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Jun. 16th, 2012


James Altucher On Kissing

I arrived at work a little early yesterday. I had some time to read James Altucher's blog. His post that day was called Kissing Ruined My Life. It wasn't really about kissing . It was about the pitfalls that can arise from wanting something too much. Kissing was either a euphemism for sex, or just a proxy for things that are inordinately desired.

I still had a hard time getting past the fact  that he spoke ill of kissing, even if he was being metaphorical. I really like kissing women. I like kissing women even if nothing else happens afterwards. I like kissing so much that I'm going to add a kissing tag to this blog.

I finished reading the post and went to my operating systems class. I wrapped up the material I was doing on computer memory, and began talking about process scheduling. I told the class "we're going to talk about scheduling now". But I almost said "kissing" instead of "scheduling". I did say the right word, but it was too close for comfort.

Maybe Altucher was right. Maybe kissing can ruin your life. Or that liking it too much can ruin your life.

That might be the lesson. I guess another lesson might be not to clutter my mind with other material right before I have to teach.
I hope that's not the lesson, because swearing off kissing might be easier. A voracious mental appetite and access to a web browser can be a deadly combination

Jun. 15th, 2012


Poetry Reading After-Action Report 6/14/2012

There was a decent turnout at the poetry reading last night. There were a couple of people I hadn't seen in a while. One of them was Jim, who used to be a regular until he moved to Korea to teach. Another was Lise, who doesn't make it very often because she lives really far away (though not in Korea...it's just a long drive for her.)

Jim read an absolutely scintillating poem about a girl he met in Japan. Lise read three poems. The first was a dialogue between a man and a woman and the second was an account of a stripper's life. Both were excellent, but the second was more impressive because it's a subject that it would be very easy to write badly about. The third was about her son. She lost him to a murderer, and last night was the anniversary. It was a fairly angry poem. I told her afterwards that I actually found the angry tone refreshing. Sometimes people are too quick to move to Kumbaya mode in the aftermath of a violent crime. If the victim is a loved one, you owe it to that person to have anger towards the perp.

I had six haiku. I'd originally written five , but at the last minute I wrote one for Frank Cady. Cady  played general store manager Sam Drucker on Green Acres and Petticoat Junction. The haiku are below. (Note that the titles have links to information about the deceased.)

Click here for haikuCollapse )

a revision of one of the haikuCollapse )

It's a small change, but I'm happier with the line breaks.


Jun. 14th, 2012


Flag Day

Today is Flag Day. It commemorates the adoption of the United States flag by the Continental congress.

Next to President's day, Flag Day  is our dumbest national holiday. After all the events that led to the creation of our nation, adopting a flag was just icing on the cake.

I've got nothing against people who are  flying their flags today. It shows a love of their country, which is laudable. Displaying that love in a time when patriotism is so unfashionable shows courage. But remember that the flag is a symbol and it's the nation that deserves our love.

While the flag deserves respect, sometimes Americans go too far beyond that. Consider the opening words of The Pledge Of Allegiance:

I pledge allegiance to the flag
Of the United States of America
And to the republic for which it stands....

Allegiance should go first to the Republic, not to a piece of cloth. But the republic is mentioned 12 words in, as if it were an afterthought.

I wish Constitution Day got as much fanfare as Flag Day. The Constitution is what defines our country, not the flag. We'd be the same country if we'd stuck with the Continental Colors.

If you're flying a flag today, that's great. But I have a challenge for you. When September 17 rolls around, show the same love for the Constitution that you do for the flag. Find a copy online and read it.

Jun. 12th, 2012


"Mr. Gorbachev, Tear Down This Wall"

Today is the 25th anniversary of Ronald Reagan's famous Brandenburg gate speech, or as it is more commonly known, the "Tear Down This Wall" speech. Two years later, the wall came down.

As I said in an earlier entry, the fall of the Berlin Wall restored the most fundamental political  right--the right to vote with your feet. It's a right that needs to be vigorously defended, even in a nominally free country like the United States. Just ask Eduardo Saverin.

Jun. 10th, 2012


Obama and The New Party

Stanley Kurtz recently published an article in National Review providing freshly unearthed evidence that Barack Obama was a member of a left of center party called The New Party.

Kurtz cites as evidence minutes from a 1996 New Party meeting:

Barack Obama, candidate for State Senate in the 13th Legislative District, gave a statement to the membership and answered questions. He signed the New Party “Candidate Contract” and requested an endorsement from the New Party. He also joined the New Party.

It's not a newsflash to me,or anyone, that Barack Obama is left of center. If you like left of center candidates, vote for him. If like me, you don't, then don't vote for him.

What's most disturbing is the way the story has developed. Kurtz first broke it in 2008, and it was denounced as a crackpot smear on the Fight The Smears website. (It's telling that you have to go to the wayback machine to find the original rebuttal. People need to remember that the memory hole doesn't work as well as it used to.)

And now we know that Kurtz was not a crackpot and the charge was valid. The initial rebuttal was yet another example of liberals snidely, condescendingly correcting people who are in fact correct.

Jun. 7th, 2012


Elle & Dostoevsky

I talked to Elle on the phone earlier today. She told me about a squirrel that died in her backyard. She said that when it started to stink, the first thing she thought of was The Brothers Karamazov.

My response was "huh?" (or something equivalent).

That shouldn't have been my response. I have read The Brothers Karamazov and I should have been able to say "Oh, of course, you are talking about ..." and then cited the appropriate section of the book. But I couldn't remember it for the life of me.

In fairness to me, it has been 25 years since I read it. But I'm feeling now that I should have retained  more than I did.

Elle explained that there was a passage about a priest who died whose body didn't stink because he was so holy. She was wishing the squirrel could have been that holy.

Elle is not only a better computer scientist than me, she is also a better student of literature. I should have known that already from an earlier incident. I guess I was in denial.

At least she is still willing to converse with me in spite of my inferior intellect. She is very gracious that way.

For those curious, the relevant passage can be found here.
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Jun. 6th, 2012


Court upholds conviction for Yarmolenko’s killer

Court upholds conviction for Yarmolenko’s killer

Jun. 5th, 2012


At The Coffee Shop Last Night

I ran into my friend Barney at the coffee shop last night. I see him there at the poetry readings, but not much in between.

He was laid off from his job several months ago and we talked about that. He's told me he gets depressed about it sometimes. Then he told me his wife told him he should go down to the coffee shop and look for me. Apparently she thought chatting with me would do him some good. I'm not sure why.

It's possible she just wanted him out of her hair. But I'm going to go with the first explanation. Being prescribed for depression is pretty flattering.

We chatted for a while about a lot of things, mostly owning and reading books. He seems to have read a lot more philosophy than I have. I asked him what philosophers he had read, and he said "from what period?".

I wouldn't have answered the question that way. I would need to include every philosopher I've read to keep from sounding like an ignoramus, and narrowing it down to a period would be out of the question. I told him as much. I hoped it boosted his ego a little.

In the movies, when men have a long conversation they eventually reach deep discussion about their relationships with their fathers and how it shaped their lives. We did talk some about our father's record collections. I don't know if that counts or not. I told him about the 45 of the Beatles "All My Loving" that Pop brought home. I think I forgot to mention all his Tom Lehrer records, which is a damn shame. I could have walked away from the conversation with a lot more cool points than I did.

I hope I was helpful to him. I think the key to helping a depressed friend is to sound as little like a therapist as possible. I know I met that qualification. Before he left, I advised him to look through his record collection for "When I Paint My Masterpiece" by  The Band and give it a listen. That song always perks me up. I'm attaching a video of it. Maybe it will perk you up too if you need it.

Jun. 4th, 2012


The Power Of Cool

Last week Victor David Hanson wrote an intriguing piece for National Review called The Power Of Cool. melvin_udall posted some excerpts from it ,along with some analysis of his own.

Hanson's article is a pretty good catalog of liberal double-standards, such as the following:

State quite correctly that you can see Russia from parts of Alaska, and you are ditzy white-trash Sarah from Wasilla; state falsely that Franklin Roosevelt addressed the nation on television in 1929, and you are just 'good ol’ Joe Biden.'

A while back I found a glaring example of a double standard that would have fit neatly into Hansen's article. Back in 2010 there was a notorious facebook group with this title:

Dear Lord, in the past year you have taken away my favorite actor, Patrick Swayze, my favorite actress, Farrah Fawcett, my favorite musician, Michael Jackson, my favorite salesman, Billie Mays, and my favorite athlete, Chris Henry. I just wanted to let you know..... my favorite president is Barack Obama. Amen.

It aroused a firestorm of protest. Somebody started a petition to "remove facebook group praying for Obama's death" in response.

I understand some of the outrage. The original group was tasteless, asinine, and arguably blasphemous.

But around the same time there was another group called "God. Give Us Back Bob Marley and We Will Give You Justin Bieber".
There were similar ones about Kurt Cobain and other dead rock stars. "We will give you Justin Bieber" pretty clearly means it's OK if Justin Bieber dies. Death is generally what people mean when they talk about God taking somebody.

I never understood why these were OK and the Obama one wasn't. You could argue they were jokes,but so was the Obama prayer.  True, Obama is the President, but I don't think anyone would want to argue it's OK to wish death on anybody but the President.

The big difference is that Obama is cool and Bieber is not. The  moral principle is that is perfectly OK to wish death on somebody as long as they are not cool. As they said in National Review "cool buys exemption".

It's one of those things that makes me glad I'm old.

Jun. 1st, 2012


"You Can't Handle The Truth"

The title quote is from the 1990 film A Few Good Men. It's been in the news  because Barack Obama's campaign strategist quoted   it recently in response to a group of hecklers from the Romney campaign.

People need to stop using that quote. They almost always mean "I'm telling you the truth, and you're just not strong enough to handle it". That's not what it meant in the movie. It originates in an interrogation scene. A young lawyer, played by Tom Cruise, demands of  Jack Nicholson's character Colonel Nathan Jessup "I want the truth!". Jessup answers with the now famous line "You can't handle the truth".

Jessup  could have just said "OK here's the truth". But he didn't (although he did after some more badgering.) The famous words are clearly said with the purpose of being evasive. "You can't handle the truth" in this case was just an excuse for not giving the truth.

In fairness to Axelrod, he is not the first and probably not the last to quote that line inappropriately.

Here's the relevant scene from A Few Good Men:


May. 31st, 2012


Doc Watson, RIP

Bluegrass guitar virtuoso Doc Watson died Tuesday at the age of 89. I feel very fortunate to have seen him in concert twice. The first time was at a local venue called The Neighborhood Theater sometime during the 90's, and the second was at Merlefest in 2010.

The Neighborhood Theater concert was memorable, partly because any Doc Watson concert is memorable, but also because of what happened shortly before it began. I needed to use the restroom. The Neighborhood Theater has a strange layout, and the restroom is upstairs. It is also across from the dressing room.

The door to the dressing room was open, and Doc was in their rehearsing. Maybe "rehearsing" is the wrong word. His playing and singing sounded flawless. I completely forgot about the biological imperative that had send me upstairs, and just stood there enjoying my free sneak preview. After a few minutes, somebody saw me and shut the door.

Like all accidental voyeurs, I should have felt ashamed, but mostly I just felt lucky.

Soon after that show I decided I had to add Doc Watson to my CD collection. I went down to Media Play and bought Docabilly, his latest CD at the time. It's a collection of country and rock covers, and probably his least representative album. But it was a very good album, and demonstrated nicely his playing and singing talent.

His appearance at Merlefest 2010 was also special. I didn't get to watch him perform in his dressing room, but I did get to see him receive his honorary doctorate from Berklee College of Music. Here's some video:

And here's another video of him performing at the same Merlefest:

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May. 29th, 2012


Interesting fact about CRC

I lectured about the CRC error-checking code in my networks class today. I went slow, because it makes peoples heads explode if I don't.

When I started teaching CRC, I wanted to make sure I understood it well enough myself and so I worked a lot of problems involving bit polynomials (by which I mean polynomials with coefficients and arithmetic rules from GF(2)). I enjoyed it so much that I just kept playing with them, and proved some interesting things about them.

One of these interesting things is that if you multiply any bit polynomial by x+1, the result will have an even number of terms. I also established the converse, that any polynomial with an even number of terms is divisible by x+1.

The latter is easier to prove than the former.

First, it can be proven that
xn+1 = (x+1)(xn-1+xn-2+...1)
I will, as the textbook authors say, leave this as an exercise.

From this it follows that any two term polynomial xm+xn is divisible by
x+1. It's equal to x(m-n)( xn+1). We have seen that the second term of the product  is divisible by x+1.

Since a polynomial with an even number of terms is simply a sum of two term polynomials, it is necessarily divisible by x+1.

A polynomial with an even number of terms is equivalent to a bit string with an even number of ones. When you divide it by x+1, the remainder is 0. This is the same result you get when you do a parity check.

A similar argument can be made that a polynomial with an odd number of terms gives the same result as a parity check.

Thus, CRC with a generator polynomial of x+1 is equivalent to a parity check,

I shared this with my class as I wrapped up my lecture on CRC.

But I didn't give a proof. That would have made their heads explode
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May. 28th, 2012


Interesting Study On Climate Change Opinions

A recent post on the Fox News web site provides evidence that we global warming skeptics are not such dummies after all.

Global warming skeptics as knowledgeable about science as climate change believers, study says

It poses the following rhetorical questions:

Are global warming skeptics anti-science? Or just ignorant about science?

and answers them as follows:
Maybe neither. A study published Sunday in the journal Nature Climate Change finds that people who are not that worried about the effects of global warming tend to have a slightly higher level of scientific knowledge than those who are worried

To be fair, the "slightly higher level" is well within the margin of error. The level of scientific knowledge were based on quiz scores, and the skeptics only scored 1% higher than the global warming believers. But this is sufficient to shoot down the ad hominem attacks often made by skeptics.

The original article can be found here:

The polarizing impact of science literacy and numeracy on perceived climate change risks

A cursory reading convinced me that the Fox News article was a fairly accurate representation.
One of the studies conclusions is

Members of the public with the highest degrees of science literacy and technical reasoning capacity were not the most concerned about climate change. Rather, they were the ones among whom cultural polarization was greatest.

This jibes with my own experience.

I've often contended that, while the global warming believers might be right, most of the people who laugh at me for being a skeptic haven't studied or thought about the issue as much as I have. The study does not quite show that. It seems to indicate that people on both sides have put some thought into the matter. I'll take that.

May. 27th, 2012


Seattle Neighborhood Under Attack From "Dive-Bombing" Crows

Here's a story about crows attacking people up in Washington State:

Seattle Neighborhood Under Attack From "Dive-Bombing" Crows

The word "dive-bombing" in the title is a bit sensationalistic. No one was hurt. But it is unnerving.

I know it is because the same thing happened to me today. Only it wasn't a crow. I'm not sure what kind of bird it was. I was walking into my office and heard a whirring sound right next to my ear. I looked around and saw it was a bird.

She came to rest on a bicycle seat. I looked at her and said "you are causing me not to like birds". I turned around and as I was walking away she whirred past my ear again. Hearing the noise a second time I wasn't sure if it was really the sound of her flying or some kind of guttural noise she was making.

Things haven't reached the level of a Hitchcock movie yet, but I'm wondering if birds in general are losing their fear of humans and becoming aggressive.


May. 25th, 2012


Today Is Blog About Brett Kimberlin Day

I only learned who Brett Kimberlin a couple of days ago when a Facebook friend  posted a link to Patterico's Pontifications Blog a couple of days ago. The blogs author reports being  a victim of harassment by Brett Kimberlin and today's entry is a particularly chilling tale.

I did a little googling about Kimberlin this morning  and found out that today is Blog About Brett Kimberlin Day. Thus this post.

May. 24th, 2012


Facebook IPO

I haven't posted much about the stock market lately because I haven't been involved in it for a while. But I, like many many  other people, bought some Facebook stock. I'm happy to say I was smart enough not to buy it on the opening day. I felt sure the price would be pumped up before the markets even opened. I'm not certain if that's what happened, but it sure did plummet later in the day.

I'd like to tell  you I bought it today. But that's not the case either. I bought it Monday. I didn't make a blog entry about it at the time because I was blogging about more important things like kissing pretty girls. It was down 10% from it's opening, so I thought it was bottoming out. Nope. It continued to fall for the next couple of days.

I wish buying too soon was the dumbest aspect of my trade. It's not. I wasn't paying close enough attention and I bought it in my IRA account instead of my brokerage account as I had intended. I am willing to do some modest speculation, but not in my IRA. Speculation can involve selling for a loss, and that should never be done in an IRA.

So I was doubly stupid (or at least stupid and a half). It might not be a complete disaster though. It closed up 3% today and I have almost broken even. One friend to whom I confessed my stupidity suggested it wasn't really a speculative trade. He has a small point...facebook is not exactly a penny stock, and it's not likely to go out of business anytime soon. It might still do as well as google.

This could still turn out to be a bad decision in the long run, but I don't think it will cause me to have to live off of dogfood when I'm elderly. Maybe I will have to take up the dogfood diet, but this trade probably won't be the only reason.

May. 23rd, 2012


Today Is Bob Moog's Birthday

Many today are celebrating the birthday of Robert Moog (rhymes with "vogue"), inventor of the Moog synthesizer. Google even has a special doodle that, when clicked, opens an online synthesizer app that the user can play.

Moog touched my life in a couple of small ways. When I was about 12,I acquired the album Switched-On Bach, a set of performances of Bach's music on a Moog synthesizer. Shortly thereafter, I picked up the soundtrack to A Clockwork Orange, which contained similar renditions of other classical music. I couldn't see the movie. It was rated X and my mom wouldn't even let me see PG-rated horror movies. That's OK. I thoroughly enjoyed the album, and when I finally did see A Clockwork Orange at a midnight movie after I turned 18, it was a bit anticlimactic.

The synthesizer was not the only electronic musical instrument Moog made. The first was a theremin, which he built in 1948. Later, his company Moog Music started making them.

I never learned how to play the synthesizer. But I did get me a theremin from Moog's company. I was no Clara Rockmore, but I figured out how to play a few tunes. Of course I learned the Good Vibrations riff, and I also learned to play Amazing Grace and There Is A Fountain Filled With Blood. For some reason old hymns and the theremin are unusually well suited to each other.

I'm proud to say that in his later years, Bob Moog settled down in my home state. He lived and ran his company in Asheville, North Carolina, which is about 2 hours away from where I live. This was a cause of pride, but it did become a source of regret later. Some of my coffee shop buddies used to talk about making a road trip to Asheville and trying to meet Bob Moog. Sadly, all we did was talk about it and when he died in 2005 I could have kicked myself. It's was yet another reminder that people die, and you don't know when it will happen. Forgetting this can be a big cause of regrets.

But enough morose introspection. Let's listen to some Bach (performed on a moog synthesizer of course.)


May. 22nd, 2012


Writer's Block: Smooch Me

How old were you when you had your first kiss? Was it just a peck on the cheek, or was there more to it?

I don't remember exactly how old I was. I was a teenager, and probably older than I wish to remember. I was at a party given by my sister's BFF Patsy, and we were playing a game called five minute date. That's pretty much the same as the game more commonly known as 7 minutes in heaven. Only it's truncated. Patsy and most of her friends went to Catholic school, so maybe 5 minutes is all they are allowed (less time for SERIOUS shenanigans).

I was paired off with a beautiful young woman named Laura. She was Lebanese, which probably has a lot to do with my taste for sultry women. We went off to a clearing in the woods behind the house, and stared at our feet and made awkward conversation for a couple of minutes.

I didn't want to do this for the whole five minutes, so I asked her if I could kiss her. She said yes and we kissed on the lips. I liked it a whole lot, and have been a big fan of kissing women ever since. Thanks Laura, wherever you are.

May. 19th, 2012


Post #1000- I have now made 1000 entries

This calls for fireworks!!!

May. 18th, 2012


George Zimmerman's Injuries

The UPI recently released a story which is puts another dent in  the original  narrative:

Report: Zimmerman had broken nose

This is fairly conclusive evidence that Zimmerman's account of Martin attacking him was truthful.

Beyond what this story says about the Zimmerman case, reaction on the internet says a lot about how the left responds to inconvenient facts. I first found this story on Tara Servatius's facebook page. Most of the responses were fairly sane, but one person said the following:

If I were a 17 yr old heading home, and a nut job like Zimmerman started following me, then chasing and confronting me, a broken nose, a couple of black eyes, and some scrapes would be the least of his concerns

So apparently Zimmerman had the beat down coming. I guess this poster thinks Zimmerman should not have done anything to stop it, since he was only getting what he deserved.

I shared the link to the story on my page. The first person to respond said the following:

not that it's what he did, but he could have easily broken his own nose the minute he realized how unattacked he appeared to public scrutiny

Let's pretend for a moment that "unattacked" is a word.  And let's forget that it's pure speculation that Zimmerman broke his nose.We still have that he was not  subject to public scrutiny until about a month after the attack. The broken nose was known about the next day.

Another commenter on my page repeated that Zimmerman had a beat-down coming:

if someone started following me around in the dark I'd deck them and break their nose too if they got near me.

This same person later said, in reference to Zimmerman, "It's hard for me to have much sympathy for people who eschew discipline under the guise of demanding more freedoms." I guess breaking a complete stranger's nose is a sign of self-discipline.

I posted a factual news story. Nobody disputed the facts in the story (I'm not sure any of the commenters even read it). All they had was wild speculation, blame-shifting, and goalpost moving.

It was an excellent illustration of how folks on the left react to facts that don't fit the narrative.

May. 15th, 2012


My friend Annie's Intentional Living blog

My friend Annie has a blog called Intentional Living as The Rogue Chef/Yogi/Gardener. She used to have a blog in which she was merely The Rogue Chef. She appears to have expanded her scope.

I saw her this morning in the coffee shop where we briefly chatted about it. I told her I thought the broadening of her topic was a good idea. In my mind, it's hard to be a prolific blogger when you limit yourself to one topic. (A possible exception is motherhood....mommie bloggers always seem to have something new to write about.)

I know that I would not have nearly a thousand entries in this blog if it was only about a single topic. I know for a while this was the Ira Yarmolenko blog to a lot of  people, which is great. But as much as I poured my heart into blogging about her, I still blogged about other things. And I only had 28 entries about Ira.

I didn't share all of these thoughts with Annie. There was someone there that I didn't want to know about my blog.

She said that the single topic hadn't been a problem, she just hadn't been keeping up the blog because she was busy living life. That sounded like a good idea to me. Living your life gives you something to blog about.

Although she is writing about multiple  topics, they all appear to fall under the umbrella theme of "intentional living" Her credo is "I choose everything I do. I take responsibility for ALL my actions". 

That's not a bad philosophy. My life would be a lot better now if I'd had that good a head on my shoulders when I was her age. I did arrive at the idea of "intentional living" when I was a lot older than she is. To me, it is having some rationale for everything you do. Even if it's sitting around doing nothing (sometimes you need to recharge your batteries.)

I'm looking forward to seeing her explore this philosophy. I know I'll enjoy it and will probably learn a thing or two.

May. 14th, 2012


In The Campus Bookstore Today

I stopped by the campus bookstore today and did some browsing. I found a book called The Republican Brain by Chris Mooney, who also authored the Republican War On Science.  I haven't read his previous book. This one doesn't look very inviting either.

The subtitle "The Science Of Why They Deny Science-- and Reality"  suggests the book is yet another attempt to ground political arguments in cognitive science. The trouble with this approach is that the focus of the argument becomes the opponents brain rather than the actual facts and principles under discussion.In other words, cognitive science provides a very modern, high tech ad hominem argument.

Of course I haven't read the book. It's entirely possible it's more nuanced and fair than the provocative title suggests, so I won't make further criticisms. I could read the book, but my conservative brain would probably be pathologically resistant to it's brilliant arguments.

Jonah Goldberg has read it, and so he has a right to criticize. Which he does in this review.

I also saw a copy of Steven Colbert's latest book I Am A Pole (And So Can You!). It looked like it might be amusing, but the most attractive part was the blurb by Maurice Sendak: "The sad thing is, I like it". This will go down in blurb history, especially since it was released  on the day of Sendak's death.

The blurb alone tempted me to buy the book. But I was strong. And besides, it's only 32 pages long so I could probably read it for free sometime.


May. 11th, 2012


Poetry Reading After Action Report 5/10/2012

I almost didn't make the poetry reading last night. I'd given three exams  Wednesday and Thursday that needed grading, and final grades are due Monday. 

But I am a die hard, and decided to just bring some tests with me and grade them while other people were reading. I usually don't like to do things like that. When I'm one of the readers at a poetry reading, I believe it's better etiquette to listen (or at least not be visibly occupied with other things) while others are reading. But the alternative was not going at all.

So I can't tell you much about the other readers this time. I read the following haiku:

Click here for haikuCollapse )

By the time the coffee shop closed, I'd gotten one classes worth of exams graded and got a good start on another. It was a pretty good reading.

May. 6th, 2012


Writer's Block: Hey, Aren't You...

I've actually had three encounters with the late  NASCAR driver Alan Kulwicki, although I never spoke to him. Since he passed away in 1993, I've often wished that I had.

The first time I saw him was in a karaoke bar. The MC called his name and he came up to the mic, looking very befuddled. Someone had given his name to MC without his knowledge. But he sang anyway. I honestly don't remember what he sang or how well he sang. But he did appear to be a good sport who  could take a joke.

The second time was in another bar. He was sitting at the bar, and I wasn't sure it was him. But he sure looked like the guy I had seen at the karaoke bar. I'd asked a few people if the guy was Alan Kulwicki. Nobody seemed to know for sure. But after he left the bartender, who apparently had asked him, confirmed to me that it was in fact Kulwicki.

The third time was at a local 4th of July concert. My brother's band was the opening act. The whole family went, and initially we all sat together. As the night wore on we dispersed some. At the end of the evening I looked around and saw my father talking in a very animated manner to the man next to him. Pop kept pointing at the stage, so I knew he was bragging about my brother. The man he was talking to didn't say much, but nodded occasionally. Since this was my third sighting, I quickly recognized him as Alan Kulwicki.

When I caught back up with my father, I asked him if he knew who he was talking to. My father's eyes were bad and he wasn't much of a Nascar fan, so he didn't. I told him he was talking to Alan Kulwicki (something Kulwick himself obviously didn't tell him.)

This last encounter gelled my opinion of Kulwicki. Here was a man of considerable fame and accomplishment listening patiently to a complete stranger talk about his son's accomplishments. And he did this without once saying "I'm Alan Kulwicki". He was obviously a very classy guy.

May. 5th, 2012



Four years ago my friend Ira Yarmolenko died. I haven't written about her as much lately, certainly not as much as I did in the year following her death. 

I've been thinking about her in the last couple of days. Friday I went into the coffee shop and there was a large bouquet of flowers on the counter. It was right next to Ira's picture and memorial book, but I didn't give that much weight when I saw them. I thought they were for one of the ladies currently working there. 

I asked the barista who the flowers were for and she told me they were for Ira. Of course. Friday was Ira's birthday, and some kind soul wanted to commemorate her birthday. (That's probably healthier than remembering the anniversary of her death.) She said the man who brought them in  also gave the barista on duty $100 and told her to give people free coffee until it ran out. Then he  gave her a $40 tip.

I was curious as to who this generous man was. The barista said he was in his 30's and looked native american. That didn't sound like anyone I knew, but Ira's circle of friends was a lot larger than our group of mutual friends. I looked at the card on the flowers. It was just a happy birthday card with the words "We love you" written on it. There was no signature.

I felt a little bad that I have never made a grand gesture like that on her behalf. But I'm glad somebody did. I'm sure somewhere Ira is very very pleased that a barista got a $40 tip because of her.

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August 2012



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