How To Clean The Window, Or Why


Eventually many people figure they ought to clean the windows. Many of us are people. Therefore we conclude that many of us are people putting off cleaning the windows. We can justify this. Time we spend not cleaning the windows is time we spend on higher-priority tasks like not dusting the shelves or not sweeping the stairs. But let’s save the procrastination for later, when it will be more fresh.

When is a bad time to clean the window? Well, the middle of the night, obviously. You’ll just alarm the neighbors if you do it then. The middle of the night is for lying awake cursing out every decision you’ve made, unless that should be laying. At one point I was sure which one to use. Now I’m too tired to remember or check. I blame giving in to temptation and washing off the mirror at 4:35 this morning. I should have been thinking about that e-mail I ignored a year ago August.

It’s also bad to clean a window that’s already clean. You insult the legacy of window-cleaners if you try. You can tell a window is clean if a silent comedy-movie star like Harold Lloyd wipes a handkerchief on the window, gives you a puckish smile, and then steps through the window which was not actually there. This may seem a difficult test to apply. “What if my house is old enough the windows are divided by those charming little wooden slats, the grunions or something they’re called?” is a reasonable question. Those little slats dividing your window into many littler windows is called a munyun or something. But if your window is divided like that, you need to test with a smaller comedy-movie star, like maybe Ben Turpin.

So let’s suppose you have a dirty window and it is a good time to clean. Now is not the time to wonder how it got dirty. Like, who’s going around doing things to dirty it? Is it the cat going up to the window and licking it? What cat? Who entered a cat into the discussion here? Maybe it was a roommate licking the window? Maybe it’s the solar wind. There’s no way of knowing. The answer is probably just horrible.

Water is a great tool for cleaning windows. Water’s like that. It gets a bit smug about how it’s great for cleaning all kinds of things. Just deal with it. Anyway this explains why the cleanest of all possible windows are in aquariums. They’re surrounded by water, on one side at least, and so constantly wash off the mess made by licking fish. But there are problems in converting your house to be an aquarium. It’s very inconvenient to have newspapers or sandwiches. Newspapers we can replace with online sources, if we only read two articles each month. Sandwiches are harder to do without, unless you get that extremely dry, crust-heavy bread. Maybe try making your house into an aquarium only after lunch.

If your water seems to smug to deal with then use some glass cleaner. This is made with ammonia, which is a different language from water so you can pretend you don’t know that it’s smug too. Just smear the cleaner on and then smear the cleaner off and somehow you’ve left something cleaner behind. This seems like a logic puzzle. The answer is “man”.

The question is what to smear the cleaner with. At one time we used newspapers, because we were told newspapers were very good at this, by the newspapers. Unfortunately the shrinking size and frequency of newspapers means we can’t use them to clean windows. There’s not enough paper and what there is costs like $27.25. So we might use paper towels instead, which have more boring crossword puzzles. If you’d rather use a non-paper towel, go ahead. I recommend something made of a cloth, as towels made of wood bark or stones make a terrible racket.

Once you’ve finished cleaning the windows, stop, and try not to go back around to starting again. It would be very embarrassing to clean a window so diligently that it was all gone, as this leaves you with a large expanse of blank wall that needs some kind of decoration. Maybe a picture of what’s on the other side of the wall. Something that’s easy to clean, anyway.

The Counting Thought


We’ve reached the season that Meijer’s self-checkout cash registers start giving out gift receipts. But they’re a little sharper this year. They will give a gift receipt for a set of surely-made-by-adequately-paid-workers-in-environmentally-safe-conditions-as-far-as-I-know art supplies meant as a Toys for Tots donation. They didn’t give a gift receipt for a pack of toilet paper and three bars of Ivory soap. They were correct in this. The soap is totally my gift to myself and my excessive hand-washing compulsion. I’m just glad they’ve got the system understanding this.

How To Clean A Thing


We continue this department’s investigation into the getting-done of things that were left un-done and have no questions in mind for anyone about why they were not already done. We understand. We’ve got stuff to do too that gets in the way of anything being done. There’s probably verb tenses working against us.

How To Clean A Thing

The first most important task to do when cleaning a thing is to ask yourself. Having finished that, the next most important task is to determine: is this a thing which is bigger than you are, which is smaller than you are, or which is about the same size as you? If you don’t like the answer, are you able to alter your size enough to matter? Your relative sizes do affect how the cleaning gets done, and if so, whether it does, and good luck diagramming this sentence.

It is generally easier to clean a thing which is smaller than you. Your greater size allows you to intimidate the thing, by occluding its light or just by overpowering it. Even should matters not come to that, it’s useful to know that you could, if pressed, overpower (say) the pantry shelves or at least eat them. Not every interaction with things should be a matter of domination and submission, but the option helps clarify matters. So should you have to clean a larger thing, try to enlarge yourself, or to shrink the thing, and then proceed as you would with a smaller thing.

With that done, the next most important task is to determine what kind of cleaning the thing needs. For example, does it merely need tidying? Tidying is the best sort of cleaning because it is done by taking a thing and setting it atop another thing. By creating this stack of things, both are tidied. The stacks can themselves be stacked. It is within the Marquis of Cleansbury Rules to tidy your entire house by stacking everything in it on top of everything else. This is why when you visit the house of your tidiest friend the entire first floor is a vast, empty space, decorated with a single futon capable of seating two people uncomfortably and a wall-mounted television that only gets shows about people buying houses in Peru.

I should say, the tidying urge runs strong in my family. I’m not saying that we’re experts. But we are good. Behind my house is a stack of like four love seats, a dining room table, a roll-away dishwasher, 426 linear feet of books, and eighteen potted plants one atop the other in a writhing pillar of photosynthesis. But it’s all stacked, and neat, and won’t tip over as long as the guy wires don’t snap or we don’t get a breeze. If it does, that’s all right. I have my tidying instincts to rely on. I could stack all that into a good enough pile so fast it wouldn’t even use up all my stockpiled podcasts. Yes, I have a pile of unfinished podcasts. It’s only about fourteen inches tall, but you better find that impressive or I’ll come over and glare at you.

But maybe the thing needs a real, proper cleaning. If the thing is smaller than you, great. Pick the thing up and carry it to a riverbank or body of water. A pond, say, or if you need something larger a hyperpond. And now I’m thrown because my spell checker is not objecting to “hyperpond”. I can’t have put that in my dictionary. There’s no way that’s a real word, though, right? Is my spell checker broken? Flurple. Cn’tr. Flxible. No, these things are getting highlighted. This is all very disturbing and I don’t know that I can continue from here. Knwo. Cnotineu. Yeah, it’s just broken about hyperpond. Hyperlake. No, it allows that too. Hyperocean. That too. Apparently my spell checker thinks “hyper” is a legitimate prefix to any body of water. Hyperriver. Hypercreek. Ah! It doesn’t like that one. Hyporiver. No, it doesn’t mind “hyporiver”. Hypocreek gets rejected. I’m sorry to get bothered by this but if you’re not bothered by this, what are you bothered by?

My TextWrangler window showing the paragraph with words like 'hyperpond' in it and not underlined for being suspect misspellings.
The eternal debate: when you discover a happy accident like this, work it into the piece or separate it out into something else? On the one hand, breaking the flow of an essay is a kind of comic path that can feel very tired to the reader. It’s a little stream-of-consciousness and that can read pretty cheap as a joke. On the other hand, it’s delightful to be surprised like that and why not embrace that delight?

I have to conclude that there’s some serious cleaning-up needed on my dictionary. Anyway, uh, for cleaning up your things I don’t know, try working from the top and getting to the bottom and use small, gentle circular motions. That usually does something. Good luck.

The Standoff, In E-Mail


I wanted to finally give in to the inevitable and officially switch my e-mail model from “things I will someday answer” to “a pile of text composting”. I’ve got some fine little queries dating back to 2014 that will surely make a rich, natural creative soil someday. But to get my inbox properly designated a compost e-mail bin I had to send the state office for this sort of thing you guessed it, an e-mail. And I see from their FAQ that even if they do ever answer it I’m going to have to answer some follow-up questions and e-mail them back. I bet it’s one of those psyche-out tests where you have to declare the correct thing to do is not follow the rules. I hate those. Expect stern letter to follow as soon as I’ve looked up that question about McDonald’s stock valuation my dad was wondering about back then.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index dropped four points today, which rolled underneath the stand we keep the TV on and which is too much trouble to move for anything less than the pre-Thanksgiving major cleaning the house gets. We’d do something about that but there’s somehow more cables than there are pairs of things to be cabled together back there even though everything is plugged in on both ends. Even if we cared about a measly four points we wouldn’t care about them enough to deal with that. Check back with us in mid-November and maybe we’ll have them then.

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On The Brink Of The New Month


Sorry, I’m a little distracted this week. We did a big house-cleaning ahead of Thanksgiving. And one of the big triumphs was getting a lot of stuff that had been stored in the game room out from the game room and into more logical places. And it’s been almost a week now and unauthorized stuff hasn’t crept back in. So I keep creeping back in, checking that yeah, there’s nothing stored underneath the pinball machine. Ten minutes later: Nope, still nothing under there. Five minutes after that: I didn’t put anything in there, and there’s nothing in there. The situation seems stable but I know it can’t last. I feel like there should be a Gluyas Williams cartoon of me peeking in on it. I suppose I never was all that good with brinks. The game room is really the breakfast nook, but we never nook in there.

Oh yeah, also there were some more comic strips to talk about on my mathematics blog. No Jumble puzzles this time around.

Just going to go check on the game room again. Yeah, still just the game in there. Hm.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

So yes, everybody had a good giggle about how now that the mainstream and alternate indices agreed in principle how to merge their numbers have gone different ways suddenly. Well, the alternate Another Blog, Meanwhile index held steady at 105 and that’s the number I’m reporting in the little headlined text below. But somehow the mainstream index traders misunderstod the plan to synchronize and they stayed at 106. Everybody’s talking about this like it’s a big laugh and I guess it is. But I really hope this doesn’t signal the peace process breaking down.

105

What Are The Limits To Organization?


Is it ever possible to be too organized? Of course it is. Imagine you were to get so organized that you put all of the matter and energy in the universe together in a single, infinitesimally small pile. This would promptly cause a new Big Bang, obliterating this universe and creating a new one with potentially quite different laws. Perhaps life would be possible in this new universe, but under very different laws. We might see something like the knights in a chess game moving two spaces in one direction and then two crosswise in a single turn. Or there might be even madder consequences, like gravity being replaced by a system of emotional bonds and obligations.

So there are limits to organization. And this is good as it takes the pressure off us to achieve perfection. If we think really hard about how a new-created universe might work — might tic-tac-toe be played with + signs and little diamonds instead of O’s and X’s? — it takes the pressure off us to achieve adequacy. At least that’s my excuse and I know my love understands while glaring, pained, at my side of the room.

And in practice there’s limits to organization even before you get to universe-wrecking consequences. For example, stuff disappears when it’s where it belongs. Consider that box of paperclips that would be useful for clipping paper together. If it were possible to open its plastic case without breaking off the tabs you’re supposed to use to open it. And which wouldn’t open even if you did break the tabs off. It sits on the table for months, maybe years. Everyone knows exactly where it is. People walking past the house come to a halt and stare in the window, waving more passers-by over to point and stare at the paperclips. And that takes some doing, because they have to get past some really prickly bushes to get up to the window.

But there it sits, ready and demanding attention, ready to provide paperclip services just in case we ever open it. Sometimes it moves a bit, trying to sidle up to the remote control and judge whether it can prey upon the appliance-related implement. Maybe it tries to conceal the chunk of hematite I got for $1.49 from the science store like twenty years ago that hasn’t yet grown into a collection of pretty rocks. Anyone could find the box even if the house were blacked out and your eyes held closed by rogue paperclips.

Ah, but then comes the day we finally organize the place. We take the box of paperclips and find the sensible spot for them: in one of the drawers of the side table where we keep the stamps, blank envelopes, stationery, and the stapler that we can’t find staples for. Come back and we find the table is gone. There’s hints of where it had been, indentations in the rug and all that, but no hint of table. It’s as though the idea of horizontal surfaces has been eliminated from the world. I’d write a stern letter to somebody about this, but can’t find the stationery. And when I get back from that the rug is gone too. They’ve snuck off to the game room and hidden behind the game. The game is a 1979 Williams Tri-Zone pinball. I can find them by the chuckling. Furniture may be well-camouflaged, but it is only two-thirds as clever as it thinks it is.

I don’t usually get so much stuff lost when organizing. I mean except when cleaning up for Thanksgiving, a time when we get so busy tidying stuff up that we can lose bookshelves, kitchen cabinets, and back in 2014 the guest bathroom. There’s not a hint there even ever was a second bathroom in the house. The home would even be architecturally senseless with a second one. That cleaning-up job lasted for hours before it was all chaos again.

But I find my own natural limits. I tend to figure I’ve got things as organized as reasonable when I hold up two socks. They look like they’re the same color in the dim light of the morning when I might have to go out somewhere. In sunlight they’re nothing like the same color. One is a navy blue, the other is an enraged red squirrel holding a penknife. But when I reach that point I ponder whether any two socks are “a pair” of socks, even if they haven’t got anything in common except they are the socks without anything in common. The conclusion of this is that any socks can be a pair of socks and therefore they can be put into the pile of pairs of socks. When I get to reasoning like this you can imagine the shape of my DVD shelf. It is a rhombic triacontahedron.

The case of paperclips won’t open because there’s cellophane tape holding together the sides. I can’t find the cellophane either.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The … alternate index? I think that’s the one supposed to report today. Well, the alternate Another Blog, Meanwhile index dropped three points today after their old-time radio podcast had this interesting late-70s adaptation of Journey to the Center of the Earth hosted by Tom Bosley For Some Reason. And I’m not supposed to tell you what the mainstream blog did today but you already know because this whole alternate-reporting thing is just them being silly.

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Why It’s A Bad Idea To Clean Out The Car


While cleaning the backseat of my car I came across a flyer for The 53rd Annual 2015 Ohio Gourd Show. It was scheduled to be held in the place widely known as “the Delaware of Ohio”, the town of Delaware, Ohio. The theme for it was “Gourds In Space” and it even shows a picture of some silver-painted sphere of some kind with aliens crafted out of what I trust were gourds on top. And of course, I missed it all. If the flyer was right the whole event was held in early October 2015, so it’s not like I could rush there and hope to find them cleaning-up and get a glimpse of a couple space gourds after all. And to think that I missed the 53rd Annual 2015 Ohio Gourd Show — all those years they were holding the Annual 2015 Ohio Gourd Show, like 1975 and 2002 and 1986 and for once it actually happened in 2015. And I missed it! The 54th Annual 2015 Ohio Gourd Show, due this year (2016), would be a poor compensation after this.

The thing is, as best I can make out my Ohio travels, I have to have picked up this flyer after the event was over anyway. And I’d forgotten the whole event and my disappointment at not spending a day in Delaware, Ohio, looking at painted gourds. But now it’s back, since I cleaned my car, and that is why cleaning the car is a mistake. There’s all sorts of stuff going on in Ohio we otherwise forgot.

Calendar Notice: When You Can Stop Cleaning Ahead Of Thanksgiving


Just a reminder to readers in the United States or observing United States holidays. Thanksgiving falls on the 26th of November this year. Therefore after 3 pm local time on Tuesday, November 10th — two weeks and two days ahead — it is officially acceptable to stop doing any dusting or mopping on the grounds that “we’ll just have to do it all over again right away” for company coming the 26th. You may shove it all into the frantic and stressful pile of cleaning done the 25th and early the 26th.

Similarly, as of 3 pm local time on Monday, November 16th — ten days ahead — it is officially acceptable to stop minor clean-up and pick-up chores on the grounds those will be done again anyway in the Taz-like whirlwind of cleaning and hollering that will occupy the 34 hours before the guests are scheduled to arrive.

You are not actually required to tell anyone when they should arrive, and just trust that they will go about their business without you, if you want to put off the dusting and mopping and general picking-up until Christmas. The pre-Christmas deadlines will be announced when we get around to it.

New Things To Argue About


The Internet is a high-capacity conduit for transmitting outrage from person to person. And yet there are things to be outraged about that you never even suspected to exist, which by itself should be annoying you. Thus we’re doing well so far. Here are some controversies you could get worked up about:

Cleaning The Toothbrush Holder.

Background: If you use one of those plastic cases to hold your toothbrush you’ve probably noticed how it’s got a layer of cruddy substance that we’re comfortable telling ourselves is probably a harmless mold lining the insides, all about an inch past where your longest finger can reach. What’s the best way to clean this out?

The Arguments: One faction claims that the best approach is to set the case into a bowl containing a dilute bleach solution, leave it to soak overnight, and then throw it out. Another maintains that the easiest way to clean it is to set it in the silverware holder through a regular load of the dishwasher, so that the jets of water will cause one or both halves to be popped out of the silverware compartment and get forever lost in the weird, scummy, slightly alarming pool of stuff underneath the spinning plastic blade-y thing. Another faction holds extremely tiny hamsters, but just for the fun of it, because there’s no fitting a hamster in a toothbrush holder.

Vegetarian Spiders.

Background: There’s a species of spider in Costa Rica that, to the surprise of biologists though not the spiders’ chefs, mostly eats plants. All the other 40,000-plus species of spiders are not plant-eaters, so far as they’ve let any nosey humans know. Earlier this week the comic strip Slylock Fox mentioned “spiders do not eat plants”. So: are Slylock Fox cartoonists Bob Weber Senior and Junior ignorant, lazy, or the embodiment of pure evil?

The Arguments: The group most outraged by this incomplete information presents the picture of an impressionable, knowledgeable child, curious about the world, soaking this up as part of a broad understanding of the world; and an embedded seed of faulty information will grow to, say, someday the adult in a hugely public stage, like the Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions finals, asked to identify the unusual dietary preferences of the Bagheera kiplingi spider of Costa Rica, and be reduced to a panicky mess by having a cherished belief of a life ripped apart at the moment it costs a million dollars. The contrary faction says you may think worse of them for this but that would be kinda awesome TV.

The Edge Of The Galaxy.

Background: So you know how there’s a galaxy out there? If you don’t, step outside a moment — when it’s safe, don’t go interrupting your business piloting a corporate jet to do this — and look around; the spot where you’re looking is part of a galaxy known as the Milky Way because it is not a carbonated soda. Well, where does it end?

The Arguments: One group will argue that the edge of the galaxy can’t be defined because any objects gravitationally bound to the Milky Way are part of it and therefore objects arbitrarily far away will be part of it. Another group argues that they saw that episode of the Original Star Trek and if there were no edge to the galaxy then the show would never have gone to series because they’d just be going off in a straight line through a lot of emptiness for five years. Another faction has managed to progress the dispute so far that it’s now about whether an unambiguous distinction can be drawn between the Thirty Years War and roofing tile.

Sick Board Games.

Background: Do you remember that childhood board game where you get a cartoony figure with a bunch of organs loosely traced out, and you have to roll a die to mark strikes against one of the organs, and when one of them gets three strikes against it that’s the cause of death of your figure? That’s what we’re talking about.

The Arguments: One group insists this is the sickest game that was ever made in the 1970s or any time before or since. Another group insists this game was never made, it was just a dream, and you’re probably the kind of person laughing at the Jeopardy! contestant with the vegetarian spider. You can probably sympathize with both sides.

Statistics Saturday: Things Found While Cleaning Up After The Yard Sale


The squirrel was marked for $3.50 o/b/o; it eventually went for $3.25 along with a couple of ironic potholders.
The squirrel eventually went for $3.25 along with a couple of ironic potholders.

Bonus recreational puzzle: Identify when I figured out a tolerable way to do lettering while drawing on my iPad.

Coming Clean


So, the sink needed a little bit of a cleaning-out because one of the basins had maybe too many congealed remnants of meals we might even have ever had soaked into it, you know how that happens, and fortunately we have a bottle of that orange-colored faintly lemon-smelling stuff to spray around and get things to more shiny clean un-congealed states, and you know how that makes it clear the countertop really needs to have all this random crumb debris brushed off it onto the floor, which means the floor needs to be swept, meaning the rug next to it has to be vacuumed, which really points out how there’s this layer of dust on the desk, and that points out how the front porch could really use a bit of cleaning too what with most of the winter’s snow being nearly melted at this point, and so anyhow I have to shoo everybody out of North America for maybe fourteen hours while I finish mopping the place, and when I let you back in you better not go tracking Australasia all over my nice clean floors, OK? Now scoot.

Foamy Days


I was aware getting my hair cut would have consequences. It always does. The most important is that I don’t have two-thirds of my disposable income going to shampoo purchases anymore. But there’s always this period after the haircut where I’m still slathering on shampoo as if I had the former medicine ball full of hair, and that’s maybe 2,038 times the shampoo I actually need, so the rest goes into foam manufacture.

What I’m saying is, yes, I’m aware that there’s a mass of shampoo-bubble-foam the volume of an Olympic swimming pool that’s escaped from the bathroom and is making its way up West Shiawassee Street, grabbing cars and mopping them clean before setting the baffled drivers back on their way. I’ll deal with it.

But it’s tidied up all along 127


So I realized this one rug needed to be vacuumed, and once you get to the effort of getting the vacuum out of its special guarded chamber and all that it doesn’t make sense not to vacuum the rest of the rugs too. And sure, once you have that it doesn’t make sense not to take out the broom and sweep the floor, and when you’ve got that going there’s the stairs too. And once you’ve got the cleaning vibe going for the stairs there’s all these things that could use dusting — I mean removing the dust, not putting it on, that was last week’s chore — and then there’s the glass that could use being sprayed with a translucent blue liquid that’s swiftly rubbed off and that can really be done on both the inside and the outside of the house and …

Long story short, I’m somewhere on the outskirts of Alma, Michigan, straightening out the edges of potholes. If someone could sneak up on me and shoot me with a tranquilizer dart and deliver me back to home I’d appreciate it.