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.

Has The Guy Who Draws Beetle Bailey Ever Seen A Squirrel?


Before I get into writing way too much about way too small a point, I want to mention my mathematics blog, where I had some more comic strips to write about yesterday. I’d like to say a little more about that, because I want to include an image of a comic strip with alarming art in it.

And if I pad the text enough before including the image, then WordPress makes it appear below the little block on the left with the dateline and tags and so on, then the image is larger, and that’s better.

And I need like one more line before it works on my computer to come out right.

Maybe one more.

One more, I think.

No, don’t need that one.

Beetle, offering food to some kind of small dog. 'I'm giving this squirrel a taste of cookie's stew.' Plato: 'That's kind.' The 'squirrel' looks dazed. Beetle: 'If he doesn't get sick, it's safe for ME to eat.' Plato: 'That's cruel.'
Mort Walker and Greg Walker’s Beetle Bailey for the 15th of August, 2017. So, in the vintage circa-1960 run of Beetle Bailey also on Comics Kingdom they have this fascinating running joke. General Halftrack frets that he hasn’t gotten any orders from the Pentagon for the last three years or so, and that last order was to just wait for their next order. It’s a good joke. It also feeds into the fan theory — yes, yes, all fan theories are the same fan theory — that Camp Swampy is some dopey military-fantasy camp with no connection to the actual US Army. I don’t care for the fan theory but, must say, an utterly forgotten camp kind of makes sense.

OK, so, yeah, since about 1950 comic strips have relied on this Mid-Century-Modern-influenced styling. Every comic strip develops its own non-representational but, hopefully, expressive design. And trying to fit something very different into that design can be difficult. Charles Schulz never figured out how to put a cat he liked into Peanuts. But this … I mean … what the heck?

I’m not saying I can do better. My own squirrel-drawing abilities are sharply limited. I would probably give you a better squirrel if I handed a canvas and ink brush to a raccoon and asked her to draw something. She would refuse, because it’s really crummy to ask an artist to draw something for free. I would offer the onion we kind of forgot we’ve had in the refrigerator since May as payment. She would insist also on getting the block of year-old cheddar that’s going a bit off because we’re not eating as much cheese as we expected. I would say she could have the parts that are starting to go dry, but not the salvageable part. And there we would reach an impasse. In any case, we wouldn’t get some Apartment 3-G nightmare like that. That’s what I’m saying.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index rose a starting 23 points over the day to close at 400, a new high number and a nice, round number too. Everybody’s in quite the giddy mood, pondering, what can they possibly do to top this? Someone came in from consoling Lisa with the suggestion of “401”, but was called a mad fool and a dreamer.

400

Dream Preview


I suppose this is properly speaking a dream. But it’s a cryptic note from the dream world. It was mostly just a “graphitic content” warning for the dream to come. I’m excited by what that means. My guess is some of those neat charcoal-sketch animation like you see in Disney cartoons from back in the 70s that nobody cares about, or cared about when they were making them. I like the aesthetic.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index popped up seven points today as some leftover chocolates were found and the whole trading floor agreed that things just don’t get better than this.

377

Meanwhile In Town


The trading floor alluded to this yesterday. But Saturday there was some kind of open-air smooth-jazz festival going on down at the Armory, which is a couple miles away from here. I’m assuming it was open-air. If it wasn’t then the performers have to have obliterated the Armory with the force of sound alone. It was loud enough out here to recognize individual songs, which only got weird when someone started performing, for some reason, “Smoke On The Water” and that isn’t even me joking.

Besides a couple stray bits of that, though, the whole Eastside spent the day smothered under a blanket of background-worthy music. It finally ended around 9:30 in the evening, when someone thought to press a button and we finally moved, letting dozens of blocks of Lansing get out on the second floor.

As you’d figure there’s complaining about this on the neighborhood Facebook community. My love tells me there’s a sharp division between people who are annoyed at hour after hour of extremely soft jazz rattling their houses, and those who are annoyed at hour after hour of extremely soft jazz rattling their houses but think the complainers are just too old to enjoy music. You know, the hit music of DuPont industrial shorts from 1962. I’m only getting the good bits of the dispute, but that’s a good bit. And I haven’t made up a bit of this.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index rose sixteen points today and then Lisa came back from some kind of lunchtime meeting about her proposed TV show and you do not want to get anywhere near that. Neither did the index, which fell five points after all that went down so we settled in at about an eleven-point rise.

370

What’s Going On In Dick Tracy? June – August 2017


Are you trying to work out what’s going on in Joe Staton and Mike Curtis’s Dick Tracy? Welcome, fellow confused reader. I’m doing my best to explain the current storyline myself. I’m writing this in the middle of August 2017. If it’s much past that date for you, the story might have changed radically or even concluded. If I’ve written another summary of plot developments they should be at or near the top of this page. Thanks for trusting in me to spot pop culture references in the venerable story comic about a scientific detective.

For other comic strip talk, my mathematics blog just reviewed some strips with the theme of “Pets Doing Mathematics”. Please consider that, too.

Dick Tracy.

4 June – 12 August 2017.

My last update, in early June, coincided with the conclusion of a storyline. So I have a nearly clean field for this one. The story for June and July focused on the B O Plenty family, hillbillies with one Devo hat and a powerful aroma to them who married into the comic strip decades ago. The Plentys worry about strange sounds suggesting their house is haunted. What they should worry about is Paragon Bank noticing there haven’t been any payments on their mortgage, like, ever. In foreclosure, Plenty points out that he paid for the house in full, and turns over the receipt. The judge goes against precedent and rules the bank may not seize their home and destroy their lives.

Not to worry for justice. The bank skips out on paying court costs. Tracy, at the behest of Gravel Gerty, goes to the bank to keep B O from shooting anyone wealthy. And while he’s there Blackjack and his gang pop in and hold up the bank. Tracy doesn’t get involved, on the grounds that he didn’t want to start a gunfight. Blackjack, a hardcore Dick Tracy fanboy, realizes the detective has been replaced by a pod person, but makes off with the cash. Tracy points out that Blackjack’s taken to robbing banks with notorious reputations for cheating people, so, you know. I’m sure the bank is working its way through to paying court costs like the manager says they were totally planning to do.

Blackjack's Hideout. 'I still can't believe it! I had the chance to meet B.O.Plenty and Gravel Gertie!' Winston: 'Why is that bothering you, Boss?' Blackjack: 'It's something you can't understand, Winston. If I'd met the Plentys, perhaps I could have met their daughter, Sparkle. I have all her toys. This is too much for me! I NEED TO GO ROB A BANK!'
Joe Staton and Mike Curtis’s Dick Tracy for the 25th of June, 2017. So, better or worse: Blackjack going on a series of bank robberies, or Blackjack sliding in to Sparkle Plenty’s Twitter direct messages? Because I gotta say, he has got to have the creepiest come-ons.

Sparkle Plenty goes to the bank. There she hears the haunting strains of Blackjack’s leitmotif, Chumbawamba’s “Tubthumping” (“I get knocked down/But I get up again”), which I am going to go ahead and assume he adopted after falling out of love with Smashmouth’s “All Star”. She appeals to his fanboyishness, offering to sign all his Sparkle Plenty collectible toys if he’ll call off the bank heist. He agrees, dependent on his getting a selfie with her. So that works out great for everybody.

Finance rumbles on. With Fleischer Savings and Loan defaulting on pension obligations Tracy figures he knows Blackjack’s next target. Manager Frank Hickman appreciates Tracy’s warning, but he’s counting on Blackjack robbing the bank to cover a $250,000 shortfall the auditor is days away from discovering. But Blackjack takes his time, as he’s busy building plastic scale models of Dick Tracy. Here the last molecule of plausibility is destroyed. I’ve been a plastic scale model builder since I was like seven and I will not accept the idea of a plastic scale model builder actually putting together a plastic scale model. We just buy kits and paints and glues and gather reference materials and let them sit until a loved one yells at us, then we sell two of the most-duplicated kits at the next yard sale. Building the blasted things goes against the Code.

Anyway, Blackjack wastes so much time that he gets to the bank just after Hickman’s set the place on fire. Tracy and his stakeout team, and Blackjack and his bank-robbery team, turn to rescue operations, hauling people out. Hickman fights Blackjack hard enough everyone knows something’s up. Tracy gets a major clue when all the bank workers say how Hickman set the fire. Blackjack’s arrested too, but he gets to see Tracy’s Wall of Action-Scarred Hats, which is a thing and really thrilling to him. And that, on the 25th of July, wraps up that story.

The Fleischer Savings and Loan is in ruins. Sam Catchem: 'Tracy, all the employees I've talked to say THIS FIRE WAS SET.' Tracy: 'Mr Hickman, we'll have to take you in for questioning.' Hickman: 'I WANT A LAWYER!' Tracy: 'As for you, Blackjack ... ' Backjack: 'I know Tracy. I had to help those people in the bank.' Tracy: 'Thank you, Blackjack.' 'Sure, I rob banks, but I'M NOT ALL BAD.'
Joe Staton and Mike Curtis’s Dick Tracy for the 23rd of July, 2017. What I’ve never been able to work out is whether the name of the Fleischer Savings and Loan is a shout-out to the Fleischer Studios, the animation team that brought us all those great Betty Boop and Popeye cartoons, but also went and made Hunky And Spunky For Some Reason so maybe that’s why they get a rotten bank named for them?

The current story: Silver and Sprocket Nitrate escape from prison. Their liberator: an animate Moai named Public Domain. Domain wants the bogus-film experts to create a phony audio recording. There’s the legend that Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville had recorded Abraham Lincoln’s voice on his phonautograph in 1863. The Nitrates like this idea, figuring they can make it their one last caper before retiring to a farm upstate. While the Nitrates call everybody they know to ask if they can impersonate Abraham Lincoln, Domain primes his mark. And that’s where we stand now.

The work begins at Public Domain's hideout. Sprocket: 'You've got a package, Silver.' Silver: 'THE CYLINDERS ARE HERE! They're made of canova oil, like the ones Edourd-Leon Scott de Martinville used.' Sprocket: 'Are you going to record on this cylinder?' Silver: 'You got it. Abraham Lincoln was supposed to be a tenor with a Kentucky accent.' Sprocket: 'Public domain is right. You're the tops at scams like this!'
Joe Staton and Mike Curtis’s Dick Tracy for the 6th of August, 2017. I am embarrassed to say how much I’m geeking out about this forged-audio-recording storyline. I mean, creating a plausible phony antique media document like this, which I assume has to come complete with a plausible provenance, presses so many nerd buttons on me.

There’s two major plot threads that have been left unresolved but got refreshes recently. Nothing’s been said about the weird noises that made the Plentys think their house was haunted. Other Detective Lee Ebony continues in deep undercover as Mister Bribery’s bodyguard.

Not given a refresh the past couple months: crime boss Posie Ermine wants his daughter, who’s been brainwashed and surgically altered into the Duplicate Mysta Chimera (“Moon Maid”), back. There was some (apparent) Lunarian in an Antarctic Valley pledging to investigate the mysterious Duplicate Mysta.

Next Week: Since my car has finally passed 100,000 miles I should take it down to Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley for a check-up. Will there be old-time radio references? You make the call!

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index rose eight points today despite fears among traders that there might be multiple open-air jazz festivals going on in the Eastside that we’re going to have to deal with? The heck is that even possible?

359

Statistics Saturday: The Numbers Zero Through Twelve In Alphabetical Order With A Mistake To Lure Some Know-It-All Into Commenting


  1. 8
  2. 11
  3. 5
  4. 4
  5. 9
  6. 1
  7. 7
  8. 6
  9. 10
  10. 3
  11. 12
  12. 2
  13. 0

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index fell five points today as everyone reviewed the list above and held their breath.

351

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

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.

381

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

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

What’s Going On In Prince Valiant? May – August 2017


Hi, reader interested in the current plot in Mark Schultz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant. I’m happy to help. I’m writing this in early August, 2017. If it isn’t still then, the story might have moved on. If it’s been long enough then I’ve likely written another update, at or near the top of this page, which might be more on point. Thanks for reading.

If you’re interested in non-story comic strips with a mathematical focus, you might like my essay over on the mathematics blog. Thanks for reading that, too, I hope.

Prince Valiant.

28 May – 6 August 2017.

Last time in Prince Valiant, large man Numair had got bored of the refugees Prince Valiant and company were helping out and struck out on his own side plot. He met up with Taloon, expert but wounded huntress of the refugees. As they decide to rejoin the main storyline they’re confronted by three brigands. Numair and Taloon win their initiative rolls, shooting two and leaving the last to flee for a later story thread.

They bring five horses, captured from brigands, back to the main plot. There among the refugees, Taloon is shocked by the sight of Prince Valiant. This, combined with Karen asking Numair if he’s noticed she isn’t talking to him, increases the number of tension-fraught relationships in the strip to dangerous levels. Over the course of June we get what’s going on there, though. Turns out Taloon has a history with Val. According to a comments from L W Swint on the strip from the 18th of June, this story really did happen on-screen in a 1961 story arc named The Savage Girl.

It is very clear to Numair that Taloon is troubled by Prince Valiant's presence: 'You are not one easily intimidated, yet I see that our Prince Valiant disturbs you...' Taloon's features remain calm, but she exhales deeply. 'I mean nothing to Valiant, but he means a great deal to me. When I was a young girl, I was driven from my tribe and would have died of loneliness were it not for his kindness. One night I saw the servant Ohmed attack his unsuspecting master. I killed that ingrate and fled in a panic. I was pursused by another servant, who eventually won my favors until I discovered that he was the scoundrel who set the murderous plot in motion. Our relationship did not end well for him, and I had lost all connection to the one man who had shown me ... ' A slight noise at the tent entrance breaks Taloon's reverie. It is Val: 'You! I remember you!' Next: Heartbreak.
Mark Schultz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant for the 18th of June, 2017. Now, there’s much to be said about trusting the audience to fill in the gaps and not spoon-feeding them everything, and about the need to write concisely so that, for example, you can tell a story without taking too many weeks at it. But I was lost the first time through and it was only in rereading things to write this recap that I quite understood just what did happen between Taloon and Valiant. I think the relationships of all these people could have been done a little more explicitly.

The story, as Taloon tells it: she was saved as a child by Valiant. One night she saw Ohmed attempting to murder Valiant, a man who had freed him from slavery. She killed Ohmed, and fled, eventually falling in with the person who had masterminded Ohmed’s murder plot and killing him. But by then she had lost all contact with Valiant.

The story, as Valiant saw it: “a strange affair”. His bookkeeper tried to murder him. Taloon kills him and flees with his servant, and demands to know, “what game was played at my expense?” Which comes off as harsh, although as I understand it, it’s not like he has the full story.

Nor does he get it. Numair pulls Valiant out of the scene before he can say anything too wrongly accusatory. Karen, Valiant’s daughter, explains how Taloon’s got a hero-crush on Valiant and never got thanked for clearing out Val’s faithless servants. But Valiant gets all huffy about being told he’s wrong for thinking something crazy was going on that night a girl killed his treasonous servant and ran off with another servant.

But Valiant will own up when he says something rash. He tries to apologize to Taloon for … wanting to know what the heck was going on (I admit, I’m not exactly sure myself). He also tells Karen how proud he is that she’s a fine warrior despite getting girl parts all over their wars.

The raiders have finally returned to the camp, but Val has the refugees ready for this attack! The surprised brigands are blocked by a massive gate---young women and children bearing makeshift pikes surround the panicking horses and the defenders are themselves defended by Val's sword-wielding companions. Bukota is particularly happy to again meet the horseman who had trampled him weeks earlier. The confused, frustrated raiders have little stomach for unexpected resistance, and quickly retreat in ungainly disorder, leaving behind their fellow who had catapulted over the gate. Poor bandit --- Val has already started working on him! Next: Val's offer.
Mark Schultz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant for the 6th of August, 2017. Fortunately, there are never unhappy follow-ups to the band of helpless victims suddenly being able to fend off the raiders, and this has solved the bandit problem so well that Valiant and company will be able to leave with a clear conscience.

With all those emotions successfully deployed the story can return to the bandits. They attack the refugees that Valiant and company had been uplifting to defensibility. That the refugees have sentries waiting and put some kind of trap for the bandit’s horses in the way strikes them as cheating, and they protest to the tournament officials.

Next Week: I continue tinkering with the time-flow of these recaps, and brave my pop-culture reference detection abilities by poking back in on Joe Staton and Mike Curtis’s Dick Tracy. All going well.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index rose another nineteen points to another record high and now I’m worried about it breaking through the 400 barrier as we don’t have insurance for that barrier getting damaged or destroyed.

384

Statistics Saturday: Apollo Lunar Landings, By Day


I certainly hope this clears up some things!

There've been two times Lunar Modules with people aboard were on the moon the 20st and 21st of a month. There was one time a LM with people aboard was on the moon the 1st, 2nd, 5th, 6th, 11th through 14th, 19th, 22nd through 24th, 30th, or 31st of a month. There's never been one the 3rd, 4th, 7th through 10th, 15th through 18th, or 25th through 29th of the month.
Source: Oh, come on, like anyone couldn’t rattle off the dates that (say) the Apollo 16 Lunar Module was on the surface of the Moon with its complement of astronauts, Commander Astronaut Commander Guy, Lunar Module Pilot Pilot Person, and Command Module Pilot Ed Harris aboard? This hardly needs sourcing. We’re not savages.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index rose four points, no thanks to Lisa who’s still walking around and mentioning stuff about “deal memos” just loudly enough that everybody knows what she thinks she’s doing. We’re not taking her bait on the intimations of some kind of Dutch TV producers being involved either.

365

Statistics July: How The Month Treated Another Blog, Meanwhile


Time for the regular and not even slightly comical review of my readership in these parts. There were slightly more pages viewed in July than there were in June — 2,132 rather than 2,118, or for that matter 1,944 in May. They came from slightly fewer people, 1,349 unique viewers in July compared to 1,501 in June or 1,291 in May. I credit archive-binges by people. It’s the fourth-greatest number of page views I have on record. Not quite at the high points of the Apartment 3-Gocalypse, but stable.

Are readers engaged with my content distribution model? Tougher to say. I felt bad asking the question. The ‘likes’ recorded had a little uptick, to 154 from June’s 122. That compares well with May’s 167. It’s still not many; July 2015 drew in 349 likes from a mere 1,126 page views. And comments continue to die; there were 11 of them in July, compared to 19 in June and 10 in May. Again, two years ago: 76. Not sure what’s going wrong. It didn’t seem like there was so much comment back then.

The most popular content around here, by far, continues to be explaining story strips. These were the five most popular pieces in July:

I don’t have any of my long-form creative pieces in the top ten posts of the month; the closest, about vacuum cleaners, is somewhere around fourteenth. I should do something to better focus my energies. Also I should keep track of how the story strips people are looking for change over time. It seems like more people look for Prince Valiant updates than I would have guessed.

69 countries sent me readers in July. This compares to 67 in June and 58 in May in the sense of being larger. Here’s what they were:

Country Views
United States 1,454
Canada 96
India 63
Mexico 58
United Kingdom 49
Australia 41
Philippines 36
Brazil 34
Netherlands 23
Norway 23
Romania 14
South Africa 14
Argentina 13
Germany 13
Italy 13
France 11
Sweden 11
Ukraine 11
Ireland 9
New Zealand 9
Russia 9
Spain 8
Hungary 7
Indonesia 7
Austria 6
European Union 6
Bangladesh 5
Poland 5
Belgium 4
Colombia 4
Malaysia 4
Chile 3
Israel 3
Pakistan 3
Panama 3
Singapore 3
Slovakia 3
Taiwan 3
Vietnam 3
Angola 2
Belarus 2
Georgia 2
Hong Kong SAR China 2
Japan 2
Kenya 2
Kuwait 2
Myanmar (Burma) 2
Nicaragua 2
South Korea 2
Switzerland 2
Thailand 2
U.S. Virgin Islands 2
Albania 1
Bhutan 1
Cambodia 1 (**)
Denmark 1
Finland 1 (*)
Iceland 1 (*)
Lebanon 1 (*)
Lithuania 1
Macedonia 1
Madagascar 1
Moldova 1
Peru 1
Puerto Rico 1
Saudi Arabia 1
Serbia 1
St. Kitts and Nevis 1 (*)
Venezuela 1

There were 17 single-reader countries, down from June’s 26 and back to May’s figure. Finland, Iceland, Lebanon, and St Kitts and Nevis were single-reader countries in June also. Cambodia is on a three-month single-reader streak.

Sundays were again the most popular day for posts around here, with once again 16 percent of page views coming on Sundays. But that’s about what you’d expect if people were equally likely to read every day. 12:00 am was once again the most popular hour for reading, with 12 percent of page views coming between 12:00 and 12:59 (inclusive) (I assume). That’s so steady and expected I’m starting to get suspicious of it.

The month started with 58,925 page views from 32,684 unique readers. And, says WordPress, 754 followers who have me on their Reader pages. I’m sure they’re all out there, reading. If you’d like to be among them, now that you’ve read this report about what you might be reading, you can. In the upper right corner of the page is a strip to Follow ‘Another Blog, Meanwhile’ in your WordPress reading tool. And below that is a strip to get the blog by e-mail. Also I know how to put the – in “e-mail” in that strip, too.

I’m @Nebusj on Twitter, and try not to post eight hundred things a day, so I think I’m a good person to follow. Would you please, if you like? At least give it a try? Thank you.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

So the index fell 14 points, but in the last minute Lisa came back, not admitting to anything about how her Tiny McMasions pilot is working out, but ostentatiously dropping two points into the bucket. She hasn’t said anything, but we all know she’s begging us to ask her about it, and I’m not going to give her the satisfaction after all this.

361

On Foot


You probably don’t spend a lot of time thinking about the history of tying shoes. This is a wise choice. There are so many other things that need thinking about. You know, like that odd smell that’s maybe of burning plastic that’s sometimes in the hallway when you were gone all day? Or what responsibility we have for that seam line visible on Saturn’s moon Iapetus? Or why all those people are setting up circus tents in your backyard? There’s got to be someone to ask about that. I broke from my habit of non-thinking about tying shoes so that we could have this done once and for all. No, I am not reading about the history of socks. You know why.

For the second-longest time there just wasn’t any tying of shoes. This had four reasons, one of them being that there were no shoes. Shoes were invented for Napoleon Bonaparte’s army after it was noticed that tromping through a thousand miles of Russian snow was really hard on the bare foot. It didn’t help the snow any either, but this is the wrong time of year for me to write about the history of snow-clearing or maybe ice-skating. Napoleon agreed this was a lot of trouble for feet and ordered experts to come up with a way to cover the foot. They did this by the simple process of covering the foot. It was a rousing success and everybody agreed they should have been making shoes for hundreds of years now. This and the overcoming of the other three reasons let shoes become really quite popular.

Still, the earliest shoes weren’t easy to put on or take off. They were slabs of leather that one would fit around the foot and, using needle and thread and Grandmom who knows how to use those sewing tools that look faintly like surgical instruments, stitch closed. This could take until well near bedtime. The British Army spent most of the 1830s with its soldiers never leaving their bunks, just sewing and unsewing their boots all day. This lead to peaceful times and the First Reform Act.

The countries of Western Europe competed to find ways to easily tightening and loosening shoes. Through much of the Civil War the Union armies experimented with welding shoes into place, an action that resulted in many burned ankles and slugged welders. In Scotland rivets were tried. These were of limited use as the striking action of putting rivets in place could magnetize the iron slugs, causing people to walk to the north and find they ran out of Scotland, to their chagrin.

So naturally the breakthrough came in the Ottoman Empire. In 1878 a shoemaker for the Sultan Abdul Hamid II asked, “Why don’t we just punch parallel rows of uniformly spaced holes in the shoes, and then thread a strong string or small rope through the holes to fit them together?” The Sultan, who was in another room, didn’t hear the suggestion but approved it. When this turned out to be a pretty darned good idea after all he nodded as if that had been his intention all along, and quickly ordered an investigation to just what was going on with shoes. I hope this doesn’t end up in his report. He’s got to be expecting something really great if it’s taken all this while to get something on his desk. I’m not arrogant enough to think my essay here that great, but I am earmarking it for this year’s Robert Benchley Society essay contest. Just saying.

Still the early forms were not precisely what we see today. When are they ever? The first attempts used separate laces and loops for each pair of holes, which took forever to deal with. Folks trying to save time as telegraphs and railroads got all snappy and romantic started just tying the top loop together. This made their toes pop out the middle. So they retaliated by poking laces through the other, non-top holes. And so by 1889, on a Tuesday, shoes were finally tied in ways that we would recognize today, on a Friday.

Is there room for improvement? Surely. The glue-covered shoelace solved the problem of unraveled knots, but at the cost of being a right mess. And nobody has anything but embarrassed coughs to say about the frictionless superfluid lace that would slither out of its holes and into the pantry. We may yet scrap the whole project and go back to being barefoot.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The Another Blog, Meanwhile index rose another five points to another record high and at this point it’s getting kind of dull and the fun is draining out of it all. I’m not looking forward to how this implies we’re going to get a really big and fun and exciting crash down to, like, 14 points within the next week.

373

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.

368

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

What’s Going On In The Phantom (Weekdays)? May – July 2017


Hi, readers of Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s weekday-continuity The Phantom. This is an essay meant to help you catch up on what’s happened in the strip through to late July, 2017. If it’s not close to late July, 2017, for you, the story might have progressed or a new story begun. I’ll try to have more recent essays that bring you up to date at this link. There’s also a separate, independent, Sunday continuity for the comic strip. That one’s written by Tony DePaul also, but is drawn by Terry Beatty. I’ll also have updates on that continuity, sometime soon.

And if you’re interested in comic strips plucked entirely out of continuity, my mathematics blog discusses comics with mathematical themes, and had a fresh post about that mere hours ago. Please read and enjoy, if you think that’s plausible.

The Phantom

8 May – 29 July 2017

Our last check on Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom, weekday continuity, was about six weeks into The Curse Of Old Man Mozz. The Phantom, 21st Ghost Who Walks, had been so busy clobbering low-level thugs that he barely noticed Old Man Mozz was on the brink of death. His wife, Diana Walker Phantom, investigates. Mozz has been in a series of physically and mentally taxing trances, forseeing …

She’s coy about it, but it’s the death of the current Phantom. In a factory that’s by a charming scenic water wheel, a “weak man” with one of the most punchable faces in the comics will “strike from hiding”, killing the 21st Phantom, shooting him from behind. Mozz promises that this is destiny and no one can save The Phantom. Diana figures she can maybe do something about that. If there’s one thing that’s always avertible, after all, it’s destiny, because we don’t know what the word means.

How To Save The Phantom. Mozz: 'Say NOTHING!' Diana: 'Save his life by doing nothing? NO!' Guran: 'Mozz is right! The DEATH Mozz saw may be the RESULT of us warning the Phantom!'
Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom for the 24th of May, 2017. So, my Rosencranz-and-Guildenstern fanfic for this: one of the other villagers has a vision where Mozz, Guran, and Diana Walker get into an irresolvable squabble about whether Mozz’s vision is a result of warning the Phantom or not warning him, and they have to debate whether to tell Mozz what will happen if he lets his vision be known to anybody else. And then they have to go back in time and prevent the vision from ever being assimilated by the Borg.

But Mozz goes along with it. He decrees that maybe the vision of The Phantom being ambushed was caused by some well-meaning member of his support team warning him. So in a critical moment he would be thinking “is this the critical moment” instead of reacting. Diana is unimpressed by whatever the heck the rules of prophecy are in this story, but chickens out of telling him. Nevertheless, she’s plagued with doubts, and goes to the Whispering Grove, home of Bangalla’s largest forest of demon-haunted trees that seem to be crying out the Phantom’s name. There she reflects how much would get screwed up if the 21st Phantom dies: not least, he’s the only person who knows exactly what strange school in the Far East Kit Walker Junior is in.

The Whispering Grove ... where wind through hollow trees makes an eerie sound. The trees, many of them looking like haunted faces, call 'phan ... tom ... phan ... tom ...' as Diana walks between them.
Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom for the 12th of June, 2017. Most of The Phantom’s legend seems like the kind of stuff that would naturally grow if we allow the existence of a long-running small-family project based on heroically saving a patch of what turned out to be Africa. The forest full of jack-o-lantern trees whispering The Phantom, though, that’s hard to explain. Also not explained: are they whispering The Phantom in English or in the Bandar tongue?

She can’t stand it, and fetches The Phantom back from his mission of riding his big white horse around the jungle. And she makes Mozz tell him of the vision and his doom at the Waterwheel Factory. His team encourages him to take a pass for a couple weeks, wait out the current crisis and then get back to his world-saving duties. Mozz paints a solidly egotistical picture of this, arguing that The Phantom ought to be killed by some great monster like Chatu. Not by some drip who wears an orange shirt with green stars on it and a vest that looks like it ought to be a Home Depot apron but somehow isn’t. Walker thinks it over and decides no thinking necessary. Ghosts Who Walk just don’t ditch their job that way.

Mozz narrates his vision: 'Felled by no great enemy! A common COWARD! Your thoughts are of THE NOMAD! Of CHATU THE PYTHON! TRUE EVIL you leave to the 22nd PHANTOM!' Describing The Phantom laying, dead, as the common-coward cries with joy.
Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom for the 6th of July, 2017. The great unasked follow-up question: “wait, so, Mozz, in your visions you can read my mind? Or are you just taking a fair guess based on what you know about me? Because, have to say, there are some serious privacy concerns here, even putting aside the whole death-at-a-coward’s-hand thing. For one, how far before the moment of my death does your mind-reading ability extend? Do you know what I’m thinking of when I think about Jamie?!”

The Phantom rides his horse to Destiny Date Road, where he finds a truck hauling guns to the Waterwheel Factory. He sends his hose off, riderless, to stop the truck. One of the thugs has always wanted a horsey just like this and Phantom Horse is happy to play along enough for The Phantom to clobber them and take the truck. It’ll be a way into the Waterwheel Factory.

Thug, swinging his gun around randomly in the dark, beside The Phantom's horse. 'All right! Hey, uh ... HA! Pretty good TRICK with the HORSE! Who are ya? I'll, uh ... you know! Hey, I'll SHOOT HIM [the horse], man!'
Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom for the 20th of July, 2017. There is something comforting in knowing that however close The Ghost Who Walks might be to his death, low-level minions at the Thug Factory are still going to be in completely over their heads.

The envisioned killer’s scouted out the waterwheel and figured it’d be a great spot to ambush somebody from, just in case. He’s thinking how awesome it will be to kill The Phantom and can’t imagine any way that any of this could go wrong in the slightest, so that’s good for him.

The summary sounds sparse, but that’s because this is a plot summary. Much of what’s gone on has been atmosphere or self-inquiry. Particularly, Diana spent a good while tormented by the question of what she could do to prevent her husband’s getting killed. This included a couple gripping sequences, including her sitting in the Whispering Grove, or enduring nightmares based on her knowledge. That all condenses out of a couple paragraphs about the events of the story, though.

As I’d said recently, I won’t be making guesses about whether The Current Phantom dies this story. Either outcome is properly foreshadowed and set up. Either would be a logical outcome, and it’s doing pretty well to have such a believable ambiguity this far into a story.

Next Week: I change up the order of these strip recaps a bit and return to the time of King Arthur, with a check on Mark Schultz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index rose three points today to make its third day out of the last four spent at 331, which is a little weird. Also nobody’s seen Lisa since she said she was putting together that Tiny McMansions pilot episode. These are unrelated problems.

331

Statistics Saturday: Some Answers


  • North Dakota in the year 1822.
  • Myoglobin.
  • It has none.
  • The square root of two raised to the square root of two power.
  • Cuckoo clocks.
  • Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffmann.
  • The Hartford Whalers.
  • SS Ideal-X.
  • Hexagons.
  • Polymerization.
  • The pathetic fallacy.
  • Saw the board into two halves; combine the two halves to make a whole, and then climb out through the [w]hole.
  • Pointillism.
  • 95 percent.
  • Dormer windows.
  • Walk The Moon.
  • James Irwin.
  • Violincello.
  • Doyenne, D-o-y-e-n-n-e. Doyenne.
  • Had you considered the village barber might be a woman?

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index dropped three points today, owing to traders getting all sulky when I told them that while I appreciated their idea about an imaginary HGTV show talled Tiny McMansions, there was no way I could build that up to one of my big-size weekly essays and I wasn’t going to try. Lisa went off fuming and saying she was going to put together a pilot episode.

328

Vic and Sade: When The Building Falls In


Do you remember being bored? I mean, boredom is still with us. But it’s attenuated now, chopped up into small bits of boredom between something exciting happening on Facebook or watching the spectacle of the Future Disgraced Former President’s self-immolation or the like. And a lot of that is still an expression of boredom, since boredom is the state in which anything is sufficient to hold our attention. A video of a bird putting a cover on a cat isn’t actually interesting, but compared to nothing going on, it’s interesting enough.

But back in the days, we could be bored in quantity. Just have days, especially summer ones, when time stretched out and there wasn’t any prospect of something asking for attention. I’m not saying those were better days. They weren’t. By nearly all measures we are so much better off today that we have cell phones and abundant Internet and are never that far from someone we want to communicate with or something we find entertaining to watch or do.

In this Vic and Sade episode, from the 13th of June, 1939, it’s the boring part of summer. And the best of all possible things happens: something exciting comes up. A good part of an old building collapses. Rush gets to see it. And one of his friends is inspired. He turns something already exciting into a performance. Maybe it’s the sort of thing that could happen today. But I do wonder if it takes being bored, and knowing what the face of long stretches of quiet, inactive summer evenings imply, to see a chance like this and make it something even more.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index held steady today, not changing at all, as more cautious traders worried they were under surveillance by a cheetah and didn’t want to make a move lest they get caught in a rundown between second and third base.

331