lundi, juillet 31, 2006

three years on ...

I realized a few seconds ago that July 29 has come and gone. The day that was pretty much the Krakatoa of my life a few years ago was wonderful this year. What a difference three years makes.

jeudi, juillet 27, 2006

san diego eats

Check out the local's guide to san diego eats.

I mostly agree with Doug. He's missing a few key spots (Dao Son, Saffron, The Mission, Lorna's Italian Kitchen, Ashoka the Great), but otherwise he's spot-on.

By the looks of the list: work in progress, he's obviously in my neighborhood — most of the places are within two miles of my house.

like, duh.

This e-mail from Diana yesterday just killed me.

"press release. this just in. lance from nsync says he is gay.
no, REALLY???
all my hopes dashed upon the rocks.
couldn't see that from a freakin' mile away.

happy gay pride weekend."

mardi, juillet 25, 2006

what's your eco footprint?

I recycle. I buy organic most of the time. I live less than 5 miles from work. I don't drive an SUV. I even carpool every chance I get.

And, compared to most Americans, I have a pretty small ecological footprint. But the fact remains that if everyone lived like me, we'd need 3.7 planets. Al Gore would be so disappointed in me ...

some people call me the retarded cowboy ...

I'm not sure why I think this is so funny. But I do.

The Joker (Steve Miller Does Dubya)
Some people call me the retarded cowboy, yeah
Some call me the gangster of hate
Some people call me “Boy Ki -iiiiiiiiiiiiing”
Cause I’m anointed, with too much on my plate

People talk about me, Kofi
Say I’m doin’ the world wrong, doin’ it wrong
Well, don’t you worry, Kofi
Don’t worry
Cause while the world’s on fire, Condi and I’ll stay home

Cause I’m a groper
I’m a doper
I’m a mother
An interloper
I screw the world up just for fun

I’m a joker
I’m a coker
I’m a pretzel choker
I sure don’t want to help no one

Iraq’s the biggest prize
That I ever did see
I really love its Shiites
Who are killin’ Sunnis
Murder-mayhem, murder-mayhem, murder-mayhem all the time
Ooo-eee, Kofi, I’ll sure show you a war crime

I’m a decider
I’m a grinner
I’m a frat boy
I’m a sinner
I play my role as modern Hun

I’m a joker
I’m a coker
I’m a Halliburton broker
I get my briefings on the run
Wooo wooooo

People talk about me, Kofi
Say I’m doin’ the world wrong, doin’ it wrong
Well, don’t you worry, Kofi
Don’t worry
Cause while the world’s on fire, Condi and I’ll stay home

Iraq’s the biggest prize
That I ever did see
I really never heard of Shiites
Or even Sunnis
Murder-mayhem, murder-mayhem, murder-mayhem on our dime
Ooo-eee, Kofi, we’ll be there for all time

Via One Good Move

no, seriously. stop.

My French phrase a day calendar currently says:
Je ne peux pas me passer de chocolate.
Translation: I can't live without chocolate.

So I laughed when I saw this photo in Time Magazine's All Cubed In photoessay.

rolling blackouts here we come (do dah, do dah)

The last time the California Independent System Operator issued a Stage Two Electrical Emergencies on a regular basis, I was working across town with Rick and a rolling blackout was my code word for a nap.

Sadly, soaring temperatures have led us back into an energy crisis. Hopefully, my electric bill won't triple like it did in that deregulated (AKA evil, colluding energy companies using the heat as an excuse for price-gouging and rampant profiteering) market.

But a nap does sound mighty good right about now ...

kitchen conversation with allison yesterday

A: So I saw this story on CNN Money today about cooking oil-powered cars.
**enter cartoon sound effect: the sound of a needle scratching the shit out of a 12-inch vinyl record **
H: Wait a second. Did you just say "I saw this story on CNN Money today"?
A: Shut up. Anyway ...
H: My god, what is this world coming to?! We are MBA dorks.

lundi, juillet 24, 2006

thou shalt not be a hypocrite

Check out Stephen Colbert's interview with Georgia congressman Lynn Westmoreland.

Westmoreland, a republican, is co-sponsor of a bill on the ten commandments, but can't even name them.
Via Jennifer and Allison

academic freedom

I work in a university. I hear the term "academic freedom" a lot. A whole lot. This op-ed piece helped me clarify what academic freedom is, and isn't.

The Cliffs Notes version:
... academic freedom has nothing to do with content. Rather, academic freedom is the freedom of academics to study anything they like; the freedom, that is, to subject any body of material, however unpromising it might seem, to academic interrogation and analysis.

In short, whether something is an appropriate object of academic study is a matter not of its content ... but of its availability to serious analysis.

Any idea can be brought into the classroom if the point is to inquire into its structure, history, influence and so forth. But no idea belongs in the classroom if the point of introducing it is to recruit your students for the political agenda it may be thought to imply.

Conspiracy Theories 101
Published: July 23, 2006
KEVIN BARRETT, a lecturer at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, has now taken his place alongside Ward Churchill of the University of Colorado as a college teacher whose views on 9/11 have led politicians and ordinary citizens to demand that he be fired.

Mr. Barrett, who has a one-semester contract to teach a course titled “Islam: Religion and Culture,” acknowledged on a radio talk show that he has shared with students his strong conviction that the destruction of the World Trade Center was an inside job perpetrated by the American government. The predictable uproar ensued, and the equally predictable battle lines were drawn between those who disagree about what the doctrine of academic freedom does and does not allow.

Mr. Barrett’s critics argue that academic freedom has limits and should not be invoked to justify the dissemination of lies and fantasies. Mr. Barrett’s supporters (most of whom are not partisans of his conspiracy theory) insist that it is the very point of an academic institution to entertain all points of view, however unpopular. (This was the position taken by the university’s provost, Patrick Farrell, when he ruled on July 10 that Mr. Barrett would be retained: “We cannot allow political pressure from critics of unpopular ideas to inhibit the free exchange of ideas.”)

Both sides get it wrong. The problem is that each assumes that academic freedom is about protecting the content of a professor’s speech; one side thinks that no content should be ruled out in advance; while the other would draw the line at propositions (like the denial of the Holocaust or the flatness of the world) considered by almost everyone to be crazy or dangerous.

But in fact, academic freedom has nothing to do with content. It is not a subset of the general freedom of Americans to say anything they like (so long as it is not an incitement to violence or is treasonous or libelous). Rather, academic freedom is the freedom of academics to study anything they like; the freedom, that is, to subject any body of material, however unpromising it might seem, to academic interrogation and analysis.

Academic freedom means that if I think that there may be an intellectual payoff to be had by turning an academic lens on material others consider trivial — golf tees, gourmet coffee, lingerie ads, convenience stores, street names, whatever — I should get a chance to try. If I manage to demonstrate to my peers and students that studying this material yields insights into matters of general intellectual interest, there is a new topic under the academic sun and a new subject for classroom discussion.

In short, whether something is an appropriate object of academic study is a matter not of its content — a crackpot theory may have had a history of influence that well rewards scholarly scrutiny — but of its availability to serious analysis. This point was missed by the author of a comment posted to the blog of a University of Wisconsin law professor, Ann Althouse: “When is the University of Wisconsin hiring a professor of astrology?” The question is obviously sarcastic; its intention is to equate the 9/11-inside-job theory with believing in the predictive power of astrology, and to imply that since the university wouldn’t think of hiring someone to teach the one, it should have known better than to hire someone to teach the other.

But the truth is that it would not be at all outlandish for a university to hire someone to teach astrology — not to profess astrology and recommend it as the basis of decision-making (shades of Nancy Reagan), but to teach the history of its very long career. There is, after all, a good argument for saying that Shakespeare, Chaucer and Dante, among others, cannot be fully understood unless one understands astrology.

The distinction I am making — between studying astrology and proselytizing for it — is crucial and can be generalized; it shows us where the line between the responsible and irresponsible practice of academic freedom should always be drawn. Any idea can be brought into the classroom if the point is to inquire into its structure, history, influence and so forth. But no idea belongs in the classroom if the point of introducing it is to recruit your students for the political agenda it may be thought to imply.

And this is where we come back to Mr. Barrett, who, in addition to being a college lecturer, is a member of a group calling itself Scholars for 9/11 Truth, an organization with the decidedly political agenda of persuading Americans that the Bush administration “not only permitted 9/11 to happen but may even have orchestrated these events.”

Is the fact of this group’s growing presence on the Internet a reason for studying it in a course on 9/11? Sure. Is the instructor who discusses the group’s arguments thereby endorsing them? Not at all. It is perfectly possible to teach a viewpoint without embracing it and urging it. But the moment a professor does embrace and urge it, academic study has ceased and been replaced by partisan advocacy. And that is a moment no college administration should allow to occur.

Provost Farrell doesn’t quite see it that way, because he is too hung up on questions of content and balance. He thinks that the important thing is to assure a diversity of views in the classroom, and so he is reassured when Mr. Barrett promises to surround his “unconventional” ideas and “personal opinions” with readings “representing a variety of viewpoints.”

But the number of viewpoints Mr. Barrett presents to his students is not the measure of his responsibility. There is, in fact, no academic requirement to include more than one view of an academic issue, although it is usually pedagogically useful to do so. The true requirement is that no matter how many (or few) views are presented to the students, they should be offered as objects of analysis rather than as candidates for allegiance.

There is a world of difference, for example, between surveying the pro and con arguments about the Iraq war, a perfectly appropriate academic assignment, and pressing students to come down on your side. Of course the instructor who presides over such a survey is likely to be a partisan of one position or the other — after all, who doesn’t have an opinion on the Iraq war? — but it is part of a teacher’s job to set personal conviction aside for the hour or two when a class is in session and allow the techniques and protocols of academic research full sway.

This restraint should not be too difficult to exercise. After all, we require and expect it of judges, referees and reporters. And while its exercise may not always be total, it is both important and possible to make the effort.

Thus the question Provost Farrell should put to Mr. Barrett is not “Do you hold these views?” (he can hold any views he likes) or “Do you proclaim them in public?” (he has that right no less that the rest of us) or even “Do you surround them with the views of others?”

Rather, the question should be: “Do you separate yourself from your partisan identity when you are in the employ of the citizens of Wisconsin and teach subject matter — whatever it is — rather than urge political action?” If the answer is yes, allowing Mr. Barrett to remain in the classroom is warranted. If the answer is no, (or if a yes answer is followed by classroom behavior that contradicts it) he should be shown the door. Not because he would be teaching the “wrong” things, but because he would have abandoned teaching for indoctrination.

The advantage of this way of thinking about the issue is that it outflanks the sloganeering and posturing both sides indulge in: on the one hand, faculty members who shout “academic freedom” and mean by it an instructor’s right to say or advocate anything at all with impunity; on the other hand, state legislators who shout “not on our dime” and mean by it that they can tell academics what ideas they can and cannot bring into the classroom.

All you have to do is remember that academic freedom is just that: the freedom to do an academic job without external interference. It is not the freedom to do other jobs, jobs you are neither trained for nor paid to perform. While there should be no restrictions on what can be taught — no list of interdicted ideas or topics — there should be an absolute restriction on appropriating the scene of teaching for partisan political ideals. Teachers who use the classroom to indoctrinate make the enterprise of higher education vulnerable to its critics and shortchange students in the guise of showing them the true way.

inspiration comes in many forms

I saw Lulu & Philippe's gorgeous photos this morning and then my RSS feed served up these food photography tips. Here are some others:
  1. Never use a flash. If you're in a restaurant, choose a table near a window. "The flash flattens everything out," says photographer John Kernick. When that's not possible, choose one of the camera's "white balance" settings; for example, the setting indicated by a light bulb compensates for the yellow tint indoor lights can cast.
  2. Get in close. "If you fill the frame with the dish, it can make the food look heroic," says photographer James Baigrie. Use a camera's macro setting (often indicated by a flower icon) to bring a part of the dish into sharper focus. Or widen the aperture to reduce the depth of field, which allows you to focus on foreground details—say, the crusty corner on a dish of macaroni and cheese—and keep the background soft.
  3. Wipe glasses and plate edges. Be sure surfaces are free of smudges and greasy fingerprints, says food stylist Alison Attenborough. In good light, they really stand out.
  4. Work quickly. The longer it takes to set up a shot, the more salads wilt, sauces congeal. "For food to look delicious, it needs to look fresh," says Baigrie.
  5. Keep hands steady. In low-light conditions, even the slightest tremor can produce a blurry photograph. Brace your elbows against the table to keep the camera steady. Or try blogger Josh Friedland's trick: He often uses the top of a water glass as a makeshift tripod.
  6. Shoot a lot. "A photo may seem [okay] on the camera's tiny screen," says Chika Yoshizaki, the blogger at "But when I get home and look on my computer, it is likely to be out of focus or too bright. So I click away."
  7. Shoot food as it's being prepared. "Don't get hung up on capturing the quintessential 'final shot,'" says blogger Heidi Swanson. "There are all sorts of great details that emerge throughout the cooking process."
  8. Know what not to shoot. Some foods are notoriously unphotogenic—for example, a meal that's all one color or dishes with brown sauces.
  9. Do your homework. For other tips, skim the food-photo discussion boards at —Rob Willey

dimanche, juillet 23, 2006

brownlash and you

"Brownlash" is a term coined last year by Paul and Anne Ehrlich to describe "a deliberate attempt to minimize the seriousness of environmental problems through misuse or misreporting of science." Here's a prime example:

Manufactured Doubt: New product for U.S. industry
Industries growing adept at manipulating science to suit their needs
Sunday, June 26, 2005
WASHINGTON — In the 1970s, facing the loss of millions of dollars in sales because of fears that chemicals it produced were shredding the Earth's protective ozone layer, DuPont Corp. fought for time.

It got what it wanted.

A carefully designed campaign by the Hill and Knowlton public relations firm attacked the science behind the ozone depletion fears and delayed government action for two years, enough time for DuPont to bring new, ozone-friendly chemicals to market.

The campaign employed a tactic that is now being used by more and more industries to ward off costly government action, says George Washington University epidemiologist David Michaels.

He calls it "manufactured doubt."

By generating and publicizing uncertainty about the scientific underpinnings of proposed action on air pollution, global warming, the health effects of tobacco and other subjects, industries have been able to ward off regulation and buy valuable time, Michaels said.

Now, with the Bush administration's skepticism about regulation, the "manufactured doubt" tactic is more effective than ever before, Michaels wrote in the current edition of Scientific American.

"Industry groups have tried to manipulate science no matter which party is in power," he wrote, "but the efforts have grown more brazen since George W. Bush became president. I believe it is fair to say that never in our history have corporate interests been as successful as they are today in shaping science policies to their desires."

Michaels' article was published shortly before The New York Times reported that a White House official — a former American Petroleum Industry lobbyist with no scientific training — had edited government reports on climate change research, inserting numerous expressions of doubt.

The official, Philip Cooney, resigned his position at the White House Council on Environmental Quality this month after the White House confirmed that he repeatedly inserted phrases that played down links between greenhouse gases and global warming. He has gone to work for ExxonMobil, according to industry reports. The White House says the resignation was planned before the story appeared.

Bob Hopkins, a spokesman for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, said Michaels' article was a "pretty one-sided presentation."
"Advocates on all sides try to use data to support their policy goals," Hopkins said. "This administration strongly believes that decisions should be made using the best science available."

In the case of DuPont, a former Hill and Knowlton executive said the firm did seek to delay government action, but did not bend or hide any facts in doing so.
After the first scientific paper warned in 1974 that chlorofluorocarbons, chemicals widely used as coolants, solvents and aerosol propellants, were responsible for a huge "hole" in the ozone layer protecting the Earth against dangerous ultraviolet radiation, Hill and Knowlton set up a "quick response" campaign to react to the findings and to temper critical press accounts.

According to a memorandum on the campaign written in 1989 by Howard Marder, then a Hill and Knowlton senior vice president, DuPont wanted the firm "to help calm fears, get better reporting of the issues and gain up to two or three years before the government took action to ban" the chemicals.

When the evidence against CFCs mounted, DuPont dropped its opposition to a ban. The chemicals were barred from aerosol sprays in 1978.

By that time, Marder wrote, "DuPont gained much-needed time to find scientific answers to the allegations and to develop alternatives" to CFCs.

Marder, now a spokesman for the New York City Housing Authority, said that he did not remember details of the memorandum but that his purpose at Hill and Knowlton was to get the truth out.

"I would never obfuscate an issue, and I would never spin an issue," he said. "My intention when I worked for Hill and Knowlton was to have the truth be told."
Michaels, a former assistant secretary of energy in the Clinton administration, acknowledged in an interview that an element of doubt was inevitable in government regulatory decisions because they must be based on the best available science, which by definition can never be absolute.

However, "corporations and others who manufacture dangerous products and pollutants have realized that by adding manufactured uncertainty to the equation, they can essentially stop the regulatory process from moving forward," he said.
He said consulting firms hired by industries review critical scientific findings "and pull these studies apart."

"Industry is able to pick a key point that can destroy a regulation, and they take that one on," he said. "The government scientists are just outgunned. They use basic research, and when their research is attacked, they don't go back and do more research. There's no funding for that."

"The vilification of threatening research as 'junk science' and the corresponding sanctification of industry-commissioned research as 'sound science' has become nothing less than standard operating procedure in some parts of corporate America," he wrote in the magazine article.

Although the practice "goes back a long time," it was perfected by the tobacco industry, Michaels said.

He said one tobacco company executive wrote in a memorandum, which later came to light in tobacco litigation, that "doubt is our product, since it is the best means of competing with as 'body of fact' that exists in the mind of the general public" that smoking is linked to serious health problems.

William O'Keefe, CEO of the George C. Marshall Institute, a nonprofit organization that has repeatedly promoted the views of scientists who question the prevailing opinion that use of fossil fuels are raising the globe's temperature, said he felt Michaels "had an agenda (in writing the article), and he picked examples to promote it."

A former executive of the American Petroleum Institute, O'Keefe said Michaels "takes the position that the government is always right and the private sector is always wrong, and I don't believe that."

"My experience in 25 years in the petroleum industry is that companies are not in business to harm their clients," he said.

If industry insists that regulations "meet the highest possible standards, I don't know what's wrong with that," O'Keefe said.

Via Austin American-Statesman

swift boating the planet

Swiftboating is American political jargon for an ad hominem attack against a public figure, coordinated by an independent or pseudo-independent group, usually resulting in a benefit to an established political force. Specifically, this form of attack is controversial, easily repeatable, and difficult to verify or disprove because it is generally based on personal feelings or recollections.

Swift Boating the Planet
By Paul Krugman
Published: May 29, 2006
A brief segment in "An Inconvenient Truth" shows Senator Al Gore questioning James Hansen, a climatologist at NASA, during a 1989 hearing. But the movie doesn't give you much context, or tell you what happened to Dr. Hansen later.

And that's a story worth telling, for two reasons. It's a good illustration of the way interest groups can create the appearance of doubt even when the facts are clear and cloud the reputations of people who should be regarded as heroes. And it's a warning for Mr. Gore and others who hope to turn global warming into a real political issue: you're going to have to get tougher, because the other side doesn't play by any known rules.

Dr. Hansen was one of the first climate scientists to say publicly that global warming was under way. In 1988, he made headlines with Senate testimony in which he declared that "the greenhouse effect has been detected, and it is changing our climate now." When he testified again the following year, officials in the first Bush administration altered his prepared statement to downplay the threat. Mr. Gore's movie shows the moment when the administration's tampering was revealed.

In 1988, Dr. Hansen was well out in front of his scientific colleagues, but over the years that followed he was vindicated by a growing body of evidence. By rights, Dr. Hansen should have been universally acclaimed for both his prescience and his courage.

But soon after Dr. Hansen's 1988 testimony, energy companies began a campaign to create doubt about global warming, in spite of the increasingly overwhelming evidence. And in the late 1990's, climate skeptics began a smear campaign against Dr. Hansen himself.

Leading the charge was Patrick Michaels, a professor at the University of Virginia who has received substantial financial support from the energy industry. In Senate testimony, and then in numerous presentations, Dr. Michaels claimed that the actual pace of global warming was falling far short of Dr. Hansen's predictions. As evidence, he presented a chart supposedly taken from a 1988 paper written by Dr. Hansen and others, which showed a curve of rising temperatures considerably steeper than the trend that has actually taken place.

In fact, the chart Dr. Michaels showed was a fraud — that is, it wasn't what Dr. Hansen actually predicted. The original paper showed a range of possibilities, and the actual rise in temperature has fallen squarely in the middle of that range. So how did Dr. Michaels make it seem as if Dr. Hansen's prediction was wildly off? Why, he erased all the lower curves, leaving only the curve that the original paper described as being "on the high side of reality."

The experts at, the go-to site for climate science, suggest that the smears against Dr. Hansen "might be viewed by some as a positive sign, indicative of just how intellectually bankrupt the contrarian movement has become." But I think they're misreading the situation. In fact, the smears have been around for a long time, and Dr. Hansen has been trying to correct the record for years. Yet the claim that Dr. Hansen vastly overpredicted global warming has remained in circulation, and has become a staple of climate change skeptics, from Michael Crichton to Robert Novak.

There's a concise way to describe what happened to Dr. Hansen: he was Swift-boated.

John Kerry, a genuine war hero, didn't realize that he could successfully be portrayed as a coward. And it seems to me that Dr. Hansen, whose predictions about global warming have proved remarkably accurate, didn't believe that he could successfully be portrayed as an unreliable exaggerator. His first response to Dr. Michaels, in January 1999, was astonishingly diffident. He pointed out that Dr. Michaels misrepresented his work, but rather than denouncing the fraud involved, he offered a rather plaintive appeal for better behavior.

Even now, Dr. Hansen seems reluctant to say the obvious. "Is this treading close to scientific fraud?" he recently asked about Dr. Michaels's smear. The answer is no: it isn't "treading close," it's fraud pure and simple.

Now, Dr. Hansen isn't running for office. But Mr. Gore might be, and even if he isn't, he hopes to promote global warming as a political issue. And if he wants to do that, he and those on his side will have to learn to call liars what they are.

Via The New York Times

vendredi, juillet 21, 2006

pharmacogenetics and you

Medicine is a law of averages. The average person with sympton X has condition Y. And the average person given drug A will respond with side effects B, C, and / or D. That would work just fine if weren't for the fact that we're not all average people.

Everyone's body breaks down prescription drugs differently and new genetic tests for certain drugs show what's best for different people.

NPR : Gene Test Promises to Find Right Drug, Right Dose
Doc, what can you tell me about pharmacogenetics?

If you pose that question to your physician, you want to find out whether a medication you're taking (or are about to take) is the right dose (and the right drug) for your body. Pharmacogenetics is the science of using genetic tests to fine-tune prescriptions. But it's so new, your doctor might not be aware of it.

Tests are available, or soon to be available, for a number of medical conditions. Finding the right drug and the right dose is part of the art of medicine. A genetic test designed to help doctors determine just that is being sold by The Mayo Clinic, it announced this week. The test is part of a new science called pharmacogenetics.

Finding the Right Drug
A few years ago, doctors were having trouble finding the right drug for Marla Flood's son Jacob. Jacob has autism and a long history of biting, hitting, kicking and scratching, his mother says.

"We had probably tried every drug there is for the treatment of his aggressiveness, his obsessive-type behaviors," Flood says. "He always had a negative reaction, either an increase in aggression or just some side effects that were very harmful to him."

Jacob’s doctor, autism expert Patty Manning-Courtney at Cincinnati Children's Hospital and Medical Center, says it's not that uncommon in children.

"Occasionally there are patients who didn't respond or were, in fact, worse on meds," Manning-Courtney says. "In children with autism, it's a lot of trial-and error-practice with medicines."

Jacob was given Risperdal, a powerful antipsychotic drug that helps many children with autism and behavior problems. But it didn’t help Jacob, his mother says.

"Jake started having tremors; he would just shake all over, unable to focus," Flood says. "I would give him his medication; he would sit on my lap and just be a zombie. That's the only way I can describe what he looked like."

Testing Drug-Metabolizing Genes
Jacob's hospital is a pioneer in the new field of pharmacogenetic testing. It offers tests for two genes that produce enzymes that break down drugs. These genes control how the body metabolizes 25 percent of all drugs, including some used for autism.

Dr. Manning ordered the tests for Jacob. Results showed that he is part of a small minority that metabolizes drugs differently.

A normal dose of Risperdal was actually an overdose for Jacob. So Marla Flood agreed to start her son back on the drug -- at an extra-low dose.

"Now he's not near as aggressive as he has been," Flood says. "I don't have bruises on me now."

More Research Necessary
The promise of pharmacogenetic testing is that people get the right dose of the right drug. Sometimes the tests show that a drug doesn't work. For example, codeine, a pain reliever, cannot be broken down by seven percent of whites and two percent of blacks. These people get the side effects and none of the pain relief.

Commercial tests are available, but only one is approved by the Food and Drug Administration. It costs about $300. Some university hospitals do their own testing, and the Mayo Clinic offers some tests nationally.

Pharmacogenetics pioneer David Flockhart of Indiana University says the question is who should be tested and when. Eventually, people may be tested at birth, he says.

The FDA already recommends that doctors consider a gene test before prescribing the breast cancer drug Herceptin and the attention-deficit and hyperactivity drug Strattera.

But Flockhart says it will take more research before doctors embrace the tests. So what should patients currently taking drugs do if the drug doesn’t seem to be working, or if it is creating bad side effects?

Flockhart says patients are their own best advocates and should consult a physician.

Other experts, including Russ Altman of Stanford University, say pharmacogenetics is such a new science that most doctors didn't learn about it in medical school. Clinicians have to find a laboratory that offers the test and learn how to read the results, he says.

For additional information on pharmacogenetics, visit the
National Institutes of Health site. Or read this explainer at the Food and Drug Administration's site.

jeudi, juillet 20, 2006

and we shall call them avocados

I detest avocados. (But I realize that I am very much in the minority on this one.)

I was fascinated to learn how the fruit got its English name and that the Aztec word for avocado, ahuacate, means testicle.

shooting the shi...

I heart ze frank.

Check out Wednesday's the show with zefrank to learn what Bush said to Tony Blair re: Hezbollah when he didn't know his microphone was still on at the G8 summit.

And yes, we don't torture. We freedom tickle.

mercredi, juillet 19, 2006


Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

it's in the water

I'm taking a business ethics class right now. (Spare me the oxymoron jokes. I'm way ahead of you.)

Reason #295,438,211 that I see most corporations as evil incarnate: Atrazine.

Atrazine is a powerful herbicide applied to 70% of America's cornfields. Traces of the chemical routinely turn up in American streams and wells and even in the rain; the F.D.A. also finds residues of Atrazine in our food.

So what? The chemical was recently banned by the European Union and is a suspected carcinogen and endocrine disruptor that has been linked to low sperm counts among farmers. A couple of years ago, a U.C. Berkeley herpetologist named Tyrone Hayes, while doing research on behalf of Syngenta (Atrazine's manufacturer) found that even at concentrations as low as 0.1 part per billion, the herbicide will chemically emasculate a male frog, causing its gonads to produce eggs — in effect, turning males into hermaphrodites.

Atrazine is often present in American waterways at much higher concentrations than 0.1 part per billion. But American regulators generally won't ban a pesticide until the bodies, or cancer cases, begin to pile up — until, that is, scientists can prove the link between the suspect molecule and illness in humans or ecological catastrophe. So Atrazine is, at least in the American food system, deemed innocent until proved guilty — a standard of proof extremely difficult to achieve, since it awaits the results of chemical testing on humans that we, rightly, don't perform.
Via the New York Times

mardi, juillet 18, 2006

eye color calculator

A friend of mine who is currently pregnant sent me this site: What Color Eyes Would Your Children Have?

I especially liked her comment: "I love that we have scientists who can grok stuff like quantum physics, but there are aspects of eye color that we still don't understand. Mysteries like that are so cool!"

My only disappointment with the site: my eyes are hazel and the system only accepts blue, green, and brown as inputs.

it means "peace"

I had more fun at Balkan Beat Box than I did at any other show at Bonnaroo.

The group includes percussion and keyboards and beat boxing and singing, and well ... you get the picture.

The crowd was rocking out at 3 a.m. when the band dedicated a song to "bad boy Bush."

You could sense that the crowd wasn't sure if we should support what they were singing about or not, as it was in a language most of us didn't understand.

When the lead singer clarified "it means peace" — we were all a bit relieved and (of course) screamed for peace.

an energy tax

This is an interesting idea.

The Big Idea: An Energy Tax
by Charles Wheelan, Ph.D.
July 5, 2006
I had lunch not long ago with a fund-raiser for a prospective presidential candidate. He admitted that his candidate is still looking for a "big idea."

I won't say who the candidate is, or even what party he or she belongs to, but I will offer a "big idea" for whoever wants to take it. Since this proposal isn't inherently liberal or conservative (arguably it's both), it would work for a Republican or a Democrat, provided he or she has the backbone for it.

So here's the idea: Create a carbon tax -- basically a tax on energy calculated based on its carbon content -- and use the new revenue to provide offsetting cuts in the income tax, the payroll tax (the tax on wages used to fund Social Security), or both.

The whole package should be revenue neutral, meaning that it will not increase or decrease the total amount of revenue the government collects. The money will simply come from different sources.

High Price, Low Demand
Yes, I'm arguing that we should increase your taxes and cut your taxes at the same time. To understand why that makes sense, you must appreciate an often-overlooked feature of taxation: Taxing something does not merely raise revenue; it also changes behavior.

If we tax red sports cars more than blue sports cars, some car buyers are going to switch from red to blue. In real life, even taxes on addictive products like cigarettes have been shown to cut smoking.

A tax raises the price of something, and the most basic idea in economics is that when price goes up, demand goes down. And that is exactly the point of my "big idea."

A carbon tax raises the price of using carbon-based energy, everything from coal to gasoline. As a society, we're better off if we curtail our use of fossil fuels. We can start to make progress on global warming; we will improve air quality; we will be less dependent on places like Saudi Arabia and Venezuela; and we could even improve traffic congestion, the bane of just about every metropolitan area in the U.S., by making it more expensive to commute long distances alone by car.

More Than Just Talk
We can talk about our "addiction to oil," as President Bush did in his last State of the Union address, or we can actually do something that will change behavior in a major way. Think about the incentives created by a broad-based carbon tax:

We'll use less carbon-based energy. Have you seen the sales figures for SUVs lately? People kvetched about SUVs for a decade, but they only stopped buying the really big ones when gas got to be $3 a gallon.

We'll invest more in conservation and alternative sources of energy. Ours is the most entrepreneurial nation in the history of human civilization. How about using that talent to find some new, cleaner sources of energy? When the old kinds of energy become more expensive, the new kinds of energy look a lot more profitable. That helps to focus the great minds of corporate America.

Meanwhile, cutting the income tax and/or the payroll tax increases the returns from working. A tax cut on income is the same as a pay increase, which makes work more attractive - meaning more hours, a second job, a spouse going back to work, agreeing to write a column for Yahoo! Finance, and so on.

The Payoff
Obviously, gas prices are already painfully high and nobody wants to pay more. But before you hit "Send" on a vitriolic email response to this column, remember that you're also getting the tax cut on the income side. On average, one cancels out the other.

Will that be true for everyone? No, but that's the point. The tax burden will go up for those who use more than the average amount of carbon-based energy and down for those who use less.

In the grand scheme of global injustice (e.g., being born in a malarial village in rural Africa), that just does not strike me as terribly unfair. If you contribute more than your fair share to global warming, traffic congestion, air pollution, and propping up a repressive regime in Saudi Arabia, then you should pay more.

And if you bicycle to work from your modest, solar-powered home, then society should cut you some slack. (As a matter of disclosure, I do bicycle to work, though I have never owned a solar- or wind-powered home.)

Caveats to Consider
Before the presidential candidates rush to embrace my plan, I would offer a couple of caveats.

First, the plan should take into account the fact that higher energy prices hit low-income households hardest. The poor are likely to spend a higher proportion of their income on gas and utilities and may have fewer options for minimizing those expenses. A family living from paycheck to paycheck cannot run out and buy a Prius or a house closer to work. Thus, the offsetting tax cuts on income should be designed explicitly to address the regressive impact of higher energy prices.

Second, things become a little tricky when government depends on revenue from activities that we're trying to discourage. The good news about a carbon tax is that people will use less energy. The bad news -- or at least the complication -- is that when people use less energy, the government gets less money. That's not an intractable problem, but it is something that has to be considered when designing the plan.

Those are details. To my mind, the big idea is compelling: If we've got to raise revenue somehow, we might as well do it in a way that creates socially desirable incentives. How does someone legally avoid the income tax? By working less. How does the same person legally avoid a carbon tax? By using less energy. Which do you think is better for society?

I'm eager to see which presidential candidate jumps on the idea first.
Via James

eggs-ellent, smithers

Is nothing sacred?

Advertising: For CBS’s Fall Lineup, Check Inside Your Refrigerator
July 17, 2006
IN September, CBS plans to start using a new place to advertise its fall television lineup: your breakfast.

The network plans to announce today that it will place laser imprints of its trademark eye insignia, as well as logos for some of its shows, on eggs — 35 million of them in September and October. CBS’s copywriters are referring to the medium as “egg-vertising,” hinting at the wordplay they have in store. Some of their planned slogans: “CSI” (“Crack the Case on CBS”); “The Amazing Race” (“Scramble to Win on CBS”); and “Shark” (“Hard-Boiled Drama.”). Variations on the ad for its Monday night lineup of comedy shows include “Shelling Out Laughs,” “Funny Side Up” and “Leave the Yolks to Us.”

George Schweitzer, president of the CBS marketing group, said he was hoping to generate some laughter in American kitchens. “We’ve gone through every possible sad takeoff on shelling and scrambling and frying,” he said, adding, “It’s a great way to reach people in an unexpected form.”

Newspapers, magazines and Web sites are so crowded with ads for entertainment programming that CBS was ready to try something different, Mr. Schweitzer said. The best thing about the egg concept was its intrusiveness.

“You can’t avoid it,” he said. He liked the idea so much that he arranged for CBS to be the only advertiser this fall to use the new etching technology. •The CBS ads are the first to use imprinting technology developed by a company called EggFusion, based in Deerfield, Ill. Bradley Parker, who founded the company, wanted to reassure shoppers that egg producers were not placing old eggs in new cartons, so he developed a laser-etching technique to put the expiration date directly on an egg during the washing and grading process.

EggFusion, which was founded in 2001, started production last year with one egg company, Radlo Foods, which has since produced 30 million Born Free brand farm-raised eggs with etching. In May, EggFusion landed its first large grocery chain, A.& P., which will use the imprints on 400,000 America’s Choice conventional eggs sold each day in A.& P., Waldbaum’s, Food Emporium and Super Fresh stores from Connecticut to Maryland. Mr. Parker, whose family runs a chicken farm in North Carolina, knew that the way to get egg producers to cooperate was to make it worth their while. His answer was advertising on eggs.

“It’s unlike any other ad medium in the world, because you are looking at the medium while you are using it,” he says.

Egg producers, distributors and retailers all share in the ad revenue. EggFusion is selling the ads on its own, but plans to enlist the help of advertising agencies, company executives said.

As EggFusion sees it, consumers look at a single egg shells at least a few times: when they open a carton in the store to see if any eggs are cracked, if they transfer them from the carton to the refrigerator, and when they crack them open.

Mr. Parker said the destination of eggs was tracked so precisely that he envisioned being able to offer localized advertising, even aiming at specific ZIP codes, to promote events like local food festivals and concerts. He is setting aside a portion of the ads for charities, too, he said. The imprint is applied in the packaging plant, as the eggs are washed, graded and “candled,” or inspected for flaws, when the eggs are held by calipers and moved along a production line at 225 feet a minute. Right before an egg is packaged, laser light is applied to the shell, giving it the etching. Each imprint takes 34 milliseconds to 73 milliseconds, so the processing of eggs is not appreciably slowed down, Mr. Parker said.

The etching is ultrathin, to a depth of 50 to 90 micrometers, or 5 percent of the shell’s thickness. The imprint cannot be altered without breaking the shell, Mr. Parker said, in contrast to Europe, where ink is used to apply expiration dates on eggs.

“Ink is alcohol dye, so it can be wiped off. And ink splatters,” he said.

•A similar process to EggFusion’s has been used on a limited scale in the United States with fruits and vegetables, but mostly for replacing the price stickers used by grocers to track inventory and ring up an order.

It is not clear how commonly old eggs are placed in new cartons to appear fresher than they are. Repackaging is illegal, said Al Pope, president of the United Egg Producers industry group, and he says he believes it is rarely done. However, “If a consumer feels that having a date on the egg has some value, then it’s up to the consumer,” he said. “We believe in choices.”

Shaun M. Emerson, EggFusion’s chief executive, said: “I’m not sure you could ever know” how often repackaging old eggs occurs.

EggFusion has technicians assigned to each egg plant, and it owns the equipment and the freshness data, to ensure that no tampering occurs, the company’s executives said.

The eggs also carry a code that can be checked on a Web site,, to find out where the egg originated, the date it left the plant and the names of the distributor and retailer.

Both Radlo and A.& P. pay for the etchings — they will not say how much — but because A.& P.’s eggs will carry the CBS ads, it will also share in the ad revenue. But is egg-vertising an idea with staying power, or will the novelty expire after a few dozen bad puns?

“At this point it’s too early to tell,” Mr. Schweitzer of CBS acknowledges. “I think it’s like you know good ideas when you see them.”

red dress run photos now online

I finally uploaded my photos from this year's Red Dress Run.

And next year, I hope to also see Becki, Susan, Rhiannon, and Zach on the trail. The jury's still out on Leo, as he "doesn't chase his beer."

Trevor -- I can't do Mondays (school), but I do want to do more hashing. And to finally get the clever name you came up with.

lundi, juillet 17, 2006

contain yourself

I love The Container Store.

Sadly, it doesn't take competitor's coupons. It also doesn't do storewide sales — until now. This summer, it is sponsoring a series of “private college nights.”

Everything will be sold at a 20 percent discount to anyone with college or high-school identification.

I'll be at the FashionValley store for the college night (I am a grad student, after all) this Sunday, July 23 from 6:30 - 8:30 p.m.

dimanche, juillet 16, 2006


"Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you fall into an open sewer and die."
-Mel Brooks (1926 - ), American actor, writer, director, and producer best known as a creator of broad film farces and comedy parodies, or as he says, "spoofs."

And now you know ...

samedi, juillet 15, 2006

this ain't no fire fight, crazy fool

Hmm. I took this twice, once last week when I first found the link and then again today, before posting. Tonight, I was Hannibal. Last week, I was Murdock. Interesting. Very interesting.

Which A-Team Character Are You?
Ever thought to yourself, if I was in The A-Team who would I be? Well, a team of well trained monkeys got together and analyzed the personalities of The A-Team characters and put the information gathered into this quiz.

You are Captain "Howling Mad" MURDOCK
You're a raving looney for god's sake, what more can I say? Ok you're not completely mad but you'd rather talk to yourself or your hand than speak to real people and you have impulses to do the strangest things. You have a penchant for the dramatic, erratic and chaotic but you're reliable even if unpredictable and you can manage to come up with some of the most brilliant (if wacky) ideas. You're more than likely a bit of a party animal and you find it easy to make friends although most of them are just the voices in your head. Some people can find you a bit much to handle but don't worry they're the nurses and they get paid for it. Watch out there's a huge penguin behind you! Congratulations, you're part of The A-Team.

You are Colonel John "HANNIBAL" Smith
Strong, reliable, thoughtful and handy with a gun. You are the brains of any outfit with the charm and charisma to match. You'd be the map reader on any scout expedition and be trusted by all the parents. You're not fooled by anyone and you don't mind that you don't dress so hot these days, your eyesight's probably failing you slightly anyway. You're not too worried about your health because you know one day you'll go out in a blaze of glory and have songs sung about you and your amazing plan-making skills. You're an obvious leader and had you been born in Roman times would probably have led those armies to conquer the world unlike those amateurs. Congratulations, you're part of The A-Team, hey you're leading it!

vendredi, juillet 14, 2006

Check out the videos listed below. Then vote in the Great Annoying Video War of Aught-Six.

Although I love the Shatner and Nimoy ones, it really comes down to the mormon rap and electronic supersonic.

Billy Squier, Rock Me Tonight
A Flock Of Seagulls, Space Age Love Song
zlad, elektronik supersonik
Satan’s Colon, Theme song to “Small Wonder”
Starship, We Built This City
After The Fire, Der Kommissar
The Belle Stars, Iko Iko
Plastic Bertrand, This ridiculous French crap
Shatner, Rocketman
Leonard Nimoy, The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins
Dennis Madalone, We stand as one
Princess Leia, A Star Wars Christmas Hell
Mormons rapping
Kids Incorporated, some rubbish
Tiny Tim, Do Ya Think I’m Sexy
Pia Zadora, You Bring Out The Lover In Me
Carl Lewis, Break It Up
Armi ja Danny, I Wanna Love You Tender
Jordi, dur dur d’etre un bébé
Barnes & Barnes, Fish Heads (music starts at 2:20)
NKOTB, Hangin’ Tough

hb to sg

Susan G. — I hope you had as much fun on your birthday as I did shooting this photo!

le 14 juillet

Happy Bastille Day!

Two summers ago, I was living in Paris on Bastille Day. I spent that day recovering from one crazy night out the evening before avec mes voyous at the bal des pompiers. Then, we all headed to the Champ de Mars for a picnic and fireworks at la Tour d'Eiffel.

Getting home afterwards was quite an adventure, with everyone in the city pouring into the Metro to get home before the trains stopped running. We crammed onto a train that we thought was fairly full, only to have more and more people join at each stop. It's a good thing we did, as that was the last train of the night.

Spending a month in France is the best thing I've ever done for myself. It's time to go walkabout again. Soon.

latter-day slut

I married my second boyfriend. So when we divorced shortly before my thirtieth birthday, I wasn't exactly an expert in the world of sex and dating.

I'll admit that it was fascinating, fun, and sometimes unnerving to learn how to read the verbal and non-verbal cues that make up the language of seduction. I'll also admit that I was honestly clueless early in the game. Still, it's a good feeling to come into my own at this stage, because my self esteem has never been better.

Through my adventures in dating, I've become a little less naïve, figured out what I do and don't want in a relationship, and am enjoying all aspects of my renaissance. That goes double for the sex.

Still, I wouldn't exactly call myself a libertine — yet.

The Taming of the Slur
Published: July 13, 2006
WHISPERS follow her like so many eyes. She is the one who will go home with you, the sure bet, the kind of girl you can lie down with and then walk all over. She is ogled, envied and often ostracized. She is the slut.

The word, which originated in the Middle Ages, has emerged from a schoolyard barb to become commonplace in popular culture, marketing and casual conversation. In his duet with the rapper Eminem, Nate Dogg describes his hunt for “a big old slut” in the single “Shake That.” The ample-bosomed puppet in the Broadway musical “Avenue Q” is called Lucy the Slut.

Novelty shops and Web sites sell Slut lip balm, bubble bath, soap and lotion. A cocktail is known as the Red-Headed Slut. A teenager on MTV’s “Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County” demanded that a rival admit she was a slut. (She did.)

“Slut’’ is tossed around so often and so casually that many teenagers use it affectionately and in jest among their friends, even incorporating it into their instant messenger screen names.

Like “queer” and “pimp” before it, the word slut seems to be moving away from its meaning as a slur. Or is it?

“It’s definitely a term of familiarity with teens,” said Karell Roxas, a senior editor at, a Web site that addresses issues that affect teenagers. “They’ll say ‘Hi, slut!’ the way my generation would say ‘Hi, chick!’ or ‘Hi, dawg!’ ”

Even among adults, the word is used to demonstrate voraciousness: “coffee slut,” “TV slut.”

“Today, ‘slut,’ even ‘ho’ — girls use it in a fun way, a positive way,” said Atoosa Rubenstein, the editor in chief of Seventeen magazine, adding that a phrase such as “you little slut” has become a way for girlfriends to bust each other’s chops.

Beyond the word itself, cultivating an exhibitionistic, slutty appearance — donning the trappings of promiscuity as opposed to actually being promiscuous — has been a growing influence on fashion and popular culture for a decade.

Women wear T-shirts with provocative slogans. Stripping and pole dancing is an au courant way to exercise. Paris Hilton is called an “American cultural icon” on, where she sells $49 perfume.

Ariel Levy, the author of “Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture,” said a girl in California told her that she and her friends compete to see who can look “the skankiest.” Ms. Levy told the girl that when she was in high school, girls wanted to be known as “the prettiest” or “the most popular.”

“How did you get the guys?,” the girl replied. “Charm?”

Given all of the slut-posturing, one may be inclined to think that society’s attitudes about women and promiscuity have changed. But it’s not entirely so, say authors who have studied popular culture. An entrenched sexual double standard is not easily uprooted. A promiscuous single man is lauded for being a player or a stud, but a woman who sleeps around rarely is.

Still, “slut’’ stings much more for girls than for women. Teenage girls get the cultural message that they should look provocative. Their social circles are small, so everyone knows who is doing what with whom. And those who do acquire the slut label have to face up to it daily in school and endure snickers about the very thing girls at that age are most embarrassed about — their sexuality.

“All of our pop icons look like porn stars,” Ms. Rubenstein said. “However they’re all virgins, quote unquote,” she said, referring to Jessica Simpson and Britney Spears. “That’s a very complex message to send to girls.”

For junior high and high school girls, said Leora Tanenbaum, the author of “Slut! Growing Up Female with a Bad Reputation,” being labeled a slut is still painful and humiliating, despite pop culture’s semi-embrace of the term. Ms. Roxas of said teenagers often inquire about it.

They ask, Ms. Roxas said, questions like: “I’ve acquired the reputation of being a slut, how do I get around it?” or “If I have a boyfriend and I perform a certain action, does that make me a slut?” (Ms. Levy said that even the girl who competed to dress “the skankiest” made it clear that having sex with someone who is not a boyfriend is unacceptable behavior.)

A slut, according to the primary definition in the Oxford English Dictionary, is “a woman of dirty, slovenly, or untidy habits or appearance; a foul slattern.” The second entry defines a slut as “a woman of a low or loose character; a bold or impudent girl; a hussy, jade.” For decades, the second definition has reigned.

Ms. Tanenbaum, who interviewed more than 100 women between the ages of 14 and 66 who had been pigeonholed as sluts, found that the label can be a self-fulfilling prophecy, leading to greater promiscuity. But, she said, it can also act as a brake, leading a woman to shut down sexually. As for the liberal use of the word today, “It’s still too hurtful,” she said.

There is no way to know if more women are being saddled with the dubious distinction now than in the past. What seems to be true, at least anecdotally, is that it is primarily girls who are pinning the label on other girls. They do it, Ms. Tanenbaum said, because of their confusion over the contradictory messages they receive about their sexuality and how to conduct themselves.

“The way they deal with their anxiety is pointing their fingers at other girls,” Ms. Tanenbaum said, adding that more than 90 percent of the people she interviewed were given their slut label by other girls.

Often, she said, the label has nothing to do with sexual behavior. Among teenagers, the word has been attached to girls whose bodies develop more quickly than those of their peers, Ms. Tanenbaum said, as well as to pretty girls, girls who are somehow different, even girls who have been raped.

“Girls wouldn’t feel the need to do this if we had one sexual standard,” she said. “It’s because we have the double standard that this phenomenon occurs.”

Whether they condone promiscuity or not, adults, who have an easier time than teenagers keeping their sex lives private, do not seem to feel as anxious about being labeled sluts. Nor are they as prone to calling others names.

“Once you get into your 20’s and 30’s, you just have better things to do,” said Susan Schulz, the editor in chief of CosmoGirl! magazine. “Everybody has that one friend who’s kind of loose and takes somebody home.”

But as Carrie Bradshaw might type on her laptop: Is there such a thing as going too far any more? Does society allow single women more sexual partners than it once did, before they get a “bad reputation?”

Jamie Breitman, 27, of Manhattan, has a friend she characterizes as promiscuous, a woman who, when they were in a bar in Spain, ended up singing on a stage and eventually making out with the bass player.

“That’s just the way that she is and we just love her for that,” Ms. Breitman said. “It makes her more interesting and fun and she always has good stories.”

Indeed, many women admired the fictional libertine Samantha Jones on “Sex and the City’’ because she had all of those qualities, not to mention confidence and an unapologetic attitude about satisfying her desires. Enjoyment was always mutual.

But viewers often commented that such a woman could not exist in real life. That attitude, Ms. Levy said, “goes to show we can’t accept a woman who’s promiscuous because she wants to be.”

Some men, especially, seem to have strong feelings about the matter.

“When I think of the word slut,” wrote Don Reisinger, a student doing accounting and law work in Albany, in an e-mail message, “I think of a woman who has been around the block more times than my dad’s Chevy. I might date a slut, but I certainly wouldn’t marry one.”

For that reason, perhaps, women sometimes feel pressured to downplay their sexual experience. “Women still have a script for their future that involves marriage, that involves children,” said Dr. Susan Freeman, an assistant professor of women’s studies at Minnesota State University, Mankato. “It governs a lot of choices they make, how sexually active they can be, what risks they are willing to take in terms of alienating a possible marriage partner.”

There seems to be a mysterious line between being experienced and being a slut, and no one can put a number on it. According to a government report released last year (“Sexual Behavior and Selected Health Measures”), men age 30 to 44 have had a median of six to eight sexual partners in their lifetimes. The women’s median was about four.

Many women steer clear of the numbers conversation entirely, but as was pointed out several times in interviews, it would be more unusual for them to be virgins.

The fact is, Ms. Levy said, “I think there are a lot of women who want to have a lot of sex because they enjoy it.”

jeudi, juillet 13, 2006

king of jewish beer?

Jesus beer billboard causing quite a stir
(7/11/06 - KTRK/HOUSTON) - Sophisticated graffiti artists have left their mark near downtown Houston.

Someone covered up a billboard on La Branch at Winbern with a poster featuring a picture of Jesus Christ holding a Budweiser can. The company that leases the billboard believes vandals made the poster at home and then pasted it on top of the ad that's supposed to be there.

It shows Jesus holding a Budweiser in between the phrases "Jesus, King of Jews" and "Jesus, King of Beers."

"I thought that was just crazy," said commuter Jose Cazares. "It looks professional too."

Neighbors say the billboard has been up there for a week or more.
Via Vanoosheh

jews for stevus

Jews for Jesus has been distributing a pamphlet in NYC that draws parallels between the careers of Apple CEO Steve Jobs and Jesus H. Christ. The pamphlet concludes by targeting the supposedly Jewish Jobs for conversion.

Via Jewschool

le coup de tête

The whack-a-Materazzi video game was funny, as was the Nintendo version of what happened, but I think this (Zidane headbutt outrage: new video evidence) pretty much takes the cake.
Via Brian and Asif

mercredi, juillet 12, 2006

great minds ...

I'm no Einstein, but after seeing this photoessay, Einstein: Behind the Genius, I discovered that Albert and I have at least one thing in common: perpetually messy desks.


nam by jaymce

the new rules

I'm getting my MBA. Almost everyone who knows me well is still surprised by that fact. It's not just that I pictured myself committing hari-kari before ever studying business ... it's that I detest most corporations and all they stand for (read: greed at the expense of the environment, workers, and society at-large) because the traditional notion of business is anathema to most of my social values.

I'm three semesters into my program and I've endured more math and hard / boring classes than I thought humanly possible. This summer, I'm taking my first elective course (a Seminar in Business Ethics). It's awesome. My professor is thoughtful, brilliant, and funny as all get-out. The topics are tough and are forcing me to really think.

Fortune: The new rules - Tearing up the Jack Welch playbook
The Six Sigma master was once the undisputed authority in management. But Fortune is finding that today's smart CEOs are following a different set of rules.
By Betsy Morris, Fortune senior writer
July 11 2006: 8:55 AM EDT
NEW YORK (Fortune) -- Once upon a time, there was a route to success that corporate America agreed on. But in today's fast-changing landscape, that old formula is getting tired.
New Rules
Agile is best; being big can bite you.
Find a niche, create something new.
The customer is king.
Look out, not in.
Hire passionate people.
Hire a courageous CEO.
Admire my soul.
Old Rules
Big dogs own the street
Be No. 1 or No. 2 in your market.
Shareholders rule.
Be lean and mean.
Rank your players; go with the A's.
Hire a charismatic CEO.
Admire my might.

Even now, nearly five years after his retirement from General Electric (Charts), Jack Welch commands the spotlight.

He is still power-lunching, still making the gossip columns, still the charismatic embodiment of the star CEO. His books are automatic bestsellers.

More than any other single figure, he stands as a model not just for the can-do American executive but for a way of doing business that revived the U.S. corporation in the 1980s and dominated the world's economic landscape for a quarter century.

Just try to find an executive who hasn't been influenced by his teachings. What came to be known as Jack's Rules are by now the business equivalent of holy writ, bedrock wisdom that has been open to interpretation, perhaps, but not dispute.

But the time has come: Corporate America needs a new playbook. The challenge facing U.S. business leaders is greater than ever before, yet they have less control than ever - and less job security. The volatility of the markets is so unpredictable, the pressure from hedge funds and private-equity investors so relentless, the competition from China and India so intense, that the edicts of the past are starting to feel out of date.

In executive suites across the country, a dramatic rethinking is underway about fundamental assumptions that defined Welch and his era. Is an emphasis on market share really the prime directive? Is a company's near-term stock price - and the quarterly earnings per share that drive it - really the best measure of a CEO's success? In what ways is managing a company to please Wall Street bad for competitiveness in the long run?

Jack Welch, needless to say, is having none of it. When FORTUNE caught up with him recently, he was as confident and outspoken as ever. "I'm perfectly prepared to change," says Welch (who co-writes a column in Business Week with his wife, Suzy). "Change is great." But, he asserts, he sees no reason to back away from the principles by which he and other star CEOs like Roberto Goizueta of Coca-Cola (Charts) managed.

If applied correctly, Welch contends, his rules can work forever.

Sorry, Jack, but we don't buy it. The practices that brought Welch, Goizueta, and others such success were developed to battle problems specific to a time and place in history. And they worked. No one questions today that bloated bureaucracy can kill a business. No one forgets the shareholder - far from it. Yet those threats have receded. And they have been replaced by new ones. The risk we now face is applying old solutions to new problems.

Early on, Welch argued that lagging businesses - those not No. 1 or No. 2 in their markets - should be fixed, sold, or closed. In a 1981 speech titled "Growing Fast in a Slow-Growth Economy," he announced that GE would no longer tolerate lowmargin and low-growth units.

GE, he told analysts at the Pierre Hotel in New York, "will be the locomotive pulling the GNP, not the caboose following it." As much as any other single event, Welch's words marked the dawn of the shareholder-value movement. And GE eventually became its star. No question who was Welch's boss. His report card: the stock price. His goal: consistent earnings growth.

As his ruthlessly efficient strategy wrenched GE into high performance, the company's stock took off. Soon virtually everything Welch said became gospel - often to the extreme. When Welch embraced Six Sigma, the program began to proliferate all over corporate America.

He talked about being the leanest and meanest and lowest-cost, and corporate America got out its ax. Welch advocated ranking your players and weeding out your weakest, and HR departments turned Darwinian. As time went on, the mantra of shareholder value took on a life of its own.

Cheered on by academics, consulting firms and investors, more and more companies tried to defy history (and their own reality) to sustain growth and dazzle Wall Street as Welch was doing. Accounting tricks, acquisition mania, outright thievery - executives went overboard.

"It became all about 'real men make their numbers,' " says one CEO. "What were we thinking?"

This, says Harvard Business School's Rakesh Khurana, is the legacy of the Old Rules. Managing to create shareholder value became managed earnings became managing quarter to quarter to please the Street. "That meant a disinvestment in the future," says Khurana, author of "Searching for a Corporate Savior."

"It was a dramatic reversal of everything that made capitalism strong and the envy of the rest of the world: the willingness of a CEO to forgo dividends and make an investment that wouldn't be realized until one or two CEOs down the road." Now, he believes, "we're at a hinge point of American capitalism."

There is another model. In breathtakingly short order, the rock star of business is no longer the guy atop the FORTUNE 500 (today Rex Tillerson at ExxonMobil (Charts)), but the very guy those FORTUNE 500 types used to love to ridicule: Steve Jobs at Apple (Charts).

The biggest feat of the decade is not making the elephant dance, as Lou Gerstner famously did at IBM, but inventing the iPod and transforming an industry. Dell (Charts) spectacularly upended Compaq and Hewlett-Packard, yet few big companies paid close enough attention to see that new technologies and business models were negating the power of economies of scale in myriad ways. Nobody has proved that more than Google (Charts).

Yet in the corridors of corporate power, the old rules continue to cast an outsized shadow. Many CEOs are following a playbook that has, at best, been distorted by time.

"How do you think about building shareholder value when a lot of people are really just going to hold the share for the moment?" says Jim Collins, a former Stanford Business School professor and the author of "Good to Great" and "Built to Last." "The idea of maximizing shareholder value is a strange idea when [many shareholders] are really share flippers. That's a real change. That does make the notion of building a great company more difficult."

That doesn't mean everything about Welch's era is wrong. Indeed, we named him "manager of the century" in 1999. Were he at GE today, he might well be in the forefront of the current wave of rethinking, as his successor, Jeffrey Immelt, surely is. Still, in the way of all good analogies, we must begin by tearing down the old so that we can really open ourselves to something different.

In that spirit, then, here are seven old rules whose shortcomings have become apparent and seven replacements that point toward a new model for success. Some of the old rules are inspired directly by Welch's teachings; others are not.

You may not agree with all of our conclusions (Welch certainly didn't). We welcome the debate. What's most important is to get the discussion started.
Via Allison

by the rum's early light

I'm a huge fan of cultural history and of learning about the past by looking through an unconventional prism (drink, disease, architecture). As I'm also a fan of cocktails, this book's definitely in my "I'll read this when I'm done with grad school" queue.

Shaken and Stirred: By the Rum's Early Light
Published: July 9, 2006
LAST week I resolved to drink patriotically. The most popular way to go about this is to lurk near a smoking grill drinking a six-pack of beer. Then there's bourbon, the king — whoops, president — of our homegrown spirits, which would have been my choice for toasting the republic had I not come across a new book, "And a Bottle of Rum" (Crown) by Wayne Curtis, to be published this month.

Subtitled "A History of the New World in 10 Cocktails," it views America's past through the prism of rum. "To track rum to its source — back through the mojito craze, the Trader Vic interregnum, the Prohibition era, the grim slave epoch, the age of the pirates and the first European settlement of America — is to run to ground the story of America," Mr. Curtis writes.

If I was going to raise a glass to America, it would contain grog or a rum flip or the mixture of rum, water, molasses and nutmeg that buccaneers used to call a bombo.

For liquid artifacts of this sort, one should visit the Pegu Club, Audrey Saunders's 11-month-old second-story cocktailery on West Houston Street. The space is sleek and contemporary, full of sharp right angles and mod Asian design touches, but its soul is as old and baroque as the 19th-century drink manuals Ms. Saunders keeps tucked behind the bar.

"When I look out onto Houston Street, I sometimes imagine horses and buggies," she confided.

The bombo, using Mr. Curtis's recipe, was a disappointment. But Ms. Saunders, a protégée of the legendary Dale DeGroff, concocted for me her own rum-based syllabus of American history.

The most thrilling chapter was reserved for ti' punch (for petit punch), a precursor of the daiquiri, imported from the French West Indies. A simple mixture of 100 proof Martinique rum, sugar cane syrup and lime, it mellows as the ingredients mingle in the glass, and it matures before your eyes.

If rum, as Mr. Curtis writes, "is the history of America in a glass," then ti' punch is an apt metaphor: brash and raffish around the edges, but blessed, as the flavors melting into one another reveal, with a heart gentle and beautiful.

Adapted from Pegu Club

2 ounces rhum agricole blanc (La Favorite is an excellent brand)

1 teaspoon sugar cane syrup

1 lime

Cut a half-dollar-size disk from side of lime. Squeeze it into a rocks glass and drop it in. Pour in sugar cane syrup and stir to blend. Add rum; stir to blend. Add crushed ice; stir to blend.

liberty, reborn

Sacre bleu!
I didn't realize that homegirl was having a fashion emergency or in need of a makeover.

So much for welcoming the tired, the poor, and the huddled masses ...

Lady Liberty Trades In Some Trappings
MEMPHIS, July 4 — On Independence Day, Lady Liberty was born again.

As the congregation of the World Overcomers Outreach Ministries Church looked on and its pastor, Apostle Alton R. Williams, presided, a brown shroud much like a burqa was pulled away to reveal a giant statue of the Lady, but with the Ten Commandments under one arm and "Jehovah" inscribed on her crown.

And in place of a torch, she held aloft a large gold cross, as if to ward off the pawnshops, the car dealerships and the discount furniture outlets at the busy corner of Kirby Parkway and Winchester that is her home. A single tear graced her cheek.

It was not clear if she was crying because of her new home, her new identity as a symbol of religion or, as the pastor said, America's increasing godlessness. But although big cheers went up from the few hundred onlookers at the unveiling, and some people even wore foam Lady Liberty crowns bearing Christian slogans, she was not universally welcomed.

Most of the customers at the Dixie Queen food counter near the church viewed the statue as a cheap attention grab, said Guardia Nelson, 27, who works there.

"It's a big issue," Ms. Nelson said. "Liberty's supposed to have a fire, not a cross."

Elena Martinez, a loan officer visiting Memphis from Houston, said her family was speechless at the sight.

"The Statue of Liberty has a different meaning for the country," Ms. Martinez said. "It doesn't need to be used in a religious sense."

At the pizza place next door, Amanda Houston pronounced the combination of the Statue of Liberty and Christianity "ridiculous," though her co-worker Landon Condit was far less critical: "I can't see anything wrong with it. This is the Bible Belt."

The Statue of Liberation Through Christ, as she is called, stands 72 feet tall from the base of her pedestal to the tip of her cross. She was the idea of Mr. Williams, a very successful pastor whose church, World Overcomers, qualifies as mega: it has a school, a bowling alley, a roller rink, a bookstore and, he said, 12,000 members.

The pastor is not shy. His church has bought full-page advertisements in The Commercial Appeal, the Memphis daily, condemning homosexuality. At the World Overcomers' previous location, neighbors complained that trees were felled unnecessarily; Mr. Williams said it had to be done so that people could see the church from the road.

The statue, inspired by a Memphis church that has three giant crosses, strikes him as "a creative means of just really letting people know that God is the foundation of our nation," he said.

Mr. Williams has written several books and pamphlets analyzing a variety of matters, among them patriotism and the original intent of the founding fathers.

In "The Meaning of the Statue of Liberation Through Christ: Reconnecting Patriotism With Christianity," he explains that the teardrop on his Lady is God's response to what he calls the nation's ills, including legalized abortion, a lack of prayer in schools and the country's "promotion of expressions of New Age, Wicca, secularism and humanism." In another book, he said Hurricane Katrina was retribution for New Orleans's embrace of sin.

Mr. Williams said his statue's essential point was that Christianity should be the guiding ethos of the nation. But because the church he leads is predominantly black, as is he, there is an added dimension to the message.

In "From Slavery to Lady Liberty: Lady Liberty's African Connection: The Key to Black America's Liberation," he pointed out that the real Statue of Liberty wears a broken shackle around one ankle, and revisited evidence that the statue, a gift from France, was originally intended not to welcome immigrants but to celebrate the emancipation of slaves.

"Many blacks are not patriotic, and they are not patriotic because of the history of our nation," Mr. Williams said in an interview at the church, in the richly appointed sitting room he uses to receive visitors. "It's good for our people to know that the nation has something for them as well."

To critics who say there are better ways to spend $260,000, Mr. Williams responds that his church gives millions to the needy and says he views the statue as outreach: "I personally feel that the answer for the poor is Jesus Christ."

To celebrate the Fourth of July, a good crowd gathered on the church grounds for free hamburgers and grape soda, carnival rides, a barbecue cook-off and entertainment. Children ate sno-cones, and a small army of volunteers and members of the staff darted around on bicycles and golf carts, dressed in white polo shirts. But the main event was the unveiling, preceded by speeches, prayers and consecrations.

"I decree the spirit of conviction on this intersection," Mr. Williams boomed from a podium decorated with red, white and blue bunting. "This statue proves that Jesus Christ is Lord over America, he is Lord over Tennessee, he is Lord over Memphis."
Via JewSchool

mardi, juillet 11, 2006

like a virgin

Double standards are a bitch. To be fair, male "verge-ins" have it tough, too.

I was curious about the attitudes of younger generations, so I did more reading on the topic. I found this site (a UNICEF-sponsored youth forum on attitudes about virginity) pretty interesting.

Europe’s Muslims go to extremes to be ‘virgins’
Women try hymen repair, get fake virginity certificates before marriage
Updated: 4:06 a.m. PT June 26, 2006
SAINT-DENIS, France - Chastity can exact a painful price from young Muslim women, forced into lies or surgery to go to the marriage bed as virgins.

Hymen repair, fake virginity certificates and other deceptions, said to be commonplace in some Muslim countries, are practiced in France and elsewhere in Europe, where Muslim girls are more emancipated but still live under rigid codes of family honor.

Such ploys have saved many a young woman from scorn and worse. But they also clash with the more liberal social mores of France and Europe, where some decry it as an attack on human rights.

The procedures are legal but shrouded in silence — “something that passes through nonofficial channels,” via friends or the Internet, said Dr. Nathan Wrobel. “There are circuits that lead women to me.”

‘It’s a secret we share’
Wrobel is one of an unknown number of gynecologists in France who are willing to repair hymens, the membrane usually broken by the first act of sexual intercourse. He was one of the few doctors willing to talk about it.

Wrobel says women come to him having convinced themselves that the procedure will somehow reverse the irreversible. “They tell me, ‘I’ll be a virgin again. You will make me a virgin,’ which in reality is totally false .... It’s a secret we share.”

Other doctors issue false virginity certificates or offer such tricks as spilling a vial of blood on the sheets to fool families into believing the bride has passed their purity bar.

Through the ages, virginity has been prized across religions and cultures, and doctors note that only a few generations back European brides also had to furnish documentary “proof” of chastity.

Broader question
In today’s France, with an estimated 5 million Muslims — the largest such population in western Europe — it’s part of the larger question of how to deal with cultural clashes ranging from head scarves in schools to sexual segregation in swimming pools.

A 2005 government report addressing culture clashes in hospitals, and issued a year after Muslim head scarves were banned from classrooms, briefly mentions the virginity issue, asking doctors to refuse to issue false certificates.

Isabelle Levy, author of “Religion in the Hospital,” decries both certificates and hymen repair, saying deception “increases the moral suffering.”

In Islam, virginity is linked to bridal purity and family honor, said Dalil Boubakeur, head of the Paris Mosque.

He notes that tradition holds that “adre,” virgins, are among the delights of paradise. However, Boubakeur, a doctor and a moderate Muslim, says the Quran does not address premarital virginity, and he is against the deception, counseling bride and bridegroom to confide in each other.

It is not known how many doctors in France or elsewhere in Europe help Muslim women to fake virginity. But in Germany, Turkish Muslim immigrants are increasingly seeking virginity certificates, said Serap Cileli, who survived a forced marriage and now helps victims.

German doctors who do hymen repair are easy to find, according to Sibylle Schreiber, who works with a women’s rights group in Tuebingen, but it’s “a taboo topic really only discussed best friend to best friend.”

Not on the Internet, however, where the desperation in Web forums is palpable. “If you have contacts to help me, I’ll never be able to thank you enough,” writes a woman calling herself Lubna who wants help finding someone to restore her virginity.

Wrobel, who teaches at the University of Paris, says he and another doctor at his clinic in a Paris suburb stitch up seven to eight hymens a month in a 20- to 30-minute operation under general anesthesia that he likens to plastic surgery. He asked that the clinic not be named.

The price, $500, is steep for a young woman in a poor family and possibly unemployed. A German doctor advertising on the Internet charges $1,250.

‘It’s easy to be like a virgin’
Dr. Emmanuelle Piet, who heads the family planning clinics in an area north of Paris where many Muslims live, says she has been issuing a half-dozen virginity certificates a year for three decades.

But instead of hymen repair, she suggests less drastic measures, like spilling blood on the sheet on the wedding night.

“It’s easy to be like a virgin,” she said.

It’s deceptive but “it’s one way to help the girls,” said Piet, a veteran women’s rights advocate. “They are stuck in things so terrible.”

In an interview, a French Muslim woman from the northern Paris suburb of Saint Denis, recounted how she was forced to procure a virginity certificate at age 12 “after my mother surprised me with a friend.” Although nothing had happened between her and the boy, her suspicious brothers beat her up, she said, requesting anonymity.

By age 19 she had lost her virginity and underwent hymen repair before marrying a man who demanded a virgin.

“I wanted to leave home. I took the first one who came along,” the woman said. The marriage ended after five years.