Thursday, February 28, 2008

Word Problem

During one complete trip around the sun, how many times does the earth spin on its axis?

It sounds like a no-brainer,
But then there's a remainder,
With an incremental creep
That requires us to leap.

And here's what I find scary,
We're stuck in February
For another freezing day.
It just won't go away.

Thank You, Name Police

Thou shalt not take his middle name in vain.

Which is too bad, because McCain
Rhymes so neatly with Hussein.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Wired Kids

This teacher, in Houston, had the misfortune to be teaching stupid kids. 4 year olds.

So she told them they were stupid kids. And she told them that they had been mean to her, so she was going to be mean to them.

So far so good.

But then it turns out, one little girl's mom had bugged the girl's backpack.

Now the teacher has been reassigned. And she has apologized. And her lawyer says it happened because she was on meds.

Such is the state to which we've come:
Before you dare to call kids dumb,
Beware of the meddling mother's ire!
And check if the kid is wearing a wire.


Recovering substantially from my bout with influenza, I ventured back to my normal place of employment today.

Goodbye at last to shirking
On the Flemish Isle Of Flu,

And welcome back to working
In the Land Of Lots To Do!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Law Abiding Immigrants?

Now someone claims that immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than native born Americans. At least in California.

Hey, I resent that. I was born here. The police may start profiling people like me. All because of where I was born!

I hope the study has a flaw
Otherwise I fear the Law
Is going to question me
Every time there's a burglary spree.

Deadline Pressure Blues

Maxim magazine recently published a negative review of the new Black Crowes CD.

There was a problem. The CD was so new that advance copies had not yet been sent out when the review was written.
The Crowes' manager, Pete Angelus, said the magazine explained that its review was an "educated guess."
That's a valuable skill.

They had the deadline pressure blues
And sadly they got busted.
Now their guesstimate reviews
Will nevermore be trusted.

Antidepressants vs. Placebos

Someone just did a study of antidepressants claiming that "placebos work just as well, except in severe cases".

Of course, we could have reframed that claim: "placebos useless in severe cases." Shows you there are limits to the power of deceit and suggestion.

I also wonder if the placebos and meds actually work on the exact same people. Did they try to sort by suggestibility?

And how sure are we, anyway, that moderate "depression" and severe "depression" are really the same thing? One is feeling blue, and the other is staying in bed all day consumed by hopelessness.

Anyway, if you're feeling depressed,
Ask your doctor to suggest
A sugar pill to cheer your brain.

They're cheaper than Prozac, so don't complain.

Monday, February 25, 2008

The Fickle Faithful

According to a new study, Americans change religious affiliation at a high rate.
28% of American adults have left the faith of their childhood for another one. And that does not even include those who switched from one Protestant denomination to another; if it did, the number would jump to 44%
And guess who the biggest net recipient is?
The single biggest "winner," in terms of number gained versus number lost, was not a religious group at all, but the "unaffiliated" category. About 16% of those polled defined their religious affiliation that way (including people who regarded themselves as religious, along with atheists and agnostics); only 7% had been brought up that way.
But lots of people stop being "unaffiliated" too, and go back to various forms of religious belief.

The researchers emphasize the constantly churning membership of these groups. The most extreme case of "churn" seems to be the Jehovah's Witnesses...
...with a turnover rate of about two-thirds. That means that two-thirds of the people who told Pew they were raised Jehovah's Witnesses no longer are - yet the group attracts roughly the same number of converts. Notes Lugo, "No wonder they have to keep on knocking on doors."
At least we can rejoice
That we even have the choice
To chase our spiritual yearnings
Through a multitude of churnings.

Rambo Banned

The ruling generals of Burma/Myanmar have banned the new Rambo movie.

But it's a hot underground commodity among the locals.

So in addition to banning it, the government also ordered that negative reviews be published.

You see, the movie does not paint a pretty picture of the country or its government.

Do they fear that their junta might be overthrown
By Rambo, acting alone?

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Awkward Questioning

The other night, Chris Matthews on NBC demanded to know what Obama's legislative accomplishments were. He was specifically asking State Senator Kirk Watson, of Texas, and the poor man couldn't come up with anything. Youtube has this awkward moment in television.

Since then, Mr. Watson has explained his failure to come up with anything:
And my mind went blank. I expected to be asked about the primary that night, or the big one coming up in Texas on March 4, or just about anything else in the news. When the subject changed so emphatically, I reached for information that millions of my fellow Obama supporters could recite by heart, and I couldn't summon it.
To be perfectly frank,
I do believe his mind went blank.

But I'm betting it's a rare supporter
Who could answer the reporter.

That's because legislative accomplishments do not matter. He's like young Arthur, the magical boy king. He doesn't need any stinking legislative accomplishments!

Why bother with all this technical stuff?
He pulled the sword from out the stone,
And speaks in a soothing baritone.
Isn't that enough?

Nader Returns

Ralph Nader is running for president again!
Nader won just 0.3 percent as an independent in 2004, when he appeared on the ballot in only 34 states.
That sounds low, I know.

But running for president is a good way to show off his warmth, wit, and personality.

Oh, wait.

Before I vote for Nader,
I'm writing in Darth Vader.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

International Crime

Lancet, the prestigious British medical journal, ran an article attacking the "poaching" of African medical personnel.

No, it's not real poaching. No one is shooting or trapping these folks. But they are... offering them jobs, with better pay and working conditions, in other countries.

This creates a problem for the people who live in these countries. So where does the fault lie? With the African countries themselves and their disastrous economies? Not according to this article, which claims that the fault lies with the rich countries that "lure" these folks away:
"The practice should therefore, be viewed as an international crime."
Chain those African doctors down!
They can't be allowed to roam around
From place to place however they please.

Surely everyone agrees
As a moral matter beyond debate,
That they are the property of the state.

UPDATE: Eugene Volokh has now weighed in about the Lancet article:
Once you take the view that it's an "international crime" to urge or to help someone exercise his rights, you've undermined his practical ability to exercise his rights, and you've also gone a long way towards denying his moral entitlement to those rights. That is the road to serfdom, with each medical professional being the property of the lord of his manor (the local government, though of course speaking on behalf of the people).


I thought I had a cold, at first,
But now I think it was something worse.

Last night I came down with the chills - I couldn't walk around my own house without shivering uncontrollably. I needed a winter coat or an electric blanket to stop the shivers.

Marsha says that was a fever, which is typical of the flu.

Well, the flu vaccine was in plentiful supply this year, and I got a shot. But every year they have to guess which flu varieties will run wild, and this year they did not guess correctly. I hope they do better next year.

The scientists are desirous
Of anticipating
This ever-mutating

Flirt Free Zone

Name that country:
The newspaper report said the men who were arrested Thursday could be released if they could prove they did not flirt with any women.
It's our friends, the Saudis. Here's what I want to know: once you're arrested, how do you prove you weren't flirting?

You think you can flirt
And not get hurt?

Jail awaits
You reprobates!

Friday, February 22, 2008

A Movable Feast

In high school I once filled out a form that asked for my specific ethnic identity. I could have picked Irish, which would have been close enough, but instead I wrote in Mixed Western European. I was only 3/8 Irish, as far as I could figure out.

My father, who is 3/4 Irish, was outraged, or at least pretended to be, and has been harassing me about it ever since. Just tonight, in an email, he told my extended family that if anyone needed to know the date for St. Patrick's Day, they could try asking me.

Well... I showed him. It turns out the Irish are celebrating it on a different day this year. March 15th instead of 17th.
Under the Church's rules, the General Norms for the Liturgical Year and Calendar, the saint's feast day does not rank as high as the Monday before Easter and has to be moved.
Spoilsport priests
Have moved the feast,
But beer consumption will not decrease.

Le Rouge et le Noir

I finally read Stendhal's The Red and The Black. I enjoyed reading it, but it was more an intellectual than an emotional pleasure. He's writing in the time of the Romantics, but he's quite different that, say, Victor Hugo.

Stendhal's characters are often in the dark about their own motivations, particularly when it comes to matters of the heart, where they seem to be more motivated by competition than by true attraction.

The book is centered on Julien Sorel, a young man of low social standing but high ability. France in the 1830's is not big on upward social mobility. Nonetheless, Julien pursues high ambitions and well-bred women.

But he loses his head
And winds up dead.

Symbols with Teeth

Someone at the Associated Press is surprised:
The polar bear can be found in just one place in United States — Alaska — and is perhaps as much a symbol of the state as alligators are of Florida. So you might think Alaska's politicians would be pounding on doors in Washington to protect it. You would be wrong.
I'm not surprised. Most people who live near dangerous predators don't see them as symbols. They see them as threats.

I like cats. But I'm not especially happy to hear that cougars are working their way back into the Midwest.

Nice kitty,
So pretty,
With such fine and powerful paws!

Pad on by.
Don't stop to try
How my head fits in your jaws.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Daily Guilt Trip

Blogoloquaciousness challenges Chicago's daily guilt trip:
Now let's return to the not-so-glamorous, yet brilliant, marketing campaign the homeless man was taking part in. His catch phrase was a question, "Help the homeless today, sir?" This synecdochical phrasing leads you to believe that there is such a thing as an entity called "The Homeless." Perhaps they are a "community?" I'm not sure, but what we are told is that by giving this man our money, we are helping "The Homeless."
When I was a kid, they were just called bums.
This is the way that progress comes.

Lobbyist Qua Blonde

So is this "blonde lobbyist" story bad for McCain... or good?

Since the Times went public without anything solid - assuming they don't have more - does McCain just gain sympathy as a victim of a smear?

Be careful of making attacks
With airy gossipy facts.

No Going Back

Michelle Obama:
Barack Obama will require you to work. He is going to demand that you shed your cynicism. That you put down your divisions. That you come out of your isolation, that you move out of your comfort zones. That you push yourselves to be better. And that you engage. Barack will never allow you to go back to your lives as usual, uninvolved, uninformed.
My comfort zone
Is my own.

Leave it alone.

Ka Blam Oh

We just shot down one of our own spy satellites. From a ship. On the first try.

The missile cost 10 million dollars. I guess I paid a few cents of it. I feel it was money well spent. And I'm glad to have contributed to the cause.

It can't be all that easy to erase
A satellite spinning in space.

I keep thinking about the "proud to be an American" thing. I don't usually say it that way. Usually I think of it as loving what this nation stands for. But, it's true, I am proud. I will even admit to liking that country song with that catch phrase in the chorus.

I'm not proud of every single thing we do. No one is. We disagree among ourselves too much to all be proud of everything all the time.

But though we loudly disagree
We're mostly fiercely proud... to be free.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Live Astronomy Report

Over the moon
Earth's shadow slowly slips.

Coming up soon:
A full eclipse.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Proud At Last

"For the first time in my adult lifetime I am really proud of my country. And not just because Barack has done well, but because I think people are hungry for change." - Michelle Obama, yesterday, Feb. 18, 2008.

Some people want to stress the "really". But the "really" can cut either way. It can either mean "intensely" or it can mean "actually".

So is this the first time that she, as an adult, was intensely proud or actually proud of her country? Just wondering.

I started thinking about what that means, to be proud of your country. I guess it could mean a lot of things, especially when you consider that a country is a huge conglomeration of people, laws, geography, customs, etc.

But I'm glad she's finally really truly proud
Now that her husband's got a crowd
Of people hungry for change.

Still I think it's strange.

Monday, February 18, 2008

At the Aquarium on Washington's Birthday

We went to see the Komodo Dragon, the world's largest lizard. This one was at least 6 feet long.
The dragon's diet is wide-ranging, and includes invertebrates, other reptiles (including smaller Komodo Dragons), birds, bird eggs, small mammals, monkeys, wild boars, goats, deer, horses, and water buffalos.
He looked at me and gave me a blink.
I looked right back and started to think
That if weren't for the wall of glass,
He might crawl over and bite my... body mass.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

House on Self Sacrifice

A recent episode of House M.D., featured this interchange:
Dr. James Wilson: Are you being self-sacrificing?

Dr. Gregory House: I'll sacrifice a lab rat, I'll sacrifice a fly, I'll sacrifice $200 on a mudder at Monmouth Park. I don't sacrifice self. Shabbat shalom, Wilson.

Dr. James Wilson: Shabbat shalom, House.
That's a complicated reply they gave House, and it took me a while to unpack it.

Animal researchers, when killing lab rats to examine their tissues, do call it "sacrificing". The fly refers not to the insect but to a "sacrifice fly" in baseball. A mudder is a horse that runs well in the mud, and Monmouth Park is a racetrack in New Jersey, so he's talking about blowing 200 bucks on a bet. Finally, as to sacrificing self he does sometimes sound like he read Ayn Rand in his youth.

It's still a shock to me
To hear this on TV.

Nixon Day

In 1971 President Richard Nixon proclaimed one single federal holiday, the Presidents' Day, to be observed on the third Monday of February, honoring all past presidents of the United States of America.

I think we should have been more hesitant
Before designating this day as being for every president.

I suspect Nixon
Of putting the fix in

So he'd sort of be remembered on this day,
Because otherwise - no way!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Unfree Verse

I went Googling for "rhymed free verse" and got some hits.

The idea seems to be that the verse in question is rhythmically irregular, but rhymed. Some of what I write is like that.

To me, such verse is not really "free", since it is still confined by rhyme. Partly it's merely semantics, I suppose.

But isn't it funny that there's no set phrase for verse that is not free?

To write unfree verse
Is my daily curse.

But isn't binding words with rhyme
A kind of crime?

Don't they deserve to be chosen on meaning alone
Without attention to accidents such as tone?


Listen to the rolling words of mighty hope!
He's polling well, but do I trust him? Sorry, nope.

Friday, February 15, 2008

A Game of Philosophy

The President of the Ayn Rand Institute speaks up in favor of video games:
"I don't see a problem with the medium," he said. "I think it is potentially a very exciting medium with which to introduce people to ideas. I think video games replaces much of literature's impact. The literature today is dull and boring and video games allow kids to experience the heroism that the books don't provide them."
If William Shakespeare were alive today,
Perhaps he'd say that all the world's a game;
No wonder that the young folk wish to play
Heroically pursuing high-score fame.

Off His Meds

"He was the most gentle, even guy."

Hmm. Or is it just possible that he was a seething cauldron of hidden rage?

In 20/20 hindsight:

1) He had chosen to study suicide and self-injury among prisoners.
2) He had been discharged from the armed services for psychological reasons.
3) He had flunked a couple of classes at NIU before leaving for U of I.
4) He had left an Indiana prison guard job abruptly.
5) He had gone off his meds and had been acting erratically.

He should have said yes to whatever drug
Kept him from being a murderous thug.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Murderous Jerk at NIU

Some jerk with a shotgun and 2 pistols shot up a lecture hall at Northern Illinois University Thursday afternoon. The Trib says he was a former grad student.

He ended by shooting himself. Typical.

They want to make a name,
But they're scared to face the shame.

I'm just waiting, with a vaguely sick stomach, to find out if anyone I knew was touched by this.

Update: 6 victims dead so far.

From the irony department, here's a profile on the murderous jerk:

In a recent posting on an Internet site, he wrote about his interest in getting elected to a national association, saying he was committed to social justice. In a scholarly paper he co-authored two years ago, the man described himself as being interested in social justice, corrections, political violence and peace.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Abuzz in the Penumbra

Thank you, 14th amendment. Thank you, penumbra of privacy. The Texas ban on selling sex toys has been overturned by a federal court.

In liberal Illinois
Every sort of toy
Is for sale.

Way down south in Texas,
Where the law sometimes perplexes,
Sellers go to jail.

But this interfering Fed
Says privacy in bed
Must prevail!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Today's Results

The word is Huck
Is out of luck.

As for Hill
She's not
Feeling hot
But may still
Have a shot.

Naked at Duke

Not long ago, Duke University, in the wake of its big false-rape-charge case, banned strippers from school-related events.

But on Super Bowl Sunday they sponsored a "Sex Workers Art Show".

Anyway, this sounds charming:
"A transvestite, naked except for some strategically placed tape, with the words 'F___ Bush' painted on his chest, kneeled on all fours and lit a sparkler protruding out of his rectum with 'America the Beautiful' playing...
When it's artistic and and leftist and hip,
Then it's permitted to strip.

Gen LaGreca on Glenn Beck on CNN

My friend, Gen LaGreca, was on the air yesterday on the Glenn Beck show on CNN. Seems he was raving about her article in the latest issue of The New Individualist. I thought she did very well, comfortable on camera, looking great and sounding smart. I haven't seen any videos up yet, but the transcript for this show with Gen LaGreca is here. She's toward the end.

Here's a snippet:

LAGRECA: Well, the self-help guide talks about how the welfare state is really destroying us, not just politically, which is bad enough, it`s bringing us to Socialism, but it`s destroying us psychologically and that`s important for everyone to realize, because if we don`t control our own lives and expect the government to do everything for us, then where`s our independence, where is our self-esteem? We`re replacing the American eagle flying proud and free with a chicken penned in a coop waiting to be fed.

BECK: You ain`t kidding. Gen, I appreciate it. Thank you very much, it`s a great article. I tell you, I have had a problem with Ayn Rand for a long time because of her godlessness. But I have to tell you, lately I`ve been thinking about "Atlas Shrugged" a lot. I`d like to go find a place where I could just go live with other people who are like-minded.

Ah, to be a chicken in a coop,
Reliably fed!

But soon you lose your head
And wind up in the soup.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Light's Iliad

I recently acquired a little book by Frederick Light, O Goddess Chant It Out, which is a translation of Book One of Homer's Iliad. It's an ambitious project, put out by Rapid Traffic Press, in New York. I'm not quite sure how you would buy a copy at this point, but I expect it will become available soon.

Looking into it, I was once again startled by the way Apollo takes the Trojan's side against the Greeks (a.k.a. the Achaians). The following takes place after a Trojan priest prays to Apollo to kill some Greeks:
Phoibos Apollo laid to heart his prayer.
From mountain-dome Olympos down in quick
Descent he sprang, downright indignantly
To shoot the camp and make Achaians sick.
Note also that we think of Apollo as a god of healing, but here he is spreading a killing illness. The Greek gods were not of the all-benevolent variety!

In correspondence, Light pointed out that the plot of the Iliad bears a curious resemblance to the plot of Atlas Shrugged: both involve a man of tremendous talent going "on strike." I don't think we should make too much of it, but I like to joke that Atlas is "the men of mind on strike" but that the Iliad is "the man of muscle on strike." In a way that's unfair to Achilles. He's more than just "a man of muscle." But strong, fast, and deadly he certainly is.

Light translates the Iliad into sequences of sonnets, each consisting of 3 quatrains and a couplet. The quatrains, as you see above, usually only have the even lines rhymed. I'm not sure I think this schema is a good idea, but it's certainly an interesting one!

The verse often turns heavily alliterative, reminding me a bit of Old English:
"The man's possessed whose mind is poisonous.
Not fore and after in purveyance will
Atreyedes take heed to save his horde
Beside the ships, who mandates would fulfill
With madness."
Anyway, it's a very interesting and idiosyncratic effort. Sometimes it loses me, but there are places where it flashes some real power.

In the story, most of the gods
Choose one or the other side.

Who can calculate the odds
When divinities collide?

Hillary's Daughter Complains

Chelsea Clinton, who works for a hedge fund, complained publicly about her health care coverage:
"If you have health care and you're not happy with it -- like me who has employer provided health care, but I'm not happy with it -- and if you are one of the 100 million who are uninsured at some point throughout the year... you'll be able to buy into a Congressional health plan," Chelsea Clinton said in a Milwaukee appearance broadcast, in part, on MSNBC today, in which she described her mother's healthcare plan.
Your mom just loaned herself 5 million dollars. You're working at a hedge fund. Quit complaining about your own health care. You can afford to pay for everything out of pocket.

If you think it's bureaucratic
And doesn't pay enough
But you think you'll be ecstatic
When your mother's plan gets in...

I'd ask you, please, to think again.
Eventually they'll start to ration stuff
And that's when the going gets rough.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Alinsky's Legacy

Saul Alinsky was a Chicago "organizer" who was influential for his theories of how to effect change.

He may become more influential yet! Both of the major Democratic candidates are mentioned in the Wikipedia article about Alinsky:
Alinsky was the subject of Hillary Rodham's senior honors thesis at Wellesley College, "There Is Only The Fight...": An Analysis of the Alinsky Model. Rodham commented on Alinsky's "charm," but rejected grassroots community organizing as outdated. Once Hillary Rodham Clinton became First Lady of the United States, the thesis was suppressed by the White House for fear of being associated too closely with Alinsky's ideas.

Alinsky also had a significant influence on Barack Obama, who is a United States Senator and candidate for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination. Obama particularly used Alinsky's techniques while participating in Chicago community organizations in the 1980s.
This essay by Kyle-Anne Shiver tries to cast the conflict between them as a fight between users of Alinsky's techniques.

Here is a summary of Alinsky's famous Rules for Radicals. I like #1 a lot:
Power is not only what you have, but what an opponent thinks you have. If your organization is small, hide your numbers in the dark and raise a din that will make everyone think you have many more people than you do.
Like a blowfish, puff up your appearance.
Let them believe you have countless adherents.

Survival of the Stablest?

A letter of mine is printed in the new, not yet online, issue of The New Individualist. My letter is a reply to an article Roger Donway wrote about that free-wheeling, free-loving Romantic, Percy Shelley. My letter mentions that Roger's viewpoint reminded me of Edmund Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France. Burke's essay is often considered to be the founding document of modern conservatism.

Roger's latest column, in this new issue, looks a bit like a reply to my letter. He titles it "Reflections of a Tory Individualist," and makes a case that a free society will embrace a stable form of virtue:
If ever we get a free society, I believe, the morality of its citizens will most closely resemble the morality of the freest societies we have so far known: the morality of mid-nineteenth-century England and America, which is to say, Victorian morality.
Roger writes a good essay, but even I am not quite convinced, despite the fact that my current mode of life would stand up pretty well under those standards.

I'm trying but failing to work up euphoria
For morality under Victoria.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Overheard at the Gallery

I was standing in the Art Institute the other day. Near where American Gothic hangs. You've seen it:

A docent was lecturing a group of schoolchildren about the work. She started off with, "This is a very sexist painting."

I had put this incident out of my mind, but today I was looking at Amazon reviews of Roger Kimball's book, The Rape of the Masters: How Political Correctness Sabotages Art.

The first reviewer said: "Kimball skewers the current trend of viewing all Western art (as well as Western literature) solely through the prism of sex, gender, and class. What results is a ludicrous but scary disfigurement of Western art."

Of course I flashed back to the docent
And her gender-colored prism.
One should be careful approaching
Art through the shades of an Ism.


On this day, in 1973, I took the elevated to Northwestern University, to see a certain film.

That's where I met my wife. This poem is for her.

From the calendar, it appears
(and I don't suppose it lies)
that it's been - unbelievably - 35 years
since I first laid eyes

on yours.

The years flash by
but love endures

not like a hard unchanging stone
more like a vine that's groped and grown
through cold and hot and dry and wet.

My darling, oh my dear,
my heart's not over you yet.

Friday, February 08, 2008

You Seize, We Freeze

You may remember that Venezuela "took over" some assets belonging to Exxon last June.

Exxon has now gone to court and has frozen Venezuela's international assets in return, to the tune of 12 billion dollars.

One Venezuelan official calls it "judicial terrorism."

Yeah, right.
Shoe's on the other foot - and it's feeling kind of tight.

The victim fights back, uncowed.
As Jordan writes, "Ragnar would be proud!"

Thursday, February 07, 2008


Yesterday Ergo posted a moving vignette about eating at a roadside food stall in India. As Ergo stands there, the vendor has to pay out protection money 3 times - to a different "protector" each time!
After I had finished eating, I paid the money I owed the man for my sandwich, and then gave him an extra 10 Rupees. It is a very small amount of money–both to him and to me; it was not intended for him to use it to survive the night or some such thing. I gave him the extra money to convey a sense of hope –my hope that he chooses to continue his business and be productive, instead of quitting and joining the thugs, or becoming a leech, or giving up on life entirely and stagnating.

I offered my money in response to his struggle to attain values and live life. I was proud of it.
As well he should be.

He thinks, therefore he feels
And acts on his ideals.

Bad Luck for Huck?

There was some talk that McCain, to beat Romney, would offer the V.P. slot to Huckabee.

Now that Romney's gone,
I hope the offer's withdrawn.

I do not heart the Huckabee.
I do not heart him in a tree.
I do not heart him as V.P.
O do not give the Huck to me!

Tornado Survivor

Baby in the field, how did you fly
Tossed about by winds across the sky?

You will not tell us, nor will you recall
Your wild ride when you grow strong and tall.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Death in the Mall

Over the weekend a robber killed 5 women in a Chicago-area clothing store.

There was a 6th woman who was shot in the neck, who survived. She has now issued a statement describing the murder victims as: "five of the bravest women I have ever met."

As far as I can make out, the women were bound with duct tape and then shot execution style. I'm wondering what they did that was especially brave. I'm guessing it was just that they faced their deaths bravely.

I know the standard advice is to cooperate with robbers. And Illinois doesn't allow its citizens to carry guns, so none of these poor women were in a position to turn the tables and shoot the robber first.

But here's a vital footnote to the standard advice. As soon as you get the idea that the robber's going to kill you, stop cooperating.

As a matter of fact, the story floating around is that the survivor moved her head just when he went to shoot her, and that's why he failed to kill her.

If he's going to end your existence,
You owe him some resistance.


Did you ever stumble on an old posting on the internet... and mistakenly think it was from today?
I just did it, and blogged about it, but now I've made it go away.

And if I confused you too, sorry!

Tuesday, February 05, 2008


Originally Tsunami Tuesday was when everything would be settled.


Mardi Gras is just about gone
And even the Huckster is still holding on!

I'd Like Some Salt With That Zell

Amusing video of Sam Zell, who recently bought Tribune Corp., F-bombing a journalist from the Orlando Sentinel.

He's trying to explain that they need to make money in order to afford journalists.

He reportedly is spreading a "question authority" motto at his new acquisitions. But he does have a reputation for salty language.
The company's recently revised handbook instructs employee-owners to ask questions of those above them and should "push back if you do not like the answer. You will not get into trouble for asking tough questions."
You may not get in trouble at first,
But if you persist, you may get cursed.

That said, the journalist seems to have trouble with the concept that she is a provider in a market for information. I understand Zell's frustration.

If no one will buy,
The paper will die.

Of course, if by any chance she is an environmentalist who is worried about the clear-cutting of forests, there is some consolation:

Your job will be shaved,
But trees will be saved!

Monday, February 04, 2008

Donkeys R Us

I'll be voting in the Democratic Primary tomorrow. For local offices around here, the primary is the election that counts.

In Chicago, it's a truism that
The winner is always a Democrat.

Of course, sometimes I vote for candidates in the Democratic primary, then turn around and vote for the other bunch in the general election.

So here's my stratagem,
Slightly condensed:
I plan to vote for them,
And then vote against.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Missing the Superbowl

We drove out to hear the Elgin Symphony Orchestra do Saint-Saën's Organ Symphony. I love that piece. I don't think I'd ever heard it in person before. The organ played such low rumbling notes that it seemed to shake the hall.

One of symphony's melodies became a song that was featured in Babe, a cute 1995 movie about a pig.

That might have your normal serious composer turning over in his grave. But Saint-Saëns did write The Carnival of the Animals. So my guess is that he'd be okay with it.

The farmer sings and does a jig
For the little suckling pig.


Here's a woman law professor at Georgetown who is battling the latest political correctness. The problem? She supports Hillary!

'I have been quite surprised to learn how "silenced" I feel by my many colleagues who are enthusiastically supporting Obama...'

One must keep up with the current shout.
Obama's in. Hillary's out.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Beauty and the Beast, Rebooted

How did I miss this before? Meredith L. Patterson wrote the funniest rhymed "part ye first" for Beauty and the Beast.
Perhaps you could go taint his food,
Or teleport him in the nude
Into some granny's living room,
Or show him dressed like Molly Bloom
On every channel's nightly news?"
She also manages to rhyme "D.H. Lawrence" with "Health Insurance".

There's also a short prologue to Beauty and the Beast, and a couple of other poems at the same site.

I actually got to meet Meredith once. She was on a cross-country drive, coming through Chicago, so we met for lunch, and talked poetry and programming. As you can tell from this video, she is deep into tech.

As long as I've got her on my mind, I should mention that I've long admired a bunch of her other poems, like those here and here. I particularly like Deja Interpretation, which opens like this:
I cannot be postmodern. I'm too old.
Too old — at twenty — to accept the thought
Of words — and words alone, however bold —
Replacing things that are with what is not.
I don't know that she's written much poetry lately, but I do hope she returns to it someday.

For now, perhaps, she's in a mode
Of writing pure and sparkling code.

The Struggle For Poetry's Soul

Walter Donway has an excellent article up on The Atlasphere: The Struggle For Poetry's Soul. He asks:
What, then, is the post-modernist contribution to the art of poetry? Virtually all so-called serious poetry, today, is written in free verse. In other words, it dispenses with meter — dispenses with it as a matter of principle — and so attacks the very essence of what makes poetry poetry.
I have a few quibbles with that, but I think his thrust his dead on. And, as he indicates, much the same holds true across the "serious" modern art forms.

Practitioners often start
By "pushing the limits" of art.
But the limits are long since crossed,
And the path to progress is lost.

Muhammad Never Approved This

You run out of volunteer suicide bombers.

So you trick women with Downs syndrome into carrying remote control bombs.

No more "suicide mystique,"
No more "dying for a cause,"
Just murder of the weak
Without benefit of laws.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Monstrous Monument

In the capital of North Korea stands a 105 story hotel. You can't book a room, because it's permanently empty, with no hope of completion.

Esquire Magazine has nominated it as the worst building in the history of mankind:
A picture doesn't lie -- the one-hundred-and-five-story Ryugyong Hotel is hideous, dominating the Pyongyang skyline like some twisted North Korean version of Cinderella's castle.
The article says that the North Koreans poured 2% of their pitiful communist GDP into this concrete pyramid. They took 20 years to not finish it.

This hotel of doom
Hasn't one bed.

It looms like a tomb
In the land of the dead.