Wednesday, February 29, 2012


It's been a crazy winter in the Boston area. This is the biggest snowfall we've seen since Halloween.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Tragedy in Ohio

I mourn with the Chardon High School Community in its hour of tragedy.
Perhaps in this neglected spot is laid
Some heart once pregnant with celestial fire,
Hands, that the rod of empire might have sway'd,
Or wak'd to extasy the living lyre.

But Knowledge to their eyes her ample page
Rich with the spoils of time did ne'er unroll.
    - Thomas Grey, Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Santorum: Speaking of the Devil...

Santorum speaks of the devil.
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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Save Water at the Westin Hotel!

The sign in the hotel bathroom said, “One of your Heavenly® Shower heads has been turned off in an effort to minimize water usage and protect one of our most precious natural resources.”

I was curious whether this was true. Does turning off one showerhead really save water? My theory was that it depended on the plumbing. If the flow was limited by the showerheads, then the answer was yes. But if instead, the bottleneck was in the water pipe, upstream from the split, then no, the number of showerheads in use would not make any difference.
I am not the first to have contemplated this mystery of life. In 2010, Chad Orzel, Assistant Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Union College, Schenectady, NY, wrote an article, The Faulty Fluid Dynamics of Hotel Environmentalism, for his Uncertain Principles blog. Using a fairly sophisticated argument (there was math), Prof. Orzel concluded, “So, at best the ‘shut off one showerhead’ strategy might be saving 15% of the water usage…the real savings is probably considerably less, and consistent with zero, as a simple analysis of the plumbing would suggest.”

Being of a scientific nature, I ran an experiment of my own. First I took a long shower (using both showerheads) and got dressed. Then I went to the nearby CVS to buy a ruler. When I returned to my hotel room, I closed the bathtub drain and turned on the water. After the water had run from both showerheads for five minutes, I measured the water level in the tub. Four and three-quarter inches. Next, I drained the tub, re-closed the drain, and repeated the experiment with one showerhead. This time there were only two and three-quarter inches of water in the tub.

Findings: My results are inconsistent with Prof. Orzel’s. After accounting for the slope of the tub floor, I conclude that turning off one showerhead saves just about half the precious natural resources.

Good to know. I wouldn’t want to waste water.

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Monday, February 20, 2012

The Federal Lunch Police and My Prophetic Novel

Full Asylum – the Novel is currently in search of a publisher, but it is already proving to be prophetic.

Ham Sandwich

You have no doubt heard the outrage surrounding a North Carolina teacher who took a toddler’s lunch away on the grounds that it did not meet Federal nutrition guidelines. Instead of the turkey and cheese sandwich and chips she brought in from home, the girl was required to eat three (presumably more nutritious) chicken nuggets from the school cafeteria (Here’s a reasonably balanced article about it from the Washington Post: Teacher’s mistake at school lunch led to upset calls of government meddling).

Something similar happened to the hero of my novel, Gimbel O’Hare. The story takes place a few years in the future, when the Nanny State has gone out of control. Gimbel works for a software company, in the Business Automation Division. This unfortunately named organization – its acronym is BAD – obtains tax advantages by participating in the (to date, fictitious) Federal Healthy Office Program. Here's an excerpt:

A few hours later, Gimbel was sitting by himself in the Building 2 cafeteria, picking over a flavorless lentil salad and trying to decide which he liked less – ‘stenics or lentils. The place used to have pretty good hamburgers, but BAD took them off the menu as part of the Healthy Office Program. Gimbel held up his bowl, tilted it towards the cafeteria cam, and waved. When he first joined BAD, he had wondered why there was a security camera in the dining area. It wasn’t as if anyone was going to steal paper napkins. The napkins here were so small that they were wholly inadequate for protecting pants from food stains. According to placards on the napkin dispensers, the napkin size had something to do with conserving the earth’s resources. How stained pants helped save the earth, Gimbel had no idea.

He finally learned the reason for the camera one day last summer when he brought a sandwich from home. That afternoon, Beverly summoned him to her office. When he arrived, she was waiting for him, as were a nurse in a white uniform and a security guard with a gun. They explained that Gimbel had been captured on video eating ham and cheese and that Division policy now required him to receive a lecture on the principles of good nutrition. The lecture took two hours, the low point being an animated video depicting an epic struggle of good and evil between Gary W. Grain (the “w” stood for “whole”, or maybe it was “wholesome”) and Lippy the Loathsome Lipid. After that, Gimbel refrained from bringing food from home. Sometimes he brought napkins.

I better get this into print fast, before more predictions come true.

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Friday, February 17, 2012

Everything I Know about Comedy I Learned from Gracie

George Burns & Gracie Allen - Gracie Tells a Story

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Thursday, February 16, 2012

What the Tax Man Saw

Rush Limbaugh Ad at IRS Bus Stop
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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Book Review: What Would Lincoln Say?


“Though I would have preferred to deliver my message in person,” Lincoln said, “my attempts to meet with President Obama have thus far brought me no success. So I am forced to do it here, in this forum.”

“Well the floor is all yours, Mr. President,” said Ellen, handing Lincoln the microphone. “Just look into that camera right there and say what you have to say, in 20 seconds or less, since we’re up against a hard break.”

That’s right. Abraham Lincoln on the Ellen Degeneres show.

The premise of Richard Fenton and Andrea Waltz’s new novel is that a time-traveling Abe Lincoln materializes on the South Lawn of the White House just in time for the 2012 elections. He has a message for President Obama, hence the title What Would Lincoln Say? Lincoln’s words are only one aspect of the book, however. There is also a great story with plenty of action that keeps the reader engaged. It begins with the ambush of a Secret Service agent in a public housing project and builds to an assassination attempt on President Obama. The cover promises “a ‘Twist’ You’ll Never See Coming!” and the book delivers on that promise.

The characterization is excellent. The authors capture both Lincoln’s intense melancholy and his corny sense of humor (“How many plums can a young boy eat on an empty stomach?…One. After the first, the boy’s stomach is no longer empty!”). We see Barack Obama’s arrogance (he gets upset that Matt Lauer directs a question to Lincoln instead of him during a photo op) and Joe Biden’s combination of political calculation and buffoonery (“I say we blame it on the Tea Party.”). The fictional characters are good as well: the portrayal of a former Secret Service agent who was disabled in the line of duty is particularly touching.

I enjoyed the many humorous images and situations: Lincoln sitting in the psych ward reading The Fountainhead; a thoroughly repulsive liberal businessman of Russian/Hungarian descent who, like his thinly disguised real-life counterpart, is disappointed with Obama; an angry (and in my imagination, large) older woman completely changing her tune when Lincoln turns on the charm.

Sometimes the humor in time travel stories gets irksome. The characters can sound like those annoying historical re-enactors who refuse to break character (“What in tarnation is a digital watch, by gum?”). Mercifully, Fenton and Walsh came up with a device to avoid this – Lincoln has made most of his adjustment before the action starts. The fish-out-of-water jokes are rare, and when they occur, they are actually funny. My favorite is Lincoln eating Fruit Loops (he doesn’t like them).

The writing style is lean; the book is only 128 pages long. I would have enjoyed it more if the writers had fleshed out the scenes a bit. In one place, the paucity of words caused me some confusion. We see a character in Federal custody, handcuffed to a railing. In the next scene, he’s walking around free in Ford’s Theater. I think I know how he escaped, but I’m not sure.

Overall though, What Would Lincoln Say? is an entertaining and fast-moving book with humor, excitement, and a timeless message of individualism and freedom.

The authors invite you to “Join the Conversation” at

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Monday, February 13, 2012

First Annual Full Asylum CPAC Awards

Last night, I returned from the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at the Wardman Park Marriott in Washington DC. It was a great opportunity to network with fellow right-wingers and hear from dozens of leading conservatives. Attending a speech by any one of them would have been a big deal. To hear them all in one place over a period of three days was inspirational. By way of summary, here are my awards for the best and worst of CPAC 2012:


Best Loved Ally: Israel. Those who claim that the Right is anti-Semitic should have seen the standing ovations that occurred every time a speaker praised the Jewish state – which was often.

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington Award for the Speaker Whose Inflection and Mannerisms Most Resembled Jimmy Stewart: Bobby Jindal. My choice for VP.

Don Rickles Award for the Most Insulting Speech: Ann Coulter. “Greetings 1 per centers and welcome to Occupy the Marriott. Did you know that Michael Moore is only one person and yet he controls 33% of the world’s cholesterol? The system is broken I tell you, my friends.” Ann is a truly mean individual, but she’s so good at it one can only stand in awe and admire.

Worst Backdrop for a Speech: Rick Santorum. The latest anti-Romney had members of his family standing behind him as he spoke. Unfortunately, they looked extremely bored, and their boredom was infectious.

Best Line: “We are all Catholics now.” – Baptist Minister and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, describing the solidarity of conservatives with the Catholic Church in its opposition to the Obamacare contraception mandate.

Most Innovative Product: The Great American Tea Party Game. Trivial Pursuit for the Right. I consider myself reasonably well informed about American History, but I got to say some of the questions were quite challenging.


Hottest Booth Babes:

Best Dressed: Everyone!

Trust Deficit Award: Mitt Romney. The former Massachusetts Governor gave a good speech and checked all the boxes to sound conservative. But the people I talked to afterwards didn’t buy it. Many observed, as did I, that while Mitt’s supporters were vocal during his speech, they were in short supply the rest of the time. The prevailing theory is they were bused in just long enough to make some noise and cast their ballots in the straw poll (which Mitt did win).

Most Pathetic: Occupy Wall Street. OWS promised to “Occupy CPAC” and “Create as much non-violent resistance as possible”, but apparently not very much was possible. Feeble and ineffective.


Biggest Loser: Barack Obama. Although this year’s Republican Presidential primary has been contentious and often bitter, the mood at the Wardman Marriott was cordial and festive. It is was obvious that, regardless of the nominee, conservatives are united in their desire to depose President Obama at the ballot box in November and then, come January, begin the task of turning back his administration’s assault on our liberty.

Biggest Winner: Sarah Palin. “We have a better jobs plan and it's called the Free Market.” The closing speech of the conference, it was received with wild enthusiasm. Afterwards, I happened to talk to Victoria Jackson, of Saturday Night Live fame. Ms. Jackson thought that if Governor Palin showed up at a deadlocked GOP convention and gave a speech like that, she’d walk away with the Presidential nomination. While I’m skeptical that any politician can pull a William Jennings Bryan in the 21st century, it just goes to show you that conservatives love their Sarah.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

With Apologies to Seth MacFarlane

Family Guy Parody
Image from Family Guy used in accordance with Fair Use provisions of U.S. Copyright Law.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Why Romney Doesn't Resonate

Headline: "McCain Sees Anti-Mormonism in Romney's S.C. Loss", from Real Clear Politics