Some more things to say about The Story Of Brick


To get back to The Story of Brick, as told by the American Face Brick Association. I don’t want to over-sell the joy I feel in this book. I know these are hard times. Maybe things that bring me a little cheer are intensified. Still, I think there is a lot to enjoy here.

There’s a stretch of book trying to show what the different brick-laying styles are. In the text this is done by pictures. The eBook reader that for some reason gave me this, though, puts some of them as text. So it’s full of weird ASCII art. Like, here:

The Common or American bond, in order to secure transverse strength of wall, can be treated in a way to produce pleasing effects, as may Fig 7.

m
	ZZ3EZ~]C~Z3CZZI]CZrj.
	Fig. 3.
	Common
	ME
	oc
	:es3c
	U^r

The Flemish bond (Fig. 5) is secured by

mi
	nm
	immzznm
	izmmz.
	DCZS3
	IIEE3E
	nnc

Header Diamonds

|/>)(\(//-/>
<<|//-<-\|<|(\-///\\)|)--</>
())((//<-<
(-/(<\|/-(|(
/(>>/()|-->
(\))|(()(/|-->|/)-->)>>-)||</\/\|(|/<((<|/-(\\|)-)/\>-(>|/)\
	

Herring!

               .-_|\
              /     \
      Perth ->*.--._/
                   v  <- Tasmania

And despite that fine presentation of good new LinkedIn passwords for me, it just runs a picture for “Chimney Top”. I know what a chimney top looks like. I have one on my house. At least I did last time I checked. It’s been a while.

OK, I’m back. Yes, my chimney top is still there, along with all the chimney middle. You may mock me for checking that nothing had come along and swiped my chimney top without my knowing, but I remember that this is the year 2020. You know what would be stranger than something stealing the tops of chimneys of otherwise untouched buildings? Every single day since the 14th of January.

I don’t fault the book having a pro-brick agenda. I’m sure there’s a comparable book from the American Wood Shingles and Shakes Association that keeps pointing out how lousy bricks are. This if the shingles and shakes people get along. But the enthusiasm this book brings to bricks sometimes paints weird scenes. For example, remember the Great Baltimore Fire that destroyed over 1,300 buildings in February 1904? Me neither but I’ve only over driven through 1904 on the way to 1908 or 1894. Yes, I’m a Coxey’s Army hipster. But the American Face Brick Association notes “there was something saved, however, for a special committee … reported that between 200,000000 and 300,000,000 usable brick worth $5.00 a thousand were recovered”.

So now this paints a scene of a time when “brick” was the plural of brick? Maybe it was a character-recognition error. No, but they do this all over the book. All right. Let me move on.

So this also paints a scene of Baltimore, smashed by a catastrophic fire. Through the smoldering ruins, though, a civic leader stands up. I’ll assume his name was “Archibald”, since that’s an era when civic leaders had names like Archibald or Edwin or Vernon or all that at once. “It is not all lost, my fellow Baltimoreans,” cried Archibald, holding up two pretty good brick in his right and one fractured brick in his left. “There is merchantable salvage comprising a million and a half of dollars of brick here!” I bet his news was greeted with deep, impressed looks from the survivors picking through ruin. I bet they shared their joy and brick with him. And then Archibald interjected, “Herring!”

So it’s a good thing to know there were a quarter-billion still-usable bricks in Baltimore in 1904. It shows what kind of a craftsman I am that actually using them seems like maybe more effort than they’re worth. Of course, what they’re worth was a million and a half dollars, according to Archibald Edwin Vernon. That is a lot of effort to not go to. It’s just I think of my own uses for used bricks.

There’s one set behind the microwave so we don’t push it up against the wall when we press the door-release lever. There’s a brick I use to get a crowbar in the right place, when I do my annual prying-open-of-a-window-some-cursed-former-resident-painted-shut. There’s one we keep in the basement, next to the stairs, so that we can stub our toes if that hasn’t happened already. I think if we stretched our imaginations we could use as many as two more brick.

So that covers a market for five used brick. This leaves 1904 Baltimore with needing to find applications for only a quarter-billion more brick. They could solve this by building more houses, sure, but that’s still 40 to 60 million houses to use up all that brick. It makes one wonder what they were doing with all those brick in the first place.

Herring!

Statistics Saturday: Where More Comic Strips Are Set


Since it turns out people like geography! Who knew?

Comic Strip Setting
The Brilliant Mind of Edison Lee Anytown, USA
One Big Happy Anytown, USA
Buckles Anytown, USA
FoxTrot Anytown, USA
Red and Rover Anytown, USA
Between Friends Anytown, Canada [1]
Heathcliff Anytown, USA
Shoe Anytown, Delmarva Peninsula, Virginia
Graffiti Anytown, USA
Rose is Rose Anytown, USA
Bleeker: The Rechargeable Dog Anytown, USA
Ginger Meggs Anytown, Australia

[1] “Anytown, Canada” means “Suburban Toronto”.

Reference: Yerkes Observatory, 1892-1950: The Birth, Near Death, and Resurrection of a Scientific Research Institution, Donald E Osterbrock.

Two fast thoughts about the new Elvira’s House of Horrors pinball game


So, first, I finished my first game with 69 million and I just feel like Elvira should have acknowledged that fact.

Second, autocomplete really wants me to be writing about Elvira’s House of Parliament and I think that all my United Kingdom, Canada, and Australian readers strongly agree.

Everything There Is To Say About Pool Safety


I realize it’s late in the swimming season to write this up. I’m sorry. I have a good reason for not writing this up when it might have been more useful: I didn’t. So this is late for where I am in North America, where we’re not looking at much more pool weather. We’re in the season where the pool toys are all explaining “winter” to each other, and get it wrong. You know they think Santa is a deer made of water who sits on the lights and ornaments that go missing from the attic in November?

Worse I know I’m early for the swimming season in the southern hemisphere. I saw pictures where somewhere in Australia was getting snow and kangaroos. You expect in the winter months to get snow, but kangaroos? Who expects that? Australians, but they have problems with their nature. I bet Australian snow has, like, enough venom that one mouthful could knock out every laser-guided exploding wallaby in New South Wales. Maybe I could save this and re-post it in like early May. Or whatever May is in the southern hemisphere. Oh, or I could save this until May in the southern hemisphere, and then turn it upside-down for northern hemisphere readers. Readers on the equator (hi, Singapore!) can read it while laying on their side, unless that should be lying.

The most important aspect of pool safety is inspection. Examine the pool before you get too close. Leave any pool area that looks too much like it’s from The Sims, and never get more than one metropolitan area closer to it.

The second-most important lesson about pool safety applies to pools that are fake natural ponds lined with sand. Do not try to dig a little canal all the way from the pool up the hill and over to the drainage pit from the chemical plant nearby. The lifeguards will not stop asking you questions. Also there’s this chain link fence that’s a hassle.

Worse, the hill rises like fifteen or twenty feet from sea level. There’s no connecting the pool to the drainage pit except by making a series of powered locks. This is fine if you brought canal locks to your day at the pool. I have a hard enough time remembering to bring swim goggles, glasses, and a Star Trek novel I can leave by mistake on a hammock. I don’t even know where to get canal locks. The dollar store in the strip mall nearest the pool? I guess. But I don’t know what shelf. You’d think it would be in pool and swimming supplies, but no. As far as I know. I’m not even sure what they look like. It could be I’ve been staring at them and didn’t even realize it. Well, this is getting off the point of pool safety. Back to that.

If there is a floating raft in the middle of the pool or pond do not try building a suspension bridge to it. The raft is not stable enough to support construction. Trying to drive piles into the foundation of the pool to serve as base will get you annoying questions again. I realize I’m talking a lot about avoiding questions here. But this is safety-related. I know the danger I get into when I’m asked a question I’m not prepared for. These can be questions as perilous as “did you want to eat now or after we’ve gone swimming?” Even if I did answer that we’d get into questions about the scope of the eating to do.

These days we’ve learned that it isn’t dangerous to go swimming right after eating, or vice-versa. It’s still bad form to go eating while swimming, since few swimming strokes accommodate forks or knives or finger foods. It’s quite bad form to eat other swimmers. And you should not eat the entire pool, whether or not you’re swimming, for the obvious reason. Why screw up someone else’s trip to the pool? It’s a jerk thing to do, so don’t do it.

Above all, use common sense. Common sense should be applied to all exposed portions of the skin (yours), at least once every three hours, or one hour if you’ve spent it in the water. Common sense can be found in cream or spray-on form in aisle twelve.

How To Clear The Snow On Your Sidewalk


Do you need to clear the snow on your sidewalk? That’s not a trick question. If you have both snow and a sidewalk, yes, you do. The question is how.

The best solution to snow on the sidewalk is to live inside a domed city. Within this sparkling beautiful environment you don’t have any kind of weather, just a steady mediocrity. If you want to have snow, you can get it delivered. It’ll be placed thoughtfully on your property by a team of specially developed snow-bots, working under the direction of a snow artist who’s moody and introspective and has deep thoughts about the aesthetics of stuff on your lawn. In this case you can get the snow-bots to put snow on your sidewalk. And then you can have them remove the snow again because, hey, it’s not like they have lives to get back to. At least until it turns out the snow-bots do have deep internal lives. And the snow artist falls under the sway of a mysterious, deep-feeling red-haired woman who was left over from an unpublished J G Ballard short story. Then there’s a good chance that you’ll be the person whose house is being tended while The Revolution gets started. This is jolly good excitement, but you can’t count on that happening more than maybe one time out of four. (The Revolution discovers that outside of the city dome, the Earth has transformed from radiation-scarred wasteland to Griffith Park.) Also, living in a domed city is likely to attract me. I don’t think that’s a problem, but I definitely understand if you do.

What should be a nearly-as-good method is to have a fire dragon on hand. A fire dragon can handup two ten inches of snow by something as simple as laying down. Problem solved, right? At least until that eleventh inch comes down. Not so, sad to say. There are no fire dragons. What you can get in most places are fire snakes. These are a considerably smaller species. They come from Australia, which tells you something about why that continent’s gotten a cumulative total of about four inches of snow in recorded history, which thanks to the indigenous peoples there, stretches back about 50,000 years. A lone, four-inch-long, Australian fire snake has enough heat capacity to singe the eyebrows off the entire population of Europe four times over. This will come in handy if there’s ever a blizzard of European eyebrows on your sidewalk. This doesn’t often happen. If it did, you’d know, because the weather map would make it look like the Interstate is making Groucho eyes at you. Still it’s nice to know the capacity is there. Do not try to import this species. You can’t get the necessary straw mice to feed them without the pet store getting suspicious.

The most popular method to clear the sidewalk is to flip a switch which causes the sidewalk to lift up on large hydraulic legs. Then the legs tip the sidewalk to the side, and a giant cartoony hand wearing gloves and holding a whisk broom goes back and forth, dusting the sidewalk clean. The sidewalk drops back into place and the hand tosses the whisk broom into the air and makes a happy OK sign before catching it and disappearing again. If you have a switch in the house and you can’t figure out what it’s supposed to do? It does that. If it doesn’t work that’s because the GFCI has tripped. Look for something that seems like a reset button and try that. Make sure you don’t ever use this while someone’s on your sidewalk.

If it isn’t working and you can’t find the reset button, I know what you’re thinking. No, you can’t take the hair dryer out and use that on the sidewalk. That isn’t hair. Well, all right, if you’ve got the European eyebrow blizzard that’s hair. But that also almost never happes. Best not to worry about it.

After clearing the snow, scatter enough rock salt that you feel like you’re using too much rock salt, but not quite enough that it feels like your sidewalk is actually getting clear of ice or slush.

In Which I Respond To Australia Selecting A Prime Minister Who Is Not Me


Well, you know. I’m not hurt. Really. I offered to prime ministrate for Australia purely out of my sense that I might do some good for people who need some good done. It wasn’t meant in any kind of self-aggrandizing spirit. And, besides, I was offering pretty late in the day, considering they were figuring whether to put in a new prime minister like the same hour I posted my offer. Honestly, I’m not bothered. I had some personal stuff come up that’s scrambled my plans for the next couple days anyway, so this kind of works out for everyone involved.

And I’m not saying this to set myself up for the next time an Australian prime minister has to figure out whether to leave or get kicked out. Honestly, I wish only the best for their new prime minister, whom I’m going ahead and guessing is named Aussie McPerthillibong. I’m sorry, I don’t have tears in my eyes keeping me from reading the news about whoever the heck he is clearly. I hope everything works out great for you and for Australia and, you know, just, keep me in mind if you need any light tasks done. Not, like, helping you move to a new apartment. We don’t have that good a relationship yet. But I’m happy to help on levels where we really belong together.

In Which I Offer To Help Fix Australia’s Political Crisis


I want to talk about a political situation in another country here. So I acknowledge how I’m coming from a position of weakness. I’m from the United States, where yeah, everything is on fire. Actually, everything’s on some kind of hyperfire. The hyperfire doesn’t just occupy volume and duration. It reaches into strange other dimensions previously only suspected by research geometers. And it’s some kind of fractal hyperfire, since each flame itself contains another hyperfire. And each flame of that hyperfire contains a tiny hurricane. And that hurricane is made of buckets of rabid turds. And the buckets are themselves actually killbots. And each killbot is poorly electrically grounded. And I suspect the situation is even worse than that.

But. Do you know what’s going on in Australia? I mean besides the wildlife. The wildlife is adorable (the greater microcuddling woomera). Or deadly (the laser stanthorpe, which has has enough venom in each ankle to render the world’s mammal population and most of its fish flabbergasted six times over, and has eight ankles somehow despite having no legs). Or both (the trinitrootoluene kangaroo). I’m talking about the political situation. I’ve got a bunch of Australian friends who can not believe what’s going on. So let me explain what’s going on: I don’t know.

The thing is Australia runs a Westminster Parliament-style government. This is a standard issue of government. But again, I’m from the United States, where we just … don’t? And it’s hard wrapping my head around the thing. My introduction to how parliamentary governments work was as a kid hearing Italy had gone through like 48 governments in the forty years since World War II. I thought this meant, like, they’d had that many revolutions in that time. It staggered me. I tried to imagine how you could write even that many different constitutions. If I were on the constitution-writing committee of the Provisional Government I’d run out of ideas of what to even do differently. About four governments in I’d start submitting what we used three Republics ago and hope nobody noticed. I’d be so scared I forgot to update the number and someone would ask me why this was the Constitution for the 52nd Italian Postwar Republic when we were on the 54th.

Now I’m better-informed. When they say a parliamentary government has fallen, all they mean is the lower house of parliament planned to vote on something and didn’t. So then they have to go have a general election. If it was something important they didn’t vote on they hold a snap election. This wraps everything up in six weeks. If it was something boring they didn’t vote on they hold a more leisurely regular election. (They also do this if nothing didn’t get not voted on, but parliament had gone on a couple years and everyone was getting tired of the same old faces.) That wraps up in eight weeks. Anyway during the election everybody hopes there’ll be a hung parliament, because that sounds weird and exciting. But what happens instead is some big boring party teams up with some tiny right-wing party. This forms a coalition, and whoever runs the big boring party goes on being prime minister.

There’s also an upper house. It’s made of deceased wealthy representatives from each of the political subdivisions of the country. Its job is to have a huge, fancy, well-varnished wooden stick called a “mace” on a table up front. Any important legislation must spend a couple days in the upper house before it becomes law anyway. I think the legislation is to observe the mace and work out that if it laws badly it will get hit with a big stick. That’s just a guess. Anyway it seems important to do. The upper house members are expected to every few years produce a scandal about how they use their travel allowances. This keeps the government balanced.

Anyway, right now Australia is going through a political crisis caused by I don’t know. I keep reading explanations but then they get to how the ruling Liberal Party is the conservative party and I ask my Australian friends if this is a bit and they act all innocent. Anyway, key thing is the Australian people don’t like prime minister Malcolm Turnbull. The Liberal Party doesn’t like him either. Turnbull himself has been staring into a closet asking why he should like himself. And the closet door keeps stubbing his toe. Firing him would be easy. Even easier on his feet. But there’s the problem of who to make prime minister in his place. Australia’s been trying out all kinds of prime ministers since 2010 and hasn’t liked any of them. Some have lasted weeks in office. Some haven’t been nearly that stable. The crisis is getting urgent. Last week it emerged that Italy and New Zealand were huddling together and cackling at these guys. There’s a real chance some of these countries are going to start pantsing each other.

So here we get to me. Australia, I want you to know, I’m willing to come over and prime ministrate you for a while. I know this might be controversial. I’m not an Australian citizen. I’ve never even been to the country-continent. But I have liked basically every cartoon with a kangaroo in it ever. And in the Singapore Zoo’s walk-through enclosure I once petted a wallaby who seemed not distressed by my attention. She looked back with an expression one could describe as “Yes, well, ah. So if you didn’t need anything further I had some projects to get back to so, if you could scoot over a bit.” Oh, and I like Violet Crumble. It’s this Australian candy bar that you can eat once and spend the rest of your life picking honeycomb-toffee out of your teeth. Also sometimes I get that Kinks song stuck in my head. These might seem like slender qualifications to be prime minister of Australia. Even slenderer if I can’t tell you what my every game of Tropico goes like.

Small kangaroo, possibly a wallaby, staring right at my camera. From the Singapore zoo.
Not the kangaroo I petted, but one I got a better picture of, because I didn’t have to go finding that picture.

But I’m not looking to rule Australia, mind you. I figure to lead what’s called a “caretaker” government. In a caretaker government the prime minister doesn’t try to start any major initiatives. They just go around bringing mugs of hot chocolate and giving hugs to people who need it. I can add to that expectation a certain number of back-rubs. At the risk of bragging, I’m pretty good for being completely untrained in back-rubbing. I’m not looking to do this forever, mind you. I only want Australia to have some breathing space to figure out what it’s looking for in a government, and go out and have an election and get one. If you need to take an extra-long election cycle, like nine weeks or so, I bet I could swing that. I’ll need high-speed Internet so I can keep up with my day job. And airfare, please. I want to help, but I do have travel expenses of my own.

[[[ NOTE TO SELF double-check before this posts to see if they get a new prime minister in the next four hours ]]]

[[[ ALSO NOTE TO ALSO SELF find out why spellcheck isn’t flagging ‘hyperfire’. could be important ]]]

Looking Back: Reviewing the Plants and Animals of Australia


So as a functional know-it-all I enjoy writing in the “nonfact” mode, that is. That is, using the structure of nonfiction writing to spread some kind of amusing nonsense. I should do it more. A Partial Review of the Plants and Animals of Australia is one of those pieces, and it even let me use some of my own pictures of real animals in a real zoo, and it foreshadows the Mark Trail plot recap due on Sunday. As a bonus, researching this piece caused me to run across the Wikipedia sentence “The Tasmanian rainforest is considered a Gondwanan relic”. Not a funny sentence? Maybe it isn’t. But it has this wonderful rhythm to it that delights me. I will cling to this bauble of words and don’t care what other people think of me for it, unless they think something good or bad about me for it.

Priceless


I imagine my love and I aren’t alone in following the news about that giant Canadian coin stolen from that museum in Berlin. If you missed the news, a giant Canadian coin was stolen from this museum in Berlin. Here “giant” refers to the coin. It was a solid gold piece with a denomination of one million Canadian dollars. It’s worth, at current gold prices, of over four million Canadian dollars. (This suggests a great money-making scheme, wherein if we get enough money together it’ll be four times as much money. Joke’s on you. We’ve all bought into the scheme and called it “the economy”.) The Canada was the normal-size Canada as far as I know. What’s a little enchanting about this is that the coin denomination is bilingual. On one half it reads “1 Million Dollars”. On the other it’s “1 Million de Dollars”. I love the old-fashioned sound of “a million of dollars”. It redoles of gilded-age finance. I know “redole” is not a word. I mean “it’s redolent of” but I’m trying to avoid passive constructions.

The theory of how this 21-inch-across, 220-pound coin got stolen is that the thieves dragged it through the museum, out a window, and down along the railway track. My love pondered what a hobo walking that line would make of seeing a giant gold coin being rolled down the way. I know what I would do in that circumstance. I would bug out my eyes, reach into my hobo jacket, pull out the whiskey flask, dramatically pour out the contents, and toss the empty canister over my shoulder. I have seen too many stupid movies. It’s affecting my behavior in hypothetical situations.

The Royal Canadian Mint made five of these million-Canadian-dollar gold coins “because we can”, according to its web site according to The New York Times. That’s a fair reason. It beats “because we can’t” or “because the alternative is to be licked by an opossum” or “because otherwise we have to paint the basement”. At least it’s a fair reason to make the first one. You can’t really prove you can do a thing unless you do the thing, or do something close to the thing. Like if they minted a 975,000-Canadian-dollars gold coin. If they ever did that I’d entertain no doubts about their ability to make a million-Canadian-dollar gold coin. But it looks like they skipped right to the million one. Maybe they were confident after the success of their 925,000-Canadian-dollars gold coin. Or maybe out back they have a bunch of test misfires. Coins that came out as spheres, say, or that swapped the locations of the English and the French denomination inscriptions. Or that time they put gold into the machinery and a bunch of cheeseburgers came out and they can’t explain that.

I don’t know who the other four million-Canadian-dollar were made for, or why. At least one was put on display in some Berlin museum. I guess that’s better than leaving it in the Stray Stuff drawer in the front desk, along with the rubber bands that break when you try to band things together and that couple of pound coins you swore you were going to spend the last time you went to Britain and then didn’t. But what purpose do the others serve besides proving your annoying lefty friends correct about the moral imperative to grind up the rich for bone meal?

The Royal Canadian Mint will make more, in case you want one and are willing to risk the Revolution not coming anytime too soon. That’s got me wondering how much it costs to get a million-dollar coin minted. At least a million dollars seems likely. But how much more on top of that? And can you get it FOB? This is a very funny joke to people who remember that mention of railroad tracks earlier and who also get lots of stuff delivered by the Railway Express Agency, which folded in 1975, which is why I’m a humor blogger and not a successful humor blogger. I wonder if you get a discount if you bring your own gold. I’m imagining now showing up at the front door of the Royal Canadian Mint, at I’m guessing 1867 Mint Street, Canadopolis, Canada K1A 0G8, with a wheelbarrow full of ore and asking where the service counter is. (Alternatively, “où est le counter de service?” which is pretty good French considering how long it’s been since I took a class.) I bet they have a pamphlet showing the way. Mints like that always have more and more specific pamphlets than you could imagine.

Also the million-Canadian-dollar gold coin is merely one of the world’s largest gold coins. A correction to the New York Times article reads:

While it was the world’s largest gold coin when it was issued, in 2007, that distinction is now held by the Australian Kangaroo One Tonne Gold Coin, minted in 2011.

I shall be very disappointed if the Australian Kangaroo One Tonne Gold Coin is not the most dangerous gold coin in existence. I know what a dangerous ecosystem finance is, and Australia’s got to have the most dangerous. I bet it’s highly venomous and prone to exploding when threatened.

And now I’m wondering, what if it was just someone from Giant Canada that picked it up? Thought it was loose giant change in the giant drawer? I’d go ask Giant Canada but my voice isn’t loud enough for them to hear me at that height. I suppose it isn’t something I have to resolve, anyway.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

Trading dropped three points before dissolving into just a mess when someone brought up that recent Family Circus from a little while ago where they use the phrase “on fleek”. And we never knew “on fleek” was a thing, but blast if we’re going to let Family Circus be more in-touch with the pop culture than we are. And yeah, that “on fleek” has gotten to where it’s appearing in the comic strips that don’t admit they’re reruns of decades-old strips sometimes with a little new art means the phrase has to be completely dead and maybe two years away from an ironic revival but sheeesh no, we can’t have this at all and now we’re going to have to look up that David S Pumpkins thing that everybody was giggling about back in October right before the world ended?

116

Oddball News Review: The Man Who Paints Cows


Based on the Reuters article The Man Who Paints Cows.

Headline: Well done. If there’s anything more immediately obviously amusing than painting a cow, it’s painting multiple cows. Oh, a jerboa has novelty value, but nobody knows what a jerboa is, and in any case they don’t have nearly as much material to paint, what with being small? I think? I’m pretty sure they’re one of those mutant little mouse critters in southeast Asia or Peru or something like that. Cows might be used a lot but they hit the sweet spot of promisingly funny to start with and not being strained. Rating: 6/8.

Story: Disappointing. The story reveals that John Marshall paints pictures of cows, not on cows directly. Well, where’s the fun in that? Anyone who wants to paint a picture of a cow can do so. We’re even encouraged to, with popular books in the arts and crafts stores with names like How To Draw Cows and 40 More Cows To Draw and Here’s Some Cows You Missed Before, Do You Maybe Want To Draw Them Too? and Why Are You Hurting The Feelings Of These Undrawn Cows.

If he were painting cows, that is, using cows as canvas, that would be remarkable. It takes something special to go up to a cow and dab paint on it. Mostly it involves being able to paint before the cow loses patience with the whole business. Also it takes some reliable paint, paint that can stand up to being licked by a cow (painted or neighboring). So the article content is most disappointing. Rating: 2/12.

Picture: This story of a man in East Sussex, England, United We Guess Kingdom is illustrated by a stock Reuters photograph of “Dairy cows [eating] gras in a paddock on the New South Wales south coast near the town of Nowra, Australia, September 5, 2014”. While they still remain cows, they are two-year-old photographs of cows on a continent that hasn’t got anything to do with the painting at hand. Rating: 7/4.

Overall: 15/24. May be re-submitted at the end of term.

Those Mysteries, Eurovision Edition


I spent most of yesterday watching Twitter friends, none of whom know each other, talking about Eurovision. And that was fun. Since I wondered why Australia was in it I went to DuckDuckGo because yeah, I’m that kind of guy, and started asking the question. This led to this fine selection of autocompletes:

DuckDuckGo autocompletes for 'why is australia'.
Related queries: why is there France? Why is there Spain? And why am I here and why is there rain?
  • why is australia called the land down under
  • why is australia called oz
  • why is australia a continent
  • why is australia in eurovision 2015
  • why is australia not an island
  • why is australia dangerous
  • why is australia so expensive
  • why is australian dollar falling

I appreciate the joy of that sixth one particularly. Anyway, it seems that Australia was in Eurovision 2015 because everyone involved thought that would be nice. And then they were brought back in 2016 because everyone figured that worked out so well last time why not do it again? There are much worse reasons for everything everybody does.

My love mentioned getting the Eurovision question as an autocomplete after just entering “why is au” on Google. So I thought to try it on DuckDuckGo and while Eurovision didn’t turn up, “why is autonomy important” did. This suggests DuckDuckGo’s user base is much more likely than Google’s to be a bunch of Intro to Philosophy students cramming the night before finals.

DuckDuckGo autocompletes for 'why is au'.
I never heard of Austin and Ally so at least I’m not broken up over its ending. I had expected “Au the symbol for gold” to be on the list.

Also there’s people who had to look up why Australia would be called Oz, because apparently they’ve never said the word “Australia” aloud in their lives? I don’t know either.

A Partial Review of the Plants and Animals of Australia


Kangaroos. For this review I regard ‘Kangaroo’ as including all the variant models. Kangaroos, Wallabies, Potoroos, Wallaroos, Pottabies, Wottabies, Kangabies, plus any of the new 4th-generation-compatible variations to come out the last month. Doesn’t matter. They’re great all around. Fine body plan. Fur that can feel surprisingly like my sideburns when they get the most bushy and out of control. They anthropomorphize well by just adding a vest and maybe a pair of glasses. They’ve got everything under control. Rated A. The only thing keeping them from an A+ is the sloppy design job regarding the male genitalia. Granted that most mammals have design problems on this point. The only species that’s really got that handled with dignity are guinea pigs, the males of which keep their out-of-use private parts in safety deposit banks with an institution in Lima, Peru.

Small kangaroo, possibly a wallaby, staring right at my camera. From the Singapore zoo.
This kangaroo was not in Australia when I photographed him. Neither was I.

Koalas. Generally adorable, with great ears. But they have been coasting on past fame since the mid-80s. They’ve done nothing to freshen up the line to respond to the rise of fennecs for the status of “oh such adorable animals they look like plush toys only they’re alive!”. Nostalgia acts are fine but we should make way for new innovation. B.

Alpine Tasmanian button grass. Much-needed bit of flora with the sort of name we have the word “mellifluous” for. As plant life goes these are plants that live while not dead. Button grass looks like the hair of a minor Peanuts character with a name like “Leland”. Shows good imaginative use of the “long thin stuff with beady tops” motif. B+.

Platypus. You figure the platypus came about from someone hearing a jumbled description of a griffon and going wild with what they had. And that’s great. Some awesome stuff comes about from trying to follow a jumbled description. It’s how we got centaurs and Cincinnati chili and Chinese lion costumes and some other things that don’t start with ‘c’. All that’s fine and this blend has a nice self-assured weirdness to it. And then it sweats milk. That’s getting into strange-for-the-sake-of-strange territory. C+, would accept resubmission. Not of milk.

Wombats. Are real things? Huh. I thought they were made up so cartoons could do stories about Australian wildlife without getting into hassles from the real species over inaccurate depictions. You know, the way they make a movie about “Charles Foster Kane” instead of William Randolph Hearst, or a political TV show will do a story about going to war with a fake country, or people will vacation in “Florida”. OK, if they’re real then. C, get your brand identity under control. Next.

'Resembling something from a monster movie, Clathrus archeri has been mysteriously emerging in yards and shocking homeowners across America' and it GETS WORSE FROM THERE. And it's Australia's doing.
James Allen’s Mark Trail for the 6th of March, 2016, doing us the public service of reminding us to never have anything to do with nature, ever, under any circumstances.

Octopus Stinkhorn. I just learned about this on Sunday thanks to Mark Trail and WHAT THE HECK, Australia. WHAT THE FLIPPING HECK? You know when we other continents talk about the problem of Australian species THIS is the sort of thing we’re talking about, right? We’re talking about spiders that have enough toxin in each of their fourteen venom sacs to knock unconscious 6.25 billion people and every raccoon in North America. We’re talking about snakes that spontaneously detonate with the force of a malfunctioning Saturn V rocket smashing into a xylophone Daffy Duck rigged with dynamite to make getting rid of Bugs Bunny “look like an accident”. And now we’re talking about octopus-tentacled corpse-smelling alien-egg fungus. REALLY? What is even WRONG with you? I mean, you give us a tree kangaroo, a kangaroo that literally lives in trees, and you follow that up with this? Stop, go back, redo this entire disaster from the start, and by redo I mean “never do anything even remotely inspired by anyone who has thought this a possible idea again”. This doesn’t even get a grade because we need to invent whole new letters to deal with how flipping WRONG EVERYTHING ABOUT THIS IS. I mean, just, I mean. The flipping heck? I mean. Just. UGH.

Microbats. Microbats! Australia’s got lots of microbat species and they’re exactly what you think, bats that are small. Everything great about bats only little. This could get us back on Australia’s side. Even the name of the grouping is so adorable we don’t worry about whether they’re flying into the nostrils of everyone in Canberra. Microbats! B+ and not just because we’re getting them right after alien egg octopus corpse fungus. Seriously, Australia.

Marsupial tigers. OK, so, they’re kind of dog-shaped, and they have kangaroo heads. They have pouches, males and females. They’ve got tiger stripes down their back and tail. Oh yeah, and they’ve been extinct since Joseph Lyons was the prime minister. Great job piddling away an easy win, Australia. Check the backs of your closet and anywhere else they might be hiding and you can re-submit for an A-. I just … honestly.

Raccoon lounging in a tree, in the Singapore Zoo, and looking like she's got the world pretty much figured out.
Included for contrast: a non-Australian animal which was not in Australia when I photographed her.

Editorial note. While reviewing Wikipedia’s entry on the flora of Australia I encountered this sentence. “The dominant Acacia species varies with the location, and may include lancewood, bendee, mulga, gidgee and brigalow.” The page is clearly still subject to rampant vandalism. Fix and re-submit.

On Reasons Not To Visit Prehistoric Australia


Yes, I also saw that news report about Australia’s prehistoric “marsupial lion”. According to it, according to a study, the marsupial lion turns out to be a thing that (a) existed and (b) could climb trees. I don’t know what a marsupial lion would be doing in a tree. And it’s not actually any of my business. Why shouldn’t a marsupial lion climb a tree in Australia, if it can find one?

Except I know anything about Australian wildlife. And therefore I know the marsupial lion must have been poisonous, venomous, razor-tipped at no fewer than 68 points of its anatomy, and prone to exploding as a defense mechanism. BBC News’s report on it says they would have been “a threat to humans”. Not this human. I’ve never gotten closer than 1,700 miles to Australia, and I haven’t got closer than about 42,500 years to marsupial lions. I’d like to think I’m outside the blast range. If I’m fooling myself, don’t tell me. Let it be a surprise. I just know it’s coming.

Statistics Saturday: Nations Of Australia And Antarctica Ordered By Length


At last, completion!

  • 1. India (Antarctic)
  • 1. (tie) India (Australian)
  • 3. Australia
  • 4. The Ice Republic (Australian)

Now I have to think of other things to list. Hm. This could be trouble.

Statistics Saturday: Nations of Oceania Ordered By Length


(This one was complicated by my learning that “Oceania” still looks wrong to me even when I have independent evidence that I’m spelling it right.)

  1. Fiji
  2. Niue
  3. India [ I choose to think my ploy to increase my Indian readership is working. ]
  4. Nauru
  5. Palau
  6. Samoa
  7. Tonga
  8. Tuvalu
  9. Vanuatu
  10. Kiribati
  11. Australia
  12. New Zealand
  13. Cook Islands
  14. Solomon Islands
  15. Marshall Islands
  16. Papua New Guinea
  17. Federated States of Micronesia

Statistics Saturday: Countries Which Have Sent Me A Prime Number Of Visitors This Past Quarter-Year


A quarter of a year (91 days) is not prime, but what can you do? Calendar reform hasn’t been a going concern since the 1930s.

Country Prime Number of Visitors
Argentina 2
Australia 17
Austria 5
Brazil 2
Chile 2
Colombia 3
Cyprus 2
Denmark 2
Finland 3
France 3
Greece 5
Indonesia 3
Italy 2
Macedonia, the Former Yugoslav Republic 2
Malaysia 2
Malta 2

New Zealand 3
Pakistan 3
Romania 2
Russian Federation 2
Turkey 7

Somehow I had always imagined myself to have a more composite relationship with Malta and Malaysia. Australia feels about right.

Wildlife Revelations (Not at home)


I always knew Australian wildlife was colorful, by which I mean far more crazily deadly than it has any business being. It’s a continent whose fauna includes snakes poisonous enough to stun South America, koalas that can shoot four-foot machete blades up to the length of four rugby fields away (except during time-outs), laser-guided dense-impactor bilbies, tree kangaroos with the explosive force of four tons of TNT, and neutron wallabies. What I didn’t realize is just how lively this makes the area. It turns out that until 1958, Tasmania was connected to the Australian mainland, but then something jolted a currawong and by the time the time the retaliatory fire was done there was this channel nearly 150 miles wide. That’s amazing.