Tuesday, August 30, 2016


He's getting a rise out of people,
just by staying seated.

If everyone ignored him,
I suppose he'd feel defeated.

Of course, that will not happen;
this must play until completed.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Pin Pen Merger After All These Years

I have a friend who was complaining today about the pen pin merger, which he says he has been encountering more on national media.

Well, the population has been moving south, and that's the locus of pin pen merger!

'This is another academic term for something you’ll recognize the second you hear it. In this merger, words that end in -en or -en merge with the vowel in words like pin or Tim. So, for example, my own name, Ben, sounds more like “bin,” and hem sounds a bit like “him.”'

You hear it in Chicago from people whose recent ancestors came from down South - which includes a large proportion of African Americans here. I remember a nun in elementary school - she was from Massachusetts - trying to get a black student to say "pen" not "pin". He didn't seem to be able to.

I'm guessing he just needed more specific instruction, and probably a lot of practice, to master speaking consistently with the distinction:

"It's absolutely normal not to be able to reliably hear or pronounce a distinction that not part of your native phonological system. This is an experience that I've had every time I've encountered a new language, or a new variant of English. But usually people can hear that a minimal pair, performed side-by-side in the over-distinct facultative style of such productions, is in fact different; and usually it's fairly easy to learn to identify which member of such a pair is which."

I hear them as different, personally.

Pin does not rhyme with pen
Pin rhymes with been
And pen with again.

Sunday, August 28, 2016


Perhaps we could have a free competition between trigger-warning schools and robust-discussion schools. Over time we could see where most students really preferred to go, and which schools did a better job of preparing young minds for real life.

I imagine market selection
Would trend against over-protection. 

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Burning Man Airport

I don't follow this Burning Man festival thing closely. I've never been there. But it's exotic and amusing, and involves a lot of people with money. I was amused today to find out that a temporary airport goes up in the desert.

"Last year, this airport in the middle of the desert handled more than 2,300 passengers during the event, which is otherwise a two-hour drive north of Reno. Many of those arrivals came on small planes, and to increase capacity, this year airport managers are having both 20- and 30-passenger airplanes offer charter service to Reno and points beyond."

Volunteers build towers
for air traffic control,
but the FAA and TSA
have no official role.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Making Sense

It's a poor dramatic arc
that leaves you totally in the dark.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Armageddon Deferred

How come Great Britain is still doing okay?
Wasn't Brexit supposed to wash them away?

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Some Still Hate the Late Andrew Wyeth

From an article titled "Why Do Critics Still Hate Andrew Wyeth":

"Modernist and postmodernist art tends to be urban art—the structure and pace of life and media experienced in cities—while most traditional realists have directed their attentions to the countryside. It is for this reason that critics have tended to see realist art as sentimental and nostalgic. There are not just differing ideas about art at stake but competing visions of America."

Do some imagine there's great social harm,
In painting nice pictures of life on the farm?

For a Friend

When you are lying shattered, you recall
The way your pieces used to fit together
In one cohesive and coherent All. 
At first you stare in shock, and wonder whether
Your mind can find a way to solve this puzzle
That Humpty Dumpty's helpers could not solve,
Or feel the urge to give it up and guzzle
Your life away, to let the world revolve.
But even if your strength is sapped by sadness
Go pick the pieces up. No need for glue. 
For though the shards are sharp and edged with madness,
They'll stick together just because you're you -
An underlying and organic whole,
With hidden power to heal the splintered soul. 

Sunday, August 21, 2016


I cycled out to the end of the trail
Then recycled back to my car without fail.

"First Landslide President We Don't Want"

Headline on a column in the NY Post:

"Americans are about to get the first landslide president we don’t want"

I think maybe we've had at least one of those already.

In 1972, Nixon was running for a second term, and not many voters really wanted him, but he won in a landslide anyway, because his opponent, McGovern, was even scarier to the electorate. Which is kind of how this election is shaping up - at the moment.

Oftentimes no candidate
Really makes us merry
And it becomes our sullen fate
To choose the one less scary.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Thursday, August 18, 2016

"All Is Number"

Pythagoras thought that numbers were the world's secret base,
That underneath the veil there lurked a geometric face. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2016


Reflective rock
Down the next block. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

With Plentiful Blooms So White

In late summer evening light,
Bush impersonates a snowball fight.

Monday, August 15, 2016


She follows her nose wherever it goes,
Chasing a scent to wherever it went.

Sunday, August 14, 2016


Trump thinks the media is biased against him. Duh.

I wonder if maybe they were actually biased in his favor during the Republican primary. They sure gave him a lot of free exposure. Maybe because they thought he would be the most beatable of the Republicans?

Did he think they really loved him before?
Their current slant must hurt even more.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

When I'm 64

Right here I'm 63 and holding steady,
But in the Eastern time zone I'm a year older already. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Learning My Part

I'm going to perform Saturday in a short preview scene of what looks to be a very clever play by Olivia Lilley, Mary Shelley Sees The Future.

Mary Shelley saw
a future full of awe.


It happened in Iowa:

"Police say a freight train car that derailed in northern Iowa rolled into and damaged a trackside tavern called DeRailed."

A freight train car
rolled into a bar
which is now gaining fame
for its too-perfect name.

Monday, August 08, 2016

Cast and Crew and Dates and Times for All Mixed Up, the Play

All Mixed Up
by John J. Enright
directed by Denise Smolarek

A comedy about love, betrayal, trust, and the things that keep us apart.

Assistant director: Xavier Lagunas


Nickclette Izuegbu as Beth

Paige Taylor as Carrie

Jillian Leff as Ada

The play will run October 13 – November 6, 2016, at 8pm on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, and at 3pm on Sundays. Tickets will go on sale soon. Performances will be at PROP THTR on Chicago North Side.

I feel we have amassed
a wonderful crew and cast.

What I'm Reading

Dostoyevsky: short on cheer. 
Long on existential fear. 

Saturday, August 06, 2016

Stone Lake

Morning clouds. 
No big crowds. 

Thursday, August 04, 2016

Punishment for Flashing

Interestingly punitive:

"For the first time, a Cook County Jail inmate may be required to register as a sex offender for repeatedly exposing himself to correctional officers, a sheriff’s official said Thursday."

"Even hardened criminals balk at the stigma of being labeled sex offenders, she said."

To me it isn't clear
if it's just the "stigma" they fear...

or could it be the laws that give
sex offenders few places to live?

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

More Plausible Than Pastafarian At Least

Gizmodo reports that it's the Aussie atheists who are complaining:

"So Many Australians Are Claiming 'Jedi' as Their Religion That It's Becoming a Problem"

The atheists think the people claiming 'Jedi' are really non-religious, and want them counted as non-religious, in order to swell the reported numbers of the non-religious.

My question is: how can the atheists tell what is in the hearts of these Jedi? Can these atheists read the minds of the Jedi? I think not. That's a Jedi skill, not an atheist skill.

I trust this source
but I do wonder
why is the Force
so strong Down Under?

Tuesday, August 02, 2016


There's a concise "full definition" of the secular meaning of sacrifice at the Merriam & Webster site:

"3 a: destruction or surrender of something for the sake of something else"

It's different than what Ayn Rand thought the word meant:

“Sacrifice” is the surrender of a greater value for the sake of a lesser one or of a nonvalue.

Note that Rand's version would be a subset of Merriam Webster's version.

Natural languages are messy, of course. Rand may have been onto something when it came to the word's mid 20th century connotation. But it's clear that a "sacrifice fly" in baseball has nothing to do with Rand's definition, while it fits neatly in Merriam Webster's. I don't wish to put too much importance on baseball idiom, but I think it's clear you could pile up such examples, where sacrifice merely indicates painful but beneficial prioritization.

Of course, Rand was an atheist, so the background metaphor of sacrifice - destroying something to please a divine being - may have predisposed her towards the "nonvalue" definition.

If you don't believe in a god
you may indeed find it odd
that valuable things get burned
with nothing apparent returned.

Monday, August 01, 2016

"Secret Asian Man"

"An FBI electronics technician with a top security clearance pleaded guilty on Monday to funneling photographs of FBI documents and other sensitive information to China."

He should have claimed he had nothing to hide -
And then denied, denied, denied!

Or maybe that was what he tried
Until they proved that he had spied

Not Routinely Seen

He's taking a State Street snooze,
With a perfectly nice pair of shoes,
And some "This Bed Ain't Comfy" blues.