Exclusion


I’ve got the usual Sunday comic strips post over in the mathematics blog. Have you given it a try? It might like the company. There’s an Archie comic over there, if that affects your choice. If not, that’s fine. We’ve been spending the weekend trying to figure out which of Paas’s four egg-dye tablets that could plausibly be pink actually is the pink already. People keep asking the Internet this question and there’s suspiciously few answers considering it would just take one person with a dye kit and two pictures, and then we’d know which tablet isn’t supposed to get mixed with vinegar. Fix that problem, Internet. Anyway, fresh off yesterday’s activities, a scene that came to mind:

Egg by itself on one drying rock, with a bunch of eggs near one another on the other drying rack.
Not pictured: the eggs we put in the shrink-wrap leopard-print plastic thing, which is a shame because until this year I had no idea what Edith Prickley would look like as an egg.

“Hey? Hey guys? Guys? What are you talking about? Are you doing something? Are you talking about me? Can I come over and talk with you? Can I? Guys? Hey, are you ignoring me? Do you wanna talk about me? It’s okay with me if you wanna talk about me. Hey?”

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index rose three points today as those turned out to be peanut butter smidges we got from the candy store. Not that caramel isn’t good too, you understand, just that peanut butter smidge.

136

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Some Easter Stuff Poorly Explained


Why Easter eggs? Why bunnies? Why chocolate? If so, whom? These are some good questions. The last one looks like the result of youthful enthusiasm. It’s probably grammatically wrong anyway, unless “who” would be wrong instead. I bet it was submitted by someone who hypercorrects things. Hypercorrecting is a fun pastime. You start out with something that’s okay and then apply the grammatical rule of “people don’t sound like they know what they’re doing, so make it sound more obscure or complicated”. It’s good fun. It appeals to people’s desire to sound like they know a better set of rules than everyone else does. And it gives people who like to correct mistakes something to write about. There’s nothing so fun as correcting the hypercorrect. I thought that time I got a bag of rabbit litter at half-price was that good. I was wrong.

Anyway, Easter we can understand. If we didn’t have Easter then there’d be this huge attention-getting gap in-between Ash Wednesday and the Feast of the Assumption. “Shouldn’t something go in the middle, here?” people would ask. Eventually all sorts of folk explanations would spring up. Maybe they’d tumble across “there ought to be a particularly holy day for one of the top religions” there. “Also we should have plastic eggs and rabbits made of candy” I bet wouldn’t. Maybe people would do some more research and figure, “Hey, there’s got to be something that’s seventy days before Septuagesima, unless that’s supposed to be seventy days after Septuagesima.”

I mean if there still is a Septuagesima. I haven’t checked and I have the feeling it’s been downplayed ever since Vatican II: Vaticannier. But it’s a heck of a name for something. It isn’t seventy days from anything interesting in either direction. There’s probably a reason for that. Yes, I meant the Feast of the Ascension. The Assumption is a completely different thing. Don’t challenge me on this. I was raised Catholic so I remember there was something called the homoiousian controversy and couldn’t deliver the Nicene Creed with cue cards. We said the Nicene Creed every Sunday. Nobody ever talked about the homoiousian controversy.

Since we have Easter, we don’t have to worry about why there isn’t an Easter, although if it ever goes missing you know what to look for. Easter eggs we can wonder about. If there’s anything that we could get straightened out then we’d have one thing straightened out, and that would leave is in much better shape. For instance, let’s do away with the folk etymology that says they were originally “yeaster eggs”, egg-shape snacks made out of extremely bread-based foods. We can also do away with the tale that it started out as “Easter yeggs”, roving packs of 19th-century Bowery B’hoy toughs prowling the riverfront and painting themselves brightly. These theories were popular in the 1970s when they were thought to be hoaxes played by angry writer H L Mencken. But we now know the claim that they were a hoax was a prank on Mencken played by President Taft.

The tradition of hiding Easter eggs come to us from Renaissance Germany, with an assist by the Princely States of India and a rebound against Grand Columbia, which does not figure in this narrative. The problem originally was one of planting the seeds of useful crops like barley or bauxite or jute or other stuff from social studies textbooks without having birds flying in and eating them all. Somewhere on the upper Rhine the locals realized they could plant the birds instead and wait for the seeds to fly in and carry them off. The practice spread and grew to be very popular, eggs put in all sorts of places on the ground, and didn’t lose popularity even when it turned out to not even begin to sort-of work.

Since that failed, they tried making the process more complicated. Painting the eggs turned out not to be a way to get blue chickens with yellow zig-zag stripes, but wasn’t it worth trying, just in case? Do you know anyone who has better ideas to handle our shortage of blue chickens with yellow zig-zag stripes? It’s not so easy to achieve, is it? Anyway, during the Thirty Years War the tradition fled Germany, and who could blame it? The tradition’s got some sense after all.

There is no explanation for how the rabbits and chocolate and all that got involved. I’ll try to write that up next year before Easter.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index dropped nine points as traders struggled to remember the name of that astronaut mentioned yesterday. Peggy … Whitman? That sounds kind of right.

133

Statistics Saturday for April Or Whatnot


I meant to get around to reviewing April’s readership around here sooner. I was busier than I wanted to be, as we all are. And I was trying to think about what the data meant, which is quite hard.

The startling thing to me is that my readership evaporated over April. In February my humor blog here had 1,046 views, and in March 1,053. In April that was down to a mere 808, the lowest since August of last year. The number of visitors collapsed too, from 505 in February and a close-enough 483 in March down to only 303 in April. And I don’t know what happened. It’s possible that people shifted from reading my stuff on pages to reading through RSS feeds or through the WordPress reader, since those readers don’t show up as views or visitors to my page. But … really, one-fifth of the page views and two-fifths of the readers? That’s weird.

(This does, by the way, match up with an increase in the average number of views per visitor. In April I recorded 2.67 views per visitor, my highest since June 2014. March saw a mere 2.18 views per visitor and February 2.07. From the way the daily view counts look I suspect a couple folks found me the last week of April and went archive-binging, which I would like to encourage.)

I don’t think April just reflects a burst of rapid-onset unpopularity. Some of the other measures suggest that I still have near as many readers. The number of likes was only 402 in April, down from March’s 443, but still up from February’s 345. The number of comments was 108 in April, down from March’s 113, but still above February’s 99. That’s a tie, by any realistic measure.

So I’m left with a mystery of where did the page counts go? I looked to the weekly reader totals for any hint what might have happened. From the week starting February 16th through the week starting March 30 I had between 200 and 260 readers per week. The first and second weeks of April that dropped to 162 and then 156 readers, and the third week of April it only rose to 186. Mercifully for my ego the week starting April 27 I drew in 213 readers, which is back to what the boom times had, but that leaves early April a mystery.

I don’t think I was writing significantly different stuff in early April from what came before or after, and I felt good about reader engagement. Maybe everybody was just off for Easter. My mathematics blog wasn’t, but perhaps there were exams that week. I’d be curious what other writers experienced. But I am feeling a little stunned by the results and maybe need to lie down. And I admit this week doesn’t seem to be starting off very well either. It’s a terrible thing to feel this insecure this early in the month.

Maybe I need to accidentally troll the Kinks fandom again.