Thursday, November 24, 2016

Pondering the ins and outs of socially acceptable manners

Not five minutes ago while conducting a Facebook check along with other sites, there was the sudden realization that there was food stuck between my teeth. Actually, it wasn't so sudden since this is a frequent occurrence for me and most likely most of the planet. Look - these are important issues that aren't frequently thought about.

This occurrence wasn't surprising since supper was still being digested accompanied by remnants of the main course, which had lodged themselves between various molars and bicuspids and an occasional incisor. There was no uncertainty of committing a social faux-pas since the meal was 'in house' with only family members around to witness the movement of a finger placed on/between teeth to remove the offensive leftover food particle. Dining out, however, brings up the dilemma of how to disengage an item of food from one's teeth in public.

A common maneuver is a delicate movement around the teeth involved with use of the tongue. A successful outcome is dependent upon the extent and degree of food residue to be removed and whether the operation can be performed without drawing attention to the process. Unsuccessful attempts can result in a release of saliva and/or noise caused by air escaping between the teeth.

"Sorry - it's either this or a finger nail," explanation would not/does not suffice.

Using the contents of a glass of water as a tooth rinse aid is too obvious, especially when or if water is spit back into the glass. Neither is the explanation that one is merely testing the taste of the water. Bringing along an electric toothbrush is crass and too noisy.

Your common toothpick is specifically designed for this purpose but not visually palatable, especially when extricated food remnants are visible at its tip.

Thinking further (obviously too much time on my hands) another subject that has crossed my mind and has social ramifications is the issue of how or whether to blow one's nose amid a table of diners, and/or if it's socially acceptable to use a paper dinner napkin when a tissue isn't available. According to Emily Post of the Emily Post Institute, nose blowing at the table should be limited to small puffs. Big, noisy nose-blowing should be conducted away from the table. This leads one (me) to wonder whether it's advisable to sensitize fellow diners to this faux pas.

"Excuse me," you might say in the way of being helpful, "but you do realize that blowing your nose in public and drawing attention to yourself is boorish and gross."

Some people think deep thoughts about the future of our planet and its inhabitants and then some of us worry about the important issues in life like teeth cleaning and nose- blowing in public. It's just who I am.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Ever wonder about the sex life of rats who wear pants or ..discerning liars...dead flies... .Ig Nobel Awards has the lowdown

Once again as has been my pattern, the awarding of the Ig Nobel Prize slipped by without my acknowledging the winners contribution to the world. There are the real Nobels where recipients are honored for  distinguished achievements, and then there are the Ig Nobels. We're talking here about individuals with a penchant for thinking outside the box so to speak that definitely fall into the different but undeniably interesting category. 

Organized by the Annals of Improbable Research Magazine, the Ig Nobel Prizes honor achievements, which make people laugh and think, are intended to celebrate the unusual, honor the imaginative and spur people's interest in science, medicine and technology.

Given that the winners travel to the ceremony at their own expense from around the world to receive their prize from a group of genuine Nobel Laureates, means, at least in my mind that the winners take their accolades seriously. Then again, given the nature of the awards, perhaps (just speculation) they take it with a grain of salt. In any case, judge for yourselves.

Some of the subjects of the awards struck me as requiring personal commentary. Then again, maybe not.

REPRODUCTION PRIZE (EGYPT): the late Ahmed Shafik, for studying the effects of wearing polyester, cotton or wool pants on the (wait for it) sex life of rats and for conducting similar tests with human males.

Don't want to cast aspersions on rodents but why would rats wear polyester, cotton or wool pants or any pants for that matter? Would it give them prestige in the sewers? Is there a call for designer outfits for them? Given their propensity for reproduction, rats don't need pants to breed.

ECONOMICS PRIZE (NEW ZEALAND, UK): Mark Avis, Sarah Forbes and Shelagh Ferguson for assessing the perceived personalities of rocks from a sales and marketing perspective.

Rocks have personalities? One surmises that perhaps, studying rocks from various visual points for a period of time and squinting one's eyes, a rock might or could resemble a family member or somebody famous. People have been known to see images in toast, spaghetti and other unusual places so rocks could be viewed in a similar category. Then again, why bother? A rock is a rock is...

PHYSICS PRIZE (HUNGARY, SPAIN, SWEDEN, SWITZERLAND): Gabor Horvath, Miklos Blaho, Gyorgy Kriska, Ramon Hegedus, Balazs Gerics, Robert Farkas, Susanne Akesson, Peter Malik and Hansruedi Wildermuth, for discovering why white-haired horses are the most horse-fly-proof horses, and for discovering why dragonflies are attracted to black tombstones.

Perhaps the dragonflies just like the color black being that it's night time. Who knows.

CHEMISTRY PRIZE (GERMANY): Volkswagen, for solving the problem of excessive automobile pollution emissions by automatically, electromechanically producing fewer emission whenever the cars are being tested.

And what about the times when they're not being tested, one wonders...

MEDICINE PRIZE (GERMANY): Christoph Helmchen, Carina Palzer, Thomas Munte, Silke Anders and Andreas Sprenger, for discovering that if you have an itch on the left side of your body, you can relieve it by looking into a mirror and scratching the right side of your body (and vice-versa)

Upon experiencing an itch, it would be far more simple to just relieve the itch by scratching it immediately and cutting out the necessity to gaze into a mirror. Why look in the mirror for this purpose in the first place? Then again, how would that aid scientific research?

PSYCHOLOGY PRIZE (BELGIUM, THE NETHERLANDS, GERMANY, CANADA, USA): Evelyne Debey, Maarten De Schryver, Gordon Logan, Kristina Suchotzki and Bruno Verschuere, for asking a thousand liars how often they lie and for deciding whether to believe those answers.

Can or should one believe a liar who won't necessarily admit she/he's a liar. There are some means to identify liars a BBC article claims,

PEACE PRIZE (CANADA, USA): Gordon Pennycook, James Allan Cheyne, Nathanial Barr, Derek Koehler and Jonathan Fugelsang, for their scholarly study called, "On the Reception and Detection of Pseydo-Profound Bullshit."

BIOLOGY PRIZE [UK] — Awarded jointly to: Charles Foster, for living in the wild as, at different times, a badger, an otter, a deer, a fox, and a bird; and to Thomas Thwaites, for creating prosthetic extensions of his limbs that allowed him to move in the manner of, and spend time roaming hills in the company of, goats.

Since nobody has found a method to communicate with the animals in question, one (me) wonders how they (the animals) feel about the attempt by humans to bond with them. To diminish the chance of rejection. Thomas Thwaites created limbs that resemble goats, Check out the end result:

 LITERATURE PRIZE [SWEDEN] — Fredrik Sjöberg, for his three-volume autobiographical work about the pleasures of collecting flies that are dead, and flies that are not yet dead.

Really? Three whole volumes on fly collection? Dead AND alive?

PERCEPTION PRIZE [JAPAN] — Atsuki Higashiyama and Kohei Adachi, for investigating whether things look different when you bend over and view them between your legs.

Perhaps a case of too much time on one's hands, or legs?

And so, yet another year of - well - interesting awards in recognition of the Ig Nobels. Perhaps a special category should be created for those aspiring to enter the political realm. Couldn't hurt.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Recognizing special and somewhat unusual holidays

As a writer seeking out potentially interesting subjects to share, there are internet sites that provide background information about diverse holidays, some of which are well known while others are more obscure. It's the lesser-known subject matter that make for interesting reads.

In case you weren't aware and it was definitely news to me, but today being February 20th, is National Love Your Pet Day. This is a great idea especially since pets play an important role as extended members of the family. It's also interesting that the day of pet recognition falls right after Valentine's Day, a day set aside whereby humans demonstrate affection towards a special person in their life. Pets and humans are a natural go-together. Having shared our household with various pets over the years including a dog for fifteen years and various aquatic species many of which didn't last the night and received a two-flush funeral, their contribution to family life should and is noted. Moving along...

Chances are few people are probably aware that February 20 is also National Cherry Pie Day in addition to February being National Cherry Month, a good a reason as any to indulge and cut into a slice or more of juicy scrumptiousness. In searching for background information and according to the American Pie Council, the pie itself came to America with the first English settlers. The early colonists baked their pies in long narrow pans calling them “coffyns”.  As in the Roman times, the early American pie crusts often were not eaten, but simply designed to hold the filling during baking.  It was during the American Revolution that the term 'crust' was used instead of “coffyn”, which is preferable. I mean, eating cherry pie with a coffyn on top just doesn't do it.

National Hot Tea Month, celebrated for the entire month of January, slipped by without my notice, which is somewhat shameful being a confirmed tea imbiber. The Tea Association of Canada, who know lots about things tea-related, the custom of afternoon tea originated in the 19th century with Anna, 7th Duchess of Bedford, who invited guests to join her for a cup of tea and goodies in the afternoon, to fill the long gap between breakfast and late dinners.

Although purists would probably advocate using loose tea when brewing a pot, tea bags are a personal preference. In spite of using a tea infuser, somehow stray tea leaves seem to work their way through the holes. Spitting the stray tea leaves into a napkin is viewed as a social faux-pas, as is filling up one's mouth with water to cleanse the mouth and returning it into the glass. Somehow, decorum always enters the picture where drinking tea is concerned. Moving right along...

Seems that February 20th has a lot going  including - wait for it - National Handcuff Day.  Handcuff Day marks the occasion back in 1912, when a patent was granted to George A. Carney for a revolutionary new style of handcuff. The source for this tidbit of information, offer some suggestions in the way of celebrating with some trivia questions. I mean, who wouldn't know the answers to:

  • what kind of handcuff replicas are used in China
  • which handcuff brand(s) were discontinued and then brought back, and why
  • who introduced the Gill Flash Action manacle and when that happened
  • how much standard and other types of handcuffs weigh
  • which handcuff models are made from stainless steel
  • what kind of handcuffs people suspected of conspiring against Abraham Lincoln wore

  • Lesser known and/or more obscure celebrations, which took place earlier in February include Dump Your Significant Jerk Day on February 1. Thinking further regarding this holiday, one doesn't have to wait until February to accomplish this feat, Wave All Your Fingers At Your Neighbors Day on February 7 and National Lash Day on February 19. According to information gleaned from the internet, "This is a day to promote the love and need for true and false eyelashes. It is a day we all can honor our lashes."  This leads one - me - to ponder: is it really necessary to honor our eye lashes? What about eye brows? Don't they deserver some recognition, also?

    According to Wikipedia, who always seem on top of relating the source of unusual items and articles:  "Eyelashes protect the eye from debris and perform some of the same function as whiskers do on a cat or a mouse in the sense that they are sensitive to being touched, thus providing a warning that an object (such as an insect or dust mite) is near the eye (which then closes reflexively)." Nothing unusual about the information however setting aside a day to honor eyelashes is somewhat...unusual, to say or write the least.

    All of these diverse celebrations got me thinking that perhaps it's time to add yet another observance, National House Plant Day, to the list in recognition the contribution of houseplants in our lives. I mean, what would our world and lives be without these living organisms, which give us so much pleasure and ask nothing in return except routine doses of fertilizer, an occasional leaf cleaning, re-potting and insect control? Perhaps candidates running for political office should or could offer an adopt-a-plant program, promoting the concept of a house plant in every home to clear the air. Given the extent of promises that are made in an election year, it would be a laudable promise to keep. Right?

    Wednesday, December 23, 2015

    Hey! It's Festivus for the rest of us

    This year, wanted to make sure that the holiday of Festivus is marked on the day the holiday occurs. In previous years, somehow it slipped by without recognition until the day after. Not that it really makes a difference in the scheme of things but holidays should be celebrated on the day they take place.

    For the uninformed, this holiday got its start as a segment on the still-lamented TV comedy series, "Seinfeld" with Frank Constanza, George's father, who explains the holiday this way.

    "Many Christmases ago, I went to buy a doll for my son. I reached for the last one they had, but so did another man. As I rained blows upon him, I realized there had to be another way." The doll was destroyed but as George elaborated, "out of that a new holiday was born: a Festivus for the rest of us!"

    The holiday is unique in that it includes the Airing of Grievances and Feats of Strength. Who among us hasn't or doesn't air our grievances at some point? Speaking for myself because nobody else will, I recently aired a grievance at the supermarket, when returning rotten cheese.

    "I'm now Airing my Grievances," I told the cashier emphatically, hands on hips for emphasis. "This cheese has a good-until date for three months from now and yet here we are, not two weeks later with mold."

    Doubtful that the cashier was aware of the Airing of Grievances occasion in spite of numerous attempts to explain and offers to listen to her grievances, but she still gave me my money back, anyway. Not everyone wants to share.

    In as far as Feats of Strength are concerned, just this morning I brought a trash bag filled to capacity to the disposal shoot and tossed it in holding it in one hand. Two days ago I walked along a slush-filled sidewalk, ignoring the option to walk on the dry road. These are praise-worthy feats, friends!

    Last but certainly not least, there's the Festivus Pole, in which an un-decorated aluminum pole is displayed in place of a Christmas tree. One could, if one felt moved, dance around the pole or perhaps - just a thought - string up some cord and hang laundry. A pole is a pole is...

    So once the binge-watching of TV series has lost its charm and all the gifts are wrapped, and the cat has re-decorated the tree as only cats can do, get the gang together and hold hands singing around the Festivus pole. Why? Why not?

    It's Festivus all Across the Land

    (Sung to the tune of "Winter Wonderland")
    Grievances aired, are you listening,
    At the dinner, meatloaf is glistening.
    A beautiful sight, we're happy tonight.
    It's Festivus all across the land.
    Standing there, is an old pole,
    Unadorned, it is a strong pole.
    It stands straight and tall,
    As we go along,
    It's Festivus all across the land.
    In the Living Room we can wrestle,
    And try to pin the head of the house.
    He'll say: Are you ready?
    We'll say: No, man.
    But we will do our best
    To pin him down.
    Later on, we'll conspire,
    As we air grievances by the fire.
    To face unafraid,
    The gripes we have made,
    It's Festivus all across the land.

    Wednesday, December 09, 2015

    A Shining Light: all candles can cast a glow

    At our Hebrew school, we always celebrated the various holidays, both big and small. Hanukkah was a particular favorite since our class, being the eldest students, entertained the residents of a seniors' home. Each year the teacher would select eight students to sing and perform as Hanukkah candles and competition was fierce for the part of the shamash, or head candle. It was a very desirable position for all the students since the shamash person had a prominent place above all the rest.

    Not blessed with a good singing voice or even mediocre singing ability, my chances were slim at best to play any candle, never mind the head candle. The ultimate rival for anyone aspiring to win the part was Zelig, who had the voice of an opera star. Not only did he have the best singing voice, he was also the top student, scholastically and the teacher's favorite. Whenever holiday games were played including spin the dreidel, Zelig won everything, which didn't exactly ingratiate him with his fellow students.

    Auditions for parts were held a few weeks before the onset of the holiday and the best I could hope for was a minor part and only if the rest of the students had an off day. Each student auditioned and as expected, Zelig once again got the lead, which irritated me and all the students, no end. My resentment was eased somewhat by being assigned the role of a minor candle, probably out of pity more than anything else. Those who weren't chosen became part of a "tra-la-la" chorus doing their thing at the appropriate time.

    There was a definite air of excitement when we arrived at the senior's home, ready to perform in front of a live audience who were, for the most part, walked in with the help of walkers or in wheelchairs into a large auditorium where we were lined up on stage, anxious to perform. Glancing around the room, many of the seniors appeared to be dozing. Undeterred, the first students opened the concert and sang well as did those who followed. It was my turn and my voice for a change, didn't fail me. Always the consummate performer, Zelig opened  his mouth and it was if a chorus of angels had entered the room. His voice, strong and melodic, all attention was riveted on the young singer. Here we had put on the performance of our young lives and Zelig received all the acclaim, again. Cheers and clapping followed and he bowed taking it all in like the star he knew he was.

    After performing a variety of Israeli dances and once the recital was over, we mingled with the audience but I was consumed with the memory of Zelig and the sound of the applause he received. My sulking was interrupted by an elderly woman with a trembling body wheeled over to talk to me, smiling, while making an effort to talk.

    "Thank you, she uttered weakly and breathlessly. "You were all wonderful. How special you all are to visit us."

    There was the sudden realization that it wasn't important who was the head candle or who had the best voice. It was significant to our audience that we had taken to time to come at all.

    It wasn't long after our successful performance that Zelig's voice finally broke and he never knew whether he would sing soprano or alto. Tough luck for him. My voice, on the other hand, never changed and could always be depended upon to sing off-key.

    Thursday, October 08, 2015

    The Ig Nobels - recognizing achievement for...stuff

    There are well-known prestigious awards distributed to those who gain international recognition in various fields of achievement in the sciences, literature and/or are successful in various scopes of performance and related areas. Then there are lesser known distinctions bestowed to people whose contribution to society could be, but not necessarily, considered somewhat questionable or at the very least, head-scratching-inducing.

    Somehow, the 2015 Ig Nobel Prizes almost slipped by on my part, without any of the usual acknowledgement and commendation to the winners. These are achievements that elicit laughs but are also thought-provoking. This year's winners gathered together on September 17 at a ceremony at Harvard University's Saunders Theatre, followed by a lecture at MIT. These people went home with an Ig Prize:

    The prize for Chemistry went to Calum Ormonde and Colin Raston (Australia), Tom Yuan, Stephan Kudlacek, Sameeran Kunche, Joshua N. Smith, William A. Brown, Kaitlin Pugliese, Tivoli Olsen, Mariam Iftikhar, Gregory Weiss (USA), for their invention of a chemical recipe to partially un-boil an egg. This is no yolk...eggs-actly.

    The rationale behind the desire to un-boil an egg is curious but then again, one could ask oneself whether an egg is half-boiled or not, would it make a difference to a hen? Just thinking...

    In the science of Physics, Patricia Yang (USA and Taiwan), David Hu (USA and Taiwan), Jonathan Pharm and Jerome Choo (USA),  who tested the biological principale that nearly all mammals empty their bladders in approximately 21 seconds (plus or minus 13 seconds).

    Contemplating further, one (me) wonders whether this would vary following a night of alcoholic indulgence. Just thinking...

    So Mark Dingemanse (The Netherlands), USA), Francisco Torreira (The Netherlands, Belgium, USA) AND Nick J. Enfield (Australia, The Netherlands), who took home the Literature Prize, for their earth-shattering discovery - wait for it - that the word, "huh" (or its equivalent) seemed to exist in every human language - and for not being quite sure why.

    Would depend, IMHO, if one considers "huh" a word uttered on purpose or merely an exhalation of breath on a windy day. What about the Canadian equivalent of "eh:? Where does that fall in the scheme of things? Just wondering...

    In the area of Management, Gennaro Bernile (Italy, Singapore, USA), Vineet Bhagwat (USA, India) and P. Raghavendra Rau (UK, India, France, Luxembourg) in their discovery that many business leaders developed a fondness for risk-taking in childhood when they experienced natural disasters i.e. earthquakes et al that - for them - had no dire personal consequences.

    Now here is something worthy of recognition. The Bangkok Metropolitan Police were recognized in the Economics area (Thailand), for offering to pay policemen extra cash if the policemen refused to take bribes.

    For the Medicine prize, two groups received the honors jointly - perhaps they were testing their experiments: Hajime Kimata (Japan, China), Jaroslava Durdiakova (Slovakia, US, UK), Peter Celec (Slovakia, Germany) Natalia Kamodyova, Tatiana Sedlackova, Gabriela Repiska, Barbara Sviezena and Gabriel Minarik (Slovakia), for their study examining the biomedical benefits or biomedical consequences of intense kissing (and other intimate, inter-personal activities).

    So how this falls into the medical sphere is interesting but even more interesting would be what type of activities did they conduct to arrive at their conclusions. Right?

    The prize in Mathematics was awarded to Elisabeth Oberzaucher (Austria, Germany, UK) and Karl Grammer (Austria, Germany), for trying to use mathematical techniques to determine whether and how Moulay Ismael the Bloodthirsty, the Sharifian Emperor of Morocco, managed during the years from 1697 through 1727, to father 888 children.

    Yet another chicken aspersion in the Biology prize category. Bruno Grossi, Omar Larach, Mauricio Canals, Rodrigo A. Vaszuez (Chile), Jose Iriarte-Diaz (Chile, USA), for observing that when one attaches a weighted stick to the rear end of a chicken, the chicken then walks in a manner similar to that in which dinosaurs are thought to have walked.

    Why do chickens have to suffer indignities like having a weighted stick attached to their rear end? I mean, is there a reason? It's bad enough having to speculate about their motivation for crossing the road/highway/street etc. and now being categorized as walking like a dinosaur? Really and when you think about it (too much time on my hands, obviously), who was around to witness the manner in which dinosaurs walked, anyway? Am I wrong, readers?

    I dunno. Some people really seem to enjoy pain, Two individuals, one Justin Schmidt (USA, Canada) for painstakingly (in the true sense of the word) creating the Schmidt Sting Pain Index that rates the relative pain people feel when stung by various insects.

    Also, Michael L. Smith (USA, UK, The Netherlands) in the area of Physiology and Entomologyfor carefully arranging for honey bees to sting him repeatedly on 25 different locations on his body, to learn, which locations are the least painful (the skull middle, toe tip and upper arm) and which are the most painful (the nostril, upper lip and - can't believe I'm writing this - penis shaft).

    It's really difficult to believe that someone, even in the name of science, would allow a/some bees to sting him on the penis shaft.  Bee+stinger+penis=extreme pain.

    And so yet another year of dubious distinctions has come and gone but definitely not without notice or accolades. Next year - who knows. The mind boggles.

    Tuesday, July 14, 2015

    This'n'that: observations du jour : #2

    It's all a numbers game in the end

    Like many people in the cyber space community, I'm a Twitter user, some may call us twits but that's a whole other subject. According to Twitter stats, which keep track of these things, I've been a twitter-er since 2009. Way back then, everyone was joining the group and as a writer it seemed like a good medium in which to let people know about my creative output. The idea is to communicate one's present status in 140 characters and keep people coming back for more entertaining personal revelations that fall into "what's happening" category. My philosophy in as far as sharing Twitter updates is share if it's an interesting and/or entertaining subject that will elicit a response. Therein lays the challenge: getting people to respond. What may strike my fancy doesn't necessarily interest others.

    As a playwright or at least a person who writes plays, it's an ideal tool in which to give Twitter followers a taste of my plays. This seems to attract attention and accordingly the stats go up. Lately, though, it appears my numbers have dropped, which leads me to the point of this piece. The other day, there was an e-mail announcement notifying me to avail myself of the "Twitter Analytics" service and according to their blurb, "you're putting out there, so it's time you were able to see what's getting the most love." Usually, I'm an adherent of ignorance is bliss but decided to get an appraisal of my virtual worth. According to their statistics and within a 28 day period, I had  22 profile visits, a drop of 15.4%, 3 mentions indicating a 50% hike in numbers, my top tweet earned 26 impressions (whatever that is) with the subject focusing on a robot marriage.  In my defence, there have been numerous requests (okay...a lot of requests) by people to be followed that have been refused for one reason or another, so that in itself decreases the number of people who might have been slighted at my refusal, which in turn is reflected in the statistics. In the end, there is the consolation that at least my 643 Twitter followers - an increase of 9 by the way - are tweet on each other.

    Note: discovered what "Impressions" are and according to Twitter: "When we say "impression", we mean that a tweet has been delivered to the Twitter stream of a particular account. Not everyone who receives a tweet will read it , so you should consider this a measure of potential impressions. Both reach and impressions should be treated as directional metrics to give you an idea of the overall exposure the tracked term received. Use these metrics to get a sense of the size of your potential audience, and use engagement metrics like retweets, clicks and replies to gain a more complete understanding of your impact." it's just me but my impression is that I still don't understand what impressions are. You?

    The bike-cycle

    As a person who enjoyed cycling through suburban streets as a means of exercise and getting around, I'm aware of the appeal in participating in this great cardio sport, however... Why do many cyclists feel that red lights don't apply to them? They fly through intersections without even bothering to slow down, daring motorists to impede their pace. Given their means of transportation versus a car, their lack of concern for stop signs and/or traffic lights is intimidating, not to mention anxiety inducing. On occasion and being who I am, I'll point out the red light/stop sign.  Most ignore me but I've received the middle finger on occasion for my effort. Wonder how many tickets have actually been given out to cyclists by police. Traffic rules are for everyone, including cyclists.

    Making a splash

    To the best of my knowledge, a swimming pool being filled with water, is designed for people to swim and/or enjoy water-related activities. Sometimes...many times people will splash water on each other by accident causing them to get wet. For whatever reason, some people - females for the most part - make it verbally known that they are against splashing of any type. The most frequent complaint heard (at least in our condo pool) is "don't splash my hair!" Well ladies who fall into this category, a reminder that perhaps the best action to take is to stay out of the pool and thereby avoiding the possibility of being splashed, period. Water is wet! At least that's my solution but if anybody else has a better suggestion...

    Question du jour

    Can't help but notice there's an inequality when it comes to serving tea and coffee ("there she goes again - ranting on about tea bags..."). In cafes which serve coffee and tea, where do tea drinkers put their tea bags once the correct strength is achieved and they're no longer needed? Somehow, placing it on a bare table or napkin just seems so...un-couth. Perhaps a small disposable receptacle should be supplied when served tea, in which to place the tea bag.  Something like this:

    Just saying...

    Monday, April 27, 2015

    Laugh it up! April is National Humor Month

    "Humour or humor (see spelling differences) is the tendency of particular cognitive experiences to provoke laughter and provide amusement. The term derives from the humoral medicine of the ancient Greeks, which taught that the balance of fluids in the human body, known as humours (Latin: húmor, "body fluid"), control human health and emotion". ~Wikipedia

    Once again as it occurs every year since 1976, National Humor Month is celebrated around the world by people who have a sense of humor. Perhaps even people who don't have a sense of humor but enjoy the mere act of laughing out loud, or in private, but I digress.

    It's interesting to note that a month devoted to humor starts on April 1st being April Fools Day. For the record, Larry Wilde is responsible for the creation of National Humor Month, which devotes the entire month to laughter. His aim was and presumably still is, to heighten public awareness of how the joy and therapeutic value of laughter can improve health, boost morale, increase communication skills and enrich the quality of one's life.

    Researcher, Robert R. Provine, a neuro-scientist engaged in studies of the development, evolution and neural mechanisms of behavior, has focused on studying laughter and observed thousands of incidents of laughter spontaneously occurring in everyday life. He shared his findings in Laughter: A Scientific Investigation (Penguin Books, 2001).

     "Laughter is not primarily about humor," wrote Dr. Provine, "but about social relationships."

    Among some of his surprising (at least to me) findings:

    - Health benefits of laughter are probably coincidental, a consequence of a much more important primary goal, which is bringing people together. Not too sure if he's entire right, at least IMHO. Given the choice, people would prefer to laugh than cry. Right?
    - Laughter plays a big role in mating. Men like women who laugh heartily in their presence. Won't touch that one with a ten-foot pole.
    - Both sexes laugh a lot but females laugh more - 126% more than their male counterparts. Men are more laugh-getters
    - The laughter of the female is the critical index of a healthy relationship. Again, this is a questionable statement. I mean, it would depend on the reason for the female's laughter. Is it at or with the person?
    - Laughter in relationships declines dramatically as people age

    Interesting statistic that females laugh 126% more than males. Perhaps - pure speculation and some observation - females have a better sense of humor. By laugh-getters I'm assuming that they prefer to get/acquire the laughs, which in turn the females will respond by laughing or in some cases, rolling their eyes.

    Another theory of why people laugh professes that people laugh to assert that they are on a level equal to or higher than those around them. Research has shown that bosses tend to crack more jokes than do their employees. I would also imagine that employees laugh at their bosses jokes for obvious reasons, especially if a raise in salary is imminent.

    Women laugh much more in the presence of men and men generally tell more jokes in the presence of women. Men have even been shown to laugh much more quietly around women, while laughing louder when in a group of men. Males could consider laughing quietly while in the presence of females to be polite. I mean, a loud, coughing and snorting laugh could be considered brash or socially unacceptable. JMHO of course...

    Over the years researchers have explored laughter's effects on the body and produced some interesting information on how it affects us. For example, a study conducted by researchers of the University of Maryland studied the effects on blood vessels when people were shown either comedies or dramas and concluded that blood vessels of the group watching comedies expanded and contracted easily, while the blood vesssels of the people watching dramas tended to tense up restricting blood flow. More proof?

    There's scientific evidence that it may offer protection against a heart attack. A study with results presented at the American Heart Association's 73rd Scientific Session showed that people with heart disease were 40% less likely to laugh in a variety of situations compared to people of the same age without heart disease. This all means that it's good for your health to laugh.

    In honor of this month of merriment, here are some jokes. Warning: some are groaners.

    -   Two cannibals were eating a clown. One said to the other: "Does this taste funny to you?"

    -  Did you hear about the man who spent too much money on Viagra: Now, he's hard up

    -  Did you hear about the guy that lost his left arm and leg in a car crash?
    He's all right now.

    -  What do you call four bull fighters in quicksand?
    Quatro sinko.

    Some questions worth thinking about:

    -  Why are there interstate highways in Hawaii?"~ Steve Wright

    -  Why is abbreviation such a long word?~ Steve Wright

    -  Dogs are the leaders of the planet. If you see two life forms, one of them's making a poop, the other one's carrying it for him, who would you assume is in charge.
    ~ Jerry Seinfeld

     Don't know who wrote this but it best sums up being happy: "Laughter is the shock absorber that eases the blows of life."

    Meanwhile - laugh it up!

    Friday, April 17, 2015

    As the planet spins - stories that leave you wondering

    Sometimes, often actually, seeking out the unusual or weird pieces on the cyber highway of life, are what I call, head shakers. These are the stories that make one shake one's head and marvel at the way people live their lives.

    For example, take the story of two neighbors whose feud led to one being detained by authorities for six hours for over trimming a tree that was growing on one of their properties. Logically, they should have been able to discuss it like adults but somehow at some point, the feud must have gotten out of hand in the true sense of the word. Unbelievable. Read about it here:  Personal aside (big on these), one of my favorite and personally written plays, "Shrubs" follows this exact story line in part. I shall take this as a positive omen.

    Then there's the story of Aiko Chihira, a greeter who works for the Mitsukoshi department store in Tokyo, Japan. What makes her job different from everyone else's is that Aiko is a humanoid robot developed by Toshiba. Somehow, at least in my eyes, she reminds me of one of the Stepford wives of the movie fame, always with a pleasant smile on her face and dark unemotional eyes.  Read more about what else she can do here:  Unnerving in her perfection and very creepy.

    Moving on...

    What's slimy and not found on ski slopes

    There are common and recognizable things that fall from the sky, many of which are related to weather conditions including rain or snowfall to name a few. Then there are the unexpected objects that descend to earth unexpectedly causing one to ponder if the universe is trying to send us a message.

    Case in point is a biologist who was skiing in the mountains outside the city of Bergen, Norway, when he came across not a dozen or a hundred but thousands of earthworms laying on top of snow in a pile at least three feet deep.. This is not the type of creepy-crawly normally seen or found in snowy conditions however when examined closely, they started to move  indicating they were alive.

    It appears the biologist wasn't the only person to encounter a wormado since there were many similar sightings from across southern Norway with reports of worm piles seen in the vicinity and as far away as the Swedish border. The explanation or theory provided by the scientific community is that a warm, high-velocity pocket of air swept up the worms as they emerged from their winter hibernation and carried them up into the mountains.

    I'm thinking here...imagine whooshing down a ski hill and suddenly feeling objects descending on your body and discovering upon looking skywards, worms falling from the heavens. Perhaps skiers should consider adding umbrellas when packing their ski gear, or consider keeping them as fish bait.

    A fishy service

    Under normal circumstances, a pedicure would include a foot soaking and foot scrubbing, nail filing and other conventional treatments. There is also lesser known but reportedly effective alternate pedicure available in some locations featuring small fish nibbling on toes to remove dead skin. The specie of fish used for this service are called Garra rufa or doctor fish that work by sucking dead tissue off the feet.

    Not everyone is enamored with this service to the point where the U.S. Supreme Court rejected an appeal by an owner of a Phoenix-area spa, barring her from giving her customers fish pedicures. Seems that they are banned in some U.S. states for health and safety reasons.

    At present,  the U.S. Supreme Court refused to disturb state court rulings upholding the right of the Arizona Board of Cosmetology to prevent the owner of the salon from operating a pedicure service featuring the doctor fish. Here is a photo of the pedi-curic doctor fish:

    British school student banned due to hair color

    Makes you wonder... A 17-year old student who decided to dye her hair red, has been banned from a British school until she changes it to what they believe to be a more natural color. What this has to do with obtaining an education is somewhat puzzling, since this is a personal option and decision.

    The student whose natural hair color is naturally auburn, dyed it a more intense or ginger shade. It appears the hair shade selected does not conform with the school uniform policy, which includes no unnatural or presumably gaudy hair colors. In my mind, ginger does not fall into the unnatural  category.
    Here is a photo featuring the hair in question: Really can't see what the fuss is about.

    In the end, we're not talking about purple, or green and other shades, which could be viewed as 'alternative' colors, but it still boggles the mind as to what hair color has to do with being educated. What do you think?

    Lawnmower power

    People who dislike the task of cutting the grass (that would include a large majority of people with lawns most likely) will be pleased or interested to learn that home robot manufacturer iRobot applied for a waiver request from the FCC, to use a portion of the radio spectrum for a line of robotic lawnmowers. The lawnmower would use radio beacons on stakes positioned around the lawn in order to remain within boundaries set out by home owners. Don't get too excited since there has been resistance by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, who feel the robo-mowers (I like that word) pose a threat or at least hindrance to astronomers using radio telescopes to target a specific frequency band. It's not enough that we have to worry about human-like robots taking over. Now we have to concern ourselves with lawnmower robots that could at some point pose a threat to humanoids, who believed they were the only members of planet earth capable of cutting grass?

    And how was your week?

    Tuesday, April 07, 2015

    It takes all kinds - this...that...and all the others

    Life with all its complexities and challenges, is full of interesting stories focusing on people living out their lives doing interesting if somewhat perplexing things at times. No need to travel far to come across these real-life stories that can be found with a quick click of the mouse, the electronic kind.

    Getting to the source of dog poop

    As a former dog owner for fifteen years, one of the more distasteful tasks connected with pet care is having to pick up dog excrement, especially in Spring. Legally and morally, dog owners are responsible for cleaning after their pooch has finished by bringing along disposal bags, but many people adopt the 'hit-and-run' method - fleeing the scene once the job (in the true sense of the word) is over.

    Seems that people living in apartment complexes in the Seattle area that have had their fill of dog poop are seeking the identity of canine culprits using - wait for it -  DNA testing. To this end (again in the true sense of the word), owners are being provided with a test kit called PooPrints provided by one BioPet Vet Lab from Knoxville, TENN. that will help seek out guilty poop-ers. Some apartment and condo tenants are even being charged a one-time fee of $29.95 for this testing service most likely if they own dogs.

    So I'm thinking here...

    What if a dog owner refuses to allow her/his pooch to participate? I mean, dogs do have some rights, right? After all, it is their feces, right?

    According to the Poo-Prints site, dogs are registered on line (presumably) after which  a poop sample is collected to be registered with the patented DNA World Pet Registry for managing community dogs. Matching the poop samples with the dog(s) in question is a means used ascertain who did what where. Very high tech in as far as dog poop is concerned. However, one wonders what would happen in the case of poop mis-identification.

    "Did you receive the DNA I sent you last night?" an apartment manager might call in the way of a follow-up. 

    "We did but somehow it doesn't seem to match any DNA records of local neighborhood dogs," the DNA collector could/might/possibly answer.

    "Whad'ya mean?" the apartment manager most likely would respond, irately. "I supplied you with all the DNA of all the dogs in this complex and now you're telling me you can't find the pooper?"

    "Could be an out-of-town visitor or maybe a dog from another 'burb. You know, a dog out with its owner taking an evening stroll," the DNA collector would attempt to explain.

    "What am I supposed to do now?" the apartment manager would ask.

    "In cases like that, we advise the person in charge to take things into their own hands, if you get my drift."

    In the end, a dog's gotta do what a dog's gotta do in spite of high tech poop testing.

    A wedding of a different breed

    People on occasion, may question the choice of mate when it comes to the band of matrimony but this is a bit much. An obviously love-stricken man for whatever reason (to each their own) decided to marry a specie of a different sort after being convinced that he was fated to share his life with a cobra. A cobra as in dangerous snake that has other things on its mind than marriage.

    The groom was positive that the bride-to-be/cobra was once a beautiful female in a previous life who was now in love with him. Furthermore and to complete the mating,  he claimed that he could turn into a snake at night by entering a deep trance. Seems that the bride/cobra had promised to marry him on Easter Sunday.

    Obviously, many people believed him since between 12,000 and 15,000 turned up to watch the ceremony. Thinking further, wonder if the bride wore white. But I digress

    According to the priest that was to do the nuptials, the groom had exhibited traits of a snake since childhood. I'm sure many people can say that about human they've encountered in their lifetime but I digress. Again.

    However, the marriage was not to be when the police put in an appearance after being tipped off about the nuptials. So I'm thinking here, wonder what their wedding night would have been like had the marriage gone ahead. In the end, can you really trust a snake given their reputation for lying?

     Speaking of snakes...

    What is it with all this snake abuse? Arrest warrents were issued for two males accused of throwing a snake behind the counter of donut chain, Tim  Hortons in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, as a result of a sandwich dispute. Some people obviously take their sandwiches very seriously. Anywaaay...

    The pair are charged with mischief and causing a disturbance. Most likely throwing a snake behind a counter would definitely cause a disturbance. The cause of the disturbance was that they wanted the onions on their sandwiches, diced. Really, the snake should not have to suffer the consequences of an onion dispute. No word on the snake's condition but a temporary home was found for the serpent.

    Last but not least - looking for a job with a difference?

    The Isles of Scilly, a group of rocky islands off the southwestern tip of Britain, is currently seeking a new constable that can handle a lot of jobs. For example, dealing with wandering seal pups, stopping speeding golf carts and saving abandoned goldfish (some people would say that the sewer pipes are home to many of their kind).

    The island is home to approximately 2,200 people. For information, check the Scilly page on Facebook

    And how was your week?

    Wednesday, March 11, 2015

    What happened to movie theatre decorum?

    Maybe it's just the playwright in me over-observing but it strikes me that people have forgotten how to conduct themselves in a movie theatre. This is the conclusion reached after experiencing two agonizing hours of movie goers acting as if they are the only people in the theatre.

    First let me qualify this rant by admitting that I'm not a regular movie attendee but expect at the very least that people sitting around me are aware of how to behave in public. Some people seem to think that the price of a movie ticket entitles them to act as if they are in their own home.

    Case in point was the woman sitting in the seat directly behind us who felt the necessity to express her innermost feelings throughout the film. We're talking here about a continuous stream of verbal commentary uttered out loud accompanying actors dialogue including statements similar to "oh no - I don't believe it!" and/or asides to the person sitting next to her exclaiming so anyone within hearing range could easily hear.

    Really - nobody cares, lady!

    This was also accompanied sporadically by profuse clapping during certain scenes when the action took a romantic or dramatic turn. The ongoing dialogue and accompanying action continued for the entire two hours of the movie in spite of turning around and throwing visual daggers in her direction. At one point it was tempting to verbally remind her that there were people seated around her who weren't interested in her opinions but instead decided suffer in silence rather than draw attention to myself. In the end, my focus was more on her bon mots and wondering when the next clapping outbreak would occur than concentrating on the movie dialogue and the film itself. That annoying.

    Actually, her egotistical behavior is one of the reasons I hesitate to go to movies these days and prefer to catch them later on when they eventually appear on TV. Although movie theatre popcorn is  a better option than the home popped variety, it will suffice given the comportment of some movie goers.

    Last but not least and I've written about this in other blogs, but it's puzzling as to the reason why some cell phone users feel the necessity to check their email and perform other cell phone functions throughout the movie, in spite of being advised to turn off all cell phones. Really people - whatever you have to text can wait, not to mention the light of the phones is irritating and distracting.

    Perhaps the talkative movie-goer should have been verbally reminded that she was in a public place and not at home where nobody cared what she said or who she disturbed. Then again, maybe I should have done the same thing.

    Thursday, February 19, 2015

    Getting to the heart of the sucker and other obscure but somewhat interesting stuff

    Over the years but particularly as a youngster, lollipops were a licking good treat offering long term flavor at a reasonable cost. For the record, lemon was a personal favorite with grape coming in a close second. It was also a versatile offering in that it could be picked up and put down numerous times until it slowly disappeared altogether.

    Haven't actually given it deep thought or even superficial reflection but obviously a branch of science has pondered the dilemma of the amount of licks it takes to get to the center of a lollipop. This begs (at least in my mind ) the question as to why bother. When a lollipop is gone - it's gone. Right? What's important is the enjoyment is gave the lick-er and the taste thereof. People in the scientific community, however, who enjoy delving into numbers, have studied this mind-boggling enigma.

    Researchers at New York University conducted experiments to analyze and test how lollipop solid dissolves. The conclusion reached based on mathematical principals was that it takes approximately 1000 licks to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll Pop. Why Tootsie Roll Pop? Who knows. The real question is do sucker-lovers care?

    But I digress.

    The scientific study involved the creation of custom-making candy spheres and cylinders to test how materials dissolve in a flow. I'm no scientist but let me state for the record that lollipop+tongue+saliva and a warm mouth causes the solid lollipop to slowly dissolve into nothingness. Anyway... Study leader and physicist, Leif Ristroph,  found that the presence of the solid interrupts the flow, forces it to bend and change directions. Wow! Never would have thought the true sense of the word.

    Furthermore (how much more excitement can we take, one wonders), tests of both spherical lollipop-candies and Jolly Rancher style cylinders resulted in the same half-sphere shape after a little time in the fluid flow. I mean, go figure and be still my beating heart! But wait - there's more! The researchers deduced from the experiments that a lollipop with a radius of 0.4 inches (1 cm) licked at the equivalent to a flow rate of 1 cm per second would reveal its center in about 1,000 licks. So this makes one wonder what would be the end result of say...a person licked faster or slower? Does speed enter into this mind boggler?

    When it all said and done or written, still have to wonder the rationale behind conducting this type of research. All good things come to an end, even lollipops and I'm no sucker.

    Crawling on...

    Cockroaches Have Personality but do we care?

    A small but generally unknown fact that people reading this might not have been aware of or even made a point of investigating, but it appears - wait for it - researchers have made the amazing (at least in my eyes) finding that your ordinary cockroaches have personality! I mean, who would'a thought it!

    Once again, one ponders and/or wonders the motivation behind taking time to study the social aspects of cockroach life. For most people.. Okay. For many people, the mere sight of a cockroach is enough to elicit a high pitch noise from the throat followed by the appearance of a means in which to eradicate the source. But I digress.

    The findings were part of a study published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, who ascertained that when cockroaches spend enough time with each other, they tend to flock together. Thinking further (too much time on my hands), one ponders if it's for social reasons or perhaps and more likely, the sharing of information as to the best food offerings. Whatever... it was all part of an experiment in which cockroaches were placed together in an illuminated arena along with a couple of dark shelters constructed from plastic discs. Researchers studied how the various roaches responded to the sudden glare of light, given that they are night freeloaders. Some sought shelter quickly while others stayed out longer. However - now this is telling - when 16 roaches were thrown in the arena together, they came to a consensus as to when and where to seek shelter. Group bug telepathy, perhaps? But I digress...again.

    What does this all mean in the big picture? One could deduce that some cockroaches are night crawlers preferring to seek food and goodies in the cover of darkness, while others aren't so fussy and will tolerate light depending on what's accessible. On a personal note, surely there are scientific studies that could help man/.woman-kind than studying cockroaches. Next thing we'll hear about is the creation of sunglasses for cockroaches and other night foragers. For most of us, the only good cockroach are those that can no longer see the light of day if you get my drift.

    Sometimes you can't win for losing

    The arrival of Groundhog Day in February, is an opportunity for a few lucky and pampered rodents, the most well-known among them being Punxsutawney Phil, to leave their den in the name of science and predict the early or late arrival of Spring. However, given the various geographical locations and weather variations, regional groundhogs located across the country are consulted as local harbingers of Spring.

    For whatever reason, some groundhogs don't enjoy the limelight and one Jimmy the Groundhog who has a burrow in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, showed his displeasure by taking a nip out of the ear of then Mayor Jon Freund. Nip or not, Freund proclaimed that an early Spring was on its way. Too bad that Jimmy wasn't politically inclined or he could also have predicted that Freund, who was appointed mayor of Sun Prairie in 2014, would place third in the primary election knocking him out of Sun Prairie's Mayor's race. Seems that sympathy goes only so far among voters.

    How was your week?

    Sunday, February 08, 2015

    This'n'that and the other - random thoughts about saucers

    Don't ask me why but saucers have been on my mind, lately. Perhaps it's the result of a decreasing availability that's bothersome and somewhat perplexing. Just to clarify for people reading this and wondering if there have been visitations by unworldly beings, the saucers in question are the one's that go with teacups and act as receptacles for teabags.

    Could be my early British origins in that there are conventions which have remained part of my essential nature. The afternoon tea ritual is part of a daily routine whereby life stops for a half hour or so to sit down for a "cuppa",  however, therein lies the problem. Over time it seems to me that saucers  have all but disappeared. In conducting some personal research, it appears that your matching tea cup and saucer have been slowly replaced by  your pedestrian mugs. Not that there's anything wrong with mugs per se, the choice of coffee drinkers, but tea drinkers need somewhere to place their used teabags and saucers fulfill that need. We tea drinkers have needs or requirements that coffee drinkers don't need to worry about.

    For whatever reason, tableware manufacturers appear to have made the decision to eliminate or phase out the need for saucers. Perhaps there was a move to acquiesce to the world of coffee drinkers who are content to consume their beverage of choice out of paper cups. Consuming tea out of a paper cup is sacrilege for tea drinkers - okay - it is for me, anyway. In my view, paper interferes with the flavor and once again, what does one do with the used teabag, which leads me back to my original point.

    "Spread the word," a dishware manufacturer might have told his workers, "we're cutting back on the production of saucers. If it's good enough for coffee drinkers - it's good enough for them teabag soakers."

    "But what are they supposed to do with their used teabags?" a worker and tea drinker might have asked.

    "Let 'em drink iced tea," the dishware manufacturer could have responded off-handedly and hence that could have been the creation and impetus for a new beverage. But I digress.

    Thinking back, my grandfather who hailed from Russia, loved his afternoon glass of tea. The act
    of sipping the hot liquid slowly until it cooled, was part of a ritual consisting of blowing on the surface for a short time followed by pouring the tea into a saucer and sipping it slowly for the finishing touch. What would he have used had a saucer not been available? A soup bowl? One can only speculate but somehow and knowing grandfather, it wouldn't have sufficed.

    When it comes to the subject of tea time and societal correctness, Debretts is one of the best sources, at least in my eyes. Although no mention is made directly regarding the tea saucers and their disappearing act, the source does provide some interesting advice on how to drink tea and the important role of the saucer. According to Debretts, a spoon should be used to stir the tea  - this is important - without clinking it against the side of the cup and - still more very important and telling information regarding the saucer - should be placed back in the saucer. Note the usage of the saucer here. Once more saucers are the focus with advice that includes saucers remain on the table and never raised when the cup is lifted up to the lips. Perhaps - pure speculation - keeping the saucer on the table would prevent the breakage of the saucer in case some tableware manufacturers decide in the future to phase out the saucers. But I digress.

    I'm wondering why the emphasis on not clinking the spoon against the cup. Is it the noise factor one wonders. Can't speak for others (why would I want to, anyway) and keep this to yourself but I'm guilty of hitting the side of the cup when stirring my tea. Actually I never gave stirring a second thought to be honest and nobody has drawn this faux pas to my attention, or perhaps they were too polite to mention it.

    "Excuse me, Eleanor, but you appear to hit the side of  the cup with your spoon when stirring your tea," somebody might have but hasn't as yet, asked. To which my response would be, "oh really? Yeah - and?"

    "Where there's tea, there's hope." - Arthur Wing Pinero. Along with the return of the saucer.

    Tuesday, January 20, 2015

    5 year old boy billed for missing birthday party...say what?

    At some point in a life, people miss attending a celebration that could be attributed to unforeseen circumstances including a sudden illness, wrong date, traffic jam - your normal, every day reasons. However - it's always the howevers in life that get you in the end - a missed birthday party  is being considered as a reason for legal action. Really.

    Our story begins innocently enough as many stories do, when five year old Alex Nash of Cornwall, England, was invited to a birthday party by someone in his class. Having given permission for Alex to attend the party that took place before Christmas at a ski centre, his father forgot that he had made prior arrangements to visit his grandparents. Upon his return to school, a bill for £15.95 or $24 was slipped into his school bag as a birthday party no-show. Again, really.

    Anyway...assuming the bill was a joke, Alex's father met with the mother of the birthday boy and was informed that the bill stood and that he (Alex) would have to pay up for none-attendance. According to information gleaned from news articles, the mother of the birthday boy claims complete details of the party were on the invitation including a contact phone number.

    What started out as an innocent invitation between class friends has turned into a cause celebre, replete with a detailed invoice and threats of court proceedings. The story is also generating interest outside of the country focusing on the validity of billing a parent for what basically was a kid's missed birthday party. Makes one wonder if there still would have been a charge administered if a child was, say, ill or for whatever reason couldn't make the party. The issue seems to be that no notification was made to inform the birthday boy's parents that Alex would not be attending plus the no-show charge.

    For their part, the ski center's manager is attributing the incident as a dispute between parents since they had no part in the billing procedure. Their policy is a small deposit to hold the booking and to confirm the attendees forty-eight hours before the party. The centre doesn't have a no-show fee.

    Believe it or not - again we're talking about young children who most likely would not have thought twice about Alex missing the event - the parents of the birthday boy are contemplating taking the matter to small claims court. Really.

    It will be interesting to see the legal aspect of this case should legal proceedings be pursued. Hopefully not. What do YOU think?

    Sunday, January 04, 2015

    Something definitely fishy here

    Chances are that at some point in our lives, many of us have been caregivers to a few goldfish swimming around in a bowl. They do offer some visual entertainment, although limited, floating around in circles or going through decorative fish accessories, spitting out stones and related activities. As is the case with all living creatures, the specie can acquire ailments that affect their survival. - not that they live long in a bowl anyway... But I digress.

    A goldfish aficionado living in Norfolk, England, who was obviously very attached to his pet - pet name not supplied - noticed that his fish was ailing. Tropical fish can acquire a large variety of illnesses including the very common ich, fungal ailments and a whole host of other syndromes. Some are treatable while others fatal, resulting in the commonly held one-flush-toilet funeral. Cheap but effective. But I digress - again.

    Rather than send the fish for that final big trip through the sewer pipes, the owner took his fish to a veterinarian for an assessment and cure. The diagnosis was - wait for it - the fish was constipated. Thinking further, one wonders how the veterinarian came to this conclusion since a physical examination wasn't possible. I mean, one can't palpate a fish to reach a prognosis. Maybe through an X-ray...Go know. Moving right along...

    In any case, the conclusion reached was that there was a lump in the fish's anus requiring intervention that included anaesthetised water (am I really writing this?) to remove the blockage. The bill in the end in the true sense of the word, was £300. All's well that ends well but upon evaluation, £300 would buy a lot of goldfish if you get my drift.

    Here is a photo of the now un-constipated fish:

    Talk about fish brain...

    Yet another fish story with a happy ending. Seems that George, a goldfish living in Australia, has recovered swimmingly (couldn't resist using that word) from an operation to remove a life-threatening brain tumor on top of his head. It was reported to be a high risk operation and given that George was ten years old, one has to wonder the practicality of surgery for the senior fish, especially since the operation cost $125. So let's see now...goldfish cost $5 each divided into $125... The owner was given the choice of operating or putting the fish to sleep. The fish is expected to live another 10 years.

    Here is a photo of George:  My philosophy in as far as distinguishing goldfish is once you've seen one, you've seen them all.

    Fishy go walkies?

    I dunno. There are inventions that really help mankind and then there those that make one utter, "huh?" or "say what?"

    A design firm in the Netherlands has created, would you believe, a prototype smart fish tank that travels on wheels, enabling a fish to take a walk...or swim a walk. So this leads one - me - to wonder the rationale behind taking a pet fish for a walk, anyway. Given the danger of encountering fish lovers like cats for example whose relationship with fish is limited to that of a food snack, perhaps the fish walker idea should be confined to indoor trips. Further thought (too much time on my hands) - did anybody think as to whether fish want to be taken for walks? Maybe they would prefer to stay in one place and watch the world go by.

    Here is a clip for people who might be interested in finding out more about the fish walker:

    Last but not least - a shrimp work out

    There are always scientific studies being conducted with the focus being to learn or improve the human condition. Many are funded by grants as is this one focusing on studying the effect of shrimp and crabs on treadmills. I mean, go figure that shrimp required exercise and even more surprising, on a treadmill no less. One would surmise that walking on the ocean bottom would offer some type of workout. Anywaaaay.... according to the researchers behind the study, there's more to it than a mere treadmill workout.

    The shrimp treadmill was created out of spare parts with the idea behind it being to study how recent changes in the oceans could potentially affect the ability of marine organisms to fight infections. Given that the shrimp catching is a multi-million dollar industry, this could be a reason for conducting the study. Then again, really can't see how watching shrimp do their thing on a treadmill can help the experiment. Just thinking...I wonder if the workout develops shrimps swimmerets, which they use to get around.

    For those interested, here is a video of shrimp on a treadmill accompanied by an explanation following the video as to the reason and rationale for the research. Whatever...

    To quote Herbert Hoover: All men are equal before fish.

    Monday, December 29, 2014

    Random thoughts

    We all have them, thoughts that come and go and leave us pondering the meaning of life. Important thoughts and speculation which leave us pondering as to, for example, who was that missed phone or cell call that didn't register on the callers list. 

    Chances are nearly everyone reading this owns a cell phone. For the longest time, it was the be-all-and-end-all of my life's desires or at least close to that to own a cell phone. Why you may well be asking and the answer is quite simple: everyone else owns one.

    The first challenge was to memorize the cell phone number. Life these days is so filled with numbers and codes to remember including passwords, and asking the brain to set aside still another set of numbers is asking a lot. The first challenge is to remember to put it on. The second challenge is to remember to take it with me and choosing which zippered purse compartment to store it.
    Couldn't figure out why phone calls were few and far between for the longest time until it was pointed out that storing the phone in a purse muffles the sound of the ring. This became apparent upon checking the callers list with a long line up of messages. It now travels in a coat pocket within hearing range and where it can be accessed when necessary.

    The proliferation of phones and other communication devices owned by everyone makes it difficult to distinguish which phone is ringing, generating everyone within hearing range to check their phones for visual and aural verification. Walking now is relegated to staring down at one's hand holding a communication device to ensure that every sent message is acknowledged and returned.

    According to information gleaned from the Pew Research Internet Project focusing on Teens and Technology 2013 78% of teens own cell phones, and 90% of adults own a cell phone. That's a lot of talking on the go.


    - 67% of cell owners find themselves checking their phone for messages, alerts, or calls — even when they don’t notice their phone ringing or vibrating.
    - 44% of cell owners have slept with their phone next to their bed because they wanted to make sure they didn’t miss any calls, text messages, or other updates during the night. (

    At one time and it wasn't "that" long ago but seems like ancient history, people connected with each other via a plastic phones attached to a cord eventually evolving into cordless phones for usage in the house. The phone rang, someone answered - or not - or an answering device took a message. In spite of installing all the call answering options including call display, the answering machine still has a function in our household. 

    Somehow, we're at a place in society where we feel compelled to be in constant communication with someone, twenty four hours a day. The business community as a money saving move, presumably, seldom supplies a real human to provide information and instead offers callers a list of categories from which to choose, accompanied by numbers to press. While waiting to be served, we are supplied with vague electronic music or singers performing oldies with brief interruptions of: "please stay on the line to retain your calling priority." By the time a call is answered, one has forgotten the reason for the call.

    Texting has eliminated the actual need to hear a human voice and thumbs have become a vital component or communication tool. Holding an electronic device and texting has turned into a fashion statement. Physicians could be treating carpal tunnel syndrome of the thumb at some point. But I digress.

    We've come a long way from the first telephone call made by Alexander Graham Bell in 1876, spoken to his assistant, Thomas Watson, in which he said: "Mr. Watson--come here--I want to see you."


    Monday, December 08, 2014


    Origin of DREIDEL

    Yiddish dreydl, from dreyen to turn, from Middle High German drǣjen, from Old High German drāen — more at throw
    First Known Use: 1916

    :  a 4-sided toy marked with Hebrew letters and spun like a top in a game of chance
    :  a children's game of chance played especially at Hanukkah with a dreidel

    It's time for the annual posting and sharing of my Chanukah short story first written some years back. Tweaked and edited over the years, reading it always makes me smile - and brings back memories of Zelig. Hopefully, it will do the same for anyone reading this. Even small miracles come in different and unexpected ways. This year, the holiday of Chanukah begins on December 16 and lasts for eight days.

    There was the usual sense of excitement among students attending the Chavarim Afternoon Hebrew School a couple weeks before the onset of Chanukah. Throughout the school spinning dreidels whirled around the floor surface in anticipation of the annual competition held on the first night of Chanukah. Even then practice was no guarantee of a successful outcome of deposing "the dreidel king" who was defending his title for the fourth year in a row.

    If there was anyone who personified the ideal qualities in a student it was Zelig Bornstein. At ten years of age he could do no wrong. A brilliant student academically, he was also blessed with the voice of an angel and it was a given that he would sing the part of lead candle in the annual Chanukah concert. As if that wasn't enough to cause jealousy and rivalry among classmates, he always won the much anticipated annual dreidel competition.

    Among the students of Mr. Meldrum's class, there was the general belief that his cobalt blue dreidel with gold lettering on the sides possessed magical properties. There could be no other explanation to account for his perpetual dominance other than a mysterious and powerful outside source was at work, unavailable to his classmates. A few brave participants had come close to deposing him but somehow Zelig always managed to win out in the end. To further undermine his competitors confidence "The Dreidel King" did nothing to dispel the air of mystery surrounding his acumen.

    "It's all right here," he would boast when asked the secret of his success, pointing to his wrist and flicking his fingers one-by-one to demonstrate his unbeatable technique, "and my magical dreidel of course.”

    He never divulged any background information on how it was acquired and neither would he allow anyone to touch it much less give it a spin, further adding to the mystique.

    "He" doesn't like leaving my hands," he would proffer in the way of an excuse, speaking of his
    top as if it was a living thing or a pet.

    Externally, I professed animosity towards him as did the others, but internally I adored him from afar. However, this did not diminish my desire to win and I practiced fervently in the hope of improving my spin. I longed to emerge victorious if for no other reason than to make Zelig aware that I was alive or at least be aware of my presence. At our age, it wasn't considered socially unacceptable to acknowledge the existence of the opposite sex, and even if he did harbor some stirrings of romantic feelings, he hid them well from me.

    It would be fair to say that nearly every student in Mr. Meldrum's class dreamed of wresting the title away from him. We discussed the situation amongst ourselves, plotting a course of action that could de-throne him. Dreidel tossing techniques were assessed including "spit-shots" in which the "toss-ee" would spit or lick fingers to acquire more control of the toss, disallowed by Mr. Meldrum for hygienic reasons. Finger exercises were evaluated in addition to the benefits of knuckle cracking workouts before the competition, all of which were eventually discarded as ineffectual. Deep down inside we knew that the end result was out of our hands in the true sense of the word and in those of the fates. There was always the glimmer of hope that perhaps the fates would smile on one of us. Any one of us - except Zelig.

    On the day of the competition, like a conquering hero, "King" Zelig took center-stage tossing his dreidel from hand-to-hand as he walked, attempting to psyche out the participants. It was a piece of pure theatre as he produced a blue satin drawstring bag and reaching in, retrieved the cobalt blue dreidel smiling all the while. We took our places around the table, our hands clasped around the dreidels, waiting for our turn. As the reigning champion he spun first, achieving the "gimel" and winning the first round. It was the expected results. Dreidel competitors fell like dominos.

    One by one Zelig knocked them out of the game until finally it was my turn. All eyes were upon me as I opened up my hand, gently allowing a cobalt blue object with gold lettering on the sides to drop on the surface of the table. There was an audible gasp from fellow students accompanied shortly thereafter by excited whipers.

    "D'ya see her dreidel?" the word went out. "It's the same one as Zelig?s!"

    At tournament time a large table was set up in the middle of the classroom and dreidels distributed to students. King Zelig tossed his dreidel from hand-to-hand, smiling smugly and acting self-assured. As the reigning champion Zelig spun first, achieving the letter "g" or "gimel", which meant that he won the first round. One by one we took turns and I landed on "hay", acquiring half of the pot composed of chocolate coins and other goodies, which pleased me no end. For the next few turns the dreaded "shin" turned up denoting a loss, accompanied by groans of disappointment from fellow students. Like many of the stories we were told focusing on unsurpassable victories over adversity, things turned in my favor. The king was dethroned and long live the new champion. Me.

    Jubilant cheers broke out among fellow students as they savored the moment for which they had all waited. My adversary, meanwhile, appeared stunned and in shock. Consumed with laughter and staring triumphantly into his eyes, I couldn't help but notice his were brimming with tears. It was bad enough being dethroned but having it done by a girl, was more than his young ego could handle in one day.

    I could have chosen to ignore him and savor the moment of victory, since it was a long time coming and it probably wouldn't happen again. Instead, upon realizing that he had been humiliated in front of his male friends, a showdown was suggested to determine the final victor. Needless to say, he amazingly emerged victorious.

    He never did acknowledge my presence or reach out to thank me for my selfless gesture, in all the years of our attending Hebrew school together. He did allow me to spin first in a subsequent re-match the following year, presumably as a good will gesture on his part. In my mind I would always be queen to his king, be it only for one occasion and that was better than nothing. C'est la vie. Sometimes you win and sometimes you gotta lose.

    Sunday, November 30, 2014

    Fishing around

    The festive period is fast approaching, along with all the entertaining duties that accompany visiting  family members and friends. As mentioned on numerous occasions here and no disrespect intended to other social gurus like Martha Stewart et al, when it comes to wining and dining savoir faire, Debretts is a good source to consult.

    Last time, the focus was on the selection and imbibing of champagne including the proper way to open  the bottle. Among the advice offered by Debretts was that the choice of drinking receptacle is an important factor to enhance the experience and taste and that a tulip-shaped flute glass be used to preserve the bubbles. I mean, what's champagne without bubbles? Like wine without a  vintage. Right? It's not called bubbly for nothing. The glass flute (somehow "flute" reminds me of the musical instrument even though there is no way it could be used for drinking purposes...just a thought, such as it is...but I digress) should or even must be held by the stem to keep the liquid cold. Getting back to the bubble aspect...

    As an aside (big on these) a study conducted by the University of Reims Champagne-Ardenne, in France, suggests that there are 15 million bubbles fizzing in a single glass of champagne. A researcher studied the role of the carbon dioxide (CO2) throughout its journey from the bottle to the glass, focusing on the second fermentation stage, resulting in the CO2 dissolution into the wine -- aided by the addition of yeast and sugar before sealing each champagne bottle -- to the stage where the gas escapes through tiny bubbles popping on the surface of the wine in the glass.
    ( Go figure! Somebody actually studied champagne bubbles. Just thinking...wonder if any tasting was involved... Just a thought.

    By the way if anyone reading this is interested in studying champagne other than by a taste test and happens to be in the Reims, France, vicinity, the Institut des Hautes Etudes du Goût, de la Gastronomie et des des Arts de la Table is offering a course, entitled, "The Physics of Champagne Bubbles."  No mention whether a degree is offered for those who pass or complete the course. What would it be called? A BA in Bubble Study?

    A good match for champagne is caviar, or the roe of the sturgeon fish. As mentioned previously, it's not a personal favorite but it certainly has its adherents. The average portion of caviar is 30 grams. According to advice offered by  a special spoon made of bone, crystal or mother of pearl should be used in order to preserve the taste and eaten in amounts smaller than a tablespoon. This sounds like logical advice given the high end price of what in the end, is fish eggs. Furthermore, it's good etiquette to consume caviar in small bites. One would never deign to stuff one's mouth with caviar and if one does, one should immediately take a large gulp of champagne to wash it down (my personal advice, not experience). Champagne always seems to make things right. In my mind - such as it is - there is a somewhat snobbish appeal to being served caviar at a party:

    "Yes Felicia - they served the golden caviar with crackers. Only the best and found in only one in 1000 osetra sturgeon. I must remember to pick up a can at the supermarket tomorrow for the bridge club ladies."

    Debretts also offers advice on eating lobster although it's a specie that is morally difficult to eat - at least for me. Somehow, it's hard to reconcile seeing a future meal positioned in a tank of water along with others of its kind, waiting to be selected as a main course. Moreover, when served whole, it's also problematic to eat a food that stares back at you with accusatory eyes that seem to say, "killer!" Then again, perhaps it's just me. The actual eating of the lobster requires the wearing of a bib while grasping the shell in one hand, while the other hand slowly and methodically uses a lobster cracker to reveal the flesh, after which it's pulled out with a lobster pick. Oh the angst of being a tasty crustacean favored by many!

    Last but not least, snails is another shell type food, which has its devotees. Having never consumed one but spotted a number in the garden, can't comment on their flavor value. Judging by their size, not much to eat and once again work is required to remove them from their shell. Debretts advice includes the use of snail tongs to remove the meat, yet another meal requiring work.

    Speaking (or writing about) snails, while researching this piece, came across the Mother Earth News site, which advocates using your very own snails found in the garden. FYI, the site provides among other interesting facts, this background info.: "The common garden snail, Helix aspersa, is a close relative of France's commercially harvested Helix pomatia. Both can be found on French dinner plates, where the former goes by the affectionate "petit gris" (little gray) to distinguish it from its cousin gros blanc (large white)." A snail, is a snail is...

    Perhaps Jean-Paul Sartre sums it all up: "“It is not a matter of indifference whether we like oysters or clams, snails or shrimp, if only we know how to unravel the existential significance of these foods.”

    Whatever you say, Jean-Paul.