- 9 January 2001
- The Moon Eclipsed
- Dr. Jane insisted I leave the warmth of the house and come outside to watch the eclipse of the moon in the frigid Edinburgh night. I did, but only because Dr. Jane is one of those people to whom one doesnt say no.
I went outside into the freezing air, confirmed that we were in fact witnessing an eclipse, then retreated back into the warmth. I wasnt alone for long.
What are you doing at your computer when you could be out watching a lunar eclipse? asked Dr. Jane.
Whats to see? I asked. Spending hours watching the moon get darker then lighter while hypothermia sets in is the kind of excitement I dont really need.
I suppose sitting at your computer is more exciting than watching a rare astronomical event, she said with perhaps the slightest hint of sarcasm.
As a matter of fact, it is, I replied matter-of-factly. (I didnt tell her that Id already developed successful computer simulations of a solar eclipse.)
Even Dr. Jane couldnt have known that I was watching an even rarer event, two nonconcentric rings in the bottom of my coffee cup!
I took a photograph of the extraordinarily elusive phenomenon, an image several orders of magnitude more interesting than any picture of a big curved shadow.
- 10 January 2001
- You Call That a Burrito?!
- When Colleen asked me if I wanted an eight-pound burrito for dinner, how could I refuse? I know Scotlands not the best place to stalk the mighty burrito, but I figured whatever my prey lacked in quality would be more than offset by its volume. (San Francisco burritos rarely break the four-pound/two kilogram barrier.)
I was wrong wrong.
It turns out that the burrito didnt weigh eight pounds, it cost eight pounds--about twelve dollars! Thats four San Francisco burritos!
As for the weight, there wasnt much. Im afraid the Scottish burrito broke my never make a meal out of anything smaller than your hand rule. And it wasnt even tubular!
Why is it that North American food doesnt seem to work in Scotland, whereas Scotch whisky works just dandy in North America? Its one of those little international mysteries that makes travel so interesting.
- 11 January 2001
- More Good Wedding Advice
- Im good at giving wedding advice; its one of those useless little skills Ive developed over the years. I suppose thats why Sally came to me with her quandary.
Jills invited me to her wedding and Im not sure what to do, she said. Shes getting married to some jerk, and I cant think of anything to get her that she doesnt already have two of.
She paused, then added, Plus, Im really broke.
I have the perfect solution, I assured her. Just make a gift tag that reads To Jerk and Jill from Sally, then tape it to a piece of generic wrapping paper. Next, pull it off, and make sure theres a shred of wrapping paper still attached to the tag. When you get to the wedding, just stick your tag under the pile of gifts.
Does that really work? she asked skeptically.
Perfectly! I enthused. I did it at Randy and whats-her-names wedding and got a great thank-you letter a couple weeks later. The note itself was a work of art: they thanked me profusely for something theyll always treasure without even hinting at what it might be. Plus, I did them the favor of not burdening them with some piece of uselessness.
Im sure Sally will have a wonderful night.
- 12 January 2001
- Letters to the Editor
- What is it about letters to the editor? Why do they always begin with rhetorical questions like, I wonder if those pointy-headed government bureaucrats realize their new regulations will strangle the turnip breeding industry? Dont editors realize how annoying that is? Whatever happened to quality control?
- 13 January 2001
- Nocturnal Oral Emissions Captured
- Alex commiserated with my inability to capture all my nocturnal thoughts. Although I like sympathy as well as the next bungler, Alex did even more: yesterday he offered me a solution.
Ill let you use my voice-activated tape recorder tonight, he said, I think its exactly what you need.
Im not so sure, I replied. It seems like a lot of trouble to fumble with a new gizmo in the middle of the night.
Thats where the voice-activated part comes in, he explained. When you think of something, you just mumble your thoughts and the tape recorder automatically saves them. Youll be amazed at what you find in the morning.
I had to admit that it sounded like a good idea. When I awoke this morning, I was in fact amazed at what it had recorded: ninety minutes of snoring.
- 14 January 2001
- A Perfect Opportunity
- I was on my way to visit the Dudley Diplomat when I noticed something different about Richards drinks refrigerator. (Richard is a practical as well as a sophisticated drinker, and has a special refrigerator dedicated to adult beverages).
Apparently, someone gave Richard a set of poetry magnets, a collection of a few hundred small, magnetized rectangles, each with a single word in black type on a white background. These magnets are designed to be left on a refrigerator, where anyone can rearrange the words to make a poem. Its kind of a cross between writing and curating. Ive seen these magnets in many homes, and have never found anything worth plagiarizing.
Until tonight, that is.
Richard made the bold and wonderful move of eliminating every word except one: opportunity. And so it is that Richard has a small, refrigerated cube containing four bottles and three cans of beer, as well as two bottles of wine. The surface of the cube is broken only by the door hinge, the handle, and the word opportunity.
Perfect. Or at least close enough for art.