Who Do I Know Goran Topalovic From?


I didn’t think anything bad could come of learning something about Drew Carey. Who would? But a bit about the cameo he makes in The Sims: House Party lead me to thinking about people named “Goran”, and from about an hour after that I got haunted by the idea that at some point in my life I knew someone named “Goran Topalovic”. This threw off my whole evening ritual of brushing my teeth, flossing, and considering how I don’t know anyone named Goran.

And thank you, Internet, for letting me know the number of people named “Goran Topalovic” is at least four, and not one of them makes any sense as anyone I could ever have met for any reason, ever. Even if I was introduced to him once, the name couldn’t possibly have stuck in my mind, as I’m a person who once failed to recognize his own mother’s name. I can’t have made up his name; I haven’t got the knack. I might imagine the Goran part, with help, but I’d finish it off with some word drawn from the depths of mathematics or physics, like, “Goran Eigendecomposition”, which doesn’t work at all.

The lesson for me is to stop learning things about Drew Carey, although if he’s got any leads on Goran Topalovic I’d appreciate hearing from him.

In Response To A Horrifying Link On Wunderground.com


No, I will not check your Interactive Tornado Map, and what is wrong with you that you think the words “Interactive Tornado Map” could ever be a soothing combination in a sentence? I want tornadoes in the non-interactive form pioneered by Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton wherein they appear only in movies that I still haven’t seen. And I say that as if not seeing Twister were some kind of point of pride, instead of the second-most minor of my life accomplishments, after only “not having eaten at Taco Bell”.

Lost Without A Galaxy


I found this article in the science section — any science section; I can’t imagine editors turning this one down — about how research has shown that dung beetles can use the Milky Way to navigate. I have to applaud the effort there. That’s more than I ever do with the Milky Way. If you left it to me I’d probably let the whole galaxy clutter up the scary drawer above all the pots and pans, and maybe take it out just enough to feel guilty about how I should be using it more. Navigating would never cross my mind, much less helping dung beetles navigate, so it’s good the beetles seem to have worked that out on their own.

The dung beetle navigation thing finally makes sense of a lot history, which is better than most history does for itself. You always imagined that people looked at Christopher Columbus funny for his refusal to adjust the heading until he’d had a flock of dung beetles on deck during a cloudless, moonless night, but he did all right for himself, and left his beetles in charge of Hispaniola while he was busy getting tried for treason.

But as ever we shouldn’t have been surprised. Folklore’s talked about how animals have astounding abilities for thousands of years now, although folklore also talks about how witches are baking little children and how it’s good luck for the Red-Leafed Arrogating Murderberry Vine to crack your house’s foundation and how this snowstorm is the very first time the university ever cancelled class for anything less than the death of a President, so maybe the trouble is folklore needs to be more selective about what it says. We can’t go listening to everything. There’s too much of it.

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It’s The 70s, So Sure, Pinball Can Be A Game Show


Now that I’ve seen an episode of The Magnificent Marble Machine I know finally what Sid and Marty Krofft’s Password Plus would have been like.

I like how the game show really captures the essence of what makes pinball great: sluggish play by a pair of amateurs on giant board with a handful of targets, for up to a whole sixty seconds, that you get to only after twenty minutes of puttering around watching people try to guess whether “President’s Pad” might be a clue to naming “The White House”.

Now I’m sure the world feels better that I’ve made fun of a forgotten short-lived mid-70s game show. At least the world except the people who made it in the first place, so, I’m sorry about that.

So Who’s Not There?


I got to talk with someone who designs those sensors for sinks and air dryers. Well, at someone. I couldn’t get his attention.

Still, I don’t get why public restrooms decided we had to give up faucet technology. It was really good. Anyone could go into a Meijer’s restroom any time, day or night, and fauce as much as they want. They were happy days, but that’s all gone now. We’re saved from going out with dried hands, or wet hands either.

Maybe the problem isn’t the sensors. Maybe the trouble is I don’t exist. That’d be a good gag on the guy I met. Of course, that means I’ve got more library cards than I really should.

Also my spell-checker says “fauce” is a word, so I think my spell-checker is messing with my head.

Robert Benchley: About Portland Cement


There are many writers I deeply admire. Robert Benchley’s one of them. Here’s one of his essays, one of those that doesn’t get much attention compared to “Movie Boners” or “How To Get Things Done” or “The Treasurer’s Report”, but which I think is worth reading.


Portland cement is “the finely pulverized product resulting from the calcination to incipient fusion of an intimate mixture of properly proportioned argillaceous and calcareous materials and to which no addition greater than 3 per cent has been made subsequent to calcination.”

That, in a word, is the keynote of H. Colin Campbell’s “How to Use Cement for Concrete Construction.” In case you should never read any more of the book, you would have that.

But to the reader who is not satisfied with this taste of the secret of cement construction and who reads on into Mr. Campbell’s work, there is revealed a veritable mine of information. And in the light of the recent turn of events one might even call it significant. (Any turn of events will do.)

I suppose that these cement people understand their business. I shall know enough to watch out, however, and insist on having whatever cement I may be called upon to carry home done up in a cloth sack.

Continue reading “Robert Benchley: About Portland Cement”

And Somehow None Of These People Were Me


Warner Brothers is releasing a DVD set of the best Hanna-Barbera cartoons of their first 25 years, plus an episode of Jabberjaw. This implies that either someone had a career which finally reached the day when she or he was given the responsibility to “select the best episode of The Abbot And Costello Cartoon Show”, or that there was a committee formed to make that decision. Either way is a staggering thought.

Animals And Their Forecasts


So the groundhogs have seen their shadows, or they haven’t, or in one case the shadow came up and was frightened to see its groundhog. But consider these other animals and their prognostications:

  • A fruit fly emerged into the dining room, forecasting the throwing out of the bananas that have been in the pantry since October.
  • A buffalo poked its head out of a tree knothole in northern Rhode Island and sneezed. This forecasts that Mrs Wall will be giving a surprise pop quiz in English class Monday. Despite being so observed this should still catch everyone by surprise as Mrs Wall teaches science.
  • A dikdik in southern Indiana checked Facebook to find her best friend had written a lengthy essay that mentioned “reverse discrimination” in the first paragraph. It’s going to be at least three weeks of her telling her that gosh she’s eager to read it and get involved in the comments thread but she’s just got so much to do she can’t possibly respond tonight.
  • Xoredeshch Sfath, the great cosm-dragon, opened one eye in a panic, noticed that it was still 5:32 and his alarm isn’t for nearly 45 minutes, and went back to dreaming sleep. This gives the universe another 1,728 years of uninterrupted existence unless he has nightmares.

That’s not to say people are wrong to pay attention to groundhogs, just that they aren’t everything. Yet.

Squirrel Optimism


We’ve got a bird feeder, so we’ve been feeding squirrels. But I know the only effective way to keep squirrels off a bird feeder is to put up some squirrel exclusion device, which they find so hilariously ineffective that the squirrels roll up into balls of cackling fur, and drop from the bird feeder, then roll downhill. So I hired a guy to stand out by the feeder and tell them jokes.

Plaid Skies Over Petaluma


What can be quite so comforting as looking out the window to see a sunny, blue sky? Knowing it’s doing so during regularly scheduled daylight hours, for one. If you keep finding the sun glaring down on you at hours like 3 am, for example 2:45 am, it’s possible that you’re accidentally on the wrong side of the planet. Check again, from the outside. But spotting the sun and the blue sky is a good way of telling that this is a slow day.

And yet there are portions of the world that don’t have a day or a night. The sun just shuffles around, hesitantly, apologizing right before bumping into things and leaving people with no idea how they’re supposed to react or how far they should rebound. Residents look out to the sky and it’s not blue or gray or even black, but just this vast wash of light fuchsia. This produces considerable tension among the residents because nobody can ever fully escape the feeling that “fuchsia” is spelled incorrectly. Teams of expert spellers have been working on the problem for decades now and they still look over the word, and into dictionaries, and back again, and sigh and ask for a couple months yet to figure things out.

Continue reading “Plaid Skies Over Petaluma”