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.: August 2006 --> August 2006

August 2006

» New research shows that honey, used by Egyptians in the healing of wounds, outperforms antibiotics, especially in immune-system-compromised patients, and antibiotic-resistant bacteria.  [ 08.01.06 ]

» Whole Foods has responded to criticism that they are part of the industrial organic complex by creating a new initiative that will provide grants to small farmers, and require stores to feature produce from at least 4 local farmers.  [ 08.01.06 ]

» A Chicago resettlement program is offering classes in shopping and eating to new immigrants, an attempt to educate people accustomed to food scarity to cope with the sudden abundance (and junk food) that surrounds them. (thanks, Lisa!) / (1) Comments / [ 08.01.06 ]

» Retired, and Rehired to Sell. Home Depot and CVS are accomodating the ultimate in flextime for some retirees: summers in their home city, and winters in Florida. Why are they doing it? Because these folks would simply stop working if the company didn't accomodate them. "If we were not able to retain, train and hire and keep older people, we wouldn't have a business. The younger folks, there's just less of them. We need those older people to stay in the workforce, and people are living longer, healthier lives." Stephen M. Wing, director of government programs with CVS.

I can't help comparing this to the family benefits most employers offer to their employees who are responsible for family care (read: women), ie, very few. It was such a struggle for women to enter the workforce years ago that they really couldn't demand anything the men weren't already getting. And now it's such an economic necessity that they still don't have the leverage these retirees, many of whom don't strictly need the jobs, have. / (2) Comments / [ 08.01.06 ]

» Was the Odyssey written by a woman?  [ 08.01.06 ]

» Is anyone else baffled by the US obsession with Castro and his illness? (Cuban immigrants aside: of course they have strong feelings about events in their country of origin.)

Our entire relation with Cuba is an artifact of the Cold War, and that's been over for years. At that time, Cuba represented the Soviet Union in our own hemisphere, a possible foothold for the Communists who were bent on taking us over. Once the Soviet Union fell, why didn't we instantly normalize relations with Cuba, in effect saying "You, yourself, are actually not a threat. You're just a teeny little country." That's far more powerful than this vestigal fear—in fact, our outdated policy imbues Cuba with more authority than any objective measure ever would. Do you think Castro hasn't noticed that he still terrifies the United States? / (2) Comments / [ 08.02.06 ]

» What bird brains can teach us about language.  [ 08.02.06 ]

» This is trippy: Scientists at the Georgia Institute of Technology have grown clumps of neurons from rat brains called 'animats'—and they are able to do simple tasks. "Since our cultured networks are so interconnected, they have some sense of what is going in themselves. We can also feed their activity back to them, to mediate their 'sense of self.'" Daniel Wagenaar, a California Institute of Technology neuroscientist who worked on the animats.  [ 08.02.06 ]

» A University of Washington study shows that switching to organic food directly affected the level of pesticides found in children's urine.

Children eating non-organic foods were switched for five days to an organic diet and pesticide levels were measured in their urine before and after the change. The study -- published this past fall -- found that some pesticides disappeared from the children's urine after going organic.

(via dm)  [ 08.02.06 ]

» Oh, dear Lord. S’MAC (Sarita's Macaroni & Cheese) is a NYC restaurant that serves 10 versions of gourmet macaroni and cheese: Gruyere and slab bacon, brie with roasted figs, shiitakes and rosemary, and good old American and Cheddar Cheese are all on the menu.  [ 08.03.06 ]

» I'm sure you've already heard about the Livestock Compensation Program .

In all, the Livestock Compensation Program cost taxpayers $1.2 billion during its two years of existence, 2002 and 2003. Of that, $635 million went to ranchers and dairy farmers in areas where there was moderate drought or none at all, according to an analysis of government records by The Washington Post. None of the ranchers were required to prove they suffered an actual loss. The government simply sent each of them a check based on the number of cattle they owned.

 [ 08.03.06 ]

» A new Senate report that finds so many of America's most wealthy citizens use offshore tax shelters that the US government can't hope to control the misconduct. Two billionaires are portrayed in the report as victims because their "professional advisers assured them their deals to avoid taxes were more likely lawful than not." Um. "More likely lawful than not"? / (3) Comments / [ 08.03.06 ]

» Do images of large African-American women in television commercials signal a wider acceptance of blacks and black culture, or is it a return to stereotypes? Some of these examples don't sound race-driven to me at all, they sound gender-driven. My own filter, I guess. / (4) Comments / [ 08.03.06 ]

» Smart pans. Training wheels for cooks.  [ 08.04.06 ]

» Jack Keler's Winemaking Blog has it all, from identifying grapes to weather effects on fermenting wine. And the recipes! Banana Wine, Mesquite Wine, Daylily Wine, Mint Jelly, and Mint Jelly Wine.... There are no permalinks, so scroll down to see what a vasty resource this is. / (1) Comments / [ 08.04.06 ]

» You know, I sort of gave up on math when they introduced imaginary numbers. In general, I found math to be rather boring. The only thing it had going for it was that it was strictly rational, which I understood some people found comforting. It wasn't enough to keep me interested, but at least you could count on it. Until i. They'd broken their own contract. I was done.

I can't say what would have happened I'd had a glimpse of continued fractions. All of which is a long way of saying MATH NERD! Not that there's anything wrong with that.... / (3) Comments / [ 08.04.06 ]

» I recently linked to an item about Amazon's Mechanical Turk, a service which pays people a small amount to perform tasks that are easy for them, but hard for computers. Now, meet Mycroft, a company that plans to distribute microtasks across the Web via banner ads. If I were on the Board of Directors, I would instantly improve the payment scheme by allowing people to apply earned credits toward participating charities. I think this would be a strong incentive for some people who otherwise will quickly lose interest in the whole scheme.

Mycroft, by the way, is named after Sherlock Holmes's mysterious older brother, a "sort of human computer".  [ 08.04.06 ]

» A foolproof way to tell if an email from Paypal or Ebay is real. Ask.

Update: Paul Beard has put together an Applescript that will automatically forward a suspect piece of mail to the appropriate company inquiring if it is legitimate. His instructions are "Install the script (copy it into place), select a suspicious piece of mail, and run the script." Macs only, sorry.  [ 08.04.06 ]

» The 800-watt-a-day house uses solar power—and man-power—to run.  [ 08.07.06 ]

» Garret points to a great story about a tintype artist living off the grid in NY State. "You’d be surprised at how delicate some of these re-enactors are." John A. Coffer, tintype photographer, on the Civil War re-enactors who regularly drive gasoline powered vehicles to re-enactments, instead of travelling for days in a horse and buggy, as he did. / (1) Comments / [ 08.07.06 ]

» Slate explains the Iraq Culture Smart Card, a 16-panel breast-pocket sized card distributed to Marines to explain the local culture.  [ 08.07.06 ]

» Fiction with mathematical plots or subplots. (via rw)  [ 08.07.06 ]

» I'm pleased to point you to my most recent interview in the Bloggers on Blogging series: Jason Kottke. We discuss everything from blogging fulltime, to the perils of being married to another blogger, to handling flames.

After more than 10 years of publishing stuff online, I'm more or less fireproof. Which is not to say that when flamed I simply insulate myself with the belief that I'm right and the flamer is wrong (which is a maddenly common approach among bloggers); the key is not to take it personally. Maintaining calm in the face of criticism can be difficult, especially when the best flames contain real truths, and it's helpful to remember that when you read something.

/ (1) Comments / [ 08.08.06 ]

» Rabbi Yonassan Gershom is a a Hassidic homesteader, an expert on Jewish reincarnation, and author of the yet-to-be-published book "Jewish Themes in Star Trek (Where No Rabbi Has Gone Before!) " You'll want to explore his page, TrekJews, and its companion page of material from around the Web on the same theme. The Rabbi has also compiled a list of Jewish Science Fiction and Fantasy. (thanks, Kane!)  [ 08.09.06 ]

» Dahlia Lithwick: Anthony Kennedy's surprising charge to the American Bar Association. "He wants to define 'rule of law' so we can start to peddle the concept worldwide. It is not enough to sell the world on the U.S. Constitution, he says. That is merely a set of 'negative commands.'"  [ 08.09.06 ]

» In June, the US State Department released its Trafficking in Persons Report for 2006. One paragraph from the State Department report caught the eye of the folks at Free the Slaves:

A recent DOD investigation...identified a number of abuses, some of them considered widespread, committed by DOD contractors or subcontractors of third country national (TCN) workers in Iraq. Some of these abuses are indicative of trafficking in persons....

It sounds incredible, but this is from the US State Department itself. Do read the Chicago Tribune articles listed here to draw your own conclusions about what is happening, and whether the US is doing enough to prevent the use of forced labor by DOD contracters.

Then there's this, from May of this year: "For security reasons, the new embassy is being built entirely by imported labor. The contractor, First Kuwaiti General Trading and Contracting Co., which was linked to human-trafficking allegations by a Chicago Tribune investigation last year, has hired a workforce of 900 mostly Asian workers who live on the site."

Free the Slaves has begun investigating these charges, and are compiling their findings on a new blog. / (1) Comments / [ 08.09.06 ]

» The entertainment industry's new term for making mix tapes for your friends: songlifting. They just don't know when to stop.  [ 08.10.06 ]

» Oh, dear heaven. Bacon Mayonnaise. Enough said. Related. (via megnut)  [ 08.10.06 ]

» The neighbors say he is destabilizing the neighborhood with his underground passages. He says he has simply expanded his basement. Meet Hackney London's tunnelling man. "Tunnelling is something that should be talked about without panicking." William Lyttle, the Mole Man of Hackney. (via rw)  [ 08.10.06 ]

» Dear All Businesses and Government Agencies:

Let's make a rule: From now on, no personal information about any customer may be placed on a laptop computer.

rcb / (1) Comments / [ 08.10.06 ]

» Babies can tell when a tableau has changed. I'm not sure I'll go with the conclusion that they can detect arithmetic errors, though. I'm sharing it primarily for the picture of the baby wearing the gaudy brain-sensor bathing cap. / (1) Comments / [ 08.10.06 ]

» I knew the foiled terrorist plot to blow up transatlantic planes would cause major disruptions for air travellers, but get this: My husband is at an airport right now in a security line that extends out to the parking garage. There's no telling what time he'll get home, or if he'll be able to make it home tonight at all.

BTW, you're going to want to keep up with Bruce Schneier's commentary on this new attempt and its repercussions, both today and as the government releases new information. / (1) Comments / [ 08.10.06 ]

» Yahoo and Wal-Mart have teamed up to create an avatar fashion show, designed to promote "Wal-Mart style".  [ 08.11.06 ]

» Cuba's USSR-supported economy exchanged "tropical exports" for 63 per cent of its food and 90 per cent of its gasoline. When the Soviet Union collapsed, Cubans found themselves subsisting on half the food they had previously (and without the petroleum needed to manufacture fertilizer and to transport food from farms to consumers). Castro rejected the classic neo-liberal approach of "exporting what you're good at and importing what you need". Instead, Cuba got good at food, and focused on building small farms where the people are. Havana's local gardens now supply its citizens with more than 90 per cent of their fruit and vegetables. (via rw) Update: Unfortunately, the story has just gone behind a firewall. I'm looking for a copy somewhere on the Web, but so far have not found one. Sorry. Found! Thanks, Melissa! / (4) Comments / [ 08.11.06 ]

» Eggcorn is the linguistic term for "spontaneous reshapings of known expressions. [...] Not every homophone substitution is an eggcorn. The crucial element is that the new form makes sense: for anyone except lexicographers or other people trained in etymology, more sense than the original form in many cases." My grandfather told me that when he was a child, he thought the term was "take it for granite" (for "take it for granted"). He knew that granite was one of the hardest rocks, and so it made sense to him that if you could "take it for granite", you could rely on it. I don't find this usage in the Eggcorn database. (via mlarson) / (2) Comments / [ 08.11.06 ]

» From Need Coffee, Doc Ezra's Top 10 Favorite Books of All Time. / (1) Comments / [ 08.14.06 ]

» In the Land of Four-Star Asceticism.

For pilgrims with deep pockets wanting an authentic immersion into this ancient medical system, including a radical purification and detoxification treatment known as pancha karma, the Kalari Kovilakom—which markets itself as combining "the indulgence of a palace with the austerity of an ashram"—is the real deal. Since the 1970’s, "ayurveda tourism" has drawn Lonely Planet acolytes and Rough Guiders, especially young Germans, to the thatched-hut beaches of southern India, lured by the promise of $5 massages. But with the reimagining of this historic rajah’s palazzo by the Casino Group—Keralan hoteliers who have shrewdly rechristened themselves CHG Earth—the ante has been considerably upped.

/ (1) Comments / [ 08.14.06 ]

» The Pseudo-Elizabethan Place Name Generator. I hereby name my house "Snitterthicket". You thought I was going to pick "Bloodbush", didn't you? (via AotW)  [ 08.14.06 ]

» Timothy Noah has a few observations about the new TSA Security FAQ.  [ 08.14.06 ]

» Bruce Schneier: Focus on terrorists, not tactics.

The new airplane security measures focus on that plot, because authorities believe they have not captured everyone involved. It's reasonable to assume that a few lone plotters, knowing their compatriots are in jail and fearing their own arrest, would try to finish the job on their own. The authorities are not being public with the details -- much of the "explosive liquid" story doesn't hang together -- but the excessive security measures seem prudent.
But only temporarily.

 [ 08.14.06 ]

» Happy Birthday, Molly Magnet. / (1) Comments / [ 08.14.06 ]

» Wim Delvoye is a Belgian conceptual artist who has a strong food thread running through his work. He is famous for his tattooed pigs, and his Cloaca, machines that process food through a series of containers to extrude, um, digested food at the end. I am rather taken with his stained glass windows made of X-rays, and especially with his parquet floor made of cold cuts. (Hat-tip: B|K.)  [ 08.15.06 ]

» What Sims teaches little girls: good hygiene, household economy, and subversion. (via rw) / (1) Comments / [ 08.15.06 ]

» Sangaku was the Sudoku of the 17th century, complex math problems based on principles even a child could understand. Because the Japanese cut themselves off from the West, they didn't learn about Calculus when it was invented. They developed Sangaku to solve similar problems. "Some of the tablets feature solutions provided by 12-year-olds. But that doesn’t mean they were easy. Today’s high school geometry problems tend to require only five or six lines to solve, whereas the old problems often demand pages and pages of work. Sangaku were more like math Olympics problems, or the sort of thing your teacher might have put on the wall for extra credit." Tony Rothman, Princeton physics lecturer. / (1) Comments / [ 08.15.06 ]

» An Exhibition About Drawing Conjures a Time When Amateurs Roamed the Earth.

[In the 1800s] drawing was a civilized thing to do, like reading and writing. It was taught in elementary schools. It was democratic. It was a boon to happiness. [...] Something happened between then and now, and it wasn’t just the invention of gadgets that eliminated the need to draw. There was also a philosophical change, away from drawing as a practical endeavor and toward art appreciation. From dexterity and discipline to feelings and self-esteem.

(via dm)  [ 08.15.06 ]

» Speaking of the fair Mr. Chaucer, he was recently introduced to the "Exboxe CCCLX" by his son. You may enjoy his reviews of Donkeye-Kynge, Civilisatioun, Trojan Kombat, Tyger Woodses Huntinge And Hawkinge, Auriole, and Grande Thefte, Collusioun, And Mayntenance ("Ye run arounde and commit various actes of trespass with force and armes, and then use yower patrones and affinitee groupes to get yow out of prisone").  [ 08.16.06 ]

» Those of you who enjoy Geoffrey Chaucer's delightful blog may also enjoy perusing Cariadoc's Miscellany (especially the "Articles in Persona") and the Medieval and Renaissance Food Homepage. I love, love, love these old-fashioned webpages, and they are a dying breed. Every new site, it seems, is a blog (as if that's the only way to order information) and no one seems willing to put up a plain, unstyled piece of information anymore. / (2) Comments / [ 08.16.06 ]

» Bill Gates’s Charity Races to Spend Buffett Billions. The rule is, they have to spend every nickel to get the next year's allotment. And that's a lot of money.  [ 08.16.06 ]

» The Gates Foundation is increasing their funding for a search for a microbicide or an oral prevention drug that women can use to protect themselves from HIV. "Abstinence is often not an option for poor women and girls who have no choice but to marry at an early age. Being faithful will not protect a woman whose partner is not faithful. And using condoms is not a decision that a woman can make by herself; it depends on a man." Melinda Gates.  [ 08.16.06 ]

» White Silo Farm and Winery is part of the Connecticut Wine Trail (who knew?) but it doesn't produce wine made from grapes. It specializes in fruit-based country wines.  [ 08.17.06 ]

» Proposed federal law would help corner stores stock and sell healthy food.

The "Bodegas as Catalysts for Healthy Living Act", introduced into the House in late July by Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-NY)...refers to a small business grants help bodegas stock produce and market healthy items, as well as funding local education campaigns to spur purchases. In tackling the issue of access, the bill addresses one of the most salient critiques one can launch at food gurus like Alice Waters and Michael Pollan: That for many Americans, the issue isn't about finding a locally grown, organic apple. It's about finding an edible apple, period.

Of course, Waters and Pollan are all about local access to food for all, so just dismiss that particular straw man as a writer's flourish. Read it anyway.  [ 08.17.06 ]

» Liberia's Blackboard Blogger is a "self-taught newshound" who reads half-a-dozen newspapers every day and then summarizes the most important stories on a blackboard that hangs in front of his plywood shed. He puts up a painted "Breaking News" sign to signal a big story, he has recruited a set of stringers to send him scoops via text messages, and he's designed a system of symbols to convey the news to those who can't read. "I try to write it really clear and simple so people can read it far away, even if they are driving by. I like to write the way people talk so they can understand it well. You got to reach the common man." Alfred Sirleaf, the 33-year-old managing editor of The Daily Talk. (via Kevin Kelly's awesome new Street Use) / (1) Comments / [ 08.17.06 ]

» Bush v. Gore has started to disappear into a legal memory hole—and why it should not.

The heart of Bush v. Gore’s analysis was its holding that the recount was unacceptable because the standards for vote counting varied from county to county. "Having once granted the right to vote on equal terms," the court declared, "the state may not, by later arbitrary and disparate treatment, value one person’s vote over that of another." If this equal protection principle is taken seriously, if it was not just a pretext to put a preferred candidate in the White House, it should mean that states cannot provide some voters better voting machines, shorter lines, or more lenient standards for when their provisional ballots get counted — precisely the system that exists across the country right now.

 [ 08.17.06 ]

» From A Year of Reading, a Friday poem, one I had never read before, and that I just love. / (1) Comments / [ 08.18.06 ]

» Children's books fans, here are a few lists for you to mull:


Go add your suggestions! (via wl) / (2) Comments / [ 08.18.06 ]

» A new American trend takes eating locally to it's logical conclusion: restauranteur-owned farms. "I pick the Swiss chard and put it in the car. They wash it off in the kitchen, and then we eat it. I can’t tell you the difference that makes." Dan Kary, owner of Cinque Terre restaurant and Grand View Farm in Portland, Maine.

Now wait a minute. This seems like a natural match to me. The Foodie/Slow Food/Eat Local crowd should be flocking to the fair to meet local farmers, learn about local foodways, and submit their own preserves for judging. And what better place for organic and pasture-based farmers to meet a public interested in local agriculture—and to exchange information with other farmers about their businesses and their farming experience? / (1) Comments / [ 08.18.06 ]

» On the other hand, State Fairs are updating their food competitions by introducing contests for items like biscotti and bagels and specifically including men: in men-only baking contests, events pitting local firefighters against the sheriff’s department in Iron-Chef contests featuring local ingredients, and spectator events like chicken wing cook-offs and barbecue contests. "Cooking and gardening are almost hobbies now, not necessary for survival as they were when the fairs began. But the spirit is just as competitive as it always has been." Diane Roupe, a longtime judge at the Iowa fair.  [ 08.18.06 ]

» State Fairs, once a staple summertime activity, are going out of style. This article speculates that they are just not as attractive as they once were to an audience that now has the choice of everything from casinos to water parks. But I think there's something deeper at work.

I think it has to be connected, to some extent, to the loss of the family farm. Farming used to be embedded in American life. If you weren't a farmer, you knew a farmer. State and county fairs weren't just entertainment: they were industry events. They were a chance to show off your skill, your expertise, your talent, whether that was raising pigs, growing zucchini, or making jam. (Compare log-rolling—once a chance to test a real work skill against other practitioners—and now just a quaint novelty, performed by people who have only ever rolled logs to entertain, not to actually cross the river in the course of their work).

And because farming days are necessarily spent cultivating crops in the field and processing food in the home (both surrounded by acres of farmland) farming can be a lonely life. I once knew a woman who used to show horses. She told me she learned a trick one summer. In the middle of the day when she got hungry, she would stop her trailer in front of any farmhouse she came upon. She said that invariably, the woman inside—husband out in the fields for a long day of work—would come out to see what was the matter, and then, starved for company, invite her in for lunch.

With so many farmers now just cogs in the industrial US farming machine, perhaps the same pride of work just isn't there anymore. Maybe even farmers have lost their connection to farming.

I love the State Fair. I grew up going every year, and we would walk through every barn and look at every exhibit and admire every piece of livestock. Then there was the pavilion filled with the hawkers, fast-talking pitchmen with a gadget to sell. And the food, and and the wildlife exhibits, and the butter cow. Every year, the butter cow and then ice cream. Salt-water taffy on the way out. No rides. Put up overnight, as they were, my father considered them unsafe. I love the fair. I don't want it to go away. / (8) Comments / [ 08.18.06 ]

» The British House of the Future, circa 1956. "All electric power is drawn from a nearby atomic power station. [...] A short-wave transmitter with push buttons controls all electronic equipment. We’re sure you’ll be interested to know that the shower stall has jets of warm air for drying and the sunken bathtub rinses itself with detergent. No bathtub rings left for Mother." (via aaa) / (1) Comments / [ 08.18.06 ]

» Why African-Americans can't swim.  [ 08.18.06 ]

» More food news: The FDA has okayed a process to spray a cocktail of viruses on meat to be consumed by humans in order to combat listeriosis. Jorn sez:"FDA okays swallowing spiders to catch flies". / (3) Comments / [ 08.18.06 ]

» The best romance novels of the year have been chosen: the 2006 RITAs. (via wlb)  [ 08.21.06 ]

» Modern Mechanix is collecting, among other things, examples of pre-computer ASCII art, found in old issues of popular science magazines. So far, he has found articles on the typewriter art of mill worker Rosaire Belanger in the June 1939 issue of Popular Science (featuring an awesome picture of George Washington), Keyboard art, from the October 1948 Popular Mechanics, and How to make a typewritten flag, made using mystery curved characters from the July 1948 issue of Popular Mechanics.  [ 08.21.06 ]

» Der Spiegel interviews Jimmy Carter.

There's no doubt that this administration has made a radical and unpressured departure from the basic policies of all previous administrations including those of both Republican and Democratic presidents.
Under all of its predecessors there was a commitment to peace instead of preemptive war. Our country always had a policy of not going to war unless our own security was directly threatened and now we have a new policy of going to war on a preemptive basis. Another very serious departure from past policies is the separation of church and state, which I describe in the book. This has been a policy since the time of Thomas Jefferson and my own religious beliefs are compatible with this. The other principle that I described in the book is basic justice. We've never had an administration before that so overtly and clearly and consistently passed tax reform bills that were uniquely targeted to benefit the richest people in our country at the expense or the detriment of the working families of America.

 [ 08.21.06 ]

» "For Howard Stern to be the poster boy for First Amendment is just ridiculous.  That’s how low the...People used to say, three or four years ago before the Janet Jackson thing, they’d say, 'Don’t you wish you were on television now?  You could say anything you want.'  So there’s an illusion that because bad language and sex and stuff is rampant that [you have free speech].  But there’s nothing being said, except, you know, narcissistic reflections on a crotch." A 2005 interview with Tommy Smothers in which he reflects on comedy, his career, and dissent. / (1) Comments / [ 08.21.06 ]

» Nick Hornby: How to Read.

I am not particularly interested in language. Or rather, I am interested in what language can do for me, and I spend many hours each day trying to ensure that my prose is as simple as it can possibly be. But I do not wish to produce prose that draws attention to itself, rather than the world it describes, and I certainly don't have the patience to read it.

cf The Reader's Bill of Rights by Daniel Pennac. (via dm) / (3) Comments / [ 08.22.06 ]

» Malcolm Gladwell: The Risk Pool. What’s behind Ireland’s economic miracle—and G.M.’s financial crisis? / (1) Comments / [ 08.22.06 ]

» Personal hygiene items, including tooth powder, face cleaners, and various kinds of makeup, that are TSA-compliant under the new rules. (via kottke)  [ 08.22.06 ]

» With the rise in gas prices, hybrid owners can expect to recoup the extra cost of their vehicle in 3-6 years, a new study says. / (3) Comments / [ 08.23.06 ]

» Mortgage insurers are so alarmed by the proliferation of interest-only and "option" mortgages, they are asking Federal regulators to restrict them.

About 70 percent of the people who take out an option adjustable-rate mortgage, which lets the buyer avoid paying even the full interest on the loan [Ed: !!!!], end up paying the lowest permissible amount each month, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., which regulates banks. The amount unpaid is added to the mortgage balance, so borrowers end up owing more than when they started. Having no equity in a home increases the risk of foreclosure, especially when housing values fall and houses are hard to sell.

It's like the credit card writ large. / (2) Comments / [ 08.23.06 ]

» Philip Connors is a fire lookout by summer, and a freelance writer by winter. NPR asked him to talk about his summer reading list.

Postcards from Ed: Dispatches and Salvos from an American Iconoclast, by Edward Abbey. This book [...] collects a sample of the correspondence of Edward Abbey, the great desert rat and author of the classics The Monkeywrench Gang and Desert Solitaire. As far as I can tell, everyone West of the Mississippi has read the guy, and everyone east of the Mississippi confuses him with a playwright by a similar name. But out here he is either loved or reviled, depending on your viewpoint. His letters are scathing, hilarious, opinionated -- typical Abbey. He writes to his local newspapers with the same passion that he shows in letters to fellow writers Annie Dillard and Tom McGuane.

 [ 08.24.06 ]

» The Guardian reports on two upcoming films about science fiction writer Philip K. Dick, one an indie film starring Bill Pullman, and the other produced by and starring Paul Giamatti. (via wl)  [ 08.24.06 ]

» Bruce Schneier: What the terrorists want.

It's time we calm down and fight terror with antiterror. This does not mean that we simply roll over and accept terrorism. There are things our government can and should do to fight terrorism, most of them involving intelligence and investigation -- and not focusing on specific plots.
But our job is to remain steadfast in the face of terror, to refuse to be terrorized. Our job is to not panic every time two Muslims stand together checking their watches.

I'll also note that those Americans who reacted to the 9/11 attacks by becoming virulently anti-Muslim have granted Osama his dearest wish.  [ 08.24.06 ]

» In response to yesterday's link to the two upcoming films about Philip K. Dick, jjg points me to Robert Crumb's version of PKD's life.  [ 08.25.06 ]

» VideoJug aims to become a comprehensive online resource of How-to videos. They are apparently producing their own material, and they are seeking contributions. It's a neat idea, but that name—also "My Jug"?  [ 08.25.06 ]

» "Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns announced [last week] that U.S. commercial supplies of long-grain rice had become inadvertently contaminated with a genetically engineered variety not approved for human consumption." Is anyone surprised by this? / (3) Comments / [ 08.25.06 ]

» A list of all NYT Adult Bestsellers Lists from 1994 to the present, and a list of all NYT Number 1 bestsellers from 1945 to the present. (via wl)  [ 08.28.06 ]

» As a white person who grew up in the North, I read the story of the Louisiana bus driver who allegedly made all the black children ride on the back of the bus and I think, "That can't be right. Surely there must be some misunderstanding." Then I read the story of the Mississippi church that has banned black people from attending—including the mixed race boy who accepted Jesus there just two weeks before—and I think "Oh." (thanks, lizard!)  [ 08.28.06 ]

» I'm very pleased to point you to the latest in my Bloggers on Blogging series, an interview with Web designer Tiffany B. Brown, whose blogs include, (the now defunct), and (selected by Lisa Stone as one of 14 New Voices worth reading). We discuss identity-blogging, the power of comments, and the difficulty of being yet another tech blogger.  [ 08.28.06 ]

» The Kitchen Sisters profile Carl's Corner, Texas, a truckstop that became a town so the owner (now mayor) could sell liquor. It's now the location of Willie Nelson's annual Fourth of July picnic, and a biodiesel fueling station called "BioWillie's". The Kitchen Sisters, by the way, have produced a book called Hidden Kitchens, based on their popular NPR series.  [ 08.29.06 ]

» Strong anti-GMO feeling in Europe means that US farmers can't export their genetically enhanced produce overseas. Biotech companies are responding by combining high-tech genetic analysis with good old-fashioned cross-breeding.  [ 08.29.06 ]

» You may recall reading how sales for The Third Policeman shot through the roof after it was featured last season on Lost. Now, in NPR's series "You must read this", author Charles Baxter describes it as "the funniest and scariest book ever written".

It's not nihilism. [...] We're plunged into a comic nightmare, where language...keeps going out of control or manages to flop out of the boat back into its native element. [The narrator] learns that in the world of eternity, you can see treasures but can't enrich yourself with them. This is nihilism? It's the opposite -- a world supersaturated with meanings and consequences.

 [ 08.30.06 ]

» The laptop love triangle. "There are many people who want a partner close, but not too close. So snuggling up next to them with the computer is for many of us the ideal situation for a feeling of contact but an assurance there won’t be eye-to-eye intimacy. The problem is not computers. Two generations ago people did it with the television." David Schnarch, director of the Marriage and Family Health Center, in Evergreen, Colorado.  [ 08.30.06 ]

» The latest statistics show a slowdown in home sales, but a slight uptick in home prices. What gives? Incentives to the buyer ranging from vacation time-shares, to free upgrades, to cash back. What that means is that, in spite of the statistics, home prices may in fact be falling. "We don’t have any house price indexes that get it right." Todd Sinai, associate professor of real estate at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.  [ 08.31.06 ]

» It would appear that the real estate bubble is starting to deflate. Fortune outlines four housing myths and why you should not believe them.  [ 08.31.06 ]



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