Stare.
 
1999 Notebook: Interval I
 
   

1 January 1999
Looking Backward and Forward
I decided to start the year by seeing where I've been. Specifically, I told my computer to give me a statistical analysis of the last three years of notebook entries. It replied:

1996

1997

1998

words

40,563

44,693

43,794

characters (with spaces)

232,759

255,574

248,688

characters (without spaces)

192,706

211,314

205,241

paragraphs

1,098

1,095

1,094

sentences

2,373

2,451

2,609

sentences per paragraph

2.16

2.24

2.38

words per paragraph

36.94

40.82

40.03

words per sentence

17.09

18.23

16.79

characters per word

4.75

4.73

4.69

passive sentences

8%

7%

5%

Flesch reading ease

59.2

64.3

65.0

Flesch-Kincaid grade level

8.8

8.1

7.8

 
I understood parts of that. I thought the most interesting bit was that I wrote either 1,094 or 1,095 paragraphs per year. (The 1996 total becomes 1,095 after multiplying 1,098 by .99726775956284 to adjust for the extra day of the leap year.)

Although this sentence is an exception, it appears that I'm using fewer passive sentences per year. If the curve holds, I may be a dynamic writer within a decade!

The computer's offhand remark that my "Flesch reading ease" was going up and that my "Flesch-Kincaid grade level" was going down befuddled and flummoxed me.

"Computer, explain!" I demanded. (It's imperative that the computer knows who's the boss.) After I declined the computer's suggestion to report on "kinky flesh aids," it said:

    Susette La Flesche née Inshta Theumba ("Bright Eyes") 1854-1903: Native American writer and lecturer whose work helped bring about more favorable U.S. government policies toward her people.

    Antigua-born U.S. novelist Jamaica Kincaid née Elaine Potter Richardson b. 1949.

I wonder how I ever learned anything before computers?

I figured the U.S. computer's U.S. software was talking about the grade level in U.S. schools. If the level of comprehension continues to decline, my work may be accessible to kids in elementary school.

See David write.
Write David write.
Write, write, write!

An afterword

I decided to ask the computer to analyze the above entry, and then extrapolated the results for the remainder of the year. The most interesting thing I learned from the data was that my computer can't do simple math.

Words: 320 (116,800)
Characters (with spaces): 1,933 (705,545)
Characters (without spaces): 1,678 (612,470)
Paragraphs: 27 (9,855)
Sentences: 19 (6,935)
Sentences per paragraph: 1.5
Words per paragraph: 11.85
Words per sentence: 12.0
Characters per word: 4.9
Passive sentences: 0% (?!)
Flesch reading ease: 47.1
Flesch-Kincaid grade level: 9.6

It appears I've completely wasted my time today. Why should 1999 be any different than 1998?

gratuitous image
2 January 1999
Euro Plurabis Unum
I normally don't carry anyone's picture with me regularly except for the two usual classes of exceptions. The first class includes the state portraits of myself used for identification purposes on passports, licenses, et cetera. The second group is reserved for the portraits on coins and currency.

Images of Benjamin Franklin are in and out of my wallet so fast that I have little idea where they came from or where they go. (On second though, I bet a surprisingly large number of them end up on the Isle of Islay or at the Rainier Brewing Company.) The portrait that's been with me the longest, though, is a picture of Clara Schumann whose days are numbered.

Actually, it's not literally true that her days are numbered; she died in 1896. It would be more accurate to say that the deutschemark note on which she appears will be replaced by new Euro notes in three years. I should be able to get her back to Germany by then to give her a decent burial in her own country. I'll hate to see her go, but I bet I get more than a lot of beer for a hundred deutschemarks.

3 January 1999
New Year Fountain
I see there are little ugly little crimson, charcoal and pus globs all over town. The tiny bits of lung seem to have appeared from nowhere, although there aren't that many places they could have come from.

The brewery changed its formula again this year and the old guys just can't handle it.

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4 January 1999
Rat Starter Kit Scam
The local animal shop is advertising "FREE RAT with every Rat Starter Kit." This tells me the store is owned by disreputable scoundrels. If their rat starter kits worked in the first place, the buyer would have more than enough free rats.

5 January 1999
Mistressworks
We're only a few days into 1999 and already there's another little art brouhaha. As with so many other petty spats, the new hubbub seems to fulfill Glenn Trahenir's maxim, "Every success demands retribution."

The success in question is Jean-Luc Aupetitallot's 1998 tome, the modestly-titled Masterworks. Although Aupetitallot never mentioned his mistress Madeleine Chomette in Masterworks, he never failed to talk about her in each of the many interviews he gave during his lengthy publicity tour. Aupetitallot talked about how many of his works "came to him" during his frequent trysts with Mademoiselle Chomette, a revelation that bored everyone in France and titillated everyone else.

The February 1999 edition of Contemporary Art Today, which was of course distributed in January, revealed that Aupetitallot's work really did come to him during his visits to his mistress. And that seems to be about the only thing Aupetitallot said about her that was true.

First, there was no Madeleine Chomette; Shirley McDonagh was Aupetitallot's mistress. Although Aupetitallot's "masterworks" literally did come to him when he was with Ms. McDonagh, they came not as inspirations but as completed pieces she'd created entirely by herself. It seems that Aupetitallot was too lazy to even plagiarize McDonagh's work, he simply bought his entire oeuvre from her.

The Contemporary Art Today report on the scandal seems to have bored the entire art world except for the French art establishment. Almost everyone in France was embarrassed by Aupetitallot's confession that his relationship with his "mistress" involved only commerce, not sex.

6 January 1999
Call Me Mister Squishy
A psychiatrist friend told me about a young child she's treating. She usually doesn't bring up any of her clients, so I asked her why she happened to mention this particular child.

"The kid's parents came to me because of the Mr. Squishy song," she said. "They're worried because the kid sings it all the time."

After whistling a few cheery bars, she then sang the Mr. Squishy song:

    They call me Mr. Squishy 'cause my head's caved in,
    They call me Mr. Squishy 'cause my head's caved in,
    They call me Mr. Squishy 'cause my head's caved in,
    Hey, call me Mr. Squishy 'cause my head's all crushed!

"I love the Mr. Squishy song!" I exclaimed. "It's great!"

"Yes, it is terribly good, isn't it?" she replied. "I think the parents need counseling much more than the kid, but that's almost always the case."

7 January 1999
Happy Birthday to Me
It's my birthday again. I looked up "birthday" in a collection of quotations and found a lovely one by Edward Young: "Our birth is nothing but our death begun."

Happy birthday to me!

8 January 1999
Time Travel Works!
Publishing and literary cognoscenti seem to generally agree that only a small percentage of the millions of people who picked up Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time ever got beyond the first few pages. The only reason I never gave up trying to understand Hawking's attempt to unite general relativity theory with quantum mechanics is that I never tried to understand it in the first place.

Advanced science always intrigues me because I know nothing about it. Every time I learn something I immediately forget it, so the next time I hear about, say, plasma physics, it's as if I'm hearing about it for the first time. A dear and patient friend once explained what she was doing with signal recognition protein; she carefully explained every aspect so that I could understand her work. It was as if she was building an elaborate bridge over the Strait of Gibraltar, and by the time we got from northern Africa to the southernmost point of the Iberian Peninsula, I finally understood what she was talking about. A few seconds after that, however, a puff of wind came in off the Atlantic and the bridge of toothpicks collapsed leaving me as cluefree as when we began the discussion.

I once again got excited this evening when I learned that time travel is possible and, most importantly, I'm doing it! We're already going forward in time at the rate of approximately twenty-four hours a day, but thanks to the theory of relatively I'm moving faster than someone who's never traveled faster than a camel can run. Although I don't have enough knowledge to make even the most basic calculation, all the hours I spend on jets mean that I might have gone a fraction of a second further in time than a poor Bedouin.

Or something like that.

9 January 1999
A Ridiculously Expensive Necklace
A friend of a friend showed me her new necklace. She was a rich American who wasn't shy about talking about money, and she made sure I knew it cost eighty-five thousand dollars.

I don't know much about either fashion or jewelry, but I found it difficult to believe that anyone would pay that much for even the trendiest necklace made out of brightly-colored plastic and string. I'm not very good at smiling politely, and she noticed my bewildered expression. Either that or she just wanted to talk about her latest acquisition, because she went on to talk and talk and talk about her necklace.

To summarize her tedious narrative, her necklace is made by Tom Turner, "the hottest designer in LA right now." The necklace only appears to be made of plastic and string; it's actually made of the seventeen most expensive precious stones, platinum, and, of course, gold. Each necklace is paradoxically unique and part of a matched set. One necklace contains the gems, and the other contains lead, "to wear to places where a eighty-five thousand dollar necklace might not be safe."

"Which one are you wearing now?" I asked.

"I'm not exactly sure," she said with the slightest of blushes. "I got really drunk a couple of weeks ago and got them mixed up. The only way to tell them apart is to have them both x-rayed, and I haven't got around to it yet."

gratuitous image
10 January 1999
Bethan Gulliver (snaportrait)
Bethan is a friend of mine.

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©1999 David Glenn Rinehart