Friday, April 25, 2008

The Birds

I sat down in Dupont Circle today with my Well-dressed Burrito in hand, all ready to catch up on some blogging while chowing down in the sun. All of DC seemed to be having the same idea. There were young female coordinators eating salads in sun-dresses and chatting over the shouts of the rowdy chess players, two homeless guys were lazily fanning themselves on a couple of benches, and quite a few young men in shirts-sleeves were gossiping good naturedly by the fountain.

A few birds landed near by me as I started my lunch and all seemed right in the world. That was until five minutes later, when I looked up and counted nineteen (wrens? wood thrushes? chicadees?) flopping down near me and pretending to burrow or look for worms in what was obviously bone-dry, over-worked dirt. After a few minutes, they gave up all attempts at pretense and blatantly glared at me for handouts while a couple of hefty pigeons waddled over like bouncers. The thrushes reacted by trying to muscle morsels out of me by buzzing my shady spot with dives and swoops. I didn’t know whether to ignore them or run for my life.

Know thine enemy I say, and since I was a 30 minute walk away from my Boy Scout manual, the “North American Bird Photo Gallery” came in pretty handy. Turns out the bullies in Dupont Circle are “Spizella arborea” or American tree sparrows. You’ve been warned.

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Dead Worm

Well, hello there, candy addicts. Been a while since I posted some poetry. So, here's a bonus post! Vastly appropriate, regarding the Washington, DC weather.

Indeed it is a skinny death, without the
bend of bone,
When tears have splashed their meager
life upon the empty stone.
To wither and concave oneself in the
shadow of wrinkled earth.
And be sucked and crinkled to a soaked brown,
from the beating red of birth.

The dead worm -- Anika Ismel

We're Powerless Against Data Grazing

Sound like the first step in a new addictive behavioral support group? Not exactly. Take a gander at Lee Gome 's article in the Wall street Journal, "Why We're Powerless To Resist Grazing On Endless Web Data" that explains why surfing the internet activates the same centers in the brain we get in the snack aisle, the buffet table, or (worse) the sale section).

Like a cat with a laser pointer, surfing the web can become and endless, ahem, rat chase. But by recognizing are own human attraction for abundance, we maybe able to do a better job learning what is useful information and what isn't.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Hilary vs. Obama vs. ABC

Did you catch the Hilary vs. Obama debate last night on ABC? Even if you didn't, you should read these scathing reviews of the network broadcast "In Pa. Debate, The Clear Loser Is ABC" by the Washington's Post's Tom Shales and Greg Mitchell's account, "The ABC Debate: A Shameful Night for the U.S.Media" in the Huffington Post.

Shales calls out mediators Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos for behaving like "newsniks waiting for mistakes or foul-ups like dogs panting for treats after performing a trick". And (to quote them both) Greg Mitchell, in the Huffington Post article, calls out the mediators for spending unconscionably brief moments on the "wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the health care and mortgage crises, the overall state of the economy and dozens of other pressing issues" in return for [Shales] "dwelling entirely on specious and gossipy the hope of getting the candidates to claw at one another over disputes that are no longer news."

Just wow.

Apparently, even the crowd began to boo the commentators near the end. Is it possible some members of the media are beginning to call out The Media?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Solve a Rubik's Cube

My husband and I were lamenting the wanton bling and unexpected bright pops of color on the Metro Saturday night, before we realized that the teeny-boppers we were watching weren't wearing bright pops of color. They were wearing NEON. It all became clear on the shuttle bus from Trusty's Bar to RFK stadium for the DC United game, when we spotted two pairs of high-top sneakers. "The 80's aren't coming back," must husband warned me. "They're here."

As disturbing as that is to someone who lived through the 80's, there is some encouragement this time around. That is, that someone is willing to share how to solve a freakin' Rubik's Cube. And I don't how to figure out how a network executive could think that a cartoon based on a rhomboid puzzle would entertain children on a Saturday morning, I mean the actual puzzle.

Check out Instructable's instructions on "How to Solve a Rubik' s Cube," (they have pictures!) and amaze your friends.

While your at it, check out other neato instructions from Instructables, how to turn plastic bags into "yarn" and how to make your own hoodie.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008


Heavens, how long has it been since I gave Candy readers a really delicious word to chomp on? Too long, says I. Dactylonomy (think "pterodactyl" with out the "ptero") is the science of counting on your fingers. That's right, I said science. Nice try, haters, who think I am just bad at simple math.

If you think I'm just trying to get off not admitting that I never remember the sum of 7 and 3 with looking at my, um, dactyls, then you should read this explanation of the art of dactlonomy from World Wide Words, which notes the historical significance of the art based on descriptions of methods from the Middle East, Asia and other places (and by the Venerable Bede from the north-east of England in the eighth century AD if you must know). Paintings exist from more than four thousand years ago showing Egyptians finger counting and we know it was common in classical Greece and Rome so it can't be too good for you.

The word is from Greek "daktulos" meaning "finger", plus "-nomia" which is related to nomos, "law", that we use to mark some specified area of knowledge. Which leads me to a very similar, but little recognized science that I just made up, "Grammenomy", from Greek "gramme" meaning the stroke or line of a pen or mathematical figure, plus "-nomia", well you know the rest. It's the science (or art if you have it) of counting on the brush strokes of mathematical figures. Here's the system I devised in the third grade, mostly to keep my fingers out of the eyes of datylonomy bigots (haters).

Now, the next time someone gives you the evil eyeball for counting on you fingers, just turn up your nose and say, "I'm a dactylonomist, actually. It's very difficult to be a good one."

Tuesday, April 8, 2008


CandyBuffet had the exquisite opportunity to hang with her brother-in-law in the sound booth for the Lifehouse concert in DC. The thing is, I went to the tailor with a friend earlier in the day and told her I would be going to a concert at the 9:30 Club. She was driving on busy U-street and was a tad distracted. "Who's playing again?" she asked me. "Fishtown?"

All night, I kept thinking how Fishtown would be an awesome name for a band. Screw Lifehouse, I'm going to see Fishtown! Don't worry, you don't have to expend brain power on thinking up cool names for your band (imaginary or otherwise), just use Band Name to generate cool band names for rock, punk, emo and basically any musical style you can think of. Type in your optimal word of choice, and the generator spits our ten possibilities. Toad the Wet Sprocket, watch out!

Monday, April 7, 2008

Lost and Found in Tokyo

I love to regale my friends with stories of my visit to Zushi, Japan, including my brother's description on the low crime rate and general honesty of the Japanese populace. As we were walking to the train, he pointed to a low stone wall separating the houses and the train tracks. "You could forget your purse right there," he suggested, "and it would still be there three days later. Untouched."

It might be hard to consider, but the New York Times article, "Never Lost but Found Daily," seems to agree with my bra. In Tokyo, easily 8 million residents strong, items like cell phones, umbrellas and wads of cash find their way to the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Lost and Found Center, a four-story warehouse where hundreds of thousands of lost objects are meticulously catalogued by date and location of discovery.

According to the article, the system has been in place since the 18th century, where finders were given an assurance of a percentage of a reward for found property. Finders who did not hand in objects were severely punished (including a historical account from 1733 regarding two officials who kept a parcel of clothing and were led around town and executed). Today, children are taught from early on to hand in lost objects to the police in their neighborhoods and most of the 200 to 300 adults who come to the center every day take the system for granted.

In 2002, people found and brought $23 million in cash to the center, 72 percent of which was returned to the owners and about 19 percent went to
the finders after no one claimed the money for half a year. That's
right, if the original owner is not found after half a year, the finder can claim the object or money. But most finders don't bother making any claims, and the objects and proceeds usually end up going to the Tokyo government.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Healthy Competition

I seem to remember my current (now ex) general practitioner screaming at me that I didn't need any other thyroid test than the one he gave me during my annual exam and that if I saw an endocrinologist I would be "throwing my money away". Did I mention the screaming? This is the same guy who said of my frequent chest pains that "the less I thought about them the less severe they would seem" (not what the cardiologist said, by the way).

Why is it so much easier to comparison shop, for say, a new stereo than for a good doctor? Check out the CNN article, "Can the web create shoppers' market for health care?" about a Twin Cities company called "Carol" which is attempting to transform the U.S. health care system by offering a site that lets you compare quality and price for medical services and helps you make appointments. Users click on the part of the body they are interested in having checked out, which leads to various exams and services for that subsection. A results page shows options which range in price for each service. If the user has insurance, they can also type in plan information to estimate out of pocket cost with each particular health provider.

The site generates revenue from the service providers that have signed on to be "tenants" of Carol, so the biggest challenge for them will be getting enough doctors and health plans to participate. And right now they only carry providers in the Twin Cities area, though they are looking to serve a second U. S. market alter this year.

The site has taken criticism from doctors who think that health care is too critical to be left to the usual marketplace. All I have to say to that, is that health care is already left to an unusual marketplace, better likened to a Russian Roulette table. You can search the site without registering (to increase consumer privacy) so why not take a gander? And like me, keep dreaming that they'll come to your area comparing Dental and Vision Care.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Bread Blues

A couple of Christmases ago, I thought my sister had gone off the deep end. You see, when her family started to get low on bread, she told her lovely son that she would make more that day. No problem. Been there, done that. But then she sweetly pulled out a ginormous grinder from her cupboard in order to GRIND HER OWN GRAIN. Well, I thought, she'd be amply prepared in case Utah ever turned into a scenario from "Red Dawn". Then I read's article about "High Wheat Prices". The price of wheat has more than tripled during the last three months and experts expect that 80 percent of groceries will follow with their own spike. Apparently, Wheat, is the plankton of our little land mammal food chain, and it used to feed cattle, poultry and dairy cows and therefore is associated with everything those guys produce from eggs to milk. Not to mention that skyrocketing gas prices is making wheat even costlier to get to market.

You may think the only option is to buy less. But you might want to turn the other cheek and bake more. Store bought white bread cost an average of $0.85 per pound in 1998 and $1.03 in February 2006. The price last month? $1.32 per pound. While that makes store-bought bread run between $3 and $5, a home-baked loaf will cost about 60 cents (less, I supposed if you are grinding your own wheat to boot). As for me, I'll be looking to take some wheat grinding lessons from my sister.