Squirrel Improv Update


I was impressed when the little squirrel improv troupe that’s been running out of our backyard got named by the local alternate weekly as one of the “20 Great Things Under 20 Inches” in their entertainment column this week and I went out to congratulate them. Of course it’s not that simple.

See, for visual interest, they included a photo of one of the squirrels — Alan — in a spiv outfit, and that was from a sketch that they thought was just “hack” and “too Monty Python pastiche, not enough us”. They’d been planning to drop it from the revue altogether, but with the press attention now they feel like they’re stuck with it. Worse, Alan doesn’t like being on stage; he’s happy developing characters and doing other backstage work and only ever went on in the first place because they needed somebody and the rest of the performing cast was already committed.

Well, I was sympathetic, of course, but isn’t it some kind of cosmic rule that when the public decides they like you, it’s going to be for the stuff you’d rather they didn’t like you for? Anyway, maybe in a couple weeks they can drop the whole sketch and Alan can go back to the work he really likes.

About The Spider-Man Comic Strip


The Amazing Spider-Man daily newspaper comic strip for today, the 9th of July, is first of all a thing that exists. Second, well, you saw it. It really is just what you saw there. No kidding.

Let me explain how things got to this point and please note that I am not fibbing or exaggerating.

In the strip — drawn by Larry Lieber and Alex Saviuk, and written by Stan Lee and a Markov Chain algorithm — Spidey, in San Francisco (never mind why he was there; it was stupid), needs to get to the war-torn republic of Some Latin America-y Country Where They Just Keep Having Revolutions. He needles his boss, J Jonah Jameson, to wiring him the money for a ticket on the grounds there’s pictures to be taken and Spider-Man’s going to be at the Revolution.

At the check-in line Peter Parker realizes that security might make him open his shirt revealing his Spider-Man costume underneath. Inspired by a bratty kid whining about how they don’t have private jets like the Avengers, he sheds his clothes and duffel bag and goes climbing the walls of the airport insisting he has to get on the plane without proving who he is besides doing the web-crawling thing. And that’s where we get to today’s strip, with President Obama saying it’s OK for Spider-Man to fly out of the country. How Peter Parker is supposed to explain his getting to Latin America-y Country when “he” doesn’t board the plane is left for us to guess.

All this may seem a very stupid way of going about things, but do bear in mind that in the -30- Universe of the Marvel Newspaper Comics, Spider-Man gets hit on the head a lot.

I admit that reading Spider-Man is among my ironic pleasures, and I have some thoughts about why reading something that just drizzles incompetence down on the reader is delightful, that I need to organize into a proper essay. For now I just want you to cackle at this.

The insanely colored United States flag in the third panel, by the way, is because like many newspaper strips this one gets badly colored for online publication by, apparently, people who can only do flood-fills on portions of the original artwork that are white. Since darker colors like red or blue get inked in as black, this means that December is visited with a number of Santas Dressed As Johnny Cash, and that early February sees Hi and Lois making Goth Hearts at one another. It’s not helped that there’s very little evidence that the people doing the colorizing even read the strips as they’re coloring them. There was even a Barney Google a couple months back (which I can’t seem to find right now) in which Snuffy Smith complains that a wanted poster of him is only in black-and-white, not in color, and sure enough, the poster got colored in, badly.

(I haven’t linked to the dailyink.com page with a comments thread about today’s installment and you will thank me for it because Internet Comments Thread With Something Vaguely Political Starting It.)

Some Ineffective Ways of Treating Colds


  1. Listen to everyone around you tell you have to take a lot more zinc, while wearing zinc-lined clothes, eating raw ingots of zinc, in a zinc-plated room, while thinking of zinc-related thoughts such as “fluidized-bed roaster smelting technology”.
  2. Singing George of the Jungle‘s theme while your voice is briefly in the correct register.
  3. Wrapping your pillows in a blanket, your blanket in a comforter, and your comforter under that bed canopy stuff, and sneaking out to a movie.
  4. Start arguments in online forums with your innocent question about why searching for a file in Windows never, ever finds anything.
  5. Bring your cold out with you to the lake to buy an ice cream, and while it’s busy ordering, drive away.
  6. Enjoying that thing where you can just stare at a point in the wall and it feels like the universe is tumbling around and you’re twisting up into a spiral and if this carries on you’ll never get your shirt un-knotted from your stomach.
  7. Going out in your superhero guise with the face-covering mask, on the theory that it would be so horrible to sneeze or even have a runny nose while covered up that way that your body would sensibly refrain from doing so. Sorry.
  8. Get into a screaming match with the spell-check about how to correctly spell “gesundheit”. There is no way to correctly spell “gesundheit”.

Another Round Of Dream-Based Apologies


Obviously, I have to apologize first to the President of the United States In My Dreams for my stunning inability to just deliver a birthday cake to him. But in defense of my failure I want to note:

  1. This whole cake-delivery responsibility was thrust on me at the last possible minute, and during a time when I didn’t have a car so I was wholly dependent on the bus situation.
  2. There wasn’t even a real container for the cake, but I had to hold it on a couple paper plates with tin foil kind of hanging somewhere near the cake vicinity.
  3. The bus driver, who was shockingly like Gilbert Gottfried in most ways, was not as helpful or as sympathetic as should be expected in these cases.
  4. While the bus was clearly labelled as one going to Singapore’s Jurong East Bus Interchange it instead let me off in a large and poorly-signed college building in the middle of downtown.
  5. I might have made quicker progress but was saddled with that hideously-smelling blanket which obviously had to be dealt with before any other chores could be tended, and I was apparently the only person in the city who could even be in the same room as it.
  6. The blanket, contaminated I believe by you-know-who, possibly by being vomited upon to the point of stomach acids coming out, I would have happily dumped in a trunk or a storage bin or such if anyone had been willing to help in any way, but again, campus security and the omnipresent Gottfriedesque bus driver were totally useless.
  7. The cake was one of those ten-by-fourteen homemade things cut in half and turned upside-down for frosting anyway, so it wouldn’t stay level and it just looked horrible. Cutting a ten-by-fourteen homemade cake in half after baking has never worked, and can we please stop pretending it does? Also who puts a cake upside-down to frost it? How is that even supposed to work in theory?
  8. And I might have managed yet if somebody had bothered to tell me where the President even was before sending me off to deliver a poor cake from him.

So in short, I’m sorry, everyone who was disappointed, but I can not and will not take exclusive blame for the fiasco.

Forms of New Jersey Local Government (1)


One of the top 36 most popular ways of organizing a municipality in New Jersey is the Faulkner (1923) Huffle-Manager system. In this scheme, the municipality’s government is organized into a town council, elected in a nonpartisan manner based on who forgets to actually post any roadside signs insisting that they have a name until after the election. In this scheme the Mayor is selected at-large from the council, and is typically surprised when they turn up outside her or his home at 3 in the morning with a big net and tagging collar. The mayor in these schemes has no vote and cannot speak on pending resolutions, but is able to veto resolutions by arm-wrestling any of the councillors. The councillors serve as department heads, typically, the Director of Public Safety, the Director of Public Works, the Lord High Admiral, the Speaker-To-Vulcans, and the Designated Sneezer; in municipalities with seven councillors, one is typically the Alto Saxophonist and the other is responsible for keeping the garage cleaned.

[ On an unrelated note, over on my mathematics blog I do a regular bit of reviewing comic strips that mention mathematics subjects, and just posted one. It’s not deliberately meant to be funny, but for those interested in talk about comic strips with a particular theme it may be of interest. ]

Argument With The Rabbit


“You know you haven’t fed me,” our pet rabbit explained patiently while standing on his hindpaws and rattling his cage’s mesh so as to make the loudest din he’s able to.

I gave his complaint proper consideration and said, “I did feed you. It was that bunch of lettuce and parsley and mint-scented stuff that I put in your cage just a couple hours ago.”

He tipped his head sideways, so one ear flopped down, and said, “No, no, that would be really great, but I’m sure that it wasn’t me that you fed. You’re thinking of someone else, that’s all there is to it.” And he went back to rattling his cage.

So I leaned down and puffed a bit of air on his exposed belly, which made him jump backward, onto all fours, and look up with an expression of how dismayed he was I violated the sacred trust between rabbit and non-rabbit in this way.

Continue reading “Argument With The Rabbit”

An Open Letter To The Coffee News Jokes Editor (Not Really)


Dearly Beloved and I recently picked up a copy of Coffee News, your two-page flyer of all sorts of undated, un-sourced bits of mild interest, and reports of small towns that have outlawed cussing or droopy pants or whatever because they can’t figure a way to just make “being a teenager” illegal without getting unwanted attention, plus lots and lots of advertising for local businesses, plus the challenge of spotting the Coffee News guy hiding somewhere in an advertisement. Among the “On The Lighter Side” items was this joke.

Teacher: “I said to draw a cow eating some grass, but you’ve only drawn the cow.”

Johnny: “That’s because the cow ate all the grass.”

We both wondered at this gag, because we couldn’t figure who it was meant for. Surely anyone old enough to be picking up the Coffee News would have read the joke and appreciated whatever humor value it had decades, possibly appreciable portions of a century, beforehand. Whoever assembled this pile of words into this week’s installment can’t have been thinking she or he had a cracking good joke, or even that this was a fresh or well-told version of this joke. So … who selected it for inclusion? Why have it? Who’s the audience for this joke?

I know, I know, stuff like the Coffee News isn’t actually written by anybody, or for anybody; it’s just there so the columns of advertisements won’t slump against each other. There’s no credits on it that I can find. But the text has to come from somewhere; unwritten, unsourced, uncomposed words don’t just run themselves off to the printer. Someone, somewhere, decided that this joke was sufficiently lacking in detectable properties to get bundled into this set. Who? How? Why is this joke there? What goes on in the imaginary offices where Coffee News is created, if it is created, and granting that it isn’t, how can it exist?

The Coffee News guy was hiding in one of the divorce-separation-alimony-child custody case lawyer ads.

Some Now-Forgotten HTML Tags


  • <sh>. The “Shriek” tag prompted web browsers to scream whatever was so marked at the top of its lungs. Discontinued in 2004 after too may computers were smashed with computer bats and it was found computers don’t have lungs.
  • <code>. This tag, formerly used to break the ENIGMA coding on messages being sent by the Germans to their Navy, was discontinued in 1998 when it was brought to the attention of the World Wide Web Consortium that World War II had ended in, like, what, 1946? 1948? Something like that and we didn’t need to check up on Germany anymore. We have Denmark peeking in on them now and then to make sure.
  • <kb>. The “Kibo” tag was meant to attract the attention of Usenet celebrity James “Kibo” Parry to your web page. Use of the tag has dwindled to insignificance since 2006, when Usenet was finally torn down and replaced with a Howard Johnson’s one-hour film development booth.
  • <dl>. Nobody has ever known what this tag is or what it’s good for. The best hypothesis is it’s related to somebody important, like <img> maybe.

Another Warning From My Dreams


Do not “just slip out” a couple seconds during a science fiction convention centered around praising the guy who played George Jefferson on The Jeffersons, because everybody else at the con is just going to get together and build a satiric comic set-piece based on his work and it’s going to just rehash the most obvious, base jokes about The Jeffersons in a science fiction setting and it’ll have almost no artistic integrity at all, and you’re going to have a dickens of a time getting back in the convention hall past the defensive screen of people warning you that that’s the guy who played George Jefferson in there and he’s just killing with what you recognize as artistically bankrupt, pandering, fan-written science fiction convention activities. Be safe: go to the bathroom before the convention starts!

Here Are Some Numbers (June 2013)


I’m told statistics are all the rage among bloggers, because this way they can put in numbers where text might go, and that makes everything better. So, here goes.

According to WordPress this little humor blog got 441 views in June, the most it’s managed since it began at the start of February. It also had 227 unique visitors, again the most since it started. Also apparently 214 pages were just looked at by themselves, or maybe each other, to account for the gap there. Or I’m being viewed by people in other dimensions, which would be kind of flattering considering all the dimensions they have to look at.

My top five most popular posts for the past 30 days have been:

  1. Science Fiction versus Fantasy Explained, which I kind of expected might be popular.
  2. What Father’s Day Card-Shopping Taught Me, which is surprisingly just a little less popular.
  3. Jokes You Can’t Play Anymore, which I didn’t expect anyone would notice.
  4. S J Perlman’s “Captain Future, Block That Kick!” which is one of the great pieces of one of the century’s master humorists.
  5. What Skeuomorphism Means To Me (it doesn’t), which I also kind of expected to be popular what with it making fun of Apple and all that.

My top “recent” commenters have been Corvidae in the Fields (by far), then Chiaroscuro (following), BunnyHugger, Jim, Alyssa, and pouringmyartout.

In June, the countries which sent the most visitors to me were the United States (336), Canada (20), and Brazil (8). The countries that sent only one visitor my way included Poland, the Czech Republic, the United Republic of Tanzania, Bulgaria, Spain, Iraq, Moldova, Ireland, Sweden, Trinidad and Tobago, Peru, the United Arab Emirates, Portugal, Denmark, and Italy. I have not been to any of those nations. My parents honeymooned in Spain.

Some Dangerous Kangaroos


  1. The Western Middling Light Grey (not particularly dangerous in itself, but it smells so very much like a fried clam dish from that stall in the mall food court that nobody, nobody, has ever been seen eating from as to be distracting)
  2. The Razor-Beaked Wallaby
  3. Gorndrak, the Marsupial-Spirit of Unproductive Workdays
  4. The Antilopine Gossiping Kangaroo (its passive-aggressiveness can drive people mad)
  5. Red Kangaroos Driving Without Their Prescription Eyeglasses
  6. Trinitrootoluene

The Real Boba Fett and Clams


I had a little problem with one of the games I play and wrote the company to complain about it. (In certain contexts the game no longer let one use the word “clam”, which was not actually the thing that bothered me.) A couple days later I got a response explaining that the problem was exactly what I said it was, which is good, since it reassures me that I wasn’t imagining the problem. The response was signed, and I promise you this is true, “Support Agent Boba Fett”.

I have to suppose that he’s not the famous Boba Fett, since after all, what are the odds of that? The real one is probably doing reunion tours at county fairs anyway, thrilling fans with his great bits like having a kind of familiar name and all that. Still, this Boba Fett I have to figure had a pretty unremarkable childhood up until 1980 — sure, “Boba” is a kinda weird name, but it was the 70s, and we had bigger problems with hair and colors and being told carob tasted “just like” chocolate but was better for something or other to distract us from names — and then it all got so annoying. I wanted to ask if he’s tired of people asking him about Star Wars except that even if he didn’t mind talking Star Wars, to be stuck talking about talking about Star Wars has got to be horrible, and I might never get to say “clam” in the game again.

My Next Doom: Nicknames


I have to start this with a bit of found-humor, and I hope you’ll forgive me for that. I was looking at the sorry state of my investment portfolio (that cheese un-slicer company was a fiasco) when I barely noticed something that looked too much like an advertisement to read. Then I thought about what it said, but I’d already clicked away from that page, so I went clicking back and forth on the site time after time until finally the ad-like structure came up again. Then I clicked past because I forgot what I was looking for, and finally stopped when I got back to this again after figuring I’d have to give up and just tell you about it.

Continue reading “My Next Doom: Nicknames”

Squirrels Solve Their Own Problems


So maybe you remember I was trying to keep squirrels off the bird feeder by having a stand-up comic keep them rolled up into balls of cackling fur that would roll downhill from the bird seed, and that this just ended up a mess as the comic instead on telling controversial material. After that horrible scene I just tried not looking in the backyard after all and trusted that I’d come to regret this for some original reason.

Now it turns out the squirrels were bothered by that comic too, and disappointed that I didn’t find anyone to replace them, which explains that week they spent kicking my shins whenever I went to my car. (This was more effective than kicking my car’s shins, so good on them.) Turns out they’ve organized an improv comedy troupe to keep themselves entertained, and set up a little proscenium at the back of the garage, and the local free weekly’s named them one of the Up And Coming Events (comedy division) for their summer program, “Not Every Block Of Four Words Is A Potential New Band Name”.

I have to admit, I don’t get it. I think it’s squirrel humor. But now there’s a bluejay squawking about putting on a modern-dress version of Ibsen’s An Enemy Of The People, which seems ambitious for a couple birds’ first time out, but who am I to call anything impossible now?

Ineffective New Police Programs


Location Program
Plurke’s Folly, NY Seeding rumors of police zeppelins
Coral Peak, FL Giant horseshoe magnet with “CRIMINALS” written across base
Borax, NV Town closed up in 1938, abandoned since
Smuggler’s Cudgel, VT Giggling sessions to leave miscreants feeling too self-conscious to continue
Tracks, WI Painting pair of disapproving eyes glowering down from taller buildings
Joist, AK or maybe AR, whichever one’s Arkansas Monthly civilian outreach programs teaching butter sculpture
Flinch, ONT Turning lights on and off all night
Philadelphia, PA Trying out that eyes thing Tracks just did

What To Do With The Raw Data


These days pretty much everybody has raw data, as part of their work or their recreation or that horrible new blend, the recre-career in which you do what you want to do for a living, only without earning any money, in the hopes of building enough of a buzz to make a killing on the world molybdenum markets. The trouble is what to do with it. Here’s a recipe from my grandmother that pretty near always worked:

Ingredients:

  • 3-5 cups raw data
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup milk (skim OK)
  • 2 tbsp murfrews [ we can’t read her handwriting ]
  • 1 tbsp anise
  • 2 tsp tbsps [ we think she was joking here ]
  • 1 tsp shelled morplex [ obviously a copyright trap ]
  • chives

In salted pan, stir data, milk, anise together. Sift with flour into unsalted pan; dice with morplex until finger poked in belly produces giggles. Add murfrews, mix in morplex again if you forgot any. Bake at 350 or what have you until golden-brown; sprinkle chives on the cat [ She didn’t have a cat; maybe she copied the recipe from somewhere ]. Place on unpanned salt, cover with salted unpan. Correlates 4-6.

Where Has My Buzz Gone


I finally learned why it’s been so hard building any kind of buzz for my little humor blog here. Buzz is an essential component of building a blog that doesn’t peter out after a couple of months and become a series of “Sorry I haven’t been writing more but I’m going to get back into it now” messages at 78-week intervals.

It turns out — and I had no idea — that one of the key ingredients of buzz is molybdenum. Can you believe that I haven’t had any since I did the big apartment-cleaning ahead of moving out of my grad school apartment? I feel like an utter fool carrying on, and it’s only been the supportive phone calls of Pablo Bascur, the founder and CEO of the Chilean molybdenum consulting firm MolyExp, that’s kept me going. “It’s all right,” he’s explained, “Nobody ever tells you these things, and any responsible blogging platform should when you sign up.” Thanks, Pablo. Friends forever.

He couldn’t set me up with any right away, because of futures exchanges, but he did point out they expect there to be a tolerable surplus of molybdenum production this year as the word appears in more spelling bees.

Hype, meanwhile, looks to be in plenty supply as its most critical ingredient — nickel — continues record production levels. So I’ve got that right at least.

Molybdenum, man. I just … well, again, thanks, Pablo. I just have to tailor my writing to my molybdenum needs is all.

On The New Blogging Standards


I’m sure everyone’s heard by now that the International Organization for Standardization — the group that’s brought us best-selling hits like ISO 9000, ISO 9001, ISO 2000, and their mashup, ISO 9001-2000 — is proposing a change to the fundamental unit of blogging as set out in ISO 764 (“Horology: Magnetic Resistant Watches”). Naturally I’m torn about this and I’m surprised more people aren’t bewailing them. I grant that the old unit of blogging — making fun of the Superfriends — is tired, and not just because I’ve been desperately trying to think of anything fresh I could possibly say about the episode where the Wonder Twins are so wholly overwhelmed by a roller coaster with defective brakes they need the help of an actual superhero. But it’s been the style for a good long while, and it’s shaped how we think about blogging, and goodness knows, what if they change it to something like “pointing out Animaniacs episodes that don’t have jokes, just a big pile of pop culture references draped over each other” instead? I need to know what they’re changing things to before I can vehemently oppose the change correctly.

Finding Comedy


Found Comedy is one of the big revolutions in comedy from, like, forty years ago, so I thought I’d give it a try. Here’s a bunch of things I just happened to run across, then:

Grandpas Solution Off Water Divisionals Hail Michael Viral
Defiance Lottery Unicorn Table Bassoon Spray Comb Viral
Weed Sail Stimulation Berry Cats Foundation Spring Coffee
Pets Rain Reverse Grapes Family Frank Legroom Moth
Day Brother Airport Hamburgers Equipment Cars Shed Bell
Something Squirrel Toes Parsley Dessert Can Teammate Headphones
Obstacle Hotspot Movie Tractor Mask Bee Marshmallows Spaghetti
Junk Forecasts Banjo Vault Integral Fan Shelf Honor
Bears Beach Stroller Husband Doodle Nail Society Ants
Groomer Vacuum Week Introductions Quill Lawn Catering Hands
Bedtime Game Aftertaste Bell Kneecap Turnip Cutlery News
Polo Education Piano Pepper Stone Clubhouse Jacket Victoria
Bumper Houston Winter Chin Family Science Pet Jumbotron
Sawyer Theater Elevator Abalone Candy Roller Coaster Dirt Scoreboard
Invention Camera Constellation Face Trouble Neighborhood Arms Way
Nincompoop Wines Stretching Memory Call Coffee Discussion Foam
Teleprompter Baseball Kangaroo Garden Hose History Posse Computer Dinner
Championship Movie Conversation Yesterday Timing Sidewalk Cyndi Lauper Sneeze
Mud House Romance Installation Newspaper String Quartet Marketing Traffic
Separation Garden Cop Supper Hazard Facilities Sandcrabs Stomach

Maybe I’m not running right.

How I Started Consulting


So I realized I could use a little more income, at least for a couple of months. My first instinct naturally was to set a little money trap on the lawn, but our pet rabbit said I looked like an idiot holding a string tied to a stick that propped open a little box and that anyway I didn’t even know how to bait a money trap. I thought seat cushions would do it for sure, but all I did get were the peanut sprinkles from the tops of doughnuts. This lead me to the alternative route of consulting.

Consulting, I learned from my father, is pretty sweet work. The core of it is to find a company that wants to do a thing, walk around their offices while wearing a suit and nodding grimly, and then handing out a thick set of binders and tell them to go ahead with whatever they wanted to do, and then submit an invoice. It’s a toss-up which is the harder part, the nodding grimly or the suit-wearing, because I have these weird mutant feet that curve way too far to fit in any shoes. If I fit my heels into the shoe heels, my toes rip through the front of the shoes, and vice-versa; I’ve lost many heels to a stubborn shoe. The last comfortable pair of dress shoes I had featured a little sidecar shoe for my heels, causing people to stare at my feet and then sidle away. This was fine when I was someplace as an employee and not responsible for my presence or appearance, but it won’t do when I’m representing myself. I set out wearing the shoe boxes as camouflage.

Continue reading “How I Started Consulting”