Friday, June 29, 2012

Reconstituting the Penalty

So it turns out the individual mandate penalty is actually a tax on not buying something - sort of a non-sales tax.

As the joke goes:

Shopkeeper: Would you like to buy something?

Browser: No thanks. You don't have what I want.

Shopkeeper: That will be 14.95.

I'm not a legal scholar,
but it makes me want to holler.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Deja Vu

Last night in my post I mentioned the Chicago Tribune's infamous "Dewey Defeats Truman" headline.

And today... CNN duplicated that feat, covering themselves in something other than glory.
As Chief Justice John Roberts began reading his decision on the future of President Obama's health care overhaul, the CNN team inside the courtroom jumped the gun, believing that Roberts was saying the individual mandate was unconstitutional and would be overturned.

CNN, it doesn't please me
when you tease me.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Alternate Futures

The Chicago Sun-Times reportedly posted alternate versions of tomorrow's lead story online. That is, they put up their stories for:

1) the health care reform act is completely overturned
2) the health care reform act is partly overturned
3) the health care reform act stands as law

Well, it's not as bad as the time the Chicago Tribune had a paper headline announcing "Dewey Defeats Truman".

There will be joy and sorrow
whatever comes tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


I just spent some time staring at a ceiling fan. If I stared at one spot on the fan, such as the center, I saw a blur of motion. But if I let my eyes wander over the fan, individual blades emerged briefly from the blur, before dissolving back into it.

Out of the blur, a blade
catches my eye,
then merges back in the pack
without a goodbye.

Overwhelmed by speed,
the eye makes do
by catching what it can
as it comes through.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Unwise Rulers

I really feel for this guy:
A University of Illinois math professor who derided states ethics training as childish, “petty tyranny” and “Orwellian” ended his four-year boycott by agreeing to pay a fine and submit to the training, a state ethics panel disclosed Monday.
Unwise rulers? Surely not here in Illinois! Oh, wait...
an ethics program put into place in 2004 by impeached ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich
Maybe the math professor has a point. But the state has kept after him with threats of serious fines, and he is finally caving in.

Well, he tried.

By coincidence, I am reading The Appearance of Impropriety: How the Ethics Wars Have Undermined American Government, Business, and Society, the thesis of which is:

That our tut-tutting society
has become cluttered with rules
which can be useful as devious tools,
but which do little to stop actual impropriety.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Die Zirkusprinzessin

Last night we went with friends to see a production of "The Circus Princess", an operetta by Emmerich Kalman.

It was in an English translation, which still seems to be done with operettas, although it seems to be verboten with operas these days.

I enjoyed it. Charming music, strong voices, and lots of spectacular circus elements. The acting was a bit uneven, but you almost expect that in musical productions, where singing tends to trump acting.

There was a bit of a stage mishap involving accidental broken glass on the floor in the final act. And yes, before it was over, one of the actors had cut himself.

Okay, that's 3 shows I've seen in the past few years where people got cut on stage from dropped glass.

Actors on stage are bundles of nerves
and sometimes can drift toward the spastic.

To deal with their unaccountable swerves
"glass" props should be made of plastic.

This clip, from somewhere else, give an idea of what the music is like:

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Up From The Projects

I just finished "Up From The Projects," by Walter Williams, a prominent black free-market economist. I found it quite charming. It's a short book, told in an apparently simple, just-the-bare-facts sort of style.

Thomas Sowell wrote of the book:
The first chapter, about Walter’s life growing up in the Philadelphia ghetto, was especially fascinating. It brought back a whole different era in black communities — an era that is now almost irretrievably lost, to the great disadvantage of today’s generation growing up in the same neighborhoods where Walter grew up in Philadelphia or where I grew up in Harlem.
The civil rights revolution was helpful in many ways, but Williams points out that it was accompanied by worsening crime problems in black neighborhoods, and a lessening of expectations for black students in schools.

Some policies were built
on feelings of white guilt
without carefully thinking through
what those policies would do.

(Reason interview with Williams about his biography is here.)

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Credit Divide

I read today about the "credit divide" - a situation where people with great credit scores can borrow cheaply, but other people cannot borrow much at all.

A lot of it's an effect of the Lords of Finance doing somewhat contrary things. On the one hand, the Fed has pursued an easy money policy. On the other hand, after the mortgage bubble collapsed, banking regulators have pursued tight lending rules.

It's like putting a humidifier and a dehumidifer together in a room, and letting them fight it out!

If you're credit's great,
don't wait,
borrow today and stimulate
that big sluggish horse
we call Workforce.

He's lumbering slowly along the course.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Real Gains

One other Deirdre McCloskey quote that struck me as worthwhile:
Efficiency is not the chief merit of a market economy: innovation is.
Efficiency may be sufficient to survive,
but innovation makes us thrive.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Bandwagon in Reverse

We went to the Second City comedy club last night. There were political jokes, as always. And they cut deeper into the elephants than the donkeys, as always. But there was vocal pushback from some members of the audience.

One of the performers shot back, "If you're booing now, hold onto your f---ing hats!"

 But in decades of going to Second City, I have never heard Republican pushback before. Never. This is Chicago, of course.

 I took it as a startling sign
that donkey chances are in decline.

Mystery of Grandfather Resolved

That's my mom's dad. My mom's parents split up very early in her life, and contact had been lost. My mother heard that he had remarried and had a couple more children. My mother invited him to her wedding, writing to the the last known address, but never heard back from him.

As we found out much later, her dad was already dead at the time of her wedding. We figured that out from an inquiry to Social Security.

My mom died a few years ago. But recently my brother Mark and his wife and I finally dug up enough information to track down my mother's half-siblings, a brother and a sister, who are still alive.

The internet is a cornucopia of confusing data, but we sifted through it. It didn't help that my grandfather had a fairly common name - Harold Wright.

My brother Bill, who lives in the Bay Area, met the other night with our long lost aunt who lives in the same area. He found her very charming. She provided the photo above, which is the only color photo I've seen of the man. It was taken shortly before his death, at 46, of a heart attack. He was working long days as an executive at a plant where they made aircraft engines during World War II. He came into work, didn't feel well, and died at the office.

I'm sure my mother would have liked to meet
her siblings, so this ending's bittersweet.

The Tricking of America

That hitchhiking writer who got randomly shot, the one ironically writing a book called "The Kindness of America"?

Turns out it wasn't a random shooting at all. It was, as I speculated, a publicity stunt.
Valley County sheriff's officials said they believe 39-year-old Ray Dolin shot himself as a desperate act of self-promotion, but they offered no further details.
You know, it's not really nice to send law enforcement officials on a wild goose chase looking for a fictional assailant.

Next time, find a stunt
that doesn't involve a gun in front
and an exit wound behind.

To yourself, and America, be kind.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Autonomous Autos

When all cars are Google cars, able to drive without human intervention, when the technology is solid, will people stop learning to drive, the way most Americans have stopped learning to drive stick?

Parents won't have to ferry their kids to each and every location.
Instead, just put them in the car and state a destination!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Protective Reaction

There are things that make a man lose his temper:
Residents of the small Texas town of Shiner are standing up for a father who beat another man to death when he allegedly caught him trying to molest his 4-year-old daughter, saying they would have done the same thing to protect their child, reports CBS affiliate KENS.
Of course, I don't know if the story is true.

But you can see where a guy might see red
till the other guy was dead.


There are people who find innocence an offense, and who heap abuse on the innocent in order to disabuse them of the notion that life is fair.

And the innocent march on with hesitant feet,
puzzled by the monsters that they meet.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Life on Mars

On Netflix we watched all the episodes of the American version of Life On Mars, a series about a police detective who gets hit by a car in 2009 and wakes up on the street in 1973. How that could happen is the continuing mystery of the series. I figured it would never get satisfactorily explained, especially with clues that seem to point in different directions, and so I was quite surprised when the final episode actually offered what I felt was a satisfying explanation.

It seemed, at least, preplanned,
Not at the last minute, off hand.

Posted via LiveJournal app for iPhone.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Missed Race Report

Just spent 2 hours looking for a 5k race at Main Park in Mokena, IL. Google actually gave me not one but two bad locations.

The second bad location was a different park, where a local was able to give me good info. Another person there mentioned that others had come before me, looking for Main Park.

Got to Main Park with a little time to spare, but the parking lot was full. Plenty of police, but no sign they knew their lot was full. Was directed to park about a quarter mile away, but by then it was simply too late to make the start.

Mapquest, to its credit, does know the right location.

It turns out that the organizers gave the address as being at 10925 LaPorte Rd. Google needs the address to be La Porte Rd. Otherwise Google sends you to Francis Rd.


If you give LaPorte to Google without the space
it turns out you're in danger of missing the race.

Friday, June 08, 2012

The Shaw-Rostand Connection

I found out today, by reading some of his letters, that George Bernard Shaw liked the plays of Edmond Rostand. I had no idea.

Apparently Shaw had a good understanding of French, although he didn't like to speak it with Parisians, which is perfectly understandable, since they pretend not to understand you unless you speak it perfectly. As Mark Twain had it:
In Paris they just simply opened their eyes and stared when we spoke to them in French! We never did succeed in making those idiots understand their own language.
I have seen the Shaw and Rostand opposed to one another, and with good reason:
In an age when Bernard Shaw was writing cynical tracts like Man and Superman, Rostand revels in romanticism:
I sing, dream, laugh, and go where I please, alone and free. My eyes see clearly and my voice is strong. I'm quarrelsome or benign as it suits my pleasure, always ready to fight a duel or write a poem at the drop of a hat.
What was the connection? My take is that Shaw was not really a cynic, more of a disappointed idealist, and he shared with Rostand a hatred of hypocrisy and a love of the authentic.

Rostand was far more lyrical,
but both were sharply satirical.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Lope de Vega

Lope de Vega was a Spanish contemporary of Shakespeare's.

Reportedly he was on one of the ships of the ill-fated Armada that sailed to attack England.
His reputation in the world of Spanish literature is second only to that of Cervantes, while the sheer volume of his literary output is unequalled, making him one of the most prolific authors in the history of literature.
That "sheer volume" includes about 1800 plays, typically in verse.
Many of his works are lost, possibly as many as 1,000 to 1,300 of them.
Talk about prolific. But how many are available in English? Not as many as I would like. I'm thinking I could find online Spanish texts and feed them through translation software. But feeding golden age Spanish verse through a translation program gives you stuff like this:
As scene opens: Cyrus and Mithridates, the two in habit of villains.

Take away I have the life.

Take, father, the Cudgel ;
that I suffer, raised,
but I can fall.
And my own Spanish, at its very best,
is not up to the test.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Bumper Crop


We have some cherry trees in our front yard, that Marsha planted years ago. In recent years we've had a problem with the cherries getting moldy or blighted before they were ripe. Marsha blamed wet weather.

But this year the weather has cooperated and we have so many cherries we are having trouble picking them all. Well, some are simply too high to pick. But we've had local children over to pick for their own families.

You can see a small sample above.

Luscious, sweet,
and too many to eat!

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Never Mind

Apparently the exit polls in Wisconsin predicted a tight race and a long night.

But the actual polls were a Walker landslide.

Put not your faith in exit polls.
Their scientific method must contain some gaping holes.

Monday, June 04, 2012

Another Goodbye

Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago has moved to a new building. Which turns out to be hard on the hearts of some grieving family members whose deceased children were treated there, lived there, died there. So the hospital staff set up a farewell ceremony for the building itself.
To cushion the psychic blow of the old building’s loss, the hospital staff organized a “closing reception for bereaved families” on Sunday afternoon on the rooftop of the parking deck overlooking the hospital.
We did not go. The building didn't inspire that depth of feeling in us. But I understand how it happens.

All that emotion
of love and devotion
can fasten on a place
that calls to mind the face
of the one
who is gone.

Tall Tale Fail

My new random hypothesis about Elizabeth Warren is that she started off by telling gullible Easterners tall tales - the way Westerners sometimes do - just to amuse herself.


Probably she had a bunch of Massachusetts people believing in jackalopes (pictured above), and she just kept going with this wacky stuff about "pow wow chow" with Grey Poupon, and her parents having to elope because her mother was 1/16th Native American, and the latest story about her grandma driving a wagon in a land rush.

Maybe instead of "she misspoke"
it's just that she was telling a joke.

Surely the voters will be good eggs
once she admits she's been pulling their legs.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Habit Hiatus

In January, our local park district indoor pool tends to close for cleaning. Typically for a month. I never seem to know about it in advance. This year I showed up one day and there was the sign, so I drove back home.

But once I get out of the habit of going, I never seem to go back to swimming until summer is here and triathlon season looms.

Yes, I went swimming today. Outdoors.

I really shouldn't let a one month closing
make my swimming habit start decomposing.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Prom Night

He had a busy night:
A West Side man has been charged for allegedly hijacking a sports-utility vehicle at gun-point before he went to prom with his girlfriend.
The girlfriend called to complain to police that her prom was ruined.

Why rent a limo
when you can jack a car?

But if you're caught
your prom will turn subpar.

Choosing When To Live

I was reminded today of a quotation I love:
Anyone who fights for the future, lives in it today.
It's a statement of great rhetorical flourish, which actually invites some analysis, because of course it can't be literally true. You can't really live in the future.

Yet we speak constantly of choosing to live in the time of our choice. We are told not to live in the past. We are told, very often lately, to live fully in the present.

What people are talking about is where our mental focus is, where our minds dwell.

I think of us as living in a wildly elastic present. Our minds are built to grasp vast epochs of time. This is not a gift that we should turn away from as a matter of policy. Living only in the moment, if understood literally as not looking ahead or behind, is a recipe for short sighted disaster and a strange obliviousness about the course of one's life.

I am reminded of some haunting words from Into The Woods:
Oh. if life were made of moments,
Even now and then a bad one-!
But if life were only moments,
Then you'd never know you had one.
We are possessed of both memory and vision, and the one supplies the other with the raw materials for bettering our existence.

You have to breathe now
but it's up to you how
your mind leaps about
as it works your life out.