Saturday, December 31, 2005

You Say You Want A Resolution

New Year's resolutions make money for health clubs. Lots of people sign up in January, jamming the gyms for a few months. By late March they're mostly cleared out.

It's not that resolutions are totally ineffective. Sometimes they stick. But often it takes several rounds before they do.

I'm making at least one. It's about a writing project.

No, it's not to swear off rhyme for a year.

I'll continue to make merry
With jingly commentary.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Thinner, Blonder, Whiter

I just finished reading Thinner, Blonder, Whiter.
Maguire's the name of the writer.

Our heroine's an editor in New York,
And excellent at her work,
But her long affair
With a married guy
Is going nowhere.

A friends is found frozen right at the beginning.
That sets the story spinning.
Who killed him and chilled him?

It's a tale of black and white
Where things go wrong, not right,
At least at first. But at the end
Things are roughly right again.

I did like how it ended.
Somewhat Recommended.

In the Absence of a Civilizing Structure

Kathleen Parker writes in her blog, er, syndicated column:

"Each time I wander into blogdom, I'm reminded of the savage children stranded on an island in William Golding's 'Lord of the Flies.' Without adult supervision, they organize themselves into rival tribes, learn to hunt and kill, and eventually become murderous barbarians in the absence of a civilizing structure."

Speaking of nasty attacks of written derision,
What happened to her adult supervision?

Thursday, December 29, 2005


In English, at least, pride and benevolence are often or mostly thought of as feelings. But you can also view them as practices. There's no necessary conflict between them. You can respect yourself, and others too.

Looks over the fence.

Looks inside.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Benevolent Thoughts

There was a recent discussion about benevolence in Diana Hsieh's comment section. I was surprised by one senior Ayn Rand fan who actively dissed benevolence, indicating she much preferred justice.

Rand didn't think there was an opposition between justice and a proper benevolence toward other people. In a 1943 journal entry, she wrote: "Not love—but a benevolent neutrality as your basic attitude to your fellow men. The rest must be earned by them. Justice, not mercy."

I'm not saying she thought of benevolence as an important virtue, the way David Kelley does. But, within the context of a free society, she thought "good will toward men" was a good thing.

In "A Nation's Unity", she wrote: "Benevolence is incompatible with fear. It is only when a man knows that his neighbors have no power forcibly to interfere with his life, that he can feel benevolence toward them, and they toward him—as the history of the American people has demonstrated."

Is it a virtue? I'm not quite sure.
But liberty lets it endure.

Synchonize Your Watches

If you're really sick of 2005 and can't wait to put it behind you, I have some minor bad news - 2005 has been extended.

As the big clock ticks
Toward 2006,
Astronomers have reckoned
We need one extra second.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Dec. 26

In England they call it Boxing Day.
I don't know why; I cannot say.

I hope they don't have shoppers who insist
On battling for their bargains with their fists!

Iconic Holiday Babies

For Christmas we have the Baby in the manger.

For New Years we have the New Year's Baby. No one believes in this baby literally - he's just a symbol of the newborn new year. I refer to this baby as "he" because he's often portrayed wearing a top hat. He also often wears a sash and diapers, which is kind of a unisex outfit. So maybe the New Year's Baby is really a girl.

Or maybe in the odd years it's a girl, and the even years it's a boy, like we do with the hurricanes.

Not to be outdone, February awaits with a baby that sports wings and weaponry - straight out of Roman mythology - little Cupid with his bow and arrow!

If you didn't know any better, you might think it was the same baby - lying on its back in December, partying in January, and flying in February!

From lying to flying
In just three months
Would be quite a stunt.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Beware of Dog Washing

Note to self:

After a week of lower back pain... even if your back is almost back to normal... even if company is coming and the dog needs a bath... and even if the best place to wash him is the standing laundry tub... do NOT attempt to lift a 95 pound dog.

I got the pooch into the tub,
And gave him a good Christmas scrub,
But now my poor back needs a rub.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Family Get Together

I had fun this evening playing with my littlest niece. We played a new game. In this game, I hold her and ask her "What's wrong with you?" very insistently and very fast, all the while tickling her. I stop when she tells me that nothing is wrong with her. Then I let her go, and she immediately returns and tells me something is wrong with her.

Repeat indefinitely until one of us is exhausted.

I find it hard to refuse them,
Because it's so fun to amuse them.

Only One Shopping Day Till...

The great thing about having Christmas on a Sunday, is that I get all day Saturday to do my shopping. I have found that Christmas Eve is a great day to shop.

Only serious shoppers remain in the stores on that day. All those "I'm just browsing" people are out of the way!

Believe me, it's always best to leave
Your Christmas shopping till Christmas Eve.

Friday, December 23, 2005

In Lieu of a Card

A couplet or two
Is the best I can do
Most days.

Most days prose goes far enough
To say whatever mundane stuff
I have to say.

But sometimes poetry climbs
By its own choice
Out of the words,
To find its own voice
And explode into rhyme.

For several weeks I've heard
"The holidays are here!"
Now they really are.
I hope yours don't feel hollow.

Enfold what you hold dear;
Celebrate whatever star
You follow.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Walnut Room

Some of our family gathered tonight for dinner in the Walnut Room at Marshall Field's. The Walnut room is the dining room with the towering Christmas tree.

The original downtown Field's is a Chicago landmark, but is about to lose its name. Macy's bought it, and intends to re-brand it. So people are rushing to get one last dose of the Field's Experience before it disappears.

The Walnut Room wait staff was understaffed, so we did a lot of waiting, far more than usual. But the food was good, as good as usual, and the tree was very pretty in a designer-decorated way. (To see the tree, click here and scroll.)

We waited and we waited,
And finally we ate.
At least the food and company were great.

Second City Solstice

On the mainstage, Second City was performing "Iraqtile Dysfunction", a frequently funny show.

Some improvised bits
Were worked into their skits.

One was a cute little story
Involving Montessori.

Montessori came up because a woman from the audience got interviewed and mentioned that her mom was a Montessori teacher. This led to a scene in which a Montessori teacher visits a public school and declares: "My feet are burning just being in a public school."

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Maradydd and the Stolen Penguin

Today I had great fun meeting [info]maradydd in real life. We traded notes on programming and poetry. She told me about a complicated poetic form called a sonnet redoubled. In her honor, here are some redoubled quatrains about the baby penguin kidnapped the other day from a British zoo.

A baby penguin stolen from a zoo -
It needs its food, it won't survive five days.
In some strange house, what will the poor thing do?
Kindly return him to his mother's gaze.

A baby penguin stolen from a zoo -
Perhaps intended as a Christmas pet.
The mystery's unsolved. I wonder who
Kidnapped the bird. He hasn't turned up yet.

It needs its food, it won't survive five days.
You see, it craves a most peculiar dish
Prepared with care according to their ways:
A beakfull of regurgitated fish.

In some strange house, what will the poor thing do?
It wasn't raised to be a pet, it might
Refuse to get along with someone new.
Most likely it will flap its wings and bite.

Kindly return him to his mother's gaze.
She misses his soft feathers and his eyes
Upturned to hers, reflecting back the rays
Of her affection. Let that joy reprise.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Home for the Holidays

Things are hopping at the Enright house. Felicia is in from Maryland, and young John is in from California. Poor John, living in L.A., suffers true weather shock when he arrives here in the winter months.

From the East and the West
We've refilled the nest.


Ouch, I hurt my lower back.
I know not why, it's out of whack.
Compared to many people's woes
It's nothing much, so I suppose
I'll just shut up and not complain,
About this incidental pain.

So kindly disregard this verse
Unless you happen to be a nurse
Who knows a special sure-fire cure
So I don't have to nobly endure
This stupid pain. I'll gladly pay
Money to make it go away!

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Demon, I Cast Thee Out

My daughter's pc had a nasty infection,
That kept popping up on her Virus Inspection.
Norton, dear fellow, couldn't quite cure it.
So I took it on, feeling perfectly sure it
Would yield to my will and depart her machine.
It finally did. Her pc is clean.

Basically I worked till 4 am on this puppy, then got up in the morning and kicked it around some more. It was one of those blended threats, where the nasty code keeps inviting other infections, while popping up ads and dropping icons on your desk. In the end I was reduced to booting into the Safe Mode Command Prompt and navigating my way thought the hidden gobbledygook directories to kill off recalcitrant compressed snippets.

[I did try using Knoppix, a flavor of Linux you can boot from the CD, to get at the hidden/protected infection. But I wasn't patient enough to figure out how to enable the NTFS write feature, even though the NTFS read was working great.]

Talking 'Bout My Generation

A retired co-worker came to visit our office, and commented at one point that we were probably the last generation to enjoy everything that America had to offer. He's quite a bit older than me, but I guess he was lumping us together as Boomers. I was stunned and sickened by his pessimism.

Why do so many Boomers
Turn into doom and gloomers?

Friday, December 16, 2005

Coax, RCA, S-Video, You Name It, We Got It

Hours were spent tonight, at 2 different TVs, getting components wired up right. Now we can watch tapes on the first floor again, and even copy them to DVD. And in the basement, for the first time, you can watch DVDs, but still watch tapes if you prefer.

TV wiring
Be tiring.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Book Club

Last night I stayed up late cramming. I had to finish our book club book. The odd thing is that I wrote our book club book. Yes, I had somehow talked them into doing Unholy Quest. But I hadn't read it in a year or two, so I thought I should take another pass through it.

It was kind of strange reading it, in a deja-vu sort of way. But I have to admit I still liked it. Much to my relief, people in the book club seemed to like it too. One friend said to me: "You would know if they didn't like it - they would be polite."

I'm so glad they weren't "polite."
That would have made for a miserable night.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Forced Exit

Don't commit murder in California.
Don't say they didn't warn ya.

Monday, December 12, 2005


It is deeply satisfying
After hours and hours of trying
To see your program do
Something clean and new.

Stomach Feelings

In Ayn Rand's personal journals about her relationship difficulties, she refers at times to her "stomach feelings," by which she seems to mean what most of us would call "gut feelings." She worries over whether her stomach feelings might be telling her something important. Indeed, they are. These feelings are correctly warning her that her relationship is doomed and that her loved one is acting fraudulently toward her. She is thinking very hard on this topic, but her feelings have run ahead of her thoughts and reached the correct conclusion sooner.

In Atlas Shrugged, she wrote: "An emotion that clashes with your reason, an emotion that you cannot explain or control, is only the carcass of that stale thinking which you forbade your mind to revise."

This was different. The emotion was not the carcass of stale thinking, not the empty echo of old premises. Rather, the emotion was the warning message from a subconscious that was integrating vast amounts of information, including things like body language and vocal tone and facial expression.

For what it may be worth, there is a cranial nerve (the vagus) that connects to the stomach. Some speculate it's involved somehow in our experience of "gut feelings".

Otherwise it's hard to understand how your digestive system
Could pick up clues after your brain had missed 'em.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Dogs and Bulls

Speaking of pit bulls, I've been reading this book I got last year for Christmas: The Dogs Of Capitalism. It's an unusual book, and rather philosophical for a book about the history of dog-breeding. What was eye-opening for me was just how important some of these breeds were for solving problems. Take bull dogs, for example. Their job was to stop bulls. Why would you want to stop bulls? Because when they get loose, they destroy property and gore people. I know. There probably aren't a lot of bulls near where you live. But in pre-industrial England, there were bulls a-plenty apparently, and keeping control of them was important.

Here's a list of 7 tips for the safe handling of bulls. I like rule 7 best: "NEVER trust a bull."

Bulldogs did battle
With ornery cattle.

Pit Bull Ban

A pit bull ban has been proposed in Chicago's City Council. I think it's a bad idea in the abstract, but tonight the downside was really brought home to me when I was speaking to a young couple who own and love a well-behaved pit bull. Their particular dog is a "therapy dog" - it visits with clinically depressed people and cheers them up.

I can't understand
Why this dog should be banned.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Plane Slides Out Of Airport

Tonight a Southwest jet from Baltimore, landing in Chicago's Midway Airport, slid out of the airport onto Central Avenue, hitting 2 cars. A boy in one of the cars was killed, and 8 other people in the cars were injured. Only two people in the plane were hurt.

Midway is just about one square mile, so a plane has less than 1.5 miles of runway to land, which doesn't give you much room for error. It was snowing pretty heavily here on the south side when the accident occurred. Naturally, I'm figuring that the white stuff played a role.

When tires lose their grip
Vehicles slide and slip.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Wicked, the Book

I've been reading Wicked, by Gregory Maguire. I'm about 3/4 through. It's very clever, and it holds my interest, but there is something I don't care for in it, something hard to pin down, perhaps because it's obvious. Despite his wealth of invention, the story feels bleak to me. What's more, the vaguely implied moral standards of the author irk me as being anti-development, anti-commerce, and pro-animal-rights. The story-telling is vague at times, too, which surprises me most of all because he can tell a story clearly when he wants too. I do wonder if part of the author's problem is that his protagonist becomes a total burn-out who is trying not to care about anything. This makes her not much of a protagonist. Hopefully she will perk up again in time to be properly splashed down by Dorothy!

I say it without pride:
I'm still on Dorothy's side.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Air Travel Tips

Don't tell the air marshal that you've got
A bomb, and when he draw his gun and tells you not
To reach in your pack, but you do anyway, expect to be shot.

And if you're bipolar and think you might do something like this and end up dead,
Please remember to take your meds.

The Solstice Approaches

I went swimming tonight. Yes, indoors. Then I came home and put the lights on the tree. Yes, a real tree, but indoors. Now all we need is ornaments on the tree. Oh, and lights outside on the bushes. I don't feel like putting lights outside right now, mostly because it's 10F out there.

Stringing lights at 10 degrees
Always makes my fingers freeze.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Battlestar Theology

We've been watching the first season of Battlestar Gallactica on DVD. Not the old one from the 70's, the new one. One funny aspect of the show is that the humans are polytheists, praying to something like the pagan Greek pantheon; and the human-looking cybernetic enemies are monotheists, praying to what they regard as the one true God.

Religion's mixed up in the strife,
Just like in real life.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Ugaritic Texts

How come I didn't know about Ugaritic Texts before? After all, they were found in 1928. But they're really old, like from 1300 BC, so maybe it took a while to translate them. Some scholars believe these texts tell us what Judaism was like before it got monotheistic.

They think the Hebrews originally worshipped many gods. But then they narrowed their focus over time to just one favorite god. And eventually they decided there had only been one God all along - and that the others were simply false gods.

I only bring this up because I happened to be looking at a book called The Origins of Biblical Monotheism: Israel's Polytheistic Background and the Ugaritic Texts. It looks a little complicated, and I'm kind of weak on Ugaritic cuneiform. Here's the alphabet.

You know what would be yummy?
Ugaritic for Dummies!

Patience Thin

Yahoo News tonight has a story from Reuters headlined: "Iran's patience running out over nuclear issue".

They're impatient because the EU keeps insisting that Iran stop work on its nuclear program.

Why on earth would there be suspicion
That Iran would try to use nuclear fission
For anything but a peaceful mission?

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Say's Law

I was thinking about Say's Law today. Sometimes you hear it as: "Supply creates its own demand." In this form, it makes sense for iPods. How much demand was there for iPods, before there were iPods?

Nowadays there are plenty
But back in 1920
It would have been odd
To demand an iPod
Because there simply weren't any.


A couple of months ago, Emily "sneaked into an office supplies company near her home in Appleton [Wisconsin] and hid in a container of paper bound for France." The container travelled 3 weeks, by sea, to France, where Emily was caught. She was quarantined for a month, and was then escorted back to the U.S., in business class, courtesy of Continental Airlines.

Emily is a cat. Fortunately, she was wearing her tags.

Pussy cat, pussy cat,
Where have you been?
- I've been to France
For a month's quarantine.

Pussy cat, pussy cat,
What did you there?
- I ate lots of cat food,
And came back by air.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Rude Awakening

Marla has a funny post about a Murphy's Law morning she experienced, where one thing after another kept going wrong. It's all starts with waking up late... then trying make a 9 a.m. meeting.

When you really have to hurry,
It's often time to worry.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Fun With Video Drivers

Spent a couple of hours tonight working on a friend's computer.

He bought one of those cards that lets you record TV shows on your PC. For some reason it doesn't want to install on his machine. In the process of trying to get it to work, he made it so he had a completely dark screen once Windows started.

His screen was black,
But I got it back.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Grating Greetings

The Trib today reported on the controversy over which is better to say: Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays. Naturally, lawyers have gotten involved in this biting contemporary controversy.

But is Happy Holidays truly secular? "Based on the English words holy and day... holidays originally represented special days of the Christian Church calendar."

So political officials, take note! Soon you may be sued for saying Happy Holidays!

If you don't want to sound religious
In a land that's grown litigious,
I think it would be most clever
To just say: Happy Whatever!

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Kidnapping Policies

4 peace activists got kidnapped in Iraq. According to the Corner, their organization's website declares:

"CPT does not advocate the use of violent force to save lives of its workers should they be kidnapped, held hostage, or caught in the middle of a conflict situation."

I think a better policy is enunciated by law professor Glenn Reynolds who says that his blog supports the use of violent force to save the blog's workers - namely himself.

If I get kidnapped,
I hope my staff feels free
To slap,
Or shoot,
Or electrocute
Whoever kidnapped me.

Monday, November 28, 2005


Before today, I was unfamiliar with the concept of "self-plagiarism." It seems to be an academic term - no surprise there. What it refers to is what I think of as "writing recycling". I assume you can evade a charge of self-plagiarism by carefully citing the earlier version of your work.

Make sure, when you edit
To give yourself credit
For whatever you lifted
From that most gifted
Author on the shelf -

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Extinct Elephants of Illinois

Recently a bunch of mammoth and mastodon remains have been found in Illinois.

An Illinois paleontologist declared: "It almost seemed that mastodons and mammoths were falling out of the trees for a few weeks."

Now there's a scary thought.
Elephants ought
To stay out of trees.
It's hard on their knees -
Ten thousand pounds
Jumping down to the ground.

Saturday, November 26, 2005


My wife's aunt, uncle, and her cousins and their families, just left. It's kind of an Italian whirlwind, boisterous, loud, and all kinds of fun. There are some other ethnicities caught up on the edges of the whirlwind, too, this being the land of the melting pot after all.

One of their standout qualities is the intensity with which they evaluate the food they are eating. I was in several conversations about the excellence of the pork roast Marsha prepared.

So I can boast
The roast
Was most delicious.

Of course, I can only boast by proxy, since I had nothing to do with cooking the darn thing!

Post-Traumatic Growth

It has become a stereotype that infantry combat wrecks a man's psyche. Somehow, after the VietNam conflict, it became the accepted wisdom that everyone who saw serious action came home with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

I knew this wasn't exactly true. I had known some veterans of that conflict who seemed happy to talk about their experiences there, especially if you expressed some quiet admiration for their efforts. I had also read extensive first-hand accounts of that war, and I knew that some soldiers had actually enjoyed it at several levels.

When I tell this to people, they often look perplexed. But now I can point to the psychological research mentioned in this article from the Washington Post.

"Combat's potential to inflict psychic wounds has been recognized as far back as the ancient Greeks, but so has its ability to exhilarate, intoxicate and instruct those who experience it, experts say."

One of the experts makes the interesting point that being in a battle is not enough to get the positive effect. There's another couple of key steps. First the person mentally goes over the details of what happened. "And then there's a much more abstract process of finding some higher meaning . . . in what has transpired."

War is hell.
But some come out well.

Futile Endeavors

Some people have an evasion
For each and every occasion;
And no amount of persuasion
Can even make a dent.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Black Friday

I am such a shopping ignoramus. I don't even know why today is being called Black Friday. It has something to do with today being the biggest single day for U.S. retailers. But why does that make it black?

UPDATE: Marsha just explained it to me. It's the date when many retail stores first "go into the black", in the accounting sense of having annual income exceed expenses.

When you're in the red, you lack
What you have when you're in the black.

Thursday, November 24, 2005


My children are home for the Great Stuffing Festival.

My son arrived last night at 1 am and started talking about how COLD it was. Well, he is a grad student in Los Angeles, and his body no longer knows what COLD is.

In fact, it was 40F when we picked him up. In our opinion, that was WARM. After all, it's above freezing.

He hasn't woken up yet this morning, but it is 18F here now, below freezing, with 28 mph winds that drop the windchill to 1F. He's not going to like this.

I'm thinking that he needs an acclimation program before he visits. Perhaps he could find an ice cream shop with a walk-in freezer, and ask to spend time inside, a little more each day, until he was ready.

Health clubs have saunas - why don't they have freezers?

Next time he complains, I think I might shout:
Chill out!

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Problem in Houston

Spiderman got busted in Houston, TX. On drug charges. Not the real Spiderman. Some French guy who climbs skyscrapers. The drug he got busted for was Xanax, an anti-anxiety med.

Why is a guy who climbs 100-story buildings carrying around anti-anxiety meds?

Do you think he might
Be afraid of heights?

Who's Editing?

EDIT: the Tribune's news story editing problems described in this post have now been fixed.

There was a bad train accident this evening in Elmwood Park, Illinois. The AP story describes this town as being 14 miles northwest of Chicago. I don't think so. It shares a border with Chicago! I can forgive the Associated Press for getting this wrong, but the same misleading info shows up in the Chicago Tribune's version of the story.

I did an experiment. I went to Yahoo Maps, and asked for driving directions from Chicago to Elmwood Park. Yes, it told me the distance was 14 miles. They had me starting from an obscure location - Lumber Street on the South Side - not even from downtown. And the 14 miles consists of the fastest route - not the shortest route.

Send an investigative reporter
To locate the common border!

UPDATE: I emailed them and told them to fix it. Now they have 14 miles northwest of DOWNTOWN Chicago. That's still not quite right, but it's better. I guess I'll email them again. Yes, I did work as a reporter in Chicago one summer. The Sun-Times story does NOT have that erroneous 14. Someone there was paying attention.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Turkey Tale

Unconscious people are trapped in a smoky burning car. What do you do? You smash the car windows in with a frozen Thanksgiving turkey!

At least, that's what Mark Copsy told the Chicago Tribune he did.

Local police say it happened differently. Spoil sports, if you ask me!

It's the first Good Samaritan story I've heard
Involving smashing windows with a bird.

Monday, November 21, 2005


At work there are people I exchange emails with once a month. We're doing it this week, and we're already wishing each other Happy Thanksgiving.

So, today I was thinking of the amazing aspects of life as we live it now. Things like the internet, free speech, modern medicine, and air travel, to name a few. These things are accomplished and maintained by human activity - by people working for them and sometimes fighting for them.

Thanks to all who pulled their weight;
You helped to make this world great.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Rome... spoiler if you know no history

We've been watching Rome on HBO. It's a TV series, produced with the BBC, with all British actors and what sounds to me like a British script as well. It's fictionalized history. I recommend it, but be forewarned it's R-rated for violence and sex. If you have a V-chip in your TV, you'd better enter the secret parental code. Tonight was the season finale. This season focused on the career of Julius Caesar, and the season finale was the Caesar finale as well.

The senators' hands are red
And Julius Caesar lies dead.

Imposing Democracy

I see where Madeleine Albright, former Secretary of State, says that "imposing democracy is an oxymoron." Surely this statement needs to be qualified. What was it that MacArthur did with Japan after World War II?

"He suspended Japanese laws restricting political, civil and religious liberties. He ordered the release of political prisoners and abolished the secret police. He announced a general election to be held in April 1946, only seven months following the surrender. He also called for the Japanese Diet to pass a new election law to provide for free democratic elections, including, for the first time in the history of Japan, the right of women to vote."

Madame Secretary,
I think your theory's very
Dubious and sketchy.
But as a phrase it's catchy!

(Please note, I do not claim to know whether this democracy thing will fly in Iraq, but I hope it will.)

Friday, November 18, 2005

Don't Do The Crime

They've done an O.J. on Robert Blake, in the matter of the murder of his wife.

First he was found not guilty in a criminal trial. But today he was found responsible in a civil trial. So he doesn't have to do time, but he owes a lot of money.

He's responsible for killing his wife
But somehow not guilty of taking her life.

14 Lines

In 14 lines, a sonnet tries to catch
A little less than all the world's spread.
It's not a microcosm, it's a sketch
Of one small corner, and whatever's said,
Is said that moment in a certain mood,
Which might not be there when you write tomorrow.
You seek the writer's soul? Do not conclude
Too much from one sad song that speaks of sorrow.

But, on the other hand, perhaps I'm wrong.
If looked at with great empathy and care,
The heart that poured itself into the song
May be revealed - its beating truth laid bare.

I hope not. My poor introverted mind
Would rather have some rhymes to hide behind.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Keats' Sensibility

Keats' sonnet "On Seeing The Elgin Marbles" has never been one of my favorites. Michelle Fram Cohen is giving a talk Saturday night about Cognitive Poetics, and she included this poem in her hand-out under the heading "Malevolent sense of life". I can see why she would think so. Consider some snippets:

"My spirit is too weak...
I must die like a sick eagle looking at the sky...
'Tis a gentle luxury to weep...
Brings round the heart an indescribable feud...
A most dizzy pain..."

More dreary than cheery, you can see. The Elgin Marbles, by the way, are a big collection of sculpture fragments from an ancient Greek temple.

Keats could, however, be perfectly cheery, even when talking about the worldview of the ancient Greeks. In another sonnet, On First Looking Into Chapman's Homer, he sings the praises of a particular translator who has really brought Homer home to him:

"Much have I travelled in the realms of gold
And many goodly states and kingdoms seen...
Yet never did I breathe its pure serene
Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold..."

This is Keats in his "benevolent sense of life" mode. Or should I say mood? A mood is a passing thing, a sense of life is a persistent subconscious outlook. As I see it, Keats' sense of life somehow allows for both of these moods.

He was dead at 25.
What more might he have done
If he'd just stayed alive
Till 31?

Crystalline Precipitation Arrives

Snow swirled through the city today, the first snow of the season, not very much of it, not enough to leave a blanket of white, just enough to leave a few white traces on the ground. When I walked the dogs tonight, I began by walking into the west, into the wind, and that wind had some bite.

It was warm so long, it was really hard to remember that it was already November.

But now, at last,
An arctic blast -
To keep us on our toes!

I think mine froze.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Finding a Penny

Today I found a penny. I picked it up and thought of my middle child, Noelle, who is gone. I have a game I play with myself, or perhaps it is a delusion. When I find coins on the ground, I think of her, or, more exactly, I recall to mind my love for her, and hers for me.

The game, or delusion, started years ago, the summer after she left. I was running a long distance in the heat. I was dehydrated and overheated, my judgment clouded. I started finding change on the ground as I ran, perhaps because, shuffling along dazedly, my eyes were on the ground. To make matters odd, I had the illusion that she had left the change there for me. I guess you could think of it as pennies from heaven, even though I didn't actually believe in heaven. I decided there was no harm in playing along with the feeling - the feeling of her presence. In life, she loved finding money, and I think of that acquisitive, treasuring joy she had. I think of her love for life.

On Thursday it will be 12 years that she is gone. I miss her terribly, and wish I could have seen her grow up more. Watching a child grow is a deep, deep pleasure and joy.

Shiny penny, on the ground,
Shiny penny, newly found,
In my hand I hold you tight,
In my heart I feel your light.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Lincoln's Words

I've been reading The Eloquent President, by Ronald C. White Jr., for the book club I'm in. I recommend it. It's a close reading of Lincoln's developing writing style, which can seem ornate today, but which was terse by nineteenth century standards. It also sheds some light on the Civil War and its controversial, carnage-laden course.

There are photographs. The one that really struck me showed Lincoln delivering his second inaugural address - with John Wilkes Booth in the background, looking on. Photo is here. Lincoln speaks in the center. According to the book, Booth is above him, hatless, to the right side of the balcony.

Lincoln talked,
Booth stalked.

States of Confusions

I hadn't been to New Hampshire before. I'd been to the other New states - York and Jersey and Mexico, I mean. If we have New states shouldn't we have matching Old states?

On a related issue, in the case of Directional states, the North/South pairs are neatly matched - you know, the Carolinas and the Dakotas. But what is the deal with the Virginias? One is West and one is just... plain Virginia. Can't we rename it East Virginia?

As for Kansases - Ar and Non-Ar,
It's clear the whole thing's gone too far.

And Washington State vs. our national Capital -
Hopeless. Let's just scrap it all.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Too Tired To Blog

The Free State Objectivist Club was a fine bunch of people, very smart and lots of fun.

And I've finally seen
The [info]selfishgene.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Radio Marsha

We're here in New Hampshire, visiting our friends, Wayne and Julie Anderson. Wayne runs a discussion club and we'll be there tomorrow night. Marsha will talk about education, and as a bonus feature I'll talk about my novel.

Marsha was actually interviewed on radio today on a local station, WNTK. She was on the Gardner Goldsmith show for half an hour, talking about her plan to found a college. She'd never been on radio before, but Goldsmith was a friendly host, and she's good at impromptu speaking. It was all done over the phone - she didn't have to go into the studio. In fact, she did it sitting in a rental car in the hotel parking lot, using her cell phone.

She sounded good,
As I thought she would.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Invertebrate Alert

Robert Bidinotto has a great rant against the Republicans for being too much like the Democrats. My favorite sentence for sheer color:

"Blaming a politician for being morally spineless is akin to blaming a jellyfish for having been born an invertebrate: they are both products of their respective DNA, one cultural, one genetic."

Jellyfish are spineless things,
Floating along, but armed with stings.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

The Confusing Times of Judith Miller

She went to jail to protect a guy
Who then said "Never mind."

She went to court to testify,
And now has been forced to resign.

Amazing how fast, starting from "martyr"
She got to persona non grata.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

France Copes With Riots

"France Copes With Riots" read the link on's front page. I thought it was an odd choice of words.

The first sentence of the linked story reads: "Rioters on Wednesday ignored extraordinary security measures implemented by President Jacques Chirac the day before, looting and burning two superstores, setting fire to a newspaper office and paralyzing France’s second largest city’s subway system with a gasoline bomb in a continuation of the worst unrest since the student uprisings of 1968."

Does that sound like the French are COPING?
It sounds like they're just hoping
That somehow things will improve.
I'd be tempted to move.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Donating Blood

I told them to mark my blood "for good people only." I don't want to be responsible if they give it to a bad person and it saves his life and then he goes on to murder seven people.

Being bled
Makes me light in the head.

I wish they paid you for it, as they did in days gone by,
But giving blood is still the cheapest high.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Sacrifice Bunts, Not Chickens

I was expecting an American Voodoo boom due to the Katrina diaspora. But according to today's Tribune, Voodoo's cousin, Santeria, has already been gaining in popularity for some time.

As a matter of fact, Ozzie Guillen, the manager of the World-Series-winning White Sox, is an avowed devotee and pays for animals to be sacrificed for good causes.

Sport is a hotbed of superstition,
So I expect some competition.
I'm sure somewhere there's a Yankees booster
Who's already sacrificed a rooster.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Joining the Pod People

Oh, God
I have succumbed to the POD.
Yes, on this sorry occasion,
I have fallen victim to the nano-invasion,
And I'm busy robotically copying CDs
Which took me a while to figure out, but now it's a breeze.

Troubling Reassurances

Kofi Annan, the scandal-plagued head of the UN, has published a statement in the Washington Post, trying to reassure us about the UN's desire to stick its nose into the business of running the Internet. The headline on the piece reads:

"The U.N. Isn't a Threat
to the Net"

I'd say it is.
Get out of our biz!

At the bottom of the piece is an italicized statement: The writer is secretary general of the United Nations. My question is - is that literally true? Did he really write this thing himself?

Politicians mostly
Get writing help that's ghostly.


We went to hear Steven Levitt speak.
He's the guy who put the freak
In economics.

He's more geeky than freaky, but he gives a good talk to a lay audience, without a single visual aid.

No utility curves were in sight.
That's good. They give me a fright.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Legal Lottery

Merck won a big victory today in court. They were being sued over their arthritis drug, Vioxx. A guy taking the drug had a heart attack. Merck's defense was that they thought the drug was safe, based on a lot of testing. They convinced a jury.

Can they keep convincing juries? I have no idea.

There's a theory that a lot of lawsuits are like lotteries. Most of the people who've been hurt get little or nothing. A few of the people get huge punitive awards.

Most of the people get squat,
But the lucky ones win a lot;
They - or their heirs -
Become millionaires.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Self Coaching

Weeks after I do a marathon, I'm still a slug.
Deep laziness sets in. I fail to lug
Myself into the gym, feeling totally uninspired.

But it's ridiculous. Tired?
I should just get my butt in gear!

Maybe tomorrow.
Then again,
Maybe next year.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Voodoo Diaspora

According to this article, 15% of New Orleans residents practice Voodoo.

Voodoo practitioners did a "go away hurricane ritual" in July. It was less than successful, but now that practioners have been dispersed around the country, I expect to see a major boom in this religion at a national level.

Hollywood stars will jump at the chance
To dance in a possessed-by-spirits trance.

Monday, October 31, 2005

I Swerve For Possums

Sunday night in suburban Chicago:

"A motorist who swerved to avoid hitting a small animal, possibly an opossum, allegedly caused a three-vehicle accident that sent five people to the hospital."

The driver was ticketed for not having a license.

No word on the fate of the small animal.

Even if it were reported dead,
It might just be playing possum instead.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Fall Back

Here in the States, if you're on Daylight Savings Time, it's just about time to fall back an hour.

I've always wondered how operations with three 8-hour shifts handle this. For instance, what do police departments do? Do they give the night shift an hour of overtime?

Or is there an hour when none of the police are working?

That would be the time
To commit the perfect crime.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Legal Prescriptions

There have been some stories in the news about pharmacists refusing to dispense emergency contraception because doing so would violate their moral standards. Some have demanded laws requiring pharmacists to dispense against their will in such cases.

But here's a well-written rant that proposes an alternative solution: repealing pharmacists' legal power.

It would also have saved this poor paraplegic from a long stay in prison. Allegedly, he forged some pain med prescriptions for himself.

"Publicly, Paey's prosecutors have conceded that the 25-year sentence was excessive, yet they insist that Paey himself is to blame, citing his refusal to accept a plea agreement."

Rules that require a doctor's Rx
Sometimes have nasty effects.

Fibbing to the Feds

Don't lie to the feds! Even when you're not under oath, you can get in trouble for making false statements to them.

What puzzles me is why this doesn't operate at the local level. I never hear about anyone going to jail for lying to the Chicago Police.

And what about traffic stops?

"Ma'am, do you know how fast you were going?"

"Why, officer, I wasn't going fast at all!"

"Ma'am, that's one misdemeanor for speeding, and one felony for misleading the highway patrol."

Be careful, or they'll bust us
All for obstruction of justice!

Friday, October 28, 2005

Keep Those Doctors Out

Here's an article headlined: Rich Countries Contribute To Brain Drain.

So... what bad thing are we doing now? Well, we're letting people into our country. Doctor-type people. Who apparently should be confined to the poor countries they were born in.

If you ever want us to let you in
Don't dare study medicine!

Thursday, October 27, 2005

88 Years Later

The White Sox win the Series.
So much for inductive theories.
Logic is suspended
And causality up-ended.

But seriously, the odd thing about the Series is that they were all close games that somehow turned into a sweep. The Sox didn't really look much better than the Astros, except that they kept squeaking by them game after game. It looked a bit like a coin toss sequence of 4 heads in a row.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Great Lake Getaway

In local news, a suspected carjacker jumped into Lake Michigan to get away from the cops last night. The water temperature was 55 degrees Farenheit. The police just waited him out, arresting him when he waded back to dry land.

In the Fall it is folly to make
An attempted escape in that lake.
There's nowhere to hide,
And soon you'll decide
That you just made a chilling mistake.

Lap Dunce?

Here's a story about a CEO who ran up some charges at a lap dance joint in NYC.

The charges were mostly tips to the dancers. American Express is now suing him, trying to get him to pay for the charges - to the tune of $241,000.

I suspect drinking
Affected his thinking.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Bioethicist - Nooooo!

A bioethicist writes: "John Stuart Katz is at high risk of dying if he gets the flu. It is up to you not to kill him. And it is up to your government to do more than it has to date to make sure that you cannot insist on putting his life at risk."

I don't want my government to do "more". It's done more than enough already to foul up the flu shot business. I want my government to do less, if by "less" we mean getting rid of the bureaucratic regulation that is choking the vaccine supply.

There's plenty of demand
But not enough supply.

To fix it, just untie
The invisible hand.

Sunday, October 23, 2005


Love has its secret bells,
Heard by no one else.

Deafening sounds
That shake the ground.

But only in the minds
Of those love finds.

Academic Help Desk

Kids with algebra problems can now get help from India. That's right, high-quality Indian math tutoring is available on the net, at discount rates.

Maybe there's something to it. Our entire system of numerals comes from India, and it was quite an improvement over the Roman numeral system - which didn't even have a zero.

Whoever invented zero deserves our thanks.
Otherwise when
You went to write "ten",
It would just be a one and a blank.

The Green Threat

Plants spread pollen through-out the land,
Causing wheezing and sneezing.
If they weren't natural... they'd be banned!
Still, I admit, their appearance is pleasing.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Accounting for Vaccine Shortages

Today the Wall St. Journal ran an opinion piece by John Berlau, entitled "Death By Accounting?" His thesis is that our vaccine shortages are partly caused by a 1999 SEC accounting rule.

The new accounting rule applied to all sorts of businesses, but hit vaccine makers hard.

Here's how it works. Uncle Sam gives you money to make vaccines. You spend a lot of the money during the manufacturing process. On your books, you have to show the money you spent. But you are forbidden to show the money you already took in - until you actually deliver the vaccines. So your books look like you are losing money. And most companies hate looking unprofitable.

Berlau writes: "While one part of government is urging manufacturers to have a reserve on hand for a flu outbreak, another is telling them that they won't show any gain on their books for doing so."

Earlier in the year the Washington Post ran a story about the problem: "Although opinions differ, it appears that the Pediatric Vaccine Stockpile has become an innocent bystander wounded in the government's crackdown on deceptive accounting practices."

It looks to me
Like the books
Were cooked
By the SEC.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

He Asked For It

Monday a local woman counter-attacked an armed assailant, Kendro Earl.

"She smashed her attacker over the head with a bottle... leaped on Earl's back, bit him and jammed a finger into the gun's trigger guard to stop him from firing. The struggle spilled into the kitchen, where she grabbed a knife and stabbed Earl several times. Earl escaped, but an off-duty Cook County sheriff's deputy heard the woman's screams and caught up with him."

When he gets out of the hospital
He'll go to jail.
To keep him from getting out at all
They set high bail.

To Sleep, Perchance

Don Watkins, in a post about rational decision-making, writes about the proper way to evaluate the question: should one stay up late reading Atlas Shrugged?

Here are 2 ways to decide:

A. Compare the value of reading now to the disvalue of being tired tomorrow.

B. Compare the value of reading now to the value of getting more sleep.

He thinks choice B is correct. I'm still trying to figure out if there is a real difference here.

As for me,
Whether A or B,
It's time for bed.
'Nuff said.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Flu Query Update

The other day I wondered why we kept seeing delays and shortages in the flu vaccine business. Today there was an interesting opinion piece that touched on this in Investor's Business Daily. Titled "Why The U.S. Isn't Prepared For Bird Flu," it was written by Sally Pipes, who is the president of the Pacific Research Institute.

She asks: "So why don't U.S. drug companies, which dominate the global medicine market, make vaccines?"

Her answers, in brief:

1) Excessive FDA screening

2) Vaccines are expensive to produce

3) Out-of-control lawsuits about vaccines scare manufacturers away

4) Government price controls limit profitability. ("The government now buys 57% of all childhood vaccines, forcing steep discounts on manufacturers.")

Now I understand.
They got in the way of supply and demand.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Finishing The Portrait

I finished reading Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. I'm not recommending it, but if you want to read it, make sure to get an edition that has good notes so you can decipher some of the allusions, the Irish dialect, and the Latin which litters the text. I had some advantages reading this book. I know a medium amount about Ireland, Catholicism, and what the Irish do with English. Still, I found myself checking the notes quite a bit.

The novel combines a stream of consciousness technique with a lot of naturalistic detail. I found it hard to keep my bearings in the stream of consciousness, and hard to plow through the naturalistic detail. There isn't a plot, exactly, but there is a through-line to the story: the writer's liberation from the psychological confines of his family, religion, and schooling. At least, that's how I read it.

Joyce does write beautifully at times:

"His heart danced upon her movements like a cork upon the tide."

"A veiled sunlight lit up faintly the grey sheet of water where the river was embayed. In the distance along the course of the slow-flowing Liffey slender masts flecked the sky and, more distant still, the dim fabric of the city lay prone in haze."

Despite his gift of gab
I found the story drab.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Wherefore Art Thou

I have a dog named Romeo.

At the pound, they were calling him Calvin. That was too religious for me, so I decided to call him Pal.

But my wife wanted to call him Romeo. You see, our other dog is named Juliette.

My wife won.

Romeo and Juliette -
The corniest dog names yet!


I hear the explosions of fireworks, the honking of horns, and young men yelling in my neighborhood.

The White Sox have won the American League pennant, and the South Side is celebrating.

I remember the last time. 1959. I was 7. The mayor authorized the sounding of the city's air raid sirens - scaring a lot of people who weren't baseball fans. So far, I don't hear sirens.

I was in 2nd grade. Our teacher, Sister Mary Bartholomew, brought a TV set to the classroom so that we could watch some of the World Series games during class.

Now I suppose we'll have to play the Cardinals, our neighbors down I-55.

Beating the Cards
Could be hard.

EDIT: Nope. Doesn't look like the Cards at all. I was so busy paying attention to the White Sox that I had stopped paying attention to the National League. I actually mis-read a headline and thought the Cards were ahead. Anyway, in truth, it looks far more likely that the Houston Astros will be our opponents in the World Series.

Replacement rhyme:

I hope that team from Texas
Doesn't vex us.

Iwo Jima Scandal

Joe Rosenthal was the photographer who snapped the famous shot of Marines raising the flag at Iwo Jima, one of the bloodier island battles of World War II. He has been accused of staging the shot - mostly because it came out so good. His primary accuser recanted, but the rumor keeps swirling. You can read about it in some of its complicated detail here.

On the other hand, here is an amusing parody of how the story might come out today:

"Many believe that, as the huge number of casualties mounted in the ill-fated and pointless invasion of this tiny island, the Roosevelt administration, desperate for a bit of pro-war propaganda, arranged to have the photo taken for dissemination to the world's news services."

Casualties are always "mounting"
When the press does the accounting.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Flu Vaccines

I know that developing a vaccine for a new virus can be difficult. A lot of effort has gone into an HIV vaccine, but so far they don't seem to have nailed it down.

I know that flu viruses mutate frequently, requiring newly-generated vaccines each year. And I know it's a guessing game each year for the vaccine designers, as they try to figure out which versions of the virus they need to prevent.

Nonetheless, I keep wondering if government involvement has something to do with these periodic delays and shortages in producing annual supplies of flu vaccine. The government sure is involved, as a major purchaser as well as a regulator.

Our leaders may shout: Go go go!
But regulation makes things slow.

Flee Fly Flu

What can I do
About the bird flu?

Do you know how you get it? Here's the straight scoop:
You breathe in their pulverized poop.

Unfortunately it hampers
Their wings to wear Pampers.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Smiling for the Camera

They took pictures of me at the marathon. Whenever I spotted a photographer, I took off my hat and smiled. The photos are in reverse chronological order, so the pics at the top of the page are from the end of the race.

Marsha saw me at Mile 26 and said I was hard to recognize because I looked so dazed and miserable. But I did my best to hide it from the camera.

People like to order pics
From mile 26.

No one looks like they're having fun.
They just look happy they're done.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Bizarre Sox vs Angels Call

Three strikes and you're... not quite out... if the catcher fails to catch the ball.

Did the catcher catch the ball?
Then the umpire botched the call.

No Saint

Oops. I don't have to be finished with James Joyce's Portrait until Wednesday the 19th. The date got changed, but I failed to mark the change on my calendar.

The book has brought back memories of a Catholic boyhood. It goes into excruciating detail of the hellfire and damnation side of old fashioned Catholic spiritual meditation.

I'm up to the point where our hero is admitting to himself that he is not cut out to be a man of the cloth, that his piety is fragile, and that his quest for celibacy is doomed to failure.

I agree with Joyce on this at least:
It's good that he didn't become a priest.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Columbus Day

I liked Ed Hudgins' Columbus Day piece. Columbus' arrival in this hemisphere has become a contentious topic, with lots of arguing over the sometimes-ugly details of how the European settlement of the Americas played out.

Hudgins takes the interesting tack of trying to boil it down to essentials by focusing on daily life in pre-Columbian America, and what it was like to live that way. He then asks:

"But what of young Indian children who wondered why family members sickened and died and if there were ways unknown to the shamans to relieve their pain or cure them; if there were ways to build shelters that would resist bitter winters, stifling summers and the storms that raged in both seasons; whether there were ways to guarantee food would always be abundant and starvation no longer a drought away; why plants grow and what those lights in the sky really were; and whether they could ever actually fly like birds and observe mountains from the height of eagles? Where were the opportunities for these natives?"

Sometimes I just feel sad that it took so long to get where we are, that so many children for so many millennia stared at the stars in wonder with no way to find the truth.

Ah, my little ones,
The lights in the sky are suns.

Tennyson vs. Byron

I'm reading a certain semi-autographical novel. [EDIT: Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce.] At one point the protagonist and some schoolmates dispute who is the best poet.

Two schoolmates say that it's Tennyson.

This seems to be the prevailing critical opinion.

Our hero insists on Byron.

It's an interesting pair to consider. Both can be considered romantic in their way. But Byron casts himself as the rebel against the conventional, where Tennyson casts himself more as a defender of nobility and goodness.

Byron did passionate scenes,
Endangering innocent youth.

Tennyson kept his poems clean
And focused on higher truth.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Running Chicago

My biggest pet peeves about the Chicago Marathon:

3) All the runners who are alternating running with walking on some schedule - often in groups. It's a crowded race, and when people suddenly slow down in front of you, then you have to slow down too - and then try to get around them.

2) If your wife is there to cheer you on, it's hard to find her in the crowd. Say she is waiting right at the 26 mile marker. It's possible for you to stop for 30 valuable seconds and look at the crowd and not see her.

1) They serve pieces of banana at some aid stations near the end of the race. These banana pieces have peels on them. Many of these peels end up on the road in front of us. I can vouch for the fact that they are slippery.

Best reasons to do the Chicago Marathon:

3) Free Gatorade - all you can drink.
2) Crowds of people cheering for 26.2 miles.
1) Lots of live music.

In partial summation:

Go with the flow,
Not fast then slow.

Make sure your spouse
Wears a bright blouse.

Don't let those peels
Get under your heels.

Catch some great beats
And keep moving your feet.

At Borders

Today I bought a copy of Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. The cashier looked at the book and said "Oh." Somehow she made the "oh" sound like "yuck!" It turned out she was an English Major too, and James Joyce had made her miserable. I explained I was reading it for a book club. She said she was going to avoid my book club, and told me where to find the Cliff's notes.

Usually Joyce
Is not my first choice.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Silver Lining

The AP has a charming story about a couple who met while evacuating from New Orleans. Howard and Julie got to know each other while riding on a Katrina evacuation bus.

He has promised to build her a canopy bed. She says she has always wanted one.

Having a hurricane hit your house
Is one hell of a way to find a spouse.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Maradydd's Comment

[info]maradydd is a gifted poet and also a computer scientist. I've always had a special place in my heart for her 24 Hour Hotline sestina. A sestina has a regular meter, but rather than rhyming in the usual way, all the line-ending words of one stanza show up as line-ending words in the next stanza. It's a hard, but somehow hypnotic form.

The other day she left me a rhyming comment on an older post. I figure no one saw it, but I loved it. So here is her comment:

As a formalist I find there's little sweeter
Than poems which follow strict rhyme and meter.
The easiest way to bring me to tears
Is inflicting cracked rhythm upon my ears.

But poetry written in your fashion
Strikes me as very much Ogden Nashian,
And although writing like it is something I myself find very draining
I'm not complaining.

Part of what I like about it is the way she first says this isn't her way of writing, and then effortlessly knocks off a perfectly phrased example. Also, rhyming "Ogden Nashian" with "fashion" is just so... Ogden Nashian.

Fun with DVDs

Last night I spent a couple of hours setting up the wiring for Marsha's birthday present - a DVD recorder. I swear, she requested it. It's not just a toy I bought for myself.

It's always an adventure when you've got a bunch of devices to connect, and the lighting is bad, and the wires mostly have to feed through holes in the back of the cabinet.

Last night I made sure the box played DVDs okay. Tonight I went all the way and recorded my first DVD. In this case, I went from TiVo to DVD. I'd say the DVD is just a little bit lower res than the TiVo. But it's still very good.

I bought this model. Only $124, and free shipping if you're willing to wait a few days.

Was tiring.
But recording
Was rewarding.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

White Sox vs. Red Sox, Game 2

Until the fifth inning
The Red Sox were winning.

Still, it must be said
The Red Sox aren't yet dead.

The Red Sox need to win their next 3 games. But 2 of those are in Fenway, which ought to help.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Sox Sock Sox

I watched the end of the White Sox v. Red Sox game today. 14 to 2, White Sox.

If it had been little kids playing, the adults might have stopped the game to keep the losers' self-esteem from being damaged.

But pros have to take the shame
Along with all the glory.
What's more, tomorrow's game
Could be a different story.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Stealth Nominee, Part II

Does Miers rhymes with piers?

Or does Miers rhymes with pliers?

Despite her growing fame
I don't know how to say her name!

I should watch the News tonight.
I'm sure they'll get it right.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Racquetball Blues

Yesterday my wife's regular racquetball partner was indisposed. So my wife asked me to play. We played 3 games. The good news is that I was ahead a couple of times.

The bad news is that she beat me. All 3 games.

Here's what's really annoying. I hit the ball harder than she does. And I move around the court faster than she does. But somehow she is better at putting the ball where she wants it!

That's the way the ball bounced -
I got soundly trounced!
And what's more,
I'm still sore.

Hindu Dance?

We have some good friends from India who have always been puzzled over Ayn Rand's reference to "Hindu Dance" in the Romantic Manifesto. According to them, there is nothing in India that is called Hindu Dance - there are just a lot of different dance styles. However, if you google the phrase, you do find some articles on the topic, some by Indians.

I suspect it's like saying "American Dance."

A number of varieties
Sprang up in our society.
From tap to jazz to hip-hop
New dances just don't stop.

Tonight we went to see an original work in the dance tradition known as Bharata Natyam, performed by the Kalapriya Dance company. There were 3 acts, thematically linked. The first one involved the story of the Gita, a central legend of Hindu myth. The other 2 acts involved modern Indian politics, including one about Gandhi. We just watched the mythological one. It had its charms, but I wasn't crazy about it. Part of my problem was that part of the time the dancers weren't moving their bodies all that much. It turns out that this style has stretches that are mostly hand gestures and facial expressions. I must admit that I prefer the dancing in Bollywood movies.

All the dancers were women.

Those playing males
Didn't wear veils.

Saturday, October 01, 2005


Excuse me if I sound like an anti-U.N. snob,
But they don't do a very good job.

So when they ask to control the Net
I vote "nyet."

Friday, September 30, 2005


I fear we have a WikiConstitution.
I fear that Roberts isn't the solution.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Giant Squid

They finally filmed a giant squid!
How did a thing like that stay hid?

Bashful of publicity,
It skulked beneath the deep blue sea.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

New Study Proves...

Of all the news, my favorite type
Are little studies stuffed with hype.

Serenity Sneak

I saw the Serenity movie tonight. I thought it was a good continuation of the Firefly story. So if you like Firefly, I heartily recommend the film. A couple of major mysteries were resolved in ways that satisfied me. If you really don't care for Firefly, skip the movie. Essentially, it's more of the same, but translated to the big screen.

The stunt they're attempting to pull off is a lot like what was done with Star Trek. Take a cancelled series with a cult following and make a successful movie out of it. There were some noticeable changes. For starters, they had a bigger budget, so they didn't spend so much time doing the "visit to the low-tech planet" where they can get by with old Western sets. The movie had a higher tech look, even though it still had that "space opera meets horse opera" feeling to it. The story line veered deeper into science fiction territory as well, but the captain still gave off a "Confederate Soldier in the Old West" vibe.

River, the teen girl whose brain has been manipulated and programmed by the government, finally starts coming into her own. She reminded me of a very disturbed version of Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Her fight scenes were riveting. The True Believing Assassin was quite the scary villain, spouting off authoritatively with his authoritarian "peace at any price" spiel - and meaning it.

It did not feel like a stretched out one hour episode to me, which was a problem on some of the Star Trek movies. The film had story and action galore, and even some character development. I thought they did a good job of filling in some back story for the sake of new viewers, while still holding the interest of old viewers. Of course, since I'm an "old viewer," I am not the very best judge of that.

I think Monica White did a good job of describing why the show appeals to Rand fans so often:

"For me, what the show gets so right — what sets it apart from every other show I’ve seen — is the fact that the morality is so damn close to what I agree with. The characters don’t faff about — they know which action will give them the most benefit personally and pursue it without qualms. There is no apology for what would usually be considered crude opportunism."

(For a dissenting view about the show from a very well-read Rand-fan, see [info]shannon_f_r's post from today.)

I hope the film makes lots of revenue
So that someday I can see
Serenity II
And Serenity III.

Sunday, September 25, 2005


Whenever I am feeling glum,
I contemplate my opposable thumb.
It opens and closes on my command.
What a great thing to have on hand!

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Green Birds

Marsha & I took the dogs for a walk today. As we went by the 91st Street train station, I heard an unusual bird call. Looking up, I spotted the bird - sitting alone atop the station's spire.

It looked like a small green parrot. We pointed the bird out to another couple who was walking by. They advised us there was a whole flock of these green birds in the park next to the station. This advice proved correct. We knew what they were - they were the famous Hyde Park Parakeets, descendants of pets who somehow got free. We had never seen them in our neighborhood before. Perhaps they're moving in!

Marsha says there were fifteen.
I say twenty.
Perhaps the truth is in between.
Anyway, there were plenty.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Serenity Now! Well, Soon!

Serenity is coming to a screen near you - in just one week. Here's an official synopsis:

"Joss Whedon, the Oscar® - and Emmy - nominated writer/director responsible for the worldwide television phenomena of BUFFY THE VAMPIRE, ANGEL and FIREFLY, now applies his trademark compassion and wit to a small band of galactic outcasts 500 years in the future in his feature film directorial debut, Serenity. The film centers around Captain Malcolm Reynolds, a hardened veteran (on the losing side) of a galactic civil war, who now ekes out a living pulling off small crimes and transport-for-hire aboard his ship, Serenity. He leads a small, eclectic crew who are the closest thing he has left to family –squabbling, insubordinate and undyingly loyal."

I haven't seen the film yet, but I loved Firefly, the TV series on which the film is based. The resourceful and defiant spirit of Malcolm Reynolds is a continued joy to behold.

Refuses to die.

By the way, I have been bribed with a possible free screening to plug the film, which I would have done anyway, but I thought I should tell.
Otherwise I might go to unethical blogger hell.

Dog News

I guess I should blog
About my new dog.
I looked all around
At the City Pound
And quickly grabbed
A young black Lab.

He's just lovely. Pretty well behaved for a stray. Apparently housebroken. Looked at our cats but didn't bark at them. Is getting along peachily with our other dog.

Because he's a stray, the Animal Control folks didn't really know anything about him. They had him listed as a Lab Mix, but to me he looks like he conforms to the breed standard. I don't really care, but I suspect he's purebred.

What's funny is that my other dog, Juliette, looks less like a Lab, but has purebred Lab papers! I saw her mother, and her mother looked just like a Lab, but Juliette has a longish coat which has a reddish cast in places.

Juliette's looks are explained much better
By assuming her mama knew an Irish Setter.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Guess Who

Robert Bidinotto asks which country has the most violent assaults per capita?

Do you think it's the U.S.?
That is not a winning guess.

Live Coverage

JetBlue provides satellite TV for its passengers. Yesterday, one of their planes - flight 292 - faced a hazardous landing, because the front wheels had locked in an incorrect position. It was picked up on TV news, so the passengers were able to watch news stories about their own plight.

This freaked a lot of them out. You know how cable news hypes disasters waiting to happen.

In the end the plane landed safely, with a spectacular shower of sparks coming off the front wheels. Apparently Airbus Jets have a history of front wheels locking up at a 90 degree angle, but somehow no one's been hurt.

This is your pilot, here at JetBlue.
Welcome aboard flight 292.
We've got a spot of trouble - so tune in Channel 85
And watch your fate unfolding - LIVE!

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Lazy Terrorists

There's this terrorist guy, see. He got caught. Here is one of his big complaints:

That other terrorists are too lazy: "we were wasting our time sleeping and engaging in idle chit chat."

Perhaps this partially explains why there has been no spectacular follow-up to 9/11 in the U.S.

Rockabye terrorists,
In your dark holes
Just keep on chatting
Forget all your goals.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005


Sometimes Ayn Rand is criticized for her very negative take on "sacrifice." She took it to mean giving up a greater value for the sake of a lesser.

Some argue the word doesn't always mean that. And you do hear people use "sacrifice" sometimes to refer to things like being thrifty with their money in the present so that they can reap larger rewards later.

So I was struck at this little exchange in a novel I just finished reading:

"Mama." Searching for words, Kate turned her cup around and around. "I know how you and Dad sacrificed-"

"Wait." Dark eyes kindling, Natasha tapped her fingers hard on the table. "Maybe, after all these years my English is failing. I don't understand the word sacrifice when it comes to my children. You have never been a sacrifice."

(From Considering Kate by Nora Roberts.)

It's very rare that sacrifice
Means something warm and nice.

Off Track

The commuter line I usually ride had a fatal accident Saturday. Two passengers were killed. The train was going 69 in a 10 mph zone. The engineer was a relatively recent hire.

Was it the brakes or the man that failed?
Anyway, the train derailed.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Lord of War

I saw the new Nicolas Cage movie about an amoral arms dealer.

As I watched Lord Of War
I got bored more and more.

EDIT (spoiler alert): I suppose my main complaints were:
1) I felt the story didn't surprise me much, contrary to my expectation that it would be a thriller.
2) Cage's character starts off amoral, but goes on to betray the things he actually does love and the few principles he has. He is doing a lot of voiceover narration, too, so his view of life permeates the movie that much more.
3) While I agree with the film's moral - that it's wrong to put weapons into the hands of bad people, I don't think the weapons dealers bear the main blame for all these horrid little wars around the world.

The movie did have some positive qualities, despite the strength of my negative reaction. Cage does a good job with his character - he came alive as this sympathetic/despicable man. As an educational film about how the underground arms trade works, a lot of it looked plausible in outline, although "dramatized" in normal Hollywood fashion, and turning a little conspiratorial at the end.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Marsha Talks

Marsha gave a talk on education - and her college project - at LAON tonight, a meeting organized by none other than the [info]theinimitable_l. Her talk was well-received, I thought.

She wants to start a college
That isn't a factory
For stuffing knowledge
Into brains refractory.

EDIT: fixed bad links above.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Jet Sag

Rhyme of the day
Is live from L.A.
But I'm tired as a dog -
Too tired to blog.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

The World Of Yesterday

This month our book club did The World of Yesterday by Stefan Zweig. Zweig was an important Viennese writer and poet of the early twentieth century. Like so many Viennese luminaries of that time, he came from an assimilated Jewish background, and was devastated by the rise of Naziism.

The book is a memoir of his life, with a political and cultural focus, but with nothing mentioned of his occasionally scandalous love life. The story ends with him in his 60's, living in exile in Brazil during World War II. Sad to say, he began to think Hitler was likely to win the war, and in despair he took his own life.

I kept wishing, as I read, that he and his fellows had spoken out sooner about anti-semitic fascism. They seemed to think it was too barbaric to dignify with refutations. After all, everybody who was anybody knew it was all nonsense, and surely it would fizzle out before too long.

Of course they were wrong,
And their error was great.
Before too long
It was too late.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Technical Question

Why, oh why
Do PC power supplies die?

Oh well,
The good news is that Dell
Is sending a new one.

I guess I could rhyme that with "fun"
But that would be a lie.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Bed Frames

It's being reported that the 11 children, some of whom were sleeping in cages at night, are polite and well behaved.

The adoptive parents say they were following a psychiatrist's recommendations. I wonder if this could turn out to be true. There are some wacky psychiatrists in the world.

I'm just worried this will start a new fad.
In twenty years all the kids who are bad
Or impolite
Will sleep in cages at night.

No Fear

Chris Rock
Loves to shock.

I'm not talking about the sitcom that's new this fall
That stars a child actor playing Chris when he was small.
I have a hunch that won't be shocking at all.

No, I mean
His every-tenth-word-is-obscene
Stand-up routine.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Child's Play

We went to the beach Saturday. Some kids near us were playing in the sand at the edge of the water. They were playing New Orleans. They would build a levee of sand and watch it get eroded by incoming waves. I didn't watch them in detail, I just listened.

Marsha talked to their mother, who expressed fear that her kids would offend someone. Apparently the kids had seen the TV reporting, and had been upset about what they saw. Marsha thought it was just the kids' way of coming to terms with the disaster.

I guess if you can build a model of what went wrong, and watch it replay the disaster, the causality becomes clear. Then it's no longer an inexplicable evil, but rather an understandable failure - hopefully one that can be avoided in the future.

A model in the sand
Death and destruction
Helps them understand.

Honk if it's your Anniversary!

We stayed in Saugatuck, Michigan last night for our 29th wedding anniversary. At 1 in the morning we woke up to the sound of a car horn continuously sounding. Not honk-honk-honk. More like hooooooonk - one long sound without end.

That's right, it was our Buick Rendezvous.

I grabbed a pair of pants and a shirt and went running outside - barefoot, shirt completely unbuttoned. I got in the SUV and started it up. Still the horn played on. I tried different buttons and controls. No relief. So I started driving - at least that way the neighbors could go back to sleep. I drove several miles to the interstate.

Once out on the interstate, I had the idea to pull over and kill the ignition. No effect. Then I turned the ignition back on again. Finally. Relief. Blessed silence. But now I was on the interstate, with nine miles to go to the next stop where I could turn around. So I still had 20 minutes of driving to do!

By the way, now the horn doesn't work at all, even if you lean on it. Go figure.

A horn's job is to sound a warning,
And NOT to go off on its own at one in the morning!

Friday, September 09, 2005

Do Not Enter

The people of New Orleans were being told to evacuate by the bridge into Gretna City.

And the Gretna City police were apparently blocking the bridge because they didn't want "these people" to enter their bedroom suburb.

Whether or not this had something to do with race,
It's a simple disgrace.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Permanent Record

One day in the early '90s I walked into the University of Chicago Hospital. I had an appointment with a doctor I had never seen. As a new patient I had to register. The clerk asked for my name and date of birth, and she typed them into her computer.

Then she asked: "Were you born here?"

As a matter of fact, I was.

She told me I had a very low patient i.d. number. That was her clue. They had assigned i.d. numbers in chronological sequence.

I hadn't been there since. But they had me on their computer! This was unusual dedication to keeping good records, and impressed me deeply.

I was surprised they recalled
Me at all.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Crossing the Red Cross

Here's a disturbing story - if it checks out. Remember how the folks in the Superdome lacked food and water? Remember how the Mayor complained that no one was sending help? Well according to this story, the Red Cross had food and water for them - but was blocked from delivering it by officials of the State of Louisiana.

Why? Allegedly because food and water would attract more people to the Superdome!

For the rest of the night, my brain
Will officially refrain
From thinking anymore about this stuff.
I've had more than enough.

EDIT:Video here.


There's an old meaning of forgiveness, still in use, that has to do with debts rather than wrongs. When you forgive a debt you tell the debtor they don't have to pay.

Then there's the meaning that has to do with wrongs - deciding not to hold a person's wrongs against them. Does it always conflict with the practice of justice? Of if time has passed and the person is no longer doing wrong, is it justice in the present to forgive the person? Does it depend on what wrong the person did? Are some things simply unforgivable?

There's an argument that forgiveness is good for the forgiver, because the forgiver is happier once he lets go of his anger.

Sometimes it's hard to budge
A long-held grudge.

EDIT: This topic came up because my daughter was reading the biblical story of Joseph, whose brothers sold him into slavery. In seminar, she asked why Joseph had eventually forgiven his brothers, which is a good question.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Looking On The Bright Side

I guess I shouldn't pout
That Chicago has a drought.
It's better than being swirled around
In a hurricane and drowned.
In fact, a Chicago summer without showers
Is only a pain if you're growing grass or flowers.
Otherwise, having sunny day after sunny day
Makes it kind of like L.A.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Profane Rants

Here are 2 swear-word loaded rants related to Katrina.

Foamy The Squirrel complains about the news media in an audio file. Thank you [info]kraorh for the link.

Eject!Eject!Eject! has a very long rant about different kinds of people involved in the disaster. Thank you Instapundit for the link.

I don't 100% agree with either, but I enjoyed them both.

Even if you don't usually curse,
Some events call forth a burst.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Uh Oh

It has become frightfully clear
That it's a big mistake to shoot at the Army Corps of Engineers.
A bunch of guys did, and reportedly five
Are no longer alive.

Endurance Sports FAQ

Q: Is it true you went running today through a spot where vicious dogs attacked people yesterday?
A: Yes. But the cops killed the dogs. It must be safe now.

Q: How far did you run today?
A: 21 miles. But I hadn't done any exercise all week.

Q: What? You don't run every day?
A: No.

People think that just because you run a marathon or two per year that you must be a compulsive daily jogger.
But I'm not. I'm just a compulsive daily blogger.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Acquired Taste

In a dehydrated state,
Gatorade tastes great.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Atlas At Last?

Idly I wondered whether anyone had written about the disturbing similarity between the current state of New Orleans and the collapse of American civil society as portrayed toward the end of Atlas Shrugged.

So I went a-googling, and sure enough I found this. Appropriately enough, the story is dated September 2, which is the day on which Atlas Shrugged begins. The author states that the guy who has the rights to Atlas is still unsure whether to film it as 2 movies, or as a TV mini-series.

I say do it on HBO
As a three year show.


I just finished reading Psyche, by Phyllis Brett Young, a Canadian best seller from 1959. It's about a young woman who is kidnapped as a toddler, and who remembers almost nothing of her life before the kidnapping. It's part suspense story, part coming-of-age novel, and part fairy tale. The setting is closely described, but for some reason not explicitly named. However, major clues lead to Ottawa, Ontario, which is the site of Canada's National Gallery. The lead character, in often dire circumstances, always carries herself with a sense of nobility, and I found the book very enjoyable and touching. (A big thank you goes to Cynthia Gillis for recommending the book.)

Through agony and doubt,
Nobility will out.

EDIT: Cynthia says it's Toronto, with a brief trip to Ottawa, and a major trip to the mines north of Toronto. She's originally from our Neighbour to the North, so I believe her.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Broken Windows

There's an idea called The Broken Windows Theory. It's not about Microsoft.

"First expressed by political scientist James Q. Wilson and criminologist George Kelling in an article for The Atlantic Monthly in 1982, the theory holds that if someone breaks a window in a building and it is not quickly repaired, others will be emboldened to break more windows. Eventually, the broken windows create a sense of disorder that attracts criminals, who thrive in conditions of public apathy and neglect."

I think there's some truth to the theory, and I'm guessing that's part of what went wrong in New Orleans. Police let the looting go on, and the looters became emboldened.

Glenn Reynolds writes:

"When I was on Grand Cayman last month, several people told me that looting became a problem after Hurricane Ivan, but quickly stopped when the police shot several looters. That's because looters usually value life over property too. As I've said before, I don't think that people helping themselves to emergency supplies are to be blamed, but that's not what we're talking about here. Those who don't get this are either sadly uninformed or deliberately obtuse."

The descent into chaos that we are witnessing will be argued about for a long time.

The fingerpointing has just begun
And may never be done,
But I suspect it's best not to wait:
Stop looters before it's too late.