How To Get Ready To Go Someplace By Car


Before setting off on your car trip there are some things you should check. The first is to check that you have a car. While it’s often permitted, it’s socially awkward to just be running along in the middle of a highway without any kind of vehicle. Not least because you have to signal all your turns using your hands instead of with electric lights. This is great if you want to feel vaguely like you’re in a cartoon about wimmin drivers from the 1950s. But do you really want to feel like that? Yes, if it’s a heartwarming cartoon about being part of a family of cars. But otherwise no.

Similarly you want to check that you don’t have more than one car. I mean that you’re driving at one time. It’s fine to keep a second car in reserve, ready to leap into action when it turns out the first one has mysterious buttons on the door with labels like ‘ASW’ that don’t seem to do anything. But you only want to operate one at a time, unless you have extremely long arms and legs. Similarly you want to include yourself in the car trip. There’ve been great developments lately in self-driving cars. But these fully autonomous vehicles won’t take over the purpose of a car trip until they’re able to get to a spot, deal with whatever it is you were going to deal with, and drive home, and get annoyed that their podcasts are ten minutes too short or five minutes too long for the journey. There’ve been some great developments in this field lately, with research going in to how to make podcasts a prime number of minutes long. But the work isn’t yet complete.

If the relative count of cars and you’s turns out matches up well you can go to other checks. The first is that you’ve locked the house door. The second is that you’ve gone back and made sure you’ve locked the door. You can be confident you’ve gotten the door locked by no method known to humanity. But it’ll clear the issue up when you start pulling out of the driveway and realize you left your phone in the house and don’t have your podcasts with you. This will be a chance to run back into the house and go through the door-locking all over again.

Anyway before you do set off you should do a safety inspection of the car. This includes walking the entire circuit around the vehicle, looking for any signs of damage or wear or other problems, such as a tire being flat, a body panel being cracked, a muffler dangling loose, an animal hiding in some part we’re just going to go ahead and call the “manifold”, or any part of the electrical system being on fire. Responsible drivers have done this walk-around inspection an estimated four times since the invention of the automobile. You should also check that the mirrors are attached and showing the areas behind the car. If they are not, try taking them off and putting them on upside-down. This will not help matters, but making the effort will reassure you that you’re doing all that one could hope for. Really it might be easier to be an irresponsible driver.

It’s also worth checking that there aren’t traffic problems along your projected route. The radio could be a good source for information. The news station, for example, will happily let you know that there are delays on the Tappan Zee Bridge. They’re always reporting there are delays on the Tappan Zee Bridge. This gives you the chance to ponder the question: how often does there have to be a delay before the delay stops being a delay and just becomes normal? And wait, didn’t they replace the Tappan Zee Bridge years ago? In fact, didn’t they tear it down? (They did not. They just stopped hoping it would not fall down while anyone was watching.) Also, the Tappan Zee Bridge isn’t anywhere near you. You live somewhere like San Jose, California, such as Louisville, Kentucky. And in what ways is San Jose like Louisville? In what ways is it different? Can you answer in 700 words or fewer?

The wind has blown the house door open.

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Statistics Saturday: Reuters’ Science Headlines All Jumbled Up


  • Kepler telescope finds tiny Utah human origins
  • Moroccan fossils provides new technique to size up skin, hair in pigs
  • Einstein’s theory making ‘preliminary’ preparations for NASA astronaut corps
  • In major breakthrough, firm for manned lunar mission makes breakthrough
  • China’s quantum satellite regenerates Mars rover scientist, SpaceX engineer
  • China shake up understanding of life-friendly planets
  • 10 more possible stars in secure communications
  • Join

OK, that last one doesn’t make sense but I had the word left over and it seemed like cheating not to use it.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index dropped twelve points which was so much of a relief that it jumped back up another six points again, and then slacked off two points since it was so close to the end of the day.

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Also the Other, non-Alternative Free Weekly is Getting Demanding


So for once I don’t have something to say from the pages of the local alt-weekly. I’ve got something from the pages of the main-weekly. I mean, the Lansing City Community News, which is four pages of human-interest articles indifferently ripped from the Lansing State Journal and wrapped around a bunch of coupons for stuff we have never needed but go through every week just in case. The big headline for last weekend’s issue was:

Why are New York execs investing in Lansing’s fledgling fashion industry?

I’ve rarely felt so threatened by a free four-page weekly newspaper I don’t really read. I worry I have to have an answer. What if the Community News editor spots me on the street, pushes me to the ground, and sits on my chest, demanding, “Well? Why are New York execs investing in Lansing’s fledgling fashion industry? Huh? Better have an answer, mister!” And I’ll just sit there, sputtering. “I don’t know! I have nothing to do with Lansing’s fledgeling fashion industry! I don’t even know any New York execs! I went to college with someone who’s an editor for the Hollywood Reporter, I think, but that’s it! I don’t know!” And then he’ll threaten to stuff my mouth full of coupons for dollar store Frozen-brand expanding towels and Finley’s Grill and Smokehouse.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index rose another eight points to a new all-time high after Another Blog, Meanwhile traders spent the whole early afternoon reading the Commodities news page on Reuters.com which always makes them feel smarter. Like, here’s this piece about the top grains traders working out what sort of industry consolidation might best respond to a worldwide supply glut. Don’t you feel more in touch with the financial world just letting your eyes glaze over that sentence? So you see why they’re feeling so good.

211

From The November 2016 Scraps File


November 2016’s scrap file, free to anyone who didn’t feel like just scrapping the whole month and doing it over:

that unsettling feeling when you see an out-of-town news van driving into your neighborhood — cut because while I was waiting at the light a news van for Channel 8 drove on down Saginaw Avenue. There isn’t a Channel 8 here. I’ve never lived anywhere that even had a Channel 8, and I always knew deep down if I were someplace that had a Channel 8 it was some weird moon-man possibly alternate universe like, I don’t know, mid-Connecticut. I don’t know what’s happening and I’m afraid to go and check because, sheesh, Channel 8? That’s gotta be from some fictional town like Kalamazoo or something. I can’t handle that, not this year.

because what I really was looking for in a box was one that was smaller than the thing I hoped to fit in it — cut from a letter to whoever it is makes Meijer’s plastic storage bins for making a storage bin whose linear dimensions apparently refer to the maximum width of the overhanging lip rather than what can actually be fit inside. Really, it’s my fault, what with thinking I could fit a punch bowl that’s 14 inches across inside a plastic bin with dimensions given as 14 7/8 inches by 18 1/2 inches. The more fool me, right? Anyway it’s probably easier to just return the stupid thing and go looking at cardboard boxes since what are the chances the next cardboard box for it is going to get ruined by rainwater? I’m sorry to even bring it up. I bet I sound like I’m whining.

Sometimes reading the news leads to the suspicion the world is becoming alarming. A headline could read “Leapfrogging mayor injures woman dressed as tomato”, which may fairly describe the event, but it’s still bizarre. Or you might come across a three-column headline “World Denies Sneaking Up On You”, subhead, “UN Rep: `That’s No Blindfold And Gag Either’.” It’s certainly not a gag, as you’ll find out if you don’t retreat to your bedroom and lock the door, but you have to admit it’s sporting of them to warn you. — cut from a bit of odd-news reporting because while I like the flow of it, (a) there’s nothing going on in the world that isn’t alarming and (b) the paragraph isn’t really about anything. You could put that paragraph in front of absolutely any little essay inspired by odd news and it won’t fit any better or any worse than before. I need something more definite. Also I don’t know if I made up that leapfrogging mayor story anymore. It doesn’t sound like the kind of thing I might make up. I’d make up a woman dressed as a hippopotamus, maybe. Unless I realized “duck” was punchier. And I’d write it so it was clear whether the mayor, the woman, or both were dressed as tomato ducks. Really the whole paragraph is badly flawed and I should take it out back to have a serious talk about whether to even include it in this scrap file.

Saturn enters the house of Aries, only to find Aries is not present. It playfully rearranges the dishes so they and the coffee mugs are on the wrong sides of the cabinet. It leaves undetected. — Cut because it comes all to close to being a spoof horoscope/zodiac column and have you ever read one of those that was funny? Have you read a second one, after your high school paper ran the “Horrorscopes” for its edition your junior year? Yeah. Seriously flawed premise to the whole joke. I was off my game all November.

zippered banana sleeves for reclosing an opened one — cut from the notepad on my bedstand where I figure I’m bound to have a billion-dollar idea. This clearly isn’t it. I’m sure there’s a market for banana-resealing technology, but I can’t see that netting me more than about $2.25 million once all the startup work is done and I get through with all the court costs against companies stealing the idea from me. And at that point is it really worth doing? I’m just going to keep the banana underneath a tea towel until someday I clean the kitchen and lift the towel and find a dense gravity-warping nebula of fruit flies. This will be followed by my screaming, which is certainly a better use of my time.

If you find anything useful in all this please, do. I just want to be remembered fondly.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

Everybody is still extremely optimistic about getting the mainstream and the alternate Another Blog, Meanwhile index traders back together again. Incredibly optimistic. You might be momentarily blinded by how smilingly cheerful their faces all are. Both indices dropped nine points. They blame the stairs feeling “wobbly” as they were carrying points down to the first floor.

97

In Which Reuters Explains Just Enough To Confuse Me


So Reuters offered this Oddball News piece, “New St Andrews students welcomed with shaving foam fight”. The third paragraph:

Several weeks into the first term, the university holds its annual “Raisin Weekend”, during which the academic parents hold parties for the new students. The weekend culminates in “Raisin Monday”, when they dress the new students in costumes and send them into the university main’s lawn for a shaving foam fight.

And so I’m left here pondering whether I’m more curious about why raisins or why they count Monday as part of the weekend. I’m pretty sure it’s not a long holiday weekend, like, October Bank Holiday or one of the estimated 44 days listed as the Queen’s Birthday. (You know although Elizabeth II is recorded as ninety years old she was actually only born 26 years ago; all those Birthday holidays add up.) Well, I guess we all pad out the weekend when we figure we can get away with it. Probably the students do. How would someone find who was skipping class underneath all that foam? Fair enough, I suppose.

Also, my mathematics blog had that comic strip thing again. Please read, won’t you?

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The trading community saw its confidence fully restored today with a whopping six point gain, that’s gain, that’s a bigger number than was here this time yesterday and isn’t that thrilling? Anyway, analysts are sure this reflects the market being over-sold and that we’re poised for a new bull market full of growth and happiness and the return of joy to the world.

114

Exciting News For Lansing Model Railroading!


The noon news mentioned a building being moved, like that was a normal thing that could happen in the real world. It’s the old Michigan Avenue Tower, a railroad switching station no longer in use because railroads have had kind of a rough time the last 115 years. The moving’s being done by the Lansing Model Railroad Club, and they got permission and everything, as far as the noon news knows. Someone with the club mentioned how they were looking to restore it and maybe even use it as a control room for their layout.

This demands we ask: how big is their model train layout? I don’t know, but it turns out the Lansing Model Railroad Club has its headquarters in Delta Township, one of the suburbs. The city of Lansing, Michigan, spreads out over two or possibly three counties, depending on a very boring debate you can have about municipal government organization. But either way, they couldn’t fit their layout inside the city and had to go where the land was cheaper. And now they need a two-storey building relocated from Old Town in order to run it all.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index dropped today after analysts realized it hadn’t done that yet and if it doesn’t go down sometimes then nobody is going to feel it’s special when it goes up anymore.

107

And In Elephant Traffic Control News


The easy thing to do is be thrown by the lede of this Reuters “Oddly Enough” feature. Let me prove it:

Chilli-powder condoms, firecrackers boost Tanzania elephant protection

Conservationists in Tanzania are using an unorthodox way of keeping elephants from wandering into human settlements — by throwing condoms filled with chilli powder at them.

The method has proved effective and Honeyguide Foundation, which hit upon the idea several years ago, with U.S.-based Nature Conservancy has stepped up its promotion, training volunteers in villages in north Tanzania to use a non-violent four-step way of protecting their homes and crops without hurting the animals. Previously many used spears to defend themselves.

[ Skipping ahead a bit. ]
Chilli powder mixed with soil is packed with a firecracker into a condom, its end is twisted shut with just the fuse exposed. When lit, the condom bursts open with a bang, spraying a fine dust of chilli powder into the air. One whiff is usually enough to send an elephant the other way.

OK, so that’s all good merry fun that helps us feel a tiny bit less guilty about how everybody likes elephants and we still treat them like humans treat elephants regardless. But here’s what I wonder. Given that apparently condoms filled with chilli powder and firecrackers are an effective means of elephant direction, how long is it going to take before this is the orthodox way to do it? At some point somebody will propose a way to shoo elephants out of the village and people will say, “That’s daft talk, Chad!” (He’s only nicknamed Chad, but nobody remembers his original name anymore.) “Now be sensible and stuff chilli powder and fireworks into these condoms! We’re counting on you!”

And yet a future generation will acknowledge that Chad was right, just … right too soon.

What, Just For This?


A six-storey industrial building photographed as fire spills out of several floors.
“A raging fire broke out at My CK building in Tampines on Wednesday (Aug 17). (Photo: Calvin Oh).” Tampines is a neighborhood in Singapore and the name is three syllables, tam-pin-ease, so now if you go visiting you won’t go calling it “tam-pines” and sound like a tourist in your head. Few of us go touristing in our own heads anyway since the landscaping is pretty dull there.

Aren’t you afraid of overreacting, BCA, whatever your initials stand for? I mean, they think the fire’s out and everything.

Well, it took a week but my mathematics blog is on about comic strips again. I write about stuff that isn’t comic strips too, but that takes more work.

Oddball News Review: The Man Who Paints Cows


Based on the Reuters article The Man Who Paints Cows.

Headline: Well done. If there’s anything more immediately obviously amusing than painting a cow, it’s painting multiple cows. Oh, a jerboa has novelty value, but nobody knows what a jerboa is, and in any case they don’t have nearly as much material to paint, what with being small? I think? I’m pretty sure they’re one of those mutant little mouse critters in southeast Asia or Peru or something like that. Cows might be used a lot but they hit the sweet spot of promisingly funny to start with and not being strained. Rating: 6/8.

Story: Disappointing. The story reveals that John Marshall paints pictures of cows, not on cows directly. Well, where’s the fun in that? Anyone who wants to paint a picture of a cow can do so. We’re even encouraged to, with popular books in the arts and crafts stores with names like How To Draw Cows and 40 More Cows To Draw and Here’s Some Cows You Missed Before, Do You Maybe Want To Draw Them Too? and Why Are You Hurting The Feelings Of These Undrawn Cows.

If he were painting cows, that is, using cows as canvas, that would be remarkable. It takes something special to go up to a cow and dab paint on it. Mostly it involves being able to paint before the cow loses patience with the whole business. Also it takes some reliable paint, paint that can stand up to being licked by a cow (painted or neighboring). So the article content is most disappointing. Rating: 2/12.

Picture: This story of a man in East Sussex, England, United We Guess Kingdom is illustrated by a stock Reuters photograph of “Dairy cows [eating] gras in a paddock on the New South Wales south coast near the town of Nowra, Australia, September 5, 2014”. While they still remain cows, they are two-year-old photographs of cows on a continent that hasn’t got anything to do with the painting at hand. Rating: 7/4.

Overall: 15/24. May be re-submitted at the end of term.

Megacolors, go! Go! No, Farther!


I thought I saw something silly on Reuters. I thought the headline to this article read “Could This Megacolor Carry People?” and of course I had to figure no. I can’t see how a megacolor could carry even one person, let alone two or more. For that matter, I couldn’t even figure what a megacolor would be. An extremely intent color, I suppose, that you can see even when you aren’t looking at it? It would be a wonder, is what it would be, if it were anything.

But I’d read the title carelessly. It actually asks “Could This Megacopter Carry People?” and that seems much more like something that could actually happen. If there’s anything copters are for, it’s carrying people. And a megacopter would seem just the thing to carry megapeople around. (You know megapeople. If you don’t, just look up. No, farther up. Keep looking up until you make eye contact. That’s a megaperson. To her side is another, and those are some of the megapeople.) So obviously this would be answered “sure, why the heck not?”

The heck not is because they’re not talking about copters. They’re talking about strapping a bunch of those little drones together and carrying people with those. And yeah, it seems like they ought to be able to carry people around eventually. For now, though, the record is carrying 61 kilograms, or about 135 pounds. 135 pounds isn’t enough to carry around “people”. That wouldn’t even carry a “person”, if by “person” you mean “me”, unless you caught me before I was about nine years old. (I was heavy for my age, owing to my discovery at age seven that it was always possible to eat two more bagels.)

In short, everything about this article is less exciting than it sounds like. Megacolor me disappointed. Letter of protest to follow.

News From Xerox


I see in the business news which I read regularly when I’m desperate for something to write about here that Xerox is planning to become two companies, so I leave that for talk-show monologue joke writers who need easy source material. Nobody actually thinks you could run a whole company through a photocopier and get anything useful out of it. You’d need a company that did something useful to start, and now that everybody’s been trained not to say “xeroxing” when they mean “photocopying”, it turns out we don’t need Xerox to do anything.

The plan, says Reuters, is for Xerox to split into one company that does its “legacy printer operations”, which almost but not quite answers the question of “does Xerox still make printers or photocopiers or anything?”; and one that handles is “business process outsourcing unit”, which I don’t know what it does but I imagine it means they tell other companies how to fire everybody who does the actual work and replace them with cheaper people who don’t quite know what to do. But see how we didn’t need Xerox to do anything: they’re on top of it already.

The split comes after years of the company trying to figure out how to do both things together. So now they’ll spend a few years figuring out how not to do both things together. The twin Xeroxes can go off and attempt merging with other companies that do still other things and, having engaged in these acts of corporate syzygy, come back in a couple years to merge into one big company that will do all sorts of disparate things kind-of well-ish together. It’s part of the glory that is the life-cycle of money we don’t have.

Finley Peter Dunne: A Book Review


It’s been ages since I featured anything by Finley Peter Dunne, whose columns, presented as the voice of Mister Dooley, fictional owner of an Irish pub in the South Side of Chicago. Dunne reached heights of influence and attention that most writers dream of. His blend of wit, satire, and folksiness achieves a timelessness that belies how much his stuff was written in response to what was news that week. Here, from the 1900 collection Mister Dooley’s Philosophy, is a review of the book describing an implausible character’s experiences in the Cuban War.


“Well sir,” said Mr. Dooley, “I jus’ got hold iv a book, Hinnissy, that suits me up to th’ handle, a gran’ book, th’ grandest iver seen. Ye know I’m not much throubled be lithrachoor, havin’ manny worries iv me own, but I’m not prejudiced again’ books. I am not. Whin a rale good book comes along I’m as quick as anny wan to say it isn’t so bad, an’ this here book is fine. I tell ye ’tis fine.”

“What is it?” Mr. Hennessy asked languidly.

“‘Tis ‘Th’ Biography iv a Hero be Wan who Knows.’ ‘Tis ‘Th’ Darin’ Exploits iv a Brave Man be an Actual Eye Witness.’ ‘Tis ‘Th’ Account iv th’ Desthruction iv Spanish Power in th’ Ant Hills,’ as it fell fr’m th’ lips iv Tiddy Rosenfelt an’ was took down be his own hands. Ye see ’twas this way, Hinnissy, as I r-read th’ book. Whin Tiddy was blowed up in th’ harbor iv Havana he instantly con-cluded they must be war. He debated th’ question long an’ earnestly an’ fin’lly passed a jint resolution declarin’ war. So far so good. But there was no wan to carry it on. What shud he do? I will lave th’ janial author tell th’ story in his own wurruds.

“‘Th’ sicrety iv war had offered me,’ he says, ‘th’ command of a rig’mint,’ he says, ‘but I cud not consint to remain in Tampa while perhaps less audacious heroes was at th’ front,’ he says. ‘Besides,’ he says, ‘I felt I was incompetent f’r to command a rig’mint raised be another,’ he says. ‘I detarmined to raise wan iv me own,’ he says. ‘I selected fr’m me acquaintances in th’ West,’ he says, ‘men that had thravelled with me acrost th’ desert an’ th’ storm-wreathed mountain,’ he says, ‘sharin’ me burdens an’ at times confrontin’ perils almost as gr-reat as anny that beset me path,’ he says. ‘Together we had faced th’ turrors iv th’ large but vilent West,’ he says, ‘an’ these brave men had seen me with me trusty rifle shootin’ down th’ buffalo, th’ elk, th’ moose, th’ grizzly bear, th’ mountain goat,’ he says, ‘th’ silver man, an’ other ferocious beasts iv thim parts,’ he says. ‘An’ they niver flinched,’ he says. ‘In a few days I had thim perfectly tamed,’ he says, ‘an’ ready to go annywhere I led,’ he says. ‘On th’ thransport goi’n to Cubia,’ he says, ‘I wud stand beside wan iv these r-rough men threatin’ him as a akel, which he was in ivrything but birth, education, rank an’ courage, an’ together we wud look up at th’ admirable stars iv that tolerable southern sky an’ quote th’ bible fr’m Walt Whitman,’ he says. ‘Honest, loyal, thrue-hearted la-ads, how kind I was to thim,’ he says.”

“‘We had no sooner landed in Cubia than it become nicessry f’r me to take command iv th’ ar-rmy which I did at wanst. A number of days was spint be me in reconnoitring, attinded on’y be me brave an’ fluent body guard, Richard Harding Davis. I discovered that th’ inimy was heavily inthrenched on th’ top iv San Juon hill immejiately in front iv me. At this time it become apparent that I was handicapped be th’ prisence iv th’ ar-rmy,’ he says. ‘Wan day whin I was about to charge a block house sturdily definded be an ar-rmy corps undher Gin’ral Tamale, th’ brave Castile that I aftherwards killed with a small ink-eraser that I always carry, I r-ran into th’ entire military force iv th’ United States lying on its stomach. ‘If ye won’t fight,’ says I, ‘let me go through, ‘I says. ‘Who ar-re ye?’ says they. ‘Colonel Rosenfelt,’ says I. ‘Oh, excuse me,’ says the gin’ral in command (if me mimry serves me thrue it was Miles) r-risin’ to his knees an’ salutin’. This showed me ‘twud be impossible f’r to carry th’ war to a successful con-clusion unless I was free, so I sint th’ ar-rmy home an’ attackted San Juon hill. Ar-rmed on’y with a small thirty-two which I used in th’ West to shoot th’ fleet prairie dog, I climbed that precipitous ascent in th’ face iv th’ most gallin’ fire I iver knew or heerd iv. But I had a few r-rounds iv gall mesilf an’ what cared I? I dashed madly on cheerin’ as I wint. Th’ Spanish throops was dhrawn up in a long line in th’ formation known among military men as a long line. I fired at th’ man nearest to me an’ I knew be th’ expression iv his face that th’ trusty bullet wint home. It passed through his frame, he fell, an’ wan little home in far-off Catalonia was made happy be th’ thought that their riprisintative had been kilt be th’ future governor iv New York. Th’ bullet sped on its mad flight an’ passed through th’ intire line fin’lly imbeddin’ itself in th’ abdomen iv th’ Ar-rch-bishop iv Santiago eight miles away. This ended th’ war.’

“‘They has been some discussion as to who was th’ first man to r-reach th’ summit iv San Juon hill. I will not attempt to dispute th’ merits iv th’ manny gallant sojers, statesmen, corryspondints an’ kinetoscope men who claim th’ distinction. They ar-re all brave men an’ if they wish to wear my laurels they may. I have so manny annyhow that it keeps me broke havin’ thim blocked an’ irned. But I will say f’r th’ binifit iv Posterity that I was th’ on’y man I see. An I had a tillyscope.'”

“I have thried, Hinnissy,” Mr. Dooley continued, “to give you a fair idee iv th’ contints iv this remarkable book, but what I’ve tol’ ye is on’y what Hogan calls an outline iv th’ principal pints. Ye’ll have to r-read th’ book ye’ersilf to get a thrue conciption. I haven’t time f’r to tell ye th’ wurruk Tiddy did in ar-rmin’ an’ equippin’ himself, how he fed himsilf, how he steadied himsilf in battle an’ encouraged himsilf with a few well-chosen wurruds whin th’ sky was darkest. Ye’ll have to take a squint into th’ book ye’ersilf to l’arn thim things.”

“I won’t do it,” said Mr. Hennessy. “I think Tiddy Rosenfelt is all r-right an’ if he wants to blow his hor-rn lave him do it.”

“Thrue f’r ye,” said Mr. Dooley, “an’ if his valliant deeds didn’t get into this book ‘twud be a long time befure they appeared in Shafter’s histhry iv th’ war. No man that bears a gredge again’ himsilf ‘ll iver be governor iv a state. An’ if Tiddy done it all he ought to say so an’ relieve th’ suspinse. But if I was him I’d call th’ book ‘Alone in Cubia.'”

You Might Also Like, Because, I Don’t Know Why?


I was looking at a photo gallery the (Camden, New Jersey) Courier-Post put up about Soupy Island. That’s a small park outside Camden with the historic Philadelphia Toboggan Company Carousel Number 93R (the Philadelphia Toboggan Company didn’t make it), opened so that kids from the city could experience fresh air and a carousel and soup provided by the Campbell’s corporation, and the park’s still there and having kids over and giving out soup. At the end of this photo gallery about a century-old park hosting kids and having charming-looking elderly people who’ve been affiliated with the park for decades came this:

Like this topic? You may also like these photo galleries:

You may also like a photo gallery about this standoff at a Cherry Hill motel, or the shooting in Winslow Township.
  • Standoff at Cherry Hill Motel
  • Camden teens camp in Pine Hill
  • Police involved Shooting in Winslow Twp
  • Kevin Ambrose Arraignnment

So from this, we learn that absolutely horrible people are designing the “you may also like” algorithm at newspaper sites. “Here’s a picture of a cute baby raccoon living in a mailbox! Maybe you’d like to see this adorable grandmom with discarded syringes jabbed through each of her fingernails! Did you like this video of a kid trying to order a pistachio ice cream and saying it wrong? I bet you’ll love seeing us try to spell `Arraignment’! Now, want to see this gallery of the kids who made a Santa Claus costume for the ferret at the rescue shelter? Are you sure you can live with yourself if you do?”

And I realize the joke I’m sounding like here, but can I point out the “Standoff at Cherry Hill Motel” was nearly four weeks old at that point? Wasn’t there some more recent horrible Cherry Hill news they could offer?

What’s Happening In Town


Now and then I read the actual local newspaper listings of upcoming events, usually a couple days after the weekly paper’s come out so that I can see what I might have wanted to go to if it hadn’t already happened. One that really appeared was a nature lecture: “Learn about mosquitoes.” And that was the entire description of the event.

I don’t envy the people organizing this. Selling mosquito knowledge is going to be an uphill struggle because once you get past advanced swatting techniques folks don’t want to hear it. Yes, yes, fascinating evolutionary heritage key part web of life blah blah, swat. But to have only three words to convince people to come? Maybe they’d be better off pitching it as a chance to learn about some more popular animal and then reveal it’s actually mosquitoes to a surprise audience. “Puppies kiss you” would probably get a better if swiftly angered and turning-to-biteyness turnout.

Taxing the Meter


Reuters reports — well, Reuters reports a lot of things, especially if you let them go on — but here, Reuters reports that Finland’s tax agency has decided to try encouraging businesses to file their tax documentation electronically by writing poems of encouragement. An example, as they translate it:

Pencil and eraser,
No longer a racer.
Electronic is in — a clear win!
Come and experience,
Drop your resilience!

I think this is the most prominent example of governmental tax poetry since Britain’s “People’s Budget” of 1909/10, which imposed fresh limericks on the upper classes but freed verse for villagers who lived in a city at least a year and a day. Could be an exciting time for fiduciary dactyls.

The Mildness of the Weather and the Walnut Trees of Oregon


So, a close examination of the sidewalks in my neighborhood for reasons that are perfectly legitimate and not at all odd, thank you very much, led me to a January 1912 edition of The M.A.C. Record, the student newspaper for what would become Michigan State University. Amongst the items listed in “About The Campus” was this intelligence:

O. I. Gregg writes that he has placed an order for a large number of fruit and walnut trees, to be planted on the Fairview fruit and poultry ranch at Grant’s Pass, Oregon. Mr. Gregg enjoys the West, and states that the weather is very mild at this time of year.

I realize that this is not in substance any different from the things people post on their Facebooks or Twitter feeds today, but I can’t help imagining Mister O. I. Gregg, then now of Grant’s Pass, Oregon, stopping in the telegraph office and declaring, “Gadzooks! It’s the New Year! I must send a message to the Michigan Agricultural College and notify them of my purchase of fruit and walnut trees, as well as to attest to the mildness of the weather at this time of year!” Probably there was a crowd, too, of all the college men in Grant’s Pass, Oregon, gathered around and figuring out how many trees they were going to tell their alma maters they had purchased.

I wonder if the weather really was mild in Grant’s Pass, Oregon, in the winter of 1911-12. Maybe the college graduates just reported it was, so everyone would figure they were doing comfortably well, what with their fruit and their walnut trees, and wouldn’t worry about them and wouldn’t lose heart in their academic studies or dreams of someday moving to Oregon.

Disappointed In Big Banana News


I guess I just was thinking the wrong thing is all. When the headline said that Fyffes and Chiquita were going to create the biggest banana firm, I imagined they were working together to produce truly astoundingly big bananas, ones of such massive size that they fit even more awkwardly in the shopping cart, ones that dominate the breakfast nook table where we keep them until we realize we forgot we have bananas and have to throw them out. I was thinking of bananas that reach to a brobdingnagian dimension of, like, maybe an inch longer than the ones I already buy. (I don’t expect miracles in giant banana-ness, not right away from a new firm.)

But no, they’re not trying to do anything awe-inspiring with bananas. They’re just making two banana companies into one banana company that’s worth more money but doesn’t have so many pesky employees to pay. Boring. Anybody can do that and they don’t even have to show off an impressive banana for it. But at least they’re figuring to call the merged company ChiquitaFyffes, so they’re making some advances in Silly Things We’re Just Going To Pretend Are Words.

They’re hoping to sell 160 million boxes of bananas annually, although I wouldn’t be surprised if they ever realized it was two days after Christmas and said, “You know, 159,750,000 is not that shabby. Let’s knock off till after the new year” and did.

News From Beyond The Weird


I hope you won’t think worse of me for admitting that I read stuff like the BBC’s “Also In The News” page of stories that are maybe unimportant but are interesting and odd, often about eggplants having surprising uses in automobile manufacture or galaxies being found to be akin to peanut butter or, if it’s been a slow-quirky-news day, something got noticed about Genghis Khan. Something that’s had me fascinated popped up on Reuters’s “Oddly Enough” page back on the 4th of March, and I’d like you to savor the piece:

Oops, Congress asked to fix slip-up in Myanmar aid bill

BY ANNA YUKHANANOV

WASHINGTON Tue Mar 4, 2014 7:47pm EST

(Reuters) – The Obama administration is asking Congress to fix a 2012 bill that left a World Bank agency out of a list of 12 international financial institutions that could receive U.S. support to promote development in Myanmar.

The Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) promotes foreign direct investment in emerging markets by protecting private investors from various forms of political risk.

“Because of this technical problem, the United States is still required to oppose guarantees provided by MIGA for private investment in Burma,” the Obama administration said in its budget request submitted on Tuesday to Congress for fiscal 2015, which begins October 1.

Now I realize that you’re all chuckling heartily from that opening, but the article carries on in that vein, explaining how MIGA, with 130 employees, is — brace yourself — one of the World Bank’s smallest institutions, and that the error would if uncorrected prohibit MIGA from carrying out several of its projects in Myanmar, and that relations between the United States and Myanmar have improved rapidly since the military government stepped aside and economic and political reforms began.

I admit I’m just fascinated trying to work out how the article got put into the Quirky News folder and who wrote the headline that promises a giggle at the folly of humanity. But who reports on how that sort of thing happens?

Yet What Else Could They Call It?


I’m delighted by the banner for the Tri-Town News, one of those free weekly papers that just kind of shows up without anybody seeming to have anything to do with it, for a patch of Ocean County, New Jersey. Their official web site has an outdated version of the banner, but over on their inevitable Facebook page is the list of towns it considers its domain: Farmingdale, Howell, Jackson, Lakewood, and Plumsted.

And doesn’t your day, too, feel a little brighter now?