Statistics Saturday: February 2017 In Review


1: 11. 2: 10. 3: 1. 4: 1. 5: 1. 6: 1. 7: 1. 8: 1. 9: 1.
You don’t want to know how many times I counted this over in my head while working this out in the shower. OK, it’s a number starting with ‘3’.

Source: Time’s Pendulum: The Quest to Capture Time — From Sundials to Atomic Clocks, Jo Ellen Barnett.

1: 3. 2: 3. 3: 3. 4: 3. 5: 3. 6: 3. 7: 3. 8: 3. 9: 2. 0: 2.
You don’t want to know how many times I counted this over in my head while working this out in the shower. OK, it’s a number ending with ‘3’. Don’t think I didn’t keep going back and forth about whether to put ‘0’ at the start or the end.

Source: Advertising and the Transformation of American Society, 1865 – 1920, James D Norris.

Sunday: 4. Monday: 4. Tuesday: 4. Wednesday: 4. Thursday: 4. Friday: 4. Saturday: 4.
You don’t want to know how many times I counted this over in my head while working this out in the shower. OK, it was ‘1’. But I’m still thinking whether I should have redone this to put a border around the plot like I did above and don’t think that isn’t going to bother you from here on in.

Source: Labor and Capital In 19th Century Baseball, Robert P Gelzheiser.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

Two more points up and we’re still attributing this to the new pens even though we lost one somehow between setting it down on the table and then getting out a pad of paper and sitting at the table and how does that even make sense? Well, still. New pens. And we have them.

107

In Which It Turns Out I’m Just A Fool Who Got Fooled, Foolishly


So the other day I mentioned the English sport of competitively dancing while the opposing team throws a beer-soaked rag at you and I supported that by linking to Wikipedia’s entry about the English sport of competitively dancing while the opposing team throws a beer-soaked rag at you. There I figured the matter rested, since England has all sorts of things to do and they will include things like hitting each other on purpose. Also I swear I saw this show where there was a football match that had gone on at a public school for over a century now without either team scoring or being expected to score, but I can’t find the reference now and for all I know somebody’s gone and scored.

Anyway, my love came across this and figured that can’t possibly be. And then went and actually read the article and came to the conclusion that it didn’t make any sense, and the more you looked at it the less sense it made. And read the citations, all of which made very little sense and the less the more you looked at them. And the comments, which in the least sensible thing of all, don’t make the reader despair of the concept of humanity.

So there we have it. The whole thing looks to be a hoax, more or less. At least, it started out as a prank perpetrated for the comedy show It’s A Square World and it’s sort of stumbled on from there. I should have known, since the whole of England is pretty much a prank that got going so successfully that sometime around when they pulled the “Parliament of Bats” and nobody called them on it they realized they were stuck holding an actual country. I suppose dancing while the opposing team throws a beer-soaked rag at you isn’t likely to have such far-reaching global implications. Still, I feel a fool for not going and actually checking and I can only thank my love for showing where I was fooled. It was called the Parliament of Bats because attendees weren’t allowed to take their swords in with them, not because they were small flying mammals, which is all the more shame.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

New pen day! It’s new pen day! Everybody has new pens and they’re feeling so good that even thought we called off work early the index was up something or other, who cares, it’s new pen day and everything can be all right with the world!

105

From The February 2017 Scraps File


As often happens, free to a good home. Text is not guaranteed to be free of mites because, hey, free mites! You know?

I’m rotten at choosing clothes. You can judge that from the slightly pained but amused look on my love’s face when it becomes obvious that once again I’ve dressed myself. If you can’t see my love’s face, I’m sorry that you’re missing such a fine experience. But instead look at any picture of people from the 70s or 80s and identify the person wearing the most regrettable outfit. I’ve worn that as recently as Tuesday. I don’t care. They’re clothes and I’m happy to wear them. — Cut from something or other I was writing about clothes because I realized it was a topic I’d already done a couple time already recently. Warning: this is really only useful by you if you dressed in spectacularly bad fashion in the 70s and 80s and have overcome it by looking at how much my love winces at you today.

The Wikipedia statement: “The Tasmanian rainforest is considered a Gondwanan relic.” — I know, I’ve put this out before, and taken it back in before too. I keep thinking I could do something with this because it’s got so many nice features. I mean, it even has “Gondwana” right there in a prominent, easy-to-notice spot. But then I try tucking it into the middle of a piece and I realize I’ve got nothing. It’s a shame, I tell you. Please especially let me know if you get something going with this.

I was easy to track anyway because I was watching Land of the Lost. — Cut from some piece or other that was getting all autobiographical because I’m still easy to find and for the same reasons. I’m talking about the 70s show because the 90s show was just embarrassing. I mean, they had a treehouse, cool enough, but the also had a truck? How are you supposed to believe they’re roughing it when they’re stomping around a lost, timeless world in a truck? Ooh, they only have the four CDs that happened to be in the glove compartment to listen to? That’s not roughing it, that’s a Kampgrounds of America weekend. Also there’s one episodes where the Sleestak gain the power to turn the dad of the 90s Show family into a turtle. The family turns him back at the end, but there’s never any explanation why the Sleestak can’t do that again, or why the rest of the show isn’t just a constant tug-of-war between the pro-turtle-dad and anti-turtle-dad forces. Maybe it is. I haven’t watched all the episodes. I just think the power to turn dads into turtles is a universe-breaking possibility. We don’t talk about the movie.

Literally. — Trimmed from the follow-up to any joke I’ve made in which I describe what actually is in a silly way. I’m coming to accept that it doesn’t make the joke better if I dare people to go check that I did my research and things really are like that. It also doesn’t help if I want to remind them that I did some clever bit of wordplay, like the way I used “fashion” in explaining the first clip up there. See? You maybe were faintly amused without knowing why when you ran across it, and now that I’ve gone and emphasized it, you like me as a person less. Maybe you even like the concept of me less. I should cut this entire paragraph except then I have to put this paragraph back in the scraps file lest I break the rules of blog-scrap-file sharing!

An earnest young woman who starts out by declaring that you’re all lesbians, and did revelation that blow your mind? No? Maybe you didn’t hear it enough. Is your mind blown now? Perhaps if she restates her thesis and supports it with how she and her girlfriends will go to movies. In short, lesbians. — Cut from open-mike night because they had too many people signed up and as she was ready to go on stage someone from the Chinese restaurant next door came over with a basket of eggrolls and passed them out because that’s just the sort of thing that happens, somehow, as if that were perfectly normal? Weird.

Pardon me, please. — Cut from every time this past month I said “pardon me, please” to someone I was trying to get around, apparently, based on how I couldn’t politely get around someone and instead had to plough zamboni-like through them. I don’t know, maybe it was just a bad February or something. Don’t mind me.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index rose like thirteen percent today and don’t think we aren’t all pleased as punch about that. We mean Fanta Zero Fruit Punch flavor from the Freestyle Coke machine that the person in line ahead of us at Wendy’s took way too long to understand.

103

Snip, Snap


My love discovered on Wikipedia the old English game of snap-dragon (“also known as snapdragon”), and it’s a bundle of wonderful things. The game, apparently, was one in which you poured brandy into a wide, shallow bowl, set it on fire, and then try to grab raisins out of the brandy. Only a cheater would fail to put raisins in. And yes, you might get burned, but that’s … I guess that’s the dragon part of things. It was popular from about the 16th through the 19th centuries, which reminds us that was also the height of competitive shin-kicking. Which is not even my joke but was part of the Cotswold Olimpick Games alongside beating each other with cudgels. Also competitive dancing while the opposite team throws a beer-soaked rag at you.

Anyway, there’s a lot that’s wonderful about the article so I recommend you read it yourself. If you can’t be bothered, fine, but do please enjoy this low-scale edit war playing out in tossing a heap of sentences onto each other and sprinkling [citation needed] tags on the opponent’s pieces:

Nevertheless, children often burnt their little hands or mouths playing this game,[21] which may have led to the practice mostly dying out in the early 20th century.[citation needed] In some families, this tradition continues to be practiced and enjoyed even into the 21st century.[citation needed]

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index rose six points today when traders looked in on TrekBBS and discovered how many people are honestly, sincerely concerned for the actor who played Kes on Star Trek: Voyager. She’s been going through some rough times and had some legal trouble and it looks like she’s getting through it and it’s just really heartwarming to see how many people care and wish her well and, you know, for everything that’s wrong with the world right now, people worrying about the person who played Kes is the sweet sort of thing we need.

91

Some Myths about Carrots


  • Carrots are good for the eyes. Myth started by the British during World War II as cover for radar’s abilities to detect airplanes.
  • Carrots are good for the ears. Myth started by the British during World War I as cover for sonar’s abilities to detect submarines.
  • “Carrot” the plant is the same word as “carrot” the vegetable. These are etymologically completely separate words that happen to be spelled alike, much like “bear” the animal and “bear” meaning to-put-up-with, that were merged in the one act of simplifying English that anyone was ever able to agree on.
  • Carrots are good for the sense of touch. Myth started by the British during the Franco-Prussian War just in case they had to get involved and needed cover for their long-stick technologies.
  • Carrots are naturally orange. They were bred to be orange; in their natural state they are polka-dotted.
  • Carrots are good for the sense of taste. Myth started by the British immediately after the Battle of Austerlitz because apparently you can get Germans at war to believe anything about carrots.
  • Carrots are kind of long, tapered candle-shaped things. They are actually five-dimensional spheres and this is just how they appear projected into our three-dimensional Euclidean space.
  • Carrots are good for the smell. Myth started by the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War because they wanted in on this fun too as long as they had to deal with Hessians.
  • Carrots have never started forest fires. Well, often myths have an element of truth to them. In fact carrots have never put out forest fires, but not for want of trying.
  • It’s interesting whether Mel Blanc liked carrots or not. He was an actor hired to play someone who liked carrots.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index dropped nearly ten percent in trading due to panic from the discovery that the DVR has suddenly stopped recording The Price Is Right and nobody knows how to get it through its head that these are so new episodes that it should be recording.

85

Caption This: Or As Picard Knows This Stuff, Tuesday


I talked some more about mathematically-themed comic strips on the other blog and there you go. I’m not figuring on doing another of these reviews this week so that’s your big chance to read what I have to say about Bud Blake’s Tiger. Well, I think that’s worth doing. Meanwhile as I sit and think up other things to write here’s my usual sort of Next Generation captioning stuff and you’re invited to participate.

Two Picards walking into the shuttle bay, the way pairs of Picards will.
Really, how many times did they come up against duplicates or clones or lost twins or whatnot of the original crew? Is there anyone besides Counsellor Troi who didn’t meet themselves at least once? Also: didn’t Counsellor Troi have advanced training in psychology or whatever her mental-health specialty is? Shouldn’t we be calling her Doctor Troi?

Picard: What the — oh, jeez. No. Not another one of these. No. Shan’t do it. You all deal with your own spacetime anomaly clone alternate-timeline nonsense without me.

Picard: And that goes double for me!

Picard: No, now you’re just encouraging them!

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index dropped today amidst rumors first that actor Bill Pullman had died and then accusations that the person who’d mixed him up with actor Bill Paxton, who had just died, was doing that bit about not being able to tell the two apart. She insists no, she honestly and sincerely just mixed them up and is sorry for the confusion and for

94

What’s Going On In Gasoline Alley?


I, too, thought I was done with story strips. And then I realized I’d forgot one. And what a one to forget: it’s, I believe, the oldest syndicated comic strip that isn’t in perpetual reruns. Coming to us from the 24th of November, 1918, it’s …

Gasoline Alley.

If you know anything about Gasoline Alley you don’t need me to tell you anything about Gasoline Alley. It’s one of those comic strips that’s been around forever even though the last child to grow up enthusiastically reading it went on to fight in King Philip’s War. Have to admit, a someone who only started paying attention to it in adulthood, the kids are missing something. That something is a lot of old-time radio references. I honestly wonder how artist/writer Jim Scancarelli wasn’t hired to draw the Lum and Abner comic strip.

So the comic strip is a slice-of-life serial comic. Its big gimmick, and the thing that’s let it last nearly a century, was the day in 1922 when protagonist Walt Wallet discovered the orphan Skeezix on his doorstep. Since then most of the characters in the strip have aged more or less in real time. People get born, they grow up, they move off, they move back, they marry, they have careers, they bring new people into the strip, they retire. The whole cast is impossibly vast and interconnected in ways that only Garry Trudeau’s Doonesbury compares to.

Walt Wallet is still around, even though the progression of time makes him something like 115 years old. I imagine Scancarelli is a little too sentimental to kill the comic’s original star, even if there have been like four whole generations of plausible lead characters since then. He doesn’t even have to kill Walt. Scancarelli embraces a bit of magic whimsy in the comic (a lot, really), and one of the conceits is the Old Comics Home. It’s the boarding house for all the characters from the classic old comic strips. They have a visit every year or so. I can’t imagine anyone objecting if Walt, and maybe Skeezix too, were to pay their annual visit to Mutt and Jeff and Buster Brown and Smokey Stover or whoever and just … not come back.

But Walt Wallet does come back. And the current storyline, begun the 16th of January, stars him. He’s inspired by a newspaper advertisement offering “big bucks for your inventions”. After several days sleeping on it he has an inspiration. It’s a combination freezer-fridge-stove-grill-microwave-TV, the sort of thing you might create as a dubiously practical all-in-one contraption for a 60s sitcom. Wallet admits he got the idea from thinking about how in Dick Tracy the B.O. Plenty clan had a stove with a built-in TV set. I don’t know that this actually happened, but I believe it. Scancarelli shows a love for this particular kind of pop culture. He is not so reference-crazy as the actual current staff of Dick Tracy, but then neither is the writing staff of Family Guy. Still, he could hold his own in a highly referential conversation with them.

'Isn't this the invention of a lifetime? A combination freezer, fridge, stove, grill, and microwave! Well! Aren't you going to say anything?' 'I'm speechless!'

Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley for the 30th of January, 2017. There’s an optional TV also. No, it isn’t connected to the Internet, because there is no non-ridiculous reason to connect your refrigerator to the Internet. Will say that’s a pretty good example diaram considering so far as I know Wallet hasn’t been trained in graphic design and he’s also older than graphic design.

Wallet’s idea underwhelms Skeezix and his nurse. But he attracts the attention of Gasoline Alley TV’s Shark Bait. So he goes to the TV studio to pitch his idea — or really the novelty of a 115-year-old inventor — to the jury of millionaire investors. He gets to the studio and meets, who else but Frank Nelson.

You know Frank Nelson. OK, you know that guy on The Simpsons who goes YYYyyyyyyyyeeeeeess? That’s Frank Nelson they’re impersonating there. He appeared in a lot of Jack Benny Program episodes as the clerk or ticket-taker or information desk guy or anyone at all that Benny would have to get information from. And he’d instead get “YYYyyyyyyyyeeeeeess” and “OOooOOOoooh” and insults. This may sound like thin stuff, but, again: character actor. And done for one or two minutes a week, two weeks a month, the character doesn’t exactly get old. It gets familiar, the way a fun running gag does. Frank Nelson’s reappeared in Gasoline Alley to torment Walt Wallet because, like I said, Jim Scancarelli’s an old-time radio fan. The comic probably reads fine if you have no idea what’s being referred to here. If you know how the lines should be read, I imagine they’re funnier.

But I don’t know what it reads like to someone who doesn’t get the references. Scancarelli likes them, and will keep making them. Even if they’re a little baffling. A while back he introduced Molly Ballou, radio reporter. Who’s carefully introduced as the sister to Wally Ballou, famously mis-cued reporter for Bob and Ray. And shortly after that he introduced Polly Ballou, Wally and Molly’s other sister. I understand wanting to do a little Bob and Ray fanfic because who would not? And it’s simple professionalism to do it with your own character, because that way, if you screw up nobody’s qualified to tell you you’re wrong. (Frank Nelson’s appearances have, I believe, avoided coming right out and naming him, allowing for some deniability if the character goes completely wrong. At the cost of confusing people who realize there’s a reference to something here that they don’t have enough stuff to Google.)

But why make them Wally Ballou’s improbably young-looking sisters? In the comic strip that defined “comic strip that passes more or less in real time”? Why not make them his daughters, or granddaughters? And why Molly and Polly, when it seems like one would do? Maybe it’s pure self-indulgence. As cartoonist self-indulgences go this seems quite tolerable to me. Or maybe I just like that I get the references.

'Uh, excuse me! Where do you want me to go?' 'Oooh! I'd love to tell you ... but I can't.' 'Why not?' 'This is a family newspaper!'
Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley for the 20th of February, 2017. Fine, call it a dumb old joke. It was my best laugh of the day from the comics. Also I hadn’t thought of it before but now I realize Scancarelli could totally slip in Harold “The Great Guildersleeve” Peary in too. He’s got the basic design down.

So, as of this week, Walt Wallet’s gotten onto Shark Bait. It’s going out live because Gasoline Alley TV just does that. You can roll with it or you can read something else, okay? There’s an odd bit of confusion in the show’s opening about whether the jury is a panel of millionaires or billionaires and that might be a hint there’s some mischief up. I make no predictions for how it’ll resolve except that at the end of it Walt Wallet will not be a millionaire. The strip doesn’t break reality that much, plus, think of the biographies of every inventor you know. How many of then end with “died in poverty after long court fights with the companies that ripped off his/her patents”? Yeah.

This is the storyline running Monday through Saturday. On Sundays the comic strip runs separate gags. They’re usually one-off panels, not connected to any storyline. And they’re usually the sort of big dumb old-school sketch comedy stuff that was old when old-time radio was new. And Scancarelli draws it in this warm, friendly, very gentle style. It works for me. I like that kind of comedy. Don’t know that it communicates today.

'I'm the Genie of the Lamp! I'll grant you 3 wishes for letting me out!' 'Can I have 10 billion dollars?' 'Your wish is my command!' 'How about world peace?' 'Easier done than said! What's next? This is your last wish! It better be a good one!' 'Make me lose 200 pounds and look like I did when I was 20!' 'Gad-zooks, man! I don't have that kind of power! I'm only a genie!'
Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley for the 5th of February, 2017. The typical sort of Sunday business for Gasoline Alley. Since the joke is old, take the chance to look at the art. This is some pretty lively stuff, especially considering the scene is just two characters talking and would play just as well without any visuals. There’s not enough good art on the comics pages; good on Scancarelli for insisting on it in his work.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index fell eight points following uncertainty as to which of the paczki is the strawberry and which is the red raspberry. This might have been weathered but similar doubts were raised regarding the blueberry and the prune ones.

98

Statistics Saturday: Your Local TV News Bloopers


Can't pronounce city council person's name; That was NOT the video they intro'd; Nobody knew that animal was ready to poop; Spotlight just burned out; On-the-scene reporter didn't hear the toss; So that's today's Chroma-Key color, huh?; Turns out the mike was still on.
Not pictured: There’s some kind of buzzer that nobody can make stop, because there’s no making a picture of a sound.

Source: Drawing the Head and Figure, Jack Hamm.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

That’s right, the index did not change one tiny bit! It’s just one of those weird coincidences! Nothing suspicious happened and we certainly did not knock the index over and hastily glue it back together before anyone could come in and check! Ha ha!

106

Rather Than Asking Funky Winkerbean What The HECK Is Wrong With You


I mean, I want to. Tom Batiuk’s Funky Winkerbean is somehow in the second week of a story in which Funky Winkerbean tries to renew an expired driver’s license. And if that seems like not much of a storyline consider that Batiuk has decided to see just how big a jerk Funky can possibly be during it. Or possibly how big an idiot. Anyway it’s left me seething with rage and so I’m going to turn to more productive stuff like the mathematically-themed comics on my other blog and, oh, I don’t know. Here’s a screen grab from the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Heart of Glory”, known as “that one from the first season where we started thinking maybe the show could be good after all”.

Worf and two guest Klingons of the week standing in sickbay over the body of a dead guest Klingon of the week. All but the dead one are howling at the boom mike.
Boy, I feel bad for the extra caught in this shot leaning against the water cooler. Awkward!

o/` Be-el-ze-bub has a devil put aside!
For me …
For Meeee …
FOR MEEEEEEEEEE! o/`

If you want to put in your own different caption here, please, go ahead.

Thanks, all. Boy am I angry at Funky Winkerbean.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index rose one point in trading described as “partly cloudy” and with “smatterings of applause”. We have no explanation for what this should mean.

106

What You Missed At Open-Mike Night


  • The announcements on the event board that it was going to be open-mike night until someone went up on stage and said, “check, check one, check one” and then left, ninety minutes before the event started.
  • Someone who thought he was signing up for karaoke night. But who was game for this and did his best by pulling up The Bangles’ Walk Like An Egyptian on his phone and singing along to it until two-thirds of the way through when the phone crashed.
  • An excessively long anecdote that might be personal. But the central premise is that it’s a very funny thing to suppose that grandmothers might be on Facebook, and even moreso that it would be hilarious that they might get snarky at one another when talking about their grandkids over what seems like a minor misunderstanding to start with.
  • A singer who’s really working hard on getting this “I say”/“You say” call-and-response going, even though the audience somehow doesn’t seem able to quite get what they’re supposed to say back. It’s hard to pin down blame except that he seems to be rallying pride for the vaguely-defined neighborhood that ends about two blocks over from the bar and that the audience has only vague impressions of. “Isn’t that where they have all the hot tub showrooms?” asks someone leaning over from the nearly functional Getaway pinball machine. Did you even notice there was a second hot tub showroom? Be honest.
  • Oh, Lord, someone workshopping a bit for their comedy troupe and they’re interviewing a Folkmanis raccoon puppet about Donald Trump’s tax returns. Cute voice on the raccoon. Good puppet work.
  • Another fellow who figured to make this into karaoke night since that worked nearly right for the first person. So he pulls up the theme to Transformers on his phone and after the very long intro discovers he’s somehow got the Spanish-language version, which is a thing that it turns out exists? He laughs and retreats, head under his arms, into the corner until he comes back and just pantomimes like he’s Tom Jones to this whole thing.
  • Guy straddling the line between a rant and a comedy bit about how the promise of genetic engineering was how it was going to let us turn into werewolves and dinosaurs and cool stuff like that. But now it’s here and what is it about? Doing stuff to Progresso Lentils-with-Vegetable soup that’s so boring they can’t even bring themselves to specify what it is on the labels. He’s got something there.
  • Progreso Lentil with Roasted Vegetables soup. Partially Produced with Genetic Engineering.
    Yes, the label says now that its exchanges are good for 1 Starch and 1 Vegetable, but analysts expect it’ll rise to 1.15 Starch and 1.05 Vegetable after the quarterly earnings report comes out so rebalance your portfolio appropriately. Also: Raisin Juice Concentrate? This is a thing?
  • They’re going to take a twenty-minute break now which turns out to be thirteen minutes long.
  • Quickly-delivered beat poem that’s doing very well at sounding like what you hope for out of an open-mike night. It’s way too dense to actually parse but there seems to be something going on with nation-duration-obliteration and fence-dense-Pence-offense that suggests they know what they’re doing. Probably the highlight of the night even if the audience is going to spend the whole next day trying to work out what fit between nation and duration and obliteration and whether there’s a fourth word that could fit the rhyme scheme. Abomination, sure, but right-wingers wrecked that word when they mashed it up with Obama’s name to denounce stuff like non-binary people being allowed to pee.
  • Guy who can’t be heard even though he’s standing so close to the microphone it may actually be inside his mouth. He apologizes for not “speaking up” and “louder” four times over the course of his two-minute set.
  • They take the other seven minutes of break now. It takes twelve minutes.
  • Some guy staring close at his iPhone and reading They Might Be Giants’ Birdhouse In Your Soul with all the words in alphabetical order until he gets dizzy.
  • Fellow who wanted to read the classifieds from the free weekly in a funny voice. In a courageous act he didn’t vet the classifieds beforehand, and apparently didn’t realize how much they change week to week, so he’s trying to build something out of Dave’s offer for snow removal.
  • Someone telling a comic anecdote and who’s just assumed that of course we’re on her side in this encounter with a Kmart cashier whom she’s decided was asking stupid questions. The saving grace is supposing that the storyteller is making all this up after deciding that she should’ve been a worse person after leaving the store, but then, oh yeah, remember working retail?
  • Thanks everyone for coming out to another great open-mike night, it’s the great audiences we get here that make it possible for everyone to come out and …
  • Sorry, we missed this woman who signed up to tell about just how crazy her phone call to her Congressman turned out but you’ll give her a listen now, won’t you? Thank you. Thanks for coming out and supporting creativity in the neighborhood.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The trading index rose six points over the course of the day with everybody being in really good spirits after finding out that paczki are back and someone brought a 24-pack box in from the Quality Dairy and now everybody’s kind of sleeping off a paczki coma.

105

Service With A Smile


I forget what exactly got me looking up the “Matawan-style” Texaco gas stations of the 60s, although it’s probably a sense of home patriotism. I grew up not far from Matawan, New Jersey, famous for … being the namesake of this one kind of Texaco gas station. Also for two of the shark attacks of 1916. Anyway I wasn’t sure what made something a Matawan-style Texaco gas station of the 60s as opposed to, say, a Manalapan Texaco or a Manahawkin Texaco. There’s a lot of places in New Jersey with names that sound kind of alike, because we paid the Leni Lenape three thousand dollars back in like 1804 to go away and leave their places behind and stop making us feel guilty about it, and this is what we’ve got.

Anyway, the Matawan-style Texaco design question led me on an Internet voyage that revealed, wonderfully, there are enthusiasts of different gas station design who gather in communities that talk about, say, spotting where a Matawan-style station got mutilated but was still identifiable in Benton Harbor, Michigan. And then sometimes interrupt to explain how the Teague was a more versatile design anyway. And all this stuff about gas station architecture fandom has me feeling like the world might just be a good idea despite it all.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index dropped four points today on revelations that Automan came out on DVD last year and we’re only hearing about this now? By accident? What did you think we were paying you for, Miss Tessmacher?

99

Seeing As How It Is Washington’s Birthday More Or Less


I’d just like to remind people that it’s completely within their rights to see how much of Parson Weems’s biography of George Washington they can read aloud, to as large a crowd as possible, before cracking up. Here’s a practice sample from the Introduction:

And in all the ensigns of character amidst which he is generally drawn, you see none that represent him what he really was, “the Jupiter Conservator,” the friend and benefactor of men. Where’s his bright ploughshare that he loved — or his wheat-crowned fields, waving in yellow ridges before the wanton breeze — or his hills whitened over with flocks — or his clover-covered pastures spread with innumerous herds — or his neat-clad servants with songs rolling the heavy harvest before them? Such were the scenes of peace, plenty, and happiness, in which Washington delighted. But his eulogists have denied him these, the only scenes which belong to man the GREAT; and have trick’d him up in the vile drapery of man the little. See! there he stands! with the port of Mars “the destroyer,” dark frowning over the fields of war — the lightning of Potter’s blade is by his side — the deep-mouthed cannon is before him, disgorging its flesh-mangling balls — his war-horse pants with impatience to bear him, a speedy thunderbolt, against the pale and bleeding ranks of Britain! — These are the drawings usually given of Washington; drawings masterly no doubt, and perhaps justly descriptive of him in some scenes of his life. But scenes they were, which I am sure his soul abhorred, and in which, at any rate, you see nothing of his private virtues. These old fashioned commodities are generally thrown into the back ground of the picture; and treated, as the grandees at the London and Paris routs, treat their good old aunts and grandmothers, huddling them together into the back rooms, there to wheeze and cough by themselves, and not depress the fine laudanum-raised spirits of the young sparklers. And yet it was to those old fashioned virtues that our hero owed every thing. For they in fact were the food of the great actions of him, whom men call Washington. It was they that enabled him, first to triumph over himself; then over the British; and uniformly to set such bright examples of human perfectibility and true greatness, that, compared therewith, the history of his capturing Cornwallis and Tarleton, with their buccaneering legions, sounds almost as small as the story of General Putnam’s catching his wolf and her lamb-killing whelps.

And to help you get into the spirit of the thing and past that bit about Washington’s neat-clad servants with the rolling songs, here’s the statue Congress commissioned Horatio Greenough to carve of Washington that they decided, after a while, to hide while they looked for something less pompous to remember him by, like maybe a 555-foot-tall stick.

Marble statue of Washington, dressed as Jupiter more or less, holding up one hand and extending a sword in trade for your pants.

Yeah, that’s a miniature Christopher Columbus or somebody in the corner behind him.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

Trading dropped six points amidst concerns that the Nicaraguan peso might be overvalued and also that the currency of Nicaragua might not be pesos. “Back a couple decades didn’t they rename, like, everything for Trujillo? I bet they trade in Trujillos,” said Robert. Nobody was completely sure which Dave took as his excuse to tell, once again, how they would have built the Panama Canal in Nicaragua — “shut up, you know what I mean” he added defensively — except Americans are a-scared of volcanoes. The Nicaraguan córdoba is trading at about thirty to the US dollar. Rafael Trujillo was President of the Dominican Republic, not Nicaragua. Probably he visited Nicaragua at some point in his life. That would make sense.

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In Which The Pasta Was Nothing Special


The comic strips that don’t have stories to over-explain but do have someone say “algebra” in them I talk about over on my other blog.

Specials: Soup - Vegetable beef; Special - meatloaf slidders; Pasta -
The soup was Rack of Lima Bean. From the Blind Squirrel Tavern, Fremont, Michigan. (We were there for the pinball.)

No, I am not engaged in the lazy form of comedy in which someone notices a sign has a mistake in it. “Slidders” are a specialty of the restaurant, where they make extremely thin hamburger patties fried on an incredibly hot metal sheet. To keep the burgers from overcooking they’re literally slid down the heavily greased sheet. They’re then smothered under almost a soup of boiled onions and mushrooms, but that’s incidental. If this seems strange, is it really odder than planked shad? Anyway, I just want you to know they’re the tastestoostiest.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index rose thirteen points today and — wait, what, really? No, huh, that’s exactly what the point-o-meter says it did. Well, we have no explanation for this phenomenon.

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What’s Going On In Prince Valiant?


I remember reading this week’s story strip as a kid. It was obviously an important one as it got so much space in the Sunday Star-Ledger‘s pretty good comic section. It didn’t look like a story strip, what with it having knights and sword fights and I would swear the occasional dragon. But I never knew what was going on, since there weren’t any word balloons and everything was explained with these giant blocks of text that I thought were trying to sound olde-tymey. I’m curious how my memory matches the actual fact, but it’s so hard online to look up stuff from the 70s and 80s.

Prince Valiant.

Mark Schultz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant has good reasons for looking like that. The strip, created in the late 1930s by Hal Foster, keeps that close to its roots, with the action in the panels and the dialogue kept quite separate. This separation was not idiosyncratic when the comic strip started. Mandrake the Magician, The Phantom, Flash Gordon and other adventure strips of the time similarly ran their Sunday continuities with action and dialogue separated.

There is, yes, a lot of history to read in the comic strip, which just finished its 80th year. The comic strip reached panel number 4,176 this Sunday. They put the number right there in the comic, as if they’re trying to lure in the slightly obsessive reader. Kind of them. You don’t need to know it. The characters are straightforward enough to drop in on. The settings are classics, at least for a kind of story I didn’t really read while growing up. But that are at least good backdrops for cartoons set in those kinds of settings. The home setting is Camelot-era England and the lands surrounding the North Sea. But sometimes the gang goes on an expedition. Like, now.

I’m not sure when Team Valiant set out on an adventure to the east. But they’ve been tromping around the Far East for well over a year now and I forget what they set out to accomplish. What they have done is have a series of adventures in fresh, attractive settings. And they have looked great, which is tolerably true to both longstanding Western European folklore about the riches of the East and to how, historically, Western Europe of that time was a pit. At least compared to rich, stimulating places like Byzantium and Arabia and India and China.

The sorcerer-king was made welcome in the subterranean city; but he grew jealous of his host's knowledge, and greedy for power. He learned their secrets and then he deceived them. He stole the terrible key to power that we call the Soul of Asia. To us, that artifact appears sorcerous --- but it its creators, it was a device that released the most basic forces of Nature, the unseen forces that build and destroy our material world. Aristotle posited that our world is made up of infinitely small quanta of energy. The Soul is the key to that primal energy! It rends the fabric of matter and opens gateways to things that would seek to destroy our world! Brandishing the terrible thing, the sorcerer-king could not be contained in the hidden city. He struck a deal with the rightful owners: he would never unleash the artifact's power so long as they did not seek to take it from him.
Mark Schultz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant for the 29th of May, 2016. I’m delighted to have a story where Aristotle is used to explain the nigh-omnipotent travel valise instead of it being a lost invention of Archimedes. Alas, the Soul of Asia gets taken by a baddy and that takes the rest of the year to deal with.

The current part of the storyline is just a few weeks old, so it’s a good chance to hop on Prince Valiant’s boat if you want. Valiant has just overseen the downfall of a Himalayan-or-so tyrant named Azar Rasa who was hoping to use the awesome powers of the Soul of Asia to conquer Asia. And what is the Soul of Asia? It’s some kind of briefcase-size magical energy construct thingy with an awesome lot of power. It’s potent stuff, built on the learnings of the giants living deep in the Earth.

With the Soul of Asia finally in his posession, Azar Rasa turns the awful weapon toward Karen, Val, and Numair. A figure suddenly rushes from behind and skewers the unsuspecting sorcerer with a savage lunge! It is Vanni 'I have failed my responsibilities too often. Let me make amends now!' Azar staggers and falls into the volcanic well, carrying the Soul of Asia down with him! A massive explosion roils up from the depths - the demon writhes and disappears into a geyser of molten rock and the subterranean chamber convulses and begins to shatter! Vanni and Karen, Val and Numair all rush for the stairs leading out ...
Mark Schultz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant for the 25th of December, 2016. Don’t worry, it turns out the gang outrun the Soul of Asia’s tripping of the false vacuum and collapsing the universe in a spasm of zero point energy’s release. Also if you aren’t squicked by giant centipedes then check the previous Sunday’s comic for a really huge view of that demon. It’s dramatic but not for everyone.

So, Valiant escaped Azar Rasa’s prison by trying, since even in long-running comics security guards aren’t any good at their job. And with the help of the giants, who dress like yetis — did I mention the giants dress like yetis before? — the good guys blew up the mountain and killed the last of Azar Rasa’s followers. They pitched the Soul of Asia and Azar Rasa into Mount Doom, and all is as well as could be. That’s where 2017 started.

Val and his company have barely started their long journey home when three giant figures appear before them. Their eyes are magnetic and an alien voice seems to form in Val's head: 'This Karen and Numair have done us great service, and we would repay them. Come, we will show you a safer route through these mountains.' As if in a dream, Val finds he has no will to refuse. Save for their native guide and the pack animals all follow the giants into a cleft in the ridge and deep into the earth. Val finds he cannot fight the cloudy unreality that settles over his mind. Karen touches his shoulder: 'Do not worry - Numair and I have come this way before. They mean us well.' Time itself loses meaning and Val has no idea how long it is before the passageway opens up onto a vast subterranean gallery holding a shining city like no other he has ever seen!
Mark Schultz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant for the 22nd of January, 2017. Prince Valiant is strangely reluctant to just trust giant, weirdly-dressed strangers using telepathic coercion to lure him into remote, untraceable redoubts. Strange fellow.

The giants who dress like yetis are grateful to Team Valiant for helping clear up this mess where they kind of let humans get their grubby hands on a briefcase of unimaginably vast destructive power. (They hadn’t wanted to let the original sorcerer-king take it, but he had the thing, and promised not to grab it back if he didn’t use it.) So they offer help, promising to show an easier way that Our Heroes can get to wherever the heck they’re going. They lead the gang deep into the earth and hook them up with a boat and a team of pink dolphins to haul the boat through the underground river.

What had been a dreamlike journey down a subterranean water world has turned into a nightmare! A great behemoth heaves its bulk onto the craft bearing Val and his company. Their giant pilot responds with a blinding ray shot from his strange weapon but the creature's attack sets the boat to capsize! The best recoils, the pilot throws himself athwart the craft in a desperate attempt to steady the violent rocking and falls over the side! The crisis snaps Val out of his lethargy, but a fraction of a second too late to catch the guide. Then the low rumble from the river grows into something terrifying ... earthquake! The walls begin to crumble, the river begins to boil, and the dolphins that pulled them forward abandon their harness! What else could go wrong?
Mark Schultz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant for the 12th of February, 2017. Won’t lie to you: any time a giant behemoth rises from the sea I get more interested in the story. Doesn’t matter if it’s Prince Valiant, Star Wars, Sally Forth, Paw Patrol, or Alley Oop. You have my attention. Use it well.

It’s going well.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index rose a point today and everyone is blaming the peanut-butter-yoghurt-shelled pretzels they got at the store.

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Statistics Saturday: Friday the 13ths, 2017


Also you have no idea how compelling I found it as a kid that January and October started the same day of the week, as did February and November, unless it was a Leap Year in which case January started the same day as July and February the same day as August. Once more, in retrospect, I understand why everyone in middle school treated me that way.

Source: The Bill James Baseball Abstract, 1986 Edition.

Based on current projections.

Not valid on the Julian calendar.

Does not account for “Mercedonius”, the occasional 22-day month the Romans would sometime stick in the middle of February because they really did not have a clear handle on how to design a good calendar. I mean, they managed to screw up the rule of “leap year every four years” and it took more than a decade before anyone realized, and that isn’t even my joke.

Not counted: all appearances of King Friday The 13th during the Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood marathon as I could not find when that’s scheduled.

For 2017: January 1, February 0, March 0, April 0, May 0, June 0, July 0, August 0, September 0, October 1, November 0, December 0.
You suppose we’ll ever get a month that’s nothing but Fridays the 13th? It seems like there’s a lot of room for expansion there. I mean other than November 2016.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index dropped a point today and everyone is hailing it as proof that a sensible diet and regular exercise work.

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This Sort Of Observation Was More Merry Whimsical Fun Last Year


But once again Weather Underground seems to think something we should probably know about is happening in the middle of next week. (It’s a road trip to Baltimore.)

Weather Underground forecast that makes it to mid-day Wednesday and then goes completely blank.
At least we’re going out on a couple of pretty nice days for February.

For today, my mathematics blog had some more comic strips to review for yesterday, for you, if you’ll have it. How’s that?

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index dropped two points over uncertainty inspired by the DVR having decided The Price Is Right is in reruns this month even though the show is not and now they have to send someone to watch each episode and say if there’s a particularly good round of Rat Race and they’re all so good how do you make a choice?

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How Dry I Am


I know how I got to thinking about antiperspirants for a big weekly piece and it isn’t because I got to 5 pm Thursday and realized, “Oh! I have a big weekly piece due!” and grabbed at the first thing that I saw. And, I guess, was in the bathroom or maybe taking stuff out of the supermarket bag. Or was in the supermarket, in which case I’m glad I wasn’t lost in the pet care aisle. I don’t know that I could do 250 words about aquarium gravel, never mind 700.

It took me time to get to using antiperspirants. I didn’t use them when I was a kid because kids are supposed to smell like that. I think it’s how parents track where we are when we aren’t screaming or crying or knocking something over. Anyway people don’t object to that, or they figure it’s hard enough getting us to wash any part of the body so why add to the pile of things we should be doing but aren’t?

As a teenager I started to realize I should wear something because by then I was a teenaged boy. That’s a fun time full of insecurity and defective judgements. One of the less defective judgements does come from an insecurity, though, wondering if everyone else thinks you smell like obsessively rewatching The Wrath Of Khan on VHS, cheap pizza flooded with enough garlic powder to soak up all the grease, and masturbation. It encourages one to try doing something to have less of an odor, although not necessarily showering every day because who wants to get up early enough for that? And who wants to shower at night when The Wrath Of Khan isn’t going to rewatch itself? I suppose technology might have changed that some, since there’s probably, like, Twitter feeds entirely built of Wrath of Khan characters watching movies at each other. But they’re definitely not watching the pan-and-scan version.

When I reached this point I was intrigued by Mitchum, because their commercials promised it was so effective you could skip a day. I’m up for doing anything that allows me to skip a day. I got really good at skipping a day. I also liked the part where they sold a little jar full of cream to slather on my body, instead of just a roll-on or stick or spray. There aren’t many scent-altering creams people get to put on and I suppose there’s probably reasons for that. I don’t want to know, though.

For a long time I looked for deodorants instead of antiperspirants because I was a science-oriented kid and so kind of stupid. My reasoning was that what is really objectionable about sweat is the scent, not the mere fact of sweating. And besides sweating serves some purpose; it’s not something the body does just to be impish and annoying. I was young and didn’t yet realize how much stuff the body does exclusively to be annoying, especially with joint pain. Anyway, this is the kind of thinking you get when you let kids grow up to be physics majors. Be more responsible!

That attitude changed when I got a job in Singapore. It’s a fine country, but it has the climate of the interior of a boiling tea kettle. I learned whenever I stepped outside for any reason to bring along a bottle of water or soda or tea or anything, replenishing my fluids as fast as they poured out my whole epidermis. I suppose I smelled all right, for all that I looked as if I’d been used to mop up a food court. Finally I came to admit that while the body might sweat in order to maintain its cool, it’s not actually good at that, and we have air conditioning now, and I switched over to antiperspirants maybe two years after I left Singapore.

I don’t notice Mitchum on the shelves anymore, nor any kind of cream in a jar as antiperspirant. Maybe we’re not trusted with creams like that anymore for which I don’t blame anyone. I instead buy whatever antiperspirant catches my eye and is probably on sale. This has worked very well except that time some careless shopper abandoned a tube of Parmesan cheese next to the Arm and Hammer. It was the same week I picked up a misplaced bottle of spaghetti sauce from the shampoo aisle, so everything worked out as well as it possibly could. What more does anyone ever want?

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index fell a point today as investors watched Someday You’ll Find Her, Charlie Brown for the first time in decades easily and noticed (1) it’s really bad, (2) yet was somehow nominated for an Emmy for some reason?, and (3) that Charlie Brown says “honey shot” way too many times for anyone to be the slighted bit comfortable with all this. Really, we’re impressed they got this much done, considering.

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Probably Wouldn’t Know What To Do After The End Of The World Anyway


So It was something of an anxiety dream, all the frustrations of running around the house packing our rocket ship with everything we’d need after the end of the world. It’s hard enough getting ready to move, and when you figure you’re going to have to leave stuff behind and never get it back you know there’s going to be no end of double-checking that you have all eight hundred kinds of USB connection. I mean, once the world comes to an end when do you expect to visit a Best Buy again? Plus there’s getting my parents’ cats to behave and not go running into debris piles. And then the tension just ratchets up and up until the moment comes where we launch, escape the end of the world, and then it turns into a road trip to Baltimore. Which is its own kind of hassle because, you know, I’ve been to Baltimore and I’ve never been to the Udvar-Hazy Center and it would be so easy to go there, wouldn’t it? Why can’t we go there instead? But I’m too shy to insist, even in my own dreams, because of course. There’s no justice. I leave behind my camera’s USB cable.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index dropped four points as the start of the post-Valentine’s-Day sales on both shares and on the chocolate shop down on Michigan Avenue. Also, ooh, are they going to get the three-foot-tall chocolate bunny for Easter out soon? Hold on, I’m going to go check myself.

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What I Need In A Science Fiction Novel To Get Me To Read It


  1. It should have a city enclosed in a transparent dome, whether glass, plastic, a force field, or some exotic form of matter of energy.
  2. That’s about it.
  3. Really, yeah, give me a domed city and you can have just about whatever else you want in the story.
  4. Thank you.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

While trading was open for a normal day there wasn’t much exchange on the floor. Everyone was caught up on how Other Matt cut a piece of paper snowflake-style and then cut it again into a valentine heart and it seems like some crazy mixed metaphor and it also seems impossible to do. But he keeps insisting it’s not hard, just a “little fiddly” is all. Anyway it’s all anybody can think about today.

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105 Minutes Of Your Life You Won’t Get Back, Unlike Any Other 105 Minutes Somehow?


So the overhead business is that my mathematics blog had another comic-strip-review day. No pictures, but you can get to places with pictures over there. That’s something, right?

In other news, my love was directed to a pinball podcast from 2007. It features something like an interview with Python Anghelo, crazypants designer behind video games like Joust and pinball games like Popeye Saves The Earth, the game with the most intense backstory ever when you consider a Popeye pinball game really just needs to set up stuff that he can then punch.

The interview is enlightening because it tells me what it would be like to interview a Dr Bronner’s Soap Label that had gone into game design. I think the host asks two, many three question, one of which gets answered, and then just lets Anghelo talk. Here’s the specific episode, TOPcast show 42 from the 1st of July, 2007. In at least one point Anghelo seems to suggest he composed poems for guidance for his game concepts, and I don’t know of any of them which have come to light, but the poem for the cancelled Zingy Bingy must have been to die for. Or to kill your game division for.

For those who somehow don’t know the big names of 80s/90s pinball design: there were a bunch of big names in 80s/90s pinball design. Don’t worry about who’s who. Zingy Bingy was a concept for making an “adult” pinball game. According to legend it featured things like flippers that were shaped to resemble a part of the male anatomy which was not fingers and which could under the right circumstances grow. Also according to legend the project went on until an actual grownup at headquarters heard this was going on. That covers the essential background. Go, enjoy listening, and pause anytime you start feeling dizzy.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The Another Blog, Meanwhile index rose two points before trading was suspended in order that everyone could make valentines to give to all the other traders, thank you. Also to wonder about people who complain that they make kids give valentines to everybody else in class these days because they’re all pretty sure that’s the way it was done back when they were kids too, and it’s not like it was any hassle back then.

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