Posts filed under ‘Curiousity’

How Curious!

I’ve collected a few curious (if not downright bizarre) items for your enjoyment. Let’s start off with what will surely become the next action-packed thriller adventure movie starring Samuel L. Jackson – Bees on a Plane.

 No doubt the pilot of a plane at a flight school in Massachusetts wondered if he was appearing in a sequel to Snakes on a Plane, this time starring bees. 10,000 honeybees swarmed the left wing of an airplane at the school (weren’t honeybees said to be inexplicably dying off in the US?). The owner of the flight school called the cops (not sure cops are known for their bee removal abilities). The cops called a bee removal expert who sucked the bees off the wing by using a vacuuming tool and then shipped the bees off to hives (hope they survived the huge vacuum cleaner!).  Experts are saying that the Queen bee most likely was on the left wing and the honeybees swarmed to protect her (that or they all thought they’d hitch a ride). Source: Discover Magazine.

Have dog will travel. If you cannot be parted from your beloved canine even for one minute, no problem. Honda has just unveiled a dog-friendly car, complete with a cushioned dog bed in the boot (trunk), a built-in water bowl and fan and a ramp to assist the senior dog up into the pooch mobile. (Is there a cat version I wonder?). The car also comes with fitted restraints, rubber mats with a toy bone pattern and paw print exterior badging. It will be on sale from Fall 2009 in the US. Americans spend $41 billion a year on their pets so I guess the $20,000+ price for this car will be a breeze for the serious dog owner. Source: Reuters.

One day I have no doubt that we will no longer need to lug mobile phones and laptops around with us. Ultimately, we’ll have electronic devices embedded within the human body and it seems a transitionary step to this is already happening. Researchers at Fraunhofer Institute for Photonic Microsystems in Dresden, Germany have created head-mounted display eyeglasses that use eye movements to control what is shown onscreen. Users can influence the information content presented by moving their eyes or fixing on certain points in the image shown.  A chip is embedded in the eye glasses and projects an image onto the retina. The image appears to be at a distance of about one metre. The eye glasses, however, are apparently heavy and cumbersome at this early stage of development in augmented reality. Source: Science Daily. Image credit: Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft.

Your cheese-grater could be radioactive: an investigation into thousands of common items like elevator lift buttons, shovels, metal bits on handbags and the humble kitchen cheese-grater shows that these items might not be made of innocent looking metal but could in fact be slightly radioactive. Did you know that the banana is slightly radioactive because it contains radioactive potassium isotope? Better cut down on my banana intake! Potentially radioactive recycled metals don’t need to be tested or reported so they can be used in chairs, airline parts and even in the construction industry.  Perhaps we could just encase ourselves in lead. Source: Discover Magazine.

Don’t Beam Me up Scotty: If you’re thinking of taking one of those civilian space flights that will happen in the future, you might want to think again. Because it will be no Star Trek adventure. The human body is designed to have two feet firmly planted on the Earth. If there’s no gravity, then this is what can happen to you: motion sickness; puffy face-bird leg syndrome (what the? apparently, during launch, body fluids move toward the torso and head. This causes a distended jugular vein, headaches and persistent nasal congestion – charming); muscle wastage; organs and tissues are assaulted by galactic cosmic rays; your bones shrink; your immune system alters; the spine can be stretched; the circadian rhythms and sleep quality are stuffed; and ionizing radiation can kill cells and damage DNA, which may lead to cancer and an increased risk of cataracts.  Even worse, you could return from space looking not so much like the deletable Chris Pine (the new Capt Kirk of Star Trek) but more like a bloated, bald dude. Humans need gravity to look “normal” and long distance space travel will cause bodily fluids to shift eg from the torso to the head so you end up with a “fat head”.  Astronauts on short flights have complained about exploding headaches that make a migraine feel like a slight ache.

Sources: The Star and Discover Magazine.</p

June 17, 2009 at 2:00 am Leave a comment

How Curious!

Just two more sleeps before Santa arrives (if you believe in Santa that is). So time for ThinkingShift’s last How Curious! post for 2008. I am whipping up a batch of predictions for 2009, so stay tuned. Meanwhile, let’s have a look at some odd, bizarre and curious things.

Death map: I guess we all wonder when we’ll waft off this planet but with the help of a nifty map, you can scrupulously avoid all the places in the US where you might meet your Maker thanks to Mother Nature. Well, won’t affect me as I avoid the US because of biometrics but in case you’re planning a trip there, go here to see the map, which plots where people have snuffed it from the forces of Nature. Clearly, you should not wander into Wyoming, Utah or Colorado as they have the highest mortality rates from natural disasters like lightning strikes, death from sizzling summers or bone-rattling cold weather or hurricanes. And be careful of lightning – bolts from Heaven account for 11.3% of deaths from the 20,000 that have taken place between 1970-2004. Sources: Discover Magazine & msnbc.

Don’t throw out the vase! My grandmother and mother were hoarders. My mother always said “you never know, this item could be Lalique, don’t throw it out”. Well, it never was but a £1 purchase at a car boot sale in Dumfries, Scotland, did turn out to be a Lalique –  a 1929 work – Feuilles Fougeres – by the renowned French designer and major Art Nouveau figure, Rene Lalique. The £1 purchase was used as a plant holder and when the plant snuffed it, the vase was tossed into the attic. Thankfully, Antiques Roadshow was in town, so the vase was trotted out and the valuers had a heart attack! The vase was eventually sold at a Christie’s auction for £32,450 Source: BBC News.

New prime number.  For the pointy-headed amongst us – a new prime number has been discovered. Maths is not one of my strong points, so I’m certainly going to have trouble with a number that has nearly 13 million digits. Prime numbers can be divided only by themselves and one and the new number was discovered by using 75 computers linking up and using their unused power (guess with 13 million digits, calculating by a small calculator could hold you up). A group of mathematicians were searching for the so-called higher “Mersenne” prime numbers – named after the 17th Century French mathematician, Marin Mersenne. Well, guess it’s exciting for mathematicians. Source: BBC News

Two faced kitten. Not sure what Australian mother cats are being fed but a two-headed kitten was recently born in Perth. The kitten eats out of just one mouth because of a cleft palate but both mouths meow simultaneously. A vet nurse (clearly on the ball) says that something went wrong in the early embryonic developmental stage. Yep, I’d say so. Sadly, the poor little thing died. I have checked whether this is a hoax but it seems to be genuine. Source: The Age

Hello Kitty! hospital. And speaking of cats – a Hello Kitty-themed maternity and pediatric hospital has opened in Yuanlin, Taiwan. Not sure if this qualifies as curious or just plain ridiculous. It’s a 30-bed facility authorised by Sanrio (the creators of the character) and I guess it might bring a smile or two to women having babies. Source: BoingBoing.

December 23, 2008 at 2:00 am Leave a comment

How Curious!

Let’s have a look at some bizarre and curious things going on in our world.

Hide your underwear. Seems there are some birds keen to collect unusual objects such as white socks and English football club flags. Red kites are rare birds of prey, reintroduced four years ago in the UK, and normally known for nabbing clothes from washing lines. But seems these birds now have different collectibles in mind! Red kites went kaput, extinct in the early 1800s. They had rusty red plumage and a wing span of two metres. And now in nests across north-east UK, these glorious birds are breeding again thanks to their reintroduction and collecting odd objects to place in nests. Objects found so far: underwear, flags, a soft toy, a sponge ball, gloves. Well, you know, clothes are made in China mostly these days and they just don’t last. So maybe the kites are pretty smart and going for objects that will last! Source: BBC News. Image credit: Virgin Media

Clean out your library. You never know what you might find! I’ve always fantasized over buying some old books and finding a long, lost letter from George Washington or Marie Antoinette tucked inside the yellowing pages. Seems the Essex Records Office in Chelmsford, UK is living this fantasy. The Records Office was conducting a regular cleaning of missives when, lo and behold, they found a letter from Oliver Cromwell bound in one of the volumes.

The 17th Century statesman and soldier died 350 years ago and is best known for his role in the execution of King Charles I. The letter is dated March 25, 1642 and is a recommendation by Cromwell to promote Captain Dodsworth, who he describes as an “honest, religious and valiant gentleman”. Amazing how items lost for centuries can resurface in unexpected ways. Source: BBC News

Dolphins visit Melbourne. I was in Melbourne last week but I didn’t have time to check out the veracity of this curious story. Three Bottlenose dolphins were spotted in the Yarra River. Now, dolphins don’t normally frolic in the Yarra, so near to a major city, so this is a rare occurrence. But just two weeks ago, two dolphins were glimpsed frolicking in the Maribyrnong River near the Flemington racecourse. Two startled joggers were enjoying a spot of exercise along the Yarra when they saw the dolphins happily swimming. Perhaps they were chasing fish or heading towards Southbank to dine at one of its great restaurants!  Source: The Age

Rogue dentist. I’m off to the dentist tomorrow so this story will serve as a timely remember for me to pay the bill promptly!  Sounds like dentists are feeling the credit crisis. A German dentist showed up one evening at a patient’s home, forced the patient into her living room and tied her up. What happened next is truly bizarre. The dentist forcibly removed two dental bridges from her mouth, worth £320. Apparently, her health insurance had refused to pay for the work. German police are now charging the dentist with assault and theft. Source: The Telegraph

September 28, 2008 at 1:54 am Leave a comment

How Curious!

Time for some fun. Let’s find out what bizarre, intriguing and curious things have been going on in this world of ours.

Beware the closet! A Japanese man living in Fukuoka was puzzled by disappearing food. Tasty morsels would seemingly vanish from his refrigerator. So he installed a security camera and was shocked to see images of a woman brazenly walking around his home while he was out. Being a quick thinking dude, he called the cops who found a woman hiding in the closet. It seems she had been there for a year and had made a comfy place for herself. She had sneaked in a mattress and plastic bottle for water. Apparently, the woman makes a habit of closet hopping from home to home. Now, why the Japanese guy hadn’t noticed towels or soap being used or heard snoring emanating from the closet is a mystery to me! Source: AdelaideNow.

Mac captures thieves. I love my Mac. Now I have more reason to because my Mac is capable of catching bad guys. A young woman returned to her apartment in NYC to find stuff stolen including her Mac laptop. A friend then sent her a text message to say great you’re back online and you’ve recovered your laptop. But…she hadn’t. So clever lady signed on to “Back to my Mac” using another Mac and she remotely activated her Mac’s web cam. Stupid thieves obviously hadn’t thought of this because the woman was able to capture a photo. In another stroke of luck, one of her flatmates recognised a tattoo on the arm of the dude photographed. Turned out the thieves had been in the flat a few weeks earlier attending a party. Source: The Age.

Light bulb glows on. In a fire station in California, an electric light bulb has been glowing for 107 years. It is a low-watt light bulb with that curlicue carbon filament I remember from my grandparent’s house. And this little bulb has now entered the Guinness Book of Records as the planet’s longest continuously burning bulb. Apparently, the light has never been turned off, which experts say is the secret to longevity. I hate to think of the electricity bill though! The little bulb even has its own website. Source: LA Times.

It’s raining iguanas. A recent cold snap in Florida caused frozen iguanas to fall from trees at Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park on Key Biscayne. Dozens of iguanas in suspended animation were found on the bike path in the park. Apparently, they snapped back to life when they warmed up in the sun. Source: FoxNews.

The eyes have it. I confess to a liking for Hello Kitty stuff. I have a Hello Kitty make-up purse to hold the essential item of life (lip gloss of course) and a Hello Kitty mobile phone holder. But I wouldn’t go this far – wearing Hello Kitty contact lenses. That’s a bit creepy. But I must say the Hello Kitty contact lens case is pretty smashing! Source: KittyHell.

June 18, 2008 at 2:00 am Leave a comment

Let us count the ways

I reckon when your number is up, you should aim to go in a spectacular fashion. Nothing as mundane as carking it in your sleep. Far preferable to snuff it a dramatic moment that will go down in history. So if you spend your time wondering about how you’ll go, perhaps one of the following will happen to you (or all of us):

Nasa imageAn Australian astronomer is giving us dire warnings about a beautiful star that could send us all kaput. WR104 is an elegant rotating pinwheel system located in the Sagittarius constellation. Discovered 8 years ago, the system contains a very unstable star (mmm…think I work with a few of them!) named Wolf-Rayet, which is known to star-gazing types as a ticking time bomb. The hot dust and gas that is the swirling star is getting ready to explode and is really just down the road from Earth – a mere 8000 light years away. And should it explode, Earth is in the line of fire. A destructive gamma-ray radiation burst would come our way and zap. Earlier fossil extinctions are said to have been caused by gamma-ray bursts from supernovas having hissy fits. Dr Tuthill, the astronomer who first clamped eyes on WR104 says:

    I used to appreciate this spiral just for its beautiful form, but now I can’t help a twinge of feeling that it is uncannily like looking down a rifle barrel“. Okay, well when you gotta go, snuffing it along with all of humanity in a spectacular explosion and death rays caused by an adolescent star having a melt down could count as pretty memorable, not that we’d be around to remember!

    Should you be contemplating just how long you can hang around and avoid that final moment, you might want to consider leaving out the protein. Protein can apparently hasten your exit from this world, but the good news is protein can lead to more children. Eating less protein, not just fewer calories, is the (new) key to longevity. The balance of protein to carbohydrate in the diet is critical scientists are saying. In experiments with fruit flies, scientists are showing that eating less protein may extend life; but protein is needed for the reproductive system, so cutting down on protein will lead to having fewer children.

      Okay, so a bit of a dilemma here: eat less protein, maybe delay the inevitable but be pretty lonely when you have no kids to look after you in your dotage; or scoff a lot of protein and have kids, but maybe not live long enough to have them look after you in your dotage.

      But then we may not even have to worry about protein or death stars, because something else may be capable of snuffing us out in one blaze of glory. The plague. It’s here again. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has classified the plague as ‘re-emerging’. Did you know that WHO records a few thousand cases of the plague each year around the world? Scared the bejesus out of me when I read that! Since the early 1990s, the plague has returned to places like Mozambique (gulp: I’ve been there), India, Zambia (been there too), Algeria and parts of China. In the 1970s, the plague mostly existed in Asia; but now it’s zeroing in on Africa where more than 90% of cases are reported.

      You probably were taught in Modern History that the worst manifestation of the plague happened during the Black Death that devastated Europe in the 14th Century. And you probably found out that this creature and its fleas was to blame – the rodent:

          Mind you, the Medieval plague rodent probably didn’t look as cute as this fellow because it was busy living in the garbage of medieval European towns. But scientists are now beginning to understand the dynamics of plague infection. It’s not just the Yersinia pestis bacteria, which animal populations can carry, that is the problem. The spread of the bacteria is dependent on interactions between rodents AND contact between humans and wildlife. Rodents are now being displaced by deforestation and sprawling human populations are now reaching areas where black rats live.And global warming could accelerate the whole thing. Following a 50 year study, scientists from the former Soviet Union noted that human plague in Kazakhstan occurs only when the local gerbil population reaches a certain threshold in winter. Warmer winters mean more gerbils. A warmer world could mean the unleashing of this virulent pathogen. And given the growing problem of antibiotic resistance, don’t count on drugs to save us from a rerun of the 14th Century.

          So…let me count the ways: a Death Star, too much protein, the plague, terrorists, ebola, bird flu, George Bush….

          Sources: University of Sydney; University of Sydney News; Time.

            March 17, 2008 at 2:00 am Leave a comment

            How curious!

            To kick-start the New Year, let’s have a look at some curious bits and pieces I’ve found.

            Glow-in-the-dark kitty. Perhaps you’re tired of the usual assortment of colours cats come in: tan, black, white, gray, marmalade, chocolate. So why not colour-coordinate so kitty matches your personal colour scheme preference? Scientists first cloned a cat in 2002 (the cat was named Copycat – how droll) but not content to just clone felines, researchers have now found a way to change the colour of cats. By modifying a gene, the enterprising scientists have produced the planet’s first red cloned cat (seems the colour palette is limited to red at the moment, so if red’s not your fav colour, bummer). The photo above shows two cloned Turkish Angola kittens (cute!). Due to the red fluorescence protein in their skin cells, the kittens look reddish under ultraviolet light.

            I would think this would be a most useful feline feature should you have trouble finding kitty in the dark. Here’s a video of the glow-in-the-dark cats.

            Source: The Korea Times

            A beetle of many colours: staying with the colour theme, there’s a golden beetle species in Panama that can do its very own colour-changing trick without the need for gene modification. If it desires, the Panamanian tortoise beetle can turn brick-red in less than two minutes. This is not due to external temperature changes. The beetle can alter the flow of fluid in its ecoskeleton, which consists of 20 to 40 layers. Apparently, when the beetle is wet, wavelengths of light bounce off the ecoskeleton due to the porous nature of the layers and gives the beetle an overall glossy golden colour. But when the beetle has dried off, the light doesn’t bounce off evenly and the ecoskeleton becomes translucent, revealing red pigment. The colour-changing trick could have implications for biomimicry. If a house plant dries out, for instance, the pot could change colour to warn that the plant needs watering. Source: Discover Magazine

            Don’t bug a cockroach in the morning. If you’re not a morning person, well you have some company: neither are cockroaches. Scientists have found that the learning ability of cockroaches is pretty kaput in the morning, but by evening, they’re raring to go with learning tasks and it’s the first example of an insect whose ability to learn is controlled by its biological clock. Now, I was more interested in what on earth scientists are teaching cockroaches. It seems they were taught to associate peppermint, which they don’t like, with sugar water so they would favour peppermint over one of their favourite smells – vanilla. Apparently, the bugs trained at night could remember the smell association for several days, but their morning trained counterparts were incapable of learning anything new, let alone remembering it. Mmmm….better get that vanilla out of my pantry or start training cockroaches fast! Source: Reuters.

            How much would you pay for dessert? Well, if you have a spare US$14,500, you can savour the taste of the world’s most expensive dessert. A Sri Lankan hotel is serving up a chocolate pudding but this is no ordinary choc pud. This pudding includes a gemstone – an 80 carat aquamarine. The dessert sits on a pedestal with a model of a fisherman perched on a stilt and contains chocolate, champagne, caramelised sugar and the gemstone. This culinary experience costs seven times the average national income and so far only one dessert has been ordered. Let’s hope the person didn’t choke on the gemstone. Source: BBC News.

            Japanese mutant ninja mice. Back to messing around with animals’ genetic make-up – a Japanese university professor has been interfering with the receptors in the olfactory bulb of mice and has produced fearless mice. Normally, a mouse gets a whiff of a cat and runs fast in the opposite direction. But because the part of the brain that processes information about smell has been blocked, the mice are so fearless they actually play with their nemesis as if they were long-lost friends. Mind you, the cat in the video below is Mochikko-chan, a cat that was specifically selected for the demonstration because of her docile nature. But still this mouse is pretty game!

            January 4, 2008 at 1:00 am Leave a comment

            A few curious things

            Lalida photo This week I’m having a bit of a rest. No reading on surveillance or privacy issues (do I hear a collective sigh of relief?!). No reading on climate change – I’ve been delving into the work of meteorologist and hurricane expert, William Gray, who appears to refute climate change due to human activity and prefers to believe that global warming is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated. He has some theory that the increasing evidence of wild and furious hurricanes is due to fluctuations in the Thermohaline Circulation (THC) – still trying to get my head around all this. A future post.

            But while researching, I have come across some interesting and curious bits and pieces. So today’s post brings you a few of the ones I’ve saved up.

            Now, what do you think this is a picture of? Not the prettiest thing I’ve ever seen that’s for sure. But apparently it’s a bit like a cockroach. Sort of can’t be destroyed. You can boil them (eeewww), zap them with radiation, hang them out to dry in exposed harsh, open spaces, freeze them, fling them into space and after 200 years, they’ll still be alive. Mmmmm…..sounds like a few people I’ve had to report to in my working life! Indestructible. Organisation never gets rid of them. But this is a photo of a tardigrade AKA water bear (much better name) or moss piglet (not so great name). Never heard of it; never seen one. But they can live in extreme weather conditions. They were discovered in 1773 by aquatic zoologist, Johann August Ephraim Goeze. These little critters are everywhere in the world. They can be found hanging around at 6000 metres in the Himalayas or enjoying a spot of swimming in deep ocean at 4000 metres below sea level. They grow to about 1mm. Here are some more photos of these very curious water bears:

            I must say I find them strangely attractive! And if you cook one at 181 degrees Celsius for a couple of minutes, here’s what it looks like:

            Awesome! Once we’ve finished stuffing up the planet, guess these creatures will be the only thing left standing. Oh and maybe cockroaches and a few managers I’ve had to work with. Source: Dark Roasted Blend.

            I love LOLCats – totally ridiculous stuff but I love them. But I can’t believe that someone is actually translating the Bible into LOLCat and using a wiki to undertake the task! Known as the LOLCat Bible Translation Project, some people with an awful lot of time on their hands are busy translating the Bible into kitty pidgin (which is the language of LOLCats in case you didn’t know). From what I can tell, the photo below started the whole thing off and someone thought why not tackle the whole Bible from a different perspective.

            So here’s a taste of Genesis 1 translated into kitty pidgin:

            1. Oh hai. In teh beginnin Ceiling Cat maded the skiez An da Urfs, but he did not eated it.

            2. Da Urfs no had shapez An haded dark face, An Ceiling Cat rode invisible bike over teh waterz.

            3. An Ceiling Cat sayz, i can haz lite? An lite wuz. 4. An Ceiling Cat sawed teh lite, to seez stuffs, An splitted teh lite from dark but taht wuz ok cuz kittehs can see in teh dark An not tripz over nethin. 5. An Ceiling Cat sayed light Day An dark no Day. It were FURST!!!1

            6 An Ceiling Cat sayed, im in ur waterz makin a ceiling. But he no yet make a ur. An he maded a hole in teh Ceiling.7 An Ceiling Cat doed the skiez with waterz down An waterz up. It happen.8 An Ceiling Cat sayed, i can has teh firmmint wich iz funny bibel naim 4 ceiling, so wuz teh twoth day.

            Should you wish to learn correct pronunciation of kitty pidgin, go here to listen to an audio version of Genesis 1. Okay this is probably enough to get me back onto reading about privacy and surveillance issues!! There is also a LOLCat Church. The picture accompanying this post is a cat in Thailand – possibly the only cat on the planet that hasn’t appeared on!

            Sources:; LOLCat Bible; The Presurfer





            November 7, 2007 at 3:00 am Leave a comment

            How curious!

            Let’s forget the surveillance society stuff for a moment and take a look at how odd and curious this fascinating world of ours can sometimes be. For your enjoyment – a collection of stories that strike me as very curious.

            Take that, you nasty snake! Should you be enjoying a leisurely stroll with your beloved canine and unexpectedly come across a giant Burmese python, don’t worry. Follow these simple instructions. Simply fling yourself at the snake whilst your pet dog is being twisted and crushed by the python. Pull your dog’s legs out of the python’s grip. Have another dog nearby yapping away – this will distract the python whilst you’re tussling with it and give you encouragement. Since a python can weigh up to 100kg, you should probably not be a stick insect. Grapple with the snake until it’s had enough and slithers away.

            Believe it or not, this close up and personal with a snake happened recently in Hong Kong. Catherine Leonard and her dog, Poppy, were minding their own business when a slithery Burmese python spoilt their day. Poppy was rescued by her fearless owner. Source: Mail & Guardian Online.

            Or…find a squirrel. If you can’t stomach the notion of flinging yourself at a giant python, then quickly look around for a squirrel to do your dirty work for you. Squirrels have a very curious capability – they can heat up their tails to fend off snakes, rattlesnakes to be precise. Not sure if this works with all snakes. The thermal-signalling of the squirrel causes angst for the rattlesnake as they are heat-sensitive. The squirrel vigorously waves its tail, which signals the snake “watch out, I’m ready to rock and roll”. Source: National Geographic.

            Have goat, will travel. Qantas may want to follow Nepal Airline’s practice of sacrificing a goat or two should there be technical problems. A Boeing 757 was apparently experiencing an electrical fault, so a couple of goats were sacrificed in front of the plane before it took off for Hong Kong from Kathmandu airport. It arrived safely in Hong Kong. The goats were sacrificed to appease a Hindu god. Next time I board an aircraft, I’ll take a moment to check out the tarmac. Source: BBC News.

            Throw away your tinfoil hat. You’ve probably heard that some conspiracy theorists think that tinfoil hats may prevent the Government from reading your thoughts. Hey, I don’t think the Government is that smart anyway. But in February 2005, a group of scientists from MIT conducted rigorous tests on the mind-ray blocking powers of the tinfoil hat and found…..while tinfoil hats mostly had a modest attenuating effect, they in fact amplified signals on certain frequencies, namely 1.2 – 1.4 Ghz – the range allocated to the US government. Yikes! Just when I was going to order a tinfoil hat in hot pink! Source: Fortean Times.

            Should you encounter a burglar in your house. Offer a glass of wine and a group hug. A group of friends were dining on the back patio of their house in Washington, when a masked robber suddenly appeared, brandishing a gun and demanding money. After some stunned silence, one guest asked “Why don’t you have a glass of wine with us?“. The intruder (clearly no idiot) had a sip of their Chateau Malescot St-Exupery and said, “Damn, that’s good wine” and also nibbled on some Camembert. Obviously delighted by the hospitality, the intruder announced that he had clearly come to the wrong house and asked for a group hug. The five adults complied and the group hug was followed by the would-be burglar dashing off into the night. Source: CBS News.

            Lock up your cat. Just in case “fur with attitude” (aka domestic cat) is mistaken for a feral cat, you’d better lock up the moggy if you live in Australia. We have a problem with feral cats that roam the Outback. No issue really: we Australians are a pretty innovative bunch and we love our culinary delights. The solution? Cook up some wild cat stew. Recently, a contest in Alice Springs featured a wild cat casserole recipe. Not having snacked on a wild cat, I can’t give you first hand experience of the taste, but it is apparently a cross between rabbit and chicken. I’m intrigued by the recipe. I can’t find step by step instructions, but somehow you’ve gotta go out and track your cat, wrestle it to the ground and then….well, let’s just say the meat is added to a pot with lemon grass and quandong (sweet desert fruit).Simmer for 5 hours then serve up garnished with bush plums and mistletoe berries. Very timely recipe: now I know what to serve up at my next dinner party. Source: BBC News.

            National Geographic imageI, Clawdius? Forget the cats inhabiting the Forum in Rome. There’s a whole bunch of fearless crabs lurking in the ruins. The Roman crabs—of the species Potamon fluviatile—were discovered in in 1997. They must like life amongst the ruins because they grow to around 8 cm long, whereas crabs in the wild grow to around 5 cm. Gigantism is an animal response to isolation. Apparently, they’ve been there for at least a thousand years before the complex was completed in AD 112. Source: National Geographic.

            September 29, 2007 at 3:00 am Leave a comment

            How curious!

            This is the fourth outing for ThinkingShift’s How Curious! category. There are so many weird, wonderful, bizarre and curious items I could bring you that I struggle to reduce things to just four or five items per How Curious! feature. But I have some good ones for us today.

            Will the fish suffer? There’s a bizarre experiment going on in Finland. Some poor salmon, trout, pike and perch, species common to Finland’s coastal waters, will be subjected to Uriah Heep. Who or what is Uriah Heep you may ask (had to look this one up for myself). According to Wikipedia, Uriah Heep was (and still is) a British rock band active since the 1960s. The aging rockers will perform a ‘fish concert’ for 3,000 fans, including said fish. The point? To see if the fish suffer any distress or abnormal behaviour. The Finnish researcher behind this experiment says: “It could be quite nasty to arrange such an aquarium and a performance venue (so close to the fish) especially when the (band) is a bit old-fashioned.” Eh? Why Uriah Heep I ask? The fish might want something a bit more contemporary rather than some old rock and roll dudes. I haven’t found out yet what the results of the experiment are and whether the fish jumped out of their aquarium with the first loud twang of a 1960s guitar! Source: Reuters

            Thinking of a new career? Being a Kiwi, it is with a twinge of embarrassment that I bring you this story. Should you be fed up with your career, you may soon be able to enrol in a new tertiary course in New Zealand. Education types are in full discussion over in the Land of the Long White Cloud. Courses in prostitution (yes, you read correctly) are being considered. But said courses would need to meet stringent funding criteria: “… meet minimum quality standards, demonstrate genuine community need and meet Government priorities laid out in the Tertiary Education Strategy”. Now, I’m just not going to ask how they’d be assessing quality; I’m not sure what the community need would be; and I’d love to see the Strategy! Would this be a three year course I wonder? And being a Uni lecturer myself, I’d be intrigued to see the Subject Outline – perhaps, History and Philosophy of an Ancient Art; Dressing for Success; You and Your Client. Source: NZ Herald.

            Pride and Embarrassment. I’m sure you’ve read Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice, probably at school. Her book has been in publication for over 200 years and been retold in numerous films. But in today’s cut throat publishing world filled with piranhas, sorry literary agents – would Austen get published in a Potter-mad world? An enterprising Austen enthusiast made only minor changes and sent off opening chapters and plot synopses to 18 of the UK’s largest publishers and agents. Guess what? All 18 turned down Austen’s work with a resounding “no thanks”. What’s really curious to me is that only one of the 18 recognised Austen’s work. Hello? Austen’s book was retitled to First Impressions but the opening line remained the same: “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife“. Source: Guardian Unlimited.

            Leave the iPod at home. I have a sleek black iPod for when I’m out and about exercising. I occasionally jog (I’m more a treadmill hamster) but news from Canada has caused me to rethink. Apparently, iPods, jogging and lightning is one electrifying mix. A 37-year old jogger decided to brave a thunderstorm and jog whilst listening to his iPod. Alas, lightning struck a near-by tree and directly traced a path through the metal in the jogger’s earphones, burning his chest, neck and face. It must have been one heck of an explosive trip – the poor chap’s eardrums were ruptured and the bones in his middle ear were dislocated. Not to mention his jaw broke in four places. This brave dude still jogs but he leaves the iPod at home. Smart. Source: Reuters.

            Rethink that trip to the Congolese jungle. I remember studying H. Rider Haggard novels at University and thinking how the steamy, impenetrable African jungle must be full of undiscovered animals and fierce, exotic tribes. Okay, long time ago; but seems I might not have been that wrong. Did you know that deep in the Congolese jungle are some chimps, giant ones at that, who kill lions, catch fish and howl at the moon? Yep, this fact eluded me too. Seems local lore speaks of a hybrid creature: a chimp gorilla, which has remained hidden to scientists due to the civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Some intrepid scientists have managed to push through the region and croc-infested waters and discovered not a hybrid but unique, super-sized chimps who love a bit of cat-flesh. They are called the Bill Apes (named after a near-by town – I reckon a better name could be found for these chimps. If they’re super-sized, maybe McChimps?!). They’re obviously pretty fierce as they sleep in nests on the ground and are not afraid of encountering a leopard, buffalo or elephant. These chimps like to smash things around, such as hard-shelled fruits and snails, and use sticks up to 2.5 metres long to catch fish. Not sure why they are said to howl at the moon. Think I’ll take the Congolese jungle off my list of “Must Visit” holiday spots! Source: Guardian Unlimited.

            August 11, 2007 at 3:00 am Leave a comment

            If this cat jumps on your bed…

            Photo credit The AgeCame across this great story from The Age. We’ve all heard of pets as a therapeutic modality – helping to soothe and improve the well-being of the sick, the elderly or the injured. But I’m not too sure about Oscar. Seems Oscar is a very special feline. He spends his time around sick people but he’s more like the grim reaper of the cat world because if Oscar jumps on a person’s bed and fastidiously licks his paws, seems that person’s number is up.

            Oscar has an uncanny instinct for death and “attends” deaths. Apparently, Oscar is insistent on attending deaths (what’s in this cat’s chow I wonder?). Oscar works in the dementia unit at the Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Centre in Providence, Rhode Island. As dementia patients enter their final hours, Oscar waltzes through the door and jumps on the sick bed. He’s not interested in making an entrance if the patient has days or weeks left – only if death is near.

            Now, if you’re about to check out of this world, the sight of a “Cat of Death” might just hasten your exit if you ask me. Animal behaviourists can’t explain Oscar’s predilection for hovering around death scenes but suspect he might be attuned to a subtle change in a patient’s metabolism. Oscar jumps on the bed, preens himself and settles in, which medical staff take as their cue to quickly summon relatives to bid farewell to their loved one.

            With the state of the health system these days, medicos might want to study this cat. As one doctor quipped: “His instincts that a patient is about to die are often more acute than the instincts of medical professionals.” Oscar puts on a good show – he’s part of a scene that includes subtle lighting, aromatherapy oils and soft music. Guess if you gotta go, there could be worse ways to snuff it.

            Humans and animals can have very close and empathetic relationships, so I’m not surprised by Oscar’s uncanny abilities. I just don’t want him leaping onto my bed anytime too soon! Seems the Steere Centre, which was founded in 1874 and currently has 120 patients, is quite a special place – animal residents include six cats, some parakeets and a floppy-eared rabbit. No word on what it might mean for a patient should the rabbit show up or a parakeet fly by.

            As Baby Boomers shuffle off to retirement and start to fill up nursing homes, animals hopefully will play a bigger role in comforting the sick and elderly. As someone who has recently spent the last few months visiting a family member in an elderly care facility, I can tell you these facilities need all the help they can get. We need to bring more humanity, dignity and gentleness to caring for the elderly. So Oscar might spook some people, but I think he’s a pretty spesh cat. I’ve pinched the photo of Oscar from The Age. Is it just me or are Oscar’s eyes mesmerizing? mmmm….better stop looking at this cat’s photo!

            UPDATE: 3/1/2010 seems that Oscar is pretty accurate. US scientist, David Dosa, was sceptical when first told that Oscar snuggles up to patients in their final hours. But he’s tracked Oscar’s success rate over 5 years and it seems the feline made 50 correct calls during this time. Oscar is even included in newspaper death notices and eulogies. Dr Dosa has released a book,  Making Rounds With Oscar: The Extraordinary Gift of an Ordinary Cat, in which he theorises that Oscar can smell odours given off by dying cells (this is like the recent news of dogs sniffing out cancer).

            August 6, 2007 at 3:00 am Leave a comment

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