What’s Got Me Late Today, Network Stars Edition


I’m sorry, but I was busy thinking how I might explain to my niblings why we as kids watched the Circus of the Stars. “What better chance,” the best I can think of goes, “will we have to see Heather McNair step out of her role as Roxanne Caldwell on the greatest TV show of all time ever, Automan, before it ends what will surely be a twelve-year network run followed by a series of smash movies?” They have never asked about Circus of the Network Stars and I have no reason to think they will. I expect if they have questions, then their relevant parents can handle the matter. But so much has caught me unprepared this year. I don’t want one more thing to.


So far as Wikipedia is aware Heather McNair never appeared on Circus of the Stars. Automan did not run for twelve years and inspired no movies, although I’m going ahead and guessing there’s a reboot of it that’s already in its third of eight-episode seasons on … uh … let’s say HBO BlortStar+, that sounds like a streaming service name.

Getting Into My Hair


So you can tell where I am in this cold: I am busy glaring very hard, every time I visit the bathroom, at our bottles of shampoo and conditioner. The natural order of things, where we use more shampoo than conditioner, has been out of line for a couple months now. The conditioner level’s been below the shampoo level for just ages. Like, we’re … all right, maybe only one-sixth through the current bottle of conditioner, but we only just opened the new bottle of shampoo, and I can’t figure what’s going on that we’re conditioning so much more suddenly. Or is it possible we’ve gotten so ahead on shampoo use that we’ve almost lapped the conditioner? Anyway, this is suddenly very important for me to go disapprove of every time I visit the bathroom. And also to explain to my boss why I haven’t got anything done this week.

Who I Think I’m Kidding


I will never realize that “very clever” is not the same thing as “funny”. Too much of my life is based on the assumption that it is.


Also, folks who are still thinking of the glory days of Apartment 3-G: The Daily Cartoonist recently ran a First-and-Last essay about the strip. This reprints the first and the final week of the comic strip. It also includes strips from each of the different artists credited on the comic, and tries to work out just who did uncredited work. It also includes pictures from the time in the 70s when the comic was renamed The Girls In Apartment 3-G. That name change reflected the brief era when the comic focused on the lives and adventures of the people inhabiting the apartment, rather than being all about what it is to live as a portion of Manhattan real estate. The change was short-lived.

Lampy, we remember you.

But What Does Make Sense For Major Charles Winchester


Since my brain is unwilling to let this go: if he had his family back home send crates of Charles Chips. I am making this joke because I feel like being a seven-year-old who has noticed a word appearing in more than one place and I am going to stand a little too close to you and smile, showing slightly too many teeth, until you agree this is very clever, which I will realize much later is not the same thing as ‘funny’. Yeah, delivery potato chips would be pretty well smashed up by the time they got to Korea but hey, some people like that. You can spackle them together with dip and make a barely edible wad of material that’s sweet, salty, and has lots of sharp edges. That’s definitely in character for Major Winchester.

My Brain Continues to Work Really Well on the Important Things


I mean, I guess it’s reasonable Major Winchester would have some sparkling water ahead of urgent need. We never saw it, but that doesn’t mean anything, especially for sitcoms in the 70s. Fine. But then how much is his family supposed to have shipped out? And just how freaking good is this sparkling water that it’s worth shipping to Korea, compared to the club soda they have in the officer’s club that he’s drinking all the time anyway? If he had a stockpile big enough to take multiple showers with, where was it? Under his bunk? How long did he spend opening and pouring bottles into the shower tank so he could have his? This is the high priority stuff.

Clearly My Brain Has Its Priorities Straight


What I need to do: work, for work; cleaning out the mess in the guest room; think of any concept that I could write into 700 words for tomorrow’s long-form essay; re-read three month’s worth of The Phantom for Sunday’s essay.

What I am doing: so there was this one episode of M*A*S*H where the supply trucks are cut off and the camp can’t get any water, particularly. So everybody gets a lot dirtier and smellier and crankier about it. Except Major Winchester, who stays sparkling clean. It turns out not that he’s using the strictly-patients-only water. He’s using his own stock of club soda. Well, sparkling mineral water. Anyway, yeah, first, would that even work. But anyway I’m busy thinking about what a fool I was to just sit and accept this premise for decades without asking how it is Major Winchester can get his family to mail enough sparkling water to shower in, regularly, in circumstances where nobody can get regular water delivered.

What’s got me late and vaguely offended today


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

I’m late because there was a John Candy comic book, that’s why


Yeah, I’d like to get a thing done today but a friend made me aware there was a comic book based on John Candy’s remembered animated series Camp Candy in the late 80s. And … just … like, I know they used to make comic books for just everybody, like Bob Hope or Jerry Lewis or … I’m going to guess Gene Autrey. But this? I had no idea and so that’s why I spent the whole day lying down and trying to figure this all out.

Camp Candy comic book, showing a frightened Counsellor Candy looking over a no less alarmed skunk. Candy says to the campers, 'Freeze, gang! As long as we don't ANTAGONIZE it ... '
Comic Vine’s Wiki has the covers to all the issues. It has summaries of the stories for half the books, too, for example the one where “a lovestruck moose invades the camp and causes problems for everyone”.

I’m Sorry But This Toilet Paper Roll Is Distracting Me


Yeah, I apologize for not getting things done on time today but I want to know the story of this lone non-conformist toilet paper roll and I think you do too. It’ll be a heartwarming children’s book about being true to yourself that will escape being turned into a CGI-animated movie on the grounds that nobody can work out how to make toys of the characters that won’t end in sad conversations.

Sealed twelve-pack roll of toilet paper, with one roll, top center, perpendicular to all the rest.
Yes, this is 12 Mega Rolls, which if I understand toilet paper mathematics correctly is the equivalent of 47 Ultra Rolls, which is the same as 92 Hyper Rolls, three guineas, two shillings and sixpence, which is the equivalent of when the bathroom’s steamed up from the shower walking into a ten-foot cube of paper foam.

The trivial reason I’m running late today


I got to reading some trivia about Incredibles 2 and came to this remarkable revelation:

This movie and The Incredibles (2004) were released in the same year of the death of a voice actor of one of the iconic characters in Beauty and the Beast (1991). The Incredibles (2004) was released in the same year of the death of Jerry Orbach, and this movie was released in the same year of the death of David Ogden Stiers. Both Incredibles films were also released the same year of the death of a member of the heavy metal band Pantera. Incredibles was released the same year Pantera guitarist Dimebag Darrell was murdered and Incredibles 2 was released the same year Pantera drummer Vinnie Paul died of a heart attack

So who doesn’t need to lie down and rest a while after having trivia like that sitting on their head?

Everything There Is To Say About Procrastination


Procrastination is a way to turn things we need to do into things we feel lousy about not doing. Procrastination surrounds us and envelops us. Logic tells us there has to have been a time people just knew their cars had back seats, for example. They wouldn’t have felt like they should Do Something about them.

Everyone procrastinates, to some degree. Oh, you encounter people who insist they never do. They’ll give you advice on how to not procrastinate, too. “If you know something will take less than two minutes to do, just stop and do it right then,” they’ll say. These are miserable people. They’re trapped behind their reputation for efficiency and accomplishment. They’re hoping for release. By release they mean “get stuffed into a plastic bin in a storage locker someone means to organize someday”. Nobody will ever get around to doing them this mercy. You know if you die at e-mail inbox zero you don’t get to hang around as a ghost. You’re just gone.

It would be interesting to know why we procrastinate. It seems counterproductive. Without procrastination, we’d just have, say, coffee tables. With it, we turn those coffee tables into balls of explosive guilt. “I have to get some sleep before that big presentation at work location tomorrow! I only have four hours! Why am I thinking about how the coffee table still has the wristbands from the county fair and that three-month-old free weekly newspaper on it in untidy piles?” This is all right. You haven’t started writing that presentation anyway. It’ll definitely help if you lie awake two and a half more hours cursing yourself for not Doing Something about the coffee table. In this way we have a cluttered table, a lousy night’s sleep, and a work presentation so bad they tell you that you never have to present anything again, ever. So it’s not all bad. You at least become legend. They talk for years about how the quarterly presentation slide went. But we can’t expect such good results every time.

I guess the trouble is that to get something done, we have to do it. And that would be great. There’s few things in the world that feel better than having a thing done. Having a barber shave the back of your neck with a straight razor, that’s about the only better thing. But getting a thing done just means that you get something else to do. Nobody knows where these things come from. The universe just slots some new task right in front of you, just as you’re enjoying being done and how that hot shaving lotion feels. So what if you never do that thing? Then you have the same outcome: you’ve still got a thing to do in front of you. And you’ve saved the effort of having to do it. And all you lose is the feeling of joy that you’ve accomplished a thing. It just costs you turning everything in your life into something that makes you feel bad. I should probably make a better guess. This won’t work.

To procrastinate is easy and you can do it most anytime. You will need:

1. A thing to do.
2. Absolutely anything else in the universe to exist.

To procrastinate, remind yourself that there is this thing to do. Then let anything else exist, right in front of you. Then just do what comes naturally. This will be any other thing. Some readers may think this sounds a lot like Robert Benchley’s Principle, “anyone can do any amount of work, provided it isn’t the work he is supposed to be doing at that moment”. This was explained in his classic essay “How To Get Things Done”. You should definitely read it, by which I mean, you should mean to get around to reading it. You can find it on the Internet.

The Internet is a great way to remind you that things exist. Also that most of them are terrible. This gets you a head start on feeling guilty about this all. You shouldn’t go out looking for things to feel terrible about, because that could crash the whole scheme of procrastination. We’d have to replace this weirdly miserable, faintly self-destructive habit with something else. And whatever we come up with would be worse. You’ve met people. You know that’s true.

If you do need to get something done, without losing the guilt and shame attached to procrastinating, there are compromises. You could, for example, get something mostly done, but quit doing it while there’s some small but noticeable piece undone. This way you never have to

Today’s Excuse For Why I’m Running Late On Everything


I’m very sorry but I have been caught up with the momentousness of ordinary days. Like, particularly: there was one day that one person chose to promote the idea that the decaffeinated coffee should be in the pot with the orange handle. And that every place, ever, that has followed that convention is ultimately following that person’s lead. Think, then, of the day that person picked orange handles. Did they have any idea that this was the day they were going to crush the idea of a green handle, or a handle with one red stripe instead, or any of the other many ways that the information could be conveyed? Did they have rivals whose hopes for alternate conventions were crushed? Did their rivals know right away that their ideas were doomed? Was the orange-handle idea promulgated at a morning or an afternoon meeting? With whom? What did that person have for breakfast?

My guess is tea.

What’s Got Me Hopelessly Distracted Today


I’m sorry to get nothing done. But I’ve just learned of the Tonawanda Kardex Lumbermen, a team which played one game as a member of the National Football League. This was the 6th of November, 1921, when they lost to the Rochester Jeffersons by a score of 45-0. They didn’t re-join the league in 1922, possibly because the league fee went up from $20 to $1000.

Wikipedia lists the team as, in 1921, having played two other games that season. One was the 9th of October against the Syracuse team, which had no known name, and which people used to think was a member of the National Football League because the Syracuse team claimed they were. The National Football League doesn’t think they were, but maybe all the paperwork saying they joined or were in the league or left got lost? It was a scoreless tie when, seventeen minutes in, the rain was too bad to continue. Their other game was scheduled for the 30th of October, against the Rochester Scalpers, but got cancelled.

Also the article says that professional football was played in Tonawanda by no later than 1913, saying, “this terminus ad quem comes from records that show the team lost to the Lancaster Malleables”. And I am lost in admiration of whatever Wikipedia editor jammed the term “terminus ad quem” in to a paragraph about when we know professional football was played in Tonawanda, New York. So, anyway, you can see why there’s no hope of my doing anything when I have information like this on my plate.

Can’t lie, I kind of miss this era of professional sports.

In Which I Explain Why I Have Embraced Night Mode On My Laptop


I’ve discovered it’s really nice to have the subtle change in lighting serve as a visual cue for when I can switch from saying “I don’t have to do these four simple little tasks that have been on my list for months now because there’s plenty of time left in the day to start them” to saying “It’s too late in the day for me to start any of these four simple little tasks that have been on my list for months now”. I would do this anyway, yes. But I like having the little difference in how white looks to make my excuse seem all the more technological and therefore correct.

My Non-Cold Related Excuse For The Day


I’m sorry, I’d really like to get something done, but I’ve been reading Fred M Grandinetti’s Popeye: An Illustrated Cultural History and trying to figure out just how many times in the 1960s cartoons they did “Brutus or the Sea Hag builds a Robot Popeye”. It’s somehow even more if you include “Brutus or the Sea Hag builds a Robot Olive Oyl”. And none of that considers the time the Whiffle Hen turned Wimpy into a werewolf.

Also the book doesn’t have a word to say about the pinball game, somehow.

Where I Should Be And Where I Am


So what I should be doing is working out some messes with web site APIs. An API is a thing which is supposed to let your web site do a thing, but that doesn’t work. Then you search for explanations of why it doesn’t work, and you find people who’ve had a problem that seems like it might be the same one you have. It has some answer that the original poster says worked, but when you read it, there’s somehow just enough words missing that you can’t be sure quite what you were supposed to have set up already and what was supposed to change and what’s a completely different conceptual framework from your traditional ideas of “working” and “not working”. It’s all good fun.

What I am doing is watching a bunch of low-effort gangster movies from the 1930s with ever-growing fascination at the intense nasal twang with which actors of this era would say, “HEL-lo, in-SPECT-or”.

I believe history will vindicate my choice.

Where I’m At Today


Me, thinking: Ooh! I have a couple of minutes free! I can take care of this little nagging problem that I’ve let sit way too long, and finally be free of worrying about it!

[I check. It turns out I already fixed it long ago and forgot. ]

Me: [ Sits there feeling sad and purposeless. ]

Everything There Is To Say About Decorating For Christmas


I’m flattered you come to me for advice about Christmas decorations. Don’t go thinking I’m happy about it. If you take my advice it won’t turn out well. The best we can expect is groups of people huddled together, in the snow, too tired from yelling at each other to resume yelling at each other on a nice day like this. That day is probably Groundhog Day or something like that.

See, the first reason I shouldn’t really be trusted on Christmas decorating advice is that I procrastinate. It’s not that I don’t ever want to get around to doing things. I feel this complete lack of urgency about getting stuff done. This is great for stuff that doesn’t really need to be done, like preventative maintenance. It’s not so good for stuff with inherent deadlines, like making dinner or Christmas. But deadlines are flexible things. What does it matter if we have dinner now or fifteen minutes later? Or a half-hour later? Or early next morning? Similarly, when we think carefully about the problem, do we actually know when Christmas will be? December seems likely enough. But we do hear talk about Christmas in July, which suggests we were trying to get things six months wrong and were still late. You can’t convince me that there isn’t plenty of time to start decorating, even if it’s already well past 4 pm on Christmas Day, whenever that may be.

But if you’re still looking for advice from me? … Really? All right. I should warn you that I’ve decorated things in my life and you probably don’t want to take up my example. I used to be a teenaged boy, you see, and I’ve been struggling my whole life to overcome that background. I fully accept responsibility for the dumb things I’ve done, and I think I know better now. But consider that I used to think it was acceptable to line the walls of my bedroom with Star Trek comic books in plastic bags. Yes, they had cardboard backings. I wasn’t a savage. And it did express an element of actual good decorating. Good decorating should say something. And a wall of bagged Star Trek comic books says: “This is easier than ever knowing a person who would want to visit me”.

Still even as a teenager I knew Christmas would come, sooner or later. One year I got possession of the family’s old artificial tree. By fair means, I should add. Our parents got a new artificial tree and as the largest brother I was able to punch my other brothers more. But now I could set up in the corner of my room an artificial Christmas tree. It was at most ten years old and there were many branches that weren’t yet crumpled up by having been put away for ten years by pre-teen boys in-between their punching sessions. Add to it a couple strands of older lights, no longer needed for front-line service, that were enough for at least the third of the tree not facing the wall. And you had this awesome sight: an ancient artificial Christmas tree, strung with a couple lights trying their best in the circumstances, sitting in the corner, backing a wall of the existing Star Trek comics of the 1980s. It was the hot new look for the summer, based on what the guinea pigs I kept in my room said about it. They said, “Wheep”.

At one point it struck my teenage-boy mind that it would be a good idea to take down the bows, but leave the two-foot-tall conical top of the tree up. This solved the problems of not really having enough lights and of blocking access to the Star Trek comics behind the tree. It just meant I had a bare, five-foot-tall metal pole sitting in the corner of my room. My recollection is that at one point I also managed to lose the pitiful remnants of this tree, and was startled to rediscover it. I have no idea what it could possibly have hidden behind. It’s not like I had tall stuff in my room other than me. I mean, this was when I was going through the mattress-on-the-floor phase of my life.

I hope that this has answered every possible question. If it has not, allow me to offer “North Dakota in the year 1822”. I don’t know what question that answers, but it must be something.

Today’s Reason For Not Doing Anything Useful


I’m sorry, Uncle Albert, but I’ve been stuck thinking about something I witnessed when I was getting my car registration renewal and license plate tags at the Secretary of State office nearby. I avoided any embarrassing presumptions about what one might or might not do at a Secretary of State office. What’s interesting is as I was leaving, a woman came storming out, telling her companion, “My license is suspended — indefinitely!” And he then made this into my favorite genre of accidentally overheard conversation, People Telling Other People They Totally Have To Get A Lawyer. “They can’t do that to you. You should get a lawyer.”

“I haven’t even been in trouble,” she went on to explain, “not since I got those three tickets in one day.” And he agreed that this was outrageous and he bet any lawyer would love to take the case, since this could get a million-dollar settlement. “I’m not even dealing anymore!” And that’s when I realized that I was one of the background characters in the establishing scene of a comedy about a couple people who are about 75 percent capable of handling the caper they’re about to undertake.

So I want to know what the plot is, and whether the movie turns out to be any good. I think I’d make a great background character in this sort of story, what with how I have nice expressive eyebrows and always look like I don’t know why I was brought in to this meeting.

Today’s Reason For Not Doing Anything Useful


I’m sorry, Uncle Albert, but I’ve been caught up all day in rage. See, back in the 90s there was this New WKRP In Cincinnati. I understand why they’d make such a thing. It was just the thing to do back then, with stuff like Star Trek: The Next Generation and The New Monkees and another Johnny Quest and stuff like that. I’d have been glad to let that pass. But somehow I watched at least one episode. I know this because it was all about the controversy about whether WKRP would run this syndicated show by Rush Limbaugh expy “Lash Rambo”. After much shuffling back and forth including an appearance by “Lash Rambo”, Mister Carlson decides finally that it’s okay to have a racist hatemonger like that on the air since, hey, those rappers, they say mean stuff about cops who gun down black people.

And I am enraged that my brain has decided to latch onto this, of all the stupid things it possibly could have. Not just this stupid show. Not just this stupid episode. Not just stupid scenes with this stupid character but also the stupid name of this stupid character in this stupid scene of this stupid episode of this stupid show. And I know that it’s not even to any good point. I can’t even say that I was doing something valuable in carrying this little payload of unnecessary pop culture out to drop on you all here to get some comic value out of all that mental load, because it’s not like my brain is going to let this piece of stupidity go now. I’m stuck with this stupid thing for the rest of my life even as I can’t remember how many of my father’s uncles were named “Al” or “Vince”. (All of them were.) And they at least feature in cherished family stories about dubious choices and maybe the bookie at the town’s lead factory.

So anyway, I’m busy hating my brain for doing stuff like this to me and that’s why I couldn’t get anything done today.

Today’s Reason For Not Doing Anything Useful


I’m sorry, Uncle Albert, but I’ve been caught up all day in filling the water tanks we have in the basement. We keep the pond goldfish there all winter, and they seem happy enough. It’s great fun filling the tanks, since I get to do stuff like talk about doing a leak test by filling them partway and seeing if anything leaks, and that gives me all these nice NASA Engineer vibes. But I went and spoiled it by getting some five-way test strips that’ll let me know about the pH and the general hardness and the nitrate and the nitrite content of the water. We only ever measured ammonia before. So now I know all kinds of things.

Like, the pH is 7.0. I know that’s great. That’s almost as water-y as water can get. But, I understand that the General Hardness of our water is high. We live in a city with very hard water. Much of the year instead of a fine mist the shower sprays a refreshingly hot stream of grape-nuts. I like it, since that means I can shower and have breakfast at the same time, as long as I don’t mind Dr Bronners soap in my milk. But what does this mean for the fish? And does it mean anything considering we got water from the same tap and them from the same aquifer last year? Huh? I have a huge list of numbers and no context for them. Well, I have six numbers, and no context for four of them. One of the numbers is zero, which seems like it’s probably good, but the rest? So anyway, that’s why I couldn’t get anything done today.

Statistics Saturday: Why I’m Always Running Late. Plus: Apartment 3-G News?


Before the big funny picture of the day: it appears that Mark Trail cartoonist James Allen has confirmed that Apartment 3-G is cancelled. I can’t tell you exactly what he found, or how desperately final the cancellation is. Posts on his Facebook account require a Facebook account in turn to read, and I haven’t got one. But https://www.facebook.com/groups/228474710549025/permalink/990545454341943/ has the news, if I understand the commenting about this correctly. I am saddened, not merely because it’ll hurt my readership to have fewer people coming here trying to figure out what is going on in the strip.


Well. On to my report on measuring something or other for the week, then.

Why I’m Always Running Late, And Sad

The enormous block of time I figure it'll take. About 95 percent of it is time spent evading whatever it is I need to do. About two percent is the time it actually takes. The rest of the time is spent in shame and regret.
Not depicted: the time I spend thinking I could probably draw better-looking rectangles and shade them so they look a little more artistic if I really, really tried.