Friday, August 31, 2012

Labor Day Traffic

August comes to a screeching halt,
and bumps right into September.

This accident must be somebody's fault,
but I'm too dazed to remember.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

How Smart Are They?

Yes, from the people who provide the power which makes this post possible:
ComEd confirms smart meters involved in 'small fires'
Small fires. Teeny tiny.
No need to worry or get all whiny.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Time For A Donut?

According to the NY Times, another alleged key to longevity has proven unsuccessful at unlocking that door.

They thought a good way to stay non-dead
was to stay underfed.

But, no:
...the bottom line was that the monkeys that ate less did not live any longer than those that ate normally.
You cannot live forever
by eating minimal food,
what's more, the whole endeavor
may keep you in a bad mood.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

By Their Bites Shall Ye Know Them

Flea bites in the house!

I applied a fresh dose of topical bug killer to the dog. He's supposed to get it once every 30 days. I gave it to him 1 day early.

Of course, I'm blaming the cats.

if you please,
before dawn!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Denali and Denial

On Friday a grizzly killed a backpacker in Denali National Park in Alaska. It's reported to be the first "fatal mauling" since 1917.

Note: not the first mauling, just the first fatal one.

I wondered whether the backpacker was entitled to carry a gun for defense against predators. It looks like the current answer from the park service is a qualified yes - but:
Contrary to the belief of some, firearms are not needed for protection from bears, and studies have shown that pepper spray may actually be more effective in preventing a bear attack than firearms.
Note the "may". A study that shows something "may actually" be the case... is a study that hasn't decided the question.

So how did the park service handle this man-killing grizzly?
The bear suspected of attacking the man ...was shot on Saturday afternoon from a helicopter, Denali park Superintendent Paul Anderson said.
I don't suppose that was pepper spray they were shooting from the copter.

If they get sufficiently nervous,
even the peaceful park service
uses bullets of lead
to get the bear dead.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Second Chance

Last year I did the Fleet Feet Super Sprint Triathlon, and I did it this morning too.

Last year my time was 51:19. I came in 11 out of 25 men aged 50-59.

This year my time was 51:33. I came in 2 out of 9 men aged 60-69.

My speed stayed the same but because of the way age is reckoned,
this year I came in 2nd.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Reading of Amleth, Princess of Denmark

Play to be mounted in February. Video has sketches from the costume designer, and the voice of Amleth speaking words, words, words.

Saw the staged reading tonight, and, yes -
I predict a big success.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Trial of the Haymarket Anarchists

I've started reading TheTrial of the Haymarket Anarchists: Terrorism and Justice in the Gilded Age, by Timothy Messer-Kruse.

In case you missed it in history class, the Haymarket Affair involved some socialist-anarchists who were tried and hanged for an 1886 incident, during which a bomb tossed with deadly effect at a bunch of policemen.

It happened right here in Chicago.

The standard story is those convicted were framed by authorities looking to crush the radical labor movement.

But the author, a professor of history, revisited the original source documents - which had recently been digitized, but had remained unstudied by scholars. He says he found the standard story was wrong, and that there was much of evidence of guilt.

In his introduction, the author explains how he got interested in the case:
Ten years ago, while I was teaching a labor history course, one of my students raised her hand and asked, "Professor, if it is true, what it says in our textbook, that there was 'no evidence whatsoever connecting them withthe bombing,' then what did they talk about in the courtroom for six weeks?" I had no answer for her because I had never though of the question this way.
Six weeks would be a long sprawl
for a trial with no evidence at all.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Makes Me Feel Sane

This is her 4th attempt:
American Diana Nyad endured several jellyfish stings as the 62-year-old endurance athlete sought to become the first person to swim unaided from Cuba to Florida without a wetsuit or a shark cage.
That's 103 miles, or 166 kilometers, of swimming.

Swimming for days, in light and in dark,
hoping she won't get bit by a shark.

Masculinity and Femininity

At our discussion group last night, we were talking about what masculinity and femininity mean, and how you might define them.

I had done a 20 mile run earlier in the day, and was probably not at my sharpest.

My own line of thinking is that male and female traits are deeply rooted in biological differences, hormonally actuated to a large extent, and that the differences are complicated, as biological things often are.

I suppose we could pause and look at the varying shades of meanings of masculinity, maleness, manliness, virility, and so forth. I have the sense that masculinity is used more for the psychological side of human maleness, at least in everyday speech.

I think you have to start with something like these wikipedia definitions, which are amusingly non-parallel:
Masculinity is possessing qualities or characteristics considered typical of or appropriate to a man.
Femininity (also called womanliness or womanhood) is a set of attributes, behaviors, and roles generally associated with girls and women.
There are clusters of traits
of various weights
which tend
to trend
by sex.

But the way they play out is complex.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Scary Women

Putin fears the women of Pussy Riot.
He hopes that locking them will keep things quiet.

I think this will backfire. I think that by locking them up, he will make them more powerful than he can possibly imagine.

For the Riot's part in this all-too-serious game,
I'd put them into the Rock and Roll hall of fame.

Thursday, August 16, 2012


Good news for the defendants:
Two suburban Chicago parents accused of binding and blindfolding two of their children in a Wal-Mart parking lot in Kansas will stand trial separately on felony child abuse and other charges, a Douglas County judge ruled Thursday.
I figure it's good news for them because in separate trials each can blame the other for the bad treatment of the children.

I wonder if their attorneys will try to make it a freedom of religion case:
At a preliminary hearing this week, investigators said Adolfo Gomez told them he had been listening to an online preacher who was predicting the end of the world and that a “darkness had come over” their house in Northlake, Ill.
One of the defense attorneys said the unusual child-rearing practice was intended as protection from demons.

As far as I can tell from the story, the children weren't physically hurt, so I do wonder about the fairness of "felony child abuse" charges in this case. On the other hand, these people do sound like they've lost touch with everyday reality.

I have a spell,
that works very well
at keeping demons away.

"Demons begone!
Get off of my lawn!"
I've barely seen any today.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Running Out Of Other People's Money

Why must pyramid schemes,
with payouts of my dreams,
face the wrath
of basic math?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Assaulting My Ancestry


Researcher is determined to undermine the pride that I feel deep inside:
Study casts doubt on human-Neanderthal interbreeding theory

Cambridge scientists claim DNA overlap between Neanderthals and modern humans is a remnant of a common ancestor
I'm a Neanderthal-hybrid-hyphenated-American, and don't you forget it!

Sometimes I crave
to crawl in a cave
and scrawl on the wall.

Isn't that proof, after all?

Monday, August 13, 2012

Summers Traveled

Sixty summers traveled
round the golden sun,
thread not yet unraveled,
story not yet done.

When and where the ending,
that is known by none,
so I'll go on wending
while my decades run.

Sunday, August 12, 2012


We saw Vortex, the play that made Noel Coward famous. It does swirl rapidly with his witty dialog, but at its core it's a serious play, listing to the drama side of "comedy-drama".

Witty is how it starts off appearing
but then it goes veering
into the searing.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Reading Mary Shelley's book

The monster, in Frankenstein,
was ugly and less than benign.

His genius creator
figured out, somewhat later,
the need for more careful design.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Words Words Words

Major media figure says sorry:
Time magazine and CNN suspended Fareed Zakaria, the writer and television host, on Friday after he apologized for plagiarizing sections of his column on gun control in the Aug. 20 issue of Time.
If you need to cut and paste,
paraphrase so it can't be traced!

Apparently he did paraphrase somewhat, but not enough. Some paragraphs were still recognizable borrowings. Uncredited, of course.

I do think the "cut and paste" feature is partly responsible for all these famous writers getting caught. Writers paste in a paragraph they like - with the intention of rewording it. But, they're in a hurry, they lose track of which parts they reworded, and they let it slip through in recognizable form.

In the old days, when we worked on typewriters, there was no cut and paste. You looked at the original author's prose, and you paraphrased on the fly. That was safer. His exact words never made it into your document.

I think Word needs a "paste reworded" option.

Students doing papers would find it invaluable.

My friend William Dale tells me that Twitter is abuzz with reports that an assistant of Zakaria is the one who really made the mistake, and that Zakaria failed to catch it.

But... if my assistant is careful, and makes sure to write original prose, and then I put MY name on it... is that okay? Well it's ghostwriting, not plagiarism.

But it's still a bit misleading
as to whose prose you are reading.

"This is a certified all-original post."
Signed - My Ghost.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Cougar Alert

People are sighting cougars again in Illinois.
A Glencoe public safety officer spotted a "large cat-type animal resembling a cougar" on July 26 crossing a street near the intersection of Dell Place and Lakeside Terrace, just off the Lake Michigan shoreline, according to a police alert.
Of course, a few years ago, police shot a cougar dead in a Chicago alley.

I find this trend worrisome.

I'm not talking 'bout women
who want to go swimmin'
with men of the younger variety.

I'm talking 'bout creatures
with incisive features
who do not mix well with society.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Joy of Sects

There's a crazy Russian variety of Islam, called Fayzarahmanism, which would be an excellent Scrabble word except I'm not sure it would fit on the board.

It was started by a guy who declared his house to be its own Islamic state, and moved all his followers into bunkers under his house!
Members of a Russian sect found living in an underground bunker with some 20 children, many of whom have never seen the sun, have been charged with child abuse.
On the bright side, all these children were protected from skin cancer!

On the dark side,
their world has been narrow, not wide.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Readiness Potential

I always think there's something funny about neuroscientists trying to decide a question like "is there such a thing as conscious free will". They can't account, really, for consciousness itself, at least not yet, so how far can they get with "conscious free will". But back in the 80's a guy named Libet did some interesting experiments.

He gave people some decisions to make, and asked people to record the time when they decided them. He showed that there was a blip in the brain 550 milliseconds before a person was aware of deciding.

So he figured that blip, er, signal, was the real decision, occurring in some non-conscious way, and that the conscious mind became aware of the decision a teeny bit later and took credit for it.

This sort of fits the Freudian model. The id decides, the ego makes  up a reason for the id's dark doings.

But now... some other people ran some new experiments, which question whether that initial blip is really a secret decision or just the brain gearing up to decide.
"We argue that what looks like a pre-conscious decision process may not in fact reflect a decision at all. It only looks that way because of the nature of spontaneous brain activity."
There's many a slip
and maybe a blip
twixt the cup and the lip.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Rumor Mongering

A certain politician spread an evidence-free rumor that a presidential candidate had paid no income tax during certain years.

Now, in retaliation, people on the web are purposely spreading a baseless rumor about the first politician.

It's poetic justice for the liar,
but situations can turn dire
when fire is fought with fire.

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Long Run

Did a long run today in hot weather (90s F). I took in a lot of fluid while running, or so I thought.

My route is designed to visit a lot of water fountains in public parks. And i also made 3 convenience store purchases along the way - 2 Gatorades and 1 Mountain Dew.

Still, when I was done running, I was 3 pounds lighter than when I got up in the morning. That's 3 pints of water missing from my body.

Sometimes your pores are pumping water out faster than your gut can take it in.

When your sweat is dripping,
keep sipping.

World Record

I just watched Missy Franklin break the world record for the women's 200 meter backstroke.

As swimming records go, she smashed it by more than half a second.

She's 17.

These people live strange lives. At 17, how many hours has she logged in pools, swimming lap after lap? Compared to most folks, Olympians exhibit a level of focus that looks like monomania.

You see the focus in her face,
the drive that brought her to this place,
to share this strange amazing grace.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

The Appearance Of Impropriety

Finished reading The Appearance of Impropriety: How the Ethics Wars Have Undermined American Government, Business, and Society, by Peter W. Morgan and Glenn Reynolds.

The thesis, in brief, is that the Watergate era spawned a lot of formal ethical claptrap, the announced purpose of which was to remove "even the appearance of impropriety," but the actual result of which was a fog of ethical confusion. People get prosecuted for mere appearances despite having done nothing really wrong, and other people commit gross ethical violations while hiding behind the fact that they followed the official ethical check list.

Beware of confusingly detailed ethical rules
designed to play the innocent for fools.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Chick-Fil Full

I'm fine with the formal hitching of gay folk, but I'm amused by the chicken backlash.

It was a mistake, I believe, for politicians to threaten a sandwich chain's owner for believing what Obama said he believed four years ago. The Chicago stores were reportedly quite busy today. Apparently free speech remains a local value.

Somehow there was no similar boycott drama
four years ago about the beliefs of Obama.