The Rat
Thursday, June 30, 2011
      ( 5:34 PM ) The Rat  
BE LIKE MARIO, via Failbook.

Also: He Did Give a Heads Up, Um..., and Ouch.

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      ( 3:51 PM ) The Rat  

A hospital has apologised for asking elderly patients to attract nurses' attention with a tambourine...

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      ( 3:20 PM ) The Rat  
'THE ONE SPORT THAT VALORIZES FLIGHT RATHER THAN ENCOUNTER.' Mark Oppenheimer on the dorkiness of the long-distance runner.

It is not surprising, then, that Youth in Revolt and Nick and Norah are based on young-adult novels, just as Cera's more recent movie, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, is based on a graphic novel. This is all art for young people trying to negotiate the path to being older people, and trying to figure out what kind of older people they want to be. Cera's characters are always adolescing, and adolescence is nothing if not a race into time. You'll always get to your destination, and really you are the only one who can speed up or retard the process of maturation—nobody can stop you from getting where you want to go, but nobody can help you get there, either. Like adolescents, distance runners have rivalries only with themselves. They don't talk about beating that boy or girl nearly so much as they talk about beating their own "personal best." They worry about starting too fast, getting winded, falling behind, sprinting to catch up. Like sexual adventuring, like deciding when to drink and when to drug, running is a series of decisions made alone, in one's own good time...

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      ( 11:59 AM ) The Rat  
'FINALLY: HAVE FUN AND KEEP SMILING!' For a lark, Ratty has been reading the race rules for Badwater, which begins at 6 AM on July 11 this year. The race route is here; this year's race roster is here, and includes a breakdown of the occupations of the 96 people (68 male, 28 female) competing. Wouldn't you think a professor of neuroscience would know better than to put himself through something like this?

I.V.s (intravenous fluids) are not permitted during the race. If a racer receives an I.V. during the race, for any reason, then that racer is disqualified and must withdraw from the race and the race course...

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      ( 8:00 AM ) The Rat  
EVEN IF THERE WERE A SHOP YOU COULD GO TO DO THIS, would it really be on the Upper West Side?

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Wednesday, June 29, 2011
      ( 2:48 PM ) The Rat  

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      ( 2:44 PM ) The Rat  
HOW THE NPR VOICES LOOK (IN MY HEAD). I'm pretty sure this is how they look in everybody's head.

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      ( 2:15 PM ) The Rat  
STAY CLASSY, TASCHEN! Not quite SFW. Though I guess maybe that depends on your W?

OK, imagine the best photos from the iconic first volume of the body parts series, The Big Book of Breasts, in a new 28 by 28 cm size, but popping off the page in state-of-the-art 3D. An impossible dream? Not so, Luddites! In this wonderful modern world of digital magic, 90 photos from the original book, plus 18 stunning new photos, have been transformed from boring old last-century 2D into cutting edge 21st century 3D by Jon Schnitzer and The Brain Factory, the geniuses whipping up 3D projects for filmmaker Tim Burton. This 220-page special edition has a revised introduction, updated layout, and comes with a pair of red/blue anaglyph viewing glasses...

There's also a, um, let's say Anthony Weiner-esque one (since I hesitate to say "a corresponding volume for women")...

It's hard to imagine a book that could beat The Big Penis Book for grabbing attention and driving sales, unless it would be those same unimaginably colossal generative units seen in breathtaking 3D. That pop-up centerfold we joked about adding? In 3D every page becomes a pop-up! This 220-page, 28 by 28 cm special edition includes 96 images from the original book, plus 8 new bonus photos, transformed into eye-popping 3-D by Jon Schnitzer and The Brain Factory, the geniuses whipping up 3D projects for filmmaker Tim Burton. There is a revised introduction, new layout, and a pair of red/blue anaglyph glasses included...

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      ( 2:07 PM ) The Rat  

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      ( 1:14 PM ) The Rat  

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      ( 12:50 PM ) The Rat  
RATTY THOUGHT Bonnie Levison had by far the best story at last night's Moth show (theme: "Big Night"), though Jerry Stahl may have been the best storyteller, and had a killer last line. The event apparently drew some 4,000 people, a SummerStage record for spoken-word events.

Among the dozen or so Moth stories I've now heard, I would venture to say that the most powerful/moving ones tend to be the ones reflective of the most pain (thus, two of the best that I've heard are "An Unexpected Twist," which is about a new husband being hospitalized with life-threatening gastric problems, and Levison's story last night, which was about the night she first met the younger woman her husband left her for after 16 years of marriage—and three children)... which is not at all to say they're the most "serious" stories. (Maybe all I mean is that the best stories are the most intimate ones—the ones whose tellers are most frank about the humiliations and terrors of life, and not only about its joys.) "An Unexpected Twist," for instance (which you can still listen to here), is hysterical—though between that and the opening story last night, I've now heard Andy Borowitz tell two Moth stories, and both were about how madly in love he is with his wife. Most of me's just really happy for you, dude, but at this point part of me's also kind of thinking, Sheesh, get a room!

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      ( 11:09 AM ) The Rat  
ASIAN KIDS AND PARENTS DISCUSSION FORUM. If you're surprised by how many of these posts are so full of anger that they ultimately subside into incoherence/profanity... you're probably not Asian.

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      ( 10:34 AM ) The Rat  
OVER ON THE SYSK TWITTER FEED, somebody wanted to know how, as a new listener, he could possibly get caught up on all the existing episodes (currently 333 by my count, if one includes only those co-hosted by Josh and Chuck). Go here for the responses.

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:34 AM

      ( 10:17 AM ) The Rat  
I am calmer now. Dr. Wong prescribed Prozac and a course of aromatherapy. He said that I was suffering from stress. I told him about my unhappy childhood, and he was very understanding. Though I heard my mother vehemently denying it: "He was a very happy little boy," she told the doctor. "Until he got older and started reading Dostoevsky and that bleddy Kafka!"
—has been on my fridge pretty much continuously since ET found it in this article

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      ( 9:44 AM ) The Rat  
'A FEW OF US, HOWEVER, ARE MORE LIKE THE ORCHID...' Have just been re-reading this old Atlantic piece. (Link via ET.) They forget to mention, of course, that orchids shouldn't date each other. Also, dandelions should probably be taken periodically to see and/or read about orchids.

Recently, however, an alternate hypothesis has emerged from this one and is turning it inside out. This new model suggests that it's a mistake to understand these "risk" genes only as liabilities. Yes, this new thinking goes, these bad genes can create dysfunction in unfavorable contexts—but they can also enhance function in favorable contexts. The genetic sensitivities to negative experience that the vulnerability hypothesis has identified, it follows, are just the downside of a bigger phenomenon: a heightened genetic sensitivity to all experience.

Though this hypothesis is new to modern biological psychiatry, it can be found in folk wisdom, as the University of Arizona developmental psychologist Bruce Ellis and the University of British Columbia developmental pediatrician W. Thomas Boyce pointed out last year in the journal
Current Directions in Psychological Science. The Swedes, Ellis and Boyce noted in an essay titled "Biological Sensitivity to Context," have long spoken of "dandelion" children. These dandelion children—equivalent to our "normal" or "healthy" children, with "resilient" genes—do pretty well almost anywhere, whether raised in the equivalent of a sidewalk crack or a well-tended garden. Ellis and Boyce offer that there are also "orchid" children, who will wilt if ignored or maltreated but bloom spectacularly with greenhouse care.

In this view, having both dandelion and orchid kids greatly raises a family's (and a species') chance of succeeding, over time and in any given environment. The behavioral diversity provided by these two different types of temperament also supplies precisely what a smart, strong species needs if it is to spread across and dominate a changing world. The many dandelions in a population provide an underlying stability. The less-numerous orchids, meanwhile, may falter in some environments but can excel in those that suit them. And even when they lead troubled early lives, some of the resulting heightened responses to adversity that can be problematic in everyday life—increased novelty-seeking, restlessness of attention, elevated risk-taking, or aggression—can prove advantageous in certain challenging situations: wars, tribal or modern; social strife of many kinds; and migrations to new environments. Together, the steady dandelions and the mercurial orchids offer an adaptive flexibility that neither can provide alone. Together, they open a path to otherwise unreachable individual and collective achievements.

This is a transformative, even startling view of human frailty and strength. For more than a decade, proponents of the vulnerability hypothesis have argued that certain gene variants underlie some of humankind’s most grievous problems: despair, alienation, cruelties both petty and epic. The orchid hypothesis accepts that proposition. But it adds, tantalizingly, that these same troublesome genes play a critical role in our species' astounding success...

Incidentally, Ratty has been giggling about this headline since discovering it a couple of days ago.

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      ( 9:17 AM ) The Rat  

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      ( 9:11 AM ) The Rat  
MANY VARIABLES IN A NEW YORK MATH MUSEUM, via WC. It didn't surprise me that I felt a stab of disappointment when I clicked through to find this isn't opening till next year; what surprised me was how intense the disappointment was...

Two years ago, he and his team built a carnival-like traveling exhibit called the Math Midway, a proof-of-concept for the coming museum. It includes a tricycle with square wheels of different sizes that visitors can ride smoothly around a circular path ridged like a flower's petals. An accompanying sign explains why: The undulating circular surface rises and falls exactly to offset the odd shape of the wheels, so that the tricycle's axles—and the rider—remain at the same height as they move.

Mr. Whitney hopes that colorful, interactive props will help his cause. "If we just pluck people in the street—'What adjectives would you use to describe math?'—very few of them would say, 'beautiful,'" Mr. Whitney said...

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      ( 8:57 AM ) The Rat  
HAPTIC COW. People sticking their arms into a model of a cow's rear end is just about the only thing I haven't already seen at a British Library exhibition...

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      ( 2:09 AM ) The Rat  
THIS PASSIVE-AGGRESSIVE NOTES ENTRY should strike a chord (at least metonymically, even if your parents didn't keep records like this) with just about anyone who's not either an oldest child or an only child.

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      ( 1:30 AM ) The Rat  
I'VE MENTIONED TO A FEW FRIENDS that, since discovering distance running this spring, I've often felt that the thing I really want to be for a living is a hamster. (Look, I didn't say I'd be a fast hamster—I just said a hamster.) Turns out there's a scientific basis for it!

Habitual physical activity has antidepressant/ anxiolytic properties and results in dramatic alterations in physiological stress responses, but the neurochemical mediators of these effects are unknown. The current study determined the effects of 6 weeks of voluntary freewheel running on LH behaviors, uncontrollable stress-induced activity of DRN 5-HT neurons, and basal expression of DRN 5-HT1A autoreceptor mRNA. Freewheel running prevented the shuttle box escape deficit and the exaggerated conditioned fear that is induced by uncontrollable tail shock in sedentary rats. Furthermore, double c-Fos/5-HT immunohistochemistry revealed that physical activity attenuated tail shock-induced activity of 5-HT neurons in the rostral–mid DRN. Six weeks of freewheel running also resulted in a basal increase in 5-HT1A inhibitory autoreceptor mRNA in the rostral–mid DRN. Results suggest that freewheel running prevents behavioral depression/LH and attenuates DRN 5-HT neural activity during uncontrollable stress...

I've thus far (knock wood) been very lucky where it comes to physical health. But reading this RW cover story about Team in Training, yesterday—and without at all intending to minimize or cheapen the pain of cancer sufferers and their loved ones—I couldn't help feeling that in the last sentence of the passage below, the interviewee could have just as easily been talking psychological forms of trauma (whether in the form of anxiety, depression, childhood abuse/neglect, etc.—basically all the fun stuff that tends to create learned helplessness) rather than cancer.

Some blood cancers such as Dawn's originate in the lymph nodes, the disease-fighting network contained throughout the body. Abnormal cells grow and accumulate. Eventually, tumors develop and, due to a compromised immune system, infections go unchecked. Left untreated, tumors can spread everywhere. Because its exact cause is unknown, a blood cancer seems to be an expression of cells gone rogue, attacking from the inside, incomprehensible and, most frightening, beyond our control.

'When you have cancer, it feels like some alien force is attacking you,' Dawn says as we move along. 'You don't have any control over it. Then you go into chemo and you have even less control. During radiation, it feels like you're getting cooked from the inside. It's just this weird, awful feeling.' She goes quiet for a few strides, her face darkening with the memory. Then brightening, Dawn says, 'But running gives you back control. You feel yourself getting stronger day by day and week by week—especially when you're in the kind of structured program TNT offers. It's like running is the opposite of cancer'...

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Tuesday, June 28, 2011
      ( 1:45 AM ) The Rat  
'IF YOU'RE HOPING TO BEAT A POLITICIAN'S TIME AND THINK BUSH AND PALIN'S MARKS ARE A LITTLE OUT OF YOUR LEAGUE, AL GORE'S TIME IS A LOT MORE ACHIEVABLE.' Celebrity Marathon Times, via Wikipedia has a more extensive list—who knew Alan Turing was a distance runner?!

Alan Turing achieved world-class Marathon standards. His best time of 2 hours, 46 minutes, 3 seconds, was only 11 minutes slower than the winner in the 1948 Olympic Games. In a 1948 cross-country race he finished ahead of Tom Richards who was to win the silver medal in the Olympics.

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      ( 1:27 AM ) The Rat  
A first sign of the beginning of understanding is the wish to die.

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      ( 1:20 AM ) The Rat  
There are many things in your heart you can never tell to another person. They are you, your private joys and sorrows, and you can never tell them. You cheapen yourself, the inside of yourself, when you tell them.

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Monday, June 27, 2011
      ( 11:18 PM ) The Rat  

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      ( 8:11 PM ) The Rat  
Though the toil was arduous, they rarely spoke of the discomfort of training or racing in terms of pain; they knew that what gave pain its truly fearful dimension was a certain lack of familiarity. And these were sensations they knew very well.
Once a Runner

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      ( 5:24 PM ) The Rat  

OK Cupid has also analyzed couples who have met on the site and have since left it. Of the 34,620 couples the site has analyzed, the casual first-date question whose shared answer was most likely to signal a shot at longevity (beyond the purview of OK Cupid, anyway) was "Do you like horror movies?" When I signed up for the site, some of the first things I was asked were "Are clams alive?" and "Which is bigger, the sun or the earth?" It's hard to discern the significance.

The purpose of the blog is to attract attention: the findings, like the quizzes, are to lure you in. Rudder has written a lot about looks: whether or not it helps to show cleavage (women) or a bare midriff (men)—the answers were Yes, Especially as You Age, and Yes, If You Have Good Abs and Are Not a Congressman. He found that women generally prefer it when in photos men are looking away from the camera (hypothesis: less intimidating), and that men prefer the opposite (they want a woman's full attention)...

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      ( 4:53 PM ) The Rat  

Mr Carpenter said characters such as Pennywise, the murderous clown in Stephen King's novel It, and the evil criminal mastermind the Joker in Batman, had contributed to the view of clowns as "scary."

He said: "We want to say to people 'give us a chance'—we're not all crazed psycho killers.

"We had more and more people saying to us 'keep away, we're scared,' so we decided to do something positive about it"...

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      ( 9:52 AM ) The Rat  

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      ( 9:19 AM ) The Rat  
"I DON'T THINK ROBERT BROWNING WAS VERY GOOD IN BED..." The 30 Harshest Author-on-Author Insults in History, via A&LD. These can't possibly be the 30 harshest, but there are some fun ones nevertheless. There's a longer list of 50 here.

And of course, there's always the classic "The Book of My Enemy Has Been Remaindered."

The book of my enemy has been remaindered
And I am pleased.
In vast quantities it has been remaindered
Like a van-load of counterfeit that has been seized
And sits in piles in a police warehouse,
My enemy's much-prized effort sits in piles
In the kind of bookshop where remaindering occurs.
Great, square stacks of rejected books and, between them, aisles
One passes down reflecting on life's vanities,
Pausing to remember all those thoughtful reviews
Lavished to no avail upon one's enemy's book—
For behold, here is that book
Among these ranks and banks of duds,
These ponderous and seeminly irreducible cairns
Of complete stiffs...

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:19 AM

      ( 1:01 AM ) The Rat  
RATTY IS STILL GIGGLING at this viewer comment (by "leoamar4385896") on that epic chase sequence in Berlin from The Bourne Supremacy: "the german police in the movie were pretty good. US police would have definitely given up sooner."

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Sunday, June 26, 2011
      ( 10:44 PM ) The Rat  
PARA. FROM THE WIKI PAGE on psychogenic amnesia.

Examples include Shakespeare's King Lear who experienced amnesia and madness following a betrayal by his daughters; the title character Nina in Nicolas Dalayrac's opera of 1786 and the character of Jason Bourne as depicted in the Bourne film series; Jackie Chan in Who Am I?; the character Teri Bauer in 24; Goldie Hawn in Overboard; Leroy Jethro Gibbs in NCIS and the character Victoria Lord in One Life to Live.

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      ( 6:11 PM ) The Rat  

This page has quite a few "new" ones, e.g., "Instead of mousetraps, what about baby traps? Not to harm the babies, but just to hold them down until they can be removed."

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      ( 7:52 AM ) The Rat  
HOW PETER FALK MADE LT. COLUMBO ICONIC, via BC. No mention of the Porfiry link, alas.

I wish I hadn't already watched most of the episodes out there. But what was I going to do—not watch them?! (Fortunately, "howcatchem"s are highly rewatchable.)

In every story, Falk's Columbo showed us what a grave mistake it was to judge a person by how they dressed, the car they drove, or how much education they had. Every time he brought down one of those rich, highly educated, supremely self-confident, outrageously good-looking murderers, he not only chipped away at our ridiculous notions of what makes a hero, he offered us escape in an entirely different way. Falk made us believe, through his deceptively simple performance, that we didn't have to be rich, well-dressed, or have an Ivy League education to be the smartest person in the room... nor did we have to be physically perfect, and the consummate tough guy, to be a man.

Or, more succinctly:

Every episode is glorious, if very thinly veiled, class warfare. Like
Die Hard, but without the machine guns and broken glass. Some rich bastard will engineer an elaborate and ingenious murder. Swarthy little working-class Columbo—driving his beat-to-shit foreign convertible and pulling down an LAPD salary of $11,000 a year—will then wander onto the scene and proceed to slowly and methodically destroy some amoral, snobby, arrogant, self-serving, stick-up-the-ass bastard's life.

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      ( 7:08 AM ) The Rat  
PARIS TO CUT AMOUNT OF ADVERTISING IN STREETS BY 30 PERCENT. Also see the linked article on advertising in Venice.

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      ( 7:02 AM ) The Rat  
DANIEL CRAIG got hitched! Although the linked article from March, Daniel Craig dons drag for International Women's Day, may be more interesting.

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      ( 6:50 AM ) The Rat  

Walter Molo wouldn't go.

"Go, Molo, go!" his friends yelled.

The once-avid motorcycle rider is not one to shy from adventure. But to dive 4 feet down a steep concrete embankment—in a wheelchair, while paralyzed from the waist down?

"Yeah," Molo said, gripping his wheels a few feet from the edge. "I'm gonna have to take a moment to think this one over."

A skateboarding park on Venice Beach transformed into a training ground Saturday morning as several dozen paraplegics and quadriplegics learned to drop, roll and dive on curved walls as tall as school buses...

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      ( 12:15 AM ) The Rat  
COOL PERSON TEST. I feel a need to reblog this every few years.

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Saturday, June 25, 2011
      ( 10:58 PM ) The Rat  
IF YOU'RE EASILY SQUICKED OUT AND A BOY (or do I repeat myself?), skip this post, but fyi for pre-menopausal girls: The Mooncup U.K. is, finally, once again available for delivery to the U.S. (Sales were suspended in early '09 as a result of filthy business practices on the part of a knockoff brand.) The company has an FAQ here, but for answers to just about any question you could possibly come up with on this subject, go to this (searchable!) LiveJournal forum.

I switched to menstrual cups (and specifically to the Mooncup U.K.) in February 2008, and have never looked back. For women raving about how much the switch has improved their lives (very few people seem to have a lukewarm reaction to these things), see this section. There's also a briefer, more general introduction to cups here. The cost difference—the average cup lasts at least ten years and costs just $30; women who use disposable products will spend an estimated $4,000 on them over a lifetime—should at least pique your curiosity, right? My own primary motivation was environmental (go here to see what I mean—just don't buy from that company, as they're the ones who tried to screw over Mooncup U.K.), but I still feel goofily smug whenever I walk past an aisle of disposables in a shop and remember that I will never have to pay for that shit again. That said, the advantages that seem to be most frequently cited by converts are physical (unlike with disposables, cups are so comfortable you can pretty much forget it's even your special moon time at all) and psychological (they tend to encourage greater acceptance of your own body and its processes—certainly more so than does having to essentially either wear a diaper or stuff yourself with cotton for several days out of every month).

We have disconnected ourselves from our bodies so thoroughly that most women don't fully understand the way their periods work, especially if they're on birth control... Before I started using menstrual cups, I had no idea how much I bled each day, how the flow changed, how its consistency changed, all of that. I had a vague idea I suppose but I never felt comfortable and familiar with my period the way I do now. I won't get too graphic for the squeamish out there (even the fact that I have to say this and censor myself is indicative of the problematic relationship we as a society have with women’s periods!) but now that I use a menstrual cup I'm able to see how much I bleed, which days I bleed more, what changes accompany my cramps (if there's more or less blood, if the consistency of the blood changes, etc), and so much more. Our periods don't have to be something we're grossed out by, or bothered by (in the absence of cramps, extra sensitivity and whatnot). Just talking about my love for my Diva Cup has brought so many negative attitudes towards women's periods out of the woodwork. Grown women have been completely grossed out that you have to—gasp—touch yourself "down there" and potentially risk touching your own blood in order to use a menstrual cup. I'm talking about grown women who have been menstruating for 20 years of their lives! My period is a beautiful thing that reminds me each month that (hooray!) I am not yet pregnant and (double hooray!) my healthy body is capable of creating a living, breathing human being. I for one think it should be respected as such...

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      ( 10:46 PM ) The Rat  
"OR $4.95 A MONTH UNDER A SUBSCRIBER PLAN." LawyerUp Promises Delivery of Legal Help as Quickly as Pizza, via Wait Wait.

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      ( 10:13 PM ) The Rat  

The major cause of trauma was assault (98.8%)...

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      ( 6:42 PM ) The Rat  
BACON-WRAPPED FRIED MAC, Part 2 in Serious Eats's "Paula Deen Is Trying to Kill Us" series, Parts 1 through 5 of which you can find here. Part 6 is here, and there's also a Thanksgiving roundup.

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      ( 8:42 AM ) The Rat  
ZOOS ATTRACT VISITORS WITH SLEEPOVERS. Ratty's neighborhood natural history museum also periodically offers a "Dino-Snore" (longer account here), as of course do some of its larger counterparts.

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Friday, June 24, 2011
      ( 9:25 PM ) The Rat  
AMERICAN RED CROSS FACING BLOOD SHORTAGE. There's always a dip in summer/vacation periods of course, but apparently it's unusually bad this year. If you've never donated, and are thinking it doesn't matter because somebody else will, bear in mind that only about 5 percent of the eligible population actually bother to donate. Since only 37 percent of the population are eligible to give (for the restrictions, go here), that means only about 1.9 percent of the people in this country actually give blood—though it's estimated that at least 25 percent of us will need a transfusion at least once in our lifetimes.

There was an amazing ad campaign a few years ago that showed the two sides of blood donation, using this template. My favorite in the series (perhaps because I'm not a fan of needles myself?) was one that paired "AFRAID OF NEEDLES," on one side, with "AFRAID OF DYING" on the other.

More info for athletes here (the most useful article is the one at "3. Ask the Doctor"). More on platelet donation here.

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      ( 7:09 PM ) The Rat  
TEACHING, via Failbook.

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      ( 7:00 PM ) The Rat  
"IS THIS HELLO KITTY MEAT?" Didn't get around to posting this week's Sandwich Monday at the time.

Mike. Why is this for women? Because it's pink?

Eva. This sandwich is really emotional. You'd know that, if you ever thought to ask.

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      ( 5:39 PM ) The Rat  
THIS ACTUALLY WENT THROUGH, so yes, Connecticut is about to start taxing yoga.

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      ( 5:34 PM ) The Rat  
IF YOU CAN FINISH IN UNDER 4-1/2 HOURS, this actually sounds like fun. The swag bag really ought to include pasties or something though.

Don't miss the Run as Elvi page.

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      ( 1:28 PM ) The Rat  
'TO BE STRAIGHT I REALLY DON'T THINK YOU'RE RESPONSIBLE ENOUGH TO OWN A LAPTOP, I AM SKYPING TO YOUR FRIEND MONIQUE AND SHE AGREES.' The 9 most enjoyably disastrous cases of people forgetting to log out of Facebook, via Someecards. "Confession to make" (scroll down) is pretty epic.

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      ( 1:17 PM ) The Rat  
"JUST 15 MILES TODAY—MY LONG RUN IS NOT UNTIL SATURDAY." I'm a Runner, another Xtranormal vid.

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      ( 11:51 AM ) The Rat  
DO YOU WANT TO RUN A RELAY RACE? My favorite thing in this is his expression at about 1:28 ("Because we will be an ultra team. That makes us super-cool."). Also reminded me of Peter Sagal in a recent RW:

Oh, we runners talk of the cardiovascular and psychological benefits of running, we brag of the weight loss, but deep down we know that running is essentially useless. In the modern world, it gives us no competitive advantage, no marketable skill, no way of earning our keep, and hasn't since we invented agriculture and no longer needed to run down our prey. My hobby involves getting up early to run five miles around my neighborhood, and it creates nothing except an unpleasant aroma around the breakfast table once I return home. In contrast, my wife's hobbies include knitting, sewing, cooking, and playing music, so that if our family were stranded on a desert island, she'd be able to handle the necessities and entertainment, and I would be reduced to occasionally running around the island to make sure it hadn't somehow reattached itself to land.

All my life I've looked for ways that my running could actually be useful. In our world of automobiles, planes, and moving sidewalks, running is like a silly superpower: most people can't do it, but most people don't need to. It's a shame you can't train yourself up from running to flying. Now, that would be impressive.

This fact hasn't halted my attempts to make running pay off in other ways. Some years ago, while hiking in Hawaii, my kids got tired two miles down the trail, so I suggested they take a spur trail down to a nearby road, while I ran back to get the car. I was halfway back, when I realized that my droopy hiking shorts were hurting my cause more than they were helping it, so I took them off, and continued down the deserted trail in my underwear. Which, of course, is just when I ran into the four high-school girls and their dates. That's when I realized one of running's few true uses: very quick exits...

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:51 AM

      ( 11:36 AM ) The Rat  
LIFE ON LESS THAN $2 A DAY. Also see the BBC series A Dollar a Day, and When a dollar a day means 25 cents.

[A] "dollar a day" is not in fact a dollar as we would understand it using normal international exchange rates. Instead it is a specially adjusted dollar using something called Purchasing Power Parity, or PPP.

One of the easiest ways to understand this is the so-called "Big Mac Index," which was first developed by the
Economist magazine to explain the difference in prices between countries in simple terms.

The idea, says former World Bank economist Michael Ward, is that the Big Mac is an almost identical product no matter where in the world you buy it—bread, cheese, meat, lettuce and labour costs. But in fact, Big Macs end up costing much less in places like Beijing or Mumbai than London or New York. So economists use the different prices of Big Macs across the world to judge the relative buying power of people in different countries. For example, if a Big Mac costs a dollar in America, but only 25 cents in Mumbai, then a PPP "dollar" in Mumbai is actually worth only 25 cents.

The World Bank's "dollar a day" system uses a similar calculation, but using a much bigger range of prices. So in this system, an Indian living on less than "a dollar a day" is actually living on less than 25 cents a day, or just 9 Indian rupees—because that's how much it would take an Indian to buy the same thing as an American would buy for a real dollar...

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:36 AM

      ( 11:12 AM ) The Rat  
3 THINGS GAY PEOPLE ARE GOING TO HATE ABOUT GAY MARRIAGE, via Cracked. This can get a bit sanctimonious in places and isn't consistently funny, but it has its moments.

I don't care if you're straight or you're gay, in every relationship there's always one partner who wants to commit first. Through the centuries men have had to push off their girlfriends' attempts to get them to settle down. "Oh, now's not a good time, babe. When we're more financially secure. When we can go three weeks without fighting. When I'm sure I can't get someone hotter." (Actually, straight dudes usually leave that last one out.)

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:12 AM

      ( 10:26 AM ) The Rat  
METAPHOR FOR LIFE? From The Little Red Book of Running: "In the first half of the race, don't be an idiot. In the second half, don't be a wimp." OK, so I already missed my chance on the first part.

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:26 AM

      ( 12:56 AM ) The Rat  

For the first time, according to census figures released in April, their numbers have topped one million—nearly 1 in 8 New Yorkers—which is more than the Asian population in the cities of San Francisco and Los Angeles combined.

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:56 AM

Thursday, June 23, 2011
      ( 8:02 PM ) The Rat  
FUZZY DICE I would actually hang in my car.

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:02 PM

      ( 5:15 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 5:15 PM

      ( 4:17 PM ) The Rat  
PASSIVE-AGGRESSION, now available in Faraday-cage handkerchief format.

# Posted by The Rat @ 4:17 PM

      ( 12:04 PM ) The Rat  
I'M KIND OF SURPRISED THE CLIENT GAVE IT THE GREEN LIGHT, but this is quite clever (try to guess what they're selling before the end). Via JM.

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:04 PM

      ( 10:51 AM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:51 AM

      ( 10:01 AM ) The Rat  
DOES LIFE ONLINE GIVE YOU 'POPCORN BRAIN'? via IKM. This is a much bigger problem for me with the laptop than with the phone—though the phone can be a problem too, depending whose company I'm in. And it's definitely something I worry about when I think about potentially having children—I really don't know how any child could develop a healthy attention span growing up in such a wired world.

Levy, a professor with the Information School at the University of Washington, tells the story of giving a speech at a high-tech company. Afterwards at lunch, an employee sheepishly told him how the night before his wife had asked him to give their young daughter a bath. Instead of enjoying the time with his child, he spent the time on his phone, texting and returning emails. He didn't have to work—it was just that the urge to use the phone was more irresistible than the child in the tub.

"It's really ubiquitous," says Cash, a counselor who treats people who have trouble giving up their gadgets. "We can't just sit quietly and wait for a bus, and that's too bad, because our brains need that down time to rest, to process things."

Clifford Nass, a social psychologist at Stanford, says studies show multitasking on the Internet can make you forget how to read human emotions. When he showed online multi-taskers pictures of faces, they had a hard time identifying the emotions they were showing.

When he read stories to the multi-taskers, they had difficulty identifying the emotions of the people in the stories, and saying what they would do to make the person feel better.

"Human interaction is a learned skill, and they don't get to practice it enough," he says...

Have you ever counted the number of items in your search history in a given day?—it's rare for me to have looked at fewer than 250 pages in a 24-hour period, which 1) can't possibly be good for me, and 2) is kind of alarming considering that I'm no longer in a field like journalism, where you're supposed to be doing that. (Some of that 250+, admittedly, is in the service of finding wacky stuff for this blog... but still.) Back when I was still doing coursework, I started taking the occasional day when I simply wasn't allowed to go online at all. I still don't do it often enough, though I've gotten better about leaving the computer at home when I go to a cafe (yes, even if there's free wifi). Meanwhile, here are a few more ideas:

—Be a role model. Show your kids that your smartphone is not a life support device and that you can go for a stretch of time without it. When you come home from work and sit down to decompress, don't reach for your phone to check email or instant messages. Demonstrate the fine art of enjoying downtime and white space—your brain is designed for it.

—Make the dinner table a "no-tech zone." Establish a technology rule for sit-down meals: no gadgets in the dining area. And no jumping up from the table to check email or answer the phone. Remember, it begins with you; let your family members see you ignore your phone or message alert tone without starting to sweat—that speaks volumes.

—Have a family reading night. Try to set aside an hour a week in the evening when everyone can read in the same room (if you're reading on a tablet or eReader, no cheating—stick to the book!). This can be difficult with older kids during the school year, because of homework and school commitments. But even if only other adults in the household and you participate, you'll set an example and will likely find the experience relaxing and enjoyable...

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:01 AM

      ( 3:05 AM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:05 AM

      ( 2:40 AM ) The Rat  
Armistead. The biggest problem is how society has not acknowledged death and dying in our culture as a part of life. It's the thing to avoid. People don't want to get old. We got an invitation to a fortieth birthday coming up this weekend for a gay man who says he's somewhere between thirty-nine and death, and he's having a funeralesque party.

Terry. And I'm like, 'Excuse me, but those of us who may not make it to forty find this a bit of an insult. You're getting older; be happy you are. Don't run the other way.'

Armistead. This man never stops pissing and moaning in front of Terry about the fact that he's turning forty and I'm totally mystified that he doesn't see how callous that is.

SF Focus. The majority of people who are HIV-infected are in the unique situation of usually feeling and looking healthy even though they are in the early stages of a frightening progressive disease. Can other people really understand what that's like?

Terry. To wake up some days and feel really shitty and to have a fever of 102 and to be thirty-three years old and look at the end of your life is not something it's possible to totally empathize with unless you're going through it. I don't think anyone else gets it, and that includes Armistead, because he's not HIV positive. Recently we were with some friends at Shell Beach in Inverness. I had been sick and wasn't really well enough to go swimming, but when all my friends dropped into the water and swam out to this raft I decided to be macho and not let them show me up. I went out about halfway, enough to get in over my head, when I completely ran out of energy and panicked. And I thought of all of them out on the raft with the energy and ability to come back when they wanted while I was stuck and possibly drowning. The dichotomy struck me—no matter how close I am to them they couldn't know, couldn't understand...

SF Focus. How does that make you feel toward them?

Terry. Well, there are times like that—occasions when I see yuppie couples sitting in a cafe who don't seem to have a care in the world and their life is stretched out before them and their 2.3 kids will stretch out before them—when I just want to run them over with a car. But what are my friends supposed to do—not swim out because I can't? That's preposterous...

—this 1992 interview with Armistead Maupin and his then-partner, Terry Anderson

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:40 AM

      ( 2:30 AM ) The Rat  
HOW TO TELL WHEN YOUR SHOES ARE DEAD. This seems pretty consistent with what I've read elsewhere, for all that it's a sporting-goods-store page. Did the math yesterday and I'm nearing 250 miles since the end of February (nothing by "serious runner" standards, but unlike anything I'd done in the 34 years previous), though only about 90 of those have been in these, the best shoes ever.

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:30 AM

      ( 2:22 AM ) The Rat  
"DRINKING WATER AFTER ANY SPORTS." Especially when it's got these in it! Nom.

From the same site, also see I stay classy, motherfuckers, parts of the blanket, and this.

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:22 AM

      ( 1:43 AM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:43 AM

      ( 1:33 AM ) The Rat  
At first an ordeal and then an accomplishment, the daily run becomes a staple, like bread, or wine, a fine marriage, or air.

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:33 AM

      ( 1:32 AM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:32 AM

Wednesday, June 22, 2011
      ( 10:52 PM ) The Rat  
"Why love if losing hurts so much? I have no answers any more. Only the life I have lived. Twice in that life I've been given the choice: as a boy and as a man. The boy chose safety, the man chooses suffering. The pain now is part of the happiness then. That's the deal."
Shadowlands* (referring to his wife's death, though in my experience this reality extrapolates to other kinds of loss)

*I hadn't heard this, and anyway it's over a decade since I read it, but Wiki (fwiw...) notes that A Grief Observed "describes his experience of bereavement in such a raw and personal fashion that Lewis originally released it under the pseudonym N.W. Clerk to keep readers from associating the book with him. However, so many friends recommended the book to Lewis as a method for dealing with his own grief that he made his authorship public."

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:52 PM

      ( 10:02 PM ) The Rat  
THIS MONTH'S Ridiculous Tips for a Miserable Sex Life is funnier than usual.

"Make the tip of your tongue into a firm point, and trail it around the base. Since you usually focus on the top three-quarters of his package, he'll be surprised and aroused." That's your mission, ladies: arouse and bewilder. Arouse and bewilder.

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:02 PM

      ( 9:24 PM ) The Rat  
"MONOPRIX IS MY LOUVRE." Like WC, who posted this list of the world's strangest supermarket items, I'm obsessed with supermarkets, drugstores, and open markets whenever I go abroad... so it may be just as well I've done most of my traveling unaccompanied. It just feels more like you're seeing the actual life of a place when you see its most quotidian transactions—plus, I would much rather visit a place longer-term and try to "embed" than stay somewhere fancy but for less time (which is not to say I've ever been known to turn down the latter when OPM is involved...). That said, this is also how I got hold of the single worst wine I've ever tasted (on a supermarket expedition when I was staying in the 17ème in '02).

If one of the perks of travel is the chance to observe foreigners in their natural habitats—unguarded and wholly themselves—there are few better vantages than the corner grocery. No one postures in a supermarket; no one pretends to be someone else. (I once followed David Bowie around a Whole Foods in Manhattan. This was both more and less interesting than you'd think.) Under those too-bright fluorescents, we are all equalized and exposed, our appetites and eccentricities laid bare. You can learn a lot about a culture by watching it shop for groceries. It's like sneaking into a nation's house and rifling through the fridge.

At home the supermarket is the most mundane environment you know. Transfer that environment to an unfamiliar setting and our differences come into relief. At first it all seems boringly normal: the same motion-activated doors, whining toddlers, and treacly Muzak you'd find at your neighborhood Stop & Shop. But look closer and you begin to notice: something's off. Milk in bags. Unrefrigerated eggs. Blatantly racist cartoon characters used to sell rice. Cucumber Pepsi. Hamburger chewing gum. Myrrh-flavored toothpaste. (Alas, no frankincense deodorant.) Globalization may or may not be flattening the world’s tastes, but all manner of regional quirks are still on display at foreign supermarkets. A walk down the aisle reveals the extraordinary range, and geographic particularity, of human cravings—for cephalopod-flavored potato chips (right there with you, Japan!), black-currant-flavored anything (good on you, Britain!), or rank-smelling durian fruit (you're on your own, Southeast Asia!).

Browsing in supermarkets is also a fine way to hone foreign-language skills. The shelves are basically one long menu-reader, complete with handy illustrations. Let's see...
mulethi must be Hindi for "licorice," berenjena is obviously Spanish for "eggplant," and cavallo seems to be Italian for "horsemeat." (Wait—horsemeat? That’s sick, Italy. Sick!)

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:24 PM

      ( 6:06 PM ) The Rat  
A Q&A with Catherine Burns, artistic director of The Moth. Just six days till their Central Park event! The host, Andy Borowitz, actually narrated one of my two favorite Moth stories of the eight or nine I've heard so far, "An Unexpected Twist"—you can listen to it here. The other is Mike Daisey's "What Was Learned in London," which you can find here.

NEA. During your tenure at The Moth, which story has surprised you the most?

That would have to be Mike DeStefano. The Moth was asked to direct a show at the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen, Colorado. We were working with comedians, and we were so worried that they would be a nightmare to direct. We assumed they would just want to be funny, and not want to talk about anything meaningful, much less show the vulnerability which is the mark of a great storyteller. Mike was a gruff guy. He was born and raised in the Bronx, and his comedy sets were brilliant, but really reflected his rough-and-tumble roots. So when we got on the phone, and he started telling me about how his wife, Franny, died of AIDS when they were in their twenties, I was blown away. His story—about breaking Franny out of hospice to take her on one last ride on his Harley—instantly because one of my favorite Moth stories of all time. Part of the genius of Mike as a storyteller is that he makes you laugh out loud over and over, while also telling a truly heartbreaking story and not shying away from the depth and seriousness of the story for a second. He doesn't hide behind his comedy. He's just a guy who sees humor in everything telling you about the most important day of his life. Mike died of a heart attack this spring, at the age of 44, and we were devastated. One of greatest voices of our time was silenced way too young.

Why do you think we, the general public, need storytelling? Why do you need storytelling?

We live in a world that's becoming increasingly digital. We sit in our little boxes, staring at other boxes, communicating through our fingers on a keyboard. I don't think human beings were meant to live this way, and The Moth is the antithesis of all of that. It's ironic, because all our little devices and programs are meant to connect us, but I don't think they really do. They kind of connect us, but there’s always a boundary there—the electronic wall that keeps us from really experiencing each other in a human way. The number one quality of a great storyteller is their willingness to be vulnerable. When people talk about what it’s like to be in the audience at a live Moth event, they often say that it feels like the entire audience is holding hands under the tables. When The Moth or any storytelling event works well, each audience member feels as if the storyteller is speaking only to them, and experiencing that level of intimacy in a group setting connects you emotionally to the rest of the audience in a way that's deeply moving.

At The Moth people tell intimate stories from their lives onstage, and you could know someone five years and not have heard the stories they tell...

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:06 PM

      ( 5:59 PM ) The Rat  
REMEMBER, KIDS, if you have to get sick, wait till August.

# Posted by The Rat @ 5:59 PM

      ( 5:40 PM ) The Rat  
Josh. There's a—there's even a comma, I think, in there, isn't there?

Chuck. In Yeah Detroit?

Josh. Yeah.

Chuck. I don't remember—isn't it a—exclamation point?

Josh. Yeah. There's some sort of punctuation. When you get punctuation into your name, your parents were messed up.


# Posted by The Rat @ 5:40 PM

      ( 5:32 PM ) The Rat  

Deputies said James confronted the women, who were walking in the 200 block of Central Avenue at about 10:30 p.m., and began making obscene and derogatory comments.

Neither of the women knew the man, and they confronted him about his language, police said. He responded by spitting beer in their faces, and hitting one of them with the beer bottle.

James then ran into the alley north of Central Avenue, where a production crew was filming a rap video. The producer told officers they were filming when James ran into the alley, stopped and mugged for the camera before running away...

# Posted by The Rat @ 5:32 PM

      ( 1:02 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:02 PM

      ( 12:05 PM ) The Rat  
TODAY IS BOTH National Chocolate Eclair Day and National Onion Ring Day.

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:05 PM

      ( 11:50 AM ) The Rat  
On the way back to Doobey, walking along with his hands jammed in his pockets, away from the chilly evening, he was filled with loss and an off-brand of nostalgia for events that were supposed to become part of his past but now wouldn't at all. In the mind's special processes, a ten-mile run takes far longer than the sixty minutes reported by a grandfather clock. Such time, in fact, hardly exists at all in the real world; it is all out on the trail somewhere, and you only go back to it when you are out there.

He and Mize had been through two solid years of such regular time-warp escapes together. There was something different about that, something beyond friendship; they had a way of sharing pain, of transferring hurt back and forth, without the banality of words.

Once a Runner

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:50 AM

      ( 9:20 AM ) The Rat  

As part of their "Fading Traditions" series, the BBC ran a radio documentary about the halakas of Marrakesh (listen here; there's also an article here), which I really enjoyed, probably for reasons related to why things like The Moth (or, to lesser extent, the National Story Project) are so good.

They may not be the most obvious entertainers and they are certainly not the loudest, but if you can seek out a story-teller or a halaka, you are in for a treat and an old one at that. Because story-telling in Morocco is as old as the hills, and as ancient as the Atlas mountains...

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:20 AM

      ( 8:55 AM ) The Rat  
Q. WHY DO I GET HEADACHES DURING OR AFTER A RUN? A. IT'S NOT JUST BECAUSE YOU KNOW YOU'RE RETURNING TO THE MESS YOU RAN AWAY FROM... Wait, did I just laugh tellingly hard at that line? How Running Affects Your Body, from last September's RW.

Perhaps the biggest benefit of a great 10-K is that, postrun, you're sure you could score 1,600 on the SATs (2,400 if you're under 25)—or at least improve. "Running increases levels of positive neurotransmitters, like endorphins; norepinephrine, which is responsible for alertness; and serotonin, which helps regulate mood," says Fitzgerald. "Plus, running puts the brain in an 'alpha-wave' state, which is associated with feelings of calmness and well-being." A handful of studies have documented that moving your feet correlates with improving your brain; two conducted at the University of Illinois found that 30 minutes of exercise resulted in up to a 10 percent improvement in cognition, or being more effective in processing a problem or situation...

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:55 AM

      ( 8:36 AM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:36 AM

      ( 8:10 AM ) The Rat  
In solitude, where we are least alone.
Childe Harold's Pilgrimage

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:10 AM

      ( 6:08 AM ) The Rat  
"YOU'RE A FUNNY GUY, SULLY, I LIKE YOU. THAT'S WHY I'M GOING TO KILL YOU LAST" pretty much sums up my entire orientation toward the world. The 100 Greatest Movie Threats of All Time, via TT.

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:08 AM

Tuesday, June 21, 2011
      ( 9:57 PM ) The Rat  
APPARENTLY SOME DUDE STOLE my proper drug kingpin name.

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:57 PM

      ( 9:40 PM ) The Rat  

"These regulations are intended to ensure the safety and well-being of the inmate population, [Correction Department] staff and visitors," department spokeswoman Sharman Stein said.

They're also designed to douse the desire of sex-starved prisoners, some of whom have been caught getting it on with their significant others in large public visit areas that often are filled with kids, sources said...

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:40 PM

      ( 5:33 PM ) The Rat  
Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.

# Posted by The Rat @ 5:33 PM

      ( 4:24 PM ) The Rat  
OOH! The Moth is doing a (free) show next Tuesday with Central Park Summerstage.

The Moth, hailed as 'New York's hottest and hippest literary ticket' by The Wall Street Journal and 'brilliant and quietly addictive' by the London Guardian, is a non-profit storytelling organization dedicated to the art and craft of storytelling. Each show features first person stories by wildly divergent raconteurs who develop and shape their stories with The Moth's directors...

# Posted by The Rat @ 4:24 PM

      ( 4:00 PM ) The Rat  
HOW TO LAND YOUR KID IN THERAPY, via SJ. Good stuff in this. (I've even been discouraged from using red ink when grading papers at the college level.)

This same teacher—who asked not to be identified, for fear of losing her job—says she sees many parents who think they're setting limits, when actually, they're just being wishy-washy. "A kid will say, 'Can we get ice cream on the way home?' And the parent will say, 'No, it's not our day. Ice-cream day is Friday.' Then the child will push and negotiate, and the parent, who probably thinks negotiating is 'honoring her child's opinion,' will say, 'Fine, we’ll get ice cream today, but don't ask me tomorrow, because the answer is no!'" The teacher laughed. "Every year, parents come to me and say, 'Why won't my child listen to me? Why won't she take no for an answer?' And I say, 'Your child won't take no for an answer, because the answer is never no!'"

The message we send kids with all the choices we give them is that they are entitled to a perfect life—that, as Dan Kindlon, the psychologist from Harvard, puts it, "if they ever feel a twinge of non-euphoria, there should be another option." Mogel puts it even more bluntly: what parents are creating with all this choice are anxious and entitled kids whom she describes as "handicapped royalty."

As a parent, I'm all too familiar with this. I never said to my son, "Here's your grilled-cheese sandwich." I'd say, "Do you want the grilled cheese or the fish sticks?" On a Saturday, I'd say, "Do you want to go to the park or the beach?" Sometimes, if my preschooler was having a meltdown over the fact that we had to go to the grocery store, instead of swooping him up and wrestling him into the car, I'd give him a choice: "Do you want to go to Trader Joe's or Ralphs?" (Once we got to the market, it was "Do you want the vanilla yogurt or the peach?") But after I'd set up this paradigm, we couldn't do anything unless he had a choice. One day when I said to him, "Please put your shoes on, we're going to Trader Joe's," he replied matter-of-factly: "What are my other choices?" I told him there were no other choices—we needed something from Trader Joe's. "But it's not fair if I don't get to decide too!" he pleaded ingenuously. He'd come to expect unlimited choice.

When I was my son's age, I didn’t routinely get to choose my menu, or where to go on weekends—and the friends I asked say they didn't, either. There was some negotiation, but not a lot, and we were content with that. We didn't expect so much choice, so it didn't bother us not to have it until we were older, when we were ready to handle the responsibility it requires. But today, Twenge says, "we treat our kids like adults when they're children, and we infantilize them when they're 18 years old."

Like most of my peers, I'd always thought that providing choices to young children gave them a valuable sense of agency, and allowed them to feel more in control. But Barry Schwartz's research shows that too much choice makes people more likely to feel depressed and out of control.

[U]nderlying all this parental angst is the hopeful belief that if we just make the right choices, that if we just do things a certain way, our kids will turn out to be not just happy adults, but adults that make us happy. This is a misguided notion, because while nurture certainly matters, it doesn't completely trump nature, and different kinds of nurture work for different kinds of kids (which explains why siblings can have very different experiences of their childhoods under the same roof). We can expose our kids to art, but we can't teach them creativity. We can try to protect them from nasty classmates and bad grades and all kinds of rejection and their own limitations, but eventually they will bump up against these things anyway. In fact, by trying so hard to provide the perfectly happy childhood, we're just making it harder for our kids to actually grow up. Maybe we parents are the ones who have some growing up to do—and some letting go.

As Wendy Mogel likes to say, "Our children are not our masterpieces"...

# Posted by The Rat @ 4:00 PM

      ( 3:00 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:00 PM

      ( 12:10 PM ) The Rat  
ADMISSION IS FREE TODAY at more than 100 national parks.

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:10 PM

      ( 12:07 PM ) The Rat  
FAN-MADE 'BACON STATION' POPULAR WITH GRANDMA MARATHON RUNNERS. Definitely an incentive to make it to the last miles!

Bullert and a group of friends—all huge Grandma's Marathon fans—started a greasy tradition while watching the race outside of Sir Benedicts Tavern. They doled out pounds of bacon to racers just miles from the finish line.

"We handed them out with oven mitts or tongs and we were just holding it out and people would come by and grab it," Bullert said.

"We were kind of surprised when we ran out of bacon within the first hour and a half of the race"...

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:07 PM

      ( 11:26 AM ) The Rat  
IF YOU'RE IN CONNECTICUT, NEW YORK, PENNSYLVANIA, and probably some other places I don't know about, and give blood during the month of July, they'll give you a free half-gallon of Friendly's ice cream. I'm just sayin'.

N.B. If you're an endurance athlete with a race coming up soon, have a look at this first, especially if (unlike me) you're actually an even remotely good endurance athlete. Or maybe consider donating platelets (as suggested by a reader comment here)?—though be forewarned, it does take longer than donating whole blood.

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:26 AM

      ( 8:59 AM ) The Rat  
"UNLIKE THE SARLACC, PELICANS ARE RARELY USED AS STAND-INS FOR THE TERRIBLE POWER OF FEMALE SEXUALITY." The 6 Most Disturbingly Evil Birds, via Cracked. I'm thinking maybe it's time to revise that whole pelican-as-Christ thing? (That said, the female newscaster's reaction at the end of the second BBC pelican clip really is pretty funny.)

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:59 AM

      ( 8:55 AM ) The Rat  

Prof. Gey died on June 9. R.I.P.

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:55 AM

      ( 8:42 AM ) The Rat  
I guess the real reason that my wife and I had children is the same reason that Napoleon had for invading Russia: It seemed like a good idea at the time.
—Bill Cosby in this (my other favorite is the Spike Milligan)

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:42 AM

      ( 7:38 AM ) The Rat  
DID YOU KNOW there are asteroids named after Averroes, Verdi, and Moe? Well, now you do, because that's the kind of free service I provide.

Longer list here.

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:38 AM

      ( 7:26 AM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:26 AM

      ( 7:12 AM ) The Rat  
5 REASONS LIFE ACTUALLY DOES GET BETTER, via ET. I love the reader comment by modlovecat: "This is probably my favorite cracked article ever. Its so positive and beautiful (without being gay)."

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:12 AM

      ( 7:08 AM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:08 AM

      ( 7:01 AM ) The Rat  
OTOH, THERE ARE DEFINITELY worse ways to get dumped.

Ben Alley misses his parents. He's 18 and just graduated from East Marshall High School in Le Grand, with scholarships to almost cover his costs at the University of Iowa. It's a time for open houses and pride. But he won't be getting that from his once-close family—the Southern Baptist minister father and the mother who home-schooled him early on.

They're not dead; he's dead to them. In sophomore year, Ben informed his parents that he is gay. They informed him he wouldn't be coming home after school the next day—or ever again.

Ben's is actually two stories in one. The first is about a kid rejected, homeless and compelled to live independently at 16, requiring him to take a late shift job at Walmart to help cover costs. That meant most nights he didn't start homework until 10:30. It's about a young man raised in a home where being gay was considered "right up there with being a child molester." At age 10 he was told by his mom that he didn't deserve to live anymore, after she caught him experimenting with a boy the same age. Later, when he fought depression, counselors told Ben, "You've been taught to hate everything you are."

But his is also the story of a survivor, staying in school and graduating, in spite of everything, with a 3.25 GPA. And it's about other people who helped pave the way to his self-acceptance and refused to let a kid be alone in the world...

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:01 AM

      ( 6:57 AM ) The Rat  

Such is the level of fury, the site's operators have set up a counseling helpline to ease the pain of rejection.

"We have to stick to our founding principles of only accepting beautiful people—that's what our members have paid for,"'s Greg Hodge told
The Guardian. "We can't just sweep 30,000 ugly people under the carpet."

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:57 AM

      ( 6:29 AM ) The Rat  
DESIREE DAVILA IS ENGAGED! I was so out of it yesterday I failed to actually comprehend that tweet.

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:29 AM

Monday, June 20, 2011
      ( 9:49 PM ) The Rat  
LISTENING TO SURVIVORS OF EXTREME EXPERIENCES. A friend was describing to me recently how seldom she'd been able to find anyone—er, correction: anyone male and heterosexual—who was able to listen to her talk about things that had caused her pain or trauma, while neither judging her for it nor trying to fix it, but instead doing the only thing she really wanted him to do, which was to just be with it... to keep her company while letting it be. It reminded me of some of the things we were taught in hospice training; and also of a line from Paul Claudel that MFB quoted to me in a letter well over a decade ago, but that's stuck with me ever since (even though I'm not Christian): "Jesus did not come to remove suffering, but to fill it with His presence." The principle holds whatever your religious affiliation (or lack thereof), and also seems to me one that might be particularly useful in this country, where even the most well-meaning people—Christians included—can often have trouble negotiating secondhand tragedy. We're a nation of fixers, and also of Pelagians—plus there's so little guidance out there about this kind of thing.

There are so few things we can ever really do for another person, however much we like to think we can, and however many fairy tales/Hollywood scripts/etc. are themed around rescue. If you know a survivor (esp. a recent survivor) of trauma, do have a look at this list, and others like it.

It is easier for survivors to express their feelings if they don't have to put up with sympathy statements such as 'What a horrible experience!' or 'You poor soul!' Survivors of distressing experiences talk more easily to a person with calm concern. Control your imagination and resist letting the person's feelings become your feelings. Don't make the survivor have to handle your emotional reactions as well as his or her own...

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:49 PM

      ( 9:35 PM ) The Rat  
"I BET EVERYONE IN THIS STORY IS COMPLETELY DISGUSTINGLY UGLY, IS WHAT I BET." Lots of instructive and entertaining reader replies in the latest Miss Information.

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:35 PM

      ( 8:26 PM ) The Rat  
CHILD OF TROUBLE. In this week's excellent Moth, Daisy Rosario describes meeting her brother for the first time at their father's funeral.

'And you know—you all very kindly keep coming up to me and telling me how sorry you are, but—I have to tell you—I'm so sorry for your loss, because—you all know him so much better than I ever did or I ever will. You have stories about him—I barely have any. I only have a couple, from when I was really young—like... I have a story about the time he promised to take me to the Bronx Zoo. And he took me... to the Bronx. And—and then we sat in somebody's apartment most of the day, and then he got me to the zoo about ten minutes before it closed, ran me through the exit so we didn't have to pay, and like, went as fast as we could back out the entrance. Or, like—the time he said he was going to take me to the movies, and he took me to see Exorcist III—which was like, extra weird, because I hadn't seen Exorcist I or II... and I was eight years old.' Like you guys, they laughed—and I was glad, because I didn't want them to think that I was making fun of him so much as... Those were the only stories I had, and I had long ago stopped associating any animosity with them...

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:26 PM

      ( 6:05 PM ) The Rat  
"IS THERE A WAY TO GET RID OF THIS REMINDER TO CALL A RELATIVE WHO, TO ME, DOES NOT EXIST BEYOND THE BASIC BIOLOGICAL LEVEL?" Father's Day Google Doodle 'Call Dad' Reminder Sparks Backlash. No shit it sparked a backlash—I've never bothered contacting Google customer service over anything, but even I sent them a pissed-off note about this. There's enough boosterism in the culture at large for Father's Day, Mother's Day, and happy, unconditionally loving nuclear families generally—you know, the kind that, through no fault of our own, some of us will never get a chance to have.

What people who come from stable families often fail to realize is that when you've grown up under dysfunctional circumstances, that fact is with you every day. (Cf. Willem de Kooning: "The trouble with being poor is that it takes up all your time.") It feels—particularly at "milestone" phases of life, like during adolescence, or when you're trying to marry and have children yourself—not unlike the phenomenon described in this. It's not like a broken arm that's fully mended with a cast and time; nor is it like an allergy that won't make any trouble for you so long as you stay away from shrimp and pistachios. I'm not even on especially bitter terms with my father right now, but the other day I glimpsed some kind of heartwarming father-child agitprop thing and realized that the visceral reaction I was having was: "Oh. How nice for you." It wasn't envy, in the sense that I have any desire to take that away from people who have it—just a sense that I'm trying to live my goddamn life here, and your constant reminders that people like me are different from people like you—and that people like you don't even realize there arepeople like me—are not helping.

Years ago, someone got me to read Divine Sisters of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood (God help us, I know). I remember nothing about it but the single sentence: "For one fleeting, luminous moment, Sidda Walker knows there has never been a time she has not been loved." Cute line, right? But imagine you grew up under circumstances in which you frequently had cause to wonder if you were loved at all—maybe one or both parents walked out, or was an alcoholic; maybe a family member raped you and, when you tried to tell the rest of the family, everybody accused you of making it up. All these things—and worse—happen every day, including to people you've no doubt met, even if you didn't know that about them. How do you suppose that sentence feels to them?

It wouldn't be possible—or wise—for us to set up cultural norms whereby newly expectant parents couldn't talk about their joy and excitement for fear of upsetting people who've suffered miscarriages, or where couples who'd just fallen in love were forbidden from holding hands for upsetting the bereaved. But Google, you could at least keep this shit out of my inbox when I haven't asked for it. It isn't like those of us who aren't close to our fathers could have somehow been unaware it was Father's Day, in this culture—not unless we were living in bunkers 200 feet underground (and really, probably not even then).

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:05 PM

      ( 12:51 PM ) The Rat  

On a related note: Dating Site Causes Otage by Dumping 30,000 Ugly People.

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:51 PM

      ( 10:06 AM ) The Rat  
PARTYGOER GETS THOUGHTFUL. I have been this person.

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:06 AM

      ( 12:34 AM ) The Rat  
"14 MINUTES EXPERIENCING PURE JOY." Radiolab ran a "short" two years ago with a reading from David Eagleman's Sum. The full (not-long) text is here.

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:34 AM

Sunday, June 19, 2011
      ( 11:56 PM ) The Rat  

At the Core club, members have things more unusual in common than Mayflower bloodlines or shared memories of freshman year at Deerfield. They have what the woman with the crocodile Birkin would seem to, an almost cartoonish relationship to conspicuous consumption and the unwavering conviction that Thorstein Veblen had it all wrong...

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:56 PM

      ( 11:40 PM ) The Rat  
PARIS CELEBRATES A DECADE OF BRINGING THE BEACH INTO THE CITY. Cool pics, though personally, Ratty would rather be in Paris than at the beach anyday...

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:40 PM

      ( 6:50 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:50 PM

      ( 6:21 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:21 PM

      ( 4:54 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 4:54 PM

      ( 10:50 AM ) The Rat  
DEER DROPPED BY EAGLE KNOCKS OUT POWER IN MONTANA. Another of those Mad Libs-gone-awry headlines...

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:50 AM

      ( 10:44 AM ) The Rat  
INDONESIAN BRANCH OF OBEDIENT WIVES CLUB OPENS. Not that this kind of thing is unknown in the West.

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:44 AM

      ( 9:07 AM ) The Rat  

Using our controller, the simulated robot is able to perform complex torso movements commonly seen in belly dancing as well...

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:07 AM

      ( 9:04 AM ) The Rat  
AMERICA'S TALE OF 2 DIFFERENT DADS, via IKM. A particularly painful version of the rich getting rich while the poor get poorer...

A tale of two different fathers has emerged in America: Those who regularly participate in their children's everyday lives and those who live apart from their kids, according to a study released Wednesday by the Pew Research Center.

"On the one hand, fathers who live with their kids seem to be far more actively involved with their kids than they were 50 years ago," says Gretchen Livingston, the lead author of the Pew study.

"But at the same time, the share of dads living apart from their children has more than doubled" since 1960...

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:04 AM

Saturday, June 18, 2011
      ( 10:51 PM ) The Rat  
'I say be happy with what you got.'

'You be happy. Me, I want what's coming to me.'

'Oh, well... what's coming to you, Tony?'

'The world, Chico, and everything in it.'


# Posted by The Rat @ 10:51 PM

      ( 9:06 PM ) The Rat  
RIOT POLICE PRACTICE ON GIGGLING GIRLS. This and the last story are both via Wait Wait.

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:06 PM

      ( 9:04 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:04 PM

      ( 7:40 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:40 PM

      ( 10:14 AM ) The Rat  

According to the researchers, women found a man who chose to purchase a flashy luxury product (such as a Porsche) more desirable than the same man who purchased a non-luxury item (such as a Honda Civic). However, there was a catch: Although women found the flashy guys more desirable for a date, the man with the Porsche was not preferred as a marriage partner...

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:14 AM

      ( 9:51 AM ) The Rat  
MAUPASSANT'S "THE JEWELRY." "The Necklace" is much better-known of course, but I read this first (in the summer of '87) and think it's a far better story*; in fact, it may have been a formative influence. (It's short—about 2,200 words—so yes, you have time to read it.)

If you compare the plots of the two stories you might see why "The Necklace" is regularly anthologized for high-schoolers while "The Jewelry," um, is not. Parents, seriously, don't let your 11-year-old read things like this. She'll grow up to have better taste in literature but will also be more homicidal.

*The view of the world it expresses is also much more French.

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:51 AM

      ( 9:45 AM ) The Rat  
OK, I'M IN. Guess this means I'm renewing my lease/staying on the East Coast for now.

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:45 AM

Friday, June 17, 2011
      ( 8:50 PM ) The Rat  
"WHOOPSIES I ONLY HAD THE FIRST KIND." The Most Awkwardly Public Break-Ups in Facebook History, via Someecards. My favorite may be "i proposed to brandy."

This page links back to some not-bad "breakup ecards," e.g., this, this and this.

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:50 PM

      ( 8:42 PM ) The Rat  
HOW OLD AM I? Off by one year in Ratty's case, but hey.

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:42 PM

      ( 8:17 PM ) The Rat  
"HERPES CONTINUED TO RAVAGE FRANCE'S BABY OYSTERS" totally sounds like a code phrase for something.

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:17 PM

      ( 8:06 PM ) The Rat  
Sidecar was one of those raw, energetic men who understand very early in life which levers and pulleys really worked and which were just for show.
Once a Runner

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:06 PM

      ( 8:28 AM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:28 AM

      ( 8:24 AM ) The Rat  
MARKING EVERYTHING OFF, via Gomer2. "Learn weapon" is, of course, my favorite.

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:24 AM

Thursday, June 16, 2011
      ( 8:36 PM ) The Rat  
THINGS OTHER PEOPLE ACCOMPLISHED WHEN THEY WERE YOUR AGE. Yes, I know I've posted this before... I'm not turning that old tomorrow. Am I? Wait, am I??

(There's a book, probably out of print by now, that collates famous people's accomplishments along these lines, and much more extensively—unfortunately I can't remember the name of it.)

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:36 PM

      ( 6:40 PM ) The Rat  
BURGER KING LAUNCHES ALL-WHOPPER CHANNEL, via WC. I like what the company is implying about what half an hour of its core demographic's time is worth...

On DirecTV's channel 111, viewers are treated to the sight of a the chain's signature sandwich, rotating on a grill as its licked by flames from below. If you manage to stick it out for five minutes, you get a free Whopper. Another 10 minutes will score you a second. 15 minutes more than that (30 in total) will earn you a trio of sandwiches.

But you can't just leave the station on and walk away. Every few minutes, a message pops up cuing the watcher to press a random button on the remote, lest the clock be reset.

The channel is the brainfart of BK's ad agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky, who will soon be parting ways with the fast food chain after years of making bizarre ads together...

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:40 PM

      ( 6:38 PM ) The Rat  
FOR A MASSIVE OUTBREAK OF RUNNER OCD, go here and skim the comments...

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:38 PM

      ( 2:20 PM ) The Rat  

You're sitting in a freshly drywalled house, drinking coffee from a plastic foam cup and talking on a cellphone. Which of these is most likely to be a cancer risk?

It might be the sitting, especially if you do that a lot.

Despite all the recent news about possible cancer risks from cellphones, coffee, styrene, and formaldehyde in building materials, most of us probably face little if any danger from these things with ordinary use, health experts say. Inactivity and obesity may pose a greater cancer risk than chemicals for some people...

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:20 PM

      ( 2:19 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:19 PM

      ( 2:11 PM ) The Rat  
LIFE IS INDEED HARD out there in SoCal...

The L.A. school board's decision to stop serving flavored milks on campuses is just the beginning.

A menu overhaul is underway that will mean fewer meals that resemble fast food and more vegetarian offerings. Spinach tortellini in butternut squash sauce and California sushi rolls, along with many ethnic foods, are to be added...

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:11 PM

      ( 2:09 PM ) The Rat  
O'Rork was older than the rest of his team; older and far more mature. His talent and courage had delivered him from the rigors of life in Northern Ireland and he went at distance running with the uncomplicated ardor of the truly hungry. Denton appraised the Irishman's stride as he went by and thought: There is always something behind it, isn't there, fellow? With us and prizefighters, the wounded and the fleet...
Once a Runner

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:09 PM

Wednesday, June 15, 2011
      ( 8:05 PM ) The Rat  
YOUTUBE FOOTAGE of the world's largest rosebush, in Tombstone, Ariz.

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:05 PM

      ( 6:13 PM ) The Rat  
CHARADE is on Hulu! Nom!

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:13 PM

      ( 4:19 PM ) The Rat  
"Before I met him, I was like Swiss cheese. There were holes in my life that I never knew were there. And now I'm like a block of cheddar."
—goofy but endearing answer from this Nerve Q&A

# Posted by The Rat @ 4:19 PM

      ( 1:40 PM ) The Rat  
READER COMMENT BY 'DEV, KEYS' on this story.

well sheesh, is there any hope for any of us if THESE two kids couldn't make it work?

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:40 PM

      ( 1:25 PM ) The Rat  
"VIRGINS MUST ALSO HAVE A BRA SIZE OF AT LEAST A C CUP." From an April Daily Mail by way of News of the Weird. Doesn't this sound a lot more like a story out of Japan?

Legend has it that the [tea] leaves used to be picked by fairies with their mouths. When boiling water is poured on the leaves, fairies ascend amid the steam into the sky.

Now new pickers are being sought, with adverts in Gushi, Henan province, specifying that 'applicants must be virgins' and offering payment of £50 a day, a fortune in China.

They must also have at least a C-cup bra size—virginity and curviness are believed to promote well-being and purity...

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:25 PM

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

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