Saturday, May 28, 2022

The Bad Guys (movie and a book)

First, I went to see this movie last week when I had nothing better to do. Believe it or not, it seemed the best choice of eight or so films that were on offer, what with ones I'd already seen, a couple I had no intention of ever seeing and two or three options I was willing to try. I think I chose this movie because it seemed like it would be the least work for me to enjoy. Which, sometimes, is a good thing to know.

The movie's voice cast includes Sam Rockwell, Awkwafina, Richard Ayoade, Craig Robinson, Alex Borstein and Anthony Ramos, among others, as characters in a world mainly peopled by anthropmorphic animals. Mr. Wolf and his gang, Messrs. Snake, Shark and Piranha and Ms. Tarantula, are a well known pack of Bad Guys, eluding police after a string of well-publicized heists, when the new mayor – a Fox with a hidden past – challenges them in the press. They decide to humiliate her by stealing a trophy of goodness just as it's about to be awarded to Dr. Marmalade (a saintly guinea pig) at the climax of a charity gala. But Wolf is having second thoughts. At their last heist, he inadvertently did a good deed and an indescribable feeling came over him ‐ it made him wag his tail. With the prize almost within reach, Wolf is already thinking about switching sides and turning his crew into the Good Guys. Then everything goes wrong, and actually trying to change their spots (or whatever) becomes essential to staying free.

To jump ahead without giving away too much, Wolf and his long-suffering friends try to go on the straight and narrow, but it turns out that all along they've been the dupes of a villain in do-gooder's fur. From there, things develop quickly into a wacky chase through the streets and airspace of a city that needs the Bad Guys to act like heroes, even if nobody expects them to. And with dissension within the gang, a lot will depend on the power of friendship.

It's a goofy, action-packed, thrill-ride of a family film, full of gags based on the permeable lines between cute animals and monsters, saints and sinners, heroes and villains, winners and losers. I don't expect it to sweep the Academy Awards or anything, but I didn't feel like getting up and walking out at any time during it, which is more than I could say for the previous movie or two I've seen in theaters. It made me think that this might not be such a bad time to be a kid at the movies. Three Scenes That Made It For Me: (1) The moment when you realize exactly whose side Mr. Snake is on. (2) A security guard isn't sure whether a guest is a pretty girl or a shark in disguise. (3) An army of mesmerized guinea pigs knocks over a convoy of armored trucks. I told you it was goofy.

On a related note...

Mission Unpluckable
by Aaron Blabey
Recommended Ages: 10+

Messrs. Wolf, Snake, Shark and Piranha, introduced in the original The Bad Guys, are joined by a computer-hacking tarantula named Legs in their second attempt to prove to the world that they can be good guys. This time, they set their sights on liberating a flock of chickens from a high-security farm where they're kept in tiny cages. Getting the chickens out will not only call upon their ability to pull off ridiculous feats of infiltration, not to mention Legs' keyboarding skills and Shark's genius for disguise, but will also challenge Mr. Snake to rise above his nature and Mr. Shark to get over his fear of spiders. Despite their weaknesses (and boy, do they have some), these guys, good or bad, prove just how far they will go for friendship.

This is the second of 13 "Bad Guys" books, which fall into a unique crack between children's picture books and junior-level graphic novels, perhaps better described as graphic chapter books. They're not just heavily illustrated; there is no body text at all: just storyboard panels with dialogue typed in, connected to characters' images by sweeping arcs, and sound effects illustrated comic-book style. The hero animals are hilarious, expressive, more or less anthropomorphic cartoon animals. The story is loaded with blockbuster-movie-parodying moments that make it kind of ironic that an animation studio decided to make a movie out of it. As those who have seen the movie based on this franchise may be interested to know, this is the book in which the main characters first meet the guinea pig, Marmalade, featured in the movie.

Other titles in the series include The Furball Strikes Back, Attack of the Zittens, Intergalactic Gas, Alien vs. Bad Guys, Do-You-Think-He-Saurus?!, Superbad, The Big Bad Wolf, The Baddest Day Ever, Dawn of the Underlord, The One?! and Cut to the Chase. Aaron Blabey's children's books also include two "Thelma the Unicorn" titles, 10 "Pig the Pug" books, the upcoming Cat on the Run, and such titles as Piranhas Don't Eat Bananas, Busting, I Need a Hug, Don't Call Me Bear!, Pearl Barley and Charlie Parsley, Sunday Chutney, Stanley Paste, The Ghost of Miss Annabel Spoon, The Dreadful Fluff, Noah Dreary, The Brothers Quibble and Guff.

Thursday, May 26, 2022

Weirdly sized and shaped U.S. counties

Further to this post on Minnesota, let's take a quick(!!) look at the other 49 states and their "stupidly large" (area around or greater than 1,000 square miles AND population around or greater than 50,000), "stupidly small" (about or less than 500 square miles AND about or less than 10,000 people), and "weird-shaped" counties, which I previously defined as those
whose boundaries include jukes and doglegs, long narrow panhandles, hooks and curling tentacles, blind angles and multiple lobes that, in some cases, give them the look of a gerrymandered voting district; also, some counties whose territory seems to have been needlessly divided into completely separate halves by a body of water.
It's a pretty subjective category, so argue nicely in the comments. And finally, I will sometimes delve further into counties of the "Just Stupidly Low Population" persuasion, JSLP for short, with a population around or less than 2,000. The figures in parentheses are area (in square miles) followed by population, based on the latest census data according to no less credible a source than Wikipedia. All this in service of the idea, stated in my previous post, that county lines throughout the country could stand to be redrawn a bit, to better serve residents and taxpayers.

ALABAMA: The first state in alphabetical order has 67 counties. Stupidly Big Counties include Baldwin (1,590/239 K), Tuscaloosa (1,322/227 K), Mobile (1,229/413 K), Jefferson (1,111/668 K), Jackson (1,078/53 K). There aren't any Stupidly Small ones; the closest is Cleburne (560/15,103). Weird shaped: Greene, Clarke, Perry, Houston and Cleburne.

ALASKA: Alaska doesn't actually have counties. Instead, it is divided into 19 organized boroughs and one Unorganized Borough, which is flippin' huge (319,852/76 K). The U.B. itself is divided into census areas, ranging in population from Bethel (19 K) down to Hoonah-Angoon (2,332) and in area from Yukon-Koyukuk (145,576 square miles) to Aleutians West (4,393). Now then, Stupidly Big Boroughs are Matanuska-Susitna (24,707/111 K), Kenai Peninsula (16,017/60 K), Fairbanks North Star (7,335/96 K) and Anchorage (1,707/288 K). Stupidly Small Boroughs are Skagway (434/1,132) and Bristol Bay (482/838), full stop. On the JSLP list are Yakutat (704), Lake and Peninsula (1,416), Denali (1,593), Wrangell (2,055) and Haines (2,071). Weird-Shaped: Kenai Peninsula, Hoonah-Angoon and Bethel.

ARIZONA: It's a very big state, but it only has 15 counties. Lots of desert, don'tchaknow. Stupidly Big Counties: Coconino (18,661/145 K), Mohave (13,470/218 K), Apache (11,218/66 K), Navajo (9,959/108 K), Maricopa (9,224/4.5 M), Pima (9,189/1 M), Yavapai (8,128/242 K), Cochise (6,219/126 K), Yuma (5,519/207 K), Pinal (5,374/450 K) and Gila (4,796/54 K). There aren't any Stupidly Small ones; the closest is Greenlee (1,848/9,404). Weird-Shaped: Navajo, Gila, La Paz and Maricopa. It's fun to note (for me, anyway), I lived in Yuma County for a couple years.

ARKANSAS: This southern U.S. state has 75 counties, which for the most part are reasonably and uniformly sized in both area and population. Stupidly Big: White (1,042/77 K) and Washington (952/250 K). Stupidly Small: none; the closest are Lafayette (545/6,163) and Perry (561/9,964). Weird-Shaped: Howard, Perry, Sharp, Desha, Jefferson, Jackson, Yell and Crittenden.

CALIFORNIA: California itself is stupidly big and heavily populated, yet it only has 58 counties. Minnesota, remember, has 87! A ton of those counties are what I would call Stupidly Big, or close to it: San Bernardino (20,062/2.2 M; the largest county by area in the continental U.S.), Kern (8,142/918 K), Riverside (7,208/2.5 M), Fresno (5,963/1 M), Tulare (4,824/477 K), San Diego (4,204/3.3 M), Imperial (4,175/180 K), Los Angeles (4,060/9.8 M), Shasta (3,786/182 K), Humboldt (3,573/136 K), Mendocino (3,509/91 K), Monterey (3,322/437 K), San Luis Obispo (3,304/283 K), Tehama (2,951/65 K), Santa Barbara (2,738/446 K), Tuolumne (2,236/56 K), Madera (2,138/159 K), Merced (1,929/286 K), Ventura (1,846/840 K), El Dorado (1,712/193 K), Butte (1,640/208 K), Sonoma (1,576/486 K), Stanislaus (1,495/553 K), Placer (1,407/412 K), San Joaquin (1,399/789 K), Kings (1,390/153 K), San Benito (1,389/67 K), Santa Clara (1,291/1.9 M), Lake (1,258/69 K), Yolo (1,012/217 K), Sacramento (966/1.6 M) and Nevada (958/103 K). None of them are Stupidly Small; the closest is Alpine (739/1,235). Weird-Shaped Counties: Trinity, Lake, Solano, Plumas, Nevada, Yolo, Tuolumne, Mono, Amador, Fresno, San Luis Obispo and Los Angeles.

COLORADO: Another biggish state, Colorado has 64 counties. Stupidly Big ones include Weld (4,014/340 K), Mesa (3,346/157 K), Garfield (2,958/62 K), Larimer (2,632/363 K), Pueblo (2,397/170 K), El Paso (2,129/738 K), Eagle (1,701/56 K), La Plata (1,700/56 K), Fremont (1,533/50 K) and Adams (1,182/522 K). Stupidly Small: Gilpin (150/5,873), Lake (384/7,407), San Juan (389/733), Clear Creek (397/9,446), Ouray (543/5,035) and Sedgwick (549/2,336). JSLP: Hinsdale (781), Mineral (924), Jackson (1,363), Kiowa (1,452) and Cheyenne (1,707). Weird-Shaped: Summit, Chaffee, Ouray, Otero, Lincoln, Elbert, Bloomfield, Garfield and Rio Blanco.

CONNECTICUT: This tiny state has all of eight (8) counties, which have no county-level government; so it may be pointless even to mention them. It does have a couple Weird-Shaped ones: Middlesex and New London. As far as size goes, I didn't find any that qualified as Stupidly Big or Small. The extremes seem to be Litchfield (920/185 K) at the big end and Tolland (410/150 K) at the small.

DELAWARE: Perhaps the right question in this case is "Why is this even a state?" It's so tiny that it only has three counties. One is Stupidly Big: Sussex (1,196/248 K). And that's about it. For comparison, I'll actually give you the stats on the other two counties: New Castle (494/572 K) and Kent (800/184 K) – both within non-stupid parameters. There's so little to say about this state's counties that I'm having trouble filling enough space to keep the county map where I want it. I've heard that Wilmington is a bad neighborhood but really, I think Baltimore can take it and maybe it should. I'm going to be the bigger man and refrain from making a joke about the current President of the U.S. here. You're welcome.

FLORIDA: This southeastern state, one of the most populous in the union, has 67 counties. Perhaps predictably, it has lots of Stupidly Big Counties: Palm Beach (2,034/1.5 M), Collier (2,026/386 K), Miami-Dade (1,946/2.7 M), Polk (1,875/754 K), Marion (1,579/386 K), Osceola (1,322/403 K), Broward (1,209/1.9 M), Volusia (1,106/564 K), Walton (1,058/80 K), Hillsborough (1,051/1.5 M), Highlands (1,028/103 K), Brevard (1,018/617 K), Santa Rosa (1,016/194 K), Monroe (997/82 K), and maybe Lake (953/396 K) and Okaloosa (936/213 K). None are Stupidly Small; the closest are Union (240/16,335) and Lafayette (543/8,382). Weird-Shaped Counties include Washington, Lake and Sumter.

GEORGIA: This average-sized state (24th in area, though 8th in population) has an unholy 159 counties, second only to Texas. Clearly, they have the opposite problem to Arizona, with no Stupidly Big Counties – the closest being Laurens (813/50 K) – but a ton of Stupidly Small ones: Glascock (144/2,919), Quitman (152/2,243), Schley (168/4,478), Evans (185/10,672), Lanier (187/9,907), Clay (195/2,882), Taliaferro (195/1,558), Treutlen (201/6,306), Webster (210/2,367), Lincoln (211/7,749), Seminole (238/9,197), Montgomery (245/8,653), Pulaski (247/9,917), Chattahoochee (249/9,048), Calhoun (280/5,509), Miller (283/5,919), Turner (286/8,966), Warren (286/5,240), Wheeler (298/7,471), Johnson (304/9,160), Terrell (336/8,964), Atkinson (338/8,391), Baker (343/2,819), Jenkins (350/8,639), Irwin (357/9,618), Twiggs (360/7,856), Marion (367/7,440), Taylor (378/7,799), Wilcox (380/8,739), Talbot (393/5,742), Echols (404/3,699), Randolph (429/6,287), Wilkinson (447/8,831), Stewart (459/5,341), Wilkes (471/9,513) and Hancock (473/8,630). Weird-Shaped Counties include Floyd, Charlton, Ware, Lanier, Ben Hill and Taliaferro.

HAWAII: Believe it or not, despite being made up entirely of islands, Hawaii actually has 5 counties, and their boundaries aren't just the shorelines of the main islands. Two qualify as Stupidly Big by my metric: Hawaii (4,028/203 K), which is pretty much the "big island," and Maui (1,120/164 K), which comprises four islands. Kauai County also includes two islands, for what it's worth. Would it be worth splitting the top two up? Interesting question; I don't know. And then there's the Stupidly Small Kalawao County: at 5 square miles, population 82, it's the smallest county in the U.S. by area. (The fact that I had to add "by area" to that sentence should blow your mind.) Really, it's just an isolated peninsula on the north side of Moloka'i (the rest of which is in Maui County); it only exists, I'm informed, because the last surviving residents of a former leper colony there decided to age in place. Presumably, once they've all passed away, Kalawao County will cease to exist.

IDAHO: This rather large western state has 44 counties. Stupidly Big ones include Ada (1,055/512 K), Bonneville (1,869/128 K), Kootenai (1,245/180 K) and Bannock (1,113/88 K). The only Stupidly Small one is Lewis (479/3,715). Probably due to mountain ranges and rivers, there are lots of Weird-Shaped Counties in this state, including Boundary, Bonner, Lewis, Idaho, Gem, Boise, Custer, Lemhi, Clark, Bonneville, Bannock, Minidoka, Twin Falls, Elmore, Payette and Nez Perce. Again, this sentence is just to pad out the paragraph so the map looks nice.

ILLINOIS: With 102 counties, Illinois suffers from a milder case of what Georgia has, with a few Stupidly Big Counties – McLean (1,183/171 K), LaSalle (1,135/109 K), Champaign (996/206 K) and Cook (944/5.2 M) – compared to a bumper crop of Stupidly Small ones: Putnam (160/5,566), Hardin (177/3,650), Pulaski (199/5,065), Edwards (222/6,075), Alexander (236/5,030), Scott (250/4,836), Calhoun (253/4,369), Stark (288/5,294), Brown (305/6,421), Gallatin (322/4,903), Pope (368/3,779), Henderson (378/6,312), Hamilton (434/7,911), Schuyler (437/6,843) and Jasper (494/9,193). Among its Weird-Shaped Counties is one of the reasons I created this category, Ford County, shaped like one of those giant "#1!" fingers you sometimes see at ballgames; others include Calhoun, Cook and Rock Island.

INDIANA: Of this state's 92 counties, none are Stupidly Big; the closest is Allen (657/389 K). The Stupidly Small ones include Ohio (86/5,978), Union (161/7,047), Switzerland (221/9,790), Crawford (306/10,514), Martin (336/9,780), Warren (365/8,475) and Benton (406/8,714). Weird-Shaped Counties include Vermillion (ever so long and skinny, and actually adjacent to Vermilion County, Illinois), Fulton and Wells (with that little dog-leg in its southwest corner). I'll blow a little space here by saying that I've lived in a couple of these counties, including Vigo (right next to Vermillion) and Allen.

IOWA: This state, in which I very briefly lived when I was in sixth grade (in Clay County), has 99 counties. None of them are Weirdly Shaped, and none are Stupidly Big; the closest are Pottawattamie (954/93 K) and Woodbury (873/106 K). On the Stupidly Small side are Emmet (396/9,321), Osceola (399/6,159), Worth (400/7,385), Adams (424/3,641), Clarke (431/9,785), Lucas (431/8,710), Ida (432/6,956), Monroe (433/7,610), Humboldt (434/9,634), Audubon (443/5,635), Howard (473/9,478) and Van Buren (485/7,243).

KANSAS: This, dear friends, is a map of a state that has divided itself into 105 counties of pretty uniform size and shape. Nevertheless, I spotted three Stupidly Big ones: Butler (1,428/68 K), Reno (1,254/61 K) and Sedgwick (1,000/524 K). Also, it has two Stupidly Small Counties: Doniphan (392/7,471) and Woodson (501/3,102). Finally, I diagnose it with three Weird-Shaped Counties: Geary, Riley and Finney. Frankly, I'm kind of surprised not to find more examples of counties just begging to be abolished, what with, you know, Nebraska right next door.

KENTUCKY: This middling-sized state (37th in area, 26th in population) nevertheless has 120 counties, mainly with funny-looking, random shapes. It's kinda like Georgia all over again. There are no Stupidly Big Counties in it; the closest is Pike (788/57K). However, it has lots of Stupidly Small ones: Robertson (100/2,257), Gallatin (105/8,775), Carroll (130/10,863), Trimble (149/8,530), Hancock (189/9,064), Carlisle (192/4,791), Nicholas (197/7,712), Clinton (198/9,265), Owsley (198/3,953), Bracken (203/8,439), Menifee (204/6,194), Fulton (209/6,512), Lee (210/7,451), Lyon (216/8,803), Wolfe (223/6,507), Elliott (234/7,381), Hickman (244/4,424), Ballard (251/7,695), McLean (254/9,100), Cumberland (306/5,879), Livingston (316/8,959), Crittenden (362/8,947) and Leslie (404/10,278). And just confining my Weirdly-Shaped selections to a few vivid examples, look at Fulton, Larue, Russell, Garrard, Ohio, Nelson and Livingston counties.

LOUISIANA: Besides Alaska, Louisiana is the only state that doesn't call its counties counties; instead, it has 64 parishes. Stupidly Big Parishes include Terrebonne (2,080/109 K), Vermilion (1,538/57 K), Lafource (1,472/98 K), Rapides (1,362/129 K), Vernon (1,341/48 K), St. Tammany (1,124/269 K), Calcasieu (1,094/205 K) and Iberia (1,031/69 K). Stupidly Small ones are West Carroll (360/9,594), Red River (402/7,564) and East Carroll (442/7,220). Weird-Shaped Parishes include Saint Martin, Pointe Coupee, West Feliciana, Caddo, Iberia, Lafource and Jefferson.

MAINE: Maine isn't exactly a tiny state, but it only has 16 counties. Apparently this is because it thinks of itself as relatively unpopulated, but it isn't as unpopulated as it thinks. So, it has seven Stupidly Big Counties – almost half! – Aroostook (6,829/67 K), Somerset (4,095/51 K), Penobscot (3,556/153 K), Hancock (2,351/56 K), Oxford (2,175/59 K), York (1,271/215 K) and Cumberland (1,217/305 K). And it has no Stupidly Small ones; I'm not even going to peg one as "closest," because none of them are close. And for Weird-Shaped Counties, it has Penobscot, Oxford, Cumberland, Sagadahoc, Hancock, Somerset and Aroostook. So, the state that forms the head of our great national turkey (tell me you haven't seen it) could really stand to establish a few new counties, I think.

MARYLAND: Forget about Weird-Shaped Counties; this is a Weird-Shaped State. All right, I'll give it two: Wicomico and Worcester. But you can hardly blame its 23 counties for looking gerrymandered, when you view them in the context of a state that shares a peninsula with Virginia and Delaware, has Chesapeake Bay tearing it almost completely in two, has the District of Columbia carved out of it, and narrows to a neck less than 2 miles wide at one point in its western panhandle. Maryland is the poster child for the weirdness of U.S. geography. However, it doesn't have any Stupidly Big Counties; the closest is Worcester (695/53 K). Nor does it have any Stupidly Small ones; the closest is Kent (414/19 K).

MASSACHUSETTS: It's quite a small state, area-wise, but it still manages to have 14 counties. Despite this, one of them – Worcester (1,513/862 K) – qualifies as Stupidly Big. Look at it, sprawling all the way across the state from north to south. None are stupidly small; the closest is Nantucket (48/14 K), but having a tiny area alone doesn't cut it. Weird Shaped Counties include Suffolk, Norfolk, Hampden, Hampshire and Franklin.

MICHIGAN: Kinda like Maine, Michigan (especially its Upper Peninsula) seems to think it's less populated than it is. Of its 83 counties, several are Stupidly Big or thereabouts, including Marquette (3,425/66 K), Allegan (1,833/121 K), Ottawa (1,632/299 K), Berrien (1,581/153 K), Muskegon (1,459/177 K), Van Buren (1,090/76 K), Tuscola (914/53 K) and Oakland (908/1.3 M). There aren't any Stupidly Small ones; the closest is Keweenaw (5,966/2,107). And if some of its county shapes are funny looking, you can't blame them; I mean, look at that U.P.!

MISSISSIPPI: This southern state has 82 counties. None of them are Stupidly Big; the closest is Hinds (869/223 K). However, a few are Stupidly Small: Quitman (405/5,935), Benton (407/7,646), Montgomery (407/9,729), Issaquena (413/1,280), Humphreys (418/7,551), Choctaw (419/8,106), Webster (423/9,983), Sharkey (428/3,663), Tunica (455/9,696), Claiborne (487/8,908) and maybe Jefferson (519/7,205). Weird-Shaped ones include Leflore, Tallahatchie, Humphreys, Issaquena, Warren and Clay.

MISSOURI: I could probably devote a whole post to Missouri, since I lived there for so many years and enjoyed experiencing its vast and varied geography and history. I lived in Platte, Franklin and Morgan counties, as well as the City of St. Louis, which is a county unto itself – besides Baltimore, Md. and Carson City, Nev., the U.S.'s only independent city outside Virginia, which has lots of them. In fact, St. Louis City remains the county where I've spent more of my life than any other. Of Missouri's 114 counties, Franklin (922/105 K) is as close as it gets to Stupidly Big. Stupidly Small Counties include Worth (266/1,983), Schuyler (308/4,025), Hickory (399/8,607), Caldwell (429/8,897), Grundy (436/9,720), Scotland (438/4,693), Mercer (454/3,488), Holt (462/4,226), Howard (471/10,361), Dade (490/7,599) and Gentry (492/6,173), plus maybe Shelby (501/5,976), Knox (507/6,736), Carter (508/5,320), Putnam (518/4,712), Maries (528/8,406) and Atchison (545/5,234). In short, there are a lot of counties on the edge of not having enough going on to really make sense as counties. At least. Weird-Shaped ones include Dunklin and St. Charles, though the latter probably can't help it due to the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers.

MONTANA: This huge state has 56 counties. Like some states I've mentioned above, many parts of Montana are surprisingly well populated; but there are also some pretty remote and unpeopled areas. So, it's not simply a state that needs more counties or fewer counties; I think it could just stand to redraw the lines a bit. Stupidly Big Counties include Flathead (5,099/108 K), Lewis and Clark (3,461/72 K), Cascade (2,698/85 K), Yellowstone (2,635/167 K), Missoula (2,598/120 K) and Gallatin (2,507/123 K). None are stupidly small, by the standard that looks at both area and population; the closest is Deer Lodge (737/9,491). However, Montana does have a bunch of JSLP counties: Petroleum (519), Treasure (768), Golden Valley (831), Wibaux (934), Prairie (1,091), Garfield (1,209), Carter (1,428), Daniels (1,686), Powder River (1,702), McCone (1,718), Liberty (1,946), Meagher (1,964), and maybe Judith Basin (2,044) and Wheatland (2,059). I don't know what you can do about them, however, without creating vastly larger geographic areas that a county government representing a small number of taxpayers would then have to administer. If it helps, Montana has plenty of Weird-Shaped Counties, including Beaverhead, Park, Big Horn, Rosebud, Prairie, Golden Valley, Pondera, Missoula, Lake, Flathead and Meagher.

NEBRASKA: I've personally lived in two of this state's 93 counties: Pierce and Madison. Also, my mother and half-brother used to live in Stanton County and now live, separately, in Knox County; and I have a niece who lives on the Sioux Reservation there. For those in the know, that means I'm best acquainted with the hilly, relatively green parts of the state; I take no responsibility for the flat, arid part. Anyway, Nebraska doesn't have any Stupidly Big Counties (despite what a glimpse at the map may tell you); the closest is Buffalo (968/50 K). But it does have some Stupidly Small ones, like Johnson (376/5,316), Thurston (394/6,620), Nemaha (409/7,064), Stanton (430/5,816), Pawnee (432/2,548), Polk (439/5,174), Deuel (440/1,865), Nance (441/3,390), Wayne (444/9,784), Gosper (548/1,824), Dixon (476/5,545), Merrick (485/7,665) and Burt (493/6,709). Only one Weird-Shaped County hits me in the eye: Merrick.

NEVADA: I was born in Clark County, which reminds me, I have to write to the State of Nevada to request another copy of my birth certificate, which I have to do every time I need to apply for a new driver's license (and mine is up for renewal) because each copy always dematerializes as soon as it's served its immediate purpose. Whatever. Nevada has 16 counties, and I've already mentioned that Carson City is an independent city. Stupidly Big Counties include Nye (18,147/53 K), Elko (17,182/54 K), Clark (7,911/2.3 M), Washoe (6,342/494 K) and Lyon (1,994/61 K). The only Stupidly Small one is Storey (264/4,143). Weird-Shaped Counties include Nye, Lyon, Mineral and Humboldt.

NEW HAMPSHIRE: This tiny state has a whopping 10 counties. Only one is Stupidly Big: Grafton (1,1714/91 K). None are stupdily small. Weird-Shaped Counties include Coos and Carroll. You have to squint a bit to see it, but they both extend little probing tentacles into each other. It's just a little more extreme than what you see all the other counties doing. Hark, how I go on, like these geographical entities are living creatures poking and grappling with each other. There really isn't anything more to say, but I need to fill space to ensure this state keeps its map to itself.

NEW JERSEY: This smallish state has 21 counties. None are Stupidly Big; the closest is Burlington (805/464 K). Also, none are Stupidly Small; the closest is Salem (338/65 K). Well done, New Jersey – four words that may never have been put together in one place before. However, it does have several Weird-Shaped Counties, like Passaic, Bergen, Cumberland, Salem, Hudson and Morris. So, who knows? Maybe there's some room for a little work in the county-line line, after all. But then, a little geographical weirdness might be becoming of a state that looks, to an imaginative map reader, like it's in danger of falling into the ocean.

NEW MEXICO: Pretty big though it is, this state only has 33 counties. Again, the stats suggest that it's better populated than it realizes, so it might want to consider making some new counties sometime. Stupidly Big Counties include Otero (6,627/69 K), Chaves (6,071/65 K), San Juan (5,514/121 K), McKinley (5,449/72 K), Lea (4,393/73 K), Eddy (4,182/61 K), Doña Ana (3,807/222 K), Sandoval (3,710/151 K), Santa Fe (1,909/155 K), Curry (1,406/48 K), Bernalillo (1,166/674 K) and Valencia (1,068/77 K). There are no Stupidly Small ones; the closest is Los Alamos (109/19,330). However, New Mexico does have two JSLP counties: Harding (639) and De Baca (1,680). And it has a bunch of Weird-Shaped ones, too: Los Alamos, Rio Arriba, Sandoval, Torrance, Quay, Harding, Union, Roosevelt, Chaves, Otero, Grant, Hidalgo, Lincoln, Cibola and McKinley.

NEW YORK: So much more than just New York City, this state has 62 counties. But maybe it could stand to have a few more. As it is, Stupidly Big Counties include St. Lawrence (2,821/108 K), Suffolk (2,373/1.5 M), Jefferson (1,857/116 K), Chautauqua (1,500/127 K), Herkimer (1,458/60 K), Steuben (1,404/93 K), Wayne (1,384/91 K), Monroe (1,366/755 K), Oswego (1,312/117 K), Cattaraugus (1,310/76 K), Erie (1,227/951 K), Oneida (1,213/230 K), Ulster (1,161/183 K), Niagara (1,140/212 K), Clinton (1,118/80 K), Allegany (1,034/46 K), Otsego (1,003/58 K) and Sullivan (997/80 K). There aren't any Stupidly Small ones; the closest couple are Schuyler (342/18 K) and Hamilton (1,808/5,119).

NORTH CAROLINA: This rather big southern state has a nice, round 100 counties. Only one is what I'd call Stupidly Big: Carteret (1,341/69 K). Two are Stupidly Small: Graham (302/8,043) and Jones (473/9,255). Where the Tarheel State hits its stride is its Weird-Shaped Counties: Northampton, Carteret, Beaufort, New Hanover, Craven, Swain, Cherokee, Jones, Chatham, Martin, Hartford and Tyrell.

NORTH DAKOTA: This state, closest to where I live now, has 53 counties. Among them, the Stupidly Big ones are Ward (2,013/69 K), Cass (1,766/187 K), Burleigh (1,633/99 K) and Grand Forks (1,438/73 K). None are Stupidly Small; the closest are Eddy (632/2,337) and Foster (635/1,645), which are adjacent; so maybe they could be merged into one. Weird-Shaped Counties include McLean, McKenzie, Renville, Morton, Benson, Sioux and Ward.

OHIO: Of this state's 88 counties, none are Stupidly Big; the closest is Ashtabula (702/97 K). Also, none are Stupidly Small, but five are close: Vinton (414/12,696), Monroe (456/13,329), Morgan (418/13,682), Noble (399/14,176) and Harrison (404/14,477). I guess that makes it the State Where Counties Make Sense. And while some of its counties have a funnyish shape, many of them are understandable given the waterways that form much of the state line. Those that are Weird Shaped are mostly mildly so, including Defiance, Auglaize, Van Wert, Brown, Lawrence, Washington, Tuscarawas, Ashland, Erie and Noble.

OKLAHOMA: This state, Weird Shaped in its own right (I know, that panhandle, right?), has 77 counties. The Stupidly Big ones are Comanche (1,069/122 K), Garfield (1,058/62 K), Osage (2,251/46 K) and Le Flore (1,586/48 K). None are Stupidly Small; the closest three are Coal (518/5,276), Harmon (538/2,418) and Nowata (565/9,303). Weird-Shaped Counties include McClain, Noble, Osage, Pawnee, Tulsa, Murray and Jackson.

OREGON: Here is another of those big states that don't seem to realize how well populated they are. Of its 36 counties, 12 are Stupidly Big – a full third! – namely, Klamath (5,945/70 K), Douglas (5,037/112 K), Lane (4,554/383 K), Umatilla (3,215/80 K), Deschutes (3,018/205 K), Jackson (2,785/224 K), Linn (2,291/130 K), Clackamas (1,868/423 K), Josephine (1,640/88 K), Coos (1,600/65 K), Marion (1,185/347 K) and Lincoln (980/51 K). None are Stupidly Small, on the "area and population" metric, but JSLP counties include Wheeler (pop. 1,451), Sherman (1,907) and Gilliam (2,005). Weird Shaped Counties include Deschutes, Marion, Washington, Tillamook, Yamhill, Gilliam, Union, Douglas, Benton and Curry.

PENNSYLVANIA: At first blush, the 67 counties in this state seem to have Weird Shaped written all over them; but I thought only Northumberland, Huntingdon, Clinton and Center met the standard. Stupidly Big counties include Lycoming (1,244/114 K), Bradford (1,161/60 K), Clearfield (1,154/80 K), Centre (1,112/158 K), Somerset (1,081/74 K), Crawford (1,038/83 K), Westmoreland (1,036/353 K), Bedford (1,036/47 K) and Lancaster (984/554 K). Stupidly Small ones are Cameron (399/4,459), Forest (431/7,032) and Sullivan (452/5,868).

RHODE ISLAND: The smallest state in the U.S. has five counties, and they seem to be pretty well right-sized. The closest to Stupidly Big is Providence (409/658 K), and the closest to Stupidly Small is Bristol (24/51 K). And since the "closest to Stupidly Big" has an area compatible with "Stupidly Small," and the "closest to Stupidly Small" has a population compatible with "Stupidly Big," the state pretty much breaks even. And in case you feel like pointing out that four out of five counties in this so-called Island are (at least mostly) on the mainland, let me remind you that the full name of this tiny state is "the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations."

SOUTH CAROLINA: This Deep South state, the first to secede in the Civil War, has 46 counties of which the Stupidly Big ones are Charleston (1,358/413 K), Horry (1,255/366 K), Berkeley (1,228/237 K), Orangeburg (1,128/83 K) and Aiken (1,080/171 K). I only detect two Stupidly Small Counties: McCormick (394/9,760) and Allendale (413/7,858). For Weird-Shaped, it has Beaufort, Charleston, Marion, Lexington, McCormick, Abbeville, Greenville, Lancaster, Calhoun, Sumter, Bamberg and Orangeburg.

SOUTH DAKOTA: It has 66 counties, still including a couple (Todd and Oglala Lakota) that aren't really organized, and so are administered from a neighboring county. Only one South Dakota county is Stupidly Big: Pennington (2,776/112 K). Three are Stupidly Small: Douglas (434/2,821), Hanson (435/3,505) and Buffalo (471/1,923). Weird-Shaped Counties include Lyman, Pennington, Hughes, Meade, Sully, Stanley and Charles Mix, though one may make allowances for some of them due to rivers forming parts of their boundaries. And by the way, one of my mom's homes is in Bon Homme County.

TENNESSEE: Like a slightly squished copy of Kentucky, Tennessee has 95 counties that are all funnyish, random-looking shapes. None of them are Stupidly Big; the closest is Shelby (755/924 K). Stupidly Small Counties include Moore (129/6,644), Lake (163/7,128), Pickett (163/5,079), Houston (200/8,317), Hancock (222/6,787), Clay (236/7,555), Van Buren (247/6,324) and Perry (415/8,472). Particularly Weird-Shaped ones include Moore, Decatur, Trousdale, Meigs, Pickett, Hancock, Cheatham, Chester and Unicoi.

TEXAS: This Stupidly Big State has a stupid number of counties: a whopping 256. The surprising thing is that it has way more Stupidly Big Counties than the opposite, with Webb (3,357/268 K), Val Verde (3,171/48 K), Harris (1,729/4.7 M), Hidalgo (1,569/880 K), Tom Green (1,522/119 K), Brazoria (1,387/380 K), Medina (1,328/52 K), Maverick (1,280/58 K), Bexar (1,247/2 M), Atascosa (1,232/50 K), Starr (1,223/66 K), Liberty (1,160/98 K), Williamson (1,124/643 K), Kerr (1,106/53 K), Navarro (1,071/54 K), Anderson (1,071/58 K), Bell (1,059/380 K), Polk (1,057/52 K), Cherokee (1,052/51 K), Coryell (1,052/84 K), Montgomery (1,044/649 K), McLennan (1,042/263 K), El Paso (1,013/868 K), Burnet (995/51 K) and Travis (989/1.3 M). The only Stupidly Small ones, strictly speaking, are Somervell (187/9,469), Delta (277/5,392), Marion (381/9,645) and (stretching slightly) San Augustine (528/7,922). However, Texas has loads of JSLP counties, including the country's least populous county, Loving (57), as well as King (258), Kenedy (340), McMullen (608), Borden (617), Terrell (724), Roberts (797), Motley (1,067), Foard (1,080), Glasscock (1,149), Stonewall (1,217), Cottle (1,381), Sterling (1,381), Briscoe (1,403), Edwards (1,438), Throckmorton (1,495), Irion (1,552), Oldham (1,717), Dickens (1,740), Armstrong (1,839), Jeff Davis (1,949), and Menard (1,982). A few of its more Weird-Shaped ones are Waller, Tom Green, Hill, Liberty and Jim Wells. My only, slender family connection to Texas is that my mom and her husband have a place in Wichita County, which they are now in the process of selling; I've never visited there.

UTAH: There are 29 counties in this western state. And you'd think, "Of course there are! It's all deserts, canyons and mountains." But perhaps surprisingly (or perhaps not, if you've read this far), Utah has more of a Stupidly Big Counties problem than the opposite, with Tooele (6,941/77 K), Box Elder (5,746/60 K), Iron (3,297/61 K), Washington (2,426/191 K), Utah (2,003/685 K) and Cache (1,165/137 K). Clearly, it's more populous than it looks. Meanwhile, the closest thing it has to Stupidly Small is Daggett (697/976). There are some JSLP counties, though: Piute (1,487), Wayne (2,558) and Rich (2,597). And for Weird-Shaped, it has Emery, Daggett, Morgan, Juab and Utah counties.

VERMONT: This small, New England state has all of 14 counties, which is apparently just about right. The closest it has to a Stupidly Big County is Windsor (971/58 K), while its only Stupidy Small one is Grand Isle (83/7,421). Windsor is also Weird-Shaped, in my opinion. It's hard to tell with this badly colored map, but there's a little bit of it north of Rutland County, connected to the main part of the county by a very narrow gap. That's the kind of thing that makes you think, "Somebody needs to just sign an executive order adding that tiny bit of Windsor County to Addison County, or something." But maybe the folks in Vermont don't go in for executive orders, so much.

VIRGINIA: The blood spatter all over this map represents this state's 38 independent cities, which are historically counties unto themselves – as distinguished from, say, Marion County, Indiana, which is consolidated with the city of Indianapolis in something ominously known as Unigov; there's a bunch of other examples throughout the country. But for its independent cities, Virginia is all but unique. (Quiz time: What are the three exceptions, already mentioned above?) Anyway, Virginia also has 95 counties, and none of them are Stupidly Big (indeed, none exceed 1,000 square miles). However, its Stupidly Small Counties include Mathews (86/8,546), Charles City (182/6,594), Richmond (192/9,017), Rappahannock (267/7,407), Surry (279/6,530), Cumberland (298/9,681), King and Queen (316/6,662), Craig (330/4,865), Bland (359/6,173), Highland (416/2,226) and maybe Bath (532/4,114). Weird-Shaped ones include Middlesex, King and Queen, Northumberland, King William, Hanover, Goochland, Culpeper and Alleghany.

WASHINGTON: Of this northwestern state's 39 counties, fully 16 are Stupidly Big: Yakima (4,296/257 K), Chelan (2,920/79 K), Grant (2,680/99 K), Lewis (2,403/82 K), King (2,115/2.3 M), Snohomish (2,087/828 K), Grays Harbor (1,902/76 K), Spokane (1,764/539 K), Clallam (1,738/77 K), Skagit (1,731/130 K), Benton (1,700/207 K), Pierce (1,670/921 K), Walla Walla (1,270/63 K), Franklin (1,242/97 K), Cowlitz (1,139/111 K) and Mason (959/66 K). The only Stupidly Small one is Wahkiakum (264/4,422). However, three JSLP counties are Garfield (2,286), Columbia (3,952) and Ferry (7,178). Weird-Shaped ones include Pierce, Grays Harbor, Adams, Grant, Chelan, Garfield and Columbia.

WEST VIRGINIA: This offshoot of Virginia, granted statehood during the Civil War, started with 50 counties and currently has 55. None are Stupidly Big; the closest is Greenbrier (1,021/33 K). Stupidly Small ones are Pleasants (106/7,601), Wirt (233/5,063), Tyler (258/8,155), Calhoun (281/6,176), Doddridge (320/7,735), Gilmer (340/7,377), Clay (342/7,892), Tucker (419/6,672) and Ritchie (454/8,383). Weird-Shaped ones (if it's possible to narrow it down to just a few) include Raleigh, Summers, Lewis, Randolph, Grant and Pocahontas.

WISCONSIN: This state has 72 counties, and my mom and her husband currently own a home in Wood County; my mom's mom grew up in Pierce County. For what it's worth. Stupidly Big Counties include Marathon (1,545/138 K), Dane (1,197/564 K), Grant (1,147/52 K) and Chippewa (1,008/67 K). Stupidly Small ones are Pepin (232/7,364), Menominee (358/4,289) and Florence (488/4,593). Pepin is also right up there alongside Ford County, Illinois among the reasons I started a category for Weird-Shaped Counties; each so gerrymandered-looking that it can only have arrived at its current shape by a series of historical accidents, and one wonders when another accident will wipe it off the map entirely.

WYOMING: With 23 counties, the nation's least populous state somehow manages some Stupidly Big (and well populated) counties, including Laramie (2,686/101 K) and Natrona (5,340/80 K), and maybe Campbell (4,797/46 K) and Sweetwater (10,426/42 K). None, amazingly, are Stupidly Small, though Niobrara County (2,438) is JSLP. Weird-Shaped ones include Fremont and Converse.

And that's all, folks! Comment nicely if I missed a county that shouldn't exist, or that should be broken up, or that's too weird-shaped to thrive in the wild. Thanks for sticking with me!