Bonobo Conspiracy FAQ

[Ad box removed; this image serves to flag pages that need to be updated in my log file.]

Read the comic now.


Basic questions

What is Bonobo Conspiracy?

Bonobo Conspiracy is a Web comic created by Matthew Skala.  It has updated daily since 11 September 2005.

What is a bonobo?

Bonobos, Pan paniscus, also called "pygmy chimpanzees," are the non-human animals most closely related to humans.  They're genetically almost identical to humans.  They're famous for their sex lives.  Bonobos do pretty much everything humans do (including missionary position, oral and anal, incest, intergenerational, homosexuality...) with fewer inhibitions.

So, why the name?

As you may have noticed, there are no bonobos in the comic.  The name "Bonobo Conspiracy" was taken from a Usenet discussion a few years back; someone theorized that bonobos aren't better known because of a shadowy conspiracy to suppress the knowledge that natural sexual behavior includes a lot of things some people want you to think are "unnatural." As for exactly why that's relevant to the comic, it's partly to be a memorable and Web-searchable name, but also, if I told you, it wouldn't be much of a conspiracy, would it?

Fan stuff

What Bonobo Conspiracy Livejournal icons or Web BBS avatars are available?

Here are some.  More will be posted eventually.  If there's one you want and don't see, you could request it.  If you use them, credit would be appreciated, and please host them on your own server instead of directly linking to these images on my server.

[Matt] [Jen] [Dr.  Klaun] [The Cap'n] [The Mate] [Sun-Moon] [Douglas] [Catgirl #1] [Catgirl #2] [Catgirl #3] [Pablo] [Wilhelm] [The Aliens] [Cynthia] [Dolores]

What link buttons and banners are available?

Here are some.  If you use one of these to post a link to the comic, I don't mind if you direct-link to the image on my server (since that lets me collect stats).

88x31 Bonobo Conspiracy button 100x80 OLC-style Bonobo Conspiracy icon 200x40 Bonobo Conspiracy mini-banner 468x60 Bonobo Conspiracy banner 468x60 Bonobo Conspiracy banner 2 396x206 message shown to bandwidth thieves

Note that you can link to Bonobo Conspiracy at its standard URL inside the Ansuz Web space (, or under its own domain (  The domain redirects to the directory on Ansuz; it exists just in case people want a shorter, more memorable URL, but the longer one remains the official URL for Bonobo Conspiracy.

What desktop backgrounds or "wallpapers" are available?

Here are some images in various popular screen sizes featuring some of my favourite moments from various strips:

Where can I find character quizzes, Livejournal toys, and so on?

There are "Which female Bonobo Conspiracy character are you?" and "Which male Bonobo Conspiracy character are you?" quizzes.  Those are the only directly Bocon-related ones.  However, I also provide my own take on the TWO WORDS quiz, an astrological compatibility tester, and (now somewhat out of date) "Which Canadian Supreme Court Justice are you?". 

Where can I find daily Sudoku and variant puzzles?

From Matt's Puzzle Corner and the pages linked there.  If you like the chess-themed variant Sudoku puzzles posted there, you'll probably also enjoy my book Chessudoku, which is a collection of 351 of the best of them.

How can I make my own elongated tricosagonal dipyramid out of paper?

The printable template and instructions were posted as a PDF file to accompany strip #159.  If you make one, I'd be interested to see photos of how it turns out.

Is there a forums?

If you mean a system run by phpBB or similar, no, because they suck.  You can post comments with the comment form at the bottom of each comic page.  If you really must have a phpBB-style system, the CTRL-A forum is always desperate for new postings.  That (and the Lulu authors' forum, but that's special-purpose) is pretty much the only phpBB-style system I read with any regularity, and even then, I don't visit it often.

How can I syndicate Bonobo Conspiracy so new updates will appear on my Web site?

Use the RSS feed described in the next question.  Most present-day content management software will accept RSS feeds if you just enter the URL and tell it to syndicate.  You do not need further permission from me, given that I am providing an RSS feed.  I think it's quite important to preserve the tradition that providing an RSS feed is giving people permission to use it, and I think we should all take a stand against feed providers who claim to be able to put licensing conditions on people who subscribe to the feeds.

That said, please don't cause trouble for me by, for instance, refreshing the feed at insane rates.  Abusive IP addresses will be blocked.

Where is the Bonobo Conspiracy RSS feed?

Here it is:  [RSS syndication file].

Does that RSS feed actually contain the comic?

Yes.  Some Web comic artists provide RSS feeds, but not containing the actual comics - only notices that "hey, there's a comic, go read it!" That defeats the purpose.  RSS is all about reducing the number of Web sites you have to check for updates; if you have to go visit a separate site for every comic, there's no point.  I'm quite disappointed that many (probably the majority of) Web comic artists, despite being clueful enough to know that RSS is a good idea, nonetheless are asshats about RSS. They seem think it's appropriate, and necessary, to try to force users not to use RSS to read the comics.  They put forward a claim that they need the advertising revenue from having readers come to the site instead of reading through RSS readers, but that's not legitimate - your readers are not obligated to pay for your broken business model - and it's not even rational because readers won't go visit your site instead of using RSS, and readers could still see your advertising if (blech, but it's possible) you included the ads in the feed.  Reader will stop reading, or come up with ways to create their own RSS feeds or equivalents.  That's the nature of the Net.

If you want an RSS feed for a comic that doesn't provide one, or that provides a broken one, check out the "Skippy" scraping extension to my "Rippy" RSS software.  If you run a Web comic and would like help getting an RSS feed set up, please contact me; my only big condition is that I'll only help set up feeds that will actually include the comic, not just pointers to encourage people to visit the site when there's an update.

How can I read Bonobo Conspiracy in my Livejournal friends list?

Subscribe to the syndicated feed bonobo_conspir

Special note for Livejournal readers:  If you post comments using the "comment" feature of Livejournal, I will not receive an email notification that you've done so, because Livejournal doesn't keep track of the fact that I'm involved in the feed.  So the only way I can reply is if I happen to see it on my own Livejournal friends page, and notice that you've written a comment.  If you want to be sure I'll see your comment and make it more likely I'll respond, then you should not comment there.  Click through to my own site and post your comment; then I, and other Bocon readers, will be more likely to see it.  This means you, Owen.

How can I read Bonobo Conspiracy with dailystrips?

I don't recommend it because you'll miss the news updates.  The RSS feed is better.  But here's a dailystrips rule that should work:

strip bonoboconspiracy
        name Bonobo Conspiracy
        artist Matthew Skala
        type search
        searchpattern <IMG SRC="(\d\d\d\d\..+?)"
        provides latest

Are there online paper dolls of Bonobo Conspiracy characters?

Most of the graphics were originally generated with "eLouai's Candybar Doll Maker"; if you want to customize the images, to put characters in different costumes or whatever, you may find the links below to be useful.  Please note that some characters have been edited fairly heavily since coming out of the generator (for instance, the aliens), or created entirely from other sources (for instance, the Cap'n), and it's a fair bit of work to find all the parameters because I didn't always save them when I first created the images, so this list will never be complete and won't necessarily allow you to perfectly duplicate the images that appear in the comic.  But it should be a good start, anyway.

The operators of the site in question have, unfortunately, changed their licensing in such a way that it now forbids creation of "derivative works," so if their copyright claim as to the doll maker's output images is even valid in the first place (which I am not necessarily endorsing, and the extent of what they actually claim is unclear), you won't be allowed to create edited versions of images you get from the site, the way I did.  I got mine under the earlier license, which was more permissive.  I think that means that if you copy the images from me instead of from eLouai, you'll also be covered by the older and more permissive license, but that is, of course, your responsibility to figure out, not mine.

How exactly does the Strip-O-Meter work?

Very short answer:  the more traffic we get, the more clothes Jen removes.

Shortish answer:  The scripts count the number of unique IP addresses to hit the BoCon site in the last 24 hours (continuously updated), and that turns into two numbers called C and H. Both of them increase as traffic increases, but they are not exactly equal to the IP address count; they are just numbers that increase as the address count increases.  H changes rapidly to give a moment-to-moment traffic measurement, and C changes slowly to gradually home in on the value of H. The amount of clothing removed is determined by C. So as the general trend of traffic increases, more clothing will disappear, but minute-to-minute fluctuations won't result in an mad frenzy of dressing and undressing.

Long answer:  H is a scaled and rounded version of the square root of the unique-IP count.  The idea is that it increases fast when the unique-IP count is small, and slowly when the count is large, so that viewers will see a lot of stripping and get a lot of encouragement to raise traffic when traffic is low, and it'll require a larger change in traffic to remove the last few articles.

When C is less than H, it will increase to meet H, and when it's greater than H, it will decrease to meet H, but both those processes are governed by rate limiters.  There's a schedule of "increase" events occurring once every 20 minutes for eternity, and "decrease" events occurring once every 60 minutes for eternity, and when the system evaluates whether to change C, it will only do so if an event of the appropriate kind has occurred since last time it tried.  So C can increase by at most one point every 20 minutes and decrease by at most one point every 60 minutes.  Note that it doesn't actually do anything at the scheduled times - it only checks the schedule when it's changing H. That way we do as little work as possible, and do the work as late as possible, for efficiency.

The value of C gets translated into an image.  There's a set of human-designed stock images representing what to display at a bunch of different values of C. (Some of them incorporate custom art, especially near the end of the sequence - it's not exclusively stuff you can find in eLouai's doll maker) and the script picks the two that bracket the current C value and interpolates.  To control the interpolation there's another set of "gradient" images, one less than the number of stock images, which are greyscales with black representing "first pixels to change" and white representing "last pixels to change".  The script searches the two images for differing pixels, then changes a number of them in the low-C image to their values in the high-C image, the number determined by linear interpolation on the C values, and the sequence for choosing pixels determined by the grey values in the gradient image.  So what you're looking at is basically a slide show with customized shape-wipe transitions between the slides.  The gradients are designed to add some variety and interest.  Most are simple - for instance, the sunglasses come off right to left, and the feather boa comes off bottom to top with a bit of pixellation along the way - but toward the end there are some more elaborate effects for the last few items.

Two other little wrinkles:  it takes a fair bit of CPU to do the interpolation effect, so rather than running the risk that Slashdot will come along and break everything, the interpolation result gets cached and re-used until the C value changes (which is at most once every 20 minutes).  And to prevent (mostly accidental, though it's possible to imagine someone might try it on purpose too) ballot stuffing by robots, secure hashes are used in counting IP addresses.  When you hit the comic page, the URL pointing at the Strip-O-Meter will contain a secure hash of a secret password, the current date, and your IP address.  The Strip-O-Meter won't count you as a possible unique IP unless you provide that hash and it is correct.  So if you happen to pass the URL you were given to someone at a different IP, put it in your bookmarks file, deep-link it, schedule it for your search engine Web crawl, or similar, then any future hits with that hash (or with the hash removed) won't be counted as traffic for the purposes of determining H. They're not penalized, because it's likely to happen quite frequently for various innocent reasons - but they also aren't counted as unique.

The font used in the Strip-O-Meter is "Maxine Script," by Vic Fieger.

About the characters

Are the characters in Bonobo Conspiracy based on real people?

Matt is very much like me, but no other standard recurring character is based on any one specific person.  Dr.  Klaun, for instance, is a little bit like my real supervisor, but more like a mixture of several profs for whom I've been a teaching assistant.  There have also been a couple of one-off celebrity cameos.

Why is Sun-Moon Korean, and Presbyterian, in particular?

Her explanation would be that it's because God caused her to be so, and that's actually accurate under the circumstances, but from my point of view, the reasoning went something like this:  I wanted to have a cute girl with wings in the comic, kind of like Megatokyo's Seraphim, but I didn't want her to be Matt's conscience exactly, so it would be cool to make her be religious but part of a very different tradition from Matt's so they could have moral debates like Calvin and Hobbes, and Christianity of some sort would be about right for that, and I had an image I liked of a winged character with a crucifix who looked sort of East Asian, and a lot of these graphics originally derive from a Korean Web site so I thought it would be fun to have one character actually be Korean, and Presbyterianism is the dominant form of Christianity in (South) Korea, and I've often thought "Sun-Moon" would be an amusing name for a Korean character in some kind of creative work because it sounds like a Korean name but it has a meaning in English, and so all those factors kind of combined.

Did Dr.  Klaun buy Algea to use her as a concubine?

Probably not.  It seems clear that she was being sold on eBay for that purpose, but he's shown no other indications of being a creepy pedophile or particularly evil, only creepy and irresponsible in a general way.  It's more likely that he was trying to save her from such a fate, acquire the cute adoptive daughter that every mad scientist needs, and/or use her as a subject for non-sexual experiments.

How is the name "Algea" pronounced?

I say it as three syllables, "AL-djee-ah".  Note that it's not the same as "primitive plants of a certain type usually found in the ocean," which are "algae" (note spelling) and pronounced as two syllables.

Is Procyon male or female?

Male.  In strip #63, he was lying.

What does Dr.  Klaun's horoscope reveal about him?

Poor impulse control, lots of power to cause triumph or disaster, and strange, secret, and nasty motivations on the deep unconscious level.


Are the incidents in Bonobo Conspiracy based on real incidents?

Quite often.

Did a student really ask if passing the final was still a requirement for passing the course?


Did a nurse really get annoyed with you for describing your health problem in strictly correct medical terminology?


Did a student really "submit" her assignment to the paper shredder?

That hasn't happened yet, but it wouldn't surprise me.  I've seen students submit assignments in equally weird places, no matter how much detail we give them on the procedure they're supposed to follow.

How often do your students cheat on assignments?

I catch an average of about one per term.  That's counting only the ones for which it's clear that they really did cheat - if I'm not certain, I let it go.

How often do your students offer you sexual favours?

That has never actually happened.  The closest incident was a male student who seemed to be indicating that he might be about to offer me a monetary bribe.  I don't think he was actually going to, though.  He was from far away, and I think he had learned nonverbal cues for bribes in a very different culture.  Where he came from, a small gift of money to a minor authority figure like me might have been considered appropriate and expected in the circumstances given what he was asking for, and I don't think he'd fully adjusted to the way we do things in Canada yet.  That wouldn't make it okay if he had made the offer; but he didn't.

Fun with words

What is an "earworm"?

A song that gets stuck in your head.  This term is not original with me.  I'm not sure where I first encountered it.

Does anybody actually say "rats" as a curse word?

Yes.  In North America, it seems to be fairly widespread as a mild expletive similar to "darn".  I'd expect most native speakers to recognize it as such even though they might think it sounded a little silly.  I've had one report from a reader that it's not in normal usage in the UK. The characters in Bonobo Conspiracy say it much more often than people do in my real life, though; in particular, I almost never use it myself in real life.  Making it a catchword in the comic just sort of happened - I used it a few times and it seemed to fit well so I made it a regular thing.

What is up with Pablo and "trolling"?

The original and most correct definition of a "troll" on the Net (which was Usenet at the time) was someone who would post, or the act of posting, deliberately incorrect information in order to waste the time of people who would post corrections.  The usage has changed a bit over time (now a "troll" tends to be just generally someone who makes trouble) but I'm trying to stick close to the original meaning.  That explanation may make strip #232 a little clearer. 

What does "Erd\H{o}s" mean?

It's LaTeX notation for the most correct way of spelling the name that would usually be written on the Net as "Erdös".  The second-to-last letter is supposed to be an "o" with an Hungarian umlaut, which looks kind of like a double quote mark.  The "ö" character provided by HTML is close, but not quite right.

What are "otherkin"?

Otherkin are said to be the souls of creatures that are not human (such as wolves and dragons) incarnated into human bodies.  Otherkin are indisputably real in the sense that there are real people who really claim to be otherkin and really believe themselves to be otherkin.  I've met some of them.  Whether they are real in some other sense of the word is a bitterly controversial topic on which I don't take a position.  It's very rude to tell someone "what you believe about yourself is nonsense" but it's also very rude to demand that everyone you meet must sign on to your own beliefs about yourself.  Not the same thing, but related, are "drop-ins," who are said to be non-human souls that have transmigrated into a human body later in life when the body has been vacated by the original human for some reason.

What is "bloting a swine"?

Killing a pig (or hog or whatever the appropriate technical term may be) in a specific ritualized way to honour certain deities; nowadays the people who'd do it would probably be members of a neopagan religion called Asatru, or some close relative.  Be warned that my use of the word "neopagan" to describe Asatru may be controversial.

What do the terms "yiff", "lolicon", "yaoi", "macro-vore" (indexed under "vore"), and "bocage...  cake?" (presumably "bukkake") refer to?

Come on, guys, my mother will probably read this FAQ at some point.  Hi, Mom.

No, really, we want to know.

You can find detailed and basically accurate explanations in Wikipedia, but don't blame me.

About specific jokes and strips

What is the original version of the joke about the nun?

A nun is standing in front of a bar, preaching the evils of alcohol.  A man comes out and tells her, "Don't knock it 'til you've tried it!" The nun says, "Very well, I will.  But, being a nun, I'm not supposed to have alcohol.  So would you get me some whiskey in a teacup?" The man goes back into the bar and asks the bartender for whiskey in a teacup, and the bartender says, "That darn nun had better not be out there again!"

What is the original version of the joke about the splay tree?

There isn't one.  Sorry.

What is the original version of the joke about "tho thore I can hardly pee"?

The god Thor descends to Earth and has a one-night stand with a peasant girl, but doesn't reveal his identity.  Afterwards, he thinks he ought to have told her whom he was, so he descends to Earth again, locates the girl, and announces "I am Thor!" She lisps that she's thore, too.

Why would Catgirl #3 think that the prince might need to wear twenty condoms?

The original fairy tale was about a princess who was so sensitive she could feel, and be annoyed to the point of insomnia by, a single dried pea hidden under a pile of twenty mattresses.  Presumably she would need at least that much protection from other things too.

What do they say about Mac users?

They say that a whole lot of them live in San Francisco.

Who is noted for talking about "living in a van down by the river"?

Matt Foley, Motivational Speaker, who was the subject of several famous skits on Saturday Night Live.  He would pooh-pooh the hopes and aspirations of the people he was supposed to be motivating, and predict that they were likely to end up like him:  with time on their hands, living in a van down by the river, thrice divorced, and eating government cheese.  There's a Wikipedia article about him, and there isn't one about me, so I guess that means he's more successful.

What is the Gödel Incompleteness Theorem?

The details are quite technical and I'm glossing over them here, but it basically states that things which refer to themselves, or that could be turned to refer to themselves, tend to have serious problems.  For instance, you can't have a piece of computer software that detects bugs in other computer software, because if such a thing existed then you could turn it against itself in a way that would cause big trouble.  (Application to computer software also connects with the seminal work of Church and Turing and something called the "halting problem".) Applied to magical wishes, the Gödel Incompleteness Theorem probably has something to do with not being allowed to wish for more wishes, and it might even mean that you can't have a wish at all just because you might try to wish for more wishes.

What is the actual song lyric that's usually mistaken for "I killed a manatee"?

"I killed a man, T." "T" being short for "Tori." If you listen carefully to the recording, it's pretty clear that that really is what she sings; there's a pause and not an "a" between "man" and "tee".  That's what's written in the official lyrics, too - but in the case of some other unclear Tori Amos lyrics, it's also true that the official lyrics are sometimes inaccurate.  More detail is available on fan pages on the Web and wouldn't be interesting to include here.

No matter how many times I listen to the song, though, I still hear Jimi excusing himself to kiss this guy.

Don't you know that Captains Kirk and Janeway are named "James Tiberius" and "Kathryn" respectively?

See the question and answer about "trolling." Kirk's middle name in particular was an example used in a popular "how to use the Net" guide, and James Thurber is another person whose middle name is not "Murfreesboro."

What does eating crayons have to do with Judaism?

Bob the Angry Flower's snack food of choice for Torah study.

Why would one always use the 95% lab ethanol for Jell-O shots and not the 99%?

Lab ethanol comes in two common grades.  The 95% grade is 95% ethanol and 5% water.  It is not legal to sell it for drinking purposes, mostly for tax reasons, but it is basically the same thing as the 190-proof neutral spirit sold as "Everclear" in some jurisdictions.  (The name "Everclear", I'm told, is sometimes also used for a much weaker beverage.) It would probably be a very bad idea for me to tell you that it's safe to drink any kind of lab ethanol.  Some people do drink the 95% kind.

But 99% lab ethanol is roughly 99% ethanol, 0.9% water, and 0.1% benzene, and that small amount of benzene will make you very sick if you drink it.  The 99% lab ethanol is also more expensive than the 95%.  The reason they're made this way has to do with the manufacturing process:  the cheap process used to get 95% doesn't work if you try to produce anything stronger, and so to get 99% the manufacturers have to switch to a different process that involves adding benzene.  Further detail would require an interesting, but probably too lengthy for this FAQ, discussion of intermolecular forces.

It is a common misconception that "pure alcohol" is very dangerous to drink just because of the alcohol itself, as opposed to other poisonous substances it might contain.  That is not true except in that high-proof alcohol can get you drunk very fast.

What's the problem with "rectal foreign body" stories?

All doctors and nurses have such stories.  The first one you hear is amusing, but these people can't seem to stop after telling just one, and the stories quickly lose their charm.  Better not to let them get started.

Why are TAs like WWE referees?

Because they can't mark it if they don't see it.

Is it poisonous to drink your own pee?

No, in general it's not harmful to drink your own urine nor even someone else's.  In some cultures, it's done as an alternative health practice.  There doesn't seem to be any real scientific evidence that it's actually beneficial, but it at least doesn't seem to hurt the people who do it.

You wouldn't be able to survive drinking only urine for long.  It doesn't have the right electrolyte balance, and if you were only drinking your own urine, you'd also run out because of water lost to sweat and so on.

Some drugs and poisons are excreted in your urine.  If you drink that urine you'll be consuming the drug or poison again.  Some religions use that effect on purpose in order to prolong drug experiences.

Why did you include the previous question, about pee-drinking?

Because someone typed "is it poisonous to drink your own pee?" into Google and somehow managed to find this page.  It's evidently something people want to know about, and we aim to please at Bonobo Conspiracy, so I added the question and answer so that the next person to type that will find what they're looking for.

[Ad box removed; this image serves to flag pages that need to be updated in my log file.]
Copyright © 2007 Matthew Skala
Updates to this entire site: [RSS syndication file]
Updates to this category (creative) only: [RSS syndication file]