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Archive for September, 2012

You know, for someone who doesn’t own a television, I do manage to see my share of TV shows.

This summer, I was enthralled by Game of Thrones…

…riveted by The Newsroom, and…

… tickled and amused, as always, by True Blood.

And now we’re coming into the fall season!

Here are a couple of my favourites…

The Walking Dead, Season 3…

Dexter, Season 7…

Boardwalk Empire, Season 3…

And last but not least, The Big Bang Theory, Season Six…

As we say down in Arkansas, “Ah cain’t wait!”

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If you’ve spent any time in The South, I’m fairly confident that you will have heard your fair share of “sirs” and “ma’ams,” and in a culture and society where civility and common decency… let alone chivalry… are becoming all but extinct, this is breath of fresh air.

Etiquette… manners, for lack of a better word… is still taught in many segments of The South.

In polite circles, gentlemen still stand when a lady enters the room. Gentlemen nod with perhaps the slightest of bows when they take their leave of a lady. Doors are opened for ladies. Chairs are pulled out and tucked in. “Ladies first” rarely needs to be said… it is a given.

The old saying is that if a woman’s car breaks down at the side of the road, all she has to do is lift the hood and stand by her car. Not 5 minutes will go by before some gentleman… even a truckload of them… will pull up and offer her a hand. My dearly beloved friend from Arkansas, Danielle, confirms this. “Hell… they LIVE for that kind of stuff!”

In grocery stores, gentlemen routinely allow ladies to go ahead in the checkout line. If a lady needs a shopping cart (or buggy, as they are often called), a gentleman will offer to give her his own.

While not born or raised in The South, I’ve adopted the practice of calling just about everyone Sir or Ma’am. I get mixed reactions, to be sure. Some girls think it is quaint or cute. Some women take it as a remark that they look older than they are.

One lady, I believe at the post office, smiled wistfully and said to me, “I can’t remember the last time someone called me Ma’am!”

She patted my arms and said, “Don’t ever stop doing that.”

I do not intend to!

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Here are some science stories we’ve missed over the last month!

How Darwin Can Save Your Marriage

Sex isn’t such a big deal, says Christopher Ryan, author Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality, which he coauthored with Cacilda Jethá. So why do we let sex get in the way of all the other important things?

The point of marriage, after all, is to grow old with someone and develop a sense of trust. Infidelity happens in half of all marriages. Many end in divorce. The institution of marriage seems to be in big trouble, but Ryan says an understanding of the way humans evolved can help us cope.

Ryan points out that we are hardwired to crave novelty, and that’s what leads to infidelity. Ryan says the way culture responds to this “natural behavior,” however, causes more problems than it solves. Therefore, Ryan argues we need to take a “harm reduction approach” over an “absolutist approach.”

5 Crazy Inventions from the Mind of Nikola Tesla

Earthquake machines! Death rays! Those far-fetched gadgets are part of a plan to build a museum dedicated to one of history’s most famous mad scientists.(Photo: Herbert Barraud/Getty Images)

Early 20th century inventor Nikola Tesla was ahead of his time with concepts that ranged from x-rays to robotics.

Fish play video games at Princeton

Researchers have used a video game projected into a fish tank to study the behaviour of predatory bluegill sunfish.

The team at Princeton University developed a simulation based on the type of prey favoured by the species.

Yes, Algebra is Necessary

When I first saw yesterday’s New York Times op-ed, I mistook it for a joke. The title, “Is algebra necessary?” had the ring of Thurber’s classic essay, “Is sex necessary?”, a send-up of psychological sex manuals of the 1920s.

Unfortunately, the author, Andrew Hacker, poses the question in earnest, and draws the conclusion that algebra should not be required of all students.

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What’s more interesting than bugs preserved in amber?

230-million-year-old bugs preserved in amber!!

George Dvorsky, writing at io9.com, reports “An international team of scientists working in Italy have found the oldest samples of arthropods preserved in amber — a finding that is 100 million years older than previous fossilized samples. The insects, a fly and two mites, are the first ever to be discovered from the Triassic era. The group’s findings will help biologists gain a better evolutionary understanding of these organisms and the time periods within which they developed.

Amber droplets can be a goldmine for paleontologists. Even a millimeter sized droplet can contain extremely well preserved specimens of organisms that lived eons ago — specimens that can be observed with microscopic fidelity. Globules of fossilized resin can range in age from the Carboniferous era (about 340 million years ago) to about 40,000 years ago, and were produced by plants like tree ferns, flowering trees, and conifers.

The amber droplets, which are only 2-6 millimeters long, were discovered buried in the Dolomite Alps of northeastern Italy. Paleontologists working there were able to uncover about 70,000 droplets — all of which were screened for signs of preserved life.

Paleontologists suspect that arthropods, a class of organism that includes insects, arachnids, and crustaceans, have been around for at least 400 million years.

Two of the arthropods are a new species of mites — members of an extremely specialized group that fed on plants and sometimes formed an abnormal growth called “galls.” Paleontologists were surprised to see how similar these mites were to ones still alive today. It’s thought that the mites fed on the leaves of coniferous trees that eventually preserved them. What this indicates to the scientists is that mites are a highly adaptable species, able to shift their feeding habits; today, only 3% of mites feed on conifers — yet they’ve remained largely unchanged over the course of 230 million years.

The fly could not be identified, outside of its antennae, on account of poor preservation in the amber. But what’s clear is that flies existed at the time of the Triassic — offering paleontologists hope that they’ll eventually be able to find a better preserved specimen.

You can read the entire study in PNAS.

Images: University of Göttingen/A. Schmidt.

 

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Well, boys and girls – geeks and nerdlings – it’s that time of year again!

The Jewish holidays will soon be fast upon us. (Is that a redundancy?)

This coming Jewish year (5773), all of the seven (count ’em – SEVEN!) Jewish holy days between September 16 and October 10 will fall on week days.

I will be spending almost all of them in The Heart of the Old World (i.e. the area of Bathurst Street between Lawrence and Wilson avenues)

As such, this blog (along with its ‘sister blog’ Vampyre Fangs) won’t be posting articles as per its regular Monday, Wednesday, Friday schedule.

It’s a Jew thing.

Not to worry. I will return to my usual full schedule by the middle of October, all refreshed and spiritually revived.

Wish all of my readers the best, now and always. Thank you for popping by and reading my musings.

As they say in the Vatican, “Gutt yontiff! A gutten un a gezinter yor! A gebentshed un a zeeser yor!”*

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Translation (from Yiddish): “Happy holy day! A good and a healthy year. A blessed and a sweet year!”

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Saw this disturbing article the other day at the Telegram.co.uk…

Chinese toddler’s karaoke tantrum ends in bloodbath

Now before you have visions of berserk toddlers going on a murderous rampage, let me assure you that is not the case. Well, at least not here.

(Somebody is NOT happy!)

It was more like…

“Toddler’s refusal to give up the microphone during a

family karaoke evening started a quarrel that left

two men hacked to death with a meat cleaver!”

(Are you ready to rumble??)

OK, here’s what happened. A couple were celebrating the Qixi Festival (i.e. China’s Valentine’s Day), with a singing session at a local karaoke parlour. So far, so good. Trouble starts when the parents’ four-year-old son hogs the karaoke mike and the doting parents were indulging him. [1]

(Beijing… we have a problem)

Mayhem ensues when two of the karaoke kid’s uncles berate the father for having raised such a spoiled child;  a “Little Emperor”, as the Chinese say [2]. Push literally comes to shove, then shoving proceeds to punching. A nephew grabs a meat cleaver and hacks the uncles to death.

(The problem solver)

Sadly, this is not an isolated incident. Karaoke-related violence is a real problem in the East.

Other karaoke massacres have taken place in the Philippines, where the Frank Sinatra song ‘My Way‘ has had to be removed from many songbooks after sub-standard renditions provoked a string of killings.

(Clearly a trouble-maker)

In Thailand, meanwhile, a man shot eight of his neighbours, including his brother-in-law, after tiring of their tuneless reprisals of John Denver’s ‘Country Roads.’

(An incitement to violence)

In the United States, a woman punched a man for continuing to sing Coldplay’s ‘Yellow’ after she had told him he was not up to the task.

(It would have driven Mother Teresa to violence)

In her defence… it WAS a karaoke version of Coldplay’s ‘Yellow!’

Ghandi would have punched this guy out!

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[1] NB: Karaoke is taken very seriously, not just in China but throughout Asia.

[2] There is no shortage of criticism inside China for the bad behaviour of the Little Emperors, the children raised under the strict one-child policy and doted on by their parents and grandparents.

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Most people like a full moon.

I LOVE a full moon.

I ADORE a full moon.

A big full moon, low in the sky, grabs me by the kishkas and never lets me go.

It is awe and wonder and romance and timelessness.

Rising or setting… it’s all the same with me. I’ll take either one.

I think it is the harvest moon that gets me the most.

They say that along with affecting… in fact, creating… the tides, a full moon also can have a powerful effect on people that borders on madness. (Hence, the words ‘lunacy’ and ‘lunatic’)

Last month, on August 31, 2012, those of us lucky enough to have clear skies got to see a Blue Moon – the second full moon in the same month.

It is possible for a month to have no full moon but only if that month is a February.

From now until the year 3000,  there are only three years where February has no full moon. Those years are 2572, 2792 and 2944.

In those three years, both January and March have two Full Moons. In other words, a No-Moon February is bracketed by two Blue Moons.

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