The Rat
Friday, March 30, 2012
      ( 10:56 PM ) The Rat  

In February, Reuters sent Caren Firouz to photograph an all-women ninjutsu gym in the town of Karaj. His photos (which we also ran) appeared in a slideshow on Reuters' website. Now, Iranian state-run outlet PressTV says that several of those ninjas are suing Reuters for defamation...

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Thursday, March 29, 2012
      ( 9:12 AM ) The Rat  
"AND BY FLUTE I MEAN... MY TURGID PENIS." Ron Burgundy turned up on Conan, and has a little announcement.

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Wednesday, March 28, 2012
      ( 10:55 PM ) The Rat  
STAND UP: YOUR LIFE COULD DEPEND ON IT. How about I just lie down?

"These results have important public health implications," said study lead author Dr Hidde van der Ploeg, a senior research fellow at the University of Sydney's School of Public Health. "That morning walk or trip to the gym is still necessary, but it's also important to avoid prolonged sitting. Our results suggest the time people spend sitting at home, work and in traffic should be reduced by standing or walking more."

The results are the first landmark findings to be published from the Sax Institute's 45 and Up Study, the largest ongoing study of healthy aging in the Southern Hemisphere. They showed physical activity is still beneficial: inactive people who sat the most had double the risk of dying within three years than the active people who sat least. And among the physically inactive group, those who sat the most had nearly one-third higher chance of dying than those who sat least.

The study's size and focus on total sitting time make it an important contributor to the growing evidence on the downsides of prolonged sitting. The average adult spends 90% of their leisure time sitting down and less than half of adults meet World Health Organization physical activity recommendations.

An accompanying editorial in the journal said the evidence was strong enough to support doctors prescribing "reduced daily sitting time" to their patients...

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Tuesday, March 27, 2012
      ( 7:48 PM ) The Rat  

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      ( 7:47 PM ) The Rat  

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      ( 12:30 PM ) The Rat  
"HIS MANTRA IS 'RUN MORE'..." 145th Marathon Win Gives Engle World Record. Damn. And how awesome that he's so self-effacing about it. (Comment on this on RW's Wall: "Oh yeah? Well I won, um, my age group. For a local 5k. Number one out of three. In your face, Chuck Engle!")

Last year, he became the first person to win a marathon in all 50 states. To reach that goal, the 5'8", 140-pounder logs 90-120 miles a week. Since he works from home and MarathonGuide's headquarters are on the East Coast, he often has to wake at an ungodly hour to tally a morning run before sitting down at his desk to meet the 9 a.m. Eastern time/6 a.m. Pacific time workday start. His weekly schedule is anchored by a midweek medium-long run and weekend race. A day off is a rarity. "Anybody who knows me knows that if I'm stuck in an airport, I'll leave my stuff at the airport, pop my shoes on and run outside the airport," he says.

Despite his unsurpassed roster of wins, Engle downplays his achievements. "What I am doing is unique in the sense that no one else chooses to run a marathon most every weekend," he says. "I know there are a couple of Kenyans who bounce around race to race, and I know they could do it if they had the funding." He pauses and adds, "I hope they don't get it."

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:30 PM

      ( 12:15 PM ) The Rat  
A MOM'S REACTION TO VOGUE'S STORY ABOUT A 'FAT' 7-YEAR-OLD GIRL, via IKM. Look, I was a Vogue fangirl myself for years (till I became a runner, which was probably not entirely a coincidence)... but this is really just insane. What's especially horrifying is that the child's natural reactions are all the reasonable ones, and she's being systematically coached at neurosis by her mother. (Um, not that I would know anything about that dynamic.) I can't say it often enough: Choose your parents well, kids. It can make all the difference to the rest of your life.

But perhaps the most poignant part of the article comes at the end, when Bea meets her mother's deadline for Vogue's "Shape" issue and loses a total of sixteen pounds in time for them to be photographed together. For enduring her mother's obsessive narcissism, she receives many beautiful dresses and a feather hair extension as a reward. Seems like a fair trade-off for being in Vogue before second grade, right? But if Bea thought she could finally eat her coffee cake without being tormented, she'd better think again:

The struggle is obviously not over. I don't think it will ever be for either of us. Bea understands that, just as some kids have asthma, her weight is something she may always have to think about, unfair as it seems.

Unfair indeed. Weiss continues:

She will probably always want to eat more than she is supposed to. She will be tempted to make bad choices. But now she has the foundation to make these choices in an educated and conscious way. Only time will tell whether my early intervention saved her from a life of preoccupation with her weight, or drove her to it.

Um, really? I'm pretty sure Weiss just handed her daughter the road map to all her future eating disorders. But it gets even more tragic with Bea's tearful reproach:

"That's still me," she says of her former self. "I'm not a different person just because I lost sixteen pounds." I protest that indeed she is different. At this moment, that fat girl is a thing of the past. A tear rolls down her beautiful cheek, past the glued-in feather. "Just because it's in the past," she says, "doesn't mean it didn't happen."

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Monday, March 26, 2012
      ( 9:49 AM ) The Rat  

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Sunday, March 25, 2012
      ( 10:56 PM ) The Rat  
"FROM AROUND 1600, GENERATIONS OF OTTOMAN ROYALS WERE KEPT IMPRISONED THERE UNTIL THEY WERE NEEDED, SOMETIMES SEVERAL DECADES LATER, CONSOLED IN THE MEANTIME BY BARREN CONCUBINES AND PERMITTED ONLY A STRICTLY LIMITED RANGE OF RECREATIONS, THE CHIEF OF WHICH WAS MACRAME." I knew I would regret not touring the Topkapi Palace while I was in Istanbul! And btw I have a newfound respect for whoever writes the photo captions for Smithsonian. The Ottoman Empire's Life-or-Death Race, a fascinating read via WC.

Capital punishment was so common in the Ottoman Empire that there was a Fountain of Execution in the First Court, where the chief executioner and his assistant went to wash their hands after decapitating their victims—ritual strangulation being reserved for members of the royal family and their most senior officials. This fountain "was the most feared symbol of the arbitrary power of life and death of the sultans over their subjects, and was hated and feared accordingly," the historian Barnette Miller wrote. It was used with particular frequency during the reign of Sultan Selim I—Selim the Grim (1512-20)—who, in a reign of eight short years, went through seven grand viziers (the Ottoman title for a chief minister) and ordered 30,000 lesser executions. So perilous was the position of vizier in those dark days that holders of the office were said not to leave their homes in the morning without tucking their wills inside their robes; for centuries afterward, Miller points out, one of the most common curses uttered in the Ottoman Empire was "Mays't thou be vizier to Sultan Selim!"

Given the escalating demands of the executioner's job, it seems remarkable that the Turks employed no specialist headsman to tackle the endless round of loppings, but they did not. The job of executioner was held instead by the Sultan's
bostancı basha, or head gardener—the Ottoman corps of gardeners being a sort of 5,000-strong bodyguard that, aside from cultivating the Sultan's paradise gardens, doubled up as customs inspectors and police officers. It was the royal gardeners who sewed condemned women into weighted sacks and dropped them into the Bosphorus—another Sultan, Ibrahim the Mad (1640-48), once had all 280 of the women in his harem executed this way simply so he could have the pleasure of selecting their successors—and the tread of an approaching group of bostancıs, wearing their traditional uniform of red skull caps, muslin breeches and shirts cut low to expose muscular chests and arms, heralded death by strangulation or decapitation for many thousands of Ottoman subjects down the years.

When very senior officials were sentenced to death, they would be dealt with by the
bostancı basha in person, but—at least toward the end of the sultans' rule—execution was not the inevitable result of a death sentence. Instead, the condemned man and the bostancı basha took part in what was surely one of the most peculiar customs known to history: a race held between the head gardener and his anticipated victim, the result of which was, quite literally, a matter of life or death for the trembling grand vizier or chief eunuch required to undertake it...

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:56 PM

      ( 10:42 PM ) The Rat  
I felt I would be justified in quitting when the asthma flared up. In fact, I stopped at the start/finish area after the first lap for about 15 minutes. I knew no one would blame me for quitting, and they would probably even say that I made a good decision. Then I recalled that every time in my life I am faced with fear, I have an asthma attack. If I hear people argue in line at the grocery store, I have an asthma attack. If someone disagrees with me in such a way that I feel stupid, I have an asthma attack. Was this race just another fear? Was I afraid of what I might find in myself out there in those woods? Yes, I was. I was afraid that I would fail. I was afraid that I would DNF because I was too weak or too tired. It's always easier to just quit. Sure, I could quit now, blame my asthma or foot problems, and no one would ever know the truth—that I am afraid of life. Everyone back home already thought I was incredibly brave for even attempting this run. What they didn't know was that on the inside I was so very afraid. I was afraid of this race. I was afraid of living. Everyday I woke up afraid to face the world outside my own bed. I put on that brave, tough-girl exterior because I hoped that if I could convince everyone else that I was strong, then maybe, just maybe, I would believe it too and become that brave girl that others saw.

I sat at that aid station for 15 minutes, pondering the possibilities. I looked at the car keys and the car knowing that I stood alone in my decision. No one there knew me. No one was even paying attention to me. But I knew that if I quit this race that I would continue to be afraid. And in spite of the very good reasons I had for dropping, I would always know the truth. I just sat there and wept. I was a total loser in my eyes at that point. But ironically, battling my negative emotions would now drive me. It was time to put all the viable excuses aside and look inside.

Yes, I have weakness. Yes, I have a lot of irrational fears. But I would beat them. I would finish. So I put away the car keys and walked away from the aid station. And then I ran. [...]

When that elderly ultrarunner spoke to me on the mountaintop in July 2000, I was taken back. Back to closed steel doors and the days when I could not be trusted to shave my legs without supervision. I hope to never find myself on that journey again. However, the continued journey of self-discovery and self-awareness is one I definitely seek. And I've found it in ultrarunning. I have driven myself to choose life. It may sound strange to anyone who has never seriously wanted to die. When you make up your mind to end your life, finding the strength to live it is nearly insurmountable. [...]

For me running ultras is like an exorcism. During every long run and race I think about those years of depression. Sometimes I find tears rolling down my cheeks. The tears are not tears of sadness as they were back then. I cry now because I'm so happy that I chose to dig deep and find the will to live. I am never alone on the trails. I think about a lot of people out there. I see their faces and the love they had for me that I could not see at the time through the fog. Sometimes while running I also think about the people who said that I was just not as tough as other people. That I should just accept the fact that depression was going to destroy my life. I'm so glad they were wrong.

—Tracy Baldyga, "Digging Deep in the Texas Rain," Running Through the Wall: Personal Encounters With the Ultramarathon

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      ( 8:54 PM ) The Rat  
EXPECTATIONS, EXHAUSTION CAN LEAD MOTHERS TO POST-ADOPTION STRESS. I'm not seeing how anybody could've been surprised by these findings?

"Bonding with the children often comes up in post-adoption depression. If adoptive mothers cannot bond to their child as quickly as they expected, they commonly report feeling guilt and shame," Foli said. "These parents have the expectation to quickly attach to the child and they see themselves as superparents. But what happens when the child they adopt is a teething toddler or unknown special needs surface? It's a difficult stage for a parent who has known that child for two years, let alone someone who is establishing a new relationship with the child"...

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Saturday, March 24, 2012
      ( 4:58 PM ) The Rat  

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Friday, March 23, 2012
      ( 11:09 PM ) The Rat  

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      ( 10:59 PM ) The Rat  
I changed my name to Julius No—the Julius after my father and the No for my rejection of him and of all authority.
Doctor No

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      ( 9:20 PM ) The Rat  
THINGEY about the scripting of Mad Men, via WC. I'm not a great admirer of the show (at least, not of the writing—but it does look very good...), but still, some interesting stuff in this. By the way I'm dictating this post to a typist, my hands having been numb since about the time I started grad school.

Still, the show's characters could not feel so real and realized if the writers merely paid careful attention to history. That's why Weiner employed Hilary Jacobs Hendel as a Mental Health Consultant for the show's first four seasons.

A psychotherapist on the Upper West Side, Hendel first met Weiner at Wesleyan, and the two became reacquainted years later in Manhattan prior to the start of
Mad Men. At first, her work on the show was informal: answering the phone when he'd "call me up and just start talking." During those conversations Weiner would ask, "If this and this happened, what do you think would happen next?"

One of their early discussions focused on an idea Weiner had in mind for Don Draper's ex-wife Betty in the first season: her hands going numb. Hendel recalled a Freudian case of hysterical numbness. "One way to understand that is through the suppression of anger. If Betty's anger was so strong as to lead to unconscious violent fantasies, Freud posited that Betty could develop or induce a numbness in her hands to prevent her from actually hurting or killing someone," she said. Keeping things in check seems to be a hallmark for many of
Mad Men's characters: The biggest things that happen are more often internal and hidden than outward and concrete...

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      ( 7:54 PM ) The Rat  

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      ( 12:45 AM ) The Rat  
HELLO KITTY HOOTERS. Just what it sounds like.

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Thursday, March 22, 2012
      ( 5:00 PM ) The Rat  
HEE! I'm not even going to try to summarize this one. Via EG.

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      ( 10:03 AM ) The Rat  
A LONDON HOUR, via Londonist. From the same source, also see #onlyinlondon tweets, my favorite of which is the one from "lastpositivist."

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      ( 2:17 AM ) The Rat  
One-quarter of what you eat keeps you alive. The other three-quarters keeps your doctor alive.
—attrib. Egyptian proverb

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Wednesday, March 21, 2012
      ( 10:10 AM ) The Rat  

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Tuesday, March 20, 2012
      ( 9:37 PM ) The Rat  

"Popular views of the millennial generation, born in the 1980s and 1990s, as more caring, community-oriented and politically engaged than previous generations are largely incorrect, particularly when compared to baby boomers and Generation X at the same age," said the study's lead author, Jean Twenge, PhD, a psychology professor at San Diego State University and author of the book, "Generation Me." "These data show that recent generations are less likely to embrace community mindedness and are focusing more on money, image and fame." The study was published online this month in APA's Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

The findings did show that millennials were more likely than baby boomers or Generation Xers to volunteer during high school and to say that they intend to participate in community service in college. However, the authors contend that this trend is most likely related to schools' requiring community service for graduation, which has been cited in numerous studies. The desire to save the environment, an area considered to be of particular concern to millennials, showed some of the largest declines, with three times as many millennials as baby boomers at the same age saying they made no personal effort to help the environment. Fifty-one percent of millennials said they made an effort to cut down on electricity use to save energy, compared to 68 percent of boomers in the 1970s...

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      ( 9:24 PM ) The Rat  

Those motivated to actively change bad habits may be setting themselves up for failure, a new study suggests. The study, described in an article in the journal Motivation and Emotion, found that people primed with words suggesting action were more likely than others to make impulsive decisions that undermined their long-term goals. In contrast, those primed to "rest," to "stop" or to be inactive found it easier to avoid impulsive decisions...

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      ( 9:16 PM ) The Rat  

Along the same lines, also see Research shows 50 years of motherhood manuals set standards too high for new moms.

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      ( 3:00 PM ) The Rat  
As the audience filed back in, I began, cartoonishly, to envisage the fatal malady that, without anyone's recognizing it, was working away inside us, within each and every one of us: to visualize the blood vessels occluding under the baseball caps, the malignancies growing beneath the permed white hair, the organs misfiring, atro­phying, shutting down, the hundreds of billions of murderous cells surreptitiously marching this entire audience toward the improba­ble disaster ahead. I couldn't stop myself. The stupendous decima­tion that is death sweeping us all away. Orchestra, audience, con­ductor, technicians, swallows, wrens—think of the numbers for Tanglewood alone just between now and the year 4000. Then mul­tiply that times everything. The ceaseless perishing. What an idea! What maniac conceived it? And yet what a lovely day it is today, a gift of a day, a perfect day lacking nothing in a Massachusetts vaca­tion spot that is itself as harmless and pretty as any on earth.
The Human Stain

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Monday, March 19, 2012
      ( 8:13 PM ) The Rat  
THE MAIN PART OF TAL'S RETRACTION of Mike Birbiglia's story that we all should be focusing on (since the retraction itself, and the details of it, are ultimately fairly self-explanatory) comes at the very end, in Act 3. A full transcript of the episode isn't yet online, but they have posted a longer version of that segment, this interview with NYT China reporter Charles Duhigg.

Glass. But to get to the normative question that's kind of underlying all the reporting and all the discussion of this, I feel like the thing that we all want to know when we hear this is like, 'Wait, should I feel bad about this?' You know what I mean? As somebody who owns these products, should I feel bad?

Duhigg. So, so it's not my job to tell you whether you should feel bad or not, right? I'm a reporter for the New York Times. My job is to find facts and essentially let you make a decision on your own. But let me pose the argument that people have posed to me about why you should feel bad, and you can make of it what you will. And that argument is there were times in this nation when we had harsh working conditions as part of our economic development. We decided as a nation that that was unacceptable. We passed laws in order to prevent those harsh working conditions from ever being inflicted on American workers again. And what has happened today is that rather than exporting that standard of life, which is within our capacity to do, we have exported harsh working conditions to another nation. So should you feel bad that someone is working 12 to 24 hours a day in order to produce the iPhone that you're carrying in your pocket—

Glass. Well, now like, when you say it like that, suddenly I feel bad again, but okay, yeah.

Duhigg. I don't know whether you should feel bad, right? I mean—

Glass. But, but finish your thought.

Duhigg. Should you feel bad about that? I don't know, that's for you to judge—but I think the the way to pose that question is: Do you feel comfortable knowing that that iPhones and iPads and, and other products could be manufactured in less harsh conditions, but that these harsh conditions exist and perpetuate because of an economy that you are supporting with your dollars.

Glass. Right. I am the direct beneficiary of those harsh conditions.

Duhigg. You're not only the direct beneficiary; you are actually one of the reasons why it exists. If you made different choices, if you demanded different conditions, if you demanded that other people be—enjoy the same work protections that you yourself enjoy—then, then those conditions would be different overseas.

"Apple, America, and a Squeezed Middle Class," Duhigg's and Keith Bradsher's January report on how the actual labor costs that would be required to manufacture iPhones in the U.S. rather in China would add, at most, only $65 to the cost of an iPhone—and about how labor costs are not the main reason manufacturing jobs have moved overseas—is here and is very much worth your time. That story was part 1 in Duhigg's and Bradsher's series on the "iEconomy," which you can find here.

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:13 PM

      ( 6:33 PM ) The Rat  

The average humanities doctoral student takes nine years to earn a Ph.D. That fact was cited frequently here (and not with pride) at the annual meeting of the Modern Language Association. Richard E. Miller, an English professor at Rutgers University's main campus in New Brunswick, said that the nine-year period means that those finishing dissertations today started them before Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Kindles, iPads or streaming video had been invented.

So much has changed, he said, but dissertation norms haven't, to the detriment of English and other language programs...

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      ( 4:57 PM ) The Rat  
MACARON DAY NYC 2012 is tomorrow! I wholeheartedly endorse this place.

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      ( 4:38 PM ) The Rat  
THE 2012 NATIONAL COUNCIL AUDITIONS WINNERS are here! The finals concert really is the best day of the year, any year.

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      ( 4:19 PM ) The Rat  
"FINALLY, A FOOD CORN DOGS CAN LOOK DOWN ON." The Wait Wait crew eat Pancake & Sausage On a Stick.

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      ( 1:13 PM ) The Rat  

The problem is that the typical dating site is founded on two false premises. The first is that successful pairing is merely a matter of matching personalities, finding people with compatible temperaments and attitudes., for instance, promises to match people based on their neurochemical profiles, while attempts to measure applicants on 29 dimensions of personality.

In a 2010 study of 23,000 married couples, however, similarity of personality accounted for just 0.5% of spousal satisfaction. In other words, 99.5% of their success together was explained by factors typically excluded from online dating questionnaires. This finding suggests that most of the vaunted algorithms are no more effective than a chance meeting at a bar.

And this leads to the second false premise of Internet dating: that choosing a mate should be a rational choice, in which people carefully comparison-shop for partners. That's the advantage, after all, of having millions of profiles to choose from. Rather than being misled by our instincts on a first date, we can calmly sort through the alternatives and find the best possible spouse, the would-be soul mate who will maximize our romantic utility.

Alas, the evidence suggests that such a deliberate decision-making process can backfire, leaving people more confused than ever about what they really want in a partner. Consider a classic study led by the psychologists Timothy Wilson and Jonathan Schooler, in which students were asked to rank strawberry jams. When the students were left to their own devices, their preferences closely matched those of experts for Consumer Reports, suggesting that they could easily identify the best jams.

But the researchers found that the students' jam expertise could be easily undermined by making them fill out questionnaires explaining their preferences. Some of the worst-tasting jams (at least according to Consumer Reports) were now ranked the highest.

What happened? The scientists argue that "thinking too much" about preferences caused the students to focus on all sorts of variables that didn't matter, such as the texture of the jam or the presence of strawberry seeds...

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Sunday, March 18, 2012
      ( 9:28 AM ) The Rat  
NO, REALLY. At one point of a dream last night, I looked into a mirror and my reflection was Peppermint Patty.

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      ( 8:48 AM ) The Rat  
Prior to the race Chris had prepared well mentally; however, he never examined a map which would have shown him what the Badwater Ultramarathon had in store for him. It was evident, though, what the heat had in store for him, as while he was attending the pre-race meeting in Furnace Creek, all of the suntan lotion and water bottles in his support vehicle exploded.
A Few Degrees from Hell: The 2003 Badwater Ultramarathon

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Saturday, March 17, 2012
      ( 6:02 PM ) The Rat  

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      ( 1:15 PM ) The Rat  
Luigi Barzini, in his 1964 masterwork The Italians (written when he'd finally grown tired of foreigners writing about Italy and either loving it or hating it too much) tried to set the record straight on his own culture. He tried to answer the questin of why the Italians have produced the greatest artistic, political and scientific minds of the ages, but have still never become a major world power. Why are they the planet's masters of verbal diplomacy, but still so inept at home government? Why are they so individually valiant, yet so collectively unsuccessful as an army? How can they be such shrewd merchants on the personal level, yet such inefficient capitalists as a nation?

His answers to these questions are more complex than I can fairly encapsulate here, but have much to do with a sad Italian history of corruption by local leaders and exploitation by foreign dominators, all of which has generally led Italians to draw the seemingly accurate conclusion that nobody and nothing in this world can be trusted. Because the world is so corrupted, misspoken, unstable, exaggerated and unfair, one should trust only what one can experience with one's own senses, and this makes the senses stronger in Italy than anywhere in Europe. This is why, Barzini says, Italians will tolerate hideously incompetent generals, presidents, tyrants, professors, bureaucrats, journalists and captains of industry, but will never tolerate incompetent 'opera singers, conductors, ballerinas, courtesans, actors, film directors, cooks, tailors...' In a world of disorder and disaster and fraud, sometimes only beauty can be trusted...

Eat, Pray, Love

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Friday, March 16, 2012
      ( 5:12 PM ) The Rat  

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      ( 4:36 PM ) The Rat  
TAL HAVE RETRACTED their story on Apple's factory conditions in China, and will be devoting a new episode to examining the errors/fabrications in Daisey's account. TT, of course, reviewing for the WSJ, smelled a rat way back when he reviewed The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs, on which the first part of the TAL episode was based.

Mr. Daisey's new monologue is first and foremost a work of theatrical art, just as Mr. Daisey himself, though he is not an actor in the ordinary sense of the word, is an awesomely gifted stage performer. Indeed, it is so strong a piece of theater that you can't help but wonder about its journalistic soundness...

Sadly, this whole kerfuffle ultimately will probably direct attention away from genuinely terrible working/living conditions in China and elsewhere. And needless to say, there are still good reasons, even just at the raw-materials level, to limit your consumption of electronic gizmos.

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Thursday, March 15, 2012
      ( 2:12 PM ) The Rat  

Chinese parents are liars. If for instance, you do not like carrots, your parent will not say, "Eat that carrot, maybe this time you'll like it." Instead you will hear: "That's not a carrot." Once, when a customs officer caught my father sneaking (an undeclared) wedge of pungent Camembert in his luggage, he said, without skipping a beat, "Oh, I had no idea that cheese was a food." At the dinner table, every declaration he made was to be regarded with suspicion. "Of course that's not spinach," he'd say. Once, he said to me at a banquet, "Look! They've made that chicken look like a turtle." (It was turtle, as I found out afterwards.)

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      ( 11:04 AM ) The Rat  
STRESS, ADVERSITY TAKE A TOLL ON THE BRAIN. The 140-question "Cumulative Adversity Interview" sounds only marginally more fun than the "Childhood Trauma Questionnaire."

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Wednesday, March 14, 2012
      ( 4:51 PM ) The Rat  
"A SPECIAL PERCEPTION FOR THE PROBLEMS, ASPIRATIONS AND MOTIVATIONS OF WOMEN..." (Full text here.) Ratty is off to her fifth (sixth?) Don Giovanni in just a couple hours! Final performance for this run is this Saturday.

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      ( 9:46 AM ) The Rat  
RIVERBOATS MAKE A COMEBACK, ESPECIALLY ON THE MISSISSIPPI. Because you can never have too many modes of transportation!

Could this be a paddlewheel renaissance? Maybe, but not in that creaky, 19th century way. Some new Victorian-style riverboats plying the Mississippi and other U.S. rivers this year will come tricked out with large balconies, Wi-Fi in every stateroom and satellite TVs...

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:46 AM

      ( 9:42 AM ) The Rat  
ASTAIRE/ROGERS PERFORM "LET'S CALL THE WHOLE THING OFF," via SC. OK, the skating's cheesy. But seriously, is it even possible to look at Fred Astaire without smiling?

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Tuesday, March 13, 2012
      ( 5:40 PM ) The Rat  
"TWO GIRLS ARE NAMED UNIQUE." A boy called Stiff, a girl called Tuba... and other Alberta baby names. You know, "Tuba" really sounds like a boy's name—or is that just me?

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      ( 1:15 PM ) The Rat  

People who ate more red meat were less physically active and more likely to smoke and had a higher body mass index, researchers found. Still, after controlling for those and other variables, they found that each daily increase of three ounces of red meat was associated with a 12 percent greater risk of dying over all, including a 16 percent greater risk of cardiovascular death and a 10 percent greater risk of cancer death...

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      ( 1:12 PM ) The Rat  

"This house was his dream," Mr. Bui's widow, Nguyen Thi Nguyet, 60, said recently on a quiet Saturday afternoon, occasionally shooing away roosters that kept coming up a flight of five marble steps from the courtyard into the living room.

The couple, like many others in the Vietnamese countryside, had prospered in recent years, thanks to daughters who, driven by dreams of better lives for themselves and Confucian filial piety for their parents, had emigrated to marry South Korean men. The money they and others earned in South Korea, wired regularly to small towns in Vietnam like Quang Yen, often manifested itself in telltale new homes, though the wealth paled in comparison with the Lexus S.U.V.’s favored by businessmen in Hanoi, about 100 miles west of here.

The young Vietnamese women typically married older South Korean men who, because of their low incomes or previous marriages, had difficulty finding a Korean bride. South Korea's fiercely competitive marriage marketplace gave birth to a booming industry of marriage brokers who took these men on tours of Vietnam and other developing nations, where they chose wives in hastily arranged meetings.

It was during such a tour in 2007 that Mr. Bui and Ms. Nguyen's daughter, Bui Thi Thuy, then 22, met her husband, Kim Tae-goo, a widowed apple farmer in his mid-50s. At the Lucky Star karaoke bar in Hanoi, none of the two dozen women there initially expressed interest in Mr. Kim. But Ms. Thuy and two others stepped forward after Mr. Kim promised to send $100 a month to the parents of the woman who would marry him...

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      ( 1:08 PM ) The Rat  
REAGAN'S UNSUNG LEGACY: FROZEN FOOD DAY, from last week. Worth clicking through for the photo alone!

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Monday, March 12, 2012
      ( 10:06 PM ) The Rat  
What we found was that when people were pursuing leisure activities that were expensive in terms of the outside resources required—activities that demanded expensive equipment, or electricity, or other forms of energy measured in BTUs, such as power boating, driving, or watching television—they were significantly less happy than when involved in inexpensive leisure. People were happiest when they were just talking to one another, when they gardened, knitted, or were involved in a hobby; all of these activities require few material resources, but they demand a relatively high investment of psychic energy. Leisure that uses up external resources, however, often requires less attention, and as a consequence it generally provides less memorable rewards.
Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience

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      ( 9:14 PM ) The Rat  

It gets so quiet during the second movement of the Brahms Symphony No. 2, you could almost hear a pin drop.

Or a sneeze. Or a fist hitting a face...

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      ( 2:27 PM ) The Rat  

Realizing that the beautiful woman I went to hook up with was a drunken, mentally handicapped, Russian immigrant with a husband/caretaker who wanted to watch. I mean, A RUSSIAN! C'mon.

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      ( 9:43 AM ) The Rat  

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Sunday, March 11, 2012
      ( 8:40 PM ) The Rat  

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      ( 2:05 PM ) The Rat  
"MA DONN'ANNA, COSA HA VOLUTO?" Intriguing discussion of what happened to Donna Anna; esp. see the comment by "rmd."

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:05 PM

Friday, March 09, 2012
      ( 9:59 PM ) The Rat  
OLD NUCLEAR POWER PLANT TRANSFORMED INTO A THEME PARK AND HOTEL. For a description of same in more-hilarious English, go here.

Every year 600 thousand people choose this location to have fun and experiment new and extreme sensations...

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:59 PM

      ( 9:48 PM ) The Rat  

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      ( 9:40 PM ) The Rat  

A study conducted by Professor Karen Pine, co-author of "Flex: Do Something Different," found that what a woman chooses to wear is heavily dependent upon her emotional state. One hundred women were asked what they wore when feeling depressed and more than half of them said jeans. Only a third would wear jeans when feeling happy. In a low mood a woman is also much more likely to wear a baggy top; 57% of the women said they would wear a baggy top when depressed, yet a mere 2% would wear one when feeling happy. Women also revealed they would be ten times more likely to put on a favorite dress when happy (62%) than when depressed (6%).

The psychologists conclude that the strong link between clothing and mood state suggests we should put on clothes that we associate with happiness, even when feeling low.

Professor Pine said: "This finding shows that clothing doesn't just influence others, it reflects and influences the wearer's mood too. Many of the women in this study felt they could alter their mood by changing what they wore. This demonstrates the psychological power of clothing and how the right choices could influence a person's happiness"...

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      ( 7:36 PM ) The Rat  
THE INAUGURAL MARS AND THE MOJAVE FESTIVAL starts tonight! Full program here.

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      ( 10:20 AM ) The Rat  
BAGUETTE VENDING MACHINE DEBUTS IN FRANCE, via WC. Infinitely preferable to a cupcake vending machine, if you ask me.

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      ( 9:46 AM ) The Rat  

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      ( 9:32 AM ) The Rat  
PLAY AGAIN SYNOPSIS. The trailer makes this thing look incredibly tendentious and, worse still, predictable; on the other hand they do have a point. (The trend has been toward bigger houses—and of course smaller families—on smaller lots, for some time now.) And the situation's not a lot better overseas.

What happens when you survey 1,000 British parents and 500 children on their leisure activities? You might find out that a quarter of the kids don't play outside. Or that 12% of adults admit to having 'no interest' in the outdoors and 5% thought that trees which don't lose their leaves during winter are called Carnivores. But wait, it doesn't stop there. 6% of British adults thought strawberries grew on trees, so it should come as no surprise that 25% of British kids did not know what a mouse looked like...

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:32 AM

Thursday, March 08, 2012
      ( 8:32 PM ) The Rat  
THE OTHER 1%, via AV.

Matt Flavin is part of the one percent. No, not necessarily that one percent—Flavin served in both Iraq and Afghanistan, which makes him a minority in this country.

"One percent of the American population serves in uniform," said Flavin, who is not only a veteran, but also the former director of the White House's Office of Veterans and Wounded Warrior Policy.

In 2005 and 2006, Flavin was attached to a SEAL team in Baghdad, Ramadi and Fallujah, Iraq gathering intelligence. He later served in eastern Afghanistan, and not long afterward came to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

The recent White House dinner honoring Iraq veterans was, as the president said, an opportunity for the country to express its gratitude for the men and women that served in Iraq, to welcome them home. But as Flavin knows all too well, coming home, is not always easy.

"I think everyone comes home changed," said Flavin, adding that it took him some time to transition back to life outside of a war zone.

"You don't sleep well, you think a lot about what you've been through, you think a lot about what you've come home to," said the retired navy officer.

"A lot of people have that story about going to get a cup of coffee and, you know, the person in front of them being upset about the foam on their latte not being foamy enough. And just being totally disgusted about being back"...

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      ( 2:34 PM ) The Rat  

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Wednesday, March 07, 2012
      ( 9:05 PM ) The Rat  
"IT'S TIME TO GET LAID,", via AB. My favorite thing in this, besides their expressions as they sing, is how lovingly they both say the word "rubbers."

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      ( 6:42 PM ) The Rat  

"Math rock" may be a pretentious, eye roll-inducing moniker critics and ostentatious musicians alike use to describe wonky and occasionally awesome music, but a new study suggests the term might be more on key than we thought. Literally...

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      ( 6:41 PM ) The Rat  

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      ( 1:11 PM ) The Rat  

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      ( 9:53 AM ) The Rat  
MORE ALIVE THAN DEAD? Fun short episode from More or Less.

Tim Harford investigates one of the most popular questions from
More or Less listeners: "Are there more people alive today than have ever lived?" It is a zombie statistic that every time it is laid to rest it rises again. He also looks at whether science fiction writer Arthur C Clarke was right when he suggested that behind every living person are 30 ghosts.

He also investigates the strange story of Michelle Obama's shopping trip to a lingerie store in New York.

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      ( 8:05 AM ) The Rat  
"THAT'S NOT THE ONLY PLACE IN WESTMINSTER WHERE YOU'LL FIND A LOAD OF PRICKS..." via Londonist. (For more discussion of the shadows, see here and here.)

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      ( 8:04 AM ) The Rat  
HOW MY LONDON 2012 MARATHON PLANS WERE RUN OFF THE ROAD. Adapted from the "Tony's Trials" segment of a recent Marathon Talk.

Ah yes, the Olympic logo copyright. There is a whole library of downloadable leaflets you can view to make sure you don't infringe copyrights if you're planning an event or a campaign. There are all sorts of combinations of words you can't use: Olympics, Olympiad, London, 2012, Games, medals, breadknife (OK, I made the last one up). You can't use the symbol of the Olympic rings, the paralympic logo, the Olympic mascots Wenlock and Mandeville (they're keeping an special eye on those). You can't use athletic images, representations of an Olympic-style torch and flame, even the colours of the Olympic rings. Noel Edmonds will need some new shirts.

Bakers are even banned from icing cakes with the Olympic logo. The plan by Britain's leading cake decorators, British Sugarcraft Guild—to celebrate the 2012 games in icing and marzipan—has been left in tatters after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) banned it from copying any of its official symbols. The IOC said: "We very much regret that this situation has arisen"... Cakes, arisen, they've got a sense of humour at the IOC... but it's a serious business. Is it any coincidence that eight years after hosting the Athens Olympics, Greece's economy is on its knees? There's a punchline about the rest of Europe, but I'm not going to say it...

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:04 AM

Tuesday, March 06, 2012
      ( 9:37 PM ) The Rat  

The research, which used information from Understanding Society, a long-term study of 40,000 UK households funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), looked at the responses of 5,000 young people between the ages of 10-15 to questions about their health-related behaviours and levels of happiness. The results show that:

—Young people who never drank any alcohol were between four and six times more likely to have higher levels of happiness than those who reported any alcohol consumption.

—Youth who smoked were about five times less likely to have high happiness scores compared to those who never smoked.

—Higher consumption of fruit and vegetables and lower consumption of chips, sweets and fizzy drinks were both associated with high happiness.

—The more hours of sport youth participated in per week the happier they were...

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:37 PM

      ( 9:28 PM ) The Rat  

Men like to know when their wife or girlfriend is happy while women really want the man in their life to know when they are upset, according to a new study published by the American Psychological Association.

The study involved a diverse sample of couples and found that men's and women's perceptions of their significant other's empathy, and their abilities to tell when the other is happy or upset, are linked to relationship satisfaction in distinctive ways, according to the article published online in the Journal of Family Psychology...

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:28 PM

      ( 2:36 PM ) The Rat  

As a divinity school student, I had just started working as a student chaplain at a cancer hospital when my professor asked me about my work. I was 26 years old and still learning what a chaplain did.

"I talk to the patients," I told him.

"You talk to patients? And tell me, what do people who are sick and dying talk to the student chaplain about?" he asked.

I had never considered the question before. "Well," I responded slowly, "Mostly we talk about their families."

"Do you talk about God?"

"Umm, not usually."

"Or their religion?"

"Not so much."

"The meaning of their lives?"


"And prayer? Do you lead them in prayer? Or ritual?"

"Well," I hesitated. "Sometimes. But not usually, not really."

I felt derision creeping into the professor's voice. "So you just visit people and talk about their families?"

"Well, they talk. I mostly listen."

"Huh." He leaned back in his chair.

A week later, in the middle of a lecture in this professor's packed class, he started to tell a story about a student he once met who was a chaplain intern at a hospital.

"And I asked her, 'What exactly do you do as a chaplain?' And she replied, 'Well, I talk to people about their families.'" He paused for effect. "And that was this student's understanding of faith! That was as deep as this person's spiritual life went! Talking about other people's families!"

The students laughed at the shallowness of the silly student. The professor was on a roll.

"And I thought to myself," he continued, "that if I was ever sick in the hospital, if I was ever dying, that the last person I would ever want to see is some Harvard Divinity School student chaplain wanting to talk to me about my family."

My body went numb with shame. At the time I thought that maybe, if I was a better chaplain, I would know how to talk to people about big spiritual questions. Maybe if dying people met with a good, experienced chaplain they would talk about God, I thought.

Today, 13 years later, I am a hospice chaplain. I visit people who are dying—in their homes, in hospitals, in nursing homes. And if you were to ask me the same question—What do people who are sick and dying talk about with the chaplain?—I, without hesitation or uncertainty, would give you the same answer. Mostly, they talk about their families: about their mothers and fathers, their sons and daughters.

They talk about the love they felt, and the love they gave. Often they talk about love they did not receive, or the love they did not know how to offer, the love they withheld, or maybe never felt for the ones they should have loved unconditionally...

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      ( 2:20 PM ) The Rat  

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      ( 10:10 AM ) The Rat  
"31. PORN SHOPS ARE LIKE VIDEO GAMES WITH INCREASING LEVELS OF FREAKINESS," and 49 other reasons why Tokyo is the greatest city in the world.

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:10 AM

      ( 9:48 AM ) The Rat  

But in the current study, which was published this month in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, the scientists created a more realistic version of inactivity by having their volunteers cut the number of steps they took each day by at least half.

They wanted to determine whether this physical languor would affect the body's ability to control blood sugar levels. "It's increasingly clear that blood sugar spikes, especially after a meal, are bad for you," says John P. Thyfault, an associate professor of nutrition and exercise physiology at the University of Missouri, who conducted the study with his graduate student Catherine R. Mikus and others. "Spikes and swings in blood sugar after meals have been linked to the development of heart disease and Type 2 diabetes."

So the scientists fitted their volunteers with sophisticated glucose monitoring devices, which checked their blood sugar levels continuously throughout the day. They also gave the subjects pedometers and activity-measuring armbands, to track how many steps they took. Finally, they asked the volunteers to keep detailed food diaries.

Then they told them to just live normally for three days, walking and exercising as usual...

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:48 AM

Monday, March 05, 2012
      ( 8:40 PM ) The Rat  
THE MET IS LIVE-STREAMING L'ELISIR D'AMORE, btw (started a little over an hour ago).

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      ( 8:34 PM ) The Rat  

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      ( 3:58 PM ) The Rat  

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      ( 12:28 PM ) The Rat  

In my three years with the city schools, I've seen a teacher with 10 years of experience become convinced, after just a few observations, that he was a terrible teacher. A few months later, he quit teaching altogether. I collaborated with another teacher who sought psychiatric care for insomnia after a particularly intense round of observations. I myself transferred to a new school after being rated "unsatisfactory."

Behind all of this is the reality that teachers care a great deal about our work. At the school where I work today, my "bad" teaching has mostly been very successful. Even so, I leave work most days replaying lessons in my mind, wishing I'd done something differently. This isn't because my lessons are bad, but because I want to get better at my job.

In fact, I don't just want to get better; like most teachers I know, I'm a bit of a perfectionist. I have to be. Dozens and dozens of teenagers scrutinize my language, clothing and posture all day long, all week long. If I'm off my game, the students tell me. They comment on my taste in neckties, my facial hair, the quality of my lessons. All of us teachers are evaluated all day long, already. It's one of the most exhausting aspects of our job...

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:28 PM

      ( 12:13 PM ) The Rat  

Sauer was making a late-night, four-hour drive from the Utah State University campus in Logan to visit her folks in Caldwell, Idaho. She passed the time along I-84 messaging a pal on Facebook about the Denver Broncos football team. But she stopped short, writing in her final missive, "I can't discuss this now. Driving and facebooking is not safe! Haha."

Moments later, Sauer, going more than 80 mph, slammed into a tanker truck that was slowly creeping up a hill at 15 mph. She was killed instantly; investigators saw no signs that she applied the brakes before the fatal crash. And in checking her cell phone records, they learned Sauer was posting about every 90 seconds during her drive...

Also see this, from a couple years back.

Jensen says scientists used to think human brain development was pretty complete by age 10. Or as she puts it, that "a teenage brain is just an adult brain with fewer miles on it."

But it's not. To begin with, she says, a crucial part of the brain—the frontal lobes are not fully connected. Really.

"It's the part of the brain that says: 'Is this a good idea? What is the consequence of this action?'" Jensen says. "It's not that they don't have a frontal lobe. And they can use it. But they're going to access it more slowly."

That's because the nerve cells that connect teenagers' frontal lobes with the rest of their brains are sluggish. Teenagers don't have as much of the fatty coating called myelin, or "white matter," that adults have in this area.

Think of it as insulation on an electrical wire. Nerves need myelin for nerve signals to flow freely. Spotty or thin myelin leads to inefficient communication between one part of the brain and another...

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:13 PM

      ( 12:04 PM ) The Rat  
EVERY LAST BITE: WHY WASTING ANIMAL PROTEIN IS UNETHICAL. As the statisticians over at More or Less discussed a few years back, the numbers on food waste can be dicey (estimates sometimes count apple cores and the tops of carrots as "waste," for instance); still, can't argue with the overall point here.

When I do readings for my book,
American Wasteland, I begin by talking about the ethical shortcomings of wasting food. Primarily, there's the idea that someone would have loved to eat the foods that we squander. Wasting food devalues the suffering of millions in America and a billion worldwide who don’t get enough to eat. These days, 15 percent of Americans are food insecure, or struggle to find enough to eat. And food banks and hungry people have a hard time getting sufficient protein, especially the kind not found inside a tin can or a cylinder of casing.

Wasting meat raises the stakes to create an ethical double whammy. Squandering animal protein—and some would include offal here—debases our quotidian killing of animals. As Paul Root Wolpe, director of the Emory Center for Ethics, told me: "To treat food cavalierly leads to a lack of appreciation of the importance of food, of the fact that some go without it, of the suffering of animals that the carnivores among us are willing to tolerate to eat our food"...

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:04 PM

      ( 8:36 AM ) The Rat  
The next morning, I changed outfits three times trying to balance the chilly temps with a mountain run that would certainly provide its own heat. I put on new socks I'd gotten just for the race—special socks that said Run! across the top in case I got light-headed and forgot what I was doing. On the drive to the park with Susan and the kids, our oldest son asked if I'd taped my nipples. I assured him I hadn't. When we saw Lou in the parking lot, Susan said, "Marc hasn't taped his nipples," something no woman ever wants to say about her husband. Lou looked at me with concern for my nipples written all over his face, something no guy ever wants to see on his friend.
—Marc Parent, "Mountain Effect," RW, April 2012

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      ( 7:29 AM ) The Rat  

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      ( 7:15 AM ) The Rat  
"ABOUT 25 PERCENT OF MEN AND 33 PERCENT OF WOMEN SAY THEY HAVE NOT DRIVEN ACROSS THE COUNTRY BUT 'HAVE ALWAYS WANTED TO.'" I can only assume that's because 75 percent of men and 67 percent of women already have. For me the American landscape is pretty much entirely colonized by Nabokov's descriptions, many of which I still hear in Jeremy Irons's voice.

By a paradox of pictorial thought, the average lowland North-American countryside had at first seemed to me something I accepted with a shock of amused recognition because of those painted oilcloths which were imported from America in the old days to be hung above washstands in Central-European nurseries, and which fascinated a drowsy child at bed time with the rustic green views they depicted—opaque curly trees, a barn, cattle, a brook, the dull white of vague orchards in bloom, and perhaps a stone fence or hills of greenish gouache. But gradually the models of those elementary rusticities became stranger and stranger to the eye, the nearer I came to know them. Beyond the tilled plain, beyond the toy roofs, there would be a slow suffusion of inutile loveliness, a low sun in a platinum haze with a warm, peeled-peach tinge pervading the upper edge of a two-dimensional, dove-gray cloud fusing with the distant amorous mist. There might be a line of spaced trees silhouetted against the horizon, and hot still noons above a wilderness of clover, and Claude Lorrain clouds inscribed remotely into misty azure with only their cumulus part conspicuous against the neutral swoon of the background. Or again, it might be a stern El Greco horizon, pregnant with inky rain, and a passing glimpse of some mummy-necked farmer, and all around alternating strips of quick-silverish water and harsh green corn, the whole arrangement opening like a fan, somewhere in Kansas.

Now and then, in the vastness of those plains, huge trees would advance toward us to cluster self-consciously by the roadside and provide a bit of humanitarian shade above a picnic table, with sun flecks, flattened paper cups, samaras and discarded ice-cream sticks littering the brown ground. A great user of roadside facilities, my unfastidious Lo would be charmed by toilet signs—Guys-Gals, John-Jane, Jack-Jill and even Buck's-Doe's; while lost in an artist's dream, I would stare at the honest brightness of the gasoline paraphernalia against the splendid green of oaks, or at a distant hill scrambling out—scarred but still untamed—from the wilderness of agriculture that was trying to swallow it.

At night, tall trucks studded with colored lights, like dreadful giant Christmas trees, loomed in the darkness and thundered by the belated little sedan. And again next day a thinly populated sky, losing its blue to the heat, would melt overhead, and Lo would clamor for a drink, and her cheeks would hollow vigorously over the straw, and the car inside would be a furnace when we got in again, and the road shimmered ahead, with a remote car changing its shape mirage-like in the surface glare, and seeming to hang for a moment, old-fashionedly square and high, in the hot haze. And as we pushed westward, patches of what the garage-man called "sage brush" appeared, and then the mysterious outlines of table-like hills, and then red bluffs ink-blotted with junipers, and then a mountain range, dun grading into blue, and blue into dream...

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      ( 12:52 AM ) The Rat  

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Sunday, March 04, 2012
      ( 10:23 PM ) The Rat  

These seven friends, most of whom live around Denver, do a lot of crazy stuff together. They go to Moab to jump into canyons and build big bonfires and shoot skeet. They dive off hotels in Denver and try to shake the police. But it's not so much their jumps that I'm here to watch; it's their brains. What makes one person fling himself off a cliff with abandon and another stay home to watch the Food Network? Even among rad adventurers, why do some hesitate when things get extreme? During the past half-decade—and especially the past year—scientists have been using high-tech imaging, advanced neurochemistry, and even computer games to tease out an answer to that question. They are opening a window on one of humanity's most mysterious traits: the way we hear the call of adventure...

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:23 PM

      ( 7:14 PM ) The Rat  
CANCER SUFFERER LEAVES HUSBAND 100 THINGS HE MUST DO WITH THEIR 2 SONS. Great news—nowadays you can even helicopter-parent after you're dead! CB notes, however, that there's a bit of blowback among commenters against the sentimentality of the concept, e.g., the second-highest-rated comment:

Gosh, a very moving story indeed but am I the only one who finds her lists a little disturbing? Is this how she would have brought her children up had she lived, to never ride bikes or join the army, to marry young and go to after school clubs of her choice? That isn't what parenting is about, it's all about bringing up independent decent young people who are confident enough to make their own decisions and their own mistakes. These boys will be under pressure to fulfil their dead mother's wishes for the rest of their lives, not to mention the immense strain their father will face should he find himself expected to do something he doesn't actually agree with. Expecting to be red arrowed for my thoughts but once people look past the obvious sadness I think they may see what I mean.

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      ( 4:43 PM ) The Rat  

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      ( 12:26 PM ) The Rat  
CHIVALRY! via Postsecret.

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      ( 12:22 PM ) The Rat  
THE GOMERS on GarageBand:

Steven. Yeah. So, putting—I mean, I wish I could edit everything about my life. I think we've talked about this before.

Anthony. Yeah.

Steven. When you get into the editing you're like—and you're living regular life—you're just thinking, "I can edit that out."

Anthony. Yeah. If only you could just, like, redo it. Actually—undo. We've talked about that—undo.

Steven. Mm-hmm.

Anthony. Like, being able to hit, control-Z, command-Z—

Steven. Yup.

Anthony. —in real life, would be amazing.

Steven. Or just control-option-command-N. Just brand-new.

Anthony. Oh, yeah! A whole new track. Yeah, for sure.

Steven. If only it worked like that.

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:22 PM

Saturday, March 03, 2012
      ( 6:24 PM ) The Rat  
CELERY CAN BE RESURRECTED! (For directions see here.) I first heard of this trick from Gomer1 (in S1 or S2—I forget which), but never actually tried it out till today. Magic.

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      ( 3:33 PM ) The Rat  

The Old Order Amish, whose very existence in 21st-century America offers an object lesson on the inherent tensions between an old religion existing in a modern society, approach running with enthusiasm and some trepidation. On the one hand, the sport provides exercise, and a way to be part of a community, and simple, difficult labor with clearly demarcated rewards. An active lifestyle has always been natural for the group, and though overweening pride is anathema, a sense of achievement is not. "We get awards for doing well in school," one of the Vella Shpringa runners points out. "It's not like we're not encouraged to do our best."

Long-distance racing also offers a chance for this insular community to allow the English to see (and buy from) the Amish. The Bird-in-Hand Half-Marathon in September 2011 attracted 600 people (about 100 Anabaptists), down from 1,000 the year before, its first. This year, Smucker tells me, race organizers are hoping to get back to 1,000, partly by an increased number of Anabaptists. Smucker wants the race to become a strong local tradition as well as an annual destination for tourists and runners. He's arranged for Amish children in buggies to travel up and down the course, handing out water to runners. The outhouses at each of the six one-room Amish schoolhouses spread throughout the valley will provide bathroom breaks.

The Friday night after the 5-K and before the Saturday morning half-marathon, there will be the usual touches, like the launching of 10 hot air balloons, a big bonfire, and Amish pizza. I ask what Amish pizza is. "It's just like regular pizza," Smucker says, "but Amish"...

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      ( 12:23 PM ) The Rat  

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      ( 10:40 AM ) The Rat  

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      ( 10:39 AM ) The Rat  
THE NYBG ORCHID SHOW (now in its 10th year) opens today.

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      ( 10:23 AM ) The Rat  
100 WAYS TO CHANGE YOUR LIFE. I'm going to try this, right after my nap.

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Friday, March 02, 2012
      ( 8:30 PM ) The Rat  

Though the TED conferences are only a few decades old, they already have established an enviable foothold in the cosmology of the ultracool. TED is the hipster combination of New Age vagueness and Bohemian Grove old money—but instead of Himalayan crystals or naked rich Republican bigwigs popping towels at each other while discussing Sweden's GNP, here we have svelte men with a steady eye outfitted in turtlenecks, tasteful (but not flashy) blazers, and tomorrow’s cantilevered mikes...

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:30 PM

      ( 8:26 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:26 PM

      ( 8:27 AM ) The Rat  
NEW STUDIES CONTINUE TO PROVE RUNNING IS A FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH, from last August. More on the Stanford study here.

When Fries and his team began this research in 1984, many scientists thought vigorous exercise would do older folks more harm than good. Some feared the long-term effect of the then-new jogging craze would be floods of orthopedic injuries, with older runners permanently hobbled by their exercise habit. Fries had a different hypothesis: he thought regular exercise would extend high-quality, disability-free life. Keeping the body moving, he speculated, wouldn't necessarily extend longevity, but it would compress the period at the end of life when people couldn't carry out daily tasks on their own. That idea came to be known as "the compression of morbidity theory."

Fries' team began tracking 538 runners over age 50, comparing them to a similar group of nonrunners. The subjects, now in their 70s and 80s, have answered yearly questionnaires about their ability to perform everyday activities such as walking, dressing and grooming, getting out of a chair and gripping objects. The researchers have used national death records to learn which participants died, and why. Nineteen years into the study, 34 percent of the nonrunners had died, compared to only 15 percent of the runners.

At the beginning of the study, the runners ran an average of about four hours a week. After 21 years, their running time declined to an average of 76 minutes per week, but they were still seeing health benefits from running.

On average both groups in the study became more disabled after 21 years of aging, but for runners the onset of disability started later.

"Runners' initial disability was 16 years later than nonrunners,'" Fries said. "By and large, the runners have stayed healthy."

Not only did running delay disability, but the gap between runners' and nonrunners' abilities got bigger with time.

"We did not expect this," Fries said, noting that the increasing gap between the groups has been apparent for several years now. "The health benefits of exercise are greater than we thought."

Fries was surprised the gap between runners and nonrunners continues to widen even as his subjects entered their ninth decade of life. The effect was probably due to runners' greater lean body mass and healthier habits in general, he said. "We don't think this effect can go on forever," Fries added. "We know that deaths come one to a customer. Eventually we will have a 100 percent mortality rate in both groups."

But so far, the effect of running on delaying death has also been more dramatic than the scientists expected. Not surprisingly, running has slowed cardiovascular deaths. However, it has also been associated with fewer early deaths from cancer, neurological disease, infections and other causes...

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:27 AM

Thursday, March 01, 2012
      ( 10:32 PM ) The Rat  

This week's podcast is a very special edition of Health Check, broadcast live from the courtyard at Bush House as part of the World Service’s 80th birthday celebrations. While London is gearing up for the Olympics, Health Check is examining the athlete's body. What marks athletes out from the rest of us? How come they can jump further and run faster? The programme asks where that amazing talent comes from—are champions born or made? In the programme, Claudia Hammond puts the Ironman World Champion Chrissie Wellington, and one of Britain's top sprinters James Ellington, to the test to discover what makes them so special mentally and physically. The tent is kitted out with running machines, jump mats and even starting blocks so that the athletes can be really put through their paces. Their performances are compared with those of two brave volunteers who, when it comes to fitness and athletic ability are a little more like the rest of us...

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:32 PM

      ( 10:26 PM ) The Rat  
"IT WAS SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA'S TOP VISITOR DRAW UNTIL 1957, WHEN THE RECENTLY OPENED DISNEYLAND SURPASSED IT." OK, so there are times I'm not proud to be from California... Forest Lawn at 100, via the L.A. Times.

Over the last century, Forest Lawn has been mocked by novelist Evelyn Waugh and blamed as the cause of soaring burial costs. It also became an unlikely magnet for tourists who see the feel-good cemetery as a distinctly California invention.

So the 290-acre burial ground that straddles the Glendale-Los Angeles boundary line has plenty to commemorate.

It may have been the first cemetery in the United States to ban above-ground, monument-style tombstones and instead require ground-level markers (better views, less cemetery-like).

It was the first to incorporate distinctive architectural motifs, creating faux European castles and cathedrals that critics have likened to a Disneyland of death. The designs were meant to entice visitors to linger in a park-like setting.

As it marks its 100th birthday, Forest Lawn isn't the tourist draw it was in its heyday—and some of its more flamboyant flourishes, such as talking statues, have been toned down...

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:26 PM

      ( 6:07 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:07 PM

      ( 12:55 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:55 PM

      ( 10:18 AM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:18 AM

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

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