Fess Up


So. Reader. Look. I regard us as friends. Maybe not great friends, not, help-you-move-to-a-new-apartment level friends. But friends. Out meaning well for each other, even if we sometimes screw it up. Giving a heads up when we see a comic strip we’re sure the other is going to love. Warning when you see we’re marching unprepared into at least a Category Two Drama Storm. That kind of friend. OK? So that’s why I have to ask about this thing from the sidebar of a YouTube video I just watched.

YouTube sidebar ad. The picture shows cement being troweled onto three rolls of toilet paper. Title: '35 cement ideas that are so easy', published by 5-Minute Crafts and 'Recommended for you'. The video run time is 15:13.
Also: what, precisely, is “easy” about thinking to trowel cement on three rolls of toilet paper? Just trying to think about doing this makes my head hurt in a way that, like, covariant tensors do not. The doing of this might be physically easy but imagining a world in which I would is I promise you not.

Exactly which one of you is telling Google, “You know what Joseph needs? The suggestion he line up three rolls of toilet paper only to trowel cement over them. Plus 34 other things to do with cement, each explained in an average of 26 seconds. But he’ll be so fascinated by that he won’t even notice this Five-Minute Crafts video is fifteen minutes long”? What is it you think you know about me? What are you drawing these conclusions from?

In Which I Get Worried What Some Advertising Server Thinks Of Me


OK, first, more comic strips over on my mathematics blog, because darned it I am not going to let a 1959 installment of Hi and Lois toss in a bit of calculus without explaining just what is meant by it. I hope you enjoy because there’s not going to be another of those comic strip explanation posts until Saturday.

Otherwise, I was reading the Comics Curmudgeon blog. The advertising server suggested a couple books. They came out as:

  • A book of Slylock Fox mystery puzzles.
  • A book of Barney Google and Snuffy Smith comics.
  • A book of Slylock Fox “brain bogglers” which are different from mystery puzzles in six ways and can you find them all?
  • A book titled A Do-It-Yourself Submachine Gun.
Shop Related Products: Go Fun! Slylock Fox Mystery Puzzles; Barney Google and Snuffy Smith; Slylock Fox Brain Bogglers; The Do-It-Yourself Submachine Gun.
This reminds me of the time I stopped in Kinokuniya and picked up two Baby Blues compilations, one Big Nate novella, and a B-29 Superfortress. I’m going to go ahead and assume that the Mystery Puzzles book was marked down from $8.99, but as best I can see it may have just been marked down from $8.09 to $8.09.
Wait, I was just looking at a blog post. Shouldn’t a “related product” be another blog?

I have some snarky views about Tom Batiuk and, separately, the comic strip Luann. But I think a submachine gun is the wrong way to handle them. They should be handled in the traditional way of making YouTube videos in which the dialogue from the comics is read aloud by people who inflect the lines in the most uncharitable ways.

Still, I guess at least they made an advertising impression, which is a triumph in this day and age.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index was rising when someone came up from the basement and announced they’d found their copy of Ian Shoales’s Not Wet Yet and now everybody’s busy reading their favorite bits, like the essay about how Dracula is the perfect movie because it has stuff for guys (procedures, tools, men off to complete a task) and women (seedy romantic decadence, ancient mansions, food preparation). Also the essay on Elvitude.

120

Thrown For A Curve


When I went to the library it was to return a book. I went in saying, “thanks kindly for having so many books available but I don’t need any new ones just now and wait, a book about the history of fast-pitch softball? Yes, I should read that”. It’s Erica Westly’s Fastpitch: The Untold History of Softball and the Women Who Made the Game. I recommend it, as it’s a pleasant and breezy history. It’s got a bit more focus on major people and less on the policy-setting and organizational challenges than I’d like, but do remember, I’m a person who has a preferred author for pop histories of containerized cargo. If that isn’t enough, well, I’ll let my dad tell you what he thinks of it. I’m guessing my dad’s read it, as we have eerily similar tastes in nonfiction. And he only reads more fiction because he’s the guy in his book club that actually reads the book.

Anyway, the cover blurb is from Lily Koppel, “bestselling author of The Astronaut Wives Club”, which I’ve heard good things about but somehow not read because I guess my dad hasn’t got around to it yet. But Koppel says:

Fastpitch is A League Of Their Own for the softball set.

Good recommendation, if you liked A League Of Their Own, which I think I do even though I only remember the scene about there being no crying in baseball. But the thing is, A League Of Their Own was about the women’s fast-pitch softball league. The book talks about it in several chapters. I suppose there really aren’t any other movie references to softball, fast- or slow-pitch, that anybody remembers at all, but it’s still weird. It’s got me wondering about other Koppel book recommendations, like, “Jim Lovell’s Lost Moon is Apollo 13 for the Space Race set”, or “Team Of Rivals is Lincoln for the Civil War”. “The Longest Day is The Longest Day for D-Day”. Dad, you have any thoughts about books?

What Amazon Thinks I’ll Buy


Yes, it’s annoying that big corporations insist on knowing everything about us. And insist on tying everything into big identity profiles ready to be swiped by hackers or sold to marketers. But at least they repay us by being uproariously bad at guessing what we might want to buy. From a recent Amazon list of suggested things I might give them money for:

Amazon's first four guesses about what I might want: earphones, cocktail food, a power cable, and a clarinet.
Deeper in the e-mail, Amazon guessed that I might want a cabin air filter or an omelette pan. They are right so far as I want omelettes, but not so much as to actually do anything myself about them.

OK. Headphones, I can’t really argue with. I’ve got consumer electronics, I’ve got ears. We have a plausible match here.

Nutritional diet for cockatiels. I don’t have a cockatiel. I never have. I can’t get within four feet of a cockatiel without it eyeing me and opening its beak to figure out how it can eat as much of me as possible before I can react. I get enough of that from my friends, I don’t need it from my pets. My best guess: they worked out somehow that my sister had a cockatiel, back during the Reagan administration, and they’re hoping that she still has that bird, that it’s quite old, and that I want to give my sister pet supplies for Christmas. We don’t have that kind of relationship. She takes care of horses, so her wish list consists of incomprehensible pieces of horse gear that, based on the price, are made of high-grade americium lined with platinum, plus some e-books. I buy the e-books.

Lightning cable. Can’t argue that much. I did buy an iPod Touch over the summer, and of course it can’t use any of the estimated 28 USB cables we already had around. Well, the iPod Touch came with this cable, but I’ll lose that one eventually. They’re just premature here.

Mendini Clarinet. Just … no. Amazon, I hate to break this to you, but woodwinds? Me? I’ll have you know I played violin from third to like seventh grade. I can’t say I was the best violin player in the world, just the best one in my elementary school. I was able to always hit the notes you get by just running the bow across the strings, and I was often able to hit the notes you get by putting your fingers on the strings before running the bow. So if you need a scratchy, nearly-in-key rendition of Jingle Bells, the Theme to Masterpiece Theater‘s Non-Challenging Opening Bits, or the musical Cats’s Memory, well, find me a violin and give me some time to warm up again. But a clarinet? Rank foolishness, that’s all there is to it.

Though looking at it … this does seem like a pretty good deal on a clarinet, doesn’t it? Except according to this a three pound bag of cockatiel food normally retails for over one hundred twenty-five dollars and sixty-nine cents and they’re marking it down to ten bucks? Of all the things they think I might buy, they’re putting that alleged fact on the list?

Twitter Recommended


I do look at the people Twitter recommends I follow, because it’s neat seeing how radically they change every time I do add someone and Twitter Master Command desperately searches for anyone who’s even remotely like that person. Sometimes it’s even people I’ve heard of, like when it suggested I follow Billie Jean King. And then I noticed: it was a promoted recommendation that I follow Billie Jean King.

The implication is that someone working for Billie Jean King Master Command, while apparently of sound mind and probably on a Tuesday, decided that it was worth paying some amount of money to Twitter Master Command so as to increase the probability that I, Joseph Nebus, would follow Billie Jean King’s Twitter account. They probably didn’t phrase it like that. They probably phrased it more like “increasing brand-name recognition among tall, bearded men from New Jersey”, and possibly they tossed the words “monetize” or “gamify” in there somewhere, but that doesn’t actually make the decision less daft.