Sunday, September 30, 2007

The Galloping Ethiopian

Haile Gebrselassie today shattered the record for fastest marathon, dropping it another half-minute to 2:04:26.

This means he was running an average of 4 minutes and 45 seconds a mile.

Talk about going by like a flash:
26 miles, run like a 50-yard dash.

Hug Control

Hugging has been banned at a middle school in Oak Park, Illinois.
The principal says the rampant hugging is creating bottle necks in the hallway and making kids late for class. Furthermore she says although hugs are supposed to be handshakes from the heart some times they don't seem so innocent.
Bottle necks
That whiff of sex
And make kids late for class...

Maybe if you have a valid reason to hug, the hall monitor could issue a special pass?

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Cubs Clinch

The Chicago Cubs have clinched their place in the playoffs.

They haven't won a World Series since 1908, so maybe this is their big chance.

Officially, I don't care, since I'm a Southsider, and therefore a White Sox fan.

But I know a multitude of Cub fans, and I feel bad for them, so unofficially...

Since they've been stuck
For 99 years,
I wish them luck
And smiles, not tears.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Spectric School

Choriamb posts on the Spectric School of Poetry, a parodic hoax that fooled leading critics.

You can take this quiz to see if you can "tell true modernistic poems from ridiculous parodies".

They don't make sense, nor do they scan.
Tell the difference if you can!


We live on the flight path.
I watch them at night,
Roaring overhead like dragons,
Lights on,
Wheels down,
Ready to land.

Packed inside each,
People enough
To populate
Some town.

Thrown forward by thrusting jets,
Gliding on massive wings,
They glance out the windows
And speak of small things,

Trusting the pilot to guide
Them safely in.

Thursday, September 27, 2007


I just finished Kidnapped, by Robert Louis Stevenson.

When I picked it up, I thought it was a pirate novel, but it's not. Rather, part of it's a lot LIKE a pirate novel, but then it switches into a Scottish Highland adventure. It's a coming-of-age tale.

I was very amused by this line of dialog, spoken by an attorney:
Now, Mr. David, they talk a great deal of charity and generosity; but in this disputable state of life, I often think the happiest consequences seem to flow when a gentleman consults his lawyer, and takes all the law allows him.
David Balfour risks his neck,
Accompanied by Alan Breck.
He starts off as a foolish youth,
But finishes a man in truth.

Center of Attention

Oh, this is the story
Of Tania Head,
A 9/11 survivor -
At least that's what she said.

She told a tale of horror,
With details sweet and sad,
But none are verifiable.
It sounds like we've been had.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Truth by French

I was at the Art Institute today, looking at Truth, by Daniel Chester French. She's half-nude, holding a mirror. It's about life-size, but it's supposed to be a model for a bigger piece. She rather sober-looking.

The mirror provides another self, whose face
Encounters hers in steady inquisition,
Studying whether her long pursuit of grace
Maintains itself before this cold cognition.

Slipping In Some Wording

Did you ever read the Constitution? Remember how the Congress passes a bill, and then the President signs it?

Do you remember a step in between those two? Where one Congressman edits the bill to pad in some extra pork?
A Washington watchdog group filed a complaint today with the House ethics committee asking for an investigation into the drastic edit, calling it "an extraordinary case of the House of Representatives’ integrity being undermined."
You've got to give him credit.
His buddies have been outclassed.
It takes some nerve to edit
A bill that's already passed.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Kelley at Rockford

David Kelley will be in Illinois tomorrow evening (Wed., Sept 26), giving a free talk:
The talk will begin at 6 p.m. in Scarborough Hall 004 on the Rockford College campus, 5050 E. State Street, Rockford, IL. The talk is sponsored by The Center for Ethics and Entrepreneurship at Rockford College. All interested parties welcome.
His presentation, "on Ayn Rand's unique moral defense of capitalism," is sponsored by Rockford's splashy new Center for Ethics and Entrepreneurship, which has the ever-energetic Stephen Hicks at the helm. He has a cool video about the center, which you can see by clicking on his name and scrolling down a little.

The industrious and enlightening Shawn Klein is also on board at the Center, teaching philosophy.

I was struck by the phrase, "All interested parties welcome." It seems polite in an old-fashioned way. But then I started asking myself - what about people who are not interested?

The wording clearly suggests
That uninterested guests
Should just avoid making pests
Of themselves.

Since those who find talks boring
Often go beyond ignoring
And round it out by snoring
Up a storm.

Monday, September 24, 2007

The Unwelcome Mat

Ahmadinejad spoke at a Columbia University today. He said the Holocaust requires further research. He said there are no gays in Iran.

He established his place in the Axis of Evil,
With his usual vile haranguing.
I'm hoping Iran has a major upheaval
And leaves him hanging.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

No Thank You Rangel, No Thank You McCain

Ilya Somin has a good post about the constant scary drumbeat for forced labor, I mean national service. Such calls come from both Democrats and Republicans.
...there is little chance that Congress will enact a forced labor program in the near future. In the long-term, however, I fear that constant advocacy of the idea will erode our moral resistance to it, and that some crisis may occur that will enable the proposal to go through.

To claim the right to force the young
To work for the state is horribly wrong.


Blackwater has been in the news a lot lately. They're the private U.S. security firm that has the contract to escort diplomats around war-torn Iraq. In effect, we've privatized some of our military functions.

They got bad press when some of their guys shot up a car in an I.E.D. incident. Also, a couple of ex-employees stole some guns and might have sold them to bad people.

Some people say they're trigger-happy cowboys. But as soon as I hear the word "cowboy" I get a rush of nostalgia and warm feeling. I grew up in the era when the cowboy was a heroic national symbol.

As for their being trigger-happy, I wonder.
Sometimes a flash of thunder
Saves lives
And gets cowboys home to their wives.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Rand Translates Hugo - updated with example

There are 3 places, by the way, where Rand translates short passages from Hugo:

1) Her essay, The Comprachicos

2) Her introduction to the The Man Who Laughs

3) Her L.A. Times review of Ninety-Three (which not the same as her Introduction to Ninety-Three)

In the first case, she mentions that it's her own translation. In the second and third case, she is silent, but I feel confident they are hers.

As was common among educated Russians of her time, she was fluent in French from an early age. As she mentions in item 3, discussing a climactic scene:
I heard this scene when I was seven years old, lying awake in the darkness, listening intently to a voice reading aloud behind the closed door of the nursery. It was my mother reading a French novel to my grandmother in the living room, and all I could hear was a few snatches.
I'm not fluent in French, so I can't address the question of whether her translations are more accurate than other people's. But I can tell you that they feel more "literary" to me.

There's something mysterious about translation, as there is about writing. The mystery doesn't pertain to the basics, which are logical, but to the fine tuning, which makes things feel magical.

Isn't it odd how a certain turn of phrase
Stays with you for days?


English by Lowell Bair:

Then, without haste, slowly and proudly, he stepped over the window sill and, without turning back, erect, with his back to the rungs and the fire behind him, facing the void, he began descending the ladder in silence, with the majesty of a phantom. Those who were on the ladder hurried down it. Everyone who saw him shuddered and drew back; around that man arriving from above there was an aura of sacred horror as around a vision. He gravely strode into the darkness before him; as they stepped back, he moved toward them; his marble pallor was expressionless, there was no light in his ghostly gaze; with each step that he took toward those men whose frightened eyes stared at him in the shadows, he seemed to grow larger; the ladder shook and creaked beneath his ominous tread, and he look like the statue of the commander going back into the grave.
When the marquis was at the bottom, when he had reached the last rung of the ladder and put his foot on the ground, a hand came down on his shoulder. He turned around.
"I arrest you," said Cimourdain.
"You are right," said Lantenac.

English by Ayn Rand (but she trimmed it for her review):

Then, without haste, slowly, proudly, he stepped over the window sill, and, not turning, standing straight, his back against the rungs of the ladder, with the flames behind him and the abyss ahead, he began to descend the ladder in silence with the majesty of a phantom.... With each step he made toward the men whose eye, aghast, stared at him through the darkness, he seemed to grow taller....
When he came down, when he had reached the last rung of the ladder and placed his foot on the ground, a hand fell on his shoulder. He turned.
"I arrest you," said --
"You are right."...

In French:

Puis sans se hâter, lentement, fièrement, il enjamba l'appui de la croisée, et, sans se retourner, droit, debout, adossé aux échelons, ayant derrière lui l'incendie, faisant face au précipice, il se mit à descendre l'échelle en silence avec une majesté de fantôme. Ceux qui étaient sur l'échelle se précipitèrent en bas, tous les assistants tressaillirent, il se fit autour de cet homme qui arrivait d'en haut un recul d'horreur sacré comme autour d'une vision. Lui, cependant, s'enfonçait gravement dans l'ombre qu'il avait devant lui; pendant qu'ils reculaient, il s'approchait d'eux; sa pâleur de marbre n'avait pas un pli, son regard de spectre n'avait pas un éclair; à chaque pas qu'il faisait vers ces hommes dont les prunelles
effarées se fixaient sur lui dans les ténèbres, il semblait plus grand, l'échelle tremblait et sonnait sous son pied lugubre, et l'on eût dit la statue du commandeur redescendant dans le sépulcre.

Quand le marquis fut en bas, quand il eut atteint le dernier échelon et posé son pied à terre, une main s'abattit sur son collet. Il se retourna.

--Je t'arrête, dit Cimourdain.

--Je t'approuve, dit Lantenac.


Ayn Rand, who loved the book, thought the theme of Hugo's Quatrevingt-treize was "man's loyalty to values."
The emphasis he projects is not: "What great values men are fighting for!" but: "What greatness men are capable of, when they fight for their values!"
This theme is unquestionably present in the book.

There's another central theme, noted by Robert Louis Stevenson:
It is a novel built upon "a sort of enigma,".... That enigma was this: "Can a good action be a bad action? Does not he who spares the wolf kill the sheep?" This question, as I say, meets with one answer after another during the course of the book, and yet seems to remain undecided to the end.
Hugo structures the book around hard choices, constantly presenting dilemmas of conflicting values to the major players. They persist in their causes, at great cost to themselves, driving themselves onward in uncompromising fashion. But - toward the end - the 3 major players are finally confronted with soul-breaking decisions. Two of them actually change course somewhat, with spectacular consequences. These final changes in course are clearly meant not so much as disloyalty to their values, but to the sudden grasp of a higher value they had been missing.

This higher value comes upon them more by merciful feeling than by cold hard reasoning. They respond, as ever, with courage.

Hugo doesn't seem to think it's treason
When they let their hearts trump reason.

Comparative Narrative

The centipede must get the blues
Every time he needs new shoes.

But he's glad to have feet, and pities the worm
Who's forced to travel by slow-motion squirm.

So when you feel your situation's grim,
Think of (fill in the blank), and be glad you're not him!

Nonviolent Communication

Saturday night at our house, at 8pm, Vid Axel will be doing a presentation on the Nonviolent Communication Process. He presented the subject this summer at the TOC summer seminar.

Really, the "nonviolent" moniker is a bit misleading. The communication techniques were evolved as a way to negotiate successfully in truly tense situations. But they're useful, in general, for getting what you want through honest communications.

At least, that's what Vid told me. And I don't think he would lie.
After all, he's a truthful guy.

Feel free to come by.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Imprudent Student

I've been reading about the young woman from MIT who went to the Boston Airport with a circuit board, a battery, and some "Play Doh".

She said it was a piece of art.

She got a bunch of guns aimed at her for her trouble.

Next time you're feeling like making art,
Do something with paint.
You may think scaring cops is smart,
But, really, it ain't.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Whose Fault Is It, Anyway?

Blame America first.
You might even want to rehearse.
When something goes wrong
Don't take too long -
Report with great stress
Just how the U.S.
Had a chance to prevent
However exactly things actually went.
So no matter who
Really happened to do
The boo-boo that made the dam burst,
You should blame America first.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Teaching Opportunity for Columbus Day

From The View:
WHOOPI GOLDBERG: Is the world flat?
SHERRI SHEPHERD: Is the world flat? (laughter)
SHEPHERD: …I Don’t know.
GOLDBERG: What do you think?
SHEPHERD: I… I never thought about it, Whoopi. Is the world flat? I never thought about it.
Ships sailing toward the horizon seem to sink,
But come back later, perfectly sound.
That the sort of thing that makes me think
This world might really be round.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

OR Thoughts

I had some minor hand surgery today, removing a "post-traumatic cyst" from the bottom knuckle of my right hand's middle finger.

Well, I would call it my middle finger, but the physicians all referred to it as the "long" finger.

Not that there's anything wrong
With a designation of "long",
But I'm left with a medical riddle:
Why is "long" better than "middle"?

Monday, September 17, 2007

Rest Room Spies

They have been spying on Americans in rest rooms. They claim to have found that men are washing their hands less.

Less than they used to. And less than women do. But even the women's score dropped 2%.

I'm not surprised that women are cleaner. But why the downward direction of washing for both sexes?

What do you think?
Has there been a sudden shortage of sinks?

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Exertion Amidst the Whispering Corn

I took 3rd place
In my Ironman race.

Well, 3rd place in my age group. Don't ask how many finishers were in my age group. It could be a number a lot like 3.

It could even be that I was the second-to-last overall finisher.

I'm showing off the trophy anyway. Shiny.

As we started our swim, the air temperature was 39F. But the water itself was more like 77F, so all was well.

As for sights on the run and bike, this was central Illinois in September, so the main sight was cornfields. It's harvest time, so you could see the giant harvesting machines at work.

Afterwards I was ready
To fall asleep on the floor -
Uncertain and unsteady,
No energy anymore.

Fortunately, my wonderful wife was there to pour me into a motel bed.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Onion Aesthetics

America's Finest News Source reviews music. Music itself. Under the heading "Pitchfork Gives Music 6.8":
"Music's first offering, an eclectic, disparate, but mostly functional compendium of influences from 5000 B.C. to present day, hints that this trend's time may not only have fully arrived, but is already on the wane," Schreiber wrote. "If music has any chance of keeping our interest, it's going to have to move beyond the same palatable but predictable notes, meters, melodies, tonalities, atonalities, timbres, and harmonies."
For the thoroughly burned out critic,
Everything old seems arthritic.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Sympathy for Britney

I'm not a Britney fan, and I'm far outside her target demographic, but I can't believe people were complaining she looked pudgy the other night.

I read that Jay Leno was making fat jokes.

Jay Leno? What does he look like in the equivalent outfit? No, don't tell me.

Adipose tissue
Is the issue
That fascinates the modern mind.

Pray for its destruction
Through fast or liposuction.
Muscles must be perfectly defined!

Don't Try This At Home

I've been re-reading Victor Hugo's last novel, Ninety-Three, as in 1793, the year when a popular rebellion in Brittany threatened the revolutionary republicans in Paris.

The guillotine makes a prominent appearance in the wild tale.

So imagine my surprise today when I read about a man in Michigan who built his own guillotine, and chopped off his own noggin.

On the one hand, it's more considerate than stepping in front of a train.

But frankly, it creeps me out.

I get the disturbing impression
This thing was a labor of love,
A project he really enjoyed,
Some darkly desirous obsession
To end all desiring, to shove
Himself, head first, toward the void.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Neighborhood News

"Woman tries to make bail with counterfeit $100 bill"
Todd handed over two identical $100 bills, which police noticed were counterfeit. A passenger from the car then entered the station and also attempted to bail out Todd by paying with another $100 bill, which again had the same serial number, police said.
That's a front page story today in our local newspaper, the Beverly Review.

They say it's good to make money
But when you do, they look at it funny.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Loving Life

I was thinking about the boast, heard from some of our enemies, that they love death as we love life. It's meant as a mark of moral superiority, and I suppose it's meant to scare us. But I always think, what losers.

The world is real enough.
Don't fear to give your love
To what you find within.

Some say it's just a test,
That what comes next is best,
That holding on is sin.

All crap. Embrace your bliss.
All cowardice - dismiss!
The world is yours to win.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Family Secrets

Joey the Clown
Goes down.

Yes, there's a verdict in the big Chicago mob trial, and all 5 guys - wise guys that is - have been found guilty.

That includes Joey "The Clown" Lombardo, 78, who wisecracked his way through his testimony.

The Clown seemed perfectly affable,
But the crimes weren't particularly laughable:
At trial, prosecutors presented 18 men and women who’d been the victims of Outfit hits, some more than 30 years ago. The victims had been strangled, shotgunned or had their throats slit, prosecutors said.
Actually, this list leaves off the case of the Spilotro brothers, fellow mobsters who were simply beaten to death.

The retirement program is not the best.
Mostly they're dead, or under arrest.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Foreseeable Consequences

The FDA decided that anti-depressants were causing some teen suicides.

So they required a big black suicide warning - for teenagers only - on the packages.

Teen prescriptions went down. Teen suicides went up.

Let's see. The major cause of suicide is depression. So you scare people away from anti-depressants...

Who could ever have guessed
Things would work out this way?

You know what gets me depressed?
The FDA.

Shoo Flies

We spent our anniversary weekend in Saugatuck, Michigan.

On Saturday, the beach was perfect... except for a plague of black, biting flies.

I killed many of them. But they just kept surging!

On Sunday, we tried again. The air was cooler and the water was choppier... but the plague of flies was gone.

Once we said goodbye to flies,
The beach turned into paradise.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Osama Pundit

Osama Bin Laden is disappointed with our Democrats, and with our democracy. He thinks we should give it up.

Oh, and we should read Noam Chomsky. And ratify the Kyoto Protocol.

There's something we need to discuss,
Something you need to understand.
You're not the boss of us.
Pound sand.


I was wrong about where Hsu went.

The ailing desperado
Was nailed in Colorado.

He had gotten sick on the Amtrak train out of California.
He was still in St. Mary's Hospital in Grand Junction - 250 miles west of Denver - Thursday evening, according to Pete Smarr, a nursing supervisor. Smarr declined to say what Hsu was suffering from - other than to report him in custody and in "fair" condition.
I'm kind of disappointed. I liked him better as the international man of mystery.

Now he's just an average sort
Who tried to skip his day in court.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

The Case of the Cutthroat Trout

The government has been engaged in a 20 year effort to rescue a species of trout, the Greenback Cutthroat.

As it turns out, there's another trout with a similar name and appearance, the Colorado River Cutthroat. It's not endangered. It's even... kind of common. But it looks almost exactly the same as the Greenback.

So the biologists mixed them up. For years.

They stocked ecological niches
With lots of the wrong kind of fishes.

I don't want to know what it cost,
Or just how much money was lost.

By the way, if they are so similar, do we really need both varieties? Couldn't we save lots of greenbacks by letting the Greenbacks swim their way into natural history?

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Hsu Fly, Don't Bother Me

Okay, maybe someone can explain this to me...

Fifteen years ago, this Hsu guy pled and fled. He pled "no contest" to a felony, then fled to China.

So now... he finally gets re-arrested, and the judge lets him stay out on bail?

Didn't it occur to the judge that he might be a flight risk? Since he had taken flight before?

My theory may be drawn wrong
But I would guess he's long-gone
To Hong Kong.

Call of the Entrepreneur

I saw The Call of the Entrepreneur tonight in glorious HD projection. It's a very well-done video, stressing the virtue and heroism of entrepreneurs. It was put out by the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty.

As religious conservatives, they stress the fact that entrepreneurs are alert to the unmet needs of others, and they think of the entrepreneur's self confidence in terms of the religious virtues of faith and hope.

A speaker in the film remarks that as humans we share a bit in God's ability to create. The idea spun around in my head. Human beings, who thrive on creativity, imagine gods who are also creative.

At any rate, it's great
To honor entrepreneurs
Who create
And endure.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Bagels and Nothingness

“Being” seems to be both “immediate” and simple, but reflection reveals that it itself is, in fact, only meaningful in opposition to another concept, “nothing.”

That's from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, entry on Hegel.

When reading Hegel,
Eating a bagel
Helps one to see
Just how a key
Part of the whole
Is nothing - a hole.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Tilting Away

Today was the last day of the season for our outdoor swimming pool club. It's always a sad day for Marsha, who loves the place.

To me the last big day of summer comes in 2 weeks, when I do my big triathlon for the year. I'll be so tired after that, I'll definitely be accepting of autumn's arrival.

When you live in the Frostbelt,
You're always glad when the frost melts.

And you're sad when the days of summer
Fall into Autumn slumber.

Lend Your Cell, Land in a Cell?

Tonight we were at a big outdoor concert, and as it was winding down I saw a woman accompanying a blind young man. I heard her speak Spanish to her son. She looked distressed, and possibly lost, so I spoke to her.

It turned out that her English was excellent. She was looking for her husband. He had gone to get their car, but she wasn't sure where she was supposed to meet him.

I asked if he had a cellphone with him. Yes, he did, but she hadn't brought hers. So I handed her mine.

Then followed the adventure. It turned out they were visiting from Bogota, and he had his Colombian phone. My cell wasn't set up for international. But Marsha had a calling card, and after many attempts at trying to dial correctly, we got through to her husband, and all was straightened out.

Hopefully the phone police won't arrest me for suspicion of involvement with South American drug lords!

Is it permitted to blog from prison?
Somehow I suspect it isn't.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Online Confession

The Chicago Tribune had an article today about the decline of "confession" as an institutional practice. Fewer and fewer Catholics show up to confess their sins in person to a priest.

But now they can do it on the web, at

I tried it for nostalgia value, confessing to very minor greed, and was told to say 8 Hail Marys and 2 Our Fathers.

That may sound like a lot of praying to you, but due to early training, I can say those prayers faster than I can think.

My penance for minor greed
Can be uttered with major speed.

Saturday, September 01, 2007


I have a friend who gets worried if he starts enjoying his work too much.

He believes his core fulfillment should come from being with his family, from helping other people, and from recreational pursuits.

It's like he's afraid that there's a "work-aholic" hiding inside him that must be kept down.

Inside your soul, does it quietly lurk?
Do you dare, to love your work?


Presupposing private property, my work is an alienation of life, for I work in order to live, in order to obtain for myself the means of life. My work is not my life.

That's Marx, slagging work under the capitalist system.

"My work is not my life." What might that mean? If it just means that one's work is not one's whole life, it's hard to argue with. But one's work is certainly a big part of most people's lives.

"I work in order to live." How awful. Of course, without private property, you could work for the greater good of the greatest number. That should prove motivating!

Annoyed at having to live by your labors?
Just imagine it's all for your neighbors!

Nonreligious Mystery

David Ramsay Steele hosts a monthly discussion group which he calls the "Libertarian Seminar". Tonight he began by commenting on the recent spate of best-selling books arguing for atheism.

Why this trend, why now? he asked.

Some say it's a reaction to being attacked by fanatics on 9/11. I wonder if it's a backlash against busybody religious politicians.

Lots of people get peeved
When ordered what to believe.