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 And the snow artist falls under the sway of a mysterious, deep-feeling red-haired woman who was left over from an unpublished J G Ballard short story.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.

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Robert Benchley: What, No Budapest?


Someone trying to be funny is, generally, hoping to get feedback that they have successfully made someone laugh. People saying that they loved the piece are always welcome. More satisfying, I believe, is hearing that your attempt to be funny helped someone through a lousy time in life, or gave someone despairing reason to feel cheer. But I do know what is the most wonderful bit of feedback a humorist can get. I’ve gotten it a few blissful times. The most wonderful feedback a humorist can get is an angry scolding from someone who didn’t get the joke. Robert Benchley must have gotten that all the time, since he was so good at writing things that began more or less normal or plausible and continued until they were past bizarre. And at least once he turned that angry scolding into a new magnificent piece. Please let me share that, from My Ten Years In A Quandary And How They Grew with you.

What —— No Budapest?

A few weeks ago, in this space, I wrote a little treatise on “Movie Boners,” in which I tried to follow the popular custom of picking technical flaws in motion pictures, detecting, for example, that when a character enters a room he has on a bow tie and when he leaves it a four-in-hand.

In the course of this fascinating article I wrote: “In the picture called Dr. Tanner Can’t Eat, there is a scene laid in Budapest. There is no such place as Budapest.”


In answer to this I have received the following communication from M. Schwartzer, of New York City:

“Ask for your money back from your geography teacher. There is such a place as Budapest, and it is not a small village, either. Budapest is the capital of Hungary. In case you never heard of Hungary, it is in Europe. Do you know where Europe is? Respectfully yours,” etc.

I am standing by my guns, Mr. Schwartzer. There is no such place as Budapest. Perhaps you are thinking of Bucharest, and there is no such place as Bucharest, either.


I gather that your geography teacher didn’t tell you about the Treaty of Ulm in 1802, in which Budapest was eliminated. By the terms of this treaty (I quote from memory):

“Be it hereby enacted that there shall be no more Budapest. This city has been getting altogether too large lately, and the coffee hasn’t been any too good, either. So, no more Budapest is the decree of this conference, and if the residents don’t like it they can move to some other place.”

This treaty was made at the close of the war of 1805, which was unique in that it began in 1805 and ended in 1802, thereby confusing the contestants so that both sides gave in at once. Budapest was the focal point of the war, as the Slovenes were trying to get rid of it to the Bulgks, and the Bulgks were trying to make the Slovenes keep it. This will explain, Mr. Schwartzer, why there is no such place as Budapest.


If any word other than mine were needed to convince you that you have made a rather ludicrous mistake in this matter, I will quote from a noted authority on non-existent cities, Dr. Almer Doctor, Pinsk Professor of Obduracy in the university of that name. In his Vanished Cities of Central Europe he writes:

“Since 1802 there has been no such place as Budapest. It is too bad, but let’s face it!”

Or, again, from Nerdlinger’s Atlas (revised for the Carnation Show in London in 1921):

“A great many uninformed people look in their atlases for the city of Budapest and complain to us when they cannot find it. Let us take this opportunity to make it clear that there is no such place as Budapest and has not been since 1802. The spot which was once known as Budapest is now known as the Danube River, by Strauss.”


I would not rebuke you so publicly, Mr. Schwartzer, had it not been for that crack of yours about my geography teacher. My geography teacher was a very fine woman and later became the mother of four bouncing boys, two of whom are still bouncing. She knew about what happened to Budapest, and she made no bones about it.

In future communications with me I will thank you to keep her name out of this brawl.

Statistics April, Concluded


Yesterday’s mutterings about my suspiciously absent audience is enough of that. May started with my blog at 16,472 views total, which isn’t bad at all. The most-read posts of April make for an interesting bunch, to my eye, because … well, here:

  1. Statistics Saturday: Nations of Europe Ordered By Length, which was popular because people like lists of countries, and some folks were wondering just what I was getting at with all this.
  2. Betty Boop: Musical Justice, again not a surprise to me because it’s a weird and rare bit of Betty Boop arcana. This was one of her two live-action appearances.
  3. When We All Stopped Watching Deep Space Nine, a Caption This! item featuring that first-season episode where gamers from the Gamma Quadrant invaded the show. That inspired the question of “Allamaraine, is this worth the trouble of watching?” Fans of the show say yes, it got a lot better after this. Maybe so. Every time I tried watching it was a time-travel nonsense or a Ferengi Comedy Episode and I don’t need either of those in my life, thank you.
  4. Power Challenge Of The Week, drawing on everyone’s giddy delight at insulting Brutalist architecture.
  5. Betty Boop: Dizzy Dishes, another unsurprisingly popular piece because it’s got what’s always credited as the debut of Betty Boop. Betty Boop is more complicated than that, but what interesting thing isn’t?
  6. Betty Boop: Sally Swing, the debut of Betty Boop’s final redesign and the oddly stunted experiment at creating a new Betty for the swing era.

What most intrigues me is that the Betty Boop pieces are never popular the day they come out. The WordPress statistics are pretty clear about that. The number of page views on days when those are posted is lower than that of the day before or after. But they’re fun to write, and they clearly endure. It probably helps that each links logically to others, so they invite archive-binging. My normal major pieces for the week, where I report what I just read and what silly things it makes me think of, don’t.

Well. Now the other popular part, listing countries. The United States as ever sent me the most number of page views, at 585. Canada came in second at 34, the United Kingdom third at 27, and Germany fourth at 22.

A single reader each came from Algeria, Denmark, Finland, Italy, Norway, the Palestinian Territories, Poland, and South Africa. The repeats from March were Finland and Italy; Italy’s on a three-month streak. India was listed as sending me only two readers, which can’t be right, considering how much I’ve been doing to publicize it the last couple Statistics Saturdays. The “European Union” was also listed as sending me two readers. I don’t know what this designation means, since countries within the European Union are separately listed.

I did, finally, have some interesting search terms the past month. Here’s some:

  • dear penelope, i have been so tied up with work during the last week that i have not had a chance to get near a desk to write to you.
  • math comic strip clipart
  • crazy.bolle.com
  • funny pea soup cartoon
  • funny boss yelling at employees for productivity
  • spiderman newspaper boss
  • yard sale statistics
  • corny jokes about the milky way
  • reverberating voice cartoon
  • the king of jazz delbert cobain
  • math jokes on binomial
  • j. wellington wimpy character

I can understand why some of them would draw people here, but “crazy.bolle.com”? And I confess knowing nothing of Delbert Cobain. The most of what I know about yard sales is that if you are holding one, you should double what you think fair prices on all the things you’re selling, and then cancel the yard sale. You’ll be happier that way.

Statistics Saturday: Nations of Europe Ordered By Length


This listing of nations of a particular continent proved to be the most challenging of any continent so far. This is due to the large number of European countries with names the same length as one another. The student of history knows that is a consequence of the famous Treaty of Ulm of 1802, which I need hardly tell you closed out the war of 1805. You’ve probably read something about it. If you haven’t, you should, as it’s a fascinating problem of history and geography.

  • 1. India [ It’s working! I tell you, it’s working! ]
  • 1 (tie). Italy
  • 1 (tie). Malta
  • 1 (tie). Spain
  • 5. Cyprus
  • 5 (tie). France
  • 5 (tie). Greece
  • 5 (tie). Latvia
  • 5 (tie). Monaco
  • 5 (tie). Norway
  • 5 (tie). Poland
  • 5 (tie). Russia
  • 5 (tie). Serbia
  • 5 (tie). Sweden
  • 5 (tie). Turkey
  • 16. Albania
  • 16 (tie). Andorra
  • 16 (tie). Armenia
  • 16 (tie). Austria
  • 16 (tie). Belarus
  • 16 (tie). Belgium
  • 16 (tie). Croatia
  • 16 (tie). Denmark
  • 16 (tie). Estonia
  • 16 (tie). Finland
  • 16 (tie). Georgia
  • 16 (tie). Germany
  • 16 (tie). Hungary
  • 16 (tie). Iceland
  • 16 (tie). Ireland
  • 16 (tie). Moldova
  • 16 (tie). Romania
  • 16 (tie). Ukraine
  • 34. Bulgaria
  • 34 (tie). Portugal
  • 34 (tie). Slovakia
  • 34 (tie). Slovenia
  • 38. Lithuania
  • 38 (tie). Macedonia
  • 40. Azerbaijan
  • 40 (tie). Kazakhstan
  • 40 (tie). Luxembourg
  • 40 (tie). Montenegro
  • 40 (tie). San Marino
  • 45. Switzerland
  • 46. Vatican City
  • 47. Liechtenstein
  • 48. Czech Republic
  • 49. The Netherlands
  • 50. The United Kingdom
  • 51. Bosnia and Herzegovina