Sunday, July 29, 2012

Graphic Failure

Here's a light-bulb-with-caduceus graphic, from a Chicago Tribune article. The opinion-piece, by an "ethicist," argues that tech innovation will thrive under the new health care reform law.
Getting efficient about handling records, data, imaging, biomonitoring and sharing information is a key goal of reform.
Yes, they need more info about your health on federal computers. And it's going to work well! After all, it's a "key goal".

(I will say nothing about how well federal programs generally meet their announced "key goals".)

Anyway, what interests me is the graphic. Why does an article about federally-induced tech innovation feature an old-fashioned incandescent light bulb? Shouldn't it feature a federally-mandated twisty fluorescent?


These pricey bulbs, although
mandated from above,
have failed to earn the glow
of consumer love.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

South Shore Tri

I did Chicago's South Shore Triathlon this morning.

Last time I swam without a wetsuit. This time I wore won. My swim was faster this year - by about two minutes.

But my transition from swimming to biking was slower this year - by about two minutes.

The trouble with wetsuits in triathlon is - the time you spend getting OUT of them counts against  you.

The advantage gained
was not retained.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Polling the Disturbance in the Force

So now everybody's polling the "didn't build it" thing:
Republicans are doing their own voter surveys, and they note that Mr. Obama's problem is that his words cause an emotional response, and that they disturb voters in nearly every demographic.
"Nearly" every. Well, clearly some demographic likes it! Progressive intellectuals, I suppose.

The clip, even the long version, sounds too much like a person who is begrudging the success of others. That makes Americans uneasy. They sense there's a sort of sin involved in assaulting simple success.

Envy eats at the soul.
Don't let it gobble you whole.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Why Did The Mantis Cross The Sidewalk


I'm not sure why he was crossing the sidewalk, but he was, which is why I was able to see him. In the grass he would have been invisible to me.

I knelt low to take this photo, so low that a lady driving by stopped to ask me if I was okay!

Why did he venture across the gray
open expanse of concrete?

Was he going to church to pray,
or looking for something to eat?

Time and Time Again

Finished reading Alan Ayckbourn's comedy, "Time and Time Again". As usual with his plays, I thoroughly enjoyed the reading, but felt dissatisfied with the end. There's laughter in the chase and a bitter aftertaste.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

In Context

Context doesn't always soften
an ugly quotation.

it makes the reputation
of the speaker
even weaker.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Monday, July 23, 2012

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Got Bot?

If a robot kiss
would fill you with bliss,
perhaps you should hurry and order this:



Saw Marat/Sade tonight, in its spectacular Right Brain Project production. I had never seen or read it before and was surprised by what a philosophical play it is. Ah - the French. They do like plays with some abstract argumentation! It's also a lively and very theatrical script, and this was a very well done production.

I also had no idea how musical a play it is.

It was closing night - and sold out - but I went anyway and they had a few cancellations so I was able to get a seat.

Lucky me,
I got to see.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Real Dirt

Some spoilsport scientist is debunking my favorite rule of low cuisine: the "5-second rule".

This rule states that food dropped to the ground is still safe to eat if you can pick it up within 5 seconds.
“A dropped item is immediately contaminated and can’t really be sanitized,” says Jorge Parada, MD, MPH, FACP, FIDSA, medical director of the infection prevention and control program at Loyola University Health System. “When it comes to folklore, the ‘five-second rule’ should be replaced with ‘when in doubt, throw it out’.”
What I like about this guy is that his new rule, 'when in doubt, throw it out,' rhymes.

But here's one point I wish to insert -
every carrot was once in the dirt.

But about that dirt we don't care at all,
even though it's a place where bacteria crawl.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

You People

Today at work someone was cluck-clucking about Ann Romney reportedly saying "you people..."

I asked who she had said it to. It sounded like she had said it to reporters. If so, I though, this didn't amount to much. Reporters aren't an oppressed group that people feel sorry for.

Since then, I'd heard she was answering a black reporter, which would raise the question of whether she meant "you reporter people" or "you African American people".

But, now it seems she didn't even say the offending phrase.

I'm still not sure why "you people" sounds so bad. If you said "you human beings" it wouldn't sound nearly so awful, would it?

It's a case of misquotation
with unfortunate connotation.

For the Birds

Some crows spilled some flour,

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Races Enumerated let me know recently that it had found 100 races I'd run. It's an online web service that robo-searches through "race results" web sites and ties the results back to individuals.

Because it's a program, it does make some mistakes. Sometimes it double-counts a single race. Other times it mixes me up with a different John Enright, who's a couple of years younger than me, but who lives in the greater metro area. So once every couple of years I go in and clean up their data.

So, instead of them having 100 of my races, it was more like 91.

But... their data for me only goes back to 1996, and they don't catch every race.

I do have every race I've run. In a text file. Very old school. It's not set up for easy counting, but I just counted. Races completed: 206.

I had no idea and I'm kind of shocked. Granted, that goes back 25 years.

I'm thinking of all the entry fees
I've paid to go pounding the road with my knees,
and all the rubber soles
I've scuffed away in pursuit of my goals.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Somebody Else

Over at Taranto's "best of the web" on the Wall St. Journal site:
Barack Obama really does seem like an Ayn Rand villain at times.
He's referring to this bit of brilliance:
If you've got a business--you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen.
Right, there are no individual contributions. There's no such thing as earned success.

Don't bother working hard.
For no matter what you do,
he's ready to play the card:
"Somebody Else" helped too!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Today At Calumet Park Beach

I saw a couple married on the sand.
It was a public beach, the children played,
the lifeguards rowed. I lounged and read my book.
They stood in white and joined their lives together.

When it was done, the two walked hand in hand
toward the water, for a calf-deep wade,
then kissed, and turned, and waved and threw a look
back to their friends, and up to sunny weather.

Perhaps The Police Could Teach The Proper Technique

In Stockholm, Sweden, police arrested a bunch of middle school kids for pot smoking, but none of them tested positive for drugs in their bloodstream, so they were all set free again.
Widell of the police also had a theory as to why none of the students tested positive for marijuana.

"Kids at this age don’t inhale the smoke properly. That’s one explanation why they didn’t test positive,” he said.
I know there's a Bill Clinton joke in here somewhere!

When kids don't inhale
marijuana smoke,
police raids fail
and look like a joke.

Third in Chinatown

I see that I took third place in my age group yesterday in the Chinatown 5k. There were only 8 in my age group.

They did not hand out age group medals. So I'm glad I didn't hang around afterward! I mean, I thought I had a chance. It was a smallish race. And it seemed to have drawn lots of young people, not lots of old people.

Age group medals are kind of a funny thing. It's not quite "everybody wins!", but it's a step in that direction.

In that little 8 person race,
I took third place.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Strong Will

I'm reading What I Talk About When I Talk About Running: A Memoir, by Haruki Murakami.

It's odd, but I'm ripping through it.

It was a Christmas gift from my brother Bill, and for some reason I picked it up. I'm a terrible person to buy books for. I like to read, but I tend to read what I feel like reading next, usually on some exploratory agenda of my own.

He's telling the story while training for a marathon in his late fifties. Which, I will note in passing, is my current situation.

I was amused by this:
When I tell people I run every day, some are quite impressed. "You must have a strong will," they sometimes tell me.
He then makes the point that he likes running, so whether he has a strong will or not, he runs because it suits him.

But later in the book he quotes from an article about his first marathon run, which was a solo run from Athens to Marathon, in summer heat:
At around twenty-three miles I start to hate everything. Enough already! My energy has scraped bottom, and I don't want to run anymore. I feel like I'm driving a car on empty.
I've totally forgotten how to move my body. All my muscles feel like they've been shaved away with a rusty plane.
He finished anyway. He says that he almost always feels that way at mile 23. Which I think settles the question of whether he has a strong will.

Pushing through that much pain and fatigue
puts him in the "strong-willed" league.

Capitalism and Romance

Troy Camplin linked to a Cato piece that asked a strange question:
Was Ayn Rand right that romanticism is the proper literary reflection of capitalism?
It's a strange question, at least to me, because I don't recall her putting the issue that way. She did think something along those lines:
Romanticism is a product of the nineteenth century—a (largely subconscious) result of two great influences: Aristotelianism, which liberated man by validating the power of his mind—and capitalism, which gave man's mind the freedom to translate ideas into practice (the second of these influences was itself the result of the first),
William H. Patterson Jr., the author of the Cato piece, comes to his question from a different direction:
I like to work by referring questions to the nature of the genre.
He then shifts to discussing the romance, as a genre, describing it as story of "personal status lost and then restored". Which is all very well, but not what Rand had in mind exactly.

His piece is an interesting meditation on genre and narrative arc,
but he and Rand, terminologically, are ships that pass in the dark.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

In Love With Friedrich Hayek

There once was a woman named Moe...

Well, it's short for Maureen, I believe, a common enough shortening, except usually it's rendered as : "Mo".

Anyway, this woman named Moe wrote a hit-piece on against a young woman, a college student named Dorian.

Unfortunately for rhyming purposes, Dorian doesn't seem to have a one syllable nickname.

If Maureen goes by Mo,
shouldn't Dorian go by Do?
But... no.

The reason for Moe's wrath? Dorian did a couple of light-hearted market-themed music videos, including this one: "I'm in Love with Friedrich Hayek".

Which is loads of nerdy fun, in my opinion.

I thought this was the funniest part of the song:
Come to my couch, on which you can rest
I'll make tea, we'll talk credit and interest
Then I can talk about my interest in you
Of course we'll talk 'bout the economy, too

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Too Early To Tell

They're not sure yet, but it's a great headline:
Illinois inmates may be receiving illegal unemployment benefits
State begins cross-checking records, finds 420 suspicious cases
I guess Illinois isn't actually mailing any unemployment checks to prison addresses.

But someone on the outside might collect
and fraudulently cash an inmate's check.

Monday, July 09, 2012

State Secret

In Jacksonville, Florida, a drug-resistant form of TB first spread through their homeless population, and then branched out into the general citizenry. But authorities didn't want to tell people.
“What you don’t want is for anyone to have another reason why people should turn their backs on the homeless,” said Charles Griggs, the public information officer for the Duval County Health Department.
When the homeless cough and hack,
I admit I turn my back.

The key problem is that TB takes a while to treat.

Some wanderer doesn't stay on their meds.
Soon it spreads.

So how is that working out?
In 2012, the CDC was invited to help with a sudden spike in cases of the same rare strain the schizophrenic patient had. What they found is the worst outbreak they have investigated in 20 years, and it is not contained.
Not contained. Great.

Don't tell anyone, but the homeless sector
can be an illness vector.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Depression as Disability

I recently spoke with an acquaintance, a very experienced psychologist, who said she had heard that depression is increasingly being used as a justification for getting on permanent disability benefits. What bothered her about this trend is that she sees depression as highly treatable, by multiple methods. With treatment, she said, it should rarely be a permanent condition.

Her suspicion was that the system is being gamed.

Would people on a benefits quest
simply pretend to be depressed?

UPDATE - click below for detailed description of how depression is evaluated by the Social Security Administration:
Depression is a common allegation on Social Security and Supplemental Security Income disability claims. Sometimes depression is found to be disabling, and sometimes it isn’t. It all depends on the severity of the depression. Here is a description at what the Social Security Administration looks at when evaluating the severity of depression to determine eligibility for Social Security disability benefits.

Charlie's Paradox

"Money isn't the important thing--as long as you have a bunch of it."

Of course, the thing about money is that it enables the acquisition of so many other things. After all, money evolves first as a solution to the problem of arranging complex barter arrangements.

Barter remains. It does not vanish completely.

Friendship, from an economic point of view, is kind of like barter. You don't pay your friends money to be your friends. But you exchange values, enjoyments, and kindnesses.

If you have a punning sort of mind,
you might call friendship "payment in kind".

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Unemployment and Disability

Distressing headline from the Daily Mail:
85,000 Americans went on disability benefit in June (while only 80,000 jobs were added in same period)
And it's not a one-month fluke. As Investor's Business Daily reports, it's a trend:
While the economy has created 2.6 million jobs since June 2009, fully 3.1 million workers signed up for disability benefits.
I suppose some of this is our aging population. The baby boom is in the red zone for disability claims - old, but not old enough for Medicare and Social Security based on age alone.

But a lot of it is the unemployment situation. People can't find a job they want to do, or possibly any job at all. Their unemployment benefits run out. And if they have a condition that might qualify, they go through the hassle of applying for disability benefits. They wouldn't have done that if they had a job, or unemployment insurance, but... they don't.

I've known "disabled" people who could, in fact, have been doing productive work. Not all, but definitely some.

It's a bad trend.
When will it end?

Friday, July 06, 2012

Hack and Stretch

As Mary Catelli writies:
A story has a natural length, and hacking or stretching it past those limits distorts it -- not to its benefit.
They are very well paid for their trouble, but I do feel bad sometimes for writers who work on TV shows.

Their stories have to work out nicely
while fitting in a time slot precisely.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Hot Spell Going Well?

Back in 1995, Chicago had a streak of very hot weather around the start of July, and a bunch of people died from the heat, quite of a few of them old people who died in their apartments.

In the typical case, the person had no a/c, and had sealed up their windows, and had stayed in their apartment, perhaps because they lived in tough neighborhoods.

Well, we're having a record hot spell this year, but so far I haven't heard of a high number of such heat deaths. I know programs were put in place to try to prevent this from happening - including programs where neighbors check on old people in their neighborhoods on hot days. Also, "cooling centers" were designated and announced - you know, public places with air conditioning.

I'm hoping this July
fewer die.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Batty for the Fourth

While the fireworks were booming,
we watched a bat zooming.

For a drink it went skimming
a pool meant for swimming.

Monday, July 02, 2012

The Library At Alexandria

I visited the Library at Alexandria today.

Alexandria, Virginia, that is. Nice little library, but their a/c wasn't working properly.

Tonight I'm back in the City of Wind,
wishing someone would rescind
this massive wave of sweltering heat.

Please, Mr. Summer, sound the retreat!

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Switcheroo Report

CBS reports our chief justice switched his vote on the health care mandate. And they suggest he caved in the face of pressure from opinionated opponents:
Some even suggested that if Roberts struck down the mandate, it would prove he had been deceitful during his confirmation hearings, when he explained a philosophy of judicial restraint.

It was around this time that it also became clear to the conservative justices that Roberts was, as one put it, "wobbly," the sources said.
Of course, this leak just makes him look deceitful in a different way.

Of course, we don't know how true this version of the story is. How could we? Even if he did change his vote, it's hard be sure exactly why he did from the facts provided.

I continue to be grimly puzzled by the fact that the Congress cannot regulate inactivity, but can tax it.

I search the constitution
in vain for a solution.

WF in DC

Showed the video of my play, Wild Flowers, to an audience here at the Atlas Summit conference in DC. Enjoyed sharing it with friends, and watching it again myself.

I miss the cast.
We had a blast
Helping that play
Find its way.