2009 Notebook: Weak XVI
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16 April 2009
No. 3,020 (cartoon)
I wish I could find a lie in which to believe.

Your track record isn’t encouraging.

17 April 2009
Brain to Spare
After writing about exploding pirate brains a few days ago, I think it’s time to reiterate that I’m almost always opposed to shooting people in the head. And so, I was glad to hear that nothing much happened when Donald Ray Sexton shot his wife Tammy Sexton in the forehead.

Sexton made a cup of tea for herself after the shooting, and offered a drink to a deputy who came to her rural Mississippi home to investigate the incident. By then, her husband was no longer a threat, having recently experienced the more predictable results of a bullet through the brain.

I found the story refreshing, and not just because the would-be murderer killed no one but himself. If Tammy Sexton can get along fine after taking a bullet through the brain, I figure that my brain has lots of spare cerebral meat in it. That’s good to know in the unlikely event that any of those stories about wine killing the odd brain cell or two are are true.

18 April 2009
Another Earthquake Story
Anyone who’s spent any time here in San Francisco has heard about the huge earthquake that hit the city exactly one hundred and three years ago today. I thought I’d heard most of the related stories, but I was predictably mistaken.

The quake left two-thirds of the city’s four-hundred thousand residents homeless. Police and federal troops were assigned to maintain order, and killed some five-hundred people in the process. It’s not clear how many of the dead were bona fide looters and how many were people trying to recover their property from the rubble. I was surprised to learn about this, but I should not have been; history is full of underreported and forgotten bloodshed and death.

I think government control is even more pervasive today, but at least it’s much more subtle.

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19 April 2009
Bomb Threat Stand-Off Distances
Roscoe sent me an unclassified government document with a note, “Since you liked the National Counterterrorism Center’s bean alert, I bet you’ll also appreciate the attached Bomb Threat Stand-Off Distances chart.”

He wagered correctly. Thanks to the fearmongers at the National Counterterrorism Center, I now know that I should stay five hundred and sixty-four meters away from the nearest suitcase bomb. And should I spot a semi-trailer packed with twenty-seven thousand, two hundred and sixteen kilograms of explosives (“TNT equivalent”), I should move two thousand one hundred and thirty-four meters away from the massive bomb.

I’ll have to start wearing my binoculars, since that’s the only way I’ll be able to spot these hidden explosive devices. Unfortunately, the paranoiacs at the National Counterterrorism Center provide no guidance on how to tell the difference between a truck filled with cyclotrimethylene trinitramine and a similar vehicle filled with lard. I suppose that doesn’t matter, and not just because both cargoes are equally dangerous.

The propagandists at the National Counterterrorism Center are in business to counter terror with more terror; it keeps the public pliably apprehensive, and provides good salaries to publishers of useless agitprop.

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20 April 2009
At the Goldman Awards
Eva and I went to the Goldman Awards tonight; it’s our annual outing. I’m sure some people go to the event to hear uplifting tales of environmental heroism endorsed by live celebrities, e.g., Tracy Chapman, Al Gore, and Robert Redford, but I go there for the piles and heaps of scrummy food and lakes of tasty wine—the kind of wine that costs more than two dollars a bottle—at the reception. Unfortunately, I had to sit through the former to overindulge at the latter, so I did.

The show was hosted by a famous television newsreader. At least I was told on good authority that she’s well-known; I haven’t owned a television in decades. I was impressed that she talked for five solid minutes without reading the text from any sort device. I had no idea that some newsreaders can actually memorize their lines.

The only disappointment of the evening was Richard Goldman, the eponymous founder of the awards. I’ve seen him become more frail each year; tonight he needed to be supported by his sons on either arm to make it to the podium. Instead of his usual speech, he read a one-paragraph statement, and got lost a couple of times in the course of doing so. I was sad to see his body and mind failing. I’m not afraid of death, but I do fear slowly dying while I’m nominally alive.

As usual, I forgot about such mortal concerns after stuffing my gullet with lots of great food washed down by some more than decent wine. Thanks, Richard!

21 April 2009
I Know This Looks Really Bad ...
Many cities require dogs to have licenses; perhaps their owners should too. I’m thinking of Abby Toll, who’s facing felony animal abuse charges after police discovered her recent botched experiment with puppy bondage.

Toll’s nemesis and victim was Rex, an eight-month old Shiba Inu. The little Japanese yapper dog bit Toll, so the twenty-year old University of Colorado student decided to teach the wee beastie a lesson. She bound the critter’s paws with elastic bands, then mummified the varmint with packing tape. Then, to be on the safe side—one can’t be too careful when it comes to Shiba Inus—she taped the dog upside down to the side of the refrigerator.

And that’s what a Boulder policewoman saw when she investigated reports of a loud dispute between Toll and Bryan Beck, her boyfriend.

“I know this looks really bad,” explained the puppy taper-upper, “but the dog bites. He is aggressive.”

“We were going to get rid of him anyway,” added Beck. “We usually don’t do this.”

When the brave police officers freed the vicious canine, they noticed some old wounds. According to their report, “Toll told [the policeman] they were trying to give Rex a bath, and apparently the water was scolding because his skin started melting off.”

Rex was sent to the Boulder Valley Humane Society, an institution suitable for a bloodthirsty cur like Rex. This sad story should have an entertaining epilogue, but even I can’t think of anything amusing to say about such stupidity.

22 April 2009
Vodka Tampons
One of the great things about being a teenager is discovering new ways to annoy, perplex, and dismay elders. It’s always been that way, and always will.

One of the latest teenage tricks is the vodka tampon; here’s how it works. A young woman soaks a tampon in vodka, then inserts it into her vagina. From there, the alcohol enters her bloodstream, and she then becomes a bit inebriated, but without a whiff of alcohol on her breath.

Young men must have a similar strategy for surreptitiously experimenting with drugs, but I have no idea what it is. When and if I do learn the secret (sherry enema?), it will certainly be passé.

23 April 2009
Chess Cheats
After Brian won the seventh chess game in a row, I asked him how I could become a better player.

“Cheat,” he advised.

“How can I cheat at chess?” I responded.

“The first rule of cheating is to never discuss cheating,” Brian replied.

“You’ve been cheating all afternoon, haven’t you?” I asked.

“I don’t think you have what it takes to be a good cheater,” Brian said, “since you can’t seem to understand the first rule of cheating.”

I was tempted to acknowledge that I’d been cheating—and losing—the entire afternoon. Instead, I silently wondered who was the better cheater and who was the better player.

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©2009 David Glenn Rinehart