2008 Notebook: Weak XLV
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6 November 2008
No. 5,440 (cartoon)
You’re too domineering.

No; you just need to be told what to do.

7 November 2008
Sticky Poking
My mother likes to regale visitors with stories about my youth, including the time when I ignored all the gifts I received for my second or third birthday and spent the entire day playing with a large, empty box. I remember nothing about the occasion, but my alleged behavior certainly seems sensible. A train is a train, a car is a car, but a box could be anything. And, apparently, it was.

That’s why I was pleased to learn that, in 2005, curators at the National Toy Hall of Fame added a generic box to their collection. And this year, they added a stick to the museum’s inventory.

“It’s very open-ended, all-natural, the perfect price—there aren’t any rules or instructions for its use,” explained Christopher Bensch, the institution’s curator of collections. “It can be a wild west horse, a medieval knight’s sword, a boat on a stream or a slingshot with a rubber band. No snowman is complete without a couple of stick arms, and every campfire needs a stick for toasting marshmallows.”

Bensch failed to mention one of the stick’s most effective use: poking. Is the ice on the lake really solid? Are there wasps in that hole? Is that rat really dead? And there’s the ultimate sticky pleasure of poking a sibling. Now that’s a childhood memory I can remember, fondly.

8 November 2008
Songs Like a Cake
Over lunch, Lily told me that I should enjoy a good musical composition like a cake, one layer at a time.

“I don’t like sugar, especially in cake,” I said.

“Suit yourself,” she replied, “then think about lasagna.”

Ah, lasagna. That’s a cake of a different stripe!

Lily went on to explain that she liked listening to the same song repeatedly. First, she listened to the percussion, then the bass, then the keyboards, then the horns, then the guitars, and so on. As she was expounding on her approach to music, she took the same approach to her fish sandwich. She ate the piece of bread on top, then the tomato slices, the lettuce, the onions, the tuna, then finally used the soggy piece of remaining bread to clean her plate.

I didn’t like Lily’s approach to food or music, but I did appreciate her reminder about how tasty lasagna is. I’ve overlooked that branch of the pasta tree for too long, an omission I shall address tonight.

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9 November 2008
Bald Finger
I enjoy getting older; the benefits greatly outweigh the drawbacks. So far.

In a neutral development, I noticed a few days ago that one of the pubic hairs growing on what’s left of my right index finger is turning white. It’s a phenomenon I’ve noticed before: one half is white, the other is black. As my late grandmother Beulah said, “How ’bout them apples?”

The photograph I made of my finger wasn’t as sharp as it might have been, so I decided to photograph it again this afternoon. To my surprise, the black-and-white hair wasn’t there any more. Fortunately, I’ve never been concerned about my physical appearance, so if I have a bald finger, so be it.

10 November 2008
The F[art]-word
It’s been a few decades since I was a boy, but juvenile humor still carries a certain intrinsic appeal. Actually, childish humor is easy; it merely involves saying “forbidden” words such as booger, poop, and, of course, fart.

And so, I was delighted to read an article in the 24 October edition of the august journal Science about hydrogen sulfide generated by bacteria residing in the human colon. The learned researchers were discussing the relationship between blood pressure and—to use the colloquial language of a nine-year old—farts. According to Dr. Solomon Snyder, the rotten-egg smell of gas expelled from the anus lowers blood pressure in mice.

“Now that we know hydrogen sulfide’s role in regulating blood pressure, it may be possible to design drug therapies that enhance its formation as an alternative to the current methods of treatment for hypertension,” explained the Johns Hopkins neuroscientist who coauthored the report.

I feel sorry for poor Dr. Snyder. He’s done all that research at a prestigious institution, but I’m sure such an eminent scientist can’t allow himself to use the f[art]-word. I wouldn’t be surprised if he secretly lectures in elementary schools under an assumed name.

11 November 2008
Two Good Ways to Die in Brazil
Seventy-six-year old Josi Silveira Coimbra died dancing. I don’t dance, but if I did, I think that would be a pretty good way to die.

I imagine Marciana Silva Barcelosh, his widow, wondered what life would be without her partner. If she did, she didn’t speculate for long. Barcelosh was riding with her late husband’s body in a hearse en route to the cemetery when


The driver of an Alfa Romeo sports car slammed into the hearse, sending Coimbra’s heavy coffin into the back if his wife’s neck. She died immediately. So now, they’re still together. Or not. I know almost nothing about life or death in Brazil.

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©2008 David Glenn Rinehart