The Rat
Monday, January 31, 2011
      ( 11:39 PM ) The Rat  
ONE LOOK AT MY MUSIC COLLECTION WILL SHOW YOU HOW MUCH I RESPECT WOMEN. A male friend once explained to Ratty that by entering races that raised funds for breast-cancer research, a guy scores "instant sensitivity points."

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Sunday, January 30, 2011
      ( 9:36 PM ) The Rat  
THE WORD 'MULATTO' IS MAKING A COMEBACK! Or so saith the New York Times.

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      ( 12:12 AM ) The Rat  
SEACAPTAINDATE.COM! I wanna know what Joseph Conrad would've made of this. (Again via Wait Wait.)

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Saturday, January 29, 2011
      ( 11:22 PM ) The Rat  

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      ( 10:37 PM ) The Rat  
"ON THE LEFT, SOMETHING THAT FREAKED U.S. GRANT THE FUCK OUT. ON THE RIGHT, HIS DAY JOB." 6 Presidential Secrets Your History Teacher Didn't Mention, via Cracked.

Jefferson made up for his lack of stage presence in the same way that bad metal bands do—by wearing ridiculous clothes...

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      ( 10:32 PM ) The Rat  

Gym Adds Big Heavy Pull Thing in Corner is also spot-on... and sanctimonious though it is, I did also like World War II Hero Cursed Out for Driving Speed Limit.

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      ( 11:29 AM ) The Rat  
HEY, AT LEAST I DON'T READ COSMO. Despite the unfortunate title, there's some interesting stuff in this article (also from the November issue). Excerpts from half a dozen:

[2]: A lust for linguine and a desire to sleep all day aren't the only symptoms of winter doldrums. When temperatures drop and gray skies are the norm, couples often fight more and make love less, says Julia Ross, author of The Mood Cure. In fact, a survey by condom maker Trojan finds that residents of sunny Miami, Atlanta and Houston have the most sex, whereas Minneapolis dwellers have the least. One possible culprit: a serotonin slump.

[7:] Maybe you've seen this one in action. Your oldest sister is a bit bossy (your words, not hers!), yet her husband, a go-with-the-flow youngest child, doesn't get ruffled. Or perhaps you watched your pal, a sensitive only child, crash and burn in her relationship with a fellow solo kid. More research is being done, but birth order is thought to shape specific personality traits and, as such, may clue you in to the people you're most likely to jibe with—or at least help you better understand your mate, says Kevin Leman, Ph.D., author of
The Birth Order Book. Leman theorizes that when a couple is too similar (dominant, headstrong firstborns or disorganized, laid-back last-borns), they're more apt to butt heads. Things go more smoothly when couples fall in different spots in the family pecking order, because they're likely to complement each other. And good news for all you middle children: As the most adaptable, you're a universal match, Leman says.

[10:] Dishing about your crush in a journal was fun at age 13. Today, it's probably the cheapest form of couples therapy out there, says Richard Slatcher, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology at Wayne State University. When one partner commits his thoughts and feelings about the relationship to paper, the chances the pair will stick together go up by 20 percent, Slatcher's research shows.

[11:] Your odds of meeting a man may be better in New Orleans and Miami, which have reps for great dating scenes; but once hitched, living farther north ups your odds of staying married. The northeast and midwest boast the lowest divorce rates in the country. Massachusetts, in particular, is marriage-friendly with only 2.3 splits per 1,000 people, followed by Iowa (2.6) and Illinois (2.6).

[15:] When guys received gifts they didn't like from their girlfriend, they felt less similar to her and saw less potential in the relationship, a study in
Social Cognition notes. Weirdly, women said they felt more connected to their BF after a bomb gift. Researchers think a bad present threatens our sense of closeness, but we rationalize our guy's choice, keeping our feelings about our bond intact.

[17:] The next time someone asks how you and your man met, listen up—to both of your answers. The way one recounts meeting and falling in love can be a tip-off as to whether the relationship is rock-steady or on the rocks. Researchers at the University of Washington at Seattle asked couples to tell their tale, then followed up three years later. Stories that were vague or unenthusiastic ("I just asked for her number") or negative ("He was so cocky on our first date!") foreshadowed trouble.

[18:] It sounds wacky, but the [forearm] area contains specific nerves called C-tactile fibers, which, when gently stroked, activate areas of the brain involved in the processing of love, trust and affection, a study from the University of Gothenburg reveals.

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      ( 11:18 AM ) The Rat  
REBEKAH SANDERLIN, who writes a column for military spouses for the Fayetteville Observer, has a good short piece in the November 2010 Self—it's not online (though her Observer column is), but check out Blue Star Families' Top Five Ways You Can Help Military Families.

In 2008, my father received a diagnosis of terminal cancer while I was pregnant with my daughter and my husband was in Afghanistan on his third tour of duty. In the tumult of our life together and apart, this was the perfect storm.

Without hesitating, I packed up our 3-year-old son and moved 600 miles to Nashville to be with my parents. Watching my dad lose ground was devastating and draining—a potent combination, especially as my husband fought for his life on the other side of the world.

My dad died, and I immediately geared up for the next set of challenges: giving birth and getting by until my husband came home. There was no time to grieve. I knew I'd need emotional and logistical help, but I couldn't figure out how to accept it. My long-cherished self-sufficiency began to feel like a curse.

By the time my husband came home, I'd moved back to North Carolina, nursed our daughter through five months of mind-numbing colic, single-parented our son through the exhilarating, exhausting ride of toddlerdom and endured endless high jinks from our poorly trained dog. I was spent. My husband and I found ourselves on the front lines of a not-so-civil war in which I blamed him for everything that had gone wrong and he didn't understand why I wasn't simply happy to have him back. Many nights ended with me crying and him confused. We skirmished even after he left for another five-month deployment...

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Friday, January 28, 2011
      ( 11:55 PM ) The Rat  

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      ( 1:33 PM ) The Rat  
BUSY DAY HERE YESTERDAY, so Ratty didn't get around to noting in this space that it was Mozart's birthday (b. 1756). While it was Figaro that really set off my lifetime obsession in '08, the first aria of his I ever particularly noticed, nearly a decade before that, was the (musically) uncomplicated but gorgeous duet "Là ci darem la mano." Peter Mattei and Lisa Larsson sing it here.

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      ( 12:40 PM ) The Rat  

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      ( 12:22 PM ) The Rat  
IS HE THE ONE? Clearing out a backlog of unread magazines, so this is from November 2010.

Besides which, I informed my profile-writing friend, a "hot, rich, funny, smart" 30-year-old could, by the whim of fate and the ravages of hard living and foolish decisions, turn into a bald, bloated, broke slob. A struggling lost soul, on the other hand, might end up finding his fortune. (Don't believe me? Try going to your 20th college reunion, and then we'll talk.)

It's human nature to hope for optimum happiness and to plan the best course of action to get there. When I was in my 20s and getting dumped by one guy after another, I worked with a well-worn list of my own, one that contained all the classic requirements for a future mate. I envisioned someone who was tall, funny, smart, cute, ambitious and, of course, really into me. When I met Glenn, my first husband, I felt smug about how well he fit my requirements. Except just as happiness and success aren't a given in this life, having a long, healthy life is never a sure thing, either. Glenn, a man with a promising future ahead of him, died of lung cancer at age 34. He never got to fulfill his promise. And I became a 35-year-old widow with two very young girls.

After months of grieving, it became a comfort, even part of my healing process, to fantasize about falling in love again. I envisioned a man who would lift me out of my loneliness, so once again, I created a list of this future partner's qualities. My new list, however, bore no resemblance to the one I'd used earlier...

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Thursday, January 27, 2011
      ( 10:39 PM ) The Rat  

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      ( 10:25 PM ) The Rat  

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      ( 10:01 PM ) The Rat  
INTERESTING ARTICLE on household-product fragrances.

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Wednesday, January 26, 2011
      ( 8:17 PM ) The Rat  
NO. 322 from

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      ( 8:05 PM ) The Rat  
HMM... Via IKM.

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      ( 7:55 PM ) The Rat  

DiGiorno is rolling out a new combo box that includes both frozen pizza and a batch of Toll House chocolate chip cookie dough. While you heat up your pizza, why not also make a side of cookies? The only thing this is missing is a side of lard dipping sauce. Yes, you would dip both products in it...

In other lard-related news, see this article on one Elizabeth Buhler, believed to be Canada's oldest citizen, who just died at 112 (via JWB). Your next move should now be clear!

Ms. Buhler believed in regular exercise. She participated in walkathons until she was 90. But she did have her guilty pleasures, including one which concerned her doctors.

"Lard," chuckled Ms. Suderman. "But nobody wants to hear that. We just came from the doctors and he kind of stuttered and said: 'Lard is always bad, but we want to do some research on it.'"

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      ( 1:28 PM ) The Rat  

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      ( 1:20 AM ) The Rat  

Cosmo does a pretty good job of making sex seem like work, but the real, gut-wrenching anxiety-induced misery of it all is a man's game. Take, for instance, this piece from their website, posted with the title and the following headlines.

8 Secrets She's Keeping From You:
She's slept with more men than you think.
She's cheating on you.
She fakes her orgasms.
She contacts her exes without telling you.
She lusts after other guys.
She gets off without you.
She isn't turned on by you.
She wants you to earn more money.
She's waiting in your bedroom right now. To murder you.

Okay, so I made the last one up...

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      ( 12:44 AM ) The Rat  

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      ( 12:36 AM ) The Rat  
YOUR JOKE HERE re the last letter in this week's Savage Love!

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Tuesday, January 25, 2011
      ( 10:27 PM ) The Rat  

Speaking of which, it appears that schizophrenics may be less susceptible to optical illusions, a fact that might prove useful for purposes of diagnosis.

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      ( 10:14 PM ) The Rat  

The effects of trauma on the body can linger after bruises and bones heal, says Phebe Tucker, M.D., professor of psychiatry at The University of Oklahoma College of Medicine. Seven years after the Oklahoma City bombing, survivors who were reminded of the blast felt a racing heartbeat and blood pressure spikes, a study by Dr. Tucker found. Changes in the brain may play a role in the body’s responses. Scans done three years after the World Trade Center attacks found that witnesses within 1.5 miles of the site‚ people who did not lose loved ones and didn't develop PTSD had less gray matter than those who lived more than 200 miles away.

"The pattern of gray matter change was very similar to that of aging," says lead author Barbara Ganzel, Ph.D., a research scientist in the department of human development at Cornell University. She found that 9/11 witnesses also had smaller amygdala (the parts of the brain that control emotional responses and threat detection), which was associated with more anxiety...

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      ( 10:07 PM ) The Rat  
ROAD TRIP TO THE NETHERLANDS! This reminds me of a conversation I had with R. on returning from my first long (and solo) trip to Paris, during which I was describing how much more relaxed life was over there (yes, of course I was seeing things through a tourist lens, but I've noticed the same effect in other countries too). Being Protestant, I don't think he got it.

How many times have you heard a woman brag about all that she juggles or seen her flush with self-importance when describing a hectic day? How many magazine sidebars have we all read telling us how to "simplify," "streamline," and "manage" our time, implying that this everywoman time-shortage problem is something we should embrace? We make fun of the '80s notion of the Superwoman, who was supposed to do it all. And yet she is still our ideal.

The problem for American women isn't just the amount of time we spend working; it is the notion that we need to be perfect at everything we do. TV shows, advertisements, and articles from women's magazines have formed this composite of a perfect woman who is successful at work, nurturing at home, always optimistic, and impeccably dressed. She dominates the boardroom and rushes in her pencil skirt to collect her well-groomed toddler. The ideal American woman doesn't just putter around in the kitchen or dabble in knitting. She opens a cake shop and knits scarves for fashion shows. She appears on
Oprah. She follows her dreams...

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      ( 9:45 PM ) The Rat  

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      ( 9:43 PM ) The Rat  

The one stipulation, according to the officer from the Special Demonstration Squad (SDS), a secret unit formed to prevent violent disorder on the streets of London, was that falling in love was considered highly unprofessional because it might compromise an investigation. He said undercover officers, particularly those infiltrating environmental and leftwing groups, viewed having sex with a large number of partners "as part of the job"...

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      ( 7:32 PM ) The Rat  
WHY LEAVES REALLY FALL OFF TREES. It wasn't suicide. They were pushed!

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      ( 8:42 AM ) The Rat  
HUIS TEN BOSCH, Japanese-style. Via WC.

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Monday, January 24, 2011
      ( 5:58 PM ) The Rat  
CAFFEINE. Very handy app!

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      ( 12:57 PM ) The Rat  
MAC PHOTO BOOTH = very possibly the greatest thing ever invented for entertaining a 2-year-old.

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      ( 12:32 PM ) The Rat  
HOW FAR WOULD YOU GO FOR LOVE? Wishy-washy and depressing, but intermittently interesting, article from the January Self.

I've often wondered if my willingness to endure my own pain rather than the guilt I'd feel if I caused my husband pain is an inherently female quality. I've certainly noticed that even though many of the women I know make the daily decisions (planning vacations, paying bills), men play an outsize role in negotiating the big stuff, such as where to live or whether to have a second child. "As much as we hate to think that there is still a gender disparity, it exists," says Liz Kampf, a psychotherapist in Houston. Indeed, in a poll, 51 percent of women say they've had to make a major life sacrifice for a partner, whereas only 37 percent say a partner has made one for them...

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      ( 2:23 AM ) The Rat  

Death is scary, but it's not nearly as frightening as birth.

Motherhood, at least the way it is depicted on cable networks like MTV, TLC and even FitTV, is a menacing, grotesque fate that is mostly ill-timed. Procreation comes either way too soon, ruining the prom and summer beach plans of teenage girls on MTV shows like "16 and Pregnant" or "Teen Mom 2," or way too late. Women who postpone pregnancy often pay a price on these shows with childlessness or costly, emotionally fraught procedures like in vitro fertilization or surrogacy.

And then comes the still more alarming prospect of multiple births, including the six 2-year-olds racing across their parents' living room on the WeTV reality show "Raising Sextuplets." Or infanticide. "I was so in the mindset to say O.K., kill the baby, it will get rid of the problem," a mother who fantasized about dropping her newborn from the roof said on "Postpartum Nightmares," on FitTV...

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      ( 12:22 AM ) The Rat  

-----Shared at a PostSecret Events-----
In Fourth Grade I stole my dad's Playboys and sold them to my friends so I'd have money for the ice-cream truck.

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Sunday, January 23, 2011
      ( 9:15 PM ) The Rat  
RATTY WAS SICK OF the whole "Tiger Mother" thing almost before it had even started; that said, there's some interesting stuff about attitudes toward parenting among today's mainland Chinese in this (via IKM).

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Saturday, January 22, 2011
      ( 11:47 PM ) The Rat  
I'LL READ TO YOU. This is the first time I've recommended something for Best of Craigslist (feel free to second/third/etc. my vote, by clicking on the link under "please flag with care"—maybe we can actually get it in!)...

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      ( 9:55 PM ) The Rat  
YET ANOTHER TFLN that really speaks to Ratty...

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      ( 10:46 AM ) The Rat  

"Because of the physical trauma it had made a bit of bruising inside the vessel," said Wu. "There was a clot in the artery underneath where the hickey was."

The clot had gone into the woman's heart and caused a minor stroke that led to the loss of movement, he said...

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Friday, January 21, 2011
      ( 8:39 AM ) The Rat  

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Thursday, January 20, 2011
      ( 10:00 PM ) The Rat  

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      ( 3:30 PM ) The Rat  
SO TODAY IS APPARENTLY NATIONAL CHEESE LOVERS DAY, though Ratty had not been aware it was actually possible to spend any fewer than 365 days/year thinking about cheese...

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      ( 3:42 AM ) The Rat  
NO MATTER HOW BAD A WEEK YOU'RE HAVING, always remember that somebody out there has probably just had a nastier surprise than you have. Like... oh, say these guys, for instance. (Link via IKM.)

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Wednesday, January 19, 2011
      ( 11:37 PM ) The Rat  

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      ( 11:01 PM ) The Rat  
NICE. If I weren't on the opposite coast from my remaining stock (left over from when I switched to menstrual cups in '07), I would totally scalp it. Yes, that's how much I value sisterhood... (Kidding aside, if you do have feminine hygiene products you don't need, be aware that women's shelters take them too, not just canned goods! In fact, there's a better place than a landfill for all kinds of things—animal shelters can use old towels, for instance; many pack-and-ship places will accept styrofoam peanuts for reuse. For a few more ideas, go here.)

Drugstore shelves have been mysteriously empty of o.b. nonapplicator tampons since late fall, leaving the feminine hygiene product's devotees puzzled and peeved.

The popular product is in such short supply that eBay users are bidding up to $76 for three packs, which usually sell for just $8.79 a pack...

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      ( 10:16 PM ) The Rat  
THIS was cooler before Ratty realized the headline was a bit misleading... Via IKM.

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      ( 10:12 PM ) The Rat  
FOR THE RECORD, this is not why Ratty's in So. Cal. for a couple weeks... (My favorite sentence: "Dr. Suzanne Gilberg-Lenz, an obstetrician and gynecologist at Women's Care of Beverly Hills Medical Group, says the idea of steaming the pelvic area is 'not insane.'") I'm guessing my source on this link would prefer not to be credited.

Pungent steam rises from a boiling pot of a mugwort tea blended with wormwood and a variety of other herbs. Above it sits a nude woman on an open-seated stool, partaking in a centuries-old Korean remedy that is gaining a toehold in the West.

Vaginal steam baths, called chai-yok, are said to reduce stress, fight infections, clear hemorrhoids, regulate menstrual cycles and aid infertility, among many other health benefits. In Korea, many women steam regularly after their monthly periods...

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      ( 10:09 PM ) The Rat  
UBS CHANGES MUCH-MOCKED DRESS CODE, via IKM. The excerpt below seems to me to make it pretty clear where the ideal place is to live...

A handbook for bank trainees gives a country-by-country behaviour guide.

In Russia, it tells employees to be prepared to hold your drink at business engagements and to "never reject an invitation to the sauna."

In the United States, "never criticise the President."

And in Latin America, "turning up before an appointment might even be considered rude."

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      ( 2:08 AM ) The Rat  
"YOU WON SECOND PLACE? SECOND PLACE IS FIRST PLACE FOR LOSERS!" Tiger Mom Says, via IKM. Hard to pick a favorite here, though I do love the smaller-print line on this one.

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      ( 12:31 AM ) The Rat  
ALSO WHILE AT LAX THIS AFTERNOON, Ratty twice saw some exquisitely turned-out stewardesses (really stewardesses rather than flight attendants, and I don't mean that in a sexist way) crossing the street in front of her as she endlessly looped around Terminal 3... Going by the relevant page in this encyclopedia, I think the uniform corresponded to the current one for Asiana Airlines. Perhaps it's the hats?—they just looked so glamorously old-school... (Indeed, to go by this report, if that airline skews against either sex it's against men.)

I'm going to give that website the benefit of the doubt and assume it was put together by someone who's just really, really into the history and design of stewardess uniforms, for entirely unkinky reasons...

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Tuesday, January 18, 2011
      ( 9:51 PM ) The Rat  
Sam [moderating a support group for people who've had high-performance automobiles stolen]. Now—how did it make you feel when you lost your car?
Woman. I feel empty.
Sam. Good, that's good! Now... empty how?
Woman [thinking]. Like... a crockpot?

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      ( 9:42 PM ) The Rat  
And I remembered another thing—Robert saying that there had been no bad fairies at Rupert St. Loo's christening. I had asked him afterwards what he meant and he had replied, "Well, if there's not one bad fairy—where's your story?" That, perhaps, was what made Rupert St. Loo not quite real, in spite of his good looks, his intelligence, his "rightness."
The Rose and the Yew Tree

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      ( 9:32 PM ) The Rat  
TIME TRAVEL. Ratty picked up her father at LAX today, a procedure that took considerably longer than anticipated because his (transpacific) flight turned out to have been delayed for assorted reasons. The second of these was that a passenger felt ill mid-flight and the crew paged looking for "a doctor in the house"... No TV-medical-show-esque dramatic rescues or anything (though the crew did upgrade him to the nicer of the two business classes available on that airline... and sent him away with a bottle of wine and elaborate thanks), but the incident transported Ratty right back to being seven years old and utterly in awe of the people who—even when no one else in the room knew what to do—always seemed to know what to do. No matter how unoriginal-minded and clodlike 99 percent of the premeds/med students she's met ever since have been, at some level Ratty will always be like this about first responders; if you're a girl, having a neurosurgeon for a dad likely screws up your expectations of the opposite sex as few other professions can.

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      ( 2:32 PM ) The Rat  
THE MET is giving away 500 pairs of free tickets for the final dress rehearsal of Nixon in China; go here to enter the drawing (which closes this Friday).

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Monday, January 17, 2011
      ( 10:57 PM ) The Rat  

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      ( 6:11 PM ) The Rat  
WHILE IT IS, IN A SENSE, FLATTERING when your brother's 5-year-old boy and 2-year-old girl both so prefer your company to that of any other available adults that they protest loudly when anybody attempts to take them away to do something else—Ratty is rapidly becoming aware that it may also have its disadvantages.

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      ( 1:47 PM ) The Rat  

But more recently, these stores have been vanishing. The Korean Produce Association reports that it has 2,500 members in the New York–New Jersey area, down from 3,000 a few decades ago. Pyong Gap Min, a professor of sociology at Queens College and author of Ethnic Solidarity for Economic Survival: Korean Greengrocers in New York City, puts the number in the greater New York City area much lower, at fewer than 1,500. The drop has been even more pronounced in neighborhoods like Harlem and Flatbush, where Korean-owned groceries, fish stores, and produce stands once flourished.

What happened? There are two stories behind the Korean greengrocers' disappearance. One involves a changing New York economy over the last 20 years. The other, a particularly Korean saga, is a story of how immigration can work in America—a testament to how far these new Americans have come in a single generation...

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      ( 1:45 PM ) The Rat  
"NO. THERE IS AN ELEPHANT IN THE WAY," and other funny exam answers, via MM.

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      ( 10:59 AM ) The Rat  
CONDUCTOR DIES DURING FUNERAL MARCH—AN UPDATE AND A WARNING. Yikes. Don't miss the linked article, or the comments (incl. the Amazon link)...

The late Herbert von Karajan, terrified of dying on the job, commissioned research at Salzburg University on the effects of stress on music making. His particular concern was that Felix Mottl and Joseph Keilberth had collapsed and died at exactly the same spot in the third act of Tristan und Isolde...

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Sunday, January 16, 2011
      ( 5:19 AM ) The Rat  
THE INTERVIEW TALKS TO THE EXTRAORDINARY DR. DEVI SHETTY. Holy cow. If you felt like a slug of a human being before, you'll feel barely above a single-celled organism after this.

Forbes India has a slideshow about Narayana Hrudyalaya here, and Wharton has a profile of his business model here.

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Saturday, January 15, 2011
      ( 11:50 PM ) The Rat  

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      ( 4:02 PM ) The Rat  
AMY CHUA ROUNDUP (the last, I devoutly hope). Above the Law has an excellent postmortem (link via IKM):

But last night, I actually read Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother—in a single sitting. It's an excellent read: provocative, engaging, and often very funny. Chua is brutally honest, not just about others, but about herself. And after reading the book, I have to (somewhat reluctantly) agree that the initial WSJ piece doesn't do it justice. The "excerpt" is really a collection of the book's most inflammatory, anti-Western-parenting portions, collected from far-flung chapters. It lacks the nuance and the narrative arc of Chua's full memoir.

That said, Chua should send flowers and chocolate to whoever at the
Wall Street Journal put that excerpt together. It's a brilliant provocation, in the manner of early Ann Coulter (before she became a self-parody), and it worked wonders in terms of raising Tiger Mother's profile. Chua's book might not have become a buzz-generating bestseller without that essay. Every book publicist in America should study the rollout of Tiger Mother as a lesson in how to market a book.

And the sequence of events allowed Chua to have her cake and eat it too. After the
WSJ article, she got massive publicity out of looking like The Bad Mother. But then, after the extensive media coverage (and book orders), she got to come forward and say, "Actually, I'm really not that bad. In fact, my book is about how I go from evil to good. So please don't hate me—but thanks for the royalties!"

Via WO, two parodies: Why Chinese Girlfriends Are Superior

When I told a foreign colleague that I liked calling my boyfriend these things, she looked really upset, like she wanted to cry or something. She actually had to leave the office, take the rest of the day off. What an Ādāi herself! But it was okay; the next day, she was back at work, and brought along this book about real Chinese words used by Chinese people, called Niubi! by one Eveline Chao. My colleague had highlighted this passage, which she said helped her understand my flippant meanness:

...Chinese people, perhaps as a result of their collective thick skin, tend to demonstrate affection by being mean. Or rather, they speak frankly to each other in a way that, for them, indicates a level of familiarity that only a close relationship can have. But, to outside observers, it resembles, at best, a sort of constant, low-level stream of verbal abuse. For a young Chinese woman, there is no better way to express love for her boyfriend than by whacking him with her purse while telling him he's horrible.

Wow, I thought when I read this. I whacked my boyfriend while telling him he was horrible last week. It's been too long; I must remember to do it again today.

—and Song of the Manatee Father:

Where did we go wrong? What does it mean when we produce the mundane, the unexceptional, the middle of the pack? How could we produce an annual Christmas letter with no mention of a boy's contributions to an open source software project, a girl's rescue of a coral reef? They wonder what it is like inside a family like that, and whether they could do it too.

Brother, I can tell them that it is no picnic, because I have done it. Here are some things my kids, Cathy and Bob (as I believe he's called), were never allowed to do:

—take off the hoodie at dinner
—miss a level of Angry Birds
—crack the Mayan code
—watch British television
—swim the Hellespont
—lecture at Davos
—complain about not lecturing at Davos
—get any grade containing a vowel
—play any instrument other than an iPod

# Posted by The Rat @ 4:02 PM

      ( 3:52 PM ) The Rat  
NUDEMEN CLOCK, via JM. Alternates between analog and digital when you click on it.

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:52 PM

      ( 2:30 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:30 PM

      ( 12:42 PM ) The Rat  
DO IT, via Failbook.

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:42 PM

      ( 12:31 PM ) The Rat  
RATTY'S HEADING HOME TONIGHT! Home = where they do things like this.

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:31 PM

      ( 12:01 PM ) The Rat  

People also study bowerbirds because, well, because they're surprisingly similar to people. Indeed, evolutionary biologist Jared Diamond has called them "the most intriguingly human of birds." These are birds that can build a hut that looks like a doll's house; they can arrange flowers, leaves, and mushrooms in such an artistic manner you'd be forgiven for thinking that Matisse was about to set up his easel; some can sing simultaneously both the male and female parts of another species' duet, and others easily imitate the raucous laugh of a kookaburra or the roar of a chain saw. Plus, they all dance. And about Donald's pile of beetles: He killed them solely for the purpose of decorating. Humans are the only other species known to use animals in this way.

Given all these talents, some researchers have attributed an aesthetic sense and the glimmerings of culture to bowerbirds, traits rarely suggested as found in any species aside from our own. Some primates, such as chimpanzees and orangutans, are now regarded as having cultural traditions but not aesthetics...

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:01 PM

      ( 10:40 AM ) The Rat  
THE TOLL BROS. SATURDAY MATINEE BROADCAST OF TRAVIATA begins at 1 PM today. Go here to find a station.

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:40 AM

      ( 1:45 AM ) The Rat  
"I reflected how many satisfied, happy people there really are! What a suffocating force it is! You look at life: the insolence and idleness of the strong, the ignorance and brutishness of the weak, incredible poverty all about us, overcrowding, degeneration, drunkenness, hypocrisy, lying... Yet all is calm and stillness in the houses and in the streets; of the fifty thousand living in a town, there is not one who would cry out, who would give vent to his indignation aloud. We see the people going to market for provisions, eating by day, sleeping by night, talking their silly nonsense, getting married, growing old, serenely escorting their dead to the cemetery; but we do not see and we do not hear those who suffer, and what is terrible in life goes on somewhere behind the scenes... Everything is so quiet and peaceful, and nothing protests but mute statistics: so many people gone out of their minds, so many gallons of vodka drunk, so many children dead from malnutrition... And this order of things is evidently necessary; evidently the happy man only feels at ease because the unhappy bear their burdens in silence, and without that silence happiness would be impossible."
"Ward No. 6"

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:45 AM

Friday, January 14, 2011
      ( 11:16 PM ) The Rat  

Time was running out, and Mark Dickinson wasn't sure whether he'd get to see his dying 2-year-old grandson one last time. A long line at Los Angeles International Airport's security checkpoint had kept him from getting to his gate on time.

His grandson Caden would be taken off life support in a matter of hours in Denver, Colorado, with or without his grandfather's presence, according to CNN affiliate KABC.

"I was kind of panicking because I was running late, and I really thought I wasn't going to make the flight," Dickinson told KABC.
That's when a pilot from Southwest Airlines stepped up and held the flight at the gate until Dickinson arrived. The pilot was standing by the jetway waiting for him when Dickinson arrived in socks, so rushed that he just grabbed his shoes at security and ran through the terminal.

"I told him, 'Thank you so much. I can't tell you how much I appreciated that.' And he said, 'No problem. They can't leave without me anyway,'" Dickinson told KABC...

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:16 PM

      ( 9:57 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:57 PM

      ( 8:29 PM ) The Rat  
PHOTO GALLERY from a dress rehearsal of that Decker Traviata now on at the Met.

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:29 PM

      ( 8:20 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:20 PM

      ( 8:13 PM ) The Rat  
"Why this sort of formal call? Is he going to propose to me, do you think?"

"I shouldn't wonder."

"Because, if so, you can tell him that I much prefer men who propose on impulse."

"Like me?"

"It's not an impulse with you, Bill. It's habit."

"Virginia, won't you ever—"

"No, no, no, Bill. I won't have it in the morning before lunch. Do try and think of me as a nice motherly person approaching middle age who has your interests thoroughly at heart."

"Virginia, I do love you so."

"I know, Bill, I know. And I simply love being loved. Isn't it wicked and dreadful of me? I should like every nice man in the world to be in love with me."

"Most of them are, I expect," said Bill gloomily.

"But I hope George isn't in love with me. I don't think he can be. He's so wedded to his career. What else did he say?"

"Just that it was important."

"Bill, I'm getting intrigued. The things that George thinks important are so awfully limited. I think I must chuck Ranelagh. After all, I can go to Ranelagh any day. Tell George that I shall be awaiting him meekly at four o'clock."

Bill looked at his wristwatch.

"It seems hardly worthwhile to go back before lunch. Come out and chew something, Virginia."

"I'm going out to lunch somewhere or other."

"That doesn't matter. Make a day of it, and chuck everything all round."

"It would be rather nice," said Virginia, smiling at him.

"Virginia, you're a darling. Tell me, you do like me rather, don't you? Better than other people."

"Bill, I adore you. If I had to marry someone—simply had to—I mean if it was in a book and a wicked mandarin said to me, 'Marry someone or die by slow torture,' I should choose you at once—I should indeed. I should say, 'Give me little Bill.'"

The Secret of Chimneys

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:13 PM

      ( 12:06 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:06 PM

      ( 9:04 AM ) The Rat  
"HE'S A RATIONAL GUY, HOWEVER, AND HE KNOWS WHAT SORT OF PERSON HE MARRIED. HE SAID OKAY." Virginia Postrel on donating a kidney (from 2006; link via IKM).

Donating a kidney isn't, in fact, a matter of just showing up. You have to be pushy. Unless you're absolutely determined, you'll give up, and nobody will blame you—except, of course, the person who needs a kidney. When I went to see my Dallas doctor for preliminary tests, the first thing she said was "You know, you can change your mind."

To me, giving Sally a kidney was a practical, straightforward solution to a serious problem. It was important to her but not really a big deal to me. Until the surgery was scheduled—for Saturday, March 4—and I started telling people about it, I had no idea just how weird I was.

Normal people, I found, have a visceral—pun definitely intended—reaction to the idea of donating an organ. They're revolted. They identify entirely with the donor but not at all with the recipient...

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:04 AM

      ( 8:52 AM ) The Rat  
"IT'LL SCARE THE EVIL RIGHT OUT." Anthony Bourdain presents three 10-Second Drunk/Hangover Meals.

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:52 AM

Thursday, January 13, 2011
      ( 10:35 PM ) The Rat  
NON-WEDDING ANNOUNCEMENT, via Passive-Aggressive Notes.

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:35 PM

      ( 9:08 PM ) The Rat  

Inmates in the Florida prison system buy 270,000 honey buns a month. Across the state, they sell more than tobacco, envelopes and cans of Coke. And they're just as popular among Tampa Bay's county jails. In Pasco's Land O'Lakes Detention Center, they're outsold only by freeze-dried coffee and ramen noodles.

Not only that, these honey buns—so puffy!—have taken on lives of their own among the criminal class: as currency for trades, as bribes for favors, as relievers for stress and substitutes for addiction. They've become birthday cakes, hooch wines, last meals—even ingredients in a massive tax fraud.

So what is it about these little golden glazed snacks? Is it that they're cheap, which is big, since the prisoners rely on cash from friends and family? That their sugary denseness could stop a speeding bullet? That they're easy, their
mise en place just the unwrapping of plastic? What gives?

Maybe considering the honey bun can help us understand life behind bars...

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:08 PM

      ( 3:23 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:23 PM

      ( 12:44 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:44 PM

      ( 11:20 AM ) The Rat  
THE DELICIOUS ANDRZEJ DOBBER sings "Pura siccome un angelo." So I was totally (Eve's word) Stockholmed by Traviata last night. It was the first opera I ever saw, ca. 1999 or thereabouts in a university production, and convinced me at the time that all these people fanatically devoted to the genre must be huffing glue. The production now on at the Met, though, made a convert out of me at some point during the second act...

Personally, I liked Decker's sets (and will be curious to see what it's like attending a traditional production, now... some—not all, but some—of the directorial decisions seemed so right they may well have colonized the whole work, for me), though with a few reservations, and I do take JN's point about "artsy" productions having less staying power. (I'm not sure I'd want to still be seeing these sets ten years from now. But on the other hand, isn't that the point?) The production as a whole is flawed—it was one of those nights when you're blown away despite hearing so many imperfections—and I'd have to hear some other Violettas before signing on to the Post's claim that Poplavskaya is "perhaps the finest Violetta of our time"—her voice seemed to me to alternate between being exquisitely beautiful and, well, the opposite. (Then again, that's not a rare effect for me with sopranos, and is one of the reasons I nearly always prefer mezzo voices... unless we're talking, say, Diana Damrau and perhaps Barbara Frittoli.) Poplavskaya and Polenzani (whom I like very much, but who was better, I thought, in other roles I've heard him in than as Alfredo) both didn't seem to hit their stride till some point well into the second act; I'm linking to Dobber, who sang Germont, because I found him the most consistently good of the three leads—admittedly he also has rather a smaller part than Poplavskaya does!

*You do have to get over the extremely silly storyline, which I'm sure was part of the problem at my first Traviata (I may leave the surtitles off at all future Traviatas). Once you get over it, though—well, put it like this: Last night was one of the very few times I've actually cried at an opera. (I've been to probably north of 60 at this point, but could count the number of times I've cried on one hand. I suspect listening over headphones can actually bring that on more readily than live performance—Horowitz playing some Rachmaninoff prelude or other did it once a few months ago, completely taking me aback... I don't even like Rachmaninoff all that much!) If you can make one of the five remaining performances, you should. They'll also be live-streaming it on the evening of the 26th.

P.S. One of those extra little perks that come sometimes with operagoing is being seated near someone who really doesn't look like a standard-issue classical-music person. Last night, I was next to this large, agreeable, somewhat meathead-ey-looking guy (but with perhaps tellingly hot wife?) who looked like he'd somehow gotten lost on his way to the game and found himself in Lincoln Center by mistake. But he was telling me eagerly before curtain of how he'd come to the New Year's Eve gala (which was also this Traviata)... and when Polenzani came out for his curtain call, he leaped up and was yelling, "ALFREDO!! ALFREDO!!!" at the top of his lungs. (He did this during both of Polenzani's curtain calls.) Don't ever assume you're not the opera "type." There is no opera type—or to the extent there is, you may be that type without knowing it, or the version of yourself that exists ten or twenty years from now may be. (They should really offer some kind of 529 plan for this purpose—or would MSAs be the better metaphor?)

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:20 AM

      ( 11:12 AM ) The Rat  
"SCOUT'S HONOR," via Failbook.

Also, this is why you shouldn't link to family on Facebook.

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:12 AM

      ( 10:24 AM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:24 AM

Tuesday, January 11, 2011
      ( 9:09 AM ) The Rat  
ABOUT READY TO HANG IT UP, via WC. Unbelievably O. Henry-esque (I'm thinking not of "Magi" but of some of the other stories in this collection, which I inhaled during my first week or so away at college).

Three years into World War II, people thought they’d seen it all, including neighbors with concentration camp tattoos. Richard Jackson remembers the day when a Nazi flag flew in the Bronx...

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:09 AM

Monday, January 10, 2011
      ( 9:25 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:25 PM

      ( 7:30 PM ) The Rat  
TOO PRETTY TO EAT? ASIA'S BEAUTIFUL DISHES. Never mind the article... just go straight to the pictures. And don't miss no. 6! (The originals of the items being replicated in no. 10 can be viewed here and here.)

Cuisine Cuisine's Sauteed Crystal King Prawn: A king prawn is skinned and scored in one quick movement—it takes less than 30 seconds—and immediately fried. As the white flesh cooks, the score marks cause it to curl into the shape of a perfect chrysanthemum flower...

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:30 PM

      ( 6:42 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:42 PM

      ( 6:09 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:09 PM

      ( 3:18 PM ) The Rat  

Sorry, ladies. Note the ring on that finger. Robert's taken.

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:18 PM

      ( 1:42 PM ) The Rat  
GOOD (AND DISTURBING) HEALTH CHECK EPISODE ON SIDNEY BRADFORD. His Wiki page claims he committed suicide, though other sources say he died of natural causes.

Claudia Hammond re-visits the case of Sidney Bradford, born in 1906, who lost his sight when he was 10 months old. When it was finally restored with corneal grafts at the age of 52, a lecturer in Experimental Psychology at Cambridge, Richard Gregory, began a series of tests on SB—a study that would launch Gregory's career as a world-renowned expert in visual perception...

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:42 PM

      ( 10:42 AM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:42 AM

Sunday, January 09, 2011
      ( 10:50 PM ) The Rat  
"I KNEW I'D HIT ROCK BOTTOM WHEN I WOKE UP ON TOP OF YOU." MG told me a few years back that the key to life was knowing what country song you're in, so I was just doing some further research...

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:50 PM

      ( 9:39 PM ) The Rat  
LIVE BALL DROP IN TIMES SQUARE ISN'T ONLY NEW YEAR'S CELEBRATION. has photos of the pickle drop and Peep drop. Found both this and the last link through the Harper's "Weekly Review."

Elsewhere, folks in Easton, Md., will watch a big, fake crab slide down a pair of poles in the middle of their 300-year-old Chesapeake Bay town...

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:39 PM

      ( 9:24 PM ) The Rat  

Swashbucklers fight over girl in Siem Reap: Four "gangsters" were arrested and briefly detained in Siem Reap town on Monday after they decided to use a swordfight to settle a dispute over a girl. Police said two of the men involved in the fight were in love with the same girl and had agreed that the winner of the duel—in which each was assisted by a trusty sidekick—would win exclusive rights to her. Police said the suspects had been "educated" and released after promising not to engage in swordfights in the future.

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:24 PM

      ( 2:28 PM ) The Rat  
OWEN BENNETT-JONES INTERVIEWS MICHAEL CAINE. I adore both OB-J and Michael Caine, but I wasn't expecting too much from this interview... but the sequence from about 12m00s through to 17m37s (recounting how he met his second wife, Shakira Caine) is just spectacular. (A little more on them here, but you really have to listen to the interview segment.)

MC. She had the cleanest hair in London.

OB-J. Cleanest hair?

MC. Yeah—cos the excuse was, if you didn't want to go on a date with a guy, the girls always said, 'Can't come out tonight, I'm washing my hair.' So... And I got that, and I got this—'And I've got to do me laundry,' and—

OB-J. Well, she'd never met you, so it's not terribly...

MC. No, no, no—but... She lived with five other girls, in a big flat in the Fulham Road. And they told her not to go out with me... because I didn't have a very good name.

OB-J. Your reputation was—

MC. My reputation was—

OB-J. A boy around the town.

MC. —Yeah. And it was very strange... When you think—I'm very, very happily married now for forty years—is... On the tenth night, I said to myself, I'm not phoning again. She either comes out, or sod it. Because I'd phoned every night, for ten, you know—pleading with her, but she wouldn't come. I thought, This is the last—so I phoned, and she said I'll come out. And that was it.

OB-J. You've never looked back.

MC. Never looked back. I mean, I remember... I lived in this flat in Grosvenor Square, and she—she insisted that she pick me up in her car. I remember she came to pick me up, and—she rang the door in my flat... and it has one of those peepholes, which make everybody's faces look elongated, you know—when you look through. And I looked through... and I thought to myself, 'Bloody hell, she looks fantastic through this! What's she going to look like when I open the door?!'

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:28 PM

      ( 1:57 PM ) The Rat  
RENTING SHEEP in Washington state. Last link for the day via Wait Wait.

Sue Foster knew what she needed to do when her border collie, Taff, was expelled from puppy school for herding the black Labs into a corner.

She rented some sheep.

Then she bought another border collie and rented some grazing land. Then she bought some sheep of her own. And a third border collie. Now, like the old lady who swallowed the fly, Ms. Foster keeps a llama to chase off the coyotes that threaten the lambs that go to market to finance the sheep that entertain her dogs.

Once upon a time, Americans got dogs for their sheep. Now they get sheep for their dogs. "I never dreamed it would go this far," says Ms. Foster, 56 years old.

Border collies, first bred along the frontier between England and Scotland, are compulsive herders, with instincts so intense they sometimes search for livestock behind the television when sheep appear on screen, says Geri Byrne, owner of the Border Collie Training Center, in Tulelake, Calif....

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:57 PM

      ( 1:30 PM ) The Rat  

Previous partners were also a popular subject for liars, with nearly all men saying they exaggerate how many women they have slept with, while the majority of women downplay their bedroom history...

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:30 PM

      ( 12:20 PM ) The Rat  
HYPNOTIST WARMS UP WORKERS. Onion-sque! Via Wait Wait.

A cobbler who won't buy heaters for his freezing staff has had them hypnotised into thinking they're warm...

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:20 PM

      ( 9:29 AM ) The Rat  
"THE MOST IMPORTANT THING TO KNOW ABOUT THE UNICORN..." Six different types of 35-year-old men, via Hilarity in Shoes; also see Seven different types of 35-year-old-women.

Also: It is a truth universally acknowledged that a man who cannot find the caps lock key will never find the clitoris.

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:29 AM

Saturday, January 08, 2011
      ( 7:50 PM ) The Rat  
"TAKING THE SIX-WEEK CURE." Slate on Reno's divorce ranches.

Few other places made ending a marriage so easy. New York, for example, would grant a divorce only if one spouse could prove that the other had been adulterous—with pictures, perhaps, or an eyewitness. Even with the evidence in hand, an aggrieved spouse still had to wait a year between filing for divorce and being granted one. By contrast, Nevada offered nine grounds for divorce—impotency, adultery, desertion, conviction of a felony, habitual drunkenness, neglect to provide the common necessities of life, insanity, living apart for three years, and extreme cruelty entirely mental in nature—and required no proof. (According to
The Divorce Seekers: A Photo Memoir of a Nevada Dude Wrangler by Bill and Sandra McGee, mental cruelty, the most popular charge, "could cover a wide variety of complaints, even something like 'she talks to me when I'm trying to read,' or 'he interrupts me when I'm trying to write.'") Best of all, there was no waiting period, provided one of the spouses had been a resident of the state for at least six weeks...

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:50 PM

      ( 6:30 PM ) The Rat  
PORTUGUESE TV STAR SLAIN, CASTRATED AT HOTEL. YIkes. I hate to think what would've happened if they'd been a lot upset with each other.

There had been some friction between the two men toward the end of the trip, but nothing to suggest that anything horrible was about to happen, said the friend, Luis Pires, the editor of the Portuguese language newspaper Luso-Americano.

"I think that they were a little bit upset with each other, for jealousy reasons," Pires told The Associated Press...

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:30 PM

      ( 5:50 PM ) The Rat  
NO MATTER WHAT YOU THOUGHT OF THE MOVIE (I liked—even loved—it) (then again: espionage, wartime Shanghai, Tony Leung... it's not like there was a whole lot of room to go wrong), this is a ridiculously amazing soundtrack—easily in my top five, if not indeed my top one. Plus it's still great on the 70th or 80th listen, which is approximately what I'm on now...

# Posted by The Rat @ 5:50 PM

      ( 4:26 PM ) The Rat  
"I HAVE SUGAR AND CANDY IN MY ROOM." I don't know what really happened here, but I do want to give the reporter some kind of prize for the use of quotation marks throughout this article. Link via SD, who notes: "Lesbian action should never be a firing offense."

# Posted by The Rat @ 4:26 PM

      ( 4:16 PM ) The Rat  
HIDDEN LITERARY REFERENCES DISCOVERED IN THE MONA LISA. Yeah, but don't all the boys say that shit? (N.B. I love that ScienceDaily has this categorized under "Fossils & Ruins.")

Dr. Kilpatrick believes Leonardo is alluding to Horace's Ode 1. 22 (Integer vitae) and two sonnets by Petrarch (Canzoniere CXLV, CLIX). Like the Mona Lisa, those three poems celebrate a devotion to a smiling young woman, with vows to love and follow the woman anywhere in the world, from damp mountains to arid deserts. The regions mentioned by Horace and Petrarch are similar to the background of the Mona Lisa...

# Posted by The Rat @ 4:16 PM

      ( 4:08 PM ) The Rat  
"THE GALACTIC EMPIRE: SPONSORED BY XANAX." 5 Scientific Reasons the Dark Side Will Always Win, my last Cracked link for the day.

# Posted by The Rat @ 4:08 PM

      ( 4:00 PM ) The Rat  
HEE! Also see this one.

# Posted by The Rat @ 4:00 PM

      ( 1:55 PM ) The Rat  

Also see "I purchased this product 4.47 billion years ago and when I opened it today, it was half empty" and "Jefferson believed in celebrating the deliciousness of all world religions."

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:55 PM

      ( 1:25 PM ) The Rat  

More broadly, Bhutanese paint phalluses on their homes to protect their families from evil spirits and to promote fertility. Flying phalluses are also tributes to the adored religious teacher and master of mahamudra Buddhism, Drukpa Kunley, colloquially known as "The Divine Madman" or "The Saint of 5,000 Women."

Born in the year of the wood-pig, in the eighth cycle, or—as Westerners prefer—1455, Kunley pioneered an unorthodox branch of Buddhism based on enlightening the common folk, mostly women. He also offered blessings in the form of sex.

Kunley traveled through Tibet and Bhutan, urging followers to reject the hypocrisy and greed of the world and to lead honest and spiritual lives. He spent his days singing and drinking with the ladies and deflowering virgins. His sexual escapades are legendary, so much so that a monastery in the Punakha valley was built in his honor after he subdued the cannibal demon goddess of the area with his "magic thunderbolt of wisdom"...

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:25 PM

      ( 9:21 AM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:21 AM

      ( 9:16 AM ) The Rat  
"THAT ONE DUCKLING LOOKS LIKE A JEWISH GUY," and other literal New Yorker captions, via ET.

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:16 AM

Friday, January 07, 2011
      ( 7:48 PM ) The Rat  
IN MEMORIAM: BILL ZELLER. Linking to this because I don't feel comfortable with the possibility that my earlier post may have, even in the slightest degree, used Mr. Zeller's death as a sort of "teaching moment" ("turning him into an anecdote," as John Guare memorably put it)... It's implicitly giving up on a person (and that person can be oneself, of course) to assume that the worst things that have happened to them are also the most interesting things about them; since I didn't know Mr. Zeller, though, the worst things that happened to him are unfortunately all I have access to. But I can at least link to his own words, and step aside.

There's a tribute page/guestbook for friends here.

Will return to regular programming tomorrow.

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:48 PM

      ( 9:26 AM ) The Rat  
BILL ZELLER, 26, DIES IN HOSPITAL. Suicide is always tragic of course, but this story particularly so—I'm afraid it will sound flip if I say reading it made me want to hit things, but... reading it made me want to hit things. Please, if you're in a situation like Mr. Zeller was, talk to someone—whether it's easier to talk to a stranger (and sometimes it is) or to a friend. Centers like Hopeline now offer online chat support as well as the more traditional telephone hotlines; you can connect at any hour, from anywhere in the world. The other person doesn't have to see your face or even (via online chat) hear your voice, if you'd feel more comfortable that way.

No matter who you are, you almost certainly know more than one person who was molested or abused as a child (I know I do); not everyone is from a Norman Rockwell family (H., many years ago, in a lecture: "There is bereavement everywhere"), and abuse is not as rare as you probably think. If someone reaches out to you about her or his abuse, listen as well as you can, and don't judge—abuse victims are their own harshest critics. ("Be kind; everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle" may nowhere be more true than in the case of survivors of childhood abuse.)

If you have a child or children in your life, here are some Signs that an adult may be at-risk to harm a child, and Warning signs in children and adolescents of possible child sexual abuse.

A service is being held for Mr. Zeller in Princeton on January 15, and the family has requested donations to his memorial fund in lieu of flowers; details on both here.

He left behind a 4,000-word suicide note, which began: "I have the urge to declare my sanity and justify my actions, but I assume I'll never be able to convince anyone that this was the right decision." In the note, Zeller described how repeated sexual abuse as a young child haunted him for the rest of his life, causing regular nightmares and limiting his ability to connect with others.

"This has affected every aspect of my life," he wrote. "This darkness, which is the only way I can describe it, has followed me like a fog, but at times intensified and overwhelmed me."

Zeller published the note on his personal website and e-mailed it to friends Sunday morning. Minutes later, first responders discovered him in his apartment.

According to his note, Zeller—who was from Middletown, Conn.—never discussed the incidents of his childhood with anyone, including professionals, because he felt unable to fully trust others. He had been seriously contemplating suicide for at least one year and began drafting the note last winter.

Friends and colleagues said they were shocked by the note's contents.

"Even to us, his closest friends here, we didn't know about 80 percent of what he wrote in the note or how he was feeling," said Harlan Yu GS, one of Zeller's roommates for the past two years. "I never had any hints living with him for a year and half that this was what he was experiencing on a daily basis. That's why it was so shocking that he could have hid it so well... Reading the note it was in his voice, but the things that he was saying is such a far cry from everything that we knew about him."

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:26 AM

Thursday, January 06, 2011
      ( 8:10 AM ) The Rat  
NETWORK ORDERS 'GIANT GAME OF HIDE-AND-SEEK.' Here is Evan Ratliff's article on the disappearing act he did for Wired in 2009.

If you wanted to ditch your life and take on a new identity, could you get away with it? That's the question being posed by a new series Discovery Channel just greenlit...

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:10 AM

Wednesday, January 05, 2011
      ( 10:38 PM ) The Rat  
ACCIDENTAL CARTOGRAPHY REVISITED. Don't miss "Paris as a Horseshoe Crab."

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:38 PM

      ( 10:30 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:30 PM

      ( 10:17 PM ) The Rat  
"BREEDING PURPOSES," via Failbook.

Also see At least that's something.

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:17 PM

      ( 12:25 PM ) The Rat  
"LIVIN' IN LATVIA..." Just a sampling of misheard Aerosmith lyrics.

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:25 PM

      ( 9:25 AM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:25 AM

      ( 8:42 AM ) The Rat  
MERCURY POISONING MAKES BIRDS ACT HOMOSEXUAL. Hey man, maybe the male birds were just better-looking.

During the five-year experiment, Frederick and colleague Nilmini Jayasena divided 160 young captive white ibises into four groups of equal numbers of males and females.

During the study period, male and female birds were allowed to choose their mates—an experimental first, according to the study authors.

"All other studies that involve reproduction in birds took a male and a female and put them in a cage," Frederick said. "Our finding, while novel, is the first time anybody's looked for it."

Starting at around 90 days of age, each of three groups was fed a diet containing either low, medium, or high amounts of mercury, based on a realistic range of exposures in the wild. A fourth control group ate mercury-free food...

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:42 AM

      ( 8:41 AM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:41 AM

      ( 8:40 AM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:40 AM

      ( 8:39 AM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:39 AM

Tuesday, January 04, 2011
      ( 10:45 PM ) The Rat  
"RECEIVE BACON." Roundup of the 25 Funniest Moments in Vandalism History.

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:45 PM

      ( 3:40 PM ) The Rat  
WHAT IT TAKES TO FORM A GOOD HABIT; or, another article on something I know nothing about.

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:40 PM

      ( 1:31 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:31 PM

      ( 8:44 AM ) The Rat  
A USER'S GUIDE TO PTSD, PART I. Ratty is still making her way through this series, and expects to be re-reading it many times over. Bonus points for the smackdown of Hemingway's thing from A Moveable Feast ("...maybe it is easier in the end to break your legs than to break your heart although they say that everything breaks now and that, sometimes, many are stronger at the broken places") in Part IV: "Statistically speaking, a prior history of PTSD puts you at risk of recurrence should you again be exposed to trauma. We are not strong at the broken places. The broken places remain fragile. We build up our strength around them to compensate. If we're lucky, that’s sufficient..." Thanks to ET for the link(s).

I've several times come across people who have the symptoms, but don't think their trauma was significant enough to warrant their reaction, since they weren't in combat or were only molested and not physically injured or it was a car crash rather than an act of violence. This seems a sufficiently common idea that I suspect that it's a manifestation of the illness all by itself, possibly a form of survivor's guilt.

If something traumatic happened to you and you fit the other criteria, you should go to a mental health professional and get yourself evaluated, regardless of whether or not you think your trauma was 'good enough.'

Why some people develop PTSD and some people don't is complicated, not well understood, and seems to depend more on the nature of the trauma than the nature of the people. But the perception that having PTSD means that you weren't tough enough or you have some kind of character flaw is a big obstacle in admitting that you have it, which is obviously a big obstacle to getting treated.

To analogize, lots of people trip and fall. If they're young and healthy, they'll usually dust themselves off and get up. But sometimes they break bones. Lots of people crash their cars. A larger percentage of those don't dust themselves off. Complex operations of chance, geography, psychology, and physiology determine whether the accident happens at all, whether you were injured, and how bad your injury was, not some shameful faultline in the accident victim's personality.

If you get PTSD, it means you drew the short straw. That's all.

A sense of helplessness is very significant in causing trauma to reverberate through later years. Not having a support system at the time, or having no or little support later, is also a big predictor of PTSD. And it's bad to be a child, because you haven't yet evolved adult coping strategies, or a sense that things will get better in the future. Children do develop their own strategies, but they don't usually work as well, and, like adult strategies geared toward extreme circumstances, may cause their own problems later on...

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:44 AM

      ( 8:32 AM ) The Rat  
A SERVICE OF THANKSGIVING FOR DAME JOAN SUTHERLAND, to be held at noon on February 15, in Westminster Abbey. What a marvelous—and fitting—thing to call a memorial service, particularly this one.

My favorite thing on the ROH's brief announcement/tribute following La Stupenda's death in October was actually the first reader comment...

I have posted about this lovely lady over on my website. I saw her in Lucia when I was 12 and have never forgotten that glorious night when the audience went totally potty

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:32 AM

      ( 3:19 AM ) The Rat  
WAIT WAIT re-ran the "Not My Job" episode with animal expert Bob Freer recently, and... well, look, just read the whole thing. This is definitely one of my favorite "Not My Job" segments ever. (It's funnier if you can listen to the show itself, of course, but the transcript'll do in a pinch.)

If you're in a hurry, at least scroll down to the bit beginning "We had some ostriches that were running loose at Miami International Airport..."

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:19 AM

Monday, January 03, 2011
      ( 6:11 PM ) The Rat  
"And we turn him into an anecdote, to dine out on, like we're doing right now. But it was an experience. I will not turn him into an anecdote. How do we keep what happens to us? How do we fit it into life without turning it into an anecdote, with no teeth, and a punch line you'll mouth over and over, years to come: 'Oh, that reminds me of the time that impostor came into our lives. Oh, tell the one about that boy.' And we become these human jukeboxes, spilling out these anecdotes. But it was an experience. How do we keep the experience?"
Six Degrees of Separation

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:11 PM

      ( 12:13 PM ) The Rat  

Also don't miss A Marriage Proposal, Larry Is Here for You, and Protection.

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:13 PM

      ( 9:46 AM ) The Rat  
SUN YAT-SEN IN FIREWORKS. Because, you know, why not.

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:46 AM

Sunday, January 02, 2011
      ( 10:00 PM ) The Rat  
"I WAS TOTALLY IN LOVE WITH SCOTT BAKULA." Jezebel on the Ever-Evolving Boyfriend Checklist.

I wanted a man who wore polo shirts and smelled like a fragrance counter. I wanted a man who knew about football and who attended Catholic mass on a weekly basis and who got good grades in school. I wanted a man who wore baseball caps and who was kind to children and who told me I was pretty. That's basically it. We'd meet and we'd date for 2 years and we'd get engaged and I'd be married by like 25 and rolling out the infants by 28...

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:00 PM

      ( 8:54 PM ) The Rat  
UNINTENTIONALLY HILARIOUS SENTENCE from this page at the Menninger Clinic's site.

Attachment plays a key role in trauma for two reasons: (1) an attachment relationship can restore the feeling of safety when you've been through a potentially traumatic event and (2) attachment relationships can be a source of significant trauma.

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:54 PM

      ( 5:42 PM ) The Rat  

Every New Year's Eve, half of all Germans plunk down in front of their televisions to watch a 1963 English comedy sketch called Dinner for One. Walk into any bar in Bavaria and shout the film's refrain: "The same procedure as last year, madam?" The whole crowd will shout back in automatic, if stilted, English: "The same procedure as every year, James"...

# Posted by The Rat @ 5:42 PM

      ( 5:33 PM ) The Rat  
SLATE'S DEAR PRUDENCE runs some follow-ups with people who took her advice.

In response to the letter in which I asserted that sugar gliders, nocturnal Australian marsupials, are not appropriate pets, I heard from one woman in the sugar gliding community who wrote, "I know many people who take them to work in a glider bonding pouch that they wear underneath their clothing." This did not change my mind, but I appreciated the indelible image...

# Posted by The Rat @ 5:33 PM

      ( 5:04 PM ) The Rat  
RELATIONSHIP CUES: SENSING THE UNSPOKEN, via WO. Someone (a boy, because we were both gender-confused) tried to train Ratty at being better at this some years ago—noting, for instance, how you could tell that a man and woman on a train platform were together, and likely married, from similarities in their gait/carriage.

Occasionally Perper's observation teams were perplexed by what they saw. If so, and the opportunity presented itself, they might introduce themselves and ask. Seeing a group of women and a man have lunch, one team thought they were picking up signals between the man and one of the women, but weren't sure. The woman whose signals perplexed them lingered after lunch, and they approached her, explained their research, and asked her about the situation. She laughed and told them that she was having an affair with the man, who was married, and they were trying to keep it secret. It obviously becomes harder to keep relationships secret from people trained to notice small details of interaction.

Some adeptness in reading non-verbal cues is unquestionable useful, and numerous commentators and educators have expressed concern that Generation-Y seems even less adept at it than their elders. Many commentators suggest that a fascination with the wonders of internet social networking has meant that many teenagers are failing to gain enough experience learning to read the information conveyed by subtle facial and body cues...

# Posted by The Rat @ 5:04 PM

      ( 8:17 AM ) The Rat  
A HUMBLE SOLDIER ADJUSTS TO FAME. Heroism meets the culture of celebrity.

Giunta casts himself as an ambassador for everyone in uniform. Modestly, of course: "I'm representing so many people that I know for a fact are faster than me, smarter than me, stronger than me, braver than I am," he says.

He knows, though, he's the star attraction, the reason crowds come out on a bitter winter morning, the reason he's sitting before a microphone on an afternoon radio show. It's his story they still want to hear—and telling it doesn't get any easier.

"I've never seen anyone else asked what was the worst day in your life and let's break it down piece by piece and please go into detail," he says. "For some reason they continually ask me every single day and multiple times a day. Of course, it's difficult. I lost two very good friends that day. They mean absolutely everything (to me) and people brush by their names. And they keep saying 'Giunta. Staff Sgt. Giunta.' That doesn't feel right."

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:17 AM

      ( 8:11 AM ) The Rat  
CAUTION: STUDENT DRIVER. Slate's Human Guinea Pig attempts to learn how to drive stick.

I had to give the manual transmission one more shot, so I called the other place that offered instruction, the Arrive Alive Driving School. I hoped I would not cause them to change their name to the Arrive Alive—With One Exception—Driving School. This time my instructor, Trevor Farrell, appeared at my house in a Nissan GXE Sentra with an extra-scary sign on the back: "Student Driver/ Stick Shift." Farrell, a native of Trinidad and Tobago, was charming and serene as he gave me the lecture on the pedals and stick shift in his soothing island accent.

Off we went, stalling and lurching. Learning to drive was bringing out the misanthrope in me. At one point, while I was restarting the car, behind me an elderly woman in a Lexus began honking.

"So sorry, you old bat, am I making you late for your polyp removal?" I wanted to scream...

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:11 AM

      ( 8:07 AM ) The Rat  
He knew she had no such word in her vocabulary as gallantry, knew she would have stared blankly if he had told her she was the most gallant soul he had ever known. He knew she would not understand how many truly fine things he ascribed to her when he thought of her as gallant. He knew that she took life as it came, opposed her tough-fibered mind to whatever obstacles there might be, fought on with a determination that would not recognize defeat, and kept on fighting even when she saw defeat was inevitable.

But, for four years, he had seen others who had refused to recognize defeat, men who rode gaily into sure disaster because they were gallant. And they had been defeated, just the same.

He thought as he stared at Will in the shadowy hall that he had never known such gallantry as the gallantry of Scarlett O'Hara going forth to conquer the world in her mother's velvet curtains and the tail feathers of a rooster.

Gone With the Wind

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:07 AM

      ( 7:51 AM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:51 AM

Saturday, January 01, 2011
      ( 8:16 PM ) The Rat  

Also don't miss: "The only qualifications needed are that you are reliable and that the circumference of your head is no more than 64 cm" and, last but not least, "There was genuine sexual tension, which is rare in Seattle."

I actually went home and told my boyfriend about you. I called you my Bus Boyfriend. I normally don't tell my boyfriend about random men who want to hit on me but who, true to the Seattle way of life, don't bother. But I told him about you because I wanted him to be aware that other, completely random men occasionally want to be physically close to me, because this is something that even jealous boyfriends are often prone to forgetting. You probably know, Bus Boyfriend, what it's like when you're with a girl for a couple years. If you know she's faithful, you start thinking, "Hey, I'm the only one who has access to this poon..." Then you start thinking, "Hey, no one else really thinks about this woman but me."

My boyfriend took notice when I told him about you; he felt the slight threat that was implicit in our public transportation liaisons, as incredibly platonic as they may have been. He fucked me really hard for a couple of weeks, realizing that he was damn fortunate to have access to this poon...

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:16 PM

      ( 3:40 PM ) The Rat  
Solitude gives birth to the original in us, to beauty unfamiliar and perilous—to poetry. But also, it gives birth to the opposite: to the perverse, the illicit, the absurd.
Death in Venice

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:40 PM

      ( 7:10 AM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:10 AM

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

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