Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Be It Resolved

If I were the govenment,
my New Year's resolution
would be to just stop bailing out
these failing institutions.

It's not that I like failure.
Really, I prefer success.
But I hate lending a helping wallet
under duress.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Defiant Appointment

We have a new Senator, sort of, from Illinois. Blago has chosen Roland Burris, an Illinois politician of African American background. 

The Senate Democratic Caucus claims they won't give Burris a seat. But by law they may be forced to seat him anyway.

Burris would actually be the 6th black U.S. Senator. The first 3 were Republicans. It's nice to see the Democrats finally catching up!

Still I doubt that busloads of tourists
will flock to see the birthplace of Burris.

Monday, December 29, 2008

More on the "Magic Negro" Story

I had forgotten that it was an L.A. Times opinion piece that started the characterization of Obama as a "Magic Negro."

But the piece was by an African American author, so use of the word "negro" was okay. I know of his racial identification because he spelled it out:
Speaking as an African American whose last name has led to his racial "credentials" being challenged — often several times a day — I know how pesky this sort of thing can be.
I dream of a day when we won't be so deferential
to racial credentials.

The Impending End Of Everything

My friend homeschools. In part, to protect her daughters from doomsayers of all stripes. But, homeschooled children actually get out and about quite a bit. So my friend still ends up having to comfort a frightened child.

The old way was to tell the kids that they would go to hell some day.

The new way is to tell the kids that global warming's here to stay,
and everyone will boil to death before the next few years are out.

They pour their fear in children's ears.  It makes me mad enough to shout.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Man Upstairs

How would you like to find out that you have an unknown someone secretly living in your house for several days, stealing your food and clothing?

It happened to a family in Pennsylvania.

If your food is disappearing in a pattern that's erratic,
check your attic.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Not So Magical

One of the Republican Party's best-known operatives is under fire for distributing a CD containing the spoof song "Barack the Magic Negro" as part of a campaign to be elected chairman of the Republican National Committee.
It's sung to the tune of "Puff the Magic Dragon".

Wikipedia has a definition for "Magic Negro":
...a supporting, often mystical stock character in fiction who, by use of special insight or powers, helps the white protagonist get out of trouble.
Notice that the definition specifies a supporting character, which pretty much rules out Obama in advance, since he's clearly in a lead role!

Wikipedia goes on to note that the word "negro" is "now considered by many as archaic and offensive".

From English it's practically vanished,
but a word that's spelled the same persists in Spanish.

Without it, Spanish speakers would lack
their everyday word for the color black.

Obama Loses Power

Electric power, that is.
The island of Oahu lost power during heavy rain and lightning, blacking out the population of some 800,000 people and thousands of tourists including vacationing President-elect Barack Obama.
Hey, doesn't protocol require that you capitalize the "Elect" part of his title?

Also, are we already paying him a salary? Is this a paid vacation?

And why doesn't the Secret Service have generators on hand? Do they at least have flashlights?

And do they, or don't they, have a submacopter on hand to help him escape in case of another enemy attack on Oahu?

With a submacopter, 
with a nuclear power supply,
he could chill out underwater,
or be audacious and fly.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Love of Country

Joel Stein says:
I've come to believe conservatives are right. They do love America more. Sure, we liberals claim that our love is deeper because we seek to improve the United States by pointing out its flaws. But calling your wife fat isn't love.
Still, he thinks the conservatives are just being tribalistic. But I'm guessing that he's trying to get a rise out of fellow liberals, because he ends like this:
I'm the type who always wonders if some other idea or place or system is better and I'm missing out. And, as I figured out shortly after meeting my wife, that is no way to love.
Will he get down on a knee, and sing,
"Oh say can you see", and offer a ring
to the land that he loves, and claim that his thing
for Sweden was merely a meaningless fling?

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Rather Too Paternal

Anurag Wadehra does a retrospective dissection of "Libertarian Paternalism":
The slippery concept they introduce is called "choice architecture" - which begs the question who controls the "architecture". The authors believe government should improve upon choices they offer, without questioning whether these should even be in government's hands in the first place.
Always reflect
before you select
an architect.

Especially one who will judge
when you are in need of a nudge
to do what's correct.

Wadehra observes:
By the year end, we have come far from the civil, nudging debate of the summer. Now, the government is moving aggressively to control the financial industry, bail out the auto industry and inject massive fiscal and monetary stimuli in the economy. Sadly, it is evident that the paper-thin concept of nudge is no defense against the do-gooders who are out to do good with a shove.
I dislike "brotherly love"
that arrives by way of a shove.

Try This At Home

"Meredith L. Patterson is trying to develop genetically altered yogurt bacteria that will glow green to signal the presence of melamine, the chemical that turned Chinese-made baby formula and pet food deadly."

As some of you may already know, she's doing it at home. That's what the AP article is about - homebrew genetic tinkerers.

With Meredith involved, 
I expect more problems solved.
Progress should be frenetic
in matters genetic.


Curious cat, for better or worse,
discovers door to alternate universe.

Christmas Reminiscing

I was in choir, and we would sing at Midnight Mass, which was always great fun because we got to sing carols as well as the normal parts of the mass like the "Kyrie." Then I would come home and help my mother put gifts under the tree for my younger brothers and sisters. Sometimes I would help my father do the "some assembly required" thing - which usually led to him cursing at the cryptic instructions.

I always liked the story of Christmas better than the story of Easter. Christmas is a story about being happy about a baby being born. Easter is a story of grisly death and mysterious resurrection. 

I found the baby thing easier to relate to.

New babies appear
with great regularity.

Resurrections, it's clear,
are more of a rarity.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Think Journal Debuts

The debut issue of Think Journal is out. It's actually a small literary magazine, with poems, some fiction, and some articles. The founder is Christine Yurick, who seems full of energy. 

The journal doesn't seem to have much web presence yet, although it has a listing on this page.

I've got an article in it, "A Poem, To Be, Must Mean."

By titling this way I mean to disagree
with a famous work of poetry
which concludes "a poem should not mean, but be."
Here's an article claiming to present "Obama's Five Rules of Scandal Response."

Wow. It's good he's worked out rules so quickly. Because if cascading scandals appear, he's ready!

But I want to look at just the first one: "Be transparent, to an extent."

So, to an extent transparent, and to an extent... the opposite.

Is it half transparent,
or half opaque?

It's not apparent
what difference it makes.


Daughter's flight, which was due at seven
still wasn't here at half past eleven.

It finally got here at half past one,
but our waiting wasn't done.

Her baggage took an hour to appear.
Finally, now, at last, she's here.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Maybe They Should Hire Me

The President Elect's staff has produced a report  [pdf] exonerating itself of unseemly involvement with the radioactive Blagojevich.

But - there is a typo in the report! On the first line of page 3, you will see "Valarie Jarrett."  Elsewhere it is correctly spelled "Valerie."

How could they mess up the spelling of Valerie?
Take away the editor's salary!

I don't know what their editor makes,
but I do catch most of my own misteaks.

Lot's Wife

I was re-admiring a poem by Anna Akhmatova today - "Lot's Wife". 

Lot's wife is the woman who was turned into stone for looking back at Sodom and Gomorrah.

I don't read Russian, so I cannot vouch for accuracy, but I like this version, which ends like this:
Who will grieve for this woman? Does she not seem
too insignificant for our concern?
Yet in my heart I never will deny her,
who suffered death because she chose to turn.
I wonder if this reflects a hesitation about the revolutionary impulse, which asks us all to disregard the past, disregard mere individuals, and keep eyes locked forward toward an imagined future.

They tell you "look ahead" -
that "nothing lasts".

But it's hard to forget
the beauties of one's past.

Monday, December 22, 2008


First Sarah Palin fielded a phone call from the President of France. Only it wasn't.

Then the New York Times ran a letter from the Mayor of Paris. Only it wasn't.

If they claim to be French, and sound officious,
be suspicious.

Speeding Camera Humor

Hey kids, here's a funny gag. Print fake license plates from your computer, and speed by some speeding-ticket cameras.

For extra fun, use the license numbers of people you know!

Of course it won't be funny,
when it happens to me
and the state demands its money
for "my" speeding spree.


We saw Cold on its closing night at Dream Theatre.

I'm hoping it will be one of those seasonal favorites that get remounted every year, because I'd be glad to see it again. It's a short play, just an actor and an actress. The part for the actress is wildly expressive - an extreme extrovert - and Courtney Arnett took the role at full speed with stunning energy. Jeremy Menekseoglu, the playwright, was also the actor. He plays an intense introvert, and was very funny in a bit where he realizes that she has taken him to a predominantly gay party.

Despite the show's title, it was a heartwarming show, a kind of comedy, even romantic. People left the play smiling. As one synopsis has it:
...two people who always spend Christmas alone manage to find each other...
Yes, there are reasons they always spend Christmas alone. Let's just say they are humorous, but very troubled individuals.

But somehow they seem well-suited
and overdue to get their lives rebooted.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Chilly in Chicago

I suppose it's the longest day of the year somewhere else. Happy first day of summer to all you southern hemisphere people!

Well, the shortest day of the year
is a subzero one here.

For you international types, that's subzero F, which is rather cooler than subzero C.

I suppose there's no need to say
there never will be a subzero K.

Department of Duh

I've been a fan of Chicago's Dream Theatre Company for years, but I never really thought about their titular typography until today.

On their web page you will see that "DREAM" is spelled with a reversed R.

Today it dawned on me. The company was started in Moscow

The Russians have that letter, ya, that looks like a reversed R.

At last I have detected
what should have been suspected
but somehow got neglected.

Saturday, December 20, 2008


Harvard researchers find that pain hurts more if you think someone meant to hurt you.

Banging your shin on the coffee table
somehow hurts less than a kick from Aunt Mabel.

We are born to apprehend
what others intend.

And our senses of pleasure and pain
get measured out by the brain.

Why the Wait?

Caroline is one of the anointed.
Now it's time to get her appointed
to the U.S. Senate.

She's our closest thing to royalty,
so let's show a little loyalty,
and send her there this minute!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Not So Pacific

Yoichi Shimamoto, and his wife, are suing United Airlines for giving him too much to drink.

While traveling high above the Pacific, he got drunk and struck her 6 times. Leading to legal trouble. Leading to this lawsuit.
The Shimamotos want United to pick up the $100,000 tab for Yoichi Shimamoto's bail, and defense and Immigration attorneys' fees, as well as the costs they incurred to have his probationary sentence transferred to Florida, where his wife had a home. They also want the airline to pay for pain, suffering, loss of income and "any other relief that is just and proper."
I think bad-tempered boozers
should finish as legal losers.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Just To Be Clear

Bush explains:
"I've abandoned free-market principles to save the free-market system..."
Let's have a free market without the "free",
frozen in motion, static,
sealed with a government guarantee -
not practical, but... pragmatic.

Jobs For Spouses

AP is reporting that our governor purposely withheld a state job from the wife of Jesse Jackson Jr.:
Blagojevich went out of his way to say, 'You know I was considering your wife for the lottery job and the $25,000 you didn't give me? That's why she's not getting the job.'
Oh no, 
that sounds so 
quid pro quo!

"Quid pro quo" is just "this for that" in the dead language of a fallen empire. But it remains important! 

Because if you're governor and you just happen to give a job to a contributor's wife, that's one thing. 

But if you give her a job in return for her husband's campaign contributions, that's another.

It's all about intent.
Was the hiring meant
as reward for money sent?

No Inappropriate Contact

"Obama says review found staff had no ‘inappropriate' contact with Ill. governor"

They need to re-think the wording on that one. It's making me think of a certain South Park episode.

Words that are strangely abstract
stray from foundations in fact.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Black SUVs All In A Row

I got to look down on Obama's motorcade today. He drove by under my window. I spotted the "flipped-up rear window" SUV at the end of the line, where some heavily armed guys ride with their fingers near the triggers.

Eyes watch out the back
ready to counter-attack.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

In The Plaintive Mode

He desired the joy
of being rich.

He devised a ploy,
but hit a hitch.

Someone in his employ
became a snitch.

Weep, Illinois,
for Blagojevich!

Saturday, December 13, 2008


Apparently more Americans believe in the Devil than believe in Evolution.

Speaking off the level,
I believe the Devil
invented evolution
as an "evil contribution".

Also, he figured it would be a hellacious vexation
to all who believe in the 7 days of creation.

Deal Or No Deal?

Ah. So Obama said he was confident that his staff had done no "dealmaking" with Blagojevich.

But his chief of staff gave Blago a list of candidates who were "acceptable" to Obama.

It's on tape.
One source confirmed that communications between Emanuel and the Blagojevich administration were captured on court-approved wiretaps.
Blago went on to blast the man and bemoan
that Obama offered "appreciation" alone.

Meanwhile, our Illinois Attorney General went before the Illinois Supreme Court, trying to get the Gov declare "disabled." But it doesn't seem to have gone especially well.

One of the justices asked whether the Gov's problems really fit what the Illinois Constitution meant by "disabled." Our Attorney General answered:
I think the question you're getting at is, how is disability or is disability defined correct? And so yes, we did. It's addressed in our briefs. We would look to the fact that the term disability legally is very broad, that it is not simply isolated to a physical or mental disability. And you can read all about that in our pleadings. Yes.
I'm not sure what sort of disability is left after disposing of the "physical or mental". 

After disposing of body and mind,
there's not much Blago left to find.

Mandible Strike Speed Record

Researchers using high-speed cameras have found that:
The Panamanian termite's chomp-down is the fastest "mandible strike" recorded. The termites have to employ such a speedy strike to defend themselves, because their small size makes it harder to generate enough force to inflict damage on a foe.
But be careful about inviting them to your house for a demonstration.

Would they like a bite of wood?
Yes. They say the flavor's good!

Would they like a little more?
Oops, there goes your bedroom floor!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Arrested In New York

Ponzi schemes are a form of financial fraud
and are therefore outlawed.

But here's a guy who blew about 50 billion.
Now he's embarrassed - his face has turned vermillion.

Thursday, December 11, 2008


In the winter, in my basement,
there is whistling - vague and ghostly.

It drifts into my daydreams,
but when I listen closely
the tune dissolves like water
and wanders off morosely.

It's partly the brain seeking order.
But I blame the steam heat, mostly.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Blagojevich Who?

Boy, a lot of his old friends seem to have forgotten his name, as of today. Even though it's a hard name to forget!

Oh, I remember him, I mean
I really don't, nor have I seen
him - since the early Pleioscene.

Really, truly, my hands are clean!

The Schopenhauer Cure

At book club we discussed The Schopenhauer Cure, by Irvin Yalom, a well-known psychiatrist.

It's a tale of group therapy, alternating with a psycho-biography of the eccentric Schopenhauer. So it's part fiction, part history.

He's mixed two books into one!
But I'd rather that had been left undone.

The group therapy part includes a character who has been cured of sex addiction by his reading of Schopenhauer. But in place of his sex addiction he has acquired manners that are truly bizarre. Can group therapy shatter the hard shell he has created around his vulnerable self?

Yalom is the author of a textbook on group therapy, so I guess he should know how it works, but it didn't quite come alive for me, I guess because it sounded a little too pat - no one ever seemed to be struggling enough to admit to their deep inner secrets.

I know it's his dominion.
But that's my dour opinion.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008


"Selling a Senate seat is one thing... But extorting sick children is low even by Illinois code"

I think that's right. Political offices are often the subject of wheeling and dealing. But our gov is also accused of extorting support from an executive at Children's Memorial Hospital, which is one of our flagship pediatric hospitals.
"So, Mr. Blagojevich, are you telling this court that those children who have cancer, who have disfiguring diseases, who have faced tremendous trauma, are you telling us you would withhold needed funds from them so that you could enrich your campaign and yourself?"
The real solution is to get the state out of medicine. Hospital executives shouldn't have to go to hat-in-hand to government officials. That just invites corruption.

Why should anyone's health
be hostage to an official's wealth?

On His Own Recognizance

Anyway, Gov. Rod B. posted bond, and he's sleeping in his own bed tonight. He's still governor, and he can still appoint the Obama-replacement senator. He can even appoint himself to that position. He's innocent till proven guilty!

I hope he appoints himself to the Senate
and goes to live in DC.

The Senate will suffer from having him in it,
but at least he'll be farther from me.

Bad Day For Blagojevich

The Feds showed up outside our governor's house today, then drove him away in handcuffs.

They've got him on tape saying a lot of crude illegal-sounding stuff. He even describes our president-elect with a long word that starts with mother. 

(PDF with Mamet-like quotes, here.)

Don't call the president names. That can only harden
the heart of the man you'll be begging for a pardon.

Monday, December 08, 2008

No Need To Stock Up

Obama says there is no need to stock up on guns.
"I believe in common-sense gun safety laws, and I believe in the second amendment," Obama said at a news conference. "Lawful gun owners have nothing to fear."
The ironic thing here is that the gun business is booming because of Obama. Why would he want to slow down the one part of the economy that is going great guns?

"Lawful gun owners have nothing to fear."

Interesting quote. The problem is that an owner could be lawful one day and criminal the next - if the law changed. That's what people are worried about.

Ah, the poor second amendment, so neglected.  Imagine if Obama had said:

"I believe in common-sense religious safety laws, and I believe in the first amendment. Lawful religions have nothing to fear."

Arrest those folks who play with the poisonous snakes.
They're just a bunch of law-breaking flakes.

Sad Situation

Here in Chicago, workers of a failed company are occupying its plant, demanding severance pay and vacation time.

The company was in trouble, lost its financing from Bank of America, and closed its doors on short notice.

Barack Obama, Jesse Jackson, the governor of Illinois, and our remaining U.S. senator have all voiced their support for these workers. 

Our governor is demanding that Bank of America reopen its tax-dollar suffused credit line for the company. But... it's a window and door company. And construction in the U.S. has hit the brakes, with no green light in sight. Does this place sound like a good loan prospect?
Rep. Luis Gutierrez, who also has been making appearances at the sit-in, said the workers under federal law are entitled to 60 days' pay in the event of a shutdown.
Of course, that 60 days of pay is supposed to come from the company. But if the company doesn't have any money...

I see a flaw
in that law -
when a company's truly in hock,
you can't squeeze blood from a rock.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Where There's Smoke

Tom Brokaw is on the case:
U.S. President-elect Barack Obama failed to give a straight answer when asked on a U.S. talkshow on Sunday whether he had managed to quit smoking.
Of course he's quit. More than once.
Ask a tough question and he... punts.

Election Over, Ayers Emerges

Bill Ayers tries, once again, to explain his past deeds in a favorable light:
Peaceful protests had failed to stop the war. So we issued a screaming response.
Actually, "screaming" is part of the "peaceful protest" repertoire.  What he issued was an explosive response.

According to his account,
all his bombings amount
to a very loud scream
on an anti-war theme.

Forget that "terrorist" handle!
Let's try: extreme vandal.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Making An Entrance

Friday at rehearsal the director says: there's something wrong with Father's big entrance scene.

I'm playing Father and I had been thinking there was something wrong. I'd been thinking my daughters weren't greeting me with enough excitement. (It's "Little Women.")

Then it occurred to me - DUH - that maybe it was my own fault. It was my entrance. I had most of the actual lines. Maybe MY excitement level was low. So we replayed the scene, and I was more energetic, and the director was happy.

Afterwards I asked myself WHY I had made such a mistake, and I realized I had fallen into the SICK trap.  My character is sick. And I have to convey that. But the temptation is to play sick by projecting less dramatic presence. Wrong!

Dramas low on excitement
deserve a bill of indictment.

Friday, December 05, 2008

OJ Sentenced

Do you get overconfident when you are found not guilty of a big crime - even though you left blood evidence behind?

you might argue away.
- The science is hard to follow.
But it's hard to escape
when you're caught on tape.
- All your denials ring hollow.

Mother Russia

The Russians aren't reproducing much. You may find that comforting. But the Kremlin finds it troubling. So they have organized a youth movement:
Nashi's annual camp, 200 miles outside Moscow, is attended by 10,000 uniformed youngsters and involves two weeks of lectures and physical fitness.

Attendance is monitored via compulsory electronic badges and anyone who misses three events is expelled. So are drinkers; alcohol is banned. But sex is encouraged, and condoms are nowhere on sale.
If you're a loyal Russian,
you don't need much discussion.

For the good of the state:
hurry up and procreate!

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Choo Choo Through Chicago

Today emilya  arrived in Chicago via train from L.A.  She had a layover of several hours before she had to get on another train to continue her trip to NYC. So we got together with her!

Such a trip entails
3 days riding the rails.

What a massive pain.
I'm glad they invented the plane.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Seemingly Endless Swirl

Charlie Rangel is getting a lot of attention lately:
The Democratic chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee has been at the center of a seemingly endless swirl of questions about his activities. He came under fire this week after The New York Times reported that Rangel worked to protect a tax shelter for Nabors Industries, an oil company whose chief executive was pledging $1 million to a school bearing the congressman's name.
Rangel seems to be tangled in personal deals where he wangled options which were financially salubrious but ethically dubious.

But let's put his name on a school
where they teach how to work around rules

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Leasing the Meters

The City of Chicago has now agreed to a long term lease of its parking meters.
The deal with Chicago Parking Meter LLC, an infrastructure investment fund managed by Morgan Stanley, marks the first time a U.S. city has privatized its parking meter system. It adds to the list of infrastructure assets Chicago has cashed in on with leases of an airport, a toll road, and some downtown parking lots.
Mayor Richard M. Daley has been a leader at this variety of privatization.

I do wonder what will happen to the handicapped scam on downtown streets. Normally, if you have an official blue handicapped placard, you can park for free at meters. That's not the scam. The scam is when you have your handicapped mother's placard, but you're the only one in the car.

I've seen people park for free
who looked able-bodied to me.


Anurag Wahdera has three posts on the Mumbai attacks:

Mumbai Mayhem - The Heroics
For me, nowhere is the future of Indian capitalism, warts-and-all, as evident as in Mumbai. And for that reason, it must be defended from the medieval mindset and handiwork of the terrorists.
Mumbai Mayhem - The Inept
Here is cause enough for all Indians to hang their heads in regrettable shame or raise their voice in justifiable anger.
Mumbai Mayhem - The Tragic
Sadly, it was the calculus of the terrorists - to hit the foreigners and the rich at prominent, symbolic places - which assured that many of us in the Bay Area were touched by the tragedy.
Meanwhile, no posts from Ergo Sum since the attacks. He was in Mumbai, last I heard. I'm hoping he's all right. It's a huge city. Odds are he is. But, still...

To my Indian friends,
I can only extend
my sympathy, and the desire
to fight back
and return fire
against these senseless attacks.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Drat, the Lat!

In Latvia, the unit of currency is called the lat. 

If you live there,
you'd better beware,
of saying the lat is ker-splat.

You really don't want to that:
Hammered by economic woe, this former Soviet republic recently took a novel step to contain the crisis. Its counterespionage agency busted an economist for being too downbeat.
The spies keep their eyes 
on all who despise 
the so-meritorious
surely victorious
sheer flat-out glorious

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Speaking of Rights

Gen LaGreca has a posted a rousing article about individual rights, and the necessity of invoking them when arguing for liberty.

Among her recommendations:
Reason with Moral Principles, Not Just Practicality
I think that's right. Counter-arguments about practicality often have the air of conceding your opponent's moral point of view. Your opponent ends up looking like the "do the right thing" idealist, and you end up looking like the "let's be practical" realist. When this happens, you have been positioned into a dangerous slot.

Speaking only of what is and isn't practical,
makes you sound unstrategic... merely tactical.

Historic Moment, Revised

The Washington Post ran a story today arguing that Obama is not actually black, since he's half-white.
To me, as to increasing numbers of mixed-race people, Barack Obama is not our first black president.
I guess that'll have to wait
for some future date.

UPDATE: If you're interested in the niceties of genetic history, here are some estimates on "How White Are Blacks, How Black Are Whites?" 

There's a mention of Asians and Native Americans in connection with Tiger Woods.

More on the Love of the Obamas

The Chicago Tribune has its own story about the Obamas' love:
The Obamas' unabashed affection for each other suggests they could become the one of the most engaging sets of lovebirds in White House history. Though the home has known many deeply committed couples (as well as some infamously uncommitted), few were as young, attractive or willing to put their passion on public display.
Did public displays of affection
help to win the election?

The Trib does balance the story by reporting on public statements they have both made about tensions in the marriage. But they conclude:
Talk and trade-offs appear to have mended that rift.
Did public reports of negotiation
help to win over this war-weary nation?

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Murderers in Mumbai

The Indians seem to have finally squelched that latest terrorist attack in Mumbai.

When I was a kid, the peace movement had a slogan.  "What if they held a war and nobody came?" You saw it on posters, usually decorated with flowers.

The problem is that your enemies 
may deliver war where they please.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Black Friday

On Long Island today, Walmart shoppers killed a man.
"He was bum-rushed by 200 people," co-worker Jimmy Overby, 43, told the Daily News. "They took the doors off the hinges. He was trampled and killed in front of me. They took me down too. ... I literally had to fight people off my back."
He was pronounced dead at 6 am. What a way to kick off the shopping season. I hope they got this on the security cam.

To keep any more from being harmed,
Long Island retail workers should be armed.

Fossils Died For Your Fuel

For anyone marketing oil or coal,
I think reframing should be your goal.

These rather useful commodities 
are viewed as unnatural oddities. 

But really they're not so Satanic - 
In fact, they're purely organic.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Cystic Fibrosis

There's a peculiar brouhaha going on at Carleton U. in Canada:
A student association at Carleton University has decided to cancel its annual Shinerama campaign benefiting cystic fibrosis according to the belief the disease only affects white people, who are mostly male. The school's student council made the move after passing a motion stating: "Whereas cystic fibrosis has been recently revealed to only affect white people, and primarily men, be it resolved that: CUSA discontinue its support of this campaign."
First, excuse me while I puke over the ethics involved.

Second, they were totally wrong on the gender angle:
Cystic fibrosis is diagnosed in males and females equally.
Female patients consistently had a lower median survival age than male patients (25 vs 30 years in 1990).
Third, they were even wrong on the racial angle:
Of all ethnic groups, Caucasians have the highest inherited risk for CF, and Asian Americans have the lowest. In the United States today, about 1 of every 3,600 Caucasian children is born with CF. This compares with 1 of every 17,000 African Americans and only 1 of every 90,000 Asian Americans. Although the chances of inherited risk may vary, CF has been described in every geographic area of the world among every ethnic population.
Such postmodern convictions -
only inclusive afflictions
are worth of contributions
for research solutions.

Feast Day

It's Thanksgiving Day in the States. 

Lacking a belief in a pervasive mind that runs the Universe from behind, I'm not sure who to thank, except for those of my own kind.

So, to all who have ever lightened my day, to all who have given a smile or toiled to find a better way to do anything worthwhile, or just plain struggled to get along, and thereby kept something from going wrong...

thank you.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Flubs Begetting Cubs

Zookeepers in Japan were frustrated - their polar bear pair wouldn't mate - wouldn't make more of those cute snow-colored carnivores!

Turned out their "male" was really female.
Kind of a large-scale fail.

thick hair
made it hard to tell.

But the bears 
knew perfectly well.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Playing Father

Rehearsing Little Women is a lot of fun so far.

I can see why Jo has remained such a favorite of readers.

She wants to be a full member of her family, but she also wants her own career. Her family keeps hemming her in with homilies, but she ends up making a success of herself on her own terms.

I play the preacher father -
who can be a bit of a bother!

Monday, November 24, 2008

One Species

Today a jury in Texas convicted some people of funneling charity money to a terrorist group - Hamas.

I was struck by this quotation:
“My dad is not a criminal!” sobbed one courtroom observer after the verdicts were read. “He’s a human!
I don't know the age of the speaker, who was doubtless in deep distress. But the line of thought struck me as odd. Being a criminal and being a human are not exactly contradictory.

The first, I reckon,
is a subset of the second.

It's true that we often speak metaphorically of criminals as if they were subhuman animals. 

But criminals are people too!

Committing a crime? You may go to jail.
But no way will you grow a tail!

Avast Ye, Bankers!

Reena Kapoor alerted me to this spoof headline:
Somali Pirates in Discussions to Acquire Citigroup
Citigroup might find it reassuring,
to know that someone finds them so alluring.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Turkey Complaints

The pardoning of turkeys is a time-honored form of silly publicity gatheringEvery year, governors and the president pardon turkeys around Thanksgiving. 

But not all are pardoned. Only a few.
The rest get eaten by me and you.

Well, you're exempted from that last line if you're a vegetarian.

The governor of our 49th state got a huge wave of bad press because - after pardoning a bird - she was interviewed with a couple of other birds being drained of their blood in the background of the video.

Major media clucked at her over allowing TV viewers to see the process by which a living organism becomes meat.

Eric at Classical Values has a round-up, and he reveals a shocking picture of Obama chomping into some chicken:
Imagine. Not only was that animal slaughtered while still alive, but its dead body was then severed into pieces, with the flesh on one of its legs finally torn apart by the teeth of a man who then swallowed it -- the latter in full view of reporters and photographers. And after all of that, he was elected president.
Somehow the media chose not to howl
over the foul play done to that fowl.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Don't Dress For Dinner

Saw Don't Dress For Dinner, a modern French farce. The show was hilarious. The crowd loved it. It's still in previews, so I suppose it will only get funnier.

The male lead is played by Jeffrey Donovan, the guy who plays the hero on the Burn Notice TV show. Spencer Kayden, as the hired cook, frequently steals the show.

It's not a new play.  But this production had the look of a Broadway-bound revival, with expensive actors and no money spared on the set. 

The playwright's most famous comedy, Boeing Boeing, seems to be running successfully on Broadway right now, and I believe "Don't Dress" is a many-years-later sequel, so the timing may be right.

A farce,
when well done,
is more than the sum
of its fast moving parts.

Troubles With Food

Reena Kapoor writes:
Everytime I hear American politicians drone on about the poor in America I start to wonder about how poor the poor in America really are. Perhaps this uncharitable train of thought is due to the fact I was raised in India where poverty - the real kind where you wonder where your next meal is coming from - abounds...
She then looks at some U.S. Census stats about the average poor person's living conditions. 

Apparently by Indian standards, the poor here live pretty well.

Where poverty abounds,
hunger hounds the poor.

But in the U.S. we obsess and fret
about the growing obesity threat
which endangers the health
of those with low wealth.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Capital Idea

Quee Nelson suggests a thought experiment:
Just ask yourself: what would happen, really, seriously, if everybody suddenly became extremely charitable and voluntarily we all agreed to redistribute all the wealth of the world equally? What would happen?
Her answer is that the world would plunge into poverty on short notice. Because no one would be preserving capital for future production.
Capital means spinning wheels, tractors, sewing machines, water pumps, drill-presses, grain silos, conveyor belts, trucks, planes, ships, factories, and bags full of seed corn for next year's planting.
When munching on this year's grain
try to make sure that some remains
to be planted in the spring.

Otherwise fall will bring
empty fields
and a shortage of meals.

You're Welcome

I noticed a sign today, at a place of business:

No Public Restroom
Thank You

I appreciate being thanked.  But... what was I being thanked for?

I guess it's simply an attitude
of pre-emptive gratitude.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Leaving the Dogs at Home

There's a guy who works out on the lakefront in Chicago. He pulls SUV tires around.
The number of 45-pound tires he uses depends on whether he is training for strength or endurance.
He's planning to haul a sled to the north pole. With his own muscles. While cross-country skiing. Starting from Canada. 500 miles. Over sea ice.

His target date is March 2009.

While I'm shoveling snow this year,
I'll think of him trudging with all his gear,
across that thick crust of white,
and my efforts will feel oddly light.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Step Away From That Thought!

I see where Stephen Hicks' classic Free Speech and Postmodernism talk is now available as a monograph on Amazon.

Speaking of free speech,
it's dangerous to young minds.

Keep it out of reach
and away from schools of all kinds.

Outside the Lines

Some people like to write from outlines.

In high school, we were often required to turn in outlines with our essays.  I would always write the essay first, and then construct an outline to go with it.

I think of it as a personal peculiarity, but I like to start from a sentence or a phrase, and then just chase it where it leads... until it actually get somewhere worth going. I don't expect this will make perfect sense to everybody. 

I literally can't imagine a different way of writing a short poem.

A phrase snags in the mind.
From there the words unwind,
threading the unwalked maze
finding the hidden ways
until its run is done.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


MSNBC headline: "Pirate trade booms off East Africa coast"

Talk about words being poorly weighed -
piracy is not a trade.

Was it a failure of laissez faire?
Please, just blow them out of there.

Greenbacks and Ham

Do you like the central banks?
Sorry, but I'll vote no thanks.

Would you like them if they print
money with a brighter tint?

Would you like them if they pump
credit to relieve a slump?

Would you like them if they seize
control of other companies?

With regret, I must be frank:
I don't much care for central banks.

Monday, November 17, 2008


We who were children once, recall
the childish power
to squeal in joy, and then to bawl 
sorrowful sobs in the space of an hour
over things that now seem small
but loomed much larger then,
when we were little women and men.

Plumbing the Data

When Joe The Plumber stepped into the public eye, several government workers in Ohio promptly ran internal database searches on him. 

One such worker explained that "her agency routinely checks on people who are thrust into the spotlight".

Some find this scary:
“It is appalling that state officials believe they may violate a person’s private information simply because they appeared in a newspaper story,” said Christine Link, executive director of ACLU of Ohio.
Step up and speak your mind!
But our agencies will find
the dirt you left behind.

Of course, the real hero here is modern databases - which keep track of who ran what query.

Audit trails
tell the tale,
ripping away the government's veil.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Education Crisis Continues

My wife found this quote about education:
“…more than eleven-twelfths of all the children in the reading-classes in our schools do not understand the meaning of the words they read.”
That's a famous educator, Horace Mann, from 1837. The crisis never ends!

Marsha thinks some of the problem is government-controlled schooling.  But she thinks that's an incomplete explanation:
Even today, many Chinese, Serbian, and Somalian immigrant children manage to learn a tremendous amount attending public schools, even Chicago public schools. These students often go on to challenging college programs and achieve professional success.
Those darned hard-working immigrants.  They like to make the rest of us look bad!

Different students have different views.
Some think learning's the big thing to choose.
Some find it kind of a snooze.

More Guilt!

Here are some sketchy notes, from memory, on what we talked about at the discussion.

The idea for the discussion came from my reading of a Rand-influenced book, "Guilt, Blame, and Politics", by Allan Levite. (Thanks for recommending the book, miss_breeziness ). We did talk about the way racial guilt and wealth guilt influence liberal politics. But a lot of the discussion focused on personal feelings of guilt, where they come from, and what to do about them.

There was wide initial agreement that the biggest source of free-floating unearned guilt is... altruism.  (No surprise in a Rand-influenced discussion group.) Since no one can survive and be a perfect altruist, altruist premises always leave you feeling guilty.

The guilt/shame distinction was drawn along social lines, where guilt is more of an internalized judgment and shame is more of a reaction to the idea or fact of being found out by other people.

We drew a distinction between guilt in the objective sense, (yes, I stole the cookies), vs. guilt in the emotional sense (I feel bad about stealing the cookies).

We talked about types of atonement or restitution.  Some talk of "pay it forward" atonement - as in the movie, "Amazing Grace," where a former slave ship captain went on to campaign against the slave trade.  (He couldn't make restitution to the slaves who had died on board his ships, but he could try to stop the practice.)

We talked about forgiveness vs. acceptance. You often hear that forgiving others is something you do for yourself, so you don't make your own mind troubled by the process of nursing a grudge. But if someone you know continually lies to you, and hasn't apologized sincerely and tried to stop, it seems like all you can do is accept that they're a liar. It doesn't seem like it falls within the normal model of forgiveness. We also talked a bit about self-forgiveness, which, on its face, is a paradoxical concept.

We talked about survivor guilt, about the way guilt can lurk below the surface of consciousness, abut whether there was an evolutionary component to our capacity to feel guilt. We batted the nature/nurture question around. Are some more naturally inclined to feel guilt? How big a role does culture play? Which religious upbringing makes you feel guiltier - Judaism or Catholicism? We talked about the paradox that Objectivism holds guiltlessness as an ideal, but that Objectivists themselves sometimes are wracked with guilt that they can't live up to the ideal - some can even feel guilty about feeling too guilty!

Guilt seems to have a productive use - it makes you feel bad about things you did wrong so you stop doing them! But it is out of control in our culture, and needs to be hemmed in on a more reasonable basis.

makes self-esteem wilt.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

No Guilt

We're talking at the New Intellectual Forum about guilt tonight, and I volunteered to lead the discussion, so I broke down and have been doing a a little research so I can sound prepared.

Right away, in the context of Rand and guilt, you think about a certain "face without pain or fear or guilt" that appears after the plane crash. 

But I had forgotten that Eddie notices the exact same thing, in the same order, some chapters before:
Do you know what's strange about your face? You look as if you've never known pain or fear or guilt.
I had also forgotten this:
Their eyes were dark and hard and glowing, with no fear in them, no kindness and no guilt.
That's the protagonist of Anthem, admiring his future mate. In this earlier work, one of the trio of troublesome traits was different.

Kindness was disdained,
rather than pain.

New Jobs

"Obama transition tangled in ties to lobbying."

I like the alliteration. 

Then there's this part:
Several of the officials have ties to the Fannie Mae, the government-backed mortgage firm whose implosion this fall contributed to the financial meltdown.
Why does this worry me?

Lobbyists angled,
the team got tangled,
now my nerves are getting jangled.

Friday, November 14, 2008

In Pursuit

"Supreme Court Upholds Bill Of Rights in 5-4 Decision"

From the Onion, of course:
The Supreme Court's latest decision comes on the heels of last month's 6-3 ruling to abolish the pursuit of happiness from the three inalienable rights guaranteed by the Declaration of Independence.
Some seek new-fangled expedience
in the pursuit of obedience.

But to me the pursuit of happiness
retains its original snappiness.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Awaiting Change

The president-in-waiting has been hanging out a block from where I work. Some of us are wishing he could be inaugurated early, just to get him out of Chicago. The extra fencing around his building is a pain for pedestrians. And the motorcade ties up traffic!

John McWhorter, meanwhile, offers a positive thought:
The studious black teen will no longer be tarred as "thinking he's white."
McWhorter, who is black, is surely the studious type.  So he may know whereof he speaks.

You can lose your forward motion
with self-defeating notions.

Defy the doom-laden dictum.
Decline to play the victim.


Walter Williams suggests an opposite angle:
Maybe the election of a black president will help white people over their guilt feelings so they can stop acting like fools in their relationships with black people.
There's hope for both sides
of the racial divide!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Great Expectations

We did Great Expectations at book club. I'm not the biggest Dickens fan in the world. I think it's that his characters don't excite me, as a rule. But I really enjoyed this book... against expectations you might say.

Most people in the group seemed to think the love story was weak, but I thought it was at the core of the story and lent it a lot of power, despite being an inexplicable obsession - chemistry, smittenness, whatever.

It was an odd bond, to be sure.
But sometimes those endure.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


I donated double red.
Now I'm light in the head.

You can still donate the old-fashioned way - a pint (or so) of whole blood. The technology for that is straightfoward:

They drain
your vein.

This was a bit fancier, involving a centrifuge named ALYX:

Basically they spin it
separate what's in it,
take red till they've got enough
then give you back the other stuff.

Or Maybe They Hated Funerals

So this 90 year old woman had 3 dead sibling in her house. In beds. Under blankets. Ick.

They died of natural causes. One at a time. Over the years. No foul play suspected.

A lot of people are looking for psychological, "how could she do it", explanations. 

Me, I'm waiting to hear whether Social Security knew the people were dead.

If the government doesn't know you're deceased,
they keep sending checks all the same.

Which sometimes results in the fund being fleeced
when somebody else signs your name.

UPDATE: The police say there was no such fraud.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Great Books

The Wall St. Journal had a review today of a new book about the Great Books movement.

I've got kind of a family history with that movement.

My father was at the University of Chicago when it was all the rage under Adler and Hutchins.  He didn't care for it so much.  Found it too backward-focused. He wanted modernity, not medievalism.

I was at Columbia for a couple of years, where, as the review mentions, the classics are still "force-fed" to the undergraduates, even today.  I found that many of the professors had a terrible habit of tearing the books apart according to their own wacky theories.  So, as a student, you didn't really get to encounter the original thinker. I can't tell you how disillusioned I was by this.

My daughter went to St. John's College, which is an "all great books all the time" program. I'm sure the program is not for everybody, but she liked it fine. The instructors there were into close textual analysis, but not into deep deconstruction.

Old books let you trace
how we got to this place.

Feinstein Vs. Free Market

Dianne Feinstein wants to make it a federal crime to scalp inauguration tickets.

This won't stop the practice.  It will just go underground.  

People desperately desirous of witnessing history will be forced to buy tickets in back alleys.

The effect, however minimal
will be an increase in criminals
attending the ceremony.

This new law is baloney!

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Can We Get Obama To Support This?

Marilyn vos Savant, the "world's smartest woman", has taken an audacious stand. She has called for the eradication of thousands of living species.

You see, there are thousands of species of mosquitoes. And she is ready to see them gone:
...the elimination of mosquitoes could be a boon to the health of humankind. They are a source of immense suffering due to the diseases they spread.
I'm with her on this.  And I'm hopeful that the new adminstration will hear our plea and make this the first order of business.

I offer no hugs
to blood-sucking bugs.

Implicit Association vs. Explicit Voting

John Tierney asks about all the scientific research "proving" that 88 percent of white Americans are "unconscious racists".

He says it's hard to reconcile that with all the white votes Obama got.

Surely there is some way to save the "everybody is a bigot" theory!

Could it be the bias hides
so deep inside
that it has no effect
upon whom we select?

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Unlucky but Plucky

Jim O'Neill was flying solo. He was going from Scotland to England in a Cessna. At 5500 feet, he suddenly went blind.
"It was terrifying," O'Neill said. "Suddenly, I couldn't see the dials in front of me."
A blood clot had gone to his brain.

Fortunately, all the rest of his brain kept working pretty well. He was able to call for help. An RAF pilot, Paul Gerrard, who was already in the air, found him, flew along with him, and guided him by radio to a safe landing.
"Landing an aircraft literally blind needs someone to be right there to say 'Left a bit, right a bit, stop, down,'" Gerrard said. "On the crucial final approach, even with radar assistance, you need to take over visually."
The extra good news is that O'Neill seems to be getting his sight back.

I've never flown a plane,
but if I ever do,
I'll kindly ask my brain
to not go blind until I'm through.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Quip and a Slip

President-Elect Obama today was asked whether he had sought advice from former presidents about his new responsibilities. And he made a little funny about it:
In terms of speaking to former presidents, I've spoken to all of them that are living....I didn't want to get into a Nancy Reagan thing about, you know, doing any seances.
Then he had to call up Nancy to apologize.  Because she never had a seance in the White House. Astrologer, yes. Seance, no.

It was Hillary who used a spiritual advisor to have an imaginary talk with Eleanor Roosevelt.

Still, I'm glad he's not inclined
to conversations of that kind.

Mr. March

I may have a small role in a local stage production - the father in "Little Women".  I have to read for the role on Monday evening.

The father's an important character in some ways, but the young women are the stars.

Since I've really been a dad,
could my performance be that bad?

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Market Watch

From the front page of MSNBC today:

"Obama to act early on the economy"

"Stocks dive after election"
“The celebration is over. Today we saw a bit of reality,” said Al Goldman, chief market strategist at Wachovia Securities in St. Louis. “President-elect Obama is coming into a situation with limited experience, having to handle an economy in serious trouble, a couple of wars and terrorism. It’s an extremely tough job.”
Yesterday the market sizzled,
but today it sadly fizzled.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008


As the Democrats huddle together to figure out their agenda, the Republicans are doing something else:

You may think the formation's odd,
but make a circular firing squad,
and blast away, assigning blame:
Ready!  Fire!  Aim!


Now that Obama has won without government financing, can we just plain get rid of it?

Let each foe
raise all his own dough!

Notes From Obamaland

One of my co-workers, from the Hyde Park neighborhood, showed up first thing at her polling place and saw Obama go in to vote.

He got a big cheer from the waiting line when he came out.  She said that after he voted, the line moved much faster.  That Secret Service is so controlling and cautious.

I walked by the entrance to tonight's Obamafest, late this afternoon.  The crowd wasn't huge yet.  There were a couple of  lines of a few hundred happy people, I guess.  Right about 3:25 they started blaring the theme from Star Wars on a sound system.  Then they started letting people in.

The excitement was palpable.
The tickets were scalpable!

Except... your name is on the ticket and you have to show i.d.  Each ticket lists 1 person but admits 2.  So, basically, you could scalp the "guest" entrance.

I bet some guys were using their tickets as bait
to line up an otherwise unobtainable date.

The Results Are (Not) In

Since I don't know who will win, I'm posting this in advance, to be applied in either case.

My fellow Americans, we have chosen a man with a remarkable personal story, but with little executive experience, and with a philosophic outlook that leaves me feeling unsettled.

But as David Mamet's fictional president recently declared, we are a nation of tinkerers. We like to experiment.  I don't think our experiments are always brilliantly conceived. But we do pay attention to the results - a habit which has often been our saving grace.

You're worried he might be a mope?
Nonetheless, take hope.
Don't get depressed by your fears.

If he's truly deranged
he'll likely get changed
in 4 years.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Honor Among Thieves Overrated

Edward Vrdolyak, a.k.a. "Fast Eddie", a Chicago legend, today pleaded guilty in federal court to conspiracy to commit mail fraud .

His political career included rising to power as a Democratic alderman, then switching to the Republican party in an unsuccessful bid to seek higher office. He is now 70.

He had a reputation as a smooth-talking, and very careful, "wheeler-dealer".

But a buddy ratted him out:
Levine, a longtime Vrdolyak friend, proved to be Vrdolyak's downfall. After Levine had been indicted twice, he began cooperating and secretly tape-recorded Vrdolyak discussing the kickback scheme from a few years earlier.
He went down in the end when his friend decided to squeal.
I guess Fast Eddie has cut his final deal.

A Vote For Barr

That's not my vote. We have a secret ballot, after all. I think that means I'm required to keep my vote secret. At least, in Illinois it's against the law to let someone else SEE how you voted.

But I was amused by Amy Alkon's explanation of why she was voting Libertarian:
I did it as a protest vote, as a way of saying I'm one of a growing number of people who thinks we need a third party in this country, and because I'm for libertarian values more than I am the values of the hand-your-money-to-the-poor, government-as-nanny Democrats, or the hand-your-money-to-the-rich religious nutter Republicans.
Make no mistake: Barr disgusts me, and I'm even more disgusted that, in of all years, the idiot Libertarians didn't get their shit together enough to put up a candidate who at least has the charisma of Palin or Obama. And who is a real libertarian, not just somebody who hitched his broken down wagon to the party as his apparently last resort.
With supporters like this,
is Barr feeling bliss?

Sunday, November 02, 2008


A female godwit, known to researchers as E7, has flown nonstop from Alaska to New Zealand.

That's 11,680k. 7,257 miles. On an 8 day trip. Without water or food or rest.
Assessing the weather patterns in Alaska, the team also found that the godwits timed their departures to coincide with favorable tail winds that helped them fly south.
I too would want the wind at my back,
and maybe also a last minute snack.

Fugitive Privacy

Apparently Obama's aunt is classified legally as a "fugitive alien".

But the Homeland Security folks are worried that her privacy was violated when this fact was revealed. 

From the Washington Post:
Federal privacy law restricts U.S. immigration agencies from disclosing information about citizens and permanent residents, and DHS policy similarly limits disclosures about the status of legal and illegal immigrants. Asylum-seekers are granted greater protection, because of the sensitive nature of their claims and the risks of retaliation.
Of course, she's neither a citizen not a "permanent resident".  

But she was an "asylum-seeker".  Just not an asylum-obtainer.

You can be ordered out by a judge, 
but if you refuse to budge,
your privacy's protected.

And maybe you will never be ejected.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Running Debate

I saw a new article today entitled "Are you running yourself to death?"

It turns out to be about the peculiar risks of doing marathons. Risks which are nontrivial.

On the other hand, back in August, a big longitudinal study was released:
Regular running slows the effects of aging, according to a new study from Stanford University School of Medicine that has tracked 500 older runners for more than 20 years. Elderly runners have fewer disabilities, a longer span of active life and are half as likely as aging nonrunners to die early deaths, the research found.
If you don't die during that marathon, 
you may in fact live longer.

As Nietzsche said, what does not kill you
sometimes makes you stronger.

Unwelcome Attention

Obama's aunt, who lives in Boston, donated $265 to his campaign.

Now the campaign is returning her money, because she's an "illegal alien", or perhaps an "undocumented resident", but definitely an "ordered by a judge to return to Kenya" person.

Be careful when passing your nephew-candidate dough.
When you're "illegal" it's safer to just lie low.


Obama doesn't know anything about her status here.  But the government is suddenly making it harder to ship her out:
Onyango's case — coming to light just days before the presidential election — led to an unusual nationwide directive within Immigration and Customs Enforcement requiring that any deportations before Tuesday's election be approved at least at the level of the agency's regional directors, the U.S. law enforcement official told the AP.
Hopefully once he's president, 
she'll be a legal resident.

Meanwhile, the mayor of Boston says he has no idea how she qualified for public housing when she has a deportation order hanging over head.

She's staying.
Boston's paying!

Anna in the Darkness

"Anna in the Darkness", by Jeremy Menekseoglu, has become a Halloween staple of the Chicago theater scene. But until last night, I hadn't seen it.  

It's a one-woman show, about a teacher whose house is surrounded by people who plan to kill her. But it's about more than that. Anna has a story to tell.

I had the idea, from the ads and the word-of-mouth, that it was extremely scary. Horror-film scary.  

So it was hard to get my wife to go see it. She likes her sleep. And she can't sleep after watching a horror film.

But last night, Halloween night, I prevailed. And was quite surprised. Certainly the play was very scary.  But it was inspiring too. Anna turns out to be a kind of tragic heroine. She doesn't think of herself that way. She thinks of herself as someone who can't help doing what she knows is right. 

She doesn't think of herself as brave. But she can't help fighting against evil.

Anna was embodied by the always-compelling Anna Weiler, who slipped into the character as a hand into a glove, smoothly transitioning between abject vulnerability and driven righteousness.  

Weiler also, at times, in recounting the past, slipped into some other characters as well.  Each portrait was sharp and distinct.  It was quite startling to watch her flow from dedicated teacher to twisted Christian preacher.

This play got me thinking about horror stories. They're not all the same. Some of them are about a universe that is malevolent. Others are about a universe that contains some malevolent beings. The feeling is different. When Menekseoglu writes a horror-drama, it's the second variety, and the malevolent beings are always manifestations of humanity gone wrong.

You know it's true,
not everyone wants
the best for you.

In fact, some want the worst,
hoping to burst
your heart.

Throw back their taunts
and pursue
what you must.

The Virtue of Elfishness

Yes, a long-lost ethical treatise by Tolkien has been found!

Just kidding.

Really, this post is about this quote from Roger Kimball that struck me:
“Selfishness” can be a vice. It can also be another name for that “well-ordered self-love” that Thomas Aquinas extolled as “right and natural.”
Rand drew a parallel distinction.  She thought "rational selfishness" was good.  But she thought "selfishness without a self" was bad.

Of course, Aquinas and Rand were both following in the footsteps of Aristotle
who thought that love of self should not be throttled.

Friday, October 31, 2008

More John Galt In The News

Of course we already had John Galt donating money to Obama's website.

Now we've got people talking about "going John Galt" in response to higher taxes for high earners. And they're not talking about a secret valley hideaway. It's a lot simpler than that.
Perhaps it is time for those of us who make the money and pay the taxes to take it easy, live on less and let the looters of the world find their own way.
Meanwhile, Obama wonders:
You know I don’t know when, when they decided they wanted to make a virtue out of selfishness.
Why would you think it was good to keep your pay
when the government offers to help you give it away?

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Larry Sechrest 1946-2008

I was terribly sorry to hear today that Larry Sechrest has died. My heart goes out to his wife, Molly, whom I have known for many years.

Larry was the author of Free Banking, a book which argued that government-run central banking is a bad thing.

From a summary:
Central banking accepts all the methodological precepts of socialist central planning. It is constructivist. The planners pretend to know more than they can know. They presume that their knowledge is better than the market. They use their power to override market signals of prices and interest. And the results are about as successful as socialism...
How can this be?  We are told constantly that the Fed's mistakes are a "failure of capitalism."  

Could it be that the Fed and its Chair
wouldn't exist under laissez-faire?

Transparent Appearance

Stepping lightly down the creaky stairs,
ghosts attempt to take us unawares.

They wish to whisper secrets in our ears,
reminiscing over vanished years.

Sliding by the corner of your eye,
the glowing vagueness waves a slow goodbye.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Protozoa on the Brain

Toxoplasma gondii is a protozoa. 

I used to think a protozoa was just a professional tozoa. But, no. It's a kind of one-celled animal. 

In this particluar case, it's a brain-invading parasite.

Your brain is probably fine. Only 20% of Americans are infected. And a lot of people don't seem to suffer any ill effects from the infection. But consider what it does to rodents:
T. gondii infections have the ability to change the behavior of rats and mice, making them drawn to rather than fearful of the scent of cats. This effect is advantageous to the parasite, which will be able to sexually reproduce if its host is eaten by a cat.
How clever of the parasite
to feed the rat to the cat
by making its brain
go slightly insane.

But I maintain it's impolite
to treat a host like that!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Time To Redecorate

My wife did a tour of the White House.  She says it's Really Small.  Miniscule compared to Versailles.

But it's got a big yard
with lots of guards.

But He's Good At It

When you're reading Mamet,
a phrase like "damn it"
barely counts as a curse.

Count on encountering worse!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Yawning Abyss Or Just A Yawn

Some conservatives are excited about finding an Obama radio interview where he advocates "redistributive change."

But some libertarians argue that redistribution is old hat. For example, David Bernstein writes:
At least since the passage of the first peacetime federal income tax law about 120 years ago, redistribution of wealth has been a (maybe the) primary item on the left populist/progressive/liberal agenda, and has been implicitly accepted to some extent by all but the most libertarian Republicans as well.
I suppose the key is that "implicitly accepted." Which suggests it has been "explicitly rejected".

Bernstein goes on to reflect:
Is it okay for a politician to talk about the redistribution of wealth only so long as you don't actually use phrases such as "redistribution" or "spreading the wealth," in which case he suddenly becomes "socialist"? If so, then American political discourse, which I never thought to be especially elevated, is in even a worse state than I thought.
Perhaps so, but worse in which way?  The left may be big on redistribution, but they have never succeeded in selling it on its own merits. Instead they have proceeded by selling particular programs by means of more specific arguments.

Generally, they argue from "need to help the poor."  Not from "need to tear down the rich."  You might argue that mathematically the two are one, but the emotional appeals are quite different.

You might say they've been a bit sneaky about their intentions - at least in the political arena. So whose fault is it that people are upset when the taboo is broken?

If your side has been sneaking
be careful of leaking
your true agenda
in all its splendor.