2003 Notebook: Weak XVII
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24 April 2003
No. 3,137 (cartoon)
I’m three inches away from losing my mind.

How much is that in milliliters?

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25 April 2003
Foggy Firth of Forth
I enjoy visiting Edinburgh, especially meditating on the foggy Firth of Forth outside of Fearghas’s flat. I especially admire the way the window panes, lamp post, sea wall, horizon, and whisky create a marvelous grid.

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26 April 2003
Lewis Jenks Brown
Judith’s researching Black lawyers practicing in Arkansas from 1865 until 1950. Although I have little interest in her areas of study, I do find it interesting to see how very quickly evidence of one’s time on this planet vanishes.

To take a random example, Lewis Jenks Brown was born a century before I was in Arkansas. Brown was a clerk, teacher, president of the Pulaski County Teachers’ Association, president of the Institute of Science and Mental Improvement, editor of the Arkansas Mansion, vice-president and editor of the People’s Herald, attorney, the first president—and later secretary—of the Wonder State Bar Association, vice-president of the Arkansas Republican League and a member of the Little Rock Commercial League, the Masons, the Odd Fellows, and the Ancient Order of Craftmen.

Then Brown seems to have vanished; no one knows when he died. And even though he led a remarkable public life, especially for a man born when slavery was legal, the only photograph Judith could find shows only a faint image of Brown. Lewis Jenks Brown looks like—and may be—a ghost.

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27 April 2003
Plane Crash!
I have a strange, commercial preoccupation with plane crashes. Whenever I’m near an airport, I always make a point of keeping an armed, live camera around my neck. I know that even a blurry shot of a plane crashing is worth at least a hundred thousand euros.

And so it was that I grabbed my Nikon when Sam started screaming that an American plane crashed near Newcastle. We ran out the door, and discovered the smoldering wreckage in the park. Anyone could see why the plane crashed; half of one wing was missing.

No one could have survived the crash; I avoided looking in the cockpit. I was about to become sick when Stephan pointed out that no one could have been injured; the plane was only five or six centimeters long. I guess I hadn’t noticed the aircraft’s size in the excitement of documenting the disaster.

I was relieved no one was hurt, even though my crash site photographs are commercially worthless.

28 April 2003
Delta, Epsilon, Lambda, Nu, Omega, and Q
I hypothesized that a large computer hard disk could hold up to thirty cases of digitized beer, so I searched the Internet to see if my conjecture was correct. I was distracted by a reference to Martin J. Rees’s book, Just Six Numbers: The Deep Forces That Shape the Universe. I’d never heard of that volume before, so I decided to find out exactly which six numbers were so important.

I’m too lazy to read two hundred and eight pages just to find six numbers, so I tracked down a critique of the book in which the reviewer gave away the plot. That’s how I discovered that the six numbers are delta, epsilon, lambda, nu, omega, and Q.

Nu?! Q?! What kind of so-called numbers are those?!

I called Hugo and asked him if Rees was some sort of perfidious pettifogger. Hugo said—I’m paraphrasing roughly here—that Rees uses fancy numbers of little use to artists like me. Hugo went on to explain that delta is the number of spatial dimensions in the universe, epsilon refers to how firmly atomic nuclei bind together, lambda is the force of cosmic antigravity, nu is the ratio of the strength of electrical forces that hold atoms together compared to the force of gravity, omega is the amount of material in the universe, and Q is a pretentious—my adjective, not Hugo’s—way of saying one thousandth of one percent.

I concluded that the six so-called numbers are completely useless, at least when it comes to digitizing beer.

29 April 2003
Response to a Hot Review
I never believe reports of public figures who purport to ignore critical comment; their protestations always sound false. That’s why I enjoyed Richard E. Grant’s honest response to unfavorable criticism.

“I read your review last week and it was like being sprayed with hot shit,” the actor said, “I hope you get some life-threatening disease very soon.”

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©2003 David Glenn Rinehart