Monday, February 26, 2007

Abstract Art Vs. Talk Radio

The February issue of Psychology Today had an article on the more inherent differences found in people who call themselves conservative and people who call themselves liberal. Apparently it goes beyond simple views and values to include underlying differences in temperament.

Several studies have been done on different aspects of this phenomenon. Home decor, travel and education experience, personalities as children, and of course, some sneaky priming are all clues in determining whether a person calls himself conservative or liberal.

In one study done on home decor, it was shown that typically conservatives are neater, their rooms are cleaner, better organized, more brightly lit, and more conventional. Liberals have more books which cover a greater variety of topics and more color in their homes. Conservatives are more likely to be religious while liberals are more likely to like classical music and jazz. Conservatives tend to prefer country music (deal breaker for me right there). So far, all of these seem pretty obvious and stereotypical.

Interestingly though, in 1969, a couple of professors from Berkely went on a child personality study asking nursery school teachers to rate the temperaments of the children in their classes (three year olds). The children that grew up to be conservatives were indecisive, fearful, rigid, inhibited, and vulnerable. Those that grew up to be liberals were described as children as having close relationships with peers, were self-reliant, impulsive, and resilient. Researchers hypothesized that the insecure children most needed the reassurance of tradition and authority which they found in conservative politics. Interestingly, later in life, conservatives are more typically very decisive with less tolerance for ambiguity and are also typically less vulnerable seeming.

The article sort of loses its focus and starts talking about scare tactics and priming which is easy to get people to change their focus and priorities temporarily. But, we all know about this type of psychological manipulation. It is old news.

And now I have started losing focus.

Check out It is a website that allows you to put in favorite artists and the site will then put together a sort of radio playlist for you with similar sounds. I have been listening to it all morning. For this new addition to my daily aural experience I would like to thank Mike, the comic book shop guy (I do actually learn something while my husband is browsing!), and Doug, who reminded me of it this weekend in between drinks, rich food, and games.

In other news: Dutch Blitz is fucking rad (oops! excuse my language! it is an Amish game!), the UN clears Serbia of genocide in the 1990 Bosnian war, and Jessica Biel doesn't need a bra.

Friday, February 23, 2007

How I Became Stupid

I just finished the book How I Became Stupid by Martin Page. A very cute, short french novel about a young man going through a bit of a spiritual crisis. The book gets ridiculously silly in some parts while the author maintains a very grave tone.

Twenty-five year old Antoine is burdened by his intelligence. It permeates every aspect of life leaving him in a constant state of worry and depression. After trying, and failing at various apparent panaceas (alcoholism, suicide), Antoine decides to become stupid. He deliberately rids his apartment of every reminder of the worthwhile and sets on a quest to study all the well-adjusted stupid people he encounters. He gives his friends a time limit of six months...... if he is an absolute jerk by that time, they need to bring him back.

A fun, quick read, that scarcely got me thinking at all. But for its very judgemental separation of all the author deems intelligent and worthwhile from what he assumes to be stupid, inane, and therefore evil, the book was innocuously cute.

In other news: Britney Spears is in rehab, Chimpanzees make wooden spears for hunting, and a 'bat demon' is blamed for sex attacks on Tanzanian men.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Environmentally Conscious

According to some source I recently encountered but don't recall, Fiji water, one of the best tasting and coolest packaged bottled waters (my opinions) is not worth its price to the environment.

Apparently, taking into account the true cost of producing and transporting it, it takes 26 times more water than is actually in the bottle to get it to us here in the states. And according to Treehugger, the the manufacture and transport of that one kilogram bottle of Fiji water consumed 7.1 gallons of water, .26 gallons of fossil fuel and emitted 1.2 pounds of Greenhouse Gases.

For more information on the study, click here..

In other news: Paris Hilton has no friends and throws weird parties, I just found out that Newt Gingrich is a novelist, and ineluctable means not to be avoided, changed or resisted.

What else are weekends for?!

Carbohydrate squalor, and proof that I have a friend in town.

..... and that I didn't eat all of that on my own.

Monday, February 12, 2007

A Spot of Bother - by Mark Haddon

I just finished A Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon this morning. It was a lot of fun to read. Stressful and funny. While Jean has been having an affair with David and Katie is having cold feet and Jamie is desperately trying to get Tony back, the wedding is being planned and George is losing his mind quite properly.

The book focuses on one family and all the separate but connected issues they are dealing with in their personal lives. Haddon does such a good job of making his characters real and quirky and interesting. Each chapter is thoughtfully told from a different family member's point of view, sometime with action overlapping making it extremely urgent that the reader continue. (And of course, not everybody's reality is the same).

"And she could see them turning slowly into the people they were pretending to be, the problem they were meant to solve drifting slowly into the background, the two of them turning into a team whose job it was to bring up a child and run a household despite the fact that they had nothing in common, having conversations about what was needed from Tesco and waht they were going to do at the weekend, going to bed and putting out the light and rolling away from each other and trying not to dream about the lives they could have led."

"It seemed so obvious what he felt. But when he tried to put it into words it sounded clumsy and unconvincing and semtimental. If only y ou could lift a lid on the top of your head and say, 'Look.'"

"Seven or Fifty-seven, they needed their projects. Bringing something dead back to the cave. Setting up the W---- franchise. A solid lunch, 20 minutes of playtime and gold stars to show that someone was taking notice."

Enjoyable. Perfect for the two days I spent with the flu. If you have the flu, e-mail me and I'll send you the book to read!

Sunday, February 11, 2007

The Female Brain

I just finished the book The Female Brain by Louanne Brizendine. Unless I spelled her name wrong. Then it is by somebody else.

First, let me tell you, that research involving rats piques my interest much more than any other kind. I think I have more sympathy for rats than I do for humans. Especially those on cocaine and those with research instigated brain issues.

But, some things I learned from this book about humans: (a) In some societies, anthropologists have found that the presence of a grandmother improves a child's prospect for survival much more than the presence of a father. (b) After menopause, a woman's drive to tend and care, as well as her urge to avoid conflict at all costs is significantly lessened. (c) The female's brain is only half as likely to be wired for same-sex attraction as is the male brain. (d) Young girls are better at mirroring than boys and are thus able to understand others' emotions more easily.

I don't know how all this applies to rats, which is a question of more concern, but from this research, we can probably gather enough information to see an improvement in their quality of life!

In other news: I think I have the flu, The Superficial is less compelling since Anna Nicole Smith died, all of my students received superior markings in the piano festival this weekend, and Reverand Ted Haggard is cured of homosexuality and is being urged to leave Colorado Springs.

(Pictured above, Hamlin is the dark rat, and Shortbread is the light one. The have their own bedroom and would have smiled for the camera, but I woke them up from a nap. You know how that is).

Monday, February 05, 2007

The Importance of Macaroni and Cheese

After a hard day of teaching and being in Colorado, sometimes what I need is not a martini or a glass of wine (though if you were to pour me one and place it in my hand I'm sure I'd polish it off out of politeness). Sometimes what I need is macaroni and cheese.

Now, there are several ways of eating macaroni and cheese. First is the basic: Kraft out of the box? Frozen and very cheesy? At a restaurant? (IHOP, Village Inn, and Perkins do not count as restaurants) Or as a base for the rest of the meal (chili mac, tuna mac, etc).

I choose Frozen and cheesy. And if you order macaroni and cheese in a restaurant, well. Don't get me started. Of the frozen and cheesy macaroni and cheeses out there, I particularly choose Amy's Kitchen Macaroni and Cheese.

Once this initial choice has been made, there is yet another step in how one eats macaroni and cheese. I know people who eat it plain, with salt, with garlic salt, with tabasco sauce, with chili sauce, with ketchup!

If you know me, you will know that I have been a staunch supporter of ketchup on my macaroni and cheese all of my life. And I have never wavered. It has been an important aspect of my general self-identity. Until tonight. Tonight I actually preferred my macroni and cheese with garlic salt. Preferred it. Not just tried it. I suddenly feel like I have no ground to stand on! I no longer know what is right and what is wrong! Is this a sudden change? Or have I been this way all along and just not known it?! Am I suddenly obligated to try all the different options when it comes to macaroni and cheese? Has ketchup been my friend not out of real likeness but only out of tradition?

Tomorrow I am likely to go absolutely crazy and try raspberry sorbet with gummy bears!

Sunday, February 04, 2007

After 145, bad things start to happen

Today I finished the book Blink by Malcolm Gladwell.

It is a book about intuition, first impressions, and quick decisions. We all make decisions based on information we have inside us that we aren't even aware of accessing. We do this all the time, and a good portion of the time, our instincts are helpful. They keep us out of dangerous situations; they tell us when something is not quite right; they tell us when someone is lying. However, there are times when the biases we have cultivated inside us lead us astray.

Gladwell explores the quick decisions and gut feelings made and had by emergency room doctors, police officers, interviewers, and other experts in various fields. He talks about the physical symptoms and the intellectual process that takes place. And interestingly, he discusses how people are hurt by, helped by, exploit, and develop these habits.

While the book was very interesting (it led me to the fascinating Implicit Association Test) I wanted a lot more from Gladwell. He presented his topic well, and had all of the examples to explain it. However, I felt like he never really got past the examples. I'm not exactly sure what more I wanted. I'll have to think about it; maybe I wanted him to take a more quantitative approach to his research. I am going to recommend this book though to those who want a quick and easy read that gets you thinking.

In other news: I cooked with quinoa for the first time today. Quinoa is cross between a grain and a cereal and is known for its nutritional content high in protein and amino acids (thank you Wikipedia) and is very tasty baked with tomato sauce, corn, spices and cheese and stuffed into green peppers (thank you Aubrey's taste buds).

Anything else of importance going on today? Nope! I didn't think so!

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Mango Custard

If you thought from the title that this blog is about food - you're right!

My husband is away in Chicago to watch the Superbowl with other Bears fans. I do not qualify because though I am from Chicago as well, watching football really only leaves me with intense interest in floorboards….. ceiling tiles…. split ends.

But so, regardless of reason …… my husband is away and I had chocolate cake for breakfast. I had a stir fry for lunch fifteen minutes later. I had mussels in a white wine garlic butter sauce for dinner. Garlic butter sauce? Ah yes…. You know what my breath is going to be like tomorrow and also why I only eat like this when he is away!

But wait!

There’s more!

Hehehe. For supper I had an entire bud of garlic, roasted and spread on toasted French bread. And a glass of Strathisla.

Now, you may recall the foodgasm I had over the Strathisla vintage I had over the holidays out of my dad’s cabinet to soothe my poor Laphroaig-abuse tongue. Well, THIS….. is not the same. Not quite. It is very fresh, just like the one I first tasted. And the aroma….. ahhhhh – very much like dried fruit I think. It is spicy and cedary (my words…. So take them with a grain of salt)…. and the author of my scotch book gives it an 80 on his scale. I give it a burgundy heart-shaped medallion. But my scale isn’t based on numbers, and is thus less helpful.

Cheers! And enjoy the Superbowl tomorrow!

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Important Inventions that Were Not Mentioned in the President's Speech

Please check out my friend's blog on this very topic at:

There are a few inventions however, that she failed to incorporate that I think our President might have bothered to mention:

The cross-nationality noodle steam reducer! Now you can start eating your hot meal RIGHT AWAY!

Our calorie deficit is getting out of control! Now we can apply butter to our toast without the hassle of using a butter knife and spreading!

And in other news: Lindsay Lohan has a healthy appetite, Brandy is getting super sued (with lasers!), and lo and behold...... the earth's climate change is 'very likely' due to human activities.