Thoughts While Pondering The Year Without A Santa Claus, Plus Trains


What if Santa isn’t always cancelling Christmas because he’s kind of a jerk and instead he’s just wracked with the sort of Imposter Syndrome that my whole generation is dealing with all the time? Like, “This mouse wrote something mean in an upstate New York newspaper in September! A competent Santa doesn’t have to deal with issues like that! … And it’s snowing too? Oh I can’t even.”

Which I’ll grant is not all that deep an observation, but the alternative is to fret about the ways the rules of that snowfall magic seem to get tossed willy-nilly about in Frosty’s Winter Wonderland. I mean there’s something about just tossing in a snow-parson into things that seems dangerous. So let me conclude with this observation from Wikipedia’s page on Frost’s Winter Wonderland:

The engine on the train is a 2–4–2 or an American type steam locomotive. Locomotives of this wheel arrangement were used most common during the 1800s on American railroads, and from the 1830s until 1928, were given the name “American” in 1872, because of how they did all the work of every railroad in the United States. These types of engines have eight wheels (two leading wheels, four driving wheels, and two trailing wheels).

This means something. (It means I’m very tired.)

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Can Someone Please Give Twitter A Good Shove?


Not looking to sound ungrateful here for a free web site that keeps me in touch with like four people I knew on Usenet in the 90s and a lot of reasons to call my Congressman and tell him how disgusted I am. But it’s still, today, trying to feed me the line that “Veterans Day” is a trending topic six days after the holiday. All I can say to that that is “you’re a rotten liar”.

Trends for you: FridayFeeling, MMSayThanks, VeteransDay, U.S.Senate, NationalTakeAHikeDay, FlashbackFriday, NCTE17, VoxUnion, James Fowler.
Taken at like noon the 17th of November, 2017. I don’t know what the ESPN thing is all about, but I figure that’s all right, the people who need to know understand it well enough. I’m not worried about that and I am willing to trust there is still such a thing as ESPN.

The kindest I can work out is maybe Twitter is stuck in the mud and can’t get traction. If someone could get it out I’d appreciate the help. I rely on Twitter’s Trending report to let me know what I won’t be reading about on Twitter Moments under any circumstances.

Statistics Saturday: Wikipedia Categories Classifying Maureen O’Sullivan


  • 1911 births (5,526 entries)
  • 1998 deaths (5,019 entries)
  • 20th Century Fox contract players (140 entries, one subcategory, Shirley Temple)
  • 20th-century Irish actresses (64 entries, one subcategory, “20th century actresses from Northern Ireland”)
  • American film actresses (8,036 entries, three subcategories)
  • American stage actresses
  • American television actresses (6,876 entries, three subcategories)
  • Irish emigrants to the United States (146 entries, three subcategories, plus some extra links whose purpose I don’t understand)
  • Irish film actresses (148 entries, two subcategories)
  • Irish stage actresses (141 entries, four subcategories)
  • Irish television actresses (164 entries, two subcategories)
  • Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer contract players (251 entries, one subcategory, Shirley Temple)
  • People educated at Woldingham School (23 entries)
  • People from Boyle, County Roscommon (6 entries)
  • People with acquired American citizenship (400 entries, one subcategory, “Fictional people with acquired American citizenship”, which doesn’t list Nero Wolfe who I thought was born in Montenegro?)

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 I Am Once Again Dumbfounded


So I was reading Jonathan Green’s The Vulgar Tongue, about the history of slang so far as that can be worked out. And it got to a section about minstrel shows and blackface jokes and what slang we get from that. Surprisingly little, it turns out. Between a whole bunch of pages that left my jaw hanging open, speechless, was this bit from Charles Townsend’s circa-1891 guide for minstrel performers, along with tips like how to get blackface:

End Men should carefully avoid anything approaching vulgarity and no offensive personalities should be introduced. Avoid slang.

I understand, intellectually, that everything that ever touches race ever is deeply screwed up in all kinds of bizarre and stupid ways. But … “don’t use slang, you want to keep your minstrel show classy and inoffensive” is why I spend more and more of every day curled up in a ball in the corner of the room.

In Which I Am Tasked In The Pet Store


I was just getting some rabbit food at the pet store, but I paused to watch the guinea pigs, because they’re always soothing and fun. Someone was there with a little kid, and she was pointing out and naming the animals to him. “There are some rats,” she said, “fancy rats.” And the kid asked, “Why?”

And I understand the kid was just at that age where “why” is the response to any question, including “would you like this extra chocolate we happened to have hanging around?” But I also feel like I’ve been given the responsibility of writing a charming, slightly twee children’s book explaining why some animals are rats.

And I gotta say, I’m not the person to ask that. The best I can come up with, and this is after literally dozens of minutes thinking about it, is that there are some animals who just did awesomely well in Mouse College, and they went on to earn their Masters of Rodent Arts. But they got ultimately sound advice to not go on to a doctorate in Possum Studies or something like that, so that’s left them as well-equipped and highly trained rats prowling around the world and adding to it that charming Halloween touch and also those great pictures online where one’s looking right at you with big, sweet, innocent eyes and grabbing a hindpaw with both front paws. Anyway, this is why my nieces refer to me as “Silly Uncle Joseph”. I’m sorry.

In Which I Stall For The Reasons


I’m sorry. I saw the lawyer for the Insane Clown Posse, or the “Juggalawyer” as apparently they call him, while watching Samantha Bee’s show last night and I don’t really know what things are anymore.

So uh, here. Something from a park we visited last weekend. The question: Was the sign placed there fortuitously … or did they wait until a tree collapsed and figured that’s where to put the sign … or did someone fell a tree as a warning to the others? And if a warning, has this driven the other trees to greater productivity? Or has it driven the ice to try for more?

Warning sign: 'In high wind or icy conditions watch for falling limbs'. Surrounding it is a tree that's been cut down.
Also not looking to joke about the icy conditions since even though yes, it was 95 degrees Fahrenheit yesterday that doesn’t mean we aren’t going to get snow as early as 8:42 tonight.

In Which I Just Have To Suppose Someone’s Being Naughty


So I was looking up the Dennis the Menace comic strip on Wikipedia for some reason and got to this at the top of its Wikipedia page:

This article is about the US newspaper strip Dennis the Menace. For other uses, see Dennis the Menace.
Not to be confused with Dennis the Menace and Gnasher.

Dennis the Menace and Gnasher is the British comic strip that started the same day in March 1951 but five hours earlier owing to time zones. This is very slightly famous in circles where you might talk about the Dennis the Menace comic strip.

Anyway, down in the US comic strip’s page is mentioned:

TV shows and specials

  1. Dennis the Menace (1959, live-action)
  2. Dennis the Menace in Mayday for Mother (1981, animated, TV special)
  3. Dennis the Menace (1986, animated)
  4. All-New Dennis the Menace (1993, animated)
  5. Dennis & Gnasher (1996, animated)
  6. Dennis & Gnasher (2009, animated)
  7. Dennis & Gnasher: Unleashed! (2017-present, animated)

This all brings me to the question: wait, Dennis’s father is an aerospace engineer? Really? I must have known that at some point, there’s no way Young Me could have let something like that go without memorizing. But what the heck?

Oh also, I did talk about some comic strips on my mathematics blog and none of them were Dennis the Menace so don’t worry about that.

Today’s Ominous Sign Of The Week


So the Auto Care place down the street took its last emotionally-charged sign message off its board. It spent a couple weeks congratulating some athlete or other for an accomplishment in the field of sports athleticism and that’s fine enough. But since this weekend the board has been this:

The Auto Surgeon message board: just a ' mark, left over from the previous message.
So, I walked down the street, listening to a Movie Sign With The Mads podcast, trusting that I would look nice and casual while taking a picture with my iPod. Then I went back home and saw the picture was just awful because it was way too zoomed in and jpeg-artifacted and all that. So I went back out, listening to Movie Sign With The Mads again, with my for-real grown-up camera, accepting that if anyone did thing I was the weirdo for taking photos of this sign then they’d have to accept it. And so I grew up that tiny little bit more, right?

Is this how the world ends? Not with a bang, not with a whimper, but just a single, forgotten apostrophe left in the void?

I hope not.

In Which Usenet Turns Out To Not Be Dead


So back in the 90s there was this troll on Usenet. I know, shocking. The guy would post to the group alt.tv.game-shows, which was about such TV game shows as had that grunge sound. Also sometimes to the other TV newsgroups. He’d post about the forgotten 1984 Bill Cullen game show Hot Potato.

Anyway, the troll would post, sometimes several times a day, the question: how was Hot Potato played? Did Bill Cullen throw a hot potato at the contestants? That would be funny. And then he’d sit back and wait for the offended corrections to roll in. When the fun of that paled, he would repost, spelling some of the words wrong. You have to understand, this was the 90s. While it was theoretically possible to watch a video online, it couldn’t actually be done. All you could do was spend three hours downloading some program that claimed to be able to show videos, then spend an hour downloading a video, which would be a postage-stamp-sized thing that was mostly black, with occasional green speckles, that would then crash. And while memes were technologically possible, no one believed they could be made practical. We had to do what we could.

So anyway now you can imagine my joy to notice that this got posted last month to alt.tv.mst3k:

how wuz hat putato plaed? did bil kulin tos a putato at thu kuntestintz? tat wuld b a funi.

And doesn’t that just make you feel young again?

For the record, Hot Potato was played by Bill Cullen giving a category, and then the contestants having to name stuff in that category. Very few physical things were ever thrown at anyone during the game, as the referees kept very good game control.

After The Weekend


My love and I spent last weekend at the State Games of America in Grand Rapids. We were in the pinball competition because there’s a pinball-contest organizer who’s a genius at getting bigger events to host pinball tournaments on the side. The pinball competition was in Ballroom B, as were the darts and the billiards contests. There was also a bar set up in the ballroom. I honestly don’t know if there was supposed to be or if gathering enough pinball, darts, and billiards players in one room caused it to spontaneously manifest.

In the fourth corner of the room they also had a boxing ring. That was inspirational, watching people holding up the championship belt. Boxing championship belts combine two great traditional guy interests, that of celebrating our ability to hit one another and that of celebrating how we can do take something ordinary and make it so large and dramatic that it’s useless for its original purpose of controlling the rate at which our pants fall down.

It turned out Michigan’s were the National State Games and the organizer told us that while Michigan residents could just show up and compete, residents of other states had to win their own state games first. I looked this up and it’s slightly off, not in important ways. If your state has games in that sport you’re supposed to win that first before going on to nationals. But per their Qualifying Standards document:

Due to National Congress of State Games neighboring state policy, athletes residing in Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, Indiana and Ontario, Canada are allowed to compete in SGA 2017 without qualification

My obvious question: so, wait, Wisconsin doesn’t border Michigan suddenly? Guess not. But Wisconsin only borders the upper peninsula, the whole population of which is abandoned copper mining platforms sinking into contaminated lakes. I can understand overlooking that. Not answered: Wait, so Illinois borders Michigan somewhere?

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index dropped nine points as the trading floor felt mixed emotions following the City Council primary vote. On the one hand, the guy whose campaign site was just one page, half of it a picture of Neptune, won’t be in the November election. On the other hand, we ain’t voting for a novelty-act candidate for anything ever again and we’re going to kick in the shins anyone who says they are, thank you.

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Championship Posing


The local alt-weekly had a piece about competitive yoga, which is neat since the national championship was just this past weekend at the State Games of America, held in Grand Rapids. My love and I were there, competing for pinball. My love went home with a bronze medal for the Pro Division. I went home with an extra T-shirt the organizers had that isn’t actually in my size.

Anyway. Competitive yoga. I haven’t been to a yoga class in years, and I admit what I got was the sort of suburban yoga where the instructor mentions yeah, there’s some stuff about philosophy and a set of beliefs you should be considering about the nature of humanity and its relationship to the universe, but mostly if you need a towel to do a leg lift please do. I need many towels to do a leg lift, because I have the flexible hamstrings of a parking garage. Still, I have trouble imagining just what this is, and apparently yoga competitors have it to. From a particularly defensive quote:

“India has had a national yoga federation since the ‘70s,” said [ National Yoga Asanda Champion ] Ann Chrapkiewicz, “They’re going on their 42nd national championship, so it’s not an American thing that we made up.”

I appreciate that Americans will take anything and then form a championship out of it. If there were a way to do so much blinking that it might make somebody weep then we’d have National Blinking Championships. So I guess it’s nice that some other countries will championize what might otherwise just be things you enjoyed doing. But I guess I knew that already. Like, over in England there’s competitive pipe-smoking. I’m not sure the exact way it works. I think it’s a thing where you get two chances to light the pipe and one long draw, and then organizers watch to see which of the contestants have been dead since Rhodesia was expelled from the Commonwealth. (“Who amongst you is dead? Show of hands, please … yes, yes, I see you, Montgomery. No, you’re not dead then. Better luck next time.”) So I suppose we all have our traditions of doing things until we can give people medals for it.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The Another Blog, Meanwhile Index drifted down four points as traders hoped to get back to listening to some of those podcasts that have been gathering dust since mid-June.

380

Thinking About The Mud Supply


I’m not among those outraged by reports that a New Zealand music festival has spent NZ$90,000 importing five tons of mud from South Korea. What do I know from what New Zealand music festivals need? And besides, Juicero. I got to tell a friend who’d missed that all about the Juicero nonsense yesterday and it was great fun. But the people of a planet that produced Juicero investors have no place faulting music festival organizers for being part of the international mud trade.

No, what’s got me is that festival organizers said this purchase would meet their needs for the next five of their concerts. If this is an annual event, that’s five years’ worth of mud they’re buying. Again, I don’t fault them buying in quantity. If you know you need something and it’s nonperishable and you have the storage space, sure, buying in bulk makes sense. What’s got me is having a projection of your mud needs for the next five years. I have no idea what my mud needs are like. I know it’s killing my budget to keep running to the corner convenience-store-that-wants-to-be-a-neighborhood-grocery-but-isn’t-trying-very-hard to get a box every time I run short. I should write the festival and ask for their advice on mud need estimation. But now that they’re being made fun of in public I bet they wouldn’t think I was sincere. Too bad.

Also I had some more comic strip stuff on my mathematics blog. You might like that. I also started a new sequence of explaining mathematics terms, which I always like doing.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

Somehow the Another Blog, Meanwhile traders found another 26 points to rise and I don’t know where they all came from. They can’t all be from swiping digits out of the Labor Of Like Index. We got those allegations cleared up by pointing at them and declaring that they were not allegations but crocodiles instead, and this set off a healthy Internet know-it-all intellectual dogpile from people who insist they do too get the joke but there’s a real point here that some other people might be confused about. I’m innocent, is what I’m saying.

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Also Seen While On The Road


Again no photograph because we were on the road, and while I wasn’t driving I wasn’t going to get my camera out in near enough time for this. But the tall highway sign promised the place was the “House Of Cigar”, just like that. Just as if it were a 1960s-style Chinese Restaurant that had somehow got things really quite wrong. Or as if it were yet another Little Pig harassed by the Big Bad Wolf, who huffed and who puffed and reduced his house to an enormous and unpleasant blue stench rolling through the village. There’s no way to know, I guess, except by standing next to that friend who’s always going on about how They’re just ruining fairy tales by taking out the graphic violence and horribly abusive behavior. Get in range of that friend for maybe fifteen minutes and they’d explain all about how there used to be, like, Fifteen Little Pigs before Disney’s cartoon suppressed a long folkloric tradition. Like, there’d be a house of cigars, and a house of ice, and a house of matchsticks, and a house of muffins, and a house of floppy old boots, and a house that’s just a bunch of guys with really long necks huddling in a circle, and on and on and they all got cut because it made the cartoon run too long and we don’t ever hear about them anymore. Anyway, if you find this friend and can get a report about the pig with the house of cigars thing I’d appreciate it.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

So much for natural trading ceilings.

342

The Conversation


My love’s father was thinking about town and said, “I wonder if the ice cream place is still serving.” My love went to the hypothetical: “Or what if there is no more service, and the place has degenerated to a Hobbesian battleground of all against all, customer, clerk, and pedestrians taking what they might without respect to law or custom, the Leviathan made manifest over the double-chocolate cookie dough?” They had this conversation over a year ago and I’m still thinking about it.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

And now the index finished another trading day at 331. This is four days out of the last five it’s been here and analysts are already starting to form talk about a natural trading ceiling being at 333, what with that being kind of like a nice round number if you approach it with the right attitude.

331

The Scene Outside Morton’s Fine Catering As Seen By Someone Who’s Never Successfully Cartwheeled In His Life


Two minivans. At least two families’ worth of kids spilled out into the tiny lot. The adults keep walking back and forth between the cars. The kids are protesting in the way kids brought to a deathly dull adult place will do. One is sitting against a minivan’s rear wheel. Others have taken to doing handstands, even cartwheels. They’re not in danger of cartwheeling into the street. They’re just going back and forth on the sidewalk, or again, between the minivans, while the adults try to shepherd them into the building. I have never been inside it, but I just know it’s a slightly dark room that’s quieter than a noiseless room, decorated with a couple of tables that have those heavy tablecloths you feel bad for spilling stuff on, and while there’s some food the kids are going to be allowed to eat, it’s only one or two things, and it’s something like coconut macaroons that as a child can’t be fit into any known food category. I empathize with every person in this scenario, including the Fine Catering clerk who just wants nobody to cartwheel into anything that that breaks.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

A sharp rise in the morning trading was tempered and partly reversed as news came in about this forest fire raging in Portugal this week, and investors realized they had never known that a country like Portugal could get forest fires, and then felt stupid for having made the casual assumption that somehow it wouldn’t. Is it weird to have just never thought about what kinds of forest Portugal has or doesn’t have, and so to be surprised that it would get forest fires?

274

A Good Sign To See


First the routine news: comic strips on my mathematics blog. Plus I make reasons to include images of two of the comics so there’s no extra clicking through links for that. You like that, don’t you?

Now the exciting news. The auto care place that seems like it might be going through a slow-motion breakup announced by its sign board? It’s switched to this.

Auto Surgeon sign: No Act Of Kindness Is Ever Wasted
If that weren’t enough good news: they found a message that doesn’t require an ‘L’ or ‘7’ so they don’t have to use either of them upside-down to represent the other. I’m pretty sure that ‘W’ is a correct ‘W’ and not an upside-down ‘M’, based on how the vertical strokes on the ‘N’ appear.

Have to say, I don’t see how to read this except as a quiet announcement that there’s been some breakthrough in the cold-war-style relationship they’ve been working out. I’m glad. It’s been an awful year, compounding an absolutely brutal year. That an auto care place can have some chance at happiness can maybe be that first little flower proving that life will come again.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index rose a point after traders finally got around to listening to the Flophouse Podcast Movie Minute thing where Elliott pitches his Ziggy movie and they’re not sure if they’re more entertained or just awestruck by how he went on for seven and a half minutes possibly without taking a breath.

224

Advertising-Wrapping Newspaper Continues Demands


If the Lansing City Community News demanding that I explain why New York execs are investing in Lansing’s fledgling fashion industry was a start, then this is a continuation. The next week’s installment of the four page “edition” of the Lansing State Journal starts out:

Investors are bringing their millions to Lansing. Here’s why

Alexander Alusheff

LANSING – Three multi-million dollar venture capital firms have opened in Greater Lansing in the past six months.

Investors from Ann Arbor and New York have come to invest in businesses started at Michigan State University and even local fashion designers.

The number of early stage investment firms in Greater Lansing now stands at six, on par with the Grand Rapids region.

The question is: Why?

The article goes on to explain there’s a bunch of venture capital firms intersted in Lansing now. There used to not be so many interested, and that was all right, but now there are more, and that’s all right too. What I really spot, though, are the points that Alusheff clearly got a note from someone that they just ran a piece about the fashion industry being invested in and made sure to mention that; and that the headline didn’t bother punctuating the “Here’s why” even though it’s so close to the period at the end of the first sentence. I’m not going to be staying up all night worrying about that now that I’ve seen it! Ha ha!

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The Another Blog, Meanwhile index dropped eleven points and oh you would think it was the end of the world or something. Oh, the howling, oh the complaining, and meanwhile is anyone even looking at the futures market? No, because someone got the bright idea to start selling peeks at the futures market at 25 cents a pop and now suddenly everyone’s scared they’re going to run out of quarters. Really makes you wonder if a trading floor is worth the bother.

201