Wednesday, January 31, 2007

For All Your Childrearing Needs!

It's quite the rage -
The baby cage!

New Version of Slogan

Cash you lose in Vegas,
Stays in Vegas.

You can't have it back.
Don't bother to beg us.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Room on the Coast

thoughtblogger linked to this story about people who don't want to move back to coastal Louisiana.

I can say I blame them. The hurricane made it clear they had parked in a dangerous spot. No level of government was particularly good at saving the day, either. And a lot of them have moved on to new locations and have started to put down roots.

One local booster says people will be back. "People are infatuated with water. They love to be near water."

So, what do you think? Will Louisiana bounce back?

Water is good,
But not when it floods
Your neighborhood.

Canine Conundrum

Why do dogs start limping when it snows?
I think it's salt that works between their toes.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Intellectual Table Tennis

Last night, our Objectivist discussion group met with a liberal discussion group. It was quite the wild time - boisterously bouncing from topic to topic.

Patches of common ground
Were occasionally found.

I think the other group consisted of non-religious folk as well. And we all believed in freedom of speech, as far as I could tell. They were somewhat philosophically oriented, in the sense that they were interested in fundamental questions, but not in the sense of being steeped in the history of philosophy.

Marsha opened up by giving an extremely brief summary of Rand's philosophy - the quick run from objective reality, to surviving by the use of reason, to the purpose of life being one's own well-being, ending up at role of the government being the protection of individual rights.

Along the way, she mentioned that reason allows us to alter the environment instead of adapting to it. One gentlemen interrupted her with a skeptical question "And that's a good thing? I just bantered back with an emphatic "Yes," so Marsha could at least get to her point.

There were intense arguments galore as the evening proceeded. To be fair, the other group did keep trying to understand where we were coming from. But different people in their group had different things they were trying to understand, and the discussion kept changing direction. Marsha, who led the discussion, said she felt like a ping pong ball at the end of all the gab fest.

I hope a good time was had by all
As they tried to follow the ping pong ball.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

In Hot Water

I went googling for hot water phobia and the first relevant thing I found was this hilarious scary post by Miss Scotch.

Then I found this wonderful wedding webpage by Chantel Kielty, who first took an interest in her future husband when he refused coffee, tea, or cocoa - because he disliked hot liquids.

I still haven't found a scientific-sounding name for this particular phobia. I guess it's on the rare side. And it's not really debilitating, although it would prevent one from working at Starbucks!

I've developed some form of it myself - particularly pertaining to handling hot liquids in open containers - the worst sort being flexible paper cups without tops - and the worst situation being that of taking such a cup from another person's hand. Yes, there really is some risk of a burn or spill, but my reaction is exaggerated. Of course, getting nervous actually increases fumbling in such situations! So I did some reading on phobia treatment and now I'm working on step-by-step desensitization. So far, so good.

Better not to steer
By exaggerated fear.

Friday, January 26, 2007


Just finished Whiteout by Ken Follett. It's a page turner about a family Christmas that keeps going wrong, as a blizzard hits Scotland and a deadly virus falls into the wrong hands.

I don't want to spoil the story, but I learned a lot about how a research lab handles deadly viruses and tries to keep them secure.

The characters were lively, with a strong female security expert, an admirable scientist-entrepreneur, and a clever villain who alternates between likable and despicable.

Follett, of course, is well known for his ability to cast a spell of suspense.

With a positive blizzard of action,
As cars slip and slide without traction,
The wizard provides satisfaction.

Thursday, January 25, 2007


The trees pursue a branching algorithm
They start out stout but end up long and lissome.

I gave blood tonight. I suppose blood vessels make use of a branching algorithm too, and it's a good thing, or we'd never get blood to all the places we need it.

Anyway, I've done 2 clumsy things now, so I guess I'm feeling the effect.

Blood is fun for me and for you -
It's red and it's slippery and full of O2.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Suitably Impressed, Nonetheless

I've been in a Pilates class for a while now. All of the women can stretch in ways that baffle me.

Is the ability to flex
Statistically tied to one's sex?

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Missing The Speech

I did not tune in
The State of the Union.

So I heard no applause
For scary new laws.

But you may hear me cheer
When gridlock appears.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Pouncing Pets

Our cats caught 2 mice tonight.

The mice had been regular diners in our attached garage. We kept bags of dry dog food and cat food there. The mice had been gnawing through the bottom of the bags.

So I brought the bags inside - where our cats were on the prowl.

If I were a mouse,
It would be my design
To avoid any house
With a feline.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Juggling Statistics

Why are there so many U.S. news reports lately to the effect that most women are unmarried?

Wouldn't this mean that most men are unmarried too?

Hmm. Maybe not. Most people are female, after all. This is accomplished by outliving us guys.

Maybe the men who aren't dead,
Are still mostly wed.

Baby Killers, The

Last night we went to see a new play, "Baby Killers, The" by Jeremy Menekseoglu, produced through the Dream Theatre.

It has some characteristic features of his plays: Gut-wrenching keep-you-guessing plot, tormented characters who are more than what they first seem, and a thematic cry for human freedom and dignity.

It has the characteristic production qualities of the Dream Theatre: compelling acting, intense staging, sparse but creative sets, strong use of sound to back up the mood of the piece.

I don't want to give too much away, but this play involves a society in which there are vast numbers of children who are slaving away at industrial equipment. Everyone speaks with cockney accents, and you might be forgiven for thinking you had stumbled into a Dickens production. But, trust me, that's not it. There's some Oliver Twist influence - but with major twists that take us into a world of make-believe.

This is the shape of his theme.
From out of a screaming nightmare,
A dream takes flight.

Snow Fooling

You've probably heard that every snowflake is unique - that no 2 are alike.

I've always wondered exactly how they had arrived at this conclusion.

Now a scientist has a new theory. It's possible that 2 SMALL snowflakes might be perfect matches.

He adds: "Good luck finding them..."

Outside my window, the snow
Falls lightly. The ground has gone white.
There may be some duplicates, though
So far they've escaped my sight.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Authentic Hellenic

Followers of Zeus
Are insisting on the use
Of their own
Ancient stone

Story here.

I like this bit: "Those who seek to revive the ancient Greek religion are split into rival organizations which trade insults over the Internet."

Let them pray to their deity for victory! Maybe like this:

Zeus, O Lord of Thunderbolts,
Vaporize those other dolts!

Friday, January 19, 2007

Evening Adventure

Our old Improv troupe is restarting. After dinner I drove out to the specified practice location.

The street I drove on didn't go through.

I got there. I was the only one there. Well, except for two cleaning ladies.

Turns out it was canceled. Turns out the leader left me a message to that effect. Turns out my wife accidentally deleted that message without first listening to it.

Plenty of reversals,
No rehearsal.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Thanks, James Madison

Italy's lovely to visit,
But if you ask me, is it
Somewhere I'd care to reside,
I don't even have to decide.

I love their historic sites
But the truth is I sleep better nights
Under our bill of rights.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Wolfe Howling in the House

Tonight in book club we did Tom Wolfe's From Bauhaus To Our House, his early eighties attack on uber-boring glass-box architecture and the ideology behind it.

Some people in our discussion took exception to his wild novelistic style. But it occurred to me that his style paralleled his theme, since his style was itself an attack on the stuffy NY Times sort of writing.

He savages the boring
With a marvelous outpouring
Of prose, which at full power
Goes one hundred miles per hour.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

We're having them for dinner. In memory of someone.

It was one of her favorite foods,
And so, in a bittersweet mood
We speak of her as we eat.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Do Computer Languages Count?

Here comes a study that says you can delay Alzheimer's - "up to 4 years" - by speaking 2 languages a day.

This is bad news for me.

The study comes from Canada, a bastion of bilingualism. Could it just be politicized junk science to justify their two-tongued ways? I hope so. Because otherwise I've got to sign up for some classes.

If I don't want my brain cells to vanish
I'd better brush up on my Spanish.

Pride and Prejudice

While vacationing, I read Pride And Prejudice, and I enjoyed it a lot - which did not happen the first time I tried to read it.

Of course, high school boys from Chicago are not the book's target audience.

It's more than a little girlie.
The hero starts off surly
But his icy exterior melts
When the fire of love is felt.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Brief Notoriety and a 30 Hour Return

The place we were staying in Italy was an amazing villa on a precipitous mountain road, just outside of a little fishing village. It had private access to the sea, and I did manage to go for a swim. The water was chilly - cold enough that I got a false feeling of warmth after I had been in a while. A friend of mine jumped in too.

Apparently this became known in the village as "someone jumped into the sea." The fishermen prefer to be "on the sea" rather than "in the sea". Such was our brief notoriety in town.

We spent a lot of time traipsing around on the coastal road, which is way up high from the sea. The road affords stunning views - which can also be a bit scary if you have any acrophobia! There are some good pictures here from a couple who did a bike tour.

We spent 30 hours or so returning:

Van ride to Naples, train to Rome, another train to the Rome airport, flight to Amsterdam, arrive at 1 AM, train ride to downtown, seven of us in one hotel room in Amsterdam - I slept on the floor, train ride back to the airport, flight to Chicago, limousine ride to our neighborhood. All in time to see the Bears, somehow, continue in the playoffs with a 49 yard field goal in sudden death overtime.

Marsha and I went strolling around downtown Amsterdam at 2 to 3 in the morning. It reminded me of New York, except it was loaded with bicycles and marijuana smoke. Of course, New York was originally settled by the Dutch, so maybe there is a deep historical connection.

After that much travel,
My mental threads unravel.

Saturday, January 13, 2007


I'm sitting in the airport in Rome -
Step by step, heading home.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Where "Subject" Becomes "Oggetto"

The Amalfi Coast
Has some of the most
Beautiful views.

But I havent been on the net for days and Im way behind on the news.

As you can see, I dont know how to make an apostrophe on this Italian keyboard.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Where Are The Hamsters?

I had always believed that "Amsterdam" was Dutch for "hamster-dam".

I assumed that hamsters, in their native habitat of Holland, built dams, much like beavers in the U.S.

But now that I'm here, I've looked around,
And there's not a hamster to be found.

Sunday, January 07, 2007


"What" in Spanish is "que".
"What" in Italian is "che".
Spelled different, pronounced the same way -
A lot like the "kay" in "Okay".

Key sentence: non parlo Italiano.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Flying Moose

As you've probably heard,
Utah has excess moose
On the loose.

So by whirly bird,
As dangling freight
They're flying off to another state.

Great photo here.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Educational Theorist Makes Comeback

I mentioned that Marsha was in Rome attending a "100 Years of Montessori" conference. The Washington Post ran an article to mark the anniversary. (Thanks to Stephen Hicks for the link.)

I loved this quote from the article:

The stubborn Italian physician and her contemporary, U.S. philosopher and psychologist John Dewey -- who believed that learning should be active -- are considered perhaps the most influential progressive thinkers in the modern history of education.

But Montessori has had the more tangible impact, with versions of her child-centered practices passed from preschool teacher to preschool teacher, some not even aware of the origins of what they are doing.

If true, this represents a remarkable turnaround. Dewey and Montessori were philosophical antagonists in many ways, and the battle has moved back and forth. Montessori made early inroads in the U.S., but one of Dewey's allies wrote a scathing attack upon her system, and by the 1940's there was nary a Montessori school to be found here. Then, in the 1950's, an American mom began a grass-roots effort to bring the Montessori way back to the U.S.

Marsha discusses all this history in her foundations study guide, which is where I learned about it. She describes the antagonism between Dewey and Montessori this way:

Dewey and Montessori approached education from philosophically and psychologically different perspectives. Dewey's concern was with fostering the imagination and the development of social relationships. He believed in developing the intellect late in childhood, for fear that it might stifle other aspects of development. By contrast, Montessori believed that development of the intellect was the only means by which the imagination and proper social relationships could arise. Her method focused on the early stimulation and sharpening of the senses, the development of independence in motor tasks and the care of the self, and the child's naturally high motivation to learn about the world as a means of gaining mastery over himself and his environment.

I could end with something silly, like "Phooey on Dewey." I could try for something praising his antagonist, like "Glory to Montessori." But I suppose the most important person to cheer for is the child, who must learn to use his or her mind, which is quite an adventure.

Sharpen your mind.
And trust it can find
The reasons behind
All things.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Shut Up And Deal

I came across a lovely little poem by A. E. Stallings about a colicky baby. In case you don't know, "colicky" is a temporary condition where a newborn's tummy hurts - resulting in a lot of bellyaching and burping-up for several months. The poem is here.

I've got nothing to cry about tonight, since I won a bit of money in a family game of poker. I haven't played for money since college, so I'm just glad I didn't lose!

I had some good luck
And won 6 whole bucks.

Far from feeling colicky,
I'm positively frolicky.

Happy Hundredth

A couple of days from now - January 6 - is the 100th anniversary of Maria Montessori opening her first school.

That school, in Rome, is still open. There's having a big conference there to celebrate. My wife is there, too, helping to ring in the centenary.

I put "preschool" in quotes only because Montessori teachers don't like that expression. It's not pre-school. It's school. Period.

School for the very young, yes,
But truly school, nonetheless.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Crisis de Jure du Jour

Our Chief Justice thinks we've reached a Constitutional Crisis
Because federal judges need more money to pay higher prices.

As far as I can tell, the Constitution
Forbids their salaries' diminution
But doesn't say what they should be.

I mean, I don't think they should work for free,
But the Chief Justice is making 200 plus
Which is more than a lot of us.

Not getting a raise may make them feel low
But I don't really care, after that ruling in Kelo.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Nietzsche and the Nazis

Today we watched Stephen Hicks' new DVD, "Nietzsche and the Nazis".

It was basically Prof. Hicks giving a very informative and analytical lecture, but with a lot of visual material, partly power-point style graphics, partly historical drawings and photos. It's 2 hours and 45 minutes long.

I've read a lot of Nietzsche. I'd say Hicks was fair to him, carefully delineating Nietzsche's points of agreement and disagreement with the Nazis.

I've read a fair amount about the Nazis. But I learned more. My favorite new fact was that Hitler, in private, was fond of exclaiming "How lucky that men don't think!"

I do wonder why he did it as a DVD. I don't think he has done a video before. My guess is he's trying to reach out to a broader audience of some kind. It seems like the kind of thing a public library would purchase, and I hope that happens.

So if you'd like to see something new
You might give it a view.