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.