Friday, April 30, 2004
Now Hear This: INDIE 103.1 FM 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
My friend Daphne just tipped me to the new streaming Los Angeles radio station INDIE 103.1 - high quality audio, very cool music here (WMP needed). Their bag is new and classic alternative rock - right up my alley! My first click on, Morrissey was on deck, followed by Modest Mouse, Toots and No Doubt and the Cure. When you access the stream, a pop-up player shaped like a vintage Fender amp appears, displaying dynamic artist and title info. Then - oh, boy - The Clash's long lost "Hitsville UK", and The Killers' "Jenny Was a Friend of Mine"!!

I may just get excited about radio again!

Tonight's ABC Nightline Banned on 8 Sinclair Broadcasting Stations 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Ted Koppel spoke this morning with departing National Public Radio host Bob Edwards, regarding critics' allegations that tonight's controversial edition of ABC Nightline - consisting of readings of more than 700 names as photographs and captions with the ages and hometowns of the dead appear on the screen - is a politically motivated anti-war ratings stunt.

Maryland based Sinclair Broadcasting is pre-empting the show on a number of TV stations, stating that it "appears to be motivated by a political agenda designed to undermine the efforts of the United States in Iraq."

[read full post on Mutinous Winds]

Poem On Your Blog Day: Rod McKuen 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
A great idea, seen on A Burst of Light:
To commemorate the end of National Poetry Month, blog about your favorite poem and provide at least one link to other poems and/or a bio of the poet.
Okay, here goes! One of my all-time fave bards is Rod McKuen, because of the way he captured that enigmatic cinematic Gauloises-on-Stanyan-Street rumpled-sheets-on-a-rainy-day vibe...yeah. He also wrote the lyrics to "Seasons in the Sun" (made into that iconic cheeseball 70's anthem by Terry Jacks), which always made me cry as a kid.
The Storm / Fourteen
How can we be sure of anything
the tide changes.
The wind that made the grain wave gently yesterday
blows down the trees tomorrow.
And the sea sends sailors crashing on the rocks,
as easily as it guides them safely home.
I love the sea
but it doesn't make me less afraid of it.
I love you
but I'm not always sure of what you are
and how you feel.

I'd like to crawl behind your eyes
and see me the way you do
or climb through your mouth
and sit on every word that comes up through your throat.

Maybe I could be sure then
maybe I could know.
As it is I hide beneath your frowns
or worry when you laugh too loud.
Always sure a storm is rising.

-- Rod McKuen, Listen to the Warm (© 1967 Random House)

I like this poem because in its few lines it crystallizes the existential aloneness and unpredictability of human life, even in the intimate context of love. A very telling piece.
As for link to some other poetry - I can recommend some bloggers-cum-poets I really enjoy: Makura No Soshi - A Woman Who Loves Insects, Dragonflypurity at My Complex Simplicity, and Erika at Snazzykat.

And finally, from Digresso, the Writing Instructor's poem generator [via feministe],
concrete rhetoric

black adverb entombs social construction
it was troped and silently metonymized
waxing radioactive and still
the only burning rhetoric was the eye-
grey remembrance of themes past when wolf howls
concrete epistemology silently toward black identity
now, concrete chickens by the red wheelbarrow

Thursday, April 29, 2004
In Search of: the Boscoware™ Mug 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
UPDATE: Although I have not ordered from them personally, Replacements Ltd. offers a search service for Boscoware® Signature pieces, including mugs: http://www.replacements.com/webquote/SIGBOSCR.htm
. Might be worth looking into?

About 6 or 7 years ago, I received a "thank you" holiday gift from a Canadian ad agency sales rep I'd worked with closely during my days as a television commercial producer. Morrie was a friendly, outgoing 50-something guy (who could sell ice to the Eskimos) I shared many a laugh with during drives to Montreal-area businesses to "pitch" ad ideas. He helped smooth the way during some crazy outdoor 3AM commercial shoots for a well-known strip club on Ste. Catherine Street back in 1998-99; you should have heard the "concept" meetings - I'll have to tell you about them some time.

Anyhoo, his parting holiday gift was a set of four BoscoWare™ coffee mugs that I have used almost every day since...they're the perfect mug. Solid, durable, with a hand-pleasing shape and ridges on the sides that help keep the mug squarely in the hands of a pre-caffeine sleepyhead. They came in a set of yellow, green, blue and plum-colored mugs with matching saucer/lids. The mark on the bottom reads "Made in Thailand" and "Boscoware - Quality Like Mom Had".

The were purchased in Canada, and I have not seen these mugs for sale anywhere in the States. I'm terrified of breaking them, and it's a miracle I haven't yet. Would any of my Canadian friends (hint, hint) know where I could buy some more of these? Morrie, if you're reading this, I hope you're well - and thanks for the mugs.

'Ghost Town' Back in Town 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
click here to visit 'Ghost Town'

If you were searching for the Ghost Town "motorcycle ride through Chernobyl" site after Elena's Angelfire.com location 'melted down' (ouch), we're happy to report she's back online - this time with her own domain, http://www.kiddofspeed.com/.

[More on Chernobyl]

Manly Food 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
If you haven't explored the range of international brands owned by the Coca Cola™ company, you're in for a surprise. How about a beverage sold in India called Thums [sic] Up?

That's all fine and well, if you're into "strong, fizzy taste and...confident, mature and uniquely masculine attitude" that "separate[s] the men from the boys." I'll refrain from the gratuitous "with a crowbar" reference; then again, maybe I won't.

However, the "manly food product" that's got women up in arms is the British Nestlé™ Yorkie® bar, unashamedly labeled with a slashthrough-red-circle-with-a-female-symbol and the caption "It's Not For Girls!™". Chocolate for Men? From the British site, The F-Word:
Women and men even eat chocolate differently in the world of advertising - men snap off chunks on the side of their mouth and chew and swallow purposefully, and of course, they scowl as they're doing it. Women suck and nibble slowly, eyes closed, perhaps raising a well-manicured fingertip to the corner of their mouth to daintily catch a few stray crumbles - think Cadbury's Flake for the classic freudian way to eat chocolate.
Personally, I'm not the least but offended by the campaign...it seemed good for a chuckle.

I bought a couple of the imported bars at the World Market in Evanston, IL before seeing "Kill Bill, Vol. 2," and shared them with both my better half and a male friend. Happily, I can say none of us suffered any ill effects from consuming the Yorkie™ bars, although I must admit they're a tad too sweet for my taste. I'm just not certain why some men would need to..ahem...prop up their manliness with a big hunk of chocolate - or a sugary soda. Certainly, most men wouldn't be caught dead eating something like a Pria™ Bar in public - but why not man-market a big thick chewy stick of beef jerky, or something?
{ahem} I think I just answered my own question.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004
The Rover Eye Blimp in the Sky 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
'Rover' from 'The Prisoner' courtesy of retroweb.com.Rednova reports that giant golf-ball shaped Navy surveillance blimps may soon roam American skies to protect against terror attacks. [via "Sugar, Mr. Poon?"]
From FOX News' report on the new surveillance blimp program: "What is increasingly happening is people are coming under routine surveillance without good cause," said Barry Steinhardt, director of the technology and liberty program at the American Civil Liberties Union. "It's no longer fanciful to talk about a '1984'-like society."

An intelligence policy specialist at the Federation of American Scientists, Steven Aftergood, said, "People are going to behave differently even in their own back yards if they know that someone may be watching."
Sometime last year, I read on a blog (the title escapes me) someone had suspected a Navy blimp circling over San Diego was secretly spying on the town - I remember because that blogger's post was linked on a site that essentially called him a crackpot.

Hmmm. Maybe it's a good idea sometimes to listen to the crackpots. [image of 'Rover' from Retroweb.com]

Big Brother Wants Our Blogs - but Michigan Doctors May Not Want You 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Watch out, all ye who blog of other than kittens, puppies, babies and other "soft" subjects: your blog soon may be the target of U.S. Intelligence tracking. [via feministe]

And, going to the doctor just got a bit harder in Michigan, following the passage of bill House Bill (HB) 5006 - The Conscientious Objector Policy Act, which states a medical professional has the right to refuse service for moral, ethical or religious reasons.

The legislation was reportedly passed with the urging of some Catholic groups wishing to provide an "out" to faith-based health care programs for services such as birth control or abortion, but the real world consequences of this bill are even more frightening:
"...a doctor, paramedic, or emergency room physician could refuse to treat me because I'm (well, almost) Jewish; or if I were Black, homosexual, pregnant outside of marriage, a drug addict, an alcoholic, or any other reason if they have "moral or religious objections". To say this is scary is an understatement." [via Greengrl]

Just Plain Ugly: The Swan 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
The Chicago Maroon has a great op-ed piece by Whet Moser on the controversial FOX "reality" show, The Swan. I've posted on this blog before about Extreme Makeover, but the Maroon's Moser analyzes how The Swan takes this brand of Exploitive Crap™ to the next level:
The Swan is a crazed blend of fetish porn, marrying physical and emotional anguish to fantasies of control. One of my friends once pointed out that the whole undercurrent to the Coors Twins, Hef’s twins, the Doublemint girls, and other such male dreams is a devaluation of the individual, literalizing the objectification of sex through the implication of cloning. The generic ideal aimed for by the show’s hired guns gives the participants a mechanized look, botched only by the genetics that God punished them with. Though they’d obviously lack for business, the surgeons act as if they’d be happier if everyone looked a bit more alike, or if they could have just designed the damn contestants in the first place. Cross that with the show’s literal progression from pain to pleasure and you have The Swan, an S&M version of the American obsession with self-improvement, and further evidence of the fear and loathing at the heart of the American dream.
More about "reality TV" Crap™, this time from ABC: on farkleberriesUSA, details from Nate.

"Sh_t Hit the Air Conditioning": Violence in Southern Thailand 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
map courtesy BBC.comThe BBC reports at least 100 suspected Islamic militants are dead in southern Thailand following a series of dawn attacks on security outposts near the Malaysian border. Louis of LDMA'S Life in the Wor Zone is a blogger reporting from the midst of today's violence in Songkhla, Thailand:
"Shit hit the air conditioning today, as a village on the Southern tip of Songkhla was involved in the voilence that erupted in the the 'usual suspect' states of Pattani, Yala, and Naratiwat. Up to 30 people were killed in Pattani when police launched RPGs and teargas into a Mosque where youths were hiding after launching attacks on military bases and police stations with guns and machetes.

According to my mate down in Pattani (sensibly hiding in a Hatyai shopping center), most of the youths involved were local kids as ol' Toxin Shinawatra suggested, but according to locals, Jemaah Islamiah has been offering these kids money and drugs to kick up trouble. The more Toxin buries its head in the sand about this the worse it is going to become." [...]

"This is worrying because for the first time my province has been hit, though the trouble happened in an area right on the edge of Pattani and not in the Buddhist centred part I live in."
Here's keeping our fingers crossed that Louis and the rest of the folks over there are safe for the duration: hope for peace.

UPDATE: Louis reports that his part of Songkhla Town - being a primarily Buddhist area, not close to police outposts or "cop shops" - is fortunately relatively safe for now, but a friend in Pattani is in the area where 30 people are reported killed. More news at LDMA's Life in the Wor Zone.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004
"So, When Are You Going to Open That Restaurant?" 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Doing something as a hobby - and doing it for a living - are two entirely different things. I've been an avid "experimental" cook for years [see "My God, It's Full of Squirrels!"], but after many exhortations by friends and family to the effect of, "when are you going to open that restaurant?" I've decided that my culinary aspirations should remain an avocation of passion rather than a profession.

Mainly, I don't have the energy to stand over a hot grill for hours on end, coordinating sous-chefs and company (what - you'd think I'd settle for less than Head Chef? Just kidding. I'd rather enjoy the results of slaving over a hot stove myself, thank you). More importantly, unless it's a smash-hit, I rarely like to cook the same thing two or three times without tweaking the recipe - something you just can't do when you're a Chef. Like a scientist, once in a lifetime you invent the light bulb; but most of the time you just get a stinky burnt crucible.

Unless you're a Wolfgang Puck, you can't experiment with the paying audience's taste buds. You can't cook a succulent Herb-Roasted Brace of Cornish Hens a l'Orange one evening - and gummy moon-white NERF football-sized "Pierogies" the next (that ended up being thrown to the crows and raccoons behind our apartment in the dead of night). My better half claims to be able to count the number of times I've bombed in the kitchen on the fingers of one hand, but I think she's being overly, overly generous. ;)

Consistency and professionalism are a virtue in the pro cooking world, which is one of the reasons I really enjoyed this inside peek behind the egg grill from Sloped Sideways:
One of the easiest ways to spot a good cook, other than whether or not they can keep up during a rush is how clean the side they are on is. We have a few cooks that are able to keep up with almost any rush, but when they are done cooking it's a good hour project to get their side clean. There are a few of us though that are able to leave a side nearly spotless even after the busiest Sunday.
Now that's discipline! Few things are better on a Sunday morning than a perfect omelet with a side of crisp has browns. With a cup of good coffee.

Now that's cooking.

Microchip Detects 33 Species of Animal DNA in Food 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Yet another amazing technological innovation: the bioMérieux FoodExpert-ID, a microchip that can detect the presence or absence of 33 animal species' DNA sequences in food, from AffyMetrix™ [via BoingBoing]. From the AffyMetrix™ site:
The presence of unwanted or unknown animal species in food, can have a range of effects from benign to deathly serious and is of great concern for public health, economic, religious and legal reasons. Manufacturers and consumers alike have been unable to examine the composition of food at a molecular level. However, for the first time, the bioMérieux FoodExpert-ID Array is being used to detect DNA sequences specific to an animal, allowing species composition to be determined, safeguarding the purity and authenticity of food products.
Keeping kosher? Check your dish for pork, shellfish, rabbit or other treyf meats. Hindi? No beef with that. Allergic to seafood? Check your chowder. Vegan? You'll be guaranteed nothing with a face is on your plate. On the other side of the coin, you'll know whether that $15 foie gras tidbit is the real deal, or just chopped liver.

Never again will you have to ask, "what was in that Chop Suey?"

Murder in the Name of 'Honor': Rochester, NY 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
From the Rochester, NY Democrat and Chronicle comes this disturbing report of a Turkish immigrant residing in nearby Scottsville, charged with the "honor killing" of his wife and attempted murder of his two daughters on April 15th. When Ismail Peltek was taken to hospital complaining of stomach pain, he was asked a series of questions by police:
”Do you know where you are?” he was asked by Investigator David Vaughn, according to court documents.
”Strong Hospital. I love America. I am not a terrorist,” Peltek responded.
”We know that,” Vaughn said.
”OK,” Peltek replied. “Nobody listen.”

After painkillers took effect...Peltek allegedly gave details of the attacks, which he said occurred while his family was asleep. ”Did you kill your wife today?” Vaughn asked.

”Yes. Yes,” Peltek allegedly replied. “I knifed her and I knifed myself. They took my honor.”

His 39-year-old wife died after being stabbed repeatedly and bludgeoned on the head with a hammer. His daughters suffered fractured skulls from hammer blows. Peltek, 41, said he attacked his 4-year-old daughter because she had been “sullied” by a gynecological exam.

”If you had the opportunity to kill the family again, would you?” he was asked by Rochester police Officer Emre Arican, who was brought in to help investigators because he speaks Turkish.

”My female family, yes. My male family, no,” Peltek allegedly replied.
Police investigators are not ruling out the possibility that Peltek may be suffering from mental illness, which would have bearing on the case. [first heard of on feministe]

Monday, April 26, 2004
18 Years Ago Today: The Chernobyl Accident, Part 1 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
view of the near-vertical reactor head of the Chernobyl 4 RBMK-1000, courtesy INSP.comThey say there are no coincidences in life.

Today - on the precise anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster - I received my first completely trashed Amazon.com shipment (which I returned tout suite). I ordered VHS tapes of two ABC Nightline special reports on the incident: Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster (aired April 28th, 1986, when the West first heard of the reactor accident) and Chernobyl Plant - The Aftermath (aired April 22, 1987). Since I didn't pay Chernobyl much mind in 1986, I thought the archival program footage would be fascinating (seeing a young Ted Koppel is always good for a chuckle).

I'm sure it will be when the replacements arrive. The shipment I received today appeared to have been either run over by a car or stepped on by Ruben Studdard: the box was accordioned into a hourglass shape, and I knew it was bad news when I shook it like a Christmas present. Rattle, rattle, ching. The tapes inside were literally smashed into black plastic shards. Sigh. Neeeeext! We'll see if Amazon holds to their reportedly strong returns policy.

And, the news breaks that the Vermont Yankee nuclear power station in my old neck of the woods "lost" two pieces of highly radioactive spent-fuel rod:
From USA Today:
The operators of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant reported the missing pieces Wednesday, saying they were not where they were supposed to be in the large pool used to store fuel rods. One of the missing pieces is about the size of a pencil. The other is about as thick but is 17 inches long.

The spent fuel rods are highly radioactive and would be fatal to anyone who came in contact with them without being properly shielded, Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokesman Neil Sheehan said. Spent nuclear fuel could be used by terrorists to construct so-called dirty bombs that would spread deadly radiation with conventional explosives.

"We do not think there is a threat to the public at this point. The great probability is this material is still somewhere in the pool," Sheehan said. The pieces could also have been sent years ago to a testing laboratory or a low-level nuclear waste disposal facility. The pieces were part of a fuel rod that was removed in 1979 from the Vermont Yankee reactor, which is currently shut down for refueling and maintenance.
Burlington, VT's WPTZ-TV today reports that the missing pieces are, well, still missing. I don't live near Burlington these days, but that doesn't make me feel much better. It's like hearing that your downstairs neighbor's pet Black Mamba turned up missing.

So, my research into Chernobyl (which includes scouring the Web and government sites, and the University of Chicago and Harold Washington Libraries) has been slightly delayed. However, for the curious, I have a selection of choice hand-picked links that will provide multi-national insights into the incident, and its continuing aftermath.

Friday, April 23, 2004
Feast on the Beast! 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Via BoingBoing, a piece on a trendy Hannibal Lecter-esque English cookbook called The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating, "devoted to the preparation of offcuts, snouts, rectii, marrow, and bladders of all description."

Apparently, mystery meats have become something of a forbidden fruit in the U.K. in wake of Mad Cow disease, giving offal-eating all the thrill of munching fugu.

*ahem* Sorry to break it you, folks; but if you've ever eaten hot dogs, bologna, Spam™ or potted meat food products [famously described by the character Karl Childers in Sling Blade as "full o' ground-up peckers n' whatnot"] you're already an "adventurous eater."

Thursday, April 22, 2004
'Trapped boy rescued from superloo' 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
J C Decaux doesn't just make those spiffy Eurostyle bus shelters that recently appeared around Chicago. They also make child-eating monster toilets.

Blog Spotlight: HackCanada 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
From the Illegal, Immoral and/or Fattening files (well, illegal, at least), HackCanada.com offers up fascinating "don't try this at home" hacks and phreaks for the North of the Border geek, though Yanks might learn a thing or two here as well.
The disclaimer reads: The information on this site is for educational and entertainment purposes only. It is not intended to encourage or teach you to break the law (that's what TV is for). The owner(s) of this website will not be held liable for anything you choose to do with the information contained on this site. If you want to learn how to make bombs and drugs and guns and shit like that, well, you won't find it here, just go to Chapters or your local library, they will hook you up very well indeed.
For those who haven't spent much time up North, Chapters™ is the Canadian homogenized book-dealer equivalent of Borders™, but ever so slightly more progressive. The way Tim Horton's™ is like Dunkin' Donuts™, only better (speaking of fattening).

{Homer} Mmmmm. Timbits™. {/Homer}

HackCanada isn't just for phone and wi-fi phreaks - they have some really enlightening sections on wetware hacking, Palm™ hacks, and some mordant essays on the decay of personal freedoms - including the right to wear your hoodie the way you damn well please in a 7-11. Check it out.

An Ode to Energy 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
With apologies to the original:

"Wind power is fleeting,
Hydro is damp,
Solar cell heating
Doesn't give enough amps,
Nuclear links
To a toxic waste dump,
Coal burning stinks,
You might as well pump."

The Answer in Blowin' is the Wind 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Today I made my first guest-posting on Mutinous Winds, a new group blog "about public speech and how it's limited and shaped by market forces and the institutions of democracy." The blog was recently founded by Paul Goyette of Locussolus, who also runs the Chicago Blogmap.
Weak masters though ye be, I have bedimm’d
The noontide sun, call’d forth the mutinous winds
And ’twixt the green sea and the azur’d vault
Set roaring war; to the dread rattling thunder
Have I given fire, and rifted Jove’s stout oak
With his own bolt;

[The Tempest, Act V, Scene I]
The subject of my first MW post: how the Seattle Times recently broke the Bush administration's ban on media coverage of caskets and burials of the returning Iraq war dead. The MW roster seems to be a highly intellectual group - I'll be a bit out of my league for while, I think - but I'm excited about the chance to take part in an outside weblog project like this. It should be an interesting and educational "meeting of the minds"!

Wednesday, April 21, 2004
Mind Your BQ's 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Sugar, Mr. Poon? has an interesting post about the odd phenomenon of curiously youthful-looking Bicentennial Quarters ("BQ's"):
I see them a lot. More than I see 1975 or 1977 quarters, even accounting for some availability bias or what not. As such, I'm going to assume that either or both of the following is true:

1. The U.S. Mint continues to produce BQs.
2. The U.S. Mint takes BQs out of circulation less frequently than they do quarters of surrounding years.

Seems reasonable, no? Here's the thing I just noticed, though: every time I see a BQ, it's in great condition. I just don't recall seeing a tarnished or otherwise beaten-up BQ.
My theory? I'm not sure how the mint decommissions BQ's (or P's, N's, D's and POQ's for that matter)...my suspicion is that while the Plain Old Quarters of adjacent years (the 1975's and 1977's) have been changing hands for almost three decades (and are removed from circulation as they reach increasingly poor condition), sentimental souls like myself have been hoarding BQ's in coffee cans for years at a time.

Occasionally we open the coffee cans, notice the pristine piles of BQ's, and decide sentimentality for the Spirit of '76 isn't quite what it used to be. These "sleeper" BQ's are then returned to circulation from their artificially-preserved state, looking barely older than the day they were born. Hence, a greater quantity of shinier BQ's in the currency pool than one would expect.

That's my...(cough, cough)...two bits.

Let's Twist Again: Heavy Weather in Illinois 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
A swath of tornadoes hit Utica, Illinois last night (about 90 miles outside of Chicago), causing heavy damage and killing several people. AZCentral has details about the killer spring storm.
In Indiana, officials were surprised by the storms, said Alden Taylor, a spokesman for the State Emergency Management Agency. "It was warm, but those are what are called popcorn storms [a.k.a. an "air mass thunderstorm"] that will suddenly appear. It's very difficult to predict them," Taylor said.
Strange how weather patterns like this travel - last night in Chicago, it was raining, but barely even breezy...I suppose that's the nature of a "popcorn storm."

Tuesday, April 20, 2004
I Don't Give A Damn 'Bout My Dissertation, You're Livin' in the Past, It's a New Generation 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Okay, okay, really bad pun. But this is very cool: Western Washington University Associate Professor of History Kathleen Kennedy has published a journal article [PDF file, some adult content] in Women's History Review entitled "Results of a Misspent Youth: Joan Jett's Performance of Female Masculinity":
The article maps Joan Jett’s performances from her days with the Runaways in the mid-1970s through her successful solo career in the 1980s to her recent affiliations with the riot grrrls in the 1990s. Unlike some critics, who, while acknowledging Jett’s influence on generations of female rock performers, dismiss Jett as an inferior copy of male rock musicians, the author argues that Jett’s various performances of female masculinity challenged conventional understandings of masculinity and femininity. The article explores how Jett’s interest in punk enabled her to carve a space for herself in a male-dominated genre. It is further contended that as more spaces opened for women in the early 1990s, Jett’s performances took a more aggressive stance on traditionally feminist issues and enabled her to use her sexuality as an offensive weapon.
As of this writing, I haven't yet read the article, but it looks fascinating. It's not a "fan piece," but a serious piece of work documenting a groundbreaking musical performer's influence on sociological gender norms. Be sure to read the citations and footnotes at the end of the article - they're very enlightening. [I first saw the link to this article on Joan Jett's official website]

I remember reading in a few interviews that Joan is/was a big fan of the films Cabaret and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, both of which featured a number of gender-defying performances; if you read some of Kennedy's analyses of Joan's choice of music-video imagery, it's clear where these influences shaped Joan's art esthetics, but the extent she has reshaped them and made them uniquely her own is historically noteworthy.

Nutjob - or Cell Phone User? 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
The lines between madness, magic, and technology continually blur further: first, the fun stuff - Wi-Fi Dowsing Rod lets you find wi-fi hotspots with this spiffy tool that looks like a water dowser's forked branch. That will definitely get you some strange looks about town. Come to think of it, cell phones are sort of nutty, too. Sometimes, I find it hard to remember what public spaces were like before cell phones came along - one could spend days wandering about, never hearing a disembodied "Godfather Theme" ringing on buses and trains, in classrooms, or outdoors.

Agent Maxwell Smart's shoe phone was ridiculously funny, simply because the idea of a hidden phone ringing (and answered) unexpectedly in public situations was rather absurd. It used to be when you saw someone cheerfully having a one-way conversation, you knew they were nuts insane, drunk, high, or all of the above.

All that's changed. In the early days of cell phones (the small handhelds, not the clunky brick-style phones), you'd have a sideways glance to assess the solo talker's clothing and general hygiene before making a snap judgement about their mental status, and if one of their hands were held close to their ear, you basically knew they were using a cell phone. Of course, they could have been holding an empty soup can or candy wrapper next to their ear, and I might not have known the difference.

Today, with tiny-in-your-ear handsfree units, the distinction is sometimes harder to make, especially during bulky-clothing season. I've been fooled into thinking I'm walking towards a nutjob mentally ill individual, when to my relief I spy a small wire with a microphone bulge in the center - like a miniature gorged python - leading down from their ear. Phew. They're okay. Considering some of the one-way conversations I've heard, sometimes it's hard to tell the difference between crazies and businesspeople.

The most striking thing about many cell phone users is that they seem to be under the impression they're having a private conversation, and no one else in their surroundings can hear them. You often hear people discussing intimate financial, relationship, even sexual matters, on a cell phone in public places, deluded about their anonymity because outsiders only heard one side of the talk.

When you think about it, it's pretty strange that people would assume making a cell phone call is private - or that it entitles them to privacy. If you look over at someone having a loud, strange, very obvious public cell-phone conversation, you're likely to get that dirty "mine joan bizness" look, despite the fact that you can still hear every word they say if you make no eye contact. Rarely do the talkers seem to realize that they might be invading your private space with their jibberjabber.

However, lest you think only casual observers are studying the sociological aspects of cell phone use, Sociology of Switzerland has a page full of weblinks connecting to free online scholarly manuscripts dealing with cell phone use - for example, "The Family in the Networked Society: A Summary of Research on the American Family," by Christine Bachen, or Rich Ling's "It's 'in'. It doesn't matter if you need it or not, just you have it.' Fashion and domestication of the mobile telephone among teens in Norway." If I wrote a paper on the sociology of cell phone use, I'd probably name it "Nutjob or Cell Phone User? External Perceptions of Solo Conversations in Public Spaces."

[Wifi Dowsing Rod and Sociology of Switzerland links via Angermann2]

Monday, April 19, 2004
What A Splendid Waste of Time! 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Try this next time you blog: the Book Meme.

1) Grab the nearest book.
2) Open the book to page 23.
3) Find the fifth sentence.
4) Post the text of the sentence to your journal along with these instructions.

Here goes. Mind you, I'm sitting in a room surrounded by economics texts, so the content variety will be a bit limited...
Under the leadership of the Communist Party, the Chinese people are carrying out a vigorous rectification movement in order to bring about the rapid development of socialism in China on a firmer basis.
That, of course, from the Complete and Unexpurgated Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse Tung, (Bantam Books, 1967) [meme via Fresh, Hot Wastes of Time, who cites easy bake coven.]

farkleberries Now Has Trackback! 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Although I was happy with the backBlog commenting service I'd used for a few months, I finally switched over to Haloscan because of its trackback capability. I'll keep my fingers crossed, since each time I've switched third-party services for Blogger™ there has been an slight adjustment period.

Since I'm new to this whole trackback thing, I thought I'd share that Haloscan has a tutorial on how to use their trackback feature located at http://www.haloscan.com/forum/index.php?showtopic=2641, as well as links to more general trackback FAQ's . If you have any problems with this new commenting system, or the trackback, please drop a line to farkleberries feedback.

Sunday, April 18, 2004
Biting the Hand That Writes for You 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Here's a classic case of "syntax means everything": the headline of this CNN.com article, "Dog Found Six Days After Avalanche Kills Owner," might lead one to believe it's the ultimate example of biting the hand that feeds you. However, the content of the piece reveals otherwise - the owner was killed by the avalanche, not by the dog.

This is a tricky one. If you re-word the sentence to read "Dog Found Six Days After Owner Was Killed by Avalanche," we still don't know whether the dog was found dead six days after the owner, if the owner was found dead, or both are dead. I suppose the least ambiguous, least-passive form of this sentence would be "Avalanche Kills Owner, Dog Found Six Days Later."

Then again, I don't write for CNN, and I suppose taking the time for perfect syntax on a found-dog story doesn't take precedence over tasks such as covering the 9/11 hearings or the war in Iraq. The cynical part of me just thinks CNN was being deliberately ambiguous, to get readers to click through in hopes of reading a grisly ungrateful-dog-kills-owner story: "you should have left me in that damned avalanche, wretched human!"

Thursday, April 15, 2004
That Warm, Radioactive Glow! 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Ever heard of "Vaseline Glass"? It's a type of collectible antique glassware that's usually clear or slightly milky yellow (like the petroleum jelly it's named for) or yellow-green, but its most unusual characteristsic is that it glows brilliantly under ultraviolet light. That's because the distinctive color is produced by the introduction of uranium salts into the glass melt - and yes, it is radioactive...the higher the Geiger counter reading, the more you're guaranteed of its authenticity.

There's apparently a large cult market for uranium glass pieces, which range in age from the 19th century to the 1930's - but none more recent, probably because radioactivity got such a bad reputation following the advent of the Bomb - after World War II, "radiation chic" fell out of vogue. You might be familiar with the story of Fiestaware™ pottery, certain types of which were crafted with a sightly radioactive ceramic glaze - while hard to find, the 'hot' pieces are hot collectibles, fetching high prices.

One UK website that sells Vaseline Glass offers certification of Geiger counter readings, which range from about 300 cps for a small Czech candle-shaped tray, to a blazing 8400 cps for an English 19th Century wine glass. That goblet must have put quite the kick in your nightcap. One piece is listed at a whopping 22,600 counts-per-second, but I hope that's a typo; if it were really that 'hot', you'd probably have to handle it with lead gloves. Still, I'm not too convinced it's a great idea to keep radiant collectibles like this in one's china cupboards, much less actually use them.

Radiation became fashionable after Marie Curie's research on the element radium, and one dark night upon returning to her laboratory, she found it filled with an eerie glow. She had discovered that radium-containing compounds glowed brilliantly of their own accord, as the atoms released energy in the visible spectrum in the process of radioactive decay. Although Madame Curie paid for this spectacular discovery with her own early death caused by radiation exposure, the new "miracle substance" made its way into many consumer products, such as watches whose dials glowed in the dark.

One major radium-watch scandal occurred here in Illinois, at the Elgin Watch Company. Remember the fate of the "Radium Girls," the poor souls who used to paint glow-in-the-dark patches on clocks and watches? Luminous paint used back then contained hazardous radium salts instead of today's safer glowing alternatives like zinc compounds or phosphorus, and the radium workers often had a habit of "pointing" the brushes in their lips to obtain finer paint lines.

The results included dreadful skin ulcerations and cancers, corneal cataracts and tumors of the mouth, jaw and neck. Rather than being recognized as radiation sickness, these maladies were often incorrectly diagnosed as advanced syphilis and venereal disease by doctors who felt that these women, who shunned traditional roles by working in factories, must undoubtedly have loose morals. A shameful era, no doubt...but I still think "The Radium Girls" would make a cracking name for a rock band, or a blog.

Better than "Phossy Jaw."

If you're curious, here's the University of Chicago's official training page for radiation safety. So, just how dangerous is radiation exposure? On this page you'll find a small chart that lists some examples of activities that carry a one-in-a-million risk of killing you. They include:
Smoking 1.4 cigarettes (lung cancer)
Eating 40 tablespoons of peanut butter
Spending 2 days in New York City (air pollution)
Driving 40 miles in a car (accident)
Flying 2500 miles in a jet (accident)
Receiving 10 mRem of radiation (cancer)
Most of these make sense, like the fact that breathing New York City air for 2 days can possibly kill you - a rather disturbing little statistic. On the other hand, I am thoroughly confused about how eating 40 tablespoons of peanut butter carries a 1-in-a-million risk of death. How? By aflatoxin-induced cancer? Allergic reaction? Clogged arteries? Constipation?

Do you have to eat all 40 tablespoons at once?

Wednesday, April 14, 2004
Chernobyl Requiem: a Flashback In Time 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Ruins of Chernobyl Reactor 4 before construction of the SarcophagusI'm still not certain what triggered it, but this weekend I started thinking about the Chernobyl disaster. True, it's a strange topic to suddenly become interested in, and I can't pinpoint any precipitating cause, such as a news story or random overheard conversation.

Considering that I had a major obsession with nuclear war back in the mid-1980's, I've been rather nuke-phobia-free for the last twenty years or so. The truth is, when Chernobyl's Reactor 4 exploded on April 26th, 1986, I don't remember being horribly concerned or glued to the television for news on the event. This can probably be explained by the fact that I was 18 at the time, and current events were rarely the stuff of daily obsession for me then. I think the zenith of my nuclear paranoia came in 1984 (Coincidence? We think not!), when my high school classes were periodically interrupted with fallout drills and regular lessons on Civil Defense Emergency evacuation procedure.

You see, I lived in Plattsburgh, New York back then - home to Plattsburgh Air Force Base, which was a prominent Northeast strategic ICBM target. What we were all told back then was basically that when the Russkies finally pressed the Big Red Button (of course, it would always be the Russkies pushing the button first), our immediate response should be to duck down under a table or desk, away from glass windows, place our heads protectively between our knees, and kiss our arses goodbye.

Between Ronald Reagan's regularly televised polemics, the "star wars" defense initiative, the Plattsburgh Yellow Pages' obligatory section on Civil Defense evacuation procedures (complete with maps where we should assemble with a change of warm clothing, canned food, jugs of clean water and prescription medications within ten minutes from when we first heard the alarm sirens, preparing to be bussed to safe locations before the Big One hit PAFB in 30 minutes - that's how long it would take the Russkies' ICBM's to strike our little air base) and songs like '99 Red Balloons' by Nena, 'Distant Early Warning' by Rush, 'Dancing With Tears In Our Eyes' by Ultravox (and many others) blaring sweaty repressed fear with a synth-and-guitar backbeat, I had recurring nightmares about nuclear war at least once a week back then.

Every time I heard a fire station call siren, I thought it might be The Big One. It got to the point that when I saw a flash of lightning to the eastern horizon, for a moment my heart skipped and I wondered whether my 30-minute timer had begun.

Sounds crazy, but those were crazy times. Who new that less than two years later, hell would break loose in the Ukraine, with a near-unstoppable radioactive fire spewing toxins into the Northern hemisphere upper atmosphere for nearly two weeks?

Compounding the Chernobyl event's mystery was the Soviet government's complete media silence about the accident for two days, only admitting to the disaster after a Swedish ambassador implored Moscow for answers why incredibly high levels of radiation were being detected in the Scandinavian nation for no apparent reason. Soon images of the reactor inferno reached the outside world, with accounts of brave, desperate virtually unprotected firefighters and helicopter pilots on suicide missions, struggling to put down the graphite moderator fire; the coverage near operatic in its dangerous grandeur and human pathos, a Götterdammerung of man against the mighty Atom unchained.

This past Sunday I heard a dark, minor-key Russian choral hymn on WBEZ, a Chicago classical music station, and in my mind I played over the images of the Chernobyl cataclysm I'd recently seen and read: the juxtaposition made me well up with emotion. Now, for the past few days' I've been researching the entire Chernobyl incident - historical footage and media coverage, and regular updates prepared by regulatory agencies and multinational consortiums, including those who plan to clean up the entombed reactor and rebuild a more permanent protective shield than the hastily-constructed, crumbling Sarcophagus.

I've discovered that the Chernobyl story is far from over: the monster only sleeps. Authorities in the former Soviet Union publicly decried their population's fear of Chernobyl's fallout as "radiophobia," a mass hysteria with no basis in fact. Unfortunately, when authorities are less than candid about the facts, people will try to read between the lines and fill in the blanks, often creating mass panic. Today, a number of nations are scrambling to raise funds to finally contain and clean up the reactor ruin, to dissect its poisonous innards before it wakes, stirred up by seismic activity, weathering, or other events. This project is called the Shelter Implementation Plan, or SIP [PDF file].

Perhaps the recent look back at Chernobyl is no coincidence. Here in Chicago's Hyde Park, just a few yards from where I work, is a large brass Henry Moore sculpture that looks vaguely like a deformed hollow skull, or a mushroom cloud. It stands at the former site of the University of Chicago's Stagg Field, where on December 2, 1942, a researcher named Enrico Fermi created the world's first controlled self-sustaining nuclear reaction. The sculpture is called "Nuclear Energy", and it marks the place where the power of the atom first emerged in the world of man; if not for this event that took place near where I pass every day, there would have been no Hiroshima, no Nagasaki, no Three Mile Island, and no Chernobyl. As Prometheus stole fire from the gods, so Fermi stole the fire of the atomic pile: nuclear energy may certainly have brought some benefits to humankind, but at a rather steep price with compounded interest.

NOTE: The photo at the top of this post is a rare excellent shot of the destroyed reactor after the fire was put out - but before the Sarcophagus was constructed. I found it on the Chernobyl Tour site, where you can apparently book a tour of the area, including stops near the reactor and the neighboring ghost town of Pripyat. Tourists get special disposable clothing and respirators for the trip, and a complimentary computerized souvenir dosimeter reading (unfortunately, I'm not joking). Sorry, no photos allowed by Ukrainian law, which would explain the relative dearth of good images of the accident site available. However, some photos do appear on the Web, mostly from Ukrainian residents who visit the area and some from foreign press visits, which I'll be offering links to in the forthcoming special farkleberries feature on the Chernobyl accident anniversary. April 26th, 1986.

The photoessay site "Ghost Town", created by a young Ukrainian woman named Elena, has received over 2.5 million hits as of this writing; you'll find dozens of startling, one-of-a-kind images of the Chernobyl region accompanied by Elena's account of her visit. While access is strictly limited, Elena states that her father works for the government, and was able to arrange a permit for her motorcycle visit. Thank you, Walt, for this excellent link.

18 years is nothing in the life of a plutonium atom.

Gatorade and Noodles 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
A tragic story from California: a car occupied by a 5-year old girl and her 26-year old mother plunges 400 feet after crashing through a guardrail on Freeway 60, the mother's body was found 10 days later near the girl, who survived and was found in surprisingly good condition. The kicker? The child survived the week-and-a-half long ordeal by consuming Gatorade™ and noodles she found in the car.

Funny; college students have been surviving on those rations for years at a time.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004
News From the Front 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Or from the rear; depending on where you stand. Things are finally settling back to normal after a week of Chicago jury duty, which is a pretty disruptive experience. It's like getting an unexpected vacation, except you get to spend days at the lovely South Side Graybar Hotel.

Maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration, but considering the fact that the moment you enter the court building you're searched, metal-detectored and locked in a tiny unventilated room with 13 other people under armed guard makes it feel a bit like you're in jail. The prison-issue food doesn't help matters any, but at least you get to wear your own clothes, and the parking is free.

The first day's menu: sitting in said locked room for four hours, then overcooked chicken with baked beans, soupy frozen vegetables and sliced bread for lunch, served in a foam plastic tray with plastic utensils. Drinks? Cola or diet cola. More sitting in locked unventilated room for hours with 13 people who have eaten baked beans. These people are sadists.

Second day's menu: the same chicken + the soupy frozen vegetables - baked beans + a can of pineapple + a can of mushrooms = "sweet and sour chicken" on a foam tray with plastic utensils. You get the idea. That food alone is enough to make one a law abiding citizen. At least the deputies were friendly, considering they're armed to the teeth with pistols, stun guns, mace, kubotans and handcuffs, lest we try to escape the confines of the jury room and run to freedom at Popeye's Chicken, outside the building on California and 26th.

"14 people?" you ask, "aren't there usually 12?" But of course; however, two of the 14 are alternates, and they won't know it until the very end of the trial, when they get sent to a separate room and don't get to put their 2 cents in during deliberations. Three guesses who ended up being one of the alternates.

I do still feel kinda gypped.

All this, plus a lesson in civics, a snappy red sticker to wear at all times in the court building (so people know to NOT TALK TO US!) and a lovely, frameable certificate, too! Such a deal!

Thursday, April 08, 2004
Rise Up Joe McCarthy, Rise Up to Us Now... 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
With apologies to Steve Earle's "Christmas in Washington," [streaming .wma file of his song, covered by Joan Baez] we sadly announce that the noble Fartman of Minor Nether Proportions has been kicked off the air from six Clear Channel radio stations, because the FCC's fines against his show for violating their "indecent language" statutes are proving too costly:
"It is pretty shocking that governmental interference into our rights and free speech takes place in the U.S.," [Howard] Stern said. "It's hard to reconcile this with the 'land of the free' and the 'home of the brave.'"
CEO John Hughes justified Clear Channel's purging of the Stern show from 6 stations,
"The Congress and the FCC are even beginning to look at revoking station licenses. That's a risk we're just not willing to take," he said in a written statement. [from CNN]
Truly a sad moment for Americans, whether you like Stern's show or not. This makes me glad I'm a card-carrying member of the ACLU...literally, I have an ACLU membership card. It's like a St. Christopher medal for us liberals.

Speaking of the ALCU, this story is just too delicious for words: Rush Limbaugh seeks aid of the ACLU to keep his medical records sealed, as the Florida ACLU files an amicus brief wth the Fourth District Court of Appeal,
... ACLU argued that law enforcement officers violated state law by using the more intrusive search warrant process to seize Limbaugh' medical records, rather than by obtaining a subpoena through the proper procedures outlined in Florida Statute §395.3025. The statute requires law enforcement officers to notify the person whose medical records they seek to obtain and to grant that person a hearing to object before the records are seized. [from the ACLU News]
Sometimes, you just never know when you'll have to turn to the enemy for aid. ;)

Wednesday, April 07, 2004
Blog Spotlight: Escaperail 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Finally - someone has dedicated a website to a phenomenon I've always wanted to capture and commit to hypertext - seriously. Escaperail.com is a side project of MachineChicago, celebrating the unique esthetics of those summer back-alley smoking lounges and underappreciated lifesavers, the fire escapes of Chicago.

Discharging One's Civic Duty 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
...shouldn't have to involve sewer lines.

Yours truly is currently away from the blogosphere while serving on a criminal jury trial - which is quite the interesting experience, considering the jurisdiction in which I'm serving handles 2.5 million cases a year (yes, you read correctly: 2.5 million cases). However, by law, I can't discuss any of it with you until it's all over. So, talk to y'all soon.

Sunday, April 04, 2004
Devon Avenue Trashdoll 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 

PLUS: Really strange things some people do with Barbie dolls, from the April issue of the American Journal of Roentgenology (X-Ray technology). [via AJRonline.org] Warning: not for the squeamish. I mean - really not for the squeamish.

Joan Baez Live at Northwestern University 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
This Friday night, we saw Joan Baez perform at Northwestern University's Pick-Staiger Concert Hall in Evanston, a spacious-but-intimate 1000-person venue packed with aging old hippies, former 60's radicals and tweedy academic types alike.

Joan was still in fine form, gypsy-elfin in a red velvet waistcoat and orange silk turban, somehow pulling off the miracle of sounding clarion-strong and bell-clear despite a head cold. At one point she told the audience, "I'm going to leave the stage for a few moments to blow my nose, so these guys will now play you the "Nose Blowing Dance" for your enjoyment..." - whereupon her agile 4-man backup band vamped a rockabilly blues instrumental number until she returned, skipping slowly back to center stage. Whatta trouper.

Her opening act was an unusual one-woman show, Erin McKeown, who sounds like an American Björk channeling the spirit of Duane Eddy: a simply amazing young guitar player, alternating between a mini hollowbody Gretsch and her electrified acoustic.

Highlights of the show included "There But for Fortune," Steve Earle's "Christmas in Washington," "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue," (complete with a verse where Joan lovingly imitates Bob Dylan spot-on, as only a compatriot could do) and a gorgeous, updated version of my favorite Joan Baez song (which I first heard as a cover version by Judas Priest) "Diamonds and Rust." For the encore, she joined her bass player and lead guitarist for a fresh acoustic take on "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down," surprisingly ear-wormish and catchy, even today.

Joan's ever-political sense of humor took a hilarious turn at one point with a shaggy-dog story, whose punch line involved a microsurgeon, a cowboy hat, a horse's behind and the current occupant of the White House. She also played some songs from her new album, "Dark Chords on a Big Guitar," as well as numbers from all eras of her 45-year career; she's so familiar with her audience and laid-back that it feels like you're at a coffeehouse show with a legend.

If there's something I've learned about concerts, it's to never turn down a chance to see a legend.

Friday, April 02, 2004
The "Lesbian Barbie" T-Shirt Controversy 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
In today's news, Natalie Young, an openly gay 15 year-old received a $30,000 settlement from New York City after she was sent home for the day from her middle-school class for wearing a T-shirt with the caption "Barbie is a Lesbian." Young stated in a press interview that the settlement should make life easier on other openly gay schoolchildren: "I think they should feel more comfortable about who they are." But will this settlement help? In my book, $30,000 dollars is a lot of compensation for being sent home one day from school for wearing a T-shirt, no matter what was printed on it.

Of course, gay and lesbian teens should have protection against discrimination, taunting or bullying in schools - but despite the fact that her school did not in fact have a dress code in place at the time she was suspended, I think this settlement may be sending an unclear and potentially divisive message.

The overt implication is that Young was sent home from school for daring to be open about the fact she is a lesbian, and that this deserves financial compensation - but I don't think that's really the issue. I think people wear t-shirts with attention-getting images or slogans for one simple reason: they want to get attention. Young was not sent home because she declared to someone she is lesbian - she was sent home for wearing clothing that had an attention-getting, potentially disruptive message. This wasn't a case of someone displaying a rainbow flag or pin, or something of that sort. What if the T-shirt had read, "Barbie is a Jew"? or "Barbie is an Atheist?"

Outside of school, students should be able to wear whatever fashions they enjoy, and display whatever messages they please. However, a middle or high school is not a mall, a coffee shop, a college, an arcade, or the street. If I wore a T-shirt like Natalie's to work, I'd probably get fired - and we don't have a dress code per se, either.

Some would argue that unlike work, school attendance is mandatory, therefore students should be allowed to dress in whatever fashion they please during school hours, as they have no choice in being there. I don't really think so. I'm not a big proponent of school uniforms, but I do think school dress codes are generally good policy, because they help equalize an environment where the most insignificant details of fashion, appearance or socioeconomic status can create unnecessary disruptions.

Parochial schools have historically required students to wear uniforms, both as an individuality-restricting measure, and to help level the playing field between poor and well-off students. For many kids, it's a far better thing to wear a white button-down shirt, plaid skirt and Mary Janes than to wear tattered hand-me downs when others are dressed like Britney Spears. While I agree it is important to allow kids to maintain a sense of individuality, I think schools would do well to maintain neutral "business-casual" dress codes. That way, there's less ammunition for students to envy or disparage one another on the basis of their what clothing they can afford to wear.

Growing up, I wasn't one of the "rich kids," and I remember how cruel kids could be to one another over something as ridiculous as what brand of shoes or jeans they wore. These days, we complain about how materialistic kids are, but enabling the social basis for ingraining that materialism in schools isn't helping any.

That said, I wish Natalie Young all the best. I also remember very well what it was like to be 15 and gay, and to not be able to tell anyone about it - especially not at school. That alienation can be profoundly hurtful, and we need to find a way to allow gay teens to be themselves without fear of harm. When I was Natalie's age I wouldn't dream of wearing a shirt like that in public, much less on school grounds. That just shows how far a single generation has come.

But while the settlement may make it easier for students to wear shirts that read "Barbie is a Lesbian," will it make it that much easier for others to wear shirts to school that say something like, "God Hates Fags"? I certainly hope not. We may have come far, but just last night coming home on the train, I saw fresh black-markered grafitti scrawled on the train wall near the door: "Fags = Burn in Hell" and "LEZbians WILL BURN in HELL"

Natalie should remember that $30,000 can buy a lot of t-shirts, but not one ounce of peace of mind.

New Twist on the Old "Nigerian Scam" 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
You've got to hand it to some of these the scammers on creativity. I receive one of these "Nigerian Scam" letters at least once a week (because of course, all people working at one of the nation's top Economics departments are suckers for financial scams), but this one is a little different. Let's call it the "Muslim-converts-to-Christianity" Scam:
To: deacon_zik@[addressdeleted]
Subject: GODS' WORK.

Dear Beloved in Christ,

It is a priviledge to hear from God and it gives me joy to relate my testimony to you haven recieved instruction from God through divine revelation.

I was a Moslem and a retired military top officer in Nigerian Army that served under the past military regime. I was the financial secretary to the Armed Force Ruling Council (AFRC). With my position as a financial secretary, I was able to divert up to $10,000,000.00 (Ten million U.S Dollars, into my personal Bank Account, hoping to invest the money when I'm retired.

Immediately I got retired, I was converted from Moslem to Christian when I was preached the words of God through my cousin Pastor Paul Osakwe. I then gave my life to Christ and became a born again Christain.

Since I gave my life to Christ, I had no rest of mind. Some times I think of the souls I killed when I was a soldier and the dubious ways I diverted my country's money into my Personal Bank Account. I then decided to seek the face of God for forgiveness and after fasting and prayer through Divine Revelation, the Almighty God revealed to me that the only way I could have rest of mind is when I used all my money to do the work of God. I immediately disclosed my revelation to my Pastor and he was happy with me.

I have been thinking of the particular thing to do for my God before this present civilian president of my country set up a panel (Honourable Oputa Panel) to probe the Bank Account of the past Military officers like me. Instead of loosing this money to my government, I quickly withdrew my money out of my Account and deposited the money in a finance and security company for safety.

My Pastor has adviced me to sneak out of the country with the money to sow it into a ministries abroad. I have decided to sow this money into your ministry. I am making arrangement to come over to your country but you need to receive this in cash before I come over.

The cash has been packaged by the security company in consignments and ready for shipment but the security company requires the address of the money from the finance and security company receiver. Please send tome your names, address and your tele and fax number where I can fax the
Airway Bill to enable you claim the consignment.

I will be coming over to your ministry with my family for Thanksgiving as soon as I sent out this money to you. I look forward to your response through my [email] account: zik_don@[addressdeleted]

God bless you.
Deacon zik don
Lovely. "Some times I think of the souls I killed when I was a soldier and the dubious ways I diverted my country's money into my Personal Bank Account." And - he's coming to your house for Thanksgiving!!

Thursday, April 01, 2004
What's Cooking? 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
I'm usually pretty inure to society's various calls to become vegetarian; it's probably the guilt-inducing, coercive and shaming aspect of some of the Go-Veg messages that turn me off. Someday, I may go off meat altogether - I love to cook and experiment with vegetarian dishes - but I am pretty much an omnivore at heart.

However, seeing this ad just about made me want to become vegetarian on the spot. Don't worry, there's nothing graphic or overtly disturbing on the other side of the link. In fact, it's the "everydayness" of the ad that seems to disturb me the most - think of old Cudahy Curly, the Cudahy Pig mascot.

Two Hard Drives are Better Than One 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
This is the beginning of a new era: I finally have a new computer at work! It's a nice zippy 3.0 GHz Dell Optiplex with dual hard drives, a fine spunky little machine that doesn't appear to crash every hour. Vive la difference!

However, part of me will miss the cobbled-together Old French Whore Dell I've used worked on for the past two-and-a-half years - but lest I feel too sentimental, its heart (the old hard drive) was transplanted into the new machine as a secondary HD. I should call the new machine Prometheus. Or, better yet, Frankenstein.