The Rat
Sunday, September 30, 2007
      ( 11:45 PM ) The Rat  
NEW FIG NEWTONS AD PREYS ON INHERENT HUMAN WEAKNESS.

Although the first 10 seconds alone employ enough psychological gambits to sway even the most emotionally secure viewer, Nabisco's latest ad leaves little to chance, tapping into bedrock human faults like susceptibility to guilt and the slavish desire for acceptance to push the sale of its fig-filled treats.

"It's a perfect, wholesome snack for any time of the day," the commercial eagerly announces, while the image of a young child—himself a physical representation of purity—tempts viewers with the prospect of recapturing their long-lost sense of innocence. "Fig Newtons are ooey-gooey great!"

"Go on, you deserve it!" the psychologically manipulative onslaught persists, at once addressing, encouraging, and currying feelings of inferiority and self-doubt that have been a mainstay of the human condition for the past 6,000 years.

"Fig Newtons—it's not a cookie, it's fruit and cake!" the advertisement finally concludes, subliminally appealing to consumers who have long yearned to break free of the confining categories into which society has placed them, and for whom even a commercially available dessert might symbolize the individuality they so intensely seek.

"This might be the most subconsciously manipulative commercial I've seen since Procter & Gamble used the fear of death to market Crest toothpaste," Luchs said. "In time, this ad could even rival M&M's 1983 campaign of jealousy, resentment, and the need for human companionship"...

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      ( 7:40 AM ) The Rat  
HEE!

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Saturday, September 29, 2007
      ( 3:19 AM ) The Rat  
...EXCELLENT... The comments thread on this is fun too.

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      ( 2:19 AM ) The Rat  
THEY WOULD HAVE STARVED TO DEATH AROUND HERE.

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      ( 12:27 AM ) The Rat  
TYLENOL TAMPERING CASE UNSOLVED AT 25.

For those who lost loved ones or investigated the case, pain, anger and frustration remain. Part of the reason is that nobody was ever charged, much less convicted of the crime.

"It's hard to bring this up," said Patricia Kellerman, whose 12-year-old granddaughter, Mary Kellerman, died in her home after taking Tylenol for a sore throat. "Nothing ever changes," she said, her voice breaking with emotion, unable to say any more.

"I will never get past this because this guy is out there, living his life, however miserable it might be," said Michelle Rosen, who was 8 when her mother, Mary Reiner, collapsed in front of her after taking Tylenol for post-labor pains.

Rosen, 33, said she can't get the sound of her mother's labored breathing out of her head. She still sees her shaking and then falling to the floor, and her father's orders to go upstairs and take the dog. And she still hears the sound of the ambulance as it approached her house, the voices of the paramedics and the sight of her mother leaving the house for the last time on a stretcher.

"I don't remember another day in that house. I truly don't remember the funeral, (but) that day is as clear as heck to me," she said...

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Friday, September 28, 2007
      ( 11:41 PM ) The Rat  
RATTY HAS NEVER WORKED IN RETAIL, but she suspects the experience is pretty well summed up in this photograph (see the comments section for translations of nos. 8-10). Again via IKM.

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      ( 12:57 AM ) The Rat  
HEE! (Read the whole thing.) Via IKM.

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Thursday, September 27, 2007
      ( 2:00 AM ) The Rat  
STARBUCKS MUSIC GIVEAWAY, via the Onion.

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Tuesday, September 25, 2007
      ( 5:43 PM ) The Rat  
ADOPTASQUID.COM.

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Monday, September 24, 2007
      ( 3:35 PM ) The Rat  
FORBES'S 2007 CLEWI ('COST OF LIVING EXTREMELY WELL') INDEX. Though God knows, egregious taste is reflected in some of those choices.

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      ( 1:21 AM ) The Rat  
SUMMARIZE PROUST. Prospective entries submitted to TempsPerdu.com for the "All-England Summarize Proust Competition" (prize goes to the contestant who can best give "a brief summary of Proust's A La Recherche du Temps Perdu, once in a swimsuit and once in evening dress").

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      ( 1:08 AM ) The Rat  
RATS: WAYS TO DISCOURAGE THEM. They forgot, 'Enroll them in a Ph.D. program.'

Always think of the implausible. Apparently, rats' mindsets work differently, enabling them to do exactly that which you would never expect them to. 'After spending about a day searching the flat for a hole, which would have served as an entrance for a rat, it was discovered that the rat had literally bitten its way through the floor, i.e., vertically through two inches of solid oak wood.' In other places rats have been reported to climb up drainpipes. There simply are very few things they definitely cannot do.

Consider whether it is worthwhile to take up the fight with a large rat community. [...]

The best way to temporarily clear a place of rats—for instance, say a shed needs to be cleared out—is by making a noise. Good results have been obtained by playing British punk rock music on a cassette player at maximum volume. Wagner might also do an equally good job...


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Saturday, September 22, 2007
      ( 6:58 PM ) The Rat  
A FUN HEADLINE.

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      ( 3:27 AM ) The Rat  
SNOOPY IN FASHION; or, two great tastes that are really quite odd together.

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      ( 3:15 AM ) The Rat  
THOUSANDS OF HYPHENS PERISH AS ENGLISH MARCHES ON. Onion-esque.

Bumble-bee is now bumblebee, ice-cream is ice cream and pot-belly is pot belly. And if you've got a problem, don't be such a crybaby (formerly cry-baby).

"People are not confident about using hyphens anymore, they're not really sure what they are for," said Angus Stevenson, editor of the Shorter OED, the sixth edition of which was published this week.

Another factor in the hyphen's demise is designers' distaste for its ungainly horizontal bulk between words...

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      ( 1:03 AM ) The Rat  
WEDDED TO GREED IN INDIA.

Yet Devi, 27, is one of the lucky ones: Her name was not added to the list of thousands of wives who are beaten to death, burned alive, electrocuted, poisoned, pushed out windows or otherwise killed horrifically every year because their husbands' families are dissatisfied with the dowries they bring to the marriage and continue to demand more.

In 2005, the most recent year for which figures are available, a woman was killed over dowry every 77 minutes in India, according to the National Crime Records Bureau. The total of such homicides was 6,787, but experts suspect that the true figure is much higher, because many dowry killings are not reported. Even when they are, most of the killers go unpunished.

The practice of dowry in India goes back thousands of years. Its original intent, scholars say, was to protect women, who by bringing property and belongings to the marriage could enjoy some creature comforts and not have to depend entirely on their husbands. But somewhere along the line, what was supposed to be security for the bride came to be seen as a boon to the groom and his family, a way for them to augment their wealth.

India's vaunted economic boom since the mid-1990s, which has seen incomes grow and living standards rise for many, has not stemmed the tide of dowry-related violence. If anything, some say, it has exacerbated it, as a new acquisitiveness permeates society, with more consumer and luxury goods showing up on store shelves and in TV commercials. From 1995 to 2005, the number of recorded dowry deaths jumped by 46%...

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Friday, September 21, 2007
      ( 1:27 AM ) The Rat  
ONE LANGUAGE DISAPPEARS EVERY 14 DAYS.

At least 20% of the world's languages are in imminent danger of becoming extinct as their last speakers die off, compared with about 18% of mammals, 8% of plants and 5% of birds.

Half of the world's languages have disappeared in the last 500 years, and half of the remainder are likely to vanish during this century, Harrison said. Many of the languages are not easily translated into English. In the endangered south Siberian language Todzhu, for example, the word "chary" means "2-year-old male castrated reindeer that can be used for riding."

Harrison and Living Tongues Director Gregory D.S. Anderson have identified five language "hot spots" where the extinction rate is particularly high, they said at a news conference sponsored by the National Geographic Society, which supports their research...

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      ( 1:22 AM ) The Rat  
BATMAN BY DOSTOEVSKY. I have no words. Link via ET, of course.

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      ( 12:05 AM ) The Rat  
'THE BEST AIRPORT LOUNGE IN THE WORLD.'

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      ( 12:04 AM ) The Rat  
S.C. MOM SCOOPS AL-QAEDA. (!)

Fluent in Arabic, the self-employed terror analyst often hacks into the sites, translates the material, puts it together and sends her analysis via a subscription service to intelligence agencies, law enforcement and academics.

Occasionally she comes across a gem, such as when she found a recent Osama bin Laden video—before al-Qaeda had announced it.

'I realized, oh my gosh, I'm sitting here, I'm a fat 50-year-old mom and I've managed to scoop al-Qaeda,' said Mansfield, who uses that name as a pseudonym because she receives death threats...

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      ( 12:03 AM ) The Rat  
GOD APPARENTLY RESPONDS TO LAWSUIT. Okay, I laughed.

God has apparently responded to a lawsuit filed by a Nebraska lawmaker, and one of the filings seems to have dropped in from the heavens. "This one miraculously appeared on the counter. It just all of a sudden was here—poof!" said John Friend, clerk of the Douglas County District Court in Omaha.

The response was one of at least two to a lawsuit filed against God last week by state Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha, the state's longest-serving lawmaker.

Signed by "God," the response filed Wednesday argues the defendant is immune from some earthly laws and the court lacks jurisdiction over God.

Blaming the Almighty for human oppression and suffering misses an important point, it says...

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      ( 12:02 AM ) The Rat  
TEACHER SUES TO CARRY HANDGUN.

A high school teacher in Oregon is suing for the right to carry a handgun to work.

The teacher, who has a permit to carry a concealed weapon, says she needs the gun to protect herself from an abusive ex-husband who has threatened her.

The Medford School District prohibits teachers from bringing weapons onto school grounds...


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Thursday, September 20, 2007
      ( 9:38 PM ) The Rat  
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, SOPHIA! William Holden is said to have remarked, apropos of meeting her in 1958: "I never saw so much woman coming at me in my entire life." Link via Ayyyy!

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      ( 1:18 PM ) The Rat  
APPARENTLY, a search for "articles on gay men having gerbils stuck in there ass" gets you to this blog (or at any rate, got someone here this morning). Not that there was ever any doubt.

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      ( 1:13 PM ) The Rat  
HARD TO BELIEVE, but the $5 bill is about to get even more fabulous.

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      ( 1:09 PM ) The Rat  
A HASTILY PENNED REVIEW OF EXIT GHOST, because I'm under far too many deadlines to write a proper one. In sum, the book was a major disappointment—I'm just glad I didn't pay anything for that $#@! waste of space (my adviser let me have his extra review copy). If you're in the market for something to read by Roth, there are at least 20 novels, of the 24 extant, that are more worth your time. I mean, sure, this one's better than I Married a Communist, The Plot Against America, or The Great American Novel, but as compliments go, that's right up there with "She has a wonderful personality!" GRR. Such a disappointment, especially after the achievement of last year's Everyman (his one really great book in the last 10 years, IMO).

I actually wasn't expecting much when I read Everyman—since The Plot Against America, a couple years before, had frankly sucked—so it was terrific to see it turn out to be a jewel of a novel: many of the best things this writer does, condensed into a small space—a kind of Rothian Ivan Ilyich. Exit Ghost is the reverse: It's the sediment of Roth*, containing most of the most annoying elements of his writing, with almost none of the compensating strengths. It has the shallow political whininess of The Plot Against America or The Human Stain, the mind-boggling self-absorption of Operation Shylock, and, in general, manages to push pretty much all of my "Why the fuck should I care about these self-absorbed, entitled, and not even very interesting people?!"** buttons simultaneously. AND, on top of all that, it also cannibalizes the author's very fine earlier novel, The Ghost Writer, in the worst way. I repeat, GRR.

*I use this metaphor deliberately—Exit Ghost borrows a lot of techniques from earlier Roth novels (the he-she dialogue of Deception, for instance; and I swear there's a point where the girl in this sounds exactly like Drenka, the hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold figure in Sabbath's Theater—but not even Drenka when she's being winning or appealing, just Drenka when she's being compliant), so it's a little like the earlier novels were run through a blender, but with only the unuseful bits, the sludge that sank to the bottom, incorporated into the final product.

**I'm probably especially hard on this book because so much of it concerns 20- and 30-something Ivy grads with a literary bent. If you do read the book, have fun with the 30-year-old, cashmere-clad WASP princess whom Zuckerman sets up as a paragon of moral courage for having dared, at 25, to marry a Jew against her wealthy old-money parents' wishes. Come on—granted I ran with the drunks in college, but still, practically everyone I knew had been through worse than that before they were 25: sexual abuse, grave illness, the early divorce or death of parents, etc., etc. But no—to hear Zuckerman tell it, this woman is exceptional, to be admired, because she "dared" to anger her father by marrying a Jew, thus risking getting cut off without a penny. Aged 25, in good health, and holding a Harvard degree—good God, anything might have happened if Mommy and Daddy had stopped giving her money! She might have starved in the streets!! As it happens, they couldn't bring themselves to cut her off, so she's living as a self-anointed "writer" with no day job, pays for her jewel of an Upper West Side apartment with her family's money, and is an exemplar of bravery and integrity because she endures (oh, the torment) the ignominy of having parents who vote Republican. (I wish I were making that up.) Give me a fucking break. The only way you could possibly consider that a hard life is if you were comparing it to Emma Woodhouse's, before the book starts.

The book is written in first person, so I can only definitely convict Zuckerman for much of the crappiness (for instance, Roth could be having him get so maudlin over the girl, just as an illustration of how far lust will take an aging man, with Zuckerman himself entirely unaware of his own absurdity); but I have to say, I think Roth can legitimately be called to account for it as well—the more so since the narrator is far from the only person fawning over this chick. (For James's comments on the lack of rigor first-person writing permits, go here.)

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Wednesday, September 19, 2007
      ( 1:07 AM ) The Rat  
'A NICE CUP OF TEA,' George Orwell's 11-point guide (with which I disagree in some places) to the perfect cup of tea.

First of all, one should use Indian or Ceylonese tea. China tea has virtues which are not to be despised nowadays—it is economical, and one can drink it without milk—but there is not much stimulation in it. One does not feel wiser, braver or more optimistic after drinking it...

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Tuesday, September 18, 2007
      ( 10:46 PM ) The Rat  
For my seventieth birthday Belinda had cooked a dinner of venison steaks and red cabbage for the three of us to eat at my place. The meat—hunted down by Rob in the woods back of my house—was wonderful, and so was the cheery generosity and warm affection of my two friends. They toasted me with champagne and gave me a maroon lamb's wool sweater they'd bought for me down in Athena; then they asked me to make a speech about what it was like to be seventy. After donning their sweater, I rose from my chair at the head of the table and said to them, 'It'll be a short speech. Think of the year 4000.' They smiled, as though I were about to crack a joke, and so I added, 'No, no. Think seriously about 4000. Imagine it. In all its dimensions, in all its aspects. The year 4000. Take your time.' After a minute of sober silence, I quietly said to them, 'That's what it's like to be seventy,' and sat back down.
Exit Ghost

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      ( 8:02 PM ) The Rat  
DUCK! HERE COMES SUPER TEACHER!

A Japanese teacher who threw a chair at his students was named "super teacher" by the local board of education despite having been reprimanded several times for using corporal punishment, a news agency said on Saturday.

The 52-year-old high-school teacher in Kyoto has been awarded the title every year since 2005 in spite of a history of aggression in the classroom because his strict teaching methods improved his students' performance.

He was punished three times between 1997 and 2001 for physically attacking students, including throwing a chair at the volleyball team he was coaching...

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      ( 12:43 PM ) The Rat  
WHICH COUNTRIES GET MOST STUDENTS INTO COLLEGE? Though really, it's not like there's anything else to do in Norway...

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      ( 2:59 AM ) The Rat  
THERE IS, I SWEAR, A PERFECTLY SIMPLE EXPLANATION for how I came across this blog dedicated entirely to jokes about Viagra.

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      ( 12:20 AM ) The Rat  
UNUSUAL CITY NAMES. Ratty has only been to a few of these. (Found this list shortly after discovering you can go skiing in Purgatory.)

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Monday, September 17, 2007
      ( 10:29 PM ) The Rat  
WE ARE NOT AMUSED.

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      ( 5:40 AM ) The Rat  
ACCENTS AND DIALECTS OF THE U.K.

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Sunday, September 16, 2007
      ( 4:10 PM ) The Rat  
STOP ME IF YOU'VE HEARD THIS ONE BEFORE. On the Joyce Hatto scandal—fascinating stuff.

But in February this year, when Distler loaded Hatto's CD of Liszt's "Transcendental Studies" into his computer, he noticed something peculiar. The iTunes database recognised the disc as a recording by the Hungarian pianist, Laszlo Simon. Gramophone asked Andrew Rose, an audio expert, to investigate and by comparing the waveforms of the two recordings he could see instantly that ten out of 12 tracks were identical to Simon's performances. Rose then discovered that Hatto's version of the fifth Liszt study, "Feux Follets," was indistinguishable from a recording by a Japanese pianist called Minoru Nojima. What is more, the performance had been speeded up, but digitally manipulated to remain at the same pitch. "That rang alarm bells," Rose told me. "When you speed up recordings, you change the pitch—unless you have set out deliberately to mislead."

With this evidence, Gramophone broke the story in mid-February and within a week the sources for some 20 of Hatto's CDs had been found. Her much-admired Mozart sonatas turned out to be those of the Austrian pianist Ingrid Haebler; her Chopin/Godowsky Etudes were versions by Marc-André Hamelin and Carlo Grante; her Brahms Piano Concerto No 2, which had been issued under the baton of René Köhler with the National Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra was actually Vladimir Ashkenazy and Bernhard Haitink with the Vienna Philharmonic. So far, recordings by 66 pianists have been identified and the number keeps rising by the week. It was the biggest fraud in the history of recorded music.

As I discovered more about the fraud my questions proliferated. What was Hatto really like as a performer? Were the 66 plundered pianists in fact a collection of under-recognised talents—"the greatest pianists nobody had ever heard of?" Above all, what did the whole critical fiasco mean for the art of performance? The list of those who had been duped was formidable and included Bryce Morrison, Gramophone's senior piano critic and Tom Deacon, the executive producer of Philips' "Great Pianists of the 20th Century." Ivan Davis, a student of Vladimir Horowitz, had declared: "I know of no pianist in the world who is her superior musically or technically." How had they all been taken in?

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      ( 1:22 AM ) The Rat  
THE HUNT IS ON.

Mary Brinkman of Cody has been borrowing her husband's gun and heading to the shooting range for some practice.

She doesn't consider herself a hunter, but that will change as she, along with husband Don, come here to hunt bison on the National Elk Refuge.

It's the first time such a hunt has been allowed in 17 years...

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      ( 12:36 AM ) The Rat  
'This was a Love-Match, as they call it, on both Sides; that is, a Match between two Beggars.'
The History of Tom Jones

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      ( 12:35 AM ) The Rat  
SALMON SPAWN BABY TROUT IN EXPERIMENT.

Papa salmon plus mama salmon equals... baby trout? Japanese researchers put a new spin on surrogate parenting as they engineered one fish species to produce another, in a quest to preserve endangered fish.

Idaho scientists begin the next big step next month, trying to produce a type of salmon highly endangered in that state—the sockeye—this time using more plentiful trout as surrogate parents...

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Saturday, September 15, 2007
      ( 11:33 AM ) The Rat  
FIGHT AGAINST DIRT FUELS ALLERGY INCREASE. I've never understood why people (including some doctors I know, wtf?!) didn't already know this.

While avoiding excessive contact with germs can help prevent the spread of infections, going overboard with cleanliness could be at least partly responsible for an increase in allergies among children, mounting research suggests.

"We've developed a cleanlier lifestyle, and our bodies no longer need to fight germs as much as they did in the past," said Marc McMorris, a pediatric allergist at the University of Michigan Health System. "As a result, the immune system has shifted away from fighting infection to developing more allergic tendencies."

Allergies are a reaction by the body's immune system to foreign, yet generally innocuous, substances, including pollen, mold, animal dander, dust and certain foods that it deems harmful. If your immune system has never or rarely detected even the natural background level of such substances, it can go haywire when contact does occur.

"Allergies are on the rise because our society has changed the way we live," McMorris said, adding that "as a result, people with allergies are having children with others who have allergies, which in turn creates a natural increase in the prevalence of allergies in our society"...


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Friday, September 14, 2007
      ( 2:15 PM ) The Rat  
TIP CREEP, via WaiterRant.

Waiter: I have a tipping question for you. How do you feel about places like Starbucks and chain style sandwich shops putting out tip jars? I remember a time a few years ago when those type of places didn't have them. I also assume that the folks working there are pulling down some kind of hourly wage that's not tip dependent...

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Thursday, September 13, 2007
      ( 10:22 PM ) The Rat  
WWZD?

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      ( 11:44 AM ) The Rat  
VIRTUALSHOEMUSEUM.COM Don't miss the "extreme" section (under "shoe type").

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      ( 11:41 AM ) The Rat  
WELCOME to the reader who came here looking for "hot english majors talkline"!

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      ( 11:35 AM ) The Rat  
KILO PROTOTYPE MYSTERIOUSLY LOSES WEIGHT. Heh!

The 118-year-old cylinder that is the international prototype for the metric mass, kept tightly under lock and key outside Paris, is mysteriously losing weight—if ever so slightly. Physicist Richard Davis of the International Bureau of Weights and Measures in Sevres, southwest of Paris, says the reference kilo appears to have lost 50 micrograms compared with the average of dozens of copies.

"The mystery is that they were all made of the same material, and many were made at the same time and kept under the same conditions, and yet the masses among them are slowly drifting apart," he said. "We don't really have a good hypothesis for it."

The kilogram's uncertainty could affect even countries that don't use the metric system—it is the ultimate weight standard for the U.S. customary system, where it equals 2.2 pounds...

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Wednesday, September 12, 2007
      ( 2:20 PM ) The Rat  
IN TUNE WITH TAIWAN. I think I've already posted about the Ozzy Osbourne-Taiwanese independence thing...

Chris Chou, a 53-year-old Taiwanese American real estate agent, eagerly awaited the start of the show. He was drawn less by the music than the message, which helped him lure friends to this and other shows by the band.

Beside him, dozens of middle-aged and elderly fans in dresses and shirts with stiff button-down collars applauded as the band appeared. "I saw people in their 70s and 80s at the Santa Ana concert," Chou said. "They stayed all night. It was such an exciting experience for them."

The band is Chthonic (pronounced Thon-nick, a Greek word for spirits of the underworld). It plays a fast, driving metal sound, enough to pop hearing aids out of ear canals. But it also has a unique theme song that calls for the United Nations to recognize Taiwan as an independent nation...


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Tuesday, September 11, 2007
      ( 9:37 AM ) The Rat  
RADIO FREQUENCIES HELP BURN SALT WATER.

An Erie cancer researcher has found a way to burn salt water, a novel invention that is being touted by one chemist as the "most remarkable" water science discovery in a century...

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:37 AM


      ( 9:19 AM ) The Rat  
JUST STUMBLED, a couple nights ago, on my copy of Brothel in Pimlico, a collection of Roy Brooks's real-estate listings from the '50s and '60s—tons of fun. (It's harder to find in this country, unfortunately—I seem to recall having discovered it while in London with Eve.) A few samples:

WE HAVE A RATHER REPULSIVE OLD MAN who, with his child wife, are looking for an elegant Town Res. Pref. BELGRAVIA, CHELSEA or S. KEN. Price not important but must be realistic as he has, at least, his head screwed on the right way. Usual scale commission required. ROY BROOKS.

DARKEST PIMLICO. Seedy FAMILY HOUSE two rooms in basement, ground, 1st & 2nd floors and attic rm. on 3rd. Decor! peeling, faded and fly blown. Garden—good for Westminster—all of 20ft. Lease 80 yrs. G.R. £60 p.a. £6,950. If you are too late to secure this gem we have a spare along the road rather more derelict. A lightly built member of our staff negotiated the basement stair but our Mr. Halstead went crashing through.

OPULENT 18TH CENTURY SETTING, FASHIONABLE ISLINGTON. NEWLY BUILT SUNNY 2nd. floor LUX. FLAT looking out over the lovely ancient trees and remnants of the aboriginal inhabitants quietly fishing in the canal which peacefully meanders through tended gardens of the well-preserved well-heeled intellectuals' neighbouring properties. BALCONY. 25ft. drawing rm, 2 bedrms., 2 mod. bathrms. Well fit. kit. Lse. 90 yrs. G.R. £45, £8,500 even try offer.


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Monday, September 10, 2007
      ( 12:21 AM ) The Rat  
OSAMA BIN METROSEXUAL. I'm glad somebody said it...

While you're there, don't miss Slate's photo essay on the stash of Taliban glamour shots discovered by Thomas Dworzak in 2002.

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:21 AM


      ( 12:18 AM ) The Rat  
'How much do you think I'm worth now?'

'A hundred grand?'

He smiled. 'Let yourself go a little,' he said. 'If I'm not a millionaire soon there's a hitch in my arithmetic.'

It impressed me; who wouldn't be impressed? He couldn't help seeing this. Nevertheless, with his autocratic blue eyes darkening, he looked at me and asked, 'Augie, you don't think you're superior to me because you have no money, do you?'

The question made me laugh, and maybe I laughed more than I should have. I said, 'That's a strange thing to be asking. How can I? And if I can, why should you care?' Then I said, 'I guess it's true that people fix it to come out better than those near to them. Why, sure I'd like to have money too.'

I didn't say that I had to have a fate good enough, and that this came first.

The Adventures of Augie March

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:18 AM



Sunday, September 09, 2007
      ( 2:37 PM ) The Rat  
THE FATHER OF THE ELECTRONIC SWITCHBOARD has joined the inventor of the cubicle in wishing he could take it back.

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:37 PM


      ( 12:02 AM ) The Rat  
THE GIRDLED STEWARDESS: SEXUAL ICON OF THE JET AGE.

It may be hard to picture in this age of deregulated air transport, discount fares, and flight attendants of both sexes, but not too long ago, air travel was new and exciting, and the airline stewardess (sometimes "hostess," never "flight attendant") was a figure of glamour and romance. Little girls could not aspire to be pilots, of course, but what did that matter? If they were lucky... and pretty enough... they could become stewardesses, travel the world, have adventures, and meet rich men. What more could a woman ask from a career?

Given the social climate of the 1950s and '60s, it is not surprising that this glamour image was strongly sexualized. The airlines recognized the fact and employed it in their advertising. Employed and exploited: who that saw it can forget the blatant sexual invitation of Braniff's "I'm Cheryl—Fly Me" campaign? Lest we come down too heavily on the airlines, it's important to note that the sexualization of the flight attendant's image permeated the popular culture, from books and movies to jokes and cartoons. Stewardesses, we all knew, were young, beautiful, and voluptuous.

The association between the glamorous image of the stewardess and the girdle her employers required her to wear was strong. Nearly all published descriptions of a stewardess's job managed to find a way to include mention of the mandatory girdle policy, as far back as an article I found in a girl's magazine from the early 1950's. Certainly by the mid-60's, popular books such as Coffee, Tea, Or Me, and The Fly Girls made repeated reference to the heroine's girdles, usually in the sense of a good-natured complaint, but sometimes mentioning the protective value of heavyweight undies when dealing with drunken male passengers with "Russian hands and Roman fingers"...

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:02 AM


      ( 12:00 AM ) The Rat  
There was a pause, whilst each sister vaguely considered her fate.

'It does frighten one,' said Ursula, and again there was a pause. 'But do you hope to get anywhere by just marrying?'

'It seems to be the inevitable next step,' said Gudrun. Ursula pondered this, with a little bitterness. She was a class mistress herself, in Willey Green Grammar School, as she had been for some years.

'I know,' she said, 'it seems like that when one thinks in the abstract. But really imagine it: imagine any man one knows, imagine him coming home to one every evening, and saying "Hello," and giving one a kiss—'

There was a blank pause.

'Yes,' said Gudrun, in a narrowed voice. 'It's just impossible. The man makes it impossible.'

Women in Love

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:00 AM



Saturday, September 08, 2007
      ( 2:49 PM ) The Rat  
THIS, as Ratty pointed out to a handful of friends she e-mailed it to, "pushes the edges of the envelope, bursting through to find itself inside an entirely different, larger envelope, the edges of which it then proceeds to push, etc." (I found the Godawful Wedding Crap blog—which has many other astonishing things, such as for example this—via a series of links beginning, of course, at Manolo's Shoe Blog.)

Wedding Pills, designed by Ted Noten, are golden alternative wedding rings with a traditional inscription with the name of the loved one and the marriage date. They can be taken with a glass of vodka or other beverage. Because of the intimate process these pills undergo a fundamental question is laid bare: are we going to search for it or not, it may provoke the first marriage crisis. And with whom it agrees, the ritual can be repeated after each crisis—a nice reconciliation ritual.

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:49 PM


      ( 5:15 AM ) The Rat  
SEX OFFENDER IS FREE—AND REDUCED TO A RIVERBED.

Habitual sex offender Ross Wollschlager has bounced from one Ventura County hotel to another in the weeks since his release from a state mental hospital, getting ejected each time the owner learned of his identity.

Publicity about his release has made it impossible for the 44-year-old convicted rapist to find a rural landlord willing to give him a place to live. After seven evictions, Liberty Healthcare Corp., a San Diego company hired by the state to help Wollschlager get resettled, gave him a tent and he began living in the Ventura River bottom. He is overseen by a taxpayer-funded security guard who stays in a vehicle nearby.

Wollschlager's predicament has reignited debate on whether strict new laws governing sex offenders are making it harder to monitor them.

Jessica's Law, passed overwhelmingly by voters last fall, bars Wollschlager from living within 2,000 feet—about half a mile—of any school, park or beach. He wears two monitoring devices on his ankle and shuttles between his campsite and a friend's home in Oxnard each day...

# Posted by The Rat @ 5:15 AM


      ( 5:09 AM ) The Rat  
DESIGN SCHOOLED.

The days of begging parents for a Benetton rugby or Coach saddle bag are long gone. They don't just covet luxury goods, they buy them. A lot of them, in fact. Designer labels make up about 15.3% of purchases by 13- to 17-year-olds, according to a recent study by New York-based marketing research firm NPD Group. Five years ago, that figure hovered at 9.6%. And increasingly, luxury brands are catering to younger customers.

There may be no generation as thoroughly saturated in brand advertising as this one. Beyond the glossy ads in magazines and on television, Marc Jacobs runs Internet campaigns, celebrities are paid to brandish luxury goods (and what they wear is dutifully chronicled in gossip columns and websites) and luxury campaigns feature preteen spokesgirls. Not to mention that label names are actual plot points in TV shows, music and movies.

No wonder teens talk waaaaay more about labels than their parents. A recent survey of more than 2,000 13- to 17-year-olds by marketing consultants Keller Fay Group found that kids have 145 conversations about brands per week. Adults invoke brand names about half as often.

Blame Hollywood too. Two years ago, on the now canceled "Gilmore Girls," Rory received a Birkin from her boyfriend. She promptly responded by saying, "I love you," and he replied, "The lady who sold this purse to me said that was going to happen." Now, that's a romantic spin on young love...

# Posted by The Rat @ 5:09 AM


      ( 12:54 AM ) The Rat  
OF GEESE AND MEN.

Meeting Bex07 drew a crowd of 40,000 people over the weekend to watch the aerial acrobatics of supersonic military jets and planes not so modern. Swiss air force fighter planes and the Red Arrows of Britain’s Royal Air Force were among the feature attractions of the annual air show in eastern Vaud. More historic “war birds” from the Second World War, including Spitfires and biplanes, looped and swooped.

But perhaps the most intriguing moment of Saturday’s show was the flight of a craft traveling at considerably slower speeds. Frenchman Christian Moullec, seated in an ultra-light plane, flew overhead in formation with seven barnacle geese and three cranes. Moullec has become world famous for flying with geese and taking spectacular close-up photographs of the birds in flight...

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:54 AM


      ( 12:31 AM ) The Rat  
GLACIER SURFING.

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:31 AM



Thursday, September 06, 2007
      ( 1:55 PM ) The Rat  
She had left behind her the time when she had no desires to meet, none at least save Moddle's, who, in Kensington Gardens, was always on the bench when she came back to see if she had been playing too far. Moddle's desire was merely that she shouldn't do that, and she met it so easily that the only spots in that long brightness were the
moments of her wondering what would become of her if, on her rushing back, there should be no Moddle on the bench. They still went to the Gardens, but there was a difference even there; she was impelled perpetually to look at the legs of other children and ask her nurse if they were toothpicks. Moddle was terribly truthful; she always said: 'Oh my dear, you'll not find such another pair as your own.' It seemed to have to do with something else that Moddle often said: 'You feel the strain—that's where it is; and you'll feel it still worse, you know.'

Thus from the first Maisie not only felt it, but knew she felt it. A part of it was the consequence of her father's telling her he felt it too, and telling Moddle, in her presence, that she must make a point of driving that home. She was familiar, at the age of six, with the fact that everything had been changed on her account, everything ordered to enable him to give himself up to her. She was to remember always the words in which Moddle impressed upon her that he did so give himself: 'Your papa wishes you never to forget, you know, that he has been dreadfully put about.' If the skin on Moddle's face had to Maisie the air of being unduly, almost painfully, stretched, it never presented that appearance so much as when she uttered, as she often had occasion to utter, such words. The child wondered if they didn't make it hurt more than usual; but it was only after some time that she was able to attach to the picture of her father's sufferings, and more particularly to her nurse's manner about them, the meaning for which these things had waited. By the time he had grown sharper, as the gentlemen who had criticised her calves used to say, she found in her mind a collection of images and echoes to which meanings were attachable—images and echoes kept for her in the childish dusk, the dim closet, the high drawers, like games she wasn't yet big enough to play. The great strain meanwhile was that of carrying by the right end the things her father said about
her mother—things mostly indeed that Moddle, on a glimpse of them, as if they had been complicated toys or difficult books, took out of her hands and put away in the closet. A wonderful assortment of objects of this kind she was to discover there later, all tumbled up too with the things, shuffled into the same receptacle, that her mother had said about her father.

What Maisie Knew

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:55 PM


      ( 7:43 AM ) The Rat  
THE WORLD OF PLAYING CARDS. An impressively and/or disturbingly extensive site (see esp. the drop-down menus).

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:43 AM


      ( 4:42 AM ) The Rat  
ONE-STOP SHOPPING. From Said's Joseph Conrad and the Fiction of Autobiography (1966).

Although a great deal has been written on Conrad's highly developed sense of personal guilt, not enough has been said of his extraordinarily powerful sense of shame...

# Posted by The Rat @ 4:42 AM


      ( 1:44 AM ) The Rat  
THAT'S NOT A BIRDIE, THAT'S AN EMU. I wish this story had a photo.

Every golfer likes a birdie, even more so an eagle. But an emu? The big bird that showed up Tuesday at Oaksridge Golf Course was another matter, at least for Sue McMeekin of Satsop and Les Bell of Montesano.

The flightless bird, second in size among avians to the ostrich, followed the pair for seven of their nine holes, watching each swing and sometimes walking between them or standing directly in front of them. The emu seemed to take special interest in McMeekin's red fleece jacket.

"It was strange," McMeekin said. "She's awful big and she made me nervous."

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:44 AM


      ( 1:28 AM ) The Rat  
Neil was waiting for my answer. 'So what do you say?'

'God, Neil. I just don't know.'

'It would help me a lot if you came.'

'Why?'

'Aside from the pleasure of your company?'

'Yeah. Aside from that.'

'Well... Linda's gonna be there.'

'Oh.'

'I don't wanna get stuck with her all day. On an island.'

'What a thing to say about somebody you married.'

'Yeah... well... what can I tell you?'

Maybe the Moon

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:28 AM



Wednesday, September 05, 2007
      ( 2:41 AM ) The Rat  
No decent feeling was ever scorned by Heyst.
Victory

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:41 AM



Tuesday, September 04, 2007
      ( 5:53 PM ) The Rat  
ROOM SCANNED FOR SOMETHING TO SELL ON EBAY. This is from a few years ago, but the psychology is spot-on.

# Posted by The Rat @ 5:53 PM


      ( 1:06 PM ) The Rat  
GREAT GLOBAL SHIFT TO SERVICE JOBS.

For the first time in human history, more people are laboring in service trades than in food production, according to data gathered by the International Labor Organization (ILO), an agency affiliated with the United Nations.

As recently as 1996, agriculture accounted for 42 percent of world employment, with another 21 percent of workers in goods-producing industries and 37 percent in services. By last year, the ILO says in a report released over the weekend, 42 percent were in services, 37 percent in agriculture, and 22 percent in industry.

It's too soon to talk about a white-collar world. Many of these newly urbanized workers aren't employed so much as they are scraping for survival on city streets...

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:06 PM


      ( 12:01 AM ) The Rat  
The first problem I had to face was how to earn a living. Before me was a choice that in those days, when jobs and literary markets both were plentiful, had to be made by every apprentice writer without an independent income—the choice between freelance authorship and working in an office. In the first case, I should be living by my own profession, yet everything I wrote would inevitably be molded by the need for carrying it to market. In the second case, four-fifths of my time would be wasted, yet the remaining fifth could be devoted to writing for its own sake, to the disinterested practice of the art of letters. That was my justification for taking a job—that and the fact that a job was offered me. Not until two years later did I realize that when one's writing ceases to have a functional relationship to one's life, it loses a part of its substance. At best it has an unreality that can usually be recognized, an after-hours atmosphere of rhetoric, fantasy and melodrama to be explained by the situation that produced it: the writer is seeking compensation for the qualities missing in his business career. More often there are no idle evenings; writing disappears from his life, giving way to the unhealthy feeling that he is better than his vocation, by which he is frustrated, from which he must violently escape to write a novel, a drama, an epic. But the fear persists that his great work will be a failure: isn't it better to be paid each Saturday and talk drunkenly each Saturday night about the unwritten novel?...

I escaped that mood by falling into a different error, almost as fatal: I assumed too many obligations. My job, for the first month at least, meant working nine or ten hours a day under pressure; but that was only the beginning of my duties. In addition to being a proofreader, copywriter and general utility man for Sweet's Architectural Catalogue, I also became an associate editor of Broom, a position without pay or honor that involved reading manuscripts and proofs, writing letters—and articles, too, when I had an hour to spare—pacifying subscribers, insulting contributors and raising money. With my wife I tried to redecorate our flat in Dominick Street, the most battered and primitive lodging to be found in New York. I attended literary teas that lasted all night. I composed an open letter to the Postmaster General and another to the editor of the Dial, both very insolent in tone. I intrigued for a higher salary. I wrote book reviews for Dr. Canby's Literary Review and poems for nobody in particular.

Exile's Return

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:01 AM


      ( 12:00 AM ) The Rat  
SPY HAS COOLEST WAY OF HIDING ALCOHOLISM FROM WIFE, via Onion Radio.

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:00 AM



Monday, September 03, 2007
      ( 1:27 AM ) The Rat  
UPCDATA.INFO. And there I was, foolishly thinking the Internet couldn't get any more random... (I ran two codes through this engine: one from an American product that was discontinued over two years ago, one from something I bought last summer in Hong Kong, and the packaging of which is almost entirely in Chinese. Both codes worked.)

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:27 AM


      ( 1:04 AM ) The Rat  
'I glad you say that,' Alec said. 'Was what I had been trying to tell him. The modern thing is to have lots of words. All the shops in Port of Spain have signs with nothing but words. Tell him.'

'What sort of words?' the proprietor asked.

'Sweet drinks, cakes and ice,' Mr Biswas said.

The proprietor shook his head.

'Beware of the dog,' Alec said.

'I ain't got a dog.'

'Fresh fruits daily,' Alec went on. 'Stick no bills by order.'

The proprietor shook his head.

'Trespassers will be prosecuted. Overseas visitors welcomed. If you don't see what you require please ask. Our assistants will be pleased to help you with your inquiries.'

The proprietor was thinking.

'No hands wanted,' Alec said. 'Come in and look around.'

The proprietor became alert. 'Is exactly what I have to fight in this place.'

'Idlers keep out,' Mr Biswas said.

'By order,' the proprietor said.

'Idlers keep out by order. A good sign,' Alec said. 'This boy will do it for you in two twos.'

So Mr Biswas became a sign-writer and wondered why he had never thought of using this gift before. With Alec's help he worked on the café sign and to his delight and amazement it came out well enough to satisfy the proprietor. He had been used to designing letters with pen and pencil and was afraid that he would not be able to control a brush with paint. But he found that the brush, though flattening out disconcertingly at first, could be made to respond to the gentlest pressure; strokes were cleaner, curves truer. 'Just turn the brush slowly in your fingers when you come to the curve,' Alec said; and curves held fewer problems after that. After IDLERS KEEP OUT BY ORDER he did more signs with Alec; his hand became surer, his strokes bolder, his feeling for letters finer. He thought R and S the most beautiful of Roman letters; no letter could express so many moods as R, without losing its beauty; and what could compare with the swing and rhythm of S?

A House for Mr Biswas

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:04 AM


      ( 12:01 AM ) The Rat  
DOMINO RALLY; OR, YOU WOULD SOOO GET SUED FOR MAKING THIS GAME TODAY. I'm again giving away just how old and decrepit I am, by revealing that I just found (after many occasions, over the years, of wondering if I'd ever see it again) the name of a beloved game from childhood, which I inevitably played when at the house of our friends the L.'s—we didn't have it at our house. Looks like there's several sets available on eBay, so if I ever again have a living space of over 400 sq. ft., maybe I'll get one. (Okay, that's an exaggeration—actually this place is a decent size. But it looks like a tornado whipped through a used-book shop, picked up most of its contents, and dumped them across the floor [there are well over 1,000 books in here at the moment] [I've lately been fantasizing about finding out, post-orals, what it would feel like to have no books checked out from any libraries at all]; so for now, at least, elaborate games with tiny, easily-lost components are verboten.)

There's an "orphaned" article on Domino Rally at Wikipedia, but the more useful site I found was at this page by Mazeguy (scroll to "The Main Course"). The two YouTube videos, here and here, are both fun (neither really requires sound). (Unsurprisingly, there are quite a few Domino Rally clips on YouTube.)

I doubt it would be possible to market a game like Domino Rally today—some kid in Topeka would choke on a tile, there would be a huge lawsuit, and it'd be pulled from all the shelves. (Cf. "Fun Toy Banned Because of Three Stupid Dead Kids.") It was completely awesome, though—and certainly kept DL and me quiet for very long stretches. (As you can see, I had the OCD tendencies even then...) That game probably also introduced me to what, in adult parlance, is termed "tristesse"—the tile-patterns took several times longer to set up than they did to knock down, so the knocking-down part always came with some feeling of anticlimax. It was still completely worth it, though.

Domino Rally is a kind of elementary version of the type of Rube Goldberg device that was brought to an apotheosis in Peter Fischli and David Weiss's hypnotic 30-minute film, The Way Things Go, which you should rent or buy immediately if you haven't already.

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:01 AM



Sunday, September 02, 2007
      ( 10:51 PM ) The Rat  
Pound was then living in the pavillon, or summer house, that stood in the courtyard of 70bis, rue Notre-Dame-des-Champs, near the Luxembourg Gardens. A big young man with intent eyes and a toothbrush mustache was there when I arrived, and Pound introduced him as Ernest Hemingway; I said that I had heard about him. Hemingway gave a slow Midwestern grin. He was then working for the International News Service, but there were rumors that he had stories in manuscript and that Pound had spoken of them as being something new in American literature. He didn't talk about the stories that afternoon; he listened as if with his eyes while Pound discussed the literary world. Very soon he rose, made a date with Pound for tennis the following day and went out the door, walking on the balls of his feet like a boxer. Pound continued his monologue.

'I've found the lowdown on the Elizabethan drama,' he said as he vanished beard-first into the rear of the pavilion; he was always finding the lowdown, the inside story and the simple reason why. A moment later he returned with a worm-eaten leather-bound folio. 'It's all in here,' he said, tapping the volume. 'The whole business is cribbed from these Italian state papers.'

The remark seemed so disproportionate that I let it go unchallenged, out of politeness. 'What about your own work?' I asked.

Exile's Return

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:51 PM


      ( 10:21 PM ) The Rat  
LIFE IS CRAP, a surprisingly extensive answer to those Life Is Good products.

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:21 PM


      ( 10:09 PM ) The Rat  
SONG ABOUT HEROIN USED TO ADVERTISE BANK, via Onion Radio.

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:09 PM


      ( 6:45 PM ) The Rat  
GERE TOUTS NEW MOVIE, URGES OLYMPIC BOYCOTT.

Gere, chairman of the International Campaign for Tibet, told Reuters the 2008 Beijing Olympics were a good opportunity to encourage China to end human rights abuses in Tibet and allow the Himalayan region to decide its future.

Last month thousands of Tibetans marched in New Delhi and New York calling for a boycott of the Beijing games.

"A general boycott to me certainly has value; it's probably impractical, but emotionally absolutely makes sense," Gere, 58, said...


On a related note, don't miss this map of the Internet's "black holes."

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:45 PM


      ( 5:57 PM ) The Rat  
HEE!

It was embarrassing enough that Mark Stahnke woke up in a neighbor's yard without his pants. Then he remembered they contained a cashier's check for $41,093, meant for his son, and several hundred dollars in cash. But he got it all back Friday, including the pants, thanks to a man and his dog. [...]

Stahnke said he had met his son at a bar and doesn't remember much afterward.

"I woke up cold not knowing where the heck I was, and I didn't realize it at first because I still had my shoes and socks on," he said. "When I got up, I realized, my God, I don't have any pants."

# Posted by The Rat @ 5:57 PM



Saturday, September 01, 2007
      ( 11:49 AM ) The Rat  
AT LAST! AT LAST!

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:49 AM




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


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