Thursday, June 30, 2005

Johnny Gault

We watched The Outsider last night and tonight. It's a cowboy movie, reminiscent of Shane and/or High Noon, but not at the same quality level. It first showed up a few years ago on Showtime.

Here's the funny thing. The gunfighter hero, played by Tim Daly, is named Johnny Gault.

Maybe it's just a coincidence. After all, there was a nineteenth century novelist named John Galt, and I don't recall any evidence that Ayn Rand had him in mind when she named her hero.

But in the case of Ragnar's last name, she was caught red-handed. As my wife tells the story:

'Once I mentioned to her that I had noticed where she got the name Danneskjold from Victor Hugo’s first novel, Hans of Iceland, in which the hero becomes the first of the Counts of Danneskjold! I thought this was a great tribute to him, but she worriedly said to me "Oh yes, but it wasn’t plagiarism because there really were counts of Danneskjold!"'

I don't say the writer's at fault
For calling this guy Johnny Gault,
But he sure would have been a big dork
If the villian were named Howie Rourke!

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Poetic Justice

I was testing my invisible dog fence tonight. I meant to test it with a little light bulb you wrap around the collar prongs. But I accidentally tested it with my hand. Yow.

That's what the Bard
Called hoist by your own petard.

And speaking of poetic Justice, my friend Logan Darrow Clements has hit a home run with his idea of seizing Justice Souter's home to build the Lost Liberty Hotel. He has made the Washington Post, and Hannity and Colmes.

I know it's your house, Justice Souter,
But you gave the gun to the looter.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Madison, WI

[info]kraorh recently proposed that NIF meetings be held in Madison, so on my trip back from my triathlon this Saturday I should probably drop by and see how Lake Mendota is doing. I haven't been to Madison since ten years ago when TOC held its summer seminar there. (I'm in the 3rd from last row, 3rd person from the viewer's right.)

1995 was the year of a literal killer heat wave in Chicago; Madison was a few degrees hotter and deadly as well.

Up until that year, each TOC summer seminar had included a traditional softball game. That year a game was started one afternoon, but ended after a couple of innings as everyone turned red and got dizzy. That was the last of that tradition!

On the day
Assigned for play
We rented a boat
And went for a float
On beautiful Lake Mendota.

History Repeats Itself... sort of

Famous woman novelist falls in love with a younger man, and sets him up in a business. Years later he falls out of love and she accuses him of defrauding her. Sound familiar?

That's right, it's Terry McMillan, author of Waiting To Exhale and How Stella Got Her Groove Back.

If you saw or read the story of Stella, you know how Stella went to Jamaica and fell for a charming younger man. Apparently that story is partly based on McMillan's own life. But recently her young man from Jamaica - whom she wed - announced he is gay. So she threw him out of her house and an expensive divorce is in the works.

This is bad for McMillan, considering this week's news that divorce can be hazardous to your health.

McMillan isn't chillin'.
She's breathing fast and seething.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Taking a Trip to Tri

Yipes. I impulsively signed up for a triathlon this coming Saturday in Wisconsin. Now I have to go do it. After all, I just paid money for it. Well, at least it's a nice short one. How bad can it be?

I just realized this is a good opportunity for some literary research. I'm working on a story that involves a woman who lives in a small town in Wisconsin. Just the sort of town this tri is near.

So my plan to visit Badgerland
Is doubly grand.

After the tri, I'll try to pay attention
To details I can mention.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Not Her Type?

My wife is reading the Valliant book the old-fashioned way, from the beginning. Today she quoted him as saying that apparently Rand had never explicitly denied having an affair with Branden.

But I remember her being asked about this during a Q&A session, which must have been at Ford Hall Forum. As I recall, she did deny it, and went on to add that besides, Branden was "not my type." This got a big laugh.

I believed her. I was wrong. In retrospect, I can see where she could truthfully add that "not my type" remark. But I THINK the denial was explicit. I don't have it on tape, so I'm admittedly relying on memory here.

In OPAR, Peikoff wrote that "lying is necessary and proper in certain cases to protect one's privacy from snoopers". I'm guessing she would have agreed with this.

The truth can hurt
When it's turned into dirt
And flung at your face
In a public place.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Feeling Sorry for Ayn Rand

"Mr. Enright reads every newspaper in town. They are all brought to his office - with the editorial pages cut out." (The Fountainhead, speaking of the fictional Roger Enright.)

I'm emulating Roger so far in my reading of James Valliant's new book. I went straight to the 2nd half of the book, the half which is built around Ayn Rand's personal journals. I proceeded to read only the journal excerpts - skipping everything Valliant has to say.

Naturally, my eyes still slip and read some of Valliant's prose. But as soon as I realize this is happening, I fast-forward to Rand's next anguished but insightful thought.

I'll go back and read Valliant later.

Meanwhile, my heart goes out to her. I wish I could shout to her:

You're being deceived,
And you're caught in a trap,
Please stop believing
His "celibate" crap.

Of course, it's pointless to yell. She's deep on a trip into personal hell.

Friday, June 24, 2005

A Drug That's Not For Me

The FDA has approved a new heart medicine that, statistically speaking, works for black people but not for white folks.

Strangely, at least one bioethicist seems to see a problem with this.

'"There are many, many who claim these use of [racial] categories may not have any biological meaning, only social meaning, and basing medical decisions on them may be problematic,'' said David Magnus, director of the Stanford Medical Center for Biomedical Ethics."'

Well. Imagine that. "Many, many." Just how many is that? And just because a lot of people make such a claim, does that give the claim some kind of standing? Is scientific truth something we vote on?

And if scientific testing reveals the drug somehow works differently for black people, isn't that excellent evidence that biology is somehow involved in the whole black/white distinction?

Sometimes I wonder where they get these guys -
"Ethical experts" who specialize
In frowning and looking askance
At each medical advance.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

The Supremes Strike Again

Can anyone tell me what the deal with the Supreme Court is?
I mean, I'm not even sure what a "tort" is.
But how can it be "public use" at all
For a town to rip down my house to put up a mall?

And how can "interstate commerce" refer to weed
That people grew and smoked themselves?
I'm tempted to say these judges need to read
The dictionaries sitting on their shelves!

Dinner with a Marine

A good friend of my son's came over for dinner tonight. He's in the Marine Reserve and just got back from a tour of duty in Iraq. My wife stuffed him with food, including plenty of red meat, and we let him tell stories about what it was like in Iraq.

He's a smart, brave, and very impressive young man.

Periodically, he would mention some bit of dark twisted humor that appealed to the Marines in Iraq. He would start to explain, "well, yeah, this is really sick, but..." I suppose it's the feeling that no one over here can understand what it feels like to be over there.

But I have a fair imagination. I know war is heck. And somehow it's not the place for politically correct humor.

When all is well,
People don't like the way sick jokes sound.
But in hell,
They abound.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Bad Boys Online

I just finished reading Bad Boys Online by Erin McCarthy.

Yes, it's from the Romance section, but it was very funny and quite erotic, which is not the easiest combination to achieve. It's really a collection of three novelettes: Hard Drive, Press Any Key, User Friendly. Each story quickly spins into wild sex, and each story ends up with declarations of mutual love. It's that last part, the declarations of mutual love - including a marriage proposal or two - that distinguishes Romance Erotica.

I really enjoyed some of the writing:

"...her inhibitions melting like marshmallows over a campfire."

"Jealous was good. As long as it was the mild, healthy kind, not the intense, bunny-boiling kind of jealous."

"Two years worth of hormones flooded up and out as if the Hoover Dam had been attacked by a sledge hammer."

The horizontal dance
Begins this sort of romance.
But then, sure enough, it proceeds
To discussing emotional needs.

Of course, the story can't quit
Till the couples finally commit,
Since, in the end, it's all about how
Lovers get to a vow.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

5 Things Meme

[info]tyalangan tagged me for this...

Post five things you enjoy, even when no one around you wants to go out and play. What lowers your stress/blood pressure/anxiety level? Post it to your journal, and then tag 5 friends and ask them to post it to theirs.

1) Wandering the stacks of a library
2) Playing with dogs
3) Running twenty miles
4) Listening to Saint-Saens' 5th Piano Concerto (the "Egyptian")
5) Meditating on my pulse

Now, if you feel a sudden need
To make up your very own list -
Then do it. You have been secretly tagged.
Do it! I insist.

Our Friend, The Atom

This message is brought to you by nuclear power. Well, 70% of it, anyway.

That's the percentage of Chicago electricity that comes from nukes, and they're talking about building a new one! I'm rather relieved see that nuclear energy is somehow becoming politically acceptable again. No new ones have been built in the U.S. for 27 years.

Right now you need too much government permission
To engage in consenting acts of fission.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Father's Day for Sperm Donors

Here's an interesting article about an increasing trend - grown children tracking down sperm donor dads. I know, the donor may have had an ironclad contract, and even special laws, to protect his anonymity and shield him from responsibility. But the kids weren't party to those agreements, and tend to feel they have a right to know.

About the time they're teens,
They start thinking:
Where did I get these stinking genes?

Father's Day Rhyme - Overheard

When I was out on my bicycle, I saw a man holding a boy upside down by his feet. He swung him side to side, chanting this rhyme:

Tick tock, tick tock,
Goes the Patrick cuckoo clock.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Personal Best, I Think

I ran a small local 5k today in Alsip, IL. They took a long time figure out who got what medal, which is always a worrisome sign. Then they screwed up someone else's medal and time. Uh oh.

I'm pretty sure I ran the race in 22:04. I believe that's what I heard them call out when I crossed the finish line. I remember as I ran toward the finish I was trying to come in under 22 minutes. But I forgot to hit the button on my stop watch as I finished, so I am relying on memory.

They gave me a silver medal in my age group, but in the awards ceremony they said my time was 23 something. Nooooo! I want 22:04, because that's my fastest 5k ever. Hopefully they will straighten out their records and send me a corrected time on a post-card.

If you don't remember to hit the button,
A stop watch ain't worth nuttin'.

Concert in the Park

Went to an all-British-composer concert in Millenium Park. The big piece was Vaughan Williams' Sea Symphony, which is a big choral symphony. I like the work. As I was reading the lyrics I kept thinking... "This sounds so much like Walt Whitman. I wonder who it really is."

Yeah. That's right. Walt himself.

With long lines flowing and going here and about
Like one long prophetic poetic shout!

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Easily Accessible

I was sitting in my ophthamologist's office today, watching him make careful notes about my eyes on index cards, and I thought of this story about politicians pushing for a law to make medical records electronic.

My first thought was why should a bunch of politicians interfere in my doctor's chosen method of record-keeping?

My second thought had to do with data security. Which do you think is easier to keep secure? A set of index cards... or personal information in a big national database?

"We need to have the information easily accessible," said Sen. Hillary Clinton.

Senator, I fear your cure
Is worse than what we now endure.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Randar and the Anxiety of Influence

One of my friends found an excerpt of Noble Vision and was so upset by the style that he has decided not to read it. The problem, at least in part, is that the style is reminiscent of Rand's. He wants something more original.

Actually, the style is reminiscent of Rand's in some ways, and not in others. Gen LaGreca's sentence structures, for example, are quite different than Rand's. Her use of metaphor is not much like Rand's either. There are some noticeable areas of overlap; certain phrases and ideas are direct clues to Rand's influence. The phrase "the best within", followed by a pronoun, is a good example.

In The Anxiety Of Influence, Harold Bloom put forth the idea that writers typically begin under the influence of another writer, whom they wish to emulate while working to develop their own voices and themes. I think that's typically true. Early Keats sounds a lot more like Milton than later Keats.

The problem was emotionally acute for the Romantic poets, because they believed in originality as a key aspect of art. A similar logic often plays out for Objectivists, both as creators and critics. In fact, Objectivists and former Objectivists have a sharp sense of Randar, by which they can detect the remotest presence of the lady's influence.

As for me, I try not to be distracted by the background bleeping of my Randar when I take in a Rand-influenced artwork like Noble Vision. I instead focus on appreciating the artwork on its own terms, as a self-contained entity with its own purposes. I found Noble Vision very enjoyable this way. I'm sure it will not suit all tastes, of course.

For example, its love story is rather sweetly told from a feminine point of view, and lacks that hard edge found in Rand's love stories. This will surely not suit some people. As for me, I've been reading a lot of romance novels lately, and I'm actually enjoying them, so you can see I have a high tolerance for sweet love stories.

Another friend of mine liked Noble Vision very much. (Actually, he liked it better than he liked my novel, in part because my hero and heroine engage in such nastiness - by his standards.)

I'm reading romance novels.
I don't usually boast of it.
But if this be sappiness,
Make the most of it.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Finding Yourself... Or Not

It turns out that Deep Throat, the boomer nostalgia hero, was in charge of unmasking himself.

It's like letting Clark Kent
Report where Superman went.

Iraq's Cool Religious Minorities

For a moment, put aside all thoughts of the Muslims - Sunni, Shia, Sufi, whatever - and focus on 2 really cool religions whose adherents live mainly in Iraq:

In Northern Iraq, the Yezidi pray to angels, and to Lucifer in particular. In their version of the story, Lucifer turned to good deeds, created the world, and has been forgiven. They call him Malak Taus ("peacock angel"). Maybe identifying him with the Lucifer of Christian theology is unfair - maybe it's just a vaguely parallel misbehaving angel story. The Yezidi themselves don't mind calling him Lucifer, but they refuse to call him Satan.

In Southern Iraq, the Mandeans hold John the Baptist in high esteem but see Jesus as a false prophet. If you're a Mandean you can expect to be baptized several times a year. They are the oldest surviving Gnostic sect. Their main symbol is a cross with a piece of cloth on it, but they say it has nothing to do with the Christian cross.

Somehow in the desert heat
They come up with visions that can't be beat!

Monday, June 13, 2005

Michael Jackson

Yeah, so Michael gets off. Oops. That doesn't sound right. I did expect this. The prosecution's witnesses were bad. And there's no law - thank goodness - against being weird.

Still, anyone who sends a kid to sleep in Michael's bed
Has a hole in their head.

Too Many Boys

Apparently too many boys are growing up in the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints. It's a polygamous sect that occupies 2 towns on either side of the Utah-Arizona border.

Human beings are produced at a roughly 50/50 male/female ratio. That's a problem if you favor a one-to-many husband/wife ratio. It leaves a lot of young men without any chance of getting wives of their own. Before you know it, they will start making trouble of one kind or another, including the eyeing of older men's young wives.

So the cult leaders look for excuses to kick the young men out.

Keep one boy out of twenty
And there will be wives aplenty!

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Self-Defense In The News

A female robber comes into a 7-11 with a gun. One of the 7-11 employees manages to take the gun away and hold the robber until the police arrived. This occurred in West Virginia.

What do you think his reward was from the 7-11 corporate overlords? He was fired, because 7-11 policy prohibits interfering with robberies!

Last week, the WV State Supreme Court ruled that they couldn't fire him for defending himself. EDIT: Actually, the case was decided in 2001, but interest in the case was renewed when was discussed last week on

Once I thought the right to self-defense
Was simply common-sense.
I guess it's trickier than I thought,
And needs to be taught.

And, speaking of the right to self-defense, here's an interesting article by a Canadian grappling with the idea that gun rights are human rights - and the only reliable way to stop genocide. As one commenter phrased it: The Right To Keep And Bear Arms - It's Not Just For Americans Anymore.

It's harder doing harm
When your victims are armed.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Catching Toads

Today I went for a long bicycle ride in the heat. At one point I met 2 little blonde girls, sisters I think, maybe 9 and 6 years of age. They very seriously showed me two toads they had caught. Apparently they catch the same toads regularly, and then let them go again.

In the grass at the end of the road
The two little girls catch toads.

And they showed
Them to me
Very seriously.

Friday, June 10, 2005


Today at lunch I was looking at Augustine's Confessions in Latin, and I had the thought: this seems like it rhymes a lot. I've had a lifetime of rhyme, but only 2 years of Latin, so I wasn't absolutely sure.

Then on my train ride home, reading the preface to a translation of the work, I came across this: "He loved to use rhymes in his prose... The presence of so much rhyming in the Latin diction presents an insoluble problem for the translator. It is impossible to reproduce in another language without resulting in absurdity." (p. x)

I never knew Augustine,
Besides being a major Christian old-timer
Was a big Latin rhymer!

I mean,
Who had any idea that his Confessions
Were more or less rap sessions?

Early Retirement

Yesterday evening I slept like a log.
I didn't even wake up to blog
Nor to feed my starving dogs.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Portrait of a Marriage

Tonight at my book club we discussed Portrait of a Marriage: Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson. The book is listed as authored by Nigel Nicolson. In fact, 2 of the book's 5 chapters are straight from an autobiographical piece by Vita Sackville-West, who was also Nigel's mum.

In his 3 chapters, Nigel keeps telling us how wonderful their marriage was, but I somehow was left unconvinced. It was certainly an unusual relationship. Both of them were bisexual, with strong same-sex leanings, and the physical side of their relationship died out early on. But they did have a lot of shared life together and a deep emotional bond of some kind.

In her 2 chapters, Vita gives an account of her "duality" and tells the story of an intense lesbian affair that threatened her marriage and social standing. Her account appeared only after she died and her son found it in her papers.

For most of their marriage, they followed their druthers
And only had sex with others.

Hazards of GPS

A 9 year old girl died Saturday in Chicago when a porch railing gave way. An inspector had visited the building 33 hours earlier. The inspector had been there because the City had received a complaint about an inside stairway - not about the porch.

The inspector is being fired by the City. Not because he failed to inspect the porch. After all, he hadn't been asked to do that.

He's being fired because he falsified his inspection report after the girl died. He apparently got scared that he would take major heat for not looking at the porch. So he filed a false report saying he had looked at the porch and found problems with it. He must have thought he would look like an ace.

But he was carrying a City-issued cellphone with a GPS tracking system built in. He was at the site for 13 minutes, which wasn't enough time to inspect both interior stairs and a porch.

Don't lie about your travels
When you're tracked by GPS.
Your story will unravel
Then you'll break down and confess.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005


61 years since D-Day. And we still have troops in Europe? I say, bring those troops home! It's clear that Europe is unable to form a cohesive nation, after all. We might as well write them off.

And while we're on the subject of Europe, exactly how does Europe have the nerve to consider itself a continent? Has anyone looked at a decent globe lately? Europe is obviously on the same continent that Asia is! Don't fall for the scam.

On a more serious note:

It was one hell of an attack,
But they knocked the Germans back.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Walking for Capitalism

Today was International Capitalism Day, so six of us took a nice walk up and down Michigan Avenue, holding signs. My sign just said "I (Heart) Capitalism." But with a heart drawn in, of course. I stole the idea from here.

Maybe next year I can do "I (Brain) Capitalism". I have to start practicing drawing a stylized brain.

One couple wanted a picture with us. One man quietly told me, "Good for you."

Telling the world what I feel
For the unknown ideal.

Noble Vision, Completed

I finished Gen LaGreca's novel, Noble Vision, a few minutes ago. I'm still under its spell, so this won't be a proper review, but I really enjoyed the book. It's a love story, a guide to how the government has messed up health care, and an inspiring tale of a battle against the bureaucratic mindset. The plot contains many surprises along the way, so I have to hold back and not spoil the story. Toward the end of the book, I was pausing after each chapter, afraid to go on. Why was I afraid? Because of characters I had started to love, who were moving forward into peril.

If you are familiar with Ayn Rand's writings, the influence - and the occasional homage - will be apparent to you. It's not that Noble Vision reads like a Rand novel. It doesn't. The story is definitely the author's own imagination at work.

The author is a professional writer in the health care field. Her style is generally of the deceptively-simple variety, which is a good way of making sure your reader follows your carefully-constructed suspense-plot. But periodically she bursts out with a sentence or two of poetry.

The book comes with the back-jacket endorsement of Milton Friedman, which is a tip-off that this is not your average love story. The author is intimately familiar with how the economics and politics of our health care system works today, and she projects how much worse it would be if states started implementing the "reforms" that so many "health care reformers" are always calling for, and how much better it would be if we could just get the state out of medicine.

But I knew all that. What held me was the spectacle of heroic characters fighting for their lives. That always holds me.

He has a noble vision
That requires an incision
And a drop or two of protein
At exactly the right time.

How can that be a crime?

Cinderella Man

Cinderella Man is a film biography of a real life character: James Braddock, heavyweight champion from 1935 to 1937. Braddock, played by Russell Crowe, is an admirable character who refuses to give up no matter what life throws him. Renee Zellweger is his wife, suitably supportive, worried sick, and spunky.

I suppose the film is a bit like Rocky, but based on a true story, and set in the Depression.

I was impressed
And not depressed.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Going That Extra Mile

While I was doing a 10k on Memorial Day, some people in Chicago were running the Lakeshore Marathon. Usually a marathon is 26.2 miles, but this one had something extra. Yep, it had 27.2 miles. There were other problems - like missing mile markers and unstaffed water stations.

The Tribune story says it was the only Spring marathon in Illinois. That's funny. I recall running an Illinois marathon this April. Maybe I dreamed it?

For some reason, the extra mile
Didn't make the runners smile.

But there's a smile on my face -
I'm so glad I skipped that race.

Thursday, June 02, 2005


Drops of water fall from the sky,
And fill me with joy. Are you wondering why?

Because the ground around here was dry and hard,
And I've got two hundred feet of invisible dog fence wire to bury in my yard.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Need More Wire!

Dog Radio Fencing has its interesting technical wrinkles, and I find I need to buy a second spool of wire to do my yard the way I want. That's because I need the Back Yard Double Loop layout you can see on this page.

Double the loop,
Means twice the wire.

That means another trip
To my supplier.

If I keep this up
I'll be a PetCo frequent flyer.