Saturday, February 25, 2006


Youngest son has created his own “Gronk-a-phone,” which consists of a length of plastic hose from an air mattress inflation kit, with optional marble inside (or some water in the lower loop) to give it some vibrato. He prefers practicing with it to practicing the piano or clarinet. The instrument’s name was given by his mother, and is onomatopoeic.

This morning he added a little sea-anemone-like finger puppet to the far end of the hose. When he blows it inflates, and when he sounds his instrument the tiny tentacles vibrate amusingly; even tickle a bit.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Curious vanity plate

On an SUV this evening here in so-blue-its-ultraviolet Madison, a vanity plate that read AK741T. Is that a Marxist call for revolution (all too common around here), or a gun buff who likes to blow stuff apart? (For those not familiar with Russian weapons, see here). An odd sort of advertisement on an SUV, anyhow.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006


The Wisconsin State Journal top headline today is "Abortion Case to Test Alito." Isn't this exactly backwards?

Doctors and lethal injection in California

Doctors are objecting to their role in an execution in California. I'm glad to see it, though their objections could be stronger. Not that I object to the death penalty as such, but I want a bright line between the roles of healer and executioner. Let a doctor verify the death, but don't have a doctor give the injection, or release the trap, or pull the trigger.

Monday, February 20, 2006

OK, now I'm hungry

Song Dong makes cookie cities. I wonder if he'd be willing to create a Sesame Street for PBS?

Thursday, February 16, 2006

No wonder I didn't hear

It turns out the older son had bought a gun, and he and some others were horsing around and accidently shot his brother's friend. So they decided to tell the cops it was a drive-by shooting. Their various stories fell apart, of course; but its no wonder I heard nothing. The shot was indoors, not outside.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

I didn't hear a thing

Two nights ago a 16-year-old was shot at the duplex across the street from our back yard. It isn't 70 yards away. He'll live; the paper said it wasn't life-threatening.

I didn't hear anything. I was awake and in the living room working on the computer. The snowfall was too light to muffle sounds, the curtain isn't that heavy, but I heard nothing at all. We didn't know anything had happened until the mars lights from 6 squad cars woke up Youngest Son.

The oldest son in that house (and probably the second, as well) are infamously into drugs, so I'd guess that it was some drug dispute.

I've seen but never met the older sons. When I'm out they're not, and they're not out very often. They live in their own world. And they're just 70 yards away.

Am I out of touch or are they crazy?

I took Middle Daughter to Urgent Care the other night to see about some unreasonable dizziness. While she was closeted with a doctor checking her out for concussion and not paying much mind to her disclaimers, I sat in the waiting room. The TV was on, of course, and what to my wondering eyes should appear but something called Entertainment Tonight.

I used to think that laundry soap commercials in which apparently ordinary housewives went into depression over “ring around the collar” were the epitome of breathless nonsense. I was mistaken. They worked up an excitement over their reporter “crashing Madonna’s rehearsal” that I’d think better suited for a cancer cure or a story about bin Laden becoming a Pentecostal.

The hostess interviewed a man about women’s costumes for the Grammy’s, with both predicting that lots of skin and “skin tight,” (which I understand proved not to be the case), since sex appeal was a bigger deal than musical talent. No, not in so many words, but that was implied.

So, am I out of touch or are they crazy? Is there a large audience that really cares if Carey has one earring or two? (Then they’re crazy.) Or is the audience amused by watching the hosts act enthused?

Next came the Grammy’s, which I’ve never seen before. The opening number had a bunch of puppets dancing, which isn’t that bad. Then we got Madonna’s dance crew and Herself singing and dancing. I think the puppets were better. Of course, Madonna has always left me cold. From Desperately Seeking Susan to now she’s always seemed to exude an air of self-absorbed detachment.

Some singer I’d not heard of won an award I didn’t know existed and proceeded to squeal her way through bad acting and a prepared text.

About this time Middle Daughter appeared, and rescued me from the dreary lands.


As part of a large remodeling program the pair of fountains at the East Washington side of the Capitol Square have been replaced. No doubt the plumbing was in bad shape, and they needed replacement, but I’m sorry to see them go.

The old fountains had a touch of Wisconsin character. They were made of layers of brick with rounded edges, were about six feet wide and three feet high, and resembled nothing quite so much as a stack of cow pies—which is altogether fitting and proper for the Dairy State.

I haven’t seen the new structures in action yet, but the fountain portion seems much smaller now. Most of the structure is now large stone-face blocks, suitable for carving and decoration. It looks like the water will now be cascading down a set of oddly shaped basins with a vaguely gynecological aspect.

There isn’t room on the sidewalk for something more classical, with naiads and tritons. And too many people would get drenched if it were something like the water fountain sculpture by the Engineering Hall. And I suppose the State Capitol needs to be a little bit dignified. Pity.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006


I pointed out a couple of years ago how it is natural to conclude that the worst believer is better than the best unbeliever. It is clearly more important to get the most important relationship in your life (with God) correct than any other relationship, and if that is guaranteed, then obviously you're morally better than someone who doesn't have that supremely important relationship correct.

Of course, when the signs of that "correct relationship" aren't closely related to anything in your soul, it is pretty easy to fake it. Reciting something in arabic, or getting yourself baptised are a lot easier than actually trying to worship God.

Jesus said "By their fruits you will know them."

That's a fairly powerful tool. If we apply it here to Muslim, Christian, whatever; we find that:

  • The editors of Jyllands-Posten love to mock and to offend.
  • The imams of Islamisk Trossamfund love to hate and to lie (they faked some pictures to circulate).
  • The mobs of Islamists love to destroy.

Of course mobs are generally fairly easy to assemble: you can always find people who love to destroy. The timing of this collection of riots seems to suit the political purposes of Iran and Saudi Arabia pretty well, oddly enough. And two of the editors are quoted as admitting that they like to mock and be edgy.

To the mobs I say nothing. We know the kind of people these are, and it is the duty of the government to keep them from ruining life for everyone else.

The JP editors are examples of the corrosive attitude that wants to live detached so it can mock and tear down. It isn't a new attitude. Thirty-some years ago I read about a commune in Denmark. The reporter asked one of its men why he didn't go get a productive job. The answer: "But I have a productive job already, for which society must reward me; I keep track of police misdeeds." I'm not sure there remains any common language I can use with people so detached.

Of the imams I ask: "Who do you worship? If I mock God you disregard me, but if I mock Muhammad you try to kill me. I don't think you are Muslims at all. You are Muhammadans."

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

"Let's just count the spoons before you leave, shall we?"

Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf is requiring former government ministers to stay in the country pending an audit of government property. I have a funny feeling some ministers will be more eager than ever to leave.