In which I think I’ve spotted the problem


So why aren’t there Ohio Safety Matches anymore? I have a hypothesis.

Trademark search results showing Ohio Safety Matches as a product of The Ohio Match Company, of Delaware, United States
From Bizapedia, the official pedia of Alberto Santos-Dumont’s canard biplane. And yes, I understand why the Ohio Match Company might incorporate in Delaware: Delaware is ALSO the name of a suburb of Columbus where Rutherford B Hayes was born. His house was been torn down and replaced with a BP gas station, but I don’t think the corrupt Compromise of 1877 is specifically at fault for the house-demolition or the Ohio Match Company going out. I think the match company can blame a bad gust of wind that came at the wrong time.

Statistics Saturday: Fifteen Questions ‘Cleveland’ Is A Incorrect Answer To


  • What is the capital of Ohio?
  • What was, historically, the capital of the Ohio Territory?
  • What is the largest city to border a Great Lake?
  • Where’s the Cedar Point amusement park?
  • How are you today?
  • Did you know psoriasis can get into your ear? How does that make sense?
  • Are the Kinks getting back together?
  • What makes our new Terms of Service so all-fired different from the old Terms of Service that it was worth sending you a new Terms of Service to pretend to read?
  • Is there going to be weather tomorrow?
  • What’s the seat of Hamilton County, Ohio?
  • Back in the early 20th century when there were “traction companies” running trolley cars all along city and even suburban streets it’s … like … they were transmitting electric power for cars along overhead lines, right? It’s not like they were running gigantic ropes and pulleys dragging things through town? Because that couldn’t possibly work, but “traction” seems like a weird name for “streetcar electric power”, right?
  • Where was Case Western Reserve University originally located?
  • Which United States Vice-President swore his oath of office in Cuba?
  • What’s the name of your Chicago cover band?
  • Yes, but did you like the movie?

Reference: Science From Your Airplane Window, Elizabeth A Wood. “Cleveland” was the name of your friend from college that you never really lost touch with but never talk to either’s Chicago cover band.

Three Things There Are To Say About Astronomy


Astronomy is the practice of looking at the sky to see if anything interesting is going on. Then keep careful notes in case it isn’t. The sky can be located by the simple process of going out of doors. This should be about the same number of doors as you’ve entered, but in the reverse order. There are complications. I can’t deal with them all here. To see me deal with them please review my essay, Everything There Is To Say About Going Out Of Doors, which I’ll write one of these days.

The sky may be found by looking up, if you are in the northern hemisphere, or looking down, if you are in the southern hemisphere. If you are in the eastern hemisphere you’ll have to use your best judgement. If you are in the western hemisphere you’ll have to use as best judgement as you can find, given the circumstances.

The important thing is to look at the sky, wherever it is. To be an amateur astronomer, all you need to bring is your eyes. I use “your” to mean you have authority over whatever eyes you’re using. But you are allowed to use anything that collects light, which helps you see darker things. This is because a great whopping heap of darkness is easier to see? It seems like I got that wrong somehow, but I keep going back and checking and that’s how it comes out. There must be a trick somewhere.

You know if you ask an amateur astronomer they’ll tell you the moon is about as bright as a lump of charcoal. And yes, you asked what they were listening to that was so funny. Many amateur astronomers are socially anxious and will blurt out things so as to get through the conversation quicker. Please review my essay, Everything There Is To Say About Getting Through A Conversation, which I’ll write one of these days.

The night sky has over sixteen visible objects in it. You sound less foolish if you know what they are. The night sky like a mostly black thing spotted with bright dots. These are the exceptions:

  • Orion
  • The Big Dipper Or Maybe That’s The Little Dipper
  • The Little Dipper Or Maybe That’s The Big Dipper
  • The One That Looks Like A W
  • Square Wearing A Triangle Hat

These are examples of constellations, of which there are a number.

What number? There is no way to know. I have it memorized that there are 88 constellations. This is the fault of someone who told me that it was easy to remember there were 88 constellations because there are also 88 counties in Ohio. I have never lived in Ohio, and I have never had an explicit interaction with any aspect of its county governance. I have no knowledge of whether there are 88 counties in Ohio, either. I could not attest under oath that the number of constellations and the number of counties in Ohio are both numbers. I admit I would take a guess, though.

But I’ve got a mnemonic about this now. So I know my last thought before dying will be “there are 88 constellations and there are 88 counties in Ohio”. This even though I would prefer my last thoughts to be, “I’m so grateful that so much of my life could be spent with my darling in it” and “At last I have shown them all”. Mnemonics are like that. I could try shaking it up, make it “there are 88 constellations in Ohio”, but I’ll never let myself think that. I have a hard enough time writing it as a hypothetical. Anyway I explain this all in my essay, Everything There Is To Say About Mnemonics. I forget if I’ve written that one already.

But once you’ve learned all the things that are supposed to be in the night sky there’s some fun ahead. Because amateur astronomers can still discover stuff. Professional astronomers come out and say, “yup, they discovered that thing” and “they were right” and “they showed us all”. To discover a thing, simply catalogue all the things in the night sky and find a thing that’s not supposed to be there. This will be a tern, flying high enough it’s still in sunlight while you’re in darkness. That puts you under the jurisdiction of the animal-watchers. For further instructions please consult my essay, Four Things There Are To Say About Animal-Watching, which I have no idea how to write.

What Constellation Am I Looking At?


Part One Of An Experiment.

It’s natural to wonder what the heck you’re looking at in the sky. The sky’s there nearly all the time, after all, and most of it isn’t clearly annotated. We’ve divided the sky into … uhm … I want to say 86 constellations. I know at one time there were the same number of constellations as there were counties in Ohio at one time. And I know there are … not 84 counties in Ohio. Does 86 sound right? It’s not. It seems like a lot of counties to have.

Most of the constellations we can’t see anymore because they’re in the wrong hemisphere or they’re some screwy thing they came up with in the Age of Discovery, when Europeans looked up for the first time in four hundred years and noticed stars. So there’s a bunch of constellations representing what was important to them at the time and that nobody cares about anymore, like the Equatorial Fardel and the Southern Bill Of Exchange. We can’t see most of them anymore, since we left the lights on. So I’m just going to talk about the constellations we can see. Also they keep finding new counties in Ohio, owing to bad surveying in 1794.

First, you have to go see some constellations. That involves looking at the sky. Is it mostly blue or grey with one giant star it’s hard to look at? Maybe with like a half a white part-circle? It’s daytime. Those are the sun and the moon. They’re not part of any constellations, owing to a fantastically heated and complicated yet somehow boring quarrel they had online with Vega and the Lesser Magellanic Cluster. Those are other things you will not see. Try again, this time at night.

OK. So go look at the sky and let’s work out what you see. Does the thing you’re seeing look like anything at all, or is it just a big sloppy mess of stars? If it’s just a big sloppy mess of stars then you’re looking at Hydra, the hydra, named by someone who wasn’t trying hard. Hydra occupies about four-fifths of the night sky because it turns out to be quite hungry and none of the other constellations have any idea how to handle this besides “let’s run at it and hope we choke one of its many, many throats!” Remember, the night sky is not that bright.

So let’s suppose the thing you’re looking at looks like something. Does it look like a person? Let’s suppose it does. Is it Orion? If it is Orion, then you’re looking at Orion. If it looks like a person and it isn’t Orion, then it’s Hercules. Yell at it for not dealing with Hydra already. I don’t know what his problem is. There were some great sequences in his Disney movie. You can’t say that about every constellation.

So there are things other than people that a constellation can look like. For example, it might look like a real thing that isn’t a person. Is the real thing that it looks like a dipper? If it is then we’re making progress. Is it big? If it’s a big dipper then you’re looking at the Big Dipper. If it’s not so big a dipper then you’re looking at the Little Dipper. They should be pretty close to one another and if they aren’t check to see whether Hercules is trying to stuff a dipper down Hydra’s throat. If he is, again, explain to him that choking isn’t the way to handle a hydra.

More progress. Suppose it looks like some real thing that isn’t a person and isn’t a dipper. Is it a cross? If it is, then check what hemisphere you’re in, which you can do by examining whether your Mercator maps are right-side up. If you’re in the Southern Hemisphere, then the cross you’re looking at is the Southern Cross, so named by a team that thought the people who named Hydra were trying too hard. If you’re in the Northern Hemisphere, then you’re looking at Cygnus, the Swan. Cygnus you’ll recognize as not the star of E B White’s classic The Trumpet Of The Swan. There isn’t even a trumpet constellation, I guess. If you’re looking at something that’s a real shape but isn’t a cross then it’s Pegasus.

So now we’re left with a constellation that looks like something but isn’t a real thing. Is it some shape? I can help you there. Does it look like a W? That’s Cassiopeia, ancient queen of spell checkers. If it doesn’t, it’s Cepheus, which you can double-check on by whether it’s grumbling about how Cassiopeia gets to be in the alphabet.

If you’ve got all this way and still don’t know what you’re looking at then say it’s Lyra. That’s a good choice. That’s got a nice constellation-y sound to its name and we can’t see the actual Lyra anymore anyway.

Happy stargazing! This month’s lucky planets are Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and PowerBall Planet Mercury.

Why It’s A Bad Idea To Clean Out The Car


While cleaning the backseat of my car I came across a flyer for The 53rd Annual 2015 Ohio Gourd Show. It was scheduled to be held in the place widely known as “the Delaware of Ohio”, the town of Delaware, Ohio. The theme for it was “Gourds In Space” and it even shows a picture of some silver-painted sphere of some kind with aliens crafted out of what I trust were gourds on top. And of course, I missed it all. If the flyer was right the whole event was held in early October 2015, so it’s not like I could rush there and hope to find them cleaning-up and get a glimpse of a couple space gourds after all. And to think that I missed the 53rd Annual 2015 Ohio Gourd Show — all those years they were holding the Annual 2015 Ohio Gourd Show, like 1975 and 2002 and 1986 and for once it actually happened in 2015. And I missed it! The 54th Annual 2015 Ohio Gourd Show, due this year (2016), would be a poor compensation after this.

The thing is, as best I can make out my Ohio travels, I have to have picked up this flyer after the event was over anyway. And I’d forgotten the whole event and my disappointment at not spending a day in Delaware, Ohio, looking at painted gourds. But now it’s back, since I cleaned my car, and that is why cleaning the car is a mistake. There’s all sorts of stuff going on in Ohio we otherwise forgot.

Remember This! Also: How To


Whenever I get asked about what future trends I see I first suppress that sense of indignation whoever it was took so long to ask. I’ve had my answer ready for ages and was getting worried nobody was ever going to ask. I’m as good a trendspotter as any of the people getting on the trendspotting bandwagon. It’s a terrible burden having a clear picture of society’s future.

One trend I see going on is there’s going to be ever-more stuff to try to remember. Pop culture alone is expanding so fast we’re barely able to keep it updated on TV Tropes, and every thing in pop culture carries with it extra burdens of information-like constructs: not only the thing itself, but also stuff about how it was made, and what it’s referring to, and how it’s not as good as this other thing someone else made, and how it is too and if it isn’t how come you don’t make it yourself, and then how this sets off a highly entertaining flame war, and whose fault it is, and whose fault it isn’t, and who’s writing the fairest accounting of how the flame war happens, and how they do not, and why they couldn’t possibly even if they tried.

If it’s done properly just understanding a sketch of an apple someone left on the coffee table can require collating more information than writing a book about the Thirty Years War would. And even if you can keep all that new stuff straight, you’re stuck remembering the old stuff too. If pressed and facing a busy day way too early in the morning could you remember the full name of Snoop Doggy Dogg? Undoubtedly, but then how would you be on remembering what humorist I grabbed that joke from? See? I wouldn’t blame him if he didn’t recognize it either.

The second trend is that we’re always going to impress people by doing stuff without the tools that make it easy and painless. Nobody cares about a person who can cut a board in half by using a sharp, well-maintained saw blade, but show around someone who can cut a board in half without even having a board and you can get a paying crowd. So if you can remember stuff without the Internet gadgets that do the remembering for you then you’re going to win acclaim for your impressive abilities in the trivia-stuffed world of tomorrow after about 6:45 pm.

So the problem is how to do this, given that there’s too much stuff to remember and there’s really no learning it, because we don’t have the attention spans long enough anymore to even get a decent earworm stuck in our heads. And this is where mnemonic devices come in handy. The best of them combine two points into one so after learning one you feel like you know at least twice as many things as you actually do. For example, George Washington was born in 1732, and he weighed 173.2 pounds. Just from reading that I know it’s going to pop into your head at some perfectly inappropriate time in the trivia-stuffed world of tomorrow, like maybe at about 5:25 pm. The links don’t even have to make any kind of thematic sense: once you’ve heard that there are both 82 constellations in the sky and 82 counties in Ohio you will never be able to fully forget either point, even though you have no responsibility for the constellations in the sky and even though you’ll never need to know how many counties there are in Ohio unless you have a job setting out chairs for the Ohio County Commissioners Annual Lunch, and you could just count RSVPs for that.

The effectiveness of these mnemonic devices are all the more impressive when you consider George Washington was actually born in 1731, at least at the time. I don’t even know that he ever weighed 173.2, or maybe 173.1, pounds, although I guess it’s possible. I mean, he was a big guy, and had the money to eat well enough when he wasn’t bunking down for the winter with hundreds of starved Continental soldiers in upstate New Jersey, but I dunno what he weighed. I’m comfortable with something in the 173 range, but I wouldn’t rule out 178.9 or even 179.9. And as for the counties in the sky, oh, no, there’s nothing like 82 counties in Ohio. You could remember that easily by recalling that 86 is number slang for “something negative or otherwise disparaging or something or other”, and there aren’t 86 constellations in Ohio either. Memorable, isn’t it?

I had some idea about what to do with defective mnemonic devices but I forgot to write it down. Sorry. Maybe someone out there has an idea? Please write in before about 6:30.

Further From Ohio


I guess I’m wondering now, if I needed to fly from White Plains, New York, to Akron, Ohio, on some day other than January 6th, would United Airlines be enthusiastic about it? Maybe if I picked the correct day I’d see not just the online system giving me my ticket reservation, but the person who lurks behind the system — the one normally deciding when to just give you a page that’s got all the headers and footers and navigation menus and advertisements but a blank page where the search results come up — suddenly wakes up and e-mails me a note of deep gratitude that someone’s asking for the travel. Perhaps they’ve been sitting around United Airlines Secret Command, fretting that nobody’s going to take them up on the prospect of flying to Akron on, say, January 7th, and the first person who makes such a reservation will be greeted as royalty. “Here,” says the flight attendant as the flyer boards, “We brought out a warm bathrobe just for you, and you don’t even have to turn off your iPhone while we take off.” That’s how grateful they’d be on the 7th. But the 6th? Absolutely not. That’s a day where they bring out the whole flight crew to kick you in the shins. Seems only fair.

Flight To Ohio


While looking for schemes to fly around the holidays I discovered that United Airlines is willing to fly me, or possibly anyone, from White Plains, New York, to Akron, Ohio, on January 6th, leaving at 7:36 am and arriving at 3:24 pm, for only $883. Of course it’s not nonstop. For that kind of cash you’re lucky they’re landing at all instead of just circling around Akron, pointing it out to you, and laughing as they sail off to Louisville.

That’s intrigued me. United appears to believe that there are people who need to get from White Plains to Akron on the first Monday of the new year so desperately that they’ll pay nearly a thousand dollars for the privilege. Or else United really, really hates the idea of getting up in the morning, for which I can’t blame them, although they’re the ones who don’t think they could just get started two hours later and let people get into Akron in time for dinner. Maybe United is trying to insult one of the towns, but in that case, is it White Plains or Akron they’re being snarky about? I’m guessing it’s not White Plains, given how that municipality has such convenient access to Rye Playland, but beating up on Akron seems just mean-spirited. Maybe it’s January 6th that they’re trying to insult, supposing that the day has too much going for it and needs to be taken down a peg?

I wonder how many people are taking them up on the offer. Will the people who do gather in the lounge at White Plains Something Or Other Airport and swap stories about what’s in Akron that’s worth nearly a thousand dollars, eight hours of travel time, and a stop in O’Hare for. “I dunno,” I imagine their saying, “Just wasn’t hep enough for the flight from Binghamton to Moline, Illinois, I suppose.”

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