- 10 September 2003
- No. 9,914 (cartoon)
- Could you be any more morose?
- 11 September 2003
- Black Hole Music
- Todays science news reminds me of a Zen maxim John Cage liked to cite. If in Zen something is boring, do it for two minutes. If it is still boring, do it for four minutes. If it is still boring, do it for eight minutes, sixteen, thirty-two. Eventually youll find its not boring at all but very interesting.
National Aeronautics and Space Administration astronomers have discovered the lowest tone ever found, a B flat fifty-some octaves below any piano key. (I presume they described the note as B flat instead of its precise equivalent, A sharp, for typographical reasons.) Now heres the best part of the story: the Perseus galaxy cluster, two hundred and fifty light-years away, has been playing the same note for the last two and a half billion years, more or less.
I decided I must hear this tune, so I grabbed a wad of cash and headed over to Crazy Elliots Discount Hi-Fi Warehouse. I went up to Crazy Elliot himself, showed him the article, and asked to see some cheap stereos capable of playing this ancient tune. Elliot frowned and pulled out his calculator. Even though I dont shop very much, I know its a bad sign when a merchant grimaces, does dozens of calculations, then sighs.
Im afraid I cant help you, Crazy Elliot said shaking his head.
OK, I replied, how about a mid-priced system then?
Its not about money, Crazy Elliot explained, its about physics. The sound youre looking for is a million billion times deeper than anything you can hear. No can do, pal.
Thank you for your time, I replied curtly. I knew Crazy Elliot was lying. After all, the NASA astronomers heard it. Of course, they probably had a really, really good stereo, much better than the crap Crazy Elliot peddles.
- 12 September 2003
- San Francisco Time Machine
- This is an exceptional night, even for San Francisco. Im on the lab roof, watching an impossible panorama. I see skyscrapers climbing into the sky, collapsing into toxic ashes, and rising again, punctuated by horrific explosions. I realize that Im having some sort of hallucination roughly based on Wells novel, The Time Machine.
I really must start drinking a better grade of tequila.
- 13 September 2003
- Poetry Filter
- Michael judges poetry for a living; thats his grim and unfortunate job. Michael, however, insists that computer technology makes his task less unpleasant than that of a sewer inspector.
I wrote myself a little computer program that separates the poetic wheat from the linguistic chaff, he explained.
What are you talking about? I replied. You dont know the first thing about programming.
Thats where you would be wrong, Michael said. I built a filter that deletes every file that contains the words, azure, gossamer, turgid, or viscous.
Thats it? I asked.
Absolutely, Michael confirmed. On average, my program deletes over ninety-five percent of the crap people submit.
- 14 September 2003
- Armstrong and Anquetil: Compare and Contrast
- Lance Armstrongs racing around San Francisco today looking lean, clean, and sporting a Christian cross dangling from his neck. Having survived testicular cancer, hes a paragon of health.
Now, as my high school English teacher, Ms. Elbers, would say, lets compare and contrast Armstrong with Jacques Anquetil, one of the other five people to win the Tour de France five times.
Maitre Jacques smoked and drank during the epic contests rest daysand sometimes during the race to kill the pain. He was famous for drinking just before a grueling climb. On one occasion he ate so much leg of lamb that he was still bloated and sodden the next day. Thats no way to ride up steep mountains, so his teammates came up with a brilliant antidote: champagne! Et voilà! Anquetil went on to win the race.
Armstrong has a soulless athletic brilliance, but I have to admit I admire even more someone who can triumph with a digestive system full of lamb, arteries clogged with fat, lungs coated in tar, and head tipsy with champagne. As Anquetil put it, You cant ride the Tour De France on mineral water. It just goes to show that the French arent entirely worthless.
- 15 September 2003
- Remembering Elva Shorts
- On very rare occasions, I wonder what happened to Elva Shorts, someone I havent seen since we were in the same fourth-grade class. Our relationship involved tormenting each other. Sometimes I got the better of her, but she always held the trump card and she knew it.
When pressed, Elva ran to the slide or the swings, put her legs over a bar, then hung upside down until her dress slid above her waist. There it was for all to see: girls underwear! At that age, that was like cotton kryptonite. Whenever that happened, I had no choice but to run away in terror and disgust.
Ive been looking for Elva Shorts, and cant find her on the Internet. Does that mean she doesnt exist?
- 16 September 2003
- Yesterday or Tomorrow?
- Which is closer, yesterday or tomorrow? Thats the question my learned friends and I are discussing at the pub this very night. One faction insists yesterday is closer since its demonstrably real, whereas tomorrows just a hypothetical construct. The other camp maintains that tomorrow is all but inevitable, but yesterday is already infinitely distant and unreachable.
Im delighted by this debate, if only because it wont end before the pub closes.
- 17 September 2003
- My Brain, Explained
- I forgot something I really should have remembered. It happens all the time, or at least much more than it should.
Im sorry, I said, I guess it went in one ear and out the other.
I think youre being too charitable, Cindy corrected. I think it went in one ear, hit a brick wall, broke into pieces, then fell into the cesspool that passes for your brain where it eventually decomposed.
I thanked Cindy for her insight; I never did understand how something could go in one ear and out the other. Since I only had one science class after eighth grade, I remain unclear about biology in general and brains in particular. Especially mine.
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©2003 David Glenn Rinehart