How To Clear The Snow On Your Sidewalk


Do you need to clear the snow on your sidewalk? That’s not a trick question. If you have both snow and a sidewalk, yes, you do. The question is how.

The best solution to snow on the sidewalk is to live inside a domed city. Within this sparkling beautiful environment you don’t have any kind of weather, just a steady mediocrity. If you want to have snow, you can get it delivered. It’ll be placed thoughtfully on your property by a team of specially developed snow-bots, working under the direction of a snow artist who’s moody and introspective and has deep thoughts about the aesthetics of stuff on your lawn. In this case you can get the snow-bots to put snow on your sidewalk. And then you can have them remove the snow again because, hey, it’s not like they have lives to get back to. At least until it turns out the snow-bots do have deep internal lives. And the snow artist falls under the sway of a mysterious, deep-feeling red-haired woman who was left over from an unpublished J G Ballard short story. Then there’s a good chance that you’ll be the person whose house is being tended while The Revolution gets started. This is jolly good excitement, but you can’t count on that happening more than maybe one time out of four. (The Revolution discovers that outside of the city dome, the Earth has transformed from radiation-scarred wasteland to Griffith Park.) Also, living in a domed city is likely to attract me. I don’t think that’s a problem, but I definitely understand if you do.

What should be a nearly-as-good method is to have a fire dragon on hand. A fire dragon can handup two ten inches of snow by something as simple as laying down. Problem solved, right? At least until that eleventh inch comes down. Not so, sad to say. There are no fire dragons. What you can get in most places are fire snakes. These are a considerably smaller species. They come from Australia, which tells you something about why that continent’s gotten a cumulative total of about four inches of snow in recorded history, which thanks to the indigenous peoples there, stretches back about 50,000 years. A lone, four-inch-long, Australian fire snake has enough heat capacity to singe the eyebrows off the entire population of Europe four times over. This will come in handy if there’s ever a blizzard of European eyebrows on your sidewalk. This doesn’t often happen. If it did, you’d know, because the weather map would make it look like the Interstate is making Groucho eyes at you. Still it’s nice to know the capacity is there. Do not try to import this species. You can’t get the necessary straw mice to feed them without the pet store getting suspicious.

The most popular method to clear the sidewalk is to flip a switch which causes the sidewalk to lift up on large hydraulic legs. Then the legs tip the sidewalk to the side, and a giant cartoony hand wearing gloves and holding a whisk broom goes back and forth, dusting the sidewalk clean. The sidewalk drops back into place and the hand tosses the whisk broom into the air and makes a happy OK sign before catching it and disappearing again. If you have a switch in the house and you can’t figure out what it’s supposed to do? It does that. If it doesn’t work that’s because the GFCI has tripped. Look for something that seems like a reset button and try that. Make sure you don’t ever use this while someone’s on your sidewalk.

If it isn’t working and you can’t find the reset button, I know what you’re thinking. No, you can’t take the hair dryer out and use that on the sidewalk. That isn’t hair. Well, all right, if you’ve got the European eyebrow blizzard that’s hair. But that also almost never happes. Best not to worry about it.

After clearing the snow, scatter enough rock salt that you feel like you’re using too much rock salt, but not quite enough that it feels like your sidewalk is actually getting clear of ice or slush.

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So It Turns Out There’s More New Popeye Cartoons


After that first Popeye’s Island Adventures cartoon came out I did check back the week or two after. I didn’t see any follow-up, so supposed it was just on some schedule I didn’t understand. Or that the project had its start and then was drifting. This happens. I remember in the early 2000s when they made a couple of Flash cartoons for Mystery Science Theater 3000 and then stopped just as I was getting comfortable with Tom Servo’s new voice. (I’m a bit curious what became of those, and kind of suspect they’re lost to the ages. I think there were four different cartoons?)

But it looks more likely that I just misunderstood things. There’s at least two new cartoons out and, what the heck. Watching cartoons is a comfortable thing to write about. So here’s Episode 2, A Fistful of Snowballs.

The story is that Popeye and Olive Oyl get into a snowball war with Bluto. I like this more than I did the first one. The story is better-formed. It’s not so linear as the previous one. That seems like it’s going to be important for this series. The characters don’t really speak, so we can’t be charmed by their dialogue any. And it’s much harder to establish a character without speech. We’re forced to fall back on what they do. So the more that they try different approaches the better. There’s still room for bits of personality, even without dialogue or much story, though. One touch I did like was Popeye making a squinty eye for his snowman, for example.

The snowball-fight setup works better for the Young Popeye redesign too. It’s better scaled to kid characters. Not that I couldn’t imagine a great snowball-fight cartoon with the regular versions. But it’s something easy to figure kids getting into.

I’m, of course, an easy touch for Eugene the Jeep so I’m glad to see him be relevant to the plot. And that he gets a bit of mischief in, kicking snow in Popeye’s face. (Which is another bit of personality that can be done without dialogue.) I’m curious what a new viewer makes of Eugene’s vanishing, if they don’t know about the magical abilities of the Jeep. I suppose it’s not going to confuse anyone. Eugene was shown last cartoon floating in the air. And he goes back to floating right after the scene where he vanishes. So being able to disappear fits into that. I tend to think viewers need less stuff explained than creators fear, and that you can usually drop exposition if you need to save time. But does Eugene make sense if you don’t know anything about the character?

Two cartoons in and we get the first joke on opening the can of spinach. That it’s frozen makes sense, though it also makes the spinach look particularly dreadful to taste. And then on the second watch it made me feel cold for Popeye, Olive Oyl, and Bluto, who’re still dressed as if it’s a summertime cartoon. But I always feel a little chilly.

Still don’t see why they aren’t using the Sammy Lerner I’m-Popeye-the-Sailor-Man tune. Not using it does make me believe more strongly that this whole project is about protecting some kind of rights to use Popeye more than anything else. But it might also be something where the budget is just too low to accommodate the real song. We might get a better idea as the project develops.

I Have No Idea What The Dream World Is Warning Me About With This One


But apparently there’s going to be some incident deep in the midst of winter where it’s one of those nasty snowy days. Also, apparently I’m going to have one of those cars that looks like an SUV but is small enough to tell yourself you’re not just buying an SUV. The snow, of course, will need to be dusted off in order to safely drive and I’m one of those people who does dust off the top of the car even when it’s deep into winter when everybody’s given up. The inconvenient thing was that the car was parked in the living room. No problem that the snow off the car was getting dusted onto the floor, which by the way is wood and really shouldn’t have that much snow on it for that long. But I was thinking how annoying it would be getting the car back into this great parking spot in the living room right between the bookshelf and the little tower we have with the record player and satellite TV receiver and all that. It’s a pretty tight spot, even for a small car. Plus on the TV was one of those morning news-chat shows where you get a little bit about what to dread today, and then a human-interest feature about some guy in Alaska who’s having trouble getting a permit for some ridiculous thing for some ridiculous reason, and then they show you how to make an omelette. This means something, but I have got no idea what.

Another Update That Is Not A Calendar Joke


That weird little heap of snow in front of the house across the street is gone, after only a full week of temperatures above freezing and three days that got into the 50s or 60s! Now let’s see what there is to look forward to next.

Hourly forecast for tomorrow, Thursday 03/01: Snow accumulating 1 to 3 inches during the day. About one inch of snow expected overnight. Plus some other weather.
Fortunately, it’s supposed to be a rain-and-snow mix with a lot of wind, so the weather’s going to make everybody happy.

Fortunately depending on which neighborhood station I check we’re up for between 1 and 3 and 3 and 5 and 2 and 6 inches, so there’s no reason to think that we’re going to get anything. I can not, at this point, rule out that come Friday morning there’ll be a heap, ten inches thick, of chicken feathers covering the neighborhood. Should be fun. I finally figured out how to get gas out of our new, modern-designed, extremely safe portable gas can to pour into the snowblower. No idea what it does with feathers, but I have a hypothesis.

On A Warm Day


I’m not upset that we’re having a couple days of warm weather after getting a half-foot of snow. Warmer weather is fine. It’s not warm enough, but I haven’t felt warm enough since I last lived in Singapore. It helps. It’s just that when it did snow, I was careful to go and shovel the entire sidewalk, its whole width, nice and down to the cement so that multiple people could pass one another safely on a bone-dry, ice-free surface. And now all these other houses on the block, sidewalks cleared by scalawags who just dug a little bit out or maybe let pedestrians tramp down a social trail through the snow, have sidewalks that are just as cleared. How am I supposed to look out the second-floor window and feel smugly superior to everyone around me if everyone else got their weather-clearing work done by more weather? Oh, yeah, also, good that the block is navigable and safe again. But my smugness.

Cleaning Up Around Here


I want it understood that I didn’t use the snowblower to clean the sidewalk for a couple houses on either side of us for any base reasons. I did it because I like to feel smugly superior to others. If you don’t like that motive, I have others. For example, using the snow blower to blow snow all over allowed me to accomplish a thing, and to do so using a machine that makes a whomping great racket. This is something I don’t get in my day job, which consists of sitting nervously at the computer wondering if the boss thinks I’m doing enough job, or jobbing well enough. It would be nice if I could do a job in which I was sure I had accomplished a thing. But mostly I want the chance to do something using a machine that makes a whomping great racket. Auto-playing video ads does not count. I think if more of us had jobs like that we wouldn’t be wondering quite so much why we have these jobs exactly.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The Another Blog, Meanwhile index picked up two points by sneaking over to the Labor of Like blog index and grabbing a couple while they weren’t looking. Don’t tell.

95

What’s Going On With Mary Worth?


[ Edited the 15th of May, 2017 to add: ] I’m grateful you see this site as a place to learn what’s going on in Mary Worth. My most recent story summaries should be at or near the top of this link’s essays, if you are looking for the current or for more recent stories than this post has.


Some of the story comics have undergone changes that aren’t hard to explain.

Mary Worth.

Most of the story comics are written and drawn by teams of people. The only exceptions I can think of are James Allen’s Mark Trail and Dan Thompson’s Rip Haywire. Mark Trail I’ve talked about. Rip Haywire is a weird case. It’s a humor adventure strip for one thing. Also Dan Thompson is apparently some superhuman force as he produces an estimated 14 to 22 daily comics as it is. I don’t know if any of them appear in newspapers. They should.

For the most part, though, story strips have an author and an artist and they’re separate people. It’s easy to think that the important part of a comic strip is the writing. After all, if the story is boring who cares if the art is good? And there are drearily many comics that get by on pretty good writing and indifferent art. So it seems like the change of artist, such as happened with Mary Worth this spring, shouldn’t change much.

People who pay attention should know better. They’d remember Bill Watterson writing of how when he had a weak Calvin and Hobbes joke he’d go all out on illustrating it. Somehow a lavish picture makes a weak joke better. Or they might remember how that experiment in redrawing Apartment 3-G turned a disastrously bad strip into one that at least parses as a story. And yet I was taken by surprise too.

Dawn and Harlan continue their talk after lunch ... and Harlan goes on about how he studies stuff, you know: art history, Latin, parkour, cartography, gardening, yoga. Pretty sure he's trying to rope Dawn into a cult, so watch this space.
Karen Moy and Joe Giella’s Mary Worth for the 24th of April, 2016. The coloring of comics, even Sunday strips, is a pretty dodgy thing so maybe this can’t be blamed on anybody particular. But I believe Harlan is wearing the carpet from the shuttered Amboy Cinemas multiplex just south of the Raritan River on US 9.

First things, though: it’s not like the art was bad when Joe Giella was drawing it. Above is his last Sunday strip. It’s composed well enough, with a good balance of close-ups and distant shots, and the camera movement is clear enough. Where people are relative to each other is never confusing, and we never get close to that mess where the character on the right speaks before the character on the left. The worst you can say is that the faces seem a bit weirdly flat — Dawn’s hair does not do her any favors, especially in the third row there — and the fingers look weird. Fingers always do. I don’t think newspapers provide enough space for fingers not to look weird anymore. But if I could draw as well today as Giella did, I’d not be beating myself up for not taking drawing more systematically when I was eight.

Joe Giella retired this year, to enjoy rolling around in the piles of syndicated newspaper story comic money I’m sure he has. June Brigman, last artist for the Brenda Starr comic and a longtime comic book artist, took his place. I can’t deny it took time to get used to her style, and I’m not sure we’ve yet met all of the Charterstone Regulars.

Tommy attempts to fill his pain medication prescription and gets refused. The pharmacist sees he's already bought too much Vicodin, too rapidly, at several different pharmacies. Tommy's mother is shocked and he just looks doomed.
Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth for the 4th of September, 2016. I would chuckle at Tommy’s incompetent attempts to support his Vicodin addiction except that I had absolutely no idea that the thing I smelled in the office of our unread campus leftist weekly newspaper was marijuana. I’d still never know if someone hadn’t mentioned it like two years later after we’d driven smoking of anything and everything out of the office. In my defense, I was the sort of 18-year-old who would go on to make informed opinions about Mary Worth. Also being an undergraduate is all about being introduced to unexplained and exotic new odors.

The art’s gotten better, though. Brigman’s doing better at getting a sense of volume into the confined spaces of modern comic strips. And she seems to show more ambition in the choice of camera angles. We’re more likely to see the view from higher above or far below figures. It conveys motion even in a static panel.

I can’t say the stories have changed since Brigman (with the help of her husband) took over the art. The stories have been quite the usual for Mary Worth: Dawn pursues a relationship with one of her instructors that every college and university warns its instructors not to do. Tommy gets injured at work and turns his Vicodin prescription into a Vicodin addiction in no time. Charterstone regular Wilbur Westin, who survived a cruise ship, is taking a sabbatical year to interview survivors of other disasters. His girlfriend is pondering whether to date someone she met at community college even though Zak is decades younger than she is. In some of these stories Mary Worth has something relevant to say. In some of them she just makes a cameo to remind you who’s in charge here.

Zak ENJOYED our lunch and hopes to CONTINUE his talk with Iris. She's reluctant and says she 'may be BUSY this weekend'. Zak is unphased and says 'I look FORWARD to HEARING from you' as she flees.
Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth for the 4th of December, 2016. End of a hilariously awkward coffee date between Iris and the much-younger Zak. I don’t know if we’ve gotten Zak’s full name so I’m going to go ahead and suppose it’s Zakerri Dellyn Brooklin except that since he’s supposed to be about 25 he’s a little old to get ‘Brooklyn’ in his name. Maybe he changed it.

Still, they read better. They do feel like stuff is happening. The little shortcuts and elided bits of logic needed to carry on a story when you get two or maybe three panels a day haven’t stood out so much. I don’t remember any strips showing action or emotion that might have challenged Giella. But a comic strip is the writing and the art, and it turns out somewhat better art does make the comic enormously better.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The Another Blog, Meanwhile index was unchanged today following the first significant snow of the year. In response to this traders spent so much time cleaning off the driveway and dusting the snow off the tops of their cars that it would be a shame to come in and do any work, honestly. By about the sixth major snow of the year they’re just going to be brushing off about two-thirds of the windshield and car hood, after all, and around the tenth major snow of the year they just brush off a two-square-inch patch and hit the windshield wiper fluid a lot. We should celebrate the real cleaning while it lasts.

101

Where Things Stand At The Start Of The Month (March)


First, we got a lot of snow in on Thursday. Over the weekend, under temperatures of as much as 125 degrees (avoirdupois) it melted. Every bit of it, except for those mounds of neutron snow in the parking lots and right where the garbage bin goes for collection. But those are special cases, because those mounds of snow are fortified and will last through to August anyway. If we limit ourselves to the normal snow made of the melting kind of snow, it all melted by yesterday. Today, it snowed. I feel like we’re not getting anywhere. I took one of those giant coffee mugs, the kind you get at slightly hipster coffee shops, and filled it with miso soup and set it out for the ice phoenix, since it’s been frolicking up something fierce for a storm like this to happen.

Not only did nobody recklessly speak of the “ides of February” as though they might be the 15th of the month, but nobody even brought up the question about whether Leap Day is actually the 29th of February. So I couldn’t go on a big tear about how it might technically be the 25th of February unless you’re from certain countries formerly ruled by the United Kingdom in which case it’s totally the 29th. What’s the fun in that?

I have still not read about the history of socks.

I need a shovel.

The Snow That Never Ends


We had a snowstorm the Sunday before Thanksgiving. It wasn’t much as these go, just a couple inches, and it was half-melted by the next morning anyway. Since then, we’ve had a couple warmer-than-average weeks. This Sunday it got crazily warm, temperatures running as much as 450 degrees above normal and mosquitoes hatching and bursting into flame, and the rain boiling off as it falls onto the ground.

So why are there still piles of snow lining the edges of mall parking lots? Have they applied to snow the technology that used to be used for the Sad Peas, the ones in the little stray compartment of the TV dinner plate that never, ever thawed, even when the rest of the plate had been microwaved to the point all the carbon in it had transmuted into potassium-40? I’m glad if they are doing that, because it’s better than the other application for eternally-frozen, never-thawing materials, which so far has been my toes. It’s still weird.

Weather Forecast Now Just Messing With Me


So it’s going to be sunny and in the mid-teens tonight, dropping to dark and snowy after sunset, following which it’ll be snowy before sunrise and rise to the low 20s, after which it’s going to pop up to the upper 50s with three to eight feet of snow, then back down to single digits with intermittent rains of ghost dolphins using bow-and-arrow to chase down homoiousian heretics, and then everybody just giving up and staying under the electric blanket. Going to be a heck of a week.