Sunday, November 30, 2008

Speaking of Rights

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

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

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

Historic Moment, Revised

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

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

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

More on the Love of the Obamas

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

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

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Murderers in Mumbai

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

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

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

Friday, November 28, 2008

Black Friday

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

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

Fossils Died For Your Fuel

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

These rather useful commodities 
are viewed as unnatural oddities. 

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

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Cystic Fibrosis

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

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

Feast Day

It's Thanksgiving Day in the States. 

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

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

thank you.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Flubs Begetting Cubs

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

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

Apparently...
thick hair
made it hard to tell.

But the bears 
knew perfectly well.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Playing Father

Rehearsing Little Women is a lot of fun so far.

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

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

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

Monday, November 24, 2008

One Species

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

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

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

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

But criminals are people too!

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

Avast Ye, Bankers!

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

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Turkey Complaints

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Don't Dress For Dinner

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

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

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

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

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

Troubles With Food

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

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

Where poverty abounds,
hunger hounds the poor.

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

Friday, November 21, 2008

Capital Idea

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

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

You're Welcome

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

No Public Restroom
Thank You

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

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

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Leaving the Dogs at Home

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

His target date is March 2009.

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

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Step Away From That Thought!

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

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

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

Outside the Lines

Some people like to write from outlines.

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Argh

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

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

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

Greenbacks and Ham

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 17, 2008

Perspective

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

Plumbing the Data

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Education Crisis Continues

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

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

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

More Guilt!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Guilt
makes self-esteem wilt.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

No Guilt

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

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

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

Kindness was disdained,
rather than pain.

New Jobs

"Obama transition tangled in ties to lobbying."

I like the alliteration. 

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

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

Friday, November 14, 2008

In Pursuit

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

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

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

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Awaiting Change

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

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

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

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

UPDATE:

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

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Great Expectations

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Go Ask ALYX

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

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

They drain
your vein.

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

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

Or Maybe They Hated Funerals

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

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

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

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

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

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

UPDATE: The police say there was no such fraud.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Great Books

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

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

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

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

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

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

Feinstein Vs. Free Market

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

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

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

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

This new law is baloney!

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Can We Get Obama To Support This?

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

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

I offer no hugs
to blood-sucking bugs.

Implicit Association vs. Explicit Voting

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Unlucky but Plucky

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

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

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

Friday, November 07, 2008

Quip and a Slip

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

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

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

Mr. March

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Market Watch

From the front page of MSNBC today:

"Obama to act early on the economy"

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

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Aftermath

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

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

Please

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

Let each foe
raise all his own dough!

Notes From Obamaland

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

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

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

The excitement was palpable.
The tickets were scalpable!

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

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

The Results Are (Not) In

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 03, 2008

Honor Among Thieves Overrated

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

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

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

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

A Vote For Barr

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

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

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Tripping

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

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

Fugitive Privacy

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

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

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

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

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

And maybe you will never be ejected.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Running Debate

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

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

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

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

Unwelcome Attention

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

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

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

UPDATE: 

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

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

She's staying.
Boston's paying!

Anna in the Darkness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Throw back their taunts
and pursue
what you must.

The Virtue of Elfishness

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

Just kidding.

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

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