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February 28, 2007

Meat market

Not News: New York Times sends its food critic to review a steak restaurant.

News: The reviewer is rapturous, citing "char, richness, depth and a more pronounced degree of aging, an unmistakable tanginess that accentuated and stretched out the beef’s flavor."

Pillage Idiot: The restaurant is located at the Penthouse Executive Club, where the reviewer's party is attended to by strippers. For dessert: "It’s called a buttery nipple, and it involves one of the women straddling your lap, tilting your head back, pouring a combination of Baileys Irish Cream and butterscotch schnapps down your throat, and squirting Reddi-wip into your mouth. It costs $20 in cash. Note to the newspaper’s expense auditors: I don’t have a receipt."

Female Times staff lodge their complaints in 5..4..3..2..

(with apologies to Fark, from which I did not get this item)

Click here to read more . . .

Clearing the snow

When we were looking to buy a house here, our kids were young, and we were very concerned about sidewalks. Many houses in Montgomery County have no sidewalks, and it's a lot harder for younger kids to walk to their friends' houses or just to play in front of their own. So we ended up in Rockville, where almost all the houses have sidewalks.

Of course, with a sidewalk, you have the responsibility for clearing snow. When we had the blizzard in 1996, this was a major job. Normally, however, it's not such a big deal, and you tend to become annoyed with neighbors who don't bother to clear the snow or ice from their sidewalks.

The good news is that aggressive local governments enforce the snow-clearing laws, which require removal within 24 hours. The bad news is that our local governments are incompetent.

Some poor shnook who lived in Gaithersburg (like Rockville, an incorporated, self-governing city) received a violation letter from Montgomery County. It wasn't bad enough that he had already cleared his snow. As a resident of Gaithersburg, he didn't even live within the county's jurisdiction. A total of 90 Gaithersburg residents received similar letters. A county spokesman explained:

The county sent the letters based on a complaint that did not give specific addresses for the alleged violations, only for the general area around the middle school. "In trying to be responsive to a citizen call, it backfired," Anderson said.
The county has apologized to these people, but it still has egg on its face, which by law it's required to remove within 24 hours.

Click here to read more . . .

February 27, 2007

The milk of human kindness

I've previously discovered how useful Craig's List can be, so I wasn't terribly surprised when I learned from Maryland Conservatarian that some folks in the Bible Belt of Berkeley, California, posted an ad offering a free room to a woman who agreed to provide breast milk for the other roommates. The text is reprinted in BoingBoing:

We are offering a free room for a woman who is willing to provide breast milk for consumption to the household. We are an otherwise vegan house but have recently read A.O. Wilson's study of the benefits of human breast milk to all human beings of any age. This is not sexual. Neither appearance nor sexual preference are of any concern to us.

We are willing to accept one child into the house as well. We do not want to take breast milk away from a nursing child however. We also don't need gallons of breast milk but whatever you can muster; it is a nutritional supplement for members of the house who want to partake.

The room is 10'x 15' in a sunny house in Berkeley. There are 7 other people in the house and we live largely communally - shared food and house supplies. You must still pay for food, only rent is free. Reply to this posting and we will set up a time. Contact Dana.
This, of course, raises some extremely vexing questions. Such as:

1. Are these people discriminating against men and non-lactating women, or are they exempt from moral condemnation because they live in Berkeley? I'll have to pose that question to Randy Cohen, the "ethicist" at the New York Times.

2. Is human breast milk truly vegan? I don't think you'll ever get a serious response to this question from vegans. More like: "That's not funny!" Which is basically the tenor of this thread I found at a vegan forum. My personal favorite line in the thread is this: "If the breast milk is given freely (by the wielder of the breasts, of course), it is vegan."

3. Is breast milk kosher? The general rule is that animal milk is kosher only if the animal is kosher, but people aren't kosher. So how can a baby drink it? That's different. I once had a frum guy tell me a story about a frum woman at the airport who was ordered to drink some breast milk she had with her in a container in order to prove it was actually breast milk. She said she couldn't because it wasn't kosher. It turns out that this isn't quite accurate.
Breast milk is kosher and pareve. The reason is that only the milk of animals we eat is "milk" for kashrut purposes. (In simple terms, milk of a non-kosher animal is not kosher, just like the animal it came from, but a person is not an animal.) You can mix breast milk with cereal in whatever bowl matched what the rest of the family is eating.
So go ahead and enjoy it with your corn flakes! (So long as your corn flakes are certified kosher.)

4. If you marketed breast milk as a nutritional supplement, what would you call the product? Cafe Hayek has one answer, but the first commenter there wins the prize.

5. Why isn't there a government program to provide breast milk to all Americans, especially those 247 million who have no lactation insurance? The folks in Berkeley should demand such a program from their congressperson, Barbara Lee, and from the one across the bay, Nancy Pelosi. Are we done with the first 100 hours yet?

Click here to read more . . .

Simply noted

Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal's site ran a review of Dinesh D'Souza's newest book, "The Enemy at Home: The Cultural Left and Its Responsibility for 9/11." The review was written by Scott Johnson, of PowerLine, who is one of my favorite bloggers. He's smart, serious, and not a bomb thrower, like so many of the other big-name bloggers. Needless to say, Johnson's review is excellent -- calm, reasoned, thoughtful. I urge you to read it.

I have not read D'Souza's book and do not intend to. All I will say on the subject of his thesis is this: As much as I dislike the cultural left in this country, if forced to take sides between these people and the Islamists who want to destroy all of us, I'm foursquare on the side of our cultural left.

Click here to read more . . .

February 26, 2007

"A prodigy of old age"

My wife is an excellent amateur pianist, and I've told her that whenever I retire, I'd like her to teach me piano. I mean it seriously, but there's sort of a built-in joke, because there are some skills, like language and instrumental music, that are hard to pick up when you're an adult, let alone a retired adult.

An op-ed in the New York Times today concerns Joyce Hatto, who "became something unheard of in the annals of classical music: a prodigy of old age — the very latest of late bloomers," when she retired to a small town later in life and then recorded over 120 CDs on a label run by her husband.

It's a wonderful story. Wonderful, because it turns out Ms. Hatto simply stole the recordings of other pianists, mostly younger pianists who were not widely known. As Denis Dutton, author of the op-ed, drolly notes, "Intriguingly, she gave to the music a developed although oddly malleable personality. She could do Schubert in one style, and then Prokofiev almost as though she was a new person playing a different piano — an astonishing, chameleon-like artistic ability."

The title of Dutton's piece is "Shoot the Piano Player."

UPDATE (2/27): Hatto's widower has confessed. And it turns out there's a Hatto fraud website.

Click here to read more . . .

Impeachment goes to Washington -- the other one, that is

Last month, I wrote about efforts in the New Mexico legislature to force the U.S. House of Representatives to consider impeachment. This month, the impeachniks have gone to Washington state.

There's an interesting post at a Seattle Times blog describing an attempt by Democrats Patty Murray and Jay Inslee, a senator and congressman from Washington, respectively, to stop the state legislature from considering an impeachment resolution. (via HotAir) As I noted last time, these impeachniks think, based on a manual written by Thomas Jefferson, that they can force the House to start impeachment proceedings by having state legislatures pass resolutions.

I hate to be judgmental, but these people are totally nuts. The key segment of the blog post is this, toward the end: "Murray's vote against the Iraq war doesn't seem to mean much today to anti-war activists. Last week, while Murray was meeting with a group of local police chiefs in Bellevue, protesters asked the chiefs to arrest the senator for war crimes." David Postman, the blogger, adds that the Occupation Project people said, "They [the police] didn't do it, but in a just world they would have."

And here's another guy, author of "Killing Time: an Investigation into the Death Row Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal," among other things, who describes how 900 people supporting impeachment attended "an event organized by the Citizens Movement to Impeach Bush/Cheney, a local ad hoc citizens' organization in this little burg that had convinced the local city council to make the 1000-seat [performing arts center] auditorium available for a hearing on impeachment." Not to be outdone by Al Gore, he and two other anti-war leaders were treated "like rock stars."

Who were those two? First, Ray McGovern, the guy who has testified "that the United States went to war in Iraq for oil, Israel and military bases craved by administration 'neocons' so 'the United States and Israel could dominate that part of the world.'" Second, "former federal prosecutor Elizabeth de la Vega," who's now the author of United States v. George W. Bush et al., which "presents her argument in transcript form as a hypothetical weeklong presentation to a grand jury, including extensive testimony from three fictional investigative agents."

I've been able to draw only one conclusion from all of this: Nancy Pelosi is a tool of the neocons.

Click here to read more . . .

The first Carnival of Maryland -- at Crablaw

I've had various conversations with members of the Maryland Blogger Alliance about starting a Carnival of Maryland, but I've never done anything about it.

Finally, Bruce Godfrey at Crablaw took matters into his own capable hands. His well executed carnival is now up. Go over to Crablaw, read the linked entries, and salute Bruce for being a doer and not a talker.

(For the record, my submission there has to do with flopping fake bull testicles.)

Click here to read more . . .

February 24, 2007

The answers

You think math has only right and wrong answers? Try insane (but funny) answers. (The first is my favorite.)

Via Ace, who points out: "They are too funny to be real wrong answers as claimed, but still pretty cute."

Click here to read more . . .

February 22, 2007

Frontiers of plastic surgery in Egypt

In my limited experience learning Talmud, specifically Ketubot, I was never able to get past petach patuach, which essentially means an "open opening." There's an extended discussion about how to deal with situations in which a man marries and claims on the wedding night that his bride is not a virgin as promised. It gets very complicated, as is always the case in the Talmud, but, of course, at no point does the Talmud allow "honor killings." Not even close.

So if your culture does countenance "honor killings," one way of getting around it is to authorize hymenoplasty for women who are not virgins. If necessary, by issuing a fatwa.

CAIRO: Reconstructive hymen surgery for women who lost their virginity before marriage is halal (religiously permissible), said to Aly Gomaa, the Grand Mufti of Egypt.

Gomaa, the highest authority with the power to issue a fatwa (religious edict), appeared the popular terrestrial Channel Two’s talk show El Beit Beitek, where he condoned the controversial fatwa, released by Soad Saleh, the ex-dean of the faculty of Islamic studies at Al-Azhar University and noted scholar.

Shiekh Khaled El Gindy, an Al-Azhar scholar and member of the Higher Council of Islamic Studies told The Daily Star Egypt that he agrees with the new fatwa.

"Islam never differentiates between men and women, so it is not rational for us to think that God has placed a sign to indicate the virginity of women without having a similar sign to indicate the virginity of men," El Gindy said.

"Any man who is concerned about his prospective wife’s hymen should first provide a proof that he himself is virgin," he added.

El Gindy voiced his full support for Gomaa.
There's something strangely rational about this. On the other hand, maybe it would be easier to issue a fatwa prohibiting "honor killings."
The fatwa has led to much controversy within Al-Azhar and Egyptian society as a whole.

In Upper Egypt honor crimes are still committed. If a woman loses her virginity out of wedlock, she is considered a big shame on everyone and deserves to die.
Well, that may have to wait for another century.

(via Fark)

Click here to read more . . .

Congressional oversight and executive privilege

A practice group in the Federalist Society sponsored an interesting panel discussion today on congressional oversight and executive privilege.

You can see it at C-SPAN by clicking here, and clicking again at the page this takes you to, assuming you have Real Player 10. (I'm very "anti" Real Player, by the way, because it seems to monkey with your computer more than it has a right to, but I've downloaded version 10 just to see this.)

I recommend watching the presentations of Walter Dellinger and Doug Cox, both of whom presented a very balanced view. Dellinger starts at about 9:00, and Cox starts at about 29:00.

Click here to read more . . .

February 21, 2007

Holy flopping fake bull genitals!

It's very sad that I occasionally have to get news about Maryland from But I know you wouldn't forgive me if I didn't.

A state delegate from Allegany County, Leroy E. Myers Jr., has introduced a bill that would prohibit "any 'model, sign, sticker or other item' that shows uncovered human or animal genitals, as well as human buttocks or female breasts, from motor vehicles." Why? Because in Maryland there are "fake bull genitals flopping from the hitches of pickup trucks."

Fake Bull Genitals might be a great name for a rock band, but it is a very displeasing sight to some in our legislature. In fact, another delegate, Kevin Kelly, says, "Private body parts, you know, hanging from the trailer hitch are offensive, particularly if you've got a couple kids...."

If you don't understand what this is all about, you're probably a northeastern Jew like me. So in the interest of science, I did some research and found this site,, which sells the things and even has pictures of how they look on trucks. Go figure.

Now, the funny thing is that the ACLU of Maryland has stuck its nose where you wouldn't want yours. I'll bet you a nickel you can't guess what the ACLU's objection is.


OK, then read this:

"The legislation is overly broad, and would probably make it illegal to have a sticker on your car of the Venus de Milo from an art museum," ACLU of Maryland spokeswoman Meredith Curtis wrote in an e-mail.
It would also make it illegal to hang fake genitals of the statue David from your pickup truck. Which would be hard to bear, but, you know, we all have to take one for the team.

Extra: Also in the interest of science, I should provide you with the following warning:
During cold and windy weather, producers need to be aware of the potential for scrotal frostbite in bulls. * * * Older bulls, with lower hanging scrotums are more frequently adversely affected because they are not as able to pull their testicles up close to the body to keep them warm.
No need to thank me. It's all in a day's work.

Click here to read more . . .

February 20, 2007

Go to work on Presidents' Day

I realize that a lot of Americans have to work on Presidents' Day, but those of us who are tax eaters got the day off.

Back when I was growing up in New York state, we had Lincoln's birthday on February 12 and Washington's on February 22. There were places in this country where Lincoln was still hated and his birthday was not observed. Eventually the folks in Congress worked out an arrangement for a single day to be observed everywhere, on a Monday, so that we now get a three-day weekend. Supposedly, it's technically still officially Washington's birthday, but everyone refers to it as Presidents' Day. Now, no one who hates Lincoln has to celebrate Lincoln's birthday.

The trouble with calling it Presidents' Day, though, is that this treats all presidents alike. There's good reason to honor our great presidents, like Washington and Lincoln, but not much reason to honor the bottom dwellers, like Harding and Carter. One size doesn't fit all.

The thought occurred to me a week or two ago, but I didn't get around to writing about it until now, that the BDS crowd must really hate this holiday. I've had surprising difficulty finding people complaining about it, but I've found this: "Of course, then we have the President of the present day. Honestly, am I supposed to stay home from work today and think about this guy? C'mon."

So what I'm going to do next year at this point is to try to organize a "Go To Work On Presidents' Day" campaign to encourage all the lefties around town to give up their day off. Because, you know, if they take advantage of the holiday by taking the day off from work, they're necessarily honoring ChimpyMcHitlerBurton, or whatever they call him these days.

This won't accomplish very much, but the idea that they're giving up a long weekend to avoid honoring Bush would at least make me, mmm, smirk.

Click here to read more . . .

Most talented Mets ever?

MetsBlog links to the New York Post's sports blog, which has an entry entitled "Most Talented Met Ever." Without a question mark.

Mike Vaccaro says: "Carlos Beltran reported Monday morning, and it begs the question: who is the most talented man to ever wear a Mets uniform?" He's got his list, which you can view if you click the link above, but let's try to deal with definitions first.

First: Does talent mean raw ability or statistics? If it's raw talent, Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry have to be near the top. But both succumbed to vices and ruined their careers. For talent plus a successful career, I don't see how you can top Tom Seaver. Most people who put him lower than first are simply too young to have seen him pitch.

Next: Ever wear a Mets uniform? If you take this literally, you have to go with Willie Mays, who played part of 1972 and all of 1973 with the Mets. But he was finishing out his career at the time, and no one would argue that he was more than a shadow of his Hall of Fame self. I would normally dismiss this interpretation, but Vaccaro ranks Carlos Beltran first, who's played only two years with the Mets. That makes no sense to me.

Related: How long does the player have to have played for the Mets? Nolan Ryan pitched his first four-plus spotty years with the Mets but went on to pitch Hall of Fame baseball for 22 more years with three other teams. So Ryan shouldn't count. But what are we to make of Vaccaro's inclusion of Jose Reyes and David Wright, two young stars, in his top 10 list? He's basing his ranking as much on a prediction of their abilities as on their showing in the limited time they've been in the majors. To a lesser extent, I think that explains his ranking of Beltran as well.

The only thing I get out of Vaccaro's post is that it's another parlor game. It might be a lot of fun if we only knew what the rules are.

UPDATE (2/21): Since everyone's clamoring for my picks, let me first define my terms. I require that the player have spent at least five years on the Mets, and I lean toward performance over raw ability.

1. Tom Seaver.
2. Dwight Gooden.
3. Mike Piazza.
4. Darryl Strawberry.
5. Keith Hernandez.

I don't think I'll go any farther than that. Yes, I've put Gooden and Strawberry in there at the top. I guess I wouldn't have mentioned it yesterday if Vaccaro had given Seaver top billing, as I have.

Honorable mentions go to Jerry Koosman, Gary Carter, David Cone, and Tommie Agee (who's a sentimental favorite as much as an actual "most talented.")

Click here to read more . . .

Designer undies for the masses?

No two ways about it. Real men don't wear these.

It wasn't long ago that guys had only two choices in the morning: boxers or briefs, usually both in white. But in a metrosexual age, sexy skivvies in a rainbow of colors have become the hot new fashion accessory. Much like Victoria's Secret and Frederick's of Hollywood did with women's lingerie in the '80s, upstart companies like 2xist and C-in2 (pronounced "see into"), along with stalwarts like Jockey and Calvin Klein, are selling designer (read: pricey) undies to the masses — and raking in the bucks.
I mean, sure, your mother always told you to wear clean underwear in case you were in an accident, but she didn't want you to wear those, and she certainly didn't raise you to be a metrosexual.

Click here to read more . . .

February 19, 2007

Riding the college circuit

Note: There originally was a different post here. When I returned from a college visit last night, I put up a jokey, stupid post making fun of the whole experience, which, as my regular readers will know, is typical for me. Nothing was really meant to be serious.

Most of the time, I just go with it as it is, but this time, I felt that I shouldn't have tried to write after an exhausting trip home, and I've taken the post down. It really didn't come out the way I intended.

Trust me. You haven't missed anything.

Click here to read more . . .

February 15, 2007

Gov. O'Malley does NOT read Pillage Idiot

Last month, after getting stuck in a massive traffic jam on I-95 in an inch of snow, and having to cancel my wife's and daughter's trip out of town because we couldn't get to BWI in time, I got pissed off with our new governor, the estimable Martin O'Malley, for not clearing the damn roads.

So I did what any smartass blogger would do. I called for his impeachment.

I noted that it was four days after he took office. But we should impeach him now, I wrote, before he did anything seriously bad. In an update the following day, I posted a screencap of a visit to my post from someone working at state offices in Annapolis, and I said, "Hello, Governor!"

Now, maybe the stupidity of the posts at Pillage Idiot is very subtle, and maybe you have to read this blog regularly before you can tell when I'm pulling your leg, but I rather doubt it. So I was a little surprised to see that my post had been the subject of a thread started yesterday at the Baltimore Sun news forums. The thread title was "Big Lil' Brother Gov O'Malley is watching your posts." The lead post suggested that the governor had his staff monitoring hostile blogs. Other posts tossed about random allegations for and against the governor. Still others said, in essence, that I'm a moron. I tried to sign up for the forum to point out that people were taking me a little too seriously, but it takes at least a day to be authorized to post, and as of right now, I'm still not authorized.

So instead, I placed an update at the beginning of the linked post on impeachment, letting one and all know it was meant to be a joke, arising out of real frustration with the poor response to the snowfall, and eventually someone copied my update into the forum thread.

I think I'm going to have to institute a warning system here with a bunch of different smilies to indicate the level of seriousness intended. That last sentence may have been sarcasm, or at least irony, because I absolutely hate smilies and never use them. (The last half of the preceding sentence is serious. As is the sentence preceding this one -- and this one itself.)

Phew! (Mild humor.) Enjoy your weekend. (Serious.)

Click here to read more . . .

February 14, 2007

Valentine's Day linkfest

For me, every day is Valentine's Day, but for you less romantic souls, here's my roundup of love-related articles:

1. Remember that bogus article in the New York Times about how a majority of women are now unmarried? The one that tried to show how low the institution of marriage has sunk by citing figures that included 15-year-old unmarried "women"? The one that lumped together with teens and other never-married women people like my mother, who's unmarried now because she was widowed after 55 years of marriage? I discussed it here.

You may or may not have noticed that on Sunday, the New York Times's public editor, Byron Calame, did a number on it. Brutal. (via Hot Air)

2. Among the other gratuitous changes I'm making in blog-related matters, I "upgraded" from standard hotmail to Windows Live Mail. Why I did this I don't really know. Standard hotmail may be pretty lame. It doesn't format very well, for example. But Windows Live Mail seems like bloatware, loading painfully slowly, despite my fast connection. And when you get there, MS dropped the one useful feature of standard hotmail -- the listing of messages from your contacts. Worse, you enter to a portal chock full of useless articles . . . which I'm going to link to here.

First, about a week ago, there was a link to an article advising women how to make their move (on a man). The tips are pathetic, and I won't bother to quote them. Then, another link was to an article advising men how to ask her out. Best advice to men: "At the dog park: 'My hound is too shy to ask your pup for a date, so I’ll speak up instead. Care to grab a biscuit and a latté?'" I'm willing to make fun of this, but face it: I don't speak from great experience; as I've mentioned in the past, I went pretty much overnight from being socially retarded to finding the woman of my dreams.

At least, there was a section for "faith-based" dating. One article in that section is called "Will God provide a partner?" On the surface, it sounds a little like this joke. Not that I should joke about it, considering my own story is as close as possible to having God provide me with a partner.

3. On Sunday, the editor of the Modern Love column in the New York Times's Sunday Styles section had a column of his own discussing some of the many submissions he's received. The most depressing thing about it was a section called "How to Get Married While Remaining Single." Here's his summary:

Hardly a week passes when I don’t hear from someone stewing about the anticipated gains and losses of marriage: how to handle the last name, the loss of personal space and identity, the permanent end to sex with others, the problematic vocabulary (“wife,” “husband,” “until death”), the merging of finances and religions, the issue of marrying when gays can’t, the questionable necessity of marriage in the first place.
Maybe marriage has gone to hell, after all. On the other hand, maybe it's just the self-absorbed twits who read and want to write for the Modern Love column.

4. Last year, I quoted a Miss Manners column on Valentine's Day. This year's Miss Manners column has another amusing question and answer. The question concerns the pressing issue of how a woman should tell a man she likes that he kisses like a diseased squid. OK, she doesn't say exactly that; she's more polite: "What is the best way to go about telling this potential future mate that he does not please me when he kisses me, and the best way to remedy the situation?" Miss Manners responds: "Honesty is a perfectly horrid policy if it means telling a gentleman that his kisses are unappealing. He is not likely to inflict them on you again. What you can do is to assume a mischievous look and whisper, 'May I show you how I want to kiss you?' He will then be only too happy to allow you to give instructions and demonstrate what you mean."

5. There's an unbelievable wealth of crappy or depressing stuff published at this time of the year, but I'm sure you've found most of it yourself. I couldn't even bring myself to read it.

Click here to read more . . .

Maybe we DO control the media

"Joo named chairman of Times; McDevitt to become president"

Headline, Washington Times, Feb. 14, 2007

Click here to read more . . .

February 13, 2007

New MBA membership announcement

Since the last time I introduced new members of the Maryland Blogger Alliance, we've expanded with four additional members, bringing us to a total of 19. To join the Alliance, email me: pillageidiot -at- hotmail -dot- com.

1. Rockin' Catoctin, based in Frederick County, has this motto: "Gently Mocking Monocacy So You Don't Have To." It's been a little quiet there for the past month, but I'm sure there will be mockable moments soon.

2. The Pubcrawler, located in nearby Gaithersburg (nearby to me, that is), looks at life from a generally libertarian perspective. At a pub near you.

3. C. Dowd's Blog, run by Charlie Dowd, is an art blog. Charlie is also a web designer.

4. Oriole Post is a blog chronicling the best major-league baseball team located in Maryland, which plays in the nicest stadium in the majors, and is owned by the majors' worst scoundrel. Lots of content here.

A belated welcome to all!

Click here to read more . . .

February 12, 2007


I often nap on the Metro into work and again on my way home, so I was pleased to learn that a study showed that "a little midday snooze seems to reduce risks for fatal heart problems, especially among men."

But the news for women was equivocal:

It's likely that women reap similar benefits from napping, but not enough of them died during the study to be sure, said Dr. Dimitrios Trichopoulos, the study's senior author and a researcher at Harvard University and the University of Athens Medical School.
Sometimes women can be totally uncooperative.

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Frontiers of plastic surgery

Every once in a while, I feel compelled to bring you another installment of "frontiers of plastic surgery." Previous installments here, here, and here.

There's good news on the plastic-surgery front. Japanese doctors claim that they have successfully used stem cells from human fat to create additional breast tissue for plastic-surgery purposes.

The story is here, accompanied by a possibly SFW photo and a rather earthy headline. But if you want the headline of the month, and perhaps the year, try The Sun tabloid, which is accompanied by a photo that's NSFW. (The quotation of the week, and perhaps the month, is from Michael Zacharia, the president of the Australasian College of Cosmetic Surgery, who said, "Medical insurance companies just refuse to cover it.")

There's also bad news here. Dr. Zacharia says that "the technique could make the detection of subsequent breast cancer more difficult." Which is clearly not good. It's a bug, not a feature.

So my advice is, Don't be an early adopter. Wait for the kinks to be ironed out.

(hat tip: fee simple)

Click here to read more . . .

February 11, 2007

Yale, the Hooters of the Ivy League

There's been a good deal of speculation recently about why the applications to Yale have been down this year. Some say it had to do with adverse publicity about the former Taliban spokesman who attended Yale, with almost the entire Yale community joining forces to defend the decision to admit him. I seriously doubt this theory. It's a pretty good guess that the prospective student body for Yale is similar in its outlook to the actual student body, and the lure of the Yale name is still strong.

Fortunately, the New York Times is there to bring us up to date on all the goings on at Yale. In a snotty article, which unfortunately is behind the Times Select wall (here for those who have access), my favorite item is about an email message sent around by the Calhoun College master. Apparently, some couple was engaging in non-shower activities in a shower and flooded out the bathroom. Dan Gelernter, a Yale student, complained at "one conservative Web site" that this incident "reflected 'the moral vacuum that has been created by Yale intellectuals,' where 'students seem to be left without even the most basic guidelines for proper and decent behavior.'"

The Times article presented this response in the usual sneering tone reserved for the unenlightened. But here's the Ivy League pitch of the year:

One poster [in response] said Mr. Gelernter should have known what kind of place Yale was before he went there. "Just kinda seems like a guy going to Hooters and complaining about what the women are wearing," he allowed.
Yale is just like Hooters. And that's what its supporters are saying. How grand! Now I really don't understand why the applications are down.

Click here to read more . . .

An explanation for RSS feed weirdness

Those of you who subscribe to my feed may have noticed something strange this morning. A few of my posts from previous weeks have suddenly materialized without any obvious updates.

Late last night, I experimented with modifying a couple of labels on posts written under New Blogger and adding a label to the last post I wrote under Old Blogger. Although Pillagemail picked up the difference and sent out only my one new post, the RSS feed shows these modified posts as new.

There must be a workaround, and I'll have to search for one or else abandon the effort to give labels to Old Blogger posts. If you have a workaround, please email me (pillageidiot -at- hotmail -dot- com) or leave a note in the comments.

IMPORTANT UPDATE: I called on Aditya Mukherjee again, who advised me to create a "pipe" through Yahoo Pipes that organized the feed by publication date and substitute the feed so that my subscribers will get the new feed. I think it works, but if you're getting the feed with older posts at or near the top, please let me know.

Click here to read more . . .

The "shared chewing gum" people get the boot

I've spent a lot of time making fun of the "cucumber people" (later re-named the "wooden phallus people") for their views on the sex ed curriculum in Montgomery County. But maybe it's time to make fun of someone else.

Saturday's Washington Post carries a front-page article on a different facet of the sex ed curriculum: the facet that involves getting kids to share chewing gum. I am absolutely not making this up.

The Post article says:

It was a novel class exercise: Ask a room full of Montgomery County high school students to take turns chewing the same piece of gum.

To demonstrate how sexually transmitted diseases are spread, a visiting speaker invited students to share gum in health classes at four county high schools in December and last month. School officials said a total of about 100 students participated in the lessons, although some declined to chew the gum.

Education and health officials say the gum exercise was unsanitary and should not have happened. The speaker and the clinic, a pregnancy counseling center with a religious orientation, are no longer welcome in Montgomery schools, school officials said.

"It was fine for me, because my best friend and me did it first," said Julia Bellefleur, 15, a Damascus High School sophomore who participated in the exercise. "But it was kind of gross for everyone else. I was just glad I did it first."
Got that?

I've often noted the similarity between sex and chewing gum, haven't you? I mean, you can imagine the following conversation.
Husband: Babe, you're looking great tonight. Wanna . . . chew?

Wife: Not tonight, I've got a headache.


Wife: And besides, your gum is always too soft.
And the Post article has another interesting element of the course: an exercise that involves Russian Roulette, only with laxatives.
Julia said the speaker also asked for volunteers to sample squares of chocolate, one of which, they were told, was actually a laxative. The point was to illustrate the uncertainty of knowing whether one has contracted an STD after a sexual encounter. Four boys volunteered, she said.
Naturally, I checked this story out with my daughter, who took health a couple of years ago at another county high school, which was not named in the article. She confirmed for me that they did the same thing in her class.

The Post notes that the instructor was a representative of a religious pregnancy counseling organization -- people who really should be mature enough to know better -- and says: "One part of the site quotes extensively from the Bible and offers a test 'to see if you're going to Heaven.'" To spare you the trouble of finding this test, I've linked it here.

In case you were wondering, I flunked.

Extra: Here's how the exercise should work, though from a different perspective.

UPDATE: The shared chewing gum demonstration was used for 9 years. That gum must have been awfully moldy.

UPDATE (2/15): Marc Fisher gets it wrong. The problem is not "outsourcing" of sex-ed teaching, nor is the solution leaving it to the "professionals." The professionals are the people who wanted the condom-on-the-cucumber video and who wrote the outrageous anti-religious teacher guide on homosexuality, which the district court invalidated a couple of years ago. Here, the problem is not that a religious group had a "hidden agenda" and should be banned. The problem is simply that this religious group conducted a misguided exercise, about which it didn't inform the schools adequately, and it properly got the boot.

Click here to read more . . .

February 08, 2007

Grossest post of 2007

Via HotAir, watch this video -- unless you're squeamish, in which case, scroll down. Nothing to see here.

If you're a guy, you'll probably be laughing so hard your boss will ask you what you're doing. HotAir commenters are trying to identify the culprit.

From my own collection: What is it with these political guys?

Click here to read more . . .

BDS goes to MetsBlog

Earlier today, Matt Cerrone, proprietor of the invaluable, cited a NY Post article on David Wright's dinner with President Bush. The article noted: "The Mets All-Star third baseman was invited to a 'baseball dinner' along with San Diego's Trevor Hoffman, Toronto's Vernon Wells, Cubs manager Lou Piniella, broadcaster Tim McCarver and journalist George Will." Wright was allowed to bring his father to the White House. The article quoted Wright about how exciting it was to meet and dine with the President and to see the Oval Office.

You won't be surprised to learn, New York being a deep blue state, that Cerrone's readers immediately weighed in with anti-Bush comments. The first was: "Wright shoulda smacked George W. in the head, for the sake of America." And it went down hill from there. My favorite exchange went like this. One commenter: "Unfortunately, most baseball players (and professional athletes in general) seem to be Republican. Remember when Piazza compared meeting Rush Limbaugh to meeting George Washington? I still cringe about that." Next commenter: "amen. if i find out that d-wright is a republican i dont know what im going to do."

Stop rooting for the man, that's what you'll do -- "for the sake of America."

Click here to read more . . .

Liberal anti-semites and their friends

This is old in internet years, an internet year being defined as approximately 12 hours, but it's good. Slate has a quiz to determine whether you are a liberal anti-semite. Take it. (hat tip: A.)

Personally, I scored a big fat zero, but I would, being a neanderthal wingnut and all.

These guys, on the other hand, would probably score off the charts:

Award nominations are generally occasions for exaggerated compliments and air kisses, so it was something of a surprise when Eliot Weinberger, a previous finalist for the National Book Critics Circle award, announced the newest nominees for the criticism category two weeks ago and said one of the authors, Bruce Bawer, had engaged in “racism as criticism.”

The resulting stir within the usually well-mannered book world spiked this week when the president of the Circle’s board, John Freeman, wrote on the organization’s blog ( “I have never been more embarrassed by a choice than I have been with Bruce Bawer’s ‘While Europe Slept,’ he wrote. “It’s hyperventilated rhetoric tips from actual critique into Islamophobia.”
(hat tip: Number One Son)

There's much to love in that short article, but I'd be remiss if I left this out. "Imam Fatih Alev, a board member of the Islamic-Christian Study Center in Copenhagen, has not read Mr. Bawer’s book," but he managed to say exactly the right thing to liberal ears:
“In many senses it is a constructed idea that there is this very severe difference between Western values and Muslim values,” he continued.
What's a little difference of values on beheadings, after all?

Click here to read more . . .

Aviation tip

Here's my aviation tip of the week: If you land your plane on the runway, and you hit a speed bump, what you landed on is probably not the runway.

Bonus: You're 68 years old, not really all that old, but 8 years older than the age limit for American commercial pilots.

(via Fark)

Click here to read more . . .

Anna Nicole Smith, R.I.P.

You've probably been watching CNN's live wall-to-wall coverage of the untimely demise of Ms. Smith today (see also here), which, by the way, is far more coverage than she generally gave to herself.

I actually paid little attention to her during her lifetime. She was in one of the Naked Gun movies, which I watched. But I did write about her twice about her Supreme Court case. The first of the two posts is actually one of my favorite posts -- totally stupid, but in a way I enjoy. It's called "President Cleavage, Part 2," and discusses the burning constitutional question whether Geena Davis, as president, may show cleavage. Anna Nicole makes a late appearance.

Click here to read more . . .

February 07, 2007

Sold on a stereotype?

The Jews, I guess, really do control the world. At least, so the Chinese think -- but in a good way, in a good way: "Sold on a Stereotype / In China, a genre of self-help books purports to tell the secrets of making money 'the Jewish way.'"

Which reminds me of the all-time stupidest joke involving Jews. A Jew traveling in China goes into a diner. Having noticed Jewish symbols on his travels, he asks the proprietor, "Do you have Chinese Jews here?" The proprietor responds, in appropriately accented English, "Apple juice, tomato juice, orange juice, no Chinese Jews."

Click here to read more . . .

No stopping now

For those of you who were wondering whether the standards used to select astronauts were being lowered for women, the recent sad story about Lisa Nowak (a Rockville native, by the way) may show that they were not.

She prepared for the 950-mile drive from Houston with the discipline of someone who had flown 13 days in space. The steel mallet, folding knife and rubber tube were all catalogued on a handwritten list, police say. She had maps, she had bus schedules and she had a disguise. Thinking like an astronaut, she brought diapers to avoid bathroom stops.
The little detail about her using diapers to avoid having to stop has been the subject of jokes that are so dumb even I wouldn't use them. But the key to this detail is that not wanting to stop is a very male characteristic.

A friend once told me about his father's fanaticism on the subject. When he was young, whenever his family went on long car trips, his father would make my friend and his brothers use coffee cans so that they didn't have to stop.

There is a point, however, at which the unwillingness to stop crosses over into sadism. Ms. Novak's mission may be a reflection of a sadistic tendency. But what I was actually thinking of was this: Congressman John Dingell, during the Democrats' previous period in the majority, was known for his abusive hearings in which he mercilessly attacked people he felt were wrongdoers. Once, I've heard -- though I haven't found a written source for this -- he insisted that the hearing continue without break, knowing that all the witnesses would have to squirm for lack of a bathroom break. According to the story, hidden behind the desk, Dingell himself was using a catheter. (I have a source for a similar but less grotesque story about Strom Thurmond's infamous filibuster.)

Click here to read more . . .

Global warming reports cause cold weather

James Taranto once made fun of Al Gore for giving an alarmist speech on global warming when it was extremely cold outside:

Yesterday the erstwhile veep came to New York, where he delivered one of the silliest speeches in American political history. The topic was "global warming," the temperature outside in the single digits. The sheer ludicrousness of warning of warming in the middle of an exceptionally cold winter was widely noted in the press but apparently lost on Gore, who decided against rescheduling his speech so as to make it less preposterous.
Taranto did not say what I will speculate here: that Gore's haranguing about the subject had caused the frigid temperatures.

And sure enough, this past weekend saw the release of an alarmist report on global warming. Since then, it's been incredibly cold.
The ferocious February cold snap turned snowy overnight, dumping one to two inches of crisp, dry flakes -- and a host of school closings -- on a region already struggling with bitter temperatures, broken boilers and burst water pipes.
In fact, one news story reported that "West Virginia called snowplow drivers out of retirement Wednesday as snowstorms and arctic cold blamed for at least 14 deaths hung over much of the Midwest and East."

Coincidence? I think not.

On a slightly more serious note, Robert Samuelson makes the sensible point in the Post today that we should not delude ourselves into thinking that we can solve global warming, without "research and development, focusing on nuclear power, electric batteries, alternative fuels and the capture of carbon dioxide."

My own contribution is to note that no plan to deal with global warming can be taken seriously unless it first tackles the problem of China, a country exempted from the Kyoto accords, which again is refusing to cooperate. As Samuelson notes:
About three-quarters of the increase [in CO2 emissions] is forecast to come from developing countries, two-fifths from China alone. The IEA expects China to pass the United States as the largest source of carbon dioxide by 2009.
There is a tendency to blame the West, and particularly the United States. The U.S. can do the research Samuelson advocates (and any means of marginalizing the oil-producing countries would be sound foreign policy). But it's China more than any other country that will have to adjust its environmental rules.

It won't, and the global warming alarmists are likely to let China get away with it.

UPDATE: Russell Roberts explains why nothing "much is going to happen in the policy arena, other than a few symbolic gestures."

UPDATE (2/8): Al Gore demonstrates his seriousness by saying that China is entitled to wait for the U.S. and other Western countries to address global warming first.
Emerging economies such as China are justified in holding back on fighting greenhouse gas emissions until richer polluters like the United States do more to solve the problem, former Vice President Al Gore said Wednesday.
(via HotAir)

UPDATE (2/13): Tim Blair has caught on to Al Gore's role in this.

Click here to read more . . .

February 06, 2007

More on new template

I've spent a few hours over the past several days fiddling with my new template. After I was forced to switch to New Blogger, I decided to switch to a New-Blogger-compatible template, which happens to look a lot like my old one.

Much as I disliked the way I was forced to switch to New Blogger, I think it's an improvement -- at least in the sense that the template is easier to fool around with. There are still issues with certain types of modifications. For example, you may have noticed that my permalinked pages have a list of "Newest Posts at Pillage Idiot" at the bottom, just as they had in my old template. This is done with FeedDigest, but the implementation in New Blogger was tricky. Not only did I have to figure out where to place the code to put the feed in the right place but I had to add some "if/else" code to make sure it didn't show up at the bottom of my main page. It shows up on archive pages, too, but I haven't figured out yet how to stop that.

I did some research and discovered that you can put the Newer Post/Older Post links at the top of permalinked pages, not just at the bottom, and that you can also change the text. You'll notice my text says "Next Idiotic Post/Previous Idiotic Post." No one has explained to me -- and as far as I can tell, no one has even questioned -- why the "Newer Post" link is on the left and the "Older Post" link is on the right. It seems obvious that older should be on the left and newer on the right. What are we? Israelis? We read from left to right, and older to newer should track that. But, for New Blogger, it doesn't.

So far, my favorite hack, which is still a work in progress, comes from The Last Word. This young Indian blogger named Aditya Mukherjee has a nice hack in which clicking on the labels in a list in your sidebar brings down the titles of the relevant posts, and you can click on them to read the posts. In New Blogger, clicking on a label brings up the complete posts on a new page. The hack I got from The Last Word is far better. There really are some creative people out there.

UPDATE (2/8): Aditya's post suggests using CSS to adjust the layout of the post titles in the hack described above. I know nothing about CSS, except what it is, but I did some guessing here. I remember that I'd removed some CSS code about lists, because the way my template was set up, list items had an orange arrow bullet point and were separated by dotted lines. Fortunately, I'd saved the code in a TXT document, and I guessed about how to apply it to my drop-down list of post titles. It seems to work in Firefox, but not in IE6 or IE7. Go figure. It's the opposite for my extended posts code. The basic code works in both Firefox and IE, but I was able to get the font of the "Click here to read more" text to appear larger and in blue in IE, but not in Firefox, where it's the standard size and link color. I've heard that different browsers render code differently, but maybe this is just something I don't know how to do.

Click here to read more . . .

Mortgage scam, or not?

A federal judge has allowed a class action suit to go forward claiming that Chevy Chase Bank violated the Truth-in-Lending Act when it entered into a mortgage agreement with a Wisconsin couple. Here's a summary of the story:

With college costs looming for their four children, Bryan and Susan Andrews were looking for a way to cut their monthly expenses.

The sales pitch that came in the mail seemed perfect: A mortgage at 1.95 percent, fixed for five years.

"It sounded like a really good program," Susan Andrews recalled recently.

But after the deal closed, in 2004, the couple realized to their horror that the $191,000 loan they got from Bethesda-based Chevy Chase Bank was an adjustable-rate mortgage. The rate has climbed to 8.3 percent and, because of the way the mortgage is structured, the couple now owe more than they did when they signed for the loan.
The libertarian in me says that when you borrow huge sums of money with your house as security, you should pay attention to the details.

But I've heard enough outrageously misleading radio ads for mortgage lenders that I really can understand how someone could get snookered. Here's what allegedly happened in this case:
At the core of the dispute are some words that appeared on the top right corner of a document the lender must provide under the Truth in Lending Act. One line read: "WS Cashflow 5-year fixed," and the line under it said "Note Interest Rate: 1.950%."

The Andrewses said those words led them to believe the loan was a fixed-rate mortgage for five years, at 1.95 percent interest, and that they were reassured of its meaning by the broker at First Mortgage who handled the loan on behalf of Chevy Chase. In fact, the 1.95 percent offer was a teaser rate that lasted one month, and the interest charged on the loan started rising the next month. And the "fixed" feature had nothing to do with the interest rate. Rather, it meant the lowest possible payment stayed the same -- $701 a month -- over five years, although the interest rate rose, with the additional expense deferred to the end of the loan.

"This statement was confusing because although it is true that the payments on the loans were fixed for five years, the interest rate was not," the judge wrote.
And I can't feel too sorry for lenders who use one-month teaser rates, or set up loans where the monthly payments don't even cover the interest, so that the principle of the loan actually increases -- unless they grab the borrowers by the lapels and shake them, saying, "Do you understand what this means?"

So while I'm an economic libertarian in many ways, I don't think we have to let lenders play three-card monte with the borrowers. (Go ahead, kick me out of the club.)

Click here to read more . . .

February 05, 2007

Ralph Nader doesn't not throw hat in ring

You got that right. Doesn't not. The man who may have elected George Bush in 2000 hasn't ruled out another race in 2008.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Former presidential candidate Ralph Nader on Sunday left the door open for another possible White House bid in 2008 and criticized Democratic front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton as "a panderer and a flatterer."

Asked on CNN's Late Edition news program if he would run in 2008, the lawyer and consumer activist said, "It's really too early to say. ... I'll consider it later in the year."

Nader, 72, said he did not plan to vote for Clinton, a Democratic senator from New York and former first lady.

"I don't think she has the fortitude. Actually she's really a panderer and a flatterer. As she goes around the country, you'll see more of that," Nader said.
I really liked the headline: "Nader leaves '08 door open, slams Hillary." The problem with it is that if he's leaving it open, it won't slam Hillary. It would slam her only if he closed it.

And speaking of giving the 2000 election to Bush, here's a flashback: a Village Voice editorial endorsing Nader in 2000.
We survived 12 years of Reagan-Bush, despite their opposition to abortion, and, if need be, we will survive Bush Jr.—if we organize. With the Greens as a major national presence, this sort of organizing becomes more feasible.
The idea was that a vote for Nader would help the Green Party reach the 5% vote required for federal matching funds. I bet these guys have been kicking themselves about it ever since.

Click here to read more . . .

February 03, 2007


If you check in at Pillage Idiot in the next couple of days and it looks strange, it's because I'm in the process of switching to a nearly identical template that works with New Blogger. What it means is that I'm going to have to re-create the changes I made to my old template, and I hope most or all will actually work with it. I suspect it'll take a little time to get my upgrades back in order.

UPDATE: Wow! This is much more complicated than I realized. I get XML errors when I try to modify the new template, and I don't do XML. Installing the Haloscan comments is a more involved process, and the result needs adjustment, but the code is so complicated that I don't know where to start. In short, for now, I'm sticking with the old template. Maybe some other time...

UPDATE: I took another stab at it, and I'm on the way. I had to guess a lot about placement of the HTML code. I had to learn some really rudimentary XML (like the fact that all codes have to have end codes and have to be in order). But I'm making progress, and only a few bugs remain.

Click here to read more . . .

February 01, 2007

"I'll have a double espresso with skim and cleavage"

It's hard to believe it's taken so long for the Hooters approach to take over Seattle coffee shops.

The naughty baristas of Cowgirls Espresso represent a new trend in and around Seattle — perhaps the most caffeinated city in America — and illustrate how cutthroat the competition can be in the hometown of Starbucks, which has multiple coffee shops competing on the same block.

Among the other coffee stands that are showing some skin: Moka Girls in Auburn, The Sweet Spot Cafe in Shoreline, Bikini Espresso in Renton and Natte Latte in Port Orchard.

One recent afternoon, there was a long line of cars at the tiny, black-and-white, cow-painted Cowgirls stand in front of a Tukwila casino.

Candice Law, leaning provocatively out the drive-through window in a black bra that didn't quite cover her shiny purple pasties, and Toni Morgan, wearing a skimpy halter top, see-through red lace panties and chaps, seemed to know every customer.
Go ahead, click through. There's a photo. I know that's why you're here. And, amusingly, there's a place under the photo where it says "Enlarge."

So I did, and here it is:

In case you were wondering about the law, the article advises: "As long as the employees' breasts and buttocks are covered, they aren't breaking the law. And the owners of the stands say they get few complaints." I'll bet they do.

Now, let me be the first to say that this just wouldn't work for me. Half the time, when I go out for coffee, I'm with my wife. The other half of the time, I'm actually trying to work.

Which, really, is quite OK with me. There's something just a little weird about the whole thing.

And the real problem is what this does to the market.
Coffee-stand owner John Cambroto couldn't compete against the bikini-clad women selling espresso up the road.

"We had a much better atmosphere, good coffee. Unfortunately, they ran around half-naked and we didn't," said Cambroto, who finally threw in the towel last spring and sold his business to his rival, the operator of six Cowgirls Espresso stands in the Seattle suburbs.
I guess that's life in a capitalist society. After all, at some point Cowgirls is going to have to throw in the towel itself, only it probably will just throw in the bikini.

And that may well be the best time to grab an espresso.

Click here to read more . . .

Another Blogger outage

I went to try to find out why I stopped getting site visitors this morning around 9 a.m. EST, and I got this error message: bX-vjhbsj. At the Google Help groups, everyone and his mother was complaining about the same message. No one had a good solution. But at least I understood the error. It's Google-speak for "YOU ARE bX-vjhbsjED!"

The thing I don't understand is why all of you, having seen this error, weren't inundating me with emails begging me to get it fixed, or even alerting me to it. Hmmm?

Finally, from Google: "We have identified the source of this error and will push the fix to the site shortly."

Click here to read more . . .