2001 Notebook: Weak II
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9 January 2001
The Moon Eclipsed
Dr. Jane insisted I leave the warmth of the house and come outside to watch the eclipse of the moon in the frigid Edinburgh night. I did, but only because Dr. Jane is one of those people to whom one doesn’t say “no.”

I went outside into the freezing air, confirmed that we were in fact witnessing an eclipse, then retreated back into the warmth. I wasn’t alone for long.

“What are you doing at your computer when you could be out watching a lunar eclipse?” asked Dr. Jane.

“What’s to see?” I asked. “Spending hours watching the moon get darker then lighter while hypothermia sets in is the kind of excitement I don’t really need.”

“I suppose sitting at your computer is more exciting than watching a rare astronomical event,” she said with perhaps the slightest hint of sarcasm.

“As a matter of fact, it is,” I replied matter-of-factly. (I didn’t tell her that I’d already developed successful computer simulations of a solar eclipse.)

Even Dr. Jane couldn’t have known that I was watching an even rarer event, two nonconcentric rings in the bottom of my coffee cup!

I took a photograph of the extraordinarily elusive phenomenon, an image several orders of magnitude more interesting than any picture of a big curved shadow.

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10 January 2001
You Call That a Burrito?!
When Colleen asked me if I wanted an eight-pound burrito for dinner, how could I refuse? I know Scotland’s not the best place to stalk the mighty burrito, but I figured whatever my prey lacked in quality would be more than offset by its volume. (San Francisco burritos rarely break the four-pound/two kilogram barrier.)

I was wrong wrong.

It turns out that the burrito didn’t weigh eight pounds, it cost eight pounds--about twelve dollars! That’s four San Francisco burritos!

As for the weight, there wasn’t much. I’m afraid the Scottish burrito broke my “never make a meal out of anything smaller than your hand” rule. And it wasn’t even tubular!

Why is it that North American food doesn’t seem to work in Scotland, whereas Scotch whisky works just dandy in North America? It’s one of those little international mysteries that makes travel so interesting.

11 January 2001
More Good Wedding Advice
I’m good at giving wedding advice; it’s one of those useless little skills I’ve developed over the years. I suppose that’s why Sally came to me with her quandary.

“Jill’s invited me to her wedding and I’m not sure what to do,” she said. “She’s getting married to some jerk, and I can’t think of anything to get her that she doesn’t already have two of.”

She paused, then added, “Plus, I’m really broke.”

“I have the perfect solution,” I assured her. “Just make a gift tag that reads ‘To Jerk and Jill from Sally,’ then tape it to a piece of generic wrapping paper. Next, pull it off, and make sure there’s a shred of wrapping paper still attached to the tag. When you get to the wedding, just stick your tag under the pile of gifts.”

“Does that really work?” she asked skeptically.

“Perfectly!” I enthused. “I did it at Randy and what’s-her-name’s wedding and got a great thank-you letter a couple weeks later. The note itself was a work of art: they thanked me profusely for ‘something they’ll always treasure’ without even hinting at what it might be. Plus, I did them the favor of not burdening them with some piece of uselessness.”

I’m sure Sally will have a wonderful night.

12 January 2001
Letters to the Editor
What is it about letters to the editor? Why do they always begin with rhetorical questions like, “I wonder if those pointy-headed government bureaucrats realize their new regulations will strangle the turnip breeding industry?” Don’t editors realize how annoying that is? Whatever happened to quality control?

13 January 2001
Nocturnal Oral Emissions Captured
Alex commiserated with my inability to capture all my nocturnal thoughts. Although I like sympathy as well as the next bungler, Alex did even more: yesterday he offered me a solution.

“I’ll let you use my voice-activated tape recorder tonight,” he said, “I think it’s exactly what you need.”

“I’m not so sure,” I replied. “It seems like a lot of trouble to fumble with a new gizmo in the middle of the night.”

“That’s where the voice-activated part comes in,” he explained. “When you think of something, you just mumble your thoughts and the tape recorder automatically saves them. You’ll be amazed at what you find in the morning.”

I had to admit that it sounded like a good idea. When I awoke this morning, I was in fact amazed at what it had recorded: ninety minutes of snoring.

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14 January 2001
A Perfect Opportunity
I was on my way to visit the Dudley Diplomat when I noticed something different about Richard’s drinks refrigerator. (Richard is a practical as well as a sophisticated drinker, and has a special refrigerator dedicated to adult beverages).

Apparently, someone gave Richard a set of “poetry magnets,” a collection of a few hundred small, magnetized rectangles, each with a single word in black type on a white background. These magnets are designed to be left on a refrigerator, where anyone can rearrange the words to make a poem. It’s kind of a cross between writing and curating. I’ve seen these magnets in many homes, and have never found anything worth plagiarizing.

Until tonight, that is.

Richard made the bold and wonderful move of eliminating every word except one: “opportunity.” And so it is that Richard has a small, refrigerated cube containing four bottles and three cans of beer, as well as two bottles of wine. The surface of the cube is broken only by the door hinge, the handle, and the word “opportunity.”

Perfect. Or at least close enough for art.

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©2001 David Glenn Rinehart