Friday, January 27, 2006

Q & A: Our Omnipotent President

Fafnir from Fafblog! strikes again. A small sample:
Q. Can the president eat a baby?
A. If that baby has suspected ties to al Qaeda, then it's the president's duty to eat it - for the sake of national security.
Read the whole thing here.

Would You Believe

Giant microbe stuffed toys?

Thanks to Mickie T for the tip.

Please Stand By...

having a nervous breakdown...

P.S.: You know it's time to quit your job when you can't get yourself out of your bed to go there, but you can get up to go to an appointment with the gynecologist.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Boo-Boo Animals

God help me, I am such a sap. As soon as I started reading the Times review of "Marley & Me" I knew I wanted to read the book. At the same time, I'm afraid to do so, because just scanning the review nearly made me cry.

I need stronger happy pills.

Road Trip!

Well, it's still in the works, but it's looking more and more like we'll be getting a car. I know: owning a car in NYC is difficult. Believe me, we've gone over the pros and cons. But M's family has offered to fix up and give us her grandfather's old car for free, and even with the alternative parking headaches in Brooklyn, the insurance would be cheap, so it's hard to pass up free. Plus, just the thought of getting out of town more weekends, visiting my niece and nephew when I want to or even joining Costco have me salivating.

So, why would insurance be so cheap? Well, we don't need much coverage for a roughed up 1992 Olds Royale. Yes, it's that kind of grandpamobile. Now, I wish we were getting an Olds like this
Now THAT's a Car!

or maybe even like this,

which would fit right in on 4th Avenue, but we can't live in a fantasy. What we'd be getting would be a lot more like this,
Grey Thunder
except in a lot crappier shape.
Hey, at least it's not like this,
Hootchie Olds
although... yeah, 4th Ave. And also, so bad it's just a little bit awesome, especially if two middle-class white lesbians owned it.

Anyway, the point is: whooo! Car! Uh, and the second point is: we'll have to drive it up here from Atlanta sometime this summer. Now, since we'll have to do that anyway, why not turn it into a scenic road trip? We know we'll probably want to go a bit out of our way to visit Savannah for a couple days, and that we'd prefer driving up scenic, possibly coastal roads rather than huge interstates, but where should we stop? I hear Charleston is nice, but the large amount of possible routes has got me scratching my head. So, if anyone has any suggestions, please lay 'em on me. Later, of course, I will issue a progress report on our plans and, if we take the trip, the results.

Finally, I have to say that although it's not the most attractive or sound car ever, there is a certain poigniance to my first adult car being an unwieldy Olds, as that's the kind of car with which I first learned to drive. Imagine this
Classic 70s Boat
but in a striking shade of doo-doo brown with a tan vinyl top and a wood grain dash. Awwwwwwww, yeah.

Best Thing Since Sliced Limes

Please tell me, why didn't I know about LimeWire before? For it is, indeed, the shiznit.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

My Cats Told You To Read This

I found the recent article by Charles Seibert on animal personalities in the NY Times really exciting. For several years I've been disheartened by the disconnect between modern science and the respect of animals as individuals. As the article acknowledges, while scientists have been loathe to "anthropomorphize" animals by admitting they have responses beyond the purely instinctual for some time, to any person who has had the simple experience of living with animals "the assertion that they have distinct personalities seems absurdly obvious." But now advances in fields like genetics and molecular and evolutionary biology have led researchers to try to understand the bioevolutionary reasons for behaviors. In learning more about these, Seibert suggests, "[t]he more detailed and specific our knowledge has become of the animals and of the many differences between them and us, the more clearly we can see what is analogous about our respective behaviors."

This should be obvious. Even if one is a staunch atheistic evolutionist, it is hard to convincingly argue that all human and animal behaviours stem from neurological/genetic on/off switches derived from the survival of the fittest. Nurture must be taken into account as well as nature, and both are incredibly complex. Even if you believe other animals are less complex than humans, finding out how they react to both genetic and environmental changes as groups and individuals can only help us to understand how we do. After all, even among small creatures like insects born at the same time into the same environment and stimulated in the same ways, different patterns of behaviour emerge. Why is this? If you don't believe in a "spirit" that guides them and/or us and random chance is not sufficient to explain it, then there must be some sort of individual type or personality at play. From the article:
Andy Sih, like most of his colleagues at Davis, views personality differences in animals in a Darwinian context. He considers specific behaviors and preferences from an evolutionary perspective and tries to determine how various traits affect the long-term survival of a given species. And in the course of his research on everything from water striders to salamanders, Sih has become fairly obsessed with what he calls "stupid behaviors," ones that don't seem to make any evolutionary sense whatsoever.

"You'd expect animals to be doing smart stuff," Sih told me one evening over dinner. "The whole tradition in most of evolutionary ecology has been to emphasize adaptation where organisms do smart things. But I've been making the case for a while that the most interesting behaviors are actually the stupidest."
Of course, anyone who's read the Darwin awards or watched television for five minutes can understand that. But the example given in the article is that, among a certain type of spider, there are some females who are such aggressive hunters that they eat males of their own species before they can mate with them. The highly aggressive "personality" or type is advantageous in important situations such as surviving in times where there is little food, but if the spider can't help but hunt her mate, it's not evolutionarily wise in terms of producing offspring. So, is this just a genetic mistake, repeated despite evolution out of chance? And how does that help us to understand human behaviour? Again, from the article:
In animals, it is now becoming evident, there is a certain degree of evolutionary inertia when it comes to their behavior, wherein the very behaviors that accord some members of the group a distinct evolutionary advantage in one set of circumstances can do them in in the next. They are stuck, to some extent, with their distinct ways of being. We humans, on the other hand, tend to think of our personalities as protean, mutable entities that, unlike our physical selves, we can shape to suit shifting circumstances. Sih disagrees. He says he thinks that our behaviors, no matter how complex the human social contexts that help to shape them, are not nearly as pliant as we believe them to be.

"Behavioral ecologists actually tend to model animals and humans as both being very flexible, as being capable of changing their behaviors as necessary to do the right things in all situations," he said. But in our own day-to-day experience, he said, we recognize that humans don't really behave that way. "We all know that overly bold person," he pointed out. "We have friends like that. They do things that are just like: Hey, this can get you killed. What are they doing that for? And there are people that are shy, and they're missing out on opportunities they could have had."
This set of ideas, Sih told me, suggests new questions that are rarely posed about humans. "Like why do we even have a personality?" he asked. "Why do we have a relatively narrow range of responses as opposed to a full range? Why can't we all be bold when we need to be and cautious and shy when we need to be? Then we'd have no identifiable personality, and that would free us all to become optimal."

For Sih, the answer seems to be that our personality is a manifestation of a complex interplay between genetic inheritance and environment and early-life experience.
So, what we're looking at here is not only how personality develops and manifests, but how malleable it is. This affects everything from how we treat each other in our daily lives to how we avoid self-destructive habits or treat the criminally aggressive or mentally ill. What's more, it shows us just how similar to and connected with other creatures we are. Although our social interactions may be different or our thought patterns more complex, are we really that different? And, if we are not so different, must we not empathize with and respect animals more?

This hits all my buttons, both in the context of my love of and curiosity about animals and my interests in both sociology and psychology on large and intimate scales. Pre-industrial civilizations often used animals as symbolic representatives of different qualities and states of being humans could use to learn from and adapt to in order to understand and cope better with the world. Now we are learning not only that such analogies may still be useful, but that understanding animals on an individual basis my also help us to understand and improve ourselves. Fascinating, inspiring stuff.

I hope you all find the article as interesting as I did. In the meantime, I'll be looking up more information on these types of studies, and what the new discipline of animal personality research is all about.

Oh, No - It's Downer Day

This day, January 24, was calculated in 2005 to be the "most depressing" of the year by a researcher in Wales. Dr. Cliff Arnall devised a formula based on things like time passed since Christmas, debt thereafter, blown New Year's resolutions and weather and sunlight patterns to arrive on the date. The formula was devised to help a travel company analyze when people book trips and, logically, according to this article,
It seems that people are most likely to buy a ticket to paradise when they feel like hell.
Despite the fact that the study was based in the UK, I wouldn't be surprised if this was fairly accurate here in NYC. Still, personally, I'd wager that it switched to yesterday for 2006 in our area, mainly because it was a Monday and pretty damn gloomy.

Personally, I don't have any lingering Christmas debt or blown resolutions, but I do find myself succumbing to SAD and fantasizing about a getaway. I also had a crappy day contending with a mix-up at the gynecologist's yesterday, so I'd like to think the only way is up from there. Hey, it's sunny, I got a good night's sleep, the new StarGay episode's on my iPod and I don't have any doctor's appointments today. We take what we can.

How's your January going?

Monday, January 23, 2006

Comfortzone on 5th Ave

It seems like there's a new restaurant, café or bar every five minutes in Park Slope. Not that I mind, beyond feeling a but overwhelmed at all the choices and worrying that as the hipster cafés creep southward, so may our rent creep upward, &c. I do enjoy eating good food (as one may see by my "waist"line) and am generally too lazy to cook, so there you go.

At any rate, after a reasonable brunch at the insanely busy Daisey's Diner yesterday (are they really that cheap or good, people?) and some sulky shopping and errand-running, M and I both decided to take our grumpy moods to a coffee shop where she could do some meaningful work for the good of mankind and I could read my New Yorker in peace. We meant to try out some new place way north on 4th Ave or perhaps indulge at The Chocolate Room, but ended up in a joint we'd never noticed before, the Comfortzone Café Lounge on 5th Ave between 1st and 2nd.

Now, I'd seen this place being constructed, but I guess I went into one of my several-month fugue states because it suddenly seemed it was plopped onto 5th Ave out of nowhere to me (maybe they got new awnings?). As we read the menu and peered into the window, a friendly looking woman beckoned to us to enter. I figured she was the owner and, judging by the menu, she was Turkish. Right on both counts.

Comfortzone, besides being something of a lame moniker, is fairly apt. In front there is a bar with a glass counter display of yummy Turkish snacks like stuffed grape leaves, labni and various pastries, along with some short tables with ottomans to sit on. In the back, besides exposed-brick walls, paintings by Park Slope-based artist Jonathan Blum and a cute deck patio, there are a number of comfy couches and coffee tables. The over-all décor is clean and relaxing, but perhaps a bit too spare and bright to be homey. This doesn't seem to deter people from lounging, as evidenced not only by the attendance of locals from stroller-bound to elderly, but from a discreet sign stating that those who occupy seats without ordering will be charged $6/hr (which I initially thought was off-putting, but M judged as "awesome" in the face of the plague of couch-hogs that generally take over other lounges).

What is commonly called "lite" but I refer to as "smooooove jazz" plays in the background, although apparently there are often musicians performing. During our visit, a fairly talented and attractive young man called "Boo Boo Cousins" performed a brief solo spot with his acoustic guitar (he was pretty good, if perhaps not in the best venue to shine - I still give him three stars for the name, alone).

None of this would convince me to make this a regular hang out, but then we had a snack. It turns out the food and drinks are phenomenal. The Harney & Sons Bangkok tea I ordered came in an ornate teapot with a gilded Turkish tea glass, several sweetening options including a rock-sugar stick, and a small coconut and fruit cookie that complemented the lemongrass, coconut and ginger elements of the green tea beautifully. M had a mocha, which was full-bodied with a subtle hint of chocolate and came with a spice cookie to match. The well-done presentation of these items made them feel as special as they tasted.

We also ordered lebni, which was out-of-this-world. The full cream yogurt was thick but not sour, blended with walnut, dill, garlic & olive oil and accompanied by cucumber slices and fresh, warm Turkish bread. Finally, we had an order of baklava, which was both intensely sweet and fresh - some of the best I've ever tasted.

In short, the atmosphere was comfortable and food really wowed us. I'm not sure how crowded it gets at other times on other days, and it can easily get loud if one too many kids comes in, as was happening as we were leaving. Still, I would definitely return on a quiet Sunday afternoon to catch up on The Onion in the slanting sunlight and sample some more Turkish delights.

Friday, January 20, 2006

I Am Not A Water Balloon, I Am A Human Being

Magickal Mystery TourSo yesterday I had my third sonogram in under a year. I haven't been talking much about this, probably because I'm trying not to think about it. For those of you who don't know, the short story is, I've been having what doctors call "irregular menses" for about nine or ten years, now. This means that my menstrual cycle is completely unpredictable. I once had a two-year period where I bled every single day. Some days it wasn't much, but many it was a substantial, even alarming flow. The only way I kept myself from being dangerously anemic was to take iron supplements every day and greatly increase my intake of red meat and green vegetables. To this day, no doctor has been able to tell me what caused it.

If that weren't bad enough, the onset of this problem in my early to mid twenties also coincided with other problems, particularly rapid weight gain and depression and anxiety issues. Now, no what can say which caused which. Did hormonal issues that caused the bleeding also cause weight gain and depression? Did I just get depressed because I was bleeding? Did I gain weight because I was depressed? I can't even tell you, after all this time, which came first, so did weight gain cause the irregular menses? It all goes around in circles.

So, for the past nine years I've been poked and prodded and examined on and off in numerous ways, from your regular pap smears to blood test, sonograms, biopsies and both in-office and hospital hysteroscopies. I've even tried alternative therapies from exercise to chinese herbs, acupuncture to plant estrogens - all to no avail. The upshot is, I've gone through a lot of discomfort and nervousness only to have all doctors shrug their shoulders and prescribe some variety of the birth control pill. Which works, generally, but is annoying, mainly for three reasons:

1. I feel stupid taking the pill, since I'm a big old lesbian.
2. I have no idea what the long-term effects of taking the pill, possibly for the rest of my life, will be on either my general or reproductive health.
3. Hel-lo? I'd still like to know why the heck this is all happening?

Clearly, This Calls for HDTV Which leads me to not wanting to think about the latest tests. Because on my last sonogram they found something called "heterogeneous endometrium," which in my case means that I have thickened, irregular growth both on the inside and outside of my uterus. Now, my latest gyno person, who is actually a nurse practitioner, told me that this is most often a benign condition, but they would have to check it out further "just to be safe." The words "just to be safe" do not inspire confidence. In fact, they immediately conjure up what it would be like if things were not safe, in my mind. Add to that the fact that, because I couldn't reach said practitioner when I was supposed to get my prescription renewal, I've been off the pill for months and haven't bled at all the whole time - which now visibly worries said practitioner - and you've got a good basis for feeling frustrated, impotent, resigned, depressed and anxious right there. Did I mention I'm already on constant medication for depression and anxiety? So, yeah. I'm not thinking about these things. I'm not listening, la-la-laaa!

So, yesterday I got to experience the thrills of a whole new kind of sonogram, wherein they inserted a catheter through my cervix and into my uterus, blew up a balloon on it to plug everything up and pumped in saline solution to make the whole area plumper and easier to examine. Then, the doctor inserted the lovely vaginal sonography probe and poked around, resulting in the simultaneous sensation of being jabbed in the bladder repeatedly after drinking twelve Big Gulps and severe menstrual cramps - the kind where you think your uterus has given up and is now trying to escape your body. Oh, and afterwards, there was a big mess. Fun!

Any men reading this? You still with me here?

Now I suppose I'm fortunate. It's actually only within the last century or less that ob/gyn instruments have progressed beyond often-lethal hooks, saws and scoops (incidentally, when I was looking at a site with photographs of early obstetrical instruments I got a pop-up ad for a dating service... which - worst advertising scheme ever?), and very few doctors will merely tell me I'm hysterical and prescribe bed rest, leeching or suffocation. But you might be surprised at the number of doctors who allude that it's somehow my fault that I'm depressed because they can't cure all this (couldn't they at least prescribe some of the more pleasant treatments for "feminine problems"?).

I mean, come on - in an age where we can make every man pop a four-hour boner, is it too much to ask that female sexual and reproductive organs lose a little bit of their magic and mystery and become something doctors actually understand? Because from what I've discovered, the kind of problems I have are far more common than you would expect given the lack of discussion and information out there. In fact, it's said that about 7% of reproductive-aged women - approximately 5 million Americans - suffer from Endometriosis alone! That doesn't even count other menstrual issues. Can we get a little attention here, a little help? And perhaps, more importantly, do we have to so often feel so alone and helpless due to doctors' cover-up of their ignorance? Where are our yellow bracelets? Just because an affliction doesn't always cause death, doesn't mean it doesn't affect quality of life.

So now I am thinking about all this. And I'm mad. And then I'm frustrated. And then I feel like I just can't deal with it anymore. Which is why I stopped thinking about it in the first place.

But I wanted to get this out there. Not just because the people who know and care about me should know, but because everyone should. This is something that is happening to a lot of women out there, but we just aren't talking about it. It's time to stop being embarrassed and scared and let others know. Because how else will we stop feeling alone?

I have my follow-up on Monday. Odds are they'll say nothing's wrong and it's just an aberration - an unsolvable mystery of the complex female reproductive system going haywire as it does. In the meantime, I worry that it may be something worse even than a mystery, and I wait.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

It's Slopetastic!

A big, hearty welcome to Dope on the Slope, the latest addition to my Neat-o Crapola Links. Not only is this blog, in fact, neat-o crapola, but it's highly entertaining. It features evocative photos, musings both serious and humourous and a weekly invertebrate quiz, all neatly wrapped within the context of life in the Park Slope, Brooklyn area. It's the kind of blog I would write if I were much more focussed. Or just... that guy and not me.

Anyway, I highly recommend you check it out, especially if you live in my area or want to know more about it. You might even say it's... dope. (Oy.)

ADHD Train(s) of Thought

I've been gathering a lot of links that interest me to post here, but adding each one as a separate entry would take away precious obsessive surfing time, so here's one of my "what I'm thinking about today" lists:

  • Al Gore has responded to the White House backlash after his excellent speech. Most excellent, though I can't help wishing he'd shown this type of fire in the 2000 election. Sigh.

  • The Supreme Court upheld the Oregon assisted suicide law yesterday, with the Unholy Trinity dissenting, natch. The obsession with prolonging physical life, no matter how intolerable, is inhumane evidence of the gaps in the wall between church and state. Why should we allow our family members to suffer more than we would let our pets, especially when they are cognizant and able to voice their wishes?

  • Former astronaut Mike Mullane has new memoir out, in which he claims that the US space shuttle is "the most dangerous manned spacecraft ever flown, by anybody." He says that this is partially because astronauts and other NASA staff avoid questioning the bureaucracy because they are afraid of losing project opportunities, especially space flight. "Only janitors and cafeteria workers at NASA were blameless in the deaths of the Challenger seven," he charges.
    He's not without a sense of humour, though, as when he describes doing whatever it took to get chosen as an astronaut, from preparing for a proctological exam to withstanding the humiliation of a too-large condom. Although I may be wary that part of the griping is for publicity, his charges are disturbing. I may have to get this book. As I've mentioned before, I loves me some NASA, so an opinionated inside look should be interesting.

  • 27 new animal species have been discovered by biologists in Central California caves. That's TWENTY. SEVEN. In just around three years of study. How cool is that? NB: Obviously, the people who say there's nothing new to find and nowhere left to explore on planet Earth? Imbeciles.

  • In other animal news, even more proof is coming out that dogs are better than standard tests at detecting cancer. Yet another reason to respect animals, people!

  • Finally, I don't know why nobody thought to enter me in this contest. Possibly because it might lead to a situation like this. Actually, I heard Chuck Norris was able to grill a cheese sandwich with the heat of his gaze, but I'm not going to try to verify that, since I don't want a roundhouse to the head.

More disjointed babbling later, no doubt...

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Manhattan: Behind The Curve

It took this long for a NY Times food critic to venture to Brooklyn to bequeath his blessings on Al Di La?

All I have to say is, there was a time I thought I'd lose my cool badge if I ventured out of Manhattan, too. It was called college.

It's All About The Benjamin

Happy 300th birthday to the inimitable Ben Franklin. Seriously, if there ever was something like a real-life superhero, he was it. We should all take a few moments today to learn more about the man and his accomplishments. Here is one important thing he said:
Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.
In commemoration of this particular and timely quote, I highly recommend you check out the text of Al Gore's rip-roaring speech on the necessity of investigating the recent NSA activities and balancing government powers. Given on the date celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr., Gore's speech also elegantly references the FBI spying and plotting conducted against the great man. Even better, it led up to the lawsuit filed by the ACLU and the Center for Constitutional Rights against the Bush administration today.

May the spirit of Ben watch over us... and maybe kick some ass!

The KKK Took My iPod Away

OK, actually it was my girlfriend, who borrowed it for her work trip upstate. I was generous and loaned it to her, even though I've only had one day to savour being able to watch TV shows on my commute - in advance of when the shows are aired in the US, I might add. She hates to fly and she is going on a prison visit, which is never fun, so I figured she could use the distraction more than I could. However, I miss it. Boo hoo hoo!

I wish I could watch it right now. (Sniffle.) Better yet, I wish I could take several days off and watch it with her on her flight, then drive back to VT after her prison visit and go skiing in picturesque, snow-filled mountains, only to return at night with my lover to a warm, romatic, firelit room in a B&B.

Dadgum you, KKK! You ruin everything!

Monday, January 16, 2006

File Between "Hikikomori" and "Indigo"

There's been a lot of focus on how kids are changing and adapting to modern society lately, particularly in the New York press. After reading "Prairie Fire," Eric Konigsberg's examination of the suicide of a highly gifted child in the New Yorker last week (sorry, no link available) I, like a lot of bloggers I've been reading, was pretty freaked out. This was not just due to the subject matter and the tone of the article, but the empathy I felt with/for the kid who felt alienated as a "gifted" child. After all, I was a socially awkward, "gifted" child, too.

Now you'd never hear me saying I was a genius on the level of the kid in the article, but I was fairly advanced as a youngster, particularly in terms of reading and general comprehension. My mom would probably scoff at the idea that I was socially "off" and say I was just "a funny kid" or "individual", but she saw that I got along better with adults. With kids my own age, I was most often completely mystified by their actions and reactions. In fact, by the age six or so I would say I had pretty much decided that I was an adult trapped in a child's body. I'm not sure how much that had to do with my intelligence or just a psychological reaction to feeling very out of control in my life, but it was not a happy impulse. As the New Yorker article describes, being "gifted" does not always come with having the emotional tools earned with the experience of greater age.

From another quarter, people are claiming that the difference of "gifted" children is due to some universal spiritual and energetic shift. Yes, I'm talking about the "Indigo Children" and their parents recently featured in the NY Times. Along with the theory that ADHD is a sign of higher intelligence, not lack of self-control, proponents of the Indigo Children theory believe that some kids (usually theirs) are born with a higher understanding of the world and special skills, including paranormal ones such as psychic medical diagnosis and treatment. The proposed universal shift allows more "masters" or many-times-reincarnated spirits to return with greater gifts and abilities with which to heal the world and save it from impending disaster.

Well, I'm not sure what to make of all that. The interviewees in the article, naturally, sound like a bunch of fairy-land dwelling yahoos, or at least way more New Age-y than your average bear. The thing is, in the past couple years I have been see-sawing back and forth between agnostic rationalism and some pretty profound spiritual experiences, and I can't seem to decide for myself if I want to be, as Locke put it on Lost, a "man of science" or a "man of faith". (Using "man" in the most gender-inclusive way, of course). I've had a number of people who have decided they lean towards the spiritual side tell me that they think I must be an "Indigo Child" or, in a variant term, and "old soul." The problem is, I'm not sure whether to be flattered or bemused. Sure, they think it's a compliment. It means I'm supposed to be smart, perceptive and very emotionally sensitive. But that emotional sensitivity sure got me on anti-anxiety and depression meds well enough. Not only that, but the flip side of being told you're "special" is the overwhelming bit where it means you're supposed to be special, that is, do special things. And I have a hard enough time getting out of bed sometimes without thinking I'm supposed to be healing the universe or balancing some kind of cosmic vibrations that day, y'know? I mean, can I have a cup of coffee, first? Or is that going to cloud my aura, or something?

I guess it beats being told you're craptastic all the time (although I have my internal critic to do that). And at least most of the time I do make it out of the house. But the impulse to give up and become a hermit has persisted from my childhood of not understanding or feeling understood by other kids into my adulthood of not understanding or feeling understood by other adults, and it seems I'm not the only one. According to the NY Times (again), there's a veritable syndrome among Japanese youth of hikikomori, or "withdrawal", which leaves them shut in their rooms for years doing little but playing video games and eating meals left at their door by their parents. Now, to me this doesn't sound all that much different than the behaviour of your normal 13-year-old in our current electronically-stimulated society, nor that of the infamous "slackers" of the 1990s, minus perhaps some joie-de-vivre. But while in some ways I recognize it as a totally understandable emotional response to retreat from humankind and into one's own world given the state of the "real" one at this point in history, I do acknowledge that it is probably a sign of severe emotional affliction to give up on social contact so completely. I'd like to think I'd go stir-crazy and call somebody to go for coffee if left to my own devices for long enough, but when I'm stressed I do have an alarming penchant for doing nothing but sitting in my robe playing computer games, reading or watching TV for days, with the occasional food or nap break. Fortunately for me, I do have a significant other to interact with even during those times, although, perhaps unfortunately, my parents don't seem able or willing to support me in that lifestyle indefinitely. (And they say they "love" me! Hmmph). The point is, where is the line between "normal" and "healthy" retreat and, say, Howard Hughes-level crazy?

Plus, video games are fun. Huh-huh.

The truth of the matter is, a lot of people probably have these issues to some degree or other, and it's something of a popular tenet that it's hard to tell the difference between a genius and a madman (say it with me all together now: "Vincent van Gogh!"). Classifying people - and especially kids - is always iffy, whether it's as "gifted" or "maladjusted". And as for kids being different nowadays than they used to be, well... yes, and no. Every generation likes to see itself as unique and living in unique times, but the conundrum is that all times and people are unique, and yet also similar. Graffiti on ancient Roman walls and ancient receipts and composition books in the form of cuneiform on clay tablets show us that humans have had a lot of the same basic needs, problems and desires for thousands of years. At the same time, those ancient centurions or tax collectors certainly couldn't type pages of self-absorbed babble and instantly, electronically display them to the world. (Perhaps there is something to be said for the good old days.) So how is it that as we find it easier to send more messages to more people, there are reports that many are feeling more isolated? Could it be that we are just overloaded, or that we need to re-define just what "communication" and "isolation" are?

Weighty questions. As for me, I don't know what to think, besides acknowledging the fact that I am prone to a sort of empathetic hypochondria. I seem to be able to out-feel-your-pain Bill Clinton several times a day, to the point where everybody else's problems clearly must be my problems... and thus I must have the most problems of all. I could say it's silly, or evidence of my exceptional spiritual sensitivity, or I could just say it's human. In the meantime, I'm off to my room to play some video games...

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Thank U India

I just... wow.

Oh, Sweet iPoddy Goodness!

Alright, even though I am still having some Napster-related issues, I just downloaded some free software that has solved my video-conversion problems. My test of the season premiere episode of The StarGay was a resounding success - it was great quality, worked fast and took up much less memory than I imagined. I've yet to try the software from the same company that rips DVDs directly to iPod-compatible files, but reviews of it on the net are good, and I'm looking forward to trying it.

Movies wherever I go? Oh, iPod!

If you have a video iPod, check out the software at Videora. It is pretty damn awesome.

Would You Like To Swing On A Star?

I have been a big fan of Orion for a long time, and not just since I heard the Shawn Colvin song. It's always been the constellation I find most easily, the one that I remember from gazing at the stars at a child and the one that makes me feel most "at home," somehow.

Well, now the Hubble space telescope has sent back some amazing photos from the little old Orion Nebula that will blow your mind. I swear, once you see these, you will never look at the night sky in the same way again.

Have I mentioned lately that I love me some NASA?

They're Already Charming

... but needy animals become even more adoptable through the ASPCA Charm School.

It's stories like this that make me want to give a big hug to everyone involved (especially the puppies, of course).

Rapture (And We Don't Mean The Blondie Song)

According to HinkyDink:
Are your bags packed? They better be, because there's a good chance the AntiChrist will be revealed to us this June 6 (6.6.06).

If an AntiChrist is revealed, it could be the real thing, or it could be the best publicity stunt ever!

Hmm, I wonder if that will play in the same theatres that showed "The Passion of The Christ"?

And I Am Actually A Mormon Housewife from Utah

Tim Carvell from "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart" has some shocking admissions to make.

Friday, January 13, 2006

But Is There Any Slash Fic?

Sexy MF I have to say that last night's episode of Lost totally drew me back in. It was probably one of the best so far, mostly due to the righteous awesomeness that is Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje. He tore it up in Oz and he's doing so again, even without the hat. And this time his scary-ass killer character actually has a few redeeming qualities.

Of course, like any good Web addict, I noodled around today looking for junk about the episode and Lost in general. It turns out that not only are there the obligatory network site (which has been overhauled this season) and countless fan sites, but there are a couple other sites ABC put out with various puzzles and easter eggs to whet the obsessives' appetites. I don't mean "The The Official Site of the Creative Team Behind LOST", because that's basically just a large fan forum. I mean the sites for Oceanic Airlines and the Hanso Foundation. If you like Lost, check 'em out. Although they may have some spoilers.

Oh, and don't get these confused with some other "Dharma Initiative" sites out there that don't seem to have any traceable affiliation. Some of them even ask that you pay to get in! Why would I want to pay some anonymous person to see... what? Speculation? Spoilers? Flash animations? No, thank you.

As for slash? I'm sure it's out there. I'm just not searching for it. Heck, I'm still reeling at the thought that people put the effort into a Driveshaft site and this theory!

Fafblog interviews Alito

Talk about laughing through your tears...
Oh man, tell me about it! This one time I was hangin out with Dick Cheney an Al Gonzales an they were all hopped up on horse tranquilizers an Cheney's all "let's grant the president the ability to violate civil law during wartime" an Gonzales was like "dude!" an I was all "you guys are crazy!"

Hee! Full interview here.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

I Am Not A Fake Gay

But I have just discovered Fake Gay News and it is going right into my links list. Two funny recent entries involve a Buffy/L-Word crossover and gay cowboy...dinosaurs. Also, they followed up on the whole "gender-questioning Barbie" fracas with this little gem. Now that's MY kinda news!

Two Fools In NOLA

HyukOh, those rascally kids at the NY Times. I just opened up their Website to find this photo smack on the front page. And it linked to an article where Shrub declared post-Katrina New Orleans "a heck of a lot of fun," too. Niiiiice.

Green Eggs and Ham

Take us to your leader! Or at least green ham. Scientists in Taiwan have engineered pigs that glow brightly in the dark. Is this really necessary?

Maybe not, but it turns out it may be a good thing, anyway. Pigs are used in all kinds of experiments, and cells from the green pigs, who carry genetic material from flourescent jellyfish, are easy to spot. So, as the BBC article states:

...if, for instance, some of its stem cells are injected into another animal, scientists can track how they develop without the need for a biopsy or invasive test.

The more you know, I guess. Let's just hope this mutation is safe for consumption, because then it could also solve the whole green pig penis doggy treat problem, too.

Update: Although they might not actually be green, pigs implanted with genes from spinach are supposed to be good for you - at least according to the nutty scientists who made them. So, next time you want to eat healthy, put down that salad and pick up some bacon!

Ted Kennedy's Still Got It

And Arlen Specter is still a big liar. Kennedy sent a letter on December 22 requesting that Judiciary Committee Chairman Specter issue a subpoena to the Library of Congress for documents related to the right-wing group Concerned Alumni of Princeton. This is the group ScAlito was a member of but claims to forget. Arlen tried to deny he ever got the letter, but it now comes out that the big jackass did. See the fireworks at Think Progress.

Cuteness Fix for The Day

Squee! This has got to be one of the best kitten pictures I've ever seen, but you can vote on its comparative worthiness at It's a good-natured cuteness contest that would help me de-stress, if I wasn't pathetically worried I'd hurt someone's feelings by voting. (I know, I'm a pussy. So are they.)

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

I Beg To Differ

Thanks to my Boo for saving this little graphic for me. The only thing cuter than otters are fat, baby otters!

The L is for L'Crappy

I was going to say "Lame," but that doesn't cover it.

Why is it I get so excited about The L Word? Is it because it's the only show chock full o' dykes out there? I know it's going to be disappointing every time. Nevertheless, I got all a-twitter about the new season, watched some episodes from last season and remembered just how bad it was, then forgot somehow and got all het up again. Then, I finally watched the premiere and... ouch.

For some reason I think the creators are trying to make us hate every damn character. Seriously, they have all become so screwed up, stupid and just... nigh on irredeemable that it's painful to watch. Not only that, but they make a part-time character who annoyed the crap out of everyone full-time, skip 6 months of storyline into what-the-fuck? and respond to viewers' lobbying to bring the soup chef back by making her the switch that flipped Alice to batshit crazy.

And let's not talk about Jenny. Please, let's never talk about Jenny. Except to say, judging from the previews, she's about to replay the script of The Living End, which, seriously, none of us need. Ever. (Although it would at least move some of the plotlines' relevancy from 1972 to 1992.)

But, I'm sure I'll keep on watching it, because I like some of the actresses and, quite frankly, since it is the only dyke soap opera out there, they've got me by the short hairs. Nevertheless, I'm glad I've found a new cheesy show to enjoy with my s.o. In fact, despite it being a product of the SciFi channel, it's less cheesy than The L Word, and, even though none of it's characters are openly gay, it's possibly more homo-positive. We call it: StarGay.

iPod iSsues

OK, so I love my new iPod, even though I still doofily keep calling it a Walkman. However, I have noticed a few small issues, which, because I am an ungrateful old fart, I will whinge about here.

1. The clickwheel. Is it just me, or does it seem to be oddly sensitive in some areas at some times, and less so at others? I thought it was pretty cool when I first started using it, but now I can't figure out why at the beginning of my subway ride it wants me to only use the lower right quadrant and at the end it favours the top.

2. Earbuds. They are not made for the disorganized. I've already lost one of the foam covers after two days of use. Also, I keep pulling them out to find the wires I carefully wrapped around the iPod are now tangled. Why? Lastly, although the sound is pretty good, they are not made for small ears. They constantly pop out of mine, so I will have to go buy old-fashioned headband-style headphones pretty soon.

3. Finally, but most importantly, DRM. The Apple folks really make it hard to use anything but iTunes. Before I got an iPod for M, I had assumed I'd get an MP3 player that basically worked like a portable hard drive. However, since M wanted the iPod and it did seem elegant in terms of everyday use (plus easier to find), I thought I might as well ask for one so we could share software. Previously, I'd had a Napster account through which I could download unlimited tunes for a $10/mo flat payment (some tracks cost an additional $.99, but those are the minority, by far). The tunes have Napster proprietary digital rights. What I'd do is convert them to MP3s so they took up less space and could be moved to any MP3 player. BUT, now that I've got the iPod, I have to go through lots of steps to transfer this already-purchased music to iTunes. Not only that, but I can't transfer anything when my Internet connection is down, which has been most of the time of late, due to some cable probelms at our place (don't get me started - Time Warner NY is driving me up a frickin' tree).

So, here I am with hundreds of songs that are just sitting on my computer and can't be loaded to the iPod. I'm also mad at Napster, the whole music industry and all corporate soft and hardware developers about this. It's not that I'm not willing to pay something for the music - I just don't want it to be exhorbitant amounts or multiple times. Bottom line is: there should be an easy standard for purchasing any music and transferring it to your player. Who says competition is always good for the consumer?

Anyway, now that I've vented my spleen, I have to say it's a nice experience to be able to listen to music to and from work again. I haven't done it in so long that it feels like a huge novelty to me, and I find myself bopping to the music until I remind myself that no-one can hear it but me. I know everyone in the world but me has now had an iPod forever, but since it's my first I feel like I've finally joined some cool club, or something.

Also, I like to just hit "shuffle" and get a surprise mix way broader than I ever could on a CD player. It's interesting to monitor just how different I feel about my surroundings depending on just what song comes up, acting as a soundtrack to reality. I find it much easier to love my fellow New Yorkers when they're wrapped in a calming acoustic gauze of Sarah Harmer, for instance.

I'm still an old fart, though. I will not listen to the thing on too loud a setting - what if I should blow my ears out or get mugged because I'm not paying attention? Plus, I don't want to become one of "those people" whose music plays so loud thorugh their headphones that you can hear every note and lyric from across the train car. What are headphones for, anyway? Why not just carry a boombox, ya dang whippersnappers? Here's a hint: if your music is so loud that it isn't completely obliterated by the howl of the trains coming through the 66th Street 1 station, you're going to go deaf. It's just a question of when.

Now move along and don't bother me. I've got to figure out how to tape the LPs from my thingamabob to my doohickey.

Give My Regards to Broadway

Because I may never be able to afford a ticket to any of the shows. However, M & I still owe an outing to my Mom from last Christmas, so I decided to find out what's playing on the Great White Way.

Well, as usual, it looks pretty crappy. But what really caught my eye were some of the shows in previews. I had heard about the horrifically cheesy musical version of Lestat, which is already stinking up the review board on craigslist during its SF run. I had even noticed rumours that The Lord of The Rings was going to be tested out in Toronto, although, silly me, I hadn't realized it wasn't a musical but an "event". But now I find out that Broadway producers are so bankrupt of ideas that they are staging an adaption of an Adam Sandler movie from 1998. Granted, it's probably his only movie of quality, but still.

I believe "oy" is the word I'm groping for...

The "Talk of The Town" - Further Conversations

Am I the only one that finds myself maddened by these blurbs in the front of the New Yorker? They tend to titillate with amusing bits of information, leaving just enough questions unanswered to send me running to Google. So, here, so you don't have to, is the research I've done on this week's articles.

1.One blurb is about an albino clawed frog housed in the offices of Bloomberg, LP. In it you'll find:

Xenopus (“strange foot”) laevis, native to southern Africa... on occasion, will eat its young; it was the first vertebrate to be cloned and has flown aboard the space shuttle. For decades, it was used to detect pregnancy (a pregnant woman’s urine, injected into a female frog, would induce the frog to lay eggs).
What you will NOT find is an illustrative photo, so here's one now.


The article also does not mention the fact that "the ease of manipulation in amphibian embryos has given them an important place in both historical and modern developmental biology", nor that this frog eats by shoving food into its mouth with its "hands" because, unlike your common fly-catcher, it has no tongue!

Another article is a light-hearted piece about carriage horse drivers. Although it mentioned the recent terrible accident involving a carriage horse and a car, it, like most heartlessly human-centric articles, doesn't even mention what happened to the horse. Well, here's what happened to the horse: it died!

Although my curiosity was piqued by the spotty description of how one becomes a carriage horse driver, it was not satisfied. Alas, I'm having trouble finding more on this on the Web (just how much does a carriage driver make, for instance?).

I will say that I am highly skeptical and concerned about just how humane the practice of exposing horses to cold, long days, heavy weights and NYC traffic can be. However, if you really want about the most twee wedding ever, go ahead and hire that glass Cinderella-style baby.

And finally, if you didn't know the Willis Avenue bridge over the Harlem River was for sale, it is. If you want pictures or more information than you can shake a stick at about the bridge however, don't look at the article. Look here and here.

You're welcome.

Image of The Day

I didn't know bunnies use blow-up dolls, too...

Tootsie Pop Art

Steve at the sneeze has done it again. I just love these old-school images from Tootsie Pop wrappers.

The 80s Tarot

I would be much more willing to pay $5 to a street psychic if she read my fortune with cards including Corey Hart wearing his sunglasses at night as the blind "Justice" and Robert Smith of The Cure as "Death."

Books Made from Human Skin

Kos brought this up. Apparently there are a number of these in presitigious libraries. I really don't have much more to say about this - it's just my usual fascination with the weird. Oh, except the robber that willed a memoir to his victim bound in his own hide? Priceless.

Very Tolerant Cats my friend Liz put it, can be found at If you haven't had the privilege of seeing this highly educational site, yet, you may want to start with the must-see best of 2005 section. Also high on the list are the creatures on my cat section and the annals of site favourite, Q the cat, who make me think of my own cat, Maya, except about infinity times less likely to gnaw off your face if you try to put crap on her.

I Am Guppie, Hear Me Roar

If you're interested in what's going on in the Brooklyn housing market or how to renovate a townhouse, check out . If you're interested in actually purchasing or renovating a brownstone someday, it will only make you cry.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Extreme Makeover

I'm futzing with some possible new designs for this blog. Let me know how you think it looks.

Mind-Blowing Video Clip of The Day

Now THAT's television! Ah, the 1970s. There were a lot of crazy and moronic things on television, but this one truly pushes the boundaries. Imagine: a Star Wars spoof on "The Donny & Marie Show" with Paul Lynde (as Grand Moff Tarkin), Donny & Marie, Kris Kristofferson, Redd Foxx, Darth Vader (voice of Thurl Ravenscroft a.k.a. Tony The Tiger), C3PO, R2D2, and Chewbacca. Yes, it's true, and just as neuron-exploding as you might imagine it. See a clip here.

Check out for more classic clips, including some from the infamous Halloween special. And thanks to BiPM for the tip.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Happy Birthday to MLK, Jr.

In his honour, here is an excerpt from a speech he made in NY against the Vietnam war. Sadly, it is sitll timely today.

One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life's highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say: "This is not just." It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of Latin America and say: "This is not just." The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just. A true revolution of values will lay hands on the world order and say of war: "This way of settling differences is not just." This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation's homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into veins of people normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.

Amen. And thanks to the Kossack who posted this quote.

When Is A FTM Transgender Hooker Not A FTM Transgender Hooker?

When she's a straight, female-born writer.
Witness The Strange Tale of JT LeRoy.

Look out!

It's the the Unitarian Jihad!

We Are in Big Trouble

According to an article in the NY Times, diabetes became the fifth-leading cause of death 2004. Sayeth the Times:

Dr. Daniel Lorber is an endocrinologist in Queens who thinks a lot about the disease's present and future. "The work force 50 years from now is going to look fat, one-legged, blind, a diminution of able-bodied workers at every level," he said, presuming that current trends persist.

Da-yum. I have got to lose some, weight, y'all.

Meanwhile, this recipe for Mac and Cheese has been on the NY Times most mailed articles list for days. And I have to tell ya – it’s delicious!

NEW! from Mattel(TM)

It's Gender Confusion Barbie(TM)!

Sometimes it's hard to imagine how the religious right take themselves seriously.

Update: Fotunately, the rest of us don't take them seriously.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Whatever Pops Into My Head

Let's play a little game called "what silly things are Da Nator thinking about today?" Ready? Go.

In the "you learn something new every day" department, I read an article in the New Yorker today that referred to "uncombable hair syndrome." Once I stopped snickering (and thinking to myself that that's what my super-curly-headed gf must have), I realized it may actually be a heart-breaking condition for some people. And, lo, so it is.

Also called "spun glass hair," one intriguing theory is that it actually was the condition that inspired the creation of Struwwelpeter, or Shock-headed Peter, of old, grisly fairytales. If you look at an old illustration of Struwwelpeter next to an actual case, it's not that far-fetched.

Check out for more fascinating hair facts, and the Dermatology Image Atlas for... a lot of disturbing stuff you really don't want to see.

Speaking of hair, be sure not to use that heat gun and paint remover that produces temperatures of 1,000 degrees as a hair dryer. You'll find that and other useful label notices Michigan Lawsuit Abuse Watch's annual Wacky Warning Label Contest.

In other news, as M and I exited the Galaxy Global Eatery after a nice lunch the other day (the place is a trying a bit too hard to be cool, but I highly recommend the smoked eel burger with tasty beet fries and a cucumber-seaweed salad), we noticed a familiar face (along with the rest of the body) on the corner. It was none other than actor Reg Cathey, who has played many roles, but we remember fondly for perhaps his greatest: Dirty Dee in Pootie Tang. I boldly challenged M to utter "wha da tai, my naby?" to him as we passed by, but wasn't bold enough to do it myself when she refused. Either that, or I'm just not a jerk who harasses actors with stupid catchphrases from their B movies. YOU make the call!

Other than that, I am looking forward to Time Warner getting their slow asses to my house this weekend to fix the cable internet service so I can start downloading music for my new iPod, and to rooting on Big Blue in the throws of playoff fever. Here's hoping they realize the potential they've been frugal with thus far in the playoffs... enough with the nail-biters, already!

Lastly - and before you think I'm just some big knuckle-dragger - I learned today why the ring finger is actually the most important one. Note: it isn't because we put rings on it, although it now seems more appropriate, somehow.

Happy weekend!

Friday Dog Blog (for a change)

1. Oh, my God. She isn't quite Li'l Brudder, but Faith the Wonder Dog is damn close.

2. How do you dress a dog?

"Don't get something that makes her look like a hairy Paris Hilton," he said. "Get her something that makes her look tough."

Read the full article and laugh.

Friday Cat Blog (but it's not what you think)

Who says cats ain't smart?

There's an interesting article in the NY Times today on cat evolution and migration that outlines scientists' investigations of how these "very successful predators, second only to humans" have explored and migrated around much of the world and how "evolutionary forces morphed the pantherlike patriarch of all cats into a rainbow of species, from ocelots and lynxes to leopards, lions and the lineage that led to the most successful cat of all, even though it has mostly forsaken its predatory heritage: the cat that has induced people to pay for its board and lodging in return for frugal displays of affection."

Sadly, it may be true that curiosity - along with the need to roam large territories for food - is indeed killing the cat, "because their broad hunting ranges have brought them into collision with people." Indeed, "With the exception of the house cat and a few other small cat species, nearly every one of the 37 species is considered endangered or threatened."

Read the full article and then save the pooties, people! Save the pooties...

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Silliness Quotient for The Day

Well, I got my new video iPod today. I am just so cool, now. I'd be a lot cooler if I wasn't so old that I keep slipping and calling it a "walkman." On the bright side, at least I don't keep calling it an "eight-track" or "phonograph." "Eh, Jebediah - why can't I get my wax cylinders into the talky machine?"

I was kind of afraid to take it out and use it until I receive the case I ordered for it. I'm just so accident-prone. Unfortunately, now I'm also afraid to open it for an entirely more disturbing reason.

In other news, I'm so glad we didn't get my neice the "Potty Time With Elmo" book for Christmas. Who knew Sesame Street was so... existentialist?

That's it for now. After I get the kinks worked out at physical therapy (I learned yesterday that when the therapist tells me to use 3-pound weights, I really should not get all macho and try to use 5-pounders, instead), I'm off home to eat a couple of pounds of macaroni and cheese and collapse. Apparently Satan is writing a food column for the NY Times, as they recently featured articles on mac'n'cheese and two artery-clogging recipes, which my office-mate and I (and probably most of the eastern seaboard) promptly scamperd home to bake. (Note: a little brown apple cider mustard gives your cheesy dish a nice tang.)

The collapsing part is due to staying up too late to watch the Sugar Bowl. How 'bout that Vince Young, eh?

Peace, I'm Audi, and all that other pathetically old fake hip-hop speak...

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Cool Image(s) of The Day

NASA's amazing Spirit and Opportunity rovers are still roving, way past the original expectation that they'd last 3 months. Which gives us the opportunity (and spirit) to see amazing things like these dust devils on Mars.

Now if we could just get some interplentary TiVo going...

Monday, January 02, 2006

Cats' New Year's Resolutions

OK, so these are from 2004. I'm sure they still apply in many cases.

Golden Gould Awards for 2005

DarkSyde from has put together 10 "sincere objections to evolutionary biology" taken from "chat rooms, e-mails, IM's, and the Talk Origins Feedback Archive." Read them and vote for your favourite- if you can see through your tears. The winner "receives a virtual gold plated statue of the late Stephen J. Gould... holding his nose with one hand and a small bag full of unidentified refuse at arms length in the other" My vote is for #5, but they're all just... appalling. Yay for evolved humanity!