Thursday, June 28, 2007

"Forget about it. Men's preferences will never change. Fit Light Yogurt" - wtf??!!

Read this article about Brazilian yogurt advertisements.

This is one of the worst ad campaigns I've seen in a while. The fact that they're so overtly playing into the confidence issues of their target audience is just beyond the pale. American advertisers also play into the fact that many women seem to feel the need to diet down to Nicole Ritchie size. But they do it in a more subtle way - focusing on being healthy, enjoying their food (think those yogurt commercials with the two women discussing how good the yogurt is "shoe shopping good" "first kiss good" etc). The ads here are focused more on women getting fit, slimming down, and eating right for their own well being. A process of self improvement.

These Brazilian ads externalize this, they make being skinny a question only of pleasing men. It makes a woman's self-worth dependent upon what a man thinks of her, rather than asking her to be healthy for her own sake. And honestly, those pictures weren't that bad! Especially American Beauty. She just looked full figured.

What really irritates me is the assumption that (1) men won't be attracted to you unless you weigh 100lbs, (2) all men are the same, (3) men won't like us unless we're slim.

First of all, there are plenty of healthy and happy women who aren't beanpole thin. Some women's body types are just naturally more voluptuous and it is unrealistic to expect everyone to conform to the same standard - some people will achieve without batting an eyelash and others will bust their asses trying to squeeze into that size 8 and not be able to enjoy because they're always focused on what they aren't (instead of what they are).

Assumption two - it's just as ludicrous to assume that all men have the same tastes as it is to expect all women to conform to the same body shape. Some men like round women, some like voluptuous women, some like slender women, others like petites, and others like tall women. It's all a matter of taste, environment, and that hard-to-define sense of attraction. And, at least for most of the men I know, I think they would prefer a women who wasn't model thin if it meant she was more comfortable and confident about herself.

Assumption three - men won't find us attractive unless we're slim. For both men and women equally, I find confidence to be much more attractive than whether someone is a size 6 or 12 (or whatever the equivalents are for men's sizes). I've met slim people who are so focused on their weight, or their clothes, or their makeup, that that talk just dominates their conversations to the detriment of all the other (non-self-centered) topics out there. Men sometimes really appreciate a woman who can hold an intelligent conversation.

I think the more important thing to focus on is being healthy. If you eat healthy foods in healthy portions, exercise to maintain your cardiovascular and respiratory health and get enough sleep, you're already on your way to a healthier mindset. And if you happen to weigh more than is the average but are confident about yourself, then there will always be men would will be attracted to you.

One final thing - forget the idea that you have to eat certain foods or be a certain way because of what men (or women) will thing. What's most important is to be happy with yourself and create your own sense of identity. If you do that, you have more to bring to a relationship and less likelihood to feel like your worth is pinned on what other people think of you.

"Sticky Rice" Romney and "Idiot" Menino

Please read this article.

It would be incredible (and awesome) if they could transliterate the presidential candidates names into characters which expressed some of their character (the closest listed is Menino with "Imbecile" - not that he isn't a good mayor, that's just the way he comes across sometimes). I think they got Menino's wrong though with "Barbarian Mud No Mind of His Own." That should have been Bush.

I wonder if translating their names into Chinese characters could easily render itself to bias. I mean, which translation do you use, "Imbecile" or "Barbarian Mud No Mind of His Own"? Which would be more negative to a Chinese person? Would the candidates get the final say as to how their name was depicted on the ballot? If, for instance, they used "Imbecile" for Menino, would that affect his chances of being reelected Mayor, regardless of how good a Mayor he has been? If voters aren't familiar with a politician's history (in any demographic), they're either going to vote party line or they're going to vote in the moment. And who would choose "Imbecile" for public office? This is not to say that those voting off the Chinese names would not know what they were doing. If they are able to vote, they've obviously gone through the naturalization process and care enough about the process to come out and vote, so they are possibly even better informed than the apathetic Americans who stay home in droves on voting day. But would having a negative transliteration work against the candidates in some subconscious way?

Don't most Chinese people also learn pinyin (Chinese words with English letters and accent marks) in school, and could the candidates' names be written in pinyin instead?

To go off tangent, one of the things I find fascinating about Chinese and Japanese (kanji) is the fact that their written language is linked to the meaning of the word and not just to the sound. Written in furigana (phonetic characters rather than pictorial), the Japanese word hana can mean "nose," "cherry blossom," and "story" or can be turned into a verb meaning "speak," depending on what character is used. In English we distinguish homonyms through context (think present (n) and present (v)). We do also spell words different according to definition (your and you're, too, two and to) which would be the English version of this Japanese convention. But in English, they're just letters on a page, and many people confuse them (pet peeve, pet peeve). But in Japanese, even if the word sounds the same to the ear, if you look at it, you're not going to confuse a character with radicals for a plant with one with radicals for speaking or a part of the face. It seems much clearer that way.

Languages that have some kind of pictorial element seem vastly more rich to me, even as they can be harder to learn. I don't remember much of the Aeneid from my years of Latin in high school. But one phrase has stuck with me through the years (and I've been looked for the exact Latin and very frustratingly I can't find it now). It basically was something like: in the dark Dido and Aeneas took shelter cave (purple-verb, blue-subject, green-prepositional phrase). There were some other mixed in adjectives that I'm not remembering. But the point being, the sentence structure literally put Dido and Aeneas in the cave, for visual as well as contextual emphasis. It creates a richness of meaning, an artistic way of conveying exactly the meaning you want and placing the reader right there with you.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007


Wicked by Gregory Maguire (ISBN 0060745908)

Rating: 5/10

I will never be able to watch The Wizard of Oz the same way again. It was the first movie I ever watched as a child, captivated from start to finish. And now the wicked witch of the west just doesn't have the evil cachet that she used to have. She is, in fact, a rather heart-wrenching character.

I thought the storyline of this book was quite well done. The author spent time to really think through his interpretation so that it would dovetail perfectly with the original movie, making it that much more "believable." The fact that he also explores the psychology of the wicked witch and the sociological dynamics of their cultures just makes it all the more fascinating. And less like science fiction - the characters act in very familiar ways, similar even to our own society, just with the added fantastical element. The themes threading through the book are those of discrimination, tyranny, protest, and loss.

I was, however, disappointed by the execution of this storyline. It took me a very long time to finish this book. I really had no drive to pick it up and read it, unless I just didn't have anything else to do at the moment. I can't quite pinpoint the reason, but Gregory Maguire's books are very difficult to really escape into. I also read his Snow White (using the Italian Borgia family), and felt the same way about that book. I'm not hopping up and down to read his next one, and have in fact had Son of a Witch (ISBN 0060747226) on my shelf for months and not been tempted to pick it up.

Glaireous - Word of the Day

Glaireous adj. - Slimy, viscous

In honor of National Indian Pudding Day, shall we take a moment to bow our heads and give thanks for the glaireous concoction of milk, butter, molasses, spices, eggs and sugar (the recipe is here) which has graced absolutely none of my family gatherings through the years. Have any of you even actually tried Indian pudding? If so, is it good?

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Deer Sushi

Given the shocked faces I get when I tell people I ate horse meat in France, imagine what they'd look like if I had (raw) horse meat sushi!

Japan is known around the world for its sushi - if you ask the regular person on the street what Japanese food is, odds on they're going to say sushi. The increasing rarity of high quality tuna has got to be greatly unnerving for the restaurant industry, rather like it would be for Boston to run low on lobster.

This opens a couple of cans of worms. First, there are the environmental ramifications. With the world's population soaring, people packing tighter into cities (after this year, the majority of people will live in cities). With continued advanced in medical technology, people are living longer and healthier than ever before. As we have more mouths to feed, we put even more strain on the environment (can we say carbon emissions and global warming, anyone?). It's only to be expected that we start to stress our current stocks of fish (both by overfishing and through the mercury contamination from power plant waste). The old adage "survival of the fittest" just isn't appropriate anymore. Seriously, with the technological resources at our disposal, can you honestly tell me that cattle in an abattoir have a fighting chance, and would survive if only they were fit to?

Animals (and plants, for that matter) are becoming endangered right and left. It's impossible to know whether their endangerement, or extinction, will go out quietly, or whether there will be a Butterfly Effect). So, as much as I love eating maguro at my local sushi bar, the fact that it's become harder to come by will perhaps have a positive effect - sushi chefs will start to focus on other fish, meat, and vegetables and help to keep the tuna stock in control and not overfished. Sounds like they've had a good start by passing the lows to reduce fishing already.

The other major issue is one of innovation. And this is huge. Malcolm Gladwell gave a fascinating talk on innovation (as pertaining to spaghetti sauce). If you don't recognize his name, he is the author of two of my favorite books - The Tipping Point (ISBN 0316346624) and Blink (ISBN 0316010669).

The fact that tuna is less available will force sushi chefs to seek out new interesting maki. While I'm not totally convinced about raw horse meat or venison rolls, I'd be very interested to try it, because it's so different. The same things all the time create stagnation of creativity. Granted, sushi is an art form and it's often about simple and clean flavors (I think it's just us crazy Americans who create all these wacky rolls like the Red Sox Maki and Matrix maki). But it seems that any chef who doesn't keep up with the times and strive to innovate will often fall by the wayside (see my blog post on the French haute cuisine environment). While people will always enjoy the classics, it is important to keep the menu fresh and new, the make people cock their heads and go "oooh!" Without innovation, we would not have made the huge strides in nearly every field (especially technology) in the past century.

It's refreshing to see a country taking positive measures to protect the resources it uses, rather than just turning a blind eye and saying "the fish will always be there if we will it to be so." I hope that the rest of the world (especially the US) follows their lead to prevent the mass extinction of the vast number of resources we consume (or waste) on a daily basis.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Debel - Word of the Day

Debel v. - To conquer in war

June 25, 1947 is the day that The Diary of Anne Frank was published

Also the day of the Battle of Little Big Horn in 1876

And the day that France formally surrendered to the Nazis

Given the number of wars the world has had in the whole span of human history, I'm guessing that the wiki is missing a couple of the major events.

Last year on June 25th, deaths in Iraq topped 50,000

Where will June 25, 2008 take us? Can we foresee a more peaceful world or will the conflicts in the Middle East only escalate? Will a new president make any difference in the grand scheme or things, or has this administration already pushed it too far past breaking point?

Shakespeare's English

I came across the website discussing Shakespeare's contributions to the English language:

This is a list of words allegedly invented by Shakespeare. You can also follow the link in the main post to another page listing phrases coined by the Bard. I'm a little dubious about the attribution of some of these to Shakespeare. But what I found the most intriguing were the comments (debate) following the post.

Most of these posts make good points, though I don't agree with them all. One poster says that Shakespeare didn't invent these words because they were words in other languages (accuso from Latin, bandito from Italian). These words may very well have derived originally from other languages, but if Shakespeare was the first to use them in English, he can be accurately described as the coiner. I wouldn't go so far as to say inventor - to reach that status I would think it would have to be a totally unique word used and understood in English (think Kleenex, which everyone uses interchangeably with tissue). Shakespeare wouldn't have been as popular as he was he if he had gone about inventing random words all over the place. Nobody would have understood his plays because all his newly invented words would have no standing in English and no comprehension to the ear. Instead, he took existing words from other languages, or even from English, and used them in new and inventive ways. It's in this way that his plays are so genius (if he was even the one who wrote them)

One of the wonderful things about the English language, in my opinion, is just how flexible it is, and how many languages it ties its roots to. 50% traces back to Latin, and a considerable portion back to German ancestry as well. The Latin was greatly helpful in learning French - the basic words are mostly different, but once you get to the intermediate and advanced words, you can with some confidence (if you don't know a word in French) say the English word with a French accent and it often comes out at least close (idiosyncracie-idiosyncrasy, recidive-recidivism). Of course, this also creates some very funny (and embarassing) moments when the word isn't quite the same thing (preservatif-condom).

English is still evolving, though much, much slower than it was in Shakespeare's day. Hopefully, it won't be evolving towards the bad grammar conventions that the internet world has created (misuse of your and you're, I and me). I remember learning in school that "all right" was correct, but apparently the language has evolved in the last 20 years such that "alright" (blech) is now in the dictionary. And then there are the grammar rules that everyone was doing wrong (overuse of "me" where "I" should have been used), so everyone had "I" "I" "I" drummed in, and now everyone says "I" instead of "me" ("just between you and I"). One of my major pet peeves.

But another of the main points on the website is the overfocus on the detail instead of the grand scale. The genius of Shakespeare is the way he strung words together, more so than the actual words he used. The fact is, in an age when the language was still gaining its footing, and most people did not read for fun (or even read at all), Shakespeare was able to write plays for the masses with such inventive use of language and be perfectly understood. Students may struggle today with it a bit, and not understand all the nuances of his speech, but overall, his plays remain fairly timeless. It's the themes, the storylines which still remain relevant (as indicated by the plentiful modern adaptations of his works) and not just the language which makes Shakespeare one of the greatest writers in history. Had he created as many phrases and words as he had, but churned out the drivel we often see in hollywood now, I bet you he would not have endured. So as much as we may admire his writing for his creative use of words at his fingertips, it's the whole of the works which truly cast him as the genius author he was.

I read an interesting novel a while back Harvard Yard, by William Martin (ISBN: 0446614505). This novel is an interesting read - drawing in both researched historical data about both Shakespeare and Harvard, and tying it in to the modern-day speculations (with slightly thriller overtones) about the true identity of Shakespeare. I would recommend it for anyone interested in learning more about the lore surrounding Shakespeare, or just for a fun read in historical fiction.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Virtual Job Interviews?

Imagine going into a job interview, reaching into your briefcase, and handing your interviewer a beer instead of a resume. Then getting a good laugh with the interviewer about it. Sound like an interview gone well? Could very well be.

Back to that in a second. Second Life is like a genie bottle - you rub on one issue and three more come out. So let me divert my attention to a couple other Second Life issues, and then I'll come back to the interviews in a bit.

In the grand tradition of the Sims and Ultima Online, Second Life is the newest incarnation of the interactive role playing game. Come home from work at night, log on, and you've got a new life there at your fingertips. Always wanted to be a shopkeeper? Adventurer? (fill in dream job here)? Second Life is a fast growing economy and some companies are capitalizing on the monetization of the RPG community.

There's been a lot of brouhaha created by these gold farming companies and individuals, but I say more power to them. If they want to sit there and spend five hours fishing to build up a skill, or four hours breaking rocks to quarry rock to build a house (etc, you get the point), then I think they've deserved whatever monetary recompense they can get. Sure, it probably puts the rest of the players at a disadvantage since they don't have the time to put into it. But, if they're willing to pay for the fruits of that skill (buying a posh Second Life house, that kind of thing), then isn't that just the definition of capitalism? It also speaks to the question of work vs. leisure:

If someone is going to sit at their computer all day long, building up their skills and creating a salable commodity, doesn't it then become work rather than fun/leisure? If it's tied into their pay structure and they have to do it to pay their rent, then it can easily become just another job. But just like paying someone to clean your house, do your cooking and laundry, mow your lawn, if you can free up time for yourself, you have more time for other things and there is less of an opportunity cost to that activity.

There have also been cases of crime and violence online. I'm a bit torn on this issue. Rape, in any form, is just not acceptable. And I could see how somebody who was raped in real life could be very traumatized by this happening to them online, forcing them to relive their real-life experience. On the other hand, it is just a game - there are rape scenes in movies which don't have the same backlash as this on Second Life seems to have gotten. I'm sure that people identify with their online characters and feel that they are a bit an extension of themselves. But honestly, I don't feel it would be appropriate to make an online rape a criminal offense. What I feel should happen is for there to be some kind of online judicial system. Perhaps Second Lifers could become sheriffs and judges and have trials and such. If someone is found guilty of rape in the game, they get sentenced to prison time in the game. And that doesn't go by the clock (if they're sentenced to one year, they don't get out one year from that date), they're in prison for one year of the time they're online. If they don't log a year's worth of time in a five year span, they stay in prison. I think that would be a good method to prevent recidivism, because who wants to "play" an online game by sitting in a jail cell?

They could just switch to another game. But if their conviction were solid, the companies could create a kind of IAFIS for IP addresses/email addresses to try to prevent someone convicted in one game hopping to another and doing the same thing. However, this could cause problems is someone is wrongly accused, and then they're cut out of all the games.

Back to the job interviews (and lighter subjects). It's an interesting idea to vet job candidates online. It would definitely be less pressure than a face-to-face, or even a telephone, interview. There wouldn't be the awkward pauses if the interviewer asks a difficult question, and you would have a few moments to compose your answer before replying. At this stage of the game, when Second Life is still fairly new to everyone, it definitely lightens up the process when they can't quite control their avatars to their full potential (floating above the seat, beer vs. resume).

Also, if the job is for a technical position which requires computer savvy, it would definitely filter out the chaff - the avatars which were the most fluid and natural would stand out from the pack. But if this process were used for not technical jobs, I feel it could create a false sense for the interviewers - they might be impressed by how the tech savvy people come across (after all, visuals are very powerful, perhaps as much so as the words they're hearing) and the highly qualified candidates who aren't as familiar with Second Life would not make as good of an impression.

Another potential problem is one of tone (posted by Ohio State University). The actual words you say are the least communicative of all - about 55% of communication comes through non-verbal communication (making eye contact), 38% from the tone of your voice (no whispers in a job interview), and only 7% comes from your actual words. Now, a part of me thinks that it's great that they're vetting people for the actual content of their interview, rather than just their appearance and their non-verbal communication. But the realistic side of me says that no matter what it is they say, what you have to deal with primarily is their personality, their drive, their sense of self and how they interact with others. But hopefully this type of interview will cut down on the number of people who get through the first interview on charisma alone (and have no knowledge base).

Above are many criticisms or potential problems with using Second Life for job interviews. But on the whole, I think it's a great idea for these companies to be embracing this new technology like this. It shows that they're forward thinking, flexible, and they're reaching out to a younger market (and watching their bottom line). As an interviewee, I would be very impressed by a company which had Second Life interviews. Generation Y grew up with technology and has no problem with IMing, watching a movie, talking on the phone and reading all at the same time. Companies are starting to realize that GenY is a force to be reckoned with and that they should talk to us on our level rather than always bringing us to their GenX/BabyBoom trough.

If you're interested in finding out more about Second Life, check out the upcoming book Second Life: A Guide to Your Virtual World by Brian White (ISBN 0321501667), published by Que/Sams in August 2007. (For purposes of full disclosure, I work for the publisher of this particular book)

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Doogie Reincarnated

The Over Ambitious Parent has struck again!

Let's scroll back the years to some centuries ago. Medicine certainly wasn't the same science it is now, what with bloodletting to balance the body's humors and the not-yet-discovered link between bacteria and infection (doctors wash their hands? Whyever for?). I don't know exactly when the first medical school opened, or when it became required to attend, but I'm sure prior to that, doctors-in-training had to undergo an apprenticeship with a doctor so they could learn "everything" they needed to know. This is, in a way, what this 15 year old boy has been doing.

However (and that's a BIG however), the fact that this boy has been assisting and performing surgeries for three years (since he was 12?!) is wrong on so many levels.

First (and most straitlaced) of all), we do now have medical schools which are a requirement to be a doctor (nevermind a surgeon!). These medical school provide the most current knowledge available in medicine. Let's just assume that the father in this situation is about 35-40. That means he went to medical school at least 10 years ago, followed by his internship and residency. Even if he does spend all his time reading the current journals and keeping up with the cutting edge technologies, nobody has enough time in their day to follow everything.

Second, who's to say that this father isn't passing on bad practices to his son? There are quality
controls that go on in med schools and teaching hospitals and supervision by both the attending and resident for each intern, in addition to peer supervision.

Third, and in my mind one of the most important issues, I don't think that a 15 year old would necessarily have the maturity for this. 15 year olds should be out with their friends, crushing on pretty girls/boys, doing homework, and working through the mega-dose of hormones that adolescence gives them. Most teenagers haven't experienced enough of life to really understand, or consider all the implications of, these life and death circumstances. Granted, teens who have lost close family or who have had a life threatening disease themselves might have more reserves of understanding. But with all of the hormonal issues going on already (first loves, self esteem, building a unique sense of identity), I'm convinced that surgery would only add another layer of problems. How would an adolescent deal with having been responsible for a patient dying? It's hard enough for adult doctors to deal with this, let alone a 15 year old. And if it didn't bother them, then what does that say about their emotional development that they've learned so early to be so callous?

Fourth, what pregnant woman in her right mind would allow a 15 year old to do a caesarian on her? No matter how much faith you have in the father as a doctor to supervise the surgery, wouldn't any mother want the best for their child? What if there had been complications created by the 15 year old's technique? And if she didn't know that he would be performing the surgery, how can the father justify that deception? Unless all she wanted was to be the patient listed in the Guiness Book of World Records who had the youngest ever surgeon to operate on her.

It sounds like the father has a serious problem with understanding reality. He says that his son was just handing him instruments. But if that were the case, WHY was he trying to submit the video as an example of the youngest surgeon to perform a caesarian? That seems a bit fishy to me. The investigation will bear it out, I suppose. The fact that the father believes that the censure he has received is due to jealousy just shows how disconnected from reality he is. The fact that he can't understand the ethical and legal ramifications of allowing a 15 year old to (help) perform a surgery speaks volumes for his state of mind - he wouldn't hesitate to do it in the future since he doesn't understand why everyone is reacting badly to it.

I don't know what the Indian process of medical censure is, but I certainly hope that he goes through it and comes to realize the true problems with his behavior.

Cachexic - Word of the Day

Cachexic adj. - Having an unhealthy physical or mental state

Today is "Recess at Work Day"!

It's a day to rid yourself and everyone else of all the cachexic humors that have been building up over the long winter and rainy spring. Take your lunch break and go for a walk, get down on the floor in your cube and do some yoga, do sprint trials around the office hallways. Tell your neighbor about your morale boosting efforts and maybe you can start a marathon office circuit (how many times around the office can you go before you drop?).

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The Non-Dollar

First, read this article:

This alternate US local currency idea is very intriguing to me. True, it could be a logistical nightmare to businesses, since the infrastructure isn't yet set up to deposit the BerkShares into the bank and not all vendors will accept them as payment.

The great thing about it is the support of the local economy. I feel pretty strongly about supporting independent businesses (especially bookstores), and with the influx of Wal-Mart, B&N, Borders, Home Depot, KMart and whatever else into every little town's market, the incentives given to local stores is refreshing. Big chains get so many incentives from their vendors (since they can buy in bulk), that this may just be a drop in the pond. But it's better than nothing, and certainly helps to acknowledge the value of the small business to the community.

Here's my plug for some of my favorite indies:
Whippoorwill Crafts (Boston, MA)
Porter Sq. Books (Cambridge, MA):
The Harvard Bookstore (Cambridge, MA)
Left Bank Books (St Louis, MO)

Frigorific - Word of the Day

Frigorific adj. - Causing cold, freezing.

Today is the official Ice Cream Soda Day - Created, no doubt, by the ice cream companies to sell more of their products. Can't say as I really feel the desire for ice cream in this overcast weather...but hey, I've been known to eat ice cream outside in January so a couple of clouds shouldn't deter me!

Landfill ice cream?
Fish flavored ice cream?

The Lost Daughters of China

The Lost Daughters of China by Karin Evans (ISBN 1585421170)

Rating: 7/10

The first layer of this book is an autobiographical tale of a couple adopting a daughter from China, the bureaucratic rigamarole that ensues, and their emotional journey they go through in bringing their daughter home.

On a sociological level, the story gets much interesting. Because of China's one child policy, the number of abortions and abandonments of daughters has spiked. Stats go so far as to say that there is up to a 20% gender gap in this new generation. China's culture has valued male children (to carry on the family name, inherit property, so on), and if a family can only have one child, they will sometimes abandon or abort girls so that they can have a boy child without flouting the law. The burgeoning orphanages are packed with little girls, and generally the only orphaned boys to speak of are those with health issues whose parents are unable to care for them.
Now, families are often given an allowance to have two children (if the first one was a girl), but then if they have a second girl this puts them in this same dilemma.

So there's a whole segment of Chinese girl growing up in orphanages or jumping the big puddle to come to the States. The Chinese adopted community here is growing by leaps and bounds because it is relatively inexpensive and there is no concern that the birth parents will come back and sue for custody. The downside is that these girls are entirely cut off from their heritage, their ancestry, their roots.

The author brings up a good (and frightening) point also. What happens when all of these children get to marriage age, when there are 20% fewer women than men? When there are so many young men with no outlet for their lust? On the one hand, perhaps it will make women more valuable and mothers will consider keeping more of their daughters. On the other hand, wars have been fought over women before, and with not enough to go around, tempers could run high. Would these young men unable to start a family throw themselves into their work, advancing the Chinese economy and industry? Would they join the military (and how would that affect their relations with other countries, if their military keeps growing to such an extent)?

Only time will tell, but the prospects for the future do definitely give pause.

Excellent book, fairly quick read. It discussed politics, sociology, and history, as well as the emotional aspect of family and adoption. Worth the read.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Spatiate - Word of the Day

Spatiate v. - To ramble, to saunter (a very casual, yet stylish, form of movement from point A to Point B.)

Today is "World Sauntering Day." Who knew?! So, on you way to the office cooler, heading out to lunch, walking past the cute co-worker's desk, be sure to saunter as you stroll on by.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Facinorous - Word of the Day

Facinorous adj. - Atrociously wicked

An a propos word for today, as today is International Panic Day. Today's the day we get to freak out about all the facinorous people out there up to their dastardly deeds!

What dastardly deeds are such facinorous people up to these days, you ask? How about these:
Fake Firefighter(wasn't there an episode of CSI about something like this?)
Student stages a report card robbery
Did the judge even see the video on YouTube?

The Perfectionist

The Perfectionist, by Rudolph Chelminski (ISBN 1592402046)

I'd rate this book a 6.85/10 (is there a reason for the decimal? Does there need to be?).

This is a very clear, captivating biography of Bernard Loiseau, one of the star-crossed super-chefs of French cuisine. Steeped in Michelin history and resplendent with a cast of high-powered chefs in the culinary environment of Les Trentes Glorieuses, this book begins with his modest childhood and culminates in his suicide in 2003.

One of the disturbing factors of this book is his untreated bipolar disorder. Always on the up, uber-friendly, smile til you drop, Bernard also faced occasional black lows where he was practically inconsolable. Medication made him feel like his edge was gone. He didn't feel he could go to a doctor because of the stigma he felt was attached. He suffered enormous self-esteem issues, but overcompensated for this by exalting himself in the eyes of others, boasting constantly that his food was the best.

Added to that was the stress of the Michelin stars - always striving for that elusive third star, and then once achieved, the constant gnawing worry that it would be taken away. I've read elsewhere as well how stressful this becomes, how easy it is to go out of business once stars are rescinded (an automatic drop of about 40-60% of clientele per star), and the overdrive that constantly fuels the chefs.

It's fascinating to me that in an industry that's about pure luxury (at the 3-star level you can easily drop a few hundred dollars, if not more, for dinner), the chefs who create these masterpieces drive themselves towards perfection such that they are not able to enjoy living life in the same way. Bernard seems to be more driven than most, not missing even one food service, despite traveling the country to promote his restaurant. He put so much stress on the image presented that he didn't leave himself time to just stop and enjoy life - vacation, spending time with family, all that took a second spot to the restaurant. Though, much the same can be said of many driven business men who barely see their families - in this case it's that much more tragic for while he's seeking happiness in his success, he won't let himself be happy that he's achieved the level he has.

And all that fame he was seeking does actually turn out to be fleeting - in the 80s, snap bracelets and leg warmers were all the rage (and after that plaid shirts and the grunge look), and at that time, I'll bet you that the producers of those products thought they hit the money spot, the champagne uncorked and the money rolling in from all side. But as with anything, whether it be cooking to clothing to music, what's new becomes old-fashioned and yesterday's trend-setters become tomorrow's history.

I enjoyed reading this book. I learned a great deal about the culinary industry in France, about the Michelin and Gault-Millau guides, and the ephemeral fame to be had. It was a bit of a slow read, not one of those books that I'd be thinking about reading all day and can't wait to get my hands on. But then, it's not supposed to be.

Friday, June 15, 2007

I finally have a...what's it called? Oh, right, a blog!

Lethologica n. The inability to remember the right word.

That's me. In varying degrees depending on my frame of mind, how much sleep I've gotten, how long I've been staring at spreadsheets, and how many brain cells decide at that particular moment to ignore my Simon Says commands.

I'm kicking off this blog to discuss the books I've read, loved, hated, so on. To share all the trivia minutiae I come across in my daily life that strikes me as particularly fascinating.

Short and sweet, this post is.