Thursday, December 31, 2015


At work we were talking, in the morning, about 2016, and I mentioned that in New Zealand it was already 4 a.m. tomorrow.

I said
that they had already celebrated and gone to bed,
and soon would wake up with a pounding head.

Don't let some other nation
being done with its celebration
cause New Year's Eve deflation!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Not a Zephyr

The shock of winter wind,
At first feels invigorating, 
But when it refuses to end,
It shifts into aggravating. 

The Shoveler's Song

Goodbye snow!
Off the sidewalk you must go!

Monday, December 28, 2015

If Ravens Could Speak

As I love to mention, apropos of Poe's poem "The Raven", ravens can be trained to talk, the way a parrot can.

So the actual events of The Raven are plausible - namely, a raven shows up, flits about a guy's library, answers every single question with "Nevermore", and fills the guy's heart with despair.

They are plausible if - someone trained a raven to say "Nevermore".

My friend, William Dale, asked me who would have done such a thing, and a backstory came to me.

The bird trainer was a young woman named Ava, who was sweet on the poem's narrator, but who was frustrated by his obsession with once again seeing the lost Lenore. She was just trying to move him to acceptance of the fact that Lenore wasn't coming back.

Ava actually wrote a short poem explaining her efforts:

Since that guy was so obsessive, and found omens so impressive,
I resolved to train a bird to speak and flit but not to soar,
Patiently I kept repeating, like a drum that's always beating,
Like a sheep that keeps on bleating, just one phrase forevermore -
And my tongue grew tired, I tell you, but I kept on, and I swore
That bird would say "Nevermore".

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Boxing Day, Elsewhere In The English-Speaking World

Boxing day is almost gone. Well, we don't call it Boxing day around here. I was very disappointed to learn it didn't involve fistfights. It involved gifts for the servants.

Why did the servants get presents one day late?
Did the masters re-gift presents that weren't so great?

Friday, December 25, 2015


No Christmas meal is complete
Till the dogs have leftovers to eat.

And now, if they could talk,
They'd say, "We need a walk!"


The X is not the X of algebra. The X is the Greek letter Chi, which is the first letter of the Greek word for Christ. I had a theology teacher who was forever abbreviating Christ as Xt, and that's what was going on with the Xmas abbreviation. But then the intent was mistaken to be "taking Christ out of Christmas".

The funny thing, as so often in English, is that even when we spell the word out, we don't say Christ Mass. What we say sounds more like Kris Miss. 

Whether or not you are religious in any way,
I pray you: have a lovely Christmas Day. 

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Christmas Man 2015

Santa shows a brave face,
planning to violate lots of air space,
with a stealth unregistered sleigh,
ho-ho-hoing all the way.

That was me today, playing Santa at a party for kids.

That's me earlier this year, in a different costume, playing the German version of Santa in The Devilish Children at Dream Theatre. If you look close, you may detect the fact that I put white makeup on my dark eyebrows in this version. Contrary to rumor, this was not an evil Santa. The kids were kind of devilish, but Santa was his usual benevolent self.

As I put on my costume today, I asked aloud: what's my motivation? The answer, of course, is spreading good cheer.

Playing Santa is a blast!
But am I being type cast?

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The War on Hello Kittymas

In Maine, a high school told a math teacher that she couldn't have a Hello Kitty Christmas Tree in her classroom. Because nothing says the establishment of a religion like a Hello Kitty Christmas tree. A minor national uproar ensued, and the school reinstated the tree. But what I really liked was this:

'Gordon [the math teacher] wrote on her Facebook page earlier that "everything offends everyone all the time" and that it "just sucks the joy out of everything."'

Some people think it's splendid
to be permanently offended.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Fey the Mean Girl

Time magazine reports on Tina Fey, who comes clean about being mean:

'Fey, 45, reflects on what drove her to bully. “That was a disease that had to be conquered,” she says adding, “It’s another coping mechanism – it’s a bad coping mechanism – but when you feel less than (in high school, everyone feels less than everyone else for different reasons), in your mind it’s a way of leveling the playing field. Though of course it’s not.”'

It was a disease! That could be conquered!

It was a coping mechanism! But a bad one!

I don't quite hear regret
as of yet.

I don't quite hear "I misbehaved
but now am saved."

I do hear time in therapy,
accepting prior history.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

At the Field

When I was a kid, I thought our city's natural history museum, the Field Museum, was named after that fact that there were fields out in nature, where natural history was naturally occurring.

Wrong. It's named after someone named Stanley. Stanley Field, that is.

I hadn't been there in decades, but I went today, to see their exhibit on ancient Greece, from pre-history to Alexander approximately. Which is quite a show. And they have a spectacular Mammoths and Mastodons exhibit right now too. And I also got to see Sue, the big T-Rex fossil, for the first time.

But for some reason, the thing that most impressed me, which I imagine I have seen before, was a big old pterodactyl, which they had hanging up near the ceiling.

Source of photo is here.

What really struck me was how big this beast's head was in proportion to its body.

Silly flying creature,
Your noggin looks enlarged,
And yet despite this feature,
Across the sky you charged,
Swooping down to slay
Your unsuspecting prey.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Early Giftmas

Our kids and their spouses are in town this weekend, but not next weekend, when they will be visiting their respective in-laws.

So we did our gift exchange this morning. It felt strangely like Christmas, even though there are a bunch more shopping days remaining for most of you!

I got a funny/serious pair of socks:

You can see the two socks look a little difference, and the difference is that on one the titles of books are listed, and on the other they are listed, but redacted, as if magic marker had been drawn over the title. All the book titles are of books that have been "banned" somewhere or other. (Bigger pic here.)

Wearing mismatched socks is actually a fashion trend. I have seen it among hip 20-somethings here in Chicago.

As with any trend, there are rules.

"Among the most important: The socks must always be more or less the same length—no mixing a knee high with a short one. And while patterns can be combined, clashing seasons—as with snowflakes and flowers—are frowned upon."

Actually, I gave my wife some mismatched socks this morning, as Christmas socks. I actually bought a pair of pink socks and a pair of green socks. But then I mismatched them and gave them as a green-pink pair and a pink-green pair.

I told her she could join the hipster elite
just by mismatching the socks on her feet.


Behold the jolly old Christmas sport 
Of waiting for luggage at the air port. 

Thursday, December 17, 2015


Not a surprise:

"Enrique Marquez, a friend of San Bernardino attacker Syed Farook, has been charged with multiple terrorism-related charges for his alleged role in supporting the mass shooting. According to officials, Marquez admitted to purchasing the assault rifles that Farook and his wife Tashfeen Malik used in the attack that killed 14 people this month."

It was already widely reported that he'd purchased the rifles so that Farook didn't have to worry about background checks. That's a crime right there, as it happens. Once you admit to that, in a case like this, you have to expect some heavy charges.

It sounds like he's singing like a bird, maybe in the hope of leniency. Or maybe he just likes to talk. A good interrogator builds rapport. But I assume this guy has a lawyer by now. And I assume the lawyer thinks the smart thing at this point is to cooperate, so his client doesn't end up with the federal terrorism death penalty that the Boston bomber was hit with.

It can be quite the life-changing error,
to help your best friend commit terror.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Outside the MCC

Watched woman hauling baby into jail - presumably to visit Dad.
I'm filing that under "experiences I'm glad I haven't had".

That was this evening. Most workdays I walk by a federal facility, the Metropolitan Correction Center. And in the evenings I often see women waiting to visit.

I periodically get a view of the prisoners themselves - when they are on the top of the building, getting exercise, mid-day, in their orange outfits. But it's a tall building, so they're always farther away. The women waiting in line always seem more poignant.

Standing in their shoes,
feeling those visitor blues.

Seasonal Schmeasonal

If you're in a holiday stew,
I hope it gets better for you. 
It can be a rough time to feel blue. 

Sunday, December 13, 2015

In which I curse AT&T U-verse

We went from AT&T old fashioned DSL to AT&T U-verse, which I think is still some flavor of DSL as regards internet, but I believe our phone is now Voice Over Internet Protocol. Whoopee. I think there was a price break for making this upgrade.

Anyway, as soon as it was installed my wife started complaining about the performance. And I noticed a problem of my own, on my own pc, where when first waking up my pc was slow to fully connect wirelessly.

I did some googling and found that a lot of people blame the wireless part of the U-verse "gateway" device, so today I bought a new wireless router, disabled the U-verse native wireless, hooked up the new router as an "access point"... blah blah blah.

Basically, I'm using the wireless features of the new Netgear router, which is wired to the U-verse device.

I think it's working better. We'll see. Otherwise we will probably switch to one of the local cable providers for out broadband. There's one called WOW that people around here like.

Why, oh why, would AT&T use a so-so wireless technology, and force me to go out and buy a new router?

Before, I thought it was working pretty well.
"Upgrades" are often a golden road to hell.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

I Don't Favor Another Invasion, But...

Is it true that ISIS
is just fomenting crisis
in order to entice us
to go another round
of boots upon the ground?

If so, it shows their thinking is unsound.

Friday, December 11, 2015


If a man in a turban
buys a wind turbine
because he misspoke...
is that a Sikh joke?


Nearby neighbors have not been listless.
The block is starting to look like Christmas.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

By The Way

"Self radicalized" is a strange term that makes my brain squirm. 

Monday, December 07, 2015

Sunday, December 06, 2015

Gray Matter Fluctuation

Because ultrarunning is on my mind, I read an article today about a fascinating experiment done in Europe, tracking participants in the Trans Europe Footrace, and scanning them every few days with a portable MRI machine. It's a race that takes place over a span of 2 months, where people run from Italy to Norway, with no days off.

The wildest result to me, pertained to the brain:

"At the end of the race, MRI of the brain revealed about a 6.1 percent loss of gray matter volume in the runners. After eight months, gray matter volume had returned to normal levels."

I found this statistic stunning.
After 2 months of running,
It takes 8 months to regain
Your normal volume of brain?!

Saturday, December 05, 2015

Another 50k

I read an article in the Wall St. Journal a couple of months ago about the latest thinking about marathons - which is that there's no real harm in doing them pretty frequently.

So, I've been trying it, sort of. I ran a marathon in October, and a ran a 50k (31 miles) in November and another today.

I got passed by a nice 74 year old woman who was considerably faster than me. I had a nice conversation with her before telling her to take off without me.

We've had warm weather here. A lot. It got up to the mid-40s today, for example. I'm not sure I want to be doing these long runs outside in actual freezing weather.

When it freezes and there's ice
the footing's not too nice.

Thoughts and Prayers

I know there was a round of shaming, from the secular left, during the California slaughter, for those who sent out "thoughts and prayers". Peggy Noonan today has a column in which she makes the point that actually praying is an efffortful, at least as she does it. And it occurred to me that a lot of traditional Christian prayer used to also go by the name "meditation". I bet the secular left would not engage in meditation shaming, just because contemporary American "meditators" are clustered in the left.

In the face of disaster, people hope
To find the power to cope. 

Thursday, December 03, 2015

Hybrid Attack

Someone called it Hybrid Jihadi Workplace Violence, which I guess is fair enough. It's like the Fort Hood case, from all appearances. It was ridiculous when some people said the Fort Hood case was Workplace Violence and not Terrorism. It obviously had to do with terrorizing people for the sake of some starkly clear religious/political reasons.

Of course, this sort of hybridization apparently doesn't make sense in a big-picture way. I mean, if you're looking to create terror in America, why hit a county holiday party?

But in a small-picture way, in the mind of the deranged persons, it probably makes perfect sense, or what passes for sense.

1) They're already familiar with the ins and outs of the location. No need to case the joint clandestinely.

2) They get to kill people they know and secretly hate, just like other employees who "go postal".

I remember when I heard about the Boston Marathon bombing, I thought to myself, "Oh, it's local Boston people, whoever they are." In Boston, the Marathon's a huge familiar deal. But to everybody else, it's a weird target.

To me, this is evidence of semi-spontaneous terror - radicalized people in random locations, picking out their own targets, with minimal central control, but plenty of ideological inspiration.

Like rabid dogs, deranged and morose,
they start by biting whatever is close.

Computer Printer First Aid

I went to WalMart and bought a cheap Kodak multi-function printer for my dad. And I had some trouble putting the ink-cartridges in... and broke a piece of blue plastic, pushing where it actually had a label that said "push hard".

I guess the label should have said "push hard but not THAT hard!"

I'm not the first person this has happened to. I found others on the web, after I went looking:

"Not sure if it worked, took it back. The ink cartridges latch broke and I couldn't use it."

"When attempting to snap the ink cartridge holder down into a cheap plastic locking piece, it snapped off. I cried and stared in disbelief, cause I followed the instructions (IN BOLD TYPE, also) to PUSH HARD!"

But I did analyze the failure, and decided that a piece of sticky tape could solve the problem. In place of the now-broken latch, I used the tape to close the holder tight. Nothing much to it, once you grasp the problem. I actually used a piece of surgical tape, because it was the first kind I found. Since it was "first aid" for the printer, surgical tape seemed appropriate. And it worked.

After crying in disbelief,
I sighed in relief.

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Anti Libertarian

I read an interesting article which pointed out that Trump is the least libertarian sounding Republican candidate.  Although Huckabee in his own way is also very anti-libertarian. 

Of course the G.O.P. 
Taken as a whole
Is so-so on being free. 
It also loves control.