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The Square Root of Cheese - Page 2 of 7 - Reliable advice from a trusted source of calcium

[note: This question was received on Dec. 30th]

Dear Cheese Prophet

Why didn't the world end last week? I thought Christmas shopping would be a waste of time… now people are mad at me. What went wrong?


Dear Shunned,

You must have missed it. The End did come. In fact, it came and went several times in the last couple of years. But you forget that our world is full of heroes who are constantly defending the Earth and its inhabitants from peril and/or certain doom. Usually someone steps in before The End comes, but every once in a while someone has to step up after the fact to set things right. This thing with the Myans that you're referring to was the latter.

It's also important to note that just because the unthinkable has happened, (i.e. ancient clocks have synchronized; a dark prophecy is fulfilled; a freakish plague breaks out; etc.) and we find our world full of lava, zombies, and/or rabid squirrels… That doesn't mean things have to stay that way.

Anyway, the point is that you can't go using the threat of global destruction as an excuse to save money and/or avoid family. Unlikely heroes are always likely to crop up when the planet is in jeopardy.

As for the people you've upset, it's never too late -- even with my late response -- to smooth things over with the gift of cheese.


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Brown McFly campaign

Election Day is nearly upon us, and the course of future history is about to be set. Today, before we're outta time, I want to give my personal endorsement to the Brown McFly campaign. Dr. Brown's three year plan is unprecedented, promising to push for long delayed advances transportation, clean fusion, and health care - all by October of 2015.

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Hey look! It's another update! Today I deal with a stately math problem and a question of 12 parsecs.

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How many Scrabble tiles would it take to cover the state of Florida?

Dear Student,

I'm sorry, but I can't just give you the answer to your homework like that. I have a strict policy against cheating. Well… not so strict that I can't give you a hint.

Make sure you take all the appropriate variables into account: The current population, the current number of tourists, the level of the tides, the phase of the moon, the number of potatoes in Idaho, and the current ratio of retirees to tourists.


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There's this guy that keeps bragging about how his space ship can do the Kessle run in 12 parsecs… but aren't parsecs a measure of distance?

Dear ______

He's pulling your leg. What he's telling you is a running gag based on a misheard quote by a war hero from long, long ago in a far away galaxy. Part of its context has been lost to history, and some people enjoy repeating the line just for the confused responses they get.

You are right about parsecs, it's a measure of distance. And you're not the first to be bothered by this. The most popular theory is that he was talking about the "Kessle Run", a smuggling route that passes through a cluster of black holes, and that his ship is so fast that it can travel closer to the holes without falling in, thereby shortening the distance to around 12 parsecs.

But really, what kind of smuggler would talk openly about his smuggling with someone he's just met? (Which is the context of this line.) No. Especially when history also notes how cautious he was to avoid getting caught. A man who dumps his questionable cargo at the first sign of the authorities would not talk openly about how fast he can travel a known smuggling rout.

He was referring to a unique racing event that originated in the "UL" system on the planet "Qes". Few remember it now, but the Qes-UL Run is a "race" moldeled after the behavior of a native creature known for taking off at high speed and for distractedly stopping suddenly. The squeeral is a creature which bears a strong resemblance to the squirrel, in both appearance and behavior - except it's an amphibian. Like the squeeral, a solo pilot is required to take his ship from a dead stop up to high speed (at least point five past light speed) and then come to a complete stop again as quickly as possible. The winner is the one who reaches a qualifying speed and yet covers the least distance. His ship was the first to do it in under 12 parsecs.


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Dear Cheese Father,

My wife and I are also expecting our first child (congrats btw). As we set up her room, what can we do to keep monsters out from under the bed and out of the closet?

Bedroom Security Chief

Dear Chief,

Thank you, and congratulations to you as well.

I'm afraid children will always have monsters in the dark spaces of their rooms; Monsters in the dark it’s a natural part of life that we just have to deal with, like pain, taxes, and squirrels getting into bird-feeders. All sorts of monsters are simply drawn to children.

Please note: I said "children," not "babies." Babies just don't have what monsters are looking for yet, so you've got time to plan ahead.

First, you need to be aware of what makes a monster seek out a child in the first place. There are as many reasons for this as there are types of monsters, but they can be generalized into two main groups:

*Really they're only trying to scare the kids because the fear itself is what many of them actually feed on (or rather the nervous energy created by the fear). Very few monsters try to actually eat children anymore. Not since the defeat of the Boogie Man some years ago at the hands of three little girls.

The first group are the bug-eyed, tentacled things that threaten* to eat our little ones. The second group are the ones looking for a human friend to go on improbable adventures with. This is the kind you want nesting under the bed. If your child befriends one of these friendlier monsters, it will instinctively protect her when other monsters inevitably intrude.

Unfortunately, this is not as simple as it sounds. Thanks to the reputation earned by the first group, these well-intentioned creatures find themselves lingering in the shadows while trying to think up a non-creepy way to emerge from under the bed and introduce themselves. Naturally, this rarely goes well.

As parents, it's our job to help with this introduction. But don't just wait for something to creep in and then decide if it's good or bad for your child. Be proactive about it.

For example, some cultures deal with this issue by turning the tables on nature. While these creatures are creeping in from the wild, they send their children out where the wild things are. These children then endeavor to befriend and/or capture monsters that (with proper training) can safeguard them from other monsters. When these children grow up, their monster friends are then trained to protect the next generation until old enough to go catch their own.

Now I couldn't help but notice that your email address suggests that you are not from such a region and wouldn't have a life-long monster friend to guard you little girl's room. Well, it's time to go out and find one. And since you're new at this, here's what to look for:

There are plenty of monsters that are good with kids; each of which is generally something small and fluffy that smiles a lot. I personally recommend the Pikaboo. Timid but friendly once it knows you're not a threat, easy to train, and enough voltage in its cute little cheek pouches to defend its territory from other monsters.

Pikaboo Pikaboo attacking

The best place to find one would be deep in an abandoned power plant that was built on a sacred burial ground. But these are hard to come by, so the next best thing would be an a old abandoned electronics store. Just in case you don't have one of these nearby either, a decent Plan C would be to look under the clearance rack in a used video game shop.

Now despite it's appearance, there's no need to invest in pokéballs or a proton pack to catch one. All you really need to do is call for one. But don't just shout out to it, because they're so timid, a gentler approach is required. First, mimic a frightened Pikaboo by putting your hands over your face. Then remove your hands and imitate their call, "pikaboo" (pee-kah-boo). Repeat until you hear one answer back, and continue until it stops hiding its own face. This means that it has accepted you as a friend and will follow you home.

When your little girl is old enough, teach her the call by facing her and repeating the process. See if you can make a game out of it. Before long, she'll be playing this game with the Pikaboo you've brought her, and the two will quickly become friends.

One final note to other parents reading along. Even if you have an older child who's already got a boggart under the bed or a kraken in the closet, it's not too late. it's just going to be harder to remove the current occupant. Go out and find up to 6 monster friends. It's not illegal or anything to have more than this. It's just that a battle with that many monsters would cause serious property damage to your home.


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Drew in hand

As you can see, I've got my hands full with with an important new "project." I've been parenting just over two months now and have found that I can't help spending a large percentage of my free time with the little guy. Although this is partly because the actual amount of free time I have has been severely diminished since this memo went up at work 2.5 months ago.

Overtime Memo

Thankfully, things have eased up slightly since then. I've actually had multiple days off this last month - a couple of which were even consecutive.

Anyway, the point is that these two things combined have forced me to temporarily defenestrate the idea of sticking to a schedule. (Don't worry "Chief," your question isn't as pressing as you think.) As usual, you have my assurance that updates are in fact still coming. It's just hard to predict when.

May I suggest subscribing to my RSS feed? Or if you'd rather, I can notify you by email when I next update. Just leave a comment or email me through the Question Submission Form

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Dear Readers,

I am reminded that I once promised to write an article about cats. Sadly, I have not yet had a chance to retrieve my notes from under the fridge. So rather than leave you hanging (or bore you with excuses about why there's been no updates), Here's in an informational video that some clever engineers put together.


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What can I get my sweetie for Valentines?

Otto Time

Dear Otto

Bah! Humbug, I say!

Don't get your sweetie a sappy gift just because everyone else on the planet is being sappy on the 14th. Get your sweetie a sappy gift because you want to give her something sappy. And why wait until the 14th? The 12th is just as good a day to let her know how you feel. Or if you really want to surprise her, try waiting until March 3rd. Poor Cupid is overworked as it is on Valentines Day.

That said, I should mention that there is a lot of contagious Hype out there, and judging by your panicked tone, she may have contracted a case. This Hype leads to expectations. Unmet expectations lead to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to... No wait... that's something else. Anyway, it's a dark path that is difficult to return from.

Just in case, keep something on hand from at least one of the main Romance Food Groups: Flowers, Sweets, Jewelry, or Communication (sappy card, singing telegram, etc.) Which one is really up to you. After all, you know her better than I do.


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Dear Tick,

If you were rolling down an ocean on a jet ski and the wheel came off, would it take the same number of pancakes to cover a doghouse?


Dear Diana,

Since the ice cream is boneless, I'd have to say 'purple.'

I also have to say that your question sounds very familiar. Have you written in before?


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Dear Cheese guy,

So you claim that that lady in the old footage is just pretending to use her cell phone to mess with us? What if I told you that with just a little bit of jiggrey pokery, you can easily get a cell phone to talk across time.

The Doctor

Dear "Doctor"

True enough. I've also seen that documentary about The Doctor (and I don't think he'd appreciate you using his name like this). At one point we do see him add a little device to a friend's phone to allow her to talk across time. This enabled the phone to use his time vehicle as an alternate antenna, which is what actually did the work of relaying the call across time. Not the phone itself.

It is possible that "Chaplin's Time Traveler" also has a powerful enough time vehicle to use this same trick... But the phone it question is an iPhone. A phone that you cannot simply crack open to poke around in without jiggering up the phone itself (or your warranty, contract, future upgrades, etc).

I still maintain my original answer. She's toying with us because she knows that it will frustrate people without access to a time machine of their own.


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Hey Kevin!

My sister-in-law is expecting. How do I figure out whether I'm going to have a neice or a nephew to buy presents for? Are there signs I can watch for to figure it out? I would look for gender-neutral gifts, but they're so hard to find!

-Eager to Spoil Auntie-to-Be

Dear Etsatb,


There is indeed a very specific sign that you can watch for once Baby is about 20 weeks into his or her journey. That's when a good telescope will let you see whether the stork is carrying a pink or blue bundle. The pastel colors are difficult to make out any further away.

Do keep in mind that at any given time there are over 112,789,266 storks in transit across the globe. And even doctors have occasionally been wrong in spite of their ultrasonic equipment that helps them pick out the right stork.

But don't be discouraged by this either. With a good telescope and a decent sense of geometry and geography, you can still be about 84% sure that you've triangulated the coordinates of the correct Bundle of Joy.


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Hey Skippy,

Didn't you have something to tell us about Christmas? Or did "your cat" steal that one too?

Just Curious

Dear Justin,

Right. Christmas. Last time I did suggest that there may be cause for some concern... but there may not be. I don't want to raise an alarm if there's no cause for raising it. The phenomenon of Christmas Trees springing up in October requires more study.

What I can say is that it's not a worst case, end-of-the-universe scenario; so don't panic while you wait for me to get back to this. Besides, who really wants to hear me talk about Christmas in January?

And no, the cats were not involved.


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Help me smart guy,

I think my new neighbor are a vampire and wereworlf! I should move right?

padking in boston

Dear King of Pads,

Don't pack just yet. Or panic. It seems to be interfering with your spell-checker.

There are only three reasons that a vampire and a werewolf would be willing to live under the same roof, and you should respond differently to each scenario:

  1. They have turned away from 'the beast within' and are supporting each other in trying to live normal, human lives without hurting the people around them.

    How to tell: Just ask how long they've known each other. It will have been after a "big change" in their individual lives.

    What to do: Unpack and make friends if you like. You can be sure they're doing their best to not kill you.

  2. They were already very good friends before they were turned and their friendship is stronger than their new instincts. They may or may not be supportive of each other's new lifestyle, but if they do prey on mortals like ourselves, they would do so away from home so as not to offend their roommate.

    How to tell: Ask how long they've known each other. It will have been practically forever.

    What to do: You would actually be in greater danger if you moved further away form them. Be a polite neighbor but don't invite them over.

  3. The vampire's nose is broken or missing and he does not realize that his roommate is his natural enemy. There will be a messy blow up between them when the truth comes out.

    How to tell: Ask how long they've known each other after eating something heavily laden with garlic and watch to see if the vampire is repulsed by your breath.

    What to do: Resume packing but limit it to the essentials. Get out well before the next full moon, and be sure to do so in broad daylight.

Good luck to you.


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Yes... More delays than anticipated... again. But it's truly not my fault this time.

The Campaign for Real Time saw my last post and reported it to Temporal Investigations. Technically, I should have done this myself, but the change seemed too insignificant to waste T.I.'s valuable time with.

And so, I had to spend several days explaining to investigators why erasing that one post from history was not harmful to anyone else's timeline, and that this was the only notable change, and that only my personal timeline was affected by the incident in question. They still had to lock me out and go through the webserver to check for further damage and risks to the Timeline.

It turns out that it was a good thing they did. Their investigation proved that it was hardly even my fault! It was just another TimeQuake that Daylight Savings Time had more to do with it than I did.

But now that we're past all that, It's time to turn our attention to the Christmas season that is now upon us. Because really, hasn't it been upon us since at least mid-October? I believe I know why, and it may be cause for some concern. I'll have more information on this in the days ahead.

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It turns out that taking on a night job has not been as easy an adjustment as I'd hoped. The damage to my internal clock has been so severe that it sent out quantum tremors that reverberated off of the end of Daylight Savings Time and caused a chain reaction that erased last week's update from history.

Don't worry. You didn't miss much - there was no advice because I was busy studying for my pre-employment drug test. It's an embarrassing tale that's really better off not having been written anyway.

Anyway, I should be able to stabilize things by some time next week. When that happens I will scrounge up some questions and provide some answers.

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