Tag Archives: New York Times

Friday Random 10: Killer Pigs Edition

Pax Arcana

Free range pigs are better for people because modern industrial agricultural practices that shove dozens of animals into tiny cages only breed disease and unhealthy meat.

Or not, according to Texas State University professor James McWilliams — who says allowing pigs to roam happily before slaughter will actually lead to less healthy pork chops:

killer_pigThe study published in the journal Foodborne Pathogens and Disease that brought these findings to light last year sampled more than 600 pigs in North Carolina, Ohio and Wisconsin. It discovered not only higher rates of salmonella in free-range pigs (54 percent versus 39 percent) but also greater levels of the pathogen toxoplasma (6.8 percent versus 1.1 percent) and, most alarming, two free-range pigs that carried the parasite trichina (as opposed to zero for confined pigs). For many years, the pork industry has been assuring cooks that a little pink in the pork is fine. Trichinosis, which can be deadly, was assumed to be history.

The reason, he says, is that free range pigs come in contact with rodents, cats, and other things that carry diseases that are carefully controlled within the industrial pig piles that produce most of our pork. Furthermore, the idea that free range=natural is fairly easily debunked — as free range animals are generally kept in managed containment areas designed to produce a particular blend of characteristics from the final product:

Free range is ultimately an arbitrary point between the wild and the domesticated. That this arbitrary point is tricky business should come as no surprise. The long history of animal husbandry has been a fervent quest toward intensified control. Free-range pork boldly countered this quest, throwing it into partial reverse. The problem was that it went far enough to expose animals to diseases but not far enough to render the flesh truly wild. What people taste when they eat free range is a result not so much of nature but of human decision.

I think these arguments make a lot of sense. But then he ruins it with this:

After all, if clean and humane methods of production cannot be developed, there’s only one ethical choice left for the conscientious consumer: a pork-free diet.

THAT’S IT. GET OUT OF MY KITCHEN.

The Songs:

Sea Legs — The Shins
Finer Feelings — Spoon
El Scorcho — Weezer
Every Picture Tells a Story — Rod Stewart
Anytime — My Morning Jacket
Come Together — The Beatles
Watch the Tapes — LCD Soundsystem
Fame and Fortune — Mission of Burma
Seen Your Video — The Replacements
Blitzkreig Bop — The Ramones

Bonus Video:

Woodfriend — Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson (Live)

The Rules: The Friday Random 10 is exactly that — random. We open up our iTunes, set the thing on shuffle, and listen to 10 songs. We are not permitted to skip any out of embarrassment or fear of redundancy. Commenters are encouraged to post their own.

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Virginia Heffernan may be retarded

Pax Arcana

apple_iphoneDespite my affection for the light saber application, watching Arrested Development on planes, and the other 8 million fun things to play with on my iPhone — I really don’t care if other people find the thing as awesome as I do.

For example, I can see why people who have to type a lot — or edit Microsoft Office documents — would prefer the BlackBerry. Or the Pre. Whatthefuckever.

But Virginia Heffernan of the New York Times has taken criticism of the iPhone to a whole new level of awesome with her recent piece “I hate my iPhone.” Heffernan used to be the TV critic for the Times, but is now heading up The Medium — a blog/beat about the full spectrum of digital media consumption.

Clearly, she is up to the task.

Wait, that’s not right. Clearly she is not up to the task. That’s what I meant. Anyway, here is why she hates her iPhone:

I was late to get one — and maybe that’s the problem. Maybe my hopes for the iPhone curdled in the time it took for my perfectly good T-Mobile plan to expire so I could switch to balky AT&T and purchase one. But I had bided my time. And, really, my enthusiasm survived right up to the moment at the AT&T counter, post-sale, when a saleswoman transferred my address book from my battered BlackBerry to the sweetie-pie iPhone.

“Can you set up my e-mail too?” I asked. She handed me the phone and told me what to type. Pressing her good nature, I asked if she’d do that part too, since I wasn’t yet handy with the iPhone’s character-entry system — the 2D screen-based simulation of the qwerty keyboard.

She gave me a hard look. Truly, as if she was supposed to be on the lookout for people like me. “It’s your phone,” she replied briskly. “It’s time you started typing on it.”

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that this person — hired by the New York Times to produce high-minded analysis about how the digital age informs modern life — should not have to devote the 30 seconds necessary to learn how to operate the devices that deliver that media. That kind of work is for counter folk.

And you’re right.

In fact, I can sympathize with Ms. Heffernan. The last time I bought a car, the salesperson refused to drive me home in it. Then there was that time I went to see Memento and the usher refused to sit next to me and explain what was happening. Or that time I went to clear the snow off the sidewalk and the shovel just sat there like it expected me to do all the work.

I hate my shovel!

I hate my iPhone [NYT]

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Breaking News: People Argue Over Shit

Pax Arcana

Living the life of an reclusive eccentric billionaire has its advantages, to be sure. But spending my days secure in a (extradition-free) mountain redoubt also leaves me regrettably isolated from the rest of society.

That’s why I turn to the Fashion & Style section of the New York Times to keep me abreast of how the lesser classes (that would be you) spend their days. For example, yesterday I learned that the high tech movie rental service Netflix is driving a wedge betwixt married people everywhere.

No, really. That’s what it says:

leonardBut for many couples, the queue — the computer list of which films will arrive next in the mail, after those at home are returned — is as important as everything else that spouses and other varieties of significant others share, from pet names to closet space to the bathroom. For some, this is fine. For others, the queue is the new toilet seat that somebody left up.

The article then quotes a gentleman whose wife refused to watch The English Patient for a full six months. The couple — by now almost certainly on the verge of divorce — finally returned the DVD unwatched.

And somewhere in heaven, an cherub was born with AIDS.

Unfortunately, the aforementioned rift is not the only one. According to the article, acrimony over the Netflix queue is in a giant tie for first place on the list of stupid ass shit husbands and wives argue over:

Mr. Marino and Ms. Miller are not alone. Far from it. Men and women from perfectly happy partnerships report their own dysfunctional cohabitation within the confines of the queue. Once upon a time, these sorts of disagreements were sorted out in the aisles of a video store, before a movie was selected. Now, when the conversation begins, it’s already too late.

WILL NO ONE STOP NETFLIX BEFORE IT DRIVES THE ENTIRE INSTITUTION OF MARRIAGE INTO RUIN?

This is why I simply trade from my DVD collection with Kim Jong Il. His taste is surprisingly girlish, but at least he returns things on time.

Hey, Who Ordered ‘Gigli’? [NYT]

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An open letter to AIG

Pax Arcana

Dear Masterful Lords of Capitalism:

businessman11Recently, as I was perusing the latest printed issue of the New York Times newspaper, I stumbled across an Op-Ed piece that republished, for the entire world to see, the resignation letter of one Mr. Jake DeSantis.

As you may recall, Mr. DeSantis was formerly an executive vice president of financial products at your company. He resigned in part because he believes AIG did not do enough to defend executives from the rampaging masses and their henchmen in the treacherous organization known as “the Congress,” leaving him with a paltry bonus amount of $742,000 (after taxes) and plenty of bad feelings:

I am proud of everything I have done for the commodity and equity divisions of A.I.G.-F.P. I was in no way involved in — or responsible for — the credit default swap transactions that have hamstrung A.I.G. Nor were more than a handful of the 400 current employees of A.I.G.-F.P. Most of those responsible have left the company and have conspicuously escaped the public outrage.

After 12 months of hard work dismantling the company — during which A.I.G. reassured us many times we would be rewarded in March 2009 — we in the financial products unit have been betrayed by A.I.G. and are being unfairly persecuted by elected officials. In response to this, I will now leave the company and donate my entire post-tax retention payment to those suffering from the global economic downturn. My intent is to keep none of the money myself.

Unbelievable as it may seem, there are some who have criticized Mr. DeSantis’ letter — calling it “self-righteous.” One such outlet, a Web-based purveyor of something called “snark” called Gawker, even went so far as to accuse Mr. DeSantis of missing the entire point:

What he doesn’t understand is that the blood-boiling rage that’s been aimed at him and his colleagues isn’t just about the money and the failure—it’s about the vast and bottomless sense of entitlement that well-heeled Wall Streeters can’t seem to shake. When he describes the AIG retention contracts as “ethical and useful,” and when he compares himself to a “plumber” being “cheated” of his payment because an electrician burned down the house, he seems to be discovering for the first time that life is not fair. Also, he fails to understand that in this case, the humble plumber works for the electrician who burned down our house.

My opinion is that Mr. DeSantis is suffering from an unfortunate attack of the bitch squeals, and has wilted under the pressure. What your company needs is an executive who possesses not only a “vast and bottomless sense of entitlement,” but also the strong moral constitution required to stand up and accept bonus checks of just under a million dollars with a stiff upper lip and snug-fitting jockey shorts that barely mask a healthy capitalism erection.

As a primary figure in the continuing war against zombies, robots, science, and komodo dragons, I am just the man to fill that role.

As your new executive vice president for financial products, I would devote myself to my work — sometimes even staying at the office beyond the 14 hours DeSantis mentioned (assuming there is comp time built into our arrangement by mutual agreement).

I further promise that I, your new executive for producting finances, will not shrink away from public outrage. Instead I will attack it head on — by swinging socks filled with gold bullion (to be provided by AIG) at the gathering hordes.

For the price of just one Jake DeSantis’ bonus check, I will do that and so, so much more.

You know where to find me.

Sincerely,

Pax Arcana

Dear AIG: I Quit [NYT]
Shut Up, AIG [Gawker]

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Put rice in your cell phone

Pax Arcana

diyAs we tumble screaming and red faced into our new Great Depression, we’re all going to need to learn to do a few things for ourselves. No more taking the car into the shop because you can’t figure out how to put wiper fluid in it. No more asking your Hungarian manservant to pick all the carraway seeds out of your loaf of rye bread (really, the essence of carraway is enough, am I right?).

Thankfully, the New York Times is here to the rescue with a series of tips for solving complicated technical issues with simple solutions. Warning — some of these solutions will make you look very, very foolish.

For example, consider the grave problem of not being able to unlock your Prius from a half mile away:

Suppose your remote car door opener does not have the range to reach your car across the parking lot. Hold the metal key part of your key fob against your chin, then push the unlock button. The trick turns your head into an antenna, says Tim Pozar, a Silicon Valley radio engineer.

Mr. Pozar explains, “You are capacitively coupling the fob to your head. With all the fluids in your head it ends up being a nice conductor. Not a great one, but it works.” Using your head can extend the key’s wireless range by a few car lengths.

Unfortunately the same trick applied to your spouse does not unlock the eternal mysteries of womanhood. Trust me.

The Times also says you can rescue data from a seized hard drive by freezing it overnight — which is true — and that you can milk your printer’s ink cartridge for a few extra drops by warming it up with a hairdryer. If your cell phone drops in the toilet, take out the battery and fill it with rice. Then steam for 20 minutes and serve garnished with parsley and black olives.

Oh there’s more.

Dirty CD’s can be cleaned with vodka, which is a waste of good vodka when you’re unemployed and reduced to cleaning your copy of The Low End Theory to remember what good times feel like. Your home Wi-Fi reach can be extended by placing a rounded cookie sheet behind the router. This little trick will also nicely complement your feathered mullet and brown bomber jacket, MacGyver.

I have a few of my own suggestions to add. For example, an empty milk jug with the bottom removed makes an excellent megaphone. Old newspapers (who doesn’t have a bunch of those lying around?) can easily be folded into attractive hats that keep the rain out of your eyes when you’re panhandling in inclement weather. You can line your hat with aluminum foil for increased durability, but be aware — this may interfere with your remote car door opener.

Low-Tech Fixes for High-Tech Problems [NYT]

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Forgetful man dies

Pax Arcana

hmThe New York Times has a pretty interesting obituary of Henry Gustav Molaison, who died yesterday. For most of his life, Molaison was known publicly only as H.M. and was the most important test subject in the history of brain science (until I came along, natch).

H.M. suffered from profound amnesia, the result of an experimental brain surgery to cure his seizures. He remembered his name and where he grew up, but completely lost the ability to form new memories after the incident:

“He was a very gracious man, very patient, always willing to try these tasks I would give him,” Dr. Milner, a professor of cognitive neuroscience at the Montreal Neurological Institute and McGill University, said in a recent interview. “And yet every time I walked in the room, it was like we’d never met.”

Among H.M.’s contributions to science were expirements that showed that the brain stores memories in at least two completely separate systems (one for names and faces and such, and another for subconscious learning, such as motor skills).

hmIn other news, The New York Times has a pretty interesting obituary of Henry Gustav Molaison, who died yesterday. For most of his life, Molaison was known publicly only as H.M. and was the most important test subject in the history of brain science (until I came along, natch).

H.M. suffered from profound amnesia, the result of an experimental brain surgery to cure his seizures. He remembered his name and where he grew up, but completely lost the ability to form new memories after the incident:

“He was a very gracious man, very patient, always willing to try these tasks I would give him,” Dr. Milner, a professor of cognitive neuroscience at the Montreal Neurological Institute and McGill University, said in a recent interview. “And yet every time I walked in the room, it was like we’d never met.”

Among H.M.’s contributions to science were expirements that showed that the brain stores memories in at least two completely separate systems (one for names and faces and such, and another for subconscious learning, such as motor skills).

H. M., an Unforgettable Amnesiac, Dies at 82  [New York Times]

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That’s a stretch

Pax Arcana

It is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain a disciplined training regimen, as each new day seemingly brings news of some new way of exercising.

First I was forced to give up my vibrating belt machine, despite its proven track record of success (my grandfather used it to vault himself to preeminence in the Svalbard eastern district herring fling 5 years straight). Next I was forced to quit smoking Chesterfield brand cigarettes, when it turned out they were actually no healthier than other brands — despite what a respected study had reported.

Now it appears that I may have to abandon my stretching routine, as modern science has deemed it outdated.

From the Times:

The old presumption that holding a stretch for 20 to 30 seconds — known as static stretching — primes muscles for a workout is dead wrong. It actually weakens them. In a recent study conducted at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, athletes generated less force from their leg muscles after static stretching than they did after not stretching at all. Other studies have found that this stretching decreases muscle strength by as much as 30 percent. Also, stretching one leg’s muscles can reduce strength in the other leg as well, probably because the central nervous system rebels against the movements.

A better way to warm up, kineseologists say, is to do some light jogging for 5-10 minutes, followed by a routine designed not only to prime your muscles, but also to convince your opponent that he will soon do battle with a crazy person:

Stretching muscles while moving, on the other hand, a technique known as dynamic stretching or dynamic warm-ups, increases power, flexibility and range of motion. Muscles in motion don’t experience that insidious inhibitory response. They instead get what McHugh calls “an excitatory message” to perform.

Dynamic stretching is at its most effective when it’s relatively sports specific … For runners, an ideal warm-up might include squats, lunges and “form drills” like kicking your buttocks with your heels. Athletes who need to move rapidly in different directions, like soccer, tennis or basketball players, should do dynamic stretches that involve many parts of the body. “Spider-Man” is a particularly good drill: drop onto all fours and crawl the width of the court, as if you were climbing a wall.

Modern science also recommends dynamic stretches with names like the “Scorpion,” the “Straight Leg March,” and “Handwalks.” Pax Arcana recommends the “Sprinkler,” the “Lawnmower,” and the “Whack-a-Mole,” but those are technically dance moves and not stretching exercises. So I guess you could say I’m the next generation’s Billy Blanks.

Stretching: The Truth [NYT]

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