1999 Notebook: Interval XXXV

23 November 1999
A Hairball the Size of a Cantaloupe
There's a hairball the size of a cantaloupe near the entrance to my laboratory. A prank? A warning? An improbable nocturnal deposit?

The lab techs are running exhaustive tests. Until I see the results, I've reluctantly advanced the laboratory security status to Zone Seven. Given the efficacy of my staff, I'm not particularly concerned with the threat from the anonymous critter(s). Still, the increased security will no doubt mean less beer in the near future.

Anyway you slice them, giant hairballs are bad news.

24 November 1999
The Enlightened Despot and the Prize
Sharon recently became the head of a committee that awards a relatively small but prestigious award. She took the post on the condition that she could act as an enlightened despot. Other members of the committee are welcome to express their opinions, but she explained that she would have the final say in who was awarded the prize.

I applauded Sharon's strategy. I told her that I, too, have aspired to becoming an enlightened despot. (I also admitted that both enlightenment and despotism have so far eluded me.)

Sharon told me that she had aesthetic reasons for becoming an enlightened despot. She explained that political dynamics usually resulted in committees or juries awarding an honor to everyone's second choice.

I never thought about that before. But, then again, I think about the logistics of winning prizes even less frequently than I ponder the practical machinations of being an enlightened despot.

25 November 1999
Misty Dawn Bushes
The woman behind me on the flight to Portland is talking about a friend of hers, "a gifted photographer."

As an example of the photographer's dedication, she reports that he stood in a stream for hours for five early mornings in a row, "in order to capture the first light of dawn as it touches the misty trees." It eludes me why anyone would go through all that bother just to make yet another photograph of trees in the misty dawn.

And so it is that Alfred Barr's question remains unanswered, if not unanswerable: "Why do all photographers have to photograph bushes?"

26 November 1999
An Unfortunate Combination
Wine goes well with children. A friend's mother told me she used to drink wine while she was nursing her children; they didn't stay awake for long after their tot of alcoholic milk. Later, after she'd weaned the kids, she gave them kinderwein--watered-down wine with lots of sugar.

And kids and computers seem to go well together. I've found that sticking one of my sneaky nephews in front of a computer renders him as immobile as if I'd used three-quarters of a roll of gaffer's tape.

Wine and computers are such a perfect compliment that I still can't quite believe that the former was invented many, many millennia before the latter.

So how could I possibly have guessed that leaving a computer, a young child, and a full glass of wine in close proximity would result in the loss of everything but the child? It's all very mysterious.

Mysterious, and quite messy.

27 November 1999
A Strange, Analog Day
I usually don't have much to show for a day's work. That may have something to do with my definition of "a day's work," which averages out to maybe a hundred minutes or so. The main reason I have so little to show for all my work is that all I really do is alter the magnetic pattern on a hard drive.

Tappety, tappety, tappety, tappety, tappety, nothing much changes. A lot of what used to be zeros are now ones and vice versa, but that's about it.

But after a kid sautéed my computer in cheap red wine last night, today's endeavors were limited to those of a non-binary nature. And so it is that two Lake Cleawox trout are lying in state on the dining room table, shining with a delicate butter and garlic patina. Also, the big blowdown (a blowdown is a tree that has blown down during a storm) by the lake is now a big pile of firewood.

Very satisfying. What a strange day.

28 November 1999
Always from Two to Four Meters from a Spider
Jim told me that a human is never more than two meters away from a spider.

"Really?" I asked.

"Well, maybe four," Jim waffled.

Two, four, whatever. It's still a great fact, maybe.

29 November 1999
Not a Very Good Story
I read a great short story in the New Yorker. A man was sleeping nude on a cliff by the sea. He was using his clothes as a pillow. Police arrested the man. A judge later sentenced him to a rehabilitation camp. The camp guards forced the offender to dress in a dog costume, acceptable attire that offended no one. Ultimately, however, the rehabilitation program proved ineffective. Police discovered the same man sleeping nude in the same public location, resting his head on his neatly folded dog costume.

What a story!

It was the kind of work I like to plagiarize, but in this case it was almost impossible given that the original story appeared in a popular magazine.

And then I got a lucky break!

I discovered I didn't read it in the New Yorker, I read it in a dream! Since almost no one cares if I plagiarize myself, I can do anything I want with the story. Unfortunately, on the second reading, I discovered the story wasn't very good, not very good at all.

30 November 1999
Guest Room Temptations
I enjoy spending the night in my friends' guest room, even though it's always frustrating. I never go to bed until my friends and I have talked for hours. By then, I'm exhausted, or drunk, or both. And when I'm alone, I grab a dozen interesting books off the shelf. And I almost always fall asleep three or four pages into the very first book.

I love my friends, even if visiting them always results in too much of too many good things. Oh well, nothing succeeds like excess.

1 December 1999
Life or Death Options
I heard about an organization called the Funeral Consumers Alliance. I thought it was a joke, but it's apparently real. I wonder if there's a Consumers Against Death Alliance? Consumers deserve a choice, even a false one.

2 December 1999
No Career Vision
I met a woman last night at a gallery opening who asked me if I had a "career vision." I told her that I had no career, and thus no career vision.

"If you don't know where you're going," she said with a slight smile, "you'll end up somewhere else."

I thought that was a great thing to say, even though her "career vision" question was inane.

And now, Quincy tells me the woman plagiarized her clever remark from Yogi Berra. It's strange that I look down on other plagiarists, even though I craft most of my work from obtainium. Maybe there really is honor among thieves. Or maybe not.

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©1999 David Glenn Rinehart