The Rat
Friday, December 31, 2010
      ( 5:06 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 5:06 PM

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      ( 2:57 PM ) The Rat  
"I HAD A NEW YEARS RESOLUTION NOT TO BE A WHORE ANYMORE, BUT I THINK I'M GONNA WAIT TILL 2011." Texts From Last Night presents a roundup of the best New Year's Eve texts from 2009.

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:57 PM

      ( 2:41 PM ) The Rat  
SYNCHRONIZE WATCHES! Tickets for this year's National Council Finals are going on sale at noon on January 2. Fyi, they don't seem to charge the usual $30 "handling" fees for purchasing online for this event, so I'd bank on getting your tickets that way unless you actually feel like waiting in line.

Ratty attended the National Council auditions last year, and hopes to continue doing so for many years to come. Besides, this is the one Met event of the year for which I can readily afford the ordinarily-super-expensive seats!

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:41 PM

      ( 2:39 PM ) The Rat  
"I CAN DO THIS SHIT IN MY MINIVAN." Terrific reader comment on this; who knew anybody could have that much fun in a Ford? (Found this after a couple other Gymkhana links were sent to me by WHC, with whom I secretly share a Y chromosome.)

Gymkhana: An automotive sport that takes place in a parking lot, an abandoned airport, an international shipping port or epic 86-year-old European track that requires drivers to skillfully maneuver their cars around a series of cones, slaloms, turns, figure eights and possibly a 51-degree bank using extreme acceleration, braking and drifting.

Similar to 'autocross,' Gymkhana courses are often complex, and memorizing the course is a significant part of this type of motorsport.

In an effort to take the Gymkhana concept to a new level, Ken searched the world over to find an ultimate playground. This is the result...

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:39 PM

      ( 1:52 PM ) The Rat  
HOW TO STICK TO YOUR NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTIONS. From last year, but hey, the techniques should still work just as well now.

This year, I'm going to trick myself into accomplishing my New Year's resolutions. I've come up with a bunch of easily achievable "decoy resolutions" among which I will hide my real resolutions. I'm hoping that if I'm flying along, accomplishing things like crazy, and I come to one of my real New Year's resolutions, I'll just assume it's easy like all the other ones and get through it without a problem...

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      ( 6:49 AM ) The Rat  

Lead researcher Dr Fhionna Moore, a psychology lecturer at the University of Abertay Dundee, said: "Previous research shows that men place greater importance on physical attractiveness when picking a partner, whereas women focus much more on whether someone can provide material resources.

"We'd assumed that as women earn more, their partner preferences would actually become more like those of men, with a tendency towards preferring younger, more attractive partners rather than those who can provide and care for children.

"However, the preferred age difference did not change as we'd expected—more financially independent women actually preferred even older men"...

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:49 AM

      ( 6:33 AM ) The Rat  
"PLEASE DON'T USE COMIC SANS—WE ARE A FORTUNE 500 COMPANY, NOT A LEMONADE STAND." Passive-Aggressive Notes presents the Funniest Notes of 2010. So many to choose from here, but my personal favorite has got to be "Also, I will shoot you in the fucking face."

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:33 AM

      ( 5:47 AM ) The Rat  
JERRY SPRINGER'S 'BAGGAGE' IS THE GREATEST TV SHOW EVER. This is from July, but seriously, read the whole thing.

But some of the baggages are the kind of magical thing that, the more you think about it, the more delightful they become.

For instance:

I'm obsessed with death. I dated a serial killer (NB: this guy rejected a woman for having too-severe PMS). I have a webcam in my bathroom. I refuse to wear a condom. I date NBA players. I sleep with rats. I cheated on my ex with twin cousins. I'm bad in bed. I don't believe in foreplay. I refuse to raise my kids in America. I'm a grandmother. I used cocaine frequently at Studio 54. I wear adult diapers. I lost my virginity in a threesome. I text during sex. My homeless brother lives in front of my house. I have been to 32 Donny Osmond concerts. I'm obsessed with "The Rock." I buy panties at the 99-cent store. I pretend I'm famous to get laid. I dated a man in prison. My penis is crooked. I refuse to be on top. I've never said "I love you"… and I never will. I had a threesome with my girlfriend's best friends. I take my cat to a pet psychic. I cheated on my boyfriend while he was in coma. I cheated on my boyfriend with his teammate.

As with all games, there are some strategies. If all you want to do is win, the best way to go is to have Baggages that aren't really your fault. "I was diagnosed with attention deficit disorder" is a good one. If you have to have something embarrassing from your past, at least seem apologetic about it—if you worked as a male stripper, let her know that you've closed the book on that chapter of your life. One thing you should not do is reveal secrets that show how untrustworthy you are. Cheaters and thieves tend not to do especially well, so unless you have a really good excuse, keep that story about the time you faked infertility to break up with a boyfriend to yourself.

However, if you are confident that your charm and good looks will take you to victory and you want to do so on your own terms, there are a number of ways to go with this. If selected, you have the chance to start a relationship where your three most abhorrent behaviors are implicitly tolerated—who wouldn't want that?

# Posted by The Rat @ 5:47 AM

      ( 5:43 AM ) The Rat  

The article, "The Weirdest People in the World" (ungated working paper), has the startling thesis that social scientists in trying to investigate basic psychology may have erred by oversampling outlier populations. The "Weirdest People" of the title are Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic. (The cuteness of the title is not one of the article's strengths.) But the idea that "we" are the exotics usefully jars one from complacency.

The heart of the review is a catalog of experiments where the results differ markedly across different societies...

# Posted by The Rat @ 5:43 AM

      ( 5:41 AM ) The Rat  

Chandler police Sgt. Joe Favazzo said it appears that Susan and Rachel Brock didn't know about each other's relationship with the teen.

"You have a situation where you have a mother who's abusing a juvenile victim, seemingly unknowingly to the daughter, or vice versa, and the daughter is also abusing the same victim," Favazzo said. "I just can't imagine a mother and daughter having this conversation, and the investigators say they don't have anything indicating the two of them knew about it"...

# Posted by The Rat @ 5:41 AM

      ( 5:39 AM ) The Rat  

But do you find this place strange? As a Chinese who grew up in China, I do. There are two things I find really strange. First, the food vendors can speak English! Although they can't speak perfect English but they can tell you what kind of worm you are eating and that eating animal penis "make you strong." Can you imagine someone working in McDonald's speaking Chinese? Then why can they speak English? Second, I didn't find many Chinese on these street enjoying their fried spider. Looking around you can see so many foreigners. If this place is indeed a good place for snack why are the Chinese people missing?

Because this place is only meant for tourists and especially foreigners. The food there were made to be weird so it will attract more attention. And it worked...

# Posted by The Rat @ 5:39 AM

Thursday, December 30, 2010
      ( 6:42 PM ) The Rat  
I spent a lot of money on booze, birds and fast cars. The rest I just squandered.
—George Best

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      ( 12:12 PM ) The Rat  
FAMILY OF WW1 VETERAN LOOKS FORWARD TO 110TH BIRTHDAY. To IKM, who sent this: "Well, no wonder the Germans couldn't kill him... apparently God can't either!"

Buckles, who was born February 1, 1901, is thought to be the world's oldest living war veteran...

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:12 PM

      ( 8:30 AM ) The Rat  
"IL TUO BEL CIELO VORREI RIDARTI..." Pavarotti sings "Celeste Aida" here (as, um, a few viewers appear to have noticed before me). I must have listened to this aria a couple dozen times yesterday while running errands. Hadn't seen the text/translation since the one time I heard this opera live (almost three years ago); check 'em out.

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:30 AM

Wednesday, December 29, 2010
      ( 6:07 AM ) The Rat  
THE ANIMAL WORLD HAS ITS JUNKIES TOO. I can't remember now who sent this—JT? Anyway, fun article, but pretty obviously needs more pictures. How can you write about porcupines ingesting a hallucinogenic substance and not include a photo of same?!

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:07 AM

      ( 6:02 AM ) The Rat  
ASKMEN.COM pretty much, um, is what it is, but one thing I will say for it is that it's kind of fun the way you inevitably find yourself reverse-engineering their readership's fundamental anxieties (not to mention the entire scope of their assumptions about the world and about women) from the articles—and not because you're trying, but just because it's so transparent. Have a look at their list of Signs You're Too Good for Her, for instance...

No. 9 She F*cks Like A Porn Star. Sure, we all have those fantasies, but if your woman is taking you into uncharted territory that has serious repercussions for personal safety, there's a good chance it's a sign you're too good for her. No limits or boundaries in the intimate sphere means serious problems with self-respect and control in general. Sure the sex will be mind-blowing, but you’ll never know where she’s been or even how she learned her maneuvers, which can only mean one thing…

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:02 AM

Tuesday, December 28, 2010
      ( 11:36 AM ) The Rat  
ALITALIA IS OFFERING NYC-Milan round-trips for about $600 (taxes/fees included) if you book before January 12. Of course, in the case of Milan I would imagine I'd rather have a one-way ticket than a round-trip...

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:36 AM

      ( 11:33 AM ) The Rat  
AN OLD BLOOM COUNTY FAVORITE. And a good fallback for when you can't figure out how else to answer the question!

This is also classic...

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:33 AM

Monday, December 27, 2010
      ( 10:14 PM ) The Rat  
THIS strikes me as intensely Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator-esque.

A compound which acts in the opposite way as growth hormone can reverse some of the signs of aging, a research team that includes a Saint Louis University physician has shown. The finding may be counter-intuitive to some older adults who take growth hormone, thinking it will help revitalize them.

The scientists studied the compound MZ-5-156, a "growth hormone-releasing hormone (GHRH) antagonist." They conducted their research in the SAMP8 mouse model, a strain engineered for studies of the aging process. Overall, the researchers found that MZ-5-156 had positive effects on oxidative stress in the brain, improving cognition, telomerase activity (the actions of an enzyme which protects DNA material) and life span, while decreasing tumor activity.

MZ-5-156, like many GHRH antagonists, inhibited several human cancers, including prostate, breast, brain and lung cancers. It also had positive effects on learning, and is linked to improvements in short-term memory. The antioxidant actions led to less oxidative stress, reversing cognitive impairment in the aging mouse...

And, a seasonally appropriate article on How to Delay Christmas Tree Needle Loss.

The authors presented their findings in a recent issue of the scientific journal Trees...

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:14 PM

      ( 8:44 PM ) The Rat  

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      ( 7:39 PM ) The Rat  
IT PRETTY MUCH GOES WITHOUT SAYING that I got this link from ET.

N.B. If I ever own a castle or dungeon or something like that, I want "Bitches love text over nebulas" to be the secret code phrase for admission.

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:39 PM

      ( 7:27 PM ) The Rat  
SO THERE'S THIS LONGSTANDING PRINCIPLE OF CRIME, OR AT LEAST OF CRIME FICTION, which probably originated with Poe's "Purloined Letter" and which was, in my view, most ingeniously elaborated by Agatha Christie (in a book I'm not going to name), when she had Poirot explain in the course of that story's denouement: "When do you notice a pin least? When it is in a pincushion! When do you notice an individual murder least? When it is one of a series of related murders..." The point being that the best way to hide something is in plain sight, where it won't stand out.

Looks like some people in California were unclear on the concept. (Link via IKM.)

Two days before Christmas, an alleged smuggler apparently thought Easter eggs would be the perfect ploy to conceal 14 pounds of cocaine...

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:27 PM

      ( 4:44 PM ) The Rat  
IN MY DEFENSE, turns out I'm actually not the most rabid SYSK fan out there. Check out this profile of Josh and Chuck in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. You're not an alcoholic so long as there's somebody in the room even drunker than you, right?

Josh Clark and Chuck Bryant, both graduates of the University of Georgia, will take on just about anything: freemasons, fight clubs, Legos, presidential pardons, sleepwalking, quicksand, zombies, migraines, hiccups, cremation, dreadlocks. They agree on topics for the show and then go forth and find out whatever they can about them. But that's the last time they discuss the topics before they go into the studio and sit down in behind the microphones.

"We don't talk about it," Clark said. "There's no practice, no script, no rehearsal, one take."

It is a one-take wonder. For two years now, the two have seen their show's popularity skyrocket to the top of the charts. It consistently ranks in the top five most popular iTunes podcasts.

Clark and Bryant have received messages from at least three couples who say they were drawn together because of their shared interest in the podcast. One couple had a "Stuff You Should Know"-themed wedding in San Diego...

# Posted by The Rat @ 4:44 PM

      ( 1:21 PM ) The Rat  

*I only ever think of this phrase in conjunction with its most famous exegesis.

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:21 PM

      ( 12:49 PM ) The Rat  
DIANA DAMRAU SINGS "JE VEUX VIVRE" from Gounud's Roméo et Juliette; text and translation here. (Note: I don't agree with all of her decisions in this performance. But still!) When you make that the first track of a CD, I don't know how you're expecting anybody to ever bother getting to the second track.

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:49 PM

      ( 12:41 PM ) The Rat  
THE BAD DADDY FACTOR. Great, so we're only supposed to mate with the boring people?! (For a simple introduction to the ever-horrifying field of epigenetics, see SYSK's episode from June 10, "Can your grandfather's diet shorten your life?")

Over the last half-century, as scientists learned more and more about how women could safeguard their developing fetuses—skip the vodka, take your folate—few researchers even considered the possibility that men played a role in prenatal health. It would turn out to be a scientific oversight of significant proportions. A critical mass of research now demonstrates that environmental exposures—from paints to pesticides—can cause men to father children with all sorts of abnormalities. Drinking booze, smoking cigarettes, taking prescription medications and even just not eating a balanced diet can influence the health of men's future kids. In the several decades since Friedler started her work, the idea that chemicals in a man's environment can influence the health of his future children has, she says, "moved from lunatic fringe to cutting edge."

So why don't we ever hear about it? [...]

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:41 PM

Sunday, December 26, 2010
      ( 9:33 PM ) The Rat  
WHAT'S YOUR STATE GOOD AT? I need to stop getting all my links from WC. That said, check out Illinois! (Also, no wonder everybody in Vermont is nuts!)

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:33 PM

      ( 8:33 PM ) The Rat  
GIRO ONE. I could see this getting out of hand after one too many drinks...

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:33 PM

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      ( 10:44 AM ) The Rat  
IT'S BOXING DAY! Be sure to take advantage of this, the one day of the year when you're allowed to randomly punch anybody you want.

(Ratty actually first learned about Boxing Day at some ridiculously young age, almost certainly from a Noel Streatfeild story. She is also the reason there may be what Eve calls a 1930s-British-English cast to my diction.)

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:44 AM

      ( 5:05 AM ) The Rat  
OK, THE COMMENTER who notes that it's the "bro" that makes this is spot-on.

# Posted by The Rat @ 5:05 AM

Saturday, December 25, 2010
      ( 9:11 AM ) The Rat  

Nothing says "celebration" like a festive cocktail, and nothing says "the opposite of celebration" like the miserable ritual known as the New Year's resolution. This year, make matter and antimatter collide by mixing some resolution-themed drinks that also happen to be profoundly bad ideas...

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:11 AM

      ( 9:08 AM ) The Rat  

Also see How Verb Aspect Influences Memory and Behavior, from last year.

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:08 AM

      ( 8:35 AM ) The Rat  
"So, Pegs—you part of our nation's military-industrial boyfriend-girlfriend complex?"

"Excuse me?"

"He wants to know, are you taken, are you kept, or merely browsing?"

"She's browsing. And like most of us she's disappointed with the selection of merchandise."


# Posted by The Rat @ 8:35 AM

      ( 5:24 AM ) The Rat  
UNCANNY. From Wiki page on Jon Hamm. Before I'd read a word of his bio—and based solely on about an episode and a half of S1 of Mad Men—I was already thinking "child of divorce" (of the actor, not necessarily the character) (by which I don't at all mean to imply he's merely playing himself—he's pretty obviously terrific in this role); turns out his parents divorced when he was two (his mother died when he was ten, his father ten years later).

If anybody reading this had the same intuition based on this performance, please click on "Mail" in the sidebar—I want to hear about it.

Alan Taylor and Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner thought that Hamm was too handsome for the role, but decided that 'it was perfect to cast sort of the perfect male in this part'; Weiner also sensed that the actor had not been raised by his parents, similar to Draper's backstory.

Hamm used memories of his father to portray Draper, a well-dressed, influential figure in business and society hiding great inner turmoil and facing changes in the world beyond his control...

P.S. My favorite passage thus far:

Don. So without making things worse, can I ask you a personal question?
Rachel. Don't you want to get a second drink in me first?
Don. Why aren't you married?
Rachel. Are you asking what's wrong with me?
Don. It's just you're a beautiful, educated woman. Don't you think getting married and having a family would make you a lot happier than all the headaches that go with fighting people like me?
Rachel. If I weren't a woman, I would be allowed to ask you the same question. And I suppose if I weren't a woman I wouldn't have to choose between putting on an apron and the thrill of making my father's store what I always thought it should be.
Don. So that's it? You won't get married because you think business is a thrill?
Rachel. That, and I have never been in love.
Don. "She won't get married because she's never been in love." I think I wrote that. It was to sell nylons.
Rachel. For a lot of people, love isn't just a slogan.
Don. Oh, "love." You mean the big lightning bolt to the heart, where you can't eat, can't work, so you run off and get married and make babies. The reason you haven't felt it is because it doesn't exist. What you call "love" was invented by guys like me. To sell nylons.
Rachel. Is that right?
Don. I'm pretty sure about it. You're born alone, you die alone, and this world just drops a bunch of rules on top of you to make you forget those facts. But I never forget. I'm living like there's no tomorrow, because there isn't one.
Rachel. I don't think I realized it until this moment, but it must be hard being a man, too.
Don. Excuse me?
Rachel. Mr. Draper—
Don. Don.
Rachel. Mr. Draper, I don't know what it is you really believe in, but I know what it feels like to be out of place. To be disconnected. To see the world laid out in front of you the way other people live it. And there is something about you that tells me you know it too.
Don. I don't know if that's true. You want another drink?
Rachel. No. But you can tell your boss that you charmed me.

# Posted by The Rat @ 5:24 AM

      ( 5:15 AM ) The Rat  
"This is the greatest Christmas story ever told."
—reader comment to "The Year Kenny Loggins Ruined Christmas"

# Posted by The Rat @ 5:15 AM

      ( 4:38 AM ) The Rat  
Philby had joined in World War II and run the Soviet desk before being appointed as MI6 representative in Washington. Some thought he might even end up as chief of the Service. Antony Cavendish.

Cavendish. I thought he was a charming and excellent man—I never had the least thought of him being what he turned out to be.

Interviewer. What kind of person was he, then?

Cavendish. A gentleman.

Interviewer. How did you feel when you realized that he had been a Soviet spy?

Cavendish. I suppose I thought he must be very clever and we were very stupid.


# Posted by The Rat @ 4:38 AM

      ( 4:11 AM ) The Rat  
From the begining of WW2 and into the early Cold War, the Secret Intelligent Service, or SIS, was growing and its culture was changing. One new recruit, who's asked to remain anonymous, is still somewhat bemused by the reception he was given by a senior officer on his first day.

Voice-over. Well—he said, 'Before you do anything, would you please sign the Official Secrets Act?' So—he produced a piece of paper, and I signed it. He said, 'Well, I can now tell you that you have joined His Majesty's Secret Service.' He said, 'We're just beginning to recruit university graduates on a fairly big scale... and there's one of those that is the absolute star of the Service, and you should meet him as soon as possible and model yourself upon him. His name is Kim Philby...'

"MI6: A Century in the Shadows"

# Posted by The Rat @ 4:11 AM

      ( 3:54 AM ) The Rat  
HEH! Found on the oneworld Alliance page while not-so-covertly plotting an imaginary return to Vienna.

Note: All flights to/from Cuba and Royal Jordanian flights to/from Iraq are not eligible for AAdvantage award travel.

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:54 AM

Friday, December 24, 2010
      ( 8:32 PM ) The Rat  

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      ( 8:07 PM ) The Rat  
THE LAST SENTENCE IN THIS is kind of awesome.

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:07 PM

      ( 6:14 PM ) The Rat  
ON A LIGHTER NOTE. Earlier today, H. asked me if I'd ever met JP; when I confirmed that I had:

"He telephoned me the other day and said, '[H.], I have the ring in my pocket and I am seeing her today.' 'Yes,' I said, 'so what's the problem?' And 'The problem,' he said, 'is that I'm extremely nervous.' 'Why are you nervous?' I asked him. 'What do you think she's going to say?' 'Well, I'm nervous because I think she's going to say yes...'"

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:14 PM

      ( 6:10 PM ) The Rat  
FISHING FOR BODIES ON CHINA'S YELLOW RIVER. Be forewarned, this is intense.

Families of the missing phone him and some travel to his village in order to inspect the bodies. Mr. Wei takes them out on his boat to the cove and flips over the corpses. He charges them a small fee to look at their faces.

And then up to $500 if they want to take the body home. [...]

Mr Wei defends what he does. He says the authorities would let the bodies rot in the river. Sometimes he fishes corpses out of the river and gives them a proper burial.

But it is not just about the money. The boatman says it is also personal.

"My own child died in this river and I could not find the body," he says.

"It was very painful. That's why I started doing this job"...

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:10 PM

      ( 5:59 PM ) The Rat  
COLORED V. WHITE IS A CHRISTMAS LIGHT DEBATE. I can sort of see how this could lead to disputes, but at the same time, this article also really reminds me of an old Ethicist column (go here and scroll down to "When the cafeteria at work offers seafood chowder...")—which, yes, I groused about in this space then, too—about a similarly NYT-ish/middle-class hardship. (That said, Mr. Codrington's last line below is rather endearing.)

As a girl in Sweden in the 1950s, Kerstin Codrington grew up with candles on holiday trees. After moving to the United States for school and marrying her husband, Garrett Codrington, she was horrified by the colored lights American families used.

"When I saw these trees with green and red and orange things, and some had water in them that bubbled—have you seen those?" Mrs. Codrington, 72, said, "I was appalled."

In the early years of the marriage, the couple, then short of cash, used the colored lights given to them by Mr. Codrington's family. Mrs. Codrington replaced them with white lights as soon as she could, to Mr. Codrington's slight dismay.

"We had a few fights about lights," Mrs. Codrington said. Their home, in Chester, N.J., is now a white-light-only zone, though Mrs. Codrington sometimes catches her husband gazing wistfully at the next-door neighbor’s multihued bushes.

"We've had this cultural clash for 50 years," Mr. Codrington said. "But one surrenders with other victories. For example, she stayed with me."

# Posted by The Rat @ 5:59 PM

      ( 5:14 PM ) The Rat  

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Thursday, December 23, 2010
      ( 8:07 PM ) The Rat  
"PROBABLY THE BEST WAY TO COMBAT JEALOUSY IS WITH MACARONI ART." World's Best Relationship Tips, once again via Hyperbole and a Half.

On that note, when trying to impress a woman, it is often helpful to call upon her ancient instincts. To show that you are a strong provider, sometimes it is necessary to kill things. Contrary to popular belief, this is real reason why women like flowers.

One more way to appeal to your lady's inborn desires is to light things on fire. Back in cave man days, fire was more popular than Justin Bieber. Being able to start a fire would have been the modern day equivalent of being an extreme BMX biker who owns all the drugs in the world and walks around with a pet pegasus on a leash made of diamonds...

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:07 PM

      ( 7:29 PM ) The Rat  
VORTEX OF MEANINGLESSNESS, by Allie Brosh (of Hyperbole and a Half).

From the same source: Five Ways to MAKE Her Love You and Shooting Star.

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:29 PM

      ( 1:57 PM ) The Rat  
FYI, AMAZON IS OFFERING a free $5 credit toward their Video on Demand service if you don't mind whoring yourself out a little on Twitter (valid through 11:59 PM on January 1).

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:57 PM

      ( 12:05 PM ) The Rat  
LOOKS LIKE ROMANIA HAS THROWN DOWN THE GAUNTLET in the "outdo Taiwan at high parliamentary drama" sweepstakes. Story via IKM.

Romania's government survived a no-confidence motion in Parliament on Thursday in a session overshadowed by a man who flung himself from the chamber's balcony, apparently in protest over the government austerity measures...

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:05 PM

      ( 10:17 AM ) The Rat  
IS IT UNCHARITABLE FOR ME TO BE THINKING IN REJOINDER: "HOW THE HELL WOULD YOU KNOW?" Sentence from a student final (the question was on Plato's "Allegory of the Cave"):

Personally, I believe that the process of an education is truly painful.

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:17 AM

      ( 8:09 AM ) The Rat  

In 2010, Chinese citizens were issued the most EB-5 visas, at 772, followed by South Korea with 295, Britain with 135, Taiwan with 94 and India with 62.

On the day Reuters spoke with Lee in Shanghai, he was selling an investment in an Idaho gold mine that has been closed for decades but which a U.S. business now wants to reopen.

About 20 people showed up to hear his pitch. Lend $500,000 to the mine today, Lee said, and you and your family can move anywhere you want in the United States tomorrow. In two years, you may become permanent U.S. residents with a clear path to citizenship. Three years after that, the mine will repay the loan with 500 ounces of gold—worth about $650,000 at the time of Lee's mid-November presentation.

That last promise—repeated in a brochure in Mandarin, which claims the project is the first to have a 100 percent money-back guarantee should the mine fail—violates a fundamental EB-5 rule. Investments made through the program must be at risk from start to finish. "The immigrant investor's investment cannot be guaranteed," said Bentley, the USCIS spokesman...

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:09 AM

      ( 7:21 AM ) The Rat  
PEN TO MEASURE AND REDUCE STRESS. Because apparently, some people are just too good for mood rings...

Bruns, who studies industrial design, carried out various experiments during the course of his research, which showed that people tend to play with their pens in their hands when they are tense. It also seems that when they are encouraged to check these nervous movements, or make more gentle movements, it is possible to gain more control over a situation...

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:21 AM

      ( 7:01 AM ) The Rat  

The leading causes of death have shifted from infectious diseases to chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease and cancer. These illnesses may be affected by diet. In a study published in the January 2011 issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, researchers investigated empirical data regarding the associations of dietary patterns with mortality through analysis of the eating patterns of over 2500 adults between the ages of 70 and 79 over a ten-year period. They found that diets favoring certain foods were associated with reduced mortality...

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:01 AM

      ( 6:50 AM ) The Rat  
LOVE-SMITTEN CONSUMERS WILL DO ANYTHING FOR THEIR CARS AND GUNS. "'We found love-smitten consumers spent six times more on accessories and enhancements for their prized guns than firearm owners who did not demonstrate passion, intimacy, or commitment toward their guns,' the authors write." I resent that... "Love" is far too weak a word to characterize how one can feel about a car or a gun. (Seriously though—these findings strike me as obvious, unproblematic, funny, and horrifying in approximately equal measures.)

The way people treat their possessions looks like love, according to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research.

"Is it possible for consumers to be in love with their possessions?" ask authors John L. Lastovicka (Arizona State University) and Nancy J. Sirianni (Texas Christian University). When it comes to cars, computers, bicycles, and firearms, the answer seems to be a resounding yes...

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:50 AM

      ( 6:25 AM ) The Rat  
NO. 346 OVER AT 1000 AWESOME THINGS is, indeed, truly awesome.

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:25 AM

Wednesday, December 22, 2010
      ( 1:35 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:35 PM

      ( 1:33 PM ) The Rat  
ACTIVE DUTY ARMY RANGER NAMED #3 PASTRY CHEF IN WORLD, via WC. Hmm... but if his combat skills are that good, why are nos. 1 and 2 still alive? (Seriously, though, this is awesome.)

If that's not impressive enough for you, Morgan was actually an alternate for the U.S. culinary team. He didn't know he would be competing until the regular pastry chef dropped out two months before the Luxembourg World Cup. The U.S. Army is not know for its loose "take a few weeks off to go follow your dreams" policies, but Morgan somehow found time to practice. "I'm not as good as I used to be – it's been 10 years," he said. Those would be the 10 years when he was fighting in two wars.

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:33 PM

      ( 4:29 AM ) The Rat  

A short while later, my friend called to tell me I was invited to a "Movie Night" at one of the bandmember's apartments. Of the guys in the band, this one had barely been on my radar the night I met them all. We sat on his couch in his unimpressive studio apartment in a sketchy part of the city and watched Reform School Girls. The next weekend, we watched something else. It became a routine thing. A group of us would get together, drink tea, have long conversations, and enjoy schlocky '80s movies.

This Guy Who Barely Registered would become my boyfriend. He courted me for a year without me realizing. Everyone knew he liked me before I did. In retrospect, it's all terribly obvious, but isn't everything?

# Posted by The Rat @ 4:29 AM

Tuesday, December 21, 2010
      ( 3:28 PM ) The Rat  

Meet people who will be your best friends for three or four months. They'll help you transition into city life and take you to weird bars in Murray Hill. It will be like the blind leading the blind but once you get a firm grasp on things, you can stop returning their phone calls.

Watch your life in New York go through phases. Spend a summer in Fort Greene with a lover and get to know the neighborhood and its rhythms. Once the fling ends, forget the blocks, parks and restaurants ever existed and don’t return unless you have to.

Encounter a lot of people crying in public. Watch an NYU student cry in Think Coffee, a business woman in midtown sob into her cellphone, an old man whimper on a stoop in Greenpoint. At first, it will feel very jarring but, like everything else, it will become normal. Have your first public cry in front of a Bank of America. Cry so hard and don't care if people are watching you. You pay good money to be able to cry in public.

Work long hours at a thankless job. Always be one step away from financial destitution. Marvel at how expensive New York is, how when you walk out the door, $20.00 immediately gets deleted from your wallet. Understand that even though no one has any money, everyone is privileged to live in New York City...

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:28 PM

      ( 8:32 AM ) The Rat  

Residents along Lorillard Avenue in Union Beach are in the holiday spirit, but not enough to deal with a 6-foot mechanical singing Santa that one resident put on display.

Jill Patella said she put up the singing Santa because it was the last gift she got from her husband who died three years ago.

"This year was the time," she said. "He would have wanted me to live life again."

Meanwhile, the neighbors are growing angrier by the hour...

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:32 AM

      ( 7:46 AM ) The Rat  
LAKEWOOD WOMAN WAS DONOR FOR THE FIRST NEAR-TOTAL FACE TRANSPLANT IN THE UNITED STATES. For more on face transplants, check out the excellent SYSK episode.

The family had no doubt about Anna's wishes.

"She'd give her time. She'd give her money. She gave a lot of things she didn't have to other people," says her husband. "When they asked about the [organ] donation, we knew it was what she would want to do."

So of course, they agreed to give away her heart, her kidneys, her liver, her eyes.

When a donation specialist from the Cleveland Clinic, called the house later that day to ask for Anna's face, the family sat down around the dining room table and decided in minutes there was only one thing to do.

"Everything fit together so well," says Ron.

"We knew that Anna wished to be cremated, so there wasn't going to be an open casket. And that Anna was already an organ donor. And that Anna was a match. And for there to be a match was a miracle in itself.

"But the overriding factor was we knew it was what Anna would've wanted," says Ron, his voice breaking as he fights back tears.

"My mom would say, 'Hell if I can't use it and somebody else can, they can have it,'" Becky says.

In Anna's case, more than 50 people benefited from her donated organs and tissue...

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:46 AM

      ( 7:15 AM ) The Rat  
"REGRET DUCKTALES REFERENCE." Sex Dice for More Specific Situations, via College Humor.

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:15 AM

Monday, December 20, 2010
      ( 7:45 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:45 PM

      ( 7:08 PM ) The Rat  
TO THE PEOPLE who were reading this blog in e.g. Rome and Madrid, in just the last 14 hours or so (and more generally to the people who turn up here periodically from ISPs in all kinds of places I would much rather be in than Connecticut), I would like to note that if I were in Rome or Madrid, I would not be reading this blog... (Nevertheless: Welcome!)

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:08 PM

      ( 7:03 PM ) The Rat  

The Nov. 21 fatal shooting of an 86-year-old Seal Beach woman, Cara Laird, with late-stage dementia, allegedly at the hands of her 88-year-old husband, Ray Laird, has sparked discussion about how families deal with a loved one's mental deterioration—and the immense stress put on caregivers.

Caregivers and health-care professionals say they understand the despair that could lead to a mercy killing.

"They all talk about it—it's on their minds," Louise Prescott, a hospice nurse, said of the purported mercy killings. "Being a caregiver to someone with this disease is probably one of the hardest things any person will ever have to do."

Experts and families coping with Alzheimer's and dementia say the disease is a problem that is set to explode—especially in Orange County, with its large number of older adults. The first of the Baby Boomer generation turns 65 next year, and of the nine million boomers in California, one in six—or about 1.5 million people—is likely to be diagnosed with some form of dementia, according to the Alzheimer's Association, Orange County Chapter.

"We're sitting on the pin of a hand grenade, and the pin has already been pulled," said Jim McAleer, the association's president and chief executive...

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:03 PM

      ( 4:28 PM ) The Rat  
HE HAS A POINT... Via Failbook, but really a win rather than a fail...

# Posted by The Rat @ 4:28 PM

      ( 3:26 PM ) The Rat  
"WOW... THIS ONE DESERVES A FOLLOW-UP IN FIVE YEARS." This NYT wedding announcement is at least as interesting for the comments as for the text itself—but then I'm always fascinated when Americans turn out to have more common sense than you'd expect. (Which is not to say I don't think it's possible to find your "true love" while you're married to somebody else—of course it is, we would scarcely have literature if it weren't! But the whole "But we were honorable—we didn't sleep together!" thing really is kind of cheap... and the more so if you then go on to get your meet-cute story profiled in the freakin' Times.)

Best comment is probably by S.B.: "I don't wish them the best of luck. I wish their ex-spouses and their children that luck."

In May 2008, Mr. Partilla invited her for a drink at O'Connell’s, a neighborhood bar. She said she knew something was up, because they had never met on their own before.

"I've fallen in love with you," he recalled saying to her. She jumped up, knocking a glass of beer into his lap, and rushed out of the bar. Five minutes later, he said, she returned and told him, "I feel exactly the same way." Then she left again.

As Mr. Partilla saw it, their options were either to act on their feelings and break up their marriages or to deny their feelings and live dishonestly. "Pain or more pain," was how he summarized it.

"The part that's hard for people to believe is we didn't have an affair," Ms. Riddell said. "I didn't want to sneak around and sleep with him on the side. I wanted to get up in the morning and read the paper with him."

With that goal in mind, they told their spouses. "I did a terrible thing as honorably as I could," said Mr. Partilla, who moved out of his home, reluctantly leaving his three children. But he returned only days later. Then he boomeranged back and forth for six months...

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:26 PM

      ( 1:05 PM ) The Rat  
9 MOST BIZARRE PEOPLE ON EARTH, via Josh Clark, who with Chuck Bryant co-hosted an excellent podcast about Japanese stragglers last year.

Josh. I have to tell you—I can't wrap my mind around that... I've yet to encounter an ideology or dogma that I can point to and be like, 'Yes! I would kill myself for that.'

Chuck. Right. ...Not even The Simpsons?

Josh. No. [Pause.] Not anymore... Maybe during Season 7.

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:05 PM

      ( 11:00 AM ) The Rat  
SO NOW I WISH I HAD any real computer skills whatsoever, so I could create an opera-specific search engine. Like, say it was an emergency—you'd just type in "Aida"* (or whatever) and your zip or country code, and it would return the nearest major, regional, or university production thereof. How can no one have already invented this? They have engines for finding the nearest embassy, pizza, Scientology mission, etc., right?

*Ratty has seen this only once thus far, at the National Theatre in Prague. Decent production, but a disappointing lack of elephants.

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:00 AM

      ( 10:50 AM ) The Rat  
"CHI MAI FRA GL'INNI E I PLAUSI." Despite not being of the "Everything New York is always right" crowd, even I have to admit it: Maestro Levine knows his job. (As did Verdi; some of this aria will melt you right down to a puddle.) From this production; text with translation here (scroll to "Our songs his glory praising").

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:50 AM

      ( 10:46 AM ) The Rat  
"I shall always tell you," her aunt answered, "whenever I see you taking what seems to me too much liberty."

"Pray do; but I don't say I shall always think your remonstrance just."

"Very likely not. You're too fond of your own ways."

"Yes, I think I'm very fond of them. But I always want to know the things one shouldn't do."

"So as to do them?" asked her aunt.

"So as to choose," said Isabel.

Portrait of a Lady*

*Ratty was going to ask, Could Henry James really have had a Y chromosome? But then, Chaucer understood the same point.

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:46 AM

      ( 10:05 AM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:05 AM

      ( 9:23 AM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:23 AM

      ( 9:21 AM ) The Rat  
FYI, THE MET IS STREAMING that abbreviated/translated Magic Flute for children tomorrow morning at 11.

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:21 AM

Sunday, December 19, 2010
      ( 11:50 PM ) The Rat  
AN EPIC MOUNT! From Best Craigslist Personals Ads of 2010, via Nerve.

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:50 PM

      ( 8:25 AM ) The Rat  
One of the most successful spy rings in France was run by Marie-Madeleine Fourcard, interviewed by the BBC more than 40 years ago. Her network's use of animal code names led the Nazis to christen them "Noah's Ark." Through the war, the network had 3,000 members, 500 of whom lost their lives to the Gestapo.

Fourcard. I can remember a little girl, aged 12—her parents were arrested and tortured in front of the child, because they didn't want to say where was the radio operator and where was the set... The child knew everything. And she didn't say.

By the end of the war, the actions not so much of the officers of MI6, as the patriotic agents who worked for them in occupied Europe, had made a difference. But those men and women had paid a heavy price.

Fourcard. Some of them were caught, of course, with the radio, and then... they were tortured until they talked. But the idea was that you don't talk for a week—to give a chance to everybody, to escape or to hide.

Interviewer. Were many people caught?

Fourcard. Oh yes, oh yes. We couldn't really enjoy the Liberation because so many of them had died, really.

"MI6: A Century in the Shadows"

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:25 AM

      ( 7:29 AM ) The Rat  

The idea behind the piece is to take a dozen different species, and have one individual per species on a tall frame with its own amplifier, speaker, and control circuitry. You stand on a podium in the middle of an arc of 12 of these frames, with the fish ordered by increasing electric organ discharge frequency from left to right, and use a wireless game controller (the Nintendo Wiimote) to select which fish(es) you listen to. A touchpad interface on the podium gives you sliders to adjust volume and buttons for real-time effects for each fish. In this way you conduct your own choir of electric fish.

One of our motivations for making the piece is that so few people know of these animals, despite their significant contributions to our understanding of how brains work. Over the past 40 years, more than 3,000 scientific papers have been published on how sensory information is processed in these animals. They can be thought of as the fruit fly of sensory biology...

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:29 AM

Saturday, December 18, 2010
      ( 11:12 PM ) The Rat  

That night, Brandon went down on Juliette N times. He let NH be the number of times she climaxed, realizing that he could, for any N, consider the ratio NH/N. As N grew larger and larger, faster and faster, Brandon was able to "define" the probability Pr(H) as Juliette’s sexual "limit." As N approached infinity in the equation Pr(H) = limN --> ∞ (NH/N)...

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:12 PM

      ( 9:02 PM ) The Rat  
LET IT DOUGH! Now I'm hungry.

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:02 PM

      ( 8:17 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:17 PM

      ( 7:15 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:15 PM

      ( 5:26 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 5:26 PM

      ( 1:45 PM ) The Rat  
HERMÈS is on Facebook! Is nothing sacred?!

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:45 PM

      ( 9:48 AM ) The Rat  
THE BRITISH LIBRARY is having a punathon today over at their Twitter feed, in case you're the sort of person who's into that kind of thing (by which I mean, in case you're the sort of person who needs to be killed).

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:48 AM

Friday, December 17, 2010
      ( 6:51 PM ) The Rat  
I NEVER THOUGHT I'D SAY THIS, but I'm glad I'm not in the U.K. right now.

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:51 PM

      ( 1:26 PM ) The Rat  

A dispute over the existence of God between four Russians, drunk on a litre of pure alcohol, resulted in two of them being killed, news agencies reported.

The disagreement began over the weekend when the female house owner, her son, a male roommate and undisclosed male relative drank the litre of pure alcohol, "which they downed with snow," a police investigator told RIA Novosti...

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:26 PM

      ( 12:55 PM ) The Rat  

There are moments in life when it becomes obvious it's time to leave a job. Carl Tanner had two at the end of his career as a bounty hunter.

First a 16-year-old who was holed up in a cabin in West Virginia shot at him with a 22-gauge rifle, then a fugitive from the law jumped to his death right in front of him.

Weeks later, looking for more "peaceful" work, Tanner moved to New York to pursue his dream of becoming an opera singer. On Dec. 27 the Upper West Sider will make his debut at the Metropolitan Opera in Puccini's
La Fanciulla del West...

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:55 PM

      ( 9:38 AM ) The Rat  
MAP YOUR VOICE. The British Library is looking for people to read Mr. Tickle for its Voice Map.

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:38 AM

      ( 9:14 AM ) The Rat  
CALLAS SINGS "MON COEUR S'OUVRE À TA VOIX." Just discovered this aria yesterday. Text and translation here.

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:14 AM

Thursday, December 16, 2010
      ( 1:17 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:17 PM

Wednesday, December 15, 2010
      ( 8:14 PM ) The Rat  
"SECOND NOTE TO AMOROUS UNDERGRADUATE FEMALE: THAT ABOVE-AVERAGE UNDERGRADUATE MALE WHO IS NEARLY YOUR EQUAL, YET WHO IS OUTNUMBERED BY FEMALES AT 100 TO 1? HE'S PROBABLY INTERESTED IN OTHER AMOROUS UNDERGRADUATE MALES." Reader comment on Bar Jester's Writing Seminar; or, How To Write Like the Average Undergraduate Male (via JWB). And they ask me why I want to have only sons. P.S. This rule continues to apply at the Ph.D.-seeking level, even if (or especially if?) you're at an Ivy League institution.

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:14 PM

      ( 6:33 PM ) The Rat  
MAO'S GREAT LEAP TO FAMINE, via MM. Also see Hungry Ghosts: Mao's Secret Famine—which easily ranks with e.g. The Rape of Nanking, Bitter Winds, and bits of A Woman in Berlin on the shortlist of the most harrowing true stories I've ever read.

The worst catastrophe in China's history, and one of the worst anywhere, was the Great Famine of 1958 to 1962, and to this day the ruling Communist Party has not fully acknowledged the degree to which it was a direct result of the forcible herding of villagers into communes under the "Great Leap Forward" that Mao Zedong launched in 1958.

To this day, the party attempts to cover up the disaster, usually by blaming the weather. Yet detailed records of the horror exist in the party’s own national and local archives.

Access to these files would have been unimaginable even 10 years ago, but a quiet revolution has been taking place over the past few years as vast troves of documents have gradually been declassified. While the most sensitive information still remains locked up, researchers are being allowed for the first time to rummage through the dark night of the Maoist era...

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:33 PM

      ( 6:23 PM ) The Rat  
DAMN. Seems like it'd be easier to just put up with one's spouse, then, however loveless the marriage had become...

Germans who have legally separated do not have the right to visit the pets they shared with their spouses, a court said Wednesday...

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:23 PM

      ( 8:15 AM ) The Rat  

William James Sidis, born in Boston in 1898 to Russian émigré Boris, a psychologist and his wife Sarah, a physician, showed astonishing intellectual qualities from an exceptionally early age. By the age of one he had learned to spell in English. He taught himself to type in French and German at four and by the age of six had added Russian, Hebrew Turkish and Armenian to his repertoire. At five he devised a system which could enable him to name the day of the week on which any date in history fell. Hot-housed by his pushy father, Sidis entered Harvard at eleven, and was soon lecturing on 4 dimensional bodies to the University's Maths Society. At twelve he suffered his first nervous breakdown...

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:15 AM

      ( 8:11 AM ) The Rat  
MATERNAL MYSTERY, via IKM. Wow, this isn't creepy at all!

The photos of triplets born into a billionaire family that were splashed across the front pages of local papers in October made for a great story.

Their proud grandfather, Lee Shau-kee, the 82-year-old chairman of property developer Henderson Land Development Ltd. and one of the richest men in Asia, held up the three baby boys swathed in blue. Next to him stood the father, Peter Lee, the bachelor vice chairman and heir apparent to the Henderson empire.

There was only one thing missing: their mother.

The question of her identity has since sparked debate and confusion over surrogacy's legality in Hong Kong. Many Hong Kong couples are going to the U.S. to find and pay a woman to bear their children...

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:11 AM

      ( 8:10 AM ) The Rat  

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      ( 8:09 AM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:09 AM

Tuesday, December 14, 2010
      ( 5:01 AM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 5:01 AM

Monday, December 13, 2010
      ( 8:39 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:39 PM

Sunday, December 12, 2010
      ( 10:56 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:56 PM

      ( 10:54 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:54 PM

      ( 9:45 PM ) The Rat  
"BLAZING THE TRAIL IS A JAPANESE FIRM..." Yeah, I would never have guessed.

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:45 PM

      ( 9:07 PM ) The Rat  
MORE PICS FROM THAT SLIDESHOW: otter, traveling orangutan, and tai chi squirrel.

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:07 PM

      ( 5:45 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 5:45 PM

      ( 4:29 PM ) The Rat  
WELCOME! to the reader in Saudi Arabia who just got here Googling "Black Cock Wife blog."

# Posted by The Rat @ 4:29 PM

      ( 12:56 PM ) The Rat  
CAN'T FIND THE SOURCE, but Woody Allen is attrib. with having said that this (well, he meant the whole thing, but the fourth movement's my favorite—I like car chases) proves the existence of God. I hate agreeing with Woody Allen about anything, but...

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:56 PM

      ( 12:18 PM ) The Rat  
ONE OF THE MORE SENSUAL RENDITIONS I've yet seen of "Fra gli amplessi...", which is saying something; I ought to know better than to listen to this in public. ("Uptilthesky"'s comment is spot-on, btw.)

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:18 PM

      ( 10:24 AM ) The Rat  
"I THINK I'VE CROSSED THE LINE INTO INSANITY." From Robert Stevens (quoted in this), whose daughter is going to have an unusually hard time pulling that whole "You never loved me!" thing when she hits adolescence.

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:24 AM

      ( 10:09 AM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:09 AM

      ( 10:00 AM ) The Rat  
Minnie. Oh, grazie, grazie!
Delle storie d'amore?
Se volete. Vi piacciono?
Si! Tanto!
Per me l'amore è una cosa infinita!
Non potrò mai capire come si possa,
amando una persona desiderarla per un'ora sola.
Credo che abbiate torto.
Vi sono delle donne che si vorrebber nella
nostra vita per quell'ora soltanto, poi morire!
Quante volte siete morto?
La fanciulla del West (perhaps borrowing from Rosalind)

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:00 AM

      ( 8:20 AM ) The Rat  

The cheese was a going-away present for Burson's paternal great-grandfather Charles Wainman (née Yehezkel), upon his emigration from Lithuania, around 1893, to Johannesburg. For reasons lost to history, he never ate the cheese but kept it in a trunk that travelled with him while he worked as a trader among the Zulus, and then when he fought, on the Dutch side, in the Boer Wars...

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:20 AM

      ( 6:47 AM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:47 AM

Saturday, December 11, 2010
      ( 5:19 PM ) The Rat  

The mayor of the town of Mrakotin, Miroslav Pozar, said Thursday drivers, including him, automatically slow down when they see such officers.

Pozar dismissed allegations this was because the drivers want to look at the officer's legs, rather than her uniform...

# Posted by The Rat @ 5:19 PM

      ( 2:57 PM ) The Rat  
AADVANTAGE MEMBERS TAKE NOTE: American is offering double the usual bonus miles on stuff purchased through their online mileage mall. To qualify, be sure to click through from the store from their portal (where you'll have to log in with your AAdvantage number and password). Bonus-points offer is good through the end of this month, and they're throwing in an extra 500 miles if you spend over a cumulative $500 at the featured stores.

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:57 PM

      ( 1:16 PM ) The Rat  

A Catholic nun broke one of the Ten Commandments by embezzling $850,000 from a suburban New York City college and gambling it away in Atlantic City, according to federal prosecutors...

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:16 PM

      ( 12:33 PM ) The Rat  

"How do you help your children balance when the whole education system is pushing, pushing, pushing, and you want your kids to be successful?" Alethea Lewis, a mother of two, asked a roomful of concerned parents who had just seen the film, a documentary, last week in Bronxville, N.Y., at a screening co-sponsored by the private Chapel School.

With no advertising and little news media attention, "Race to Nowhere" has become a must-see movie in communities where the kindergarten-to-Harvard steeplechase is most competitive...

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:33 PM

      ( 10:46 AM ) The Rat  
CAN YOU EVER GO WRONG with a headline that includes the words "Here Comes Haggis"? Link via TT.

Scotland's national delicacy, haggis, will soon be available to American snack hounds in potato chip form, a North Carolina importer said...

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:46 AM

Friday, December 10, 2010
      ( 8:02 PM ) The Rat  
"DON'T RUB IT IN," via Failbook.

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:02 PM

      ( 4:15 AM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 4:15 AM

Thursday, December 09, 2010
      ( 8:39 PM ) The Rat  
"THE THIRD TIME IS ENEMY ACTION." Online photos may reveal your friendships.

Comparing the locations of photos posted on the Internet with social network contacts, Cornell University computer scientists have found that as few as three "co-locations" for images at different times and places could predict with high probability that two people posting photos were socially connected.

The results have implications for online privacy, the researchers said, but also suggest a quantitative answer to a very old psychological question: What can we conclude from observing coincidences?...

Also via ScienceDaily: Medieval England twice as well off as today's poorer nations.

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:39 PM

      ( 8:36 PM ) The Rat  

As White put it in August, clicktivist campaigns don't do much because they obsess over data metrics, like click-through rate and the number of users, so the spirit, message and real action are lost.

To generate a widespread [movement], and thus increase metrics like unique users, campaign organizers have to ask very little of participants. It's easy to get people to swipe a nice picture of a cartoon from their youth; it's exponentially more difficult to get those same people to meet as a smart mob the steps of their state capitol building and protest for stiffer penalties for child abuse. Rather than turn ordinary concerned citizens into activists, clicktivist campaigns tend breed complacency by allowing people to play crusader with little or no effort—or impact—on their parts...

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:36 PM

      ( 8:34 PM ) The Rat  

Part of what makes Adolf Busch: The Life of an Honest Musician so interesting, though, is that it also contains a bitingly frank account of how Germany's classical musicians behaved under the Nazi regime. Busch, it turns out, was the only well-known non-Jewish German classical musician who conducted himself impeccably: he canceled all of his concert dates and left Germany a few weeks after Hitler came to power in 1933, declaring himself to be disgusted by "the actions of my Christian compatriots against German Jews"...

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:34 PM

      ( 8:09 PM ) The Rat  
A HISTORY OF THE WORLD IN 100 OBJECTS on the Warren Cup (transcript here).

Although the homosexual scenes on the cup are ones that today strike us as explicit—some might say shocking and taboo—homosexuality was very much part of Roman life. But it was a complicated part, tolerated but not entirely accepted. The standard Roman line on what was acceptable in same-sex coupling is neatly summarised by the Roman playwright Plautus in his comedy 'Curculio':

"Love whatever you wish, as long as you stay away from married women, widows, virgins, young men and free boys."

So if you wanted to show sex between men and youths who weren't slaves, it made sense to look back to the age of Classical Greece, where it was normal for older men to teach younger free-born boys about life in general, in a mentoring relationship that included sex. The early Roman Empire had idealised Greece and adopted much of her culture, and the cup shows what is clearly a Greek scene. Is this a Roman sexual fantasy of a Classical Greek male coupling? Perhaps by placing it in a Greek past, any moral discomfort is put at a safe distance, while adding to the titillation of the forbidden and exotic. And perhaps everybody everywhere believes that the best sex happens somewhere else...

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:09 PM

      ( 8:04 PM ) The Rat  
IS THE PILL TO BLAME? I could say a few things about this, but most of them would involve profanity.

In retrospect, I am amazed that my mother, whose joy in life is her three children, never urged me to hurry up and settle down. She never warned me that this day would come.

She just said, "Go to college, find a career you love" and assumed that marriage and babies would "just happen."

New York magazine piece explores the notion too many modern women are assuming motherhood will "just happen." Because what if it doesn't? In my case, marriage did happen—babies, not yet.

The article blames the birth control pill for allowing women to delay their fertility until it's too late—and for allowing them to not even notice some fertility issues until the last minute.

But I don't think the pill is really the problem. I think that our post-feminist society is still in the early stages of re-embracing the importance of motherhood. If I have a daughter, I want her to find success in the career of her dreams. But I also want to warn her that one day she will probably wake up and want a baby more than anything in the world.

The only problem here? The difficult task of finding Mr. Right. Just because you've been "warned" about the biological clock and start looking for Prince Charming around age 25, doesn't mean you're going to find him. It could take another 10 or 20 years. Or it could never happen...

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:04 PM

      ( 3:23 PM ) The Rat  
DON'T YOU HATE IT when you spend years painstakingly assembling a beloved collection of something, and some jerk comes by and just destroys the whole thing?

A fire intentionally set Thursday to destroy an explosives-filled house in a suburban San Diego neighborhood rapidly consumed the structure without major problems as fire crews and curious onlookers watched.

Investigators say they are still trying to understand what motivated the renter, George Jakubec, to stockpile the material. Jakubec, 54, has pleaded not guilty to charges of making destructive devices and robbing three banks.

Bomb-squad experts determined the residence was too dangerous to go inside, so they drew up plans to burn it down. The home is so cluttered with unstable chemicals that even bomb-disposing robots couldn't be used to enter it...

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:23 PM

      ( 3:10 PM ) The Rat  
MAY YOU LIVE IN INTERESTING TIMES! A History of the World in 100 Objects looks at the Admonitions Scroll (transcript here). I've now listened to 73 of the 100 episodes, but this is probably the one that's most made me want to view the item being profiled.

The painting that illustrates this poem also has a high moral purpose and interestingly, although the lessons are ostensibly for women, they can also speak to men. When the Emperor refuses to be seduced by his vain wife, he sets an example of male judgement and strength. Dr Shane McCausland, a leading expert on early Chinese painting, has studied the Admonitions Scroll in detail:

"I think it's about positive criticism, he's trying to not tell people what not to do, but to tell them how to do something better, and each of the scenes describes ways in which ladies of the court could improve their conduct, their behaviour, their character. Admonition is really about learning, improving yourself, but in order to do that, if your audience is very jaded, I think you need to inject quite a lot of wit and humour into it, and I think that's exactly what this artist has done.

"It bears very closely on kingship, on the tradition of statecraft, of principled government. It's a really incredibly insightful portrayal of the human interactions which go to governing."

Unfortunately Empress Jia was impervious to the poem's moral message, and she carried on with her scandalous sexual exploits and her murderous activities. Some of her ruthlessness may have been warranted, since there were rebels stirring up civil war, and ultimately in 300 AD there was a successful coup. She was captured and forced to commit suicide.

A hundred years later, around the year 400, the court was once again beset by the same old problems. One day the Emperor Xiaowudi observed to his favourite consort, "Now that you are 30 years old, it's time I exchanged you for somebody younger." He meant it as a joke, but she didn't take it well, and she murdered him that evening...

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:10 PM

Wednesday, December 08, 2010
      ( 9:27 PM ) The Rat  

Withdrawal of consent gets even trickier. It's an obvious enough concept for feminist thinkers who have spent more than 10 minutes considering the realities of sex and sexual assault: If you consent to sex but then at some point during sex withdraw that consent by telling your partner to stop, your partner should stop, and if your partner doesn't stop then that's assault. It's not too hard, for those of us who have had sex, to imagine how this works—I have a difficult time imagining any decent human being hearing their partner say "Stop!" in the middle of sex and not, you know, stopping. I can't imagine hearing my partner say "Stop" and not stopping. And if your partner is saying "Stop stop stop stop!" and you keep going, yes, you are raping them.

But the concept of withdrawing consent seems to be a little tougher for folks who think of sex as something women give to men (or men take from women); it's definitely a tougher concept for folks who think that sex inherently sullies women. I suspect that the thought process goes, If the damage (penetrative sex) has already been done, then the situation can't possibly turn into a rape, because the initial penetration itself occurred consensually, and it's that penetration that's the basis of the harm in any rape case. Consent, in that framework, isn't the point. The U.S. is a bit of a patchwork when it comes to withdrawal of consent laws, with some states recognizing that withdrawal of consent is valid and that it is rape if you keep having sex with someone after they've said no, and other states either not touching the issue or not recognizing as rape situations where consent is withdrawn post-penetration. Making the Assange story juicier blog-bait in the U.S. is the fact that we're deeply wedded to the notion of rape as forcible; despite many of our best efforts, a consent-based framework for evaluating sexual assault is not yet widely accepted. So we hear "she consented to sex but only with a condom and he didn't use a condom and now she's claiming he raped her" and we go, "say what?" because that's so far removed from the Law & Order: SVU sexual assault model...

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:27 PM

      ( 12:35 PM ) The Rat  
"NO SPECTATORS ARE ALLOWED BECAUSE MATHLETES ARE DISTRACTED BY NOISE." Go here to read about the 2010 Mental Calculation World Cup (report is from June; h/t to Financial Times "Undercover Economist" Tim Harford's program on math/statistics in the news, More or Less).

As a mathematical achievement, it may not be up there with solving the Poincaré Conjecture but it was still a remarkable feat. An 11-year-old girl from India this week became the world's fastest-ever square rooter.

Priyanshi Somani was the revelation of the Mental Calculation World Cup in Magdeburg, Germany, a little-known sporting event in which the world's top "mathletes" compete in categories such as addition, multiplication and square roots.

For those unfamiliar with the official regulations on square roots: The competitors are given 10 six-digit numbers and 15 minutes in which to calculate the square roots to an accuracy of eight significant figures...

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:35 PM

Tuesday, December 07, 2010
      ( 7:10 PM ) The Rat  
UPCYCLE YOUR VUVUZELA! This is awesome. Via IKM.

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:10 PM

Monday, December 06, 2010
      ( 5:31 PM ) The Rat  
THE MET IS LIVE-STREAMING La Fanciulla del West tonight!

# Posted by The Rat @ 5:31 PM

      ( 4:21 PM ) The Rat  
"IT LOOKS LIKE A BRITISH SMILE." The Wait Wait staff eat a French fry sandwich.

# Posted by The Rat @ 4:21 PM

      ( 4:15 PM ) The Rat  

The report cites an adherence to a "marriage mindset," which means religious attendance and faith in marriage is now a way of life for the highly educated.

The same couldn't be said for Middle Americans. From the 1970s to the 1990s, the report says, divorce or separation within the first 10 years of marriage decreased for the highly educated from 15% to 11% and fell from 46% to 36% for the least educated, but was nearly steady for the moderately educated, moving from 36% percent up to 37%...

# Posted by The Rat @ 4:15 PM

      ( 3:49 PM ) The Rat  
"Tell me about it," said Mr. Pyne.

"There's nothing much to tell. My wife wants me to give her a divorce so that she can marry another chap."

"Very common indeed in these days. Now you, I gather, don't see eye to eye with her in this business?"

"I'm fond other," said Mr. Wade simply. "You see—well, I'm fond of her."

A simple and somewhat tame statement, but if Mr. Wade had said, "I adore her. I worship the ground she walks on. I would cut myself into little pieces for her," he could not have been more explicit to Mr. Parker Pyne...

"The Case of the Discontented Husband"

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:49 PM

Sunday, December 05, 2010
      ( 11:14 PM ) The Rat  
"SO I FLEW BACK TO DENVER FROM LOS ANGELES THINKING, KEITH RICHARDS JUST TOLD ME I SHOULD GET A GRIP ON MY LIFE." Ex-Stones bouncer turned veterinarian Kevin Fitzgerald's appearance on "Not My Job" was recently run in a Wait Wait compilation episode, and is quite fun (10m54s). Ratty has never seen Fitzgerald's Animal Planet shows, but he was a ton of fun on Wait Wait; there's a profile of him here.

"Right now they're selling these giant spiders—you know, hobo spiders, wolf spiders, giant tarantulas—and this guy... being veterinarians, we're not supposed to be afraid of any animals, and I'm afraid of spiders... They creep you out, the way they move—they got hair and saliva, that's wrong! A bug shouldn't have hair on it, I mean that just goes without saying! And so—and so this guy comes and he's got this plastic shoebox and this giant spider, he goes, 'Be really careful, it got out a year ago, he bit my roommate in the face and he had to have his head drained.' And I was like—Get a phonebook!—you know? But—you know—but that—that's not a practice-builder, dropping a phonebook on your patient... even I know that. So—I read where it takes one second to be nice and two seconds to be mean, so we should be nice to each other, and so I said, 'Well, sir, what's wrong with him?' He goes, 'Well, he's just not himself.' Not his perky spider self? Called in late for work? 'No, he hasn't eaten in several weeks and yesterday his leg fell off.' I'm trying to think of something learned to tell this guy and get him out of there, right?... so I said, 'You know, in my experience, sir, when their leg falls off they're obviously ill...'"

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:14 PM

      ( 10:49 PM ) The Rat  
TT EXPLAINS the Philadelphia.

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:49 PM

      ( 9:18 PM ) The Rat  
"New for me; sensible people have acknowledged it for years. You and I and the Wilcoxes stand upon money as upon islands. It is so firm beneath our feet that we forget its very existence. It's only when we see someone near us tottering that we realize all that an independent income means. Last night, when we were talking up here round the fire, I began to think that the very soul of the world is economic, and that the lowest abyss is not the absence of love, but the absence of coin."

"I call that rather cynical."

"So do I. But Helen and I, we ought to remember, when we are tempted to criticize others, that we are standing on these islands, and that most of the others, are down below the surface of the sea. The poor cannot always reach those whom they want to love, and they can hardly ever escape from those whom they love no longer. We rich can. Imagine the tragedy last June, if Helen and Paul Wilcox had been poor people, and couldn't invoke railways and motor-cars to part them."

"That's more like Socialism," said Mrs. Munt suspiciously.

"Call it what you like. I call it going through life with one's hand spread open on the table. I'm tired of these rich people who pretend to be poor, and think it shows a nice mind to ignore the piles of money that keep their feet above the waves. I stand each year upon six hundred pounds, and Helen upon the same, and Tibby will stand upon eight, and as fast as our pounds crumble away into the sea they are renewed—from the sea, yes, from the sea. And all our thoughts are the thoughts of six-hundred-pounders, and all our speeches; and because we don't want to steal umbrellas ourselves, we forget that below the sea people do want to steal them, and do steal them sometimes, and that what's a joke up here is down there reality..."

Howards End

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:18 PM

      ( 3:39 PM ) The Rat  
CLASSICAL MUSICIANS SEARCH FOR WORK, via TT. Sounds a lot like what's happening in the academy...

Many musicians cite another sort of recession behind the dwindling opportunities: the Classical Music Recession. That is, the decreasing profile of the art form amid modern entertainment-saturated life. Benjamin Herman, 61, a veteran percussionist with vast experience as a freelancer, maintains that the P. D. Q. Bach concerts of the musical humorist Peter Schickele faded away not because the jokes weren’t funny but because audiences didn’t have enough musical knowledge to get them. While still getting by on occasional weeks of frenzy, Mr. Herman has long stretches of quiet.

In contrast he recalled a day 20 years ago, when he walked by the posters outside Carnegie Hall. "I pointed to the wall and said, 'I'm doing the wall,'" he recounted. "Every placard that was up, I was involved in the ensemble." Now, he added, "once in a while I'm lucky if I'm doing a placard."

The numbers reflect his story. At the Broadway theaters the total minimum number of musicians—decided by contract—has dropped to 335 from 526 in the early 1990s, according to Local 802. (Theater closings contributed to the decline.)

Because of the changing conditions, musicians are clinging to the jobs that remain, making it tougher for younger musicians to break in. Meanwhile the pool only grows. New York's main conservatories—the Juilliard School, the Manhattan School of Music and Mannes College the New School—pump out more than 500 degree holders a year. And that is not to mention universities in the New York region and conservatories around the country that send their graduates to New York...

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:39 PM

      ( 11:32 AM ) The Rat  
"I WANT TO [FILL IN VERB] YOU WITH MY HARD [FILL IN NOUN] UNTIL YOU [FILL IN VERB] ALL OVER ME.", a site I do not recommend under any circumstances, strikes again.

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:32 AM

      ( 10:07 AM ) The Rat  
AFTER THE KHMER. Neil Trevithick reports from Cambodia for From Our Own Correspondent.

"Can you tell us," I ask finally, "what it is like inside the head of a perpetrator, and inside the head of a victim, now, today? Can you just be them for me?"

I hold out my arm towards him, beginning the classic radio producer's torture of the aching, extended arm, weighed down with an increasingly heavy microphone at the end.

We have turned off the air-conditioning because of the noise, sweat trickles in rivulets down my back. He lowers his eyes and begins to speak, slowly and softly in English, as a victim first.

"I can smile at you," he says, "but I don't know, one day you can kill me or, when you kill me and escape, you can be safe. You can just run away into another far-off province."

And then, in the role of perpetrator, he says: "I will try to hide my identity as much as possible, I will try not to talk about what I have done because I don't trust you.

"I want to tell the truth, I am not happy about the past, but I have no choice. I know I killed your father, but you don't know, you were small. I try to be as distant as possible in the relationship." [...]

Later, I discover the reason the psychologist speaks in English is because the authorities do not really censor what is said in English. That's because, as the editor of the English language version of the Phnom Penh Post says to me, somewhat ruefully, they know hardly any Cambodians will read or hear it.

Time and again I am told: "We don't have a culture of reading in this country," which actually means, "we killed everyone who could read."

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:07 AM

Friday, December 03, 2010
      ( 8:36 PM ) The Rat  
SNOW OVER LONDON, via SC. Why no, this doesn't make me homesick in the slightest! (Grr...)

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:36 PM

      ( 7:28 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:28 PM

      ( 7:27 PM ) The Rat  
TURNS OUT the Chicoms are also against egg houses. Link via WC.

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:27 PM

Thursday, December 02, 2010
      ( 8:24 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:24 PM

      ( 7:01 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:01 PM

      ( 5:14 PM ) The Rat  

The loss of biodiversity—from beneficial bacteria to charismatic mammals—threatens human health. That's the conclusion of a study published this week in the journal Nature by scientists who study biodiversity and infectious diseases.

The work reveals a critical connection between conservation and disease. Species losses in ecosystems such as forests and fields result in increases in pathogens—disease-causing organisms—the researchers found.

The animals, plants, and microbes most likely to disappear as biodiversity is lost are often those that buffer infectious disease transmission. Those that remain tend to be species that magnify the transmission of infectious diseases like West Nile virus, Lyme disease, and hantavirus.

Scientists don't yet know, Ostfeld says, why the most resilient species—"the last ones standing when biodiversity is lost"—are the ones that also amplify pathogens...

Tons of other interesting stuff over there on yet more reasons to exercise (and also to avoid Botox), information I wish I'd had during my last relationship, and pterodactyl flight. Also don't miss the studies on why daughters may be less likely to call their dads when they're ovulating... and on how the Experience Machine may help you become a centenarian (suggesting that yes, all those well-adjusted people not only are annoying as $#@!, they're probably going to outlive the rest of us, too!).

"Understanding health in these terms has huge implications for quality of life," said Leonard Poon, director of the Institute of Gerontology in the UGA College of Public Health and lead author of the study. "What is happening to you matters, but more importantly, it is your perception of what is happening to you that is really important for your individual health."

A majority of past research on the oldest of the old focused on health factors, but the researchers found that centenarians' feelings about their own health, well-being and support systems, rather than measures such as blood pressure and blood sugar are stronger predictors of survival, said Poon.

Personality also determined how well the centenarians reacted to life stress and change, and therefore whether they were as happy in their old age as they were when young. Healthy 100-year-olds had personalities described as open and conscientious. Neurotic personalities tended to be less healthy, the study found...

# Posted by The Rat @ 5:14 PM

      ( 3:22 PM ) The Rat  
YALE OPERA is presenting Don Giovanni this February! (Around Valentine's Day weekend, no less...)

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:22 PM

Wednesday, December 01, 2010
      ( 7:05 AM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:05 AM

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

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