And What I Find

Uhm … hi? I guess?

Oh. Oh, yeah, right. Monday. Mondays I usually spend telling people my mathematics blog did comic strips again. All right. My mathematics blog did comic strips again.

Why are you all looking at me like that?

Oh, sheesh, right. Yeah. Usually I have some kind of funny picture or a screen grab or something to put up and coax people into reading this anyway even though they’re not all that crazy about hearing about the thing they maybe already read. Where did I … um. I don’t know where I have one this week. No, Compu-Toon today parses too.

All right, I can work this. I’ve got like eighty thousand pictures, I just have to pick any of them and there’ll probably be something interesting going on. Let’s see.

The Clementi MRT station as photographed at night from the 14th of October, 2006, because that's when I happened to be there.
The Clementi station on Singapore’s East-West subway line. The station is above ground because you know subways are complicated things anyway. Not depicted: the great mass of warm, muggy air that makes walking around outdoors in Singapore so much like swimming through a heap of down comforters.

There, see, that’s got … uh … I can point out how … well, anyone should be able to make a good joke about …

Oh, this is bad.

Wait a second.

Hold on.

Computer, enhance. Again. Enhance.

Close-up on the train-arriving monitor as it shows some advertisement, surely, that involved some big alien-ish monster sprawling out.
You never really appreciate at the time that but you take a photograph of some boring scene there’s going to be something not boring in it.

On the information screen there. That’s almost clearly some kind of giant monster-y creature sprawling across the whole highway. This means something. Send our agents out right away!

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index dropped eight points in trading today. Investors had started to hope it would drop a clean ten points so they could joke about having scored a safety. The joke doesn’t quite make sense, but it won’t be usable at all until whenever football season gets started again in like July or August or whenever that is and they didn’t want to have to wait that long.


Statistics Saturday: Units Of Length Organized By Length

  • 1. Ell
  • 1 (tie). Rod
  • 3. Foot
  • 3 (tie). Inch
  • 3 (tie). Mile
  • 3 (tie). Yard
  • 7. Chain
  • 7 (tie). Cubit
  • 7 (tie). Meter
  • 10. Fathom
  • 10 (tie). League
  • 10 (tie). Micron
  • 10 (tie). Parsec
  • 14. Furlong
  • 15. Angstrom
  • 16. Kilometer
  • 17. Centimeter
  • 17 (tie). Light-Year
  • 19. Bohr Radius
  • 20. Light-Second
  • 20 (tie). Rhode Island
  • 22. Nautical Mile
  • 22 (tie). Planck Length
  • 24. Football Field
  • 25. Astronomical Unit

A Grain Of Solace

I’ve come to realize that I have no idea how to pronounce “quinoa”, and furthermore, that I’m fine with that. Perhaps someday I will learn to say it aloud, perhaps someday I will not, but I am disinterested in what the outcome will be. As life ambitions go it’s rather like hoping to someday see Promontory Summit, Utah; it would be kind of nice to, but I would not think my life ill-spent if it turns out I never do.

I confess I’m not sure exactly what quinoa is; the name makes it look something kind of grain-y, and I guess that’s fine, what with the world needing grains so the farmers feel like they’re not just keeping busy. I know from reading the comic strips that there are people who’ve decided to eat it, and possibly nothing but it, lately; and that there are a lot of people who think this is the most absurd silly foolish thing ever, what with quinoa being a thing they didn’t eat, so far as they remember, back when food was normal and not scary or weird, when they were eight.

All I really know food-wise is that the stores around here have gotten filled with boxes of paczki, as every Meijer’s and Kroger’s and convenience store builds a fortress of doughnut boxes. I appreciate paczki, sure, what with it being food and all that, but the quantities of it are mystifying to this transplant. I accept it as part of human nature’s beautiful diversity, the way in Michigan people also elect the state Attorney General and follow college football. I do know how to pronounce paczki, half because of the Polish side of my heritage, half because the boxes and signs all spell out how to pronounce it. I don’t think they have anything to do with quinoa.

My Appropriately-Sized Rhode Island Terror

I just knew going in that describing the size of Rhode Island in terms of football fields was going to be a popular one, because it just had that certain xkcd-ish nerdly panache to it, by combining geodesy, sports, and things that other things get compared to a lot even if you don’t really know or care much about the things. So I was happy about all that.

But, and I know this is ridiculous: I was deeply worried about whether I would get this right. I knew that by giving stuff that could be not obviously wrong numbers I was potentially arousing the powerful Worldwide Nerdly Precision League. This is a shadowy group, communicating primarily by means of pun cascades and posts that convert things — any old things: speeds, fuel economies, lists of Vice-Presidents of the United States with their pets — into stupid measurements like “furlongs per fortnight” all the while trying to troll others into correcting mistakes they pretend to make. Rouse them and they will hound you past death, trying to pin down whether you meant the London firkin or some other non-London yet nevertheless English firkin, such as the Bristol firkin, and they will not accept that you could care less, an expression that they’ll also debate with you.

So in my quest to get the measurement of Rhode Island right I discovered there are no two sources on the entire Internet that agree about how big Rhode Island is. A lot of them just round it off to the nearest ten miles, even though that risks rounding the state down to a slender twig blown about in the strong wind. Some of them give up altogether: Wikipedia just describes Rhode Island as being “larger than three elephants standing end to end, but not much. Not those elephants, a different three elephants”. Finally I gave up and found the United States Coast Guard’s Geographic Information Services depository and got a map of Rhode Island that if the Coast Guard is fine with I can live with. I trust the Coast Guard to keep track of Rhode Island even though it’d save them a lot of craggly little corners if they lopped off the whole island and went with those pretty straight borders on the east of Connecticut and south of Massachusetts instead. I guess that might risk their running a cutter or whatever they have into Quonset but the people of Quonset have dealt with worse. I imagine. They’ve done a lot of stuff, what with making huts and not being Woonsocket, I guess.

But this set off a new problem because the best GIS software I could find was QGIS, which is open source. Open source software is different from professional software because, when you want to get a piece of professional software, you download it and then run it. With open source software, you download it, and then discover that to run it you have to download something else. When you download that something else and try to run it, you find out you have to download some other thing. That other thing you can download, but to actually run it you have to resolve some package dependency issue. You Google for that and discover one StackOverflow page with somebody describing what sounds like your problem, except that when you describe your problem there’s antecedents and verbs and the sentences parse. It seems close enough, though, so you follow what you think is the best answer, as it’s the one in which all the sentences parse even though the paragraphs don’t, and the settings it describes aren’t exactly in your version of the software but some things described with imperfect synonyms are, even if none of them are under the described menu options, which are different anyway, that the StackOverflow answer says. This works, except that every time you start the program it pops up an alert box containing nothing but an exclamation point and three buttons marked “OK”, “Dismiss”, and “Cancel”, all of which do the same thing if you click them twice, which is to go away and let you use the program, except every now and then the software switches the typeface over to I’m going to guess Korean and you have to delete the preferences and start over. But it’s worth it because if you complain about it someone tells you to pitch in and help fix the problem instead of just complaining.

It was easiest to measure the lengths not at all because while you can turn on a grid to make measurements of stuff in QGIS, it’s open-source software, so while you can do pretty much anything, there’s no guessing how except that it won’t be anything like you learned from any other program you ever used, ever. But when I found how — it required three sherpas and a gyrocompass — it was easiest to measure the state in kilometers and I was going to accept that, because I could convert the size of a football field into meters and just do the stupid division like that. I finished all that and scheduled the article to be posted and went off to play pinball all day.

Except. Right about when the post was scheduled to appear I thought: did I convert “120 yards into meters”, or did I screw up and enter “120 feet into meters” instead? Did I make Rhode Island three times as big as it should be? Or worse did I somehow make it one-third its rightful size? I did my best to struggle on with making a shiny ball bounce against a diverse set of things a lot of times, but I kept thinking of how I’d get home to face dozens of comments from the New England Chapter of the Worldwide Nerdly Precision League, and I’d have to flee my home and move to some other country where they don’t play American football. And not a small country either, something that would take dozens of thousands — literally, scores of great grosses — of football fields cricket pitches to cross. I swear, I spent hours thinking I might just be an idiot for having come up with numbers like “1772” or “1999” or even “788”. At least the “4940” I was pretty sure about.

Anyway, mercifully, I got back home and checked my notes and it looks like I was wrong about being mistaken, and I had not messed up calculating this bit of nonsense. So there’s that. You’re welcome, all.

As I make it out by the way Rhode Island is about 86.4 kilometers east-to-west, about 97.5 kilometers north-to-south, and about 247 meters top to bottom because nobody’s told me about any part of the state that’s dry land but below sea level, so if you want to figure out what that is in terms of Canadian football fields or cricket pitches or pinball table sizes good luck.

Statistics Saturday: The Size of Rhode Island in terms of Football Fields

“Length” is here taken to be longitudinal, east-west, distance; “Width” that to be latitudinal, north-south, distance. “Height” is that normal thing.

The dimensions of Rhode Island as measured by an (American) football field, with the long dimension (120 yards) running east-to-west:

Dimension Football Fields
Length 1772
Width 888
Height 4940

The dimensions of Rhode Island as measured by an (American) football field, with the long dimension (120 yards) running north-to-south:

Dimension Football Fields
Length 788
Width 1999
Height 4940
A map of Rhode Island, with a grid spaced to roughly the proportions of a football field superimposed on it.
Rhode Island (yellow) against a grid of football fields (not to scale).

  1. Yes, I’m including Block Island.
  2. I’m including the end zones.
  3. Football field artificial grass is apparently 5 cm tall, so I’m supposing that to be the standard height of the grass on the field.
  4. Only land points of Rhode Island are being included, thus, the westernmost extent is at Napatree Point.
  5. If there’s any part of Rhode Island that’s below sea level I don’t know it.

And Yet I Remain Suspicious

I’m given to understand that my alma mater, Rutgers, got a bowl invitation this year and that they’re accepting it. I don’t figure on watching it, because, again, I went to Rutgers, so I can’t make myself care how they do in football, and I also don’t believe they belong in the Big Ten playing against serious football programs or this year’s Wolverines either.

The information I have is that they’re playing in something called the Quick Lane Bowl, which I never heard of either. So while I really don’t care whether they win or lose against … I guess it’s North Carolina … I do feel that the players on both sides should check very carefully and make sure that this “Quick Lane Bowl” isn’t actually some manner of trap laid by extraterrestrials who’re hoping to scoop up a representative sample of college athletes with a phony bowl invitation. I don’t think it’s likely, you understand, I just think it’s worth doing more than seeing whether the “Quick Lane Bowl” has an entry on Wikipedia before concluding that it’s a thing that really exists.

Statistics Saturday on a Monday: October 2014 for my Humor Blog

OK, so, that was a bit of a freak month. October 2014 proved to be my most-read month in the history of the blog. This is largely because of a freak event: the folks at noted my blog post mentioning Ray Davies and put it on their news page, and it turns out a lot of Kinks fans will follow a link that doesn’t actually say much about what’s on the other end of the link. I hope they enjoyed it; the first day after the kindakinks link 212 people read mostly that, and another 108 people came the day after. The numbers settled back closer to normal the next day, but still, they settled to the high side of normal.

So. While the blog’s readership has been growing the last several months, October’s total of 1,389 views is anomalously high and I’m all set for disappointment come November unless I do something to attract the interest of a leading Paul McCartney fan site. That’s way up from September’s 827, for example. The number of unique visitors in October was also obviously a record, 895 and don’t think I didn’t notice that’s more unique visitors than I had pages read at all in September. It’s not quite twice the number of unique visitors — 468 — from September but it’s near enough. Obviously the number of people who came to see Ray Davies mentioned and then left distorted the views-per-visitor link; that dropped from 1.77 in September to 1.55, my lowest figure ever, but again, that’s a freak event.

I had a satisfyingly large number of posts get at least twenty viewers this past month. That less-exclusive-than-usual set includes:

Now for the popular part: what countries sent me the most and the fewest readers? For yet another month in a row the United States sent me the most, with 1,060 viewers. The United Kingdom sent just 98, which would be impressive for other months but suggests the readers are more American than British. Australia came in at 25, Germany at 24, Canada at 22, and the Netherlands at 21.

This month’s single-reader countries were Colombia, Ecuador, Ghana, Greece, Iceland, India, Pakistan, Puerto Rico, Romania, Serbia, Singapore, Slovenia, Sri Lanka, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, and Viet Nam. Turkey’s the only one that was a single-reader country in September, so, thanks, whoever you are in Turkey, for sticking with me, even though you weren’t sticking much. India had sent me eight readers in September, though, so I’m doing something wrong there.

Among the good search terms that brought people here the past month:

  • flashing at theme parks (also theme park flashers and amusment [sic] park flasher so apparently I’m getting a reputation)
  • snowflakes that look like bees
  • computoon
  • cool facts about turbo movie
  • turbo movie facts
  • how to develope [sic] a sense of humor
  • fan rage statistics
  • turbo movie what is it about fact (yes, what is it about fact?)
  • ray davies
  • king nebus
  • an awful terrible romance mark twain
  • tea light holder /cartoon bomb

The mysterious thing is only one person searching for “ray davies” got here in October. This is a strange world.

In Search Of Happy Coaches

Although I still really don’t understand what’s the thing with this college football thing, I am aware that it’s anyway a fairly exciting thing here in Lansing when the University of Michigan plays Michigan State, and I was watching on the Tivo only a couple hours later to see a pretty impressive final score of Michigan State not just beating Michigan 35 to 11, but also somehow beating Rutgers, which I didn’t even know was in the game but put up only three points before being escorted out of Spartan Stadium and into the campus’s renowned Hideously Ugly Modern Art Building.

I noticed in the postgame interview that Michigan State’s coach still looked angry despite a pretty solid win. And then I realized I don’t think I’ve ever seen a football coach that didn’t look like he was about to hit a brick wall and keep on hitting it until it bled cranberry sauce. Are they that angry just because the games are these high-profile, high-stress positions where even if they simultaneously beat Michigan, Rutgers, and the University of Maryland there’s still going to be people who can’t just be ignored demanding their firing? Or are they just always furious, and they’d have the same face if they were at Arby’s and got a French Dip hoagie (after choosing to go to Arby’s and ordering a French Dip hoagie, I should say)? Are they only happy when they’re angry and if they are, then, how can they ever be either?

So to sum up, if cartonist Mell Lazarus wanted to use Momma to do a panel of almanac facts about the Moon this month why didn’t he even mention the partial solar eclipse that’s the most interesting thing the Moon did in October anyway?

Statistics Saturday: What College Football Implies In My Family

I have a tiny bit of interest in how Rutgers does in football; my Michigan in-laws are very concerned this implies I'm a madman.
What makes this funny is I’m from New Jersey so I don’t see any reason Rutgers should be in the Big 10, or even necessarily playing football at all. Neither does the Big 10.

I’m pretty sure this is just a minor East Coast/Midwest cultural difference, but I’m also pretty sure my father-in-law’s heart breaks a bit when I admit I’m fine with the Scarlet Knights getting beaten by whoever it was they played.

Percentages of Things Ruined by its Fans

For Statistics Saturday (really Sunday) I’d like to offer a useful little guide regarding things to be fannish of.

Thing Percent Ruined
Monty Python 73
Star Trek 78 or 79, whatever
My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic 60
Football 22.5
The United States of America 37.5
Flowers 8
Typography Conventions 50
Firefly 84
Saying It’s “Sinister” Whenever Someone Mentions Left-Handedness 98
Dvorak Keyboards 22
Douglas Adams 45
Silver-Age Comic Books 38

Because I Watched The Rose Bowl On Tivo, Is Why

So that’s why I only learned last night that one of the things the announcers mentioned was that the Rose Bowl had, somehow, managed to sell out its stadium. I realize they have to talk for a lot of time and they aren’t going to be able to say only winning things. But I’m pretty sure if they ever failed to sell out the Rose Bowl then everyone involved in football would look at one another and shrug, saying without words, “Well, we gave football a good try, but obviously, it isn’t working. Let’s go home” and then they’d try out ultimate frisbee or competitive goose-mocking or something. Possibly everyone involved in sports might give it up as something we had just lost the knack for.

Really, though. I mean, even for the famous 1975 Rose Bowl, when tickets were a mere $2.50 but attendees had to bring in their outline for a concept prog rock album and had to go back and do it again until it met Peter Gabriel’s personal approval for being “needlessly complicated and off-putting”, they were able to sell all the seats and produce a lovely three-album set about groundhogs being liberated from a dystopian computer overlord in a retelling of the myth of Glaucus and Scylla through the metaphor of kites. It was nominated for two Grammies, but lost.

Turbo Comics

Over on my mathematics blog I’ve again gathered a bunch of comics which have some kind of mathematics theme and talked about whatever comes to mind on reading those. If you like seeing stuff in the comics footnoted, you might enjoy that.

If you don’t, then you might enjoy something I have: according to the WordPress statistics page, people are coming to me while searching for “facts about turbo movie”. I should be delighted beyond all reasonable measure if my information page about Turbo were to become one of the Internet’s leading pages about the film, before the film is consigned to the same “wait, did that really exist?” bin that, say … oh, I forget … has gotten immortal fame for.

I’m also getting a little interest in “rutgers vs houston football game death” and “mcdonald’s ketchup”, not to mention “lisa kudrow” for some reason.

Nobody Ever Died For Dear Old Rutgers

I don’t want to sound like I’m bragging, but yesterday my undergraduate school, Rutgers, lost its football game to Houston by a score of only 49-14. (I assume that’s a college or university and not the Houston Oilers because I’m pretty sure the Oilers left town like twenty years ago.) This really shows the Scarlet Knights getting back into the form they had when I was there, when they were promoting the team with mottoes like “Scarlet Knights Football ’93: Gearing Up For Mediocrity!” Then the Board of Governors would decide the problem is they needed an even bigger stadium and they’d go rebuilding the blasted thing. I see they’re still up to that.

This may sound cranky but I liked football better at my grad school, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. They weren’t trying to be Division I; they were somewhere around Division XVII-L, I think, and the football field was just in the middle of campus and there were automatic time-outs when someone walking back from the computer lab cut across the field. (And the computer lab was in a church, by the way, which isn’t even me making a joke.) Plus if you wanted to play, I believe, you just had to show up early the day of the game, no later than the end of the third quarter, and they’d let you suit up. If you could bring your own football, too, that’d really help them out. It was the sort of thing they never wasted effort rebuilding stadiums, or really quite building stadiums, for and the team was at least as mediocre.