Two minivans. At least two families’ worth of kids spilled out into the tiny lot. The adults keep walking back and forth between the cars. The kids are protesting in the way kids brought to a deathly dull adult place will do. One is sitting against a minivan’s rear wheel. Others have taken to doing handstands, even cartwheels. They’re not in danger of cartwheeling into the street. They’re just going back and forth on the sidewalk, or again, between the minivans, while the adults try to shepherd them into the building. I have never been inside it, but I just know it’s a slightly dark room that’s quieter than a noiseless room, decorated with a couple of tables that have those heavy tablecloths you feel bad for spilling stuff on, and while there’s some food the kids are going to be allowed to eat, it’s only one or two things, and it’s something like coconut macaroons that as a child can’t be fit into any known food category. I empathize with every person in this scenario, including the Fine Catering clerk who just wants nobody to cartwheel into anything that that breaks.
So the shop is called Muffler Man and, OK, that’s not a bad start. It lets you know clearly that at this shop you’ll be dealing with a man of some kind, and that he asserts to have some experience dealing with mufflers. That’s all very good stuff because you can trust a company whose name tells you what it does. The only thing that would improve it is if the name also included a location, like, “Lansing Muffler Man” or “Michigan Avenue Muffler Man”, because companies that tell you where they are usually know what they’re trying to do. When a company removes their geographic designator from the name that’s the first sign they’re going into providing services of some kind instead of doing anything useful. And if the name doesn’t mean anything it means they don’t want to do anything either, and if they are good at anything anymore it’s just inertia. They’ll screw it up as soon as they want to improve analysts’ ideas of their stock value. “Muffler Man”? Safe company to deal with. If if were, say, “Asperience”? Will never do anything that leaves you happy.
Thing is, you hear “Muffler Man”, you can’t help thinking that jingle about “Muffin Man”. So: why don’t they embrace that and start having muffins too? I haven’t had any real problems with my mufflers since I stopped buying $1,000 used cars from guys my dad knows. But if Muffler Man were a place to go and hang out and get something like muffins to eat — and I’m open to things in the greater muffin metropolitan area to eat too, such as cake-type brownies — I’d sure hang out there more than I do now. I bet I could find marginal excuses to have my muffler … looked at or whatever it is car repair people do with mufflers. The possibility is right there; what’s wrong with society that we’re not taking it?
Like I warn, though, this is just about making what’s already perfectly fine a little bit better. Muffler Man is not at all screwed up, as it is. I just think there’s more eating could be naturally associated with the experience is all.
I’m busy dealing with a thing at work where something that hasn’t changed in a year-plus and that I didn’t know was being used for anything suddenly stopped working quite right, and looking over the project I can’t figure out how it would ever have been working quite right based on the now not-quite-right scheme. So instead let me share this with you: It’s an Estonian blog dedicated to characterizing all the appearances of pigeons in movies and TV shows. Yes, it includes discussion of the pigeons’ symbolic import and relevance to the plot. You’re welcome.
I was listening to a Flophouse podcast episode that got onto talking about supervillains and how so many supervillains were just making life worse for themselves trying to conquer the world. Why not try selling their super-inventions instead and get rich so their evil will be socially acceptable? And that’s when I realized you could totally make that a supervillain’s backstory. Like, someone invents her army of mind-reading robot soldiers and they try making an honest living on it, and then the companies they sell it to all steal her invention without respecting her patent rights. And then she’s not just got her supervillain science going but also has a logical reason for turning against society and fighting society’s lackey superheroes. And just as I thought I had a great idea for cracking the supervillain motivation problem I realized: I was building a story premise on long-running corporate abuses of patent law. Once again I am reminded of just why everybody kind of had a point treating me like that in middle school. Please forget I said anything and if you can use this idea for your supervillain origin story I will neither sue nor send an army of battle sheep or whatever after you. Promise.
I’d been reading Marcus du Sautoy’s The Number Mysteries: A Mathematical Odyssey Through Everyday Life because I still haven’t decided whether to make an inter-library loan request for Martin Albrow’s Bureaucracy or just to give up on the idea of fun altogether. Or whether I mean David Beetham’s Bureaucracy instead.
Anyway, de Sautoy gets going in a right jaunty chapter about how tea bag shapes were revolutionized in the 1990s when Tetley thought to try “circular” and it was incredibly popular. And PG had to think very hard about a shape not so fusty and old-fashioned as “mostly square I guess”. But the book mentioned part of the design challenge was how long the average British tea-maker left the bag in the hot water. Apparently it’d be as little as twenty seconds, short enough that in the mostly-square-I-guess bags not even all the tea leaves would get wet.
It’s left me stunned. I grew up with the American fashion of making tea, which is to put the bag into the water and leave it there forever. The only reason we ever throw out a mug is because it’s gotten stuffed full of spent tea bags, jammed into a dense mass of compressed diamond-like sourness. But I know that’s extreme. I hadn’t realized that the British way of making tea was so extreme on the other side. It’s left me wondering how tea was ever rationed, back in the day. It seems like even in the heights of wartime and Austerity Britain rationing they could’ve satisfied everyone’s tea tastes by just shipping a cardboard box labelled “tea” with instructions to bump it against the teapot three times before serving.
This is the eternal joy of learning: it makes you realize how little you understand the world.
I’d totally be on top of writing something that amuses at least me today, but I’m sorry. Given the heat I’ve been dealing with my car melting into a puddle of black-with-red-trim goo. It’s a huge hassle, as you might figure, especially given the prevailing tides. The only things that’ve been making it any easier to deal with are that the winds have been calm, making it easier to put up the foam barriers and squeegee much of the car back into some kind of shape, and that I never threw out that Super Extreme Large foam cup I got at the convenience store on a road trip a couple weeks ago, so that a lot of the backseat just fit naturally into the cup I had formerly thrown into the backseat. Anyway, it’s all very time-consuming and stressful and I’m hoping that it cools down before the rain comes because after the trouble when this happened three years ago I don’t want to have to go through reverse-osmosis on my car again. Thanks for understanding.
Before I get to it, here’s my mathematics blog with last week’s comic strips. Thanks.
Now, amusing me is this Reuters article about a kind of fish I never heard of before, the “tubelip wrasse”. It lives in the Indian Ocean and the central-western Pacific, which seems to narrow its existence down to one-eighth of the globe. I suppose that’s enough detail for a news report anyway. It’s not like I was going to go visit them anyway, not without more research. What’s interesting is that it eats corals, which are hard to eat, what with how they’re all coral-y. The secret is in their mouths: they have mouths that let them eat coral, and once you have that, eating coral is easy. Anyway, they have this quote in:
“To our knowledge, this type of lip has never been recorded before,” James Cook University marine biologist David Bellwood said.
It’s a beautiful sentence and I want everyone to take a moment just to admire that. But it’s also a beautiful sentence with this beautiful implication: there’s some record of all the adequately studied lips out there. There are people whose jobs include the task of overseeing and keeping up-to-date some portion of the world’s record of lips. Maybe even someone who oversees all the lip records known to humanity. Suppose there is. Then that is a person who either grew up wanting to be the master of humanity’s record of lips, or else it’s someone whose life went through twists and turns to bring them there. Either way, is anything about this not delightful? No, it is not.
If that were not enough for you, somehow, Víctor Huertas of the James Cook University in Australia offered this detail about the coral-eating process:
“It looks exactly like a quick kiss with a distinctive ‘tuk’ sound,” Huertas said, “often leaving a coral ‘hickie,’ which is actually a patch of flesh sucked off the skeleton.”
Never mind the stuff about flesh ripped off skeletons since that isn’t so jolly as I’d hoped. Think of fish giving hickies to coral and making a little ‘tuk’ sound doing it. You’re welcome.
My love was looking for something and so found something else, which is the way it goes half the time. This was a partial box of birthday candles. Nice ones, too: they’re hand-dipped rainbow candles. My love remembers the only store that sold those boxes and so can date their purchase. They must be 21 years old, and have to have survived being moved at least four times before the handful of remaining candles were put in the Scary Closet and forgotten.
Thing is now we have a problem. What could we ever use these candles for? For that matter, these candles are now over two decades old! At this point we should be throwing a birthday party for the candles, in which case we could make a cupcake and light the candles to celebrate themselves. Sick? Maybe. Also a bit of a busman’s holiday. That could be what really stops us. They’re cute candles, though.
First, a note about my mathematics blog: it’s a thing that exists. Gads, I hate writing all this hype.
So my cold that’s been dominating my whole program of breathing the past week seems to actually be bronchitis and that seems like it’s on the way out. Friday I gave in to the fact I hadn’t finished a sentence since Monday without a coughing fit and went to the urgent care clinic. Their best guess was bronchitis, and prescribed some antibiotics and some cough syrup. The antibiotics were for an ear infection that had caused everything to sound like it was a woodcutter’s axe driven into my brain by a picric acid explosion. The cough syrup was your usual stuff, given in a bottle with instructions to take three times a day for five days, and which after the first day looked already half empty. I’m on day three or four now, depending on whether you count Friday, and it’s still only half empty. I do not know how this works and can only sit there, watching and pondering the bottle’s description of its contents: “a(n) clear, yellow, orange-pineapple-flavored syrup. (Pineapple menthol aroma)” May cause dizziness. I can’t say it’s wrong, just that it reads like they started thinking of words that could describe syrups and didn’t know how to stop. I’m impressed they didn’t end up “a(n) clear, yellow, orange-pineapple-flavored, viscous, revelatory, non-partisan, trouserless, analogue, costumed nighttime, obedient voiceless wet syrup”. Maybe the label was too small.
If the Lansing City Community News demanding that I explain why New York execs are investing in Lansing’s fledgling fashion industry was a start, then this is a continuation. The next week’s installment of the four page “edition” of the Lansing State Journal starts out:
Investors are bringing their millions to Lansing. Here’s why
LANSING – Three multi-million dollar venture capital firms have opened in Greater Lansing in the past six months.
Investors from Ann Arbor and New York have come to invest in businesses started at Michigan State University and even local fashion designers.
The number of early stage investment firms in Greater Lansing now stands at six, on par with the Grand Rapids region.
The question is: Why?
The article goes on to explain there’s a bunch of venture capital firms intersted in Lansing now. There used to not be so many interested, and that was all right, but now there are more, and that’s all right too. What I really spot, though, are the points that Alusheff clearly got a note from someone that they just ran a piece about the fashion industry being invested in and made sure to mention that; and that the headline didn’t bother punctuating the “Here’s why” even though it’s so close to the period at the end of the first sentence. I’m not going to be staying up all night worrying about that now that I’ve seen it! Ha ha!
So for once I don’t have something to say from the pages of the local alt-weekly. I’ve got something from the pages of the main-weekly. I mean, the Lansing City Community News, which is four pages of human-interest articles indifferently ripped from the Lansing State Journal and wrapped around a bunch of coupons for stuff we have never needed but go through every week just in case. The big headline for last weekend’s issue was:
Why are New York execs investing in Lansing’s fledgling fashion industry?
I’ve rarely felt so threatened by a free four-page weekly newspaper I don’t really read. I worry I have to have an answer. What if the Community News editor spots me on the street, pushes me to the ground, and sits on my chest, demanding, “Well? Why are New York execs investing in Lansing’s fledgling fashion industry? Huh? Better have an answer, mister!” And I’ll just sit there, sputtering. “I don’t know! I have nothing to do with Lansing’s fledgeling fashion industry! I don’t even know any New York execs! I went to college with someone who’s an editor for the Hollywood Reporter, I think, but that’s it! I don’t know!” And then he’ll threaten to stuff my mouth full of coupons for dollar store Frozen-brand expanding towels and Finley’s Grill and Smokehouse.
So I was enjoying some of my light early-summer reading, Carl B Boyer’s The History of the Calculus and its Conceptual Development, 1939’s feel-good hit of the mathematical history book trade. And early on in the second chapter he had this:
Pythagorean deduction a priori having met with remarkable success in its field, an attempt (unwarranted, it is now recognized) was made to apply it to the description of the world of events, in which Ionian hylozoistic interpretations a posteriori had made very little headway.
Well, I mean, good grief, how did Dr Boyer even figure that sentence was needed? Is there anyone who goes around saying, “boy, but the Ionian hylozoistic interpretation a posteriori is a fantastic description of the world of events”? We’re not savages. My father — Dad, back me up on this one — I remember sitting me down, before he ever took us up to see Santa Claus at Macy’s in Manhattan for the first time, pointing out the unwarranted nature of applying Pythagorean deduction to the world of events. I don’t even know who those parentheses are for. It’s like he has no conception of his audience. Ionian hylozoistic interpretations, sheesh!
Won’t fib; the computer problems threw my week for an even bigger mess than I expected. I’m just now getting to the point I think I have my photograph library in order. And that’s none too soon because there’ve been big developments with that auto care place down the street having some massive relationship drama through its sign board. Just wait and see! In the meanwhile here’s this past week’s bunch of mathematics-themed comic strips. I hope to have stuff kind of normal-ish soon, once I’ve got settings and options and updates and missing programs set up. In the meantime:
Man but the iTunes interface sucks.
I know this is going to be my most controversial list ever but I must report what is true.
- Mallard Fillmore.
- Those Sunday Pearls Before Swine strips where it’s 40 panels of endless word balloons to set up the characters in the last panel telling the cartoonist he should get a real job instead of writing puns.
- Any strip trying to do the “Who’s On First” routine with band names that hasn’t noticed the whole premise crashes when you remember they’re The Who, and for that matter The Guess Who.
- Any strip doing its own version of I Am The Very Model Of The Modern Major-General. Also any non-comic-strip doing its own version of I Am The Very Model Of The Modern Major-General. We have all that we need for what we’ve been doing.
- Zack Hill.
- Any strip that’s zinging Modern Art and how it’s all these non-representational paintings and display fixtures that look like clutter.
So my love mentioned that one of the special Patreon-subscribers-only episodes of bad-books podcast I Don’t Even Own A Television reviewed a modern Hardy Boys book. It’s one where the Hardy Boys investigate the local hip-hop scene. And you remember the DMV sloth in Zootopia smiling? That stuff happens in real life too. My love told me about this Wednesday and I’m still only in the first half of that smile. And I think, the more you think about it, the more you’re going to start smiling and keep on smiling even through the day as it is. You’re welcome!
Oh, yeah, something else from the power failure the other day. Whoever owns the house across the street has been having a lot of work done on it, and the other day the workers were going on until pretty well in the night and even after dark, we guess to make up for lost time while the weather’s still good. I wouldn’t be doing stuff on the top of ladders like that after dark, not without more spotlights than our neighborhood supports.
And this has me annoyed because I wanted to describe the action, and all I had that was right was “the roofers were roofing the roof” and that makes it sound like I don’t know how to … wordificate … things and stuff. And it’s not my fault! Somehow we as a society thought of “people who build or repair roofs” and decided they’re called “roofers” and the activity they do is “roofing”, because, what, we were ambushed on camera about the subject and now we’re stuck with the first thing that popped into our heads? All right, we have bigger problems to deal with, but can we put this one on the list? This is one we ought to be able to fix.
Sorry, I’m still thinking about that beach that went missing from an Ireland shore thirty years ago and popped back in last month. Like, where do you imagine it went all that time? I understand if it took a vacation, especially if it had been there since the glaciers retreated and knew it might be forever until a glacier comes back. But where does a beach go on vacation? Another beach? Sure, I understand hanging out with a friend. But that’s going to be a terrible holiday. It would keep having people trod out onto it in flip-flops and lugging baskets of things and have to explain, “No no, mate, I’m here for the same thing you are,” and point to its friend that it’s standing on.
Maybe it could go the mountains? That would be fine, nobody would go out for a beach expedition to the Swiss Alps, say. It couldn’t go skiing, what with people getting all tense around avalanches and rockslides and that. But sitting around a chalet, sipping cocoa? That’s great, until the rescuers dig the chalet out from itself. I don’t know about you; I don’t think having heavy machinery clawing at my backside until a path is dug from me to the emergency exit would be fun. Different strokes, though, I must admit.
Maybe it did a museum tour. That would make sense to me. The beach was gone for thirty years, after all, and I’ve spent that much time in some museums. I’ve had — and I am not exaggerating this in the slightest — museum docents come up and sheepishly ask me if I thought I might be near the end of my examinations of things, as the museum had technically speaking closed forty-five minutes earlier.
I bet that’s it. We should ask the museums of the world if any of them had a beach come by and just stay poking around a painting or a diorama for up to 358 months past closing time.
Reuters had this article:
A beach that was swept away more than 30 years ago from a remote island off the west coast of Ireland has reappeared after thousands of tons of sand were deposited on top of the rocky coastline.
The 300 meter beach near the tiny village of Dooagh on Achill Island vanished in 1984 when storms stripped it of its sand, leaving nothing more than a series of rock pools.
But after high spring tides last month, locals found that the Atlantic Ocean had returned the sand.
I did not realize the world was so very much the waiting cycle for a Popeye-at-the-beach cartoon from the early 50s.
Also, wow, I’m thinking first of the person who thirty years ago went down to the beach after the storm and saw it was gone. How would you go telling people about that? And then this year the person who went down to the sea side just in case and found it was back.
If it came back this year, I mean. I mean, wouldn’t it be a kicker if it turned out the beach had popped back in like two months after it was first washed away, but by then nobody was checking because everyone knew the beach was gone? Or if someone did, like, ten years ago walk along it and see the beach there but figured that must not be the beach that had gone that everyone was talking about since there it was. Or worse, the person did tell folks about it, but everyone figured that was just crazy talk and didn’t even go looking and now the whole town has to admit, “Yeah, you told us so”. There’s just so many ways this could be awkward. I’m fascinated, right up until I think about something else.
If you don’t care, maybe you might look at my mathematics blog since I had a couple of activity puzzles included in the roster of comic strips there this week.
Now I know everyone’s interested in whatever drama is going on with the auto care place up the street. If you’re just joining us, I’m pretty sure the auto care place up the street is caught in an Ashleigh Brilliant-esque state of cheerful despair, and possibly communicating a nasty breakup through its signboard. Anyway, for about two months or so it was the neutral-enough “The Best Way To Predict Your Future Is To Make It”. And this past week we’ve gotten this:
Is the auto care place trying to send word to its ex-friend that, angry as they both are after the breakup, it is open and amenable to reconciliation and that any gesture of good will would be met kindly and without bitter, blame-casting comments? I don’t know, so here’s the rabbit statue in our garden getting ready to punch a tulip.
Thank you for reading.
I didn’t discover this part, but my mathematics blog did a couple more comic strips yesterday. I would have posted that tomorrow, but I had other stuff that I wanted to take up that space. I might even post it yet.
Anyway, while last week’s issue of the local alt-weekly didn’t have a New In Town article to let me know what bars are opening, it did have the list of what bands are performing nearby. So now I know that whoever’s been booking acts for The Loft got sloppy about covering up how they’re also working for Moriarty’s Pub. Or else we had three musical acts lived that sitcom premise of having to cover two gigs at the same time in places that aren’t even next to each other. I hope they figured out where they should be and when. Also I hope they foiled international spies or something along the way because part of me still thinks the world should work like 1970s Hanna-Barbera cartoons.
Also if it seems like we have a lot of Reno’s in town yeah, it kind of does. We also have a lot of Tin Can Bars, it seems like, but they don’t have shows I guess. Nothing like we have Biggby Coffee shops, mind you. But nobody has as many of those as we have, not even us.