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.