Saturday, December 1, 2007
moar funny pictures
You are my swan true love
It was love at first flight for the bird who has swum by the swan-shaped boat’s side for the past year.
Park staff at Aasee lake in Germany decided not to separate the pair in winter when pedalos are put in storage.
Instead they set up a mini-shelter for Petra and her ‘partner’. Sounds like a perfect love nest!
How many kisses to plant on the cheeks? It is a conundrum shared by the socially timid and extrovert alike: whether to plump for a brusque one-cheek brush or to dive in for multiples and risk appearing embarrassingly overenthusiastic.
Nowhere is the puzzle more complex than in France, the country most famed for the practice. Now, far from settling the matter, a survey aimed at determining the correct etiquette of kissing has only illustrated a fracture at the heart of the country.
This may be welcome news to the British, many of whom still regard the looming approach of a proffered cheek as a social minefield. Having adopted the French habit of kissing far beyond the family circle, the British often find themselves at sea when it comes to knowing where and when to kiss, how many times, and which cheek to peck first.
In France, not only does the number of kisses vary from one to four depending on the region, but it also varies within regions. City centres and their peripheries, urban and rural communities and different social classes are all divided over how many kisses to give.
“It is very complex,” said Constance Rietzler, director of La Belle École in Paris, which provides lessons on French art de vivre. “There is a lot of confusion over this.”
Gilles Debunne, a computer expert, hoped to resolve the conundrum when he launched a website, Combien de Bises (How Many Kisses), this year. “I was curious to find out what the reality was,” he said.He had hoped to end the embarrassment that arises when trying to give three or four kisses to someone who turns their head away after just two. (While the British opt for fewer kisses, many is the one-cheek kisser who has been left gawping as a double-cheeker lunges at them a second time.)
Mr Debunne invited internet users to vote on what they considered to be the appropriate number of kisses for a greeting in their département. More than 18,000 votes have been registered and the picture of a divided nation is emerging.
In Paris and central France, most people give two kisses – one on each cheek. But a swath of northern France, from Normandy to the Belgian border, opted in general for four. And southeastern France, from Marseilles to the Alps, preferred three.
Two départements – Finistère in Brittany and DeuxSèvres in the centre – give a meagre one. But within each region, there were deep divisions. About half the voters in and around Calais, for example, said that they gave “deux bises” while the other half said that they gave “quatre”.
In the Vienne département in central France, the confusion was even greater, with voters plumping in almost equal numbers for two, three and four kisses.
“It’s a lot more subtle than I ever imagined,” said Mr Debunne. “Sometimes the number of kisses changes depending on whether you’re seeing friends or family or what generation you belong to.”
Class distinctions also came into play. Mrs Rietzler said that the French upper classes preferred two kisses. Anyone planting three or more smackers on the cheeks of their host at a refined dinner would be committing a faux pas, she said.
But to whom should you faire la bise and in what circumstances? Mrs Rietzler said: “In general, the French kiss friends who are the same generation as them and family members.” She said that women could kiss each other and could kiss men as well. But men kissed each other only if they were very close friends or relations.
“If you are invited to a dinner party with people you don’t know, you’ll shake their hands when you arrive. At the end of the evening, you might kiss them but it’s probably better to hold out your hand and see what happens.”
Safe enough advice for those on both sides of the Channel.
Kissing cousins: how they do it across Europe
The Netherlands begin and end on the same cheek. Three kisses are expected, but if greeting an elderly or close family member add a few more. Right cheek first
Italy kissing is restricted to very close friends or family. The number is optional and as there are no rules on which cheek to kiss first, there are frequent clashes
Belgium If the same age as the other person, one kiss is the rule. For someone ten years older, three is a mark of respect. This is hazardous if you are bad at judging ages
Spain, Austria and Scandinavia All are content with the two kisses ritual. In Spain the rule is strictly right cheek first
Germany tends to restrict kissing to family and very close friends. Handshakes predominate and all meetings begin and end with this formality
Wachovia Bank Tells Man He Owes $211 Trillion
COBB COUNTY, Ga. -- It’s one thing to bounce a check and it’s another to be so far in the red Bill Gates, Warren Buffet and Donald Trump combined couldn’t come close to bailing you out. A Cobb County man got a letter from his bank with that very shocking news.
“And I open up the letter and I look at it and I’m like, ‘No, you’ve got to be kidding me,’ said Joe Martins.
Martins said he recently closed an account at Wachovia Bank and made good on an outstanding check. He just got a letter about the closure and his negative balance -- $211,010,028,257,303.00. That’s $211 trillion.
The letter includes the clarification, “no cents.”
“I didn’t know what to think. Obviously $211 trillion is a little above what I put in my bank account,” said Martins.
$211 trillion is more than 70 times the entire federal budget.
Still, the letter said Wachovia was reporting him to an agency that rates risky bank customers.
“I don’t own $211 trillion but because it is automated and reported to check systems, I assume it will be reported to my credit at some point,” said Martins.
He said Wachovia had made mistakes on his accounts before so he called Channel 2 first. Wachovia blamed the letter on a word processing error and the office of the president is sending a letter of apology.
“They tell me it’s going to be resolved but I’m not sure that it will,” said Martins. “I closed my account today.”
Since it is a closed account it is now safe to say the dollar figure in the letter matched the account number.
Martins said Wachovia told him late Friday afternoon they never did report him for his negative balance. Wachovia vice president David Oliver told Channel 2, “We can certainly understand how our recent correspondence with Mr. Martins about his account would be cause for great concern. I can confirm that there will be no adverse effect on Mr. Martins’ credit report related to the letter he received. Also, I can confirm that this was an isolated error specifically related to his account.”
Copyright 2007 by WSBTV.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed
Friday, November 30, 2007
Daredevil Evel Knievel dead at 69
Pop culture icon had been in poor health for years
CLEARWATER, Fla. (AP) -- Evel Knievel, the red-white-and-blue-spangled motorcycle daredevil whose jumps over Greyhound buses, live sharks and Idaho's Snake River Canyon made him an international icon in the 1970s, died Friday. He was 69.
Knievel's death was confirmed by his granddaughter, Krysten Knievel. He had been in failing health for years, suffering from diabetes and pulmonary fibrosis, an incurable condition that scarred his lungs.
Knievel had undergone a liver transplant in 1999 after nearly dying of hepatitis C, likely contracted through a blood transfusion after one of his bone-shattering spills.
Immortalized in the Washington's Smithsonian Institution as "America's Legendary Daredevil," Knievel was best known for a failed 1974 attempt to jump Snake River Canyon on a rocket-powered cycle and a spectacular crash at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas. He suffered nearly 40 broken bones before he retired in 1980.
Though Knievel dropped off the pop culture radar in the '80s, the image of the high-flying motorcyclist clad in patriotic, star-studded colors was never erased from public consciousness. He always had fans and enjoyed a resurgence in popularity in recent years.
His death came just two days after it was announced that he and rapper Kanye West had settled a federal lawsuit over the use of Knievel's trademarked image in a popular West music video.
Knievel made a good living selling his autographs and endorsing products. Thousands came to Butte, Mont., every year as his legend was celebrated during the "Evel Knievel Days" festival.
"They started out watching me bust my ass, and I became part of their lives," Knievel said. "People wanted to associate with a winner, not a loser. They wanted to associate with someone who kept trying to be a winner."
For the tall, thin daredevil, the limelight was always comfortable, the gab glib. To Knievel, there always were mountains to climb, feats to conquer.
"No king or prince has lived a better life," he said in a May 2006 interview with The Associated Press. "You're looking at a guy who's really done it all. And there are things I wish I had done better, not only for me but for the ones I loved."
He had a knack for outrageous yarns: "Made $60 million, spent 61. ...Lost $250,000 at blackjack once. ... Had $3 million in the bank, though."
He began his daredevil career in 1965 when he formed a troupe called Evel Knievel's Motorcycle Daredevils, a touring show in which he performed stunts such as riding through fire walls, jumping over live rattlesnakes and mountain lions and being towed at 200 mph behind dragster race cars.
In 1966 he began touring alone, barnstorming the West and doing everything from driving the trucks, erecting the ramps and promoting the shows. In the beginning he charged $500 for a jump over two cars parked between ramps.
He steadily increased the length of the jumps until, on New Year's Day 1968, he was nearly killed when he jumped 151 feet across the fountains in front of Caesar's Palace. He cleared the fountains but the crash landing put him in the hospital in a coma for a month.
His son, Robbie, successfully completed the same jump in April 1989.
In the years after the Caesar's crash, the fee for Evel's performances increased to $1 million for his jump over 13 buses at Wembley Stadium in London -- the crash landing broke his pelvis -- to more than $6 million for the Sept. 8, 1974, attempt to clear the Snake River Canyon in Idaho in a rocket-powered "Skycycle." The money came from ticket sales, paid sponsors and ABC's "Wide World of Sports."
The parachute malfunctioned and deployed after takeoff. Strong winds blew the cycle into the canyon, landing him close to the swirling river below.
On Oct. 25, 1975, he jumped 14 Greyhound buses at Kings Island in Ohio.
Knievel decided to retire after a jump in the winter of 1976 in which he was again seriously injured. He suffered a concussion and broke both arms in an attempt to jump a tank full of live sharks in the Chicago Amphitheater. He continued to do smaller exhibitions around the country with his son, Robbie.
Many of his records have been broken by daredevil motorcyclist Bubba Blackwell.
Knievel also dabbled in movies and TV, starring as himself in "Viva Knievel" and with Lindsay Wagner in an episode of the 1980s TV series "Bionic Woman." George Hamilton and Sam Elliott each played Knievel in movies about his life.
Evel Knievel toys accounted for more than $300 million in sales for Ideal and other companies in the 1970s and '80s.
Born Robert Craig Knievel in the copper mining town of Butte on Oct. 17, 1938, Knievel was raised by his grandparents. He traced his career choice back to the time he saw Joey Chitwood's Auto Daredevil Show at age 8.
Outstanding in track and field, ski jumping and ice hockey at Butte High School, he went on to win the Northern Rocky Mountain Ski Association Class A Men's ski jumping championship in 1957 and played with the Charlotte Clippers of the Eastern Hockey League in 1959.
He also formed the Butte Bombers semiprofessional hockey team, acting as owner, manager, coach and player.
Knievel also worked in the Montana copper mines, served in the Army, ran his own hunting guide service, sold insurance and ran Honda motorcycle dealerships. As a motorcycle dealer, he drummed up business by offering $100 off the price of a motorcycle to customers who could beat him at arm wrestling.
At various times and in different interviews, Knievel claimed to have been a swindler, a card thief, a safe cracker, a holdup man.
Evel Knievel married hometown girlfriend, Linda Joan Bork, in 1959. They separated in the early 1990s. They had four children, Kelly, Robbie, Tracey and Alicia.
Robbie Knievel followed in his father's footsteps as a daredevil, jumping a moving locomotive in a 200-foot, ramp-to-ramp motorcycle stunt on live television in 2000. He also jumped a 200-foot-wide chasm of the Grand Canyon.
Knievel lived with his longtime partner, Krystal Kennedy-Knievel, splitting his time between their Clearwater condo and Butte. They married in 1999 and divorced a few years later but remained together. Knievel had 10 grandchildren and a great-grandchild.
Copyright 2007 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
Thursday, November 29, 2007
Huggable urns and coffin candy for 'Kitschmas'
By Jonathan Petre, Religion Correspondent
What do you give the Christian who has everything this Christmas? How about a pin cushion sensitively modelled on St Sebastian, the third-century martyr riddled with a hail of arrows?
Or for the more technologically minded, how about a Virgin Mary memory stick to store computer data, complete with a flashing "sacred heart"?
These are among gifts of questionable taste included in a "12 days of Kitschmas" list unveiled by Ship of Fools, a satirical Christian website.
One of the favourites is a calendar in which scantily clad models pose in front of a range of wood coffins, created by a firm of undertakers in Rome. Described by the website as the "Pirelli Calendar for morticians", it is on sale for 3.50 euros.
On a similar note, one company is offering "huggable urns", conventional teddy bears that unzip at the back to reveal velvet pouches for cremated ashes.
The bears, described by the website as the "Paddingtonization of death", are stitched with the words "hold me" and will set you back from an American website at $99.95, or $149.95 if you want one with angel wings.
For those who flag during lengthy church services, there is the Hip Flask Bible, which allows worshippers to refresh themselves while pretending to study the psalms.
The traditionally bound book opens to reveal a 4oz stainless steel hip flask hidden inside its pages, and is available for just £15.
Even racier are the "thongs of praise", items of skimpy underwear featuring a picture of the Madonna and child on the front, priced at $12.99 a pair.
Those looking for something more restrained might try Christ on a Bike, a figurine of Jesus astride a powerful chopper motorbike, a crown of thorns on his head and robes flowing out behind him?
As the Ship of Fools website comments: "Riding into town on a donkey was all very well in the days of sandals and wearing tea towels on your head.
"But today the Messiah who wants to make an impression needs something a bit more."
The model, yours for just $30, is one of a series depicting Jesus involved in various contemporary pursuits, from skateboarding to surfing and from football to rodeo.
For those of more Catholic tastes, there is Pope's Cologne, which claims to be based on formula favoured by Pius IX.
The website comments: "With notes of violet and citrus, the 150-year-old Vatican toilet water will make a truly fragrant offering for the holy father in your life."
Those with loftier ambitions might enjoy the Vatican's answer to Monopoly, a board game in which the winner is elected the pontiff.
Up to six "cardinals" play the game, rolling the dice in the quest to become papabile, and encountering all the usual Catholic preoccupations on the way, from theological censorship and Latin liturgical texts to beatification politics and visions of long-dead saints.
Failing that, how about "holy toast" for breakfast? All you need is a special stamp that makes an imprint of the Virgin Mary on your bread before you put it in the toaster.
Or the Jerusalem Compass that always points the way to the city, so you can ensure your prayers are sent in the right direction.
On a more political note, the collection also includes a nativity scene carved by Palestinians that incorporates a representation of the 230-mile security fence that Israel has erected to deter terrorists, with the wise men trapped on the wrong side.
3.3 billion mobile accounts: 1 for every 2 earthlings
Somewhere on the planet today someone will skip over pages of fine print they will later regret not reading - and thumb their nose at the risk of a phone exploding - in order to sign a mobile services contract that will bring the worldwide number of such accounts to 3.3 billion, a figure roughly equal to half the Earth's population.
Can't you just see the balloons and confetti falling on some startled AT&T customer in Ottumwa, Iowa?
Announcing this milestone with such remarkable precision are the industry analysts at Informa Telecoms and Media, who in their press release also provide a treasure trove of interesting facts and trivia regarding the mobile-phone revolution:
-- In 1987, only 35 countries hosted mobile-phone networks, a figure that had risen to 192 a decade later and today stands at 224.
-- Ten percent of the world's population remains uncovered by a mobile network, while 40 percent are covered but remain unconnected, including my father, which should surprise no one given that he doesn't even have an ATM card.
-- That 3.3 billion figure does not mean that half the people on the planet are packing cell phones. The reason is that so many individuals have identified a need to have more than one account at a time: 59 countries tally more accounts than people, according to these analysts.
-- On the other hand, 27 counties with networks have subscriber penetrations below 10 percent.
As for the figures only a carrier executive could love - Average Revenue Per User (ARPU) - the numbers are all over the map:
-- On the high end, Kuwaiti operator Zain reports a monthly ARPU of $71, followed by Hutchison Whampoa's UK operations at $70.55 and Q-Tel in Qatar with $69.
-- On the lower side, there is Hutchison's Sri Lankan operator at $2.83 and Bangladesh's CityCell brand at $2.98.
Hey, where can I get me one of those Sri Lankan plans?
My instant boob job from 36A to 36DD - and the effect it had on men (and women)By CLOVER STROUD - More by this author » Last updated at 00:59am on 30th November 2007
Clover Stroud: Goes double D for the day
Worse – or was it better? – was to come. In Sainsbury's not one but two men offered to let me go ahead of them in the queue.
Another wanted to know if I needed help packing my groceries away. Another still wanted to open my car door for me in the car park.
In my local delicatessen, Gluttons, the man behind the counter smiled and nodded like an eager puppy as I bought such mundanities as olive oil and courgettes.
But it was the (male) librarian at my local library who really seemed to have lost his marbles.
Only a few days previously, he had processed my son's books in the nursery section, and he had seemed like a perfectly normal, capable, soul.
Now, though, he was a man on the edge.
He stuttered when I asked him to show me how to use the new IT system. He flushed beetroot as I sat down.
As he pointed to the screen, I noticed that his hand shook. He seemed incapable of a simple sentence.
Eventually, muttering something about going to find his assistant, he fled completely, and sent a (female) colleague back in his place.
Not that the women of Oxford were behaving normally either.
One looked decidedly cross and uncomfortable to be asked directions to the post office.
When I left a bar that evening, three glamorous types threw me withering looks.
But what had inspired this frankly odd behaviour from complete strangers? Quite simply, it was my pair of perfectly perky 36DD breasts.
What they didn't know of course was that they were in fact made of silicone and had been 'added' to my chest the previous day.
For most of my life, I'd never given a lot of thought to the contents of my bra. I suppose I am on the small side of normal – I am a 36A, but might go up to a 36B depending on the manufacturer.
While I've never been one of those completely flat-chested girls who can run around all day wearing a vest and no bra, my breasts are not my defining feature.
But would I want them to be? Well, like it or not, this past week they were - in the name of journalistic investigation.
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Clover before (left) with her 36A breasts and getting fake ones fitted by Paul Boyce
Breasts are in the news again – when are they not? – because Trinny and Susannah have been going on about them in their show Undress The Nation.
Like everyone else, I was intrigued to see in the papers a few days ago pictures of skinny Trinny wearing a pair of specially made 32D prosthetic breasts to see what all the fuss is about - and how people would react to her as a top-heavy woman.
I decided to try the same experiment. The man who created my awesome breasts is Paul Boyce, a prosthetic and TV special effects expert.
He took a cast of my real breasts using a dental aginate and plaster bandages. When this had dried, he then sculpted a fibreglass resin mould over the top, and injected prosthetic silicone between the mould and the cast.
The result was startling: a pair of perfect 36DD silicone breasts that fitted from my collarbone to just above my stomach, and which had to be reapplied every day.
They were absolutely lifelike and they moved naturally with me. Once fitted, he painted them using eight different colours combined exactly to match my skin tone.
They felt similar to wearing a tight sports bra. In fact, I could almost forget I was wearing them. Or at least I could until I looked in a mirror.
As soon as I got dressed, I was transfixed. My dress – which I'd always clinched in with a belt, so voluminous was the top – was properly filled out for the first time, and the belt suddenly made me look like Dolly Parton.
Suddenly, I knew what 'figure hugging' meant.
The outfit called for heels in a way that it never had before. I put some on, and, well, strutted around the bedroom, admiring my new breasts and new profile.
I thought I looked immediately more feminine. And taller. And sexier. Yes, it was an odd sensation – I felt as if I had grown another arm – but I felt happier too, as illogical as it sounds.
I have had those sensations once before about seven years ago, when I was 24, and I had a momentary, but startling, insight into what it might be like to be born with very, very large breasts, and to find yourself unable to have a conversation with a man without his eyes drifting downwards.
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Man-magnet: All eyes on Clover with her new breasts
I was in hospital, having given birth to my son hours before and one of my first visitors after the birth was my best male friend. He's someone I've known all my life, and I am as close to him as my closest girlfriend.
We've always had a platonic relationship, but there's little we've not shared. He's even seen me naked - as a teenager I once stripped off and then jumped into a river in front of him.
This time he'd come to admire my new baby boy, but as I regaled him with details of the birth, I realised he had that blank, stunned, slightly stupid expression which indicated he hadn't heard anything I'd said to him.
Not only that, but he could not maintain eye contact with me, and his mouth was open.
He wasn't having a conversation with me, but with my breasts.
Overnight, as my milk had come in, I had developed 36G breasts the size of, well, vast melons.
As I chatted away, I realised that he was getting misty eyed, but it wasn't over the fact that I had just asked him to be a godfather, but rather at the sight of my new, fabulous, full breasts straining against my shirt.
I was surprised rather than offended by the fact that this dramatic development of my new assets had totally changed me in his eyes.
It certainly felt odd that my status as a friend might be radically redefined by the size of my breasts, and the episode left me with an enduring memory of the power of large breasts, and a fascination with how life would have been, had I held onto mine post-breastfeeding.
Would it have changed the way men treated me? The way I viewed myself?
This week, I found out by inflicting my new silicone breasts on the good people of Oxford, where I live.
The postman was first, and I was bemused that he seemed much cheerier than normal.
Then came the couple I asked for directions in the street. She was noticeably irritated. Odd enough.
But at least she managed to keep looking in my face as she talked to me. Her husband was downright rude. He simply looked at my cleavage.
And looked. And looked. It was brazen, and deeply embarrassing.
I felt like asking him if I could check out his chest in return – genuinely surprised that he could feel so comfortable openly gawping my breasts in front of his wife.
I wandered off, dismissing him as some saddo with an overt breast fixation and probably a complex Freudian relationship with his mother.
But what I didn't realise was that my experiences with my new chest were about to prove that he was, in fact, just a very normal man.
It's such a cliché, but with a few hours I had realised that large breasts really do work as a man magnet at at least a hundred yards.
Men walking past clocked me, then checked me up and down in a way that I found unsettling – so unused was I to the experience.
They seemed to have a primal urge to stare at my breasts and nothing – not wives, girlfriends or even modern etiquette – seemed to deter them.
Drivers did a double take, one swerving violently – comedy strip-style – to avoid a passing cyclist. Men made eye contact frequently, but having detected a flicker of attention from me they could only stare at my breasts.
At first I was bemused, even flattered in a strange way. The feeling of power my new breasts gave me was a novelty.
Throughout the first day, doors opened to me that I hadn't even realised existed, let alone that they were closed to me. The age of chivalry – long dead, I'd always thought – was suddenly resurrected.
I gleefully recounted my experiences in the supermarket to a male friend, who simply snorted.
"Those men only let you go in front of them in the queue so they could ogle your cleavage," he said. Oh. Suddenly, it didn't sound so empowering.
Now that I was in possession of a 'proper' pair, my male friends were only too happy to enlighten me as to why they find large breasts so fascinating.
Universally, it seems, they associate them with sex and fun.
One told me: "I know it's not right, but when a girl has large breasts, I naturally assume that she must be more interested in sex than someone with a flat chest."
Luckily for men, there are clearly a lot more large-breasted women out there than ever before. In the past 50 years – largely due to an increasingly fatty diet, and the widespread use of the contraceptive pill – average breast sizes have increased.
The much-quoted British average is now a 36C – but large bra specialists Bravissimo estimate that this figure should really be closer to a 34DD or even a 34E. Marks and Spencer is currently trialling a J cup.
Well, I can't say I would rush for that size of silicone on my chest. At the gym, I suddenly understood why my larger-chested friends moan about their bust size.
I didn't feel as if I was as efficient at doing weights as I usually am.
Quite simply, they get in the way. I couldn't help but admire my newly curvaceous silhouette in the floor-to-ceiling mirrors, but running on the treadmill was a different matter.
All the anti-bounce sports bras in the world aren't going to stop this sort of unwanted movement. I half expected to walk out of there with two black eyes.
Suddenly, I had sympathy with friends I have long envied. I recalled the sight of one of them hugging her hands over her ample breasts as she ran up the hockey pitch at school, trying but failing to score a goal at the same time.
"My large breasts made my life a misery," she tells me now.
"You envied me, but I would have done anything to have had a normal breast size. I wasn't confident enough for the attention from men, then, and they were a nightmare for exercise."
For the first time, I saw why large breasts could also be painful, irritating and humiliating.
Perhaps the biggest test of how I felt about my 'new' breasts came on a night out with some girlfriends.
The male bar staff snapped to attention when I walked into the upmarket cocktail bar, and didn't seem in the least irritated that it took me some time to choose a drink.
Funny that. The stares followed me all night. One man was downright objectionable – so much so that I actually asked him what he was staring at. The reply stunned me.
"I'm a plastic surgeon," he replied. "You've obviously had implants but whoever did it, did a fantastic job. Can I ask the name of the surgeon?"
But being out at night in a safe, upmarket environment is one thing. I would not have dared to walk into a pub full of leery drunken men with breasts this large.
When I left the bar alone, I was aware that three women outside were looking daggers at me. I realised that my breasts are as threatening to some women as they are titillating to men.
Did they, too, think that this cleavage was somehow a indication that I was looking for sex?
Shivering as I waited for a taxi in the rain, a man passed me.
“Lovely boobs,” he murmured almost to himself. How dare he? I hadn't invited, or wanted his attention.
Friendly smiles at the supermarket checkout might be fun, and quite flattering, and it might get you home sooner with your groceries, but this was something else.
It verged on menacing. And it was completely out of my control.
I realised that a whole lifetime of being checked out, and commented on, like some prize heifer, would drive me quite mad.
I stomped home, angry and confused. I found myself longing to rip off the silicone.
With smaller breasts, my body is my own – rather than a piece of public property, to be admired - or simply ogled - in much the same way as a sculpture in a park.
OK, so large breasts are fun and sexy, but there are days when I don't want my body to be viewed as a comedy item.
I don't necessarily want to be whistled at, or stared at on the school run.
Sometimes I want to be anonymous – and that is practically impossible once you venture into DD-cup territory.
And yet, I liked them too. By the end of the week, I had grown quite attached to my new breasts.
It is undeniable that they did make me feel more feminine and a whole lot sexier.
But they were fantasy breasts, and accepting that made them easier to take off for good. Because they were made of silicone, they were pert and lifted, and perfect.
Most breasts – like so much of life – are imperfect. They sag and droop.
I will never have large breasts again, though, and that makes me sad.
They are sitting on my dresser now, a silicone reminder of some fleeting memories of being a size DD.
I won't forget them. Nor, obviously, will the men of Oxford.
Thou Shalt Not Buy
Too Much of Our Beer
Resellers of Prized Brew;
Brother Joris Plays Hardball
November 29, 2007; Page A1
WESTVLETEREN, Belgium -- The Trappist monks at St. Sixtus monastery have taken vows against riches, sex and eating red meat. They speak only when necessary. But you can call them on their beer phone.
Monks have been brewing Westvleteren beer at this remote spot near the French border since 1839. Their brew, offered in strengths up to 10.2% alcohol by volume, is among the most highly prized in the world. In bars from Brussels to Boston, and online, it sells for more than $15 for an 11-ounce bottle -- 10 times what the monks ask -- if you can get it.
For the 26 monks at St. Sixtus, however, success has brought a spiritual hangover as they fight to keep an insatiable market in tune with their life of contemplation.
The monks are doing their best to resist getting bigger. They don't advertise and don't put labels on their bottles. They haven't increased production since 1946. They sell only from their front gate. You have to make an appointment and there's a limit: two, 24-bottle cases a month. Because scarcity has created a high-priced gray market online, the monks search the net for resellers and try to get them to stop.
"We sell beer to live, and not vice versa," says Brother Joris, the white-robed brewery director. Beer lovers, however, seem to live for Westvleteren.
When Jill Nachtman, an American living in Zurich, wanted a taste recently, she called the hot line everybody calls the beer phone. After an hour of busy signals, she finally got through and booked a time. She drove 16 hours to pick up her beer. "If you factor in gas, hotel -- and the beer -- I spent $20 a bottle," she says.
Until the monks installed a new switchboard and set up a system for appointments two years ago, the local phone network would sometimes crash under the weight of calls for Westvleteren. Cars lined up for miles along the flat one-lane country road that leads to the red brick monastery, as people waited to pick up their beer.
"This beer is addictive, like chocolate," said Luc Lannoo, an unemployed, 36-year-old Belgian from Ghent, about an hour away, as he loaded two cases of Westvleteren into his car at the St. Sixtus gate one morning. "I have to come every month."
Two American Web sites, Rate Beer and Beer Advocate, rank the strongest of Westvleteren's three products, a dark creamy beer known as "the 12," best in the world, ahead of beers including Sweden's Närke Kaggen Stormaktsporter and Minnesota's Surly Darkness. "No question, it is the holy grail of beers," says Remi Johnson, manager of the Publick House, a Boston bar that has Westvleteren on its menu but rarely in stock.
Some beer lovers say the excitement over Westvleteren is hype born of scarcity. "It's a very good beer," says Jef van den Steen, a brewer and author of a book on Trappist monks and their beer published in French and Dutch. "But it reminds me of the movie star you want to sleep with because she's inaccessible, even if your wife looks just as good."
|WSJ's John Miller travels through Belgium in a quest for a small-batch brew made by Trappist monks that's considered by some the best beer in the world.|
Thanks to the beer phone, there are no more lines of cars outside the monastery now. But production remains just 60,000 cases per year, while demand is as high as ever. Westvleteren has become almost impossible to find, even in the specialist beer bars of Brussels and local joints around the monastery.
"I keep on asking for beer," says Christophe Colpaert, manager of "Café De Sportsfriend," a bar down the road from the monks. "They barely want to talk to me." On a recent day, a recorded message on the beer phone said St. Sixtus wasn't currently making appointments; the monks were fresh out of beer.
Increasing production is not an option, according to the 47-year-old Brother Joris, who says he abandoned a stressful career in Brussels for St. Sixtus 14 years ago. "It would interfere with our job of being a monk," he says.
Belgian monasteries like St. Sixtus started making beer in the aftermath of the French Revolution, which ended in 1799. The revolt's anti-Catholic purge had destroyed churches and abbeys in France and Belgium. The monks needed cash to rebuild, and beer was lucrative.
Trappist is a nickname for the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance, who set up their own order in La Trappe, France, in the 1660s because they thought Cistercian monasteries were becoming too lax. The monks at St. Sixtus sleep in a dormitory and stay silent in the cloisters, though they speak if they need to. Today, though, Trappists are increasingly famous for making good beer.
Seven monasteries (six are Belgian, one, La Trappe, is Dutch) are allowed to label their beer as Trappist. In 1996, they set up an alliance to protect their brand. They retain lawyers in Washington and Brussels ready to sue brewers who try use the word Trappist. Every few months, Brother Joris puts on street clothes and takes the train to Brussels to meet with fellow monks to share sales and business data, and plot strategy.
The monks know their beer has become big business. That's fine with the brothers at Scourmont, the monastery in southern Belgium that makes the Chimay brand found in stores and bars in Europe and the U.S. They've endorsed advertising and exports, and have sales exceeding $50 million a year. They say the jobs they create locally make the business worthy. Other monasteries, which brew names familiar to beer lovers such as Orval, Westmalle and Rochefort, also are happy their businesses are growing to meet demand.
Not so at St. Sixtus. Brother Joris and his fellow monks brew only a few days a month, using a recipe they've kept to themselves for around 170 years.
Two monks handle the brewing. After morning prayer, they mix hot water with malt. They add hops and sugar at noon. After boiling, the mix, sufficient to fill roughly 21,000 bottles, is fermented for up to seven days in a sterilized room. From there the beer is pumped to closed tanks in the basement where it rests for between five weeks and three months. Finally, it is bottled and moved along a conveyor belt into waiting cases. Monks at St. Sixtus used to brew by hand, but nothing in the rules of the order discourages technology, so they've plowed profits into productivity-enhancing equipment. St. Sixtus built its current brewhouse in 1989 with expert advice from the company then known as Artois Breweries.
In the 1980s, the monks even debated whether they should continue making something from which people can get drunk. "There is no dishonor in brewing beer for a living. We are monks of the West: moderation is a key word in our asceticism," says Brother Joris in a separate, email interview. "We decided to stick to our traditional skills instead of breeding rabbits."
The result is a brew with a slightly sweet, heavily alcoholic, fruity aftertaste.
One day recently, the wiry, sandy-haired Brother Joris returned to his office in the monastery after evening prayers. He flipped on his computer and went online to hunt for resellers and ask them to desist. "Most of the time, they agree to withdraw their offer," he says. Last year, St. Sixtus filed a complaint with the government against two companies that refused -- BelgianFood.com, a Web site that sells beer, cheese, chocolate and other niche products, and Beermania, a Brussels beer shop that also sells online. Both offer Westvleteren at around $18 a bottle.
"I'm not making a lot of money and I pay my taxes," says BelgianFood.com owner Bruno Dourcy. "You can only buy two cases at once, you know." Mr. Dourcy makes monthly two-hour car trips from his home in eastern Belgium.
"Seek the Kingdom of God first, and all these things will be given to you," counters Brother Joris, quoting from the Bible, adding that it refers only to things you really need. "So if you can't have it, possibly you do not really need it."
Write to John W. Miller at email@example.com
15 Weirdest Work Stories of 2007
A juvenile probation officer ate one of every item in a county courthouse vending machine in one day. She consumed more than 7,000 calories and more than 300 grams of fat, eating such items as beef sticks, candy bars, Pop Tarts and potato chips – all to win a bet with co-workers and raise $300 for charity.
Two employees from the rival companies got into a tiff over shelf space in the aisle of a Wal-Mart in Indiana. The Pepsi worker allegedly assaulted the Coca-Cola employee, hitting him in the face, giving him a black eye and breaking his nose. Police say the two were also accused of trying to run each other over with pallets full of soda bottles.
After two men robbed a Domino’s Pizza delivery woman, one of them called the victim from his cell phone to apologize – and to ask her out.
Four women employed in a small New Hampshire town were fired for gossiping about a relationship between the town administrator and a fellow co-worker. They were fired on the basis that “gossip, whispering and an unfriendly environment are causing poor morale and interfering with the efficient performance of town business.”
An employee in the Detroit planning department sued the city, saying a female co-worker’s strong fragrance prohibited her from working. The woman claimed she is severely sensitive to perfumes and her co-worker not only wore a strong scent, but also plugged in a scented room deodorizer.
A McDonald’s employee was arrested, jailed and is facing criminal charges because a police officer got sick after a hamburger he ate was too salty. The employee accidentally spilled salt on some hamburger meat and told her supervisor and co-worker, who “tried to thump the salt off.” The employee was charged because she served the burger “without regards to the well-being of anyone who might consume it.”
A carpenter caught hammering nails and sawing wood in the nude says he prefers working in the buff because it’s more comfortable and helps keep his clothes clean. The carpenter was found not guilty of indecent exposure.
A Southwest employee asked a young woman in a short skirt to leave the airplane, saying she was dressed too provocatively for the family airline. The young woman was eventually allowed to complete her trip after covering up. On her return flight, she came home with no problem – in the same outfit.
A Taco Bell employee was arrested for impersonating a law enforcement officer and attempting to arrest his managers and co-worker. He passed himself off as an undercover narcotics investigator, going as far as typing fake criminal histories on the general manager, two shift managers and an employee and telling them they were going to be arrested.
An assembly worker hid screws in a specially designed hiding place and took up to 7,000 home with him every day. Over a two-year period, he stole more than 1.1 million screws with an estimated value of $155,000. He allegedly sold the screws over the Internet at discount prices.
An off-duty jail deputy was pulled over and charged with driving under the influence – by her husband, a fellow deputy. She supposedly left before he could give her a Breathalyzer test, so he pulled her over again and called for backup. She was placed on administrative leave.
A car dealership owner killed two employees because they kept asking for more pay. The employer told police he was having financial problems and was under a lot of stress.
A radio station employee was threatened at gunpoint when an angry patron was unhappy with the promotional bumper stickers he received. The patron demanded McDonald’s coupons instead; when the employee didn’t have any, the man flashed what looked like a handgun. She searched her car and found a coupon for a free cheeseburger. The man took it, made a derogatory comment about the radio station and rode away on his bike.
When a 27-foot-long, 11-foot-tall vehicle – known to most as the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile – was slowing traffic in a construction zone in Arizona, an officer ran its “YUMMY” license plate to make sure it was street legal. A bad computer entry erroneously showed the Wienermobile as having stolen plates, forcing the officer to pull it over. After further investigation, the officer learned that the entry should have read that license plate had been stolen – but only if found on any vehicle that isn’t a giant hot dog.
Workers at a Burger King in New York got into a dispute with a customer after he refused to turn his music down while ordering at the drive-through. The customer grabbed the restaurant’s manager, tried to pull her through a window and then attempted to run over a worker who came to help the manager.
Late Shift Work Is Linked to Cancer
By MARIA CHENG AP Medical Writer
It was once scientific heresy to suggest that smoking contributed to lung cancer. Now, another idea initially dismissed as nutty is gaining acceptance: the graveyard shift might increase your cancer risk.
Next month, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, the cancer arm of the World Health Organization, will classify shift work as a "probable" carcinogen.
That will put shift work in the same category as cancer-causing agents like anabolic steroids, ultraviolet radiation, and diesel engine exhaust.
If the shift work theory proves correct, millions of people worldwide could be affected. Experts estimate that nearly 20 percent of the working population in developed countries work night shifts.
It is a surprising twist for an idea that scientists first described as "wacky," said Richard Stevens, a cancer epidemiologist and professor at the University of Connecticut Health Center. In 1987, Stevens published a paper suggesting a link between light at night and breast cancer.
Back then, he was trying to figure out why breast cancer incidence suddenly shot up starting in the 1930s in industrialized societies, where nighttime work was considered a hallmark of progress. Most scientists were bewildered by his proposal.
But in recent years, several studies have found that women working at night for many years are indeed more prone to breast cancer, and that animals who have their light-dark schedules switched grow more cancerous tumors and die quicker.
Some research has also shown that men working at night may have a higher rate of prostate cancer.
Because these studies have been done mainly in nurses and airline crews, bigger studies in different populations are needed to confirm or disprove the findings.
The idea that shift work might increase your cancer risk is still viewed with skepticism by some, but many doubters will likely be won over when IARC publishes the results of its analysis, the result of an expert panel convened in October, in the December issue of The Lancet Oncology.
The American Cancer Society said it would most likely add shift work to its list of "known and probable carcinogens" when the IARC makes its reclassification. Up to now, the society has labeled it an "uncertain, controversial or unproven effect."
Experts acknowledge the evidence is limited, but the "probable" tag means that a link between shift work and cancer is plausible.
"The indications are positive," said Vincent Cogliano, director of the Monographs program at IARC, which decides on carcinogen classifications. "There was enough of a pattern in people who do shift work to recognize that there's an increase in cancer, but we can't rule out the possibility of other factors."
The research suggests a correlation between people who work at night and increased cancer rates. But the cause of the cancer might still be something else that people who work at night do that is unaccounted for in the research.
Scientists suspect that shift work is dangerous because it disrupts the circadian rhythm, the body's biological clock. The hormone melatonin, which can suppress tumor development, is normally produced at night.
Light shuts down melatonin production, so people working in artificial light at night may have lower melatonin levels, which scientists think can raise their chances of developing cancer.
Sleep deprivation may also be a factor. People who work at night are not usually able to completely reverse their day and night cycles. "Night shift people tend to be day shift people who are trying to stay awake at night," said Mark Rea, director of the Light Research Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York, who is not connected to IARC or its expert panel.
Not getting enough sleep makes your immune system vulnerable to attack, and less able to fight off potentially cancerous cells.
Confusing your body's natural rhythm can also lead to a breakdown of other essential tasks. "Timing is very important," Rea said. Certain processes like cell division and DNA repair happen at regular times.
But if the body needs to do something at an unusual time _ like produce insulin in the middle of the night to help digest food _ that can set off a chain reaction of biological mistakes.
Even worse than working the night shift would be to frequently flip between day and night shifts.
"The problem is re-setting your body's clock," said Aaron Blair, of the United States' National Cancer Institute, who chaired IARC's recent meeting on shift work. "If you worked at night and stayed on it, that would be less disruptive than constantly changing shifts."
Anyone whose light and dark schedule was frequently disrupted _ including frequent long-haul travelers or insomniacs _ could theoretically face the same increased cancer risks, Stephens said.
Scientists are now trying to figure out what might be possible to reduce shift workers' risk of developing cancer. Melatonin can be taken as a supplement, but experts don't recommend taking it long-term, since that could ruin the body's ability to produce it naturally.
Some companies are also experimenting with different types of light, hoping to create one that doesn't affect melatonin production. So far, the color that seems to have the least impact on melatonin is one that few people would enjoy working under: red.
With no answers at the moment, experts say it's best to avoid shift work in the long-term. But if that is impossible, there may be a simpler solution.
"The balance between light and dark is very important for your body," Stevens said, advising workers to make sure they sleep in a darkened room when they get back from work.
"Just get a dark night's sleep," he said.