Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Yoga and Sex Scandals

William J. Broad, who has a new book out about yoga, has an eye-catching article today in the NY Times:
Yoga and Sex Scandals: No Surprise Here
The springboard is a current scandal involving some big-time yoga teacher named John Friend, who seems to have gotten too friendly with female acolytes.

Broad explains all this by making the extraordinary claim that yoga "began as a sex cult", which seems to be an over-reaching stretch of the truth.

Broad fans the flames
with wild claims
which may work as hooks
to sell books.


I loathe having a cold.
At least it seems controlled.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Devilish Children

That's the video of Devilish Children, by Jeremy Menekseoglu, as put on by Dream Theatre, back in November 2010. it runs just over an hour.

Toward the end, the very end, never fear,
I appear.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Modern Ethics and Gleick

Scientific American has an opinion piece online which they have titled: "Should Global-Warming Activists Lie to Defend Their Cause?"

The author, a teacher of humanities, brings the ethical philosophies of Kant and Mill to bear on the Gleick/Heartland incident, and comes to this nuanced position:
Even if Gleick’s lie was morally right, it was strategically wrong.
When first he lied,
he was justified,
but he hadn't of ought,
once he got caught.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Bus Stop

I just read Bus Stop by William Inge. I haven't seen the film, which starred Marilyn Monroe, but while I was reading the play I kept hearing her voice in the role of Cherie.

I see where the British paper, the Guardian, recently said this about the play:
There is something beguiling about this forlorn slice of Americana, which meditates on the distances between towns and the distances between people, like an Edward Hopper painting with dialogue.
It's one of those stories where people are thrown together, locked in because of a blizzard.

With a pleasant sense of expedience,
the playwright throws in ingredients
and cranks the heat up so
that something has to blow.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Yoga and the Soviets

Reportedly the Soviets were down on Yoga. They were materialists, and saw Yoga as mystical.
in 1981, a law was passed forbidding citizens to practice Hatha Yoga, play bridge, or study karate; and as late as 1986, a Soviet citizen was imprisoned for three years for teaching Yoga.
But apparently in contemporary Russia yoga is a popular pursuit.

Communists tended
to go ballistic
on things that trended
toward the mystic.


I was thinking today about the 2 times I did not finish races.

In both cases,
I was having a bad run,
taking a beating,
hurting or overheating,
and then before I was done,
the course ran by the finish line.

Maybe I could have gone longer
but the temptation to stop was stronger.

Rather than blame myself, I'm blaming the course design.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Hinduism and the Nazis

There's a new German book out, Yoga in National Socialism, a history of the Yoga/Nazi connection, such as it is. Great creepy cover here:

The author has actually published other books on yoga, and on no other topic that I've spotted.

Nonetheless, the Daily Mail, a Brit tabloid, refers to him as "a German historian":
A German historian has discovered how the SS in Nazi Germany recommended its members - including death camp guards - practice yoga to enrich their 'mind, bodies and spirits.'
From what I've read in the past, the death camp guards tended to get drunk a lot, trying to escape their own horrific guilt. But it's quite possible someone in the chain of command tried to get them to do yoga.

You can see where yoga might appeal to intellectual Nazis on a theoretical level - the Nazis were health nuts, and showed some interest in Indian mysticism. The swastika was adapted from a Hindu design. The term "Aryan" comes from the Sanskrit word for "noble". And Himmler, head of the S.S., was apparently a big fan of a certain Hindu scripture:
Although the Nazi leader was not known to practice the physical exercises associated with yoga, he was fascinated with the Bhagavad Gita, the 700-verse Hindu scripture that outlines the principles of yoga and karma, and had a German translation of the Sanskrit original always at his side.
The Gita is about a warrior who doesn't want to fight. He wishes everyone well. A god, Krishna, comes to him and explains it's his duty to fight, because he was born into the warrior caste - even if it means killing some relatives.

You could see where a Nazi could try to take solace in such a sermon. "I'm not a murderer! I was just doing my duty!" Of course, the worst Nazi atrocities had nothing to do with taking up arms on the battlefield. They were concerned with mass slaughter of unarmed civilians.

But that was one way he tried
to justify genocide.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Alter Ego

I wonder how this will fly in front of a judge:
He claims to have split personalities and says he did not realize he had held up the China King until he read about it in the newspaper.
It wasn't me, Dr. Jekyll.
It was my friend, Mr. Hyde.

Sometimes it's hard to shackle
the beast that lurks inside.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Jobless Become Disabled

For some reason, if you're out of work long enough, the odds go up that you will apply for Social Security Disability Insurance.
“It could be because their health really is getting worse from the stress of being out of work,” says Matthew Rutledge, a research economist at Boston College. “Or it could just be desperation — people trying to make ends meet when other safety nets just aren’t there."
More than 5% of working age adults are now collecting disability income checks.

A fair chunk of people say they're disabled due to mental illness.

Once you're on the disabled rolls, besides getting income, you can apply for Medicaid. It's not great health insurance, but it's something.

Once you're on the disabled rolls, you tend to stay there. After all, you're not getting any younger!

Sometimes the safety net is a trap.
You burrow down through all the red tape,
Until you are warm in the government's lap,
And you never escape.

Here a Consultant, There a Consultant

It's legal in Chicago to own a chicken. I've seen a couple in my neighborhood, as a matter of fact.

But I don't have one of my own, so I had never contemplated the question of what do you do if an egg gets stuck inside a hen? How do you help the hen?

Heck, I didn't even know an egg COULD get stuck in a hen.

Well, now I know who to call. It turns out our metropolitan area has a part-time chicken consultant.
For most visits, such as healthy hen checkups, new babies consultations and overall coop assessments, Murtoff charges $60.
Her blog is here. And here's a pic from her blog.

All I know about laying eggs
is that they come out near the legs.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Births, Marital and Non

The New York Times has gotten around to covering the story that Charles Murray's new book made popular:
After steadily rising for five decades, the share of children born to unmarried women has crossed a threshold: more than half of births to American women under 30 occur outside marriage.
The NYT article mentions something I had missed before.
Almost all of the rise in nonmarital births has occurred among couples living together.
So these are not what I usually think of as "single" mothers. They are mothers in pair-bondings that are (statistically) even more tenuous than the average American marriage! Nonetheless, at least when the child arrives, there's a dad on the scene.

It's almost like common law marriage. But the participants don't consider themselves married.

So when they break up, of course,
there's no need to file for divorce.

But still they're likely to end up in court
if only to settle on child support.

Devil May Care

Saw "Devil May Care", by Kendall Sherwood, put on by the Wishbone Theatre Collective.
Devil May Care combines the unlikely topics of gasoline, a gun and religion, with the result being a dark, and twisted drama.
I found it rather harrowing.

A man and a woman encounter each other in an otherwise empty church - in the dead of night. They've both got a lot on their minds, heavy burdens that they're desperate to be rid of.

John Mark Sawyer and Denise Smolarek are both excellent in their roles. He plays a Baptist preacher, and she plays a woman with a badly damaged soul who seems lost in despair.

It's a journey through hell,
done very well.

Thursday, February 16, 2012


Saw part one of Peter Pan's Shadow again. Noticed internally-recurring themes more this time.

As sun and moon go round and round,
your shadow shifts along the ground.

Where light is not, the shadow's found.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


Illinois wants to crackdown on Medicaid fraud, by making sure people really live in Illinois, and making sure they're poor enough to qualify, but there's a problem: the Feds won't let us.
The Department of Health and Human Services argues that those enforcement efforts could violate the 2010 health care reform law, which forbids states from making Medicaid eligibility standards more restrictive.
I continue to be in awe
at what is in this law.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Patient Satisfaction

Here's an interesting (but not yet reproduced) result:
A UC-Davis study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine on Monday found that the most-satisfied patients are more likely to be hospitalized, have higher health care costs and are more likely to die than less-satisfied patients. The study is believed to be the first to warn that focusing on patient satisfaction could have unexpected adverse effects.
Why were the ones who were satisfied
more likely to be the ones that died?

Were there doctors giving them whatever they asked for, whether it was good for them or not?

Some things you can ask a doctor to do
may not be good for you.

I imagine Michael Jackson
had high patient satisfaction.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Birth Control Economics

I'm hearing arguments that the "free" birth control mandate will "pay for itself" because birth control is cheaper than abortion or birth, at least as far as medical expenses are concerned.

But do private health plan administrators believe this? If they thought they could "save money" by dispensing birth control at no charge, wouldn't they already be doing this?

To actually save money, this mandate would have to prevent a substantial numbers of births or abortions that would have occurred otherwise. Do you think that will happen?

Of course, I also expect to see
arguments that we need to have free
treatments for infertility.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Population Economics

The U.S. has been (barely) maintaining its population, with a higher rate of reproduction than Canada or Western Europe. But, why? Here's a theory that's new to me:
... an important new study by economists Moshe Hazan and Hosny Zoabi has found that the real reason for larger families is the unusually large supply of low-cost babysitters and child-care workers in the U.S. – mainly due to immigration, much of it “illegal,” from Latin America.
I'm not sure why the "illegal" is in quotes. Are those scare quotes? Or just "we don't know any other way to say this" quotes? It's from a Canadian paper, so maybe they're just trying to be polite.

Opt for low-skilled immigration
to build our population!

Saturday, February 11, 2012


Whitney Houston, after a long spiral down, has died. It's sad what happened. She had a great voice.

Crashed too young.
Songs unsung.

The Doyle And Debbie Show

We went to see the Doyle & Debbie Show which has been getting rave reviews here, and turned out to be very funny.
Doyle Mayfield, an old-guard country star with a handful of hits back in the 70s and 80s, is reviving his career thirty years, four wives, and three Debbies later. The new Debbie, a single mother with three children, sees this lovable lothario as her last chance to make it big in Nashville – but she also questions hitching her star to this loose cannon.
The songs are original parodies of different genres of country songs. The songs are musically lively, and the performers have real singing talent, so you find yourself enjoying the music while cracking up over the lyrics. Song titles include "For The Children", "Barefoot And Pregnant", and "I Ain't No Homo (But Man You Sure Look Good To Me)". The parody material runs a bit toward older styles of country music, rather than contemporary, and the crowd at the show last night had a lot of people who looked like they were in their 40s and 50s.

Bruce Arnston, who plays Doyle, wrote the songs and put the show together. The show played in Nashville for 5 years, and then came 450 miles north to Chicago, where it has been extended at least once so far.

It's a bit like Spinal Tap,
but on a Tennessee map.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Gastro Bistro

The lady at the cute little French restaurant told us this is always a quiet week for her business.

But V-day is coming
and hearts will be strumming 
and cute little places
will flood with young faces.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Natural Kinds... More Thoughts

Philosophers use "natural kinds" in a special way.
Scientific disciplines divide the particulars they study into kinds and theorize about those kinds. To say that a kind is natural is to say that it corresponds to a grouping or ordering that does not depend on humans.
An interesting question is: What if a grouping depends on dogs, rather than humans? Specifically, we now know that animals, although unable to study or theorize, do categorize, or group like things together.

So, supposing my dog has a wordless category, which we would call "raccoon". His grouping the masked beings together doesn't depend on humans.

It nonetheless remains true that '"raccoon", considered from the evolutionary viewpoint, is a blurry category. They are evolved from something else.

Of course, dog cognition
may not provide
the very best guide
to species definition.

Natural Kinds and Genetic Lines

Will Wilkinson writes:
You are not an instance of a natural kind. You are a member of a genetic line. You have no essence.
He asserts
till it hurts.

To back it up, he links to a paper in which the author, near the end, says:
In fact I think that the species category may very well be a natural kind and that part of its essence is variability.
So the cite
doesn't quite
his attack.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

History in the Taking

A noted historian has filed a guilty plea - for stealing valuable documents.
Barry Landau of New York City admitted to taking documents from the Maryland Historical Society and conspiring with his assistant to steal and sell more documents from that institution and others in the Northeast.
Apparently he had been thieving for a long time. He was finally caught at the Maryland Historical Society.

A sharp-eyed worker made the collar
of this trusted but busted scholar.

Monday, February 06, 2012

Material Support

Normally Chicago cabbies just terrorize you with their driving.

But Raja Lahrasib Khan took it to the next level.
A Pakistani-born Chicago taxi driver has pleaded guilty to attempting to provide material support to al-Qaida as part of a plea deal hammered out recently with prosecutors.
Best to hold off on helping buddies
who are enrolled in Terrorist Studies.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Superbowl Roman Numerals

I will admit I'm not a big football fan, but it was a good game. We hosted a small family party.

My father and I got to talking about how the Romans *pronounced* their numerals. I mean, when they looked at something like XLVI, how did they say it?

XLVI is 46. It turns out that they had words for 40 and 6 , namely "quadraginta" and "sex", and from this page it looks like they said 46 simply as "quadraginta sex".

But if you read on you will see that when it came to 48, they said,"duodequinquaginta", which is literally "two from fifty".

Pity the Romans, who had to make do
with a pair of i's as a symbol for two.

If I were a Roman, I would feel glum
whenever I had to add up a sum.

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Politics by Photo Puzzle

Tyler Cowen asks how we know - just from looking at this photo - whether this woman's politics lean left or right. Click on it to make it bigger if you want.

Actually, he specified which one we know. And he has links to her blog and twitter accounts to verify. (See item 3 here.)

A lot of his commenters focus on her clothing and her hair. A couple go for her ethnicity, which didn't occur to me. Some are interested in her age in combination with the other factors, such as her weight. A few are concerned with expression, which is what I naturally took an interest in.

I have the pre-existing idea that people of different American locales and worldviews *present* themselves differently - have different characteristic facial expressions. These are maddeningly hard to nail down. But actors often adopt different facial expressions for different characters they play.

So, how does she look to you -
red or blue?

Push Ups

It sounds scripted to me, but the First Lady and Ellen DeGeneres engaged in a push up contest on the Ellen show. DeGeneres made it just past 15. The First Lady did 25. When I first heard she hit 25, I wondered exactly what kind of push ups they were doing. Because there are lots of kinds.

You can see their push ups here.

DeGeneres goes deeper on her push ups than the First Lady. And neither of them does a push up that gets down to the ground, the way this guy does:

I just completed one thousand or so.
Of course, I started three years ago.

Design Fail

Look at the yellow spot on the cow's shoulder. Do you see the outline of a porky creature?

Major fail -
letting prisoners draw
a decal
for the forces of the law.

Friday, February 03, 2012

Peter Pan's Shadow: Neverland

Part One of Jeremy Menekseoglu's Peter Pan trilogy opened tonight at Dream Theatre. It is a remarkable play, a dark-tinged prequel to the Peter Pan we know.

There are no wires hoisting people into the air. You have to imagine the flying. But the show is a delight for the senses, featuring wild costumes, beautiful art, and a very effective sound design that leans toward classical music.

The performances were creative and crisp. For whatever reason, the one that struck me the most, or perhaps tugged at my heart the most, was Annelise Lawson's Tinker Bell. She agonizingly waits for Peter to grow up, just a little, so that he can finally appreciate her love for him. But, of course, Peter doesn't want to grow  up.

Mishelle Apalategui was a fine Peter. I found myself forgetting that she's really a female. Avery Ferguson was riotous as a crocodile, and strangely perfect as a dog. Jeremy Menekseoglu brought winsome charm to the murderous Captain Hook. Chad Sheveland was precise and hilarious as Hook's Number Two, Smee. Rachel Martindale was eerily controlled as a woman who feels her sanity slipping away over the disappearance of a child. Lana Smithner made a very convincing Wendy.

Finally, Anna Menekseoglu played The Shadow, a complicated role with a lot of acting challenges built into it. She made it look easy, with a trance-like absorption and an elegance of movement. Watching her in this role is like watching some mysterious dance unfold.

Out of the embers, reborn,
she undulates, dark and forlorn.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

More DOJ Trouble Reported

The Daily Caller has what sounds like a hot scoop, but they're not naming their source, who is supposed to be an official inside the Department of Justice.
at least two DOJ prosecutors accepted cash bribes from allegedly corrupt finance executives
The source alleges that Attorney General Eric Holder knows about it, but has been keeping a lid on it for political reasons.

I find it hard to believe, for a couple of reasons.

1) Federal prosecutors rarely get in that particular kind of trouble.

2) Holder would have to be nuts to try to keep this quiet. The longer you hold this sort of thing, the stinkier it gets - and the closer to election time it gets.

So I basically doubt
this will shake out.