Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Romney in Florida

Romney appears to have won big in Florida.

Glenn Reynolds yesterday speculated on whether Romney was electable:
Well, the theory is that (1) He’s not Obama; and (2) He’s not scary.
I think it's a plausible theory.
I think the voters are weary
of economic drift
and are hoping for a lift.

Will they see Romney as capable of providing that lift? I don't know.

How much better for the economy
would Romney be?

Monday, January 30, 2012


You think, and you think, and you wait, and it hurts,
And then it pops up on your plate like dessert.


Rewriting is a curse
But it keeps my stuff from coming out much worse.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Shakespeare and Prokokiev

Saw Romeo & Juliet last night. The ballet, not the play, as produced by the State Ballet Theatre of Russia.

Here's a version that I think looks better than what we saw, in case you want a general idea of the music. The choreography is quite a bit different, however:

That's Nureyev and Fonteyn doing the balcony scene.

Here's the big Knight's Dance scene from a Paris production:

In the program notes, they mentioned that Prokokiev had a lot of trouble with the fact that the dying don't dance. I suppose it's even worse than the opera problem that the dying don't sing.

Even in film today,
the dying often say
their last words with perfect clarity
which in real life is surely a rarity.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Bitter Over Twitter

Funny the way they stepped in this just after the SOPA dust-up:
Twitter, a tool of choice for dissidents and activists around the world, found itself the target of global outrage Friday after unveiling plans to allow country-specific censorship of tweets that might break local laws.
Of course, it's not easy being a freedom-loving company that operates in a lot of freedom-hating countries. You get caught in the crossfire between the people, who want to be able to speak, and the censors, who want to be able to silence the speakers.

Now the people are threatening Twitter boycotts.

If you're a Twitter exec, one of the things that can keep you up at night is the ability of your customer base to desert you at any time. Competing platforms exist. Everyone uses Twitter partly because that's what everybody uses. It's popular partly because it's popular. 

That sort of thing can change overnight.
That sort of thought gives the bosses a fright.

Thursday, January 26, 2012


Tonight we saw Courtney Arnett's very enjoyable one-woman show, 86'd.

It's a scripted show about life as a restaurant server, and it is by turns funny and touching. The show features some great original songs. Arnett plays multiple characters, and is very funny. Tonight's crowd loved the show, as did I.

It plays on Thursdays only, through February 9th. Admission is free, but donations are accepted and go to MD Anderson Cancer Center in honor of James W. Arnett. BYOB.

Courtney played our server
with uproarious fervor.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


I know two actresses, both recent transplants to Chicago, who now have jobs at Groupon. These young women don't know each other. And they don't work in the same part of the company.

I don't know whether Groupon somehow favors actresses, or whether it's just that it's one of the few companies here that's actually expanding a lot lately.

It's nice to see a company do
well in the midst of this muddle-through.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Snowy Owl Release

There's some neat video here of a female snowy owl being released in the woods, after "rehabilitation". She had been hit by an SUV, suffered a broken clavicle, and got wedged in the vehicle's grill. But the vets put her on the mend, and now she's free again.

With apologies to the late Amy Winehouse...

They made the owl go to rehab,
she said: Who? Who? Who?
Yes she was sick,
but now she is quick,
and she flew, flew, flew.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Dowd Tries To Help

Maureen Dowd tries to make sense of it all:
The Obamas, especially Michelle, have radiated the sense that Americans do not appreciate what they sacrifice by living in a gilded cage.
It's not that she wants the Obamas replaced by the Gringriches or the Romneys. But she sees trouble on the electoral horizon, and is offering bracing advice: nobody likes whiners.

Well, with one exception. On Saturday Night Live in the 80s, Doug and Wendy Whiner were pretty popular:

If you're so bright,
just let it shine.
It doesn't play right
to win and then whine.


Romney played it safe and boring.
Gingrich raced up and caught him snoring.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Email Emotional Fail

Newly appreciated old truth:
Without the benefit of paralinguistic cues such as gesture, emphasis, and intonation, it can be difficult to convey emotion and tone over electronic mail (e-mail)
This is not specific to e-mail!

It has to do with the written word, which is not heard. This problem goes back to the invention of writing, And a great deal of what careful writers do is work to bridge that gap, to cultivate a "voice" so that the reader can fill in the emotional intention.
Because e-mail communicators “hear” a statement differently depending on whether they intend to be, say, sarcastic or funny, it can be difficult to appreciate that their electronic audience may not.
Again, an old literary problem.

Which parts of Plato are meant as moral tonic,
and which parts are totally ironic?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Charles Blakeley, Inventor

Here's something that surprised me. It looks like one of my great-grandfathers was an inventor.

The patent is for some kind of improved way to make a socket for an incandescent bulb, applied for by Charles Bakeley of Covington, Kentucky in 1903.

Name's right. Name's rare. Town's right. Date's about right. I think it's the right guy.

I knew all 3 of this man's daughters - my grandmother and 2 great aunts. None of them ever told me he invented anything. Maybe they didn't know. They probably weren't born yet. And probably he never made any money from it. Most patented inventions don't make money. Most never go into production at all.

Finding a patent
for an incandescent socket
for me is like finding
a long lost locket.


Not too far from here, in Hammond, Indiana, a Rottweiler recently found a missing woman's bones on the site of a demolished bait shop. The owner of the store next door was letting his dog sniff the ruins:
"I noticed he had something in his mouth. It turned out to be hand with a ring on the finger".
He let the dog sniff around some more, and soon it came up with a skull as well.

They have identified the victim, who went missing in 1999, Francine Carlson:

It's a dreadful cold case,
and I look at her face,
and hope the killer can be trailed
and nailed.

Google This

4.5 million people signed the Anti-Sopa petition at Google today. That was something new.

That's a huge number.
The kind that disturbs congressional slumber.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


Saw a documentary at the theater tonight: Ayn Rand & the Prophecy of Atlas Shrugged. It's professionally done, but I'm sure I wasn't the target audience. I'm too familiar with most of this material. What made it worth watching for me was the interview segment with Al Ruddy, the producer of The Godfather, who explains how he blew his chance to do the movie version of Atlas back in the seventies. (He didn't want to give her final script approval. She insisted upon it. Stalemate. But the details are colorful, and Ruddy is a character.)

I'm not sure why it's being screened tonight and January 26th at selected theaters. I mean, it was shown at a single theater in the entire Chicagoland area tonight - and that showing was in the far South Suburbs. Well, I'm sure it's part of some master marketing plan.

One central thesis of the film is that Americans in the booming 1950's were not in a position to grasp the predictive power of Atlas. Things needed to get a lot worse - and the government's handling of the fiscal crisis reminded a lot of people of the novel's events - thus reawakening interest in the book's warnings of what could go wrong.

It was hard to grasp during the 50s boom,
but easier now midst signs of fiscal doom.

Monday, January 16, 2012


I had an interesting but perplexing conversation with a man who is a fan of Gurdjieff. Unfortunately, the theory behind it couldn't quite gel in my mind.

Maybe that's not my fault. I came across this in Wikipedia:
Gurdjieff deliberately tried to increase the effort needed to read and understand the book. As a result the book is perhaps not the best introduction to Gurdjieff's ideas since part of the book's intention is to frustrate and usurp the normal patterns of thought.
I suspect this is not a unique approach. It reminds me of the "break you down to build you up" method of military training.

If understanding is truly sought
then clarity and logic ought
to be the natural aim of thought.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Night of January 14th

My friends Arena Mueller and Walter Foddis exchanged vows yesterday evening. It was a very intimate ceremony held at a national landmark - one of the top floors of Frank Lloyd Wright's tallest tower, in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. For a Wright fan, like me, who had never visited the building before, it was quite the destination wedding.

Arena and Walter actually met at a get-together my wife had organized. It was just our usually discussion club, but they both happened to attend that night. Walter was visiting from Canada!

My wife said last night that she had not been involved in matchmaking, but that she had been very glad when they ended up together, since she thinks so highly of both of them, and since they seemed so suited to each other.

Attendees were asked to make their own declarations, whether spontaneous heartfelt words, or prepared comments. Poems were specifically invited, so I wrote one, which I quoted from this morning on this blog. Arena's sister, Rachael, also wrote her own poem, which I liked a lot, and another relative read a poem as well.

They modeled their wedding ceremony after the Quaker practice in which a couple would declare that they were marrying, and witnesses would sign a document certifying the marriage.

I signed on the line.
The honor was mine.
May their love and joy continue to shine.

From a Wedding Poem

Life is a treat
That tastes better when shared,
And happiness comes
To those who have dared
To pursue without rest,
Through every test,
The one they love best.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

In the Air

Seemed extra vigilant today.
Is this about the Iranian scientist who met his doom
When his car went boom?

Thursday, January 12, 2012


We called her Juliette because we got her, as a puppy, from a farm outside Verona, Illinois. I know, obscure joke, but the play Romeo & Juliet is set in Verona, Italy.

She lived into her dog nineties, 13 plus in human years, but a serious illness finally caught up with her. We had to put her down a few days ago.

Juliette was a friendly girl
unless you happened to be a squirrel.

Snow at Last

We've got a decent snowstorm going. But just decent. Four to six inches expected. Blustery winds.

I am stunned by the media hype this snowstorm got. People at work were joking about the hype, saying things like: "Hey, it's snowing outside - I've never seen that before!"

We've had a warm winter so far, with very slight snowfall, but this is normal. It made me wonder whether our weather announcers are recent imports from Miami, Florida.

This storm
is not warm
but it's well within norm.


I hesitate to mention D.C. Unmasked & Undressed: A Memoir, for fear of giving it undue publicity, but I saw it at the library today on the New Books shelf.

It was written by a woman who puts herself forward as Clarence Thomas's girlfriend from a long time ago - from before he was married - and it's really big in the Too Much Information department, including a description of his man parts.

The author is a former federal administrative judge, and the book is a sort of sexual tell-all, about herself and her friends and their strangely boring (at least to me) escapades. I found the passages I read to be flatly undramatic and lacking in the ring of truth, mostly because she didn't seem to make the characters come alive.

The book doesn't seem to have gotten any traction,
despite chronicling a fair amount of "action".

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

At the Symphony

Heard "Harold in Italy"
Played very prettily.

Monday, January 09, 2012


One of the odd features of the War on Terror has been the sending of money to local police forces where there seemed to be no particular terror threat.

Of course, maybe it worked - and that's why there has been so little terror in small towns across America.

We've had a few serious threats here in Cook County, but we've also wasted 45 million dollars in surveillance equipment:
The report states that current county officials said "it appears highly unlikely that the installed equipment could be used effectively in an emergency situation." The county now is trying to salvage and reuse what it can to improve countywide security.
If you're worried about the Big Brother state,
rejoice that their competence isn't so great.

Sunday, January 08, 2012


Enthalpy is my word of the day - the word I had to look up.
Enthalpy is a measure of the total energy of a thermodynamic system.
Chemists use this word all the time apparently. And I have known some chemists! Why didn't they tell me?

The word dates back to 1909.
The word enthalpy is based on the Greek word enthalpos (ἔνθαλπος), which means to put heat into.
And the word gets used a lot in discussions of heating up chemicals.

This is to be sung to the tune of McCartney's "Ebony and Ivory":

Entropy and enthalpy
are both thermodynamic properties
having something to do with energy
in chemistry.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Random Randian References

Peggy Noonan gets alliterative in praise of Rick Santorum:
He is a Catholic who sees society not as an agglomeration of random Randian individualists but as part of a community, part of a whole.

It's a strangely structured thought. Drop out the part about Randians, and you get:

He is a Catholic who sees society... as part of a community, part of a whole.

That actually does not make sense. Society is part of a community?

Her underlying notion, of course, is that we are individual parts of a whole - that we are cells in the Communal Wholeness. I'm not sure whether "society" in this case is global, national, or the Great Chain Of Being itself.

What first caught my eye was that "agglomeration of random" part, because Rand certainly saw society as neither random nor as an agglomeration. She recognized that cohesive forces are at work in human social life. She thought it was important to be able to defy those cohesive forces on occasion, because sometimes those cohesive forces are taking you in a disastrous direction.

I also wondered about the focus on his Catholicism. I'm not at all sure that Catholicism is really all that associated with the Organic Wholeness of Humanity idea. Catholicism, like most forms of Christianity, takes the individual soul very seriously, but also makes much of family and community in their various forms. Noonan is Catholic, so she may be suggesting that Protestants tend to be more individualistic in their theology than Catholics are.

You might say we're part
of the great web of life,
but somehow the parts
are often in strife.

Friday, January 06, 2012

In The Next Room

Just finished reading In The Next Room (or The Vibrator Play) by Sara Ruhl.

I've read a couple of other plays by Ruhl, and admired her gift for creating interesting situations and meaning-laden dialogue, but this is the first time I really liked an ending in one of her plays.

As Wikipedia dryly describes the play:
It concerns the early history of the vibrator, when doctors used it as a clinical device to bring women to orgasm as treatment for "hysteria." Other themes include Victorian ignorance of female sexual desire, motherhood and breastfeeding, and jealousy.
The play might be regarded as R-rated by many, but I would say that Ruhl works hard to avoid being too "sexy" in a modern way, despite the subject matter. She keeps the primary focus on the characters' thought and emotions as they struggle to understand the situation they have stumbled into. She maintains a brisk pace and a lightly ironic air throughout the play. The language of the play sounds charmingly antiquated, but never interferes with understanding.

I took my time getting around to reading this play, because I was worried it would disappoint.

But in my judgment it does
live up to its buzz.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

The Key

So, say the prosecutors have your encrypted laptop, which is loaded with data that may tend to incriminate you. Can you be compelled to tell the prosecutors the password?

You might think that telling them the password is like testifying against yourself. If it's enough like that, in the U.S., the 5th amendment applies, and you don't need to tell them.

Or you might think that telling them the password is like surrendering a physical key which you have in your possession. If it's enough like that, legal precedent says you have to give it up.

Now it's a hot legal case, in Denver.

Your very best bet
may be to forget.

What is Green

Green can be so ill-defined, especially when specific proposals carry trade-offs:
Feds propose allowing wind-farm developer to kill golden eagles
You see, windmills kill birds, including eagles. And the Feds want to let this windfarm kill 3 golden eagles every 5 years.

I actually am just waiting to hear that windmills damage the planet by sucking kinetic energy out of the atmosphere. Just wait. The effect will be small, but cumulative, and ultimately disastrous!

Someone will declare
that windmills stop the air
from moving as it should
to keep the weather good.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012


To heck with Iowa. Let's focus on something important:
Cat survives 2 euthanasia attempts at Utah shelter
Feline uses 2 of 9,
feels fine.

Monday, January 02, 2012

Lucid Dreaming

Had a dream I was playing Hamlet, but hadn't learned my lines,
so I was faking iambic pentameter with whatever came to mind.

True story. Usually I don't recall my dreams, but I slept late this morning, which I think makes for lighter sleep and a greater likelihood of recalling them.

There are people who work on experiencing lucid dreaming, which is a dream where you know you are dreaming, and where you may even begin to exert conscious control over the dream.

I've occasionally experienced that sense of knowing I'm in a dream - often it's a nightmare, where I'm struggling to wake up. But I've never really cultivated my potential lucid dreaming abilities.

One thing would-be lucid-dreamers do, is develop the habit, when awake, of checking whether they are dreaming. For example:
When you are dreaming you cannot read text for longer than a few seconds, so try reading text to prove to yourself you are not dreaming.

This again will carry over into your dreaming world and you will start asking the same questions in your dreams which can turn into a lucid dream.
On the other hand, I've heard that constantly checking "Am I dreaming?" can sometimes lead to an unhelpful inner sense of distance from reality.

When a car is coming at you
is not the time to doubt
whether you are in a dream
or out.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

New Year's Hamster

An artistic friend put this new creature together. Thank you, Anna!

A hopeful little hamster,
with butterfly ambition,
grows a set of wings,
and starts his own transition.