Thursday, February 28, 2013

Another Flight

The seats push hard against our backs
as engines start to thrust.
We lift, as lift we must
if we're to clear
the fence.

Now, relax,
suspended in thin air,
at whatever height
the instruments declare
most suitable for flight.

And I am sipping water from a cup
at 30,000 feet.

It's all so routine
aboard this great machine
this wagon cart of fire.

Two-Seater to the Red Planet

This is wild. Someone's trying to organize a private trip, for two, to Mars.

You wouldn't get to land. It's just a fly-by.

To take advantage of an alignment of Earth and Mars that happens once every 15 years and would allow the shortest possible travel time possible between the planets, the mission seeks to launch on January 5, 2018. The crew would return to Earth on May 21, 2019.

They say they want a husband and wife.
It could be the coolest trip of your life.

Special Election, Part 2

The Dem nominee is considered a shoo-in, but the GOP nominee is still newsworthy:
Republican voters are suggesting the 2nd Congressional District replace one felon with another after picking ex-convict Paul McKinley as the candidate to run for the seat recently ceded by former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.
You might wonder what sort of felonies he committed? Well, garden variety: "burglaries, armed robberies and aggravated battery".

Welcome to Illinois,
where elections are a joy.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Just Say Nay

The mislabeled meat scandal gallops on:

Ikea is now removing wiener sausages from stores across Europe after tests confirmed “a few indications of horse meat.”

With all those regulations,
it really seems incredible
that they secretly turned Mr. Ed
into Mr. Edible.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Special Election

Here in the Windy City, guess who won a special Dem primary today?

The mayor's candidate of course!

But I don't mean the mayor of Chicago. I mean the mayor of New York:
Former state Rep. Robin Kelly won the Democratic primary Tuesday night in the race to replace the disgraced Jesse Jackson Jr. in Congress, helped by millions of dollars in pro-gun control ads from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s political fund.

It's a heavily Dem district, so Kelly now practically has a lock on the congressional seat itself.

It's been an ill-starred seat for the last 3 holders:

Jesse Jackson Jr. - left congress and then pleaded guilty to wire and mail fraud.
Mel Reynolds - left congress after being convicted of statutory rape.
Gus Savage - lost his re-election bid after the House Ethics Committee accepted his apology for trying to force himself on a female Peace Corps worker.

Well, these guys have set the bar pretty low. I think the stage is set for somebody, anybody, to do the job without having to depart in dire disgrace.

I'm assuming that Robin Kelly
will avoid ending up in something smelly.

It Rose From Ashes

Southwest crew member, upon landing here: Welcome to the town a cow burnt down.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Oscar Who?

I think awards for movies should be renamed The Groovies.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Sugarbush Season

I like to lap the maple sap, and right now they've got it on tap.

Friday, February 22, 2013

High Concept

I want to write a story about rescuing hostages from North Dakota. We'll pitch it as Argo meets Fargo.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

EU-US FTA

I'm still worried about where the Euro is going, but dropping tariffs, via a free trade agreement, strikes me as a good idea:
...an FTA between the United States and the European Union (EU) would present an even bigger rival to Asia, accounting for more than 40 percent of global GDP and about 50 percent of inward and outward foreign direct investment stock. Both sides are already the other’s biggest trading partner.
That last sentence is a bit of a trick, since it requires treating the EU as if it were one partner, rather than a bunch of separate countries.

Going by countries, our biggest partners are Canada, then China, then Mexico, then Japan, And only in the number 5 spot do we encounter Germany.

By the way, what is up with the phrase "global GDP", i.e., "global gross domestic product"? Couldn't we just say "global gross product"? It's not like we're selling any of our products to other planets.

We've got no exports to Mars,
we've got no imports from Venus,
and when it comes to Mercury,
there's really no trade between us.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Concrete

At the DC Newseum, more than 20 years after its fall,I finally got to touch a piece of the deadly Berlin wall.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Jealousy in Coward

In Design For Living, Coward imagines 2 men in a sort of ongoing competition for 1 woman, and the ending suggests the competition will simply go on, not really in what is now conceived as the polyamorous way, since the men are not precisely content with the arrangement. In Blithe Spirit, 2 women compete for 1 man, and the results are humorously catastrophic. I'm not saying the writer changed his mind, but in the second play disaster was Designed.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Eyes Wide Shut


eye1

I haven't found a place to actually order these, but that's a great pic. More at link:
Those who can’t avoid sleeping or a nap at work, these eyelid stickers are exclusively designed for you. Before I found this brilliant stuff, I was thinking this is just a joke that only can be seen in the movie.
Especially useful if your work is a bore.
But be careful if you tend to snore!

Linguistic Evolution


Tonight I heard one high school student say of another: "He can't grammar."

The morphing of English cannot be curbed,
but still I'm feeling strangely disturbed.

Grammar, once noun, has now been verbed.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Blithe Spirit, Preview

blithespiritset
That's the set of Blithe Spirit, nearing completion, earlier tonight. Soon after, we were up and running with our preview show, which went well.

I play a doctor, which is the second time I've played a doctor, and I kind of like it, so I'm thinking about going into medicine, not in the sense of studying the topic, but just in the sense of going into a medical building, while wearing a white coat and a stethoscope. You know, just to see if I can get free coffee or something.

Excuse me, which way is the doctor's lounge,
and are there some donuts which I can scrounge?

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Limits of Imagination

The Wall St. Journal had an interesting op-ed today, "Send in the Tech Reinforcements", calling for an overhaul of the process by which the Defense Department arranges for custom-built software. The department's IT history has no shortage of cost overruns, big delays, and even outright failures. This shouldn't be a surprise. The Pentagon is a big bureaucratic enterprise that nonetheless sets out to design and obtain bold breakthrough products. It's a recipe for massive headaches. It's impressive that they get anything to work! The authors of the op-ed say the Pentagon's software methodology is outmoded, which I don't doubt. Then they say this:
The modern software development cycle, by contrast, moves in weeks, days and even hours—because software is a malleable digital item whose only limits are the human imagination.
There's some profound truth there... but.

First, even an industry-leader like Amazon, which the authors put forward as a model, can only get so many lines of code written in a week.

Second, putting the issue of days and weeks aside, we need to be careful about the idea that software is "limited only by imagination".

A lot depends on what you mean by imagination. We can imagine a computer program that thinks just like a human. But we are in no position to write such a program.

We can imagine the program's user interface - perhaps we would like it to converse with us helpfully about our strategy in Afghanistan - but we can't really imagine how such a machine would work at a producible level of detail.

Implementing imagination, however inspired,
hangs on the question of whether
someone can cobble together
the actual pieces required.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Noel Coward

Noel Coward's
Talent flowered
At an early age,
And by his 20s, he was all the rage.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Thaw

Ice slides off the roof and hits the ground
colliding with a thuddy sloshy sound.

I think: I could have been standing in that spot.
And thank the laws of chance that I was not.

Saturday, February 09, 2013

2/9, Updated

I saw the announcement on a bulletin board.

At Northwestern University, there was to be a showing of The Fountainhead, a movie I had never seen.

On the appointed February night, I rode the "L" out to Evanston and found the right building.

After the film, I went to the discussion in the cafeteria.

There was a particular girl there who caught my attention. I thought she was intelligent and attractive. and I felt there was "something about her."

33  40 years ago, upon this date,
I met my mate.

"The One Who Got Caught"

A guy from the local Better Government Association:
“A lot of politicians use political donations as lifestyle enhancements—getting work done on their homes, taking fancy vacations, etc,” says Shaw. “At the very least they’re bending the rules of campaign finance and sometimes they violate them blatantly. Unfortunately the IRS and state election boards are stretched too thin to investigate. But if you end up under the microscope of the U.S. Attorney that all changes … Jesse Jackson Jr. is not an outlier here, but he’s the one who got caught.
The author of the piece editorializes that this is a particular problem in Illinois, but without presenting evidence that non-Illinois pols are ethically fastidious.

What do you think?
Is the Land of Lincoln a place of particular stink?

Deal Reportedly Reached

Local news outfits are reporting that Jesse Jackson Jr. has signed a plea deal.
I thought maybe he would plead guilty to so much stuff that they would let his wife walk. But, maybe not:
The former 17-year South Shore Democratic congressman had told associates that he tried “protecting” his wife during negotiations leading up to the plea agreement, but “they wouldn’t let him,” the source said.
I mean, they have minor children. A lot of guys are willing to do extra time, if it enables their kids to stay with their mother.

And Congressman Jackson was a much "bigger catch" than Alderman Sandi Jackson.

What are they in trouble for? It seems to be campaign funding trouble. When I was a kid, most of these laws didn't even exist.

These laws deserve to be softened,
so politicians go to jail less often!

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Few Smiles


The Chicago Tribune has a popular feature where it runs mug shots of the recently arrested - accompanied by stories about what they allegedly did. In the right mood, I will browse through, sickly fascinated.

I have developed a suspicion: cops don't receive much training at helping these people look good for their close-ups!

Instead of pics that are flattering,
a lot of them look like they've been through a battering.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Aphorisms from A to Z

I've got my hands on a copy of Jay Friedenberg's new book, Aphorisms from A to Z: A User's Guide to Life.
It is one of the most comprehensive and qualitative sources of sayings from any single author, consisting of over 2,500 different aphorisms on more than 600 topics. The book is intended to inspire and serve as a practical guide to living a better life.It starts with an overview of aphorisms, describing what they are in relation to other sayings such as proverbs and quotations. Also included in the introduction are interviews with contemporary aphorists and aphorist scholars, describing the role that this ancient literary form now serves today. The book concludes with lists of both classical and current aphorists for the interested reader who wants to pursue more.
I like this one, which just leaped out at me:
The devil also makes work for busy hands.
Indeed. I think the temptations for the busy are different than those for the idle. But I have certainly seen busy people behaving badly.

An aphorism says things with:
few words, much pith.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Killer App


I'd like to have my own
(nonlethal) drone.

I'll send it to pick up fast food,
when I'm in a lazy mood.

Monday, February 04, 2013

Something To Keep In Mind


I'm not eager for it, but, when people talk about the federal government having effectively seized all power from the states, they generally neglect to mention this:
In the American system, a Constitutional Convention -- which has never been held since the Constitution was adopted -- is the last stop before revolution. It was intended as a way for the people to end-run the political establishment; if enough states request a convention, Congress has no choice but to call it, and the resulting proposals go straight to the states for ratification, bypassing Congress.
What concerns me is that I'm not sure we'll have an equivalent to James Madison this time around.

Whenever the states feel fed up with D.C.,
they can toss it out - if 38 agree.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Mackey and Mamet

Chris Jones, Chicago's leading theater critic, had an interesting column in the Trib today in which he compared John Mackey, the CEO of Whole Foods, with David Mamet, the playwright.
When John Mackey, the maverick co-chief executive of Whole Foods, first criticized President Barack Obama's proposed health care law in a 2009 Wall Street Journal article, there was an immediate blowback — boycott! boycott! — from the grocery chain's heavy coterie of politically liberal customers.
Mackey proceeded to eat some of his words, as a matter of unfortunate phrasing. I wouldn't say he actually took back his critique.

Anyway, Jones is concerned that Mamet is getting similarly burned:
In Mamet's case, there is some evidence that his political views are not playing well on Broadway: "The Anarchist," which was chock-full of interesting ideas, closed in a matter of days this past fall.
Did his fans avoid his latest play
because his views are too outré?

Saturday, February 02, 2013

Love's Laboratories

A philosopher (of course!) argues:
Perhaps we could design "love drugs," pharmaceutical cocktails that could boost affection between partners, whisking them back to the exquisite set of pleasures that colored their first years together.
...
Some have even suggested developing "anti-love drugs" that could dissolve abusive relationships, or reduce someone's attachment to a charismatic cult leader. Others just want a pill to ease the pain of a wrenching breakup.
Adrenaline for breaking up, oxytocin for making up?

Traditionalists, please don't go into conniptions.
It must be okay if you've got prescriptions!

Shifting Languages

I'm working through a tutorial for a computer language called Ruby. That's in my spare time.
Meanwhile, I'm writing code in Visual Basic and mainframe Cobol, for work.

So I ended up coding in all 3 languages in a 24 hour time period. It can be oddly disorienting shifting from the one to the other.

In the case of Basic and Cobol, I have been working in both for decades, but they have different approaches to getting things done.

I suppose it's like knowing English and Spanish and having trouble switching between them. But I don't know English and any other real language... not really.

My ability to express
myself in Spanish
tends to vanish
(or worse)
under the duress
of attempting to converse.