How To Swim In Some Other Way


With all the talk these days about spring starting soon — please disregard this message if spring isn’t due to start soon — it’s a good time to learn some new swimming moves. You’ll want to do this before the swimming pools get to opening. In the fast-paced world of competitive recreational swimming if you wait for the pools to open you’ll be swarmed and overwhelmed by people who think they know what they’re doing. Nothing’s a greater threat to getting anything done than swarms of people who think they know what they’re doing. If anyone ever did know what they were doing they’d reconsider doing it in the first place.

And there’s no sense waiting for the pools to close. Getting your swimming-learning in then just leads to awkward questions and sometimes a court appearance. And not the good kinds of court either (basketball, tennis, or stuffed-doll kangaroo). If you find yourself somewhere after the pools close you could pretend to swim. Get into your shower, say, and make the appropriate motions. This will knock the shampoo over and send half of it down the drain. This will give some much-needed bounce to the hair clot that’s about two months away from causing a critical plumbing malfunction.

Now there aren’t any of these swimming strokes designed for efficiency. We already know the most efficient way to get across a swimming pool. First approach the pool at its narrowest end, making soft cooing noises without any startling motions. Then, having strapped a jet engine to your back, jump in at no less than 80% full thrust. Bring it up to 105% nominal full thrust before you hit the water and with luck you’ll be across without even getting wet, and you just might beat the falling boulder to that pesky roadrunner. No; what we want here is a full swimming experience, which is what these are about.

First: The Ladder Climb. Start from the top of a ladder which leads into the pool or other body of water. You might need to bring a ladder with you, in which case be sure to mark your name on it somewhere, yes, even if your name is “Mark”. Stand securely with both hands on the railing and both feet on a step, and make your way one step at a time down. When your body is mostly in the water you can then shift to hopping down, both legs taking one step. For the final step hop away from the ladder while describing this as one small step for a man or woman as appropriate but nevertheless one giant leap etc. Advanced swimmers might try a more obscure line such as “Whoopie! Man, that may have been one small step for Neil.” Or try working up your own lunar-landing quote, possibly delivering it imitation of some 1930s comedian you know only from Bugs Bunny cartoons. Try Ben Turpin. Nobody will know if you’re doing it wrong.

Second: The Vertical Drop. Place your arms and legs together to descend rapidly to the bottom of the water. With your eyes closed (if you’re anything like me, you have to do this before you even get started) reflect on how nice it is to be there. It’s warm enough. The light leaking through your eyes is diffuse and nonspecific. Children squealing sound like they’re thousands of miles away. Lifeguards blowing whistles sound like alien life forms. The cries of people evacuating the pool are barely audible. The siren warning about sharks in the area is as nothing compared to the weird, not-exactly-grippy surface nosing you around. Remember to not breathe until you’re done with your business down below.

Third: The Twist. Start from a horizontal pose within the water. Select one arm (the wrong one) to move forward as it’s above the water line, the way you would for a crawl or for that other crawl. Meanwhile using the other arm (the right one) move backward, similarly. With your legs kick left and right simultaneously, producing a lurching motion that immediately propels you into the person in the next lane. With your full measure of grace apologize and pledge never to do it again. Then using the second arm (the right one) forward and the wrong arm backward (the other one) try again. This will propel you into the person in the other lane. In case you are swimming where there’s not any lanes bring along some ropes and string them up yourself. It may seem like a lot of work, but it’s worth it.

While these may seem obvious to do, it is worth practicing so that you look up to four percent less silly when you can go swimming again. Put the shampoo bottle on the sink. Sorry, no idea how the shark got into this.

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Interestingly, I Need Help


I was in the university library because I don’t really make sense anywhere else. Not to brag but in my life I’ve been in over twenty places, and really, “university library” is the one I look the least awkward and weird in. I don’t mind. At least it’s somewhere.

But I was there because I’d wanted to read this history of word processors. Not a recent book, mind you. The book was written sometime in the mid-80s. That’s a lot of word-processor history ago, I admit. Back then word processors were primitive affairs, often programs we got by typing them in from magazines that cost $2.95 at the grocery store and there’s nothing about that I’m making up. Many of them were coal-powered and they were able to store up to one macro, which would be “add a line break after each paragraph, except that makes your document more than 4 kilobytes big, so the computer runs out of memory”. Still, I’d want to know more about how we got to that point.

And that’s when I discovered the horror: the library was reorganizing its shelves. Like, all of them, best I can figure. Everything. And I thought: no! That shelf where I ran across that book about pasta technologies holds nothing now! How will I ever find that book again? I haven’t wanted to find it again since I first read it but still, I knew where it was. I was lost.

This made me realize something. I own multiple books about the history of containerized cargo. I own a book that’s entirely about nutmeg, a spice I could not positively affirm under oath that I had ever had. Seriously, if I tried it would go something like this, taken from my court appearance for failure-to-yield in this minor traffic accident I had at the awful traffic circle where Route 206 crosses White Horse Avenue in Trenton, New Jersey:

ATTORNEY: And have you, knowingly, ever consumed a thing with nutmeg on or in it?

ME: I … think? Maybe? Don’t they use it for pumpkin pies? I’ve eaten that.

ATTORNEY: Maybe? Didn’t you knowingly and deliberately sprinkle some onto the free coffee you got at the farmer’s market so you could see what it was like?

ME: Oh, yes, I guess. It tasted … like every spice ever?

I don’t know what the attorney hoped to prove. In any case they forgave the failure-to-yield and only gave me a citation for listening to an audiobook about the history of the concept of corporations. And that feeds back to my point. I want to say I’m curious about all aspects of the human experience, and that I’m open to how much thought and history goes in to even the small, insignificant things. And then the attorney asks, “Don’t you own multiple books about the history of calendars each written by someone with the name “Duncan”?” Yes. Yes I do. And I already knew all the good stuff in the various Duncans’ books from having read many books about the calendar when I was a kid.

Clearly, I need help. I need some kind of guide to what things are in fact interesting and what things are not. This might take the form of some kind of specially-trained support dog. Someone who will notice how I’m looking over a history of subway tokens (by Brian J Cudahy, author of one of those containerized-cargo books) and leap onto me, shoving me to the ground and maybe rolling me over to something of more general interest. Like a history of an Apollo mission. No, not that Apollo mission. A famous one, like Apollo 11 or 13. Good grief. Fine, maybe 8. No not 12 why are you looking at 12? Who notices Apollo missions that didn’t have James Lovell involved?

They didn’t have the word-processing book. So, hey, someone else found it interesting or they lost it in 1992 and nobody’s asked about it yet. Left to my own devices, I got to Harvey C Mansfield’s 1947 A Short History of the Office of Price Administration, because apparently I need to know something about the theory and practice of World War II price-control administration that I couldn’t just pick up from listening to Lum and Abner episodes that had a public-service mission. Ah, but consider this: it includes this July 1947 quote from Bernard Baruch, architect of what price controls the United States government attempted in World War I and a leading advocate for strategic planning of economic needs given the national emergency:

Also, as a result of piecemeal price control, we are now faced with inflation which, next to human slaughter, maiming and destruction, is the worst consequence of war.

This serves as a valuable reminder that one does not get to be an extraordinarily wealthy individual and public intellectual advising presidents across many decades without completely losing one’s ability to realize one has just composed the daftest sentence in all of 1947, a year when the administration of Germany was divided into The Soviet Sector, the Brassiere, and Bizonia. Yes, yes, plus the Protectorate of the Saar. Don’t nitpick me. I do my reading.

The Apollo 12 astronauts considered giving their Command Module the name Abner, so that their call signs would be Lem and Abner, but this was stopped when, I trust, a NASA Public Affairs Officer came down and slugged Lunar Module pilot Alan Bean. I can show you the book that’s from.

Statistics Saturday: Apollo Lunar Landings, By Day


I certainly hope this clears up some things!

There've been two times Lunar Modules with people aboard were on the moon the 20st and 21st of a month. There was one time a LM with people aboard was on the moon the 1st, 2nd, 5th, 6th, 11th through 14th, 19th, 22nd through 24th, 30th, or 31st of a month. There's never been one the 3rd, 4th, 7th through 10th, 15th through 18th, or 25th through 29th of the month.
Source: Oh, come on, like anyone couldn’t rattle off the dates that (say) the Apollo 16 Lunar Module was on the surface of the Moon with its complement of astronauts, Commander Astronaut Commander Guy, Lunar Module Pilot Pilot Person, and Command Module Pilot Ed Harris aboard? This hardly needs sourcing. We’re not savages.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index rose four points, no thanks to Lisa who’s still walking around and mentioning stuff about “deal memos” just loudly enough that everybody knows what she thinks she’s doing. We’re not taking her bait on the intimations of some kind of Dutch TV producers being involved either.

365

Statistics Saturday: Some Answers


  • North Dakota in the year 1822.
  • Myoglobin.
  • It has none.
  • The square root of two raised to the square root of two power.
  • Cuckoo clocks.
  • Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffmann.
  • The Hartford Whalers.
  • SS Ideal-X.
  • Hexagons.
  • Polymerization.
  • The pathetic fallacy.
  • Saw the board into two halves; combine the two halves to make a whole, and then climb out through the [w]hole.
  • Pointillism.
  • 95 percent.
  • Dormer windows.
  • Walk The Moon.
  • James Irwin.
  • Violincello.
  • Doyenne, D-o-y-e-n-n-e. Doyenne.
  • Had you considered the village barber might be a woman?

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index dropped three points today, owing to traders getting all sulky when I told them that while I appreciated their idea about an imaginary HGTV show talled Tiny McMansions, there was no way I could build that up to one of my big-size weekly essays and I wasn’t going to try. Lisa went off fuming and saying she was going to put together a pilot episode.

328

Dogs Make News By Acting Like Dogs


You might have seen this on Reuters in which case I’m sorry but you probably already thought of my jokes about it. I hope we can still be friends. Anyway at England’s Manchester Airport they’re reviewing their team of drug-sniffer dogs just because in seven months of work they never found any smuggled drugs. To be fair this compares well with my track record of finding illicit drugs.

And it isn’t like they found nothing. According to a review the dogs did manage “multiple accurate detections, but most were of small amounts of cheese or sausages, wrongly brought back by returning British holidaymakers and posing minimal risk to UK public health”. And they’re reviewing how it is the project spent £1.25 million on dogs who recovered somewhere around 181 kilograms of meats. I’m a bit unsure about it myself. I would think you could train dogs to sniff out smoked meats and cheese without much more advanced training than saying, “Who’s a good doggy?” while waving a slice of pepperoni. You could do this in an empty room and a good doggy would appear, and then follow you around, pleading for more. I suppose they did get six dogs, and that’s got to be more pricey than one. Still, it seems like there’s something missing here.

I guess the surprising thing is that in seven months British holidaymakers only bring something like 181 kilograms of illegal meat back home through Manchester. I mean, that’s not nothing. The Apollo 17 mission only brought 110 kilograms of moon rocks back. But there were just the two astronauts on the moon, and the whole trip took less than two weeks, and there was just the one of it. Also they probably declared their rocks and didn’t land in northern England. And for another comparison, the early “Schreibkugel” model typewriter which Friedrich Nietzche owned weighed only 75 kilograms. But if the British holidaymakers are sneaking a lot of other meats in, then how are the dogs missing them? Definitely a scandal here.

A Follow-Up Note To My Seven-Year-Old Self, Who Still Doesn’t Believe It’s Me


But before I get to the update, my mathematics blog had another Reading the Comics post, and I get to talk a lot about reciprocals. Trust me, this is thrilling if you go in willing to be thrilled.


So, seven-year-old me: We finished the pie. I ate the last piece of pecan right out of the tin plate. Also there’s a new Star Wars movie coming out sometime this month although I’m not really sure what weekend it is. That’s all right, you’re going to love the first when you see it at Eddie Glazier’s house. It’s going to be a lot better than Far-Out Space Nuts, because in Star Wars movies they make up all their spaceships. They don’t use an Apollo Lunar Module. So you don’t have to be bothered by all the ways Far-Out Space Nuts depicts the Lunar Module doing things it couldn’t do, like reentering through an Earth-like atmosphere and taking off again with the descent stage attached. I really should work out what weekend the new Star Wars movie comes out but I’ve been busy is all.

Statistics Saturday: Battle of the Network Starship Captains


Actor Starship Captain In Number Of Times Was A Battle of the Network Stars Team Captain
William Shatner Star Trek 4
Richard Benjamin Quark 1
Greg Evigan Babylon 5, if you’ve mistaken Greg Evigan for Michael O’Hare 1
Mark Harmon From The Earth To The Moon (1998), if you count Apollo 7 as a “starship” since he played Wally Schirra 1
Patrick Stewart Star Trek: The Next Generation 0
Avery Brooks Star Trek: Deep Space Nine 0
Kate Mulgrew Star Trek: Voyager 0
Scott Bakula Star Trek: Enterprise 0

I know what you’re all thinking: What about Telly Savalas, two-time captain for CBS and cohost of the November 1977 Battle? And I’m sorry, as while he did once portray Magmar, the leader of the evil faction of Rock Lords on the planet Quartex, Magmar was never properly speaking in control of a spaceship of any kind, much less a starship, so far as I can tell from reading the Wikipedia description of the plot of GoBots: Battle of the Rock Lords, and thus does not qualify for this count.

The Right People Will Get Paperwork


I didn’t know it until it was pointed out to me (but isn’t that always the way?) but, according to according to Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan site mst3kinfo.com on the 14th of July, 1989, “Paperwork is filed with the state of Minnesota pertaining to the creation of a new corporation, Best Brains Inc”. That’s the corporation which would make Mystery Science Theater 3000. In its earliest days episodes were found by venture-traders sailing to the East Indies and making deals for nutmeg and Roger Corman movies, but an increased demand for ironically-viewable entertainment forced more reliable production methods.

It’s hard to say how exciting it was to have incorporation papers filed for Best Brains Inc, though it was between the ranges of a pretty good sale on battery-operated tea lights at Meijer’s and of the Apollo 14 moon landing. After the promising but disappointing start with Middlingly Decent Brains Inc, and then the apparent setback of Mediocre Brains Inc, followed by the steps up of Somewhat Improved Brains Inc and then Rather Good Brains Considering Inc, it was clear they had something good here. Wonder whatever happened to them.