2000 Notebook: Transition II

10 January 2000
It Turns Out That It's True
Most of my friends long ago stopped asking for the sources of my information. That's because they deduced I only have two sources of everything I know:

1. I read it somewhere.

2. I heard it somewhere.

Now, thanks to Douglas Adams, I have a third way to verify the truthfulness of my declarations. Here's what he wrote:

    Incidentally, am I alone in finding the expression 'it turns out' to be incredibly useful? It allows you to make swift, succinct and authoritative connections between otherwise randomly unconnected statements without the trouble of explaining what your source or authority is. It's great.

    It's hugely better than its predecessors, 'I read somewhere that ...,' or the craven 'they say that ...,' because it suggests not only that whatever flimsy bit of urban mythology you are passing on is based on ground-breaking research, but that it is research in which you yourself were intimately involved. With no actual authority anywhere in sight.

I talked with leading experts; it turns out that he's right.

11 January 2000
Post-Millennium Depression
Audren was atypically depressed when she showed up for lunch today, so I asked her what was wrong.

"It's embarrassing to admit, but I'm a bit depressed about all this millennium nonsense," she said.

"In what way?" I asked. "I never thought you were taking any of the new millennium hoopla seriously."

"I wasn't, or at least I thought I wasn't," she explained. "I guess that subconsciously I expected things to be different in 2000. I guess I'm insane."

"Insane? Don't you think you might be overreacting?" I suggested.

"The definition of insanity I'm using today is 'repeating the same behavior over and over and expecting a different outcome'," she said.

"Well, if that's the definition you're using, then we're all in trouble." I concluded.

That seemed to cheer her up. Insanity loves company.

12 January 2000
Barmecide Banquet
When asked to describe the state of the Internet today, I say the same thing I said when I wallowed into this morass eight years ago: it's a Barmecide banquet.

Since almost no one knows what a Barmecide banquet is, here's the story ...

There now remains for me to relate to you the story of my sixth brother, whose name was Schacabac. Like the rest of us, he inherited a hundred silver drachmas from our father, which he thought was a large fortune. But, through ill-luck, he soon lost it all, and was driven to beg. As he had a smooth tongue and good manners, he really did very well in his new profession, and he devoted himself specially to making friends with the servants in big houses, so as to gain access to their masters.

One day he was passing a splendid mansion with a crowd of servants lounging in the courtyard. He thought that from the appearance of the house it might yield him a rich harvest, so he entered and inquired to whom it belonged.

"My good man, where do you come from?" replied the servant. "Can't you see for yourself that it can belong to nobody but a Barmecide?" Because the Barmecides were famed for their liberality and generosity, my brother asked the porters, of whom there were several, if they would give him alms. They did not refuse, but told him politely to go in and speak to the master himself.

My brother thanked them for their courtesy and entered the building, which was so large that it took him some time to reach the apartments of the Barmecide. At last, in a room richly decorated with paintings, he saw an old man with a long, white beard sitting on a sofa, who received him with such kindness that my brother was emboldened to make his petition.

"My lord," he said, "you behold in me a poor man who only lives by the help of persons as rich and as generous as you."

Before he could proceed further, he was stopped by the astonishment shown by the Barmecide. "Is it possible," he cried, "that while I am in Baghdad, a man like you should be starving? That is a state of things that must at once be put an end to! Never shall it be said that I have abandoned you, and I am sure that you, on your part, will never abandon me."

"My lord," answered my brother, "I swear that I have not broken my fast this whole day."

"What, you are dying of hunger?" exclaimed the Barmecide. "Here, slave; bring water, that we may wash our hands before meat!" No slave appeared, but my brother remarked that the Barmecide did not fail to rub his hands as if the water had been poured over them.

Then he said to my brother, "Why don't you wash your hands too?" and Schacabac, supposing that it was a joke on the part of the Barmecide (though he could see none himself), drew near, and imitated his motion.

When the Barmecide had done rubbing his hands, he raised his voice and cried, "Set food before us at once, we are very hungry." No food was brought, but the Barmecide pretended to help himself from a dish, and carry a morsel to his mouth, saying as he did so, "Eat, my friend, eat, I entreat. Help yourself as freely as if you were at home! For a starving man, you seem to have a very small appetite."

"Excuse me, my lord," replied Schacabac, imitating his gestures as before, "I really am not losing time, and I do full justice to the repast."

"How do you like this bread?" asked the Barmecide. "I find it particularly good myself."

"Oh, my lord," answered my brother, who beheld neither meat nor bread, "never have I tasted anything so delicious."

"Eat as much as you want," said the Barmecide. "I bought the woman who makes it for five hundred pieces of gold, so that I might never be without it."

After ordering a variety of dishes (which never came) to be placed on the table, and discussing the merits of each one, the Barmecide declared that having dined so well, they would now proceed to take their wine. To this my brother at first objected, declaring that it was forbidden. But, on the Barmecide insisting that it was out of the question that he should drink by himself, he consented to take a little. The Barmecide, however, pretended to fill their glasses so often, however, that my brother feigned that the wine had gone to his head, and then struck the Barmecide such a blow on the head, that the venerable man fell to the ground. Indeed, he raised his hand to strike him a second time, when the Barmecide cried out that he was mad, upon which my brother appeared to regain control of himself, apologized, and protested that it was all the fault of the wine he had drunk.

At this, the Barmecide, instead of being angry, began to laugh and embraced him heartily. "I have long been seeking," he exclaimed, "a man of your description, and henceforth my house shall be yours. You have had the good grace to fall in with my humor, and to pretend to eat and to drink when nothing was there. Now you shall be rewarded with a dinner most excellent."

I'm still waiting for that dinner most excellent.

13 January 2000
Everything I Think
Although I'm usually reticent to bifurcate, there are, in fact, only two types of friends: invaluable and worthless. I'm usually found in the latter group of scoundrels; dear Joanna is, without exception, among my angels.

It was Joanna, after all, who gave me the best advice I've received in this brief century: "Don't believe everything you think."

gratuitous image
14 January 2000
Calling it ART
I bought a new electronic doodad that translates my handwriting into text. I quite like it, even though I only use it as a chess opponent. The manufacturer included a certificate for a free monogrammed leather cover. Why would I want to have a flap of cattle skin attached to the electronic doodad that translates my handwriting into text?

On the other hand, who could resist a free anything?

My monogrammed leather cover says, "ART." I doubt it will affect my miserable performance as a chess player one way or the other.

15 January 2000
KLM 2134
As usual, I had nothing to drink the first two weeks of this quarter: "Nothing to drink," as in "no alcohol to drink," that is. This time, though, being the beginning of a new pseudo-minnelliam, I seriously considered abstaining from the delights of alcohol until I "did something."

Drinking requires serious accounting. It's imperative that I get more from alcohol than alcohol gets from me; this mandates some complex bookkeeping. (As an aside, I believe that "bookkeeping," "bookkeeper," et cetera, are the only words in the English language that have three sequential pairs of characters.)

Anyway, where was I? I remember enjoying several glasses of champagne at Schiphol, then getting on a plane to San Francisco. I fell asleep immediately. I slept for seven hours, until the additional mass of the Rocky Mountains disturbed my balance.

That was some good champagne!

16 January 2000
San Francisco Weather
Ah, back in San Francisco again. What better way to celebrate than a visit with Bud?

Bud greeted me at the studio door, and asked me what I thought about the weather.

"The weather?" I replied. "It looks like another day in San Francisco."

"Then you're not looking closely enough," Bud said. "The weather pattern this morning is mischief in the sunshine with a high entropy pattern in the shadows."

"Isn't that what I just said" I asked. "It looks like another day in San Francisco."

I still don't have any idea what he was going on about.

17 January 2000
Writing Itself
I like Paula a lot, even though she writes so well--and with such apparent ease--that I feel incompetent in comparison.

I told this to Paula; she replied that I was going about it all wrong. She said I was trying too hard; she said I should "let the paragraph write itself."

I thought it was worth a try; here's what I got:

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©2000 David Glenn Rinehart