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An Artist’s Notebook of Sorts

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30 April 2018

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No. 3,067 (cartoon)

You promised you’d always be there for me.

I did and I am.

You’re not there; you’re here. Go away.

1 May 2018

Rod Serling Was Wrong

Abbie was most reticent to accept my invitation to go for a walk in the park tonight.

“You mean after dark?” she asked.

“Since the sun won’t rise until eight hours from now, the technical answer is yes,” I confirmed.

She confided that she sometimes has mild nyctophobia attacks, so I tried to assuage her concerns. I agreed that the park can be a scary place given all of the obnoxious joggers, aggressive tourists, scabby dogs, whining urchins, et cetera.

“I guess Rod Serling was wrong,” she replied.


She cited one of his quotes, “There is nothing in the dark that isn’t there when the lights are on.”

I was a bit disappointed when I had to agree with her: even people I admire like Serling are wrong from time to time. I think there’s a lesson there, and maybe I’ll figure out what it is in the next few days.

2 May 2018

Stephen Hawking’s Smooth Exit

Stephen Hawking died seven weeks ago today, but it’s only now that his most recent paper is available to the public. A Smooth Exit From Eternal Inflation? is his last paper, “last” as in “final.” I’m anxious to read it yet hesitant since I’ll never again be able to read one of his treatises for the first time.

I’m worried about being disappointed. What if it’s not a page-turner like The Gravitational Hamiltonian In The Presence Of Nonorthogonal Boundaries? I should just grab a bottle wine and read the damn thing. As Hawking hisself would certainly agree if he were in a position to do so, there is an almost infinite number of good writers in the universe.

3 May 2018

Turkish Meatballs

Ikea, the largest furniture retailer in the world, is based in the Netherlands. The corporation cloaks where it’s based, and brands its business as a Swedish venture, which it once was. One of the cornerstones of the Scandinavian marketing campaign is selling some two million Swedish meatballs a day.

I wonder how many horses it takes to make that many Swedish meatballs? Perhaps none, for there may be no such thing as a Swedish meatball.

The Swedish Institute, “a public agency that promotes interest and confidence in Sweden around the world,” just announced apropos of nothing that Swedish meatballs are an oxymoron.

“Swedish meatballs are actually based on a recipe King Charles XII brought home from Turkey in the early eighteenth century,” according to the Svenska institutet press release. (And yes, the organization doesn’t capitalize “institutet.”)

I guess that settles that. I wonder if Ikea will charge less for Turkish meatballs?

4 May 2018

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Heavy Data

The Internet Archive engineers designing a massive new seventeen-exabyte data center invited me to join them in a planning session. I don’t know my ASCII from my elbow, but since it involved infinite pizza and bottomless beer I didn’t want to disappoint them.

I was enjoying the drinks and vittles when disaster struck.

“What do you think, David?” Nora asked.

Oh dear, no free lunch as usual ...

“I hear lots of talk about bandwidth, heat dissipation, redundancy, latency, watts, and amps,” I observed, “but y’all are dancing around the crux of the biscuit. I haven’t heard a single word about the actual data itself.”

I decided to avoid confusing units of measurement and talk about the most basic digital unit, the bit.

“Who knows the difference between a bit and a byte?” I continued.

I was shocked when only Iris, Derek, and Isabella raised their hands. Oh dear redux ...

“How much does a bit weigh?”

Blank stares all around.

That’s when I headed for my laboratory and grabbed my triple-beam scale.

Many people make the amateurish mistake of collecting too much information that obfuscates clarity, so I only used two hard drives for my research: 12,582,912,000 bits (122.4 grams) and 8,388,608,000 bits (114.1 grams). Since the hardware was identical, it didn’t take long with simple subtraction and division to conclude with certainty that one bit weighs .000000000247359275817871 gram. That’s all I needed to accurately determine that seventeen exabytes of data weigh three hundred and fifty-two thousand seven hundred and fifty kilograms.

I documented my work in an alleged art piece, Heavy Data, so that the engineers can keep their eye on the crux of the biscuit.

5 May 2018

What a Holiday!

As usual, the fifth day of May is Cinco de Mayo, the traditional Mexican mayonnaise festival. It’s also Cinco de Michael, Michael Rosen’s birthday that he, Lucile, and I celebrated with BDSM (Burrito Delights Sans Mayonnaise). And today is also Karl Marx’s two-hundredth birthday.

The townspeople in his home town of Trier, Germany, where he lived until he was seventeen, are celebrating. First, there’s the spiffy new statue of the old sorehead courtesy of the Chinese government. I have no idea why the Chinese are paying tribute to a Communist, but then I don’t pay much attention to international affairs.

The local entrepreneurs are honoring the philosopher who championed the violent overthrow of capitalism by selling lots of Marxist trinkets and knickknacks. Let’s see, the petit-bourgeoisie merchants are flogging Marx champagne, Marx rubber duckies, and even Marx piggy banks. This may or may not be a good example of Marx’s proclamation, “From each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs.”

I found my favorite Marx quote in a letter he sent his wife.

“There are actually many females in the world, and some among them are beautiful. But where could I find again a face whose every feature, even every wrinkle, is a reminder of the greatest and sweetest memories of my life?”

What a grizzled old sweetheart!

6 May 2018

Spaced Out

Wendy and I are having quiet editing skirmishes; we’ve been locking horns for years. The war itself has been going on for centuries, and our personal conflict won’t be over until one of us is dead. Here’s what things look like on the battlefield ...

When Wendy sends me something to review, the first thing I do is run a computer program that replaces every string of two spaces with a single space. When I send the revised version back to her, she immediately inserts two spaces after every period.

Again, these typographic hostilities have been raging since the invention of the printing press. Fixed-width fonts? Proportional fonts? Single spaces? Double spaces? Em spaces? En spaces? The fights are so ruthless because the stakes are so low.

I was reminded of all of this petty piffle when the new edition of Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics showed up in the mail. Normally I just read it for the comics, but then spotted a most dubious article by Rebecca L. Johnson, Becky Bui, and Lindsay L. Schmitt: Are two spaces better than one? The effect of spacing following periods and commas during reading.

The Skidmore College psychology researchers concluded that there’s no difference in comprehension between one space and two, but that a small subset of test subjects who routinely used two spaces read the two-spaced version a tad quicker.

In other words, another completely useless study and taxpayer boondoggle. And c’mon, is there really an institution called Skidmore College? Should I look on Skid Row?

I played it safe and ran my latest copy through the shredder before Wendy could see it. That seemed appropriate since the rag is best suited for use as a packing material.


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©2018 David Glenn Rinehart

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