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Wednesday, April 2, 2008

I'm 21 and addicted to pot -- but I'm doing just great!

Since You Asked

It seems you have a soft spot for addicts -- understandably so. Well, I'm writing to you because I'm having a bit of a problem with an addiction -- I just can't seem to stop smoking pot. I know, I know, marijuana doesn't really count ... It always makes me think of the joke in "Half Baked" -- I'm not out there sucking dick for weed! -- and that, I think, is part of my problem.

I've become dependent on this drug, and I'm thriving. I'm a 21-year-old student, in my final year at a reasonably challenging liberal arts college. I've been plagued with stress my entire academic career (late nights in the library, occasional experiments with academic performance enhancers to get everything done, the usual drill), except for my senior year, which is supposed to be my most stressful because we have a required senior thesis and there are very high expectations that we will perform on almost graduate-school levels. It's an intense and rigorous school, and for the first time in my life I feel like I'm handling it well, excelling even. I'm keeping up with all of my course work in addition to producing what is shaping up to be a pretty well-thought-out senior thesis. Best of all, I've been keeping a reasonable work schedule -- again, for the first time ever -- and I've been able to spend a significant amount of time relaxing.

And there is the problem. While I've been doing this, I've also been almost constantly high. I mean, I still maintain certain boundaries -- I never go to an academic class and don't normally work while high -- but my free time, the ultimate thing that is keeping me sane through a very stressful academic time, has been entirely spent smoking pot. Well, that and watching science-fiction television. While I've always been an occasional smoker, I've never smoked this amount -- it really is almost constant, usually starting at night, but sometimes, like today, I'll smoke a joint after I wake up, a way of enhancing my morning ritual of checking the Internet and washing my face -- not specifically time I would be productive is how I rationalize it to myself when I do these things. It's getting to be kind of an expensive habit, but I don't go out and spend money elsewhere like I used to – I mostly cook simple meals at home, and I have stopped shopping (something I think I used to do compulsively when I was stressed, because I used to buy a lot of things I never ended up wearing).

I'm maintaining good relationships with people who matter to me, people it's hard and complicated work staying on good terms with (a pantheon of exes, pretty much), and occasionally making time for people outside my immediate social circle. I don't go out all the time, because I've become more or less anti-social, but I do still go spend time with several people. Plus my thesis takes me out of the house to do research. So I'm not becoming some stoned shut-in. All in all I think I'm doing really well. School's great, my personal life is great, I'm taking better care of myself than I ever have before (we're talking real adult stuff; I floss and wash my face twice a day!). I even quit drinking six months ago, a drug that really does turn me into an unpleasant person (a lot of tears and uncomfortable statements -- it really was necessary). I'm just smoking all the time. That's the one, the only, problem.

Am I deluding myself because I'm stoned all the time? Honestly, that's my first thought. But things really are going that well. I can tell because I still get upset by things, I still do have days where I cry about my thesis or whatever, but I tend to move on from those moments pretty quickly. But those are the times that I smoke the most, or when I'll break my will and smoke at a weird time of day. It's just something I feel is helping me right now. Should I feel wrong for this? Weak? I do have moments when I'm reminded that I smoke way too much, and I feel guilty. But there's nothing driving me to quit; honestly, I haven't even tried. It could be the easiest thing ever, and this crisis could be unnecessary, but other than some vague concerns about my health and the future, and a bit about how my parents would feel if they ever found out, I'm not overly interested in stopping right now. Cutting down, definitely, and I've been working on that recently. It's not like I plan to do this forever -- once I graduate, I'm moving, possibly to another country where this sort of reckless behavior wouldn't be tolerated. So I'm just hanging on to it for the time being.

I guess my question is: Is that OK? I feel all right. Better than all right. Is that enough? I mean, presuming I don't care about the possible heath side effects (I'm a smoker anyways, so I clearly have an abusive relationship with my body) -- that isn't my issue. I'm concerned about the dependence. I've been considering talking to a counselor at school, but it just seems so silly when things are going so well, overall. So, I thought I'd ask you.

School Toker

Dear School Toker,

I do have a soft spot for addicts, don't I? But is it so apparent that you would say, "Understandably so"? Do I exude the aroma?

I guess I do. I'll always want to go out behind the library and smoke some weed. But it just stopped working for me. I couldn't "maintain." Plus it was all tied together: If I smoke pot, I need a beer. If I have a beer, I need a cigarette. It's all tied together. I had to quit.

I do admire people who could make it all the way through college and graduate school stoned! But it does seem to catch up with you.

One reason is that while it is one way to handle stress, it's often not the best way to handle stress. When you get high, you're handling the immediate stress, but you're not dealing with what's causing the stress.

That might be OK if it was a one-time event. Say you nearly get hit by a car. You could smoke a joint and say, Wow, I feel better now, thanks, do you have any oranges?

But a lot of stress comes from ongoing situations. Say you have a court date.

Court is the worst place to be stoned -- except for funerals. Court is bad and pot makes it worse. You know how the taste of an orange or Milky Way bar is magnified by the high? So the unpleasantness of lawyers and judges is magnified by the high. It is a thing to be avoided.

So once you get stoned you stand a good chance of blowing off your court date.

It is axiomatic that the blowing off of a court date leads to stress increases.

So here is an idea. Diversify. Don't get all hung up on the idea that you have to stop smoking pot. Instead, start gathering stress-reducing techniques that you can use in cases where getting stoned won't do. What you need is a repertoire.

Branch out. Do some research. Look into meditation. Meditation can relax you quickly, make your mind feel refreshed, help you focus. In fact, I'm going to go meditate for five minutes right now.

OK, I'm back. I'm not stoned. My mouth isn't dry. But the world looks a little brighter. I just meditated for five minutes. If I have to appear in court, I think I can do it. Not that I have any warrants. Not that I am the kind of person who would have warrants. I'm just saying, if.

Build other stress-reducing things into your life. Yoga is good. Breathing is good. A few deep breaths can work wonders. There are many stress-reducing techniques. Build a repertoire.

Then, once you have some other tools to use for stress reduction, maybe you will want to look at your marijuana dependence. You could start by substituting other methods and see if it doesn't balance out a little.

One more thing. Concerning marijuana and funerals. These are words to live by: Never get high before a funeral.

Original here

Why do people steal birds' eggs?

RSPB's Mark Thomas was stunned by the size of Pearson's collection

To most of us, eggshells are the remnants of an English breakfast or something to paint on Easter morning. But to a small group of collectors, they are a dangerous and unlawful obsession. Why do they steal rare birds' eggs?

When police raided the home of Richard Pearson, they found one of the largest egg hauls ever recovered.

More than 7,000 eggs, including 653 belonging to the UK's most protected species such as a red-necked phalarope, were discovered in his Cleethorpes family home.

Officers also found 59 dead birds in a freezer in his garage and dozens of diaries detailing where and when he had found the eggs.

They seized equipment such as a rubber dinghy, waders, climbing spikes, syringes, cameras and sat-nav systems, all used to amass such a huge collection over a 20-year period. Pearson, 41, was sentenced to 23 weeks in prison.

Richard Pearson
Unusually, Pearson kept his haul at home

Birds take care where they lay their eggs - deliberately choosing tricky-to-reach spots such as crags, cliffs, marshes, trees and rooftops, to build their nests and protect their young from predators.

For Pearson and others like him, it's about the thrill of the chase - of outsmarting the birds, the wardens and the authorities, to track down that nest, to take the eggs, dispense with the living material inside, to proudly carry home the trophy and add it to the secret collection.

Mark Thomas, an investigations officer for the RSPB, says it's driven by compulsion, not greed.

"There's no real monetary value," he says. "It's a bit of a misconception that these eggs are worth thousands of pounds on the black market - that's not the case at all. It's a trophy."

The egg represents the memory of the daring expedition that produced it - up to Scotland, over moors, abseiling down cliffs to reach nests. And this mission is often well-documented, despite the risk of recording their crimes.

Ospreys' eggs stolen by Pearson
7,130 wild bird eggs, 653 from highly protected species
59 dead birds in freezer in garage, 21 of which had been shot dead
Rubber dinghy, waders, climbing spikes, syringes, cameras and sat-nav systems
Data cards and diaries
Messages from Colin Watson, infamous egg collector who fell to his death stealing eggs in 2006

"In the Pearson case, classic example, he's got 15 years' worth of diaries telling us exactly where he's been, what species he's looked at," says Mr Thomas.

"He's then taken photographs of himself at the nest location, photographs of the nests, photographs of some of the birds, so it's all documented in his diaries".

Even though only a handful of people have been convicted for egg collecting, they have a lot in common.

"They tend to be aged between about 25 and 45, they're generally male - only men have ever been convicted," he says.

"They tend to come from a working class background - typically factory workers, roofers, builders and decorators, many have had multiple convictions. The same names come up year on year on year."

Stuck on cliffs

Tony, which is not his real name, is a self-confessed egger. He's been collecting eggs for more than 30 years and had his house raided several times.

"My introduction to bird nesting was as long back as I can remember," he tells BBC's Radio 5 Live. "My dad collected birds' eggs, his dad collected birds' eggs."

I don't feel any guilt as regards to cruelty to the birds, because it's almost a blood sport without the blood
Egg thief Tony

Growing up, there were at least three gangs of boys collecting eggs from the hedgerows, he says, and this nurtured his own craving to collect every bird's egg in the country.

"It's very challenging, it's not easy to do, it involves all sorts of tree climbing, cliff climbing, long walks.

"The desire to get there overrides everything, to the point where I got stuck several times. I've been stuck on cliffs for an hour at a time.

"I get excited by the oncoming spring because I just start to notice things. I notice when the birds start singing after being quiet all winter, I notice the first birds that start building nests."

Even at football matches, he says, he would hear a bird sing on top of the stand.


And although he concedes it's not cool or fashionable - in fact, it exposes you to ridicule - he maintains it's not damaging to the birds because they replace the eggs and build another nest.

"I don't feel any guilt as regards to cruelty to the birds, because it's almost a blood sport without the blood. It's a crime without consequences."

Many collectors rent lock-up garages or storage spaces, and specimens have been found stored in attics, basements, under floorboards, and even hidden in wall cavities. Some collectors bury hoards near nesting sites.

Pearson had not attracted attention, so was confident enough to keep his eggs in his house with his family, which made the job of the RSPB easier.

His collection included eggs from choughs, peregrine falcons, barn owls, golden eagles, ospreys, and nearly 40 black-necked-grebe's eggs. The RSPB estimates there are only between 40 and 60 breeding pairs of black-necked grebes in the UK.

It says Pearson's actions stopped these birds from breeding and for the golden eagle, each clutch represents their only offspring for that year.

Honey buzzard
A dead honey buzzard was found at Pearson's home

Egg collectors like Pearson are usually tracked down using a sophisticated network of inside information, from collectors, partners, friends, bird watchers or wardens.

His collection will probably go to a natural history museum and Mr Thomas hopes this discovery will be one of the last of its size, because as the law strengthened, more collectors have been jailed.

"So whereas 10 years ago we might have two to three hundred reports per bird breeding season of egg collector activity, now that's right down to maybe 50 reports in a typical year."

But he worries that some of the hard-core collectors are simply going abroad to target very rare birds such as the Spanish imperial eagle.

Add your comments on this story, using the form below.

Very interesting story. More so than usual, as the information received by way of diaries etc could be very important to the RSPB in looking at facts figures and trends over the years. Great work in tracking him down. Even though he has done untold damage over the years, I'm sure he probably has a love of birds, as a good deal of birders are ex egg-collectors as well (although not usually to this scale I'm glad to say). He could be very helpful to the RSPB, and I think he should be encouraged to try and mend his ways not only by the sentence given, but by working alongside the RSPB in order for them to learn from each other.
Spuggy, Newcastle

I think it's unfair to steal a bird's egg. How would you feel if someone stole the embryo of a future child straight from your womb? Also this is a terrible crime, adding to the risk of extinction to many rare birds. He should be ashamed.
Emma Halton, Plymouth, England

It's amazing that our society can track down and imprison someone for a minor infringement, whilst allowing terrorists and other criminals to walk our streets. How many people feel any safer now this person is behind bars?
David Smith, Scunthorpe

The man's an obsessive nut. To declare that what he's doing is 'not damaging to the birds' shows his complete lack of appreciation of the consequences of his actions. Even if the birds do return to the nest and do lay another egg - he has nevertheless destroyed the chick in the egg he's taken. That fact is inescapable. Further to that he boasts that his father and grandfather have been doing the same for years. The man should hang his head in shame for all the wanton destruction to embryonic wildlife he's caused. It's a huge pity he's not focussed his considerable 'sleuthing' talents in a more worthwhile direction.
Susie Q, Cheshire

Could not these people, whenever in the year they are arrested, be sent to prison from say, mid-February to mid-June, so that the breeding birds are protected when they are at their most vulnerable? When given, for example, a 12-month sentence the thieves could be made to serve their time in three instalments over a three-year period.
Mick Marchant, Tenterden UK

Original here

Giant, hippie-hating, cannibalistic squids attack SF Bay Area

Oh, alright, I made up the hippie-hating part, but they do exhibit "cannibalistic" behavior, and they are quite large. Mexican fisherman call them "red devils."

Here in the US, we call them Humboldt Squids, and here's a short video about an ongoing invasion, from QUEST, a science show produced by San Francisco's PBS affiliate station.

A mysterious sea creature up to 7 feet long, with 10 arms, a sharp beak and a ravenous appetite, has invaded ocean waters off Northern California. Packs of fierce Humboldt Squid attack nearly everything they see, from fish to scuba divers. Marine biologists are working to discover why they've headed north from their traditional homes off South America.

Original here

Celebrity Drug Busts

Bon Jovi guitarist Richie Sambora is the latest in a rash of celebrities charged with DUI. What other celebrities have suffered public or legal embarrassment for being under the influence of drugs or alcohol?

Alan Alda: Slightly dazed from a combination of Chablis and Flonase, Alda accidentally understated his interest income on Form 1040 Schedule B.

Charlie Rose: Video evidence shows Rose has been on ecstasy during every interview he's conducted since 1991.

Arianna Huffington: "Wooed" incessantly as an audience member during a taping of The Daily Show, even during the show's interview portion.

Amy Winehouse: Jaywalking.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke: Lowered interest rates to negative 7.3 percent.

Drug Busts

Willie Nelson: Bought another ounce of marijuana from the same undercover cop who busted him a month earlier.

Al Gore: Staggered into middle of the street, stopping traffic while he flipped off the sun.

Dame Judi Dench: Bar fight. Again.

Original here

The 5 Most Ridiculous Lies You Were Taught In History Class

High school was hard enough, what with all the video games and boobies to distract us from our homework. What makes it even harder is having to unlearn all of the stuff they taught us in elementary school that turned out to be utter bullshit.

To this day you can even hear some adults repeating these "amazing" historical tales that, years ago, somebody just pulled out of their ass:

Columbus Discovered the Earth is Round

The story we heard:
In 1492, a Spanish ponce by the name of Christopher Columbus won his long-standing feud with the monarchy and the Catholic church to get funding for a voyage to East Asia. They were afraid that he would fail spectacularly, because everybody knew that the Earth was a flat disc, and the direction Columbus was sailing in would cause him to fall off the edge and into the mouth of the giant turtle that supported it.

Columbus, as we were told, did fail to reach his destination, but not because the world was flat--it was because he crashed into the future greatest nation on Earth, baby! Thus, Columbus proved the world was round, discovered America, and a national holiday was born.

The truth:
In the 1400s, the flat-earth theory was taken about as seriously as the Time Cube theory is today, if not less so. The shape of the world has been pretty much settled since the orb theory was first proposed by the ancient Greek philosopher Pythagoras, around 2,000 years before the existence of Spain.

In fact, the navigational techniques of Columbus' time were actually based on the fact that the Earth was a sphere. Trying to navigate the globe as if it was a flat plane would have fucked up the trip even more than it was.

Artists' representation

The Spanish government's reluctance to pay for Columbus' expeditions didn't have anything to do with their misconceptions about the shape of the world. Ironically, it was because Columbus himself severely underestimated the size of the Earth and everybody knew it. The distance he planned to travel wouldn't have taken him anywhere near Asia. Nevertheless, he eventually scraped together enough funds to embark on his ridiculous adventure, and the clusterfuck that was the Columbus voyage has been celebrated annually in the Americas and in Spain ever since.

So where did the myth come from? It began with author and historical charlatan Washington Irving, who wrote a novel about Columbus in 1838. The novel was fiction, but some elements managed to creep into our history textbooks anyway, probably by some editors who wanted to spice it up a bit. Who's going to read a history book that's just filled with a bunch of boring shit anyway?

Einstein Flunked Math

The story we heard:
Motivational speakers love to tell this tale, inspiring underachievers with the story of this German kid who was just like you! Despite his sincerest efforts he could never manage to do well in his math exams, and struggled desperately with physics while working as a lowly patent clerk.

That muddled kid grew up to be Albert Fucking Einstein! And if he can do it, then so can you!

The truth:
Well, no you can't. As it turns out, Einstein was a mathematical prodigy, and before he was 12, he was already better at arithmetic and calculus than you are now. Einstein was in fact so fucking smart that he believed school was holding him back, and his parents purchased advanced textbooks for him to study from. Not only did he pass math with flying colors, it's entirely possible that he was actually teaching the class by the end of semester.

The idea that Einstein did badly at school is thought to have originated with a a 1935 Ripley's Believe it or Not! trivia column.

Not the actual column

There's actually a good reason why it's a bad idea to include Robert Ripley among the references in your advanced university thesis. The famous bizarre trivia "expert" never cited his sources, and the various "facts" he presented throughout his career were an amalgamation of things he thought he read somewhere, heard from somebody, or pulled out of his ass. The feature's title probably should have been: Believe it or Not! I Get Paid Either Way, Assholes.

When he was first shown this supposed expose of his early life, Einstein allegedly just laughed, and probably went on to solve another 12 mysteries of quantum physics before dinner. By the time he finally kicked the bucket in 1955, it's entirely possible that "failure" was the one concept that Albert Einstein had never managed to master.

Of course, this just reaffirms what we have always suspected, deep down: success really is decided at birth, and your life will never be better than it is right now. Sorry about that.

Newton and the Apple

The story we heard:
You've probably heard of Isaac Newton. He's pretty much the Jesus of physics. In the late 17th century, Newton practically fucking invented science. The discoveries we can thank him for include the laws of motion, the visible spectrum, the speed of sound, the law of cooling, and calculus. Yes, all of goddamn calculus. One wonders if anybody in history ever had a thought before Newton.

Probably his most famous discovery, however, is the law of gravity. The story goes that Newton, a modest mathematician and professor of physics, was sitting under the shade of an apple tree one sunny day, when an apple dropped from a branch and bopped him right on the head.

While most people would merely think "Ouch! Son of a bitch!" and stare warily upward for 10 minutes, Newton's first instinct was to formulate the entire set of universal laws governing the motion of gravitating bodies, a theory so sound that it went unchallenged and unmodified for over 200 years.

The truth:
Newton never mentioned the thing with the apple, and in fact it was another guy named John Conduitt who first told the story some 60 years after it supposedly happened. Even then, he was decisively vague about whether Newton actually saw an apple, or whether the apple is a metaphor that he used to illustrate the idea of gravity for people less intelligent than he was (read: everybody):

"Whilst he was musing in a garden it came into his thought that the power of gravity (which brought an apple from the tree to the ground) was not limited to a certain distance from the earth but that this power must extend much further."

You'll notice that even then we don't get the thing with the apple actually hitting Newton in the head, it got added somewhere along the line to add the element of cartoonish slapstick to his genius life.

Future versions will say that Newton then vomited in agony.

We like to think complex discoveries happen this way, with a sudden light bulb popping on over our head. Kind of makes it seem like it could happen to us one day, the next great idea will just occur to us while we're wasting the afternoon on a park bench. In reality, Newton spent the best part of his life formulating and perfecting his theories.

When we have kids, we're going to tell them the truth, dammit. Just Newton, hunched over his piles of papers covered with clouds of tiny numbers. Just months and years of tedious, grinding, silent, lonely work, until he had a nervous breakdown and finally died years later, insane from Mercury poisoning. Welcome to the real world, Timmy.

Washington and the Cherry Tree

The story:
It's a parable that resonates through every primary school student's retelling of the life and times of the man who was both America's first president, and the only president to also have been a superhero.

As a child, we were told, George Washington came into possession of a hatchet, and went about his days chopping the shit out of everything he saw. One day he came upon his father's prize cherry tree, and without so much as a second thought he chopped that sucker down, presumably because it was a Monarchist. Upon being quizzed by his father about the event, Washington proudly admitted that he had been the culprit, due to his inability to lie. The story was later loosely adapted to film with Jim Carrey in the leading role.

The truth:
In a fairly cynical culture, George Washington has still been elevated to the status of some kind of deity, thanks in part to a man named Mason Locke Weems. He was the author of the unfortunately titled biography "The Life of George Washington, with Curious Anecdotes Laudable to Himself and Exemplary to his Countrymen." This was the shortest title his editors could persuade him to agree to.

Weems recalled many fantastic stories about Washington, with particular emphasis on his overwhelming moral fortitude and infallibility. The cherry tree story is of particular importance, because it demonstrates that Washington can easily destroy things, and just chooses not to.

According to Weems, "at the sight of him, even those blessed spirits seem[ed] to feel new raptures." That's right, when the angels learned of the existence of George Washington, they began to second-think their allegiance to their much less powerful leader, God. Curiously, Weems waited until Washington was dead before publishing his anecdotes.

As it turns out, if Washington was indeed incapable of lying, then Mason Weems was surely his exact nemesis, seeing as his recounting of Washington's exploits were about as historically accurate as the 1999 Civil War documentary Wild Wild West.

Nevertheless, Weems' pack of lies were taught as fact in American school textbooks for over a century, probably because they are much more enthralling than the true story of a man who, by more reliable accounts, was actually a bland, boring and uncharismatic everyman who just happened to be taller than average, and pretty good at warring. The story still resonates today, delivered to your children's impressionable minds through such reliable media as Sesame Street.

Why does this bullshit story survive? Perhaps because the central message still resonates: "It's much easier to tell the truth when you're the one holding the ax."

Benjamin Franklin, the Kite and the Thunderstorm

The story:
Another great American hero to whom many seem to attribute mutant superpowers is Ben Franklin, the scientist and statesman whose inventions included bifocal spectacles, the urinary catheter and freedom. He was particularly interested in electricity, and faced with intense skepticism from his colleagues about his theory that lightning is electricity, legend has it that he conducted an experiment to prove them wrong.

Franklin, with a knowing wink, went out into a raging thunderstorm and released a kite with a lightning rod affixed to the top and a metal key attached to the string. When the kite had annoyed the face of God to the point that he threw a bolt of lightning at it, the charge passed down the string and into the key, and when Franklin touched the key, it let off a spark of static, which somehow allowed him to discover electricity.

The truth:
It's certainly true that Franklin at least proposed a kite experiment. Less certain, however, is whether or not he ever actually got around to performing it, and some sources suggest he did not. What is certain is that the experiment had nothing to do with lightning. If someone flew a kite into a storm, and it was struck by lightning, there's a good chance that person would be utterly destroyed. In fact, everyone in the vicinity would at the least suffer from hairless-scalp syndrome.

Many people today who believe the amended story of Franklin's kite experiment grew up immersed in the revisionist history of Walt Disney, whose classic cartoon Ben and Me portrayed Franklin not only as having flown the kite in a thunderstorm, but also having been a complete fucking jerk.

While few people still believe that all of Franklin's innovations are actually attributable to his pet mouse, the kite story is still widely accepted despite the unfortunate testimonies of anyone who's ever been stupid enough to replicate it.

The reality of Franklin's experiment is that it simply involved flying a kite into some clouds to collect a few harmless ions, in order to prove that the atmosphere carries a charge. It is through Franklin's discoveries that science was able to infer, later on, that lightning probably has something to do with electricity.

The idea that his kite was actually directly struck by a bolt of lightning is a rather dramatic exaggeration perpetuated by some school textbooks, which also helpfully serves to convince generations of children that getting hit by lightning is not only totally harmless, but scientific fun!

It also, like the Newton apple thing, takes one of history's great geniuses and portrays them experiencing childlike wonder at some now-common idea, as if everyone who lived before the 20th century was a childlike simpleton.

Why can't there be some other legend about him, one closer to his real personality? Like the time he pleasured six women at once. Sure, we made that up. But if you go out and repeat it enough, it'll be in the textbooks by 2050. Let's try it.

S Peter Davis runs the exceedingly adequate The illustrations in the article were by Nedroid of fame.

If you liked that, you'll probably enjoy reading about more bullshit your mom tried to pull on you in 5 Common Body Myths Debunked. Or, enjoy S Peter Davis's tour through the The History of the Sitcom. And be sure to find out how the latest Vogue cover manages to be the most racist masturbation fodder since Paris Hilton became too skanky to excite us anymore.

Original here

Fear of messing up may cause whites to avoid blacks

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Democratic consultant Donna Brazile brought home America’s reluctance to talk openly about race in a New York Times article that preceded the Barack Obama speech that now has the whole nation buzzing. In essence, she said in her quote, any serious discussion about race has the effect of clearing a room.

Brazile’s remark and the presidential hopeful’s groundbreaking speech about a subject that politicians generally tiptoe around in public hint at the complexities of race relations in America today. As we approach the second decade of the 21st century, research shows that many Americans feel anxious during interracial interactions whether or not race is even mentioned.

Now a provocative new study from Northwestern University suggests that whites who are particularly worried about appearing racist seem to suffer from anxiety that instinctively may cause them to avoid interaction with blacks in the first place.

“The Threat of Appearing Prejudiced and Race-based Attentional Biases,” by Jennifer A. Richeson, associate professor of psychology and African-American studies and faculty fellow at the Institute for Policy Research (IPR) at Northwestern, and Sophie Trawalter, post-doctoral fellow, IPR, recently appeared in the journal Psychological Science.

Study participants indicated that they worry about inadvertently getting in trouble for somehow seeming biased. As a result, the study suggests, they behaved in a way that research shows people respond when faced with stimuli that cause them to feel threatened or anxious: they instinctively look at what is making them feel nervous and then ignore it.

In this case, study participants, 15 white college students, indicated that they were motivated to respond in non-prejudiced ways toward blacks primarily for appearance’s sake because of concern about social disapproval -- rather than because of their internal values.

They then took a standard psychological test that measures attention patterns related to anxiety provoking or threatening stimuli. The white students initially focused on images of black faces with neutral expressions, relative to white faces with similar expressions, and then quickly disengaged and paid greater attention to the white faces.

Participants who were selected for the study first had to complete a Motivation to Respond Without Prejudice Scale. Those who were selected had scores that indicated that they were externally, rather than internally, motivated to not appear racially biased. On a one-to-nine scale, they rated their agreement with statements that included: “Because of today’s politically correct standards, I try to appear non-prejudiced toward black people.”

They then participated in a computer test that featured in all the trials a black face and a white face, with either similar neutral expressions or similar happy expressions. Theoretically, they shouldn’t have paid attention to either of the two faces, one black and one white, appearing on either side of the computer screen, because they were told to keep their attention fixated on a cross in the middle of the screen. But, as expected, they inevitably turned their attention to the faces. Because everything happened so fast, however, they weren’t aware that they had paid different amounts of attention to black faces, compared to the white faces.

When a dot appeared on the computer screen where one of the faces had previously appeared, they had to quickly say whether it appeared on the right or the left side of the fixation point. Finding the dot the fastest was an indication that attention had been directed to the face that had just disappeared from the position where the dot was displayed.

For the shorter trials (30 milliseconds) with the neutral faces, study participants tended to find the dot quickly when it was located behind the black face, which tended to be the initial focus of attention.

During the slightly longer trials (450 milliseconds), however, the dot-probe test indicated that they tended to quickly turn their attention away from the neutral black face to the white face with the same expression.

“Think of it as initially turning your attention to something that poses a threat or causes anxiety and then ignoring it because you don’t want to deal with it,” said Richeson. “These low-level psychological processes happen dynamically, and our tests indicate that people probably avoided the neutral black faces because they provoke anxiety, not necessarily because of racial animus.”

Patterns of attentional biases were eliminated when the faces were smiling. Well-established clinical and cognitive psychology research shows that people process expressions of emotion quickly, and presumably black male faces with smiling expressions did not seem threatening or provoke anxiety.

The article cites a similar study that tested how children with chronic pain responded to pain-relevant words. In short trials, they tended to look at the pain-relevant words, and in the longer trials they avoided them.

Richeson’s study draws from a body of such clinical psychology research on threat and attention. Basically, that research shows that people who have anxiety about various stimuli in everyday life tend to ignore what is stressing them out, unlike people with clinical anxiety, who tend to fixate on what triggers their anxiety.

Richeson stresses in every class she teaches on stereotyping and prejudice that a solution to a problem often presents another problem. Ironically, her study suggests, standards to create a diverse yet harmonious society may unwittingly be encouraging anxious responses toward blacks.

“Norms and standards to achieve diversity are a great solution to undermining racial bias,” Richeson said. “Our research suggests that we now also need to start thinking about creating opportunities to undermine anxieties about living up to those standards, to let people know they are going to be okay if they engage in interracial relationships.”

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Star Pass Pool Party Fight

Lessons from the zoo – applied in the bedroom

In the little, private zoo known as marriage, it helps to remind yourself that you and your partner are just two bipedal primates trying to get along in intimate co-habitation.

The trick, it turns out, is all in the training.

That's what Amy Sutherland discovered, and she didn't even have to learn to crack a whip.

Blame it on Shamu, the killer whale. “I was inspired by watching how they teach killer whales to do incredible behaviours, to leap out of the water on command,” Ms. Sutherland says over lunch recently in Toronto. “Think about it, they are the top predators in the ocean, and trainers can ride them. They can have a good relationship with them.”

Which caused her to ponder the world's oldest marital issue: How to train her husband, Scott, to pick up his dirty laundry off the floor.

A former journalist who wrote about food and the arts for local papers in Vermont and Maine, Ms. Sutherland submitted a column for the popular Modern Love feature in The New York Times about how animal-training techniques improved her marriage. She did it to support her book, Kicked, Bitten and Scratched, about an exotic animal training school in California. The response was overwhelming. Within days, publishers had tracked her down. Reporters from around the world were requesting interviews. The Today show invited her to appear.

You'd think she had made an earth-shattering discovery. Maybe she had: Humans are animals, too.

She promptly wrote a new book, What Shamu Taught Me About Life, Love and Marriage. Hollywood producers swooped in for the rights and snatched up her animal-training book as well. Actress Naomi Watts is set to star in the story about a young woman who works as an animal trainer during the day and applies her techniques on her love interest in the off-hours.

Progressive animal trainers have simple rules. Reward the behaviour you want. Ignore the behaviour you don't want. Ms. Sutherland learned that positive reinforcement – and more important, the art of saying nothing when something displeased her – worked like magic.

Her husband of 14 years, whom she met when they both worked for the Burlington Free Press in Vermont, had a few annoying habits, she explains. When he misplaced his keys, a common occurrence in their household, he would work himself up into a lather. She would often participate in his agitation, as he stomped around searching. But when she ignored him, they were both better off. No arguments erupted. Eventually, he would stride into the kitchen to announce he had located his keys. Standing at the sink, with her back to him, she would say gently over her shoulder, “Great, see you later.”

He is also an avid biker, and tends to leave a heap of stinky exercise gear on the bathroom floor. When she nagged him about the habit, he would suffer from the convenient affliction known as “spousal deafness.” She decided to take a cue from the dolphin trainers. She became more patient. He did get around to picking it up, and when he did, she thanked him.

She applied the technique to other aspects of their shared life. Instead of bugging him to shave more often, she silenced herself. When he drove too fast, she made sure her seatbelt was fastened and her lips buttoned. When he did shave, she made a point of complimenting him. When he drove slower, she expressed gratitude. “He basked in my growing appreciation” she writes. Like most animals, he tends to repeat the behaviours that prompt praise.

“It's refreshing to think simply, to boil things down to just behaviour instead of always big psychological things,” the 49-year-old says. She and her husband had briefly gone to marriage therapy at their five-year mark. “We were never in big danger. For us, it was the sort of thing that happens to a lot of people, just the general wear and tear on a relationship, all these kinds of slightly negative, squabbly interactions.”

Ms. Sutherland acknowledges that many people use such techniques without being schooled in the art of animal training. “Teachers, parents, good bosses, a lot of people didn't have to go to the zoo to figure this out, but I did,” she says.

Dressed in a business-like suit, Ms. Sutherland is highly professional, well-trained in the practice of answering questions directly and making sure that she is being clear. “Does that sound like crazy talk?” she asks after confessing that the lasting insight she had gained is that “we are part of the web of life.”

But beneath the tidy grooming, she is as enthusiastic as a golden retriever, bounding off on tangents and making jokes about her work. “I am cannibalizing my own life. There's not going to be anything left,” she says. Was she nervous about how to turn a 1,700-word article into a book? “Oh yeah,” she guffaws. “I was scared to death.”

She is not afraid to bark a few opinions. Of criticism from men that the book suggests a scary, postfeminist world in which women house-train their partners like pets, she says, “I'm disappointed by it. I would like some fresh criticism … People boil [the book] down to something it's not, and also they misunderstand. I've used these principles to improve my marriage. I did not train Scott to sit and stay. People don't get it because they are not aware that animal training has changed. Trainers use it as communication. It's not a dominant relationship; it's a respectful relationship.”

Still, I notice that she reins herself in during exchanges with the waiter, maintaining a calm, professional demeanour.

Which may be because she understands the consequences of annoying her server. She once worked as a waitress, and if a customer snapped at her, whined or drank too much, she would say nothing but, secretly, in the kitchen, she would exact her revenge. For them, she would purposely pour coffee into mugs that had dried up globs of clam chowder stuck to the bottom. “I'd be sure to keep their cups topped off, appearing extra attentive, so that they would not see what lurked at the bottom,” she writes in her book.

She may not have understood the animal-training principle at work back then. But now she does. Punishment can provoke unwanted behaviours.

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Cops: 3rd-graders aimed to hurt teacher

WAYCROSS, Ga. - A group of third-graders plotted to attack their teacher, bringing a broken steak knife, handcuffs, duct tape and other items for the job and assigning children tasks including covering the windows and cleaning up afterward, police said Tuesday.

The plot by as many as nine boys and girls at Center Elementary School in south Georgia was a serious threat, Waycross Police Chief Tony Tanner said.

"We did not hear anybody say they intended to kill her, but could they have accidentally killed her? Absolutely," Tanner said. "We feel like if they weren't interrupted, there would have been an attempt. Would they have been successful? We don't know."

The children, ages 8 and 9, were apparently mad at the teacher because she had scolded one of them for standing on a chair, Tanner said. A prosecutor said they are too young to be charged with a crime under Georgia law.

School officials alerted police Friday after a pupil tipped off a teacher that a girl had brought a weapon to school, Tanner said.

Police seized a broken steak knife, handcuffs, duct tape, electrical and transparent tape, ribbons and a crystal paperweight from the students, who apparently intended to use them against the teacher, Tanner said.

Nine children have been given discipline up to and including long-term suspension, said Theresa Martin, spokeswoman for the Ware County school system. She would not be more specific but said none of the children had been back to school since the case came to light.

The purported target is a veteran educator who teaches third-grade students with learning disabilities including attention deficit disorder, delayed development and hyperactivity, friends and parents said.

The scheme involved a division of roles, Tanner said. One child's job was to cover windows so no one could see outside, he said. Another was supposed to clean up after the attack.

"We're not sure at this point in the investigation how many of the students actually knew the intent was to hurt the teacher," Tanner said.

The parents of the students have cooperated with investigators, who aren't allowed to question the children without their parents' or guardians' consent, he said. Authorities have withheld the children's names.

Police expected to forward the results of their investigation to prosecutors, Tanner said.

Children in Georgia can't be charged with a crime unless they are at least 13, District Attorney Rick Currie said.

Martin told The Florida Times-Union of Jacksonville, Fla., that administrators would follow school system policy and state law in disciplining the students.

"From what I understand, they were considered pretty good kids," Martin said. "But we have to take this seriously, whether they were serious or not about carrying this through, and that's what we did."

Four mothers of other third-grade students at Center Elementary called for the immediate expulsion of the suspected plotters.

Stacy Carter and Deana Hiott both cited school system policy stating that any student who brings "anything reasonably considered to be a weapon" is to be expelled for at least the remainder of the school year.

"We don't want our children around them," Carter told the Times-Union. "The one with the knife could have stabbed my child or someone else's child at lunch or out on the playground."

"This is an isolated incident, an aberration. ... We have good kids," Center Principal Angie Coleman told the newspaper.

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Presidential Memorial Commission of San Francisco Formed to Honor George W. Bush


Looking to honor the forty-third President of the United States of America, George W. Bush, the recently formed Presidential Memorial Commission of San Francisco is looking to change the name of the Oceanside Wastewater Treatment Facility. It seems the group would like to rename the SF Zoo adjacent facility to the "George W Bush Sewage Plant."


The local grassroots movement, helmed by "Wayne Pickering," is proposing an ordinance initiative for the November 2008 San Francisco ballot in order to get the poop/pee/vomit plant's title changed. Why? To honor our current leader of the free world with an "appropriate and enduring legacy, for no other president in modern American history has accomplished so much in such a short time.

We think this is an excellent idea.

Would you like to help out with this effort? Help collect signatures? Host meetings or social gatherings? Then, join the effort by visiting So far, there are only six members, which we find inexcusable. Together we can make a difference and setup a constant reminder of what was, arguably, the worst administration in the history of our glorious country. God bless America and God bless the Presidential Memorial Commission of San Francisco.

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Search For 'Kick-Ass Shelves' Continues

WARRENTON, OR—After two months of fruitless searching, roommates Trevor Hyzer and Frank Janikowski said Monday that they would not stop looking until they found what they described as the "holy grail" of sweet-ass shelves. "Our upstairs neighbor had these wicked killer shelves that he promised we could have when he moved out, but then he decided to renew his lease," said Hyzer, who initially thought that stacking plain wooden planks on top of cinderblocks might make for some kick-ass old-school shelves, but said they ultimately looked like lame, cheap-ass shelves. "Then Frank ordered this bad-ass corner unit from IKEA, but they came with these gay little side-mount wall brackets. 'Some assembly required'? More like 'some dick-sucking required.'" Despite their lack of luck, the two remain confident that the super-fucking-mind-blowing, shit-your-pants-sweet shelves they seek are out there somewhere.

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#2 An Eco-Friendly Car That Doesn’t Look Like a Deformed Weiner

I don’t think any American in their right mind would deny either the economic or environmental benefits of owning an eco-friendly car. From day one, you consume less gasoline, which means you don’t have to spend as much moolah at the pump, and you don’t emit as many pollutants into the beautiful air. Seems like a real win-win situation, if it wasn’t for one remaining factor: eco-friendly cars, with only a handful of extremely over-priced exceptions, look like deformed weiners.

Even if you have absolutely nothing wrong with weiners, or even deformed weiners for that matter, you probably still don’t want to drive around in anything that even vaguely resembles the male genitalia. Granted, Americans are often too pre-occupied with superficial things, like clothing and accessories. We believe these superficial things reflect upon ourselves: unattractive people wear unattractive clothes, for example. I admit that this sort of thinking is usually completely ridiculous, but not always - when you drive around in a phallic-shaped vehicle, I’m sorry to break the news, you kinda look like a dick.

I am by no means a scientist, but I don’t understand why car manufacturers are so insistent on making eco-friendly cars that are so abnormally weird and ugly-looking. Sure, you can spend an arm and a leg to get an eco-friendly car that doesn’t look like a weiner, or you could purchase a regular car with moderate eco-friendly upgrades, but should these really be the alternatives? Can’t we have cars that are good for the environment and good for picking up chicks and/or dudes? Hell, I’d settle for an eco-friendly car that was good for picking up ugly chicks and/or dudes. Do you really need to drive a Hummer just to get one?

A lot of government money is currently going into alternative energy, and new eco-friendly car models are coming out all the time. I just hope that some of these models look a little bit less like the male genitalia, and a little more like… well, like anything else. Sure, America wants to save the environment, but what’s the point if we’re all going to look like dicks?

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