Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Your Share Of Internet Billions

I heard an ad the radio the other day.

Some guy, "against the counsel of his advisers", was willing to share his secrets of how to make lots of money on the internet - telling you how to get "your share of the internet billions" - without even having to go online!

I think you could send away for his free advice. I have a hunch that his free advice might involve paying for some additional items.

But the best part, for me, was when he said you could make "up to 500 dollars a day or more". It was the "up to... or more" construction that struck me as beyond nonsensical.

TV Tropes has taken note of this sort of claim and has their own theory:

'The intent is that "up to 50% or more", instead of being interpreted as "anything", is often interpreted as "most likely 50% with possibilities of taking it to the next level", and thus the advertisers try to get consumers thinking they could save even more than that. Does this really work? It must, because advertisers (particularly low-budget ones) keep doing it.'

Is it a ceiling
or is it a floor?
I am left reeling
by "up to or more".

Party Gone Wrong

When I first saw that "2 men dressed as women" had attempted to ram the NSA gate at Fort Meade, I wondered what that was about. Was it a disguise? Were they cross-dressers? Were they transgendered in some way?

In some circles you would be required to first inquire as to how these individuals identified themselves, gender-wise. Perhaps it wasn't "2 men dressed as women". Perhaps it was 2 trans-women, dressed as women, despite being born with male bodies.

I'm sure we'll learn more, but for now there's this: "Preliminary information indicated the two men were partying at an area hotel with a third individual when they took that individual's car without permission."

The "partying" part makes me think that they just meant to "have fun", and that things went horribly wrong. One of them's dead now.

When you're on a bender,
no matter what your gender,
only intrude on a fort
as a last resort.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Age Group Bling

This is from a 5k yesterday, my first organized run of 2015.

If there are only 4 guys my age in the race,
I can sometimes take 2nd place!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Past Is A Foreign Country...

...they do things differently there.

My wife came across this artifact from the past:

It's obviously old. There's no zip code, so it's pre-1963. You can read a bit about the company, which sold novelties in the back of comic books here.

It's mostly being passed around as a misogynist artifact now.

You can also find examples of this shoe on the other foot, like this cartoon from the New Yorker, which still seems to be on sale:

The metaphor of mate-finding as a form of hunting is an old one. This metaphor can make people nervous, for obvious reasons. And things that make people nervous... can also make them laugh.

It can be a delicate line
a matter of careful design
between outrageous gaffe
and belly laugh.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Trollway Travels

Radio Free Europe has a dismaying but intriguing interview with a guy who says he's a former professional troll - for the Russians.

'There are thousands of fake accounts on Twitter, Facebook, LiveJournal, and vKontakte, all increasingly focused on the war in Ukraine. Many emanate from Russia's most famous "troll factory," the Internet Research center, an unassuming building on St. Petersburg's Savushkina Street, which runs on a 24-hour cycle. In recent weeks, former employees have come forward to talk to RFE/RL about life inside the factory, where hundreds of people work grinding, 12-hour shifts in exchange for 40,000 rubles ($700) a month or more.'

And yes, they have full sock-puppet arguments with each other, troll-to-troll, creating the appearance of differing opinions that are nonetheless united on the basic premise, let us say, that Vladimir Putin is a great guy.

If you're going to be a troll,
Set yourself a financial goal.
Why spend lots of time
Dispensing fake slime
Unless you are on the pay roll?

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Neighbor's Puppy Recaptured

I was walking from my house to the train this morning, and I was on my cellphone alerting my dad to the fact that the Tribune had a story on page 3 about me. He was asking me whether the story was scandalous or not, claiming that he didn't want to read anything shockingly bad about me.

Just about then, I spotted a loose puppy, charcoal grey, maybe a French Bulldog, crossing the street toward me, running away from a man and a little girl. It looked sort of like this:

The man shouted out a request for me to stop the puppy.

So I squatted and gestured to it, and it parked itself about a foot in front of me, and I grabbed it by the scruff of the neck. It growled at me a little, but stayed put while the man came to retrieve it.

And while doing this, I actually carried on the conversation with my dad pretty well.

And so, without messing up
I somehow managed to handle
Both a fugitive pup
And scurrilous rumors of a scandal.

Rhyming in the Trib

The Chicago Trubune ran an article about my versifying, and ironically I was so preoccupied by the article yesterday, that I didn't post to this blog!

Article is here. It's written by Gregory Pratt, photo by Chris Sweda.

It's about my rhyming addiction,
And strictly true - no fiction!

The article may be behind their paywall, but if you don't want to register you may be able to get a view by googling for the article, say by googling Chicago Tribune and my name.

Monday, March 23, 2015

First Snow of Spring

The robins are feeling surly.
They think they came back too early.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Changing Tires

Showed my daughter how to change the tire on her car today. (Her husband is out of town.) I had her do a bunch of the work, explaining precautions along the way. She said it was easier than she thought it would be. We did have the great advantage of doing it in a dry warm space - namely her building's garage.

But... how did I fail to show her this before? Now I'm wondering if my son knows how to do it.

During my lifetime, knowing how has actually become less important. Nowadays, with cell phones, you can usually just call someone.

But when your tire loses its air,
it's good to know how to put on the spare.


New York City is forever facing some threatened apocalypse, and is forever muddling through, at least so far.

And now another rough beast slouches forth:

"Baby Wipes are destroying the New York sewer system"

They say that cute little wipes,
are wrecking the big city pipes.
They tangle into a mass,
through which nothing further can pass.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Return of the Robins

My yoga teacher said she saw a robin
Last Saturday when we were doing Tree.
Balanced on just one leg and badly wobbling,
I dared not turn my head to try to see.

Today, according to the Wonks of Weather,
Spring comes at last and I am glad to hear it.
You know the winter can't go on forever
But in Chicago I begin to fear it.

I dream that now we've hit the equinox,
The snow will fall no more, or only slightly,
That robins will return in chirpy flocks,
And daffodils will flash their trumpets brightly.

At least, I hope that's where this weather's heading.
I really think I've had enough of sledding.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Seasons and Reasons

"As trite as it sounds, mistakes are better teachers than parents. Rather than preventing our kids from experiencing failure, we instead must show them how to interpret it."

That's from my friend Debra Ross's new book, Seasons and Reasons: A Parent's Guide to Cultivating Great Kids. The Kindle version is free today as I write, in one of these promotional offer deals.

I'm about 21 percent in. Yes, as many of you know, that's the sort of fact you have available when you read in Kindle format.

It's a charming book, easy to read, reflective about being an active parent.

A life without setbacks must be
a boring ride, short on glee.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Only Outlaws Will Drive

Elon Musk, founder of Tesla, speculates that self-driving cars will turn out to be a lot safer than cars with outmoded human drivers.

"In the distant future, (legislators) may outlaw driven cars because they're too dangerous."

Will the day arrive
When we are deprived
Of the right to drive?

Will they try to steal
The steering wheel
From your automobile?

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

St. Paddy's Day Wishes

I hope your day was filled with cheer,
but please steer clear of all green beer.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Common Sense Censorship

When framing a certain amendment, namely the very first,
Why didn't they make an exception - for statements that make my brain burst?
I'll be the Supreme Justice, and only ban the worst. 
Really, you can trust me, few will be coerced. 

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Where's Vladimir?

Putin is sort of missing -
he's off the public stage.
I'm thinking "another facelift" -
to hide advancing age.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Color Me Forgetful


Two weeks ago I lost this set of keys on the lawn in front of the vet. Distracted by my puppy, I apparently dropped them without even realizing I had done so.

I didn't find them until today, even though I had gone back several times to look for them. Why was I successful today? Because the snow was finally gone!

But what I want to mention is that I couldn't recall the color of that red and black carabiner thing. I kept thinking that it was either red or blue, but I wasn't sure which. What I've decided, over the years, is that I have a bad memory for colors, particularly if I haven't thought consciously about the color of something.

I don't really have trouble distinguishing colors. I pass color blindness tests.

But for some reason I don't understand at all,
I have trouble with color recall.

PS: Before I was seven, I saw a peeping tom out one of our apartment windows. A guy with a ladder in our back yard. I started talking to him, out the window, and he left in a hurry. The police questioned me about the color of his clothes, and I had no idea. I remember thinking what a poor witness I made.

Pi Day

The celebration may be international
But the object clearly is irrational.
I cannot understand this overreaction
Regarding the failure to compute a fraction.
I fear these mathematicians have gone mental,
Thinking mere reason can grasp what's transcendental.

The Emperor of the Moon

I saw an interesting English Restoration farce tonight, The Emperor of the Moon, by Aphra Behn, who seems to be regarded as the first important female playwright, in English anyway. Back when I was in college, no one paid her any attention, or at least I don't recall hearing of her, but in the intervening years she has risen to some prominence.

I wasn't crazy about the production, but perhaps they did the best with what they had, and it did give me a chance to see the play "up on its feet". The central character is a gullible astronomer, led astray by his belief that there are inhabitants on the moon. He is taught a lesson by suitors of his daughter and niece, who pretend to be royalty from the moon in order to win the young women's hands. It certainly had its laugh-out-loud moments, which, after 300 years, is pretty good.

The moon has much magic to give,
but lacks a good place to live.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Rarely to Return

A local political gossip columnist has the scoop - the Obamas aren't coming back to Chicago. Her story is based on inside sources.

“I don’t think the emotional tie to Chicago is what it once was. Perhaps not sophisticated enough.”

I'm not sure the emotional tie to Chicago was ever all that strong. The moment he got in the White House, they were gone. They didn't come back here to vacation. They went to Hawaii for that. I've been predicting for a while that they wouldn't move back here. They seem to like the world of glamor and A-list celebrities, and that's not our specialty.

He's not really "from" here anyway. I know a lot of conservatives have labored to label him as a Chicago-way Machine Politician, but that's never really what he was. He dealt with those people, but he wasn't exactly one of them.

When you're enamored
of world-class glamor
Chicago must seem like a smack with a hammer.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Rehearsal Two

Coming soon: The Devilish Children, by Jeremy Menekseoglu, presented at Dream Theatre.

I have a part to play.

"Set in a children's school for manners in a dark corner of a German fable, THE DEVILISH CHILDREN (AND THE CIVILIZING PROCESS) teaches Little Karl (age 3) all the lessons a young boy needs to know to grow up to be a fine gentleman. Perhaps Little Karl is truly learning instead, to become a teuflische kind."

Devilish Children, confab number two,
Occurs tonight. The goal: a shared construction
Of what this world is. Both cast and crew
Will ponder visions conjured by deduction,
From studying our roles within the script.
Having a part lends focus to the mind;
You notice things that might indeed have slipped
Right by you, unless you're the one assigned
To speak the words or take an action, then
You stand in those imaginary shoes,
And mull what it might mean exactly when
Time rolls around and you must choose or lose.
By steps we prep an overarching frame.
Children at play have always done the same.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015


I'm glad we're saving daylight. Where's the bank?
I'd like to see the vault with all the rays
That we've collected, and I'd like to thank
The guards for making sure the sunlight stays
Exactly where we put it, stored with love,
In jars of gold that hide an inner glow.
Light falls upon us from the sun above,
We lock it tight in safety vaults below.
Or is this all a sham? How do we save
By fiddling with the hours on our clocks?
Did April Fools come early? And who gave
Orders to "spring" BEFORE the equinox?
The radio alarm is sounding early,
And I go stumbling forth all hurly-burly.

Monday, March 09, 2015


Heading into work,
lost a library book on the way. 

Inventor of daylight savings is the jerk,
who made me dumber today.

Friday, March 06, 2015

Five Finger Discount-Taker

When shoplifting is your habit,
You don't just buy stuff, you grab it. 

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Safari Park

A drive in a Safari Park is sure to give a view
Of lions just outside your car, that look right back at you.
Cats have a gift for opening all sorts of things, I hear,
So maybe lock your auto doors before you get too near,
Or you may find that when the felines send out for dessert,
That you are on the menu for a world full of hurt.

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

When 117 Years Seems Short

On her birthday: "World's oldest person says 117 years seems short"

The world's oldest living human being
Declared that life had gone by rather quickly.
When she looks back, is it a blur she's seeing?
Would it seem slower if she had been sickly?

Compared to other animals, our span
Of days runs fairly long. It's not the shortest,
Although it's true our days are briefer than
The days belonging to the giant tortoise.

I reason that if we could banish aging,
Sooner or later we'd die of other causes,
Meteors, earthquakes, wildfires raging,
At last would blast us to our final pauses.

Find what's worthwhile for you, and do not worry
Too much that it will go by in a hurry.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Rules About Email

Rules about email are a deadly bore,
They tell you that you need to keep a trail
Of everything you send, but, hey, what for?
Sometimes you'd rather that the backups fail!

Sometimes you slip and put something in writing 
That some outsider might misunderstand,
Reporters claim they've got dirt that's exciting,
They say the smoking gun is in your hand!

Privacy is a normal human need. 
Who wants to feel strange eyes over your shoulder?
No wonder politicians often plead
That off-the-record statements can be bolder. 

But citizens are nosy and insist
On checking your entire mailing list!

Monday, March 02, 2015


I am stunned:

"The New York Times reports that Hillary Clinton used only her personal email address while serving as Secretary of State."

This seems to be against the rules, but quite premeditated.

However this comment at Gizmodo seems right:

"Even more interesting will be hearing the explanation. Surely there is one."

I'm not saying we will hear the true and complete explanation. But surely her team has one ready!

Perhaps the rules don't apply
when you are sufficiently high.

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Some Sonnets Do Not Use The Letter X

Some sonnets do not use the letter X.  
No maps are mentioned where "X marks the spot."
No films are featured with "X-rated sex."
An "ex who lives in Texas"? I think not!

X flashes the allure of the unknown,
The algebraic problem to be solved. 
Poor Y may get an axis of its own,
But not the fame, though equally involved. 

X penetrates mere visual appearance,
Its rays reveal the bone beneath the skin,
To verify your skeletal coherence,
Or check your teeth for cavities within. 

One final fact which made my mind perplex:
Its shape is all concave and no convex.