Saturday, August 30, 2014

Going Long

I did a training run for the marathon today. 
As usual I found coins along the way,
Namely a quarter and three cents
Which I construe
As 26+2. 
Silly, of course. I offer no defense,
Except that a long run tends to drain
Logic from my brain. 

Friday, August 29, 2014

Not To Worry

Our strategy is not worked out,
but that's okay, you see.
We'll have one soon enough and then
I'm sure that it will be...
a most ingenious sort of plan,
the very height of clever.
And everyone who hears will shout,
"Why that's the bestest ever!"

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Sturm's Yellow Wallpaper

I went to see Lorelei Sturm's The Yellow Wallpaper. She adapted the piece, from the classic short story, and she stars in it as well.

It's not quite a one-woman show. There are 2 other actors, with important things to do. But it often feels like a one-woman show, with extended periods in which the lead character addresses the audience.

It's not the sort of story that I love. A woman, suffering from post-partum depression, is confined to a room as a "rest cure" by her know-it-all doctor-husband. She then slowly loses her mind staring at the wallpaper. It's a story to give you bad dreams, but it's very well acted, particularly by Sturm herself, who gives one of those performances that just feels soul-baring.


Walls, narrowing.
All in all, harrowing.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Message of the Messy Ink Stamp


Observe the messy ink stamp from my luggage tag, from yesterday's trip home.

AIES is short for "Aeropuerto International de El Salvador" where I had a layover.

"Reinspeccionado" means reinspected.

Guess what? I was missing 2 things from my suitcase when I unpacked!

I think my iPhone charger and umbrella
got "reinspected"
and collected
by some felonious Salvadoran fella.

My wife, who is still in Guatemala, found the umbrella.
So I slandered some poor Salvadoran fella.

Except, well, the charger is still missing. And she can't seem to find that.

To all you Salvadoran security guys,
I half-apologize.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Brief Thoughts On Guatemala

I know a bunch of people who live in Guatemala. Mostly it's people who have something to do with UFM, the University Francisco Marroquin, which has a distinctly pro-free-markets culture. That makes it a rarity in Latin America. They actually have a big bas-relief of Atlas holding up the industrial world with a quote from Ayn Rand displayed. Here I am with my wife in front of "Atlas Libertas".


The University seems like a well-run operation. I was invited into their network-monitoring room and was suitably impressed. The part of the school I know the most about is actually a relatively new component, the Michael Polanyi College, which is an English language operation with some parallels to the program at St. John's College, where my daughter took her degree. The central parallel is the intense usage of respectful and text-focused group discussion.

"Instead of attending a series of lectures and taking end-of-term memorize-and-forget exams, students at MPC engage in dialogues, debates, group work, creative and analytical writing, and other activities that illuminate core texts of enduring value. The program is centered on the reading of texts that invite us to explore, understand, and advance the frontiers of knowledge."

I had the opportunity to participate in a couple of group discussions, and had a great time. I hope I didn't derail the train for anybody. Sometimes my mind shoots off on tangents.

As for Guatemala itself, it's a confusing society, with a lot of talented people, a lot of good food, a wonderful climate - but deeply dysfunctional public institutions.

You can't drink the water out of the tap. It's contaminated. That's actually not so bad, if you can just remember not to run tap water over your tooth brush. I, of course, kept forgetting. I was pretty careful, and did not get sick. Well, no symptoms so far.

But the real problem is ordinary security. The streets are mostly not safe. Delivery trucks often have a guy riding shotgun - with a real shotgun.


Photo is from here, but I saw the same sort of thing in person, repeatedly. It's much worse than New York City was in the Seventies. But NYC did get better, basically by cracking down intelligently. Maybe Guatemala can figure out a way to do that too.

Next up in Guatemala: consequences from the drought that made a lie of their "rainy season" this year.

"Guatemala’s government declared a state of emergency in 16 of the country’s 22 provinces Monday as Central America suffers one its worst droughts in decades. Experts have warned that major crop losses – mostly in the region's staples of corn and beans - and the deaths of hundreds of cattle could leave hundreds of thousands of families without food."

I admit I'm glad to be back
where basics do not lack.

Monday, August 25, 2014

At Church In Guatemala

Baby Jesus in Saint Joseph's left,
With steel cable to prevent theft. 

Saturday, August 23, 2014

To Be

Spanish has 2 words for "to be"
Which is often confusing to me. 

What's more, I'm studying a lonely planet phrase book, and they use 2 different forms when describing 2 different marital statuses:

I am married: Estoy casado. 
I am single: Soy soltero. 

I guess I should consult someone who can really speak it. 
Is the guide correct or do they need to tweak it?

Friday, August 22, 2014

Say What

In Guatemala
It's hard to folla
The local lingo
When you're a gringo. 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Antigua, Guatemala

No need to panic,
Although it's volcanic. 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014


Posting may be intermittent. 
I'll see how I can fittint. 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014


I've been amused by the ice water challenge thing. Some of the videos are funny. But having briefly submerged myself in Lake Michigan in January a few times, it doesn't look like a big enough challenge!

If an ice water challenge
is what you pursue,
instead of pouring it
all over you,
jumping right in it
is what you should do,
followed by a quick run through the chilly air
trying to dry off and get clothes on before you freeze your derriere.

Monday, August 18, 2014

At Random

Neither the Dalai Lama,
nor President Obama,
are singing "Hare Rama".

As for the Oxford Comma,
it got sick of the drama,
and went crying home to Mama.

Footnote on my lack of sources: I've heard a lot of theories about the president's religious beliefs, but I've yet to hear that he's a secret follower of Hinduism.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Building Up To Another Marathon

I did 22 miles yesterday. I was on my city street training route, that has to do with utilizing public drinking fountains, mostly in city parks. I also can stop at stores along the way.

There is some natural beauty along the way, but there's also a lot of cramped Chicago neighborhoods and industrial grit. Yesterday was big with "block parties", a local institution where a neighborhood block is closed for a day, allowing children to play in the streets, often featuring an inflatable "bounce house", or "jumping jack" as they're known around here.

My route takes me to places I don't go otherwise, and I've grown to feel these places are mine in some odd sense, familiar way-stations on my private journey of preparation for the grueling event of running 26.2 miles. I've been visiting these places for 20 years or so, usually only a few times in the late summer and fall, and I have watched them change.

Oh, look, the soccer field now has artificial turf!

Once in a while I wonder whether any of the people along the way have noticed me, the perennial visitor. I do not see other runners along my way, as a rule. These are not runners' neighborhoods that I am going through. Have I been spotted and noted as that crazy old guy who jogs though the park once in a while?

Did I run by some 5 year old, 20 years ago, who vaguely recognized me yesterday as I trotted by?

I remember discussing running with some young person who was impressed with how many marathons I have run. And I said something like, "It just happens. You do one a year, and before you know it, you've done twenty."

is just a distance to do,
but the training takes my feet
down this set of city streets
where no one knows my name.
It feels familiar all the same.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Medea at Dream Laboratory

I went to see Jeremy Menekseoglu's latest version of Medea last night, which has been getting very good reviews. Trent the Uncatchable was there, and he urged me to sit in the front row, which I noted he was NOT doing. Because Dream Theatre is a "shatter the 4th wall" kind of place, sitting in the front row sometimes opens you up for one-sided conversations with an actor in character.

Anyway, I took up the challenge, and sat in the front row. As it turned out, none of the actors really did the thing where they pick an audience member to speak to as if the audience member were really a character in the show.

The new "laboratory" space is very intimate - it was configured mostly in just 2 rows. I hear it will seat 30 with the way they laid out the seats for this show.

The show itself was quite spectacular. I had seen it before, in a version with a chorus, which this version did not have. I did not feel the lack - I guess I don't recall what the chorus did - but the drama among the central characters was not lacking. I don't want to spoil the basic myth - go do a search on Medea if you want the catalog of horrors that come from the original - but this is a full reimagining - still set in the Greek world of myth and magic - but with an incursion of modern American psychology.

I kept feeling the subtext of... this is what happens when parents divorce and when neither cares for the kids anymore. But, on steroids... or rather, with deadly spells.

In our own day, as in the Age of Bronze,
Children can become expendable pawns.

Thursday, August 14, 2014


People talk about meditation as if it's some one thing, but it's a variety of practices that go by that name, and these practices blur into things that go by other names, such as prayer, self-hypnosis, and even daydreaming.

You see headlines about scientific studies establishing the benefits of meditation, but if you get into the details it's really not established at all, particularly if you want to prove that meditation works better than a placebo practice. Someone even developed an "anti-meditation" practice to use for the control group, where instead of sitting peacefully you pace and focus on problems.

I'm not trying to get anyone who likes meditation to stop. Far from it. Hey, I like to do it myself sometimes. I'm just saying it hasn't been established as better than a placebo. Which is a pretty high bar, since placebos are often effective. And it could be that the scientists are just falling down on the testing job. It's not as if it's easy to measure mental states with any precision. I really don't think it is. Psychologists have to make do with gauzy instruments.

The mind is a treasure
that's trouble to measure.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Denial, It's A Job

Forbes claims that D.C. is now the nation's coolest city.

And, as if to back that up, Reason Magazine has a letter from what has to be the coolest job title going: FOIA Denial Officer.

You remember FOIA. It's the Freedom Of Information Act. And it turns out that the Education Department has someone whose job is specifically to write letters that say things like:


After something as clear as that,
surely there's no need for further chat.

When I Stopped Reading

I started reading an article with a click-bait headline:

"Why you should stop believing in evolution"

I immediately saw the cop-out subhead:

"You don't believe in it — you either understand it or you don't"

Well, this is crass equivocation on what "believe" means. To believe, in everyday usage, is not to "take on faith". It is, "to accept as true," whether such acceptance is based on scientific evidence, religious belief, etc.

And then I got to this sentence:

"Humanity, after all, is but one ugly branch on the big tree of life."

Well, my intelligence had already been insulted... but now my looks were being insulted too!

So I stopped reading.

Pseudo-intellectual snark,
I consign you to the dark.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Summertime Sadness

I've been resisting watching Dead Poets Society. For forever. I tell my wife it's because I don't like hearing about Dead Poets. Really, it's because I know one of the boys dies somehow, and I haven't felt up for that. But now I suppose I'll have to watch, as a kind of goodbye.

I don't like goodbyes.
I don't like wet eyes.
But it's not like the blues
let you choose.

Power Dynamics

Lana Del Rey is a singer who had a big hit called Summertime Sadness. In the video, it's dramatized around a lesbian relationship. I couldn't actually hear that orientation in the lyrics, but what do I know?

Then I ran into an essay by a lesbian, who wrote: 'I’ve been listening to Lana Del Rey’s Ultraviolence since its June release and here’s my review: gay conversion therapy is notoriously ineffective, but if I hear another Lana Del Rey song, I might switch teams on my own. Lana Del Rey makes me wish I were straight.'

I was somewhat amused by this line: 'And I rather like having a romantic relationship unobstructed by the stark power dynamics that inevitably come into play in heterosexual partnerships.'

Really? No power dynamics in same-sex relationships? Ever? I find this hard to believe. Or, is it just that same-sex power dynamics aren't "stark"?

But, again, what do I know?

Relationships flower
when they empower
hearts into flight
souls into light.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Hell Hounds Again

I was thinking that this ISIS mess reminded me of the Khmer Rouge mess many years ago. The U.S. pulls out of an area, and murderous hell hounds move in.

In the case of the Khmer Rouge, we stayed out, and let the murder happen. Later, we wrung our hands about how it could have happened, amid much finger pointing. (Please excuse the mixed metaphor of hands being wrung and fingers being pointed. You can't quite do both at once, but I guess you can alternate.)

One of the problems is that once we touch it, we feel that everything that happens there is our responsibility. But, we do seem to go in making promises. Take our side, people, and everything will be better. And it works for a while, to some extent. Then, sometimes, we get tired of being there. And we pull out. And some of the people who took our side take a terrible beating.

It's tough being the world cop,
and hard to know when to stop.


As a reading, at the wedding ceremony, I read an adapted version of one of my older poems, which twice steals a line from Christopher Marlowe. My poem is called Proposal. The renowned borrowed line is "Come live with me, and be my love."

Our destiny is at our feet,
And you are by my side. 
Come live with me, and be my love. 
Come walk with me, and be my bride. 

When two hearts such as ours meet
They cannot part - become one life. 
Come live with me, and be my love. 
Come walk with me, and be my wife. 

Friday, August 08, 2014

Son Getting Married

To my wife:

Thanks for arranging the wedding rehearsal dinner. 
Attendees stayed late - it must have been a winner. 

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Cadillac Mountain

I did not know that there was a Cadillac Mountain. But we drove up it this morning. And I saw someone driving down in a Cadillac, too. 

I'm told that the top of the mountain is the first place that dawn's light comes to the United States every morning. 

But we did not arise
Early enough to see dawn's skies. 
Lazy heads,
We were lay-a-beds!

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

TSA Says

You canna
Walk a banana
Through the scanna. 

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

By The Railroad Tracks


Don't blink
or you might miss
the pink
of bliss.

Monday, August 04, 2014


Well, this horrifying thing happened yesterday in Evanston.

"Zyzanski had been with several friends when he got the gun and began showing it off, according to a statement from police. His friends told him to put it away but he removed two to three rounds, held the gun to his cheek and told friends it was empty, police said."

Please don't point what you think is an empty gun,
unless you have good reason to kill someone.

And it may be you who's dead
with a shotgun blast to the head.

Sunday, August 03, 2014


I'm sympathetic to the helpful impulse with regard to U.S. citizens who have caught the Ebola virus. Perhaps we can help them here. But can we protect ourselves here? If you tell me to trust the CDC, etc., I will remind you of the recent episode where they left a forgotten vial of active smallpox sitting behind an unlocked door.

I hope the virus can be contained.
It's rather gruesome unrestrained.

Saturday, August 02, 2014

Song of the Older Triathlete

I haul my old self
To swim, bike, and run. 
I'm no sprightly elf
But I still think it's fun
To race down the road
While I mash on the pedals. 
My times, they have slowed,
But I still long for medals. 

Friday, August 01, 2014

Contested Terms

"Feminism, noun, the advocacy of women's rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men."

That's my Google-given definition. I note that one must believe in equality, although it's a term much fought over.

But clearly you are disqualified
if you claim superiority
for the world wide