Wednesday, September 30, 2009


Here's a story about a woman with an artificial heart that doesn't pulse. The pump just continually spins the blood through her body.

It reminds me of the old Mazda commercial singing the praises of the Wankel rotary engine:
Piston engine goes boing boing boing
but the Mazda goes mmmmmm.
You don't really need your pump
to go bump..thump bump..thump.

But I'd find it disconcerting
to switch to continuous squirting.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Grabbing for the Torch

Our president is throwing his weight behind Chicago's Olympic bid. He's even traveling to Copenhagen, to help us clear that last big hurdle.

Our mayor says we can do this without losing money. I hope he's right - for the sake of taxpayer wallets!

If expected revenues sag,
who will be holding the bag?

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Fun Day (Manic Monday To Follow)

I ran a half-marathon this morning. (In 2:01:43, for those who want to know.) They called it a mini-marathon.

Then, apparently because I wasn't tired enough yet, I showered and drove down to Dream Theatre to help them build sets for their next show.

Their big new show, The Black Duckling, looks wild. It's set in a world out of Dickens, and it's being performed as if it were a silent movie - the actors will be silent but emotional, and the dialog - much of it rhymed - will appear on a projection screen. A mini-burlesque show is included. I love the one-line summary:
In the darkness of the city, one light refuses to be extinguished.
In some ways, silent acting
is even more exacting.

You cannot rely
on the words to get by.
nic Monday To Follow)

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Three Solos and a Duet

We saw Mikhail Baryshnikov dance tonight with Anna Laguna. At 61 he's still amazingly graceful with awesome control. I admired the skill, and there were some breathtaking moments.

But there was a lot of self-mockery, and long stretches of purposely awkward movement too. The Sun-Times reviewer raved about it, but I wasn't crazy about it.

To be fair, I didn't hate it.

Over the years, my brain has been scarred
by certain works of the avante-garde.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Walter Kaufmann and est

As I discovered today, Walter Kaufmann mentions *est* more than once in his scholarly 3-volume work, The Discovery of the Mind.

*est* is the grueling psychological seminar that morphed into the Landmark Forum. And Kaufmann was some kind of fan!

Kaufmann develops an idea from Nietzsche and then adds:
...the basic idea is no longer esoteric. In the 1970s it was made popular by Werner Erhard through est: "EVERYTHING A LIVING CREATURE EXPERIENCES IS CREATED UNIQUELY BY THAT LIVING CREATURE WHO IS THE SOLE SOURCE OF THAT EXPERIENCE." To be sure, this point, which is made most emphatically on the third day of the four-day training, is qualified on the final day when people are told:"You're machines.... Your lives are meaningless."
Kaufmann thinks the purpose is to give people a "jolt" through Zen-like "paradox".

But my first thought was: No wonder some people had severe psychological difficulties after subjecting themselves to this goofiness!

You're a meaningless machine
and everything you've seen
or felt your whole life through
was all made up by you!

Your best bet, after this jolt
is to let your mind revolt.
Throw off the contradictions
that can grow into afflictions.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Bill of Health

A fine is not a tax.
A mandate is merely a nudge.

I get the sense
the truth is being fudged.

Secret Workings

I took this great-looking, wonderfully illustrated book out of the library, by Rita Carter, about one of my favorite things:

The human brain. It's so complex.
Its secret workings continue to vex
the scientists who attempt to chart
the function of each pulsing part.

Bit by bit, they seek to find
how mere cells can build a mind.
The human soul desires to know
how nerve firings make it go.

So close, and yet so far - we see
things never seen - but still they flee
our grasping quest to know at last
how consciousness - so bright and vast -

manages to boldly spring
from such a grey and bone-bound thing.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Read the Bill

I am amazed at this "read the bill" petition. It makes an outrageous demand - that legislators read the bills before they vote on them!

Have you looked at these bills? They're long. They're confusing. They're torture to read. You're not in favor of torture, are you?

What's in these bills?
No one is sure.

Reading them's simply
too much to endure.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

In Drumcliffe Churchyard

I am so tired of politics. Like a lot of people, I wish I didn't have to pay any attention to it. Yeats wrote:
How can I, that girl standing there,
My attention fix
On Roman or on Russian
Or on Spanish politics?

Speaking of Yeats, here's a pic of me at his tomb:

The inscription reads:
Cast a cold Eye
On Life, on Death.
Horseman, pass by.
Very simple, but who is this horseman guy? Is it one of the 4 horsemen of the apocalypse? Or is it just an imagined traveler - like me - who stops to look at his grave?

There's a theory, by the way, that Yeats may not be buried there at all.

First he was buried in France, but then
years later they dug him up again
to bury him in Irish ground.

Did they retrieve the proper bones?
Or is it someone else, unknown,
sleeping beneath his mound?

Monday, September 21, 2009

National Endowment for Spin

The National Endowment for the Arts has been around since 1965.

But never before has the organization been caught pushing a specific political agenda. Until now:
I would encourage you to pick something, whether it’s health care, education, the environment, you know, there’s four key areas that the corporation has identified as the areas of service.
"The Corporation" being the NEA itself.

The White House Office of Public Engagement was also involved in this.

Disengage and depart.
Get your hands off the art.

The Art Of The Possible

Did the National Endowment for the Arts
think it was fine
to request that artists toe
a political line?

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Coming to Believe

David Ramsay Steele gave a very interesting presentation on Belief Systems. He used this term very broadly, with no intended negative connotation. For instance, he thinks Physics is a sort of belief system.

He maintained that you never exactly choose what to believe. Rather, your choice to investigate a topic leads you face-to-face with facts, which you process by your existing procedures for forming beliefs - and the belief is thrust upon you as a kind of gestalt shift.

When your research program is effective,
truth arrives as a stunning new perspective.

Friday, September 18, 2009

I Don't Know How To Love Him

Tonight we saw "Rod Blagojevich: Superstar", which was very funny.

Governor Rod
had a great facade.

But he blabbed on the phone
and got overthrown.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Wishing This Wasn't Still Relevant

So you want a right to health care?
I'm glad to hear it, friend.
We've bundled up a bunch of laws
To help you meet that end.
A friendly little system, where,
No matter what your state,
We'll slice your paycheck, just because
It makes us feel so great.

And if you're feeling poorly, well,
We'll put you on the list
Of those who need a doctor bad...
And if you still exist
A year from now - why - what the hell
We'll let you see a nurse
Who'll tell you what it was you had
And why it's gotten worse.

We'd let you see a doc, except
We're kind of understaffed.
We told them what we'd pay them now
And most of them just laughed.
We threatened them, we begged, we wept,
And told them they must stay.
But strangely - we're not sure just how -
They all have slipped away.

Worry not! We'll fix you yet!
We're training new recruits.
Fellows much too bright to go on
Sweeping streets and shining boots.
They're doing great at school - you bet!
We're grading on the curve!
Brains they're slightly low on,
But we believe they'll SERVE!

The Virtue of Curiosity

U.S. colleges - dare they venture intellectually into the Great Unknown? Mark Lilla, of Columbia, writes:
The unfortunate fact is that American academics have until recently shown little curiosity about conservative ideas, even though those ideas have utterly transformed American (and British) politics over the past 30 years.
He goes on to describe some interesting academics attempts to overcome their aversion and actually study the strange ways of right-wing thinking.

Even if a school of thought makes you furious,
and you're sure its proponents are jerks,
you'll understand it better if you're curious
about how it internally works.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Race Cards Wild

I keep hearing, from the left, including former-prez Jimmy Carter, that the anger against the current prez, and his policies, is somehow racist.

I'm from the South Side of Chicago. I know real racism - regular or reverse - when I see it.

I've been at some tea-party type protests. I've talked to a lot of people and listened in on conversations. This does NOT have to do with race. It's about policy.

If Walter Williams were president, the vast majority of these people would be very happy.

Marching in opposition
and expressions of dissent
do not constitute admission
of secret racist intent.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


I see the House Democrats are moving to "censure" that guy who shouted "you lie" at the President.

Censure is a sort of toothless reprimand. Have they thought this through?

Censure will keep this guy's accusation ringing in our ears a few days longer - the accusation that a certain someone isn't telling the truth.

The truth, when stretched enough,
turns into far-fetched stuff.


George W. Bush:
"Look, I know this probably sounds arrogant to say," the president said, "but I redefined the Republican Party."
In retrospect,
it looks sort of wrecked.

Monday, September 14, 2009


I just read Cyrano again. I love this play.

It was pushed some weeks later into our book club schedule, and I'm taking advantage of the extra time to read some commentaries and notes on the play.

Here's something from Wikipedia that I didn't know:
The play... is responsible for introducing the word "panache" into the English language.
Originally, panache meant simply the sort of plume a soldier might wear in his helmet. After Rostand, it meant a "dashing confidence of style."

Forever flaunting his plume,
Cyrano stared down doom
with style
and a taunting smile.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

How Useful The Needy Can Be

With astonishing speed
they move from "let's help those in need"
to "let's take control".

Almost as if - that were the goal.

The Rivals

We saw an excellent production of The Rivals, by James Sheridan, at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin.

Sheridan wrote it at age 23.

This is the play which features the famous Mrs. Malaprop, the woman who has a large vocabulary but whose tongue often produces the wrong word at the critical moment. One of her funniest lines of the night was:
He is the very pineapple of politeness!
"Pinnacle" was what she meant to say,
but somehow her intention went astray.

Crazy American Roads

I guess my week of driving in Ireland affected my brain. I had forgotten what American roads are like!

They are incredibly huge. One American alley has enough width to make a major highway in Ireland.

Here's one thing I don't understand - why do we Americans waste all that space putting shoulders on our roads? Why don't we just put stone walls where the shoulders are now?

Driving holds more thrills,
more chance to test your skills,
when any mistake at all
skids you into a wall.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Out of Country

Eight years ago we were in Mexico when it happened. For an anniversary trip. This year, we're on the emerald island. But I remember and there is something strange in being among strangers for whom this day is just another day.

I had a college job that involved going through the major attack location on a regular basis. It was always so busy and lively there.

I paused on the ground floor
as the people bustled by
in a place that is no more
where the towers stood so high.

GPS Distress

We had a gps from Hertz, but its audio didn't work, it routed us off of main roads onto country lanes, it told us to take illegal turns, and it seemed inaccurate often. Otherwise, it was great.

On the busy streets of Dublin
these hiccups were most troublin'.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Waitressing in Sligo

So we nip into a restaurant for supper in Sligo, Ireland, and our waitress, who seems to have the local accent, asks where we're from.

We tell her Chicago. She tells us she's from Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, which is a couple of hours north of Chicago. But she's been living in Ireland for several years.

She said she worries sometimes that tourists are disappointed that she isn't originally from Ireland, since so many tourists are seeking to experience "the real Ireland." We just laughed.

We gave her
a waiver
from the need to provide local favor.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

No Thank You

I hear a certain NY Times columnist says we should learn from the Chinese, whose mode of government is authoritarian but enlightened.

Authoritarianism, however "enlightened"
leaves me frightened.

Monday, September 07, 2009


Partial itinerary:

Saw ruins of monastery
in County Kerry.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Cove vs. Cobh

In Irish "bh" sounds like "v".
This bhery much puzzles me.

Saturday, September 05, 2009


We pulled into town at 1:30. Saw signs for race at 3:00. I guess it's that famous luck of the Irish.

I ran a 10k
in Bunratty today.

Friday, September 04, 2009

In Coach

Flights overseas
are hard on your knees.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

My Rx for Medicine

There really is a way to have far more advanced medical care than we have now. At lower prices.

All we have to do is get the government out of medicine. Let them handle cases of fraud or true negligence. Get them out of the rest of it.

Quit requiring drugs to go through an FDA approval process, quit certifying who can practice medicine, and so on. Make the medical market like the electronics market.

My view
is held by few.

But I believe we should have done this long ago. The true cost of our regulated system is "the unseen." But I see it.

Many now buried and dead
would be among us instead.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Lawmaker, Lawbreaker

When Illinois raised its alcohol taxes, I predicted increased smuggling from neighboring states.

But I didn't predict this:
A Massachusetts Democratic state rep who voted to raise alcohol taxes and slap the increased state sales tax on hootch on top of that is caught buying bottles across the border in New Hampshire. . . . It’s a thing of beauty.
I think that's fair. Just because he thinks citizens should pay, why should legislators have to do so?

But maybe they should have been explicit about this exception.

Is it too late to add a note -
any sales tax for which we vote
doesn't apply
to what we buy!

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Surgical Texting

Some hospitals are offering tweets from the operating room.
"Putting numbing medication where the incisions will be. Making first incision right now," Corizzo tweeted at the beginning of the procedure.
Fortunately, it's not the surgeon that's doing the tweeting.

Bloody fingers are sticky
and leave an iphone icky.

Among Schoolchildren

I'm reading reports, which seem to have started with Drudge, that our president is going to make a speech to "all public school children" on September 8. Some people are taking their kids out of school for that day.

But is the story even true? I'm not seeing any mention of it on the news - except on right-leaning blogs.

Drudge links to this document, but it's not a very good proof of anything on its own.

Sometimes rumors
grow like tumors.

UPDATE: It's real.

UPDATE 2: I was amused by Venomous Kate's reasons for planning to send her child to school that day anyway. Her last reason is this:
Besides which, I know from experience that my boy is going to tune out any speech lasting longer than 30 seconds in favor of poking the little kid sitting next to him.
Even when you let your rhetoric soar,
children find long speeches are a bore.