Monday, March 31, 2008

Roark Aversion Syndrome

Ann Althouse responded to an "annoying" NY Times article "about these literary types who abhor love from people who don't know all the authors or don't like the right books".

From the original article:
[S]ometimes, it’s the Howard Roark problem... “I did have to break up with one guy because he was very keen on Ayn Rand,” said Laura Miller, a book critic for Salon. “He was sweet and incredibly decent despite all the grandiosely heartless ‘philosophy’ he espoused, but it wasn’t even the ideology that did it. I just thought Rand was a hilariously bad writer, and past a certain point I couldn’t hide my amusement.”...
Althouse seems to think this sort of aversion is misguided: "But really, my question is, what did those guys who loved John Kerry, Ayn Rand, and Robert Pirsig look like?"

Professor Althouse, don't you understand? Good looks aren't enough! Good taste, or at least the appearance of it, is also key!

You must dislike inferior books.
Don't think that mere superior looks
(you handsome beast) will be enough.
You must prefer the proper stuff.

But if to junk you do succumb,
I might forgive you - just keep mum.
Don't let my friends find out - you see -
for that would be the end of me.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Elevator Dilemma

We were talking about emotions and cognition last night. Afterwards I starting thinking about a scenario adopted from The Gift of Fear:

You're waiting for an elevator. It opens up. There's a man inside, and no one else. You feel fear. You're not sure why. It's just a "vibe". This is not a typical reaction for you.

Quick now, what do you do? The elevator door is about to close. Choose one:

A) Enter the elevator

B) Do not enter the elevator

While you're deciding, here's a philosophical question: does this represent a conflict between emotion and cognition?

It's a case where you feel the man is dangerous, but don't know the man is dangerous. So it's not really a conflict of emotion vs. knowledge. It's more of having emotion without having much knowledge.

If this were a law court, I'd say give him the benefit of the doubt.
But when it's an elevator, you might want to stay out.

According to Damasio

One job of the amygdala
is to gently jiggle da
focus of the brain
toward what feels germane.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Nuclear Power Hour

While others are celebrating "Earth Hour" tonight - an hour when the earth returns to its natural nocturnal darkness, I'm planning a little celebration of my own:

"Nuclear Power Hour"

The first controlled nuclear reaction occurred right here in Chicago. Illinois leads the nation in nuclear power. We get about half of our electrical power from atomic plants.

And today I heard that 3 new nuclear power plants are about to be approved in the US.

This is the place. This is the time. It's cleaner, and (dare I say it) greener than the alternatives.

I'll celebrate my hour of power,
I'll turn my lights up bright,
making a freakin' beacon
in the night.

Out of Treatment

The first season of the In Treatment series is finally over. It was basically an Americanized rewriting, episode-by-episode, of an Israeli show, Be'Tipul.

I found the show fascinating, and I've been trying to put my finger on why.

I kept being put in mind of Eugene Gendlin's book, Focusing. Not so much the technique espoused. The fictional therapist isn't using the Gendlin technique. What kept coming to mind was Gendlin's portrayal of unpredictable movement as difficult-to-face conflicts emerge to the light of awareness.

The path to find
peace of mind,
can take the person on a winding way,
swerving through blind curves toward day.

Cops Who Don't Know When To Stop

Some underage kids in Wisconsin had a kegger party - with a strictly root beer keg.

The cops showed up and made 91 kids take breathalyzer tests. All passed. The police chief explained:

"It was a tremendous waste of time and manpower, but we still had a job to do, and our officers did it," Joling said. "If one kid had come there, even hadn't drank there, but had come there and had been drinking and had left and crashed and burned, then what would the sentiment be? Why didn't the police check everybody out?"

Was this a job that needed to be done?
Testing root beer drinkers, one by one?

Friday, March 28, 2008

Caption Wrote Itself

Truck Stuck In Muck

This guy pulled his truck this morning onto the wet lawn of a small city park. I think he was trying to execute a 3-point turn, so he could reverse direction in a tight alley.

Instead he executed a 3-hour quagmire, until another truck finally pulled him out.

What's left behind is muddy ruts
upon what used to be lawn.


We went to hear the CSO, conducted by Dutoit, doing a tone poem a suite of celestial program music by Holst.

Man, oh man, oh man, it's
good to hear The Planets
in a great big concert hall.

Jupiter stood tall.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Dream On

According to a recent poll, Democrats are threatening to defect:

Twenty eight percent of Clinton backers in the survey said they would back McCain if Obama won the nomination; 19 percent of Obama supporters said they would choose the Arizona Senator if Clinton wound up as the nominee.

I guess the only solution is the "dream team" where they both run together. They can run as co-presidents.

Who wants to answer that jangling red phone

Pardon Me While I Get Really Angry

This 11 year old girl in Weston, Wisconsin kept getting sicker and sicker. But her family didn't take her to a doctor.

If they'd taken her to a doc, he would have diagnosed diabetes, and he would have treated her for that condition.

They prayed over her instead.
She's dead.
The mother believes the girl could still be resurrected, the police chief said.
Sometimes, I wish there was a hell,
so I could hear some people yell
while Satan roasts them very well.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

An Internashional Treasure

Amidst the noisy blog din,
is one devoted to singing the praises of Ogden.

Mr. Nash is who I mean,
one of the nimblest rhymesters ever seen.

I refer to a blog which is cleverly named: Blogden Nash.

You may have noticed I'm influenced by him. I remember him as a contemporary poet in my youth.

Wikipedia says:
At the time of his death in 1971, the New York Times said his "droll verse with its unconventional rhymes made him the country's best-known producer of humorous poetry".
He actually seems to have invented one particular verse form - one I have often utilized,
Which consists of writing long prosaic lines that keep you waiting for the rhyme until you're feeling brutalized.

A Pile of IOU's

Yesterday I expressed concerns about Social Security's solvency. Merjet commented:
The only "asset" the fund holds is federal government debt, mainly U.S. Treasury bonds or notes. They can only be redeemed from future tax revenues or by replacing them with newer Treasury bonds or notes.
I thought my money was safely locked.
Please don't tell me my funds have been hocked!

Microwaved Babies In The News

I found not one, but two microwaved baby cases awaiting judicial resolution:
May. 23, 2007. GALVESTON, Texas - A baby girl was released from a hospital 11 days after police say she was burned in a motel microwave oven. The infant's mother blamed the devil for what happened, saying Satan compelled her husband to put the baby in the microwave.
The jury's still deliberating.
January 28, 2008. DAYTON, Ohio (AP) -- Jury selection began Monday in the trial of a woman accused of killing her 1-month-old daughter by burning the child in a microwave oven.
The judge declared a mistrial, but ordered a new trial to be scheduled.

Obviously this can't be the parents' fault. They're just unhinged. I blame the manufacturers!

Microwaves ought to come with infant detectors.
Or maybe all babies could be installed with microwave deflectors.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Milestones vs Real News

When we sadly reached 4000 dead in Iraq, it was reported as news. You know, the "mounting death total hits round number" announcement. Somehow it wasn't news the day before when the total was 3996. Oh well, reporters love these "mounting death toll" stories. The Pentagon gives you the data and the story writes itself.

Of course, counts of the dead always seem to be mounting. At least they never seem to head downward. Except maybe for people like this and this, who are declared "brain dead" but then get up and walk and talk. Maybe I should have thought twice before signing that organ-donor card.

Another milestone got reported as news today - Medicare and Social Security are running out of money. Talk about old news. Everybody's seen this coming for decades.

But the alternatives available aren't appealing. You know, big increases in taxes, or big cuts in benefits. Or both. I say phase the whole thing out, but I don't expect that to be a popular solution.

People imagine the government is good at long-range planning. As if we'd been electing actuaries to Congress!

Thinking for the long term
makes most politicians squirm.

They promise dreams today,
but tomorrow we have to pay.

Paging Mr. Mayor

The mayor of Detroit is charged with lying under oath. About a romantic relationship with his chief of staff. How did he get caught? His city-issued pager kept a long history of his thousands and thousands of text messages.

they're in your textz
snooping your sex

Monday, March 24, 2008

Freezer Would Have Been Safer

So this parolee hides his loaded pistol in an oven. Then a young woman starts up the oven.

The heat makes the gun go off and 2 kids get hit. Luckily, neither one seems to be hurt too bad.

Always be careful to complete
A weapons-search before you preheat.

Photonic Abstinence

I see we're celebrating Earth Hour in Chicago on March 31. At 8 pm that night they want us to turn off our lights for an hour.

It's a symbolic exercise. Like lighting a votive candle in church... except the other way around.

Hmm. Maybe it's more like giving things up for Lent... environmental Lent.

If I give up light for Lent,
will my sacrifice prevent
climate change in our time?

I hereby sincerely repent
for all of the kilowatts spent
typing satirical rhyme.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Cemetery Etiquette - Jogging?

Sometimes, when out for a run, I jog along the paved roadways of a cemetery. I've been wondering about the etiquette of this.

Usually, I have at least one close relative buried there, and I do stop by the grave briefly. But a few times I have been in some cemetery where I don't "know" anybody.

So far - I've heard no complaints. I'm careful to never venture near a burial service. I don't run on grass. I yield the right of way. You don't want to intrude on grief.

Most of the time these place are empty.
The names of the ghosts flash by as I jog -
hopelessly far, but whispering close.

Bloody Boors

Catholic Schoolgirls Against The War, a group which mysteriously contained male members, staged an obnoxious disruption of Easter services at Chicago's Holy Name Cathedral.

As Cardinal George was about to start sermonizing, the "schoolgirls" stood up in the aisles, sprayed stage blood on themselves, and began shouting anti-war slogans.

The congregation booed them.

It's not that the congregation, or the cardinal, is particularly pro-war.

I'm sure they were booed just for being jerks.
From where I sit, that works.

Multicolored Ovoids

In Iran, right about this time of year, they celebrate with decorated eggs.

Not Easter eggs. Nowruz eggs.

Nowruz , the Persian New Year, kicks off on the vernal equinox.

It's no exaggeration -
in fact, it's quite exact -
to say egg decoration
deserves examination
since its colorful history
seems to be shrouded in mystery.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Trouble in High Places

China has vowed to crush Tibet,
but Tibet is not crushed yet.

Free Issues - We've Got 'Em

We've got a stack of 10 copies of the latest New Individualist. Marsha and I both have articles in the new issue, and we each got 5 free.

She has a review of Jerry Kirkpatrick's new book, Montessori, Dewey, and Capitalism: Educational Theory for a Free Market in Education. She found it fascinating, even if she didn't quite agree with his positive spin on Dewey.

I have a review of Walter Donway's new poetry collection, Touched By Its Rays. I conclude:
Relentlessly intelligent, contemporary in language and topic, Donway brings the music of words boldly up to date for the 21st Century.
The cover story is about foreign policy, and shows a caged American Eagle. The article's by Roger Donway, who used to be an editor at Orbis.

Of course, that big bad bird isn't caged at the moment.

For whatever it may be worth,
that eagle's flying all over the earth.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Found Rhyme

This is stolen from Glenn Reynolds. All I did was insert line breaks:

while on the phone to 911.

She'd have been better off
with a gun.

Agitprop as Performance

John McWhorter, noted linguist and pundit, writes:
Well, in hearing Reverend Wright's agitprop as performance rather than hate speech, Barack Obama is black indeed — in a way other than the uninteresting one of melanin.
In other words, Jeremiah Wright's speechifying was not to be taken literally. And, he believes, most of the attendees would have taken it metaphorically. Because, being "black" in a cultural sense, they know it's meant as symbolic gesture.

That's his thesis, anyway. I suppose there's something to it. It put me in mind of a book, Did The Greeks Believe In Their Myths? Did they only sort of believe?

On Easter Sunday, when the pews are packed in America's mainstream churches, how many of the worshipers are also true believers?

But, in a complex society, acceptable symbolic gestures from group A may be shocking violations of protocol for group B. Which is kind of a challenge for politicians, who want to appeal to... as many voters as they can.

Carefully contrive
your words to never offend.

Beware the sad misstep that sends
your reputation on a long deep dive.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Not the Brightest Bulbs

Congress approved a plan
to enact a general ban
on bulbs that are incandescent.

There's mercury inside the new fluorescents,
mildly poisonous, not too extreme,
but if you bust one, call in the hazmat team!

A Block From My House

There's a building that's been a supermarket, a pharmacy, and an HMO clinic. Now it's something called the "UCC Trinity Village Center".

Yes, that UCC Trinity. Obama's church. They are running some kind of college prep corporation in the building. Which seems like a fine idea.

And... they even have a link to the Ayn Rand Institute! Admittedly, it's just on a set of college scholarship links. But still, what a reach those essay-writing contests have!

Everyone thinks it's exciting
to get big bucks for writing.

Stuff Pink People Like

I was talking to my dad about the stuff white people like website, and I told him that the target audience was obviously educated white people.

Which means that the final installment of the series should be about white people liking the website itself, because they like to see themselves as others see them, make fun of themselves, and place themselves in sociological perspective. This establishes their ability to stand outside their own culture, which proves their superiority to other white people who just don't get it.

Of course, maybe white people like the site because it's so funny.

Really we're pink, not white.
But that's a story for another night.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

My Big Speech On Race

Okay, I don't have one. I do recommend reading everything Thomas Sowell has ever written on the subject.

It's funny, David Mamet recently called Sowell our greatest living philosopher. I wouldn't have used the word philosopher, but Sowell's books have affected my own thinking about social issues profoundly. By the way, his columns are just columns. The books are deeper. I recommend Ethnic America, Knowledge and Decisions, Markets and Minorities, & Race and Culture.

Also, as I recall Pink People and Brown People was pretty good and has the funniest title.

I fell in love with Sowell when he appeared on Milton Friedman's series, Free to Choose. There was one particular sequence, a kind of debate, where some liberal white woman started telling him what was good for black people. Sowell kept his cool but was having none of it.

Of course, if you've been following "stuff white people like," you already know white people "know what's best for the poor". Of course, the truth is bigger than that. Everybody knows what's good for everybody else.

Remember that free advice
Is often worth the price.

Even More Meaning of Life

It doesn't have a meaning in the way
that a note on the refrigerator does.

The cosmos isn't trying to say
the secret all that ever was.

But you can trace effect to cause
and chart the patterns up as laws,
and choose to pursue
whatever awakens the power of life in you.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Divisive or Incisive? You Decide!

Mickey Kaus reviews the Obama speech, funny and analytical:
Obama gives Archie Bunker a chance to tune out: The speech starts by talking about slavery. Yikes. Why are we talking about slavery? We know about slavery. We want to know why Obama picked his paranoid pastor!
(It's so much easier when you're a Catholic. The Church just assigns a pastor to your area. None of this "picking a pastor" business!)

Robert Bidinotto reviews the Obama speech, unamused and analytical:
However, there is also one minority group in America that Obama clearly means to exclude from the Great National Unity. That group consists of businessmen.
(That's because he's so progressive! People are basically all good - until they join together in corporations.)

So do a google search
before you join that church,
and no matter what you think,
never join an Inc.

The Meaning of Life

I've been reading Terry Eagleton's book, The Meaning of Life. He's a British literary critic, but this little book is directed toward the philosophical question. Being a literary critic, he does manage to throw in more discussion of "Waiting For Godot" than the average philosopher would.

My friend at The Frugal Chariot has already posted a review, even accompanied by a poem of his own.

Frankly, I found it a maddening book at times - too flip, too hip, too damn reformed-Marxist. On the other hand, he does stick up for reality and human nature as being something more than mere constructs. He's on a kind of anti-postmodern rant, in his own way, and he ends up turning to Aristotle's Ethics as a source of fundamental insight as to the meaning of life.

At first I simply found the book annoying.

But after a while,
against my will,
I actually started enjoying it.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Cheap at the Price

Bear Stearns sold at 2 dollars a share.

I think the economy needs more air!

So drop the rate
and quickly inflate
our money supply.

Now why are foreigners telling the dollar goodbye?

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Measles vs. Smallpox

The N.Y. Times reviewed the new John Adams mini-series on HBO under the title, "Blowhard, Patriot, President".

I would say, a pox upon them. I'm enjoying the series very much.

The reviewer also is confused about this:
When one of the Adams children contracts measles, Abigail boldly chooses inoculation for herself and the other children.
This is doubly wrong:

1) She inoculates them preventively. That's how one gets pretty darned sick.

2) It's not measles at all. It's smallpox. That's why so many people are dropping like flies. That's why there are large pustules all over the victims. Did the reviewer notice that they were calling it "the pox"? Might that have been a clue?

Adams was a man of great eloquence, when eloquence was needed.
He spoke of the rights of man, and his call was heeded.

The Power-Hungry Vibe

There are a lot of ways to judge political candidates. One of mine is to try to get a feel for how power-hungry they seem. It's one of those "picking up a vibe" type judgments that are hard to nail down.

So far this year, my presidential power-hungry winner is Hillary Clinton. McCain seems to give it off sometimes, especially when he's angry. I haven't really picked it up from Obama yet. So on this dimension, I like him best.

Of course, it's hard to transcribe
What constitutes a vibe;
So this won't be my only basis
When choosing among the candidate's faces.

UPDATE: I'm not meaning power-hungry in the sense of intensely desiring high office. All 3 have that, in the biggest sort of way. I mean power-hungry in the sense of intensely wanting to control everybody's behavior.

Motivated Immigrants

Starving at home,
Hundreds of thousands already dead,
They fled across the ocean's foam,
Flooding the northern cities of this land,
Not-so-welcome, sometimes banned
From nicer neighborhoods.

But in the end, they flourished here,
And their descendants hoist green beer
To honor their perseverance.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Listening to the Reverend

Some people are wondering how Obama could listen to Jeremiah Wright's hateful sermons for years.

Does Obama really buy Wright's vision? Or does he just admire the preacher's ability to sway a packed church? Cass Sunstein, in his defense of Obama, says that Obama is always interested in multiple points of view. Perhaps that holds a clue as to what's going on.

Maybe Obama's a smart guy who doesn't mind listening to a lot of contrary viewpoints. Maybe he just went to that church because his wife liked it or something. After all, Obama wasn't raised in any particular religion at all.

Maybe he's basically a pragmatist who is playing the "project your hopes on me" game.

Project your hopes, and cast your vote,
and pray the nation stays afloat.

UPDATE: Some additional thoughts along similar lines here.

Thanks, USATF

Have I recently sung the praises of the USATF draw-your-own-running-route site? It looks like it's based on Google Maps, but it lets you draw your own path, including portions that are off-road or along bike trails or through cemeteries. So if you travel a chaotic route like this, you can easily find out how far you went:

It also lets you save routes and look up other people's routes, which sounds cool.

Now I know with precision why my feet
Feel beat.

Beware the Ides of March

Today is recalled as the Ides of March,
the day that Julius Caesar died.

His killers explained they had merely tried
to stop the march of tyranny.

But Caesar soon was deified,
and liberty continued to slide

Pi in My Face

They said yesterday was Pi Day. I don't suppose that makes sense with the European way of writing dates. But here in the States, 3/14 almost makes sense, except that pi is NOT 3.14 at all.

You know it's something more
than just three point one four.

But just exactly how much bigger
takes an infinite time to figger.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Chicago Bear

It was actually pleasant out today. Pleasant enough to maybe go running outside for fun. I haven't done that since November.

Like bears
holed up in a cave,
we who live in the north

sniffing the air
for that first scent
of spring

bold and brave
we go forth.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Arm's Length Relationship

Yet another local hospital is in the political news. They've been expanding, so...

For them, Obama requested a million
federal bucks for a new pavilion.

I like the hospital. Heck, I was born there! I imagine his wife liked it too. She worked there!

An appearance of impropriety?
No. All for the good of society!

The Real Scandal

As the Rezko trial unfolds, attention has turned to the Illinois Health Facilities Planning Board.

You can't build a new hospital in Illinois without permission from this board. You can't even build a new wing.
Witnesses at the corruption trial of Antoin "Tony" on Wednesday laid bare an upside-down world of hospital regulation in Illinois, where medical need took a back seat to political connections, an old-boy network and a delicate balancing act of favors.
The real scandal is that this board even exists.

Why should politicians
Control what can be built?
This kind of regulation
Makes innovation wilt.

Endless Effort

Inspired by xkcd's funny cartoon.

Someone on the internet is wrong.

Therefore I must stay up all night long,
posting stuff so solid and airtight
that everyone will know that I am right.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


"Kristen": "I mean it's just kind of like, whatever, I'm here for a purpose. I know what my purpose is."

Money changes hands
And his eager hands explore
Her honeyed contours.

She knows her function;
Performs with a glow of warmth
Till the act is done.

Then it's time to go.
No emotional goodbyes
Disturb the moment.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Cute Overloaded Circuit

The kitty electrician,
Following long tradition,
Chews on lamps
To test their amps
In a twisted-up position.

Aphrodite & co.

Lots of people, including one former mayor of New York, are comparing Eliot Spitzer's troubles to a Greek tragedy.

It almost writes itself. He starts off high on hubris, but is laid low by mighty Aphrodite.

Which got me thinking - why did these people worship such troublesome divinities?

The gods of the Greeks? How very rude
and even lewd
they were at times,
lacking in beatitude,
slipping into dreadful crimes,
even stooping to quarrel
with each other like chattering squirrels.

What made them godly, then?
I guess each embodied a trend,
some universal tendency,
love, war, poetry, whatever,
that can't be severed
from our nature.

Defying erasure,
refusing to die,
they came back
after every attack.

Which, oddly enough,
may be godly enough.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Maybe I Should Start Believing In Karma

ABC News is saying that Eliot Spitzer didn't just happen to walk into a prostitution investigation. They're saying that the Feds were after Spitzer all along... for money laundering.
"We had no interest at all in the prostitution ring until the thing with Spitzer led us to learn about it," said one Justice Department official.
This is even worse news for him.
Spitzer, who made his name by bringing high-profile cases against many of New York's financial giants, is likely to be prosecuted under a relatively obscure statute called "structuring," according to a Justice Department official.
Likely to be prosecuted? For a financial crime?

Like Wall Street, I am overjoyed
With schadenfreude.

Spitzer Admits, But Doesn't Quit

Eliot Spitzer, the governor of New York, is in an embarrassing spot.

Aggressive prosecution
Is how he made his name.

Now high-end prostitution
Has won him new-found fame.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

The PC Must Want To Be Fixed

I spent much of my day working on computers.

First I got the home network set up for file sharing. Again. As usual, a personal firewall resisted my will but was finally whipped into shape.

Second I installed my father's new Vista box, which replaced a 98 box. His current internet connection is dial-up, which complicated things. At one point I took his new PC to my house for a real internet connection. Fortunately he should get broadband shortly.

I'm thinking of an "In Treatment" type show for computer maintenance. The big thing on In Treatment is how resistant all the patients are, but the therapist uses mental judo on them. Normally watching psychotherapy is like watching paint dry - it's a slow process. *Yawn* But on In Treatment everything happens so fast! Even though the patients don't (seem to) want to change!

If I can make driver downloads seem dramatic...
When they abort it's terribly traumatic,
When they succeed... unbearably ecstatic!

Saturday, March 08, 2008


I saw this dancer tonight. She's from Cuba. She's called Xiomara. She had the moves. I couldn't take my eyes off her.

I guess I should also say
She dances ballet.

Heteropaternal Chimeras?

I've been dipping into the topic of people with 2 sets of DNA, who are technically known as chimeras.

Basically, a couple of fraternal twins merge in the womb, into a single person.

Sometimes fraternal twins have 2 different fathers, by a process known as heteropaternal superfecundation.

So, given that fraternal twins can merge, and also given that fraternal twins can have 2 fathers, the possibility is raised that one person could have 2 fathers.

Maybe in practice it wouldn't be feasible. But inquiring minds want to know!

Has anyone ever had
More than one dad?

Friday, March 07, 2008

Girl of My Dreams

I finally finished Girl of My Dreams by Morgan Mandel. It's a humorous romance novel set in the world of reality TV, and I found it quite enjoyable.

On the day before Valentine's Day, my friend Paul and I were heading out to lunch. Our path took us through the Barnes and Noble on the ground floor of our office building. As we neared the door, this lady started talking to us, asking us if maybe we would like to buy a romance novel as a V-day present for our wives. "Maybe you haven't bought anything yet," she commented. She was the author, "Morgan Mandel" herself, set up at one of those book-signing tables.

Well, I had bought something already, and Marsha doesn't read romance novels, but I admired her salesmanship so I bought a copy.

Now I'm moving on to another book: Evolution in Four Dimensions: Genetic, Epigenetic, Behavioral, and Symbolic Variation in the History of Life.

Is there a connection? Of course!

After all, romance
Is a form of human mating dance.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Tuneless Tricks

Meter, rhyme, alliteration, assonance - these tricks of poetic sound are all forms of repetition. I wouldn't say the effect comes strictly from the repetition. Deviation from pattern packs a punch too.

You can see why these patterns would be an aid to memory. You can see why verse is easier to recall word-for-word than prose. The rhyme-scheme and the meter are like a cyclic redundancy check. If you remember the right meaning but the wrong word then frequently the wrong word doesn't quite fit the meter or rhyme scheme. It literally doesn't "sound" right.

But why these repetitive patterns should aid the stirring of emotion, that's a puzzle. The brain loves patterns, of course. These things are neurocharms, perhaps, feeding the patternlust. But how bare are mere words as compared to words with music. How bare is the pure music of words, these repetitions. But somehow we tune into them, and are touched.

How do we hear
in mere words
a kind of music?

No tune at all,
but this pulsing call
can move us.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Sun-Times Gets Mean

The Chicago Sun-Times is in a taunting mood. Here's a current headline:

Will he pick up the phone,
Or leave it alone?

He's busy with important stuff,
And probably feels he has answered enough
Annoying questions from the press.

Cut him some slack. He has crowds to bless.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008


Once again, Hillary Clinton has climbed out of the early grave to which the press had assigned her. Texas, at the moment is tilting in her favor, and she has actually won Ohio.

How can it be she's won?
Doesn't she know she's done?

UPDATE: Texas has been called for she who will not be denied.

Metaphors for Freedom

As the European Enlightenment rolled in, poets struggled for ways to communicate the idea of freedom. One very popular metaphor was the idea that "every man is a king". In other words, you're like a king because no one is the boss of you.

In America, as the 19th century unfurled, the ruling metaphor for freedom seemed to be the frontier - the freedom of "wide open spaces" where you could do what you want without any neighbors around to bug you.

In both periods, the ancient contrast of "free man" vs. "slave" was a very live image as well.

Do we need some new metaphor today? Or can we get by with adaptations of these?

What is a metaphor for?
How does it open a mental door?

Monday, March 03, 2008

Trying to Land an Airbus

Here's some amazing amateur footage of an Airbus trying to land in high winds in Hamburg. The plane touches down, scrapes its wings on the runway, and takes off again.

Story and a photo here.

They scraped both wings along the way
But lived to fly another day.

That Rings A Bell

Google did a nice graphic today for Alexander Graham Bell's birthday. He's the inventor of the telephone.

He was a long-time member of the category: "people with weirdly appropriate names."

Nowadays, with variable ringtones, he is quickly falling out of that category.

Alexander Graham Bell
Did not live to own a cell,
Never heard how new tones ring:
Pretty much anything.

Polling Peers for Rezko

It's jury-selection time at the Rezko case, and reporters weren't happy to hear this:
Most prospective jurors said they read newspapers or watched TV news only sporadically.
I loved this:
Prospective juror 70, a retiree, said she did watch TV news on occasion. St. Eve asked her if there was any particular station she favored. "It depends on which one depresses you more," the woman replied.
So decades of the "Happy Talk" news format have failed to sugarcoat the daily dose of dire doings.

I suppose it's good for Rezko's case
That few will recognize his face.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Nation's Highest

Chicago has the highest building in the United States.

And now, thanks to the Cook County Board, we have the highest sales tax too

I'm very proud to boast:
Our sales tax is now the most!

But the next time I have something big to buy,
I may go to Indiana where the rates are not so high.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Couture for Camelot

I had been vaguely noticing the way Michelle Obama dresses. I kept thinking, in the back of my mind: what's that?

Today the Wall St. Journal came through for me with an article explaining that she is dressing a lot like Jackie Kennedy.

You'll certainly never look tacky
Dressing like Jackie.

It's My Party

Here's a story about a guy celebrating his one year anniversary of being on parole. Yep, some people have parties like that.

And you know what he did at his party, at least allegedly? He stabbed and killed his girlfriend.

In retrospect, I think
They should have kept him in the clink.