Sunday, October 23, 2011

"It!" - a fearful tale for Halloween

“Good enough to eat!” she snickered to herself, adjusting the pieces of raw fish on the platter that was filled to overflowing with a vast assortment of sushi. Opening her mouth slightly a thick stream of yellow saliva trickled down her chin landing squarely on top of the two centre pieces.

“My compliments to the chef,” she said in a whisper, cleaning the sushi with a napkin and then wiping the drool from her mouth.

Everything had to be perfect for the hungry theatre crowd that would soon descend upon the buffet like a swarming of bees.

Removing the cork from the champagne bottles, she inhaled the fumes as flashes of memory of her favorite beverage came flooding back. Home seemed like a far off recollection that was becoming more difficult to access with each passing day, but this was no time to fall back on reminiscences. Control and moderation were the guide words in preparation for the next and hopefully final step.

She was feeling quite isolated these days and images of her former life were the only thing that kept her going. It was becoming increasingly difficult to repress the other side. Back home it would be her day of maturation and a week of celebration, but she was here with work still to be done.

Patience, she had been reminded, was important for the success of their project.

“For heaven’s sake put the champagne in an ice bucket,” a voice behind her ordered. “Haven’t we taught you anything? Honestly – your type…” his voice trailed off as he moved down the table, his white linen serviette slapping away invisible crumbs from the tablecloth.

“You call this silverware polished?” he demanded, wiping the fork tines with a napkin. Such a lackadaisical effort but what can one expect coming from - your type? Why we agreed to take you on I’ll never know but only a little while longer, though, thank goodness.”

She felt something building in her chest that slowly moved up to her throat, and there was a definite pulsation on the right side of her eye.

“Ignore him,” one of the waiters whispered. “Their kind think they’re so smart but they’ll find out otherwise, very soon.”

“He knows exactly what he’s saying and those words are intentional to maximize their effect on me,” she responded, her gaze now focused directly on the source of her growing rage.

“It’s not uncommon for them to address each other in that manner,” the waiter offered, attempting to distract her attention. “I think they call it…sarcasm…”

At that point she had stopped hearing anything and started moving forward slowly at first, then picking up speed as she neared her target. He was sampling some of the dishes laid out on the table when she moved directly behind him.

“Can’t any of you do anything right?” he bellowed, spitting liquid back into the soup tureen. “I’ve had it. Tomorrow I’m going to start proceedings to have you all removed. I try and do a good thing and…”

At the point where she was almost on top of him he whirled around, his face contorted in fear with the sudden realization of what was happening. Her trajectory was slightly off that evening since she had forgotten to transfigure the night before. The head Imagineer had cautioned them to adhere to a daily routine or rapid degeneration would ensue. The waiter didn’t see the six foot green-grey mass of glowing orange skin and pulsating flesh lunge in his direction until it was too late. In fact there wasn’t even enough time for a scream to escape from his throat.

“The sushi could be a little off tonight,” she commented as his facial features blended into a bloody mass of flesh and bone, “and the roast beef is a little overcooked for my taste. Of course I prefer mine more on the very rare side…” she opined. “Now let me ask you something important.  Chablis or rosé?”

By the time the theatre crowd filed into the room, she had the glasses filled with champagne. The beverage fountain was a particular hit and speculation was rife as to the source of the unusual red-ish tint to it.

She removed the white linen serviette from her uniform pocket and folded it neatly, to be added to the rest of her earthly souvenirs.

“Don’t think you’ll be needing this anymore,” she whispered, patting her now bulging stomach. "Decorum is so important these days."

Sunday, October 16, 2011

So what's on your cell phone? Lotsa germs

These days it's uncommon to see people without a cell phone in their hands while carrying on their every day lives. This includes from personal experience, talking while using a public toilet. Why the necessity and urgency to communicate with someone while answering nature's call to put it politely, is a mystery to me. I've been privy to people in nearby stalls gossiping on their cell phones while using the toilet facilities, making social arrangements and other inconsequential chatter. It can wait people! But I digress.

Research conducted by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Queen Mary, University of London, a study suggested that one in six cell phones is - wait for it - contaminated with faecal matter, according to research for Global Handwashing Day, which took place on October 15. The researchers took almost 400 samples from phones ande hands in twelves British cities. Their findings are interesting in that 16% of phones and 16% of hands harbored E. coli bacteria.

Although 95% of people said they washed their hands with soap where possible, 92% of phones and 82% of hands had bacteria on them. Furthermore, 16% of hands and 16% of phones were found to harbour E. coli – bacteria of a faecal origin. Thinking further, this indicates at least to me that not everyone washes their hands when possible and not everyone tells the truth when asked.

Researchers travelled to 12 cities in various locations in England and took 390 samples from mobile phones and hands which were analysed in the lab to find out the type and number of germs lurking there. They also asked participants a series of questions about their handwashing habits.

To get back to National Handwashing Day, how many people reading this were even aware that this was a day put aside to - well - draw attention to the importance of washing hands. In the way of background information, the day was established by the Global Public-Private Partnership for Handwashing in 2008 to:

• Foster and support a global culture of handwashing with soap.
• Shine a spotlight on the state of handwashing in every country.
• Raise awareness about the benefits of handwashing with soap.

Global Handwashing Day was originally created for children and schools, but can be celebrated by anyone promoting handwashing with soap.

Each year, over 200 million people are involved in celebrations in over 100 countries around the world. Global Handwashing is endorsed by a wide array of governments, international institutions, civil society organizations, NGOs, private companies, and individuals.

Thinking further (again), 200 million people world wide are involved are involved in some way to the act of  washing their hands.

Here's a link for Global Handwashing Day:

Monday, October 10, 2011

Dog owner has a brush with the law

One of the tasks and/or responsibilities of dog ownership is regular brushing of the dog's fur to keep it visually appealing, to reduce bacterial build up and reduce shedding. As a former dog owner/care giver/slave to a white haired very mixed breed pooch, the latter is important for people who don't enjoy the addition of dog fur on their clothes. Ask me about it. But I digress. Already.

As is the case with many dog owners pensioner, Ron Wyre, walks his dog Spencer and recently during a stroll in a Nottingham (England) park, decided to brush Spencer's fur. He was stopped from completing his task by a community protection officer who fined Wyre £75 for littering no less. The officer for his part claimed that he approached Wyre, who was wearing a high visibility uniform at the time, to ascertain whether he was impersonating an officer. His offence by the way, was leaving dog hair on the ground.

I mean, really - fur on the ground?

This leaves one to wonder if there is a clause in their local bylaws that covers dog hair or any pet hair. I mean, how can one determine the difference between dog, cat, squirrel, skunk or the remnants of any type of fur-bearing animal living in the area? Should their fur be under scrutiny of the law? Who should pay the fine?

According to a spokesperson for the powers-that-be, the fine was eventually dropped after further investigation and after the circumstances became clear and an apology issued. One wonders what type of circumstances were involved...

"I'd got in my pocket a bag (for doggie-doo) and I started to put it into that and took the fur home with me, but he still gave me the ticket. It was just ridiculous," Wyre commented.


There is an internal investigation into the incident. One wonders if other dog owners have been fined for a similar offence.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

X-Factor - I came, I watched and nothing new

Given all the hype and promotion that "X-Factor" received and its longevity as a staple on British TV, there was a high expectation that it was something different...something special that deserves our attention. In the end, I came, watched and it's...okay. 'Okay' as in entertaining TV but nothing different than a lot of other shows that have a similar format.

Thing is, we have an established American Idol, which has earned a place in the hearts of TV viewers. It's even more surprising since Simon Cowell, the creator of X-Factor, was instrumental in AI's growth. For whatever reason, perhaps boredom or the desire to prove that he can create a superior show that will eat into Idol's numbers, Cowell depature doesn't seem to have hurt Idol in the least. As expected, he plays the role of X-Factor show grouch, which also adds nothing new to the show.

Upon evaluation of the performers, X-Factor seems to have better quality singers in a wide range of ages. To its credit, X-Factor doesn't have an age limit as does AI. The usually flaky but-not-like-she-used-to-be, Paula Abdul, who was picked up by Cowell as one of his X-Factor judges, doesn't really do anything for the show. She's just...there. The real "cement" of AI, Ryan Seacrest, in his role of interviewing the aspiring singers and hosting duties, gives AI a spark that X-Factor seems to lack. To put it bluntly, Steve Jones ain't no Ryan Seacrest. He's another one of those just...there.

In the end both shows offer aspiring singers, some of whom can actually sing, the opportunity to be on TV and perhaps their one and only shot at stardom. What is missing is something to distinguish the shows from being mirror images of each other.

Quick un-official curiousity poll/question: do you prefer American Idol or X-Factor?

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Ig Nobel - awards that say 'we're different' and then some

There are many award ceremonies covering a plethora of subjects marking some type of accomplishment. Some awards recongize special abilities in a specific milieu that make the world a better and/or a more interesting place to live. Then we have the Ig Nobel Prizes, which "honor achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think. The prizes are intended to celebrate the unusual, honor the imaginative — and spur people's interest in science, medicine, and technology."

These are my type of awards.

Recently, the winners and recipients of the award were announced on September 29 along with a live ceremony of the proceedings, which took place at Harvard University. What makes these achievements so memorable is the nature of the accomplishments. I mean, these are not your ardinary, run-of-the-mill subjects!

The PHYSIOLOGY PRIZE was awarded to Anna Wilkinson (of the UK), Natalie Sebanz (of THE NETHERLANDS, HUNGARY, and AUSTRIA), Isabella Mandl (of AUSTRIA) and Ludwig Huber (of AUSTRIA) for their study "No Evidence of Contagious Yawning in the Red-Footed Tortoise."  Not all types of tortoises but merely the Red-Footed Tortoise.

Who knew that there are red-footed tortoises and that they deserved studying for their yawning practises?

REFERENCE: 'No Evidence Of Contagious Yawning in the Red-Footed Tortoise Geochelone carbonaria," Anna Wilkinson, Natalie Sebanz, Isabella Mandl, Ludwig Huber, Current Zoology, vol. 57, no. 4, 2011. pp. 477-84.

The prize in CHEMISTRY went to Makoto Imai, Naoki Urushihata, Hideki Tanemura, Yukinobu Tajima, Hideaki Goto, Koichiro Mizoguchi and Junichi Murakami of JAPAN, for determining the ideal density of airborne wasabi (pungent horseradish) to awaken sleeping people in case of a fire or other emergency, and for applying this knowledge to invent the wasabi alarm.

Another shocker for me. Here I was under the impression that wasabi was merely a very strong horseradish to clean the sinuses. Go figure that somebody would even conceive that it could have another use as a fire alarm. Could be that when word gets out about this, there might just be a run on wasabi at the supermarket.

REFERENCE: US patent application 2010/0308995 A1. Filing date: Feb 5, 2009.

Now the MEDICINE PRIZE given to Mirjam Tuk (of THE NETHERLANDS and the UK), Debra Trampe (of THE NETHERLANDS) and Luk Warlop (of BELGIUM). and jointly to Matthew Lewis, Peter Snyder and Robert Feldman (of the USA), Robert Pietrzak, David Darby, and Paul Maruff (of AUSTRALIA) is somewhat logical (at least in my mind) for demonstrating that people make better decisions about some kinds of things — but worse decisions about other kinds of things‚ when they have a strong urge to urinate.

If one has to - well - pee badly, the only thought that comes to mind (at least mine) is where is the nearest toilet.

REFERENCE: "Inhibitory Spillover: Increased Urination Urgency Facilitates Impulse Control in Unrelated Domains," Mirjam A. Tuk, Debra Trampe and Luk Warlop, Psychological Science, vol. 22, no. 5, May 2011, pp. 627-633.

REFERENCE: "The Effect of Acute Increase in Urge to Void on Cognitive Function in Healthy Adults," Matthew S. Lewis, Peter J. Snyder, Robert H. Pietrzak, David Darby, Robert A. Feldman, Paul T. Maruff, Neurology and Urodynamics, vol. 30, no. 1, January 2011, pp. 183-7.

The PSYCHOLOGY PRIZE was awarded to Karl Halvor Teigen of the University of Oslo, NORWAY, for trying to understand why, in everyday life, people sigh.

We think - we sigh. Right?

REFERENCE: "Is a Sigh 'Just a Sigh'? Sighs as Emotional Signals and Responses to a Difficult Task," Karl Halvor Teigen, Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, vol. 49, no. 1, 2008, pp. 49–57.

John Perry of Stanford University, USA, was recognized for his Theory of Structured Procrastination, which says: to be a high achiever, always work on something important, using it as a way to avoid doing something that's even more important.

Never could have conceived that procrastination is or could be structured but then I was most likely busy doing other things.

REFERENCE: "How to Procrastinate and Still Get Things Done," John Perry, Chronicle of Higher Education, February 23, 1996. Later republished elsewhere under the title "Structured Procrastination."

BIOLOGY PRIZE: Darryl Gwynne (of CANADA and AUSTRALIA and the UK and the USA) and David Rentz (of AUSTRALIA and the USA) for discovering that a certain kind of beetle mates with a certain kind of Australian beer bottle.

Perhaps certain types of beetles are sight-challenged and Australian beer bottles resemble beetles. It's probably a good thing that the brand of Australian beer was omitted.

REFERENCE: "Beetles on the Bottle: Male Buprestids Mistake Stubbies for Females (Coleoptera)," D.T. Gwynne, and D.C.F. Rentz, Journal of the Australian Entomological Society, vol. 22, , no. 1, 1983, pp. 79-80

REFERENCE: "Beetles on the Bottle," D.T. Gwynne and D.C.F. Rentz, Antenna: Proceedings (A) of the Royal Entomological Society London, vol. 8, no. 3, 1984, pp. 116-7.

PHYSICS PRIZE: Philippe Perrin, Cyril Perrot, Dominique Deviterne and Bruno Ragaru (of FRANCE), and Herman Kingma (of THE NETHERLANDS), for determining why discus throwers become dizzy, and why hammer throwers don't.

This discovery would most likely be of high interest to discus tossers and hammer throwers. Seems it's something to do with motion sickness, accord to the reference supplied. Then again, why would a person who suffers from motion sickness take up these sports, one wonders.

REFERENCE: "Dizziness in Discus Throwers is Related to Motion Sickness Generated While Spinning," Philippe Perrin, Cyril Perrot, Dominique Deviterne, Bruno Ragaru and Herman Kingma, Acta Oto-laryngologica, vol. 120, no. 3, March 2000, pp. 390–5.

So here's an interesting one. The MATHEMATICS PRIZE: Dorothy Martin of the USA (who predicted the world would end in 1954), Pat Robertson of the USA (who predicted the world would end in 1982), Elizabeth Clare Prophet of the USA (who predicted the world would end in 1990), Lee Jang Rim of KOREA (who predicted the world would end in 1992), Credonia Mwerinde of UGANDA (who predicted the world would end in 1999), and Harold Camping of the USA (who predicted the world would end on September 6, 1994 and later predicted that the world will end on October 21, 2011), for teaching the world to be careful when making mathematical assumptions and calculations.

Mathematics prize? These dates really don't add up.

The PEACE PRIZE was awarded to Arturas Zuokas, the mayor of Vilnius, LITHUANIA, for demonstrating that the problem of illegally parked luxury cars can be solved by running them over with an armored tank.

So this leads one to wonder how Mayor Zuokas made this discovery. Peace prize?

PUBLIC SAFETY PRIZE: John Senders of the University of Toronto, CANADA, for conducting a series of safety experiments in which a person drives an automobile on a major highway while a visor repeatedly flaps down over his face, blinding him.

I mean, why-oh-why would a person drive a car on a major highway while a visor flaps down on his face? More important, who does the flapping?

REFERENCE: "The Attentional Demand of Automobile Driving," John W. Senders, et al., Highway Research Record, vol. 195, 1967, pp. 15-33. VIDEO

I mean, go figure!