A Tip for Rabbit Health and Happiness in the Hot Weather

So suppose you’re going into your fourteenth continuous year of the temperature being consistently above 586 degrees. And your pet rabbits are showing signs of strain from the heat, such as extremely rapid nose-wiggling, shallow breathing, making picket signs that read “HEAT UNFAIR TO” and then the crayon melts, and even more disapproving glares at the window than usual. Well, just take an emptied bottle of soda or pop, as you prefer, fill it with water, and freeze it. Then set it in the rabbit’s enclosure and look! Within minutes you’ll have a rabbit nose-bump the thing until it rolls some, and then staring at you and asking what that was supposed to accomplish. And the answer is, nothing, really. It’s just important that you have a process.

Statistics Saturday: 22 Kinds Of Mongoose Or Rabbit Ordered By Center Of Mass

1. Arctic Hare
2. Common Mongoose
3. Volcano Rabbit
5. Invisibunny
6. Meerkat
7. Silver Marten Rabbit (which sounds like somebody being ironic or something)
8. False Dwarf Rabbit
9. Anglican Slender Mongoose (Reformed)
11. Mongoose Civique
12. Bluffing Giant Hare
13. Furtive Upper-Tailed Cape Gray Mongoose
14. Belgian Hare IPA
15. Mer-goose (properly, a fish which takes on the appearance of a mongoose in order to punch snakes)
16. Morekat
17. San Jose Brush Rabbit
20. Antelope Jackrabbit (which is not a jackalope we swear)
21. Thumper
22. Yellow Mongoose

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index rose twelve points as investors’ moods were buoyed by surveys asking what they would do if they had a robot donkey friend, with factions split between whether this would be a regular four-hoofed robot donkey or if it would be a humanoid robot donkey with two hooves but able to, like, shake hands and stuff like people swear they remember from that 80s cartoon about robot cowboys in Space Texas and that wasn’t just a crazy dream. Anyway, everybody’s enthusiastic after all this robot donkey friend talk.

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Why I Haven’t Been Writing As Carefully As I Ought To Lately

So for one thing I’ve come to realize I ought to spend some time petting our pet rabbit. The easy thing to do is brush his head and ears until he indicates he’s had enough by some standard expression of bunny joy, such as doing a little happy shake or biting me to get me out of the way. So I’ve been busy with that for the last 196 hours straight. Also after last weekend when it turned out I didn’t have a 1933 Jack Benny Program where he did a “real old-fashioned style minstrel show” on my old podcasts list, I ended up listening to some 1942 Jack Benny Program where he went ahead and did that anyway. I’m hoping to get back to some nice safe ones like where Jack Benny’s polar bear is eating boarders.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The Another Blog, Meanwhile index gained a point, which has got investors all excited about how there’s clearly a new trading floor somewhere around 140 and it’s just impossible we’ll ever see a bear market ever again. They’d probably have gained two points if it weren’t for that whole Jack Benny Program fiasco.

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It Was An Ordinary Visit To The Vet’s

… And then our pet rabbit suddenly joined a British New Wave band. I don’t know.

Been a bunch of mathematically-themed comics on my other blog, by the way. Saturday had a post, with cheerleading and geometry and all that. Sunday had another, complete with quote from the Magic Realism Bot. Please, enjoy, won’t you?

Why Grand Strategy Games Take Seven Freaking Years To Learn How To Play

From about the second tutorial screen to Europa Universalis: Rome, a grand strategy game variant I bought when it was on sale and only just got around to now that I got the mothership game done one time. And depending on how wide a screen you’re looking at this on it might be hard to see what I’m pointing to, so you might want to click on the image until it’s big enough you can read the text easily.

And I am just awestruck by the multiple levels of failure involved with this screen. I would like to know how they overlooked a few ways to make this even better, such as:

• Make the text dark grey on a slightly less dark grey background, possibly one with a lot of very dark grey cross-hatching.
• When you pause or unpause the game, have it shriek.
• Make the images less directly representative, like, instead of a pile of coins for the treasury and money use a pile of salt, represented by a bottle of soy sauce, which can be quite high in salt; or perhaps represent research with a plain footlong hot dog.
• Set the screen to occasionally strobe, and in the midst of the strobing effect, have the computer grab some manner of blunt instrument and poke you in the ribs with it, then punch you.

So in summary, I would like to note that when one of the trilithons making up Stonehenge fell in 1797, a report in the Kentish Gazette placed blame for the fall on the burrowing of rabbits undermining the wonder. (Pages 39-40). Thank you.

Meanwhile, Letting Our Pet Rabbit Outside Some More

Much of the backyard is given over to what we had been calling myrtle, but is actually periwinkle. Gardening and animal-care web sites are all but universal in declaring that it is a bitter-tasting plant. (Hi, Ben!) My love nibbled on a bit, as if it were a perfectly normal and ordinary thing for a person to eat plants from their own yard, and agreed with the bitter assessment. It is commonly listed as an inexpensive and natural way to keep one’s garden deer- and rabbit-proof, as the animals find the taste so repulsive they’ll leave it — and your garden surrounded by it — alone. Here, our pet rabbit shoves his head into a huge pile of the stuff and does. not. stop. eating.

Our Pet Rabbit Meets A Dog

I’ve been known to exaggerate some aspects of interaction with our pet rabbit so I want to be clear this isn’t one of those times. We had brought him in his little pet carrier to the veterinarian. He’ll put up with being in the pet carrier while he’s actually being carried. Set him on the floor with nothing going on and he’ll give you about two minutes before deciding he should be out. He starts punching the bars of the carrier to remind us that he’s inside the carrier and could be outside instead.

The trouble is the vet’s was crowded, and they weren’t quite ready for us, so we had to wait. He wasn’t into the waiting. I told him, “You don’t really want to go out now.” He wasn’t buying it. He punched again. I told him, “You won’t be happy with what you see out there.” He was unconvinced. I rotated the carrier so its door faced away from the wall.

Our pet rabbit has met dogs before, mostly those of my love’s parents. Those were very senior, very shy, amazingly timid dogs terrified by such things as our pet rabbit, or me, or the existence of sounds. He’s not bothered by them. What he hasn’t seen before is dogs that’re still very good about being dogs, such as a German Shepherd snuffling around and working out what might be interesting in the area.

He stopped punching. And while I turned the carrier back around so he didn’t have to acknowledge the existence of dogs any more, he also didn’t start punching again. Back home, he spent the whole day inside the innermost reaches of his hutch, sulking. He’s only come out to eat and glare at me since.

(The German Shepherd left moments later, but I didn’t turn the carrier back around. The only other dog in the area was some small dog, maybe a Pomeranian, I forget which and called it a ‘chinchilla’ when describing the situation to my father. But it was smaller than our pet rabbit and I didn’t figure anything good could come of introducing that to the situation.)

When Rabbits And Flappers Perform Dentistry

Remakes have always been with us. Famously, the only version of The Wizard of Oz anyone cares about is at least the fifth filmed version of L Frank Baum’s classic, and nowhere near the last. The only version of The Maltese Falcon anyone watches is the third made between 1929 and 1939. Partly that’s because a good idea is worth doing again, certainly at least until it’s done well. Partly that’s because movies are kind of disposable. Oh, a movie will last as long as the film, or the file, lasts, and you can experience it as long as it lasts. But as a commercial prospect, a movie comes into being, is watched a while, and then is forgotten. A remake gives it a new season in the popular culture. Cartoons get remade a lot, probably because the same reasons that make it sensible to remake a movie apply even more to cartoon shorts.

I wanted to write about the Betty Boop short Ha! Ha! Ha, released the 2nd of March, 1934, because it’s listed as the last theatrical appearance of Koko the Clown. Koko was, at least in a few shorts, Betty Boop’s second boyfriend, although he was more often just a friend of hers. And he was the star of the Fleischer’s cartoons from the 1920s, including many of their oddest features. He was also star of a 1960s string of Out Of The Inkwell cartoons.

Ha! Ha! Ha! gets described as a remake of the 1924 Koko the Clown short The Cure. I think that’s overstating things. There are some pieces the shorts have in common. The framing is that of the Out Of The Inkwell cartoons: producer Max Fleischer draws a character out of the inkwell, and the cartoon characters interact a bit with the real world. Then they try extracting a tooth and eventually cartoon laughing-gas escapes into the real world, to produce some amazing and disturbing real-world animation. But I don’t think that’s enough to call one a remake of the other.

The Betty Boop cartoon is the more professional of the two, I must admit. It’s better drawn and the story holds together better. The line of action from the cartoon paper, to the office, to the city makes more sense. And it’s remarkably funny considering the last quarter of the short is just one joke — something new encounters laughing gas, and starts laughing — repeated over and over.

But The Cure might be better. Some of this is that I’m charmed by how the short features a rabbit as Koko’s partner. But I also like the way the story doesn’t quite hang together. It’s got a more dreamlike, loopy quality, and more of an improvised feel. And while the Betty Boop version has some magnificent images as laughing gas escapes to the world — the gravestones, particularly, are the sort of image that will last in the mind — I think the earlier version has better jokes all around. And the interactions between the live action and the animated figures are more ambitious and thus more fun.

Statistics Saturday on an April Fool’s Day

And with that we have officially the start of a fresh month, and I like to take that as a chance to review a bunch of numbers, in this case, about what my blog is doing. Mostly that’s being read. In particular, according to WordPress’s statistics page, some the old page and some the new:

I had 1,053 page views here in March 2015. This is up from February, but only technically: there were 1,046 that month. Both are down an insignificant amount from January’s 1,071. The number of visitors has been drifting faintly downward too, to 483 in March, compared to 505 in February and 533 in January. I doubt any of this is a significant change — the views per visitor went from 2.01 in January to 2.07 in February to 2.18 in March. Possibly I’m not doing that terrifying self-promotion and marketing effectively enough, although I do feel better-engaged with my readers lately.

Readers maybe like me more too: I’m recorded with 443 likes in March, a high for me on record. This is up dramatically from February’s 345 and January’s 382. Comments are up, also, growing from January’s 93 and February’s 99 to a full 113. This is short of December 2014’s current-record 138, but not riotously short, I think.

The blog starts the month at 15,664 total views, with 551 WordPress followers and some number following me on Twitter.

The most popular articles the past month have been:

And finally, the most inexplicably popular part of these monthly reviews: lists of countries. The country sending me the most readers was the United States, as ever, with 868 of them. Canada sent 52, the United Kingdom 20, New Zealand 17, Spain 15, and Australia 14. Sending a single reader each were Austria, Belarus, Finland, Hong Kong, Iceland, Israel, Italy, Kyrgyzstan, Puerto Rico, Romania, Taiwan, Thailand, and Turkey. The repeats from last month are Finland, Romania, and Turkey; Turkey is on a three-month streak.

My shameless ploy to grab Indian readers seemed to work, as my notes yesterday said I had 17, although WordPress’s statistics page today only admits to 5. I don’t understand that. Also yesterday it claimed I had five readers from the “European Union”, but it doesn’t list that at all today. I have no explanation for this phenomenon.

The End Of The Tree

“It’s not fair,” our pet rabbit said, as he stood up on his hindpaws and rattled at the pen. To make clear how much fair it was not he grabbed the horizontal bar of the cage and shook it around, which made a little noise, but as far as showing inanimate objects who’s boss is nothing like when he shakes pieces of shredded newspaper around.

I kept taking ornaments off the Christmas tree. “Don’t worry. We’re just keeping you in reserve.”

He said, “I’m totally ready! I could finish that tree off in two minutes. Maybe eighteen, tops. Give me five minutes with it.”

Continue reading “The End Of The Tree”

Statistics Saturday: A List Of Some Things Which Look Considerably More Dignified If Depicted Wearing Glasses

1. Dogs
2. Statues
3. Rabbits
4. Eggs
5. Dragons
6. Instructors
7. Robots (the good kind)
8. Trees
9. Small rocks
10. Squirrels
11. Teeth
12. Robots (the morally ambiguous kind)
13. Ducks
14. Dodecahedrons

Note: I mean eyeglasses. Drinking glasses is a completely different thing.

Statistics Saturday: What Average People Think Are Rodents Versus What Biologists Think Are Rodents

Animals That Average People Think Are Rodents Animals That Biologists Think Are Rodents
Rats, mice Many things popularly called rats or mice
Squirrels Squirrels, chipmunks
Rabbits Guinea pigs, if you aren’t at least a little bit suspicious of their front paws having four toes while their back have only three. And how they give birth to cubs fully-furred, with open eyes that see perfectly well. Oh, and they get scurvy. If you don’t feel unease about calling something with that slate of anomalies a rodent, fine, guinea pigs are rodents.
Bats
Moles
Beavers
Jackalopes
Skunks, ferrets, otters Capybaras, if we absolutely have to name something else.
Baby raccoons OK, and we’ll give you beavers. Did we say squirrels already?

The Big Insecurity

“I can’t put food in your bowl if you don’t get out of the way,” I told our pet rabbit.

“This is more important,” he said back, and don’t think that was something I expected to hear him say. I’ve seen him judge getting food as more important than sleep, not going up the stairs, getting out of the pet carrier, and eating what he already has.

So I kneeled down to about his level and said, in my most sincere voice, “What’s wrong?”

He stood up on hindpaws and looked left and right, and in a soft voice said, “Am I big?”

I nodded. “You’re quite good at being big. You’re bigger than I was through fourth grade,” which is my normal hyperbolic answer, since he’s only actually bigger than I was through third grade, when I grew considerably thanks to discovering if I was quick about it I could have two bagels for breakfast, lunch, afterschool snack, and dessert.

“But that’s still big, right?”

“Oh, yes. Quite.” He’s a Flemish giant, a genre of rabbit that’s known to grow to as much as 26 feet long not counting ears and whiskers, although he is a smaller example of the breed.

He pushed his head into my hand. “And I’m not getting any smaller, right?”

For once I had a flash of this thing I think the humans call empathy and didn’t say he wasn’t going to start shrinking for another year or two. “Not a bit. You still are remarkably big.”

He dropped back down. “Then why didn’t he?”

“Why didn’t who what?”

“Why didn’t he remark?”

“Which he?”

“The one you had in to come make all that noise on the ceiling!” A couple months back we had some roofers come over. They replaced the nearly four square feet of perfectly good shingles we still had on the house, as well as a bunch of others that looked like someone had spilled a deck of cards into a nauseated food processor, and put on a bunch of new ones in a different color. From inside all you could really tell is there was a lot of noise from up top and then stuff being thrown into the driveways, which might have got us in trouble with the neighbors except they were going through a monthlong stretch of having just vanished. We still don’t know about that.

“The roofer? He only came in to talk about the work, give us an estimate. What did he do?”

“He didn’t remark! He didn’t say anything about how big I am!”

“Everybody who comes into the house mentions how big you are. I would’ve thought you’d be glad for a change in the conversation.”

“But he didn’t say anything! What if I’m not … big?”

I sat down so I could better pet his head, which he likes, and his back, which he supposes is better than nothing, most of the time. “But you are. You’re the biggest rabbit I’ve ever known personally. You’re big enough you could — ” and I thought better of mentioning how he could easily yoink the remote control off the coffee table if he really wanted, because I didn’t want to encourage that — “probably push me over if you tried. You’re so big we joke that the Sparks song `Big Boy’ is about you.” And that’s true, although the Sparks song is really more a chipper tune about the Biblical story of David and Goliath and I didn’t want to mention how Goliath probably didn’t care for how that story came out.

“But why didn’t he say anything?”

“Well, maybe he didn’t notice you. He was only in the living room a short — a little — a brief while, and he was thinking of shingles and maybe rain gutters at the time. That throws off your ability to notice rabbit bigness.”

“If he didn’t notice me how big can I be?”

“Aw, bigness isn’t any guarantee you’re going to be noticed. I’ve seen things many times your size that I never noticed,” and he looked at me the way he does when he suspects I’m imitating his chewing. “I mean until they were pointed out.”

“Would you tell me if I wasn’t big?”

I rubbed his ears. “I promise. Look, you wouldn’t be nearly so scary to squirrels if you weren’t big.”

He rubbed his chin on my knee and hopped off to nibble on some hay, apparently soothed. I left the room, crawling on my knees.

Some Comics, Plus A Confession

Over on my mathematics blog is a fresh round of comic strips which have mathematical themes, or that I can drag in to having mathematical themes. I hope you enjoy.

If you don’t, please enjoy this utterly true confession: I laughed at Ziggy today. And on reflection, I believe that laugh to be correct and appropriate and I stand by it.

Bunny Pirate Raccoons of the Delaware Bay

“Is it time yet?” our pet rabbit wanted to know. He was anxious, and I saw him getting ready to chew the wires of his pen to hurry me along.

“For … what?”

He grabbed his pen with his forepaws, which is fine, because that’s not so rattly. “To go outside! I’m all ready and set, let’s go!”

“You mean to play the raccoon?”

Here I have to explain. We put up a wildlife camera in the backyard, and it’s taken a month’s worth of photographs of us checking to see if the wildlife camera is taking photographs. We asked our rabbit if he’d go outside and hop around, so we could know whether the camera would photograph something like a raccoon.

He started to chew on the cage, “Yes! I’ve been doing a lot of research and I’m all set!”

“You really just have to exist. You’re already very good at that.”

He stood up on his hind feet and looked up and raised his left forepaw, and cried, “Arr!”

“It’s threatening rain. I thought we’d wait for … what?”

“Avast ye mateys! Ready with the jibs! We’re off to the Egg Harbor!”

“That’s a pirate.”

He nodded. “I’ve been doing a lot of research for this part!”

“We asked you to play a raccoon. That’s completely different from being a pirate.” He looked at me impatiently. “I’m sorry to be the one who tells you this.”

He rolled his head back and sighed. “I’m playing a raccoon who plays a pirate.”

I lapsed into a dignified silence because I was unprepared to answer something like that.

“My raccoon character is named Berkeley Nishimori, and he’s long been fascinated with the history of piracy on the Atlantic seaboard.”

“You don’t need to have a character, though. You just need a body, and you’ve got one.”

“If I don’t have a character this’ll be lifeless. It’s having someone who wants things that makes for compelling scenes!” I looked toward the back window. “Drama or comedy, put in an obsessed character and you’re in good shape! Mister Brock, we’re off for the Egg Harbor!”

“But all I want is you to be there.”

“Now, Berkeley has gotten particularly interested in the mid-Atlantic coast, and he’s set up his pirate character as operating from the South River, as the Dutch termed the Delaware River, but obviously operating as far afield as possible.”

“… Really doesn’t come into play for hopping around the pond.”

“He reasons that the Delaware Bay area is a good one for operations since even though it’s less active than Boston, the divided authorities between the main of Pennsylvania, the Lower Counties, Maryland, and the reunited New Jerseys will make hiding from official inquiries easier.”

“I figure if you just look at the camera, and then look away from the camera … ”

“Now, Berkeley sets Davis — ”

“His pirate?”

“Yes, Davis, and I admit Berkeley hasn’t established whether Davis is his first or last name, but it seems one historically plausible enough either way, and he’s leaning towards working `Trent’ in there for obvious reasons, is aware that at this time New-Jersey itself was administered by the Governor of New-York, so that helps the administrative confusion, obviously.” No, I did not doubt that he was using the hyphens for the colony names.

“Maybe stand on your hind feet. I imagine raccoons in the wild do that too.”

“Now, Berkeley has figured that Davis isn’t a pirate for reasons of petty greed, of course. He reasons that Davis was driven to it to support his family, disgraced after being named as accomplices to the theft of the colonial treasure chest from the western capital of Burlington in 1714.”

“So all I mean is, you don’t need to have a recursive mass of character.”

“Obviously, I’m drawing on the 1768 theft of East Jersey’s funds from treasurer Stephen Skinner’s house for this. But Berkeley figures that setting his pirate in that era necessarily involves him in pre-revolutionary politics that he doesn’t want to explore just now, and while it wouldn’t require relocating the action to the North River — ”

“The Hudson. I know.”

“Well, it would bias the setting anyway. I should say I don’t think I’ve completely ruled out the other interpretation of this relocating, besides just making up an incident.”

“I really think you’re over-working the part — ”

“And that is, maybe Berkeley is just sloppy about character development. He might have made it up without realizing there was a strikingly similar scandal a half-century later.”

“You really don’t need a character.”

He sneezed at me, so I knew I was in trouble. “You know you’re terrible at improv? You haven’t given me a single `Yes, and’ all this time.”

“Hold on. First, not all life is improv” — he sneezed again, that little buzzing noise — “and second, you haven’t actually responded to my perfectly reasonable skepticism about you over-planning a little hop in the backyard, so how good at this are you?”

He didn’t sneeze at that, but his ears did droop.

“I need to establish,” he finally concluded, “whether Berkeley is deliberately moving the Skinner treasury theft to Burlington circa 1712 or whether he’s making it up. We can wait.”

I agreed, but said, “You’re getting caught in a research spiral. Carry on like this and you’ll build everything about your character and never play him,” while it started to drizzle outside.

How Our Pet Rabbit Celebrated His Birthday

“Happy birthday,” I told him.

He was staring at some sheets of paper in his pen and just grunted a little. Or maybe he sneezed, because he sneezes a lot and it sounds like the buzzing of the restraint bars on an old-fashioned roller coaster.

“Um … and many more?”

He got up on all fours and hopped to the edge of the pen. Then he stood up on his hind legs, using the pen to brace his forelegs, looked at me, and rolled his head to the side while yawning, and sticking his tongue out. He left his tongue sticking out — the shape of rabbit mouths means this comes out from one side, and tilted — dropped back to the ground, ran back to his paper, and flopped over on his side, exposing his bright white belly in a flurry of adorability.

“What was that?” I had to know.

He pulled his tongue back in. “Homework.”

“You have homework?”

“Internet course in advanced cute.” I tried to peek at his paper, but it was printed out in rabbit, but I had some idea now why we keep running out of printer paper too soon.

“You’re taking cute classes?”

“I take my responsibilities around here seriously.” And he licked a paw, to groom the side of his head, while flopped out like that, and reaching for the end of his ears.

“Excellent work,” I admitted. “Good luck.”

He splayed his front paw’s fingers out and licked between them. “Thanks!”

Our Pet Rabbit Is Proud

“I have a stick.”

I nodded to our pet rabbit. “Stick-wise, that is indeed a thing you have.” The phrasing seemed to confuse him; he shook his front half out and set down the chew stick again.

“It’s my stick and I have it,” he said, “And I can do anything I want with it.”

“I know. For instance, you can chew it.” This stopped him in the middle of chewing on it, so, that’s how I knew this conversation was going to go. “Or not, if you don’t want to,” and that should have him completely flummoxed.

“You know why you don’t have a stick?” My thought was that I could in some sense be said to have every stick on the property, including as a subset the sticks that our rabbit has. But is that the same conceptual theory of having that he was working with at the moment, and if it’s not, is it compatible enough for us to have a meaningful conversation? This is the kind of thing that goes through my mind whenever, say, the waitress asks which kind of bread I’d like for my toast, which is why I’m always running about four minutes behind the conversation. Here, for example, our rabbit answered, “Because I have it!”

“I know you have the stick. I gave you the stick.”

“As well you might!”

“In fact, I gave you all those sticks,” pointing at a partially-tied-together bunch of chew sticks, most of which were scattered around his front paw, and a couple of which were rolling out of his pen, and one of which he was taking turns holding in his mouth and putting down to lecture me about.

He nodded and said, “I chewed the twine off them!”

“And we were glad to see you do that. It proved to us that you’re not a fascist.” And here I have to point out that while I exaggerate certain aspects of my conversations with our pet rabbit for dramatic effect, the “not a fascist” joke is one that my love and I actually did observe while watching him chew the bundle of sticks loose, which shows you what kinds of jokes we have flying around the house.

He scrunched forward, looking kind of like a sack full of rabbit flowing forward under the tides, pushing his front paws onto the sticks, which was adorable. It struck me he’s been doing a lot of adorable stuff lately, more so than usual.

“This is about the mouse, isn’t it?”

He jerked his head up and back. “You think?”

“Are you worried we kept that mouse in here?”

“Why were you keeping a mouse right on top of my cage?”

“He wouldn’t fit underneath you.” The mouse we had found wandering around the dining room, at the height of winter, and we caught him and put him in a cage because we weren’t so cold-hearted as to release him to the wild while it was still too cold for molecular motion out there.

“He smelled.”

“Male mice can’t help how they smell,” I said. “Biology dictates that they use an atrocious body wash so that female mice know they’re engaged in important male activities.”

He barked, somehow, which might just be his way of snorting. “He made that wheel squeak all the time.

“You can’t blame the mouse for following his biological imperatives of running on a wheel, smelling bad, and hoisting things.”

He flopped over on his side, which is again, adorable, and said, “Mice follow too many gender-normative stereotypes.” I allowed that. But I reminded him, we let the mouse go several weeks ago, and he hasn’t been back. “And I’m better than a mouse.”

I had a hunch. “Are you worried we were going to get a mouse to replace you?”

“No mouse could replace me! Not ten mice mousing together could replace me!”

“I’d guess not. We’d never think of replacing you.”

He rolled up onto all fours and cried, “Ah-ha!” So I gulped. “If you never thought of it then how come you just asked if I thought you were thinking of it?”

There might be no way out of this. “Well. We once got to talking about what would be the worst thing that could possibly happen” — he frowned a little less, which is how rabbits smile — “and we agreed the sudden and irrevocable failure of the electromagnetic force would be the worst. But having to replace you with anything would be one of the four or five worst things.” He actually came in third, but, I didn’t want to swell his head too much after comparing favorably to the complete dissolution of the laws of physics.

He looked satisfied, and announced, “I have a stick,” and picked his chew stick up again.

Some Numbers for May 2014 (“14” Excluded)

Since Saturday was a day for statistics of general use, let me make this Sunday one for talking about how the blog is doing, and let’s never mind that it’s actually Monday according to the WordPress Server Clock because that’s getting too confusing.

I had my most popular month of all time in May: 571 page views, up from 396 in April, and pretty convincingly more than the previous record (468, in March). The number of unique visitors is up, too, from 167 in April to 186 in May, although that’s the fourth-highest number of unique visitors on record. It is by far the highest views-per-visitor ratio, 3.07, that I’ve had; it’s up from 2.37 last month. I also had my 5,983rd page view, so I missed the big six thousand just barely, for May. Ah well. At least I got it somewhere around the first of June, which is pretty neatly organized.

The most popular articles the past month were:

1. Math Comics and Ziggy for some reason; it’s just pointing to mathematics comics and mentioning a Ziggy that mentioned Popeye.
2. After Our Pet Rabbit Had A Day Outdoors, the stirring true story of the aftermath of letting him in the yard a little.
3. Math Comics Without Equations, which is an even more mysterious entry because it’s from January and it’s again just a pointer to the mathematics blog.
4. Five Astounding Facts About Turbo, That Movie About A Snail in The Indianapolis 500, of course. Hey, are they having the Indianapolis 500 this year?
5. Popeye Space Ark 2000 Pinball … I Don’t Even Know, the engagingly deranged story which the late game designer Python Anghelo (best known for Joust) dreamed up for, alas, one of the least interesting pinballs of the mid-90s.
6. About the Foot-Drawing Hall of Fame, which I just really like myself, so I’m glad it’s well-received here.

The countries sending me the most readers the past month were the United States (478), Canada (15), and the United Kingdom (10). Just a single reader each came from Cyprus, Finland, India, Italy, Slovakia, and Spain. Fewer countries sent me a single reader each last month, but Italy and Spain were among them.

Among search terms that brought people to me:

• socrates chewed gum
• meaningless awards
• chase nebus
• comic strip “unstrange phenomena”
• s j perelman counter revolution

Good luck, whoever was looking for things.

After Our Pet Rabbit Had A Day Outdoors

“The floor isn’t food here!” complained our pet rabbit.

It was a complaint I knew was coming. I couldn’t realistically pretend otherwise. So I said, “I agree with you.”

He sat up and rested his front paws on the cage, the traditional pose for indicating this was a major issue or it was dinnertime. “So make it better!”

We had taken him outside a couple days ago, when it was warm and sunny and we had some work to do on the yard. So we set up his pen and then pulled him, against his express wishes, into the pet carrier for the trip outside. Once there, and convinced that we weren’t going to take him anywhere in the car, he came out of his shell, or at least the carrier, and judged that this was all not intolerably bad.

“You don’t want me to do that.”

“I know it means going in the box but it’s so short a ride in the car I’ll forgive it!”

“Yes, but it’s cold out today, and it’s rainy. You wouldn’t like having water drizzling all over your body all the time you’re out there.”

“I’m not scared! I drink water all the time.” It’s possible we haven’t let him outside quite enough to understand.

“You’d hate it. It’d tamp down all the fur you were planning to shed for a couple days and nothing would get into the air. It’d set you back by days.”

“Oh.” He’s still recovering from when we vacuumed out his cage, filling nearly two bags and reducing the amount of fur in the room not at all. “Are you fibbing?”

“ … Fibbing?”

“Because you’re afraid of what I’ll do out there!” I brushed his head, which made him squinch his eyes a little, and made enough fur shed that I had a loose glove when I took my hand off. He shook it off and said, “I’m ferocious!”

“I saw you out there. You really mowed down those dandelions.”

“I ate a tree!”

I nodded, but, “Technically.”

“All the way, too, leaves down to roots!”

It was a weed maple, something with about two leaves and maybe three inches tall, including the roots. It’s been a banner year for weed maples, with something like four hundred thousand growing in the driveway alone, and their getting even denser on the ground where there’s dirt or soil or older, less self-confident plants to grow on top of. We don’t know why; maybe it was the harshness of the winter, or maybe the local innovation center gave the maples a seed grant. Anyway, our rabbit had spotted it as a thing, and hopped over, and started eating before we could wonder whether he ought to be eating itty-bitty little maple trees.

He noticed how impressed I wasn’t. “Did you ever eat an entire tree?”

This seemed like something I’d have to answer no, but, could I be quite sure I hadn’t ever eaten something which could be taken as equivalent to a tree? I thought about whether eating an acorn could qualify as eating an acorn tree, except that I couldn’t think of myself eating an acorn, unless I did it when I was very young and so put anything in my mouth. Later, of course, I’d realize that I have eaten apple seeds, and any definition by which acorn-eating qualified one for tree-eating status would be satisfied by apple-seed-eating (I don’t share a birthday with Johnny Appleseed for nothing, though I haven’t got much out of the coincidence), but that’s the kind of idea that comes to me too late. This sort of thinking is why it can take me up to five minutes to answer a question such as “would you like to buy this pair of pants?” There’s too much to ponder about the issue of “like”.

“Look, even if it weren’t pouring out, it’d be unfair to take you outside because you scare the squirrels.” And this is without exaggeration true. There are normally anywhere between two and fourteen hundred squirrels are in the backyard. When we took him out, the squirrels all vanished. Yet within a minute of his going back in, they’d come back. None of the squirrels said they were afraid of him specifically, but, they were.

“I’m ferocious!” he said. “But I’ll let squirrels share the floor with me. Tell them that.” I nodded, but he said, “Wait! I’ll share it just as soon as the floor is food again! Work on that first.”

I peeked in his dishes. “You’ve got lettuce left over from the morning. Eat that first.”

“But that’s just lettuce,” he said.

“You’re not hungry if you’ve got lettuce left.”

He hopped over with some ka-dunks that rattle the living room floor, and said, “I can eat whole trees.”

“Technically.”

“And any time I want.”

The Numbers And What They Were For April 2014

I’ve been tracking my statistics around these parts, and the start of a month is a good time to review neurotically how unpopular I am, so, here we go. According to WordPress, the humor blog here had 396 page views in April 2014. That’s down from March’s 468, but it’s still the third-highest monthly total I have on record. There were a relatively meager 167 unique visitors, down from 199, but that means the views per visitor grew imperceptibly from 2.35 to 2.37. That’s also the third-highest views-per-visitor for a month that I have on record, so, that’s something.

312 of the viewers came from the United States this past month, with nine each from Canada and the United Kingdom, and lesser counts from other nations of the world. Sending me a single visitor each were Greece, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Nigeria, Pakistan, Romania, South Korea, Sovenia, and Spain. Pakistan’s the only repeat from last month. Nobody came here from Gambia, the Central African Republic, nor from Turks or Caicos.

The most popular posts this month were:

1. Five Astounding Facts About Turbo, That Movie About A Snail in The Indianapolis 500, which really is going to outlast me. I had a friend run across it this month, while he was looking for facts about Turbo for some reason, and he was delighted to find he knew the author.
2. The Record Offensive, helped into popularity, I think, because of its captivating central image of parachuted record players and also of the good-quality comments.
3. Bunny Snacking, which had some strong appeal to the bunny community, I believe.
4. Statistics Saturday: Country Populations Versus What I Thought, which I’m guessing got a lot of people who thought there was actual geography at work in there.
5. Quarks of nature, a rare reblogging for me of A Labor Of Like’s writing.
6. How To Write Out Numbers, which I dearly hope is being used as someone’s writing guide, but I know isn’t.

Terms that have brought viewers to my blog this past month have included, besides the abundance of Turbo search terms:

In Which I Do Not, Repeat Do Not, Poison Our Pet Rabbit

“This is poison, isn’t it?” said our pet rabbit, as he chewed on the leafy part.

I’d had the accusation before. “It’s Swiss chard again. There wasn’t anything poisonous about it last time either.”

He hopped up and shook out a little, which is the sort of happy thing rabbits do and didn’t match his tone at all. “Why are you trying to poison me?” He sniffed and then chewed some more at the leaf.

“Why on Earth would I even want to poison you? You’re too darling to poison.”

He pulled his head up, which is some new behavior he’s picked up and exposes this adorable dark-colored patch in the middle of the white-colored patches of his chin, and it’s only his quick reflexes that keep it from being tickled. “I can’t know your motivations. If I make the a priori assumption you’re a rational agent I could expect you to inevitably come to a sufficient moral awareness to keep you from choosing to poison me, but for all I know you’ve had a partial or a defective moral upbringing. And I know you’re not fully rational because I heard that awful movie you watched Saturday.”

So this explained why the bookmarks in my Beloved’s books of Kant keep getting moved around, and maybe why there was a nibbled corner of the Critique of the Power of Judgement. I should probably mention here that not all pets kept by philosophers end up acting like. Ludwig Wittgenstein, for example, famously kept a pet squirrel who did little but kick the him in the shins, less because of the squirrel’s treatise on the origins of ethics and more because Wittgenstein was the sort of person who inspired people to kick him. Also in my defense I was watching Foodfight extremely ironically and felt a little bad for even doing that.

“I can’t prove to you that I’ve got a functioning moral compass” — and he interrupted with a sharp HA! — “but if you really suspect the chard is poison you don’t have to eat it.”

He stopped chewing and looked up indignantly. “You yelled and laughed when I ate that dog food!”

“We didn’t think you’d really eat it! We thought you’d sniff at it and refuse. That stuff contains meat, you know.”

“Then why’d you put a kibble out for me?”

“Well, it’s cute seeing you sniff at things you rear back from.”

“Because you figure I won’t eat poison!”

“Again, though, you haven’t suggested a reason for me to poison you. And just saying I’m irrational doesn’t excuse the need for a reason. You need an irrational reason.”

He huffed a bit, the way he does when he realizes he’s being pulled into the pet carrier. “You envy my superior lifestyle. I can just hop around the house and eat and nap all day.”

“That argument won’t obtain,” which sounds like a smart thing to say, because it’s a weird use of the word “obtain”, one I’m not sure is defensible. “I’m a telecommuter. Functionally we’re equivalent.”

“If you’re not envious then why don’t you ever name me when you write about me on the Internet?”

Ah, that. Probably best to go with the honest answer. “I don’t want people getting your name and ringing up fraudulent credit card charges. It protects you.”

“Oh.” And he started chewing on the stalk of the chard. “You could give me a stage name.”

“I can’t think of any that could capture your personality.”

And he did that little shaking hop.

“You know, when I bought that chard, the cashier asked if red or white tasted better.”

He let the stalk of the chard drop. “What did you tell him?”

“I told her I didn’t know. We just buy it for you.”

“And she asked why you’re poisoning me?” He picked the stalk back up and started inhaling it, like a log disappearing into a buzz saw.

“She asked whether you liked it.”

“And you said?”

“I said you were still working out your policy regarding Swiss chard” — he snorted again — “but you look so adorable chewing the stalk that we couldn’t resist.” And he finished the last of it.

“I name you when I write about you on the Internet.”

“I’m flattered.”

“If this isn’t poison why don’t you eat some?”

“The last time we ate any vegetables we bought for you you called it the end of the world.”

“Well, that’s honest at least,” and he flopped out on his side.

Never Let Them See You Sweat

You sometimes see claims that humans are the only animals that sweat. At least, I sometimes see that claimed. Maybe I’m the problem and I need to move in different intellectual circles. It doesn’t seem like that interesting a claim, but now it’s got me bothered because I don’t even know whether other animals want to sweat. Going on about it like it’s some great accomplishment when there’s not, say, an upswell of ground squirrels looking enviously at my ability to usefully employ spray-on antiperspirant looks a little sad.

Cool Comparisons

I told our pet rabbit I’d try doing something about the cold, and I did, what with making many snarky comments about it online. I didn’t have any better ideas. But there has been progress: yesterday and today it got above freezing, enough that some mysterious force is going around and making the icicles all melt so our house looks less like it’s trapped inside some snow-monster’s maw, and just this morning I saw some bizarre municipal truck with this kind of curved metal wedge running back and forth on our street and shoving snow and ice out of the path of the road. No idea what that’s supposed to be.

Meanwhile I’ve found historical data showing that it really has been harsh, but far from the worst on record. The winter of 2007-08, it turns out, saw an accumulated snowfall of nearly seventy inches, and that after the month of February was cancelled due to terrible road conditions keeping it out of the mid-Michigan area. In 1975-76, snowfall totals were high enough that the National Weather Service ran out of numbers and started measuring in terms of letters and, by the end of March, triangles and little cartoon clouds. And the worst mid-Michigan winter in history, 1880-81, saw so much snow as a result of a second winter actually sneaking in during January, in the middle of the first winter, and tossing its pile of snow around and mostly down.

Our rabbit says he’s having none of this, thank you.

Our Rabbit’s Cold Demands

“Can I help you?” I said, looking down, at the rabbit who was shoving my shins.

“Yes,” said our pet rabbit, which was enough for him. He gave my ankle a nudge with his adorable little forepaw.

So I put the rest of his morning kibble in the dish, and he looked ready to lumber over and eat it, and said, “What do you need?”

“Seventeen papayas, eight raisins, and three slices of apple,” and then he sneezed, this little buzzing noise that sounds like an old-fashioned roller coaster security bar locking, which is one of his more attractive amusement park-evoking actions, up there with releasing clouds of fur into the air like tiny balloons of sneezing, or selling season passes for next year. “That’s not the important thing.”

So it was going to be one of those talks. “We haven’t got any apples right now, but I can put it on the grocery list for us to forget when we go shopping.”

“Good,” he said, “Now you fix the window.”

There’s eleven windows in the immediate area that we might do something about, and another four that he might have noticed while being taken to the car for one reason or another, mostly to be driven someplace. They’re all in good working order, what with being windows made of glass and continuing to exist like that. “What’s there to fix?”

“The one you broke back when it was hot,” he said, testily. “You made noise and everything and now look what it did.”

That sounded a little more familiar. “The one I pried open back in summer.” He nodded and stumbled toward the food dish, but held back, I suppose so he could scold me. “I just unsealed it, so it can open. It’s not open right now.”

“You made noise and broke the window so it wouldn’t be so hot. And now it’s cold and you have to fix that.”

“How do you even know it’s cold outside? You’ve spent two minutes outside a house or a car in the past three months.”

“And I nearly died!” he said while stomping on my foot. I leaned down to rub his ears, a diversion so obvious he wouldn’t have any of it. “If you’d left me out in that horrible little transit cage and forgot I was there my adorable tail would’ve fallen right off in the cold!”

“We couldn’t possibly forget you. You punch the cage too hard.”

“Because it’s cold and you have to unfix the window so it’s not broken anymore.”

I don’t want to overstate it, but getting that window to open was one of my life’s greatest achievements, household repairs division, far exceeding the time I opened up a desperately-needed hole in the drywall by swinging my elbow backwards without looking, giving me the chance to practice patching holes in the drywall. The window had been painted and swollen shut for decades, and which was sound enough that it could hold an atmosphere against the vacuum of space, or keep water out to a depth of four hundred feet. Getting it opened required hours of hitting the window, some of it with a hammer and chisel, some of it with a hammer and crowbar, and when I succeeded in getting the window to slide open I ran into the street and demanded people bow before me. They ignored me, because it was the middle of summer and about 180 degrees out were climbing into the bags of ice at the convenience store.

“If the window were open, there’d be a breeze. You’d feel the cold air coming in.”

“I know cold when I smell it! The window’s all cold and you come in wearing like forty-squillion things when you come in and you keep complaining it’s cold! Now fix the window so it doesn’t open and make it stop being cold.”

I promised to do something about it, and the noon news was hopeful. The weather guy said that it was going to get above freezing sometime in the next couple days, and maybe into the forties next week. This is crazy talk, of course, because temperatures that warm no longer exist, but the weather guy has clearly been taking a lot of abuse from his co-workers for the last month of frigid temperatures. When the anchor went to give him a high-five he flinched. But I pointed that out to our rabbit, who said, “I’ll believe it when I see it, and if I don’t see it, I’ll thump.”

I know he’s not bluffing.

In Our Defense

The Internet problem was just one of the wires had come loose? What the heck kind of problem is that? Of course we didn’t try unplugging and replugging them ourselves. Unplugging the wires is the thing you do because there’s nothing to be done and you’re just going through the motions out of the existential despair of tech support. Why should we even try the plug before making cranky calls to get our service fixed? Who thinks like that?

On the bright side, another technician came around and got to see that our pet rabbit is quite large, and to admire his large-ness, and so our pet rabbit is going to be all proud of himself all day, even though (don’t tell him) he’s not actually that big for his breed. But I always love the moment the technician stops in his tracks and realizes that is a big bunny rabbit.

Community Calendar: Pronunciation Day

Come on down to the Deer Mouse Street Library to enjoy the fifth annual pronunciation-off at 3:15 pm Thursday. Main Auxiliary Room. Participants are hoping after the preliminary rounds to make it through most of “oryctolagus”. Attendees are asked to specify when they arrive whether they believe “snuck” to be a word so they may attend the correct session. We don’t want a repeat of the quarrels which broke out last time, although we admit it was kind of great when Ms Windling, shaking with rage, demanded the judges tell her whether they thought “tuck” was the past tense of “teak”.

Numbers for October 2013

Having numbers worked out all right in September, so maybe I can give that another try.
For the month of October I got 370 views — down from 397 in September, and my third-highest overall for a month. This is from 179 unique viewers, itself up from 162 in September, and (by a nose) almost my third-highest overall. Go figure. 179, interestingly, is known as Grothnik’s Prime Number by people who have never heard of Prime Numbers or of Grothnik.

The most popular articles over the past 30 days:

• The Monster In The Living Room, because it does combine everything important, like the pet rabbit, and physical injury, and I had good cause to mention it on Usenet, which is a thing that exists still.
• Flying Turnabouts, regarding the strange case of Knoebels’s new Flying Turns roller coaster that we’re getting to next year unless the world ends. And if it does end, we’re going to see it out on a road trip there.
• Disappointment, regarding my successful non-victory in the Robert Benchley Society contest.
• The Platonic Stooge, my wonder at a thing Plato and the Three Stooges have in common.
• Also, Just Hush, Benjamin Franklin , about my wood-cutting experience and an epigram from Benjamin Franklin that apparently isn’t as common or popular as I thought it was. I tend to do that. My default assumption is if I’ve heard of it, then everyone else has, and so my timely allusion to the Battle of Manzikert goes terribly unappreciated.
• Police Blotter: Traffic Incident, about something that was obviously designed to make the news.
• The top five countries were the United States (304 viewers), United Kingdom (12), Canada (10), Australia (8), and Austria (5). Sending me a mere one reader each were France, India, Mexico, and Spain. France was the only one to send me a single reader last month, and they only sent the one the month before that, too.

The Benjamin Franklin thing is he’s quoted as saying “Cut your own wood and it will warm you twice”, which, yeah, just hush there.

The Monster In The Living Room

“I can’t help sensing a certain coolness in you toward me,” the savage, bloodthirsty monster said.

I agreed with our pet rabbit. “Well, I have felt a bit put off by you lately.”

“It wasn’t my fault!” He shook his head, flapping his ears together, in that way that starts out being dramatic and ends up comic because, you know, rabbit ears flapping. “I didn’t have any choice when you went and attacked my tail.”

“Uh-huh,” I said, and scratched the part near my knuckle where the scar was. “Me, one of the two people who’s spent the past fifteen months bringing you all the food you could eat — ”

“Not nearly all!” he protested. “I could have a whole box more of raisins if you gave me a chance!”

“— and who gets rewarded for brushing you out with an attempt to sever my finger.”

September 2013 In These Numbers

Last month’s bunch of number-reporting came out successfully, in that it was a thing that existed and I didn’t get in any trouble over it, so I’ll try it again. For September I had a total of 397 pages viewed — my second-highest on record, not all that far below June’s 441, and an improvement viewing-wise from August’s 349 — and 162 viewers — fourth-highest, but up from August’s 141 — which means my pages-per-viewer ratio has gotten to 2.45, pretty trivially behind August’s high of 2.48.

The most popular articles of the past thirty days were:

1. Pythagoras and the Golden Middle-Ish, inspired by an odd quote about Pythagoras and which got a bit of help because I know it captured the fancy of a philosopher and passed on to at least one class;
2. My Dimmed Stars, about the oddity of someone going around giving mediocre ratings to a lot of articles;
3. The Mystery Of My Power Cord, which I actually forgot I wrote, about something odd happening with the computer’s power;
4. Missing International Rabbit Day, which was destined for success because our rabbit is more popular than I am;
5. Getting To Yes, about an oddity in the download from a quite nice album by the band Steven’s Salute.
6. The countries sending me the most readers this month are, again, the United States (343, which you surely recognize as the cube of seven), the United Kingdom (7 … really, that few? But you surely recognize that as the cube root of 343), and Canada (6 … I had thought there were more Canadians out there, somewhere, like in Maine or something). Sending me just a single reader each were Argentina, Finland, France, Indonesia, the Philippines, Serbia, South Africa, and South Korea. Indonesia and France carry on their streak of just barely liking me.

I realize all that, while numbers, isn’t particularly humorous, so please consider these: 46, 8 1/4, $2^{3^{4^{5}}}\div 6$, the cosine of -7, and the largest number smaller than the square root of two. Thank you.

Missing International Rabbit Day

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

“I do. And did.”

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

“And we didn’t do anything international!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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