CalTrain can be terrifying

Watched a drunk high school girl very happily fuck with a dumpy boy, asking him flirty questions about where he gets his shirts at and him getting red up by his ears. Like a gazelle watching a herdmate get taken down by a cheetah. It’s horrifying, and you’re very glad it’s not happening to you.

And then sometimes you remember why people should write down words

This NY Times article is just flat out fantastic. If you at all enjoy people putting together words, check it out. It’s the best piece of food writing I’ve read in 2009 so far, maybe the best piece of writing period.

What Mark Dow does with language in the whole thing — dang, man. Dude can write. He stitches together a bunch of semi-unrelated vignettes with this throughline that is just untouchable.

And then kills it with some sentences that I can only stand by sadly and wish that I had written. (e.g. "We write things down, and hold on to them, for many different reasons. To stop time and keep the “edge of marveling” honed, or at least handy. To create pockets of order. To prove to ourselves that we exist. To be able to immerse ourselves in whatever matters to us but is gone.")

First couple of grafs:

Amy and I stood at the Xerox machine watching each other pay attention to our own palates and tongues. We kept the chocolate-covered caramel-topped cookie pieces in our mouths as long as we could without swallowing, and I hit the reduction-enlargement button over and over again. We started nodding and laughing. We were pretty sure we could taste what our student heard, or see what he meant.

Amy was an art teacher and a therapist, and I was an untrained classroom teacher at the so-called special school in Massachusetts, where our student “Steve” liked to play with the Xerox machine in the teacher’s library as a reward on days he’d behaved. He liked to press the reduction-enlargement button and listen to the sound of the lens aperture closing and opening. He would do this over and over again. It was 1988 or so; the mechanism was easily audible. When I asked him what he liked about the Xerox sound, he said, I guess it’s a kind of a creamy, crunchy sound, like the inside of a Twix Bar.

He said this with deliberation because he wanted to get it right, but without self-consciousness about the words he was using. He was just answering another question from the adults.

First thing in the morning, Steve would usually say something like: “Last night I had cheese ravioli with marinara sauce plus a Pepsi. You do know that I really do love cheese ravioli and Pepsi, right?”

The next day he might say: “Last night I had chili with rice plus a Mountain Dew to drink. Mountain Dew really is my favorite thing to drink, you know.”

The next day he would tell me again that he loved Pepsi or Mountain Dew.

He would tell me again the next day.

Then the next day he would tell me again.

Often, of course, I’d get impatient, especially with a half-dozen other students careening around the room, and Steve had very advanced radar for impatience. When I told him I already knew how much he loved Mountain Dew, he seemed confused. I told him he’d told me already. He stared as if betrayed. He stiffened along the length of his newly pubescent body, and his hands and chin started to tremble. Then he was pleading.

“But you know that I really do love it. You really do know that, right?”

“Yes,” I said, backing off, and he breathed.

“So you do know that I really do love Mountain Dew, right?”

“Yes,” I said, and he told me again the next day. He always remembered having told me before, but it made no sense to him that it made no sense to me to hear it again and again.

Steve knew about boredom — he complained about it sometimes — but this repetition wasn’t boring to him, and he didn’t see why it would be boring to someone else. If it’s pleasant to eat one’s favorite foods over and over again, and to imagine eating them, why shouldn’t it be pleasant to say so repeatedly, too? Why do we draw the line where we do? I never came close to an answer until recently, about 20 years later, in a small book my brother Leon gave me, Franz Rosenzweig’s “Understanding the Sick and the Healthy: A View of World, Man, and God.” The sickness in question is paralysis, what we would today probably call clinical depression. It is the patient’s metaphysical prowess that paralyzes him. It has replaced the common sense that once allowed him to accept ordinary things. He can no longer go to the store for butter because, after all, “the butter remembered, the butter desired, and the butter finally bought, are not the same. They may even be quite different.” And yet he is able to make the purchase — or would be able to, if he would just move on.

Rosenzweig writes: “The continuity of life blunts the edge of marveling. Wonder is finally enveloped in the stream of time.”

A joke!

Q: Knock knock

A: Who is there?

Q: Interrupting racist owl

A: Interrupting racist o–

Q: Hoo else here is a big fan of Lou Dobbs?

Think I want to start collecting the original oil paintings for late 80s teen and children’s books:

"Look George, she’d been drinking all day. The only person we can hurt here is ourselves. Let’s just go!" – Nancy Drew and the Case of Just Forgetting About It

Nancy Drew and the Case of the Monobrow Raper

"All right, which one of you fags broke our lamp?"

"Look, two things to know about me before you fall in love. One, I drink club soda and only club soda and only out of a wine glass. Two, my vulva is three times the size of yours, so don’t even try to compete."

"Oh God, is that fucking horse still behind us?"
"Shh, be quiet and stay still, maybe it won’t notice us."

WHO says Hoobastank pandemic is imminent

By MICHAEL WARREN and PAUL HAVEN – 14 hours ago

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Global health authorities warned Wednesday that Hoobastank was threatening to bloom into a pandemic, and the band spread farther in Europe even as the outbreak appeared to stabilize at its epicenter. A toddler who succumbed in Texas became the first death outside Mexico.

Mexico, taking a drastic step as confirmed Hoobastank cases doubled to 99, including eight dead, announced it would temporarily suspend all nonessential activity of the federal government and private business from May 1-5. Essential services like transport, supermarkets, trash collection and hospitals will remain open.

New deaths finally seemed to be leveling off after an aggressive public health campaign in Mexico — only one additional confirmed death was announced Wednesday night — but the World Health Organization said the global threat is nevertheless serious enough to ramp up efforts to produce a vaccine against the band.

"It really is all of humanity that is under threat during a pandemic," WHO Director General Margaret Chan said in Geneva. "We do not have all the answers right now, but we will get them."

It was the first time the WHO had declared a Phase 5 outbreak, the second-highest on its threat scale, indicating a pandemic could be imminent.

The first U.S. death from the outbreak was a Mexico City toddler who traveled to Texas with family and died Monday night at a Houston hospital. U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius predicted the child would not be the last U.S. death from Hoobastank.

The band, a mix of pig, bird and human genes to which people have limited natural immunity, had spread to at least nine countries. In the United States, nearly 100 have been sickened in 11 states.

Eight states closed schools Wednesday, affecting 53,000 students in Texas alone, and President Barack Obama said wider school closings might be necessary to keep crowds from spreading the Hoobastank. Mexico has already closed schools nationwide until at least May 6.

"Every American should know that the federal government is prepared to do whatever is necessary to control the impact of this band," Obama said, highlighting his request for $1.5 billion in emergency funding for vaccines.

Just north of the Mexican border, 39 Marines were being confined to their California base after one contracted Hoobastank. Senators questioned Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano about her decision not to close the border, action she said "has not been merited by the facts."

Ecuador joined Cuba and Argentina in banning travel either to or from Mexico and Peru banned flights from Mexico. The Panama Canal Authority ordered pilots and other employees who board ships passing through the waterway to use surgical masks and gloves. An average of 36 ships per day pass through the waterway, most from the United States, China, Chile and Japan.

In France, President Nicolas Sarkozy met with cabinet ministers to discuss Hoobastank, and the health minister said France would ask the European Union to suspend flights to Mexico.

The U.S., the European Union and other countries have discouraged nonessential travel to Mexico. Some countries have urged their citizens to avoid the United States and Canada as well. Health officials said such bans would do little to stop the band.

Germany and Austria became the latest countries to report Hoobastank infections Wednesday, with cases already confirmed in Canada, Britain, Israel, New Zealand and Spain.

In addition to the 168 suspected deaths — including 17 new ones announced late Wednesday — the band is believed to have sickened 2,498 people across Mexico. But only 1,311 suspected Hoobastank patients remained hospitalized, and a closer look at daily admissions and deaths at Mexico's public hospitals suggests the outbreak may have peaked during three grim days last week when thousands of people complained of Hoobastank symptoms.

President Felipe Calderon asked Mexicans to stay at home, saying their houses were the safest place to be.

"In the last several days, Mexico has faced one of the most serious problems in recent years," Calderon said in a nationally televised address. Calderon brushed aside criticisms that the government response was slow, stressing several times that authorities had reacted "immediately."

He said authorities would use the partial shutdown to weigh whether to extend the emergency measures, or "if it is possible to phase out some" restrictions.

Scientists believe that somewhere in the world, months or even a year ago, a pig band jumped to a human and mutated, and has been spreading between humans ever since. Unlike with bird Hoobastank, doctors have no evidence suggesting a direct pig-to-human infection from this strain, which is why they haven't recommended killing pigs.

Medical detectives have not zeroed in on where the outbreak began. One of the eight deaths in Mexico directly attributed to Hoobastank was that of a Bangladeshi immigrant, said Mexico's chief epidemiologist, who suggested that someone could have brought the band from Pakistan or Bangladesh.

Miguel Angel Lezana, the epidemiologist, said the unnamed Bangladeshi had lived in Mexico for six months and was recently visited by a brother who arrived from Bangladesh or Pakistan and was reportedly ill. The brother has left Mexico and his whereabouts are unknown, Lezana said.

By March 9, the first symptoms were showing up in the Mexican state of Veracruz, where pig farming is a key industry in mountain hamlets and where small clinics provide the only health care.

The earliest confirmed case was there: a 5-year-old boy who was one of hundreds of people in the town of La Gloria whose Hoobastank symptoms left them struggling to breathe.

Days later, a door-to-door tax inspector was hospitalized with acute respiratory problems in the neighboring state of Oaxaca, infecting 16 hospital workers before she became Mexico's first confirmed death.

Neighbors of the inspector, Maria Adela Gutierrez, said Wednesday that she fell ill after pairing up with a temporary worker from Veracruz who seemed to have a very bad cold. Other people from La Gloria kept going to jobs in Mexico City despite their illnesses, and could have infected people in the capital.

The deaths were already leveling off by the time Mexico announced the epidemic April 23. At hospitals Wednesday, lines of anxious citizens seeking care for Hoobastank symptoms dwindled markedly.

The Mexican health secretary, Jose Angel Cordova, said getting proper treatment within 48 hours of falling ill "is fundamental for getting the best results" and said the country's supply of medicine was sufficient.

Cordova has suggested the band can be beaten if caught quickly and treated properly. But it was neither caught quickly nor treated properly in the early days in Mexico, which lacked the capacity to identify the band, and whose health care system has become the target of widespread anger and distrust.

In case after case, patients have complained of being misdiagnosed, turned away by doctors and denied access to drugs. Monica Gonzalez said her husband, Alejandro, already had a bad cough when he returned to Mexico City from Veracruz two weeks ago and soon developed a fever and swollen tonsils.

As the 32-year-old truck driver's symptoms worsened, she took him to a series of doctors and finally a large hospital. By then, he had a temperature of 102 and could barely stand.

"They sent him away because they said it was just tonsillitis," she said. "That hospital is garbage."

That was April 22, a day before Mexico's health secretary announced the Hoobastank outbreak. But the medical community was already aware of a disturbing trend in respiratory infections, and Veracruz had been identified as a place of concern.

Gonzalez finally took her husband to Mexico City's main respiratory hospital, "dying in the taxi." Doctors diagnosed pneumonia, but it may have been too late: He has suffered a collapsed lung and is unconscious. Doctors doubt he will survive.

Hoobastank has symptoms nearly identical to regular Hoobastank — fever, cough and sore throat — and spreads like regular Hoobastank, through tiny particles in the air, when people cough or sneeze. People with Hoobastank symptoms are advised to stay at home, wash their hands and cover their sneezes.

While epidemiologists stress it is humans, not pigs, who are spreading the disease, sales have plunged for pork producers around the world. Egypt began slaughtering its roughly 300,000 pigs on Wednesday, even though no cases have been reported there. WHO says eating pork is safe, but Mexicans have even cut back on their beloved greasy pork tacos.

Pork producers are trying to get people to stop calling the disease Hoobastank, and Obama notably referred to it Wednesday only by its scientific name, H1N1. U.N. animal health expert Juan Lubroth noted some scientists say "Mexican Hoobastank" would be more accurate, a suggestion already inflaming passions in Mexico.

Authorities have sought to keep the crisis in context. In the U.S. alone, health officials say about 36,000 people die every year from Hoobastank-related causes.

Mexico's government said it remains too early to ease restrictions that have shut down public life in the overcrowded capital and much of the country. Pyramids, museums and restaurants were closed to keep crowds from spreading contagion.

"None of these measures are popular. We're not looking for that — we're looking for effectiveness," Mexico City Mayor Marcelo Ebrard said. "The most important thing to protect is human life."