Monday, May 24, 2004
Fog of War? 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
  Spc. Sabrina Harman, also of the 372nd Military Police Company, gives a thumbs-up sign by the body of Iraqi detainee Manadel al-Jamadi. [Reuters/ABCNEWS]China's Xinhuanet News featured these photos of soldiers [released by other news agencies] posing with the body of an Iraqi prisoner who reportedly died while in custody at Abu Ghraib:
Spc. Sabrina Harman, also of the 372nd Military Police Company, gives a thumbs-up sign by the body of Iraqi detainee Manadel al-Jamadi. [Reuters/ABCNEWS]

According to testimony from Spc. Jason Kenner, obtained by ABCNEWS, the man was brought to the prison by U.S. Navy Seals in good health. Kenner said he saw extensive bruising on the detainee's body when he was brought out of the showers, dead. Kenner says the body was packed in ice during a "battle" between CIA and military interrogators over who should dispose of the body. The Justice Department opened an investigation into this death and four others today following a referral from the CIA. The photos were taken by Staff Sgt. Ivan "Chip" Frederick , who in e-mails to his family has asked why the people responsible for the prisoner's death were not being prosecuted in the same manner that he is.
There is just something very, very wrong with images like these, on so many levels. Committing these abuses is one matter...but, photographing them for posterity - on digital media no less? From the Washington Post on May 21:
Spec. Joseph M. Darby told investigators that he returned to Abu Ghraib from leave in November and heard about a shooting at the prison's "hard site," which contains Tier 1A. He said that he asked the MP in charge of the tier's night shift, Spec. Charles A. Graner Jr., if he had any photographs of the cell where the shooting took place.

Darby said Graner handed him two CDs of photographs. "I thought the discs just had pictures of Iraq, the cell where the shooting occurred," Darby told investigators. Instead, Darby viewed hundreds of photographs showing naked detainees being abused by U.S. soldiers. "It was just wrong," Darby said. "I knew I had to do something."

He said that he asked Graner, a Pennsylvania prison guard in civilian life, about the photographs. Graner replied: "The Christian in me says it's wrong, but the corrections officer in me says, 'I love to make a grown man piss himself.' "
Unfortunately, seeing these cheerful, smiling members of the military posing with prisoners (dead or alive) reminds me of nothing more than those stories on News of the Weird's "Least Competent Criminals" feature, where burglars sometimes take instant photos of themselves at the scene of a crime as "souvenirs," only to have the photos used as evidence against them. This how these soldiers want their children, grandchildren, or their country to remember them? History never takes kindly to these types of acts, "winner writes the history" or not. [crossposted on farkleberriesUSA]

Friday, May 21, 2004
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 

This is very cool: Musicplasma is a graphical search engine that lets you enter the name of a band or artist, and returns a network display of artists that have similarities in style, history and genre. This sample screenshot shows the relational mapping results returned when I entered "Ultravox" into the search box. Musicplasma uses Amazon.com's XML data to generate the maps, and there is an interesting observation I made after a few searches: there are fewer than "three degrees" removed between The Beatles, Radiohead, or Neil Young and virtually every artist I've searched for using the site. Even the KLF is one step removed from Neil Young, via the Timelords. What gives? [via Airbag]

[Traffic] Jammin' on My Mind 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Assuming you live in an area where they tend to occur, what do you think about when you're stuck in a traffic jam? According to an Auto Club Europa German survey, traffic is the last thing on driver's minds when they're in a jam. [via GoFish]:
...only 10 percent think of finding an alternate route, according to a motor club survey published Thursday. Eight percent think about how much petrol they have, seven percent about their next meal, and seven percent about going to a toilet. Six percent think about their careers.

One in ten caught focus on their families, seven percent on shopping lists and another seven percent worry about the damage the traffic jam might do to their clutch. Only six percent said they don't think about anything in traffic jams.
However, fully one-third of the motorists said what they really thought about during traffic jams was...suprahz, suprahz....s-e-x. And - as GoFish posits - if one-third of people admit to thinking about sex, the real number is probably one-half or more.

What do I think of in traffic jams? I'm usually looking at the temperature gauge, and smelling for strange car smells. I listen to the brakes, the motor, and NPR. Really, I do. ;)

Cook It Again, Sam 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
narutomaki fish cakeIf you've see the film Amadeus, you may recall the scene where the tormented Salieri is visited by Mrs. Mozart, and he offers her a sophisticated aphrodisiacal Italian confection called the Nipples of Venus. Well, Suzette of Traveling in Style remembers the scene well, and has had a fascination with the unusual sweets "since the movie was released."

Today I was intrigued and entertained by a savory variation of that dish Suzette talks about on her site: the Nipples of Warsaw.
There's no real chance that I would ever spend the time and effort to recreate that sweet confection, so I did the next best thing: a rendering in brussel sprouts, deviled ham and capers...Picture it - wee little brussel sprouts -cooked and scooped out - stuffed with deviled ham and topped off with a single caper. Nipples of Warsaw.

I found the recipe in the 1964 version of The Joy of Cooking ( the good version - not that crappy one that came out in 2001) and thought then as I do now that they were the height of canape elegance. So I made them from memory for that night in Texas.
I know precisely the phenomenon of which she speaks: in films, I often seen a intriguing (most likely foreign) dish that I pine over and hope to recreate in my kitchen.

One striking example was the exquisite Japanese soups featured in the delightfully off-the wall spaghetti-western-meets-noodle-shop-sex-comedy Tampopo. I so wanted to recreate the perfect steaming bowls of udon shown in the film, complete with those pink-and-white spiral-shaped kamaboko fishcakes called naruto (which could easily be called the Nipples of Tokyo). I'm embarassed to admit I have twice bought sticks of brightly-hued kamaboko fishcake at Asian groceries, only to to be disappointed by my soup, the flavor of the fishcake or both. Alas, in this case, my reality did not measure up to the warm, brothy, celluloid fantasy. Kamaboko is odd food for obsession, as this Japanese website unwittingly shows:
Though you'd hardly know it from its flavor or odor, kamaboko is made from fish. Texture is the main criterion for quality, but this is particularly difficult to describe in words. "Rubbery" is close. Perhaps "chewy" is better. In any case, the usual translation of kamaboko as "fish paste" is totally misleading, not to mention unappetizing.

But technically it is a "paste," made from pureed fish meat, mixed with a binder such as arrowroot or various kinds of potato flour. The fish is steamed until it is uniformly soft. Before it is mixed with the starch, salt and sometimes sugar, all the pesky bones are removed, too. This produces an easy-to-eat source of protein, and it means practically any fish can be used—even the very bony varieties that other fishing cultures consider "trash."

In ancient times, it was wrapped around sticks of bamboo, resulting in a "cat tail" look from which its name is derived. But today it usually is formed into small loaves, weighing roughly a pound each. Supporting each loaf is a thin plank of untreated wood, usually pine, which serves as a self-contained cutting board. This is useful because whether kamaboko is served by itself as an appetizer with a little soy sauce, or added as a garnish to soups, noodles or stir-fries, it is normally presented in slices about three to four millimeters thick.

Typically, the outer few centimeters of a loaf of kamaboko are colored with vegetable dye, usually pink. Perhaps this is because its "real" color—most kindly described as "off-gray"—is rather bland.
Hungry yet? Actually, the type of kamaboko described next is my favorite kind, at least for its visual appeal.
Sometimes it comes in a tube-like shape, often with lateral ridges. When sliced, the tube reveals a spiral of pink coloring into its center, and what were the ridges now form a kind of gear-tooth effect around the disc. Kids love it...kamaboko, believe it or not, is really delicious. Acquire some if you can, and taste it yourself.
If you'd like to learn more about the technology and terminology assocaited with fish processing, try OneFish's glossary of fish terms [PDF file]. Ah, yes. Rubbery, chewy, but delicious. Not quite. But that doesn't mean I won't try again - perhaps with something nattily English from Fawlty Towers.

Who Died? 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
With the Blog of Death, you'll never have to ask again. [via Anil Dash] Speaking of dead, I enjoyed this Deep Thought from Mr. Poon:
If you're an archeologist, I bet it's real embarrassing to put together a skull from a bunch of ancient bone fragments, but then it turns out it's not a skull but just an old dried-out potato.

Thursday, May 20, 2004
Censorship Watch: H.B. 4239 and A New American Political Map 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
And now, a message from Mutinous Winds:

Andrew Cline reports on the new geopolitical mapping of America, including Beyond Red and Blue, a study featured on the Massachusetts online political 'zine Commonwealth that divides our nation into 10 surprising political regions.

Your truly has a story on disturbing new censorship legislation before the House Judiciary Committee: H.B. 4239, also called the "Parents' Empowerment Act," [which] would allow the parent or guardian of a minor to sue in federal court anyone who knowingly disseminates any media containing "material that is harmful to minors" if the material is distributed in a way that "a reasonable person can expect a substantial number of minors to be exposed to the material." Yet, the name of the bill, the "Parents' Empowerment Act" is almost oxymoronic: the bill appears to place responsibility of keeping objectionable materials out of the hands of minors in everyone's hands - except the parents.

Georgia Man Fired for Not Urinating On Time 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Imagine this: you've worked for a major company for the past three years, when you're asked to provide a random urine sample for routine drug screening. You're given three hours to produce a testable plastic cup of urine, but because you suffer from paruresis, or "shy bladder," despite the fact you've consumed over a quart of water to help the process along, you're unable to deliver the goods within the allotted time frame.

You'd probably expect your employer to let you try again, or at least give you a bit more time to...ahem...drain the lizard. The last thing you'd expect is to get fired. That's what Tom Smith, a Georgia employee of Caterpillar Corporation, says happened to him last December.
From OnlineAthens [GA]: Smith says he suffers from paruresis, more commonly known as shy bladder syndrome, and he should be protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act. He was dismissed Dec. 5, 2003, by Peoria, Ill.-based Caterpillar Inc., the world's largest manufacturer of construction and mining equipment.

"This is supposed to be a country where losing a job for a disorder like that shouldn't be a problem," said Smith, a 55-year-old assembly line worker who worked at the plant more than three years. "It's just a matter of simple justice."

Smith's lawsuit alleges he was pulled aside for a drug test and given three hours to urinate in a plastic urine specimen cup. Despite having drunk 40 ounces of water, Smith could not relieve himself under pressure.

He later paid $110 for an independent hair drug test, which he passed, but Caterpillar required he pass the urine test. Hair tests are generally considered to be more accurate than urine tests and detect drug use over a few months rather than a few weeks.
If that is truly all that's at stake - that Smith didn't urinate on cue - I can't see how Caterpillar has much of a case. While the suit's contention is that paruresis should be considered a disability, and therefore Smith should be reinstated, I think the real issue at hand is that a company should not be able to fire an employee for violating "drug-free workplace" regulations if he or she has not actually tested positive for drug use. It's the stereotypical "guilty until proven innocent" charge.

It would have been in the company's probative best interest to actually wait for the sample (which he eventually produced, but after the arbitrary three-hour limit) and have valid proof of drug use. No doubt the reason the company has a three-hour limit for urine samples is to prevent the "test-ee" from trying to dilute their urine, and to ensure that substances like alcohol aren't metabolized over time. However, the fact that Smith afterwards passed a drug test with a longer "testing window" doesn't help their case.

Caterpillar's policy should have allowed the more accurate blood or hair tests (which are in fact less susceptible to errors or adulteration) as an alternative to the urine test. By dismissing Smith solely for not producing a testable urine sample within a specific time frame, Caterpillar has no real evidence "in hand" that he used drugs, and are leaving themselves wide open to a wrongful termination lawsuit. They literally "pissed away" their case.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004
Meet Your New Neighbor, A[u]nt Killjoy! 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Volokh Conspiracy has captured this lovely Amazon.com product review (written by 'a toy enthusiast from Sandy Springs, GA') for the world to enjoy:
Uncle Milton's Giant Ant Farm is a fun, interactive way to teach children ages 5 and up about unceasing, backbreaking toil and the cold, inescapable reality of death. My little ones had a front-row seat as worker ants labored, day in and day out, until they inevitably died of exhaustion, their futile efforts all for naught. The ant farm, complete with stackable tiny ant barns, see-through 'Antway' travel tubes, and connecting 'Antports,' is a child's window into the years of thankless, grueling labor that await them as worker drones in our post-industrial society. It's the fun way to teach your kids to accept their miserable fate stoically. [read more...]
Isn't that sweet? It reads like the musings of some bastard child of James Lileks and August Strindberg. But wait, there's more! I visited the Amazon page featuring Uncle Milton's Giant Ant Farm, and discovered that plastic-boxed hormigas are one controversial toy.
Boy you Liberals need to take it easy and have some fun. Warning, your child will also become a LIBERAL if: 1]You don't buy him a BB gun 2]you don't get him a mini bike 3]you don't buy him a hatchet and chop a tree down (a tree is a renewable resorce) and 4]Make sure he has been spanked when disciplined, this will make him aggressive, last thing you need is an uncompetitive whimpy, whiny, LIBERAL as a son. OH, and buy him an ant farm, even let him kill the ants himself.
And lastly, a reviewer from Rochester, Minnesota had this to say:
Dear readers,
I do not understand one thing. Why are some of you so shalow. I do not own an ant farm, yet. However, I will buy one soon and enjoy it, whether the ants die in two weeks or not. After reviewing some of the comments concerning the ant farms, it seems to me as though you help the ants die. You either overfeed them, or knock the farm down, etc. Stop complaining and cheer up.

Do you really expect the ants to live as long as you do. Just imagine yourselves traveling across US in a dark box. Ofcourse they will die sooner than you expect. When they do, just go to the woods and find some. Don't complain about them biting. Would not you try to protect yourselves if someone would chase you around trying to capture you.

And parents, please be more responsible. If your children are too energetic, do not buy them an ant farm. Go out with them into the woods and show them ant's natural habitat. Your kids will love it, I know. Please do not be angry with me. I just think that some of you negative comments make you look bad.

Transsexual Athletes to Compete at 2004 Athens Games 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
It's official.
LAUSANNE, Switzerland - Transsexuals were cleared Monday to compete in the Olympics for the first time. Under a proposal approved by the IOC executive board, athletes who have undergone sex-change surgery will be eligible for the Olympics if their new gender has been legally recognized and they have gone through a minimum two-year period of postoperative hormone therapy. The decision, which covers both male-to-female and female-to-male cases, goes into effect starting with the Athens Olympics in August.
I frankly hadn't been following the subject much, but it caught my attention after seeing some high-spirited discussion on the topic over at Dog Snot Diaries, if you wish to check it out.

Realistically, I wonder how many athletes at the Olympics will actually be transsexual? Will we be able to tell who is just by looking? If we see a tall woman with a prominent "Adam's apple" beating her second place finisher by a long stretch, will it be obvious who was competing? It probably won't be that visible to the naked camera eye. Hopefully the publicity won't engender (excuse the pun) a "Scarlet Letter" aspect: transsexual athletes having a special logo or designation, or commentators making a casual mention of..."back when Jane Doe was in college, her name was John."?

What I hear a lot of people saying between the lines is that they're worried that male-to-female TS will have the advantage because of athletically superior male physiology, not the other way around (female-to-male transsexuals gaining advantage by taking male hormones to enhance biologically female anatomy).

It can be argued that female-to-male transsexual athletes "break the rules" the most, because they require endogenous androgens (testosterone) to maintain their male appearance and secondary sex characteristics like facial hair and muscle mass. By that logic if we don't allow biologically XY athletes to take testosterone, then it would seem unfair to allow a biological XX competing as a male to do so, even if he needs the hormones to function as a male. But would the hormones give a female-to-male transsexual an unfair edge over men? Somehow I don't think really think so.

To me, this is sounding like the usual "do we allows those freaks to play on our team" objection, but the real issue isn't about gay/straight, or even male/female in my eyes. What this really is, is the first time we are having true biologically altered athletes competing in the Olympics - something we haven't done to this point. It's a test case for an extreme situation some other readers have talked about, the "clones coming out to play".

Transsexual people are of course not "clones", but they have modified their bodies surgically and hormonally to an extent we're not sure how to deal with yet in closely-scrutinized Olympic competition. It gives us an idea of public opinion if athletes with new, as-yet-undeveloped modifications like muscle grafting, gene therapy or even "designer babies" are allowed to compete in the Olympics with unmodified individuals, with the added psyche-snaggers of sexual and gender identity.

It's a more potent and far-reaching milestone than it appears at first glance.

What solution is there? Should we force transsexual athletes to compete according to their sex of birth, rather than sex of assignment? What if a gender-neutral individual wanted to compete? It's a complicated issue, but still, it seems fundamentally unfair to ban transsexual athletes from Olympic competition outright. The ideal of the Games has always been about pushing the limits of human body within the constraints of fair competition, but does fair competition mean that transsexual athletes must "come out" as such, so their fellow athletes and the world know?

The Olympic Games are an international event - and this issue clearly shows that some nations have a more liberal outlook than we do, some a more conservative view, while we here in the USA - thankfully - we still have the opportunity to hash it out somewhere in between.

(P.S.) You're Fired! 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
A good friend of ours (and my B-movie buddy) is an aspiring screenwriter, and I'm proud to announce he's having his stage debut here at Second City in Chicago! Here's the unofficial press release:
Our very own Matt Simonette is having his debut as a comedy writer this Friday at the Second City. The show is called "PS, You're Fired" and is running on Fridays from May 21st until June 18th at 10:00 PM at Donny's Skybox Theater, at Pipers Alley. I hope that a lot of us go see it, he's quite a funny writer, and by all accounts the show is good (and likely to sell out quickly, so phone ahead).

P.S. You're Fired
Fridays, May 21-June 18
Donny's Skybox Theatre
Pipers Alley
1608 North Wells Street
Chicago, IL
(312) 337-3992

Tickets are $8.00 at the door, or pre-order online or at above number.
Congratulations, Matt!!! You probably know the names that emerged from SCTV (Second City television) over the years, like John Candy, Joe Flaherty, Eugene Levy, Andrea Martin, Catherine O'Hara, Rick Moranis, Dave Thomas, Harold Ramis and Martin Short.

There's Nothing Quite Like Geology Humor  
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
I love geeky humor, and I found this page painfully funny: from the Church of the Subgenius, Phoenix Clench #1: The Mystical Powers of Rocks (Geosolipsism). Samples?
SCHWARTZITE (Ground SCHWARTZ)-When swallowed, causes severe gastrointestinal upset similar to an ulcer. Very useful before business meetings, public speaking and in divorce court.

SHITZT - Helps to channel the creative energies of dead people who, in their previous lives, had none. They still don't. And nothing is quite like the inane and mindless small talk of some peasant who lived 400 years ago. Very practical when responding to USENET messages.

PONTIUS PILITES - Gives one hemorrhoids that hang like grapes.

IRIQUOISE - Strips away fear of heights. Promotes loathing of French people and guides one in the smuggling of cigarettes. (A Quebec/New York inside joke/ethnic slur)
Coincidentally, I'm reading Carl Sagan's 1996 work on the history of science and pseudoscience, The Demon-Haunted World; it's very, very good so far, and were he alive today he'd suffer no guff from the Church of Sub-Genius. He'd also probably find it quite funny, too.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004
How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Pump 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Photo copyright Associated PressHaving experienced a few "gas crises" over the years, I no longer devote much time or energy to worrying about skyrocketing prices at the pump. History endlessly repeats: whenever gasoline prices rise, news outlets jump on interviews with seething, red-faced drivers cussing at pump price displays that seem to flip faster that one-armed bandit wheels.

Well, not me. Not any more.

Maybe it's naive or disingenuous, but I think it's a realistic adaptive response to a circumstance I (like virtually every other consumer) have absolutely no control over. It's the same story I remember from the mid-70's "gas crises" and rationing days, when New Jersey motorists were forced to queue in endless lines on odd or even-numbered dates - depending on the last number on your license plate. Gasoline threatened to shoot up to a phenomenal $1.00 a gallon - a sure sign of the Apocalypse - and you can be certain plenty of folks practiced license-plate swapping to make pump visits on verboten days.

What could a driver do, besides siphoning a few gallons from your neighbor's jalopy in the dead of night? Aftermarket locking gas caps made their big entrance then, and no sensible car owner would leave their liquid gold unguarded without the modern automotive version of the chastity belt. In the days of cheap gas, only a desperate fool would have risked a buttful of buckshot for a few pennies worth of petrol.

I clearly recall when gas theft became the Next Big Thing to Worry About. Popular wisdom had it that the moment you turned your head, Those Damned (choose one) a) Teenagers b) Ethnic group of your choice c) Hippies would pop a hose in your tank to steal your hard-earned commuting fuel, so they could go on a joyride. Probably to drive out to some barn in the next county for an all-night pot party.

"What's the world coming to?" was the populist moan. "Next thing you know, you'll have 5-dollar loaves of bread and gallons of milk." I don't buy much milk-by-the-gallon these days, but can vouch that on a recent trip to a "gourmet bakery" here in Chicagoland, $5 bread is pretty much the norm unless you're buying a spongy white sandwich loaf. The sad truth is, higher prices at the pump are responsible, at least in part, for those $5 loaves and jugs of milk, and no change (or no change) in the White House will magically bring those good 'ol days back. Even duct-taping Howard Stern's mouth shut won't return us to the days of penny candy and quarter gas, as some conservative folks would have us believe.

Gas prices now are about twice as high as they were when we thought the sky was falling - and the big problem with fossil fuel is that you can't make more of it, nor can you grow your own. To this day, out in the American West, Sinclair Fuel's sea-foam-green saurian mascot makes no bones about where his company's product comes from.

The Real Gas Crisis will come soon enough some year in the future. Taking individual steps to preserve our internally combustible way of life for a few more decades can include using public transportation, walking, biking, carpooling, buying smaller cars (hello, Hummers!) or going 'Hybrid'. Our precious heat-compressed dinosaur corpse stew won't last forever.

But contrary to what our leaders frequently told us, our economy always ends up suffering more the tighter we cinch our belts...I've concluded that the world going around is precisely what makes the world go around. It may be wartime, and gas prices may be the highest we've seen yet - but I'll be damned if I'll let an extra few dollars on gas get in the way of enjoying a nice long road trip this summer.

Cicada-Eating Casualty in Bloomington, Indiana 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Apparently, dining on 17-year locusts (or "Brood X Cicadas") isn't for everyone. My friend Walt tipped me to this article in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel about a Bloomington, IN man who suffered a serious allergic reaction after dining on "Cicadas Scampi":
A man who cooked and ate nearly 30 cicadas sought medical treatment after suffering a strong allergic reaction to the sauteed insects. The man showed up at a Bloomington clinic Thursday covered from head-to-toe in hives, and sheepishly told a doctor he'd caught and ate the cicadas after sauteing them in butter with crushed garlic and basil.

"He said they didn't taste too bad, but his wife didn't care for the aroma," said Dr. Al Ripani, the doctor who treated the man at Promptcare East. The man, who has a history of asthma and shellfish allergies, suffered a "significant allergic reaction," after eating the cicadas, Ripani said. "Severe food allergies such as this can be fatal," he said.
The University of Maryland Cicada-Licious Cookbook [PDF file] does, in fact, have a disclaimer that states "We ask that you please take special caution if you have other food allergies, such as soy, nuts or shellfish, or if you know of any contact allergies that you may have to other insects." In fact, the cookbook's preface includes this frightening blurb:
An Introduction to Entomophagy; or, How I Learned to Love the Bug

Eating bugs sounds disgusting? If you have ever eaten a crawfish, lobster, crab, or shrimp then you have already eaten members of the class Arthropoda, of which insects are a part. So popping a big juicy beetle, cricket, or cicada into your mouth is only a step away. You have, in fact, probably already eaten many pounds of insects in your lifetime.

Most Americans don't realize that they are eating a pound or two of insects each year. This is because insects are a part of all processed foods from bread to tomato ketchup - it's impossible to keep mass-produced food 100% insect-free. There are regulations stating the maximum amount of bug bits that food can contain and still be fit for human consumption.

These bits, unseen, have been ground up into tiny pieces in such items as strawberry jams, peanut butter, spaghetti sauce, applesauce, frozen chopped broccoli, etc. For example, the "Food Defect Action Levels", as currently defined by the Food and Drug Administration state that macaroni and noodle products can have 225 or more insect parts per 225 grams of product (4). This may sound disgusting, but these insect parts actually make some food products more nutritious.
Think of it this way: low carb protein. Bon appetit, mes amis.

Monday, May 17, 2004
Conspiracy Theory Surrounding Nick Berg's Death 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Kuro5hin has compiled a list of 50 anomalies surrounding the execution of Nick Berg, many of which seem to suggest the videotaped killing was fake, or at least not what it appears to be at face value. I won't go into whether I think these discrepancies are valid or not, because many of the items seem to be vague or unproveable; in any case, I really don't want to watch the footage again. I'll let the reader decide, and see how this all shakes out.

A Revolutionary Day 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Galois has a superb post countering Yahoo! News op-ed columnist Maggie Gallagher's recent comments stating that same-sex marriage is "the triumph of the most radical ideas of the sexual revolution: that gender doesn't matter, children are secondary, [and] expressing your authentic sexual self is more important than, well, practically anything else." From Galois:
"I want to note how surprised I was that somebody would consider gay marriage a triumph of the sexual revolution. When I think sexual revolution I think sex outside of marriage, casual sex with multiple partners, in short sex without responsibility. Gay marriage seems to me to be the opposite of that. It is about getting married, being monogamous, and putting sex within a larger framework of obligations and responsibility. I'm amazed that someone would call people seeking to marry sexual revolutionaries."
The post then powerfully debunks Gallagher's other "points" as well, with this central clear note:
"I do not see gay marriage as a triumph for the ideas of the sexual revolution, or even for the ideas Gallagher associates with the sexual revolution. Rather I see it as a triumph for the ideas of the American Revolution: that all men are created equal, and that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
Bravo. And to the couples making history today in Massachusetts, felicitations - and let freedom ring!

It's a Tall Order - But Someone's Gotta Stretch To It 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
At 5' 3", I generally don't worry about fitting into showers or having my legs dangling off hotel beds - but for that segment of the population classifed as "tall" (women over 5' 9" and men over 6' 2"), ordinary tasks like flying on a plane, renting a car or getting a hotel room can be a longstanding problem. Six-foot-nine publisher Everard Strong decided to do something about it - he founded a magazine called TALL. From CNN:
"[TALL] is something that's been on my mind for four or five years. I've been involved in magazine publishing for eight or nine years. I love the industry and was always wondering and hoping some publication would come to serve the tall community," he said. "So I decided to combine my interests," Strong said. "There are a lot of products and services. We're not short on any material in the immediate future." [Ha, ha, ha. - Ed.]

Nor does there appear to be a shortage of potential readers. [What's with the "short" puns, CNN? - Ed.] Average U.S. heights have been gradually creeping up for decades, a trend seen in many parts of the world. There are now 8.8 million men over 6-feet 2-inches and 5.5 million women over 5-feet 9-inches in the United States.
The May issue features 6' 5" cover man Ron Perlman, the star of The Name of the Rose, TV's Beauty and the Beast, and most recently, Hellboy. According to the TALL media kit [PDF file], of the magazine's typical reader:
He’s one of the over 12.3 million* American men 6’2” or taller. He is college educated, single, with income above $48,000. His average shoe size is 12.5. He is looking for longer beds, taller bicycles, cars that he can fit in, tools that fit his hands, office chairs, solutions to his back aches, and quality clothing.

She’s one of the 7.5 million* American women who are 5’9” or taller. She is college educated, single, with income above $40,000. She wants clothes that fit her and are in style. She likes to shop by catalog. She wants to be made to feel good.
Did you notice that both the tall men and women are listed as being "single"? Maybe height isn't the automatic path to marital bliss, but tall people earning more money just because they're tall? A widely-circulated article came out about two years ago that showed (other factors considered) tall people earned considerably more throughout their lifetimes than short or average-height people, but there was an interesting twist. From Slate:
So, what's the deal? Why do the tall tower over the short in more than just physical stature? Does height breed respect, so that tall people get showered with riches? Or does height breed self-esteem, so that tall people are more likely to assert themselves? In other words, do tall people succeed because of how others see them, or do tall people succeed because of how they see themselves? That sounds like the kind of question you could argue for years and never settle, but three clever economists have gone ahead and settled it. Their names are Nicola Persico, Andy Postlewaite (formerly a professor here at Northwestern University) and Dan Silverman of the University of Pennsylvania, and they've uncovered a key bit of evidence: Tall men who were short in high school earn like short men, while short men who were tall in high school earn like tall men.
"Short men who were tall in high school"? Did they shrink? I know that some men (like some women) lose height with age because of spinal changes or osteoporosis, but I wonder if the authors are also referring to men whose height was considered "tall" back when they were in high school, but which is now considered "average" in light of the past few generations' "height inflation." The March 2004 full text of the paper, "The Effect of Adolescent Experience on Labor Market Outcomes: The Case of Height" is linked here as a PDF file.

Friday, May 14, 2004
The Awful Death of Nick Berg: The Worst Kind of "Must-See TV" 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Most blogs posting about the Nick Berg execution video have gotten their share of hits from people searching for the grisly footage, and farkleberries is no exception. Frankly, it's a startling number: a look through my stats showed that over three-fourths of the hits since Wednesday afternoon have come through some permutation of the search terms "Nick+Berg+execution+beheading+live+video." These visitors don't stay long, because I don't actually have the Nick Berg execution video for their perusal. C'est la vie.

A Daily Kos May 11th posting (mysteriously fallen off the radar) included a link to a website offering the full online video of Nick Berg's execution and had a similar effect – the author mentions that the average number of hits at Daily Kos skyrocketed from 6,000 a day to 15,000. One person (of dozens) commenting on that post stated something to the effect of - and this is not an exact quote, because I can't find the page today - "I won't dignify this kind of pornography [the execution video] that's out there for the pleasure of the sickos in our society."

Before clicking the fated link, I thought for a long while. I will not post the address of the link here - because, sadly, the site it was hosted on is – literally - pornographic. It's one of those hardcore fetish sites, and it disturbs me that whoever owns this site felt compelled to include Nick Berg's excruciating last moments along with video of "extreme kink," which while abhorrent to many, is still for the most part made by willing partcipants, and intended to provide pleasure in its own way. Alongside the scatological videos the abovementioned site offers, the Berg footage is an anomaly - or an acid test. Anyone who actually finds pleasure in seeing real footage of a manacled man having his head cut off with a knife isn't a mere S&M fan - they're a psychopath, in my book.

The decision to watch, or not to watch reminded me of Morpheus' proffering of the "blue pill" and the "red pill" to Neo in The Matrix – you make a choice, and your awareness of reality will change from that point onward. "What will it be? Blue? Or Red?" An awareness one gains with time is that sights can not be un-seen, sounds never un-heard; the luxury of casual forgetfulness doesn't apply when seeing the world’s first globally-distributed snuff film. Clicking the link would be a pill I couldn't un-swallow.

I wouldn’t call myself a sicko, and probably neither would most people seeking to watch the video. Although this is the worst kind of 'must-see TV,' human nature and curiosity compels us to watch it. Biblical scripture says doubting Thomas had to touch Christ's bleeding side to see if the spear wound was real. In the end, I decided to click.

The video is no work of art. Jumping and lurching wildly like a leering fanatic at times, the camera's video stream froze fortuitously as it zoomed in on Nick's face, just as his throat was about to be cut. The worst part was Nick's screaming.

I didn't click again to restart the video stream.

For several hours afterward, I felt a lingering sense of sadness I couldn't quite place my finger on. Later, it dawned on me that I had just witnessed one of those ugly history-making moments that define an era. Some nations did actually air every bloody moment of Nick Berg's slaughter on their news programming, but this event marks the first time that easy access to high-speed Internet transmission of digitized video has allowed this type of content to transcend borders and spread across the globe like a virus in a matter of hours.

Revolution often comes unbidden and bloody, and almost always from outside official channels.

It also occurred to me that on September 11th, 2001, millions had watched a snuff film over and over again on television screens…we just didn't think of it as such at the time. What else can we call footage of thousands of human beings crushed to death in thundering twin cascades of concrete and steel? I suppose if the death is filmed by an uninvolved party, it’s "news footage" – however, if the party that records the event is involved in its execution, it's "snuff."

Clearly, I'm not looking forward to the next step in this "revolutionary" brinksmanship. Answering outrage with outrage, and atrocity with atrocity isn't a path, it's a trap - because a spiral only goes 'round and round, and further down. This horror will be likely be 2004's standout event, but unfortunately the year is still young.

I've written more on the media implications of this incident at Mutinous Winds.

Devouring Synapses with Tim 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
This fellow, Tim Mendelsohn, sounds like he'd have a blast at the University of Chicago. He's an Oxford student with an interesting viewpoint on the rarefied world of world-class academic socializing:
University is meant to be the best time of one's life. If this truly is as good as it will ever get, it's time to eviscerate those arteries, kiddies. Foetid, synapse-devouring drinks line tables, decanted into plastic cups by the entz reps, glowing all the while like Chernobyl overspill. Ever wonder why you seem to espy so many misshapen and ghoulish human things lurking and gibbering in gloomy corners of the room? Years of exposure to this Oxford home brew and not enough sunlight are the problem. Yes, it's the scientists coming out to play.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004
Dystopia Now! 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
A great post from Positive Liberty, a blog by: "Jason Kuznicki...a history grad student in a same-sex marriage. He blogs on culture, religion, and politics from a classical liberal perspective. Interests include pluralism, gay issues, history, food, and the war on drugs. Short fiction breaks the monotony--or perhaps increases it.", "A Dystopian Definiton" [via Alas, A Blog].

Caveat: do read the whole post before you make up your mind about it. Update: Jason's getting plenty of traffic from this one, and good for him - PL is a very good read, and I hope he gets more widely linked.

UC Scav Hunt: And You Thought Eating Cicadas Was Bad 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
The University of Chicago may be known for some spectacular academic achievements, like the first atomic reaction, armloads of Nobel Prizes and more gargoyles than any other American campus (well, at least it seems like there are). However, all this brainpower comes with a price: a few folks around here are pretty much certifiable. Brilliant - but nuts. Case in point? The legendary annual Scavenger Hunt:
Last Sunday, an awed crowd of students and cameramen from NBC5 [NOTE: Not Plattsburgh, NY's NBC5. Chicago's NBC5.] in Ida Noyes watched in anticipation as Phil Caruso, a first-year in the College and Rickert House resident, completed item #8 on the Scav Hunt list for the Max Palevsky team.

Caruso took out from a package his umbilical cord, which his mother had sent to him, stuffed it into a Twinkie, and without hesitation ate it.

"Nobody ever had to persuade him; it was all volunteer," said Alan Mardingly, a second-year in the College and Co-Captain of the Max Palevsky team (Phoenix, Bitch). "My hat is off to him." [Scav Hunt team] Phoenix, Bitch gained 96 points with Caruso's stunt.
I suppose it's telling that Caruso's mom actually saved his umbilical cord for the past two decades, and having done so, willingly sent it to him...to eat. I can picture the conversation:
Caruso: "Hi, mom. Remember that umbilical cord of mine you were saving?"
Mama Caruso (misty-eyed from recollection): "Of course, honey...I was in labor for 2 whole days with you, and I wanted to remember that moment for all eternity. It's even got that cute little clamp still on it."
Caruso: "Would you mind sending me the cord here at college?"
Mama Caruso: "Well...okay, honey. But why?"
Caruso: "I need to eat it for the annual Scavenger Hunt."
Mama Caruso: "Oh, all right...but it may be a little stale after these past 18 years. Might need some seasoning."
Whatta mom! Crescat Scientia, Vita Excolatur indeed. As SillyLibra would say..."and now, off to lunch."

The New Blogger™ 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
I have to say I like the changes Blogger™ has made with the unveiling of their new interface and templates - it's a little more MT-ish in appearance and function, although not quite as manipulable (is that a word? Manipulatable? Save a syllable when you can.). The new built-in templates are quite attractive, as are the newly-added "Recent Posts" and commenting functions...hmm...remember I had posted a code for Blogger Recent Posts a few months back? Feh.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004
Read All About It: Nukes n' Gags 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Can't get enough farkleberries (ha, ha)? Read more at Mutinous Winds, discussing a recent RAND Corporation report that shows the US administration's post-9/11 shutdown of over 600 databases and websites was a useless measure of censorship, and on RadioActive! - where I talk about some of the controversy surrounding mixed-oxide, or MOX, fuel for nuclear reactors in the light of Japan's announcement of their proposed launch of the country's third MOX-burning power plant.

by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
From the atrocities at Abu Ghraib, and now the reported Al-Qaeda revenge execution of an American contractor, I'm speechless. All I can say is...WAFM.

Today's Guardian UK [via Daily Kos] reports a video has been released on a militant Islamic website that appears to show the beheading execution of an American. These are the chilling last words of a doomed man:
"My name is Nick Berg, my father's name is Michael, my mother's name is Susan...I have a brother and sister, David and Sarah. I live in...Philadelphia."

After reading a statement, the [captors] were seen pulling the man to his side and putting a large knife to his neck. A scream sounded as the men cut his head off, shouting "Allahu Akbar!" - "God is great." They then held the head out before the camera.

[A captor speaks] "So we tell you that the dignity of the Muslim men and women in Abu Ghraib and others is not redeemed except by blood and souls. You will not receive anything from us but coffins after coffins...slaughtered in this way."
Is it real, or is it computer doctored? I doubt it's the latter. And the circle goes 'round and 'round...and it's painfully obvious we're not the civilized world we often like to think we are.

* What A F__king Mess. I think I may be saying that a few more times before this is all over.

Monday, May 03, 2004
It's Cicada-Licious! 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Wow. Someone actually came to farkleberries by performing a search for "University of Maryland Cicada Cookbook" on Yahoo™. Cool.

Lost Teeth? Grow Your Own 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Will dentures become obsolete? The BBC reports (via SlashDot) that UK scientists are discovering a way to grow replacement teeth using human stem cells:
Scientists at King's College London have been awarded £500,000 to help them develop human teeth from stem cells.

The company Odontis, set up by the college, hopes to develop its research for tests on humans within two years after successful research on mice. Stem cells, the so-called master cells, would be programmed to develop into teeth and then transplanted into the patient's jaw where the gap is. It is thought it would then take two months for the tooth to fully develop. [...] The cost [of the procedure] should not be more than the price of synthetic implants of between £1,500 - £2,000.
If you read some of the SlashDot-posted comments, you'll get a feeling for the mixed emotions surrounding this type of technology, since current stem-cell research focuses mainly on fetal stem cells. I have the feeling that people opposed to abortion and fetal stem cell research aren't likely to cotton the idea of adults employing fetal cells to regrow teeth they should have taken better care of in the first place...but that's a different discussion altogether. I'll save it for another time.

Anyhow, I have this funny feeling that the procedure would eventually cost a lot more here in the U.S. - the BBC article doesn't mention whether the quoted cost would be per tooth, or for a full set of replacements.

Blog Spotlight: Gay Mormon Dad 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
You just never know what gems you'll find by browsing Blogger's "recently updated" links. Today, I found this one: Gay Mormon Dad's author David cogently and compassionately publishes his thoughts on life, law, faith and fatherhood from what must surely be a difficult place to stand; a position between integrity to one's paths of love and faith that forces many people to choose between one or the other. GMD follows the media closely, and his thoughts on topics ranging from Log Cabin Republicans to same-sex marriage and parenting are first-person eye-openers.

Saturday, May 01, 2004
The Fallen: The Banned 4/30/04 Nightline 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Last night's edition of ABC Nightline, banned from several Sinclair Broadcasting Group stations, I thought was in the end as neutral a memorial recitation of the war dead as anchor Ted Koppel promised. As advertised, the entirely score-free half hour show consisted of Koppel reading over 700 names over a static backdrop, with two alternating photos showing the deceased (mainly pictures in uniform, some in mufti, some had no photos - an image of flag-draped caskets was substituted) with the serviceperson's rank and age superimposed below.

Was it political? Perhaps. But if it was, the political intent was overshadowed by the unspoken realization that each man or woman killed in the line of duty left behind a hole in many others' lives: they left behind spouses, lovers, children, siblings, relatives, friends and neighbors. The value judgement of war each viewer takes away is personal and conscience-driven - is the war too expensive, or is it worth the cost? That's not an answer any television program - or corporate position statement - can provide.

If nothing else, the Nightline photos reminded us that the cost of war is not a blank check, not a credit tab, but rather a bill payable immediately in liquid human currency. As parents teach their children the value of a dollar and wise spending, we need to know the value of a human soldier's life, and not spend it in vain.

The Locusts are Coming! Get Your Frying Pans! 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
The 17-Year Cicadas - locusts - are set to burst out of the ground by the millions in many US states, which will no doubt convince some folks that the Apocalypse is nigh. However, as NPR reports, the cicadas are not only loud and frightening...they're also pretty darn tasty:
Soft-Shelled Cicadas

1 cup Worcestershire sauce
60 freshly emerged 17-year cicadas
4 eggs, beaten
3 cups flour
Salt and pepper to season the flour
1 cup corn oil or slightly salted butter


Marinate cicadas alive in a sealed container in Worcestershire sauce for several hours. (Note: You can skip this step and go directly to the egg step instead.) Dip them in the beaten egg, roll them in the seasoned flour and then gently sauté until they are golden brown.
Mmm. Maybe I'll try the El Chirper Tacos. Want a wealth of bug dishes? Check out the University of Maryland's "Cicada-licious Cookbook" [PDF file].

And to think I Dreamt of Bugwiches only a few short months ago.

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.