Sunday, February 28, 2010

Herpetology On Stage

Friday night I saw actors playing lizards doing mating dances, in M.A.T.E.

Saturday night I saw an actor playing a newt doing a mating dance, in Jeeves In Bloom.

Two nights in a row,
in unrelated shows!

Tell me, what were the chances
of parallel belly-crawling mating dances?

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Non Neocon

The Chicago Reader, a free weekly, ran an article that mentioned the course my wife is co-facilitating at Shimer College. The reporter does a decent job with her factual reporting on the course, but the headline is amusingly wrong:
Who's Buying Shimer?
A former student follows the money behind the new neoconservative bent at the local Great Books college.
My wife's friends had a good chuckle over the idea that she was neocon.

I don't know much about the other focus of the article, the "buying" of Shimer. It sounds like the college recently took on new funding and new board members. But the article does nothing to flesh out the neocon angle.

Perhaps in a certain ideological frame
all non-progressives look exactly the same.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Strike Three

Serial killer whale:
Tilikum, the largest killer whale at any SeaWorld park, has been involved in two previous deaths.
If I were a trainer, I'd give up on training this one.

Don't turn your back
or he may attack.


I saw a comedy tonight, M.A.T.E, which is about animal mating strategies.

It starts off with 4 scientists lecturing the audience on the topic. They have their own relationship tensions, which play out during the show.

But the scientists also become the animals they are talking about, acting out the mating strategies in a sort of cartoon form. Chris Delgado, Danielle Gennaoui, Keland Scher, and Deanna Myers were very energetic and amusing.

The show is set in a bar, and made good use of the setting. One scene involved 2 "lizards" meeting on a blind date. The girl lizard was reading a romance novel and holding a flower while sitting at the bar.

Bacteria can reproduce
in solitary splendor.

But human beings must work to seduce
someone from the contrary gender.

What Happened To "All Dogs Go To Heaven"?

Certain Christians believe that the virtuous will be lifted up to heaven as Judgment Day nears. This miraculous event, called the Rapture, will leave sinners behind on earth.

It will also, allegedly, leave all animals behind. Including the beloved pets of those virtuous enraptured Christians. Thereby arises a money-making opportunity:
...61-year-old Bart Centre has come up with a plan to look after those domestic animals not scooped up in the heavenly exodus. In July, he started Eternal Earth-Bound Pets, a pet-sitting service to care for those critters.

"Each Earth-Bound Pet representative is a confirmed atheist, and as such will still be here on Earth after you have received your reward," the company's Web site promises. "Our network of animal activists are committed to step in when you step up to Jesus."
By this means he hopes to capture
cash from those who plan to rapture.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

There Is A House

I just finished The House of the Seven Gables, by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Liked it, didn't love it.

The House of the Seven Gables
is a densely woven fable
with miscellaneous strengths
and a somewhat padded length.

I like The Scarlet Letter
eight times better.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Bittersweet Medals

Here is research that 3rd place makes you happier than 2nd place:
Research by three U.S. academics, who analyzed heat-of-the-moment reactions, medal-stand temperament and interviews of Olympians, shows that bronze-medal winners, on average, are happier with their finishes than silver medalists. Take silver, and you tend to fixate on the near miss. Score bronze, and you are thankful you were not shut out altogether.
Suppose two of you are in very hot
competition for the number 2 spot...
Should you slow down? I think not.

Pole Dancing In The Olympics

It sounds like something I would suggest in jest:
Hong Kong-based Ania Przeplasko, the founder of the International Pole Dancing Fitness Association, the sport's fledgling supervisory body, believes Olympic recognition is only a matter of time and would be a victory for underappreciated sports worldwide.

"There will be a day when the Olympics see pole dancing as a sport," she said. "The Olympic community needs to acknowledge the number of people doing pole fitness now. We're shooting for 2012."
Since pole vaulting is already in,
I bet pole dancing will be a big win.

Nanny State Newspeak

New York City reinstates "bake sales", if you can still call them that:
Months after it barred schools from holding most food fundraisers, the city says bake sales can go on - as long as no homemade treats with undisclosed calorie counts grace the fold-out tables.
A "bake sale" with nothing homemade
is a promise betrayed.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Devilish Ducklings

Devilish ducklings come in many types.
The evilest of all has zebra stripes.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Madison and the Angels

We had a great discussion last night about James Madison's hypothetical comment concerning angels:
If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.
What did he mean by this? Did he mean that we are beasts? Did he mean that we are cursed with original sin? Such is sometimes argued.

Or did he just mean we have the *capability* of doing the wrong thing? Maybe because we have free will?

Angels seem stuck on "rejoice"
but humans have a choice.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Homicidal Suicide

The Texas kamikaze's suicide note is all over the political map, raging against George Bush, the Catholic Church, Big Business, the IRS, and so on. He hated almost everybody!

So it's hard to pin him down on the left-right continuum. But that won't stop people from trying! As the NY Daily News puts it:
The right called him a socialist, and the left branded him a right-wing tea partyer.
Few want to claim him for their own. Which is a good thing. You would have to worry about the fate of a country where a high percentage of people celebrated such behavior.

I notice that he badly frightened his wife the night before he totally flipped. She took her kid and spent the night in a hotel. When she came home she found he had set their house on fire.

I think she did a very smart thing in going to a hotel. I suspect he would have killed her and the kid on his way out that morning. Why? I don't know exactly, but that's what mad-at-the-world killers often do. They kill their immediate families along with themselves. I think it's some kind of deadly narcissistic gesture, where you spitefully try to destroy all "your stuff," including your family.

His political outlook may be hopelessly hazy,
but he sure went out in a blaze of crazy.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Santelli Rantiversary

It was one year ago today that Rick Santelli ranted on CNBC that it was time for a tea party.

There had already been a good-sized protest or two, but Santelli's rant gave the movement a name.

I want to mention something paradoxical I've observed. At these protests, the signs are often angry, but the people are usually smiling. They're having a good time exercising their rights to assemble and air grievances. This suggests to me that it may have staying power. People like participating.

Not everyone is happy:
Progressivism purports to protect the toiling and exploited masses from the amoral rapacity of big banks, big insurance, big tobacco, and whatnot. It must be exceedingly frustrating to have the toiling and exploited masses turn against the policies you have designed for their own good.
How annoying of these proles
to march with signs on poles
objecting to their bettering
with obvious hand-lettering.

Serenity Now!

I think Ann Althouse is right to object to public school programs requiring students to meditate.
Somehow the Other's religion is neuroscience, to be imposed on rowdy children to make them serene. Thanks, Hollywood liberals. You know, I can't think of one Hollywood movie about kids that had a placid protagonist.
If private schools want to require it, that's one thing. I certainly recited my prayers aloud in Catholic school. But the wall between church and state should exclude this stuff in state schools.

Althouse really lets loose in the comments.
Because all we have is our time. How dare you steal time, systematically, on a daily basis from children? Let a school be a school, and leave the spiritual training to the family and the individual.
If I was a kid in a classroom where they did this to me, there is no way I would think about my breathing. I would think about how much I objected to being treated this way. I would either misbehave and get punished (or drugged) or I would compose vicious essays and stories in my head, and put them up on the internet later.
I love her for these 2 comments, above all because she remembers what it's like to be a kid.

In too many schools
they're treated like fools.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Technology Marches On And On

In Switzerland, a shocking solution:
Brothel owners in the Lugano area say electric shock treatment to restart customer's hearts is needed because so many elderly customers are using their services.

The most recent victim was a pensioner, thought to be having fun with the help of anti-impotence medication.
If you're on a so-called "date"
and she sets your heart a-beating,
at a most irregular rate
your existence may be fleeting.

But if they have a defibrillator with them,
you have a shot at getting back your rhythm.

Technology Marches On

Big Brother was allegedly watching, and now there's a lawsuit:
They claim Lindy Matsko, an assistant principal at Harriton High School, spied on their son, Blake, at home by remotely activating the webcam on his laptop.
It was a school-issue laptop, with "security software" that let you view through the webcam remotely.

Some people like to creep and peep
and watch your children while they sleep.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Hollow Theory

While in Florida we visited Koreshan State Park, a very pleasant hiking location, which is the former site of a utopian commune.

It was founded by some crazy religious group who believed that the earth is a hollow sphere - and we are living on the inside!

If we were in a hollow sphere
I'd expect to look up from here
and get a look at China's Great Wall.

But I don't see that at all.
Instead, I see a clear night sky.
I wonder why.

"I Am Dr. Amy Bishop"

Amy Bishop, PhD, killer of biologists, has a history. The latest bizarro research item:
In March, 2002, Bishop walked into an International House of Pancakes restaurant in Peabody with her family, asked for a booster seat for one of her children, and learned the last seat had gone to another customer, according to a police report.

Bishop strode to the customer, identified in the report as Michelle Gjika, demanded the seat and, after a profanity-laced rant, punched her in the head while yelling ‘‘I am Dr. Amy Bishop.’’

This was in Massachusetts. She got probation.
Court records are unclear on whether a judge granted the prosecutor’s recommendation she take anger management classes.
These classes, if taken, obviously didn't work.

At this point she's done more damage
than the average thug in the hood.

Please, please, Alabama,
lock her up for good.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Roger Enright and Me

Someone asked me online, in jest no doubt, if I was related to Roger Enright, a secondary character in The Fountainhead.

Here he is in the movie version, played by Ray Collins.

Once in a while someone asks me, seriously, if I changed my last name to match Roger's.

I would like to claim him as a distant relation,
but that would be unmerited,
since he got his name from her imagination,
but mine was simply inherited.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Valentine's Day

We saw the movie, Valentine's Day. It's designed like Love Actually. It wasn't actually as good, but it's pretty good, if you like that sort of thing, and I do.

It all takes place on one day,
like a sort of classical play,
but with vast inventories
of characters and stories.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Anesthesia During Childbirth

In the Bible, at one point, Eve is told that she will be punished for her sin with increased pain during childbirth.

I think the writers of the myth had noticed that humans had more trouble with childbirth than domestic animals.

I think, in fact, this is due partly to our big skulls required to house our big brains.

So, when anesthesia was invented, some people thought it was a circumvention of divine will. But then along came Queen Victoria...
[Her] fourth child was to be born on the morning of April 7, 1853 in much the same circumstances except one – the use of chloroform that produced an uncomplicated and completely painless childbirth that electrified the entire nation of Great Britain and helped push a still little known medical procedure into public consciousness – the use of anesthesia.
Anesthesia during childbirth remains a controversial topic among feminists:
...there are feminists who reject natural birth and support a woman's right to choose medicated childbirth, and there are feminists who believe that a rejection of medicalized childbirth is a key component in advancing feminist values.
I have no particular views,
except that I'm pro- the right to choose.

Friday, February 12, 2010

That Bag Sure Looked Little

We had a choppy time on the plane. I was checking the seat pocket to find the paper bag... just in case.

A lady near us did undergo reverse peristalsis.

Why is it that a bumpy ride
ejects stuff from your inside?

Test Tube Cave Baby

People are thinking about cloning Neanderthals:
A stem cell with Neanderthal DNA could be implanted in a human blastocyst--a cluster of cells in the process of developing into an embryo. Then, all of the non-Neanderthal cells could be kept from growing. The individual who developed from that blastocyst would be entirely the result of Neanderthal genes.
Their manners may be crude,
but if they will shovel snow
in exchange for fire and food,
the project is a go.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Traps and Nets

A professor of English says:
Graduate school in the humanities is a trap. It is designed that way. It is structurally based on limiting the options of students and socializing them into believing that it is shameful to abandon "the life of the mind."
He's bitter, apparently because he's seen too many people with grad degrees and big debts working in low-paying jobs.

I do get the impression that there are far more would-be professors than there are professorial positions.

Similarly, there are more would-be rock stars than there are recording contracts. Musicians are "socialized into believing" that it is shameful to abandoning their instrument of choice.

Perhaps it's a kind of bet
that what you haven't caught yet
may still fall into your net.

Kings Who Wrote

For book club we read part of the Thomas Nelson Chronological Study Bible, which is the whole collection of Protestant scriptures, rearranged into chronological order.

We read the part with David and Solomon, which meant we also read some works attributed to them.

Ecclesiastes preaches the utility
of just accepting life's futility.

Many Psalms
are meant to calm your qualms.

Proverbs advises: be wise
and honored in men's eyes.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

No Pressure

This will seem counter-intuitive to many:
Parents who want their children to discover a passion for music, sports, or other hobbies should follow a simple plan: Don't pressure them.
As a matter of fact, I suspect the best way to get some kids interested in music is to tell them not to be.

If you tell them they must stop
playing that nasty hip-hop,
you'll see - the very next day
they'll be working as a DJ.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Rand as Realist

From Revolution in American Drama:
In [1927] appeared one of the most popular of modern melodramas, Bayard Veiller's The Trial of Mary Dugan... While the situation was one of extreme theatricalism, he courtroom scene itself was treated with minute realism. Ayn Rand's The Night of January 16 (1935) went one step further in this direction by selecting a jury from the audience at each performance and paying them at legal rates. (p. 235)
It's amusing, at least to me, to see Rand singled out here for pushing the envelope in the direction of realism. In later years, she was frequently attacked for not being adequately realistic.

I do think a shift occurred in her writing. We the Living is highly realistic, and makes much of the method of realism, particularly in its emphasis on the grinding quality of poverty and oppression. So devotees of realism frequently see it as her best effort.

I grew up as a sci-fi fan,
so I wasn't bugged
by the inventive events
of Atlas Shrugged.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Snow Day!

The Federal Government in Washington is closed on Monday due to a snowstorm.
Closing the federal government for one day costs taxpayers roughly $100 million in lost productivity...
I really wonder where that estimate came from. Federal employees produced it, I bet.

On the bright side, presumably various crippling new regulations will be put off for a day.

The economy may get a boost
from regulations unproduced.

Toy Story

Hit the panic button - it's a gun!
...a 9-year-old student at PS 52 in Staten Island, N.Y., was in the school cafeteria Tuesday playing with LEGOs when he was taken to the principal’s office and threatened with suspension. One of his toys was a LEGO policeman that holds a 2-inch plastic gun. The school has a no-tolerance policy when it comes to toy guns.
A lot of these "no-tolerance" policies are "no sense" policies.

A 2-inch Lego gun
will never hurt anyone.

The kids learn a lesson, all right:
some teachers are not too bright.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Complexities of Victimization

In most colleges, women now heavily outnumber men. These women are victimized!
Women on gender-imbalanced campuses are paying a social price for success and, to a degree, are being victimized by men precisely because they have outperformed them, Professor Campbell said.
This confuses 2 distinct groups of men. The men who were outperformed are NOT in college. The men who are "victimizing" are the high-achievers who kept up.

The NY Times points out a parallel kind of victimization:
In this way, some colleges mirror retirement communities, where women often find that the reward for outliving their husbands is competing with other widows for the attentions of the few surviving bachelors.
Pity the poor wife
who out-competes her husband in the race for longer life
and regrettably then
finds a shortage of men.

These women are improperly rewarded!
Could excess men from China be imported? 

Friday, February 05, 2010

Aelita & Shiny Boxes

We saw Aelita and Shiny Boxes at Dream Theatre tonight, a double bill of plays by Bil Gaines and Mishelle Renee Apalategui.

Both were surreal and involved multiple murders and the walking and talking dead. But they went in completely different directions. Aelita is an abstract philosophical fantasy. Shiny Boxes is a poetic memory of a birthday party gone terribly wrong.

Due to a mishap, Anna Weiler, who directed both pieces, had to step in at the last minute and act in Aelita as well - just for this weekend. Apparently she was up till late last night memorizing her lines. But she never seemed to miss a beat. Probably it helped to have been directing it for weeks and weeks!

Performances were wonderful. I particularly enjoyed Alicia Reese as the motherly Magda, Judith Lesser as the flirtatious Cannon, and Giau Truong as the gigantic Amboy.

When the plays had ended,
the living dead, all mended,
arose and bowed
while we clapped aloud.

Ancient Timex Time

"The first computer under 100 dollars." Yes, I had one, a Timex-Sinclair 1000.

It was pretty horrid. But I did learn Basic on the darn thing.

It didn't come with any sort of disk, floppy or hard. Allegedly you could hook up a regular cassette player to use for offline storage. That worked sometimes.

There was also a VisiCalc-like program available for this 2k machine. What was VisiCalc?
VisiCalc was the first spreadsheet program available for personal computers. It is often considered the application that turned the microcomputer from a hobby for computer enthusiasts into a serious business tool. VisiCalc sold over 700,000 copies in six years.
Before Lotus, and long before Excel,
VisiCalc served accountants well.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Free of Prejudice

When I was a kid, computers didn't play chess well. That's ancient history.

(Nerd alert - I actually owned a Boris chess computer, in the late 70's).

Now people try to learn from the computer's style of play. Gary Kasparov says:
It is entirely free of prejudice and doctrine and this has contributed to the development of players who are almost as free of dogma as the machines with which they train. Increasingly, a move isn't good or bad because it looks that way or because it hasn't been done that way before. It's simply good if it works and bad if it doesn't. Although we still require a strong measure of intuition and logic to play well, humans today are starting to play more like computers.
Those computers are tyrannical,
making our play more mechanical,
unless you're hell-bent on choosing
a whimsical path toward losing.

Colorful Record

Illinois had some too-close-to-call primaries Tuesday.

Who will run for Governor? We don't know. Not for the elephants. And not for donkeys.

But we DO know who will represent for Lt. Gov. And in the case of the donkeys, it's not pretty:
Scott Lee Cohen -- a pawnbroker who shocked state Democratic leaders Tuesday night by winning the party's nomination for lieutenant governor -- was arrested about four-and-a-half years ago and accused of holding a knife to a former live-in girlfriend's neck, newly obtained court records show.

The misdemeanor charge against Cohen was dropped weeks later when the woman -- who had just been found guilty of prostitution -- failed to show up to testify, according to those records.
You might think Lt. Gov. isn't really an important job. But....

Our current governor's name is Quinn.
He was Lieutenant Governor when
Blago got caught on tape, and then
Mr. Quinn, of course, stepped in.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

How Insulting

Sarah Palin wants Rahm Emanuel fired for privately calling liberal activists, "f---ing retarded."

He has since apologized.

Perhaps we should no longer read Shakespeare because he let MacBeth say that life is a "tale told by an idiot".

For those who wish to generated Elizabethan insults, see here.

I guess I'm tired
of people getting fired
and almost hung
for slips of the tongue.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Rhyme = True

If it rhymes,
it sounds more true.

The ringing of chimes
beguiles you.