Tuesday, February 27, 2007

AA Follow-up

I got a very informative comment on my post that touched on Alcoholics Anonymous the other day. He ended up with these words of wisdom:

Something else that is just as important, if not more so - you need to listen as well as talk. You learn a lot about what to do and how to live without a drink by listening. People come to AA thinking that what they have to say is the important part of the meeting for them, and hopefully learn that sometimes listening is more important.

Something else that you need to do in AA - help others to get sober.

I'm an outsider on this particular issue, but this sounds very reasonable to me. Often when a person has a personal problem - especially one they are embarrassed about - they think they're the only person who ever had that problem. But rarely is a problem unique, and listening to how others cope is often releasing, enlightening, and fortifying.

It's a kind of mutual help society. Of course, when you help other members, you are fulfilling your end of the bargain. I imagine you also learn a lot when you help. And though I know mentoring can be a lot of trouble, I'm sure there's deep satisfaction to be had in helping someone turn their life around.

So even if I'm leery
About aspects of their theory,
I'll praise their working model:
It gets folks off the bottle.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Old Man's War

Finished Old Man's War, by John Scalzi. It's shoot-em-up military science fiction, with a love story too. The idea is that when folks in the U.S. turn 75 they are allowed to join the space army.

The good news is, they make you young again.

The bad news is, you have to fight, hard, and you can never return to Earth.

It reminded me of Heinlein, in a good way.

At 75,
If you're still alive,
You can fly off the planet and fight to survive.

Adoptive Parents Do More

That's the headline on the story.

The idea is that, statistically, adoptive parents pour more time and money into their little bundles of joy.

This result seems to run counter to alleged socio-biological imperatives of only helping close relatives.

If it's better to adopt,
Perhaps all babies should simply be swapped!

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Why Round Numbers Abound

What happens if you announce that tomorrow morning's meeting will begin at 10:32 and 7 seconds?

People laugh.

Exaggerated precision
Invites derision.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

People Who Need People

What's the deal with Co-dependency? If their problem is that they care too much about other people, why do they get together in meetings to share?

And, what's more, why do all the 12-step programs talk about "recovery," when none of them seem to think you can ever really recover?

It occurred to me today that the 12-step model is a bit like faith-healing. You have a disease, and if you trust in God then your condition will improve.

But there's something else you have to do - get together in meetings and talk about your problems in the proper way.

If the illness is metaphorical
The treatment must be rhetorical.

Evolutionary Catchup

Perhaps you thought our friends, the Chimps,
Were wimps.

They're in our jungles, sharpening up their spears.

They're just hunting - we've nothing to fear!
I hope.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Search Me!

When I was a kid, they used to advertise X-ray Glasses in the back of comic books. There was always an illustration showing a man wearing these glasses and contemplating a shapely young woman. Apparently the glasses did provide an optical illusion - but they did not actually provide an ability to look under a person's clothes.

Fortunately, the folks at TSA now have the Backscatter X-ray machine. But, unfortunately, the linked article shows a large gentleman from behind, which does very little for me.

It's strictly voluntary. If you get flagged as needing special attention, you can choose between the X-ray and getting patted down.

Would you rather be seen or felt?
Bring out the dogs. I'd rather be smelt.

Published Anonymously

Oh, happy occasion -
I've finished Persuasion.

It's weird to get lost in
The world of Jane Austen.

The society's stifling,
The manners are trifling.

And yet, true minds mingle.
How sad she died single.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Down in the Polls

Bad news for me. An atheist has little chance of winning the presidency. In fact, a religious gay person appears to poll better than a straight atheist.

It atheophobia!

Atheists really do have a lot of bad p.r. Maybe it's all their lawsuits, like the one trying to get the word "God" out of the Pledge.

Or maybe it's the cold-war association with godless communists.

Agnostics have much better p.r. Sure, atheists think they're indecisive. But everybody else thinks they're fine people who at least are making an effort.

If you're worried about being outed
Just tell them you have doubted
And haven't yet found belief.
You will find, to your relief,
People mostly think you're swell
And not yet bound for hell.

They might vote for you, as well.

However, as for me,
I withdraw my candidacy.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Swampland Flyers

I'm back from a weekend trip to Florida.

I only saw one gator.

But I saw and heard
A lot of birds.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Gopher Turtles

We went to a nature preserve yesterday that featured Gopher Turtles.

At first, I started wondering how they had gotten these 2 species to breed. But, no. It turns out that these turtles hide in holes in the gr ound - like gophers. So we had a hard time seeing them. But we did see a couple.

Hidey-holes are the hurdles
When it comes to seeing these turtles.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Best Known American Narrative Poet

"He is, without doubt, the best-known American narrative poet of the last half of the 20th century. And not just best known: he’s one of the best."

That's a critic on Newsweek's website, speaking of Dr. Seuss.

For its 50th anniversary, there's an annotated edition of The Cat In The Hat.

It's the first news story I've read in a while that mentions anapestic dimeter.

He seems rather silly
But one thing is clear
Somehow, willy nilly,
That cat is still here.

PB Peril

There's a big Peter Pan peanut butter scare. The salmonella kind of scare. 300+ people are reported sick from it across the nation.

Add 1 to the running total.

My wife and son are down in Florida, visiting my son's oldest friend, and this friend has been sick for a couple of days in exactly the way you would expect. And, yes, he has the exact batch of Peter Pan on hand. And, yes, he ate a sandwich of it before he got sick.

With this batch of peanut butter,
Your insides first go flutter,
Then you learn to fly - zoom zoom,
To that teeny tiny room.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Blue on Jet Blue

Why do I wonder if FAA regulations about queuing up have something to do with these stories about loaded planes sitting on the runway forever?

Cheryl Chesner was on a recent Jet Blue "flight" like that..

Heading to Cancun
On her honeymoon,

She sat on the plane all morning and afternoon,
Hoping they'd leave... soon.

Correction: oops, she was going to Aruba, not Cancun. I better start thinking of what rhymes with Aruba...

There was a young man from Aruba
Who played day and night on his tuba.
His playing was bad
And the tourists were sad
Till they bought him some lessons for SCUBA.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Militant Hindu Valentine Threat

That's the headline from this BBC story. Hardline Hindus have even attacked stores that were selling Valentine's Day cards.

"They said they would burn the cards which they alleged were 'loaded with nudity and sex'."

They take a hard line against hearts
And other select body parts.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Switching Problems

I daily ride a Metra train.
It goes just fine in the rain.

Not so
In snow.

The Trib reports: "Metra was reporting delays of up to an hour across its system this evening, mostly due to switch problems related to the weather."

Up to an hour? Try MORE than an hour. Hey, but at least it gave me time to finish Varieties of Religious Experience.

I find the title a bit misleading. He is really concerned, chiefly, with varieties of Protestant and Catholic religious experience.

He knows a bit about the other flavors,
But Christianity's what he really savors.

Only, it's a very watered down, Unitarian sort of Christianity, further colored by his own commitments to pluralism and pragmatism. You come away with the idea that it's good to believe in something supernatural, and it should be suited to your own personality and history, but that all sorts of beliefs will do the job.

That eloquent man, William James,
Downplayed metaphysical claims,
But said there was room
To fight off the gloom
With spirits of various names.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Not Me

I swear I was never with
Anna Nicole Smith.

As for her baby,
Not even a maybe.

I'll deny paternity
From here to eternity.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Pollination Crisis

Bad news - honeybees across the country are dropping like flies,

You may think you don't care about bees. You may even view them as flying fiends, suicide buzz bombers who aim to give you pain.

But they make delicious honey. And they pollinate some of our crops. Our economy profits from these queen-enslaved bugs.

What is killing them off? Is it a bacteria, a virus, a fungus? Some new chemical in the environment? No one knows.

What's really strange to me
Is that flowers use the bee
To pollinate -
To mate.

A bee's a flying go-between
To distant partners, never seen.

Venezuela in Trouble

When I wrote about food shortages in Venezuela the other day, Ergo Sum commented that it reminded him of Rand's novel about the Soviet Union.

Philosopher Stone also wrote about Venezuela, and in his comments appeared a young woman from Venezuela who has started a blog to broadcast her unhappiness with her country's direction. She obviously loves her country, but is thinking of leaving:

"And then you turn your head, and see the newest propaganda of the regime on the streets: a black figure of the president with a high red background and then you realize that at least for a while you are looking foward to take that plane."

When the rats takes over the ship,
It's best to give them the slip.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Warming and Chilling

Robert Bidinotto has a lively collection of links about the Current Climate Controversy of Settled Science vs. Scandalous Skeptics.

About the last thing we need is Senators throwing their weight around to stifle contrarian research.

When they said dissent
Was good, they meant
That lent
For the right sort
Of views.

Progress Needed But Impeded

I tell people that someday, when the price has dropped enough, full body MRI's will be part of one's yearly check up.

They're annoyingly noisy, but the only known side effect is that they sometimes cheer you up.

I believe we would already be there if the government didn't gum up health care with a plague of regulations and price controls.

Stifling innovation is insidious, because you don't see the innovations that fail to occur.

You never become aware
Of technology's that's not there.
You miss the invisible cost
Of lives that were needlessly lost.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Feb 9

There were 2 showings of the Fountainhead, that night. I meant to go to the 1st. I got there early, only to find that the auditorium doors were still closed.

To pass the time, I sat down in a student lounge area, and started watching a TV comedy.

When the TV show ended, I walked over to the auditorium again. The movie had already started! So I waited for the 2nd showing.

At the end of the 2nd showing, a girl stood up and announced there would be a discussion in the cafeteria.

I sat near that girl for the discussion. She had bright eyes and a sophisticated air, and her name was Marsha.

I may have been absent of mind,
But at least I wasn't blind.

Sweaty Towels Cause Arousal

Smell of Male Sweat May Arouse Women

Yes, that's the latest scientific report.

To heck with cologne,
Perspiration alone
Will make women swoon
When you walk in the room.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Where's The Beef?

"Meat, Sugar Scarce in Venezuela Stores"

Welcome to the hungry world of price controls.

You limit the price on stuff
And all of a sudden, there's not enough.

The Varieties of Religious Experience

I've taken up The Varieties of Religious Experience by William James. It's for book club. I recall trying to read this in my college years and thinking how wordy and vague and evasive it seemed. Perhaps his skeptical self was tip-toeing around to avoid religious scandal.

Being one of he founding figures of Pragmatism, James deftly avoids defining religion with any precision. After all, pragmatists favor working definitions - sketched in sand, not carved in stone.

It's true, though, that "religion" is not the easiest thing in the world to define. There is some disagreement, around the edges, about what gets included in the concept. Remember the fundamentalists who claimed Secular Humanism was a religion?

I think the idea of religion involves a supernaturally based moral and metaphysical system. The question then comes up - what about modern, super-secularized versions of Buddhism and Christianity - are they still religions?

It's a good question,
And I'm open to suggestions.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Bodily Knowing

I've been reading Gendlin's Focusing-Oriented Psychotherapy. My wife had it on the psychology shelves. I find him a frequently fascinating thinker, and he's often great on the subject of tacit knowledge. But there are things about him that bug me. One of those things is his insistence on saying things along the lines of "the body knows", and "that feeling in your chest is ready to tell you something".

I know the experience he is talking about. And the brain is part of the body, so, sure, in that sense, the "body knows." But that feeling in your chest - the vague one that's trying to tell you something - you may experience it there, but your brain is deeply involved in that experience - more deeply involved than your chest really is. You don't need to know that to delve into your feelings, but it's biologically confusing the way he presents it.

The brain is part of the body
And the body maps onto the brain;
What a complicated way
To generate pleasure and pain!

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Wet Astronaut

The story is newsworthy because she's an astronaut. But it's the diapers that put it over the top.

Was her schedule really that tight?

I mean, no wonder she starting crying when accosting the other woman. She'd been sitting in wet diapers for hours!

When planning the unsurvival
Of that very special rival,
It's a sign you're going dotty,
If you don't make time for potty.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Astral Attraction

The police have arrested one of our astronauts.

She has been charged with attempted kidnapping.

Reportedly, she was in love with one of our shuttle pilots, but was jealous of another woman... so she drove from Texas to Florida, in diapers to avoid pit stops... put on a wig to disguise herself when she got to Florida, and then sprayed chemicals into her rival's car... but the rival drove away and contacted authorities.

These things are only funny when they're foiled.
Fortunately, no bunnies were boiled.

I Support Global Warming

If I must choose between global warming and global cooling, I favor warming, since I figure it would be better for Chicago property values.

I mean, with serious global cooling, my present location will be under a glacier. Don't laugh, it's happened before!

But the current claims of 90% certainty worry me. Does that mean there's a 9% probability that the glacier is on its way? I hope not.

A little more heat would be nice
Compared with a giant wall of ice.

No Joy In Mudville

Chicago blues:
Bears lose.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Polar Petition

The polar bears have a complaint.
They're called "polar bears" but... they ain't
At both poles - just the one to the North.
And so they request that henceforth
We should send at least one to the South
Where he'll pop penguins into his mouth.

So Be Careful Out There!

After walking the dogs last night,
I'd say it's true that frost can bite
At less than zero fahrenheit.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Flashing Red Lights

Our new dishwasher came today. The old one was shot. The new one, a very pretty Kenmore Elite from Sears... has a computer problem! Two of the LEDs are flashing alternately, and the thing won't work.

The installers - perfectly nice subcontractors - just departed a few minutes ago. They said to call Repair. Their guess is we'll end up with a replacement.

It's too bad. I hadn't planned
On washing more dishes by hand.

Bird Attack Down Under

So there you are paragliding in Oz - when 2 screeching eagles start ripping up your fabric wings - and then one gets tangled up and lashes at your face with its talons.

What to do?

Well, if you're "Britain's top female paraglider," you think through your options, keep going, and land.

The story says she was terrified while the feathered beasties were tearing up her wing, but it also sounds like she carefully thought about whether she ought to switch to her back up chute - and decided it was unwise.

How very British... she almost died,
But kept her cool while terrified.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Phooey on John Dewey - REVISITED

Some of you may remember that I recently considered ending a post with the rhyme: "Phooey on Dewey."

Bruce Deitrick Price, a fellow poet, informs me that he has an article with a sound-alike title: "Phooey on John Dewey"

He wondered if I meant to refer to his article. No. I was unaware of it. But it looks pretty interesting.

I'm afraid I was just thinking of things that rhyme with Dewey.

But I'm glad to join hands with Price
To say "phooey on Dewey" twice.

Failed Project

My workday train ride takes me past a major set of public housing high-rises. Or, it used to. They've almost all been demolished. Tonight I noticed that one was still standing, empty, yellow brick glowing in the winter sunset.

A housing project stands alone,
Awaiting the wrecking ball.
It won't be long before it's gone.
I'll miss it - not at all.

Thursday, February 01, 2007


When I was in 4th grade, we were given some math problem to do. The idea was to see who could get it done the fastest. We were told to stand up as soon as we were done.

I was pretty good at math, and somewhat competitive. So as soon as I had it done I jumped up... and banged my knee, really hard, on the underside of my desk.

The next thing I knew, it was morning, and I seemed to be coming out of a dream, since I could hear voices, and I was trying to wake up.

Then I could hear my teacher's voice: "John Enright. Get up off that floor this instant!"

There I was, out like a light, probably by vasovagal reaction, and I was getting yelled at for clowning around. I'm not sure anyone in the class ever believed me that I had really suffered from syncope. Such is the cost of being a class cut-up. No one believes it when you do a pratfall for real.

I was reminded of this by stellavision's recent faint. At least she had witnesses - and her boyfriend actually caught her!

Syncope's a fancy word.
In medicine, it's when you faint.
In poetry, it's when there ain't
A sound that's usually heard.

Either way, you briefly miss:
A syllable... or consciousness.