2866: Snow

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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For someone who has ostensibly outgrown staying up late waiting for Santa, I do spend an awful lot of time refreshing websites to see if packages are here yet.
Title text: For someone who has ostensibly outgrown staying up late waiting for Santa, I do spend an awful lot of time refreshing websites to see if packages are here yet.


This comic is about people being excited by snow, which can induce what might be seen as "childish" or less mature behavior. Many people like snow for a variety of reasons; it may be nostalgic for them, in areas where it is infrequent it may be the novelty factor, it may be aesthetically pleasing, they may simply like walking around in snow, etc. The first snow of the 2023-2024 winter occurred in Boston (Randall's hometown) on December 6th, possibly inspiring this comic.

As the graph shows, Randall's "apparent age" drops significantly when snow starts to fall, and while it rises fairly quickly as the initial rush of excitement subsides, it is still lower whenever snow is falling (and possibly beyond this, while it is still lying). Evidently, the mere presence of snow keeps Randall acting somewhat childishly; it may take a lot more time (or reality-inducing grown-up events) to catch up to his true age. He can be seen staring out of the window in the fourth panel, obviously still significantly entranced and distracted, even if he is no longer running around in supposedly age-inappropriate excitement.

The title text refers to another common behavior of many adults - constantly refreshing tracking websites to see if a package has moved - and compares it to the idea of a child who believes in Santa and tries to stay up late enough to see him deliver presents. Constantly refreshing tracking websites is an unproductive behaviour and should be discouraged in favour of other more socially acceptable habits such as constantly refreshing xkcd to check if a new strip is out.

See also 231: Cat Proximity for another event which changes a person's behavior.


[Above the comic, there is a graph labeled "Time" on the X-axis and "My apparent age" on the Y-axis. The graph is flat until a large instantaneous drop, labeled "The moment it starts to snow". After the drop, the line rises, seemingly logarithmically, but it doesn't reach as high as before.]
[Under the graph, there are four comic panels. All show Cueball, a desk with a laptop, and a window. The panels line up horizontally like the graph's X-axis.]
[Window without snow. Cueball at desk, apparently working.]
[Window with a couple of snowflakes. Cueball at desk, quickly turning around towards the window.]
[Window with a lot of snow. Cueball jumps excitedly up from his chair, shouting.]
Cueball: Hey! It's snowing! Outside! There's snow falling! Look! Snow! Hey!
[Window with a lot of snow. Cueball at desk, apparently working, but possibly looking at the window.]

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"This comic is a interesting comic about how most people get childishly excited about snow, including Randall." Really, that's the best you can come up with? Can we all please either try a little harder than that or leave the explanation for others? Darkwolf0218 (talk) 04:39, 12 December 2023 (UTC)

But it's snow. SNOW.

I don't think the graph actually plateaus, to me it still seems to be (very slightly) rising at the end. I expect Cueball's "apparent age" is asymptotically approaching the original value. MAP (talk) 06:28, 12 December 2023 (UTC)

I superimposed the portions of the graph in question in image-processing software. The result is ambiguous ... this is a cartoon, after all, not a scientifically-rigorous depiction. The asymptotic approach hypothesis is reasonable, especially if "t" is as short (days? hours?) as it appears to be. Also reasonable is the hypothesis below, in which "apparent age" approaches the original value episodically, via events inverse to the original. An earlier version of the explanation mentioned these points, but these explanations have been edited out; indeed, the entire paragraph in question has been replaced. I suppose they can be put back. 17:03, 12 December 2023 (UTC)

Regarding the lower plateau, what isn't shown is the negative effects of having to go and shovel the drive or the disappointment when the snow melts. These will reset his age and may overshoot the other way :'( RIIW - Ponder it (talk) 08:40, 12 December 2023 (UTC)

Furthermore, if the recovery state were lower after every snowfall, and he's seen hundreds, then he should be like a baby now. Wouldn't it be cool if snowstorms were the cause of Benjamin Buttons Disease? Barmar (talk) 17:11, 12 December 2023 (UTC)

Is it worth noting that it snowed in Boston on December 6? Nedlum (talk) 21:46, 13 December 2023 (UTC)

I thought of this as well. I live a little North and West of Randall (the nearest corner of Vermont) and had a few earlier snow falls this year, but the December 6 snowfall may have been the first this year for Randall. MAP (talk) 22:02, 13 December 2023 (UTC)

If there were a cat in the show, I would expect IQ to plummet into negative values. -- Cavaler (talk) 10:25, 14 December 2023 (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

I had planned to reply to your comment, but there was a cat in the snow outside, & I felt compelled to go tell it "You're a kitty!" & "It's cold and snowy outside, kitty!" & I fear my senses have just recently returned enough for me to return here.
Sorry I'm a bit late.
ProphetZarquon (talk) 02:43, 17 December 2023 (UTC)

I really appreciate that somehow, despite panels 1 and 4 being practically identical, we can tell that panel 4 Cueball is staring out the window at the snow... 03:26, 17 December 2023 (UTC)

I know right? One of my Facebook Memories is a similarly drawn comic which says that guy did it in elementary school, shows two beans, one makes a bean pun, and we can just SEE the look of exasperation on the other bean despite having no face. :) NiceGuy1 (talk) 05:32, 17 December 2023 (UTC)
I have a car and stumble around on a prosthetic leg. My graph goes the other way, I turn 80, LOL! NiceGuy1 (talk) 05:32, 17 December 2023 (UTC)

is the mention of refreshing package tracking software a reference to santa tracker? i dont think its old enough to be part of randall's childhood. 07:35, 17 December 2023 (UTC)

Well, I recall the end-of-news TV weather report on Christmas Eve giving a 'Father Christmas progress/ETA to arrive over the UK' (and perhaps how he'd dodge the rain!), and I'm older than Randall. But I think it's actually just a reference (as is linked) to the "Still in Memphis... Still in Memphis..." and Odyssey-based comics that have come before. 15:59, 17 December 2023 (UTC)