2001 Notebook: Weak XIII
26 March 2001
I just got this short email note from Jamie:


    I found the ice cubes where I left them; you lost the bet. AYBABTU!




I’m used to seeing FTP, GIF, and other TLAs (three-letter acronyms), but I’d never heard of AYBABTU. I called Jamie for an explanation.

“Move, Zig,” Jamie greeted me cheerfully.

“I’m afraid ZIG is a TLA with which I’m unfamiliar,” I replied. Sakes, young people and their slang these days.

“Zig’s not a TLA,” Jamie explained, “it’s a nickname for a loser, as in, say, the loser of the ice cube bet.”

“Whatever,” I continued. “Anyway, I was calling to ask what AYBABTU means.”

“Oh, that’s an SLA that means ‘All Your Base Are Belong to Us,’” Jamie said with a laugh.

It turns out that “zig” and “All Your Base Are Belong to Us” are from a Japanese computer game called Zero Wing. After talking with Jamie, it would appear that the game publishers didn’t invest much money in English translation or graphics. After further questioning, I concluded that Jamie had no idea what a zig is. Since I didn’t trust Jamie’s perception of reality (the ice cube bet notwithstanding), I decided to peruse the Internet and see what I could find.

I didn’t have to look long before I found the entire Zero Wing script.

    In A.D. 2101

    War was beginning.

    Captain: What happen?

    Operator: Somebody set up us the bomb.

    Operator: We get signal.

    Captain: What!

    Operator: Main screen turn on.

    Captain: It’s You!!

    Cats: How are you gentlemen!!

    Cats: All your base are belong to us.

    Cats: You are on the way to destruction.

    Captain: What you say!!

    Cats: You have no chance to survive make your time.

    Cats: HA HA HA HA ...

    Cats: Take off every ‘zig’!!

    Captain: You know what you doing.

    Captain: Move ‘zig’.

    Captain: For great justice.

Zero Wing is a dangerous virus. What you say!!

27 March 2001
What Do I Mean?
Cynthia introduced me to her nephew, Immanuel, at the party tonight.

I tried to have a conversation with him, but Immanuel replied to everything I said by asking either “What do you mean?” or “How do you know?”

Later, I told Cynthia about our failed conversation. She explained that Immanuel was very much enjoying his first year of philosophy courses at the university.


I decided I liked Immanuel, even though I couldn’t really talk with him. Philosophy is one of the few pursuits that’s more natural and even a bigger waste of time than art.

28 March 2001
Never Drink Alone
I live in a glorious technological age. Newfangled gizmos let me go all over the world—figuratively and literally—and do all sorts of things that would have been unthinkable just a decade or century or two ago.

And just when I thought things couldn’t get much better, they did, thanks to Dmitri Zhurin.

Zhurin is a Russian inventor who came up with an amazing creation: the talking vodka bottle. Actually, the bottle doesn’t talk, but the battery-powered voice synthesizer chip in the bottle cap does.


“How ’bout another one?”

My favorite was “Toasts!” accompanied by the sound of laughing women.

“When you have no one to drink with,” explained Zhurin, “it will serve as your drinking companion.”

It’s about time someone paid attention to all those admonitions against drinking alone.

29 March 2001
The Truth About Nukunono
Oscar asked me about my plans to spend new year’s eve on Nukunono in the Tokelau Islands. It turns out that he was trying to figure out whether I was telling “the truth.”

“Look,” I began, “is the sky blue?”

“Of course,” Oscar replied.

“The sky only appears to be blue,” I corrected. “The air is clear, most of the universe is without light, and the sky is somewhere in between. So is it true that the sky is blue, or is it a lie?”

Oscar just looked confused. I guess he doesn’t meet many sophists.

“I wouldn’t worry about semantics too much, Oscar,” I counseled. “After all, a lie is just a fact that hasn’t happened yet.”

30 March 2001
Practical, Responsible Journalism
It’s hard to get too excited about contemporary journalism. Most of it’s the same pap pumped out of the gutless bowels of a few huge media conglomerates. Most, but not all of it.

I recently ran across an article in the Coastal Post, a newspaper published in the small town of Bolinas, California. One of the articles (or was it an editorial?) featured the intriguing yet practical headline, “Use This Paper To Pick Up Your Dogshit, Please.”

Writer Stephen Simac began by appealing to the readers’ sense of civic responsibility. “If the only thing you do with the Coastal post [sic] is pick up dogshit with it, you will still be doing a public service.” [Note to pedants: Simac didn’t italicize the name of his publication; who am I to correct a published author?]

Simac continued with some questionable advice. “When your dog squats, train him to read the Coastal Post, or at least the headlines. Then wrap it up and throw it in a garbage can.” I’m all for keeping the streets free of feces, but putting dogs in the garbage is going too far for me. Based on what I’ve seen, few sights are more pitiful than a forlorn dog in the trash.

A fine publication notwithstanding, Bolinas just isn’t that pleasant anymore.

31 March 2001
Fading Thoughts
I’m enamored of digital photography, but I’m concerned that no one can say with any certainty that the inkjet prints I make today won’t be faded or discolored in a decade or two. Such concerns don’t bother my friend Victor.

“I don’t worry much about making my prints archival,” he once told me. “They’ll all outlast me. It’ll give conservators something to do.”

I thought about Victor when I went to the museum today. I saw some photographs that were about a century old. They were yellowed, torn here and there, with spots from the odd contaminant. The blemishes didn’t bother me; that’s the way old photographs are supposed to look.

I thought about those old photographs when I was back at my laboratory pushing pixels around. Perhaps I should follow Victor’s example and stop worrying about image permanence. Perhaps prints from the beginning of the age of digital imaging should look faded.

Perhaps, or perhaps not.

1 April 2001
A Quiet April Fool’s Day
Even though April Fool’s Day is my favorite holiday, I haven’t had any fun today. I’ve been stuck in my laboratory monitoring the results of an experiment nearing an interesting conclusion. Normally, that’s a task I’d delegate to a lab assistant, but each and every one of them have taken this Sunday off.

I tried calling a few friends, but no one was home. I didn’t leave a prank message on an answering machine since I couldn’t be sure the joke would be realized before midnight. (I’m a traditionalist when it comes to April Fool’s Day, and thus believe the day’s activities must be initiated and concluded within a twenty-four hour period.)

Similarly, I didn’t answer the lab telephone. I have a number of clever friends, and April Fool’s Day is no time to take chances.

Hours passed. Slowly.

I made a few more calls that went unanswered. I let my answering machine take a few calls, but no one left a message.

The day ended in a zero to zero draw. What a shame.

2 April 2001
The Two Kinds of Pharmacists
I went to the drugstore and asked the pharmacist for some medium-strength medication.

“What’s your problem?” asked the druggist.

“You name it, I’ve got it!” I exaggerated.

“What are the specific symptoms?” she inquired.

“I don’t really have anything specific to speak of specifically,” I told her truthfully, “but I’m sure medium-strength medication would take care of it nicely.”

“In that case, pal, get yourself some aspirin,” she said as she turned to help another customer.

Since her abrupt conclusion to the conversation didn’t leave any room for negotiation, I went to the bar. After all, a bartender is just a pharmacist with a minimal inventory.

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©2001 David Glenn Rinehart