To light up my life


I’d like to get back to the American Face Brick Association’s writing, but it was more important to discuss the kitchen light. I think you find it a welcome break from the world to hear about we haven’t been able to see what’s spilled on the counter. It seems to have been … molasses? Which … we … don’t have? We have no idea how this came about.

So the trouble was that the warp core inside our light fixture broke, scattering space and time and also not illuminating anything anymore. We couldn’t fix the problem, because of this frosted glass dome cover held on by three metallic clips. With our own mechanical ingenuity exhausted we called an electrician. And, I admit now that we’ve seen how to remove the glass dome we feel foolish having needed an expert for it. But without seeing how to do it how would we have known? The answer is to use a good, dependable fold-out ladder to get close to the ceiling, then smash the glass dome with a sledge hammer, and throw the pieces over the fence into the yard of the neighbor we’re fighting with. Let me tell you, I’m not looking forward to the time we aren’t fighting with any of our neighbors! And also have a burned-out kitchen light.

And it turns out the burned-out warp core was actually a halogen light bulb. The electrician offered to replace the light fixture, if we had a new light fixture, because those are getting hard to come by. A couple hours later while I was at Meijer’s for a separate light-bulb-related fiasco I discovered they have two-packs of halogen light bulbs for eight bucks. So maybe we should tell the electricians that or something.

So we put in the new bulb and the new glass dome. And that’s worked great. The space-time rift that was swallowing up coins reversed itself. We found, like, $4.74 in loose change that we’d dropped and heard hit the floor but never saw again. This included a Denver-mint American Samoa quarter, so, I hear you but don’t be jelly. We’ve also found so many dropped pills. Redemption tickets to the Fascination parlor off Morey’s Pier in Wildwood, New Jersey. Long-disappeared previous inhabitants of the house. “Has … has World War II ended? Did we win?” asked one. I asked, “Which World War II? World War II I, or World War II II?” He slugged me. Fair enough. In retrospect, that was a mean and baffling joke, the kind of thing more appropriate for a 90s web comic. I list it here to work out my shame.

Photograph of some strange long cylindrical tube that's wired into the ceiling. Its cover is glass or similar transparent material and it's got several lightly scored circles and parallel lines to make it look the more like a science fiction movie prop.
So it turns out this was less bad than I expected, but still, betting that it would be bad seemed like the way to go.

Also the new bulb is 300 Watts and let me tell you, that’s bright. The previous bulb turned out to be 150 Watts and it was maybe going before it broke altogether. This, though? It’s brilliant. It’s bright enough to shine around corners. It’s so bright we can see what’s in the refrigerator without even opening the door. Dozens of house centipedes (don’t do an image search) have come out, raising upwards of 26 arms each, begging for mercy and unfortunately reminding us we have house centipedes. It turns out that I have a weird, secondary liver, and not even in my abdomen. Last night we had three people come over to ask if this was the drive-in theater. We didn’t have the nerve to say “it is now!”

We do feel a little bad about using a 300 Watt bulb to light less than one city block, yes. If there’s an LED equivalent I’d switch over to that. The trouble is finding an LED equivalent. What would be as bright but not intensely wasteful and hot? We can’t match it by talking about Watts. But it turns out that every other method of measuring brightness doesn’t work. Like, there’s the candela, which is a larger candle tuned to one perfect-fifth below. But two things can be the exact same candela and each somehow look twice as bright as the other. Then there’s the “lux”, which is short for the “Pop-u-luxe” or, as it’s known outside the Midwest, the “Soda-u-luxe”. This measures how well the thing is fringed by a swoopy, ideally neon fixture with chrome plating. There is no need for this. There is the “lumen”, which measures how ominous a thing you can’t quite see yet is. The more lumens, the more you can’t quite see it coming. This does nothing to help you tell how bright it is.

For now we’re just going to see things in the kitchen but feel bad about it. This is as best as we could hope for, really. Thank you for your concern.

In which I can’t quite say something more about bricks


I don’t want it to sound like all I’m thinking of these days is that The Story Of Brick book from the American Face Brick Association. I bet the American Face Brick Association itself thinks I’m making too big a deal of it. “Look, it’s just not that important a thing. We wrote it when we were feeling all defensive about people’s bad estimates of the cost of brick faces. It’s not like we think it’s bad or anything, it’s just … you know, just this one book.” I bet they’re blushing.

If they’re even called the American Face Brick Association anymore. I just bet they went through that process where they reason, you know, face bricks aren’t all we do. There’s also slates and stones. So then they go adding that to make the name the American Face Brick, Slate, and Stone Association. And then someone points out they know a guy in Toronto. And someone else knows that guy too and he’s fun to have at their conventions. So then it becomes the American and Canadian Face Brick, Slate, and Stone Association briefly. Then someone reminds them it’s 1936 and Newfoundland isn’t part of Canada yet, and they explore calling it the American and Canadian and Newfoundlanderian thing before settling on “North American”. And then someone finds other stuff you can put in front of houses and they don’t want to list all that. So we get the North American Building Coverings Association. Then some consultant tells them that a geographic designator is too old-fashioned so it becomes the Building Coverings Association. Then you get to where it seems all fancy to have a clipped, shortened name and it turns into the BuiCovAssoc, or as it’s finally known, the Association. Except on the front of their building they still have the “American and Canadian Face Brick, Slate, and Stone Association” because they can’t agree who gets to engrave the new name.

But even with the break in the heat wave I’ve needed things to think about that are easy and comforting. And I know it’s hard to think of bricks as comforting. It’s also hard not to notice you can rearrange the words in that last sentence and get one at least as good. “And I know it’s comforting to think of bricks as hard.” That’s reassuring in these trying times. “And I think it’s hard as comforting bricks to know of.” That one turns out to have extra words, unless we happen to know someone named “Of” who’s inscrutable. We might. We know all sorts of people, I can’t know things like what to call them.

Daft? Yes. This is daft. But it’s better I worry about this than I worry about the kitchen light fixture. That stopped working the other day. You’d think the answer would be “put in a new light bulb”. No. First, the fixture has this ceramic dome on it that’s connected by I don’t know what. It’s some metal clip contraption that’s holding on to it more securely than my car holds on to its engine. I can kind of tug one clip a little out of the way. But it’s not enough to take the cover off, and I can’t move two clips at a time unless I go up there with more arms than I have.

Photograph of some strange long cylindrical tube that's wired into the ceiling. Its cover is glass or similar transparent material and it's got several lightly scored circles and parallel lines to make it look the more like a science fiction movie prop.
I don’t know what this is or what repairing it is like except that I know with a certainty ordinarily possible only for mathematical truths that it will not be good.

Also inside I can see there isn’t a light bulb. There’s just this … thing. It’s a long skinny cylinder with a couple of scratch marks on it that look like they’re supposed to be on there. It looks like a warp core’s reactor. I don’t know why we’ve been getting light from a small warp reactor. I also don’t want to know what kind of problems with space and time having this thing in the house has been causing. I think this might explain how last week I dropped eight cents on the floor, and heard the nickel and all three pennies hit the floor, and every one of them vanished. This was while the light was still working, too. I’m not upset about losing the eight cents. I’m worried that this loose change has gone and popped into the Neutral Zone and maybe been given superpowers by an alien planet of coin-based life forms, and it’ll head back to Earth zapping starships and planets and whole galaxies into a little coin-collector’s book jacket.

Anyway I probably have more thoughts about that book but I don’t remember now. Sorry.

Starting The New Year Well


Yes, it’s my fault that I never developed my own set of skills on how to be casually pleasant in public. All I can do when I’m interacting with, say, a store worker who’s being personable is to act like my dad would in the situation. So, long story short, I guess this weekend I’ve agreed to rebuild the porch steps for the lady at the pet store who’ll test your fishtank water for you and tell you which bottle of white crystal stuff should fix things? Also our nitrate still refuses to go to zero but the ammonia and the carbonate hardness are looking good so we don’t need to worry about that. I can’t tell you whether the goldfish should. Please send me one porch-step-repair kit fast. Also a Saturday that doesn’t rain or snow and isn’t all that cold considering.

The Stan Freberg Show: the twelfth show, with three major sketches


If you’re fascinated by early space race stuff you’ve probably seen Colonel John Stapp. His face anyway. He’s the guy there’s this black-and-white footage of a man being accelerated so fast that his face becomes this rippling, fluid shape. He was a physician and flight surgeon who became famous-in-the-right-circles for his work in understanding what acceleration (and deceleration) does to human bodies. He tested this, including on himself. In December 1954 he took a deceleration of 46.2 times the force of gravity. And lived through it, and thought human bodies could take even more than that. Much of what we understand about how to protect the human body from crashes traces to work he was part of.

And here’s the rundown:

Start Time Sketch
00:00 Open. No pre-theme sketch this time again. There’s also no introductory comments; they go right into a sketch.
00:55 Rocket Sled. Herman Busby (which I think is a new name here) interviews Leroy Straddle, hoping to bring reactions to Colonel Stapp’s rocket-sled experiment. Stapp’s admirably uninterested. The premise is that Straddle hopes to run alongside Stapp and the sketch commits to being about that. And then Busby’s spotted in Portland, Oregon. This initially made me think they were doing a follow-up to that UFO bit where Orville came from the Moon. I’m not sure what point Herman Busby serves in framing this sketch, except that it lets Straddle describe what he means to do in the face of Stapp’s indifference. But then why not write the sketch so Stapp is at least a bit interested?
05:10 Introductory Comments. Maybe? Freberg lays out the “agenda” for the show.
05:32 Billy May playing “Five Foot Two, Eyes Of Blue”, a song I mostly know from Allan Sherman’s parody.
07:20 Faucet Repair. Sketch about the “average American husband” fixing a faucet. June Foray gets to play a nag. The faucet repair turns to actually making a wrench, a nice bit of expansion on the premise of following repair directions. There’s a weirdly big laugh at 09:33; maybe one of the performers had a great expression. It turns into Freberg trying to buy an electron microscope. There’s also a bit about the peculiarity of buying something cash. There were a lot of jokes and science fiction stories about credit cards in the 50s and it seems to reflect a cultural attitude about these exotic means of finance. The diversion from home-repair-going-awry to cash-as-a-threat-to-commerce seems weird and I’m not sure they didn’t stitch two half-written sketches together.
15:15 Peggy Taylor sings “I’ll Buy You The Moon” (I’m guessing).
18:26 Robert Tainter is back. Freberg introduces him by mentioning his research behind Paul Revere’s Ride, Washington Crossing the Delaware, and his grandfather at Custer’s Last Stand. There are several more Tainter sketches not mentioned here; I think his might be the most-done sketch in the show’s run. Tainter feigns not knowing Freberg. Tainter’s gone from exposes to something “even lower”, going into labor racketeering and demanding payment from Freberg for whatever he’s doing. I think this is riffing on Estes Kefauver’s televised investigations into organized crime. This was six years in the past by the time this episode aired, but they did make an impression.
23:09 Sh-boom. Adaptation — after several weeks of putting it off — of the comedy record. It’s also a commercial for Freberg’s album compiling a dozen comedy bits. The premise here is that a successful song has to be much less comprehensible. It does all get pretty raucous and fun to my ear. June Foray’s character is named Stella, I’m going ahead and guessing to make a Streetcar Named Desire joke.
27:50 Closing Remarks.
28:14 Closing Music.

My recaps of all the episodes of The Stan Freberg Show should be at this link. Let me know if you see one that isn’t.

In Which I Am Failed By My Pop Culture Education


What Sitcoms Trained Young Me To Be Ready For:

“Uh-oh! I have dates with two women at the same time! Luckily, they’re at the same restaurant so if I just get tables on opposite ends I can jump back and forth between the two! I’ll have to find a costume moustache which I can attach and remove easily! And perhaps a blazer of a second color!”

What I Actually Have To Do:

We have two contractors coming over to give an estimate for a minor window repair, and they’re both coming sometime between noon and 4 pm! What if they both show up in the same five-minute period? That would be so awkward! Or would it? Maybe? I don’t know, it feels like it should be, if it happened. Any thoughts? Contractors know there are other contractors, right? They have to, don’t they? But what would they say to each other if they did meet?

Also neither of them said a word to our pet rabbit about his being quite large.

Well, mathematics comics, etc, etc. There’s that.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index stayed put at 124 today, which analysts credit to a broken alternator that they’re pretty sure they can replace with a rebuilt one that’ll be just as good as a new except for breaking down in winter this time.

124

In Your Houses Late At Night Sit Down Cozy, Kill That Light


What’s on TV when I’m feeling a little lonely and drifting between channels as they in turn disappoint me.

Oh No, The Contractors Sent The Wrong Kitchen Cabinets. As seen in the lounge at the Toyota dealership waiting for the mysterious tire-pressure problem to be diagnosed as “mysterious” and “something to do with the beads”. Charmingly white couple buy a house and then demolish all its interior surfaces. Then they wait for the contractors to do something wrong, usually with the kitchen cabinets. Sometimes it’s simple: they send cabinets too big for the house, ones that overflow the kitchen, the dining area, the living room, and reach out into the street, proving a hazard to taller traffic. Sometimes it’s also simple: they send cabinets too small. These wrong cabinets could fit one of those old-style coffee mugs grandma had, the ones that are smaller than the teaspoons you’d stir sugar into them in. Most often they’re the wrong shade of white, shades of white that the TV show host says he wouldn’t wish on his worst enemy. He seems in earnest. They’re going to have to make severe cuts in their $625,000 renovation budget, which means they use a cheaper tile for the splash area behind the kitchen counter.

That’s A Lot Of Informercial About Some Collapsible Ladder Thing. And it’s on like half the channels? What even is this?

Rebooted Season Of A Cartoon I Liked In The 90s. Oh, it’s Flash-animated now. And they redesigned the characters so they all look like they were caught in an airport baggage carousel and squashed flat by one of those weird huge cardboard boxes taped shut that someone has on every flight somehow. Also they changed two of the voice actors. And they can say “poop” now, or maybe have to. And everybody’s a lot meaner than they were before. Raises questions about whether the original was quite this obviously gender-essentialist too. Or was it just obliviously sexist? Were we that awful in the 90s? A quick check. YouTube has an episode of the original, only the proportions are weird and there’s some unearthly station logo in two corners. Yeah, the original kinda was. Should not have checked.

Two Guys Laughing At How They Totally Said A Thing. They’ve got a great show tonight and their first guest will be Seth Rogan, they say, evincing a confidence in the inevitability of events that doesn’t seem less obnoxious to me just because it was true, since they taped the episode this evening and now know how things turned out.

Old Timey Movie With Actors I Kind Of Recognize From Bugs Bunny Cartoons. Black and white. Something about a man and a woman who live in San Francisco and have a wonderful time even though they go to bed wearing more clothes than we use today to venture to Antarctica. Features numerous montages during which they walk though multiple-exposure scenes and don’t make eye contact with anything, especially not each other. Also even the driver gets into the car from the passenger’s side. I think maybe one of them is trying to kill the other, possibly because the other thinks the first is trying to kill them and it seems like a violation of trust not to reciprocate. Worth watching for how well everybody articulates in the middle of a heated life-or-death fight.

Simpsons Episode All About A Character I Never Saw Before. I guess he got to be important after I kind of forgot to watch regularly again? Also did Homer always get battered like this in the old days? And deserve even more injury?

History Explored By Wide-Eyed Astonished Guys. Might be about the fabled “Money Pit” of Oak Island. Might be about that World War II plan to make icebergs into aircraft carriers. Might be about the shooting of President Garfield. Doesn’t matter. A couple of guys have eager interviews to do with experts who’ve heard there’s an artifact related to it somewhere in the area. And when they ask another expert they hear about how it’s totally the case that artifacts are things that exist after historical events. Someone at the historical society confirms that historical events happened and some of them even involved other places than the historical society building. The hunt for the artifact drives them to hold up grainy old photographs in front of new buildings and then go inside. The building is being renovated. The floors are all torn up. None of the people working on it know anything about the historical event but they say they didn’t see anything suspicious, just some water-damaged old floorboards. There’s a subbasement they can crawl into if they like, though, and the wide-eyed astonished guys think that’s even more awesome than their old tree fort. I bet the contractors are about to deliver the wrong cabinets. It would be just like them.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

Traders brought the Another Blog, Meanwhile index up nine points today when they settled on that old-timey movie as the thing to watch. There’s this surprisingly tense scene where a wind-up toy dog is walking off towards the woman hiding in the closet and they don’t make movies like that anymore.

110

A Lot Of Math Comics


Over on my mathematics blog, a couple days ago, I had enough comic strips to talk about that there’s a fresh post of them. It’s just that between the big Friday-dated post and the usual video and then the Statistics Saturday thing I didn’t have the chance to mention them before.

So what I’m saying is, Comic Strip Master Command gave me a whole fresh bunch of comics and there’s another post of them that I didn’t get the chance to tell you about either. Sorry.

I’d like to offer a little more to talk about here for people who aren’t interested in mathematics-themed comic strips, but the fact is we’ve been dealing with a plumbing issue the past week. There’s two kinds of plumbing problems, and no, the division isn’t between “water won’t stop flowing” and “water won’t start flowing”, it’s between “annoying thing not big enough to call a plumber for” and “annoying thing you sit up waiting for the plumber to come over for”, and we’ve had the latter kind. Even though we’ve got it all fixed things we’re still trying to get household efficiency back up to about normal. You know how it is.

Statistics Saturday: Hi, Dad


After a little chat with my father not related to his appearance in dreams of warning, I’d like to include a couple of numbers for Statistics Saturday or Sunday or Whatever which relate to him and to the humor blog posts from this month.

  • Number Of Entries That My Dad Thinks Were Funny He Guesses Though He Didn’t Understand Them: 4.
  • Number Of Entries That My Dad Didn’t Notice But Is Sure He’d Think Were Great: 6. (Thank you!)
  • Black Knight 2000 Lightning Wheel: 200,000 points.
  • Number Of Entries About The Scary Problem In The Basement I Needed My Dad’s Advice On Fixing: 0.
  • Number Of Things I’ve Done To Fix That Scary Problem In The Basement: 1, if going to the hardware store counts.
  • Number With No Particular Connection To My Dad: 2,038.
  • Number Of Times I Realize I Ought To Call My Dad In-Between Times I Actually Do: Like 8 or something embarrassing like that.
  • Year When My Father Revealed To Me That “I’m Looking Over A Four-Leaf Clover” Wasn’t A Little Ditty Bugs Bunny Just Made Up: 1979.
  • Number Of Times Out Of Ten That My Father Refers To It As “Ruptures” Instead Of “Rutgers”: 6.
  • Runs Batted In: 26.

Our Rabbit’s Cold Demands


“Can I help you?” I said, looking down, at the rabbit who was shoving my shins.

“Yes,” said our pet rabbit, which was enough for him. He gave my ankle a nudge with his adorable little forepaw.

So I put the rest of his morning kibble in the dish, and he looked ready to lumber over and eat it, and said, “What do you need?”

“Seventeen papayas, eight raisins, and three slices of apple,” and then he sneezed, this little buzzing noise that sounds like an old-fashioned roller coaster security bar locking, which is one of his more attractive amusement park-evoking actions, up there with releasing clouds of fur into the air like tiny balloons of sneezing, or selling season passes for next year. “That’s not the important thing.”

So it was going to be one of those talks. “We haven’t got any apples right now, but I can put it on the grocery list for us to forget when we go shopping.”

“Good,” he said, “Now you fix the window.”

There’s eleven windows in the immediate area that we might do something about, and another four that he might have noticed while being taken to the car for one reason or another, mostly to be driven someplace. They’re all in good working order, what with being windows made of glass and continuing to exist like that. “What’s there to fix?”

“The one you broke back when it was hot,” he said, testily. “You made noise and everything and now look what it did.”

That sounded a little more familiar. “The one I pried open back in summer.” He nodded and stumbled toward the food dish, but held back, I suppose so he could scold me. “I just unsealed it, so it can open. It’s not open right now.”

“You made noise and broke the window so it wouldn’t be so hot. And now it’s cold and you have to fix that.”

“How do you even know it’s cold outside? You’ve spent two minutes outside a house or a car in the past three months.”

“And I nearly died!” he said while stomping on my foot. I leaned down to rub his ears, a diversion so obvious he wouldn’t have any of it. “If you’d left me out in that horrible little transit cage and forgot I was there my adorable tail would’ve fallen right off in the cold!”

“We couldn’t possibly forget you. You punch the cage too hard.”

“Because it’s cold and you have to unfix the window so it’s not broken anymore.”

I don’t want to overstate it, but getting that window to open was one of my life’s greatest achievements, household repairs division, far exceeding the time I opened up a desperately-needed hole in the drywall by swinging my elbow backwards without looking, giving me the chance to practice patching holes in the drywall. The window had been painted and swollen shut for decades, and which was sound enough that it could hold an atmosphere against the vacuum of space, or keep water out to a depth of four hundred feet. Getting it opened required hours of hitting the window, some of it with a hammer and chisel, some of it with a hammer and crowbar, and when I succeeded in getting the window to slide open I ran into the street and demanded people bow before me. They ignored me, because it was the middle of summer and about 180 degrees out were climbing into the bags of ice at the convenience store.

“If the window were open, there’d be a breeze. You’d feel the cold air coming in.”

“I know cold when I smell it! The window’s all cold and you come in wearing like forty-squillion things when you come in and you keep complaining it’s cold! Now fix the window so it doesn’t open and make it stop being cold.”

I promised to do something about it, and the noon news was hopeful. The weather guy said that it was going to get above freezing sometime in the next couple days, and maybe into the forties next week. This is crazy talk, of course, because temperatures that warm no longer exist, but the weather guy has clearly been taking a lot of abuse from his co-workers for the last month of frigid temperatures. When the anchor went to give him a high-five he flinched. But I pointed that out to our rabbit, who said, “I’ll believe it when I see it, and if I don’t see it, I’ll thump.”

I know he’s not bluffing.