2009 Notebook: Weak XXIV
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11 June 2009
No. 951 (cartoon)
I’m glad that you’re sad.

I’m glad that you’re glad that I’m sad.

I’m sad that you’re glad that I’m glad that you’re sad.

12 June 2009
The Art of Predicting
Some clever scientists have concluded that the planets in our solar system will collide in five billion years. That’s not really bad news; by then our planetary real estate will have depreciated to the point of being worthless. As I recall, that’s about when our sun will explode or implode or some damned thing, but only after it heats up enough to boil away every drop of water in the oceans.

I think these researchers are brilliant, but not because of their new theory. No, I like their approach of predicting something that’s not going to happen within the next sixty-some million generations. That’s quite clever; no one will ever prove them wrong. They can even be off by a few billion years and no one will care.

Too many forecasters make the mistake of predicting something that will—or won’t—happen in their lifetimes. I’m thinking of the scientists who predicted that the earth will be whapped by a meteor around October 2028 and/or by an asteroid on 21 September, 2030. That was a big mistake; those scientists may live long enough to have their miscalculations exposed.

And then there are the Heaven’s Gate idiots, who killed themselves in preparation to be picked up by an interstellar transport. Their ride never materialized, perhaps proving that intergalactic bus drivers are as unreliable as their earthly counterparts. The thirty-nine would-be travelers rotted in the San Diego heat before authorities collected their decomposing corpses.

The moral of this story is that one should only predict absolute certainties and/or the very distant future.

13 June 2009
Writing and Typing
Abbie sent me an unsolicited critique of my recent writing. She made a big hullabaloo about grammar, structure, lack of originality—more or less the same things I heard in my last English class almost forty years ago. I ignored such constructive criticism then, and I’m not about to start now.

Nevertheless, I did appreciate Abbie’s conclusion, “your writing is really just typing.” I suppose she’s right. That’s especially unnerving, since I can’t really type.

14 June 2009
Looks Like Cartier-Bresson
Byron visited to show off his latest acquisitions; he just spent over ten thousand dollars on a new Leica rangefinder camera and three lenses, “the same focal lengths Henri Cartier-Bresson used.”

I thought this was a ridiculous indulgence by someone with too much money and an equipment fetish, but I was too polite to say so explicitly. I did, however, opine that his old Nikon is a superior tool for the kind of photographs he makes.

“Maybe,” he replied, “but I’ve always wanted a Leica.”

“What do you think Cartier-Bresson’s photographs would look like if he used your old Nikon?” I asked.

“I guess we’ll never know,” Byron said, “he’s dead.”

“I’ll tell you what they’d look like,” I argued, “any photograph he would have made with any camera would look like a Cartier-Bresson photograph.”

For a fleeting moment, Byron looked like someone who just realized he’d wasted ten thousand dollars. It didn’t last; he quickly resumed smiling the contented smile of someone who just bought some shiny new toys.

15 June 2009
Jean Cocteau’s Amazing Day
It’s Jean Cocteau’s Amazing Day again, time for my annual meditation on his sage observation, “Stupidity is always amazing, no matter how used to it you become.”

And that brings me to the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration. It looks like no one there will be testing the twenty-five year old nuclear missiles on Trident submarines in the near future. That’s because no one can remember how they were made. Everyone who worked on the project is gone, and no one kept any records.

Similarly, no one at the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration can find the blueprints for the Saturn V rocket.

But that may not be all that unusual for a government agency. In the last decade, the German Interior Ministry lost three hundred and thirty-two secret documents. No one knows what the secrets were, but, Germans being Germans, at least they kept accurate tallies.

16 June 2009
Meeting Famous Alcoholics
Cecelia’s drinking to socialize, but she’s going about it all wrong. She heard that lots of famous people go to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, so she’s trying to become an alcoholic to join the family. Her strategy is flawed in so many ways, perhaps the most notable of which is her inability to drink large quantities of alcohol.

I’ve never seen Cecelia drink more than two glasses of wine. On the only occasion she managed to drink two whole glasses, she vomited soon thereafter. She has some way to go before she becomes a bona fide alcoholic; I hope she fails. Alcoholism is an ugly thing, as is the glorification of celebrities.

17 June 2009
Anger Coming Out of a Small Hole
I asked Cedric why he always whines.

“I’m not always whining,” he protested. “I also complain, grumble, and kvetch.”

“That makes sense,” I agreed.

“Why’s that?” he asked.

“It’s all the same thing, anger coming out through a small hole,” I explained.

As I intended, my comment annoyed Cedric. He thrives on being distressed, so I try to accommodate him. Predictably, the aggravation resulted in more high-pitched whinging that provided most of the morning’s entertainment.

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©2009 David Glenn Rinehart