Thursday, June 16, 2005


More Cat Poop!

According to this study reported by Majikthise: "Cats may improve your social life
The cat parasite toxoplasmosis gondii may affect human personality:
THEY may look like lovable pets but Britain's estimated 9m domestic cats are being blamed by scientists for infecting up to half the population with a parasite that can alter people�s personalities.The startling figures emerge from studies into toxoplasma gondii, a parasite carried by almost all the country's feline population.

They show that half of Britain's human population carry the parasite in their brains, and that infected people may undergo slow but crucial changes in their behaviour.

The study into more subtle changes in human personality is being carried out by Professor Jaroslav Flegr of Charles University in Prague. In one study he subjected more than 300 volunteers to personality profiling while also testing them for toxoplasma.

He found the women infected with toxoplasma spent more money on clothes and were consistently rated as more attractive. "We found they were more easy-going, more warm-hearted, had more friends and cared more about how they looked," he said. "However, they were also less trustworthy and had more relationships with men." [Sunday Times]"


Friday, June 10, 2005


I can't get enough of Ugly

What possesses a bride to dress her bridesmaids like 3 dollar hookers? The ways of the female mind are mysterious, indeed.


Why there'll always be an England..

I heard this on The World on the radio yesterday and it cracked me up for some reason:

Poison Garden: "Northumberland's biggest tourist attraction is Alnwick Castle. And it's in one of castle's gardens where you'll find the poisonous plants. This sinister green space was the idea of the Duchess of Northumberland. The Duchess -- who used be called Jane Percy before she married the Duke of Northumberland -- says she finds traditional English gardens a bit boring.

Duchess of Northumberland: 'Well I just felt that in England and actually around the world, we concentrate very much on apothecary gardens and I think that most children are interested in how many berries you can eat before you keel over, and how long and painful the death is, and they're not really interested in how that plant can cure you, but in reality the line between kill and cure is very, very close.'

Killing can be compelling. Alison Harmer is the garden of Alnwick Castle's poison garden. She guides visitors on tours of the garden and points out plants that long ago acquired bad, very bad reputations:

Alison Harmer: 'We've got Strychnine, and Opium which becomes heroin, followed by Aconite, and let me tell you this beautiful garden flower is known as weapon of mass destruction, it was used in ancient Greece to rid people of unwanted elderly relatives, on the island of Saros, and it doesn't specify how old were expected to drink the poison Aconite to rid the families of the burden of old age. But it was also used to poison wells by invading armies, it's really one of the swiftest acting poisons known to man, a really poisonous little beast.'

The gardeners have taken precautions to make sure none of these plants go missing. Leaf plucking is strictly forbidden. And the security doesn't end there, says the Duchess.

Duchess of Northumberland: "Many of the plants were real killers and they have to be under lock and key. We have to have people watching the plants and watching children to make sure they're not touching plants or pocketing a berry here and berry there to get rid of their schoolmates."

Killing isn't all these plants can do. Garden keeper Alison Harmer says that many of these plants, when used properly, can actually help cure some afflictions. Case in point, wormwood.

Alison Harmer: "People used to make a tea to expel worms from the gut, also it was put into a drink, very popular in France in 1800's in absynth called the Green Fairy. And at the moment its in clinical trials to see if this plant may help malaria."

Thanks to The Duchess of Northumberland's green -- if somewhat eccentric -- thumb, the plants used to make these and other notorious poisons are growing tall for all to see.

Thursday, June 09, 2005


Can you imagine how deadly USED kitty litter might be?

Is Cat Litter Really Radioactive? - And how do we detect nuclear materials at the border? :
Last Friday, the Department of Homeland Security announced that the nation's busiest seaports will have enough radiation detectors to screen every cargo container that comes through. But congressional critics say expensive 'Radiation Portal Monitors' can't tell the difference between highly enriched uranium and cat litter. Is cat litter really radioactive?
Yes, the clay in cat litter does give off radiation in very small quantities. There is naturally occurring radiation all around us; the radiation in cat litter comes from trace amounts of uranium, thorium, and potassium-40. Many other consumer products are also radioactive. Among these are some ceramic tiles (which can contain uranium), glossy magazines (which are sometimes coated with material that's high in uranium and thorium), and Brazil nuts (which have a fair amount of radium).


Essay Question

Jesse Helms has written a book, entitled "Here's Where I Stand" scheduled to be published in September. Helm's book takes an interesting look at segregation. He was one of North Carolina's leading voices of segregation as a TV commentator in Raleigh in the 1960s. He opposed nearly every civil rights bill while in the Senate and often made black political leaders the focus of his campaigns.
Unlike other prominent segregationists of the era, such as Alabama Gov. George Wallace, Helms has never said his views on race were wrong. And he has never said that segregation was wrong.
Instead, he suggests in the book that he favored voluntary racial integration that would have come about without pressure from the federal government, or from civil rights protests -- which he said only sharpened racial antagonisms.

'I did not advocate segregation, and I did not advocate aggravation,' Helms writes. 'By that I mean that I thought it was wrong for people who did not know, and who did not care, about the relationships between neighbors and friends to force their ideas about how communities should work on the people who had built those communities in the first place. I believed right would prevail as people followed their own consciences.'

He added: 'We will never know how integration might have been achieved in neighborhoods across our land, because the opportunity was snatched away by outside agitators who had their own agendas to advance. We certainly do know the price paid by the stirring of hatred, the encouragement of violence, the suspicion and distrust. We do know that too many lives were lost, businesses were destroyed, millions of dollars were diverted from books and teachers to support the cost of buses and gasoline. We do know that turning our public schools into social laboratories almost destroyed them.'

Essay Question:
When do you think "right" would have prevailed: 2010, 2015, 2100, never? Explain your answer.


I feel pretty...

If you don't marry me, it's curtains. (from Ugly


Do you think I'm sexy?

A tasteful selection from Ugly


It's impossible for words to describe what is necessary to those who do not know what horror means. Horror. Horror has a face...(Apocalypse Now)

You all know how surfing the net goes. You find something interesting, that leads to something else, and finally you come face-to-face with the ultimate horror that lies at the center of the Cosmos. Thanks to Jaquandor at byzantiumshores, I recently made such a journey. The result is:
Ugly - Bridesmaid Dresses From Hell: "Welcome to, the archive of the world's worst Bridesmaids dresses. Contained within are photographic proof of some of the dresses that our friends, the brides, have made us wear so that they could look good."

If horror doesn't have a face, it certainly has more than one dress!

Wednesday, June 08, 2005


It's Not My Technique--It's Your Parent's Fault!

New Scientist Genes blamed for fickle female orgasm - News: " THIS the ultimate excuse for poor performance in bed? 'Sorry, darling,' the man says, just before falling asleep. 'It's your genes.'

According to a study published this week, up to 45 per cent of the differences between women in their ability to reach orgasm can be explained by their genes. Despite decades of surveys and conjecture about the role of culture, upbringing and biology in female sexual function, from Freud in 1905 to the Hite report in 1976, this is the first study of the role of a woman's genes.
Its findings suggest there is an underlying biological basis to a woman's ability to achieve orgasm. Whether that basis is anatomical, physiological or psychological remains uncertain, says Tim Spector of the twin research unit at St Thomas' Hospital in London, who carried out the study. 'But it is saying that it is not purely cultural, or due to peer pressure, or to differences in upbringing or religion,' he says. 'There are wide differences between women and a lot of these differences are due to genes.'

Spector's team asked more than 6000 female twins to fill out a confidential questionnaire about how often they achieved orgasm during intercourse and masturbation. They received 4037 complete replies, which included answers from 683 pairs of non-identical twins and 714 pairs of identical twins. The women's ages ranged from 19 to 83, and about 3 per cent were lesbian or bisexual.

Only 14 per cent of the women reported always experiencing orgasm during intercourse. Another 32 per cent of the women reported that they were unable to achieve orgasm more than a quarter of the time, while 16 per cent never achieved it at all. Comparing the results from identical and non-identical twins suggests that 34 of this variation in ability to orgasm during intercourse is genetic.

The idea behind twin studies is that pairs of twins grow up in similar environments. So if identical twins are more similar in some way than non-identical twins, then that similarity must be down to their identical genes rather than the environment.
Unsurprisingly, more women were able to achieve orgasm through masturbation, with 34 per cent saying they could always do so. However, the figure for those who could never achieve it was only slightly lower, at 14 per cent. The analysis suggests that 45 per cent of this variation is genetic (Biology Letters, DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2005.0308).

Spector says he was surprised by the similarity in the numbers of women unable to experience orgasm either through intercourse or masturbation. "With masturbation there are fewer external factors - i.e. men," he says. "So the higher heritability value for masturbation gives us a clearer picture of what's going on."

The discovery of a genetic basis for the ability of women to orgasm raises questions about its evolution. One theory is that it is a tool for mate selection, the idea being that males best able to bring females to orgasm are also the best males to help raise children. Another is that the female orgasm produces movements that increase sperm uptake, and therefore fertility.
But studies of other primates suggest otherwise. Female stump-tailed macaques have orgasms too - but mainly during female-female mountings, which hardly supports the fertility or mate-selection idea.

Bonobos engage in highly promiscuous sex and mutual masturbation, complete with orgasms, a practice that is thought to promote group cohesion. This supports yet another theory: that orgasm is important in bonding.

But even if orgasm does play this role, it cannot be crucial in humans. The finding that many women cannot achieve orgasm because they do not have the genes for it shows that the ability to orgasm is not a trait for which there has been strong evolutionary selection, says Elisabeth Lloyd of Indiana University in Bloomington, author of The Case of the Female Orgasm. This supports her theory that as far as orgasms are concerned, women have been riding on the genetic coat-tails of male evolution, and that the female orgasm is merely an accidental echo of the male one, the equivalent of male nipples.

Lloyd says the findings also challenge the notion that the failure to achieve orgasm represents "female sexual dysfunction", an idea popular with companies keen to sell to remedies for this so-called disorder. "What definition of 'normal' could possibly justify labelling a third of women as 'abnormal'?" she asks.

Even if struggling to achieve orgasm is nothing unusual, Spector says it might be possible to find ways to make it easier. Though hundreds of genes could be involved, "that doesn't mean we couldn't find the genes and pathways, if this was taken more seriously as a problem", he says.
From issue 2503 of New Scientist magazine, 11 June 2005, page 6


Now we know why that snowman is abominable

New Scientist Breaking News - Mountaineers laid low by lack of toilet training: "They may be strong, skilled and brave, but mountaineers scaling North America's highest peak have yet to learn the basic rules for relieving themselves at alpine heights, a US study reveals. It warns that the lack of proper hygiene leads to severe cases of diarrhoea in almost a third of climbers - a dangerous affliction for high-altitude adventurers.
In 2005, about 1500 people will attempt to climb the 6200-metre Mount McKinley, or Denali, in Alaska. Rules for climbers state that all excrement must either be disposed of down a crevasse, or carried off the mountain in personal poop pails. But after five people descended the mountain with gastroenteritis an infection of the gut caused by ingesting faeces - in May 2002, Alaskan health officials began to question how well mountaineers were abiding by sanitation regulations.
A team stationed in Anchorage, Alaska, and led by Joseph McLauglin from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, surveyed 132 climbers in June 2002. They found that 29% had diarrhoea at least once on their average 18-day trek on the mountain. And 39% reported seeing snow contaminated with faeces in or near their camps. But that did not stop nearly a quarter of climbers from collecting snow for drinking water directly from camps. Only 16% of climbers said they always boiled their drinking water.
Furthermore, fewer than half said they always washed their hands after defecating, with 16% admitting using rocks and snow instead of toilet paper. A shameful 11% confessed to pooping directly into the snow.
McLaughlin was surprised at the amount of human excrement on the mountain, but he says the mountaineers apparent laziness is understandable.

Deadly errors

Being a mountaineer myself, I know how important it can be to minimise weight by conserving the amount of fuel one brings on a trip. It was not surprising to me to see such a low proportion of climbers that boiled their water,” he says. “Similarly, when it is freezing cold outside, washing hands with soap and water is not always a top priority.”
But such carelessness could be deadly, warns McLaughlin. “When climbers are exhausted at high altitude, errors, some of which can be very costly, become more common. Compound that situation with gastrointestinal illness and it is not difficult to extrapolate.”
Buddha Basnyat, medical director at the Nepal International Clinic in Kathmandu and an expert in alpine health, says that gastroenteritis is more common than altitude sickness for climbers in the Himalayas, mostly due to the prevalence of infections in the local population. “In the US, I think people aren’t used to boiling their water. But over here, if you don’t boil water there is almost a 100% risk of getting gastroenteritis,” he told New Scientist.
Basnyat says that by using an alcohol-based disinfectant, boiling water and carrying antibiotics, climbers can safely avoid the dangers and discomfort of diarrhoea at the top of the world."

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