Monday, August 30, 2010

Give This Just A Glance

This is a headline from months ago, but I love it:
TV Ads May Be More Effective If We Pay Less Attention
The idea is that when you pay attention, your critical faculties are in control, and you will be skeptical of advertisers' claims.

But if you just let the ad wash over you, more of it sticks to your cranial crevices.

Well, so the researchers claim!

I wonder if I should mention...
this post is designed to deflect your attention.

In The Slam In Amsterdam

The Dutch have arrested a couple of Yemenis on charges of preparing a terrorist attack.

In major weirdness, which is hard to make sense of, one of them sent his luggage to Virginia, even though he flew from Chicago to Holland:
The luggage sent to Virginia contained a cellphone taped to a bottle of Pepto-Bismol, in addition to three cellphones taped together and several watches taped together.
It's easy to see how watches and cellphones might be used for a terrorist attack, for coordination or even for detonation.

But what's with the Pepto-Bismol?

Did their tummies feel dismal
because their goals were abysmal?

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Upcoming: Theatre of Women 5

Last year I wrote a 10-minute play for Theatre of Women 4.

It was great fun, and my 10-minute play is actually scheduled to be produced again, this time by high school students at a local private school.

Now it is time for Theatre of Women 5 at Dream Theatre! Well, not quite yet. On Saturday, Sept. 11, 2010.

We writers will gather at the theatre on Friday night. And we will write. The actresses and directors show up the next morning, expecting playable scripts.

The audience will show up at 8pm, and again at 10pm, expecting smoothly produced, fully memorized, enjoyable dramas.

You have to write
a play in one night -
ten minutes long,
what could go wrong?


I'm sick of flaky DSL.

I'm switching to cable
as soon as I'm able.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

I Blame Merkel

Well, this is annoying. Germany is coming out of the recession better than we are.
...the U.S. economy is scuffling along.

The German economy, on the other hand, is growing at a sizzling (and obviously unsustainable) 9 percent annual rate. Unemployment in Germany has come down to pre-crisis levels.
This is impossible, of course. The Germans spent very little on stimulus. We spent a whole bunch. But they're the ones with a stimulated economy.

Borrowing from Peter
to blow some cash on Paul
didn't seem to help us much
at all.

In Deep

The Economist ran a think piece about a hybrid called liberaltarianism.

I'm skeptical about the hybrid, but I am in total agreement with this:
So, here's a regulation I hate: you're not allowed to swim across the lake anymore in Massachusetts state parks. You have to stay inside the dinky little waist-deep swimming areas, with their bobbing lines of white buoys.
I prefer to make a break
for some unguarded stretch of lake.

Friday, August 27, 2010


It's an Enright in the news, no relative of mine, but rather than reflecting goodness to the name, he's heaping it with shame, drunkenly knifing some Muslim NY taxi driver:
One of the first facts to emerge about Michael Enright, also on his Facebook page, is his affiliation with Intersections International, a non-profit organization that promotes global peace and reconciliation — and that had recently endorsed the Islamic center at Ground Zero.

Have you ever noticed how some percentage of peace-proclaiming people seem to have anger management issues?

They sing the songs of peace
but the rage inside won't cease.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Double Dip Is Okay In Ice Cream

Here's a strange headline:
Regardless of numbers, it feels like a recession

More bad housing, hiring data show an economy that may be faltering
It seems strange to me because I keep hearing about bad numbers.

I guess the "good number" is that GDP went up.

If GDP goes down again, is it a new recession, or a roller coaster continuation of the last one?
"Who cares if it's a second recession or a double-dip?" said William Dunkelberg, an economics professor at Temple University's School of Business and Management and chief economist of the National Federation of Independent Business. "Either way, things are not going well."
Is it a double dip
or just a brand new slip
into a downward fall?

That doesn't matter at all.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Drowning in Bills

A hero gets the bill:
The family of a 17-year-old Zion teen credited with saving a drowning boy on Monday in Kenosha, Wis., say the good deed has unfairly saddled them with more than $2,000 in medical bills.
An ambulance took him to the hospital for "precautionary" reasons. The ambulance ride alone is valued at $700.

If you lack insurance, be wary
of ambulance rides that are merely "precautionary".

The price tag can be scary.

Monday, August 23, 2010


I thought L.A. traffic was bad, but outside of Beijing there was a 9 day 62 mile traffic jam, mostly trucks.

The problem: roadwork.

The need for roadwork: to fix damage due to increased truck traffic.
The drivers have complained that locals were over-charging them for food and drink while they were stuck.
Your truck
is stuck
and you need to sup...

Sure enough, the price goes up.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Our Man In Kabul

P.J. O'Rourke, our intrepid journalist humorist, spends 72 hours in Afghanistan and returns as an expert.

He interviewed someone who mentioned that suicide bombings are usually in the morning.
“It’s a hot country and the explosive vests are thick and heavy.”

I’d never thought about suicide bombing in terms of comfort.
When your missions not completed,
and you're feeling overheated
you might just start to question
the suicide suggestion.


There was a young man from Peru,
who wrote a 4-line haiku.
His friends said it stunk,
but he said "I thunk
it the generous thing to do."

Blessed Coolness Restored

At about noon a friendly, competent guy from the power company showed up, and quickly fixed our power problem. One of the connections had gone bad somehow where the 2 power lines arrive at the house. He climbed up a ladder, changed the connectors, and we were back in business.

I had figured, all along, that something like that was the problem.

I bet some people would have tried fixing it themselves.

Perhaps I could have restored my own electric service,
but connecting power lines on a ladder makes me nervous.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Commonwealth Edison Exelon Fail Rant

I came home yesterday to a partial electric outage here. It's still like that. The problem is outside the house - with the connection to the electric company, which around here is ComEd, alias Commonwealth Edison, a division of Exelon.

We paid money to an electrician to verify that the problem was outside the house.

My persistent and overheated wife has been calling them since yesterday evening. Every time she checks on the problem status it is listed as due to be fixed within 2 hours. But the target keeps moving away.

Apparently they have a computer program that sets an optimistic goal and just keeps adding 2 hours when the problem is not solved.

Well, it's been adding 2 hours for 28 hours now.

When will it end?
When will they send
someone to mend
my power?

The message says another couple of hours.

Radical Feminism Flashback

Prof. Ann Althouse remembers her law school days:
I remember suggesting to one of the most prominent feminist lawprofs that I thought feminism would be better if it expanded more generally into concern about the burdens of gender roles, which men felt too, in interestingly different ways. Individual freedom for all could be the overarching goal.

The response was not, as I'd naively anticipated at the time, that I had a great idea or that it was at least an intriguing proposal that we could casually converse about for a minute or 2. No, not at all. I mean, I'm still alive. But there was pushback. Swift, sharp snapback. Men get nothing from feminism. They must give ground. Much ground.
Gender Wars!  Smash the Patriarchy!

She also mentions this:
By the way, during the same period, you'd get similar sharp pushback from lefties if you said you thought gay people had the right to marry each other. That was viewed as a conservative position that would undermine the feminist critique of marriage as patriarchy. I also got an instant, angry response from a lefty feminist law professor when I said that the cause of gay rights might be advanced by scientific findings that homosexuality may have a biological cause. Back then, you see, homosexuality was supposed to be a choice, and scientists were condemned even for researching the matter.
For some people, these 2 positions dovetailed nicely. Some argued that being a lesbian was a choice in favor of sisterhood and against the patriarchy!

This did run into practical complications, as mentioned in this article from the GLBTQ encyclopedia:
Conceding that sexual attraction cannot be politically mandated, lesbian feminists emphasized lesbianism as a political choice. "Political lesbians" were not required to have sex with other women, but it was expected that they remain celibate. Influenced by Anne Koedt's political analysis of vaginal versus clitoral orgasms, lesbian feminists urged lesbians to refrain from or at least minimize vaginal (and presumably other types of) penetration, and similar "male-stream" acts, including the consumption of pornography.
In time the scientific consensus shifted
and the pressure to be a "political lesbian" was lifted.

The Joys of Home Ownership

Yes, the joys continue.

Part of our electric is off. Even though the circuit breakers seem okay. Calls have been made.

I think we've lost some of the outside connection. Just a guess. Something like this happened before, maybe 15 years ago, I think. The electric company had to reconnect something.

No biggie, except... the air conditioning is one of the non-working circuits!

I'm spoiled by A/C.
It feels like a "need" to me.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


We had a very spirited discussion at our book study group tonight. We were talking about Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault, by Stephen Hicks, which is now available for free online in pdf form.

I had read it before, and this time I read a couple of chapters twice. It's not hard reading especially, as philosophy books go, but it's compactly argued.

Hicks talks a bit about the "theory laden perception" issue, but doesn't really provide any indication on how this belief might be countered. People expressed an interest in this issue, so next month we are discussing a book which takes this issue on, namely The Slightest Philosophy by Quee Nelson.

Animals perceive.
Do I have to believe
they do it based on theory?

Color me leery.

Do buzzing flies conceive in categories
as they see and pursue their fetid glories?

Bags, Bags, Bags


Bags, bags, bags,
flowing smoothly without snags,
up the bustling belt they slide
all together for a ride
in the belly of the plane
adding to the fearsome strain
on the wings that slice the air
as we pop from here to there.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

At Big Daddy's

We ate tonight at Big Daddy's Barbecue in Acton, Maine. They sell barbecue, and clams, and lobsters too.

They have an "all you can eat lobster special" which has a limit of 6 lobsters.

I watched as my son's girlfriend, a Maine native, tutored him in the fine points of taking a lobster apart with one's bare hands. He then proceeded to work on the "all you can eat" special.

That's a lot of lobsters,
"limit six" - and I quote.

But sure enough they vanished
right down his throat.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

In Brief

Maine is the state with the claim to fame
of having a single-syllable name.

New York could be one-syllable too,
if it would only drop the "New".

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Giving Credit

An ad executive in New York was very trusting, but it all worked out okay. Reminds me of an O. Henry story:
Merrie Harris says she didn't have any cash when Jay Valentine asked for some Monday, so she let him use her American Express platinum card instead.

Friends and bystanders told her she'd never see it again. But Valentine soon returned it after buying deodorant, body wash, cigarettes and water for a total of $25.
Lending the homeless your plastic
seems kind of drastic.

But, credit where credit is due,
the panhandler's word was true.

On The Plane Today

The woman in the window seat
had a "pet bag" by her feet.

It held a very friendly cat,
but I was hoping for a bat.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Imaginary Review

For our book study group, I am re-reading Explaining Postmodernism, by Stephen Hicks, which is now available for free in PDFs on his web page.

It's a dense summary of a strand of intellectual history from Rousseau onward, but I think the book is very handy at explaining the decline of our level of partisan political discourse.

Anyway, I was amusing myself by writing a review of the book - a negative review by an imaginary postmodernist writer. It would start like this:
Isn't explaining intrinsically a form of oppression, a privileging of the speaker's viewpoint over that of the listener's? Shouldn't we accept that postmodernism defies any single explanation - that it demands a diversity of explanations to reflect its nuanced polarities?
Oops, I fear
that's way too clear.


The Blago jury is hung
but apparently not on all counts.

Will he be set free
or flung into dung?

The terrible tension mounts.

Wildflower Haiku

Seeds, blown through the air,
land and splash up grand colors.
Don't dare call them weeds.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Hazardous Gamble

Christina Gamble said she hurt her back waitressing. So she was collecting $360 a week in worker's compensation payments.
But private investigators working for the restaurant's insurance company say they taped her dancing at C.R. Fanny's Gentlemen's Club and Sports Bar later that year.
Now she's charged with fraud and theft. Insurance companies have no sense of humor!

If you want to secretly supplement worker's comp,
don't climb up on stage for a wild romp.

Nap Attack

From Science Daily, 3 years ago: Chronically Sleep Deprived? You Can't Make Up For Lost Sleep

So if you miss one hour, when you're 5 years old, you can never make it up?

From CNN, 5 days ago: ‘Recovery sleep’ can make up for lost ZZZs

Ah, maybe it's not so bad!

I was low on sleep this week. Today I went to the beach, and snoozed for hours. Will it work? I hope so!

Can you really "make up" rest?
I don't know - but I gave it my best!

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Class Action

Airborne pollen is pollution.
Suing Nature is the solution.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Arthropod Acoustics

We sat on the porch at dinner, listening to the insect love song:
If a single male cicada can make a noise over 100 decibels, imagine the noise produced when thousands of cicadas sing together. Males aggregate as they sing, creating a cicada chorus.

The males emit a rhythmic shriek.
The females feel their knees turn weak.


We watched Agora, an indie film that is making the rounds. As the film's Wikipedia entry puts it:
The biopic stars Rachel Weisz as Hypatia, a female mathematician, philosopher and astronomer in 4th century CE Roman Egypt who investigates the flaws of the geocentric Ptolemaic system and the heliocentric model that challenges it. Surrounded by religious turmoil and social unrest, Hypatia struggles to save the knowledge of classical antiquity from destruction.
The film glorifies Hypatia's quest for knowledge, and portrays most of the Alexandrian Christians as ignorant rabble.

I most enjoyed the moment when the Christians accuse Hypatia of not believing in anything.

"I believe in philosophy", she replies.

For me it was a tough story to watch, because I knew what was coming, to the great library at Alexandria, and to her.

Books were burned,
and science spurned.

Those who believed incorrectly
often died directly.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Raise Your Hands In The Air Like You Don't Care

You may remember hearing, from various federal agencies, that no images will be saved from these fancy new "see under your clothes" scanners.

Well, apparently you heard wrong.
Now it turns out that some police agencies are storing the controversial images after all. The U.S. Marshals Service admitted this week that it had surreptitiously saved tens of thousands of images recorded with a millimeter wave system at the security checkpoint of a single Florida courthouse.
Also, TSA has released specs which show that they require scanners to be able to store and transmit images. Like this one:

It's really not
a flattering shot.

I bet that in the coming weeks,
they'll all show up on Wiki-Leaks
with names attached
to every batch.

I'm practicing my denials now:
"That isn't me. No way. No how."

What is an Act?

If you read books about playwriting, you do not encounter any particular obsession about how many "acts" a play should have. Racine wrote plays in 5 acts. Contemporary playwrights tend to write 1-act or 2-act plays.

In contemporary theater usage, you can tell a 1-act from a 2-act by noticing whether there is an intermission. As a matter of fact, for a 90-minute play, one theater may present it as a 1-act, with no breaks, and another theater might present it as a 2-act.

But screenwriting books are obsessed with 3-act structure, which at first seems odd, because movies no longer have intermissions. As it turns out, there's a simple explanation, because when they talk about the 3 acts, they are talking about beginning, middle, and end.

This line of thought has an ancestor:
A whole is that which has a beginning, a middle, and an end. A beginning is that which does not itself follow anything by causal necessity, but after which something naturally is or comes to be. An end, on the contrary, is that which itself naturally follows some other thing, either by necessity, or as a rule, but has nothing following it. A middle is that which follows something as some other thing follows it. A well constructed plot, therefore, must neither begin nor end at haphazard, but conform to these principles.
That's an Attic flashback from Aristotle.

The audience feels more satisfaction when they perceive a "whole action".

With beginning, middle, and end,
you hopefully will not send
the audience home feeling cheated
by a story that wasn't completed.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Dismissal Refused

A federal judge has refused to dismiss Virginia's lawsuit against the new healthcare law. He writes:
While this case raises a host of complex constitutional issues, all seem to distill to the single question of whether or not Congress has the power to regulate — and tax — an individual’s decision not to participate in interstate commerce. Neither the US Supreme Court nor and federal circuit court of appeals has squarely addressed this issue. No reported case from any federal appellate court has extended the Commerce Clause or Tax Clause to include the regulation of a person’s decision not to purchase a product...
Can Congress create a tax to apply
to a person's decision not to buy?

Their power is overgrown.
Like grass, it should be mown.

Aide Exodus

I found this interesting:
The White House on Friday announced the third departure of a high-level aide to first lady Michelle Obama.
They don't say, but I infer, that this is a lot of important people jumping ship in a short period of time. That's reading between the lines, so I could be wrong.

Which leads me to wonder if she's difficult to work for.

People who work for difficult bosses
often decide to cut their losses.

They dump the job with high prestige
that made them feel they were under siege.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Little Brother

More people who love the iPhone:
Law-enforcement experts said iPhone technology records a wealth of information that can be tapped more easily than BlackBerry and Android devices to help police learn where you've been, what you were doing there and whether you've got something to hide.
It sounds like they have to physically get their hands on the phone to peel off the extra juicy data - like photographs you think you deleted and GPS coordinates of where you took them.

If your actions are best left unknown,
you might want to ditch that phone.