The Social Animal


So yesterday we had over a plumber who was so charming and personable and easy to chat with it’s almost a shame we didn’t have a more complicated leak from the bathtub fixtures. And then in the evening there were an estimated 21,642 new people at our pinball league whom I did my best to smile to and help get to understand that they’re welcome and valued and we’re glad to have them try out the place. That all went well, and 142,000 of them said they were definitely coming back next league meeting. But after that many hours being outgoing and social and attentive to so many people I need to spend the next, like, week with the lights off and shades drawn, hiding underneath the bed and swatting at imaginary visitors so please pardon me, won’t you? Thank you.

I’m so lucky they were able to deliver one of those overcast, foggy days where you can’t see to the far end of the street of necessarily the house on short notice like this.

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What’s Going On In Mark Trail? August – November 2017


Greetings, fellow creature who fears nature. If you’re interested in the current storyline in James Allen’s Mark Trail, great! I describe it here. At least I do if it’s not too much later than mid-November 2017 for you. If you’re reading this after, like, February 2018 things have possibly moved on and this won’t help you any. If I’ve written a follow-up explanation of the stories I should have them at or near the top of this page. Please check there to see if that’s more useful. If it’s not, well, try this and we’ll see what it can do for you.

And on my other blog, there’s mathematically-themed comic strips. Please consider that too, if you’ve got the time for another blog in your life.

Mark Trail.

28 August – 19 November 2017.

Twelve weeks ago I last reviewed James Allen’s Mark Trail. I predicted then the story was near its end. I had good reason. The story had already been running since something like the 25th of February. (There were a couple weeks of apparently extraneous character setup that looks like teasing for a later story. But it could yet intervene in this story.) And the major story elements seemed to be all set out. Mark Trail, held hostage by an unnamed Rapid City, South Dakota, bank robber, had got to the point where he punches people. He’d also worked out the big plot twist. The woman held hostage with him was not just a snarky comics reviewer but also, secretly, Bank Robber’s accomplice. Trail had arranged his friend Johnny Lone Elk to fake being lost to a ravine accident, the better to come back and punch people. The FBI in cooperation with the local sheriff were closing in on the ghost town to which Trail lead Bank Robber. And severe weather was closing in, ready to fill the story’s quota of “Nature: Too Deadly For Humans” narrative. Also, there may or may not be a bear.

We’re still in this story. I’m as startled as you are. Maybe eight percent more startled. What all has Mark Trail been doing with his time? Let’s recap.

Johnny Lone Elk teamed up with the Sheriff into the bear-bearing caves that lead to the ghost town. While they do have to pass the notoriously cranky Samson, the grizzly is content to let them on their way in exchange for a couple of odd-brand candy bars. So all you people teasing me for stockpiling Zero bars and Squirrel Nut Zippers? Go get eaten by a bear. Johnny and Sheriff get to the tunnels underneath the ghost town. Sheriff fills in some backstory about why the empty town has enough tunnel space to build the Second Avenue Subway.

The spinning blades rip off a windmill. Accomplice shouts 'Look out!' The spinning blades fly toward Mark Trail. Maybe. The perspective seems weird.
James Allen’s Mark Trail for the 8th of September, 2017. Of the action sequences the last couple months of Mark Trail I think the windmill collapse was the least effective. It’s cinematic, sure. But if the reader has a vague idea how big an Old West Ghost Town windmill is (like I do) then it’s really hard to judge how threatening the thing is. And in still pictures it’s hard to judge how fast it’s moving, or how futile dodging might be. I’ll accept easily that one of them falling loose and flinging at a person would be catastrophic, but it also seems unlikely. Fair enough to have bad luck throw your characters into peril, but it did mean I started out not quite believing what was going on, and then the art didn’t sell me on it.

Mark Trail leads Bank Robber and Accomplice into the ghost town, ahead of the tornado. They’re just in time for the windmill to come flying off the tower and chase them down. But Mark outwits the loose windmill vanes. The horses bolt, but Bank Robber’s able to grab the sack of money off one of them. They take shelter in the town saloon. Across the street, in the bank, Johnny Lone Elk and Sheriff emerge from their subplot, just in time for the rain to clear.

Sheriff shooting at the crooks and Mark Trail. Trail: 'You two should just give up now!' Bank Robber: 'SHUT UP, TRAIL! EVERYBODY STAY DOWN!' Accomplice: 'I'm not cut out for this!'
James Allen’s Mark Trail for the 19th of October, 2017. You know the midlist has gotten bad when Sir Arthur C Clarke has to take up bank-robbing and hostage-taking.

Bank Robber whips out his iPhone, in what looks like an Otter protective case. Have to say, I’ve had good experiences with the Otter cases, so, good decision and all. He’s calling for his pickup. Still, Trail warns there’s no reason there can’t still be a tornado, and maybe a hurricane, and maybe a swarm of killer bees piloting tiny F-18s for good measure. Accomplice warns Trail could be right. Bank Robber’s having none of it, and forces Accomplice and Trail to the nearby abandoned airstrip. Sheriff orders them to freeze, and they do, except instead of holding still Bank Robber shoots back. Accomplice does take the chance to run out of the conflict and into Johnny Lone Elk’s custody.

Small aircraft pilot in storm clouds and rain: 'Boy, that wind is getting fierce ... I sure hope he knows what he's doing! ... Seems like we could've planned a less complicated way to pull off this job and get away with it!'
James Allen’s Mark Trail for the 30th of October, 2017. Really not sure how there could possibly be a simpler bank-robbery getaway plan than ‘take a hostage at the airport rental counter and have him drive to a remote town that has an abandoned airstrip where you can fly in and recover him’. I mean, what else could they do, go to some bus-and-train terminal and buy two dozen tickets to random other cities while driving out under cover of being in a 2014 Chevy Malibu too boring to even appear in security camera footage?

Bank Robber keeps Trail hostage, though, walking to the airstrip where his escape pilot — a young-looking Judge Alan Parker sporting a ponytail — ponders how surely there could have been a less complicated getaway plan. But before a vehicle can be safely used for its intended purpose, nature intervenes, and the plane is smacked down by a tornado. Trail tries to use the chaos to grab Bank Robber’s gun, but Bank Robber answers with fists. But a punching match with Mark Trail is almost dumber than force-feeding Popeye a can of spinach. So Bank Robber grabs his pistol. Sheriff throws an axe at Bank Robber, smacking him hard and breaking his hand. (By the time Sheriff could get a clear shot on Bank Robber, his rifle jammed, is why he’s diddling about with an axe.)

Mark Trail yells 'LOOK OUT!!' as he and Bank Robber are thrown forward by the exploding small-aircraft.
James Allen’s Mark Trail for the 3rd of November, 2017. If I were to claim that BOOOM was a short-lived early-60s Mad Magazine imitator noteworthy mostly for once featuring a script by Alan Arkin and a couple spot cartoons by Crockett Johnson of Barnaby and Harold and his Purple Crayon fame, would you believe me? I thought so.

And aircraft pilot Alan Parker? He bailed out just before the plane was destroyed by the tornado. And his parachute was working all right until the tornado turned and hit that, sending him plummeting into a barn. Parker says he’s surprisingly okay, though: “I’m lucky there was still soem hay in this old stable!” So he is. Come this Monday the tornado’s going to drop four cows and a cruise liner on him.

So. Like you see, that’s a lot of stuff happening. It seems like it’s got to be near done now. Accomplice gave herself up to the guest star. Bank Robber’s had all his guns cudgeled out of his hands. Alan Parker’s a shoe-in for a forthcoming Ripley’s Believe It Or Not panel. What really makes sense is for someone to eat pancakes and to do something about counting up the prairie dogs near Rapid City. I still haven’t forgot that was the reason Mark Trail came out here. I’m not leaving this story until I hear about the comeback the prairie dogs are making.

Sunday Animals Watch!

Animals or natural phenomena featured on Sundays recently have included:

  • Coqui Frogs of Puerto Rico, 3 September 2017. They’re invasive in Hawaii and soon California.
  • The 2010 Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill, 10 September 2017. Oil-eating microbes seem to be making things less awful than expected.
  • Hurricane Season, 17 September 2017. This was a couple weeks after Harvey, right after Hurricane Irma, and just as Hurricane Maria got started.
  • Nile Crocodile, 24 September 2017. They’re dying
  • Dracula Orchids, 1 October 2017. They’re terrifying.
  • Black rat snakes, 8 October 2017. They’re eight feet long and emit musk when threatened.
  • Bobbit Worms, 15 October 2017. They’re horrifying.
  • Hydnellum Peckii fungus, 22 October 2017. They’re a “ghoulish” fungus.
  • Trapdoor Spiders, 29 October 2017. Gads, yes, but we need them.
  • Mysterious cross-species altruism, 5 November 2017. It’s not just for social media anymore.
  • Quolls, 12 November 2017. They’re dying.
  • The Purple Frogs of Bhupathy India, 19 November 2017. Too soon to tell but I bet you they’re dying.

Next Week!

Is there life after cruise ships? No, not really. But Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth has been doing its best to carry on as though there were. All goes well, next week, I’ll see what dubiously-sourced quotations from famous people they have to talk about a cruise-less story. Only connect to us, won’t you?

Friday Is Coming, We Hope


I don’t like to make promises of things I’m not sure can happen. I mean, I do it anyway, because work will send me tasks and if I started admitting how little I’m sure that I can accomplish anything this might encourage everyone to admit we’ve been bluffing our way through the world since fifth grade at the latest, and then where would we be? Sixth grade?

But. Here’s the important thing. Friday is supposed to be the next time the Silver Bells In The City parade marches through downtown Lansing. And the forecast has rain as a real, serious possibility. I can’t promise that the results will be as spectacular as last year, when a major storm rolled through and blew away dozens of marching bands and created a TV show experience I still want to give each and every one of you. I still haven’t seen if they have DVDs of last year’s parade. But yes, I’m hopeful, going in to this year’s spectacle. I mean, it’s already raining and so dark that a raccoon knocked on the side door and asked if we could turn on a light so she could see. So maybe we’ll get a fun dose of chaos, maybe.

Also I’m thinking of ways to weatherproof myself better, perhaps by wearing eight layers of raincoats, or perhaps getting a giant vinyl ball to move in. No, that’s probably a good way to end up washed down the street and into the Grand River. Must think seriously about this. You first.

Also, hey, I looked over some more mathematically-themed comic strips today so you can think about those instead.

In The Aftermath Of The Storm


Maybe you saw there was a pretty major thunderstorm in mid-Michigan last Saturday, what with how they evacuated the Michigan State University football stadium and the game was delayed for over three and two-thirds years before completion. (I maybe wrote that down wrong.) A storm like that’s all good fun except for all the flooding, of course. But where it got personal was it knocked out our power. Not sure how long; after an hour of this we left to see if anything good was left at the Halloween costume stores.

The annoying part of this was having to go around setting clocks on everything again. Whoever heard of spending the first weekend in November fiddling with the time on all their consumer electronics? And I know what you’re thinking. But I use the time changes judiciously, letting the clocks know just which ones are important enough to get changed right away and which ones we don’t even notice and let slide until, like, February. It makes them feel uncertain about their use, which causes productivity.

No, the real pain is in resetting the answering machine, which we still have on our land line, which we still have because shut up. For some reason our answering machine needs these aspects of the time set:

  • Day of the week.
  • Hour of the day.
  • Minute of the hour.
  • The current year.

And … that’s it. Not the month. Not the day of the month. Hit the ‘time’ feature and it will tell you that it’s, like, ‘Wednesday, 4:12 pm, 2017.” It doesn’t report the year when giving the time a message was left, because who ever needs the year of a message except for the first workday of the new year? It’s the most baffling user interface choice I have ever encountered that isn’t related to how iTunes handles podcasts.

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.

In Which I Just Have Some Excuses Because It’s Kind Of Warm


I’d totally be on top of writing something that amuses at least me today, but I’m sorry. Given the heat I’ve been dealing with my car melting into a puddle of black-with-red-trim goo. It’s a huge hassle, as you might figure, especially given the prevailing tides. The only things that’ve been making it any easier to deal with are that the winds have been calm, making it easier to put up the foam barriers and squeegee much of the car back into some kind of shape, and that I never threw out that Super Extreme Large foam cup I got at the convenience store on a road trip a couple weeks ago, so that a lot of the backseat just fit naturally into the cup I had formerly thrown into the backseat. Anyway, it’s all very time-consuming and stressful and I’m hoping that it cools down before the rain comes because after the trouble when this happened three years ago I don’t want to have to go through reverse-osmosis on my car again. Thanks for understanding.

Scion tC covered in snow and ice from a late winter storm.
My Scion tC, here, not too warm.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

Investors panicked today after reports of — well, anything really. Why aren’t you panicking? Good grief, there was this clickbait ad saying “don’t invest in lithium until you see this” and that’s enough right now. Why would you be investing in lithium to start with? Why would you stop? Why aren’t people talking about this? Or why are they talking about this? Is that picture by it what lithium actually looks like in the wild? And the clickbait below it says the new shampoo is 100% guaranteed to and we don’t even see the rest and that’s enough too!

200

In Which Barry Mitchell Is Part Of My Dreams, I Guess


Renowned playwright Christopher Shinn recently twitterwrought this:

Last week’s dreams would do pretty well for that: “Suspension Ping-Pong” is a viable play title. And “The Insincere Seagull” swings too. But last night’s? That was one that just didn’t have any disturbing elements, really. There was just a lot of shuffling up and down cramped stairwells and a lot of confusion on my part about why I was involved in the process of picking a comedic weather reporter. It also featured overnight news polka artist and all-purpose comedian Barry Mitchell explaining to me that a joke he’d used when he got into the business of comic weather reporting was a good one. “The kind American audiences like, that’s funny but that the more they think about it makes less sense”.

I remember that in the dream I also found the joke amusing, but all that’s left of it is the punch line “dog whistles”. (I mean literally the thing used to get dogs’ attention, not the thing where you insist someone’s crazy for hearing a racist comment when you say something racist.) Probably I thought too much about the joke. I had no idea why I was part of any of this. But I haven’t known why I was part of anything I was part of since my undergrad commencement. And that I knew was going to on whether I was part of it or not, but if I was part of it, I would hear a speech by Senator Bill Bradley. I guess that’s what I needed back then. So even not having any idea why I was there in the dream wasn’t disturbing. It was just what I’d have expected.

As I say, though, there’s not any disturbing elements in this dream. Just shuffling around stairs and pondering what kinds of jokes really sell.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index fell one point as traders were all giggling about that Samsung store in Singapore that caught on fire. “I bet the manager was quoted as saying, `Shut up’,” said one analyst who did not in fact place such a bet. And then they felt bad they didn’t check if anybody was hurt in the fire before passing around jokes about it, and don’t you feel a little bad about that grin you had now? I don’t think anybody was hurt in it.

119

In Which I Am Concerned About My Shirt


It reached the temperature of Like Thirty Degrees Too Warm For Late March today and I put on one of my short-sleeved yellow shirts. It’s a kind I like: it has a pocket in case I need a pen in my shirt pocket. And it’s yellow, so that I show up in photographs. (I have this condition where I can’t be noticed in photographs unless I bug out my eyes and turn my head slightly to the side so I look like I’m doing a bad job pretending to be surprised by my birthday party. It’s inherited; my grandmother had the same problem. We carry on, proudly.)

Anyway, the shirt turns out to be incredibly faded. It’s still yellow-ish, but it’s gotten very near white since I last wore it and I can’t think why. Fading from the sun? Maybe, but who lets my clothes out in the sun? Fading from bleach? No, we put bleach to other purposes around the house. I have to conclude it’s fallen prey to a shirt vampire draining its essential dye and while it’s got a few more rounds left to it, it’ll soon join the legion of undead clothing. Which is a shame, but it is part of the cycle of clothing life.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index fell seven points today on allegations that having the number be a round figure like ‘130’ caused it to look made-up, and ‘125’ wasn’t really any better, is it? Maybe we need to start measuring in eighths of a point or something so it looks the more credible. What do you, the viewer at home, think?

118

In Which I Don’t Know Something About Texas


My love happened to chat about pinball with someone from Texas this weekend. He (the Texan) mentioned that no, nobody has basements in Texas. And, fine, that will happen. I didn’t think much particularly about that revelation, because I grew up in New Jersey, where we don’t get tornadoes. If a tornado forms in the New Jersey area it immediately strikes Brooklyn or, if it can’t afford Brooklyn (who can?), Staten Island. My love, growing up in Michigan, wondered then what Texans do in tornado weather if there isn’t a basement for shelter. I can only guess that when there’s a tornado siren in Texas everyone grabs a gun, rushes outside, and shoots it until the siren stops. And if there is a tornado it only gets worse treatment. I’m open to learning better from people with actual experience of Texas tornados, but I shall know you’re lying to me if you claim that afterwards they don’t barbecue the tornado’s corpse. There’s some things I know even before I look them up.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The Another Blog, Meanwhile index fell eight points when there was this scary sound outside and nobody was willing to investigate it.

118

Some Groundhog Results


Groundhog Location Forecast
Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania Shorter Winter
Staten Island Zoo, New York City Longer Winter
Howell, Michigan Longer Winter
Sandusky, Ohio Wider Winter
Salem, New Hampshire Mintier Winter
Santa Claus, Indiana Winter With Chocolate Sprinkles And Whipped Cream
Elysburg, Pennsylvania Three-Minute Spring With Biscuit and Gravy
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina Mid-Spring
Pigeon Forge, Tennessee Longer Winter But With Fashionable Fringes
Clementon, New Jersey Remarkably Average Winter

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The Another Blog, Meanwhile index fell by two points, but is counting that as a moral victory considering expectations were for it to drop by between one and three points.

104

Some Weather-Forecasting Animals


  • Floriemel, Carmela, and Margarita Coati. Cohanzick Zoo, Bridgeton, NJ. February 1. The animals come out and eat fruit to predict how many human-interest features will explain what the heck coatis are. They’re what Belize has instead of raccoons.
  • Punxsutawney Phil, Punxsutawney, Totally Oughta Be Philadelphia. February 2. Groundhog famous for predicting whether we’ll get the place spelled right.
  • Woody the Woodchuck, Howell, Michigan. February 2. Predicts whether spring will come to the lower peninsula in six weeks or whether spring will be like normal and arrive sometime late May. No forecast for the upper peninsula as spring has never come to the upper peninsula.
  • Shrieking Sam the Shreveport Clam, Louisiana. February 4. Will holler up a storm about whether a storm is coming in. Does not count own hollering storm as a storm.
  • Jormungandr, Low Earth Orbit. February 5. Rises early in the morning to determine whether this will be the year he eats Scandinavia. Spoiler: hasn’t for the last 876 years, starting to think he never will. Dress warmly anyway.
  • Chris Squirrel, London. February 7. Adorable fluffy-tailed character in a computer-animated funny-animal movie about the Yes bassist. Forecasts whether the coming year will feature lasers.
  • Kenny Kangaroo, Pittsburgh, February 8. Forecasts whether the Kennywood amusement park would close for the day at 8:00 or 9:00, if it were open in the middle of winter like this. Mostly a public-relations thing, unlike the other weather-forecasting animals.
  • Carl, Des Moines, Washington, February 10. Oversleeping groundhog that makes us wonder why we need a Des Moines in Washington when the one in Iowa would seem to sate all our Des Moines needs, really. Forecasts whether eastern Washington state will have a quarter-inch of rain this year or whether it’ll stay dry.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index dropped over twenty points on overnight orders. It was climbing steadily through the day when a fire alarm halted trading two hours before the normal close of business. The alarm was false, and everyone got to spend time in the light snow talking about old fire alarms back in the dorms or other fun memories like that. Everybody felt much better about themselves and the world. By the time the trading floor was cleared for the resumption there was only like twenty minutes left in the day so everyone went for a Rita’s Frozen Ice instead.

122

Some Weather Forecasts


  • Cooler and overcast with flurries in the evening leading to arguments on I-195 about why everybody is there exactly.
  • Clear skies but brisk and extremely windy. Wear extra layers and have an anchor ready in case of more extreme gusts than are good for you.
  • Wintry mix giving way to showers of tiny hard pretzels and the unpopular ones of an assorted peanuts jar. This might be less the weather and more you tripping into the office party’s snack bowl.
  • Though it’s enough above freezing you think it’s all right to run to the car without your gloves on, there’s just enough freezing rain to destroy the structural integrity of your skin if you try. Note: you can’t get your keys into the car door if you have your gloves on.
  • Sharp drop in the temperature reminds you that somehow you only ever look at http://dogeweather.com when it’s really lousy out.
  • It’s going to be 65 degrees at noon and drop to 22 by sunset? Did somebody forget to pay the sanity bill again?

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index rose a whopping big eleven points today as bearish traders got to arguing about whether this one web comic has gone totally nuts or whether it’s just laying out a bunch of neat stuff to freshen it up. It would surely have risen more except that the bullish traders didn’t realize until like an hour into the debate that if they snuck out they could go about buying at ever-higher prices without interference. I think the comic’s gone nuts, but it recovered the last like three times it did this so maybe that’s just part of its plan? I dunno. I’ll be happy if it doesn’t publish three strips in a week and then vanish for eight months.

121

When My Parade Got Rained Upon: A Quick Photo Essay


So, Lansing has this little downtown event the Friday before Thanksgiving. Silver Bells in the City. An after-dark parade ending with Santa arriving before Thanksgiving because who’s crazy enough to do a nighttime event in mid-Michigan weather after Thanksgiving, a little street festival, Santa Claus holding court in the City Market, that sort of thing. And then this past weekend …

Truck towing a lit-up ... I'm not sure; it looks like a porch wrapped with lights and wreaths and stuff. Light rain, nothing too bad.
The Silver Bells electric light parade has been going for twenty years now, not continuously. Normally it’s on the coldest night of the winter, but this year it started on a night that was like 70 degrees.

At the Silver Bells In The City electric-lights parade and State Christmas Tree lighting ceremony. 7:13 pm.

Light-decorated float with Lansing Lugnuts ball players and their mascot, Big Lug, in heavier rain.
Apparently the Lugnuts were going to be named something like the River Dragons until someone pointed out there were already about fourteen teams named “Dragons” in our division of minor-league baseball. Also there used to be a companion Little Lug dragon that has just been missing and unremarked-upon for decades now.

At the Silver Bells In The City electric-lights parade and State Christmas Tree lighting ceremony. 7:17 pm. The walrus-y figure there is Big Lug, the kind-of dragon-y mascot for the Lansing Lugnuts minor league baseball team. The tusks are lug nuts or something poking out. The team name made more sense back when they were playing at Oldsmobile Park.

In the heavy rain people race towards City Hall, we figure, or something about that good. Blurry and unfocused.
And at this point I just started snapping pictures wildly because it was so funny and most of them don’t get that spirit of running crazily for what we hope is going to be shelter somewhere. I’d apologize that the picture is blurry but the night was blurry at that point.

At the Silver Bells In The City electric-lights parade and State Christmas Tree lighting ceremony. 7:19 pm. Like twenty second later on as we all race for any kind of shelter. Where? We had no idea. My love saw a single isolated shoe left on the flooded streets. I didn’t see it even though I was following close behind. It was a bit mad.

Meanwhile this reassuring tweet went out. You know you’re having a good time when you get the instruction, “Please get to safety”.

Crowds of people inside City Hall trying to dry off a bit. My camera's fogging up and there's raindrops on the lens and everything.
And here inside City Hall there was relative dryness and shelter and off to the right a fife band that I guess they’d had standing by for just this sort of contingency? I don’t know. Also they had a popcorn stand because again huh? By the elevator bank they had stockings hung, each with the name of some municipal department — Finance, Public Service, that sort of thing — on them.

At the Silver Bells In The City electric-lights parade and State Christmas Tree lighting ceremony. 7:23 pm. Also so apparently they had emergency fife bands ready just in case everything outside was cancelled and they had a slice of a hundred-thousand-person mob in City Hall who needed something to mill around in front of?

The still-unlit tree, in the dark. The five-foot-tall star topper is tilted way over, looking a little drunk.
So this was the first year they had a topper for the Christmas Tree, this nice five-foot-tall three-dimensional star. A half-hour after the storm front moved through it wasn’t quite so level as it had been.

At the Silver Bells In The City electric-lights parade and State Christmas Tree lighting ceremony. 7:43 pm, after the worst of the winds had blown through.

So we were laughing about being through all this through to about mid-day Sunday when we were finding dollar bills in our wallets were still damp and we’re still seized with a couple giggles. In the meanwhile have you seen my humor blog and its talk about comic strips? It hasn’t got any nearly so dramatic pictures, I admit.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

Although the Another Blog, Meanwhile index remains below par the alternate index did rise five points on the day. Analysts credit this to traders finding and doing an archive-binge on Jonathan Larsen’s fantastic newsletter that we’ll just call The Fing News because we are careful about the sort of language we use here. More perceptive analysts point out they’ve known about the thing since it started way earlier this year and there’s no reason to pretend they only just discovered it now. Both are legitimate points to make. Anywhere here’s Larsen’s main Twitter account if you’d like to see that too.

88

Things The Red Squirrel On The Feeder Has Yelled At The Past Ten Minutes


  • The squirrel feeder.
  • The fox squirrel on the ground.
  • The black squirrel in the tree.
  • The Electoral College.
  • The black squirrel hiding under a pile of leaves.
  • The leaves.
  • Vector calculus.
  • The goldfish pond.
  • The garage.
  • The satellite dish.
  • Contestant on The Price Is Right playing “That’s Too Much” all wrong.
  • The bird feeder.
  • The trim brakes added to this roller coaster at Holiday World amusement park in Santa Claus, Indiana, where we do not live.
  • Web sites that give you the mobile version even when you’re on a regular computer.
  • This sparrow that wasn’t even looking at the red squirrel, honestly.
  • The shockingly narrow limits of human empathy for other humans even.
  • Cracked spines on paperback books.
  • The temperature drop overnight.
  • That it’s still so warm for this time of year.
  • How long it takes favorite podcasts to post new episodes.

Honestly this is making me feel a little better.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The … main index? Yeah. Pretty sure it’s the mainstream Another Blog, Meanwhile index that’s reporting today. I don’t know why I’m having so much trouble keeping this straight. I think it’s because the alternating of indices is matched up with which ear our pet rabbit is supposed to get some medicine in. And I have a little note on the calendar to keep that straight, so why don’t I keep the index-reporting on a calendar like that? I don’t know, I’m just daft that way. Anyway, the mainstream index rose a point in trading that was pretty halfhearted, must be said. I think they were just going through the motions since they knew this all just got them back where they started.

100

Still Not Feeling Too Good About This


Weather Underground ten-day forecast ending abruptly for Tuesday the 22nd.
Yes, yes, we’ve survived every previous time the weather forecast was for the end of the world. But that isn’t something we can expect to keep working forever. Also this is like the first time all year we’re getting below freezing, which would be fine, if we were in Virginia but this is mid-Michigan. We should’ve been dipping below freezing overnights sometime back in, like, August.

I understand existing is hard and all that but I did have stuff I wanted to do on Tuesday.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

Neither side of the Another Blog, Meanwhile index war has been willing to yield yet, and they’re still counting on me to report just one index or the other. And you know, the strain of being caught between these two is not the kind of thing I need right now. Well, fine, whatever. It’s the mainstream index’s chance today and that dropped two points from yesterday and I won’t tell you what the alternate one did but you can’t be surprised now.

102

Weather Underground Not Giving Us Any Good Signs, Here


First, here’s the comics I talked about on my mathematics blog yesterday. They included some strips talking about infinitely many monkeys on typewriters, but only one of the comics shows any monkeys. Worth checking.

Weather Underground 10-Day Weather Forecast that ends abruptly on Thursday. Good luck to us all.
At least it’ll be sunny, but Thursdays are always such busy days and we’re only getting through noon on this?

Also last week Weather Underground started pulling this again in the ten-day forecast and I want to know what they know about Friday.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

Another Blog, Meanwhile index traders agreed to just try not reporting their figures on the same day to see if they can break out of this happening-to-be-equal style. I’m skeptical about this myself since how often do we make things better by hiding information? Actually, it’s rather often if we’re hiding information about what some beloved cartoon or movie from our childhood was really like as opposed to what we remember through the mists of nostalgia and memory. But this isn’t that sort of situation. Anyway, the mainstream index rose four points and while I’m not going to tell you what the alterante index did until tomorrow you just know how this scheme to fix the problem turned out. Srsly.

102

Oh, Yeah, Did The World End Yet?


Oh yeah, we had that thing where the world was coming to an end. Let me check if it did. Um. No, looks like it hasn’t. If the world has then there’s a lot more squirrels underneath the bird feeder than I would have expected. Let me check the seven-day forecast. Well, it’s supposed to be in the mid-60s tomorrow, even though this is Michigan. That’s a bit unsettling but it isn’t precisely postapocalyptic. I’ll leave a granola bar out for the ice phoenix, who I can’t imagine is happy about this.

Also, you know where we had that problem where time kept stopping? The mantle clock kept stopping, the Christmas lights timer got broke, my love’s watch stopped, all that? The watch was just jammed and we could start it again by shaking. Well, it’s gone on and stopped, once again at about the same time as on the stopped mantle clock. Also, the kitchen clock, the one that sets itself based on the radio signals of … some … atomic clock … somewhere? That one stopped too. The battery ran out, it looks like. Still, unnerving, that’s what it is.

How I Spent The Snowstorm


The backyard, with a light frosting of snow on one side of the trees so you can see the edges of them very well against the bark.
Snowstorms look so cute and innocenet when they’re at this age, don’t they?
  • Like 11:30 (am). The snow started already, like four hours ahead of projections. Exciting start. It’s light, energetic snow considering some of the flakes are the size of nuthatches. I don’t mind. Cheery snowstorms like these are the results of frolicking ice phoenixes. These are majestic and magical birds, quite like their more famous fire-based counterparts except these ones never go in for stealing Baby New Year. Also they spend more of the summer sweating and wondering why it has to be this muggy and who even had the idea of letting a magic bird sweat, anyway. I toss some garlic croutons, from the bag we use to make salad less boring, out as a treat.
  • 1:00 (pm). We go out to lunch. I know, the mayor, the governor, and the county Commissioner of Drains, who just happened to be nearby, all asked everybody to do only essential travel. But it’s only like two blocks, and we had to mail a letter anyway. And it’s to this restaurant that’s trying to use the Subway build-your-own sandwich model for Middle Eastern food. There may not technically be an emergency need to get falafel and baba ghanoush over rice at any particular time but I stand by the decision. Three-quarters of an inch of snow gathers on the car while we eat. We forgot the letter.
  • 2:15. Checking the animal feeders in the back yard. I fill up the bird feeder, so that the squirrels have something to eat. I fill up the squirrel feeder, so that the raccoons have something to eat. Also since we should totally have a fire I take a big tote bag full of lumber off the pile in the garage. The mice living far underneath the pile complain that this is “totally bogus” and they paid their rent, why are we taking the tenth storeys off their woodpile now. I leave a handful of sunflower seeds and fill up the water dish so they don’t have to venture out to the raccoon feeder.
  • 2:25. I stare out the kitchen window at my car. I tried doing that thing where you leave the windshield wipers up, instead of against the car, this storm. I’m not sure why people do that and I wanted to see what difference it makes. Mostly I feel anxious about it. Are people walking past the house looking at my Scion tC and laughing at the wipers? Or are they just laughing that I have yet another car from a marque that’s been discontinued? In my life I’ve had two Mercuries, a Saturn, and now a Scion. I don’t go looking for car marques to drive to extinction. They follow me. Maybe I should put the windshield wipers back down.
  • 4:45. There’s way too much snow to put the windshield wipers back down.
  • 5:20. The snow is doing that thing where it’s a perfect field of white out the front window. Out the back window there’s a couple scattered flurries and an ice phoenix taking a drink from the pond heater. It’s eerily tranquil. I think about tossing out some leftover chow mein noodles but don’t want to risk it.
  • 7:00. The remote control’s batteries have gone dead, foiling our plans to catch up a backlog of Stephen Colbert episodes dating back to when he was a bright twelve-year-old reporting the 2004 Republican Convention for Comedy Central. We leave the TV on the station it was last on, hoping to see school closing reports.
  • 8:15. In the pantry. We’ve got a half-eaten box of Peanut Butter Bumpers. That would be a great breakfast tomorrow except who wants to eat cold cereal on a snow day? I am a genius: what we need is something that’s as good as milk for pouring onto cereal but that’s warm and hearty, like … um … warm milk, or maybe miso soup or something? This could revolutionize eating and in the good ways.
  • 8:17. Experiment over. I am an idiot. The raccoons examine a bowl of Peanut Butter Bumpers mixed with warm almond milk and miso powder and just shake their heads sadly, then shuffle away into the snow, pausing only to be berated by a red squirrel.
  • 9:20 Maybe I could clear off enough of my car to put the windshield wipers back down only what would I tell my love I was doing out there?
  • 10:50. But couldn’t something else serve to replace the warm milk in the snow day cereal experiment? Maybe history will vindicate me after all.
  • 11:45. We forgot to have a fire.

Winter Storm Watching


I wanted to let people know all’s fine here in mid-Michigan despite the pile of weather we’re getting. The snow started early, and the National Weather Service added up to two more inches of total snowfall. I can take that. We got a new snow thrower this season, and I’m pretty sure it has gas in it, and I’m not going to check what exactly the difference is between a “snow blower” and a “snow thrower” because I’m sure it involves a lot of flame wars of staggering pettiness. Also there’s probably people making all kinds of immature jokes about snow blowing. You forget at times that the Internet is mostly a twelve-year-old boy, and not the good kind. But then you say any word at all, and it starts giggling, and you remember again.

Also added to the general warning are “Snowfall rates in excess of an inch per hour at times late this afternoon and evening”, and “Significant travel disruptions tonight through Thursday”. Not here, thank you. We’ve done all the travelling we mean to disrupt through Thursday and that was in getting stuff from the Mediterranean restaurant two blocks over. We’re not going out for anything short of an emergency, which is what I keep telling myself even though my toothbrush is getting a wee bit worn and probably could stand replacement. Well, it can probably hold out to Friday. I guess. I should’ve got snow tires put on something or other, maybe the car.

In Weather Before The End Of The World


There’s weather news besides the impending end of time and space. Of course there would be. Last weekend, for example, we had a thrilling windstorm that saw breezes of up to 350 miles per hour and that left a large chunk of South Bend, Indiana deposited on top of Battle Creek, Michigan. Don’t go getting excited. It landed upside-down and all the jelly fell on the floors.

But there’s a projected major storm ahead. This is kind of exciting, since it means we might get to stay home from school. And it’s been a gentle winter so it’s exciting to get some of the real stuff in. According to the National Weather Service there’s the risks for:

  • six to ten inches of heavy wet snow
  • Strong north wind gusts to 40 mph
  • Some blowing and drifting developing Wednesday night
  • major travel disruptions
  • Scattered power outages
  • Potential for school closures on Thursday

“And,” they might as well add, “we’re sending a snowplow driver around to kick you in the thigh”.

It’d be a little inconvenient to me if the snowstorm really does hit as projected. It would screw up plans I have for the day. But there’s something satisfying about nestling safely indoors through a heavy storm. You go upstairs sometimes and peer outside, checking that yes, the snow is going there just like on the first floor. There’s individual snowflakes as much as ten inches across and weighing up to 25 pounds. There’s gusts of wind high enough squirrels are able to glide from tree to tree by holding a leaf over their heads. There’s the reminder I left all the wood in the garage, where it’s no good to us for building a fire. It’s all quite grand in its way, sitting tight, wondering why the National Weather Service can’t be consistent about its capitalization, and waiting for the thaw and a pothole the size of Battle Creek to open up. Can’t wait.