By Gareth Edwards

Sunday 30 December 2012

Hollywood musicals and the Metropolitan Rat Board

More from the blog that sets out to provide an explanation for everything in the universe by answering your questions. New special safety feature: in an emergency this blog can be printed out and used as paper.

@tghelani How do islands stay afloat and in place?
Although islands do indeed seem to be afloat this is actually not the case. Islands are lumps of rock, sand and millionaires that are in an extremely low geostationary orbit; so low in fact that they are mostly stuck in the sea with only a bit sticking out. Like other moons and satellites, islands feel the pull of gravity but their angular velocity is sufficiently high that they move around Earth rather than falling towards it so it looks like they are fixed in place. You should always take care when going to an island that you don’t slow it down or it will fall out of orbit and sink, drenching your tent and ruining your holiday, unless you’ve gone to Anglesey in which case you won’t notice.


 Why was good King Wenceslaus out looking on the feast of Stephen?
This is a slight misquotation, as the popular carol begins thus:

Good King Wenceslas looked out
On the Feast of Stephen.

The Feast of Stephen was a notoriously dangerous day for the Bohemian nobility in the 9th and 10th Centuries. In Czech tradition the martyrdom of Stephen was commemorated by the giving of cakes but over time this charming tradition had become a conduit for feelings of social discontent, with the ruling classes being given heavier and heavier cakes at higher and higher velocities. Thus in 891AD Duke Vratislavalamp died when he was hit on the head by a suet and iron pudding dropped on him from the spire of St Vitus cathedral and in 913AD Wenceslas’s cousin Elastovlast was run through by a metal pudding in the shape of a giant arrow fired from a giant crossbow. Thus on that day of all days Wenceslas decided he had better “look out”. The monarch was no doubt alarmed by the sight of an approaching peasant with an armful of wood and fearing a high-velocity “Yule Log” he immediately set off to shower the man with gifts taking with him a page as a human shield.

@helenarney Is it true that we're never more than 3ft from a rat in London?
Yes. Up until 1947 rat distribution in Britain’s cities was appallingly haphazard. Indeed the rat supply throughout Europe had hitherto traditionally been left to unregulated private enterprise, so that the entire rat supply system could easily be manipulated for profit by maverick entrepreneurs with magical pipes. Citizens literally had no idea where the next rat might be coming from. Step forward Evelyn Sysor, MP for Norwood who championed the establishment of London’s Metropolitan Rat Board, a state-run system of pneumatic tubes under the streets and houses of London. Now twenty-four hours a day rats can be shoved up drainpipes by trained staff and are propelled swiftly and silently to any part of the capital where there may be two consecutive rat-free yards. There has recently been talk of a statue commemorating Syssor’s remarkable achievement, but detractors have pointed out that actually nobody really wanted him to do any of it.

@Testudo_aubreii Would life be better if it followed the rules of Hollywood musicals?
Life does follow the rules of Hollywood Musicals, just not the ones that have been commercially successful. Executives at MGM still wince at the memory of Rodgers and Hart’s box-office fiasco Those Kids Have Been Getting On My Tits All Day in which Shirley Temple sang “Mommy, I Hate this Broccoli”, but it set the benchmark for children’s behaviour for the next five decades. Warner Brothers’ lost a packet on Burt Bacharach’s Me and My Crappy Job and even Disney were left licking their wounds after the straight-to-video disaster Admin of the Arctic, the tale of a lemming whose pension documents are in hopeless disarray until he is helped by a kindly auk. The lemming’s song “Filing Without Wings” was later re-versioned with some success by Westlife.

That’s all for this year but do ask a question in the comments below as I am confident that 2013 will be the year we get the universe explained once and for all.

Saturday 1 December 2012

Triple-Decker Buses and the Apostrophe of Evil

More from the blog that confidently sets out to answer every possible question in the universe, but struggles a bit when it comes to setting realistic goals.

asked Has anybody ever built a triple-decker bus?
When in 1897 Hennimore Phayres invented the double-decker omnibus he became the toast of London. Fame suited him, and he rode around his native Clapham on the top deck of one of his creations telling anyone who would listen of his inventing prowess. Phayres tried to repeat his success the following year with a triple-decker bus and in order not to fall foul of local planning bye-lays he expanded the passenger accommodation on his buses downwards to form a basement. Hennimore’s magnificent new vehicles were fully twenty-three feet from top to bottom, but seven feet of this was below road level and the new buses required an extensive network of trenches which played havoc with the sewer system and in the end the project was abandoned. Fearing disgrace and financial ruin Phayres absconded with a large quantity of bus company funds and was never seen again, though for many years enraged bus company employees persistently searched the capital’s buses shouting his name.

Miss Pear Where is the lid?
Don’t look at me. I’m not the one helping myself to jam at 11.00 at night. No don’t do that face. You’d look a lot less guilty without a smear of raspberry up your nose.

@tommo121 Since the construction of 'the gherkin' in London, sales of gherkins and other pickles have risen. So why aren't other vegetable-shaped buildings "cropping up" everywhere?
It’s not for want of trying. Residents of Dorset still remember with dismay The Swanage Caulifower, a two-hundred foot high steel and concrete floret that for a time was headquarters to the World Brassica Corporation. For much of the 70s the building dominated the small seaside town until a freak accident at a nearby dairy-processing plant during a high wind resulted in the structure being coated in a thick layer of melted cheese, rendering it simultaneously uninhabitable and delicious. The ghastly story of the Epping Swede is too horrific to go into in a family blog.

NanceIs the apostrophe becoming a banished mark in grammar? I see there replacing they're and its for it's (or worse dont for don't) in numerous texts, tweets, and emails. Is this some kind of bigger plot against the maligned point of punctuation? What's to be done?
It is well known that spelling in Shakespeare’s day was based on a system of free-form improvisation. What is perhaps less well-documented is the state of punctuation in those happy times. Look at any writing from the 17th century and you will see it was populated by exotic and imaginative punctuation marks roaming more or less at will: commas and full stops existed in abundance of course, though they were wilder in those days; but there were pilcrows too, and tildes, hederas, guillemets, and even here or there a mighty capitulum.  And then the dark times came. Distrustful of the apparent free-for-all in 1732 a coterie of wealthy grammarians lead by Trismegistus Stickler, an apostrophe manufacturer from Leatherhead, petitioned parliament to adopt the Great Punctuation Act, containing “Four Hundred and Twenty-Seven Simple Rules for the Correct Arrangement of His Majesty’s English.” Overnight people who had happily punctuated words as the mood took them were made to feel that whatever they wrote was somehow bound to be wrong. And that oppression continues to this very day. For years the flame of resistance was kept alive only on grocery stall price-tags for potato’s. ¶But now with a mighty randomly ~ punctuated «ROAR» the fight^back is beginning ⁄ Join us & victory shall be our’s §

becca_mcgee If we're not supposed to put cotton buds into our ears what exactly are we supposed to do with them?
They are for brightening up your bathroom. Put the cotton buds in a vase with some water and they will bloom into cotton blossoms. They look pretty in an arrangement with chrome-plated shower roses and a spray of Cif.

That's all for November's instalment as I see it is now December. But why not defy the relentless encroachment of time by asking this blog a question of your own in the space below?

Wednesday 31 October 2012

Aztec Dry Cleaning and Fish in Boots

More from the blog that answers your questions about the mysteries of the universe.

candyflossandvodka Is 'Dry-Clean Only' a polite suggestion, or will the world plunge into a swirling vortex of misery and despair if that instruction is not followed?
It’s too early to tell. When in 1874 the immaculately turned-out explorer Ernest Sketchley stumbled across a ruined temple in the heart of the Mexican jungle he made an astonishing find. On the frontispiece of the altar was a beautiful carving of what archeologists believe was an Aztec mohair cardigan. Etched into the stone work above it were a series of mysterious symbols:

Sketchley realized at once that he had stumbled upon the fabled Laundry Of The Gods, but his happiness was short-lived. Eye witness accounts tell how as the great explorer approached the sacred altar his jumper seemed to shrink about him, the colours on his shirt ran, his trousers went all wrinkly and one of his socks became inexplicably lost. He died of what his physician described as a “fatal dishevelment”. News spread and the public were terrified that the curse of the Laundry of the Gods might spread, and  soon across the world clothing manufacturers began to sew the symbols into their wares as a kind of talisman to ward off the anger of the gods, a tradition that continues to this day. While we still do not know the exact meanings of the Aztec inscriptions some believe they carry a stark warning about garment care to future generations. Others believe that if you just chuck everything in the machine at once it will probably all be fine. But dare we run the risk? Dare we?

Clangerfan1 asked: Why aren't there more hedgehogs in the world?
People often like to leave a saucer of milk out for their local hedgehog, but this kind-hearted act can have disastrous consequences for the hedgehog’s unique digestive system. Enzymes in cow’s milk react inside the hedgehog’s stomach to create a kind of inferior cottage cheese and a large quantity of hydrogen. As the hydrogen expands the hedgehog’s density drops and in the cool night air the hedgehog begins to float upwards, faster and faster, gaining in size and buoyancy until on the edge of the ionosphere it explodes in a spiky, cheesy ball of blue flame in the phenomenon we know as a “tiggy burst”.

NanceWhy do people use the adjectives "ice" and "downhill" to describe hockey and skiing? Is hockey on ice and skiing down a hill the norm rather than the exception in sports?
No. Consider the sport of Tennis, which over the years has been popular as Real Tennis, Lawn Tennis, Clay Court Tennis, Table Tennis, Chair Tennis, Shelf Tennis, Fake Tennis, Telephone Tennis, and Horse Tennis. Ice Hockey and Downhill Skiing are merely the modern versions of age old sports and it’s as well to keep the distinctions clear for whenever a new  version of the sport comes along, like Downhill Hockey or Australian Rules Skiing. 

Broken Antler @BrokenAntler Why did the first fish to grow legs decide this was a good idea?
Since time immemorial this is a question that has baffled both scientists and fish. We now know that around 400 million years ago a pair of leg-like limbs first appeared on a coelacanth. We don’t know her name, but let’s call her Sue. Surprisingly, scientists have observed that Sue’s “legs” were unsuitable for walking or swimming and probably made her vulnerable to predators, so it seems likely that Sue was instead using her primitive legs to make some kind of pioneering fashion statement. The fossil record backs up this theory as Sue’s remains were found sporting a pair of bright orange thigh-length platform boots inside the stomach of an early shark. What the other fish thought of all this we can only conjecture, although in the same stratum of Devonian rock other nearby coelacanths appear to be rolling their eyes and tutting. The second fish to grow legs was a lungfish called Julie who went on to colonise the land wearing a pair of sturdy but dull loafers.

If you have enjoyed this blog why not go on to live a long and fulfilling life enriching the lives of those around you with innumerable acts of love and kindness? You could start by asking a question in the comments below…

Thursday 4 October 2012

Two Years Explaining the Universe

Some Kind of Explanation is two years old today, and already the blog that aims to explain every mystery in the universe has explained 203 of them.  I’ve no idea how many that leaves, but we must be well on the way.  These are some of my favourite explanations of the last two years.

What is the one weird old tip that will help me lose belly fat?
My Great Uncle Emlyn, a keen Methodist, had a job in Smithfield meat market collecting unwanted offcuts to deliver to the tallow chandler. One day while taking some pork trimmings to Walthamstow a strange old man with home-made shoes told him to wager a shilling on Velvet Kipper to place in the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Although he had never gambled before Uncle Emlyn felt strangely drawn to enter the bookies to place a bet. He won seventeen shillings and sixpence! However, in his excitement my uncle completely forgot the bag containing twenty-two pounds of belly fat. Exactly the same thing could work for you. Except I suppose we’ve gone decimal, so it won’t.

Is terracotta red, orange, or brown?
No, that’s autumn leaves. Terracotta is a Sardinian dessert made out of milk and clay

Why do Americans drop the “u” when they spell words like neighbour, colour, and humour, but leave it in other words like contour and velour?

The American Declaration of Independence (or as it was known in Britain “Fine, See If We Care”) was followed by immensely difficult years for the newly-formed US government. Up to that point the erstwhile colonies had imported all letters of the alphabet from Britain, but in an attempt to undermine the prestige and name of the newly-formed USA in 1776 the British banned all trans-Atlantic trade in the letter U. The Americans were determined to keep the U in pride of place in their new nation’s name and so made sacrifices elsewhere, salvaging non-essential “u”s from words like “honour”, “harbour” and “elephaunt” (a usage that eventually became adopted back in Britain too) to keep the new national sobriquet intact.  As the blockade continued patriotic mums became “moms” and farmers exchanged their ploughs for plows while ukulele players took up the banjo. Eventually however the masses complained of this hand-to-moth existence, and there was even talk of a second revoltion so that by winter 1789 the Fonding Fathers had to face up to the possibility of becoming a Nited States of America. But as grim preparations were made tomake do without the letter U altogether and George Washington prepared a sombre State of the Onion address a French schooner, L’Ululation, carrying several tons of fresh letter “u”s wrapped in the finest contoured velour broke the British blockade of the ports.  The Americans fell on the vowel-rich cargo and the letter flooded back into the New World. But the years of shortage had left their scars and American spelling was never the same again.

Which is best, Earl Grey or Normal?
It depends. Earl Grey was a British prime minister famous for liking the strong citrus aroma of Bergamot oil, which he added liberally to everything. This worked very well in tea, but history has been less kind to Earl Grey Mashed Potato; Earl Grey Trousers; and the infamous Earl Grey Elephant, which rampaged furiously through both Houses of Parliament dripping with strong-smelling unguent until it was finally put to sleep with a reading from one of Benjamin Disraeli’s early novels. The story of Thomas Normal who amassed a great fortune by not adding Bergamot to a range of every-day products is too well-known to need repeating here.

Are there really people who can’t understand what to do when they approach roundabouts?
Yes. Most people can’t understand what to do and this condition is unaffected by proximity to roundabouts.

Who invented scissors?
Scissors weren’t invented, they were discovered in Massachusetts in 1749 by Jeddadeddadiah Lowell who came across two knives that had been riveted together with a thunder bolt during a mechanical storm (the standard kind of storm before Benjamin Franklin’s invention of the electrical storm two years later). Excited by his discovery he picked up the scissors and ran home to show his family but tripped, and was naturally killed instantly.

How do you pronounce “nougat”?
You don’t pronounce nougat. The N is mute, as in “Damn”. The O is silent, like in the word “people”. The U is not sounded, as in “guide”. The G, like the g in “gnat”, is implied rather than said. And the A is unspoken, like in “aisle”. Nougat is a French word of course, and so as in “chalet” we don’t say the T. This means that nougat is onomatopoeic, since the noise of saying it mimics the sound it makes. This is what linguists call a pronounced silence.

That's all for now, but if you have enjoyed this blog you might also enjoy brownies, the poetry of Edward Thomas, breeding mice for fun and profit, or water-skiing. I simply have no way of telling. 

Sunday 30 September 2012

"It's me not you" and the Rules about Sofas

Welcome to the blog that answers your questions about everything in the entire universe throughout all recorded time, weather permitting.  

@clangerfan1 Is it ever ok to eat Wotsits on the sofa?
Unfortunately not. The principles governing what can and cannot be eaten on a sofa were drawn up by The Royal Guild of Upholsterers at the Council of Chesterfield in 1573. The fourth paragraph reads “Also herewith forbidden on any settee, easie chaire or Pouffe by this Auctoritee is the consumption of chese or mete that hath byn toasted or grilled by any means whatsoever, or resolved into a form of any mooreish Snacke not yet discovered.” The haphazard spelling of the Chesterfield Statutes lead to the Case of Regina versus Walkers Crisps (1974), when the makers of Wotsits claimed that “mooreish” here meant “of North African Islamic origin”. Walkers won, and for two years in the mid seventies Wotsits were eaten on all kinds of upholstered furniture but the decision was reversed following an appeal in the High Court by The Noble Fellowship of Kebab Carvers.

Is the statement, "No, it's me, not you," always a lie?
No. It would be true, for example, in the following conversation between this week’s guest incompatible couple Jatalie and Timpert.

Jatalie:             Are you breaking up with me because I am someone who is only able to deal with emotionally-charged situations by resorting to trite platitudes?

Timpert:             No, it’s me, not you.

@amticketyboo Why is Richard Marx waiting for me right there?
Oh dear. I’m afraid there’s been a terrible misunderstanding. Pop/rock singer-songwriter Richard Marx isn’t right there. He was right here, waiting for you. He turned up in 1989 and moped around the kitchen for 22 years droning on about his non-specific heart problems and whether you’d maybe misunderstood the arrangements. In the end I had to ask him to leave as his haircut was becoming a liability.

candyflossandvodka Who would win in a fight? An orange or a lemon?
A lemon is sharper.

@GrassRootsMgr Which has helped advance humanity the most, gloves or shoes?
We have certainly come a long way in shoes, but there are still some areas where gloves have the upper hand, as anyone who has tried to take a casserole out of the oven using a stiletto slingback can attest. Mittens on the other hand have only held humanity back. Since Vaarsijd Innsijd’s invention of the mitten in sixth century Norway over 140,000 days have been spent looking for lost children’s mittens, the equivalent of 5.1 parents’ entire lives.

@Testudo_Aubreii What would the world be like if water moved under its own volition instead of going where gravity told it to?
Our best illustration of this is perhaps the events following the Wilson government’s nationalization of gravity in August 1967. Unfortunately the newly-formed British Weight Board and the National Water Council could not agree on who had responsibility for making water go downhill, and in the absence of any effective regulation several small rivers began to go uphill and Lake Windermere slowly tipped on its side, making it popular for downhill water-skiing. More confusion was to come in October when rain across the country began to fall up as well as down, and by November ceiling baths had become the norm and sales had rocketed for umbrellington boots. Wilson effectively ended the crisis that month, reassuring the nation that water weighed the same as it always had in his famous “the pound in your bucket” speech, and emergency legislation was passed throughout England bringing water back under the laws of physics. However by an oversight the legislation failed to mention Wales, where to this day rain comes at you from every possible direction.

That’s all for now. Next time why not try Some Kind of Explanation with a generous helping of homemade custard?

Friday 31 August 2012

Ravens, Santa and the Shower Tray of Death

More of your questions about the universe answered by someone who has actually lived there all his life.

Truf (from my 6 year old) Are Santa and God real?
Think of a Christmas present. It has been wrapped carefully. It contains a wondrous gift of intricacy and beauty. Could this object really have got here by the chance collisions of plastic and metal components (but not batteries obviously) over millions of years? Of course not, Richard so-called Dawkins! So it completely logically follows that some intelligent and benign force must have fashioned it in a workshop at the North Pole and brought it to your house in a hypersonic sledge. And that mystical being is what believers call Santa. As for God, I’m afraid that’s just your eternal father in heaven dressed up in a beard trying to make Christmas feel “special”.

@tghelani What is hair for?
Hair is to stop the shampoo from flowing straight onto the floor of the shower.

Sthen0 I want to know who put the empty peanut butter jar back in the cupboard?
It’s possible you may have children. There’s no need to panic about this: if you leave out food and money a typical child infestation will clear up of its own accord after around 18 years, coming back after that only to raid the fridge and leave their laundry for the next three years. Then moving back in for a further four years. Then finally moving out and never bothering to write or phone.

anotherartstudentWhy is a raven like a writing desk?
The ways in which ravens are like writing desks are countless. For example both are solid objects, both have legs and both can fly upside-down except writing desks. But the question is not “In what way is a raven like a writing desk?” but “why?” And that “why?” is a howl of despair from the man who formulated it, Lewis Carroll.
It is not widely known that Carroll’s most famous works, Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass were originally part of a trilogy written one hot summer in a poorly-lit house with huge windows near some rocky cliffs. Carroll, having just completed his third book, spent the evening reading extracts aloud to an appreciative local sherry bottle. Tired but elated he then retired to his study but tragically in the gloom rather than placing his manuscript in the drawer of his ink-stained, quill-covered writing desk he accidentally placed it in the beak of a large raven who happened to be there. The raven turned and flew off through the open window and the book was lost. Many years later Luke Oddbutter, a local birdwatcher, found an abandoned nest high on a crag lined with the now-illegible pages of Alice in Space.

@clangerfan1 Why do butter, cheese and steak all have their own knives?
It makes them feel safe on the streets, but the irony is that it only leads to more violence.

suk_pannu Why doesn't anyone make a 700mm x 800mm shower tray with a left handed waste? Is there a chirality about shower trays I'm not getting or is it, as we've long suspected, a global conspiracy?
I have for some time dreaded this coming up but I undertook to answer every question and I must honour that promise no matter what the consequences be, or indeed are. So… in 1973 a meeting was held in a secret underground bunker inside a larger secret underground bunker in Bunker Hill, Massachusetts. Present were the heads of the CIA, Mossad, the Stasi, the KGB, The Quakers, The Sweet and The Académie Française. The purpose of that meeting only became clear last year when in the archives of the Marylebone Cricket Club a young researcher came across a catalogue of non-standard bathroom fittings and on the cover a hastily-scrawled – Hang on! What are you doing in my house? Get out! Wait a minute! I know you! You’re….. Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh.

Wednesday 25 July 2012

Better Olympics, Business Rats, and the End of Everything

More answers to your questions about the universe from the blog that answers your questions about the universe.

Peggy Tryton asked Nature or nurture?
In other words is our character determined by our genes, or by our environment? Many efforts have been made to resolve this most fundamental question. Notable among these was the 1923 Nature versus Nurture football match on Tooting Common, London. The Nature team took an early lead with their instinctive ball skills, but by the second half the superior training and fitness of the Nurture team looked likely to produce an equaliser when HG Wells ran onto the pitch and bit the referee and the match was abandoned. By 1975 methods were more sophisticated when Professor Batsen D Belfroi took ten infant laboratory rats and swapped them with ten human babies. The babies were kept in warm and comfortable conditions with regular water and exercise and all the nuts and seeds they could fit in their cheeks while the rats were brought up by pushy middle class human families who then used their contacts to get them jobs in management. The rats went on to work with some success for a variety of high-profile firms including Lehmann Brothers, News International and Barclays but in the end they resigned in disgust at the corporate culture. The babies grew up to start a lucrative muesli and rope-gnawing business. Asked what induced him to undertake such a grotesque experiment Belfroi said – “I blame society, or else I guess that’s just what I’m like.”

Invisible ManWhy are so many pages intentionally left bank?
Those are all the unwritten rules.

Fran How come one never stubs a toe or bangs one's funny bone in private?

I think this is just you. More than that I think this is your superpower. Before you go all sulky and say “What a rubbish superpower! Why can’t I fly, or pick up metal with my brain, or go green and super-strong when I’m cross?” please consider the feelings of the vast majority of the rest of us who have no superpower at all, stop complaining, and work out how you are going to use your gift to fight crime.

fatboyfat Why don’t we all fly off the world as it spins?
No thanks. I’ve just had a big lunch.

Nance What sports are under review for consideration in the next Olympic games?
The International Olympic Committee is currently debating this. The current candidates are -
1)    Beach darts
2)    Post-Modern Pentathlon
3)    Synchronised Enjoying a Beer, a Smoke and a Car.
4)    Mushroom
Of these, Beach darts offers the televisual magic of athletes in bikinis, with the caveat that the athletes are all middle-aged alcoholics. Post-modern Pentathlon presents the exciting spectacle of super-fit men and women competing to deconstruct literary texts with only a pair of swimming trunks, a singlet, a pistol, a sword and an unfamiliar horse. But the hotly tipped favourite is Synchronised Enjoying a Beer, a Smoke and a Car, which while not really a sport is a hell of a sponsorship opportunity. Mushroom made it onto the list after some confusion over the committee’s late-night pizza order.

anotherartstudent When will the world end and why is repeatedly flicking a light switch so much fun?
Consider the Big Bang, when all of a sudden there was this universe. The universe has been going on for a while now, but one day it will stop, and then there won’t be a universe. Many physicists think the end will be in10 billion years or so when the universe collapses back into a singularity. Some believe that this might spark another big bang, and thus another universe and so on. Universe. No universe. Universe. No Universe. On and on, for ever. Is there a purpose behind all this? I refer you to the second half of your question.

I’ll leave it there, but do keep the questions coming as those ten billion years will be gone before you know it and it would be good to get the current universe explained before it ceases to exist and we have to start this blog all over again.

Wednesday 11 July 2012

Cold Calling, Cahoots and Quantum Cats

More answers to your questions about the universe from the blog that knows everything except the meaning of failure. And we can easily look that up.

Peggy Tryton
 asked How does one get out of cahoots?

As is well known, a cahoot is a cross between a coracle and a boot, and is used for hunting waterfowl. Originally cahoots were worn one on each foot but in 1637 Charles I introduced the detested Cahoot Tax, forcing two hunters to work together in a single pair of cahoots. Catching coots in shared cahoots is even harder than it sounds and it required an almost superhuman level of synchronized stealth, hence the expression “to be in cahoots with someone”. Made of wicker and tarred leather, cahoots are easily removed with a cahoot horn or if you don’t have one, any other kind of tarred basket horn would do.

Nance asked Why do cats catch and release mice before they finally dispatch them, and leave them as "gifts" on the kitchen floor (or inside my shoes)?
When Ernst Schrödinger devised his famous experiment to illustrate the paradoxes of quantum mechanics the scientific cat community was outraged, for in spite of the extreme dangers she had undergone during the experiment, Schrödinger’s cat Mitzi was not given co-authorship of the work and her name didn’t even appear in the title. Bitter at this snub she set up her own research institute to continue her pioneering work on animals in ambiguous states. What you have been witnessing is a cat physicist attempting to place a mouse in a quantum superposition where it is simultaneously dead and alive: in your shoe and not in your shoe; and a lovely gift and a ghastly emblem of murine mortality. The experiment is known as Mitzi’s Mouse.

Sthen0 asked When will galoshes come back into fashion?
If you could see my feet right now you would know that they never went away. They keep the mud off my purple cowboy boots and give me somewhere to tuck in my tartan loon pants.

said I receive 2 or 3 calls a day inviting me to change my phone company, improve my credit, or take a cruise. I'm wondering why companies employ these callers if most people hang up. What is the ratio of "successful" calls to hang-ups?

These calls are in fact all 100% successful, but their aim is not what you think. We live in a world full of dazzling, extravagant, ubiquitous choice and our society encourages us to revel in it. Research shows that when asked to distinguish between 47 ever-so-slightly different mobile phone packages chimpanzees became angry, depressed or in some cases bewildered to death. In the same way human brains are poorly equipped to deal with current levels of choice. That’s why in 1981 a group of philanthropists formed the Perfectly Fine Foundation, dedicated to putting people off choice and helping them to be content with what they have. This is done by ringing domestic phone numbers at the least convenient time and pretending to sell pointless new broadband bundles and complicated electricity packages in the most irritating manner possible, thus reminding you how little you really care about stuff like this. The PFF is not without its critics, and there have been many attempts to phone them and beg them to change their approach. However the Foundation say that they are happy with their current method and in any case it’s not a convenient time to talk.

Invisible Man 
asked Why bother?

Because bothering gets results. To use a purely hypothetical example, say you were a four-year old boy who wanted a biscuit but your dad had said you couldn’t have one. At this point you could either leave your dad alone to write his important blog, or you could choose to repeat the demand over and over and over again for EVER! Interestingly as the amount of bothering your dad tends towards infinity the likelihood of a biscuit increases to what bakery statisticians call “Biscuit Event Certainty”.

That’s all for now as I have to go and buy some biscuits. But do keep the questions coming in and we’ll get all of the rest everything explained in next to no time, always assuming that “next to no time” means much the same thing as “never”.