A Report On The Series Of Disasters


The eruption of the smallcano was a surprise. There were rumblings, yes. But they were tiny ones. Even those nearest the eruption site just thought maybe they were hungry. Or there was a truck on some street nearby. Or the truck was hungry. Anyone would need great foresight to realize what was coming.

But then once it surfaced! People who found themselves in the active caldera-minima zone couldn’t help it. They would shrink to as much as one-tenth their ordinary size, if they found themselves somehow unable to escape the microclastic flow. Which, since the flow never got faster than a quarter-of-an-inch per day, you’d really think they would be able to. Heck, at its maximum the whole effect zone was maybe eight feet across, and that the long way.

You hate to say it. But you have to suspect at least some of the affected wanted to be caught up by the smallcano. You can see some of the appeal. Be small enough and you can have bunnies push you around. Be smaller still and you can see whether it’s possible to ride on a fly, like in a cartoon. Be just the right size and your liverwurst-and-onion sandwich can last you months, even years. The only other way to get an effect like that is to not like liverwurst-and-onion sandwiches very much but feel like you shouldn’t let that go to waste. So apart from people trying to make these sandwiches last, it’s hard to explain the people rushing toward the scene except those hoping for a little more smallness in their lives.

Now, when the tallcano erupted, that was a different story. You can’t blame anyone not being able to outrun its effect zone. Not unless they were already gigantified enough. And if they were, well, there’s only so many ways to explain how they got that way. And sure, the caldera-maxima got pretty crowded but that’s what everybody expected so what’s one more person making the joke about how the average person was now 2.3 persons? (This was a funny joke because the average was actually closer to 2.2 persons, but 2.3 is a funnier number, according to a study that compared it to 2.2, 1.75, and 1.0625, but did not test it against 3.7.)

The ballcano, well, that was different. Just this fount of baseballs, basketballs, footballs, soccer balls, beach balls, medicine balls, pouring out of the mountain’s top? Balls bouncing and rolling for miles? Many even landing in the sea? That was just great for everybody except the sporting-goods manufacturers. Oh, they weren’t all regulation size or stitching, yes. But they were good enough for casual play. Or to fill the need people didn’t realize they had for spherical toys. It wasn’t even thought of as a hazard until it started shooting hockey pucks. This was seen as an unforgivable variation from its brand. But the ballcano insisted that it had to follow its creative energies where they lead and that it didn’t have time for the haters. We all agreed we could learn something from it, except we didn’t want to be anywhere a hockey puck could bonk us on the head. People who came in hoping to be turned into volleyballs were disappointed yes. Worse, when people asked them what they were expecting, and told honestly, got looked at like they were the weird ones. Kind of tragic, really.

The mallcano should have been seen as a greater threat than it was. The hillside just spewing out Foot Locker Juniors and Spencer Gifts and shuttered Radio Shack storefronts and kiosks demonstrating toy drones wasn’t at all economically sustainable. The flow just didn’t have enough anchor stores. And the flow was steady enough to keep a proper food court from congealing. Signs that there might be somewhere to get a pita, or burrito, or something else that’s food wrapped inside dough never panned out. Even so, people flocked to the epicenter, since “Epicenter” sounded so much like the kind of name a mall ought to have.

All things considered, it was kind of a strange week in town. And all that before the open-floor houseplans of a whole subdivision were ruined by the wallcano.

Coming Soon To Meridian Mall


Sign on an empty storefront: 'FunShop X-treme: Coming Soon To Meridian Mall'. There's a reflection of me broken up by the division of panes of glass so it kind of looks a little like I have a third leg, if you don't know how reflections work.
Photograph taken by me, using my iPod on one of those peculiar days when I had three legs. It’s surprisingly easy to get used to, as my only actual dance style is to shuffle one way and then the other, following the patterns of the WiiFit Step Aerobics dance, and for that it doesn’t really matter what the extra leg is doing.

It’s the X-Treme nature of this that makes it so thrilling! While it’s too soon to say for sure what’s coming, my guess is “1997”.

And as usual for the day before Monday I talked about comic strips over on my mathematics blog. It’s friendly territory. I say something nice about Ernie Bushmiller’s art, the way everybody says nice things about Ernie Bushmiller’s art.

(The Meridian Mall is my favorite place to buy a dime’s worth of longitude.)

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The Another Blog, Meanwhile Index rose five points over the course of the day, owing to traders being undecided whether it should rise ten points or whether it should just stay right where it was since that had been working out so well for everyone. They compromised and everyone thought that a great idea except for the one who thought it should have just risen five points in the first place, and complained everyone stole her idea.

135

Pretty Well Pictured


Oh yeah, comic strips on the mathematics blog if you missed that.

As will happen I got to wondering about the Sears Portrait Studio. Like, does it still exist? Does Sears? There’s a free-standing Sears store nearby that I assume is still open because every time I drive past I feel vaguely sad, but do they take photographs? So I looked up SearsPortraits.com and I couldn’t tell whether I was using it wrong. I can’t seem to get my web browser (Safari, because I’m on a Mac is why) to turn up any location at all other than the Cross Country Shopping Center, in Yonkers, at “Rte 87(ny ST) & Cross CT Pkwy”. That first would be what humans call I-87, or actually the Thruway.

Maybe it’s some web browser glitch. Their “Now Hiring” page lists two jobs, Studio General Manager and Sales Associates, and doesn’t list any way to fill in an application. They must need more than two people, right? At least they need someone to make their web browser work with Safari?

But I kept looking. And I found Sears Portrait Studio hours for someplace called The Florida Mall, in Orlando. It’s not listed as one of their Featured Stores. But what is listed?

Featured Stores: Macy's, Zara, Michael Kors, American Girl (R), M and M's World, Apple Computer, Disney Store, The, Crayola Experience, Carlos Bakery.
The Florida Mall has one of those annoying directories where it spins a little loading wheel to dynamically load a page of all its stores and icons, rather than just having, like, a flat page that gets updated the once a month that somebody new comes in or closes up. Just saying. How can the American Girl store be rated R and yet their Sunglass Hut isn’t rated NC-17?

The The Store? I love that place! It’s certainly a place to be! And it’s the spot to buy the most popular articles! Well, one of the two or maybe three out there, at least.

Also it turns out Sears Portrait Studio Canada is alert and active and watching Twitter to see if anyone doesn’t believe in them anymore so, you know, watch what you say. I do want to make it clear to them: I believe Sears Portrait Studio Canada exists and apologize for giving any offense wherever I might have.

The Regrandest Gift of All


There’s a Sears near us, which isn’t that surprising. There are Sears stores near literally millions of people, left over from the days when they were the anchor stores to malls and serving to this day as spots where the restrooms aren’t too busy and the electronics sections have a different wash of sadness from what Radio Shack offers. But the one by us is a little unusual in that it hasn’t got a mall attached; it’s just free-standing in the midst of a sea of parking lot. A couple weeks back the Sears had put up a sign, declaring their “Regrand Opening”, surprising me with the news that they had been closed, apparently? Also that “Regrand” is a word? I was so curious about this I almost went to the store but I guess I had other stuff to do instead, somehow, and kept on driving home, past the Fish and Chips place that just took off the “Arthur Treacher’s” from the name and otherwise made no alterations to their sign or decor whatsoever, far as I can tell. The Sears still seems to be there, but the sign has gone away.

Dream World Investment Tips: My Little Pony Edition


I admit normally my dreams seem to contain warnings about how to practically navigate various life scenarios. This one seems different. I’m pretty sure that this dream is telling of the next big fad in indoor mall-based entertainments, and it’s obviously got to be acted on soon because indoor malls have maybe four years left before the last one closes down.

Anyway, according to my dream, the next big fad especially among fraternity brother-model young males, is going to be renting these cheap but surprisingly well-crafted My Little Pony costumes and wandering around the mall just looking like the one that’s a kind of dusty grey. I don’t know why this would suddenly be a fad, much less how you could make these surprisingly flexible foam costumes, which are seamless except for the zipper up front, wearable for only five bucks an hour, but I have to admit, I love seeing the ordinary crowd wandering around a shopping mall with a surprising number of grey My Little Ponies puttering around silently.

This may be because along the way, all the vacant stores in shopping malls are apparently turning into unattended arcades, with another big attraction being a two-person replica of the contestants booths from Hollywood Squares, I’m guessing so people can play their own version of the game against a video monitor and recorded answers and all that. As a game show fan from way back, I approve, even if I never much cared for Hollywood Squares. It’s all a step towards getting Card Sharks back on the air.

Some Dangerous Kangaroos


  1. The Western Middling Light Grey (not particularly dangerous in itself, but it smells so very much like a fried clam dish from that stall in the mall food court that nobody, nobody, has ever been seen eating from as to be distracting)
  2. The Razor-Beaked Wallaby
  3. Gorndrak, the Marsupial-Spirit of Unproductive Workdays
  4. The Antilopine Gossiping Kangaroo (its passive-aggressiveness can drive people mad)
  5. Red Kangaroos Driving Without Their Prescription Eyeglasses
  6. Trinitrootoluene

Why I Should’ve Watched My Mouth


The trouble started when my dentist suggested a more convenient way to get my teeth cleaned. Convenience is pretty much the source of every trouble, if you take a generous enough view of “the source”. Here the proximate cause was that getting my teeth cleaned is a thing to do, while the modern efficient society requires that we be doing at least four or twelve things at once, and my willingness to just hang about and be there left him unnerved. What other things could I be doing that I wasn’t? I suggested I could also stare intently at the bird feeder which has been occupied by a squirrel for six years straight and which is bending over under the accumulated mass of squirrel, but he didn’t think that enough.

What he suggested was that I could have him pop my mouth out, leave it there for him to clean efficiently, and I could go off to the mall or to a movie or to poke onto the Internet where I could find a thing and make fun of it digitally. I was skeptical, but he pointed out that it’s much easier to clean the back teeth if there aren’t all that front cheek in the way and if he doesn’t have to go around my mouth, and I figured I wasn’t expecting to say much of anything that day anyway, so I agreed. Of course, I used a series of head-bobbings to indicate approval, lest he think I wasn’t taking him seriously.

You’d think the first thing to worry about after he popped my mouth out was how it’d leave my moustache just hanging there. You’d be right, but then I went and did something foolish. I pretty near always go for fast food right after a dentist’s visit, dating back to when my father always took us kids to White Castle after the dentist cleaned our teeth, because my father wanted to be sure we grew up appreciating the inherent absurdity of life. So I rode over to the Burger King where the cashier once complimented my accent and sought reassurance that I don’t think Michigan accents sound funny and proceeded through a series of grunts and pointing at menu placemats to convince the cashier that I was late for the breakfast service. There’s a happy ending, though, since they had the cheesey omelette wraps left over.

There was something like forty minutes left, so I went over to the mall where I found stuff and looked at it manually. That went about like you’d expect, although outside the gourmet popcorn place I realized I had to cough pretty badly, and the gourmet popcorn cashier would only do it if we rang it up as a sale of a small bag of bacon-guacamole glazed popcorn. I’m glad I didn’t eat any either.

I got back to the dentist’s a little bit early because I was sure I was running late, and that’s the only way I get anywhere on time. He had this apologetic look and had me read over a brochure on fire safety while he tried to edge out of the room. They had got a little busy too, what with it being the modern age, and realized they were none too sure where my mouth had got to. This was no joke; they even showed me all the cupboards and we checked even the annoying drawers you have to kneel on the floor to see, and it just wasn’t there.

They’re sorry, of course, and you might imagine they would be, but they were able to set me up with a loaner mouth in order that I could bite people who needed it. And meanwhile the dental insurance company is pretty sure that if my mouth goes two weeks without appearing they can swing to buy me a permanent replacement. There’ve been some great upgrades available the last couple of years — stuff with polymers that sounds so great because I used to read a lot of pop science books from the 60s when polymers sounded really great, sabre teeth, micro-lasers so I could read a compact disc just by licking it — and I have to say, at this point I’m kind of hoping they don’t find it. It’s a weird state to be in, isn’t it?

Searching for Tranquility at Steinbach’s Mall


Shopping malls are complicated and busy things. We need a more relaxing one. I’m thinking here of a zen shopping mall, one stripped of everything distracting about the mall experience. My concept right now is an enclosed area containing just a concrete planter, and one of those perennially green plants of no identifiable species but kind of fern-ish and growing on abandoned quarter-filled cups of coffee, placed next to a Spencer’s Gifts holding a going out of business sale. What do you think?