Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Celebrity Get Out of Jail Free Card

If you do the crime, be a celeberity, so you don't have to do the time.

Why You WIll Never Eat Dumplings Again, Ever

I'va always loved dumplings, especially as part of a dim sum dinner. Having learned this, I'll either have to stop eating dumplings or re-frame myself as some kind of food connoiseur.

And, to stay on the theme of food, at least I stay away from some of the exotic food that has a high rate of being undercooked, thereby resulting in contamination.

Friday, September 24, 2010

A good reason to get psychotherapy

If only my insurance covered this:

America the Fattiful

I'd like to see a chart that shows the number of dollars spent on all sorts of diet and exercise services and equipment - from books, to pills, to gym membeships - next to this chart of how we Americans have become major league fatties. There is something very schizoid about the way we can move in two entirely opposite directions.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Looking for Love and Tasting Faces

If you've ever wondered what celebrity faces taste like, here it is.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

The Blown Call and the Perfect Game that Wasn't

As all the baseball world knows by now, last night Detroit's pitcher Armando Gallaraga had baseball immortality wrested from him by a call blown by 22-year umpiring veteran Jim Joyce. This episode is so rich with tragic and dramatic content that it's hard to know where to begin. First, their is the obvious pain and sense of loss suffered by Gallaraga, a veteran from Venezuela who may never show more than what he did last night, probably never win 20 games, or pitch a no-hitter or have a particulalrly stellar year. No-hitters and perfect games give the opportunity for baseball immortality to some who would otherwise never be remembered. Consider Hideo Nomo, the Japanese pitcher who pitched two no-hitters in his major leagie career. Without the no-hitters, he would be remembered as a good pitcher with control problems. Instead, he can lay claim to having pitched two more no-hitters than all Mets pitchers in the histroy of the team. Now, Gallaraga will be remembered only for his perfect game that was never reorded, and he will simply be a footnote in baseball trivia.

A sub-context of yesterday's drama is also that Gallaraga's perfect game would have been the third one this season, with an earlier one pitched by Dallas Braden of the A's and a second by Roy Halladay of the Phillies. With only 20 perfect games pitched in the last 100 years or so of basbeall history, a third perfect game in 2010would have been way out on the outlier scale. Baseball pundits would have started discussing why so many perfect games all of a sudden - was it just a statistical anomaly, or was it caused by something else, perhaps the reduced use of steroids among hitters? These discussions were averted by the blown call.

Another point of drama the personal agony with which umpire Jim Joyce is apparently suffering. After the game, he immediately checked the replay and then admitted that he had made a mistake. He went to Gallaraga, and in tears, apologized. Had the blown call occured in an earlier inning the hoopla may not have been as great. The blown call may have been almost history by the ninth inning. Perhaps still wrong but probably not something to dwell on.

There is also the issue of whether or not Gallaraga still pitched a perfect game, regardless of the call. One could argue that he stil did. Every replay indicates that the call was blown, so in effect Gallaraga did pitch a perfect game, it just has not been recorded as such.

This is just some fodder for discussion. There is much more to this story that can be explored - the economic situatino in Detroit, the role in the final play by Migueel Cabrera, the issue of technology and review of replays, Gallaraga's first reaction, his answer to an interview question (Nobody's perfect) etc. Much more to be said about this incident.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

I Suppose They Plan to Paint it Red

A couple recently bought a whole town on ebay for $360,000 dollars. Not a bad price considering that here in New York for that price you get a 1 bedroom home in a decrepit neighborhood, or maybe the terrace in a highrise apartment in Manhattan. I hear they were very interested in it because, being a town, it has no idiots, who apparently only reside in villages. I think it will make for some very confusing weekend planning: "Hey, honey, do you wanna go out on the town tonight?" "Nah, I'd rather go out."

Monday, April 19, 2010

Volcanic Ash Good For Taxi Business

Apparently desperate travelers have resorted to paying large sums of money to travel within Europe by cab, the most famous so far John Cleese, formerly of Monty Python. Cleese forked over $5,100 to travel from Oslo to Brussels.

I wonder how much he tipped the driver and whehter he was able to keep his eye on the meter for the full 12 hours. If I were the cabby, I would have taken advantage of the chance to do Monthy Python skits with Cleese, the way I used to do them Monday mornings in the mid-70's at Bronx Science. Yes, that was one way that I spent my adolescent Sunday evenings: begging my father to let me stay up late to watch the latest Monty Python episode. He just did not understand how important it was to come in on Monday morning fully prepared to recreate the Python skits.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Shopping in Handcuffs Will Save You Money

That's right folks, recent research shows that how long you touch or hold something has an effect on your likelihood of buying it. So when you go shopping, ask the security guard to place you in handcuffs as a pre-emptive measure. Tell him that it will look as if he apprehended a shoplifter, and it will make him look good.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Book Review: The End of Sadness

Why are so many people in this country seemingly suffering from depression and why are anti-depressants one of the biggest selling drugs? The answer, according to the authors of The Loss of Sadness is that the definition of depression has been set in such a way that many more people than should will be diagnosed as suffering from depression. What's so bad about that? For one, people will be medicated who are not suffering from depression but appropriately responding to a life circumstance, like the loss of a job or the breakup of a romantic relationship. The problem is that reaction to these life events will express the same symptoms as those delineated in the latest version of the mental health diagnostic manual, the DSM. Second, a false measure on the true extent of depression will shift resources to where they are not truly needed. Third, there is the philosophical issue, not directly addressed by the authors, of what persistent medicalization against life's unwanted but unavoidable circumstances does to us as human beings.

Authors Wakefield and Horwitz show how normal sadness was always understood as a natural response to certain types of life events, and that abnormal responses were always differentiated as such. The latter was seen as a type of condition that was without context or out of proportion to the event in question. The effort to focus on symptoms at the exclusion of context was partly driven by the mental health profession's desire to systematize diagnosis, thereby making it more likely that psychiatrists or general practitioners would arrive at the same diagnosis given the same symptoms. Unfortunately the human mind is not so submissive to external labeling, and this cookie cutter approach was bound to identify a great number of false negatives. This Wakefield and Horwitz show as they expose the biased results of community surveys, particularly those of adolescents, whose lives and mindsets can fluctuate in mood almost daily, depending on where they are on the "cool" scale.

Now that so-called Big Pharma is a major player in the Name the Disease Game, it seems virtually impossible that the mental health profession will reverse on this issue. Nevertheless, as the next version of the DSM is revised (due out in 2011), Wakefield and Horwitz urge their mental health colleagues to consider reuniting context with symptoms so as to revive the traditional distinction between normal sadness and true depression.

This is a great read on the history of how depression came to be defined the way it is today. In particular, it sheds light on how the wrong premises can lead to faulty conclusions and to misguided public policy. In how many other fields could this exist?

Why We Need Brtiney Spear Statues at Dangerous Intersections

According to the blog run by economist Richard Thaler, in India authorities placed a religious shrine near a dangerous intersection to slow down drivers. They don't seem to follow traffic rules, but they do hold their sacred images in high esteem. The obvious solution for America is to have our own sacred images for the same purpose. Remember folks, you're supposed to slow down, not stop and gawk.

Monday, March 29, 2010

I Am Bartimaeus

I've been reading The Year of Living Like Jesus, by Pastor Ed Dobson. I have had a hard time getting through this book, as I have found it so far a bad imitation of A.J. Jacob's The Year of Living Biblically. This seems to be a new genre of books: take a topic and live it out for a year, like the Happiness Project, and one other book whose title escapes me but has to do with living for year taking Oprah's advice.

I was reading a section of Dobson's book on Bartimaeus, the blind man who yelled out to Jesus: "Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me?" In response Jesus asked, "What do you want me to do for you?" Bartimaeus answered, "Rabbi, I want to see." I realized upon reading this that my request is the same: I too want to see. But I want to see not because I am physically blind but because I am spiritually blind, or at least I need significantly corrective spiritual lenses. After almost 50 years of living my Catholic faith, I still have too many worries, concerns, fears, judgments, temptations, shortcomings, etc. Would that I could see spiritual reality and put all these problems into perspective, or elminate them entirely if I could improve my spiritual eyesight and see things as they really are. Perhaps then I could turn my attention to the things that really matter, and cast my eye upon eternal truths, and not those illusions that mislead us daily. Yes Rabbi, I want to see!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Global Warming, or Not

I am not a scientist. The closest I came to being one was when I was pre-med in college, at Columbia. But I soon dropped that, as I found physics and chemistry truly boring, and biology only mildly interesting. I also found the other pre-med students too competitive. One time during a chem lab we were asked to get some ingredient from a large tub. The rush to the tub rivaled the onslaught of shoppers on Black Friday at opening time. Wham! Someone's jar hits me on the side of my glasses, a hard blow as anyone who wears glasses could tell you. No apology. Nothing. Just a quick scoop of the magical dust into the jar. Away with you medicine! Come hither economics!

As a confirmed non-scientist I am continually confused as to the reality of global warming. This latest salvo against the global warming belief makes me even more confused. According to this article, the belief that global warming is occuring rests on some very shoddy statistics, apparently boiling down to a very small sample of a few trees somewhere in the world, with the data being massaged and manipulated to provide the global warming result. Who is right? In principle, I am against waste and conspicuous consumption. Global warming or not, get your SUV's off the road. But is it really happeining?

Speaking of which, the trend toward green may also be breeding people who lie and cheat. According to another study, people who buy green feel a sort of entitlement to get away with other things. So, while there may indeed be global warming, it may be accompanied by an unhealthy dose of ethical cooling.

Monday, March 01, 2010

You've Got to Be Kidmanning Me!

It turns out that the actress Nicole Kidman actually has a hard time getting acting jobs because of her bum knee, which she apparently sustained while filming Moulin Rouge. The problem has to do with insurance. She is now considered a high risk to not finish a film because of her knee and thus insurance companies are not wanting to get involved. The problem has been worked out with special salary escrow arrangements. The whole idea seems somewhat out of place in the fantasy life that we perceive to be Hollywood. Source:

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Book Reviews - Double the Fun

As some of you, my many wonderful followers, know by now, I also do book reviews. In the past year or so I have read two books that I think are some of the best in their genre but, to my surprise and disappoinment, are unavailable on Amazon. If there were a way for me to promote these books and get them a greater readership, I would. Consider the following two reviews part of that effort.

Conquering Your Financial Stress: The Five-Point Plan for Generating True Wealth, Bruce Eaton

I frankly do not understand why this book is hidden in the dark corners of the publishing world. This is absolutely one of the best, if not the best, book that I have ever read on personal finance. Eaton provides a new paradigm for the reader to view finances. Rather than looking at money as income and something to use for spending, you look at your financial life from the perspective of value - generating value, exchanging value and preserving value. In each of these areas he provides what he calls H2O's, or events that Have 2 Occur in your life for financial stress to be reduced or eliminated. Once you identify these H2O's you can then set reasonable objectives (and not pie in the sky goals) for achieving them. An H20 might be, for example, improving your health. This will reduce your financial stress because you will reduce medical expenses and the worry over how to meet them. Your objective may then be to eat less fatty foods, for example. There are a good number of areas like this that Eaton provides for H20's. They all make a great deal of sense and one can see how applying the steps will ultimately lead to less or eliminated financial stress.

Also, Eaton does not mince words to give the reader excuses for not taking action. The reasons the reader is in trouble are clearly spelled out. Only a person in serious denial could read these pages and not think they apply.

Finally, the book is also written with a lot of humor and Eaton's writing is often down-right hysterical, which is not something you ever hear someone say about a personal finance book. If I can ever get hold of the author, I would urge him to write and publish a second edition. It seems that the times could not be more right for another healthy dose of commonsensical (and humorous) financial advise.

Intelligent Memory, by Barry Gordon

I'm amazed that this book has been lost among the dozens of good books out there on creativity and problem solving. For me, this book is as good a find as Conquering Your Financial Stress, a great book on managing finaces which, like Intelligent Memory, is also currently unavailable. Perhaps the title of this book helped its demise, as it is not so much about memory as it is about how memory supports the creative and problem solving processes. Gordon and co-author Berger do a great job of providing crisp and clear explanations of how the two types of memories - short and long term - support the ability to problem solve and be creative. The authors provide useful and entertaining exercises which clearly demonstrate their theories in action. They provide guidance for seven areas: 1) enhancing attention; 2) expanding scratch-pad (short-term) memory); 3) storing more memories; 4) sparking connections; 5) solving problems; 6) working creatively; and 7) preventing mental mistakes. Improving in each of these areas, individually and in combination, will help the reader become better at problem solving and creativity. In sum, this book was educational, entertaining and motivating, as it provides the tools to become a better thinker overall in a fun and easily accessible manner.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Loneliness is a Cooty

New research shows that loneliness is something that can be spread, much like a cold or a bad attitude. So, if you feel lonely and shared that with someone you know, ironically and paradoxically, that person is more likely to feel lonely than if you had kept your mouth shut. Even a friend of a friend of someone who feels lonely has a greater chance of feeling lonely themselves. So how do we stop this epidemic? Lonely people need to keep their loneliness to themselves. I hope I'm not alone on this.