Friday, September 30, 2011

In Pieces

Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born al-Qaeda "cleric", has met with some unpleasantness.
"We found his body in pieces," said Abubakr al-Awlaki, a leader of the Awalik tribe, to which Awlaki belongs.
Plotting acts of terror
proved a clerical error.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Faith Non-Healing In This Case

Read a story about some "faith healing" parents who let their home-birthed premature 8-hour old infant die.

Is there something in the Bible where it says medicine is bad?

I have read the New Testament stories of Jesus healing people through the power of faith.

But does He ever say
you need to keep away
from penicillin
when your baby's illin'?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

There Ought To Be A Law

We have another little scandal going in Illinois. This time it's about the law school at the U. of Illinois.
An ongoing internal probe into University of Illinois law school students' test scores and grade-point averages has revealed misreported numbers in four of the last 10 years, according to the university.
‎"Misreported numbers." Nicely phrased.
Funny how so many scores were raised.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Mr. & Mrs. Bennet

Here I am with Yvonne Ambrose, who played Mrs. Bennet in Pride And Prejudice. She is super talented, and was great fun to work with. We had a good time portraying the couple, who spend a lot of time giving each other a hard time, even though they care for each other deeply. In a way, their antagonistic-but-loving relationship prefigures the relationship between Elizabeth and Darcy. I think part of Austen's lasting appeal is her ability to portray romances that involve reconciliation and accomodation without surrender of intelligence or wit.

"A rational creature, speaking the truth from her heart."

It's Elizabeth's line,
but also fits fine,
when speaking of Austen's art.

Monday, September 26, 2011

As It Turns Out

What a surprise.
An explosion of new technologies and treatments for cancer coupled with a rapid rise in cases of the disease worldwide mean cancer care is rapidly becoming unaffordable in many developed countries, oncology experts said on Monday.
They sell government medicine as a way to make sure everyone gets needed treatments. But it soon turns out to be something else.

A lack of care is a dreadful woe
when it's due to a patient lacking dough.

But denial of care is a-okay
when the government can't afford to pay.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Bland Acceptance?

Ann Althouse:
I've never understood why people who don't trust convictions agonize over the death penalty but blandly accept life imprisonment.
I've wondered about this too.

Wrongly depriving an innocent person of liberty may be an underappreciated outrage. The years lost are usually prime years. The person's life is typically devastated.

But I imagine such death-penalty opponents take comfort in the idea that they could partially rectify the injustice.

You can always unlock someone's cell,
but unexecution doesn't work so well.

Saturday, September 24, 2011


Our production of Pride & Prejudice has been going well. Attendance was thin on Thursday, but it was sold out on Friday, and I expect another big crowd tonight. The audience has liked the show, and giving us a fair amount of laughter as we play.

And then I will be done playing Mr. Bennet, a role I have enjoyed a lot. He's ironic, witty, and loves his children. Why wouldn't I like him?

The real drivers of the play are of course the young people. This adaptation sometimes feels like an ensemble piece, but the core remains the story of Elizabeth's romance with Darcy.

This production has a cast of 20 or so and a multitude of entrances and exits. For example, I have something like 20 entrances myself. Anyway, it can get confusing, and last night we had a case of one missed entrance causing another.

Basically, 2 actors weren't on stage who should have been. So they didn't say their lines. The good news was that the missed lines were not critical to developing the story. The bad news was that the next actor to enter didn't hear the lines she was waiting for, so she didn't come in either!

I was sitting on stage, "reading a book", with another daughter "reading a book", and "Elizabeth" standing silently. I realized this couldn't go on, so I said to Elizabeth, something like: "Didn't so-and-so say she was coming in to join us? Could you see where she is?" I spoke with a booming voice.

I think the audience knew what I was doing, because some people laughed; and the missing actress almost immediately appeared, because she heard me and realized she was wanted on stage after all.

A line in a play is like a domino,
carefully set to make the next one go.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Physics News

Ponder the common neutrino,
Which mostly travels unseeno;
Is it faster than light?
Can that really be right?
And what could that possibly meano?

Assessed and Stressed

Here's the lead from a Sun-Times story:
Cook County property tax bills are expected to go out the first week of October, and while Chicago and suburban landowners assume their property values have sunk, it may not translate to lower tax bills.
Expecting lower property taxes just because your property is worth less? How naive! In fact, the school board pushed an increase through.

Your house's value has failed to soar.
In fact, it is feeling depressed,
But somehow this means that you have to pay more!
Who, indeed, would have guessed?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Time to Open

We made it through weeks and weeks of rehearsals,
Now let's open without reversals!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Sprints and Trophies

My trophy finally came
emblazoned with my name.

I do a lot of endurance events. I've run a lot of marathons. I've done 2 Ironman-distance triathlons. But when it comes to competitive standings in a race, I always do better in the shorter distances. My medals for placing are almost always "sprint" races, which often involve a 5k (3.1 mile) run.

I suspect that my muscles lean toward the fast-twitch side,
but I've trained them to go for the slow-twitch ride.

Tempting Fate

The military is highly respected in polls. Congress is despised in polls. This is not a good long term trend.

Countries where these things are true
often prove ripe for a coup.

I don't really think that will happen. But we're doing the wrong things right now. We need to upgrade the quality our national legislature.

We're short on politicians
with some solid long term vision.

Romo Plays Through

Now that's tough:
Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo played through a punctured lung in addition to a fractured rib Sunday, according to's Michael Lombardi.
Surely his praises should be sung
for playing through a punctured lung.

And at the end, we shall ad-lib
something about that fractured rib.

I asked my organs - they all agree,
I shouldn't be as tough as he.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Shower on a Showery Day

We had a baby shower at the house today. Marsha gave it for a friend's daughter who is expecting in October.

I mostly steered clear.

The proud father-to-be attended, but otherwise it was a festival of women.

I hope the new mama got enough stuff!

You need a lot of equipment
to deal with a stork express shipment.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Driving Miss Daisy

I finally read the play Driving Miss Daisy the other day. I still haven't seen the movie.

The play won the Pulitzer, and the movie won Best Picture, but I like waiting at least 10 years before seeing something that won prizes.

I liked it. I practically heard Morgan Freeman's voice for the chauffer's character. He was in the play and the movie, and I can see where the role was perfect for his talents.

Structurally, the play reminded me a bit of Same Time Next Year. We see a relationship blossom across attitude-changing years of the 20th century, and some of the appeal of the story comes from revisiting the history.

Which in turn reminds me of Forrest Gump and the Billy Joel song, We Didn't Start The Fire, which also provide whirlwind history tours.

In a few years will there be a hit play
nostalgically looking back at today?

Friday, September 16, 2011


Grizzlies have killed at least 3 people in the United States this year.

They are an endangered species, according to our law.
But you'll be feeling endangered, when the grizzly lifts its paw.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


When you're sitting at the top,
and it's time for the buck to stop,
don't forget to put the blame
onto someone else's name.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

To Raise A child

It apparently doesn't take a village. An anthropologist reports on her research in an African village:
"There's a naïve belief that villages raise children communally, when in reality children are raised by their own families and their survival depends critically on the survival of their mothers."
When she says "naive" here, I agree, but not in the sense of a natural belief. I think the natural common-sense belief is that it helps a lot to have a living mother. We have a vast store of myths about orphans that make this point, as well.

It's a "naive" belief in the ideological sense - it fits in with the communitarian wish-list for human nature - that life in simple societies was somehow a noncompetitive paradise.

Look closely at "simple societies" in the present,
and learn that our past was often rather unpleasant.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Speaking English

The actress who plays my wife in Pride and Prejudice has a much better English accent than I do. It's unfair. She's from England, and somehow learned her English accent as a child.

The trick to getting us all in sync
is just to imitate her, I think.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Two Majesties

I was at the Milwaukee Art Museum this morning, and I saw this painting, which I don't recall seeing before, but which really struck me: The Two Majesties, by Jean-Léon Gérôme.

The lion contemplates the sun.
His claws rest on the rock.

If you disturb his peace for fun,
prepare to feel a shock.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

What's In A Name?

Alex Tabarrok has found 3 winners of the Nobel prize in economics who have referred to Social Security as a "Ponzi scheme":

Milton Friedman, not too surprising. Paul Samuelson, surprising to me, but he sounds a bit jocular. And Paul Krugman, very surprising to me, who refers to it as having a "Ponzi game aspect."

Tabarrok concludes:

Social Security is not necessarily a Ponzi scheme but it only generated massive returns in the past because of its Ponzi-like aspects. The Ponzi-like aspects are now over and social security is turning into what is essentially a forced savings/welfare program with, as Krugman recognizes, crummy returns for average workers. Social security is thus a Ponzi scheme which has not gone bust but it has gone flat.
The best laid Ponzi schemes
end up as broken dreams.

Friday, September 09, 2011


That year, that night, that September 9th, we went out for dinner to the Rainbow Room, with its lovely view in the midst of the Manhattan skyline.

Then we went to a concert given by the Israel Philharmonic, at Carnegie Hall, as I recall. I remember being quite surprised when everyone stood for some short piece that wasn't on the program. It turned out to be their national anthem. The main piece that night was Brahms' 2nd symphony, the "beautiful dreamer" symphony.

That evening our rings
were strange new things
twirling upon our fingers.

Yes, I know,
it was long ago,
but still that memory lingers.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

The True Crucible: Whether It's Reproducible

You hear a lot about peer-review, as if it were some kind of academic gold standard. Well, how good is it?
The unspoken rule is that at least 50% of the studies published even in top tier academic journals – Science, Nature, Cell, PNAS, etc… – can’t be repeated with the same conclusions by an industrial lab. In particular, key animal models often don’t reproduce.
There's a science-humor magazine: The Journal of Irreproducible Results. It sounds like they should expand, and those other journals should shrink!

If it fails when you redo,
despite past peer review,
it's probably untrue.

Ponzi Dreams

Technically, Social Security is not a Ponzi scheme.


But you can run it a lot cheaper when you have lots of young people coming into the system. The slow-down of American reproductive rates, combined with increasing longevity, do make the current system unsustainable.

I think of it as welfare for the old,
even though that's not how it was sold.

And, as a pure side-rant, contrary to assertions I hear, the boomers are not YET the problem. The first wave of boomer births was in 1946. Those people are first turning 65 this year. For the most part, boomers are still paying in!

Just wait.

The boomer burst is yet to come.
The outlook is worse than glum.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Tech Wreck

The NY Times has an article headlined "in the classroom of the future, stagnant scores".

It's about the current budget-busting trend of throwing technology at failing schools. Turns out it's not actually making a difference.

Reminds me of the old joke, "I have seen the future, and it doesn't work."

If you're clueless and headed for disaster,
a computer can get you there faster!

Monday, September 05, 2011

Giants in the Earth

In the Philippines, villagers captured a one-ton crocodile. The animal destroyed the first traps they set for it. So they set better traps.
The crocodile was placed in a fenced cage in an area where the town plans to build an ecotourism park...
Great pic at the link.

An ecotourism park... there's a lot of them already. They need a gimmick.

Nothing else will do,
but to make it a petting zoo.

Surely tourists will flock
to pet the giant croc.

But tell them not to linger
or they just might lose a finger.

Romantic Realism on Wikipedia

I've taken to editing one Wikipedia article - the one on Romantic Realism. I've done a fair amount of research on the term, and removed the "major problems" with the article. And I've kept fiddling with it as people make changes, or make complaints. There were people proposing the article should be deleted, because Romantic Realism wasn't really a movement, or because it wasn't even a standard term of aesthetic criticism. I did the work of finding the references to prove that it really was a standard of aesthetic criticism, even it it might not be a big "notable" movement.

My most recent research had to do with someone who objected to a statement in the beginning of the article, that romanticism and realism are typically seen as opposed to each other. The objector thought this looked like setting up a straw man, since there were no references to prove that they are typically seen as being polar opposites. It's funny that no one had pointed this out before, maybe it just struck everybody as common sense. But I had piled up so many citations of people who thought romanticism and realism were compatible... that I guessed it was only fair to get some quotations from people who declare them highly incompatible. Curiously enough, the objector even provided me with an author who would be a good candidate for such a quotation, namely Paul Elmer More who I had never heard of. So here are my new footnotes:

  1. ^ Abercrombie, Lascelles (1963) [1926]. Romanticism. New York: Barnes and Noble. p. 61. "For there is an element directly opposed to romanticism : it is realism. The true antithesis, then, is between romanticism and realism."

    • ^ Cowardin Jr., Samuel Pendleton; More, Paul Elmer (1939). The Study of English Literature. New York: Henry Holt and Company. p. 138. "And it follows as a corollary that realism is, on the whole, the opposite of romanticism; for, as we have seen, romanticism is usually bound up with idealism."

      I also softened the claim from "typically seen as opposed" to "often seen as opposed". I wasn't sure how to establish what was the "typical" view. The relationship of Romanticism to Realism is actually a contentious one, among academics - and among non-academics too!

      After a while I expect this article's every clause
      will have its own footnote... just because!

      Unemployed Need Not Apply

      If you're unemployed, this sounds like a terrible Catch-22.
      I recently found an array of online job postings that greet seekers with these encouraging words: "MUST BE CURRENTLY EMPLOYED, NO EXCEPTIONS."
      The article's author goes on to denounce the trend. If I were unemployed, I would no doubt hate the trend, but I do wonder why exactly it's popping up now, especially since you don't see it in normal economic times.

      You do hear, even in good economic times, that it's easier to find a job when you've already got one. That's an interesting phenomenon in itself. And I suspect you can often get a higher salary offer when your new employer feels they have to lure you away from your old employer. But what is going on with "must be currently employed"?

      A number of possibilities get bandied about by pundits: Many of the unemployed don't really want to work. Many of the unemployed have rusting skill sets.

      Of course, this can't be true of ALL the unemployed. But perhaps businesses are using current employment status as a statistical screening technique. Hiring costs time and money. Hiring the wrong person costs even more time and money.

      The question arises: how do unemployment benefits fit into the picture? Are they a vital lifeline to those laid off? Or are they an incentive to not find a new job? Or might they even be both? This last would be my guess, in the sense that such benefits are a help to some, and a hidden trap for others, like so many safety-net programs.

      In practice, the political debate here is how long unemployment benefits should last. One year? Two? Until the economy picks up?

      The other side of providing unemployment benefits is collecting the taxes to pay for them. Those taxes must themselves be a drag on the economy to some extent. And those taxes are applied to wages, so they directly raise the cost of employing people, which presumably motivates business to hire fewer people, at least to some extent.

      Well, it's a fine mess.

      If I become unemployed
      this mess will leave me even more highly annoyed.

      Sunday, September 04, 2011


      As I watched the towers fall, I thought that some Middle Eastern governments were going to pay.

      I guess our score is up to 3 Middle Eastern governments overthrown now. The Taliban in Afghanistan, Saddam Hussein in Iraq, and now Muammar Gaddafi in Lybya. Am I missing anybody? It's getting hard to keep track.

      You can kick that big old dog for a while,
      and you might even think it's worth a smile
      when he lies there and just eyes you with a growl.

      But God help you when he yelps
      and rises to full size
      and pursues you with a most unholy howl.

      Saturday, September 03, 2011


      She said, “I think the psyche is a wasteland.”
      I stared at her in shock, the revelation
      hung over me and left me nearly speechless.
      I saw the sorrows of a thousand souls
      spread out across the landscape of her mind.
      I nodded slowly. “Yes, I understand.”

      But underneath apparent devastation,
      life's hidden force can muster up the feature
      of self-repair, to heal the gaping holes
      with tender growth, until the tourist finds
      no sign of the catastrophe that reigned:
      old battlefields that blossoms have regained.

      Furniture of the Imagination

      I feel our Pride & Prejudice rehearsals are going well. We're doing a recent adaptation by Jon Jory. It's a play with many very rapid scene changes, which onstage consist of the lighting changing and the actors moving furniture around.

      If you are wise
      you memorize
      all the words you speak out there,
      and also where
      you put your chair.

      Friday, September 02, 2011

      Three Women Driven Insane

      I'm too sleepy to do it justice, but Three Women Driven Insane is definitely worth a visit to Dream Theatre. It's 3 short plays by Jeremy Menekseoglu interwoven into one piece, with 3 actresses playing 8 roles. It's very short - it ran a little over half an hour - and cost just 10 dollars.

      It's being put on as a special event of the Chicago Fringe Theatre Festival.

      AnnaLou Weiler Menekseoglu, Annelise Lawson, and Natalie Breitmeyer light up the stage and tear up the minimalist scenery.

      funny in the midst of pain,
      passions fly
      and more than one must die.