Meanwhile interrupting my thoughts every forty seconds


I was reading a history of NASA’s spaceflight tracking and data network because … uh … … well, I don’t know how to explain this. It has to be that we are just meeting for the first time, ever, right now. I’m pretty sure that when Sunny Tsiao proposed writing this book, the pitch was, “At some point Joseph Nebus will read all five hundred and twenty-five pages”, and the NASA History Series editor said, “Sold!”

Anyway it got to mentioning how in early 1959 the Tracking And Ground Instrumentation Unit at Langley wanted someone to study radar coverage and trajectory computation requirements. So, again you see why this is a book fo rme. But then you know who they hired for it? Ford Aeronutronics. Have you never heard of an “Aeronutronic”? Me neither and I’m barely able to think of anything else. I had thought, like, a “nutronic” was the thing a spinning top does when it starts wobbling but hasn’t quite fallen over. I don’t understand what that has to do with spaceflight tracking and data. So, Sunny Tsiao, if you’re out there, could you give me a hint? Thanks very kindly.


PS: The e-Books page also has William M Leary’s We Freeze to Please: A History of NASA’s Icing Research Tunnel and the Quest for Safety. But that is only 192 pages so maybe that’s not enough of itself for me.

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.

Statistics Saturday: Astronomers’ Names for Modern Discoveries


About half: 2019RGGCr+118350(15-f)_iij B; almost all the rest: Lesser Great Space Blob; a tiny sliver: The Weft of Deepest Time.
Not depicted: names drawn from the cosmology of the people native to the land the astronomers built their telescope on.

Reference: The Story Of Brick: The Permanence, Beauty, and Economy of the Face Brick House, American Face Brick Association.

Which title is better?


I noticed this documentary while looking over the schedule on Turner Classic Movies:

tcm.com banner describing the movie 'No Maps On My Taps (1978), with the note that it is 'Also known as: No Maps On My Taps'.
TCM does make the documentary, about jazz tap dancing, sound interesting. But do remember that I am a person who finds every documentary and every bit of nonfiction interesting. I would happily watch 65 minutes on the North American Numbering Plan even if it didn’t include rare footage from the 1930s.

What do you think? I get where No Maps On My Taps makes sense as a title for this film, but it’s hard to see where that’s preferable to No Maps On My Taps.

Statistics Saturday: 16 Real People Whose Names Became Those Of Corporations


  • John Pierpont Morgan
  • Richard Sears
  • Ulysses S Steel
  • Commodore Billy Nabisco
  • Arthur Kraft
  • Rick “The Swarm” Disney
  • Daniel Striped Xerox
  • Wyr Beatrice
  • Ray McDonald’s
  • Whirlpool Louis Upton
  • Michael Valvoline Smith
  • William H Microsoft
  • Sebastian Kmart Sperling Buick
  • James David Tricon Global Restaurants
  • Uniroyal Roy
  • Marjory Sealed Air

Reference: The March of Folly, Barbara W Tuchman.

What’s got me late and vaguely offended today


My love and I discovered the existence of a town named Oxford, Michigan, and wondered why it had that name. The obvious reason would be it hosted a college, but we couldn’t find one. Maybe a chautauqua? Not that we could find. From the map it looked like it was a lot of swampland, even by Michigan standards, so I said, maybe it’s where they used to have oxes ford the river? And then I remembered I had a book, Michigan Place Names. It says the name was given by Otis C Thompson “since nearly all the settlers had ox-teams and would probably hold on to them for some time”, which is close enough that I feel like the world is undercutting my jokes about the world and I’m very busy with my sulking now.

Statistics Saturday: US Acting-Presidents Under The 25th Amendment Name Lengths Over Time


Three data points: Bush, Cheney, and then Cheney. Names are represented as blue dots; the average length (5.333) as green dots.
I know what you’re thinking: wait, didn’t George H W Bush serve as Acting President twice while Ronald Reagan was under anaesthetic for colon surgery? No, it was just the one time. Dick Cheney served as Acting President twice, for two of George W Bushs’s colonoscopies. I don’t know how you and I both got this mixed up. Yeah, Bush should have been Acting President while Reagan was in surgery after getting shot but nobody was on top of things enough to organize that at the time.

Reference: Measuring the Universe: The Historical Quest to Quantify Space, Kitty Ferguson.

In Which I Ask Your Opinion About Something


So I was reading The Inner Game Of Tennis by W Timothy Gallway. I don’t play tennis and don’t particularly care if I ever do. I have my reasons. Gallway is renowned, besides this book, for developing “yoga tennis” at the John Gardiner Tennis Ranch and the Eastern SportsCenter in California. He also founded the Inner Game Institute. So you can probably date to when in the 1970s it was written. If you weren’t sure about when it was written, consider please this paragraph, from a section headed “The Competitive Ethic and the Rise of Good-o”. I have a question to follow it.

But who said that I am to be measured by how well I do things? In fact, who said that I should be measured at all? Who indeed? What is required to disengage oneself from this trap is a clear knowledge that the value of a human being cannot be measured by performance — or by any other arbitrary measurement. Like Jonathan L Seagull, are we not an immeasurable energy in the process of manifesting, by degrees, an unlimited potential? Is this not so of every human and perhaps every life form? If so, it doesn’t really make sense to measure ourselves in comparison with other immeasurable beings. In fact, we are what we are; we are not how well we happen to perform at a given moment. The grade on a report card may measure an ability in arithmetic, but it doesn’t measure the person’s value. Similarly, the score of a tennis match may be an indication of how well I performed or how hard I tried, but it does not define my identity, nor give me cause to consider myself as something more or less than I was before the match.

So. Is this paragraph sufficiently compelling thanks to the mention of Jonathan L Seagull? Or should the book have used the full name, Jonathan Livingston Seagull? Ought the book have instead referred to him as J Livingston Seagull, or perhaps gone for J L Seagull? Show your work.

(If you do not know anything about Jonathan Livingston Seagull you may find a copy on your parents’ bookshelves anytime from 1971 up through the time they moved to the house on Pine Oak Creek Lane Road in 1988. Reading it in full will take as many as 25 minutes.)

Some Things To Understand About The 1980s


Here are some things worth explaining about the 1980s, or that are getting explanation anyway.

The decade was heralded by an argument between seven-year-olds who were friends, yes. But the question was whether the year following nineteen-seventy-nine would be nineteen-eighty or whether it would be nineteen-seventy-ten. And whether the decade would have to get all the way up to nineteen-seventy-ninety-nine before it flipped over to nineteen-eighty. The party taking the nineteen-seventy-ten side was very cross at the calendar-makers for not leaving the matter up to the public to dedide.

The President had a press spokesman whose name was Larry Speakes, and it seemed like it was amusing that he had a first and last name that sounded like you were describing what your friend Larry did for his job. His middle name was ‘Melvin’, but nobody could come to an agreement about what it was to Melvin a thing, or whether ‘Larry Melvin’ was a credible name. There was similar but baffled delight when we noticed that Buzz Aldrin’s mother’s maiden name was ‘Moon’. This was very important because lists of trivia about people and their names could point out that Buzz Aldrin walked on the Moon. And while it’s possible he walked on his mother, we’re pretty sure she wasn’t a maiden when he did it. There was also a bit of a flap about how if you took Neil Armstrong’s name and discarded the ‘rmstrong’ part, and then spelled it backwards, you got ‘Alien’. This seemed like it ought to have something to do with his job, although by the 1980s, Neil Armstrong’s job was “chair of a company that made drilling rigs”. This seems highly significant.

Although we had pop culture, it was seen as really swell to make a kid version of popular. Looney Tunes as kids. The Flintstone Kids. Scooby Doo, but a puppy. The trend reached its peak with the 1989-90 Muppet Babies Kids, the exciting follow-up adventures to the animated adventures of the toddler versions of the live-action-ish Muppets. The show was a computer game, because why not? You know? Why not?

With the advent of the pizza-on-a-bagel American society finally handled the imaginary problem of not being able to get pizza anytime. But by putting pizza-related toppings on a bagel we did finish off the problem of bagels not being terrible. I think the problem is bagels had just got introduced outside the New York City metro area. I mean, there was a little stretch in the late 30s when Fred Allen was talking about them. But that was in joking about people who mistook bagels for doughnuts as part of the surprisingly existent controversy about dunking doughnuts in coffee. So explaining them as a pizza-foundation technology let people understand bagels in terms of things we had already accepted, like putting pizza on French bread. Also we could put pizza on the bottom halves of French bread. We don’t know what was done with the top halves. There’s an excellent chance someone at French Bread Pizza headquarters is going to open a forgotten cabinet door one day and get buried under forty years’ worth of abandoned French bread tops. People will call for rescue, but however many times they explain it to 9-1-1 the dispatch operator hangs up.

We had movies, back then. They were a lot like movies today, except everybody’s cars were shoddier. I mean, not that they were 80s cars, although they were, but they were more broken-down 80s cars than you’d get in a movie set in the 80s now. It was part of the legacy of 70s New Hollywood. We might have gotten rid of the muddy sound and action heroes that looked like Walter Matthau, but we were going to keep the vehicles looking downtrodden until 1989. And there was usually a subplot about smugglers who’re after some stolen heroin diamonds. Anyway, when going to the movies it was very funny to observe the theater had, like, six or even eight whole screens. For example, you could say “I’m going to the Route 18 Googolplex” to describe how amazing it was you might see any of four different films that were starting in the same 45-minute stretch of time.

The decade closed with an argument between seven-year-olds about whether the following year was nineteen-eighty-ten or not. These were different seven-year-olds from before. It would have been a bit odd otherwise. You’d think they would have remembered.

Do not dunk bagels in coffee.

Statistics Saturday: Some Names Of Machines That Used To Be Personal Occupations


  • Computer
  • Typewriter
  • Calculator
  • Washer
  • Charger
  • Toaster
  • Mic [ previously “Mike” ]
  • Carousel
  • Fiddler
  • Grover
  • Bumper
  • Terrier
  • Fastener
  • Reuter
  • Rotor
  • Referrer
  • Rotolactor
  • Footballer
  • Compressor
  • Kangarobot

Reference: Star Fleet Technical Manual, Franz Joseph.

Statistics Saturday: The WiFi Networks Detectable In Your Area


  • home-123
  • Comcast_sucks
  • [ That cryptic alien squiggle thing from that one Doctor Who episode a couple years ago. ]
  • ATT_sucks
  • FBI Surveillance Van #69
  • home-1138
  • . – –     ..     ..-.     ..
  • thegoodplace
  • Aphid Kruschev
  • Bill Wi The Science Fi
  • internet-of-thingamajigs
  • bobby tables privat wifi
  • outernet
  • Verison_suuucksssssS5SS5fiveSss
  • xfinity
  • Hipster-coffee-shop-Wifi
  • Hipster-coffee-shop-Wifi-5G
  • Buy_you_own_Wifi
  • Comcast_really_sucks
  • xfinity-wifi
  • memory-gamma
  • HOME-518
  • Paul Blart, Mall Jeb!
  • xfinity-wifi-sucks
  • Why-Fhy
  • landline
  • [ something incomprehensible that just feels like it’s probably a Rick and Morty reference but you can’t imagine ever being the sort of person who could possibly work up the energy to figure out whether it is ]
  • NSA Surveillance Van 420
  • computers-were-a-mistake-5G
  • THE CLOUD

Reference: Skyscraper: The Search for an American Style, 1891-1941, Roger Shepherd.

Statistics Saturday: Most Popular American Roller Coaster Names By Decade


Decade Most Popular American Roller Coaster Name
1890s Scenic Russian Mountain Panoramic Train Ride
1900s Drop The Dips Fairyland Lunar Cyclorama
1910s Figure Eight Speed-O-Plane Greyhound Flyer
1920s Racing Jackrabbit Zipper
1930s Swing Coaster
1940s Atomic Jet
1950s Comet Jet
1960s Meteor Jet
1970s Loop The Looping Loop Looper: The Bicentennial Looptacular
1980s Bobsled Ultragroove
1990s Laser Gunpuncher 2000max
2000s Death Kraken
2010s Steel Death Kraken

Source: The Kind Of Motion We Call Heat: A History of the Kinetic Theory of Gases in the 19th Century, Volume 2: Statistical Physics and Irreversible Processes, Stephen G Brush.

Why I Call This ‘Another Blog, Meanwhile’


My father mentioned how he likes my blog even if the doesn’t understand it, and how he sometimes skips the e-mail notices because he forgets what this “Another Blog, Meanwhile” is. Also one of his best friends mentioned he has no idea what the name means. So I thought I’d maybe best explain it some.

When starting out here I needed a name. You can’t just go out leaving your WordPress blog nameless, because their servers hate dealing with “[ eventually, a small cough ].wordpress.com”. But I didn’t have any good names. I didn’t know what the tone and focus of the blog would be. My guess was I’d have some idea after writing it a while. A catchy name picked too early wouldn’t fit. And it’s not like my actual name lends itself to any wordplay. Go ahead, try and think of wordplay based on “Nebus”. The only one that has ever existed was way back when I was an undergraduate at Rutgers, and the inter-campus buses had a blizzard of lettered routes. So you could try to do something with the E-bus, the EE-bus, or maybe the B-bus.

At that, when I was at Rutgers, the humor editors for the unread leftist weekly I was on named their section “about herring”. The title was drawn from a section header in the Joy of Cooking and more self-confidence than I have ever had. Whimsy is dangerous. My only whimsical touches I ever think work are the ones nobody else even notices. I don’t want to pick a fight with my readers about whether the blog has a funny name. I’m too busy trying to insist there’s something funny comparing when things happened to the Battle of Manzikert.

So I went with “Joseph Nebus’s Sense Of Humor”. As a title it’s boring, but at least it’s not interesting. And nobody could say I was posting something outside the character implied by the title. Except my father, who’s also a Joseph Nebus, but it turns out we mostly find the same stuff funny anyway. And I figured if I found the blog’s true identity I’d know it.

The real focus of things around here developed when Apartment 3-G dissolved into the aimless, plotless wandering of shabbily drawn faces on random backgrounds occupied by lamps. I was fascinated. I got into explaining how much nothing was happening in Apartment 3-G. And when the comic strip was finally, mercifully, put down The Onion AV Club recapped the bloggers who were talking about the strip. Joe Blevins, a guy I knew back in the days we had a Mystery Science Theater 3000 community, mentioned my blog twice without ever actually saying my name. He started one mention of it by saying “Another blog, meanwhile, used the death of Apartment 3-G to speculate on the future of newspaper comics in general” and went on to quote a whole paragraph. It drew thousands of people to my blog, all of whom left shortly after.

But look at that start of “Another Blog, Meanwhile”. It’s dull enough that it never gives a hint that it’s an obscure joke. And it’s a daily reminder that the moment I got noticed by the Big Time they only kind-of noticed and didn’t even get my name in. It’s perfect. I had my blog’s identity, and it was talking about the story strips people just assumed had been cancelled in Like 1984. From this, I had my name. It isn’t much, but it’s something I don’t have to think about often, and that’s what I truly need.

Statistics Saturday: The Major Star Trek Characters Ordered By Appearances In Episode Or Movie Titles


Star Trek: Discovery not included because I’ve been avoiding spoilers including episode title lists so la la la la do not tell me I can not hear you la la la.

Character Title Appearances
Q 6
Data 4
Mudd 3
Bashir 2
Spock 2
Dax 1
Khan 1
Quark 1
Sarek 1
Troi 1
Archer 0
Beverley Crusher 0
Chakotay 0
Chapel 0
Chekov 0
Guinan 0
Janeway 0
Kes 0
Kim 0
Kira 0
Kirk 0
LaForge 0
Mayweather 0
McCoy 0
Neelix 0
O’Brien 0
Odo 0
Paris 0
Phlox 0
Picard 0
Pulaski 0
Rand 0
Reed 0
Riker 0
Sato 0
Scott 0
Seven 0
Sisko 0
Sulu 0
T’Pol 0
Torres 0
Tucker 0
Tuvok 0
Uhura 0
Wesley Crusher 0
Worf 0
Yar 0

No, neither Mayweather nor Chakotay were actually significant characters. They are included to be nice.

What We Can Learn From The Squamous Among Us


Consider the green iguana. It is known taxonomically as the genus Iguana, species iguana. The species Iguana iguana belongs to the family Iguanidae. The family Iguanidae belongs to the suborder Iguania. From this, students, we learn that the iguana was scientifically classified by a bunch of people who were ditching work four hours early. It’s a minor miracle we didn’t get dogs classified as doggo doggo of the family doggy, suborder puppos, order goodboys.

Statistics Saturday: A Guide To Putting “City” At The End Of A City’s Name


Sounds Weird With “City”

  • London
  • Philadelphia
  • Cincinnati
  • Phoenix, Arizona
  • Northwest Stanwood, Washington
  • Paris
  • Warren, Michigan

Is OK Either Way

  • New York City
  • Bristol, Connecticut
  • Winslow, Arizona
  • Gloucester City, New Jersey
  • Boulder, Colorado
  • Paradise
  • Dodd City, Texas
  • Arkadelphia, Arkansas
  • Boulder City, Nevada

Sounds Weird Without “City”

  • Atlantic City
  • Mexico City
  • Tell City, Indiana
  • Kansas City, Missouri
  • Oklahoma City
  • Oil City, Pennsylvania
  • Kansas City, Kansas

Sounds Like You Made It Up Either Way

  • Belchertown, Massachusetts
  • Southington, Connecticut
  • Central Pacolet, South Carolina

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index rose four points, disappointing analysts who had figured on the index rising four points, but four different points from what they actually got. Some people are never satisfied and somehow they’re the ones we have to try satisfying for some reason.

132

In Which I Am Just An Outright Fool Regarding Michigan’s DMV


Just like the title reads. My love got curious and looked up just what people could do at Michigan Secretary of State offices and it turns out it isn’t merely the ordinary Department of Motor Vehicle-type services you can do there. You can, for example, register to vote. Sure, you can do that at a New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission office, but — and here’s the thing — only as part of Motor-Votor plans. That is, you can do it only if it’s at the same time as doing some motor-vehicle-related business. If you just wander in to a New Jersey DMV office with the intention of registering to vote, you’ll be turned away by DMV-paperwork-inspectors. They’ll look over your itinerary and tell you that, no, the only thing you can do in their offices without any connection to motor vehicle paperwork is to sign up for an official state non-driver identification. Oh, and go to the bathroom, they’re okay with that.

But not so in Michigan. Here, you can go to what I had thought of as just the quirkily-named local version of the DMV and sign up to be a notary public. I mean, you could do that at a New Jersey DMV office, but only because you brought the form in to the bathroom with you. You couldn’t expect anyone to process it. Also at the Michigan Secretary of State office you can submit papers to have the Great Seal of the State of Michigan affixed. I’m pretty sure you just give them to the office and they send it in to be Great Seal affixed. I mean, they can’t have a Great Seal in every Secretary of State office since that makes a mockery of the whole Great Seal concept. But in case you need a Great Seal affixation, well, there you go. It’s to the Secretary of State office. Pretty sure what they do is send your document over to the Office of the Great Seal, which is a thing that exists, to be affixed there, and then you get it back somehow. Oh, you could just mail your thing in to the Office of the Great Seal directly, at a mailing address that is not the physical address of the Office of the Great Seal’s office. My point is just that if you go to a New Jersey DMV office you’re not going to get any documents affixed with that state’s Great Seal.

So while I had carelessly thought of this Michigan thing as a bit of quirkiness, that’s just because I had failed to investigate the matter. It’s entirely on me for not knowing this. At a New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission office the only non-motor-vehicle business you can transact is getting a non-driver state ID and go to the bathroom. At a Michigan Secretary of State office you can carry on all the business a person might expect to conduct with the Department of State. Except that you can only get the Great Seal affixation-submission business done from one of the six Secretary of State SUPER!Centers, which are like regular Secretary of State offices except you giggle when you see their name put out like that. Also I imagined that the Secretary of State office I went to wasn’t a SUPER!Center, since it’s on the east side of Lansing and the Office of the Great Seal’s office is like two miles west on the same road. But no, it is, and now I have that bit of trivia to deploy on some unsuspecting documents-authentication group sometime. So, you know, this has been a fruitful weekend overall.

Also the jury duty people called back and said as it happens they didn’t call my number anyway so no harm done when I forgot to check in for three days. I still feel awful about that.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The Another Blog, Meanwhile Index drifted upwards today when it caught a strong gust of wind and efficiently stowed the jib and made ready the spinnakers.

130

Statistics Saturday: Names That Get In The Way While You’re Trying To Think Of That Guy From _My Fair Lady_


  1. Ron
  2. Rob
  3. Rob Petrie
  4. Robert
  5. Ron Petrie
  6. Ron Stoppable … no, no, not Ron.
  7. Reg
  8. Roger
  9. Roger Goodell
  10. Rex Carlton
  11. Rex Stout
  12. Rex, Rex, Reggie. Reginald!
  13. Reginald Van … Gleason?
  14. Ron something
  15. Reggie … from … Archie Comics?
  16. Reggie van Dough?
  17. Roger … Daltrey?
  18. Roger Dean
  19. Roger Waters
  20. Rex Harrison! oh thank goodness.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index rose slightly on after-market trading today following how generally happy everyone was with the launch of the index and how there was almost enough for everyone, but not quite enough, so the people who got there late could feel anxious about it. That sort of situation makes people feel so glad things turned out the way they did.

104

Meanwhile In Sports I Didn’t Know Were There


While writing yesterday’s bit, I looked up Madison Square Garden on Wikipedia. I probably had some good reason. It mentioned one of the teams that had played there, from 1977 to 1978, was the New York Apples of the WTT. Also, there’s something called a WTT. Or was, anyway.

WTT in this case is World TeamTennis, which I never heard of before. And it turns out World TeamTennis is still a thing, even though it was apparently developed in the 70s as a mixed-team professional tennis league. Its history is way too complicated to follow. If I follow right it started up in 1974 with a bajillion teams, then narrowly escaped extinction in 1978 by shedding the space between “team” and “tennis”, and since then tries to open and close teams before anybody can catch them. And its focus has remained, admirably, the picking of the worst possible names for teams.

I mean, team names for minor league sports are always awful. But World TeamTennis seems to be going for the awful team names championship. Among teams Wikipedia claims existed at least long enough to fold:

  • Boston Lobsters
  • Delaware Smash
  • Detroit Loves
  • Golden Gate Otters (never played, although maybe they turned into the San Francisco Golden Gaters)
  • Hawaii Leis
  • Idaho Sneakers
  • Los Angeles Strings
  • New York Sportimes
  • Orange County Breakers
  • San Diego Buds
  • San Diego Swingers
  • Springfield (Missouri) Lasers
  • Washington Kastles
  • Wichita Advantage

I am delighted. And that doesn’t even mention the New York OTBzz, whose logo featured an angry bee with a raquet. Well, they turned into the New York Sportimes, after a year as the Schenectady County Electrics. They played in Schenectady all the while I was in grad school, in Troy, New York, and I never even knew. This is the value of Wikipedia: it lets you know how you missed odd stuff years after it’s too late to do anything about.

A Name To Be Reckoned With


I saw that Sports Authority didn’t get any bids for its stadium naming rights. Somebody else brought it up. I wasn’t prying. I was vaguely sad about Sports Authority going bankrupt, what with how I kept thinking I might go buy one of those nice slick-looking exercise shirts for years without doing it. I didn’t think I had the figure to wear one just yet and I didn’t want to go buying two of them, one for now and one for when I could look good wearing it. But I don’t blame myself for Sports Authority going bankrupt since I don’t think I’m to blame. It would be at least four shirts and a pair of ankle weights that they needed to sell to make the difference. And I already got ankle weights, back in 2010. They’ve been satisfying. They fit well on the shelf in the basement where they can fall onto my toes when I’m trying to get a can of fossilized paint. I forget where I bought them. Anyway, I was willing to let them go to wherever expired companies go without further action.

It was Consumerist.com that told me an asset auction turned up no bidders for their stadium naming rights. Also that they had stadium naming rights, for Mile High Stadium in Denver. I hadn’t heard the Broncos had sold their stadium name but that figures. Corporations like to graffiti just like any of us do. By paying an exposition authority they can get away with it just like the rest of us don’t. Here I have to divert for a real thing that I saw when I was living in Singapore years ago. I didn’t notice any noteworthy graffiti for months which is not a tautology because shut up. When I did spot one, it was spray-painted on a steel girder at a construction site. It read, “I Love Singapore”. Nice trolling, whoever you were.

Maybe I’m numbed to the selling of naming rights to everything. It’s hard to avoid, anyway. Sports venues and like got named for the team that got them built. Or at least the union-busting rich people that bought the place after the team went bankrupt. Or for lumps of matter you could put in your mouth and chew. If that didn’t suffice you could name them for geographical features, which is how we got Madison Square Garden or Mile High Stadium. I’m not saying the geography names were all that good. Madison Square Garden hasn’t been near Madison Square since Coolidge was President. I assume that’s because of a primitive 20s form of Gentrification. Mile High Stadium is actually only eight feet above ground level, owing to the high cost of stilts. But they offered a kind of certainty. They were named for places and you could be pretty sure about places being around. This was before we discovered continental drift and marketing.

And it is marketing. Corporations figure they want people to like them more. I can sympathize. It’s hard liking corporations. They’re not really about doing things that serve any particular good. They’re mostly about holding the rights to leverage real estate transactions. And who cares for that? It doesn’t matter what a company says it is. It’s just an operating entity existing on behalf of a holding company that’s really in it for the leverage. So you can understand how a corporation would try to make itself look better. They pick hanging around professional athletes. That way they can tie their image to an event that will end with any given consumer’s preferred team losing about half the time, and failing to achieve a championship most of the time. This reminds us that corporations how we as people organize to justify doing dumb or offensive stuff. Some places are astounding at naming rights. Lansing’s baseball stadium sold the park’s name to a law school and the field itself to an insurance company. They don’t seem to have thought to sell the name for the stands, or I just didn’t notice. I can’t wait for them to sell the naming rights for the slow-moving line of confused people at the hummus vendor’s.

Still, I’m surprised to learn nobody wanted to buy the Mile High Stadium naming rights. I’d imagine someone to try just for the fun of it. I’m thinking of starting a collection. Between me and all my friends we could probably put up literally hundreds of dollars to the cause of buying me the naming rights for Mile High Stadium. And I know what you’re thinking, that we’d come up with some hilarious syllable goo and pretend that’s the name for the place. First level thinking. We need better. I’m figuring to name it after some other stadium, like, Giants Stadium at Mile High Stadium. Or the Boston Commons Candlestick Veterans Park at Mile High Stadium. It’s at least as good as any other name.

Hm. Maybe I need a little more. I should sell the idea rights to this name.

While On The Road


We passed a sign warning the next exit would be N Drive North. And I so hoped that it would be N Drive North Road, or maybe N Drive North Road Avenue. “Warning” might be too strong a word there, but it seemed worth drawing attention to the fact. My love said that it probably was just that the streets there were given letters as names, which seems supported by the nearby L Drive North, but still. I choose to stick with the more delightful alternative. Besides, then we passed the sign explaining we were going over Battle Creek River and, you know, what can anyone add to that? A couple mathematically-themed comic strips, is what, including me owning up that I have no idea what John Graziano’s Ripley’s Believe It Or Not is on about. About one thing, I mean. Not about everything. Most of his stuff I get.

What Is Battle Creek, Michigan Named For?


I’m over forty years old. I have an advanced degree in mathematics. I have lived in Michigan for four years. I have only just this weekend stopped to wonder: what battle is Battle Creek, Michigan, named after?

My best guess: French explorers named the spot for where they refilled their water stocks. Then when the English poked in they figured ‘Bottle Creek’ must be some crazy moon-man mistaken pronunciation and they fixed it to ‘Battle Creek’ and we’ve been stuck with that since. So, yeah, please lock that in as my answer, won’t you? Thank you.



And according to Wikipedia, it’s actually named for a battle in the winter of 1823-24 in which two of the natives got into a fight with two people from a federal government survey party. In the fight one of the natives was wounded. After the fight the survey party fled. So, yeah, it involved not quite as many people as were needed to play the classic game show Password Plus. Although I guess there is a folk etymology that the river’s native name, Waupakisco, itself is some kind of name meaning “battle creek”, for some battle they dunno when it happened or what over, which makes people who know the language roll their eyes and sigh. So there we go.

My Big City Plan


OK, so my brilliant plan. I’m going to find one of those cities laid out in the decades right after the American Revolution. The ones that have their downtown streets named Washington, Adams, Jefferson, et cetera in this neat pattern right up to the point where they gave up, which was Monroe. Then, I take it over. (Some work needed on this part.) Next, I finish the renaming — “Quincy Adams”, guys, it’s not that hard — of streets to complete the Presidents set. And then I go pointing out to news-of-the-weird item types that this town, established 1802 or whatever, has a street grid that perfectly predicts the Presidents of the United States. And finally announce that therefore we can say with certainty that the next President will be Commerce Park Drive North. Done.

Walking Through Novel-Writing: November’s Last Step


Hi again, folks. I suppose this is the last of the walkthroughs here before National Novel Writing Month ends. I’d like to think people who’ve made it this far in NaNoWriMo without declaring “look, it’s just been busy, all right?” are going to stick around after November’s over. But I know better. Still, hope this’ll be a good sendoff. Let’s see, where had we left last time?

Oh, yeah, protagonists. I’ve left them with the default names so far. That’s not because I like the default names, I just haven’t figured a name that fits them more exactly. When I have one, I just — here, see, you right-click above either’s head and there’s the option for renaming them. There’s first, last, nickname, familiar name, alternate nickname, there you go. If you’re doing fantasy you might want to use the option about True Name that does magic stuff.

Yeah, nobody ever spells out True Names in full, for the obvious reason. You don’t want an eleven-year-old reading the book to try ordering the character to appear. That just spoils the whole illusion that your magic scheme could be real and you don’t want to deal with a kid getting angry at you on social media. You never want to deal with anybody angry at you on social media, but against a kid? Mister Rogers could probably thread that successfully, but he’s been dead a long time. He lived back when tweets were sent by Morse Code to a back room of the local Post Office, where they were ignored.

Now, you see the option here of “no name”? Yeah, don’t use that. Nobody likes books where nobody has a name. The only time you can kind of get away with it is if you’re doing first-person. The logic of that works as long as nobody who’s standing behind your characters needs to get their attention. If you have characters who can sometimes not face each other then you’re stuck. No, it does not count if your character is a detective or spy and gets referred to by profession. Then, like, “Spy” or “Detective” or whatever is their name.

Yeah, there’s novelists who tell you withholding names gives characters a sense of universality. Or it conveys a sense of modern society’s detached atmospheres, or an unsettling air of unreality or whatever. Nobody likes it. You’ll never get to be the subject of a coherent book report if nobody’s got names. You won’t get to be anyway. But that’s no excuse to add another reason you won’t get to be to the ones already there.

Now — oh, good grief, now these guys are flashing back. That’s a mistake. They only just met earlier this story, though, and I don’t want it revealed they used to know each other. Couple fixes for this. First is in the flashback change the name of the secondary lead. Then I can make something out of how the primary lead keeps attracting the same kind of person into his life. You see where that builds a score on thematic resonances and cycles of life stuff. On some settings that also gives you points for deep background.

You can swap deep background points out for fan bonus content, though. Like, here, if I snip out this whole flashback? OK. I put in a line referring to it, and then dump the scene on my book’s web site as bonus content. This way readers can discover this and feel like they’re in on a secret. That’s how social-media networking works. You want to put something out so everybody thinks they’re in on something nobody knows about. An accident like this is perfect. It doesn’t even have to fit logically the rest of the book because it’s an alternate draft. If you do it right any scrap text you can’t use, you can use. It’s a great time for writing.

OK, I suppose that’s about everything important for this step. Before I let you go let me name the Comment of the Week. That goes to ClashOSymbols for his funny dissection of every author-reader interaction on the Internet, everywhere. He’s not getting any less wrong about second-person. But remember what I said about engaging with eleven-year-old readers? That’s explained in great detail under section 4.4. Enjoy and catch someone later, sometime. But when can’t I say that truly?


About The Author: are a couple of pillows, a John McPhee book he’s had to renew from the library already even though he hasn’t started reading it, and several glass vases he’s worried he’s going to knock over if he sits up or back even the teeny-tiniest bit differently from how he’s sat every single time in the past.

What To Call People Without Getting Them Necessarily Angry


My love and I were talking in the car about what to call people from various states, because our podcasts were out of fresh episodes. You know, like, “Michigander” for people from Michigan, or “Marylander only the emphasis sounds weird” for people from Maryland. We knew better than to try calling people from Massachusetts anything. And we’re pretty sure that we could call people from Maine “Mainers”, since they don’t see much reason to speak to us anyway.

Still, our shared interest in the old-fashioned hobby of remembering stuff failed us for a couple of states. For example, we can’t figure out a good term for people from Connecticut, although that doesn’t matter much since we couldn’t afford to even drive through the state, much less talk about anybody in it. New Hampshire, though, and Arkansas are giving us trouble and we’re just going to have to insist that people from those states move out in order that we don’t have to have a term to describe folks from that state. New Hampshire already has what seems like a perfectly functional backup in Vermont. Arkansas I don’t know so well. I’ll trust them to figure out where to go. They’ve probably got their section of the United States pretty well figured out, apart from the adjectives.

PS: I topped out at 957 page views, from 458 visitors, yesterday. I knew I should’ve logged out and hit refresh just 43 more times.

What’s Snuffy Smith’s Name?


So you kind of vaguely remember Snuffy Smith, the star of the comic strip Barney Google. I only just wondered: is ‘Snuffy’ his proper name? Or is it a nickname? If ‘Snuffy’ is a nickname then what’s his given name? Snufftopher? Snylvester? Mephisnuffales? Snarf? Snuffocles? Chrisnuffter? Oh, he probably got some name in that World War II-era movie where Snuffy Smith was drafted and his moonshine turned out to be rocket fuel or some such nonsense, but that’s hardly canonical naming. And it was probably something hi-lariously goofy like “Vivian Lester Cholmondeley Reginald Ho-ho-kus Fortescue Smith” then anyway. I mean his actual name.

Statistics Saturday: Nations Of Australia And Antarctica Ordered By Length


At last, completion!

  • 1. India (Antarctic)
  • 1. (tie) India (Australian)
  • 3. Australia
  • 4. The Ice Republic (Australian)

Now I have to think of other things to list. Hm. This could be trouble.

Statistics Saturday: Nations of Asia Ordered By Length


My grand project is drawing nearer completion! Can you feel the sort-of excitement-ish sensation? I know I can.

  • 1. Iran
  • 1 (tie). Iraq
  • 1 (tie). Laos
  • 1 (tie). Oman
  • 5. China
  • 5 (tie). Japan
  • 5 (tie). Nepal
  • 5 (tie). Qatar
  • 5 (tie). Syria
  • 5 (tie). Yemen
  • 11. Bhutan
  • 11 (tie). Brunei
  • 11 (tie). Cyprus
  • 11 (tie). Israel
  • 11 (tie). Jordan
  • 11 (tie). Kuwait
  • 11 (tie). Russia
  • 11 (tie). Turkey
  • 19. Armenia
  • 19 (tie). Bahrain
  • 19 (tie). Georgia
  • 19 (tie). Lebanon
  • 19 (tie). Myanmar
  • 19 (tie). Vietnam
  • 25. Cambodia
  • 25 (tie). Malaysia
  • 25 (tie). Maldives
  • 25 (tie). Mongolia
  • 25 (tie). Pakistan
  • 25 (tie). Thailand
  • 31. Indonesia
  • 31 (tie). Singapore
  • 31 (tie). Sri Lanka
  • 34. Azerbaijan
  • 34 (tie). Bangladesh
  • 34 (tie). Kazakhstan
  • 34 (tie). Kyrgyzstan
  • 34 (tie). Tajikistan
  • 34 (tie). Uzbekistan
  • 40. North Korea
  • 40 (tie). Philippines
  • 40 (tie). South Korea
  • 40 (tie). Timor-Leste
  • 44. Saudi Arabia
  • 44 (tie). Turkmenistan
  • 46. United Arab Emirates