Third Series.

Claudius, trying to remember how many palmi majores are in a gradus. (Answer: three and a third.) Time-travel retrosketch by our staff artist.

Claudius. Having already decreed that Latin should be written with the words separated, the reforming emperor Claudius turned his attention to a new decimal system of measurement. Shortly before he introduced it, he died of suspected poisoning.


On this day in 1929/2008/2025, the stock market lost more than 10% of its value. —Dr. Boli’s secretary is making frantic waving motions; he says that the information about the third crash is confidential and not to be released to the public. But the public is mature enough to handle it, don’t you think?


All our modern Web browsers are provided to us free of charge by companies that make their money not by selling things to us, but by selling us to other people. They have, therefore, a strong incentive to send us to the corners of the Web that will make money for them.

The start page is one of the most obvious places where they can do that. When you open a new tab, most browsers have a default start page, and what is on that page may depend on where the money is to be made. Google Chrome, of course, will give you a search box for Google. Microsoft Edge will try to plaster your start page with news feeds and other things Microsoft is sure you are interested in; you can pare down those extraneous details in the settings, but you can never get rid of the centrally located search box for Bing, the Edsel of search engines.

Dr. Boli, who is older than many people, remembers primitive days when it was possible to set the new-tab page to utter restful blankness, but that does not seem to be possible anymore. Fortunately Firefox will allow you to replace your new-tab page with any arbitrary page on the Web, and for Chromium-based browsers like Chrome and Edge there are extensions that will accomplish the same thing. But what page will it be? Most of the pages on the Web are also filled with distracting things you want to avoid.

As a public service, therefore, Dr. Boli has provided a start page for your new tabs, a page that does absolutely nothing. It is possible that the picture will change once every few weeks (it is also possible that it will not), but there will be nothing to interact with, nothing to distract you from the business at hand. You can find it here:

Boli’s Patent Start Page

Set your new-tab redirect to that address, and get back to getting work done when you open a new tab.


Announcer. Tonight the Yohogania Electric Light Company, powering your overindulgent existence, presents a world-premiere dramatic event: the first episode of The Postapocalypticon!

[Music: Dramatic theme, in and under for…]

Announcer. Yes, it’s the much-anticipated post-apocalyptic drama that follows the fortunes of Irv and Ike, proprietors of Irv ’n’ Ike’s Truck Stop ’n’ Souvenir-O-Rama, as they navigate the post-apocalyptic hellscape that their world has become after an apocalyptic event. Tonight’s action-packed world-premiere first episode begins the story right at the beginning.

[Sound: Long, drawn-out apocalyptic blast.]

Irv. Welp, guess that’s about it for civilization.

Ike. Yup.


Irv. You know what I ain’t gonna miss? Texts. People textin’ me all day and night, makin’ my phone go bing cause they don’t know how to keep their textin’ fingers to theirselves. That’s what I ain’t gonna miss.


Ike. An’ phone scammers.

Irv. Yeah, like that girl that keeps callin’ and wantin’ me to re-up the extended warranty on my 1978 Volare. Ain’t gonna miss her a-tall.

Ike. “Sealed for your protection.”

Irv. What’s that, Ike?

Ike. I ain’t gonna miss them pill bottles where they have a plastic thing on the outside that says “Sealed for your protection,” an’ it takes like fifteen minutes to get through the dang thing, an’ then you get the cap off an’ there’s another seal on the inside that says “Sealed again cause we just hate you.” Ain’t gonna miss them one little bit.

Irv. Oh, yeah, ain’t gonna miss those. An’ airports.

Ike. What about airports?

Irv. Just airports. Ain’t gonna miss ’em. Ain’t gonna miss Twitter, neither.

Ike. Yeah, like no more havin’ to reduce your most exalted thoughts to the dimensions of a bumper sticker. Didn’t like Twitter, not a bit.

Irv. Facebook, too. Don’t care if I never see another breakup play out on social media for the rest of my natural life.

Ike. An’ printer cartridges. I mean, you print twelve pages in nothin’ but black, an’ then the printer won’t print cause it’s out of magenta. What is up with that?

Irv Auto-Tune. Ain’t gonna miss it. I mean, not every song has to sound like Jimmy Durante, am I right?


Ike. Ain’t gonna miss Schedule C.

Irv. Oh, yeah, I mean if we’d thought about how it would get rid of tax forms, we mighta pulled the plug on civilization a whole lot sooner.


Ike. Think there’ll be zombies?

Irv. Prolly just the crawly kind. Don’t have to shift much to get away from them.


Irv. Well, guess we better start learnin’ to do stuff the old-fashioned way. Pull down one o’ them souvenir country-kitchen recipe books an’ see if there’s a good recipe for Twinkies.

[Music: Dramatic theme, in and under for…]

Announcer. Will Irv and Ike be able to reproduce the authentic spongy texture of a Twinkie with only the materials available to them after an apocalyptic event? Tune in for next week’s action-packed episode of The Postapocalypticon! Till then, friends, remember to enjoy civilization while it lasts. Your Yohogania Electric Light Company burns trainloads of fossil fuels every day to keep the juice flowing in your home. Recent studies show that, at current rates of greenhouse-gas emission, our own tri-state area will become a post-apocalyptic hellscape within a few decades. That’s why you should enjoy your electric power now, while you still have time. Leave your lights blazing and your air conditioner humming, and make your world a cheerier place for however many years you have left.

[Music: In full, then out.]


The MITRE Corporation’s cybersecurity division reported yesterday that installations of Auto-Tune all over the world had begun making current pop singers sound like Jimmy Durante. At first some form of ransomware was suspected, but no demands for money were received. Instead, recording producers have reported finding their screens covered by what one described as a “screed” about the decline of talent in the music industry. The only clue was the signature, which was variously reported as “Zobar,” “Brazo,” “Ozbra,” and several similar variants. The Department of Homeland Security has raised the threat level to LightSalmon (#FFA07A).


Diner, by August Neven du Mont.

Dear Dr. Boli: I’m taking French in high school, and I’m supposed to be learning French culture and stuff. But I’m having trouble figuring out the French names for meals, and the textbook is, like, written by monkeys. Can you sort out the meals for me? —Sincerely, A Student in Miss Marcellini’s Third-Period French Class, Blandville Area High School.

Dear Sir or Madam: Dr. Boli is always glad to assist young persons in their quest for knowledge. Let us follow a typical French citizen through the meals of a typical French day.

It begins with the petit déjeuner, or breakfast, which usually consists of bits of hard dry bread left over from last night’s souper. The French are not a notoriously thrifty people, but they do not spend too much on their petit déjeuner.

This is followed not long after by the déjeuner, a more substantial meal usually taken at a sidewalk café, which is why French people have to do their actual walking in the street. This is the meal at which wine is introduced for the first time in the day, usually a Sancerre.

The déjeuner is followed by a trip to the pâtisserie for the meal known as le madeleinier, which consists of madeleines, a kind of pastry known for its psychedelic effect on the hippocampus.

After the madeleinier, it is time for the grand déjeuner, which consists of two of everything from the déjeuner. The wine at this meal is usually a young red burgundy, though the lower classes will drink whatever comes out of the cardboard box at the local convenience store.

When the grand déjeuner is over, it is time for le thé, literally “tea,” although the beverage served is usually Pouilly-Fuissé.

Once le thé is over, our French citizen begins to think of le diner, the main meal of the day. Le diner usually consists of six or seven courses accompanied by a substantial claret, and is traditionally eaten at the home of a friend or acquaintance—another unexpected hint of thrift in French habits.

Once le diner is finished, it is already quite late, and our French citizen hurries home for le souper, a light meal of bread and soup accompanied by champagne. At this point our citizen is quite tired (“ivre mort”), and falls asleep with his head on the table. When he awakes in the morning, the bread has dried out and become tough and crusty, and thus he begins his petit déjeuner.

Dr. Boli hopes he has been of some assistance. He would add that there is no substitute for a personal visit to France, and he notes that there is a service on the Web offering “Wine Immersion Study Tours” in France, although now that he thinks of it he realizes that could be taken more than one way.