A parody is an imitation of a serious work of art for comic effect.   In general, I avoid true parodies; when I imitate a poet as, for example, here, I usually have some other purpose than simply making fun.   In 1967, however, I did write a parody of Edward Fitzgerald‘s  most famous quatrain from his translation of Omar Khayyam, the one that goes:

A Book of Verses underneath the bow,
A jug of wine, a loaf of bread, and thou,
Beside me in the Wilderness.
Oh, Wilderness were Paradise enow!

My version follows:

Oh, come, my dear, you must drink of the cup.
Be calm – what better way is there to sup?
Why do you turn that verdant green?
I am sorry now that I brought it up.

Redistricting the U. S. Senate

I read an interesting article in the 3/16/15 issue of the New Yorker today.   It said that of the eight democratic governments around the world that have both an upper and a lower legislative body, the United States has the most malapportioned and least representative upper house.

The U. S. Senate is a historical anachronism.  No sensible person, who was sitting down to devise a governmental structure in the modern world, would create one in which the population represented by each member varied from 600,000 to 37 million.  In fact, the way the Senate is apportioned would appear to grossly violate the Supreme Court’s “one-man; one-vote” decision from the early 1960’s.

One could talk a long time  about how we got this way, but , as someone with an engineering cast of mind, I started thinking about how to solve the problem.   Two questions arise:

  • What does it mean to say that Senate seats are fairly apportioned?
  • How would you go about such an apportionment?

The first question is fairly easily answered; the population represented by each of the 100 Senators should be equal to 1% of the total population of the country plus or minus a fudge factor to allow for accommodation of state boundaries.   If that fudge factor were 5%  ( at the outer limit of what various Supreme Court decisions have allowed), the population of each Senate District would range from roughly 2, 900,000 to 3,200,000  (using 2010 census figures).

The second question is also easy to address.   Modern software tools can create districts that fit populations of this size to existing state boundaries.  California would have 11+ Senators; small states like Wyoming would be thrown  into a sprawling district with contiguous states.

Is such a solution possible in the current political climate?  Of course not.   A Constitution Convention would be required to address this and many other issues.   Unfortunately, I am beginning to think that a Constitutional Convention is the only way out of our current disastrous governmental situation.


Playing with Meter 1: The Anapest

In my first book for children, “A is for Arnyx: An Alphabet in Verse,” I set out to write a book of children’s poetry, that would not only be fun to read aloud, but which would allow me to experiment with meter and verse forms, a long-time interest if mine.

From time to time on this blog, I will post verse that continue that tradition.   This is the first of a series:

Meter is the basic rhythmic structure of aa line of verse.  In English, it is usually described in terms of stressed and unstressed syllables, and categorized with off-putting archaic names     In this post, I am playing with the anapest, a portion of a line a verse  ( called a foot) that consists of two unstressed syllables, followed by a stressed syllable.


Anna ever was known as a pest;
She would give all her friends little rest.
She’d invite them to dine,
With no chance to decline,
Or to plead other plans.


I Had a Thought

Today is Light Verse Thursday, and I’m giving myself permission to post an exceptionally silly verse:

I Had a Thought

I had a thought the other day,
While falling down the stair.
“I’ll shortly land, quite hard I fear,
I guess I’d best prepare.”
And then I thought:”Suppose I say
I quite refuse to fall.”
Quite brave of me, with land so near,
To thus attempt to stall.”
And then I saw, to my dismay,
My final landing spot.
“I can’t go up; I’m on my way.”
And then I thought: “Why not?”

A Poll is a Snapshot of the Electorate

In an earlier post,  I talked about how  I got into polling for local elections, and gave a ;ist of key points about polls that local candidates should know.   This is the first of several posts in which I will elaborate on that list.  (Note: In all my posts on polling, I assume that the voters polled are random se;ections from the target universe.)

A poll is a snapshot of the electorate at a given point in time; it is not, by itself, a way to predict the outcome of an election.  An experie3nced political adviser, who understands the background of the poll and the local political situation may be able to use the information obtained from a poll to make an informed guess as to whom the winner or winners might be, but the poll itself merely tells you who might be ahead at the time of the poll.  Of course, if a candidate is twenty points ahead of his or her  opponent two weeks before election day, one can reasonably infer that that candidate will win, but the poll is not really doing the prediction; it is the context.

Polls have other uses for local candidates besides calling the horse race.   Polls can tell a candidate which campaign themes resonate with the voters; they can also tell which of your supporters are more attractive to the electorate.   The wise candidate for, say, City Council, will focus on these aspects of polling and not on the question of who is the frontrunner.

The Farmlands Group

When Pat and I first came to Sonoma County in 1984, she was already a committed activist, and I guess I was as well.   We were certainly looking for ways to get involved in our new community.

One of the first issues we tackled was farmlands preservation.  In the 70’s, two Sonoma County Supervisors, Chuck Hinkle and Bill Kortum  had been recalled because of  their opposition to residential development of rural areas.   Concern about the effects of sprawl were very real.

Our new friend, Marty Roberts, recruited us as Board Members of the Sonoma County Farmlands Group, an environmental organization dedicated to protecting farmland from urban sprawl, and we were soon deeply involved in issues like adding an agricultural element to the General Plan, and creating Urban Growth Boundaries around our cities.

Pat and I both made literary contributions to the cause.  Hers was the slogan: “Eat it or loose it!”, which appeared on Farmlands Group Tshirts and Sweatshirts.  Mine was the following sonnet, which was read at the 1988 Farmlands Group Celebration:

“I am weary, the farmer said, and old,
All of my sons have left me long ago.
All of my friends have sold out for the gold.
No one wants the healthy food I grow.”
“Be of good cheer,” the citizen replied.
“Don’t be tempted by hopelessness and loot,
More and more people are not satisfied,
With haggard greens and faded foreign fruit.
More and more, your neighbors are aware
That these, our rolling hills, will not remain,
Nor verdant fields, unless we take care
To buy the good, rich produce they contain.
And so, let’s solemnly declare a pact.
Give me your hand – we’ll leave this land intact.”