Stare.
 
2000 Notebook: Transition XI
 
   
26 March 2000
Daylight Procrastination Time
Today is the first day of daylight savings time, or European summer time, or something like that. The exact name is unimportant. What is important is that some damned regulatory body has borrowed an hour from me today with the promise of returning it in the autumn. (Will I receive interest on my involuntary loan? I will not.)

I have a clever strategy to deal with this twenty-three hour day. I will reschedule an hour of work until the twenty-five hour day in October when the time returns to "normal." Here's the beauty of the plan: any work that can be delayed for six months probably didn't need to be done in the first place. Thus the authorities' plan to rob me of the interest on an hour of time will have failed, for I will receive two hundred percent interest (calculated annually).

There's just one catch. If I die before the twenty-five hour day, I'll have lost an hour for eternity. I will have to take every safety precaution until the leaves fall from the trees.

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27 March 2000
One Hundred and Fifty-Two Beans Strong
I enjoyed Vera Rule's brief review of William Hartson's new publication, The Book of Numbers. The reviewer cited a couple of examples:

    We knew forty-two had arcane significance and now we know why: it was the number of demons who determined the fate of the Egyptian dead; of generations from Abraham to Jesus, of the boxes of the Baker in The Hunting of the Snark, of the kilometric length of the Berlin Wall; of a wolf's teeth; of the days of the gestation period of the ferret. Forty-three is only the number of beans alleged to be in a cup of Nescafé.

That made me wonder how many beans are in a cup of real, e.g. my, coffee, so I did a quick and atypically unscientific study. I put enough beans in my coffee grinder to cover the blades, the same volume I use every morning to make one strong cup of coffee. I then poured the beans on a sheet of paper, and made a quick count: one hundred and fifty-two beans, four half beans, and seven bean shards. I also noted the well-roasted beans' unquantifiably lovely oil stains on the paper.

I could have counted a few more samples, but I didn't. Life is too short to be a bean counter. And anyway, my first sample yielded conclusive results. Nescafé "coffee" is only one quarter the strength of real coffee. I always knew Nescafé tasted like watered-down sludge; now I know why.

28 March 2000
Dead People on Autopilot
A few months ago I read a story about an unusual jet crash in Montana. Air traffic controllers noticed something was wrong when the pilot of the small, private jet didn't respond to radio contact. The flight plan indicated the plane would be flying west; it was instead headed north. The pilot of a military jet sent to investigate reported seeing frost on the inside of the cockpit window. At that point, everyone on board had been dead for hours, ever since the cabin lost pressure. The plane eventually ran out of fuel and crashed into a farm field.

Dead people moving fast on autopilot: it happens all the time.

29 March 2000
Dudley Diplomat
I enjoy drinking beer with Fiona; who wouldn't? She's charming, erudite, and has a refrigerator with seemingly infinite supplies of lager. And there's another reason as well.

Many glasses of beer necessitate several trips to the bathroom, and at Fiona's place that's quite a treat. That's because she owns a Dudley Diplomat toilet. What a name for a human waste receptacle!

I can almost imagine myself sitting there smoking a fine cigar and drinking expensive brandy, while chatting amicably--but firmly--with another ambassador on the red emergency telephone. Whew! Another international crisis defused!

I can almost imagine that scenario, but not quite. I don't particularly like cigars or brandy. And Fiona doesn't have a red emergency telephone. But she does have a Dudley Diplomat toilet, and that's enough for me.

30 March 2000
The Polite Executioner
Amnesty International came out with another damning report yesterday. That's the organization's job description, I suppose. I doubt Amnesty International would issue a press release in the improbable event its investigators returned from some hellhole of a wretched prison and reported that the biggest problems they found were overcooked pasta and bad art on the walls.

The most recent report detailed the savagery of the Saudi Arabian justice system. The synopsis made for predictably grim reading. Defendants, with no right to see a lawyer, were tortured until they signed confessions. Some miscreants were punished with cross amputations (right hand, left foot); others were sentenced to be whipped. One particularly unfortunate Egyptian received 4,000 lashes on the installment plan, fifty every fortnight.

And then there are the public beheadings. The Amnesty International report cites eleven such executions in February, and suggests that the total was probably significantly higher. I have a friend who witnessed such barbaric punishment; I'll never forget his description.

In fairness, the report also mentioned that at least one executioner maintained a sense of decorum. When it was time to kill a woman, he used a pistol in order to spare his victim the embarrassment of publicly exposing her head and neck.

I've considered working with Amnesty International, but I never even found the nerve to introduce myself. And, since I can barely read an entire relatively-sanitized press release without feeling sick, I probably never will.

31 March 2000
Fishlike Ambition
I am ambitious, but only modestly so. I describe my ambition as "fishlike," an adjective that usually generates more confusion than clarification.

I don't want to "drink like a fish," although I may already do so. I don't know, since I have no idea how much fishes drink, or even whether they drink at all.

I also don't have the ambition of a salmon, a fish that will tirelessly attempt to spawn and die. On the contrary, I believe I will neither spawn nor die as long as I live.

Here's the truth: I have the ambition of a goldfish. I want to have a three- or four-second attention span, turn around and think, "Ooh, there's a huge porcelain castle on the other side of the bowl!" Then I'd swim away, turn around, and discover the same structure all over again a few seconds later.

My ambition is to be in a perpetual state of amazement.

1 April 2000
Ha-ha, Ho-ho, and Hee-Hee
It's April Fool's day! Ah, my favorite holiday is here at last.

Writing another daily notebook entry is certainly foolish behavior, but the activity is, by definition, routine. Today demands an especially foolish action, but what? All my friends are avoiding me today; they're all smart enough not to fall for any of my silly antics more than once or twice. Thrice at the most.

I gazed at the icon of Saint Stupid on top of my computer monitor until I finally came up with an idea for an inane prank. Fortunately, or unfortunately, it may only be experienced on the Internet.

2 April 2000
An Education in Evolution
Nancy teaches biology to high school students. She rarely seems to enjoy it and doesn't get paid very much, but she does it anyway.

I was in Nancy's office the other day when Betty, one of her churlish students, barged in. Betty announced that her research had led her to conclude that humans had evolved not from apes, but from cetaceans.

"And upon what evidence do you base your conjecture?" asked Nancy.

"Well, Ms. Miller, it's because humans and whales have clitorises and monkeys don't!" said the smug student.

"And why do you suppose that is?" Nancy replied.

"Ummm, don't really know why, Ms. Miller," Betty stammered.

"I'll give you as clue," said Nancy. "Humans and cetaceans generally assume a face-to-face face position during the procreative process. Primates do not. Do you understand the implications?"

"Yes ma'am," said Betty with a blush as she skulked out of the office.

Nancy seemed quite chuffed that she'd been able to turn the tables on the devious student who tried to embarrass her. I guess teaching is not without some rewards after all.

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3 April 2000
Bandages Revisited
I don't know what got into me this morning, but I decided to clean up my work station at the laboratory. I have a romantically naïve ideal of an immaculately clean desk, bare except for a fast portable computer and, depending on the hour, a coffee cup or beer bottle or wine glass. Cunning advertising charlatans planted this absurd idea in my brain, and now it's firmly embedded.

It never works out that way. At any given moment, a have a dozen or so generally useless electronic doodads about, as well as all sorts of pieces of paper. I really should file the papers somewhere, but, since such papers have no place in my idealized setting, I haven't got around to anything so tedious and mundane as setting up a functional filing system.

Today I found something unusual among the old magazines, used airline tickets, and other detritus: two adhesive bandages from my knee operation a couple of weeks ago. The blood had dried to the color of spilled cabernet; it was quite lovely. The bandages also had bit of leg hair that had developed a stronger attachment to the adhesive than they had with their follicles.

I decided the bandages were too handsome and too personal to throw away, but then I concluded they weren't notable enough to keep, either. As a compromise, I scanned them and saved the images in my computer. Now I can look at them whenever I want, which I'll probably never do again.

Perfect!

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©2000 David Glenn Rinehart