Thursday, August 30, 2007

Still Standing

Boffo's Law: In any argument on the Internet, the person with nothing better to do will invariably outlast his opponent and declare himself the victor.

In the sixties, that was how the radicals would "determine the sense of the meeting." They would organize a big "campus-wide open discussion" and talk endlessly until 2 a.m. By then, everyone with a lick of sense had gone to bed. So that's when the radicals would hold a vote, and sure enough, their measure would pass!

Your opposition turned in for the night?
That doesn't mean your position is right.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Tap Dancing

What is wrong with Larry Craig? First he pleads guilty to disorderly conduct for playing men's room footsie with a vice cop. Then he says he needs to talk with his lawyer.

Hello? Senator? You talk to your lawyer BEFORE you plead guilty.

And please, no matter what you do,
Should you spot a vice cop's shoe
While sitting in the airport john,
Wisely avoid all carrying on.

Keep On Trucking

I suppose I have to say something about John Edwards calling on Americans to sacrifice their SUV's.

Yes, I do own one.

Apparently Edwards owns two.

I wonder how he will sacrifice them. Maybe he could burn them on a mountaintop to satisfy the angry climate gods.

Mr. Edwards, I wish you would
Tell us whether your foot tastes good.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Little Lost Lamborghini

Briggs initially reported his crashed and abandoned Lamborghini as... stolen.

Then he called the police back and untold that fib.

If at first you panic and lie,
On second chance, give truth a try.

On Truth

I read Harry Frankfurt's On Truth today, and found it a charming little book. I do mean little. More a long essay than a book. But it dealt with a big subject eloquently.

He's the famous philosopher who wrote the bestseller On Bullshit.

I guess after an attack on indifference to the truth, he felt it necessary to explain why we should love the truth.

He takes over Spinoza's idea that each individual is trying to achieve his own essence, and takes joy in living up to his or her potential. Since it is truth that helps us do that, we must take joy in the truth.

I particularly liked these lines:
It is only through our recognition of a world of stubbornly independent reality, fact, and truth that we come to recognize ourselves as beings distinct from others and to articulate the specific natures of our own identities.

How, then, can we fail to take the importances of reality and factuality seriously? How can we fail to care about truth?
We bang our wills against the world's resistance,
And come to grasp both inner and outer existence.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Leaving the Lamborghini Behind

One of the Chicago Bears, Lance Briggs, crashed a Lamborghini at around 3 this morning. From the photo, it looks like he hit a sign. He left it alongside the expressway - which is Chicago for "freeway".

Nobody was hurt.

He has been ticketed for leaving the scene of an accident.

Lovie Smith, the Bears Coach, was upset when asked if Briggs might have been drinking:
"Now, how did we get to that part?'' Smith asked. ''We have a one-car accident and now alcohol is involved? I think that's stretching a little bit to go that far.''
I'm not saying he was drinking. But I can see how the question could arise.

Alcohol levels cannot be found
When you don't bother to stick around.

Just Sign Here

I guess part of Rawls' appeal springs from his attempt to save the "social contract" theory of political legitimacy.

It's clear that you can't get everyone in the world to unanimously agree on a single social system.

So you hypothesize your way
To a set of ignorant souls
Who will vote the way you say
In those social contract polls.

And so, it has come to this.
Ignorance is bliss.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Turtle Encounter

I met a fellow while running today.
I liked him very well.
I thought that he might like to play,
But he wouldn't come out of his shell.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Afternoon Exercise Report

Instead of serious running or biking,
I found a nap was more to my liking.

Scratching My Head Over Rawls

In the original position,
According to the tale,
All your normal vision
Is hindered by a veil.

No resting - you must get up
To draft some basic laws.
Such a twisted set up
Ought to give one pause.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Turn the Lights On

If your house is too dark,
You might, unawares,
Step through the wrong door
And fall down the stairs.

Thursday, August 23, 2007


Now comes the news that Richard Epstein has a new book out, Overdose: How Excessive Government Regulation Stifles Pharmaceutical Innovation. Epstein is a law professor of the libertarian/utilitarian persuasion.

Apparently his book got badly panned in The New Republic, by a Harvard doc.

Epstein has fired back with an online reply, defending his central theses.
In dealing with a longish review, the usual approach of the aggrieved author is to take on only one or two points of the critic, and let the reader draw whatever inferences he or she chooses about those points that were not addressed. The Relman review, however, makes so many instructive errors that a different course seems preferable.
"So many instructive errors." I love that. Funny guy. Jumping to the end:
I can't comment on his medical skills, but as a professor of social medicine, even at Harvard, it would help if Dr. Relman took, for the first time, Economics 101.
Don't bite the invisible hand
Of supply and demand.

How Unrefined

We've had a big debate in these parts. BP has a major refinery nearby. They wanted to expand it to handle Canadian crude. And they wanted to put just a teeny bit more pollution into Lake Michigan. But the Chicago Tribune ran some big scary front page stories about it.

Today, BP backed down on the pollution.

Cue media trumpets.

Meanwhile, we've had a lot of rain in the past few days, so our local water authority has started dumping raw sewage into Lake Michigan.

At least it wasn't a selfish biz
The made the water smell and fizz.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Big Polluters

Global warming is caused, in part, by the Norwegian Moose.

The big fellow pollutes the northern air with copious methane gas - by belching and farting.
...a grown moose can produce 2,100 kilos of carbon dioxide a year -- equivalent to the CO2 output resulting from a 13,000 kilometer car journey.
If you want some carbon offsets for a long vacation drive,
Hunt for moose along the way - don't let these things survive!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

No Such Thing As A Free Cure

People say,
No sick person should be turned away
Just because they cannot pay.

But once health care is free across the nation,
It will blow the budget - and need to be rationed.

Then the state will turn away
People for whom it cannot pay.

What a moral movement
That leads to such improvement.

Where There's Smoke

I was just reading an interesting article on Indian philosophy by James Carey, in The St. John's Review. He touched on an Indian system of logical disputation from the 2nd century B.C. It featured a 5 part syllogism.

Here's an example, simplified from Wikipedia.
  1. This hill is fiery
  2. Because it is smoky
  3. Whatever is smoky is fiery, as is a kitchen
  4. So is this hill
  5. Therefore this hill is fiery
The Aristotelian premises are in place, just reordered a bit, but what really jumps out is the presence of the example in the 3rd step.

Carey writes: "If the opponent cannot at this point name a counter example invalidating the major premise, the latter has to count as established and true."

It reminds me of Popper's view of science as a contest of conjecture and refutation. You put forth an idea, and see if anyone can disprove it.

Thus, a single example
Stands as inductively ample
Until and unless a counter is found
In which case the theory comes tumbling down.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Fear Itself

One thing that irks me a bit about The World Is Flat is the way the author uses fear to motivate. He keeps saying: there are brilliant Indians and Chinese who want your job, so you need to be smarter and more educated - or you won't have your job anymore.

If this were true, there would be a lot more unemployed Americans.

At other times, when talking at a macro-economic level, he knows that jobs are not a zero-sum game. But when it comes down to addressing the individual reader, he seems to forget it.

It's good to encourage people to be well-educated. On average, it seems to get you a better job. But the less-educated also find work. Our economy has provided jobs for millions of poorly-educated laborers from Latin America.

He says: listen buddy
Better hurry up and study
Or they'll rob
You of your job!

But somehow, mostly, people here avoid
Being unemployed.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Almost 600 Pages

I'm reading The World Is Flat.
But the book is not. It's fat.

Found in a Tomb

The world's oldest multi-page book
Is in a museum where you can look
In wonder at its golden cover.

But try to read it, and you will discover
That neither you nor any of us can
Make any sense of ancient Etruscan.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Globalizing Medicine

It seems like there's a boom in offshore surgery. First I just heard about plastic surgery in Rio, but now I'm hearing about open heart surgery in India being a big bargain as compared to the costs in the U.S.

So, if you need some expensive procedure, and don't have insurance, this may be a good option. So sign up for your passport now, because the passport situation is still out of control.

Of course, it won't be worthwhile for minor procedures, because you do have to factor in the ticket to India!

If you need a new nose, try Brazil.
But head for Mumbai if you're really ill.

Friday, August 17, 2007

The Soul Selects Her Own Society

Tomorrow evening at our house we'll have a discussion of shunning as a practice among Objectivists. Marsha will start off with few brief observations. Please feel free to drop in! We'll try not to shun you!

I've only just begun
To shun.

Soon my social circle will be so small,
It won't contain anyone at all.

Not even me.
I'm rather sick of myself, you see.

Problem Solved!

My daughter's notebook wasn't connecting to wifi in Maryland.

So she brought it home for me to fix.

Presto, it instantly connected to our home wifi.

Apparently it was the networks in Maryland that were at fault, not her computer. But I hereby take full credit for "fixing" it.

That's me: tireless
In support of wireless.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Diversity Study

Robert Putnam, a Harvard prof, recently completed a study of ethnic diversity and its effect on communities. The controversial conclusion, as described today in the Wall St. Journal:
People in ethnically diverse settings don't want to have much of anything to do with each other.
There's an interesting exception - apparently those evangelical mega-churches are often happily integrated. Which suggests that the real issue is not ethnic mixing as such.

People are more likely to care
When the focus is on values shared.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Maybe We Could Call It "Sociable Medicine"

Hillary is now denying that she has ever advocated socialized medicine.

It depends on what you mean by "socialized," I suppose. She didn't advocate a single, government-owned enterprise for which all doctors would work. She pushed a system where there were local HMO monopolies - kind of like local phone companies - heavily regulated but privately held.

Is there a difference? Probably some. But as the level of regulation increases, the differences start to disappear. What does it mean to have a "private company" if government regulations completely determine the company's course of action?

Ownership without control
Is just a body without a soul.

Blue Ridge Runner

I got some funny looks on the Appalachian Trail, jogging along alone with my running shorts and water bottle. Each of the 2 times I met other people, they were in good-sized groups, dressed up for serious multi-day hiking with big backpacks. Perhaps to them I looked like a crazy person in the wilderness.

I met the second group at a trail crossroads. High school kids, mostly. The adult leader kept trying to talk to me, looking at me like he was trying to solve a puzzle. I said hello, but mostly I was looking at the carved wooden signs, making sure I went the right way. He called out "Good luck!" to me as I jogged away.

Apparently the Appalachian Trail has a higher level of mystique than I realized. Much is made of the fact that it's a "wilderness" trail. Well, I suppose it is, but it's crossed by a lot of roads, and it's well marked.

Besides, I was a Boy Scout. How lost could I get? I had examined a map. I had a compass in my pocket. I had a runner's GPS on my wrist. And I had a cellphone - which actually showed 3 bars at the higher elevations. Piece of cake. But my legs are still sore from running up and down those big blue ridges!

I'm a city boy
But I still enjoy
Hauling my tail
Over forest trails.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007


Flew home. My router was dead.
It wouldn't power on.
It lay there - dark - instead.
Sad moment. It was gone.

But WalMart had a passel,
So I laid my dollars down,
And now, with minimum hassle,
I've washed away my frown.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Long Weekend

I spent the last few days in the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia, without internet or much even much cell coverage.

I climbed up Crabtree Falls Trail and jogged some of the Appalachian Trail as well. My legs are sore, but it was a good, arduous birthday adventure.

Today we visited Thomas Jefferson's house - my second visit. Then we toured James Monroe's place nearby - my first.

We did not visit Washington's house or Madison's house, which aren't all that far.

Virginia was the residence
Of many early presidents.

Thursday, August 09, 2007


Whether sunny or shady,
You'll find this leafy lady
Watching Chicago's sky
Go by.

Update: The artist says, "The garden is about Daphne. She was running away from Apollo who wanted to capture her. She had run out of options. She called upon her father, the river god, to help her. He turned her into a laurel tree to save her from Apollo. The garden is celebrating the moment she realized she was free. She surrendered to the unknown and attained freedom."

The Y2K Bug Finally Strikes

Blogger Finds Y2K Bug in NASA Climate Data

He saw the data displayed
Some funny spiking
Right around Y2K,
Which was not to his liking.

Turns out the warmest year of the 20th Century, in the U.S., was not 1998 after all. It was 1934.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Tilting Against Windmills

In case you haven't seen it, here's a Youtube clip from the Daily Show, making fun of the rich folks in Nantucket who are fighting against the Cape Wind project, which is designed to generate electricity from offshore wind turbines.

"We're environmentalists!" they boast.
They think renewable energy is the most
Wonderful thing - until it's near their coast.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Dissidence: A Disease Like Any Other?

Soviet psychologists used to diagnose
Dissidents as nuts in need of drugs.

They'd pump them full of sedatives till they were comatose
And sweep them underneath asylum rugs.

Even now, it turns out, Putin's fervent foes
Can be committed by white-coated thugs.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Proving and Reproving

I don't know too much about birth control pills. But I was puzzled recently when there was a lot of publicity about a new pill that could permanently stop menstruation.

You see, I had long been told that birth control pills simulated pregnancy. And pregnancy - while it lasts - sure does stop menstruation. So what was with the new pill?

Enlightenment came to me today, when visiting reasonpharm.
The problem is that women could already do this long before Lybrel showed up. Any of the existing brands of birth control pills will work -- simply omitting the placebo pills in the pack and taking active pills continuously will do the trick. Gynecologists have known this for years, but apparently years of successful experience aren't enough to satisfy the FDA; only an expensive clinical trial will do.
Well, the government is famous for spending money to prove things we already know. So it's no surprise that they would require companies to do the same,

Who will protect us
From our protectors?
Thank goodness for skillful
B.S. detectors!

Big news from the Yearly-Kos Convention here in Chicago: a bunch of bloggers want to organize into a labor union.

Fantastic. A long time ago I was in the Teamsters.

We'll make The Man shake
With our newfound powers,
When we go on strike
For shorter hours!

(Joke stolen from Glenn Reynolds.)

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Behind the Wheel

I drove by a horrible traffic accident on my way home from Michigan this evening. It was on frequently nerve-wracking stretch of interstate called the Borman Expressway. A lot of volunteers had stopped and emergency vehicles were just arriving.

There's a lot of trust involved in driving on busy highways. Mostly you trust that other drivers won't hit your vehicle.

Considering the constant decisions
It's impressive there aren't more collisions.

Becoming Jane

Saw Becoming Jane. a love story featuring Jane Austen as the heroine. In principle, it's like Shakespeare In Love - a made-up back story for the genesis of literary genius.

I liked it emotionally, even though my brain kept objecting: "we don't know anything like that!"

Even if we knew her whole life story,
Would it really help explain the glory
That rages on her pages?

Friday, August 03, 2007

I, For One, Welcome Our New Droid Overlords

Robots with guns are on patrol in Iraq.

If they misbehave, they can be ordered to blow themselves up.

If the robots figure out how to turn off the self-destruct feature, we could be in trouble!

Well, not really. These are just remote control devices, not autonomous machines that decide on their own what to kill. Someone sits at a console... a lot like a video game.

And if the insurgents take it hostage, well,
We'll blow it up and blow them all to hell.

Thursday, August 02, 2007


This horrible Minnesota bridge collapse is reminding me a bit of the Katrina disaster, in that there were lots of warnings, but state officials chose watchful waiting and perennial patching.

This is a risky approach with structures that can fail catastrophically.

When a road has holes,
You can patch it.
But when a bridge falls,
You can't catch it.

Old Man's War

Yesterday I finished John Scalzi's trilogy of interstellar trouble, which started with Old Man's War, continued with The Ghost Brigades, and wrapped up nicely with The Last Colony. As one reviewer mentioned, the books are fairly short, so reading the whole trilogy is a lot like reading one volume of many other trilogies.

It's "hard s.f." with a military edge, somewhat reminiscent of Heinlein at times. The author has a lot of big, interesting ideas. His characters are sharply, but not deeply drawn. The twists and turns keep coming throughout the series, so I'm just going to tell you the opening premise:

People on earth, when they're old enough, if they wish, are allowed to leave the planet forever, in order to be rejuvenated and join the Colonial Defense Force to fight in wars against aliens.

If you happen to like this genre, I recommend the series.

You grow old, and then turn young
In order to be slung
To deadly far-flung wars
Among the stars.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007


Hillary's taken flak
For having Bush's back
On his push into Iraq.

But Obama is the man
For invading Pakistan.

Other candidates, beat that if you can.