Tag Archives: cartoon

math jokes and cartoons

uo3wgcxeParallel lines have so much in common.

It’s a shame they never get to meet.



sometimes education is the removal of false notions.

sometimes education is the removal of false notions.

pi therapy

pi therapy

Robert E. Buxbaum, January 4, 2017. Aside from the beauty of math itself, I’ve previously noted that, if your child is interested in science, the best route for development is math. I’ve also noted that Einstein did not fail at math, and that calculus is taught wrong, and probably is.

Chinese jokes

At college, my chinese room-mate wanted to make a surprise birthday dinner for his girlfriend.

….. But someone let the cat out of the bag.


Then there was the fellow who broke into the Fortune Cookie Factory with a hammer and broke virtually all the fortune cookies — as many as he could find — in an act of wonton destruction.


And finally,


I don’t believe racial jokes are evil, but suppose it all comes down on your idea of good humor. Comedy always involves odd people, or people doing things differently. The difference doesn’t have to be insulting, just different, and all good jokes provide some new insight.

Robert E. Buxbaum, October 29, 2015. Every now and again I post jokes– and then I analyze them to death (it’s funny because ….). Recent ones include an Italian Funeral joke, a fetish lawyer joke, and things on, engineers, dentists, piratessurrealism. Just click the “jokes” tab at right for the whole, unsightly assortment.

Marriage vs PhD

Marriage vs PhD, from Piled Higher and Deeper (PhD) comics.

Marriage vs PhD, from Piled Higher and Deeper (PhD) comics.

Here’s a PhD comic comparing getting married to getting a PhD. The similarities are striking. It’s funny because …



….one does not expect so many similarities between the two endeavors. On thinking a bit further, one realizes that marriage and graduate school are the main, long-term trust relationship options for young college grads, 21-23 years old who want to move out of home and don’t want to yet enter the grind of being a single, wage slave (grease monkey, computer-code monkey, secretary, etc.)

College grads expect some self-fulfillment and, as they’ve lived away from home, mostly prefer to not move back, Entry level jobs are generally less-than fulfilling, and if you move away from home as a single, living costs can eat up all your income. One could get a same-sex room-mate, but that is a low commitment relationship, and most young grads want more: they’ve an “urge to merge.” Either PhD or marriage provides this more: you continue to live away from home, you get an environment with meals and room semi-provided (sometimes in a very cool environment) and you have some higher purpose and long-term companionship that you don’t get at home, or as a secretary with a room-mate.

I suspect that often, the choice of marriage or grad-school depends on which proffers the better offer. Some PhD programs and some marriages provide you with a stipend of spending-money. In other programs or marriages, you have to get an outside job. Even so, your spouse or advisor will typically help you get that outside job. In most communities, there’s more honor in being a scholar or a wife/ husband than there is in being a single working person. And there’s no guarantee it will be over in 7 years. A good marriage can last 30-50 years, and a good PhD may lead to an equally long stay in academia as a professor or a researcher of high standing. While not all majors are worth it financially, or emotionally, you can generally do more and make more money as a PhD than with a low-pay undergraduate degree. Or you can use your college connections to marry well.

What type of job are you looking for?

Some people are just cut out for the grad-school life-style, and not particularly for normal jobs. Ask yourself: What type of job will make me happy? Could be it’s research or home-making? Then go find a mate or program.

Dr. Robert E. Buxbaum (married with children and a PhD), July 1,, 2015. Growing up is perhaps the most difficult and important thing anyone does; getting married or entering a PhD program is a nice step, though it doesn’t quite mean you’re an adult yet. Some months ago, I wrote an essay about an earlier stage in the process: being a 16-year-old girl. For those interested in research, here’s something on how it is done using induction, and here’s something on statistics.

I make weapons too, but they don’t work

My company, REB Research, makes items with mostly peaceful uses: hydrogen purifiers and hydrogen generators — used to make silicon chips and to power fuel cells. Still, several of our products have advanced military uses, and these happen to be our most profitable items. The most problematic of these is the core for a hydrogen-powered airplane designed to stay up forever. An airplane like this could be used for peace, e.g. as a cheap, permanent cell tower, or for finding shipwrecks in the middle of the ocean. But it could also be used for spying on US citizens. Ideally I’d like to see my stuff used for desirable ends, but know it’s not always that way.

See, no matter how many times I pull the trigger the damn thing just won't fire! Gahan Wilson;

See what I mean? No matter how many times I pull the trigger the damned thing just won’t fire! Gahan Wilson;

I’d be less bothered if I had more faith that my government will only spy on bad guys, but I don’t. Our politicians seem focused on staying in office, and most presidents of the 20th century have kept enemies lists of those who they’d like to get back at — politics isn’t pretty. I’d be more picky if I could figure out how to sell more stuff, but so far I have not. I thus need the work. I take a sort-of comfort, however, in the fact that the advanced nature of the technology means that my customers keep having troubles getting things to work. My parts work, but the plane has yet to fly as intended. Perhaps, by the time they do get it flying, spying may have changed enough that my stuff will be used only for beneficial service to mankind, or as a stepping stone to more general use. Hydrogen as a fuel makes a lot of sense, especially for airplanes.

Robert E. Buxbaum, June 15, 2015. Here’s a description of my membrane reactors, and a description of my latest fuel cell reformer idea. There are basically two types of engineer; those who make weapons and those who make targets. I make the case here that you want to make targets. Some weapons have only one short day in the sun, e.g. the Gatling gun.

From Princeton: dare to be dumb.

Let’s say you have a good education and a good idea you want to present to equally educated colleagues. You might think to use your finest language skills: your big words, your long sentences, and your dialectically organized, long paragraphs. A recent, Princeton University study suggests this is a route to disaster with the educated, and even more so with the un-educated. In both groups, big words don’t convince, and don’t even impress, like small words do.

Most people won't care what you know unless they know that you care.

Like this fellow, most folks aren’t impressed by fancy speeches. (cartoon by Gahan Wilson)


People, even educated ones, want ideas presented in simple words and simple sentences. They trust such statements, and respect those who speak this way more than those who shoot high, and sometimes over their heads. Even educated people find long words and sentences confusing, and off-putting. To them, as to the less-educated, it sounds like you’re using your fancy english as a cover for lies and ignorance, while trying to claim superiority. Who knew that George W. was so smart (Al Gore?). Here’s George W. at the SMU graduation yesterday (May 18). He does well, I’d say, with mostly one-syllable words.

This is the sort of advertising that people notice -- and trust.

Lower yourself to be one of the crowd, but don’t go so far that you’re the butt of jokes.

Reading this study, I’ve come to ask why fancy language skills is so important for getting into  college, and why it adds points when writing a college paper. Asked another way, why are professors pleased by something that’s off-putting to everyone else. One thought: this is a club initiation — a jargon to show you belong to the club, or want to. Alternately, perhaps professors have gotten so used to this that it’s become their natural language. Whatever the reason, when outside of university, keep it simple (and) stupid.

Some specifics: at job interviews, claim you want to work at their company doing a job in your field. Only when dealing with professors can you claim your goal is capitalizing on your intellectual synergies, and phrase that means the same thing. Don’t say, you’ll do anything, and remember it’s OK to ask for training; poor education doesn’t hold-back American productivity.

Dr. Robert E. Buxbaum, May 19, 2015. Here are some further thoughts on education, and some pictures of my dorm and the grad college at Princeton back in the day.

General Tso’s chicken

Self promotion. It's not for everyone.

Self promotion. It’s not for everyone.

Is funny because …. it’s classical metaphysical humor. The lowly chicken becomes the hero and leader, and the troops are following him/it (to victory).

We know that some unlikely leaders are successful, perhaps just because they’ve the pluck to get up and do something (that’s the secret of American success). Presumably the troops are too timid to lead, and are following this chicken because of his determined air, and his hat and horse: clothes make the man. You should not follow every leader with determination, a fancy hat and a horse, by the way. Some leaders will devour their followers, and most do not care for self promoting underlings.

Robert Buxbaum, Nov.12, 2014.

When is loyalty a good thing? pt. 1

Loyalty to a person or institution is generally presented as a good thing — a sign of good character. Disloyalty, by contrast, is considered one of the basest of character traits — the sign of a dastard, a poltroon. But I’d like to make the case that the loyalty that leaders demand (the most common loyalty situation) isn’t real loyalty, but stupidity or worse, toadyship disguised as loyalty. I’d further like to suggest that this attachment hurts the leaders as much as the followers in most situations — well, nearly as much. That is, a sane leader is better off where there is a viable alternative to his product, leadership, or service — a loyal opposition party, as it were.

If you give loyalty for free don't expect it in return.

If you give loyalty above your self interest, don’t expect it in return. If you don’t value yourself, no one else will.

But first, what is Loyalty? If I believe a teacher because he makes sense, or serve a boss because he pays me well, this is not loyalty, but common self-interest. Similarly, if I eat at a restaurant or buy a product regularly, it isn’t loyalty if the quality is particularly good and the prices particularly reasonable. Loyalty is when you eat at a place despite the quality being bad, or the prices high; or follow a leader who pays poorly and provides only danger and hardship. Or who’s crooked and damaging to your sense of self.

If you give a company or group loyalty for free, they are likely to take it and you for granted; if you don't value yourself, no one else will.

If you give a company or person loyal service, they are likely to take it and you for granted; Matt Johnson, 2010.

In general, there are only two reasons why any person would follow a leader like this. One is an attachment to the leader’s vision of the horrible future if you do not. Tales of grisly torture from a distant enemy are good to keep the underlings in their place. An even better reason is attachment to a brilliant future if you do suffer in the present. Tales of the glorious messianic future where you and those you love benefit from the current struggle and sacrifice. It doesn’t have to be a godly messiah; communism presents a messianic vision without a god, but it’s glorious, and the sun always shines. Generally speaking leaders who ask for loyalty ask from both perspectives: a horrible enemy at the gates, and a glorious future if you follow.

There may be a rational basis to fear a grisly enemy, or to suffer and follow in hopes of a glorious future, but if you find you are being asked to follow a single individual or a group that’s controlled by one individual, it’s worthwhile worrying that the leader may not be loyalty to you. Ask yourself: does the leader share real power and information? Does the leader make you feel worthless for the heck of it? If you have a leader like that, it might be worth considering: if the messianic vision ever does materialize (unlikely) the leader may forget to reward your part. History has quite a few examples of this.

Loyalty to country includes the imperative to try to improve the leadership.

Loyalty to country requires one try to improve the leadership. Leadership rarely agrees.

Where real loyalty shows up as a sign of a fine personality, is in marriage where both parties share power, money, and information. Or in loyalty to a country where you (or your child) has a real, rational chance of being leader. If you really trust the significant other (a good marriage) or where there is reason to think one’s home and family will benefit from one’s personal sacrifice, one might rationally give up ones comfort and life following to protect one’s significant others. Even so, the real loyalty is not to the leader, but rather to an organization that one believes will protect one’s children and community. A leads who asks you to kill innocents (Al Qaeda, Stalin, HItler, Jonestown), or who amuses himself by your suffering, e.g. (Stalin) probably has lost the connection between your loyalty and the goal. (Cue the song– we don’t get fooled again).

An honest military leader will have a soldier council or protective group above him to keep him (and others) from over-reaching. There will also be a time limit on the loyalty commitment and an explicit understanding that service does not include suicide, genocide, immolation, or personal embarrassment for the amusement of others. There is an also understanding that the follower’s life and well-being will not be sacrificed in vain, and that no one will be expected to accept suicide rather than capture. On the other hand, a soldier who runs away from all danger and thus endangers his fellows or mission should expect punishment or courts-marshal.

Church groups don't often look favorably on oversight

Church groups don’t often look favorably on oversight

Many groups don’t tolerate oversight of this type, and these groups should be viewed with suspicion. Church groups for example, are often led by those would like you to believe that suspicion of them is suspicion of God, it isn’t — it’s suspicion of a person. An honest leader gives the option of going to the police or the union representative, or the newspaper if necessary. Without redress, the worker/soldier/churchman may come to suffer needlessly or come to commit atrocities because of the power of the organization or the personal charisma of the leader. Any organization with a messianic vision of the future is dangerous; all the more so if there is no half-way point, no real sharing of power in the way to get there, and no real oversight for the grand-high pooh-bah (or whatever the grand leader’s title). Let the follower beware.

A Parable: The Donkey and the Brigands, by I don’t know who (I can’t find a source, but know this isn’t my own creation).

There once was a farmer who had a donkey — a talking donkey, as is the way with these parables. At one point, as they were traveling through the woods, they heard the approach of brigands (thieves). “Move quickly,” the farmer said to the donkey, otherwise we’ll be captured.” “Will the brigands treat me any worse than you do?” asked the donkey. “No,” said the farmer, about the same.” “Will they feed me any less than you do, or beat me any more?” “No,” said the farmer, about the same, I’d guess.” Will they load me any heavier, or make me go on longer journeys?” No, said the farmer, about the same, I’d guess.” “When I’m too old to work, will they keep me in my old age, or will they kill me, as you likely will for animal feed and for my bones and skin?” “Probably they’ll do as I would,” said the farmer. “In that case,” said the donkey, “I’ll go at my pace and what will be with the capture will be.” The moral: loyal service has to be a two-way street.

In part 2 of this essay, I’ll explain why even the leader doesn’t benefit from your complete loyalty.

Robert Buxbaum, October 20, 2014. I run my own business, and sometimes think about it, and life.

How do technology companies sell stuff?

As the owner of a technology company, REB Research, hydrogen generators and hydrogen purifiers, I spend a fair amount of time trying to sell my stuff, and wondering how other companies connect to potential customers and sell to them. Sales is perhaps the most important area of business success, the one that makes or breaks most businesses — but it was sadly ignored in my extensive college education. Business books are hardly better: they ignore the salesmen (and women); you’re left to imagine sales and profit came of themselves by the insight of the great leader. The great, successful internet companies are applauded for giving away services, and the failed interned companies are barely mentioned. And hardly any book mentions smaller manufacturing businesses, like mine.

So here are some sales thoughts: things I tried, things that worked, and didn’t. I started my company, REB Research, about 20 years ago as a professor at Michigan State University. I figured I knew more about hydrogen purifiers than most of my colleagues, and imagined this knowledge would bring me money (big mistake: I needed customers and profitable sales). My strategy was to publish papers on hydrogen and get some patents as a way to build credibility (worked reasonably well: I write well, do research well, and I’m reasonably inventive). Patents might have been a better strategy if I had not then allowed my patents to be re-written by lawyers. I built the company. while still a professor (a good idea, I think).

When I realized I needed sales, I decided to use trade fairs, conferences, and ads as the big companies did. Most of my budget went for ads in The Thomas Register of American Manufacturing, a fantastically large compendium of who did or sold what (it worked OK, but was since rendered obsolete by the internet). I bought $1500 worth of ads, and got 2 small lines plus a 1/8 page. That’s where I got my sales until the internet cam along. In retrospect, I suspect I should have bought more ads.

William Hamilton cartoon from the new-yorker. I sure wish I could make deals.

William Hamilton cartoon from the new-yorker.

My other big expense was trade fairs. Many big companies sold at trade fairs, events that are widely attended in my field. Sorry to say, I never found customers at these fairs, even when the fairs were dedicated to hydrogen, everyone who’d come by was was selling, and no one was buying, as best I could tell.Somehow, my bigger competitors (also at the fairs) seemed to get interest but I’m not sure if they got sales there. They seem to find sales somewhere, though. Is it me? Am I at the wrong fairs, or are fairs just a scam where no one wins but the organizers? I don’t know. Last month, I spent $2000 for a booth in Ann Arbor, MI, including $350 for inclusion into the promoter’s book and $400 for hand-out literature. As with previous events, few people came by and none showed anything like interest, I got no e-mail addresses and no sales. Some hungry students wandered the stalls for food and freebees, but there was not one person with money in his/her pocket and a relevant project to spend it on. I doubt anyone read the literature they took.

To date, virtually all of my sales have come from the internet. I got on the internet early, and that has helped my placement in Google. I’ve never bought a google ad, but this may change. Instead I was lucky. About 20 years ago, 1994?, I attended a conference at Tufts on membrane reactors, and stayed at a bed-and-breakfast. After the conference let out, the owner of the BnB suggested I visit something that was new at Harvard; a cyber cafe, the second one in the US. They had Macintosh computers and internet explorer a year before the company went public. I was hooked, went home, learned html, and wrote a web-site. I bought my domain name shortly thereafter.

The problem, I don’t know the next big thing. Twitter? Facebook? LinkedIn? I’m on 2 of these 3, and have gotten so sales from social media. I started a blog (you’re reading it), but I still wonder, why are the bigger companies selling more? The main difference I see is they attend a lot more product fairs than I do, have slicker web-sties (not very good ones, I think), and they do print advertising. Perhaps they match their fairs to their products better, or have a broader range of products. People need to see my products somewhere, but where? My latest idea: this week I bought HydrogenPurifier.com. Send me advice, or wish me luck.

Robert E. Buxbaum, flailing entrepreneur, September 10, 2014. Here’s a feedback form, the first time I’m adding one. 

Grammar on the high seas, pirate joke

Grammar Pirate by Scott Clark, 2013.

Grammar Pirate by Scott Clark, 2013.

Pirate grammar has a special place in American English. The father of our country’s navy was likely John Paul Jones, a pirate; he redesigned our ships, captured some 16 British merchant vessels in the Revolution, and helped supply Washington’s army with guns and powder. Jean Lafitte, pirate hero of the war of 1812, may have been Jewish! The state of Michigan officially celebrates “Talk LIke a Pirate Day” September 19, the day before national pickle day.

No other country states in their constitution that a purpose of the government is to give out letters of marque — that is to mint pirates. Piracy is a great way to fight a war –severely underestimated. ISIS does it quite well. By taking supplies from the other side you weaken them while strengthening yourself. Assuming you need the stuff, you avoid the cost of manufacture, shipping, and logistics, and even if you don’t need some of it, you can usually trade these items you for items you need. It’s a great way to make foreign friends and allies. Ben Franklin sold our pirates’  captured stuff for them during the American Revolution making himself and us better liked — we had no direct need for red uniforms, for example. Pirates should not kill captured merchant seamen, I think, but ransom them , or put them to service in the cause. The Somali pirates do this; not everyone is impressed. Pirate beards may encourage bravery by showing commitment to a revolution. Here’s a song relating beards to piracy: mannen met baarden (men with beards). Bet your aaars, it’s in Dutch.

Pirate grammar is a dialect, not a sign of poor education or lack of success. I suspect that pirate grammar is more useful than standard for referring to people on the fringes of society. For example, how would you introduce a patent lawyer who’s a some-time cross-dresser? It’s simple in pirate-speak: ‘Ms Smith, pleased to meet Johnson, arrrgh patent lawyer.’ Pirate speak can also avoid the uncomfortable he/she by use of the pirate “e”: ‘E’s a scurvy sea dog, e is.’

Robert Buxbaum, July 2, 2014. I think I’ll be havin’ a rum now, and toast to Arrrgh country.

Buddhists, Hindus and dentists joke

At the dentists’ office, Buddhist and Hindu monks don’t need anesthesia to have their teeth worked on. They transcend dental medication.

It’s funny because it’s a 3 word pun, and because there is something magical about the ability of people to conquer pain through meditation.

Focussed meditation can keep you from worry and other pain.

Focused meditation can keep you from worry and some physical pain. As for thugs, that’s more controversial. It’s possible that laughter, or looking at a spot will do as much. Gahan Wilson

The types of meditation, as I understand it, are two which are four. The two are focused and non-focused. focused meditation is supposed to allow you to conquer pain, both physical and spiritual. You concentrate on your breathing, or some other rhythmic action and thought; and whenever you realize that your mind is wandering you bring it back. A popular version is called square breathing: you breath in, hold, breath out, hold, etc. In time there is a sense of calm with the world. In theory, you can transcend dental medication, but I use the normal western practice of Novocaine plus gas. Meditation practitioners claim that directed meditation can also protect you from villains and bring peace in the world; I suspect that’s true, but also suspect that humor, or staring at a spot will do as much. I suspect that Dr Seuss has done wonders for peace in the world.

The second major version of mediation is non-focused; it can bring enlightenment if you use it right. You repeat a mantra slowly and let your mind wander along some general paths. The classic incantatory mantra is OM, and the classic paths include: what am I doing with my life, imagine a stick with one end, what is the sound of a hand clapping. The enlightenment that is supposed to arise is supposed to promote non-violence, charity, and a sense of oneness with the all. In general, I’ve found that letting one’s mind wander is a great way to solve difficult problems and to help one decide whether certain situations are worth being involved with. To the extent I’ve used a mantra, it’s versions of “radiator not leaking, mind leaking,” or “computer solution not unstable, mind unstable.” In the calm of realizing there is a solution, I’ve generally been able to find a solution.

Enlightenment can be as simple as realizing that you're there already or that you shouldn't manage a country that's unlike you and dislikes you.

Enlightenment can be as simple as realizing that you’re there already.

As for the other 2 types of meditation, it depends. To some, it involves rocking to the sound of the one hand clapping (or not). To some, it’s realizing you’re there already, or that you really don’t want to get involved in an Asian war to defend and manage a country that’s completely unlike yours, and that dislikes yours as well, or that it’s OK to use Novocaine and gas when you have your teeth worked on. That’s what they are there for.

Robert E. Buxbaum, May 24, 2014. Some wisdom from the Jewish mystics: Wherever you go, there you are, as for your baggage, who knows? Tea, with the first sip joy, with the second, satisfaction, with the third, Danish.