2001 Notebook: Weak XXXVI
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3 September 2001
Lunar Underwear
I’m at Arlene’s Truck Stop waiting for coffee. And listening to a trucker named Jimmy Lee, who’s telling me an incredible tale about “lunar underwear.”

“See that up there?” Jimmy asked pointing to a tattered undergarment. “That’s a real pair of lunar underwear.”

“Lunar underwear?” I replied skeptically.

“It’s a trucker thing, you see,” Jimmy replied with a smile. “Your lunar underwear is underwear that’s been worn for two hundred and thirty-nine thousand miles, the distance from here to the moon. That’s thirty-six round-trip tickets from Seattle to Miami.”

After Jimmy’s explanation, the holes in the bottom of the underwear seemed perhaps as significant as any underwear holes could be.

“I would have thought that destroying the structural integrity of a pair of underwear would render such clothing unsuitable for its intended mission,” I opined.

“Your lunar underwear is worn over your regular underwear, so a little wear and tear ain’t a real problem,” Jimmy said, grinning at my ignorance.

“You earned your lunar underwear yet, Jimmy?” I inquired.

“No sir,” Jimmy replied, “still got just under eighty-thousand miles to go.”

I wished Jimmy safe driving, and headed off in my comfortably terrestrial underwear.

4 September 2001
Reuniting with Rainier
After almost three weeks of driving some seven-thousand kilometers, I’ve seen a lot: bears, forest fires, stars, moose, mountain peaks, and other natural wonders. To my dismay, though, I never saw a drop of Rainier Ale. Not a bottle, not a can, not a drop.

The closest I came was a six-pack of Rainier Beer, which wasn’t really beer at all. Rainier Beer is an anemic, watery, beer-flavored fluid unworthy of the name. How the same corporate conglomerate that sells something as lovely as Rainier Ale can also peddle swill as reprehensible as Rainier Beer, this I do not understand.

Most of the United States is a wretched desert, but San Francisco is an oasis with different spots. Almost every San Francisco liquor store has ample supplies of Rainier Ale. And not a bottle, not a can, not a drop of wretched Rainier Beer.

5 September 2001
Do More with Honey
I just ran across my notes—all four words of them—that I made at last night’s otherwise unmemorable welcoming party. (For the record, it was a lovely occasion; it’s just that I can’t remember any specifics.) Anyway, this is what I wrote: “Do more with honey.”

I suspect this was a reference to a work in progress, “Honey Renders Seventeen Precision Mechanisms Inoperable,” but how can I be sure?

I really must learn to make better notes.

6 September 2001
How Can Someone Who’s So Smart Be So Stupid?
How can someone who’s so smart be so stupid?

That’s a question many people ask me, but I’ll save my answer for another day. Today, I want to ask how someone like Patrick Penker can be so smart yet so stupid.

Although I don’t like to encourage such behavior, Penker reportedly was clever enough to bilk credit card companies and casinos out of more than a million dollars. You have to be smart to do that successfully; a lot of stupid people get caught trying to pull off such scams.

Now here comes the stupid part. Penker used variations on the fictitious business name, Dewey, Cheatem & Howe, in his illegal endeavors.


Dewey, Cheatem & Howe is, of course, the name of the law firm in the famous, fabulous, Three Stooges television shows. Is there any person in the western hemisphere who doesn’t know that?

Empirical evidence suggests that the answer is yes.

Penker conducted his illicit stooge business with impunity until John Reed, a banker at the American State Bank in Lubbock, Texas, alerted the FBI that he was suspicious of a gentleman doing business under the famous moniker of Dewey, Cheatem & Howe.

Penker faces up to forty years in prison. How can someone who’s so smart be so stupid?

7 September 2001
Beyond Ninety-Nine Bottles of Beer on the Wall
No rational person can dispute that Ninety-Nine Bottles of Beer on the Wall is one of the greatest songs of the last few millennia. At the risk of stating the obvious, the premise of the song is that one takes one bottle of beer down, passes it along, which results in ninety-eight bottles of beer on the wall. And so on.

Sadly, this composition has a fatal flaw: it’s finite. After there’s only one bottle of beer on the wall, and it’s taken down and passed along, what then?

End of song, end of story, that’s what.

Some clever programmers tried to address this problem by creating a computer application that begins the song with “nine hundred and ninety-nine trillion, nine hundred and ninety-nine billion, nine hundred and ninety-nine million, nine hundred and ninety-nine thousand, nine hundred and ninety-nine bottles of beer on the wall,” but I’m afraid that even that ambitious approach is still susceptible to the limitations of finiteness.

I just read about Lithuanian researchers who’ve come up with a solution to the Ninety-Nine Bottles of Beer on the Wall problem. Their Vilnius version of the song begins with the premise that there’s only one bottle of beer on the wall. After that, two bottles are added, with one passed along.

Infinite beer!

8 September 2001
No Parking Anywhere
In California, bar patrons are telling stories about trying, and failing, to find parking spaces in San Francisco. A couple weeks ago, the talk in Montana bars was about trying, and failing, to find parking spaces in Glacier National Park.

Everyone’s talking about parking. Automobiles are infinite sources of distress and tedium.

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9 September 2001
Baby Carrots?
A decade ago, carrots existed in only two states: “carrots” and “not carrots.” In recent years, though, I’ve noticed carrots in a third state: “baby carrots.”

After minutes of investigating the phenomenon, it seems that no one really knows whether baby carrots really are baby carrots. Some folks say baby carrots really are baby carrots; other folks say they’re just regular carrots that have been cut up and polished to a diminutive size.

And where do I stand on these tough little vegetables? Well, I’ve listened to both sides of the debate, and I tend to agree.

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©2001 David Glenn Rinehart