Statistics Saturday: Some Cities Which Have Not Hosted The Winter Olympics


  • London [except for figure staking at the 1908 Games]
  • Stockholm
  • Kuala Lumpur
  • Miami
  • Christiania, Norway
  • Toontown
  • Singapore
  • Onion Valley, California
  • Gotham City probably but who can really keep track
  • Glarus, Switzerland

Source: Big Cotton: How a Humble Fiber Created Fortunes, Wrecked Civilizations, and Put America on the Map, Stephen Yafa.

The Toontown one is a particular shame since their application was so strong. It’s just that when the International Olympic Committee members turned the last page of the last binder of Toontown’s proposal these giant creme pies on springs popped out and smacked them in the face. And the Salt Lake City proposal’s binders did the same thing, but their pies were filled with cash money and Mitt Romney reminded the IOC that they could get all kinds of pies with that much money, and then he bought them even more pies, and so Salt Lake got the 2002 games.

Statistics Saturday: Some Uncertified Winter Olympics Sports


  • Basketball
  • Luge high jumps
  • Riding cafeteria trays down the Approach hill without skidding into 8th street and getting run over by traffic
  • The 5280 x 2m ski relay
  • Underwater figure skating
  • Snowman dressing
  • Icicle knitting
  • Cross-country finding the skiier who went out in all white before the polar bear blinking catches them
  • Flagpole-licking
  • Equestrian anything
  • Making Up Mean Things About Denver, Colorado
  • Car-hood-cleaning

Source: Voyager: Seeking Newer Worlds in the Third Great Age of Discovery, Stephen J Pyne.

From the August 2016 Scraps File And Yard Sale Bureau


I have my usual bunch of text I couldn’t use for something or other in August. Mostly writing. But it isn’t going to be free to a good home this time. We’re holding a yard sale this Saturday, for the usual reasons: there’s no space for it in our garage. The mice are holding their Squeak Olympics in it this weekend, at least until the International Olympics Committee hears about it. But the floor space is full of purpose-built stadiums and tracks and a mousethropology exhibit space and all. There’s no sense our interrupting that for our meager needs. Plus it’s so hard winning a bid for the Squeak Olympics.

But there’s other good reasons to hold a yard sale this weekend. For instance, my love and I both hate going through our belongings figuring out what we want to sell. And we hate trying to figure out prices to put on them. And we hate getting up at awful hours on a Saturday to haul stuff out onto a dew-lined lawn. And we hate hour after hour of free-form interactions with strangers. And we hate strangers who’re yard sale divas come over to lie to us about the making of a water pitcher we marked for $2.50 because they want to get it for 25 cents less for crying out loud. Looking it over, maybe we’re just misdirecting our anger. I guess it’s better we do yard sales rather than, like, drive or vote angry. We’re getting less fond of our lawn too. Anyway, here goes.

If you missed last week’s, then let me summarize. You should wash your hands when: (a) You have to. (b) Your towels are too dry. (c) You want to. (d) You need to. (e) Some other reason. (f) No, you really, really need to. It’s okay. We’re not judging here. — cut from the second piece I somehow spun out of hand-washing because I used this same joke in a piece I wrote for my undergrad newspaper in Like 1990 and there’s easily one person out there who might, conceivably, remember it. And sure, I expanded on the joke, but did I make it new enough? No. You can try it on an unsuspecting audience for just $1.75.

you have to check your door at the door. it’s part of our open-door policy. if you can bring your door down here then it’s pretty sure to have got opened. of course there was that time last year when rick brought the whole thing door frame and all, unopened. that’s why we don’t talk about or to him anymore. — cut from my major expose on doors that I’ve figured would be good now that I found something I wrote around the same theme like twelve years ago. $3.50 obo.

lumber yard // 84 lumber //lumber miller // architectural salvage — cut from either notes I made while talking to my father about how to get a new screen window for the living room or from my failed attempt at Beat Poetry Night down at the hipster bar. It was actually karaoke night. $1.50 or your Zippy the Pinhead fanfic.

bake or boil or simmer or broil or maybe just let it sit and think about what it’s done until it’s ready to make amends — cut from a hilarious expose of recipes that I had to drop because I don’t really care about recipes or much about how to make food. Don’t mind me. I’m recovering from the discovery I’ve been making at least some kinds of Noodle-Roni all wrong for years and never suspected. $1.25 or $1.50 if it’s still on sale by suppertime.

statistics saturday: ten moments from the yard sale that didn’t make me want to curl up inside our pet rabbit’s hutch and die — cut because how can I write this when we haven’t even had the sale yet and my memories of last time are faint enough we’re going through it all over again? $0.75 no haggling.

the jute mill is exploded! — cut from Walt Kelly’s Pogo comic, the 20th of October, 1954, because it was just a dream Churchy La Femme was having. $4.00 because it’s in a hardcover book (the most recent attempt at Complete Pogo reprints) but you’ll have to hack my limbs off to get it away from me. “Jute” is too a thing.

We’ll be set up on the lawn from 9 am to 3 pm or whenever we’re sick with how much rain we’re getting on our heads. Tickets for the Squeak Olympics are going fast, because the mice are still shy.

Do We Need To Get Out And Give Twitter A Push?


Among the trends: SummerSlam, OpeningCeremony, ClosingCeremony, TheNightOf (?), and LastWeekTonight.
From what was Trending on Twitter late Sunday night. I don’t even mean during the actual closing ceremonies but after that was done even in the Pacific time zone. Also I don’t need to 90s-song-my-life, because I was a nerd in college and grad school in the 90s so I’m just surrounded by this vague wash of They Might Be Giants tunes whether I want them or not. Look, “Birdhouse In Your Soul” is a fine song but it’s all right if I go the occasional day without hearing it and I’m pretty sure the Two People Named John Both Of Potentially Noteworthy Size agree with me.

Honestly, Twitter. At this point even the people who were in the Olympics Opening Ceremony aren’t talking about it. Why are you telling me it’s trending? We’ve moved on, all of us, to discussing how much all the jillions of stories of how unprepared Rio was and how big a fiasco it would be reflected the normal Unprepared Fiasco Warnings that every Olympics gets in the last few weeks, and how much they reflect a racist bias against supposing these non-English-speaking nations might be able to get a big complicated project done. That’s a discussion going almost eight percent better and nearly six percent more productively than you imagine, and we’re not even through with the people giving us statistics about concrete pouring for the Athens and Beijing games compared to the similar times before the London, Atlanta, and Sydney games. OK, we’re through with them, but they’re still droning on, and haven’t noticed.

Really Acting Like A Real Grownup For Real


So we went to the movie theater for the Rifftrax show last night. We split a bag of popcorn and I took home a refill of soda because apparently free refills is a thing movie theaters do now just like it was normal. And it was pretty late, after normal dinner time, but I didn’t figure I was hungry. And then realized I was, so I made some sandwiches. And that’s why I had a midnight dinner of peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches with Diet Mountain Dew. Not because I’ve suddenly become twelve years old again. In point of fact I went, according to my records, from age 11 through 27 without having any variety of Mountain Dew.

Don’t mind me. I’m just recovering from how Comics Kingdom’s Thimble Theatre reruns seem to have dropped those awful Kabibble Kabaret footers. I’m suffering from irony withdrawal. It’s a terrible problem to have because anyone being sympathetic is doing so sarcastically.

To sum up: the Olympics are like two weeks old at this point. Why is Twitter telling me “OpeningCeremony” is still a trending thing? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? That’s probably enough asking.

Bunch of trending items on Twitter as of the 18th of August, two weeks after the Olympics Opening Ceremony: OpeningCeremony.
“OpeningCeremony” was just sitting there for like two weeks no matter what I did. Then I took the screen shot of this and it’s gone since then. I understand DuckDuckGo asking every single time that I open it if I want to make it my default search engine — it is — but this is getting creepy. Oh, wait, no, it’s back today. Never mind.

Me Week: What Philosophers Give Me


My love is a professional philosopher. This has encouraged me to pay more attention to philosophers. It’s a group of people I mostly know because a lot of philosophers were also mathematicians. For a long stretch there they were also lawyers and priests, but that’s just what you did if it was the middle ages and you didn’t want to be a serf, a boatman, or a miller.

Back in September 2013, we got to talking about Pythagoras, who’s renowned for being a cult leader that might have done something in mathematics or philosophy or both. It’s hard to say. But in Pythagoras and the Golden Middle-Ish I was enchanted by something I hadn’t heard about Pythagoras before. Yes, it’s got Olympics content, because of course, Pythagoras. You would.

If that hasn’t satisfied your interest in philosophers, here’s a little pop quiz you can take. No fair cheating!

Things I Don’t Understand About Another Ancient Greek


My dear love was looking up information about the ancient Greek wrestler Milo of Croton for good reasons that I’m sure existed. The interest in Milo was pretty casual up to the point of discovering that he was affiliated in some way with Pythagoras of Samos, the Pythagoras famous for siding with squares and making people laugh over his bean issues, assuming he and his followers had any particular bean issues and people didn’t just make that up so people would laugh about the Pythagoreans. You probably have problems like that too. Famous figures of Ancient Greece usually have hilarious stories attached to them, but when they intersect with Pythagoras — whom you’ll remember as a man who allegedly claimed to have a golden thigh and the ability to write on the Moon — the crazy-funny level just leaps up and usually off the charts and lands in a beanfield where it dies of embarrassment.

For example: it’s apparently argued whether Milo had anything to do with the famous Pythagoras of Samos, because he might have just been associated with another Pythagoras of Samos who happened to be an athletic trainer. See, Milo was a seven-time Olympic athlete, so he’d have good reason to bother with athletic-type people. This is assuming that Pythagoras of Samos the Athletic Trainer wasn’t also Pythagoras of Samos the Loopy Philosopher/Mathematician/Cult Leader.

But as Olympic athletes go, Milo was apparently one of them, with a win in boys’ wrestling and then five men’s wrestling titles. Apparently he was beaten at his seventh Olympics by a young wrestler who’d developed a style of “arm’s length” wrestling. My love and I aren’t sure exactly what that style is. It makes it sound like he was beaten by slap-fighting. I’m not surprised he didn’t return to the games after being beaten by that; I wouldn’t blame him if he died of embarrassment. But maybe I’m reading it wrong. Maybe he was bested by an opponent who stood at arm’s length and held out his arms and kept pointing out “I’m not touching you” until Milo stormed off in disgust. Again, I wouldn’t fault him for not returning with something to foil this tactic, like, telling his opponent’s moms on them.

But being unable to believe the slapping and not-touching in the Olympics was the least of his accomplishments. Apparently he was a military leader who convinced the Crotoniates to lead an army to defend the Sybarites against Telys, tyrant of Sybaris. Now to be fair, by which I mean dismissive, that’s just the sort of thing you did in those days. You just weren’t part of Ancient Greek society unless you were setting up a tyrant or overthrowing a tyrant. And it was important to cities, too. Not getting the occasional tyrant to be overthrown marked a city as the seriously hick part of the Peloponnese, the way you today might look askance at a metro region that can’t even get an Arena Football team. Some up-and-coming cities would rent out a battlefield and set up themselves while overthrowing them and put themselves on the map that way.

But not everyone did this work in style; according to Didorus, and if you can’t trust him who can you trust, said he lead the Crotonites into battle while draped in a lion’s skin, wielding a club in a Hercules-like manner, and wearing his Olympic crowns. The lion skin I don’t wonder about, but: his crowns? All five of them? How? I know they weren’t, like, the crowns the Queen of Britain wears — remember, Pythagoras of Samos and the ancient Greeks lived literally more than three centuries before Queen Elizabeth II — and were more kind of wreaths of flowers of the kind you wear when you’re a charming bride. But that’s still, five. Put five crowns of anything on your head and you’re going to have them flying off all the time, unless you keep one hand clinging to your scalp so as to maintain some semblance of balance. It’s got to throw off his club-wielding. This is the price for not being able to pick just one crown.

Of course, who says he wore them all on his head? Maybe he put one on his head, and one on each arm, and one around each thigh? That would be quite practical as long as he didn’t have to share a tight seat, such as on a roller coaster, with someone. But why would he? Chairs wouldn’t be invented for dozens of years until after his death, the date of which is not actually known.

According to further legend, he died when he attempted to split a tree down the middle with his bare hands, which got stuck, which sounds like a worse way to die than just “of embarrassment following an Olympic slap-fighting loss”. But apparently while his hands were stuck he was set upon by wolves, who ate him, which raises a further question: what, he couldn’t tear some wolves limb-from-limb using just his feet? There is a painting by Joseph-Benoit Suvée (1743 – 1807) which purports to show Milo at his wolf-induced death, arguably fighting off the wolves with his feet, although it really looks to me more like he’s working on advanced belly rubs. I have to point out that there’s little evidence Suvée ever met Milo and none that he interviewed any of the wolves involved.

There’s much more to the legend of Milo of Croton, of course, and I may come back to it, but for now I think it fair to say: Ancient Greece. Like, what the heck, guys? You know?

The Seasoned Campaigner


The election’s tomorrow. Most folks in the United States are having an off-year election in which even the poll workers don’t remember what offices are being voted on or why they need to be there (it’s just nice to get together with other folks and share powdered doughnuts while squinting at people’s recorded signatures, is the best guess), but here in Lansing we’ve got a violently fought city council election going. The mayor’s office is pretty secure. Virg Bernero has a lead of like 140 points going into the final weekend, since he’s kept pretty much all his important campaign promises: he swore last time that the city would not fall prey to semi-feral gangs of genetically-engineered kangaroo super-soliders terrorizing the populace, and indeed, it hasn’t. Most of them are working as school crossing guards or as patient-advocates at the hospital. And there’s signs of good urban development too, such as the hipster part of town being able to support Portlandia-esque comically unsustainable “general goods” shops. Plus the band Walk The Moon played here last winter without seeming out of place.

So Bernero’s turned to trying to beat the point spread and working on city council candidates, which involves sending us over eighteen flyers per day and relentlessly robo-calling to warn us against a guy named Jeffries. Jeffries actually quit the race back in August, citing a need to spend more time with his family and not get picked on till he cried, but Bernero’s supporters wrote him back in on the ballot so they could keep on campaigning against him. Bernero’s also calling in support of someone who won a silver medal in hurdling in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, and won a something in the Pan-American Games too. I can’t tell you much more about her, but I’m almost sure she was able to get tickets to the Goodwill Games.

It’s been getting pretty intense. Not only have they been having a robot call us as often as every five minutes but last weekend they sent a robot over to pick up the phone and answer. I hope they come take it after the voting is over; I don’t want to have to deal with this too.

Pythagoras and the Golden Middle-Ish


Say what you like about Pythagoras of Samos, and you mostly can because nearly all his leading followers have gone and died from embarrassment over being asked to explain what precisely the thing with the beans is about, but here’s a bit of legend that really caught me. It’s from Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, which I never heard of either: “Pythagoras is said to have had a golden thigh, which he showed to Abaris, the Hyperborean priest, and exhibited in the Olympic games.”

Think of the stories that sentence implies. The obvious question is, was it the left or the right thigh? And was it the whole thigh or just one side? I’d think you’d want the gold to be the outer thigh, so as to make it easier to show off, but maybe Pythagoras didn’t get to pick. For that matter, why a golden thigh?

Continue reading “Pythagoras and the Golden Middle-Ish”