2005 Notebook: Weak XXX
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23 July 2005
No. 2,338 (cartoon)
Why are you so cruel?

You bring out the best in me.

24 July 2005
Lorem Oopsum
Once upon a time long long ago when people printed words on paper, I used to do a bit of graphic design. Often, that involved creating a mockup of a poster or propaganda piece before anyone knew what words would be used in the final version. In such situations, I’d use “lorem ipsum” in lieu of the real copy.

Lorem ipsum is the pseudo-Latin text most designers use in the early iterations of a design; the varying length of the words are very similar to typical English content. Although lorem ipsum worked well from a design perspective, invariably the people with whom I worked would ask what it meant. To make matters worse, they were rarely satisfied when I cited Mr. Natural’s observation, “Don’t mean sheeyit.”

But today I learned in a communiqué from Dr. Engst that it does, in fact, mean something. Specifically, it comes from Cicero. (That’s Cicero as in “Marcus Tullius Cicero,” not the Chicago suburb of the same name.) Specifically, lorem ipsum was in Cicero’s De finibus bonorum et malorum, an ethics dissertation written two thousand and fifty years ago.

Here’s the copy that’s remained more or less unchanged for half a millennium.

    Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit, sed diam nonummy nibh euismod tincidunt ut laoreet dolore magna aliquam erat volutpat. Ut wisi enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exerci tation ullamcorper suscipit lobortis nisl ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis autem vel eum iriure dolor in hendrerit in vulputate velit esse molestie consequat, vel illum dolore eu feugiat nulla facilisis at vero eros et accumsan et iusto odio dignissim qui blandit praesent luptatum zzril delenit augue duis dolore te feugait nulla facilisi.’

Duis nonummy!

25 July 2005
The Speed of Darkness?!
I asked Rajiv, who’s working with theoretical physics, to tell me about his work. He said I wouldn’t understand, but I persisted.

Rajiv finally told me he believes the speed of darkness is equal to the speed of light, and may soon be able to prove it. I was going to ask for more details, but changed my mind when I realized he was right: I have no idea what he’s doing.

The speed of darkness?!

26 July 2005
The Braniff Philosophy
I flew back to San Francisco on Braniff, my favorite airline. I especially like the carrier’s motto, “Be here now. Be someplace else later. Is that so complicated?” And, since I travel lightly, I also appreciate the corporate perspective on checked baggage. “Wherever you go, there you are. Your luggage may be another story.”

27 July 2005
Weddings and Funerals
Fernando canceled lunch today because he had to attend his aunt’s funeral. When I started to express my condolences, Fernando told me to save my breath. He then went on to say that marriage and funerals were emotionally identical.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“Well,” Fernando explained, “marriage and death both represent an abandonment of hope of anything better.”

I look forward to our rescheduled lunch; it’s always a pleasure to dine with someone more cynical than me.

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28 July 2005
I declined an invitation to attend this weekend’s alumni reunion at Interlochen; it sounded quite tedious. The alleged highlight of the rendezvous was a performance of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Innocent Merriment” at the Interlochen Bowl; yawn. I’ll probably never return to Interlochen; I’d hate to have my halcyon teenage memories disturbed by contemporary reality.

When I was a student at Interlochen, I came up with the spectacularly brilliant idea of reversing the fan in my dormitory room window so that it blew air out of the room. That bit of simple engineering allowed my friends to smoke marijuana without getting caught. (Marijuana was illegal in 1974.)

A local bank was kind enough to supply us with free matches. Each matchbook featured illustrations of grinning cherries along with the copy, “Smile! You’re in Cherryland!” And so it was that my room was known as Cherryland. In Cherryland, Gilbert and Sullivan weren’t welcome, and the Interlochen bowl was a pipe bowl frequently filled with marijuana. Innocent merriment indeed!

29 July 2005
Curious Asian Foods in my Back Yard
I had a pleasant visit with Judith this afternoon during her annual visit to San Francisco. Since I spend much more time here than she does, I asked her what she wanted to do.

“Dried sweet potatoes,” she suggested, “Let’s get some.”

And with that, we cheerfully set off for Chinatown.

I cycle up and down Stockton Street every other week or so, but I’ve never gone in any of dozens of Chinese grocery stores I’ve glimpsed driving by. It turns out that was a big mistake!

One of the things I enjoy most about traveling in Asia is visiting regional grocers to see their curious offerings: things with three eyes, blue slime covered in green mold, dried and dusty roots and leaves, that sort of thing. And so it was that I was delighted to discover that I needn’t have left San Francisco to have that experience; there’s all manner of culinary weirdness right here!

I’m constantly amazed and frequently dismayed about how little I know.

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©2005 David Glenn Rinehart