Thursday, December 31, 2009


Another run
around the sun
tonight is done.

We've reckoned it
to the second,
so great is our pleasure
in measurement.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Restarting the Calendar

The Wall St. Journal had a nice article today on alternate calendar schemes.

The chief advantage of these schemes is that a given date always falls on the same day of the week.

The Symmetry 454 calendar achieves this at the cost of having leap years be a whole week longer than a normal year.

The World Calendar achieves this at the cost of having "intercalary days" - 1 or 2 days per year that don't have a weekday name.

As I was reading the article, I was thinking about having to change computer programs en masse.
The "Y2K" reprogramming was "child's play" compared with what is needed for a world-wide calendar switch, admits Dr. Bromberg.
That quote practically writes itself into a rhyme:

was child's play
compared to this switch
which would be a real...
high speed drive into a ditch.

My favorite oddball calendar is also mentioned - the International Fixed Calendar, with 13 months of 4 weeks each, plus 1 or 2 of those "intercalary" days.

Of course, switching to a 13 month year would eliminate financial quarters, would play havoc with associating months with the seasons, and would generally cause even more chaotic reprogramming of computers and human brains.

And some mention should be made, finally, of the French Republican Calendar, which was the law in France for a while. It featured 30-day months and 10-day weeks.

They loved the number ten,
they used it again and again,
they even, to my shock,
pushed a 10-hour clock.

Blooms Versus Booms

The would-be crotch bomber reportedly had some big brains behind him - big brains who had done time in Gitmo, but who had been released during the Bush Administration.
American officials agreed to send the two terrorists from Guantanamo to Saudi Arabia, where they entered into an "art therapy rehabilitation program" and were set free, according to U.S. and Saudi officials.
Here's more on the art therapy approach:
The calligraphy and depictions of sunrises and flowers do not really reflect the darker emotions confronted in treatment and are images Western therapists might not expect to see. In fact, some might define the content of their artwork as being "in denial" of the crimes committed.
If you were an art therapist
in charge of curing a terrorist,
how would you proceed?

"Paint a pretty design,
and I'll be sure to sign
the form so you'll be freed."

Monday, December 28, 2009


Anna North has 4 reasons to quit being "offended".

To quote her headings:
It's overused.

It devalues actual, justified rage.

It encourages self-congratulatory offensiveness.

And, finally: we already have better words.
Whatever this writer intended,
I, for one, am deeply offended.

Elephorse: The Legend

One of my fabulous Christmas presents was this horse, which came with its own removable elephant costume, put together by Anna Weiler. She also explained the legend behind the creation, which I put in verse below.

There were no elephants at the zoo.
The children cried - so what to do?

Quickly a friendly horse was recruited,
and in short order he was re-suited.

Masquerading in trunk and ears,
he clowned away the children's tears.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

What Worked

"The system worked."

That's usually good to hear.
But after a mega-failure, it tends to inspire fear.

That's a quote from Janet Napolitano, head of Homeland Security, and she's talking about the botched attempt to explode a Detroit-bound jet.

People on that plane are lucky the bomb didn't work.

And they were lucky to have Jasper Schuringa seated near the bomber. Schuringa jumped on the bomber, took the burning IED away, put the fire out with his own hands, put a choke hold on the bomber, and dragged him out of his seat.

"I don't feel like a hero. It was something that came completely natural... it was something where I had to do something or it was too late."

That's the part of the system that worked -
the part where Schuringa went berserk.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Mars, Venus, Goodbye

New book:

Women Are Crazy, Men Are Stupid
the latest attempt to help poor Cupid!

It's by a couple who are also comedy writers.

Sometimes humor does more good
than years of counseling ever could.

Moving Beyond Mars And Venus

The latest book to try to help along Cupid:
Women Are Crazy, Men Are Stupid.

It's a comic effort, written by a couple comedy writers who are also boyfriend and girlfriend.

The title isn't literally true, of course, and it propagates dangerous stereotypes... Oops, I fell asleep just saying that.

Misunderstanding between the sexes
is one of those things that endlessly vexes
male and female alike.

And this book does look funnier than a volume on evolutionary psych.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Gift of the Magi

Our family's joke phrase of the past 2 days is: "You ruined Christmas!"

I've been thinking about O. Henry's short story, The Gift of the Magi. It's about a young couple. They both sell their most prized possession - in order to buy something to accessorize the other person's prize possession.

They're both left with accessories only.
On the bright side, at least they're not lonely.

Somehow, it doesn't ruin their Christmas. But they realize they have not been wise.

Be wary of the price
of spectacular sacrifice.

Christmas Duck

Donald Duck may not be a big part of your holiday celebrations. But in Sweden, this is his time to shine:
Every year on Dec. 24 at 3 p.m., half of Sweden sits down in front of the television for a family viewing of the 1958 Walt Disney Presents Christmas special, "From All of Us to All of You." Or as it is known in Sverige, Kalle Anka och hans vänner önskar God Jul: "Donald Duck and his friends wish you a Merry Christmas."
At first, the viewers came back
of their own volition
to watch that duck go quack.

But now it's a tradition!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Wild Doings

The Chicago Tribune has the story:

A guy gets kidnapped by a car full of armed young people.

They drive him to an ATM. One takes the guy's ATM card and demands his PIN.
They pulled into an alley. As they bumped along the snowy path, the woman told the driver to toss her the gun because she didn't want police to see it, he said.

"All of a sudden, by the grace of God, between these two fools, I hear 'boom,' and then I hear her hollering and screaming, 'I shot my finger off, I shot it off.' The driver starts panicking and he goes right into a Dumpster," the victim said. "That's when I knew it was my moment."
In the confusion, the victim got hold of the gun, got out of the car, and started running away - down the alley. The woman ran after him.
"I don't know if she's going to kill me or not, so I fire a warning shot," the man said. "Unfortunately, it hit her. I never fired a gun in my life."
She's dead from his "warning shot."

Don't ask anyone
to toss you a loaded gun.

And remember, you may be harmed
when you chase a guy who's armed.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Waiting for Gitmo

They were coming to Illinois but there's been a delay -
the president can't get the money to move the prisoners away
from Guantánamo Bay.
As a result, officials now believe that they are unlikely to close the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and transfer its population of terrorism suspects until 2011 at the earliest...
I was so looking forward to Gitmo coming to my home state.
Too bad it's gonna be late!

I figured it would be a tourist attraction.
Seeing where they were all locked up would give folks satisfaction.

Nude with Violin

I've been reading Nude with Violin, a play by Noel Coward. It put me in mind of Art, a play by Yasmina Reza. Both plays ask whether modern art might be a fraud.

Reza's play is about a guy who buys a big all-white painting, and then shows it to his 2 buddies.
They in turn question their relationship with a man willing to spend such a large amount of money on something that they find hard pressed to consider 'art.'
Coward's play is about a critically acclaimed painter who has signed his works, but who has not painted his works. Rather, he has secretly had 4 untrained people paint for him, each responsible for one of his "periods".

Reza is content to raise the question, but Coward seems to have a definite suggestion in mind. His main character argues sardonically against exposing the fraud. In his final monologue he warns that a skeptical domino effect might ensue:
Modern sculpture, music, drama and poetry will all shrivel in the holocaust. Think what will happen to those tens of thousands of industrious people who today are making a comfortable livelihood by writing without grammar, composing without harmony and painting without form. These poor miserable wretches will be either flung into abject poverty or forced really to learn their jobs.
This isn't Coward the dandy,
writing of escapades randy.

This is Coward the curmudgeon,
swinging an angry bludgeon.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Nebraska Compromise Reconsidered

Federalism raises its sleepy head:
The top prosecutors in seven states are probing the constitutionality of a political deal that cut a funding break for Nebraska in order to pass a federal health care reform bill, South Carolina's attorney general said Tuesday.
The states investigate a congressional deal? What nerve. On the other hand, the deal is unique:
"The Nebraska compromise, which permanently exempts Nebraska from paying Medicaid costs that Texas and all other 49 states must pay, may violate the United States Constitution — as well as other provisions of federal law," Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said.
Nebraska's senator was plucky -
held out for the very best deal.

His state sure is lucky.
How rude of the others to squeal!

Cash for Congress

One small chunk of the economy is booming - the lobbying biz!
Washington’s influence industry is on track to shatter last year’s record $3.3 billion spent to lobby Congress and the rest of the federal government...
The expansion of government control - and we've been seeing a lot of that - is a platinum mine for lobbyists.

When everything's up in the air,
and the Congress is on the prowl,
interfering in business affairs -
then businessmen do not howl,
or sit around and moan,
or distract themselves with a hobby,
instead they pick up the phone
and pay people cash to lobby!

Lightbulb Day

Debra Ross explains:
I saw the name "Lightbulb Day" somewhere on the internet as a way someone had devised of celebrating the holidays without religion, and I adopted and made it our own. (After all, isn't that the way most inventions evolve?) On December 21, the "darkest evening of the year," the day when we symbolically most need technology, our two families celebrated human ingenuity, creativity, reason, and invention.
The day's name put me in mind of Thomas Edison, who invented the first practically usable lightbulb, and who said:
Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration.
Even Edison couldn't simply say "let there be light."
He had to work and sweat to make it right.

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Frown Of Thought

Aristotle thought everyone had happiness as a goal. But is it bad for your cognition to actually arrive at the goal?
The University of New South Wales researcher says a grumpy person can cope with more demanding situations than a happy one because of the way the brain "promotes information processing strategies".
However, the researcher does concede that happiness is better for creativity.

Maybe the ideal thing
is to let your mood swing.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Levamisole Goes Better With Coke

Disturbing news, at least for some:
Cocaine's a hell of a drug, and even more so when laced with another drug that's commonly used to deworm opossums. Federal agents have found that 69 percent of cocaine shipments seized entering the United States contain levamisole, a veterinary drug linked to serious weakening of the immune system in humans. Here's the real funny part: no one knows why.
Deworming possums? Around here they're considered a nuisance, and a wild animal, and I don't think you can keep them as pets in Illinois. So who is catching them to deworm them?

The "weakening of the immune system in humans" doesn't sound so good.

Your immune system goes from a roar to a sigh,
but you sure get high,
and your worms go bye-bye.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Nonbelievers Horning In

Garrison Keillor is unhappy with Christmas songs written by Jewish guys:
And all those lousy holiday songs by Jewish guys that trash up the malls every year, Rudolph and the chestnuts and the rest of that dreck. Did one of our guys write ‘Grab your loafers, come along if you wanna, and we’ll blow that shofar for Rosh Hashanah’? No, we didn’t. Christmas is a Christian holiday—if you’re not in the club, then buzz off.
He's specifically attacks the Rudolph song and the Chestnuts song, which were indeed written by Jewish guys.

As a matter of fact, the Jewish guy who wrote the Rudolph song also wrote "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day", "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree", and "A Holly Jolly Christmas".

Keillor didn't get around to complaining about "White Christmas" by Irving Berlin, another Jewish guy.

He didn't complain about all the Jewish singers, like Barbra Streisand, who release Christmas albums that include Gounod's "Ave Maria".

He didn't even note that Jews must have been the main celebrants at the actual birth of Jesus.

I don't believe, but I like these tunes,
including Streisand's Hail Mary.
Keillor can be a hot air balloon,
but I find his drift slightly scary.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Pregnancy Leave Behind Bars

An army general is banning pregnancy in Iraq.
Anyone who becomes pregnant or impregnates another servicemember, including married couples assigned to the same unit, could face a court-martial and jail time, according to an order issued by Maj. Gen. Anthony Cucolo.
I can see that pregnant soldiers may be less effective soldiers. But contraception, while highly effective, is not 100% effective.

Who conceived of this ban?
Will babies be born in jail?

Is it a well laid plan
or more of an epic fail?

Blinded By Her Headlights

Traffic hazard:
A New Zealand teen who was flashing her breasts at passing cars has been found guilty of disorderly behavior for the prank, which ended with her in a hospital after a distracted driver ran into her.
Beware of flashing,
it causes crashing.

Jobless Claims Jump

I don't want to make too much of it, but it can't be a good thing:
The number of Americans filing for initial unemployment insurance rose last week, the government said Thursday. Analysts had expected a decline.
I'm sad about the rise,
I'm hoping for a boom,
but I'm not exactly surprised
to find we're still in the gloom.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Big Donor

Kirk Maxey, back in the day, donated a lot of highly fertile sperm:
Between 1980 and 1994, he donated at a Michigan clinic twice a week. He's looked at the records of his donations, multiplied by the number of individual vials each donation produced, and estimated the success of each vial resulting in a pregnancy. By his own calculations, he concluded that he is the biological father of nearly 400 children, spread across the state and possibly the country.
Sociobiology proposes that men are motivated by a desire to have as many children as possible - at as little cost as possible. In this case, he actually got paid for his contributions.

If sociobiology were true
wouldn't more men do
what Maxey did
to make maximum kids?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Way with Words

Did Obama pick a good metaphor for his health care efforts?
We are on the precipice of an achievement that has eluded Congresses and presidents for generations.
Being on a precipice
of a legislative abyss
sounds more scary
than merry.

How Utilitarian

They say that the needs of the many
outweigh the needs of the one.

Proof? I haven't heard any.
Nor does it sound like fun.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Oblivious to the Obvious

At Harvard they ran a psychology experiment where only 25% percent of the subjects noticed that the person they were dealing with was switched with another, similar but different, person.

Video, brief and funny, is here.

I fear that if I took this test
I'd fail like most of the rest.

Clever Invertebrates

They've found some octopuses that carry coconut shells around - and then hide under the shell.

Video here.

It's analogous, as the first commenter mentions, to a hermit crab, a crustacean which lives inside of another animal's salvaged shell.

A cephalopod
with a coconut shell...
how very odd,
but how cool as well.

Sunday, December 13, 2009


He stands on patrol
in a world of white.
His eyes, black as coal,
stare down the night.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Ungovernable People

Why is the progressive program stalling in the States? One prominent progressive has an answer:
The smarter elements in Washington DC are starting to pick up on the fact that it’s not tactical errors on the part of the president that make it hard to get things done, it’s the fact that the country has become ungovernable.
I wonder if that hasn't always been the problem. In a deeper way than this writer imagines.

I am put in mind of Huck Finn who insists he doesn't want to be "sivilized". Which means he doesn't want people telling him what to do - regulating his life.

There's a reason why that book has remained so popular.

The frontier?
Still here.

it abides.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Tom and Huck

We were discussing Huckleberry Finn in book club, and I read Tom Sawyer for good measure.
Both brought back memories of boyhood reading pleasure.

I read them when I was in elementary school. On my own.

I thought the stuff with slaves was ancient and outrageous. But the idea of just heading into a river on a raft - escaping from teachers and rules and lectures - that sounded like wonderful fun.

How joyous to float wherever you wish,
living off melon and freshly caught fish.

Obama in Norway

He dropped in for his Nobel,
and said that war is hell,
but sometimes needed, as well.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

You Can't Even Call For Help

Not again! Not another boy with his tongue stuck to a frozen metal pole! Why is it rarely a girl?
This year, the scene straight out of the movie "A Christmas Story" unfolded Tuesday morning in Boise with a boy of about 10.
The fire department got him free by pouring water on his tongue.
He only bled a little. Ouch, I bet that stung.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Cosmetic Budget Surgery

Apparently the Senate Health bill, instead of saving us all money, needs an infusion of cash:
Last week, the U.S. Senate began debate on an $848 billion health-care reform bill that includes a 5 percent excise tax on elective cosmetic surgery. It would take effect Jan. 1.

The aim: to raise an estimated $5.8 billion in the next decade.
Since their health plan's running short on bucks,
the Senate turns to taxing tummy tucks.

Cold on the Radio

Jeremy Menekseoglu's holiday play, Cold, was performed live on the radio today.

Now it's available for listening online.

It's about 2 lonely troubled people falling in love. He's a philosophy major who collects signatures on the street. She's a college drop-out office temp. They have opposite but related problems - 2 versions of extreme loneliness - he's a virtual hermit and she's a sex addict.

In the midst of freezing weather
what can they find together?

Sunday, December 06, 2009


A guy in New Zealand with HIV used a needle to inject his wife with his blood, and infected her, while she was sleeping.
It is believed the man wanted to give her the virus, which leads to Aids, so she would have sex with him again, the New Zealand Sunday Star-Times reported.
He confessed and faces a possible sentence of 14 years.

What kind of a snake
wrecks the life
of his wife
just to make
her have sex?

Huck on Altruism

Huckleberry Finn reflects on his religious training:
...she told me what she meant--I must help other people, and do everything I could for other people, and look out for them all the time, and never think about myself.... I went out in the woods and turned it over in my mind a long time, but I couldn't see no advantage about it--except for the other people; so at last I reckoned I wouldn't worry about it any more, but just let it go.
Out in the woods
he ponders her shoulds
but they don't seem so good
to him.

And the justification seems slim.

Saturday, December 05, 2009


Watched Helvetica, a fun film about a font.

Actually, it's not really a font, it's a typeface. Wikipedia explains:
a typeface is a set of one or more fonts, in one or more sizes, designed with stylistic unity, each comprising a coordinated set of glyphs.
I would write a nice riff
about what is a glyph
but I don't know,
so I'll go.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

With Apologies To William Blake

Tiger, Tiger, driving madly,
down your driveway, crashing badly,
what recorded cell phone call
has framed you on the tabloid wall?

Cold is Warm Inside

Cold is back! At Dream Theatre.

It's a play about a former philosophy major who hasn't been to a party in forever. It's a play about a party girl who just keeps looking for love in all the wrong places.

Jeremy Menekseoglu is serious and convincing as the reclusive misanthrope with a philosophy of fear. Courtney Arnett is effervescent and seductive as the office-temp who feels unworthy of respect.

Fear and self-contempt
can make you verklemt.

But it's a heartwarming love story, not a tragedy.

Two people, at heart the same,
fan the eternal flame.

A Helping Hand

W.C. Varones alerted me to this:
There's talk of Federal Government bailouts of newspapers, changing their tax status, changing copyright laws, granting them non-profit status, etc. All to keep them afloat, and keep them pumping the Government's pure filth-ridden lies to the public.
Just because they would own the press,
doesn't mean they'd apply duress
to make reporters "toe the line."

Don't worry. All will be fine!

Party Crasher Craze Becomes Constitutional Crisis

If only the architects of the U.S. constitution were still around:
The White House on Wednesday invoked the separation of powers to keep Desiree Rogers, President Obama’s social secretary, from testifying on Capitol Hill about how a couple of aspiring reality television show celebrities crashed a state dinner for the prime minister of India last week.
How did they crash
the White House bash?

The Congress wants to know,
but the President says "Whoa!"

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Team America, World Bank

I think that we need to bail out Dubai.
"Too big to fail" is the reason why.

They're running slightly low on cash,
but we can print some in a flash!

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

77 Love Sonnets

I read through 77 Love Sonnets by Garrison Keillor, a recent book which actually contains 81 of his 14-line creations.

Did he settle on the title, announce it, and then feel compelled to sneak in 4 more?

Not all, in fact, are love poems, but a solid chunk are, with a good dose of eros included. You can read 3 of them over here, along with a nice review. The last of the 3 will give you a feel for the way he deals with bodily passion.

He has a great gift for writing rhyme and meter in a conversational style, so it seems like you're reading normal sentences that happen to come out in verse by some strange coincidence. He's also an accomplished storyteller, and each of these poems is structured with a beginning, middle, and end. You're not left wondering what a poem means - even though you might be left wondering what his personal life is really like!

This book is an example of an interesting genre - formal verse that gets published because the writer is famous for something else. You won't find the poetry establishment lining up to praise this book. He's not pursuing the goals that interest them.

Will he sell more books than an academic poet?
You know it!