Single Guy Groceries

Lisa pointed out that more and more of what supermarket shelf space is geared toward the single guy. Today I noticed the first 12-packs of iced tea in long, "fridge-friendly" boxes. This is for the lazy shits that can't be bothered to open the box of cans when they come home, and instead just shove the whole box into the fridge (me). Thanks, people.

Other products I've noticed recently:
> Soup in a can -- just pop the lid, microwave, and drink. Nothing chunky, and salty enough to shrivel a slug, but not too bad.
> The Dilberito (ok, I haven't seen it, but I read that it's coming): one microwavable burrito with 100% of many of your nutrition needs. For people with no patience for fruit and vegetables and vitamins and whatnot.
> Pre-mixed stir fry in a bag WITH bits of beef or chicken. This started a few years back but god love 'em, Create-A-Meal deserves props.

OK, I could find more examples if I really looked. The point is, trending toward convenient nutrition is a good thing, since so much convenience food has been toxic in the past. Derrick Z. Jackson noted back in the 90's, the junk-food and frozen-food aisles and displays were muscling out traditional, healthy foods. Maybe those foods are making a comeback, with these convenient packages.

Find a way to work in the Hungry Man motto: "I know what I like, and I like a lot of it."



Just finished Word Freak by Stefan Fatsis. It's memoir / reportage about a Greek WSJ writer who takes up competitive scrabble, moving his way up the rankings, taking a sabbatical from work to indulge in his obsession.

It's pretty well written and captures the weirdness and dedication of this Scrabble subculture. But more importantly, it reveals that following irrational dreams and writing books about your experience is doable, even when you're 37 and starting a family.

It helped that Lupo's and Brown figure prominently in the end.

Fatsis cites that figure of 10,000 hours for expertise in a particular field, whether it's golf or music or chondrocyte mechanotransduction (10,000 hours = a PhD, usually.)

Now that I'm a couple of weeks from my PhD, it's worth wondering how I'm going to carve out 10,000 hours for writing during the upcoming clerkships and residency. The school and the government make time for research relatively easy. Making time for writing is relatively hard. The good news is, writing is thrilling in a way chondrocytes never were.

Those survey people

Lileks took a mall survey (LILEKS (James) The Bleat: )
This part didn't involve checking off a box; the guy had several lines to fill out, and he wanted a specific response. So I said exactly what the marketing people wanted to hear:

“Lovable, Belushi-like loser Jack Black finds himself kicked out of his band and down on his luck - but then things start looking up when he ends up as a fish out of water in a world he never made: a stuffy boarding school where he teaches students and teachers how to loosen up and party down.� Pause; wait for the kid to stop scribbling. He's done. Drive in the knife: “Hilarity ensues.�

'This is the best survey I have done all day,' the kid said.

I did one of these, too, back in January. I was returning all the gifts I had purchased for my parents (very picky). I saw a preview for Daredevil and was also asked about my anticipation for League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

Got a check for $3.

But I'd give it all back if I could describe it like Lileks. That guy rules.


Toxic environment

Ellen Goodman in the Boston Globe today on willpower and obsesity:
The only good news is that we are beginning to shift from describing obesity as a moral failing to describing it as a public health epidemic. We are beginning to shift at least some attention from self-control to environment-out-of-control.

This change is partly due to the collective, um, weight of scientific studies. Yale's Kelly Brownell, who coined the phrase ''toxic environment,'' sums them up this way: ''When the environment changes, weight changes.'' When, for example, immigrants from thinner countries come to America they gain weight while their cousins back home stay lean. When you give moviegoers a big box of popcorn instead of a small one, they eat about 50 percent more.
You know, there was a time where this would put me in a tizzy. Power-of-the-individual, personal responsibility, etc. But it's hard to disagree with the data. And most people have to pick their battles -- grappling with your schedule, your responsibilities at home and on the job, your friends and family -- your guard is down from those battles and the marketers and media slip in, giving you bigger portions and strange notions and before you know it you're eating and drinking substances the human body was never meant to ingest.

It keeps coming back to the ideas in the Tipping Point by Gladwell. One experiment -- theology students were assigned to give sermons on the good samartian across the seminary campus. Some were told they're already 15 minutes late. Others are told they've got time to spare. Each student encountered a sick homeless person on the way to the sermon. Those who were late never stopped to help; those who had time, did. The actual character of the "samaritans" was irrelevant, schedule was everything.

Maybe I'm reading too much into one experiment -- there were others I can't recall -- but the point is, even the noblest of the noble, on their way to lecture about charity, can still forget their better natures.

I guess that's why we celebrate virtue and character when we hear it. But I'm still not good at noticing the absence of virtue -- it's rarely the jarring clang of "evil," but the quiet hum of acquiescence. To a toxic environment. God this got melodramatic.

Note to self:

In the year 2028 or so, when I'll be teaching a young new crop of med students, I'll look up into the crowd and think, the most common woman's name here is Emily.

And #2 will be... Madison.

And I'll shake my head and chuckle that Madison's daughters will probably be named Ethel and Peg, for novelty's sake.

HIPA absurdity

Track down that Risk Management officer who lectured us last week. HIPA is designed to protect patient's privacy, but some of the fine-tuning seems crazy. You can't say "A man in Worcester presented with a rash yesterday" because Worcester is too specific (you CAN say "508 area code" or "016XX ZIP") and you can't peg down a time like "yesterday" or "last week". Some ethnic and age identification is ok but not too much -- 41 year old black man, but not 41 y.o. Iranian or 96-year old black man.

Interview the officer and ask her if it's worth it. My first-choice slant is that privacy is a good thing but when you drive doctors so crazy with fear they're tipping info that's probably not going to ID anyone.

And Dusty's notion (rephrased skillfully here): When you start with the premise that a medical condition is a stigma, you devote more energy into hiding the condition than to fighting the stigma.

Lileks Knows

Lileks on the "whatever" point:
LILEKS (James) The Bleat: "2. Anyone who writes opinion pieces should consider whether their piece contains a YWP, or �Yeah, Whatever� Point. The YWP is the moment where half your audience automatically stops reading because they know exactly where this is going, and they�ve been there a thousand times before. Sometimes the YWP is triggered by a phrase, but it�s usually a statement of fact that betrays a certain breathless hysteria in the author. In most cases the YWP is triggered by the assertion that we have gone far beyond the standard push-me-pull-you of politics, and have entered a dangerous age in which all we hold dear shall be snatched from our hands, torn to pieces and washed away in a torrent of tears. Sometimes it's the UN and the Contrail pilots who are responsible. Sometimes it's the undead Halliburton Zombie Army. Either side is perfectly capable of generating a YWP, and on any given day either side usually does."

2 Fast 4 Safety?

Walter Kirn writes in the New York Times:
2 Fast 4 Safety?: "So what's the answer? Over in congested, brainy Europe, some people think they've found it, and they're testing it: a computer gizmo that makes the car decelerate when it hits the maximum posted speed on any given stretch of road. The system is complicated, involving satellites and Global Positioning gear. It's a grand opportunity for new bureaucracies and the further infantilization of the public in the name of the greater social good -- objectives Europeans value as highly as Americans value four-wheel drive. Think of it: the automobile as governess, slapping drivers' wrists when they get sassy. The device should include a taped lecture on immaturity that automatically takes over the stereo when somebody turns up Eminem too loud. Over there, they might go for this system, but not here -- not west of Maryland, at least. Our cars are supposed to deliver us from our parents, our teachers, our rulers, not sit in for them."

Gizmodo : Picture passwords for cameraphones

Gizmodo : Picture passwords for cameraphones Instead of using a password to unlock your cellphone, a Japanese company called Earth Beat has come up with a way to use a picture instead. You just snap a picture of yourself with your cameraphone, then whenever you want to unlock the phone it uses face recognition technology to verify that the person trying to use the phone matches the photo it has in storage. Which also means you might be unable to use your phone if you ever change your appearance.

Yet another use! My article idea is getting unwieldy.


The two killer features I need, need, are 1) to post from email and 2) to have a few perma-pages where I can quickly click on essays, whatnot. What blog program out there lets me do that, free? I'll pay blogger pro but their site is down.

Livejournal seems nice but no perma-pages and no ability to search entries, it seems.

Xanga lets you search entries, and you can email it in for $25 a year. Looks like Blogger Pro lets you email it in for $50 a year, plus BlogSend, plus Blog This button... Maybe there's a student discount. Leaning toward Blogger Pro, as soon as they revamp.

From Gizmodo : The uses of cameraphones

I'm using the "Blog This" feature on my Google Toolbar, getting an article from Gizmodo, link-to-link-to-link.

Gizmodo : The uses of cameraphones

Hope that was fun.

Back to Earth

OK, all the cool features are on Blogger Pro. And TongueWag is crazy. And my thesis needs work.

Up and Running

Say what you will about Blogger, I was up and running in 5 minutes (this is still a whim).