Tattoo artist specializes in restoring nipples after mastectomies

Breast cancer affects so many women every year. Many of these women get mastectomies, either out of necessity or as a precaution against recurrences. Plastic surgeons can perform breast augmentation to restore a woman’s shape, but as I learned from this surprisingly affecting NYT video, many women don’t feel their surgeons can do an adequate job to restore the appearance of their nipples. The video profiles a woman who visits tattoo artist Vinnie Meyers, of Little Vinnie’s Tattoo in Finksburg MD, to have nipples tattooed on her reconstructed breasts. Meyers says that nipple tattoos have become his accidental specialty. Women from all over the country and overseas visit him to “get a Vinnie.” Beautiful. 

When a Heisman Trophy candidate is accused of rape

The New York Times goes long and multimedia about the rape case that implicated Heisman Trophy candidate and eventual winner Jameis Winston, of Florida State University. To say that the Tallahassee police botched the investigation is to imply that they made a serious effort at pursuing it at all, and the article is persuasive that they didn’t, despite a plethora of strong leads. But it’s not like no one was punished: Winston’s roommate was censured by FSU for filming the encounter on his cellphone. And the victim, who obviously suffered physical and emotional trauma from the incident itself, was hatefully vilified in the campus community when her accusations were finally made public a month before the Heisman was to be awarded, which was 11 months after she’d reported the incident. If you want to read something that’ll make your blood boil, this is a good bet.

Monday Morning Ethicist: Just Bag Me

Chuck Klosterman is The Ethicist for the NYT. I am the Monday Morning Ethicist.

Yesterday’s second question for Chuck:

I accepted a gift from my insurance agent. It has the company name and logo on one side. I dislike advertising on clothes and such, so my inclination is to carry the bag logo-side in. But am I obliged to show the company name because I agreed to take the bag?

Chuck said: Nah.

I say: Are you for real? You really had an ethical dilemma with this? You really had to write a professional to ask whether you could turn some old raggedy-ass, made-in-China imitation polyester giveaway tote bag inside out? Lookit, sweetheart, don’t be bothering Chuck with this bullshit. Chuck got better things to do than be advising every helpless deer-in-the-headlights citizen with an email account or a postage stamp. I know I’m sometimes tough on Chuck and all, but I feel for him here, because if this is indicative of the quality of questions he’s got coming in, then I don’t even want to know what’s in the bottom of his mailbag. I will say that whatever you do, hang on to that tote bag, because your clueless ass is going to be on the street and living out of that thing before too long.

Why smokers still smoke: It's the nicotine, stupid.


Dear Eyal Ert and Eldad Yechiam:

I read with great interest your Opinionator piece in the New York Times. Unfortunately, the Times’ website will not allow me to post a comment on your article, so I am emailing you directly, and also posting this reply on my blog

While I am sure there is some validity to your findings, I find your approach to the question rather naive. 

Your answer to the question of why people still smoke: smokers have poor self control. 

My answer to the question of why people still smoke: it’s the nicotine, stupid.

In the amounts consumed by typical habitual tobacco users, I’d argue that nicotine in and of itself is relatively benign. It is the means of delivery—the various forms of tobacco products consumed around the world—that introduce virtually all of the harm associated with nicotine use. 

In my opinion, the question is not, “Why do people still smoke?” The question is, “Why don’t public health authorities get real, pay attention to centuries of human behavior, and promote alternative means of nicotine consumption over cigarettes and other harm-inducing tobacco-based nicotine delivery methods?” (For instance, in Sweden, where the government has promoted the use of snus over smoking, men have the lowest incidence of lung cancer in Europe. While snus is a tobacco product, there is some evidence that it is less harmful than other forms of smokeless tobacco.)

Within 100 years of Europeans discovering the new world, tobacco was well on its way to establishing itself as a global commodity. To my knowledge, no society that has adopted tobacco use has ever later abandoned it. If you are aware of one, please correct me. 

And it’s not the tobacco that people like. It’s the nicotine it delivers. “Aha!” you may say, “But people don’t really like nicotine, they’re addicted to nicotine.” To which I might respond, “Bullshit.”

Have either of you ever smoked or used a tobacco product? If so, then you know that for the neophyte user, almost all means of tobacco consumption—cigarettes, hookahs, snuff, chewing tobacco, etc.—are noxious. It takes a while until new users no longer notice the noxiousness.  
Why do people put themselves through this unpleasantness to reach the point of addiction?

While I’m sure there are many, many factors, including cultural norms and peer pressure, one factor that shouldn’t be ignored is the neuropharmacological benefits nicotine provides. For lots of us, nicotine is a substance our brains love. And it’s not just that our brains love it—I’d submit that for lots of us, our brains work better on it. 

Some people try tobacco and never get hooked on it. Why? Because the benefit they feel from nicotine can’t override the unpleasantness of tobacco consumption. Do these people have better self control, or is it a matter of their brains not being wired to have an affinity for nicotine? I’d suggest it’s more often the latter. Or perhaps even some connection between the two. Maybe the differences in self-control your study highlights are really markers for the different ways our brains respond to nicotine. 

But it’s pretty damn clear after 500+ years of human experience with the drug that once a brain falls in love with nicotine, it doesn’t fall out of love with it easily, if ever.

Addressing the addictiveness of tobacco/nicotine while overlooking the benefits users receive from it and our species’ unbreakable, centuries-long association with it is, in my opinion, short-sighted and unproductive. 

We need to spend less time figuring out why smokers still smoke, and more time figuring out how to transition smokers to less harmful ways of consuming the nicotine their brains crave, like e-cigarettes or snus, or using nicotine gum as an ongoing delivery product instead of a cessation product.  

We need to recognize the reality that nicotine is a beneficial substance for a lot of people, and completely separate the issues of smoking—and the horrible health problems associated with it—and nicotine use.  


Rich Malley
Total layperson, nicotine lover, e-cigarette user 


Let's fix a bothersome NYT headline, shall we?

So, here’s the original headline, from the Sports section of Monday’s dead tree edition:

Notice the problem? “Their Skid” could mean “the Clippers’ Skid,” because the Clippers are the subject. (BTW, “skid” means “losing streak,” for those of you not up on your sportspeak.) But that can’t be right, because a team that “overpowers” another team can’t be on a skid.

So the headline isn’t as clear as it could and should be. But maybe that was due to space limitations? Hmm, don’t think so. 

According to this article on Grammar Girl, this is NOT a misplaced modifier. The headline writer was correct in putting the modifying phrase (“as their skid reaches 4 games”) right after the noun it refers to (“Knicks”).

Ah ha! But she left off the comma. So let’s see how adding it works: 

OK, I think this is technically correct, but worse for clarity. Sue me—I want the word “their” to refer to the subject. 

Maybe the word “their” is actually a problem. Watch:

Adding the comma and removing “their” makes this perfectly clear, I think. The Clippers won. There is a skid. There’s no “their” to make us wonder who “their” refers to (even though logic could tell us the “overpowered” team is on the skid). The modifying phrase is closest to the noun it modifies. But maybe we left TOO much space. What else could work? 

This works, doesn’t it? It helps elevate the losing streak as part of the storyline. But it’s got a semicolon in it, and I know some people hate those. So let’s keep trying:

Beauty! In the modifying phrase, we replaced the ambiguous “their,” with “whose.” Now there’s no question about “whose” losing streak it is. OK, but we added a comma that the original didn’t have. Even though it’s grammatically correct, maybe this headline writer was trying to get as streamlined as possible. Fine:

I like it. Removing the comma gives it a little bit of a breathless quality, like, “Oh shit the Clippers beat the Knicks who now have a 4-game losing streak and the world is coming to an end and God help us what do we do now?”

Was that so hard?

(Thanks to Dr. Mrs. Oblogatory for her grammatical consultation and expertise!)

TX screws kids and taxpayers to line fat-cats' pockets.

Hey, you want to read something that’ll make your blood absolutely boil? Trust me, you don’t, but you should.

Louise Story of the New York Times spent 10 months reporting for a series about state government handouts to corporations. Yesterday’s installment was all about the Texas’ big business “bonanza.”

A few years ago I heard a good-guy lobbyist rail that Governor-for-Life Rick Perry was bleeding the state dry by calculatedly enriching certain businesses and political supporters. Since I’ve been so disgusted by state politics for so long, I believed him, but I didn’t really understand the process.

Story explains that process. In detail. And names names. Chief among them is G. Brint Ryan. What’s this guy’s job? Selling his access to Rick Perry’s largesse with corporate incentives.

Here’s an example of how it works:

•A corporation wanting to start a project (a new facility, an expansion, etc.) hires Ryan to lobby the governor’s office for incentive money. The incentives are supposed to insure that the business’s project and its resulting jobs locate to (or remain in) Texas.

•The Governor’s office grants millions in incentives, often in the form of local school district tax breaks.  

•The Governor’s office convinces the local school board to give up the money to the corporation, and promises to make up that money dollar-for-dollar from the state’s corporate incentive slush fund.

•The school board gives up the money. The state reimburses them, as promised. The corporation gets to skip paying school taxes for a number of years, or gets a cash payment, or sometimes both.

•G. Brint Ryan’s company gets 30% of the incentive millions off the top, then makes huge political contributions to the Governor, the Comptroller, and everyone else who will help keep his gravy train running.

•Whoops! But that means fewer tax dollars for schools are coming in overall. So guess what: the next time the school board seeks money from the state? Their budget is slashed. In fact, all schools’ budgets are slashed, statewide. Every year, businesses keep getting more and more property tax money from middle class homeowners (like me!), while our state does less and less for the citizens it is supposed to help. 

And the corporations? They aren’t held to any standard in terms of how much economic benefit they return to the state. Check this: Story cites a case where Amazon was given $250 million in incentives for a project that would generate 2,500 warehouse jobs. That’s $100,000 per job. Now, just to be fair and to keep the math simple, let’s pretend those jobs average $50,000 per year, which, of course, they don’t. That leaves Amazon with $125,000,000 IN PROFIT. For doing something they needed to do anyway.

Key quote: “King White, a consultant who helps Amazon choose locations… said that companies had come to view incentives as entitlements. (yeah, emphasis mine) ‘Everybody thinks they deserve something,’ Mr. White said. ‘If I’m creating jobs, what’s in it for me?’”

Whose recent political rhetoric does that statement turn on its head?

You gotta read it. You also gotta read Jason Cohen’s coverage of the reaction to the story on TM Daily Post.

Hey, and in today’s installment Story explains to Michiganders how bad they’re getting screwed. 

And I didn’t even mention the part about how G. Brint Ryan sued AMD for failing to screw the state out of tax revenue, thus denying him his cut. Breathtaking. 


NYT: United States of Subsidies, Explore the Data


Monday Morning Ethicist: Can I out this kid to her birth mom?

Chuck Klosterman is The Ethicist for the NYT. I am the Monday Morning Ethicist.

Yesterday’s lead question for Chuck:
I’m a social worker in the adoption field. A woman who surrendered her infant decades ago asked me for information about the child, and I gave her as much as I legally could, which is not very much. (New York is a closed-records state.) Two days later, I picked up a magazine with an article about someone I recognized as this woman’s child; the article mentioned the birth name, which was given by the woman I spoke to. What can I do? The birth mother knows what she named her child but may never read this particular article. I would never reveal confidential identities, but does pointing her toward a published piece carry the same weight? M.D.P., NEW YORK

Chuck said: “I don’t see an ethical problem…” and then went on for about 200 more words.

I say:

Let me respond to your question with another question: What the hell is it with people like you? You read a magazine article and you think you’re the smartest person in the world. You lord your magazine reading over the rest of us like we’re a bunch of illiterate dummies. Well, let me tell you, I have a copy of the TV Guide right here, my friend. Is that what makes me better than you? No. But the fact that I don’t go around saying shit like, “Oh, I just read a fascinating MAGAZINE ARTICLE about the cast of American Family,” is what makes me better than you.

I know how it is with you magazine types. It doesn’t matter what I say, you’re going to do whatever you’re going to do, so I say the hell with you. 

The most unbelievable Microsoft ad I've ever seen

OK, sorry for the really crappy photo of this print ad from yesterday’s NYT’s Magazine, but check out this two-page spread for the new Microsoft Surface:

Click to view larger crappy version

Notice something missing? Like a bunch of words? In fact, aside from the product and company names, there are only two words: right by the open blue Surface on the left page it says, “Click in.” 

That’s it. No asterisks, no legal footnotes. No third-party logos. Consumers are left to decode the ad for themselves, which is great.

I’ve worked on a bit of marketing stuff for this company. I don’t think it was easy for them to get here. As a reminder, check out this spot-on video from several years ago: 

The Monday Morning Ethicist, Death Cab Edition

Chuck Klosterman is The Ethicist for the NYT. I am the Monday Morning Ethicist.

Yesterday’s third question for Chuck:

My fiancée and I attended a Death Cab for Cutie concert at the Beacon Theater. We had first-row seats in the balcony section. We typically stand at concerts to dance and sing along, but we didn’t because no one else in our section was interested in that sort of thing. However, during the encore, we decided to stand for the last five songs. We were immediately chastised by several people behind us and told to sit down. Were we wrong to stand? Does the type of music or venue dictate whether it’s all right to stand? BOBBY CALISE, NEW YORK

Chuck said, in so many words, no, it’s all good. 

I say:

Dear Mr. Calise: 

Hey, if you are moved to dance by Death Cab for Cutie—anywhere—you have more serious problems than this. Seek professional help immediately. 

Hope this helps!


A very special Monday Morning Ethicist

Chuck Klosterman is The Ethicist for the NYT. I am the Monday Morning Ethicist.

Yesterday’s second question for Chuck came from MY FATHER-IN-LAW:

“I took three friends out to dinner at our finest local restaurant to thank them for their years of stimulating fellowship. When the time came to pay the bill, we were told that the entire meal — drinks and all — was on the house. As we were walking out the door, I turned to my friends and said, ‘
I hope that doesn’t lessen the gratitude you feel for my own magnanimity.’ But they declared, almost gleefully, that the owner’s generosity had trumped mine and that I would receive no credit for my good intentions. Is this fair?” TOM HUTH, GOLD HILL, COLO.

After a short preamble, Chuck said,  “I’ll still address this question within the narcissistic reality you’ve described,” and then concluded, “You’re a true hero.”

I say:

Chuck, you perceptive bastard, if you’re ever in Austin, TX, there’s a free dinner—drinks and all—here for you. 

The Monday Morning Ethicist: Leftover wine?!

Chuck Klosterman is The Ethicist for the NYT. I am the Monday Morning Ethicist.

Yesterday’s lead question for Chuck:

I recently had a party and afterward had quite a few large bottles of leftover wine (they were opened and wouldn’t keep). There is a particular corner in my neighborhood where benign “drunkards” hang out and drink. They have done so for years, and everyone accepts this as part of our neighborhood. My question is, Should I drop this mother lode of wine off on their perch for them (because who am I to judge their choices?), or pour it down the drain (which would be a “waste”)? DEAN D., LOS ANGELES

Chuck said: In so many words, sure, why not.

I say:

Dear Deano Downer:

Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa.


Dude, I’m sorry but I can’t help you because I haven’t been able to read your whole letter. Why? Because every time I try to read past the first sentence, I can’t, because I’m laughing too hard.

You had a party after which there were quite a few large bottles of wine left over?!


Excuse me while I wipe the tears from my eyes.

That, my friend, is not a party. It may be a sewing circle. It may be an encounter group. Or a book club. But it is certainly not a party.

Seek professional help. And the next time you’re looking to offload some free hooch, I got your “benign drunkard” right here.

Hope this helps! 

Turns out nouning weirds language, too

Kiwi grammarian Helen (her-pen-is-mightier-than-the) Sword has a piece in today’s NYT decrying nominalization, the act of converting verbs into nouns. She calls the results “zombie nouns.”

The proliferation of nominalizations in a discursive formation may be an indication of a tendency toward pomposity and abstraction.

The sentence above contains no fewer than seven nominalizations, each formed from a verb or an adjective. Yet it fails to tell us who is doing what. When we eliminate or reanimate most of the zombie nouns (tendency becomes tend, abstraction becomes abstract) and add a human subject and some active verbs, the sentence springs back to life:

Writers who overload their sentences with nominalizations tend to sound pompous and abstract.

Guilty as charged. Anyway, the piece reminded me of this classic:

Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson


Anagrams from the NYT headline about old people freezing their kids' eggs

This NYT headline grabbed me this morning: Would Be Grandparents Support Egg Freeze

Who cares what the article’s about? Something about old women paying to freeze their adult daughter’s ovi. But never mind that. I thought, wow, that headline would make some great anagrams.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find an online anagram generator powerful enough to work with the whole phrase. So I used the best first anagram generator I found, The Internet Anagram Server, and I broke the headline into smaller chunks. Then I put some of the choicest chunks together: 

Blued ow grandpa rents pop ruts gee fez erg
Bow duel panders grant sport up ere fez egg
Blow due dang partners port pus zee ref egg
Web loud dang pants err strop up gee fez erg
Bud we lo ardent sprang pot spur freeze egg

So there you have it.

PS. for those who are wondering if I don’t have better things to do, the answer is yes, but my doing worse things is the only thing that makes that true. Think about it. 

In Amsterdam they're saying, "Fix it!"

If you’re like me—and I’m truly sorry if you are, but you can’t say your mother didn’t warn you what would happen if you didn’t stop—you hate our throwaway culture.

It drives me crazy when the failure of a small part renders an entire product useless. It doesn’t matter that you can probably buy an entire new product—almost always imported—for less the you might pay for fixing the old one. In fact, that’s a big part of the problem. The throw-it-away-and-buy-a-new-one mentaility encourages unnecessary raw resource consumption and adds more junk and hazardous waste to our landfills. 

So I was excited to see this article in the NYT about people in the Netherlands who run Repair Cafes. These volunteer groups meet once a month and try to fix stuff that people bring in to them. They even fixed one lady’s 40-year-old vacuum cleaner. 

I don’t like to “should” on myself, but considering that I hate planned obsolescence and that I love to fix stuff, I should start a Repair Cafe here.

Who’s with me? Gopher? Otter?

My resume to serve on the board of a Fortune 500 company

It may be surprising that the former chief of Fannie Mae still remains the director of a public company as prominent as Goldman Sachs and Target. But perhaps more surprising, many other executives who had tumultuous reigns are also board members of major public companies. Charles O. Prince III, the former chief executive of Citigroup, who resigned under pressure in 2007 amid huge write-downs at the bank, is a director of Xerox and Johnson & Johnson. E. Stanley O’Neal, the former chief executive of Merrill Lynch on whose watch the firm loaded up on subprime debt that almost bankrupted the company, is a director of the aluminum giant Alcoa…

…Mr. Hodgson says directors who have been at companies with problems often argue to him “that going through an experience like that makes them a better board member.”‘Tainted’ But Still Serving on Corporate Boards, Andrew Ross Sorkin, NYT, 4-23-12

Rich Malley
1201 Viscious Circle
Austin, TX 78701


Lucrative, very low stress position on corporate board, preferably for a company that offers first class airfare to board meetings in exotic locales (private jets OK!).




Advanced dissembling, sophisticated catastrophe denial, harbinger ignoring, seamless responsibility transference, situational toadying, selective forgetting, supercilious demeanor maintaining. 


Ornst & Wellborn, Inc., 1999-2002—Board member, chairman of Board Christmas Party Committee
Present at board’s passive capitulation to management on disastrous scheme to lower expansion costs by building new stores out of cardboard; left board before class action suit brought by victims of flash fire at Mobile, AL grand opening. 

Scuppers, Inc., 2003-2008—Board member, chairman of Making Excuses to the Press About Chief Executive’s Obscene Salary Committee
Overlooked ransacking of corporate coffers by lone rogue junior executive; introduced successful initiative to raise board pay as reward for enduring stressful bad publicity arising from said ransacking; demonstrated utter lack of interest in understanding company’s core business; successfully leased personal luxury condo to corporate lodging division for five times annual mortgage obligation. 

Advanced Scientific Health, Inc., 2007-present—Board member, golf buddy of CEO 
General dereliction of oversight responsibilities; stirrer of management Kool-Aid; plausible deniability construction. 




Please note that some of my references are only allowed to receive phone calls on weekends.

Why I am applying for the job opening at Goldman Sachs

See also: “Why I Am Leaving Goldman Sachs,” NYT

Dear Messrs. Blankfein and Cohn:

Like you, I, too, was disappointed in Gregory Smith’s messy public resignation. Unlike you though, probably, I also did a little dance. Because the fact is, I’ve been having a heck of a time finding a job paying more than $400,000 a year. One I can tolerate, anyway.

And so it is with great pride and no humility that I put myself forward for the job Mr. Smith vacated in such an unseemly way. And let’s get this out of the way right now: I’ll save you money. Greggie-baby made $500 large. I’m willing to accept only $450,000 a year, provided I get Fridays off (Fridays I see my therapist).

I read that Goldman’s leaders wondered why Gregory didn’t come to you first. I wondered that, too. That would have made it so easy to ignore his whiney ass and keep his noisome kvetching under your hat. In hindsight, that would’ve been so great! Damn, but he had to go and pop off in an OpEd. So I want to assure you that when I go, I will go quietly. In fact I venture to say that for the right severance package, I will go silently. Like a stealth motherfucking bomber, homes.

As far as competence, qualifications and experience, well, let’s just say I am a fast learner. And there was that time when I was a waiter that I shortchanged a customer $20. It was unintentional, but the guy never noticed, and I didn’t tell him as he left. I kept the money and spent it on myself. I think you’ll agree this episode shows I have promise.

I realize you need to keep up the pretense of being an equal opportunity employer, so I am willing to come in for a pro forma interview. Shall we say 10am tomorrow morning? I can start immediately afterward. Oh, but can I have tomorrow afternoon off? I’d like to go celebrate my new job working for the greatest, most generous, most honest and ethical employer a guy could ever have.

And I’ll put that in writing.


Rich Malley

PS: Assuming I’ll be assigned a car and driver once I’m hired, can we just bump that process up a bit and have a driver pick me up for the interview? Thanks. 

How To Tell If That Online Review Is Fake



“In the brutal world of online commerce, where a competing product is just a click away, retailers need all the juice they can get to close a sale.
Some exalt themselves by anonymously posting their own laudatory reviews. Now there is an even simpler approach: offering a refund to customers in exchange for a write-up.”

NYT: For $2 a Star, an Online Retailer Gets 5-Star Product Reviews

Too effusive for the product:
“What an incredible delight this nostril hair trimmer has proved to be!”
“These garage door dampeners are a real day brightener!”
“I spontaneously orgasm every time I look at my new trivet!”

So vague it could be for anything:
“This is just an outstanding product. It does what it does—and you know what I’m talking about—very, very well.”
“Wow. Just wow. I mean, hey, wow.”

Similar phrases in otherwise stylistically different reviews:
“The product did an estimable job, in the opinion of this writer. It wiped up spills faster and quicker than a regular mop. Without question, I will recommend this product to those of my acquaintance for whom quality is a paramount concern.”
“This shizz-nit be awesome dawg. It wiped up spills faster and quicker than a regular mop. Da frat house be like mad clean, yo.”
“Esta fregona me satisface mucho. It wiped up spills faster and quicker than a regular mop. Lo recomiendo.”

Claims not credible:
“My hair grew back almost as soon as I applied the product.”
“My hair grew back overnight.”
“Within about two weeks, my hair grew back.”
“After only two bottles, I started noticing some new hair growth.”
“My stubble is definitely more robust since I started using it six months ago.”

Making money from a viral video: NYT's takes 500 words to say "get lucky"

Claire Cain Miller had a problem. She pitched this article to her editors at the New York Times about how to make money from a hit YouTube video. But the more she researched it, the less interesting it became. But by the time she finished writing, she had a enough words for the article, so what the hell. Herewith, a summary of her plan to cash in from a viral video.

1. Make a viral video, but don’t TRY to make a viral video—just let it happen, somehow.

2. Go on TV to promote the video, but don’t TRY to go on TV—don’t call them, let them call you.

3. Make money from Google ad revenue—again, no effort required. Just sit tight and wait for an email from Google.

4. Oh, and you can sell t-shirts, too.

Good luck!