Parlor Spider...Step In, Little Fly

Insightful thoughts and/or rants from atop the soapbox from one who wishes to share the "right" opinion with everyone.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Back To School Without Rodney

I loved Rodney Dangerfield in  "Back to School." Mixing generations has always provided some funny things. I tell every student that I teach or tutor that he or she should always sit next to the oldest person in the room that is not the teacher. "Returning" students actually care about learning something and have probably worked hard to earn the money they've paid in tuition. Still, younger students tend to shy away.
Yesterday, I had the opportunity to sit in a college class and take notes for some of my students who were on a road trip, and I must say, I resembled the older student to which I just referred: I sat in the front row and took copious notes; I laughed at all the appropriate places and even some that were a bit sketchy; I asked and answered questions, and, in general, tried to learn something.
Not so the student next to me who, despite also sitting in the front row, continued to text throughout the lecture, never once doing anything more than taking notes here and there. Granted, in a class of 200, the teacher probably looks over the first few rows to address the middle of the room, but still...
With 10 minutes remaining, the student next to me began grabbing, then filling her backpack just to make sure she was ready to sprint out the door at the earliest possible moment. I have to admit that, as a teacher, I absolutely hate it when students shut down before class is over and simply prepare to leave. They resemble factory workers who sit in the break room for 10 minutes waiting to punch out. Maybe the mind set is the same.
All I know is that it irritated me to see someone in the front row by choice act as if the class was an inconvenience to her more important life.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Looks Like Dinner To Me

It must almost resemble one of the "B" grade movies that were so numerous during the 60's. Imagine 40 million of ANYTHING, let alone that number of things crawling along with wicked looking pincers! This is the time of the annual migration of red crabs on Christmas Island, Australia. When the first heavy rains begin to fall in October, November or December, the crabs decide it's time to migrate.
The males take off first to make the beach reservations, which they do by digging shelters int he beach near the Indian Ocean. The females arrive 5-7 days later and wait until the tides are just right to lay the eggs that will become even more crabs (and food for other species, one would imagine).
At any rate, the crabs live in the inner wetland forests during the rest of the year prior to the annual pilgrimage to find prospective mates and lay the fertile groundwork for future generations. Lest you think this is an ordinary feat, these crabs, some as big as 11 cm (4-5 inches), have to travel as much as 9 km (about 5 miles) in order to reach the destination...before having to fight off other male crabs to secure the beach location with the best view (I guess). Their trek crosses roads, highways and other manmade structures so you can imagine the attrition rate might be higher than one would like.I can only imagine the Red Lobster folks out there with nets and crates.
Dinner. But then, with 40 million, who's going to miss a few thousand?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Speed On the Decline

It often puzzles me why some research gets done before curing the common cold or why researchers go to great lengths to tell us what we could have easily surmised; sometimes, though, there is an unique take on the situation with relevant scientific data to make it believable. So it is today when the American Heart association posits that children 30 years ago could run faster than the kids today can.
Now that's an interesting perspective. According to the research done over 46 years on 25 million kids from 28 countries (how's THAT for thoroughness on a longitudinal study?), cardiovascular fitness decreases about 5% each decade, meaning that today's youngsters are 30% less fit than their older counterparts. The decrease is due, researchers feel, to an increase in fat mass across all kids and countries. That part I could have guessed. Obesity is nearly worldwide in its reach.
The interesting part to me is that kids today, according to researchers, are 90 seconds slower in running a mile than their counterparts were 30 years ago. Amazing. Of course, there are many reasons other than body fat for the slowness of today's young people. Motivation to run a whole mile as fast as you can? not so much. Being asked to run without an MP3 player? criminal! Actually breaking a sweat? maybe not. Physical education being restricted to a couple of times a week or one semester in three years? Now THERE'S a culprit I can put the cuffs on!
All in all, though, now that the wild animals have mostly been eradicated from the free ranges, maybe running fast isn't all that important.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

At least It Wasn't "Schmeat."

The English language is an incredibly complex thing...mostly because we seem to mangle it at every turn. "bag" and "sack" are the same thing? "Bubbler" and "water fountain" are the same things? Who knew. and so it goes. Every year, the dictionaries get bigger and more connected to  popular culture. Even made-up words finally get their moment in the sun as the Oxford Online Dictionary chooses a "Word of the Year." this year, the finalists were words like "twerk," "showrooming," "bitcoin," "schmeat," and "selfie." The first one is obvious. The second means to check a product out in the store before buying it online...I do this all the time."Bitcoin" is a money transaction without real money, and "schmeat" is, well, you don't want to know, but it involves putting something in real meat to make it seem MORE like real meat.
Our winner this year is "selfie" for obvious reasons. I mean if the Pope's selfie goes viral, you know everybody in the world is doing it.
Not a new word, exactly, "selfie" was first used in 2002 in an Australian online forum (how do people know this stuff?). The frequency of its use has increased by 17,000% in the last year...mostly by Kim Kardashian, I suspect...or Anthony Weiner.
Anyway, showing some semblance of  decorum, the Oxford folks have not yet decided that the word deserves a place in the Oxford English Dictionary so for now, it will reside only in the online version.
Seems appropriate.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

One Dollar Habit: Crushed

Heroin, cocaine, tobacco, alcohol...the list of addictive substances goes on and on. There's a support group for every possible addiction, including food and sex. There is not, to my knowledge, and step program or support group for Candy Crush...the popularly addictive online game.
More than 30% of the 1,000 players surveyed indicated that they were "addicted." More than 30% of those questioned indicated they had ignored family or friends in order to play; 28% of them indicated that they had played at work, and another 10% even admitted to having heated arguments with significant others concerning the amount of time spent playing.
With more than 150 billion plays recorded in the last year, many of them are repeated plays, I suspect. That's the catch. In this game, a player gets 5 "lives," but after that number, a player can either pay $.99 to continue playing or wait a half hour before replaying...and people apparently cannot wait: the game takes in a reported $875,000. PER DAY! The most popular game heretofore has been Angry Birds, which averaged just over $6,000. per day.
The programmers continue to add levels just to keep players interested: there are 544 levels, and it would seem impossible that someone could get so close to the end without paying something!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Spy, In the Bathtub, With a Sports Bag

Historical fiction is probably my favorite genre of reading material, especially since I've gone through most of the pulps of the 30s and 40s. I just finished a book detailing how the Prime Minister of Iran tried to sacrifice his country in order to unite the Muslims against the Great Satan...and get all those virgins for himself in the process? Nope, he was going to be hiding deep underground in a nuclear bomb-proof bunker.
As far-fetched as this sounds, it pales in comparison to what the British government just came up with three years after the death of one of its M-16 agents. Gareth Williams was basically an eavesdropper for the sleuthing agency analogous, I think, to the CIA. At any rate, in August of 2010, his naked body was found at his the bathtub...stuffed inside a locked sports bag. Recently, after reviewing all the evidence, it has been put forward that Williams died accidentally...having locked himself inside his own sports bag.
By the time he was missed by his associate spooks, he had been dead a week. Still, there was none of his DNA found on the padlock, and no handprints were in evidence on the rim of the tub. Forensics experts estimate that he would have suffocated inside the bag within three minutes after e zipped it shut and placed the padlock on to secure the closure. For the record, there was no photo of the bag...I just presumed there was a zipper. There WAS, however, a padlock to secure the closure.
an accident. sure. I cannot wait for the movie to come out!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

It's All In Your Head...or Not

I have a program on my phone that measures my walking/running/cycling speed and mph as well as distance travelled. While it's not of special importance to me now that I am not actively racing, it is interesting that I get messages like," That was a great workout. You have earned a shower!" My wife often gets messages that imply she's faster when walking with friends. I think these are all a bit much, but recent research seems to indicate that fatigue might be as much in the mind as it is in the muscle tissue.
Recently released in Medicine in Sports and Exercise, research measured he importance of  consistent and systematic self-talk in avoiding fatigue. Participants in two groups were asked to pedal a stationary bike at 80% of their max until completely exhausted while all the pertinent body functions were monitored. Having established baselines for each participant, researchers then taught half od the group how to use positive self-talk when they felt like fatigue was overtaking them. Phrases like "feeling good" or "doing well" became part of the self-talk routine while participants were reaching a point of stopping. results showed that the positive self-talk actually increased all participants' ability to push beyond past physical limits, adding more fuel to the fire that says fatigue is not merely muscular: the brain has a lot to do with it. I agree.
The brain is what keeps most people on the couch, too.

Friday, November 08, 2013

Unwritten Rules in Sports

I find it fascinating that, amid all the hubbub surrounding the Incognito/Martin fracas with regard to bullying and manly behavior, the one idea that kept resurfacing was that this was somehow normal...that all teams do this kind of thing. Of course, that appalls anyone in the "normal" world: a world in which taunting and foul language directed at someone else is a call for disciplinary action.
When an adolescent kills himself or herself as a result of relentless harassment, people are shocked, and the perpetrators are brought to stand trial in the court of public opinion, if not the judicial kind of court.
However, in this case, a different set of rules apply. In such a situation, the "N" word might be appropriate, and heaven forbid we try to regulate the use of, um, salty language among a group of alpha male-type people. Team sports have, for better or worse, always required some sort of admission right...just like fraternities and sororities are noted to have. Once a person is "in," then the hazing stops. No more, "Please, sir, may I have another?" degradation.
In football, more so than in any other team activity, the manly ideal would involve taking one's "punishment" for the requisite time then being allowed to dish it out to the next group of rookies to come in. If one doesn't like it, well, football is a physical game: man up and get physical with the tormentor. Walking away and "tattling" is seen as unbecoming. Laugh the whole thing off? perhaps...but I suspect one can do so only so long.
My take is that team sports, especially when played by "adults," has its own unwritten rules that the rest of us do not understand. Not everyone is suited for such games. The rules will not change, but maybe people will.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

It's A Sad, Sad World Apparently

Orange is bad, blue is less bad, and yellow isn't too troublesome. As you can see, living anywhere near Russia or Northern Africa is not good. China and, for some reason, Australia seem to be on the verge. It would be easy to understand this in Mexico, but Australia? HMMM.Why? Your chances of being afflicted with clinical depression are quite high in those areas.
Clinical depression: overwhelming feelings of sadness and hopelessness that appear nearly every day, all day for two weeks has become the number two disability of the world's population. Number two, second only to lower respiratory infections. These are the conditions that practically paralyze almost 5% of the world's population.
A recent study found that most affected were working-age adults, and women were more affected than men: 5.5% to 3.2%
Remember, tese conditions cause a disability, not death. In a way, that must be even more painful.
Someone told me today that "the signs are there" with regard to crumbling civilization.
Reference the Who's "My Generation": I hope I die before I get old.