Saturday, 26 September 2009

Take A Look at This! Tax Friendly and Unfriendly States

RETIREE TAX HEAVENS (AND HELLS), 2009-2010

Federal taxes will be about the same no matter where you live, but state and local tax burdens can vary greatly, especially if you’re retired. Click on any state below to get a full lowdown on tax treatment for retirees. Or select a tax category that interests you, to see which states have the highest and lowest rates. For more, read Tax-Friendly Places to Retire.

http://content.kiplinger.com/tools/retiree_map/index.html?map=2#anchor
This is some really interesting stuff!

Four For Friday - 25 September

It has been an age since I've looked at my favourite memes. Good thing he's on Facebook!

Q1 - Moving: Americans have apparently tamed their wanderlust during the recession. According to the latest data released by the U.S. Census Bureau, only 2.4% of Americans moved from one state to another in 2008, down from 2.5% the previous year. Do you know anyone who recently moved from one state to another?
Mmmmm... I don't believe so. But then, why move? New Jersey has its issues, but so do the other 47 contiguous states. Hawaii and Alaska likely don't even enter into the picture - Hawaii is too expensive to live in - they have to import everything except pineapples and Alaska - well, if you need me to tell you why Alaska is not on the top of many people's lists of where they'd like to live, you don't know enough about it. I imagine that moving is an expensive undertaking, so only people who could not find a job anywhere but out of state are moving.

Q2 - Vaccine: A vaccine to prevent HIV infection, the virus that leads to AIDS, has shown modest results for the first time, researchers have found, raising hopes that a disease that kills millions every year may someday be beaten. Do you believe a vaccine to prevent HIV will be developed in the next 10 years?
That is a tough one. I suppose I should have faith in science and the people in it to find such a vaccine; however, I have more faith in nature. Diseases come from several things; one thing is overpopulation. The more we keep filling up the corners of the Earth, the more diseases and issues will crop up. AIDS is just another way of life attempting to keep us in check.

Q3 - Iran: President Obama said today "Iran is on notice" regarding its nuclear efforts, and that the international community is united in its opposition to the country's nuclear program. Do you think Iran's motives for developing its nuclear facilities are peaceful?
And if they are developing them for less than peaceful reasons? When did we become the world's police force? I sincerely hope that Iran is developing it for energy reasons; however, at one time we worked on weaponry of that nature. We happened to figure out before putting it to use that this is a no-win scenario. We can only hope that they do, too.

Q4 - Electronic Cigarettes: In the hunt for a safer cigarette, electronic cigarettes, often referred to as ecigarettes, are becoming a popular option among those either trying to quit or who are looking to replace standard tobacco smokes with an alternative that manufacturers claim to be safer. Ecigarettes vaporize a solution often containing nicotine, but there is no smoke, just odorless water vapor, and produce almost no dangerous carcinogens. Have you heard of electronic cigarettes, and do you think electronic cigarettes should be regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in the same way smoking patches, gum and lozenges are regulated?
I've never hear of this before and how appalling is this? Starting with the name - I think we should call them e-butts, personally.
I don't want people taking in nicotine in any format. How did this come about as a solution to smoking? I happen to be a militant antismoker. This is just wrong. Or at least weird. On the other hand, it isn't cancerous and it won't bother other people. I'd still rather see smoking wiped out, but it is staggering how many people smoke, so that is unrealistic.

ARTICLE: Astronomy 101: Jupiter

Jupiter has been in the southern sky all night of late and will be closest to the Earth next year. This made me post this article. You know how much I love astronomy.



"Today we will be learning about the Planet Jupiter. A great sight in the sky these days, Jupiter is the largest planet in the solar system and fifth from the Sun. It was named after the king of the Roman Gods.

Jupiter is approximately 484 million miles from the Sun and takes almost 12 years to complete its orbit around it. Jupiter rotates very fast so its day is only 10 hours long. Due to this fast rotation, the planet is also not entirely spherical; it has a trivial bulge around the middle since the fastest spin occurs at the equator. Because of this, Jupiter has a slight oval profile

The planet is so big that you could fit 1,300 Earths inside of it. Jupiter has a total of 49 official moons and 14 unofficial ones that are being considered.

Of those 63 moons, there are four that are the most widely known. These four, which are the largest moons orbiting Jupiter, are Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto.

These large moons are all interesting worlds in their own right. Astrobiologists think that Europa could even have the potential for a habitable zone. Some life forms have been found thriving near underground volcanoes and under many other extreme conditions on Earth. Europa may be very similar to those extreme locations on Earth, so life could have developed there as well.

Jupiter is a gaseous planet, its atmosphere is made up of hydrogen and helium with small traces of ammonia, rock, water and methane. It is believed to have a solid rock core as big as 18 Earth masses; this core can get as hot as 20,000 Degrees F, while the cloud-top temperature is a very cold -170 degrees F."

And Now Back to Our Regularly Scheduled Programming...

OK, ready for this?

Seriously, sit down. This is bizarre beyond all imagining.

I was watching "Kate & Leopold" on WEHD - I'm guessing that is the Women's channel in High Definition. And let's be honest - Hugh Jackman is not just attractive or good looking, he's a five course meal. And Meg Ryan is cute. But that is not at all the purpose of this post.

No. While skipping through the adverts (I luuuuuvvvv my TiVO) something weird showed up. It was an image of eyelashes growing in and getting bushy. If you are like me, you are thinking, "You mean 'eyebrows', don't you?" No. I mean eyelashes. Seriously.

And so I actually went back a bit to look at the whole advert.

I'm sorry to say that I have now found a whole new low for humanity. While we are a sad case of a country being owned by an industry, this will really underscore how much we are owned. A pharmaceutical manufacturer named Allergan is now making a drug called "Latisse", traded under the name Lumigan. This drug is for a "condition" called hypotrichosis. And what does this new drug do? It makes one's eyelashes grown in thicker and fuller.

Well. I know my eyelashes and the thickness of them keep me up at night.

Pharmaceutical companies. The new four letter word in America. I wonder if Europeans have stuff like this or if they are laughing openly at Americans for buying into this. I certainly hope so. I will tell you honestly that I would laugh except that this will sell like crazy to all the insane women who are so superficial that they have to take a drug to do what no one cares about.

Side effects (Wikipedia):

'Possible side effects of this medication are:
May cause blurred vision;
May cause eyelid redness;
May permanently darken eyelashes;
May cause eye discomfort;
May eventually cause permanent darkening of the iris to brown (heterochromia).
May cause a temporary burning sensation during use.
May cause thickening of the eyelashes.

On November 19, 2007 the FDA issued a warning during the seizure of a bimatoprost-containing cosmetic.[12] The warning stated that "the extra dose of bimatoprost may decrease the prescription drug's effectiveness. Damage to the optic nerve may lead to decreased vision and possibly blindness."'

But you know, hey, Brooke Shields (who I used to think was a better person) is selling this on the telly. Well, sign me up for that now! I know actors and actresses need to do work but I would not be able to do this. I would decline the honours rather than allow my name to be associated with this. But Brooke apparently has no sense whatsoever or is just that desparate to work - hard to know.
Personally, Brooke would be better off concentrating on waxing those eyebrows into something less bushy... but who am I to criticize? Then again, I looked at the first image and thought the eyelashes looked a little too thick and bushy.
The worst part is that women will line up for it. Not all women - some people have the good sense not to fall for fads or medically unsound ideas just to look better. But there are plenty of women who have so little confidence or faith in themselves that they will buy into this. I've met women who have had their eyelids stenciled surgically to have eyeliner; lips permanently made up; of course there are the more common surgeries like breast augmentation and liposuction; and plenty of drugs out there to fatten lips, add or subtract hair... the list is fairly long.
And the bottom crawlers of the world have gotten together to out this on the market.
Yup - I would chance blindness to thicken my eyelashes - how about you?

A.W.A.D. - Banning of Books Words

with Anu Garg

Librarians and booksellers are two of my favorite people. Anyone who loves books so much as to dedicate his life to them can't be all that bad.

Unfortunately there are some who feel threatened by certain books and call for them to be banned or destroyed. People have a right to be offended by any book. All they have to do is not buy or borrow it. The problem begins when they try to impose their views on others by trying to ban it.

As an antidote to banning, the last week of September is observed in the US as Banned Books Week. To celebrate it, this week we are going to feature five words relating to censorship and mutilation of books.

Even though people after whom some of these words are coined have long gone, censorship is still alive. But there's hope. I leave you with this thoughtful letter from a librarian to a patron.

comstockery
PRONUNCIATION: (KOM-stok-uh-ree, KUM-)
MEANING: noun: Overzealous censorship of material considered obscene

ETYMOLOGY: After Anthony Comstock (1844-1915), founder of the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice. He crusaded against anything he considered immoral. Nothing escaped his wrath -- even anatomy textbooks for medical students and the draping of mannequins in public view in shop windows were obscene to him. He lobbied for laws against mailing any material that could be perceived as promoting immorality.

He was appointed postal inspector and he seized books, postcards, and other materials by the boatload. He boasted that he had arrested more than 3,000 people and driven more than 15 to suicide. George Bernard Shaw coined the word comstockery after him when he attacked the American production of Shaw's play "Mrs. Warren's Profession".

USAGE: "The language and thought police are hardly some Orwellian invention; America has been unusually susceptible to plagues of Comstockery and self-righteous tomfoolery." Jon Newlin; Well, Shut My Mouth; Times-Picayune (New Orleans, Louisiana); Oct 13, 1996.

imprimatur
PRONUNCIATION: (im-pri-MAH-tuhr, -MAY-)
MEANING: noun:
1. Approval or authority; imprint
2. A license to print or publish, especially one issued by a censor of the Roman Catholic Church

ETYMOLOGY: From New Latin imprimatur (let it be printed), from imprimere (to imprint), from in- (in) + premere (to press). Ultimately from the Indo-European root per- (to strike) that also gave us print, press, pressure, compress, impress, express, and espresso.

USAGE: "Under the new arrangement, the books will be published under the Anne Geddes imprimatur." Lynn Andriani; Perseus to Distribute Photographer Anne Geddes; Publishers Weekly (New York); Jul 16, 2009.

"The fact that the answer has the imprimatur of Cabinet does not necessarily mean that the information is correct or relevant." Julian Kenny; Of Sardines and Red Herrings; Trinidad and Tobago Express; Jun 30 2009.

bowdlerize
PRONUNCIATION: (BOAD-luh-ryz)
MEANING: verb tr.: To remove or change parts (of a book, play, movie, etc.) considered objectionable

ETYMOLOGY: After Thomas Bowdler (1754-1825), a British doctor, who edited the Family Shakespeare, an expurgated edition of William Shakespeare's works. Bowdler believed the original wasn't suitable for the delicate sensibilities of women and children. He also edited other books, such as Edward Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire and the Old Testament in a similar manner.

USAGE: "The film [The Birth of a Nation] faced more courtroom challenges than any movie before or since, and many locales did ban or bowdlerize the movie." Gary Susman; Riot Acts; Entertainment Weekly; Nov 23, 2005.

nihil obstat
PRONUNCIATION: (NY-hil OB-stat, NEE-)
MEANING: noun:
1. Official approval
2. In the Roman Catholic Church, a statement by a church censor that a book is not offensive to the Church

ETYMOLOGY: From Latin nihil obstat (nothing hinders), from nihil (nothing) + obstare (to hinder), from ob- (against) + stare (to stand). Ultimately from the Indo-European root sta- (to stand) that is also the source of stay, stage, stable, instant, establish, static, and system.

USAGE: "The Army Corps of Engineers last week gave its nihil obstat to the Hudson River Park, New York City's scheme." New York's Finny Friends; New York Post; Jun 5, 2000.

grangerize
PRONUNCIATION: (GRAYN-juh-ryz)
MEANING: verb tr.:
1. To mutilate a book by clipping pictures out of it
2. To illustrate a book by adding pictures cut from other books

ETYMOLOGY: After James Granger (1723-1776), an English clergyman whose Biographical History of England had blank leaves for illustrations, to be filled with pictures, clippings, etc. by the reader.

USAGE: "Bagtoothian looked up from his reading, An Illustrated History of Sparta, which he proceeded to grangerize." Roger Rosenblatt; Beet: A Novel; HarperCollins; 2008.

Friday, 25 September 2009

Down on Life...

I'm going through a really tough time with my (ha, ha) health.

Health is just a generic word, not implying good or bad, but let's face it, there is little to recommend me physically. I'm apparently a genetic disaster and it is hard to know where the main problem turns other things into problems, or if I'm just that physically screwed up.

Most people know I have muscular dystrophy (to be specific, I have dystrophia myotonia 2, or PROMM), but they don't realise how debilitating this can be. I smile, put a good face on it and assure people that it can't kill me. For the most part, that is true. It really won't kill me. However, it can and has already put a damper on living.

Most of the time I'm okay with it, but sometimes I get very depressed by it. Not suicidal or anything extreme, and who wouldn't get depressed with this? I have a slow-acting Sword of Damocles hanging over my head. Some times it just... gets me down.

To give a basic explanation of this, Wikipedia reads "Myotonic dystrophy (dystrophia myotonica, DM) is a chronic, slowly progressing, highly variable inherited multisystemic disease that can manifest at any age from birth to old age. It is characterized by wasting of the muscles (muscular dystrophy), posterior subcapsular iridescent cataracts (opacity of the lens of the eyes), heart conduction defects, endocrine changes and myotonia (difficulty relaxing a muscle). Most notably, the highly variable age of onset decreases with successive generations. Thus the disease shows at an earlier age in successive generations, a phenomenon termed anticipation. There are two classifications of DM, each having different associated symptoms."

The better news is the difference between DM1 and DM2: "Differences between DM1 and DM2
While both diseases are considered slow degenerative conditions, DM2 is considered to be generally milder than DM1.

The severe congenital form that affects babies in DM1 has not been found in DM2 and the early onset of symptoms is rarely noted to appear in younger patients in the medical literature.

The repeat expansion for DM2 is considerably larger than for DM1, ranging from 75 to over 11,000.

Unlike DM1, the size of the repeated DNA expansion does not appear to make a difference in the age of onset or disease severity in DM2.

Anticipation is a common feature of DM1. It appears to be less significant in type 2 and most current reviews only report mild anticipation as a feature of DM2.

Symptoms
Presentation of symptoms varies considerably by form (DM1/DM2), severity and even unusual DM2 phenotypes. DM1 patients often present with myotonia, disabling distal weakness and severe cognitive problems. DM2 patients commonly present with muscle pain, stiffness, fatigue, or the development of proximal lower extremity weakness (Day & al, 2003). The characteristic pattern of weakness is different for DM1 and DM2: In DM1, it is noted in face and jaw muscles, the drooping of the eyelids (ptosis), weakness of the neck muscles, hands and lower legs. In DM2, the weakness is more evident in proximal muscles, those closer to the trunk of the body: neck, shoulders, hip flexors and upper legs.

Noted DM1 symptoms which are considered less severe or common for DM2 are problems with smooth muscle (including G.I. symptoms), hypersomnia (daytime sleepiness), muscle wasting, dysphagia and respiratory insufficiency. DM1 patients may experience a more diverse range of cognitive problems than DM2. Depending on what form they have and the degree of severity, DM1 cognitive problems may range from developmental delays, learning problems, language, speech, behaviour, apathy or hypersomnia. Cognitive manifestations for DM2 include problems with executive function (i.e. organization, concentration, word-finding etc) and hypersomnia. Conduction abnormalities are more common in DM1 than DM2, but all patients are advised to have an annual ECG. Insulin resistance is a significant risk factor in both forms of the disease for diabetes, cholesterol, heart, stroke, lipids, fatty liver, etc.

Testing for insulin resistance must be at least 3 hours and include serial monitoring of the lipid profile and intermittent assessment of oral glucose tolerance testing as per the report from the 140th ENMC International Workshop: Myotonic Dystrophy DM2/PROMM and other myotonic dystrophies with guidelines on management (2006) Diabetes type 2 is suspected of being more common in DM2 than in DM1. Generally far fewer DM2 patients require assistive devices (canes, walkers, wheelchairs, scooters) than in DM1, though they experience increasing difficulties climbing stairs as the disease progresses, and falling or stumbling may sometimes be reported."

It's all there. I constantly fall or trip, I sometimes walk as though intoxicated when I get tired (good thing I don't drink or I'd really have a problem!), and it's all the muscles close to my body that have the hallmark weakening. And I'm a sugar-junkie who needs to stop eating all that sugar thanks to the increased chance of becoming diabetic.

On the plus side, I don't have cognitive disabilities - my speech is fine, my vocabulary very broad, and there were no developmental problems or delays. I'm not hypersomnial, but I can't sleep at all without pharmaceutical assistance. I suppose that is better than having trouble staying awake during the day...

Right now I'm sick. Being sick for most people stinks, but for me it is aggravating - and I don't mean aggravating to me. It aggravates the disease and so I have to fight a battle on two fronts: the illness and the disease and its now-overexaggerated problems. When a normal person gets muscle aches from a fever, it is tiring and they may experience discomfort. When I have aches from fever, I am writhing in agony. And at the moment, I'm running a temperature again. Really gruesome.

If I seem down about it now more, it is having whatever infection that I am fighting that makes it so. I'll get better and be my usual ingratiating, happy self.

I worry, though, about my future. I don't know if I will end up in a wheelchair or not. It seems that few DM2 patients end up going down that road. That is very reasurring. But I won't be able to be an EMT forever... at the moment, my goal is to make it to the status of life member, which is ten years of active riding. I will complete my sixth year in March. This is a bit of a race. Right now I will tell you that my butt, legs and hips won't unlock, and I don't know if I can ride at all. But in a couple of days I may be fine again and will feel good.

My professional life is a whole different thing. There are no real demands on me physically and yet, it is not always easy to do what I do. Sometimes I have trouble making it up the stairs. Sometimes I don't leave my office because I have trouble with my balance. I feel uncomfortable often walking around. I know I have a funny gait. But I love what I do and want to keep doing it. It scares me that this disease can do this to me.

So I have spilled my guts about this and gotten it out. Maybe this will help.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

ARTICLE: Sandwhich Board Job Hunter

LONDON (Reuters) – In a pinstripe suit, silk tie and polished shoes, David Rowe has all the trappings of a successful London city worker, except for one stark difference -- he is wearing a sandwich board that says "JOB WANTED."

As he walked down Fleet Street, home to legal firms and investment banks, the 24-year-old history graduate showed the human face behind the "lay-offs" and "recession" headlines. "The first 20 paces are the hardest, you feel very conspicuous, but you just steel yourself to get on with it," he said, starting a slow trudge toward the Law Courts before turning toward St Paul's Cathedral.

In previous economic downturns it was manufacturing and heavy industry that were worst hit. Now in Britain, and much of the West, white collar jobs have been culled in the financial crisis -- marketing directors on six figure salaries, IT specialists with 20 years experience. That makes it especially hard for young men and women like Rowe trying to start professional careers. For many the corporate ladder has been pulled away.

They are left with the prospect of low paid unskilled work, if they can find it, and large debts. "I have debts of about £20,000 ($32,400), and that's not excessive compared with how much some students owe when they graduate," Rowe told Reuters as he took a break from his one-man advertising campaign. "My dad bet me I wouldn't do this (walking with a sandwich board), that I wouldn't have the guts."

GRADUATE NUMBERS
Rowe was facing a tough market even before the downturn. Britain has seen explosive growth in the number of university and college students, but there has not necessarily been a comparable rise in graduate-level jobs.

Twenty years ago about 17 percent of 18-30 year-olds were in tertiary education against a figure of 43 percent in 2008, according to the Department for Business Innovation and Skills. The Higher Education Statistics Agency said about 220,000 graduates joined the job market in the 2007-2008 period. Add that mix to an economy in trouble and it makes uncomfortable reading for people like Rowe.

Latest figures from High Fliers Research Ltd, an independent market research company, found graduate vacancies at one hundred leading employers in 2009 had been cut by 28 percent against 2008 and more than 5,500 vacancies canceled or left unfilled. Rowe is one jobseeker who is not downhearted. Just hours after he started wearing the sandwich board that offered his services free for a month with the option to then "hire or fire me" he struck lucky.

Gavin Walker of international recruitment firm Parkhouse Bell liked Rowe's initiative and decided to interview him. "I liked the fact he had thought out of the box. I was impressed by that. I was even more impressed after the interview. He's very employable, so much so I offered him a job to work with me."

Rowe, who has amassed a growing collection of business cards, says he will think carefully about the job offer. "I told myself I'd do the sandwich board for five days and I will follow through on that."

($1 = £.6181)

A.W.A.D. - Five Eponyms

with Anu Garg

Eponyms are little capsules of history. They capture a bundle of stories in just a word or two. These terms, derived from the names of people, summarize their characters and qualities that made them stand out.

In the five eponyms to be explored this week, we'll meet people, men and women, real and fictional, from a diverse world that includes two playboys, seven sisters, an imaginary deity, and more. Sounds like a soap opera!
Beau Brummell
PRONUNCIATION: (bo BRUM-uhl)
MEANING: noun: A man who pays excessive attention to his clothes and appearance

ETYMOLOGY: After Beau Brummell, nickname of George Bryan Brummell (1778-1840), a British dandy. Brummell was known for his suits and elaborate neckwear and was considered an authority in matters of men's dress and etiquette. He rose in society thanks to his royal connections, but gambling debts forced him to flee to France. He died penniless in a mental institution in Caen.

USAGE: "He [father] possessed a Beau Brummell's zest for fashion." Neal Hirschfeld; His Dad, the World's Darling; The New York Times; Jun 15, 2008.

termagant
PRONUNCIATION: (TER-muh-guhnt)
MEANING: noun: A quarrelsome or overbearing woman

ETYMOLOGY: From Old French Tervagant. The term originates after an imaginary deity that Christians in medieval Europe erroneously believed was worshiped by Muslims. It was represented in morality plays as a violent, overbearing personage. Over time the term became generalized to apply to any brawling person, and eventually only to women.

USAGE: "[Mrs. Lincoln], the wife of one of our most beloved presidents, has been characterized as a sharp-tongued termagant who made her husband's life miserable." Larry Eskridge; The Tragedy of Mary Lincoln; The Daily Ledger (Canton, Illinois); May 16, 2009.

pleiad
PRONUNCIATION: (PLEE-uhd)
MEANING: noun: A group of (usually seven) brilliant persons or things

ETYMOLOGY: After the Pleiades, the seven daughters of the titan Atlas and sea-nymph Pleione in Greek mythology. These seven sisters were Maia, Electra, Celaeno, Taygete, Merope, Alcyone, and Sterope. In one version of the myth, they killed themselves out of grief over the loss of their half sisters the Hyades, and were turned into a group of stars. In another version, they were placed among the stars to protect them from the hunter Orion, though he too became a star to continue to pursue them. Only six of the seven sisters shine brightly in the Pleiades star cluster. The other one is supposed to be Merope, hiding in shame for loving a mortal, or Electra, mourning the death of her son Dardanus.

USAGE: "'The turbulent 1990s were a time of rapid change and bold, extraordinary people. ... Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin, without any exaggeration, belongs among just such a pleiad,' Putin said." Lynn Berry; Russian Leaders Honor Boris Yeltsin on 1st Anniversary of His Death; Associated Press; Apr 23, 2008.

Gordon Bennett
PRONUNCIATION: (GOR-dn BEN-it)
MEANING: interjection: Expressing surprise, puzzlement, incredulity, annoyance, etc.

ETYMOLOGY: The expression is primarily used in the UK even though Gordon Bennett was an American. It comes from the name of newspaperman James Gordon Bennett, Jr. (1841-1918). He was known as Gordon Bennett to distinguish him from his father, James Gordon Bennett, Sr., a Scottish immigrant to the US and founder of the New York Herald. The son inherited the paper and wealth, and was known for his extravagant and shocking life. The term Gordon Bennett alludes to his wild ways, and perhaps originated as a euphemism for gorblimey. Gordon Bennett escaped to France and became famous in Europe for establishing awards in sports such as yachting, auto and airplane racing, ballooning, etc.

USAGE: "Gordon Bennett, have they nothing better to do than gawp*?" Robert McNeil; A Date For Your Diary; The Scotsman (Edinburgh, Scotland); Jun 19, 2009.

pasquinade
PRONUNCIATION: (pas-kwuh-NAYD)
MEANING: noun: A satire or lampoon, especially one displayed in a public place

ETYMOLOGY: Before there were Facebook protests and Twitter outcries, people complained publicly by publishing pamphlets and posting flyers. One such tradition was posting anonymous satirical verses and lampoons on an ancient statue in Rome. The locals named this statue Pasquino after a shopkeeper near whose place it had been unearthed. Over time the term came to be applied to any work of satire publicly displayed. Also see the talking statues of Rome.

USAGE: "Whether these soaps are a pasquinade mocking the education system here or a great landmark in popular culture is a question open to interpretation." Shweta Teoti; Ekta, a Threat to Women's Education; The Times of India (New Delhi); Oct 26, 2007.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

A.W.A.D. - Special Words Contest

with Anu Garg

This week's five words made the cut because they have a special property. What is it? Can you discover the reason these words were selected to be featured?

Email your answer to (contest at wordsmith.org) by Friday. One entry per person, please. Result will be announced in next weekend's AWADmail.

Two winners -- first reader to identify the theme, and a reader randomly selected from all correct entries -- will receive a signed copy of one of my books.
odious
PRONUNCIATION: (O-dee-uhs)
MEANING: adjective: Highly offensive; inspiring and deserving hatred

ETYMOLOGY: From Latin odium (hatred), from odisse (to hate). Ultimately from the Indo-European root od- (to hate) that is also the source of the words annoy, noisome, and ennui.

USAGE: "All over the US there are people whose lives are being destroyed for lack of proper health care provision, and there is no sight more odious than the rich, powerful, and arrogant trying to keep it that way." Simon Hoggart; Why the American Right Make Me Sick; The Guardian (London, UK); Aug 15, 2009.

asinine
PRONUNCIATION: (ASS-uh-nyn)
MEANING: adjective: Extremely stupid; ridiculous

ETYMOLOGY: From Latin asinus (ass), from the general reputation of donkeys -- entirely undeserved -- as being stubborn and stupid.

USAGE: "With banks crashing and unemployment soaring, Prohibition felt like what it was -- an asinine waste of time and money." Dan Gardner; You Can't Tell Us Drug Legalization is Impossible; The Ottawa Citizen (Canada); Apr 10, 2009.

cagey
PRONUNCIATION: (KAY-jee)
MEANING: adjective:
1. Evasive; reticent
2. Shrewd; crafty

ETYMOLOGY: Origin unknown. Perhaps from cage, from cavea (birdcage), from cavus (hollow)

USAGE: "NBC execs were cagey about the prospects of Paula Abdul landing on one of the network's reality-competition programs." Alex Strachan; More Reality Shows for NBC and Maybe Paula Abdul; The Gazette (Montreal, Canada); Aug 6, 2009.

arcadian
PRONUNCIATION: (ahr-KAY-dee-uhn)
MEANING: adjective:
Idyllically pastoral: simple, peaceful
noun: One leading a simple rural life

ETYMOLOGY: After Arcadia, a region of ancient Greece whose residents were believed to have led quiet, unsophisticated lives of peace and happiness.

USAGE: "Farms, fields, cottages, what [photographer Kevin G. Malella] calls 'the Arcadian view', are blended with industrial images -- mostly nuclear cooling towers -- to create new landscapes that plop the environmentally hazardous engine of contemporary society into our nostalgically folksy lap." Bob Hicks; Questioning Art's Rules and Roles; The Oregonian (Portland); Aug 21, 2009.

devious
PRONUNCIATION: (DEE-vee-uhs)
MEANING: adjective:
1. Departing from the straight or the usual way
2. Sneaky; underhanded

ETYMOLOGY: From Latin devius (out of the way), from de- (out of) + via (way). Ultimately from the Indo-European root wegh- (to go or to transport in a vehicle) that resulted in words such as deviate, way, weight, wagon, vogue, vehicle, vector, envoy, and trivial.

USAGE: "Life has a devious way of hiding the edge of the cliff." Ed Stephens Jr.; Sun! Sand! Co-payments! Saipan Tribune (North Mariana Islands); Aug 28, 2009.

"With John Jowett, he's laid bare British politicians' and lobbyists' devious, sneaky, Machiavellian manoeuvrings in a comedy that may leave audiences wondering if this kind of farce goes on closer to home." Sharu Delilkan; It's A Drag Playing A Political Leader; The Aucklander (New Zealand); Aug 27, 2009.

Friday, 11 September 2009

ARTICLE: Bush Tops Gobbledegook List

This was the most thoroughly amusing - and abjectly frightening - article:

'Bush tops English Gobbledegook Poll
Posted Wed Sep 9, 2009 11:45pm AEST

Former US president George W Bush topped a poll of the worst examples of mangled English, followed closely by Arnold Schwarzenegger and Donald Rumsfeld.

French footballer-cum philosopher Eric Cantona and former US president Bill Clinton also produced prime examples of gobbledegook, according to the online poll of 4,000 people inspired by the Plain English Campaign.

Notoriously language-challenged Mr Bush romped to the top accolade for his: "Our enemies are innovative and resourceful and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we."

Second came bodybuilder-turned-actor-turned-California governor Schwarzenegger, who during an election campaign in 2003 minted the puzzling: "I think that gay marriage should be between a man and a woman."

The rest of the top 10 in the poll, commissioned by an insurance company after it won an award from the Plain English Campaign, were:

#3. Mr Rumsfeld, in February 2002: "Reports that say that something hasn't happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns: the ones we don't know we don't know."

# 4. Murray Walker, motor racing commentator: "The lead car is absolutely unique, except for the one behind it which is identical."

# 5. John Motson, football commentator: "For those of you watching in black and white, Spurs are playing in yellow."

# 6. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, explaining budget plans to lawmakers in July this year: "Total spending will continue to rise and it will be a zero per cent rise in 2013-14."

# 7. Mr Clinton, in 1998 grand jury testimony about Monica Lewinsky: "It depends upon what the meaning of the word 'is' is. If 'is' means 'is and never has been' that's one thing - if it means 'there is none', that was a completely true statement."

# 8. Cantona, 1995: "When the seagulls follow the trawler, it's because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea."

# 9. Mr Bush, July 2001: "I know what I believe. I will continue to articulate what I believe and what I believe - I believe what I believe is right."

# 10. London mayor Boris Johnson, on British satirical game show Have I Got News for You in 2003: "I could not fail to disagree with you less."'
I delight in knowing that people who are running - that's right, running - states and countries are saying these appalling things! Don't they hear themselves?

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Saturday 9: Thunking on a Saturday

Saturday 9: Thunking on a Saturday

1. You are walking down a rainy road. There is a five hundred dollar bill on the road. You look around and except for someone a half block away, you are alone. You naturally pick up the bill and put it away. That person approaching stops and says, "I saw you pick up that money. It's mine." You ask how much it was. She yells, "Are you calling me a liar?" What do you do? I'd give it to her. The United States treasure doesn't mint $500 bills.

2. If I were to inspect your guest bathroom, how would I find it? Well, other than the whole circa 1968 decore and the narrowness of it, you find it to be fine. It needs an updating. It is clean and has all the amenities.

3. You are given a state of the art bow and arrow. Who or what is your first target (after a lesson or two)? Someone's fat butt...? (Sorry - I'm listening to too much Bill Engvall.)

4. The doorbell rings. The person at the door is wearing a raincoat and you know them. They flash you and are completely naked. Other than your S/O, who would you think it would be and would guess you'd find that funny? Why do you guess that person and would you laugh or be pissed off? I'd laugh no matter what. I'm not putting on mine or anyone else's blog who I'd know that would do that. And Luis is not my "significant other" - I hate that phrase. It makes me sound insignificant. Takes two to be a couple.

5. What do you call a male Ladybug? A ladybug. What else?

6. Your friends throw you a party. They've got a big national music star to come and perform. It is someone you detest. Do you make believe you like the songs or do you fess up and get the star out of the party? I wouldn't pretend to like the music but I would never rain on someone else's party by nixing the act.

7. What's your favorite breed of wild, mean attack dogs? Dachsunds. They're wonderful, I hope to be attacked by a bunch of wild, mean Dachsunds!

8. If I called your high school guidance counselor, what would they say about you? Ha! She would have said that I couldn't have amounted to anything - I never paid attention and could not have gotten into college, as that is the only road to success. I hope you do call her and tell her after that what I do for a living! CHEW ON THAT, EVIL "GUIDANCE" COUNSELOR!

9. Car A is moving at 63 miles an hour. 4 people are in the Car A. Car B is moving at 22 miles an hour. There is a driver and passenger who just came from a hotel while cheating on their spouses in Car B. They will crash into each other in exactly 3.5 minutes. What are your fun plans for this Labor day Weekend while these six people meet a brutal and gruesome death? I'll probably pulling their butts out of the mangled cars! I'm an EMT for fun.

Thanks so much for joining us again at Saturday: 9. As always, feel free to come back, see who has participated and comment on their posts. In fact sometimes, if you want to read & comment on everyone's responses, you might want to check back again tomorrow. But it is not a rule. We haven’t any rules here. Join us on next Saturday for another version of Saturday: 9, "Just A Silly Meme on a Saturday!" Enjoy your Labor Day Weekend!

The Joy of Memes: Saturday Six

Episode #282

When I was maybe 12 or so, I was at a neighbor’s house and we were hanging out. His mother was home and picked up the phone when it rang. “Hello,” she said, in a normal, polite tone. After a pause, she said, “Well, hello, you damned old witch, how are you?”

Completely surprised, I looked at my friend. He rolled his eyes and said, “It’s her sister.”

Interesting way to greet someone nonetheless. And that should give you a good idea of what this week’s edition is all about.

First to play last week: Mika of Mika Salakka. Congratulations! (According to the rules, “First to Play” requires you to be the first to include the link to the specific entry in which you answered the questions, not just the general link to your blog.)

Here are this week’s “Saturday Six” questions. Either answer the questions in a comment here, or put the answers in an entry on your journal…but either way, leave a link to your journal so that everyone else can visit! To be counted as “first to play,” you must be the first player to either answer the questions in a comment or to provide a complete link to the specific entry in your journal in which you answer the questions. A link to your journal in general cannot count. Enjoy!

1. You pass a co-worker in the hallway: what’s your typical greeting? Hello!

2. How likely are you to include their name in your greeting? I try to do that. People respond well to their names. The only time it is hard is with my own manager. In normal settings I call him by his first name but in public I have to remember to call him by the more formal "Mr." and his surname. I hate being formal!

3. If you ask them how they are as you’re passing them in the hallway and they don’t reciprocate, does that bother you? No. It bothers me more when it is asked without response expected. Don't ask if you are not interested in the answer.

4. Take the quiz: What Greeting Are You?
1. Whenever you meet a new person, you:
Find common interests to talk about
Ask him a lot of questions about himself
Try to lighten up the mood
Say as little as possible
Keep things formal at first
2. What's your favorite setting for a conversation?
A coffee shop
A party
A bar
A restaurant
Your home
3. What do your friends mean to you?
Each friend you have is important to you - you don't have many friends
Your friends are people you relate to and feel for
Fun, laughter, and lot of good times
Your friends keep life interesting
They are people you depend on ... and who depend on you
4. You talk in a way that is
Polite and careful
Quick and funny
Considerate and real
Deliberate and thoughtful
Provocative and smart
5. What's a conversation killer?
Pretty much anything - conversation is tough
Getting too serious to quickly
When someone is totally focused on herself
Not getting a direct answer from someone
Talking about taboo topics

You Are "What's Up?"
You are a naturally curious person. You are interested in ideas, people, and the whole world. You always have a lot of things to share, and you prefer to be around similarly fascinating people.

You like to talk, and at times you can be a bit of a gossip. You love to be in the know. You also tend to be up on the news, current events, and politics. If anyone knows what's up, it's you!
Yeeeaaahhh, not so much that last line... I get all my news and current events from my friends and coworkers! They come and tell me the news all the time, otherwise I'd have no idea what was going on in the world and be just as happy.

5. What greeting do you hate the most? Um, well, the one on the phone would be interesting, ha, ha! I don't know if there is a greeting that I don't like.

6. What’s the strangest way someone has ever greeted you, and did you return the greeting? Someone once kissed my forehead and I did not expect it. I laughed. I didn't know what else to do. This was at work and the HR Manager really can't do that!

The Return of the Sunday Seven!

Wow, look what's back!

"This week, I am reintroducing the Sunday Seven, which, for those of you who may be new to this blog, is a weekly meme with one question that has up to seven answers.

Since this is Labor Day weekend, and since Labor Day weekend isn’t complete without the Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon, here’s a question relating to that theme.

Thanks, as always, for playing along. First to play last week: Pinaymama of Garden of Moments. Congratulations! (According to the rules, “First to Play” requires you to be the first to include the link to the specific entry in which you answered the questions, not just the general link to your blog.)

Here is this week’s “Sunday Seven” question. Either answer in a comment here, or put the answers in an entry on your blog (with a link here), and then comment here with a link back to your blog so that everyone else can visit! Enjoy!

THIS WEEK’S QUESTION:
You’re putting together your own telethon to raise money for a worthy cause. Name the first seven celebrities you’d want to take part."

Well, well. Let me see...




1. Joan Rivers (she won on Celebrity Apprentice last season)
2. Michelle Pfeiffer (who wouldn't want to look at such beauty?)
3. Hugh Jackman (again, who wouldn't want to look at such beauty?)
4. Bradley Walker (bluegrass singer with adult-onset Muscular Dystrophy)
5. Leonard Nimoy (who doesn't love Spock?)
6. John DeLancie (to argue with Spock)
7. Colion Ferguson (I love the show Eureka and he has an honest face)




The bonus act: Penn & Teller!




I'd have donations for adult-onset MD pouring in! There's someone for everyone, some humour, some eye candy, some music, and all great talent.

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Geography in America

Americans are abysmally ignorant when it comes to geography. And I'm not talking about real geography, which has a whole lot more to do with the world than just identifying countries, capitols, large-scale geological features and their placements on maps. I'd be happy if people knew what the capitol of France is!

So I'm rereading The Complete Idiot's Guide to Geography. Just to refresh my memory. And in the beginning of the book, there is a basic quiz, to get some idea of your knowledge.There is a map with countries marked by Roman numerals and then the following questions:

1. This country used to comprise the bulk of theSoviet Union: find Russia
a. ix

2. This country has the second largest population on Earth: find India
a.xv

3. This country was the stomping ground for Evita Perón, the subject of a recent hit movie: find Argentina
a. v

4. When a United Stgates teenager was caned for vandalising a car, this country was in hte news: find Singapore
a. xviii

5. This country's invasion of Kuwaitresulted in Operation Desert Storm: find Iraq
a. xi

6.Much of the world's rain forest and its largest river by volume are located in this country: find Brazil
a. iv

7. Those pesky Kiwis have helped to smash U.S. dominance of America's Cup in yachting: find New Zealand
a. xxiii

8. The United Nations recently took on warlords in this impoverished country: find Somalia
a. xiii

9. When the Berlin Wall finally came down, the world rejoiced: find Germany
a. vii

10. A volcanic eruption forced the United States to close the huge Clark Air Force base in this country: find the Phillipines
a. xx

My answers: Their answers:
1. C C
2. B B
3. C C
4. C D OK, I'm not good on where Singapore is!
5. A A
6. B B
7. D D
8. A A
9. C C
10. D D

Not bad for someone who has never taken a geography class! At least I can say I'm a citizen of the planet Terra, rather than being so insular as to only my own country of origin and/or residence. But I suspect most people that I could show this to would not know the answers to the questions or where those countries are!

I worry about this. Maybe geography is not your favourite subject, but one should still have a basic knowledge of the planet they live on. I have a funny feeling most could not live the oceans or seas and there are not that many of them (Atlantic Ocean, Pacific Ocean, Indian Ocean, Artic Ocean)!

The planet is 71% water, which right there should make land-based geography really easy. You only have to deal with the 29% that is land. When you consider the size of Russia, The United States, China and Brazil, then you have narrowed down the remaining land considerably. If you make it into four quadrants (Eastern, Western, Northern and Southern Hemispheres) this gets even easier! How about continents? Asia, Africa, North America, South America, Europe, Australia and Antarctica - again, the world is not that scary.

There are 192 countries. I've worked for companies that had 300 employees and I knew all of their names, marital status, number of dependents and working status. I think memorising the names and locations of most if not all 192 countries would be quite simple.

I expect a certain amount of ignorance when it comes to the African continent - even I don't know all of the 55 or so countries there. I know... let's see... Mauritania, South Africa, Sierra Leone, Congo, Tanazania, Ethiopia, Egypt, Butska (sp?), Madagascar, Namibia, Cameroon... not many. I wouldn't brag about this, but most people may not have gotten that far!

Yikes.

Friday, 4 September 2009

A.W.A.D. - Words Derived from Animals

with Anu Garg

Five years ago we adopted a dog we named Flower. At first, we were overwhelmed -- puppy training classes, cleaning, walks, vets, and so on -- but once things fell into a rhythm, it became easy.

A dog doesn't need much: a little food, a little walk, a little rub behind the ears, and a pooch is the happiest creature in the world. Keeping a dog is easy, as long as you budget to replace all your carpets every few years.

This week we'll see words derived from animals, words where dogs and cats, pets and wild animals, insects and mammals, are used metaphorically.

bird-dog
PRONUNCIATION: (buhrd-dog)
MEANING: noun: A talent scout, especially in sports
verb tr., intr.: To seek out or follow a subject of interest

ETYMOLOGY: After bird dogs, various breeds of dogs trained to hunt or retrieve birds.

USAGE: "Kindly Cal Murphy, evaluating talent for the Indianapolis Colts these days, has been studiously tracking Wake. Fred Fleming, a bird-dog for Denver's Broncos, too." George Johnson; Lion Lives for Sacking QBs; Calgary Herald (Canada); Nov 12, 2008.

"But the sheer complexity of the stimulus measure makes it difficult to bird-dog." Michael Scherer; What Happened to the Stimulus?; Time (New York); Jul 13, 2009.
wildcatter
PRONUNCIATION: (WYLD-kat-uhr)
MEANING: noun:
1. One who drills for oil speculatively
2. One who promotes an unsafe or fraudulent enterprise
3. A worker who takes part in a wildcat strike: a sudden strike not authorized by the labor union

ETYMOLOGY: Before the currency was centrally issued in the US, each bank printed its own currency notes. Often these notes were not backed by capital and were risky. It's said that the notes by one of those banks featured a drawing of a wildcat. From there the term wildcat took the sense of anything risky, rash, or unreliable. It's now used in many senses allusively, such as a wildcat well: an exploratory oil well in an area not known to be productive; a wildcat strike: a rash strike not sanctioned by a union official.

USAGE: "The legendary wildcatter and corporate raider T. Boone Pickens has decided that drilling for more oil is not the answer to America's energy problems." A Texas Wildcatter Rides the Wind; The New York Times; Jul 22, 2008.

frogmarch
PRONUNCIATION: (FROG-march)
MEANING: verb tr.: To force a person to walk with arms pinned behind the back

ETYMOLOGY: If you've dissected a frog in a high school biology lab, that's your clue to the frog in frogmarch. Earlier the term meant to carry someone, such as an uncooperative prisoner or a drunk, with arms and legs spread out, each limb held by a person, just like a frog pinned down on a tray. Today the term applies to someone walking upright, but arms held behind the back.

USAGE: "Indeed many of the spectators even allowed their camera flashes to go off during the golfers' back-swings, a crime usually punished by a frogmarch off the course during a more routine tournament." Norman Dabell; Time for Tee on the Ponte Vecchio; Reuters; Dec 31, 2007.

mawkish
PRONUNCIATION: (MAW-kish)
MEANING: adjective:
1. Excessively sentimental, especially in a false or childish manner
2. Having a nauseating taste or smell

ETYMOLOGY: From Middle English mawke (maggot). Are maggots sentimental? We don't know, but the secondary sense of the word mawkish derives from the disgust we feel at the sight of the insect. By extension the word began to refer to something sickeningly sentimental.

USAGE: "Diana's passing prompted a months-long orgy of mawkish and histrionic media coverage centering on the accomplishments of a woman best known for her romantic troubles and fashion prowess." Colleen Carroll Campbell; Michael Jackson Fatigue Syndrome; St. Louis Post-Dispatch; Jul 9, 2009.

shrew
PRONUNCIATION: (shroo)
MEANING: noun: A bad-tempered, nagging woman

ETYMOLOGY: Shrew is an animal of the Soricidae family having a long, sharp snout. From the belief that a shrew had a venomous bite, in the beginning the term was used metaphorically for anyone of a spiteful nature, male or female. Eventually the word came to be applied exclusively to women.

USAGE: "Bibisab's acid tongue and larger than life valour are part of her defence mechanism. She has to be bold and loud to compete with men in her male-dominated society. She may appear to be a shrew but she is not dishonest." Jamil Mahmud; Bibisab: A Woman Going Beyond Gender Roles; The Daily Star (Dhaka, Bangladesh); Jul 15, 2009.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Crystal Spheres Part 1

I'm on the fence about a seller.

I had posted on 28 August that there is a Labradorite sphere that I just have to have! I really do - it is huge and gorgeous in only that way that this stone is. I think most people would find it boring but I find it fascinating. I usually gravitate to fluorite and quartz - I like the way you can see into or through it - but there are some stones I love that are much more opaque. Garnet, obsidian, hematite and of course, Labradorite. These all have their own interesting and unique looks.

Well, the spheres are wonderful, but I am torn. The seller had sold me three items and one still hasn't arrived. As far as I can tell, it did not even ship. The other two arrived on Monday, when I'd ordered them on Friday. Very fast - faster than I'd expected. And the other thing that has me a little unhappy is the seller's communication.

No communication. Most sellers have automatic e-mails that generate when you pay for something, thanking the buyer to the heavens for the purchase and some details about shipping. Nothing from this seller. I've sent messages asking about different items; no response. I have a problem with that. For me, communicating is a very essential part of any transaction. More so with transactions that involve money.

So while I really want this sphere I have to wonder if this will be worth it. A seller that doesn't answer any messages is a little off-putting.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

ARTICLE: Mosquito Bites: The Real Reason Some People are Immune

If you're one of those people whom mosquitoes tend to favor, maybe it's because you aren't sufficiently stressed-out.

Insects have very keen powers of smell that direct them to their targets. But for researchers trying to figure out what attracts or repels the pests, sorting through the 300 to 400 distinct chemical odors that the human body produces has proved daunting.

Now scientists at Rothamsted Research in the U.K. have been making headway at understanding why some people can end up with dozens of bites after a backyard barbecue, while others remain unscathed. The researchers have identified a handful of the body's chemical odors—some of which may be related to stress—that are present in significantly larger concentrations in people that the bugs are happier to leave alone. If efforts to synthesize these particular chemicals are successful, the result could be an all-natural mosquito repellent that is more effective and safer than products currently available.

"Mosquitoes fly through an aerial soup of chemicals, but can home in on those that draw them to humans," says James Logan, a researcher at Rothamsted, one of the world's oldest agricultural-research institutions. But when the combination of human odors is wrong, he says, "the mosquito fails to recognize this signal as a potential blood meal."

The phenomenon that some people are more prone to mosquito bites than others is well documented. In the 1990s, chemist Ulrich Bernier, now at the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service, began looking for what he calls the "magic compounds" that attract mosquitoes. His research helped to show that mosquitoes are attracted to humans by blends of common chemicals such as carbon dioxide, released from the skin and by exhaling, and lactic acid, which is present on the skin, especially when we exercise. But none of the known attractant chemicals explained why mosquitoes preferred some people to others.

Rothamsted's Dr. Logan says the answer isn't to be found in attractant chemicals. He and colleagues observed that everyone produces chemicals that mosquitoes like, but those who are unattractive to mosquitoes produce more of certain chemicals that repel them.

Misguided Mosquitoes
"The repellents were what made the difference," says Dr. Logan, who is interested in the study of how animals communicate using smell. These chemicals may cloud or mask the attractive chemicals, or may disable mosquitoes from being able to detect those attractive odors, he suggests.

Besides delivering annoying bites, mosquitoes cause hundreds of millions of cases of disease each year. As many as 500 million cases of malaria are contracted globally each year, and more than one million people die from it, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Mosquitoes can also spread West Nile virus, dengue fever, yellow fever and other illnesses.

Currently the most effective repellents on the market often contain a chemical known as DEET, which has been associated in some studies with potential safety concerns, such as cancer and Gulf War syndrome. It also damages materials made of plastic. The federal Environmental Protection Agency has determined that DEET, when used as directed, is safe.

The Rothamsted team set out to get the mosquitoes' viewpoint. The researchers separated human volunteers into two groups—those who were attractive to mosquitoes and those who weren't. They then put each of the volunteers into body-size foil bags for two hours to collect their body odors. Using a machine known as a chromatograph, the scientists were able to separate the chemicals. They then tested each of them to see how the mosquitoes responded. By attaching microelectrodes to the insects' antennae, the researchers could measure the electrical impulses that are generated when mosquitoes recognize a chemical.

Dr. Logan and his team have found only a small number of body chemicals—seven or eight—that were present in significantly different quantities between those people who were attractive to mosquitoes and those who weren't. They then put their findings to the test. For this they used a so-called Y-tube olfactometer that allows mosquitoes to make a choice and fly toward or away from an individual's hand. After applying the chemicals thought to be repellant on the hands of individuals known to be attractive, Dr. Logan found that the bugs either flew in the opposite direction or weren't motivated by the person's smell to fly at all.

The chemicals were then tested to determine their impact on actual biting behavior. Volunteers put their arms in a box containing mosquitoes, one arm coated with repellent chemicals and the other without, to see if the arm without the coating got bitten more.

Significant Repellency
The group's latest paper, published in March in the Journal of Medical Entomology, identified two compounds with "significant repellency." One of the compounds, 6-methyl-5-hepten-2-one, is a skin-derived compound that has the odor of toned-down nail-polish remover, according to George Preti, an organic chemist at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia, who is involved in a separate line of research into insect-biting behavior. The other, identified in the paper as geranylacetone, has a pleasant odor, though there is some question about whether the chemical is formed by the human biochemical process or is picked up in the environment, Dr. Preti says.

Dr. Logan declined to comment about the specific chemicals because of proprietary concerns. He says the findings have been patented and the group is working with a commercial company to develop the compounds into a usable insect repellent. One issue that still needs to be resolved: how to develop a formulation of the repellent chemicals that will stay on the skin, rather than quickly evaporating as they do naturally. The hope is to get a product to market within a year or two, he says.

Some of the chemicals researchers identified are believed to be related to stress, Dr. Logan says. Previous research has shown that these particular chemicals could be converted from certain other molecules and this could be as a result of oxidation in the body at times of stress, he says. However, it's not clear if the chemicals observed by the Rothamsted researchers were created in this way, and research is continuing to answer this and other questions.

Dr. Logan suggests that mosquitoes may deem hosts that emit more of these chemicals to be diseased or injured and "not a good quality blood meal." Proteins in the blood are necessary for female mosquitoes to produce fertile eggs, and Dr. Logan says it might be evolutionarily advantageous for mosquitoes to detect and avoid such people.

Other Research
Other research includes an effort by scientists at the University of California, Riverside, who published a paper in the journal Nature last week identifying a recently discovered class of molecules that inhibit fruit flies' and mosquitoes' ability to detect carbon dioxide. Mosquitoes can detect carbon dioxide emissions from long ranges, so turning off the ability to detect the gas, perhaps by releasing the inhibiting molecules into the environment, may be a way of keeping the bugs at bay, the researchers suggest. Another team, at the Monell Chemical Senses Center, is launching a study into whether the taste of human skin and blood are related to the insects' interest in biting certain individuals.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

An Anniversary and A Neat Experience

Today is the eight year anniversary of the car accident I was in.

Before you think this is a grisly thought, don't. I don't see it that way. I see it as I survived - that eight years after I'm still alive, walking, talking, eating (too much, but one can't have everything!), doing things I enjoy. I wasn't an EMT then, but I was in Human Resources, and still there. I had Luis, and being with him is always wonderful. Every day above ground is a good one! I'm really happy with that.

So eight years ago this wasn't the best day I ever had but it wasn't terrible. I walked out of the Emergency Room at Morristown, even though I came in on a backboard and with a collar. I was moving prior to being packaged, but that was not my fault - I was outside of my vehicle when it happened. I'm always telling patients not to move around after an accident!

This is also (to me) the start of autumn! I realise that astronomically speaking that is not the case, but it is September - that is the first day of autumn to me. It certainly feels like it.

It is much like it was eight years ago. It is a beautiful, sunny, perfect day - blue skies, not a single cloud. It is in the high 70s. It is setting now, but still lovely. Every first of September has been like this since then - it's a little freaky. And that year we had a long stretch of perfect weather that began on Saturday, 1 September 2001 - past the 11th - which I was home to see. I was still out of work and I had gone to the fifth and final interview for HR Supervisor at Dish Network. It was not difficult to see why I lost that position. I know the manager I met with took one look at me with all the bruising and scratches and road rash and thought, "No way". Anyway, Luis called me at home from the office and told me to turn on the telly.

I put it on and at first I thought this was a movie being filmed. I really didn't know what I was seeing. Luis asked me to describe it and I did - one of the Twin Towers was burning. As I was telling him about it and realising that this wasn't a movie in the making, I watched in horror as the other plane struck. I remember starting to cry. I remember it as if it was yesterday.

Well, how depressing. Onto the "neat experience"!

I went to the doctor on Thursday last week to see about taking more definitive action about my tinnitus. It's annoying the hell out of me and I have the feeling that just accepting this is not the answer. I have the occaisional day where I don't have it, sometimes as many as three days in row. Then it returns, screaming in my ears when I wake up the next day. I think the fact that I have days without it means that it is a byproduct of somehing else, rather than some unexplained phenomena.

I hope so.

So I told the doctor about it and she gave my ears a very cursory look and suggested that I use ear drops. I picked them up at the drug store and tried them out in my left ear. It clooged right up and when I righted my head, it remained clogged - all I could hear is my voice reverberating off my skullbones. Scientific progress goes "thud". I was unhappy but willing to wait it out.

Good thing I did not ride that night - I would not have been able to get any sounds on patients.

By Saturday I was pretty pissed off. I still couldn't hear out of my left ear and while the tinnitus sound is unbelievably annoying, this was far worse. So I scheduled an appointment for this afternoon, with a different doctor. (The other doctor is okay but she's not warm and fuzzy and I always feel as though I'm being judged and found lacking. And the ear drops - and lack of interest in my issues - were the final straw.) I wanted my ears flushed.

This doctor is great! Very warm and fuzzy and a great sense of humour! He's delightful! He looked in my ears with interest, and even it was feigned interest, he did a great job of faking it. He said that there was a lot of wax and let's find a room with a sink, and he'll flush them out.

He got out a huge syringe, filled it about 3/4 with water, then held a small bucket under my ear and suggested I keep my head still or I'll end up all wet. He said that this will be weird. He shot the water into my left ear first and it felt fine, and sounded like the ocean roaring - but at megadecibals - about twenty times the normal volume! It was really cool! He did it again and it was really amazing. I thought it was cool! Like being at a launch for the Apollo missions! I'm sure a Saturn 5 rocket booster sounded just like that.

He did it to the other ear after and it was again really neat. And here is the coolest thing! While it did not get rid of the tinnitus, it did clear my ears - both of them - and it did dramatically improve my hearing - I have the telly at half the volume I've been watching it and I can once again hear a whisper from 50 feet!

I LOVE it!