One Great Trick For Organic Peanut Butter!


So you know how that nice high-quality organic peanut butter tastes great, but if you leave it alone for a couple days it separates into a layer of oil and a lump of clay? And then you have to spend twenty minutes mashing them back together when you just want to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich now that you’re a little hungry and rediscovered what happens if you put regular butter on the jelly side so it’s a PB-and-JB? Well, if you just close the peanut butter lid securely and store the jar upside-down then you’ll find the peanut butter still separates into a layer of oil and a lump of clay. But now the lid will also be all greasy and you’ll leave a smear of stuff on the shelving paper too! And, hey, at least you’ve tried taking positive action about the problem, and isn’t that itself progress?

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Meanwhile In Local Fast-Food News


I was looking through the free weekly advertisement-carrying special edition of the Lansing State Journal that they give away free at convenience stores and laundromats and stuff. Here was the headline, sitting there on page 8A of the single-section thing:

Plan to eat 100 McChickens in a day is a failure

And it goes on for 21 paragraphs. The official version in the actual newspaper that people would choose to pay for titles it differently. This Michigan State student tried to eat 100 McChicken sandwiches in 24 hours, it says, in a headline that’s less punchy but is at least as good if you suffix “for some reason” to it.

But the plan was simple enough. He was going to go back to the McDonald’s near campus over the day and get a couple McChickens at a time, eat them while going about his business, and return to the McDonald’s when he needed more, while keeping SnapChat informed of the whole affair. The most startling thing to me about this is the discovery that apparently McDonald’s will just sell you ten McChicken sandwiches even if you go there before 9 am. Also that he picked a class day to do this even though it meant bringing McChicken sandwiches in to a 9 am class.

The whole affair ended in failure, like the better headline said, with the guy topping out at 24 McChickens. Also one of his friends is quoted as saying, “I had him at 16 or 17. He definitely surpassed what I thought he could do.” So I have no idea what we’ve learned from this, other than that I guess there’s a chemical engineering major who can eat seven more McChicken sandwiches in a day than one of his friends imagined he could.

Still, this does mean I’m gathering material for my Vic and Sade reboot.

On This Or That Date: November 10


1433. Birth of Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, died 1477 before anybody could make font jokes at him, which is just as well, because after forty years of those he’d probably throw boiling serifs over the ramparts before anyone even got near him.

1551. Wait, is that just someone wandering through the background of the ‘Mister Food’s Test Kitchen’ segment on the noon news? She can’t just be wandering up to the fridge there for no reason, right? No, wait, she is. The heck? And there she goes again and Mister Food doesn’t acknowledge her at all? Oh, I guess she’s come in at the end to sample the macaroni-and-cheese he suggests people try cooking. Is it, like, her job to wander around in the TV kitchen and then eat macaroni and cheese at the end? How do I not have that job myself? Sorry, TV distracted me there.

1662. A daring attempt by that Old English letter that looks like an o with a tiny x dangling precariously on top of it to sneak back into the alphabet is foiled. An alert guard at the Tower of London notices something “funny” about the tic-tac-toe game the letter was trying to use as camouflage. But since it was the 17th century he explained his suspicions in a sentence that ran on for over 850 pages of court testimony. The letter was able to escape to Flanders and lead similar attempts to get back into the alphabet in 1717, 1896, and whenever it was they made up Unicode.

1774. Benjamin Franklin’s first, primitive, USB cable is connected to one of his stoves. Nothing much happens, causing the inventor and statesman to admit that he “didn’t know what I expected, really”. Sometimes you just get “a case of the giggles” and have to run with the idea.

1871. Henry Morton Stanley locates Dr David Livingstone, near lage Tanganyika, after a long process that I had always figured amounted to Stanley going into Africa and asking, “Hey, anybody seen any other white guys poking around?” and then following wherever they pointed. And then I heard that yeah, that’s pretty much what he actually did. And I’ve never gone to look up just how he did go searching for Livingstone because I don’t know if I’d be more annoyed if it turned out my joke actually happened or if I’d be heartbroken to learn it didn’t.

1929. Toontown’s so-called “Valentine’s Day Massacre” happens when a truckload of rapid-fire erasers falls into the hand of calendar reformers who think that we don’t have enough February in our lives.

1956. Aberdeen, Scotland, and the Malay state of Negeri Sembilan agree to end their technically never-resolved state of war dating to the Austro-Prussian War of 1866. When spoilsports note that neither Aberdeen nor Negeri Sembilan had anything to do with the Austro-Prussian War to start with they were helpfully shoved into the Old North Creek. Organizers then put up a memorial there to remind everyone what happens when you go knowing actual history in front of people.

1983. After a furious round of rewrites and arguments Dan Aykroyd agrees to shift the focus of his years-in-development labor-of-love project from a quirky comedy about animal control officials over to some guys who shoot special effects at ghosts. While the new project is successful the pre-revision script kicks around Hollywood for several more years before being finally kicked out again. It’s finally picked up and made as an indie project in 2014. Goosebusters goes on to win the East Lansing Film Festival’s coveted “… The Heck Am I Even Watching” Medallion With Dabs Of Cooking Oil Grease On The Ribbon.

2001. Stern Pinball signs a license to make the popular video game Roller Coaster Tycoon into a pinball machine. This is one of the early triumphs of the game company’s “license stuff picked at random from the US Trademark Office database” program. Other successfully licensed games include: CSI, Uneeda Biscuits, the Wendy’s Where’s The Beef Multiball Frenzy Arcade Experience, Cinerama, and Bally Pinball Games: The Pinball Game.

2008. The day’s Slylock Fox mystery doesn’t draw any complaints from anyone about the solution being contrived or requiring we make assumptions like, yeah, while dogs in this world can talk and wear clothes and hold down actuarial jobs they’re nevertheless still red-green color-blind.

In Which I Wonder A Bit Less About The Pretend Baseball Game


I’m not saying I’m not still wondering about that pretend football game’s scoreboard. This is the one at the Cherry Republic store in Traverse City, Michigan. Fun place, lots of cherry-based food things you can put in your mouth if you so desire.

Anyway besides the football scoreboard and a bunch of mocked up movie posters with bear or cherry stuff inserted into it, they’ve got a pretend old-timey baseball scoreboard and it looks like this, because this is a picture of it:

'Boomer Field' scoreboard, showing that after eight innings the Cherries had 11 runs and the Apples 9. And then for some reason the Cherries played the ninth inning, putting up another run.
Yes, I’m sure that this is the Cherries’ rather than the Apples’ scoreboard. The bear thing is part of the whole Cherry Republic motif and besides, you don’t paint the visiting team’s name on the scoreboard while hanging the home team’s name up with a little sign. We have to be realistic here.

So. Yes, I am incredibly disturbed that the home-team Cherries are put on the top of the scoreboard there. I’ve seen this sort of thing done in like high school ballparks and football … parks … and stuff and it always looks unsetting and wrong. Never mind that. Here’s my question.

After eight innings the visiting Apples had nine runs, and the home-team Cherries had 11. That’s a plausible enough score and it sure looks like it was a fun game to that point. But then, and this has been bothering me for four months now, is: why did the Cherries play their ninth inning?

Yes, yes, I know. Up until the 1950 revisions of the rules of baseball the home team could choose whether to bat first or second. And maybe this scoreboard’s just been up there since that time in 1946 when the Cherries manager figured going first would be a great way to throw the Apples’ manager off. Of course I thought of that. But even I don’t buy it. What is going on?

In Which I Wonder About The Pretend Football Game


I’ve had this sitting around a while but it’s still making me think. It’s at the Cherry Republic store in Traverse City. The store is great, a fine spot if you’re in Traverse City, Michigan, and need somewhere to stop in to get a quick snack, because they have chips and samples of several hundred thousand cherry-based jams and jellies and salsas and … consumable food products. It’s great. The place is decorated in an aesthetic style of “Americana, only it’s all about cherries and bears and stuff”. And they’ve got a couple of mock sports scoreboards, and there’s this one I’ve been thinking about.

'Republic Stadium' football scoreboard. Cherris 86, Bananas 3, 10:17.9 left in the first quarter. Second down, nine yards to go on the 14-yard line.
Ask me about the Traverse City Cherry Republic’s baseball scoreboard too!

So. Cherries just smashing the Bananas, that’s fine. I expect the cherry people to be enthusiastic about a game like that. The thing is, the score is Cherries 86, Bananas 3. There have been, at minimum, twelve scoring events in this game so far. And now look at the time. They’re four minutes, 42 seconds into the first quarter. And the Bananas have given up, no less than ten touchdowns with two-point conversions each and one more without? And if they gave up one-point conversions, or field goals, instead, then they’ve let even crazily more scoring chances go during this game. What has their ball possession time got to look at? And given that, I’m amazed the Bananas have at least put up three points. They’ve got to have had the ball in their control for at most, I figure, 0.4 seconds to allow the Cherries to get a score like that.

So all I mean to say is, wow but the Bananas coach is going to have an unpleasant telephone call from the head office come Monday, or possibly Sunday, or possibly at halftime. Or possibly the team owner is going to run down there and kick him in the shin right now.

In Which Capitalism Asks Me To Make A Decision


Yes, it’s my fault for trying to read a local newspaper article about something instead of doing what they want, which is buying a subscription to the local USA Today franchise for Clementon, New Jersey, or whatever just so I can see one piece about an amusingly shaped pumpkin or whatever it was. And I realize that many people have no trouble forming or giving opinions about stuff. But then they wanted my opinion on this to let me read on.

Answer a survey question to continue reading this content. If you saw a brand of hummus, dips, or spreads made with vegetables named 'C'est la V', how would you feel about it?
Also how am I supposed to have emotions about hummus, dips, or spreads? I’m very interested in eating them, yes, but jeez. I don’t have the energy to care about the things I care about, where am I supposed to get a feeling about dip brands from? I’m going to give them a pass on suggesting the vegetables are named “C’est la V” because I’m being cranky and unkind to read that as if it were really confusing.

And this is after I had said what the phrase “C’est la vie” suggests to me. Well, as best I could approximate. What the phrase really makes me think is someone who accepts that yeah, this sucks, but it’s the way the game is played and if you get through this you can move on to some other phase of the doom. They wouldn’t let me write that down so I had to select ‘Neutral’ instead.

Anyway I feel like I have the chance to mess up somebody’s hummus marketing campaign here. Wish me luck.

In Which I Am Again Baffled By Modern Capitalism


So I was in Meijer’s, remembering to buy sandwich bags and forgetting to buy trash bags, because we’re in one of those occasional phases of life where we don’t have the right number of bags. I came upon a big pile of boxed consumer goods: a Michigan State University Spartans Crock-Pot.

I’m aware, Crock-Pot is an official licensed kitchen-appliance-themed product. We pretend that the non-trademarked name for them is “slow cookers”. And I’m aware that the Spartans are an official licensed university-themed product.

So there I stood, in front of a pile of Spartan Crock-Pots, pondering the box’s promise that this is “Officially Licensed”. Licensed by who? To who? Did someone at Spartan Master Command want the real Crock-Pot, trusting that nobody would buy a Spartan Slow Cooker? Did someone at Crock-Pot Master Command insist that, hey, this is the Lansing/East Lansing Market. We can’t make do with a University of Michigan/Flint Lansing Campus Crock-Pot?

Did they license to each other? Is this the future of capitalism, companies just looking for other companies they can swap licenses with, all in the cause of creating piles of small yet durable consumer goods between the aisles of discount department stores? I could use some help having a reaction to all this. Please come over. I’m by the Surprisingly Many Women’s Soaps aisle, curled up and weeping.

Getting Ready For The Eclipse


So we’ve only got a couple days left before the eclipse. I think we’re basically set. But we should go over some last-minute arrangements before we do.

First. I’ve talked with about two-thirds of all the dragons I know and they’ve agreed they aren’t going to go eating the sun while everything’s happening. They also agree not to eat the Moon. They’re making no promises about not eating Saturn, though. I know, I know, I kept pointing out how much we like the rings. This one silver dragon asked when’s the last time I looked at them and that’s just not fair. I’m not on Saturn-ring-watching duty. That’s, like, I want to say Eric? I think Eric signed up for that.

Second. We don’t need paper plates or plastic silverware. We have Jakebe signed up to bring them, and we’ve even got someone who’s going to tell him. Don’t worry. I’ve known him for years and I’m pretty sure he’s got this. Or will. Ooh, do you think he has those little wicker baskets you put the paper plates in? They make picnics just so much better.

Third. Egg salad. Here we do need help. We need someone who’ll whip up enough egg salad for everybody who’s on the path between 80 percent and totality. We’ve got enough egg salad for the 40 percent through 80 percent bands, and we’ve found that most of the people in the 40 percent and less bands are figuring to get their own lunches so we’re not worrying about them. They’re missing out, though. Should say, we want the egg salad with a little bit of dill picked from the yard just as if it were all right to grow plants in your yard and pick them and eat them. I know, we’ve been doing this for years but it still feels like we’re getting away with something. Please check the sign-up sheets and it’s all right if we have extra left over.

Fourth. As the sun passes behind the mountains of the lunar horizon we may see Baily’s Beads. We need about four more people to get up and polish them to a good shine so they’re really presentable. We’ve got the polishing rags, since we somehow have twelve camera-lens-cleaning cloths and we don’t know why we needed more than, like, two.

Fifth. Cloud cover. After the Transit of Venus we’re all rightly fed up with clouds obscuring stuff like this. We’ve got enough volunteers to go up in the sky and eat as many clouds as they can. That’s not going to be able to cover all the eclipse path, so we also need people who can go up and wave fans around to blow any clouds out of the way, then get out of the way before totality sets in. Please bring your own fans! We can’t arrange everything. Pro Tip: write your name or e-mail address on the fan’s handle so if it gets separated from you we know how to get it back.

Sixth. People to handle leftover egg salad. Yes, I said it’s all right if we have extra left over. That’s because we are going to have people to handle this left-over stuff. Look, it’s hard enough getting a big event like this organized. I’m not going to waste my time trying to make sure we exactly match up egg salad needs with egg salad availability. I say, make all the egg salad we can and we’ll work out what to do with the extra. I’m thinking spare lunches, but am open-minded.

Seventh. Oh, this is important. The music. Our band backed out because the guy who plays guitar has some impossibly complicated problem going on. You know the sort, where everything is caused by like four other causes and they’re all cross-feeding each other. So. I know how great it was back during the Annular Eclipse of 1994 when we just grabbed whatever CDs we had in our cars and did a jam of that. It’s temping to do that again but there’s a shocking number of you have cars that can’t even play CDs. I think we’re just going to have to stick to everybody listening to whatever podcasts they’re already behind on. Disappointing, but these are the times we live in. But if you do know a good band that’s got guitarists who aren’t caught up in crazypants drama please let us know. No, we’re not doing Pink Floyd covers again.

So I think we’re all set. If you want to do any last-minute sign-ups do it by 11 am Sunday. We are not pushing things to the last second and this time we mean it. And let’s try to get this right; this is our last full rehearsal before April 2024. Good luck and enjoy!

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The trading floor is empty today. After a bit over a year at this and growing the Another Blog, Meanwhile index from 100 to 400, the analysts and traders agreed that they had done everything they could have hoped for, and that to carry on would just be to spoil the memories of what they had accomplished. All have agreed it was some of the best times of their lies, and agreed to stay in touch, all the while knowing that while everybody basically likes everybody else, they’re going to dissolve into bunches of at most two or three people who stay Facebook friends. They’ll now and then think of one of the others, and maybe even make contact, agreeing that they should totally get together sometime again, but never exactly do. And that’s all right. It’s fine to have friendships that aren’t ended, or estranged, or anything, just left after a contented while and occasionally revisited like an old home that’s not yours anymore.

In Which The Journey Is Its Reward, Turnip Edition


I don’t remember why I was reading Wikipedia’s article about turnips, but it was justified by running across this sentence and its parenthetical diversion:

The Macomber turnip (actually a rutabaga) dating from the late 19th century features in one of the very few historic markers for a vegetable, on Main Road in Westport, Massachusetts.

Yes, they have a photograph of the historical marker (“Legend of the Turnips”) and no, I’m lying. I know why I was reading Wikipedia’s article about turnips. I just don’t want to admit what it was.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index dropped fourteen points and while there’s a faction trying to argue that that isn’t anything more than if it lost like four points back when it was at a hundred there’s people running around screaming and just making everybody all tense.

356

In Which The Facts Are Kind Of Annoying


So the Salisbury steak was invented by the physician James Salisbury. He was of the opinion that people should eat Salisbury steak three times a day, if possible. All of this is as true as something attested on Wikipedia could be. And I’m annoyed because this sounds exactly like what I’d produce in the first two sentences if you gave me the topic ‘Salisbury steaks’ to riff on. It’s an injustice of some kind.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index rose twelve points to yet another record high somehow, as all the talk about Salisbury steaks has got people thinking maybe they’ll be for dinner soon. Many of the traders have fond memories of Salisbury steaks, since they grew up in the 70s and early 80s, when white American home-cooking was yet to quite emerge from its “Hey, what if we boiled it?” phase.

392

Statistics Saturday: What The Days This Week Have Felt Like


Day Felt Like
Sunday Sunday
Monday Monday
Tuesday Weeping
Wednesday Thursday
Thursday Friday
Friday A Pillow Full Of Bunny Kisses
Saturday Take-Out From The Chinese Place With The Fake Vegetarian Chicken So Good You Kind Of Don’t Want To Check If It’s Real Chicken And They’re Just Lying

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index rose another sixteen points as investors decided that the week has just gone that well, what with having the gridiron thing explained and how the water bill turned out to be just exactly what everyone figured so they don’t have to worry about it being too high or suspiciously low.

291

In Which I Fix A Non-Broken Business Model


So the shop is called Muffler Man and, OK, that’s not a bad start. It lets you know clearly that at this shop you’ll be dealing with a man of some kind, and that he asserts to have some experience dealing with mufflers. That’s all very good stuff because you can trust a company whose name tells you what it does. The only thing that would improve it is if the name also included a location, like, “Lansing Muffler Man” or “Michigan Avenue Muffler Man”, because companies that tell you where they are usually know what they’re trying to do. When a company removes their geographic designator from the name that’s the first sign they’re going into providing services of some kind instead of doing anything useful. And if the name doesn’t mean anything it means they don’t want to do anything either, and if they are good at anything anymore it’s just inertia. They’ll screw it up as soon as they want to improve analysts’ ideas of their stock value. “Muffler Man”? Safe company to deal with. If if were, say, “Asperience”? Will never do anything that leaves you happy.

Thing is, you hear “Muffler Man”, you can’t help thinking that jingle about “Muffin Man”. So: why don’t they embrace that and start having muffins too? I haven’t had any real problems with my mufflers since I stopped buying $1,000 used cars from guys my dad knows. But if Muffler Man were a place to go and hang out and get something like muffins to eat — and I’m open to things in the greater muffin metropolitan area to eat too, such as cake-type brownies — I’d sure hang out there more than I do now. I bet I could find marginal excuses to have my muffler … looked at or whatever it is car repair people do with mufflers. The possibility is right there; what’s wrong with society that we’re not taking it?

Like I warn, though, this is just about making what’s already perfectly fine a little bit better. Muffler Man is not at all screwed up, as it is. I just think there’s more eating could be naturally associated with the experience is all.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index rose another sixteen points today in trading that’s just encouraging everybody’s Imposter Syndrome, so it isn’t like anybody is even happy about this.

263

In Which The Pasta Was Nothing Special


The comic strips that don’t have stories to over-explain but do have someone say “algebra” in them I talk about over on my other blog.

Specials: Soup - Vegetable beef; Special - meatloaf slidders; Pasta -
The soup was Rack of Lima Bean. From the Blind Squirrel Tavern, Fremont, Michigan. (We were there for the pinball.)

No, I am not engaged in the lazy form of comedy in which someone notices a sign has a mistake in it. “Slidders” are a specialty of the restaurant, where they make extremely thin hamburger patties fried on an incredibly hot metal sheet. To keep the burgers from overcooking they’re literally slid down the heavily greased sheet. They’re then smothered under almost a soup of boiled onions and mushrooms, but that’s incidental. If this seems strange, is it really odder than planked shad? Anyway, I just want you to know they’re the tastestoostiest.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index rose thirteen points today and — wait, what, really? No, huh, that’s exactly what the point-o-meter says it did. Well, we have no explanation for this phenomenon.

109

Some Arrogant Vegetables And Their Enablers


Because people were wondering after the spinach discovery:

An Arrogant Vegetable Its Enabler
Cress Sunflowers
Peas Apples
Radicchio Flamingos
Watercress Less watered cress
Grape leaves Jacobins
Sea lettuce Sea grapes
Cassava Status-seeking artichokes
Pumpkin Halloween

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

There are signs of imminent smugness coming from certain areas of the analyst community. Though there are no warnings yet posted residents are advised that sudden squalls of incredible self-righteousness accompanied by fast-moving clouds of “if you had listened to me in the first place then I wouldn’t have to point out how right I was about the whole thing” may break out at any moment. Be ready with an evacuation plan, including several sensible changes of clothing and two days’ water and snack foods, just in case.

102

What’s In The Refrigerator Still, Somehow


So sometime back I bought a pack of kaiser rolls. I’m not sure how far back, except I’m almost sure it was summer when I got them. We use them for (vegetarian) burgers, except I keep thinking they’re pretzel rolls when I’m not looking at them. That might seem like a curious mistake to make repeatedly but then remember I keep them in the fridge so they’ll last longer in the summer weather.

Thing is, we have four of them left in the pack. And we had four of them left in the pack last time we had burgers. I’m not sure when’s the last time we didn’t have four of them left in the pack, which is part of why I can’t really swear to just when we got the bag. It’s been a long while considering our veggie burger consumption.

Anyway, I just want to say I’m going to be cross if I’ve finally come across a magic endlessly-regenerating never-empty bag of something for my life, and it’s kaiser rolls instead of Boyer peanut-butter Smoothie cups. Or, I guess, pretzel rolls. Not that Mallo Cups are bad, just the Smoothie cups are harder to get in good shape.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

Also, I’ve learned that people really, really like numbers. At least numbers they don’t have to do anything with. If they can just see a number that’s different from the number it was last time — but is the same just often enough to be exciting — they’re happy. So who am I to fight that? So let’s try this. I’ll start the index at 100, so today it’s:

100

In Which I Explain The Nathan-Nebus Conversation


Singapore’s Former President S R Nathan died this week. So this is a fitting time to record for posterity my understanding of our relationship. It’s also the last time I can share this story without my being inhumanly dull. That’s all right. I’ve been using this story to be a bit dull for twelve years and that’s not bad for a standard-grade anecdote. It doesn’t measure up to the styrofoam peanut computer monitor incident of 1999, but not everything is.

Back in the day (2004) I was working at the National University of Singapore, in the Department of Computational Science. This was a department that did physics, chemistry, biology, and mathematics from a computer science perspective. “Wait,” you ask, “how is that different from ordinary physics, chemistry, biology, mathematics, and computer science, what with it being literally the 21st Century and everything being done on computers?” Our department would say that LOOK THERE’S A BIG DISTRACTING THING OVER THERE and run out to the Science Canteen to regroup. We were disbanded the next year.

It was the start of the school year. It was time for the Commencement ceremonies. Last year’s graduates officially received their diplomas and I realized all the time I had spent in United States academia had been a lie. “Commencement”! The word is right there in the name of the thing. WHY DO WE PUT IT AT THE END OF THE YEAR? WHY? WHY? WHY? WHY? This was enough to send me to the Science Canteen and drown my sorrow in tuna buns. These are a Singaporean food thing where you take a bun and put tuna in it. Well, they put tuna in it. You just eat it. Someday this is going to hit the United States big. Corn buns ought to too, but that’s probably not enough meat for the typical American. Chocolate buns may be just a little too weird. Too bad.

The department needed someone to be on stage for Commencement, one of those professory types in dignified robes watching the proceedings without nodding off. I’d volunteered for one of the school Commencements. The University ran two or three commencements for the various schools over the course of like two weeks because maybe they had too many subdivisions. He thought, from the doomed department. That led to the whole “Dubiously Wanted Pants” Affair but that’s another story. Then I got an invite to attend the main commencement, if I responded before the actual letter was sent to me. I checked and they told me that sure, they’d have a chair for me if I got there for 9:20 am. That’s like my third-best 9:20 of the day, but all right. I wore the pair of dubiously wanted pants and everything.

My participation got me marked for VIP treatment. This ran hard against my general level of self-esteem. I won’t brag about my low self-esteem because I couldn’t possibly bring myself to do it. But to have actually well-dressed ushers ushing me off past velvet barriers and stuff encourages the feeling of accidentally stumbling into a Nikolai Gogol play I never actually read or saw or anything. Also somehow all us faculty misunderstood something the first time we went out on stage so they had to call us back and send us out again. That’s just reinforcing so many stereotypes.

The ceremony was different from United States university commencements in that they only played like eight bars of Pomp and Circumstance at the start. They had to save time at some point. There were like twelve more school commencement ceremonies later that day. At this one they just blasted through the doctoral and master-degree candidates and presented them all to the University Chancellor, President Nathan. (Remember him?)

At the reception afterwards they still wanted me around and among the VIP section even though honestly. And our department didn’t have any doctoral or masters-degree candidates. So all I had to do was wander around the packed hallway, filling my plate with kueh (any of hundreds of desserts made by compressing sugar into Singaporean Hyper-Sugar) and bee hoon (the tastiest part of the bee) and then emptying it. And then I sneezed. I wasn’t yet skilled at sneezing into my elbow and I just managed to sneeze into my right hand instead. Not too messy but still, sneeze.

I saw a little clearing of people, off in the general direction of the bathroom, and I charged directly into it. It was a little open gap of people in front of President Nathan. He smiled at this fat, tall person who had just sneezed into his hand in front of him. I had always assumed President of Singapore to be a pretty easy gig. The country’s got a Westminster parliament scheme but with only one really organized political party. So there’s not even the occasional bit of choosing to approve a coalition government or proroguing parliament or anything for the Head of State to do. But he proved me wrong about the job’s easiness. He reached out and shook my booger-laden hand. I could never do something like that.

And then we had a conversation that, to the best of my recollection, was exactly this majestic:

“Good day,” he said.

“Good day … I’m honoured to meet you, sir.” (I would do my best to approach the Singaporean accent without sounding like I’m making fun of myself.)

“Where do you come from?”

“New Jersey. Um. The United States.”

“Ah. Are you a graduate?”

“Faculty, actually. I’m a teaching fellow.”

“Ah.” And he nodded and moved on to people not threatening to smear nasal goop over him.

This would prove to be our final conversation, for which I don’t blame him.

When Should You Wash Your Hands?


Hands. They’re fine things to have. Without them, where would the glove and mitten industries be? Certainly not curled up and tossed in the corner of the shelf in the hall closet. How would we curl them up? With my toes? Maybe. I’ve got surprisingly dextrous toes. But I couldn’t curl up and toss everybody’s gloves and mittens in a world without hands. There’d be too many things to take care of even if we pretend gloves and mittens are the same as the glove and mitten industries. For example there’s finding out whether I could open a jar of peanut butter with my feet. Probably not, because there’s no way I could get my feet clean enough to dream of touching the thing food is in with them. I have a hard enough time walking into the pantry in bare feet.

Which brings me to my topic and you to relief that I have a topic. A critical part of caring for your hands is washing them. And yet what do we really know about hand washing? Almost everything, if we’re paying attention. It isn’t all that difficult to work out. Washing of hands should be done under many conditions, among them:

When handling food. Especially if you’re handling hot soup, even if you’re doing so very quickly for fear of scalding.

After handling food. Unless you were handling it by purely psychological means guiding it to do what you wish by clever suggestion. That’s your choice, but why are you pulling these passive-aggressive head games on your bowl of Museli? Keep on like this and you’re going to be pulling pick-up artist stunts on a bag of Fritos. That’s making the world a more needlessly miserable place. Stop it. Just stop.

Before eating food. Don’t go thinking you’ve found a loophole if you didn’t handle food and just got it delivered to you by some outside agent. We’re paying attention. We aren’t going to let you get away with any argument that wouldn’t work on your mom when you were seven. And even if you did go directly from handling your food as part of preparing it to eating don’t think you can skip the in-between washing step either. In fact, just for that we’re going to say you should wash between your post-handling washing and your eating. And maybe in-between the post-handling washing and the pre-eating washing. And if you think of complaining about that then we’ll give you something to complain about.

After coughing or sneezing into your hand. Also after blowing your nose into your hand. We could avoid this easily if people didn’t make the mistake of coughing or sneezing or boogering into their hands but so many of us do. It’s natural. What else are we supposed to do but put the body parts we use to interpret and manipulate the world directly in the midst of an unpleasant eruption of secreted body fluids? You could lift your arm and cough, sneeze, or whatever into the inside of your elbow, according to a panel of American Medical Association doctors who were kidding but are sticking with that advice now because they’re delighted to see how many people are actually doing it. They want to know how far this will go. You would too.

When you are coping poorly with regret for past mistakes. Not sure when that is? You can set some time and trust it’s about the right amount of your life spent coping poorly. Use this simple guideline. Add 15 to your age and spend that percentage of the day in futile self-recrimination. So for example a 37-year-old would spend 52 percent of his or her waking day trying to wash off the guilt. Add five more percent if absolutely everyone agrees something was not by any reasonable measure your fault.

You know what? Between each bite of food too. We warned you.

After using the bathroom, but before leaving it. We agree there’s the obvious problem here of how you’re supposed to get out of the bathroom without touching something that’s been spending all its day, every day, in the bathroom. Recommended is to find a clean enough section of the bathroom and make gentle whimpering noises until someone comes in and checks on you. Race through the open door, tackling your rescuer so they don’t get stuck in the bathroom too. You absolutely don’t want to get stuck with yourself on the outside and your rescuer on the inside of the bathroom because then there’s no way out except getting yourself stuck in there again, all the while that your soup is getting cold and well-handled.

Before handling food. We saw you skimping earlier. Go back and do it again.

Note: washing can be done by yourself. There is no need to pay for specialist services or to have your hands sent out for custom care. It’s nothing but profit for the dealers.

Statistics Saturday: How Father’s Day Card Descriptions Of My Father Compare To The Actual My Father


Trait Father’s Day Cards Say My Father Has Are They Correct?
Sloppy No.
Lazy Not really.
Sports-obsessed If “thinks there is a best professional sports venue, and that it is Fenway Park, and probably could name a New York Yankee if pressed” (we’re from New Jersey) then yes, otherwise, not really.
Beer-obsessed Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha no.
Cranky Not since he stopped working rotating shifts in like 1984.
Full of really good ignored advice Other than that one about starting a retirement account when I was still in college not really.
Mechanically inept Only if you hold against him that the dishwasher in the old house would not stop leaking even after he replaced it and everything connected to it maybe five times.
Flatulent No.
The Human ATM No.
Barbecue-obsessed If “can barbecue fine, thanks, but is really happier making broiled chicken and other grown-up meals like that” counts.
Golfing No.
Napping Yeah, although usually the cat climbs onto his chest and naps first. But I understand they have an agreement about this.
Overprotective No.
Fishing I cannot imagine my father enjoying anything less than a day out fishing, and that includes “watching the televised Congressional impeachment hearings against my brother on Fox News while waiting at the car dealership for an emergency transmission overhaul to get finished”.
Long-suffering Well, that’s fair enough.

Also, why are there no cards for father-in-laws? Or a month back, for mother-in-laws? I haven’t done a rigorous survey about this, but I’m going to bet there are more people who actually like their spouse’s parents than there are people needing birthday cards for someone turning 100.

Meanwhile, Letting Our Pet Rabbit Outside Some More


A Flemish Giant rabbit buried past his eyeballs in periwinkle, which he's eating.
“Would you like a napkin, perhaps?”
“What for?”
“… Palate cleanser?”
“I’ll take four.”

Much of the backyard is given over to what we had been calling myrtle, but is actually periwinkle. Gardening and animal-care web sites are all but universal in declaring that it is a bitter-tasting plant. (Hi, Ben!) My love nibbled on a bit, as if it were a perfectly normal and ordinary thing for a person to eat plants from their own yard, and agreed with the bitter assessment. It is commonly listed as an inexpensive and natural way to keep one’s garden deer- and rabbit-proof, as the animals find the taste so repulsive they’ll leave it — and your garden surrounded by it — alone. Here, our pet rabbit shoves his head into a huge pile of the stuff and does. not. stop. eating.