jeudi, novembre 30, 2006

sick to my stomach

Culinary profiling: something tells me they're not putting those who eat kosher meals on the no-fly list.
Homeland Security tracks travelers' meals
POSTED: 9:21 p.m. EST, November 30, 2006
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Without notifying the public, federal agents have assigned millions of international travelers, including Americans, computer-generated scores rating the risk they pose of being terrorists or criminals.

The travelers are not allowed to see or directly challenge these risk assessments. The government intends to keep the scores on file for 40 years.

The scores are assigned to people entering and leaving the United States after computers assess their travel records, including where they are from, how they paid for tickets, their motor vehicle records, past one-way travel, seating preference and what kind of meal they ordered.

The program's existence was quietly disclosed earlier in November when the government put an announcement detailing the Automated Targeting System, or ATS, for the first time in the Federal Register, a fine-print compendium of federal rules.

Eighty-seven million people a year enter the country by air and 309 million enter by land or sea, the Department of Homeland Security reports.

The government gets advance passenger and crew lists for all flights and ships entering and leaving and all those names are entered into the system for an ATS analysis, said Jayson P. Ahern, an assistant commissioner of Homeland Security's Customs and Border Protection agency.

He also said the names of vehicle drivers and passengers are entered when they cross the border and Amtrak is voluntarily supplying passenger data for trains to and from Canada.

Ahern said that border agents concentrate on arrivals more than on departures because their resources are limited.
Privacy advocates cry foul

Privacy and civil liberties lawyers, congressional aides and even law enforcement officers said they thought this system had been applied only to cargo.

DHS called its program "one of the most advanced targeting systems in the world."

The department said the nation's ability to spot criminals and other security threats "would be critically impaired without access to this data."

Still, privacy advocates view ATS with alarm.

"It's probably the most invasive system the government has yet deployed in terms of the number of people affected," said David Sobel, a lawyer at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a civil liberties group devoted to electronic data issues.

He continued, "Some individuals will be denied the right to travel and many the right to travel free of unwarranted interference as a result of the maintenance of such material."

A similar Homeland Security data-mining project, for domestic air travelers -- now known as Secure Flight -- caused a furor two years ago in Congress. Lawmakers barred its implementation until it can pass 10 tests for accuracy and privacy protection.

The government notice says ATS data may be shared with state, local and foreign governments for use in hiring decisions and in granting licenses, security clearances, contracts or other benefits.

In some cases, the data may be shared with courts, Congress and even private contractors.

If a traveler is singled out erroneously by ATS data it could cost innocent people jobs in shipping or travel, government contracts, licenses or other benefits, Sobel warned.

But Ahern said the ATS ratings simply allow agents at the border to pick out people not previously identified by law enforcement as potential terrorists or criminals.

DHS agents can then conduct additional searches and interviews.

"It does not replace the judgments of officers," Ahern said Thursday.

This targeting system goes beyond traditional border watch lists, Ahern said.

Border agents compare arrival names with watch lists separately from the ATS analysis.

This week Homeland Security posted a message addressing privacy on its Web site. It said ATS is aimed at discovering high-risk individuals who "may not have been previously associated with a law enforcement action or otherwise be noted as a person of concern to law enforcement."

Ahern said ATS does this by applying the government guidelines to sifting out terrorists and criminals by comparing them with passengers' travel patterns and records.

For security reasons, Ahern declined to disclose any specifics about those guidelines.
Travelers denied access

In the Federal Register, the department exempted ATS from many provisions of the Privacy Act designed to protect people from secret, possibly inaccurate government dossiers.

As a result, it said travelers cannot learn whether the system has assessed them. Nor can they see the records "for the purpose of contesting the content."

Toby Levin, senior adviser in Homeland Security's Privacy Office, noted that the department pledged to review the exemptions over the next 90 days based on the public comment received.

As of Thursday, all 15 public comments received opposed the system outright or criticized its redress procedures.

The Homeland Security privacy impact statement added that "an individual might not be aware of the reason additional scrutiny is taking place, nor should he or she" because that might compromise the ATS' methods.

Nevertheless, Ahern said any traveler who objected to additional searches or interviews could ask to speak to a supervisor to complain.

Homeland Security's privacy impact statement said that if asked, border agents would give complaining passengers a one-page document that describes some, but not all, of the records that agents check and refers complaints to Custom and Border Protection's Customer Satisfaction Unit.

Homeland Security's statement said travelers can use this office to obtain corrections to the underlying data sources on which the risk assessment is based.

If something is inaccurate, the privacy statement assures, "The assessment ... will change when the data from the source system(s) is amended."

"I don't buy that at all," said Jim Malmberg, executive director of American Consumer Credit Education Support Services, a private credit education group.

Malmberg noted how hard it has been for citizens, including members of Congress, to stop being misidentified as terrorists because their names match those on anti-terrorism watch lists.

In 2004, it took Democratic Sen. Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts three weeks to have his name removed from the government's secret "no-fly" list.

Officials said the error occurred because the name "T. Kennedy" had been used as an alias on the list of terrorist suspects.

rogue sea lion terrorizes swimmers

I can't help but think of the principal in "The Breakfast Club" right about now. (If you mess with the bull, you get the horns.)
Move over Jaws, chomping sea lion terrorizes swimmers
SAN FRANCISCO, California (AP) -- Tourists flock to Fisherman's Wharf for the seafood and the stunning views of San Francisco Bay, but for many visitors, the real stars are the dozens of playful, whiskered sea lions that lounge by the water's edge, gulping down fish.

Now a series of sea-lion attacks on people in recent months has led experts to warn that the animals are not as cute and cuddly as they appear.

"People should understand these animals are out there not to attack people or humans. But they're out there to survive for themselves," said Jim Oswald, a spokesman for the Marine Mammal Center across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco. (Watch wary swimmers on alert for 'whiskers on feet' Video)

In the most frightening of the recent episodes, a rogue sea lion bit 14 swimmers this month and chased 10 more out of the water at San Francisco's Aquatic Park, a sheltered lagoon near the bay. At least one victim suffered puncture wounds.

Some scientists speculate that the animals' aggressive behavior is being caused by eating fish contaminated by toxic algae, or by a shortage of food off the coast. But wildlife experts say even healthy sea lions are best left alone.

In Southern California in June, a sea lion charged several people on Manhattan Beach and bit a man before waddling into the water and swimming away. In Berkeley, a woman was hospitalized last spring after a sea lion took a chunk out of her leg.

Last year, a group of sea lions took over a Newport Beach marina and caused a vintage 50-foot yacht to capsize when they boarded it. And a lifeguard in Santa Barbara was bitten three times while swimming off El Capitan State Beach.

In Alaska, a huge sea lion jumped onto a fisherman's boat in 2004, knocked him overboard and pulled him underwater; he escaped without serious injury.

Sea lions, which can reach 1,000 pounds, typically bite only if they feel threatened or cornered. And they are more likely to flee than fight if they can escape. Researchers have described the most recent attacks, in which some swimmers were chased through open water, as abnormal behavior.

Still, with a population numbering about 200,000 and growing, these playful, social creatures are increasingly likely to cross paths with humans.

Sea lions accustomed to the easy pickings of seafood scraps in popular fishing areas can become aggressive toward people if they fear their food is about to be taken away, Oswald said.

The Berkeley attack, for example, was at a marina where fishermen dock their boats and feed fish scraps to sea lions. After they ran out of scraps, the sea lion turned aggressive and bit a crew member.

At the same time, a food shortage off the Southern California coast could be driving more hungry sea lions than usual to San Francisco Bay, said Lynn Cullivan, a spokesman for San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park.

Humans could also be contributing to aggression in sea lions in another way: Toxic algae blooms fed by agricultural runoff and other pollution can lead to the poisoning of marine mammals by a chemical called domoic acid, which can cause brain damage. The Marine Mammal Center treated more than 200 sea lions for domoic acid poisoning last year.

Veterinarians at the center believe the brain damage caused by the poison could have led to the marauding animal's erratic behavior in Aquatic Park, Oswald said, though they cannot be sure without actually examining the sea lion.

So far park rangers have not been able to track the attacker down. Nevertheless, the lagoon where the attacks occurred has been reopened to swimmers, though with new signs warning people to stay away from sea lions.

"People who swim with the lions -- though I'm sure that's nice -- it's probably not the best thing to do," Oswald said. "It's a wild animal. And you want to keep them wild."

mercredi, novembre 29, 2006

fa-ra-ra-ra-ra ra-ra-ra-ra

Is nothing sacred?

A commercial for Cingular Wireless done in the style of “A Christmas Story,” a movie from 1983, with the main character getting a cellphone.

Shorthand for a Holiday: Ralphie, the BB Gun and the Flagpole
Published: November 27, 2006

AS the holiday shopping season begins, Madison Avenue is paying tribute to a movie that has become a perennial for the generations that grew up after popular Christmas films like “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “Miracle on 34th Street.”

The movie is “A Christmas Story,” in which the humorist Jean Shepherd offers a rueful look back at his boyhood, circa 1940. The film presents the comic misadventures of Ralphie Parker, whose most fervent wish — nay, obsession — is to receive an “official Red Ryder carbine-action 200-shot range model air rifle” as a Christmas gift from his parents.

“A Christmas Story” was no huge success when it came out in 1983. Some were put off by its wry, even sardonic tone, so at odds with traditional holiday fare.

But in the last decade, the film has become as much a part of Christmas as “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” and jokes about fruitcake. A big reason is the annual marathon showing by the TBS cable network, which starts each Christmas Eve; in 24 hours, the movie is shown a dozen times in a row.

In 2003, Macy’s, which figures centrally in “Miracle on 34th Street,” saluted “A Christmas Story” in a holiday window of its flagship store in Herald Square. This year in particular, advertisers and agencies are demonstrating how much the movie inspires them.

A commercial for Cingular Wireless by the Atlanta office of BBDO Worldwide, part of the Omnicom Group, recreates the central narrative of the film in 30 seconds, replacing the BB gun that Ralphie desires with a cellphone.

Adults in the movie discourage Ralphie from insisting on the air rifle by declaring, “You’ll shoot your eye out.” In the commercial, the refrain becomes, “You’ll run the bill up.” A happy ending ensues when Ralphie’s parents buy him a prepaid Cingular cellphone, the GoPhone.

And among 20 whimsical holiday games that will be sponsored online by Office Max, the retail chain, one is called “Don’t Shoot Your Eye Out” (, featuring the “Red Wrangler authentic pump action saddle carbine” BB gun.

Another Office Max online game, “Stuck to a Pole” (, evokes a scene from “A Christmas Story” in which a classmate of Ralphie’s, Flick, gets his tongue stuck to a metal flagpole on a frigid day. The Office Max online games are created by a New York boutique agency, Toy.

The ads inspired by “A Christmas Story” are another example of the persistent interplay between advertising and popular culture. That interaction is becoming increasingly common as marketers seek to capture the attention of distracted consumers by infusing ads with entertainment value.

“We are always looking for ideas for holiday ads,” said Rich Wakefield, executive vice president and executive creative director at BBDO Atlanta, “and who in America hasn’t seen ‘A Christmas Story’?”

In creating the Cingular commercial, Mr. Wakefield said, BBDO Atlanta obtained rights from Time Warner, which owns “A Christmas Story,” and from the Shepherd estate. “It was one of the easiest shoots,” he said of the production of the spot. “We screened the movie and said, ‘Here’s the scene; let’s play it,’ and matched it shot for shot.”

Since the commercial began running on Nov. 14, “I’ve gotten a ton of great response,” Mr. Wakefield said, adding that the spot was scheduled to appear through the holidays.

The commercial for Cingular Wireless, a unit of AT&T and BellSouth, also seems popular with visitors to video-sharing Web sites. Comments on YouTube include presumably sincere remarks like “Best Christmas commercial this year” and “This is one funky parody.”

Bob Thacker, senior vice president for marketing and advertising at Office Max, recalled a popular promotional campaign some years ago when he worked at Target, centered on the 1946 film “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

“For the ‘greatest generation,’ ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ was their ‘Christmas Carol,’ ” Mr. Thacker said, referring to the veterans of World War II. “The zeitgeist has changed.”

“Fun is a big part of what our culture is,” Mr. Thacker said, contrasting the humor of “A Christmas Story” with the sentiment of “It’s a Wonderful Life.” The humorous approach of the online games helps the company “connect in a more meaningful way” with consumers, he said.

The online games, presented under the rubric “Spread the cheer. Office Max,” are being promoted in grass-roots fashion. The Web addresses are appearing in Office Max holiday circulars and bag stuffers, said Anne Bologna, partner and president at Toy, and on banner ads on Web sites like AOL, MSN and Yahoo.

The “Stuck to a Pole” game will have a page on two social-networking Web sites, Facebook and MySpace, she added. That game and three others will be the subject of teaser video clips to be available on

“An office-supply store as a gift destination wasn’t exactly an easy leap,” said Ari Merkin, partner and executive creative director at Toy. “If we were going to ask people to get a gift at Office Max, we felt we would have to start by doing a little giving of our own.”

The other games satirize various seasonal mainstays like themed apparel (, snow globes ( and meal choices (

Several games are inspired by the nonhuman characters that populate the holidays, including reindeer (, and elves (, and

This year’s marathon of “A Christmas Story” will begin on TBS at 8 p.m. Dec. 24. It will be the 10th annual presentation, said Ken Schwab, senior vice president for programming at TBS in Atlanta, part of the Turner Broadcasting System division of Time Warner.

The viewership during the marathon last year was the largest to date, Mr. Schwab said, as 45.4 million people tuned in during the 24 hours to watch all or part of the movie.

One reason TBS started the marathon, Mr. Schwab acknowledged, was that its parent owns the film. But a more compelling reason was that the movie has always “showed some recurring strength” in the ratings, he said. “We run thousands and thousands of movies, and usually ratings tend to drop off as they’re repeated,” Mr. Schwab said. “But the ninth time for ‘A Christmas Story’ was the most watched.”

He added that “it plays across all age groups,” because the older viewers appreciate the nostalgia and “the kids like a little bit of attitude.”

The marathon will be sponsored by the Weinstein Company, promoting the coming film “Arthur and the Invisibles.” Weinstein sponsored the 2005 marathon with commercials promoting the movie “Hoodwinked.”

Advertisers may like “A Christmas Story” because of all the brand names in the film. Besides Red Ryder, there are references to vintage products like Lifebuoy, Lux, Ovaltine, Palmolive and Tinker Toys.

And Ralphie’s traumatic confrontation with Santa Claus and his helpers takes place at Higbee’s, a department store that, alas, unlike Macy’s, is not around for Christmas 2006.


"Since Nixon declared the war on cancer in 1971, if you add up all the money the federal government has spent from that point until today—35 years’ worth—it adds up to basically seven months in Iraq."
—Lance Armstrong, American cyclist and cancer survivor, on May 17, 2006 at a LIVESTRONG Day rally in Washington, DC.
Via Cure


My friend Matt put it best: this is "Too good to be true, too true to be funny, too funny to be scary, too scary to be good."
Bush Nuts
Are George W. Bush lovers certifiable?
November 23, 2006
By Andy Bromage

A collective “I told you so” will ripple through the world of Bush-bashers once news of Christopher Lohse’s study gets out.

Lohse, a social work master’s student at Southern Connecticut State University, says he has proven what many progressives have probably suspected for years: a direct link between mental illness and support for President Bush.

Lohse says his study is no joke. The thesis draws on a survey of 69 psychiatric outpatients in three Connecticut locations during the 2004 presidential election. Lohse’s study, backed by SCSU Psychology professor Jaak Rakfeldt and statistician Misty Ginacola, found a correlation between the severity of a person’s psychosis and their preferences for president: The more psychotic the voter, the more likely they were to vote for Bush.

But before you go thinking all your conservative friends are psychotic, listen to Lohse’s explanation.

“Our study shows that psychotic patients prefer an authoritative leader,” Lohse says. “If your world is very mixed up, there’s something very comforting about someone telling you, ‘This is how it’s going to be.’”

The study was an advocacy project of sorts, designed to register mentally ill voters and encourage them to go to the polls, Lohse explains. The Bush trend was revealed later on.

The study used Modified General Assessment Functioning, or MGAF, a 100-point scale that measures the functioning of disabled patients. A second scale, developed by Rakfeldt, was also used. Knowledge of current issues, government and politics were assessed on a 12-item scale devised by the study authors.

“Bush supporters had significantly less knowledge about current issues, government and politics than those who supported Kerry,” the study says.

Lohse says the trend isn’t unique to Bush: A 1977 study by Frumkin & Ibrahim found psychiatric patients preferred Nixon over McGovern in the 1972 election.

Rakfeldt says the study was legitimate, though not intended to show what it did.

“Yes it was a legitimate study but these data were mined after the fact,” Rakfeldt says. “You can ask new questions of the data. I haven’t looked at” Lohse’s conclusions regarding Bush, Rakfeldt says.

“That doesn’t make it illegitimate, it just wasn’t part of the original project.”

For his part, Lohse is a self-described “Reagan revolution fanatic” but said that W. is just “beyond the pale.”

Via Slater

mardi, novembre 28, 2006

my life as a dog

As I sat here tonight, banging away at my keyboard and cobbling together my latest research paper, I paused and smiled when Casey nudged me for some loving.

Yes, I have to get home at a reasonable hour to walk him each morning and evening. Yes, he needed to go out one last time tonight, which meant that I got to go out into the cold night, too. Yes, he needs two pills a day for his arthritis and manages to get four chunks of turkey hotdog out of me to help those pills go down.

But he's the best dog I've ever had. Anyone who knows him well will tell you that he's one special pooch and that they can't imagine me without him.
Op-Ed: My Life as a Dog
Published: November 27, 2006

FOR the last 20 years, New York City parks without designated dog runs have permitted dogs to be off-leash from 9 p.m. to 9 a.m. Because of recent complaints from the Juniper Park Civic Association in Queens, the issue has been revisited. On Dec. 5, the Board of Health will vote on the future of off-leash hours.

Retrievers in elevators, Pomeranians on No. 6 trains, bull mastiffs crossing the Brooklyn Bridge ... it is easy to forget just how strange it is that dogs live in New York in the first place. It is about as unlikely a place for dogs as one could imagine, and yet 1.4 million of them are among us. Why do we keep them in our apartments and houses, always at some expense and inconvenience? Is it even possible, in a city, to provide a good life for a dog, and what is a “good life?” Does the health board’s vote matter in ways other than the most obvious?

I adopted George (a Great Dane/Lab/pit/greyhound/ridgeback/whatever mix — a k a Brooklyn shorthair) because I thought it would be fun. As it turns out, she is a major pain an awful lot of the time.

She mounts guests, eats my son’s toys (and occasionally tries to eat my son), is obsessed with squirrels, lunges at skateboarders and Hasids, has the savant-like ability to find her way between the camera lens and subject of every photo taken in her vicinity, backs her tush into the least interested person in the room, digs up the freshly planted, scratches the newly bought, licks the about-to-be served and occasionally relieves herself on the wrong side of the front door. Her head is resting on my foot as I type this. I love her.

Our various struggles — to communicate, to recognize and accommodate each other’s desires, simply to coexist — force me to interact with something, or rather someone, entirely “other.” George can respond to a handful of words, but our relationship takes place almost entirely outside of language. She seems to have thoughts and emotions, desires and fears. Sometimes I think I understand them; often I don’t. She is a mystery to me. And I must be one to her.

Of course our relationship is not always a struggle. My morning walk with George is very often the highlight of my day — when I have my best thoughts, when I most appreciate both nature and the city, and in a deeper sense, life itself. Our hour together is a bit of compensation for the burdens of civilization: business attire, e-mail, money, etiquette, walls and artificial lighting. It is even a kind of compensation for language. Why does watching a dog be a dog fill one with happiness? And why does it make one feel, in the best sense of the word, human?

It is children, very often, who want dogs. In a recent study, when asked to name the 10 most important “individuals” in their lives, 7- and 10-year-olds included two pets on average. In another study, 42 percent of 5-year-olds spontaneously mentioned their pets when asked, “Whom do you turn to when you are feeling, sad, angry, happy or wanting to share a secret?” Just about every children’s book in my local bookstore has an animal for its hero. But then, only a few feet away in the cookbook section, just about every cookbook includes recipes for cooking animals. Is there a more illuminating illustration of our paradoxical relationship with the nonhuman world?

In the course of our lives, we move from a warm and benevolent relationship with animals (learning responsibility through caring for our pets, stroking and confiding in them), to a cruel one (virtually all animals raised for meat in this country are factory farmed — they spend their lives in confinement, dosed with antibiotics and other drugs).

How do you explain this? Is our kindness replaced with cruelty? I don’t think so. I think in part it’s because the older we get, the less exposure we have to animals. And nothing facilitates indifference or forgetfulness so much as distance. In this sense, dogs and cats have been very lucky: they are the only animals we are intimately exposed to daily.

Folk parental wisdom and behavioral studies alike generally view the relationships children have with companion animals as beneficial. But one does not have to be a child to learn from a pet. It is precisely my frustrations with George, and the inconveniences she creates, that reinforce in me how much compromise is necessary to share space with other beings.

The practical arguments against off-leash hours are easily refuted. One doesn’t have to be an animal scientist to know that the more a dog is able to exercise its “dogness”— to run and play, to socialize with other dogs — the happier it will be. Happy dogs, like happy people, tend not to be aggressive. In the years that dogs have been allowed to run free in city parks, dog bites have decreased 90 percent. But there is another argument that is not so easy to respond to: some people just don’t want to be inconvenienced by dogs. Giving dogs space necessarily takes away space from humans.

We have been having this latter debate, in different forms, for ages. Again and again we are confronted with the reality — some might say the problem — of sharing our space with other living things, be they dogs, trees, fish or penguins. Dogs in the park are a present example of something that is often too abstracted or far away to gain our consideration.

The very existence of parks is a response to this debate: earlier New Yorkers had the foresight to recognize that if we did not carve out places for nature in our cities, there would be no nature. It was recently estimated that Central Park’s real estate would be worth more than $500 billion. Which is to say we are half a trillion dollars inconvenienced by trees and grass. But we do not think of it as an inconvenience. We think of it as balance.

Living on a planet of fixed size requires compromise, and while we are the only party capable of negotiating, we are not the only party at the table. We’ve never claimed more, and we’ve never had less. There has never been less clean air or water, fewer fish or mature trees. If we are not simply ignoring the situation, we keep hoping for (and expecting) a technological solution that will erase our destruction, while allowing us to continue to live without compromise. Maybe zoos will be an adequate replacement for wild animals in natural habitats. Maybe we will be able to recreate the Amazon somewhere else. Maybe one day we will be able to genetically engineer dogs that do not wish to run free. Maybe. But will those futures make us feel, in the best sense of the word, human?

I have been taking George to Prospect Park twice a day for more than three years, but her running is still a revelation to me. Effortlessly, joyfully, she runs quite a bit faster than the fastest human on the planet. And faster, I’ve come to realize, than the other dogs in the park. George might well be the fastest land animal in Brooklyn. Once or twice every morning, for no obvious reason, she’ll tear into a full sprint. Other dog owners can’t help but watch her. Every now and then someone will cheer her on. It is something to behold.

Jonathan Safran Foer is the author, most recently, of “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.”

how not to date

I have a few friends who are just getting started with online dating. I hope their experiences are as good as mine, and nothing like this ...
How Not to Act on J-Date
Our story opens with some background: For the uninitiated, (those who don't live in either New York, Florida, Los Angeles, or Israel,) J-Date is for Jews. I've used it. I've had a few good dates from it, a few horrible dates from it, like most everyone has.

And when you have one of those horrible dates, you chalk it up. "Oh, it was just dinner," you say.

That's life. There'll be other dates. Right?

I mean, that's what we all do, yes?

NOT DARREN SHERMAN. Darren just felt... Well, "wronged."

So let's start here: Darren's profile reads:

About me:

I joined JDate four weeks ago. Cute, tall and funny best describes me!
I am a person whom is usually on the go, particularly in the warm
weather. In the summertime you can typically find me on the beaches in the
Hampton's or New Jersey shore. In the wintertime I enjoy taking drives
to beautiful towns such as Lambertsville, Red Bank, Katonah, Port
Jefferson and Greenwich. "People watching" can be an easily enjoyable
activity for me. I own a management consulting firm assisting financial
institutions with regulatory issues. I travel extensively for business and

I am looking for:

I am on JDate to find someone special. I have no set rules per se on
dating someone younger/older (20-40). I have learned that age really does
not matter; so why limit any possibilities in finding a life long
partner. Wouldn't you agree? Physcial characteristics: Preferably tall and
medium build. Mentally: Fun and easy going. Someone who is comfortable
with themselves. I love a good jokester so please be funny!

Below is a little bit more about me from a professional perspective.
(Hey, JDating is serious business :-)

Biography of Darren L. Sherman:

Mr. Darren L. Sherman is CEO of a
consultation firm providing regulatory compliance and internal audit
assistance to..blah blah. Darren previously served as a Senior
Investigator for the ..blah blah.

References are available upon request :-)

I hope we get the chance to finally meet!



So Darren asks Joanne out. Joanne accepts. They eat at China Grill. (Nice restaurant. I've been there.) Darren pays, despite Joanne offering to split the check.

At some point after the meal, Darren gets the idea that Joanne didn't like him.

Rather than just chalk it up to a bad date (hey, it happens, right?) Darren... Well, Darren has other plans.


Yes. I paused and re-read that about 30 times, too.

I couldn't be serious, could I? He actually didn't email that, did he? Oh, but he did:

From: Darren Sherman
Date: Jun 19, 2006 8:48 PM
Subject: Date
Sorry things didn't work out. I guess you changed your
Here is my address for the $50 bucks:
East Street, Apt. 504
NY NY 10028
Take care,


OK. So Darren's a bit odd. Fine. He emailed her, she didn't respond, and he let it go. Right?

Come on. What kind of story would that be?


(Insert Jerry Springer "OH NO HE DIDN'T" line here.)

But he did.

Listen here: Download VM-01-1.wav

So Joanne goes to work, after hearing that email on her mobile phone voice mail the night before, and before she can even say the world "stalker," she gets the following email:

From: Darren Sherman
Date: Jun 20, 2006 8:13 AM
Subject: Darren


I wanted to follow up on my email and call to you last night to ensure you received my messages for the $50.

Please acknowledge by replying to this email that you will be sending me the $50.

I hope you understand from my point of view.



Um... OK. This is just getting weird. It ends here, right.

Heh. Yeah. Right.

Joanne sends the following email back to Darren:


I just received your emails and also your message from last night. I was away and am just getting back this morning. I had every intention of calling you andmeeting to go out but your email has completely turned me off and i find it extremely tacky. I will not be sending you any money since i offered that night to pay and you told me no that you would take care of it.

Please do not call me or send me another email i would rather not hear from you at all. And for future reference in the dating world you may want to rethink the tacky approach about asking someone for money like that perhaps that is why you haven't met anyone or have seen them again.


Go Joanne!! Way to show a backbone! Nice!

This, of course, (as you could have guessed,) just sends Darren to the next level.


From: Darren Sherman
Date: Jun 20, 2006 10:22 AM
Subject: American Express Bill

FOOD-BEV 107.83
TIP 20.00
Reference No: 320061560288086573
More Detail

Do the right thing Joanne.



Words fail me.

About four hours later, DarrenStalker (TM) strikes again, sending another voice mail, telling Joanne that she's "hiding behind email," and now he's going to "contact her employer."

There aren't big enough letters on my keyboard to type "WTF?"

Listen here, and try not to snort soda out of your nose: Download VM-02-2.wav

After receiving this barrage of communications, Joanne decides to fire off an email to Darren to end this once and for all:

Date: Jun 20, 2006 2:38 PM
To: Darren Sherman


I am truly sorry it didn't work out. You seemed like a nice guy, but after your voice mails you have now entered the world of a first class creep. Dating is not business, I offered to go dutch at the time the bill came and you declined, as far as I am concerned that is the end of the story. I didn't know that your paying the bill was contingent on me going out with you again.

Once again, I think you need to look internally as to why things are not working out for you in the dating world. You had mentioned that you had been burned several times, and I am sorry if you feel that it has happened to you again, but perhaps it is your approach in dealing with others that leads to this. Dating and relationships and business are completely different and there is not a quid pro quo for eating and drinking on a date. If this is how you think it works, perhaps you should get consult a professional who I could take care of all of your needs. If I remember correctly it was your choice to go out for dinner, I would have been just as happy to take a walk in the park to get to know you.

With that said, please feel free to call my employer or issue a summons if you think that this will help. Your message has said that you will not drop this, and I am not one to be bullied or threatened. I have saved all your messages and if you chose to go ahead with your threats then I will be more than happy to notify the proper authorities and get a restraining order. I will also let your clients and employees know about your erratic and bizarre behavior.



I do love her backbone.

Does this phase Stalker-Darren? (Who should totally be a comic strip character and should fight the Green Lantern or something...)

No, it does not phase Stalker-Darren.

Darren calls her OFFICE, again threatening the summons, and offering up this pearl of Darren-Wisdom: "You ate the food, you drank the wine, Pay your bill."

Words fail me here, guys. And seriously - for a publicist? That's rare.

Listen here: Download VM-03-3.wav

And of course, much like the Ginsu Knives commercial, just wait. There's MORE!

After another 28 minutes, Darren calls her cell phone AGAIN!! This time, (and I implore you - sit down for this one) he lets Joanne know that he's CALLED CHINA GRILL TO REPORT A DISCREPENCY IN THE BILL!

Yes, you read that right. Darren has told Joanne that he called China Grill to speak to the General Manager to explain that he should not have been charged for the entire meal - i.e., He expects China Grill to call Joanne and get her half of the bill, and credit his AmEx.
People, I have no motive for lying. You can't make this stuff up. Listen to the fourth voice mail here: Download VM-04-4.wav

Finally, the fifth voice mail. From CHINA GRILL! They called, apparently as confused as we all are, asking Joanne what the heck was going on. Download VM-05.WAV

PR props to China Grill - When Joanne told them the story, they not only told her to not worry about the bill, but offered her a free drink the next time she stopped in. WELL DONE, China Grill's GM. Someone got their PR training. Bravo.

At this point, kids, that's where our story ends. Who knows what evil lurks in the heart of Darren Sherman - Perhaps he's filing a "stop payment" on his Amex Bill... Or perhaps he's given up J-Date all together.

One thing we do know, though - (and how many times have I said this?) It you put it out there, either on a voice mail, email, fax, or the Internet, it WILL come back to bite you in the ass.

You don't believe me?

Just ask Darren Sherman.

Via Hilstah

lundi, novembre 27, 2006


I pity the fool who has a 6-page case analysis due on Wednesday that she's just started. And a 15-20-page paper to have a first draft of by Friday. I am said fool.

Anyhow, this is a shoutout to Diana, Allison and my MBA peeps (you know who you are), and Christine. Enjoy this Mr. T. motivational video and this one, on the Zen of Mr. T.

(Are you sure you really wanna join this misery, Omer? Every grad student I know is soooooo over it, already.)

Via Christine

where's vivi?

Show dog disappearance creates urban legend
NEW YORK (AP) -- In the nine months since escaping her travel cage at Kennedy Airport, Vivi the wayward whippet has joined the Central Park coyote, high-rise tiger, Harlem Meer caiman and Molly the fugitive feline in New York's ever-growing pantheon of urban animal legends.

She was reported dozens of times, roaming cemeteries with other dogs, or hanging around stores in the borough of Queens, in some cases miles from the tarmac where she disappeared while awaiting a flight home to California on February 15. A day earlier, she had won an Award of Merit at the annual Westminster Kennel Club show.

Owners Jil Walton and Paul Lepiane offered a reward for Vivi's return but have kept a low profile. This week, their lawyer, Joyce Randazzo, said they still hope to recover the sleek, 4-year-old brindle and white whippet, formally known as Champion Bohem C'est la Vie, and the reward, an unspecified amount, still stands.

According to a map published November 18 by The New York Times, Vivi was reported at more than 45 different locations before August 7, when the sightings suddenly stopped, raising fears that she might be dead or left the area.

Richard Gentles, director of administration for Animal Care & Control of New York City, said his organization dispatched rescue teams after "five or six calls" on Vivi in the past several months, but all proved negative.

"For a dog like that to be able to survive this long would be very difficult unless somebody picked it up," Gentles said. "I hope it's true that somebody has the dog and doesn't recognize it. It does happen."

On Wednesday, a volunteer group that devotes itself to finding Vivi reported a new lead: an anonymous caller who had seen her neighbor with a dog that resembled the elusive canine.

"She said he takes it to work every day. We asked if it was a greyhound and she said `No, it's a whippet,"' said Rosa Chile, who answers calls at a toll-free number. "She sounded very legitimate, but she was afraid."

Chile said the area of the purported sighting was being watched but would not give other details, even where it is -- other than "a few minutes from Kennedy airport."

Bonnie Folz, a professional dog trainer who lives near the airport and has led the search effort for Vivi, said she did not think the dog is still roaming free, and unless she met with misfortune, is in someone's custody.

"I really think somebody has her and that person can't keep the dog under wraps forever," she said.

Folz is conducting an overall review of the Vivi search with Karen Goin, a pet detective who uses her three trained dogs to track missing pets. They recently used a coat once worn by Vivi to check out a report in the Rego Park section of Queens, but the dogs did not find her scent, Folz said.

Recovered or not, Vivi already has joined the colorful list of animals occupying niches as urban legends in Gotham, says Steve Zeitlin, the director of City Lore, a center for the study of such things.

Just two months after Vivi vanished into a wildlife area adjoining JFK, a cat named Molly became trapped inside a wall of a delicatessen in Manhattan's Greenwich Village where she earned her keep as a mouser. It took two weeks to extricate the feline without damaging the landmark building.

Other incidents in recent years involved a full-grown tiger living in a Manhattan apartment, an alligator-like caiman that was recovered from the Harlem Meer pond in Central Park and a truly wily coyote that led police and animal experts on a chase through the park before it was captured.

Zeitlin noted that the frequent reports of Vivi in cemeteries enhances a "ghostly" image, made to order for urban lore.

"I believe the dog has already made it," Zeitlin said. "The sense of an urban legend is something that comes out of daily life or ordinary circumstances and has the stuff of fiction in it, something that is always about to be proved true.

"With this dog, it is always a sighting that can't quite be confirmed."

thanksgiving and forgiving outfits

Hope your holiday was nice and that your pants aren't as tight as mine right now. (I'm wearing a forgiving outfit at the moment.)

Here's how I spent my holiday week:
  • Monday before Thanksgiving: Smoked turkey and traditional fixin's with my parents and Leo chez moi.
  • Thanksgiving day: Quasi-traditional Thanksgiving with Leo, Dana, Jason, Alla, Gavin, and Jen. The deep-fried turkey was tasty.

Most memorable moments of the week:

  • Walking through the Zoo Thanksgiving morning and watching the polar bear play in the water and try to hide all the toys in his habitat. (We really aren't that different, after all.)
  • Watching Gavin (the fearless Kiwi) as he s-l-o-w-l-y lowered the turkey into the fryer while we all stood at least 8 feet back, in case he screwed up and the whole thing exploded. (I haven't gotten around to downloading the photos yet, but they're coming eventually.)
  • Trying to barbecue with Leo on Saturday. It took awhile, but the pollo asado and chimichurri flank steak were outstanding.

warmly yours ... chat soon

It's interesting how much people (mis)read into communication. When you move into the realm of written correspondence, the absence of verbal and interpersonal cues make it even more important to choose one's words carefully.

Confession time: I'm usually relieved when I remember to attach the document before sending an e-mail to my boss and half the department. Apparently, I need to also think more carefully about how I sign-off on the same e-mail.

November 26, 2006
‘Yours Truly,’ the E-Variations

CHAD TROUTWINE, an entrepreneur in Malibu, Calif., was negotiating a commercial lease earlier this year for a building he owns in the Midwest. Though talks began well, they soon grew rocky. The telltale sign that things had truly devolved? The sign-offs on the e-mail exchanges with his prospective tenant.

“As negotiations started to break down, the sign-offs started to get decidedly shorter and cooler,” Mr. Troutwine recalled. “In the beginning it was like, ‘I look forward to speaking with you soon’ and ‘Warmest regards,’ and by the end it was just ‘Best.’ ” The deal was eventually completed, but Mr. Troutwine still felt as if he had been snubbed.

What’s in an e-mail sign-off? A lot, apparently. Those final few words above your name are where relationships and hierarchies are established, and where what is written in the body of the message can be clarified or undermined. In the days before electronic communication, the formalities of a letter, either business or personal, were taught to every third-grader; sign-offs — from “Sincerely” to “Yours truly” to “Love” — came to mind without much effort.

But e-mail is a casual medium, and its conventions are scarcely a decade old. They are still evolving, often awkwardly. It is common for business messages to appear entirely in lower case, and many rapid-fire correspondences evolve from formal to intimate in a few back-and-forths.

Although salutations that begin messages can be tricky — there is a world of difference, it seems, between a “Hi,” a “Hello” and a “Dear” — the sign-off is the place where many writers attempt to express themselves, even when expressing personality, as in business correspondence, is not always welcome.

In other words, it is a land mine. Etiquette and communications experts agree that it is becoming increasingly difficult to say goodbye.

“So many people are not clear communicators,” said Judith Kallos, creator of, a site dedicated to online etiquette, and author of “Because Netiquette Matters.” To be clear about what an e-mail message is trying to say, and about what is implied as well as what is stated, “the reader is left looking at everything from the greeting to the closing for clues,” she said.

Mr. Troutwine is not alone in thinking that an e-mail sender who writes “Best,” then a name, is offering something close to a brush-off. He said he chooses his own business sign-offs in a descending order of cordiality, from “Warmest regards” to “All the best” to a curt “Sincerely.”

When Kim Bondy, a former CNN executive, e-mailed a suitor after a dinner date, she used one of her preferred closings: “Chat soon.” It was her way of saying, “The date went well, let’s do it again,” she said.

She may have been the only one who thought that. The return message closed with the dreaded “Best.” It left her feeling as though she had misread the evening. “I felt like, ‘Oh, that’s kind of formal. I don’t think he liked me,’ ” she said, laughing. “A chill came with the ‘Best.’ ” They have not gone out since.

“Best” does have its fans, especially in the workplace, where it can be an all-purpose step up in warmth from messages that end with no sign-off at all, just the sender coolly appending his or her name.

“I use ‘Best’ for all of my professional e-mails,” said Kelly Brady, a perky publicist in New York. “It’s friendly, quick and to the point.”

Because people read so much into a sign-off, said Richard Kirshenbaum, chief creative officer of the advertising firm Kirshenbaum Bond & Partners, he has thought deeply about his preferred closing to professional correspondence, “Warmly, RK.” He did not want something too emotional, like “Love,” or too formal, like “Sincerely.” “ ‘Warmly’ fell comfortably in between,” he said. “I want to convey a sense of warmth and passion, but also be appropriate.”

Which is just what a professional e-mail message should be, many executives say. Surprisingly, the sign-off “xoxo,” offering hugs and kisses, has become common even for those in decidedly nonamorous relationships. Ms. Bondy, who received from 300 to 500 e-mail messages a day while at CNN, was no fan of the “xoxo” farewell, especially when it came from a stranger pitching a story idea. “They’re trying to be warm and familiar when they shouldn’t be,” she said. “It’s inappropriate, and that’s probably the e-mail I’m not going to return.”

Robert Verdi, a fashion stylist and a host of “Surprise by Design,” a makeover reality show on the Discovery Channel, is a self-described “xoxo offender.” “Never in the first or second communication,” he clarified. But after a few friendly phone conversations or e-mail exchanges, he feels comfortable with the affectionate and casual sign-off, though he generally waits for the other party to make the first move. “The other person gives you the cues,” he said. “They send a ‘You’re the best! Love, Alison,’ and you send a ‘Hugs and kisses’ and all of a sudden you’re over that awkward hump and you’re best friends.”

Ms. Kallos said Mr. Verdi’s approach is the correct one. “In business you want to maintain the highest level of formality until the other person indicates otherwise,” she said. “Mirroring isn’t a bad thing to do. You’re letting the other side set the level of familiarity.”

It is also important that the closing is in keeping with the spirit of the message or it may create some sort of cognitive dissonance, said Mary Mitchell, the author of “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Etiquette.” “If you’re complaining to a company about a product and you sign off with ‘Warmly,’ you are miscommunicating,” she said.

Many e-mail users don’t bother with a sign-off, and Letitia Baldridge, the manners expert, finds that annoying. “It’s so abrupt,” she said, “and it’s very unfriendly. We need grace in our lives, and I’m not talking about heavenly grace. I’m talking about human grace. We should try and be warm and friendly.”

But it is important not to have too much fun with sign-offs, Ms. Baldridge cautioned, before recalling a closing from a man in his early 20s that read, “Don’t let the bedbugs bite.” It was “so pedestrian and boring and such an unattractive image to leave with people,” she said. “You want to leave an attractive warm image. Bedbugs are disgusting.”

Not to mention they prove a point Ms. Mitchell makes about e-mail correspondence. “While on the one hand e-mail encourages people to write,” she said, “on the other hand it discourages people to write thoughtfully.”

vendredi, novembre 24, 2006

looking for a new scarf

I blame Omer. He posted a Flashback Friday all about the wall coming down that included this gem.

But you have to admit that this jacket is hella blingy for the pre-bling days.

taxation without representation

Too often, Americans have a way of being cultural imperialists and assuming that we're the ones breaking down barriers. The sad fact is we're actually one of the least enlightened nations when it comes to having women in elected office.
The United States ranks 60th in the world in terms of women's representation in elected national legislatures, out of 180 countries that directly elect representatives.
Take a look at these stats — and then write your Congresswoman to see what we can do about this in the U.S.
Currently women hold 73, or 13.6%, of the seats in the U.S. Congress.
There are 14 women in the Senate (out of 100) and 59 in the House (out of 435).
Women of color comprise only 3.4% of Congress, and there are no women of color in the Senate.
  • Jeanette Rankin (Montana) was the first woman elected to the House of Representatives - 1916
  • Hattie Caraway (Arkansas) was the first woman elected to the U. S. Senate - 1932
  • Shirley Chisholm (New York) was the first African American congresswoman - 1969
  • Patsy Mink (Hawaii) was the first Asian American woman elected to Congress - 1965
Of the nearly 600 people who have served in the U. S. President's Cabinet since President Washington's term, only 29 have been women. The first female Cabinet officer was Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins, appointed in 1933 by Franklin Roosevelt. In a 2003 national U.S. Gallup poll, 92% of people surveyed said that they would vote for a qualified female for president.

Nine women currently serve as elected leaders of their countries:
  1. Chandrika Kumaratunga of Sri Lanka
  2. Mary McAleese of Ireland
  3. Vaira Viike-Freiberga of Latvia
  4. Mireya Elisa Moscoso de Arias of Panama
  5. Helen Elizabeth Clark of New Zealand
  6. Tarja Kaarina Halonen of Finland
  7. Maria Gloria Macapagal Arroyo of the Phillippines
  8. Dr. Angela Dorothea Merkel of Germany
  9. Khaleda Zia of Bangladesh
There have been 25 women governors in United States history. Only 9 states currently have women governors. Of the 7,362 current members of state legislatures, 22.3% (1,647) are women and 4% (298) are women of color.

Source: Center for American Women and Politics, Eagleton Institute of Politics, Rutgers University; The White House Project
Via the Woodhull Institute for Ethical Leadership

mercredi, novembre 22, 2006

everything old is new again


A friend of mine is an avid outdoorsman. He's also a great guy who has overcome lots of setbacks in life. Anyhow, here's a note from him that left me particularly inspired.
Hey, Peeps!

I just returned from a 4 day climbing trip to the Sierra Nevadas ... two years of planning and a dream came true! We were able to summit two peaks, one 2.6 miles high and another at 2 miles.

It was an epic journey, one that makes you appreciate life and the challenges that we choose or that jump out of nowhere. The views from the summit are symbolic of daily life... People who don't accept challenges as a necessary part of higher goals or who choose to tackle challenges alone rarely reach the summit. We reached the summit by helping each other overcome challenges because we agreed on a common goal but couldn't do it alone. With that perspective and a positive attitude the challenges were seen as a temporary and even fun part of the journey.

Best of luck overcoming your challenges and having fun in the process.
Thanks, J.

happiness is ...

From "You're a Good Man Charlie Brown ..."

I'm so happy. That little red-headed girl dropped her pencil.
It has teeth marks all over it. She nibbles her pencil.
She's human! It hasn't been such a bad day after all.
Happiness is finding a pencil

Pizza with sausage

Telling the time

Happiness is learning to whistle

Tying your shoe for the very first time.

Happiness is playing the drum in your own school band.

And happiness is walking hand in hand. Happiness is two kinds of ice cream...

Knowing a secret...

Climbing a tree.

Happiness is five dif'rent crayons...

Catching a firefly... setting him free.

Happiness is being alone ev'ry now and then.

And happiness is coming home again.

Happiness is morning and evening,
Daytime and nighttime too.
For happiness is anyone and anything at all
That's loved by you.

Happiness is having a sister

Sharing a sandwich

Getting along

Happiness is singing together when day is through.
And happiness is those who sing with you.
Happiness is morning and evening,
Daytime and nighttime, too,

For happiness is anyone and anything at all
That's loved by you.

You're a good man, Charlie Brown.

Via Allison

mercredi, novembre 15, 2006


We wanted a name that was different but not gratuitously weird.
-My pregnant friend Ellie Dworak, responding to my question about what she and her husband have decided to name their son

jeudi, novembre 09, 2006

the "one day" approach to reach your ideal weight--and stay there

Yes, folks. It's more advice from Ted Haggard.

Where, exactly, does meth fit into this plan?

The Jerusalem Diet: The "One Day" Approach to Reach Your Ideal Weight--and Stay There

a haggard wife made him do it

In case you missed the case of Ted Haggard (the evangelical pastor accused of buying meth from a gay escort), here's the follow-up.

Apparently, some members of the evangelical community are defending Pastor Ted, saying that responsibility for his sin rests on Mrs. Haggard, because "she let herself go." So much for "From This Day Forward."
The pastor's wife made him do it

Our friends at knew we'd be eager to hear about this response to Ted Haggard's scandal, from our old pal/nemesis Pastor Mark Driscoll. Driscoll leads Seattle's Mars Hill Church, and a good portion of the larger evangelical youth movement, teaching the doctrine of wifely submission to Christians nationwide. (To learn more about Driscoll, you can read Salon's excerpt from my book "Righteous: Dispatches From the Evangelical Youth Movement".)

Driscoll blames Haggard's affair with a male escort not on the former pastor's homosexuality -- which he abhors as much as that other spawn of Satan, feminism, -- but on his wife, Gayle Haggard. Why? 'Cause, he says, Gayle let herself go.

"At the risk of being even more widely despised than I currently am, I will lean over the plate and take one for the team on this," he wrote on his blog. "It is not uncommon to meet pastors' wives who really let themselves go; they sometimes feel that because their husband is a pastor, he is therefore trapped into fidelity, which gives them cause for laziness. A wife who lets herself go and is not sexually available to her husband in the ways that the Song of Songs is so frank about is not responsible for her husband's sin, but she may not be helping him either."

As we all know, this argument is as illogical -- that a man would have sex with another man because he was turned off by his aging wife, and not because he's gay -- as it is demeaning. How she looks should have no bearing on this. But, I must rise to Mrs. Haggard's defense, if only to point out that Driscoll is obviously using her as an opportunity for frat-boy girl-bashing of the highest right, guys? high-five! order. Find a picture of Gayle Haggard. It's easy to do this week, with her husband's fall from grace splashed over the front pages. And look at her. Come on: She looks fabulous.

Her failing is not in too few hours on the treadmill, but in her beliefs. First, that she should submit to her husband, as she has preached to her women's ministry in Colorado Springs, and as she and Ted wrote in a book they published this year called "From This Day Forward: Making Your Vows Last a Lifetime." (It's still for sale today at the New Life Church bookstore, and available for your ironic viewing at Amazon.) And second, that he can be healed of his "sickness" -- that under the close watch of Focus on the Family's James Dobson, God can cast the gay out, and the girl-crazy boy she married will be hers once more.

With Jesus' help, her faith asserts, Haggard can be just as straight as the aggressively heterosexual pastor Mark Driscoll, who, on his blog, is quick to explain that his fidelity to his wife -- and, thus, the Lord -- has everything to do with his blonde bride's hotness, lest we think he would have married a woman who wouldn't keep herself up to his specifications. Otherwise how could he have resisted the women who ache to provide him with earthly pleasures?

He writes, "I started the church ten years ago when I was twenty-five years of age. Thankfully, I was married to a beautiful woman. I met my lovely wife Grace when we were seventeen, married her at twenty-one, and by God's grace have been faithful to her in every way since the day we met. I have, however, seen some very overt opportunities for sin. On one occasion I actually had a young woman put a note into my shirt pocket while I was serving communion with my wife, asking me to have dinner, a massage, and sex with her. On another occasion a young woman emailed me a photo of herself topless and wanted to know if I liked her body." Yeah, dude!
Via Sharon

table of malcontents

Apparently, soylent green tastes like bacon.
Robot Identifies Human Flesh As Bacon

Let the robot holocaust commence: robots think we taste like bacon.

Researchers at NEC System technologies and Mie University have designed the cute little guy to the right: a metal man gastronomist, "an electromechanical sommelier," capable of identifying wines, cheeses, meats and hors d'oeuvres. Upon being given a sample, he will speak up in a childlike voice and identify what he has just been fed. The idea is that wineries can tell if a wine is authentic without even opening the bottle, amongst other more obscure uses ... like "tell me what this strange grayish lump at the back of my freezer is/was."

It also correctly identified the sweetest of three ripe, identical-looking apples. But it's not totally foolproof. A reporter who placed his hand against the robot's taste sensor was identified as prosciutto. A cameraman was mistaken for bacon.

mercredi, novembre 08, 2006

webb, allen, and virginia's greens

I'm not registered as a Democrat, but that's how I vote when it counts (especially when it's close). We'd already be making plans for a Democratic Senate if it weren't for 26,000 Virginians who voted for the Green candidate. As Leo put it, "add IRV to the list of reforms i need to see happen if i am to stay in this country."

Virginia General Election Results: November 7, 2006
Office: U.S. Senate
Precincts Reporting: 2440 of 2443 (99.88%)
Registered Voters: 4,555,596
Total Voting: 2,366,814
Voter Turnout: 51.95 %
Candidates Party Votes Percentage
J H Webb Jr Democratic 1,172,801 49.55%
G F Allen Republican 1,165,448 49.24%
G G Parker Green 26,201 1.11%
Write Ins
2,364 0.10%
View Results by District Locality Total: 2,366,814
Via Leo

better dead than red

Dead woman wins county race
S.D. candidate gets 100 votes; official says voters knew she was deceased
The Associated Press
Updated: 8:41 a.m. PT Nov 8, 2006

PIERRE, S.D. - A woman who died two months ago won a county commissioner's race in Jerauld County on Tuesday.

Democrat Marie Steichen, of Woonsocket, got 100 votes, defeating incumbent Republican Merlin Feistner, of Woonsocket, who had 64 votes.

Jerauld County Auditor Cindy Peterson said she believes the county board will have to meet to appoint a replacement for Steichen. Peterson said she'll check with the state's attorney to be sure that's the process.

Peterson said voters knew Steichen had died.

"They just had a chance to make a change, and we respect their opinion."

laura ingraham's phone jam 2006

If this is true, a recent New Hampshire situation sets a precedent for jail time.
News Hounds: GOP Hypocrite Laura Ingraham Has the Gall to Advise Candidates on "Principles"

Earlier today (November 7, 2006) right-wing talk show host Laura Ingraham did one of the nastiest, most undemocratic (as in democracy, folks) things ever done on an election day. She urged her listeners to call and jam a free hotline set up by the Democratic party for voters (including Republicans) to call if they encountered problems at the polls.

A few hours later Ingraham had the audacity to appear on Fox's Your World w/Neil Cavuto (no, Cavuto didn't mention what she'd done) to advise Republican candidates:

"I mean, if you run as a conservative and you get elected as a conservative, then you better stand up for those principles."

I presume Ingraham thinks everyone should stand up for their principles (candidate or not); in which case we now have a pretty good idea what her principles are and they're sure not about protecting the right to vote.
Via Leo

selected reactions to yesterday's election

nancy pelosi: "i have two years to fuck hillary up six ways from sunday."

harry reid: "let's show these unilateral bastards what bipartisanship really means."

chuck schumer: "and after i have tony snow thrown in a gitmo jail cell, i'm going to pass a law making red elephants obscene, and then i'm going to make it illegal for people to vote for parties that begin with the letter R, and then..."

rahm emanuel: "i really hope they pick clooney over tony shalhoub to play me in the movie."

hillary clinton: "i wonder how fast the white house decorators can put everything back the way it looked in 2000..."

bill clinton: "crap. i just know if hillary gets elected president she's going to put me on a low-fat, no-intern diet for four years..."

jon stewart: "now what the fuck am i going to do with these five hard drives filled with republican-government-gone-wrong jokes?"

george w. bush: "lord, i know this is part of your plan, so i'm gonna do my best to listen to the american people and work with harry and nancy, because that's what the country needs right now. now if i could only remember where i put my mirror and rolled up dollar bill..."

dick cheney: "i should have taken rahm and chuck hunting when karl asked me to."

karl rove: "i knew i shouldn't have let mary matalin convince me not to leak that photoshopped picture of nancy pelosi blowing osama."

george allen: "holy macaca!"

laura ingraham: "i guess it's back to blowing truckers in back alleys for me..."

ann coulter: "you best keep clear of my alley, bitch! this my house!"

the 'liberal' media: "is there any doubt this victory will cause the democrats to turn on one another?"

fox news: "several republicans beat back democratic challenges in strong rebuke to defeatnik democrat agenda."

iraq: "does this mean we can stop getting bombed now?"

iran: "crap."

north korea: "crap."

the world: "what THE FUCK took you guys so long?"
Via Leo

speaker ... speaker ...

The funniest moment of last night's election coverage was right after it was clear that the Dems had taken the House. Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi took the stage and then Harry spoke, with Charles Schumer in the background.

Watching Charles Schumer smirking and trying desperately to keep a straight face when Harry Reid spoke about "extending the same hand of bipartisan cooperation that the Republicans did" to the Democrats was hilarious. It was all that Schumer could do to keep from howling with laughter.

Leo and I didn't have the same restraint.

mardi, novembre 07, 2006

how did they know?

My French phrase-a-day calendar recently included this phrase:
Je pourrais manger du fromage tous les jours.
I could eat cheese everyday.

adventures in the voting booth

I haven't been to the polls yet, but this was Leo's experience today:
Voting problems crop up early on Election Day
here we go...

i actually had a similar problem with my voting experience. the poll worker had trouble operating that very sophisticated piece of machinery known as... the address list printout.

[older poll worker in charge of master list]: there you are, just sign here and you're all set.


[older worker nudges stoned-looking teen in charge of address confirmation list]: you should check him in.

[SLT]: huh? oh yeah. [looks at list for a second] he's not here. [goes back to daydreaming about sweet righteous bud he'll be smoking on break]

[OW]: are you sure?

[SLT]: huh? what? yeah, he's not here. [looks away].

[me]: really? let me see. [i look at list for five seconds, reading UPSIDE DOWN, mind you, and realize that the list has the odd street numbers on the left side, which is where the heading "Brookes St." is located, and the even numbers on the right. i quickly find my name and point it out]. i'm right there.

[SLT]: [grins sheepishly] oh man... [giggles].

[OW]: [probably thinking about husband or boyfriend who gave his life in dubya-dubya-two to protect the future of this piece of human waste]. ok, great! looks like you're all set. step over there please.

[me]: [finally understanding how republicans can possibly think anyone deserves to be waterboarded] thanks. have a nice day.

now i don't want to get off on a rant here...


what bothered me about this wasn't the fact that this guy couldn't find me on the address list. mistakes will be made, especially before 8am. i know this. the problem i have is that he looked at the list, didn't see my name, and that was it. "oh, he's not here." case closed. i've just been disenfranchised by an 18 year old puke with a soulpatch and a bead necklace because he's too intellectually lazy to read both columns on a printed page. now, i'm trying to spin this positively. i'm dressed for work, khaki pants, nice shirt, dress shoes, maybe this kid thinks i'm a republican and is doing this on purpose. ok, so the voting booklet i handed him said i was registered green. no matter. maybe my polling place is manned by totalitarian, voter-fraud-loving poll workers, as opposed to mentally handicapped ones. i really want this to be the case. i'm not real hopeful, though. and even if it were true, man, would that snotty punk have been barking up the wrong tree...

if this isn't exhibit A-effin'-1 for a national voting holiday, i don't know what is.

please get out today and vote. the machines are ok. i tried one this morning. it was bery bery good to me. maybe mark robinson* is right, and all politicians are the same: corrupt, lazy, and beholden to special interests. but remember that always, out of two identical people, there's always one that is more identical than the other. identify the evil homer simpson clone twin, and cast your ballot. or vote for a third party. if you don't vote, you give these people the power to keep saying they each represent half of america, when in reality they're hard-pressed to get 25% of voters to support them in any given election.

besides, when things go wrong in 2007, you can always say "don't look at me! i voted for Kodos!"


*ash's dad. if you do not know ash, it's your loss. just keep reading.

that's the ticket!

If only ...

Jon, you've crushed us all.

I hope you're satisfied. And that you'll take full responsibility for Morrissey's next album.
Stewart-Colbert '08? No way, says comedian
‘Daily Show’ host says campaign t-shirts ‘a real sign of how sad people are’
The Associated Press
Updated: 9:45 a.m. MT Oct 9, 2006
NEW YORK - Those people wearing "Stewart/Colbert '08" T-shirts can stop hoping — Comedy Central's fake news stars have no intention of making a run for the White House.

Jon Stewart said the T-shirts promoting him and Stephen Colbert "are a real sign of how sad people are" with the state of affairs in the country.

"Nothing says 'I am ashamed of you my government' more than 'Stewart/Colbert '08,' Stewart told an audience Sunday at the New Yorker Festival. He was interviewed by the magazine's editor, David Remnick.

Stewart, who recently hosted Pakistan's president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, on "The Daily Show," said he's been trying to get top Bush administration officials to appear. "We have requests in there to everyone including Barney," Stewart said. "Only Barney replies." Barney is the president's Scottish terrier.

Stewart scoffed at suggestions that some people actually get their news from "The Daily Show."

"There's no way you could get the news from us," he said. "I've seen the show. It couldn't happen."

it makes me want to hurl, too

If election season tends to make you nauseous, know that you are in good company ... Brandon's cat Orangie puked on his sample ballot.

What a clever (and empathetic) creature.

dimanche, novembre 05, 2006

bill hicks and elections

The PS to this post ...
the spirit of bill hicks came to me in a dream last night. he told me some jokes about jimi hendrix raping debbie gibson and filling an olympic-sized pool with his own vomit. then he asked me this question: "if america is the world's foremost example of democracy, and nobody loves democracy like americans do, and we are the keepers of the democratic flame in a world ruled by fear, tyrants and the french, why is it that everyone has to go to work on election day? i mean, if we really have a boner that big for democracy, you'd expect no one would really get anything done that day anyway, right? where's that federal holiday? or is the first tuesday in november just not that good a shopping day?"

then i brought up the electoral college, and he started crying. it was mean of me, i admit it. but i needed to get some sleep.


"I believe that you're only as beautiful as you are interesting."
-Padma Lakshmi (b. 1970) is a New York-based Indian-American supermodel, actress, talk show host and award-winning cookbook author. She is married to novelist Salman Rushdie.

vendredi, novembre 03, 2006


evangelical pastor admits he bought meth

I really can't put it any better than Leo did today:
somebody needs to grab kerry by the ears and make him read this story. THIS is what you do the week before pivotal elections. you find a major effin' hypocrite on the other side and splash his private life all over the papers. you DO NOT make faux-clever remarks that appear to slander the military.

of course, this will probably make people ignore the fact that, until this morning, the government was running a "how to build a nuclear bomb" website for aspiring terrorists. but i have to give them credit. it's sooooo much more efficient than the old economy, brick and mortar "let's build a school in panama and fly all the terrorists in" method they used to favor.

4 days left, kids. hope you all plan to get out and vote!!!

Accused pastor admits he bought meth
But Haggard claims he never used drug that he bought from gay escort
NBC News and news services
Updated: 11:20 a.m. PT Nov 3, 2006

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - The Rev. Ted Haggard admitted Friday he bought methamphetamine and received a massage from a gay prostitute who claims he was paid for drug-fueled trysts by the former head of the National Association of Evangelicals.

"I bought it for myself but never used it," Haggard told reporters gathered outside his home. "I was tempted, but I never used it."

Haggard, 50, said he never had sex with Mike Jones, a 49-year-old Denver man who raised the allegations this week.

Haggard said he received a massage from Jones after being referred to him by a Denver hotel.

Haggard, who was leaving his home with his wife and three of his five children, said he bought the meth because he was curious.

Haggard stepped down as president of the 30 million-member association Thursday and also gave up leadership of his 14,000-member New Life Church pending the investigation into allegations he had sex with Jones over the past three years.

"It is important for you to know that he confessed to the overseers that some of the accusations against him are true,” Ross Parsley, the acting senior pastor at New Life Church stated in an e-mail to church members.

“He has willingly and humbly submitted to the authority of the board of overseers, and will remain on administrative leave during the course of the investigation,” the e-mail stated. A copy was obtained by KMGH-TV in Denver.

Haggard, a married father of five who has been called one of the most influential evangelical Christians in the nation, denied the allegations late Wednesday, telling NBC affiliate KUSA-TV of Denver: “I've never had a gay relationship with anybody, and I’m steady with my wife, I’m faithful to my wife. So I don't know if this is election year politics ... or what it is.”

Alleged voice mails
Jones provided to KUSA-TV what he said were voice mails from Haggard. The station had University of Colorado expert Richard Sanders compare them to its earlier interview of Haggard.

“It certainly sounds like the same person,” Sanders said, adding that he expected to have a final report later Friday.

KUSA-TV reported excerpts late Thursday.

“Hi Mike, this is Art,” one call began. “Hey, I was just calling to see if we could get any more. Either $100 or $200 supply.”

A second message, left a few hours later, began: “Hi Mike, this is Art, I am here in Denver and sorry that I missed you. But as I said, if you want to go ahead and get the stuff, then that would be great. And I’ll get it sometime next week or the week after or whenever.”

Jones said Haggard, whose middle name is Art, was referring to methamphetamine. “There’s some stuff on there (the voice mails) that’s pretty damning,” he said.

Jones said he also has an envelope he said Haggard used to mail him cash.

Gay marriage on state ballot
The allegations come as voters in Colorado and seven other states get ready to decide Tuesday on amendments banning gay marriage. Besides the proposed ban on the Colorado ballot, a separate measure would establish the legality of domestic partnerships providing same-sex couples with many of the rights of married couples.

Jones told The Associated Press he decided to go public with his allegations because of the political fight. Jones, who said he is gay, said he was upset when he discovered Haggard and the New Life Church had publicly opposed same-sex marriage.

“It made me angry that here’s someone preaching about gay marriage and going behind the scenes having gay sex,” said Jones, who added that he isn’t working for any political group.

Jones, whose allegations were first aired on KHOW-AM radio in Denver, claimed Haggard paid him to have sex nearly every month over three years. Jones also said Haggard snorted methamphetamine before their sexual encounters to heighten his experience.

Jones said he had advertised himself as an escort on the Internet and that a man who called himself Art contacted him. Jones said he later saw the man on television identified as Haggard.

He said that he last had sex with Haggard in August and that he did not warn him before making his allegations this week.

Haggard was appointed president of the evangelicals association in March 2003. He has participated in conservative Christian leaders’ conference calls with White House staffers and lobbied members of Congress last year on U.S. Supreme Court appointees after Sandra Day O’Connor announced her retirement.

After Massachusetts legalized gay marriage in 2004, Haggard and others began organizing state-by-state opposition. Last year, Haggard and officials from the nearby Christian ministry Focus on the Family announced plans to push Colorado’s gay marriage ban for the 2006 ballot.

At the time, Haggard said that he believed marriage is a union between a man and woman rooted in centuries of tradition, and that research shows it’s the best family unit for children.

“Homosexual activity, like adulterous relationships, is clearly condemned in the Scriptures,” the evangelicals association says on its Web site. The Bible says homosexuality is a sin that “brings grave consequences in this life and excludes one from the Kingdom of God.”

Haggard’s resignation from the NAE seems unlikely to do lasting damage to the organization, an umbrella group for a diverse and independent-minded membership. At his own church, Haggard’s decision to step aside — if it became permanent — would have a more profound effect.

“One would hope and pray that this matter would be resolved expeditiously and quickly and he can be restored back to being the pastor of the church and the leader of the NAE,” said Michael Cromartie, vice president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, a conservative Washington think tank.

‘That’s not Ted’
New Life Church member Brooks DeMio, 44, said he thinks Jones is a liar and can’t believe Haggard would engage in sex with a man.

“He loves the Lord, homosexuality is a sin and that’s not Ted,” DeMio said. “His desire is to serve other people and uphold the word of God. ... I don’t know him well enough to give a complete character description, but I know him enough to know it’s not true.”

Carolyn Haggard, spokeswoman for the New Life Church and the pastor’s niece, said a four-member church panel will investigate the allegations. The board has the authority to discipline Haggard, including removing him from ministry work.

“This is really routine when any sort of situation like this arises, so we’re prepared,” Carolyn Haggard said. “The church is going to continue to serve and be welcoming to our community. That’s a priority.”

this is your dog. this is your dog on drugs ...

Casey's vices don't include toads. But it is mighty funny to see him stoned on doggie tranquilizers on the fourth of July.
NPR : The Dog Who Loved to Suck on Toads
All Things Considered, October 24, 2006 · A dog may be man's best friend. But one dog, Lady, decided she needed more friends -- and she found plenty in the knot of toads living at the local pond. A suburban family's secret struggle with an uncommon addiction comes to light in this personal essay by NPR's Laura Mirsch.

Lady "was really perky, and happy, and generally excited to see you when you came in the door every day," recalls Andrew Mirsch.

But that was before the Mirsch family moved into a new house.

"We noticed Lady spending an awful lot of time down by the pond in our backyard," Laura Mirsch recalls.

Lady would wander the area, disoriented and withdrawn, soporific and glassy-eyed.

"Then, late one night after I'd put the dogs out, Lady wouldn't come in," Laura Mirsch says. "She finally staggered over to me from the cattails. She looked up at me, leaned her head over and opened her mouth like she was going to throw up, and out plopped this disgusting toad."

It turned out the toads were toxic -- and, if licked, the fluids on their skin provided a hallucinogenic effect.

What followed was the Mirsch family's quest to stop their cocker spaniel from indulging herself. But it wasn't easy. Lady was persistent, and resourceful.

The situation seemed to resolve itself when the toads went into hibernation for the winter.

But when they returned, so did Lady -- and with a vengeance.

"We couldn't keep our dog's addiction a secret any longer," Laura Mirsch says. "The neighbors all knew that Lady was a drug addict, and soon the other dogs weren't allowed to play with her."

In the end, Lady seems to have found a way to manage her problem.

"She seems to have outgrown the wild toad-obsessed years of her youth," Mirsch says, "and now only sucks on weekends."


"Why does Sea World have a seafood restaurant?? I'm halfway through my fish burger and I realize, Oh my God.... I could be eating a slow learner."
-Lynda Montgomery

mercredi, novembre 01, 2006

gorilla political marketing

That's not a typo. It's gorilla, as in the largest anthropoid ape / thugs / industry heavyweight, not guerilla, as in those engaged in independent armed resistance.

I'm taking an integrated marketing and communications class right now. This clip actually uses several of the techniques we're discussing, but in a political context. They've got the psychographic nailed.

Via Slater and Wonkette