The Rat
Wednesday, February 28, 2007
      ( 4:52 PM ) The Rat  

Graffiti written Friday night on the walls of Blair Hall targeted students in substance-free housing, characterizing them as gay or Asian. Mathey College administrators said they do not yet know who is behind the vandalism.

# Posted by The Rat @ 4:52 PM

Tuesday, February 27, 2007
      ( 1:28 PM ) The Rat  
MARTHA MCPHEE'S ESSAY on her parents' divorce and her own marriage (in the March issue of Self, and excerpted from the newly-published The Honeymoon's Over: True Stories of Love, Marriage, and Divorce) is worth a read, though unfortunately it's not online.

I was not unfamiliar with divorce; my parents began their separation when I was 5 years old. [...] Details of the divorce included a vocabulary that was entirely new to me: Custody, alimony, child support, visitation rights, lover, affair, adultery. My three sisters and I would lie in bed at night and throw these words into the darkness, where they'd hang suspended for a while, until one of the older girls would translate the words, one at a time, for the rest of us. We played a game called "normal day," a variation on house in which we were paired off with various movie stars—Steve McQueen, Robert Redford, Paul Newman, O.J. Simpson, even. We married and divorced, took lovers, charged mightily on the credit cards of the lovers who spurned us. Normal day.

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:28 PM

      ( 3:35 AM ) The Rat  
SURREAL. Somewhat reminiscent of Agatha Christie's Parker Pyne stories, although for me at least, what made for kind of a quirky idea in fiction, in real life is just... grotesque.

They call [Knyazev] the "producer." He loves saying that; he even embossed it on his business card. But he's really more of a psychologist-turned-opportunist, ready to help "the overburdened rich relieve the pressure of money and its obligations."

Knyazev began conventionally enough, arranging parties and banquets several years ago for the ice-sculpture-and-caviar circuit. But how many long tables, embroidered linens, fluted crystal, Moet bubbles and vanity portraits must a multimillionaire endure? Spinning capitalist schemes and pocketing oil and gas wealth, the new oligarchs craved more. They wanted to be intrigued; they wanted their sequins rattled.

"I make up games. Sometimes I dress up my clients like bums and take them to the rail station. They have to beg. Whoever has the most coins in the morning wins," he says. "The wives of these businessmen wanted their own games. So we had some of them work as waitresses in a diner. Whoever gets the most tips wins. Sometimes they'll go as striptease dancers and see who comes away with the most cash."

He looks down, scratches his thin goatee, reflects: "Some very rich women want to play the part of a prostitute. I organize that. Of course, they don't go all the way. We stop it before that.... But, yes, some would go all the way."

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:35 AM

Monday, February 26, 2007
      ( 7:31 PM ) The Rat  
RATTY IS OF THE OPINION that reading Miss Alli's Television Without Pity recaps of The Apprentice, after having duly watched the show, is actually considerably more fun than watching the show itself. Which is actually not the case with Project Runway—even though those recaps are fun too. ...Yeah, I'm workin' real hard here.

There was some flirty business going on between Nick and Amy, but Nick gave off a suspicious vibe that he would eventually turn out to be that most dreaded of species, Thinks Smart And Independent Women Are Sexy Until One Of Them Points Out That He Misspelled Something, At Which Point He Loses His Shit, Gets Drunk, And Angrily Finds A Pliable Idiot To Sleep With Guy.

[Trump's assistant] is extremely unhappy about this turn of events, and tells Kwame that it's frankly embarrassing to be without pancakes for Jessica [Simpson]. (Or celery sticks, or Louis Vuitton cereal, or whatever she has for breakfast.)

Kwame and Troy are waiting for a meeting with two representatives of Operation Smile, which is a very nice charity, but quite honestly has one of those names that makes you want to punch someone. It's not that the name isn't relevant to the charity, either—it's a charity for kids with cleft palates, and it provides them with the opportunity to have life-changing surgery. Get it? Smile? So... yes, I'm a very bad person, and yay, life-changing surgery, and yay for good charities, but... I still kind of want to punch someone. Not a needy child or anything. Just someone.

Ew, I don't know if I needed to see Chris's nipple ring. I admit he has a nicer chest than I would have expected, but I don't know about the jewelry. Nipple rings kind of freak me out. I always want to hang a tiny, tiny towel through them.

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:31 PM

      ( 7:17 PM ) The Rat  
THIS MORNING, Ratty had her first (but, she is quite sure, not her last) generals-exam-themed nightmare—nearly eight months before said exam is to take place.

Although, the really scary part is that, in the post-waking-up anxiety attack, she distinctly caught herself thinking—and not in a humorous or ironic way, but rather strictly in a There's-got-to-be-some-way-out-of-this-if-I-could-only-think-of-it way: "Well—they would let me take it later if I got pregnant..."

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:17 PM

      ( 7:13 PM ) The Rat  
WELCOME, BY THE WAY, to the person (in Japan) who got here Googling for "Can a japanese man be trusted in courtship and love," for which I am hit no. 27 of "about 144,000."

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:13 PM

      ( 7:06 PM ) The Rat  
KEEPER LINE from this article (which a friend sent): "'Avoid anything that has testosterone,' urologist David Nudell says."

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:06 PM

Sunday, February 25, 2007
      ( 7:06 PM ) The Rat  
HEE!! Don't miss the entries under "Perfect for."

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:06 PM

      ( 12:51 AM ) The Rat  

Leszek Szwerowski, 61, was spotted standing in line to take part in the contest organised as part of the World Sex Championships in 2003.

The contest involved three young women having sex with as many men as they could over the course of several hours.

But Szwerowski, from Warsaw, said the company behind the event, Pink-Press, reneged on promises to keep his identity secret and hide his face on film.

He said he was left embarrassed when his young nephew saw him on a later DVD of the event and told the rest of his family...

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:51 AM

Saturday, February 24, 2007
      ( 6:45 PM ) The Rat  

The letter arrived on a Thursday morning, tucked among the usual barrage of catalogues and bills. Mike Seccuro tossed the envelope onto his wife Liz's lap as he climbed behind the wheel of the family minivan, their daughter's giggles bubbling over from the back seat.

Who lives in Vegas? she wondered briefly of the postmark before her eyes slid left, stopping on the sender's name.

She froze.

It was a name she had not uttered in 20 years.

Her body suddenly felt cold, her brain fuzzy. With shaking hands, she opened the envelope.

"Dear Elizabeth," the letter began. "In 1984 I harmed you."

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:45 PM

Friday, February 23, 2007
      ( 12:52 AM ) The Rat  
HOW TO BECOME AN AUCTIONEER. In case you were wondering.

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:52 AM

Thursday, February 22, 2007
      ( 1:03 PM ) The Rat  
INTERESTING ARTICLE (basically spoiler-free) on the cinematography of 21 Grams. By the way, IMDB's list of "plot keywords" for that movie is pretty funny.

Helping to give viewers some bearings is Prieto's visual scheme. "In the script," he says, "there were cues to help you understand where you were in the chronology of each story, but I felt we should support that visually. We therefore designed an emotional arc for each of the stories, and whenever we went back to one, we tried to be at that place visually."

In other words, each of the three narratives has a visual design that evolves as the stories progress and converge. "We were separating each story with colors that we felt were appropriate," explains Prieto. "We pictured Paul's story in cool colors; the [interior] lighting is generally white, and the night exteriors have the cool, greenish look of metal-halide lamps. By contrast, we went for warmer colors for Jack; all of the night exteriors in his story are lit with sodium-vapor lamps, and we gelled lamps indoors with warm colors. The vibration of red-orange light is more intense, which we felt was right for the character. Cristina's story is presented neutrally, as something in between. In general, the lighting is white, but her story mixes so much Paul's that they both have blue-green night exteriors. And when they finally meet Jack, all three color schemes become more red-orange.

"We also played with different film stocks to keep the grain structures in different contrasts as the stories developed," Prieto continues. "When things were looking up for the characters, we'd use a finer-grained stock." For Paul's story, that meant Kodak Vision 250D 5246 stock for the scenes following his transplant, and for most of his scenes with Cristina. (Night interiors involving these characters were shot with Kodak Vision 500T 5279.) "Then, as things get more complex, we go to a heavier grain [Kodak Vision 800T 5289]. The first third of Jack's story was 5279, and then we moved into 5289." In fact, the transition occurs in the midst of a sequence in which friends are gathered for Jack's birthday party, and the guest of honor is absent.

"Scenes that show the party happening without him were filmed on 5279, and the moment he arrives, we changed to 5289," says Prieto. "It's so subtle that it's likely no one will consciously notice it." When the characters converge in New Mexico for the film's climax, the scenes are rendered entirely with the heavy-grained 5289, made harsher by the bleach-bypass process...

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:03 PM

      ( 11:39 AM ) The Rat  

A routine appendix operation in Belgrade went badly wrong when two surgeons started fighting and stormed from the operating theater to settle their dispute outside, the daily Politika reported Wednesday...

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:39 AM

      ( 11:25 AM ) The Rat  
PORN DVD SCREAMS PROMPT SWORD 'RESCUE.' Via MG. Anybody got this guy's number??

A man says he broke into an apartment with a cavalry sword because he thought he heard a woman being raped, but the sound actually was from a pornographic movie his upstairs neighbor was watching...

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:25 AM

      ( 12:46 AM ) The Rat  
And yet I swear by the sacred name of my creator that it was true. It was true sunshine; the true music; the true splash of the fountains from the mouth of stone dolphins. For, if for me we were four people with the same tastes, with the same desires, acting—or, no, not acting—sitting here and there unanimously, isn't that the truth? If for nine years I have possessed a goodly apple that is rotten at the core and discover its rottenness only in nine years and six months less four days, isn't it true to say that for nine years I possessed a goodly apple?
The Good Soldier

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:46 AM

Wednesday, February 21, 2007
      ( 5:18 PM ) The Rat  
FEELING THE TUG OF TRADITION. This article is kind of interesting, though not as interesting as it wants to be.

In most ethnic communities, the rituals and superstitions of the old country tend to fade as successive generations become more Americanized. But in the Chinese American community, something different is happening...

# Posted by The Rat @ 5:18 PM

      ( 3:55 PM ) The Rat  

Three ultra-endurance athletes have just done something most would consider insane: They ran the equivalent of two marathons a day for 111 days to become the first modern runners to cross the Sahara Desert's grueling 4,000 miles.

"It will take time to sink in... but this is an absolutely once in a life time thing. They say ignorance is bliss, and now that I know how hard this is, I would never consider crossing the Sahara on foot again," said American runner Charlie Engle, 44, hours after he and the others completed the run at Egypt's Red Sea.

Engle said he, Canadian Ray Zahab, 38, and Kevin Lin, 30, of Taiwan, ran the final stretch of their journey that took them through the Giza pyramids and Cairo to the mouth of Suez Canal on four hours of sleep. Once they hit the Red Sea, they put their hands in the water to signify crossing the finish line...

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:55 PM

Tuesday, February 20, 2007
      ( 5:02 PM ) The Rat  
PRETTY WOMEN SCRAMBLE MEN'S ABILITY TO ASSESS THE FUTURE. An old (2003), but entertaining, study.

Psychologists in Canada have finally proved what women have long suspected—men really are irrational enough to risk entire kingdoms to catch sight of a beautiful face. [...]

Both male and female students at McMaster University were shown pictures of the opposite sex of varying attractiveness taken from the website 'Hot or Not'. The 209 students were then offered the chance to win a reward. They could either accept a cheque for between $15 and $35 tomorrow or one for $50-$75 at a variable point in the future.

Wilson and Daly found that male students shown the pictures of averagely attractive women showed exponential discounting of the future value of the reward. This indicated that they had made a rational decision. When male students were shown pictures of pretty women, they discounted the future value of the reward in an "irrational" way—they would opt for the smaller amount of money available the next day rather than wait for a much bigger reward.

Women, by contrast, made equally rational decisions whether they had been shown pictures of handsome men or those of average attractiveness.

"We have not elucidated the psychological mechanisms mediating our results," says Margo Wilson. "But we hypothesise that viewing pictures of pretty women was mildly arousing, activating neural mechanisms associated with cues of sexual opportunity."

Tommaso Pizzari, an evolutionary biologist at Leeds University, offers another possible explanation: "If there's the prospect of getting a very attractive partner it may pay a man to take more risks than if an average partner was available"...

# Posted by The Rat @ 5:02 PM

      ( 2:43 PM ) The Rat  

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      ( 2:39 PM ) The Rat  
MEDIA CITED FOR SHOWING GIRLS AS SEX OBJECTS. Good thing we have the APA to keep us up to speed on stuff like this.

Advertising and media images that encourage girls to focus on looks and sexuality are harmful to their emotional and physical health, a new report by the American Psychological Association says.

The report, released Monday, analyzed some 300 studies over the past 18 months. It included a variety of media, from television and movies to song lyrics, and looked at advertising showing body-baring doll clothes for pre-schoolers, tweens posing in suggestive ways in magazines and the sexual antics of young celebrity role models.

The researchers found such images may make girls think of and treat their own bodies as sexual objects...

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:39 PM

Monday, February 19, 2007
      ( 3:29 PM ) The Rat  
THE TAKE A NAP NAP WHEEL. I wonder if this works?

To design your own custom nap, drag the "wake-up time" dial to the hour you woke up, say, 7 a.m. Follow the hours clockwise until you reach the point in the day when REM and slow-wave sleep cross, in this case, 2 p.m. This is a perfectly balanced state in which REM and slow-wave sleep are equally proportioned, and where "The Ultimate Nap" occurs. Naps occurring before this crossing point will have more REM and naps occurring after will have more SWS.

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:29 PM

      ( 11:33 AM ) The Rat  
AGELESS FATHERHOOD? MAYBE NOT. These studies have been cropping up for some time, but never seem to get much attention.

Fisch and his colleagues evaluated more than 3,400 cases of Down syndrome, finding that if the woman and the man were both over age 35 at the time of conception, the father's age played a role in prevalence of the disorder. This effect was most pronounced when the woman was over 40, the researchers found. And, in those cases, the incidence of Down syndrome was about 50 percent attributable to the sperm, the researchers said. The study was published in 2003 in The Journal of Urology.

In another study, Dr. Avraham Reichenberg, of Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, found that advanced age for fathers is associated with an increased risk of autism. His team gathered data on the age of fathers of more than 318,000 people born in Israel during the 1980s. The researchers found that the chances of having a child with autism or a related disorder were about six times greater if the father was 40 or older, compared to men 29 or younger. The findings were published in the September 2006 issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry.

Still another study found that the risk of schizophrenia in children was tied to older age of the father. In the study, which included about 90,000 people, the researchers discovered that children whose fathers were 50 or older when they were born were nearly three times more likely to have the disorder than those born to younger fathers. That study was published in 2001 in the Archives of General Psychiatry.

Another study, published in 2002 in Human Reproduction, found a higher risk of miscarriage in mothers 35 and older and fathers 40 and older. And, in 2004, the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that 20 different disorders in children—ranging from schizophrenia to skeletal disorders—have been linked to the advanced age of the father...

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:33 AM

      ( 11:31 AM ) The Rat  
AMBIGUITY AND PESSIMISM BIAS, from a couple weeks back.

Apparently, we're all wired to be downers in a world characterized by pervasive ambiguity. Somewhere in the course of human evolution, though, people's views toward their pessimistic peers have changed—whereas downers of the distant past likely served to possess and distribute valuable information, they're a drag in 21st-century America...

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:31 AM

      ( 11:27 AM ) The Rat  
WHERE IS SPORT STEERING YOUTH? This survey and its conclusions seem to me obviously flawed—still, some interesting stuff here. (Note that many athletes seem to be cheating even more than grad and professional-school students!)

The latest two-year study of high school athletes by the Josephson Institute found a higher rate of cheating in school among student-athletes than among their classmates. It also found a growing acceptance of cheating to gain advantages in competition.

Josephson's report, based on interviews across the country with 5,275 high school athletes, concluded that too many coaches are "teaching our kids to cheat and cut corners"...

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:27 AM

Sunday, February 18, 2007
      ( 6:34 PM ) The Rat  
RATTY DOES OFTEN HAVE this effect on men...

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:34 PM

      ( 12:35 AM ) The Rat  
THE END OF TIBET. A must-read.

It has been only a few months since Zangmo and her friend fled Tibet on foot over the Himalayas to this squat, block-shaped center for Tibetan refugees in India. The two women had been imprisoned along with a group of other nuns, some for as long as sixteen years. They were first arrested in 1990 for staging a protest in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, to demonstrate their outrage over China's continuing presence in their native land. As the women chanted "Free Tibet," Chinese police moved quickly, knocking them to the ground and dragging them to jail before their protest could attract attention. Inside the prison, Chinese authorities subjected the nuns to a brutal routine. "Police stuck electric prods into my vagina and then hung me from the ceiling," Zangmo says softly. Her voice doesn't waver, but she looks away. Some of her friends lost consciousness as soon as guards pushed the cattle prods inside them, but Zangmo remained alert throughout the torture. "I was totally, totally frightened," she says.

Police eventually transferred the women to Drapchi, the most feared prison in Lhasa. According to human rights organizations like the International Campaign for Tibet, there are hundreds of political prisoners in Tibet, the majority of them Buddhist clergy. Scores have died from torture at the hands of Chinese authorities: electric shock, hanging, forced blood extraction. "They tried to pull my arms out of my sockets, and beat my legs and arms with metal bars and shocked me," recalls Phuntsog Nyidron, another nun who was imprisoned at Drapchi. "I was worried they could easily kill me." After repeated beatings, a monk named Lobsang Choephel hanged himself at Drapchi, his body dangling from the iron bars of his cell.

The punishment was most severe for those who refused to give up their faith. "In Drapchi, there were numerous demonstrations," Zangmo says. One day, four nuns refused to renounce their Buddhist beliefs in front of the Chinese guards. "They were beaten until they died." Zangmo stares at the floor and starts to cry, her voice breaking. "They died together." [...]

In public, China has announced new policies promoting tolerance of Buddhism. Beijing has lavished funds on restoring the Potala Palace, for example, and thrown open monasteries to tourists. But across the city from the Potala, a senior monk living in a crumbling earthen hut describes what is really happening. "Plainclothes security are all over the monastery," he tells me. "There's never a time when the monks are together that the public security bureau isn't watching them. The Chinese hold 'patriotic campaigns,' and all the monks are forced to renounce the Dalai Lama."

Like many Tibetans I speak with, the monk asks that his name not be used, for fear of reprisals. Chinese security agents, he says, have cracked down on interactions with foreign visitors. "When I first came here, it wasn't illegal for monks to talk to foreigners," the monk says. "Now it is."

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:35 AM

Saturday, February 17, 2007
      ( 5:58 PM ) The Rat  

Adults thinking back rarely can remember anything before preshool, but those bright infant eyes staring back at mommy and daddy really are forming memories. It's just that babies also forget. In fact, babies' rate of forgetting is even faster than that of adults, Patricia J. Bauer of Duke University said Friday at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science...

# Posted by The Rat @ 5:58 PM

Friday, February 16, 2007
      ( 2:54 AM ) The Rat  

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Thursday, February 15, 2007
      ( 2:31 PM ) The Rat  

Villagers in southwestern China are scratching their heads over the county government's decision to paint an entire barren mountainside green.

Workers who began spraying Laoshou mountain last August told villagers they were doing so on orders of the county government but were not told why, media reports said Wednesday...

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:31 PM

      ( 11:46 AM ) The Rat  

Lindsay Allason-Jones, the university's director of archaeological museums, said that the image of her as a great beauty is comparatively modern, dating back to medieval English poet Geoffrey Chaucer.

"Roman writers tell us that Cleopatra was intelligent and charismatic and that she had a seductive voice, but, tellingly, they do not mention her beauty," she said.

"It's one of those perpetual myths that has been perpetuated by having people like Elizabeth Taylor playing her and it's very difficult to get that out of peoples' psyches.

"She does look as if she's forgotten to put her teeth in."

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:46 AM

      ( 1:12 AM ) The Rat  

Women have three to four times the number of bacteria in, on and around their desks, phones, computers, keyboards, drawers and personal items as men do, the study by University of Arizona professor Charles Gerba showed. Gerba, a professor of soil, water and environmental sciences, tested more than 100 offices on the UA campus and in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oregon and Washington, D.C. The $40,000 study was commissioned by the Clorox Co.

"I thought for sure men would be germier," Gerba said. "But women have more interactions with small children and keep food in their desks. The other problem is makeup."

Don't get Gerba wrong: Women's desks typically looked cleaner. But the knickknacks are more abundant, and cosmetics and hand lotions make prime germ-transfer agents, Gerba said. Makeup cases also make for fine germ homes, along with phones, purses and desk drawers.

The news isn't all negative for the fairer sex. Gerba found the worst overall office germ offender is men's wallets...

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:12 AM

Wednesday, February 14, 2007
      ( 1:37 PM ) The Rat  
A FRIEND just sent Ratty this Dear Abby column (scroll down to the last letter), which is so $#@! brilliant it could almost have come out of Nathanael West.

DEAR ABBY: Please help me. My lover and I have been disagreeing lately and are considering couples counseling. However, he keeps insisting that we see the marriage counselor he and his wife are currently seeing.

I want to make this relationship work, but I think it's inappropriate to receive counseling from the same one that they are currently seeing. What do you think?


# Posted by The Rat @ 1:37 PM

      ( 2:53 AM ) The Rat  

There is some controversy in policy circles about whether such standards are good for the local communities they are trying to help.

It's difficult to be sure that companies comply with standards once the watchdog group has gone home, said Joost Pauwelyn, a professor of law at Duke University who studies international norms. It's also often cumbersome for developing countries to comply with standards imposed from wealthier nations.

"Many developing countries are very skeptical of all of these good intentions by rich country NGOs," he said, referring to non-governmental organizations such as Oxfam, one of the groups behind No Dirty Gold...

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:53 AM

      ( 1:31 AM ) The Rat  
"I don't want to play the gender card right now. You want to play a card, let's play the 'Let's not die' card."
Finding Nemo*

*(Go here for blurbs on the movie's Monty Python—and Hitchcock—references!)

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:31 AM

      ( 12:23 AM ) The Rat  

With 110,000 employees—many of them single mothers—and annual exports of $1 billion, the industry provides an important alternative to growing coca, source crop of the Andean nation's better known illegal export: Cocaine. But these economic gains come at a cost to workers' health and Colombia's environment, according to consumer advocates.

The U.S. requires imported flowers to be bug-free, but unlike edible fruits and vegetables they are not tested for chemical residues.

The tropical climate that drew U.S. flower growers to Colombia and neighboring Ecuador is a haven for pests. So growers facing stiff competition from emerging flower industries in Africa and China apply pesticides and fungicides, some of which have been linked to elevated rates of cancer and neurological disorders and other problems...

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:23 AM

      ( 12:01 AM ) The Rat  
We surveyed 603 World War II veterans from the United States and focused on the 261 who had surved with the Army, Navy, or Marine Corps in the South Pacific. During their tour, they would have eaten a number of Chinese-like cuisines. We asked them how often they ate Chinese food and how much they liked it 50 years after the war. We also asked them other questions about their experiences and attitudes.

Forty-six percent of our Pacific veterans enjoyed Chinese food and still ate it with some frequency. But we could find no other characteristics they had in common. Before the war, some had lived in big cities, some on farms. Some had grown up with plenty of food, others had worried about food most of their childhood. Some had graduated from college, others had never seen a ninth-grade classroom. What was the missing link that connected them?

As we later discovered, the answer didn't lie with the people who liked Chinese food. It emerged only when we analyzed the data about those soldiers who grew to hate Chinese food.

The 31 percent of the Pacific veterans who hated Chinese food were also diverse in terms of where they came from and who they became. Almost all, however, shared one important characteristic. They had experienced frequent and heavy close-quarter combat in the South Pacific. As a result, the local foods they ate there brought up anxious and discomforting feelings—even 50 years later.

In contrast, when we went back to the profiles of those who liked Chinese food, we didn't find any Marines who'd been at Iwo Jima or any infantry soldiers at Guadalcanal. What we found were mechanics, clerks, engineers, and truck drivers—enlisted men who did not experience the war from the front line...

—Brian Wansink, Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:01 AM

Tuesday, February 13, 2007
      ( 9:15 PM ) The Rat  

With many workers having an office valentine—and even canoodling on the job—some employers don't want to be liable if the romance fizzles.

They are asking workers, mostly senior executives, to sign "love contracts" that shield employers from liability if intimacy later congeals into a sexual harassment lawsuit or some other discord. The contracts, most common in the entertainment industry, also act as a formal way for a couple to disclose a relationship in case their dalliance could affect the bottom line or generate negative publicity...

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:15 PM

      ( 2:10 AM ) The Rat  
VIVE LA DIFFERENCE. More from Brian Wansink's Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think.

When we gave people a long list of foods and asked them to rate the ones they personally found comforting, men and women might as well have been from Mars and Venus. The three foods most highly rated by females were ice cream, chocolate, and cookies. All are sweets, and all are snack foods.

The three foods most highly rated by males were ice cream, soup, and pizza or pasta. Aside from ice cream, men rated hot foods and meal-like foods much higher than women did. The way to a man's heart appears to be more through the kitchen than through a prepackaged snack.

Why the big difference between men and women? When asked why they preferred pizza, pasta, and soup over cakes and cookies, men generally talked about how good they tasted and how filling they were. But when we probed a bit deeper, many also said that when they ate these foods they felt 'spoiled,' 'pampered,' 'taken care of,' or 'waited on.' Generally they associated those foods with being the focus of attention from either their mother or wife.

And women? Although they liked hot-meal comfort foods just fine, these foods did not carry the associations of being 'spoiled,' 'taken care of,' or 'waited on.' In fact, quite the opposite. When women thought of these foods, they were reminded of the work they or their mothers had to do to produce them. These foods didn't represent comfort, they represented preparation and cleanup...

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:10 AM

Monday, February 12, 2007
      ( 9:14 PM ) The Rat  
Take the concept of anchoring. If you ask people if there are more or less than 50 calories in an apple, most will say more. When you ask them how many, the average person will say, '66.' If you had instead asked if there were more or less than 150 calories in an apple, most would say less. When you ask them how many, the average person would say, '114.' People unknowingly anchor or focus on the number they first hear and let that bias them.

A while back, I teamed up with two professor friends of mine—Steve Hoch and Bob Kent—to see if anchoring influences how much food we buy in grocery stores. We believed that grocery shoppers who saw numerical signs such as 'Limit 12 Per Person' would buy much more than those who saw signs such as 'No Limit Per Person.' To nail down the psychology behind this, we repeated this study in different forms, using different numbers, different promotions (like '2 for $2' versus '1 for $1'), and in different supermarkets and convenience stores. By the time we finished, we knew that almost any sign with a number promotion leads us to buy 30 to 100 percent more than we normally would.

After the research was completed and published in the Journal of Marketing Research, another friend and I were in the checkout line at a grocery store, where I saw a sign advertising gum, '10 packs for $2.' I was eagerly counting out 10 packs onto the conveyer belt, when my friend commented, 'Didn't you just publish a big research paper on that?'

—Brian Wansink, Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think*

*(Ratty just got this out of the library today. It's totally fun—engaging, entertainingly written... pretty much the food version of Cialdini's Influence.)

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:14 PM

      ( 11:13 AM ) The Rat  

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      ( 1:04 AM ) The Rat  

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Sunday, February 11, 2007
      ( 8:04 PM ) The Rat  

Want to spend less at the gasoline pump? Lose some weight.

That's the implication of a study that says Americans are burning nearly 1 billion more gallons of gasoline each year than they did in 1960 because of their expanding waistlines. Simply put, more weight in the car means lower gas mileage.

"The bottom line is that our hunger for food and our hunger for oil are not independent. There is a relationship between the two," says University of Illinois researcher Sheldon Jacobson, a co-author of the study. "If a person reduces the weight in their car, either by removing excess baggage, carrying around less weight in their trunk, or yes, even losing weight, they will indeed see a drop in their fuel consumption."

Other experts say even if the calculation isn't exact, the study makes sense. "If you put more weight into your car, you're going to get fewer miles per gallon," Emory University health care analyst Kenneth Thorpe said Wednesday.

The same effect has been seen in airplanes. Research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that heavy fliers have contributed to higher fuel costs for airlines...

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:04 PM

      ( 2:26 PM ) The Rat  
Captain Peacock. I don't want to be a wet blanket, but the odds are that you'll lose the lot. Now, gambling has ruined many people—I know. As a young man, I lost everything on the horses. Just the words 'betting shop' would make my face twitch. I couldn't control myself—it was like a fever!

Mrs. Slocombe. I never knew that!

Captain Peacock. Yes, I'm afraid it's true. I started with the horses, but that wasn't enough. And night after night, I'd be at the White City, betting on dogs.

Mrs. Slocombe. Fancy you going to the dogs!

Captain Peacock. Of course—I mean, I won, to start with. I studied form, you see. But then my bets got bigger, and so did my losses. And in the end, I just couldn't think clearly—and form went out of the window. I pawned my studs, my watch, even my medals.

Mr. Humphries [sobbing]. No—don't!

Captain Peacock. I was at the end of my tether. I remember one night, standing there in the rain, unshaven, swaying slightly, staring at the dogs as they were paraded round the ring... and betting on the one with the longest nose. After a drink of eau-de-cologne, form means nothing!

Mrs. Slocombe. Was this before you were married?

Captain Peacock. This was my wedding night.

Mr. Humphries. Your poor wife!

Miss Brahms. How did you stop?

Captain Peacock. Sheer willpower, and the love of a good woman.

Mrs. Slocombe [sentimentally]. Your wife?

Captain Peacock. Her as well.

Are You Being Served?

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:26 PM

Saturday, February 10, 2007
      ( 10:29 PM ) The Rat  

Was Prince's pose phallic?

"The short answer is, of course it is," says Rolling Stone magazine contributing editor Gavin Edwards, who points out that on Prince's "Purple Rain" tour in the mid '80s, he performed with a guitar that would ejaculate, squirting water out of its end during the climax of "Let's Go Crazy."

"All that said, it didn't seem like a sniggering little puppet show," adds Edwards. "I think it was one of those things because a guitar at waist level does look like an enormous phallus."

By enlarging his shadow, it's possible Prince intended to accentuate this aspect of his solo, but it's just as likely it was accidental. (You can find videos of the halftime show at A message left with Prince's publicist Tuesday wasn't returned.

Stephen Colbert reacted with mock outrage on Comedy Central's "The Colbert Report" Monday night: "They knew that they were dealing with a lustful, pansexual rock 'n' roll deviant," said Colbert, who joked that the sheet hid (not enhanced) Prince's "demonic guitar phallus"...

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:29 PM

      ( 12:05 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:05 PM

      ( 11:50 AM ) The Rat  

The mainstream journalistic coverage of Smith's death is among the first such stories driven, in large part, by an editorial perception of public interest derived mainly from Internet traffic. Throughout the afternoon Thursday, editors across the country watched the number of "hits" recorded for online items about Smith's death. These days, it's the rare newspaper whose meeting to discuss the content of the next day's edition doesn't include a recitation of the most popular stories on the paper's website. It's a safe bet that those numbers helped shove Anna Nicole Smith onto a lot of front pages.

What makes this of more than passing interest is that serious American journalism is in the process of transforming itself into a new, hybrid news medium that combines traditional print and broadcast with a more purposefully articulated online presence. One of the latter's most seductive attributes is its ability to gauge readers' appetites for a particular story on a minute-to-minute basis. What you get is something like the familiar television ratings—though constantly updated, if you choose to treat them that way.

Television ratings or aggregated "hits" on newspaper websites constitute useful marketing information. When they're transmuted into editorial tools, what you get is a kind of faux-empiricism that can create a false but nearly irresistible authority. It's that most misleading of commodities, information without context...

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:50 AM

Friday, February 09, 2007
      ( 9:56 PM ) The Rat  
...I didn't see Chang, but I saw his family.

I finally understood how he could be so happy running around so free. It's because he has a place he can always return to.

I wonder what will happen when I see my father.

Happy Together

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:56 PM

      ( 1:26 PM ) The Rat  
WOW, STORY OF MY LIFE. From the Interpretation of Dreams:

On another occasion I had an opportunity of obtaining a deep insight into the unconscious mind of a young man whose life was made almost impossible by an obsessional neurosis. He was unable to go out into the street because he was tortured by the fear that he would kill everyone he met...

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:26 PM

      ( 12:11 AM ) The Rat  

With a therapist's supervision, the virtual Iraqs are designed to vividly, yet safely, allow those veterans to confront war experiences in ways that go beyond traditional counseling and drug therapy. The computer programs, even with the somewhat cartoonish digital depictions of combat, seek to relieve trauma by repeatedly revisiting its origins and not letting fear fester. Lt. Cmdr. Robert McLay, a Navy psychiatrist who is a research leader on virtual-reality treatment of PTSD in San Diego, explained that more customary forms of exposure therapy for trauma may require visits to actual locations, such as returning a rape victim to the scene of the assault. "You don't want to send someone who is traumatized back to Iraq," he said. "This allows us to bring someone back, but within the situation here."

And, he said, some PTSD sufferers are unable or unwilling to recall things in counseling sessions without stimuli, such as the digital images of a combat hospital, a recorded Muslim prayer melody or the smell of cordite explosives misted into a psychologist's office...

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:11 AM

Thursday, February 08, 2007
      ( 2:02 PM ) The Rat  
AUTISM MORE COMMON IN U.S. THAN THOUGHT. I wonder if there's any connection with the increased incidence of autism among children born to older fathers.

Autism is more common in the United States than anyone had estimated, affecting about one in every 150 children, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on Thursday...

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:02 PM

      ( 1:55 PM ) The Rat  

On Dec. 15, according to police in the town of Winhall, a 26-year-old man riding a gondola down the hill passed Barret's gondola, which was on its way up.

The witness, according to a police affidavit, could see a naked man standing up in the enclosed ski lift car. The witness said the man was masturbating.

Barret told police he had taken off his jacket and shirt "because it was a nice day," authorities said...

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:55 PM

      ( 12:45 AM ) The Rat  
All charming people, I fancy, are spoiled. It is the secret of their attraction.
"The Portrait of Mr. W.H."

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:45 AM

Wednesday, February 07, 2007
      ( 11:44 PM ) The Rat  

Do you want to possess the whole world?

(To which Ratty's answer is, isn't this one ultimately kind of factory-seconds quality, as worlds go?)

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:44 PM

      ( 6:00 PM ) The Rat  

The casualties are nationwide. Coliseum Books and Murder Ink in Manhattan shut down in recent weeks. Micawber Books in Princeton, N.J., couldn't make it. Dutton's 2-year-old outpost in Beverly Hills has closed, and the original Dutton's in Brentwood will be forced to shrink or relocate if the landlord carries through with plans to redevelop the site.

Rising rents and competition from the chains have imperiled independents for years, but San Francisco used to think it was immune. Cody's and other Bay Area stores helped spark the Beat movement, encouraged the counterculture, fueled the initial protests against the Vietnam War. In a region that sees itself as smart and civilized, bookshops were things to be cherished.

What's undermining the stores is a massive shift in buying habits brought about by the Internet. Ordering from, Frank said, has almost become the generic term for book buying...

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:00 PM

      ( 5:07 PM ) The Rat  
SEVENTY-TWO VIRGINS, by Steve Martin. Via SD.

Virgin No. 16: Even I know that’s tiny.

Virgin No. 19: Somewhere on my body I have hidden a buffalo nickel.

Virgin No. 21: I hope you’re not going to sleep with me and then go sleep with seventy-one others.

Virgin No. 24: Would you mind saying, "Could I see you in my office, Miss Witherspoon?"?

Virgin No. 29: Well, I'm a virgin, but my hand isn't.

Virgin No. 38: I'm Zania, from the planet Xeron. My vagina is on my foot.

Virgin No. 50: You make me feel like a real woman. And after this is over I'm going to find one.

# Posted by The Rat @ 5:07 PM

      ( 2:02 PM ) The Rat  

Parents' fighting likely doesn't cause children's behavioral problems, such as skipping school, lying, shoplifting or bullying. But parents who quarrel constantly may pass on genes for disruptive behavior to their children, a new U.S. study suggests.

Researchers from the University of Virginia and several other universities studied 1,045 adult identical and fraternal twins and their 2,051 children...

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:02 PM

      ( 1:58 PM ) The Rat  
HEH! (Indirectly) via JM.

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:58 PM

Tuesday, February 06, 2007
      ( 2:15 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:15 PM

Monday, February 05, 2007
      ( 7:16 PM ) The Rat  

Normal human cells are difficult to grow and study in the lab, because they tend to die. But cancer cells live much longer and are harder to kill, so scientists often use them.

Schaefer was looking for drugs to treat the inflammation seen in Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, both of which cause pain and diarrhea.

She was testing a compound called a PPAR-gamma modulator. It would never normally have been thought of as a cancer drug, or in fact a drug of any kind.

"I made a calculation error and used a lot more than I should have. And my cells died," Schaefer said.

A colleague overheard her complaining. "The co-author on my paper said,' Did I hear you say you killed some cancer?' I said 'Oh', and took a closer look"...

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:16 PM

      ( 6:41 PM ) The Rat  

Shaun the Sheep—the popular character from Wallace and Gromit's A Close Shave—has been given his own TV series. The woolly star will feature in Aardman's first series for TV, which will broadcast on CBBC later this year.

Created by Nick Park and Aardman Animations, the character has won over a huge fan base.

The 40-part animated series, set on a farm, is being sold to 72 countries...

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:41 PM

Sunday, February 04, 2007
      ( 9:20 PM ) The Rat  
A teacher is a man who sets men free. He is the most eager learner in the class.
—Frank Lloyd Wright

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:20 PM

      ( 6:47 PM ) The Rat  
What psycho-analysis reveals in the transference phenomena of neurotics can also be observed in the lives of some normal people. The impression they give is of being pursued by a malignant fate or possessed by some 'daemonic' power; but psycho-analysis has always taken the view that their fate is for the most part arranged by themselves and determined by early infantile influences. The compulsion which is here in evidence differs in no way from the compulsion to repeat which we have found in neurotics, even though the people we are now considering have never shown any signs of dealing with a neurotic conflict by producing symptoms. Thus we have come across people all of whose human relationships have the same outcome: such as the benefactor who is abandoned in anger after a time by each of his protégés, however much they may otherwise differ from one another, and who thus seems doomed to taste all the bitterness of ingratitude; or the man whose friendships all end in betrayal by his friend; or the man who time after time in the course of his life raises someone else into a position of great private or public authority and then, after a certain interval, himself upsets that authority and replaces him by a new one; or, again, the lover each of whose love affairs with a woman passes through the same phases and reaches the same conclusion...
Beyond the Pleasure Principle

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:47 PM

      ( 6:20 PM ) The Rat  

Some of the "sexpresso" stands, as they are called, have proved so popular that neighbors, including adjacent businesses, have started to complain. Not that it's done much good.

"Really, there is no ordinance against scantily clad baristas," said John Urquhart, a spokesman for the Sheriff's Department in King County, which includes Seattle and most suburbs.

As long as breasts and buttocks are more or less covered, it's legal to serve coffee in a baby-doll negligee and chaps, as a barista was doing at a Cowgirls Espresso stand the other day...

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:20 PM

      ( 2:12 PM ) The Rat  
[Y]our imaginative people swing farther in any direction, as if given a longer scope of cable in the uneasy anchorage of life...
Lord Jim

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:12 PM

      ( 11:18 AM ) The Rat  

Katme said he was bringing the message to Britain after analysing the products used for the manufacture of the vaccines. He claimed that Muslims must allow their children to develop their own immune system naturally rather than rely on vaccines.

He argued that leading "Islamically healthy lives" would be enough to ward off illnesses and diseases.

“You see, God created us perfect and with a very strong defence system. If you breast-feed your child for two years—as the Koran says—and you eat Koranic food like olives and black seed, and you do ablution each time you pray, then you will have a strong defence system,” he said.

Katme singled out vaccines such as MMR as ones to avoid, despite doctors saying that they are essential to keep a baby healthy. Others included those for diphtheria, tetanus, acellular pertussis and meningitis...

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:18 AM

      ( 1:23 AM ) The Rat  

One of RedLightCenter's community members is Miss DawnBridget, a self-proclaimed "Chief of Security" for a BDSM "family" of 13, providing protection for them and for members of other similar "families." She agreed to speak only through her RedLightCenter avatar.

As she hunkered down near the entrance of a nightclub, with her submissives occasionally stopping by to sit on her lap as she talked, she said she was a law enforcement officer in real life, living somewhere in the American South. She claimed to spend more hours in RedLightCenter than some people spend awake. "I love [cybersex]. It's safe and I get to go to bed by myself," she said, adding that she has no relationship in real life.

Can a simulated reality ever become a suitable substitute for real life? They may get a lot out of it, but the reality is that the denizens of RedLightCenter are alone in a room, staring at a machine, paying with real-world dollars to simulate physical intimacy. Shuster, at least, is certain that virtual worlds can be just as appealing as the real world. He has plans to introduce more experience-oriented online cities, non-sex themed. In his next "city" he wants to have a roller rink, a beach and scuba diving.

"It's not an intellectual argument, it's an emotional argument," Shuster said. "It's the very early iteration of 'Web 3-D.' I don't scuba dive anymore, because I can't get up at 4 a.m. and get all that equipment out. But I can do it online, and when I'm done with the experience, it feels like I've experienced the thing."

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:23 AM

Friday, February 02, 2007
      ( 11:56 PM ) The Rat  
LINK to a 2005 Purdue University study that found (among other things) that "the same region of the brain that is activated when experiencing physical pain is activated during ostracism."

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:56 PM

Thursday, February 01, 2007
      ( 5:42 PM ) The Rat  
THE CENTRAL CLAIM OF THIS SONG may no longer be valid!

# Posted by The Rat @ 5:42 PM

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

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