Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Synchronicity City

All right. As of tonight, Chicago's 2 baseball teams are both in the playoffs. We could have a Red Line series.

The White Sox and the Cubs have played each other in the World Series before. Once. In 1906.

You know what this means.

They brawl in the street
when these ball teams meet,
so they'll need extra cops on the beat.

Guilt Emission and Remission

The NY Times ran a story about "eco-hypocrites". One interviewee declared:
I recycle 100 percent of what I possibly can so like now, there’s not one piece of paper goes in my bin, so that kind of makes feel less guilty about using my car as much as I do [and] flying as much as I do.
There it is.  It's not about doing what's allegedly good for the environment.  It's about the guilt!  Recycling is a ritual that lets him feel better, without actually giving up jet travel - which leaves a massive trail of CO2.

Many "greens"
behind the scenes
like to spew 

Speaking of guilt, I've been reading Guilt, Blame, and Politics, by Allan Levite. Miss Breeziness put me onto it. Levite's thesis is that altruism, plus high social status, equals a massive case of corrosive guilt - leading to rich people supporting socialist causes. It is documented with abundant examples.

When you hit them with guilt
the rich mostly wilt.

Few repel the assault
and tell you wealth is no fault.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Fastening My Seatbelt

The car is crowded with clowns
who swear they know how to drive
as they step on the gas and turn fast.

We'll be lucky to get there alive.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Families!

Have you noticed how both parties are always talking about protecting families?  It's never about protecting individuals.

What about single people, 
living on their own?
Shouldn't they be thrown
a metaphorical bone?

Is there a reason, 
mysteriously un-mentioned,
that makes them less entitled 
to government attention?

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Udderly Ridiculous

The NY Times reports that PETA wants ice cream makers to switch to human breast milk.

I'd rather stick with cow
for now.

High Tech

The Chinese space program is zooming along impressively. They have now pulled off their first space walk.

The NY Times observes: "Though it is called a space walk, the astronauts are really simply floating in space."

With no ground in place,
it's hard to really walk in space.

Or perhaps the Times means that the Chinese aren't using a "manned maneuvering unit" rocket pack yet.  I imagine that will come.  

A journey of a thousand miles, 
begins with a single step.
And the Chinese are showing plenty 
of staying power and pep.

After carefully saying that a space walk is not really a walk, I was amused to see the Times writer refer casually to an astronaut who reached his hand out "to touch outer space."

is a place
where there's nothing much
to touch,
but I'm sure he enjoyed
reaching into the Void

Great Debate?

We were out, but we recorded the debate.

Is it worth watching?

Was it like Seinfeld - a show about nothing?

don't excite.

Friday, September 26, 2008

At Least My Version Alliterates

What do they say the continuing crisis now requires?

A 'bailout czar'!

But why do we so often use this word from the old autocratic Russian Empire?

We don't need Russian gloss.
Let's just call him 'boss'.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Protesting a Survivor

It's not every night that Nazis stop traffic in Chicago.

It's also not every night that Elie Wiesel comes to town.

We went to hear him talk.  He was frequently funny, and sometimes quite moving.

He's the author of many books.  But none of them ever came close in popularity to Night, his first big success, a fictionalized recounting of his survival in a concentration camp.

He said his other books complain to him about all the attention that Night gets.

As for the neo-Nazi protestors, I'd like to quote from a scene from The Blues Brothers:

Elwood: Illinois Nazis!
Jake: I hate Illinois Nazis.
[The Blues Brothers promptly drive through the parade, forcing the Nazis to dive into the river].

The first amendment, of which they do not approve, 
keeps them from being rudely removed.

How Much Decisiveness Is Just Right?

Mickey Kaus suggests that McCain is too decisive.
No convention today! ... OK, it's on! ... The economy's sound... No, wait, it's going to fall apart unless I go to Washington tomorrow! ... We need a commission! ... We need to fire somebody! ... Get me Andrew Cuomo! ... I want ten more debates! ... But let's postpone the one we've scheduled! ... Do you get the impression a McCain presidency would be a bit exhausting?
But GayPatriot rants that Obama is too indecisive.
Strong and confident he may appear in image. Uncertain and indecisive he has become on the issues. His campaign slogans of hope and change have absolutely no meaning whatsoever. As he himself wrote, "I serve as a blank screen on which people of vastly different political stripes project their own views."
There's plenty of debate about decision,
and certainly no shortage of derision!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Poets Down Under

Yipes, there's all this Australian poetry I didn't know about.  I'm not quite in love with it yet, but right now it's very interesting.

I did know about Banjo Paterson, (Waltzing Matilda, Man From Snowy River) but I didn't know anything about Gwen Harwood, or a host of others.

If you google Harwood you get tons of school-essays.  I guess she's required reading down under.  In one such essay I found this sentence:

"The poetry of Gwen Harwood is very malleable."

You can twist it into shapes -
household gods or prancing apes,
in airtight hermeneutics with Houdini-like escapes.

Credit Crunch Scuttles Schedule?

I'm wondering how Obama can go ahead with the Friday debate - if McCain doesn't show up.

It must be hard to hold a debate alone.

I guess he could debate an empty chair,
exclaim "Cat got your tongue?" and double-dare
the missing guy to call up on the phone.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Bail Out!

I'm not a financial expert, but like most big messes this one seems to involve multiple mistakes, with plenty of blame to go around.

But to blame laissez-faire capitalism, as some are doing, is just mind-boggling. Especially when government-created entities, and government-mandated accounting rules, permeate all accounts of the credit crunch.

The proposed solution, to let the government buy bad debt,
is one I don't quite get.

But if it would help the grand design,
I'll gladly give them some of mine.

What Does Mrs. Claus Do?

Today I received a wonderful rhymed picture book in the mail, entitled: What Does Mrs. Claus Do? It's written by Kate Wharton, and drawn by Christian Slade. The text is witty, and the illustrations are imaginative.

The book doesn't directly answer the title question, but rather rings up an amazing pile of suggestions of things that Mrs. Claus might be doing when Santa's away. The basic idea is that you shouldn't just assume she spends all her time baking cookies. She may very well have a career of her own. For instance:
Perhaps Mrs. Claus runs and advises
the whole operation of Claus enterprises.
It seems like something kids would like, whether they "believe in Santa" or not. I think I'll donate my copy to the Montessori school. Or maybe a certain niece of mine would like it. Maybe for a holiday gift...

I'm not sure how the reindeer fly.
How on earth do they get so high?

Was it Darwinian adaptation
that led to antlered aviation?

Monday, September 22, 2008

Issues, Schmissues

Early voting starts today in some states. It's statistically likely that some of the early voters will have passed away by Election Day. Which means that across the country, the votes of dead people will be counted.

So why do people make such fun of Chicago for letting the dead vote? We don't, really. That's a thing of the past. I swear. But here are the Republicans, trying to stick the "Chicago corruption" button on Obama with a new TV ad!

Why don't the Republicans stick to the issues?  Probably because Obama makes it hard for them.  He always goes for nuance.  He's hard to pin down.  He's like a butterfly.

You may think you have him.  But it turns out you didn't understand what he really meant the first time.

Lepidopterists keep trying,
but he just keeps on flying.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Freak Accident

Your family is sleeping when a helicopter crashes through your roof, slides down your stairs, out your front door, into your yard, where it bursts into flame.

It happened in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

The 2 people in the copter were killed, but the 5 people in the house were unharmed. They were sleeping in bedrooms on either side of the stairway.

This seems like a once in a million thing.  But I'm on the flight path to Midway aiport.

I'm writing a letter
to Southwest:
If you must crash on my property,
I think the back yard would be best.

Rand vs. Baseball

Ayn Rand apparently had no special love of baseball. But there was one feature of the game that she singled out for use as a negative metaphor:

"Then you'll scream that money is evil. Evil, because it would not pinch-hit for your self-respect?"

"...no pinch-hitter can live your life..."

The first is uttered by Francisco, who was taught baseball by Dagny and Eddie. The second is uttered by John Galt.

In Atlantis, even the national pastime is different:

When they play baseball in the Valley,
no pinch-hitter ever starts a rally.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Lords of Cobol, Preserve Us

Glenn Reynolds has a post about the shocking persistence of Cobol, a computer language that was supposed to be dead and buried by now.

Billions of lines of code - with fresh lines written all the time - continue to run vital programs throughout the world, despite the fact that the language has no techie cachet. CS majors try to avoid learning it and certainly try to avoid jobs doing it.

But, somehow, Cobol persists, the dirty language secret of IT.

Glenn approvingly quotes: "The use of Cobol cripples the mind...."

Personally, I don't understand the spread of Cobolphobia. Do they hate it because it looks too easy?

You may denounce me as slime,
but I use it all the time.

Not A Peacenik

Here's an interesting article from Reason about the sorts of wars that Obama supports.

Are you worried he'll let our military get lax?
Don't be! He's in favor of some attacks.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Cost Effective

Baroness Warnock, described as a top British medical ethicist:
If you're demented, you're wasting people's lives – your family's lives – and you're wasting the resources of the National Health Service.
Ann Althouse comments:
Quite aside from guilt and a sense of duty, it would be easy to wrest consent out of people by offering high quality health care to those who agree in advance to be murdered if they get too expensive.
Be careful of letting your personal health
depend upon taxing others' wealth.

Redistribute, And Salute!

I'm not encouraged by this:

"We want to take money and put it back in the pocket of middle-class people," Biden said in an interview on ABC's "Good Morning America." Noting that wealthier Americans would indeed pay more, Biden said: "It's time to be patriotic ... time to jump in, time to be part of the deal, time to help get America out of the rut."

If you really love our nation,
you will welcome new taxation.

In turn, we'll spare no expense
as we welcome your dollars and cents.

The Good Earth

We read The Good Earth, by Pearl S. Buck, for book club. I found it strangely compelling.  It's the tale of a farming couple's struggle and rise in pre-Communist China.  A fellow member of the club praises the book here.

While preparing to lead the discussion, I read this in a book about Buck:
William Lyon Phelps once remarked that, if The Good Earth's author was unknown, a reader could not detect whether the writer was male or female, a radical or a conservative, a follower of a religious creed or an atheist.
But can an author really hide that well?

We decided that you could tell Buck wasn't a radical, because the poor farmers ended up successful. Radicals always crush the poor farmers, portraying them as helpless victims of social forces and greed.

On the religion front, I think you could at least guess that she was less than zealous.  The Chinese religious impulse seems to be respected, but it's never explored in theological detail.  And at one point a Christian pamphlet is used to patch a character's shoe, which seems, in context, to be poking fun at orthodox solemnity.

But we puzzled over whether you could tell the author was male or female.  The story is told from a man's point of view.  I do have a vague feeling that the portrayal of sex and birth was somehow female.  But I can't quite put my finger on it.

It's hard to hide what you really believe,
but perhaps good authors can deceive
as to whether they're Adam or Eve.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Distracted to Death

The investigators say the Metrolink engineer, who crashed his train and killed 25 people in Southern California, had run a red light.

And some teens say they received a text message from the engineer - one minute before the crash.

don't have to steer,
but they do need to watch for red lights,
so texting isn't too bright.

Can't Wait Till Tomorrow!

Our AIG stock
has suffered a shock.

Insurers, be careful what you insure,
or your enterprise may not endure.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Most Expensive Poem Ever

National Endowment for the Arts is funding 1.3 Billion for Big Poem project.

Okay, it's just an Onion story.

But, really, some federal money does pour into poetry.  (Like here.  And here.  Just for examples.)

Obama and McCain,
if you want my endorsement,
I need poetry subsidies
with Treasury enforcement!

Okay.  Not really.

Rather than sending me cash,
just give the budget a slash.

Triply Disturbing

1) A guy was suspected of having sex with his wife while she was comatose in a nursing home.

2) The nursing home staff complained to the cops, who installed hidden cameras.

3) Prosecutors took the videotape evidence to court, charging him with felony sexual assault.

On the bright side, the judge threw out the evidence, ruling that the guy had an expectation of privacy in his wife's room.

Having sex with the comatose
is gross.

Spying on the act
is grosser still, as a mattter of fact.

Just because what someone does is disgusting,
doesn't mean it really merits busting.

Banking Crisis - A Personal Solution

I used to find such behavior funny,
but I'm using a mattress to save my money.

Free Diagnosis

Victor David Hansen, in an anti-Obama column, accuses the American public of mental illness:
There is a sort of schizophrenia here with voters.
Then he rattles off a list of cultural issues where he thinks the voters are crazy. Here's one of them:
They want the death penalty, but then wish to abolish it entirely any time a state executes on even a single occasion someone of questionable guilt or mental capacity.
Come on. There's no craziness here. Just a mild case of perfectionism. We want to kill the monsters, but ONLY the monsters. Is that so hard?

Also, I think he has schizophrenia mixed up with dissociative identity disorder. I'm not sure what either is exactly, and I'm not sure there's a good answer. But maybe he's got hurried and hyperbolic columnist disorder?

Admittedly, I'm hazy
on different kinds of crazy.

I looked in the DSM once,
but couldn't quite get it. Call me a dunce!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Our New Backyard Pond

Chicago is getting heavy rainfall. O'Hare was closed for a while yesterday.

In the photo you can see the waterslide in our backyard. Previously, it was just an ordinary slide.

Water is coming into our basement, but the ejector pump is doing its job just fine.

But... what if it just keeps raining for 40 days?

I suppose the odds are remote,
but maybe I should buy a boat.

UPDATE: The Trib says yesterday was the rainiest day ever measured in Chicago.

And, the Chicago River has crested on the northwest side, and the fire department is rescuing people in rubber boats.

I'm on high ground, so the odds are slim,
but I'm really glad I know how to swim.

Investigative Reporting

The Chicago Tribune has dug deep this time: they sent a reporter to a farm and had him put lipstick on a pig. You can see the video here.

They tried it on 2 pigs.  Only one of the pigs cooperated.  The other resisted like lipstick was the kiss of death.

So when they say, "You can put lipstick on a pig," bear in mind it's only true half of the time.

Perhaps there will be a reportorial rush
to research how a possum looks with blush.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

First You Kick All The Lawyers Off The Supreme Court

For all you lawyer-haters out there, I have a modest proposal. How about we stop appointing lawyers to the Supreme Court? There's nothing in the Constitution that says the job is only for lawyers.

Think of how this will simplify the Senate hearings:

Senator: What is your understanding of the scope of the Commerce Clause?

Nominee: I haven't got to that part yet.

Besides, opposing counsels are always glad to explain the law to the Justices. All the Justices have to do is vote on which explanation makes more sense.

Well, and they have to write opinions. But their clerks, I'm told, are glad to do it for them.

Try to imagine a nine-Justice court,
where no one knows how to define a tort.

Errors In Risk Management

They refused evacuation. Now they need to be rescued.

When a hurricane rolls your way,
think hard before you choose to stay.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Palin As Female Impersonator

Wendy Doniger, professor at the U. of Chicago Divinity School, has a revelation about Sarah Palin:

Well. This from a person who fears "that the Republican party has finally lost its mind."

People are losing their minds. That's for sure.

It must be tough, after having five kids,
to be told your "woman status" is on the skids.

As for the professor, she's proof that election campaigns
even play havoc with clever people's brains.

UPDATE: courtesy of writerspleasureneurological study of what partisan politics does to brains.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Secret Bookcase Doors

Popular Mechanics has a cool article about a guy who will sell you a bookcase with a built in motor - so you can be like Batman and have secret doors in your house that swing open with the touch of a button.

I'm not sure how useful it would be in my house.  I mean, I'd like a secret door, but I want it to lead somewhere nifty.

A secret door to just another room
is anticlimactic.

I need an Egyptian tomb,
or maybe an intergalactic
wormhole of doom.

Girls Daring - Publisher Not So Much

The Daring Book For Girls is a big hit in the U.S.A.

But Deb Ross has turned up disturbing news. The Australian version encourages girls to play the didgeridoo. It's a musical instrument played by Australian aborigines.

Only males are allowed to play it. Among the Aborigines, that is. But the authors encourage girls to give it a try. How dare they!

The publisher will remove the offending chapter.

I hope the Saudi Daring Book For Girls
suggests they give driving and voting a whirl.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

When Philosophers Collide

I was reading excerpts from the Pre-Socratics, and musing about the cool new collider in Europe.

If we find that the teeniest things
are really strings,
are those the atoms of which Democritus spoke?

Or does the mathematics, wildly baroque,
vibrating strings and all, suggest
that Pythagoras had the best guess?

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Humongous Tings

The sea was rough, and it poured rain a few times, but we went on a whale watching cruise and were rewarded with a lively group of 7 humpbacks, including 2 playful calves. They let us hang around them for an hour, then it was time for us to head home.

Far from shore,
there were whales galore.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Nice To Be Back In Saltwater

When we arrived, the water seemed oddly calm off Cape Cod.

I wasted no time, and jumped right in!

So I swam in a sea
of tranquility.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Tech Idea

I think car GPS systems should patch into Google Street View. Because when you're in a place like Cambridge/Boston, and it says "turn left here," you may have 3 ways to turn left.

In other words, yes,
even with a GPS
we got burned
on some turns.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Why Does "Boston" Rhyme With "Lost In"?

A wild grid,
and signs that are hid.

Oscillation of Meaning

To vibrate is to shake.

But vibrant democracies are in good shape, while shaky democracies are in bad shape.

Stuff with vibrations
causes good sensations.

Stuff that shakes

Such a difference connotation makes.

Friday, September 05, 2008


Megan McArdle ponders the significance of Palin's sudden popularity:

I think she's onto something. If you ever listen to country music, you periodically encounter the palpable resentment against the supposed superiority of the sophisticated.

If you think you really deserve to rule,
they size you up as a dangerous fool.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Motown Mayor Headed to Hoosegow

Today Kwame Kilpatrick, the mayor of Detroit, pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice. He's required to leave office and spend a few months in the pokey. Also, he officially owes the city a million bucks.

It was a classic case of a guy done in by his own cover-up. (Time line here.)
In live remarks broadcast by Detroit TV stations Thursday night, Kilpatrick said he takes full responsibility for his "poor judgment."

When they're caught, politicians like to confess to poor judgment. They hardly ever confess to poor character. That would be really taking "full responsibility."

When someone's behavior make you feel like hurling,
that's a clue his character's less than sterling.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Does Biden "Pale In" Comparison?

Ann Althouse has been writing a lot about Palin. She's been working on word play about her, too. For instance, when the attacks seemed to get kind of crazy, she called it "Palinsanity."

But the funniest one is where she started in about palindromes. A palindrome is a word or phrase that is spelled the same forward and backward. Spaces and punctuation marks are typically disregarded. One of the famous palindromes is contained in a riddle:

Q) What did the first man say when he met the first woman?

A) Madam, I'm Adam.

Althouse came up with one for Palin's opponents: "Harass Sarah."

I saw Palin speak tonight. She didn't look harassed. She looked like she was having fun, and she looked like she was stirring the audience very effectively, particularly the women. Time will tell, but tonight she reminded me of Reagan for some reason.

I suspect her opponents will fail in
marginalizing Palin.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008


With "The Dark Knight" fresh in my mind, I began thinking again about the very modern cultural phenomenon of superheroes. Why so popular? What does this curious anti-realism mean?

With identities protected,
and powers unsuspected,
they prowl the night in tights and capes
righting wrongs in escapades
beyond all expectation.

They are the superheroes,
charging through the pages
of comic books, frustrating
costumed villains and their nihilistic rages.

They're missing from actual life,
offspring of artist and writer,
embodying colorful strife
with mythic forcefulness, ready to fight.

Or, are they, somehow, us?
Don't we conceal
our true identities,
afraid to reveal
Achilles' heels?

Don't we have hidden powers
surprising even ourselves -
startling bursts of energy
when finally trying our hardest?

It's not exactly real
but what one feels
is that you're flying,
tossing boulders like toys,
destroying the obstacles thrown in your way,
succeeding at deeds
the world needs
to be done.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Whew Orleans

New Orleans seems to have dodged the hurricane bullet. Levees are holding so far.

But, wow, what a great job they did of evacuating this time.

There's nothing like recent disaster
to make you, next time, go faster.

A Real Pro-Life Family

Sarah Palin's family is really anti-abortion. Sarah chose to give birth to a child with Down Syndrome. And her 17 year old daughter is pregnant and plans to keep the baby and marry the father.

Each made her choice and will live with it. I hope this works out well for each of them, and I hope the children have good lives.

But I'm really unhappy with the thought of removing the right to make such choices. And I gather Sarah Palin is in favor of such restrictive laws.

Although it doesn't exactly apply
to me, I have to say that I
would hate to lose
the right to choose.