My thoughts while emptying the fish tank we don’t need downstairs


Water siphons. You put a tube in a water tank, lift one end up until it flows out the other end. Then drop that end into the water, and water just keeps on flowing out. How does that work? There is no explanation for how the water got out of the tank. Maybe advanced evaporation, helped by the water feeling I’d gone to so much trouble to get it out that it would cause a scene if it stuck around. Anyway I’ll take no answers about how siphoning water works, since it can’t possibly work is how.


(Be right back, putting on dry socks.)

How To Not Be Overly Organized


Is it possible to be too organized? Physics offers us an answer: it explains that the polhode rolls without slipping over the herpolhode. This sounds dirty. It really has something to do with the rotation of rigid bodies as they begin their nutation. This makes it sound unbelievably filthy. Physics reports now that it misheard the question and apologizes fiercely.

Now that we ask physics again, where it knows its mother is listening, we have a better answer. It would be too organized if all the mass and energy of the universe were piled into a single spot of extraordinarily high, by which we mean low, entropy, causing the expansion of space to restart with a new Big Bang and the formation of a different universe with physics that might be substantially different from those we know. Even the person who’s so orderly as to have a ten-point checklist for connecting the garden hose would agree this is too organized, given how long it would take for a new universe to expand and cool enough to support stars, life, limited-edition holiday-flavor candy corn, and the part of town where they’re always having ukulele festivals.

Most of us stop before that point anyway, because we are stymied by questions such as: does it count as a pair of socks if they are noticeably not alike, but they are each the only one of their kind, and you have two of them? This is the problem I posed to my advanced physics lab partner in college, when he said he was starting to organize his dorm room by dividing it into “pair of socks” and “not a pair of socks”. His answer was to look at me with sad despair. His dorm-room organization project ended in failure, and we were unable to show that the Inverse Zeeman Effect ever happened.

The Inverse Zeeman Effect is a physics thing you look for in advanced physics labs and it has nothing to do with polhodes as far as I know. It’s named for the Dutch physicist Pieter Zeeman, who was such the life of the party he was known in every physics lab as Pieter “The Man” Zeeman, only in Dutch. Eventually he got a sinecure working for the water-reclamation agency. This allowed him to be Pieter “Zie Man” Zeeman of the Zeiderzeewerken. For putting up with this all his life they gave him a Nobel Prize and asked him to say “sinecure” with a Dutch accent.

Even we who are not Nobel Prize-winning Dutch physicists find natural limits to organization. Most things enjoy a natural resting spot which doesn’t have to make sense. It just has to be consistent. Which is why, in a boring anecdote I am not making up, I kept my toothpaste in the refrigerator for about four years when I was living in Singapore. It was probably an accident at first. But then it kept happening, and before you knew it, if somehow there were toothpaste in a more traditionally sensible place in my apartment, such as the bathroom, I’d never know it. Clearly the natural habitat of Singaporean toothpaste was in the refrigerator. I should have left a note for whoever got my apartment after I moved out. But if I had left one, would they have believed me? What might they have said about it? “This person writes too small to be legible”, most likely. I’ve left notes for people before.

The trouble is that organizing tries to put things where it makes sense for them to be, which is rarely were they want to be. The displaced things respond by going missing altogether. Who among us hasn’t tidied the office supplies on their desk and discovered the stapler can’t be found? Or organized the stuff in their medicine cabinet to find that not only is their toothpaste gone but there’s no evidence that they’ve ever had toothpaste? To tidy up the house so well that the guest room goes completely missing and there’s just a vacant spot on the wall is an unusual event. But it’s not unprecedented.

If there is one important thing to consider, it’s this: the Dutch have a municipality named “Urk”. It’s a former island, as the Zuiderzee’s been reclaimed all around it. Now it’s geographically part of the Noordoostpolder, which sounds like they’re doing physics over there. Somebody look into that. After knocking.

How Everything’s Turned Out (So far)


So, the Silver Bells parade was not destroyed by heavy rains, or even inconvenienced by severe cold, this time around. There was a little drizzling midway through but they were able to get through all ten or maybe eleven high school marching bands festooned in lights and playing “Jingle Bells” or “Angels We Have Heard On High”. Only two played “Jingle Bell Rock”.

We are now on what I believe is our fourth HD DVR since we had to switch to the modern era after our old TV exploded. I’m not sure about them all but I think the first one we sent back by mistake because apparently the company just assumed we had a HD satellite receiver what with it being 2017 and all. The second had this thing where the hard drive made a sound at about the same level as a jet engine taking off, all the time. The third was fine from April to about three weeks ago when it decided to put a spot in every program where it’d freeze up and crash. Tech support delighted me by suggesting that the problem might be how the DVR was plugged into a surge protector rather than the bare well. I’m still, a week later, occasionally thinking of that and grinning. I like bunkum when it’s imaginative and fresh and admire whoever had this preposterous idea all ready to deploy. It makes the hassle of trying to think of all the shows we set to record, and losing out on the season of Doctor Who we recorded and never got around to watching, kind of worth it? I guess?

I am still not reading about the history of socks.

Quick Little Test Balloon


OK, so, people who have reason to expect a present from me, like, what would you say to an experience gift instead? I’m not really up on experiences people could have but I bet I could, like, come over there and alphabetize a thing. Might be something simple like bookshelves, or something that made me involuntarily giggle at my father like the spice rack, or something conceptual like the living room. “Does this piece of furniture get ordered under `couch’ or `sofa’?” Maybe alphabetize a sock? Get back to me quick care of some address.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The Another Blog, Meanwhile Index was down slightly today as the trading floor was rocked by the discovery that Mr Slate from The Flintstones and Mr Cogswell from The Jetsons are the same character design only one (Mr Cogswell) is dressed in future garb instead. “We’re 44 years old,” some were heard to cry, “How have we never noticed this before now?” How, indeed? How?

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What Are The Limits To Organization?


Is it ever possible to be too organized? Of course it is. Imagine you were to get so organized that you put all of the matter and energy in the universe together in a single, infinitesimally small pile. This would promptly cause a new Big Bang, obliterating this universe and creating a new one with potentially quite different laws. Perhaps life would be possible in this new universe, but under very different laws. We might see something like the knights in a chess game moving two spaces in one direction and then two crosswise in a single turn. Or there might be even madder consequences, like gravity being replaced by a system of emotional bonds and obligations.

So there are limits to organization. And this is good as it takes the pressure off us to achieve perfection. If we think really hard about how a new-created universe might work — might tic-tac-toe be played with + signs and little diamonds instead of O’s and X’s? — it takes the pressure off us to achieve adequacy. At least that’s my excuse and I know my love understands while glaring, pained, at my side of the room.

And in practice there’s limits to organization even before you get to universe-wrecking consequences. For example, stuff disappears when it’s where it belongs. Consider that box of paperclips that would be useful for clipping paper together. If it were possible to open its plastic case without breaking off the tabs you’re supposed to use to open it. And which wouldn’t open even if you did break the tabs off. It sits on the table for months, maybe years. Everyone knows exactly where it is. People walking past the house come to a halt and stare in the window, waving more passers-by over to point and stare at the paperclips. And that takes some doing, because they have to get past some really prickly bushes to get up to the window.

But there it sits, ready and demanding attention, ready to provide paperclip services just in case we ever open it. Sometimes it moves a bit, trying to sidle up to the remote control and judge whether it can prey upon the appliance-related implement. Maybe it tries to conceal the chunk of hematite I got for $1.49 from the science store like twenty years ago that hasn’t yet grown into a collection of pretty rocks. Anyone could find the box even if the house were blacked out and your eyes held closed by rogue paperclips.

Ah, but then comes the day we finally organize the place. We take the box of paperclips and find the sensible spot for them: in one of the drawers of the side table where we keep the stamps, blank envelopes, stationery, and the stapler that we can’t find staples for. Come back and we find the table is gone. There’s hints of where it had been, indentations in the rug and all that, but no hint of table. It’s as though the idea of horizontal surfaces has been eliminated from the world. I’d write a stern letter to somebody about this, but can’t find the stationery. And when I get back from that the rug is gone too. They’ve snuck off to the game room and hidden behind the game. The game is a 1979 Williams Tri-Zone pinball. I can find them by the chuckling. Furniture may be well-camouflaged, but it is only two-thirds as clever as it thinks it is.

I don’t usually get so much stuff lost when organizing. I mean except when cleaning up for Thanksgiving, a time when we get so busy tidying stuff up that we can lose bookshelves, kitchen cabinets, and back in 2014 the guest bathroom. There’s not a hint there even ever was a second bathroom in the house. The home would even be architecturally senseless with a second one. That cleaning-up job lasted for hours before it was all chaos again.

But I find my own natural limits. I tend to figure I’ve got things as organized as reasonable when I hold up two socks. They look like they’re the same color in the dim light of the morning when I might have to go out somewhere. In sunlight they’re nothing like the same color. One is a navy blue, the other is an enraged red squirrel holding a penknife. But when I reach that point I ponder whether any two socks are “a pair” of socks, even if they haven’t got anything in common except they are the socks without anything in common. The conclusion of this is that any socks can be a pair of socks and therefore they can be put into the pile of pairs of socks. When I get to reasoning like this you can imagine the shape of my DVD shelf. It is a rhombic triacontahedron.

The case of paperclips won’t open because there’s cellophane tape holding together the sides. I can’t find the cellophane either.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The … alternate index? I think that’s the one supposed to report today. Well, the alternate Another Blog, Meanwhile index dropped three points today after their old-time radio podcast had this interesting late-70s adaptation of Journey to the Center of the Earth hosted by Tom Bosley For Some Reason. And I’m not supposed to tell you what the mainstream blog did today but you already know because this whole alternate-reporting thing is just them being silly.

99

A Very Momentary Last Thought About The Leaves


I was thinking hard, as hard as reasonable, about the problem of the leaf-bootleggers clearing out our yard. Then I got distracted by wondering … uh … hang on, it was right here. It was something stupid. Oh yeah, that’s it. I got to wondering whether the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were a species of land or of sea turtle. It must be on a fan wiki somewhere. And just think of the Discussion Page behind it. What if they’re an invasive species? Wouldn’t that be kind of fun in that obscure scientific-fact way? Well, maybe only to me. Also, I am still not reading about the history of socks.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

Four points! We’re up four points! The traders take back everything they said about lower numbers being better because up is definitely the way to go and they’re looking ahead to 98 or even 102 in the near future!

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In Which I Generally Update Stuff


I got my new license plate tags on my car, which required taking the plate holder off, without needing the help of the auto care place on the corner that’s going through some messy drama based on my reading of their message sign. This is literally the first time I’ve managed to take the plate holders off and put them on again on my own.

Neither the Michigan Secretary of State nor the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission have communicated their anger to me. Also I’m still not in trouble over that jury duty thing.

Still not reading about the history of socks.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The Another Blog, Meanwhile index drifted down this afternoon following a heated discussion about what to have for lunch and whether to go to another medium-price fast-dining option or to just accept that what everyone really wants is to go to McDonald’s and eat their weight in fries with ranch sauce and they know a place that’ll give you any of the dipping sauces just for asking. But there’s always the one person who thinks asking for dipping sauces when you aren’t getting Chicken McNuggets is imposing too much on the customer-cashier relationship, based on one time in 1996 for crying out loud that the cashier was all snotty and called them names for trying.

129

Not A Put On


I understand the metaphorical value in talking about someone putting their pants on one leg at a time. I’m just not into that myself. I know how people work. If you put on pants one leg at a time they’re most often going to prefer one leg or the other. And that means there’s going to be one leg that gets pants put on first way more than the other leg does. The imbalance! No. No, can not have that and that’s why I say pants should be put on by sitting on some convenient surface and drawing them both up together at the same time. It’s the only rational way.

Thank you. This has been a message meant to surprise absolutely nobody who has ever met me, ever.

Still not reading about the history of socks.

Time Mystery Deepens


OK, once again, the thing with the clocks? The strange little boring magic-realist novel breaking out in our house where all clocks stop at about the same time? It’s still happening. The mantle clock, the one we’d maybe bring to the mysterious Clock Repair sign-hanger if we could remember the number? The other clock in the living room came to a stop at just about the same time as that. It’s just a dead battery, we think, but still. If some mysterious force is trying to freak us out, they’re going about it in the way that most makes us over-estimate how long is left in The Price Is Right.

In other updates, I am still not learning about the history of socks.

Darned Socks


My love recently got some holes in favored pairs of socks. I don’t think that remarkable except for having favored pairs of socks. I have a line of white socks and a line of grey socks. The only favored ones are that I have a line of thick socks that feel so very good come winter. When those get holes they leave the sock rotation and just make free-form pairs with whatever other sock might be nearby and of the same line.

But my love’s different, and has some patterend socks, and some to not give up on easily. And thus my love studied a couple instructional videos and the like, got some thread and needles, and tried darning. This started with a sock of no particular emotional import, but the result was astounding. A little bit of unpromising fiddling about, this slog of despair that anything useful could come of all this work. Then one strong tug on the string and it was like magic. The hole was gone. There was barely the hint there had ever been a hole.

So, my love’s now got on this darning, um, tear, going through all the socks with holes that were too important to throw away and turning them back into viable sock products. It’s reached the point we might start deliberately poking holes in socks, just for the fun of closing them up again. Home economics is a wonderful thing.

I am still not up to the challenge of reading the history of socks.

And hey, I just hit 33,333 page views here! Neat. To me, anyway.

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.

On Reflection


The guy who sneezed for vaudeville audiences was in at least two of the Gold Diggers Of 193- movies. He was, yes, showing off his talents for the big screen. Maybe he was in all of them. I’m not sure. But I definitely didn’t make that up. I don’t know if there were performing coughers. He was pretty funny as a sneezer, but I don’t know whether he was the top sneeze performer of the day or if he was an adequate performing sneezer who happened to be friends with the producer. Maybe the professional-sneezing community was driven crazy by the movies, thinking, “that post-nasal drip? His only good sneezes he stole from Muriel anyway!” Maybe the world has lost the record of a professional sneezer so good she or he could make you explode with a feeling of entertainment.

The important thing is I’m still deciding whether I’m up to reading up on the history of socks.

And finally, the hipster bar near us where pinball league meets is scheduled next month to have a Tim-Burton-Movie Body-Painting Contest. I do need help having a reaction to this.

Generally Updating Stuff


So. After an incident in which the spider crawled onto my love’s keys and we brought it, by way of a newspaper, over to the bushes, we haven’t seen webs across the door. However this morning there was a flyer stuffed in the door crack. The flyer invites us to Bible study. I trust it’s in earnest because the dates for the class are crossed out and different ones written in pen. I have no specific reason to think this the work of the same spider, but I also have no grounds to rule it out either.

The History of Socks has updated its essay, so that its alarming paragraph implying socks are not simple things is four paragraphs down. It now opens with the invitation to:

Consider the sock. Some overlook this mundane undergarment, but don’t let its unassuming nature fool you — the history of hosiery is anything but humble.

That’s dramatically better. It’s more inviting. It teases the idea that socks aren’t complicated anymore but it doesn’t threaten. We can get right to arguing about whether socks are an “undergarment” when you can just see them on a normally-dressed person. We can argue about that later, in some other context, and not with me.

I continue to have measurably better dance moves if I sit through the whole thing.

The Worm In The Ear. Plus: Sock Simplicity Update


OK, so apparently my head is just going to be delivering a medley of the J Geils Band’s Angels In The Centerfold cutting to the Kinks’ Come Dancing and Devo’s Whip It. I can deal with that. I’m happy I can still have earworms, since they take about eight to fifteen seconds. So my attention span is at least eight seconds long still. That’s a source of pride-ish-ness these days. There’s a whole generation coming that won’t be able to get a song caught in their heads because they can’t hear enough of one before moving on to the next thing.

Meanwhile? The history of socks? Yeah, it still implies that socks are no longer simple. Still not up to that.

Why I Am Not Learning About The History Of Socks


I was all set to read this history of socks, for good reason. Socks are things (you can’t tell me otherwise) and they probably have a history, so that’s plenty of reason for me to read a book of up to 203,800 words about their origins. But then the very first sentence of the thing was this:

Socks and stockings originated as simple pieces of felt stuffed into shoes to provide warmth.

This implies that socks are no longer simple things. Therefore I shall go hiding under the bed until I feel up to handling complicated socks. I’m still not recovered from the socks that have that little colored patch in the heel so you can tell when you’ve put it on upside-down and there’s somehow an upside-down way to put on a sock.

Robert Benchley Society 2014 Award Winners Named


I’m not among them, which is a pity for me. Also I never managed to find the finalists list, so I don’t know how close I came to amusing final judge Mark Russell with a piece based on that bread-throwing ghost from Plaisto, London. (The piece was shrunk to 500 words, per the submission guidelines, which required a complete rewrite, which made for an interesting writing exercise. I’m not sure which I like better. The shorter has a punchiness I like, even though I enjoy the longer’s rambling.)

Anyway, the grand prize winner was Lowell T Christensen, with a piece titled How to Help Children With Attention Deficit Disorder; runners-up were Cy Creed with Just The Socks Please, Nothing But The Socks, Kathy Myers and A Brief History of Writers, and Eileen Mitchell and The Science of Stumbling. And the whole set of entries can be read, with the authors concealed, so good luck figuring out which one was mine. I just noticed mine has a typo in it.

Anyway, I’m sad, but I’ll recover, I suppose. And there’ll be other things for me to write about or contests to enter, I tell myself. Send doughnuts. Congratulations to the winners, none of whom are me.

Or Maybe The Shoe People Are Smarter Than They Let On


So, I dipped my boot into the pond, to see how deep the water above the ice layer was, and how seriously solid the ice layer was, and it turns out there’s a hole in the boot. Also the water is that extremely cold, extremely adhesive sort of water that instantly saturates the entirety of the sock, and that never warms up, even after you’ve taken the sock off and have set your foot on fire. I’m pretty sure things weren’t this bad two weeks ago.

Uncertain Investments


I’ve been trying for a while to do that thing where your money turns into piles of bigger money, without using counterfeiting, so I have to look at investments where someone else does the counterfeiting for me. But I’m skeptical about this new one e-mailed me. The prospectus says they’re going to make self-hopping socks, so that you don’t have to go about manually making your socks fly up off the floor anymore, thereby freeing up large parts of the day for other chores, such as towel-waving. Besides the automatic socks they figure to sell conversion kits so people can adapt their earlier footwear to the new standards. They estimate growth over the first three years at “eleventy kerspillion percent” and are listed on the Camden, New Jersey, Stock Exchange, under “bouillon (soup)”. And yet I don’t know; something about it feels too good to be true. Still, it’s only a couple bucks to get started, or I can trade them a pair of worn-out sandals or some packets of Arby’s horsey sauce. I like that sense of scrappiness in a startup.