Thursday, September 28, 2006

Boy Do I Look Beat

The Accenture Chicago Triathlon has a website where you can see any given person finishing the race. I typed in my name and up came a snippet of video.

If you're curious, it's here. I cross at 6:02:05 on the far left side, wearing bib 6062.

In the past, some races would charge you a pretty penny for a "customized video", with only a few snippets of you. I like this way better.

It's perfect for a consumer like me -
I'm glad to watch it for "free".
I know it's built into the overall price,
But I still think it's nice.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Control Theory

When my second youngest brother was about 9, he came to me with a math question.

In school he was doing problems like:

9 + _ = 15

Of course, you're supposed to fill in the blank spot with 6.

He came to me and asked if there was a solution to a problem like this:

_ + _ = 15

I was stunned. I told him, yes, there's a solution, and it's a line.

That was the beginning of teaching him analytic geometry, and some calculus, while he was still in elementary school. I couldn't actually get him interested in the solving algebraic manipulation problems. But he loved graphing the solutions to equations.

He went on to get a Ph.D. in aeronautical engineering, specializing in control theory. Oh, and he wrote a textbook on that abstruse but practical topic.

I tutored my own children in math, too. I never got them interested in calculus while they were in elementary school. But my son is taking a professional path eerily similar to my brother - he's an aeronautical engineer publishing research in control theory.

I don't *think* my brother had that big an impact on my son.

What can this mean?
Is there a control theory gene?

Or does it seem
More likely I'm a carrier of the meme?

If Only They Were Just Running For Office

Glenn Reynolds links to a poll showing that the vast majority of Iraqi's don't like Al Qaeda. Who knew?

He suggests that mosque explosions
Haven't stirred up good emotions
Toward Al Qaeda in Iraq.

What a shock.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

More Fire

I've worked up a new poetry collection. I haven't put it on Amazon yet. If you're interested, you can download the pdf ("pretty darn frustrating") format free.

Regular readers of this blog, be forewarned, some poems are from this very location. Others are available online somewhere or other.

But I like the look
And feel of a book.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Odd Coincidence

Choriam posted recently about Ted Hughes. He was married to Sylvia Plath who committed suicide. Then he married another poet who committed suicide.

Was it just a bad run of luck?
How did he happen to get stuck
With not one, but two brides
Who were future suicides?

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Honoring a Founder

Spent the afternoon at a party honoring my wife for her role in founding - and helping run - Council Oak Montessori school, now in its 16th year.

The current issue of Chicago Magazine has a cover story entitled "The Best Elementary Schools," and Council Oak was listed among them.

The format of the afternoon was kind of a mix between a roast and a toast.

I gave a little talk about her, interspersed with rhyme, ending with this one:

Thank you, Marsha,
For working your butt off,
And helping this school
Make the cut-off.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Tracked from the Sky

I went running for the first time with a satellite GPS unit that told me how fast I was going and how far I had gone.

It's a Garmin Forerunner 201. I got it from Amazon for 109.99.

It took a little time at the start to establish the satellite link. Once I was running, it seemed to stay linked up - except when I was running under railroad viaducts. Of course, I was running mostly through Chicago neighborhoods - very flat, amid houses.

It had a few peculiarities. It doesn't really give you instantaneous speed. It gives you an average over a minute or so. So when you change speeds it takes a little while to really register.

It was fun to know
Just how fast, or rather... slow
My feet would go.

Not a Dry Run

Out for a run,
Caught in the rain,
Soaked through and through.

Water in my shoes
But I don't complain.
Sloshing is fun.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Summer's End

Ah, the days of Autumn.
I cannot say I sought them.
But since they're here, I'll take them,
And as leaves fall, I'll rake them.


First the Commerce department loses 1,100 computers, mostly from the Census Bureau.

Then there's John Mark Karr. He's the creep who claimed he killed Jon Benet. But he was also in trouble for having child porn on his computer. The cops confiscated his computer - a few years back - but now they can't find it.

There's a need for remedial lessons, given by tutors,
To explain ways to lessen this strange loss of lots of computers.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Have You Heard?

Hearing voices, often taken to be a sign of something wrong in the noggin, occurs in many people who seem to be fine.

The voices in my head?
Don't tell them to be quiet.
They'll stop when I am dead.
Till then, they all run riot.

I don't always pay attention
To what they have to say.
I brush off their dissension
When I've settled on a way.

But frequently, I listen,
Because of what I've heard -
That precious bits of wisdom
Might show up in these words -

And I don't wanna miss 'em
When that finally occurs!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Talk Like A Pirate Day

When a pirate vessel docks,
So the men can shop for socks,
Their preference brings smiles:

I believe I stole the pun from [info]humblepie.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Making Tracks to the Axis of Evil

Don Parrish gave a fabulous account of his trip to North Korea. Very few outsiders ever get in, and Americans are the least welcome. It seems they see us as the Imperialist Power which is the source of all their problems. He went with four other people who are very experienced at traveling to the ends of the earth.

You want to visit North Korea?
Most likely they don't wanna see ya!

I have a friend who saw their capital,
Watched by a soldier who took no crapatall.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Tortured Thoughts

A. People who are tortured will usually admit to anything. Such confessions, on their own, are valueless.

B. However, a tortured person may also give you information that can be investigated and verified independently.

C. If the person is innocent, you will have imposed horrible suffering unjustly.

D. Torture is, to say the least, cruel and unusual.

President Bush is harping on point B.

In philosophical circles, point B comes up in the "ticking bomb" dilemma, in which many innocent lives will be lost unless the terrorist is tortured into revealing the location of the ticking bomb. This sort of thing happens constantly to Jack Bauer on "24".

Jack Bauer,
In "24" hours,
must always act with urgency.

Is it an error
To equate the war on terror
With an ethical emergency?

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Perilous Papal Pronouncements

How will the Pope
Ever cope?

People of a different faith
Riot over what he saith.

Anyway, he was speaking, in passing, about the "sword verse" vs. the "no compulsion verse" in the Koran, and quoted from a medieval philosophical dialogue:
Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.
He didn't actually say this was the truth. But he did quote it. And he didn't say he disagreed.

The Pope himself came down on the side of "no compulsion" in religion. That's reassuring, since the Church he heads has historically made use of the sword at times.

He also talked about Aquinas, Kant, the scientific worldview, and the proper sphere of rational inquiry. So you can see he covered a lot of ground. (Full text here.)

Now a Turkish government official is comparing him to Mussolini and Hitler.

If this comparison occurred in an online discussion, it might end the argument, since it fulfills Godwin's Law:
There is a tradition in many newsgroups and other Internet discussion forums that once such a comparison is made, the thread is finished and whoever mentioned the Nazis has automatically "lost" whatever debate was in progress.
But this was declared in Real Life, in Turkey, which the Pope plans to visit soon.

I fear that the Pope
May end his life
At the end of a rope
Or the point of a knife.

His safety would be a better bet
If he stuck to appearing on the net,
Thus avoiding any Turks
Who might have chosen to go berserk.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Holiday in Hell

Tomorrow night - Saturday 8 pm at my house - free - Don Parrish will talk about his 2005 trip to North Korea.

Very few Americans get to visit this last gasp Communist outpost which is now arming itself to the teeth.

Don Parrish has circled the globe many times. He has a background in engineering and international business negotiations. A careful student of geopolitcal history, Don can be counted on to provide deep and original insights.

Curious people cherish
Talks by Mr. Parrish.

A liberty lover
Who heads off to discover
What's really going on -
That's Don.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Food Wonderful Food

Hicks linked to this report.
It's progress of a sort:

Experts claims that for the first time ever, there are more overweight people than hungry people in the world.

But I distrust this statistic.

After all, what about people on diets? A lot of them are overweight AND hungry. How did they get counted?

Though you may be overweight,
Though you may be far from sickly,
An under-loaded plate
Produces hunger quickly.

After the Deluge

I've regained my lawn.
Lake Enright is gone.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Last Night

It rained hard enough to make
My yard into a lake.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Sadistic Prank

So a guy posts a fake ad on Craig's List. He claims to be a young woman with submissive and masochistic desires, looking for a guy to, um, treat her right. He posts a provocative picture.

The guy doing the prank gets more than a hundred personal replies, including photos - of faces and other things - and lots of real names - and even some real work emails.

Then the guy posts all these replies on the internet, and asks for help in finding out more about the guys who replied.

When replying with work emails,
Be wary of fake females!

Monday, September 11, 2006

City of Big Boxes

Mayor Daley has vetoed the "Big-Box law" that would have hampered large stores by requiring them to pay higher wages than small stores.

He had declared his opposition to the ordinance a while ago, but vetoed it today - the first time he has ever vetoed anything.

He saw the flaw
And blocked the Big Box law.

City of Big Waistlines

Designer beef is gaining market share, particularly in Chicago, which happens to be the "big" city with the highest beef consumption.

It's my belief
That discerning diners
Should only eat beef
From top designers.

As for "cheeseborgers,"
Please make mine
Calvin Klein.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Probably For Their Own Good, Too

The Grand Mosque in Mecca gets crowded when prayer time rolls around. Dangerously crowded.

So Saudi officials are considering a solution: Why not ban women?

You'll have less of a crowd
If "No Girls Are Allowed!"

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Lincoln & Beaver

I've been seeing cryptic ads, feature Lincoln and a beaver, for a drug called Rozerem. I was guessing it was for depression (Lincoln) or obsessive toothpick chewing (beaver)... but no. It's for insomnia.

Well, I guess the beaver is less bizarre than that glow-in-the-dark moth that lands on your head in the Lunesta ads. If that thing ever showed up on my pillow, my eyes would pop wide open - and stay that way all night.

That moth is just plain creepy
And would never make me sleepy.

As for the beaver, I am
Telling it "go build a dam!"

Wait. Lincoln was famous for splitting logs. Beavers are famous for chewing through them. Could this have something to do with the old slang expression for snoring, i.e. "sawing logs"?!

I may be overthinkin'
With this final burst of linkin'.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Search Enginitis

If you're ill but feeling frugal,
Consult with Dr. Google.
From Scurvy to Halitosis
You'll get a diagnosis
Without the need
For some degreed
M.D. to prod
Your bod.

Fragrance Trance

Gardenia scent hovers
Over young lovers.

Your bridal bouquet -
I breathed it today.

In my mind. Then I flew
To Aruba with you,

And watched while the ocean
Rolled with slow motion,

And felt the new ring
On my finger.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Incumbent Protection Act

As of today, you can't run a broadcast ad criticizing specific members of Congress who are up for re-election. Which is most of them.

Worried about the free speech implications? Don't be! Once they're re-elected, you can buy air-time to criticize them again.

McCain and Feingold - thanks for protecting
All those incumbents who need re-electing!

I hope they feel safer - less troubled by doubt
That people might gang up and throw their butts out.

Thank goodness we've stopped all that partisan strife.
Once you get in - the seat's yours for life!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

I Hope The Train Had A/C

So this woman is riding on an Amtrak train with her 80-year old father. He dies in Colorado, in a sleeping cabin. Does she tell the conductor? No.

She waits 23 hours till they arrive in downtown Chicago. After all, he had already paid his fare, and she was short on cash. Why pay more to take him off the train, put him in a box, and ship him in baggage?

He was lying in the sleeper
When he finally met the reaper,
But his daughter let him stay
On the train another day.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Limerick Line Lengths

What's the deal with limericks?

When they teach you metric poetry, the vanilla form of a poem is envisioned as one metric line, over and over till it's done. A sonnet is like that - 14 lines in the same meter and length.

But lots of formal poetry is not like that. Including limericks. So why is that? Why does a limerick satisfy the ear? Now it's a standard form we're all familiar with, but why did the limerick get popular in the first place?

To me, the short 2 lines sound like a disrupting change, and the last long line sounds like a restoration of order.

A limerick starts off well-versed
Its pattern precisely rehearsed.
Then things turn hoppy
With lines short and choppy,
But line five's as long as the first.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Labor Day Wrap Up

The beach has gone ghostly.
Summer's mostly done.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Current Affairs

Kayaking on the Kalamazoo,
We scared some blue heron by coming up too
Close for their comfort to get a good view.

Box turtles basked in the sun on a log.
Motor boats passed us with children and dogs.
That's all I have to report for this blog.

Adrenaline Addiction

Saw Crank. It's not a chick flick. More of a men-behaving-violently movie. But my wife didn't actually hate it. This guy inhabits a hostile world, but copes creatively under dire circumstance. And he does love his girlfriend, that's clear.

It's a film with non-stop action
With the thorough satisfaction
Of seeing the bad guys

Saturday, September 02, 2006

This Day in Fictional History

September 2nd
Is the day by which time is reckoned
In Atlas Shrugged. I've heard
It's the day she wrote the first word.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Distant Relatives?

Enright is a fairly common Irish name. And in my age bracket, John was the most common male name. All of which is a lead-in to mentioning that there are 2 other John Enrights with poems on the net.

John Enright

John Enright

Both links have photos, so you can see
That they're not me!

Both write with pleasing coherence,
And so I embrace them as brothers,
Along with any others
Who've yet to make an appearance.

The Old New Logic

I've been reading The Old New Logic, a collection of essays. Frank C. Keil, a psycholologist, has an interesting article on the ways that philosophy provides testable hypotheses to research psychologists:

"...although it might seem that work in the philosophy of mind should have the most direct link to psychological research, in fact work in the philosophy of logic, of science, and metaphysics has often had a more fruitful albeit unintended influence."

As examples, he gives Putnam & Kripke's distinction between artifacts and natural kinds, and Fred Sommers' category-tree theory. Both of these provided grist for research that established that children as young as 5 recognized the distinctions and rules they were putting forth.

The point seems to be that philosophers sometimes give very explicit descriptions of deep rules about how the world works. This affords psychologists the chance to test grown-ups and children - to see whether they implicitly observe these rules.

Learning logic is like that too:
Implicitly old, explicitly new.