Superbowl Stupidblogging

3 February, 2008

6:30 Stupid truck ads. Centrifuges have to be balanced or they will not spin.

6:34 Stupid me. I put too much sour cream in Liz’s Evil Dip.

6:38 Rescinded! Checked the recipe, and that was the right amount of sour cream I put in. …wait, I’m still stupid for making it at all. My arteries clog whenever I look in its direction.

6:40 Stupid East Coast. As a Midwesterner, I hate it when sports playoffs come down to New York vs Boston. Give me a goddamn break. Red Giants vs. the New Yankees BLAH BLAH BLAH. There are OTHER RIVALRIES OUT THERE, yo. cubfan63 is rooting for “a tie with lots of injuries.” Me, I am rooting for the Giants, because I like the song they ran out on the field to better than I like the Patriots’ song. (Kanye West’s “Stronger” vs. some Black Sabbath or whatever.)

7:03 Stupid Derek Jeter.

7:24 Why are there always so many job site ads during Superbowls?

7:30 Racial stereotypes much, Bud Light?!

7:30:20 (I must remember that I am not the target demo for Anheuser-Busch.)

7:41 Justin Timberlake rocks.

8:04 OK, people were bitching about Prince’s guitar being too phallic??!

8:06 Srsly, though. It’s a FLYING PENIS. That pierced a pink heart.

8:32 The head-shrinker commercial made me laugh so hard I cried. Reaganite thinks I’m insane.

8:39 Maria Shriver endorsed Obama three days after Arnold endorsed McCain? (DC football.)

9:13 Ha! The Frist-Carville ad rocks. Those Segway tours are awesome.

9:39 One reason I seldom watch football is that it makes me feel 10 IQ points stupider.

9:44 Still laughing at the “tiny head” line from the ad.

10:10 Now, THAT is why I watch playoff games even when I don’t care!

10:16 Of course, the shout-outs to the Polo Grounds and Yankee Stadium do irritate.


I reeeeeeeeally try not to rag on DC for its weather-related skittishness. It’s just too goddamned easy, and boring. But, come the fuck on. Did people always make this big a deal out of 20 degree weather? 20 DEGREES. We’re not traversing Antarctica here. Wear a fucking hat.

It’s times like these I feel most Midwestern. I have five trusty Weather Dashboard widgets set up, one for each place in the country where I have family. The “Stepfather” one tells me that it’s 10degF in Michigan. The “Grandmother, Aunt, Uncle, and 3 Cousins” one tells me that it’s 1degF in Wisconsin. Now THAT is some weather, people. One fricking degree. My cousins — ages 7, 5, and 1 — are being raised RIGHT. That’s not “you can’t go out and play, because I’m cold” weather. That’s “you can’t go out to play because you will get frostbite” weather.

I am sure my sister disagrees. She never felt the cold to be character-building, although that may have been because in the Midwest she bark-coughs like a seal from November to March. So she moved to Northern California. Where it’s now 20 degrees. Neener, seester. (And to round everyone out, it’s also 20 degrees where my mom is. She was raised in the Midwest but is now in Connecticut. How bout it, momb? Are they wimpy about 20 degrees there too?)

I was unfortunate this evening, when, failing to turn the football game off in a timely fashion, a local newscast bounced some photons off my retinae. No worries, first-degree burns only, I changed it quickly…but not before I got a nice strong dose of schadenfreude watching a newsperson interview a shivering frat boy, wearing on his head only a baseball cap, who admitted that it is too cold to wear on his head only a baseball cap. I hope his boyz don’t see him on the news, because based on the aggressively-worn T-shirts I saw the frat boys sporting on the streets last night, admitting to feeling cold practically makes him gay.

In very sad news, my text messaging appears to be broken. I’m not sure how many days now. I am lost without text messages. Seriously. My Google Calendar texts me reminders (and God knows I need a lot of reminders, what with this sieve I call a brain). I already missed at least one, and I suspect two, social engagements because people are used to not having to call me. So, I apologize to all of youse whose messages I have missed. It probably hurts me more than it hurts you!


The knitted brain–holy shit. The quilt is groovy, but I’m a knitter, and I love the 3D aspect. No experience has been as important to my understanding of neuroscience and neuroanatomy as dissecting a brain in my first year of graduate school. Which is kind of “duh”, I know…but to handle a human brain every week, cut away pieces and really see how it was put together…

OMG! A zipper as the corpus callosum (the structure that links the left and right lobes of the brain). Bril.

There is a disclaimer:

While our artists make every effort to insure [sic] accuracy, we cannot accept responsibility for the consequences of using fabric brain art as a guide for functional magnetic resonance imaging, trans-cranial magnetic stimulation, neurosurgery, or single-neuron recording.

Good thing they covered their asses there!

I found this page through MindHacks, a fun blog based on the O’Reilly book of the same name; both aim to provide “neuroscience and psychology tricks to find out what’s going on inside your brain.” And they do it well–I haven’t bought the book yet, but I paged through it a few years ago for a friend who asked me to vet the neuroscience, and IIRC I was impressed. Hardly a shock considering the publishing house, which is known in the tech world for its high quality.

Today the MindHacks folk featured Blue Jean Brain II by artist Lee Pirozzi.

Which reminded me of LAST week, when they had me humming “if I only had a brain handbag”:

Designer Jun Takashi has created a high fashion handbag, shaped like a brain. Why? You ask. Why not? I answer.

At this point I would like to make it clear that the idea that we only use 10% of our handbag is a myth.

Scientific studies have found that all of the handbag is in constant use, although some parts may be more active than others.

(I like how they debunk the ridiculous 10% myth. It might be true in the Angel from Montgomery sense*, but not in the neurological.)

The Wizard of Oz joke up there is that I have a lot of bags. By which I mean purses. I blame the DSW Shoe Warehouse in Chicago on Clark and Wellington, which was not only within easy reach of public transportation but had free parking. (I got a lot of shoes there too, but those are more socially acceptable, and I tend to purge shoes more as they age, but bags don’t wear out as fast.) I remember one day when I came home to Chicago Ex and said, “Look at this bag I bought!” “Oh good,” he said, “You needed more bags.” I was flattered that he’d noticed, a second later I figured out I was being teased. These days, with every new bag I acquire, Reaganite slightly-sardonically asks “So….is THIS one the Perfect Bag?” I have to explain that the perfect bag is a platonic ideal**, and that different needs require different bags, so no one bag can ever be perfect, so it is not an answerable question. He laughs at me anyway. Perhaps he has never taken philosophy.

Here is the ironic part: I have a dearth of luggage, the most useful type of bag. I also have no professional-looking bags for interviews and other sorts of days when I need to look like a grownup. Purses, purses everywhere, and not a one to take to San Diego for a conference.

I tried to take a picture of the closet that has most of my purses in it, but it didn’t really get the point across. I have them all hanging on racks and hooks on the back of my front/coat closet door, and well, let’s just say that the door basically has to be forced closed.

Maybe I should shoot each one and make a grid of them, or something. That WOULD help me purge, as some of them are probably embarrassing, stylewise. I could try to do them chronologically, then I would have an excuse.

You know, because I don’t have enough to do.


*”How the hell can a person/Go to work in the morning/Come home in the evening/And have nothing to say?

**Have you ever noticed that every time the Platonic ideal idea is explained pedagogically, the teacher uses the example of a chair? 4 out of 4 times in my academic experience. Bizarre.

Via MindHacks, a very good post about the question of whether addiction is a disorder of the body or of the will. It is very creative in its use of what is often thought of as a 100% physiological and genetic disease as an example.

This topic is much in the media recently (perhaps someone is plugging a book and I have missed it?)  I recommend the post as an orientation to the issues.


23 April, 2007

From artist Chris Jordan, an art project about waste in America. Look at them all. (I had to shrink them to fit in the blog, so they are even more impressive than this…)


(more zoom)

gun control and suicide

18 April, 2007

Recent gun-related events virtually ensure an encore of one of America’s traditional performance art pieces in response to tragedy: Guns Don’t Kill People, Teenagers Kill People (introducing…the 2008 Presidential candidates!). Well, at least it will be marginally more informed than will the next potential performance, Video Games Made Him Do It. (And let’s hope we can avoid Who Let Them In Here, Anyway? especially since Geraldo and Bill O’Reilly knocked that one out of the park so recently.)

Well, I got no particular knowledge about all those phases, but I do have a gun control-related angle.

US residents of all ages and both sexes are more likely to die from suicide when they live in areas where more households contain firearms. A positive and significant association exists between levels of household firearm ownership and rates of firearm and overall suicide; rates of nonfirearm suicide were not associated with levels of household firearm ownership…the availability of lethal means increases the rate of completed suicide.

The finding got a big yawn around my lab, but then maybe the common wisdom about suicide isn’t as well known in the blogosphere as it is here in a lab full of psychiatric researchers. Commence lecture!

  1. Suicide kills over 30,000 Americans a year. (More statistics can be found here.)
  2. You may wonder why I use the passive voice up there, don’t people do the killing? Yeah: depressed people. You can’t talk about suicide without reference to depression/mental illness, and the decisions people make when depressed are (duh) not necessarily the ones they’d make when healthy.
  3. To commit suicide is usually an impulsive decision. As a result it’s a common cause of death in young males.
  4. The idea to attempt suicide is more viral than you’d think: it spreads like a meme. When a suicide is reported, there are often local methodological copycats (educating police forces and newspaper editors NOT to publicize details can cut down on this substantially). A particularly awful example of how fucked up this can get is the story of Golden Gate Bridge suicides, which I can’t even reread, it’s so depressingly infuriating.
  5. Choice of method is opportunistic. (See above article.)
  6. People’s estimates about a method’s lethality are not accurate. This has a lot of implications, among them the fact that women are more likely to attempt, but men are more likely to succeed. In large part this is because women use less lethal methods (pills) than men do (guns).*

The author of the study puts it simply: “In a nation where more than half of all suicides are gun suicides and where more than one in three homes have firearms, one cannot talk about suicide without talking about guns.”

Now, it’d be a helluva public health measure to void a constitutional amendment just to prevent suicide. I’m not advocating this as why you should support gun control, I’m not completely on any particular side of the issue. Just keep in mind, when the NRA types get rabid about their purported “rights,” that lots of these people have depressed kids at home who know where the ammo is. What are the 2nd amendment absolutists doing to prevent having to pry their own guns from their child’s cold, dead hands?


*Because pills are such an ineffective way to commit suicide, there is a sexist misperception out there that women (who tend to use pills) intend suicide less seriously, and are just doing so as a “cry for help” or to get attention. But there is no correlation between lethality and seriousness: since suicides are so often impulsive and opportunistic, seriousness is hard to judge from the outside, easy to lie about from the inside, and impossible to determine for the successful. Nonlethal attempts are judged as less serious than lethal suicides because all lethal suicides appear seriously meant, whether they were or not.

Jackie Robinson Day

15 April, 2007

So today Major League Baseball celebrates the 60th anniversary of its integration. If you don’t know the story, yet would like to call yourself an American, go read about it ASAP.

At the 50-year mark, MLB retired the number 42 for all teams, but apparently Ken Griffey Jr. had the idea for players to honor Robinson today by wearing 42. The idea has spread around the league and morphed into either “one dude on your team wears the number,” “a few dudes on your team wear the number,” or everyone on your team wears the number.” Personally, I prefer the last of these options, and think the position stated by the Twins’ Torii Hunter in the article — that it somehow dilutes the tribute to have too many people wear the number — is ridiculous. If only one or a few players get to wear #42, it’s then about those players — but it should be about Robinson himself. Here’s a shout-out to the teams that are all wearing #42 today:

Astros: All players
Brewers: All players
Cardinals: All players
Dodgers: All players
Phillies: All players
Pirates: All players

(Ahem. All National league, thankyouverymuch.)

I’m glad I don’t have tickets to any such games, because seeing 18 or 22 guys (if the coaches wear it too) all wearing #42 would make me ridiculously choked up. Things DO change here. Just ask Don Imus. Call me an idealist and/or a moderate, but it’s nice to pause every now and then from the struggle and take a measure of how far we HAVE come. Yeah, I know the changes are incremental (“with all deliberate speed”), often oddly motivated (women and the Civil Rights Act of 1964), and often have harmful unintended consequences (affirmative action and black students’ self-confidence). But as a member of a group that benefitted from the last century’s civil rights advances, it’s my opinion that one should take what one can get and turn it to one’s advantage, even if the motives of the givers are suspect. Half a loaf, and all that.

One suggestion I heard last season sometime about what to do with #42 is to begin a Jackie Robinson award for…I dunno how to phrase it, some sort of public antidiscrimination service/work undertaken by a baseball player or coach. It needn’t be awarded every year, just when the league/voters felt someone deserved it. Said person would get the honor of wearing 42 for the year. As nice as a day of remembrance like today is, that seems a deeper one: a daily reminder of the debt we owe to those who came before. Of course I’m also the person who thinks the DC baseball team should have been named after a Negro League team. But I guess more influential folks feel that systematic racism wasn’t SOOOOO bad of a sin that we need to be reminded of it every freaking DAY.

(OTOH, perhaps such measures would fade into the background. Hmm.)

Here’s an even more community-minded idea for honoring Robinson, from Forbes magazine. Maybe the league could honor the player who gave the most money to this fund with the right to wear #42. Even more interestingly, they could honor the player who gives the highest percentage of his salary, which would give a better chance for a younger player still under salary caps to give back and get recognition.