The Rat
Friday, August 31, 2007
      ( 3:43 AM ) The Rat  
OLDSUPERSTITIONS.COM. Handy to keep open when you're reading Thomas Hardy.

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      ( 3:30 AM ) The Rat  
THEY'VE STARTED a Smart car nationwide tour! (The vehicles will debut in the U.S. market in January.)

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:30 AM

Thursday, August 30, 2007
      ( 7:42 PM ) The Rat  
LIST OF LANGUAGES BY NUMBER OF NATIVE SPEAKERS. (Well, according to Wikipedia anyway.) Some surprises here.

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      ( 5:44 PM ) The Rat  

A bee trapped by a glob of sap inside a come-hither orchid up to 20 million years ago has rewritten the evolutionary tale of a flower with the most fanatical following of any plant in the world. [...]

The insect was trapped for eternity in amber, dropped from a tree, after it was lured to the flower by the prospect of nectar some 15-20 million years ago.

"It is the first identifiable fossil orchid ever found," Ramirez told AFP. "And it is the first case in which an insect-orchid interaction has been observed in the fossil record."

The luckless bee has become a timeless testament to the orchid's seductive power, for there was probably nothing for the insect to eat...

# Posted by The Rat @ 5:44 PM

      ( 2:04 PM ) The Rat  
AS OF EARLIER THIS YEAR, this appears to be the world's largest jigsaw puzzle, at 24,000 pcs. Looks like it's been completed at least a couple of times, by the Slater family and by one Annick Oriol. (My own limit is 5,000 pcs., so these people scare me.)

Before that, I believe the title was held by this Ravensburger puzzle, comprising a mere 18,246 pcs. (Ravensburger makes at least three puzzles of this size; go here and scroll down. Though, IMO, a puzzle that can be assembled in components like that, doesn't really count as a single big puzzle, unless the solvers mixed the pieces [which Ravensburger evidently packs in separate bags] together before starting. Assembling one 5,000-pc. puzzle is considerably more challenging than assembling five 1,000-pc. ones, and I would assume that to be even more the case with an 18,000+ pc. one.)

And just because this kind of thing is like crack to me (combining two loves: puzzles, and anything to do with the Cold War), here's another link on the Stasi "puzzle."

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:04 PM

Wednesday, August 29, 2007
      ( 5:34 PM ) The Rat  
FAMOUS ELLIS ISLAND PASSENGER ARRIVALS. You'll need (free) registration to use the passenger search feature. Awesome, and just permitted me to figure out how tall Conrad was (5'8"), according to the records of his 1923 visit to the States.

# Posted by The Rat @ 5:34 PM

      ( 12:00 AM ) The Rat  
'And so you lived with that friend—that good man?'

'Excellent fellow,' Heyst responded, with a readiness that she did not expect. 'But it was a weakness on my part. I really didn't want to, only he wouldn't let me off, and I couldn't explain. He was the sort of man to whom you can't explain anything. He was extremely sensitive, and it would have been a tigerish thing to do to mangle his delicate feelings by the sort of plain speaking that would have been necessary. His mind was like a white-walled, pure chamber, furnished with, say, six straw-bottomed chairs, and he was always placing and displacing them in various combinations. But they were always the same chairs.'


# Posted by The Rat @ 12:00 AM

Tuesday, August 28, 2007
      ( 9:32 PM ) The Rat  
CAPITALISM SCARES ME. So Ratty was just taking a quick online survey sent her by, a site that allows you to swap miles from one airline-loyalty program to another (also works with hotels, etc.). Everything was perfectly normal until I got to question 24, below. (Pointsdexter can be seen, sporting a jaunty hat, at the homepage.)

What do you think of our mascot Pointsdexter?
—Didn't know you had one
—Don't really care for the cartoon character
—Neither here, not there
—I really like him
—I think about him all the time

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:32 PM

      ( 9:22 PM ) The Rat  
THE $10 MILLION GIVEAWAY? This is an interesting idea, though the sentence "Matt, Jessica and Premal credit their corresponding strengths for Kiva's success so far: Matt's technological know-how, Premal's salesmanship and Jessica's heart" just about made me launch my lunch. To the several people who left comments at this article to the effect of, "Why don't these guys worry about all the people in America who need loans?" I could think of a number of responses, most of them unprintable, but will content myself with pointing out that P2P lending is already fairly established in the First World, via sites such as (though of course, those loans typically do bear interest).

Kiva, which means "unity" in Swahili, is a lending organization with a twist: Anyone with a bit of money and an Internet connection can step forward as a microlender to assist struggling third-world entrepreneurs get out of poverty.

After logging in, you can scroll through profiles of entrepreneurs, descriptions of their businesses, and the loan amounts they're requesting. Once you've decided who you want to lend to, you choose how much to lend, starting at as little as $25. (Individual lenders can fund an entire loan, but most of Kiva's loans are funded by multiple lenders.)

There are some differences from traditional lending. Kiva loans require no collateral and they are zero interest. PayPal (Premal's former employer) processes the transactions without any fees.

Premal says the average loan request is about $650 and the average lender usually funds three different entrepreneurs at $25 each. Eighty percent of the lenders come from the U.S., 10% from Canada, and the remainder from the rest of the world.

Kiva says entrepreneurs pay back their loans an incredible 99% of the time—a default rate unheard of at traditional financial institutions. (The Kiva team expects the default rate to increase to 5% as more borrowers complete the loan cycle.) And according to Premal, most lenders reinvest their money in other entrepreneurs after a loan is paid back.

Kiva's operational costs are covered by donations from lenders. The company does not take a commission from the loans facilitated on the site...

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:22 PM

      ( 1:16 PM ) The Rat  

The third annual Big Tex Choice Awards contest on Labor Day tests the fair grub ingenuity of State Fair of Texas concessionaires. Past Big Tex awards have offered nonfried options, but none of this year's seven entries escaped the fryer. [...]

Michael Levy will debut his family's new Deep Fried Latte, which is a fried pastry topped with cappuccino ice cream, caramel sauce, whipped cream and instant coffee powder.

"We have gained about 10 pounds trying this. I'm not kidding," Levy said. "I've probably eaten 300 of these trying to get it right."

Concessionaire Allan Weiss is offering up Zesty Fried Guacamole Bites, a variation on the Fried Avocados he created last year. The bites are a scoop of guacamole, breaded, fried and served with ranch dressings or salsa...

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:16 PM

      ( 10:37 AM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:37 AM

      ( 9:58 AM ) The Rat  

A French tax official cheated the government out of 600,000 euros ($820,000) by creating a phantom identity as a university professor and claiming a salary for some 15 years, the government said Monday...

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:58 AM

      ( 9:57 AM ) The Rat  
RATTY HUMBLY HOPES that if she ever has a child, and if that child is ever heard speaking with this kind of entitlement, she will have that child beaten.

"This is indescribable," Moochie said in a near-whisper. "My voice is amazing. I can sing my butt off. I had confidence. I don't know what this is.

"I never had anything bad happen in my life."

One could have told young Moochie that, given what generally occurs to people in the arc of time between the crib and casket, not getting chosen to sing in front of Simon Cowell might be considered a minor setback.

But anyone delivering that particular message yesterday would have been stomped outside the arena, as thwarted singer after thwarted singer slunk out of the place, muttering...

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:57 AM

Monday, August 27, 2007
      ( 6:30 PM ) The Rat  
The enchanted Heyst! Had he at last broken the spell? Had he died? We were too indifferent to wonder over-much. You see we had on the whole liked him well enough. And liking is not sufficient to keep going the interest one takes in a human being. With hatred, apparently, it is otherwise.

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:30 PM

      ( 5:14 PM ) The Rat  
MODERN BUILDINGS RESEMBLING ZIGGURATS. And, a ziggurat-shaped wedding cake.

# Posted by The Rat @ 5:14 PM

      ( 12:23 AM ) The Rat  
SEX, SHOPPING AND THINKING PINK. There seem to me a lot of flaws in the setup here, but still, an interesting idea.

Dr New used the market to test two hypotheses. The first was that women remember the locations of food resources more accurately than men do. The second was that the more nutritionally valuable a resource is, the more accurately its location will be remembered. [...]

On average, women were 9° more accurate than men at pointing to each stall—a significant deviation if you have to walk some distance to get to a place. This was not because those women had more experience of visiting the market than the men had. Nor did the women rate themselves as having a better sense of direction—indeed the men rated their own navigating skills more highly.

Dr New suggests that these results show women are better than men at the particular task of relocating sources of food. That contrasts with the idea that men are better at navigation in general. In other words, women's minds are specialised for their ancestral task of gathering the sort of food that cannot run away.

That such food is in a different mental category from the one occupied by general landmarks was suggested by the answer to the second hypothesis. The higher the calorific value of the food sold by a stall, the more accurately Dr New's volunteers were able to point towards it. And that result applied to both sexes, though women still did better than men.

How much the participants liked the food did not have an effect on this accuracy. Indeed none of the secondary attributes of the food or stall in question (taste preference, the frequency of an item in a volunteer's normal diet, the appearance of the stall and how often a volunteer used that stall in daily life) were found to affect pointing accuracy. Only the calorific value of the item in question was relevant...

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:23 AM

      ( 12:20 AM ) The Rat  

Other bad things the 2004 vice-presidential nominee vowed to end include the housing crisis, skinned knees, frowns, steep staircases, jailbreaks, water that is too cold to swim in, pain, traffic, being tired in the morning, sprained ankles, hunger, not having enough energy at night, teen pregnancy, cases of the blahs, thunder, the high cost of admission to events, type 2 diabetes, games of tic-tac-toe with no clear winner, the lack of parking in urban areas, forgetting birthdays, child prostitution, and confusion.

"Imagine a world free of procrastination, class disparity, and itchiness," Edwards said. "It will only be possible if we try."

Edwards told the gathered audience that the second half of his presidential term would be devoted to a $125 billion effort to supplant the abolished bad things with good things, such as flowers, the laughter of children, butterflies, sunny days, financial stability, Skittles, and medicine...

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:20 AM

Saturday, August 25, 2007
      ( 3:46 PM ) The Rat  

Next month Venezuelan clocks will be set at Greenwich Mean Time minus 4-1/2 hours, compared to the previous GMT minus four hours, Science and Technology Minister Hector Navarro told reporters at a news conference.

He said the measure sought "a more fair distribution of the sunrise"...

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:46 PM

      ( 12:39 PM ) The Rat  
OF COURSE, this kind of thing represents a great danger to public safety and is, in that sense, deplorable.

That said, if you've actually driven a Porsche, you won't be able to entirely blame the guy. It's like being at the helm of a rocket ship, and you wouldn't slow down your rocket ship because of some piddly sign, now would you??

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:39 PM

      ( 12:26 PM ) The Rat  

Richard Lippa, a psychologist from California State University at Fullerton, is one of the leading cataloguers of the many ways in which gay people are different. I caught up with him a few weeks ago at a booth at the Long Beach Pride Festival in Southern California, where he was researching another hypothesis—that the hair-whorl patterns on gay heads are more likely to go counterclockwise.

As he recruited experiment subjects, Lippa scanned the passing scalps, some shaved clean, some piled in colorful tresses. "It's like a kind of art. You look at the back of people's heads, and it's literally like a vector field," he says. "We assume that whatever causes people to be right-handed or left-handed is also causing hair whorl. The theory we're testing is that there's a common gene responsible for both." And that gene might be a marker for sexual orientation. So, as part of his study, he has swabbed the inside cheek of his subjects. It will be months before that DNA testing is complete.

I was surprised at how many people quickly agreed to lend five minutes of their pride celebration to science. "If I could tell my mother it's a gene, she would be so happy," said one, Scott Quesada, 42, who sat in a chair for Lippa's inspection...

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Friday, August 24, 2007
      ( 11:02 PM ) The Rat  

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Thursday, August 23, 2007
      ( 9:07 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:07 PM

      ( 1:50 AM ) The Rat  
AN ATTEMPT TO PARSE that thing the Duchess says!

"I quite agree with you," said the Duchess; "and the moral of that is—'Be what you would seem to be'—or if you'd like it put more simply—'Never imagine yourself not to be otherwise than what it might appear to others that what you were or might have been was not otherwise than what you had been would have appeared to them to be otherwise.'"

Geoff's question is whether the Duchess's simplified/expanded sentence is grammatical; he says "After four or five careful attempts to make a judgment on this, I find I still can't decide." I approach it as I used to approach math problems in my long-ago days as a math major...

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:50 AM

Wednesday, August 22, 2007
      ( 1:55 AM ) The Rat  
WHERE IS SEX SAFER? Interesting concept, but they must be out of their minds with some of those stats. The figures for India, for instance, are definitely sketchy, unless they were compiled by excluding victims of sex trafficking and prostitution. Then again, a survey is probably not the best way to get these numbers, wtf?!—particularly in more conservative cultures. I'm not surprised that Durex would conduct a survey this sloppily, but I had assumed the editors at Foreign Policy had a little more common sense. Or does sex only "count" if it's consensual?

[T]hose indulging in the riskiest behaviour often live in some of the world’s richest nations, according to Foreign Policy magazine, using data from the latest Durex Global Sex Survey—the world's largest survey of sexual behaviour, with over 317,000 participants in 41 countries. They have sex at a younger age and sleep with more people, both indicators for contracting sexually transmitted infections...

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      ( 12:06 AM ) The Rat  

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007
      ( 7:26 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:26 PM

      ( 9:15 AM ) The Rat  
A SPIRITS-FILLED CHURCH? And people wonder why I want to move back to California.

Vytas Juskys sees the historic New England-style clapboard sanctuary as an ideal addition to Hollywood's burgeoning night-life scene, offering live entertainment and two outdoor free-standing bars, plus space for regular religious services.

The concept would certainly be a new twist in the trendy Hollywood club culture, which has seen dozens of new establishments open along its main boulevard and surrounding streets in recent years. The area already has a club centered around a movie screening room, a celebrity-filled eatery in an old Victorian house and a bar in an old rail car. Juskys, who is in his mid-30s, says he understands what sort of entertainment venues are needed in Hollywood.

But a bar that doubles as a church? Some residents find that a little sacrilegious. And the developer is feeling the wrath—if not from God, then from city planners who say Juskys' proposal doesn't include enough parking...

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:15 AM

      ( 9:13 AM ) The Rat  
SNIFF... AND SPEND. Yet another reason to spend your entire life locked in your apartment, buying everything online...

Stores and product designers devote countless hours and dollars to such matters as the color and shape of a package or the precise arrangement of items in the aisles of a store, the better to coax shoppers to linger, purchase and impulse-buy. Now, scent marketers say, it is time to turn to the nose. "Most marketing—85%—is visual," says Harald Vogt, founder and chief marketer of the Scent Marketing Institute in Scarsdale, N.Y. "Scent marketing is the last frontier."

Already it is a $100-million business, and Vogt predicts it will reach $500 million or even $1 billion within the next seven to eight years.

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:13 AM

      ( 9:07 AM ) The Rat  

"If it's not burned or under-seasoned, it's the same goddamn thing they made yesterday," said group counselor Devon Martin, who doesn't work all day long in the shelter's therapy sessions to microwave his own leftovers...

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:07 AM

Monday, August 20, 2007
      ( 11:14 PM ) The Rat  
MONTY PYTHON'S TRAVEL AGENT SKETCH. My Final Rip Off CDs (which have a slightly different version of dialogue than the YouTube clip) (if you haven't owned those CDs since 1992 like I have, btw, go, buy!!) have been getting a lot of play lately... I love Eric Idle in this sketch.

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:14 PM

      ( 1:51 PM ) The Rat  

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Sunday, August 19, 2007
      ( 1:17 PM ) The Rat  
An announcement once appeared in a quarterly, against the name of the present writer, of an article to be entitled Conrad, the Soul and the Universe. The exasperation registered in this formula explains, perhaps, why the article was never written.
—F.R. Leavis, "Joseph Conrad"

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:17 PM

      ( 6:52 AM ) The Rat  
THIS suddenly reminded me of a dorky (but extremely effective) teacher who told my French class, many years ago, "An oeuf is an oeuf!"

Upon cracking open my breakfast boiled egg, I found a whole new egg inside. This is not a double-yolked egg, it is a double–egged egg—a completely new egg with a shell and yolk inside another. Can anyone explain it?
—Liam Spencer, York, UK

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:52 AM

      ( 4:07 AM ) The Rat  
"WITCHES' LOAVES," one of my favorite O. Henry stories. It's also reprinted here.

Other favorites: "The Thing's the Play" (less clean-lined, but this may actually be my current favorite), and (more sentimentally) "Friends in San Rosario."

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      ( 1:13 AM ) The Rat  

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Saturday, August 18, 2007
      ( 10:18 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:18 PM

      ( 10:09 PM ) The Rat  

For more than 20 years, the armed forces have held a policy that specifically denies disability benefits to servicemen and women with congenital or hereditary conditions. The practice would be illegal in almost any other workplace.

There is one exception, instituted in 1999, that grants benefits to personnel who have served eight years.

"You could be in the military and be a six-pack-a-day smoker, and if you come down with emphysema, 'That's OK. We've got you covered,' " said Kathy Hudson, director of the Genetics and Public Policy Center at Johns Hopkins University."But if you happen to have a disease where there is an identified genetic contribution, you are screwed."

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:09 PM

Friday, August 17, 2007
      ( 7:10 PM ) The Rat  
Yet when the thrill went off, like lightning smashed and dispersed into the ground, I knew it was basically only a transaction. But that didn't matter so much. Nor did the bed; nor did the room; nor the thought that the woman would have been amused—with as much amusement as could make headway against other considerations—at Einhorn and me, the great sensationalist riding into the place on my back with bloodshot eyes and voracious in heart but looking perfectly calm and superior. Paying didn't matter. Nor using what other people used. That's what city life is.
The Adventures of Augie March

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:10 PM

      ( 11:55 AM ) The Rat  
A BEASTLY KIND OF CRUELTY. This is fucked up.

Authorities are searching for a drive-by shooter who guns down cows as they calmly munch grass in the rolling pastureland 50 miles north of San Francisco. Since February, five cows have been found dead in two counties, shot with small-caliber bullets designed to inflict prolonged pain and suffering.

Although there are no statistics on such crimes, newspapers detail scores of cases. Two Texas college students were indicted last fall for slashing a horse's neck before stabbing it in the heart with a broken golf club handle. In Pennsylvania in 2005, three joy-riding men killed a pony named Ted E. Bear that belonged to a 4-year-old boy.

Last year, two Tennessee teens shot and killed 24 cows, many of them pregnant. "They just wanted to see what shooting cattle was like," said Hickman County Sheriff Randal Ward.

California has also seen its share of the rural violence. In addition to the Northern California cattle shootings, Oakland police are investigating the May killing of 15 goats, each shot in the face as they huddled in a portable pen...

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:55 AM

      ( 12:09 AM ) The Rat  

According to Morales' latest research, any number of cringe-worthy items—cat litter or lard, diapers or stomach medicines, maxi-pads or cigarettes—can have a seriously negative effect on the way consumers view other items with which they happen to come in contact. This so-called "product contagion" effect, says Morales, can turn the stomachs of even the most rational buyers, make usually attractive products unappealing and, ultimately, cut directly into retailers profits.

"People often don't believe, or don't know, that they are affected by this contagion," says Morales, an assistant professor of marketing at W.P. Carey. "But it's real."

The recent work on "product contagion," for its part, offers some of the strongest data yet backing the idea that "disgust" truly does play a large role in shaping consumer behavior. According to the study, consumers seem to believe, either consciously or subconsciously, that a disgusting product—even a brand-new product still wrapped its original packaging—can somehow leach its profound icky-ness to the non-disgusting products it touches. As a result, these consumers will avoid buying the "contaminated" products.

"We thought we might see a very subtle effect," Morales says of the research. "But the effects were actually quite strong. [...] In one case, we put a container of lard touching a package [of] rice cakes—and this actually not only made the rice cakes seem less appealing, but also more fattening. It's almost as if people believe the lard will ooze its fat onto the rice cakes."

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:09 AM

Thursday, August 16, 2007
      ( 6:10 PM ) The Rat  
It pleased my uncle extremely to find I had never seen London before. He took possession of the metropolis forthwith. 'London, George,' he said, 'takes a lot of understanding. It's a great place. Immense. The richest town in the world, the biggest port, the greatest manufacturing town, the Imperial city—the centre of civilization, the heart of the world! See those sandwich men down there! That third one's hat! Fair treat! You don't see poverty like that in Wimblehurst, George! And many of them high Oxford men too.'

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:10 PM

      ( 12:27 PM ) The Rat  
THE BUNNIES' SAW is finally up!

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      ( 11:00 AM ) The Rat  
CLOUD LOVERS, WE SALUTE YE! The Society's own site is here.

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      ( 10:55 AM ) The Rat  

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      ( 10:53 AM ) The Rat  

The health ministry said the distribution of 13.4 million INTs [insecticide treated nets] over the past five years among children and pregnant women had helped curtail infections, a key success against a disease threatening 40 percent of the world's population.

"Childhood deaths have been reduced by 44 percent in high-risk districts, in-patient malaria cases and deaths are falling (and) there are reduced cases at the community level," it said in a statement. "For every 1,000 treated nets used, seven children who might have died of malaria are saved."

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:53 AM

Wednesday, August 15, 2007
      ( 12:45 PM ) The Rat  
SWAN UPPERS NOT DETERRED BY RAIN. Ownership of all swans has always seemed to me one of the coolest perks of being queen, though looks like it's no longer claimed over the entire country...

The ceremony dates back to the 12th Century when the ownership of all unowned mute swans in Britain was claimed by the Crown in order to ensure a ready supply for banquets and feasts.

Today the Queen exercises this right only on certain stretches of the River Thames and surrounding tributaries.

Swan Upping, originally a kind of royal larder stock check, now serves a conservational rather [than] culinary purpose.

The swans and cygnets are weighed, ringed and checked for signs of disease or injury...

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:45 PM

Tuesday, August 14, 2007
      ( 12:56 PM ) The Rat  
On that summer night, said Austerlitz, we sat high above the estuary of the Mawddach in our hollow in the hills until daybreak, watching the moths fly to us, perhaps some ten thousand of them by Alphonso's estimate. The trails of light which they seemed to leave behind them in all kinds of curlicues and streamers and spirals, and which Gerald in particular admired, did not really exist, explained Alphonso, but were merely phantom traces created by the sluggish reaction of the human eye, appearing to see a certain afterglow in the place from which the insect itself, shining for only the fraction of a second in the lamplight, had already gone. It was such unreal phenomena, said Alphonso, the sudden incursion of unreality into the real world, certain effects of light in the landscape spread out before us, or in the eye of a beloved person, that kindled our deepest feelings, or at least what we took for them.

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      ( 9:12 AM ) The Rat  

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      ( 12:23 AM ) The Rat  
I CAN HATH CHEEZBURGER? From some months back, but sooo worth it. Link via Manolo.

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:23 AM

      ( 12:17 AM ) The Rat  

The medieval Khmer city of Angkor in Cambodia was the largest pre-industrial metropolis in the world, with a population of nearly 1 million and an urban sprawl that stretched over an area similar to modern-day Los Angeles, researchers reported Monday.

The city's spread over an area of more than 115 square miles was made possible by a sophisticated technology for managing and harvesting water for use during the dry season—including diverting a major river through the heart of the city. But that reliance on water led to the city's collapse in the 1500s as overpopulation and deforestation filled the canals with sediment, overwhelming the city's ability to maintain the system, according to the report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The hydraulic system became "not manageable, no matter how many resources were thrown at it," said archaeologist Damian Evans of the University of Sydney, in Australia, the lead author of the paper.

During the six centuries that the city thrived, it was unparalleled, particularly because it was one of the few civilizations that sprang up in a tropical setting...

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:17 AM

      ( 12:16 AM ) The Rat  
THE TRIPPY PART OF THIS ARTICLE is tucked away remarkably discreetly, all things considered. Link via

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      ( 12:15 AM ) The Rat  
WELCOME to the reader who got here Googling "stroking husbands ego is getting tiresome," for which I am evidently the first result.

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:15 AM

Monday, August 13, 2007
      ( 12:15 AM ) The Rat  

The Hong Kong immigration official stared at her for a long time, considered her tourist visa, and asked whom she was coming to see. Her heart raced when he stamped her documents and finally handed them back. "I knew he was suspicious," Liu said. "When I walked away he turned to look at me again. I was so scared. I thought he must have regretted letting me pass and was going to drag me back."

Liu had good reason to fear. She was carrying contraband—a seven-month fetus.

Under rules imposed in February, pregnant mainlanders entering the territory who appear to be in their third trimester are charged $5,000 to guarantee a spot in a Hong Kong maternity ward. Otherwise, they're not allowed to cross the border.

Liu didn't have the money.

Her predicament tells much about the relationship between Hong Kong and mainland China a decade after Britain returned the territory to Chinese rule...

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:15 AM

Sunday, August 12, 2007
      ( 1:40 PM ) The Rat  

These days it's easier to find a Cinnabon in Mecca than the house where the Prophet Muhammad was born...

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      ( 1:04 PM ) The Rat  
TO THE READER who came here looking for "Chinese ladies looking for male sex partners in Khartoum," um, good luck?

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      ( 12:56 PM ) The Rat  
I hold springtime in my arms, the fullness of it and the rinsing sadness of it.
The Moviegoer

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Friday, August 10, 2007
      ( 12:54 PM ) The Rat  
THE REGRET INDEX. A lot of these are lame, but there's a few really good ones tucked in there.

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Thursday, August 09, 2007
      ( 2:23 AM ) The Rat  

Coral reefs in the Indo-Pacific are disappearing twice as fast as tropical rainforests, say researchers. They have completed the first comprehensive survey of coral reefs in this region, which is home to 75% of the world's reefs...

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Wednesday, August 08, 2007
      ( 1:38 PM ) The Rat  
As a victim, the Savage possessed, for Bernard, this enormous superiority over the others: that he was accessible. One of the principal functions of a friend is to suffer (in a milder and symbolic form) the punishments that we should like, but are unable, to inflict upon our enemies.
Brave New World

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:38 PM

      ( 12:26 PM ) The Rat  

A new analysis of the dental fossils of human ancestors suggests that Asian populations played a larger role than Africans in colonizing Europe millions of years ago, said a study released Monday.

The findings challenge the prevailing "Out of Africa" theory, which holds that anatomically modern man first arose from one point in Africa and fanned out to conquer the globe, and bolsters the notion that Homo sapiens evolved from different populations in different parts of the globe.

The "Out of Africa" scenario has been underpinned since 1987 by genetic studies based mainly on the rate of mutations in mitochondrial DNA...

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:26 PM

      ( 12:19 PM ) The Rat  
IN INDIA, CHAOS SELLS. (Subscription required for full text.) Reminds me of an anecdote told in—I believe it's David Herzbrun's Playing in Traffic on Madison Avenue: At one of his first jobs, he used his spare time to tidy and un-clutter a sale display—only to find that people stopped buying things from it. When he went back and mussed the items back up, however, sales rose again—presumably because shoppers figured that items in a tidy display must not be on sale.

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:19 PM

Tuesday, August 07, 2007
      ( 6:23 PM ) The Rat  

But is reducing food miles necessarily good for the environment? Researchers at Lincoln University in New Zealand, no doubt responding to Europe's push for 'food miles labeling,' recently published a study challenging the premise that more food miles automatically mean greater fossil fuel consumption. Other scientific studies have undertaken similar investigations. According to this peer-reviewed research, compelling evidence suggests that there is more—or less—to food miles than meets the eye.

It all depends on how you wield the carbon calculator. Instead of measuring a product’s carbon footprint through food miles alone, the Lincoln University scientists expanded their equations to include other energy-consuming aspects of production—what economists call 'factor inputs and externalities'—like water use, harvesting techniques, fertilizer outlays, renewable energy applications, means of transportation (and the kind of fuel used), the amount of carbon dioxide absorbed during photosynthesis, disposal of packaging, storage procedures and dozens of other cultivation inputs.

Incorporating these measurements into their assessments, scientists reached surprising conclusions. Most notably, they found that lamb raised on New Zealand’s clover-choked pastures and shipped 11,000 miles by boat to Britain produced 1,520 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions per ton while British lamb produced 6,280 pounds of carbon dioxide per ton, in part because poorer British pastures force farmers to use feed. In other words, it is four times more energy-efficient for Londoners to buy lamb imported from the other side of the world than to buy it from a producer in their backyard. Similar figures were found for dairy products and fruit...

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:23 PM

      ( 1:28 PM ) The Rat  

Adding folic acid to flours, pastas and rice has reduced the rate of spina bifida and anencephaly in the U.S., sparing 1,000 babies each year from these devastating birth defects.

But a recent study suggests those health gains may have come at a cost: an extra 15,000 cases of colon cancer annually...

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:28 PM

      ( 1:25 PM ) The Rat  
TODAY'S WINNER from the "bleeding obvious" category.

Parents hoping to raise baby Einsteins by using infant educational videos are actually creating baby Homer Simpsons, according to a new study released today.

For every hour a day that babies 8 to 16 months old were shown such popular series as "Brainy Baby" or "Baby Einstein," they knew six to eight fewer words than other children, the study found.

Christakis said children whose parents read to them or told them stories had larger vocabularies...

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:25 PM

      ( 1:23 PM ) The Rat  
HAL FISHMAN, R.I.P. Ratty wishes we still had anchors like this.

Fishman, who spent his entire 47-year news career at independent TV stations in Los Angeles, has often been referred to as being among the longest-running news anchors in the nation—if not the longest-running.

Born in Brooklyn on Aug. 25, 1931, Fishman earned his bachelor's degree at Cornell University (where he also worked on the campus radio station) and his master's degree in political science at UCLA.

He was an assistant professor of political science at Cal State L.A. in 1960 when KCOP-TV Channel 13 invited him to teach an on-air class in politics—"American Political Parties and Politics"—during the summer the Democratic National Convention was being held in Los Angeles...

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:23 PM

      ( 1:16 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:16 PM

      ( 12:09 AM ) The Rat  
Amabel sat there without saying anything; not, so it seemed to Evelyn, because there was anything special about her but because, by being rich or, better still, through having piled up riches in presents from young men, or both, the newspapers had picked her out and now there was no getting away from it, Amabel had grown to be like some beauty spot in Wales. Whether it was pretty or suited to all tastes people would come distances to see it and be satisfied when it lay before them. Amabel had been sanctified, so she thought, by constant printed references as though it was of general concern what she looked like or how beautiful she might be. But then there was no question of beauty here, Evelyn thought, because there were no features, and it could not be called poise, and then she became offensive in her thoughts of her. But Amabel had that azure glance of fame and was secure.
Party Going

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:09 AM

Monday, August 06, 2007
      ( 10:32 PM ) The Rat  
'Oh, God,' he said, reaching depths he had never known about before, 'I wish I was more worthy of you. When I think how wonderful you are from the top of your wonderful golden head to your toes.'

'Is it gold?' she said, putting her hands up to it.

'It is,' he said and coming to sit by her on the stool in front of that looking glass he lightly kissed the hair above her ear. As he did this he looked into the glass to see himself doing it because he was in that state when he thought it incredible that he should be so lucky as to be kissing someone so marvellous. Unluckily for him she saw this in the mirror she had been watching his back in. She did not like it. She got up. She said:

'I won't have you watching yourself in the mirror when you're kissing me. It proves you don't love me and anyway no nice person does that.'

'Darling,' he said, 'are you being reasonable?'

Party Going

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:32 PM

      ( 2:39 PM ) The Rat  

Thai police officers who break rules will be forced to wear hot pink armbands featuring "Hello Kitty," the Japanese icon of cute, as a mark of shame, a senior officer said Monday.

Police officers caught littering, parking in a prohibited area, or arriving late—among other misdemeanors—will be forced to stay in the division office and wear the armband all day, said Police Col. Pongpat Chayaphan. The officers won't wear the armband in public.

The striking armband features Hello Kitty sitting atop two hearts...

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:39 PM

      ( 1:41 AM ) The Rat  
A PIONEER IN AN EXPERIMENT CALLED OPEN ADOPTION. A two-part piece by the L.A. Times, here and here. Excruciating.

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:41 AM

      ( 1:33 AM ) The Rat  
FROM JARHEAD TO TALKING HEAD. Meant to post this a couple days ago. If you haven't seen Control Room yet, you need to.

When the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003, Marine Captain Josh Rushing was sent into the action, but not actual combat. He was posted at the U.S. media center in Doha, Qatar, to take on the world's press corps. Strangely, as a relatively junior officer, he was made point person for arguably the Middle East's most influential Arab news channel: Al Jazeera.

Though he was charged with providing the Bush Administration's spin on the war, his exposure to Arab culture and identity through Al Jazeera's reporters broadened his perspective.

Rushing even unwittingly became a star in a critically acclaimed documentary about Al Jazeera called "Control Room," much to the dismay of his superior officers who eventually pulled the plug on the relationship, leading to his resignation from the Marine Corps.

How quickly things change. Rushing is now a correspondent for Al Jazeera International, the English language version of the news channel. He is based in Washington, D.C., and has a new book called "Mission Al Jazeera: Build a Bridge, Seek the Truth, Change the World"...

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:33 AM

Sunday, August 05, 2007
      ( 10:55 PM ) The Rat  

First runner-up: nationality of women with largest breasts

Winner: training rats to twirl

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:55 PM

      ( 3:59 PM ) The Rat  

Youths like these from across Central America are increasingly migrating by themselves to Mexico, hoping to connect with relatives and find jobs in the US.

"Five years ago, migrant children did not come [here] by themselves," says Fermina Rodriguez, a local human rights coordinator in Tapachula.

The trend concerns human rights advocates because they say that children are far less prepared to deal with the physical exhaustion, extortion, and violence that often greet the Central American migrants as they make their way through the back roads of Mexico to the US. And while many adult migrants quickly move north to the US border, children often linger before moving onward, creating local anger as they loiter in public spaces and, some say, contribute to crime.

"It is such an ingrained solution [for a better life]. It's almost their duty. I've been calling it a rite of passage," says Betsy Wier, the manager of program development for Central America for Catholic Relief Services who oversaw a nine-month project on youths migrating alone that will be published soon. The study showed that unaccompanied migrants are often robbed, extorted, and intimidated—both during their journey and once in custody of immigration authorities...

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:59 PM

      ( 2:37 PM ) The Rat  
BABY HIPPO! And, a baby giraffe.

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:37 PM

Saturday, August 04, 2007
      ( 10:50 PM ) The Rat  
WASHINGTON SHIRTS. "Washington kicks various people apart," and two other designs, available in a variety of styles.

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:50 PM

      ( 12:36 PM ) The Rat  
MAN SAYS HE'S THE SAILOR IN FAMOUS PHOTO. A little more on other claimants here.

If anyone just looked hard enough, [McDuffie] said, they would see that it was him in the shot.

Houston Police Department forensic artist Lois Gibson took up the challenge. And after what she called a detailed investigation, Gibson said she has concluded that McDuffie, 80, is the man in Alfred Eisenstaedt's Aug. 14, 1945 image...

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:36 PM

Friday, August 03, 2007
      ( 11:35 AM ) The Rat  
FINGER PUPPETS. Including but not limited to: Freud, Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, Schopenhauer, and Foucault.

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:35 AM

      ( 12:02 AM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:02 AM

Thursday, August 02, 2007
      ( 12:02 AM ) The Rat  
AN OLD FAVORITE. This, too, has been appropriate at various times over the years.

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:02 AM

      ( 12:01 AM ) The Rat  
PROUST'S PARIS. Suggestions for walking tours.

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:01 AM

      ( 12:00 AM ) The Rat  
"Look, it's people like you what cause unrest."
"Fish Licence"

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:00 AM

Wednesday, August 01, 2007
      ( 1:21 AM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:21 AM

      ( 1:12 AM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:12 AM

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

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