Monday, December 26, 2005


Over the years many children have collected and played with Barbie, the popular fashionista with the frozen smile and bleached blond hair with no visible black roots. The doll who has spawned hundreds of plastic twin sisters has a wardrobe to die for, both literally and figuratively.

Seems that there are some girls - probably a minority - that have taken to torturing the poor girl...I mean, doll. According to research published recently by British academics (interesting that a lot of this type of "scientific" research is by Brits) young females consider this a part of their legitimate play ranging from burning Barbie's hair to decapitating her head and nuking Barbie in the microwave!

Researchers questioned 100 primary school children to gauge their attitudes to a range of products as part of a branding study, and discovered that Barie provoked the strongest reaction. The study indicated that many of the girls viewed Barbie as an inanimate object and not a lovable toy.

Maybe it's those blue eyes of hers that never blink and follow you everywhere. I mean, the girl...doll can't even stand up for herself for goodness sake, due to perpetually arched feet and lack of toes. IMHO - her real downfall arrived the day she said 'sayonara' to Ken. People began to take sides and this is the inevitable result. Mutilation.

There are some people...dolls that should never break up.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Merry Christmas or...Happy Holidays

There appears to be a controversy i.e. discussion...dispute...debate, regarding how people should address each other at this time of the year. Should one or is it correct to wish someone "Merry Christmas" or perhaps to be more "PC" one should limits one's wishes to "Happy Holidays?" Since when did greetings suddenly become the issue of the day?

A fellow writer recently ranted in a piece about encountering this issue while at the check out counter at a grocery store. Paying for his items he innocently wished the clerk, "Merry Christmas". A customer behind suddenly piped in, admonishing him for this action and told him to keep his good wishes to himself. The customer droned on and basically told the writer that he should not assume the clerk was a Christian.

Talk about bah humbug!

Since when did wishing people Merry Christmas...or any other greetings becomne a religioius issue? If I want to wish my Jewish friends, Happy Chanukah - then I will, or Joyeux Noel in French...or Kala Christougena to my Greek friends.

Reminds me of the story and flap a few years back in Toronto, Canada, when city council decided to call the fir tree that they put up every year, a holiday tree instead of the usual and more common Christmas Tree. As expected there was a huge furor over the re-naming and it wasn't long after that it returned to Christmas Tree.

As Shakespere said: " What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet."

Merry Christmas...Happy Chanukah...have a joyful Kwanza and peace on earth, good will towards all.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005


For centuries people have pondered the enigmatic half-smile on Mona Lisa's face and speculated as to its origin. Now some experts believe that they have the answer. The lady is plain happy, period! When you're happy and you know it, you smile. Right?

Some Dutch researchers recently conducted a "fun" experiment and using scientific techonology, they scanned a reproduction of the painting using "emotion recognition" software developed in cooperation with the University of Illinois. The end conclusion was that Mona was smiling because she was 83% happy, 9% disgusted (how does one even deduce any disgust in that smile at all), six percent fearful (maybe she was worried about a roast that was burning) and 2% angry. Interesting that she was only 1% neutral, whatever that means.

It should be noted that the technology used was designed to be used with modern digital films and images, and subjects are required to be initially scanned in a neutral emotionless state.

Go know how she really felt inside!

A professor at the University of Amsterdam involved in the experiment, commented that they knew the results would be unscientific, since the softwear wasn't designed to register subtle emotions. The lead researcher who took the challenge as seriously as he could, used the faces of 10 women of Mediterranean ancestry to create a composite image of a neutral expression, and compared that to Mona's face scoring it on the basis of happiness, surprise, anger, disgust, fear and sadness. Biometrics experts not involved with the experiment said the results were interesting even if they aren't the last word on the Mona Lisa. Of course not! That would take away all the fun and mystery in speculating her real feelings.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005


Let's say...A person is asleep in bed in the middle of the night and suddenly, this person is awakened by noise. Knowing that there are only two people in the house with the other person in the same bed, it becomes obvious that this could be a break in with the perp still downstairs. Let's say... The "perp" decides to check around the house and enters the bedroom where the two people have prepared for this eventuality because the interloper is about to be hit with the leg of a night table after which he will be taken away by the police.

While this may appear as a far-fetched idea, it seems that a company in London, England has created a night table that converts into a weapon when needed. In the words of the creator: 'The 'Safe Bedside Table' has a removable leg that acts as a club and a top that doubles as a shield-defence.' Kind of like a knight in days of yore.

"Stand back foul intruder or I shall smite you with the leg of my night table!"

Statistically, it's reported that 50% of people in London are worried about security while they sleep. Perhaps installing an alarm system would be safer. The night table/weapon can be found at:


Seems the residents of Bexley Village in England have a problem that's got them all P.O.'d in the true sense of the word. They are upset over the fact that people are using the streets - gasp! - to empty their bladder. To deal with this socially unacceptable problem a law was enacted whereby those caught peeing will have the option of putting out an £80 fine or handed a pail of water to clean it up.

Pub owners are working with the police and have promised to provide hot water and materials to clean up the pee.

Sunday, December 11, 2005


Came accross an interesting site that pondered the issue whether Rudolph - he of the red nose - is, in effect, a female! I suppose there's no law that states Rudolph couldn't be Rudolphia and that eight "tiny" reindeer have to be male. It would infer that a certain jolly old gentleman could be sexist.

Actually, there has been very little (if any) discussion or examination revolved around whether this could be/might be a possibility. According to the Wildlife Notebook series - Alaska Department of Fish and game, Santa's Reindeer (R.t saintnicolasmagicalus) look very similar to common reindeer or caribou! Could there be a cover-up afoot or ahoof? However, Santa's guys (or gals) have many characteristics distinguishing them from seven sub-species including the genus from Finland, Greenland and other places accross the globe where reindeer reside. This is a topic that would get a great discussion going while drinking egg nog.

Now we all know and accept that Santa's reindeer live at the North Pole and are catered to by Mr. and Mrs. Claus and some elves. Furthermore according to the piece, the R.t saintnicolas magicalus (a specialized breed obviously), they're not listed on the endangered species list. Whew - thank goodness!

It appears that both male and female of the species have antlers. Go figure! It has been generally accepted that only males grow them, ergo, Santa's reindeers are guys. However...the females keep the antlers until Spring (probably to use against overly-amourous bulls) and most bulls drop their antlers by early December. So the possibility exists that at least some of Santa's flock could be females! When you think about some of their names could be a clue like Cupid is definitely more feminine than masculin and Vixen and Prances could go either way.

Anyway, only Santa knows for sure and he's sure not telling!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

"Hello Rover? It's me! Pick up!"

ET isn't the only one to phone home. For those who are looking for the perfect holiday gift, here's an idea whose time has come.

A communications company based in Vancouver, British Columbia (Canada), has created a water-proof, voice-enabled GPS cell phone for dogs that will be available early next year. The phone, which will be bone-shaped, is targeted for roming pooches that enjoy a foray sometimes far from home. The bone phone will allow owners to contact their pets and track them down.

Statistically, approximately 9.7 milliion pets have gone missing since December 31, 2004.

The bone phone that will sell for approximately $350 - call plans and roaming charges haven't as yet been determined - attaches to a dog collar and has two buttons: one to call the owner's home and the other to contact the owner's cell phone.

The PetCell is set up to recognize only the number the owner enters. This means that Fido or Fifi won't be harrassed by wrong numbers and pesky telemarketers. Too bad they can't set up the same type of service for humans.

Even though dogs won't be downloading dog food commercial videos on their cells, the phone has some perks including a "geo fence capability" that alerts ownwers if poochie leaves the yard.

What's next? A cell phone for parakeets, hamsters, pet rabbits and iguanas? The mind boggles.

Monday, December 05, 2005


Shades of Dr. Doolittle!

This definitely belongs in the "I-didn't-know-that!" department. To most humans "monkey talk" sounds the same but it appears this isn't so. Primate researchers in Japan have discovered that monkeys have an accent depending on where they live.

A research team analyzed voice tones of two groups of the same species of primates, the Japanese Yakushima macaque. One group comprised 23 monkeys living in the southern Japanese island of Yakushima and the other group consisted of 30 descendants from the same tribe that had moved to another area. The end result indicated that the island group had a tone approximately 110 hertz higher on average than the one take taken to central Japan.
A researcher concluded that the monkeys living on Yakushima Island have an accent with a higher tone due to the amount of tall trees growing on the island that tend to block their voices.

Of course! It's so...logical!

This leads to the logical and correct assumption that monkeys living on Mount Ohira do not have to gibber (that's monkey talk) as high because the trees are low.
Researchers also conclude that their findings may be a clue to the origins of the human language.

Thinking further along this line of thinking, perhaps further research should be conducted to ascertain whether humans living in heavily wooded areas speak louder than those living in wide open spaces.

It's worth looking into - or hearing about!


I'm all for political correctness but sometimes it makes you wonder.

Seems the Havant Borough Council in Hampshire, which I believe is in the U.K. decided for some reason known only to them, that the term "Christmas" could/might/it's possible to offend non-Christians. This leads one to wonder whether anyone complained or was this unique decision a personal revelation? After all - this is the season of miracles of all sorts.
They replaced the term "Christmas" with "The Festival of Lights", which by the way is the English translation of Chanukah, a Jewish festive holiday that falls the same time as Christmas.
Seems that the Havant Borough Council has spent more than £5000 on Christmas - I mean - Festival of Lights, lights.

Saturday, December 03, 2005


Problems, problems... Do they ever end?

According to a news report every year hordes of Brits head on over to Rovaniemi, Finland. Ever hear of the place? Me neither.

You would think logically that they must have some great sales over in Finland, right? Or perhaps they're offering a great smorgesbord?


Seems the big attraction in Rovaniemi is Santa's Workshop! Go figure!
They're estimating that departing planes will be filled to capacity and 90 percent of the Brits will be flying over southern Finland, causing one big traffic jam and a backlog of planes. How many planes? More than 25 planes per hour will be in Finnish air space en route to see the jolly old elf himself. In fact there is so much air traffic that it forces restriction on your regular-type flights over Norway.

This leads one to question as to why the Brits travel there in the first place. Is there no local workshop in the U.K.?

So many questions that require answers:
Where does Santa (or Father Christmas as he's known in the U.K.) make his toys? In his basement? Or perhaps he rents space?
What about the elves? How do they figure into this scenario? Where do they sleep and is their union aware of this exodus?
Has Queen Liz been informed that her royal and not-so-loyal subjects are spending their hard-earned cash in Finland, of all places?
Next thing you know, Walmart will be opening up in Rovaniemi!

Thursday, December 01, 2005


Is it just me or are there others "out there" who feel sorry for Christmas trees? There's something sad about towering fir trees cut down in the prime of what should be a long and healthy life span. Anyone who has seen pine or spruce trees growing in their natural state in the wilderness cannot but be awed. Of course they would look a whole lot better if they could also grow some ornaments but perhaps that's asking a bit much. In return for providing Christmas celebrants with a place in which to hang thingies on and gifts beneath, they spend the remaining life span in a trash can among discarded Christmas edibles like grandma's fruit cake and aspic. They deserve better.

On the other hand vinyl Christmas trees live forever. It's kind of creepy when you think about it. These sassy and perky wanna-be's come in shades to match your decorating scheme like silver, gold, yellow, lavender (lavendar), pink and of course, your basic green.

To get back to the real-tree or fake-tree issue or dilemma, Christmas trees as the name infers should last only during the Christmas period. However, the vinyl wanna-be's ingratiate themselves in celebrant's homes. It's like guests who come to visit but never leave and why not? They don't drop pine needles, their branches never droop and they don't even require water to keep them fresh. They're always the way nature intended or wanted them to be. How can a real fir compete? Here is something to think about: a ground up Christmas tree makes great compost. Hey - try and do that with your plastic version!

By the way is it holiday tree or Christmas tree? Or perhaps Chanukah Bush?


After years of speculating as to the reasons why my garden didn't thrive, I believe that I may have the answer. Note the usage of the word "may", which is frequently followed by the terms could have, should have, would have, might have been since gardening is frequently a speculative undertaking at best. In fact the explanation is so obvious that I'm surprised it never dawned on me before now: I've been gardening in the wrong plant zone!

Go figure!

As a seasoned gardener I've never found the necessity to consult with the plant hardiness zone guide…I lie. To be honest and let's keep this between us, I'm not very good at reading maps…Actually, I can't read maps at all. South to me is Florida, out west is Texas, north is frigid cold, snow and sled dogs and east is more or less where we live.

"My heavens," or words to that effect, you're probably saying to yourself right now and shaking your head in utter astonishment and disbelief. "How can she call herself a gardener and not know in which area her plant zone is located?" Simple – I just never bothered to check for one reason or another. My philosophy has been a plant is a plant is…and popped in dirt along with fertilizer and a dose of water, it'll grow or produce something interesting and green. Now I find out that I've been living under a misconception.

This was brought to my attention recently during a cyber discussion with a plant person, while chatting about a new potential plant specie for next summer. Concerned as to whether it would "take" in my garden, the question arose as to in which hardiness zone our house was located. No one had ever asked this question before and my credibility faded as fast as a hosta planted in full sun.

"Does it make any difference?" I responded innocently, knowing darn well that it did.

The wonderful thing about the Internet is that it supplies information on just about everything a person needs to know about gardening, right at one's fingertips. Finding the plant hardiness zone map was simple enough but deciphering it was a whole other issue. What struck me was that visually, the map has a lot of eye appeal with pretty colors ranging from your earth tones of browns, beige and yellows, purple and soft lavender, lime to leaf green and for one reason or the other, an unimaginative dull black. There was also a zoom-in and zoom-out device presumably for verifying the exact location of the area in which a garden is located. According to the map my house is located in a light-ish green to mint-green area known as 5b…or maybe it could be 5a…it's a close call… At least we're in a region that's located in a decent color shade and one that's fashionably acceptable. Things like that are important to gardeners – alright – to me.

According to one Internet gardening source the average minimum temperature should not be the only factor taken into consideration, as to whether a plant will survive in a garden. Tell me something I don't know! For example we could have an area in our garden that deserves a higher rank due to variable climatic conditions, like shrubs protecting a corner of the garden. Thi In other words and in the end, it's all a guessing game anyway.

Now that I'm aware of my plant hardiness zone, I have a new excuse for my plants' failure to thrive. At least that's what I'll tell everyone.