2001 Notebook: Weak XXXIX
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24 September 2001
Glacier Marble Toaster
I normally don’t worry about keeping a tidy desk, as anyone who’s been to my laboratory can verify. And to make matters worse, I recently added a new element to the all the other desktop flotsam and detritus: a marble coaster.

Although I may have something even more useless than a coaster, I can’t think of what it might be. After all, my desk was never pristine when I got it, and a decade of spilled coffee and Rainier Ale have only made the mottled patina more complex.

I allotted scarce desktop real estate to the marble coaster because of its provenance. I found the thin slice of marble high in the mountains of Glacier National Park. Now, whenever I rest a cup of espresso or a pint of beer on the coaster, the beverage tastes a little more efficacious. Why this is, I do not know.

25 September 2001
Defeating Terrorism
Two weeks after the suicide attacks on the east coast, those of us on the west coast are standing up to the terrorists. Of course, we haven’t a clue who the terrorists are, but we do know that they want us to feel terrorized, demoralized, and beaten. My associates and I at the lab are having none of it, though.

“If I don’t eat a sixth slice of pizza,” said Cliff, “then the terrorists will have won.”

“If the terrorists think we’re going to end the party before one in the morning,” Debby said belligerently, “then they’d better think again.”

“Leaving a can of Rainier Ale unopened tonight is the same thing as waving a white flag,” I added.

Although I’ve always been a pacifist, mostly, I think I’ll enjoy the war on terrorism until someone gets hurt.

26 September 2001
A Short Visit to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
A friend of mine gave me a pass to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, so I decided to have a look at the big Ansel Adams exhibit.

I never made it.

While I was walking across a landing, I heard a loud noise. I turned around, and saw a huge wall panel open up to expose the largest elevator I’ve ever seen. It was perhaps seven meters long, and deep enough to accommodate a large dining room table. A diminutive member of the janitorial staff stepped out with her mop and bucket, then the wall closed behind her.

The cameo appearance by one of San Francisco’s underclass reminded me of another recently-departed museum employee, David Ross, who left the institution to pursue more remunerative pursuits.

“I decided to just go make some money,” Ross said. “I have to think about myself a bit.”

This story has a punch line, of course, and the punch line is that the museum was paying Ross an annual salary of $393,000, plus assorted benefits.

I’ll come back to see Ansel’s work another day; today he couldn’t possibly compete with the elevator show.

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27 September 2001
Scooters’s Scarification
Scooter sent me a recent snapshot documenting the fresh scar that runs down the middle of his forehead. I had to agree it was a handsome scar, even though I didn’t think it was worth the six-hundred dollars he paid for it.

“Why did you choose scarification over piercings, branding, or tattoos?” I asked.

“Tattoos?!” Scooter replied. “Those are so totally lame. Scars are sweet!”

“Maybe you should also consider amputation,” I suggested. “My nine and a third fingers have served me well over the years.”

“Nah,” said Scooter, “women really go for scars.”

“I like the conceptual angle of commissioning a scar that looks like a graph of recent stock market declines,” I admitted, “but do you think that’s going to hold up over the years? I’m afraid a lot of people are going to read the scar as a low-budget lobotomy.”

“Exactly!” Scooter agreed. “I got the idea from Helmut Kohl’s remark, ‘I have been underestimated for decades. I have done very well that way.’”

I admire Scooter’s bold move. If the scar helps him in either his courtship or Machiavellian pursuits, the six-hundred dollars will have been wisely invested.

28 September 2001
Bighuge Airlines Dress Code
My friend José is a mechanic employed by Bighuge Airlines. I recently traded him some photographs for a couple of flight coupons. I was amazed to discover that the airline expects its beneficiaries to observe a stringent dress code.

For example, the following attire is “unacceptable in any class of service.”

  • t-shirts
  • workout attire
  • sweat clothing
  • bare midriff
  • micro/mini skirts
  • sheer/see-through clothing
  • tank tops
  • beach clothing
  • beach footwear
  • cut-off clothing
  • clothing with offensive terminology/graphics
  • bare feet
  • bathing suits
  • halter or bra tops
  • sleeveless muscle shirts
  • leggings
  • sweatshirts
  • flip-flops
  • clothing with holes/ragged edges
  • provocative/revealing clothing

It gets worse in the front of the plane. “In addition to the items listed above, the following is unacceptable attire in First Class or Business Class.”

  • jeans or denim clothes of any color
  • athletic or tennis shoes
  • hiking/military style boots
  • shorts
  • baseball caps
  • lack of hosiery/socks
  • skin-tight or form fitting pants without mid-thigh length top

I wonder how the bureaucrats at Bighuge Airlines came up with their twenty-seven forbidden items of clothing? Since I’ll probably never know the real answer, I can only guess that the dress code was plagiarized from some high school in North Dakota.

29 September 2001
Self-Improvement for Drunks
Audrey asked me if I wanted to invest in her latest publishing venture, Self-Improvement for Drunks.

“Sounds like a good opportunity,” I replied, “but I’m still broke, albeit by design.”

“That’s too bad,” she responded. “I think this one’s a winner.”

“But isn’t that what you said about The Beer Diet for Fat Guys?” I asked hesitantly.

“That one would have done better if the marketing department wouldn’t have been so bloody incompetent,” she said defensively.

“I think you’re facing a hard sell here,” I said skeptically. “I can imagine almost anyone wanting to try a beer diet, but alcoholics aren’t very keen on self-improvement, are they?”

“That may be true,” Audrey replied, “but I’m targeting drunks, not alcoholics.”

“What’s the difference?” I inquired.

“Alcoholics go to meetings, and drunks are probably the least discerning audience imaginable. My publisher thinks that with a cover blurb about the ‘Easy, One-Minute Meals for One’ chapter, the book should practically walk out the door.”

I wanted to add that the same probably couldn’t be said for the target audience, but I managed to keep my mouth shut (for once).

30 September 2001
A Difficult Retouching Job
Emma showed me an old, cracked photograph of her great-grandparents, and asked me if I could clean up the photograph in my computer. I explained that although I had only rudimentary technical skills, I could probably provide her with a decent snapshot.

“One more thing,” she added. “Could you take my great-grandfather’s hat off?”

“I’m not sure,” I admitted, “but I’ll try. Do you happen to know how he parted his hair?”

Emma looked puzzled. “Wouldn’t you find out when you took off his hat?” she asked.

“I’m afraid not,” I replied. “I’m really not that proficient.”

I envy Emma’s faith in technology.

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©2001 David Glenn Rinehart