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What would happen if I owned some cows and I milked them every day for a while and then I stopped milking one of them? Would that cow explode or what?

— Bearman, via email

Hey! The elves almost had a cow. They bugged and bugged Grandma for a pet until she finally gave in, so they brought home a Guernsey. Have no idea where they got it. It was wearing a little straw hat with fake daisies on it, and somebody’d tied a bow around her tail. On the way home they’d named her Fiona. I don’t know what Grandma did with it. I know she ran screaming out of the house as they all came up the driveway, and she grabbed Fiona’s rope and spun her around on her little hooves and kicked her butt all the way down the road. Most of the elves cried. Boy, was Grandma pissed.

Anyway, that’s my closest encounter with a cow. But I’ll answer your question anyway. And your answer depends on how much milk the cow’s been giving every day. If Farmer Gray has been squeezing out less than 12 liters or so, not much will happen, at least nothing as fulfilling as an explosion. You’ll have an uncomfortable cow for a few days, and her butt may be draggin’, but that’s about it. After five days or so, her little cow brain will stop sending signals to her little cow hormones and she’ll stop producing milk.

But, say the cow you pick is just crankin’ out the moo juice. If you stop abruptly, you’ll end up with one sick, leaky cow on your hands. Infections. Mastitis. No need to go into the ugly details, since I suspect you don’t really own any cows so no animals are threatened if I don’t continue.

Cold turkey is actually the recommended method for “drying off” a low-producing milk cow before she goes into her brief vacation from producing. I mean, everybody’s gotta have a couple of weeks off every year. The screeching halt helps turn off her hormones. So, maybe you should consider hooking up with a few bovines. Seems you have a knack for it.

Hey, Matt:

I saw in a newspaper where there is a “car-o-rama” for the latest new cars. Where does this “o-rama” business originate?

— Pat N. Paul, via email

Mankind has always been a sucker for the wow factor. Wow-o-rama is just an 18th-century logical extension. At that time, all the lucky ducks were out seeing new sights, exploring new worlds, while the rest of us huddled around the fire eating gruel and darning damp socks. What we needed was some entertainment that would bring the world to our doorstep. Comes along Robert Barker, Irish painter, and his panoramas — re-e-e-e-ealy wide paintings that captured a 360-degree view of famous cities and landscapes. Stand in the middle of the display and it’s almost like being in London or Paris, or at any rate, it’s better than darning socks. The enterprising Barker copyrighted the painting technique and the name “panorama” (Greek: pan = all; horama = sight) in the 1780s. Special rooms and buildings were constructed to show off the paintings, and they were a bona fide craze. Cycloramas and dioramas were spin-offs of the panorama idea. Even in the 1830s, when photography displaced painting, some of the most popular shots were city and landscape panoramas. Basically, any “o-rama” was something pretty big and spectacular. The Matthew Alice French connection confirms that there is currently a mattress chain in France called Conforama, so the word ending lives on.

Visionary American industrial and theatrical designer Norman Bel Geddes revived “o-rama” interest in America at the 1939 New York World’s Fair. He designed the very famous General Motors pavilion and called it Futurama, his concept of the ideal city just over the technological horizon. Once again the populace was stunned.


How many times can the same piece of paper be recycled?

— Anonymous, via email

According to the technical association of the paper pulping and recycling industries, you can reuse old paper five to seven times before it craps out. This sounds simple, but how can you tell how many times a cellulose fiber has been processed? Luckily, the fibers check themselves out when their time is done. Paper is recycled by turning it back into its basic form, individual cellulose fibers, in big vats of water and chemicals. Young, studly fibers on only their second or third go-round maintain their long, springy form. Geriatric fibers are brittle and stiff and eventually shatter. These pieces are filtered out or skimmed off in the processing.

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