Author Archive

rechargable brain…?

In brain, neurology, rd, robotics, terminator on 02/21/2008 at 12:28 pm

As we speak there are laboratories and teams working all over the world on systems that will directly connect circuits from silicone chips to our neural circuits, and it may come as a surprise to you that some are just about ready for commercial launch, at least according to a new report from the World Technology Evaluation Center and announced by a news release of the University of Southern California (USC). Some of the conclusions of this report about brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) are quite surprising at least to a jaded mind like mine.
For example, North America researchers focus almost exclusively on invasive BCIs while European and Asian labs tend to examine non-invasive BCI systems. (hmm…). If you don’t have enough time to read the 234-page report between late night exams crams and latte dates at starbucks, not to worry, here is a cheat note version of the more exciting excerpts from the weighty tome:)

And for those of you research oriented, here’s the link to this report, “International Assessment of Research and Development in Brain-Computer Interfaces” (PDF format, 234 pages, 5.90 MB), available online on the World Technology Evaluation Center (WTEC) website. Basically the report contains the three noteworthy perspectives on Brain-Computer Interface (BCI) work worldwide:
As you can imagine R&D on Brain-Comp Interface, or BRaCO (an acronym that I much prefer over BCI which always sounded vaguely like a telecom company or maybe it just reminds me of that ill fated MCI🙂 research is extensive and rapidly growing, as is exponential expansion in the interaction between multiple key scientific areas, including biomedical engineering, neuroscience, gen-comp circuitry mapping, materials science and nanotechnology, not to mention neurphysiology and neurosurgery.
BRaCO research is rapidly approaching Generation One clinical trials of invasive BRaCO technologies and widely commercialized use of noninvasive, electroencephalography (EEG) BRaCo devices. The panel predicts that BRaCOs soon will markedly influence the emerging biomedical tech industry (think robotics here), enabling prototype version of the ‘Terminator’ and inevitably of course progressing to non-medical arenas of commerce as well, arguably in weapons industry, gaming, transport.

Frankly the idea of a functional let alone benevolent T1 robot sounds overly optimistic to me at this point, given that the focus of BRaCO research throughout the world is decidedly uneven, with invasive BRaCOs almost exclusively centered in United States (hmm..military budget?), noninvasive BRaCO systems evolving primarily from European and Asian efforts. BRaCO research in pacific rim nations, particularly China surprise surprise, is accelerating, with advanced algorithm development for EEG-based systems currently a pivotal linchpin of China’s BRaCO program. Future BCI research in China is clearly developing toward invasive Brain-Computer Interface systems, so BCI researchers in the US will soon have a strong competitor, thus raising the specter of a new ‘BRaCO arms race’ between the two superpowers, and no we definitely are not talking about russians here:((


In bodyguard, kacs, loginova on 01/31/2008 at 1:18 am

Russia’s most famous bodyguard, 29 year-old former model Anna Loginova, has been in killed in a carjacking. The glamorous 29-year-old died from head injuries after clinging on to the door handle of her Porche Cayenne and being dragged along the street at high speed as the car screeched away.

Loginova ran an agency for female bodyguards, some trained by the ex-KGB, to give discreet protection to Moscow’s billionaires and their wives and mistresses…
“A normal man gets sick and tired of male bodyguards around him all the time,” she said.
Her most famous client was rumored to be Kosta Tszyu, the Russian-Australian welterweight boxing champ.

Pravda reports that, on Sunday night, Loginova “arrived on her prestigious car to Moscow’s Novomarinskaya Street to purchase a kitten from someone. The next moment a Russian-made car stopped near the silvery Porsche. A young dark-haired man stepped out of the car and ran towards Anna’s vehicle.”

The man pulled the door open, grabbed the woman and dragged her our of the car. Afterwards, he quickly got into her Porsche Cayenne and shut the door. Everything happened in an instant. However, the young woman did not intend to give up without a fight. She got up onto her feet and gripped the handle on the door of her car. The woman did not let it go even when the car tore away.

The hijacker dragged the Porsche owner several meters before she released her hands. The woman hit her head on the asphalt road and died of a serious cranial injury. It turned out later that it was not the first incident, when hijackers attempted to steal Anna Loginova’s car. In December of 2007, the model said in an interview with Maxim magazine that she had already been a victim of such street attacks.

“I stepped out of my car and closed the door when I suddenly saw a young man near me. He grabbed me by the arm in which I was holding the car keys. By reflex, I used a Jiu-Jitsu technique. I twisted his arm and hit him on the face with my elbow. The guy obviously was not expecting such a reaction. He fell down on the rear windshield, which gave me enough time to grab my gun. He immediately jumped into his Honda and drove away,” the model said in an interview.

The second time around, she was not so lucky 😦

another sign winter has arrived…

In fundraising, mcgill clubs, mcgill issues on 01/20/2008 at 2:25 pm

Sigh.. so you know we would love to do anything for a good cause, but this is a tad little too risqué even for us brainwash gals 😦 Thankfully not everyone feels the same way, as witness this ringing endorsement from a motivated Swim Team member; (granted it does benefit the Swim Team..but still!~)

“..the rousing highlight of the winter: Most definitely stripping on the street to help raise money for the McGill Varsity Swim team. We were all standing on the street in their swimsuits freezing in the streets (temperature? -14degrees! Wow!) They were so stoked when we stripped off our clothes, (all except undies) and started collecting money. People on the street didn’t know what to think but they gave us money. Everyone was shivering but laughing.”

buying porn with McGill

In mcgill issues on 10/20/2007 at 4:59 pm


McGill seeks to protect its name, reassesses use of ‘McGill’ in student-run organizations

Dear Editor;

Boy, was I ever pissed off when I opened the mail! I did my undergrad at McGill, so I’m also a McGill alumni, which means I get McGill stuff in the mail. I was just offered the McGill Platinum card: up to a $100,000 limit and I get an official McGill University bag ($34.95 value!!)

Not only am I angry that my personal information was sold to MasterCard, but isn’t there this big licensing issue as well? Like student clubs not being able to use the name “McGill” anymore, because the McGill brand must be squeaky clean. Oh, but there sure as hell can be the McGill Platinum MasterCard, and someone actually had to authorize that.

Maybe I’ll get the card and buy pornography and a kit to make GHB over the internet or something, then arrange to have it stolen so I don’t have to pay anything back. That would be squeaky clean all right!

I am an angry McGill customer!

Nicholas Touikan

PhD 4 Math
Monday, October 15th, 2007
…from letters to editor, Mcgill Daily

How much is a tomato worth?

In Uncategorized on 10/13/2007 at 1:00 pm

Recently a column appeared in my local Vancouver Sun newspaper about the trend of eating locally grown food. The author began by describing some municipal initiatives to encourage growing local food and then arrived at the thesis of his article: “The eat-locally, grow-your-own phenomenon isn’t about access to affordable food, it’s about smashing the capitalist system.”

At first, I thought it was some kind of joke. But the author went on to describe basic theories from Economics 101 like “comparative advantage” to show how nations that specialize in what they make most efficiently and then trade with other nations that also specialize in what they make most efficiently, end up with more stuff than if they each made those same things on their own.

His point relating to local food was that most of us don’t grow our own food because it’s cheaper (or maybe he means easier, since theoretically you could grow food for close to free) to buy it from someone who can do it more efficiently than you. Thus, he concludes, “Buy local campaigns are attempts to disrupt international trade.”

If this sounds nuts, that’s because it is. I’m sure the nice elderly lady down the street isn’t thinking, “Screw the Chinese!” as she harvests fresh, tasty snap peas from her community garden, there’s a bigger issue here: Our current economic system by and large completely ignores important facets of life that are worth a great deal, but have never been assigned a monetary value.

Consider this sentence from the column: “The tomato you grow yourself may seem to taste better than store-bought but it won’t be cheaper.” Note the word “seem”, as though the tomato doesn’t actually taste better, it only seems to – presumably because of the satisfaction you received from growing it. But even if that is the case, then you still enjoyed growing the tomato in the first place – and isn’t that worth something? Why is it okay to put a dollar value on our labour, but not our pleasure?

And this is the problem. Only things that you can actually buy have a monetary value. So the value of a tomato is only what someone will pay for it. Not in the satisfaction of watching it grow, or the feel of the earth between your fingers when you plant it, or the warmth of the juice from the summer-ripened fruit when you bite down on it. None of these things have value because you can’t buy them.

Another thing that isn’t valued in our economic system is nature. More specifically, natural services like cleaning our air and water and providing a stable climate. Things grown halfway around the world and flown to our doorsteps get a lot more expensive if you actually include the cost of the damage this does to our atmosphere. So we cannot know the real price of our food unless we do full-cost accounting, which considers all of these factors that traditional economics considers “externalities.” Even then, we still haven’t factored in the value of community, of spending time outdoors with friends and family, and so on, that you might get from growing your own food. What are these things worth?

Needless to say, the article had me pretty depressed. Is this how people think? But then an amazing thing happened. I picked up the newspaper a couple of days later and there they were – letters. A whole page of them, in fact, from people who thought the original column was off-base, too. Each of them pointed out various flaws, but all got at the same thing: our economy is a social construct that depends on the environment and our values, not the other way around.

Reading those letters gave me hope. People get it. And more and more of them are getting it every day. Obviously, we still have a long way to go as a society, but simplistic economics that devalue some of the most important things in life are finally going the way of the dinosaur. And that’s as it should be, because human life does not begin and end with a dollar sign.


In Uncategorized on 10/01/2007 at 4:09 am

And now, just when you thought life couldn’t get any better (yea right), here come news flash we’re all waiting for,

Imperfect Students Wanted
Word on the street is that it’s OK to stop pretending like you’re perfect. According to Jess Lord, dean of admission and financial aid at Haverford College (no not Harvard, and sadly nor McGill), “everybody’s imperfect. Since that’s true for all (students), those that portray that aspect of themselves are that much more authentic.”As colleges continue to search for unique applicants with distinguishing characteristics, some counselors say that coming across as “too perfect” only makes you sound robotic and insincere. Steven Roy Goodman, an independent college counselor, even goes as far as telling his students to make a deliberate mistake in their applications. “Sometimes it’s a typo,” he says. “It’s pretty easy to fall into that trap of trying to do everything perfectly and there’s no spark left.”

uhmm… rrrrright. why don’t you all try it and let me know how it turns out ;~)

what the world needs more of…

In sizzle on 07/24/2007 at 8:22 pm

…a little trip down memory lane for some sultry sizzle along with cutting edge retro animation thrown in, still, proof positive that when sparks fly and time stands still, world can be a magical place for a brief while.

run cody run…

In Uncategorized on 07/14/2007 at 1:38 pm

Oh boy, so really we do understand no one out there wants to see a little peewee jock in action, after all greater events are happening around the world (at least in theory) , and even here at amazing McGill, we have the kick ass McGill Redmen Football team, but.. ya need to check out this 8yr old prodigy in action. He shows talent, poise, and most of all mental maturity far beyond his years. Watch for the part near the end after a field long rush touchdown where Cody calmly hands the ball back to the ref and then taps his hips to signal teammate for the twist hip airbump 🙂 No histrionics, overblown celebrations, rubbing the goal in the opposing team’s faces. Ego ridden jocks should take note. Now if only his parents are as centered as the kid…

Cody’s runs

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Deascript: LOS ALAMITOS GRIFFINS, 15-0 NATIONAL CHAMPS, Cody Paul#5 highlight runs/TD’s/plays from the regional championship game vs. Valencia Park and 2 Championship games from the PEE-WEE Pop Warner Super Bowl in Orlando Florida 2006

thanks Commish:))

screw the metaphor…

In Uncategorized on 07/02/2007 at 3:20 pm

Stanislavski would approve…
Bale dines on bugs

‘Batman Begin’s star Christian Bale prepared to eat a bowl of live maggots in new movie ‘Rescue Dawn’ – by dining on bugs. The actor, who is famous for going to extremes for film roles, admits he taught himself to stomach maggots by feasting on cockroaches and grasshoppers.
“I bought exotic things like grasshoppers, cockroaches and all sorts of different bugs. I had bags of them, and I was eating them like potato chips. It wasn’t a huge leap to go on to maggots.” Now you see why we love him. This guy doesn’t just practice method acting, he turns it upside down and kicks it a mile down the road pretty much leaving Pitt,Clooney&Co. breathing dust.

defending the indefensible…

In Uncategorized on 07/01/2007 at 2:49 pm

By the time we reach a certain age, as in old enough to drink and enter the hallowed halls of higher learning we are supposed to know the difference between right and wrong, along with a basic conceptual understanding of what is really important in life and some reasonable empathy for owning up to our mistakes regardless of consequences.
In fact the unfortunate reality is that moral decay, unabashed greed, and blatant selfishness masquerading as an individual right is the order of the day in 2007. As a collective society it seems as if we no longer aspire to amount to Anything. All we are concerned with is the comfort of our bodily wants for the present, fuck the rest. The virtually unanimous vitriolic reaction to Ann Coulter’s admittedly provocative by design comments about the ‘greedy’ media hungry widows of 9/11 is a perfect example. If AC has one glaring fault, aside from incessant use of ‘umm’ during interviews(whats with that Ann), it’s picking on the hapless media hounds too eager to jump on the bash-Ann-Coulter bandwagon frenzy while she laughs all the way to the bank. Here’s a little piece of history, AC addressing the Johns Hopkins crowd with her typical take no prisoners attitude on racial profiling. Enough said.

people who should quit day job #34…

In talent on 06/20/2007 at 2:36 pm

ok. so listen to this without feeling goose bumps.

parenting 101…

In Uncategorized on 06/13/2007 at 3:08 pm

just what the world needs…

In Uncategorized on 06/03/2007 at 3:58 pm

Hustler offers $1 million for sex smut on Congress

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Hustler magazine is looking for some scandalous sex in Washington again — and willing to pay for it.

“Have you had a sexual encounter with a current member of the United States Congress or a high-ranking government official?” read a full-page advertisement taken out by Larry Flynt’s pornographic magazine in Sunday’s Washington Post.

It offered $1 million for documented evidence of illicit intimate relations with a congressman, senator or other prominent officeholder. A toll-free number and e-mail address were provided. The last time Flynt made such an offer was in October 1998 during the drive to impeach President Bill Clinton over the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

In the following months, the pornographic publishing mogul threatened to expose one or tow members of the Republican Congress pushing for the impeachment, according to media reports at the time. That long-awaited expose, published months after Clinton’s trial, dropped no bombshells, according to a 1999 article, but Flynt’s efforts played a role in the resignation of House-speaker designate Bob Livingston of Louisiana.

Flynt’s target this time, if he has one, was not immediately known. No word yet on exactly when Hustler plans to make the same offer directed at the McGill University Faculty… ;~)

dirty little secret…

In Uncategorized on 05/24/2007 at 3:43 pm

In a 2005 article in the Journal of the American Medical Association, epidemiologist John Ioannidis showed that among the 45 most highly cited clinical research findings of the past 15 years, 99 percent of molecular research had subsequently been refuted. Epidemiology findings had been contradicted in four-fifths of the cases he looked at, and the usually robust outcomes of clinical trials had a refutation rate of one in four.

The revelations struck a chord with the scientific community at large: A recent essay by Ioannidis simply entitled “Why most published research findings are false” has been downloaded more than 100,000 times; the Boston Globe called it “an instant cult classic.” Now in a Möbius-strip-like twist, there is a growing body of research that is investigating, analyzing, and suggesting causes and solutions for faulty research.

Two papers published this spring in the open-access journal PLoS Medicine by Benjamin Djulbegovic from the University of South Florida and Ramal Moonesinghe from the CDC have delved into the issues raised by Ioannidis and suggested possible ways to mitigate this apparent failure of scientific enterprise. One of the suggestions is to ensure that experimental results are independently replicable. “More often than not, genuine replication is not done, and what we end up with in the literature is corroboration or indirect supporting evidence,” says Moonesinghe.

The culprits appear to be the proverbial suspects: lies, damn lies, and statistics. Jonathan Sterne and George Smith, a statistician and an epidemiologist from the university of Bristol in the UK, point out in a study in British Medical Journal that “the widespread misunderstanding of statistical significance is a fundamental problem” in medical research. What’s more, the scientist’s bias may distort statistics. Pressure to publish can lead to “selective reporting;” the implication is that attention-seeking scientists are exaggerating their results far more often than the occasional, spectacular science fraud would suggest.

Cash-for-science practices between the nutrition and drug companies and the academics that conduct their research may also be playing a role. A survey of published results on beverages earlier this year found that research sponsored by industry is much more likely to report favorable findings than papers with other sources of funding. Although not a direct indication of bias, findings like these feed suspicion that the cherry-picking of data, hindrance of negative results, or adjustment of research is surreptitiously corrupting accuracy. In his essay, Ioannidis wrote, “The greater the financial and other interest and prejudices in a scientific field, the less likely the research findings are to be true.”

Academic bias could also be to blame. As Ioannidis puts it, “Prestigious investigators may suppress via the peer-review process the appearance and dissemination of findings that refute their findings, thus condemning their field to perpetuate false dogma.” Advocates of prevailing paradigms have been observed to band together in opposition against alternative ideas with perhaps more antagonism than one might expect from objective scientific debate. And the opposition isn’t limited to publication of new science; jobs and grants are also more easily allocated to those affiliated with the scientific party in power.

Ioannidis is adamant that the problem is widespread. “I have heard from scientists from many different fields who think that the problems are the same in their fields as well,” he says. “This is a potentially severe crisis, unless we realize the issue and try to address it.”

With the debate over the causes and solutions of high rates of falsifiable research findings ongoing, how the problem is seen in the eyes of a skeptical public may be another issue altogether. Virginia Barbour, managing editor of PLoS Medicine, puts it simply: “In terms of perception, the point is that science doesn’t emerge from single new findings that become ‘breakthrough’ stories in the media, but rather from developments that mature over months or years, with different sources of experimental validation.”

by João Medeiros • Seed Magazine Posted May 21, 2007 05:14 PM

say it ain’t so Cate…

In Uncategorized on 05/08/2007 at 9:14 pm

Skeletal Cate Blanchett is looking a bit thin on glamour

OUch.. Now quick someone bring this chick a brainwashcafe burger she looks worse than Gollum. As anyone who has seen her on screen knows, Cate Blanchett has always been slender. But the 37-year-old actress’s gaunt appearance startled onlookers as she arrived at a benefit gala. With her collarbones protruding and looking painfully thin, the Lord Of The Rings star was barely recognisable as she walked down the red carpet at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
The stick-thin look was not helped by the Oscar-winner’s shock of scarlet make-up or her swept-up hair. An observer said: “Perhaps it was just an unfortunate trick of the light, but her shoulders and chest were all bony while her collarbones looked really prominent.

“More worryingly, her hair, which had been piled up into a bun, looked thin and wispy — often a sign of dramatic weight loss.” Other slender stars at the event celebrating the work of French designer Paul Poiret, who died in 1944, included Kate Moss, Lindsay Lohan and Renee Zellweger.

But the observer said: “Although Cate was apparently in good spirits, she was definitely one of the skinniest celebrities there.” The actress, once a size 12, is said to be a fan of celebrity diet guru Dr Nishi Joshu. Miss Blanchett rarely speaks about her diet and lifestyle, but she was relatively quick to lose her pregnancy weight after giving birth to her sons Dashiell John, five, and three-year-old Roman.


speaking of truth…

In Uncategorized on 05/04/2007 at 6:23 pm

Duke: 34 MBA students caught cheating

So go figure. It’s not that they were cheating or that they got caught that bothers us so much, its just… well, how blatantly stupid they were in going about the process. Seriously folks, couldn’t the bunch of finest minds at arguably one of the top schools in the country come up with something a little more refined? On a take home to boot. Sigh..

Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business disciplined 34 first-year master of business administration students who were caught in the school’s largest cheating scandal.

Fuqua investigated 38 students, marketing professor Gavan J. Fitzsimmons, who oversees the school’s judicial panel, said. Four were cleared and 34 received disciplinary action ranging from expulsion to failing grades.

The allegations are the largest to hit a top US business school since 2005. Schools have been strengthening their ethics curriculums after scandals at Enron Corp. and WorldCom, which landed the firms in bankruptcy and their leaders in jail. Fuqua posts an honor code that covers cheating in every classroom.

In 2005, the Harvard Business School, Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management, and others rejected 150 applicants who tapped into an online database to see whether they had been accepted.

Nine students face expulsion, and 15 face a one-year suspension and a failing grade in the course. Ten others were found guilty of lesser offenses, nine of whom received a failing grade and one who flunked the assignment, Fitzsimmons said in the e-mail.

The problem came to light when a professor noticed similarities in answers by students on a take-home test.

thanks to bloomberg news

beauty or truth but not both :(

In Uncategorized on 04/22/2007 at 3:42 pm

“…For her beauty, as we are told, was in itself not altogether incomparable, nor such as to strike those who saw her. But converse with her had an irresistible charm, and her presence — combined with the persuasiveness of her discourse and the character which was somehow diffused about her behaviour towards others — had something stimulating about it.”

…Sounds like a first-century version of the line “She’s no babe, but she does have a nice personality”.
So which average-looking lady was the Greek biographer Plutarch describing with these words? You may be surprised to learn that it was none other than the Egyptian queen Cleopatra. Plutarch’s description seems a far cry from the beauty depicted in modern literature and Hollywood movies. So was Plutarch right? Or was Chaucer closer to the mark when he opined that she was “fair as is the rose in May”? Well, the recent discovery of a coin from the period may provide the definitive answer.

Antony and Cleopatra were not the handsome General and his beautiful queen Hollywood would have us believe, according to experts at Newcastle University, who have been studying the depiction of the one of history’s most tragic romantic couples found on a Roman coin.

The silver coin of Mark Antony and Cleopatra was discovered in a collection from the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle upon Tyne, which was being researched as part of the preparations for the Great North Museum, currently under development on the site of the Hancock Museum.

Antony and Cleopatra are shown on either side of the small silver coin (pictured), which is about the size of a modern five pence piece. Cleopatra is depicted with a shallow forehead, long, pointed nose, narrow lips and a sharply pointed chin, while Mark Antony has bulging eyes, a large hooked nose and a thick neck.

Clare Pickersgill, Assistant Director of Archaeological Museums at Newcastle University, said: ‘The popular image we have of Cleopatra is that of a beautiful queen who was adored by Roman politicians and generals.

‘The relationship between Mark Antony and Cleopatra has long been romanticised by writers, artists and film-makers. Shakespeare wrote his tragedy ‘Antony and Cleopatra’ in 1608, while the Orientalist artists of the nineteenth century and the modern Hollywood depictions, such as that of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton in the 1963 film have added to the idea that Cleopatra was a great beauty. Recent research would seem to disagree with this portrayal, however’, said Clare.

Lindsay Allason-Jones, Director of Archaeological Museums at Newcastle University, added: ‘The image on the coin is far from being that of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton!

‘Roman writers tell us that Cleopatra was intelligent and charismatic, and that she had a seductive voice but, tellingly, they do not mention her beauty. The image of Cleopatra as a beautiful seductress is a more recent image’.

The coin is a silver denarius of Mark Antony and Cleopatra dated to 32 BC, which would have been issued by the mint of Mark Antony.

The coin itself is not enormously rare, but due to its depictions, it is very collectable. The collection has been owned by the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle upon Tyne since the 1920s. Until now, it has been kept in a bank, but the development of the Great North Museum project (yes, that Great North project in umm…England) means that other ‘hidden gems’ like the Antony and Cleopatra coin, will be able to go on display to the public for the first time when the GNM opens in 2009

many thanks to University of Newcastle :))

power of the web…

In Uncategorized on 04/21/2007 at 6:02 pm

and we are not talking Spider Man here.

What REALLY happened at the Myspace party from hell
by NICK CRAVEN, Daily Mail
Last updated at 10:32am on 21st April 2007

Remember that advertisement for Yellow Pages from the 1990s in which a brutally hung-over young man wakes up on the sofa to recall the wild house party he threw the night before? All he had to do was let his fingers do the walking and call in a French polisher to put the damage right before his parents’ return.

But 17-year-old Rachael Bell was not so fortunate. She would have needed an army to even begin to tackle the £25,000 orgy of destruction visited upon her parents’ home in just a few hours.
An open invitation was placed on Rachael’s MySpace page for revellers to attend a ‘Skins Party’ (based on a riotous episode of the controversial C4 teen drama). The invitation was headed: “Let’s all trash the average, family-sized house disco party.”

And they did. More than 200 young people from as far afield as London and Liverpool, converged on the £230,000 detached house in a respectable culdesac in Houghton-le-Spring and destroyed it after seven hours of drink and drug-fuelled mayhem.
As Rachael’s mother Elaine, 48, so aptly put it: “The house has been raped. Every carpet’s burned where they’ve stomped out cigarettes. They’ve urinated in wardrobes, pulled my clothes out and stubbed cigarettes on them. The beds have burns, food has been smeared everywhere and messages scrawled all over the walls.”

Add to that the vomit-strewn clothing and condoms littering the bedrooms of Rachael’s three younger siblings, stolen money and jewellery and furniture damaged beyond repair. Now, primary school teacher Mrs Bell’s trust in her eldest daughter has been catastrophically shaken, as Rachael for the moment stays with a friend, too ashamed to return home. Rachael has been arrested and released on police bail as a criminal damage inquiry is under way.

Mrs Bell and her three other children are being put up in a hotel at her insurers’ expense. Worse, she fears that she may not be able to return to the house at all, following its violation. Though she is separated from her husband Alan, both parents are united in their condemnation of their daughter and the teenage hoodlums she allowed in to destroy the family home.

A-level student Rachael has insisted that – despite her mother’s strict instructions not to have anyone over while she looked after the house on Easter Monday – she invited only 40 or so friends. Then, she has told her mother, someone “hacked into” her MySpace page and suggested the ‘Skins’ theme with its invitation. From that moment on, Rachael was powerless to stop it.

Rachael, according to her account, hid in a bathroom having a “panic attack” as the uninvited mob swelled her house to breaking point.
All this would seem to exonerate Rachael as a hapless, if disobedient, victim of circumstance. But inquiries by the Mail suggest the truth may be more complex, and that Rachael’s story may amount to little more than the timeworn teenager’s excuse of “it wasn’t me”.

So what did happen before, during and after the party that so many of its attendees can barely remember, but which the residents of Chipchase Court will never forget?
Elaine Bell decided at short notice to capitalise on the glorious Bank Holiday weather by taking her three younger children to a caravan site about 15 miles away at Whitburn, a pretty coastal spot. Rachael, who ostensibly wanted to revise for her A-levels, didn’t join the family group.

“I left her with firm instructions not to have any friends round while I was away,” said Mrs Bell.

When and by whom the ‘Skins’ party invitation was added to Rachael’s MySpace entry, no one can say for sure. Her version is that an innocent announcement was sent to her friends, inviting them over that night, presumably within minutes of her mother’s car disappearing round the corner.
So, we are asked to believe that all of a sudden, someone else ‘hacked’ into her account and changed the nature of the invitation.

Just how likely is it that someone who knew Rachael had the wherewithal to obtain her password and change the entry in a matter of hours?
According to internet security sources consulted by the Mail, it’s virtually impossible.

“Hacking into an account without the password is very, very difficult and time-consuming, unless you’ve somehow found the password out,” said one expert who did not want to be named. “On the other hand, what we call ‘social hacking’ is far more likely, where the person has been careless with their password or has told a friend without thinking much of it.”

If that were the case, would someone Rachael trusted with her password betray her so completely? If so, the list of suspects can’t be very long. Mrs Bell, while still fuming at her daughter for having the party in the first place, believes her about the webspace tampering. She said: “Rachael has never done anything like this before, and there was nothing to suggest she would. She may have had the odd friend round, but that’s all.

“I’m 99.9per cent sure she’s telling the truth when she says that she was not responsible for what happened.
“No one knew I was going away until the Saturday, which was just two days before the party – Rachael wouldn’t have had time to arrange a party on such a big scale. Someone else is behind it.
“She only planned to have a few friends round, I’m sure of that.”
Naturally, Mrs Bell may want to believe her daughter, but the fact is that someone did organise the party in a short space of time. Another reason she chooses to believe her daughter is that Rachael removed all the knives in the kitchen drawer and took the television and china from the living room and put them away.
Curiously, she even taped over the clothes drawers to deter anyone from opening them. Mrs Bell draws a comforting conclusion from this: “To my mind those are not the actions of someone who was planning to let the house be smashed up.”

Sceptics might wonder why, if Rachael were only expecting her ‘good’ friends, did she feel the need to hide the kitchen knives and tape shut the drawers?
Whatever her reasons, with those last-minute preparations made, the young hostess was by all accounts delighted to see the first revellers begin arriving in fleets of cars, taxis and minibuses shortly after 9pm.

And they just kept coming. One 17-year-old guest – who knows Rachael and definitely was invited, told the Mail he got to the house around 10pm, by which time there were around 150 people spilling out into the road. “I could hardly get in the door for people, and I soon realised a lot of them didn’t know Rachael at all,” said the young man, who declined to be named. “I heard people asking whose party it was.
“I noticed people stubbing tabs [cigarettes] out on the living room walls, which I thought was really disrespecting the house.”
Intriguingly, despite the presence of so many unwanted guests, her friend spoke to Rachael soon after he arrived, and she was “really enjoying herself”, he said.

“I wouldn’t say she was off her face, but she was quite merry. I’d only been there about 20 minutes and another 20 or 30 people turned up and she didn’t seem bothered.
“It was only when the police arrived in force that she started to panic.”
Another party-goer, named ‘Lizzie’, who e-mailed a local newspaper, told a similar story (with apologies for her txtspk grammar and spelling). Her e-mail said: “we walked in threw the back door and rachael who no one knew or had met before welcomed us in and sed come in make yourselfs at home the partys already started.”

A solitary police car arrived at 10pm, after neighbours realised Mrs Bell was not at home and became concerned at the large numbers of young people milling inside and outside the house. The officers asked to see the householder and an unknown teenage girl claimed there was no problem and everyone there had been invited. The police left after about five minutes. By 11pm, the party was in full swing and dozens, if not hundreds, of youngsters were drinking in the street. Outraged residents called the police again, and this time seven vehicles, including a dog van, arrived.

Police again made checks to find out who had organised the party but, according to residents the officers said they couldn’t stay long. Within an hour all had gone, although one patrol car made regular passes.
Meanwhile, inside the house, partygoer ‘Nicky’ described the unfolding nightmare in her unique way. Her e-mail description read: “it was like a totall free for all. going threw every draw wardrobe in the house taking clothes from anywhere, a fish hook was found in the draw of rachaels brothers room and was used to carv names in the wall.

“wardrobe doors where pulled off and left on the landing for people to stamp on, door handles actully inscrewed off so people wouldnt interupt the ‘yobs’ having sex in everyroom in frount of all to see.
“lights in the ceiling were pulled out of the ceiling the wires snapped, the carpets were all light colours, they were black with in minuets. bed sheets where urinated on but still people slept on them, the bath was cracked off people kicking it, the toilet seemed to be dismantled, mirrors smashed, the walls were urinated on, drink was spilt up the walls on the carpets the curtains were pulled down and ripped. ‘at one point, in the sitting room 4 people walked in took the radiator off the wall walked out and when we finally left in the mornin seen it dumped at the side of the road 5 minets from rachaels house.”

Astonishingly, at 3am, partygoers were still arriving. Paradoxically, neighbours admitted the noise from the party itself wasn’t bad. Said one: “If it hadn’t been for the sheer volume of people in the street, I wouldn’t have known there was a party at all.”
By 8am, most revellers had left and about 20 of Rachael’s friends stayed to clear up, but stopped when told by a neighbour that Mrs Bell had heard and was on her way home; Rachael and her friends fled.
At 9am, Rachael’s mother arrived to find the house locked up and deserted. Opening the front door, she collapsed in tears at the state of the house she has lived in for six years, and which she had left ‘immaculate’ only 24 hours earlier.

This week, overseeing a massive clear-up operation by professionals, aided by a skip, she recalled the shock of that moment.
“It was devastating, just devastating,” she said. “I love my house and I love it tidy and clean. I’ve said to Rachael she needs to give the names of those who caused the damage to the house. These people just walk off and get away with it – it’s criminal.
“We’ll be out of the house for a month while the specialist cleaners are in, it will need new carpets throughout.”

But can the relationship with her daughter be similarly repaired? Long after the clean-up crews have done their work and departed, for Elaine Bell and her family, the emotional scars will remain.

sound of silence…

In gene pool, lisapicks on 04/11/2007 at 2:43 pm

Genetic wallflowers have their day.

It took all this time to finally prove what we gals (um.. some of us anyhow:) have always known, that it’s the strong silent types you have to watch out for… well it turns out same applies at the genetic level. Download some vintage S&G pour yourself a cup of tea and Enjoy…

Scattered throughout the human genome are thousands of mutations that biologists have treated mostly as footnotes. They’re hardly few in number—in coding regions of the genome, there are as many as 15,000—but biologists regard them as mutations that simply don’t change the way a cell functions. Both in name and effect, they have been accepted as “silent.” Now, however, new discoveries are showing that silent mutations appear to play an important role in dozens of human genetic diseases, a fact that is forcing biologists to discard a long-held evolutionary theory and to reexamine the very rules governing the transfer of information from DNA to proteins.
To understand the importance of this realization, it’s necessary to review how information is transfered from genes to proteins. During protein synthesis the two strands of the double helix unravel, and the DNA template, composed of four nucleotide bases, is transcribed into messenger RNA (mRNA). Essentially, the information encoded in DNA is preserved in the alphabet of mRNA, which in turn is translated into amino acids, the basic building blocks of proteins. In this process, each group of three mRNA bases, called collectively a codon, signals for the addition of a particular amino acid to the growing protein. As this chain elongates, the protein spontaneously begins to fold into its final, three-dimensional conformation—a step that is essential for it to be biologically active.

A simple mutation within a gene, such as the substitution of one nucleotide for another (a “single nucleotide polymorphism,” or SNP), can modify which amino acid gets incorporated into the protein, altering the way it folds and functions. Though there are an estimated 30,000 SNPs in the human genome, which account for the genetic variation among humans, most are not harmful. Biologists consider these harmless mutations “neutral” because they do not affect the fitness of an organism.

Silent mutations are a subset of SNPs. They have no impact on the amino acid sequence of proteins and, therefore, were not expected to change their function. This belief has been a central tenet of biology for decades, but new research is eroding that orthodoxy. And an article in Science this past December substantially overturned it. Dr. Chava Kimchi-Sarfaty and her colleagues at the National Institutes of Health were trying to understand why certain silent mutations occurred with unusual frequency in a gene called multidrug resistance 1 (MDR1), found in human cancer cells. MDR1 codes for a protein that sits in the membrane and pumps chemotherapy drugs out of cells, rendering the cancer cells resistant to the drugs. The team discovered that a variant of the MDR1 gene, containing certain common silent mutations, made the cells even more effective at expelling cytotoxic drugs. The question was, how?

After further investigation, the team showed that the silent mutations in MDR1 were actually slowing down the protein-making process. And since the folding of a protein into its three-dimensional shape is partially speed-dependent, these mutations were able to alter the structure—and biological function—of the protein without changing its basic building blocks. Through a series of elegant experiments, the team put to rest the idea that silent mutations were neutral.

This mechanism, which they call “translational pausing,” is actually just one of several ways in which silent mutations have very recently been shown to affect protein function—and, more broadly, the fitness of an organism. It turns out that silent mutations can also change the stability of mRNA, one of the important intermediates in the transfer of information from DNA to proteins, and disrupt gene splicing, the process by which the DNA that contains genes is trimmed away from the rest of the genome.

Remarkably, it has now been shown that there are at least 40 silent mutations that cause disease in humans by changing the way a gene is spliced. One such example is CFTR, the gene that is linked to cystic fibrosis. Another example is FBN1, a gene linked to a common connective-tissue disorder called Marfan Syndrome. With this new understanding, we can now reexamine the basis of many inherited conditions for which no underlying cause has been identified.

Most fundamentally, the involvement of silent mutations in disease undermines the neutral theory of molecular evolution. This theory, posited by Motoo Kimura in the late 1960s and a powerful influence ever since, asserted that the vast majority of mutations were neutral, having no effect on the fitness of an organism, and spread through a population by chance. The fact that silent mutations are not harmless anomalies of nature means that they are not neutral. In contrast, some, if not all, silent sites must be subject to the forces of Darwinian natural selection.

—Lindsay Borthwick is a writer living in Toronto.

the not so dumb blondes….#13

In dumb blonde not on 03/17/2007 at 4:33 pm

life in America…….??

In fallen genius on 03/08/2007 at 3:44 pm

Convicted as an ecoterrorist, a brilliant young scholar nose-dives in prison. warning: its long, but read it even if just to ask the one single could this happen.

Billy Cottrell in kindergarten. When Billy Cottrell was first sent up to Lompoc Federal Penitentiary, he thought he had landed the perfect job. A brilliant student of theoretical physics at California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Cottrell has a high-functioning form of autism that makes it difficult for him to pick up on people’s emotions, but also gives him a grave appreciation for detail. At Lompoc, he thought, he would do secretarial duty in the “boiler-room office,” spending many hours alone, filing, sorting, typing and proofreading. He could be useful.

Before his first day, however, prison officials got nervous. They knew Cottrell was smart; they’d seen his physics textbooks and writings. And wasn’t this the kid who’d been convicted of blowing up Hummers somewhere in Los Angeles? Thinking he might find a way to rig the water heaters to blow up the prison, Cottrell says, they denied him the job.

Next, Cottrell was offered a job mowing Lompoc’s copious lawn. This appealed to Cottrell’s jittery need for physical exertion. Before he was arrested, he could run a marathon in under three hours, even sleep-deprived and hopped up on Rockstar energy drink. Once again, however, the penitentiary’s guardians said no: Cottrell says prison guards worried that he might use the gasoline in the lawn mower to make a bomb.

Finally, Billy Cottrell — who got kicked out of high school a few times yet wrote an essay to the University of Chicago so impressive he was accepted into its competitive math-and-science program, who snagged an appointment at Caltech to study the arcane complexities of string theory, and who many prominent scientists consider a genius — found a job he could keep. He stood up to his knees in filth, sorting through his fellow inmates’ putrid detritus in the prison dumpsters.
Keep Reading………….

It’s a job most prisoners get as a single day’s punishment. Cottrell did it for three and a half months.

Since the day he arrived at Lompoc, 18 months ago, say his lawyers, family and friends, Cottrell has been harassed, threatened and taunted by the prison population and, in some cases, also by the guards and the administration. Because in the rigid world of prison, Cottrell has been labeled a terrorist.

Lompoc guards whispered the word at him as he passed. Visitors heard guards refer to him as their “very own ecoterrorist.” Cottrell later learned he had been used as an example in a training video on how to deal with terrorists in prison, “so now every prison guard in the country recognizes me as a terrorist on sight,” he wrote in a January 10 letter to the L.A. Weekly. He has been denied common privileges such as exercise, visitors and phone calls. Ultimately, he was banished to solitary confinement — the Hole, in prison parlance — like a violent thug.

And all because of one night in the summer of 2003, when Cottrell helped two friends deface and destroy dozens of sport utility vehicles in the name of the environment. Those who know of Cottrell and his tough prison sentence stretching to 2010 — the judge piled on an additional three years, without benefit of a jury rendering — say Cottrell is being mishandled, persecuted and, within the prison walls, compelled to become the very radical his prosecutors argued he was in court.

Meanwhile, he awaits word on two legal fronts: first, whether the California 9th Circuit believes jurors should have heard about his autism, and second, whether the federal courts will mirror the California Supreme Court in declaring judge-rendered sentence enhancements unconstitutional.

Back when he was sentenced in April 2005 to eight and a half years in prison, the judge, an ex-Marine named R. Gary Klausner, didn’t think Cottrell’s intellect or his autism should have justified leniency. But a great many scientists around the world, including Stephen Hawking, author of A Brief History of Time, have publicly objected to the apparent fact that his intellect and psychological quirks, combined with the “terrorism” label attached to his crime, have provoked prison guards to single him out.

“Billy has been selected for the especially harsh treatment reserved for ‘a terrorist,’ ” reads a letter in Cottrell’s defense signed by Hawking and seven other prominent scientists. “[His] treatment in prison, far from being rehabilitative, is nothing short of nightmarish.”

The letter was distributed to prison authorities and the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals at Cottrell’s October 18 hearing, held to determine whether the jury should have understood his psychiatric diagnosis — which the judge barred from the trial. But instead of helping him in prison, the letter seemed only to make things worse: Two weeks after the hearing, Cottrell was mysteriously thrown in the Hole.

University of Chicago professor Peter Freund, who drafted the letter his colleagues, including Hawking, later edited and signed, calls Cottrell’s ordeal “a tragedy.” One of the world’s pre-eminent authorities on theoretical physics, Freund supervised Cottrell’s senior thesis on string theory, the work that landed him a coveted spot working with Hiroshi Ooguri in Caltech’s physics department.

“If you told me John Doe was treated this way, someone I didn’t know at all, I’d feel revulsion at this systematic way the prison system is destroying a human being,” Freund says. “It’s horrible and it’s unfair. But with Billy, it’s also a loss to science. It’s too painful to watch without doing everything you can to stop it.”

There was a time, not too long ago, when Billy Cottrell was an eccentric but amiable Ph.D. candidate at Caltech, “a few degrees removed from reality,” according to Freund, but harmless. He had not yet been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, the peculiar form of autism whose sufferers typically excel at advanced math and fail miserably at social skills.

But looking back, the signs were there: You might imagine him similar to Dustin Hoffman’s character in Rain Man, only less eccentric, much smarter and, as he would tell you, much better-looking. “He always talked kind of fast, like a robot,” says his mother, Heidi Schwiebert. “I used to call him my little Mr. Spock.”

Cottrell disliked silly, institutional rules: At the University of Chicago, he once refused to complete an assignment and instead turned in a lengthy and detailed essay on why the assignment was dumb. And he displayed bad judgment sometimes, says his friend Jesse Bloom, who has known him since the two were undergraduates at the University of Chicago. “When we had [David] Letterman on campus at Caltech,” Bloom remembers, “Billy ‘streaked’ [naked] across campus because people were daring him to do that.”

But he was not much of an environmentalist, or even all that liberal. In fact, in his 2004 trial, covered by Newsweek and CNN, no evidence ever emerged — and the prosecutors never suggested — that Cottrell was involved in the environmental movement at all. He watched Bill O’Reilly as regularly as he read The Nation. He voted for Schwarzenegger. He did not rebel against society so much as hold accountable the lazy people running it.

“Billy believed that most problems could be traced to lazy people who would rather complain than put in a little hard work, and he thought they should show more determination and stop making excuses,” says Bloom. “But I never saw him be mean or hostile to anyone.”

On the night of August 22, 2003, Cottrell would later testify, he had only intended to tour around Southern California with his friends Tyler Johnson and Michie Oe, plastering SUVs with bumper stickers. Going in, the plan was so innocuous, rising only to the level of a graffiti prank, that even Cottrell’s mom, Heidi, was involved.

An attractive blonde in her 50s, with big blue eyes and a curly bob haircut, Schwiebert is a horsewoman, although that’s where her interest in environmentalism ends. But she was fed up enough with polluting road hogs that she volunteered to print up bumper stickers for the three young people that would say “SUV = TERRORISM.” “I told the printer I didn’t particularly agree with the slogan myself, but I supported their right to free speech,” she recalled. At the printer’s, another “I” slipped in, and the stickers came out condemning “TERRIORISM.”

In the defense account of that night, Tyler Johnson, angry about the misspelling, demanded that Cottrell pay him back the $200 he’d spent on materials. Johnson offered to forgo the $200 if Cottrell would use his own car to chauffeur Johnson and his girlfriend, Michie Oe, around town while they spray-painted the offending gas-guzzlers.

Johnson and Oe, say Cottrell and his lawyers, had run out of gas. Cottrell agreed to take his car instead. On the way, Cottrell stopped at a gas station, and they filled several containers with gasoline.

At a Mercedes lot in Arcadia, Johnson, Cottrell and Oe sprayed seven or eight $30,000-to-$40,000 vehicles with slogans like “Fat, Lazy Americans” and “I [heart] Pollution.” In nearby Monrovia, they sprayed a Toyota Tundra and a Honda Passport with “Polluter” and “Killer.” At one car lot in Duarte, they painted 21 SUVs with the words “SUV’S Suck Hi,” and “Smog Machine.” At another Duarte lot, they hit 26 more. And on several vehicles they scrawled the initials ELF, the acronym for Earth Liberation Front.

As far as anyone knows, no ELF really exists; its Web site,, is no more than a front for Viagra and repo ads (and now it’s for sale) (See LA Weekly’s “Earth to ELF: Come In, Please,” December 22, 2005). But in April of 2003, a few months before the SUV vandalism spree and five months before Cottrell’s arrest, the FBI’s assistant deputy director for counterterrorism, John Lewis, had gone before a Senate committee claiming that ELF and like-minded groups were America’s greatest domestic-terrorist threat. The feds were eagerly prosecuting a number of alleged environmental saboteurs who fit that view.

Because of the acronym spray-painted on the vehicles, says one of Cottrell’s lawyers, Michael Mayock. “They were watching this case at the highest levels in Washington.”

Against this tense national backdrop, Cottrell’s lawyers, Mayock and Marvin Rudnick, had asked the jury to believe that Cottrell was shocked when Johnson, without warning, stuck a rag in one of the just-filled gas containers, lit it and lobbed the homemade Molotov cocktail at a red 2003 Hummer H2 at the Clippinger Hummer dealership in West Covina. Cottrell’s defense relied on his claim that he was not part of that plan, that he insisted Johnson stop, and that he believed that Johnson would not lob another device.

But Johnson pulled out another Molotov cocktail, and then another, and another. He pummeled the Clippinger Hummer lot with so many of the minibombs, in fact, that the fires lit up 14 vehicles. All told, on that August night, after several hours of cruising, defiling and burning, 125 SUVs and other vehicles were damaged and destroyed, racking up $5 million in damage to vehicles that had traveled between states — a technicality that invoked the Interstate Commerce clause and made Cottrell’s a federal case.

The jury didn’t buy Cottrell’s defense, and no wonder. Both Johnson and Oe had disappeared before Cottrell’s arrest, and are still at large. There was no extracting their story about their night of arson. The jury had plenty of evidence to place Cottrell at the crime, including the use of his red Toyota Camry and his image on one dealership’s surveillance video.

Most important of all, Judge Klausner allowed no discussion on how Asperger’s might have affected Billy Cottrell’s judgment.

One of the most incriminating pieces of evidence left behind in Duarte that night was the carefully scrawled equation eiπ + 1 = 0, a magical formula discovered by Swiss mathematician Leonhard Euler in the 18th century. It was also the very formula Cottrell and a friend had painted on the University of Chicago’s astronomy-building tower years ago, climbing up to write it in large print near the roof. The presence of the equation on the SUVs made it easier to connect the crime to Cottrell. In effect, Cottrell had left a calling card.

It takes a certain mastery of mathematics to appreciate the beauty of this equation, known as “Euler’s identity,” a simple, elegant line of code that employs five fundamental mathematical constants. If you can’t quite grasp that — most people can’t — you might be able to understand why Cottrell seems an oddball to so many people.

This strange line of symbols was a mark of his identity; a thing he celebrated in spray paint, breaking laws as he did so. It is a symptom consistent with Asperger’s syndrome, of a mind that can focus narrowly and cleanly on abstract hypotheses about the origins of the universe like string theory, but cannot detect ordinary nuances and gestures that signal when behavior might be questionable or when, as Cottrell still claims, a good friend holding a spray can assures him there will be no more violent explosions — and then there are many, many more.

Lead prosecutor Beverly Reid O’Connell, now a Los Angeles Superior Court judge, when asked by the Weekly whether she believed at the time of the trial that she was prosecuting Cottrell for an act of terrorism, as the prison system seems to see it, responded, “I’m not going to comment on that.”

Was there an effort, from higher levels in Washington, to prosecute someone for “ecoterrorism” at the time? Reid O’Connell responded, “I can’t comment on that.” Her co-prosecutor, Jason De Bretteville, laughed out loud at the suggestion, denying that the feds were involved. In 2004, neither prosecutor had any trouble portraying Cottrell as Reid O’Connell described him to the jury: “A scheming, arrogant person who is disdainful of the law.”

His friend Jesse Bloom readily concedes, “Billy made a bad impression at his very first hearing. The newspapers were accurate when they described how he shook his head and ‘smirked’ at the judge. But they didn’t know Billy.”

In November of 2004, Billy Cottrell was convicted on one count of conspiracy and seven counts of arson, carrying a minimum sentence of five years. In April 2005, Klausner sentenced Cottrell to five years, plus three and a half years — on the grounds that his acts could be defined as terrorism.

A California Supreme Court ruling on January 22 declared that such “determinate sentencing” violates the defendant’s Sixth Amendment right to a trial by an impartial jury by “placing sentence-elevating fact-finding within a judge’s province.” But that doesn’t directly help Cottrell, who was convicted in federal court. Even though no evidence emerged during the trial that Cottrell was a “terrorist,” the judge decided he was, and sentenced him accordingly.

Better days: Cottrell with his $10,000 math prize, 2002 Friends watched from the outside as Cottrell struggled to make something of his time in prison. They ordered him physics books and newly published papers from science journals so he could continue his physics studies. Cottrell even persuaded the Lompoc education coordinator to order Chinese-language tapes and textbooks for the library, because he wanted to study Mandarin. On Saturdays, Cottrell organized relay races on the prison track.

The majority of prison inmates read below the ninth-grade level. The prison system encourages them to get GEDs and, on paper at least, encourages earning higher degrees. Cottrell thought he could help. In the fall of 2005, he submitted proposals to prison officials for a calculus class, “complete with four months’ worth of homework, quizzes and tests” that Cottrell had written out from scratch on yellow legal pads in his cell.

He may not have been popular with the guards, but his fellow inmates knew a good thing when they saw one: One hundred hardened criminals signed up to study calculus, according to Cottrell. Cottrell would be Jaime Escalante, teaching tough math to the underprivileged.

But Cottrell was a very rare item in the federal prison system — a real, homegrown environmental “terrorist” in the eyes of prison officials. After all, even though prosecutors did not present a single piece of evidence linking the strange genius Cottrell to any radical movements — either before or after that night in the Los Angeles suburbs — hadn’t a judge convicted him?

First, prison officials claimed they had “lost” his calculus syllabus — twice, Cottrell says. He resubmitted it, patiently handwritten, three more times. Then, Cottrell got the news that no one would be studying math with him in prison at all. As with the mowing job and the boiler-room work, he says the prison administration created special rules for their unusual new prisoner who came with the word “terrorist” attached. They feared, they told him, he would teach other inmates how to make bombs — “something,” Cottrell wrote to the Weekly, “that I know absolutely nothing about.”

In court, Cottrell had come off as obnoxious and weird, which did not endear him to the jury. “Objection!” he’d yell. “Irrelevant!” When prosecutor Beverly Reid O’Connell, then an assistant U.S. attorney, cut him off once, he shouted, “But I know this one! I know this one!” (Interestingly, Reid O’Connell today insists she recalls none of his inappropriate courtroom antics.)

In prison, he was regarded as downright freakish. His mother believes that prison guards took an early dislike to him because he wasn’t able to play their games. “He can’t play the subordinate,” she says. “He’d die first.” Cottrell himself thinks the guards were jealous of his intelligence. Whatever the truth, Cottrell has been hardly more popular with the prison guards than he was with the jury.

Next, Cottrell told friends and family on the outside, the guards assigned him a new cellmate, an especially tough bad actor known around prison for starting fights. In the summer of 2005, that man at first tried to tear apart Cottrell’s books, then tried to poke his eyes out with a broom, according to Cottrell. Cottrell fought him off and, he says, got blamed for the fight.

In his letters to the Weekly, he says one prison official took away his physics papers, telling him that the science he was studying conflicted with the teachings of Jesus. Another forbade his Chinese studies, even after he had learned Mandarin so well that, he says, he served as a translator between guards and a Chinese-speaking prisoner.

But his worst months in prison came late last year. Shortly after the Bureau of Prisons Office of Inspector General released a report suggesting that federal prisons — including Lompoc — were not dealing harshly enough with convicted international terrorists inside the prisons, Cottrell was told he would have to serve as a witness in a bizarre “investigation.”

The probe focused on Lompoc’s Department of Corrections education coordinator, who procured the Chinese-language study materials for Cottrell. Cottrell says that when he refused to testify against the education coordinator, he was thrown into the Hole at Lompoc, and denied visitors and phone calls.

Cottrell says he was not given a clear explanation for his detention. “I haven’t been given any formal sanctions, no lock-up order from the Captain [of the prison guards], no rationale, no date of release, no anything,” wrote Cottrell in a December 18 letter to the Weekly. “They’ve taken every single physics text, Chinese story and piece of literature I’ve accumulated . . . and told me it’s all going to be burned.

“As far as I know,” he concluded, “I’m in the Hole for studying Chinese.”

Prison officials refuse to comment on many of his allegations, but concede that some of what Cottrell claims may have indeed occurred.

Bruce Kates first alerted the Weekly to Cottrell’s situation. A musician and professional piano tuner, Kates also attended Caltech as a math student. (“I didn’t have the goods,” he said, “but I could recognize people who did.”)

Kates is solemn, earnest and scholarly-looking. He is balding, wears glasses and speaks gently, in carefully punctuated syllables. It was clear that he cared deeply about Cottrell. Several times, as his voice rose with emotion, I thought he might weep. “If Billy loses his mind in prison,” he said, “we have lost a great resource in the world of science.”

I met with Kates the first time the day before Thanksgiving last year, along with Cottrell’s mother, who had cobbled together frequent-flier miles to come to Los Angeles in hopes that she could visit her son on Thanksgiving, even though the prison administrators had warned her that she couldn’t.

Schwiebert didn’t have any illusions that her son deserved special sympathy; she didn’t think it was newsworthy that her son was in prison. She just wanted the prison to follow its own rules. “You’re not supposed to be denied privileges unless you’re doing something wrong,” she said. “And they don’t tell us what he’s done wrong.”

She also wanted to get clear information about his well-being and whereabouts. Cottrell had been in the Hole since early November, and communication since then had been almost nonexistent. “At this point,” she said, “we don’t even know whether he’s dead.”

Schwiebert did manage to get through the gates on Thanksgiving Day, when holiday substitutes were on duty. But the next day, with the regular prison staff back in force, she was once again told her son would not be allowed visitors for months.

Cottrell went into the Hole on November 3 and stayed there until early January. It was cold. When Kates visited him, he found the temperature in Cottrell’s cell was at a chilly 68 degrees, and Cottrell was wearing only a T-shirt.

Intermittently, his books were confiscated, returned and taken away again. Once, he says, his physics study papers were snatched up because they were a “fire hazard” — one of the few claims made to the Weekly by Cottrell that Lompoc spokesperson Erwin Meinberg obliquely confirms. “They might take papers away if they’re a fire hazard,” Meinberg says, an echo of Cottrell’s account. Another time, Cottrell wrote in a letter to the Weekly dated January 10, his books were taken because he didn’t have the receipts to prove he owned them.

Again, Meinberg doesn’t dispute that this might have happened. “Sometimes [inmates] have to have proof that something belongs to them,” he says. “[The guards] might take things away if they think that they’re stolen.”

To which Cottrell replied in a letter, “How could I have that proof? I’m in the Hole.”

Meinberg does deny that any prison official swiped Cottrell’s physics texts on religious grounds. “I’ve never heard of something like that happening,” he says.

Both Schwiebert and Kates believed that Cottrell’s situation in prison had grown worse since October 18, when his appeal was heard before the 9th Circuit.

The hearing had gone extremely well, according to Cottrell’s lawyers, who argued before the court that Cottrell’s Asperger’s diagnosis should have been heard during his trial. “There’s a precedent in California,” says Rudnick, “that if you have a ‘gross and identifiable disability,’ it can be used to explain the actions of the defendant. But we weren’t allowed to do that. It was as if [Billy] was blind, and the jury was extra hard on him because he could not answer the question ‘What did you see?’ ”

Psychiatrist Gary Mesibov, retained by the defense, had diagnosed Cottrell with Asperger’s. The psychiatrist working for the prosecution did not dispute it. But while Judge Klausner allowed Cottrell’s lawyers to discuss his condition in their opening statements, Klausner changed his mind soon after. The jury never heard another word about it.

There is some reason to believe the 9th Circuit appeals court might view Cottrell’s Asperger’s and its influence on his behavior as relevant to how he behaved the night of the SUV arsons. In contrast to Judge Klausner, 9th Circuit Judge Harry Pregerson last October seemed to indicate some knowledge about what it means to suffer from Asperger’s. Pregerson asked Mayock and Rudnick how their client was doing in jail. The lawyers remain hopeful that the court will reverse the conviction and send it back for a new trial, or change his sentencing.

“I have not seen such interest by judges in a criminal defendant’s case,” Rudnick says of Pregerson. “We’ve come a long way since the conviction. The judges seemed very, very concerned about his case and his welfare in prison. It looks to me like they wanted to do something.”

But they have not acted yet, and with each day that passes, Rudnick’s optimism seems to flag. “I am puzzled about the failure of the 9th Circuit to follow up on its seemingly supportive position,” he wrote to the Weekly in January. “Since the applicability of Asperger’s is new to the criminal law, and this is a terrorist case, the only thing I can think of is that they may be waiting for another decision from another panel. Or they may be fighting over language in the decision in order to get a 3-0 vote instead of what looked like a 2-1 vote.”

Shortly after the Weekly sent a Freedom of Information Request to the Bureau of Prisons, the slow-talking and personable Meinberg sent over a letter, by e-mail on January 5, stating that Cottrell’s phone and visiting privileges had suddenly been restored, and explaining that Cottrell had been placed in “administrative detention” following a “security breach.” In other words, he had been thrown in the Hole — but for what, neither Meinberg nor the Bureau of Prisons was saying.

When asked by the Weekly to describe the security breach involving Cottrell, Meinberg remarked, “It’s in the realm of the secret squirrels” — conjuring up images of tiny creatures scurrying about the penitentiary halls, making decisions about the prisoners’ future in cackling little confabs. Meinberg insisted the details of the security breach were no secret to Cottrell, however: “Oh, he knows. He knows,” Meinberg intoned.

I requested a visit with Cottrell, but just before the request was reviewed, Cottrell was transferred to Victorville Federal Correctional Institution in the high-desert town of Adelanto, California. Again, I faxed over a request to visit. A few days later, Victorville’s spokesman, Ed Gaunder, told me, “We’re unable to have you conduct an interview because the warden, Joe Norwood, deems that there could be a security issue involved with this inmate. There’s some history there.”

When asked what that history was, Gaunder said he couldn’t talk about it. But his response seemed to suggest that prison officials see Cottrell as a true-blue terrorist, given their literal reading of his conviction. “You pretty much have to just read between the lines of his sentence,” he said.

When I asked him to confirm that he meant the nature of Cottrell’s crimes made him a security risk, even in a prison that holds Aryan Brotherhood murderers and Mexican Mafia hit men, Gaunder backed down, saying, “You’re taking that out of context… I guess I wish you wouldn’t have heard that.” Gaunder finally said, “Basically, the reason this interview won’t be conducted is because the security and safety of this institution is at stake. Therefore you will have to manufacture your story from what the inmate says.

“But I can tell you this,” he added before he hung up. “Prisons are run pretty similar through the federal system. We do not tolerate misconduct from staff members in the federal prison system. So I’m going to say that some of those [Lompoc] incidents did not happen… We don’t mistreat inmates in the federal prison system.”

Cottrell is not unaffected by his unusual treatment. Evidence in his letters implies that he is becoming increasingly radicalized — mimicking in some ways the kind of person the prosecutors tried to paint two years ago, when he was still a theoretical-physics scholar at Caltech.

In a letter to the Weekly in December, he worried that media coverage of his situation in prison might make his story “seem rare and unusual… But although my case is unique in its details, there are many, many good, productive people in prison for no apparent reason. The majority of people are here for victimless crimes and were supporting families at the time of their arrest.”

By the end of December, in a letter to Bruce Kates, he sounded more bitter and focused in his anger: “Many people in prison speak openly about revolution. How many of these people can our government produce through its abusive penal system before we have one on our hands?”

The mind that should have been dialed into exploring the great problems of our scientific age instead wanders idly inside a federal prison, examining the social order in all its perverse detail. While stewing in the Hole, Cottrell began to compare his situation, and the situation of other prisoners like him, to the situation of the Jews in Nazi Germany.

“Focusing too much on the artificial constructs of our government lends credence to the idea that they somehow represent the morality which we really value,” he wrote to the Weekly, in urging the paper not to focus on his imprisonment when, he now argues, much greater issues are at stake. “It’s as if the SS were to execute a Jew for not wearing his armband, and an underground newspaper were to indignantly report that the SS was wrong since the armband was merely too dirty to see.”

When scientist Peter Freund drafted the letter protesting Cottrell’s mistreatment in prison, he initially included language about rehabilitation. “Then I had a lawyer read it, and he said, ‘Oh, you are so naive! Their stated purpose is not to rehabilitate. It is to punish.’”

But in fact, the Bureau of Prisons Web site states that the bureau exists to “reduce the potential for future criminal activity by encouraging inmates to participate in a range of programs that have been proven to reduce recidivism.”

In practice, Freund is right. None of what’s allegedly being done to Cottrell is reducing his potential for criminal activity in the future.

Rehabilitating somebody with Asperger’s syndrome like Billy Cottrell would mean doing something the federal system is not set up to do: plying him with so many physics texts that he wouldn’t have time to socialize, and allowing him to work out his anxiety and energy on the prison track. It would also mean letting him use his overachieving brain to teach physics and calculus (it arguably would help other prisoners too).

Heidi Schwiebert says that life has improved for her son at Victorville, especially now that he has been released from his horrific months in the Hole.

“He’s allowed to go outside now,” she says, “and he gets exercise.” But the many books she’s sent him on string theory and theoretical physics remain missing, she says, and new ones she sends don’t arrive. Deprived of those books, Cottrell’s mind goes without the stimulation of the scientific studies that have focused and calmed him ever since high school, when he went without sleep poring over Einstein.

From the inside, he watches the judicial system spend a small fortune in taxpayer dollars prosecuting, imprisoning, and then drumming up paranoia among prison guards and prisoners over a college kid who went on a vandalism spree against Hummers.

“Here we have [our] politicians, who are not charged with crimes, setting this planet on a disaster course for some fleeting political advantage, while others are sent to prison for taking a stance against this,” Cottrell wrote in his last, much more angry letter from Lompoc.

“The harsh sentence in my case was designed to both distract attention from the policies which motivated my friends’ actions, and to deter more people from supporting what is essentially a just cause.”

From the letter signed by eight scientists, including Steven Hawking and Kip Thorne:

“While a student in one of the nation’s top colleges at the University of Chicago, Billy Cottrell was generally regarded as the best of the theoretical physics students in his class. . . Those of us who knew him there, could not fail to be impressed by Billy’s quickness of mind and by his ability to develop his own approach to new scientific ideas. He also seemed to be a happy and cheerful young man, who brought passion and emotional intensity to his work, qualities without which nothing significant ever gets achieved.

“Those of us who knew Billy at Caltech were also impressed by his brilliance and his promise for an outstanding career in theoretical physics, a career in which he could make major contributions to society, through science.

“Nobody disputes the fact that in jail Billy has to be taught a lesson he obviously has yet to learn. . . But from everything we hear, what is going on at Lompoc is by no means the teaching of a lesson. If Billy’s treatment does not change, then by the time he will have served his full sentence, Billy will have ended up a human wreck unsuited for any constructive participation in American society. His changes of living up to his bright promise by making a significant contribution to science seem to be fast fading already.”


thanks Giorgio !~))

life according to Cosmo… #22

In sex on 03/08/2007 at 3:16 pm

Between the Sheets: Cosmo’s Best and Worst

Due to the fact that I happen to be writing my thesis on Cosmopolitan magazine (and yes, it is academically legit…I think…), I am awash in pages and pages of “HOT SEX ADVICE” as I’m collecting my data (rest assured that I am always doing all kinds of research, my friends). And, as you all probably know, Cosmo claims to be quite the resource, providing us guaranteed ways to improve our sex lives, have hot, passionate sex, blow their mind in bed, and on and on.

Well, setting aside the fact that these claims are all kinds of heteronormative, and ignoring the fact that most of the advice is completely centered around pleasing men (but hey, women of all orientations have gotten used to that, right?), I set out to see if any of them are even worth trying, or if Cosmo is just a bunch of bunk. Call it the informal research that I really wish I could do for my thesis but that I have to leave out, all in the name of silly “academia.” Pshaw. But anyway, let’s check out the best and the worst of what Hearst Publications says we should be doing in bed.

Surprise, surprise: most of the suggestions I found were either completely ridiculous or simply pretty obvious. There’s a reason why most of us are more prone to read these tips aloud to our friends and laugh at them rather than race to try them right away.

“Mattress moves so good he’ll forget his name…but remember yours forever”? Well, at a small school like Pomona where people “friend” and subsequently stalk one another on the Facebook after even a five-minute conversation at a party, there isn’t much that any of us do here that’s forgettable, so maybe from the start Cosmo’s claim is a moot point. Oh, and then we have “Touch him tricks: Legendary tricks that have brought countless guys to their knees.” I mean I know that that’s what I have on my mind when I get ready to head out on a Friday night: how I’m going to harness my sexual prowess in order to dominate the males I encounter without mercy.

First off, the worst of the worst always seemed to involve props. Here’s a sample:

“Use a straw and blow directly on my nipples. The concentrated stream of air makes them rise to attention in seconds.” Oh, darn. Not tonight, honey–I just ran out of that supply of straws that I usually always keep in my nightstand drawer next to the condoms.

“Take off your thong and tie my hands behind my back with it. Then have your way with me.” In an informal focus group of sorts, this was met with cries of “Would that even work? How is that possible? That would have to be one big, stretchy thong.”

“Treat him to an erotic extra.” Cosmo then goes on to suggest either a vibrator “on the outside of your cheek while you’re going down on him,” sticking earplugs in his ears because it will force him to “concentrate on the physical sensations,” or “pushing your naked guy against the wall, then stringing a tie in between his legs, causing some tantalizingly frisky friction.” Yup.

“Pour a few drops of a sweet liqueur, like creme de menthe or amaretto, on your skin and ask me to lick it off drop by drop.” Said one person after hearing this tip, “I’m not big on food things in general.” And I couldn’t agree more, especially after this last one (which, for your information, they laud as one of their “top tricks of all time”).

“Place a glazed doughnut around your man’s member, then gently nibble the pastry and lick the icing…as well as his manhood.” Um, yeah. There are no words witty enough to mock this one sufficiently.

From the Cosmo Cat to the Sultry Spoon, from the Tantalizing Tilt to the Frisky Face-off, Cosmo suggests some out-there positions, which also happen to be cleverly alliterative. Seems like most of these intellectual-type editors probably imagined these tricks while attending liberal arts schools like Pomona and thus not having sex for four years. I know I’m not the only person who would feel quite awkward doing some of the things that Cosmo suggests while “pleasing my man” (not to mention “finding pleasure-maxing positions,” “sharing dirty little bedroom secrets,” “working my hot bod” and the like).

But I will admit, Cosmo does have a few redeeming kernels of wisdom that it feeds its audience, which is otherwise left hopelessly in the dark groping for donuts: things like “there’s nothing sexier than a woman who isn’t embarrassed” about her body or her performance. I loved their down-to-earth suggestions of “make noise, flaunt your curves, shed some light in the bedroom” and “simple things like having my bottom lip nibbled or feeling you stroke my shoulders can get me more revved up than if you went straight for my zipper.” Too bad Cosmo doesn’t take its own advice about keeping it simple. It’s great when the articles tell readers to be confident and act like themselves in bed; but otherwise, put down that silly magazine, which will only make you feel inadequate and like you’re not doing things “right” anyway, save your amaretto liqueur for an actual beverage, and research what’s best for you.

by Andrea Ravich

thanx Nadine 🙂

reasons to live in New York…#34

In PETA, reasons to live in NYC on 02/23/2007 at 10:06 pm

Rats run wild in KFC-Taco Bell in N.Y.
Friday, February 23, 2007 12:27:49 PM

A dozen rats were caught on video scurrying around the floor of a New York City KFC/Taco Bell restaurant early Friday, running between counters and tables and climbing on children’s high chairs.

CBS cameras were rolling as rats invaded the popular eatery. Watch the amazing video of rats running, playing and eating leftovers off the floor of the KFC at Sixth Avenue and West 4th Street. Rat infestations are not a new problem for this KFC. Just last December, the city’s Health Department cited this KFC for evidence of “live rats present in the facility’s food and non food areas.”

The franchise was also cited rats on at least three previous occasions by the Department of Health since 2004. But according to the Health Dept. Web site, the rat problems had been addressed. This was clearly not the case from what CBS 2 cameras caught Friday morning.

Rick Maynard of KFC/Taco Bell issued a statement Friday, saying: “This is completely unacceptable and is an absolute violation of our high standards. This restaurant has been closed and we are addressing the issue with the franchise owner. We will not allow this store to re-open until it is completely re-sanitized and given a clean bill of health. We want to reassure customers that this is an isolated incident at the Greenwich TB/KFC at 331 6th Avenue.”

Cameras were rolling as rats invaded the popular eatery. Watch the amazing video as rats can be seen running, playing and eating leftovers off the floor of the restaurant at Sixth Avenue and West 4th Street.

These brazen rodents were seen scurrying across the floor right where diners would be sitting. They were foraging for food under the garbage cans and in the remains of dinner left on the floor.

Some frisky fellows even jumped up on the food trays, leaping from table to table like they were on an obstacle course and trying, but having trouble, climbing back down the chairs.

One was even perched on the ATM right by the front door:

“I’ve seen a lot of disgusting rats in the KFC. I love to eat at KFC but this is disgusting,” said Tameeka St. Jean. According to people at the scene, the popular restaurant was open until 11 p.m. Thursday night. Others told CBS 2 that the problem has been going on for weeks.

Neighbor Susan Quimbyn said, “It’s disgusting, and I am so glad you all are here to do something about it. Obviously things fall through the cracks. I’d like to interview the employees to see if they are aware of the situation.”

And so would we. But so far, no employees have shown up for work, and no owner or manager has responded to our phone calls and e-mails. Only a man claiming to be a former employee spoke with CBS 2. He said he quit after one month because of what he called “filthy conditions.”

“I quit because it was nasty. They don’t use gloves to make the food. They use the same grease day after day after day. At night, the manager told me to put the chairs up. We don’t sweep; we don’t mop. So that’s what the rats are eating off, the stuff that’s left on the floors,” said Marcus Bonner, who claimed to be a former employee.

click above photo or here to view video: Warning, Very Graphic NOT for the Squeamish

when bad is good…

In lisapicks, love on 02/22/2007 at 1:37 am

Why We Love Bad News

The bias of negative news over positive. Negative news has a stronger impact on our minds than positive news. Here’s the lowdown on how this “brain bias” impacts our daily emotions, and why it exists in the first place.

Why do insults once hurled at us stick inside our skull, sometimes for decades? Why do political smear campaigns outpull positive ones?

The answer is, nastiness makes a bigger impact on your brain.
And that, says Ohio State University psychologist John T. Cacioppo, Ph.D., is due to the brain’s “negativity bias”: your brain is simply built with a greater sensitivity to unpleasant news. The bias is so automatic that it can be detected at the earliest stage of the brain’s information processing. In studies he has done, Cacioppo showed people pictures known to arouse positive feelings (such as a Ferrari or a pizza), those certain to stir up negative feelings (like a mutilated face or dead cat) and those known to produce neutral feelings (a plate, a hair dryer). Meanwhile, he recorded electrical activity of the brain’s cerebral cortex that reflects the magnitude of information processing taking place.

The brain, Cacioppo demonstrated, reacts more strongly to stimuli it deems negative. That is, there is a greater surge in electrical activity. Thus, our attitudes are more heavily influenced by downbeat news than good news. Our capacity to weigh negative input so heavily evolved for a good reason—to keep us out of harm’s way. From the dawn of human history our very survival depended on our skill at dodging danger. The brain developed systems that would make it unavoidable for us not to notice danger and thus, hopefully, respond to it.

All well and good. Having the built-in brain apparatus supersensitive to negativity means that the same bias also is at work in every sphere of our lives at all times.

So it should come as no surprise to learn that it plays an especially powerful role in our most intimate relationships. Numerous researchers have found that there is “an ecology of marriage,” an ideal balance between negativity and positivity in the atmosphere between partners.

Psychologist John Gottman, Ph.D., at the University of Washington is one. He finds that there seems to be some kind of thermostat operating in healthy marriages that regulates the balance between positive and negative. For example, when partners get contemptuous—that is, when they fight by hurling criticism with the intent to insult the partner, which the partner rightly perceives as especially hurtful—they correct it with lots of positivity—touching, smiling, paying compliments, laughing, and other such acts. They don’t correct necessarily right away, but they definitely do it sometime soon.

What really separates contented couples from those in deep marital misery is a healthy balance between their positive and negative feelings and actions toward each other. Even couples who are volatile and argue a lot stick together by balancing their frequent arguments with a lot of demonstrations of love and passion.

Because of the disproportionate weight of the negative, balance does not mean a 50-50 equilibrium. Gottman, for example, as part of his research carefully charted the amount of time couples spent fighting versus interacting positively. Across the board he found that a very specific ratio exists between the amount of positivity and negativity required to make a marriage satisfying.

That magic ratio is 5 to 1. As long as there is five times as much positive feeling and interaction between husband and wife as there is negative, the marriage was likely to be stable over time. In contrast, those couples who were heading for divorce were doing far too little on the positive side to compensate for the growing negativity between them.

Other researcher have found the same thing. It is the frequency of small positive acts that matters most, in a ratio of about 5 to 1. Interestingly, occasional large positive experiences—say, a big birthday bash—are nice, but they don’t make the necessary impact on our brain to override the tilt to negativity. It takes frequent small positive experiences to tip the scales toward happiness

By:Hara Estroff Marano
Psychology Today

when winning is losing…

In Uncategorized on 02/16/2007 at 3:32 pm

Apprentice winner explains why she quit after finding love and misery.

As the other contestants for The Apprentice filed into the room on the first day of filming, you could feel the tension. No one spoke and everyone looked straight ahead. I was thinking how tough some of them looked and wondering how I would cope. And then Syed entered. He literally strutted in. I just thought: ‘Hmmm.’

He was wearing a blue suit, blue shirt and brown leather shoes. Whereas everybody else had come in and stood still, Syed was pacing around, wandering over to the water fountain, back and forth. I remember thinking: ‘I’m not sure we’re going to get on.’

We were driven to the house where we would all be staying. It was on The Bishops Avenue in Hampstead, one of the richest streets in London, and was ultra-luxurious: two lounges, masses of bedrooms and a pool. We had a champagne reception to get to know each other. When it came to my turn to introduce myself, I said I was in telecoms offshoring, and several people wanted to know what that was.

I was about to explain when Syed jumped in and gave his version of what an offshore consultant was. I thought: ‘Who is this guy?’ I was really hacked off. When he’d finished, I said: ‘Are you done? Do you want to say anything else about what I do for a living? Because everything you’ve just said is wrong.’ It was a tricky start, but generally the atmosphere in the house was great – just like being part of a family. We tried to leave work at the door. We used to cook for each other, drinks lots of wine and enjoy ourselves.

Naturally, personalities came into play. I was the untidiest in the house by far, and I used to get in trouble with the other girls. I was always borrowing other people’s things, sometimes without asking. I’d have a bath, then wander downstairs in someone else’s dressing-gown and slippers. I guess I was quite annoying.

Ruth Badger – who became both my friend and my closest rival – was larger than life and popular from the start; while Paul, the cheeky headhunter from Yorkshire, was hilarious, although I later noticed he was skilled at winding people up. I got close to the bubbly, exuberant Jo – she had so much energy, she bounced around like Zebedee from The Magic Roundabout. But I never overcame my reservations about Karen, the former RAF officer. I felt she thought she was above me.

My initial impression of Syed hadn’t been very favourable. At first I thought he was arrogant. But as time went on, things changed. Unless you’ve experienced it, you can’t understand the intensity of being in a TV show like that. We were together 24 hours a day, having little contact with our friends and family. That meant much of my support network was gone, as I often ring my mates to ask what they think of this or that decision or problem in my life. I like to bounce opinions off people.

Syed started to fill that role for me. I saw a different side to him. Yes, there was the confident, arrogant exterior but I was discovering there was also a kind, caring person behind it. As the weeks progressed, the others would go to bed and Syed and I would stay up talking until two, three or four in the morning, even though we had to be up by six or seven. Despite being very different, we got along well. Every morning, he’d make me porridge for breakfast and hot water with lemon. The others in the house started teasing him about it, and he got shy, so he used to leave it in the kitchen where nobody would see. I thought it was the sweetest thing.

I started to bond with him. I’d miss him if we were off on our tasks and I’d really look forward to getting home and seeing him again. At the outset, it was more of an emotional attraction than a physical one, but there was a real connection between us. One of our tasks was working on the sales floor at Topshop; it was a battle to sell the most clothes. Syed was on the opposing team, but we decided to help each other out. If someone came in for a winter coat and I didn’t have any, I’d pass them to him, and if someone went to him for a spangly dress he’d pass them to me.

Syed was a great salesman and he was always very competitive. I have a hilarious memory of him challenging Ansell – who is built like an ox and used to play football for Millwall – to an arm-wrestling contest. He gave Ansell a real run for his money but in the end he lost. I’m a fighter, too, and I’m proud of the way I performed during the show. To start with, I spent a lot of time thinking the other people in the house were all better than me. But they weren’t. They just liked the sound of their own voices and banging on about how good they were.

It surprised lots of people when I won – not least my mum. After the result was announced, she was asked: ‘Did you always know that Michelle would do it?’

She looked bewildered and said: ‘No, no. I always thought it was going to be Ruth Badger.’ I nearly died. I thought: ‘Mum, you’re not supposed to say that.’ After we finished filming, I took a few weeks off. I needed to get away from everybody. It had been a weird, unreal time and I wanted to get my head straight before beginning my new job with Alan Sugar. My brief was to set up a company called Xenon Green, finding a way to recycle computers that would not only benefit the environment but make a profit.

It was a lot of pressure: I was aware that if it turned out to be a flop I would be publicly judged by the nation as a failure. Meanwhile, there had been developments in my personal life. Syed and I had met for coffee and it was just like it had been in the house. The bond was still there, even though the show was over. Because of the delay between the programme being filmed and shown on TV, we were initially able to go to restaurants, hold hands, and do all the things normal couples do. But as soon as the series hit the screens, we were famous. We couldn’t go out without attracting attention.

We knew that if we were spotted together it would be all over the papers. Whenever we saw each other, we stayed in, watched DVDs and ate takeaways. This was great at first but it then began to strain our relationship. Trying to sort out our feelings with the eyes of the country on us was hard. At the same time, people who were or had been close to me started selling stories about me. That really hurt. People thought they had the right, without asking me, to sell pictures of me and letters I had written. It was a valuable lesson in being careful whom you trust, but I learned it the hard way. I normally tell everyone everything and now realised how foolish I had been.

Around the time that the final was on air, speculation about me and my background was rife. I got a phone call from a Sunday newspaper telling me that my uncle had sold his story exposing my troubled family life. I decided that since it was about to become public, I wanted to have my say. I signed a deal with a national newspaper, but immediately had doubts. I should have considered the proposition more carefully. The headline on the piece was ‘My killer dad’. I was appalled.

My beloved sister, Fiona, had fallen to her death from her flat ten years before, in unexplained circumstances. Dad had made her leave home and subjected us to years of violence, but he wasn’t a killer. An ex-boyfriend, Lee, who had also been violent towards me, sold every detail about our relationship to another paper. The headline read ‘My sex apprentice’. Seeing episodes from my life in cold print was a real shock. On the work front, my instincts began to tell me that Xenon Green was not going to succeed. I presented my findings to Sir Alan, who accepted them.

Unfortunately, there were no similar opportunities to develop a new business within his organisation and the rest of my contract was going to be filled with internal projects. While I understood the rationale for this, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed. I couldn’t see how my career was going to develop.

Things became more complicated when I discovered I was pregnant with Syed’s baby. Because I suffer from endometriosis, where uterine tissue grows outside your womb, I’d always believed I couldn’t have children, so it came right out of the blue. One day I had incredible tooth pain, which was so bad that I went to the local hospital. It turned out to be an abscess. While I was there, I mentioned that I had been suffering from tummy pains. The doctors examined me and said I was expecting a baby.

I was in total shock. I was overwhelmed by the miracle of being pregnant when I didn’t think it was possible. But I also felt that my world was crashing down.

Since winning The Apprentice I had received thousands of e-mails from people saying I was their role model. Now I felt I’d let everyone down and did not have a clue what to do next.

I also had the most horrendous morning sickness. I remember throwing up all day at work, getting in the car to go home and having to stop about six times on the way.

It was horrible and my hormones were all over the place. The stress just built and built. I told my friends what had happened so I could have their support, but quickly realised it was a mistake as one of them sold the story to a tabloid newspaper, which increased the pressure tenfold.

I still don’t know who it was, but it destroyed me. I hadn’t come to terms with my pregnancy and hadn’t even passed the three-month safety zone, and now the whole nation knew about it and was judging me.

Syed then had to tell his family, who are practising Muslims and didn’t know he’d been having a relationship with me. Both he and I are responsible people, and both of us wanted to do the right thing. We had so many options, and it was an overwhelming, all-consuming blur.

If we wanted to make a go of things, there was pressure on me to convert to Islam. For the sake of my baby, I gave it some serious thought and started reading up on it. Meanwhile, there were all these rumours flying around me, including one that Sir Alan was furious about the baby and had put me on gardening leave. That simply wasn’t true. But there was no escaping the fact that I was public property.

One man approached me in the street and demanded: ‘Why aren’t you at work? You’ve been sacked!’ I asked him what business he thought it was of his, but he replied: ‘I think you’ll find, young lady, that it’s the nation’s business.’ Syed and I were so miserable and confused that we felt we had to consider terminating the pregnancy. Part of me didn’t want to: what if this was my only chance of pregnancy?

I was so unhappy that I booked an appointment at the abortion clinic but I was growing to love my baby. It felt so good knowing I had a child inside me – I’d always wanted my own family.
I was in turmoil. I cancelled the appointment, then rang up and booked another. Week after week, the pattern was repeated – I’d book myself in for a termination, then couldn’t bring myself to go through with it. The hospital staff were very kind and never complained.

I didn’t want to end the pregnancy, but I couldn’t see my way ahead. After much deliberation, Syed suggested that we should get married, with the expectation that I became a Muslim at some point in the future. Everything seemed so overwhelming. I wanted nothing more than to be married with children and I really cared about him. But we had already encountered commitment problems, and I couldn’t see beyond them. I could have stayed as I was and become a single mum, but I began to panic. Deep down, I wanted my baby more than anything, but I wanted it as part of a happy, united family. For the first time, I visited a counsellor at the hospital to discuss my feelings.

While I was there I suffered agonising tummy pains and I started to lose blood. I was kept in, and later that day lost my baby. I was devastated. I felt such a sense of loss, that my little one was gone. Doctors had told me once that I was unlikely to conceive because of the endometriosis, but I had. What if my only chance of having a family was now gone? It was a terrible, terrible time. I had to stay in hospital. Syed looked after me and was really good. After everything I had been through, I felt so pleased to see him but we were both distraught. When I went home, I went into a state of virtual collapse; I was severely depressed.

Friends encouraged me to get up and go out, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t face people looking at me and judging everything I did. I wouldn’t get up, wouldn’t shower, wouldn’t even answer the phone. Once again, just like after my sister’s death when I was 17, I felt as if I had lost control and was heading towards rock bottom at 100 miles per hour.

In such bleak times, you turn to your family and friends. I’d tried to isolate myself from everyone, but thankfully, they refused to listen. ‘Come home,’ one of my closest friends said. ‘Come back to Hull. We’ll look after you.’ So I went. It was a turning point. I was back to normality – there was no pressure, no religious quandary, no on-off boyfriend. I wasn’t Michelle from The Apprentice. I was just plain Michelle.

We had a Mexican dinner party, danced, drank tequila, and had a great, uncomplicated time. I laughed, and realised I hadn’t been like that for many months. Syed and I had been through some intense times together, and because I carried his child he’s always going to be special to me. We’ll have lasting memories. Ultimately, though, I recognised that he was not the right partner for me, and trying to maintain a relationship with him was going to be destructive.

Circumstances had brought us together and circumstances forced us apart. Returning to Hull for a few days helped me burst out of the bubble I had been trapped in. I’ve always been quite spiritual, and on the way back to London I went to see a fortune-teller. The visit really helped me. She said that she knew I was worried I wouldn’t have children again, but reassured me that I would. She also told me that my baby’s being looked after in heaven by my sister. That gave me great comfort.

By the time I returned to the capital I’d made some decisions. I told Sir Alan I wanted to leave his organisation and branch out on my own again. He understood and wished me well. We parted on good terms. All my friends thought I was silly walking away from my six-figure salary, but life isn’t always about living within the comfort zone. I set up my own consultancy company, Michelle Dewberry Ltd, and started mentoring people whose careers have become stuck in a rut.

Right now, I couldn’t be happier. I can honestly say that I am grateful for most of the experiences in my life because they have taught me so much about myself and made me a more rounded person. And whatever the future holds, I’m ready for the challenge


end of world part I…

In cleavage, waste on 02/11/2007 at 10:18 pm

Who knew? This is the way the world ends — neither with a bang nor a whimper but with cleavage.

THIS column is either part of the problem or a thought on its solution. We comment; you decide. The late Murray Kempton once described editorial writers as “the people who come down from the hill after the battle to shoot the wounded.” Nowadays, media analysts are the guys who follow behind them, going through the pockets of the dead looking for loose change.

So, yes, this column is about Anna Nicole Smith.

Friday morning, less than 24 hours after she died in a Florida hotel room, the Drudge Report — our media culture’s digital arbiter of all things tacky and prurient — had 12 items posted on the onetime topless dancer. That would account for some of the media frenzy surrounding her death. It’s a little-known fact, but certain sectors of the broadcast media have long believed that if a dozen items on Anna Nicole Smith ever were posted on Drudge simultaneously, it would herald the onset of the apocalypse.

Who knew? This is the way the world ends — neither with a bang nor a whimper but with cleavage.

Of course, one of the cheapest journalistic tricks going is to get a piece of a mindless, tawdry media frenzy by denouncing it. The writer gets to wallow profitably in whatever gutter has everybody’s attention while still being wry and high-minded. The readers get to join the fun without losing their self-respect. It’s a win-win sort of arrangement for a certain knowing-wink-and-sly-nod wing of the media culture.

And yet…. When a story takes on the sheer scope and intensity of the Anna Nicole Smith frenzy there’s something willful in the unexamined impulse to look away. Plain curiosity is an essential ingredient of the journalistic enterprise, and those who deny its operation in the interest of some higher value usually are not entirely to be trusted.

In the case of the unfortunate Smith, there was something almost touchingly retro about her wretched train wreck of a life. She wasn’t, in fact, celebrated just for being a celebrity, as is the current mode. She’d earned her notoriety the old-fashioned way: She took her clothes off for it, then married rich — though like so much else in her ambit, that apparently didn’t turn out very well. Americans have a hard time abiding a tale of struggle without reward, or a story without a happy ending, which is why we so often confer a disproportionate posthumous attention on the plucky but dubious dead. Depending on how you look at it, it’s a reflection of either our collective good-heartedness or our common sappiness. Maybe the ultimate guarantor of the former is our unwillingness to worry too much about the latter.

Those slightly melancholic reflections aside, the broad media response to Smith’s end bears some separate consideration. Clearly, public interest in her death was intense. Several celebrity-oriented websites crashed because so many people attempted to read about her. Mainstream news organizations, like this one, had page after page of reader comments about her posted to their online sites. Thursday night, the cable news and entertainment channels were, as we’ve come to expect, wall-to-wall Anna Nicole Smith.

What was different here was the way in which she made the leap from tabloid covers to the front pages of ostensibly serious newspapers.

The mainstream journalistic coverage of Smith’s death is among the first such stories driven, in large part, by an editorial perception of public interest derived mainly from Internet traffic. Throughout the afternoon Thursday, editors across the country watched the number of “hits” recorded for online items about Smith’s death. These days, it’s the rare newspaper whose meeting to discuss the content of the next day’s edition doesn’t include a recitation of the most popular stories on the paper’s website. It’s a safe bet that those numbers helped shove Anna Nicole Smith onto a lot of front pages.

What makes this of more than passing interest is that serious American journalism is in the process of transforming itself into a new, hybrid news medium that combines traditional print and broadcast with a more purposefully articulated online presence. One of the latter’s most seductive attributes is its ability to gauge readers’ appetites for a particular story on a minute-to-minute basis. What you get is something like the familiar television ratings — though constantly updated, if you choose to treat them that way.

There’s no point belaboring what the ratings preoccupation has done to broadcast news, particularly the once-promising 24-hour cable news channels. Today, their prime-time slots all are dominated by clones of Fox’s Bill O’Reilly because his show draws the medium’s biggest nightly audience. Even MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann simply is an anti-O’Reilly. Nothing more complicated about his shtick, whatever his bosses make of it. Life is short, so let’s not talk about CNN Headline’s Nancy Grace or Glenn Beck.

The point is that the transformation of cable television news into a snarling verbal food fight with a scant informational component happened because the people running it decided to let the numbers run them.

Television ratings or aggregated “hits” on newspaper websites constitute useful marketing information. When they’re transmuted into editorial tools, what you get is a kind of faux-empiricism that can create a false but nearly irresistible authority. It’s that most misleading of commodities, information without context. It is data, but not necessarily information, that you can use because you understand the data. In the case of these accumulations of online hits, it is hard to know what you’re measuring beyond a 24-hour fad or the inclinations of obsessive people with too much time on their hands.

Standing on the cusp of this inevitable transformation, it’s a good moment for American newspapers to take a reflective breath to consider just how they want to play this numbers game — or, more important, whether they want to play it at all.

If that were to occur, then Anna Nicole Smith would not have died in vain.

Timothy Rutten
LA Times 2/10/07


In Uncategorized on 02/07/2007 at 4:34 am

Locked in an eternal embrace

Their loving embrace has lasted an eternity – well 5000 years to be precise. It is the city where the exiled Romeo dreamed he died and Juliet’s kisses breathed life back into his body. Tragically, the lifeless bodies of Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers would soon lie side by side.

Yesterday at Mantua, in an amazing echo of that heartrending story, archaeologists revealed the discovery of a couple locked in a tender embrace, one that has endured for more than 5,000 years. The find was unearthed by experts digging at a neolithic site at a less than romantic industrial estate. Scientists are to examine the skeletons to try to establish how old they were when they died and how long they have been buried.

One theory being examined is that the man was killed and the woman then sacrificed so that his soul would be accompanied in the after life. Elena Menotti, who is leading the dig at Valdaro near Mantua in northern Italy, said: ‘I am so excited about this discovery. “We have never found a man and a woman embraced before and this is a unique find.
“We have found plenty of women embracing children but never a couple. Much less a couple hugging — and they really are hugging. It’s possible that the man died first and then the woman was killed in sacrifice to accompany his soul. “From an initial examination they appear young as their teeth are not worn down but we have sent the remains to a laboratory to establish their age at the time of death. “They are face to face and their arms and legs are entwined and they are really hugging.

“I am so thrilled at this find. I have been involved in lots of digs all over Italy but nothing has excited me as much as this.” “I’ve been doing this job for 25 years. I’ve done digs at Pompeii, all the famous sites. “But I’ve never been so moved because this is the discovery of something special.” An initial examination of the couple – dubbed the Lovers of Valdaro – revealed that the man (on the left in the picture) has an arrow in his spinal column while the woman has an arrow head in her side. The area has already given up a spectacular Roman villa.

Five thousand years ago the area around Mantua was marshland and criss-crossed by rivers and the environment has helped preserve the skeletons in their near perfect state. The tribes of the area thrived through hunting and fishing and travelled along the waterways in boats but even then the simple hunter gatherer lifestyle was being replaced by livestock rearing, weaving and pottery. In Romeo and Juliet, Romeo is sent to Mantua for killing Tybalt Capulet in a swordfight.

Romeo subsequently leaves the city and returns to Verona when he hears his love, Juliet, has died.

good logic vs bad logistics

In lisapicks, logic on 02/01/2007 at 10:09 pm

Deconstructing Mr. Spock: “It’s illogical to call Mr.Spock logical.”

This is another great basics topic, and it’s also one of my pet peeves. In general, I’m a big science fiction fan, and I grew up in a house where every saturday at 6pm, we all gathered in front of the TV to watch Star Trek. But one thing which Star Trek contributed to our vocabulary, for which I will never forgive Gene Rodenberry, is “Logic”. As in, Mr. Spock saying “But that would not be logical.”.

The reason that this bugs me so much is because it’s taught a huge number of people that “logical” means the same thing as “reasonable”. Almost every time I hear anyone say that something is logical, they don’t mean that it’s logical – in fact, they mean something almost exactly opposite – that it seems correct based on intuition and common sense.

If you’re being strict about the definition, then saying that something is logical by itself is an almost meaningless statement. Because what it means for some statement to be “logical” is really that that statement is inferable from a set of axioms in some formal reasoning system. If you don’t know what formal system, and you don’t know what axioms, then the statement that something is logical is absolutely meaningless. And even if you do know what system and what axioms you’re talking about, the things that people often call “logical” are not things that are actually inferable from the axioms.

Logic, in the sense that we generally talk about it, isn’t really one thing. Logic is a name for the general family of formal proof systems with inference rules. There are many logics, and a statement that is a valid inference (is logical) in one system may not be valid in another. To give you a very simple example, most people are familiar with the fact that in logic, if you have a statement “A”, then either the statement “A or not A” must be true. In the most common simple logic, called propositional logic, that’s a tautology – that is, a statement which is always true by definition. But in another common and useful logic – intuitionistic logic – “A or not A” is not necessarily true. You cannot infer anything about whether it’s true or false without proving whether A is true or false.

To give another example: the most common logic that we use in arguments is called first order predicate logic (FOPL). FOPL is a very useful logic for things like geometric proofs. But it’s absolutely awful at talking about time. In FOPL, there’s no good way to say something like “I won’t be hungry until 6pm tonight.” that really captures the temporal meaning of that statement. But there are several kinds of logic that are very good at that kind of statement – but they’re not particularly useful for the kinds of things that FOPL is good at.

So what is a logic? A typical formulation would be that a logic is a formal symbolic system which consists of:

A way of writing a set of statements (the syntax of the logic); and
A system of rules for performing mechanical inferences over those statements.
The easiest way to get a sense of this is to look at one familiar logic: the first order predicate logic (FOPL). The first order predicate logic is the most common logic that we really use; it’s the one that we’re generally using implicitly when we write things like proofs in geometry.

Logicians tend to use a very strange method of describing the syntax of logical statements. I’m going to ignore that, and just walk through the syntax informally. FOPL has five kinds of basic things that are put together to form statements. As I go through the syntax, I’ll give some examples based on reasoning about my family.

A constant is a particular object, number, or value which can be reasoned about using the logic. In reasoning about my family, the constants will be the names of members of my family, the places we live, and so on. I’ll write constants as either numbers, or quoted words.
A variable is a symbol which represents a value. Variables can be used in the logic to reason about things like universal properties – if every object has a property (like, for example, every person has a father), there’s a way of using a variable to say that in the logic.
A predicate is something which allows you to make statements about objects and variables. A predicate is written as an uppercase identifier, with the objects it’s talking about following inside parens. For example, I can say that my father is Irving using a predicate named “Father”: Father(“Irving”, “Mark”).
Quantifiers are things that introduce new variables. For a statement to be valid every variable in that statement must have been introduced by a quantifier. There are two quantifiers in FOPL: ∀ (for all, the universal quantifier, which is used to make statements about all possible constants); and ∃ (there exists, the existential quantifier, which is used to make statements that there is some constant for which a statement is true).
An operator is something that modifies or connects sentence(s). There are five operators in FOPL. Four of them connect pairs of statements: (A ∧ B (and), A ∨ B (or), A ⇒ B (implies), A ⇔ B (if and only of). The fifth one negates a statement: ¬ A.
The meanings of the statements are:

Predicate Statement
A predicate with its parameters filled in with either constants or variables.
And statement
Two sentences joined by ∧. A ∧ B is true if/f both A and B are true.
Or statement
Two sentences joined by ∨. A ∨ B is true if/f either A or B is true.
Implication statement
Two sentences joined by ⇒. A ⇒ B is true if/f when A is true, B is also true, and when B is false, A is also false.
If/f statement
Two sentences joined by ⇔.A ⇔ B is true if/f (A ⇒ B) ∧ B ⇒ A) is true.
Universal Statement
A sentence preceeded by the universal quantifier and a variable: ∀x:A(x). A universal statement is true if any constant substituted for the variable will result in a true statement.
Existential Statement
A sentence preceeded by the existential quantifier and a variable: ∃x:A(x). An existential statement is true if there is at least one constant that can be substituted for the variable that will result in a true statement
Parenthesized Statement
Any statement surrounded by parens. The only meaning of parens is grouping.
The meanings of the different statements can be briefly described as follows:

Each constant represents some specific entity or object which the logic is going to be reasoned about. So, for example, if I wanted to do reasoning about my family, the atoms would be me, my wife, my children, etc.
A predicate statement expresses a property of the atoms that are its parameters. Continuing with the example of my family, I could write statements like Father(“Mark”,”Aaron”), Father(“Mark”,”Rebecca”), Spouse(“Mark”,”Jennifer”).
∧ statements combine two statements; they’re true when both of the member statements are true. Spouse(“Mark”,”Jennifer”) ∧ Father(“Mark”,”Aaron”) ∧ Mother(“Jennifer”,”Aaron”).
The ∨ connector works in basically the same way as ∧, except that it’s true when either of its component statements are true. Father(“Mark”,”Aaron”) ∨ Father(“Jennifer”,”Aaron”)
¬ is logical negation: ¬X is true when X is false. ¬Father(“Jennifer”,”Aaron”).
⇒ is an implication statement: A ⇒ B means that if A is true, then B must be true; if B is false, then A must also be false. (Note the reversal there – if A is false, it says nothing about whether or not B is true, and if B is true, it says nothing about whether or not A is true.) For example, Spouse(“Mark”,”Jennifer”) ⇒ Spouse(“Jennifer”,”Mark”) (If Mark is Jennifer’s spouse, then Jennifer is Mark’s spouse.)
∀ and ∃ statements are where it gets interesting. ∀ is read “For all”, and ∃ is read “there exists”. For example, ∀c : (∃p : Father(p,c)) (For every person, there is a person who is their father.); ∃f: Father(“Mark”,f) (There is someone whose father is Mark.)
What I’ve gone through so far is not yet a logic. It’s just a language for writing statements. What makes it into a logic is the addition of inference rules, which give you a way of using statements that are known to be true, and using them to infer other true statements. I’m not going to go through the entire set of inference rules allowed in FOPL in detail, but I’ll give you a couple of examples, followed by the full list of rules.

If we know that P(x) ∧ Q(x) is true, then we can infer that P(x) must be true.
If we know that P(x) ⇒ Q(x) is true, and we also know P(x) is true, then we can infer that Q(x) is also true.
If we know that ∀x: P(x) is true, and “a” is a constant, then we can infer that P(“a”) is true.
If x is a constant, and we know that P(“a”) is true, then we can infer that &exists;x:P(x) is true.
The rules are divided into two groups. One is a set of equivalences – if you know something on one side of the ≡ sign, then you can infer whatever is on the other side. The second set of rules is implications: if know you know the left side, then you can infer the right.

The equivalence rules are:

¬∀x:P(x) ≡ ∃x:¬P(x)
¬∃x:P(x) ≡ ∀x:¬P(x)
∀x:(∀y: P(x,y)) ≡ ∀y:(∀x:P(x,y))
∃x:(∃y: P(x,y)) ≡ ∃y:(∃x:P(x,y))
∀x:P(x) ∧ ∀x:Q(x) ≡ ∀x:P(x)∧Q(x)
∃x:P(x) ∨ ∃x:Q(x) ≡ ∃x:P(x)∨Q(x)
And the implication rules are:

∃x : ∀y: P(x,y) → ∀y : ∃x: P(x,y)
∀x: P(x) ∨ ∀x: Q(x) → ∀x: P(x) ∨ Q(x)
∃x:(P(x) ∧ Q(x)) → ∃x:P(x) ∧ ∃x:Q(x)
∃x:P(x) ∧ ∀x:Q(x) → ∃x:(P(x) ∧ Q(x))
∀x:P(x) → P(c) (where c is a constant)
P(c) → ∃x:P(x) (where c is a constant, and x is not an unquantified variable in P(c))
To reason with a logic, you start with a set of axioms – that is, a set of statements that you know are true even though you don’t have a proof. Given those axioms, we say that a statement can be proven if there is some way of applying the inference rules to generate the statement.

So, once again with an example from my family. Here’s a set of axioms about my family.

1: Father(“Mark”,”Rebecca”)
2: Mother(“Jennifer”,”Rebecca”)
3: Father(“Irving”,”Mark”)
4: Mother(“Gail”,”Mark”)
5: Father(“Robert”, “Irving”)
6: Mother(“Anna”, “Irving”)
7: ∀a, ∀b:(Father(a,b) ∨ Mother(a,b)) ⇒ Parent(a,b)
8: ∀g,∀c : (∃p : Parent(g,p) ∧ Parent(p,c)) ⇒ Grandparent(g, c)

Now, suppose we want to prove that Irving is Rebecca’s grandparent.

Since we know by statement 1 that Father(“Mark”,”Rebecca”), we can infer Parent(“Mark”,”Rebecca”). We’ll call this inference I1.
Since we know by statement 3 that Father(“Irving”,”Mark”), we can infer Parent(“Irving”,”Mark”). We’ll call this inference I2.
Since we know by I1 and I2 that Parent(Irving,Mark) and Parent(Mark,Rebecca), we can infer Parent(Irving,Mark)∧Parent(Mark,Rebecca). We’ll call this inference I3.
Since by I3, we know Parent(Irving,Mark)∧Parent(Mark,Rebecca), using statement 8, we can infer Grandparent(Irving,Rebecca)
That chain of inferences is a proof in the first order predicate logic. A very important thing to notice is that the proof is entirely symbolic: we don’t need to know what the atoms represent, or what the predicates mean! The inference process in logic is purely symbolic, and can be done with absolutely no clue at all about what the statements that you’re proving mean. It’s all a mechanical process of working from the premises using the inference rules. Given the right set of premises, you can prove almost any statement; given a choice of both logics and premises, you can prove absolutely any statement.

So when someone says, a la Mr. Spock, that something is logical, the correct thing to do is to whack them in the head with a logic textbook for saying something nonsensical.

thanks mark 🙂

the blame game

In lisa fitterman on 01/29/2007 at 3:28 pm

Recently my husband and I got up at the ungodly hour of 4am to catch an early flight to New York. We were preternaturally calm, perhaps because we were sleepwalking. But we were all ready when the taxi came to collect us 45minutes later.
It was an uneventful ride to the airport. We didn’t even chat, because he was watching an episode of 24 on his new iPod. “Men and their toys” he said apologetically. At the airport, the cabbie pulled in to let us off, at which point iPod guy turned to me, ashen faced, and said: “We don’t have our suit bag.” Silence.
“You’re joking, right?” I replied, for he always lies like that.
“No, I mean it. Did you bring down the suit bag? I didn’t.”
“What do you mean, you didn’t bring down the suit bag?” I hissed. “All our stuff is in that suit bag. Your suit. Your shoes. My skirt.”
You stupid jerk, I was thinking. you’re always supposed to do things like bring down luggage. This is your fault and now, we’re going to miss our flight, miss the fabulous event we’re supposed to be at tonight and miss NewYork altogether Our life is over.
I didn’t say that out loud, though. He already knew how I felt. Besides, I was travelling on his dime.
The entire episode showcased what I grudgingly admit is an unpleasant side to my personality, namedly, that I have a hard time accepting responsibility, partial or otherwise. I know this because other people have pointed it out- repeatedly. They say I can be unfair arrogant and selfish, even if I insist that blaming the other guy is really self preservation.
Then again, we all tend to lie to ourselves and other people about our failings, don’t we? Or, at least, gloss over them as if they don’t mean a thing. If I cheat on my taxes, for example, doesn’t everyone? Not- I repeat not- that I’d ever cheat on my taxes. But it’s hard to look in a mirror and see a cheater, a liar, gossip or worse, a martyr who thinks she’s always right, staring back at you. Unless, of course, she’s always right.
But enough about me, what do you think of me? Psychologists posit that the best way to assess ourselves- our true selves- is through the eyes of others. They say that flawed and inflated self-assessment is as rife as, well, faults, and that the least competent people systematically misjudge and overestimate their abilities, which , in turn, can adversely affect key things their lives such as health, relationship and finances.
As David Myers, a professor at Hope College in Holland, Michigan, who wrote the textbook Social Psychology, told the Seattle Times, “Most of us have agood reputation with ourselves.” True enough, if you consider the classic study from 1977, when 94 percent of American college professors rated themselves as above average, even though only 50 per cent could be in the top half in the first place. But that could also be characterized as willful ignorance.
On which count I plead guilty, your honour.
Oh, and that missing suit bag? We hightailed it home in the taxi, picked it up, returned to the airport and made it through with minutes to spare.
Later, while strolling along Broadway, I noted how proud I was I hadn’t said a thing about him forgetting our clothes at home. He just smiled and shook his head.

Lisa F.

Lisa Fitterman is a columnist on the edge for the Montreal Gazette. She writes about sex, relationships, housecleaning and anything else that is offbeat, off kilter or simply catches her eye. Vancouver born and bred, she began her career in 1983 at the Vancouver Sun as a general assignment reporter and quickly progressed to covering politics because no one else in the newsroom wanted to move to Victoria. Over the past 20 years or so, she has also lived in Edmonton, Boston and, of course, Montreal, where she has settled down with He Who Must Obey. Her stories have run the gamut, from grisly murder trials to provincial elections and sports coverage. She has won a National Newspaper Award for sports writing.

Stanford Suicide or…?

In Uncategorized on 01/27/2007 at 5:59 pm

Honor Student found in Trunk of Car

Academic stress exacts its toll on many, that we know. God knows high expectations unrealized even here at McGill arguably is responsible for countless damaged lives, but to the extent of taking one’s own life? No stats are easily available and generalizing about suicide rates amongst 20-25 yr old can be easily misleading… but when examining the record of suicides on campuses a number of interesting patterns emerge: In the hallowed halls of pressure ridden Ivy League MIT, only one student, Michael P. Manley ’02, committed suicide in his first year at MIT since at least 1964, and women are far less likely to commit suicide as compared to men.

National statistics for U.S show that women are more likely to attempt suicide and men are more likely to succeed. Out of the 47 MIT students who committed suicide, only four were females. These reports takes into account the gradually increasing female population on campus over time which reveals that females at MIT commit suicide at a rate of 6.3 per 100,000 female student years. This compares to a rate of male student suicides at MIT of 16.6 per 100,000 male student years.

It has been hypothesized that the overall suicide rate has decreased precisely because women are less likely to commit suicide and their population has grown on campus. However, another area of comparison is between graduate and undergraduate suicide rates. Studies show while it may seem likely that graduate students are more likely to take their own lives because of increased workload stress over time, this is not consistent with MIT statistics. The graduate student suicide rate is 8.4 per 100,000 graduate student years while the undergraduate rate is 21.2 per 100,000 undergraduate student years.

Stanford doctoral student May Zhou was updating her résumé and on track to a brilliant career. So her grief-stricken family and friends say they are floored by the idea that she would take her own life. But one day after the body of the missing electrical engineering student was discovered in the trunk of her car, authorities were not backing away from their suggestion that Zhou, 23, may have committed suicide. A two-hour autopsy conducted Friday identified “no outward signs of foul play,” according to police in Santa Rosa, where Zhou’s car was found Thursday in a junior college parking lot.

Authorities offered no further details, saying it could take a month to complete lab tests and make a final ruling on whether Zhou’s death was suicide. And there was no explanation of how Zhou’s car ended up 90 miles north of Stanford.

The news baffled the woman’s father and classmates.

“No, no, no. No issues. She was strong,” said her father, Yitong Zhou, who planned to help her revise her résumé the weekend she disappeared. “If you’re thinking about your résumé, why would you be thinking about suicide? I don’t believe it. I don’t believe it.” Complaining that police seemed too quick to reach a conclusion about his daughter’s death, Zhou said he had only recently learned that she conducted some online banking transactions shortly before she left her apartment Saturday. The transactions were “unusual,” he said, because of the amount. He declined to elaborate.

Mengyao “May” Zhou was last seen by her roommate at Stanford on Saturday, before she left their graduate-student housing complex to run errands. The roommate, who has not made any public statements this week, reported Zhou missing to police after she had not come home by Sunday. Police said it appeared Zhou’s car had been sitting in a parking lot at Santa Rosa Junior College for several days before it was found. Yitong Zhou said he had been busy with work when his daughter called last week about modifying her résumé to apply for a summer internship, but they agreed to work on it over the weekend.

Zhou had been recruited to Stanford from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; In high school, her SAT scores had been perfect. And she had already cleared one big hurdle: passing her qualifying exams. She did well and reportedly had been approached by several researchers interested in having her join their team. Having secured three patents during her three summer internships at Qualcomm, “she was the kind of student who could work independently — progressing and then taking off,” he said.

Not to second guess, but to us it just seems too convoluted a method to take your own life, by locking yourself into the trunk of your own car. She left no suicide note and had every reason to expect a successful career. No longer. :((

full story here


time for anti-bacterial wallets…

In Uncategorized on 01/25/2007 at 3:49 pm

Germs fester on Paper Money

Yea great. Unless you were born yesterday, you knew of course that pretty much all available paper currency at least those circulating in North America has a dusting of cocaine on its surface, but public health officials now say you should be more concerned about germs and viruses that might be passed along with your change.

Most paper money carries traces of cocaine, recent studies show, but that says more about the potential for cash to spread disease than it does about the prevalence of drug use, officials say. On Jan. 10, researchers at City University in Dublin, Ireland, revealed that 100 per cent of the banknotes in their study carried trace amounts of cocaine. Last month, a study suggested 94 per cent of banknotes in Spain carried traces of the fine white powder. And dozens of studies in the past decade have shown that a majority of bills in various U.S. cities tested positive for traces of cocaine.

While minute amounts of cocaine might be harmless, bacteria, viruses and spores clinging to banknotes passed from hand to hand might not be. “Cocaine is not a living organism, while germs are, although most become inoffensive after a certain amount of time” on an inanimate object like a bank-note, said Blaise Lefebvre, a spokesperson for Montreal’s public health department. “You would also have to pick up a significant quantity (of bacterium or virus) for it to cause illness, although with the Norwalk virus, you only need a little and this is why gastroenteritis is so easily transmitted.” While he said transmission could “theoretically” occur through money-handling, the virus is much more easily transmitted by swallowing food or water that has been contaminated with stool from an infected person. Peter Ender, an infectious diseases expert who has studied the prevalence of germs on paper money, said the contamination of banknotes is a reflection of what is commonly present on human skin, particularly on hands.

In 2001, Ender and his team at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base Medical Centre, near Dayton, Ohio, obtained dollar bills from people waiting to buy food at a high school basketball game in Dayton. Seven per cent of the bills collected showed traces of harmful bacteria, like Staphylococcus aureus and Klebsiella pneumoniae, that can cause serious illness. Eighty six per cent carried less harmful germs, like streptococcus, enterobacter, pseudomonas and other bugs that rarely cause illness among healthy individuals but can be very dangerous to people whose immune systems are compromised.

Only seven per cent of the bills in that study were found to be germ-free.

“For a healthy individual, contact with most of these bacterial organisms is no big deal because we all have all kinds of bacteria on our hands,” Ender said recently in a telephone interview from his home in Bethlehem, Pa. “We were interested in whether resistant strains of bacteria could make it to patients in hospitals through their friends and relatives who had handled (dirty) money,” he explained. Ender said he doesn’t worry about handling money with his bare hands, because he washes his hands “dozens of times a day.” He advised the public that frequent handwashing with soap and water is still the best way to prevent infections and disease. So could dirty money be a vehicle for the current epidemic of viral gastroenteritis sweeping Montreal health-care centres?
“It’s certainly possible,” Ender said.
“However the Norwalk-type virus is highly contagious via multiple modes, be that hand to hand, surface contact or vomitous particles suspended in air.”

Lefebvre agreed that money could theoretically act as a conduit for all kinds of germs and viruses. But he noted bills are usually handled less than things that are grabbed with the whole hand, like shopping-cart handles, metro car grab bars, doorknobs – or that water glass in the bathroom. Nevertheless cash is a big culprit in spreading infections. Anything that is passed from hand to hand is likely to be contaminated with the germs and viruses we typically have on our skin, so money is an obvious culprit when it comes to spreading illness.

Here are some of the bacteria typically found on paper bills:

Staphylococcus aureus: A bacterium commonly found in the nose of a healthy person that can cause a range of symptoms, from minor skin infections and abscesses to potentially fatal illnesses like pneumonia, meningitis, endocartitis, toxic shock syndrome and septicemia.
Klebsiella pneumoniae: A bacterium commonly found on skin and in the mouth and intestines that can cause bacterial pneumonia. The most common transmission mode is fecal-oral. The bacterium can cause flu-like symptoms, the coughing up of blood-tinged sputum, broncho-pneumonia, bronchitis and urinary tract infection.
Streptococcus: A bacterium commonly found on skin and in the mouth, intestine and upper respiratory tract that can cause strep throat, meningitis, bacterial pneumonia, endocarditis, erysipelas and necrotizing fasciitis (flesh-eating infection).
Enterobacter: A species of bacteria commonly found in the human intestinal tract that can cause opportunistic infections of the urinary tract as well as other parts of the body, and are sometimes associated with respiratory tract infections.
Pseudomonas: These bacteria can lead to urinary tract infections, sepsis, pneumonia, pharyngitis and other potentially fatal illnesses. They are rarely a cause of infection in healthy people, but can be very dangerous to those with compromised immune systems or individuals with catheters or on respirators.

What you can do: Health authorities stress the importance of washing hands thoroughly and often, especially before and after eating, after using the toilet, after handling paper money, before and after handling food, and before and after visiting hospitals.

Michelle Lalonde , The Gazette

speaking of balls… ;)

In penis stress on 01/21/2007 at 6:18 pm

Stressed-OUt Doctor to pay for Slicing off Penis
………………………………..”ok now you’re only just going to feel a little prick…”

A Romanian doctor who hacked off a patient’s penis during surgery before slicing it into pieces has claimed he was suffering from stress. Naum Ciomu, 58, was operating on the man to correct a testicular malformation when he lost his temper. Grabbing a scalpel, he sliced off the penis in front of amazed nursing staff, then cut it into three pieces before storming out of the operating theatre at the Panduri Urology Hospital in Bucharest.

A Romanian court has ordered Prof Ciomu to pay £100,000 damages and £20,000 costs to the victim, Nelu Radonescu, a 36-year-old builder. “The trauma has left a deep mark both physically and psychologically,” said Mr Radonescu. “It is hard for a man who wants to have sex, yet lacks the organ. My wife is the best thing I have.” (huh?)

The medical costs will be covered by the hospital’s insurer, but doctors’ unions have criticised the court’s decision to make Prof Ciomu pay the damages personally. The unions claim the case could set a dangerous precedent, and doctors may refuse to carry out operations for fear of making a mistake. They said Prof Ciomu, a urologist and lecturer in anatomy, had been punished enough by having his medical licence suspended. Dr Braticevici Bogdan, a former colleague of the disgraced doctor, said: “The amount of the damages is disproportionate compared with the doctors’ salaries and the living standards in Romania.” Senior hospital doctors may earn no more than £500 a month.

The surgeon told a court he lost his temper after he accidentally cut the patient’s urinary channel. He said it was a loss of judgement due to personal problems. Mr. Radonescu will use the compensation to pay for an operation to rebuild his penis, using tissue from his arm.”It will never be the same, but if I am even a quarter of the man I was, I will still be very content,” he said.

thanks nadia 🙂

hmm no transfat…But is it art?

In art, recipes on 01/15/2007 at 3:55 pm

“Bon appetit” said Chilean artist Marco Evaristti as he presented his friends with his newest creation: meatballs cooked with fat from his own body, extracted by liposuction. “Ladies and gentleman, bon appetit and may god bless,” said Evaristti, a glass in his hand, to his dining companions seated night around a table in Santiago’s Animal Gallery tonight.

On the plates in front of them was a serving of agnolotti pasta and in the middle a meatball made with oil Evaristti removed from his body in a liposuction procedure last year. “The question of whether or not to eat human flesh is more important than the result,” he said, explaining the point of his creation.

“You are not a cannibal if you eat art,” he added.

Evaristti produced 48 meatballs with his own fat, some of which would be canned and sold for $4,000us for 10. A veteran at shock-art, in an earlier work Evaristti invited people to kill fish by pressing the button on a blender the fish were held in. In April 2004 he dyed an enormous iceberg in Greenland with red paint.

All the delicious details right here

2046 Music Video – CastaDiva

In casta diva on 01/13/2007 at 5:46 pm

hot chefs on our wishlist….. #5

In chefs on 01/09/2007 at 10:11 pm

If Kristine Lefebvre finds herself falling out of favor with The Donald as the potential Apprentice this season, she can always try to get on his good side with food. Kristine just happens to be married to Ludovic Lefebvre, one of the hottest celebrity chefs in the world — and we don’t just mean his cuisine. Ludovic isn’t your typical Dom DeLuise-fat-and-jolly type chef. From the looks of it, he can hunt and kill his own beef before he cooks it. He was once named by Relais & Chateaux as one of the Top 50 Chefs in the world.

Looks like it’s bon appétit for Kristine, no matter what happens with Trump. The new season of “The Apprentice,” premiered this Monday night to less than stellar ratings in spite of public controversial feud with Rosie. But for the moment, Ludovic Lefebvre is hot, hot in more ways than one, making a marquee name for his physical appeal as much as for his carefree adventurous machismo culinary talent. He is also, umm.. easily scared as he admits in this interview with Laurie some months ago just before taking over as house chef of the renowned Brainwashca… oops tongue slip, we meant to say of course Bastide, of the esteemed Alain Giraud fame…
“I’m scared, I’m scared, I’m really scared. Every day I go into the kitchen, I’m scared. I want to be scared. I want to push myself.” He is scared because he has been named to replace Giraud at what is perhaps this city’s premiere restaurant, Bastide. The news shocked the food world, and just the mention of it sends Lefebvre right into the bedroom. He emerges with two crystals the size of baseballs, one purple and one clear. “I need the power of the stone,” he says. “They will be in my office.”

But there’s more. He pulls down the neck of his T-shirt to reveal two necklaces, made of citrine, beads, a Chinese coin (“for protection”) and a string of nuts from India called Rudraksha that look like tiny hairy macaroons. He unfolds a small piece of paper on which is written a few key phrases, such as “thank you for my blessing” and “calm, no stress.” One also can’t help noticing that he has had apparently helpful Asian characters tattooed on his right arm, along with what appears to be a dragon. A koi fish decorates his left arm, and, he tells me, his wife’s name is emblazoned on his chest.

A week before the big news broke, I had arranged to meet Lefebvre to see what one of the city’s top French chefs could tell us about what we like to think of as a great American summer tradition, the Fourth of July barbecue. We had planned to meet at the W Hotel, where Lefebvre had been installed for the last nine months, planning to open a new restaurant — Ludo — in late summer. Instead, we are on the patio of the Studio City house into which Lefebvre and Kristine, his American wife of five years and an entertainment attorney, recently moved.

And so, for the moment, we try to stay focused on the task at hand: barbecue. For charcoal, Lefebvre uses a Chinese wood called binchotan, ordered through Nishimoto Trading Co. in Santa Fe Springs, Calif. The sticks lie on the floor of the patio in an interestingly battered box with red Chinese letters. “The flavor is very smoky but subtle. You cannot smell it, but you can taste it,” Lefebvre says of the expensive wood from the Wakayama province. He says charcoal briquettes or a cheaper wood will do; “I just love this one.”

In preparation, Lefebvre coated the 5-pound lamb in coarse sea salt and let it rest for two hours. The leg was then rinsed, dried and rubbed with a paste made from olive oil and a dry herb blend. Or, as he says, “I give it a massage all over.” The herb blend was concocted by one of his favorite tradesmen, Perry Doty at All Spice in the Farmers Market on Fairfax. To this Lefebvre has impulsively added a teaspoon each of two more dried spices, Penja, which is a smooth and woody white pepper from the Penja Valley in Cameroon, and espelette, from a red Basque pepper that is not quite as hot as cayenne. “The blend was perhaps not aggressive; this gives the lamb more character,” he says, when I ask how he decided on the last-minute addition of the two spices. Then he adds, “I don’t know why I put this spice on! It’s about cooking! You take a risk! You mix things up!”

Lefebvre ignores the instructions that come with the grill; he leaves the dome-shaped cover off, modulating the heat by crouching down on the ground and opening and closing the bottom vent, which is, technically supposed to remain open. “What I love about barbecue is that it’s all about technique,” says Lefebvre. To see him hunched over the Weber blowing on the wood, his long hair streaming in his face, is to think about men and their relationship to fire. “I can’t have the cover on!” he says. “Then I don’t see what’s going on!

“It’s all about the sizzle,” he continues. “It’s all about how you work with the fire. It’s hot enough — you just feel it. You control it.” He’s an intuitive cook. He believes in using all the senses. He may even have elevated this belief to theory; we’ll find out when his first book, “Crave: See Touch Smell Hear Taste” (Regan Books) is published in the fall.

Lefebvre goes into his kitchen to prepare the sauce for the lobsters he will grill. He plunges two Maine lobsters in boiling water — merely to kill, not to cook. He then chops each one down the middle — using one violent, lightning fast movement. To do this, he uses the biggest knife from the set that Kristine is not allowed to use. She has her own set. “I would know if she used one of mine,” says Lefebvre. For the sauce, he melts imported Echirée butter: “I’m French, of course!” He grates the zest from a lime, a pink grapefruit and an orange and scrapes the aromatic fusion into the pot. Fresh tarragon will be added at the end.

The lobsters, which have been brushed with oil and salted and peppered, go on the grill, meat side down. When Lefebvre decides that side is done (about four minutes) he turns them over. He’s right; it is all about the sizzle. They already look delectable. When dressed with the sauce, the smoky flavor of the lobster meat is accented perfectly by the subtle variations of warm citrus and tarragon.

Also to be grilled are some vegetables that have been sitting in a little olive oil and salt. He places a sliced onion directly on the grill along with parboiled fingerling potatoes that he has ingenuously skewered together on a rosemary branch. He has also sliced zucchini and squash. He stares intently at the vegetables and sometimes uses tongs to turn them. Sometimes he uses his finger. “Chefs are used to getting burned,” he explains.

For dessert, Lefebvre will barbecue a pineapple. Having watched his wife grill corn wrapped in aluminum foil, he has decided to adopt the method. He adds more wood to the fire, blows lightly, waits. Then waits some more. When the fire is perfect, he places pineapple quarters directly on the grill, to get a good sear first. Then he places each quarter on a sheet of foil, tops it with a slab of butter, scrapes half a vanilla bean on top, then wraps it in the foil and pops it back on the grill.

“Trust me,” says Lefebvre, employing one of his very favorite phrases, “barbecue should be very simple. You don’t need to complicate it. Simple, and have fun.”

Still, after tasting it later, he’ll add a generous sprinkle of dried mint and dried rose petals combined with sugar, transforming the dish from merely delicious to truly memorable. With characteristic brio, Ludovic Lefebvre is explaining why he prefers grilling with wood, instead of the far more convenient gas method. “With gas, you press a button and it starts. Gas has no flavor! It’s not exciting! It’s not romantic! It’s not love! Why not just cook in a microwave? Cooking should be a pleasure. It’s a pleasure to buy your wood, to build your fire. It’s like they were doing a long time ago!”

When quoting Lefebvre, who has just been named executive chef at Bastide, one just wants to use exclamation points. The heavily accented, 33-year-old chef grew up in Burgundy but says he prefers the American attitude toward barbecue. “The French don’t do the pork rib; they don’t do the beef rib. People here are more passionate about the barbecue.” Yet today he is barbecuing neither the pork rib nor the beef rib but a leg of lamb with an exotic world-spice flavor, along with a couple of lobsters, some vegetables and a pineapple. He is using a brand-new classic black Weber grill, on which, he says, grinning impishly, he is grilling all these things in this way for the first time. “I know it’s going to work,” he says. “I’m a chef! This is what I do!”

The offer to take over from Giraud came after Lefebvre was deep into the planning of Ludo. But that deal had already begun to sour for him, he says, when he learned he would cook not only for the restaurant but for poolside dining and banquets as well. “I cannot do the thing I want to do by cooking for 200 people,” he explains.

The chef says he gets his ideas from travel (he loves Japan and India) and from going to museums. “I look at a painting. Why did he put this color here?” he asks rhetorically. “Sometimes I just think about the color. I want red and green, so I put the beets with peas. I think about sculpture too. How does the plate look? I hate an overcrowded plate. Then you don’t know what you eat and you get so lost!”

In preparation for his new job, he is also reading six cookbooks a week. “I was promoted too young,” says Lefebvre, who came to the U.S. in 1996 to work at L’Orangerie and was made head chef after only five months, at age 24. “I didn’t have time to finish all of my research. I didn’t understand why I was doing what I was doing. It takes a long time to be a chef.” He left L’Orangerie in 2002, hoping to open his own restaurant, but investors had dried up in the post-Sept. 11 economy. Now, he is itching to finally put his stamp on his own place.

“I’m still learning technique,” he continues. “I’m very open. I don’t know everything.” His criterion for success is succinct. “I want people to remember what they ate. I want them to say, ‘Ten years ago I had this amazing asparagus with this crispy bacon. I remember it.’ “

“It’s like all my life I was driving a Volkswagen. Now I’m driving a Rolls-Royce. I’m so exciting!” he says. He means excited, but either one works. Above all, he is focused on staying calm until his debut.

“I would like to be a Buddhist,” he says, fingering his Indian nut necklace, deadpan. “But I don’t have time.”

Laurie Winer, Los Angeles Times
thanks Laurie 🙂

not even a comma…

In Uncategorized on 01/09/2007 at 2:44 pm

Date: Tue, 9 Jan 2007 09:11:41 -0500
From: nessie
i like this one
———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Giorgio Torrieri
Date: 09-Jan-2007 08:02
Subject: Perspectives .(click pic to see pale blue dot)

“We succeeded in taking that picture from deep space [Voyager 1, 4
billion Km from earth, GT] , and, if you look
at it, you see a dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it,
everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever lived, lived out
their lives. The aggregate of all our joys and sufferings, thousands of
confident religions, ideologies and economic doctrines, every hunter
and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of
civilizations, every king and peasant, every young couple in love,
every hopeful child, every mother and father, every inventor and
explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every
superstar, every supreme leader, every saint and sinner in the history
of our species, lived there on a mote of dust, suspended in a sunbeam.

The earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the
rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that in
glory and in triumph they could become the momentary masters of a
fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the
inhabitants of one corner of the dot on scarcely distinguishable
inhabitants of some other corner of the dot. How frequent their
misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent
their hatreds. Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the
delusion that we have some privileged position in the universe, are
challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in
the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity — in all this
vastness — there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save
us from ourselves. It is up to us. It’s been said that astromy is a
humbling, and I might add, a character-building experience. To my mind,
there is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits
than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our
responsibility to deal more kindly and compassionately with one another
and to preserve and cherish that pale blue dot, the only home we’ve
ever known.”

Carl Sagan

GT thanx giorgio;)
Theoretical Physics Group, Physics Department, Frankfurt University
But perhaps the whole world is an enigma, a harmless enigma that
is made terrible by our own mad attempt to interpret it
as though it had an underlying truth.
Umberto Eco

Magical memories of the past merely an illusion?…study shows

In lisapicks on 01/07/2007 at 2:40 am

Your brain may get a kick out of remembering the good old days, but it may be for the wrong reasons

If this season’s turkey seemed less succulent, the carollers not as cherubic and the family more irritating than in years past, don’t despair — it’s all in your head.

A new Canadian study shows that nostalgia is basically a trick of the mind: We mistake the satisfaction our brains derive from successfully calling up information for joy in the memories themselves.

“You might mistakenly think this Christmas is not anywhere near as magical and wonderful as the ones from your past, but that’s not because that’s true,” says Jason Leboe, an associate professor in the psychology department at the University of Manitoba and co-author of the study, published in the current issue of the journal Emotion.

“Remembering is playing that trick on you.”

The brain gets a small positive jolt whenever it does something right, he says, citing as an example the experience of shouting the correct Jeopardy! answer at the TV. When we’re able to recall vivid memories and images from the past, we get a rush of pleasure, a physiological response that leads to a perpetual — but often incorrect — feeling that the past was better than the present.

Researchers tested this effect by having volunteers look at a list of words — some they simply read and some they were told to imagine in detailed scenes. Then the volunteers looked at the same words paired either with positive words such as “candy” or negative ones like “murder.”

When the volunteers were again shown the original list of words and asked to identify which they’d seen in a positive light, they showed a bias toward those they’d crafted an image of — that is, those they remembered more clearly — regardless of whether they were seen in a positive context.

It may be no more than an illusion, but the warm-and-fuzzy tug of nostalgia is strong, especially around the holidays.

But if your Christmas didn’t turn out like a Little House on the Prairie episode this year, that doesn’t mean you won’t be waxing poetic about it someday, Mr. Leboe says.

Out-of-the-ordinary events, like the year the turkey goes up in flames or the tree goes down with a drunken uncle, tend to stick in our memories most clearly, he says. Those become the events that families talk about for years to come, and even the most disastrous festivities become idealized with time.

“If something really inconvenient or bad happens, the saying is, ‘We’ll laugh about it later,’ ” Mr. Leboe says.

“What you get later is just that vivid experience that you remember, which produces the positive emotion, so you don’t get all the irritation you’re getting at the time when you have to order out for KFC.”

Shannon Proudfoot, The Ottawa Citizen

Speaking of illusions, try this optical teaser:

which square is darker, A or B?

to confirm your correct response (are you sure?) click on this link and go to illusion 1

scent of Hollywood…

In movie review on 01/06/2007 at 1:31 am

Finally it’s out. Last year when we heard that Dustin Hoffman was starring in film adaptation of our personal favorite the incredible ‘Parfume’ by Patrick Suskind, we thought oh perfect, that NOSE, but alas Hoffman plays a secondary role, giving newcomer Ben Wishaw the difficult task of portraying JB Grenouille, the anti-hero protagonist… Before you read the wonderful review by Roger Ebert, take a little ‘diversion’ into a glimpse of this little tidbit. thanks Susan;)

You Smell Like a Million Butts

A book, a movie, now a set of perfumes. Based on the novel “Perfume,” this $700 collection from Thierry Mugler offers scents from melon to smelly feet. In the end, it was Human Existence that just about did me in. But it wasn’t a philosophical crisis — it was just a perfume smelling at the offices of IFF — International Flavors and Fragrances, Inc., in New York. The 15 scents I sampled are IFF’s “olfactory interpretation” of Patrick Suskind’s novel Perfume, which is the basis for the new movie. It is the story of Grenouille, an obsessed and gifted perfumer in 18th century France who discovers that he himself has no scent. In his effort to create an alluring perfume that he could wear, Grenouille becomes a murderer. One imagines the perfumers of IFF were more restrained in obtaining their ingredients.

The final products, created by Christophe Laudamiel and Christoph Hornetz, are a stunning and at times frightening example of perfume as art. They’re about smelling in its purest sense and about evoking a time or a place through fragrance. Thierry Mugler, famous for his sweet perfume, Angel, has released the set: 14 crystal bottles holding a quarter ounce each and one bottle of half an ounce. They nest in a red velveteen box.

I won’t attempt to summarize them all. Reading 15 descriptions would be as exhausting as smelling them! Let me also say that I smelled these perfumes on paper scent strips, not on skin. You’ll see why.

The perfumes include:

Baby — Creamy, milky, sweetly sour, a blend of 25 ingredients. Inspired by the smell of a freshly washed (thank goodness) infant.

Paris 1738 — Could also be called Times Square, January 1, 11 a.m. Smells of cheese and feet, and a general state of being unwashed. Ingredients include essence of seaweed and a modern synthetic molecule that smells like dirty hair. Paris 1738 lingers in the room like an unwanted, rather smelly guest. It certainly evokes a time and a place when perfume was used to rescue delicate noses from the stench of the streets. Handle with care.

Virgin No. 1 — Named for Grenouille’s first victim, a beautiful young Parisian plum seller. According to IFF, for this scent, scientists analyzed and chemically reconstructed the scent of a virgin’s belly button. At this time, I cannot comment on the realism of that element, but the other listed notes of yellow plums and milk (seems like goat’s milk) are evident.

Atelier Grimal — Named for the Tannery where anti-hero Grenouille works, it smells of old, creased leather with a dab of animal and a smidge of noxious chemicals.

Human Existence — Like Paris 1738 with a jaunty dash of incontinence. There’s an element of scared animal. It’s foul, it’s sad and it takes you places you don’t want to go.

There are more pleasant scents in the box, like Sea, a melony fresh take on an ocean breeze, and Noblesse, a blend of rare flower aromas that smells expensive because it is. But those aren’t the ones that will change your nose’s outlook on life. The fantasy scents are available in limited numbers from an online service in the U.S. The pricetag is $700. That may sound preposterous. Then again, they’re already sold out in Europe.

Susan Stone sniffs discerningly in Berlin, where she is a freelance correspondent.

Movie Review ; “Perfume”
Roger Ebert / Chicago Sun Times/January 5, 2007

Not only does “Perfume” seem impossible to film, it must have been almost impossible for Patrick Suskind to write. How do you describe the ineffable enigma of a scent in words? The audiobook, read by Sean Barrett, is the best audio performance I have ever heard; he snuffles and sniffles his way to greatness and you almost believe he is inhaling bliss, or the essence of a stone. I once almost destroyed a dinner party by putting it on for “five minutes,” after which nobody wanted to stop listening.

Patrick Suskind’s famous novel involves a twisted little foundling whose fishwife mother casually births him while chopping off cod heads. He falls neglected into the stinking charnel house that was Paris 300 years ago, and is nearly thrown out with the refuse. But Grenouille grows into a grim, taciturn survivor (Ben Whishaw), who possesses two extraordinary qualities: he has the most acute sense of smell in the world, and has absolutely no scent of his own.

This last attribute is ascribed by legend to the spawn of the devil, but the movie “Perfume: The Story of a Murderer” makes no mention of this possibility, wisely limiting itself to vile if unnamed evil. Grenouille grows up as a tanner, voluptuously inhaling the world’s smells, and eventually talks himself into an apprenticeship with Baldini (Dustin Hoffman), a master perfumer, now past his prime, whose shop is on an overcrowded medieval bridge on the Seine.

Mention of the bridge evokes the genius with which director Tom Tykwer (“Run, Lola, Run”) evokes a medieval world of gross vices, all-pervading stinks and crude appetites. In this world, perfume is like the passage of an angel — some people think, literally. Grenouille effortlessly invents perfect perfumes, but his ambition runs deeper; he wants to distill the essence of copper, stone and beauty itself. In pursuit of this last ideal he becomes a gruesome murderer.

Baldini tells him the world center of the perfume art is in Grasse, in Southern France, and so he walks there. I was there once myself, during the Cannes festival, and at Sandra Schulberg’s villa met les nez de Grasse, “the noses of Grasse,” the men whose tastes enforce the standards of a global industry. They sat dressed in neat business suits around a table bearing a cheese, which they regarded with an interest I could only imagine. On the lawn, young folk frolicked on bed sheets strewn with rose petals. You really must try it sometime.

It is in the nature of creatures like Grenouille (I suppose) that they have no friends. Indeed he has few conversations, and they are rudimentary. His life, as it must be, is almost entirely interior, so Twyker provides a narrator (John Hurt) to establish certain events and facts. Even then, the film is essentially visual, not spoken, and does a remarkable job of establishing Grenouille and his world. We can never really understand him, but we and cannot tear our eyes away.

“Perfume” begins in the stink of the gutter and remains dark and brooding. To rob a person of his scent is cruel enough, but the way it is done in this story is truly macabre. Still it can be said that Grenouille is driven by the conditions of his life and the nature of his spirit. Also, of course, that he may indeed be the devil’s spawn.

This is a dark, dark, dark film, focused on an obsession so complete and lonely it shuts out all other human experience. You may not savor it, but you will not stop watching it, in horror and fascination. Whishaw succeeds in giving us no hint of his character save a deep savage need. And Dustin Hoffman produces a quirky old master whose life is also governed by perfume, if more positively. Hoffman reminds us here again, as in “Stranger than Fiction,” what a detailed and fascinating character actor he is, able to bring to the story of Grenouille precisely what humor and humanity it needs, and then tactfully leaving it at that. Even his exit is nicely timed.

Why I love this story, I do not know. Why I have read the book twice and given away a dozen copies of the audiobook, I cannot explain. There is nothing fun about the story, except the way it ventures so fearlessly down one limited, terrifying, seductive dead end, and finds there a solution both sublime and horrifying. It took imagination to tell it, courage to film it, thought to act it, and from the audience it requires a brave curiosity about the peculiarity of obsession.

rating: 4/4

Your Moment of Literary Zen #21

In Uncategorized on 01/05/2007 at 8:42 am

We were so poor I had to take the place of the bait in the mousetrap. All alone in the cellar, I could hear them pacing upstairs, tossing and turning in their beds. “These are dark and evil days,” the mouse told me as he nibbled my ear. Years passed. My mother wore a cat-fur collar which she stroked until its sparks lit up the cellar.

~Charles Simic, The World Doesn’t End

Photograph by Klavdij Sluban, Autour de la mer Noire-voyages d’hiver

a different kind of relativity theory…

In perspective on 01/04/2007 at 9:30 am

…to ponder next time you want to see your problems from another perspective.

Antares is about 700 times the diameter of our own Sun, 15 times more massive, and 10,000 times brighter. Antares is the brightest star in the constellation of Scorpius and one of the brighter stars in all the night sky. Antares is seen surrounded by a nebula of gas which it has itself expelled. Radiation from Antares’ blue stellar companion helps cause the nebular gas to glow bright visible to us even though Antares is located about 500 light years away from earth. As you well know, a light-year is a unit of distance. It is the distance that light can travel in one year. Light moves at a velocity of about 300,000 (km) each second. So in one year, it can travel about 10 trillion km. More precisely, one light-year is equal to 9,500,000,000,000 kilometers. :))

The Vagina Dialogues

In sex on 01/02/2007 at 4:05 pm

Six Sex columnists compare notes.
By Amy Sohn

On an unseasonably warm recent night, I gathered five prominent young sex columnists at EN Japanese Brasserie to discuss their careers, love lives, and boyfriends. But what started out as a roundtable quickly turned into The Jessica Cutler Show. Cutler, 27, the former Capitol Hill aide who detailed her many Beltway conquests on the now-defunct Washingtonienne blog (and in her subsequent Hyperion novel of the same name), regaled us with tales of cocaine use, the antidepressant she’s on, her reasons for posing nude for Playboy, the seven men she’s dating, and the man who’s suing her for invading his privacy. When it came time for a group photo, Cutler opened her flasher-style trench coat and bared her left breast.

Shameless? Absolutely. But who can blame Cutler for wanting attention? It’s a lot tougher to get than when I started out as a sex columnist nine years ago, writing in the New York Press about my attempts to find a sideburned, artistic guy south of 14th Street who’d stay for breakfast.
Six seasons of Sex and the City, one Paris Hilton sex tape, one Jenna Jameson autobiography, and one anal-sex memoir later, the boudoir diarist is now a staple of every publication save the supermarket circular. On college campuses, student newspapers are rife with the musings of (mostly female) authors who’ve only recently lost their virginity yet write about their limited exploits with the explicitness of Howard Stern and the delicacy of Jimmy Kimmel. One of the more intelligent essayists, the Columbia Spectator’s Miriam Datskovsky, isn’t even old enough to drink (although that didn’t stop her from stealing a few sips at our dinner).

Sex columns aren’t always about great sex or great writing, but the single-girl blog can be a brilliant career move for those willing to reveal absolutely everything. “I get diarrhea more than a normal person,” writes insanely popular Greek Tragedy blogger Stephanie Klein, 30, on a page called 100 Things About Me, where readers can also learn she wet her bed until the sixth grade (No. 1), can’t find Montana on a map (No. 12), lets her dog lick her privates (No. 88), climaxes from intercourse (No. 92), and so on. Klein blogged her way into a two-book deal with Judith Regan, a contract to write an NBC pilot, and a spot at our table.

So much has been said about sex that the surest way for a young writer to distinguish herself, it seems, is to divulge things no reasonable reader would want to know. But is the widespread availability of too much information changing sex itself? To help hash it out, we also invited Rachel Kramer Bussel, 30, author of the Village Voice’s “Lusty Lady” column, a regular contributor to Penthouse Variations, and editor of a recent spanking anthology; and Elise Nersesian, 26, whose “Sexier Sex” column for Redbook magazine was an attempt to lure younger gals to the gingerbread-scented glossy. (Since our roundtable, she’s defected to Penthouse magazine as well.) Over Japanese cocktails, we got progressively drunker (and cattier), but like nice girls, everyone exchanged phone numbers at the end.

Amy Sohn: So how did you get started?
Jessica Cutler:
I was writing e-mails to my friends from my Senate account when I was working as a staff assistant. I didn’t want to be writing from that address, so I just said, Why don’t I just keep a blog? That was in May of 2004. I only wrote thirteen entries, but someone sent the link to a gossip Website in D.C., Wonkette, and then I came back from lunch and everybody in my office was reading it. It was in the Washington Post and the New York Post, and then I got calls from literary agents.
Rachel Kramer Bussel: After college, I moved here to go to NYU Law School, and that’s when I started writing stories. I got asked to work at Penthouse Variations, which is my main job. I was writing a bit for the Village Voice, and they asked me to write a column there a year ago. I also write a column at Penthouse about what girls talk about when guys aren’t around.
Cutler: We laugh about your wieners all day long.
Stephanie Klein: Like all great things, it started with a breakup. I read through my journals, and I realized I was putting so much energy into guys. I said, You know what? I’m going to stop dating, take myself off, and write every day, so I started the blog in January 2004. I also decided to invest my energy in photography. One day, I went to a party and Ivana Trump was there along with a bunch of other celebrities. I got a lot of shots and put them up on my site. Some of the other blogs linked to me, and it caught the attention of the Independent in London. They called me and they were like, “We loved your blog. We’re pissing ourselves over here and we want to feature you, yeah?” And I’m like, “Yeah!” So they ran this story and then the CEO of this publishing house from London came over here and offered me a deal. I ended up refusing that deal, getting an agent here, and writing a book proposal for Straight Up & Dirty.
Miriam Datskovsky: I never, ever would have guessed I’d write a sex column. I grew up in an Orthodox Jewish household. I haven’t been observant for years, but it was quite the shock to my mom when I started doing it. During the spring of my freshman year, the Spectator had a contest for a sex columnist. My first column was about how all my guy friends were being really girly and all my girlfriends were being very nonchalant about sex and hooking up.

Sohn: Do people assume you’re easy because you’re a sex columnist?
Elise Nersesian: People are fascinated by you, and they also think you’re automatically sexy because of it. Like I’m sitting there surrounded by vibrators. They think you’re great at sex.
Cutler: That’s what you want, though.

Sohn: Do guys you date expect more of you because of what you do?
Cutler: If a guy wants to date me, he needs to Google me and read a lot of stuff and be cool with it. I get guys who are really intimidated, who think that I’m judging them every second, and believe me, I am. Every woman does that. In New York, I date a lot of attorneys or bankers, and they all want me to sign confidentiality agreements. I tell them, “I’m not going to sign anything!” And then I never hear the end of it, but they never produce a paper. We just keep having sex.
Cutler has been sued by one of her paramours, Robert Steinbuch, a lawyer for the Senate Judiciary Committee, for “disclosure of private facts.” She wrote about him under the pseudonym “RS,” referring to incidents of spanking and hair-pulling. His identity was revealed in the blogosphere after he filed suit a year later.

Sohn: Talk about the guy who’s suing you.
I can’t, for many reasons, but you know what I must think . . . If you want to set a precedent against anytime anyone mentions any sex act that they have with somebody, I don’t think that’s a good idea.

Sohn: So basically, if he wins, it could ruin the careers of everyone at this table.
Years ago, if you were caught on a sex tape, it would be the end of your career, and now it actually raises your status. There are these strippers who are coming out with memoirs, and it’s these women saying, “We can take off our clothes because we want to be with men, and we can take control of our sexuality like men,” but I think they’re thwarting feminism completely.
Datskovsky: I think a lot of people would think that we are thwarting feminism.

Sohn: Do you consider yourself feminists?
Cutler: I always do. I grew up reading Ms.

Sohn: Didn’t a lot of guys give you money after you had sex with them?
They paid my rent, yeah. It’s not unusual. It’s common practice for guys to give you money, pay your rent, and buy you gifts. They just thought, She makes crap money. Twenty-five K? I still have that going on. I will probably be dating dickholes anyway, so I might as well be letting them pay my rent for me. If they offer, why not say yes?

It becomes clear that there is a schism at the table. Nersesian, Klein and I roll our eyes at Cutler because she offends our p.c. instincts, but Datskovsky and Bussel, on the other hand, nod emphatically—as though her brazenness is an act of rebellion itself. Cutler embodies today’s feminism lite: As long as you’re honest about your desires, no matter how morally vacuous, you’re “kick-ass” and “revolutionary.”

Bussel: What I think is really interesting at this table is, where are the guys writing about sex, beyond [gay syndicated columnist] Dan Savage? I think it stems from straight guys not being as comfortable talking about sex in general.
Datskovsky: Men are not accustomed to being open about their emotions or fears and concerns and shames. Men can write and talk about sex and not feel like any less of a man—but really only at the joking level.

Sohn: Why are sex columnists so popular these days? It seems like they’re everywhere, like in college newspapers. Is it just because of Sex and the City?
On the one hand, the show was great because it opened the dialogue.
Nersesian: It made it normal to talk on your cell phone on the street about a blow job and to be open with your girlfriends.
Bussel: There’s so much more openness now, whether it’s about being gay or looking at porn, going to strip clubs, trying kinky sex, having a threesome.
Datskovsky: One of my high-school teachers reads my columns, and almost every time he tells me the same thing—it was just like this in the sixties, only then they didn’t talk about it.
Klein: Sex has become “no big deal” to a lot of people. That isn’t always a good thing. My father sat me down when I was a teenager and said, “I never want sex to become no big deal to you. Respect yourself enough to do it with someone who’s worthy.” That was a big lesson.
Cutler: To some people, sex is like a handshake.
Nersesian: That’s sad.
Cutler: Not necessarily. It’s different for everybody. I can have good sex with every fourth person. No biggie. But do I get along with them? That’s important.

Sohn: Do you have therapists?
Klein: No.
Datskovsky: I used to.
Bussel: I used to.
Cutler: This therapist told me, “You’re in your twenties. You’re promiscuous. Big deal. It’s symptomatic of ADD. You get bored easily. You’re thrill-seeking. The thrill-seeking behavior is what is disturbing to me. You just need to be on medication.”

Sohn: So are you?
Cutler: Of course: Strattera. It’s just an antidepressant medication. It helps me write faster. Actually, when I wrote my book, I got Adderall from my friends, and I was typing like a maniac. And that’s the thing, yeah, that and snorting coke helped me write the book really fast.

Sohn: Have you ever dated a fan?
Cutler: Some guy came to my reading and I went with him. I still see him. He’s a great guy . . .

Sohn: Did you sleep with him?
Cutler: Oh, yeah, of course. I’ve dated a couple of fans. Why not?

Sohn: Aren’t you afraid that someone is going to be totally psycho?
Cutler: I love the psycho ones! What’s he going to do, kill me?
Nersesian: Yeah.
Cutler: What a relief that would be.

Sohn: What is the most memorable response that you’ve ever gotten from a reader?
Bussel: The weirdest e-mail I got was this guy wanted to take me to Yankee Stadium and wanted to spank each other in the middle of the stands.
Cutler: I don’t get a lot of mail, but I see it on other blogs, and I don’t read other blogs, but friends will send it to me and say, “Oh, so funny, read this! This guy is totally making fun of you.” And it’s always about my Playboy pictorial and how I looked.

Sohn: How much did you show?
Cutler: Everything! I did nude.
Klein: Do you worry about having kids someday and what they will think?
Cutler: I don’t want kids.
Nersesian: Are you sure? You’re only 27.
Klein: I definitely want children, and I hope that I will be honest with them and say, “Look, this is what Mommy does.” Your sexuality is part of who you are.

I, for one, am already dreading the inevitable day when my daughter tells me my work has ruined her life. But by then, my writing will probably seem less revolutionary than quaint.

Sohn: Does a column improve or worsen your sex life? It made mine worse—a lot of guys were afraid of being written about.
It’s made for some awkward moments. Every guy on campus who doesn’t know me assumes that because I write the column, I want to sleep with them.
Klein: One guy said, “I like you, but I’m very private and I don’t feel comfortable.” And I got upset. A lot of guys would write in and say, “No guy is ever going to want to date you because you write so openly and honestly about this stuff,” and I’d say, “Then he’s not the guy for me.”
Cutler: I’ve only benefited from mine. The quality of guys has actually gone up, just moving to New York. They don’t care what people say.

Sohn: Do you have a boyfriend?
Cutler: I have, like, seven.

Sohn: Do they all know about each other?
Cutler: They will now.

Cutler goes downstairs, and the photographer gathers us for a few pictures. Elise wants to know if she’s the only one alarmed by Jessica’s opinions, and Stephanie assures her that she’s not. Twenty minutes later, a New York staffer is sent down to retrieve Jessica and finds her flirting with the bartender. She’s escorted back upstairs, where we pose, smiling, like the best of friends.

Kiss and Tell
Rachel Kramer Bussel, 30
“Lusty Lady” columnist for the Village Voice
Column excerpt: “Myth: People who have casual sex are selfish sluts.”
Turn-ons: adorable geeks
Turnoffs: bad grammar
Romantic status: very single
Sexual orientation: bisexual

Stephanie Klein, 30
author of the forthcoming memoir Straight Up & Dirty, based on her blog, Greek Tragedy
Column excerpt: “We’re in a cab headed north. He was headed south. My pants are pulled to my ankles. I assume he tipped the driver well.”
Turn-ons: big, long, hard vocabulary words
Turnoffs: “Guys who can’t multitask, because we’ll never achieve simultaneous orgasms.”
Romantic status: head over five-inch heels in love
Sexual orientation: horizontal

Jessica Cutler, 27
author of The Washingtonienne
Column excerpt: “I like this crazy hair-pulling, ass-smacking dude who wants to use handcuffs on me. Shit.”
Turn-ons: expensive gifts
Turnoffs: going Dutch, poor hygiene
Romantic status: “I’m dating around.”
Sexual orientation: “On a scale of one to ten, with one being hetero and ten being homosexual, I’m a three.”

Elise Nersesian, 26
former “Sexier Sex” columnist for Redbook, soon-to-be Penthouse writer
Column excerpt: “Uncut guys have more nerves down there, so when you stimulate him manually or orally, you can do half the work and still send him through the roof.”
Turn-ons: Woody Allen movies
Turnoffs: too much hair gel
Romantic status: has a boy toy
Sexual orientation: straight

Miriam Datskovsky, 20
“Sexplorations” columnist for the Columbia Spectator
Column excerpt: “I always expected sex in college would be easily and readily available. Suffice it to say that my hopes have since evaporated into thin air.”
Turn-ons: scruffy Jew-fros
Turnoffs: oral sex
Romantic status: “Single and enjoying it.”
Sexual orientation: straight

thanks Amy;)

Amy Sohn is a Brooklyn-based author, columnist and screenwriter. She wrote the novels Run Catch Kiss (1999) and My Old Man (2004), both published by Simon & Schuster, and the New York Times-bestselling Sex and the City: Kiss and Tell, the companion guide to the television series Sex and the City. She is a contributing editor at New York magazine, where she writes the weekly “Mating” column. From 1996 to 1999 she wrote a dating column, “Female Trouble”, for New York Press. Her articles and reviews have also appeared in The Nation, Playboy, Harper’s Bazaar, Men’s Journal and The New York Times Book Review

And CLICK HERE to read Washington Post’s Book Review of Jessica Cutler’s “Novel”

Good News for Grammar-Nazis Everywhere

In Uncategorized on 01/01/2007 at 8:37 pm

Lake Superior State University released its 32nd annual “List of Words Banished from the Queen’s English for Mis-Use, Over-Use and General Uselessness.” A total of 16 words or phrases were selected by a university committee from more than 4,500 nominations. The list, which in previous years has included “show me the money,” “erectile dysfunction” and “holiday tree,” is closing in on its 1,000th banishment.

The list includes:

The media’s guilty pleasure of using combined celebrity names such as “TomKat” or “Brangelina.” One claims, “It’s so annoying, idiotic and so lame and pathetic that it’s “lamethetic.'”

Real estate listings were marked for overuse of “boast.” As in “master bedroom boasts his-and-her fireplaces – never ‘bathroom apologizes for cracked linoleum,'” wryly notes Morris Conklin of Portugal.

It wasn’t difficult to encounter the phrase “gone/went missing” in 2006. “It makes ‘missing’ sound like a place you can visit, such as the Poconos. Is the person missing, or not?” questioned Robin Dennis of Texas.

The hatred of the phrase “we’re pregnant” by women everywhere is perfectly echoed by Sharla Hulsey of Sac City, Iowa who said, “Were men feeling left out of the whole morning sickness/huge belly/labor experience? You may both be expecting, but only one of you is pregnant.”

“Undocumented alien.” Do we really need to be this polite? “If they haven’t followed the law to get here, they are by definition ‘illegal.’ It’s like saying a drug dealer is an ‘undocumented pharmacist.'” — John Varga, Westfield, New Jersey.

The university’s word watchers canned “truthiness,” the word popularized by Comedy Central satirist Stephen Colbert. It was selected in an online survey by dictionary publisher Merriam Webster as the word that best summed up 2006.

Whether you choose to join this cause or not is up to you. Just reflect on Oscar Wilde’s sagacious words when he said, “Popularity is the crown of laurel which the world puts on bad art. Whatever is popular is wrong.”

HAPPY NEW YEAR to all our loyal readers…

In Uncategorized on 12/31/2006 at 9:57 pm

…from all of us crazy gals (and Yass) at brainwashcafe. wishing you the very best of all YEARS ahead !~)))

do we need to know this…

In dr. joe on 12/31/2006 at 4:32 pm

Fraudulent Orange Juice :

Oh great. Just in time for the New Year of wonderful tidings comes this tidbit. OJ Simpson may not be the only bad OJ in town. It seems that fierce competition among the Juice Manufacturers is not engendering lower prices, but fake Orange Juice. nothing sacred.. Midst of confusion and how to differentiate the fake from real, here’s the definitive word on the subject from mcGill’s very own Dr. Joe;

“…The orange juice market is huge. Unfortunately, some processors try to cut corners by extending the juice with sugar, pulp wash and water; But the ruse can be detected by some clever science. Oxygen in nature occurs as two possible isotopes, O-16 and O-18, which differ slightly in mass. The natural abundance of O-18 is only about 0.2%, but it is more abundant in water in growing plants because the heavier isotope is less likely to evaporate. So a juice diluted with water from non-biological sources will have a different isotope distribution and this can be detected by an instrument called a mass spectrometer. The authorities have already used this method to put the squeeze on some OJ fraud artists.” (umm..right. just drop in to our brainwashcafe for your very own mass spectrometer available while quantities last;)

thanks doc 🙂

Joe Schwarcz is the director of McGill University’s Office for Science and Society. He is well known for his entertaining public lectures on topics ranging from the Science of Aging to the Chemistry of Love. He has won numerous awards for education and for interpreting science for the public and is the only non-American to ever be honoured with the American Chemical Society’s prestigious Grady-Stack Award. He enjoys cooking, is a great fan of Sherlock Holmes and has been known to pull a rabbit out of a hat.

reasons to live in New York… # 11

In reasons to live in NYC on 12/28/2006 at 7:31 pm

Bed Bugs & Beyond or
Does Donald Trump know about this?
An outbreak of paranoia sweeps New York
(warning; this is very long…)

by Mara Altman, Village Voice

A woman in her mid-fifties walks through Jeff Eisenberg’s office door. She’s got a blond bob and cherry lipstick on. She’s out of breath; hyperventilating might be the better word for the way she’s respiring. Her mouth hangs slightly open, her face contorted in panic. She extracts two Ziploc sandwich bags hidden in the pocket of her black wool coat. She believes the media predictions of nightmarish bloodsucking creatures taking over New York City might be coming true in her bedsheets. She fumbles and trembles as she lays the contents on the desk of her neighborhood exterminator.
“These two black things,” she says, pointing. “See? Are they . . . are they . . . ?”

Eisenberg whips out a loupe, a tool of his trade, magnifying the tiny dots to eight times their size. An uneasy silence follows. She bites her lower lip in anticipation of his verdict. “Well, this one’s a piece of dry skin,” Eisenberg says, at last. She exhales at this news. He nudges the other fleck. She tenses again. “And this one,” he rules, “this is a carpet beetle.”

Her eyes roll back as she looks toward the dingy ceiling of Eisenberg’s Upper West Side office, the world headquarters of Pest Away. She raises her arms above her head and shakes them in exultation, as though she has completed a marathon. Her knees are weak at the wonderful news. She doesn’t have the scourge. She won’t have to bag all her possessions or be shunned by all her friends.

“They’re not bedbugs?” she asks, to be reminded of her good fortune, and presses her hands to her chest. “Thank God!” Eisenberg’s three-room office is cluttered with papers and canisters of chemicals. Books like Six-Legged Sex: The Erotic Lives of Bugs and The Handbook of Pest Control—the leather-bound bible of bug killing—line the shelves. Tacked-up receipts and yet-to-be-returned phone messages take the place of wallpaper, blanketing the area. Eisenberg, with a round face and round wire-rim glasses, settles back into his rolling chair as the woman—who refuses to be named, for fear that bedbugs may be reading this article and jotting down names—goes out the door.

After she leaves, Eisenberg explains her want for anonymity to me another way: You don’t talk about your bedbug problem, or possibility thereof, for the same reason you don’t go to a singles bar and say, “I have gonorrhea, want to buy me a drink?” In a city where people already depend on Ambien for a good night’s sleep, the thought of bedbugs has wreaked havoc on circadian rhythms from homeless shelters to $2 million loft apartments. The thought of them is making people itch—not the bedbugs themselves, whose numbers don’t even quite live up to the media hype. What has yet to be quantified—but what has become an urban infestation of its own—is the paranoia that the bedbug craze has produced. It turns out, perhaps no surprise in a city as neurotically obsessed as New York, that something as small as a bedbug can grow colossal in the minds of millions.

The stigma alone is enough to make hardened city dwellers cringe and cry on Eisenberg’s shoulder. He begins each office visit by walking new clients over to a sliver of mirror around the corner from his desk. “Repeat after me,” he says as he forces the victims to study their reflection. “I’m not a dirty person.” Then he offers them a shot of scotch from a bottle he keeps in his filing cabinet. It’s an equal-opportunity bug, he explains. The bugs find a 40-year-old pediatric neurosurgeon on the Lower East Side equally appetizing as a 27-year-old comedian in midtown. In the world of bedbugs, a big-time entrepreneur on the Upper East Side has nothing on a twentysomething unemployed actor. A successful movie director on the Upper West Side shares equal ground with a 22-year-old starving grad student. All the bugs are looking for is a drop of blood, and each of us has about five liters. In a city of 8 million, that’s 10,566,882 gallons of bedbug food. Is it any wonder we’re terrified?


A bedbug—more formally referred to as a Cimex lectularius—at its biggest is smaller than a watermelon seed and is the thickness of a credit card. Though their bites don’t bring disease and we, outsize mammals that we are, could squash them using our thumbs, bedbugs have transformed the lives of thousands, if not millions, and not at all for the better—as would easily admit the victims, who spend much of their time spreading noxious chemicals on all their belongings and sporadically checking in with the Bedbugger blog to see if a new cure has been posted. Even the youngest of our species, accustomed to getting a good deal by furnishing their homes with free street-side wares, have given the practice a second thought.

Getting rid of bedbugs is quite a fight, but the fear that comes along with an infestation has grown even harder to exterminate. No spray exists to eradicate paranoia; no home-visit fee has yet been tailored to quell anxieties. The Yahoo Bedbug Support Group had 27 postings for the month of February; for October—only eight months later—the number went up by 55 times, to 1,494 postings. Out of Eisenberg’s 100 calls a day, at least 15 percent are wrongly self-diagnosed rashes or lint balls. Carmen Boon, the spokesperson for New York City’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development, reports that of 4,638 calls about bedbugs in fiscal year 2006, about a quarter—only 1,195—of those, upon inspection, were actual infestations. That’s up from two complaints in 2002. That’s an increase of 231,800 percent (not to mention a 25,000 percent increase in bedbug articles in newspapers and magazines). Fiscal year 2007’s count has already gotten off to a good start, Boon says. There were 2,133 complaints within the first three months, which resulted in 546 violations.

About a week ago, I met with a 58-year-old recovering bedbug sufferer from Long Island. Since April, a mere seven months ago, when the first bite appeared on her upper-left breast, her life has turned upside down. Or more accurately, she has turned her own life upside down in search of her elusive tormentor. Her new obsession—not ever getting bedbugs again—consumes all her time. Everything else—small matters like work, friends, and family—has been set aside. She spoke on the agreement that her name would be withheld. Let’s call her Diane, because remember, the bedbugs are taking notes.

She’s Caucasian and has light-brown hair and designer glasses. She walked into the Dunkin’ Donuts, the one just off the Hicksville LIRR stop, to meet me. She wouldn’t allow me to enter her home; any new person poses a threat and could lead to a new infestation. She yammered on her mobile phone as she got a Dunkin’ employee to swab the table and chair I had picked with a wet rag.

“You can never be too careful,” she said as the young man finished removing all traces of bedbugs from my seat. She sat down and continued talking into the phone.

“At least when you have cancer you’re dealing with doctors who are educated,” she said, “and not predatory, lowlife, uneducated exterminators.”

She was speaking to another bedbug sufferer—Bugz in the Hood is his member name on the blog, but we’ll get to him later. He’s someone in the middle of an infestation, whereas Diane has gone five months—closely monitoring each square inch of her epidermis—without detecting a bite. She was coaching him about the extermination process. Bedbug blog members do that for one another; it’s part of the experience.

After hanging up, she digs in her bag and pulls out a little brown vial. She pops a pill in her mouth and swallows. “See what they’ve done to me?” she says. “I never had to take anxiety medication before.”

Diane lived for 28 years in Melville, Long Island, until August 2005, when the market looked good and her husband decided to sell their home for $1.7 million. They put themselves up in a rental until they could find a new property. Diane had an overnight guest, and that’s how she thinks the bedbugs invaded. Within days she quit her job selling ads for a newspaper and gave up her hobby of dabbling in real estate, to wage outright war on the intruders. She sent her husband and son to a hotel for a couple weeks while she stayed at the house to battle the bugs alone. She slept on the dining-room table and blasted the house with chemical after chemical. She wrapped all her belongings in plastic and put them in a storage pod, hoping that if she left them there long enough the bugs would eventually die out. But she felt she had to toss some stuff out. Out went an antique secretary, tables, chairs, large area rugs (one was a $3,000 Persian) and $3,500 worth of mattresses—a Select Comfort and two Shifmans.

She exterminated the rental home four times—another $4,000 gone—and moved. She’d only seen two actual bedbugs but had suffered multiple bites. Her husband was supportive, but her son left for college in California worried that perhaps his mother had lost her mind. But is there anything wrong with devoting every action of one’s life to knocking bedbugs into oblivion?

At this moment in the story, Diane looks down at her shoes—nondescript blue slip-ons from DSW. Her eyes begin to fill with tears.

“I used to have beautiful shoes,” she snivels.

Now Diane doesn’t invest in nice things for fear she’ll have to throw everything away again. She’s wearing brown cords, a gray sweatshirt, and socks that go up to her knees—extra coverage to make sure there is less surface area for bugs to crawl on her skin. She bought air mattresses for $90, in case the pests return. Her image has changed too; when she first got the bugs she couldn’t eat, and now, she says, she eats too much and has gained weight. For five months she picked up smoking for the first time. “It was disgusting!” she says. Bedbugs have also begun to stress her marriage. She’s had trouble sleeping, perhaps due to the 100-watt bulbs that remain lit all night to protect her from the nocturnal nuisances. Her husband has taken to sleeping in another room with the light off. She doesn’t attend or have dinner parties anymore, and a night out on the town is “inconceivable,” she says. Diane will only fraternize with contributors to the blog. No one else can begin to comprehend her troubles. She hasn’t told her friends about the infestation for fear of the stigma. Because of her absence, her friends think she’s either getting a divorce or having a nervous breakdown—she agrees that the latter might be close. “I don’t care if people think I’m crazy,” she says. “I just want to kill them.” She is referring, of course, to the bedbugs, not her friends.

Three young women walk into Dunkin’ Donuts, each wearing sleeveless shirts and jeans. Diane scans them. “I look on the arms and earlobes for bites,” she says. “I look at everyone that way now.” The three, now ordering coffee at the counter, are clean. Diane looks over her shoulder and then back toward me. She reaches into a bag on the table—she won’t put anything near the floor, where a bedbug could be lurking. She leans forward and whispers, “Have you seen them before?”

She pulls out a jar; inside is a Q-tip and three dead rust-colored bugs. A friend gave her the bugs to conduct executioner-type experiments. She’s trying to find her own best method of mass slaughter. She, along with many others on the blog, believes New York’s pesticide laws are too strict. DDT has been off U.S. shelves for more than 30 years—not even exterminators can use it. But if this woman has one thing besides bedbugs on the brain, it’s the will to kill them, and in the jar is DDT. She procured the substance from a retired-scientist friend. The stuff works wonders. She said the little bastards died within seconds. Many bedbug victims from the blog believe the government should legalize the use of DDT for indoor use only. “I used to run behind DDT spray trucks,” Diane says. “I’m still here. It’s these bedbugs that are going to kill me.” She says if the government doesn’t help with the growing epidemic, she might have to seek help from higher-ups. “I’m ready to call Oprah,” she says.

She puts the jar back in the bag; she pushes the top down tight so she can kill the bugs twice over, this time with asphyxiation. “Do you think anyone saw them?” she asks. The interview is over. I have to catch a train back to the city and she has work to do. Her husband just came home from a business trip to California and she has to go spray his luggage. For someone so anxious, I would’ve expected her to edge back in fear of even touching me. But she shakes my hand goodbye, heartily. It’s not germs she’s afraid of getting; it’s the bugs. As we part—I toward the escalator and she toward her car—she yells out some advice. “Don’t sit!” she said. “Never. Don’t do it. Don’t sit down!”


Naturally, there’s a group of New Yorkers who’ve found a way to profit from the growing paranoia about bedbugs. At the New York Pest Expo, organized and sponsored by Bug Off Pest Control Center, 325 professional exterminators from the tristate area convened in November to discuss, among other things, how the bedbug brouhaha has given the profession a fresh wave of business.

The convention took place at the seemingly bug-free armory off of Fort Washington Avenue in Washington Heights. Company-sponsored booths hawking pesticides and an array of spraying tools ringed the red-rubber racetrack. When I stepped inside and saw all the exterminators lounging on bleachers, gazing at a PowerPoint demonstration, I couldn’t help but wonder how many creatures they had collectively killed, but I tried not to hold that against them—not even the guy wearing suspenders with skull-and-crossbones designs.

The conference was a whole-day affair—9 a.m. to 6 p.m.—and covered everything from overcoming roach bait aversion to understanding foggers, subsoil tools, borate sprayers, and foaming equipment. Andy Linares, the coordinator of the event, saved the bedbug update for last—he knew people would stick around for that. At 4:30 p.m. he introduced a pretty, blonde, curly-haired entomologist, Deanna Branscome, to discuss the pest that seems to have exterminators baffled, but also in awe. Some see the bug as the perfect plight to help them climb the ladder in their careers. “They don’t cause disease,” says Jose Colon, an exterminator from K.E.B. Pest Control, “but there’s a lot of money in it.” Linares says any exterminator charging less than $400 a room doesn’t have a clue what he’s doing.

The American Museum of Natural History’s resident entomologist, who’s also a licensed pest-control technician, Louis Sorkin, also pulled up a swath of bleacher. He’s become a mini-celebrity because of the resurgence of bedbugs—a server at a café even recognized him from a New York Times article on bedbugs when he came in to buy a muffin and coffee. He’s been quoted in at least a dozen other publications. Though he’s got a head of graying hair, when he was talking about bugs, he reminded me of a pre-teen who loves nothing more than to go outside, scrounge up some insects, and scare his family members by tacking them to a bulletin board.

The day before the convention, I had visited him in his office. He used to concentrate mostly on preserving and labeling spiders, but since the bedbug craze, it has fallen to him to become the pest’s official media contact. His office is on the sixth floor of the museum, away from the elephants and blue whales, and crammed with boxes, bags, and paperwork. By his desk, there’s a plastic bag containing a Kellogg’s All-Bran cereal box that’s infested with some kind of bug, waiting to be identified. He logs on to the Yahoo bedbug group every morning to share advice he’s picked up thus far. He told me that lately there has been confusion between bedbugs and other little bugs: carpet beetles, bird and rodent mites, shiny spider beetles, and parasitic wasps. That confusion has fed the fears of many, he explained.

He wanted to show me the difference. He brought out a Grey Poupon–sized jar filled with squirming bedbugs. He said he keeps them in his office specifically so that he can show bedbug reporters what they look like. There is a screen over the top. To keep the bugs alive, Sorkin holds his wrist to the screen for five minutes, letting them feed on him.

Sorkin went to the Bug Off convention the next day as part of his ongoing efforts to ensure that his information is the latest. As Branscome strode up, the male exterminators whistled and clapped as if she were their favorite comic-book hero come to life. The first issue she addressed is one that has mystified us all: Is it bedbugs, or bed bugs? According to this expert, it’s two words in the United States and one word in Europe (in direct opposition to Village Voice style). With information like that, the $100 entrance fee has already paid for itself.

Branscome points to a slide of a multitude of bugs magnified to the size of a cockroach.
“They have a smell,” she says. “Has anyone here ever smelled it?” Hands pop up all around. Some don’t wait to be picked and just shout out: Yucky! Stinky! Sweet! Like raspberries!
So many exterminators in the crowd have had experiences with the pests, and yet most still don’t know how to deal them a knockout dose. Is it a coincidence or a conspiracy?

Branscome explains that bedbugs don’t only feed at night, although it is their favorite time to eat. That’s when their prey is easy to attack, already still and unconscious. They puncture the skin and use an anesthetic so they can take their time eating—bedbugs are posh, like guests at a five-star restaurant, and they want to enjoy every molecule of the chef’s daily special. They attach for five to 10 minutes, until they are fully engorged. As they scamper off, the bite starts to itch. Less than half of those whose blood gets sucked have a reaction to the bite, which makes matters even more complicated and dangerous. If you don’t know you have bedbugs, then you can innocently spread them around.

Exterminators usually have to make one to two visits—at $400 per room—though it is not uncommon for them to return. After all, exterminators explain, there must be continuous inspections to ensure complete eradication. Bedbugs are so itty-bitty that hundreds of eggs can fit on the head of a screw, and they can hole up in the smallest spaces—the crease of a lampshade, the hinge of a cupboard. And what makes them even more terrible is that they are obscenely durable—an adult bedbug can live more than one year without a meal. The chemicals, such as DDT, that formerly worked are now off the market for the role they played in causing silent springs, so exterminators are still lacking an answer to the problem.The best they can do is integrate many techniques: eliminate clutter, vacuum everything, inspect, monitor, and douse the place with chemicals. Meanwhile, they happily accept their fees.

Just as the attendees began fidgeting, Branscome brought up a popular topic: bed- bug mating. Everyone perked up; that’s when I found out that exterminators giggle. You might assume that bedbugs have good sex lives, given the amount of time they spend in the sack, but the name given to their mating habits debunks that theory. It’s called traumatic insemination. The male punctures the female’s abdomen with his appendage; too many punctures and mating can be fatal.

“That’s why they’re tearing us up,” said one exterminator in the front row. “Those girls are mad!” Anti-Viagra: That’s what Linares calls one of his most promising bedbug-fighting pesticides. The pesticide was originally used for cockroaches; it freezes them in an adolescent phase so they never could mate. But Linares found the substance does something different to bedbugs. It shrinks their appendages, making them unable to harden up and penetrate. I didn’t ask what the substance does to bipedal mammals.


Bugz in the Hood is his moniker, but let’s call him Paul because he’s the Paul Revere of this battle, warning the public with his alarm: The bedbugs are coming, the bedbugs are coming! Because of their red color, bedbugs were referred to as “redcoats” by an earlier generation of neurotics. If there’s no action to minimize their numbers, Paul envisions these little creatures as the cause of the next economic meltdown, causing multi-million-dollar lawsuits and the closure of five-star hotels. Even air travel would come to a standstill (planes are, after all, one of the likely explanations of how these bugs travel so fast from place to place). He refuses to be named, for fear of stigma and out of concern that contractors will use his bedbug problem as a reason to condemn his apartment, which is in the heart of the swanky neighborhood around Columbus Circle. Because much of his time is consumed by bedbugs, I wonder if he’s given them a nickname: motherfucking sons of bitches? “It’s longer,” he says, “but easier to get out.”

Paul wouldn’t stick out in a group of middle-aged men on their way to golf 18 holes. He wears a blue polo shirt and jeans with a brown leather belt. He has more pepper than salt in his hair, but both seasonings are receding. Just three months ago, Paul’s life was mundane. He’d lived in this doorman apartment building for 20 years and was actually in the midst of a remodel. The 57-year-old worked eight-hour days at home, editing court transcripts for a living. His girlfriend would come to spend the night. He’d visit his mother at her senior home in New Jersey on the weekends. Now he devotes his day primarily to bedbug matters. He researches the science, writes to new victims, always responds to posts on the blog, and checks his favorite Google alerts: “DDT” and “bedbug.” He’s even tried inventing bedbug jokes:


Q: Why can’t two bedbug victims have an affair?
A: Because they’re too busy searching for bugs.

Don’t blame him for that one; he’s tired from waking up every 20 minutes during the night to shine a flashlight on his body, looking for bugs mid-bite. When I visited him, he was prepared to tell me about life on the front lines. But first I had to reach the front lines. Big plastic bags and Rubbermaid bins blocked my path at every turn as I crossed his apartment. A layer of white powder coated everything in sight; there was even a bit of it smudged into his jeans, as if he’d just had some giant bake-off in his living room. It’s NIC 325 or desiccant dust, and it’s supposed to dehydrate the bugs, leading to their deaths. I peeked into his bedroom: He had disassembled his bed frame and stacked it against the wall in pieces.

While the infestation continues, Paul sleeps on a massage table in the middle of his living room. Six-inch risers hold up each leg; the risers get coated in Vaseline. What he doesn’t know and I don’t tell him—I learned it at the conference—is that bedbugs have something akin to a GPS system set to blood as their destination. When facing a roadblock, they’ve been known to reroute, crawling up walls and dropping from the ceiling onto their victim. He keeps the weapons he uses to fight the war alongside his “bed.” They include a loupe, a flashlight, a jar, Saran Wrap, D-Force HPX pesticide spray, a razor, and a cleaver to hack infested furniture apart.

For the most part, Paul has quarantined himself. He doesn’t go to Starbucks anymore to do his work, for fear he’ll start an infestation in their chairs. At home, he works in a Herman Miller chair that’s covered with black garbage bags because he doesn’t want to lose it to the bugs like he did his green leather Italian designer sofa and 1920s Persian heirloom rug. When he does go out, he only takes plastic bags with him. He brings along his razor blade so that if he finds a stray curbside mattress, he can demolish it before any passersby unsuspectingly take the Trojan horse into their home. The practice of picking up secondhand goods, Paul believes, should be seriously questioned. He fantasizes about creating stickers, free to the public. They will say: “This is infested with bedbugs.” Boston already uses the stickers, he reports; why can’t we? People would use them to put on their thrown-out goods to warn street-side scavengers. Paul suggests to anyone who is planning to visit a hotel to bring a magnifying glass, put clothes in plastic bags, and keep your suitcase in the bathtub.

“I’d have myself locked up for saying that a year ago,” he says. Paul further demonstrates that among obsessed victims, exposing oneself to toxins and risking having a two-headed-monster child suddenly seems to become a good idea, if it means keeping the bugs at bay.

Even when the bedbugs get completely wiped out from his living space (not that he’s seen one in weeks), Paul says he’s going to continue to aid his fellow citizenry—he sees himself as a permanent avenger of bedbug sufferers everywhere. Thus far, however, his plans have been stymied. He recently tried to give a bedbug-awareness lecture at his mother’s retirement facility, but she wouldn’t let him—in fact, mother and son haven’t seen each other since he became a diagnosed carrier. She refuses contact. “She has a son with the bugs,” John says. “She doesn’t want her friends to know.”

As I go down the elevator, I feel itchy all over. I regret not doing snow angels in his death powder.

Andrea Mitrovich, a 27-year-old bedbug victim, doesn’t use an alias because she doesn’t know how the stigma works yet; she just got diagnosed with bedbugs the day before we met for coffee last month. She’s a former American Ballet Theatre dancer, thin with big blue eyes. The layer of makeup she wears shimmers in the sunlight. She towers over me; with her three-inch boots, she reached at least six feet. But when she came into Eisenberg’s office, she looked less like a Swan Lake ballerina and more like a rare red-spotted leopard. The welts had “bedbugs” written all over them—round and lifted with no little dot in the middle. Eisenberg told her how to prepare for the first extermination and sold her a vacuum—a $150 Oreck that can suck up a 15-pound bowling ball (he’ll show you if you ask him)—to remove bugs from nooks and crannies before a big flush of chemicals.

The prospect of a bedbug infestation enveloped Mitrovich in shock. She’d assumed she just had spider bites. Eisenberg offered her some initial recommendations: He suggested that she go nude around the house so as not to spread the infestation and advised a bedtime cocktail to help avoid a sleepless night. Eisenberg’s advice appeared sound; as Mitrovich and I finished our coffee and walked to Staples to buy preparations to prevent more widespread attacks, she seemed perfectly well rested.

We entered Staples but found no end display labeled “Bedbug Prep.” Mitrovich, who otherwise seemed quite benign and even-tempered, took on an air of malicious glee as she selected a roll of duct tape and a box of plastic bags. “Clear,” she said, of her bag choice. “I want to be able to see them when they die.” Her mom bought an emergency red-eye ticket from California to help with the effort. She would arrive the next morning. They needed to bag and wash all her clothes in hot water. Mitrovich worried that her wardrobe might shrink; her jeans barely reach her ankles as it is.

Luckily Mitrovich’s landlord has lived up to Article 4, “Extermination and Rodent Eradication,” Section 27-2018 in Chapter 2 of the Housing Maintenance Code. In other words, he has agreed to pay for the extermination fee, which by New York housing law, he’s responsible for—even though many try to squirm out of the duty. So that’s one load off, but I kept asking her questions: Will you change how you live from now on? Will you ever have people over again? Do you feel itchy even when nothing is there? Are you going to tell your friends?—and the questions helped the realization finally sink in: She has New York City’s nightmarish bloodsucking creatures living with her.

Mitrovich began to freak out, and so did I, because her sweater just brushed up against my purse, which is made of natural fibers. Bedbugs love natural fibers. I wished Mitrovich luck, and we parted ways, quickly.

meaning of xmas…

In Uncategorized on 12/25/2006 at 12:30 pm

and a time for giving…

..except… most economists agree, however, that Christmas produces a deadweight loss under orthodox microeconomic theory, due to the surge in gift-giving. This loss is calculated as the difference between what the gift giver spent on the item and what the gift receiver would have paid for the item. It is estimated that in Christmas results in a $4 billion annual deadweight loss in the U.S. alone. Because of complicating factors, this analysis is sometimes used to discuss possible flaws in current microeconomic theory.

In economics, a deadweight loss (also known as excess burden) is a loss of economic efficiency that can occur when equilibrium for a good or service is not Pareto optimal. In other words, either people who would have more marginal benefit than marginal cost are not buying the good or service or people who would have more marginal cost than marginal benefit are buying the product.

Other deadweight losses include the effects of Christmas on the environment and the fact that material gifts are often perceived as white elephants, imposing cost for upkeep and storage and contributing to clutter. This is mitigated by white elephant gift exchanges in which participants make the best of their white elephants, and by alternative giving. Some people have taken to selling their unwanted gifts shortly after Christmas on online auction sites. So best load up on those ebay shares actually we have no clue why we’re talking about white elephants all we know is nobody better give us one this year!~)

thanx for pic vince 😉

sexy brain in action…

In kacs, sexy brain on 12/21/2006 at 9:33 am

A short segment in which Chess Grandmaster Alexandra Kosteniuk Plays Blitz Chess at a very fast pace and demolishes a Male Ego in just about the same timespan it takes for a typical male to reach an orgasm, but of course infinitely more uhm..satisfying to us gals;~)

Your Moment of Literary Zen #13

In Uncategorized on 12/20/2006 at 5:54 pm

We passed a little kid who was throwing stones at the cars in the road. “Think of it,” said Dean. “One day he’ll put a stone through a man’s windshield and the man will crash and die—all on account of that little kid. You see what I mean? God exists without qualms. As we roll along this way I am positive beyond a doubt that everything will be taken care of for us—that even you, as you drive, fearful of the wheel” (I hated to drive and drove carefully)—“the thing will go along of itself and you won’t go off the road and I can sleep. Furthermore we know America, we’re at home; I can go anywhere in America and get what I want because it’s the same in every corner, I know the people, I know what they do. We give and take and go in the incredibly complicated sweetness zigzagging every side.” There was nothing clear about the things he said, but what he meant to say was somehow made pure and clear. He used the word “pure” a great deal. I had never dreamed Dean would become a mystic. These were the first days of his mysticism, which would lead to the strange, ragged W.C. Fields saintliness of his later days.

~Jack Kerouac, On the Road
Photo: Toward Los Angeles by Dorthea Lange

slut-chic strikes again…

In Uncategorized on 12/19/2006 at 9:17 pm

or ‘How I saw the Leopard Change Spots Before My Very Own Eyes’…

Alright before all of youse go off the deep end, no we did NOT invent the words “slut-chic”, hell we didn’t even SAY it, particularly apropos our fav-gal of the moment Tara Conner who is as you all well know in spite of having your heads buried in killer final exams and xmas stress, the reigning Miss USA-who-almost-lost-it 2006.

“The term I use is ‘slut chic,’ ” says Catherine Steiner-Adair, a clinical psychologist at McLean Hospital at Harvard Medical School near Boston. “The sad thing about hearing about Miss USA is that she had a title with real power, and what happened to her happens to many girls and women growing up today. They get this message that, despite everything else that’s wonderful and uniquely ‘you,’ power … is still defined by raunchy behavior that’s disrespectful to yourself. And it’s a false sense of power.”

We have no problems with the Donald’s decision to give Conner a second chance, or to say with a straight face that he believes in “second chances,” or that he found Conner to be remorseful and willing to go into rehabilitation. “She left a small town in Kentucky, and she was telling me that she got caught up in the whirlwind of New York,” Trump said. “It’s a story that has happened many times before to many women and many men who came to the Big Apple. They wanted their slice of the Big Apple, and they found out it wasn’t so easy.”

What we do have a problem with, is the concept that theDonald is doing all this out of compassion, blissfully unaware of the biggest marketing opportunity since… well since Miss America 1983’s nude photos turned up. That little scandal stripped(oh stop it:) Vanessa William of her Miss America title and launched her career. You can’t buy publicity like this even if you could afford it, and let’s face it compared to Tara, the 27yr old runner up Tamiko Nash would play like an old soggy bowl of corn flakes.

No doubt about it this is a win-win ending for everyone with possible exception of poor Tamiko, the only loser in the potentially the greatest comeback kid story of the year, with zillions in tv profits for theDonald’s Miss Universe franchise.

But just in case you doubt his sincerity in all of this, here is more of theDonald on the NEW Tara Conner…

“I believe that she will be a great example for troubled people.”

HUH??? Oh Donald, say it ain’t so, you can’t be that naive, just look at her nail polish… This gal ain’t changing her spots anytime soon… Send all your bets, chocolates and get well cards for sick Yasser to c/o :)))

life in the fast lane: tales of true love…… #13

In Uncategorized on 12/18/2006 at 7:01 pm

Winnipeg’s Adam Anhang was a savvy businessman, but unlucky in love. His first marriage was brief. His second marriage lasted only a few months, and ended with his murder in Puerto Rico.

Mr. Anhang, 32, was stabbed more than a dozen times and suffered a skull fracture when a man attacked him on the narrow cobblestone streets of Old San Juan on Sept. 23, 2005. His estranged wife, 26-year-old Aurea Vasquez, suffered minor injuries in the attack. Earlier that night, the two met at the Pink Skirt –a restaurant and bar Mr. Anhang had purchased for his wife — allegedly to discuss the terms of their impending divorce. Mr. Anhang, a slight, awkward man with a distinctive laugh, was worth millions: He was an ambitious real estate developer and chief executive of a successful online gambling software company.

Police in San Juan soon arrested Jonathan Roman, a 23-year-old dishwasher at the Pink Skirt. Investigators initially speculated the suspect had an affair with Ms. Vasquez before the murder.

At a court hearing in Puerto Rico today, more than a year later, lawyers are expected to discuss the results of DNA tests on material found beneath Mr. Anhang’s fingernails and possibly set a date for the murder trial.
But Mr. Anhang’s parents in Winnipeg are convinced there is more to the story. In court documents filed in Puerto Rico disputing Ms. Vasquez’s claim to their son’s estate, they allege his wife “and others conspired to assassinate” their son.

The Anhangs have also filed a US$50-million lawsuit against Mr. Roman, Ms. Vasquez, her siblings and several unnamed defendants for their son’s wrongful death. The lawsuit alleges Ms. Vasquez has refused to co-operate with police investigating her husband’s murder, even after being served with three subpoenas. The Anhangs believe Ms. Vasquez fled to Italy after the murder. “You expect that if your husband or your wife gets killed, that you would be leading all the efforts to find out who killed your husband or your wife. “That would be the logical thing,” said Luis. G. Rullan, the lawyer representing Mr. Anhang’s parents. “What she did was exactly the opposite. She fled.” Their lawsuit also claims Mr. Anhang was “misled” about the terms of the couple’s prenuptial agreement. The document overestimated Mr. Anhang’s worth at close to US$25-million, said Mr. Rullan, who declined to provide further details about Mr. Anhang’s finances. The allegations against Ms. Vasquez have not been proven in court and she is not facing criminal charges. Luis R. Rivera, the lawyer representing Ms. Vasquez in her claim against the Anhangs, says she was not involved in her husband’s murder. “She almost got killed herself,” Mr. Rivera said. Mr. Anhang’s parents are trying to prevent her from inheriting a share of his estate. “It’s all about money, really.” The tourist district of Old San Juan is so closely monitored by police that it would not be a good place to stage a murde,Mr. Rivera added.

Mr. Anhang’s career took him around the world. He climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, and went on an exotic scuba diving trip nearly every year. After graduating from the prestigious Wharton School of Business in Pennsylvania, he worked for real estate firms in New York, then struck out on his own, acting as a consultant to turn around companies in trouble. “Adam was born to be a businessman. He brought a briefcase with him to kindergarten,” his younger sister, Becky Anhang Price, said during her eulogy. “He ran his own business selling greeting cards out of his university dorm room.” While living in New York in 1997, he married a classmate, but the union was short-lived because his first wife was unfaithful, said Roberto M. Cacho, the young entrepreneur’s friend and business partner in Puerto Rico.

Mr. Anhang moved to Puerto Rico in 2004 to be closer to his multimillion-dollar real estate dealings there. He met Ms. Vasquez while he was in a bar with Mr. Cacho. Ms. Vasquez had lived in San Juan’s projects and was once a contestant in the Miss Puerto Rico Petite competition. Mr. Cacho said Mr. Anhang “desperately wanted to be loved” and did not know what he was getting himself into. “She was definitely looking for someone like Adam to take over her problems, which were all financial in nature,” Mr. Cacho said. “He accepted that role from the very beginning.” The couple were married in front of a judge in March, 2005.

But according to court documents filed by Mr. Anhang’s family, their relationship soured within a month because he learned his wife had been unfaithful and that he had been misled about the prenuptial agreement. Indeed, Mr. Anhang did not reveal his marriage to some of his close friends, said Yoav Leeran, a Wharton classmate living in Tel Aviv. “I did not know that they were married until he was murdered. He kept it to himself, even though we spoke after he married her, apparently,” Mr. Leeran said. “My explanation is I guess he understood the mistake he made the minute he made it.” Mr. Anhang spent six months trying to negotiate the terms of their divorce. Ms. Vasquez demanded her husband purchase the US$1.3-million home they rented in an exclusive San Juan neighbourhood and give it to her, Mr. Anhang’s parents claim.

For her part, Ms. Vasquez alleges she is entitled to 50% of Mr. Anhang’s capital. She is also demanding US$3,500 a month in support payments, as well as US$3,000 a month for medical expenses. Ms. Vasquez claims she was so committed to her husband that she was studying Judaism in order to convert to his family’s religion. His parents, however, dispute that claim.

The victim’s friend, Mr. Leeran, says he hopes justice will prevail. “In a very unique way, he affected the lives of people who knew him,” Mr. Leeran said. “He was a pretty young guy who hung around powerful, talented, significant people, and still proved to the people around him that being humane and very professional could coexist.”

Maria Vallis is a reporter with the National Post in Canada.
Published Thursday, December 14, 2006
© National Post 2006

proof god exists

In proof god exists on 12/16/2006 at 9:45 pm

self defense plea for Murder..

In Uncategorized on 12/16/2006 at 9:07 pm

Death of shot clerk on video, killer pleads self-defence.

Court views shooting of convenience store clerk. In a move that cost him his life, a North End convenience store clerk attacked his killer with a bat before he was shot twice in the head. Edwin Yue’s graphic death was captured on a security video played in court yesterday at the trial of accused killer David Cote. Yue, 19, was killed last February during an armed hold-up at his parents’ Main Street convenience store, Magnus Food.

Cote has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder and is expected to argue he was acting in self- defence.

Yue’s horrified parents watched the killing on a security monitor in their upstairs apartment.
The video shows a man, his head concealed by a hood and scarf, entering the store just before 10 p.m. He immediately takes a gun out of his right pant pocket.
“All right, it’s a robbery, take all the money out, hurry up!” the thief tells Yue standing behind the checkout counter. As Yue removes money from the cash register with one hand, he uses the other to press a button that electronically locks both the front and rear exits.

Yue continues to remove money from the cash register, using his free hand to grip the end of a baseball bat under the counter.
When the thief grabs the money and turns his back to flee, Yue reaches over the counter to swing the bat at his head. The swing misses, connecting only with the back of the thief’s jacket.
The thief turns and shoots Yue once in the arm. Yue swings again, this time striking the robber in the back of the head. The thief fires one shot at Yue before ducking behind a display stand. He fires two more times and Yue slumps to the floor.
The thief tries to run out the front exit but can’t open the door. He fires once at the door glass but it does not shatter.
Frantic and screaming, he runs behind the counter and grabs the bat. He bashes the bat at the door glass. The glass doesn’t break but the bat does, in two pieces.
Yue can be heard on the video moaning as the thief runs screaming from one end of the store to another trying to escape. At the back of the store, the thief confronts Yue’s father as he tries to escape through a rear exit. In a sequence of events not shown in court, Yue’s father captures the thief and holds him until police arrive minutes later. In court yesterday, Cote watched the video intently but betrayed no visible change in emotion. Crown attorney Brian Bell said neither the security video nor stills from the video would be released to the media, a decision that is expected to be challenged by at least two city news outlets. The trial continues Friday.


Mathematics: Helping to Avoid Coyote Ugly Since 2005

In Uncategorized on 12/15/2006 at 4:31 pm

Is there anything alcohol can’t do? I’m convinced it causes me to dance better, increases my fearless flirting technique tenfold, and always manages to bring more good-looking fellows into the bar than what should be statistically possible. Sadly, the morning after brings me slowly to a reality I’d much rather not face: I never could dance—last night was no exception, I still have the natural sex appeal of a banana slug, and those lookers a couple hours ago were the same creepers usually encountered at sketchy university watering holes only enhanced through the wonder of “beer goggles.”

The phenomenon known as “beer goggles” is usually brought on by a good-amount of boozing which magically makes even the most unfortunate-looking person into quite the desirable piece of bum.

Researchers at Manchester University have created a mathematical approach to the warped physical appeal brought on by “beer goggles.” Alcohol isn’t the only factor to be looked at; other elements to be worked in include the level of light, the general smokiness, and the distance between the two people. The equation works on a scale from less than one, meaning no beer goggle effect, to more than 100, making even the most offensive person look like a “super model.”

Nathan Efron, Professor of Clinical Optometry at the University of Manchester, claims, “Someone with normal vision, who has consumed five pints of beer and views a person 1.5 metres away in a fairly smoky and poorly lit room, will score 55, which means they would suffer from a moderate beer goggle effect.”

Seeing as a poll showed that 68% of people regretted giving their phone number to someone whom they later discovered they were not exactly attracted to, it may be worthwhile next time you decide to take a night out on the town to bring along a mathematically-inclined, sober friend.


In Uncategorized on 12/15/2006 at 2:41 pm
now is that magical time of the year….

click here to see magic

thanx hedonistica we will miss you…:)

A Happy Ending for the Life Aquatic

In Uncategorized on 12/14/2006 at 8:50 pm

Not only has Central Asia produced the tallest man in the world but he saves dolphins from life-threatening plastic to boot.

Bao Xishun, a 54-year-old Monogolian herdsman and also the tallest man in the world at 7 feet 9 inches, saved two dolphins at an aquarium in Fushun, Liaoning Province in China by using his 41-inch arms to reach inside and remove harmful pieces of plastic from their stomachs after medical instruments and short arms had failed.

This makes me happy about life, and Mongolians, and being tall.

Thanks Carla!

does that mean a skinnier voice…

In Uncategorized on 12/14/2006 at 12:52 am

Worth the weight: skinny Jann Arden

Not pressured into losing pounds — she just wanted to see her cheekbones. Singer-songwriter Jann Arden has recently dropped 60 pounds. That’s a big deal when you’re someone who trades in self-acceptance. Not everyone is thrilled with Jann Arden’s recent shedding of 60 pounds. While some cheer, others are bizarrely betrayed. This last set, I reckon, consider Jann to be something like the Bob Rae of the Rubenesque brigade. Much like that notable New Democrat-turned-Liberal, she’s accused of having switched allegiances, become a turncoat, broken the faith. Fat being, as it so often is, a matter of politics.

“Weight is an emotional issue,” she herself elaborates. “And some people are mad at me. ‘You sold out. You caved under pressure.’ “

The singer-songwriter gives the skinny in a new cover story in Chatelaine. The writer of the article, Katrina Onstad, shades in the rest: “Weight loss is complicated for an artist who trades in self-acceptance and has a huge female following for making no apologies about being large.” So, why and how? Characteristically cheeky, the awesome Arden zings, “I just looked in the mirror and thought, man, I haven’t seen a cheekbone in so long.”

Old-fashioned healthy eating and committed jogging did the trick, she says.
And so we have it — a photo in Chatelaine that has Jann Arden looking all sultry and smoky and even a bit, if you blink, like Britain’s Jemina Khan! So no, Jann, it’s true what they say about pleasing all of the people. And yes, we’re keen to hear your new album, out early next year.
Oh, and just one more thing: Our Calgarian chanteuse says that she for sure gets the fat gene from her dad’s part of the family. Mom’s side “are like sparrows,” and as she goes on to chuckle, “I look at my father and I curse his sperm!”

Shinan Govani is National Post’s resident snoop, town-crier and people-watcher. His column, Scene, is the in-the-know-must-turn-to place in the Post. Govani explains: “Writing a social/gossip column is pure fun, but it’s fun that I take very seriously. It involves working the late shift, covering the parties, tracking the buzz, and decoding the personalities that make Toronto and the country tick.” In addition to his regular column, this serial socializer also writes the both cheeky and useful Dinner Party Crash Course in the Saturday Post. In addition, he frequently appears on television, and his work has also appeared in such publications as Salon, George, Details, enRoute, Toronto Life and Flare

Sigmund has the last word…

In bblonde, sigmund on 12/13/2006 at 1:25 pm

A neurological disorder in which physiological symptoms are discernible without seemingly justifiable reasons is commonly termed a ‘conversion disorder’ and is generally accepted to be subconciously triggered by stressful and/or traumatic events. The critical point here is that the symptoms of conversion disorder, which may include loss of coordination or balance, facial tics, loss of specific senses such as sight or hearing, difficulty swallowing or feeling of a lump in the throat, paralysis of limb, etc… are entirely involuntary. In essence the person is not consciously acting out the consequent physiological effects and often not even aware of the physical symptoms until it is pointed out to them.

The irony is that ‘conversion disorder’ was a term coined by Freud because he thought that people unconsciously converted a psychological distress into a physiological symptom, and has long been looked upon by the medical establishment as a ‘phantom’ disease more appropriately to be categorized under psychosomatic ailments. Although unfortunately it is still more commonly referred to as ‘hysteria’, its unusual features haven’t changed. Sufferers have neurological symptoms ranging from numbness in a limb to paralysis, memory loss and seizures, that cannot be traced to any known medical problem. That is, until now. ..

Now a new study, published in the December issue of medical journal Neurology finds that a part of the brain which normally responds to touch was inactive when the numb body part was stimulated – proof that the symptoms really exist. Omar Ghaffar, a resident in psychiatry at Sunnybrook and the study’s lead author along with Anthony Feinstein of UofT, says the findings are good news for those who have long been told their condition was imaginary and offers brain evidence that “validates” the general Freudian view of the disorder. So next time your significant other complains of tingling sensations or nervous tic, don’t be so quick to assume that they are imagining it, try offering a deep back rub instead 🙂

at what price a cure for heart break..?

In Uncategorized on 12/12/2006 at 2:43 pm

There was big news on the heart front last week. A hot new pharmaceutical with the tongue-twister name of torcetrapib failed miserably, despite the 15 years of research and $800 million that Pfizer devoted to it. The finding left in its wake stunned investigators and a passel of cardiologists scratching their heads over the loss of a dream drug, one they’ve been waiting for ever since it became clear there was such a thing as a good cholesterol. There’s no doubt that torcetrapib raises HDL, the good cholesterol, just as well-known statin drugs like Lipitor lower the bad LDL cholesterol. Using both agents together seemed to offer a promising new way to fight off heart attacks and strokes.

But the complexity of the human body dashed this grand hope when an independent monitoring group-the only individuals privy to the results-advised Pfizer to halt its major research trial involving 15,000 patients. Among patients taking torcetrapib plus Lipitor, there were 82 deaths; that’s compared with 51 in the group on Lipitor alone. And reportedly there was also an increase in nonfatal cardiac events including angina, heart failure, and the need for angioplasty. For the HDL-raising drug to show little added benefit is one thing. For it to increase heart problems is a real shocker.

After all, HDL acts like Drano on an artery clogged with atherosclerotic plaque. It infiltrates plaque, sucks up bad LDL, and carries it off to the liver for discard. A low HDL (less than 40 mg/dl) is a well-known cardiovascular risk factor, and each 1 mg/dl rise in HDL is estimated to reduce that risk by 2 percent. But anyone who has low HDL (mainly men) knows how hard it is to move that number. Exercise, a glass of wine, maybe a little fish oil, even the statins can bump it up a few points, but that’s about it. The B vitamin niacin raises good cholesterol by up to 25 percent, but it comes with the troublesome side effect of flushing of the head and neck. That’s why torcetrapib, which raises HDL by about 50 percent with few side effects except for a minor increase in blood pressure, was a long-awaited breakthrough.

By all accounts, torcetrapib seemed to be a sure bet. Its novel design inhibits a particular protein, called CTEP, that regulates cholesterol, with a net effect of making the good cholesterol rise and the bad fall. Research in animals with atherosclerosis found that plaque shrank considerably with the new drug. Indeed, the buzz at last month’s annual American Heart Association meeting in Chicago was that torcetrapib was mighty close to its victory lap. Pfizer even predicted approval by the Food and Drug Administration in 2007. There were no signs to the contrary. However, in the final analysis of its heart effects in humans, it missed the mark.

Quality matters. What may explain this, plain and simple, is that all HDL is not created equal. In fact, some forms are downright dysfunctional, unable to remove the bad cholesterol from the arteries, and worse, are so chemically altered that the HDL actually stimulates inflammation and blood clots. Those are the very factors that can make atherosclerotic plaque in an artery swell up, rupture, and clot, triggering a heart attack or a stroke. Bernadine.

Bernadine Healy M.D., is a health editor for U.S.News & World Report and writes the On Health column for the magazine. A Harvard- and Hopkins-trained physician, Healy is a past Director of the National Institutes of Health, where she started the Women’s Health Initiative. She is currently a member of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology and is a leader in patient care research and education.

Let’s keep it PC, shall we?

In Uncategorized on 12/09/2006 at 7:53 pm

The 12 Politically Correct Days of Christmas. Because we here at brainwashcafe do not wish to offend or promote controversy in any way 😉 And for the traditional, albeit potentially offensive lyrics, click the link.

On the 12th day of the Eurocentrically imposed midwinter festival, my Significant Other in a consenting adult, monogamous relationship gave to me:

TWELVE males reclaiming their inner warrior through ritual drumming,
ELEVEN pipers piping (plus the 18-member pit orchestra made up of members in good standing of the Musicians Equity Union as called for in their union contract even though they will not be asked to play a note),
TEN melanin-deprived testosterone-poisoned scions of the patriarchal ruling class system leaping,
NINE persons engaged in rhythmic self-expression,
EIGHT economically disadvantaged female persons stealing milk-products from enslaved Bovine-Americans,
SEVEN endangered swans swimming on federally protected wetlands,
SIX enslaved Fowl-Americans producing stolen non-human animal products,
FIVE golden symbols of culturally sanctioned enforced domestic incarceration, (NOTE: after members of the Animal Liberation Front threatened to throw red paint at my computer, the calling birds, French hens and partridge have been reintroduced to their native habitat. To avoid further Animal-American enslavement, the remaining gift package has been revised.)
FOUR hours of recorded whale songs,
THREE deconstructionist poets,
TWO Sierra Club calendars printed on recycled processed tree carcasses, and
ONE Spotted Owl activist chained to an old-growth pear tree.

Merry Christmas. Happy Chanukah/Hanukkah. Good Kwanzaa. Blessed Yule. Oh, hell! Happy Holidays!!!! (unless otherwise prohibited by law)

Unless, of course, you are suffering from Seasonally Affected Disorder (SAD). If this be the case, please substitute this gratuitous call for celebration with a suggestion that you have a thoroughly adequate day.

Received this in an email donkey’s years ago

the ultimate dating game…?

In kacs on 12/09/2006 at 3:40 am

Sadly this is not what you think. In spite of obvious chemistry and the shared passion for the ‘game’, this is no Blind Date reality-show-match in the making between Vesselin and Judith. Or to be more precise, Grandmasters Vesslin Topalov and Judith Polgar to you and I. This is a chess ‘match’ between the recent World Champion and the current World’s best female Grandmaster in the history of the game (and consistently among the top 10 in the world, men or women) being held from December 7–9 2006 at the renowned Gugenheim Museum in the Basque city of Bilbao. And yes, they are playing blindfolded.
The match consists of six rapid games, two played on each of the three days. Time controls are 25 minutes per game for each player + 10 sec. per move. The rounds start at 17:30h local time. You can watch the game in a live Java broadcast provided by the official site, or in the broadcast room of
On the first day Veselin Topalov unfortunately won the first game in 27 moves with the white pieces in a Keres Attack of the Sicilian Scheveningen. The second game ended after 55 moves in a draw. Since we know that all you people are eagerly awaiting to find out the exact moves, we bring the following play by play of this exciting match for your edification and overnight analysis. Enjoy 🙂

GM Topalov,Veselin [BUL] (2813) – GM Polgar,Judit [HUN] (2710) [B81]Duelo Mundial de Ajedrez a Ciega blind Bilbao ESP (1), 07.12.20061.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 e6 6.Be3 Be7 7.g4 h5 8.gxh5 Rxh5 9.h4 Nc6 10.Be2 Re5 11.Nf3 Ra5 12.a3 d5 13.b4 Nxb4 14.axb4 Bxb4 15.Bd2 dxe4 16.Nb5 Rxa1 17.Qxa1 Bc5 18.Ng5 a6 19.Qe5 axb5 20.Qxc5 Ra1+ 21.Bd1 b6 22.Qxb5+ Bd7 23.Qb2 Qa8 24.0-0 b5 25.Bb4 Ra2 26.Qe5 Qc6 27.h5 1-0.
GM Polgar,Judit (2710) – GM Topalov,Veselin (2813) [B33]Bilbao Blindfold match (2), 07.12.20061.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 e5 6.Ndb5 d6 7.Bg5 a6 8.Na3 b5 9.Nd5 Be7 10.Bxf6 Bxf6 11.c3 Bg5 12.Nc2 0-0 13.h4 Bh6 14.g3 Rb8 15.Bh3 Bxh3 16.Rxh3 a5 17.Nce3 Bxe3 18.Nxe3 Ne7 19.h5 f5 20.exf5 Nxf5 21.Qd5+ Kh8 22.Nxf5 Rxf5 23.h6 Qf6 24.hxg7+ Kxg7 25.0-0-0 Rxf2 26.Qxd6 Qg5+ 27.Kb1 Qg6+ 28.Qxg6+ hxg6 29.Rd7+ Kf6 30.Rhh7 Re2 31.Rd6+ Kf5 32.a3 g5 33.Ra6 b4 34.axb4 axb4 35.Rf7+ Kg4 36.Ra4 Kxg3 37.Rxb4 Rxb4 38.cxb4 Re4 39.b5 Rb4 40.Rb7 e4 41.b6 g4 42.Kc2 e3 43.Kd3 Rb3+ 44.Ke2 Kh2 45.Rh7+ Kg2 46.b7 g3 47.Rg7 Kh2 48.Rh7+ Kg1 49.Rg7 g2 50.Rh7 Rxb2+ 51.Kxe3 Rb6 52.Kd4 Kf2 53.Rf7+ Ke2 54.Rg7 Rxb7 55.Rxg2+ 1/2-1/2.
Click to replay and download games

winner of ‘Not My Job’ award

In Uncategorized on 12/08/2006 at 8:35 pm

…although we think an argument could well be made for “respect the nature” award…

Thanks misszoepearl 🙂

and just in time for the holidays…

In Uncategorized on 12/07/2006 at 1:09 am

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the leading causes of death in the United States are, in this order, heart disease, cancer, stroke, chronic lower respiratory diseases, and “accidental injury,” a broad category that includes a lot of stuff that just happens.

You are more likely to commit suicide or fall to your death than be killed by a tsunami or any natural disaster, the odds say.

…but you just might suffer a fatal car accident, have a heart attack or fall to your death (though probably not all at the same time), according to a recent study by National Geographic. The results of the study, rendered in an interesting series of concentric circles which we can only reproduce tiny-style here(click here for the full graphic), are both fascinating and at the same time not all that surprising. Learning that cancer was considerably more likely to do me in than a fireworks accident (hence, this blog’s title) wasn’t particularly jaw-dropping. But, being the trivia buff that I am, I couldn’t resist the picayune (and morbid) details. So let’s run the numbers!

In 2003, your lifetime odds of dying by
– falling out of bed were 1 in 4,473.
– being crushed by a nonvenomous reptile was, unsurprisingly, 0.
– a sudden change in air pressure were 1 in 374,804.
– having your pajamas catch on fire were 1 in 1,249,356.
– an accidental overdose of sleeping pills or other narcotics were 1 in 406. (A little too close to 1 for comfort, if you ask me.)
– cataclysmic storm were 1 in 49,974.

The big problem with this study? All the odds are for 2003. What if my odds of being crushed by a reptile are like 1 in 5 this year? (For some reason, thinking about my odds of dying a lot tends to put me on edge.)

thanks to Mental-Floss boys;)

be Adequite…

In Uncategorized on 12/01/2006 at 3:19 am

Lohan offers words of condolence to Altman’s family

There are those who have been moved to great eloquence and passion by the death of the eminent film director Robert Altman. And then there is Lindsay Lohan.

The 20-year-old actress, who scored a part in Altman’s last movie, A Prairie Home Companion, made the interesting decision to go public with a condolence letter she wrote to the Altman family in the wake of his death from cancer last week. The passion was certainly there – she, like many dozens of actors before her, clearly adored the experience of working in Altman’s characteristic freeform style – but the letter was also spectacular in its incoherence and disregard of basic grammar and spelling.

“I am lucky enough to of been able to work with Robert Altman amongst the other greats on a film that I can genuinely say created a turning point in my career,” she began, less than certainly. “He was the closest thing to my father and grandfather that I really do believe I’ve had in several years… He left us with a legend that all of us have the ability to do.” A little lower down, she fell into improv philosophy, apparently riffing on the notion that life is too short to waste: “Make a searching and fearless moral inventory of yourselves’ (12st book) – everytime there’s a triumph in the world a million souls hafta be trampled on. – altman Its true. But treasure each triumph as they come.” And she signed off, “Be adequite. Lindsay Lohan.”

The letter has become the talk of Hollywood since its release over the weekend. Was the actress on a misguided – and utterly botched – quest for publicity, exploiting the death of a revered director for her own purposes? Had she been on one of her legendary party benders? Or was this Exhibit A for the indictment of America’s education system?

Lohan fans sought to argue that the letter really was not that incoherent after all – the errors no worse than the average teenage e-mail exchange.

Patt Morrison, a columnist with the Los Angeles Times, begged to differ, calling the letter “alarmingly incoherent” and questioning what it was Lohan had learnt at the Long Island schools that gave her straight As.

“As for the brilliant Mr Altman himself,” Ms Morrison added, “I suspect he might find sardonic comedic potential in all of this.”

By Andrew Gumbel in Los Angeles
Published: 29 November 2006

Computer Technology Both Amuses and Frightens Me

In Uncategorized on 11/30/2006 at 9:16 pm

There is not a more perfect time to introduce online procrastination material than when exam period begins to loom on the horizon. Now this feature has been available for some time, but I hope it brings joy to at least one person who’d rather be doing anything than real work. allows you to scan in a photo of yourself while it, through some magical technology of its own- okay, they call it an algorithm, will match you with celebrities who you most resemble, giving a percentage of how physically similar you are.
Originally the aim was to compare faces as a genealogical tool “through photos and meta-data contributed by yourself and other users” so that “the more photos added to the system, the more powerful it becomes.” This algorithm finds relatives of people in your photo owing to the “genetic-based facial similarities that exist between relatives.” You could therefore use this to formulate links between people whom you never even knew were related.
Whether you use it to explore your family tree, or you simply want a few chuckles, myheritage guarantees a good time. Hint: your matches will vary depending on the tilt of your head and the expression you are making so go ahead and scan a few photos for a variety of matches. You may be flattered (74% Gisele Bündchen- good thing they didn’t measure the size of my thighs), a little weirded-out (66% Tom Cruise- everyone loves a scientologist?), or doubting what it means to be a woman (54% Michael Moore- I think I’ll go kill myself now), but bottom-line, you’ll have wasted at least 30 minutes.

boys will be boys…

In Uncategorized on 11/28/2006 at 2:56 pm

Sadly there aren’t many things that throw us off composure but the recent rash of revelations as to how certain business moguls got their initial start to spark their astounding success (or is it the other way around) definitely got our attention. First there was our very own fav Jawed Karim (yes that Jawed) who got the inspiration for YouTube empire while trying to belatedly download Janet Jackson’s nipple slip, and now hot off the presses comes news that (sigh..the things we dig up for you people) Laurence Lewin (see photo right) talking about how Melanie Griffith didn’t look that great but…

“…I was watching the movie Working Girl, and there’s a scene where Melanie Griffith is vacuuming in her underwear. … Anyway, she’s wearing some sort of frilly underwear and she looks absolutely fabulous despite not having the best figure. That got me thinking about great underwear and how it could make women feel. At the time, lingerie was sold in department stores and, in my opinion, it was boring. The bras looked like a lineup of white and beige soldiers. I wanted to make it more fashionable, more fun.”

Hmm…right. Well that little company that Melanie ‘inspired’ became a little known Canadian retailer called La Senza which became awash in umm..a tiny bit of cash this past week to the tune of about $710 million dollars since its announcement this past week that it had been acquired in a friendly takeover by Limited Brands of USA which in turn just happens to own Victoria’s Secret. Of course we are always happy to see a Canadian success story but… is it only us that thinks Janet and Melanie should be entitled to a huge chunk of the respective ’empires’ that they inspired? Stay tuned…

life in the not so fast lane… #24

In Uncategorized on 11/26/2006 at 9:52 pm

sometimes talent alone just ain’t enough 😦

thanx nadia:)

life in the fast lane… #48

In Uncategorized on 11/24/2006 at 1:56 am

Overheard in Starbucks

I couldn’t quite believe my ears when the person in front of me in the queue at Starbucks ordered (in a dead-pan voice):

“A tall skinny Ethiopian, please”

I did my best to hold back the laughter, but I ended up sniggering. And then the barista (who knows me well) saw the look of my face and then started to crack up herself.

Meanwhile the person ordering the coffee had no idea what was going on or the hilarity of what she had just ordered.

thanks Ben 😉


In Uncategorized on 11/22/2006 at 10:46 pm

Never seen before: this remarkable image of an unborn elephant, taken approximately six months into the two-year gestation period, was captured using a combination of 3D ultrasound scans and tiny cameras inserted into the mother’s womb. They were taken for the National Geographic TV channel, to be shown next year.
© Channel 4

Chef Cook Off is Here ;~)

In nessiepicks on 11/21/2006 at 6:20 pm

So it’s that time of the year again. We here at brainwashcafe have decided to search for the McGill’s most extraordinary culinary talent and so we’ve reduced ourselves to “labrat” status (letters/emails of consolation are welcome) in order to find him/her/it.

Our rating system is based on few yet important factors (feel free to suggest more):

1. THE “wow” factor (and we ain’t necessarily talking food here)
2. less is more (this goes for dress code especially)
3. performance speed (without breaking a sweat… well, maybe a little)
4. t.t.t. (taste taste taste!!)
And so for the last several weeks there have been random individuals (mostly of the androgen redundant variety) showing up at our door with sharp knives (eeek!) , strange um..spices, cooking us great(?) meals for chance of winning title of brainwashcafe‘s MEC (most extraordinary chef). But as you all know, we gals tend to get confused (waddaya mean you dont use alcohol ever), biased (kate, who cares if he can’t cook just look at him!!) or both and so we thought to leave it up to YOU! guys to decide who we should consider taking on. Good luck!

Introducing Chef Contestant #1: Nick
St. Pius X Culinary Institute graduate
Trilingual: english, french, and spanish
Counselor for troubled youth on his spare time
Certified First Aid ( and French …hmm)
He knows his cheese. Spent 3 months serving it!
Best Known for Quote: “A kitchen is a kitchen.”

mother of all reviews…

In Uncategorized on 11/19/2006 at 7:42 pm

Listening to Evan expound on his true love is somewhat akin to passing by a train wreck. You know you shoudn’t stare but… (warning; it’s a little long !)


I never saw Goldfinger on the big screen. Perhaps if I had I would have something to reference my experience watching Casino Royale last night. As a James Bond fan seeing Goldfinger on opening night in 1964 is probably the only experience that might have come close. Only if I had been there could I say for sure what I now believe; Casino Royale is by far the best James Bond film ever made.

Let me give you a little bit of information about myself to qualify this opinion. Since The Living Daylights I have walked out the theatre after every new James Bond film with the feeling that I had just seen the best James Bond film, then after a few months and a few more viewings I have come down to earth and the movie slides down into its position in my list of favourite Bond films. This effect, I believe, is because of the excitement of seeing a new James Bond film gigantic, for the first time up on the big screen, just outweighs seeing the other films for the umpteenth time on the television. Hence, the virgin viewing of Tomorrow Never Dies trumps the seventy-fourth viewing of Goldfinger.

Casino Royale, however, is different. I’ve never left the theatre with this great of a feeling about a new Bond film. Never.

You see, Casino Royale is a complete experience. It not just a great Bond film. But also a great film. Casino Royale has achieved something the no other Bond film has achieved; it has three dimensions.

The Creature From The Black Lagoon.

I never saw The Creature From The Black Lagoon on the big screen in 3-D. But I did see a trailer for it when I went to see another lousy 3-D film. The Creature’s trailer in 3-D blew me away with the depth of the three dimensional effect. This was the same way that Casino Royale affected me, only Casino’s depth was of character and plot, and not of special cameras and glasses.

I’ll start with Daniel Craig’s portrayal of James Bond. Craig made James Bond a real person rather than a character. Craig let me feel Bond’s emotions, amazingly even when he was suppressing them. Craig showed me how James Bond could truly fall in love. Craig made me feel the danger and the fear, and made me see how this man Bond could stand up to them.
Now I love Sean Connery’s James Bond, but the depth just isn’t there. Nor is it there for Lazenby or Moore. The depth Dalton added was a mere embossing. And Brosnan’s attempts to add depth to the character were less The Creature From The Black Lagoon and more Sharkboy and Lavagirl, a movie that would flash on the screen in big text, ‘Put your 3-D glasses on we’re going to add depth now’.

Eva Green’s Vesper Lynd was more than three dimensional. I don’t know how many of you have had higher maths, but I recall in some calculus class or another being taught about four dimensional objects moving through three dimensional spaces, and while the object would be of one solid shape in four dimensions, in three it would appear to be a fluid, changing object that could be only truly understood if viewed in four dimensions. Such was the character of Vesper, only at the end of the film, when we knew all of Vesper’s dimensions, did her character’s actions through the film truly take shape. Enigmatic is the word that has been used to describe Vesper, and Miss Green’s complex yet simple approach to Vesper plays perfectly to the word. You see Vesper is a character of… shall we say ‘burdens’ to keep this review spoiler free. Her burdens dictate how she interacts with Bond. And only when seen with that extra dimension is her character’s form fully understood. Until then its concept and its beauty is just a wonder to behold. Miss Green’s own beauty on the other hand is obvious through the whole film.
Mads Mikkelson turned one of Ian Fleming’s most ordinary villains into the James Bond series’s most fascinating. It has been pointed out that that Le Chiffre is not the megalomanic, ‘let’s start World War III’ type Bond villains, but Le Chiifre unlike all Bond main villains is not even the most evil person in the film. While he is not the greatest evil, he is the centre of evil. Mikkelson plays this near perfection. The fear, the fearlessness, the confidence, the desperation, the sadism, the creepiness (with some points going to the makeup department) each flow steadily from the villain.

Casino’s lesser players each are displayed in Glorious 3-D Characterisations too. Judi Dench’s M is surprising. Let’s get this straight right now, this is not the same M that gave orders to Pierce Brosnan’s James Bond. This time M is the relic of the Cold War and this time she really does ‘have the balls’.

Giancarlo Giannini as Mathis makes the best Bond ally ever. His character comes straight from the novel, yet his story improves on the novel.

Felix Leiter as played by Jeffery Wright manages to do as much with Felix as any of those who had taken the role before him, but with barely the screen time of John Terry.

Die Hard, Raiders of the Lost Ark, The French Connection, anything Jackie Chan.

Okay, now these films I saw on the big screen and action-wise, Casino Royale is in these films’ league. More French Connection in Casino’s grit and ability to weave the action into the artistry. More Die Hard and Lost Ark in adrenaline. And Jackie Chan because… well, I’m a big Jackie Chan fan precisely because with every stunt and every action set piece you truly believe that Jackie could get seriously hurt or maybe killed. Casino takes that a step further, while you may know that Jackie Chan might get hurt, you believe his character will survive just fine. (That makes the action greater, but downgrades the film). In Casino you believe that James Bond may not survive. Craig’s Bond may sustain more injuries in this film than a Jackie Chan blooper reel, and definitely more than the previous Bonds had combined.

Ian Fleming.

Never has Fleming’s writing been given this much respect. The movie actually felt like the novel. Now Msrs. Purvis, Wade, and Haggis may have updated every inch of the story contained in Ian Fleming’s first novel yet still managed to make the only Bond film that felt like the novel it was adapted from. Sure, From Russia With Love and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service are very true content of the novels. Casino Royale is true to much more. It is true to its novel’s spirit. It is true to its novel’s soul.

A few Bond fans and so-called Bond fans predicted this new film would have Ian Fleming making one of his famous turns in his grave that they seem to think he performs regularly; if true, this roll will be only because Fleming realised the changes that could have been made to improve his first novel. One twist added to a Fleming-sacred character was such an improvement to the story that if the late Mr Fleming’s casket were ever to stir, it surely would have been when that missed opportunity was penned on to the script.


I wasn’t born yet. But Casino Royale’s love story set against mystery, intrigue, and danger is near or on this level. Craig’s James Bond and Bogart’s Rick Blaine each in love with Green’s Vesper Lynd and Bergman’s Ilsa Lund respectfully. The parallels are there, only Casino is absent its Victor Laszlo, which surprisingly only makes its love triangle more compelling. And Bond’s final line about Vesper bites harder than ‘We’ll always have Paris’.

A Classic? I’m really comparing Casino Royale to a Classic? Yes, I am, and I am going to state right here and now that Producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G Wilson have finally stepped out of the shadow of the James Bond series’ great patriarch, one Albert R ‘Cubby’ Broccoli, and in doing so have finally surpassed him. In doing so they have given us a new Classic.

Now, I must tell myself that after a few months and a few more viewings I may very well come down to earth and Casino Royale will slide down below Casablanca into its position in my list entitled Best Films Ever Made. It will, however, undoubtedly forever remain atop my list of Best James Bond Films. signed, Evan Willnow.

Casino Royale Rating: 5/5

thanks Evan 😉

life in the fast lane…

In Uncategorized on 11/13/2006 at 9:13 pm

So we admit whilst the mid-term elections were gripping the entire nation south of our border, war in Iraq raged on with daily death counts, Borat conquered Hollywood with penny ante budget mockumentary, we here at brainwashcafe were avidly tracking.. um..the amazing saga of Zahra Amir Ebrahimi. Yes indeed you may ask, Zahra who?? The short answer would be she is Iran’s most popular actress, at least until recently, when she suddenly began to be also referred to as the Iranian Paris Hilton.. except that unlike Paris’s inexplicable fame and fortune, Zahra is facing an extensive jail term, financial ruin, and a public flogging (yup you read that right, as in whipped) for engaging in pretty much exactly the same bedroom antics.

It turns out that in this hard core (oh pls;) islamic nation, releasing explicit sex tapes of one’s private amorous acrobatics can be hazardous to your health, even through no fault of one’s own. Zahra’s ex-boyfriend (i mean like who else right? when will we gals ever learn..) secretly started distributing a 20 minute bare-all tape on internet, and then surprise fled to more liberal neighboring Dubai to escape prosecution, where, we assume he’s also counting his profits. Bastard.

Amid rumors of attempted suicide and absence of hard facts, speculations are running rampant, as are rogue copies of the hot tapes being posted on YouTube. Not that we want to make light of all this, but this only goes to show that even in Iran, boys are boys and all they want is the SAME bleeping THING!! It seems mom was right all along ;( .. Sordid details right here.

H&K’s Guide to Everything Part I; Pedestrianism

In Uncategorized on 11/13/2006 at 5:11 pm

Although there are a few Montreal references, we like to think this Guide can be appreciated by most urbanites outside of our lovely city.

Sometimes I thank all that’s holy that I don’t drive. Montreal is full of crack-pot drivers who I’m convinced make it their lifelong goal to kill me. Even though this city couldn’t be designed better for the walkers here, I still find it a scary place in need of a guide for innocent pedestrians.
Road-Raging Power-Walkers are the worst type of pedestrians conceivable. For some reason unbeknownst to the rest of humanity, Power-Walkers have an impulse to move at breakneck speeds that regular people would be forced to jog at. I don’t understand why these people are walking so quickly all the time; they’re pretty much the epitome of all that is annoying, so I know for for a fact that they are not rushing to meet up with friends, or that they have a social life in any shape or form. While I have often been tempted to maneuver myself in front of them and gleefully watch while their (probably robotic) heads explode, I haven’t as of yet been able to build up the courage. Scary Power-Walkers, you rule the sidewalk for a reason.
The Multi-Tasker is a familiar phenomenon identifiable by their talent for doing nothing well but their knack for doing five things miserably half-assed. Usually running behind from their repetitive snooze-button pushing, Multi-Taskers are often seen half-dressed while eating breakfast with one hand and texting on their cells with the other. These walkers pose a 100% threat of pissing you the hell off. Their speed is often erratic and requires constant surveillance to avoid possible 8-people pile-ups.
The Socialite is an especially obnoxious breed to your average antisocial student walker. Socialites like to walk arm in arm with their fellow socialites on two-lane sidewalks, forcing all oncoming traffic into snow banks, walls, or parked cars. If you’re trapped behind them, expect a long wait; they form impenetrable walls and they’re aware of little else outside of their conversation of how they were “soooo drunk/stoned/etc. last night.” To these obstacles of pure annoyance, try speaking the language. I find a good smack with a knockoff Louis Vuitton bag does nicely, or getting all Naomi Campbell on their asses and hurling a Swarovski crystal-encrusted Blackberry at their heads.
Out-of-Towners can be easily recognized for their poor pedestrianism. Yes, I’m afraid, ironic as it is, globe-trotting tourists are failures when it actually comes to trotting. First of all, they are among the almost non-existent minority of people in Montreal who wait for the traffic lights to change in order to cross the street. Furthermore, not only will these pedestrians be moving slowly in order to capture the magical moments of Montreal on film, they actively disrupt the fine balance of the sidewalk-habitat by stopping other pedestrians in order to ask for directions. The nerve! Add on to this the way they integrate their own unique customs into their walking (something foreign and British like walking on the left) and you might as well stick them in a cab, pay their fare, and point them politely in the direction of the Bio-dome.
Now if this were the streets of California, things would take care of themselves: the Road-Raging Power Walker would get cut-off by the Multi-Tasker and out of a fit of blinding fury, pull out a .9 mm and pop a cap in their ass. Then, because they’ve nothing else to lose, they take out the infuriating Socialites and Out-of-Towners and subsequently lead the LAPD on a high-speed chase to the Mexican border. Fortunately or unfortunately, due to geographical location, our urban jungle is a wee bit different and a hell of a lot more frozen. There are numerous other obstacles on the sidewalk that should be handled with care. This category includes, but is not limited to ice, drunks, children, dogs, pigeons, strollers, people on crutches, homeless people, umbrellas, and stationary bus lines. Please be safe. And if you’re anybody on this list, save us all our sanity and use public transport.
Next time on H&K’s Guide to Everything: The Woes of Public Transport


In Uncategorized on 11/08/2006 at 6:04 pm

…or also known as botanophilic voyeurism.

my damaged brain…?

In bblonde, damaged brain on 11/07/2006 at 1:57 am

So, I have a confession to make. I buy a single lottery ticket every wednesday, without fail. This past week a ‘friend’ informs me matter of factly that therapy may be required for what is clearly and obviously a gambling addiction. Luckily for her there weren’t any heavy object immediately discernable to throw but it did jostle my sensitive memory cells about the subject
Fact is, our perception of brain damage has never really extended to our own behavioral patterns, particularly when it involves recurring but non-intrusive compulsive activities like gambling. Even in the face of pretty concrete neurological evidence dating as far back as 2003, gambling is still categorized as an impulse control disorder, where even hard core pathological gamblers are considered ‘healthy’ with respect to their cognitive behavior. To save my failing brain (sigh) the trouble of summarizing badly, I have dug up for you gentle readers, the original abstract in its entirety innocently titled;

Brain damage and addictive behavior: a neuropsychological and electroencephalogram investigation with pathologic gamblers. Enjoy while I rip up my lottery ticket… ;

BACKGROUND: Gambling is a form of nonsubstance addiction classified as an impulse control disorder. Pathologic gamblers are considered healthy with respect to their cognitive status. Lesions of the frontolimbic systems, mostly of the right hemisphere, are associated with addictive behavior. Because gamblers are not regarded as “brain-lesioned” and gambling is nontoxic, gambling is a model to test whether addicted “healthy” people are relatively impaired in frontolimbic neuropsychological functions. METHODS: Twenty-one nonsubstance dependent gamblers and nineteen healthy subjects underwent a behavioral neurologic interview centered on incidence, origin, and symptoms of possible brain damage, a neuropsychological examination, and an electroencephalogram. RESULTS: Seventeen gamblers (81%) had a positive medical history for brain damage (mainly traumatic head injury, pre- or perinatal complications). The gamblers, compared with the controls, were significantly more impaired in concentration, memory, and executive functions, and evidenced a higher prevalence of non-right-handedness (43%) and, non-left-hemisphere language dominance (52%). Electroencephalogram (EEG) revealed dysfunctional activity in 65% of the gamblers, compared with 26% of controls. CONCLUSIONS: This study shows that the “healthy” gamblers are indeed brain-damaged. Compared with a matched control population, pathologic gamblers evidenced more brain injuries, more fronto-temporo-limbic neuropsychological dysfunctions and more EEG abnormalities. The authors thus conjecture that addictive gambling may be a consequence of brain damage, especially of the frontolimbic systems, a finding that may well have medicolegal consequences.
Dr.Regard M, Dr. Knoch D, Dr. Gutling E, Dr. Landis T.
Department of Neurology, University Hospital, Zurich, Switzerland.

dickheads redux…

In Uncategorized on 11/05/2006 at 2:19 am

So we think this is beautifully um..drawn and very funny, not to mention really educational for all the francophiles among us. Such an innovative way to learn foreign policy:)

thanks nadine 😉

an inside joke…

In Uncategorized on 11/04/2006 at 2:04 pm

sorry guys, but this will only make sense to Canadians…

merci Fabien 🙂

for gals only…69 sperm facts you thought you knew…

In Uncategorized on 10/30/2006 at 5:52 pm

Yes, it is just possible some gentle readers of this blog may be forgiven for falsely assuming that we seem to have an unusual ‘fixation’ with little spermatozoid creatures.. Please rest assured that all’s well in brainwashcafeland ; We merely reflect the inquisitive nature of our bright brillant loyal readers. What you see dear readers, is what we see…so without further ado and by popular ‘consensus’, here is everything you need to know about um..the lovely little creatures…
1. Sperm is produced at an average rate of 1,500 per second per testicle.
2. The sperm is the smallest cell in the body
3. The female egg is the largest,
4. It takes 175,000 sperm to weigh as much as one female egg
5. It takes about 100 days for sperm to form and mature.
6. The average ejaculation contains about a teaspoonful of semen which contains 200-500 million sperm.
7. There are about 3 million little sperm brats at the tip of a penis every time he get an erection, all waiting to break free.
8. The average sperm count fell from 113 million sperm/ml of semen in 1940 to 66 million/ml in 1990
9. A sperm’s tail, called flagellum, spins like a boat propeller to move the sperm forward. It is the human body’s only rotary ‘engine’.
10. 400 million sperm produced will all fit on the head of a pin.
11. Because sperm are so tiny, they account for only about 1/10 of the volume of semen. The rest is fluid from the seminal vesicles and prostate gland.
12. If an average ejaculation filled an Olympic sized swimming pool, each sperm cell would be smaller than a tiny goldfish.
13. Alkaline-based foods like meat and fish produce a semem
14. Acidic fruits cranberries, blueberries and plums produce a pleasant, sugary flavor. Fruits like kiwi, watermelon, celery, and pineapple will make semen taste lighter. Beer and coffee leaves a rather bitter taste in the mouth.
15. Distance sperm travels to fertilize an egg: 3 to 4 inches
16. Time it takes sperm to fertilize an egg: 2.5 seconds
17. The average time a sperm survives in the female reproductive tract: 3 days.
18. The average time a sperm survives in the man’s body: 6 months.
19. Sperm that aren’t ejaculated get broken down and reabsorbed or are washed away in urine.
20. Sadly, Men can’t run out of sperm.
21. Masturbation and sex doesn’t use up sperm.
22. The body keeps making sperm as long as a man has at least one testicle.
23. Sperm have a 6 inch swim to reach the woman’s egg. This is equal to 10- mile swim for a man.
24. At least 32 different chemicals have been found in semen. They include 20 amino acids, glucose, citric acid, fructose, Vitamin C, Vitamin B12, Potassium, Calcium and Copper.
25. Average number of times a man will ejaculate in his lifetime: 7,200
26. Average # of times he will ejaculate from masturbation: 2,000
27. Average total amount of lifetime ejaculate: 14 gallons
28. Average amount of water it takes to fill a bathtub: 35 gallons
29. Average speed of sperm travel; 45 km per hour
30. Average speed of a city bus: 40 km per hour
31. Average # of calories in a teaspoon of semen: 7
32. Average # of calories in a can of Dr. Pepper: 150
33. Average length of penis when not erect: 3.5 inches
34. Average length when erect: 5.1 inches
35. Average answer from guys when asked to measure their own: 6.0 inches
36. Smallest natural penis recorded: 5/8 of an inch
37. Largest natural penis recorded: 11 inches
38. Largest penis in the animal kingdom: 11 feet (blue whale)
39. Height from court floor to the rim of a basketball hoop: 10 feet
40. Most arousing time of day/season for a man: early morning/fall
41. Best ways to improve sexual function: start exercising.
42. Percent of men who say they masturbate: 60%
43. Percent of men who say they masturbate at least once a day: 54%
44. Percent of men who say they feel guilty masturbating that often: 41%
45. Amount of time needed for a man to regain erection: from 2 min to 2weeks
46. Average # of erections per day for a man: 11
47. Average # of erections during the night: 9
48. Often, semen has an odor that resembles chlorine
49. Sperm life: 2 1/2 months (from development to ejaculation)
50. Cost of a year’s supply of condoms used by average male: $100
51. Thickness of the average condom: .07 mm
52. Thickness of super-thin condoms: .05 mm
53. Average number of sperm cells in one ejaculate;between 40 million to 600 million
54. Average number of sperm cells needed to create a baby ; 1
55. Rabbit and Man produce same number of sperm in one ejaculate
56. Pig produces 30 times number of sperm than man in one ejaculate
57. Among mammals humans has the smallest sperm cells
58. Length of human sperm cell ; 40 microns
59. Length of rat sperm cell ; 170 microns
60. Duration of a man’s marathon orgasm ; 15 seconds
61. Time it takes an average male to complete a marathon: 4 hours
62. Time sperm can survive inside a mouth: 13 hours
63. Number of women who have tried artificial insemination procedures at some time in their life ; 865,000
64. The sperm’s only purpose in life is to get into the woman’s vagina and uterus, to impregnate an egg.
65. Repository for Germinal Choice of Escondido, Calif., famous for its Nobel Prize-winning donors, closed its doors in 1999. Fairfax Cryobank, offering ‘high’ IQ sperm from medical, law, Ph.D students and graduates, opened its doors in 1999.
66. Number of penile implants currently in use in the U.S. : About 22,500
67. Number of women who have breast implants in the U.S. : About 1.5 million
68. Percent of men who say that there has ever been a moment in their lives when they weren’t interested in sex: 13%
69. Percent of men who admit to lying about their answers on surveys: 22%

thanx nadia ;))

life in the college lane…

In Uncategorized on 10/24/2006 at 7:29 pm

we want to keep a straight face particularly considering the millions of potentially productive lives ‘washed’ down the drain, but sadly it was not to be… thanks ivy 🙂


In Uncategorized on 10/21/2006 at 5:11 am

now THAT’S what we call a real Superstar

Check out this stunning Hubble image of the Antennae galaxies, sharpest and clearest photograph yet of this colliding pair of galaxies. As the two galaxies smash together, billions of stars are born, mostly in groups and clusters of stars. Carl Sagan would have been proud. Hard to believe already 10 yrs have passed since his premature death. The genius who popularized the phrase “..billions and billions of stars out there.”, pioneered the field of Exobiology and taught ground breaking (standing room only) courses in CriticalThinking at Cornell would have been enraptured with Hubble’s images of what’s really out there. Like many other objects, Hubble has resolved the enigmatic Antenna Galaxy, which looked to Earthbound telescopes like a fuzzy insect, into reality: The Antennae are a pair of interacting galaxies, caught in each other’s gravitational pull, and tearing each other apart. The brightest and most compact of these are called Superstar clusters. The Antennae galaxies, 68 million light years from Earth, began to fuse 500 million years ago. (One light year is the distance light waves travel in one year, a mere 6 trillion miles). This image serves as a preview for our very own Milky Way’s likely collision with the nearby Andromeda Galaxy with obvious consequences for planet Earth, which would..ahem… be obliterated into microdust. We could talk about this calmly now of course since this will only occur about 6 billion years from now. Plenty of time to plan ahead 😉 (NASA, ESA/Hubble, and B. Whitmore – Space Telescope Science Institute/Handout/Reuters)

mcgill at 62nd ???

In Uncategorized on 10/17/2006 at 1:59 pm

and sadly, we are not talking 62nd Street… 😦

Ok it’s that time of the year and not for any other reason than to give us all a break from midterm tedium, we should talk numbers even if it means eating some humble pie. What follows will hurt, but only if you are at Stanford. That’s not only because as we all know no one remembers who came in third, but mainly because their hated rival Harvard not only came in ranked 1st in the World, but collected a cool 100 out of.. yes 100 possible points in the following critical categories; HiCi Score, SCI Score, N&S Score, Alumni Score, Award Score. and last but not least SIZE Score (size always matters it seems;). Now before you all go ballistic trying to figure out the acronyms, THIS IS NOT AN IQ TEST… just click here if you’re curious as to what they stand for (not Stanford that’s for sure:) But what you cannot help noticing will be that of the top ten placings, 8 are American universities, with only venerable Oxford and Cambridge making the cut. Ah yes, the critics might point out that well American colleges have more wealth at top but what about the top say.. twenty? or even thirty? The answer is clear: America Rules, at least in university education. 17 of top 20 are US colleges, and more tellingly, 35 of top 50 are American as well.
As to why, the Economist has a theory that America’s system of higher education is the best in the world because…there is no system.
“…IT IS all too easy to mock American academia. Every week produces a mind-boggling example of intolerance or wackiness. Consider the twin stories of Lawrence Summers, one of the world’s most distinguished economists, and Ward Churchill, an obscure professor of ethnic studies, which unfolded in parallel earlier this year. Mr Summers was almost forced to resign as president of Harvard University because he had dared to engage in intellectual speculation by arguing, in an informal seminar, that discrimination might not be the only reason why women are under-represented in the higher reaches of science and mathematics. Mr Churchill managed to keep his job at the University of Boulder, Colorado, despite a charge sheet including plagiarism, physical intimidation and lying about his ethnicity.With such colourful headlines, it is easy to lose sight of the real story: that America has the best system of higher education in the world…” click here for full article.

Oh by the way in case you are wondering, yes there was a 500 th place ‘awarded’ and now we have yet one more reason to NOT go to York university in Toronto. Sigh.. ah well at least we have Tim Hortons in Canada. And lest we forget, yes in the photo above that is Harvard’s arguably most attractive graduate, Natalie Portman receiving her Harvard degree in.. umm… Electromagnetic Fluid Dynamics??? 🙂

No Respect for the Dead…

In Uncategorized on 10/15/2006 at 9:21 pm

Notice anything special about this epitaph located in Montreal’s Cimetière Notre-Dame-des-Neiges? I’ll give you a clue: it was commissioned by the deceased’s ex-wife and mistress. Click on the link if you give up.

Thanks Helen!

Jawed who??

In Uncategorized on 10/13/2006 at 8:29 pm

so what does Janet get..

Ok so we gals are not easily impressed., and no disrespect to Chad and Stephen but Jawed Karim gets the brainwashcafe brain-of-the-week award for accomplishing the seemingly improbable task of being a Student and earning a Billion dollars u.s. at the same time (actually one third of two billion, give or take couple of hundred million). How? Oh just happens that he is the third founder behind You Tube, which, unless your head has been buried in sand for the past week, you know was purchased by Google for over $1.65 billion (just at 2billion canadian;).

The delicious part of the story is that the YouTube began as Jawed’s ‘little’ idea that he got while watching trying to belatedly download Janet Jackson’s nipple slip and thinking there must be a faster way to do this (sigh..boys). Discouraged by initial lack of success he left the team to return to Stanford (obviously second choice after being turned down at McGill;) to complete his degree in computer engineering ‘just in case’. Here’s the brillant part that we like..he left the team but kept the shares in the partnership. Lesson for all you budding entrepreneurs…never leave home without it!

P.S. we dug up Jawed’s resume right here for all you curious mcgill comp engineering majors enjoy.. 🙂

Sidenote to Volker; Dear vowe, we would not exactly call Chad and Steve clowns, but essentially..ahem…we agree one hundred per cent with your erudite assessment of the situation;))

Free Bubba!

In Uncategorized on 10/13/2006 at 5:12 am

I hope at one point in your life you are able to reflect and smile at a time when you genuinely tried to change the world for the better. I harbour a fondness for my youthful days of intense and rather obnoxious activism. Perhaps I hit my liberal peak a little young but hell, at least I hit it. One day in grade seven I decided meat was murder, I’d rather be naked than wear fur, and I’d pretentiously explain to all my classmates why I was not going to dissect the foetal pig in biology class. Although my mother more than once claimed my heart was bigger than my brain, she allowed me to enter the world of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA); the largest animal rights organization in the world. My days of proud PETA membership would come to an end four years later with one dinner in Paris. Happily, my guilt for betraying the cause can now be assuaged as I have found the girl who will take up the torch where I left off.

Myranda Hutchinson, a 7-year-old girl from Cincinnati, Ohio, saved Bubba the 8-pound lobster from certain (albeit tasty) death when she won him in a supermarket raffle. With only liberation on her young mind, Myranda was continuously turned away from zoos and aquariums where none was interested in adding Bubba as one of their own. Emancipation came in the form of Mike Brittsan, curator for the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. Through his connections with Eddie Monat, an educational diver in Bar Harbor, Maine, the saucy crustacean would finally taste the sweetness of freedom. After the $280 Myranda’s parents forked over for Bubba’s plane ride, the one month ordeal of Operation Free Bubba came to an end last Saturday. Before the cynics among you claim the probability of his recapture and reappearance on some restaurant patron’s plate, keep in mind that a lobster the size of Bubba is illegal to catch in Maine. Stay in Maine, Bubba! Stay in Maine!

For all of you moved to join the Lobster Liberation team, start your journey here.

mind over matter…

In Uncategorized on 10/11/2006 at 5:51 am

hmm.. now this one looks kinda red..”

In one study, restaurant patrons were offered a free glass of Cabernet Sauvignon. Those on one side of the room were told it was a California wine; those on the other side were told the wine was made in North Dakota. “California equals wine. North Dakota equals snow or buffalo,” Wansink observes in his book, Mindless Eating. Both were actually the same cheap bottle of Cabernet but with different labels. The diners drank nearly all of their wine, but those who believed they were drinking the California vintage gave it higher ratings. Those with the so-called California wine also spent longer eating (65 vs. 55 minutes) and ate more, an average of 45 more calories. “If we think we are going to like a food or drink, it has a halo effect on the other foods we eat.” (and relationships.. which would explain all the inebriated one nighters;)

brainfart #32

In Uncategorized on 10/10/2006 at 12:41 am

Called John Smith or Mary Macdonald 2.One in seven chance of dying before first birthday 3.Lived almost two to a room 4.Women married at 25 and men married at 27 5.One in three chance of being married in their 20s 6.Life expectancy at birth 40 for men and 44 for women

1.Called Lewis Brown or Emma Smith 2.One in 200 chance of dying before their first birthday 3.Two rooms to every person 4.Men married at 32 and women married at 29 5.One in seven chance of being married in their 20s 6.Life expectancy at birth 74 for men and 79 for women

damn those 12 letter words…

In Uncategorized on 10/09/2006 at 1:23 pm

overheard in college

Gal #1: They never said I had to take that class. They just said it was pre-something.
Gal #2: Prerequisite?
Gal #1: Yeah, whatever that means.

NYU, New York, NY
thanks nadia 🙂

No time for foreplay…

In Uncategorized on 10/08/2006 at 1:16 am

I’ve always been suspicious of a man who can unhook a bra with lightning efficiency. It makes me wonder just how many ladies he’s graced with those speedy, little hands, or how many hours he has spent practicing on his sister’s brassiere strapped to a chair. Now I’ll have to entertain a new possible reason for his talent: competitor for the Guinness Book of World Records for greatest number of bras unhooked in 60 seconds.

A local radio station held their competition in Manhattan last Friday in hopes of breaking the record held by a German who unsnapped 56 bras in one minute. A representative from the Guinness Book was sent to officiate but a new crowned champion was not to be. The winner of the event was (to little surprise) a woman who only unhooked 37.

In Uncategorized on 10/05/2006 at 3:32 pm

Oh, Those Filippina Mothers!!

Miniskirts were all the rage this summer on the streets of downtown Montreal; they were worn by just about everybody, including the girls with the figures you know don’t quite suit the oh-so-short mini. I’m normally not the type that feels comfortable in skimpy outfits but I liked the look of a short skirt enough to buy one of my own, convinced that I would wear it. Trying the skirt on again at home though, I was surprised by how much shorter the skirt looked in my bedroom mirror than it had in the store changing room. Naturally I freaked out and put the skirt back into the shopping bag. So I guess I really wasn’t comfortable wearing a skirt that played peak-a-boo every time I climbed a flight of stairs or bent over to pick something up, even though nowadays it really wouldn’t have been that scandalous.

I have always been too shy to wear revealing clothing; I would always opt for looser fitting numbers or something with more coverage. It also certainly doesn’t help having a mother whose ideas about women, sex and marriage date back to, you’d think, the Victorian era. When my conservative Filippina mother saw my new skirt the look on her face said it all. I knew she thought the skirt was too short, and like a good Filippina daughter I returned the skirt and got a longer one thinking that I would probably get more wear out of the latter anyway.

I’m really only half-Filippina and I’ve lived twenty of my twenty-two years in Montreal, one of, if not, the sexiest city in all of North America. I have friends who like to go out for drinks, who date, have sex, wear sexy outfits, and just about everything else in between. But no matter how large of an influence my surroundings and my friends may have on me, I still have to answer to my mother—a woman with her own set of ideals and hopes for her children. Every now and then I can feel old-school Philippines creeping up and manifesting itself in the form of my over-protective mother. With a father in the army, and nuns as teachers, my mother had a very conservative upbringing, and since marrying my white dad and moving to Canada, she has maintained many of the ideals she developed while living in the motherland.

She’s told us about the many “suitors” she had before meeting my father, but she makes it clear that whenever she went out on any date it was always of the tamest variety. There may be one good night kiss on the first date—if there’s any kissing at all—and especially no sex since this is banned before marriage. In her ideal date scenario, the boy would always pick her up at home and bring her back at the end of the night. It’s bad enough that she makes me feel guilty for staying out late with friends, but now whenever I go out on a date she’d like for me to be escorted to and from home. It’s a nice idea, but guys don’t do that anymore!

Needless to say, my mother’s ideas about dating and sex are outdated, and would probably be laughed at by most people. Every so often I disobey her by either staying out later than she’d like me to, drinking until I make myself sick, or by going camping with a boyfriend. And I can’t begin to imagine what she’d think if I told her about the sex-toy party I went to and how I bought myself a dolphin-shaped vibrator (yes, the Dolfinger!). I have one friend whose Filippina mother cried when she found out she was on the Pill, and my own mother would likely react the same way should she find out her eldest daughter was sexually active. She must know by now that most girls my age aren’t virgins anymore.

I know my mother is only looking out for me, making sure I don’t get into any trouble or ruin my future plans by getting pregnant at a young age. I also know that you don’t have to come from a Filippino family to understand the balancing act I perform between trying to please my mother and trying to do things my way. I have taken to heart a lot of what my mother has told me over the years, even if it wasn’t voluntary. Once in a while, I even stay in on a Friday night. You know…to save money. And if you don’t believe me, just look at my closet-full of knee-length skirts!

for sexy beasts and smokers only…

In Uncategorized on 10/03/2006 at 1:17 am

Ok, a WARNING; The list that follows is Very VERY LONG. Please prepare yourself, make a shitload of tea, breathe, do some yoga, relax, and read on ONLY WHEN READY…

So us gals love smoking. At least in film noir, and we admit bad boys and sultry gals can look very sexy doing it… and there’s something to be said about doing it after sex or at a chic swanky club with that intoxicating mix of cool vodka and seduction in the air… but let’s face it, the fun is long over, light one up and you are one step closer to Acute necrotizing ulcerative gingivitis (say it fast 5 times or just say gum disease), Muscle abnormalities, Angina (20 x risk), Neck pain, Back pain, Nystagmus (abnormal eye movements), Buerger’s Disease (severe circulatory disease), Ocular Histoplasmosis (fungal eye infection), Duodenal ulcer,Osteoporosis (in both sexes), Cataract (2 x risk), Osteoarthritis, Cataract, posterior subcapsular (3 x risk), Penis (Erectile dysfunction), Colon Polyps, Peripheral vascular disease, Crohn’s Disease (fancy name for chronic inflamed bowel), Pneumonia, Depression, Psoriasis (2 x risk), Diabetes (Type 2, non-insulin dependent), Skin wrinkling (2 x risk), Hearing loss, Stomach ulcer, Influenza, Rheumatoid arthritis (for heavy smokers), Impotence (2 x risk), Tendon injuries, Optic Neuropathy (loss of vision, 16 x risk), Tobacco Amblyopia (loss of vision), Ligament injuries, Tooth loss, Macular degeneration (eyes, 2 x risk), Tuberculosis and let’s not forget Bronchogenic Carcinoma (thats lung cancer to you and me)

After a failed legislative action a decade ago, and a highly publicized phantom $400 million dollar judgement in U.S.A against tobacco companies but long overturned on appeal, now movement is afoot in Canada to try to force tobacco lobby to submit reports on 44 “selected poisons” in tobacco smoke and require all ingredients to be listed on tobacco packaging. “There are 4000 chemicals in tobacco smoke, and people are entitled to know what they are.”said Tony Clement, Canada’s Health Minister in charge of legislation. Not to add fuel to fire, or sound ridiculous, but we were kinda curious on just how they would manage to fit 4000 ingredients on those tiny packages.

Well, we needn’t have worried. As it turns out, there are only 599 additives approved by the US Government for use in the manufacture of cigarettes, NOT 4000, thank God. Submitted by the five major American cigarette companies to the Dept. of Health and Human Services in April of 1994, this list of ingredients had long been kept a secret. Without further ado, courtesy of amazing Terry Martin here is the full list. Thanks Terry!~)

Tobacco companies reporting this information were:

American Tobacco Company
Brown and Williamson
Liggett Group, Inc.
Philip Morris Inc.
R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company

While these ingredients are approved as additives for foods, they were not tested by burning them, and it is the burning of many of these substances which changes their properties, often for the worse. Over 4000 chemical compounds are created by burning a cigarette, many of which are toxic and/or carcinogenic. Carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, hydrogen cyanide and ammonia are all present in cigarette smoke. Forty-three known carcinogens are in mainstream smoke, sidestream smoke, or both. It’s chilling to think about not only how smokers poison themselves, but what others are exposed to by breathing in the secondhand smoke. The next time you’re missing your old buddy, the cigarette, take a good long look at this list and see them for what they are: a delivery system for toxic chemicals and carcinogens. Literally, a pathway to death’s doorstep.

Acetic Acid
2-Acetyl-3- Ethylpyrazine
Aconitic Acid
Alfalfa Extract
Allspice Extract,Oleoresin, and Oil
Allyl Hexanoate
Allyl Ionone
Almond Bitter Oil
Ambergris Tincture
Ammonium Bicarbonate
Ammonium Hydroxide
Ammonium Phosphate Dibasic
Ammonium Sulfide
Amyl Alcohol
Amyl Butyrate
Amyl Formate
Amyl Octanoate
Amyris Oil
Angelica Root Extract, Oil and Seed Oil
Anise Star, Extract and Oils
Anisyl Acetate
Anisyl Alcohol
Anisyl Formate
Anisyl Phenylacetate
Apple Juice Concentrate, Extract, and Skins
Apricot Extract and Juice Concentrate
Asafetida Fluid Extract And Oil
Ascorbic Acid
1-Asparagine Monohydrate
1-Aspartic Acid
Balsam Peru and Oil
Basil Oil
Bay Leaf, Oil and Sweet Oil
Beeswax White
Beet Juice Concentrate
Benzaldehyde Glyceryl Acetal
Benzoic Acid, Benzoin
Benzoin Resin
Benzyl Alcohol
Benzyl Benzoate
Benzyl Butyrate
Benzyl Cinnamate
Benzyl Propionate
Benzyl Salicylate
Bergamot Oil
Black Currant Buds Absolute
Bornyl Acetate
Buchu Leaf Oil
Butter, Butter Esters, and Butter Oil
Butyl Acetate
Butyl Butyrate
Butyl Butyryl Lactate
Butyl Isovalerate
Butyl Phenylacetate
Butyl Undecylenate
Butyric Acid]
Calcium Carbonate
Cananga Oil
Capsicum Oleoresin
Caramel Color
Caraway Oil
Carbon Dioxide
Cardamom Oleoresin, Extract, Seed Oil, and Powder
Carob Bean and Extract
Carrot Oil
beta-Caryophyllene Oxide
Cascarilla Oil and Bark Extract
Cassia Bark Oil
Cassie Absolute and Oil
Castoreum Extract, Tincture and Absolute
Cedar Leaf Oil
Cedarwood Oil Terpenes and Virginiana
Celery Seed Extract, Solid, Oil, And Oleoresin
Cellulose Fiber
Chamomile Flower Oil And Extract
Chicory Extract
Cinnamic Acid
Cinnamon Leaf Oil, Bark Oil, and Extract
Cinnamyl Acetate
Cinnamyl Alcohol
Cinnamyl Cinnamate
Cinnamyl Isovalerate
Cinnamyl Propionate
Citric Acid
Citronella Oil
Citronellyl Butyrate
itronellyl Isobutyrate
Civet Absolute
Clary Oil
Clover Tops, Red Solid Extract
Cocoa Shells, Extract, Distillate And Powder
Coconut Oil
Cognac White and Green Oil
Copaiba Oil
Coriander Extract and Oil
Corn Oil
Corn Silk
Costus Root Oil
Cubeb Oil
Dandelion Root Solid Extract
Davana Oil
2-trans, 4-trans-Decadienal
Decanoic Acid
Diethyl Malonate
Diethyl Sebacate
Dihydro Anethole
5,7-Dihydro-2-Methylthieno(3,4-D) Pyrimidine
Dill Seed Oil and Extract
Dimethyl Succinate
3,4-Dimethyl-1,2 Cyclopentanedione
3,5- Dimethyl-1,2-Cyclopentanedione
3,7-Dimethyl-6-Octenoic Acid
2,4 Dimethylacetophenone
alpha,para-Dimethylbenzyl Alcohol
alpha,alpha-Dimethylphenethyl Acetate
alpha,alpha Dimethylphenethyl Butyrate
Ethyl 10-Undecenoate
Ethyl 2-Methylbutyrate
Ethyl Acetate
Ethyl Acetoacetate
Ethyl Alcohol
Ethyl Benzoate
Ethyl Butyrate
Ethyl Cinnamate
Ethyl Decanoate
Ethyl Fenchol
Ethyl Furoate
Ethyl Heptanoate
Ethyl Hexanoate
Ethyl Isovalerate
Ethyl Lactate
Ethyl Laurate
Ethyl Levulinate
Ethyl Maltol
Ethyl Methyl Phenylglycidate
Ethyl Myristate
Ethyl Nonanoate
Ethyl Octadecanoate
Ethyl Octanoate
Ethyl Oleate
Ethyl Palmitate
Ethyl Phenylacetate
Ethyl Propionate
Ethyl Salicylate
Ethyl trans-2-Butenoate
Ethyl Valerate
Ethyl Vanillin
2-Ethyl (or Methyl)-(3,5 and 6)-Methoxypyrazine
2-Ethyl-1-Hexanol, 3-Ethyl -2 -Hydroxy-2-Cyclopenten-1-One
2-Ethyl-3, (5 or 6)-Dimethylpyrazine
Fennel Sweet Oil
Fenugreek, Extract, Resin, and Absolute
Fig Juice Concentrate
Food Starch Modified
Furfuryl Mercaptan
Galbanum Oil
Genet Absolute
Gentian Root Extract
Geranium Rose Oil
Geranyl Acetate
Geranyl Butyrate
Geranyl Formate
Geranyl Isovalerate
Geranyl Phenylacetate
Ginger Oil and Oleoresin
1-Glutamic Acid
Glycyrrhizin Ammoniated
Grape Juice Concentrate
Guaiac Wood Oil
Guar Gum
Heptanoic Acid
trans -2-Heptenal
Heptyl Acetate
Hexanoic Acid
cis-3-Hexen-1-Yl Acetate
3-Hexenoic Acid
trans-2-Hexenoic Acid
cis-3-Hexenyl Formate
Hexyl 2-Methylbutyrate
Hexyl Acetate
Hexyl Alcohol
Hexyl Phenylacetate
Hops Oil
Hydrolyzed Milk Solids
Hydrolyzed Plant Proteins
5-Hydroxy-2,4-Decadienoic Acid delta- Lactone
4-Hydroxy -3-Pentenoic Acid Lactone
4-Hydroxybutanoic Acid Lactone
Hyssop Oil
Immortelle Absolute and Extract
Isoamyl Acetate
Isoamyl Benzoate
Isoamyl Butyrate
Isoamyl Cinnamate
Isoamyl Formate, Isoamyl Hexanoate
Isoamyl Isovalerate
Isoamyl Octanoate
Isoamyl Phenylacetate
Isobornyl Acetate
Isobutyl Acetate
Isobutyl Alcohol
Isobutyl Cinnamate
Isobutyl Phenylacetate
Isobutyl Salicylate
alpha-Isobutylphenethyl Alcohol
Isobutyric Acid
Isovaleric Acid
Jasmine Absolute, Concrete and Oil
Kola Nut Extract
Labdanum Absolute and Oleoresin
Lactic Acid
Lauric Acid
Lauric Aldehyde
Lavandin Oil
Lavender Oil
Lemon Oil and Extract
Lemongrass Oil
Levulinic Acid
Licorice Root, Fluid, Extract and Powder
Lime Oil
Linalool Oxide
Linalyl Acetate
Linden Flowers
Lovage Oil And Extract
Mace Powder, Extract and Oil
Magnesium Carbonate
Malic Acid
Malt and Malt Extract
Maltyl Isobutyrate
Mandarin Oil
Maple Syrup and Concentrate
Mate Leaf, Absolute and Oil
Menthyl Acetate
Methyl 2-Furoate
Methyl 2-Octynoate
Methyl 2-Pyrrolyl Ketone
Methyl Anisate
Methyl Anthranilate
Methyl Benzoate
Methyl Cinnamate
Methyl Dihydrojasmonate
Methyl Ester of Rosin, Partially Hydrogenated
Methyl Isovalerate
Methyl Linoleate (48%)
Methyl Linolenate (52%) Mixture
Methyl Naphthyl Ketone
Methyl Nicotinate
Methyl Phenylacetate
Methyl Salicylate
Methyl Sulfide
2-Methyl-3-(para-Isopropylphenyl) Propionaldehyde
Methyl-trans-2-Butenoic Acid
alpha-Methylbenzyl Acetate
alpha-Methylbenzyl Alcohol
2-Methylbutyric Acid
2-Methylheptanoic Acid
2-Methylhexanoic Acid
3-Methylpentanoic Acid
4-Methylpentanoic Acid
(Methylthio)Methylpyrazine (Mixture Of Isomers)
Methyl 3-Methylthiopropionate
2-Methylvaleric Acid
Mimosa Absolute and Extract
Molasses Extract and Tincture
Mountain Maple Solid Extract
Mullein Flowers
Myristic Acid
Myrrh Oil
beta-Napthyl Ethyl Ether
Neroli Bigarde Oil
Nonanoic Acid
Nonyl Acetate
Nutmeg Powder and Oil
Oak Chips Extract and Oil
Oak Moss Absolute
9,12-Octadecadienoic Acid (48%) And 9,12,15-Octadecatrienoic Acid (52%)
Octanoic Acid
1-Octen-3-Yl Acetate
Octyl Isobutyrate
Oleic Acid
Olibanum Oil
Opoponax Oil And Gum
Orange Blossoms Water, Absolute, and Leaf Absolute
Orange Oil and Extract
Origanum Oil
Orris Concrete Oil and Root Extract
Palmarosa Oil
Palmitic Acid
Parsley Seed Oil
Patchouli Oil
4-Pentenoic Acid
Pepper Oil, Black And White
Peppermint Oil
Peruvian (Bois De Rose) Oil
Petitgrain Absolute, Mandarin Oil and Terpeneless Oil
2-Phenenthyl Acetate
Phenenthyl Alcohol
Phenethyl Butyrate
Phenethyl Cinnamate
Phenethyl Isobutyrate
Phenethyl Isovalerate
Phenethyl Phenylacetate
Phenethyl Salicylate
Phenylacetic Acid
3-Phenylpropionic Acid
3-Phenylpropyl Acetate
3-Phenylpropyl Cinnamate
Phosphoric Acid
Pimenta Leaf Oil
Pine Needle Oil, Pine Oil, Scotch
Pineapple Juice Concentrate
alpha-Pinene, beta-Pinene
Pipsissewa Leaf Extract
Plum Juice
Potassium Sorbate
Propionic Acid
Propyl Acetate
Propyl para-Hydroxybenzoate
Propylene Glycol
Prune Juice and Concentrate
Pyroligneous Acid And Extract
Pyruvic Acid
Raisin Juice Concentrate
Rose Absolute and Oil
Rosemary Oil
Rum Ether
Rye Extract
Sage, Sage Oil, and Sage Oleoresin
Sandalwood Oil, Yellow
Smoke Flavor
Snakeroot Oil
Sodium Acetate
Sodium Benzoate
Sodium Bicarbonate
Sodium Carbonate
Sodium Chloride
Sodium Citrate
Sodium Hydroxide
Spearmint Oil
Styrax Extract, Gum and Oil
Sucrose Octaacetate
Sugar Alcohols
Tagetes Oil
Tannic Acid
Tartaric Acid
Tea Leaf and Absolute
Terpinyl Acetate
2,3,4,5, and 3,4,5,6-Tetramethylethyl-Cyclohexanone
Thiamine Hydrochloride
Thyme Oil, White and Red
Tobacco Extracts
Tochopherols (mixed)
Tolu Balsam Gum and Extract
para-Tolyl 3-Methylbutyrate
para-Tolyl Acetaldehyde
para-Tolyl Acetate
para-Tolyl Isobutyrate
para-Tolyl Phenylacetate
Triethyl Citrate
3,5,5-Trimethyl -1-Hexanol
para,alpha,alpha-Trimethylbenzyl Alcohol
2,6,6-Trimethylcyclohexa-1,3-Dienyl Methan
2-Undecanone, 1
Valerian Root Extract, Oil and Powder
Valeric Acid
Vanilla Extract And Oleoresin
Vetiver Oil
Violet Leaf Absolute
Walnut Hull Extract
Wheat Extract And Flour
Wild Cherry Bark Extract
Wine and Wine Sherry
Xanthan Gum


In Uncategorized on 09/30/2006 at 2:43 am

developing news… BladderGate kicks World Chess Championship in the…

In Uncategorized on 09/30/2006 at 2:29 am

and you thought chess was boring…


In Uncategorized on 09/30/2006 at 12:25 am


Lady: You’re making me wet… I SAID you’re making me wet.
Man: Yes, I tend to have that effect on the ladies.
Lady: With your umbrella.
Man: I’m flattered, but it’s not that big.

–1 train

Overheard by: Sloane

via Overheard in New York, Sep 29, 2006

29-Year-Old Virgin?

In Uncategorized on 09/27/2006 at 10:08 pm

A rant from my friend Helen. Hope you enjoy.

Attention “awesome dudes”: Jane, a women’s magazine-turned-pimp, needs you! The popular rag in a generous act of charity has recently picked up the plight of 29-year-old Sarah, a virgin determined to have sex before her 30th birthday. Thanks to the Jane website, men can now send in their applications to have a date (and if they’re lucky – mate) with the celibate. Also featured is a blog chronicling Sarah’s journey (“All Virgin, All the Time”), descriptions of would-be-wooers (including those who fall under the creepy category of men hand-picked by Sarah’s father – one goes as far as to claim he’s amazing in bed), and of course, an online polling station so any asshole with a computer can choose who Sarah should sleep with by picking who she will next date.
It’s not a novel concept to use the internet to solicit sex, but it must be the first time someone is choosing to use Jane magazine, a publication that boasts the writing talents of Pamela Anderson. Sarah insists that she has been holding out all these years for Mr. Right but unfortunately never found him. Now following in the wise footsteps of reality-television contestants and leaving her love-life in the hands of mass media, Sarah seems to genuinely be searching for more than just a one-night stand…at least until November 7th, her birthday, when she’ll say goodbye to 29, and her chastity belt.
Personally, I think it’s a publicity stunt. As a self-proclaimed stand-up comic, what could be better for Sarah’s career than a load of interviews, a feature in a magazine, and a bold re-enactment of 2005’s comedy, The 40 Year Old Virgin? Madonna (the singer – not that other Virgin) knew what she was talking about when she said, “I always thought of losing my virginity as a career move.”

Follow the virgin’s progress or assert your power-to-deflower via application at right here 🙂

worth a look…

In bblonde on 09/27/2006 at 6:39 am

He is a University of Washington State drop-out who believed in dreams. Currently he is the fifth richest man in America, worth a mere $16 billion. He is crazy about sports and bought not one, but two teams, football’s Seattle Seahawks and basketball’s Portland Trailblazers. He’s a cancer survivor, real estate developer, philanthropist, venture capitalist and both the lead strategist, the real brain behind world’s richest company AND the lead guitarist, in a rock band aptly named ‘Grown Men’. Oh yes, and he is a major contributor to the SETI, or Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence project.

And now, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen has successfully completed an ambitious web based, 3D atlas, one that maps all the genes in a mouse brain. The Allen Brain Atlas, unveiled today, will literally change some of our lives as we search for cures to such brain disorders as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, epilepsy, schizophrenia, autism, depression and behavioral mechanisms underlying compulsive addictions.
We humans have more than 90 percent of our genes in common with the Mouse; mapping this represents a significant step in understanding our own brain. Ultimately it may also help unlock the mysteries of how we think, see, feel, hurt and experience other emotions and sensations that fly around the 1 quadrillion communications points in the brain.

All of this is the culminating results of a project for brain science that Allen established in 2003 and provided $100 million in seed money as they embarked on a three-year quest to map 21,000 active genes in a mouse brain. The genes were detected in various sections of the brain, filled with a photogenic substance and then photographed by automated microscopes and uploaded into a computer.

The atlas shows a map of active genes in the brain, which in turn provides links to specific brain functions.
More than 85 million images were captured; the 600 terabytes of information in the on-line atlas could fill 20,000 I-Pods. A 5minute demo of the atlas is available here.
Roughly one-fourth of American adults, or 58 million people, suffer from a diagnosable brain disorder in a given year. About 4.5 million have Alzheimer’s; autism is the fastest growing developmental disability in the nation; 2.7 million have epileptic seizures; schizophrenia affects 2.2 million people, and 1 percent of Americans over 65 have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s.

“Computers are simple,” Allen says. “Brains are far more complex.”

really is worth a look… warning #1; you must download and install BrainExplorer software from here 🙂 and warning #2; do not click on image above if you think you are squeamish about mouse brain dissections :))

life in the fastlane ….#29

In Uncategorized on 09/24/2006 at 12:45 pm

How to tell when it’s time to leave your job…

CBC boss dumps himself over odd remarksUPDATED: 2006-09-20 02:40:43 MST

OTTAWA — CanadianBroadcastingCorporation Chairman Guy Fournier has resigned his post after finding himself in deep “doo-doo” for making bizarre comments on bestiality and bowel movements.
Heritage Minister Bev Oda confirmed in the House of Commons yesterday that Fournier had resigned and will be replaced by someone who reflects the position’s importance.
Fournier incorrectly claimed in a magazine article that men in Lebanon are permitted to have sex with animals “as long as they are female. Doing the same thing with male beasts can result in the death penalty.” The erroneous suggestion sparked outrage in Montreal’s Lebanese community. During an interview aired on a popular Radio-Canada television show last Sunday, Fournier sang the praises of a good “poop.” He said the pleasure of a bowel movement is longer-lasting and more frequent than sex.
update; A little bird told us that fun loving Guy, already on the hot seat for his party soirees and gourmet meals at taxpayers’ expense, had in fact not resigned with ‘grace’ but had to be pushed out in a rather ugly confrontation. oh Guy Guy.. what were you thinking?

thanks kate 🙂

ps. In the interests of accuracy, here in fact are Guy’s exact words; “The most extraordinary thing is that, in the end, as you grow older, you continue to go poop once a day if you are in good health, while it is not easy to make love every day. So finally, the pleasure is longer lasting and more frequent than the other.” hmm.. Guy, maybe it was time to flush…

starbucks confessions #13

In Uncategorized on 09/23/2006 at 2:29 pm

“…at the last staff meeting, another new partner and I were going through the nutritional information brochure, trying to find the most calorie-laden drink at Sbux. It’s a Venti breve white chocolate mocha. Breve (pronounced “brev-ay”) means that it’s made with half-and-half cream. 900 calories, my friends, and if that wasn’t enough to stop your heart, you also get 51 grams of fat. That’s like half of some people’s daily diet! Ewwwwww… I haven’t had anyone order it yet, but have had a couple people order breve drinks, mainly tall breve lattes, and the smell of steamed half and half is gross enough. “

thanx colin 🙂

on faking it…

In lisa fitterman on 09/23/2006 at 2:39 am

Sadly, Fay Weldon dulls sharp edge of her feminism and recommends joyless sex.
“Fay, honey, sometimes I’m really happy when I’m being… really bad.”

Call it a classic movie moment. It occurs in woody Allen’s film Celebrity, in which the main character’s former wife, Robin, visits a hooker to take lessons in oral sex.
“What goes through your mind when you’re doing it?” the hooker asks, curious.
“The Crucifixion,” Robin replies.
Oh, the suffering. (Not that I suffer, although why I feel I have to come right out and say that is perhaps fodder for a future column. Or not.)
I raise this topic because one of my all time favorite authors, the one who wrote Praxis, The Fat Woman’s Joke, Female Friends and the viciously funny Life and Loves of a She-Devil, the writer who planted in me the seeds of a cranky feminist- is now telling women that it’s best to fake it. Come again? (C’mon. Could you resist?)
I kid you not. Fay Weldon, long considered at the very vanguard of the feminist movement, is not only telling women to pretend they’re having the most earth-shaking, fabulous orgasms in the world, but to praise their partners afterward in order to make them feel like real men.
In What Makes Women Happy, scheduled to be published this Wednesday by HarperCollins, Weldon, now 74, sounds surprisingly conservative as she dismisses views that women have fought for over the years, like the right to have it all. Even the book’s cover (at least in Britain), is telling, as it depicts a naked male torso with a six-pack, period.
Is this what makes women happy?
Surely Weldon is being tongue-in-cheek as she explores how our lives, jobs, families, bodies, needs and responsibilities affect our happiness?
Surely she’s joking when she posits that women with successful careers will probably end up alone, that sexual pleasure and high-powered jobs don’t go together, and that we women should simply throw in the towel and be happy with our lot?
And she can’t be serious when she concludes that the Victorians were right: to be happy is to be good, and to be good is to be happy?
I mean, Fay, honey, sometimes I’m really happy when i’m being bad. Really bad.
Sadly, it’s no joke. According to Weldon, a whopping 80 per cent of us have orgasms only sometimes or even never, so we should just deal with that and move on. In effect, she subscribes to that other seminal movie scene in the deli between Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal in When Harry Met Sally, where Ryan fakes an orgasm so strong, an elderly woman tells a waitress, “I’ll have what she’s having.”
“If you are happy and generous minded,” Weldon writes, “you will fake it and then leap out of bed and pour him champagne, telling him, ‘You are so clever’ or however you express enthusiasm. Faking is kind to male partners… Otherwise they too may become anxious and so less able to perform. Do yourself and him a favour, sister: fake it.”
Not even a nudge-nudge, wink-wink suggestions to fool him and keep the champagne to our non-orgasmic selves!
It’s as if this is the ugly female flip side of the Michael Noer column on that i wrote about several weeks ago, in which he suggested that men not marry career women because they’ll end up alone, sick or living in dirty houses.
I don’t know about you, but the thought of lying there groaning and panting in increasingly loud increments while thinking about what colour to paint the kitchen puts me to sleep. That’s not to say i haven’t faked it when pressed for time: I have, on occasion, and those who piously claim you’ve never done so, well, liar, liar pants on fire.
But if you can’t experience orgasms with your partner, i suggest it’s much more beneficial to the relationship to tell him about it, and tell him what you do need. if he has problems with that, them kick him out of the bedroom. After all, relationships are grounded in the belief that you shouldn’t betray or deceive each other.
Why should sex be any different?

Lisa Fitterman is a columnist on the edge for the Montreal Gazette. She writes about sex, relationships, housecleaning and anything else that is offbeat, off kilter or simply catches her eye. Vancouver born and bred, she began her career in 1983 at the Vancouver Sun as a general assignment reporter and quickly progressed to covering politics because no one else in the newsroom wanted to move to Victoria.
Over the past 20 years or so, she has also lived in Edmonton, Boston and, of course, Montreal, where she has settled down with He Who Must Obey.
Her stories have run the gamut, from grisly murder trials to provincial elections and sports coverage. She has won a National Newspaper Award for sports writing.

No Drunks on Board, Please

In cocktales on 09/21/2006 at 5:47 pm

What follows is an actual letter sent to a friend of mine (not me, honest) by Air Canada. Ha. Specifics changed for the purpose of safeguarding identity.

Dear Miss Waitts,

Thank you for your extensive email describing the events surrounding your travel on August 8, 2006. We are truly sorry to learn of the series of events which prevented you from travelling on AC225 from Edmonton to Vancouver. Based on your description we can certainly understand your frustration. Our staff is expected to carry out their duties in a professional, courteous and efficient manner at all times. Whenever we fail to meet the expectations of our customers we are concerned. Your concerns and comments have been documented and forwarded to the appropriate manager for internal review. As per the Canadian Domestic General Rules of Tariff No. CDGR-1 Rule 35AC Refusal to transport *Passenger’s Conduct – Refusal to Transport Prohibited Conduct and Sanctions * our staff felt it was in the best interest of all concerned, denied boarding on this flight was necessary.
At this time our staff requested the disposal of alcohol in a pop can which was in your possession at the gate. Our staff was able to accommodate you on AC349 departing two hours later. It is noted our staff in the lounge was able to assist you and we apologize for any inconvenience caused. While we realize this is not the answer you were hoping for, our staff was acting in good faith. Once again, Ms.Waitts, please accept our sincere apologies for the disruption to your trip. We appreciate your support and look forward to welcoming you on board again soon.

Cara Klump,
Customer Solutions

Author’s note: This is an ongoing and progressively nasty correspondence, if any one wants to hear more.

life in the fastlane… #23

In Uncategorized on 09/19/2006 at 8:11 am

All in a day’s work ; Maxim interviews two ladies named.. um.. Heaven and Diamond. (we swear. who could make this stuff up??)

Maxim: You’re onstage, dancing, grinding, taking your clothes off. What are you thinking about?
Heaven: Sometimes I think about cleaning my room. Or paying the car insurance. When you’re working naked, you tend to think about bills a lot.
M: Does it make a difference whether you’re stripping for a handsome guy or an ugly slob?
Diamond: Oh, big time. If he’s ugly and pathetic but very sweet, I’ll try to make it extra special for him. But if he’s good-looking, I enjoy it more.
M: What song do you hate stripping to?
D: “Y.M.C.A.” You just can’t be sexy to “Y.M.C.A.”
M: Any lap dancing moves in your arsenal guaranteed to make guys fork over money?
H: It’s not rocket science: I shake my ass in their face. But if you touch them, even a little, it drives them crazy. They whisper to their buddies, “She touched me! She touched me!” And out comes the money.
M: Ever get any weirdos at the club?
D: Some guys come in wearing bras or women’s panties.
M: Ever go home with a patron?
H: No, there’s a line you don’t cross. But I’d say 60 percent of the girls cross it. Some do it once for the money, but then they end up doing it again and again.
Can I buy you a drink?
H: You gotta be kidding me.

thankx nadia 🙂

real fall fashion…

In Uncategorized on 09/18/2006 at 5:09 am

GOING Once, GOING Twice, SHE’S GONE : Not that we have ever gone in for such blatant schadenfreude, and gods knows we gals take enough falls on our own. However there is no denying misery loves company and we simply want to point out that shoes have become treacherous for even top seasoned professionals, like this model at the Proenza Schouler runway show. The new wood block platforms and sky-high pumps have facilitated several stumbles during the Fashion Week unless of course this is a new form of fashion statement 😉

thanks nadia 🙂
(Brad Barket / Getty Images)