup computer has really mushy shift keys that work about one-fifth of the time, so I look like I’m typing everything into a search engine. But also the other worst worst hassle of all this has been telling friends about it. I have a lot of friends who love building computers and don’t see why anyone doesn’t.

I know why I don’t. I like computers that you plug in and do stuff with. My friends who build their computers never get to do stuff with it. They’re always reporting, like, “my new graphics card is incompatible with the hard drive interruptor” and “so the optical drive cables demanded the motherboard take a side and now they’ve moved to opposite corners and are spitting on each other” and “the PCI slot teamed up with irredentist Wallachian rebels to call in tactical air strikes”. But they’re always confident they’re one round of peace talks away from the best computer ever, and they’re eager to help me out.

“We could totally build something fantastic,” they’ll say. “Not on one of those awful socket 1150s either! We’ll do it on an 1151 or I bet I can hook us up with an 1151.8!”

“I live in Lansing, Michigan, and you’re in Romania,” I answer so I don’t explicitly say I think they’re making up tech specs.

“Have you ever seen the framerates on an overclocked BrixxVideo video card? And channel that through the Heisenberg compensator matrix and you can full half duplex your quads on the composite Lumpex!”

I think this sounds like when audiophiles insist they get a better sound out of their system by using green marker on their audio cables.

“I got a friend who can get you this prototype computer case that isn’t even plastic or metal. This is for high-performance enclosing of stuff! It’s the concept of containerization as manifested in a substance that must never be looked at directly with unshielded eyes.”

I feel loved by this attention, yes. But what I’m looking for most in a computer right now is a shift key that works. Also, if you know somebody who’d be willing to give me like one computer’s worth of money in exchange for whatever it is I do, could you hook us up? Or fix copy-paste so it works. Thanks kindly.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index plummeted today as market confidence was shaken by the discovery the MyCokeRewards program has ended and all those 12-pack box flaps we’d been saving to enter the codes someday were now worthless. Estimated losses are easily enough Coke Rewards points that we could have gotten a six-month subscription to a magazine we don’t like, and now it’s all too late.

145

Out On The Town


The power went out when I was showering yesterday morning. For a moment I thought, well gosh, what if civilization’s just come to an end. This was the sort of merry fanciful thought you could have about surprise power failures back in the 90s when we figured civilization actually had no reason to end. “What the heck, let’s keep it going another five years,” we’d say, every time the subscription notice came up, and if it was charging two bucks more a month that was all right. If we had kept the two bucks a month we probably would’ve done something stupid with it, like buying used VHS tapes of Bucky O’Hare to watch ironically or something. Bucky O’Hare is worth watching sincerely. It’s Biker Mice From Mars you have to watch with detachment.

This clouded up my day, since the ventilator fan in the bathroom stopped working. We’ve got a pretty muggy bathroom, one prone to storm fronts. We average about four tropical depressions per year just from ordinary showering, and the extra-long shower after the Poison Ivy Removal Expedition Of 2015 is credited with starting Hurricane Danny. (We were framed.) Without the fan going I have to leave the shower groping my way blindly through a steamy mass of bathroom rainforest, dodging spiders and sloths and the ooh-ooh-aah-aah birds. I also have to do that when the fan is on, but at least I’ve taken action. It’s never the results. It’s being part of the process.

And it messed up plans too. I had figured to call my Congressman’s office, like I’ve been doing once or twice a week all this year, to demand “how dare you?” It doesn’t accomplish much, although sometimes the poor staffer who has to take me admits, “I haven’t spoken with the Congressman about how dare I”, which is gratifying. Again, it’s all being part of the process. Also about discovering that turns out Congress office reps don’t have caller ID. At the least you’d think they’d ask me what I’m how-dare-youing them about. I used to have something in mind, but that took so much time. It’s just as effective if I go with whatever is in the news today. And without power, without the Internet, I wouldn’t have Twitter and they could totally call my bluff. So that was off.

The power company said the problem was an equipment malfunction. Probably could have guessed that. They couldn’t say, “sorry, we suddenly felt shy about sending stuff into your house without an explicit invitation”, not after they’ve been sending power into the house off and on for nearly ninety years now. Or “Rick forgot to renew our subscription and we let our civilization lapse,” since Rick hasn’t been at the power company in over two years now. Equipment not working right is about all they could go for.

They estimated power should be restored by 5:30 pm, which is disheartening to hear when it’s less than halfway through The Price Is Right. I know you never want to promise service is coming back before you’re absolutely sure it will be. Last time the Internet went out the company would only concede that service should be back by the end of Daylight Saving Time. I don’t know why the Internet company cares if there’s ever a Daylight Saving Time repeal and I don’t think they’re helping the issue by making threats like that. I’d have called my Congressman about that but see above.

Thing with a power failure like that is it’s the kind of snow day I get. I work from home, because I’ve kept my exact whereabouts secret from my boss and he doesn’t know where to come get me. As long as I have Internet I can connect to my office computer and delete e-mails about not leaving the fire door open, just as if I were on site. But in the circumstances, what choice do I have except to take a long lunch out at the bagel place? The only professional choice is to ponder how they have chocolate chip cream cheese these days while overhearing a table full of older white guys agreeing with each other about all these officials it’s unreasonable to hold accountable for what happens in a frat house.

When we got home the power was back. The snow day had passed, and all we had left was resetting the clocks. It could be as long as months before we have every clock in the house re-set, and we have to deal with the more popular clocks taunting those who’re so low-status they don’t get reset. House clocks have vicious, nasty social cliques.

This morning I left the shower fan off.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index rose seven points on the discovery of a box of salty-and-sweet candy corn from the farmers’ market that had been forgotten about after Easter.

142

From The April 2017 Scraps File


Free to good home. Please be gentle. Many of these sentence fragments had hopes of being put to a useful purpose.

I’m not saying the world should work like all 70s Hanna-Barbera cartoons. It’s too heavy a load on the continuity of the world to have one in which we have cyborg Three Stooges, slice-of-life football players, and space-cop Casper the Friendly Ghost coexisting.
— cut from that bit yesterday where some bands were listed playing in two venues at once because if I start letting my brain vent genially dumb cartoons I used to watch obsessively I will never stop and that’s some dangerous stuff to let out.

Baseball had trouble in its early days because it was hard to think of good team names. They started with teams like the Troy Trojans, the Philadelphia Phillies, the Providence Providentials, the Chicago Illinoisians, the Detroit Michiganders, and so. — cut from my ramblings about baseball because that bit was getting long enough already and because I couldn’t find a good resolution. Some more obvious-place-name spots, like, “the Dover Delawarians”? Some fanciful like “the Sea Girt Grit”? Something that’s over-researched and a little bit off like, “the Queens County Superbas”? I don’t know. Maybe this just needs to be let to brew longer.

[ A bulk lot of about 650 words regarding the controversial plan by the International Flipper Pinball Association, one of the organizing bodies for competitive pinball, to charge one dollar per player per event for certifying rated events; serious inquiries only. ] — a whole presentation which would have been good for some pinball forum about the hotly debated “IFPA Tariff” which I realized I don’t have a use for because (a) “tariff”, like “sheriff” and “sergent”, belongs to the class of words that always look to me like I’m spelling them wrong no matter how many times my spell-checker and DuckDuckGo tell me I’m doing fine; and (b) because while I’m not an expert I’m pretty sure this is an “excise” and not a “tariff”. Actually that’s what has me most riled up. It makes me realize that yeah, actually, everyone treating me like that in middle school had a point. You don’t want to do things that make you learn that about yourself. But I’m right, right, about this being more nearly an excise than a tariff?

There’s stuff about a teenaged boy body that are beyond anyone’s control. After a couple hours trying to get through the unformed judgement centers and the free-floating resentment even the teenaged boy himself stops trying to deal with him. So — I’m just giving up trying to follow up that thing about antiperspirant with some more of my mild body-dissatisfation and I can’t get that stuff to go anywhere. If you have a body or know someone who does, give it a try.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corrugated_galvanised_iron — a particularly haunting scrap. I’ve had it in my notes as something I could do something with just forever and I can not think of any reason why. There’s some pleasant words in the Wikipedia article, like “roll forming”, but that can’t possibly be enough. If you see whatever it was I saw when I made that note, just let me know. I can’t just be thinking to mock the claim that corrugated galvanized iron is occasionally abbreviated “CGI”.

Not that I mean to blow your mind but you do realize there’s not a word in the canon to suggest Romulans even had deflector shields in the era of the Original Series. — cut from a TrekBBS discussion because whether there’s any word depends on whether you accept some logical inferences from Star Trek: Enterprise or whether you’re considering merely the canon of the Original Series as it existed when the show wrapped in 1969 (or whether you include the cartoon, 1973-74, which I’m inclined to). But if you are willing to consider this it considerably reduces some of the plot holes in the episode where Kirk goes undercover as a crazy guy to steal a cloaking device and oh there I go with understanding middle school again.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index fell a point today as investors ran out of singles for the change machine.

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Because The Season Has Come Again


Baseball! And with a word (baseball) you’ve summoned a spirit (of baseball) renowned for its ability to talk about baseball. There are many rivals for the attention of American sports enthusiasts out there, but none come close in getting people writing rhapsodic essays about baseball. The average baseball game inspires fourteen essays about its greatness. The average football game barely gets more than two essays about the greatness of baseball written. The average hockey game does even worse, inspiring just five people to stand at the window and shout “I like baseball gloves!” And that’s before we start tracking those silly made-up sports they put in science fiction shows or movies that never look even faintly like someone plays them.

It’s easy to understand baseball’s appeal. It fuses two elements: the desire of people to hit a thing with a stick, and the desire of people to not run all that far before stopping. The bases are baseball’s greatest innovation since they promise that you have a built-in reason to stop running. People are a lot like guinea pigs that way, and vice-versa. I bet guinea pigs would love playing baseball if they had some effective way to bat. I know what you’re thinking: couldn’t they hold the bat in their teeth? I say: good luck to that. No guinea pig I’ve ever known (there’ve been like 22 of them) wouldn’t chew the bat to pieces.

Oh, maybe if they had aluminum bats. Yes, that would work. Now the question shifts to why it is we don’t see leagues of guinea pigs playing baseball. Or why we don’t if we look down, since guinea pigs aren’t all that tall. My guess: they have trouble pitching. So if we could just adapt the technologies of tee-ball to guinea pigs their play could sweep the nation. At least I bet it would get like thousands of views on YouTube.

The origins of baseball are shrouded in mystery and are imponderable and unknowable as long as nobody looks them up. When we do look them up we find that people thought baseball grew out of an English game called “rounders”. Rounders, it turns out, is just what they called baseball when the guy who first said baseball grew out of rounders was a kid. Anyway, the whole baseball/rounders thing got muddled up in the late 19th century when followers of Madame Blavatsky tried to mythologize an anti-English origin for the game and found a suitable Theosophist in Abner Doub … wait, am I doing a bit here? I can’t have this right. I mean, Madame Blavatsky? What am I even doing there? You know what this is? This is what stuffing in an allegedly hi-larious word to shore up a dull sentence looks like if you’re a know-it-all type. I don’t know how to recover. Maybe something about Madame Blavatsky contacting the spirits of baseball.

If you’re plagued by baseball spirits know that you can handle many of them by retiring a number. Originally only baseball teams themselves could retire a number, but it turns out the way the rules are worded you can do it yourself. I understand if you’re not sure about this. I never feel sure about anything I do for the first time. If you want to practice try retiring a number that won’t be called on for a while. That way by the time they even notice your pick it’ll have been retired for so long they won’t have the courage to change it. The National League was stunned last year to learn that someone had retired 32,054 on them back in 1942, and while they still grumble about it they don’t even consider reversing the decision.

You can retire a number simply by writing it on a big circle and then sticking it to a green or blue wall. Face the number side out, lest galvanic corrosion (the most corrosive of the galvanics) weaken the joists or halberds or whatever it is holds a wall up. Fo’c’sles? Something like that. Note that this has to be done with a real circle and wall. I know you’re tempted to just whip something up with a web site or maybe an app. Try that and your retirement will count, which is exactly what you do not want a retired number to do. Ask your spirits. Most of them have retirement all worked out, and it’s nice chatting with anyone who’s done worked out anything.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index dropped two points despite confirmation from someone who drove past it on the way to the bookstore yesterday that the ice cream place is too open this early in the year.

124

Finger on Remote Control, We are Wired to Your Soul


Nineteen years ago my love bought a TV set. Nobody thought that exceptional, but the thing is we were still watching it until last month. My love and I share an attitude toward durable goods, which is they ought to be. So we’ve had about five years of people asking, “seriously, you don’t have an HDTV yet?” But we were fine. TV shows would just assume we had more horizontal space than we did, like when The Price Is Right changed the Showcase Showdown wheel into a fat ellipsoid, but we rolled with it.

All was fine until one Tuesday after I’d watched a Mystery Science Theater 3000 DVD and then my love noticed the screen was flickering and the TV softly hissing. Then it got to hissing a lot louder, and the picture on screen contracted to a temporal anomaly letting through alternate-history episodes of Voyager. Friends who seem to know about this stuff told us the flyback transformer had broken, and that needed to be replaced or else it would explode and cover a four-mile radius with a black, sticky tar, made of the substance left over from leaving How It’s Made on as background noise. Fair enough.

And as we promised, finally time to get a brand-new High Definition set. We shopped around until finding the right set for us: one that a friend had and wasn’t using and that didn’t require us to put the back seat of the car down to fit in the trunk. My love and I grew up in the picture-tube era when a 14-inch set was respectable, and 21-inch meant you’d really made it. In the modern era a 21-inch set is the one you put in the bathroom so while showering you can watch steam. My parents picked up a bed-sized TV set for the living room, and demoted that to bedroom purposes when they got an even larger one, I believe folded up many times over and included with a box of cereal. A large box, mind you, they’re not giving those things away in a mere 12-ounce box of Honey Nut Cheerios. You need the 20-ounce at least. And maybe Golden Grahams instead. We had to rearrange the living room furniture is what I’m getting at.

The hard part was moving the bookshelves, which had been where they were since they were first put in place by glaciers in the Wisconsin Glaciation. This let us discover there wasn’t as much dust as we expected. There was evidence of mice, though. A few years back we had some of the least efficient mice in the world in the house. You know the thing where mice are quiet and kind of shy? They were prowling around, coughing loudly and demanding attention and sitting up next to our pet rabbit looking for all the world like rowboats approaching a dreadnought. We found accommodations for them where we don’t have to hear them all the time.

No mice there. But we did see a few pages, all that was left, from a chewed-up copy of the Consumer Reports Buying Guide for 2008. As best we can work out, the mice were diligently researching which microwave oven to get. I guess they chose wisely. We haven’t heard any complaints.

The other challenge was getting the old TV out of there. I know everyone has problems with power cords and antenna cables and all tangling together. But our house has some special space-warping power around it. I’m fussy about plugging stuff in, and I still have stuff where I plug in my iPod and the digital camera and the cables instantly knot together and there’s fourteen separate USB end plugs, most of which don’t even exist. Between the TV, the cable box, the DVD, the Wii, the record turntable, the CD player, and the audio thingy that I have to keep pressing buttons on to get sound out of, I’m still behind the TV stand now, screaming at wires. It’s been over a month. Send help.

The tangling and twisted mass of power cords, power bricks, and dust that was behind our TV stand. It's quite the mess.
“I wear the chain I forged in life,” replied the Ghost. “I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it. Is its pattern strange to you?” Scrooge trembled more and more. “Or would you know,” pursued the Ghost, “the weight and length of the strong coil you bear yourself? It was as full and heavy and as long as this, seven Christmas Eves ago. You have laboured on it, since. It is a ponderous chain!” Scrooge glanced about him on the floor, in the expectation of finding himself surrounded by some fifty or sixty fathoms of iron cable: but he could see nothing. “Jacob,” he said, imploringly. “Old Jacob Marley, tell me more. Speak comfort to me, Jacob! I mean wholeheartedly that I shall watch that like season and a half of Doctor Who that’s been piling up!”

Thing is it wasn’t that awful a movie on that Mystery Science Theater 3000 DVD. If I had known the trouble it would cause I’d have watched something more epic.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index rose six points responding to market information that there were abundant Reese’s peanut butter eggs and they were all discounted fifty percent, which means it’s just fine to eat a whole package of six of them in under a minute, okay?

132

Some Easter Stuff Poorly Explained


Why Easter eggs? Why bunnies? Why chocolate? If so, whom? These are some good questions. The last one looks like the result of youthful enthusiasm. It’s probably grammatically wrong anyway, unless “who” would be wrong instead. I bet it was submitted by someone who hypercorrects things. Hypercorrecting is a fun pastime. You start out with something that’s okay and then apply the grammatical rule of “people don’t sound like they know what they’re doing, so make it sound more obscure or complicated”. It’s good fun. It appeals to people’s desire to sound like they know a better set of rules than everyone else does. And it gives people who like to correct mistakes something to write about. There’s nothing so fun as correcting the hypercorrect. I thought that time I got a bag of rabbit litter at half-price was that good. I was wrong.

Anyway, Easter we can understand. If we didn’t have Easter then there’d be this huge attention-getting gap in-between Ash Wednesday and the Feast of the Assumption. “Shouldn’t something go in the middle, here?” people would ask. Eventually all sorts of folk explanations would spring up. Maybe they’d tumble across “there ought to be a particularly holy day for one of the top religions” there. “Also we should have plastic eggs and rabbits made of candy” I bet wouldn’t. Maybe people would do some more research and figure, “Hey, there’s got to be something that’s seventy days before Septuagesima, unless that’s supposed to be seventy days after Septuagesima.”

I mean if there still is a Septuagesima. I haven’t checked and I have the feeling it’s been downplayed ever since Vatican II: Vaticannier. But it’s a heck of a name for something. It isn’t seventy days from anything interesting in either direction. There’s probably a reason for that. Yes, I meant the Feast of the Ascension. The Assumption is a completely different thing. Don’t challenge me on this. I was raised Catholic so I remember there was something called the homoiousian controversy and couldn’t deliver the Nicene Creed with cue cards. We said the Nicene Creed every Sunday. Nobody ever talked about the homoiousian controversy.

Since we have Easter, we don’t have to worry about why there isn’t an Easter, although if it ever goes missing you know what to look for. Easter eggs we can wonder about. If there’s anything that we could get straightened out then we’d have one thing straightened out, and that would leave is in much better shape. For instance, let’s do away with the folk etymology that says they were originally “yeaster eggs”, egg-shape snacks made out of extremely bread-based foods. We can also do away with the tale that it started out as “Easter yeggs”, roving packs of 19th-century Bowery B’hoy toughs prowling the riverfront and painting themselves brightly. These theories were popular in the 1970s when they were thought to be hoaxes played by angry writer H L Mencken. But we now know the claim that they were a hoax was a prank on Mencken played by President Taft.

The tradition of hiding Easter eggs come to us from Renaissance Germany, with an assist by the Princely States of India and a rebound against Grand Columbia, which does not figure in this narrative. The problem originally was one of planting the seeds of useful crops like barley or bauxite or jute or other stuff from social studies textbooks without having birds flying in and eating them all. Somewhere on the upper Rhine the locals realized they could plant the birds instead and wait for the seeds to fly in and carry them off. The practice spread and grew to be very popular, eggs put in all sorts of places on the ground, and didn’t lose popularity even when it turned out to not even begin to sort-of work.

Since that failed, they tried making the process more complicated. Painting the eggs turned out not to be a way to get blue chickens with yellow zig-zag stripes, but wasn’t it worth trying, just in case? Do you know anyone who has better ideas to handle our shortage of blue chickens with yellow zig-zag stripes? It’s not so easy to achieve, is it? Anyway, during the Thirty Years War the tradition fled Germany, and who could blame it? The tradition’s got some sense after all.

There is no explanation for how the rabbits and chocolate and all that got involved. I’ll try to write that up next year before Easter.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index dropped nine points as traders struggled to remember the name of that astronaut mentioned yesterday. Peggy … Whitman? That sounds kind of right.

133

I Will Say The Bus Looks Neat Though


I’m running late on stuff this week. I always am, which raises questions about the use of “late” as a concept. Never mind. For this week I blame that I got to reading an article about the 70s Disaster Movie genre. And that lead me to the 1976 spoof of the 70s Disaster Movie genre, The Big Bus. There’s many shocking things about this, starting with the idea that 70s Disaster Movies were somehow not already their parodies. The difference between The Towering Inferno and SCTV’s spoof of The Towering Inferno is mostly that the SCTV version opens with fewer scenes of the violently 1970s lobby of the doomed building. I mean, the Towering Inferno lobby looks great in a 1974 way. It’s only hard to watch because of thinking how it would look if it were a real building. I can’t see it without imaginaing what soul-destroying monstrosity it would have decayed by 1988, before its mid-90s renovation into something too lacking in personality even to be ugly.

Also startling: I remember nothing of this movie (The Big Bus) even though it seems like it should have been filling space whenever channels needed to have a movie throughout the early 80s. Yes, yes, Airplane! seems to have been as much spoof as the whole 70s Disaster Movie genre ever needed, in case we were taking it seriously, but between Airplane! and Airplane II! that’s only like four hours of programming. Even the rudimentary cable channels of the 80s needed as much as six hours before going over to “weird foreign cartoons” and “public domain Three Stooges shorts”.

Wikipedia describes the movie in fascinating detail. The plot summary makes it sound like the movie was trying about three times too hard and on all the wrong subjects. It comes out sounding whimsical in the way a gigantic iron woolly mammoth in a potato sack race across a field strewn with creme pies is: my metaphor is trying way too hard to cram in funny-flavored stuff.

Also, per Wikipedia: look at that movie poster. That’s your classic style, the kind of poster they don’t make anymore. Back then, movies were still mysterious things and we audiences just wouldn’t go to it if we didn’t have some proof that there were actors in the movie, as demonstrated by passport photos or, better, caricatured illustrations of the principal actors. Today movie poster style has moved on to showing abstract patterns of shadow and light, possibly featuring ruins where the villain blew up the plot. And that’s fine and stylish as far as it goes, but then you get surprises like last year where Star Trek Beyond turned out to be 105 minutes of kaleidoscope patterns and then a four-minute scene of Spock and McCoy trash-talking each other. Not saying it wasn’t good. I’m saying, back in the day, we’d get a big old grid of Actor Face staring out at us.

Then where I get permanently hung up by the Wikipedia article is in the sections about the movie’s production. Specifically this:

According to articles in 1976 issues of both Motor Trend magazine and the now defunct Bus World magazine

I’m sorry, I can’t finish that sentence or anything else, really. I’m assuming that Bus World was a trade publication for the large-person-road-transport industry. But it would be only eight percent stranger if it weren’t. What if it was a fan magazine? Don’t tell me there aren’t bus fans. There are fans of everything, including fandoms. What kind of journal was Bus World, though?

The difference between a trade journal and a fan magazine is in how they spin the articles. The point of a fan magazine is to follow up every bit of news with the question, “Will the industry ever manage to be more awesome than this?” The answer is, “No way, but we’re looking forward to them trying”. The point of a trade journal is to follow up every bit of news with the question, “Will the industry be able to recover from this?”. The answer is, “Conceivably, but likely not”. I don’t know that there are fan magazines for trade journals, but I hope there are. Also I hope there are trade journals for the fan magazine business, because the politics involved in everything would be awesome.

What do I hope the reality of the now-defunct Bus World was? I don’t know, and I’m too busy pondering that.

In short: Bus World.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index dropped another five points today which we’re willing to blame on that Access World/London Metals Exchange/zinc warehousing scandal. It’s probably good for another couple of points off the Another Blog, Meanwhile index. Just you wait and see.

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