The Rat
Monday, February 28, 2011
      ( 9:41 PM ) The Rat  

This is also great.

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      ( 8:07 PM ) The Rat  

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      ( 6:31 PM ) The Rat  
A young girl, you know, is something like a temple. You pass by and wonder what mysterious rites are going on in there, what prayers, what visions? The privileged men, the lover, the husband, who are given the key of the sanctuary do not always know how to use it. For myself, without claim, without merit, simply by chance I had been allowed to look through the half-opened door and I had seen the saddest possible desecration, the withered brightness of youth, a spirit neither made cringing nor yet dulled but as if bewildered in quivering hopelessness by gratuitous cruelty...

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      ( 5:55 PM ) The Rat  
FROM A READER COMMENT on this week's Sandwich Monday: "[A]ccording to the FDA, they have jurisdiction over closed-face sandwiches, while the USDA has jurisdiction over open-face sandwiches." (Details here.)

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      ( 5:50 PM ) The Rat  
(, via xkcd. Cf. e.e. cumming's l(a.

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      ( 5:44 PM ) The Rat  

The year Tim and Steph Wilocki got married was a big one for them. The nuptials were obviously a focus, but it was also the year they began building their jealousy-inducing woody.

The Wilockis say their priorities are in the right place—they started building the woody "before we bought furniture for the house because, of course, climbing is way more important than having something to sit on!" says Steph...

# Posted by The Rat @ 5:44 PM

      ( 2:00 PM ) The Rat  

Remember way, way back before it was the year 2000, in the 1980s even, perhaps?

Back when you were still living in the 20th Century, when you kept thinking to yourself, "yes, things here are not that wonderful, what with the parachute pants and the big hair and the Vanilla Ice, but just wait until the 21st Century. We'll have the flying cars and the magic diet pills that will keep us thin even as we enjoy our Tang and NASA food tubes."

And now, here you are, it is the future and you still taking the bus to work...

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:00 PM

      ( 1:41 PM ) The Rat  

On their most recent episode of their always-enjoyable Dinner Party Download podcast, American Public Media's Rico Gagliano and Brendan Newnam featured the story of "a lonely whale with vocal problems whose love song supposedly chases lady whales away."

According to a 2004
New York Times article on the subject, this particular baleen whale has apparently been tracked by NOAA since 1992, using a "classified array of hydrophones employed by the Navy to monitor enemy submarines." It sings at 52 Hertz, which is roughly the same frequency as the lowest note on a tuba, and much higher than its fellow whales, whose calls fall in the 15 to 25 Hertz range...

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:41 PM

      ( 11:49 AM ) The Rat  
GIVEN PRIOR TO LOUD NOISE, TWO DRUGS PROTECT HEARING BETTER THAN ONE. They need to make an OTC version of this for parents of young children, and for gun nuts. (It was in fact from a gun nut that Ratty learned that hearing loss is cumulative.)

Whether on a battlefield, in a factory or at a rock concert, noise-induced hearing loss is one of the most common hazards people face.

Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have identified a low-dose, two-drug cocktail that reduces hearing loss in mice when given before they are exposed to loud noise. The drugs, already FDA-approved for other conditions, also treat hearing loss after noise exposure...

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      ( 11:32 AM ) The Rat  
THIS WHAT SPICE ARE YOU? QUIZ thinks I'm either garlic, which I find dubious ("Of all the spice types, you are the most universally loved...") even though I adore garlic, or cayenne ("You are very over the top and a bit overwhelming..."). This one says saffron.

Interesting Chowhound thread on which spice/herb readers go through fastest. Around here it's easily cumin, which is super good for you. Though I'm not sure how I feel about the idea of putting it in perfume.

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:32 AM

      ( 10:28 AM ) The Rat  
"A LARGE HAMSTER NAMED KERN TAKES A LUXURIOUS NAP ON HIS EXERCISE WHEEL..." 7 pudgy pets that should lay off the kibble, via IKM.

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:28 AM

Sunday, February 27, 2011
      ( 9:32 PM ) The Rat  
THE MAFIA WAS WRONG: YOU CAN'T QUICKLY DISSOLVE A BODY IN ACID. With alkaline hydrolysis (for more on which, see the classic SYSK episode, "What can be done with a dead body?"), otoh...

This Mafia technique of disintegrating human flesh is known as a "white shotgun" (or "lupara bianca") murder, a term that entered public parlance in the early 1980s when police in Palermo, Sicily, discovered vats of acid in a Mafia boss's digs. The crime leader, Filippo Marchese, had his goons kill their victims and dissolve the bodies in a room known as "the chamber of death." But violent people tend to meet violent deaths, and Marchese was himself dissolved in acid sometime in 1982.

At this week's meeting of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, researchers explained that they wanted to find out whether the Mafia’s claims about sulfuric acid's extraordinary effectiveness were true...

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:32 PM

      ( 8:31 PM ) The Rat  

Sagal [explaining news item pertaining to one of the "listener limerick challenge" questions]. Over the last few years, men, especially in Europe, have given up the briefcase and adopted the man-bag or the man-purse, or the "murse"—big bags with straps that go over the shoulder. The problem is that men put in too much stuff—their laptops... their phones... the last shreds of their manhood... For a solution, doctors recommend something smaller—like a darling little clutch purse, dyed to match your hard hat!

Panelist. There's never been a good way for men to carry stuff. There just hasn't.

Sagal. Well there is.. there's the tank!—get in the tank, put the stuff in the tank... That's manly.

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:31 PM

      ( 12:41 PM ) The Rat  

This is also amusing.

Those who enjoyed an idyllic childhood could find that life has a nasty trick in store because, it seems, they are more likely to divorce.

Researchers found that men and women with a stable upbringing could have more confidence and so be more ready to leave a failing relationship.

For the long-term project at Cambridge University, thousands of Britons born in one week in 1946 were studied...

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:41 PM

      ( 8:55 AM ) The Rat  

In seven minutes [on The Kudlow Report], Mr. Greenhaus ticked off references to Phish songs like "Backwards Down the Number Line," "Fast Enough for You" and "Free," each fitting enough to the conversation to glide right over the head of Mr. Kudlow. For example, Mr. Greenhaus characterized inflation as "going backwards down the number line for the better part of two years now."

Reached in his office on Thursday morning, Mr. Greenhaus, who has seen more than 80 Phish concerts since 1995, said the references were just his natural way of speaking...

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:55 AM

Saturday, February 26, 2011
      ( 3:20 PM ) The Rat  
THE CHANGING FACE OF FAME, via WO. Can we just kill them all and bring back Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart?

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      ( 7:25 AM ) The Rat  
JAPAN: A FRIEND IN NEED. Wacky recent documentary (which is hilariously reminiscent of some of Agatha Christie's Parker Pyne stories). Here is an article from 2009 on the same subject.

One specialist agency is known as Hagemashi Tai, which translates as I Want To Cheer Up Limited. It rents relatives.

Actors are despatched to play the part of distant relations at weddings and funerals. For an extra fee, they will even give a speech.

But the firm's services do not stop there. It can also provide temporary husbands to single mothers who want them.

The website says the "dad" will help the children with their homework. He will sort out problems with the neighbours. He will take the kids to a barbeque or to a park. He could also appear at the daunting interview with a nursery school head teacher which parents are required to endure in order to persuade the principal to give their child a good start in life.

There is a service for women who are about to wed too. Apparently, they can practise for married life with a hired husband, although whether this involves seduction or sock washing is not exactly clear...

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      ( 7:05 AM ) The Rat  
ATTENTION ANNOYING HYPOCRITES: STOP BEING JUDGMENTAL ABOUT YOUR FRIENDS' MONEY HABITS. Excellent post by Ramit, bookmarked from last year. The section on "The psychology of judging others" is particularly good.

The first phenomenon in judging others is called a "self-serving bias," which we use to protect ourselves from judgment:

A self-serving bias occurs when people attribute their successes to internal or personal factors but attribute their failures to situational factors beyond their control… For example, a student who gets a good grade on an exam might say, "I got an A because I am intelligent and I studied hard!" whereas a student who does poorly on an exam might say, "The teacher gave me an F because he does not like me!"

If your friend buys a $500 coat, you might say, "That's nuts… Jack is really bad at managing his money. He can't even control his spending!" But when I asked you about the $500 coat in your closet, you might say, "Oh, that's because I had to go to a wedding last month."

Second, we employ the Fundamental Attribution Error to judge others:

In social psychology, the fundamental attribution error… describes the tendency to over-value dispositional or personality-based explanations for the observed behaviors of others while under-valuing situational explanations for those behaviors.

In other words, "She bought those Jimmy Choos because she's financially irresponsible" instead of "She bought those Jimmy Choos because she recently earned more money or negotiated her salary." When judging others, we believe people make decisions because of WHO they are, rather than the SITUATION they're in.

Third, we use the powerful strategy of downward social comparison:

Downward social comparison is a defensive tendency to evaluate oneself with a comparison group whose troubles are more serious than one's own. This tends to occur when threatened people look to others who are less fortunate than themselves… For example, a breast cancer patient may have had a lumpectomy, but sees herself as better off than another patient who lost her breast.

Wondering where you've seen this? Turn on any talk show or radio show. Try to monitor your emotions during the episode. You might notice your internal voice saying something like, "Oh yeah, I have $5,000 in credit card debt…
but at least I don’t have $45,000 debt like that guy."

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:05 AM

Friday, February 25, 2011
      ( 10:14 PM ) The Rat  

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      ( 1:01 PM ) The Rat  
"SEVERAL HOURS LATER, A SECOND FEMALE WAS THROWN INTO THE MIX, BECAUSE VOLES LIKE TO PARTY." 5 Personality Flaws That Science Will Cure in Our Lifetime, via Cracked.

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:01 PM

      ( 8:24 AM ) The Rat  

A woman's body generally provides cues about her state of fertility while her face gives insight into her long-term reproductive value, according to previous research. So the new findings suggest men seeking a short-term relationship have psychological adaptations to look for partners who are fertile and can produce offspring.

"Men's priorities shift depending on what they want in a mate, with facial features taking on more importance when a long-term relationship is the goal," says psychology graduate student Jaime Confer, who co-authored the research with graduate student Carin Perilloux and Professor David Buss. "Mating is central to the engine of natural selection. This research helps clarify people's preference."

Women showed no significant difference in their interest in faces or bodies when looking for short-term or long-term mates, according to the study published this month in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior.

Previous research has examined the qualities that make faces and bodies attractive, such as symmetry and waist-to-hip ratio. But this is the first study to experimentally analyze the relative importance of faces and bodies as whole components...

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:24 AM

      ( 8:20 AM ) The Rat  
CAMBRIDGE MEMORY TEST FOR FACES, via IKM. I knew I would score badly on this—I once forgot what a guy looked like that I had a crush on—I just didn't know how badly (50 percent, turns out). Here is an NIH fact sheet on prosopagnosia.

On our previous version of this test, the average person with normal face recognition was able to recognize about 80% of the faces. If you correctly identified less than 65% of the faces, this may indicate face recognition difficulties.

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:20 AM

Thursday, February 24, 2011
      ( 7:34 PM ) The Rat  
RATTY CAN'T BELIEVE she missed this...

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Wednesday, February 23, 2011
      ( 8:52 PM ) The Rat  

These tech-will-save-the-world types, according to author Evgeny Morozov, tend to believe the internet can do no wrong. It spawns democracy, as has been shown with the protests rifling across the Middle East and North Africa. And it organizes people in new and fast and always-exciting ways.

Google's Wael Ghonim, a central figure in the Egyptian protest movement that toppled President Hosni Mubarak, put it this way: "If you want to liberate a society, just give them the internet. If you want to have a free society, just give them the internet," he said after the protest movement had succeeded in Egypt.

But what about instances when the internet actually prevents democracy from coming about—when dictators use social media to track the populace, plant pro-government bloggers and online activists and, in short, increase their own power?...

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      ( 8:39 PM ) The Rat  
THE PROCRASTINATION CLOCK, via ET. I think I'd just end up yanking this off the wall and tossing it out a window...

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      ( 7:52 AM ) The Rat  
"KEEP YOUR OLD LOVE LETTERS. THROW AWAY YOUR OLD BANK STATEMENTS." Mary Schmich's Commencement speech for the class of '97.

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:52 AM

Tuesday, February 22, 2011
      ( 4:51 PM ) The Rat  

Recent research indicates that bilingual speakers can outperform monolinguals—people who speak only one language—in certain mental abilities, such as editing out irrelevant information and focusing on important information, said Judith Kroll, Distinguished Professor of Psychology, Penn State. These skills make bilinguals better at prioritizing tasks and working on multiple projects at one time.

"We would probably refer to most of these cognitive advantages as multi-tasking," said Kroll, director of the Center for Language Science. "Bilinguals seem to be better at this type of perspective taking."

Kroll said that these findings counter previous conclusions that bilingualism hindered cognitive development...

# Posted by The Rat @ 4:51 PM

      ( 4:29 PM ) The Rat  
TODDLERS AND TELEVISION: EARLY EXPOSURE HAS NEGATIVE AND LONG-TERM IMPACT. Great. From last summer, but mentioned in an episode of Health Check I just caught up on.

Want kids who are smarter and thinner? Keep them away from the television set as toddlers. A shocking study from child experts at the Université de Montréal, the Sainte-Justine University Hospital Research Center and the University of Michigan, published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, has found that television exposure at age two forecasts negative consequences for kids, ranging from poor school adjustment to unhealthy habits.

"We found every additional hour of TV exposure among toddlers corresponded to a future decrease in classroom engagement and success at math, increased victimization by classmates, have a more sedentary lifestyle, higher consumption of junk food and, ultimately, higher body mass index," says lead author Dr. Linda S. Pagani, a psychosocial professor at the Université de Montréal and researcher at the Sainte-Justine University Hospital Research Center.

The goal of the study was to determine the impact of TV exposure at age 2 on future academic success, lifestyle choices and general well being among children. "Between the ages of two and four, even incremental exposure to television delayed development," says Dr. Pagani...

# Posted by The Rat @ 4:29 PM

      ( 12:51 PM ) The Rat  
"IT STARTED TO FEEL LIKE SHE WAS BEING HAPPY AT ME." The Scariest Story, via Hyperbole and a Half. This one's for all you only children who want to know what you missed!

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:51 PM

      ( 9:20 AM ) The Rat  
A BELATED WELCOME to the person who was just here from Bad Homburg, which I bet isn't even Germany's goofiest-sounding city. (And is it even in the running against Bury St. Edmunds?)

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      ( 9:03 AM ) The Rat  

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Monday, February 21, 2011
      ( 3:32 PM ) The Rat  

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      ( 2:31 PM ) The Rat  
SURF CITY RUNNER WHO DROPPED DEAD LIVES, via JM. Pretty intense comments thread... Also slightly reminiscent of the plot of Ratty's favorite fairy tale, "The King of the Golden River."

Kim Conley didn't even want to be running that day. Back in the fall she talked a friend into doing an Alcatraz swim with her. The friend agreed, as long as Kim did the Surf City Half Marathon with her.


But for weeks Kim's ankle had been hurting her. Still, she drove down from San Jose with her friend the night before for the race because a deal's a deal.

And now, to her surprise, Kim was actually making pretty good time. In fact, with the finish line in sight, she realized she might be headed for her personal best.

Then out of the corner of her eye she saw someone lying on the ground, scores of people running right on past him.

Kim looked at the finish line about 100 yards away.

Then she looked at the man.

Then she looked at the finish line.


# Posted by The Rat @ 2:31 PM

Sunday, February 20, 2011
      ( 10:57 PM ) The Rat  
HOW COUPLES RECOVER AFTER AN ARGUMENT STEMS FROM THEIR INFANT RELATIONSHIPS. What if your infancy was super healthy and normal, and things only started getting weird a few years after that?

By looking back at observations of the participants and their caregivers from the 1970s, when they were between 12 and 18 months old, the researchers discovered a link between the couples' conflict recovery behaviors and the quality of their attachment relationship with their caregivers. People who were more securely attached to their caregivers as infants were better at recovering from conflict 20 years later. This means that if your caregiver is better at regulating your negative emotions as an infant, you tend to do a better job of regulating your own negative emotions in the moments following a conflict as an adult.

The researchers also found that there is hope for people who were insecurely attached as infants. "We found that people who were insecurely attached as infants but whose adult romantic partners recover well from conflict are likely to stay together," remarked Salvatore. "If one person can lead this process of recovering from conflict, it may buffer the other person and the relationship." The health of a relationship can be salvaged if one person can quickly disengage from conflict and avoid dwelling on negative thoughts and emotions.

This is some of the first evidence that romantic partners play an important role in buffering the potential harmful effects from poor experiences earlier in life. "That, to us, was the most exciting finding," Salvatore says. "There's something about the important people later in our lives that changes the consequences of what happened earlier."

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:57 PM

      ( 10:49 PM ) The Rat  

Also via ScienceDaily: Only one person out of over 1,900 met AHA's definition of ideal heart health, study finds. I bet most of us trip up where I do, on the BMI item...

Ideal cardiovascular health is the combination of these seven factors: nonsmoking, a body mass index less than 25, goal-level physical activity and healthy diet, untreated cholesterol below 200, blood pressure below 120/80 and fasting blood sugar below 100, explained senior investigator and cardiologist Steven Reis, M.D., associate vice chancellor for clinical research at Pitt.

"Of all the people we assessed, only one out of 1,900 could claim ideal heart health," said Dr. Reis. "This tells us that the current prevalence of heart health is extremely low, and that we have a great challenge ahead of us to attain the AHA's aim of a 20 percent improvement in cardiovascular health rates by 2020."

As part of the Heart Strategies Concentrating on Risk Evaluation (Heart SCORE) study, the researchers evaluated 1,933 people ages 45 to 75 in Allegheny County with surveys, physical exams and blood tests. Less than 10 percent met five or more criteria; 2 percent met the four heart-healthy behaviors; and 1.4 percent met all three heart-healthy factors. After adjustment for age, sex and income level, blacks had 82 percent lower odds than whites of meeting five or more criteria...

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:49 PM

      ( 10:44 PM ) The Rat  
INFANTS RAISED IN BILINGUAL ENVIRONMENTS CAN DISTINGUISH UNFAMILIAR LANGUAGES. Not that we didn't all already know that multilingual infants are superior to the other kind!

Infants raised in households where Spanish and Catalan are spoken can discriminate between English and French just by watching people speak, even though they have never been exposed to these new languages before, according to University of British Columbia psychologist Janet Werker.

Presented at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Annual Meeting in Washington, DC, Werker's latest findings provide further evidence that exposure to two native languages contributes to the development of perceptual sensitivity that extends beyond their mother tongues...

This is also fascinating: The more you know a place, the more likely your memory will play spatial tricks.

David Uttal, professor of psychology in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, along with colleague Alinda Friedman at the University of Alberta, are lead authors of the study. They witnessed firsthand how this plays out among students on the Northwestern campus.

"I've had students tell me that they may be a few minutes late for class because they are coming all the way from south campus," Uttal said. "And I'm thinking, 'It's only a six-minute walk.'

"Another time I overheard a student say, "This better be good, because I don't go to north campus for nothing.'

"That really intrigued me because if you look at a map it's not at all clear where these divisions are," said Uttal. "There are north and south ends of campus but treating it like a really sharp division, like a foreign world, it's not justified based solely on geography. I think there is something really interesting going on here cognitively"...

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:44 PM

      ( 5:47 PM ) The Rat  
"UNLIKE DUNGEONS & DRAGONS, WHICH REQUIRED FRIENDS..." Slate on Choose Your Own Adventure books.

# Posted by The Rat @ 5:47 PM

      ( 10:01 AM ) The Rat  

Still searching for the perfect Valentine's present for that special someone? New York's Bronx Zoo has the ideal answer: name a cockroach after them.

And not just any cockroach—a Madagascar hissing roach, "the biggest and loudest of these stalwart insects," the zoo says on its website. Besides, it notes, "Flowers wilt. Chocolates melt. Roaches are forever"...

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:01 AM

      ( 8:28 AM ) The Rat  
IMAGINE HOW LONG IT WOULD TAKE to sing "So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, goodbye" with a family this size.

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:28 AM

Friday, February 18, 2011
      ( 7:34 PM ) The Rat  
CHINA'S SECOND WIVES, via WC. Um, no comment on the Bottega Veneta reference.

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:34 PM

      ( 12:51 PM ) The Rat  
A MAJOR LEAGUER BECOMES A MARATHONER—AND A FOCUSED FATHER. Remind me to never complain about anything ever again.

For much of his career, though, Miller ran only sporadically to get ready for spring training. But then he found himself in need of a way to control the dark moods and outbursts that accompanied the stress he felt as the father of a disabled child. Grace was born in June 2004 with two holes in her heart, two of the same (16th) chromosome, and a translocation of her 21st chromosome. Doctors predicted she'd only live a year. What they didn't say was how hard that year would be. Grace needed open-heart surgery at 4 months and constant nursing care when she came home at 6 months. "The first year felt like 10 years," says Trever's wife, Pari. "It was especially hard on Trever because he's a fixer and he couldn't fix this."

Miller turned to drinking, a habit that came to a head in May 2005 when he had a particularly bad night on the mound. Frustrated, he came home with a six-pack, sat on his patio, and began downing one beer after another. It began to rain, but Miller stayed put, ignoring the lightning that flashed dangerously close. "I dared God to strike me down," he says.

The next morning, Miller admonished himself. He knew he needed a different form of stress relief. He ran two miles that day. The next day he ran again, and soon he was running three days a week, doing laps around Major League ballparks when he was on the road. After the season ended, he signed up for his first 5-K.

The more he ran, the better he felt, and two years later he ran Disney. Wearing a T-shirt that read "26 for Gracie, .2 for me," Miller finished in 4:31. When he got home, he hung the medal around Grace's neck, saying, "This one's for you, kiddo." Out of the corner of his eye, he saw his two older children, Mackenzie and Tyler, now 14 and 12, watching. "I realized I'd have to run two more," he says. So he did...

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:51 PM

      ( 10:43 AM ) The Rat  

Also from Serious Eats via WC, check out Cookie-Stuffed Cookies ("We made some last week and basically immediately acquired diabetes and died").

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:43 AM

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      ( 1:22 AM ) The Rat  

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Thursday, February 17, 2011
      ( 12:56 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:56 PM

      ( 12:30 PM ) The Rat  
PLENTY OF CONFIDENCE, AND NO PANTS. NYT on Susan Graham (who had to bow out of last night's Iphigénie en Tauride due to illness, grr), just before her Met debut in the role in 2007. I should probably stop reading notices ("A role she was born to sing, Iphigénie now belongs to Susan Graham and nobody else..."; "Most of the night's burden falls on Graham, who commanded the stage from start to finish... The opera should be seen for her performance alone"; etc.) if I don't want to feel even more irked about last night than I already am!

For some artists research into the background of mythic or historical characters can become an obsession. "All of that isn't the cake," Ms. Graham said. "That's icing. It's information that may be helpful to have. Your subconscious may be drawing on that or not. The cake is the score and the words."

Iphigénie is the big-girl part she has explored from the most angles, in one case unhappily. "In Paris," Ms. Graham said during a rehearsal break at the Met, "Iphigénie was an 80-year-old East Side socialite in a rest home, looking back on her fictional life." This brainstorm of Mr. Warlikowski’s didn't work for her, "nor," she added, "for most people who saw it."

"I've been in many productions that I've hated," Ms. Graham said. "Sometimes the music is the only thing you have to hang your hat on."

It does often seem that the heart of her interpretations lies in the uncluttered, virtually instrumental way she pours her transparent sound into the shape of the musical phrase. "My tendency to work with the phrase is instinctual," she said. "On a conscious level text is my No. 1 driving force. Iphigénie doesn’t feel like singing to me now. It feels like talking, because the expression is paramount"...

You can listen to Graham singing "I Can Be a Sexy Lady," Ben Moore's spoof of/tribute to her plight as a mezzo constantly stuck in trouser roles, here; the lyrics are here.

I should have known! Handel—what holds a candle
To those pants roles ev'ry mezzo longs to sing?
And with all those countertenors, what the use?
For although we all love David Daniels,
We girls might as well be cocker spaniels...

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:30 PM

      ( 12:25 PM ) The Rat  
SNEAKY HATE SPIRAL. An old entry from Hyperbole and a Half, but always worth re-reading...

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:25 PM

      ( 12:18 PM ) The Rat  
As far as the space between word and word,
as the heavy sleep of the perfectly loved
and the sirens of wars no one living can remember,
as far as this room, where no words have been spoken,
you are as far as invention, and I am as far as memory.
—from "Yellow Stars and Ice"

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:18 PM

      ( 10:52 AM ) The Rat  
GOT A GOAL? A HELPFUL PARTNER ISN'T ALWAYS HELPFUL. Of course, when you go to blame them for this effect, you may find them claiming victim status, if they've already read the last study I posted... (Joking aside, I wish this writeup were more clear about what was meant by "support." People—well, more group-oriented people than me, rather—do seem to find that e.g. showing up for a run is easier if you have a partner or partners that you'd be letting down by not showing up for it.)

You might think that a loving partner helps keep you on track—say, when you want to stick to your jogging or concentrate on your studies. But a new study in Psychological Science, a publication of the Association of Psychological Science, reports the opposite: Thinking about the support a significant other offers in pursuing goals can undermine the motivation to work toward those goals—and can increase procrastination before getting down to work.

The study's authors, psychological scientists Gráinne M. Fitzsimons of Duke University and Eli J. Finkel of Northwestern University, call this phenomenon "self-regulatory outsourcing"—the unconscious reliance on someone else to move your goals forward, coupled by a relaxation of your own effort. It happens with friends and family, too.

Does this mean love doesn't bring out the best in us? Yes and no, says Fitzsimons. "If you look just at one goal" in isolation—as the study does—"there can be a negative effect. But relying on another person also lets you spread your energy across many goals, which can be effective if your partner is helpful."

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:52 AM

      ( 10:48 AM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:48 AM

      ( 2:33 AM ) The Rat  
But why me—me of all men? Marriage is to me apostasy, profanation of the sanctuary of my soul, violation of my manhood, sale of my birthright, shameful surrender, ignominious capitulation, acceptance of defeat. I shall decay like a thing that has served its purpose and is done with; I shall change from a man with a future to a man with a past.
Man and Superman

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:33 AM

Wednesday, February 16, 2011
      ( 12:40 PM ) The Rat  
THE MET WILL BE LIVE-TWEETING the press conference at which they're announcing the 2011-12 season, which is in... uh... 20 minutes. Synchronize watches!

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      ( 11:16 AM ) The Rat  

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      ( 9:25 AM ) The Rat  
CHEESE OR FONT? Ibid. I love both cheese AND fonts, but this is hard!

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:25 AM

      ( 9:19 AM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:19 AM

      ( 3:07 AM ) The Rat  
GOOD DIETS FIGHT BAD ALZHEIMER'S GENES. Worth a look if you're hoping to be around after 65.

Also via Science Daily, Obesity and Knee Osteoarthritis Shorten Healthy Years of Life. (From the Dept. of I Never Would Have Guessed...)

"Reducing obesity to levels observed in 2000 would prevent 172,792 cases of coronary heart disease, 710,942 cases of diabetes, and 269,934 total knee replacements," said Elena Losina, PhD lead author of the study and co-director of Orthopedics and Arthritis Center for Outcomes Research in the Dept of Orthopedic Surgery at BWH. "All told, it would save roughly 19.5 million years of life among US adults aged 50-84."

Experts have long known that knee osteoarthritis is on the rise among Americans, due in part to the growing obesity epidemic and longer life expectancy. Obesity and knee OA are among the most frequent chronic conditions in older Americans...

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:07 AM

      ( 2:35 AM ) The Rat  
LOVE TRIANGLE. Ratty has never been wild about running, but the anxiety Doug Most describes in this applies just as well to gym rats (and actually even to off-and-on gym rats).

The February issue also carries a lengthy (well, lengthier than the blurb by Josh Clark I posted last week) profile of Diane Van Deren, the ultrarunner whose right temporal lobectomy (performed to address her epilepsy) left her with superhuman powers of endurance. (Ratty has never sent anything neurosurgery-related to her dad—busman's-holiday risk—but her hard copy of this is being posted to him soon.)

For years afterward, Scott would lie awake in bed, intently listening. "I got very in tune with Diane's breathing," he says. "Snoring was a good thing; it meant she was getting some peaceful rest." But there were more seizures, and when their children were small, says Scott, the household "revolved around how Diane was feeling. There was constant worry over when she'd have her next seizure." Each one crushed her. "I'd feel like I'd been run over by a truck," Diane recalls. Depending on the severity of the seizure, she'd take to bed for two or three days. Nannies were hired to drive the children and to clean the house.

Throughout all the trauma, though, Diane evolved a rare trick: She learned to abort her seizures by running.

She had noticed that her attacks usually occurred when she was resting—at the movie theater, say, or in a quiet restaurant. Her brain cells were "idle" then, as Dr. Spitz explains it, and as such more prone to "catch fire" when an abnormal seizure discharge occurred. What she needed to do was to activate brain cells quickly, the instant she felt an aura come on. Few people can do this, Spitz says, but Van Deren kept her running shoes by the door, and whenever that eerie deja vu feeling settled upon her, she stood up and rushed toward those shoes. "I knew that I only had a few seconds," she says. "I had to get moving."

Dr. Spitz says Van Deren's seizures always began in her right hippocampus, a small sea horse-shaped ridge that sits deep within the brain, storing and retrieving memories. "Running," he says, "probably activated the part of the hippocampus where seizures started. When the cells there were active, they didn't accept the abnormal electrical activity, and the seizure fizzled out"...

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:35 AM

      ( 2:28 AM ) The Rat  

So with his Chinese wife, Li Zhiyin, is he living the stereotype as the arrogant American who falls in love with the Oriental beauty? No, he insists. In the shows, the Chinese wives of Americans suffer one of three fates: They turn bad, they die or they live out their life in unhappiness...

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:28 AM

Tuesday, February 15, 2011
      ( 2:18 PM ) The Rat  
SO THE NEW EPISODE OF SYSK is getting off to a customarily awesome start.

Josh. ...One of the great symbols of Valentine's Day, Chuck, is the heart, which is almost invariably colored red.

Chuck. Yes.

Josh. It's, uh, very cute iconography... but if you really think about it, what you're seeing is the organ colored by our lifeblood.

Chuck. Yes.

Josh. What happens when something happens to that organ, or that lifeblood—and it goes from inside that cute little heart, to being sprayed all over the wall at a high-speed velocity?

Chuck. Yeah.

Josh. A bunch of things happen.

Chuck. Sure.

Josh. A lot of telltale symbols are left behind, after the person falls forward, killed—

Chuck. —or backward—

Josh. —by the love of their life, on Valentine's Day, no less.

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:18 PM

      ( 1:55 PM ) The Rat  
"I REALLY WANT YOU TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!" It's hard being an 11-year-old girl, via Passive-Aggressive Notes.

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:55 PM

      ( 1:52 PM ) The Rat  

It's her mantra: Run for John, run for me, just one more step. For Lisa Hallett, whether solo in a marathon or with her kids in their mammoth, triple-wide jogging stroller during training, running is how she deals with the pain, the loss, and the memory.

"It's really hard to do day-to-day things—taking my kids to preschool and taking care of the house," says Hallett, a 29-year-old full-time mom. "On most days, if nothing else, I can say I ran. On some days all I can do is get to the end of the block and cry. But on other days I hit the ground and I can say, 'I ran 20 miles this morning.'"

Her husband, Capt. John Hallett, and three fellow Army soldiers died in Afghanistan on August 25, 2009, when an improvised explosive device caused their vehicle to flip and burst into flames. With a 3-week-old baby girl, Heidi, and two toddler sons, Jackson and Bryce, suddenly relying on her alone, Hallett found solace in the pavement.

She had run her first marathon in 2002 while John was in one of the Army's most challenging courses, Ranger School. During his absences, runs were a time to daydream about his return. Now they've become a spiritual escape...

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:52 PM

      ( 1:39 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:39 PM

      ( 1:11 PM ) The Rat  
USE YOUR AMEX AT DUNKIN DONUTS to be automatically entered in their SweetLife sweepstakes.

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:11 PM

      ( 1:08 PM ) The Rat  
HOW TO: GET REVENGE ON AN EMAIL BREAKER-UPPER, via NPR. My favorite thing in this is the Google redesign.

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:08 PM

      ( 12:46 PM ) The Rat  
OEDIPUS ...STARRING VEGETABLES. Who else could I have gotten this from but JT?

The story of Oedipus, in 8 minutes, performed by vegetables, in the tradition of Ben Hur. A sword and salad epic, in classic CinemaScope. Featuring a Potato, a Tomato, Broccoli, Garlic, and Billy Dee Williams as the Bartender...

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:46 PM

Monday, February 14, 2011
      ( 10:46 PM ) The Rat  

This year, George and Kay will celebrate their 80th Valentine's Day as a couple. In the final chapter of their life together, they don't go out dancing all night anymore as they did when they were young and romantic. Their affection for each other is not expressed with jewelry or roses, but in the acts of devotion that define what it means to grow old with someone—the realities of commitment that young lovers might not think about or want to think about.

"We were 16 once," George says. "Now we are both 95."

"How did we get there so fast?" Kay asks him.

When they moved to the Riderwood Village Retirement Community five years ago, George didn't think they would last long. But against their expectations, they gradually lived their way into a new choreography: She is stronger physically; he is stronger mentally. Together they help each other through a series of daily tasks, always sure to say "please" and "thank you"...

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:46 PM

      ( 9:48 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:48 PM

      ( 7:16 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:16 PM

      ( 4:41 PM ) The Rat  

Infertility is not cancer. But it is debilitating. And some activists argue that infertility desperately needs the kind of awareness effort that helped bring cancer out of the shadows two decades ago. Breast cancer has its pink ribbon. AIDS has its walks, multiple sclerosis its bike-a-thons. Resolve does sponsor an awards gala honoring achievement in the field, but it draws primarily doctors and other professionals from the infertility world, not patients, and most important, it raises no money. Complains one Resolve member who walked out of last year's event, "Everyone gets up and tells their success stories. Infertility treatment isn't always about success. And that's the problem with how infertility is being handled; as with any other disease, some people won't be cured. That's why it needs more recognition and funding, so people can get help. But no one wants to recognize the failure."

Because no one wants to discuss infertility, "nothing gets done about it," says Lindsay Beck, founder of Fertile Hope, a program run by the Lance Armstrong Foundation in Austin, Texas, that supports cancer patients whose treatments threaten their fertility. "Infertility is where breast cancer was in the 1970s—completely in the closet." Beck's treatments for her tongue cancer and its recurrence aged her reproductive system by possibly a decade; she ultimately had five IVF procedures and two children. She's undergoing fertility treatments again in hopes of conceiving a third. "In my experience, it's a much lighter atmosphere in the cancer waiting room than in the IVF waiting room," she says...

# Posted by The Rat @ 4:41 PM

      ( 3:00 PM ) The Rat  
SUPER RECOGNISERS.. Fascinating BBC Health Check episode on both prosopagnosia (which I already knew about from an old SYSK podcast) and, wackily, its relatively recently discovered opposite: people who literally never forget a face.

[Jennifer] is a "super recogniser," someone with a significantly above average ability to place a face. In fact, she can almost never forget a face.

She first noticed something might be unusual on holiday with her family when she spotted a very minor actor on a plane. Her family were disbelieving but she was proved right.

But it really hit home at college that she was different from those around her.

"I'd meet so many people in the first few weeks and I'd remember everyone no matter how brief the encounter. I'd then meet them at a party and they wouldn't remember me. I'd think: 'That person is SO fake, I can't believe they're pretending they don't remember me when we met for 30 seconds in the cafeteria three weeks ago'"...

Ratty has almost certainly met at least one super recognizer: One day about 25 years ago (6th grade), a girl came up to me while I was waiting outside my science classroom and wanted to know, "Weren't you on the cover of the Girl Scout calendar?" She was right: I had been on the cover—but only as one of perhaps 150+ girls sitting around a campfire! So I definitely relate to the stories related in the Health Check episode, of people who are recognized by super recognizers feeling like they're being stalked...

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:00 PM

      ( 2:51 PM ) The Rat  
"SERIOUSLY, THIS SANDWICH IS LIKE A MYTH PEOPLE HAVE ABOUT AMERICA. 'IN AMERICA, THE STREETS ARE LINED WITH GOLD AND THE SANDWICHES ARE MADE WITH SANDWICHES!'" The Wait Wait staff eat a bacon double cheeseburger on two deep-fried Monte Cristo sandwiches for this week's Sandwich Monday.

Peter. I think you have to do it starfish style, and remove your stomach from your body and let it eat the sandwich.

Ian. Eva, you look so small next to that sandwich.

Mike. The KFC Double Down is to Barry Bonds in 1987 as the Kevin Butler is to Barry Bonds in 2005.

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:51 PM

      ( 2:40 PM ) The Rat  

If you were honest with yourself, you would say the absolute best would be the hand-written letter of love, in which your husband of many years produces poetry which will rival that of the Robert Herrick.

But, it seems unlikely that the same man who yesterday changed the oil on your car and then spent six hours on the couch in the basement watching college basketball, would be suddenly graced with greatness by the immortal muses.

Indeed, somewhere in the attic, secreted away in your chest of treasures, reside the examples of Gary's previous poetic efforts, written when you were both young and in the first flush of love. As you recall, the word "forsooth" figures prominently in them...

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:40 PM

      ( 12:12 AM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:12 AM

Sunday, February 13, 2011
      ( 11:51 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:51 PM

      ( 10:41 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:41 PM

      ( 10:06 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:06 PM

      ( 9:33 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:33 PM

      ( 8:27 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:27 PM

      ( 7:36 PM ) The Rat  
APPARENTLY, THE TRAUMA LINGERS. So the Groupon sidebar ad on my Facebook just now read: "Bucket List: 365 Things to do in central New Jersey before you die"... and honestly, without my even trying to be snarky I suddenly realized that the rejoinder that had immediately popped into my head was: "Kill yourself?"

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:36 PM

      ( 7:11 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:11 PM

      ( 6:54 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:54 PM

      ( 6:45 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:45 PM

      ( 6:44 PM ) The Rat  

People often try to justify choosing one thing, such what to eat, over another by convincing themselves that their choice is superior, even though both items seemed equally good a few seconds ago. This is our way of dispelling the cognitive dissonance choosing creates; if we don't do this, we tend to fret about whether we decided correctly. A couple of researchers decided to test how this dissonance might be affected by the act of washing, which is sometimes linked with moral self-judgment, but hasn't been tested much in relation to other psychological processes...

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:44 PM

Saturday, February 12, 2011
      ( 11:29 AM ) The Rat  

It is mid-September, the heat is just leaking out of the end of summer, and Japan is enjoying a rare public holiday. A holiday, that is, in the uniquely Japanese sense of the word, which means the GPS hardwired into every citizen is sending thousands upon thousands to the same fashionable boutiques near my home in Tokyo to shop. It is more crowded than a commuter train at rush hour. Policemen shepherd the multitude along the streets with flashing orange batons. Yet there is something peaceful about the way the Japanese drift together in a crowd; they carry a tiny aura of personal space with them, no bigger than one of their Louis Vuitton handbags, and every bit as precious. They hardly touch, like those shoals of translucent fish that dart from one direction to another without colliding. The policemen use their batons like conductors, keeping everything harmonious. But if you try to defy them, those batons will block your way faster than they can say "Dame desu"—which is about as final as "Not on your life."

Such are the means by which order and harmony are maintained in Japan. There is a deep-rooted respect for others, so ingrained that ground staff at Narita airport bow to departing planes as they taxi to the runway. And there is a subtle coercion, like an invisible hand on society’s collar, based on centuries of ancestor worship that has made many customs immutable...

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:29 AM

      ( 11:28 AM ) The Rat  

Other "unique" items aren't so lucky. If you thought the catalog's products were humorous, the list of rejects is downright silly.

There's Chuck the Yuck, a "hip line of barf bags"; GoGirl, which helps women urinate while standing; and The FrankFormer, which "turns ordinary hot dogs into a smiling 'hot dog man.'"

"You almost expect them to be fake products from 'Saturday Night Live,'" Barish said. "I think the fact that these things actually exist just makes people happy"...

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:28 AM

      ( 9:20 AM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:20 AM

      ( 12:04 AM ) The Rat  

Manolo says, from Levis:

Remember the girlfriend with the great style? Here’s a tribute to her—a fit that's super-snug allover, an update of the five-pocket classic that's as skinny as it gets.

The bad news is that she dumped you for the manly man who looks like the lumberjack and wears the classic 501s.

The good news is that the Levi-Strauss Company feels your pain, Emo Boy...

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:04 AM

Friday, February 11, 2011
      ( 11:59 PM ) The Rat  

Future research might investigate whether comparable human semen proteins have similar effects, investigators added...

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:59 PM

Thursday, February 10, 2011
      ( 7:15 PM ) The Rat  
THE HISTORY OF SWEETHEARTS CANDIES. I totally thought of that as a way of proposing long before 2004! (Then again, considering what my life was like in 2004 it's a damn good thing I didn't use it...) Otoh, I had no idea "Necco" was an acronym.

A Michigan man, Mike Waltz, went to extraordinary lengths to collect enough "Marry Me" hearts to propose to his girlfriend in 2004. After buying several bags of the candy and finding only two or three "Marry Me" hearts in each, he e-mailed the New England Confectionery Company (Necco) that makes the candies in Revere, Massachusetts. Someone at the company must have had a big heart, because a few days later, a small box of tiny pastel "Marry Me" hearts arrived at his house.

Waltz's sixth wedding anniversary is coming up this Valentine's Day, and his wife, Chris, still has that box of Sweethearts, revealing the proposal hearts in its plastic window...

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:15 PM

      ( 6:30 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:30 PM

      ( 2:16 PM ) The Rat  
"I HOPE THAT BACKPACK IS A PARACHUTE." Lots of cool pics at this site—don't miss this, for instance (and this was clearly done by a procrastinating grad student). Via JM.

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:16 PM

      ( 11:55 AM ) The Rat  
HOW TO GET THE COOLEST BIRTHDAY FOR YOUR BABY. So I actually already knew pretty much all of these, and which ones are backed up by science and which aren't...

Blitzer and her husband started trying to get pregnant last summer, but so far no luck. In the meantime, she's 35, not getting any younger and her friends are having babies left and right.

"I feel like I should have a house account at Ralph Lauren for all the monogrammed onesies I send every month," says Blitzer, editor-in-chief of

Her sister-in-law told her to eat sweet potatoes to "make your womb plush." A friend told her to have her husband watch sexy movies as they help produce more sperm. A stranger on an airplane even handed Blitzer her baby, advising that playing with a wee one would help Blitzer's eggs "drop." Another magazine editor told Blitzer, who lives in New York City, to go see an acupuncturist in Chinatown because "he got everyone at Conde Nast pregnant"...

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:55 AM

      ( 10:15 AM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:15 AM

Wednesday, February 09, 2011
      ( 10:59 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:59 PM

      ( 10:05 PM ) The Rat  
[Bree is making up a flower arrangement.]
Rex. So, I've been thinking about the pharmacist.
Bree. George. What about him?
Rex. I don't think you should go out with him.
Bree. Please don't be this way. He's the only friend I have who is interested in cultural things.
Rex. Bree! I'm worried because he's obviously still in love with you.
Bree. No. He just wants to be friends. He told me so.
Rex. What else would a man in love say? He's desperate to spend time with you.
Bree. He does not seem desperate to me.
Rex. I saw the way his hands trembled when you touched his shoulder.
Bree. They did?
Rex. When we first started dating the same thing happened to me.
Bree. I don't remember that.
Rex. Listen, continuing to see him would just give him false hope.
Bree. Well, I certainly don't want to hurt him, again.
Rex. No, you don't. I even think it would be a good idea to switch pharmacies.
Bree. Really? Well, okay. ...You know what I'm going to miss most about him? George always has a way of making me feel good about myself.
Rex. Yeah, he's a terrific guy.
[Bree walks away with the new flowers and smiles as she turns to ask Rex.]

Bree. Honey, do your hands still tremble when they touch me?
Rex. No! But come on, we've been married 18 years.
Bree. Yes, we have. And you still don't know when I need you to lie.
Desperate Housewives

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:05 PM

      ( 8:57 PM ) The Rat  
SHOULD YOU NEED ANY ASSISTANCE... via Passive-Aggressive Notes.

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:57 PM

      ( 7:11 PM ) The Rat  
MUSEUMS TO GO. Ratty doesn't use any B of A cards, but this is kind of a neat idea.

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:11 PM

      ( 11:47 AM ) The Rat  
OKAY, THESE PLATYPUS REUSABLE SOFTBOTTLES are way cool—I may stop carrying any other kind of bottle, and I pretty much always have water on me. A little tricky to clean, but a good bottle brush will get you around that problem.

REI carries Platypus, as does Amazon. The bottles were originally designed for outdoor enthusiasts, but are really terrific for any kind of day (or even just a few hours) out. The 0.5L size is just $7.95, which will pay for itself very quickly, as well as saving tons of plastic bottles from landfills.

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:47 AM

      ( 9:23 AM ) The Rat  
BURIED BY BLIZZARD, STUDENTS SEIZE THE DAY, via CW. Otoh, presumably at Caltech they'd have figured out a way to turn it into explosives or something.

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:23 AM

Tuesday, February 08, 2011
      ( 3:54 PM ) The Rat  
Southern California, where the American Dream came too true.
—Lawrence Ferlinghetti

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:54 PM

      ( 6:27 AM ) The Rat  
PLAY WAS IMPORTANT—EVEN 4,000 YEARS AGO. Finally, a non-horrifying discovery about our species!

Almost every tenth find from the ruined city is play-related. They include, for instance, different forms of dice and gaming pieces. In addition, the examined finds have not been scattered all over. Repetitive patterns have been discerned in the spatial distribution, which may indicate specific locations where games were played.

"The marked quantity of play-related finds and the structured distribution shows that playing was already an important part of people's everyday lives more than 4,000 years ago," says Elke.

"The reason that play and game-related artefacts often end up ignored or being reinterpreted at archaeological excavations is probably down to scientific thinking's incongruity with the irrational phenomenon of games and play," believes Elke...

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:27 AM

      ( 1:58 AM ) The Rat  
50 MOST BEAUTIFUL WOMEN IN FILM. Interesting choice posting clips—some of these women are more beautiful in stills than in motion.

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:58 AM

      ( 1:01 AM ) The Rat  
"DON'T OPEN THAT BAG!!!"... BECAUSE I'LL EAT THE WHOLE THING. Fun thread over at Chowhound. Testament to the hypnotic nature of this topic = the thread was begun in 2008, but was still getting responses less than two weeks ago.

I definitely have multiple items in this category, but topping the list is probably cookies-and-cream ice cream (OK, so it doesn't come in a bag). It's not even actually my favorite ice cream—just the one I have the least self-control over.

I found this thread, btw, while trying to determine whether the TSA considers hummus a liquid.

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:01 AM

      ( 12:17 AM ) The Rat  
UM. They need to expand the selection so there are all kinds of passive-aggressive undercurrents to various choices...

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:17 AM

Sunday, February 06, 2011
      ( 3:19 PM ) The Rat  
I go for long periods of time when I feel like casual politeness is extinct. I received an e-mail recently from a certain glamourous host of Top Chef. I won't say who she is, but she was once married to a world-famous novelist who received death threats...
Gunn's Golden Rules

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:19 PM

      ( 1:12 AM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:12 AM

Saturday, February 05, 2011
      ( 9:01 PM ) The Rat  
I don't excercise. If God had wanted me to bend over, he would have put diamonds on the floor.
—Joan Rivers

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:01 PM

      ( 7:47 PM ) The Rat  

Aside from boosted ratings, the Puppy Bowl—a mock football game played by puppies drafted from shelters across the country—offers help for homeless animals.

"It's really a call to action," Toporoff said. "We want to raise awareness for shelters everywhere and get more puppies adopted."

"There's lots of backstage cuddling," said Puppy Ref Andrew Schechter, who describes his referee role as "more of a glorified pooper scooper." "We're lucky that all the puppies are the most adorable puppies possible"...

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:47 PM

      ( 4:39 PM ) The Rat  

I recently watched, like many of our readers, the interview with Mike Daisey regarding the conditions under which Apple products are made in China. And at the risk of fomenting conflict with Mr. Daisey, I would like to editorialize on the topic in slightly broader and harsher terms.

Actually, it's not that I disagree with the man, exactly. It’s that he doesn't go far enough, and in doing so conveniently avoids requiring himself or anyone else from doing anything but being concerned. If you're going to take on ideas like globalism, corporate responsibility, and cross-cultural morality, you don’t get off that easy. You can't establish a predicate like "the way our lifestyle is made possible is immoral" and somehow avoid unpleasant conclusions...

# Posted by The Rat @ 4:39 PM

      ( 4:02 PM ) The Rat  
The Metropolitan Opera staged Pelléas et Mélisande, the opera by Debussy, based on Maeterlinck. This is one of those pieces that should cast a spell, like a Mahler song cycle—or Wagner's Parsifal. It has been called 'the French Parsifal.' It is hypnotic, lulling, dreamlike. The tenor Ben Heppner once described it as 'four hours of French Novocain.' That's not quite fair: It's actually three hours...
—Jay Nordlinger in the Feb. 2011 New Criterion

# Posted by The Rat @ 4:02 PM

      ( 3:57 PM ) The Rat  
IT'S JUST ANOTHER SIGN of my end-stage addiction to Stuff You Should Know that their recent practice of placing an ad at the beginning of each episode (some just two seconds long, others half a minute) has been driving me nuts. But turns out there's a way to automatically skip over unwanted bits at the beginnings and ends of podcasts, movies, etc., in iTunes! It's super-easy, too.

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:57 PM

      ( 3:08 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:08 PM

      ( 2:51 PM ) The Rat  

There's nothing more personal than someone's own DNA. And there are ways to give the gift of DNA that won't get you children or arrested...

I had heard of some of these, but the Klein bottle was new to me; check out the linked page on same ("The Klein bottle is not a doughnut").

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:51 PM

Friday, February 04, 2011
      ( 9:46 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:46 PM

      ( 5:44 PM ) The Rat  
RATTY HAS LONG BEEN A FAN OF THE COMPANY, but doesn't this kind of scream "I fucked the babysitter, her dad, and possibly also most of her extended family"? (For those who fucked just the babysitter, there's this.)

# Posted by The Rat @ 5:44 PM

      ( 5:37 PM ) The Rat  

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      ( 12:20 PM ) The Rat  

So I can't help but feel that this lady is somehow cheating. She's got an amazing and unique advantage over her fellow runners, at least: Coloradoan Diane Van Deren had a kiwi-sized portion of her right temporal lobe removed to cure her epilepsy. It did the trick, but it also had another effect. The New York Times reports that that section of brain also did a lot to help her form new memories. As a runner, this means that Van Deren doesn't have any conception of how far she's run, how far she has left to run; the challenge to her mental endurance doesn't exist...

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:20 PM

      ( 9:26 AM ) The Rat  

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      ( 12:54 AM ) The Rat  

When the speaker says: This result was completely unexpected.
The speaker really means: This result pissed us off. Two postdocs cried.

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:54 AM

      ( 12:05 AM ) The Rat  

The baby-faced, voluptuous Ms. Schneider was only 19 when the Italian director Bernardo Bertolucci chose her for the role of the free-spirited, mysterious Jeanne in "Last Tango." She seemed, he said in explaining the choice, "like a Lolita, but more perverse"...

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:05 AM

Thursday, February 03, 2011
      ( 4:01 PM ) The Rat  

Not so many years ago, opera nuts eager to hear a particular historic Saturday Metropolitan Opera broadcast raved about by other fanatics, had nowhere to turn but to bootleggers.

If you were aching to hear, say, Zinka Milanov float her ethereal pianissimos in some
Aida broadcast from the 1950s, you sent some guy somewhere in Jersey a few bucks and in return you got a handful of cassettes that sounded as if the performance had been recorded in a wet cardboard box instead of on the hallowed Met stage...

# Posted by The Rat @ 4:01 PM

      ( 3:59 PM ) The Rat  

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      ( 1:15 PM ) The Rat  

Also via Cracked: 5 Minor Screw-Ups That Created the Modern World.

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:15 PM

      ( 1:06 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:06 PM

      ( 10:04 AM ) The Rat  
ADOPT A BOOK FOR VALENTINE'S DAY. (So the marketing department's working hard over at the British Library...) Editions are still available of From Russia, With Love, Danny, the Champion of the World, The Complete Winnie the Pooh, Anna Karenina, and The Beer of the Bible! Or I guess you could go to the passive-aggressive route ("I adopted Psycho in your honor!") Or how about the memoirs of Casanova... or Wage Labour and Capital?

There's a charming little note from someone re The Wind in the Willows:

Looked at your link and ended up adopting The Wind in the Willows for my dad. When he was a small boy, he was taken to a bookshop in Bristol in wartime to choose a book, and came away with an edition of W in the W I still have (with the same gold tooling on the cover as in your picture). The next day the bookshop was bombed and the stock destroyed. So it will be the second time he has rescued that book.

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:04 AM

Wednesday, February 02, 2011
      ( 9:51 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:51 PM

      ( 9:28 PM ) The Rat  

What makes a new opera any good? Although commonly considered as the most lordly, if not stuck-up, of art forms, opera is in reality no stranger to the stuff of tabloid journalism. Many of its heroines wouldn't look out of place on the front page of Heat; Thaïs is a high-class hooker, Tosca murders the cop who tries to rape her, Salome is a psychotic teenager who makes love to a severed head, Lulu is a whore who ends up a victim of Jack the Ripper.

So we shouldn't find anything inherently transgressive or surprising about the Royal Opera's decision to commission composer Mark-Anthony Turnage and his librettist Richard Thomas (author of the brilliant musical satire Jerry Springer: The Opera) to mould their new opera Anna Nicole around the figure of a former Playboy model and television celebrity who married an oil billionaire and died from an overdose of prescription drugs...

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:28 PM

      ( 9:09 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:09 PM

      ( 2:06 PM ) The Rat  
LIVE STREAMING OF THE MET'S SEASON PREMIERE of Nixon in China begins tonight at 8.

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:06 PM

      ( 1:27 PM ) The Rat  

In her exclusive salon in an off-street courtyard in Paris's upmarket St Germain district, hairdresser Lucia Iraci spends her days coiffing the city's glitterati, including actors, models and musicians.

Yet once a month she opens her doors to a more downtrodden clientele, offering free pampering and a dash of glamour to women from poor districts who are often long-term unemployed or victims of abuse and even slavery...

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:27 PM

      ( 1:25 PM ) The Rat  
IN THE DATING GAME, SPEAKING STYLES COUNT. Not sure I've ever stopped talking long enough on a date to notice the guy's speaking style...

A second part of the study examined the everyday instant message conversations between already dating couples over a 10-day period. The conversations were analyzed by a computer for words and conversational patterns.

Pennebaker said that researchers were once again able to fairly accurately predict which couples would continue dating.

They found that the speaking and writing styles couples use during interactions are a good indicator of whether or not a relationship will be successful.

"The higher their style matching scores, the more likely they were to still be dating later on," Pennebaker said.

About 80 percent of the couples whose conversational styles were similar were still dating three months after the experiment, compared with just 54 percent of couples whose styles were markedly different...

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:25 PM

      ( 2:01 AM ) The Rat  
LONE NEPALI SOLDIER DEFENDS POTENTIAL RAPE VICTIM AGAINST 40 MEN. I couldn't quite believe this headline—but then I clicked through and saw that the story was about a Gurkha, at which point it seemed practically routine...

More on the kukri here.

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:01 AM

Tuesday, February 01, 2011
      ( 10:27 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:27 PM

      ( 8:42 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:42 PM

      ( 8:40 PM ) The Rat  
IN CHINA, BUNNIES ARE MULTIPLYING LIKE RABBITS AS THEIR YEAR NEARS, via WC. I've always heard this about rabbits as pets.

Li Kejia was thrilled with the present she got from a good friend for China's Lunar New Year, which comes Thursday. While most Chinese celebrate the occasion by giving fruit or red envelopes stuffed with cash, Ms. Li got a big, beige bunny—a very auspicious gift for the Year of the Rabbit, she thought.

Ms. Li named the floppy-eared pet Xiao San, or Little Third, because it was the middle kitten in a litter of five. But the phrase also is used in China to refer to mistresses who wreck happy homes—and that's what Xiao San did.

In the first few weeks after Xiao San arrived, Ms. Li's life was turned upside down. The rabbit gnawed through the 26-year-old Beijing-native's cable-TV cords, devoured her shoes and ate a résumé. Ms. Li, a customer-relations manager at a restaurant, found herself forking over money from a modest paycheck to buy new equipment and gloves to protect her fingers.

"This is the opposite of fortune, since I've had to spend more of my money than I did before I had her," despairs Ms. Li, as she displays the scratches on her hand...

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:40 PM

      ( 3:47 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:47 PM

      ( 1:33 AM ) The Rat  
IN THE POLAR BEAR CAPITAL OF THE WORLD, via WC. Don't miss nos. 3, 10, 11, and 12.

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:33 AM

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

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