Wednesday, December 31, 2014

7 F at 7 AM

soon gone
with dawn.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Hit and Run and Return

Today's church scandal features an Episcopalian bishop who ran down a cyclist.

'“Several news agencies have reported this as a ‘hit and run.’ Bishop Cook did leave the scene initially, but returned after about 20 minutes to take responsibility for her actions,” Sutton wrote, according to the text of the email obtained by The Brew.'

Was it a hit and run?
She did come back twenty minutes after the damage was done.

Someone of the same name in the same general area has a history: "The Brew asked Tillman if Bishop Cook is the same Heather Elizabeth Cook, 4325 Cabin Creek Road, arrested on September 10, 2010 on drinking, driving and drug charges in Caroline County, according to this local media coverage and online court records."

It's always a shame
to take the blame
for somebody else who has the same name.

But it sounds like the address matches too,
which increases the likelihood that the identification is true.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Vote the Name You Know

The pundits predict we'll get Clinton or Bush. 
I'll stand on a ledge if you'll give me a push. 

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Killing in Question

"Failure to frisk puts killing in question. Mother says pat-down would have prevented cops shooting son in ER."

That's the heading and subheading on a front-page story on today's paper edition of the Chicago Tribune.

Basically, a mom wishes the state troopers had frisked her son before an ambulance took him to the ER. Because after he got to the ER, her son pulled out a gun, and wouldn't put it down upon request, at which point the local suburban police shot him and killed him.

According to the legal experts quoted in the story, there's no duty to frisk, as such. Police have fairly broad powers to frisk if they feel threatened, apparently. But they don't have to frisk every time someone yells at them.

Actually, in a lot of place, residents complain about over-aggressive frisking from the police. It's one of the complaints you hear a lot. You particularly hear that young black men get frisked disproportionately. And, yes, this guy who got shot was a young black man.

The online headline is a bit more subdued: "Family asks why man shot by police in hospital wasn't frisked after crash"

That's fair. You might well ask. But I don't think it quite "puts the killing in question" as the paper headline put it.

If I were going to question the original killing, I guess I would ask rather why it's necessary to shoot someone who is refusing to put a gun down. The answer that I will hear, I think, is that the police feared for their own lives or those of others. And I can see being afraid when an angry guy is holding a gun. I guess I would be afraid too, particularly if he pointed it at me. It's very clear that everyone is afraid of this guy, since they scramble in fear away from him.

There's some video from a news station here, showing some surveillance footage that doesn't show you all that much. There's some other footage here.

A couple of the news stories mention that 9 shots were fired in less than 2 seconds. Yes, that's how the police shoot you nowadays, a lot of the time. They practically empty a semi-automatic pistol into you, and they can do it pretty fast. They don't shoot you once and wait to see if you drop. That's regarded, I believe, as an unreliable approach.

The police report said: "The officers fired until the immediate threat was over."

In the unfortunate circumstance that you get hit with 9 rounds,
you're probably "over" before you hit the ground.

Friday, December 26, 2014

The Interview

We downloaded The Interview... a movie I wouldn't normally be in a hurry to see. It made me laugh, off and on. I thought the guy playing the dictator was good - he had some charisma, probably more than the real dictator of the same name.

It's not exactly that I highly recommend it,
but I didn't want some government to end it.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Last Place You Look

I was playing Santa in a quiet house,
wrapping gifts for a certain spouse...

When I realized one present was missing. I really only stash Christmas gifts in one of 2 places, so I reexamined those places.


Had I had stashed the gift in some new, previously unused location?

But I couldn't think of where that would be.

Finally, I began to wonder if it was possible, just possible, that I had never removed that particular gift from the trunk of my car.

And sure enough, that was the place,
the big solution to my case.

Monday, December 22, 2014

The Case of the Funnybone Faint

Once it happened to me,
I got knocked out through my knee...

It was in elementary school, maybe 4th grade. The teacher gave us a problem, I think a math problem, to solve. Anyway, it was some kind of speed contest, and the teacher instructed us to stand up as soon as we solved the problem.

I was good at this sort of thing, and I'm competitive, so I finished the problem and jumped up very quickly... and banged my knee into the underside of my desk. I got an immediate radiating sensation, like I'd hit my funnybone, except in my knee.

And then... I was waking up. I thought it was morning. I thought I was home. And then I heard my teacher saying: "John Enright, get up off of the floor this instant!"

Yes, she thought I was faking it. However, as Angela Gentile explains it:

"A vasovagal or vasodepressor response is a reflex the body goes through when a certain trigger is present. When the funny bone, or ulnar nerve is struck hard by a pointy object, a vasovagal response can occur. This can also happen when the peroneal nerve (just below the knee) is struck. The body responds by having a large amount of blood pool into the legs, which in effect pulls blood away from the major organs, like the brain and heart. The brain goes unconscious for a short time, until the blood gets pumped back into the brain and heart."

Why did my teacher think I goofing around?
Did she mistake me somehow for a class clown?

Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Merry Widow

Last night we enjoyed the local Light Opera Works production of Franz Lehar's The Merry Widow. It's a new translation/adaptation. Act III doesn't quite match either of the versions described in the linked Wikipedia article. But I liked it.

There's a joke in this version that got a lot of laughs. I'm guessing it wasn't in the original. So, spoiler alert on the joke.

*** recurring gag spoiler ***

The joke depends on the fact that the characters are all multi-lingual in European languages, but they all consistently regard English as "the language of love".

English, you see, is the modern language of science, of business, and so forth. But we tend to think the "Romance" languages have the edge on expressions of romance.

I think it's the tendency, in English speaking cultures, to emphasize speaking plainly, as opposed to high-flown hyperbole. English is seen as lacking in ornament, like Charlie Brown's Christmas tree, kind of bare.

But, in fairness
to English's alleged bareness,
take a good look at a Shakespeare sonnet,
and whether or not you find ornament on it,
I hope you'll agree that it's lovely beyond compareness.

Cop Killer

So, after all the tormented examination of some killings by police officers, we get an unarguable revenge killing of 2 police officers.

The killings by police officers, were an odd mix of cases (Brown, Garner, Rice, Crawford), but all involved black men shot by cops in cases where the initial situation involved either very minor crime, or no crime at all. The Rice and Crawford cases involved toy guns that the police didn't know were toys. The Brown and Garner cases involved confrontations that escalated terribly.

But now we get this, a black man, Ismaaiyl Brinsley, killing 2 cops in revenge, "putting wings on pigs" as he reportedly put it on Instagram.

NYC has a melting pot police force, and the 2 cops he killed were not "white" exactly, but not "black" either. Going by surnames and appearances, one looks to have been Hispanic, and the other East Asian. In other situations, if they were victims being lionized by the left, they would already be referred to as "people of color".

The perpetrator, though, is a black-looking man with a Muslim-looking first name, who may have considered himself as a Muslim, who shot 2 cops on anti-terrorism training duty.

Needless to say, the perpetrator, who also shot his own girlfriend, was probably all kinds of crazy. And I think he did us all a favor by offing himself.

Did I mention that NYC protesters were filmed calling for "dead cops"?

This reminds me of the 60s, when the revolutionaries would chant "Off the pigs!". The way it plays out, is renewed respect for the police.

People feel a need for organized protection. They would like that protection to be conducted in a reasonable, non-discriminatory manner. But they really don't like murderous jerks who set out to kill cops. The optics on this are terrible for the left. This is a big splashy case which will command a lot of national attention.

When you demonize the police,
you do not help the cause of peace.

Correction: They weren't on anti-terrorism duty. "In a related story, both were reassigned from an anti-terror beat to enhancing security at a public housing development in Brooklyn’s Bed-Stuy neighborhood — the exact population the NYPD is accused of victimizing."

Bedford-Stuyvesant is a notoriously tough black neighborhood. You may have heard the old Billy Joel song:

I've been stranded in the combat zone
I walked through Bedford Stuy alone
Even rode my motorcycle in the rain
And you told me not to drive
But I made it home alive
So you said that only proves that I'm insane.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Welcome Mat

Sean Penn has concerns:

"This week, the distributors who wouldn't show The Interview and Sony have sent ISIS a commanding invitation. I believe ISIS will accept the invitation. Pandora's box is officially open."

You may believe that you're saving,
yourself from grief when you're caving.
But that sort of grief has a way,
of returning to stay the next day.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Instagram Ka-Blam

It's not easy being a celebrity. You need to keep your star shining. You're famous partly just for being famous.

And one way to prove your famousness is by having many followers... social media followers... let's say Instagram followers in particular... some of whom were recently eliminated as being fake accounts:

"On Thursday, we noticed about 1.3 million of Kim Kardashian’s vanished. Rihanna’s decreased by about 1.2 million. Katy Perry’s went down 300,000. Even Oprah lost 100,000."

You may think it's funny,
but I bet they paid good money,
to make their numbers surge.

Gone now, in a purge.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

A Kind of Luck

Usually captains of police are not on the front lines of shoot-outs, but earlier this year a Chicago police captain took 2 bullets. He lived, and has now returned to work.

'Next time, he joked, he'll know to duck a little better, "so I wouldn't get this big head shot again."'

That's rather cool and self-deprecatory, but the story makes clear that getting shot was a big emotional experience. I remember talking to a police officer once, shortly after he had been shot at. He was in no mood to make light of it at the time. He was still quite shaken by the experience. Well, I don't blame him. I've never been shot at, but I bet I wouldn't like it.

Struck in the head,
lucky not to be dead,
ducking next time instead.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Censored Rhyme

I came across a discussion of "censored rhyme", a.k.a. "mind rhyme", a technique I'm familiar with, although I don't think I had a name for it. Anyway, here's my news-of-the-day contribution.

I put all my money in rubles,
because I thought Putin was smart.
But now my big bubbly investment,
is starting to smell like a... foully aromatic raspberry tart.


Key event in American history:

"The infamous Salem witch trials began during the spring of 1692, after a group of young girls in Salem Village, Massachusetts, claimed to be possessed by the devil and accused several local women of witchcraft."

Whether they were insane,
or whether they merely lied,
panic ran amain
and innocents died.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014


Some say it was a titan,
who long ago enlightened,
our cold and shivering kind.

But surely Prometheus,
was merely one of us,
with bold and questioning mind.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Theory of Everything

Spoiler alert.

Seriously, spoiler alert.

Okay, that's out of the way.

We saw this movie, characterized as a romantic drama, it's very much about the relationship between Stephen Hawking and his first wife.

I knew that they were both married to other people now, and I wondered how they were going to handle that. In particular I wondered it they would end the story before the marriage broke up.

But, no. And the culmination of the movie is really that they're still friends after the marriage ends. Curiously, it mentions that she remarried, but doesn't mention that he did, although we do see the budding of his relationship with his current wife, who perhaps comes across as a bit of a hussy. Well, the story is based on the first wife's memoir.

The acting, particularly the guy playing Hawking, and his physical deterioration, seemed spectacular.

I really expected the story to be terribly sad,
but somehow it wasn't. For that I am glad.

The Accused

"An Alabama educator is picking up the pieces of her life after a student wrongly accused her of sexual abuse."


She's got guilty eyes,
but to my surprise,
it seems like she's innocent.

She gave up her job,
moved back with her mom,
but avoided imprisonment.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Illinois Constitutional Conundrum

Our state comptroller just had a stroke, and died, after being reelected. She was just finishing one term, and about to start another.

And we just elected a Republican governor, to replace our Democratic governor. But the new guy hasn't taken office yet.

In Illinois, the guv gets to appoint a replacement comptroller. But which guv gets to do that? Old or new?

Our new guy's position is that they should split the difference. The old guv can appoint someone to fill out the current term, and the new guv can appoint someone to fill out the next term.

What I want to know is: why on earth is our constitution vague on this point? Who wrote this thing?

When your constitution is murky on questions of this sort,
it just makes more work for your state supreme court.

Friday, December 12, 2014


Morning frost reveals
Structure roof conceals. 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Doing the Dew

There was an amusing article in the WSJ today about "The Athletes Who Train With Soda". It proceeded to document:

"...a surprising truth: Many high-level athletes not only drink the occasional soda, they use it strategically to fuel their performance. This persists amid the vilification of sugary soft drinks as a contributor to the nation’s high rate of obesity."

This is surprising? Really? Who do they think these people are? These are not people struggling with obesity. These are people struggling to shovel enough calories into their bodies.

Also, these are not people who are obsessed with their health, not exactly. Rather they are obsessed with their performance level.

As for me, although decidedly non-elite, I do sometimes drink the stuff. I often put a mix of half-soda, half-water in my bottles for long bike rides. Mostly because I really don't think that's much different that "sports drinks".

And towards the end of a marathon training run, I will sometimes stop in a 7-11 along the way, and buy a bottle of Mountain Dew sometimes. I know, the research tells us that it's too sugary to be absorbed efficiently by the average body. But my body tolerates it well. And sometimes I am very glad of that caffeine kick.

Was it supposed to be hush-hush
that athletes crave the sugar-rush
and sometimes chug down cans of Crush?

Hostile Witness

I can't quite follow what the point of this was.

'Federal prosecutors said Tuesday they will not call one of President Barack Obama’s closest friends, Dr. Eric E. Whitaker, before a jury hearing a multimillion-dollar grand-fraud case because of “baseless accusations” they say Whitaker leveled the day before.'

We have a stinky fraud trial here, a federal trial concerning money siphoned from our state treasury. Dr. Whitaker was apparently close to one of the accused perpetrators.

Federal prosecutors complained he wasn't cooperative enough, and asked the judge to declare Whitaker a "hostile witness" so they could question him more freely. The judge agreed to designate him as hostile, but now the prosecutors have declared they don't want him to testify after all!

They are nonetheless entering some stuff about him into the trial record.

I don't get it. I don't think the reporters get it, either. I suspect it's some tricky technical legal thing.

But, but, but...
I'm baffled as to what.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Credulity Rationalized

From a writer in The Guardian:

"I choose to believe Jackie. I lose nothing by doing so, even if I’m later proven wrong – but at least I will still be able to sleep at night for having stood by a young woman who may have been through an awful trauma."

Again, belief is here justified not on the basis of evidence, not as a matter of plausibility, but as an evaluation of cost. Not utilitarian social cost this time, just self cost: "I lose nothing by doing so."

Whether you know it or not, you pay a terrible cost.
Your tether to reality is lost.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Police Involved Shootings

I was slow to notice, but lately, at least here in Chicago, whenever a cop shoots someone it's called a "police involved shooting".

In the old days, I think we just would have called it a "police shooting".

What do we gain by adding that "involved"?
That mystery, I fear, will not be solved.

Friday, December 05, 2014


I worked as a reporter one summer for the City News Bureau, here in Chicago, way back in 1972. I would not call it glamorous, but it had its educational moments. On one of my very first days on the job, there was a story about 2 young women who claimed to have been raped and held overnight.

I thought it was a story to take seriously, but a lot of the older reporters were scornful, assuring me that this was a made-up story, an excuse concocted by the young women as a story to tell their parents about where they had been. As I recall, they turned out to be correct. The young women recanted.

I don't know how the older reporters knew better. Maybe friends on the police force had tipped them. Maybe there were unlikely details in the young women's stories. I don't recall. But I remember being shocked.

Tonight I went to call-backs for Arthur Miller's The Crucible, which is a play about a true event: young women accused other people of witchcraft, leading to the Salem witch trials. There were many unlikely details in the stories that the young women told. But they were believed. For a while. But a lot of people died before the town came to its senses.

It can be a harsh fruit to chew,
but it's something you have to do.
You're crazy if you deny
that people sometimes lie.

Also, today was the day that the Rolling Stone / UVA fraternity-rape story fell apart.

'“In the face of new information, there now appear to be discrepancies in Jackie’s account, and we have come to the conclusion that our trust in her was misplaced,” wrote managing editor Will Dana in “A Note to Our Readers” posted on the magazine’s Web site. (The magazine did not return calls for further comment.)'

Their reporter had failed to check out both sides of the story.

There's an old joke among journalists about the need for verification: "If your mother says she loves, you check it out." Sometimes the joke includes an admonition to come back with at least two other sources establishing the claim of maternal affection.

It may be hoary advice,
but check your story twice.

Thursday, December 04, 2014


You might wonder why the sale of loose cigarettes is a crime. The FDA specifically bans the practice:

"Do NOT sell single cigarettes, also called 'loosies'."

Apparently it's to protect the children! African American children in particular:

'In many urban areas, the widespread availability of single cigarettes known as "loosies" poses a significant threat to anti-smoking initiatives—and may be contributing to the high percentage of young adult African Americans who smoke, according to a Bloomberg School study published in August's American Journal of Public Health.'

This can lead to people accidentally dying while being forcibly arrested.

It may seem like a gentle nudge
but if one refuses to budge
in comes a swarm
of men in uniform.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Auditioning: The Crucible

Tonight I auditioned for a production of Arthur Miller's The Crucible. It's my favorite of his, although I haven't seen or read them all.

Back when I was a kid, everyone thought Death Of A Salesman was his masterwork, but I have the impression that Crucible gets more attention nowadays.

In the scene I read, I played Danforth, a deputy governor of Massachusetts, one of the officials running the Salem witch trials.

He's a scary dude in the scene I played.

He's making a witness sweat
while controlling his own inner panic
trying to deal with the threat
of secrets dark and Satanic.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Time is Money

The NY Times picks up a press release about a deteriorating situation:

"The vast majority of students at American public colleges do not graduate on time, according to a new report from Complete College America, a nonprofit group based in Indianapolis."

Some bachelors of arts
take more years to come to fruition.

The only bad part
is you have to keep paying tuition.

Monday, December 01, 2014

Also She Missed Her Plane

A scary headline at the Sun-Times:

"Security line at Midway Airport Sunday morning was reportedly a mile long"

Connoisseurs of the editorial arts will have noticed that "reportedly" disclaimer, which is kind of amusing, because I don't think they'd use that if one of their own reporters was vouching for the measurement. But in this case, it seems to have originated with an out-of-town TV reporter who tweeted she had measured the line at 1.2 miles.

It's hard to keep your Thanksgiving smile
when security stretches over a mile.