You Might Also Like


I don’t buy a lot of stuff online, because apparently deep down I still believe it’s 1995 or something, but this offers the benefit that I get to enjoy the big marketing computers flailing around desperately in the attempt to figure out what else I might want to buy. So I get suggestions like this from Amazon:

You recently purchased Billy Bragg’s Greatest Reminders That You’re Voluntarily Collaborating With A Corrupt System and … uh … Leapfrog Explorer 3: Dora The Explorer Searches For Spock? The Heck? You might also like:

  • A History Of The United States Weather Bureau Through 1960, by Robert D Whitnah.
  • The Blu-Ray edition of forgotten 1980s sitcom Mama Malone for some reason.
  • A 14-foot-long mass of undifferentiated blue-green matter.
  • This one potato chip that looks like a significantly larger potato chip.
  • Two dollars off a purchase of auto parts maybe?
  • Staples, all sizes, all colors, some of them made of pearl.
  • Maybe a cohomology group of an unexpected order? I dunno, you’re the math major.

All this is quite silly, of course, because there’s only one thing that I really want. It’s the same thing everyone wants: to occasionally have a day turned into a great one by hearing somebody unexpectedly playing the theme to Shaft. Don’t tell Amazon.

September 2013 In These Numbers


Last month’s bunch of number-reporting came out successfully, in that it was a thing that existed and I didn’t get in any trouble over it, so I’ll try it again. For September I had a total of 397 pages viewed — my second-highest on record, not all that far below June’s 441, and an improvement viewing-wise from August’s 349 — and 162 viewers — fourth-highest, but up from August’s 141 — which means my pages-per-viewer ratio has gotten to 2.45, pretty trivially behind August’s high of 2.48.

The most popular articles of the past thirty days were:

  1. Pythagoras and the Golden Middle-Ish, inspired by an odd quote about Pythagoras and which got a bit of help because I know it captured the fancy of a philosopher and passed on to at least one class;
  2. My Dimmed Stars, about the oddity of someone going around giving mediocre ratings to a lot of articles;
  3. The Mystery Of My Power Cord, which I actually forgot I wrote, about something odd happening with the computer’s power;
  4. Missing International Rabbit Day, which was destined for success because our rabbit is more popular than I am;
  5. Getting To Yes, about an oddity in the download from a quite nice album by the band Steven’s Salute.
  6. The countries sending me the most readers this month are, again, the United States (343, which you surely recognize as the cube of seven), the United Kingdom (7 … really, that few? But you surely recognize that as the cube root of 343), and Canada (6 … I had thought there were more Canadians out there, somewhere, like in Maine or something). Sending me just a single reader each were Argentina, Finland, France, Indonesia, the Philippines, Serbia, South Africa, and South Korea. Indonesia and France carry on their streak of just barely liking me.

    I realize all that, while numbers, isn’t particularly humorous, so please consider these: 46, 8 1/4, 2^{3^{4^{5}}}\div 6 , the cosine of -7, and the largest number smaller than the square root of two. Thank you.

Musical Confession (A Note)


After a conscience-wracked night I’ve decided to come clean. I told a joke about the deli guy whistling the opening of The Towering Inferno yesterday, and that’s not actually so. I disguised the name of the movie so as to protect his privacy, but now I think I was doing a disservice to the historical record, which hasn’t been released in MP3 form yet. It was actually the first fourteen notes to The Poseidon Adventure.

I am, of course, fibbing about this too.

Musical Breakthrough


Forensic musicians have announced a major breakthrough in trying to figure out what exactly the guy at the delicatessen has been singing all this time. Computer-aided analysis indicates he probably has been whistling what was originally the first twelve notes to the theme of The Towering Inferno, somehow. Also it turns out there was a theme to The Towering Inferno, which goes far towards explaining why it’s been so hard to figure out what it was. Further research into just why anyone would be whistling this tune must wait for a researcher brave enough to actually ask the guy, for crying out loud.

Getting To Yes


My dear spouse bought the new album by Steven’s Salute, and it was a bunch of downloads, because it was bought on the Internet. The only tangible goods ever bought on the Internet are Woot shirts, ammunition, and wooden carvings of chickens.

iTunes reported the album, particularly the second song, had a playing time of 372 hours (honest!). Possibly when Steven’s Salute was finishing their records they entered something in the info box and GarageBand wanted to double-check so it popped up a little box asking “Are You Sure? Yes/No” and since the instinctive response to an “Are You Sure?” dialogue box popping up is to hit “Yes” before it’s even read because they never actually stop you from doing something stupid, the software thought it was the prog-rock band and figured, yeah, fifteen and a half days isn’t that much longer than “The Gates of Delirium”, so it accepted everything.

It’s a pleasantly zippy 372 hours, for what it’s worth.

Another Note To Consider


So, some good news for a change. Music called, and she turns out not to be angry about what our little band was doing. We’re welcome to try playing again, and Music suggested some good board games. So we got the Monopoly set and put a metronome on it. It turns out the Monopoly snobs are right, the game is really good if you play it in a 6/8 time signature. I lost. Who builds a hotel on Vermont Avenue for crying out loud?

Colorful Troubles


I don’t get invited into focus groups much, not since I explained in a slender, carefully chosen, 12,350 words how Star Trek V is much better-directed than people think. I probably had that coming. So I was thrilled when the Department of Rainbows called to have me evaluate some new meteorological products they were test-marketing. All I had to do, they explained, was watch in the early afternoon as they tried out this new rainbow concept where the colors would be there, but faint, so you’d only see them against a light cloud in the background and you’d look up and suddenly, hey, a Neapolitan cumulus was hovering there.

It transpired that come the first test period I was inside doing some emergency alphabetizing of the refrigerator, which was absolutely the top priority because I started out thinking the DVD player had a awful lot of dust on it. Fine, their phone call was forgiving, and they referred me to a pilot project in Blu-Ray dust, which is dusty with such an incredible fidelity that vinyl audiophiles swear it makes records sound more authentically dusty than actual dust can.

The second period, though, I missed because I was looking at the wrong clouds and they could not believe that I don’t know a cumulus from an altostratus. I can’t blame my parents for this; in a package of childhood documents I found the certificate from a pre-kindergarten project which showed that I memeorized every possible kind of cloud there was, including the imaginary ones, in that way that only excitable four-year-olds just learning to classify things can. In my defense, when I was a kinder, “brontostratus” was too a cloud and I can’t be blamed for missing its reclassification as “the habit of looking at the wrong month on the calendar so getting the day of the week wrong”.

The third time I missed because I was explaining to our pet rabbit that if he insisted on barking like that people were going to think I was mad. He insisted that this was my problem and if he wanted to bark he was jolly well going to bark. (I alter his words a bit; he said something more like “certainly going to bark”, but the “jolly well” seemed to fit his huffiness more.)

And the fourth time, which is entirely my fault and I can only blame myself for it, I missed because I was hard at work coming up with ways to use the word “transpire” in casual writing in ways that pedants would find acceptable.

So, Rainbows got all upset with me, and I guess they’re right to be. I don’t know how much work is involved in bringing new rainbow concepts to the test-marketing stage but I’m sure it’s something. And they did all sorts of work trying to train me, too. For example they revealed you can always tell a cumulus from an altostratus by scanning the upper right corner with a price-check laser, or by trying to play middle C and seeing what note does come out.

What I really don’t know what’s going to happen with this. I was really hoping to make a good impression and maybe get into this group I hear’s trying to refresh heptagons. They’ve been clinging to that seven-sided thing for a long while and I think we’d have to stick with that, but that “hept” thing isn’t really working. People tend to figure it’s a fake prefix because it was created by agents for the Soviet government in 1930 when the country sought ways to sneak cash out of western governments.

As such the prefix doesn’t really mean anything, but it’s caught on among people who need to group together seven things in a prefix, as soon as they think of any. I mean, you can think of groups of seven things and find them all over the place, we just do well enough calling them “the seven things” and I don’t see that changing so much, so we need to find ways to bundle seven things into smaller groups that go at the start of things, you know, like, prominent colors in a rainbow. Oh, I bet the Department of Rainbows will like it if I point that out to them.

So I Guess That’s The World Saved And Stuff


Even though I couldn’t have expected the problem of this ever-increasing wave of people singing “Eye of the Tiger” I did do something about trying to stop or at least contain it. Given the edition of Rock Band on hand the only thing to do was try Starship’s “We Built This City”, trusting that its higher pitches and really catchy refrain would have a chance of catching up to Survivor’s song and maybe disrupting it. What I didn’t remember, though, is there’s this weird little stretch in the middle where the song goes over to a traffic report or something for the imaginary radio station and that just kills its momentum.

But fortunately the “Eye of the Tiger” wave got disrupted before it could get past the mid-Michigan/Detroit/northwest-Ohio triangle, because — and I didn’t realize this either — at any moment approximately 18 percent of people aged 35 to 49 are humming A-Ha’s “Take On Me”. This breaks up the “Eye of the Tiger” momentum in just the same way mangrove swamps absorb tidal waves, so, great job everyone. It’s really not my fault.

It’s Not My Fault Except For Starting It


OK, we were just playing Rock Band and we got around to Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” because Survivors’ “Eye of the Tiger”, and we were doing all right. Only when we started singing some of the other people in the room started singing along, and that’s fine and I don’t think we were getting Music angry at us for doing it. And then some people out in the hall heard and started in, from the top of the lyrics ecause that’s just easier for everyone converned, isn’t it? And then some people farther down from that started in and, well, anyway, the mass of people singing “Eye of the Tiger” is expected to reach Ann Arbor within the hour, and it if it can get past security at Detroit International Airport it might hit the whole country by the time you read this.

Anyway, it’s not my fault because how were we supposed to know anyone would join in? And it could have been worse because it could have been Queen’s “We are the Champions”, which would make Ann Arbor just feel terrible this week. I scored 88 percent on the Super Easy mode and was scolded as an energy hoarder, whatever that means.

The First No-Show


I really didn’t see that coming. No matter how shaky our rehearsals might have gone — and I’d like to point out we got pretty good at remembering there’s a part of the classic Tin Pan Alley song where you sing “and the music goes round and round and … something … it comes out here”, and that there’s probably other bits of words and melody that go around that — I didn’t see how our first performance back together would work out. I still don’t recognize any of the others in the group.

So. We got out on stage. We were ready, we weren’t too terrified, we knew some music shops where we’d be able to go later and get our instruments tuned up if that turned out to be a problem, and what happens? This turkey pops out on stage — I’m not being retro-ishy and 70’s here, I mean an actual turkey, with feathers and issues with Thanksgiving and everything — and started a safety lecture. Not just about how to get out of the venue in case of fire, either, it was about all the ways you could do yourself harm and how to not do them, with a lot about traffic safety tucked in. We tried nudging him off stage, but he got into this thing about rattling his tail and I know I sound ridiculous but it’s pretty scary, in person, all right? By the time he was satisfied that we’d been properly drilled, our little group didn’t have any time left to perform.

We’re undeterred, or at least everybody else is in no greater state of deterrment than they were before. I still don’t really remember who these people are and I’m pretty sure we’re just making music angry the more we try playing, but we’re looking for the next chance to perform.

Kurt Cobain? All right, Kurt Cobain.


OK, dream mind, I don’t know why it was so extremely urgent last night that you had me explain at length Kurt Cobain and his meaning to Nirvana — who you’d think would have some idea about him and his legacy, although maybe they’d just forgot the true meaning of Kurt Cobain — and the cast of The Big Bang Theory — who, I don’t know, am pretty sure existed in the early 90s so what are they doing missing it — at an amusement park but I hope you’re glad I did. Especially since I’ve never really been that up with current news about music so I had to fill in things I didn’t know with information about Allan Sherman or vitamin B-12. They seemed satisfied and so they should.

Can’t Stop The Beat


So we got the band back together for our first rehearsal, and that went pretty smoothly. I’m really sure I’ve never met any of these guys. They looked at me with the sort of natural, easygoing acceptance you give to a deer that’s in your laundry room. I don’t think they know each other either.

Besides me on the training violin (it still has wheels) we have one guy with a pair of sticks (not drumsticks, just the kind of sticks you might find in the woods ready to poke people with), one guy with a sheaf of ISO 9000 documentation paperwork (according to the label), another with a long-running quarrel with lyrics web sites about how they’re the most awful web sites in the universe (they are), a bazooka (the other kind), and a bass guitar. The guitar isn’t any of ours. It just appeared there, staring, accusingly, possibly warning us that Terpsichore is not happy with us. This is unsettling since it’s so rare that an ancient Greek god would be offended by something humans were up to. Maybe we shouldn’t have mixed her up with Euterpe.

We tried optimistically to play The Beatles’ “Getting Better”, and soon found that we never actually noticed the lyrics before. We’ve had to consign that to the pile of Peppy Beatles Tunes With Lyrics That Actually Horrify You, alongside “Run For Your Life”, “A Day In The Life”, and every other song the Beatles ever recorded except “Twist and Shout” and the theme to “What’s Happening”. (It was a private session.) Actually most of the day was spent on paperwork. Should be a concert for the ages. Still no idea who I’m playing with.

The Band Always Gets Back Together This Time Of Year


“We’re getting the band back together,” said the person phoning me.

“I’ve never been in a band,” I protested.

“You can’t be the holdout! What are we going to do without bass guitar?”

“I’ve never touched a bass guitar in my life. I only ever played a three-quarters scale violin.”

“See?” said the voice. “That’s what gives us that unique Suburban Jersey sound!”

“The only songs I was ever okay at were the theme to Masterpiece Theater and `Memories’ from Cats. And I was never that solid at the part where I have to finger the strings. Or pluck them.”

“It’s `Memory’. That’s what makes us such an accessible sound!”

“Are you sure you have the right number?”

Anyway, we’re opening the 27th in the Loft in downtown Lansing for Aphasic Marsupials and also Made Yer Bows’ Amateur Hour.

I Miss Out On My Wheelbarrow


I was in Walgreen’s, which is not a joke by itself except to the CVS partisans, and noticed by the checkout counter a transparent plastic stand featuring a sign: “FREE!!!!! If we fail to offer you one at the time of purchase.” The stand was empty. The cashier didn’t say a word about it.

What am I supposed to do with a checkout counter transparent plastic stand? I bet the stand is a loss-leader, and they’re hoping to make the real money selling me the Walgreen’s to fit around it. But I’m on to their game. It’ll serve them right if I go to Music Comics instead and buy the stuff to open a Music Comics shop. Although they’ve palmed off some free comics and flyers on me, come to think of it.

Maybe I can open a shop holding nothing but the stuff I’ve got thrown in free from other shops. That’s a good plan. Anything I charge will be pure profit.