2007 Notebook: Weak XL
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1 October 2007
No. 8,867 (cartoon)
I’ll never meet anyone like you again.

No one will ever despise you more.

2 October 2007
Brain-Eating Amoeba in Lakes!
Wow! Just days after spotting what I thought was the best headline of the year (Man Beheads Tame Hotel Duck), I came across an even better one: Six Die From Brain-Eating Amoeba in Lakes.


Here’s how it works: the deadly amoeba, Naegleria fowleri, thrives in warm water such as lakes in Florida, Texas, and Arizona, where the deaths occurred. The microscopic organisms enter a swimmer’s body through the nose, then it’s on to the brain buffet, where they gorge until the victim dies. And, like every truly horrific disease, there’s no cure.

“Usually, from initial exposure it’s fatal within two weeks,” declared the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Michael Beach, an expert on waterborne illnesses.

The moral of this story is the same as so many other stories over the centuries: avoid the southern United States like the plague. Or, more accurately, like brain-devouring amoeba.

3 October 2007
Police Slingshots
I just read that police in Tijuana, Mexico, are carrying guns. This is news, because I’d previously read that everyone on the force was forced to use slingshots instead of pistols.

That’s too bad, but I suppose the police need firepower comparable to the criminals’ weapons. That’s why I like the English arrangement, where an unwritten agreement between the nominal good guys and bad guys means that most of them don’t carry firearms.

Slingshots are a great compromise between fisticuffs and lethal force. Police snipers with long-range slingshots could debilitate villains from a safe distance. And, in extreme cases, patrol cars with colossal, industrial slingshots could use bowling balls to disable fleeing cars or break down reinforced doors. I’m tempted to suggest catapults as well, but that would defeat the purpose of an arms-control agreement.

All I know with certainty is that it’s too bad the Tijuana police didn’t really give their innovative experiment a chance to succeed. I bet a rock-hard pinto bean fired at high velocity upside the head would be enough to dissuade most criminals from their misdeeds.

4 October 2007
Listening to Mike Rotch
I listen to National Public Radio a lot, but I missed last Saturday’s news broadcast. That’s when reporter Tovia Smith interviewed a surly high school student, Mike Rotch, for one of her stories.

As anyone who’s enjoyed a misspent youth knows, “Mike Rotch” is a nom de adolescence, a homonym for “my crotch.”

I’m embarrassed to admit that I find such puerile humor amusing; I was impressed that a teenager’s prank made it past editors into a nationwide news broadcast.

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5 October 2007
An Unfortunate Architectural Design
Ask any bird: you can see things from the air that you can’t see from the ground. Thanks to free, readily-available satellite photos, humans are discovering what every bird has always known.

The new technologies are leading to a variety of discoveries, everything from nude sunbathers to more interesting revelations. For example, there’s a U.S. Navy building in Coronado, California, that’s shaped like a swastika.

The swastika is an ancient symbol used by many cultures, such as the Jains, Hindus, and Native Americans. Oh, and the Nazis, too. What swastika was the architect John Mock thinking about less than a quarter century after the end of World War II? I suppose one clue is that it’s oriented in the same way the Nazis designed theirs; that may or may not be relevant.

6 October 2007
Afsaneh’s Tasty Treat
Afsaneh came over for dinner last night. Never having cooked for her before, I was relieved when she liked my pasta with asparagus, garlic, spinach, and onions. I asked her not to bring anything, but she nevertheless showed up with a Persian dessert.

I normally don’t care for dessert, but couldn’t decline her offer when she insisted that I try it. I’m glad I did; it was delicious, and not sweet at all. Instead, it was a little smoky and exotic, like Persia itself. Of course, I completely imagined the link between my taste buds and that faraway land; I’ve never been to Persia.

In any case, I look forward to including more Persian treats in my diet, if only for a brief hiatus from burritos.

7 October 2007
Sally accused me of being pretentious, a charge I vigorously disputed.

“I may have been a tad pretentious when I was a youngster,” I admitted, “but that was a long time ago. I’ve been unpretentious for so long that I’m actually postentious.”

8 October 2007
Guillotine Suicide
A man killed himself in the Detroit suburbs. That happens all the time; both Detroit and suburbia are lethal. What makes the recent death of the forty-one year old man notable was the way he killed himself.

The anonymous suicide didn’t use pills, firearms, or even that Motor City favorite, a car crash. Instead, he built a guillotine in the woods near a shopping center.

Allen Park Deputy Police Chief Dale Covert said the man must have spent a great deal of time building the two-meter high contraption. And for reasons no one will ever know, the man kept all the receipts for the materials used to build the device with which he killed himself. I suppose it’s all part of Detroit engineering culture, where failure is never unexpected.

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©2007 David Glenn Rinehart