vendredi, juin 30, 2006

a classic breakup song gets its answer

I dig Lloyd Cole and his brand of break-up songs.

And I'm digging Camera Obscura's "Lloyd, I'm Ready To Be Heartbroken" right now. It's the Glasgow chamber-pop sextet's gloriously bubbly (and ridiculously infectious) answer to Lloyd Cole's "Are You Ready To Be Heartbroken?"

Camera obscura is one part Belle and Sebastian, one part 60's girl group. And it's really a shame that I didn't have this song in particular around as I got over someone last year.
Update: Holy shiznat! They're playing the Casbah on July 18. It's $10. Who wants to go?
Via NPR Song of the Day

the best of cg

Susan G. sent me a good post (the top 5 myths about America) from the best of craigslist recently. Here it is, along with several others:

jeudi, juin 29, 2006

deco port chocolate sauce

1 cup cocoa powder
2/3 cup granulated sugar
½ cup light brown sugar
1 cup heavy whipping cream
¼ cup DECO chocolate port
½ cup butter
1 ½ tsp. pure vanilla extract

Combine the cocoa powder, granulated sugar, and the brown sugar in a heavy 1½-quart saucepan. Add the cream, port, and butter. Stir over medium heat using a sauce whip until the mixture starts to bubble. Keep stirring for one minute, then remove from heat and add vanilla.

Let the sauce cool down before storing it in the refrigerator.

Yield: About 3 cups.
Via Sonoma Valley Portworks


Meet Albert, the world's smartest goldfish.

Over the past year, the calico orandan has learned to fetch, swim through hoops, and play soccer.

He's even earned a spot as "fish with the largest repertoire of tricks" in the next edition of Guinness World Records.

Albert is the progeny of Dean Pomerleau, a 41-year-old software engineer who, in a bid to assuage his daughter's demand for a puppy, decided to try out some dog-training techniques on her brother's pet fish.

With coffee stirrers, toothpicks, rubber bands, and a pushpin, Pomerleau built a food delivery system that allowed him to entice Albert with tasty morsels and reward him for positive behavior.

Within weeks, the fish was scooting through an obstacle course of tunnels, limbo poles, and hoops - he could even nudge a mini soccer ball into a goal.

Pomerleau has since established the world's first fish-training academy, written an ebook on piscine education, and is thinking of starting a World Cup soccer tourney for the scaly little guys.

Alas, his daughter isn't satisfied.

Says Pomerleau, "She still wants the dog."

Via Nolan and Joe

berlin, auguststraß

amor by .:artemisia:..

Porque o amor
é a coisa mas triste
quando se desfaz
-Antonio Carlos Jobim

what shamu taught me about a happy marriage

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I'm very much a fan of dating a person as-is.

Assuming the fundamentals are in place, there is the reality of fine-tuning that sometimes needs to take place in the interest of harmony and of having the best possible relationship. The simple fact is that we all have needs. My sense is that we should let our partners know if they are (or aren't) meeting our needs. And I really like this woman's approach to the whole situation, including her recognition that in a closed system, both parties must adjust to reach a new equilibrium.

Modern Love: What Shamu Taught Me About a Happy Marriage
AS I wash dishes at the kitchen sink, my husband paces behind me, irritated. "Have you seen my keys?" he snarls, then huffs out a loud sigh and stomps from the room with our dog, Dixie, at his heels, anxious over her favorite human's upset.

In the past I would have been right behind Dixie. I would have turned off the faucet and joined the hunt while trying to soothe my husband with bromides like, "Don't worry, they'll turn up." But that only made him angrier, and a simple case of missing keys soon would become a full-blown angst-ridden drama starring the two of us and our poor nervous dog.

Now, I focus on the wet dish in my hands. I don't turn around. I don't say a word. I'm using a technique I learned from a dolphin trainer.

I love my husband. He's well read, adventurous and does a hysterical rendition of a northern Vermont accent that still cracks me up after 12 years of marriage.

But he also tends to be forgetful, and is often tardy and mercurial. He hovers around me in the kitchen asking if I read this or that piece in The New Yorker when I'm trying to concentrate on the simmering pans. He leaves wadded tissues in his wake. He suffers from serious bouts of spousal deafness but never fails to hear me when I mutter to myself on the other side of the house. "What did you say?" he'll shout.

These minor annoyances are not the stuff of separation and divorce, but in sum they began to dull my love for Scott. I wanted — needed — to nudge him a little closer to perfect, to make him into a mate who might annoy me a little less, who wouldn't keep me waiting at restaurants, a mate who would be easier to love.

So, like many wives before me, I ignored a library of advice books and set about improving him. By nagging, of course, which only made his behavior worse: he'd drive faster instead of slower; shave less frequently, not more; and leave his reeking bike garb on the bedroom floor longer than ever.

We went to a counselor to smooth the edges off our marriage. She didn't understand what we were doing there and complimented us repeatedly on how well we communicated. I gave up. I guessed she was right — our union was better than most — and resigned myself to stretches of slow-boil resentment and occasional sarcasm.

Then something magical happened. For a book I was writing about a school for exotic animal trainers, I started commuting from Maine to California, where I spent my days watching students do the seemingly impossible: teaching hyenas to pirouette on command, cougars to offer their paws for a nail clipping, and baboons to skateboard.

I listened, rapt, as professional trainers explained how they taught dolphins to flip and elephants to paint. Eventually it hit me that the same techniques might work on that stubborn but lovable species, the American husband.

The central lesson I learned from exotic animal trainers is that I should reward behavior I like and ignore behavior I don't. After all, you don't get a sea lion to balance a ball on the end of its nose by nagging. The same goes for the American husband.

Back in Maine, I began thanking Scott if he threw one dirty shirt into the hamper. If he threw in two, I'd kiss him. Meanwhile, I would step over any soiled clothes on the floor without one sharp word, though I did sometimes kick them under the bed. But as he basked in my appreciation, the piles became smaller.

I was using what trainers call "approximations," rewarding the small steps toward learning a whole new behavior. You can't expect a baboon to learn to flip on command in one session, just as you can't expect an American husband to begin regularly picking up his dirty socks by praising him once for picking up a single sock. With the baboon you first reward a hop, then a bigger hop, then an even bigger hop. With Scott the husband, I began to praise every small act every time: if he drove just a mile an hour slower, tossed one pair of shorts into the hamper, or was on time for anything.

I also began to analyze my husband the way a trainer considers an exotic animal. Enlightened trainers learn all they can about a species, from anatomy to social structure, to understand how it thinks, what it likes and dislikes, what comes easily to it and what doesn't. For example, an elephant is a herd animal, so it responds to hierarchy. It cannot jump, but can stand on its head. It is a vegetarian.

The exotic animal known as Scott is a loner, but an alpha male. So hierarchy matters, but being in a group doesn't so much. He has the balance of a gymnast, but moves slowly, especially when getting dressed. Skiing comes naturally, but being on time does not. He's an omnivore, and what a trainer would call food-driven.

Once I started thinking this way, I couldn't stop. At the school in California, I'd be scribbling notes on how to walk an emu or have a wolf accept you as a pack member, but I'd be thinking, "I can't wait to try this on Scott."

On a field trip with the students, I listened to a professional trainer describe how he had taught African crested cranes to stop landing on his head and shoulders. He did this by training the leggy birds to land on mats on the ground. This, he explained, is what is called an "incompatible behavior," a simple but brilliant concept.

Rather than teach the cranes to stop landing on him, the trainer taught the birds something else, a behavior that would make the undesirable behavior impossible. The birds couldn't alight on the mats and his head simultaneously.

At home, I came up with incompatible behaviors for Scott to keep him from crowding me while I cooked. To lure him away from the stove, I piled up parsley for him to chop or cheese for him to grate at the other end of the kitchen island. Or I'd set out a bowl of chips and salsa across the room. Soon I'd done it: no more Scott hovering around me while I cooked.

I followed the students to SeaWorld San Diego, where a dolphin trainer introduced me to least reinforcing syndrome (L. R. S.). When a dolphin does something wrong, the trainer doesn't respond in any way. He stands still for a few beats, careful not to look at the dolphin, and then returns to work. The idea is that any response, positive or negative, fuels a behavior. If a behavior provokes no response, it typically dies away.

In the margins of my notes I wrote, "Try on Scott!"

It was only a matter of time before he was again tearing around the house searching for his keys, at which point I said nothing and kept at what I was doing. It took a lot of discipline to maintain my calm, but results were immediate and stunning. His temper fell far shy of its usual pitch and then waned like a fast-moving storm. I felt as if I should throw him a mackerel.

Now he's at it again; I hear him banging a closet door shut, rustling through papers on a chest in the front hall and thumping upstairs. At the sink, I hold steady. Then, sure enough, all goes quiet. A moment later, he walks into the kitchen, keys in hand, and says calmly, "Found them."

Without turning, I call out, "Great, see you later."

Off he goes with our much-calmed pup.

After two years of exotic animal training, my marriage is far smoother, my husband much easier to love. I used to take his faults personally; his dirty clothes on the floor were an affront, a symbol of how he didn't care enough about me. But thinking of my husband as an exotic species gave me the distance I needed to consider our differences more objectively.

I adopted the trainers' motto: "It's never the animal's fault." When my training attempts failed, I didn't blame Scott. Rather, I brainstormed new strategies, thought up more incompatible behaviors and used smaller approximations. I dissected my own behavior, considered how my actions might inadvertently fuel his. I also accepted that some behaviors were too entrenched, too instinctive to train away. You can't stop a badger from digging, and you can't stop my husband from losing his wallet and keys.

PROFESSIONALS talk of animals that understand training so well they eventually use it back on the trainer. My animal did the same. When the training techniques worked so beautifully, I couldn't resist telling my husband what I was up to. He wasn't offended, just amused. As I explained the techniques and terminology, he soaked it up. Far more than I realized.

Last fall, firmly in middle age, I learned that I needed braces. They were not only humiliating, but also excruciating. For weeks my gums, teeth, jaw and sinuses throbbed. I complained frequently and loudly. Scott assured me that I would become used to all the metal in my mouth. I did not.

One morning, as I launched into yet another tirade about how uncomfortable I was, Scott just looked at me blankly. He didn't say a word or acknowledge my rant in any way, not even with a nod.

I quickly ran out of steam and started to walk away. Then I realized what was happening, and I turned and asked, "Are you giving me an L. R. S.?" Silence. "You are, aren't you?"

He finally smiled, but his L. R. S. has already done the trick. He'd begun to train me, the American wife.

Amy Sutherland is the author of "Kicked, Bitten and Scratched: Life and Lessons at the Premier School for Exotic Animal Trainers" (Viking, June 2006). She lives in Boston and in Portland, Me.

mercredi, juin 28, 2006

trevor's got dao son's back ...

(Returning a missed call from Trevor at 11:24 p.m.)
H: Hey, I missed your call.

T: Dude, you missed two calls. Today was my last day of work ever! I'm at Scolari's Office with my friends from work right now. We're drinking and singing karaoke. You'll never guess who walked in a little while ago.

H: You're right. Who walked in?
T: That guy from Dao Son.

H: Ti?
T: Yeah, the guy who puts in the orders just walked in and belted out "Baby Got Back" like no one's business. How cool is that?!

H: S-w-e-e-e-e-t! That. Fucking. Rocks. Tell him "Yo, T! Happy says whaddup!"
T: Will do ... no really, he walked in and was awesome! How funny is that?!

deluded language freak seeks help for corrective tourette's

I have corrective tourette's. At least that's what Allison calls my subconscious utterances.

Let me explain. We had a professor last semester who always said the "width" (correctly) and the "heighth" (incorrectly). I can't tell you how many times I turned to see what Allison was laughing at, only to discover that she was laughing at me. I was always surprised when she pointed out that I'd just quietly muttered a "t" sound after the professor in question said "heighth."

It's not deliberate or malicious. I don't know why I do it, when I have no intention of ever saying anything to the professor. I suppose it's one (weird) way to counter my own cognitive dissonance.

And then there's my entirely obnoxious habit of correcting other people's grammar. I've mostly learned to temper it and bite my lip when "farther" and "further" or "continually" and "continuously" are misused. But I'll admit that it makes me a little bit itchy each time I remain silent.

tacos, anyone?

I had a fun exchange on all that is wrong with marketing and 'mericans today after sending this link, for the Taco Tender, to Leo this morning. I mean, who really needs this stuff, anyhow? And do you know any kids who use tongs to put lettuce on tacos? I didn't think so.

Then, Slater sent me this story, on the ruckus caused by folks who think the pink taco restaurant's name is a sobriquet for something else.

Proof positive that Middle America is
a) too uptight
b) doesn't have enough real problems to worry about (Darfur, anyone?)

Oh, and that sex sells. Damn those evil marketers ...

this one's for saku ...

I love the Onion. Here are a few stories to get you started ...

study break: german bear shot

This (real) news story completely slayed me.

Hunters kill 1st German wild bear in 170 years
Official: ‘Rabbits are also deserving of sympathy’; animal lovers decry killing
Updated: 1:30 p.m. PT June 26, 2006
SCHLIERSEE, Germany - Bruno, the brown bear who sauntered into Germany through the Italian Alps and eluded pursuers in a month-long mountain odyssey, was shot and killed Monday, to the dismay of many animal lovers.

The first wild bear to be seen in Germany since 1835 was shot by government-sanctioned hunters in an Alpine meadow in the early morning, putting an end to a sometimes humorous saga that has made headlines around Europe, even in competition with the World Cup.

Bruno was part of a project to reintroduce bears in northern Italy, but he roamed into Austria and Germany. In recent weeks he regularly popped out of the woods to make brief but brazen appearances — on one occasion, plunking down for a rest in front of a police station in the Bavarian lakeside resort of Kochel am See. But a pack of crack Finnish tracking dogs was sent home in defeat after failing to corner him so he could be tranquilized and sent home.

The shooting brought immediate condemnation from environmental groups and some politicians, and Bavarian environment minister Werner Schnappauf — who gave permission for the bear to be killed — received death threats.

The 2-year-old bear had dined on sheep, killed rabbits and broken into beehives.

‘No other solution’
Officials said it was only a matter of time before the 220-pound Bruno attacked a human.

"There was no other solution," Anton Steixner, an official from the Austrian state of Tyrol, told reporters.

"Even animal rights activists should understand that this bear killed sheep and tore into rabbits purely for pleasure," Steixner said. "Rabbits are also deserving of sympathy."

But Tony Scherer, mayor of Schliersee, the Bavarian town near Spitzingsee lake, where Bruno was killed, disagreed.

"The death penalty has been abolished," said Scherer. "This bear didn't do anything bad — for me it is absolutely unnecessary for him to have been shot."

Bruno was killed instantly by a single shot from 150 meters, officials said. They would not identify the three hunters involved in the 4:50 a.m. shooting, citing possible threats from animal lovers.

Evaded captors for weeks
The 2-year-old bear was spotted in Bavaria in May. DNA samples from hair he left behind were used to identify him as JJ1, part of the project in Italy.

Bavarian authorities gave permission for hunters to kill the bear, then backed down in the face of the ensuing outcry and decided to try to capture him.

But the bear kept ahead of his pursuers.

On the weekend, Bavarian officials said they would reinstate permission for hunters to shoot the bear on Tuesday. After the bear was killed on Monday, however, they said informal permission had been granted starting Saturday.

‘It won’t bring Bruno back’
The head of the German Animal Protection Federation said his organization was considering legal action.

"I am horrified, indignant and sad — for weeks it was apparently impossible to catch the bear; the permission to shoot him is barely given and he is already dead," Wolfgang Apel said. "We will examine all legal avenues, even though it won't bring Bruno back."

Franz Maget, a top member of the opposition Social Democrats in Bavaria, urged that Schnappauf resign.

"Bear-killer Schnappauf has failed as environment minister and should hang up his hat," Maget said. "The permission to shoot him was a mistake and possibly violated the law."

To be put on display
In Austria, the animal rights group Four Paws denounced the shooting and called for a police investigation.

But Schnappauf's deputy, Otmar Bernhard, said that while Bruno's death was "regrettable," it was the "only solution."

"He walked past hikers, hikers walked past him — that is extremely dangerous and not acceptable," Bernhard said.

Bruno was to be dissected by veterinarians in Munich later Monday, and then prepared to be put on display in Munich's Museum of Man and Nature, Bernhard said.
Via Leo

mardi, juin 27, 2006

the friends you keep

Hotel Cass
Originally uploaded by comment dit-on.
Cass and I spent a few hours getting caught up tonight.

Partway through, she joked with me about a (former) mutual friend. As I think back on that situation and the role that person played in my life, I'm grateful that as I let one friend go, I was lucky enough to have others who pulled me much closer.

In many ways, ending that friendship was the catalyst for my awakening. Just thinking back on that time and how I was sleepwalking through life leaves me cold.

Anyhow ... Cass, you were the one who assured me that my darkest hours would pass and that I'd find my way back into the light.

Two years later, I've gotta say that you were right. The best part — we're both glowing.

For the record, it couldn't happen to nicer people.

lundi, juin 26, 2006

this rocks

My friend Aaron and his little boy Daniel now have matching shirts. (Daniel's had his longer than Aaron.)

bring on the takoyaki

Nothing says Japanese comfort food like chicken katsudon ... but having eaten takoyaki recently, I've gotta admit that it's also good stuff.

Japanese fast food makers eye U.S. market
Updated: 1:28 p.m. PT June 25, 2006
TOKYO - If Morio Sase has his way, hungry teenagers around the world will soon be snacking on something more exotic than McDonald's hamburgers: takoyaki, or octopus dumplings.

With more than 350 takeout stores in Japan, Hong Kong and Taiwan already, Sase's Gindaco chain is one of a barrage of fast-food companies bringing lowbrow Japanese chow to overseas markets. Its first U.S. store is scheduled to open in Los Angeles in 2007, and it hopes to open 20 stores in California by 2010.

military intelligence

When I was about 11 years old, I asked my dad about his top-secret clearance. His response surprised me: being married to a foreign national meant having to clear additional hurdles (interviews with him and superiors) in order to get and renew the various clearances he held while in the military.

I asked why it mattered that my mom wasn't an American and his response was that the government believed it made him more susceptible to blackmail or more likely to betray his country. When I asked other reasons why someone might be denied the clearance, he mentioned things like excessive debt and homosexuality. I understood the debt one, but even then, I thought that who someone loved shouldn't factor in to how well that person could do his job.

For the record, this military policy makes no mention of clearances, secret or otherwise. It's simply ignorance.

Pentagon memo: Homosexuality a disorder
WASHINGTON - A Pentagon document classifies homosexuality as a mental disorder, decades after mental health experts abandoned that position.

The document outlines retirement or other discharge policies for service members with physical disabilities, and in a section on defects lists homosexuality alongside mental retardation and personality disorders.

Critics said the reference underscores the Pentagon’s failing policies on gays, and adds to a culture that has created uncertainty and insecurity around the treatment of homosexual service members, leading to anti-gay harassment.

Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Jeremy M. Martin said the policy document is under review.

The Pentagon has a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that prohibits the military from inquiring about the sex lives of service members but requires discharges of those who openly acknowledge being gay.

Critics slam document
The Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military, at the University of California at Santa Barbara, uncovered the document and pointed to it as further proof that the military deserves failing grades for its treatment of gays.

Nathaniel Frank, senior research fellow at the center, said, “The policy reflects the department’s continued misunderstanding of homosexuality and makes it more difficult for gays and lesbians to access mental health services.”

The document, called a Defense Department Instruction, was condemned by medical professionals, members of Congress and other experts, including the American Psychiatric Association.

“It is disappointing that certain Department of Defense instructions include homosexuality as a ’mental disorder’ more than 30 years after the mental health community recognized that such a classification was a mistake,” said Rep. Marty Meehan, D-Mass.

Congress members noted that other Pentagon regulations dealing with mental health do not include homosexuality on any lists of psychological disorders. And in a letter to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld on Monday, nine lawmakers asked for a full review of all documents and policies to ensure they reflect that same standard.

“Based on scientific and medical evidence the APA declassified homosexuality as a mental disorder in 1973 — a position shared by all other major health and mental health organizations based on their own review of the science,” James H. Scully Jr., head of the psychiatric association, said in a letter to the Defense Department’s top doctor earlier this month.

There were 726 military members discharged under the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy during the budget year that ended last Sept. 30. That marked the first year since 2001 that the total had increased. The number of discharges had declined each year since it peaked at 1,227 in 2001, and had fallen to 653 in 2004.

Via Leo

dimanche, juin 25, 2006

what a wonderful world this would be ...

Don't know much about geography, don't know much trigonometry.
Don't know much about algebra, don't know what a slide rule is for.
But I know that one and one is two, and if this one could be with you,
What a wonderful world this would be.

Yes, I'm in the midst of a Sam Cooke renaissance. Actually, make that a Sam Cooke meets the Kleptones meets the random Tom Jones club hit popular in Spanish nightclubs circa the late nineties. But I digress ...

I took Diana's geography quiz and scored better than I thought I would. But I was surprised to see how far off I was with Utah and Wyoming. And to learn that Missouri and Tennessee actually touch. (Yes folks, I grew up in the United States, where we don't teach geography — even our own.)

Perhaps it's because I just learned that a friend of mine is pregnant ... but I'm thinking that when my time comes, I'll buy my kids more than just a globe. I'll give them those old-school particleboard puzzles of the United States and Latin America. I'll even throw in those placemats and a shower curtain that have world maps on them. Hell, while I'm at it, maybe I should take a look at a map of Central Asia and find out where all the 'stans are now that they're no longer part of the USSR ...

vendredi, juin 23, 2006

this man needs a place to live. stat.

Originally uploaded by zagood.

Would you rent this man your house?

Of course not, 'cause his facial hair and generic swarthiness obviously mean that he's a terrorist.

Update: Z and Missus Z have found a place. Woot!

jeudi, juin 22, 2006

mercredi, juin 21, 2006

happy birthday, omer

Hope today is wonderful!

respect for the flag

One of my childhood rituals was putting up the flag with my dad on holidays like the fourth of July. But by the time I got to college, I was so jaded about the flag that I equated displaying it with jingoism. In short, I saw flag-waving Americans as examples of patriotism and group-think run horribly amuck.

By my sophomore year, Newt and his cronies were pushing an amendment to ban flag burning and I was pretty torqued about it. Then, on the fourth of July, my roommates and I saw a jerk using the flag as bunting on his pickup truck. I complained bitterly about it as we drove to a potluck. The next day, I was downstairs hanging out with Diana L. and my roommates took red, white, and blue streamers and decorated my room, even slapping a bowtie on Bono on one of my U2 posters.

Flash forward to 9/11 ... at that point, the flag became a symbol of national unity in the face of terrorists who hate the democratic values our flag represents. I got a grapefruit-sized lump in my throat and completely broke down as I drove past a neighborhood bar and saw a flag 100 feet wide by 60 feet tall on the side of a building the day after the attack. But that changed when we invaded Iraq. The flag was back to being a symbol for flag-waving jingoists, marching in lockstep with a misguided madman's personal vendetta falsely portrayed as a war to unseat a madman with WMDs.

Anyhow, I've never burned a flag, but I respect the rights of those who would choose to do so as a form of (constitutionally protected) free speech. And I get my knickers in a furious twist when I see this kind of hypocrisy. (That's our fearless leader signing flags at a rally in Michigan. )

By the way, United States Code Title 4, Chapter 1, Section 8: Respect for the Flag says the following:
No disrespect should be shown to the flag of the United States of America; the flag should not be dipped to any person or thing. Regimental colors, State flags, and organization or institutional flags are to be dipped as a mark of honor.

(a) The flag should never be displayed with the union down, except as a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property.

(b) The flag should never touch anything beneath it, such as the ground, the floor, water, or merchandise.

(c) The flag should never be carried flat or horizontally, but always aloft and free.

(d) The flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery. It should never be festooned, drawn back, nor up, in folds, but always allowed to fall free. Bunting of blue, white, and red, always arranged with the blue above, the white in the middle, and the red below, should be used for covering a speaker’s desk, draping the front of the platform, and for decoration in general.

(e) The flag should never be fastened, displayed, used, or stored in such a manner as to permit it to be easily torn, soiled, or damaged in any way.

(f) The flag should never be used as a covering for a ceiling.

(g) The flag should never have placed upon it, nor on any part of it, nor attached to it any mark, insignia, letter, word, figure, design, picture, or drawing of any nature.

(h) The flag should never be used as a receptacle for receiving, holding, carrying, or delivering anything.

(i) The flag should never be used for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever. It should not be embroidered on such articles as cushions or handkerchiefs and the like, printed or otherwise impressed on paper napkins or boxes or anything that is designed for temporary use and discard. Advertising signs should not be fastened to a staff or halyard from which the flag is flown.

(j) No part of the flag should ever be used as a costume or athletic uniform. However, a flag patch may be affixed to the uniform of military personnel, firemen, policemen, and members of patriotic organizations. The flag represents a living country and is itself considered a living thing. Therefore, the lapel flag pin being a replica, should be worn on the left lapel near the heart.

(k) The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.
Via Slater

lundi, juin 19, 2006


Ash, James, Chad, Leo, and I just spent an amazing four days in Tennessee at Bonnaroo (the largest music festival in the United States).

I saw about 30 bands in 3 days, including Radiohead, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Elvis Costello, Beck, Balkan Beat Box, Seu Jorge, Sonic Youth, Son Volt, Sasha, the Streets, Death Cab for Cutie, World Party, Oysterhead, Dresden Dolls, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Gomez, Bright Eyes, Cypress Hill, G. Love and Special Sauce, and Phil Lesh and Friends. I also came home from my first festival experience sans sunburn and with my voice. : D

Pictures and more to come in the following days, once we're back from Chattanooga ...

Update: Here are some of our photos.

mercredi, juin 14, 2006

world on fire

I dare you to watch this video and not get goosebumps.

Sarah McLachlan took a stand with her World On Fire video. She used $150,000 to make the video, but she made the money work in very different ways.
Via Jason

lundi, juin 12, 2006

holy subculture, batman!

Q: What's one part drinking, one part exercise, and one part Scooby Doo scavenger hunt?
A: A hash.

I just finished my first hash. It was five miles and a lot of fun. Becki, Annette, and I ran, jogged, and walked the course through canyons, up hills, and on residential streets, finding flour and misleading marks as we avoided agave, cactus on steep hills, and cars on the road.

Trevor and Sarah ran the beer check and — in keeping with the gorilla theme — served us monkey's uncles (kahlua mudslides with 99 bananas and whipped cream on top). When it was over, we met at Effin's Pub for the on-in. And I'm pleased to report that my down-down joke went over well enough that I didn't have to share a body part (thanks Rhiannon).

The Larrikin hashers were wicked salty folk and I had a great time. I've gotta admit — it's something that I'll do again.

"a drinking club with a running problem ... "

I may have officially lost my mind.
  • Exhibit A: I only run if I'm being chased. By wild beasts.
  • Exhibit B: I hate beer.
Having said that, I'm running my first hash tonight with Becki, Trevor, and Susan G.

It's all in preparation for the Red Dress Run on July 7. And I've been warned that it'll be unlike anything I've ever done.

Next step: Buy a red dress.

crazy, but not in the seal way

The concept for this video is pure genius. And I'm loving gnarls.
The Rorschach inkblot test is used by psychologists to try to examine the personality characteristics and emotional functioning of their patients. It is currently the second most commonly used test in forensic assessment, after the MMPI, and has been employed in diagnosing underlying thought disorder and differentiating psychotic from nonpsychotic thinking in cases where the patient is reluctant to openly admit to psychotic thinking.
Via Wacky Neighbor

marriage protection amendment, anyone?

In case you missed Bush's (failed — thank god) attempt to re-ignite a culture war last week, here's an oldie, but a goodie:

hiiiiiiiiiiiiiii, happy

Hi, my name is Happy and I have googlitis and am a compulsive news binger.
Via Slater

vendredi, juin 09, 2006

over my dead body.

world cup fever

You knew that it would happen eventually. (It's inevitable when you really stop and think about it — my boyfriend's a soccer nut. And he's South American to boot.)

So ... we watched the World Cup opening ceremonies live from Munich this morning. It included 200 spinning fräuleins, about 300 lederhosen-clad men doing what I hope was a traditional folk dance, and (for the inclusive factor) juicy couture-clad teenagers hip-hopping along with some David Hasselhoff-knockoff German pop star. (Thank goodness the SS tap squad stayed home.)

Tomorrow: getting up at 5 a.m. to watch the games.

fashion meets function on one cute bum

Ever the vigilant environmentalist, Diana H. found this product online and is telling everyone.

I can see why — this product is pure genius! It combines the environmental advantage with the convenience and hygiene factors. Spread the word!

Fact: Last year alone, 18-23 billion diapers went into landfills across America. That works out to be approximately 38,000 every minute and adds up to about 3.5 million tons of waste!

Fact: It takes up to 500 years for a disposable diaper to biodegrade in a landfill. Just in time for your great, great, great, great, grandchild's birth. Not a very nice baby gift.

Imagine taking your baby's soiled diaper and simply flushing it down the toilet. No more smell. No more diaper. No more diaper pail. You’re putting waste right where it belongs, in the toilet. Not in a landfill. That’s exactly how gDiapers work.

gDiapers are a two-part system. The flushable inner refill fits into a pair of colorful ‘little g’ pants. When the flushable becomes soiled, simply flush it down the toilet. It's that easy. gDiapers have no elemental chlorine, no perfumes, no smell, no garbage, and no guilt. In fact, flushables are so gentle on the Earth you can even garden compost the wet ones in one compost cycle, approximately 50 ­ 150 days. Just think of the standing ovation you’ll get from the planet.

jeudi, juin 08, 2006

the simpsons as philosophy

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Matt Groening is a genius.

I'm a huge fan of "The Simpsons," if nothing else because it's subversive, honest, and makes me think while I'm laughing.

The Simpsons as philosophy
The Simpsons is more than a funny cartoon - it reveals truths about human nature that rival the observations of great philosophers from Plato to Kant... while Homer sets his house on fire, says philosopher Julian Baggini.
With the likes of Douglas Coupland, George Walden and Stephen Hawking as fans, taking the Simpsons seriously is no longer outre but de rigeur.

It is, quite simply, one of the greatest cultural artefacts of our age. So great, in fact, that it not only reflects and plays with philosophical ideas, it actually does real philosophy, and does it well.

How can a comic cartoon do this? Precisely because it is a comic cartoon, the form best suited to illuminate our age.

To speak truthfully and insightfully today you must have a sense of the absurdity of human life and endeavour. Past attempts to construct grand and noble theories about human history and destiny have collapsed.

We now know we're just a bunch of naked apes trying to get on as best we can, usually messing things up, but somehow finding life can be sweet all the same. All delusions of a significance that we do not really have need to be stripped away, and nothing can do this better that the great deflater: comedy.

The satirical cartoon world is essentially a philosophical one because it reflects reality by abstracting it, distilling it and presenting it back to us, illuminating it more brightly than realist fiction can

The Simpsons does this brilliantly, especially when it comes to religion. It's not that the Simpsons is atheist propaganda; its main target is not belief in God or the supernatural, but the arrogance of particular organised religions that they, amazingly, know the will of the creator.

For example, in the episode Homer the Heretic, Homer gives up church and decides to follow God in his own way: by watching the TV, slobbing about and dancing in his underpants.

Throughout the episode he justifies himself in a number of ways.

"What's the big deal about going to some building every Sunday, I mean, isn't God everywhere?"
"Don't you think the almighty has better things to worry about than where one little guy spends one measly hour of his week?"
"And what if we've picked the wrong religion? Every week we're just making God madder and madder?"
Homer's protests do not merely allude to much subtler arguments that proper philosophers make. The basic points really are that simple, which is why they can be stated simply.

Philosophy's First Family
Of course, there is more that can and should be said about them, but when we make decisions about whether or not to follow one particular religion, the reasons that really matter to us are closer to the simple truths of the Simpsons than the complex mental machinations of academic philosophers of religion.

And that's true even for the philosophers, whose high-level arguments are virtuosi feats of reasoning, but are not the things that win hearts and minds. They are merely the lengthy guitar solos to Homer's crushing, compelling riffs.

However, being simple is not the same as being simplistic, which is one of the greatest crimes in the Simpsons' universe.

We can see this when Homer's house catches fire, in what could be seen as divine retribution for his apostasy.

But what actually led to the fire was not God's wrath but Homer's hubris and arrogance. Sitting on his sofa thinking smugly, "Boy, everyone is stupid except me," he falls asleep, dropping his cigar.

What really caused the fire was thus a slippage from the simple into the simplistic. Homer's mistake was to think that because the key points which inform his heresy are simple, that the debate is closed and he has nothing left to learn from others. But this is being simplistic, not keeping things simple.

Small dots, big picture
Revealing simple truths about simplistic falsehoods is not just a minor philosophical task, like doing the washing up at Descartes' Diner while the real geniuses cook up the main courses.

For when it comes to the relevance of philosophy to real life, all the commitments we make on the big issues are determined by considerations which are ultimately quite straightforward.

A rich philosophical worldview is in this sense like a pointillist picture - one of those pieces of art in which a big image is made up of thousands of tiny dots (see Seurat image, right). Its building blocks are no more than simple dots, but the overall picture which builds up from this is much more complicated.

Yet we need reminding that the dots are just dots, and that errors are made more often not by those who fail to examine the dots carefully enough, but those who become fixated by the brilliance or defects of one or two and who fail to see how they fit into the big picture.

And the Simpsons certainly plays out on a broad canvas.

Any individual or group is shown to be ridiculous when only their pathetic and partial view of the world is taken to be everything. That's why no one escapes satire in the programme, which is vital for its ultimately uplifting message: we're an absurd species but together we make for a wonderful world.

The Simpsons, like Monty Python, is an Anglo-Saxon comedic take on the existentialism which in France takes on a more tragic hue. Albert Camus' absurd is defied not by will, but mocking laughter.

Abstract themes
Another reason why cartoons are the best form in which to do philosophy is that they are non-realistic in the same way that philosophy is.

Philosophy needs to be real in the sense that it has to make sense of the world as it is, not as we imagine or want it to be. But philosophy deals with issues on a general level. It is concerned with a whole series of grand abstract nouns: truth, justice, the good, identity, consciousness, mind, meaning and so on.

Cartoons abstract from real life in much the same way philosophers do. Homer is not realistic in the way a film or novel character is, but he is recognisable as a kind of American Everyman. His reality is the reality of an abstraction from real life that captures its essence, not as a real particular human who we see ourselves reflected in.

The satirical cartoon world is essentially a philosophical one because to work it needs to reflect reality accurately by abstracting it, distilling it and then presenting it back to us, illuminating it more brightly than realist fiction can.

That's why it is no coincidence that the most insightful and philosophical cultural product of our time is a comic cartoon, and why its creator, Matt Groening, is the true heir of Plato, Aristotle and Kant.

Via Leo and Arts & Letters Daily

mercredi, juin 07, 2006

chrissy's pumpkin cheesecake

3 cups finely ground gingersnaps
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
12 TBSP (1 ½ sticks) butter, almost melted
2 (8 oz) packages cream cheese, softened
5 eggs
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
16 oz solid-pack pumpkin
1 ½ tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground mace
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup brandy
2 cups sour cream
1/4 cup granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine the gingersnap crumbs, confectioners' sugar, and melted butter in a bowl and mix thoroughly. Press the crumb mixture onto the bottom and up the sides of an ungreased 9-inch springform pan.

Beat the cream cheese with an electric mixer on medium speed. Add the eggs, one at a time, the brown sugar, pumpkin, spices, vanilla, and 1/4 cup of the brandy to the cream cheese and mix until smooth. Pour the pumpkin mixture into the prepared pan and bake for 40 minutes or until the edge of the cheesecake begins to pull away from side of pan.

Remove the cheesecake from the oven and reset the temperature to 400 degrees. Whisk together the sour cream, sugar, and remaining 1/4 cup of brandy in a small bowl. Spread the sour cream mixture over the hot cheesecake, return to the oven, and bake for 10 minutes more. Cool to room temperature, cover, and refrigerate in the pan overnight or up to 4 days. Remove the sides of the pan before serving.

Serves 12.

keeping up with the joneses

What does your surname say about you? How common is it? How common did it used to be? Demographers in England are tracking that data and it's pretty interesting.

I learned that my name is the 889th most-common surname in the UK, that there 184 of us per million people, and that people with my last name are outranked in social status (a combination of income, house value, educational attainment, and health) by 75% of the population.

How the Surname Profiler works:
Click the "Search for a surname" button and then find the "Start a surname search" at the top right.
Type in surname, select the "1998" option, and click "Find."
Click "geographical location" and look for the "social demographics" box.

What's in a surname?
A project that maps surnames to parts of the UK will now rank them in terms of social status.
Forget keeping up with the Joneses, it's the Cadburys and Goldsteins that social climbers should have a keen eye on.

The social status of nearly 26,000 surnames has been researched as part of a project to better understand what our surnames say about each of us.

Earlier this year, the Magazine reported on how academics at University College London had built a website that, at the click of a mouse, mapped a surname to the parts of Britain where it is most commonly found.

The latest update to the site means anyone can also see how their surname ranks in terms of social standing - in other words, how posh or common their name is. Each name has been assessed on income, house value, educational attainment and health.

There are some surprises, with even the Windsors - the assumed name of the Royals - outranked by 34% of the population. The country's unofficial Royal Family, the Beckhams, are outranked by 73%.

Among the top names are Cadbury, Goldstein and Pigden, with no other names ranked above them.

The site is the result of a year-long study aimed at understanding patterns of regional economic development, population movement and cultural identity, led by Professor Paul Longley and visiting Professor Richard Webber.

It firstly mapped the distribution of surnames from the 1998 electoral register and does the same against the 1881 census, making it possible to see how surnames moved around the country during the last century.

The status of names has now been calculated by taking their postcodes from the electoral roll. These have been cross-referenced with educational attainment, employment levels, financial data and health statistics to calculate an average status for each name.

"While some people might be surprised by the results and say it's not true of their family, the results do tend to be true in aggregate," says Prof Longley.

"People may have anecdotal evidence about their family doing well, but the family line can still have done badly."

Middlesbrough in north-east England was used as a case study to analyse how immigrants and long-term residents had fared over the years in socio-economic terms.

In 1881 the town had a lot of residents with Cornish names, as a large number of workers' families migrated en masse to mining communities in the North East when the tin industry collapsed in Cornwall in the 1850s. These families have hardly moved through the social ranks during the last century.

Residents in the region with Irish names were a little more upwardly mobile, as were those with traditional north-east names. But those who had faired the best were migrants with names from other regions of the UK - other than Cornwall.

Prof Longley says the next step for the site, which has been funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, is to take it global, so people all over the world see how well those that migrated have faired compare to those who stayed put at home.

mardi, juin 06, 2006

tng at the roxbury

Oddly enough, Patrick Stewart and "A Night at the Roxbury" have both come up in conversation this week. And then I saw this and my life was complete.
Via PlanetDan

speak of the devil

In keeping with the whole 6/6/6 theme today, I had to share this fact:

Via ArtMonster

leaving a bad taste in my mouth

When it comes to super-premium ice cream, I've seen the light. Leo converted me — I now worship at the church of Häagen-Dazs for its flavor, mouth-feel, simplicity, and overall ingredient quality.

Imagine our horror when we saw this ad on the back cover of the latest Saveur, for the new Mayan Chocolate flavor. I only found one other negative comment about the ad online.

The ad headline reads "cortez invaded for it ..." And the accompanying blurb says: "In 1520, Cortez arrived in Latin America and captured the world's original recipe for chocolate. Mayan chocolate. Fortunately, you'll find it a bit easier to get your hands on this coveted chocolate and cinnamon delicacy."

It's unfortunate, as the ignorance/ arrogance of the ad would have turned me off to the product itself. (I tried some before I saw the Cortez ad and can confirm that it is delicious. And I fed some to Leo this weekend and he's still outraged at the ad, but agrees that the ice cream is awesome.) Fortunately, the ad agency has changed the ad to this one:

Headline: "gift from the gods"
Blurb: The world's very first recipe for chocolate. Over 2,000 years ago, it was a Mayan offering to the gods. And now, we're offering the chocolate and cinnamon delicacy to you."

So I'm uncertain if the Häagen-Dazs ad agency, Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, changed the campaign because they realized that pithy statements about genocide might not be the right sales strategy or if they just wanted the initial punch to get attention: "Advertising 101 today says you have to do something obnoxious in the first ... 10 seconds of an ad" says Jeff Goodby.

More (unrelated) ice-cream backlash:
Ben & Jerry’s new flavor "Black & Tan" intended to emulate the appearance of Guinness Irish stout. It offended some who still associate the name with the two-tone uniforms worn by the notorious regiment of British soldiers recruited to serve in Ireland after WWI who committed a number of atrocities against the Irish.

A few other facts I learned whilst trolling for info about this:
Häagen-Dazs is owned by Dreyers. Example #598 of my point that soon, the whole world will be owned by five corporations.

Goodby, Silverstein & Partners is one of the premier names in advertising with a long heritage of cutting-edge and effective creative work. Perhaps best known for the "Got Milk" campaign, the agency also works for blue chip brands such as Hewlett-Packard, Anheuser-Busch, Netflix, Foster Farms, Adobe, and Saturn. Co-chairmen Rich Silverstein and Jeff Goodby worked together at Ogilvy & Mather before forming their own company in 1983; it operates today as a subsidiary of advertising services conglomerate Omnicom Group.

no west virginian smiles here

Nevermind vanity. Or the threat of developing an English smile.

I hate flossing. I hate it in theory. I hate it in practice.

Perhaps it's my payback for having zero cavities as a kid and ending up with fairly straight teeth, without having to endure braces ... as an adult, I've broken a tooth while eating lunch, had two root canals, one tooth extracted, four impacted wisdom teeth removed, and now have four crowns. Needless to say, I'm on a first-name basis with my dentist. So I floss, usually in my car on my way to work. (I know, it's weird. But it works for me.)

I do all these things to try and keep the teeth I've got left. And I'm in good company, when I see the health statistics on loss of natural teeth, by state.
Via PlanetDan

pay no attention to the man behind the curtain

Q: What do you do when you're the leader of the free world, but your approval rating has just hit an all-time low?
A: Scapegoat a minority.

GOP renews fight against gay marriage
Bush calls for amendment, but critics see election-year diversion
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush offered a new pledge of support Monday for a constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage, a measure expected to fail in the Senate and one critics blasted as an election-year diversion.

"This national question requires a national solution," Bush said in an event attended by supporters of the amendment. "And on an issue of such profound importance, that solution should come not from the courts but from the people of the United States."

The Senate began debate on the Marriage Protection Amendment Monday afternoon. A vote on the amendment is expected Wednesday.

Bush first endorsed a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriages in 2004, when he was a candidate for re-election.

The proposed amendment failed in the Senate that year -- but similar amendments to state constitutions passed in 11 states, and observers credited those measures with bringing enough religious conservatives to the polls in key states like Ohio for Bush to win the election. (Poll: Americans split over gay marriage ban)

After winning a second term, Bush told The Washington Post that he did not plan on pushing for a constitutional ban, saying the Senate was unlikely to pass one as long as the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act remained in place.

But Monday, Bush said the amendment is necessary because "activist judges" have struck down state bans on same-sex marriage that have passed by overwhelming margins.

"These amendments and laws express a broad consensus in our country for protecting the institution of marriage," he said. "The people have spoken."

But opponents of the measure accused the president and his Republican allies in Congress of trying to divert public attention from concerns about issues like fuel prices and the war in Iraq. (Watch the politics behind the proposed ban -- 4:32)

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, said the debate was intended "to divide our society, to pit one against another."

"This is another one of the president's efforts to frighten, to distort, to distract and confuse America," Reid said. "It is this administration's way of avoiding the tough, real problems that American citizens are confronted with each and every day."

But religious conservative leaders have said they are looking to the GOP to follow through on promises made in previous elections.

"This was an issue that was important enough to campaign on in the 2004 election cycle by Republicans in general, but it's not been important enough to act upon yet," Family Research Council President Tony Perkins said.

Opponents of the proposal called it a cynical attempt to revive the party's sagging poll numbers. (Watch activists head to Capitol Hill for the fight over gay marriage -- 1:47)

"There isn't anyone here who is naive enough to believe that the introduction of this legislation now, in two consecutive election cycles, is anything but a politically motivated effort to win votes by demonizing a class of citizens," said the Rev. Robert Hardies, a Unitarian minister.

White House spokesman Tony Snow said Bush was repeating his endorsement "more in sorrow than anything else, that this may in fact require a constitutional amendment." He tried to play down the political impact of the proposed amendment, telling reporters: "I'm not sure this is a big driver, to tell you the truth, of voters."

But activists say the vote is needed to help rally socially conservative voters who have become disillusioned by the current Republican leadership.

"We don't have an interest in re-electing a Republican Congress if they're not willing to fight for pro-family issues," said Peter Sprigg of the Family Research Council.

Several states have questions related to same-sex marriage on their ballots this year.

Sponsor doubts passage
In 2004, the proposed federal amendment drew 48 of the 67 votes needed to pass, and it may not get as far as it did last time unless supporters can muster the 60 votes needed to end debate on the bill. Its principal sponsor, Sen. Wayne Allard, predicted his measure would get more than 50 votes this year.

"Now is the time to send to the states a constitutional amendment that protects traditional marriage and prevents judges from rewriting our traditional marriage laws," the Colorado Republican said. If Congress does not act, "the courts are going to make a decision for all of us," he said.

Only one Democratic senator -- Nebraska's Ben Nelson -- voted for the amendment in 2004, while several moderate Republicans voted against it.

Meanwhile, the Log Cabin Republicans, a gay GOP group, called Bush's support of the measure "offensive and unworthy of the office of the presidency."

"Wedge-issue politics may score short-term political points, but will end up eroding your ability as president to unite the American people behind winning the war in Iraq, enhancing border security, advancing immigration reform and controlling spending," the group's president, Patrick Guerriero, said in a written statement.

"Your call for civility and decency in this debate rings hollow because the effort to write discrimination into our Constitution is intolerant and uncivil."

Another opponent, Mary Cheney, the lesbian daughter of Vice President Dick Cheney, told CNN last month that "writing discrimination into the Constitution of the United States is fundamentally wrong."

A recent Gallup poll found the public split on the amendment, with 50 percent telling pollsters they supported it and 47 saying they opposed it. The poll had a sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

But Matt Daniels, president of the Alliance for Marriage, said "the future of marriage in America has become a race between these court cases and AFM's Marriage Protection Amendment."

"This a great nation, but we cannot go forward as a people if our laws do not send a positive message to children about marriage, family and their own future," Daniels said.

lost in (mis)translation

If he were alive, today (6/6/6) would probably be Anton LaVey's favorite day ever.

Sadly for Mr. LaVey (and fundie religious nutjobs), it's not actually raining frogs. Amphibian atmospherics aside, 666 isn't the number of the beast — 616 is.

As nothing went down on June 1, I'd say the apocalypse isn't gonna happen this millenium.

lundi, juin 05, 2006

paging homer simpson

I'm going to completely sidestep the stereotypes that I could throw around about police and donuts, and even avoid the use of the word "pig." Okay, not really ... (note that this took place at a law enforcement convention).

And riddle me this: why is it that food-eating contests are always the most disgusting of foods (donuts, hot dogs, pie)?

No doughnuts for me, please
Officer takes a break after bagging world eating title
Wednesday, May 31, 2006; Posted: 2:23 p.m. EDT (18:23 GMT)
ELKHORN, Wisconsin (AP) -- What kind of officer swears off doughnuts for a year?
In this case, one who ate 13 of them in three minutes, good enough to earn the title of world champion doughnut-eating officer.
Walworth County Jail Training Sgt. Howard Sawyers, who accomplished the feat last month at a law enforcement convention, said since then he has not been in a hurry to have another one.
Sawyers finished third in the competition last year but said he discovered a championship technique this year -- dunking the doughnuts in water to make them soggy.
"You rip 'em, you dunk them, and you shove," he said.
But doesn't a soaked doughnut lose its taste?
"When you have 13 doughnuts in three minutes, you're not worried too much about taste," Sawyers said.
Besides helping to reinforce a good-natured stereotype of officers' snacking habits, he said the win netted him a free street-survival training seminar and a Sig Sauer .40-caliber pistol.

dimanche, juin 04, 2006

get a rope

Society has a way of enforcing certain moral codes. But mobs and vigilantes rarely mete out the kind of justice that we can look back on and agree with ... if anything, they usually embody our darkest hours.

Online Throngs Impose a Stern Morality in China
Published: June 3, 2006

SHANGHAI, June 2 — It began with an impassioned, 5,000-word letter on one of the country's most popular Internet bulletin boards from a husband denouncing a college student he suspected of having an affair with his wife. Immediately, hundreds joined in the attack.

"Let's use our keyboard and mouse in our hands as weapons," one person wrote, "to chop off the heads of these adulterers, to pay for the sacrifice of the husband."

Within days, the hundreds had grown to thousands, and then tens of thousands, with total strangers forming teams that hunted down the student, hounded him out of his university and caused his family to barricade themselves inside their home.

It was just the latest example of a growing phenomenon the Chinese call Internet hunting, in which morality lessons are administered by online throngs and where anonymous Web users come together to investigate others and mete out punishment for offenses real and imagined.

i'm no spice girl

My father has been known to eat hot Thai peppers until his ears sweat. I, on the other hand, being of sound mind and still in possession of my taste buds, tend to shy away from atomic hotness.

Don't get me wrong -- I like my food well seasoned and flavorful. But I also have this rule about food: it shouldn't hurt. So bring on your drunken noodles, your natvratna korma, and your salsa auténtica. But keep your goddamn kicking and notches to yourself and make mine medium.

Spice Up Your Brain - Alzheimer's Disease: Preserve brain function with spicy foods.
Here’s a tasty thought. Kicking your food up a notch with spices could preserve brain function and keep your brain sharp and strong as you age.

Take turmeric, a spice that lends curries their yellow tint. It can curb mental decline and even slow the effects of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
Researchers find it can effectively fight oxidation, the process behind a variety of bodily diseases. In the brain, oxidation trips up communication between brain cells, impairing general mental functions such as memory.

Over time, all the body’s organs undergo cumulative assaults from oxidation. But the brain is especially vulnerable to decline brought on by oxidation because it has particularly weak antioxidant defenses.

The brain has a built-in toxin mopper-upper—the gene hemeoxygenase-1, or HO-1—but it must first be activated in order to do its job. Here is where turmeric pitches in. A research team from the University of Catania in Italy and from New York Medical College has found that curcumin, the key ingredient in turmeric, strongly induces HO-1 expression in the brains of animals, thereby rescuing neurons from oxidant destroyers.

“Oxidative stress causes inflammation, which causes cell death, then disease, and then neurodegeneration,” says lead researcher Nader Abraham, of New York Medical College. “But curry can not only prevent disease, it could help keep the brain sharp as people age” he says.

Curcumin was singled out as a worthy spice to investigate in part because of the relatively low rate of Alzheimer’s disease in India, where curries are a dietary staple. Curcumin's antioxidant activity gives it value as a food preservative, which is probably why it has been used; the flavor is just a bonus.

Indeed spices have been found to act as a kind of antibiotic, preventing or inhibiting the growth of more than 75 percent of food-borne germs. Their rich pigments often contain antioxidants.

Doctors UCLA’s Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center have found that curcumin has one additional property not shared by most spices. It directly inhibits the production of amyloid plaques, the sticky substances that directly causes Alzheimer’s disease. Turmeric, in fact, seems to cut the number of amyloid plaques in half.

About a tablespoon of curry a day, or 200 mg of curcumin, does the trick, says Dr. Sally Frautschy, associate professor of medicine at UCLA. “I eat curry at least 4 times a week,” she reports.

Other spices are thought to possibly contain medicinal properties. Ginger and cinnamon are getting a close look. A powerful antioxidant in ginger called zingerone appears so far to have brain-protective properties like curcumin. Cinnamon may also have effects in the brain.

So hurry to add curry to your diet.

Via Leo

vendredi, juin 02, 2006

great sports any way you spell it

There was no San Diego repeat at the National Spelling Bee yesterday.

But I did enjoy this story on what it's like to be at the Bee.

Great Sports Any Way You Spell It
By Bill Simmons
Page 2
Editor's note: This article orginally ran on May 31, 2002.
You know it, you love it ... that's right, it's the National Spelling Bee, a spectacle that ranks alongside the Adult Video News Awards and the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show as the most secretly captivating telecast on TV.

Has the Spelling Bee ever not delivered the goods? For one thing, you can compete along with the contestants. You learn dozens of words that could never be used under any circumstances. The tension during the contest becomes unbearable at times. And if you're watching this with some friends, the "Mystery Science Theater" potential is off the charts. There's something for everyone.

This year's contest aired live on ESPN Thursday afternoon ... as always, I kept a running diary. Here's what transpired:

1 p.m. -- Welcome to Washington, D.C., for the 75th annual Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee! Our announcers: former Bee champion Katie McCrimmon and Page 2's own Chris McKendry, who handily defeated the Road Dog and David Halberstam in Scrabble during our Christmas party last year. The contest started on Wednesday with 250 competitors, eventually getting whittled down to 40 kids between the ages of 10 and 14 (20 males, 20 females). My goal? To make it through this entire column without poking fun at any of them. I haven't been tested like this in years.

1:02 -- Today's Head Pronouncer: Dr. Alex Cameron, a professor of English at Dayton who could best be described as a poor man's James Lipton. Shouldn't he grow a cheesy beard to complete the Lipton effect? And while we're at it, shouldn't every Spelling Bee moderator have a cheesy beard? That should be in the rule book.
1:03 -- Our first word: "Gloxinia," a greenhouse Brazilian herb. I think I bought this once while I was in Mexico; I got ripped off. Somehow, the 10-year-old boy from New York nails it. You have to love any contest that features people from New York who can spell.

1:04 -- Jacqueline from New York enjoys Irish dancing, basketball and swimming ... but she doesn't enjoy the word "casein" (the principal protein of cheese), which she just spelled wrong. Fifty years from now, somebody will say something to her like, "This cheese doesn't taste like it has enough casein," and she'll snap and kill everyone in the room.

1:10 -- Our next competitor: Charlotte, N.C., resident Ifreke Okpokowuruk, who prepared for the contest today by repeatedly spelling his own name in the hotel lobby. He can't spell "brevet" (a government document). After him, Kevin from South Dakota correctly spells "parabulia" (abnormality or perversion of will power). The next three contestants screw up on "skiagram" (an X-ray photograph), "masseter" (a jaw muscle) and "instauration" (restoration after decay). I actually spelled two of those. I'm 2-for-6 right now. You can't stop me.

1:12 -- All right, I have to ask: What's the over-under on "And this one time, at band camp ..." jokes these kids hear in school during the average week?

1:15 -- Michael from Ohio gets "noumenal" (relating to an object of apprehension), then heads back to his seat as the camera follows him, finally smiling into the camera and looking officially noumenal. That might have been the first time in Spelling Bee history that someone actually acted out the word.

1:17 -- Reason No. 32 why I love the Spelling Bee: ESPN uses some sort of modified version of the "Fletch" soundtrack for the commercial breaks. Is Dr. John Koktostin one of the judges? By the way, I think I've watched too much playoff basketball over the past few weeks -- I keep waiting for one of these kids to spell a word correctly, then pound on his or her chest and point defiantly to the crowd. Way too much Kenyon Martin in my life lately.

1:19 -- Parth Lakhani from Pennsylvania has a bushier mustache than Rudi did during the last two years of "The Cosby Show." Chris tells us that Parth speaks several languages, including Hindi ... that doesn't help him spell "doyen" (the senior male member of the group).

1:20 -- After two minutes of procrastinating, Mohammad Bader from Pennsylvania just misspelled "marcescent," described as "withering without falling off" ... which could also describe just about every contestant's stage presence this afternoon.

Meanwhile, Katie tells us that "Dr. Cameron spends months sitting on his front porch working on this list. Grueling preparation." That might be the first time in history that "grueling" was ever used in the same sentence as "front porch." We're making history here at the 75th annual Spelling Bee.

1:24 -- You know, Chris McKendry's hosting job has been absolutely usufructuary so far.

1:25 -- Abhijith Eswarappa. That's not a word, that's a competitor. "He's also a strong mathmetician," Chris tells us, as Katie adds that Abhijith is already being recruited by colleges at age 14 (including Duke University). Sounds a little suspicious. Sadly, he couldn't get "beignet" (a fritter).

(Note: I actually knew that spelling, because beignets are a New Orleans specialty, as I found out during Super Bowl week. Nothing like throwing down some beignets while people are leaving death threats in your hotel room. Good times.)

1:28 -- Just the facts about Steven from Tennessee: He wants to be a video game programmer some day ... his favorite movie is "Shrek" ... he enjoys swimming, drawing, traveling and hyperventilating during spelling bees. Somehow he pulls off the spelling for "sericeous" (having a fuzzy surface) before nearly passing out. Very exciting. It's not officially a Spelling Bee until someone's practically hyperventilating.

1:33 -- Next up: Sarah Yang. You might remember her sister, Ying. She incorrectly spells "spheterize" (take for one's own). I actually got that one -- I'm on a 3-0 streak right now.

1:34 -- Random TV thoughts: Couldn't ESPN show an alternate version of this contest on ESPN2, with Jay Mohr and Jeffrey Ross serving as co-hosts and cracking jokes? Would anyone be against this? What would it be like if Fox ever acquired the rights to the Spelling Bee? Couldn't Fred Williard serve as a co-host one year, just so he could pull his "Best In Show" routine? And why aren't there sideline reporters in the Comfort Room?

1:36 -- Word of the day so far: "pesade" (a maneuver in which a horse is made to raise his forequarters off the grounds without advancing). I'm sure workers in the stables use this word all the time.

1:39 -- Katie again: "Every year we've had more and more home schoolers ... this year we had 10 percent of the pack from home schools." Sounds like a potential "Outside the Lines" episode. Have you ever met anyone who was home-schooled? These people eventually leave their houses, right? Are they allowed to have social contact? I'm brimming with questions right now.

1:41 -- Dr. Cameron's example of how to use "garibaldi" properly: "Antonio followed his mother through the crowded market, keeping a sharp eye on her garibaldi." I don't even have a joke here. Twenty-six spellers still alive.

1:44 -- The highlight of the day: The flashback to the 1997 finals, when the soon-to-be champion hears the winning word ("euonym"), jumps up and down (because she knows it), then shrieks each letter in crazed delight. That's like a cross between Carlton Fisk's homer in the '75 World Series and Carl Lewis singing the national anthem. The greatest spelling bee highlight of all-time, on about nine different levels.

1:46 -- Words from Round 4: "hermeneutics" (the study of biblical interpretation); "soterial" (relating to salvation); "drupaceous" (relating to the skin of a fruit); "garibaldi" (an Italian word relating to a woman's blouse). "breccia" (a rock consisting of sharp segments); "Torquemada" (one who harasses in a manner to injure, grieve or afflict). Feel free to use them in your own sentences, like, "The Yankee fan was arrested for acting like a general Torquemada."

1:48 -- Ladies and gentleman, our associate pronouncer for today ... Dr. Jacques Bailly! He's clearly the second-best pronouncer in the country right now. Think he ever fantasizes about smashing a breccia over Dr. Cameron's head?

1:51 -- Now we're in Round 5 ... our last three words, including back to Round 4, were "graveolent" (having a rank smell), "tonitruous" (thundering), and "barathrum" (a place of misery or torment). We've apparently entered the "flatuence-related words" portion of the contest.

1:54 -- Hey, somebody normal! It's Stephanie from San Francisco, who seems like she's actually ventured outside in the past six months. She just nailed "periosteal" (situated around bone). Come on, Steph! I'm rooting for a showdown between Steph and The Hyperventilator for the championship.

2:01 -- When a kid from Illinois spells "sortileger" (someone who tells fortunes), the judges use instant replay to make sure he spelled it correctly (nope). For God's sake, even the Spelling Bee instituted instant replay before the NBA did. Unbelievable.

2:02 -- All right, I'll ask: What happens in the Comfort Room? Just a lot of crying and back-rubbing? It's like the secret room that David Stern emerges from before every NBA draft pick ... we simply don't know what happens back there. I'm downright intrigued. Do they give each kid a smoking jacket, a massage chair and some spiced-up punch? Are there psychologists back there? I need to know these things.

2:04 -- According to Chris, contestant Mallika Thampy is the sister of George Thampy, winner of the 2000 Spelling Bee. Good times at the Thampy house, huh? Who's up for some Scrabble?

2:05 -- Words from Round 5: "thremmatalogy" (the science of breeding animals and plants); "ortstein" (a cemented or compacted clayey layer in soil); "putsch" (a sudden coup d'etat); "ramellose" (having little branches); "besom" (a broom made with a bundle of twigs); "quattrocento" (refers to the 15th century); "jordanon" (a small, usually localized population). Some good potential fantasy team names in there.

2:08 -- Put it this way: I can't remember ever hitting on someone at a bar and having them say, "Yeah, back in high school, I appeared in a couple of National Spelling Bees."

2:17 -- Katie has perfected the agonized "Ohhhhhhhhh" groan when somebody misspells a word. Right out of the Dick Button playbook. By the way, would it kill ESPN to show Katie and Chris a little more? We have to look at Chris Berman for six straight hours during the NFL draft, but we hardly get any shots of Katie and Chris. Heads are going to roll the next time I visit Bristol.

2:19 -- April Reynolds endured 14 different brain surgeries as a child, she was reading by 18 months old ... now she's being forced to spell "macumba" (a Brazilian ritual or cult). Way too much going on right now. Do you think the Brazilians ever break out the gloxinia bong during the macumba?

2:21 -- Anyone who dares to have any normal outside hobbies can't win this thing. Michael from Ohio (a superb soccer player), Samira from Colorado (a kickboxer), Sarah from Tennessee (designed her own online fashion magazine) ... they're all out. There's a lesson here.

2:22 -- Along those same lines, Chris and Katie have this exchange:

-- KATIE: "About 10 million students start in local spelling bees, now we're down to the best 19 in the country."
-- CHRIS: "How much work do they put out on a daily basis?"
-- KATIE: "At this point? Almost all day."

(Note to self: Don't push kids toward spelling bees.)

2:26 -- Wisconsin's Trevor Mahoney has a full-fledged, Dave Wannstedt-esque cheesy mustache going. Highest of high comedy. This kid is 14 going on 35. Absolutely the highlight of the show so far. You can almost picture him backstage hitting on all the female competitors and showing people his fake ID. Unfortunately, he botches "sculpin" (scaleless bony fishes). Everyone I like keeps getting knocked off.

2:33 -- Reason No. 34 Why I Love The Spelling Bee: Whenever one of the contestants asks, "Is there another pronunciation?" for a word, and Dr. Cameron coldly looks up and says, "No." That kills me for some reason. He would make a fantastic movie villain.

2:38 -- We're done with Round 6 ... 14 kids remain. Also, my right eye won't close. Some of my favorite words from last round: "echinate" (covered with stiff bristles); "limitrophe" (the bizarre decline of Jose Lima over the past three seasons); "resile" (to draw back, recoil or retract); "orpiment" (an orange to yellow material); "verticil" (a circle of similar body parts); "nephelognosy" (scientific observation of clouds); "jacamar" (brightly colored South American bird); "epiphora" (a watering of the eyes due to excessive secretions); "chela" (a pincerlike organ). Are you resiling at some of those words?

2:43 -- If I were contestant Eric Bolt, I'd be pissed that somebody got "caulicolous" (growing on the stems of other plants) right before I got "onychophagia" (the act of fingernail-biting). Somehow he still nailed it ... capping it off with an apparent F-bomb as he left the stage! That was the unequivocal highlight of the day. I think I willed that one to happen.

2:45 -- After the Thampy sister gets bounced, Chris tells us that no sibling has ever won a Spelling Bee after another sibling did. All stats today courtesy of the Elias Sports Bureau. "It's so difficult," Katie says. "That's why it's never been done."

2:47 -- Dr. Cameron ventures onto the stage to pronounce "epopt" (one instructed in a secret system), getting two rounds of applause for doing the face-to-face thing with the contestant who couldn't understand the word. That was absorbing. Any time Dr. Cameron's moving around, I'm on the edge of my seat. Of course, after all that commotion, the girl couldn't spell it. "Horrible word," Chris says. I think we all feel that way.

2:53 -- For the definition of "hallux" (the big toe), Dr. Cameron gives this sentence: "The football player became afflicted with an arthritic hallux that affected his mobility." Couldn't he have thrown Shaq in there? Would that have killed him?

2:55 -- The Hyperventilator's back! He just nailed "feretory" (a place for keeping an ornate coffin). He's the crowd favorite right now ("He wears his heart, his emotions, everything on his sleeve,'" Katie says). Let's face it: When you combine spelling, hyperventilating and panicked groaning, you're winning over the crowd every time.

2:59 -- Reason No. 35 Why I Love Spelling Bees: when one of the kids nails a word, then skips back to the seating section and pulls the "I didn't know it!" routine with one of the other competitors, as braces fly everywhere. Just a little Spelling Bee bonding.

3:02 -- We're headed into Round 7 with nine competitors remaining. I actually spelled four words right that round! I want to go pro. Here were some of them: "sertulum" (a collection of scientifically studied plants); "amole" (plants used as a source of soap); "pelisse" (a woman's loose overcoat); "gabion" (a hollow cylinder of wickerwork); "culgee" (a jewel plume worn on Indian turbans); "balmacaan" (a loose boxy overcoat); "kakemono" (something you wear at an Asian massage parlor); "batture" (describes specific land between a river and water).

3:04 -- Here's what the champion wins: $12,000 ... an engraved trophy that looks a little like the Stanley Cup ... an Encyclopedia Britannica set ... Great Books of the Western World ... the 2002 Britannica CD ... a $1,000 U.S. Savings Bond ... the Merriam Webster reference library ... and the new X-rated DVD, "Home School Orgy: Final Exams."

3:05 -- Colorado's Pratyush Buddiga nails "oubliette," defined as a dungeon with a concealed pit. Is that what Buffalo Bill had in "Silence of the Lambs"? An oubliette? It places the lotion on its skin, or it gets the hose again ...

3:08 -- The star of the day: Nathan from Indiana, who just handled "chirognomy" (palm reading) in about six seconds. He listens to the word twice, then he spells it. He's a machine. The other competitors are getting psyched out. Hell, I'm getting psyched out.

3:12 -- You know, I keep waiting for one of the contestants to miss a word, then magically disappear from the screen with a loud pop, like the contestants during the Charlie Brown spelling bee. By the way, I'm drunk again.

3:19 -- Nooooooooooo! The girl with 14 brain surgeries just got bounced on "tiralee" (a succession of musical notes). Everyone's bummed out. Fortunately, The Hyperventilator advanced on "altricial" (having the young hatch in an immature condition), so at least we still have him around ... and he's strangely serene. The Big H is in the zone right now.

3:22 -- Reason No. 36 Why I Love Spelling Bees: Every contestant's father is either an engineer or computer consultant. You never hear announcers say, "Her dad is a bartender," or "His dad is an assistant manager of a video store." Not gonna happen.

3:23 -- My hallux feels a little stiff.

3:29 -- Fast Nathan takes about 20 seconds to spell "soavemente" (a direction of smoothness in music). I was a little worried there. It's all coming down to him and the Big H. You can feel it.

3:33 -- Kevin from North Dakota correctly spells "uveitis" (inflammation of the iris), as Chris says, "He's still in! He wants to bring it home for North Dakota!"

(Lemme tell you something ... that might be the most exciting thing that ever happened to North Dakota. You would definitely see a highway sign or two commemorating that one.)

3:33 -- The Big H spells "muliebral" (relating to a characteristic of women) to end Round 8. Only five competitors remain, including just one girl -- JJ Goldstein (not a stage name), who spelled "areopagus" (the supreme tribune of Athens) to remain alive. The tension builds. I feel like performing a pesade.

3:36 -- Some words from the last 30 minutes: "pelean" (pertaining to volcanic ash); "badigeon" (plaster); "talipot" (Taliban marijuana); "saxifrage" (showy five-part flowers); "troching" (a small point of a stag's antler); "icteric (afflicted with jaundice); "repoussage" (hammering out thin metal).

(Out of everything today, I think "barathrum" (a place of misery or torment) was my favorite. That would make a good name for my fantasy football team this year: Billy's Barathrum. Consider it done.)

3:39 -- You know, when it comes right down to it, it doesn't get much creepier than close-ups of nervous parents at a spelling bee. Parents holding lucky stuffed animals and crosses, parents videotaping their kids in intense silence, even parents high-fiving their child's home-schooling tutor. Remember what Joaquin Phoenix told Nic Cage as they delved into the world of hard-core porn in "8 MM: "You're gonna see some things ... things you can't un-see." That's a little how I feel right now.

3:43 -- Ouch! Three contestants get bounced right away: Fast Nathan stumbles on "lucarne" (dormer window). Good run. Right after him, J.J. Goldstein fudges "porraceous" (a clear light green color), and Kevin can't spell "miombo" (an East African name).

(That leads to another Spelling Bee highlight -- Kevin's mom trying to kiss him congratulations, while he recoils in horror, pushes her away and screams, "Mom!" A legitimate resiling!)

3:44 -- Before I forget, now that "Two-Minute Drill" has been canceled, can't ESPN launch a series of spelling bees with professional athletes? Could you put a price on seeing Rickey Henderson trying to spell "badigeon?" Or Brett Favre asking for a definition for "ceraunograph"? They could even have Cynthia Cooper be the pronouncer. This couldn't lose.

3:45 -- After the Big H nails "hirundine" (relating to the swallow), we're down to two spellers -- the Big H and Pratyush from Colorado. Actually, we could probably just call him Pratyush at this point.

3:50 -- Feel the drama. First, Pratyush spells "paraclete" (someone called to aid or support). Then the Big H messes up "morigeration" (servile obedience). And since you need to spell the last word of the contest correctly to win the title, Pratyush must spell "prospicience" (foresight), only with the Big H lurking behind him and trying to psyche him out ... high drama here ...

3:52 -- He nails it! Unbelievable! Pratyush Buddiga has done it! He's our 2002 Spelling Bee champion ... and he's hearing some tonitruous applause from the crowd! No chrigonomist or sortileger could have predicted this.

3:55 -- McKendry jumps on stage to interview Pratyush, who acknowledges "troching" almost stumped him and seems way too humble. We might as well do some trash-talking for him:

"I spheterized this contest and turned this into my own personal barathrum! It was all about parabulia, baby! Take these other contestants, build them some feretories and throw them in my oubliette! It's time to get badigeoned! It's Buddiga time!"

Bill Simmons writes two columns per week for Page 2 and ESPN The Magazine. You can reach his Sports Guy's World site here. His book "Now I Can Die In Peace" is available on and in bookstores everywhere.
Via Leo