Friday, March 28, 2008


Every paper I've ever read -- or even so much as looked at the title of -- by Brian Arthur is one that I wish I had written.

New Experience 1: Running into an old friend on the street and up and going for a drink right then and there. That shit only happens in movies.

New Experience 2: Running a giant q-tip around my mouth alongside 2 other people doing the same, while a perfect stranger counted us on. Then doing it again.

New Experience 3: The Deconstruction form in longform improv. Beautiful, hilarious, insightful. What more could you want?

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Annual Christmas Card

Things are changing around here, friends! This week we take the intensity up a notch with the following guarantee: A new and excellent version of my prospectus will be in the hands of my advisors by Friday afternoon. The following week I will attempt to write an entire journal article from start to finish in one week just to see if I can do it.

More news: I will take German lessons! Hast du gut geshlaffen, dear readers? I will especially learn how to spell that!

Even more news: The fabulous Jennifer Miller is trying raw!

Even more news than that: I will also register to become a bone marrow donor. It's something I've thought about for a good while but never got around to doing. Today while I was nominally working (partly motivating goal for the week, above), I came across this blog, which was all I needed to see to sign up. Tuesday I will go, and so should you, friends!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Self-Organized Criticality

8.5 of the keys on my laptop no longer have the letters on them. For now I can still carry on more or less normally with my typing, but if this trend continues, the fact that I never properly learned how to type without looking at the keys will take its toll. How many more letters need to disappear before I lose complete functionality? I know, I know, there's no end to the thought-provoking questions presented here.

No, seriously: I'll put it at 10 more. Given that it's taken 3 years for these 8.5 to hit the road, I'm somewhat confident that I will have a new computer before that happens. Then again, I promised myself a new computer when I finish the old 'tation, so you never know.

Here's what else you never know: What you're going to feel like doing tomorrow, much less the day after that.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Star of morning, shining hope

My phone's t9Word knows the word "Vinyasa".

Rental car records make excellent coasters.

Invention we can't improve upon no matter how much we try: Regular old keys.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Stand by

Here comes the grammar monster:

I notice with increasing frequency that people are using the phrase "waiting on line" instead of "in line" to describe the act of queuing (god bless the British) for something. I even saw it in print once.

Am I insane? There's no way that can be correct. Right? Or am I behind the times and this is some new fancy analogy that abstractly links the concept of the Internet to standing idly and making chit chat with the people behind you? Either way, I reject it. End of discussion.

Superlative for the day: Unexpectedly, the best mangoes in Astoria can be found at C TOWN TOWN TOWN TOWN grocery store on Broadway. If I am a self-appointed authority on any issue, it is this one.

Truth for the day #1: If tells you that the temperature it "feels like" is at all lower -- even by one degree -- than the actual temperature -- no matter how high that may be -- you will freeze to death.

Truth for the day #2: If you rent the "rating not shown in theaters" version of any movie, it will be worse than the theater version. There's a reason they don't show people getting stabbed up close on the big screen, everyone, and Ang Lee's Lust, Caution is it.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Back on my high horse

Writing a dissertation is like going to the gym ---- Just kidding, dear readers! This blog entry is decidedly not about my dissertation (whew). Instead, it is about this article. But you are busy people, so instead of expecting you all to read the article, I will present the main points for your convenience, information, and discussion. First, here is the background:
  1. The cost of food is on the rise around the world.
  2. This is mostly because demand is skyrocketing as people in developing countries get wealthier.
  3. The world's stockpiles of grain are the lowest since world stockpiles of grain made sense as a concept.
  4. High prices of food are contributing to inflation in the US
  5. High prices of food are contributing to social unrest and violence in many countries
Now, to be sure, farmers all over the place are responding to the demand by growing as much as they can. But it's all mostly wheat and grains. (Fun fact: there was a one-day pasta strike in Italy last year!) Apparently demand for bread is huge in a lot of places that don't traditionally include it in their diets:

"Between 1995 and 2005, per capita wheat consumption in Nigeria more than tripled, to 44 pounds a year. Bread has been displacing traditional foods like eba, dumplings made from cassava root." It's even gotten to the point where, if you think about it in terms of a substance, people are basically addicted to it. (On this subject, read this book.)

Add to this that demand for other American-style foods is also increasing -- In addition to bread, people all over the place now want things like pork, dairy, and beef. (I've belabored the point elsewhere about how eating all of these things basically makes our healthcare costs ridiculously high and probably is what gives us all degenerative diseases.)

It used to be that the Standard American Diet was the sort of thing that was bad for our health, sure, and, ok, also terrible for the environment. But at least the environmental impact was somewhat mitigated by the fact that it was mostly just Americans eating this way. Then our harmful and unsustainable habits spread to parts of Western Europe. Then they caught on in China. Now they're really ramping up everywhere.

Thus, in the midst of global concerns about overpopulation and global warming, the very lifestyle that contributes most to healthcare costs, costs of living, and environmental damage is spreading like wildfire. Or like a disease!

As if all of this isn't bad enough, the US Government is actively limiting the ability of local farmers in the US to (a) increase how much they grow, and (b) grow things that are not corn, soybeans, wheat, rice, and cotton -- which are the five federally subsidized commodity crops. For more on this terrifying story, go here.

How is it possible, you ask, that in the face of what looks to be a flat-out global economic, health, and food crisis, the US Government isn't changing its policies drastically to try to prevent it, or at least strongly minimize its effects? Alas, my friends, THAT is the subject of my dissertation.

Damn! But before I go, a piece of advice: Even if they tell you you can't have more than one Blockbuster account, you actually can.
Piece of advice #2: Don't incorporate in Nevada.
Piece of advice that I never follow: Brevity, friends, brevity!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

High Society

I recently got invited to a luncheon. I do not get invited to many luncheons. I will not attend this one.

New Experience of the day: Hot Yoga!
Reactions: Hot shit! It was really quite good, and very difficult. I am a longtime yoga skeptic (and longtime way too tense for anything that encourages lying still and clearing one's mind), but this was hardcore. I almost fainted exactly three times.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Ever so idle!

Analogy that is useful only to me: Writing a dissertation is like driving really, really far. At the end of each day you feel exhausted, but you basically have just been sitting very still all day and have absolutely no feeling of accomplishment whatsoever. Also in both cases you drink more coffee than you should, even though you know better. And you listen to/read a ton of crap that is not only not informative in the slightest, but probably is actively making you dumber. And you chew gum even though you don't want to.

I could go on.

I swear this fine blog will have fewer dissertation complaints in the future. It's no fun for anyone, I know. In the spirit of levitas, I invite you to click on this link. It's hilarious, and I don't use that term lightly. Also in the spirit of the continued scientific endeavor, I will add proper citations: I lifted that link straight from Will Hines' fantastic blog. No spirit of creativity from me today, friends.

For those avidly keeping track, you will be pleased to learn that I attempted wheatgrass shot #2 a few days ago in Ann Arbor. All told, it was a much better experience than the first. I suspect this is because either wheatgrass in Michigan is superior to that in Manhattan, or my expectations got involved and screwed with the experience, as they tend to do. Also the one in Ann Arbor came in a tiny, tiny mug. We are now accepting votes on which reason it actually is. Write-ins are acceptable, within reason of course.

I leave you, fine readers, with a new superlative:
Number 1 Unsung Hero of the Lettuce Community Award: Arugula.

Yes, dissertations and variations on greens, followed by apologies for both. That is what I will rename my blog.

P.S. New Experience for the day: Looked "arugula" up in the dictionary because the powers that be in this blog site are telling me I'm spelling it wrong. All it says for the definition is "the rocket plant, used for cooking". That is even less helpful than definitions for adverbs that give you the adjective + "behaving as though" or "tending to".

Wednesday, March 5, 2008


Truth of the day: Just because the technology exists doesn't mean you have to use it.

Superlative of the day: The most elegant subway connection in NYC: the one between the FV and the ACE at West 4th. Look it up on a map. It's the ballroom dance of subway transfers.

Revisited memory of the day: Gimme! Coffee cafe on Lorimer in Brooklyn.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

No way to know!

Our perspective controls everything, even things that happen as -- what we at least thought were -- seemingly straightforward chemical reactions in the body! Before you dismiss that sentence as making no sense, fine readers, let me explain: there's an article in the NYTimes today on drinking and why people do it and how people in different cultures react to excessive consumption of alcohol. Now, not only do people in different cultures act differently when they're drunk (Americans get aggressive, Japanese sing, Brazilians in some areas get really reserved. Are you surprised by any of this?), but also how our body responds to alcohol can depend on whether we think we're drinking it! Apparently in the 80s a series of studies were conducted where study participants were either given alcoholic drinks or a placebo. The ones who thought they were getting alcohol but weren't acted just as ridiculous as the ones who actually were. And vice-versa, those who only thought they were not drinking acted the same as who actually were not drinking. Most amazing of all:

"One participant insisted that she could not have been drinking because alcohol always made her flush.

“We told her that, yes, in fact she was drinking it,” Dr. Marlatt said. “She immediately flushed.”

Incredible, right?! I'm telling you, 90% of what we do has everything to do with what we think is going on, not what's actually going on. Well, maybe not 90%, but I bet it's high. I'll say it: maybe even higher! I suppose there's no way to ever know, unless humans start getting tested by aliens. Otherwise we're trapped in our own perception nightmare.

Oh, and not only that, but people in different cultures drink for different reasons. Apparently Western cultures are more prone to excuse drinking as a needed "mental vacation" than other cultures. Just more evidence that the Western political/social/economic model is not the cure-all some purport it to be.

Finally, if nothing else, this article has one of the most aesthetically pleasing sentences I've read in a long time: "the disconnect between the conventional wisdom and the available evidence is even now so scandalous as to exceed the limits of reasonable toleration.”

I love that shit. If you still want to read the actual article even though I've spoiled all the highlights for you, you can find it here. In the meantime, I'll work on spoiler alerts.


Truth for the Day: There is no way to explain to someone else how boring someone is without also being completely boring yourself.

New Experience for the Day: Issued a money order.

Falsehood for the day: There's no such thing as the metaphorical dragon. Old experience for the day: Was painfully ambivalent at one point.

I think that's a fine way to ring in March. Carry cash, kids.