1.31.2007

atkins-friendly eating

work-related googling has led me to strike gold, in the form of a chart listing the nutritional value of various insects.

thanks to my newfound discovery of the "show source" function in the "view" menu, i both feel like a genius-level internet hacker (hax0r?) and i can jank the table from the original website, rather than having to go through the arduous task of extracting highlights and presenting them to you with commentary. though i am intrigued to note that a small grasshopper has, apparently, more of everything than a large grasshopper.

i also wonder how one would go about identifying the carbohydrate count of a weevil.

update: i am in fact not a genius-level hax0r, or even hacker. i can't make the table work. just click the link. i will be over here in the corner being embarrassed.

1.30.2007

my favorite logician is the Big Bang

scott adams ("the dilbert guy") posts on his blog today about the notion of "intelligence" and using it to identify an intelligent creator. basically his point is that "something is intelligent if it unambiguously performs tasks that require intelligence," like writing a great novel, and then he applies a somewhat dubious reductio to say, basically, that if something created something that performs tasks that require intelligence, then that creator is intelligent. reductio reductio reductio until suddenly he says we do have an intelligent creator, and that creator is the Big Bang.

against my better instincts i posted a comment, but there are like nine billion comments on the post and i'm pretty sure mine will get lost in the morass. and i only addressed half the issue:

i think the problem here is that we're lacking a definition of "intelligent." the components of intelligence that you cite independently of one another - intentional communication, analytical reasoning, strategy, creativity - all together comprise what we think of as "intelligence," plus a whole bunch of other stuff: emotional intuition, ethical practice, on and on and on.

the problem isn't identifying an intelligent creator. the problem is identifying "intelligence."

and i think, just like words like "mind" and "soul" and "essence," "intelligence" is a red herring - something we can fall back on to separate ourselves from others, lessers, and unknowns.

besides the lack of a definition for "intelligence," i think scott's backpedal to the Big Bang being "intelligent" is just silly.

but then, the more i think that this is so illogical and so wrong, the more that i worry that his post was typed with tongue solidly in cheek, and i'm just not picking up on it. which makes me question my own intelligence.

life's a beach

i realize that admitting the following means that i am a nine-year-old boy, but i am a big fan of referring to progressively more intimate sexual acts using the baseball-field metaphor. so far as i knew, it was the only widely-recognized system by which you could euphemistically discuss with a friend one act or set of acts, and still be able to extend the simile - homerically - when you reported back to that same friend a week later after date #4.

last night i learned a new system, which appears to be based on domestic air travel.

first base: a day at the beach
second base: [there wasn't one specified, but i'm going to go with "a day trip to the jersey shore."]
third base: going to miami
home plate: going to the bahamas

i like it. it's jet-setty and glamorous, and the notion of warm air and lapping waves is much more mood-appropriate than the image of a dude with a mustache hurtling towards a white plastic square in a cloud of dust and chaw.

on the downside, my grandparents live in miami.

1.29.2007

existential friction

the secret history of Helen involves some twists and turns, the most notable among them being my brief stint as a jewish-interest sex columnist (yes, they spelled my middle name wrong).

on the strengths of my fluency with fetish-related punmaking, i became briefly journalistically entangled with the lovely & talented gregory levey, who has a really laudable piece on salon.com today, about the importance of paying attention to israel's arab citizens - a group who are neglected in most media coverage, as well as being neglected (both officially and unofficially) by their own government. despite my deep-seated distaste for Hard News, greg's written a smart and thoughtful article - a third personal reflection, a third fact-presentation, and a third exhortative towards awarness and action - that i did not fall asleep or alt-tab away from while reading. which is saying a lot. he also uses the phrase "existential friction," which alone i think ought to qualify him for pulitzer finalist status.

go read it. be a little smarter.

1.24.2007

ow it burns

i cannot say this better than the headline:

RAY GUN MAKES TARGETS FEEL LIKE THEY ARE ON FIRE

holy jesus crap. ladies and gentlemen, we have entered the future.

ray guns! holy crap!

1.23.2007

update.

i bought the pants anyway.

they'd better be amazing.

capital punishment

for someone as sensitive to others' grammar, usage, and punctuation as i am, i am pretty horrible when it comes to my own struggle with capitalization. i'm inconsistent and erratic, prone to capping Things That Ought Not To Be Capped in a perhaps overly-twee a.a. milnian manner, and generally speaking i realize that my flagrant disregard for the rules of the shift key does bring me down a notch when it comes to issuing critique for others' language-based shortcomings.

sometimes i get called out on this, and i sort of perversely love it. i've managed to come up with a set of retroactive justifications for my generally lowercase typing life. here they are:

capital letters are silly when used to...

...begin sentences.
if you are starting a sentence, it ought to be evident that you are starting a sentence because your new sentence ought to be preceded by either a piece of terminal punctuation, or an absence of other words. if you can't tell when a sentence is starting, you should consider reviewing the terminal punctuation marks and/or your ability to detect empty space.

...indicate the first person subject.
there is no reason to capitalize "i" to indicate the importance of the self, as evidenced by the fact that we do not capitalize the first-person object, "me." there is no reason to capitalize "i" because it is a single-letter word, because we do not capitalize the indefinite article, "a."

...indicate the names of people or places.
it just seems silly. if i say "we spent our holiday in zaire" or "i invited amy to your birthday party," you understand what i'm talking about.


capital letters are arguably okay when used to...

...disambiguate names and general nouns.
"we ate dinner at table last night" vs. "we at dinner at Table last night"
it helps clarify that you were at a pretentiously named restaurant (probably one with artisan bread and perhaps an in-dining-room hearth), and not that you were located at a piece of furniture and simply don't know how to use articles.

...identify a multi-word concept.
"last night we had the Maybe This Isn't Going Anywhere talk."
you could express this using quotes or hyphens or even italics, but it just isn't as elegant. as identified above, it's tres a.a. milne. when used with single words rather than full phrases ("i feel that Death is imminent"), it is tres emily dickinson.

...disambiguate unclear punctuation.
"our home has been invaded by panthers, robots, fascists, etc. we are going to go crazy." vs. "our home has been invaded by panthers, robots, fascists, etc. We are going to go crazy."
it helps indicate that you are not, in fact, engaged in a run-on sentence.

of course there are plenty of other random times when it is nice to capitalize things. for example, some typefaces have incredibly lovely uppercase Q's, the temporarily-forgotten names of which i'm sure ljd will illuminate in a comment.

1.22.2007

Awesomely-Rad, LLC

it appears that all i do these days is read the new york times. and it appears that all the new york times does these days is publish articles about marriage.

in an interesting bit of coincidence, this weekend i received a save-the-date for the wedding of the first of my college friends to get hitched. i suppose the confluence of these events - plus the fact that my mom was in town this weekend, leading to the inevitable discussion about My Future, incorporating the inevitable element of Okay, So, When You Get Married, Here Is What Your Father And I Are Willing To Pay For (and its followup, the Dude, Mom, Can We Wait Until I Am At The Very Least Engaged Before We Have This Conversation) - should lead to some sort of sober meditation on my part about marriage in our society and/or a lively expression how incredibly kickass it would be to have a bluegrass band play at my wedding reception (note: seriously, wouldn't it?).

here is the thing: i don't know if i get marriage. not the notion of two folks committing to one another and having babies (or not) and a puppy (nonnegotiable) and being a familial unit; rather, the notion of conflating what is essentially a mutual contract-signing with an expression of ultimate romantic love.

setting aside the old barter-system standard of marriage representing the transfer of woman-property from her father to her husband, on which many typing fingers more eviscerating than mine have rained their criticism, marriage seems like it's one of two things: a religious act, or a political one. either you're doing this in the eyes of god - a church wedding [or synagogue or mosque or shamanic redwood forest or whatever]- or you're doing it in the eyes of the state, with a justice of the peace or seacaptain (note: awesome) or similar.

why do you have to go along with either? why can't you call it what it is, and just draw up a nonreligious, nongovernmental contract? why can't Jane Awesomely and John Rad just draw up something outlining the terms of their partnership, with specific detail about shared health benefits and who gets responsibility for the children, if there be children, and how they're going to deal with proportional income relative to proportional expenses, and who gets what were the contract to be broken by one party and who gets what if the contract is mutually dissolved? it's not about god, it's not about the state, and there's no universe in which some right-wing politico is going to claim that two men or two women don't have the right to sign a contract with each other.

this is horribly unromantic, i know. but that is the point: marriage is horribly unromantic. and measuring society by who is and is not married - especially when both NYTimes articles point out that a lot of the women and men who are unmarried are in cohabitational relationships, or are perfectly happy being single, or are widows, or are legally prohibited from entering into marriage because the vast majority of our nation's state legislators are utterly retarded - seems like a silly endeavor.

maybe my views on marriage will evolve when i, you know, get married. or reach a point where marriage is imminent and thus demanding of philosophical resolution. but i think that beyond cultural inertia towards the white dress and tiered cake, if you're interested in creating a contractual partnership - make a contractual partnership. but veiling (har har) financial considerations and healthcare decisions and the taking on of responsibility for another person's well-being behind this facade of deep, epochal, resonant love seems a bit... ill-advised? Especially when there's research to support the notion that infatuation and the early stages of love are nontrivially reminiscent of mental illness, perhaps to such a degree that you could be argued not to be able to enter into a contract with fully sound mind?

the gist of this one of the three (there are probably more) marriage-centric articles in the times seems to be on that level: drop the love-blindness, you idiots. pay attention to the reality of what you're entering into.

i like it when the Times and i can agree on things. it makes me think there is still hope for both of us. even if i am an unromantic wet blanket, and look bad in white. and i will give a shiny american dollar to anyone who can provide me with proof that they proposed/were proposed to with "i love you, and i would like to enter into a contractual relationship with you involving a shared healthcare plan and the joint ownership of property."

1.19.2007

on language and farm animals

in today's browse of the new york times, i discovered two things of note.

the first is this awesome fluff piece on curly hair and its sociological whatevers. as someone in possession of a head of corkscrews that is gone at every other day with a straightening blowdryer that looks like an industrial-age sex toy covered in plastic spikes, i found the article interesting and ultimately disappointing in its lack of prescriptive revelation of a way to either make my curly hair forever smooth and shiny and straight, or smooth and shiny and curly. but the thing that really consumed my goat was this little shoutout to my alma mater:

Ginetta Candelario, an associate professor of sociology and Latin American and Latina/o Studies at Smith College, said the compulsion to have pin-straight hair grew out of the American experience.

the problem i have with this sentence is not Ginetta Candelario, with whom i never had a class but who was universally beloved by my cadre of sociology-student friends (hi neda!), but with the forehead-slapping hypersociocorrectiveliberalism of calling a department "Latina/o Studies." Oh my god. The bigenderized-via-slash adjective, the feminine preceding the masculine, the need to isolate this out from "Latin American" studies... I don't know where to begin. It simultaneously sets my brain on fire and devalues the currency of my diploma by at least 33%.

The last time Smith was mentioned in the nytimes it was the article on "Fat Studies." Which, fine, see my previous post on being a size 12, but why must Smith be the flag-bearer for every idiotically-named "Studies" academic department? Why god, why?

Okay, the other thing is much less rage-inducing, and it is this:


for those of you who are blinded by awesome and are now having this blog post read aloud to you, that would be a picture of a baby cow. buried in snow. licking its own nose.

could anything be better?
(hint: no)

1.17.2007

the fat of the land

in a moment of workplace boredom i decided to spend a few moments of brainclearing time looking online for a pair of superlong superskinny black pants. this has been an ongoing quest in my world, as i imagine the superlong superskinny black pants would, if i owned them, make my life into a magical amazing wonderful place where i am infinitely happy and endlessly renowned. also my legs will look superlong and superskinny, and also miraculously i will have kate walsh's hair. all this will happen, i am sure of it, if and when i find these pants.

i had this brief flash of inspiration and decided to check out delia's, which is a website that used to be a catalog that used to be the bee's freaking knees when i was in high school nine thousand years ago (more accurately: seven) and now is awesome because now that i am 25 i have decided that i want to be 13 again and delia's (excuse me, dELiA*s) helps me fulfill that desire.

you know what they have at dELiA*s? superskinny black pants. that come in a variety of inseam lengths so that, were i to get the 34-inchers, they could in theory be superlong. this is, naturally, superawesome.

until it comes to the issue of sizing. mostly i buy my pants from places like banana republic and the gap and old navy, where sizes run in even numbers, and where i am (gasp) a size 12 (which Princess Diaries author Meg Cabot informs us all is not fat. thank you, Meg Cabot, though i believe my mother would beg to differ). but juniors stores like dELiA*s (i love typing that) and alloy use this incredibly confusing odd-numbered system.

logically i would fall somewhere between a size 11 and a size 13, right? right? wrong. here is dELiA*s size chart:


now, for comparison purposes, click here to see the size chart at Banana Republic.

if i wear a 12 at Banana, which means i have a "low waist" of 33.5 inches? that means that at delia's (i am officially not giving in to their stupid spelling now that i hate them for always), where your waist is your "low waist," i wear a size 17/18. aka 2XL. aka enough to make me recoil from my computer screen in horror, not want to buy the pants even though they are exactly what i want ENTIRELY BECAUSE the label will read "17," and i can barely bring myself to even click on that in the drop-down box.

that hypothetical 12 that exists somewhere between an 11 and a 13? a delia's 12 is a banana republic four. FOUR.

deep breath.

this sentence right here is where i provide you with thoughtful commentary on how this grotesque inflation of clothing sizes helps make teenage girls - delia's target demographic - feel fat all the time.

this sentence is where i call for the retraction on delia's part of these stupid claims that they are making clothes for "real girls" by going up to size 19/20, because they are NOT going up to size 19/20, they are just going up to size 14 like every other store out there and then slapping an extra couple of points on the clothing.

i am actually rageful right now, which is why those are filler sentences and not actual thoughtful discussions. i am in fact a little disoriented by the magnitude of my rage. but the incredibly worst part of all? is that it works. it works on me. because this sentence right here is where i tell you that even though the superlong superskinny superawesome black pants are exactly and entirely what i am looking for, that once i own them i could rip out the label and wear them with spindly heels and drapey sweaters and be a superhero of amazing pants, i will not buy them because i cannot bring myself to buy pants that are size 17, even though i know objectively that they are equivalent to a size 12. and even though, as Meg Cabot tells us in her sequel, size 14 is not fat either, i am pretty much inclined to tell Meg Cabot to go fuck herself for no reason at all except for rage displacement, and possibly also to go firebomb the headquarters of delia's a la Dresden.

1.16.2007

this is the kind of day it is

while absentmindedly attempting to stick a pencil into my ponytail just now, i stabbed myself in the ear.

1.11.2007

special topics in special moments

my distaste for My Least Favorite Book Of 2006, Special Topics in Calamity Physics, is perhaps outrun only by my distaste for its author, the obnoxious and smug Marisha Pessl.* but not everyone hates this book. leila thought it was one of her favorite books of last year (in fact, her copy of it is the one that's taking up valuable cookbooks-written-in-foreign-languages space in my bookcase), and gawker talks about her a lot. the otherwise quite insightful folks over at the New York Times said it was one of the 10 best fiction books of 2006, which is something which i am inclined to forgive, since their 2005 list brought me to Jonathan Ames' utterly perfect Wake Up, Sir!

The Times' hardcore makeoutage with Marisha (ps. what a lispy name) Pessl (ps. get some vowels) continued with last weekend's installment in their incredibly dumb (yet totally awesome) "Consumed" column, which basically operates on the formula of Minor Celebrity + Discussion Of A Favorite Possession = Credible Journalistic Endeavor.

Blah blah blah. Marisha has an oil paints set, gives soundbites that make her come off as self-pride incarnate, and needs to consider buying some home interior accoutrements in a color that is not brown.

here is the great part of this piece:

"There was some label on it saying that this is for the disciplined, advanced, professional painter," Ms. Pessl said, "and I’m just about the opposite of that."

At least, that is the hope. As much as she enjoys art-making — several of her drawings punctuate her novel — she is not looking to append the words "slash artist" to "novelist" on her résumé.

Earnest Times reporter David Colman probably meant the bolded phrase above to mean a résumé line that reads "novelist/artist." I bet he does. But poor sweet David Colman has inadvertently clarified for all the internets to know that Lispy McVowelfree is uninterested in becoming a Slash Artist, i.e. a maker of Slash Art, i.e. visual art depicting generally homosexual encounters between fictional characters who do not in fact engage in sexual acts in their original works of fiction. Such as, for example, Snape and Harry. or Batman and Robin. or, and i am totally incapable of making something like this up, Sonic the Hedgehog and Dr. Robotnik.

You can check it out for yourself here, which is a site whose existence i am aware of ONLY because it was the first google link when i just searched for "slash art" thirteen seconds ago. But as this site says on its splash page, If homoerotic images of fictional characters offend you please go elsewhere. And if you're looking for Marisha Pessl to be the creative hand behind your Fonzie-on-Chachi full-color visual, i'm afraid the Paper Of Record has informed us that you're shit out of luck.



*though to be fair, were i to meet her at a cocktail party i would try really really really hard to become her best friend.

mood elevation via cuteness

for reasons unrelated to my usual ennui and misanthropy, i am feeling a bit out of sorts.

to distract myself from my sortly outofage, i go to my regular balm, which is: baby animals outside of the usual puppy/kitten canon.

we have previously discussed the baby tapir and the baby otter.

i suppose rightfully i should move on to a new animal, and so i shall. please welcome to your awareness of the zoological world the baby takin:



and for good measure, a wonderful set of surly baby otters can be found here, courtesy of ljd's otter-vigilance.

1.10.2007

adventures in wealth

one of the things i don't like, besides bad grammar and stupid people and lace-trimmed leggings, is chocolate. this is unfortunate on the level that i cannot relate to those tra-la-la-menopause throwpillows and swirly-typefaced t-shirts that say things like "give me the chocolate and no one gets hurt" or "i have chocolate and i have a vibrator. who needs men?!" and obviously this disconnect from my gender is destroying my life.

anyway, while in spain i went to this astonishingly good chocolate shop where they actually had chocolate that i enjoyed, because it was flavored with wacky shit such as parmesan cheese and curry and hyacinth and saffron (not all at once). and i bought nineteen billion boxes of chocolate to bring back to the ol' usofa as gifts for people, plus one tiny box of four petite superdark chocolates for me, because one of the things i learned was that i really actually enjoy superdark chocolate, because it tastes like olives and i like olives.

the thing with these particular chocolates is that they are decorated with gold.

like, actual gold. the thing that jewelry is made out of and people with large hats rush and thin blonde women from long island dig. and i, you know, ate it. as a food.

i think i've eaten gold before - if the flakes in goldschlager are actual gold then i have definitely at least consumed it, in fact in quite large quantities during a forty-six hour period during my sophomore year of college. but i never actually sat down and thought about the fact that i am EATING GOLD. a PRECIOUS METAL. is being DIGESTED. by my STOMACH AND INTESTINES. it will, at some point, presumably exit my gastrointestinal system.

I will poo gold.

i would type "holy crap" here but that is hitting a little close to home right now.

1.03.2007

not every single person in the world sucks

i have a mild addiction to personal grooming. i tend to justify it with the extremely useful-in-many-circumstances sentence "hey, it's better than heroin," but still it's kind of silly that someone of my age (young) and my income level (poverty-line) gets manicures with this frequency (frequent).

today i went to a new little nail spa that just opened near my office and got my usual paintjob and gave the nice lady my credit card and she came back and said it didn't go through. so i asked her to try again. and she tried again and came back and said it didn't go through, but it wasn't my card's fault - it was their machine's fault.

"but this card is all i haaaaave!" i wailed. i didn't actually wail. i sort of stated it matter-of-factly and wondered (not for the first time) what the hell actually happens when you can't pay for a service you have already recieved.

and then the nice lady said "i see you walking by every morning on your way to work. pay me tomorrow."

happy new year, nice manicure lady. i would have hugged you, but it would have smudged my nails.

1.02.2007

OED: an ode

in my relentlessly consumerist lifestyle, there are some things that i desperately would like to own, but - in a rare demonstration of restraint and maturity - am holding off on the acquisition thereof until i live a less peripatetic lifestyle. for example, a piano. for another example, the twenty-volume set of the Complete Oxford English Dictionary, the second edition of which came out in 1989.

the complete OED is formidable. it has 22,000 pages comprising over 300,000 entries made up of 59 million words. it takes up four linear feet of shelf space. it is heavenly. it is my idea of heaven.

however - and this may astonish you - it doesn't sell so well. maybe people are put off by the $3000 price tag, or they would rather buy a 48-inch plasma screen tv than 48 inches (53 including supplements and addenda!) of linguistic and etymological orgasm. whatever the reason, suckitudinally*, the multivolume book that has been the alpha and omega of my librovorious lifestyle is about to be out of print. (i would say i'm going to start wearing all black due to being in mourning, but i wear all black anyway due to i am a sophisticated new yorker.)

amazon is selling the set right now for a very respectable $698.10, which just so happens to qualify for free super-saver shipping.

completely unrelatedly, it just so happens that my birthday is in 4 days.

that is all.


*a word that, tragically, is not included in the OED.

1.01.2007

american morons

i'm watching a commercial for American Idol right now and here's what the voiceover says:

once a year, we get to experience the thrill of a lifetime.
circumstances under which this can be an accurate statement:

1. a lifetime is only a year long.

welcome to 2007, the year in which people continue to be idiots.