In Which It Turns Out I’m Just A Fool Who Got Fooled, Foolishly


So the other day I mentioned the English sport of competitively dancing while the opposing team throws a beer-soaked rag at you and I supported that by linking to Wikipedia’s entry about the English sport of competitively dancing while the opposing team throws a beer-soaked rag at you. There I figured the matter rested, since England has all sorts of things to do and they will include things like hitting each other on purpose. Also I swear I saw this show where there was a football match that had gone on at a public school for over a century now without either team scoring or being expected to score, but I can’t find the reference now and for all I know somebody’s gone and scored.

Anyway, my love came across this and figured that can’t possibly be. And then went and actually read the article and came to the conclusion that it didn’t make any sense, and the more you looked at it the less sense it made. And read the citations, all of which made very little sense and the less the more you looked at them. And the comments, which in the least sensible thing of all, don’t make the reader despair of the concept of humanity.

So there we have it. The whole thing looks to be a hoax, more or less. At least, it started out as a prank perpetrated for the comedy show It’s A Square World and it’s sort of stumbled on from there. I should have known, since the whole of England is pretty much a prank that got going so successfully that sometime around when they pulled the “Parliament of Bats” and nobody called them on it they realized they were stuck holding an actual country. I suppose dancing while the opposing team throws a beer-soaked rag at you isn’t likely to have such far-reaching global implications. Still, I feel a fool for not going and actually checking and I can only thank my love for showing where I was fooled. It was called the Parliament of Bats because attendees weren’t allowed to take their swords in with them, not because they were small flying mammals, which is all the more shame.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

New pen day! It’s new pen day! Everybody has new pens and they’re feeling so good that even thought we called off work early the index was up something or other, who cares, it’s new pen day and everything can be all right with the world!

105

Snip, Snap


My love discovered on Wikipedia the old English game of snap-dragon (“also known as snapdragon”), and it’s a bundle of wonderful things. The game, apparently, was one in which you poured brandy into a wide, shallow bowl, set it on fire, and then try to grab raisins out of the brandy. Only a cheater would fail to put raisins in. And yes, you might get burned, but that’s … I guess that’s the dragon part of things. It was popular from about the 16th through the 19th centuries, which reminds us that was also the height of competitive shin-kicking. Which is not even my joke but was part of the Cotswold Olimpick Games alongside beating each other with cudgels. Also competitive dancing while the opposite team throws a beer-soaked rag at you.

Anyway, there’s a lot that’s wonderful about the article so I recommend you read it yourself. If you can’t be bothered, fine, but do please enjoy this low-scale edit war playing out in tossing a heap of sentences onto each other and sprinkling [citation needed] tags on the opponent’s pieces:

Nevertheless, children often burnt their little hands or mouths playing this game,[21] which may have led to the practice mostly dying out in the early 20th century.[citation needed] In some families, this tradition continues to be practiced and enjoyed even into the 21st century.[citation needed]

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index rose six points today when traders looked in on TrekBBS and discovered how many people are honestly, sincerely concerned for the actor who played Kes on Star Trek: Voyager. She’s been going through some rough times and had some legal trouble and it looks like she’s getting through it and it’s just really heartwarming to see how many people care and wish her well and, you know, for everything that’s wrong with the world right now, people worrying about the person who played Kes is the sweet sort of thing we need.

91

Generally Updating Stuff


So. After an incident in which the spider crawled onto my love’s keys and we brought it, by way of a newspaper, over to the bushes, we haven’t seen webs across the door. However this morning there was a flyer stuffed in the door crack. The flyer invites us to Bible study. I trust it’s in earnest because the dates for the class are crossed out and different ones written in pen. I have no specific reason to think this the work of the same spider, but I also have no grounds to rule it out either.

The History of Socks has updated its essay, so that its alarming paragraph implying socks are not simple things is four paragraphs down. It now opens with the invitation to:

Consider the sock. Some overlook this mundane undergarment, but don’t let its unassuming nature fool you — the history of hosiery is anything but humble.

That’s dramatically better. It’s more inviting. It teases the idea that socks aren’t complicated anymore but it doesn’t threaten. We can get right to arguing about whether socks are an “undergarment” when you can just see them on a normally-dressed person. We can argue about that later, in some other context, and not with me.

I continue to have measurably better dance moves if I sit through the whole thing.

In The Aftermath Of 80s Night


I’m going ahead and guessing you want to know how the 80s Night came out. For me it was more dignified than the actual 1980s. It involved less weeping and much less Destro on my part. I was never in the running for the 80s Costume Contest. I did dress pretty much as I did in the actual 1980s, what with finding a shirt and a pair of pants that fit and wearing them around the correct limbs and segments of my torso. The contest was won by a women who came in a sweater so blue and puffy that it broke through previous cognitive barriers to find new yet somehow vintage colors of blue and textures of puffiness. It challenged well-known conceptual theories of blue puffiness. Everyone was outclassed, but I was outclassed the most.

Besides the costume contest there was music. If it weren’t for the music the night would just be people wearing unfashionable clothing, staring at each other, and wondering if the hipster bar wasn’t supposed to be closed that day anyway. It was and for some reason it wasn’t.

Still, running alongside the music was dancing. My love was happy to dance. I was willing to go along but am at rather a disadvantage. My love has learned such sophisticated dancing skills as “how” and “when to”. I’m still working on the part of dancing where I don’t look as though I’ve been pulled out of bed, stripped to my underwear, and shoved out onto an unfamiliar podium to give the State of the Union address. It is strong but faces great challenges if we are to remain great.

There was probably some point when I should have learned dancing. I guess when I was a teen and going to parties. Here I have to plead higher priorities. When I was in high school it was most important that I spend every Friday and Saturday night watching The Wrath of Khan. And, you know, while I was doing all that the movie didn’t change one bit. It would go on not changing for like fifteen years after that, when I was busy with other stuff and they released DVDs. I did as much as I could. I had similar results on Saturday and Sunday nights with The Search For Spock.

But my heroic sacrifice means I’m stuck for what to do when dancing. I understand that I should be moving my body, both wholly and in parts. Some part of me understands, for example, I should do something that coordinates with the movements of my love, who’s dancing in front of me. The obvious thing is to do what my love is doing. This could be in mirror — my love moves left, so I do too — or in rotation — my love moves left, so I move right. This leads me to think about the kinds of symmetry operations that are valid in dancing partners. How do they vary with dancing quartets, or trios, or arbitrary large groups of people dancing around a circle? Are they necessarily discrete symmetries or are continuous ones allowed too? This is what happens to people you let grow up into mathematics majors. By the time I’ve worked it out the DJ has finished with the Pet Shop Boys for the night.

But I’ll carry on trying anyway because I want to be a good sport. My basic move is what I learned from doing the step aerobics move on WiiFit. I don’t want to unnecessarily brag about my abilities there, but in two and a half years of daily exercise on that I got “perfect” scores on their two-and-a-half minute step aerobics literally more than four times.

None of this should imply that I raise my hands, by the way. I grant it’s theoretically possible to raise my hands above the level of my pockets while dancing. I don’t believe the rewards could be worth the risk. If I raised a hand how would I know someone wouldn’t try to shake it, or hand me the leash for a pack of werewolves harnessed together as sled dogs, or try to high-five me, or something? No, I’ll just be over here, shuffling at the steady beat of WiiFit Step Aerobics whatever the song’s beat is, circling around my love until I get dizzy and fall down. It’s what I can do well.

Minnesota Tweeting


I’m not surprised to pick up Twitter followers who’re surprising to me. That’s part of the normal process of existing on Twitter. Every day all of us get followed by self-proclaimed “social bacon ninjas” and people who proclaim to care on behalf of companies we’re fighting with.

A couple weeks back I mentioned Minneapolis-St Paul International Airport, and got followed right away by someone who tracks Minnesota stuff. I’m flattered, since my impression of Minnesota has been formed entirely from walking past the giant Snoopy statue in the airport there and from watching Mystery Science Theater 3000. So I figure the place is pretty friendly and prone to dancing and then kneeling down to make snarky comments about stuff, much like the entire Internet.

The Minnesota guy seems to have dropped me, though. I’m not offended, considering how I haven’t been talking about the airport since then. But that reminds me that I got followed by someone running for a Minnesota congressional district in 2012. His account still says he’s hoping to win his election in 2012. I don’t suppose there has to be a connection. Minnesota has to have easily more than eight people in it. But what if there is? If there’s one thing we know about social media, it’s that social bacon ninjas who care on behalf of the people at AT&T who don’t are everywhere.

Theme Park Flashing from the Dream World


So, if my dreams are a reliable guide to anything, apparently, the Great Adventure amusement park in central New Jersey has been having a problem with flash mobs of people wearing those Scream-style melting-ghostface masks and bright orange academic robes gathering and breaking into Busby Berkeley-style dance numbers, and park security is almost laughably unable to do anything about it. The Daily Show has been weirdly hard on them for not being effecting in slowing down this bit of whimsical excess.

Still, you’d imagine the park would catch people sneaking in ghost masks and academic garb at the entry gate when they put your phones through metal detectors and stuff like that, not to mention the carts they use for the pinwheel portions of the dance. This does suggest that it’s got to be partly an inside job, someone working for the park bringing in costumes and equipment through the employee gate unobserved. Except surely they’d be watching for people with wheelbarrows full of masks and orange robes after the first couple times this happened, right?

The implication is that this is all a put-on by Great Adventure and that the park is deliberately acting as if this is all a spontaneous ongoing affair so as to make themselves look looser and less corporate. I have to credit Dream World Six Flags for being crafty but kind of underhanded if that really is what they’re doing. If they are, then I don’t want to know.

Other December 2013 Numbers


I should take a moment to look at my actual statistics for December 2013. The raw numbers are a little disheartening: the total number of views dropped from 357 to 301, and the number of unique visitors dropped from 188 to 168. Even the number of views per visitor dropped, from 1.90 to 1.79. This is even though I feel like I’m doing a better job at the writing, that is, producing bits that are more clearly my own voice and more amusing to me. I need to work on the problem of finding people who’re likely to enjoy the kinds of things I write. If you know where to find some, please, let me know.

The most popular articles for … well, I can’t figure how to get the numbers for exactly December 2013, but for the 30 days ending today, were:

The top countries for that same 30-day period in terms of sending me readers were, as usual, the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Canada. Sending me a single reader each were: Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Japan, the Netherlands, Puerto Rico, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, and Turkey. Repeat single-visitor countries from last time are Austria, Spain, and Turkey, so at least I’m steadily marginally popular.

I Dance Horribly


I don’t believe the trouble is my inability to dance like nobody’s watching. I have heard that advice a good deal and when I dance I find I can live up to it because anyone who would watch soon turns away and in some cases curls up into a ball and weeps. I suppose someone really determined might watch me and judge, in a way that would be harsh, but they would surely give up judging and just feel generally sad if they tried. I can accept doing things that make onlookers feel sad and a little embarrassed for me, as everyone who’s seen the way I dress myself has noticed.

Now it isn’t that I’m not up for trying to dance either. I’ll give it my level best, but that’s terrible. For example, I can see that other people have mastered these dance moves where one sometimes raises one’s hands above one’s head. I’ll give that a try and it comes out all wrong: I can maybe get my hands up to about the level of my belt, or when I realize that I’m doing this all wrong and I have to go higher, up to about belly button level. People raising their arms correctly, over their heads or so, might even straighten their arms out so as to look festive and give a sense of whole bodies in interesting movement. I can kind of straighten out my elbows, but that puts my hands back down again, and often enough into my pockets.

And it isn’t true that I have no sense of rhythm, although goodness knows people wonder about that. I am very well aware that there is a rhythm to the music, and I hear it in the music and see it in the ways that people move. It’s just that my body has these natural modes of swinging for my arms and legs and it so happens these are the patterns you’d get if you were to pick me up by the shoulders and drop me from a great height, possibly onto a trampoline, possibly onto a sheet of blacktop because you’re annoyed that every dance step I have looks kind of like the warm-up exercises we had to do at the start of gym class in ninth grade, which is where I learned them.

It’s not that I’m incapable of breaking out of this. Thanks to the WiiFit I got to be very good at some step aerobic moves, and with the aid of several pieces of consumer electronics I can pretty well do moves where I step forward and then step back again, a lot, and sometimes throw things for a little loop by stepping to the side and the back again quickly. In some of the advanced modes I even raise a foot without taking a further step and then quickly put my foot back down lest I kick something, such as the Wii. It just takes me about the length of my entire time on the dance floor to realize that if I’m nowhere near the rhythm of everybody on the floor then I should do something about that, such as try.

It’s not clear to me whether this has any effect on the people around. I would like it if sometime there were actually more people on the dance floor when I left it than when I started, but maybe that’s just coincidence. A weird coincidence that turns up every time I try to dance. Heck, maybe it is my fault. Maybe people see me out there, wobbling sideways a little bit, hands kind of waving around my hips as if I were trying not to get caught rolling imaginary cookie dough, and then they realize I’m there in cargo pants and snow boots and a hoodie because I’m a little chilly, and they don’t want to have to witness this suffering. It would explain how often people go up to my dear spouse and say “You’re so brave” or “I admire your patience” or “Is there some foundation we could maybe donate to?” or just hug us and squeeze our hands.

To sum up, I have the dance moves of a Muppet suffering from a knee injury.

Customs of the Goldfish


Some of the many customs of the goldfish:

  1. Grabbing a flake of food in the mouth and waddling around shaking it out to show off to everyone until everyone explains that they aren’t all that impressed by grabbing flakes of food, until you find out it’s rock candy.
  2. Calling up Glenn Beck just to make fun of him. (Not unique to the goldfish community.)
  3. Tri-dimensional do-si-dos. Or do-si-does. It includes some argument about what the plural of do-si-do is, anyway.
  4. Writing new lyrics to classic Paul McCartney songs and proclaiming them far better than what he produced for, say, “Freedom”.
  5. Explaining these freaky games they had of SimCity 2000 where they built the whole city without any roads or rails or this one time on Civilization II where they conquered the entire world, several continents worth, without ever building a ship because some city on a neighboring continent overthrew its rulers and joined their empire and they bought their way into world domination that way until everybody else in the pond loses patience.
  6. Talking about the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode “The Giant Spider Invastion”, with everybody in it explaining the guy who says “You been hittin’ the BOOZE again” also played the Klingon judge in Star Trek VI like any of them don’t remember it.