Thursday, June 30, 2011

RI Civil Unions

Fellow Pittsburgher, The Most Rev. Thomas J. Tobin, Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence has a pretty awesome statement on Civil Unions.

Favorite line,
Can there be any doubt that Almighty God will, in His own time and way, pass judgment upon our state, its leaders and citizens, for abandoning His commands and embracing public immorality?
2012 is just around the corner.

There's only one true Hollywood Star

Dissecting Hollywood stardom as only Bill Simmons can.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Quote of the Day

"I can’t decide if this movie [Transformers: Dark of the Moon] is so spectacularly, breathtakingly dumb as to induce stupidity in anyone who watches, or so brutally brilliant that it disarms all reason. What’s the difference?" —A. O. Scott, NYT film critic

No Pole Required

Monday, June 27, 2011

Screenings -- Two disappointments and a recommendation

I finally saw Superbad – the movie that everyone said was so super-good. First off, while there were a few genuinely hilarious scenes, the laughs overall I thought were few and far between. (OK, McLovin was pretty funny.) But even more amiss were the three protagonists. Let’s face it, these three were pretty much colossal bores and, along with everyone else in the movie, complete infants. I couldn’t help but think of other high-school coming of age movies that make Superbad look like something the cat dragged in: American Graffiti, Breaking Away or more recently Juno (also starring Michael Cera). If nothing else, you note right away that the characters in these movies are about a thousand times more interesting than anyone in Superbad, who are essentially gross sad little dweebs. I didn’t give a hoot what happened to them and I didn’t get all the enthusiasm over the movie.

Another movie that left me slightly disappointed was Win Win. This was a much better movie than Superbad, of course, but it didn’t quite meet expectations. Tom McCarthy, who wrote and directed the film, also wrote and directed two of my all-time favorite movies: The Station Agent and The Visitor. He also worked on the story for Up. The main problem is that Win Win is simply doesn’t measure up to McCarthy’s other films. Paul Giamatti is good, but I thought the rest of the cast was -- well -- ok. Still, the movie revolves around a great idea fully in keeping with McCarthy’s vision that the universe sends unusual people into your life at unexpected times for the purpose of helping you to become a better person. My guess is that if you haven’t seen The Station Agent or The Visitor, you’ll enjoy Win Win. Then go on to see those two fabulous films and you’ll notice how Win Win more or less pales by comparison. One other plus for Win Win is that it takes place in New Providence, NJ.

In some ways, Woody Allen just keeps making the same movie over and over again. Even his characters stay the same. Midnight in Paris is no exception. Owen Wilson is a clear stand-in for Allen himself. And, you’ll also see efforts to channel Alan Alda, Diane Weist and Scarlet Johansson from other Woody Allen films. But, as films go, the one Allen film – wistful, hopelessly romantic, beautifully filmed – is a darn good one and worth seeing over and over again. This particular version, without giving anything away, is a total delight. And, if you’ve ever been in love with Paris, like Kathleen, you’ll fall in love all over again. I’m not altogether sure that it’s a must-see, but it’s an incredibly enjoyable two hours.

The Supremes

They are generally thought provoking. I won't even comment on this except to say you most likely will find it interesting for various reasons.

One (sic) of these things is not like the other

Huh? Only one has laces!
Oh wait. It's hard to tell, but it appears only one has velcro. Any other one not like the other?

And here's another little game. One of these things doesn't belong. One? Well, maybe there are different "methods of ordering and surveying human experience" (as Niels Bohr would say). For each of the following the second number is generated by the first number by a simple, consistent rule and the second number is unique to the first one, i.e. it is always the same given the same first number. Your job is to think of a rule which explains 3 of the 4 and then pick which one doesn't belong. Just like the song. Please explain your answer.

A. Twelve -> 6
B. Six -> 3
C. Ten -> 5
D. Three -> 5

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Theology of Whosoeverth Dwells in the Cloud

Myk posted a video referencing how our language has been enriched with religious imagery. Here is a clever post which uses that imagery to explain technology.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Good Reuben James and Other Stories

This is a short short story so I have a chance to add some editorial comment. The Reuben James was a naval destroyer which was being used to guard the eastern coast. In March of 1941, along with four other destroyers, it was assigned to escort a convoy of ships carrying supplies for the United Kingdom. The tragedy is often considered to be the first casualties of WWII although we were not at war at the time.

If there is someone looking for a good Hollywood production, you may want to research the person for whom the boat was named.
To start, Reuben James himself was apparently one hellaciously forceful figure -- an boatswain's mate who distinguished himself in the very early USN in the two wars against the Barbary or Tripoli pirates (1803 and 1815) and in the War of 1812, serving in all three under Lieut., Capt., then Commodore Stephen Decatur. In the first pirate war, James was one of four sailors whom Decatur took under cover of darkness to burn a captured American warship in Tripoli harbor, an exploit praised as the most daring in naval warfare at the time by no less than Britain's legendary Admiral Lord Nelson. James also is credited with saving Decatur's life on at least two occasions, the first in the Battle of Tripoli when despite bleeding from wounds in both hands he threw his body over Decatur's prostrate form and took a scimitar slash for him -- then got up and killed the assailant and went on fighting. He served more than thirty years in the USN, retiring in 1836 at 57 due to ill health from his many combat wounds.

Finally, I've come to realize that, although we make fun of mother for her view of society when growing up ("No one drank in school."), she did travel in a very specialized circle. Dad's college roommates were all classmates from Columbia H.S. and all earned Phi Beta Kappa. It may the the only time in history that three roommates from the same high school accomplished this feat. Practically all of her friends went to the very best schools witness Craig and Gale Spowers.

One of Dad's friends in high school was Gale Spowers. He went to Williams. His brother, Craig Spowers, was on the Reuben James when it went down. I think he went to Annapolis. Do you remember the song? 'Did you have a friend on the good Reuben James?'

Pictures at an Exposition - 4

This week's picture is a bit different. It is fairly obvious what's going on. We need the best caption. Oh, and the prize this week is an extra ration of grog.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Screenings - Unemployment and War

Previously I mentioned some movies which were better than I expected. Here is one that was significantly worse than I was led to believe from critic (and viewer) reviews.

The Company Men (2010)
Writer: John Wells
Director: John Wells
Genre: Drama

Pretty much every critic liked this movie, and, to be honest, everything about the movie is well done except for the fact that everyone involved with this movie, including its audience, are so detached from reality as to be delusional psychotic. I don't like to reveal plot but I'm making an exception here. The point of the movie is to show how losing one's job can crush the individual spirit. There are three people who lose their jobs. The poor one makes $160,000 a year and the other two make significantly more—significantly more. In other words, these are the top 1% of the population that keep getting tax breaks. The culminating scene of devastation—corresponding to when in The Grapes of Wrath the mother feeds the sick man from her breast—is when the boy must give back his X-box. Everyone in the theater must have been in tears. I would say the poignancy is not to be found in the movie, but in the society that could think this is poignant.

The other 'movie' is as relevant as that one is not.
Generation Kill (2008)
Writer: Evan Wright (book and screen play credits), David Simon, Ed Burns
Director: Susanna White, Simon Cellan Jones
Genre: War Drama

Simon and Burns are the same team that did The Wire. Expect the same quality. Not only are the episodes outstanding, but each one of the commentary episodes may be even more thoughtful and entertaining. In other words, each episode should be watched twice.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Quote of the Day

First Quote of the Day:
"The notion of particles as objects in space, taken of from classical physics, is thereby eliminated…." —Aage Bohr, son of Niels Bohr and also a Nobel Prize winning physicist, and Ole Ulfbeck denying the existence of atomic scale particles, i.e. saying atoms don't exist.

Obviously, he is not saying that atoms don't exist as a mathematical construct or as a different notion, but that they don't exist as classical particles. He is saying that an alpha particle does not travel through space to register on a geiger counter the same way a ball travels through space to arrive in your mitt or the way a particle of dust travels to your coffee table.

Second Quote of the Day:
"A particle is simply a physical system that has no continuous degrees of freedom except for its total momentum." —Steven Weinberg, also a Nobel laureate in physics.

He goes on to explain, "For instance, we can give a complete description of an electron by specifying its momentum, as well as its spin around any given axis, a quantity that in quantum mechanics is discrete rather than continuous. On the other hand, a system consisting of a free electron and a free proton is not a particle, because to describe it one has to specify the momenta of both the electron and the proton— not just their sum. But a bound state of an electron and a proton, such as a hydrogen atom in its state of lowest energy, is a particle. Everyone would agree that a hydrogen atom is not an elementary particle, but it is not always so easy to make this distinction, or even to say what it means."

Obviously these two physicists disagree, but I think their disagreement is with the definition of a particle.

Women's Lib and Other Stories

One weekend John hitched-hiked to Russell Sage as a surprise. I guess when girls are in college together they don't get dressed up or put on make-up, because I was in old clothes with no make-up. I was mortified. Looking back though I'm sure he never noticed what I had on. John was crazy. He stayed at a hotel, but I had to pay for it. (He sent me the money later though.)

Monday, June 20, 2011

Quote for the Day

But God in heaven! Won’t you try to understand me! I’m trying hard enough to understand you! There had to be one man who said yes. Somebody had to agree to captain the ship. She had sprung a hundred leaks; she was loaded to the water line with crime, ignorance, poverty. The wheel was swinging with the wind. The crew refused to work and were looting the cargo. The officers were building a raft, ready to slip overboard and desert the ship. The mast was splitting, the wind was howling, the sails were beginning to rip. Every man jack on board was about to drown—and only because the only thing they thought of was their own skins and their cheap little day-to-day traffic. Was that a time, do you think, for playing with words like yes and no? Was that a time for a man to be weighing the pros and cons, wondering if he wasn’t going to pay too dearly later on; if he wasn’t going to lose his life, or his family, or his touch with other men? You grab the wheel, you right the ship in the face of a mountain of water. You shout an order, and if one man refuses to obey, you shoot straight into the mob. Into the mob, I say! The beast as nameless as the wave that crashes down upon your deck; as nameless as the whipping wind. The thing that drops when you shoot may be someone who poured you a drink the night before; but it has no name. And you, braced at the wheel, you have no name, either. Nothing has a name—except the ship, and the storm.

Pictures at an Exposition - 3

Again, here is the picture. We are looking for some exposition—a caption, a comment, or a confession.

Good Times and Other Stories

We sure had good times. I went up to see John on a Yale football weekend. Alma and Margaret and I were all there. Both of John's roommates, Charlie Young and Cameron Mosley, were also from Columbia High School as were all of us girls. We had to take a trolley to the game and it started raining. It was crowded so we where outside of the trolley holding on and getting wet.

We had fun at the game and we must have won since John ran down onto the field after the game to tear the goal posts down. He just left me in the stands. When we got back to their room we were all soaked so we took off our clothes to dry them. I went around in John's bath robe. They had a fire place in the room so we tried to dry our clothes by the fire.

Later we went to the movies in our damp clothes. Our shoes would make a squishy sound when we walked. Oh, we had such good times.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Part I

Inspired by Myk, I found the start of Clarence's acting career.

Part II

Quote of the Day

They ride the line of balance
and hold on by just a thread
But it's too hot in these tunnels
you can get hit up by the heat
You get up to get out at your next stop
but they push you back down in your seat
Your heart starts beatin' faster
as you struggle to your feet

Clarence Clemons

Clarence Clemons, Jr. (1942 – 2011)

Jungleland with Clemons' epic sax solo.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Game of Food

Even though this link was posted on Kottke, the site is so original it deserves a mention. The site specializes in the food of George R. R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series. They have everything from Apricot Tarts to Heraldic Banner Cake Toppers to Lager and Tankards and Beers.
Innovation is deep in the heart of any culinary exercise, not to mention perfectly in keeping with the culture of both the Middle Ages and of Westeros. Ingredients could not be guaranteed, and so substitutes were often made. If you like the sound of stewed goat but all you have is lamb, go for it!

Quote of the Day

I like Peter's introduction of this. Here is one I found recently. This was written by Ring Lardner, famous short story writer and sports columnist. He wrote this in 1911.
"They are using a new ball this year. It's livelier and that means more hitting, and more hitting means longer games, and that's the devil. It appears to be impossible to finish a game in less than two hours."

Friday, June 17, 2011

No Split Ends and Other Stories

I knew Alma Steinman since the fifth grade. She married Charlie Young, John's roommate. The Young's had a great aunt, Aunt Sophie who lived with them. In those days everyone had a grandmother, an aunt or someone who lived with them. You never sent anyone to a nursing home. The Young's had a full-time nurse who took care of Aunt Sophie. She was a little crazy. I never saw her. She thought men were climbing up trying to get in through her window.

We had a group of girls and we called ourselves the "Eight Belles". We would go to Gruning's* after school and have a tuna fish sandwich and a hot fudge sundae. We would go 'halfsies' so our half of tuna fish sandwich and hot fudge sundae would cost us each 15¢. It's a wonder we weren't all as big as a house.

On Friday nights we would go to the movies. Then we would go back to someone's house to eat. I remember going to Alice Mamaux' house. Her dad, Al Mamaux**, was a professional baseball player. I don't know who he played for—maybe the Yankees. Her grandmother made the best food. At the movies, no one wanted to sit on the end. We would all fight to get in the middle. Oh, we were so silly.

*Mother is not the only one who has fond memories of Gruning's. See here and here. I should get her to post some memories.

**I always assumed Al Mamaux was a minor league player. Now I am flabbergasted at both the record and the coincidences.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Big Scarlet Fever Box and Other Stories

Judy lived across the street from us on Montague Place. Our house was 184 Montague Place. That was the house I was born in. All of us were born in the house. My mother hated hospitals. My grandparents, John F. McDonough, were right around the corner on Prospect St. He owned all the property to Tichenor Ave.

The Stanley's were from Seneca Falls in upstate New York where they lived on a farm. Their Aunt Mamie still lived there and used to send down cookies and the funny papers. I don't know why she sent the funny papers. Maybe she thought we didn't get them in So. Orange. Mrs. Stanley made the best bread I have ever tasted. It was wonderful. I don't know how she made it. I think she put potatoes in it.

When I was about six, I caught Scarlet Fever. My parents thought it was from going swimming at the YMCA. Judy's mother, Mrs. Stanley, sent me a big box with a lot of little presents in it. Each present was marked for when it should be opened. I would open a new present everyday. It gave me something to look forward to.


Here are some interesting pictures you may enjoy, but they didn't quite have what it takes for the Pictures at an Exposition contest.

I love this one since they seemingly built the bridge in the wrong place. This is Interstate 680 connecting Omaha, Neb with flooded Iowa at the Mormon Bridge.

A giant floating stage on Lake Constance in Bregenz, Austria is the site for the opera Andre Chenier by Italian musician Umberto Giordano. The opera, directed by British director Keith Warner, will have its premiere on July 20 at the annual Bregenz festival.

Contractors prepare to move the second sphere inside the main Rise sculpture in Belfast. The new landmark for Belfast (due to be completed by the end of June) is being built at Broadway Roundabout, one of the main gateways to the city. It will be the biggest public art sculpture in Belfast.

A performance artist Alice Newstead hangs by shark fishing hooks to protest the slaughtering of sharks, in Hong Kong

This is my favorite—a truly inspiring work of art by Tim Hawkinson entitled Möbius Ship.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Watch Where You're Going and Other Stories

For quite a few years we rented a house in Sea Bright. It was right on the beach on Ocean Ave. It had a circular driveway and there were two other cottages. The owner, Mr. Cleftman, lived in one of the cottages and the same people always rented the other one. Sea Bright is really the closest New Jersey beach to New York City. It probably only took an hour to get there from Newark.

We would stay there all summer, but my father would come down Thursday or Friday from work in time to go out on the boat to catch fish for Friday dinner. He always went fishing on Friday.

I remember going up the Shrewsbury river to Red Bank to watch the boat races. Mother would dress up in stockings and a hat. It all seems very silly.

Mr. Cleftman, I think, was in politics in Jersey City. They had an older daughter 18 or 19 and a younger one about six. One day the elder daughter was backing out of the driveway and ran over her sister who was riding her bike. I think she broke her leg, because I remember going to visit her in the hospital with her leg in traction with a lot of pulleys.

Pictures at an Exposition - 2

Here's the picture. You need to supply the exposition.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Klein on Education

I recognize that this might be throwing some gasoline on the smoldering Waiting for Superman debate, but I invite you to read "The Failure of American Schools" from the June Atlantic Magazine. It's written by Joel Klein, who stepped down last year as chancellor of the New York City School District after an eight year tenure. He's also the lawyer who took on Microsoft.

I still haven't seen Waiting for Superman but I suspect that Klein and the people behind the documentary would agree on a lot. For one, Klein believes that quality of teaching makes a huge difference. He points out how states and cities with essentially the same demographics have strikingly different outcomes. He says the same is true of schools who draw kids from the same neighborhood. He also cites the studies of Stanford economist Eric Hanushek, who has shown that, while some teachers get a year and a half’s worth of learning into a year, others get in only half a year’s worth of learning with essentially the same students. And so, Klein unequivocally rejects the old canard: “We’ll never fix education until we fix poverty.”

He spreads the blame around somewhat. He doesn't just blame unions; he also blames politicians, who see school districts too often as a place to fulfill their patronage obligations. Of course, this doesn't stop him from quoting Albert Shanker, the late, legendary head of the United Federation of Teachers: “When schoolchildren start paying union dues, that’s when I’ll start representing the interests of schoolchildren.” Mostly, he finds that union contracts put administrators in too much of a straightjacket. Klein would like to pay math teachers more than phys ed teachers because he knows that math whizzes have more job opportunities. He'd like to take seniority pay increases from teachers who are just putting in time until their retirement and use it to attract new good teachers. He'd like to clean out the dead wood and hire better teachers. According to the article, Klein couldn't even even fire a teacher who was a convicted sex offender.

Anyway, these are just some of the highlights.

Buckle Up Your Boots and Other Stories

George Santayana,* (Hispanic) American Philosopher and Lampoon staff member, said "Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it." I've discovered a corollary, "Even repeated (and repeated and repeated) histories are not learned." It is hoped that this series will provide a remedy.
I will attempt to relate these tales in the author's own words as best I can.

Bill and Marion Schulte were my parents' next door neighbors. They had two sons who were younger than me. Their boys went to Newark Academy. Bill Schulte was the merchandising manager for Kresge's Department Store in Newark and a great friend of my father. He often would come into the house and go straight to the refrigerator and grab a beer. I don't think he ever drank anything else. One day he went to a baseball game and it poured down rain. Sitting in the rain he got sopping wet. He caught pneumonia and died only a few days latter.

After her husband died Marion Schulte went to work in the hat department at Kresge's. I remember before my wedding she helped me pick out a hat for my 'Going Away' outfit.

*Note that Santayana was not only on the Harvard Lampoon (largely as a cartoonist), but also was a member of ten other organizations including a founding member of the Harvard Monthly, president of the Philosophical Club, and the Hasty Pudding.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Quote of the Day

"A rubber woman." A blow-up doll. Ground control, he says nixed the idea. "They said, 'If you would do that, then we would need to put it in your schedule for the day" ~Soviet cosmonaut Aleksandr Laveykin on relieving tension during his stay aboard Mir

From Mary Roach's Packing for Mars

Pictures at an Exposition

The object of this whimsy is for you to provide 'exposition' for a picture. It can be a caption, a description, or any words which 'exhibits' your knowledge or imagination about the picture. Here is today's picture: (Have fun.)

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The complete lack of tell-tale blood stains…

In a surprise news story, no band of gypsies were found either alive or dead at a north Texas home. Enjoy the beautiful sylvan footage.

I can only speculate that the banner should read "25-30 Bodies Found not at Home." (I'm not sure what "in at Home" means.)

Monday, June 6, 2011

Palin vs. Paul Revere

This from the Atlantic Wire. Nobody could make this stuff up:


Last week, as her "one Nation" tour went through Boston, Sarah Palin stopped by the Freedom Trail, which winds past historic landmarks including Paul Revere's house. Palin breathlessly described on her blog that "there's so much history here. It's amazing..." Unfortunately for Palin, much of it was lost on her. She offered, let's say, an alternative version of the famous midnight ride of Paul Revere. Her rambling take soon went viral on the internet:
He who warned, uh, the British that they weren’t going to be taking away our arms uh by ringing those bells and making sure as he’s riding his horse through town to send those warning shots and bells that we were going to be secure and we were going to be free and we were going to be armed.
Let's summarize what's incorrect about this: everything. Paul Revere did not send any messages or warnings to British soldiers, about our guns or otherwise. He sent a message to the Minutemen warning them the British were coming, so they would be ready. He did not send warning shots or ring bells. It was a stealth operation, and he instructed someone to put either one or two lights in the tower, as a code for how the British were arriving -- "one if by land, two if by sea" -- which is the most famous line in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem on the legend.
Today on Fox News Sunday, Palin told Chris Wallace that she was standing by her statement. "I didn't mess up," she said. "I know my American history." This is her explanation:
"He warned the Americans that the British were coming, the British were coming, that we 've got to make sure we were protecting ourselves and shoring up all of our ammunitions and firearms so that they couldn't take it. But remember that the British had already been there, many soldiers for seven years in that area. Part of Paul Revere's ride, and it wasn't just one ride, he was a courier, he was a messenger, part of his ride was to warn the British.that were already there, 'Hey you're not going to succeed, you're not going to take American arms, you are not going to beat our own, well-armed persons, individual, private militia.' He did warn the British."
The only thing that could make this description more convoluted would be if Palin then blamed the press for her mistake. Then Palin blames the press for her mistake, calling it "a shot-out, gotcha-type of question that was asked of me."
But, here's the best. Palin supporters have been trying to edit Paul Revere's Wikipedia page so that history will conform top her version.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Trying to Grok Groupon

Groupon is threatening to break the I(nitial)P(ublic)O(ffering) record held by Google of $24.6 billion in 2006. The company offers "Group coupons' each day for special deals in agreement with various retailers. For example, you can buy (6/4/2011) Three Spray Tans at Copper Zone Tanning - Beaver Falls ($50 Value) for $15. That's a whopping 70% savings for getting your body sprayed with tan 3 times. The 'catch' is that these deals last only a short period of time, often 24 hours, and are only "on" when a specified number of people buy into the deal. Don't worry, the tanning spray needed 10 people to buy in; thus far it has 80.

Let's use a little group activity ourselves for Groupon. I'm going to list a couple of my thoughts about Groupon, but I'm also interested in learning what others have to say about it. Have you used it? Would you use it? What do you think of the idea? What do you think of the IPO?

Here are a couple of my thoughts:

On the one hand I think it is an amazing idea of combining consumerism, democracy and marketing with modern web technology. It gives new meaning to "voting with your dollars." I'd love Groupon to make a deal with the U.S. Government whereby if 100 million people buy in at a special discount price, they would supply universal health care.

On the other hand I think it may be our last step off the cliff of consumerism. Like the secondary market of subprime mortgage securities this adds nothing of value to the marketplace other than new packaging.

By the way, Groupon may become the fastest company to reach a billion dollars in sales. However, last year it lost a staggering $413 million on revenue of $713 million. That prompted Groupon to establish their own accounting standards for persuading potential IP0 investors. Some of you may also be interested to learn that the idea for Groupon was created by now-CEO and Pittsburgh native Andrew Mason.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Some good may come out of Harvard after all

Peter of Mt. Lebanon alerted me to this commencement address (Cowboys and Pit Crews) to Harvard Medical by Atul Gawande. Since Myk is already in love with the New Yorker, I'm probably posting this for no one left to read it. Nevertheless I found it interesting and in tune with our recent hospital experience with mom. In fact, my impression was that hospitals seem to recognize that they need to be more like pit crews, but that they fail miserably at it.

A different approach was told to me by another Peter, my brother, who contrasted the current hospital style with David Hall's clinic where one doctor is responsible for all the patient's care, wellness, support, and (fortunately or unfortunately) spiritual assistance. I know little about the clinic so I don't know how specialists are incorporated, but the singular personal care approach sounds interesting. It's not that mom was not getting very personal, dedicated care, it was that it resembled a tag team match or a relay race more than a pit crew, which provided ample opportunity for missed tags and dropped batons.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Plate is more palatable than the Pyramid

Government officials are finally recognizing the failure of the U.S. public educational system. In order to combat poor educational scores in the U.S. compared with other countries, and criticism from movies such as Waiting for Superman, officials are springing into action with a new dietary icon.

"The simplicity is the key," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said about the new symbol. "The food pyramid is very complicated."

"We are people," said Marion Nestle, a professor in the department of nutrition, food studies, and public health at New York University. "We don't eat pyramids. We eat off of plates."

Most long time eaters and products of the U.S. educational system agree. "We eat off plates. The pyramid was way too complicated. Do we even know how these pyramids were built?" asked one confused citizen.

However, not everyone was falling in line. While the plate symbol is much simpler, said Marisa Moore, spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association, portion control is also crucial, even while eating healthy foods. Seemingly ignoring the state of education in the U.S., she said, "You have to think about the size of the plate. Instead of a dinner plate, start with a salad plate, so you start with fewer calories."

Some even felt the most recent food pyramid, called MyPyramid, introduced in 2005, didn't offer enough information. It showed a stick figure walking up a staircase on the side of the pyramid.

Its predecessor, the first food pyramid, released in 1992, recommended five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables. But these were secondary to the recommendation of six to 11 servings of bread, cereal, rice and pasta. It didn't differentiate between refined and whole grains.

Dr. David Kessler, author of The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite, agreed that the older food pyramid "didn't reflect best of the dietary guidelines." Unmindful of the government's attempt to appeal to its poorly educated citizenry, he went on to say, "Refined carbohydrates should've never been the major part of the diet," he said. "It was never about eating refined carbohydrates. It's why it didn't work."
With the new changes, Kessler added, "Maybe now, we have a chance."

Most just shook their heads, not understanding what he was talking about.