Also Here’s One of My Dumber Giggles for the Week


So, when I write up these Mary Worth plot recaps I copy out the dubious inspirational quotes first. And to do that I start by copying the last quote from the previous plot recap. And then I delete most of the words from that quote, so I can start typing a new one in just by double-clicking on the one word and typing. This week, this resulted in my getting this ominous declaration from the creator of one of the most beloved comic strips of all time:

Screenshot of a text editor showing a dozen lines all reading ``Don't.'', attributed to Charles Schulz, and given different dates.
I’m sure Charles Schulz said “don’t” at some point in his life, I just suppose it probably wasn’t at one-week intervals like this.

It feels weirdly threatening, like he’s worried I’m thinking about drawing Snoopy’s nephew Stretch or something.

Just So Nobody’s Caught by Surprise at the Solstice


So here in the Northern Hemisphere we’re looking at the summer solstice tomorrow, or today if you’re reading this at the right time, or sometime in the past if you’re reading it after that. Anyway. Please remember that while this is the longest day of the year, it is not the day when sunset comes the latest in the year. This phenomenon may seem confusing if you don’t know this piece of information: Astronomers have always hated drive-in movie operators, and vice-versa. I hope this clears matters up for you.

I’m Late Writing Up Mark Trail This Week, Sorry


Sorry for the delay but things ate up the time I’d have spent writing. It happens.

It’s all unrelated to this, but I wanted to say, you know, this may look funny but it’s actually dangerous. A flock of inflatable flamingoes can skeletonize a tenth-generation Honda Civic hatchback in under two minutes.

Photograph of a car parked in the driveway. Several inflatable flamingo pool rings are around: on the car's hood, on its windshield, on its roof, and a large one behind the car, another.
Did not know flamingos grew up to be double-decker bird toys.

How To Use An Old-Style Rotary Telephone


I mean this as a service for those of younger generations. I don’t mean to tell you how to dial a phone number because that’s not a challenge. The Phone Company, back in the day, worked really hard to make sure people could work out how to use a dial quickly. I mean, there’s a dial with numbers on it, and it’s easy to turn the dial one way and hard to turn it the other. There’s only like two things to try and one of them is “run away from the phone”. Also, every single surviving Boomer has already done a video challenging every single existing Millennial or Gen-Z person challenging them to dial a phone number. So the younger folks have seen how the dialing works and are annoyed their elders keep trying to explain this. What I want to communicate is the hard part. That’s the rules about how to use this dialing power. So here they are, the rules for how you dialed, pre-cell-phone:

  1. Never ever call someone before 8 pm because that’s when the calls got cheaper.
  2. Never ever call someone after 9 pm because calling that late can only mean there’s terrible news.
  3. If you need to phone someone who’s in a different time zone, I’m sorry, we never worked out how to do that without breaking one or both of the other rules. You have to send them a postcard or something.

That’s all the important stuff, though. Oh, oh wait. One more.

  1. If you get the answering machine, they might have some funny message to prompt you, like maybe they say “Hello” and pause and then say, “Gotcha, you’re talking to a machine” or maybe they even bought some music bit, like, a band playing Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony with someone singing “Nobody’s Home” with the melody. In this case you can leave a message but you have to start out by saying how you just hate talking to a machine. I don’t know why, that’s just the rules.

All right, so, that should have you set. Good phoning, next time you’re in like 1988 for some reason.

In Which I Have A Week Of Changing Re-evaluations


I don’t know how much is the appropriate amount to think about famous knock-off movie Ratatoing, but I don’t think I’m far outside the norm. Plus, Nathan Rabin blogged about it a couple days ago, and reading that made me realize: oh, that name is surely not meant to rhyme with “boing”, right? You’re supposed to think rat-at-oo-ing, so it’s even closer to Ratatouille. Rat-a-toing is just wrong. And then I tried watching the movie and it turns out? No, it’s “boing”, just like I thought when I didn’t know anything. So the week’s not even half over and I keep having to re-evaluate everything. Or I can stop thinking about stuff and, it turns out, be okay, just less tired of it all.

In Which I Do My Thinking About Baseball For The Year


Not watching or playing baseball, of course, just thinking about baseball statistics. So I got to looking up World Series and postseason-play droughts from the Major League Baseball teams and, you know? I always think of the Mets as a particularly hapless team because, you know, the Mets. Right? But you know what it turns out? There’s eight teams that have gone longer than the Mets without winning the World Series. They’re not even in the top quartile of World Series winlessnessness. There’s 22 teams with longer streaks of not winning World Serieses. And pennants? The Tigers have three streaks of twenty or more seasons where they didn’t win a penant, and the Red Sox and the White Sox have two each. The Pirates have two streaks of over thirty seasons without a penant. And the Mets? They don’t even have one lousy twenty-year streak without a penant to their name.

So anyway now I’m learning to appreciate how the Mets are somehow particularly hapless at being particularly hapless.

People Are An Ongoing Source Of Social Anxiety, Really


The old-time-radio podcast I listen to most often summoned an episode of Art Linklater’s People Are Funny from the misty depths. If you only know the show from spoofs in cartoons where a beloved character gets challenged to do something daft like footrace Daffy Duck around the world, let me explain: the cartoons are basically correct.

So this episode had a guy who’d win a hundred dollars in prizes if he managed to go up to strangers and give away every one of this bag of frogs. They offered a story he could give as to why he was doing this — he’d caught too many frogs — and drove him to a neighborhood for it. And, just, wow. I mean, I would give Art Linklater a hundred dollars in prizes to not have to go up to strangers and offer them frogs. And that’s in 1952 dollars, when a hundred bucks was enough to buy a car, a house, and controlling interest in the New York, New Haven, and Hartford Railroad. I don’t know how this show ran for a billion years in the 40s and 50s.

In Which I Am Left Thinking


All this recent fuss about whether I lifted something from Dennis Miller’s short-lived early-90s talk show or maybe it was Chevy Chase’s short-lived early-90s talk show has got me thinking about white guys associated with Saturday Night Live’s Weekend update. Spent most of the shower this morning thinking how I remember liking A Whitney Brown back in the day and hoping he hasn’t gone off and turned horrible in the meanwhile. Please don’t tell me if he has. I don’t want to know.

In Which I Am Terror-Stricken


Woke up in the middle of the night, first to a very complicated dream where we visited an old house and the new owners had taken all the sinks and bathtubs out of the bathrooms, but left the water running and you were supposed to use them to wash up anyway even though, like, there was a bare counter with a small hole for a sink, or a rattan sofa under the shower head. Never mind. I also had the thought: wait, did I lift that “The Case For/The Case Against” format from Dennis Miller’s early-90s talk show after all? Or did I in fact lift it from Chevy Chase’s early-90s talk show instead? I can imagine either one of them reeling off lines in that format, so there’s no way to tell. I guess ask them, in case I have to make small talk with Dennis Miller and/or Chevy Chase, but what are the odds of that?

In Which I Realize Two Horrible Things About That Pairwise Brackety Contest


This week I realized two things resulting about my March Pairwise Brackety Contest Thing. The first is that I just lifted the “Case For/Case Against” presentation format from Dennis Miller’s short-lived early-90s talk show, where doing comparisons that way was a recurring bit. He didn’t have the specific element of putting pairs of things against one another, but still, the idea of listing a good thing and a bad thing about a thing? Totally his thing.

Also, this means that I remember something else about Dennis Miller’s early-90s talk show, bringing the number of things I remember about it up to like … four? Five? Anyway, more than anyone who isn’t Dennis Miller or his biographer needs to have on hand.

Statistics Saturday: Some Last Places To Look


  • Behind the end table
  • On the side board, behind the clock
  • /Documents/Misc/Unsorted/Old/Miscellaneous/Salvaged From Old Machine/Temp
  • The mayonnaise shelf
  • Underneath all the hats in the closet
  • No, the mayonnaise shelf in the pantry, not the mayonnaise shelf in the fridge
  • Wichita, Kansas
  • Underneath the passenger-side seat
  • How about the other linen closet?
  • No, the other … the linen closet in the other bedroom
  • The other bedroom, the bedroom that isn’t … look, how long have you lived here anyway?
  • The first place you looked, only upside-down this time

Reference: The Fear Planet and Other Unusual Destinations, Robert Bloch.

Oh Wait, Now I’m in Trouble


I thought I had one more day left in the March Pairwise Brackety Contest Thing and I was getting all ready to work on acetylcholinesterase versus a topic I hadn’t picked yet. I was sure about the acetylcholinesterase, though. I bet you know why, too. It’s because it does such great stuff with neurotransmission. And also I swear I read somewhere that there’s this neat medical mystery where the body produces a lot of acetylcholinesterase. More than you’d think. Like, I don’t know how much acetylcholinesterase you figure the body makes in a day, but more than that. And it gets rid of it too, and the thing I remember reading said we aren’t sure exactly how the body makes and disposes of so much of the stuff. Only maybe it wasn’t acetylcholinesterase, but some other neurotransmitter instead? Or neurotransmitter-related chemical? Anyway I can’t find it and I can’t think of how to go searching for it without DuckDuckGo concluding there’s something wrong with me. And I thought bringing it up as a pairwise contest was my best bet to have someone tell me what I was talking about and whether whatever I read this in was even the slightest bit correct. And now that chance is lost, at least until next March. Too bad!

March Pairwise Brackety Contest Thing: The Last Matchup: The letter G vs Bodies


The letter G

The Case For: Its design, especially the lowercase, in typefaces where it’s two ovals connected by a descender? Just gorgeous.

The Case Against: Creeping in on consonant work that ‘J’ could be doing.

Bodies

The Case For: Allow one to experience comforting showers, large bowls of brothy soup, putting on new socks, and having petting-zoo animals lick your cheek.

The Case Against: Pretty much everything else.

March Pairwise Brackety Contest Thing: The Final Pairing: Boxes vs Land


Boxes

The Case For: Low-cost way to create the Halloween costume of “kid wearing boxes, I don’t know, maybe they’re a robot or a washing machine or something”.

The Case Against: Otherwise just a mechanism to turn piles of things into rectangular piles of things.

Land

The Case For: Best way to finish an airplane ride.

The Case Against: Without continuous tending will spontaneously morph into strip malls.

March Pairwise Brackety Contest Thing: The Final Pairing: HTML’s span element vs Pizzicato


HTML’s span element

The Case For: Span, short for ‘spaniel’, lets you add a dog to any web page.

The Case Against: Semantic confusion as this adds any kind of dog, not just spaniels.

Pizzicato

The Case For: Thoroughly fun sound to hear and one of music’s beautiful words to say.

The Case Against: When you’re nine years old and taking violin lessons it hurts your fingers to do.

March Pairwise Brackety Contest Thing: The Last Quartet: Trivia vs $20,090


Trivia

The Case For: Is no better way to know what company Hi from Hi and Lois works for.

The Case Against: Really aren’t any bars or restaurants hosting trivia nights that have a deep enough menu to support going back for a whole season.

$20,090

The Case For: You don’t know anyone whose life wouldn’t be considerably improved for years if they got an unexpected twenty thousand and ninety dollars, like, today.

The Case Against: Still, just think how much even better twenty thousand, one hundred and fifteen dollars would be.

March Pairwise Brackety Contest Thing: The Last Quartet: Old Couches vs Viscosity


Old Couches

The Case For: Are at peace with sitting in weird poses on them.

The Case Against: Feeling of helplessness about the cushion that’s worn down because you always sit on it being right next to the mint-condition cushion that nobody ever sits on.

Viscosity

The Case For: Keeps every beverage from having the same mouth feel.

The Case Against: Is part of how the entropic heat-death of the universe happens, although you can say that about everything really.

March Pairwise Brackety Contest Thing: The Last Quartet: Pangaea vs Beethoven


Pangaea

The Case For: Turns out to be just the most recent supercontinent, not the only one, and they’re looking at making supercontinents again, and isn’t that cool?

The Case Against: Nerds used to say how they would put a “Pangaea Reunification Front” on their desk to make HR send out a memo about not posting political stuff and we were expected to pretend we believed that happened.

Beethoven

The Case For: Has a crater on Mercury named for him.

The Case Against: Only wrote the one opera, which is only one more than I’ve written, and I can’t even write music.

March Pairwise Brackety Contest Thing: The Last Quartet: Dinosaurs vs Quadrilaterals


We’re finally through sixteen March Pairwise Brackety Contest Thing matchups! We’ve reached the stage of The Last Quartet! Got your bets in for who will win?

Dinosaurs

The Case For: Holding up really well to the burden of being the only thing that everybody would like to hear a cool fact about, like, right now.

The Case Against: There’s people trying to tell us T Rexes were just like chickens and that’s not doing T Rexes or chickens any good.

Quadrilaterals

The Case For: Most important part of geometry that also sounds like a muscle group.

The Case Against: Word sounds like you’re too good for rhombuses.

March Pairwise Brackety Contest Thing: Merism vs Blue Jeans


Merism

The Case For: Is the technical name for phrases where you match up opposites to refer to all of a thing, like, “high and low” or “big and small” or “young and old”.

The Case Against: Now that you know that it will never be asked at your Jeopardy! tryout.

Blue Jeans

The Case For: If you wear a pair of them enough they get very comfortable.

The Case Against: There are other genres of pants that are comfortable right away when you buy them.

March Pairwise Brackety Contest Thing: Sesquicentennials vs Protocols


Sesquicentennials

The Case For: Good compromise between centennials and bicentennials.

The Case Against: Does nothing to prepare you for the sestercentennial-versus-semiquincentennial debate, although you do have a hundred years to worry about it.

Protocols

The Case For: Are an essential period for the development of adequate cols.

The Case Against: The cool things are always going against them.

March Pairwise Brackety Contest Thing: Hegelian Synthesis vs the United States of America


Hegelian Synthesis

The Case For: I mean, what else are you going to do with your thesis and antithesis?

The Case Against: Still seems like there should be a new direction to take things, though.

The United States of America

The Case For: Population and land-area leader compared to other generically-named countries like the United Kingdom, South Africa, the Central African Republic, and the United Provinces of the Netherlands.

The Case Against: Everything in the country needs you to fill out a form and yet with all that practice nobody’s any good at bureaucracy.

March Pairwise Brackety Contest Thing: Sycophants vs 24-bit Computing


Sycophants

The Case For: Word turns out to mean “people who tell you where the figs are”.

The Case Against: Is not related the word meaning “people who tell you where the unhealthy elephants are”.

24-bit Computing

The Case For: Represents signed integers of up to 8,388,607 in a single word.

The Case Against: Most implementations are really 16-bit and they just leave the other eight bits in the junk drawer.

March Pairwise Brackety Contest Thing: Godzilla vs The Yukawa Potential


Godzilla

The Case For: Deft, seamless artistic blend of gods and Nilla wafers.

The Case Against: Too whiny anymore to stomp on the pointy skyscrapers around the financial district.

The Yukawa Potential

The Case For: Is so, so good at describing pairwise particle interactions mediated by either a massless or a massed particle.

The Case Against: Is not the name of any noteworthy prog rock band or album.

March Pairwise Brackety Contest Thing: Conventions vs Pop Philosophy


Conventions

The Case For: Allow fans to live the dream of spending several days happy surrounded by people whose names are printed clearly on badges they can glance at quickly so they always know who they’re talking to.

The Case Against: Might also be for work.

Pop Philosophy

The Case For: Helps the lay public discover what’s hard about questions like “how do we know a thing is true” or “what does it mean to say something is a good action” or “is this a well-defined question”.

The Case Against: Which nerds plunder for source material to make tabletop roleplaying games about trolley-based murder engines.

March Pairwise Brackety Contest Thing: Hair vs UCLA


Hair

The Case For: Combines the traits of being dead, growing, and generally considered attractive.

The Case Against: I know I’ve seen the musical on TCM like twice and the only scenes I remember from it are, I believe, actually dim recollections of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

UCLA

The Case For: Generously donated name to Thundarr the Barbarian’s friend, the Mok.

The Case Against: Selfishly refused to grant honorary degree to Ted Knight’s character on Too Close For Comfort even though he drew comic books about a space cow? Was that it? Maybe it was a comic strip? He had a puppet he used to draw, I know that, even though that doesn’t seem like a good way to draw except in a publicity photo.

March Pairwise Brackety Contest Thing: Carols vs Rural Free Delivery


Carols

The Case For: Really nailed a kind of music for Christmas.

The Case Against: Hasn’t been a good April Fool’s Day Carol in, like, forever.

Rural Free Delivery

The Case For: Greatly reduced the cost of delivering rural areas to one other.

The Case Against: Sending cities to one another remains a money pit.

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