Sunday, May 31, 2009


So, today, instead of a pack-rat post, I want to write a little bit about … well, writing. Specifically, yesterday’s writing, as a bit of a window into my skull. You see, somebody asked whether I just whip these verses out, or whether I have some of them tucked away somewhere, to pull out for a particular comment—so I thought I’d use yesterday as the example.

None of Yesterday’s verses were planned out in advance. You may recall, I am only just recently back off a hiatus, and I am sort of stretching my writing muscles a bit, not sure of my steps just yet, not quite re-accustomed to this sort of writing. (When I first stopped, I had a bit of a withdrawal period. I could not read the news without hearing a potential verse, but I knew I had to have other priorities. I could not allow myself even to write down the ideas, because I knew myself; I knew that writing down the ideas would never be enough. Best to nip it in the bud.)

I have been looking for topics to write about. Sometimes this is easy, and sometimes it is chore. I have a few topics I really want to write about, but I need either A) a really good idea for a verse, or B) a lot of free time to crank one out the hard way. I usually (but not always) prefer the former. So yesterday (Saturday) found me reading the newspapers (at the table and online), checking out news sites, mulling over this turn of phrase or that. Then off to Pharyngula, which generally (but not always) has the densest concentration of stuff that I find versible. Ah… the first one I see is “Pinky Swear!”. I would love to write something about this; the whole concept is annoying. I look to the website; not for me. I am reminded of Marx (Groucho, of course): “I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member.” If I act that way, why sign? If I don’t… why sign? But the problem is, none of it comes to me in verse. Move on.

A novel creationist argument” is next. One of the most concentrated veins of stupidity ever mined. Even better? “Drool.” What a great word—it has tons of rhymes (at this point, I am privately going through the alphabet—bool, cool, fool, ghoul, houle, jewel,…), and a good number of synonyms. Serious versical potential. The only delay on the first verse was the kind of school. I started with “graduate school”, but that had a syllable too many. “Grad school” had one too few. Once I had “business”, the verse was done more quickly than I could type it. Next… I knew I wanted “fitness”, which really limited the rhymes; I also decided right about then that I wanted lots of references to drooling—thus, the “mouths agape”. I toyed around with the “sensation” rhyme attached to the “swimming pool” rhyme—it may fit better there, but separating the two allowed two verses, so I cheated. The last verse, I don’t particularly like. I wanted to get a “slobbered” rhyme in, and I was running out of “-ool” rhymes.

10:00 AM –
I knew a girl, in business school,
Of perfect constitution;
Her looks made all the fellas drool--
Refuting Evolution!

Her outfit at the swimming pool
As everyone could witness,
Left mouths agape, and made a fool
Of reproductive fitness!

She gave to every slavering tool
A ticklish, warm sensation
Which they relieved, cos nature's cruel,
In furtive masturbation.

It's God's design, not nature's rule,
When life has left you clobbered;
We know that Darwin wasn't cool--
In fact, I'll bet he slobbered.

Then I go out and weed part of the garden. In the rain. Have some lunch. Plant some herbs (three varieties of basil, and some cilantro—too wet to plant much else). Come back inside, and check Pharyngula.

Damn. I wanted to write about that. It’s the New Hampshire Same-Sex Marriage bill. I wrote “Oh Noes! Teh Sanctity!” about New Hampshire’s civil union law, and it needs updating. Unfortunately, I am experiencing serious writer’s block on this one. Maybe it is too important; I don’t know. I will keep trying.

Oh… damn, again. Cool video. And I missed out on the Friday Cephalopod, which was a cuttlefish, too!

Truth in labeling? Ok, this one is a four-inch putt. See, there are very few words that rhyme with “selves”, and one is “shelves”. (“Elves” did not come into play.) I knew the first and last lines, and the whole thing took not much more time than it took to type it out. (Confession—the vast majority of the things I have written as Cuttlefish are what I would ordinarily consider initial rough drafts. The blog format does not really lend itself to coming back and editing.)

2:03 PM –
If God helps those who help themselves
We might find God on self-help shelves;
We'd take a book, and look inside,
But God's the sort who likes to hide.
In time, one hopes that when we look
We'd find a different sort of book,
Like these we see upon the shelf:
"There is no God, so help yourself."

Go talk with neighbors. Walk the dog. Go to the greenhouse and buy tomato plants (22 plants, 12 varieties). Have supper. Note that entire family is away doing separate things. Get ready to watch some basketball. Watch basketball/drink beer. Somewhere around 9:30, check Pharyngula again.

Another edition of stupid creationist questions.” Bingo. I think maybe three or four comments were up already. So, I start my process somewhere around 9:35, more or less. First verse zips by, but the last line is “since babies are delicious!”, which I intended to rhyme with “nutritious” in V2. “Means-genes” was a natural rhyme for V1, and as soon as I hit on “teens”, the form was decided. I knew I wanted something with “fitness” or “fit” or something like that, so “baby on a spit” suggested itself. I could not use the word “baby” in both verses, so I re-examined L4—I could have used “since toddlers are delicious!”, but “taste like veal” was such a sweet phrase that I had to use it. About now is when I realized that the final line of the poem had to somehow bring in the idea that “fitness” was defined by having healthy babies… or perhaps, by having babies who themselves have babies. So, “babies” as a last word sounded good, which left me with very few options to end V3. The “need-breed” rhyme showed up quickly, and the alphabet search quickly came up with “creed” to finish that verse. I was a bit stumped for a bit, trying to figure out L1-3 for V4, since my structure called for three consecutive rhymes. I know I tried out a few different phrases, none of which panned out, before hitting on “eat”. I think I actually hit on “complete” first, and tracked back to “eat-sweet”. Even then, I was stuck on “babies taste so sweet”, which lacks syllables; “barbecue” was tried and initially rejected, in a different form, because “barbecue” is a noun in the American West, and a verb in the American Northeast, and the first structure did not work in both. (No, I don’t recall what it was.) When I came back to it, I had the structure right, and it stuck. The whole process took just over 15 minutes. Longer than it took to type it, but hey.

9:56 PM –
"Survival of the fittest" means
Regardless of related genes
My kids should never reach their teens
Since toddlers taste like veal.

And I can make myself more fit
(As Darwinists should all admit)
By roasting baby on a spit
For one delicious meal!

Nutritionists all know I need
My protein, if I'm going to breed
It's Evolution's sacred creed--
No ifs, no buts, no maybes!

A healthy mom has got to eat,
And barbecue is oh, so sweet;
Well-fueled, I'm ready to complete
My task of having babies.

I then spent some time ego-surfing, to see if anyone had noted my previous verses. Yeah, I admit it. Shut up. Noticed, to my great surprise and delight, that two more people bought my book. Very cool. Looked at Pharyngula... Saw the Bill Donohue post very early, and thought “no”. Too serious, and too horrendous. The man is beyond contemptible. Thought some more. Tossed around the “mote/beam” bit for a while with no success. I knew I wanted to juxtapose his concern for the true victims, the priests, with the “victims” anointed by the press—the greedy, money-grubbing raped kids. I hit on the notion of BD focusing on the one kid who was not in desperate trouble… and this is what showed up.

11:04 PM –
If just one boy somehow escaped
While all his friends were being raped
Bill Donohue would soon be there
To give the lad his tender care
He'd cater to his every need...

While all around, his playmates bleed.

In truth, it is not an accurate portrayal of BD’s views. But that fits—nothing BD has ever said has been accurate.

All said, I have spent much more time writing this analysis than I spent writing all four verses. I think I’ve touched on all the major points. If anyone is interested, and I did not answer something, just ask. Oh, yeah, and buy my book.

Support independent publishing: buy this book on Lulu.

Friday, May 29, 2009

The Digital Pack-Rat, Vol. 17

Yeah, I know, it has been nearly two months. But in all that time, there is only enough pack-rat material for one post. (Seriously, it took over a week before I could read the news without rewriting each story in rhyme--but I forced myself. Now, it is taking me a bit to get back into form...)

The first... I poked my head up out of my hiding-place to write a few lines about homeopathy, when the swine flu scare brought the snake-oil salesweasels out into the open.

I would never give plain water
To my wife, or son, or daughter
Any more than I would bleed them, or would chant some silly spell.
If their symptoms verge on flu-ish
I want medicine that's true-ish
Give me proven (double-blind) effective drugs, or go to hell.

Next... I don't ordinarily include limericks in the pack-rat volumes, but if I don't, this will be a too-brief post. The topic? Creating dinosaurs, through genetic modification of ... chickens.

Though the task is a little complex,
Given time, we can work out the specs--
With the motive and means,
We can juggle the genes:
From a chicken, derive a T-rex!

Though the papers will claim that I'm mad,
There is nothing I've done that's so bad--
This isn't designing,
But merely refining--
I'm giving them back what they had!

Every egg that you've scrambled or fried
Is a dinosaur's sibling that died--
If you've cooked up your dozens,
I'm telling you, cousins,
It's time that you'd best run and hide!

Just one day later, PZ published back-to-back posts. One wrote of his commencement speech at Keck. The other wrote of email he got from Heck. Come on; that's just not fair...

By juxtaposing Keck and Heck,
You've fashioned me a nervous wreck--
The one is nice, the other, dreck;
My head so spun, I sprained my neck.
So now I type (well, hunt and peck)
And try to keep my thoughts in check;
Please, next time, won't you wait a sec
Or maybe holler "clear the deck!"
Before you deign to flick that speck?

Next, a singular(ity) verse... I must write at length about the singularity at some point--I actually have well-considered opinions, backed up with consistent logic and (even better!) evidence. But for now...

My mind, they say, will fit in lots
Of itsy bitsy nanobots--
Assuming such a thing could be,
That thing, of course, would not be me.

The same day (wow, I must have had lots of grading due or something), PZ had to write about "Men in fancy hats". Hats are, to a verse-monger, what a red flag is to a bull. Too much metaphor, too easily rhymed. Ask Dr. Seuss.

I saw a man who wore a hat,
So big, so bright, so tall--
So heavy on his head, it sat,
The biggest hat of all.

He carried this tremendous weight,
Although his neck did strain,
Because it made him contemplate
Christ's suffering and pain.

It made him feel that pain is good--
It fortified his soul.
He suffered greatly, as he should,
For thus is mankind's role.

He wore it proudly, even though
The atheists would scoff;
It hurt his head, but even so
He would not take it off.

The moral here, I think you'll find,
Is easy to apply:
Take off that hat, and free your mind,
And hold your head up high.

Almost done now, I promise!

Again, I blame PZ. He shares his Mr. Birdnow with us, and Birdnow mangles John Donne.

Though "thee" and "we", it seems to me,
Are similar, phonetically,
The use of each in proper speech
Is out of Mr. Birdnow's reach.
Ask not for whom we sit and fume
Ask not whose writing gives us gloom
For now, as ever, the bell, so clever,
Tolls and tolls for Mr. Birdnever.

Lastly (!!!), a bit of wordplay with Thunderf00t and Luskin. Just because.

Thunderf00t's not mean, or brusque; in
Fact, when he exposes Luskin,
Leaving just a tattered husk, in
Pieces on the floor,
He does so in his usual Thunder-
F00tish manner; Luskin's blunders
Neatly listed. It's no wonder
All of us want more.

Again, I remind you to vote in the poll (over there to the right--it is clearly the most important poll on its subject that there has ever been). And donate blood, tip your waitress/waiter, hug your loved ones, and don't make me come over there.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Cute, Cute, Cutie

In the latest Telemundo Soap Opera, Father Alberto Cutie (KOO'-tee-ay, the papers helpfully add) has left the Catholic Church, choosing the brunette on the beach over the one on the cross. Sadly, although he clearly sees that the arbitrary rules are... well, arbitrary, and is in a position to see through the whole charade, he has instead simply chosen to join the Episcopal Church. (I am reminded of a friend who thought switching to filtered cigarettes from unfiltered was pretty much the same thing as quitting smoking altogether.)

The tale of Padre Cutie—
Who found himself a beauty, a
Brunette with whom he frolicked and cavorted on the beach—
Pitted god against temptation,
And the latest revelation?
As in Eden with the apple, God now loses to a peach.

It’s rarely for the hell of it
You choose a path that’s celibate—
We must assume the Padre was committed to his life—
But to love and serve God only
Leaves a man a little lonely
And Alberto can’t be faulted if he wants to take a wife.

But the men in hats and dresses,
Those who judge what he confesses,
Say the rules are very clear against the marrying of priests
If the good Miami Padre
Is to join their little cadre
He must hold himself to standards much, much higher than the beasts’.

So he thought, and asked, and prayed:
“Should I serve God? Or else get laid?”
(From the atheist perspective, what a silly thing to ask!)
And he said “Oh, God who made me,
If I cannot play, then trade me!
I’ll no longer hide my feelings, with my vestments as my mask!”

Having looked behind the curtain
He, of all men, should be certain
Any organized religion is, at best, a silly scheme;
To the Catholics, he’s alien,
He’s now Episcopalian
He knows the game is silly, he just chose another team.

Oh--I added a poll (over there, on the right), to test whether PZ's pavlovian conditioning is complete. The poll is utterly without point (it is, after all, about intelligent design), but will he be able to resist? It is an empirical question...

Oh, Oh! I forgot... I got an email a day or so ago, informing me that my book is now available from! The email said that my book had "been selected"--I suspect the same sort of selection that gets sweepstakes entries sent to my house, but what do I know? Anyway, take a look on Amazon for it, and if you are moved to, write something nice, or whatever it is that people do on Amazon. At least in theory, this opens me up to a much wider audience, although I am not exactly sure how.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A Cunning Plan... (thank you, California Supreme Court)

I am very nearly back--I will hand in grades tomorrow, and will post a bit of a personal update after that, and try my inadequate best to thank people who have helped me more than they could possibly know. For now, all I will say is Thank You All, so very much, for your kind words and deeds.

First, though, a regular post...

Ok, California, you have pissed me off. But you have given me an idea.

I read it in the news today—
The Cali courts have had their say,
And if the gods have made you gay
No more can you get married.
The logic that the judges wrote
(Except in the dissenting note):
Fifty percent, plus one more vote
Gets any measure carried.

And so it is with great delight
I urge you now to stand and fight—
Our cause, you’ll see, is wholly right,
If I can be so candid;
The group that we will now oppose,
The proper person’s fearful foes—
Our enemies, of course, are those
Who choose to be left-handed.

In writings since the Ancient Greeks
Left-handers have been viewed as freaks;
They’re sinister—their form bespeaks
A tendency toward sin!
But now (he said, with evil laugh)
The court has simplified the graph:
If we can gather just one half
Plus one more vote—we win!

So join with me—we’re on a mission,
Seeking to restore tradition;
Sign our “Right Is Right” petition
And join the teeming throng.
Stand up! Say no to left-hand choice!
The courts are with us, so rejoice
And join right in, in righteous voice:
“If it’s not right, it’s wrong!”

Even right-thinking (pun intended) southpaws should sign this one--the notion that the civil rights of a minority are at the mercy of the majority's caprice and whim is... short sighted. If I were in writing form, I'd throw in some reference to a house divided against itself, or of separate but equal, or some such, but I am a bit rusty. Instead, I simply offer a heavy-handed "modest proposal" in the manner of Jonathan Swift. Right-handers are in the majority--why do we put up with the obviously inferior and literally sinister left-handers? Fifty percent plus one vote, and we can take away their rights!

It's an issue that cuts across racial and religious, socioeconomic and educational lines. It is an economic issue--must we really make left-handed scissors? Left-handed desks? What next, left-handed cars? Driving on the left? It's unamerican! Lefties have disproportionately more industrial accidents--why should they have the right to work at all? They increase our insurance rates while diluting our gene pool! They are unnatural and wrong! It is time we did something about it, and the California Supreme Court has sent us a welcome signal! All it takes is a bare majority!

Left-handers should not have the right to marry. They should not have the right to separate facilities and/or equipment. They are not equal; they should not be treated as equals.

California, you know what to do.

If lefties want rights, they can move to Vermont.