Wednesday, June 30, 2010
( 7:11 PM ) The Rat
IRVINE CO. GIVES 20,000 ACRES OF OPEN SPACE TO ORANGE COUNTY. Orange County is my home (yes, even more so than London or Vienna), and God bless Mr. Bren for doing this. Now let's just hope the financial wizards who run the place can manage not to screw this up.
A rugged, 20,000-acre parcel of the original Irvine Ranch—a pristine landscape of steep canyons, native grassland and sycamore woodland that is home to golden eagles, mountain lions and dozens of rare and endangered species of plants and animals—became public property Tuesday in a historic deal with the developer who has sculpted the look of modern suburbia in Southern California.
The open-space land, a gift from Donald Bren and the Irvine Co., was unanimously accepted by the Orange County Board of Supervisors, which also approved a long-term plan to manage the natural habitat, designated a National Natural Landmark four years ago. In one swoop, the size of parkland owned by the county grew by more than half.
The transfer of a large part of the historic ranch was an important milestone, placing the last major chunk of open private land in public hands and signaling the end of an era of enormous growth for Orange County. It also was the culmination of an effort that Bren, a 78-year-old multibillionaire, launched more than three decades ago when he took control of the 94,000-acre Irvine Ranch, about a fifth of Orange County.
The donation was the largest single transfer of private property to public ownership in Orange County history, increasing the county's parks and open-space protected land from 39,000 acres to more than 59,000 acres...
Various fun stuff in Wiki's page on Orange County, incidentally (e.g., "a 2005 academic study listed three Orange County cities as being among America's 25 'most conservative,' making it the only county in the country containing more than one such city").
# Posted by The Rat @ 7:11 PM
( 1:53 PM ) The Rat
IS ENGLISH SPECIAL BECAUSE IT'S 'GLOBISH'? Interesting TNR pc. by John McWhorter.
Then McCrum errs in a second way. He misses that to the extent that geopolitical dominance and linguistic structure can be correlated, it's in that the dominance causes the grammatical simplification, not the other way around. This was even part of English's history—when Scandinavian Vikings occupied England starting in the eighth century, they produced Old English in a stripped-down fashion just as many of us have produced French and Spanish in classrooms. There were so many of the Vikings that kids heard as much English of this kind as "real" Old English, and in a culture with little schooling or media, this "funny" English became the only English.
McCrum knows this—but misses that it upends his paradigm. The Vikings didn't pick up English because it was enticingly "universal"—they made it easier by picking it up. To the extent that McCrum may suppose that it was this that kicked off English's "accessible" phase, we return to Arabic and Russian—universal in their ways despite being un-Vikinged. Sanskrit, Cree, Tagalog and other complex languages also seem to have gotten around—the whole construct McCrum builds just doesn't work.
Meanwhile, the world over, languages are on the easy side because they happen to have been imposed on a lot of adult foreigners. The lingua franca in Papua New Guinea, for example, is Indonesian, which delights the learner in having no gender, no conjugation, and no Chinese-type tones. I was getting around after about 48 hours as a result, surely sounding pretty goofy but getting stuff done regardless—something you just can't pull off in two days in Finnish or Greek. But that ease is no accident—Indonesian has been imposed on speakers of hundreds of languages of the Malay Archipelago for over two millennia. That kind of thing sands a language down. Anyone who today said that Indonesian is spoken by 165 million because of its "universal" and "direct" structure would have the cart before the horse in a major and obvious way. As does McCrum. You can even imagine a book on Indonesian taking this tack about Indonesian being destined to spread—which would sound, to Western ears, quaintly boastful and parochial. We would immediately suspect that it was the spread that made Indonesian so handy. There's no difference with English...
# Posted by The Rat @ 1:53 PM
( 1:47 PM ) The Rat
WEIGHT OF 74 GOLDEN GATE BRIDGES WASTED IN FOOD EACH YEAR IN USA ALONE. I know a few of the reports on this issue have been exaggerated (with the authors counting carrot tops, potato peelings, etc., as "wasted"); still, most of us could obviously stand to be a bit less wasteful. Remember the Squander Bug!
At the start of this year [WorldWatch Institute] released their State of the World 2010 book, which was subtitled Transforming Cultures: From Consumerism to Sustainability. It reported that between 1996 and 2006 our consumption of goods and services increased 28%. That the resource extraction to fuel this consumption equated to 112 Empire State Buildings worth of materials. Every day. Worse yet, up to 10% of food purchases in restaurants are wasted before ever reaching the customer.
Not that all this food has gone mouldy, or is inedible. Oh no. According to a 2004 study undertaken over ten years by the University of Arizona and reported in Food Production Daily U.S. households waste 14% of their staple food purchases, almost $600 yearly. 15% of which were unopened, even though still within their expiration date. Nationwide this amounts to household food waste equalling $43 billion in lost value.
The Scientific American notes that the social and economic cost are but a tip of the iceberg lettuce. They cite a 2009 study suggesting 25% of U.S. water and 4% of U.S. oil consumption annually "go into producing and distributing food that ultimately ends up in landfills."
All up, figures obtained by the New York Times indicate that 12% of the total U.S. waste stream is food waste.
Not that the U.S. is on its own in generating such waste. The Sydney Morning Herald last year reported the University of Western Sydney's Urban Research Centre's Phillip O'Neill, as saying, '"Sydney is such a rich consumer society that it happily throws away in value [$603 million in fresh food waste] as much as Sydney farmers receive in income [$660 million]"...
# Posted by The Rat @ 1:47 PM
( 1:45 PM ) The Rat
YOU KNOW ME TOO WELL. On IM just now.
Rat. I'm in a really freakishly good mood today, wtf.
IKM. It's what we call bipolar, dear.
# Posted by The Rat @ 1:45 PM
( 10:46 AM ) The Rat
THIS LEVEL OF FANDOM SCARES ME SENSELESS.
Also see Church Sign Win.
# Posted by The Rat @ 10:46 AM
( 9:19 AM ) The Rat
RESEARCHERS SAY SENSE OF TOUCH GUIDES IMPRESSIONS, DECISIONS. That chair thing could explain my entire generals exam...
Our sense of touch primes our impressions and influences our decisions, even when our tactile sensations have nothing to do with the matter at hand, researchers from MIT, Harvard, and Yale conclude in a paper published today in Science. They tested what our bodies unconsciously tell our minds in a series of experiments using objects of different weight, texture, and hardness.
Joshua Ackerman of the Sloan School of Management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology led a team that asked people passing on the street near MIT or Yale to make judgments about job candidates, to interpret interactions between two people, or to imagine shopping for a new car.
When people were handed a clipboard with a resume attached, they were more likely to say the applicant was seriously interested in the position if they were holding a heavy clipboard rather than a light one.
Similarly, if people were asked whether an ambiguous back-and-forth between two people was adversarial or friendly, they were more likely to see it in a negative light if they had just been working on a jigsaw puzzle with sandpaper-rough pieces compared to people handling smooth pieces.
And people sitting in hard chairs were more rigid in negotiating the sales price of a car than people relaxing in more comfortable chairs...
# Posted by The Rat @ 9:19 AM
( 9:16 AM ) The Rat
DINOSAUR MATING RITUALS MORE ELABORATE THAN PEACOCKS', SCIENTISTS CLAIM.
A team from the universities of Hull, Portsmouth and Western Australia found that prehistoric pterosaurs evolved elaborate headcrests to help them attract the best mates while the pelycosaurs, a group of our own distant ancestors, developed fantastic sails along their backs to oust sexual competitors.
Dr. Dave Martill, from the University of Portsmouth, said: "Pterosaurs put even more effort into attracting a mate than peacocks whose large feathers are considered the most elaborate development of sexual selection in the modern day.
"Peacocks shed their fantastic plumage each year, so it's only a burden some of the time, but pterosaurs had to carry their crest around all the time."
Some pterosaurs had crests five times bigger than their skulls...
# Posted by The Rat @ 9:16 AM
( 9:02 AM ) The Rat
To get things moving up to the desired 10kph (6.2mph) speed, Rousson will need to pump away at the pedals with his legs, which in turn will drive the blades on each side of the sub via a customized gear mechanism and belt drive from a Strida bike. Controls inside the pilot compartment help to guide the Scubster up, down, left and right as well as taking care of angle of incidence and forward or reverse motion.
The goal of the project is to take part in next year's International Submarine Race, which is scheduled to be held at the Naval Surface Warfare Center-Carderock Division, Bethesda, Maryland between June 27 and July 1 2011...
# Posted by The Rat @ 9:02 AM
( 9:01 AM ) The Rat
How hard it is to discuss Thoreau in the presence of the young. Many aspects of his life and thought lie in that sole territory which is inaccessible to young men and women. I never feel an incomprehension on their part when I treat of death or loss or passion; their imaginations can extend themselves—by that principle which Goethe called "anticipation"—to such matters. What is difficult is to treat of the slow attrition of the soul by the conduct of life, of our revolt against the workaday—the background of such works as Le Misanthrope and Don Quixote.
—Thornton Wilder, "The American Loneliness"
# Posted by The Rat @ 9:01 AM
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
( 12:54 PM ) The Rat
CRIME TOPOGRAPHY OF SAN FRANCISCO, via Strange Maps.
These maps present San Franciscan peaks and troughs of a different, less savoury kind. Although the information they convey is as real as the city’s actual orography, these infographics express incidence of crime rather than elevation above sea level. By mimicking cartographic methods of height demarcation, the mapmaker has hit upon a visually very arresting method to frame raw crime statistics in a geographic context.
These maps were made by Doug McCune, who plotted the 2009 data for eight different types of crime out on a map of San Francisco. Mr McCune produced two map versions for each type of crime, a satellite view and a bird's eye view. The latter's more slanted perspective works better for presenting 'hilliness'...
# Posted by The Rat @ 12:54 PM
( 12:33 PM ) The Rat
INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION SEX BAN. So much for the 215-Mile-High Club. Also, what would we do without the Telegraph?
# Posted by The Rat @ 12:33 PM
( 12:31 PM ) The Rat
For myself the only immortality I desire is to invent a new sauce.
# Posted by The Rat @ 12:31 PM
( 8:53 AM ) The Rat
IS YOUR CELL PHONE FUELING RAPE AND MURDER IN THE CONGO? Glad this issue is finally getting some press. It needs to—the vast majority of us buy goods containing other conflict minerals far more often than we buy diamonds.
New York Times columnist Nicholas D Kristof writes, "I've never reported on a war more barbaric than Congo's, and it haunts me. In Congo, I've seen women who have been mutilated, children who have been forced to eat their parents' flesh, girls who have been subjected to rapes that destroyed their insides. Warlords finance their predations in part through the sale of mineral ore containing tantalum, tungsten, tin and gold. For example, tantalum from Congo is used to make electrical capacitors that go into phones, computers and gaming devices."
He asks, what if our desperation for new toys—the kind that compels people to set up a tent in line in front of a store for 10 hours just to be among the first to lay down their credit card—could be put to use helping alleviate the situation in the Congo.
Some electronics manufacturers go a long way to ensure their supply chains don't touch conflict minerals. It is one thing Nokia takes a very firm stance on. Apple also takes measures to get suppliers to avoid conflict minerals, but acknowledges that keeping control of one's supply chain is difficult...
# Posted by The Rat @ 8:53 AM
( 8:52 AM ) The Rat
WHY YOUR STARBUCKS BARISTA HATES YOU.
# Posted by The Rat @ 8:52 AM
( 12:52 AM ) The Rat
CHINA, TAIWAN TO SIGN TRADE PACT TYING 2 ECONOMIES. Hmm.
Notwithstanding years of political tension, Taiwanese businesses are already some of the most eager investors in China, having poured at least $83 billion into the mainland over the past two decades. About 40,000 Taiwanese companies now operate here.
Ma's government says the deal will keep Taiwanese businesses competitive with Southeast Asian countries, whose free trade agreement with China came into force Jan. 1.
Analysts from the Peterson Institute for International Economics, a Washington think tank, project the deal could help Taiwan increase its GDP by up to 5.3 percent by 2020 and have described it as "an ambitious accord that fundamentally changes the game between Taiwan and China."
"We can think of few (if any) other policy reforms available to Taipei that could deliver such gains," authors Daniel Rosen and Wang Zhi wrote in the policy brief released this month...
# Posted by The Rat @ 12:52 AM
( 12:02 AM ) The Rat
I'M NOT SURE WHAT TO SAY about the fact that American Apparel appears to be selling a petticoat, so write your own joke. Also, yes, they do have it in a kids' version.
# Posted by The Rat @ 12:02 AM
Monday, June 28, 2010
( 8:50 PM ) The Rat
"IF YOU'RE A BANANA, AND YOU WANT TO DISAPPOINT YOUR PARENTS, THIS IS THE LIFE YOU CHOOSE." A member of the Wait Wait staff takes a girlfriend who apparently really loves him to sample the jibarito.
# Posted by The Rat @ 8:50 PM
( 8:49 PM ) The Rat
LUK!!! via I Can Has Cheezburger.
# Posted by The Rat @ 8:49 PM
( 5:21 PM ) The Rat
LOU REED AND WIFE STAGE "HIGH-FREQUENCY" DOG CONCERT, from last month. (Go here for a report on how it went.)
Music for Dogs, to be held outside the Sydney Opera House, is billed as "an inter-species social gathering on a scale never seen before in Australia."
The bizarre recital in June will be largely inaudible to the human ear.
The couple said they have experience making music for at least one dog—their rat terrier, Lollabelle. "She likes things with a lot of smoothness but with beats in them," Ms. Anderson told the Sydney Morning Herald.
She said the inspiration for the performance at the Vivid Live festival in Sydney came while she was backstage at an event and thought: "Wouldn't it be great, if you were playing a concert and you look out and you see all dogs?"
The show, created by Ms Anderson, will last for 20 minutes as she says "dogs don't have a giant concentration span"...
# Posted by The Rat @ 5:21 PM
( 4:30 PM ) The Rat
CAN PAINTING A MOUNTAIN RESTORE A GLACIER? Fun story, but... "enthused," BBC? Really?
# Posted by The Rat @ 4:30 PM
( 2:40 PM ) The Rat
GLOBAL SOAP PROJECT. Intriguingly wacky.
The Global Soap Project recovers and recycles soap from American hotels. The discarded soap is sanitized, melted and remolded into new bars, then distributed to refugee camps in Africa. We figure, with 4.6-million hotel rooms in the United States, an estimated 2.6-million soap bars are discarded every day. Once this soap has been sanitized and remolded into new soap, it greatly improves the quality of life for hundreds of thousands of refugees, one bar at a time.
Headquartered in Atlanta and incorporated in Georgia, the Global Soap Project was founded by Derreck Kayongo, a senior level humanitarian relief expert whose own Uganda family fled the tyranny of Idi Amin in 1979. During this tragic and despotic era, close to one million people lost their lives. Today, there are millions more internally displaced persons throughout Central and Eastern Africa, struggling to survive with limited or no access to clean water and soap.
As a result, there is a high mortality rate due to acute respiratory and diarrhea diseases, especially in children under five years old. In Uganda alone, the deaths of 200,000 children in a single year were due to preventable diseases—a number that could have been reduced by 76,000 if children had access to soap and proper hand washing. Numerous scientific studies indicate that hand washing with soap can reduce the risk of these diseases by 42-65 percent...
# Posted by The Rat @ 2:40 PM
( 2:11 PM ) The Rat
CHABRIER'S 'L'ESPAÑA' PERFORMED BY A JAPANESE HANDBELL CHOIR—complete with bow-tie blouses and white gloves! A whole new fetish category, or a link via TT?
# Posted by The Rat @ 2:11 PM
( 1:32 PM ) The Rat
NEW ORLEANS STRIP CLUB MIMOSA DANCING GIRLS FILES OIL SPILL COMPENSATION CLAIM. From last week.
The owners of The Mimosa Dancing Girls, located on the edge of New Orleans, claimed that the spill was bad for business as the fishermen who usually frequented the club cannot afford to spend money there, British newspaper The Observer reported...
# Posted by The Rat @ 1:32 PM
( 1:30 PM ) The Rat
INSPECTORS FIND SAFETY FLAWS WHERE AIRLINE FOOD IS PREPARED. Who would ever have guessed?
Six months ago, Food and Drug Administration inspectors say, they found live roaches and dead roach carcasses "too numerous to count" inside the Denver facility of the world's largest airline caterer, LSG Sky Chefs.
They also reported finding ants, flies and debris, and employees handling food with bare hands. Samples from a kitchen floor tested positive for Listeria, a bacteria that can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems. It's also dangerous to pregnant women.
LSG Sky Chefs, which annually provides 405 million meals worldwide for more than 300 airlines, says conditions at the Denver plant didn't meet company standards. It took immediate measures to remedy the problems, says spokeswoman Beth Van Duyne...
# Posted by The Rat @ 1:30 PM
( 10:48 AM ) The Rat
AMERICANS ARE TREATED, AND OVERTREATED, TO DEATH.
Americans increasingly are treated to death, spending more time in hospitals in their final days, trying last-ditch treatments that often buy only weeks of time, and racking up bills that have made medical care a leading cause of bankruptcies.
More than 80 percent of people who die in the United States have a long, progressive illness such as cancer, heart failure or Alzheimer's disease.
More than 80 percent of such patients say they want to avoid hospitalization and intensive care when they are dying, according to the Dartmouth Atlas Project, which tracks health care trends.
Yet the numbers show that's not what is happening:
The average time spent in hospice and palliative care, which stresses comfort and quality of life once an illness is incurable, is falling because people are starting it too late. In 2008, one-third of people who received hospice care had it for a week or less, says the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization.
Hospitalizations during the last six months of life are rising: from 1,302 per 1,000 Medicare recipients in 1996 to 1,441 in 2005, Dartmouth reports. Treating chronic illness in the last two years of life gobbles up nearly one-third of all Medicare dollars...
# Posted by The Rat @ 10:48 AM
( 10:44 AM ) The Rat
I waited for him to say more, sweating boisterously, for I was confounded down to the ground. I couldn't believe it; I was so sure that I had left the world. And who could blame me, after that trip across the mountain floor on which there was no footprint, the stars flaming like oranges, those multimillion tons of exploding gas looking so mild and fresh in the dark of the sky; and altogether, that freshness, you know, that like autumn freshness when you go out of the house in the morning and find the flowers have waked in the frost with piercing life? When I experienced this in the desert, night and morning, feeling everything to be simplified, I was quite sure that I had gone clean out of the world, for, as is common knowledge, the world is complex. And besides, the antiquity of the place had struck me so, I was sure I had got into someplace new.
—Henderson the Rain King
# Posted by The Rat @ 10:44 AM
Sunday, June 27, 2010
( 8:40 PM ) The Rat
HIPPOPOTAMUS ON MENU AT BEIJING ZOO. From last month, but I always find it blog-worthy when my people play true to type.
Visitors to Beijing zoo are warned not to feed the animals, but they are encouraged to eat them at a restaurant that offers crocodile and scorpion on its exotic menu.
After watching the beasts in their cages, diners at the zoo's restaurant can gnaw on the webbed toes of a hippopotamus, chew a kangaroo tail, nibble a deer's penis or slurp down a bowl of ant soup...
# Posted by The Rat @ 8:40 PM
( 8:38 PM ) The Rat
ON A RELATED NOTE, Your understanding of importance is flawed, via Failbook.
And unrelated, but I liked it a lot: Friendship fail.
# Posted by The Rat @ 8:38 PM
( 8:28 PM ) The Rat
Then she began to tell me about the new fiancé, mumbling. "Don't talk like that," I said. "What's the matter with you? Blow your nose. Why do you give me this Ivy League jive? This soft-spoken stuff? It's just done to take advantage of common people and make them bend over so as to hear you. You know I'm a little deaf," I said. "Raise your voice. Don't be such a snob. So tell me, did your fiancé go to Choate or St. Paul's? Your last husband went to President Roosevelt's prep school—whatchumajigger."
Lily now spoke more clearly and said, "My mother is dead."
"Dead?" I said. "Hey, that's terrible. But wait just one minute, didn't you tell me in France that she was dead?"
"Yes," she said.
"Then when did she die?"
"Just two months ago. It wasn't true then."
"Then why did you say it? That's a hell of a way. You can't do that. Are you playing chicken-funeral with your own mother? You were trying to con me."
"Oh, that was very bad of me, Gene. I didn't mean any harm. But this time it is true." And I saw the warm shadows of tears in her eyes. "She is gone now. I had to hire a plane to scatter her ashes over Lake George as she wanted."
"Did you? God, I'm sorry about it," I said.
"I fought her too much," said Lily. "Like that time I brought you home. But she was a fighter, and I am one, too. You were right about my fiancé. He did go to Groton."
"Ha, ha, I hit it, didn't I?"
"He's a nice man. He's not what you think. He's very decent and he supports his parents. But what I ask myself whether I could live without him, I guess the answer is yes. But I am learning to get along alone. There's always the universe. A woman doesn't have to marry, and there are perfectly good reasons why people should be lonely."
You know, compassion is useless, too, sometimes I feel. It just lasts long enough to get you in dutch. My heart ached for Lily, and then she tried to con me.
—Henderson the Rain King
# Posted by The Rat @ 8:28 PM
( 5:08 PM ) The Rat
GLAD THIS GUY'S NOT WRITING MY BIOGRAPHY. From the intro to a secondary source on Conrad that shall remain nameless. (Though in fairness, Conrad does rather lend himself to this sort of thing. Don't have the article to hand, but I remember one of the better critics on him—Bruce Johnson, I think—describing how he'd at one point had as the working title for a paper: "Conrad, the Mind, and the Universe.")
Chapters 1 and 2 focus on Imperialism, Chapters 3 and 4 on the Body, Chapters 5 and 6 on Truth and Knowledge, and Chapters 7 and 8 on Vision.
# Posted by The Rat @ 5:08 PM
( 12:21 PM ) The Rat
JUST LIKE A RAT AND A SQUID! 10 Unbelievable, Unlikely Animal Friendships, a Treehugger slideshow.
From a sheep that brought a baby elephant out of a deep depression to natural enemies that snuggle down together for every nap, these 10 heart-wrenching relationships are incredible and unforgettable.
Take this macaque, for example, who, according to The Daily News, was rescued from Neilingding Island in China after his mother abandoned him and left him for dead: His recovery was dragging until he made friends with this pigeon, and now the two are rarely apart...
# Posted by The Rat @ 12:21 PM
Saturday, June 26, 2010
( 8:28 AM ) The Rat
"THEY'RE MAGENTA ACTUALLY.." via Failbook. Also see "OMG! Totally!"
# Posted by The Rat @ 8:28 AM
( 8:27 AM ) The Rat
U.S. BAR OWNER CHARGED IN FOOD CRITIC'S BEATING.
Timothy Rankins, 41, is accused of having associates assault Steve Barnes, the Albany Times Union's food writer, as he left a restaurant with a friend in October 2008. Barnes, who occasionally wrote about Rankins' restaurants, had posted on the newspaper's website that he would be dining there that night.
Two men wearing button-down shirts and gloves set upon the men and began throwing punches as the men left the restaurant around 9:30 p.m. Oct. 17, 2008...
# Posted by The Rat @ 8:27 AM
( 8:26 AM ) The Rat
MORE FREAKY FRIED FOODS FROM SAN DIEGO. Don't miss the first reader comment!
Also via Consumerist, 90% of Americans Eating Unhealthy Amounts of Salt.
# Posted by The Rat @ 8:26 AM
( 8:25 AM ) The Rat
PARIS HOSTS CYBER-SHELTER FOR BATTERED BLOGGERS.
Paris-based media rights watchdog Reporters Without Borders on Thursday launched a virtual "anti-censorship shelter" to protect bloggers around the world from repressive authorities.
The group (RSF) unveiled a room in its Paris headquarters set aside for fugitive journalists or bloggers from abroad to drop in and blog with secure Internet connections using software that masks their online identity.
The project also offers to provide carefully selected bloggers in other countries with free access to secure, anonymous online connections to make it harder for authorities to pursue them for their work...
# Posted by The Rat @ 8:25 AM
( 8:24 AM ) The Rat
MARATHON MAN ISNER LOSES IN 2ND ROUND AT WIMBLEDON. Like anybody could blame him!
Isner said he plans to head home to Tampa, Fla., for a well-deserved break. What will he do?
"Really just anything but tennis," he said. "I'll watch sports. I'll take in the World Cup. I'll go fishing. I'll do whatever. Just anything away from the tennis court."
# Posted by The Rat @ 8:24 AM
Friday, June 25, 2010
( 1:33 PM ) The Rat
HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO GEORGE ORWELL! Impossible to pick a single favorite among his essays and journalism, but I've always been quite fond of "Pleasure Spots" (possibly because, having grown up in Orange County, I've been in one too many malls?).
# Posted by The Rat @ 1:33 PM
( 10:52 AM ) The Rat
COFFEE'S MYSTERIOUS BENEFITS MOUNT. They forgot to list "diminishes the pain of being."
# Posted by The Rat @ 10:52 AM
( 10:24 AM ) The Rat
NON SIATE RITROSI (translation here—I actually hadn't listened to Così in several months, but dusted it off last night; and this aria seems peculiarly well suited to a summer morning). Guglielmo, disguised as an Albanian, makes a case for why Dorabella and Fiordiligi should accept him and Ferrando, respectively, as suitors. So much better than all those earnest courtship scenes in other people's operas! (This is quite a good version of this aria, though I'd have included the one from this if I could have—not least because I love the "Albanians"' disguises in that production.)
# Posted by The Rat @ 10:24 AM
( 7:55 AM ) The Rat
CHARLOTTE TAKES OVER AS "AMERICA'S MANLIEST CITY" WHILE PORTLAND FALLS TO LAST. This is made of awesome. Though I do wonder what else was in the running for "Official Cheese-Filled Snack of NASCAR"? Did they at least consider gougères?
The study is commissioned by COMBOS® Brand in partnership with Bert Sperling, the research expert behind the popular "Best Places to Live" studies.
The COMBOS® "America's Manliest Cities" study ranks 50 major metropolitan areas, using manly criteria like the number of home improvement stores, steak houses, pickup trucks and motorcycles per capita. "We're excited to release the second installment of the COMBOS® 'America's Manliest Cities' rankings,” said Craig Hall, general manager, Mars Chocolate North America. "Charlotte is NASCAR country so we're not surprised that they've taken over the top spot. After all, COMBOS® has been the 'Official Cheese-Filled Snack of NASCAR' since 2002."
Several cities made big jumps up the rankings this year—Chicago, Baltimore, Washington D.C. and Philadelphia all broke the top 10 after being in the lower half of last year's rankings. In addition to cities improving or declining in returning categories, the change in rankings can also be attributed to a new category this year—manly occupations (fire fighters, police officers, construction workers and EMT personnel)...
# Posted by The Rat @ 7:55 AM
( 7:54 AM ) The Rat
LIGHTNING STRIKES WILLIS TOWER AND TRUMP TOWER IN CHICAGO. Cool pics! Though were I in that position, I would hurl a lot more than lightning at that miserable town...
This is the extraordinary moment a photographer captured bolts of lightning striking not one, but two Chicago landmarks at the same time.
Electricity rushed down the lightning rods atop the The Willis Tower and the Trump Tower at the exact same instant last night.
Seen through the rain from the Hancock Tower, the strikes lit up the sky around...
# Posted by The Rat @ 7:54 AM
( 7:51 AM ) The Rat
LIKE JUICE BOXES FOR WINOS: SINGLE-SERVE WINE GLASSES. I could have sworn these had already been invented. Am I just thinking of the single-serving sake available in convenience stores in Japan (not that I was looking)?
# Posted by The Rat @ 7:51 AM
( 7:47 AM ) The Rat
One does not travel by plane. One is merely sent, like a parcel.
# Posted by The Rat @ 7:47 AM
Thursday, June 24, 2010
( 1:45 PM ) The Rat
QUICKSANDMOVIES.NET. Oh, Internet. Every time I begin to lose faith, you win me back anew. (Link via the new SYSK, of course.)
Welcome to a comprehensive list of quicksand and deep mud scenes in movies and television...
# Posted by The Rat @ 1:45 PM
( 1:43 PM ) The Rat
THE ONE-MAN DRUG COMPANY.
Every day he tells himself the same thing. You are doing nothing wrong. It plays through his mind on repeat, keeping his nerves in check. You have no reason to worry. Tonight, a Friday, he is walking down a cobblestone street in Soho, hands wedged in his leather jacket, his posture slump-shouldered, as if he's curling in on himself. In his right-hand pocket, there is a plastic bag containing numerous smaller plastic bags—"tickets," he calls them—filled with either a gram or gram and three quarters of cocaine. The smaller ones he calls "chiquitas." They cost $60. The big ones, known simply as "big ones," go for $100. He is heading to see a customer, a twiggy, doe-eyed woman who asked to meet outside an art gallery. He thumbs through the Baggies, able to gauge the weight with his fingertips, and secures her order in his fist, all the while humming along to the voice in his head.
You are doing nothing wrong—
This is deluded, he knows, but in his business, delusion is everything: both what you're selling and how you sell it. His name is Lenny Starke, or at least that’s what we’ll call him here, and seven days a week he moves through the city like this: making pickups and deliveries, a sequence of handshakes and handoffs that earns him, tax-free, about $5,000 a week. This places him somewhere in the middle of the $92 billion worldwide cocaine industry, above petty street dealers, below the organized syndicates that are his main suppliers. Given Lenny's upbringing—the socially ambitious parents, the airy Manhattan apartment, the uptown private school—dealing seems an odd career choice. But to him, it's almost logical. His financial portfolio is impressive: $30,000 in a safe bolted to the floor of his apartment, another $25,000 in storage at a "wholesome" friend's house, and a steady stream being invested and washed clean in the stock market. And when Lenny wants to spend a weekend on Shelter Island or comes down with a cold or just feels like staying inside and playing Grand Theft Auto—a video game in which the hero is a drug dealer—he has a rotating cast of employees who do the work for him. All this, and he is not yet 25...
# Posted by The Rat @ 1:43 PM
( 8:31 AM ) The Rat
SOPRANO SERENADES DOCTORS AFTER LUNG TRANSPLANT. I could only have gotten as heartwarming a story as this from TT.
Tillemann-Dick's view of disease as just another obstacle to be overcome may be partly explained by a look at her family, where high achievement is the norm.
Her grandfather was the late Tom Lantos, the longtime U.S. representative from California who was the only Holocaust survivor in Congress. Both her parents went to Yale; her father, Timber Dick, was an inventor and NASA engineer and son of the first female lieutenant governor of Colorado. Tillemann-Dick's mother, Annette Lantos, home-schooled her daughter and Charity Sunshine's 10 siblings. A local paper dubbed the storied family—some of the siblings' names: Zenith, Liberty, Mercina, Gloriana—the Royal Tenenbaums of Denver.
"I have a bit of an unusual family, but we're fun," Tillemann-Dick said.
Tillemann-Dick's diagnosis in 2002 came shortly after she graduated from Regis University in Denver, Colorado, with a minor in music. A year later, as she studied at the conservatory at Johns Hopkins University, Tom Lantos told his old friend Condoleezza Rice, who was U.S. national security adviser at the time, about his granddaughter's illness.
Rice, a classical pianist, had an idea. She asked Tillemann-Dick if they could perform together. In 2006, Rice, then secretary of state, played Mozart and Verdi at the Kennedy Center with the 21-year-old singer. Political heavyweights including Kofi Annan, then secretary-general of the United Nations, applauded.
If it seems like a charmed life, it came with plenty of pain.
Lauded American composer Lori Laitman, Tillemann-Dick's longtime teacher and friend, visited her protegee in a hospital in Italy in 2008. "I knew Charity was ill, but I worked with her for so long without really comprehending just how sick she really was," said Laitman. "When I walked into that room, there she was, sitting in her bed with tubes in her nose, so thin and worn out... and writing a musical. Charity asked me, "Will you listen to this?'"
# Posted by The Rat @ 8:31 AM
( 8:30 AM ) The Rat
CHICKS COUNT FROM LEFT TO RIGHT—JUST LIKE US.
The team found that the birds always chose the dispenser fourth or sixth from the left, suggesting that they counted from the left of the line, not the right. The same was true for adult nutcracker birds—and it holds true for most human cultures too. Even in languages such as Farsi that are written and read from right to left, numerals are organised from left to right...
# Posted by The Rat @ 8:30 AM
( 8:29 AM ) The Rat
EDITH SHAIN, NURSE KISSING NAVY MAN IN EISENSTAEDT'S WWII PHOTO, DIES AT 91. Have to love the Cinderella's-slipper element in this.
In the hubbub of Times Square, Eisenstaedt failed to get the names of the couple he immortalized. Dozens of men claimed to be the bussing sailor, and his identity has never been resolved.
Likewise, Ms. Shain is not the only woman who claimed to be the nurse, whose face is obscured in the photograph. But she was featured in Life magazine as the probable nurse after Eisenstaedt flew to her California home in 1979 to see if she was really the woman he had captured years before.
"He looked at my legs," Ms. Shain said in 2005, "and said I was the one"...
# Posted by The Rat @ 8:29 AM
( 8:28 AM ) The Rat
FOOD IS THE THRILL AT SOME BACHELOR PARTIES. Hmm.
"For the groom, carnal pleasure involved eating," said Archie McAlister, 43, explaining why he reserved the chef's table at the Breslin in Manhattan for a bachelor party he held earlier this month for Theo Peck, 38, a cook. "They brought the pig, then this slender girl came over and butchered it down for us and chopped it into little pieces. I don't mean this in a leering way, but that was the female entertainment for the evening."
Rounding out the feast were roasted fennel, potatoes cooked in duck fat, broccoli rabe, salsa verde and generous pours of a dry albariño from northern Spain and a fruity young Beaujolais-Villages. According to Mr. McAlister, a cabinet maker, the evening satisfied all the senses without getting anybody into trouble.
"A lot of these stags run into each other," he said. "It's just another night of drinking. Whereas I don't know how many people will sit down and have a suckling pig for dinner"...
# Posted by The Rat @ 8:28 AM
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
( 9:10 PM ) The Rat
COLOR PICKER PEN. Sadly, I don't think this has actually gotten past the concept stage.
Korean designer Jinsu Park designed a concept pen that adopts the eyedropper tool of Photoshop for real life. The Color Picker Pen enables colors in the environment to be scanned and instantly used for drawing. The sensor detects the color and matches it to the color display. Then the RGB cartridge located within the pen mixes the inks together to create the color that has been scanned...
# Posted by The Rat @ 9:10 PM
( 8:36 PM ) The Rat
10 STRANGE MENTAL CONDITIONS. They could have thrown some better ones in here (Alien Hand Syndrome? Prosopagnosia? Have I been listening to Stuff You Should Know too much?), but then I suppose the list is titled "strange" not "strangest."
Mainly worth it for nos. 4, 2, and 1—all the rest are fairly well known, or so I thought?
# Posted by The Rat @ 8:36 PM
( 8:28 PM ) The Rat
ALSO VIA CONSUMERIST, Cul-de-sacs are making us fat.
# Posted by The Rat @ 8:28 PM
( 8:22 PM ) The Rat
U. OF MINNESOTA RESEARCHER FINDS THAT FLOORING CAN AFFECT HOW CONSUMERS MAKE PURCHASE DECISIONS. I absolutely love this kind of thing. (If you haven't read Cialdini's Influence—and you ever buy anything or deal with other people in any capacity ever—you really need to.)
From teachers to hairdressers, people who stand on their feet all day will tell you that the flooring beneath them can be the difference between a good day and a bad one. But can the difference between carpet and hard tile flooring affect how you make decisions? Research published this month by Joan Meyers-Levy, a professor of marketing at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management, and author of the famed ceiling height study, suggests that the way people judge products may be influenced by the ground beneath them.
In the study, published in the June 2010 issue of the Journal of Consumer Research, authors Meyers-Levy and Juliet Zhu and Lan Jiang (University of British Columbia) explored the feelings evoked by the two most common flooring types in retail environments: hard vinyl tile and carpet. "When a person stands on carpeted flooring, it feels comforting," says Meyers-Levy. "But the irony is that when people stand on carpet, they will judge products that are close to them as less comforting"...
# Posted by The Rat @ 8:22 PM
( 12:15 AM ) The Rat
THE BLOOD SUPPLY DROPS EVERY SUMMER—as students head home from college (where many drives are based) and regular donors jet off on vacation—but the usual summer lull has hit early this year, so please consider visiting a local Red Cross chapter today. O-negative (universal) donors are especially needed. Bonus: If your chapter is like Ratty's, you can trade that blood for a much more useful commodity—ice cream—by donating anytime during the month of July. The process takes only 30-45 mins. (including paperwork), and will put you among the only 3 to 5 percent of people in this country who give blood! You can feel smug about it the entire rest of the day!
FAQ for first-time blood donors here. If you can spare a little more time (about 1-1/2 to 2-1/2 hours), you might also consider platelet donation.
# Posted by The Rat @ 12:15 AM
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
( 8:27 PM ) The Rat
MOMMY NEEDS A NEW PAIR OF SHOES. How did it take this long for someone to invent these?
# Posted by The Rat @ 8:27 PM
( 8:25 PM ) The Rat
PRETTY SURE this is already all over the Internet, but I've kept forgetting to put it up: Officially Our Best-Ever Cease and Desist, via ThinkGeek.
Recently we got the best-ever cease and desist letter. We're no stranger to the genre, so what could possibly make this one stand out from the rest?
First, it's 12 pages long and very well-researched (except on one point); it even includes screengrabs of the offending item from our site. And we know they're not messing around because they invested in the best and brightest legal minds.
But what makes this cease and desist so very, very special is that it's for a fake product we launched for April Fool's day.
It wasn't the iCade, or the Dharma Initiative Clock, or even the Tribbles 'n' Bits Breakfast Cereal.
No, it was the Canned Unicorn Meat...
# Posted by The Rat @ 8:25 PM
( 3:02 PM ) The Rat
TREES PHOTOGRAPHED IN INFRARED. Very cool.
# Posted by The Rat @ 3:02 PM
( 3:01 PM ) The Rat
THE NATIONAL DESIGN AWARD WINNERS were announced a few days ago.
# Posted by The Rat @ 3:01 PM
( 3:00 PM ) The Rat
SOUTH AFRICAN DOCTOR INVENTS FEMALE CONDOM WITH 'TEETH' TO FIGHT RAPE.
# Posted by The Rat @ 3:00 PM
( 2:59 PM ) The Rat
HELLO KITTY ENGINE OIL.
# Posted by The Rat @ 2:59 PM
( 2:58 PM ) The Rat
BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU—AND HE HAS ICE CREAM! via Consumerist.
If you happen to be going to Cannes this summer (and, really, if you aren't, you should be) mega-conglomerate Unilever is ready to tempt you with a treat straight out of Minority Report. The company has set up a vending machine that lets anyone who walks by score some free ice cream. The price? Just smile for the machine's facial recognition software, which will determine your age, gender and emotion. Only the most happy will get ice cream...
# Posted by The Rat @ 2:58 PM
( 2:57 PM ) The Rat
One of the luckiest things that can happen to you in life is, I think, to have a happy childhood. I had a very happy childhood.
—Agatha Christie, An Autobiography
# Posted by The Rat @ 2:57 PM
Monday, June 21, 2010
( 8:14 PM ) The Rat
THAILAND: THE POWER OF A PENIS-SHAPED ROCKET. Could we expect any less from the country that brought us this shrine? (Ratty had completely forgotten about the Slate pc. by the time she was in Bangkok; and she was staying at the J.W. Marriott anyway, not the Hilton, thus never stumbled upon it by chance.)
Rockets, danger, whiskey, lust and superstition: there is almost too much to love about the "Rocket Festival" in Thailand’s rural Yasothon province.
For more than a millennium, farmers in this region's baking flatlands have staged fertility rites to welcome May’s seasonal rains. But sometime after the introduction of gunpowder, people living in modern-day Thailand (and Laos) gained the ability to fire symbolic phalluses—rockets—into the clouds. According to superstition, an astral conception of sorts takes place in the sky, unleashing showers that loosen parched soil so that crop planting can commence.
Today, the mock phalluses are as big as 55 feet long, fashioned from sturdy PVC pipe and packed with more than 130 kilos of gunpowder. "We use a big compressor to push it all in," said Pon Wannapongse, a day laborer, his cheeks charred black with ash. "It's fun. Me and these guys, we get together in my backyard and make rockets all night."
This festival's thrills, however, run much deeper than amateur rocketry. Just as Catholics enjoy a gluttonous "Fat Tuesday" before Lent's seasonal fasting, rural Thais are allowed to briefly go wild before the rains come and the months of rice-planting toil begin.
The pouring hand grows heavier. The denim skirts grow shorter. The bottles of rice moonshine and $3 whiskey are opened before noon...
# Posted by The Rat @ 8:14 PM
( 8:13 PM ) The Rat
"NOVELS OF CONSOLATION." A very nice Americana program this week (not that that show is ever not good—particularly when Matt Frei's hosting). Frei talks to, among others, Alan Furst—whom I've never read, but now want to. Excerpt:
Frei. But to get back to this sort of—the curious mindset that you need in order to write what you write, which is sort of—you know... thrillers, spy novels. Why do you write that, as opposed to anything else?
Furst. I write that because, um... First of all, I've always been a genre writer. I like that—it gives you a wall to put your back against; you know what's supposed to happen next. You can disguise it, and pretend it's not genre, but genre it is... number one. Number two—people like it! I'm selling something. I'm selling something for an airplane, the beach—to read before you go to bed, to take your head away... these are novels of consolation. That means you have to write about a world with some implicit danger in it. So... I don't want to write, uh, murder mysteries about the postman who got rid of the librarian—I prefer to operate on a rather higher or more intricate level. So I write spy novels. [...]
Frei. So you base your novels in Europe, you write with a European/British sensibility, your publisher has told you to say that you're "European"... When do you betray yourself as an American?
Furst. I—perhaps in... a rather romantic view of the world—and the fact that I don't kill my characters off at the end.
# Posted by The Rat @ 8:13 PM
( 7:50 AM ) The Rat
"EVENTUALLY, OF COURSE, I ENDED UP IN A LESBIAN TERRORIST GROUP..." Happy birthday to Berke Breathed! There's a little tribute page here, which includes several strips about Binkley's closet of anxieties. I'm also quite fond of the second-to-last strip in the "miscellaneous" section.
But really, the only way to read this strip is to read all of it. I didn't know this till about a minute ago, but they're releasing a complete version (in five volumes)!—vol. 1 (1980-82) came out last year, and vol. 2 (1982-84) last month. Vol. 3 (1984-86) is due out, appropriately enough, on Election Day.
# Posted by The Rat @ 7:50 AM
( 7:49 AM ) The Rat
THE CASE FOR HAVING MORE KIDS, via the WSJ. I find "happiness" a totally bizarre measure for whether or not to have children (but then, in my native language childless men are referred to as "bare branches"—and you know what our character for "good" looks like, right? [also see here]); still, this article has some interesting bits.
Many conclude that if you value your happiness and spending money, the only way to win the modern parenting game is not to play. Low fertility looks like a sign that we've finally grasped the winning strategy. In almost all developed nations, the total fertility rate—the number of children the average woman can expect to have in her lifetime—is well below the replacement rate of 2.1 children. (The U.S. is a bit of an outlier, with a rate just around replacement.) Empirical happiness research seems to validate this pessimism about parenting: All else equal, people with kids are indeed less happy than people without.
While the popular and the academic cases against kids have a kernel of truth, both lack perspective. By historical standards, modern parents get a remarkably good deal. When economist Ted Bergstrom of the University of California, Santa Barbara reviewed the anthropological evidence, he found that in traditional societies, kids don't pay. Among hunter-gatherers, children consume more calories than they produce, and grandparents produce more calories than they consume virtually until the day they die. Agricultural societies are much the same...
# Posted by The Rat @ 7:49 AM
( 7:48 AM ) The Rat
CAN ICE CREAM HELP PULL RWANDA OUT OF POVERTY?
Motorcycle taxis zip along the narrow tarmac road from Butare, Rwanda's second largest city, to the National University on the outskirts of town. Along the verge, clusters of students mosey towards campus while men on bicycles laden with sacks of beans cruise past a backdrop of terraced hills. About halfway between town and the university, the students pause at a modest yet modern white-stucco storefront where a hand-painted banner announces the arrival of Inzozi Nziza—Rwanda's first local ice cream parlor.
In this small Central African nation best known for its horrific 1994 genocide, the significance of a new ice cream shop may not be immediately apparent to most. But to Odile Gakire Katese, the woman behind the shop—which opened June 5 and whose name translates as Sweet Dreams—the carefree pleasure that ice cream represents is exactly what Rwanda needs. "Life isn't just about survival," says Katese, who is also the artistic director at the University's Centre for Arts and Drama. "It's about living. And what better way to taste the sweetness of life than with some ice cream?"
In one of the world's poorest countries, with over 50% of its population living below the poverty line, Katese's focus on happiness might seem an unaffordable luxury, and ice cream a bizarre means to achieve it. Not so, says Josh Ruxin, head of Rwanda Works, an NGO committed to improving health in part through expanding the country's dairy industry. Ruxin calls the bias in development towards fighting HIV, improving maternal mortality rates, and helping children survive to the age of five "obvious." But citing NGOs such as Film Aid International that focus on nurturing the mind as well as the body, he says that "in general in development we aim too low—it's [viewed as] enough to address the most basic human needs and not these higher needs."
Though ice cream may seem an unorthodox way to meet our higher needs, Katese's visionary thinking has already succeeded in bringing joy to people who had ceased to believe they deserved it...
# Posted by The Rat @ 7:48 AM
( 7:10 AM ) The Rat
NIGERIA'S AGONY DWARFS THE GULF OIL SPILL. From late May.
Forest and farmland were now covered in a sheen of greasy oil. Drinking wells were polluted and people were distraught. No one knew how much oil had leaked. "We lost our nets, huts and fishing pots," said Chief Promise, village leader of Otuegwe and our guide. "This is where we fished and farmed. We have lost our forest. We told Shell of the spill within days, but they did nothing for six months."
That was the Niger delta a few years ago, where, according to Nigerian academics, writers and environment groups, oil companies have acted with such impunity and recklessness that much of the region has been devastated by leaks.
In fact, more oil is spilled from the delta's network of terminals, pipes, pumping stations and oil platforms every year than has been lost in the Gulf of Mexico...
Also see After big 1979 spill, a stunning recovery.
# Posted by The Rat @ 7:10 AM
( 7:09 AM ) The Rat
BUTCHER SHOP INSTALLS VENDING MACHINE FOR SERVICE 24/7. Via last week's Wait Wait.
It's no longer uncommon to see vending machines used to sell fragrances, bathing suits and shoes—or even farm produce and health foods. Not until recently, however, had we seen one installed at a butcher's shop—and a 100-year-old shop, at that...
And in other meat-related news, have a look at Colored Bacon (scroll down to see what it looks like post-frying). Actually, maybe don't have a look at it at 7 AM.
# Posted by The Rat @ 7:09 AM
( 7:08 AM ) The Rat
IS THAT WOMAN PREGNANT OR FAT? via BBC News. I could have used this just the other day...
Some people are just selfish, yes, but the average commuter would probably give up his or her seat for a pregnant woman, with good grace. It's just not that straightforward.
For a start, he might not have noticed her, and is instead lost in a book or World Cup supplement. Few people repeatedly scan for those more in need of a seat at every stop. And where does his area of responsibility end—shouting distance?
Then there's that nagging doubt—is she pregnant, fat, or just wearing a baggy top?
Whatever the discomfort of offending a pregnant woman by staying seated, is it preferable to the excruciating awkwardness of effectively telling a woman, within earshot of about 20 people, that her tummy is so inflated it looks as if there's a baby inside?
# Posted by The Rat @ 7:08 AM
( 7:07 AM ) The Rat
Although prepared for martyrdom, I preferred that it be postponed.
# Posted by The Rat @ 7:07 AM
Sunday, June 20, 2010
( 9:59 PM ) The Rat
# Posted by The Rat @ 9:59 PM
( 8:43 PM ) The Rat
ADDING DAILYPUPPY.COM (back to?) the blogroll, no doubt ill-advisedly. The most photogenic dog I've ever spotted at that site is probably this one ("the epitome of beagleness," as one of the reader comments puts it); if there were a prize for the best name, it might go to this one (and his sidekick).
# Posted by The Rat @ 8:43 PM
( 8:40 PM ) The Rat
OKAY, MY PAIN IS SUPER LEGIT NOW. Boyfriend Probably Doesn't Have Ebola. Probably, from Hyperbole and a Half.
# Posted by The Rat @ 8:40 PM
( 6:26 PM ) The Rat
DOG + CUPCAKE DIPTYCH.
# Posted by The Rat @ 6:26 PM
( 12:13 PM ) The Rat
RATTY IS COLLECTING her annual free birthday burrito at Moe's. This is a very cool promotion, and always makes me feel loyal enough to Moe's to return the following year for my next free birthday burrito. You can sign up here.
# Posted by The Rat @ 12:13 PM
( 1:59 AM ) The Rat
10 REALLY GREAT ANIMAL DADS. Happy Father's Day! Unless you're Taiwanese, in which case you have a bit of a wait still.
Edited to add: A friend sends this article on stepfathers. More interesting for the reader comments (which definitely run the gamut...) than for the article itself, I thought.
# Posted by The Rat @ 1:59 AM
( 1:58 AM ) The Rat
"TAGS: AMAZING SUICIDE SUN GOD HELL SPACE OMFG NOW MORE HOLYSHIT." Very cool galaxies thing, which a friend sent, noting, "The link below makes me feel so small. Not sure if anyone but you would appreciate the forward." I'm not absolutely sure what he meant by that?—but I did really like the link.
# Posted by The Rat @ 1:58 AM
( 1:43 AM ) The Rat
"THE PROBLEM IS THAT UNLESS YOU ARE THE JAPANESE LOLITA PRINCESS FAIRY... from Manolo's Shoe Blog. What I don't get is how any stylist let her out the door, dressed like that, in the first place?
# Posted by The Rat @ 1:43 AM
( 1:42 AM ) The Rat
"One should absorb the colour of life, but one should never remember its details. Details are always vulgar."
—The Picture of Dorian Gray
# Posted by The Rat @ 1:42 AM
Saturday, June 19, 2010
( 3:38 PM ) The Rat
"SOMETIMES YOU ARE OGLING A PRETTY GIRL, SOMETIMES YOU ARE TRYING TO GET A BETTER LOOK AT A HORRIBLY MISSHAPEN PERSON AND SOMETIMES YOU ARE JUST SPACING OUT AND YOUR EYES HAPPEN TO BE POINTING DIRECTLY AT SOMEONE." Awkward Situation Survival Guide, another winner from Hyperbole and a Half. Terrific drawings in this one.
# Posted by The Rat @ 3:38 PM
( 8:04 AM ) The Rat
THE SNUGGIE SUTRA.
# Posted by The Rat @ 8:04 AM
( 7:54 AM ) The Rat
(FROM YESTERDAY:) HAPPINESS IS TODAY, CLAIMS MATHS EQUATION.
Psychologist Dr Cliff Arnall used a mathematical formula to demonstrate how human "feelgood factors," such as enjoying summer evenings outdoors, admiring nature in bloom, the anticipation of upcoming holidays and memories of childhood summers should all peak over the next 24 hours...
# Posted by The Rat @ 7:54 AM
( 7:50 AM ) The Rat
EATING BEHIND THE WHEEL 'PUTS YOU AT RISK OF FOOD POISONING.'"
# Posted by The Rat @ 7:50 AM
( 7:48 AM ) The Rat
My great adventure is really Proust. Well—what remains to be written after that? I'm only in the first volume, and there are, I suppose, faults to be found, but I am in a state of amazement; as if a miracle were being done before my eyes. How, at last, has someone solidified what has always escaped—and made it too into this beautiful and perfectly enduring substance? One has to put the book down and gasp. The pleasure becomes physical—like sun and wine and grapes and perfect serenity and intense vitality combined. Far otherwise is it with Ulysses; to which I bind myself like a martyr to a stake, and have thank God, now finished—My martyrdom is over.
# Posted by The Rat @ 7:48 AM
Friday, June 18, 2010
( 2:15 PM ) The Rat
THIS IS WHY I'LL NEVER BE AN ADULT, via ET. This is genius. My favorite line is definitely: "CLEAN ALL THE THINGS!"
Edited to add: IKM notes that Sneaky Hate Spiral is also pretty good. I particularly like the "chain reaction" diagram, and the Netflix thing. Oh, and "Are you also better than fire?"
# Posted by The Rat @ 2:15 PM
( 12:24 PM ) The Rat
THEY'VE PICKED A WINNER FOR THE BETACUP CHALLENGE, and I have to retract my earlier snark about greenwashing—this really is the only type of solution/proposal that should have won.
To my great surprise, a replacement cup didn't win the big prize, but a promotion, an idea to encourage people to use reusable cups, a way to change behaviour. The judges like both the idea and the economy of the presentation.
Essentially, every customer with a reusable cup makes an X on a blackboard and every tenth person gets a free cup of coffee. These kinds of things work; in Canada, they have a "roll up the rim" campaign at Tim Hortons that does the opposite, it encourages people who might normally use the porcelain mug to switch to paper to get a prize. It sells a lot of coffee; the Karma Cup could save a lot of paper. I also love the idea of adding washing stations so that people can rinse out their own mouldy travel mugs. It was an interesting and encouraging choice by the judges, that has a real chance of being implemented.
# Posted by The Rat @ 12:24 PM
( 8:32 AM ) The Rat
SOMEWHERE OUT THERE, there's a marketing executive who dreamed this up. Either he (or she—I wouldn't be picky, under the circumstances) is my soul mate... or my oldest brother changed careers and didn't tell me.
Oh to have been a fly on the wall in the pitch meeting that came up with this promotion. They have offices in both Colorado and California, so maybe it was a compromise between the two branches:
CALIFORNIA: "Let's give our eco-loving customers a cash rebate."
COLORDO: "Let's give our customers guns."
Then wham, the two ideas syngerize deliciously like peanut butter and jelly.
# Posted by The Rat @ 8:32 AM
( 8:22 AM ) The Rat
FEAR OF THE DEVIL HOLDING UP CENSUS IN MIZORAM, via IKM.
The fear of the 'Beast' or the Devil in the Christian-dominated state of Mizoram has caused almost 1,000 families to refuse to enroll their names in the National Population Register (NPR) taken up along with the Census 2011 here from May 15.
The dread stems from Chapter 13 Verse 17 of the Book of Revelations in the Bible which says "...and that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark or the name of the Beast or the number of his name."
The problem has stemmed from the Unique Identification Authority of India stipulating that none one could buy or sell property without the Unique ID card...
# Posted by The Rat @ 8:22 AM
( 8:07 AM ) The Rat
THE PURPLE PROSE EATER, via a friend.
Here's an opinion on using graphic slang from one of the masters of the romance genre, Anne Stuart: "Words like 'cock' should be used judiciously. Sometimes the shock value can be very erotic. Sometimes it can be jarring." Anne later commented that she considers the word penis a "whiny, nasal little word." Then she confessed, and I quote, "I once, God help me, called it 'the raging beast of his desire,' but I saved my reputation when I saw the galleys and almost barfed." She also admitted that in her novel Night of the Phantom, she used the phrase "filled her with the hot wet tumult of his love." When she saw it in print, she wanted to scream.
Now that is purple prose!
While participating in a romance writers' open critique group last year, I ran across an interesting euphemism for erection: "Love tool." I'm not divulging the identity of the writer for fear of life and limb, but I think you all must realize this is not a good euphemism for erection. In fact, all I had to do was read it aloud. The perpetrator perceived my message loud and clear.
A well-known Regency author feels the word "erection" is preferable to "penis" in a love scene. I tend to agree, though I have used the term penis or cock from the male point of view.
Another successful Regency author, Lynn Kerstan, said that the funniest term she ever read was in a contest entry: "...his tumescent tube of fire."
An unpublished writer asked me if "raging monster of his lust" would be acceptable. I said, "Sure, go for it. That'll cut down on my competition."
Some of the participants in my research became a little... carried away. Example? "The dragon of his desire writhed beneath his tight-stretched trousers." Ahem.
Author Susan Wiggs admits that her editor once omitted her reference to the male sex organ as "the bald avenger"...
# Posted by The Rat @ 8:07 AM
( 8:00 AM ) The Rat
MICHELANGELO HID ANATOMICAL SKETCHES IN SISTINE CHAPEL IN CHURCH ATTACK. This isn't the old Creation of Adam one (which IMO was obvious anyway—seriously, I can't believe anybody ever looked at that panel and didn't notice the silhouette?!—or have I just always had brains on the brain, as it were, because my dad's a neurosurgeon?).
The new thesis may explain something that has puzzled art critics for centuries—the peculiar lighting of God's neck.
Most of the fresco is illuminated from the lower left of the panel, but the neck is lit head-on and slightly from the right, casting different shadows.
Profs Suk and Tamargo argue that, far from being a clumsy error by Michelangelo, the peculiar angle deliberately enhanced the anatomical components of the brain...
# Posted by The Rat @ 8:00 AM
( 7:57 AM ) The Rat
A man marries to have a home, but also because he doesn't want to be bothered with sex and all that sort of thing.
# Posted by The Rat @ 7:57 AM
Thursday, June 17, 2010
( 7:54 AM ) The Rat
THE END OF THE BEST FRIEND, via IKM. Communists.
[F]rom Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn to Harry Potter and Ron Weasley, the childhood "best friend" has long been romanticized in literature and pop culture—not to mention in the sentimental memories of countless adults.
But increasingly, some educators and other professionals who work with children are asking a question that might surprise their parents: Should a child really have a best friend?
Most children naturally seek close friends. In a survey of nearly 3,000 Americans ages 8 to 24 conducted last year by Harris Interactive, 94 percent said they had at least one close friend. But the classic best-friend bond—the two special pals who share secrets and exploits, who gravitate to each other on the playground and who head out the door together every day after school—signals potential trouble for school officials intent on discouraging anything that hints of exclusivity, in part because of concerns about cliques and bullying.
"I think it is kids' preference to pair up and have that one best friend. As adults—teachers and counselors—we try to encourage them not to do that," said Christine Laycob, director of counseling at Mary Institute and St. Louis Country Day School in St. Louis. "We try to talk to kids and work with them to get them to have big groups of friends and not be so possessive about friends."
"Parents sometimes say Johnny needs that one special friend," she continued. "We say he doesn’t need a best friend."
That attitude is a blunt manifestation of a mind-set that has led adults to become ever more involved in children's social lives in recent years. The days when children roamed the neighborhood and played with whomever they wanted to until the streetlights came on disappeared long ago, replaced by the scheduled play date. While in the past a social slight in backyard games rarely came to teachers' attention the next day, today an upsetting text message from one middle school student to another is often forwarded to school administrators, who frequently feel compelled to intervene in the relationship. (Ms. Laycob was speaking in an interview after spending much of the previous day dealing with a "really awful" text message one girl had sent another.) Indeed, much of the effort to encourage children to be friends with everyone is meant to head off bullying and other extreme consequences of social exclusion...
# Posted by The Rat @ 7:54 AM
( 7:52 AM ) The Rat
RODENT EXPERT SHINES LIGHT ON RATS IN NYC SUBWAYS.
[T]he state Metropolitan Transportation Authority and city health department are attacking the problem by looking more meticulously at what attracts rats to the subway and keeps them there to make their homes.
"We're actually trying to measure what the factors are directly that cause rats to take advantage of certain stations and not others, so we're putting some science into this," said Robert Corrigan, a health department senior research scientist leading the effort. He presented his findings Tuesday to the Board of Health...
# Posted by The Rat @ 7:52 AM
( 7:51 AM ) The Rat
SCIENTISTS FIND CHEETAHS AND JAGUARS ATTRACTED TO CALVIN KLEIN FRAGRANCE, via JB.
Researchers at the Wildlife Conservation Society's Bronz Zoo in New York experimented with a range of different fragrances and how two cheetahs reacted to them.
To their surprise, the cats spent more than 11 minutes sniffing and nuzzling up to a tree sprayed with Obsession for Men...
# Posted by The Rat @ 7:51 AM
( 7:50 AM ) The Rat
There is science, logic, reason; there is thought verified by experience. And then there is California.
# Posted by The Rat @ 7:50 AM
Sunday, June 13, 2010
( 8:51 AM ) The Rat
THE 37 OR SO INGREDIENTS IN A TWINKIE. Awesome. And Red 40 is much prettier than I'd have expected!
Also via Treehugger: Orang-utans 'like looking back at zoo visitors.'
# Posted by The Rat @ 8:51 AM
( 8:50 AM ) The Rat
THE 'BEAUTY BIAS' AT WORK, AND WHAT SHOULD BE DONE ABOUT IT. This bias obviously exists, of course, but I wonder if the idea of legislating against it will get any traction.
Volumes of psychological research have shown that unattractive people are assumed to be less intelligent, less capable and less trustworthy. Almost from birth, infants stare longer at faces that adults rate as attractive.
Employers are not immune. Resumes get less consideration if the boss thinks they're coming from an unattractive person. Rhode notes that unattractive people are less likely to get hired and promoted and that they earn less on average, even in occupations where appearance has nothing to do with the job.
The increasing prevalence of obesity in America has done nothing to curb virulent prejudice against fat people. Ironically, immobilizing obesity is protected as a disability, but discrimination based purely on cosmetic aversion to fat is totally legal. In one study, 43% of overweight women reported feeling stigmatized by their employers. Obese women earn 12% less than their thinner counterparts with comparable qualifications. Obese women are more likely to live in poverty, even after controlling for other factors.
There's a lot of overlap between appearance discrimination and racism. Some have speculated that coworkers percieved Lorenzana in a more sexualized way because she's Latina. Stereotypically Anglo-European features like smooth hair, slim hips, and pert noses loom large in our prevailing beauty ideals. There's a class component in beauty bias, too. A gleaming smile engineered by an orthodontist is a badge of membership in the middle class. As we all know, poverty increases the risk of obesity.
Thanks to the skyrocketing popularity of plastic surgery, a gulf is emerging between those who can afford Botox and facelifts and those who have to wear the natural signs of aging as gracefully as they can. Last year, the National Organization for Women came out against a proposed plastic surgery tax on the grounds that older women need work to get jobs in today's economy...
# Posted by The Rat @ 8:50 AM
( 8:49 AM ) The Rat
SOMETIMES..., via I Can Has Cheezburger.
# Posted by The Rat @ 8:49 AM
Saturday, June 12, 2010
( 8:15 PM ) The Rat
SOME NEW DEMOTIVATORS over at Despair.com! Vision and Pretension are probably my favorites in the new crop, though Customer Service, Discovery, and Self-Esteem are good too.
# Posted by The Rat @ 8:15 PM
( 5:42 PM ) The Rat
PATERNAL RIGHTS AND ABORTION. It's possible my single favorite phrase in this entire article is: "...buttressed by a trust fund from his grandfather's fragrance company..."
Greg Bruell and his girlfriend of a year and a half, Sandra Hedrick, had a pact. "We agreed that if we got pregnant, we'd terminate because we were not in a stable family unit," Hedrick says. Or as Bruell more starkly puts it, "I resumed sexual relations with her on the condition that were birth control to fail, she’d abort without waffling."
"Resumed," because nine months earlier Hedrick had conceived a child with Bruell and the couple decided to end that pregnancy. Or rather, he decided, and she went along. Their relationship was too rocky—a series of breakups followed by passionate reunions—for them to become parents together, Bruell argued. Plus, both were still in the process of finalizing divorces, and he was a newly single father struggling to balance his needs against those of his eight-year-old daughter and seven-year-old son. Bruell wanted to steady their destabilized worlds before jumping into fatherhood anew. [...]
It was the night after the abortion, and on a number of occasions following, that Hedrick vowed to Greg that if she conceived again, she'd immediately terminate. But when she got pregnant in early 2009 (she was on birth control, she says, though its effectiveness may have been diluted by antibiotics she was taking), she balked. "I looked at the ultrasound," Hedrick says. "A bad move." She also realized that this might be her last chance to have another child. She broke the news to Bruell: She was keeping the baby.
Infuriated about the "miserable betrayal," Bruell told Hedrick it was over between them, for good. He believed she'd deliberately gotten pregnant. Then, two months later, as he was leaving a session with his personal trainer, he was served with a lawsuit demanding child support for his unborn child. That's when Bruell called Mel Feit, a founder of the National Center for Men (NCM), and volunteered to become the next poster boy for male reproductive rights...
# Posted by The Rat @ 5:42 PM
( 5:01 PM ) The Rat
NICE LITTLE INTERVIEW with Josh and Chuck. I'm excerpting the bit below because it spotlights one of the (many) things I love about Stuff You Should Know—viz., that the hosts almost invariably remain respectful of their subjects (even when discussing Jack the Ripper, e.g., they don't lose sight of the fact that as fun as it is to speculate about the killings, and as easy as it is to dismiss the victims as faceless prostitutes in East End slums, they were, after all, actual people with actual lives/stories). This is a quality NPR shows (*cough* This American Life *cough*) can definitely lack, for all their pretentiousness and (supposed) intellectualism.
Very difficult to pick favorites, but my own SYSK shortlist would have to include (among others...) (these are in no particular order except for the first, which probably is my single favorite) "How Twinkies Work," "How Food Cravings Work," "What are Japanese stragglers?" "Has toxoplasma turned the world into zombies?" "Is it possible to brainwash someone?" "Are there dead bodies on Mount Everest?" "How to survive a plane crash," "How flirting works," "Where's the best place on your body to get shot?" and "How Albert Einstein's brain worked." The most recent one, released Thursday, was "Can your grandfather's diet shorten your life?" (on epigenetics).
The SYSK hosts definitely lean left, and (as they themselves will admit) politics can color their views, as it does with all of us. But I'll forgive SYSK almost anything because it just does such a phenomenal job of rewarding the spirit of curiosity—the first-grader in all of us who just wants to know more about everything—and because the hosts really seem like (as the saying goes) guys whose mothers raised them right. It doesn't at all surprise me that Josh and Chuck have both 8-year-old fans and fiftysomething fans. Oh, and did I mention they're very funny? Go, download! (All 224 episodes are free on iTunes; you can also listen to them here.)
PBS. You cover some pretty serious subjects but you have a light tone. Does that become difficult for you or upset the audience?
Josh. Yes, every once in a while we get listener mail and are taken to task and scolded. It's very rare. In almost every case, the person says '"I am not going to unsubscribe but I wanted you to know you ruffled my feathers." When it comes to a heavy topic like "How Comas Work," we treated it slightly more heavily than we did "How Twinkies Work" but it still has the Josh & Chuck tone. After it was released, we knew we hadn't said anything offensive there but we wanted to make sure we hadn't inadvertently offended anyone who had a family member in a vegetative state. And we got listener mail from people who do have relatives in comas, and they thanked us and said, "You guys did this very well, it was factual and respectful and you didn't sensationalize it."
Since that point in time, we've become a lot more confident that our approach could be applied to anything. So we've done "How Tourette's Works" and we got compliments from people who have kids with Tourette's. I think people identify with us on a personal level and they're willing to forgive us. [...]
Physics doesn't really work in Chuck's or my brain, it doesn't fit that well. So we'll research our little hearts out and try. We did a recent podcast on the Hadron Collider, but we did a disclaimer at the beginning of that one too, not that we would offend anyone, but that we would surely get several things wrong on this. And if you can correct us, please do. And we got corrections from astrophysicists. As recently as last Monday an astrophysicist came up to me and said, "You guys really screwed up the Large Hadron Collider." But in a successive podcast, we read all the corrections on air, so the bad information we give out is corrected by someone who really knows what they're talking about...
# Posted by The Rat @ 5:01 PM
( 11:49 AM ) The Rat
THREE MILLION BABIES HIDDEN, via ET. Let's hope this is true...
Policy-makers have warned that millions of frustrated men, who would be unable to find wives, could wreak havoc on Chinese society, leading to a steep rise in prostitution and violence. Mr. Liang said the imbalance was "definitely not as severe as the statistics suggest."
"What happens is that the unplanned baby girls usually do not get registered with the authorities when they are born," he added. In a small village outside the southern town of Xiamen, the Fu family has raised seven daughters.
"I am the biggest offender against the one-child policy in China," laughed Mr. Fu, a 47 year-old who did not give his full name...
Also in Chinese news, but on a lighter note: China cancels visa restriction on bald Taiwanese, via IKM.
The rule imposed by the southern Chinese city of Xiamen barred bald people from applying for one-year multiple-entry permits before it was cancelled earlier this year, according to Taiwan's Travel Agent Association.
"It would probably have raised the question of discrimination if Chinese customs officials were to ask visitors to remove their wigs," said Roger Hsu, a spokesman for the association.
Hsu said the rule had mainly applied to frequent business travellers but he said he did not know how many people had their visas rejected for being bald...
# Posted by The Rat @ 11:49 AM
( 11:37 AM ) The Rat
NEW SITE LETS WORKERS RATE THEIR COLLEAGUES, indirectly via JB.
What if you could rate a co-worker the same way, commenting on his integrity, work ethic and collegiality—or lack of all three? That's the concept behind Unvarnished, a new site designed to let professionals review their colleagues anonymously and publicly. Launched in late March, the San Francisco-based site is the brainchild of a pair of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs. [...]
Unvarnished's launch garnered a good deal of buzz in Silicon Valley—which is not to say enthusiasm. The reaction was "almost universal negativity and anxiety," the New York Times’s tech blog reported, saying the site "creates a public bathroom wall for everyone on the planet—then hands its users a big Sharpie pen."
# Posted by The Rat @ 11:37 AM
( 11:36 AM ) The Rat
22 FICTIONAL CHARACTERS WHOSE NAMES YOU DON'T KNOW, via one of Ratty's brothers. The only one of these I already knew was Peppermint Patty.
# Posted by The Rat @ 11:36 AM
Friday, June 11, 2010
( 1:07 AM ) The Rat
After well more than half a century of teaching superb students the art of reading poetry, I begin to understand that the purpose of teaching is to extend the blessing of more life.
—HB, introduction to Till I End My Song
# Posted by The Rat @ 1:07 AM
Tuesday, June 08, 2010
( 2:46 PM ) The Rat
BHOPAL, BP OIL SPILL: TWO DISASTERS, DIFFERENT JUSTICE. Horrific. (Ratty hadn't realized this verdict was due to be handed down now.) For more on the Bhopal disaster, try here, here, and/or here.
On Monday, more than 25 years after 40 tons of highly toxic methyl isocyanate (MIC) was released from a Union Carbide plant in the central Indian city of Bhopal—killing thousands in a matter of hours and over years, rendering hundreds of thousands seriously ill and causing genetic defects in yet-to-be-born generations—a local court announced its verdict. It held eight former employees of Union Carbide India Ltd guilty of criminal negligence and sentenced seven of them to two years in prison and a fine of $2,100. (The eighth defendant died during the course of the 23-year trial.) The convicted former employees were out on bail—of just $500 each—in less than two hours. Union Carbide India, which no longer exists, was fined less than $11,000.
The judgments are likely to be appealed. Given the speed of the wheels of justice in India, the case is likely to outlast most of the Bhopal survivors and the accused. The most prominent name in the latter category is Warren Anderson, the American CEO of Union Carbide, the U.S. parent company. He is now 89 years old. Arrested by Indian police when he visited the disaster site, he was released on bail and flew out of the country. He continues to be a fugitive from Indian law and hence has not been tried. (He is believed to be living somewhere in New York state.) At the same time, no one has been assigned responsibility for cleaning up Bhopal's ground zero, which researchers and activists say continues to leach toxic chemicals into the groundwater, used by thousands of families.
The outcome of the case has ignited outrage and disbelief across India. No less than the Law Minister and a former Chief Justice have said justice has been delayed and denied. The Economic Times newspaper led its front page with the headline "After 25 Years, Another Tragedy Strikes Bhopal." "We are used to being let down," says Rachna Dhingra of the Bhopal Group for Information and Action, her voice catching as she spoke to Time by phone, "by our government... now even the judiciary."
# Posted by The Rat @ 2:46 PM
( 10:42 AM ) The Rat
CRACKS IN THE THREE GORGES DAM, SO 300,000 PEOPLE CAN WAVE GOODBYE TO THEIR HOMES. There's some evidence that the Sichuan earthquake may have been triggered in part by the Three Gorges project; see here, and (for more on man-made earthquakes generally) here.
In China, cracks are appearing—in the neighbourhood of the massive Three Gorges Dam, the country's great prestige project, and also in the Great Internet Firewall of China, enabling the ominous news to leak out. Three years ago stories were already emerging in the Chinese media about landslides, ecological deterioration and accumulation of algae further down the river. And less and less effort seems to be made to plug the leaks...
# Posted by The Rat @ 10:42 AM
( 10:20 AM ) The Rat
DOES ANYBODY KNOW why This Is Why You're Fat has been taken down? If I have to be in withdrawal, don't I at least deserve some explanation??
# Posted by The Rat @ 10:20 AM
( 9:34 AM ) The Rat
FRENCH ART FANS MAKE BIG MONET. I suppose Impressionists and Pointillists do lend themselves to this sort of thing...
To kick off the 2010 Normandy Impressionist Festival, 1,250 fans of painter Claude Monet gathered on June 5 in Rouen—a town that served as a frequent muse of Monet's—to put together a large-scale reproduction of one of the artist's most famous works.
Together, the Monet admirers assembled a 600-square-meter replica of a work from the impressionist master's Rouen Cathedral series—a body of work widely considered to be among the artist's crowning achievements...
# Posted by The Rat @ 9:34 AM
( 9:15 AM ) The Rat
ET HAS PUT UP SOME OF THE RESULTS of that game we were playing, matching Texts from Last Night with various authors/novels! I'm skeptical they could be nearly as much fun for you to read as they were for us to come up with—but still, go look!
I still don't know how to explain why I so strongly connected this TFLN with The Idiot. It's certainly not because of any specific event in the novel—more, I think, for the weird/apocalyptic feeling (Richard Pevear: "The Idiot is built on that eschatological sense of time. It is the desolate time of Holy Saturday, when Christ is buried, the disciples are scattered and—worse than that—abandoned. 'Who could believe that this sufferer would resurrect?'") it achieves of time slowing and/or stopping.
All of which said—whether I'm right about that one or not, I do stand by my more global point, which ET quotes, about the non-coincidence of our fascination with Dostoevsky having peaked during our prime drinking years... Oh, and word to the wise: Do not try to ground a romantic relationship in a shared love of that author (and also, let us never speak of this again).
# Posted by The Rat @ 9:15 AM
( 9:05 AM ) The Rat
GLOBAL PAIN-LAW REFORM: MORPHINE STILL SCARCE FOR MANY. I hadn't realized "opiophobia" (as it's called here) was still such an issue till it was addressed specifically during my hospice-visitation training.
Whether you will have access to pain treatment depends largely upon where you live. Africa, which has most of the world's AIDS victims, is a painkiller wasteland. In India, more than a million cancer and AIDS sufferers die each year in extreme pain as cumbersome regulations and paperwork make it nearly impossible to get prescription painkillers. (India produces much of the world's legal opium, yet nearly all of it is exported to Western pharmaceutical companies.) In East Asia, where European colonial powers once used opiates to subdue much of the population of Indochina, governments retain an almost pathological aversion to opiates of any kind. The geography of pain relief is so skewed that the seven richest countries consume 84% of the world's supply of legal opiates, according to the International Narcotics Control Board, an independent agency that enforces U.N. conventions. For the estimated 10 million people who are suffering from untreated pain, relief is often found only on the black market, or in death.
The reason that most people have little or no access to morphine is opiophobia, says Dr. Eric Krakauer, a Harvard Medical School professor who helped Vietnam rewrite its medical-use opiate laws. Misinformation about clinical morphine use is rife; even some doctors believe that anyone using morphine will become a drug-crazed addict. While long-term opiate users will become dependent, the effect is reversible. Lost in the discussion, says Krakauer, are morphine's benefits, particularly to terminal patients with severe and chronic pain...
# Posted by The Rat @ 9:05 AM
( 9:01 AM ) The Rat
SORRY, WE ALREADY BURIED A LADY NEXT TO YOUR HUSBAND. I have no words.
The last place you want to find The Other Woman is on her back next to your husband. Especially when he's dead. A woman named Lillas Hawkins in California found just that when she went to visit her husband's grave two weeks ago. When she pointed out the error to a cemetery worker, she says he responded, "We are in terrible trouble." The cemetery is owned by a company named Dignity...
# Posted by The Rat @ 9:01 AM
( 8:56 AM ) The Rat
THE YALIENS AMONG US, via IKM. What most interests me about this is that it was written by a Harvard alum (the best line of the entire article is the "mall" line btw)—one with a major case of, as ET put it, "Harkness envy." Not always a great article, but many fun bits.
"Yale people in New York often have no concept that there are any other standards by which one could be judged than the ones they developed as undergraduates," said Mr. Glazek. "They don't embarrass easily. They don't seek external validation as energetically."
At the root of this, he went on, is the peculiar way in which Yaliens who have graduated and taken up in New York relate to the world they live in. "It's like the world is a figment of your imagination," he said. "Like the world happens to you, rather than you are something in the world. It's like Berkeleyan idealism"...
# Posted by The Rat @ 8:56 AM
( 8:43 AM ) The Rat
LOOKS LIKE Ratty's getting her birthday wish in October this year! Anybody want to lay odds the reviewers draw comparisons to The Plague? (Just last week, Ratty was asking her sources in the military-industrial complex whether there was another Roth coming out anytime soon, but they didn't know. She never dared to hope for one of the long ones—304 pp. in this case!—though it's to be admitted that 1) his last longer book sucked hard, and 2) the last thing of his that didn't suck at all was four books ago. But maybe we'll get lucky this time; and in any event, I now know what I'll be doing the morning—and afternoon, and evening, and night—of October 5: Roth is the only living writer whose new work I always rush out to acquire and inhale immediately.)
In the "stifling heat of equatorial Newark," a terrifying epidemic is raging, threatening the children of the New Jersey city with maiming, paralysis, life-long disability, and even death. This is the startling and surprising theme of Roth's wrenching new book: a wartime polio epidemic in the summer of 1944 and the effect it has on a closely knit, family-oriented Newark community and its children...
# Posted by The Rat @ 8:43 AM
( 1:57 AM ) The Rat
Thin are the night-skirts left behind
By daybreak hours that onward creep,
And thin, alas! the shred of sleep
That wavers with the spirit's wind:
But in half-dreams that shift and roll
And still remember and forget,
My soul this hour has drawn your soul
A little nearer yet.
Our lives, most dear, are never near,
Our thoughts are never far apart,
Though all that draws us heart to heart
Seems fainter now and now more clear.
To-night Love claims his full control,
And with desire and with regret
My soul this hour has drawn your soul
A little nearer yet.
Is there a home where heavy earth
Melts to bright air that breathes no pain,
Where water leaves no thirst again
And springing fire is Love's new birth?
If faith long bound to one true goal
May there at length its hope beget,
My soul that hour shall draw your soul
For ever nearer yet.
—Dante Gabriel Rossetti, "Insomnia"*
*This source notes that "Insomnia may have been the last poem Rossetti wrote, a year before his death. As in his masterpiece, The Stream's Secret (1869-70), where the references fuse his wife, Elizabeth Siddal (who killed herself), and his lover, Jane Burden, wife of William Morris, his closest friend, so Insomnia amalgamates them as a single dream figure."
# Posted by The Rat @ 1:57 AM