The Rat
Wednesday, January 31, 2007
      ( 9:53 PM ) The Rat  

Canada and other countries should discourage or prevent their citizens from going to China to get human organs whose "donors" may have been killed so that the organs could be harvested, a team of human rights lawyers said on Wednesday.

Former Canadian cabinet member David Kilgour decried "organ tourism", whereby rich foreigners go and pay for a transplant which, Kilgour said, may have cost a Chinese citizen his life.

The Chinese embassy in Ottawa had no immediate comment.

Kilgour and lawyer David Matas presented a report they say leads to the inescapable conclusion that Falun Gong dissidents and other prisoners in China are killed for their organs.

"Once a customer arrives into China, somebody's killed for the organ, whether it's a prisoner sentenced to death or a Falun Gong practitioner, and they just have this huge supply of people in jail waiting to be killed for organ donations," Matas told reporters.

He said that was one reason China was seeing an explosion in dedicated organ transplant facilities. The number of liver transplant facilities, for example, multiplied to 500 last year from 22 before 1999.

Matas estimated that at least 100 Canadians have gone to China for transplants although many might not know about the allegations that people are killed for their organs. He suggested Canada and other countries should issue travel advisories warning that transplants are sourced almost entirely from prisoners who do not give their consent...

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:53 PM

      ( 9:44 PM ) The Rat  

In a study led by Dr. Stacey Wood, neuropsychologist and associate professor at California's Scripps College, a group of older and younger adults were shown a series of negative images, such as dead animals, and positive images, like bowls of ice-cream, and the change in brain activity was recorded.

"As a group, older adults are less likely to be depressed and less affected by negative or unpleasant information," Wood told Reuters...

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:44 PM

Tuesday, January 30, 2007
      ( 9:54 PM ) The Rat  
"There was a moment last night, when she was sandwiched between the two Finnish dwarves and the Maori tribesman, where I thought, 'Wow, I could really spend the rest of my life with this woman.'"

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:54 PM

      ( 7:42 PM ) The Rat  

Stonehenge is typically thought of as a cemetery and an astronomical observatory that was the site of pagan celebrations at the summer solstice.

The new finds at Durrington Walls, two miles northeast of the stone circle, indicate that the entire region was a large religious complex where the early Britons gathered in midwinter for raucous feasts and solemn ceremonies before sending their deceased on a voyage to the afterlife...

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:42 PM

Monday, January 29, 2007
      ( 1:21 AM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:21 AM

Sunday, January 28, 2007
      ( 12:22 AM ) The Rat  

A sharp increase in adolescent suicides as well as teenage pregnancies, alcoholism, car wrecks and declining school performance represent the dark side of Ecuador's migration phenomenon. Although the flight of as many as 20% of its citizens over the last few decades has created an economic windfall totaling $2 billion a year in remittances, the social costs have been high.

Pinos said that in 2006, youth suicides in Azuay rose 20% from the previous year, and he estimated that the province's overall suicide rate was at least twice the world average of about 12 per 100,000. In towns such as Giron and neighboring Santa Isabel, which have seen an exodus of men, the rate is eight times the global norm as calculated by the World Health Organization, health officials say.

"Sixty percent of adult males have left this municipality. As a result, families fall apart," said Claudia Romero, a social worker in Santa Isabel. Suicides in her town last year included a 10-year-old boy and a 9-year-old girl, she said.

Miguel Penafiel, director of Vicente Corral Moscoso Hospital in Cuenca, said that although other countries with a pattern of immigration to the United States and Europe also see suicides, he thinks Ecuador's rate is higher because social disintegration is more pronounced here.

"There are many destroyed families here, as many as 20% in some towns, by which I mean you have children living without either parent," Penafiel said.

School officials such as Maria Villa Sanchez, principal of the town's National Technical High School, are struggling to cope. Over the last year, she said, three of her 407 students, all 15-year-old boys, attempted suicide. She acknowledges she is at a loss.

"What you see in the kids is a lack of values. They talk to teachers with an aggressivity you never heard before," Villa Sanchez said, adding that 60% of her students have one or both parents living abroad...

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:22 AM

      ( 12:00 AM ) The Rat  

Mozart, an iguana with an erection that has lasted for over a week, will have his penis amputated in the next couple of days.

Veterinarians at Antwerp's Aquatopia had sought to treat the animal's problem, but decided removal was the only solution because of the risk of infection. The good news for Mozart and his mates is that male iguanas have two penises...

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:00 AM

Saturday, January 27, 2007
      ( 2:27 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:27 PM

      ( 1:51 PM ) The Rat  
EXHAUSTED GERMAN SCIENTISTS SURRENDER AFTER 3-YEAR BATTLE TO MAKE SLOTH MOVE. Meant to put this up several days ago. Via JT, who comments, "I think I had this guy in class!"

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:51 PM

      ( 1:21 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:21 PM

Friday, January 26, 2007
      ( 12:41 PM ) The Rat  
RATTY LOVED this article, especially the last sentence.

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:41 PM

Wednesday, January 24, 2007
      ( 3:03 PM ) The Rat  

Rianna Woolsey, a 16-year-old cheerleader, last logged onto on Dec. 6, 2005. She died the next day when her car smashed into a tree near her home in southern Orange County.

Her online profile is a snapshot of a young life cut short—her smiling face greets visitors as the singer Imogen Heap's "Hide and Seek" plays in the background. There is a photo of her boyfriend, she calls James Frey's "A Million Little Pieces" the "best book ever written," and the Trabuco Canyon resident wrote that she planned to have children "someday."

The one part of her page that has changed since her death is the section where MySpace denizens post comments. Since the accident more than a year ago, friends have written nearly 700 messages to the Tesoro High School junior. was created in 2004 as an online community to meet friends or lovers, network, post pictures, listen to music and keep diaries, known as blogs. But it has also become a place for a generation to chronicle its grief—a high-tech extension of visiting graves, writing letters to the departed and journaling about sorrow. Woolsey's MySpace page is one of countless that have turned into virtual memorials.

Dead users' profiles largely feature teens and people in their 20s, who are most likely to use MySpace. Some killed themselves or accidentally overdosed on drugs. A few had heart defects that had gone undetected. Others were slain, some soldiers were killed in Iraq, and a young man was gunned down in a drive-by shooting in Watts. Many died in car accidents...

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:03 PM

      ( 10:41 AM ) The Rat  
SUSPECT IN LAUDERDALE BICYCLE COLLISION ENDS UP TREED. JM: "What impressed me most was that all this happened before 8 am."

Frank Henry John, 41, was driving a 2005 Cadillac west on Riverland Road. When he reached State Road 7, he ignored a red light, crossed into the northbound lanes of S.R. 7, and struck a bicyclist, 46-year-old Randy Jones, of Lauderdale Lakes. Jones wasn't injured, but his bike was damaged. Jones confronted John about the crash and soon the two men were fighting each other.

When a witness, Chad Hodder, 34, of Fort Lauderdale, got out of his pickup to intervene, Graf said John tried to steal the truck. Hodder grabbed John and pulled him from the pickup, but John bit Hodder's arm and managed to get loose. With Hodder in pursuit, John ran and climbed into a tree in the 2500 block of Whale Harbor Lane and refused to come down.

Deputies and Fort Lauderdale police tried for more than an hour to coax the suspect from the tree before a deputy finally used a Taser to gain control of him...

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:41 AM

Tuesday, January 23, 2007
      ( 2:27 PM ) The Rat  

A middle-aged male pedestrian is four times as likely, on any given trip, to be killed by a car as is an elementary school student, according to a new interactive Web site that lets people compare travel risks.

The site allows users to assess the dangers of driving, walking, and riding a motorcycle or a bicycle, by season, region and personal characteristics of the traveler. It links two federal databases, one of traffic fatalities and the other of travel habits, to put the number of deaths into context by comparing them with what statisticians call exposure, or the extent to which people are in situations where there is a chance of a crash.

The site was put together by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University, with support from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety...

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:27 PM

      ( 2:21 PM ) The Rat  
WHY ARE THERE SO MANY SINGLE AMERICANS? Not a lot of surprises in here.

[W]hen it comes to marriage, the two Americas aren't divided by gender. And it's not the career girls on the losing end. It's their less educated manicurists or housekeepers, women who might arguably be less able to live on their own.

The emerging gulf is instead one of class—what demographers, sociologists and those who study the often depressing statistics about the wedded state call a "marriage gap" between the well-off and the less so.

Statistics show that college educated women are more likely to marry than non-college educated women—although they marry, on average, two years later. The popular image might have been true even 20 years ago—though generally speaking, most women probably didn't boil the bunny rabbit the way Ms. Close's character did in 1987. In the past, less educated women often "married up." In "Working Girl," Melanie Griffith triumphs. Now, marriage has become more one of equals; when more highly educated men marry, it tends to be more highly educated women. Today, Harrison Ford and Sigourney Weaver would live happily ever after.

Women with more education also are becoming less likely to divorce, or inclined to divorce, than those with less education. They are even less likely to be widowed all in all, less likely to end up alone.

Why have things changed so much for women who don't have the choices that educated women have? While marriage used to be something you did before launching a life or career, now it is seen as something you do after you're financially stable—when you can buy a house, say. The same is true for all classes. But the less educated may not get there...

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:21 PM

      ( 1:07 PM ) The Rat  

State prison inmates, particularly blacks, are living longer on average than people on the outside, the government said Sunday.

Inmates in state prisons are dying at an average yearly rate of 250 per 100,000, according to the latest figures reported to the Justice Department by state prison officials. By comparison, the overall population of people between age 15 and 64 is dying at a rate of 308 a year.

For black inmates, the rate was 57 percent lower than among the overall black population—206 versus 484. But white and Hispanic prisoners both had death rates slightly above their counterparts in the overall population.

The Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics said 12,129 state prisoners died between 2001 through 2004.

Eight percent were murdered or killed themselves, 2 percent died of alcohol, drugs or accidental injuries, and 1 percent of the deaths could not be explained, the report said.

The rest of the deaths—89 percent—were due to medical reasons...

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:07 PM

      ( 12:58 PM ) The Rat  
Diane [referring to her relationship with Sam]. Well, what about the idea that opposites attract?
Dr. Simon Finch-Royce. Ah—the song of the TRULY desperate...
Cheers (quoted at

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:58 PM

      ( 11:07 AM ) The Rat  
CHANEL DEVELOPS DURABLE, LOW-COST PERFUME FOR THIRD WORLD, via the Onion. This is pretty funny, though No. 5 doesn't actually cost $300 an ounce, as the article states (nor does it smell as good!).

Chiquet said 3rd marks Chanel's first-ever attempt to appeal to a low- or no-income consumer market, and is part of the fashion world's desire to "give something back" to developing countries that have offered much in the way of photo-shoot locales and labor outsourcing. After six years of trial and error, Chanel's 17-member development team was able to bring the perfume's cost down to a more affordable $100-an-ounce.

"That we were able to pull it off for a price that is, by fashion-industry standards, nearly free, is a testament to what we can do for the less fortunate when we really want to," said Chiquet, who expects 3rd to be popular among consumers "from Nigerian shanty towns to Bangladeshi floodplain villages." "I can't express how humbling this whole project has been for us."

As for 3rd's scent, Chanel wanted something "clean, youthful, and beguiling," said Chanel chemist Robert Geneau, adding that organically musky, smoky, and earthy tones had been rejected because the scent's intended users most likely had too much musk, earth, and smoke in their lives already. "3rd has a bright, grassy base, like a fresh breeze after a rain—a very exotic scent for our target customer. There are also notes of cocoa, citrus, spices, and other things our customer sometimes raises and harvests for foreign export, but rarely gets to savor herself"...

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:07 AM

Monday, January 22, 2007
      ( 8:20 PM ) The Rat  
[T]he question is not how to get cured, but how to live.
Lord Jim

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:20 PM

      ( 4:50 PM ) The Rat  

Nine months pregnant and married to a fervent Bears fan with tickets to Sunday's NFC Championship game, Colleen Pavelka didn't want to risk going into labor during the game against the New Orleans Saints. Due to give birth on Monday, Pavelka's doctor told her Friday she could induce labor early. She opted for the Friday delivery.

"I thought, how could (Mark) miss this one opportunity that he might never have again in his life?" said Pavelka, 28, from the southwestern Chicago suburb of Homer Glen.

While her husband watched the Bears play the New Orleans Saints at Soldier Field Sunday, Colleen planned to watch in the hospital with the baby wrapped in a Bears blanket...

# Posted by The Rat @ 4:50 PM

      ( 3:42 PM ) The Rat  

Ichimame's life is already an endless blur of parties, visits to the hairdresser, kimono fittings, lessons in traditional dance, music and tea ceremony, and countless hours in front of the mirror painting her face chalk white and her lips impossibly red.

Even so the Japanese 18-year-old still manages to find the time to keep what is probably the first Internet blog by an apprentice geisha...

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:42 PM

      ( 12:57 AM ) The Rat  

Since 1989, Congress has directed the Pentagon to be the lead federal agency in detecting and monitoring illegal narcotics shipments headed to the United States by air and sea and in supporting Coast Guard efforts to intercept them. In the early 1990s, at the height of the drug war, U.S. military planes and boats filled the Southern skies and waters in search of cocaine-laden drug vessels coming from Colombia and elsewhere in South America.

But since 2002, the military has withdrawn many of those resources, according to more than a dozen current and former counter-narcotics officials, as well as a review of congressional, military and Homeland Security documents.

Internal records show that in the last four years the Pentagon has reduced by more than 62% its aerial surveillance flight hours over Caribbean and Pacific Ocean routes that are used to smuggle in cocaine, marijuana and, increasingly, Colombian-produced heroin. At the same time, the Navy is deploying one-third fewer patrol boats for detecting and catching smugglers.

The cutbacks continue at a time when the Pentagon has officially reclassified the drug interdiction effort as part of the broader war on terrorism, citing intelligence showing growing ties among terrorists, drug dealers and organized-crime syndicates...

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:57 AM

Sunday, January 21, 2007
      ( 4:03 PM ) The Rat  

"From a business perspective, diabetes is the perfect disease," said David Kliff, a diabetic and investment analyst who specializes in diabetes-related ventures. Diabetics "consume tons of disposable products, and there is no cure. It is a license to print money."

Diabetes is a marketing gold mine in another way. Although diabetes-related complications such as kidney and heart problems kill an estimated 200,000 people in the U.S. each year, the disease can be managed in large part with drugs and healthful lifestyles.

"Americans love success stories. They like stories about struggling and overcoming," said Arthur L. Caplan, director of the University of Pennsylvania's Center for Bioethics. "Nobody overcomes Parkinson's. Nobody overcomes Alzheimer's. We know how those stories end. But with diabetes, people like Adam Morrison or B.B. King are telling people what they want to hear: You can overcome. You can win."

# Posted by The Rat @ 4:03 PM

      ( 3:49 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:49 PM

      ( 1:14 PM ) The Rat  

"Their long legs are the most beautiful ones in the tutorial industry," said Ken Ng, head of Modern Education, one of the city's biggest tutoring businesses. "This is our selling point."

Sex appeal has become a hot selling point, just as important as teaching ability and knowledge, in Hong Kong's hypercompetitive world of cram schools—or "bou zap se" in the local Cantonese dialect.

Attractive teachers are marketed like movie stars. Their schools show them off on billboards, full-page newspaper ads and TV screens in railway stations and on buses...

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:14 PM

      ( 1:05 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:05 PM

      ( 12:28 AM ) The Rat  
"Having it in your pants is really different. Because all your focus goes there. It's like this thing, dangling, which takes all of your attention. It's no wonder that it's all they think about."
—Felicity Huffman on the prosthetic penis she wore for her role in Transamerica (2005), quoted at

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:28 AM

Saturday, January 20, 2007
      ( 5:38 PM ) The Rat  

A charter school alerted authorities to a 29-year-old sex offender who tried to enroll there, pretending he was just 12, in what sheriff's officials said Friday may have been an attempt to lure children into sexual abuse.

The Yavapai County sheriff's office also said Neil Havens Rodreick II conned two men he was living with and having sex with into believing he was a young boy.

One of them, 61-year-old Lonnie Stiffler, called himself Rodreick's grandfather when he tried to enroll him at Mingus Springs Charter School as "Casey Price."

"This is the weirdest case I've seen in 18 years," sheriff's spokeswoman Susan Quayle said. "If it wasn't so sad it would be funny."

Stiffler and Robert James Snow, 43, "were very upset when the detectives told them they had been having a sexual relationship with a 29-year-old man and not a pre-teen boy," Quayle said...

# Posted by The Rat @ 5:38 PM

      ( 2:31 PM ) The Rat  

[A]fter examining a host of potential influences, the Scottish scientists determined that the act of breast-feeding couldn't explain why children performed better on tests of mental acuity. Instead, their analysis found that environmental and genetic factors explained higher scores for breast-fed children, especially the intelligence levels of mothers...

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:31 PM

Friday, January 19, 2007
      ( 10:55 AM ) The Rat  
My dear lad, whatever you were to say about a good or bad balance of nature, about good or bad social relationships, about right or wrong social systems, about the boundless stupidity of crowds fighting for a crust of bread—and ending up in nothingness—none of this will be new!!
—Thaddeus Bobrowski in a letter to Joseph Conrad, Oct. 28/Nov. 9, 1891

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:55 AM

      ( 9:33 AM ) The Rat  
MAN LIVES IN TREE AFTER DOMESTIC SPAT. This is actually from about a year ago, but it's pretty funny...

Kapila Pradhan, 45, a resident of Nagajhara village in the eastern Indian state of Orissa, left home after an apparent tiff with his wife.

"My son and daughter-in-law quarrelled constantly after their son was born and their relationship soured day by day," says his mother Sishula.

"One morning I found my son had left the house while everybody was still asleep."

A month later, villagers found him deep in the forest living in a tree...

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:33 AM

      ( 8:54 AM ) The Rat  
PICS of the storms in Europe.

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:54 AM

Thursday, January 18, 2007
      ( 9:02 PM ) The Rat  
FOREIGN TRIPS BY YOUNG AMERICANS. Yikes. "Just 30% of Americans ages 18 to 24 have traveled abroad over the last three years and six in 10 do not speak a foreign language fluently." From one of the USA Today "snapshots" here.

Three or more—9 percent
Two—7 percent
One—14 percent
None—70 percent

The report from which these data are drawn is available here.

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:02 PM

      ( 8:30 PM ) The Rat  
The brother of Bapulala (popular pilot on the mission steamer Peace on the river at this time), when asked if he ate human flesh, answered, 'Ah! I wish I could eat everybody on earth.'
—Norman Sherry, Conrad's Western World, citing W. Holman Bentley's Pioneering on the Congo (1900)

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:30 PM

Wednesday, January 17, 2007
      ( 11:27 PM ) The Rat  
HAVE BOOZE, WON'T TRAVEL. Link via IKM. (That 75 percent figure totally reminds me of the "International Cabbie Exchange Program" on The Critic.)

In the past five years at the [Minneapolis-St. Paul] airport, Muslim taxi drivers of Somali descent have refused to transport about 5,400 passengers carrying alcohol, usually purchased at duty-free shops or wineries.

The Muslim American Society of Minnesota says carrying alcohol violates Islamic law. Calling for "tolerance," it wants the airport to establish a color-coding system to channel passengers with alcohol to cabs willing to carry them.

That's a problem. About 75% of the airport's 900 drivers are Somalis and many, though not all, have refused such fares...

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:27 PM

      ( 9:48 AM ) The Rat  

A high-end antique dealer on the Upper East Side is suing four unnamed homeless people for $1 million on the grounds that they've driven away customers by loitering on the sidewalk in "old, warn, and unsanitary clothing and cardboard boxes and old blankets which they convert into sleeping accommodations"...

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:48 AM

      ( 9:12 AM ) The Rat  

"I see so many women with neck pains and headaches and what I usually do is look for their purse and pick it up," said Jane Sadler, a family practice physician on the medical staff at Baylor Medical Center in Garland, Texas.

"We take it over to the scale and weigh it and usually they're anywhere from 7 to 10 pounds (3.1-4.5 kgs)..."

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:12 AM

Tuesday, January 16, 2007
      ( 11:39 AM ) The Rat  

A burger battle is brewing between a Texas state legislator and the owners of Louis' Lunch, a restaurant established in 1895, where it has been claimed that the hamburger was invented.

[W]ith the new session of the Texas legislature now under way, Republican State Rep. Betty Brown has proposed a resolution declaring Athens, Texas, is the original home of the hamburger...

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:39 AM

Monday, January 15, 2007
      ( 9:28 PM ) The Rat  

A cell phone apparently ignited in a man's pocket and started a fire that burned his hotel room and caused severe burns over half his body, fire department officials said...

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:28 PM

      ( 7:01 PM ) The Rat  

Also check out "10 Foods That Weird Us Out."

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:01 PM

Sunday, January 14, 2007
      ( 7:14 PM ) The Rat  
[T]here is a fascination in coal, the supreme commodity of the age in which we are camped like bewildered travellers in a garish, unrestful hotel...
—Conrad, Victory

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:14 PM

      ( 7:13 PM ) The Rat  
Here was the strangest part: I completely forgot that I'd sworn never to speak to her again, and that she'd left me years before without a word of explanation, without so much as saying goodbye, the way they abandon dogs when summer comes (as I put it to myself at the time), the way they abandon a dog chained to a tree for good measure. And I'd circled my tree in both directions and climbed up into it and spent a long time—spent millions of hours, years—in the void, cursing her name in the darkness. Yes, cursing her, because her disappearance had taught me that I was a less exemplary person than I'd thought.
—Grégoire Bouillier, The Mystery Guest

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:13 PM

Friday, January 12, 2007
      ( 7:11 PM ) The Rat  

In most artistic Renaissance renditions, the most distinguishing features of the author of "The Divine Comedy" were a prominent nose and lower lip and a generally severe expression.

The new face—based on drawings, measures of Dante's skull by a professor in the 1920s, a plaster model and computer technology—shows softer traits: large eyes, a rounded jaw and a gentler expression, although the nose remains crooked...

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:11 PM

      ( 6:59 PM ) The Rat  

Blood levels of folate in young women are dropping, a disturbing development that could lead to increased birth defects and may be due to low-carb diets or the popularity of unfortified whole-grain breads...

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:59 PM

      ( 6:47 PM ) The Rat  

In heavy drinkers, small doses of LSD have been thought to help bypass the rock-bottom stage of alcoholism and prevent relapses...

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:47 PM

      ( 3:24 PM ) The Rat  
There is a humorous saying: 'Love is homesickness'...
—Freud, "The Uncanny"

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:24 PM

      ( 11:28 AM ) The Rat  
SPIDERS ON PSYCHOACTIVE DRUGS, courtesy of JM. This is really funny.

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:28 AM

      ( 11:22 AM ) The Rat  

I've decided to increase my monthly church tithe to $20. Sure, I could use that extra $240 a year. It just about equals the university registration fee, or the money I promised my daughter toward the price of her wedding dress. It also represents almost half of the car insurance premium heading my way in April.

But giving that money away makes me feel rich. No matter how straitened my circumstances, I can be a part of services the church provides for the homeless, the impoverished elderly and those living with AIDS. In other words, tithing reminds me that there are lots of people worse off than me, people who'd love to have my so-called "problems."

That's not to say that I wouldn't like to have more cash. It would allow me to help my daughter, to secure my future, to buy more roasts and fewer pinto beans. But I figure I won the cosmic lottery just by being born in America, a country where I can not only work on a college degree at age 48, but also find scholarships and education grants to help me pay for it. I have a roof over my head, food every day, family and friends, and occasionally even a $10 student ticket to the Seattle Symphony...

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:22 AM

Thursday, January 11, 2007
      ( 10:16 PM ) The Rat  
The most conspicuous part of Conrad's legacy in twentieth century literature forms perhaps the revival of the ethics of honour...
—Zdzis?aw Najder

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:16 PM

      ( 9:12 PM ) The Rat  
DESPITE THE COCKY TITLE and overwritten style, this article is worth a look. I recently came upon a blurb describing a 2002 University of Quebec survey in which 996 married people were asked if they regretted having tied the knot. Thirty-seven percent of the men did—and 71 percent of the women. (True, they were presumably Canadians—but work with me here.) The tendency Glembocki is writing about can't account for all of that disparity, of course, but I suspect it accounts for some of it.

You will know why, both now and then—because your boyfriend lives two blocks away. And you live with him. You've been living with him since January, after the nightmarish Christmas break when you sat all cocky and steadfast at the kitchen table with your parents, debating your pronouncement that you were moving in with this boy you'd been dating for 4 months. So what that you were only 19? So what that your parents threatened—just threatened—not to pay your rent? So what that you heard your father, alone in his bedroom, crying about it all? So what? Because you were a "girlfriend" now. Finally. You had earned the title, the one you'd been striving for all through high school as your friends officially paired off and all you seemed capable of were going-nowhere French kisses in the parking lot outside the Mount Carmel dance. And if moving in with this guy was what it took to keep that status, then you were not letting up for anything, as if this relationship were an achievement—just like making the Dean's List every semester, like getting the lead in the play, like baking banana bread from scratch...

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:12 PM

      ( 8:51 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:51 PM

      ( 4:58 PM ) The Rat  
PROSTATE CANCER TREATMENT MAY SHORTEN PENIS. If you were writing a really bad Philip Roth parody, this would be a good dilemma to give the main character.

# Posted by The Rat @ 4:58 PM

      ( 4:44 PM ) The Rat  

The Dodgers are converting the right-field pavilion into an all-you-can-eat section. They also are raising the price of the cheapest game-day ticket, in the top deck, from $6 to $10, matching the price in the left-field pavilion.

A ticket to the right-field pavilion—at $35 in advance and $40 on game day—will entitle fans to an endless supply of ballpark staples, including hot dogs, peanuts and soda but excluding beer, which hasn't been sold in the pavilion for years. The Dodgers tested the concept several times last season.

"The fans really liked it," spokeswoman Camille Johnston said...

# Posted by The Rat @ 4:44 PM

Wednesday, January 10, 2007
      ( 8:36 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:36 PM

      ( 3:35 PM ) The Rat  

Members of the a cappella Baker's Dozen were performing at a party in San Francisco at the new year when their rendition of the "Star Spangled Banner" apparently sparked taunts and threats from fellow partygoers.

As the group left the house, they were attacked by dozens of assailants, suffering scrapes, black eyes and concussions...

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:35 PM

Tuesday, January 09, 2007
      ( 3:32 PM ) The Rat  
A LONG ARTICLE about peppercorns.

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:32 PM

      ( 2:45 PM ) The Rat  
REVIEW (via ET) of Dynasties: Fortunes and Misfortunes of the World's Great Family Businesses.

Dynasties is rich in anecdote and will bring pleasure to the many readers who admired Landes's last book, The Wealth and Poverty of Nations. It offers the same combination of shrewd insight and an engagingly conversational style. It is especially funny on the temptations to which nearly all dynasties sooner or later succumb, the most lethal (in the author's view) being horses...

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:45 PM

      ( 2:44 PM ) The Rat  
PAINTING FROM THE WEIMAR ART SHOW AT THE MET whose name most needs to be turned into a drink: I Shall Exterminate Everything Around Me That Restricts Me from Being the Master.

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:44 PM

      ( 2:43 PM ) The Rat  

Meyers said she was especially moved that the online merchant remembered that she had once purchased an Ian McEwan book, and immediately reminded when the author released a new novel. Moreover, despite only having had 37 hours of direct interaction with Meyers, Amazon was still able to detect her strong interest in actor Paul Giamatti, unlike husband Dean who often teases Meyers about her nonexistent crush on Tom Cruise.

While Amazon is almost always accurate, the company does occasionally make a gift recommendation that does not suit her tastes, such as a recent suggestion of camping gear and an all-weather backpack. Still, Meyers lauded Amazon's attempts at spontaneity.

"At least it's trying," said Meyers, whose husband will once again surprise her with their fourth romantic getaway to his hometown of Kenton, DE sometime in March...

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:43 PM

      ( 2:42 PM ) The Rat  
Jane also introduced me to the concept of One Away. You were One Away from someone if you had both slept with the same man. Jane had slept with a number of up-and-coming journalists, editors, and novelists, the most famous of whom, at the end of their one night together, gave her a copy of one of his books, a box of which was conveniently located right next to his front door. According to Jane, his exact words, as she made her way to the exit, were 'Take one on your way out.'
—Nora Ephron, I Feel Bad About My Neck

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:42 PM

Monday, January 08, 2007
      ( 5:55 PM ) The Rat  

[I]n his native Philippines, Jacinto remains at the center of a roiling controversy—a sellout to his critics, a paragon of hard work and admirable ambition to his supporters.

Once upon a time, Elmer Jacinto was his nation's most promising young doctor. But doctors in the Philippines are not well paid, and so he boarded a plane to America.

To make more money. To become... a nurse.

It hasn't worked out exactly as he had expected. Life in New York has proved exhausting and full of unforeseen pitfalls. And back home, many of his countrymen still find his choice a difficult one to accept, because the parable of Elmer Jacinto raises grim doubts about their future.

"Jacinto encapsulates perfectly the country's fundamental question today," one Filipino newspaper columnist opined. "Namely, why should anyone want to stay in it?"

# Posted by The Rat @ 5:55 PM

      ( 5:53 PM ) The Rat  

Giving pre-school children toys to play with boosts their mental development even if they suffer from malnutrition, a report said on Friday.

The report, published in the Lancet medical journal, said several studies had found a clear link between intelligence and child's play...

# Posted by The Rat @ 5:53 PM

      ( 2:56 PM ) The Rat  
"[AUTREY'S] BOSS DIDN'T BELIEVE HIS EXCUSE FOR BEING LATE TO WORK UNTIL HE SAW ON THE INTERNET WHAT AUTREY HAD DONE." Best line from this article on that guy who jumped onto the NYC subway track last week, to save the seizure victim (and complete stranger) who'd fallen onto it. (Ratty to ET at the time: "I wonder what it would feel like to save someone's life, and then find out it was a film student.")

Here is Autrey's appearance on Letterman, about an eight-minute clip.

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:56 PM

      ( 11:57 AM ) The Rat  

To "pluto" is "to demote or devalue someone or something," much like what happened to the former planet last year when the General Assembly of the International Astronomical Union decided Pluto didn't meet its definition of a planet.

"Our members believe the great emotional reaction of the public to the demotion of Pluto shows the importance of Pluto as a name," said society president Cleveland Evans. "We may no longer believe in the Roman god Pluto, but we still have a sense of personal connection with the former planet."

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:57 AM

Sunday, January 07, 2007
      ( 5:17 PM ) The Rat  
A GREEN LIMO IS NO STRETCH. Via the L.A. Times, natch.

Fray's operations are relatively small but get noticed in the highly competitive chauffeured limousine business, in which low gas mileage has practically been a badge of honor.

"This is a traditional car service," said Fray, who has worked as a professional chauffeur on and off since 1985, "in untraditional cars."

That has caused problems beyond the ridicule of other limo drivers.

Last year, when Fray was taking Theron to a party after an awards event, a West Hollywood sheriff's deputy wouldn't let her park her Prius with the other limos.

"I told him this was a limo, but he said, 'No it's not.' Then Charlize screamed from the back seat, 'This is a limo!'

"The sheriff looked back there to see who yelled. He let us park."

# Posted by The Rat @ 5:17 PM

      ( 5:15 PM ) The Rat  

You might wonder how a lesbian can have a phallus, or whether it's possible to say "phallologocentrism" three times without tripping on your tongue, but if so, it's likely that you won't be getting an "A" from Occidental professor Jeffrey Tobin, who is teaching the course this spring semester. Also this semester, Occidental will offer the course that the Young America's Foundation rated No. 5 in bizarreness: "Blackness." This class will explore "new blackness," "critical blackness," "post-blackness," "unforgivable blackness" and "queer blackness."

A perfect companion course to Oxy's "Blackness" would be "Whiteness," which is offered at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts and was ranked No. 7 by the foundation. But not to worry. Occidental has its own "Whiteness" course (which will "examine the construction of whiteness in the historic, legal and economic contexts which have allowed it to function as an enabling condition for privilege and race-based prejudice," says the Oxy online catalog). Passing "Whiteness" is a prerequisite for signing up for "Blackness." [...]

# Posted by The Rat @ 5:15 PM

Saturday, January 06, 2007
      ( 12:18 AM ) The Rat  

In the first study, 60 Northwestern students were isolated and asked to describe either an ethical or unethical action they had undertaken in their lives. Following this exercise, they were presented with a series of six word fragments, three of which—W__H, for example—could be completed in a cleansing way (WASH) or an unrelated way (WISH). Those who had just spent time recalling an unethical deed were more likely to produce a cleansing word. And a subsequent similar study with 32 subjects showed that after recalling an unethical memory, students were more likely to choose a free antiseptic wipe over a free pencil when offered the choice, as compared with untested subjects who showed little preference.

In another study, 27 subjects hand copied either an ethical or unethical story. In the ethical version a lawyer helps his colleague, whereas in the unethical version the lawyer sabotages him. Then the students rated products, including cleansing ones such as soap or toothpaste. As expected, the students who had copied the unethical story rated the cleansing products significantly more highly than their ethical peers.

Although these studies seemed to show that moral stains produce a desire for physical cleanliness, Zhong and Liljenquist wondered whether such a need to be clean could actually drive behavior. After asking 45 more students to recall an unethical behavior from their past, the researchers offered 22 of them a sanitary wipe while leaving the rest of their peers in an "unclean" state. They then asked for unpaid volunteers to aid a desperate graduate student with another study: 74 percent of those in the unclean state offered their help versus only 41 percent of those who had cleaned themselves, according to results published in the September 8 issue of Science. "Washing hands can reduce physical disgust but it can also reduce moral emotions," Zhong says...

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:18 AM

      ( 12:17 AM ) The Rat  
WHY TIPSY FLOWERS DON'T TIP OVER. Wow, I wonder if this works? (I also wish I'd known about it when I first potted those bulbs!) Article is from last spring.

A new Cornell study finds that a touch of booze is a great way to keep certain houseplants from getting too tall by stunting their growth. "Dilute solutions of alcohol—though not beer or wine—are a simple and effective way to reduce stem and leaf growth," said William Miller, professor of horticulture and director of the Flower Bulb Research Program at Cornell.

"When the liquor is properly used, the paperwhites we tested were stunted by 30 to 50 percent, but their flowers were as large, fragrant and long-lasting as usual," added Miller, whose new study on how alcohol inhibits houseplant growth will be published in the April issue of HortTechnology, a peer-reviewed journal of horticulture...

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:17 AM

Friday, January 05, 2007
      ( 11:14 AM ) The Rat  
ANOTHER PERSONALITY TEST. I'm guessing this is a better test of how you see yourself, than of how you necessarily are; still, some interesting bits. Some of Ratty's scores: extroversion—low (12th percentile for females over 21); agreeableness—high (79th percentile); conscientiousness—average (ha!) (58th percentile), emotional stability—low (27th percentile); openness—high (99th percentile). Ratty had to giggle at the explanation given for the "openness" category—particularly the last paragraph thereof.

Openness to Experience describes a dimension of cognitive style that distinguishes imaginative, creative people from down-to-earth, conventional people. Open people are intellectually curious, appreciative of art, and sensitive to beauty. They tend to be, compared to closed people, more aware of their feelings. They tend to think and act in individualistic and nonconforming ways. Intellectuals typically score high on Openness to Experience; consequently, this factor has also been called Culture or Intellect. Nonetheless, Intellect is probably best regarded as one aspect of openness to experience. Scores on Openness to Experience are only modestly related to years of education and scores on standard intelligent tests.

Another characteristic of the open cognitive style is a facility for thinking in symbols and abstractions far removed from concrete experience. Depending on the individual's specific intellectual abilities, this symbolic cognition may take the form of mathematical, logical, or geometric thinking, artistic and metaphorical use of language, music composition or performance, or one of the many visual or performing arts. People with low scores on openness to experience tend to have narrow, common interests. They prefer the plain, straightforward, and obvious over the complex, ambiguous, and subtle. They may regard the arts and sciences with suspicion, regarding these endeavors as abstruse or of no practical use. Closed people prefer familiarity over novelty; they are conservative and resistant to change.

Openness is often presented as healthier or more mature by psychologists, who are often themselves open to experience. However, open and closed styles of thinking are useful in different environments. The intellectual style of the open person may serve a professor well, but research has shown that closed thinking is related to superior job performance in police work, sales, and a number of service occupations.

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:14 AM

      ( 11:13 AM ) The Rat  
WACKY PICTURES (scroll down a bit) of various herbs.

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:13 AM

      ( 11:09 AM ) The Rat  
SO, TURNS OUT that if you run an search for "voyeur couples," I am result no. 27. At least, that's how one very determined researcher appears to have gotten here...

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:09 AM

Thursday, January 04, 2007
      ( 10:19 PM ) The Rat  
THE TRUTH ABOUT DONOR 1084, from the October Self. Don't miss "Lea"'s observation re "I think we have to assume that sperm donor profiles have about the same rate of falsification as résumés"...

From Fairfax Cryobank in Fairfax, Virginia, one of the country's largest sperm banks, [George] chose Donor 1084 for his coloring and also for his health. Asked on his donor profile about his history of disease, from heart problems and cancer to allergies and eczema, he mentioned none. Her baby, named Ethan George, was born in April 2001 with a thatch of red hair and blue eyes. He couldn't have resembled his brother—or his brown-eyed, brown-haired mother—any less. "You just never know what games genetics will play," George muses.

Indeed. When Ethan was 1 week old, he developed eczema on his face. After six weeks, George says, her son's face, cheeks, hands and wrists were oozing and bloody. "I put socks on his hands so he wouldn't rub his skin raw, but every morning his crib sheets were covered with blood," she says. By the time he was 18 months old, Ethan had severe asthma and an egg allergy that caused facial swelling, hives and vomiting. Then his body began to bruise in places he had never injured. George feared she'd be reported as an abusive mother. "On his worst days, he has about 60 black-and-blue marks on his body," she says.

One of Ethan's doctors suggested leukemia—"that was too devastating to think about," George says. Several blood tests later, doctors diagnosed him instead with delta storage pool deficiency (delta-SPD), a rare genetic platelet disorder that causes bruises and bleeding from the slightest bump or cut. Ethan will have a normal life span, doctors have told George, but he must avoid contact sports or anything that might cause a blow to the head, leading to a brain bleed. Meanwhile, he has had a spate of staph infections in his open wounds and by last year had tested positive for allergies to corn, tomatoes, pork, peanuts, grass, dust, mold, ragweed, dogs and had reactions to several of the medications used to treat him. "It's just one illness after another. It doesn't stop," George says...

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:19 PM

      ( 7:40 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:40 PM

      ( 7:38 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:38 PM

      ( 1:59 PM ) The Rat  

Italian scientists believe they have uncovered a 400-year-old murder. Historians have long suspected that Francesco de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, and his second wife Bianca Cappello did not die of malaria but were poisoned—probably by Francesco's brother, Cardinal Ferdinando de' Medici, who was vying for the title.

Now, forensic and toxicology experts at the University of Florence report evidence of arsenic poisoning in a new study published in the British Medical Journal...

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:59 PM

Tuesday, January 02, 2007
      ( 11:00 PM ) The Rat  
WELCOME to the reader who got here looking for "beware the rat"!

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:00 PM

      ( 8:01 PM ) The Rat  
ALSO VIA DRUDGE, an article that includes the following, frequently bizarre lists of foods banned from being advertised on children's television shows in Britain. Note that only the English would have something called "brown sauce."

Other foods banned from advertising during children's TV include: Marmite, Flora Lite, half-fat cheddar, Dairylea triangles, bran flakes, camembert, sugar-coated puffed wheat, instant hot oat cereal, Jaffa cakes, reduced calorie mayonnaise, multi-grain hoop cereal, half-fat creme fraiche, takeaway chicken nuggets, potato waffles, Greek yoghurt (from sheep's milk), ham, sausages, bacon rashers, low-fat spreads, peanuts, cashew nuts, pistachio-nuts, peanut butter, raisins, sultanas, currants, low-fat potato crisps, olive oil, butter, pizza, hamburgers, tomato ketchup, chocolate, brown sauce, cola and lemonade.

Foods which escape the ban include: Plain fromage frais, fish fingers, lasagne ready meals, currant buns, malt loaf, frozen roast potatoes, chicken curry with rice ready meal, frozen oven chips, sliced white bread, cottage cheese, supermarket frozen chicken nuggets, milk, brazil nuts, canned strawberries in syrup, diet cola and chocolate-flavoured milk.

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:01 PM

      ( 7:58 PM ) The Rat  
ON SEEING THIS ARTICLE, Ratty asked ET plaintively: "What's the big deal? Japanese women don't have breasts!"

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:58 PM

      ( 2:08 PM ) The Rat  
WHY THERE'LL ALWAYS BE AN ENGLAND. This is also a fun headline.

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:08 PM

Monday, January 01, 2007
      ( 5:00 PM ) The Rat  
JANUARY IS Cervical Cancer Awareness Month.

# Posted by The Rat @ 5:00 PM

      ( 3:23 PM ) The Rat  

Surrounded by cornfields that stretch to the horizon, in a place where molehills pass for mesas, avid outdoorsman Don Briggs has long dreamed of climbing a mountain.

So he decided to build one.

Briggs spends most winter nights hosing down a quartet of grain silos on a friend's farm—and relies on the Corn Belt's frigid temperatures to transform the water into frozen walls of ice that tower nearly 70 feet straight up.

By the time he's done, the ice encasing the outside of the silos is 4 feet thick in spots—and ready for the onslaught of ice climbers drawn to this strange marriage of farming and extreme sports...

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:23 PM

      ( 1:07 PM ) The Rat  
"ONE IN FOUR [ANTICIPATE] THE SECOND COMING OF JESUS CHRIST," and other results of an Associated Press-AOL News poll of Americans' expectations of what's in store for 2007.

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:07 PM

A page I'm starting to get the overlords at to stop $#@! bugging me

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