Statistics Saturday: How Much States Are Messing With You by When They Observe Arbor Day


State Observance Messing With You Level
Ohio Last Friday in April Not at all
Kentucky First Friday in April Not much
Nevada Last Friday in April Considerably, as Nevada has only 16 palm trees, and they’re all on a golf course that consumes two-thirds the volume of the Colorado River to maintain
South Dakota Last Friday in April Messing with North Dakota, not you
North Dakota First Friday in April Messing with South Dakota, not you
Washington Second Friday in April Only a little
Georgia Third Friday in February What
New Hampshire Last Friday in April Not particularly
Vermont First Friday in May Just picking a fight with New Hampshire
Nebraska Last Friday in April Thank you for getting things back in order
Maryland First Wednesday in April Just checking if you’re paying attention
Maine Third full week in May Up to moderate mischief here
California 7th – 14th of March Up to even more mischief here
Alabama Last full week of February Now cut that out
Wyoming Last Monday in April Adorable attempt to pretend there’s trees in Wyoming
Oregon First full week of April This is refugee Californians messing things up, right?
Colorado Third Friday in April Why not
Pennsylvania Last Friday in April Not at all
North Carolina First Friday following March 15 Ugh, this again?
Texas First Friday in November What the heck?

Reference: Stan And Ollie: The Roots Of Comedy: The Double Life Of Laurel And Hardy, Simon Louvish. With special thanks to my love without whom I’d never have realized Arbor Day isn’t the same day in every state and that some of them put a whole week to Arbor Day.

60s Popeye: Spare Dat Tree and where it lost me


We’re back with Jack Kinney studios this week. The story is again by Ed Nofziger. That usually signals some genial weirdness. The animation director is Ken Hultgren. Don’t have a large enough sample to say what to expect there. I was on edge when I saw the spelling of “dat”, but I suppose they were trying to approximate how Popeye would say “that”. The title’s referencing a poem and song — “Woodman, Spare that Tree!” — published by George Pope Morris in 1837. I only know it from the occasional cartoon that references it, and a song adaptation that Phil Harris did.

With that all introduced, here’s Spare Dat Tree.

I believe I’ve adequately documented how I was a weird kid. I was in fact as many as three weird kids stacked on top of each other. I do remember something weird about this cartoon bothering me as a kid. It bothers me today.

The cartoon starts at Popeye’s Boring Suburb House. We’re saved from that by it being a Swee’Pea “tell me a story” frame. In this, a nature story, Popeye’s the forest ranger and protects two monarch trees, each five thousand years old. Brutus — a Brutus, the cartoon notes, as if it were an occupation — comes to chop down the trees. Eventually Popeye gets to eating some spinach … some wood spinach, that I guess is its wild counterpart(?) … and punches him to the state capitol, in Poland.

The trees are presented with faces, and voices, done by Jack Mercer and Mae Questel. It would be a cute riff on Popeye and Olive Oyl’s voices if I thought it was a choice. The cartoons only had three voice actors. And there is this strange dreamy circularity to their dialogue. Especially the Queen Tree’s asking the King if it hurts and the King answering variations of “only when I laugh”. Little exchanges, though, like the Queen Tree fussing about how cute Ranger Popeye is, share that light dreaminess. Also the Queen Tree telling the King to get back down here, once he’d been blown into the air, and his wearily agreeing to comply.

It’s a small thing but Ranger Popeye spends a lot of this cartoon squinting angrily. It’s a good look.

Scene showing Brutus having burrowed underground, and having dug open a tunnel wide enough to chop the subterranean trunk of the King Tree.
By the way I was surprised to see that Jack Mercer’s credited for the old male tree’s voice since I did not expect him to do that good a job sounding different. But then I remember he was tagged to do a lot of old-man voices for Paramount cartoons. Still, this tree put me in mind of Allen Swift’s portrayal of Simon Bar Sinister, which maybe better shows you how long it’s been since I watched Underdog.

What bothered me as a kid, and bothers me today, is after Brutus goes underground to cut the King Tree. (And that’s a good loophole-joke way around “no logging on these grounds”.) Brutus succeeds! He cuts the tree the whole way through. And I knew there was no coming back from that. I would accept the trees talking with Popeye and maybe Brutus. I accept unquestioningly Popeye’s spinach-induced super-strength. Also the tree trunk going a good eight feet underground instead of being roots. But that all the tree needs is to be set back in its hole?

Every story depends to some extent on suspending disbelief. Many of these are small things, like stories reaching a clear resolution. Or they’re things that we accept if we’re taking in the story at all, like how spinach makes Popeye even more super-strong for a while. Why was “the giant talking tree just needs to be set back in the ground again” too much ask of me? I don’t know.

I’m sure if Popeye had fed the tree spinach then I’d have accepted it. That would have made good sense.

Year In Review: Some Mostly Happy Things To See Out 2017


  • Happy Roo Year. A chance for everyone to have quite longer feet, a strong tail, and maybe a pouch.
  • Happy Two Year. Running 2018 simultaneously in two instances, with minor variations in some of the model assumptions, in the hopes that combining the results will allow for a more reliable prediction.
  • Happy Goo Year. In which everyone is a sort of gelatinous mass that nevertheless retains a strong sense of personal identity.
  • Happy New Gear. We all finally put it in second.
  • Happy Rude Year. Allowing the masses to take the opportunity to call for a gentler, more polite society.
  • Hippo New Year. Okay, so when they recorded “I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas” some Oklahoma City-area promoter got the idea to use the popular novelty song as a chance to fundraise for buying singer Gayla Peevey an actual hippopotamus for Christmas which she, not being daft, donated to the Oklahoma City Zoo where it lived for nearly a half-century.
  • Happy New Tier. We take the year up a notch!
  • Happy Ewe Year. In which we finally stop looking down on the sheeple!
  • Happy Two Year. Running 2018 simultaneously in two instances, with minor variations in some of the model assumptions, in order to reflect how this is an even-numbered year after all.
  • Happy Yew Near. Celebrating the proximity of us to various coniferous trees and shrubs.

In Which I Stall For The Reasons


I’m sorry. I saw the lawyer for the Insane Clown Posse, or the “Juggalawyer” as apparently they call him, while watching Samantha Bee’s show last night and I don’t really know what things are anymore.

So uh, here. Something from a park we visited last weekend. The question: Was the sign placed there fortuitously … or did they wait until a tree collapsed and figured that’s where to put the sign … or did someone fell a tree as a warning to the others? And if a warning, has this driven the other trees to greater productivity? Or has it driven the ice to try for more?

Warning sign: 'In high wind or icy conditions watch for falling limbs'. Surrounding it is a tree that's been cut down.
Also not looking to joke about the icy conditions since even though yes, it was 95 degrees Fahrenheit yesterday that doesn’t mean we aren’t going to get snow as early as 8:42 tonight.

Good News From The Christmas-Time


Our pet rabbit had been feeling awfully sour, yes, and he did declare the whole holiday to be a “humbug”. In his defense, we took him in the pet carrier to my love’s parents, so we could spend the time there. While he likes being at my love’s parents’ place, that does require travelling there and he doesn’t like that one bit. So I can understand his fowl mood is all.

Our pet rabbit caught in a particularly sneering pose.
It’s when you get down to his level that you notice he has really quite long teeth and can stick his tongue out at you.

Luckily, he was visited that night by four ghosts, one of them a ghost warning he was being visited by ghosts, and he’s in much better spirits now. He’s promising he’ll definitely keep Christmas in his heart and in his paws, and the Christmas tree in his mouth. So all’s happy here, and I hope it’s happy over your way too.

Our pet rabbit, partly standing --- paw resting on his exercise pen's frame --- while he nibbles at a tree branch.
I’m pretty sure our pet rabbit is not actually doing “talk to the paw cause the mouth is eating Christmas tree” but I can’t swear it isn’t in his mind.

From The Dawn Of Beeps


Up to about a century ago nobody had ever heard a beep. That’s not a staggering thought. It’s more the sort of thing that catches you while you’re getting to bed and keeps you from avoiding the wall. But it’s the kind of sound the universe got along fine without for billions of years, and then suddenly it didn’t anymore.

Consider a great historical figure, like Queen Elizabeth I. She went her entire life, prison and everything, without hearing a beep. What sound did anyone make when they touched her nose? A perfect silence would be terrible. She’d certainly make a noise, probably something like “quit that”. But there’d be no beep. The whole act of nose-beeping was wasted for all of human history. Did they realize something was missing?

People dreamed of having flying machines before they existed, so they understood there was something that could exist but didn’t. But who thought of “beep” as a sound we could have but didn’t have as late as, oh, 1900? Royal nose-beeping would seem to encourage people to notice the awkwardness of not having a sound. But what sort of genius would work out it was a “beep” they needed?

Could there have been some early genius who realized that even though the technology to make a “beep” didn’t yet exist, it someday would? Google’s Ngram Viewer seems to tease the idea it might, by showing off books from before 1900 that have “beep” or “beeping” in them. But those could be mistakes. Take for example Volume 26 of the Proceedings of the Iowa State Horticultural Society. It looks momentarily like they’re talking about beeping, with text like this:

In the South District the Duchess shall be the standard as to hardiness and productiveness of tree, and size of fruit, while the quality must equal Grimes’s Golden and its beeping capacity the Willow.

You could argue that the Willow has no beeping capacity. This would imply the Iowa State Horticultural Society worried about trees that have beeping capacity of less than zero. But if anyone would know about the beeping capacity of the Willow or other trees it’s them. I don’t know what a negative beeping capacity would be; maybe it would quiet authorized beeps in the area? Certainly the Iowa State Horticultural Society would seem to know what it’s talking about. Look at how neatly on that very same page they divide Iowa into two districts:

1. The North District shall include the counties north of the north line of Linn county, or the county lines nearest thereto across the state.

2. The South District shall include the counties south of the above line.

That’s top-notch organization. These are clearly horticulturists with a strong understanding of north and south. But looking carefully at the page I feel pretty sure it says “its keeping capacity the Willow”. The character recognition software at Google just got mixed up. That’s at least as possible, but it leaves unanswered the question: capacity at keeping what? If Willows have a lot of keeping capacity then this could revolutionize the self-storage industry. At the least it’ll make them look prettier.

A lot of the Google Books results for “beeping” in early 19th century texts are that sort of character error. This can be fun, like the bit in the 1866 Bradshaw’s Handbook For Tourists In Great Britain and Ireland where it looks like it says “Market Beeping (the church is ancient)”. I’m tempted to make up fake subway signs that point the way to Market Beeping. There are also a lot of old medical gazettes that Google Books summarizes as making references to “beeping cough”. That’s a jolly amusing one until you smack into the wall feeling guilty over that. Then you write it down as an ailment robots get in a cloyingly comic science fiction adventure.

So we have to conclude that “beep” caught everyone by surprise. This implies there are other sounds that nobody’s ever thought of that the universe is about to find, after fourteen billion years doing without, that it needs. What are they? No one can say, because logic works that way. If you don’t get why that is, don’t worry, it’ll catch you while you’re going to bed sometime.


(Oh, yes, I forget to invite people to follow my page here. In the current theme it’s a green box on the left side of the panel. Or you can watch what I write on Twitter, which is mostly shorter than this and is sometimes just outrage at the movie that’s on. Thanks for the attention.)

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.

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.

Our pet rabbit, as seen outside in the yard.
Our pet rabbit, as seen outside in the yard.

“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.”