Random Posts

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Declawing Cats

     If you have a cat you know they like to claw and having them claw at expensive furniture is frustrating and trying methods to get them to stop can be an exercise in futility. Declawing seems like an easy answer, but it's not. 
     Most mammals walk on the soles of the paws or feet, but cats walk on their toes. Their back, shoulder, paw and leg joints, muscles, tendons, ligaments and nerves are designed to support and distribute the cat's weight across its toes as it walks, runs and climbs. A cat's claws are used for balance, for exercising, and for stretching the muscles in their legs, back, shoulders, and paws. They stretch these muscles by digging their claws into a surface and pulling back...sort of like humans do when doing isometric exercises. 
     A cat's toes also help the foot meet the ground at the correct angle to keep the leg, shoulder and back muscles and joints in proper alignment. So, when a cat is declawed it drastically alters their feet and causes them to meet the ground at an unnatural angle. This can actually cause back pain in the cat. 
     Many veterinarians mislead cat owners into believing that declawing removes only the claws and leave the impression that declawing is only minor surgery. It's not! A cat's claw is not a toenail! It's the last bone of its toe and declawing is an amputation of the last joint of the cat's toes. My vet refuses to do it on any but newborn kittens. 
     It is painful for the cat and the recovery period will also be very painful for it. After surgery they have to have to use their feet to walk, jump, and scratch in the litter box regardless of their pain. 
     Besides pain, complications are relatively high and can include damage to the radial nerve, hemorrhage, bone chips that prevent healing, painful regrowth of deformed claw inside of the paw which is not visible and chronic back and joint pain as shoulder, leg and back muscles weaken. Other complications include postoperative hemorrhage, lameness due to wound infection or footpad laceration, exposure necrosis of the second phalanx, and abscess associated with retention of portions of the third phalanx. Abnormal growth of severed nerve ends can also occur, causing long-term, painful sensations in the toes.
     Declawing is mostly an American thing. In England it is considered inhumane and unnecessary mutilation and in many European countries it is illegal.  For countries where declawing is illegal see this list.
     Oddly, a cat that has been declawed may not show any signs of pain, but they do. We may not be aware of it because of the cat's instinctive behavior. They instinctively know that they are in a weakened position and are therefore in danger. So, what do they do? They instinctively attempt to hide it their condition. Also, some people have claimed their cat's personality changed after being declawed. 
     For our cat, Millie, repellent sprays don't seem to work and other methods have not produced satisfactory results. The one thing that worked the best is a product called Soft Paws.  These are soft rubber caps that you glue onto the cats front toenails. Sounds stupid, I know, but they work! 
     An important word of warning! The caps come with a small tube of super glue with which to glue them onto the toenails. Extreme care must be made to assure that you do not use too much glue! Too much will cause the glue to ooze out of the cap and glue it to the cat's foot. Or, too much glue will mean that as the nail grows out and the cat attempts to pull off the cap and nail, it will be unable to do so and there is a good possibility that as the nail continues to grow, it will curve backwards into the cat's foot. This is not only painful to the cat, but trying to remove the capped nail will be very, very difficult.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Microsoft Mathematics

     This free program provides a set of mathematical tools that will help students get school work done quickly and easily. With Microsoft Mathematics, students learn to solve equations step-by-step while gaining a better understanding of fundamental concepts in pre-algebra, algebra, trigonometry, physics, chemistry, and calculus. It's also a handy tool if you do any of this kind of work in the course of your employment.

     It includes a full-featured graphing calculator that’s designed to work just like a handheld calculator plus math tools help evaluate triangles, convert from one system of units to another, and solve systems of equation. 
     One of the unique features is the equation solver tool which helps solve equations with a single click. The formulas and equations tool lets you choose a specific category of equations you want to solve: Algebra, Geometry, Trigonometry, Physics, Chemistry, Laws of Exponents, Properties of Logarithms, Constants. 
     There is a triangle solver tool which helps to calculate sides and angles of any triangle. The Unit Converter allows you to easily covert units for example in the engineering or physics fields. 
     In addition you can also download and install a free Microsoft Mathematics plugin, that allows you do a lot of the cool Microsoft Mathematics stuff inside your Word documents or OneNote notebooks. Once installed you will find a Mathematics tab in the ribbon of Microsoft Word or Microsoft OneNote. Download direct from Microsoft.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Dogs Bust a Grumpy Facing North

    Dogs do some weird and amazing things, but one habit researchers have discovered is that dogs, who can sense the Earth's magnetic field, prefer to poop while aligned with the north-south axis of the Earth's magnetic field. 
     That's the conclusion of an exhaustive study conducted by a team of German and Czech researchers led by a zoologist from Germany’s University of Duisburg-Essen. The team spent two years watching 70 dogs while they defecated and urinated thousands of times then compared the dogs' behavior and orientation with the geomagnetic conditions prevailing at the time. 
     But they do it only when the magnetic field is calm. Magnetoreception (also Magnetoception) is a sense which allows an organism to detect a magnetic field to perceive direction, altitude or location. A lot of animals have it and use it for navigation. It is present in bacteria, arthropods, molluscs and members of some vertebrates, but not humans although there is a chemical in the eye which could serve this function. 
     It is believed that red foxes use magnetoreception when hunting small rodents. When foxes perform their high-jumps onto small prey like mice and voles, they tend to jump in a north-eastern direction with successful attacks most generally facing north. 
     Resting and grazing cattle, as well as some deer, tend to align their body axes in the geomagnetic north-south direction. Body orientation on observed animals was random on pastures under or near power lines which apparently disturbs their inner compass. 
     That's why the scientists conducted their dog poop study; they were investigating magnetoreception in mammals. It's not clear what else dogs might use their magnetic sense for. 
     They studied 70 dogs from different breeds as they (they dogs) relieved themselves. At first there was no clear pattern of dogs preferring any particular orientation, but when they (the researchers) took into account the natural variations of Earth’s magnetic field and factors like the time of the day, the position of the sun, and wind direction, the secret was revealed. Dogs prefer alignment along the magnetic north-south axis, but only in periods of calm magnetic field conditions. 
     I guess this information could be of practical value to people lost in the woods with their dog. Instead of finding north by looking for moss on the north side of a tree, just watch your dog. 
     The idea that moss grows on the north side of trees is an old one and makes some sense. The north side gets less sunlight so it tends to be cooler, damper and have more shade which are good conditions for moss. But, as for it growing on the north side of trees, it depends on where you live. If you live in the southern hemisphere, it tends to grow on the south side. Even then, it's not always so simple because lots of things can create the shady conditions that moss prefers. 
     The most reliable method of knowing which way is north is to use a compass. But then which north? Magnetic or true? What if you're using a compass in the Southern Hemisphere?

Poodwaddle and Mother Nature Network - Two Must Visit Sites

     Poodwaddle is an entertaining site to visit that's filled with esoteric stats. It's the home of the World Clock, Life Clock, and many more time related apps and articles. I took the How Long Will You Live Test and hope it's right! My health and lifestyle indicate that should live to 92.1 years. People living in my region average 78.2 years. Here is a scary fact: if I lived in one of the African nations I only have a little over three years left. According to the "test" my age is equivalent to a younger person, called the "real" age, meaning that my health and other issues indicate my age is equal to a person about 6 years younger. If you take the test it is helpful to know your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels. 
    Mother Nature Network has Earth matters, health, lifestyle, technical stuff, money, food and drink, home, family, a ton of stuff to keep you informed and entertained.  For example, did you know a dog's nose has about 220 million scent receptors (compared to our 5 million), so they can detect some odors in parts per trillion, and countless subtleties in scents which enables them to sniff out certain diseases?

Monday, June 27, 2016

Cool Weather Sites

     Every day over a billion people worldwide rely on AccuWeather with global headquarters in State College, Pennsylvania. AccuWeather provides hourly and even minute by minute forecasts for any longitude/latitude on Earth with customized content and video presentations available on smart phones, tablets, free wired and mobile Internet sites, connected TVs, and Internet appliances, as well as via radio, television, and newspapers.
     Below is a radar view of my area from about 8:30pm last night:

     That red cluster in the middle was accompanied by a severe thunderstorm warning and Doppler radar showed it heading straight for us. The following showed when it would arrive: 
     Fortunately this cluster weakened before it reached my location and we ended up with only light rains showers. 
     Another interesting site is Webcam Galore which gives you access to webcams from all around the world.
     Here is a webcam view at 8:45pm during the thunderstorm as it was occurring in a city about 70 miles away.
     If you have any interest in weather then these two sites are invaluable. 

How to Predict the Weather using Clouds - Clouds are one of the most reliable predictors of weather. There are 10 types of clouds that you should be able to recognize, but if you get their names confused, just remember that the higher the clouds, the better the weather will be.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The Human Papillomavirus (HPV)

     ...aka warts are benign (not cancerous) skin growths that appear when a virus, there are over 150 of them, infects the top layer of the skin. You are more likely to get one of these viruses if you cut or damage your skin in some way and did you know wart viruses are contagious? Warts can spread by contact with the wart or something that touched the wart. 
     Warts come in a variety of colors ( they are usually skin-colored, but can be brown or gray-black), shapes and sizes. Body warts, hand warts, foot warts, finger warts, internal genital warts, external genital warts, anal warts. You can get warts anywhere and once you have the wart virus, you can never get rid of it; it lives in your DNA. All you can do is treat them. 
     You've got your plantar warts on the soles of the feet which usually appear as flesh-colored or light brown lumps that are flecked with small clotted blood vessels that appear as tiny black dots. These boogers are highly painful! 
     Then there are the nasty genital warts which can appear in the pubic area, on the genitals, in or around the anus, and/or in the vagina. They look like small flesh-colored, pink, or red growths...similar to the small parts of a cauliflower or they may be very tiny and difficult to see. They often appear in clusters of three or four, and may grow and spread rapidly. They usually are not painful, although they may cause mild pain, bleeding, and itching. 
     The genital wart variety is specific to the genital area and can't spread to other parts of the body. The genital wart virus can lie dormant in your system for years before it is triggered by stress, immune system deficiencies, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, life style changes and more. In fact, many people are unaware of the fact that they have HPV. Many men may have outbreaks on their penis and be unaware of them because they can be very small and hidden. Women may have internal genital warts, which may cause cervical cancer, and be unaware of them. Only 10 percent of genital warts are visible. HPV infection is the most common sexually transmitted disease in North America and certain forms of the virus can cause cervical cancer. These warts should be seen by a doctor! 
     There is the flat wart which is more common in teens and children than in adults. These warts are smoother, flatter, and smaller than other warts and they generally occur on the face, but can also can appear on the legs, especially among females. 
     Usually  basic wart is harmless and can disappear without treatment, but if you have one you probably won't want to wait for that to happen because they are aggravating and...ugly!
     They can be treated, but most methods require multiple treatments. Treatments, beside over the counter medications, may include:

Freezing using liquid nitrogen. A blister forms around the wart and the dead tissue falls off within about a week. 
Cantharidin is an extract of a blister beetle and applied to the skin, forms a blister around the wart which lifts the wart off the skin so the doctor can remove the dead portion. Other medications may be injected into a wart to kill the virus. 
Surgery is sometimes used to cut away the wart. The base of the wart is then destroyed using an electric needle or by deep freezing. Also, sometimes lasers are used to burn and destroy wart tissue. 

     If you have a wart be aware that it can spread. To prevent spreading don't pick at it! Also, try and your keep hands as dry as possible because warts like moist environments. You should never brush, comb, or shave areas where warts are present as this can cause the virus to spread. Wash hands thoroughly after touching any warts. 
     Here's a fact for you. There is something called Canine Oral Papilloma Virus...dog warts, meaning dogs get them in their mouth. While they are usually not something to worry about because they usually stop growing and disappear on their own between 1 and 5 months.
     They usually appear in the mouth, but can also appear on the nose, eyes or occasionally to other parts of the body. They are only dangerous if they begin to appear in the dog's throat. If a dog gets these warts it means it has a weakened immune system, so puppies. older dogs and dogs that are being treated with immunosuppressive medications like steroids are likely candidates. The virus is spread by direct contact with other dogs, toys and even humans if they have been in contact with a dog that carries the virus. 
     But enough of dog warts.  For anybody that has a routine wart (often called a seed wart)...on the hand or finger, for example, here is a little secret to getting rid of them that actually works. Don't try it on plantar or genital warts...see a doctor! 
     Use apple cider vinegar. Do the following every night before going to bed. 

1) wash the part of your body that has warts 
2) soak a cotton ball with vinegar 
3) place the cotton ball on the wart. Note avoid soaking the area of skin surrounding the wart because it can cause a chemical burn to the healthy tissue. For that reason, it may be necessary to use only a portion of the cotton ball. 
4) place a bandage over the cotton balls to keep it in place. 
5) Repeat this process until you start to see that your warts are turning black. 
6) Even after the wart falls off continue treatment for a few days to ensure that the virus will not come back. This process may take a week or so, but it does work and it works better that a lot of commercial products.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Light Pollution

     From CNET...for a third of humanity, it's obscured by fog of light, caused by the artificial illumination used at night in towns and cities. And for Americans, it's even worse: Around 80 percent of the country can't see the Milky Way at night. "We've got whole generations of people in the United States who have never seen the Milky Way," said Chris Elvidge, a scientist with NOAA's National Centers for Environmental, who co-authored an update of a global atlas of light published in the journal Science Advances. "It's a big part of our connection to the cosmos -- and it's been lost." They discovered that it's most prevalent in Singapore, Italy and South Korea, while Canada and Australia are the darkest (although it's worth noting that most of Australia's population is concentrated around its edges). You can play with an interactive map to find out how heavily your home is light polluted HERE.
     Less than 100 years ago everyone could look up and see the Milky Way, but now increased and widespread use of artificial light is impairing our view of the sky, adversely affecting the environment, causing safety issues and affecting energy consumption and even health. The inappropriate or excessive use of artificial light can have serious environmental consequences for humans, wildlife, and the climate. Types of pollution:

Glare – excessive brightness that causes visual discomfort 
Skyglow – brightening of the night sky over inhabited areas Light trespass – light falling where it is not intended or needed 
Clutter – bright, confusing and excessive groupings of light sources 

   Light pollution is a side effect of our civilization. Sources include building, both exterior and interior lighting, advertising, commercial properties, offices, factories, streetlights, and illuminated sporting venues. Much outdoor night lighting is inefficient, too bright, poorly targeted, improperly shielded and, in many cases, unnecessary. Both the light and the electricity is wasted by spilling it into the sky, rather than focusing it on what is intended to be illuminated. Artificial lights overpower the darkness causing cities glow at night which disrupts the natural day-night pattern and shifting the balance of the environment. 
     The negative effects of the loss is very real. It leads to:

Increased energy consumption
Disrupting the ecosystem and wildlife
Harms human health
It has an effect crime and safety

    There is evidence that artificial light can alter physiology, including hormonal balance, as well as behavior, orientation, organism fitness, food web interactions, and biotope connectivity. The artificial disturbance of the natural day/night cycle may, as a result, have serious psycho-physiological and even medical consequences for humans, along with ecological and evolutionary implications for animals, plants, and even entire terrestrial, freshwater, and marine ecosystems.
    Street lighting has been blamed for up to 50 percent of the urban sky glow due to 95 percent of the light directed down toward the pavement being reflected upward at reflectance rates ranging from 6 percent for asphalt to 25 percent for concrete. Urban sky glow has been reported to be increasing around 30 percent annually in some American cities
     Long-term exposure to artificial lights can prevent trees from adjusting to seasonal changes, which has an impact on wildlife that depend on trees for food or shelter.  Artificial lights also have a devastating impact on birds. There are over 200 bird species that follow nocturnal migratory patterns across North America, but the sky is lined with communication towers and skyscrapers. Lights confuse the birds and cause them to crash into buildings. Seriously! It's estimated that the New York City skyline kills 10,000 birds per year and one billion die from collisions across North America alone. 
     Even turtles are impacted by artificial lights. Some sea turtle hatchlings born at night follow the moon’s reflection on the water to find the ocean, but now big cities along coastlines confuse them and they head inland by mistake. 
     How bad is light pollution, really? Los Angeles experienced a full blackout in 1994 and people reported a strange, silvery cloud over the city; they were seeing the Milky Way for the first time. 

5 Appalling Facts about Light Pollution

Monday, June 13, 2016

The Earth's Amazing Oceans

The Ocean is DEEP! This graphic can be seen HERE and it's impressive. 

Oceans and sharks
15 Fun and Surprising Facts about the Earth’s Oceans 
Ocean Facts - 26 slides
Interesting Ocean Facts 
The Earth's Amazing Oceans
National Ocean Service

What is the highest point on Earth as measured from Earth's center? Mount Everest is usually said to be the highest mountain on Earth, 29,029 feet at its summit, but that is the highest point above global mean sea level. The summit of Mt. Everest is not the farthest point from Earth’s center; it is the peak of Ecuador’s Mount Chimborazo, located just one degree south of the Equator where Earth’s bulge is greatest. Mauna Kea, a volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii originates deep beneath the Pacific Ocean and rises more than 33,500 feet from base to peak making it the highest mountain on earth. See article.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Does Lightning Kill Fish?

     That's "lightning," not "lightening." Lightning is an abrupt electric discharge from cloud to cloud or from cloud to earth accompanied by the emission of light, while lightening is the process of making something lighter, or medically speaking, it refers to the sensation that a pregnant woman feels when the baby drops. 
     While lightning is one of the most beautiful displays in nature, it's also one of the most deadly natural phenomena known to man. Lightning is a sudden electrostatic discharge during an electrical storm between electrically charged regions of a cloud (called intra-cloud lightning), between that cloud and another cloud, or between a cloud and the ground. 

     All thunderstorms produce lightning and are very dangerous. If you hear the sound of thunder, then you are in danger from lightning. Lightning kills and injures more people each year than hurricanes or tornadoes; between 75 to 100 people. 
     Lightning is an electric current. Within a thundercloud many small bits of ice (frozen raindrops) bump into each other as they move around in the air. All of those collisions create an electric charge. After a while, the whole cloud fills up with electrical charges. The positive charges or protons form at the top of the cloud and the negative charges or electrons form at the bottom of the cloud. Since opposites attract, that causes a positive charge to build up on the ground beneath the cloud. The ground's electrical charge concentrates around anything that sticks up, such as mountains, people, or single trees. The charge coming up from these points eventually connects with a charge reaching down from the clouds and lightning strikes! For complete details on lightning see the excellent article on How Stuff Works.

Does Lightning Kill Fishes or Other Marine Creatures? 
6 Weird Facts About Lightning Strikes 
Unusual Lightning Facts
Where Lightning Strikes More Than Twice 
What Happens When You Get Struck by Lightning? 
11 crazy facts about getting struck by lightning (and how to avoid it)

Ball Lightning - This type is rare. I have seen it once. When I was elementary school there was a thunderstorm and a ball passed through the window and exploded in a puff of smoke in the classroom. My dad also reported seeing it once when he was working on the railroad. A ball about the size of a basketball bounced down the track for some distance before it finally exploded. Yes, it DOES exist!

Monday, June 6, 2016

What's the Easternmost Point in the United States?

     If you said West Quoddy Head, Maine, you'd be wrong. Or, would you? It all depends on where you are measuring from
     The geographic center of United States, including Alaska and Hawaii, lies west of Castle Rock, South Dakota at 44°58' latitude and 103°46' West longitude. Castle Rock lies in the middle of nowhere in western South Dakota.  However, if measured from the prime meridian in Greenwich, England, then Cape Wrangell on Attu Island, Alaska, would be the easternmost point. 
Castle Rock, South Dakota

 Cape Wrangell is considered to be the westernmost point of Alaska and all of the United States by direction of travel. It is located on Attu Island.  But, because it sits west of the 180th meridian it can also be viewed as the easternmost point of the United States. Cape Wrangell is not to be confused with the CITY of Wrangell which is located in the Alaska Panhandle; it's located on the island of Attu which has a pretty interesting history. 
Cape Wrangell
     Attu is the largest island in the Near Islands group of the Aleutian Islands of Alaska; it became uninhabited in 2010. Attu was the site of the only World War II land battle fought on an incorporated territory of the United States (see the Battle of Attu) and its battlefield area is a U.S. National Historic Landmark. 
     Attu Station was a former Coast Guard LORAN station. The facility was closed on August 27, 2010,but the airfield remains available for emergency use. The station was established as Naval Air Facility on June 7, 1943, just seven days after Attu Island was declared secured.
     Attu Island probably is not a place you would want to visit. The weather on Attu is typically cloudy, rainy, and foggy. High winds occur occasionally. Five or six days a week are likely to be rainy, and there are only about eight or ten clear days a year. The rest of the time, even if rain is not falling, fog of varying density is the rule rather than the exception. There are 39–49 inches of annual rainfall and other precipitation with the heaviest rains in the autumn and early winter.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Spelling and Grammar Checkers

     I saw a Facebook post the other day where you could download Grammerly that read: Sick of making grammatical and spelling mistakes? Perfect writing is a click away! There was also a download button, but I have an aversion to clicking on anything on Facebook.
     The question is, how good are available spelling and grammar checkers, really? Even if they aren't all THAT great, I wish more Facebook posters would type their stuff in Word and spell check it then copy and paste it into the post. Hastily typing something usually results in spelling and grammatical errors to be sure, but I am convinced many of my friends just can't spell or write proper English. That does NOT mean they are stupid or anything, but all the spelling and grammatical mistake make them LOOK that way. 
     Running spell check is very important, but it is not a foolproof means of making sure your documents are error free. It will let you know if there is a group of letters that doesn’t actually spell anything, but it won’t let you know if you have used the wrong word. So, it's a good idea to proofread your work yourself rather than rely completely on spell check. Also, if it is an important business document, it's a good idea to have someone else proofread it! Don’t take a chance on making a careless mistake just because you won’t take the time to proofread what you wrote.  It's easy to miss your own mistakes.
     I found a site that tested some of the "free" checkers with a block of text containing eight different errors and here is what they found. 

This one claims to be the "World’s Most Accurate Grammar Checker." It promises to identify over 150 text errors, offer synonym suggestions and to check for plagiarism. It's free to get your text checked, but the hook is you need to sign up for a seven day trial to see the details of the problem. You can pay $19.95 a month, $13.32 per month for a quarterly subscription or $7.95 per month for a yearly subscription...that's almost a hundred dollars for a year! In the test Grammarly found three spelling errors plus two other issues where it made suggestions for changing the wording of the text which actually was OK as written. Score: 3 out of 8 

It claims to be a do-it-all grammar and spellchecker. It can be downloaded and it's supposed to add proofreading functionality to Microsoft Word, Outlook, Powerpoint, Internet Explorer and Firefox. A small control bar appears whenever you’re actually using one of the applicationa. By clicking on the control bar it will check for any any spelling errors or grammatical errors and suggest corrections. It has a "hook", too. You can test a 600-character demo for free but the premium version costs $198, $132 for spelling and grammar correction only or you can subscribe for about $20 a month. The premium version also claims to have a text-to-speech function that enables you to hear your text read aloud in a digital voice. It also has a "learning" feature (you learn, not the software) that acts like a tutor to teach you not to make mistakes. Score: 3 out of 8 

Microsoft Word 
How did this one do? Score: 4 out of 8 

After The Deadline 
This one can be used with bbPress, Confluence and OpenOffice and linked to Firefox or Google Chrome browser and you can access it via a WordPress plugin. It also allows you to cut-and-paste the copy into a web page. That's with the download version. There is also an online version, but in the test, it only found one spelling error and didn’t spot any of the grammatical mistakes. When it was tested using the WordPress plugin it did better...it found all the misspelled words. Score: 4 out of 8 

A knowledgeable human using care is still the best, but while these tools can be useful for checking spelling and grammar thus preventing you from embarrassing yourself, Microsoft Word's (or, in my case, Libre Office's) built-in spell checker  provides better results for free.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Bowery Boys

Leo Gorcy
     The Bowery Boys were fictional New York City characters played by a repertory theater of New York-based actors, who were the subject of feature films released by Monogram Pictures from 1946 through 1958. 
     The Bowery Boys were successors of the "The East Side Kids," who had been the subject of films since 1940. The group originated as the "Dead End Kids", who originally appeared in the 1937 film "The Dead End Kids" originally appeared in the 1935 play Dead End. 
     When Samuel Goldwyn turned the play into a 1937 film, he recruited the original "kids" from the play, Leo Gorcey, Huntz Hall, Bobby Jordan, Gabriel Dell, Billy Halop, and Bernard Punsly, to appear in the same roles in the film. This led to the making of six other films that shared the collective title "The Dead End Kids." 
     In 1938, Universal launched its own tough-kid series, "Little Tough Guys." Gradually, Universal recruited most of the original Dead End Kids, so the series ultimately featured "The Dead End Kids and Little Tough Guys." Universal made twelve feature films, and three 12-chapter serials with the gang. 
Huntz Hall
     When Warner Brothers released the remaining Dead End Kids from their contracts in 1939, producer Sam Katzman at Monogram immediately hired several of them, including Jordan and the Gorcey brothers, Leo and David, as well as some of the Little Tough Guys to star in a new series using the team name "The East Side Kids." These films also introduced 'Sunshine' Sammy Morrison, one of the original members of the Our Gang comedy team, as part of the gang. As a result, the original members of the "Dead End Kids" were working at several studios, so these films were made at the same time that Universal was making "The Dead End Kids" and "Little Tough Guys" series. A total of 21 films were made, with the final one, Come Out Fighting, released in 1945. 
     In 1945, when East Side Kids producer Katzman refused to grant Leo Gorcey's request to double his weekly salary, Gorcey quit the series, which then ended immediately. Bobby Jordan then suggested a meeting with his agent, Jan Grippo. Grippo, Gorcey, and Hall formed Jan Grippo Productions, revamped the format, and rechristened the series, The Bowery Boys. 
     Gorcey, who owned 40 percent of the company, starred, produced, and contributed to the scripts. The new series followed a more established formula than the prior incarnations of the team, with the gang usually hanging out at Louie's Sweet Shop (at 3rd & Canal St.- actually, there is no intersection of Canal and 3rd Street. They parallel each other about six blocks apart.) until an adventure came along. The Bowery is a street and neighborhood in the southern portion of the New York City borough of Manhattan. 
     The original main characters were Terrence Aloysius "Slip" Mahoney (Leo Gorcey), Horace Debussy "Sach" Jones (Huntz Hall), Bobby (Bobby Jordan), Whitey (Billy Benedict), and Chuck (David Gorcey, sometimes billed as David Condon). "Sunshine" Sammy Morrison, "Scruno" in the East Side Kids films, declined the invitation to rejoin the gang, later stating in an interview that he "didn't like the setup", possibly referring to the idea of Gorcey and Hall being in the forefront, and being paid much more than the other members.
     When Bobby Jordan quit the series for the same reason, his character was replaced by Butch Williams, with former East Side Kids Bennie Bartlett and Buddy Gorman alternating in the role. The proprietor of the malt shop where they hung out was Louie Dumbrowski (Bernard Gorcey, Leo's and David's real-life father). 
     The members went through a number of changes over the course of the series and thirteen actors were members of the team at one time or another. Bobby Jordan, an original Dead End Kid, appeared in the first eight films, but left after being injured in an elevator accident. Jordan was also unhappy with the direction of the series, which favored Gorcey and Hall, and limited the participation of the other gang members. 
     Gabriel Dell also appeared in some of the movies. He was just out of the Navy with a French war-bride in tow. He played a utility character, appearing as a private investigator, policeman, songwriter, reporter, Nazi spy to suit the story. Because money was apparently an object of concern for Gorcy, Dell appearances limited the casting budget. 
     The early films flirted with humor-laced crime dramas, but gradually shifted to all-out comedy, growing more slapstick and fantasy-oriented over the next decade. After 1950, the series began to resemble Abbott and Costello comedies and the gang's dingy basement club-house was replaced by an ice cream parlor. They also adopted a more adult look, exchanging their sloppy, juvenile wardrobe for suits. 
     The team started to fade when Huntz Hall was elevated to co-star status to showcase his comedic skills and the stories began to focus entirely on Slip (the self-proclaimed leader of the bunch) and his sidekick, Sach, with the diminished three or four "boys" receding into the background with little to do. Time and again the plot revolved around Sach accidentally acquiring some strange power or ability (a psychic, champion wrestler, crooner, etc.) that he tries to exploit. In most of the films, the gang pursued get rich quick schemes or got mixed up with neighborhood thugs. 
     Gorcey and Hall became a comedy duo that increased the popularity of the series and in 1953 a new producer and director who had previously worked with The Three Stooges, transformed the series into profitable kiddie-matinee material. Gorcey and Hall re-enacted gags borrowed from the Stooges.  Slip was famous for his Brooklyn-accented malaprops like "I depreciate it!" ("I appreciate it!"), and "I regurgitate" ("I reiterate"). 
     In the 1940s, Abbott and Costello appeared in four "service comedies", one for each branch of the military which the Bowery Boys duplicated in the 1950s.The  Bowery Boys, also like Abbott and Costello before them, became detectives when they opened up a detective agency. They also released other copies of Abbott and Costello story lines. 
Louie Dumbrowski (Bernard Gorcy)
     After filming a movie in1955, Leo's father, Bernard Gorcey, was killed in an automobile accident, which left Leo devastated.   He started drinking heavily and it visibly affected his performance in his next film, which would be his last. During filming, he became violently unhinged, trashing the set and destroying every prop in sight. At a subsequent meeting Gorcey demanded an increase of the 40 percent interest he held in the series which was denied and after a heated exchange, he quit the series and stormed off the studio lot. 
     Gorcey was replaced by Stanley Clements, a former tough-teen actor who had been in a few East Side Kids movies and they were now billed as "Huntz Hall and The Bowery Boys."
     The series was renewed for the 1957 season and four more films were made. In all, there were 48 Bowery Boys films, making it the longest feature-film series of American origin in motion picture history and only Huntz Hall and David Gorcey had remained with the series since 1946. 
     The Bowery Boys and East Side Kids were repackaged and syndicated for television in the 1960s and 1970s. They became a staple for independent stations and were often used to fill up the early-afternoon time-slots on weekends. 
     In 1967, The Beatles paid homage by selecting pictures of Leo Gorcey and Huntz Hall for the cover of their Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album. The Gorcey photo was removed, however, after Gorcey's agent demanded a $400 payment for use of his image. You Tube has a number of episodes you can watch HERE.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Warning to Parents About Kids and Imodium

     I've been somewhat baffled lately by advertisements on television about a condition I never knew existed...opioid induced constipation. It seems that if you need an opioid to manage your chronic pain you can get constipated. 
     According to the U.S. Pain Foundation nearly 8 million people, and maybe more, who are on opioids suffer from constipation and they often try to treat it with over-the-counter remedies. Also, not all doctors are on top of opioid constipation so the commercials are there to tell people how to treat it and that it's probably a good idea to educate their doctor on this scourge. That's supposedly necessary because both patients and doctors may fail to connect their pain medication with their constipation. 
     What are opioids? They are medications that relieve pain by reducing the intensity of pain signals reaching the brain and affect areas of the brain controlling emotion, which diminishes the effects of a painful stimulus. Medications that fall within this class include Vicodin, OxyContin, Percocet, codeine, and related drugs. 
     Hydrocodone products are the most commonly prescribed for a variety of painful conditions, including dental and injury-related pain. Morphine is often used before and after surgical procedures to alleviate severe pain. Codeine is often prescribed for mild pain. In addition, some of these drugs can be used to relieve coughs and severe diarrhea. 
     Opioids act by attaching to proteins called opioid receptors which are found in the brain, spinal cord, gastrointestinal tract, and other organs in the body. When these drugs attach to the receptors, they reduce the perception of pain. Opioids can also produce drowsiness, mental confusion, nausea, constipation, and can depress respiration. 
     Some people experience a euphoric response to opioid medications because these drugs also affect the brain regions involved in reward. Those who abuse opioids, OxyContin for example, may snort or inject it which increases their risk for serious medical complications, including overdose. Opioid addicts are turning to a common over-the-counter medication to address withdrawal symptoms with dangerous and even fatal consequences. 
     Imodium is great stuff. As advertised, Imodium products provide FAST relief of diarrhea, often is as little as one dose. But... 
     Imodium has seen a surge of popularity among opioid users for their withdrawal symptoms PLUS a lot of people, including kids, are using it as a recreational drug. 
     According to a recent CBS News report some people are taking dangerous doses of Imodium. The anti-diarrhea medication has growing appeal with substance abusers because it's cheap and readily available. 
     Loperamide, its main ingredient, causes intestinal slow-down, which helps stop diarrhea. But in very high doses, it can have other effects as well as some serious risks. A person has to take an enormous dose to get high and addicts pop anywhere from 50 to 300 pills per day.  According to the study, in large doses Imodium works the same way as heroin, morphine, and oxycodone. However, Imodium is a cheap alternative, as stores sell 400 tablets, which should control a LOT of diarrhea, for less than $10. 
     The National Poison Center data recorded a 71 percent increase in calls related to loperamide usage from 2011 to 2014. Many are kids who are not addicted to anything...they just know popping a ton of Imodium is a cheap high. Overdose symptoms may include dizziness, drowsiness, urinating less than usual, severe stomach cramps or bloating, and vomiting. Excessive doses of Imodium can lead to heart problems, kidney and liver failure, and even death.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Yard Moss: Nasty and Obstinate

     There are thousands of species of moss, a very simple plant that lacks the a leaf, shoot, root, and seed-forming systems. Unfortunately, at least if the stuff is growing in your lawn, moss is one of the hardiest living organisms on the planet! The stuff reproduces either sexually (spores) or asexually (breaking off into smaller pieces that divide and multiply).
    Regular grass cutting won't do anything to get rid of it. There are several underlying conditions that allows moss to come out ahead of regular lawn grasses. These conditions most frequently are some combination of: 

1) poorly drained, persistently wet soils
2) acidic soil conditions
3) medium to dense shade
4) repeated “scalping” of turf on uneven terrain
5) compacted soils 

The stuff thrives in these conditions! Lawn grass doesn't! 

     Another factor that helps moss is lack of sunlight because many species of moss prefer moist soil in the shaded areas. Removing trees though can be unacceptable, not to mention expensive. Tree pruning can help though. 
     If moss occurs in sunny spots, mower “scalp”(cutting the grass too short...don't do it!) may be the cause of the problem. Scalping severely weakens lawn grass and allows moss to thrive.
     Compacted soil is another cause and using a core aeration machine (either rent one or have a lawn care service do it) can also help. I can attest that physically removing moss with a rake is essentially impossible because you simply can't get rid of every single piece and since there are millions of spores already in the soil it will just continue to grow. The best thing to do is remove as much vegetation as possible then reseed. 
     Sprays, etc may help, but the stuff won't work on many kinds of moss and often when it does, it leaves very ugly yellow or brown spots when the moss dies. 
     One irritating thing is that if you don't fix the above 5 problems, the moss will come right back. You see, the moss is not killing the grass, but rather failure of the grass to thrive allows the moss to do so.  As one article stated, if the conditions are right for moss then significant renovation may be required to get the grass to thrive, but...there are no guarantees. 
     Moss growing in the yard is an indication of less than ideal conditions for growing grass. The potential causes behind the problem are: 

Low soil pH Lack of necessary nutrients in the soil 
Poor drainage 
Excessive shade 

So, just removing the moss is only the first step. THEN you have to some detective work to determine why the moss is growing to begin. If you can't determine the cause then the moss will simply return. It's recommended that you have the soil analyzed. Some local cooperative extensions will do it for you. so that they can test it for you. Let them know that you need to find out what the soil pH is and whether or not your soil contains the necessary nutrients for growing a healthy lawn. This way you can discover the root cause of the problem. 
     Your grass may need a more alkaline soil to compete effectively against moss. If this is the case, you will need to apply lime. If the ground lacks the nutrients, you will have to fertilize the lawn on a regular basis. 
     Bad drainage is another problem because if the lawn does not drain very well and retains excessive moisture, this condition is good for moss to grow. Soil with a high clay content is a red flag. Water tends to percolate slowly through overly clay soils and that can lead to puddling. Happily, there is a very simple test you can conduct to determine what type of soil you have. If you see standing water on your lawn after a rain then you have drainage issues. If clay is the source of the problem then something like humus has to added to the dirt. If the whole lawn is poorly drained then that may be a whole other issue! Good luck!

Friday, May 6, 2016

Paint Shop Pro V. 4.14

Created with PSP

     I have been using this FREE painting program for years and HIGHLY recommend it. Even though it was released way back in 1997, it's powerful yet simple to use and everything is intuitive so it won't take forever to learn how to draw and edit photos. 
    Unfortunately the sites where you can download it are full of all kinds of unwanted junk, so I am making it available for download from Dropbox. 

It's possible that you could get a message "Failed to update the system regristry. Please try using REGEDIT."   If you do get such a message, just click OK and the program will launch.