‘Coffee Names’ and ‘Szechuan Names’


NPR picked up on this Village Voice weblog post by Shefali Kulkarni and I heard her interviewed today. She describes how, five months or so ago, she started to order her coffees at Starbucks under the name  ‘Sheila’ instead of being burdened to spell her unfamiliar foreign name for the baristas. She is apologetic about racial profiling, but she began to notice that those on the coffee lines with foreign names often did the same thing. Now coffee snob that I am, I would never be caught in a Starbucks, but this reminds me of somethng I do which in effect turns this situation on its head.

Being a fiend for Asian food, with which my neighborhood is quite well-endowed, I noticed about thirty years ago that when I ordered takeout the Asian restauranteurs often had difficulty understanding my name ‘Eliot’ and I began ordering my food under the name ‘Wes’. Unambiguous, didn’t require spelling, etc. Within a few months, however, my favorite Szechuan restaurant started identifying me whenever I came in for a table or a pickup as ‘Mr. West,’ and ‘Hello, Mr. West’ it has remained.

This was before I used credit cards. When that changed, I recall worrying about the confusion it might cause at the restaurant if ‘Mr. West’ paid for his food with a card belonging to ‘Eliot Gelwan’, but they never batted an eyelid. After I had children, once they became old enough to notice, my son and daughter on the other hand have been shaking their heads in consternation whenever my restaurant  greets me. I think I’ll have to point them to the ‘coffee names’ post to vindicate msyelf…


What to Avoid Now?

Poster promoting early diagnosis and treatment...
Top 5 Suspected Everyday Carcinogens in American Cancer Society’s Scary New Report: “Some carcinogens you already know and fear: cigarettes, asbestos, smoked meat.

But what about the ones you’ve never even heard of? That’s the crux of a new report from the American Cancer Society (ACS), which rounds up 20 “suspected carcinogens” the organization would like to see studied more extensively.” (AOL News via Lloyd)


R.I.P. Daniel Schorr

Daniel Schorr

Journalism Legend Dies At 93:

“Daniel Schorr, a longtime senior news analyst for NPR and a veteran Washington journalist who broke major stories at
home and abroad during the Cold War and Watergate, has died. He was 93.Schorr, who once described himself as a “living history book,” passed away Friday morning at a Washington hospital. His family did not provide a cause of death.As a journalist, Schorr was able to bring to contemporary news commentary a deep sense of how governmental institutions and players operate, as well as the perspective gained from decades of watching history upfront.” (NPR)

I have enjoyed Schorr’s NPR commentaries for years. Anyone on Nixon’s Enemies List has a certain amount of caché with me to begin with, but add to that that Schorr continued to plug away for the causes in which he believed well into his 90’s. It did become abit painful to listen to him in the past year or two, as he was obviously slipping, needing alot of prompting in his commentaries, and speaking in banalities. But we got to continue to bask in the presence of living history. Here is NPR host Scott Simon’s remembrance of him.


That Was Fast

Image representing Amazon Kindle as depicted i...
Amazon Says E-Books Now Top Hardcover Sales: “Monday was a day for the history books — if those will even exist in the future. Amazon.com, one of the nation’s largest booksellers, announced Monday that for the last three months, sales of books for its e-reader, the Kindle, outnumbered sales of hardcover books.In that time, Amazon said, it sold 143 Kindle books for every 100 hardcover books, including hardcovers for which there is no Kindle edition.” (NYTimes.com)

A New Term for Lousy Parenting

“The Chicago Sun-Times columnist Mary Mitchell coined a new phrase last week and began a war of words.

Mitchell, who is African-American, and who has long been a strong voice tackling parenting challenges she sees as particular to her community, blamed what she called “ghetto parenting” for condemning children to failure.

In a column titled “Ghetto Parenting Dooms Kids: Deck Stacked Against Those Who Were Raised in the Streets,” she defines her new term like this…”  [more] (New York Times )


For a Proton, a Little Off the Top or Side Could Be Big Trouble

The quark structure of the proton. There are t...
The quark structure of the proton
“Physicists announced last week that a new experiment had shown that the proton is about 4 percent smaller than they thought. Instead of celebration, however, the result has caused consternation. Such a big discrepancy, say the physicists, led by Randolf Pohl of the Max Planck Institute for Quantum Optics in Garching, Germany, could mean that the most accurate theory in the history of physics, quantum electrodynamics, which describes how light and matter interact, is in trouble.”  (NYTimes.com)

‘Aging Successfully’?

Turn 70. Act Your Grandchild’s Age: “Ringo Starr celebrated his 70th birthday last week by playing at Radio City Music Hall and saying his new hero is B. B. King, still jamming in his 80s. Joining Mr. Starr in his 70s next year will be the still-performing Bob Dylan (“May you stay forever young”) and Paul Simon (“How terribly strange to be 70”). Following soon after will be Roger Daltrey (“Hope I die before I get old”) and Mick Jagger, who is reported to have said, several grandchildren ago, “I’d rather be dead than singing ‘Satisfaction’ at 45.”

A rock ’n’ roll septuagenarian was someone the gerontologist Robert Butler could have only dreamed of in 1968, when he coined the term “ageism” to describe the way society discriminates against the old. Dr. Butler, a psychiatrist, died, at age 83, a few days before Ringo’s big bash. No one, his colleagues said, had done more to improve the image of aging in America. His work established that the old did not inevitably become senile, and that they could be productive, intellectually engaged, and active — sexually and otherwise. His life provided a good example: He worked until three days before his death from acute leukemia.

But as much as Dr. Butler would have cheered an aging Beatle onstage, his colleagues said he would have also cautioned against embracing the opposite stereotype — the idea that “aging successfully,” in his phrase, means that you have to be banging on drums in front of thousands — or still be acting like you did at 22 or 42. That stereotype is almost as enduring as ageism itself.” (NYTimes.com)


Theoretical Physicist: Gravity Is an Illusion

Personal coat of arms of Sir Isaac Newton Gera...
Coat of arms of Sir Isaac Newton
A Scientist Takes On Gravity: “Dr. Verlinde’s argument turns on something you could call the “bad hair day” theory of gravity.

It goes something like this: your hair frizzles in the heat and humidity, because there are more ways for your hair to be curled than to be straight, and nature likes options. So it takes a force to pull hair straight and eliminate nature’s options. Forget curved space or the spooky attraction at a distance described by Isaac Newton’s equations well enough to let us navigate the rings of Saturn, the force we call gravity is simply a byproduct of nature’s propensity to maximize disorder.

Some of the best physicists in the world say they don’t understand Dr. Verlinde’s paper, and many are outright skeptical. But some of those very same physicists say he has provided a fresh perspective on some of the deepest questions in science, namely why space, time and gravity exist at all — even if he has not yet answered them.”  (New York Times).


Raising a Toxic Child

Nancy Kelly spanks Patty McCormack at the end ...
Accepting That Good Parents May Plant Bad Seeds: “We marvel at the resilient child who survives the most toxic parents and home environment and goes on to a life of success. Yet the converse — the notion that some children might be the bad seeds of more or less decent parents — is hard to take.

It goes against the grain not just because it seems like such a grim and pessimistic judgment, but because it violates a prevailing social belief that people have a nearly limitless potential for change and self-improvement. After all, we are the culture of Baby Einstein, the video product that promised — and spectacularly failed — to make geniuses of all our infants.” (New York Times)


R.I.P. Tuli Kupferberg (1923-2010)

A photo thas is a family photo, free of copyri...
Bohemian and Fug Dies at 86: “With his bushy beard and wild hair, Mr. Kupferberg embodied the hippie aesthetic. But the term he preferred was bohemian, which to him signified a commitment to art as well as a rejection of restrictive bourgeois values, and as a scholar of the counterculture he traced the term back to an early use by students at the University of Paris. Among his books were “1,001 Ways to Live Without Working” — and for decades he was a frequent sight in Lower Manhattan, selling his cartoons on the street and serving as a grandfather figure for generations of nonconformists.

Beneath Mr. Kupferberg’s antics, however, was a keen poetic and musical intelligence that drew on his Jewish and Eastern European roots. He specialized in what he called “parasongs,” which adapted and sometimes satirized old songs with new words. And some of his Fugs songs, like the gentle “Morning, Morning,” had their origins in Jewish religious melodies.” (New York Times obituary)


The Dark Side of Perfectionism

“Perfectionists, by definition, strive for the best, trying to ace exams, be meticulous at their jobs, and raise perfect children. So one might assume this drive for the ideal translates over to their health as well, with perfectionist being models for physical and mental well-being.

But new research is revealing the trait can bring both profits and perils.

Though perfection is an impossible goal, striving for it can be a boon for one’s health, causing one to stick to exercise programs to a tee, say, or follow a strict regimen for treating chronic illnesses like type 2 diabetes. But the same lofty goals can mean added mental pressure when mistakes are made and the resistance to asking for help from others in fear of revealing one’s true, imperfect self.

In fact studies show the personality trait of perfectionism is linked to poor physical health and an increased risk of death.” (LiveScience).


Until Cryonics Do Us Part

Black coloured infinity sign in circle with tr...

‘ “From its inception in 1964… cryonics has been known to frequently produce intense hostility from spouses who are not cryonicists.” The opposition of romantic partners…  is something that “everyone” involved in cryonics knows about but… find difficult to understand. To someone who believes that low-temperature preservation offers a legitimate chance at extending life, obstructionism can seem as willfully cruel as withholding medical treatment. Even if you don’t want to join your husband in storage, ask believers, what is to be lost by respecting a man’s wishes with regard to the treatment of his own remains? Would-be cryonicists forced to give it all up… “face certain death.” ‘ (New York Times )


After big 1979 Gulf oil spill, a stunning recovery

An oiled bird from Oil Spill in San Francisco ...
‘Thirty-one years since the worst oil spill in North American history blanketed 150 miles of Texas beach, tourists noisily splash in the surf and turtles drag themselves into the dunes to lay eggs. “You look around, and it’s like the spill never happened,” shrugs Tunnell, a marine biologist. “There’s a lot of perplexity in it for many of us.” ‘  (NewsObserver.com).

A Neuroscientist Uncovers A Dark Secret

[Image 'https://i2.wp.com/media.npr.org/assets/news/2010/06/16/neurolaw/scan.jpg' cannot be displayed]Jim Fallon studied the brains of psychopaths for twenty years. Then his mother mentioned that he was related to Lizzie Borden, so he decided to study himself.  “You see that? I’m 100 percent. I have the pattern, the risky pattern,” he says, then pauses. “In a sense, I’m a born killer.” (NPR).


Could a brain parasite found in cats help soccer teams win at the World Cup?

Austrian Forward Rubin Okotie tries to score o...
“What if I told you that last week I predicted all eight winners of a round of the World Cup? And that instead of rankings or divination all I did was look up how many people in each team’s home country had a tiny parasite lurking in their amygdalas? Would you believe me? A decade ago, Discover Magazine concluded that parasites ruled the world, and now I’m going to try to tell you that, at the very least, parasites rule the World Cup.” (Slate)