Thursday, October 31, 2013

On The Loose


These dogs were loose in the neighborhood today. Apparently they were spotted as early as 3am. Various people were freaking out about them because they're pit bulls. (American Staffordshire Terriers, actually, I think.) But Marsha said they were very nice dogs. For their own protection, Marsha brought them into our yard, and started calling around to see if anyone knew who they belonged to. They were hungry, like they hadn't eaten for a while.

Eventually, a police officer came for them. He was taking them to a nice no-kill shelter. Hopefully they'll scan them, to see if they have microchips. My daughter mentioned to him that they had collars, but no tags. "You know what that means," he said. Actually, we don't, but it makes me wonder if they were purposely abandoned.

I was tempted to think about adoption,
but right now it's not an option.


There's a riddle going around Facebook, and the gimmick is that if you cannot answer correctly you put a giraffe photo for your profile photo. The riddle's pretty easy, as riddles go. But I hear there are a lot of giraffe photos showing.

Chatting with a friend, I happened to remember an old riddle that impressed me as a child.

You are standing on planet Earth. You walk a mile north. You walk a mile west. You walk a mile south. You are right back where you started. Where is that?

The description may sound queer
but there is such a spot on the sphere.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Early Jail Bird

Odd timing:

"Former Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. is now in custody in federal prison in North Carolina Tuesday morning after some initial confusion on Monday when he tried to turn himself in but couldn’t."

He went to prison early, and they told him his room wasn't ready yet. Made him come back the next day, which was still reportedly a few days early.

The judge said no earlier than November.
That sounds easy enough to remember.

Was he just trying to avoid the press,
Or was waiting around causing too much stress?

Investigation and Explanation

NBC has investigated and learned that millions of people will not be able to keep their health plans. Despite the prez saying over and over again that "you will be able to keep your health plan".

And it turns out the prez has known this for some time.

This is easily explained. When he said "you will be able to keep your health plan," he wasn't talking to everybody. He was talking to certain people only.

When he said "you"
his statement was true
for those he was actually speaking to
however few.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

That Word Again

There's that word again:

"Company hosting Obamacare data has technical glitch: U.S. official"

Always with the "glitch" stuff. You know, that's not actually a technical term. At least in the article it mentions "lost connectivity" and "networking component failure". That sounds like something an actual technician might say.

By the way, it's some branch of Verizon, called Terremark, that's having the trouble.

Wasn't Verizon being called in to fix everything? Why, yes!

Fetch some potent elixir
to fix the system's fixer!

Friday, October 25, 2013


I've been amused by the way politicians posture as providers of technical services, promising Government 2.0 and whatever, trying to make their promises sound as shiny as an iPhone, promising "smart" this and "e" that.

This was part of the promise of ObamaCare. Virgina Postrel says it well:

"So why didn’t the administration realize that integrating a bunch of incompatible government databases into a seamless system with an interface just about anyone could understand was a really, really hard problem? Why was even the president seemingly taken by surprise when the system didn’t work like it might in the movies? We have become seduced by computer glamour."

Of course, not everyone was surprised. But I think she's right about the glamour angle. People get hypnotized by the technology, and think it can do anything. Nontechnical people get hornswoggled by fast talking technology gurus, too. I suspect that's what happened here.

Management wonders why
it all went from Win to Lose.

Someone promised blue sky
but only delivered the blues.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Sox

The Chicago White Sox took their name from an old name of the Cubs. Yes, the Cubs were, at first, known as the Chicago White Stockings.

Similarly, the Boston Red Sox took their name from an old name of the Cincinnati Red Stockings, and eventually Cincinnati dropped the Stockings and just went with Reds.

In both cases, it seems like the new team wanted to draw fans of the older name-holder.

And in both cases, Stockings got shortened to Sox, a "headline friendly" shortening.

So, it seems,
that's how these teams
got named for colored stockings.

Peculiar, yes,
but something less
than shocking.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Audience Annihilated - Gold Star Sticker

I went to see the creepy new Halloween show from Dream Theatre. It's half play, half horror show. If you choose, you get to be one of the characters in the play - the lead character - a little girl addressed as "Princess". You are living among some crude and scary people. Your mother is not the sympathetic type. Your toy bear is not inclined to provide much comfort. And you are having a very bad night.

Prove how brave you are.
Go ahead and earn your gold star.

Just don't let the Clown
get you down.

UPDATE: great review here.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013


We tied the record today for amount of snow. Technically. Because the amount of snow was "a trace" - and that's all that has ever fallen at our official weather station on this date. 

At least it wasn't thick. 
It didn't even stick. 
Just floated by - 
soft crystals from the sky.


I see that Google is informing me that it's the 216th anniversary of the first parachute jump.

I wonder if that's the first successful one or not.

I'm perfectly willing to try
if the only alternative is to die.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Trick of Memory

I remember O'Brien & O'Brian as "writing itself", and I remembered it a doing so rather quickly. But just now I reviewed the evidence, and I wrote the play from February 2012 to December 2012. Almost a year.

I've got a pile
of step-by-step files
that clearly show the trail.

My memory of "three months" is a FAIL!

What Is A Glitch

Wikipedia, on computer glitches:

"In public declarations, glitch is used to suggest a minor fault which will soon be rectified and is therefore used as a euphemism for a bug, which is a factual statement that a programming fault is to blame for a system failure."

A glitch is something small,
and easily corrected
once the error is detected.

This isn't that at all.

This is a giant load
of untested code.

Tombstone 5K

Though I gave blood Thursday, and though I ran a marathon last Saturday, I ventured forth and ran a 5K today. I did this because the race was very near my house, on familiar ground, and because the race was so small I thought I would have an excellent chance of winning a medal.

To be specific: last year, there was only one guy in my age range. This year, there were three of us. So each of us was guaranteed to "place" at the start of the race. Not that we knew that. They don't tell you up front that there are only 3 men aged 60-65.

Anyway, I did beat the other 2 guys.

The race, the Tombstone 5K, was entirely on the grounds of a local graveyard, Mount Greenwood Cemetery, and most of us were wearing Halloween costumes.

Here's a guy who ran as PacMan.
I hope he led the pack, man.


I run in this particular cemetery on a somewhat regular basis. My middle child is buried there. It's hard to believe that she's been dead almost 20 years. It's hard to believe that she would have been 30 this coming January. We had a sort of imaginary conversation, when I ran by her grave. I miss her.

As a rule, I stop and kneel.

Time does not completely heal,
but it softens the hurt you feel.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Disparate Impact

I'm fascinated by the I.T. wreck that is Those who know me, know that I have a sick fascination with disasters that seem to have arisen, at first glance, from unbelievable stupidity. "How could they do that?" is always the question in my mind, particularly when the stupidity is committed by people who seem... intelligent.

One of the interesting things about this particular mess, is that the Obama team, by most accounts, ran an absolutely brilliant I.T. operation as part of his last presidential campaign.

So, I wonder, why did he fail at one and succeed at the other?

My first thought was that, "campaigning, not governing, is his gift". And that seems to hold. A lot of people have noted it before me.

You might think that "running a campaign" would be something like "running a country". But the first can lean more on division and illusion, and the second requires more cohesion and delivery of results.

And the delivery of the wrong results has a way of shattering illusions. Which may partly be why the federal government kept delaying decisions and announcements... which meant the delay of technical specs... when time was of the essence.

Of course, it's hard to write specs
when your project's so complex
that no one's quite sure whether
it can ever fit together.

Borrow Tomorrow

I've got a feeling - about the debt ceiling. Let's raise it as high - as the top of the sky. We've just got to get - lots deeper in debt!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Donation Day

I gave a pint of red. In other words, I bled.  Soon, they say, it will go - into some body who's one pint low. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Results May Vary

Tyler Cowen cites a study showing that quality of care, in a given hospital, seems to vary with what kind of insurance a patient has. Patients with private insurance fared better than patients with Medicare, which does not pay as well as private insurance.

This makes intuitive sense, to me. Although, as a probable future-Medicare-enrollee, I don't find it reassuring exactly.

Cowen comments:

"I don’t have a great deal of confidence in our ability to estimate the size of that effect, but keep that difference in mind next time someone tells you that Medicare is so much more efficient than private health insurance in this country."

Paying more often means better service.
Of course, if you're paying less, this can make you nervous.


Government is just a name 
for what we do together.

So, at least, I've heard it claimed.
But, boy, it's hit rough weather.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Night Sky in Autumn

The moon peeks out, her face half-veiled,
between catalpa limbs,
expecting soon to be regaled -
with happy harvest hymns.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Finishing Prairie State

I had tried to run the Prairie State Marathon a few years ago. I remember it was a warm sunny day. And the course has this peculiarity - at mile 18, with 8 miles to go, you run right next to the finish line.

On that day, I was having a bad running day, and the temptation was overwhelming. I felt sure I could finish - but at a very slow pace. And I just wasn't looking forward to it. So I stopped, got back in my car, and drove home.

This time I had steeled myself in advance against the Mile 18 Temptation.

My big worry during the race was a sense, about half way through, that my left quadriceps was working up to a cramp. It happened in a big way right at the end of my 2012 marathon. It came close to happening during my 20-mile training run a few weeks ago. And I didn't want it to happen again.

So... I tried changing how I was running. I lengthened my gait, on the theory that the muscle was more likely to cramp if it was allowed to get tight. And I began to switch between running and walking. This involved running faster than I otherwise would have, in order to average-out to the same speed. To a first approximation, I would walk for half-a-minute every half-mile. Apparently it worked. I never did cramp up.

Nowadays, you see a lot of non-champion marathoners following some kind of run/walk regimen. There's a theory that you can get a better time that way:

"The continuous use of running muscles produces much more fatigue, aches and pains than running at the same pace while taking walk breaks."

Of course, the setters of marathon world records do NOT use this method.

But fearing the Quadriceps Cramp,
I was happy to revamp.

Chicago Marathon

The Chicago Marathon, one of the big international marathons, is going on today. I just finished watching the first place finishes in  the men's and women's race. I hasten to add that I watched on TV. Having run a different marathon yesterday, I didn't really feel like standing on the sidelines on these sore quads.

Conditions were excellent this morning: cool and not too windy, here in the Windy City.

A new course record was set for the men by Dennis Kimetto of Kenya: 2:03:45. He is reported to be raking in 175,000 dollars for the day in prize money and time bonuses.

Rita Jeptoo, also of Kenya, took the women's race at 2:19:59 or so. By coming in just under 2:20, she earned an extra 40,000 dollars, which I think brings her payday to 140,000.

That may sound like a lot of money for a couple of hours work. But there's even bigger money involved in the World Marathon Majors program, of which Chicago is a part. The Majors programs involves winning points by placing well in the world's biggest marathons.

"On January 23, 2006, Boston, Virgin London, BMW Berlin, Bank of America Chicago and ING New York City marathons collectively launched the World Marathon Majors – a new series offering a $1 million prize purse to be split equally between the top male and female marathoners in the world."

It sounds like a grueling schedule. But that kind of money can be very motivating.

Half a million smackers
is a lot of do-re-mi.
It draws elite attackers
to a very high degree.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

20th Marathon

I ran my 20th marathon today. 25th, if you count longer events that involved running 26.2 miles.

Tomorrow is the big local marathon - the Chicago Marathon. Today's event was in the northern suburbs, and had a much smaller crowd of runners.

It was a trail run, along the Desplaines River, all parkland. Here was the view from where I parked my car:


Muted hues, nothing harsh,
as morning rises on the marsh.

Here was the starting line:

I was very happy with my run, which came in at 4:51, which was 6 minutes faster than last year's time. Actually, it's my best marathon time since 2005, by several minutes. Maybe the experiment in carbo-loading worked!

Or maybe I was better rested.
It's hard to know which variable was tested.

Friday, October 11, 2013

A Pigeon I Presume

They say it's good luck to be hit by birds-a-crappin'. 
So now I should wait for something great to happen.

Deadline in Quotes

Headline about a deadline:

New 'deadline' for fixing Obamacare glitches seen in mid-November

I suppose it's in quotes because it's not really a deadline at all:

"The U.S. administration has a little over a month to fix the technology problems crippling its online health insurance marketplace, or jeopardize the goal of signing up millions of Americans in time for benefits under President Barack Obama's healthcare law, experts said on Thursday."

A deadline isn't a time when you "jeopardize the goal". A deadline is the time you no longer have any chance at the goal. That's why it's called a DEADline.

I don't think the "glitches" will be fixed by mid-November. They had 3.5 years and couldn't get it working. Was it that they just needed one more month? I doubt it. And - in certain ways it's harder to fix a system once it's gone live. But, I suppose there's little point in speculating. Let's wait and see.

Time will tell:
will it all work well -
or somehow continue
to hiccup like hell?

Wednesday, October 09, 2013


I'm running a marathon on Saturday, so I'm carboloading today. I've never done it this formally before, where you lighten up on carbs for 3 days, and then load up on them for another 3.

Newly added to my diet for today: breakfast cereal, apple juice, banana-strawberry smoothie, cinnamon raisin bagel, vending machine pretzels, Orange Crush.

And I haven't had dinner yet!

We'll try if pasta empowers my legs
better than bacon and eggs.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013


My daughter and I were talking about Pentecostalism, which we both knew a little about, and then we started wondering about the word Pentecost, which looks, and is, Greek.

I vaguely remembered this from the New Testament: "When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them."

So, Pentecost turns out to be a form of the ancient Greek word for Fiftieth.

And Fiftieth was the Greek name for the Jewish Feast of Weeks, which was observed on the 50th day after the 1st day of Passover.

Why 50 days? Apparently it was 7 weeks (a "week of weeks") from the 2nd day of Passover, which mathematically works out to be 50 days from the 1st day of Passover.

As for me, I think it's nifty
that Pentecost derives from fifty,
but if you feel it's a useless fact,
toss it away and don't look back!

Monday, October 07, 2013

Death by Dog Leash

It could happen to me:

"Authorities are trying to learn more details about a fatal accident in which a dog's leash got entangled with a bicycle in a Cook County forest preserve, sending a 68-year-old bicyclist crashing to the ground."

He was on a trail, away from cars. He was wearing a helmet. But somehow a dog leash managed to kill him.

The owner of the dog untangled the leash and left the scene of the accident.

You can't really tell from the linked story how he got tangled. Nowadays, some people do have very long - 50 foot for example - retractable dog leashes. Maybe the owner was on one side of the trail and the dog was on the other? Maybe the dog ran across the trail just as the victim pedaled up to the scene of his demise?

Whatever it was, the dog owner should have had the decency to stick around
after entangling an elderly man to the ground.

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Amber Alert

You do a search online for amber alert, and you see you're going to, but then that redirects to an announcement which consists of this jpeg file:

Cough up the funding, and no one gets hurt...
then you can have back your Amber Alert.

Saturday, October 05, 2013

McAfee on ACA

John McAfee, founder of McAfee AntiVirus, has had his wild moments, but I'm worried that this might be one of his lucid insights about the website:

"Seriously bad, somebody made a grave error, not in designing the program, but in implementing the web aspect. It for example anybody can put up a... web page and claim to be a broker for this system, there is no central place where I can go, and say, here are all of the legitimate brokers, or examiners for all of the states, and pick and choose one. Instead, any hacker can put a web site up, make it look extremely competitive, and because of the nature of the system, and this is health care after all, they can ask you the most intimate questions, you are freely going to answer them, what’s my social security number? My birth date."

Well, I guess we'll know soon enough
if he's right about this stuff.

ADDED: I found a Slate article, written before the website launch, which specifically denies that the site is "a hacker's dream." Here are the last 2 sentences:

"It’s quite possible that something, somewhere will go wrong on Tuesday, or in the first few weeks that the system is up and running. But a massive, nationwide data breach appears to be, thankfully, unlikely."

Something sure went wrong on Tuesday. I'm not sure you'd actually call the system "up and running" yet. I suppose that if there are to be any massive data breaches, the system will first have to collect some massive data, which it may not have done yet.

Caught in the Web

It's hard to love
healthcare dot gov
when it won't let you sign
on the dotted line.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Lunchtime Haiku

Soft autumn sprinkles.
Vagrants and grime washed away.
Park looks clean, grass green.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Big & Buggy

Not really surprising:

"The pressure is on for the federal government and states running their own health insurance exchanges to get the systems up and running after overloaded websites and jammed phone lines frustrated consumers for a second day as they tried to sign up for coverage using the new marketplaces."

The rumors have been leaking for months that the systems weren't going to be ready. And, they aren't. So, will they be ready soon? I have no inside knowledge. But I will be surprised if this stuff really starts working well anytime soon.

Amazon wasn't built in a day.

I know they're blaming it on "lots of people trying to sign up." That's what people always say when their online systems crash. It's the first stage of grief: denial.

Experience predicts:
no quick fix.

Big buggy projects cannot be turned around on a dime.
They consume precious time.

For this year, the best they can do
is to somehow muddle through.


Shutdown breakthrough:

"A group of World War II veterans in an Honor Flight group Tuesday knocked over barriers imposed during the government shutdown at the WWII Memorial in Washington, D.C., to get inside."

It looks like half of them were in wheelchairs.

I guess these vets
aren't finished yet.