Thursday, January 31, 2008
( 1:18 AM ) The Rat
FULL TEXT (just a few minutes' read) of "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty," which is way more fun—and more painful, eep—than I remembered. A handful of critics have indicated the ways Thurber was parodying and/or haunted by Lord Jim.
# Posted by The Rat @ 1:18 AM
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
( 2:50 PM ) The Rat
DIP ONCE OR DIP TWICE? A three-second dip would get you some funny looks in most company, I would think, but this is still entertaining. Link via Consumerist.
Professor Dawson told me that he had expected to find little or no microbial transfer from mouth to chip to dip. The results surprised him.
The team of nine students instructed volunteers to take a bite of a wheat cracker and dip the cracker for three seconds into about a tablespoon of a test dip. They then repeated the process with new crackers, for a total of either three or six double dips per dip sample. The team then analyzed the remaining dip and counted the number of aerobic bacteria in it. They didn't determine whether any of the bacteria were harmful, and didn't count anaerobic bacteria, which are harder to culture, or viruses.
There were six test dips: sterile water with three different degrees of acidity, a commercial salsa, a cheese dip and chocolate syrup.
On average, the students found that three to six double dips transferred about 10,000 bacteria from the eater's mouth to the remaining dip.
Each cracker picked up between one and two grams of dip. That means that sporadic double dipping in a cup of dip would transfer at least 50 to 100 bacteria from one mouth to another with every bite...
# Posted by The Rat @ 2:50 PM
( 12:28 AM ) The Rat
THE RAT GENOME, and lots of other articles about rat research (from 2001-04). Includes an interactive "Rat Roll of Honour" timeline!
# Posted by The Rat @ 12:28 AM
Monday, January 28, 2008
( 9:56 PM ) The Rat
STICKK.COM. (More about how it works here.)
# Posted by The Rat @ 9:56 PM
Sunday, January 27, 2008
( 5:30 PM ) The Rat
ZOMG, coolest thing ever. (Full eBay listing here.) It was precisely his iridescent style that first got me obsessed with this writer. One of these days, I'll dig up the sentence I found, during my first reading of Lord Jim, that would shift in meaning each time you looked at it—even when you looked at it over and over in a single sitting.
# Posted by The Rat @ 5:30 PM
( 2:51 PM ) The Rat
LEAD LINKED TO AGING IN OLDER BRAINS.
The new work suggests long-ago lead exposure can make an aging person's brain work as if it's five years older than it really is. If that's verified by more research, it means that sharp cuts in environmental lead levels more than 20 years ago didn't stop its widespread effects.
"We're trying to offer a caution that a portion of what has been called normal aging might in fact be due to ubiquitous environmental exposures like lead," says Dr. Brian Schwartz of Johns Hopkins University.
"The fact that it's happening with lead is the first proof of principle that it's possible," said Schwartz, a leader in the study of lead's delayed effects. Other pollutants like mercury and pesticides may do the same thing, he said.
In fact, some recent research does suggest that being exposed to pesticides raises the risk of getting Parkinson's disease a decade or more later...
# Posted by The Rat @ 2:51 PM
Thursday, January 24, 2008
( 12:07 PM ) The Rat
THE FOURTH PLINTH.
# Posted by The Rat @ 12:07 PM
( 10:16 AM ) The Rat
SLATE on Amazon's "top reviewers."
Full disclosure: It was late at night, in a fit of furtive self-Googling, that I discovered the first Amazon customer review of my debut book of fiction. "Superb," wrote Grady Harp of Los Angeles. "Fascinating ... addictive." Not to mention "profound." Such extravagance should have aroused suspicion, but I was too busy basking in the glow of a five-star rave to worry about the finer points of Harp's style. Sure, he'd spelled my name wrong, but hadn't he also judged me "a sensitive observer of human foibles"? Only when I noticed the "Top 10 Reviewer" tag did I wonder whether Grady Harp was more than just a satisfied customer. After a brief e-mail exchange, my publicist confirmed that she'd solicited Grady Harp's review...
# Posted by The Rat @ 10:16 AM
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
( 5:15 PM ) The Rat
WHILE YOU'RE THERE, check out The $1.4 Trillion Question, from the current issue.
The Blackstone case is titillating in its personal detail, but it is also an unusually clear and personalized symptom of a deeper, less publicized, and potentially much more destructive tension in U.S.–China relations. It's not just Stephen Schwarzman's company that the laobaixing, the ordinary Chinese masses, have been subsidizing. It’s everyone in the United States.
Through the quarter-century in which China has been opening to world trade, Chinese leaders have deliberately held down living standards for their own people and propped them up in the United States. This is the real meaning of the vast trade surplus—$1.4 trillion and counting, going up by about $1 billion per day—that the Chinese government has mostly parked in U.S. Treasury notes. In effect, every person in the (rich) United States has over the past 10 years or so borrowed about $4,000 from someone in the (poor) People's Republic of China. Like so many imbalances in economics, this one can't go on indefinitely, and therefore won't. But the way it ends—suddenly versus gradually, for predictable reasons versus during a panic—will make an enormous difference to the U.S. and Chinese economies over the next few years, to say nothing of bystanders in Europe and elsewhere...
# Posted by The Rat @ 5:15 PM
( 5:12 PM ) The Rat
THEATLANTIC.COM NOW FREE.
Beginning today, TheAtlantic.com is dropping its subscriber registration requirement and making the site free to all visitors.
Now, in addition to such offerings as blogs, author dispatches, slideshows, interviews, and videos, readers can also browse issues going back to 1995, along with hundreds of articles dating as far back as 1857, the year The Atlantic was founded...
# Posted by The Rat @ 5:12 PM
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
( 1:08 PM ) The Rat
WHOLE FOODS is nixing plastic bags, woot! You can bring your own, or they'll bag your things with paper. Or you can buy one of their 99-cent reusable totes, which—since the 5-cent-a-bag discount will still apply—will pay for itself in 20 uses, and last a good deal longer than that.
Paper bags have their own issues (so just bring your own, dammit!), but on the whole Ratty is for the new policy ...not that she can actually afford to shop at Whole Foods.
# Posted by The Rat @ 1:08 PM
( 10:45 AM ) The Rat
"SOMEONE PUT LSD IN MY SALAD," and other excuses for missing work. Via IKM.
# Posted by The Rat @ 10:45 AM
Monday, January 21, 2008
( 9:15 PM ) The Rat
ANOTHER EXAMPLE of why I love reading reader comments.
# Posted by The Rat @ 9:15 PM
( 7:33 PM ) The Rat
# Posted by The Rat @ 7:33 PM
( 5:14 PM ) The Rat
MAKE THE MOST OF 'BLUE MONDAY.'
# Posted by The Rat @ 5:14 PM
Saturday, January 19, 2008
( 12:32 AM ) The Rat
THEY DON'T CALL ME THE RAT FOR NUTHIN'. Two links: Throwplace.com ("Give away goods to others. Everything listed on Throwplace is FREE" + charitable donations—I've never used this, but it could probably kill some time on a slow news day), and "50 Ways to Leave Your Cell Phone".
# Posted by The Rat @ 12:32 AM
Thursday, January 17, 2008
( 11:53 PM ) The Rat
TO THE READER who got here looking for "notable rat achievements": Shut up.
# Posted by The Rat @ 11:53 PM
( 1:18 PM ) The Rat
He left her to walk down the hill, and directly he found himself alone he became sober. That irreparable change a death makes in the course of our daily thoughts can be felt in a vague and poignant discomfort of mind. It hurt Charles Gould to feel that never more, by no effort of will, would he be able to think of his father in the same way he used to think of him when the poor man was alive. His breathing image was no longer in his power. This consideration, closely affecting his own identity, filled his breast with a mournful and angry desire for action. In this his instinct was unerring. Action is consolatory. It is the enemy of thought and the friend of flattering illusions. Only in the conduct of our action can we find the sense of mastery over the Fates. For his action, the mine was obviously the only field. It was imperative sometimes to know how to disobey the solemn wishes of the dead. He resolved firmly to make his disobedience as thorough (by way of atonement) as it well could be. The mine had been the cause of an absurd moral disaster; its working must be made a serious and moral success. He owed it to the dead man's memory. Such were the—properly speaking—emotions of Charles Gould.
# Posted by The Rat @ 1:18 PM
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
( 4:24 PM ) The Rat
RODENT RACES MARK THE YEAR OF THE RAT. Mice? MICE??!
A zoo in Tokyo has staged a mouse race to raise the profile of rodents in the Year of the Rat.
The keepers placed bamboo hurdles in a series of 12 wooden lanes and covered the racecourse in glass so spectators could watch and cheer for their favourite.
The event proved particularly popular among children, who were banned from betting on the outcome but were given mouse-themed prizes if their favourite won...
# Posted by The Rat @ 4:24 PM
( 12:38 PM ) The Rat
We recommend playing through the sounds first. That way you'll have a clear idea of what is about to be played and when during your conversation it works best to play it...
# Posted by The Rat @ 12:38 PM
( 11:41 AM ) The Rat
SOLVING A RIDDLE WRAPPED IN A MYSTERY INSIDE A COOKIE. I generally recall fruit being dessert at the 30-course Taipei dinner parties I was routinely dragged to as a child.
Now a researcher in Japan believes she can explain the disconnect, which has long perplexed American tourists in China. Fortune cookies, Yasuko Nakamachi says, are almost certainly originally from Japan.
Her prime pieces of evidence are the generations-old small family bakeries making obscure fortune cookie-shaped crackers by hand near a temple outside Kyoto. She has also turned up many references to the cookies in Japanese literature and history, including an 1878 image of a man making them in a bakery—decades before the first reports of American fortune cookies.
The idea that fortune cookies come from Japan is counterintuitive, to say the least. 'I am surprised,' said Derrick Wong, the vice president of the largest fortune cookie manufacturer in the world, Wonton Food, based in Brooklyn. 'People see it and think of it as a Chinese food dessert, not a Japanese food dessert,' he said. But, he conceded, 'The weakest part of the Chinese menu is dessert.'
# Posted by The Rat @ 11:41 AM
( 11:36 AM ) The Rat
CRISIS? MAYBE HE'S A NARCISSISTIC JERK.
But surely someone has had a genuine midlife crisis. After all, don't people routinely struggle with questions like 'What can I expect from the rest of my life?' or 'Is this all there is?'
Of course. But it turns out that only a distinct minority think it constitutes a crisis. In 1999, the MacArthur Foundation study on midlife development surveyed 8,000 Americans ages 25 to 74. While everyone recognized the term 'midlife crisis,' only 23 percent of subjects reported having one. And only 8 percent viewed their crisis as something tied to the realization that they were aging; the remaining 15 percent felt the crisis resulted from specific life events. Strikingly, most people also reported an increased sense of well-being and contentment in middle age...
# Posted by The Rat @ 11:36 AM
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
( 10:26 PM ) The Rat
# Posted by The Rat @ 10:26 PM
( 1:47 PM ) The Rat
TOXIC FACTORIES TAKE TOLL ON CHINA'S LABOR FORCE, via the WSJ.
Born into a relatively well-off family, Ms. Wang attended university and obtained an engineering degree before hiring on at a newly opened GP factory in the southern Chinese city of Huizhou, a fast-growing center of China's electronics industry. The year was 1995, and GP Batteries, a Singapore-listed unit of Hong Kong-listed Gold Peak Industries (Holdings) Ltd. Huizhou, was a prestigious employer, eventually becoming one of the largest makers of nickel-cadmium batteries in China.
As a machine designer, Ms. Wang worked in the management offices of a walled compound of pink-tiled buildings where some 1,500 women in matching blue smocks worked 12-hour days assembling nickel-cadmium battery packs for toys and other products. GP's clients eventually came to include dozens of U.S. companies including Energizer Battery Co., Proctor & Gamble Co.'s Duracell, Spectrum Brands Inc.'s Ray-O-Vac, Hasbro, Mattel, Wal-Mart and Toys "R" Us.
For years, factory workers complained about illnesses—nausea, hair loss and exhaustion, for instance. But GP management says it wasn't aware of the extent of the cadmium danger. "We knew it was dangerous, but we thought that if it was handled in a reasonable manner you should be OK," says Henry Leung, chief operating officer of GP Batteries. "This is all new for China."
At the factory, Ms. Wang spent the bulk of her time in an office, quietly sketching machine designs. But between 2002 and 2004, she spent long hours in production areas, inhaling cadmium dust...
# Posted by The Rat @ 1:47 PM
( 12:00 AM ) The Rat
NETFLIX EXPANDS INTERNET VIEWING OPTION. Eeeee! Don't rely on the browse-by-genre btw—it doesn't reflect the full inventory.
Netflix is gearing up for the increased competition [with Apple] by expanding a year-old feature that streams movies over the Internet instead of making customers wait for their online rental requests to be delivered through the mail.
Until now, Netflix restricted how long its more than 7 million subscribers could use the streaming service each month, based on how much they pay to rent DVDs.
For instance, under a popular plan that charges $16.99 per month to rent up to three DVDs at a time, Netflix customers could watch as many as 17 hours of entertainment each month on the streaming service, dubbed "Watch Instantly."
With Monday's change, virtually all Netflix subscribers will be able to stream as many movies and TV shows as they want from a library containing more than 6,000 titles. There will be no additional charge for the unlimited access...
# Posted by The Rat @ 12:00 AM
Monday, January 14, 2008
( 4:35 PM ) The Rat
ON A LIGHTER NOTE: "Books Don't Take You Anywhere," from Onion archives.
# Posted by The Rat @ 4:35 PM
( 4:16 PM ) The Rat
TWILIGHT OF THE BOOKS. I was expecting this article to be tiresome/whiny, but it's really worth a, uh, read. And don't miss the part about the illiterate vs. newly literate Uzbek peasants! From a December TNY.
But if the change is permanent, and especially if the slide continues, the world will feel different, even to those who still read. Because the change has been happening slowly for decades, everyone has a sense of what is at stake, though it is rarely put into words. There is something to gain, of course, or no one would ever put down a book and pick up a remote. Streaming media give actual pictures and sounds instead of mere descriptions of them. 'Television completes the cycle of the human sensorium,' Marshall McLuhan proclaimed in 1967. Moving and talking images are much richer in information about a performer's appearance, manner, and tone of voice, and they give us the impression that we know more about her health and mood, too. The viewer may not catch all the details of a candidate's health-care plan, but he has a much more definite sense of her as a personality, and his response to her is therefore likely to be more full of emotion. There is nothing like this connection in print. A feeling for a writer never touches the fact of the writer herself, unless reader and writer happen to meet. In fact, from Shakespeare to Pynchon, the personalities of many writers have been mysterious.
Emotional responsiveness to streaming media harks back to the world of primary orality, and, as in Plato's day, the solidarity amounts almost to a mutual possession. 'Electronic technology fosters and encourages unification and involvement,' in McLuhan's words. The viewer feels at home with his show, or else he changes the channel. The closeness makes it hard to negotiate differences of opinion. It can be amusing to read a magazine whose principles you despise, but it is almost unbearable to watch such a television show. And so, in a culture of secondary orality, we may be less likely to spend time with ideas we disagree with.
Self-doubt, therefore, becomes less likely. In fact, doubt of any kind is rarer. It is easy to notice inconsistencies in two written accounts placed side by side. With text, it is even easy to keep track of differing levels of authority behind different pieces of information. The trust that a reader grants to the New York Times, for example, may vary sentence by sentence. A comparison of two video reports, on the other hand, is cumbersome. Forced to choose between conflicting stories on television, the viewer falls back on hunches, or on what he believed before he started watching. Like the peasants studied by Luria, he thinks in terms of situations and story lines rather than abstractions.
And he may have even more trouble than Luria's peasants in seeing himself as others do. After all, there is no one looking back at the television viewer. He is alone, though he, and his brain, may be too distracted to notice it...
# Posted by The Rat @ 4:16 PM
( 11:45 AM ) The Rat
WHY PEOPLE BELIEVE WEIRD THINGS ABOUT MONEY. Interesting, though not all new.
Would you rather be A or B?
A is waiting in line at a movie theater. When he gets to the ticket window, he is told that as he is the 100,000th customer of the theater, he has just won $100.
B is waiting in line at a different theater. The man in front of him wins $1,000 for being the 1-millionth customer of the theater. Mr. B wins $150.
Amazingly, most people said that they would prefer to be A. In other words, they would rather forgo $50 in order to alleviate the feeling of regret that comes with not winning the thousand bucks. Essentially, they were willing to pay $50 for regret therapy...
# Posted by The Rat @ 11:45 AM
( 11:28 AM ) The Rat
WRITE YOUR OWN CAPTION.
# Posted by The Rat @ 11:28 AM
( 9:11 AM ) The Rat
Then in 1900 everybody got down off his stilts; henceforth nobody drank absinthe with his black coffee; nobody went mad; nobody committed suicide; nobody joined the Catholic church; or if they did I have forgotten.
—Yeats, introduction to The Oxford Book of Modern Verse (1936)
# Posted by The Rat @ 9:11 AM
Saturday, January 12, 2008
( 8:00 PM ) The Rat
FIN-DE-SIÈCLE RUSSIAN CAT. Hee!
# Posted by The Rat @ 8:00 PM
( 7:26 PM ) The Rat
IF RATTY HAD BEEN the kind of person who contributed to Wikipedia, this is the kind of thing she'd make up entries for. (She'd also fix the many omissions in that list as it now stands.) Lots and lots of spoilers, so don't read past the headline if you don't already know the endings.
# Posted by The Rat @ 7:26 PM
Friday, January 11, 2008
( 9:31 PM ) The Rat
Police said a man impersonating an armored car guard walked out of a Wachovia bank branch on Pennsylvania Avenue Thursday with more than $100,000, after officials let him sign for a locked bag of cash.
About an hour after the robbery, a real Brinks guard arrived at the bank and was told that another guard had completed the day's cash pickup.
Police said the Brinks driver waited until he returned to his office to tell his supervisors about the failed pickup. Brinks officials contacted the bank, and a branch manager called D.C. police about 8 p.m.—almost 11 hours after the theft...
# Posted by The Rat @ 9:31 PM
( 1:13 PM ) The Rat
CHASING THE GREEN FAIRY IN PARIS.
Though absinthe now contains less wormwood—once thought to be the most dangerous element of the green-colored drink—the unpleasant side effects were more likely caused by heavy metals or other impurities. If you're eager to learn more about this legendary beverage, consider a trip to the Musée de l'Absinthe, just outside of Paris in Auvers-sur-Oise (otherwise notable as the town where Van Gogh spent the last weeks of his life) when it reopens in March 2008. Alternatively, if you want to experience absinthe's effects first-hand in the city that made it both beloved and infamous, here are a few choice addresses...
# Posted by The Rat @ 1:13 PM
Thursday, January 10, 2008
( 9:21 PM ) The Rat
SIR EDMUND HILLARY has died.
Hillary's life was marked by grand achievements, high adventure, discovery, excitement—yet he was humble to the point that he only admitted being the first man atop Everest long after the death of climbing companion Tenzing Norgay.
[Hillary] was more proud of his decades-long campaign to set up schools and health clinics in Nepal, the homeland of Norgay, the mountain guide with whom he stood arm in arm on the summit of Everest on May 29, 1953.
He wrote of the pair's final steps to the top of the world: "Another few weary steps and there was nothing above us but the sky. There was no false cornice, no final pinnacle. We were standing together on the summit. There was enough space for about six people. We had conquered Everest..."
# Posted by The Rat @ 9:21 PM
( 4:56 PM ) The Rat
THOSE WHO KNOW ME will appreciate just how truly terrifying this is: This afternoon, my oldest friend telephoned, and in the course of conversation described me as "the most optimistic person [she] know[s]."
# Posted by The Rat @ 4:56 PM
Monday, January 07, 2008
( 3:26 PM ) The Rat
DECEMBER 2007'S EYESORE OF THE MONTH is, uh, really quite something.
Behold the winner of the competition for the new National Library of the Czech Republic in Prague. Depicted at ground level, the Czech National Library Organism is systematically grazing on smaller protozoans lulled by the music of Antonin Dvorak into ascending the purple pseudo-tongue at center...
# Posted by The Rat @ 3:26 PM
Sunday, January 06, 2008
( 7:24 PM ) The Rat
DALI'S DIVINE COMEDY. Very cool. Through January 9, you can see some of the originals in "The Spiritual Art of Salvador Dali," at the William Bennett Gallery on Greene St. Many favorites here, but Purgatorio 2 seemed particularly congruent with my memory of that canto.
Also check out Dali's illustrations for Alice in Wonderland (!!!). (Some of these are also in the exhibit.)
# Posted by The Rat @ 7:24 PM
( 4:01 PM ) The Rat
A strikingly large number of our settlements are oriented to the west and, where circumstances permit, relocate in a westward direction. The east stands for lost causes.
—The Rings of Saturn
# Posted by The Rat @ 4:01 PM
( 2:16 PM ) The Rat
SUITS ALLEGE PRICE-FIXING BY HERSHEY, OTHER CANDY MAKERS.
The Hershey Co. and other candy-makers have been sued in New Jersey and Pennsylvania by suppliers and consumers alleging a price-fixing scheme.
The three lawsuits were filed in federal courts last month—two in Harrisburg and one in Newark, N.J.—citing recent news reports that authorities in Canada and the U.S. are looking into chocolate industry pricing practices. All three complaints seek class-action status...
# Posted by The Rat @ 2:16 PM
( 10:17 AM ) The Rat
FIVE POOLS OF BLOOD SURROUNDED BY POLICE TAPE. That would've been my entry for this, heh heh.
"We were glad to get smiling faces, but we also recognize that family is much more than that," said Paul Raushenbush, associate dean of religious life and one of the exhibition's curators. "This was meant to be an authentic conversation about family. Some people will immediately recognize their own families in some of the photos, while other images will stretch their imagination about what family means to others...
# Posted by The Rat @ 10:17 AM
Saturday, January 05, 2008
( 10:52 AM ) The Rat
If you've never lived or worked New York City trust me when I say that rather than move here out of curiosity, you can simply look at this photo and know exactly what it is like...
# Posted by The Rat @ 10:52 AM
( 10:47 AM ) The Rat
What is it about pictures of bedding? Cozy, cuddly, dreamy. They just get you in the mood to... *yawn*. And you know who else likes bedding? Mindy Kaling of The Office. She writes about sheets on her blog! Anyway. Take a look at some bedding setups from Pottery Barn, Anthropologie and West Elm after the jump, complete with a patent-pending sheep rating system...
# Posted by The Rat @ 10:47 AM
Thursday, January 03, 2008
( 1:13 PM ) The Rat
MAP OF LINGUISTIC SUPERPOWERS.
The Ethnologue, cited a bit further, only lists 9 countries with more than 200 languages, however. Here are the 12 top countries:
Papua New Guinea 823 languages
DR Congo 218
United States 176
# Posted by The Rat @ 1:13 PM
( 1:12 PM ) The Rat
# Posted by The Rat @ 1:12 PM