Explaining The Common Cold


What is a cold, and if it is, then what is it not? Furthermore, how many? This last question doesn’t seem to fit at all and maybe it belongs in a different piece, one that’s three words short.

The common cold, as it’s known to everyday experience (outside Wednesdays), is one of daily life’s more reliable chores. It serves a valuable biological purpose. Without it how would we remember that we don’t really like going to work, and aren’t necessarily that fond of a lot of our coworkers, and we come down to it we’re not so fond of leaving home either? Home has so many nice things, like how it’s not work, or how you know which channel it is has the show that’s just about paint. Blocks of clay-ish matter being chopped up into powders. Powders being stirred into transparent or white-ish fluids and stirred. Colored paints being poured into shiny metal buckets. Shiny metal buckets getting lids stamped down on them. Shiny metal closed buckets getting wrapped up in paper labels. Worry that the right labels aren’t getting put on the right cans. Buckets being loaded into trucks, never to be seen again. They must be going somewhere. Maybe a paint store. Maybe an awesome paint-bucket fortress in the woods. But it’s not your concern, and it’s so good when you’re working your way through a cold.

The first sign of a cold is the one on the highway telling you which exit is for the airport. Colds spend a lot of time at airports, since they like to pass time watching the airplanes taking off and landing and pretend that they’re part of crew alert systems instrumentation. Colds were very strange as children, not often being played with by other relatively minor diseases. When they did, they were forced to be the navigators. And they liked it, because they knew all kinds of things about magnetic declination. “Did you know magnetic variation changes over the day, from its most easterly around 8 am to its most westerly around 1 pm?” they’d ask to fellow kids who clearly did not. “The variation is greater in summer than in winter!” That teaches you a lot about what you’re dealing with, when you have a cold.

When a cold encounters someone at the airport they know it’s one of two cases. It could be a person who’s travelling for business. In which case, latching on to that person lets the cold share thoughts of how they’d rather not be travelling for business. Or it could be a person who’s travelling for pleasure. In that case, hey, wouldn’t you hang around someone who’s apparently doing something fun? So that’s why colds pounce on people at airports, wrestling them to the ground and telling them about how besides the diurnal and seasonal variations there’s also a secular variation in the compass. Sometimes you might think about the irony of saying you “catch a cold” when it’s the other way around really, but it won’t help.

Are there good ways to prevent a cold? Oh, now why would you go and spoil a cold’s fun, when it’s going to all that trouble to find you? Well, you go and be you. I’d like to say you know what you’re doing, but I know better. It’s 2018. Anyone who had any idea what they were doing has fled to some better time, like 1998 or the second season of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Still, there’s many people who swear that large amounts of vitamin C will prevent a cold. Just how it’s supposed to do that is controversial. The leading theory is that you should take a great heaping pile of vitamin C and build a fortress around you for it. The colds will be curious, of course, and poke their way through the door. That’s when you reveal that you were never inside the fortress at all and instead slam the door shut.

The plan might seem odd. But it’s only because it makes you realize you don’t really know what vitamin C looks like. You know what those candy drops with vitamin C look like. But the bulk of those are candy; the vitamin C is just, on average, four molecules per tablet. What would a wall of the stuff look like? What color would it have? You know vitamin C is “ascorbic acid”. Is it acidic like soda, sticky but harmless to touch? Is it acidic like H2SO4 that kills Johnny in that rhyme your chemistry teacher told you? There’s no way to know. Maybe there’ll be something about it on TV after the paint documentary finishes.

The First Of 2017


I want people not to think I’m starting the year lazy or timid. Not so much as, say, I want people not to think I’m running one of those mail-order scams where you send in some money every week for a year and then finally I send an associate over to spit in your nostrils. Just the idea of that makes me woozy. But starting the year lazy or timid is on the list of things I want people not to think about me. I also don’t want them starting the year trying to copy-edit that sentence. I want it to be a better sentence too, but there’s no doing it. All that even the best copy editor could do with that sentence is drag it across a mile of pavement and shoot it. I’ve tried. You can see where it left a trail of abraded participles down past the Blimpie’s and everything.

It’s a problem I have every new year. A new year offers the best chance for a new start that you can hope for without abandoning your identity completely and setting up shop under a new name in a new city in a new state in possibly a different time zone and using a transparently fake accent. That’s too much work for anybody, especially when they don’t want to lose their whole DVR queue. But you can at least start off the year doing things a little bit different and see if that delays how imminent the doom feels.

Like there’s this thing where it’s good luck to say “rabbit, rabbit” first thing the first day of the month. Probably that’s extra good to say first thing the first day of the year. I guess after waking up the next morning. If you aren’t going to say that then you want to say something that’s going to set the year on a positive tone. For me that ended up “what the heck are the people in the next room doing?” Because they had some low-level rattling noise going from about 8 am and you don’t want to hear someone practicing their small drum in the hotel. If we discount that on the grounds I fell right back asleep then my first words would be something like “the hotel Internet still isn’t working,” which didn’t get the year off on any better footing. It’s enough to make me wonder if I’d be better off starting the year with my mouth taped shut until I’m quite sure I have something worthwhile to say.

It would not, because I’d need lunch. And where to have the first lunch of the New Year? Home? Where’s the fun in that? The bagel place while reading the alt-weekly to see how its crossword puzzle has gone wrong this week? Great except the place is apparently closed for the holiday? Maybe I could wait until later in the week to eat? How about to the Obviously Used To Be An Arthur Treacher’s Fish And Chips That’s Carrying On Without The Arthur Treacher’s Name And Still Looks Like It’s 1989 Inside? That’s tempting but who can be sure they’re open on a holiday, or any other day? The sign out front might be rotating, but we’re pretty sure that’s just because it’s a breezy day. There’s the Kewpie Doll restaurant but we’re pretty sure that’s always closed. Once again, paralysis.

Or there’s just being online. Someone could start the year off right by saying just the right thing in the right social hangout. Here’s a thread arguing how on Star Trek: Voyager it’s just absurdly implausible that a Vulcan could have black skin instead of dark green skin. I check the calendar. No, it does say it’s 2017. Possibly everybody is confused on the point. I would understand, since 2016 gave us all the experience of living in a year whose every book about will be subtitled Twelve Months That Changed The World. But we do have to be going on to 2017. The alternative is taking a gap year between 2016 and 2018. I admit there’s some appeal to that. But it’ll leave us with something like twelve months of our feet dangling loose and we can’t do that either for some reason. Probably having to do with parliamentary procedure. Well, this could be just the right flame war to kick off the 2017 Pointless Online Arguments Season. Oh, the thread’s locked.

So there’s my paralysis. Get the new year off to any decent start? I can’t figure a way to do it. If you have any please write, care of some department. Use the right typeface! Meanwhile I’ll be in here, not doing anything because there’s no starting. Send help, if you can even.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The Another Blog, Meanwhile index dropped two points and fears it’ll never get out of the Philadelphia airport. It would like to, and it’s been following signs to the exit, but somehow the signs always end, no longer pointing to anything, without giving any hint how to get out of anything. It’s kind of eerie and suggests that traders are caught in some fairy tale about the futility of trying or something like that.

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Moon and Starrs


So then this came up on Twitter:

I’m not that surprised that Buzz Aldrin and Ringo Starr would happen to run into each other. Sure they mostly move in different circles, but they have got that level of super-fame where, yeah, someone prominent enough would invite the two together. It’s that apparently they’ve run into each other before, and just by accident, at the airport, and more than once. It’s so mundane. It’s like the way you’re going through O’Hare trying so hard to leave and run into that guy again, the one at the Nuts On Clark kiosk, who’s staring at a bag of Trail Mix Or Something I Guess like he’s going to punch it. Only for them, that guy is a Beatle or walked on the moon. We’re never at our best at airports. I don’t think I could process running into an astronaut or a Beatle at one. How do Beatles or astronauts do it?

Buzz Aldrin also tweeted about meeting Joe Walsh, of the Eagles. Ringo Starr went on to maybe have his account hacked or something. It’s hard to tell. He has a kind of confusing Twitter feed even normally. Peace and love.

On Not Knowing About Disney’s Saint Louis Theme Park


Did you know that Disney worked up plans to open a five-level indoor amusement park for Saint Louis, in the early 60s? Me neither. Consumerist.com reported yesterday about how blueprints from the planned park are up for sale. Apparently according to folklore Disney cancelled park plans because they’d have had to sell beer. In reality Disney just wanted other people to build the place for them, while they got to have the amusement park when it was done. The other people wouldn’t see things Disney’s way. You can see how Disney was making the only reasonable decision.

Consumerist quotes Mike Fazio, a consignment specialist, without actually naming him. I imagine they figured everybody would go to the Associated Press article they were working from instead. Anyway, Fazio says, “It’s amazing how many people don’t even know that they [Disney] were going to build a park in Saint Louis.”

I didn’t know. My sister, an amusement park enthusiast who lives near Saint Louis, had no idea either. [ NOTE: ACTUALLY COMMUNICATE WITH SISTER AND ASK IF SHE KNEW BEFORE POSTING THIS — EXTREMELY URGENT ]

And now I’m stuck wondering: what is an amazing number of people to not know that Disney considered but did not build a five-level indoor amusement park in Saint Louis over fifty years ago? Eight? That seems too few. Twelve? No, I think it’s credible that twelve people would not have heard of this. Forty-six? Again, I find that a believable number. Forty-eight might be a little amazing, if I hadn’t spoiled things by putting up thoughts of forty-six just a sentence before. But I’d bet Fazio was thinking of some even greater number of people.

Now, if there were 438 trillion people who didn’t know, I would agree that’s amazing. But that’s carried on the strength of 438 trillion being an amazing number of people. Whether they knew about the park or not neither adds to nor detracts from their amazingness. It doesn’t matter what they’re doing. What they’re doing is standing ahead of me at the Coke Freestyle machine, staring at the single large illuminated button marked “PUSH”, with no course of action in mind and no desire to get one.

How does the number of people unaware of Disney’s Kennedy-era plans for a Saint Louis amusement park compare to other people unaware of things that don’t exist? In 1908 President William Howard Taft laid the cornerstone for a giant statue to the Vanished Native American. This even though Native Americans were still around and wanted to stick around. The statue never got finished, and Native Americans went on not vanishing. How many people have no idea that somewhere on Staten Island there is not this memorial taller than the Statue of Liberty?

Statues and amusement parks are one thing [ NOTE: at least two things ] but how about airports? There were plans afoot in the early 1930s to build an airport on top of Manhattan skyscrapers. This would have solved both the problem of New York City’s needing a commercial airport within the Five Boroughs and the problem of anybody being willing to use it. How does the number of people unaware of that compare to the Saint Louis Disney Park? In the 1970s they were going to build a nuclear power plant floating in the ocean by Little Egg Harbor, New Jersey. How does the Saint Louis Disney Park Unawarenss Number compare to this plan to create, with the help of a little hurricane blowing the nuclear power plant into the skyscraper-top airport, the greatest disaster movie ever made, if only they could ever have put together the right cast?

There’s no telling, because I don’t know the numbers. I realize there’s little chance that Mike Fazio is going to see this article. But, what the heck, if I can get picked up the Onion AV Club briefly and get in contact with guys I knew in college and from Usenet fifteen years ago, why couldn’t I get to hear from him? Mr Fazio, if you read this, could you let me know what’s the largest number of people you’d think could credibly not know about this before?

The blueprints are expected to sell for between five and ten thousand dollars, so I’m afraid I’m not going to get them for my sister for Christmas. She doesn’t have time to build her own amusement park these days anyway, with with [ NOTE: ASK WHAT SHE’S DOING THESE DAYS ]. You can sympathize.

Warbling


It’s not the most exciting thing we have around the yard — that would be our pet rabbit being let out in his pen to frighten squirrels — but we do have a bird feeder out back, which we use to get angry at squirrels who are passing up the perfectly good squirrel feeder that’s on the tree they can actually get at. Anyway, it’s fun looking up at the window and seeing that every sparrow in the world is visiting at once.

And then there’s the occasional surprise visitor. We just got a Cape May warbler visiting. There was one here last year, too, and it delighted me first because it’s not so much bigger than a sparrow but is far more interesting to look at, what with looking like it’s been dipped in lemon sauce before heading out for the day. It’s named, if we believe in Wikipedia these days, for Cape May, New Jersey, where it does not live and through which it does not migrate, but where it was spotted one time by George Ord, who swore he wasn’t making it up, even though another one wasn’t seen in Cape May for a hundred years after that, and where it still doesn’t get seen much. I am just delighted that the world works out like that sometimes. Imagine if you could apply that to people. I might be named something like “Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport Shuffler-To-Connecting-Flight”. Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport meanwhile is properly named after World War I pilots Ernest Groves Wold and Cyrus Foss Chamberlain, but the “Wold-Chamberlain Field” apparently is not much seen, and I like to think that’s because the name has moved to Cape May to retire.

Why It Is Known As Frontier Airlines


Apparently, the name is meant literally: the check-in desks have never known the touch of human civilization, there are wild packs of coyotes running on the baggage carousels and running a thriving illicit taxi service, and if you do insist on getting an agent you need to hew one yourself out of wood, using an axe, and primitive colorations you make from combining kerosene seeping from the ground with such lead or cadmium or other poisonous metals as you are able to scrounge from some manner of ore.

There might someday be a day I laugh about this, possibly when the time comes for them to cancel my flight next week.

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.)

Fly The Little Skies


I had occasion to fly through Trenton’s airport, and don’t you go mocking the choices in my life that had me flying into Trenton on business now. It was the smallest airport I’d ever flown through, and that’s including airports that only exist in simulator games on my iPad. It was so cutely tiny I wanted to pick it up and carry it home with me, and it would fit, too, in my backpack. It was small enough that its official three-letter airport designation only had two letters. All the signs in it were sans serif because they couldn’t fit the words otherwise. It’s the first airport I’ve ever been in that’s half its own size. It’s a good thing I wanted an economy car from the car rental or the parking lot might have capsized.

I’m sincerely delighted with the airport.

A Fresh Start In Standing Around


Disaster’s struck the worldwide headquarters for the Major Obstacles League. The main standings computer, tracking who it is has shown the best work in standing exactly in the right spot to block as many more people as possible, has suffered what’s described as a “severe malfunction” because of all the explosions and the memory tapes falling into a black hole that way. They were “just about” to make their first backup since November of 1893.

A couple of individual accomplishments — like Daniel Stoever’s legendary December 17, 2003, standing just outside a men’s room in concourse C of O’Hare airport, which managed to make it impossible to enter or exit the bathroom, or to fit between his luggage cloud and the wall, or get onto the moving sidewalk, reading carefully a billboard ad in which IBM promised to someday make more computer things for over 25 minutes — will be remembered, of course. But for the normal obstacle, the struggle for recognition begins again.

At least, it will begin again soon, when the early lead is probably be the guy standing outside the new computer room’s door and not noticing everyone coughing to be let in, because he’s very busy … he’s not even texting, he just has the phone in his hand … what, checking the time? For this long?

He’s good, whoever this is. You can definitely see his experience in standing exactly where the escalator lets people onto the floor, in his not even guessing that everyone trying to get his attention so he moves might mean him.

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