Monday, August 31, 2009

From Aesop

The frogs were unhappy - they didn't have a king.
So they prayed to Zeus for that very thing.

Zeus was annoyed and tossed them down a log.
He said "there's your king, you stupid little frogs!"

The frogs complained some more - "This king doesn't move!"
So Zeus sent a stork down - a king who quickly proved

very, very active as he gobbled up the frogs -
until they begged again "Oh, give us back King Log!"

Leading the Nation in Whiskey Taxation

Illinois taxes on hard liquor are about to skyrocket:
In Chicago, for example, once you factor in the federal, state, county and city manufacturing taxes, as well as sales taxes, more than 25% of the cost of a $30 bottle of spirits is tax - not money to the manufacturer, distributor, or retailer - taxes.
I suspect this will lead to more people buying whiskey out of state
where the taxes aren't so great.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Dawn Swimmers

I did the Chicago tri this morning - the "sprint" version.

It's the "world's largest" triathlon - in terms of the number of competitors. It takes a long time to get everyone started.

Here is a Chicago Tribune photo of a crack-of-dawn "wave":

I started a full hour after this. And a lot of competitors didn't start their swim until HOURS AFTER ME.

That's a long time to be waiting around
but at least no one drowned.

Well, At Least They Had A Reason

I wondered why the UK had released the Lockerbie terrorist:
Gordon Brown’s government made the decision after discussions between Libya and BP over a multi-million-pound oil exploration deal had hit difficulties. These were resolved soon afterwards.
After the oil deal hit a snag,
they let the bomber out of the bag.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Not A Bug, A Feature?

What if depression, instead of being a disease, is a useful adaptation?
Various studies have found that people in depressed mood states are better at solving social dilemmas.
Advice columnists should be assessed,
and we'll give the award of "best"
to whoever is most depressed.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Back in the Summer of '69

Chappaquidick had it's 40th anniversary this July. It happened back in that same summer of '69 - the summer of Woodstock, the summer of the first moonwalk.

That night, Ted Kennedy and the young lady were in his car. He drove it off a bridge, into a pond.

He got of the car. She didn't.

He went back to his hotel. He spoke to some people - but not about the accident.

A couple of fishermen found the car in the water next morning. Only then did Kennedy go to the police.

It's possible she was alive in the car for a while. They found her in an air pocket in the upside down car.

People keep calling Ted Kennedy a "lion" today. In many ways, no doubt, he was. But not that night.

That night was heard no lion's roar.
Weasely silence. Nothing more.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Feeling Moved

We were talking about emotions and what they're good for in our discussion group the other night, and my position was that they aren't just instantaneous evaluations - they are also your motivating force.

Suppose you wake up in the morning and don't FEEL like doing anything... and continue to feel that way all day... all year...

Life - why begin it
unless your heart's in it?

Prescribe Me The Pink Ones Please

It appears that placebo pills are becoming more effective than ever:
Why are inert pills suddenly overwhelming promising new drugs and established medicines alike? The reasons are only just beginning to be understood. A network of independent researchers is doggedly uncovering the inner workings—and potential therapeutic applications—of the placebo effect.
My theory's incontestable:
we're becoming more suggestible.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Feed Me

Scientists have found a giant rodent-digesting plant in the Philippines:
The plant lures in the rats with the promise of sweet nectar. When the rat leans into the plant to drink the saccharine liquid, it slips on the pitcher's waxy interior, and gets stuck in the gooey sap. Once it is trapped, acid-like digestive enzymes break down the still-living rodent.
At the link, there's a sad photo of a trapped rat, and fine time-lapse video of the growing plant.

It seems to promise something sweet,
so jump right in with both your feet.

Once you're in, it's hard to get out.
The juices digest you while you shout.

Beware what seems too good to be true -
The sucker is probably you.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Deregulate Medicine

My counter-proposal for our medical system: Deregulate it, and watch choices expand and prices drop.

A lot of people say medical prices are up due to technological progress. But that hasn't occurred in the computer market, has it?

If we could escape
the endless red tape
we'd be in better shape.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Recess Rally

I attended a health-care protest rally today outside my congressman's office. A famous female blogger who was there counted 75 protesters, plus 3 wacky ironic counter-protesters!

My sign objected to the "individual mandate" aspect of the reform proposals - the part where everyone has to sign up, whether they want to or not.

Restricting the right to choose,
makes me see red,
gives me the blues.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

All Wee-Weed Up

The prez sez:
There's something about August going into September where everyone in Washington gets all wee-weed up.
Apparently he's expecting things to improve soon.

Wee-wee may splatter,
but it doesn't matter.

The mess will be over
come this October.

Don't Barbecue Me Bro!

Ohio cops set a homeless man on fire by tasering him.
He was allegedly huffing from an aerosol can (and running through traffic near the Kmart and Kroger) shortly before the Tasering, so we can probably assume that was the X-factor.
Fortunately the fire was of brief duration.
Wood was taken to Fairfield Medical Center for treatment of burns to his chest. He then was taken to the Fairfield County Jail and released at 11:20 p.m. Monday night on his own recognizance.
Be careful, when you tase -
don't set your perps ablaze!


One of the odd things you hear is that "healthcare is not a commodity".

But "healthcare", as a term, lumps together different sorts of things.

Perhaps it's fair to say that doctoring and nursing are not commodities. Each doctor and nurse is a unique individual.

But aspirin... it's a commodity, right?

If aspirin is really not a commodity,
it must be quite the economic oddity.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

I Can Has Treatment?

How many QALY's do you have left?

A QALY is a Quality Adjusted Life Year. The NICE people use them in England. To decide who gets what treatment.

NICE is the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence. (Yes, I know, they somehow misplaced the "H" in that acronym.)

Anyway, these NICE people decide whether you can have meds.
QALYs have been criticised because there is an implication that some patients will be refused or not offered treatment for the sake of other patients and, yet such choices have been made and are being made all the time. However big the pot, choices still have to be made.
You put taxes in "the pot".

And get treatments from "the pot".

How NICE. Or... not.

UPDATE: Here is a picture of
Oscar, the Hospice Cat who allegedly predicts cessation of QALY:

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Kitty without Pity

The kitty plays with mice,
amused but not so nice.

Be glad you're not a mouse
caught outside your house.

Image Manipulation

So, the Obama as Joker image was done by a Palestinian-American college student from Chicago:
"I abstained from voting in November," he wrote in an e-mail. "Living in Illinois, my vote means close to nothing as there was no chance Obama would not win the state." If he had to choose a politician to support, Alkhateeb said, it would be Ohio Democratic Rep. Dennis Kucinich.
This young man, however, did not put the word "Socialism" under Obama's picture.

we haven't heard
who put that word
under his face
to replace

Monday, August 17, 2009

Another Plan Bites The Dust

Did you want to flag fishy information to the White House?

But you hadn't quite gotten around to it yet?

Sorry. It's too late.
Following a furor over how the data would be used, the White House has shut down an electronic tip box — — that was set up to receive information on “fishy” claims about President Barack Obama’s health plan.
The fish are on a spree
swimming free.

Nice Day After All

I woke up this morning to rainy skies of grey,
and a bunch of dire forecasts that it would rain all day.

At 11 a.m. there was a bit of sun,
so I went out for a run.

Four hours later - I returned.
Glad I put on sunscreen or I would have got burned.

Don't over-rely on weather predictions.
Often they just turn out to be fictions.

Stimulus Money?

Most paper money, at least in the U.S., is "laced with cocaine"!
U.S. and Canadian currency had the highest levels, with an average contamination rate of between 85 and 90 percent, while Chinese and Japanese currency had the lowest, between 12 and 20 percent contamination.
We'd better switch to a cashless society soon!

It won't be funny
when we all get arrested
just because our money
was tested.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Wedding in Wisconsin

Congrats to Allison Quatrini & Jason Walker!

Exchange of rings.
Hearts with wings.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Yawn? Gone!

An Illinois judge has sentenced a man to 6 months in jail - for yawning. It's reported that he'll have to spend at least 3 weeks in jail.
Chuck Pelkie, a spokesman for the state's attorney's office, told the Chicago Tribune, "It was not a simple yawn - it was a loud and boisterous attempt to disrupt the proceedings."
To avoid 3 weeks in the pokey,
keep your yawning low-key!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Health Scare

Jon Stewart:
You know a sales pitch is in trouble when it starts with, "Look, you gotta trust me, we’re not going to kill your grandparents!“
In the bit, Stewart claims to have pulled this graphic from the White House website:

The left accuses the right of fearmongering.

But remember what the left said? We're in a crisis! Our entire economy will fail unless we pass some kind of health care reform! You will be without insurance and you will die unless we create a public option!

It's a question of whom do you trust
to keep you alive and robust?

When You Absolutely, Positively, Need To Survive

Obama argued today that having a "public option" medical plan would NOT necessarily destroy private health insurance. He even gave a good example of private companies out-competing a government enterprise:
UPS and FedEx are doing just fine. ... It's the Post Office that's always having problems.
Sure. And private health insurance will be superior. The question, however, is whether the law will slant the playing field against private insurance.

No one knows exactly what the law will do. It's not finished yet. And it will proceed, as so many bills do, by ordering executive agencies to pass regulations based upon the bill's vague slogans.

Congress passes general intentions.
The details will be agency inventions.

Accept it. There's no time for rude dissensions.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Kiva Systems

My son works at a cool place, Kiva Systems, just north of Boston. I've taken a couple of tours of the place, which features squat orange warehouse robots moving items from place to place. Here's a nice demo video.

Here's a dry summary from the company of what they're about:
Kiva Systems provides automated order fulfillment and material handling systems for distribution centers that enable companies to simplify operations and reduce costs, while increasing strategic flexibility. Using autonomous mobile robots, movable shelving and sophisticated control software, the Kiva Mobile Fulfillment System enables extremely fast cycle times with reduced labor requirements. From receiving to picking to shipping—Kiva automates fulfillment without unwieldy conveyor delivering best-in-class order accuracy and improved safety. The result is warehouse automation that is quick to set up, inexpensive to operate and easy to change. World-class companies including Staples, Walgreens, Gap,,, Quiet Logistics and DJO medical devices use Kiva automated storage and retrieval systems to fulfill direct-to-consumer, retail re-stocking and business-to-business orders.
I'm a firm believah
in Kiva.

Adventures In Housesitting

Sunday morning I woke up, at about 5am, hearing some voices in the house. One of them sounded like our houseguest.

My bedroom door opens and there is a flashlight in my eyes. It's police officers. They're asking me funny questions, like, "do you live here, sir?" I'm answering in the affirmative, perfectly calm, but quite puzzled. My wife is not quite so calm, asking "what the hell are you doing here?"

So - it turns out our houseguest had called the police. It was all a misunderstanding.

We'd left him in the house while we stayed in Michigan for ONE night. But our guest thought we were staying away TWO nights. We got home late Saturday, after he was sound asleep. So he wakes up early the next morning and detects clear indications that other people are in the house with him, and calls for help.

The police departed, much amused.
I went back to bed and snoozed.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

There Will Be No "Death Panel"

Sarah Palin, that charming loose cannon, made some remarks about not wanting her loved ones to face "Obama's 'death panel'".

How silly. If we know anything, it's this - it would be named something more like "Treatment Panel".

Treatment, not Death, will be rationed,
all for the good of the nation.

And political connections
will play no part in the Panel's selections.

Not every life will be lengthened,
but Washington will be strengthened.

Hard To Swim

The waves at the beach today were gigantic.
Lake Michigan masqueraded as The Atlantic.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Noble House by James Clavell

Usually you describe 1000-plus page novels as sprawling, or epic, or vast. But this one takes place in the small territory of Hong Kong, over about a week. It is chock full of intrigue and the China/Western contrast.

It was my 2nd time reading it.

It had twists and turns forever, but at last, it ended.
Highly recommended.

The Shorter The Better

Turns out that I actually won my age group in my Satuday tri. I was first of four guys to finish in the 55-59 range.

I've done some very long races. But, in terms of stacking up against the competition, I do best on short courses.

I guess the results are a hint
I was born to sprint.

Disinformation Does Not Want To Be Free

I just re-read the first amendment. Nothing in there about protecting fishy speech.

Fishy speech should be officially banned,
before unapproved dissent gets out of hand.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009


The White House has a request:
If you get an email or see something on the web about health insurance reform that seems fishy, send it to
If they want fishy, it won't be far to reach.
Just give a close reading to the next big speech.

Ironically Enough

Someone actually asked me for an ironic limerick about Aristotle's discussion of the principle of non-contradition.

Aristotle maintained contradictions
were mere intellectual fictions.
He's wrong. And he's right.
Both? Oh, yes, quite!
I like logic without tight restrictions.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Single Payer

I was just wondering about this today:
Instead of socialized medicine, they say "single-payer healthcare."
Hey, why not use "single payer" more widely?

How about a big push for single-payer employment? Isn't every American entitled to a job? Shouldn't every American be required by law to work for the good of the nation?

The government bosses will assign your task.
You want to work elsewhere? Don't ask.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

The Charades Retrieval Problem

Last night we were playing charades at the wrap-up party for Marsha's seminar for young adults.

At one point, I was in the guessing group, and our performer had us to a movie, first word "black," second word 3 syllables.

I felt it struggling from somewhere in my mind. I thought, classic foreign film, and I said quietly, "Black Argosy". No.

Then I said quietly, "Black Icarus". No.

Then I said loudly, "Black Orpheus". Yes.

Funny how the brain works. My bad attempts sounded a bit like the right word, were proper nouns from Greek Mythology like the right word.

How does active memory pull
pieces into an answer that's full?

Saturday, August 01, 2009


Does it really make sense to pay billions for working cars that you want to destroy?

Yes, it stimulates the auto business.

Just like breaking windows stimulates the glass business. By diverting money in that direction.

Let's break more stuff!

The more stuff we break,
the more we'll have to remake.

Once enough stuff is destroyed,
everyone will be fully employed.

Chicago's Other Lakefront Triathlon

Just did the 4th Annual South Shore Tri.

It's the race that "guarantees you a high-five when you cross the finish line."

I love this race. It's short, sweet, near my house, uncrowded, and on the scenic lakefront of Chicago's south side.

When you finish, it's grand
to slap that man's hand.