The Rat
Thursday, May 31, 2007
      ( 9:41 PM ) The Rat  

Patrick Markey, a psychologist at Villanova University, and his wife Charlotte Markey, a psychologist at Rutgers University, asked 210 adults to take a test to measure their interpersonal characteristics. They also asked the subjects to indicate with how many people they had engaged in certain sexual activities.

When they compared the subjects’ responses, they were able to confirm that dominance is a key trait of people who have a lot of sexual partners. They also found that people who are either extremely warm or extremely cold toward others tend to be promiscuous—and that people who are just moderately warm have the fewest sexual partners.

Antagonistic people might prefer to have multiple sex partners in order to avoid being in a monogamous relationship, out of fear of being poorly treated or being later rejected by a committed partner, the authors noted in their study, which is to be published in the Journal of Research in Personality...

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:41 PM

      ( 6:50 PM ) The Rat  
SHOCKED! SHOCKED, I AM, that Hollywood would produce a movie that so catered to male narcissism and wish-fulfillment! From a review of Knocked Up. (Also reminds me of the reaction I've noticed in guys who loved the idea of My Super Ex-Girlfriend—it's operating on the exact same premise.)

Ben Stone (Rogen) is an amiable slacker and dedicated stoner whose marshmallow physique underscores his even softer aspirations. Alison Scott (Katherine Heigl) is a dewy Valkyrie, recently promoted to on-camera talent on the E! network. Ben and Alison meet one evening at a nightclub where Alison has gone to celebrate a promotion with her older, married sister, Debbie (Leslie Mann). When Debbie is prematurely called away on a child-related emergency, Alison decides to stay behind and keep drinking with Ben and his buddies—much to their surprise and, frankly, ours.

Is this what it's come to for the youth of today? The result of all Facebook and no face-to-face? Because there once was a time, long ago, when to get these two together, you'd have had to maroon them on the Blue Lagoon. And yet, here, an ill-advised one-night stand leads to an unplanned pregnancy, an unplanned pregnancy leads to a decision to keep the baby, and a decision to keep the baby leads to the young odd couple, barely into their 20s, deciding to make the best of it and try to make the as-yet-nonexistent relationship work.

It's a promising premise, and Apatow takes it unexpected directions. But "Knocked Up" is so enamored of Ben and his insouciant charm that it fails to wonder what it must feel like for the girl. It's one thing to go with the idea that Ben and Alison dwell in different leagues, which after all is the point of the movie. It's another thing altogether for the heroine, who, in true girl-on-pedestal form, is beautiful, smart, successful, nice and pretty much cool with everything, never to get even the tiniest chance to wonder if maybe she might have done a little better. Alison's view of her future with Ben fluctuates according to what he does or doesn't do in a given situation or how well or badly her sister and brother-in-law Pete (Rudd) are getting along. But it's never measured up to her own hopes or dreams for a relationship. What her type is, we'll never know.

I guess it should come as no surprise that a movie like this will be firmly entrenched in the boys'-eye-view. But if Alison weren't so pregnant, you'd swear she was stuck in the role of the sacrificial virgin...

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:50 PM

      ( 1:05 PM ) The Rat  

Scientists have discovered particles of cocaine and marijuana, as well as caffeine and tobacco, in the air of Italy's capital, they said on Thursday.

The concentration of drugs was heaviest in the air around Rome's Sapienza university, though the National Research Council's Dr. Angelo Cecinato warned against drawing conclusions about students' recreational habits...

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:05 PM

      ( 11:53 AM ) The Rat  
WHAT MAKES US YAWN? Fetuses yawn?!

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:53 AM

      ( 9:32 AM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:32 AM

Wednesday, May 30, 2007
      ( 11:37 AM ) The Rat  

"We wanted to make sure [Debra Messing's character] would go through an evolution that would make her a Pond's woman," says Doug Scott, executive director of branded content and entertainment for Ogilvy North America. According to Scott, Pond's money bought it 1) a hand in shaping the story and character arcs; 2) some standard product placement; and 3) a few key "signature moments" in which an on-screen interaction with the Pond's brand triggers a thought or motivation in a character...

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:37 AM

      ( 11:31 AM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:31 AM

      ( 2:18 AM ) The Rat  
I keep winning her over with hardly an argument, though each time an ill feeling comes over me, the soiling, resident sickness you develop when you have never in your life been caught at something wrong, when you have never once been discovered.
A Gesture Life

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:18 AM

Tuesday, May 29, 2007
      ( 10:48 PM ) The Rat  

121 Coalition is a national coalition representing nearly 200 civic organizations. We are united to defend human rights and support the passage of House Resolution 121 that calls upon the government of Japan to apologize for its war crime enslaving over 200,000 girls and women during World War II as "comfort women." The victims were referred to as "comfort women," but they were mostly girls under eighteen, some as young as twelve. They were kept in military "comfort stations" and were subjected to inhuman and degrading forms of sexual violence...

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:48 PM

      ( 7:59 PM ) The Rat  
They were dressed like peasants, in baggy, crumpled white trousers and loose shirts. One might have thought they were young boys were it not for their braided hair. The older woman and the driver pulled each of the girls by the arm as she descended and stood them in a row before the steps of the veranda. Captain Ono didn't seem to be looking at them. Instead he stood at attention, clearly waiting for the commander to call out and have him bring the arrivals—five in all—inside for inspection. That there were only five of them seems remarkable to me now, given that there were nearly two hundred men in the encampment, but at the time I had no thoughts of what was awaiting them in the coming days and nights. Like the rest of the men who were watching, I was simply struck by their mere presence, by the white shock of their oversized pants, by their dirty, unshod feet, by the narrowsness of their hands and their throats. And soon enough it was the notion of what lay beneath the crumpled cotton of their poor clothes that shook me as if I had heard an air-raid siren, and which probably did the same for every other man standing at attention in that dusty clay field.
A Gesture Life

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:59 PM

      ( 12:41 PM ) The Rat  

First, a text message arrived. The brief note invited recipients to call about the location of a secret meeting. A cryptic phone conversation followed. "Who referred you?" a woman asked. "Who do you know?"

A man drove up in a Korean hatchback and dropped off a coded slip of paper. The directions led to a bland apartment building in the north of this capital.

There, men and women draped in coats and head scarves entered the lobby, their faces sullen. A young man examined their documents for signs of forgery before allowing them to pass down the staircase to the basement and into a sea of bare skin and perfume.

Amid air kisses and gossip, techno and hip-hop music thumps. The guests slide out of dark overcoats to unsheathe daringly low-cut dresses and open-slit gowns, form-fitting sweaters and go-go boots, skin-tight T-shirts and acid-washed jeans. Skinny, long-legged models giggle as they slip into outfits of satin and silk. A red carpet serves as a runway.

A clandestine Tehran fashion show glitters gloriously to life.

"Everyone is putting on a show," declares Azita, a 46-year-old designer attending the show with her 20-year-old daughter, giddily taking in the swirl of lights, music, perfume and colored fabrics. "All the ladies have gotten into the fashion business. We love it so much because the clerics hate it." She and others taking part and watching the show asked that their family names not be published for fear of retribution...

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:41 PM

      ( 12:38 PM ) The Rat  

And now for the latest scam from Nigeria—puppies.

The Council of Better Business Bureaus Inc. and the American Kennel Club today plan to issue a warning about fraudulent websites, MySpace postings and print ads asking people to help save puppies who are in desperate straits.

The sites and ads usually show adorable puppies that somehow have become stuck in Nigeria or other countries, and are offered free to new owners. A variation is to offer the puppies, such as purebred English bulldogs—a particularly expensive breed—at vastly discounted prices.

But free or not, people who had responded to the ads eventually were asked to send hundreds of dollars to cover such costs as shipping, customs, taxes and inoculations on an ever-escalating scale.

Some reported paying fees totaling more than $1,500...

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:38 PM

Monday, May 28, 2007
      ( 11:05 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:05 PM

      ( 10:43 PM ) The Rat  
In the few wild seconds it took Ozzie's body to propel him to the edge of the roof, his self-examination began to grow fuzzy. Gazing down at the street, he became confused as to the problem beneath the question: was it, is-it-me-who-called-Binder-a-bastard? or, is-it-me-prancing-around-on-the-roof? However, the scene below settled all, for there is an instant in any action when whether it is you or somebody else is academic. The thief crams the money in his pockets and scoots out the window. The bridegroom signs the hotel register for two. And the boy on the roof finds a streetful of people gaping at him, necks stretched backwards, faces up, as though he were the ceiling of the Hayden Planetarium. Suddenly you know it's you.
"The Conversion of the Jews"

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:43 PM

      ( 8:39 PM ) The Rat  
ALL CUPCAKES, ALL THE TIME, a blog. Featuring ninja cupcakes, cupcake bumper cars, recipes, and a truly frightening number of links to cupcake cafes and bakeries around the world.

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:39 PM

      ( 9:26 AM ) The Rat  
NY TEENAGER ACCUSED OF CUTTING SIKH STUDENT'S HAIR. This sounds more like a short story than real life...

Prosecutors said Ahmed approached Vacher Harpal in a school hallway on Thursday armed with a pair of scissors and told him, "I have to cut your hair."

When Harpal asked why and told him it was against his religion, Ahmed allegedly displayed a ring with Arabic inscriptions and stated, "This ring is Allah. If you don't let me cut your hair, I will punch you with this ring," according to prosecutors.

Once inside the bathroom, officials said, Harpal removed his turban while crying and begged Ahmed not to cut his hair, which had never been cut.

"The defendant is then alleged to have used the scissors to cut the (the boy's) hair to the neckline and thrown the hair into the toilet and onto the floor," Brown said.

Late last year, six teenagers in northern India reportedly cut a Sikh boy's hair. The incident sparked street protests and caused lawmakers to disrupt the Indian parliament...

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:26 AM

      ( 9:20 AM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:20 AM

Sunday, May 27, 2007
      ( 9:22 AM ) The Rat  
HISTORY OF CAMEMBERT. From the Camembert Web Pages, which include a convenient bibliography of Camembert! (And people wonder why I love France...)

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:22 AM

Saturday, May 26, 2007
      ( 10:26 PM ) The Rat  
'If you should decide during your old age that you would like to live another five hundred years, come here and drink ten pounds of this sap,' they told me. 'But don't do it now. You're too young to decide to live forever.'
—from 'White Tigers' in The Woman Warrior

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:26 PM

      ( 12:27 AM ) The Rat  

The execution team at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville stuck Newton at least 10 times with needles to find suitable veins for the shunts where the chemicals are injected. He died nearly two hours after the scheduled start of his execution...

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:27 AM

Friday, May 25, 2007
      ( 3:12 PM ) The Rat  

The Stanford Daily, quoting one of Kim's former roommates, said the deception started in September, the day before Stanford's orientation for new students.

Two sophomores agreed to let Kim stay in their room after she told them she did not like the roommate she had been assigned.

During the fall and winter terms, Kim allegedly slept in the other women's room or the lounge of the 210-resident dorm. Last month, she moved into another dorm after being referred to another student who needed a roommate.

Residence hall associates became suspicious after comparing conflicting statements Kim allegedly gave and contacting the student housing office. Kim was confronted Monday and escorted from campus, according to the Stanford Daily.

Amy Zhou, Kim's roommate in the second dorm, said Kim apparently got into the room through the window because she never had a key...

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:12 PM

Thursday, May 24, 2007
      ( 5:01 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 5:01 PM

      ( 12:42 PM ) The Rat  
SUBJUNCTIVATOR! "An interactive tool to help you decide whether to use the French subjunctive." How about something that tells you how to deal with $#@! perfective verbs in Russian?!

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:42 PM

      ( 12:05 PM ) The Rat  
THE $3-A-DAY DIET. An attempt to cull together a healthy, and vegetarian, diet, on food stamps.

Lose weight on $3 a day! Ask me how!

I'll tell you how: By living on food stamps. I did it, existing on a dollar-a-meal food-stamp allowance for a few days, and yeah, I lost a couple of pounds. But I don't advise it.

In the long run, it takes money to eat thin and healthy. For $3 a day—which is what you get when you divide 30 days into the $155 monthly food stamp allowance for one person—you wind up on the fatty-salty-sugary-canned-processed-bottled diet. Get heart disease on $3 a day! Ask the government how!

Most e-mail come-ons I get invite me to split a dead man's unclaimed fortune in Nigeria, but this one, from the Bay Area-based California Assn. of Food Banks, offered me the "food stamp challenge." Could I tough it out eating on $3 a day? The association said 26 million Americans do—1,327,000 of them California children.

Well, I wasn't going to have some little kid bust my chops.

Could it be that hard? My father climbed electric poles for a living. We were thrifty; my mother sometimes served "special treat" pancake suppers that I found out years later were "special" because there was nothing else to eat before payday.

Still, we had a garden, my grandparents had a farm and my grandmothers "put up" food. Now I'd be going it alone—cold Tofurkey. But Tofurkey is, what, $2 a package? That's two-thirds of a day's budget for soy lunch meat! Already my thinking was shifting...

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:05 PM

      ( 11:53 AM ) The Rat  

Which is why I was pleased to hear a story on National Public Radio recently saying that Alice Waters—yes, that Alice Waters—was no longer going to offer bottled water at Berkeley's Chez Panisse. After twisting the caps off 24,000 bottles of Italian mineral water every year for 30-plus years, she was over it. From here on out, her customers could drink filtered tap water or just order more wine. Whatever.

Alice, I'm with you all the way. I will defend you from numbnuts such as JamesM, who ranted on a Zagat blog that he will no longer grace Chez Panisse with his presence. "I want bottled water and won't settle for less. I would like to remind people that both glass (which I prefer) and plastic bottles are recyclable."

Jimmy, Jimmy, Jimmy. Would it shock you to know that Bay Area tap water is pretty good? And if you get off your high horse long enough to come south, you'll find Los Angeles water is even better. In fact, it's as good or better than many types of bottled water. Case in point: The National Resources Defense Council tested more than 100 brands of bottled water and found that a third of them "contain significant contamination (i.e., levels of chemical or bacterial contaminants exceeding those allowed under a state or industry standard or guideline) in at least one test." You like your Yosemite brand water, Jimmy? It's drawn from Highland Park. How about some of that yummy Aquafina, the top-selling bottled water in the U.S.? It's taken from municipal taps in places such as Fresno and Detroit. Is that what you want?

Of course not. You want your Italian water in a green glass bottle. Like that Santa Lucia stuff. Which comes from the oh-so-chichi-sounding Parco Naturale delle Fonti di Santa Lucia in a remote area of northern Italy. Where it is bottled by celibate monks wearing rubber gloves, no doubt, and trucked hundreds of miles to some port, loaded on a container ship, schlepped thousands of miles over the ocean, then put on another truck and transported to your favorite restaurant. Where you, fool that you are, end up paying at least 10 times more than the equivalent cost of a gallon of gasoline...

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:53 AM

      ( 11:28 AM ) The Rat  
No roadmaps, no signposts
No north star, no lifeboats
No cavalry coming in sight
But we're all right...

—Mary Chapin Carpenter

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:28 AM

      ( 4:12 AM ) The Rat  
And all my fortunes at thy foot I'll lay
And follow thee my lord throughout the world.
Romeo and Juliet

# Posted by The Rat @ 4:12 AM

      ( 12:05 AM ) The Rat  
AND THE BEST TOURISTS IN THE WORLD ARE... Okay, this is pretty funny, especially the ending.

Britain was second in the worst-dressed tourist table which was headed by the Americans, and fifth in the least-generous table which was headed by the Germans.

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:05 AM

Wednesday, May 23, 2007
      ( 11:54 PM ) The Rat  

Kids with longer ring fingers compared to index fingers are likely to have higher math scores than literacy or verbal scores on the college entrance exam, while children with the reverse finger-length ratio are likely to have higher reading and writing, or verbal, scores versus math scores.

Scientists have known that different levels of the hormones testosterone and estrogen in the womb account for the different finger lengths, which are a reflection of areas of the brain that are more highly developed than others, said psychologist Mark Brosnan of the University of Bath, who led the study.

Exposure to testosterone in the womb is said to promote development of areas of the brain often associated with spatial and mathematical skills, he said. That hormone makes the ring finger longer. Estrogen exposure does the same for areas of the brain associated with verbal ability and tends to lengthen the index finger relative to the ring finger...

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:54 PM

      ( 7:24 PM ) The Rat  
"Oh Mnemosyne, sweetest and most mischievous of muses!"

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:24 PM

      ( 6:35 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:35 PM

      ( 3:48 PM ) The Rat  
"Runway shows change from season to season, but life backstage is always the same: There's a buffet that only the photographers touch, blaring music, models on cell phones with teacup dogs in their laps, and one girl studiously hunched over The Fountainhead..."
—Linda Wells in the May Allure

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:48 PM

      ( 8:44 AM ) The Rat  
He loved her when life was proceeding smoothly—and that was when she loved him.
"Eli, the Fanatic"

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:44 AM

      ( 1:10 AM ) The Rat  
TAKE THAT, KELLY BROWNELL! Whatever your weight, Rethinking Thin, by NYT science writer Gina Kolata, is really worth your time—sane, well-researched, and very readable (I couldn't put it down at several points, esp. in the chapter on the discovery of leptin). Excerpt from the prologue here, though if you only read one section of the book—standing up in a bookstore or whatever—it should be the final chapter, concerning the politicizing of the obesity "epidemic" (excerpt below). Since Kolata can be a little too fatalistic, though, if your weight is harming your quality of life, I'd follow her up with Anne Fletcher's Thin for Life (interviews with members of the minority of dieters who have managed to keep weight off). I don't think the two books ultimately contradict each other—though Kolata believes dieting has been oversold, both authors do agree that a small number of people are able to lose weight permanently. If you're thin, by the way, you should read Kolata anyway—the only people I can think of who don't at all need to read this book, are the people who have never stigmatized anybody for being overweight ...yeah, both of them. (Kolata cites a group of formerly obese people who were asked how they would feel about regaining the weight. Ninety-one percent said they would rather have a leg amputated than be obese again; 89 percent said they would rather be blind. As one explained: "When you're blind, people want to help you. No one wants to help you when you're fat.")

'Everyone has a deeply held set of beliefs, a hypothesis about the cause of obesity,' says Jeff Friedman. Yet, he and others say, there is little objective scientific support for any of them. No one disputes that people really are fatter today. But, notes David Williamson, an obesity researcher at the CDC, national data do not indicate that Americans are any less active than they used to be.

If it's not physical activity, then are we eating more, or eating more of the wrong kinds of foods? Not necessarily, says Friedman. 'It looks like food intake per capita is declining. And it looks like there is a reduction in the fraction of calories coming from fat.' Still, something has to have changed. Why are people fatter now than they used to be? 'That's the sixty-four-thousand-dollar question,' Friedman says. Others, including Jules Hirsch at Rockefeller University, agree. 'I don't know, and no one else does, either,' he says.

One problem with looking at national statistics, Hirsch notes, is that obese people really do not eat significantly more than the non-obese. [...] One thing is clear, though, Hirsch says. The admonitions to eat less and exercise more are not making a discernable difference in the weight of Americans. And it is not for lack of publicity about how important it is to lose weight. 'You can't possibly saturate the country with any more warnings,' Hirsch says. 'I don't think anyone can say, "Gee, I don't know about this."'

That, of course, does not keep anyone from admonishing the public. And there's a reason for that, says Eric Oliver, a political scientist at the University of Chicago who studied the obesity epidemic. Obesity, he says, has something in it for everyone. 'If you are on the political right, obesity is indicative of moral failure,' he says. 'If you are on the left, it means rampaging global capitalism.'

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:10 AM

Tuesday, May 22, 2007
      ( 8:30 PM ) The Rat  

"The clubs are a reflection of modern Japan," writes Sinclair, "where the rules are written out, prices are not negotiable, and fantasies are predetermined, prescripted, and prepaid." But those who dismiss the Japanese as excessively demure or morbidly repressed would do well to take a peep inside. America has its run-of-the-mill massage parlors and topless bars, but only in Tokyo can you find entire clubs populated by faux nurses, teachers, stewardesses, and secretaries—not to mention naked karaoke, mirrored floors, life-size latex dolls, and bathtubs filled with green gel and faux-mermaids. And, as Tokyo police crack down on a wave of subway gropings, the Kabukicho district offers not one but three clubs equipped with immaculately reconstructed train cars filled with short-skirted schoolgirls who won't press charges. Below, an exclusive look at Tokyo's decadent demimonde...

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:30 PM

      ( 1:14 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:14 PM

Monday, May 21, 2007
      ( 10:12 PM ) The Rat  
IF THERE WERE A BOOK ABOUT ME, I WOULD WANT THIS FOR THE EPIGRAPH. Epigraph to Steven Milowitz's otherwise unimpressive Philip Roth Considered.

"But what if all the quiet, the comfort, the contentment were now to end in horror?"
—Franz Kafka, The Metamorphosis

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:12 PM

      ( 3:12 PM ) The Rat  
GOODSEARCH.COM. Interesting, though it'd be a lot faster to just send money. More press on how this works here.

Last year search engines generated close to $6 billion in revenue from advertisers. We've developed a way to direct some of that money to the causes you care about most. It's easy... every time you search the Internet at, your charity or school earns money and the more you search, the more they make. Add up the money generated from all your searches and those done by the millions of other people who we hope will use GoodSearch, and we can make a real difference to the people and causes that need funds most.

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:12 PM

      ( 12:45 PM ) The Rat  
Where buildings are destroyed, he remembers the buildings that were there. You musn't forget anything—that's the inscription on his coat of arms. To be alive, to him, is to be made of memory—to him if a man's not made of memory, he's made of nothing.

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:45 PM

Sunday, May 20, 2007
      ( 11:00 PM ) The Rat  
THE INDEX: GOD'S GIFT TO GRAD STUDENTS. Seriously—how else are we supposed to fake having read far more books of criticism than we actually have? Besides, they frequently yield up such treasures as the following (the last one is my favorite, by a landslide).

From Murray Baumgarten and Barbara Gottfried's Understanding Philip Roth:

Jewish self-hatred, 18, 100, 188, 205, 212, 215, 218

From Elaine B. Safer's Mocking the Age: The Later Novels of Philip Roth:

Contradiction: coping with, 36; as defining feature of human condition, 36

Fear: of death, 59-78, 76, 179n3; of impotence, 28

Jewishness, 164; alienation and, 15; attempts to affirm/deny, 3; contradictions in, 165; fragmentation of ideas and, 51; as gift and burden, 165; meaning of, 24, 171n3; mischief and, 15-16; as pervasive theme, 3

Language: debased, 6; of fiction, 19; lyric, 67; as means for release, 32; political, 6; postmodern, 19; rhythmic, 70; scatological, 62, 67, 68

Sabbath, Mickey (character), 89; adulterous activities, 59; ambivalent attitude toward, 61; asocial behavior of, 74; awareness of death by, 60; awareness of loneliness by, 60; evocation of sympathy for, 179n3; losses experienced, 64, 65; obsession with control, 69; opposition to society's moral standards, 61; preoccupation with sex, 61; rage at things beyond his control, 66; as schnorrer, 62-65; seeing sex as revenge on death, 60, 61, 62; sees self as Lear, 74; self-absorption of, 68; self-deception of, 75; spiritual connection to Shakespearean heroes, 60; as vagabond, 62-65

Self: affirmation of, 56-57; choice of, 147; conflicted, 57; contradictory, 29; core, 55, 57, 98, 147, 166; divided, 56, 57-58; double, 57-58; fragmented, 27; identity, 10, 41, 47, 48; imagined, 29; incongruities in, 55; irreducible, 55; Jewish, 24, 55-56; lack of, 17, 27; meaning of, 24, 57; multiple, 36, 55-56; private, 29; shadow, 47; transformation, 29; 'true,' 56; as variety of impersonations, 55

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:00 PM

      ( 3:28 PM ) The Rat  
A FLORIDA MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY biological profile of the manta ray, one of Ratty's favorite animals. An FAQ on same, here.

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:28 PM

      ( 2:26 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:26 PM

Saturday, May 19, 2007
      ( 3:32 PM ) The Rat  

WH. That reminds me of that hilarious piece you wrote for Esquire about what guys can do to get laid more often.

JF. Women are not difficult to understand. It's like, days could go by and my husband is getting in and out of the shower, stepping on a brand-new bath mat. Did he think it appeared there magically? No. I physically went to the store and pored over piles and piles of bath mats until I found the one that was perfect, and I put it in the bathroom. Just imagine if he had stepped on that bath mat for the first time and said, 'Baby, I love that bath mat. I love the color, and it feels so good on my feet. Thank you so much for doing that.' Boom! Laid. Like, so easy.

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:32 PM

      ( 3:13 PM ) The Rat  

Dr. Breedlove says he can take a male rat and make it behave like a female for the rest of its life, and vice versa for a female, just by altering the hormones it's exposed to at birth. Because rats are born underdeveloped, that's roughly the same as altering a third-trimester human fetus in the womb. But first, he said, Stahl would need a crash course in rat sex.

Dr. Breedlove explained that male rats, including one he showed Stahl called "Romeo," will mount any rat that comes their way. In the mating process, the female performs something called lordosis, where she lifts her head and rump.

If Romeo goes after a male, Dr. Breedlove says the male will seem profoundly indifferent.

But Breedlove says he can change all that. He gave a female rat a single shot of the male sex hormone testosterone at birth. Now grown up, she will never perform lordosis.

But a male rat did. He was castrated at birth, depriving him of testosterone.

"So you created a gay rat?" Stahl asked.

"I wouldn't say that these are gay rats. But I will say that these are genetic male rats who are showing much more feminine behavior," he explained...

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:13 PM

      ( 3:03 PM ) The Rat  
You may have seen, you must have seen, some of those awful text books written not by educators but by educationalists—by people who talk about books instead of talking within books. You may have been told by them that the chief aim of a great writer, and indeed the main clue to his greatness, is 'simplicity.' Traitors, not teachers. In reading exam papers written by misled students, of both sexes, about this or that author, I have often come across such phrases—probably recollections from more tender years of schooling—as 'his style is simple' or 'his style is clear and simple' or 'his style is beautiful and simple' or 'his style is quite beautiful and simple.' But remember that 'simplicity' is buncombe. No major writer is simple. The Saturday Evening Post is simple. Journalese is simple. Upton Lewis is simple. Mom is simple. Digests are simple. Damnation is simple. But Tolstoys and Melvilles are not simple.
Lectures on Russian Literature

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:03 PM

      ( 11:57 AM ) The Rat  
I'M JEALOUS. Text of the info card for baby eggplant at Wegman's: "Delicate flesh; no bitterness."

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:57 AM

      ( 10:03 AM ) The Rat  

Taiwan politicians know how to put on a good show. But the brawling and histrionics in parliament that have put Taiwan politics on the world map for the past 20 years are staged acts, legislators and political observers say.

They are planned in advance to generate media attention and garner favour with voters who like to see their representatives fight as hard as they can on tough issues. Lawmakers even call up allies to ask that they wear sports shoes ahead of the choreographed clashes. They have been known to meet up afterwards for drinks.

"It's really a media event, staged for media coverage," said Nationalist Party (KMT) legislator Joanna Lei. "They have a strategy session, like a war plan."

In the 1980s and 1990s, when minority parties had no procedural way to change governing bodies controlled then by the KMT, regular fights exposed inefficiency, crookedness and authoritarianism, said Shelley Rigger, an East Asian politics expert at Davidson College in the United States.

Today, despite full democracy, the fight strategy remains. In January, a brawl involving about 50 MPs who wanted to stop parliament speaker Wang Jin-pyng from accessing his podium lasted for four hours. Shoes were thrown at the speaker, a microphone was ripped out and thrown across the chambers. MPs shoved and pulled one another's ties. Wang never made it to the podium.

In 2005 one legislator needed stitches after he was struck by a mobile phone. Last year an MP used tear gas...

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:03 AM

Friday, May 18, 2007
      ( 8:51 PM ) The Rat  
PUSH TO ACHIEVE TIED TO SUICIDE IN ASIAN-AMERICAN WOMEN. News flash. The elephant in the room not mentioned in this article, btw, is that a lot of Asian parents (in my experience, Koreans particularly) tend to dote much more on their sons, sometimes to the exclusion of their daughters. Not that favoritism alone would lead to suicide, of course, but that extra layer of alienation probably doesn't help, especially in adolescence.

An assistant professor of Asian-American studies at California State University at Fullerton, Noh has read the sobering statistics from the Department of Health and Human Services: Asian-American women ages 15-24 have the highest suicide rate of women in any race or ethnic group in that age group. Suicide is the second-leading cause of death for Asian-American women in that age range.

Depression starts even younger than age 15. Noh says one study has shown that as young as the fifth grade, Asian-American girls have the highest rate of depression so severe they've contemplated suicide.

As Noh and others have searched for the reasons, a complex answer has emerged. First and foremost, they say "model minority" pressure—the pressure some Asian-American families put on children to be high achievers at school and professionally—helps explain the problem.

"In my study, the model minority pressure is a huge factor," says Noh, who studied 41 Asian-American women who'd attempted or contemplated suicide. "Sometimes it's very overt—parents say, 'You must choose this major or this type of job' or 'You should not bring home As and Bs, only As," she says. "And girls have to be the perfect mother and daughter and wife as well."

Family pressure often affects girls more than boys, according to Dr. Dung Ngo, a psychologist at Baylor University in Texas. "When I go talk to high school students and ask them if they experience pressure, the majority who raised their hands were the girls," he said...

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:51 PM

      ( 8:50 PM ) The Rat  
ANOTHER WINNER from Piled Higher & Deeper.

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:50 PM

      ( 1:20 PM ) The Rat  
THE SNOOPY SNO-CONE MACHINE IS BACK! "Available at Urban Outfitters,, Target, Toys-R-Us, A.C. Moore, and Books-A-Million, among other retailers."

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:20 PM

      ( 11:08 AM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:08 AM

      ( 11:02 AM ) The Rat  
HEE! (Although, I'm not sure I've ever complimented a woman on her shoes and not gotten a rapturous response.) By way of Manolo.

[Y]ou can tell when a woman truly loves shoes when you compliment her on her shoes. I compliment women on their shoes all the time and I am always amazed by the women who don't really care about their little pieces of fabulous. Then there are the ones who clearly do love them. I complimented a woman yesterday who launched into an expository speech about why she can now wear heels since she is dating a tall man...

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:02 AM

      ( 1:39 AM ) The Rat  
Ivan Ilych's life had been most simple and most ordinary and therefore most terrible...
The Death of Ivan Ilyich

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:39 AM

Thursday, May 17, 2007
      ( 9:42 PM ) The Rat  
I see exactly what I should avoid. Then, all of a sudden, I'm in bed with that very thing and making love to it.

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:42 PM

      ( 10:43 AM ) The Rat  

I used candy molds of bacon and eggs, I couldn't find molds of just bacon. The molds I used were ok—not great, but certainly recognizable as bacon. Ultimately it would be nice to cast some high quality molds of a couple of good looking bacon slices to use for projects...

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:43 AM

      ( 10:42 AM ) The Rat  

A Polish doctor forged papers stating she was a nurse. The Nazis, who feared the typhoid fever spreading in the ghetto, were happy to let Polish medical workers handle the sick and the dead.

Sendler persuaded Jewish parents that their children had a better chance to live if she smuggled them out and placed them with Catholic families. In hopes of reuniting them later with their birth parents, she wrote the children's names and new addresses, in code, on slips of paper and buried them in two jars in an assistant's yard. That hope never came true: Almost all the parents died in Hitler's camps.

What the jar did save was their true, Jewish names.

Elzbieta Ficowska, nee Koppel, was 5 months old when one of Sendler's associates gave her a narcotic to make her sleep and put her in a wooden box with air holes. Box and baby left the ghetto with bricks on a horse-drawn wagon in July 1942.

Ficowska's mother hid a silver spoon in the baby's clothes. It was engraved with her nickname, Elzunia, and her birth date: January 5, 1942. Elzbieta was taken in by Sendler's associate Stanislawa Bussoldowa, a widowed Catholic midwife.

The escape routes were many and ingenious. Sometimes, as with Ficowska, Sendler and her team hid the children in boxes or sacks and took them out of the ghetto in a truck. The fearful driver got a German shepherd and made it bark to drown out the children's cries when they passed by Nazi checkpoints.

Sendler was arrested in a Gestapo night raid on her apartment on Oct. 20, 1943. The Nazis took her to the dreaded Pawiak prison, which few left alive. She was tortured and says she still has scars on her body—but she refused to betray her team...

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:42 AM

Wednesday, May 16, 2007
      ( 8:01 AM ) The Rat  
DIY NOIR. That last link, btw, is via Larry Harnisch's "Daily Mirror" blog, which mostly unearths bits and pieces from old (primarily '40s and '50s, it looks like) L.A. Times crime coverage. Fascinating stuff.

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:01 AM

      ( 7:53 AM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:53 AM

      ( 7:45 AM ) The Rat  
Not all of it, of course. 'Letting Go' is too long, and wildly uneven. Roth makes the fitful pacing of the book work, in a way: The lurches and stallings are exactly what graduate school can feel like, triumphant one day and hopelessly nihilism-inducing the next. It's unclear how devoted Gabe Wallach is to his dissertation on Henry James; it's unclear how much the lot of Paul Herz and his sad, sad wife, Libby, improves when Herz gets his first adjunct instructorship, and it's always uncertain how much the two men like each other. That limbo—uncertain career path, uncertain allegiances—is familiar to anyone who's been through a doctoral program, but it's curiously neglected, even by all the fiction writers who have fled from it. Roth also gets a fix on the way that other commitments, like an aging, widowed father or a lover, can be so easily abused; if the scholar tends toward absent-mindedness, the budding scholar is distinguished by his narcissism and thus always preoccupied with his work, competition with his fellow students, his vague career prospects and his frustrated quest for why he even bothers...
—from a frequently-wrong-about-which-of-the-books-completely-suck 2005 Jewish Daily Forward review of the Library of America reissues*

*I actually quite liked Letting Go—it's one of my half-dozen favorite Roths—though admittedly I read it years before becoming a grad student myself...

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:45 AM

Tuesday, May 15, 2007
      ( 5:07 PM ) The Rat  
LARD: THE NEW HEALTH FOOD? from a 2005 Food & Wine.

For five long days, I waited for my fat. On the sixth, a huge cardboard box arrived. I tore it open and stared in awe. Inside were four massive hunks, each the size of a dictionary. They were lumpy, with the barely noticeable pink color of a cooked rabbit loin. Together, they added up to 10 pounds of the finest pig fat, and it all belonged to me...

# Posted by The Rat @ 5:07 PM

      ( 2:19 PM ) The Rat  
TOP 10 STRANGEST KITCHEN GADGETS. That toasterkettle looks like something you'd see scuba-diving... And while a programmable drink mixer is an interesting idea, I suspect most of us would rather have $750 more of alcohol (which could be why it only got an honorable mention).

On a related note, a little article on traditional medicinal uses of alcohol.

Mint juleps, rum and brandy all were once thought to help prevent and cure malaria—as well as yellow fever, dysentery and rheumatism. In the 19th century, a British army captain serving in India noticed his troops seemed healthier than the locals, an effect he attributed to rum. And he may not have been all wrong: Avoiding contaminated water in favor of alcohol probably saved more than a few of his soldiers from gastrointestinal distress...

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:19 PM

      ( 2:16 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:16 PM

      ( 2:12 PM ) The Rat  
WIKIPEDIA'S list of false friends (in French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Czech, and Afrikaans, among others).

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:12 PM

Monday, May 14, 2007
      ( 8:00 PM ) The Rat  

I have HPV... I've had cervical dysplasia... and I believe I have herpes. All that, and my husband is the ONLY man I've ever been with. All that for trying to be a 'good girl.' (me too: 2)

I often finish a bottle of wine a night. (me too: 13)

If my MiL says one more time that she wants me to get pregnant I'm going to buy a pig's uterus in a jar and give it to her. (me too: 3)

My husband is not that good-looking. Sometimes I feel like a failure as a woman because I was not able to attract a better-looking mate. He is good at other things and a wonderful person; I'm shallow I guess but I wish he were better-looking. I am much prettier for a woman than he is handsome for a man. I know that is part of the reason he stays with me and puts up with some of the crap I give him; he gets off on being a not-so-good-looking guy and having a pretty wife. (me too: 6)

In my second life, I would never have children. I would go to college, get the job of my dreams and live in a big city with my best girlfriends. We would travel to warm, sunny places, meet rich, good-looking men and have unbelievable hot sex with no strings attached. (me too: 22)

When my husband wants to have sex i never say No. Even if I don't feel like it. With all of the things that he does for us and the challenge of being married to me I figure that it's the least I can do. (me too: 15)

My husband doesn't know that I know about his girlfriend. What's funny is he doesn't know about mine. (me too: 2)

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:00 PM

      ( 7:56 PM ) The Rat  
YIKES. Via Cruel Site of the Day.

DEAR ABBY: Please help me to warn your readers about an alarming trend happening in the teenage community: prom babies. I first heard about it while driving my teenage daughter to a lacrosse meet with several of her girlfriends. One girl in the car, "Carrie," said she hoped this year she could have a prom baby. The girls were discussing two former classmates from last year's lacrosse team who had been unable to begin college because they had both become mothers at 17.

Both had deliberately planned to get pregnant on prom night—hence the term, "prom baby." Abby, both of the girls were studious and hard-working with bright futures ahead of them. One had been accepted to several Ivy League schools. Needless to say, their parents were devastated, and many adjustments had to be made for the new babies.

My daughter later told me that several of her other friends were considering trying to get pregnant near prom time so they, too, wouldn't have to deal with the pressures of going to college...

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:56 PM

      ( 5:09 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 5:09 PM

      ( 2:50 PM ) The Rat  
They say money talks... all it's ever said to me is, 'Goodbye.'
—Cary Grant in None But the Lonely Heart

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:50 PM

      ( 2:18 PM ) The Rat  

When foodies rave about the great food halls of the world—Harrods in London, Fauchon in Paris, KaDeWe in Berlin—they rarely carry on about Tokyo. But the basement of the Takashimaya department store houses one of the most awesome displays in the world.

Bread and pastry boutiques from France, salumi from Italy and Germany, acres of Japanese specialty foods, green tea so fresh it looks like just-cut grass, curry stands, pickle vendors, fresh noodles flavored with seaweed—and everything there for the tasting.

But it's the produce that gets the most reverence, displayed like fine jewelry. Here are the famous $80 muskmelons, a ribbon attached to their T-shaped stems, the $7 apples and the Kumamoto shio tomatoes, so crisp and sweet, you might actually spring for a $100 box. The bamboo shoots, freshly unearthed. The negi leeks, bundled like lily flowers...

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:18 PM

      ( 12:21 AM ) The Rat  

Each and every Mother's Day until he landed behind bars, mobster Jimmy "The Gent" Burke performed a sacrosanct ritual. Burke, the mastermind behind the $5.8 million Lufthansa heist immortalized in "Goodfellas," dropped a few C-notes on dozens of red roses from a Rockaway Boulevard florist. He then toured the homes of his jailed Luchese crime family pals, providing their mothers with a bouquet and a kiss. He never missed a year, or a mom.

Burke's gesture was no surprise to his fellow hoodlums: Mother's Day was the most important Sunday on the organized crime calendar, when homicide took a holiday and racketeering gave way to reminiscing—often over a plate of mom's pasta and gravy.

"These guys, they do have a love for their mothers," said Joe Pistone, the FBI undercover agent who spent six Mother's Days inside the Bonanno family as jewel thief Donnie Brasco. "They thought nothing of killing. But the respect for their mothers? It was amazing."

So amazing, Pistone recalled, that Bonanno member Benjamin "Lefty Guns" Ruggiero once told him that the Mafia—like a suburban Jersey mall shuttered by blue laws—closed for business when Mother's Day arrived each May. No vendettas or broken bones. Just gift baskets and boxes of candy.

"Absolutely," said mob informant Henry Hill, who described his old friend Burke's annual rite. "It's Mother's Day, you know?" [...]

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:21 AM

Friday, May 11, 2007
      ( 5:23 PM ) The Rat  
HEH. Great headline.

# Posted by The Rat @ 5:23 PM

      ( 3:34 AM ) The Rat  
INTERESTING. Via, the 15 actors to have won an Oscar for their film debut.

Best Actress
—Shirley Booth, Come Back, Little Sheba (1952)
—Julie Andrews, Mary Poppins (1964)
—Barbra Streisand, Funny Girl (1968)
—Marlee Matlin, Children of a Lesser God (1986)

Best Supporting Actress
—Katina Paxinou, For Whom the Bell Tolls (1943)
—Mercedes McCambridge, All the King's Men (1949)
—Eva Marie Saint, On the Waterfront (1954)
—Jo Van Fleet, East of Eden (1955)
—Goldie Hawn, Cactus Flower (1969)
—Tatum O'Neal, Paper Moon (1973)
—Anna Paquin, The Piano (1993)
—Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls (2007)

Best Actor
—Harold Russell, The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)
—Timothy Hutton, Ordinary People (1980)
—Haing S. Ngor, The Killing Fields (1984)

"Out of these 15 actors, only Mercedes McCambridge, Julie Andrews, Barbra Streisand and Goldie Hawn have been nominated since their win."

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:34 AM

Thursday, May 10, 2007
      ( 8:37 PM ) The Rat  
ONE CAN DO THIS for considerably longer than one afternoon, alas. From "Goodbye, Columbus."

We came back to the chairs now and then and sang hesitant, clever, nervous, gentle dithyrambs about how we were beginning to feel towards one another. Actually we did not have the feelings we said we had until we spoke them—at least I didn't; to phrase them was to invent them and own them. We whipped our strangeness and newness into a froth that resembled love, and we dared not play too long with it, talk too much of it, or it would flatten and fizzle away...

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:37 PM

      ( 5:58 PM ) The Rat  
THE GOOD SHEPHERD was... interesting. It kept oscillating between being much better, and being much worse, than I'd expected. The most obvious flaw is the length (nearly three hours, wtf!), but there were, I think, some really well-done moments—alongside the usual Hollywood touches of overwriting, blatant errors in logic, and general being-too-obvious-ness. The Skull & Bones touches are ludicrous—the makers were trying to cram in too many semi-recent obsessions, I think, from Bones to waterboarding (though that scene/subplot was strikingly done, I thought). There is one ambiguity toward the very end I found very well handled.

Besides waking up the film editor and making him actually do his job—the main thing I would have changed about this movie is the writing of the wife's and son's parts. The movie was trying to show how destructive of personal/familial ties, patriotism and devotion-to-work can be—but it inevitably trips over itself here, because the wife and son are more or less cardboard figures: variously, The Betrayed Wife, The Woman He Had To Marry Because She Was Pregnant, The Son Trying To Win His Father's Approval By Emulating Him (he's even "Edward Jr.," sigh), etc. So the movie falls into a certain type of male narcissism, despite itself: The wife and son are only about as real to the audience as they presumably were to Wilson. (It was obvious to me, even before I checked the credits, that the screenwriter was a guy.) I don't think this problem could ever be completely solved—if the wife and son were more central to the movie, after all, it couldn't be so relentlessly focused on the psychology of Wilson—who appears, I think, in nearly every frame. So, I think some element of the entire story being about Wilson, and not really confronting the harm to his many, many victims, is simply inevitable. But there has to have been a way to write the wife and son better.

All told, though, I'd recommend this movie—it fails in ways, but it's very ambitious, and tries to grapple with many of the biggest issues there are (patriotism, loyalty, families). It's certainly not (as a New York Post reviewer evidently called it) "the 'Godfather' of CIA movies"; but it aspires to it, so, points for that. Also, I was very surprised to learn some reviewers seem to have found this movie boring—it's bloated, yes, but I still found it pretty compelling. Though, admittedly, I'm also biased here, just because I do so love spy movies...

# Posted by The Rat @ 5:58 PM

      ( 12:04 PM ) The Rat  
I'VE POSTED ABOUT THIS BEFORE, but looks like Japan has finally opened that long-planned 'stork's cradle.' Not that abandoning a baby is ever a happy thing, but given that it's always going to happen, I don't quite get the logic of opposing a device like this? Especially in a culture where 'face' is so key (and abortion so popular), surely it's better to have these things than not to have them.

More here on a historical analogue, the French "tours d'abandon."

'Le Tour d'abandon' (the desertion tower) came into use in several cities at the beginning of the 19th century. It was installed in the wall of institutions such as l'Hôpital des Enfants-Trouvés (Paris's hospital for foundling infants) and worked rather like a revolving door. Parents could leave their offspring anonymously without any risk. The parents opened the front door of the tower, which was on the outer wall of the building, and placed the baby inside a compartment that was on a turntable. The nuns could then rotate the turntable and remove the newborn from the tower within the building without seeing the parents. Use of the tour d'abandon was sanctioned by an imperial decree in 1811 and they seem to have been used from about 1810 to 1860...

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:04 PM

      ( 11:55 AM ) The Rat  

A squirrel bit an 11-year-old girl and two adults after scurrying into an open classroom at a South San Jose elementary school this morning, drawing police and animal control to the campus...

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:55 AM

      ( 12:17 AM ) The Rat  

Barack Obama, caught up in the fervor of a campaign speech Tuesday, drastically overstated the Kansas tornadoes death toll, saying 10,000 had died.

The death toll was 12.

"In case you missed it, this week, there was a tragedy in Kansas. Ten thousand people died—an entire town destroyed," the Democratic presidential candidate said in a speech to 500 people packed into a sweltering Richmond art studio for a fundraiser...

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:17 AM

Wednesday, May 09, 2007
      ( 4:02 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 4:02 PM

      ( 2:39 PM ) The Rat  
PIC of the Griffith Park wildfire.

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:39 PM

      ( 11:12 AM ) The Rat  

This isn't the typical whispering you might expect to hear at a library. Vienna's City Hall has launched a "sex hotline" to raise money for the capital's main public library, officials said Tuesday.

It's unusual, but it's not particularly raunchy: Callers pay 53 cents a minute to listen to an actress read breathless passages from erotica dating to the Victorian era...

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:12 AM

      ( 10:34 AM ) The Rat  
THEY'LL NEVER TAKE ME ALIVE!! (Mmm, avocados.)

"Here, we find rats," Alegre said, nodding toward the 400,000-square-foot warehouse. "They leave the doors open, and merchandise and supplies come in, and they don't know what's coming in with it. When we took over this account, within the first three months we caught between 80 and a hundred."

The 44-year-old Alegre, a technician with Covina-based Isotech Pest Management, has a reputation within his company as a man who can outthink, outplan and outmaneuver the cleverest Rattus. He is a decorated soldier in mankind's unending war against its most fertile, unloved and constant mammalian companion—a creature that, at this time of year, is reproducing furiously, preparing to dispatch hordes of juveniles into the Southern California landscape.

Biologists call rats commensal, which means they "share the table" with man—an elevated way of saying they live primarily by eating our food. They are also famously neophobic—that is, wary of new things (such as traps) that they encounter in a familiar environment.

The black, or roof, rat, Rattus rattus, arrived by ship in America about 1600. The brown, or Norway, rat, Rattus norvegicus, came around the time of the American Revolution.

In most of the United States, the Norway won out. Los Angeles, however, is among those coastal regions blessed with both varieties. The lush, ground-level landscaping favored by homeowners here offers abundant nesting for Norways, and the palm and fruit trees afford perfect harborage for roof rats.

What's more, we have avocados, which rats love to distraction...

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:34 AM

      ( 9:33 AM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:33 AM

Tuesday, May 08, 2007
      ( 11:01 PM ) The Rat  
Opening a leather-bound waste-basket which I fatuously refer to as my 'notebook,' I pick out at random a small, triangular piece of wrapping paper with a cancelled stamp on one side...
—Fitzgerald, "One Hundred False Starts"

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:01 PM

      ( 4:56 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 4:56 PM

      ( 10:45 AM ) The Rat  
I grew up to have my father's looks, my father's speech patterns, my father's posture, my father's opinions, and my mother's contempt for my father.
—Jules Feiffer

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:45 AM

      ( 8:43 AM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:43 AM

      ( 12:19 AM ) The Rat  
PENTHOUSE READER NEVER THOUGHT THIS WOULD HAPPEN TO HIM, from Onion archives. Heh. Ratty is also very partial to Who's A Girl Gotta Fuck To Get Some Closure On Her Relationship With Her Father?

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:19 AM

Monday, May 07, 2007
      ( 9:12 PM ) The Rat  
FROM THE 'THINGS I LEARNED THE HARD WAY' FILES: "Since habaneros have the highest concentration of capsaicin, they are the most dangerous in terms of burns. For people sensitive to capsaicin, it can cause contact dermatitis just like poison ivy..." And here, a thread on how to neutralize the burn. I'd go with something more mild than the bleach scrub recommended by several posters, but that's just me.

I finally just put ice in a Ziploc bag and held it till my hands were numb. It took about 8-10 hours for the burning to quit and this was a teeny tiny hab about the size of a nickel...

Boiling habaneros in hot water gives off some really almost toxic steam. On a couple occasions I've done this and basically everyone in the house was mad at me for a long time afterward...

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:12 PM

Sunday, May 06, 2007
      ( 9:01 PM ) The Rat  

Founded by Himmler in 1938, [Lebensborn] started out running birthing homes where racially acceptable, mostly unwed mothers could bear their children for adoption by Nazi families. An estimated 20,000 were born in German Lebensborn homes—roughly half of them anonymously—and another 12,000 or so were born to mostly non-German mothers and Nazi fathers in Norway.

After World War II broke out, Lebensborn took on an even more sinister role—it became an adoption agency for hundreds of "racially desirable" toddlers and young children seized from their families in Poland and other occupied territories and forcibly Germanized.

"I believe it is correct if we gather up particularly racially acceptable small children from Polish families and place them in special, not too large children's care centers and homes," reads an order in ITS files which Himmler sent to SS leaders in 1941. Another Himmler command, written two years later to SS leaders in the Warthegau region of occupied Poland, decrees: "All Polish orphans need to be checked for their potential for Germanization" (Eindeutschung).

With their neatly bobbed blond hair and wide blue eyes, Alodia and her sister, Daria, qualified. "They told me that I have nice features—like German features," Alodia Witaszek recalls today, at 69, sitting in her living room in the Polish city of Poznan, where she was born.

"I was a 'gift for the Fuehrer'—that's what they called us"...

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:01 PM

      ( 2:34 PM ) The Rat  
WHY I SHOT MY LAMB, via Slate.

The vet was in full accord. Killing with a gun was swifter, less frightening, and therefore more humane, she said, than having a stranger poking around for a vein to give a lethal injection. (It was not the first time that farm life had challenged my earlier, more conventional notions of what was humane.) Shooting a lamb is not an easy thing to do, yet the decision was not hard to make. This lamb was suffering, there seemed no effective treatment, and he could endanger the rest of the flock.

Harry and Peggy had a different perspective. They measured humanity by how much they were willing to do. Their lamb also grew sluggish and weak, seemed to have trouble seeing, and began losing big patches of fleece, leaving him defenseless against the winter cold. So, they brought him into their house and kept him in a spare bedroom, fashioning a bed of blankets and bringing him water and fresh hay. Online, where they found a number of mailing lists and sites that shared their frustration at a vet's inability to do more than prescribe antibiotics, they ordered herbal remedies, plus vitamins and milk supplements, and they began an alternative therapy regimen. Lamb 83 spent the winter in the guest bedroom, drinking milk and medicines from a bottle and eating a bit of hay...

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:34 PM

      ( 1:01 PM ) The Rat  

[B]ehind each success story is a vast army of Chinese athletes who won't make it to the top and can barely survive at the bottom.

Former national weightlifting champion Zou Chunlan scandalized the nation last year when she acknowledged that she worked in a public bathhouse scrubbing people's backs for about a dime apiece. The 36-year-old also told state media her coach fed her "medicinal tonics" that ended up giving her unflattering male features such as facial hair and a husky voice.

With only a third-grade education, she was qualified to do little but backbreaking manual labor. She considered herself lucky to be hired by the bathhouse, whose owner was a fellow retired athlete who took pity on her and gave her free room and board.

Cai Li is another well-known Asian weightlifting champion who won numerous medals, including gold at the 1990 Asian Games in Beijing. He ended up as a doorman in a local sports school where young athletes are trained. When he died in 2003 of respiratory disease reportedly related to his training, state media reported he had $37 in savings...

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:01 PM

      ( 12:14 PM ) The Rat  
GRR. Neither the writer of this letter, nor the columnist writing the response, seem to have noticed what an unmitigated asshole he is. I love how the "good woman who'd love to marry [him]" is treated like a prop in this story: the little woman longing for her white picket fence, made up only of demands and restrictions, and lacking any interiority or dreams (of "greatness" or anything else) of her own. Of course, the columnist (also male) completely fails to address that in his answer.

My own response would have begun, "Dear Narcissistic Piece of Shit..."

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:14 PM

      ( 1:30 AM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:30 AM

Saturday, May 05, 2007
      ( 11:17 PM ) The Rat  
CHARITYWATCH.ORG. American Institute of Philanthropy ratings for a variety of humanitarian/relief groups and other charities. Ratings are based on efficient management and use of funds, and are provided for groups on both sides of political divides, where relevant (e.g., pro-life as well as pro-choice).

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:17 PM

      ( 10:52 AM ) The Rat  

Bigfoot, the legendary hairy man-like beast said to roam the wildernesses of North America, is not shy, merely so rare it risks extinction and should be protected as an endangered species.

So says Canadian MP Mike Lake who has called for Bigfoot to be protected under Canada's species at risk act, alongside Whooping Cranes, Blue Whales, and Red Mulberry trees.

"The debate over their (Bigfoot's) existence is moot in the circumstance of their tenuous hold on merely existing," reads a petition presented by Lake to parliament in March and due to be discussed next week...

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:52 AM

Friday, May 04, 2007
      ( 8:31 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:31 PM

      ( 7:47 PM ) The Rat  
IF THERE'S ANYONE OUT THERE who still hasn't seen this movie, you need to rectify that immediately.

"The soldiers used to say it was more expensive to kill a chicken than a human being... because you had to pay for the chicken."
—Ugandan (and film extra) Joshua Mabonga-Mwisaka, quoted in Capturing Idi Amin (a bonus track on the LKoS DVD)

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:47 PM

      ( 5:46 PM ) The Rat  

A former Wall Street Journal reporter who has worked in Europe, the Middle East and Latin America, U.S. expat Druckerman was struck by her own strong reactions against the idea of infidelity as compared to more cavalier attitudes abroad.

"I thought you could often understand a country better by looking at the rules in people's private lives. It really reveals the values of a culture," Druckerman said in an interview.

"Americans have gotten more tolerant on practically every major sexual issue from having a child out of wedlock to divorce... and homosexuality," she said. "We're more accepting of all these issues except infidelity, where we've gotten stricter."

Even more telling were views on the evils of adultery. While some 6 percent of Americans in one survey said it was acceptable to cheat in some or all circumstances, nearly 40 percent of Russians polled saw no problem with it...

# Posted by The Rat @ 5:46 PM

Thursday, May 03, 2007
      ( 8:20 PM ) The Rat  
EXACTLY HOW DO I FEED MY VENUS FLYTRAP? courtesy of the International Carnivorous Plant Society.

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:20 PM

      ( 8:05 PM ) The Rat  
ON SECOND THOUGHT, I guess my week hasn't been that bad.

A gang stripped a South African man before supergluing him to an exercise bicycle while they ransacked his house, according to a report Thursday...

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:05 PM

      ( 7:56 PM ) The Rat  

More than a century ago, Isidoro Vannozzi, an Italian farmer from Monteleone, dug up an ancient Etruscan chariot—the only such chariot to be discovered intact—showing scenes from the life of the Greek warrior Achilles. The find—part of a burial treasure, according to archaeologists—was discovered with the remains of two human skeletons and two drinking cups, which enabled experts to date it to 530 B.C., making the chariot approximately 2,600 years old.

According to Vannozzi's descendants, the farmer sold the sixth-century bronze and ivory chariot to two Frenchman in exchange for a much more useful item—two cows. Durastanti, however, believes that the farmer actually sold it to a scrap metal merchant for 950 lire—65 cents in today's terms—and bought 30 terracotta tiles with the proceeds.

No matter what the farmer got, the chariot eventually made its way into the hands of Florence-based antique dealers. There, the famed financier J.P. Morgan is reported to have bought it for the Metropolitan Museum in 1903, according to journalist Mario La Ferla, who has written a book about the chariot.

But the Met's efforts to take the chariot to New York faced stiff resistance from members of the Italian parliament. And so, legend has it, the chariot was sent to Paris, smuggled in with a grain shipment. There, it was stored in the vaults at Credit Lyonnais, then the world's largest bank, for an unspecified period. Finally, it was sent to New York after the museum paid an unnamed intermediary the sum of 250,000 lire—about $17,105 in today's terms—to transport it across the Atlantic...

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:56 PM

      ( 4:13 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 4:13 PM

      ( 2:51 PM ) The Rat  
JAPAN DAY @ CENTRAL PARK. Bizarre, but at least there'll be food.

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:51 PM

      ( 12:19 AM ) The Rat  
YIKES. Daily Mail writer test-drives the maple-syrup-lemon-and-cayenne fast said to have gotten Beyonce in shape for Dreamgirls. (Via Drudge.)

Such is my hunger that I start thinking about a rare steak, dripping with blood and smothered with peppercorn sauce. This is odd, because I'm a hardcore vegetarian...

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:19 AM

Wednesday, May 02, 2007
      ( 11:17 AM ) The Rat  
MUSTA BEEN A GRAD STUDENT, PT. 2. From Sebald's Austerlitz.

At some point in the past, I thought, I must have made a mistake, and now I am living the wrong life.

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:17 AM

      ( 4:29 AM ) The Rat  
'I WANDERED LONELY AS A CLOUD,' hip-hop version. Mercifully less twee than the original.

The new "hip-hop" version of the famous poem and an accompanying pop video can be listened to and watched for free at Cumbria Tourism's website. It features MC Nuts in the leading role—better known as Sam—the Lake District Red squirrel mascot for Ullswater Steamers.

The modern re-working manages to stay true to the original sentiment but with some slight variation of the lyrics.

The video was shot on the banks of Lake Ullswater which provided the original inspiration for the poem, as well as around Ullswater Steamers, the grounds and gardens of the luxury Sharrow Bay Hotel, and Grasmere where Wordsworth made his home...

# Posted by The Rat @ 4:29 AM

Tuesday, May 01, 2007
      ( 10:34 AM ) The Rat  
I DIDN'T KNOW WHETHER TO LAUGH OR CRY when I saw this, the first question in a customer survey sent me by (and which arrived almost exactly 12 hours after I had an orals-related meltdown talking to JS):

How many books, if any, do you expect to read this Spring (over the next three months)?

—1 or 2
—3 to 5
—6 to 9
—10 or more

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:34 AM

      ( 10:30 AM ) The Rat  

The payoff was immediate: $10 an hour, almost double [White's] previous wages. During his second day on the job, a passerby was so impressed with his spinning that she gave him a $250 Croton watch. Within a month, he got a raise to $15 an hour. "I don't like to toot my own horn, but I'm one of the best out there," White said.

White is part of the competitive world of "human directionals," an industry term for people who twirl signs outside restaurants, barbershops and new real estate subdivisions.

Street corner advertising on human billboards has existed for centuries, but Southern California—where the weather allows sign spinners to work year-round—has endowed the job with style.

Local spinners have cooked up hundreds of moves. There's the Helicopter, in which a spinner does a backbend on one hand while spinning a sign above his head. In the Blender, a spinner twirls the sign behind his back. Spanking the Horse gets the most attention. The spinner puts the sign between his legs, slaps his own behind and giddy-ups.

Thanks to growing demand, the business has turned cutthroat...

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:30 AM

      ( 10:28 AM ) The Rat  
END OF AN ERA: KNUT STEADILY GETTING LESS CUTE. Via IKM, who notes that it could have come straight out of the Onion.

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:28 AM

      ( 7:37 AM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:37 AM

      ( 12:14 AM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:14 AM

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

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