2000 Notebook: Transition III

18 January 2000
Twelve Galaxies Guiltied to a Technitronic Rocket Society
There are a megahydrillion things that haven't changed from 1999 to 2000, and I'm delighted to see that my favorite San Francisco protester is one of them.

I am referring the well-dressed, middle-aged, Asian man who walks up and down the same three blocks of Montgomery Street every morning. He used to carry a tatty, old, cardboard sign on a stick. I had a hard time deciphering the handwritten message.

A few months ago, however, my favorite protester got a new, wooden sign. His message is now spelled out in crisp, clean, red, orange, and green characters on a white, painted background. This is his message, in full, exactly as it appears:

    Impeach Clinton

    12 Galaxies Guiltied to a Technitronic Rocket Society

I love this city!

19 January 2000
French, Not Dead
Poor Alain, he's even more miserable than usual. He showed me last night's entry in his diary, a journal he prudently, and mercifully, rarely shares with anyone.

    I looked in the mirror and didn't like the fat, lazy person staring back at me. I wouldn't mind being dead. Maybe I already am.

"All right, Alain, I can see that you do in fact have a serious problem," I admitted, "but I don't think it has anything to do with death."

"Then what do you think it is to do with?" he asked.

"Let me be honest with you, Alain," I said. "I fear that you are suffering from a particularly virulent strain of the bad acting disease: the French dramatic mutation. That's very bad, of course, but you must admit it's better than being dead."

I thought my positive comments would cheer Alain up, but he remained as resolutely glum as before.

Poor Alain.

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20 January 2000
Happy Ale
I had a nice surprise when I returned to the laboratory after a quick run to the liquor store to get a couple of bottles of Rainier Ale for certain festivities.

But, as usual, an unpleasant surprise preceded the pleasant one. I discovered that the gravitational filter was clogged--again!, sending a fine mist of address-specific neutrons over Sector M6. (The cursed machine never seems to remain in gravitational alignment for more than a few days, if that.)

By the time I returned to my bottles of Rainier Ale, I discovered that someone had drawn a so-called "happy face" on one--but only one--of the bottle caps.

Who would have, could have, done such a thing? It could have been someone in the liquor store; it could have been someone at the laboratory. It could have been anyone. I am confused.

Nevertheless, I am grateful to whoever made the happy alteration. The handmade effort is a far cry from the days when the Rainier Ale people put beautiful caps on their unique elixir. Nevertheless, it is, as always, the thought that counts.

21 January 2000
Why Californians Are, Of Course, Crazy (Part I)
José de Gálvez, born 2 January 1720, was, in popular parlance, one taco shy of a combination plate. The cheese had melted off his enchilada. He'd refried his beans one too many times. And so on.

In short, José de Gálvez was as crazy as a paranoid, schizophrenic loon on pure speed.

Officially, José de Gálvez was Spain's visitador-general in Mexico, a powerful position he dedicated to adding California to Spain's dwindling real estate portfolio. Sometimes being crazy is an asset, but being several leagues from reality did not serve José de Gálvez well.

Example: according to an authoritative history tome on the period, he planned "to import 600 apes from Guatemala, dress them as soldiers, and turn them loose to confound his enemies."


There's a reason I bring up this obscure imperialist. Whenever people ask me why people in California are so strange, I have three answers:

  1. Genetics.
  2. José de Gálvez.
  3. Et cetera.

22 January 2000
Toilet Seat Considerations
Last night's party left me thinking about toilet seats today. (It was just that kind of party.)

Before dinner, Evelyn mentioned one of the characters in Gabriel García Márquez's Love in the Time of Cholera, who, when his eyesight failed, was forced to sit on the toilet seat while urinating. (Bad aim and all that.)

During dinner, Alec reported that the German authorities were able to capture many members of the Baader-Meinhof gang (such as it was) after discovering their fingerprints on the unexposed side of the toilet seats in their so-called "safe houses." (Apparently, they remembered to erase their fingerprints every place else but under the toilet seats.)

And that led Billy to ask, "Why should we always have to lift the toilet seat up and down every time ? Why can't we lift it up, and the ladies put it down? Seems fair to me."

Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong. It didn't seem at all fair to the women present, especially after Billy called them "ladies," and they told them so. The evening got even worse after that.

Enough about toilet seats.

23 January 2000
San Francisco Underground Model Railroad
When I was young, I went to the elementary school a block--a couple hundred meters or so--from my house. During recess periods, when we were all set loose to play for a third of an hour or so, I developed a plan.

I developed a clever plan, a very cunning plan indeed.

I thought it would be a great idea to build an underground railroad track from my house to my elementary school. Erosion had exposed the sand under a corner of the playground tarmac; I figured that that was the perfect place for my underground railroad to surface. I imagined that I could be playing with my favorite model HO trains while all the other kids were playing marbles, dodge-ball, whatever. This underground model railroad was one of the first of my many brilliant ideas that I never got around to fully implementing.

I forgot about this long-abandoned plan until today when I was walking through downtown San Francisco. I smelled the almost forgotten smell of model train oil, or something like it. It could have been the actual oil used to lubricate model trains; it also might have been the aroma of the goo model trains used to make simulated smoke from their simulated smokestacks.

The smell confused me for many minutes, until I realized the source.

Whatever it was, real model trains were clearly the source of the oily odor. And then it hit me: some rich San Francisco gazillionaire had stolen my idea! (Since I have never published my original idea in the thirty-some years since I came up with it, I have no idea how s/he managed to steal it, although that's obviously the case.)

I still don't know where the San Francisco underground model railroad originates or terminates, but I do know it's there.

I will find it, and ride it, sort of.

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24 January 2000
The Vice of Kings
Dr. Hansen always smokes the same brand of cigarettes.


I didn't understand the nature of his brand loyalty, so I asked him why he always purchased his cigarettes from the same manufacturer.

"In a word, ammonia," he said. "In another word, crack. And if you want a third word, that word is the brand name, 'Viceroy'."

"Explain yourself," I requested, at a loss for anything more intelligent to say.

"Do you know what the difference is between regular, snorty cocaine and crack cocaine? Ammonia. Crack cocaine is simply a combination of your regular, old, cocaine and regular, old, ammonia that enters your blood and brain soon after you've smoked it, sooner than if you'd inhaled it up your nose."

That made sense. Sort of.

"And so what about Viceroys?" I asked.

"Semantics," he replied. " 'Vice' is the word for vice, and 'roy' is the word for king. And there you have it: Viceroy is the king of vices, or maybe the vice of kings. It works either way.;"

Who could argue with that? Not me, certainly.

25 January 2000
What Has He Done Lately?
Isaac Stern's on the radio, and he's off to a bad start. The person interviewing him introduced the violinist as "one of the great musicians of the twentieth century." Hmmm ...

Although learned scholars are still debating when and if the third millennium begins, it seems that almost everyone agrees that the year 2000 is part of the twenty-first century. Thus, the interviewer's description of Stern as "one of the great musicians of the twentieth century" raises the obvious and painful corollary:

What has he done lately?


26 January 2000
Joey and Sheila Were Lovers
I probably shouldn't say this, but I will. I own the Internet domain name, stare.com, so anything addressed to [anything]@stare.com is forwarded to me. And so it was that I received a misaddressed letter from Joey to Sheila. (Joey and Sheila are fictitious names, in case the original correspondent(s) is/are of the litigious persuasion.)

Anyway, this is what Joey said to Sheila:

    dear sheila,

    i am sorry about what happened yesterday. i fell off the wagon and said things i shouldnt have. i dont want to lose you because of a stupid mistake. it is my fault, i got that way, im sorry.

    i want to tell you this in person but you said you wanted to sleep. please forgive me.

    i do love you,


Oh dear! It sounds like Joey has erred once or twice or thrice plus too often, once by "falling off the wagon," (translation: getting drunk as a monk with a skunk, or vice-versa), and again by sending his mea culpa note to the wrong address, e.g., mine.

What am I do to? Should I tell Joey about his second mistake, so he can resend his pathetic message to Sheila? If so, he might send hired goons to beat me up for interfering in his personal affair(s). Should I remain silent, and thus lead Sheila to abandon him because of his latest momentary(?) lapse of judgment?

I am faced with some tough ethical questions, questions I am unable to answer with certainty. The only thing I can do without hesitation is to publish Joey's private correspondence, which is clearly unethical. There's nothing grey about that.

I will go to sleep tonight content with the knowledge that I at least know one or two answers to one or two questions.

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©2000 David Glenn Rinehart