Meanwhile interrupting my thoughts every forty seconds


I was reading a history of NASA’s spaceflight tracking and data network because … uh … … well, I don’t know how to explain this. It has to be that we are just meeting for the first time, ever, right now. I’m pretty sure that when Sunny Tsiao proposed writing this book, the pitch was, “At some point Joseph Nebus will read all five hundred and twenty-five pages”, and the NASA History Series editor said, “Sold!”

Anyway it got to mentioning how in early 1959 the Tracking And Ground Instrumentation Unit at Langley wanted someone to study radar coverage and trajectory computation requirements. So, again you see why this is a book fo rme. But then you know who they hired for it? Ford Aeronutronics. Have you never heard of an “Aeronutronic”? Me neither and I’m barely able to think of anything else. I had thought, like, a “nutronic” was the thing a spinning top does when it starts wobbling but hasn’t quite fallen over. I don’t understand what that has to do with spaceflight tracking and data. So, Sunny Tsiao, if you’re out there, could you give me a hint? Thanks very kindly.


PS: The e-Books page also has William M Leary’s We Freeze to Please: A History of NASA’s Icing Research Tunnel and the Quest for Safety. But that is only 192 pages so maybe that’s not enough of itself for me.

Seized by the thought of this momentous anniversary


I’m sorry I’m late. I got caught up in thinking how it was just 31 years ago tonight that I was sitting up watching, on TV, the coverage of the 20th Anniversary of Apollo 11. Gosh. You never see time moving, especially not this year, and yet there it goes nevertheless. You realize next year is going to be the 10th anniversary of the 20th anniversary of the first space shuttle launch? Just amazing.

Even though it is a little cooler


I’m sorry not to have my comic strip report today, but Comics Kingdom had a major failure when I was figuring to write up three months’ worth of The Amazing Spider-Man story. So instead let me underscore my claims last week about how hot it was with this photograph of a real thing a block away from my house, where the telephone pole won’t go outside without some bottled water:

Photograph of a telephone pole. A plastic disposable water bottle is strapped to the pole by some cyan-and-white striped plastic ribbon.
Also in the neighborhood: a tree that’s got a sign reading just ‘FREE’ taped to its side. I would assume this was something for Squirrel Freecycle except that whatever it was, was taken. Unless it was the tree.

It’s cooled down some but that’s the heat wave we had.

Or To Be Exact, It’s Just Windy


So you remember The Association’s great kind of ear-wormy 1967 hit, “Everyone Knows It’s Windy”? It’s a nice bit of sunshine pop, one of those songs that’s doing really well until it runs out of lyrics about one minute in, and then goes on for another minute and forty seconds. Anyway, a bit of conversation this weekend confirmed that the younger folk are not familiar with this song. So I must appeal to whatever members of The Association are still out there to please record an update, “Not Everyone Knows Everyone Knows It’s Windy”. Thank you.

Also I am starting to suspect Mary is never coming along.

In which my e-book reader is calling me out


I do not know how it is I came to have a copy of the American Face Brick Association’s 1922 tome The Story Of Brick: The Permanence, Beauty, and Economy of the Face Brick House. The title alone, though, is so much the parody of the sort of thing that I would read that I had to go back and check whether I had made a joke about my getting a book like this. Of course I have. I have done this more than once. Within the last ten weeks.

I can only dimly imagine how ridiculous actually reading this is going to be. It starts well, though:

“If we possessed the story-telling magic of Sir Walter or of Dumas, the elder, we could write a best seller on the subject of brick, which most people think of as very commonplace. ”

I recognize when an “if” is pulling a load.

My thoughts while emptying the fish tank we don’t need downstairs


Water siphons. You put a tube in a water tank, lift one end up until it flows out the other end. Then drop that end into the water, and water just keeps on flowing out. How does that work? There is no explanation for how the water got out of the tank. Maybe advanced evaporation, helped by the water feeling I’d gone to so much trouble to get it out that it would cause a scene if it stuck around. Anyway I’ll take no answers about how siphoning water works, since it can’t possibly work is how.


(Be right back, putting on dry socks.)

Meanwhile in music


We had just left the satellite-radio music channel running, and then looked up at each other when we heard it playing Entry of the Gladiators, you know, the Clown March. As if one person we demanded to know what prog rock band was pulling these shenanigans. “Emerson, Lake, and Palmer, you sit down and think about what you’ve done,” I was starting to say. Anyway it was Three Dog Night, The Show Must Go On, but I think our vague and pointless indignation stands.

A mystery of Brobdingnagian proportions


If you’re like me, again, a thing I don’t recommend, you were amazed to learn there was a movie version of Gulliver’s Travels back in 2010. Yeah! Starred Jack Black and, of course, James Corden and everything. Nobody cared about it, or went to see it, which is why even Jack Black and James Corden are learning about it right now, from this post.

Still, this entails a mystery. Logic tells us that there should have been, somewhere between 2015 and 2018, a somehow more indifferently received sequel. Its name should most likely be Gulliver’s 2ravels. It should star whoever’s the one-tier-lower versions of Jack Black and James Corden. I can find no evidence it exists, though. I’m not saying that all our troubles are caused by this unexplained gap in the popular culture. We should just see if maybe that’s a problem and if we could fix it.

A bit more to help you gauge my intelligence level


Me, from the middle of March through this past week: You know, it’s weird that the remote-login system I use to get in to the office computers has been this sluggish ever since the pandemic and everybody else having to work from home too. I wonder what’s changed.

Anyway we bought a new router for our house so I’m sure this will fix everything.

On the bellies of dragons


I was reading the IMDB page about Disney’s 1941 movie The Reluctant Dragon and found this trivia:

Portions of this film had to be redone because of objections by the Hays Office. The dragon was originally drawn with a navel which had to removed before the film could be passed.

Now I wish to believe the Hayes Office was sending many snippy letters explaining that as dragons hatch from eggs they have no biological need for belly buttons. And the Disney Office writing back that dragons are made up and can have belly buttons if we choose. I want to think they were arguing, by typewriter, for months. I decide to believe Ward Kimball sent the Hayes Office a most sarcastic drawing of a dragon mom nursing dragon toddlers. I choose to believe that the great-grandchildren of the people in this dispute are still angry at the other side. I shall not be accepting any evidence to the contrary. Thank you.

To help you judge my intelligence


I am 47 years old. I have two post-graduate degrees in mathematics. I have ridden over 250 different roller coasters. And it was only this past Friday that I tumbled on to how Nightmare, the Ghost Horse and friend to Casper the Friendly Ghost, is female. And not by deductive methods such as, like, reading her name. I had to have it explained to me by the Casper the Friendly Ghost wiki. So, you know, I’m a deep thinker. And somehow, even though Harvey Comics were pretty good about having a important female characters, supporting and lead, I thought, “well, this horse doesn’t have a bow in her hair and long eyelashes and a skirt, must be a boy!” and stopped there for four decades.

Why I can no longer go on the Star Trek forum


Listen, if Early Grey were Captain Picard’s favorite tea, then that would be his default setting for “tea”. That he orders “Earl Grey” means he must most often have something else. No matter how much we like our favorite we sometimes want something different and it so happens that we the viewers just happen to keep catching him when he is not having his actual favorite tea.

Since he also specifies “hot” I conclude ordinarily Picard enjoys iced tea. I bet it’s with a three-parts-sugar-to-one-part-tea ratio.

Anyway I have forgotten my password. It was “one one A, two B”.

Everything you need to know to understand me as a writer


Me, reading something snarky I wrote years ago: Oh. Oh, gosh, that’s unfortunate and not really pleasant at all. Ouch. I hope nobody’s still reading that.

Me, writing something snarky just today: But this will be great!

Regarding the use of Neodymium in the production of bright purple glass


In response to polite inquiries received at this department allow me to say: I do not know how neodymium is used to produce bright purple glass. I assume that it is put into the glass somehow to either create the purple or the brightness. Possibly both. But wouldn’t it be just like the rare-earth metals for the key to be taking out the neodymium as part of the glass-making process? Anyway all I know is that if you want bright purple glass, one thing you can look for is neodymium. I’m afraid past that you’re on your own.

A mystery of the arts


You know, musical science tells us that there should have been a wave of annoying, acoustic covers of Born in the USA done in minor keys and being completely unavoidable even though nobody liked them that much. And we should have gotten sick of people complaining that the minor-key covers missed the point of the song. The most amazing thing is that this should have happened a decade ago, certainly no later than 2015. There is no explanation for this gap in the field.

Working on a further future project


After we edit-war Wikipedia into accepting “Colourado” as how United Kingdom folks spell the state name, how about adding in the astounding fact that after the Revolutions of 1848, the short-lived Republic of Colorado tried to form an alliance with France, offering to name itself “Tri-colourado” if it went through? But then, you know, Napoleon III and all that.

A thought about a career I never felt like trying


I realized that I’m glad I never got into a field that looks for experimental results. I realized that’s got to be pretty bad. I mean, imagine you do some research and it gives you the expected result. Everyone’s going to answer, “No duh”. But imagine you did the research and it came out surprising. Then everyone’s going to answer “No way”. Whatever happens you’re getting worn down. The only safe harbor is research that nobody has any response to. I couldn’t hack it in the field of getting responses.

A very little video game I remember from the 80s


You know something I got with some pack of cracked 80s video games? A Smurfs game. I’m not sure what genre it was. It was like a platformer, except that nothing happened. All that you had to do was not step on a dangerous spot. The thing was, the cracked version had this thing where you could turn off one or both of the sprites that made up Generic Smurf. One of those sprites was the upper half of his body, and the other the lower half. So if you turned off the lower half of his body, you wouldn’t ever hit the dangerous spots. You could just have the torso and arms and head of Generic Smurf floating over very many slightly different terrains, all while the tra-laaaaaa-lala-lala song plays over and over and over again, until you go mad.

Just thinking out some future projects here


So how many people do you think would have to fight a dedicated Wikipedia edit war for about a month before people would accept as true that folks in the United Kingdom spell the US state name “Colourado”? I think we could do it with, like, six people unshakable in their resolve.

Continuing in the Me/iTunes Conversations


The scene, earlier today:

Me: That’s it. I’m finally going to do whatever it takes to make iTunes stop showing me episodes of podcasts that I listened to one episode of, once, and never subscribed to.

Ben Franklin’s World podcast: What do you know about the origins of the 11th Amendment? Join us as we explore why the United States added it to its constitution.

Me, nodding: Yes, well-played. Very well-played, that.


For those who don’t remember this one: the 11th Amendment is the constitutional amendment which specifies zzzzzzZZZZZZZZZZ [ falls out of the chair ]

Oof. Sorry there. right. No, the 11th Amendment is an important part of federalism because it guarantees zzsnrrrrZZZ [ falls asleep again, does not wake up until March ]


(PS: the episode is twelve minutes long in its entirely and about half of that is the host explaining how the schedule is changing and they’re trying different formats, so the actual content is maybe five minutes, which I think counts as officially dunking on the 11th Amendment.)

In which I talk back to the clickbait


I am sorry, YouTube clickbait promising the “top ten moments of Transformers The Movie (1986)”, but that would be the entirety of Transformers The Movie (1986). Though I have not seen Transformers The Movie (1986) since college I am certain it is exactly as awesome as I remember and has no segments that are now really embarrassing or painful.

OK, Wheelie was bad. But otherwise every bit of Transformers The Movie (1986) was the greatest thing humanity has ever done, not excepting the extinction of smallpox, Voyager’s “Pale Blue Dot” photograph, and every scene where a Simpsons character gives a false name.

Around the house


So we’ve reached the point where I keep thinking that I see my love’s phone, poised on the edge of every single table, simultaneously. Sometimes on more than one edge of the table. I blame this on how every piece of consumer electronics we buy anymore is a hand-sized black rectangle. The next time we buy an external hard drive it will be absolutely anything that comes in pink and is a hexagon. It doesn’t even have to be a regular hexagon and it can be up to twelve inches on any one side. Hard drive makers, work on this.

Which title is better?


I noticed this documentary while looking over the schedule on Turner Classic Movies:

tcm.com banner describing the movie 'No Maps On My Taps (1978), with the note that it is 'Also known as: No Maps On My Taps'.
TCM does make the documentary, about jazz tap dancing, sound interesting. But do remember that I am a person who finds every documentary and every bit of nonfiction interesting. I would happily watch 65 minutes on the North American Numbering Plan even if it didn’t include rare footage from the 1930s.

What do you think? I get where No Maps On My Taps makes sense as a title for this film, but it’s hard to see where that’s preferable to No Maps On My Taps.

Observed while kind of watching the Star Wars movies today


I had forgotten how much of The Empire Strikes Back is just “people falling off things”. Really a surprise. Movie would have been very different if they had put those rubber grippy-pad things for the shower on the floors. Would be hard on the foley artists, certainly. Yes, yes, Darth Vader’s menace would be undercut by his breathing harmonizing with the sqrk-SQRK-sqrk-SQRRK-sqrrrrk-SQRRK of walking on damp vinyl. But it would be easier on everybody’s knees and, I can say with the authority of someone whose knees would rather not be knees, that would be great.