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Psychology Today has a piece on how to try to get customer service reps to help you when you have a particularly difficult problem. Summary:

1. Before you bring up your real problem, have the rep do a simple task (checking your email address, for example.) If you find the rep is being nice or engaged (or, for some companies, even awake), tell them you think they're being so good at their job you'd like to write their supervisor to compliment the rep on good service.

(Note: this may mean acting like you enjoy being polite and chipper to people whose job it is to get you off the phone as quickly as possible.)

2. Once you've promised them you'll do them a favor - if they're amenable to that, and some agents will see right through your facade - you've reached into their brain and poked their sense of social reciprocity. And they'll be primed to help you fix whatever problem which requires extra work.

At this point, if they "defect" on you and don't help you, at least you've gotten their name and supervisor's name, so that when you finally reach someone else who will do their job, you can track your own issue and know how many reps you've spoken to and who failed to fix the problem. For long term problems (and small claims court), this is essential.

3. If they do help you, you've got to follow through and contact their supe to compliment them. This method only works if both parties remain true to their word.

This part is the genius of the exchange: let's face it, that "extra" work really is that person's job, and they should really do it without you having to promise something up front. But now you have, and even though you "lied" to get them to do their job, now you've forced yourself to reciprocate after all. Even if you didn't feel like it.

And why not? You've reached into your brain and poked your own sense of social reciprocity, so you've primed yourself to do good. Pat yourself on the back for creating two wins where there had been none.

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Current Mood: chipper chipper

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Neolithic.  I mean, have you *tried* skinning a rabbit and cooking it over a fire on a stick?
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Do not try this at home.  This idea came out of a discussion with another foodie friend of mine:

Red cabbage "rabbit" shapes (rabbits, for the cabbage.)
Orange sweet bell pepper "bells"
Yellow lemon "lemon" shapes
Green basil "leaves" (literal leaves, this one)
Blue cheese "cheese wheels"
Purple balsamic vinegar "oak barrels"

Serve over pasta (imitating the crunchy bits) with cream sauce (playing the part of milk.)

Voila!  Scare your friends.  Serves 6.

Current Mood: chipper chipper

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It describes a look shared by two people with each wishing that the other will initiate something that both desire but which neither one wants to start. This could perhaps be translated more succinctly as "eye-contact implying 'after you...'". A more literal approximation is "ending up mutually at a loss as to what to do about each other".

This word is from a language called Yamana (wiki), which has only one speaker left alive (Ethnologue).  She is elderly.  One hundred ethnic descendants of the same language all speak English, and they - apart from maybe this word - don't have a word for exactly what they mean when that happens to them. 

I'm glad we found that word in time.

(Ganked from kottke.)
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If Kim Stanley Robinson's Red Mars trilogy were cast into a 36-episode series done by HBO, this would be my casting:

Helen Mirren as Maya Toitovna (obvious choice)
Kevin Costner as John Boone (if character needed to act his way out of paper bag, Robert Redford were he not dead / in his 90s)
Tommy Lee Jones as Frank Chalmers
Michelle Yeoh as Hiroko (I'd prefer someone more able to be batshit-pagan;  Anjelica Huston might pull this off, were she Asian)
Don Cheadle as Coyote
Brad Pitt as Arkady... although someone older would be more realistic.
Joan Allen as Ann Clayborne (she does stiffness and remoteness so well)
Bob Balaban as Sax Russell (with my casting clearly influenced by "2010")
Kathy Bates as Nadia Cherneshevsky
Michel... Gene Wilder.  Trust me on this one.

Marcus Chong as Nirgal (or any number of actors of his heritage that no one's heard about, but weren't in The Matrix)
Angelina Jolie as Jackie Boone, swanning around in giant robes of power
Christina Ricci as Zo... maybe.
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from some fiction in the New Yorker a couple months ago.  Emphasis mine.

One thing I must admit here: I find anger tricky. Anger is a very sincere emotion. We live under the rule of cool, and we are expected to encounter the vicissitudes of the world with a certain degree of irony. Sincerity, as any hipster will tell you, is for awkward teens and people on SSRIs. Think about it—sincerity is gauche, gauche is boring, and boring is rude, so it’s only a matter of ordinary politeness not to take things too seriously.

 "Raj, Bohemian", Hari Kunzru
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Hm, so what shall we name this new troop addition we're sending over, since the Surge worked so well?

 - the Dew
 - the Fresca
 - the Spray
 - the Aftershock (TOO SOON!)
 - the Afterthought
 - the Aslan (Will Save Us) (Because We Live In A Children's Book [Dubya Remix])

 - the WHAT THE HELL WERE YOU THINKING, ALL OF YOU, KARL ROVE IF I EVER SEE YOU IN PERSON I AM GOING TO SCRATCH YOUR EYES OUT AND FEED THEM TO YOU oh wait, did I say that out loud?  I should edit that before Carnivore IDs me, huh.

Apologies all 'round.
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Sec. of State Condoleezza Rice today described Bush's policy on Iran as 'successful'.  She also described oil as "not really all that pricey", Myanmar's refusal to disperse aid to its disaster-ravaged people "just Burmese being Burmese", and her love life as a success, adding,  "after all, my husband IS the President.  Hey, is that thing recording?"
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No one person could possibly learn all six thousand languages, could they?  Of course not.  Not natively, or anywhere close to that.  But how many could one kid learn?

"We have no idea what happens when you cram 10^5 neurons into the space the size of a basketball." - Noam Chomsky.

Simple estimate of how many languages a kid could learn, given the numbers we know:

Let's say there's a kid who grows up in a multilingual environment - massively multilingual - say, the crowded urban streets in Lagos, Nigeria (languages spoken in Nigeria: ~500) or maybe in downtown Calcutta (languages spoken in India: ~400).  Someplace where everywhere you look, hundreds of people are in your vision at every moment, speaking.

Let's say this kid spends all of her time with a parent who works at some market for most of the day, where scores of these languages are spoken by passersby.

During a certain period in development, a child is learning something like one new word per hour.  That  seems big, but that's apparently what's going on when the kid is between two and three years of age.  Later, that number drops off, but whether that's due to redundancy of environmental input (in one language, you're going to hear fewer new words as your vocabulary expands) or to a leveling off of the critical period's faculties is one of many, many issues I'm going to gloss over in thinking about this.

So we have this kid who hears words all day, every day.  Assuming it takes 0.5 seconds to utter one content word, that could be as many as 120 different words (of any number of languages) heard by the kid in an hour.  Twelve hours of this Neo-Matrix-like cerebral training could yield (12 hours * 120 wd/hr) = 1440 words in a day, * number of days potentially in this critical period (let's say a year), yields 525600 words. 

525600 divided by the minimal number of words we can say need to be acquired in order to obtain a faculty in a language, which - esimates vary, but let's say 6000 words for a language... 525600 / 6000 = ...

87.6 possible languages a kid could pick up, given maximal input and maximal learning time.  This is only for a given critical period - continued exposure to all such languages would reinforce what's already there.

NINETY languages. Preposterous, of course.  Since this isn't counting syntax and semantics, merely the linking of lexical item to its referent, and leaving a LOT of other stuff out, this estimate could vary widely... but I've heard of people knowing 20 or 30, and I'm sure there are people who know more.

But given the people who have memorized the digits of Pi to some thousands of places, I'm not willing to say it's impossible, and given what we know about the brain and language acquisition, I'm prepared to say that estimate is entirely plausible.

After all, we have no idea what happens when you cram zillions of neurons into the space the size of a basketball.  As always, we have the mighty course of Evolution to thank for this miracle.  Respect its power and praise its gifts.

Current Mood: curious curious

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Guinness chocolate muffins (with a simple ganache glaze), just in time for the potluck feastings tomorrow.  Recipe from Big City, Little Kitchen.  And from legions of Guinness lovers.

Thanks, Easter Bunny!  Bawk bawk!

Current Mood: accomplished

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