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."