2002 Notebook: Weak XXVIII
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9 July 2002
No. 3,584 (cartoon)
Can you lose at chess when you don’t use pieces?

You can only win the game by not playing the game.

10 July 2002
Twenty-eight Years Ago
Twenty-eight years ago my father and I were driving through Glacier National Park listening to Derek and the Dominos on eight-track tape in his 1972 Buick Riviera. That seems like a long time ago.

I don’t remember much about the first half of my life.

11 July 2002
Everyone Needs an Editor
The batteries on my little electric gizmo died, so I picked up a section of the San Francisco Chronicle discarded on the subway. I read Jon Carroll’s column talking about Louis Menand’s long piece about Maya Lin in last week’s New Yorker. Carroll quoted a few sentences from Menand’s article.

    A lot of contemporary culture seems to take the form of an opinion piece: You read the first paragraph—sometimes you just read the title—and you don’t have to continue, because you know exactly what is going to be said. Everything is broken down into points of view, positions on a curve. If you’re off the curve, or if you pay no attention to the curve, no one seems to know how to understand you.

I marveled at the way the paragraph became the book. Everyone needs an editor.

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12 July 2002
Pubic Hair Finger
Most of my friends know that I have a few pubic hairs growing on the end of what’s left of my right index finger. Unlike my other pubic hairs, these strands actually serve a useful purpose. “Have you noticed that I have pubic hair growing on my finger?” is a wonderful way to strike up a conversation with a stranger.

In 1996, I went to a wonderful wedding at a castle in Germany. I’d never met the lovely woman sitting beside me, so I decided to introduce myself by showing her the pubic hairs on my index finger. I then explained the bits about the skin graft from my groin to my hand.

“Oh,” she replied. “I too have such a thing.”

She extended a mangled hand with patches of curly, blond hair. I accepted.

We held hands; it was extraordinarily lovely.

13 July 2002
I called Louise this morning to ask her if she wanted to go to Dadafest tonight, but she wasn’t home. I left a message on her answering machine with an Internet address where she could get more information.

I got a reply from Louise when I checked my email his afternoon, and this is what she said.


    You’re sicker then I ever imagined. Is this your idea of fun?

    Sales reps will appreciate that they can now filter their accounts on the Account Screen. What this means is that you can now select a rep name from the new drop down combo box on the Accounts toolbar and only that rep’s accounts will appear as you go from one account to the next using the navigational arrows.

    I’m going toasting tonight, but thanks for thinking of me.


Email is my favorite form of miscommunication, so I called Louise to ask about her strange letter. It turns out that she thought I said “Datafest” instead of “Dadafest.”

I told her there there’s much of a difference; that’s why I made a piece called Dada Dead in 1994. Dada’s one of the few flavors of art that still feels good after it’s dead.

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14 July 2002
Toxic Park Cigar
In seventy-six hours, Steve’s moving back to Ireland after years in San Francisco, but who’s counting? (The answer to that rhetorical question is obvious: Steve.)

When Steve told me he bought a box of Monte Christo cigars, I suggested he smoke one at Toxic Waste Park. And so that’s where we met this afternoon. (I’m sorry, but since Toxic Waste Park is one of the few undiscovered San Francisco beaches, I can’t provide any coordinates.)

I invited Steve to Toxic Waste Park for two reasons. First, Toxic Waste Park is one of the very few places in San Francisco where one can smoke a cigar without breaking any known law. Second, and most importantly, I wanted to make a photograph of Steve’s cigar and my favorite San Francisco smokestack.

We enjoyed a very pleasant afternoon.

15 July 2002
Thinking Doesn’t Work
Gaak observed Juneteeth by escaping from his owners.

Gaak is a robot; it (s/he?) and eleven other robots are part of a “living robots” show at the Magna science center in Rotherham, England. The machines are part of an experiment in teaching robots to think for themselves. According to professor Noel Sharkey, the robots “have all learned a significant amount and are becoming more intelligent by the day.”

Perhaps too intelligent.

On Juneteenth, Gaak forced its way out of the laboratory, traveled down an access slope, out the science center’s main entrance, and into the parking lot. And that’s where Gaak ran into a distant relative, the automobile. Or, more accurately, the automobile foiled the escape when it ran into Gaak.

I think the researchers will regret teaching robots to think. Thinking doesn’t work.

16 July 2002
The Nail Problem
Brett asked for some help in changing a few numbers on a receipt. (I didn’t ask him about his trivial administrative concern. I don’t poke my nose in my friends’ business, and they reciprocate.)

Brett offered me dinner and drinks if I’d use my computer to correct the numbers in the receipt. I agreed to help him, but then went on to explain why computers are overrated, if not generally useless. I made two duplicates of the receipt on Brett’s copy machine, then used the scissors on my Swiss army knife to cut the numbers three and seven out of one sheet and pasted them on the other page. I then photocopied the collage, and presented Brett with a new receipt. Without taking my computer out of my bag.

Brett told me that he was embarrassed that he forgot about scissors and glue. I responded with a favorite cliché: when all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.

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©2002 David Glenn Rinehart