Monday, June 30, 2014

Power Out

But with my cell
I can blog reasonably well. 

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Risk of Rules

Low birth-weight newborns are at higher risk for mortality. The official cut-off for "very low birthweight" is 1,500 grams. If the kid is 1,501 grams, doctors are advised to do less for him than if he were 1,499 grams.

Which results in a paradox:

'Researchers have shown that infants born just above 1,500 grams are more likely to die in the first year of life than those born just below, despite the fact that, in theory, a higher weight should increase an infant’s odds of survival.... In essence, because doctors are not using enough discretion — not acknowledging that infants just above 1,500 grams may be nearly as vulnerable as those below — lives are lost.'

Of course, on top of everything else, 1,500 seems like a suspiciously round number.

When a number seems too round,
I question whether the rule is sound.

Invasive Species: Hippos

You can't really blame the hippos themselves. They didn't mount an invasion. They were imported. But now they have escaped and are on the loose in Colombia.

The importer is described in the article as a "drug baron". As opposed, I suppose, to a "drug czar," who in American lingo is a guy who launches war on drug barons.

"It's just like this crazy wildlife experiment that we're left with," says San Diego University ecologist Rebecca Lewison. "Gosh! I hope this goes well."

It's mentioned in the article, that hippos taste like pork.
So maybe all the Colombians should simply grab a fork.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Meditating on Meditation

The Atlantic has an article about people who are in recovery from... meditation. A lot of people don't like meditation because it bores them to tears. But the people in recovery are people who really liked it, at first, and then found they were obsessed with inner darkness. It takes a lot of forms, one of which is "life loses meaning":

'Everything he had found pleasurable before the retreat—hanging out with friends, playing music, drinking—all of that "turned to dirt," he says, "a plate of beautiful food turned to dirt."'

Why would this be? Could it have anything to do with unacknowledged religious content?

'She explains that the Theravadin Buddhist tradition influences how a large portion of Americans practice meditation, but in it, mindfulness is "about vipassana, a specific type of insight … into the three characteristics of experience." These are also known as the three marks of existence: anicca, or impermanence; dukkha, or dissatisfaction; and anatta, or no-self.'

If you deeply and truly disengage
from all the ache inside  you,
you can find yourself on an empty stage,
with no script left to guide you.

Update, found on Facebook:



They didn't promise me a shirt, because I was a late signer-upper. But I optimistically checked after the race - and they did have some left over.

It's called a Sprint, but it's a quirky set of distances: Swim 1/4 Mile, Bike 13.8 Miles, Run 3.7 Miles. I was on the move for 1 hour 44 minutes.

It was a long drive from my house to Winona Lake, Indiana. About 2 hours with no traffic. The bad news was that I left my house at 3:40 in the morning. The good news was that there was almost no traffic at that time of day.

As the sun came up in North Central Indiana...

Fog rolling over the farmland,
trucks rolling over the road,
triathlon waiting before me,
my brain in groggy mode.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Seatless in Pritzker

Last week they put shiny new furniture in Pritzker Park.

"One obvious reason that many folks haven’t chosen to spend time in Pritzker in the past is that it lacked a proper place to sit. The addition of seating for 40 to 50 people, in the form of large tables with umbrellas, small two-tops, and red plastic lawn chairs, is sure to attract more downtown workers and visitors."

At the link, you can click through to some very nice pictures by John Greenfield. Here are some zoom-ins:


Anyway, this week the furniture is gone again. I am told that's because homeless people, who frequent the park, weaponized the furniture on Saturday night.

That is, they got in a big brawl and were tossing it at each other.

(Cue the old Elton John song, "Saturday Night's All Right For Fighting".)

When furniture isn't nailed down
You never know when some clown
Will clobber someone's head
In the hope of leaving them dead.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Two Hundred Year Old Tree?


That's the old oak tree - and the electric utility pole - that I wrote about a couple of days ago. I showed the tree to my wife and her guess was that the tree was 2 or 3 hundred years old.

I trust her judgment in botany
so I guess that tree is older than me
maybe by a factor of three.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Back from New Hampshire

I had a fun long weekend at the Atlas Summit in Manchester, NH.

New Hampshire, as everyone who has seen their license plates knows, is the "Live Free Or Die" state.

As a state motto, it was adopted only in 1945. But it has a history.

"The phrase comes from a toast written by General John Stark, New Hampshire's most famous soldier of the American Revolutionary War, on July 31, 1809."

I met a bunch of people involved in the Free State Project, which aims "to recruit at least 20,000 libertarians to move to a single low-population state (New Hampshire, selected in 2003) in order to make the state a stronghold for libertarian ideas."

They have adopted the porcupine as their mascot:


Less threatening than a venomous snake,
not much inclined to launch an attack,
but still it would be a silly mistake
to put your foot on its prickly back.

Sunday, June 22, 2014


I've been watching the new John Malkovich show, Crossbones.

He plays Blackbeard, a pirate much to be feared. 

Saturday, June 21, 2014

At a Lecture

...given by Jay Friedenberg, about epigrams. 

Terse is not worse. 

Friday, June 20, 2014


If rather look spiffy than iffy. 

Thursday, June 19, 2014


Latin words for "pigs" & "spines", somehow turned into "porcupines".

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Hundred Year Old Tree

Walking home from the train, there were 4 cherry-picker type trucks from the electric company, 2 sets of 2, and they were working on brand new utility poles - with a lot of men at work.

I inquired and was informed that it was an effort to move an electric line so that it was no longer in touch with a hundred-year-old tree. I said it looked like a big job, and was told that it was also a lot of money.

I told the man that my preference might have been to just trim the tree.

He jokingly told me I was no longer allowed to live in the neighborhood.

The locals always get up in arms when the electric company wants to trim the tree branches near its lines.

You can hug a tree
all day
for free,
but you must pay
for electricity.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Walking Home

The shadow of a butterfly,
flew across the cement.
I did not bother to raise my eye.
With flutter I was content.

Monday, June 16, 2014

World Cup

I caught the last 20 minutes or so of the USA vs. Ghana game. Quite the nail-biter. Spoiler: we won.

Next up, Portugal. On the bright side, one of their better players got ejected from the game today, for a gratuitous head butt, and as an additional punishment he won't be able to play in Sunday's game with us.

I wouldn't say that our World Cup future is shining brightly,
but the outlook did improve slightly.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Press Behind Glass

The Sun-Times ran an interesting story today from a reporter complaining about the way contemporary politicians invite them to events, but then won't answer questions. The immediate focus was on a visit to Chicago by Hillary Clinton, followed by a flashback to a recent visit by Dick Cheney, followed by a full fingerpoint at our current president.

'We’re expected to show up, listen to whatever the official wants to say, then shut up and write about it.'

I suppose it's good that the press is complaining about it, but I don't think this level of complaining is very effective. She ends her article on a bitterly wistful note:

'So would a Hillary Clinton White House operate in the same way? Would love the chance to ask.'

Ask nice,
ask twice,
and someday she may let you ask...
thus letting you fulfill the journalist's task.

Saturday, June 14, 2014


John McCaskey has an interesting, short, clear blog post up about scientific induction.

He begins by drawing a distinction between general statements and universal statements. "Paper burns" is a general truth, he says, but perhaps not a universal truth. You know, there is wet paper - that won't burn! And there are special varieties of flame-resistant paper, designed not to burn.

'“Paper burns” is a generalization that does not mean “All paper burns,” “Some paper burns,” “Most paper burns,” “All other things being equal, paper burns,” or even “Within a given context of knowledge, all paper burns.”'

I have a question here. I agree that "paper burns" doesn't mean exactly the same as "some paper burns" in everyday speech. But surely "paper burns" implies "some paper burns" at a bare minimum.

He goes on:

'“Generally” comes from the Latin “generis,” meaning “belonging to the kind.” What is generally true is true because the subject is the kind of thing it is. Balls roll and fire burns, because there is something about balls and paper that makes them roll and burn.'

That seems fair enough. He goes on to make the case that:

Scientific induction
involves definitional reconstruction.

So you throw whales out of "fish" -
because they're more mammal-ish.

(Once I tried to throw a whale.
Man, it was an epic fail.)

Peikoff on Enemy of the People

I listened to Peikoff's lecture on Ibsen's Enemy of the People, and I was very struck that he characterized Ibsen as a "Romantic Realist". That's the way Rand characterized her own literary tendencies. But there's a question in my mind about whether she saw Ibsen as a Romantic.

She manifestly thought highly of his abilities as a dramatist. She said something very positive about him in The Fountainhead, and she published a highly favorable article about him in her tightly-edited little magazine, the Objectivist. But in neither of those 2 cases was he characterized as a Romantic.

I think Ibsen's often seen as standing at a turning point, when Romanticism marched into Realism. He wrote verse plays early on, and then switched to prose plays about contemporary bourgeois characters. There's a lot of disagreement about how to classify him.

Nothing on stage is real.
The trick is just to simulate the feel
and pull them along for the ride
you helpfully provide.

Thursday, June 12, 2014


I just found out that the audio cable, from my TV to my sound system, is optical fiber.

I've got it reconnected
but that was not expected.

Cooking Near The Books

Intriguing headline:

'Homeless couple charged with cooking meth at Sarasota County library'

But... it wasn't IN the library, it was on the grounds of the library, where they were camping.

There's a photo with the story, showing a bottle of drain opener, some Coleman lighter fluid, and some other mystery bottle.

I've only glanced at the recipe.
But it does not look safe to me.


Well, here's a crime that was actually IN a library:

'A 20-year-old woman has been charged with prostitution at the Tewksbury Public Library.'

Even here there's some exaggeration, as I see it. She was reportedly soliciting in the library. The story doesn't say she was performing there.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Putting the Mess in Mesopotania

The administration's big play in Iraq - pull out completely and hope it hangs together - doesn't seem like it's working.

Do we have enough drones on hand?

I'm flashing back to the video of our rather hurried evacuation of our embassy in Saigon.


Advice to follow
without a doubt:
be sure not to miss
the last chopper out.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Scorpion's Sting

I spent some time today looking at a book, The Scorpion's Sting: Antislavery and the Coming of the Civil War, by James Oakes.

'Surrounded by a ring of fire, the scorpion stings itself to death. The image, widespread among antislavery leaders before the Civil War, captures their long-standing strategy for peaceful abolition: they would surround the slave states with a cordon of freedom. They planned to use federal power wherever they could to establish freedom: the western territories, the District of Columbia, the high seas. By constricting slavery they would induce a crisis: slaves would escape in ever-greater numbers, the southern economy would falter, and finally the southern states would abolish the institution themselves. For their part the southern states fully understood this antislavery strategy. They cited it repeatedly as they adopted secession ordinances in response to Lincoln's election.'

I can't vouch for its perfect accuracy, but I liked the way he attempted to "recapture" the actual terms of debate over American slavery, to let us see how the issue was actually approached by the different parties - which of course is not how we usually think about these issues today.

New to me was his position that military emancipation of slaves was a historically-recognized tactic, and that the Emancipation Proclamation was based on, or at least launched from, on this established wartime practice.

The South broke past
the fiery ring
but suffered at last
a fearsome sting.

Monday, June 09, 2014

Plain Difficult

I was reading Drama, from Ibsen to Eliot, and I came across this interesting Ibsen quotation, having to do with his transition from writing poetic drama to:

'...the very much more difficult art of writing the genuine, plain language spoken in real life... My desire was to depict human beings, and therefore I would not make them speak the language of the gods.'

There's something odd
about seeing
the language of human beings
as harder than the language of the gods.

Sunday, June 08, 2014


Your dreams come from within
but what strange stuff they seem
confiding as they do
an otherness inside.

Saturday, June 07, 2014

Luck of a Kind

Last night, while I was driving home from the theater, when I was a couple of miles from home, I noticed a thumping noise that seemed to be coming from my left front tire. I pulled over, and the tire was not flat. But something was obviously wrong.

So I kept driving, very slowly now, because the street I was on was going to take me to our regular auto mechanic's garage. And then, as I turned off the road toward the garage, the thumping stopped, but a distinct hissing sound began.

I remember this happened to me once before. Thumping followed by hissing. The thumping is the warning sign that something has gone wrong with your steel belted radial tires. The hissing is the warning sign that air is leaving the tires right now.

Anyway, after the bad luck of the tires, I had the great good luck to pull into the mechanics' parking lot while the tire was still hissing its air out. At this point, I was only a mile from home. So I took an envelope, wrote an an explanatory note, put the car key in the envelope, put the envelope through the mechanics' mail slot... and walked home.

Yes, I could have changed the tire, put the spare on, myself. But now I don't have to.

This was almost as "lucky" as the time my rented bicycle flatted out near a bike shop on a trail that connects Pennsylvania & Maryland. That time the culprit was a thorn that had punctured the tire.

Your tires need air
to get you there.

If they're missing that,
your stranded flat.

Between Pancho Villa and a Naked Woman

Tonight I went to see Between Pancho Villa and a Naked Woman. The naked lady, who is never actually quite naked, is played by  Tamika LecheĆ© Morales, who is just fabulous in the female lead role of Gina.

Gina has a macho lover, who comes to see her once in a while, a leftist writer who is working on a book about that virile revolutionary: Pancho Villa.

It's a Mexican play, written in Spanish, translated into English, and in some ways it's a bit of a culture shock on the Chicago stage. But the core story, one person longing for commitment, the other person afraid of it, is easy to relate to. The character of Gina, as portrayed here, leaves a lasting emotional impression.

She unleashes a ration
of true Latin passion.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Museum Madness

A lot of art museums have huge collections that are not on display - that are in storage somewhere. I knew that one reason was that old rich people like to donate art works to museums, partly because of tax incentives. But I've always wondered why the museums are interested in amassing all this stuff, because the irony is that stuff in storage is stuff that nobody is getting to see.

So I was fascinated to read about the plight of the Delaware Art Museum, which wants to sell off some paintings to pay off a debt. It turns out that the "art world" doesn't approve of such a reason.

'Disposing of art for a reason except to buy more art violates the ethics policy of the Association of Art Museum Directors. The group warns it may sanction the museum, which could block it from sharing works with most other U.S. museums.'

This is the sort of nonsense
with which I have to grapple
as I pursue my plan
to purchase the Sistine Chapel.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Slender Person of Masculine Gender

"Slender Man" is a murderous bogeyman, sort of in the tradition of Jason from the Friday the 13th movies. But he's not a product of the movie industry. He's a web creation. One guy dreamed him up. Then lots of people wrote stories about him, drew pictures of him, and so on.

'But according to police, on Saturday two 12-year-old girls lured another girl to a forest in Wakuesha, Wisconsin and stabbed her 19 times. One of the girls allegedly told police they stabbed their friend to “prove [themselves] worthy to the Slender.”'

After we heard so much about killer males last week, I was startled to be confronted again with the homicidal potential of the human female. Then I realized: it wasn't the girls' fault! A man had brainwashed them into it. A fictional man, it may be, but a man nonetheless!

They were lured into the scary hateful dark,
by an imaginary patriarch.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Iron vs Full

The Wall St. Journal today had an article on a topic I know a little bit about: Ironman triathlon races. Or is it "full distance" triathlon races?

It turns out that Ironman is a brand, and they jealously guard their brand name, and it works spectacularly well. Other races of the same format do not draw the same sort of participation that brand-name Ironman races do. Even when the "generic" version is a lot cheaper!

How much is in a name
if the distance is the same?

I've done 2 of these events,
and I've saved my dollars and cents.

I went with the generic
instead of the "ferric".

Monday, June 02, 2014

Soft and Clear

They come forth soft and clear,
with just a subtle sting.
You feel your vision blur,
as some dam wall caves in.

And all the things that were
or might someday have been,
roll downward into tears.

And giving in to grief,
despite the ache it brings,
becomes its own relief.

Domestic Affairs

Heat of the moment:

"A woman conned a desk clerk into giving her a key to an Orland Park hotel room where her husband was staying with his girlfriend, then attacked him, police said."

The paper says she "clawed" his neck and head. Not just scratched... clawed!

She is charged with domestic battery, which seems fair, but it did lead me to wonder what qualifies a case of battery as domestic. Evidently a domicile-type location is not key.

It doesn't have to be in your house,
it just has to be an attack on your spouse!

Sunday, June 01, 2014

Tea Party And Legalization

Christian Science Monitor:

"...a growing contingent of libertarian-leaning and tea party conservatives have begun to embrace marijuana legalization."

No one's surprised when libertarians embrace pot legalization, but I imagine some people are going to be puzzled about "tea party conservatives" doing so.

The people of the party of tea
are not what they've been painted to be.
Mostly they just want to be free.

Tea is sometimes slang for pot, so I'm waiting for those jokes to begin.

I don't think marijuana
is the true path to nirvana,
but it's clear the war on weed
was never destined to succeed.