Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Women hold up half the sky

A really good New York Times article about how targeting women for international aid may be the best solution to poverty and many human welfare and human rights issues.

Includes tales of women who have gone through some really horrible shit, whose lives (and whose family's lives) have drastically improved, from things like microloans and educational opportunities and other aid organizations.

The most inspiring to me was about this one woman in Zimbabwe, Tererai. As a kid, she begged her father to be allowed to go to school, but he wouldn't let her, because she was a girl. Her brother was sent to school though, even though he was pretty indifferent about it, and she would read all his books and end up doing his homework. The teacher found out, told her parents she was a prodigy. So she was allowed to go to school for a few months, until she was married off at the age of 11.

Then an activist from Heifer International came. I'm just gonna quote the whole rest of the story about her:

Tererai’s husband barred her from attending school, resented her literacy and beat her whenever she tried to practice her reading by looking at a scrap of old newspaper. Indeed, he beat her for plenty more as well. She hated her marriage but had no way out. “If you’re a woman and you are not educated, what else?” she asks.

Yet when Jo Luck came and talked to Tererai and other young women in her village, Luck kept insisting that things did not have to be this way. She kept saying that they could achieve their goals, repeatedly using the word “achievable.” The women caught the repetition and asked the interpreter to explain in detail what “achievable” meant. That gave Luck a chance to push forward. “What are your hopes?” she asked the women, through the interpreter. Tererai and the others were puzzled by the question, because they didn’t really have any hopes. But Luck pushed them to think about their dreams, and reluctantly, they began to think about what they wanted.

Tererai timidly voiced hope of getting an education. Luck pounced and told her that she could do it, that she should write down her goals and methodically pursue them. After Luck and her entourage disappeared, Tererai began to study on her own, in hiding from her husband, while raising her five children. Painstakingly, with the help of friends, she wrote down her goals on a piece of paper: “One day I will go to the United States of America,” she began, for Goal 1. She added that she would earn a college degree, a master’s degree and a Ph.D. — all exquisitely absurd dreams for a married cattle herder in Zimbabwe who had less than one year’s formal education. But Tererai took the piece of paper and folded it inside three layers of plastic to protect it, and then placed it in an old can. She buried the can under a rock where she herded cattle.

Then Tererai took correspondence classes and began saving money. Her self-confidence grew as she did brilliantly in her studies, and she became a community organizer for Heifer. She stunned everyone with superb schoolwork, and the Heifer aid workers encouraged her to think that she could study in America. One day in 1998, she received notice that she had been admitted to Oklahoma State University.

Some of the neighbors thought that a woman should focus on educating her children, not herself. “I can’t talk about my children’s education when I’m not educated myself,” Tererai responded. “If I educate myself, then I can educate my children.” So she climbed into an airplane and flew to America.

At Oklahoma State, Tererai took every credit she could and worked nights to make money. She earned her undergraduate degree, brought her five children to America and started her master’s, then returned to her village. She dug up the tin can under the rock and took out the paper on which she had scribbled her goals. She put check marks beside the goals she had fulfilled and buried the tin can again.

In Arkansas, she took a job working for Heifer — while simultaneously earning a master’s degree part time. When she had her M.A., Tererai again returned to her village. After embracing her mother and sister, she dug up her tin can and checked off her next goal. Now she is working on her Ph.D. at Western Michigan University.

Tererai has completed her course work and is completing a dissertation about AIDS programs among the poor in Africa. She will become a productive economic asset for Africa and a significant figure in the battle against AIDS. And when she has her doctorate, Tererai will go back to her village and, after hugging her loved ones, go out to the field and dig up her can again.

She's amazing. Such a contrast, between situations like that where women have to struggle and work so hard for the opportunity to be educated, and, well, people like me, who have had it handed to them. People who are just expected to go on to higher education. People who don't give a shit about what they're learning and are just in it because that's the expectation, the step you go thru before being shunted off into your career. (This last one, not me so much, but the others, yeah.)

Providing these opportunities is not only a way to drastically improve the lives of countless people, but it is actually the most effective way, studies are showing. It's even the most effective in terms of the bottom line: far less costly than many other aid programs which have ended up having little effect, and in some cases investors have more than recouped their losses.

I have been thinking lately of joining the Peace Corps at some point, makes me kind of wish I, uh, had some kind of experience in things like small-scale economic development. I don't. I guess I'd end up in some sort of educational capacity, such as teaching English or environmental or sustainability or public health stuff. I don't know-- I just want to do what's needed most desperately, even if the other things are helping. Like rescuing women like one who was mentioned in the article, who was enslaved in a brothel. Or helping to provide basic needs, where people are starving and don't have water. The world is so fucked up and it's so heartening when people can do something effective about it.

Speaking of which, the Glacier mining company, which wanted to turn much of Maury Island into a gravel pit, despite the sensitive habitats and the aquifer like, right there, had their lease rescinded. Or something like that. I was very happy about it, still am, until I went to the comments page of one Seattle Times article, and it was filled with douchebags saying stuff that I was attempting to summarize and articulate, but I won't bother, I'll just say that I'm not sure which was greater, the ignorance or the smugness. AAAAAARGH. Well, fuck them, got ours. And if right and reason prevail, we'll keep it.

Death Vans

(Maybe "Deathmobile" is catchier?)

Apparently in China there are roving vans, providing the nation with its much-needed criminal executions. Some morbid speculations, and some quotes from the article I found this in, below.

Some quotes:

Makers of the death vans say the vehicles and injections are a civilized alternative to the firing squad, ending the life of the condemned more quickly, clinically and safely. The switch from gunshots to injections is a sign that China "promotes human rights now," says Kang Zhongwen, who designed the Jinguan Automobile death van in which "Devil" Zhang took his final ride.

China's refusal to give outsiders access to the bodies of executed prisoners has added to suspicions about what happens afterward: Corpses are typically driven to a crematorium and burned before relatives or independent witnesses can view them.

I suspect there IS use of prisoners' organs, because I've Heard Stories, Man (from a friend who studied under an American doctor who was roped into doing a heart transplant from a still-living (anesthetized) condemned criminal), but in China's defense... even if you were entirely legitimate, there's plenty of reason not to bother allowing "access."

Some random dude from another country is like, "Excuse me, foreign busybody here, I need to inspect the corpses of every person you shoot. You know, because you're probably doing something bad with the bodies." Would you go to the trouble to appease them, or would you tell them to fuck off and just get on with the cremation or whatever?

Jinguan's glossy death van brochure is printed in both Chinese and English.

I want to see this brochure. I want to see this brochure SO BAD. Someone find me this brochure!

The lethal cocktail used in the injections is mixed only in Beijing, something that has prompted complaints from local courts.

"Some places can't afford the cost of sending a person to Beijing — perhaps $250 — plus $125 more for the drug," says Qiu Xingsheng, a former judge working as a lawyer in Chongqing. Death-by-gunshot requires "very little expense," he says.

Qiu has attended executions by firing squad where the kneeling prisoner is shot in the back of the head. The guards "ask the prisoner to open his mouth, so the bullet can pass out of the mouth and leave the face intact," he says.

Is this for the sake of the relatives?

Also, I'm not so knowledgeable about either ballistics or the human skull, but... is it hard to aim a bullet from the back of someone's head so that it goes out their mouth? Well, maybe if you don't mind chipping a tooth or clipping a lip or something, it might not be so hard.

Tycoon Yuan Baojing was executed in March in a death van, in northeast China's Liaoyang city. He had been convicted of arranging the murder of a man trying to blackmail him for attempting to assassinate a business partner.

So he hires an assassin, that fails, someone BLACKMAILS him about the failed assassination, and his solution is to hire someone to assassinate THEM? What if that failed, and he got double-blackmailed, etc.? "Oh shit, now I *really* have to kill them off, I'd be up to 68 attempted murder charges if this ever got out!"

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

car wash and greek mythology

I love going through the car wash.

I think what I like about it is seeing the water wash over the outside of the shell of my car, and the kelp-forest-like cloth strips thumping and draping on the windshield and side windows,, like I'm in an underwater vehicle, like jaques cousteau. i dunno.

The one I just went to was awesome, the most elaborate and prolonged car wash I'd been in. I couldn't stop smiling. There is even a THREE COLOR WAX or something like that. With a neon rainbow arch. And there were indeed 3 types, sudsy pink, blue and yellow, with a sort of chemical candy smell.

Greek mythology kicks ass:
At Ephesos, southwest of Lydia, he captured and bound the Kerkopes. These were dwarfish pranksters who played tricks on passers-by near Ephesos or at the narrow pass of Thermopylai in Thessaly. According to Tzetzes they were two brothers who had laughed at their mother, the Okeanid Theia, when she warned them that “they had not yet met the man with a black bottom.” While Herakles was sleeping they stole his wallet, but he awoke, caught them, and hung them head downwards from his shoulders (or from a pole, as artistic versions usually portray this incident); since it was warm Herakles was wearing no trousers and from their vantage point the Kerkopes could see his buttocks and genitals, “bushy and black-haired;” remembering what their mother had told them they broke into laughter and Herakles, equally amused, set them free.

Heh, Herakles was gross.

A peculiar aspect of Herakles’ stay with Omphale is the custom they adopted of wearing one another’s clothing. Painters portrayed Herakles wearing a yellow petticoat and having his hair combed by Lydian girls. Ovid says that Herakles wore a diaphanous purple negligee and a girdle which could not fit around his waist, while Omphale wore his lion-skin and carried his club. While the two lovers were asleep, wearing each other’s clothes, in a Lydian cave, the god Pan crept in and began to feel his way through the darkness. When he reached the beds, he first touched the lion-skin; thinking this was Herakles he lay down next to the other sleeping figure and pulled up its dress. Discovering a pair of hairy thighs, he nevertheless was about to proceed further when Herakles awoke and pushed him away. For this reason, says Ovid, Pan hates deceptive clothing and those who participate in his rites must worship naked.

O, also I should read me some Ann Radcliffe (early Gothic author), whose work is luckily on Project Gutenberg.

Monday, August 17, 2009


You know those sports teams with names like the Redskins, the Chiefs, etc., that Native Americans (rightly) deem objectifying and derogatory?

Satirists have suggested that perhaps, instead of picking an "Indian" mascot, sports teams should name themselves stuff like "the Caucasians," "the Honkies," etc.

That almost happened.

In 1947, Florida State University held a poll to decide what their school's mascot name should be; they ended up picking "the Seminoles."

But "the Crackers" was first runner-up.

If only.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

I love Nemi

One last thing: I love this comic, Nemi. It's Norwegian--second most popular comic in the country, in fact--and the site I link is its translation into English.

One thing I appreciate about it is that the drawing itself is hilarious, and often beautiful. It seems like a lot of comics don't let the art do enough work. Or make it do enough work. Possibly because they're not capable, I really don't know. But Nemi's expressions are so awesome. She is kind of my hero.

I guess, comics character wise, I like "primal" sorts of women, in the sense that they follow their id. Maybe because I wish I did? :D

superdeep holes and self-unawareness

Other stuff:

World's deepest hole (Kola superdeep borehole). So coool.

World's second deepest hole:

"This well reached a depth of 31,441 feet where it encountered molten sulfur that melted the drill pipe and forced the end of drilling." Damn.

Unilateral neglect.

Some people neglecting a side of their own body, some neglecting a side of external objects. You can try to draw their attention to the "missing" side gradually, putting an eyepatch over the other eye, throwing a ball at them from that side, etc.

The Dunning-Kruger effect. In short, if you're ignorant, you are more likely to overestimate your own competence in something. The more you become familiar with it, the more accurate, and the more humble, your self-perception becomes.

Similarly, there is anosognosia, a lack of awareness about your own illness or disibilities. Like, even to the extent of not being aware that you have become paralyzed.
The condition does not seem to be directly related to sensory loss and is thought to be caused by damage to higher level neurocognitive processes which are involved in integrating sensory information with processes which support spatial or bodily representations (including the somatosensory system).

However, this can be temporarily cured. By squirting ice-cold water into someone's left ear (WTF?):
In regard to anosognosia for neurological patients, there are currently no long-term treatments for anosognosia, although, like unilateral neglect, caloric reflex testing (squirting ice cold water into the left ear) is known to temporarily ameliorate unawareness of impairment.

It is not entirely clear how this works, although it is thought that the unconscious shift of attention or focus caused by the intense stimulation of the vestibular system temporarily influences awareness. Most cases of anosognosia appear to simply disappear over time, while other cases can last indefinitely. Normally, long-term cases are treated with cognitive therapy to train the patient to adjust for their inoperable limbs (though it is believed that these patients still are not "aware" of their disability).

I got an MRI today, not as a medical precaution but because I wanted to experience that and see what my brain looked like. (I didn't pay for this or anything, the data will be used in a study.) It looks pretty cool, even though for the most part I don't know WTF anything is in there. It is easy to find images in there, Rorschach-test like. MIND READING LOL.

earth heat loss and gain

Geophysics is so freaking cool.

We have in our skin, especially our hands, sensitivity to infrared (long wavelength) light.

"Also, water holds heat much better than does air. See the experiment below. Because of this property, a three meter layer of the surface ocean (about 10 feet thick) can hold as much heat as the entire overlying atmosphere (roughly 10 km thick). "

Off New York City if you take a steamer headed to Europe, you will see the edge of the Gulf Stream clearly as a distinct zone where the cold greenish water of the Labrador current, closest to shore, gives way to the warm blue water of the Gulf Stream.

Notice that on the western side of the Atlantic at about 50 degrees latitude we have Canada and Greenland with subpolar, cold, climates. At the same latitude on the eastern side of the Atlantic we have Ireland, Great Britain and lower Scandinavia all of which have mild climates. The difference is the Gulf Stream and the tremendous amounts of heat it transports northeastward to the higher latitude atmosphere.

he Gulf Stream changed its travel path considerably as the subtropical gyre shrunk and shifted southward. The result was that the heat pump carried its load more eastward than northward It locked heat closer to the equator, which underwent little glacial age cooling. But this set up isolated the higher latitudes and deprived them of their heat supply. So, large sections of the northern continents cooled and froze. Huge ice sheets spread over the land (imagine an ice layer a mile thick, as modern interpretations suggest) and sufficient ice to drop sea-level by over 100 meters.

Monday, August 10, 2009


Relation between loneliness and stress, heart disease, etc.

I want this book. ("Masterpiece Comics, a new book that reimagines classic literature in the style of well-known comics (including Shakespeare's Macbeth in the style of old newspaper strip Mary Worth.") I want it so bad. September 1st!!!

In writing news, I am writing stupid epigrams. By "epigrams," I mean four-line poems. Not exactly a classic definition, I know. This is the definition used in Linelinelineline, the "journal for the new American epigram," founded by friends of mine (I am a co-editor.) And by "stupid" I should clarify this to mean that my epigrams are stupid, not that epigrams are stupid in general. Except, kinda, when they want to be? In a good way? Like the form may be "four line poem," but we also look for a sort of enthusiastic puerility. Or uh, at least that's what I'M into.

Here is my stuff from the first issue: I want to fuck a slam poet! Or be one!

Anyway, each one of the epigrams I'm dong now starts with "I am [something]." Where the something is a thing, creature, concept, etc. Like "The 80s," "rubella," "Nessie," "a coffee bean," "an abstract concept," etc.

I also wrote a series of epigrams about Michael Jackson. Still working on all of these.

Oh my god what did I accomplish this Zellowship? About jack shit. And yet I feel like I've changed a lot in the last year, in ways I don't know if I can articulate or even sensitively perceive.

Oh, also, I'm writing a resume for the first time in a very long time. The last time I had to do something similar was applying for grad school like... 3.5 years ago? Jesus.

Anyway, my resume actually looks more impressive than I imagined it would. I have a masters degree, give me money!!!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

"Human hair merkin"

Oh my god please don't tell me this is actually made from pubic hair. It's head hair, right. Head hair.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Tobacco smoke enema

From "20 Scary Old Surgical Tools."
Tobacco Smoke Enema (1750s-1810s)
The tobacco enema was used to infuse tobacco smoke into a patient's rectum for various medical purposes, primarily the resuscitation of drowning victims. A rectal tube inserted into the anus was connected to a fumigator and bellows that forced the smoke towards the rectum. The warmth of the smoke was thought to promote respiration, but doubts about the credibility of tobacco enemas led to the popular phrase "blow smoke up one's ass."


This one is actually much less scary than any of the others, but maybe the weirdest. I'm skeptical about that really being the origin of the phrase, as those things are so prone to people making up fanciful stories about them.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Moose milk

This wikipedia article on moose milk owns.

Moose milk, also known as elk milk, refers to milk produced by Alces alces. Though it is most commonly consumed by baby moose, its production has also been commercialised in Russia and Sweden.

Moose milk is high in butterfat (10%) and solids (21.5%), according to data collected on Russian moose; research into American moose milk is in a less advanced state than in Russia, but appears to indicate that American moose have even higher concentrations of solids in their milk.

Moose milk is commercially farmed in Russia; one sanitorium, the Ivan Susanin Sanitorium, even serves moose milk to residents in the belief that it helps them recover from disease or manage chronic illness more effectively. Some Russian researchers have recommended that moose milk could be used for the prevention of gastroenterological diseases in children, due to its lysozyme activity. A farm in Bjurholm, Sweden run by Christer and Ulla Johansson is believed to be the world's only producer of moose cheese. It has three milk-producing moose, whose milk yields roughly 300 kilograms of cheese per year; the cheese sells for about US$1,000 per kilogram. One Russian moose researcher had also previously tried to make moose cheese, but he stated that, due to the milk's high protein content, the cheese became hard far too quickly. He was not aware of any attempts to make moose ice cream.

Also, the other day I was in a coffee shop. On a chalk board near the counter, it advertised coffee cake, scones, etc., and "various squares." As in, uh, lemon, toffee, I dunno, I can't think of any other kinds of squares. But I found it really amusing.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Women are more interested in genitals than faces; men are more interested in faces than genitals.

Also, male fruit flies become bisexual upon daily exposure to alcohol. (Too lazy to link, found under "beer goggles" article in wikipedia.

Friday, February 13, 2009


You know those things on standardized tests where they ask you to read a few paragraphs and then pick the best title?

My mom always did really bad on those, because she would pick whichever title she thought was the most interesting, instead of whichever title best summarized the reading, which is what you're "supposed" to do.

So I am thinking about that a bit with regard to book titles. With poetry, especially, the title wouldn't be simply a thing to sound interesting and make you pick it up, but could go a long way towards suggesting to the reader what the collection will be "about."

Does a collection have to be "about" anything?

Does a poem have to be about anything? Why do we use that preposition? "About" seems surrounding, not directly touching, nebulous. It feels like it ought to be on, or within, or something.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

i need to loosen up

Bleh, I am either more of a formalist and/or just more of an anal retentive person than I thought. Or at least, I'm working on a poem and I was all distressed because the lines and stanzas were of significantly different length. I tend to write poems where that is not the case. Like unruly free verse is just too OUT THERE, man, and a solid poem needs to at least look neat on the page. See, unruly. Must be ruled. Value judgment. I need to go with the flow and embrace my inner free verser.

"ruly" is an archaic word meaning "amenable to discipline or order." Like, "That dog is really ruly, you must have trained him well."

I think it's interesting when we start to only use the modified version of a word, to the point where the morphology is smeared and it would sound really weird to use the non-prefixed form.

What are some other examples of this? I cannot think of any right now.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Lamest recreational drug ever

Naxolone is this drug that binds really well to opiod receptors in the central nervous system, so they use it in emergencies when someone has overdosed on heroin. They inject it or give it with a nasal spray and it works quite quickly (in like 2 minutes!)

They have given it out in emergency kits for addicts in a number of major cities, and it's reduced the number of overdose fatalities. Yay!

What I really came to post about, though, is this:

Naloxone has also been known to cause a slight tingling feeling in the lower extremities. This is the rush of adrenaline that often follows an injection of naloxone. When used for recreational purposes, this has been found to be the main effect users strive for. Users often feel bloated and nauseated after the tingling effect leaves the body.

What the hell, that is the lamest high ever. Why would anyone bother to do this?

"Whoa, man, my foot feels slightly tingly!"
"Yeah, me too, holy shit!!!"
*minutes pass*
*guys puke*

I guess it's better than jenkem.

I ate some gold today.

It was 24 karat.

A coffee shop that is about to open was doing some gold-leafing on their windows. I had walked by earlier in the afternoon and saw rough blotches of gold, making out the form of what seemed to be a large coffee cup and some letters. It wasn't precise, the squarish patches of gold were overlaid to give plenty of room for the final image. I was really curious about it and wanted to ask the woman what was going on, but I was kind of shy.

Later I came back that same way, and she had finished it, and was wiping it down. Now the excess gold was removed, so you had a gold coffee cup and the letters of the shop. They clearly weren't open for business yet of course, there were tarps and stuff all in there, but I sort of gestured to see whether I could come in. She and the other people working in there were very friendly, and explained how it worked. A mother and her young daughter came in as well, and were also admiring it.

Apparently you can wipe a surface with a gelatin mixture, and then just press gold leaf onto the surface, smoothing it out. Then you mark where you want the boundaries of the image, and paint inside it. The paint holds the gold leaf to the wall! Then you just wipe away the extra gold with water! So amazing. It's apparently a very old technique.

So there were little bits of gold all over the place. I can't call them flakes, because they weren't. They weren't hard and sharp and they had no weight to them whatsoever. The closest thing I can think of is that they were like the incredibly thin bits of ash that will waft up from a fire, that simply disappear when you touch them. Touching the gold was like that, it was so thin you couldn't even feel it, really, just see it sort of melt away between your fingers.

You could press it against your fingertip, which I did. It was so thin I could see my fingerprint through the gold leaf. I hear you can beat gold to one molecule thin. It was so beautiful and cool.

I asked if they were going to vacuum it up and save it or something; one packet of 25 gold leaf things, which were like 3.5 inches square maybe, cost 44 dollars, and there were at least 10 packets on the table, probably. He said he thought it was a lost cause, and indeed, the gold was just so ephemeral-seeming, what would you even do with it, it would disappear. So I figured it was okay to eat some of it. I wanted to consume gold and know what it tasted like!

I pressed some onto my finger and then licked it off. Of course, it was a very small amount, so I could barely taste anything, just that faintest tang of metal. You'd have to have more gold to get a really good taste.

From what I did taste, though, it did seem a lot purer and cleaner in its taste than, say, the taste of iron or nickel. That could be because gold just tastes better, or because maybe the iron and nickel I've tasted is impure. Like if I had to analogize the tastes, I would say that iron is like silty water or something, nickel is like mucky swamp, and the gold is like cold stream water.

It would be so awesome to get a ton of 24k gold and just play around with it. Supposedly it's quite malleable. Just take balls of it like clay and make stuff out of it like you were playing with play-doh. Take gold leaf and smear it all over your whole body, and be even cooler than Goldfinger. Eat it! Swim around in 24 karat gold leaf!

This is the kind of thing I would be so tempted to do if I was ridiculously rich. Obviously it would have to be truly ridiculous wealth, past the point where I've made sure basically everyone I know is financially secure and like bought entire islands to preserve them and set up charitable foundations and stuff. Other stuff I would like to do is get a lot of liquid nitrogen and play with that! I saw videos on youtube where people toss boiling water or hot coffee into the air, outdoors, in their like -40 degree weather, and it just turns into a snow mist and comes down in a gentle arc! That of it which doesn't just seem to vanish.