The Leaves


Well, the leaves started falling in earnest over the past week. With the help of a little rain last night there’s now drifts of up to eight feet tall in the backyard, with a strong undertow when I go out to put recyclables in the giant monster bin. We’ve had to tie a safety rope to the Bauhaus Monstrosity bench we have in the front yard, so passers-by can tack their way down the sidewalk, and the squirrels have assembled a modest lighthouse by the pond so their kind can navigate safely. Also I’m pretty sure I saw a flock of maple leaves attacking Tippi Hedren. Going to be a heck of a November.

Once Again, Our Fish Protest


We had to put a net up over our pond in the backyard, because there’s about 700 trees in our and the immediate neighbor’s yards, and come this time of year we get approximately every leaf in the world falling on them, and it already takes roughly from the 15th of November through the following July to rake them off the land. The water just gets unmanageable. So we put up a net that catches the leaves for two or three days, then bows into the water, and then every weekend we go out and haul in a fresh supply of leaves which we bring to the farmer’s market, where the organizers throw sticks at us until we flee. It’s a very civilized process.

This year, though, we’ve got fish, and it’s their first autumn in our pond. They saw the net going up and now they keep banging on the side door and saying, “Hey, man, I thought we were cool. What’s with the net?” And they just are not getting the leaf thing. Also, they’re tired of this cooler weather and told us we should turn the summer back on. I’d like to oblige but we’re almost out of summer coupons for this year.

Higgs Boson Wins Nobel Prize


There’s an engaging little spoof over at the Scientific American that claims the Nobel Prize in Physics is going to the Higgs boson rather than to any of the many, many people who deserve some attention and reward for that. It’s a little science-y but I think makes all the context clear enough. From Ashutosh Jogalekar’s report, so you can judge if you want to read the whole thing:

Since interviews with the particle could not be held for obvious reasons, the media was instead shown a graph displaying a bump supposed to indicate its existence. A member of CERN’s PR division also wore a large, squishy Higgs costume, doing his best to mimic the behavior of the fleeting particle as he whizzed from one end of the room to another, hid and emerged from behind a curtain and breathlessly answered questions about gauge symmetry and vacuum fluctuations.

Missing International Rabbit Day


“I imagine you’re wondering why I’m not talking to you,” said our pet rabbit. This was the first I’d heard he wasn’t talking to me, but I’m like that. I looked thoughtful, or confused, which is about right for me any time. “You know Saturday was International Rabbit Day?”

“I do. And did.”

“And you’ve noticed that I’m a rabbit, right?”

I allowed that I had.

“And we didn’t do anything international!”

“I … talked about you online. I’m pretty sure someone from Canada heard about you.”

“And I’ve never even been to Canada! How international a rabbit can I be when I haven’t even been there?”

“You haven’t even been to Ohio, either — ”

“I’ve missed Canada and Ohio! I’ll never be a world traveller at this rate!”

“You hate travel. You spent two days sulking when we put you upstairs in the air conditioned room this summer.”

“You can’t go to other countries if you won’t even stand going upstairs.”

“You could bring other countries in here. It’s the least you could do for International Rabbit Day.”

I considered telling him he was a Flemish giant, so was already kind of International by not being in … and then I realized I couldn’t explain where the Flemish were from without getting in more trouble. So I promised to do something about it next year.

In Which I See Through A Chipmunk


So I was eavesdropping on that troupe of squirrels doing improv in the backyard when I noticed there was this chipmunk, dressed in a bow tie of all things, looking up at me and grinning in this way that just screams “sunflower seeds”. I tried to just sort of smile and shuffle off without committing to anything, but he started talking about how great it was that this gang had a venue in which to perform now, and how they were looking ready for great things, and how somebody really sharp with a modest investment could see them rocket out of the sticks and into at least regional importance.

I tried not to look offended that my backyard — mine, mind you — was being called the sticks, and I didn’t explain that all the giggling from the pond was not because it’d been installed as a laugh track (“it’s wonderfully awkward, laughing at all the wrong beats, it really throws the performances into this whole new area, and challenges the audience” which what?) but because we’d put fish in it.

Still, I made my getaway as quickly as I could. I know when somebody’s warming up to hitting me for cash.

Robert Benchley: Are You Between the Ages of 7 and 94 ?


[ If I haven’t burned you out on Robert Benchley’s Of All Things, please accept this offering. It is addressed to those who can say “yes” to the question, “Are You Between The Ages of 7 and 94?” ]

If so, what this eminent growth specialist says here applies directly to you and to your family

EVERY man, woman and child between the ages of 7 and 94 is going through a process of growth or metamorphosis, whether they know it or not. Are you making the most of this opportunity which is coming to you (if your age falls within the magic circle given above) every day of your life? Do you realize that, during this crucial period, you have it in your power to make what you will of yourself, provided only that you know how to go about it and make no false steps? As you grow from day to day, either mentally, morally or physically, you can say to yourself, on awakening in the morning:

“To-day I will develop. I will grow bigger, either mentally, morally or physically. Maybe, if it is a nice, warm day, I will grow in all three ways at once.”

And, sure enough, when evening finds you returning home from the work of the day, it will also find you in some way changed from the person you were in the morning, either through the shedding of the dry epidermis from the backs of your hands (which, according to one of Nature’s most wonderful processes, is replaced by new epidermis as soon as the old is gone), or through the addition of a fraction of an inch to your height or girth, or through some other of the inscrutable alchemies of Nature.

Think this over as you go to work, to-day, and see if it doesn’t tell you something about your problem.

Brainy Thinking


I bet you haven’t gone thinking about neuroscience in ages, possibly longer, which is fine, but it’d be pretty caddish of you neuroscientists out there to take me up on the bet. You should have better things to do than pick quarrels over my rhetorical tricks anyway. That’s something for the advance team of offensive forensics experts to be doing. Let them have their glory.

Anyway, the neat thing about neuroscience is that most of what anyone knows about it is wrong, and what they know that isn’t wrong is so misleading it would be easier if it were just wrong instead. For example, everyone has heard about how we only use ten percent of our brain. What’s misleading about this point is that we don’t say what it is we use that ten percent of our brains for. Some use it for thinking, some use it for light crafts, some use it as a place to keep the spatulas. It’s the other ninety percent that ought to interest us, because that’s the part the brain is using for its own purposes, and it’ll tell us what those are only when it’s good and ready.

One of the greatest breakthroughs in understanding the workings of the brain came about in a horrible railroad construction accident on September 13, 1848, a mere 145 years to the day before the debut of Late Night With Conan O’Brien, which hasn’t got anything to do with this. But in 1848 one Phineas Gage was doing some railroad construction thing of the kind they did in 1848 when it exploded and sent a long metal bar through his head. Amazingly, Gage lived, but his personality was radically changed. Whereas before he was comfortable holding his head high and looking around at people, suddenly he did a lot more staring down at his shoes. And according to reports, while he had in the past walked into rooms of all sorts the way anyone does, afterward he could only enter by turning his head or, better, his whole body to the side and sneaking in. “Clearly,” thought doctors, “the metal bar in his head has altered his mental state. He seems to now believe he’s in California,” which was correct. Thus metal bars clearly don’t diminish one’s ability to tell whether one has moved from Vermont to San Francisco, but neuroscientists hope to find something which will. “We’re not sure,” they said recently at a conference in Rutland, California, “But we think fiddling with Google Maps will do it.” It’s worth nothing that Gage also grew a lot angrier around people with magnets, which is one of the reasons he stopped hanging around refrigerator doors.

More recent and important breakthroughs came in the 1950s and 1960s when the corpus callosum, the connections between the hemispheres, in brains of certain epileptic patients was experimentally severed. If one then showed a picture of, say, a paper clip to the right eye, controlled by the left hemisphere, then the nations of the Western hemisphere would think they were seeing a paper clip, while the nations of the Eastern hemisphere would just get all tense from the idea that someone was trying to clip their papers but not know why. While these were startling results, the resulting increase in world tension was judged not to be worth it, especially after science fiction writers began publishing satires of how the world would get blown up over a tragic clip-related misunderstanding, and we bought everybody staples under the Great Stapling program. The inability of the world’s markets to produce enough staplers would result in a crisis in 1974, but nobody noticed because there was too much else going on.

The newest approach to understanding the brain’s functioning is to measure how much oxygen different parts consume while the brain does work, because we got some great brain-part-oxygen-consumption machines in the mail and since we didn’t order them, we get to keep them for free, because we remember those public service announcements where the Eskimo gets an electric fan in the mail. It turns out the brain uses oxygen the most rapidly when it has to haul a wheelbarrow full of pebbles out to the garden, then slightly less rapidly when it’s using a block-and-tackle system to pull an engine mount out of a car, and the least oxygen of all when the brain is trying to blow a fly off the table by blowing at it. These results have surprised nearly everybody except the flies.

Plus Our Rabbit Scolded Me For Letting it Get This Way


It’s a trifle warm out, which you can tell because it’s not safe to pick your trifles up by your bare hands anymore. You need at least two layers of oven mitts and then to just leave them where they are. It’s hot enough that I just got a letter from Discover offering me $7,500 more in credit if I put the card in the freezer already please. The garage has melted, and I just saw a cumulus cloud burst into flame. It’s hot enough that I phoned myself from back in January and found it’s actually warmed up three degrees back then, so now (back then) I’ll be able to have skipped buying the long underwear I needed last winter. So as you gather, it’s been warm enough to leave logic itself half-baked.

Something For The Water


Long-term readers might remember I was having problems back at the end of winter with our pond sneaking out of the backyard and making a mess all over the neighborhood. The obvious thing to do was get some fish, since that way the pond would be too busy to go sneaking off, right?

Sure. Well, the fish-getting and putting-in went well and we haven’t caught it sneaking off. But it turns out we’ve somehow got a ticklish pond and every time one of them flicks a fin, it starts giggling. And no, don’t go suggesting we trade it in on a babbling brook, since we know better than to get into that kind of a fix.

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

Buzzing About


“Yeah, ah, can I help you, fly?” I asked while swatting the annoying little creature that seemed awfully into my shoulder.

She said, “No, no, you’re doing very well, you’re all big and stationary and blue and that.” I have a lot of shirts, most of them the same blue one.

“I can help,” called out our pet rabbit. “I’m all set to eat a raisin.”

I swatted at the fly again, but she just landed on my ear.

I asked the fly, “If I walked over to the outside, you think you could take off from there?”

“Oh, absolutely,” she said. “That would be great!”

I stood slowly so as not to set off any reflexive extra flying around. Our rabbit said, “Maybe two if I tried. Yes, that’d be at least twice as good.” And I made my way, scooting sideways, to the door, where I fumbled getting the screen door unlatched because that always happens.

“There you go,” I told the fly while swatting at her again, and went back inside, where the rabbit offered to stretch himself out and try eating a whole three raisins.

I sat down, and that’s when the fly landed on my shoulder again.

“Come on, what did I just walk you outside for?”

“Oh, I don’t know,” said the fly. “I thought you just wanted to step out for a second? Anyway, you’re back here now.”

“Four raisins,” called our rabbit, “and that’s my final offer!”

Tiptoe through the mailbox


It’s been a while since I went through all my mail. I have this tendency to let the mail pile up, I think out of a primordial urge to see a stack of letters reaching from floor to ceiling, able to intimidate even the crazed amaryllis. In less primordial urges I wonder whether, if I gather enough information as presumably contained in the letters it’ll achieve self-awareness and I’ll have a tame if pretty slow-moving artificial intelligence. If I do, it’s going to be one that thinks I’m the Current Resident or, worse, Currant Resident. They shouldn’t be firing their copy editors. Let’s see what’s on the pile.

Ah, I’ve gotten pre-approved by the Eastside Community Self-Esteem Development Center, and don’t think I don’t see right through them. Oh, the pre-approval sounds like a good thing what with indicating that they figure I can build my self-esteem up just a wee bit more. Goodness knows if I’m to blog regularly I have to get my self-esteem up to the point where I believe tens of thousands of people are waiting for every fresh post and working up the courage to ask me where they can send me money since I don’t have a donation box on the web site. Ha. I see the trap: I’m being invited to apply for more self-esteem, which means, if they simply turn me down then I’ll be in such desperate need of their services that I won’t be able to resist going to their front door and begging for admission.

Continue reading “Tiptoe through the mailbox”

Another Word From The Rabbit


“Seriously,” our pet rabbit said, “you’ve got to let me do something about that plant.”

“Is this like when the `PIP’ button on the remote control was trying to undermine the foundation?”

“And I got to that in time, didn’t I?” He buried his head into his chest-fur. “Don’t see the house falling in on anyone, do you?”

I granted that. “How about the time the keyboard cord was, what was it doing exactly?”

“Someone would trip over that! I saved your life, I bet, and are you even giving me a little credit?”

“This is about me dropping hay on your head, isn’t it? Are you upset about that?”

“How would you feel about someone who dropped bags of doughnuts on your head?” And then he hiccoughed, because somehow we have a pet rabbit who hiccoughs.

Hours later, I still don’t know how I’d answer his question.

Rising Tensions At The Forbidden Zone


“Good, you’re here,” said our pet rabbit as I got downstairs in the morning, so I was suspicious. “Because the amaryllis is making trouble.”

I was skeptical. After a somewhat roudy youth, the amaryllis had settled down to a reasonable maturity, taking up a good part of the living room and holding web interviews in which it rages about other cities’ bike-sharing programs. The plant’s crazy, but a well-behaved, faintly amusing kind of crazy.

“Seriously! I overheard it planning to break through the window and grab the neighbor’s car.” A previous owner sealed the dining room window shut, we suspect by vacuum-welding it. There’s one pane sealed so tight that light can’t get through.

The rabbit rattled his cage bars. “Just let me at it a couple minutes, I can get it under control!”

“I’ll consider it,” I said. If the amaryllis is able to get the window in the dining room to open I might just pay it for the carpentry work.

But I could swear the plant cackled.

Calais Chronicle: A Great Swarm of Bees


I happend to be reading F J Levy’s Tudor Historical Thought, because I want whatever computer tries to predict my reading habits over in the university library to explode already. Levy writes a bit about how the tradition of chronicling had declined in the 15th and 16th centuries, with records that were kept turning to more conversational or chatty or simply oddball items, rather than things of historic import. He quoted one, no doubt because he knew it’d amuse the reader too, though he also pointed out the chronicler didn’t attempt to interpret it as a portent of anything, even though it’d seem to be rich with potential meaning:

1509, the 24. of Awgust, the 1. of Henry the Eighth, ther came a grete swarme of bees, and light on the bole undar the wetharcoke of S. Nicholas steple in Caleys, at xi. of the cloke, and at tyll iij. in the aftarnone.

I suppose I’m more inclined to chuckle at this because I have a circle of friends who find a sudden interjection of bees into the conversation to be funny. A sudden surprise can provoke a laugh — that’s part of what makes shock humor exist at all — and I must agree the word “bees” has a bit of a smile to it, a bit of childhood glee, at least when you’re not afraid the referent is coming after you. At some point it becomes a kind of in-joke: one laughs at “bees” because one is expected to laugh at “bees”, and it’d be rude to do otherwise.

Of course, one laughs at jokes because that’s the correct thing to do in response to a joke; so, if familiarity and friendship and fatigue have turned the word “bees” into something you laugh at, has that sufficed to create a joke?

I’m also curious whether the chronicler meant that the ball was unusually lighted, or whether he meant the bees alighted on the ball.

Everything I Know About Some Plants


There’s nothing quite like wandering around a garden nursery looking at all the various tiny plants that I’m far too stupid to actually manage. Of course you can say that about many things: there isn’t anything quite like building a multi-use sports arena out of nothing but discarded satellite TV dishes, for instance, unless you count building several single-use sports arenas all close up against each other. But that shouldn’t be counted against the fun of wandering around all these little rows of plants nestled in tiny plastic pots and reading how relentlessly Anglo-Saxon a name they can get, and what sorts of folklore attach to them.

Many plants enjoy these blunt, old-fashioned names that speak of their folkloric origin or of something we were trying to keep secret. Putting the secret right there in the name of the plant doesn’t seem to have worked but bear in mind, before the rise of mass printing where were we going to put secrets instead?

Shunted Gutter-Berrys, also known as King Pym’s Chortles. These are found lining the roofs that other, lesser, plants build to shelter them from the elements and clumsy, plummeting chipmunks. They have become invasive in parts of the country (any country) with a chipmunk shortage, such as the space between eight and twelve feet above the ground and away from all trees or other structures. A post-Columbian Exchange plant, these were first identified by settlers in Connecticut who asked the Indians what they were, and didn’t recognize sarcasm when they heard it. Their flowering between the 30th of April and the 1st of May is considered a sign that your calendar-maker ripped you off.

Continue reading “Everything I Know About Some Plants”

Closed Cut


Since I was out of practice with lawn-mowing, yeah, there were problems. The worst was having no idea where to plug the electrical cord in. This was silly on my part since it turns out we have a steam-powered house, but how do you know that before you find out? I worked around it, though, since out in the garage I found what I needed. Now the front lawn’s nice and neatly trimmed, although I admit I wasn’t very careful about wiping all the shaving cream off the rose bushes. I hope it isn’t going to need lotion; that stuff can be tricky. Worse, the lawn was talking some about getting a goatee, which is far beyond what I’m able to trim into it. I hope that proves to be a fad, like when the lawn was so going to take up pewter sculpting.

Wildlife Revelations (Not at home)


I always knew Australian wildlife was colorful, by which I mean far more crazily deadly than it has any business being. It’s a continent whose fauna includes snakes poisonous enough to stun South America, koalas that can shoot four-foot machete blades up to the length of four rugby fields away (except during time-outs), laser-guided dense-impactor bilbies, tree kangaroos with the explosive force of four tons of TNT, and neutron wallabies. What I didn’t realize is just how lively this makes the area. It turns out that until 1958, Tasmania was connected to the Australian mainland, but then something jolted a currawong and by the time the time the retaliatory fire was done there was this channel nearly 150 miles wide. That’s amazing.

The Weather Makers


So this morning as I got up it was 72 degrees Fahrenheit and blizzarding, which is when I’d had enough of that. Yesterday it was -15 and there was a hot, muggy rain falling; the day before it was the upper-40s with scattered asteroids, and just before that it was the mid-20s with interminable reports on the Sacco and Vanzetti trial. I’m loathe to do anything mechanical around the house but I did go around back, unplug the weather, wait ten seconds, and then plug it back in while holding down the option-flower-P-R keys to reset the PRAM. That usually fixes these problems, but now it’s in the high 60s and there’s a zephyr in the breakfast nook pointing at me, laughing, and scattering Golden Grahams on the floor. I think we’re going to have to get a whole new weather and start from scratch.

And Now I’m All Wet


Well, that shows me. After another angry phone call I actually went out and checked the back yard and what do you know? I peeked under the blanket of light snow and the pond in our backyard had got out. I don’t know how long it’s been doing this but when I do track down where it’s gotten I’m going to have to have a serious talk with it, and I don’t know how to do that. I’ll take advice, if you have any.

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.

Mammoth Engineering Works


I’m seeing these days a lot more idle talk — I hope it’s idle talk — about bringing mammoths back from extinction through the cloning and whatever else of preserved mammoth DNA. I admit that’d be a pretty good trick, and a fine solution to the nation’s crippling mammoth shortage. It’d certainly make drive-through safaris an even more exciting affair, as after a herd of deer blockade your car you could then have a mammoth give you the choice of surrendering your cup full of kibble or getting your Scion tC sat on.

If they ever achieve it, though, then what are future genetic engineers supposed to do to impress us? I think they’d have to start doing it the hard way, and bring mammoths back into being using nothing but quokka DNA instead, or maybe skip the DNA altogether and breed new mammoths using nothing but some string, a megaphone, and a highly surprised squirrel. Thus ever do the standards required for science stuff to impress us keep rising.

Was It Getting The Yard Muddy?


“Are you going to do something about that pond of yours?” said the angry voice on the phone.

“What about that pond?” was the best I could answer.

“It’s in my yard making a mess of things!”

I looked out the back window, and the pond was right where it’s been all winter, tucked under its blanket of ice and that strange snow that stays on top of little ponds all winter whether it snows or not. “Sorry, but I’m looking at it right now and it’s here in my yard.”

The voice harrumphed at me, but I stuck to my story, and then hung up.

Obviously this calls for action, so I’m replacing our phone with a model that’s in a softer and less anger-rousing color.

I Like The Bloom On A Hypochondria More


We’ve got a really tall flowering plant here. I have to say it’s an amaryllis, because deep down, I can only think of four names that sound like flowering plants, and those are the rose, the daisy, the amaryllis, and the hypochondria, and I’m pretty sure this isn’t a rose or daisy. Anyway, this plant has been growing so much that if I told you, you’d think I was comically exaggerating. It’s grown about five feet in the last three days and the petals open just enough that it can try grabbing the UPS guy. We’re leaving it beside the window and hoping it doesn’t make demands. Also it’s staring at me.

Problems of Squirrel Comedy


And now that stand-up comic I hired to keep squirrels off the bird feeder is causing problems. I agree, there’s only so many jokes a white guy can tell about southern bog lemmings before you start feeling like the guy has a weird agenda. I want to give comics a fair chance at exploring edgy material, but you can’t argue with letters of protest from over 36 Ogilvie Mountains collared lemmings. It’s controversial material that isn’t working, and now I have to spend time dealing with it. Everything would be so much easier if the squirrels would just eat out of the squirrel feeder instead.

Genius Hamsters


What do you suppose the hamster community thinks of the person who invented the hamster wheel? It’s not an obvious invention, the way the cat motorcycle, the gerbil paddle steamer, or the wallaroo Quadricycle are. You need to have a vision of wheels alongside rodents, if hamsters are still rodents. They keep finding out different animals aren’t actually rodents. Just last month a report in Nature showed that the horse was definitely not a rodent, following an investigation by biologists who didn’t want to work too hard that day.

The first hamster to make the wheel work was some kind of genius among hamsters, too, though. I imagine hamsters to this day squeak her name when they want to talk sarcastically about the smart one in their group.

This Day In History


1722: The village of Lesser Pompous Lakes finds the solution to its problem of chronic flooding when a visiting officer from the Royal Navy identifies the problem as tides. Over the coming year the village moves two feet farther away from Lousy Creek and the community is that much dryer. A statue commemorating the officer was ordered in 1725, but by then he had backed warily far out of town.

I Misread Science Headlines


I thought the link on the BBC News Science and Environment page read “Bird slime reserve baffles experts” and that’s why I clicked it. Who wouldn’t wonder what there was to be baffled by in the current bird slime reserves? Bird slime reserves are the soundest form of capital deposit known to the financial world, because anyone challenging the worth of one nation’s reserves is liable to get a telegraphic transfer of bird slime for their nosiness.

But no, the link was really, “Bird reserve slime baffles experts”, as there’s mysterious jellies appearing at a nature reserve in the Ham Wall nature reserve in Somerset, England. That’s not so mysterious, apart from how nobody knows just what it is or why it’s here or what it’s doing. I want my link-clicking returned, which I can get by applying in care of this office.

Animals And Their Forecasts


So the groundhogs have seen their shadows, or they haven’t, or in one case the shadow came up and was frightened to see its groundhog. But consider these other animals and their prognostications:

  • A fruit fly emerged into the dining room, forecasting the throwing out of the bananas that have been in the pantry since October.
  • A buffalo poked its head out of a tree knothole in northern Rhode Island and sneezed. This forecasts that Mrs Wall will be giving a surprise pop quiz in English class Monday. Despite being so observed this should still catch everyone by surprise as Mrs Wall teaches science.
  • A dikdik in southern Indiana checked Facebook to find her best friend had written a lengthy essay that mentioned “reverse discrimination” in the first paragraph. It’s going to be at least three weeks of her telling her that gosh she’s eager to read it and get involved in the comments thread but she’s just got so much to do she can’t possibly respond tonight.
  • Xoredeshch Sfath, the great cosm-dragon, opened one eye in a panic, noticed that it was still 5:32 and his alarm isn’t for nearly 45 minutes, and went back to dreaming sleep. This gives the universe another 1,728 years of uninterrupted existence unless he has nightmares.

That’s not to say people are wrong to pay attention to groundhogs, just that they aren’t everything. Yet.

Squirrel Optimism


We’ve got a bird feeder, so we’ve been feeding squirrels. But I know the only effective way to keep squirrels off a bird feeder is to put up some squirrel exclusion device, which they find so hilariously ineffective that the squirrels roll up into balls of cackling fur, and drop from the bird feeder, then roll downhill. So I hired a guy to stand out by the feeder and tell them jokes.