Archive for March, 2009

Gillibrand’s Smoky Past

March 27, 2009

Pundits have already commented on Governor Patterson’s astounding ineptness in managing to anger the three most powerful political families in New York State–the Kennedys, the Cuomos, and the Clintons–by his fumbling appointment of Kirsten Gillibrand to the Senate.  But what disturbs me the most is that Patterson blew the chance to appoint a card-carrying liberal to the Senate, at a time when liberal senators are an endangered species, with the most influential of them, Teddy Kennedy, fighting brain cancer.  New York is one of the few remaining states in which a man or woman espousing progressive positions can still get elected, and so it was a waste to hand the seat to a conservative chameleon.

The story in today’s New York Times about her legal work for the tobacco industry confirms my view that she was the wrong choice.  Tobacco companies were entitled to legal representation in their unscrupulous bid to suppress from the public their internal scientific studies showing a link between smoking and cancer.  Fundamental to our judicial system is the idea that even the devil deserves a legal advocate.  But Gillibrand did not have to choose to be the one to defend their dirty work.


Neuroscience Majors Have More Sex Than Math Majors

March 21, 2009

This chart of virginity rates by major at Wellesley comes from the college’s Counterpoint Magazine.  Unfortunately, we do not know how many students are in each category.  For example, if there was only one studio art major and she wasn’t a virgin, then the rate reported here would be zero.  But if there were 47 art majors, then the zero result would be meaningful. The data is apparently from 2001.


I’m Now Rich and am Helping Poor South Africans!

March 20, 2009

Long gone is the time when my inbox was jammed with emails promising how I could be longer and stiffer and please her more.  I doubt the purveyors of male-anatomical nirvana have concluded that I do not suffer from penile dysmorphophobia.  Perhaps they’ve stopped sending out these emails because too few respondents are falling for their herbal enhancers and science-fair vacuum pumps.  Or else maybe spam filters have gotten better and are diverting their sales pitches.  I looked in my spam box to find out.  There were 868 messages that had accumulated over the past month.  I wasn’t about to read them, and so I did a word search on manhood, big, satisfy her, penis, and all the slang terms for penis I could think of.  Weeding out duplicates, I found 17 such messages.

What then were the other 851?  I scanned the subject fields and saw that the vast majority were make-big-bucks-now and get-rich-quick schemes.  The spam filters now do a good job of intercepting messages of the kind from the Bank of Ghana offering you a piece of a long dormant savings account of a deceased gazillionaire with no identifiable next of kin.

This week, though, one of these crazy bank messages slipped past Google’s spam censors and into my inbox.  Google is a greenish company, and maybe the message made it by because it appealed to their liberal sentiments: Not only had I won the South African lottery, I was helping to eradicate world poverty (although I’m not sure how).  The email is so delightful that I want to share it, despite the warning that revealing the contents could expose me to “impersonation or double claiming” of my substantial winnings.  I’ll take the risk.

Attention: Winner

This is to inform you that your email Address has been selected as one of this year winners in the 2010 SOUTH AFRICA LOTTO INTL. PROMOTION..

You have won the sum of £800.000.00 Pounds (Eight hundred thousand Great British Pounds) cash
credited to you or your company’s email address, attached to file number
EML.26EPG/0012-5526/0905.1/6/27/39/47-1-8 which falls into our European booklet.

All selected winners were selected through our Email Lottery Random System Selection (ELRSS) from
700,000,000 emails submitted from Middle East, Asia, Africa, Canada, Europe and North America and
Oceania as part of our International promotions Program.

This amount is from total prize cash of (£ Pounds) randomly distributed among ten (10)
international winners selected email address by our Email Lottery Random System Selection (ELRSS)
and your email address With the International Association of Gaming Regulators (IAGR).

This promotional lottery is the 3rd of its kind with the intension to sensitize the public. This
promotion is to enhance the standard of living and to help eradicate poverty around the world.

For further processing of the claim of your winning prize, you are to contact our Europe fiduciary claims department for more information as regards procedures to claim your prize.


Please you are advice to keep your winning information from the public and relatives to avoid
impersonation or double claiming and anybody under the age of 24 is automatically disqualified from this program.

Congratulations again from all our staff and thank you for being part of our promotional program.


Fear of 27

March 16, 2009

“Twenty-seven has long had negative connotations, as it is the age at which many popular musicians died, including Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Brian Jones, Janis Joplin and Kurt Cobain.”  So concludes an article in London’s Telegraph.

But the bad news for my younger friends is that mental powers start to deteriorate at age 27, according to new research at the University of Virginia.


March 15, 2009

Psychologists seem to have a fancy word for every conceivable fear known to man or woman. Nyctophobia, fear of darkness. Phagophobia, fear of swallowing. Agyrophobia, fear of crossing the street. Blennophobia, morbid fear of slime. On National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered,” I talked about the phobia de jour triskaidekaphobia.

You can listen to the piece here.