Thursday, January 31, 2008

Biting The Hand That Feeds

"I led the largest squadron in the United States Navy. And I did it out of patriotism, not for profit."

That was Senator McCain last night, talking about his qualifications for leadership. He almost sounds as if he doesn't care for the profit motive.

Mr. McCain, if you want my vote:
Don't scorn the motive that keeps us afloat.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Unracy Race

A good friend sent me a link to the Urban Dictionary definition of "electile dysfunction," which is the inability to get excited about any of the presidential candidates.

No little blue pill
Will cure this ill.

Moody Over Rudy

Rudy Giuliani was the original Republican front-runner for this election. But he didn't bother with those early primaries. He waited for the Florida primary. All those transplanted New Yorkers in Florida were sure to vote for him!

Oh well.

If he'd won, he would have looked stunningly bright.
But, since he lost, he's washed up tonight.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Foreclosing on Our Furry Friends

USA Today reports that cats and dogs are the true victims of the rise in foreclosures.

Basically, the idea is that people who lose their houses are not always able to keep their pets.

I await the calls for federal reform
To make sure pets are always housed and warm.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

First Man In Space, Revisited

Yuri Gagarin has always been honored as the first man in space. Now Pravda reports that he had 3 predecessors who got up there too, in suborbital flights. But they died along the way.

So the Soviets kept that quiet. Typical.

In the early days of the Soviet space program, they didn't pre-announce their flights. They just told you about them once they were successful. We were always kind of suspicious about this.

Gagarin eventually died in a training flight of a jet aircraft, a MiG-15UTI.

Of course, this new report takes nothing away from Gagarin.

He was a brave and able man
Shot into space in a thin metal can.

Revisiting SIDS

If you are a younger parent, you've probably been exposed to the "Back To Sleep" campaign, which recommends putting infants to sleep on their backs.

This campaign has been hugely successful at reducing the incidence of SIDS - Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

You might ask - why were parents putting infants to sleep on their tummies? Is that a traditional folk-way or something? No. It was modern medical advice, circa the 1950's:
Believers in stomach sleeping, including Dr. Benjamin Spock, preached that prone sleeping could prevent babies from choking on their own vomit or developing pneumonia caused by inhalation of vomit or foreign objects.
The reporter now casts this advice in religious terms: "believers" listened to one who "preached". But at the time, mothers thought they were acting according to sound scientific principles.

I lost an infant brother to SIDS. Francis was his name. He was sleeping on his stomach when he died. He had another major risk factor - he was a twin. So perhaps he would have died anyway.

Note that Dr. Spock & co. had a reasonable hypothesis. But should they really have been so definite in their advice giving?

I think when he preached,
He over-reached.

I suppose that susceptibility to fads is part of human nature. It has certainly been a part of human science. In the long run, it's self-correcting. But in the short-run, it can sometimes cut off your long-run.

Keep up your defenses
In the face of faddish consensus.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Nukes in the News

Pakistan says its nuclear weapons will NOT be allowed to drop into the hands of religious terrorists.

How reassuring.

I grew up contemplating the possibility of a full-scale thermo-nuclear exchange between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. So the idea of one or two nuclear bombs going off in the U.S. seems almost minor in comparison.

But I'd be upset, if by some fluke
I got blown away by terrorist nuke.

Perils of Playing Umpire

I hate it when friends are fighting with each other
In ways I regard as unreasonable,
But I know that anything I say to try to mediate
Will appear to both as treasonable.

Friday, January 25, 2008

High School Cell Phone "Porn" Scandal

At Parkland High, in Allentown, PA, students are in trouble. Why? For using their cell phones to send and receive illegal pictures of fellow students:
The two Parkland students shown exposing themselves are 14 and 17, said Matthew S. Falk, Lehigh County's chief deputy district attorney. Both girls took the pictures of themselves.
The girls also transmitted the pictures to others, but apparently didn't expect them to spread like wildfire through the school.

So the authorities are threatening to charge everyone with possession of "child pornography". Unless they erase the photos.

Somehow I don't think this is what people had in mind when they passed our draconian child porn laws. But the law is the law.

Underage people must be warned:
Undressed pictures of yourself are porn!

City Snow

Over the empty lot,
Where shattered glass
And plastic bags
Lie scattered,

The flakes come
Tumbling down, unasked,
Masking the scene in soft clean white,
Gleaming with incandescent light.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Stimulating Question of Usage

So they're going to stimulate the economy with tax rebates. Among those getting the "rebates"...
Workers who make at least $3,000 but don't pay taxes would get $300 rebates.
I would have thought it was undebatable
That what's not paid is unrebatable.

Invasion Miscalculation

One of the enduring puzzles of the Iraq War is: Why didn't Saddam nip it in the bud?

All he had to do was let the inspectors have a good look around his country - let them look at everything - let the world know that Iraq really wasn't WMD-R-Us.

Bidinotto rhymingly points to someone with an answer - a U.S. interrogator who spent a lot of time talking with Saddam.

On this account, Saddam was too worried about the Iranians, and not worried enough about the Americans. He wanted the Iranians to think that he was loaded up with WMD - so they wouldn't attack him.

He tried to bluff
To seem scary and tough,
But he got burned.

And it turned out rough
For all concerned.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


I hadn't really been aware of the "Stop Snitching" campaign in black neighborhoods. But it's going strong, printed on T-shirts, and scrawled on asphalt.

Apparently the campaign is going strong in rap. Here are some lyrics from Ice Cube:
Don’t say s***, boy that’s basic
They want to send a n***** back to the slave ship
Stop snitchin’.
One problem:

Police don't solve crimes
On their own, most times.

Maybe some day, when we're all loaded with RFID chips (shudder), police will be able to solve crimes on their own. But for now, it takes witnesses.

In the mean time, to keep your neighborhood from going to hell,
Do tell.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Touched By Its Rays, by Walter Donway

Walter Donway has a new book of poetry, Touched By Its Rays, that's just about out.

I've got a sneak-preview copy.

I'm almost done with my first quick read. There are some really lovely, striking things here, that took my breath away.

His Empire of the Earth, in driving blank verse, tells the story of an early builder of a cross-continental railroad. This comes near the end:
I mean to have my way in this fair land:
Traveling to the ocean shore on trains
That roar like Odin through the forest pines;
Dispatching swaying boxcars full of wheat
To hungry millions for their daily bread;
His shorter poems are often rhymed, like this snippet from An Ayn Rand Centennial:
The altar of our age is politics:
For heaven, power; for sanctity, the plan
To end all plans; and prayerful edicts
To fashion forth the perfect good of man.
While many of his poems are on topics of history or politics, many others are on very personal matters - such as worrying over the well-being of a son, or pondering the perils of love.

Anyway, I'm not done reading. I do feel the urge to re-read carefully, which, to my way of thinking, is always a good sign for poetry.

His verse has a fine rhythmic drive -
Pulsing as if alive.
And after their first attack
His words keep calling you back.

No "Necessarily" Needed

Iowa State University researchers were looking into why poor children in America are a bit on the heavy side.

Here is their brilliant conclusion: "a lack of food isn't necessarily to blame".

Did it occur to them that the opposite circumstance might be operative?

This country is wealthy and awash in food. Even if you are poor, really poor, there are food stamps, food pantries, food banks, school breakfasts, school lunches, and so on.

It's hard to lose weight here.
We fill up your plate here.

Monday, January 21, 2008

How Strict Were They?

Her parents were so strict - no fooling -
She had to take an entrance exam to get into home-schooling.

Better Never To Have Been

Thanks to the alert eyes of Stephen Hicks, I see there's a new book out from Oxford University Press: Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming into Existence, by David Benatar.

His thesis is that your parents did harm to you by giving birth to you.

If this thesis becomes popularly accepted, I expect to see some lawsuits.

Against your parents, file a tort!
Why, oh why, did they fail to abort?

Since he took time to write the book, I guess the author has not yet reached the stage of: "Better Not To Be: Say Goodbye to Me".

Nope, he's lingering on here, trying to depress the rest of us.

Thanks so much,
Don't stay in touch.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Pop Goes The Weasel

So a former gang member, whose nickname is Big Weasel, started up an anti-gun group, called "No Guns" - which received 1.5 million dollars from the City of the Angels.

But now he has entered a plea of guilty for... drumroll... federal weapons violations.

It's a case of the ironic
Going supersonic.

But that nick
Is sick.

Packers Smacked

I'm not much of a football fan. But I have a brother-in-law who's a huge Green Bay fan, so I was rooting for them tonight against the Giants. It was a good game that went into overtime.

But... it wasn't a normal game of football. It was too cold. It was more like Subzero-Ball. Towards the end, players kept falling over with cramps from the cold.

It's hard to find your groove
When it's too cold to move.

From Folly To Philosophy

David Ramsay Steele gave Marsha an early copy of his new book, Atheism Explained: From Folly To Philosophy.

I haven't really looked at it yet. But I looked at the back cover, and there was a quote from a Catholic priest:
"Atheism Explained is a much better defense of atheism than the recent works by Dawkins and Hitchens." —James Sadowsky, S.J., Professor of Philosophy, Fordham University
It's some kind of coup
When a priest says that you
Deserve the nod
For your case against God.

Pyrrhic Victory

Hillary "won" Nevada. For this she picked up 12 delegates.

Obama "lost" Nevada. For this he picked up 13 delegates.

It's strange to be called "the winner"
When your delegate count is thinner.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Raccoon - It's What's For Dinner

The Chicago Tribune just ran an article about raccoon consumption here in Illinois.
Customers turn their purchases into barbecue, stews and other dishes, updating a tradition that began with Native Americans and was adopted by pioneers.
I'm living a terribly sheltered life.
I've never tasted raccoon.
I need to ask my talented wife
To cook some up real soon.

You know, my dogs have an interest in raccoons. Periodically they try to climb a tree to catch one.

Dogs are bad at climbing trees,
Raccoons, on the other hand, do it with ease.

My dogs did kill a raccoon once. A small one. In my back yard. But I missed my opportunity. Instead of bringing the carcass into the kitchen, I just plopped it in the garbage can.

I didn't know these ring-tailed critters
Made such tasty never-fail fritters.

I do know a lady who grew up in a family where the dinner table routinely featured raccoon, squirrel, and possum. But she was squeamish about eating varmints. So they stopped telling her what kind of meat was on the table. In response, she adopted a policy of only eating meat that she had watched being prepared.

She just refused to eat
Mystery meat.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Reagan 2008

You may have heard that the Republican presidential candidates were all proclaiming the virtues of Ronald Reagan.

But now Obama's doing it. And Hillary and Edwards are attacking him for it.

Maybe with he's saying those pro-Reagan quotes
In a bold play for Republican votes.

Semper Fi

A Chicago lawyer got arrested last month for purposely scratching a car belonging to Marine Sgt Mike McNulty. The lawyer had a novel defense, when first confronted:
After caught in the process, the man told Mike, "you think you can do whatever you want with Department of Defense license plates and tags". (In Illinois you can purchase veteran, Marine, or medal plates. Mike has Illinois Marine Corps license plates.) During the exchange, he made additional anti-military comments.
Mike was scheduled to ship back to Iraq for his second tour. So it looked like he wouldn't be around to testify against the lawyer. But then the news got out on the web, and a ruckus got raised.

Today the lawyer pleaded guilty to vandalism charges:
"The Judge then, in as angry a voice as I have ever heard him use, scolded the defendant, saying that the Marine license plates the complaining witness had were not vanity plates or about ego, but the proceeds go toward the Marine and Navy scholarship fund for the children of fallen soldiers, sailors and marines. These Marines protect his very existence "so people like you can enjoy their freedom."
After the lawyer scratched the paint
And maligned the military,
I think the sergeant showed restraint
In merely making a complaint
To the constabulary.

UPDATE: John Kass, of the Chicago Tribune, has a full report here of the court action.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Free Range Tiger Taunting

Police are saying that the Free Range Tiger at the San Francisco Zoo was taunted by drunken pot-smoking teens who deserved what they got.

Okay, they aren't really saying those italicized words. But sometimes subtext is the best way get your point across.

During the attack, Zoo employees were quick to go with the drug angle:
"I don't know if they are on drugs or not," the woman employee is overheard saying over a colleague's walkie-talkie. "They are screaming about an animal that has attacked them and there isn't an animal out."
They were slower to go with the escaped feline angle. After all, as one employee reasoned, that was "virtually impossible."

You know what "virtually" means in front of "impossible". It means "not quite".

The tiger cannot change his stripes.
Taunting, sadly, does not please him.
In order to escape his swipes,
Check his moat before you tease him.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Grilled Cheese

A favorite food
Recalls the mood
Of eating with you long ago.

I'll take a bite
For you tonight
And smile at how I loved you so.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Counterintuitive Expectations

Protecting our rights:

I knew there was a reason they had condom machines in men's rooms!

So have a ball
Inside the stall -
No one will notice that at all.

Homeless Chimp Needs Help

In Austria, a judge just ruled that a chimp is not a person.

Of course it was an animal rights group had brought the issue to court. Here's the funny part:

The rights group said it would take the case to the European Court of Human Rights.

That name, "Human Rights,"
Should give them a fright.

Monday, January 14, 2008

The Slightest Philosphy - Review Up

I have a habit of writing here about books I'm half way through.
But I like to finish them before publishing an actual review.

Doug Rasmussen commented that he liked the book too.
And he packs more scholarly weight than I do!

Prof. Rasmussen added these words of wisdom in the comments:
Most in my department hold that though post-modernism was fully developed by Kant, its "father" was Descartes. Post-modernism is the epistemological result of the modern approach to cognition. It seeks to replace existence with "our" consciousness. As Aristotle said: "An initial deviation from the truth is multiplied later a thousand-fold."
Forget about stuff that exists!
Soon it will barely be missed,
Sunk in inward consciousness.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

We Don't Need No Stinkin' Pants!

The "no pants" transit movement has come to Chicago. Photo here.

So far it seems to involve only young people.

But what if all those free-riding old folks decide to join this new movement?

The good news is that when you get old
You lose your tolerance for the cold
And therefore are less likely to bare
Your aged derriere
In the January air.

It's Not A Phobia If It's Rational

The spokesman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry warns that the U.S. is spreading Irano-phobia.

Hey, aren't these the folks who call the U.S. "the great Satan"?

Sounds like USphobia to me.

Of course, you can see where they'd be nervous about now. The U.S. armed forces are camped on 2 of their borders. And the U.S. President just called them "the world's leading state sponsor of terror".

After getting an earful of that
I'd be fearful of getting bombed flat.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Harsh Words

Now Mayor Daley is lambasting our governor's demand that trains and buses provide free rides for old folks.
“Any politician can give things for free, but there’s no such thing as a free lunch,” Daley said at a news conference.
They call it free, but the bill comes due,
And soon your lunch is eating you.

Perfecting the Persona

Interesting NYT article on the way Fred Thompson suddenly emerged as electric during the South Carolina Republican debate..

Apparently before he was "distinguishing himself" by being "almost invisible." Heh. That's more like extinguishing yourself when it comes to getting votes.
“But then last night — we hadn’t even been thinking about him — all of a sudden it was clear he was the one,” said Mr. Berenberk, a retired teacher. “The bluntness, the forcefulness. He was really impressive.”
Here's the part I really liked:
Mr. Thompson has made all the same points during campaign events throughout the state, aides said. But many voters who flocked to his rallies on Friday had never heard him make them until they heard him in the latest debate on the Fox News Channel.
So they didn't even hear what he said before?! Part of what he did was criticize his opponents with an air of self-confidence.

He got juiced up
And ruled the roost
And boosted his campaign.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Maybe a Lemon Tree in My Backyard?

It snowed today in Baghdad.

First time in a hundred years.

Well, I'm a bit worried. I was counting on global warming to improve the local climate here in Chicago. I figured we'd have palm trees lining State St. and orange groves in Grant Park.

Retirees would no longer move away to "somewhere warm."
Flamingos would arrive in a vast swarm.
Hurricanes, not blizzards, would be our chief form of storm.

Finally forever free of snow!
But, no.

In a news flash
My hopes were dashed.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Free Riders

Here in Illinois, as elsewhere, our mass transit finances are in a mess. But our governor demands that "seniors" be allowed to ride for free!

Of course, this will actually reduce the money coming into the transit agency. Brilliant.

When you decide to give away
All sorts of goodies to those with gray,
Someone, somewhere, has to pay.

Of course it's the young
Who end up stung.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Vote Early, Vote Often

If you want to vote in Indiana, you have to show a state-issued i.d., such as a driver's license.

Some believe this is an assault on the right to vote. They sued. The Supreme Court heard the case today.

So here's a funny story about a woman who wasn't allowed to vote in Hoosier Land. She has been complaining about this great injustice!

But it turns out she's also registered to vote in Florida, where she has a winter home.

I'm standing by her!

Why should I vote only once?
My home state is solidly Blue!
My ballot here barely counts.
Michigan needs me too!

Wouldn't it be great
When choosing Presidents
To vote in every state
Where you've got a residence?

It's probably out of my reach,
But it would be nifty
To rent a hotel room in each
And vote in all 50!

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

New Hampshire Results IN!

Democracy, you know,
For drama you can't beat it.

One side gets to crow,
The other gets to eat it.


The town of Nampa, in Idaho, was blacked out yesterday by a cat. The poor kitty "entered an electrical substation, snuggled up to a warm transformer and contacted a live circuit." The cat did not survive.

To err is human, so they say,
But clearly,
Our fur-coated companions may
Also err, and sometimes pay

Monday, January 07, 2008

The Windier City

The Windy City was living up to its nickname today.

There's a particular block in the Loop that seems to be a wind-tunnel of some kind - around Wabash and Jackson. Today, at lunch, we saw a woman there who was just holding onto a lamppost with both arms. She was actually afraid to cross the street. So my friend and I offered our arms.

I hope she got where she was going
Before the tornadoes started blowing.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

"For The Girl Who Has Everything"

Found on ChicagoBoyz:

It's the cutest little weapon that you have ever seen:
The Hello Kitty AR-15.

Spelling to Go with the Rhyme

I've been reading Chaucer's "The Knight's Tale" in Middle English. When I'm unsure of the meaning - often enough - I glance at the facing page for the Modern English version.

I was amused when I came across 2 different spellings of pain around line 461: peyne vs. pyne.

The spelling seems to change depending on what word it's being rhymed with.

Simplifying drastically, the rhymes are pain / complain, and pain / divine.

I don't know much about pronunciation back then. I'm guessing that there were 2 acceptable ways to pronounce "pain". Spelling wasn't standardized. So the spelling of a word changed to match the pronunciation.

I have to admit, I still do this once in a while. Usually with an apostrophe. Usually to indicate that I'm dropping the final "g" in a rhyme like this:

There was a high-schooler named Helen,
Who always won contests for spellin'.
She said: "Drop that G
In a real spelling bee,
And you'll be sent away as a felon."

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Nevada Flood

A levee has broken after heavy rains in Nevada, stranding 3500 people.

In Nevada?

I thought it was supposed be dry there!
How did the water get so high there?

Shocked Or Not

I can't say I was shocked when Obama carried Iowa.

But one of my friends at work was. She's black, and a few years older than me. She was floored. In a good way. "I didn't think I'd see this in my lifetime." She kept saying that.

She grew up in the Jim Crow South. Separate water fountains for "colored." Imagine that.

There was an article in the Sun-Times today about how stunned many African-Americans feel.
"We were all just thinking that he would be third when they were showing the early returns on TV," said Betty Wilson, a 50-ish owner of Hairicons, a beauty salon and barber shop in the 6400 block of South Cottage Grove in Woodlawn. "But then they said he was in first. Who would have thought he would get so many votes?
I suspect this is bad for Mrs. Clinton. She had a lot of black support. But some of that support was premised on the idea that Obama couldn't possibly win among whites. Now the air is going out of that idea.

When racial bias became officially taboo, it did not vanish, but it went underground. This makes it hard to know how much of it there is.

Apparently there's less
Than a lot of people thought.
Sometimes it's hard to assess
The changes time has brought.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Thrill of the Bug Hunt

Exciting day at work!

Exciting mostly because I had to track down 2 mistakes I'd made... and fix them ASAP.

First you detect
The bug's effect,
Plain before your eyes.

But where the defect
Really lies
Arrives as a surprise.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Hocus Pocus, Caucus Focus

It's Huckabee and Obama! Assuming the projections hold.

Iowa is adjacent,
So I cannot be complacent.

The great thing about the 2 party system is that everyone is guaranteed at least one person to vote against!

Representative government
Can sometimes seem a curse.
That's when I remind myself
The other forms are worse.

Leaving the Land of Levees

New Orleans was a bit chilly on the last few days of our stay. Chilly by their standards, that is.

Well, I'm back. This morning I awoke to the announcement that it was zero degrees Fahrenheit here in Chicago.

We flew out of the Big Easy
And into the Deep Freezy!

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Knowing When To Stop

This woman in Paw Paw, Michigan ran a stop sign. She hit a utility pole, making contact with electrical wires, setting her truck on fire.

She got back on the road and kept going.

Flames engulfed her vehicle and she had to jump out.

She's fine. She also set her dog on fire in the process, but he's fine too.

"Alcohol is believed to be a factor in the crash."

Talk about using the passive voice to obscure responsibility! I wonder how alcohol is a factor? Did she have a crate of rubbing alcohol in the truck bed and it caught on fire?

You might admire her drive
But she's lucky she's alive.

As for alcohol,
If you plan to knock down wires,
Be sure to store it all
Somewhere it can't catch fire!

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

For Lack of "The Lake"

The past 3 years I jumped in the lake for New Year's. It had turned into a tradition! But this morning I'm nowhere near my familiar Lake Michigan.

Fortunately, we're going on a swamp tour.

Since the Chicago River was reversed
Water from Lake Michigan has coursed
Down to the delta of the Mississippi.

So I plan to let my fingers dip
Into the dark and muddy water, knowing
Some of those molecules from my home came flowing.