Tag Archives: Reads

Poetry Reading

The final chat presentation at last week’s Catholic Writers Conference Online was Catholic Poetry with David Craig.  Since it was the final chat, I listened in.  During the discussion, I had a poetry flashback.  Back in sophomore honors English, my teacher, Mrs. Goheen gave us the assignment of memorizing and reciting a poem in front of the class.  I was/am not a huge fan of poetry to begin with, so this was an assignment akin to flossing and brushing the dog’s teeth.  When I see poetry in books, the words get fuzzy and begin to dance around into a deadly vortex.  As the same time, I admit there are several poems and poets I really like.  Well, anyway, completely true to form, I forget all about the memorization assignment until late evening the night before we are to be thrown to the wolves.  I search frantically through our home bookshelf listening to the “I told you so’s” from dear Mother and the laughing of the brothers.  All in the know go to bed that night thinking old MH is toast in the morning in English class.

I sit in class the next morning, waiting to be called to the gallows.  When my name is called, I can feel the class and Mrs. Goheen in anticipation of great failure as I walk to the front of the class.  For those who don’t know me, I am a lineman, plain and simple.  I was probably the last over the cut line to get into honors English. I was a seat filler, a butt in the seat.  So, there I stand in front of the class, trying not to make eye contact with anyone.  I crack my knuckles and clear my throat for a little slapstick comic relief, take my best Shakespearian stance and begin.

“Behold the duck.

It does not cluck.

A cluck it lacks.

It quacks.

It is especially fond

Of a puddle or pond

When it dines or sups,

Its bottoms ups.

The Duck by Odgen Nash”

I can’t remember what grade I received on the project.  The audience seemed entertained and Mrs. Goheen seemed satisfied with the selection.  I am sure it was probably a B+.   Mrs. Goheen asked why I picked that particular poem.  I told her it was my favorite poem, but in all reality, it fit when written on the top of my tennis shoe, just in case I got stage fright.  But, The Duck became my favorite poem and still the only one I have burned to memory.  Thank you Ogden Nash.

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Rest Day Read 2-28-10

Rest Day Read (SR-12)
Aphorism #106 Do not parade your Position
-from “The Art of Worldly Wisdom” by Balthasar Gracian
“If you wish to be valued, be valued for your talents…”
Yesterday, I was reading “Chickamagua” by Ambrose Bierce (which was scheduled to be today’s story) on the web site which I use to link the short stories in these rest day reads. On of the ads at the bottom of the page was a box to sign up for the free daily email from “The Art of Worldly Wisdom”, which was written in the 1600s by Fr. Balthasar Gracian . Obscure to say the least, but being a lover of the obscure and forgotten, I jumped at the chance. This was the first one I received today and it is both a doozy AND timely. Earn respect and value, every day.

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Alien Dog Attack Part 8

What to do now? The Hays teenagers are held captive by the Alien Attack Dog (which, if you have teenagers, may not be the worse place in the world for them.  If we get out of this thing alive, I might have to borrow that gravity-rock-shackle-thingy).   Big Bad Bud has presented ridiculous demands for his “unique” services.  And the future of the world as we know it lies in the balance.  I close up Chucky the Wonder hamster’s exer-globe and, without thinking, toss it to the ground.  Big Bad Bud senses easy prey and shoots from the garage smack into the hamster globe, which rolls down the sidewalk, bounces off the fence and into the driveway.  With Bud in hot pursuit,  Chucky the Wonder Hamster regains his senses notices the killer feline bouncing after him and takes off running down the street in the plastic globe passing old Mrs. Johnson in her 1972 Pontiac Bonneville on Washington Street.   Well, at least that gets Bud and Chucky out of my hair for a few minutes so I can try to think of a way out of this impending doom.

Let me think…let me think…  Everything has a weakness, hasn’t it?   Achilles had his tendon, Napoleon had his Waterloo, The Wolf Man had silver bullets, Michael Jordan had baseball, Scooby-Doo had Scooby Snacks….wait a minute!  Could it be that easy?  Could the AAD share the same weakness with millions and millions of earth dogs, that insatiable desire for dog treats?  It could be the answer!  It went gaga over the green tennis ball, didn’t it?  Quickly, I jump into the 1992 Nissan and head to the Ranch and Pet to pick up what could be the answer mankind so desperately needs, Science Diet Dog Treats!

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Rest Day Read 2-23-10

Rest Day Read (SR-11)
Exercise as Medicine?
SR-11a An ADHD Med Without Side Effects by ADDitude Magazine Editors
“Exercise turns on the attention system, the so-called executive functions-sequencing, working memory, prioritizing, inhibiting, and sustaining attention…On a practical level, it causes (ADHD) kids to be less impulsive, which makes them more primed to learn.”
SR-11b Riding is My Ritalin by Bruce Barcott
“For the past 30 years, athletes, coaches, sports psychologists and medical researchers have probed and debated one of the most complex mysteries of the human body: How does exercise affect the brain? Common sense and our own experience tell us it does something. Every parent knows the best way to settle down a hopped up kid is to take him out to the playground and run the bug juice out of him. A generation ago, teachers and coaches frequently use this approach as well.”

Folks, we need more “bug juice” run out of us. In a previous post, the evidence suggests a mutation in the “wandering” gene may play a role in ADHD. Let’s see, we can treat a genetic predisposition to want to move (and go, go, go) by exercising the body/brain or we can overload with medication. Which should we choose? Which would we choose? Which DO we choose?

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Rest Day Read 2-18-10

Rest Day Read (SR-10)
Slow Tuesday Night by R.A. Lafferty
(direct link to Sci-Fi archives, or use this Neil Gaiman’s blog post , if can’t get to it from direct link)
“Freddy rented an office and had it furnished. This took one minute, negotiation, selection, and installation being almost instantaneous. Then he invented the manus module; that took another minute. He then had it manufactured and marketed; in three minutes it was in the hand of key buyers.
It caught on. It was an attractive module. The flow of orders began within thirty seconds. By ten minutes after eight every important person had one of the new manus modules, and the trend had been set. The module began to sell in the millions. It was one of the most interesting fads of the night, or at least the early part of the night.”

I found a link to this short story last week on Neil Gaiman’s blog. He linked it in reference to how fast communication can generate forces, both positive and negative in today’s technological environment. It is the first story I have read by R.A. Lafferty, so being curious, I googled him. Very interesting story about his life and work here. Grumpy, old, Catholic, sci-fi writer from the midwest, who did not start writing until his late 40’s. Now I am intrigued to read more of his work.
On a side note, if you are looking for something good for a quick read, try Neil Gaiman’s Newberry Award winning, The Graveyard Book. Good stuff.

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Alien Dog Attack #4

“Hello, welcome to the Department of Homeland Security Emergency Phone System”

“I need to report……”

“Press 1 if you would like to donate to the DHS Holiday Party Fund”

“…an alien dog attack.  Wha…?”

“Press 2 if you want to report the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden”


“Press 3 if you think our director’s name sounds like an ice cream flavor.”

“Well, it does, but I need to report an ALIEN DOG ATTACK in my house!”

“Press 4 if you think your neighbor’s gardener has ties to al Queda.”

“Holy Sweet Jesus!”

“Press 5 to vote in the daily DHS poll: Who is the more stylish 1st lady, Michelle Obama or Jackie Kennedy?”

“For real?”

“Press 6 to talk Espanol with DHS maintenance engineer Diego Rodriguez Miguel Juan Vizcano.”

“Por que?”

Press 7 to listen to new DHS theme song by Nashville recording artist Taylor Swift.”

“I think I will pass”

“Press 8 if you have a current extraterrestrial invasion on your domicile”


“Hello, Department of Presumed Extraterrestrial Invasions.”

“I need help immediately.  It is a matter of national security.  We are currently under siege from an alien attack dog.”

“I am sorry, sir.  But at this time, we are unable to confirm or deny the existence of extraterrestrial beings”

“Didn’t you hear me? I have an alien attack dog with yellow laser beam eyes in my house and it just destroyed my TV!”

“I am sorry.”

“Aren’t you going to do anything?”


“Thank God!”

” I can give you a name.  Phil’s Alien Extermination and Storage of Roswell, New Mexico.  Phil comes well recommended to the DHS ”

“Your kidding.”

“Have a great day sir.”

We are on our own…

In the house, no one can hear you scream……


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No matter what my wife says, here’s proof I am “evolving”

Rest Day Read
SR-5 (Short Read #5)
Excerpt* from Discover Magazine article:
They Don’t Make Homo Sapiens Like They Used To
by Kathleen McAuliffe
Back a few years ago, I had the pleasure of working with an intelligent young man named A. Catlin in our lab during his undergraduate days at KSU. His mother is a teacher and the Mrs. CoachHays is a teacher (in fact AC was in the very first class Mrs. CoachHays ever taught and he once turned in a report on Richard M. Nixon that brings tears to the eyes, but that is another story for another day) so we occasionally talked of education issues. At that time ADHD was big time issue in the schools, kids were being branded and Ritalin was being dosed out like candy hearts at St. Valentines Day. One day, we looked at an “official” list of symptoms of ADHD and discerned that each of us competently fulfilled the requirements of 90% of the symptoms on the list. AD said once that he and his dad, the hon. M. Catlin, financier, took an ADHD screening test Mrs. Catlin had brought home from school and they both failed it miserably. I have often wondered how different my life and the life of many competent, intelligent, creative people may have been had we been pigeon-holed into a program to deal with “afflictions” we never even realized we had.
I picked this excerpt from the excellent article from Discover Magazine on the continual process of adaptation of the human species because it shows that even a “affliction” such as ADHD appears to have a useful function. Without the DRD4 mutation associated with ADHD forcing us human folk to roam, explore and push the acceptable limits, we would all still be sitting in a very crowded river valley somewhere in the African Savannah.
SIDE NOTE: I think one of the major arguments arising is science is going to be between the groups who think human genetic evolution stopped 50,000 years ago and the groups who believe that human genetic evolution is occurring at an increasingly rapid rate.

Perhaps the most incendiary aspect of the fast-evolution research is evidence that the brain may be evolving just as quickly as the rest of the body. Some genes that appear to have been recently selected, Moyzis and his collaborators suggest, influence the function and development of the brain. Other fast-changing genes—roughly 100—are associated with neurotransmitters, including serotonin (a mood regulator), glutamate (involved in general arousal), and dopamine (which regulates attention). According to estimates, fully 40 percent of these neurotransmitter genes seem to have been selected in the past 50,000 years, with the majority emerging in just the past 10,000 years.

Addressing the hot-potato question—What might these changes signify?—Moyzis and Wang theorize that natural selection probably favored different abilities and dispositions as modern groups adapted to the increasingly complex social order ushered in by the first human settlements.

When people in hunter-gatherer communities have a conflict, Moyzis reports, usually one of them will just walk away. “There is a great deal of fluidity in these societies,” he says, “so it’s easy to join another group.” But with the establishment of the first farming communities, we put down roots figuratively as well as literally. “You can’t just walk away,” Moyzis notes, a fact that would have created selection pressure to revise the mechanisms regulating aggression, such as the glutamate pathways involved in arousal. “When you domesticate animals, you tend to change genes in that system,” he says.

For decades theories about human evolution proliferated in the absence of hard evidence, but now human genetic data banks are large enough to put assumptions to the test.

The rise of settlements also promoted the breakdown of labor into specialized jobs. That, coupled with food surpluses from farming, led to systems of trade and the need to track the flow of resources, which in turn could have selected for individuals with specific cognitive strengths. “Mathematical ability is very important when it comes to keeping track of crops and bartering,” Wang says. “Certainly your working memory has to be better. You have to remember who owes you what.” The researchers point to China’s Mandarin system, a method of screening individuals for positions as tax collectors and other government administrators. For nearly 2,000 years, starting in A.D. 141, the sons of a broad cross section of Chinese society, including peasants and tradesmen, took the equivalent of standardized tests. “Those who did well on them would get a good job in the civil service and oftentimes had multiple wives, while the other sons remained in a rice field,” Moyzis says. “Probably for thousands of years in some cultures, certain kinds of intellectual ability may have been tied to reproductive success.”

Harpending and Cochran had previously—and controversially—marshaled similar evidence to explain why Ashkenazi Jews (those of northern European descent) are overrepresented among world chess masters, Nobel laureates, and those who score above 140 on IQ tests. In a 2005 article in the Journal of Biosocial Science, the scientists attributed Ashkenazis’ intellectual distinction to a religious and cultural environment that blocked them from working as farm laborers in central and northern Europe for almost a millennium, starting around A.D. 800. As a result, these Jews took jobs as moneylenders and financial administrators of estates. To make a profit, Harpending says, “they had to be good at evaluating properties and market risks, all the while dodging persecution.” Those who prospered in these mentally demanding and hostile environments, the researchers posit, would have left behind the most offspring. Critics note that the association between wealth and intelligence in this interpretation is circumstantial, however.

Stronger evidence that natural selection has continued to shape the brain in recent epochs comes from studies of DRD4, a mutation in a neurotransmitter receptor that Moyzis, Wang, and many others have linked to attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Children diagnosed with ADHD are twice as likely to carry the variant gene as those without the diagnosis. DRD4 makes a receptor in the brain less effective in bonding to dopamine, which might explain why Ritalin, which increases the amount of dopamine in the space between neurons, is often helpful in treating the problem.

Sequencing studies suggest that the DRD4 mutation arose 50,000 years ago, just as humans were spreading out of Africa. Its prevalence tends to increase the farther a population is from Africa, leading some investigators to dub it “the migratory gene.” At least one allele (or copy of the gene) is carried by 80 percent of some South American populations. In contrast, the allele is present in 40 percent of indigenous populations living farther north in the Americas and in just 20 percent of Europeans and Africans. Children with the mutation tend to be more restless than other youngsters and to score higher on tests of novelty-seeking and risk-taking, all traits that might have pushed those with the variant to explore new frontiers.

In the context of a modern classroom, it may be hard to understand why kids who appear distractible and disruptive might have a survival advantage. But research shows people with DRD4 do not differ in intelligence from national norms; if anything, they may on average be smarter. Moreover, behavior that may seem like a drawback today may not have been so in ancient environments. When broaching foreign terrain filled with unknown predators, “having the trait of focusing on multiple directions might have been a good thing,” Wang says. “People focused in one direction might get eaten.”

Humans in far-flungdomains encountered starkly different selective forces, adjusting to novel foods, predators, climates, and terrains.

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