Reading the Comics, September 20, 2019: Quarters and Bunnies Edition


Norm Feuti’s Gil did not last long enough in syndication. This is a shame. The characters were great, the humor in a mode I like, and young Gil’s fascination with shows about the paranormal was eerily close to my own young self. But it didn’t last; my understanding is newspapers were reluctant to bring in a comic strip starring an impoverished family. This is a many-faceted shame, not least because the eternal tension between Gil’s fantasy life and his reality made it one of the few strips to reproduce the most vital element of Calvin and Hobbes. But Feuti decided to resume drawing Sunday strips, and I choose to include that in my Reading the Comics reading, because this is my blog and I can make the rules here, at least.

So here’s Norm Feuti’s Gil for the 15th. A couple days ago I saw someone amazed at finally learning where sunflower seeds come from. They’re the black part in the center of a sunflower, the part that makes the big yellow flower stand out in such contrast. People were giving the poster a hard time, asking, where did he think they came from? And the answer is just, he hadn’t thought about it. Why would he? It’s quite reasonable to go through life never encountering a sunflower seed except as a snack or as part of bird or squirrel food. Where on the sunflower plant it’d even be just doesn’t come up. If you want to make this a dire commentary on society losing its sense of where things come from, all right, I won’t stop you. But I think it’s more that there are a billion things to notice in the world, and so many things have names that are fanciful or allusive or ironic, that it’s normal not to realize that a phrase might literally represent its content.

Gil: 'You ever wonder why they call it 'quarter past'?' Shandra: 'What do you mean?' Gil: 'A quarter is 25 cents, so why doesn't 'quarter past' mean 25 minutes past the hour?' Shandra: 'A 'quarter' is one fourth of something. A quarter of a dollar is 25 cents. A quarter of an hour is 15 minutes.' Gil: 'Oh ... I should make fewer observations out loud.' Shandra: 'Yeah.'
Norm Feuti’s Gil for the 15th of September, 2019. The comic doesn’t get much attention here and most of what does is repeats of the syndicated run. Still, essays mentioning Gil are at this link.

So Gil having so associated a quarter with 25 cents, rather than one-fourth of a something, makes sense to me. (Especially given, as noted, that he and his mother are poor, and so he grows up attentive to cash.)

Isaac Asimov, prolific writer of cozy mysteries, had one short story built on the idea that a person might misremember 5:50, seen on a digital clock, as half-past five. I mention this to show how the difference between a quarter of a hundred of things, and the quarter of sixty things, will get mixed together.

Greg Evans’s Luann Againn for the 15th sees Luann struggling with algebra. And thinking of ways to at least get the answers. One advantage mathematics instructors have which many other subjects don’t is that you can create more problems easily. If for some reason \frac{7x + 3}{x - 3} isn’t usable anymore, you can make it \frac{7x + 5}{x - 5} and still be testing the same skills. But if you want to (as is reasonable) stick to what’s in a published text, yeah, you’re vulnerable to this.

Luann, glaring at homework: 'Brad, did you have Crawford for algebra?' Brad: 'Yeah.' Luann: 'What grade did you get?' 'Dunno. A 'B' I guess.' 'Did you do all the problems in the book?' Yup.' 'You don't still have them, do you?' 'Yeah, I think all that stuff's in my room somewhere.' They think. Brad: '50 bucks!' Luann: 'A dollar.' Brad: '$49.' Luann: '$1.50.'
Greg Evans’s Luann Againn for the 15th of September, 2019. It originally ran the 15th of September, 1991. Essays mentioning either current Luann or vintage Luann Againn strips are at this link.

And you can’t always just change a problem arbitrarily. For example, the expression in the second panel of the top row — \frac{x^2 - 5x + 6}{x^2 + 5x + 4} — I notice factors into \frac{(x - 3)(x - 2)}{(x + 4)(x + 1)} . I don’t know the objective of Luann’s homework, but it would probably be messed up if the problem were just changed to \frac{x^2 - 5x + 8}{x^2 + 5x + 3} . Not that this couldn’t be worked, but that the work would involve annoying and complicated expressions instead of nice whole numbers or reasonable fractions.

Paul Trap’s Thatababy for the 15th presents Thatabay’s first counting-exponentially book, with the number of rabbits doubling every time. I admire the work Trap put in to drawing — in what we see here — 255 bunnies. I’m trusting there’s 128 in the last bunny panel; I’m not counting. At any rate he drew enough bunnies to not make it obvious to me where he repeats figures.

Children's book illustrations to match: 1 bunny! 2 bunnies! 4 bunnies! 8 bunnies! 16 bunnies! 32 bunnies! 64 bunnies! 128 bunnies!' Reveal that Mom is reading Baby 'My First Counting (Exponentially) Book'.
Paul Trap’s Thatababy for the 15th of September, 2019. Times that I’ve found reason to write about Thatababy are at this link.

The traditional ever-increasing bunny spiral is the Fibonacci series. But in that, each panel would on average have only about three-fifths more bunnies than the one before it. That’s good, but it isn’t going to overwhelm as fast as the promise of 256 bunnies on the next page will.

Eric the Circle for the 17th, this by Griffenetsabine, has come up here before. That was back in October of 2013, though, so I don’t blame you for forgetting.

At The Shape Singles Bar. A cube, seeing an octahedron enter, says to Eric, 'Wait, man, there she is. Wow, Eric. I think I've found my dual.'
Eric the Circle rerun for the 17th of September, 2019, this by Griffenetsabine. Since I am running across more repeats I may need to retire this strip from my regular featuring here. But Eric the Circle comics that give me something to write about are at this link.

The “dual” here is a mathematical term. Many mathematical things have duals. Polyhedrons have a commonly defined dual shape, though. Start with a polyhedron like, oh, the cube. The dual is a new polyhedron. The vertices of the dual are at the centers of the faces of the original polyhedron. And if two faces of the original polyhedron meet at an edge, then there’s an edge connecting the vertices at the centers of those faces. If several faces meet at a vertex in the original polyhedron, then in the dual there’s a face connecting the vertices dual to the original faces. Work all this out and you get, as you might expect, that the shape that’s dual to a cube is the octahedron we’re told just walked into the bar. The dual to the octahedron, meanwhile … well, that is a cube, which is nice and orderly. You might get a bit of a smile working out what the dual to a tetrahedron is.

Duals are useful, generically, because usually if you can prove something about a dual then you can prove it about the original thing. And we may find that something is easier to prove for the dual than for the original. This isn’t guaranteed, especially for geometric shapes like this, where it’s hard to say that either shape is harder to work with than the other. But it’s one of the tools we have to try sliding between the problem we need to do and the problem we can do.

Teacher: 'There's a lot of math in cooking, Nancy.' Nancy: 'Yeah, yeah, I know. 'Adding fractions'. 'Counting how much time has passed'. 'Multiplying all the amounts by 2 if I'm cooking for myself.' 'Multiplying all the amounts by 2.1 if I'm cooking for myself and Sluggo.'
Olivia Jaimes’s Nancy for the 17th of September, 2019. I’ve featured both the Ernie Bushmiller 1940s-vintage Nancy and the current run. Both vintage and current Nancy appear in essays at this link.

Olivia Jaimes’s Nancy for the 17th has claims about the usefulness of arithmetic. And Nancy skeptical of them, as you expect for a kid facing mathematics in a comic strip. I admit I’ve never needed to do much arithmetic when I cooked. The most would be figuring out how to adjust the cooking time when two things need very different temperatures. But I always do that by winging it. Now I’m curious whether there are good references for suggested alternate times.


I expect to have another Reading the Comics post here, on Monday. The A to Z series should pick up on Tuesday And I’m still glad for suggestions for the letters I through N. Thank you for reading.

Author: Joseph Nebus

I was born 198 years to the day after Johnny Appleseed. The differences between us do not end there. He/him.

2 thoughts on “Reading the Comics, September 20, 2019: Quarters and Bunnies Edition”

  1. So Nancy is saying that she eats twice as much as the average person, while Sluggo only eats 1/10 as much as the average person? That’s strange. I thought Sluggo had a much healthier appetite than that, especially if someone else is doing the cooking and paying for the food.

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