Archive for May, 2009

As the review puts it, this is the litterbox they would use on the Death Star.  I don’t know what my cats would think of it.  My own thought is that this is a spectacular example of conspicuous consumption of a special geeky sort. And that brings me to this article, which is more of a plug for the new book Spent than it is a review.

PacManPlantingholeThe idea that display consumption [which is partly for your ego, but also to signal your personality and ability to afford x or y] drives consumer behavior isn’t new to me.  I am firmly convinced that’s why my cousin drives a Hummer [or did, before his business model tanked], and why I have trouble finding anything I want to buy at the mall: he has people to impress, and I don’t think it’s worth the trouble to wade through all these other people’s fashion expectations, except in very particular circumstances. In kindergarten, we were given crayons and told to draw the most wonderful shoes we could imagine.  The other girls were drawing elaborate high-heeled shoes, or fancy slippers, or go-go boots, and I was trying to invent a low purple shoe-boot with golden cleats, although I’d never seen such things before. [When I finally laid eyes on a pair of Dunham hiking boots in the 1970s, oh, I was soooo happy.]

What I’d like to put together for my students is that display consumption helps explain two other sorts of non-optimal behaviour — flouting environmental regulations and the infamous Western Diet.

Putting your mansion in an area ridiculously prone to flooding or fire is just another way of saying that you’ve got the resources to replace your home [with or without federal disaster aid]. You may not, of course, _really_ have those resources, but that’s what you want to display.

And if for centuries only the rich could have white flour [because it took a lot of effort to make, and had to be paid for in some way], then could it be possible that’s how the meme of “more processed,

No, I was taking the picture!

more refined” =  “better for you” got entrenched?  Certainly, now there are food industries, which would like to justify their existence, and many middle management/research folk whose livelihoods depend on this system. The biological imperatives for high calorie, low effort foods plays into this system as do cultural ideals about what “prosperous” looks like.  Is it tanned or pale? Is it fat or thin? Is it the person who doesn’t have to do physical labor, or is it the person who chooses to do physical labor? [This reminds me of the woman who was yelling in the street one day, demanding to have someone explain to her why it was white folks ‘wanted to act like farmers?!!’ — our neighborhood has quite a few avid gardeners, and the idea that we would expend energy that we didn’t have to just boggled her mind.]

No, I was taking the picture!

Read Full Post »

Haiku on wry

Go look at Salome’s pithy observation. [Hat tip, William]


Read Full Post »


Sandi Toksvig on being kissed by Kermit the Frog: “Well, it’s really a man, with a puppet on his head –”

“So where did he really kiss you?” – Sue Perkins

The News Quiz, Series 68, Episode 3

Read Full Post »

or, “This is why everyone needs to know how to make their own meals, damnit!”

It bugs the hell out of me that the people who are least likely to be able to afford the time to shop for ingredients are the ones most likely to be caught out by this scary news about ConAgra [they make a lot of pre-packaged foods, frozen meals, etc. in the United States]:

ConAgra’s pot pie outbreak began on Feb. 20, 2007, and by the time it trailed off nine months later 401 cases of salmonella infection had been identified in 41 states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which estimates that for every reported case, an additional 38 are not detected or reported…..ConAgra had not been requiring its suppliers to test the vegetables for pathogens, even though some were being shipped from Latin America. Nor was ConAgra conducting its own pathogen tests. [Source: New York Times, May 14, 2009]

So ConAgra is just interested in how cheaply they can manufacture “food products” and then adjust their labels to tell consumers what temperature the food should be before it’s “safe” to eat.  They’re not going to take any responsibility for the quality of the product, just that you’re getting a product, and good luck with reaching the necessary temperatures for the necessary amount of time needed to kill the salmonella, E. coli, etc.

As this article points out, how many of us use food thermometers on a regular basis?  How many homes use microwaves, and cook things expecting that, if the food is steaming, it’s thawed out and “done”?

I think that people go to a grocery store and assume that if the prepared products there weren’t “safe”, or weren’t meant to be eaten, the store wouldn’t be allowed to sell the stuff as “food”.  So shoppers don’t spend a lot of time thinking about how long a prepared food item will need to be cooked, or whether the directions [and the assumptions behind them] are all that important. Is the food hot?  Great; it’s “done”, and y’all can start eating now.


Read Full Post »

This is a house with a knitter who loves wool, so it’s vitally important to domestic happiness that we keep moths from setting up house with us. Thus, the pheromone-baited moth traps.  The traps are lined with sticky stuff, and the lures themselves stick onto that. But first you have to get the lures out of their foil and plastic envelope, which comes with the following warning:

Do not handle lures.  You may attract moths.

Now, I know this isn’t an idle threat.  The fellow who first synthesized a moth lure was hounded [so to speak] by eager insects — the moths of that particular species could find him amid crowds of other people.  I’m not eager to replicate that experiment….

A separate observation is that this brand of moth lure comes with a masking scent, some nasty artificial vanilla worthy of a car air freshener, and the trap is only supposed to work on _web_ clothes moths, not “case-making” clothes moths.  Shall we lay odds on the kind we’re more likely to get?  [sigh]

Read Full Post »

The semester is galumphing to a close, and the flowers are coming on strong:


Doesn’t this iris look as if it just staggered out of a bar? [I leave it to your imagination what kind of bar, but I will say that this iris’s standards were a bit more perky after some light rain.]

And then we’ve got Ms. Peachy over here: [oh heavens — are we in for torrid iris romance? Or perhaps I’ve just watched a few too many waltzes recently.  It’s sad when the only thing the local PBS can offer on a Sunday afternoon are Lawrence Welk reruns].PeachIris09

And finally, some cats-eye [a variety of creeping veronica, really] from my grandmother’s mountain-top garden:


Read Full Post »



Read Full Post »

RoseRoomBuffet09No, no, not this kind of party — the Thesis soiree was several weeks ago — although yes, that is Dr. Landman’s back, in case you’re wondering. And the catering at the Towers has vastly improved in the last quarter century or so.

No, I’m talking about gardens partying — the grand bash of mid-May, after the tulips have faded [and they don’t seem as inclined to give repeat performances here as they were up North; that makes no sense to me], and the big guns of the garden start their shows. Azaleas. Iris. Peonies. Dutch iris. Elderberries. Nine-barks.

The first iris opened last night; more are due tomorrow [so far, two plicatas, a Thornbird, and a lovely silver-blue thing].  The peonies all have big fat buds, and the clematis out in the front yard is not only climbing the cast iron post I gave it, but has two blooms already.  Gotta love late-season sales and those half-price plants!pinkazalea-close

The azaleas are midway to gone; the ones to the right I caught last week [a nicer thing to catch than a plagiarist, but my job makes one take priority over the other].  While I do miss the great swaths of blooms on the hillside of our old home, the way the sun-loving plants have taken off in the last three years has really been impressive.  In fact, the garden beds are filling in to the point that today I felt fine buying annuals.  Normally I’m trying to dig in things for the long haul, because I really want to reduce the grass coverage of the yard.  But some decorative annuals in pots just seemed like fun for a change. [It may also reflect the fact that the next round of terraforming here will require massive amounts of dirt and perhaps professionally-installed drainage.]

Oh, dear — look at the time.  Must go listen to Word sing!

Read Full Post »

Burn, baby burn!

Insert plagiarized paper here

I tell my students not to use Wikipedia as a source text. They can read it all they like, but their citations and their examples must come from more established literature. So yes, plagiarizing great farking blocks of text from a wiki would also be a fast way to make me take out the flamethrower….

One of my colleagues asked — did the child at least change the font?  No. But said child did delete the internal citations from the passages.  When a wiki has higher academic standards than a student, I have even fewer qualms about making things extra crispy.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »