819: Five-Minute Comics: Part 1

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Five-Minute Comics: Part 1
The wolves thin the RAID arrays, removing the slowest and weakest disks to keep the average seek speed high.
Title text: The wolves thin the RAID arrays, removing the slowest and weakest disks to keep the average seek speed high.

This is the first of three "five-minute comics" Randall posted during a week in November 2010. The introduction to the comic explains everything you need to know about the circumstances behind it.

Randall obviously made more than three of these five minutes comics, and one of them was published later, for a short period of time by a mistake, but an android xkcd browser picked it up while it was on-line and saved it. Since then it has been added to explain xkcd. So here is a complete list of all four comics in the entire Five-minute comics series:


  1. In astronomy, an "approach" is when two bodies come abnormally close to one another, but not close enough to crash. Jupiter, as most probably know, is the fifth planet in our solar system. Its approach to Earth in September 2010 was the closest seen in many years - in fact, the next time it will come that close will be in 2022. In the comic, this is indicated by Jupiter hovering right above Earth and talking to the characters. Of course, Jupiter is not only planet-sized, but is enormous compared to Earth; in fact, Earth would fit quite comfortably into the red spot of Jupiter. Gravitational slingshots are used by deep-space probes to gain speed by approaching a planet and then leaving that planet; the gravity fields of the sun and the planet changes the trajectory of the probe, and the end result is an extremely fuel-efficient way of gaining speed during space travel. Jupiter is commonly used for this purpose because it's the most massive planet in our solar system.
  2. The comic in the middle left features the lyrics to the Johnny Cash song A Boy Named Sue, but with "Sue" replaced with "Trig." Inexplicably, Trig is a name that people actually give their children. The most notable example in the US - and probably the inspiration for Randall drawing this comic - is Trig Palin, the son of Alaskan politician Sarah Palin. Trig is also a widely accepted abbreviation for the mathematical field of trigonometry, and it sounds similar to "twig," so one can imagine how a person with such a name might be ridiculed.
  3. A child getting trapped in a well is an alien experience to some parts of the Western world, but it's quite a serious problem in places where wells are commonplace. Here, though, rather than attempt to rescue the little girl, Cueball instead tries to grant her wish of owning a pony before her imminent demise; a pony is a stereotypical thing for a little girl to want. Of course, since ponies don't fit into wells too easily,[citation needed] he has to stuff it in, which appears to be quite painful for the pony.
  4. The server room of a large datacenter would be an unusual place to return "back to nature", to say the least. Reintroduction refers to the process of taking a population of animals raised in captivity and bringing them back to the wild; this is a delicate process, as being raised in captivity affects the natural development of skills the animal needs to survive. In fact, Wikipedia has a page specifically about the challenges of wolf reintroduction. Needless to say, reintroducing wolves to a server room is neither a good idea nor OSHA-approved. Cueball may also be referencing a computer program named "reintroduction" or something similar when he says "We started a reintroduction program".
  5. Directly below the previous comic, Cueball is telling a "yo mama" joke. Such jokes are usually told in jest, and aren't really targeted at a particular person's mother; however, in this case, Cueball was attempting to make an honest observation about the listener's mother, and when he discovers his mistake, he realizes that she is, in fact, quite a nice person. Alternatively, Cueball is insulting the femininity of the listener's mother, and the masculinity of the listener's father.
  6. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart wrote an opera called The Magic Flute, though the comic seems to attribute it to Bach. Richard Wagner wrote a series of operas called Der Ring des Nibelungen, or, more commonly, the ring cycle. Here, Randall interprets the ring cycle as some kind of motorcycle, while the teleporting magic flute comes from video games: in both The Legend of Zelda and Super Mario Bros. 3, the player can obtain a magic flute item that has teleportation powers. In the Magic Tree House series, the magic flute is an actual magical flute that does magic when played, although it does not teleport people. The caption implies that even Randall is not sure what meaning this comic has. However, as he has made a mash up of Mozart, Bach and Wagner - this must be intentional - so he does not attribute the Magic Flute to Bach! Also, due to the anachronistic nature of this comic, it could imply a pun, where they are going "Bach to the future."
  7. This comic shows how people rate the "hotness" of girls. Glamour magazines have desensitized many people to photo-edited models with large amounts of make-up, so the model gets a "meh" reaction. The girl in biology class, by contrast, is not only "real" by comparison, but is actually a viable choice for dating, so she is given a 2 star rating. If the same girl from bio class is wearing your shirt, that usually means you've had sex the night before, and she spent the night at your apartment, hence the need to get dressed in one of your shirts; this possibility earns the highest rating, 4 stars. Here it starts taking a turn for the worse. If wearing one of your shirts means she spent the night with you, logically, wearing one of your mom's shirts means she spent the night with your mom. This earns a "Wat!" reaction. Finally, human skin is not generally designed to detach from its owner.[citation needed] If the girl from your bio class is wearing your mom's skin like a suit, it means she probably murdered your mom and skinned her. This is a reference to serial killer Ed Gein, who (among other things) made suits out of the skin of some of his victims. To this, Cueball can only scream.

The title text refers to the wolves thinning the RAID array. A RAID array is a way of spreading data redundantly across multiple hard drives, such that 100% of the data is still recoverable if some number of drives go down. This number can be set arbitrarily, as long as you have at least one more disk than the number you want, but it reduces your total storage space accordingly. The seek speed of a drive is how fast it can find a specific point of data on its platter; thus, the wolves are essentially killing the slowest drives, implementing a kind of natural selection to "evolve" the drives to be faster. "Thinning the RAID array" is a play on words. In the ecological sense, it refers to eliminating some members of the population to allow the remaining ones to thrive more successfully. In the datacenter sense, "thin provisioning" refers to the practice of marking an intent to use disk storage for a specific purpose but allowing it to be used for something else until actually needed (as opposed to "thick provisioning" which immediately reserves the storage space, even if unused).


Because of a family illness, instead of regular comics, this week I'll be sharing some strips that I drew as part of a game I played with friends. Each comic had to be written and drawn in five minutes. -- Randall

Comic #1[edit]

[Cueball and Megan stand facing each other.]
Cueball: Jupiter will make its closest approach to Earth in decades.
[Cueball points behind Megan, and she turns around.]
Cueball: In fact, here it comes now!
[Jupiter, about the size of the characters' heads, hovers into the frame at about head-height.]
Jupiter: Hey, guys.
[Jupiter continues to hover through the frame as the characters watch it go.]
Jupiter: Anyone need a gravitational slingshot?
Megan: No, I'm good.
Jupiter: Aight.

Comic #2[edit]

[Cueball sits on a box, playing a guitar.]
Cueball: ...Now I don't blame him 'cause he ran and hid,
Cueball: but the meanest thing that he ever did
Cueball: was before he left, he went and named me "Trig."

Comic #3[edit]

[Cueball looks down a well.]
Cueball: Oh God, a little girl is trapped down this well!
[Cueball runs off screen.]
[Cueball returns, leading a pony.]
Cueball: It's okay, we got you that pony you always wanted!
[Cueball tries to cram the pony down the well with the aid of a large stick.]
Cueball: Get... in... there...
Cueball: Ugh!

Comic #4[edit]

[Cueball and Megan stand in a server room. ]
Cueball: I like to get back to nature by coming out here to the server room.
Cueball: The warmth, the whirr of the drives, the drone of the fans, the howl of the wolves...
Megan: Wolves?
Cueball: Yeah, we started a reintroduction program.
Wolf: Awoooooo

Comic #5[edit]

[Cueball stands by himself in the frame.]
Cueball: Yo momma's so masculine that she... oh, wait, that's your dad.
Cueball: Is your mom the lady over by the door? Aww, she looks nice!

Comic #6[edit]

[Cueball runs toward another man who is wearing a powdered wig, holding a gun in one hand, and a flute in the other. Behind him, someone is chasing him on a motorcycle.]
Cueball: Bach, activate the magic flute and teleport us home! Wagner's right behind me on his Ring Cycle!
Why did I draw this?

Comic #7[edit]

Hotness Ratings:
[A close up of a girl with wavy hair.]
Incredibly made-up girl on magazine cover.
Girl: Airbrush!
[Inset of Cueball: "Meh."]
[An average girl.]
Girl in your bio class.
[Inset of Cueball: "Two out of four stars."]
[Girl with mussed hair in over-sized men's shirt.]
Girl in your bio class wearing one of your shirts.
Girl: Want some breakfast?
[Cueball: "Four out of four stars."]
[Girl with another sort of shirt speaking to an older lady.]
Girl in your bio class wearing one of your mom's shirts.
Girl: Thanks for the great night.
[Cueball: "Wat!"]
[Creepy-looking girl.]
Girl in your bio class wearing your mom's skin like a suit.
Girl: Give Mommy a hug!
[Cueball, screaming: "AAAAAAAA"]

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The Magic Flute was composed by W.A. Mozart, not Bach! -- 02:10, 30 December 2012 (UTC)

You are correct! I've fixed that particular mistake. If you spot any other errors on any explanation, please edit the explanation to be correct. Or, if you find an explanation to be lacking, please add to it! lcarsos_a (talk) 06:13, 30 December 2012 (UTC)

Is it possible that the unnamed Cueball is Mozart? (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Regarding #7, couldn't perhaps the lines of the respective girls be transcribed, too? (can't read them)-- 10:59, 4 February 2014 (UTC)

Ups,sorry, very bad reading. Refers only to the first girl.-- 11:03, 4 February 2014 (UTC)
Can anyone tell what the magazine girl is saying? To me it looks like "Airbrush!", but I'm not sure. 03:29, 1 April 2014 (UTC)
It's 'Airbrush!', referring to the Photoshop tool that paints, as the photo has been edited. Fizzle (talk) 05:11, 21 April 2014 (UTC)
An airbrush is an actual spray-painting tool that was used for many years to touch up glamour shots long before personal computers even existed, never-mind Photoshop! The function in Photoshop that produces a similar effect was named after the mechanical tool. -- The Cat Lady (talk) 15:10, 20 August 2021 (UTC)

Regarding #6, the motorcycle could be a reference to Tron. The music for Tron 2 is composed as an opera by the band Daft Punk. 17:48, 9 January 2015 (UTC)

The explanation of "reintroduction" only refers to captive-raised animals. Reintroduction programs often use wild animals from another geographic area. The wolves reintroduced to Yellowstone, for example, were wild wolves trapped in Alberta, Canada. The main point is that putting wolves back where they haven't been for a while; the source is beside the point. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

I don't think that it starts taking a turn for the worse when the girl's wearing one of your shirts. I mean isn't that the climax of hotness? 10:13, 10 January 2015 (UTC)

I read #1 as Jupiter doing a PUA style 'approach', did anyone else get that? (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

"Human skin is not generally designed to detach from its owner." [Citation Needed] (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

the horse being crammed into the well makes me think of this fable where a donkey falls into a well and they decide to fill the well with the donkey in it. -- 16:16, 13 May 2021 (UTC)

Relating to comic 4, Coincidentally [Seagate sells HDDs for NAS devices called IronWolf](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seagate_Technology#Internal_SSD_and_HDD_storage). I don't know for how long they've been around for this to possibly be referenced in the comic, but I reckon it's a possible link. 13:28, 28 September 2022 (UTC)

Comic 1 might contain a [forced perspective gag](https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/ForcedPerspective) of sorts like [this](https://www.thescienceof.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/TinyEarth1.png) [one](https://overmental.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/rick-and-morty-tiny-earth-750x415.jpg) from Rick & Morty 14:36, 28 September 2022 (UTC)