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Monday, February 27, 2017

A Squirrel Acting Squirrely

     I observed a squirrel behaving oddly in the neighbor's back yard yesterday. It was not running, but hopping, jumping and rolling. Then it climbed the fence and chased a robin in our yard, dug in the ground, rolled and hopped some more before departing into the woods.
     Sometimes baby squirrels fall out of their nest and/or become orphaned. When that happens they can become stunned and act odd, or, if they are orphans, they usually have no fear of humans and often close their eyes and emit a noise like "squee, squee, squee" as if calling for its mother. But, it's too early for babies and this was a full-sized squirrel. 
     Rabies maybe? Small mammals such as squirrels, rats, mice, hamsters, guinea pigs, gerbils, chipmunks, rabbits, and hares are almost never found to be infected with rabies and have not been known to cause rabies among humans in the United States. So, even though squirrels are not infected as frequently as other mammals, such as raccoons, skunks, and wild canines, it is possible. 
     There are many physical signs that could indicate a squirrel has rabies. Overt aggressiveness, slow movement, and apparent confusion are all symptoms of the virus. Rabid animals also produce excessive amounts of saliva, which makes them drool more than usual and leads to the assumption that animals with rabies foam at the mouth. However, since many common diseases and parasites linked to squirrels cause the same symptoms, you cannot always be sure whether an animal is rabid. Still, any slow-moving squirrel exhibiting aggressive behavior should be assumed to have some kind of infection and regarded with caution. This one was anything but slow moving.  One can probably rule out rabies as the reason for its squirrely behavior. 
     Other possible causes seem unlikely this time of year. Infestation by bot fly larvae can cause squirrels to act odd, but I don't think they live around here. 
     Distemper comes to mind. Distemper is a disease that affects a wide range of wild and domestic carnivores. It is often referred to as either canine or feline distemper, and these two illnesses are frequently confused. They are, however, caused by two completely different viral agents. Symptoms in dogs include coughing, vomiting, and diarrhea. Eye discharge, anorexia, and disturbances of the central nervous system may appear as well. Symptoms in wild carnivores include abnormal behavior and lack of fear, often resembling behavior seen in animals with rabies. Purulent conjunctivitis and nasal discharge may be evident as well. Some affected wild animals exhibit signs of neurological disturbances, diarrhea, vomiting, weakness, and labored breathing. 
     Squirrels, as well as chipmunks, are rodents, just like mice and rats. They all belong to the order Rodentia. A conspicuous feature uniting squirrels with rats and mice is their teeth. In the front of all rodent mouths there are four chisel-like gnawing-teeth called incisors, two above and two below. Immediately behind the incisors there's a space, and then flattish back teeth that are used for grinding. The vast majority of rodents also have four toes on each front foot, and five on each hind foot...who knew that?! 
     The biggest dangers to squirrels as hawks snakes, domestic house cats and in towns, cars. I even saw one that had been electrocuted when it got onto a transformer at the top of a telephone pole in front of our house. Hunters are a danger, too. Squirrels with biscuits and gravy are a popular meal with some people. You can find over 60 recipes for squirrel HERE.
     One reason squirrels come to the ground is to bury and retrieve food. In the fall you can often see them digging small holes in the ground called caches into which they deposit food, especially nuts and acorns. On warm days throughout the winter, when food is scarce, they then dig them up, but many are never retrieved and develop into trees. Thus one important job the squirrel does in the ecosystem is to plant trees. 
     An interesting online book detailing the life of a squirrel can be found HERE.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Chickens Talk and Fly

     Chickens can fly to some extent. Some are too heavy, but most barnyard chickens can fly short distances. The world record flight is 13 seconds and 300 yards; that's 47 miles per hour! Domestic chickens aren't good flyers because their body weight is too heavy for their wings to carry them any distance so they tend to do a kind of hop and flap. They can, and often do, manage to escape their enclosure by flying over fences. Normally, a four foot fence is easy, six is a little more difficult but still very possible and some can clear ten to fourteen feet. 
     If you've ever tried to catch a chicken you know they are fast. They can get up to 9 miles per hour for short bursts and they can turn on a dime. The average human walks at about 3 miles per hour and runs at about 15 miles per hour. 
     Chicken aficionados will tell you how intelligent chickens are, but they don't compare to a dog or pig, or even some other birds. Also, the term Mother Hen would lead you to believe that chickens are good mothers, but chickens have been known to eat their young and they like the taste of their own eggs. It's not normal, but it's been observed that sometimes when the chicks started hatching the mother hen will immediately killed and eat the chick and the shell it came out of. Chickens will eat anything that looks like food and they love eggs. Once a hen has tasted fresh eggs it may start breaking eggs intentionally in order to eat them. Once she’s learned to do that, other hens will learn it from her and take up the habit! It's true. 
     Chickens teach each other. Hens teach their chicks what they should and shouldn’t eat and in lab experiments researchers found that mother hens taught their chicks to avoid certain colored grains. 
     It’s widely believed that chickens are color blind and have poor vision, but they actually have better vision than humans. Humans have three different cone types which mean we can perceive red, green and blue. Chickens have an additional two cone types which allows them to also distinguish violet and ultraviolet light. This means roosters can see the sunrise and crow well before humans can see it, often around an hour before humans do. 
     Chicken talk...chickens have over 30 unique noises they can produce which are used for different purposes. Their clucks and crows are mostly used to raise an alarm, normally either for danger or food. Hens cluck to their chicks while they are still in the eggs and as the chicks develop in the eggs they begin to peep and squeak back. This helps the chicks create a bond with their mother before they even hatch. 
     Chickens can recognize up to one hundred human faces so they are quick to learn who feeds them every morning. Some claim that chickens also recognize pet dogs. Human babies can grasp object permanence at around seven months, however baby chicks develop this ability in as early as 2 days old. Object permanence is an interesting subject in itself. Read more
     Chickens experience rapid-eye-movement (REM) sleep? Its during REM sleep that dreaming occurs so it's assumed that chickens also dream. Or, perhaps they are having nightmares about their fate. Who knows? 

     The average chicken has a life expectancy of 3 to 4 years due to their vulnerability to predators and diseases. However, well cared for chicken can live 7-8 years. The oldest chicken ever, lived until she was 22 years old. Unfortunately for commercial chickens their life expectancy was never very long. Forty years ago it took 10 weeks to achieve a 4-pound market weight, but nowadays a broiler can achieve a 5-pound market weight in five weeks.
     Hens give off numerous signs when they are ready to lay an egg. Most prominent is her comb will become a much more vivid red. 
     The term pecking order comes from chickens because they operate on a very strict hierarchy where the top chickens lay down the rules to those beneath them. If two flocks are brought together they will normally hold jousts to determine the order. Hens will feed close to the most dominant roosters because he will protect them. 
     Chickens are diggers. They dig into the ground and create themselves a dust bath. They do this to keep themselves clean and on hot days it helps them cool down. 
     For a normal hen to lay 12 eggs they need to consume roughly four pounds of feed.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Why We Need Toes

   Think toes aren't all that important? Think again. Even though we can't use them to grab stuff like chimpanzees can, our toes serve a few important purposes.
     We owe our balance to the 26 bones that make up the hindfoot, midfoot and forefoot. The forefoot contains the toes. The big toe has two major bones and the rest have three little bones. The toes connect to the midfoot by five long bones called metatarsals, one for each toe. The hindfoot connects to the midfoot by cuneiform and cuboid bones. These are connected to the ankle bone. 
     For example, toes provide balance and support when we walk because the toes maintain contact the ground about 75 percent of the time and help your feet to bear the body weight when you walk. 
     They play an even more important role in running. When you use your whole foot while running, toes increase the overall length of the foot, allowing you to run faster.
     Of all your toes, your big toes are the most important. They play the most critical role in maintaining your balance. They also bear the most weight when standing. Your big toes can bear almost twice as much weight as the other toes combined. 
     The least important of your toes are the pinky toes because they bear the least weight and have the least impact on maintaining balance. People born without pinky toes or those who lose one in an accident will see very little change. Even though the pinky toe itself has no functional value if you remove the metatarsal it would make running and walking nearly impossible. 
     Toes play an important part in increasing the weight-bearing area during walking. When your weight is on the ball of your foot during a step, the force is transferred to the toes. If we didn’t have toes the center of force would stay under the ball because that’s where your foot would end. But by rolling onto our toes, it's like lengthening the arm of a lever. Now the calf muscles can contract at a slower, more effective rate but tilt the end of your foot at a higher speed.

     With age and the number of steps taken per minute decreases. A mature gait pattern is well established by about 3 years of age and the gait of a seven-year-old child resembles that of an adult. The normal adult gait cycle involves heel strike, stance and then toe-off. The stance phase is the foot in contact with the ground and the swing phase is the foot off the ground.

11 most common reasons old people shuffle when they walk 
-Weak hips and leg muscles 
-Arthritis pain in joints 
-Loss of flexibility in feet making it hard to flex them normally 
-Decreased ability to maintain balance 
-Decreased vision making it hard to see 
-Fear because of a recent stumble or fall 
-Slow reaction time when unbalanced which increases fear of falling 
-Medication side effects 
-Worn or poorly-fitting shoes or slippers 
-Slippery floors 
-Serious medical conditions, like Parkinson’s or dementia, could also cause the elderly to shuffle or walk unsteadily.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Speed of Nerve Impulses

     The nervous system transmits impulses throughout the body. Depending on the type of fiber, impulses travels at speeds ranging from a sluggish 2 miles per hour to 200 or more miles per hour. But even this top speed is 3 million times slower than the speed of electricity through a wire! 
     Signals such as those for muscle position, travel at speeds up to 266 miles per hour. Nerve impulses such as pain signals travel slower at less than 1.5 mph. Stub your toe and you'll feel the pressure immediately because touch signals travel at 170 mph. But you won't feel the pain for another two or three seconds, because the pain signals is only moving at 1.5 mph. 
     In 1850 German physiologist Hermann von Helmholtz attached wires to a frog’s leg muscle so that when the muscle contracted it broke a circuit. He found that it took a tenth of a second for a signal to travel down the nerve to the muscle. In another experiment he applied a mild shock to people’s skin and had them gesture as soon as they felt it. It took time for signals to travel down human nerves, too. In fact, Helmholtz discovered it took longer for people to respond to a shock in the toe than to one at the base of the spine because the path to the brain was longer. 
     Helmholtz and others could manage only crude measures of the speed of thought and researchers have been trying to get more precise results ever since. Today it is clear why they have had such a hard time. Our nerves operate at many different speeds. 
     Speed also influences us in surprising ways. In one experiment for studying the speed of thought, researchers briefly show test subjects a lopsided, upside-down and then ask them which leg of the figure is longer. People with faster responses tend to score higher on intelligence tests. Some psychologists have argued that a high processing speed in the brain is a requirement for intelligence. Responses slow down when people suffer certain psychological disorders like depression. People with sluggish reaction times are more likely to die of incidents like strokes or heart attacks. 
     Three or four times a second our eyes dart in a new direction which us only about a tenth of a second to make sense of what we see in each spot. Recently, neuroscientists at MIT ran an experiment in which they briefly showed people a series of landscapes and then asked questions about the scenes. People did well on these tests even when they glimpsed each of the pictures for less than one tenth of a second. 
     A Researcher at the Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology in Germany recently extracted retinal tissue from amphibians and exposed the living tissue to a series of simple geometric patterns. Then he recorded how the nerve cells fired in response. He noticed that each neuron started firing a little earlier or a little later, depending on which picture he showed. The shifts were distinctive enough that he could predict a shape just by looking at the timing of the neural reaction. Although this test involved amphibians, researchers believe the results would hold true for human brains as well. They might not wait for all the signals from the retina to arrive before they begin building a representation of the world and might get a head start with the very first bits of information. 
     National Science Teachers Association guide to the amazing living network of nerves that interconnect your brain, muscles, and organs. Visit site.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Charles Atlas and Other Ads from the Fifties

     The man known as Charles Atlas was born in Sicily and his real name was Angelo Siciliano. He was born on October 30, 1892 and died the day before Christmas in 1972. Atlas was the developer of a bodybuilding method and its associated exercise program that was best known for a landmark advertising campaign featuring Atlas's name and likeness; it has been described as one of the longest-lasting and most memorable ad campaigns of all time.
     Atlas trained himself to develop his body from that of a "scrawny weakling", eventually becoming the most popular muscleman of his day. He took the name Charles Atlas after a friend told him that he resembled the statue of Atlas on top of a hotel in Coney Island and legally changed his name in 1922. He marketed his first body building course with health and fitness writer Dr. Frederick Tilney in November 1922. Tilney wrote the original course Health & Strength by Charles Atlas, and the duo ran the company out of Tilney's home for the first six months. In 1929, Tilney sold his half of the business to advertising man Charles P. Roman and moved to Miami, Florida, where he operated a very successful health food business until his death in 1977. Charles Atlas Ltd. was founded in 1929 and, as of 2015, continues to market a fitness program for the "97-pound weakling." His ads were found in magazines of every description.  Must know information for men:  Lessons in Manliness from Charles Atlas 

     Many ads from the 1950s would be totally unacceptable today.  Vintage ads showing off questionable thinking  and creepy kids in Creepy Vintage Ads.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Memory Foam Mattresses

     A memory foam mattress is one of the most toxic mattresses you can choose because they could potentially interfere with your endocrine system, hormones and other bodily functions. 
     Memory foam, made from a substance called viscoelastic, was designed in the mid-1960s for NASA airplane seats and is popular because it is both highly energy absorbent and soft. Memory foam molds to the body in response to heat and pressure, evenly distributing body weight, then returns to its original shape once you remove the pressure. In addition to protecting against impact, these properties make memory foam very comfortable. 
     After its initial NASA success memory foam showed up as cushioning in helmets and shoes, it was used in prosthetics and products to prevent pressure ulcers in products like seating pads for the severely disabled. Now it's used in pillows, mattress pads and mattresses. Sleep specialist claim studies showing that memory foam actually helps you sleep better are lacking. 
     Most mattresses are made with either memory foam or inner springs and both usually contain polyurethane foam, a highly flammable product. Due to this and government laws, fire-retardant chemicals are usually applied which means most mattress stink when you first open them and manufacturers advise you to let the mattress air-out for a couple days before sleeping on it. The smell goes away, but the chemicals are still there and you are literally inhaling and absorbing these chemicals. 
     The "off-gassing" from synthetic materials and flame retardants can be particularly harmful to the elderly, infants, children and pregnant women. Research shows that exposure to toxins during pregnancy can be harmful to both the woman and fetus and toxins found in mattresses that make their way into the bloodstream of a pregnant woman pass through the placenta and to the fetus. Evidence also suggests that synthetic foams may contribute to a range problems including autism, asthma, ADHD and even cancer. Full report at Sleep Junkie.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

NASA Television

     The US governments website for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration brings you the latest news, images and videos. Topics covered are the international space station, the journey to Mars, Earth, technology, aeronautics and the Solar System. There is a wide selection of space pictures, NASA media and blogs, downloads for apps. e-books, audio and ringtones and podcasts and more.  Visit site

Monday, February 13, 2017

Belle Starr, Bandit Queen

Belle Starr
     Myra Belle Shirley was born in a log cabin near Carthage, Missouri on February 5, 1848 to "Judge” John Shirley and his third wife, Elizabeth Pennington. Her father was the black sheep of a well-to-do Virginia family who had moved west to Indiana, where he married and divorced twice. His third wife, Eliza, one of the Hatfields of the Hatfield and McCoy family feud
     After they married, the Shirleys moved to Missouri in 1839, where John was successful raising wheat, corn, hogs and horses in Jasper County. In 1856, the Shirley's sold their land and moved to Carthage, Missouri where they built an inn, a tavern, livery stable and blacksmith shop and John Shirley was a respected member of the community. 
     Myra Belle was a spoiled rich girl and attended the Carthage Female Academy where she was taught music and classical languages. A good student with polite manners and a talented piano player, she liked to flaunting her status in front an audience. Somewhat oddly, she also loved the outdoors and spent a lot of time roaming the countryside with her older brother who taught her how to ride and shoot. 
     Her life changed when the Kansas-Missouri Border War broke out. Jasper County was right in the center of it and as residents took sides, neighbors often became enimies. Her brother, with the approval of his fis father, joined Quantrill’s Raiders as a scout and quickly rose to the rank of captain. In June of 1864 Bud was killed in Sarcoxie, Missouri. The raids had taken their toll on Shirley’s businesses and after the death of his son, Shirley sold his Missouri property and moved to a farm near Scyene, Texas. 
     In 1866 the James-Younger Gang robbed their first bank of $6,000 in cash and bonds in Liberty, Missouri and Jesse and Frank James, along with the Youngers, fled to Texas. It was then that Myra Belle became enamored with Cole Younger and became a member of the gang. 
     Seeking refuge one night, a group of the gang members stayed at the Shirley house one night and Myra Belle became reacquainted with the first man she ever loved, a man named Jim Reed whom she had originally met back in Missouri where the Reed and Shirley families had been friends. 
     Myra Belle and Jim married on November 1, 1866. At the time Jim Reed was not a wanted man and the couple moved to a farm near Scyene. Reed became a salesman for a Dallas saddle and bridle maker and in late 1867 the Reeds were living on the Reed homestead in Missouri.  Cole Younger was hanging around the homestead and the story goes that he seduced Belle and she bore his illegitimate daughter, but that story is strong disputed and is probably untrue. 
     Eventually Jim and Myra Belle moved to Missouri and by then Reed was a wanted man, allegedly for murdering a man, so the two fled to California. In 1869 Myra Belle, Reed and two other outlaws rode to the North Canadian river country, where they tortured an old Creek Indian until he told them where he had hidden $30,000 in gold. With their share of the loot, Jim and Belle returned to Texas, where, still enjoying an audience, she played the role of the Bandit Queen. 
     Then in August of 1874, Reed was killed in a gunfight by a member of his own gang and Myra Belle left her children with her mother to ride the Outlaw Trail. In Indian Territory (what is now Oklahoma,) she got involved with an Indian outlaw who went by the name of Blue Duck. Her affair with Blue Duck was short and ended when she met a Cherokee Indian named Sam Starr and they settled on Starr's ranch which she named Younger's Bend in honor of Cole Younger. 
     The newly married couple formed their own gang around themselves and rustled cattle, stole horses and bootlegged whiskey to the Indians. Thieving turned out to be very lucrative and she often used her money to bribe the freedom of any captured gang members and if money didn't work, she prostituted herself to the lawmen which usually worked. 
     The local authority was Hanging Judge Isaac Parker who became determined to put Myra Belle Starr behind bars. She was arrested several times, but always released due to lack of evidence. In the fall of 1882, however, Parker got lucky when Belle was caught red handed as she attempted to steal a neighbor’s horse. After a trial, he sentenced Belle to two consecutive six month prison terms and Sam to one year in the Federal Prison in Detroit. After serving their time, Belle and Sam returned home to a life of rustling and bootlegging. 
     In 1886 Belle and Sam were arrested by US Marshals on charges of robbery and horse-stealing. Hanging Judge Parker was the judge at their arraignment, but he had to dismiss the charges for lack of evidence. 
     By this time a publication named Richard Fox's Police Gazette had turned her into a western folk hero, "a female Robin Hood and a Jesse James" and the "Bandit Queen."
     During a friend's Christmas party in December 17, 1886, Sam Starr got into a gunfight with an old friend and both men died of their wounds. 
     In 1889 Myra Belle entered into her third marriage with a young bandit named Jim July. It was a stormy marriage and after one argument July offered an accomplice $200 to kill his wife. When the offer was rejected, July screamed," Hell, I’ll kill the old hag myself and spend the money for whiskey!” A few days later On February 3, 1889, Myra Belle Starr, at the age of 41, was killed in an ambush on a lonely country road. 
     An investigation was made into her death and several suspects were questioned: a neighbor she had fought, her husband July, her son Ed, and her daughter Pearl. 
     It came out that Myra Belle had caught her husband fooling around with a young Cherokee girl. It was also discovered that though Myra Belle was estranged from her son Ed there were rumors that she was having an incestuous relationship with him and that she routinely beat him with a bullwhip. Daughter Pearl also had a motive; her mother had interfered with Pearl's marriage to the father of her child. Just a few weeks after Belle's death, a deputy who was on July's trail killed him. 
     Belle Starr, as she was best known, was buried in the front yard of the cabin at Younger's Bend and her daughter hired a stonecutter to carve a monument for the grave. The grave is on private property and for a small fee one can pay it a visit. 

Thursday, February 9, 2017

American Pickers - a Favorite Fake Reality Show

     In American Pickers two guys, Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz, travel around the country in a Mercedes Sprinter, buying junk which they claim they will be able to resell at a profit. They work with Danielle Colby-Cushman, who runs the office, Antique Archeology, from their home base in Le Claire, Iowa. She researches potential leads and directs Mike and Frank to the people with all the interesting junk. Sometimes Mike and Frank "freestyle" which means they just cruise around until they see a place that has potential. Of course, it's all for show.
     In 2006 Mike Wolfe approached the owner of Crazy Eyes Productions with the idea for American Pickers. At that time his sidekick on the show, Frank Fitz, was working as a safety and fire inspector. Frank did have an interest in antiques and in his spare time bought and sold them. Mike and Frank, though long-time friends, were never in the picking business together even though that's what is suggested on the show. Tattooed Danielle was a roller-derby star, burlesque performer and fashion designer. A Jehovah's Witness and mother of three she didn't know anything about antiques, but was a long-tine friend of Mike Wolfe. That's why when the show went into production, Wolfe gave her the job as "office manager" at Antique Archeology. 
     American Pickers is at least semi-scripted and Wolfe and Fitz do not travel in the Mercedes all by themselves.  Aerial shots of them driving down road are taken from a helicopter in various locations and the staged dialogue between Mike and Frank inside the van are filmed on a set. When they go on location, they travel with set dressing trucks, camera trucks, wardrobe trailers, hair and makeup trailers...all the necessary Hollywood accoutrements. That makes sense; somebody has to do the filming.  The show’s production team has to get written consent from the owner and anyone who is going to be filmed. It's obvious they can't just pop by unannounced and start filming. 
     The biggest and probably most obvious part of the ruse is when they pretend they don't know what they are going to "find." They have prior knowledge of the salvaged junk and their is no real haggling over the price. That was all done by advance men prior to filming. People who work for the production company are the ones who actually ferret out all the good junk and then auditions the sellers and pay them for appearing on the show. When Mike and Frank show up they don't really search for anything nor do they actually find anything. It's all been planted or in the case of some items that appear buried and/or dusty and dirty, they are made aware of what they are digging out ahead of time 
     That's not so say the interaction between Frank and Mike and the sellers is totally scripted, but obviously they don't just show up at people's homes out of the blue. There's already a crew there when Mike and Frank arrive and sometimes dialog is edited and scripted. After all, that's the way you make a television show and cram everything into an hour. 
     Most of the antiques and other finds that Frank and Mike purchase on the show are given an estimate which would make for a pretty great return, sometimes more than 200 percent of what they paid! The show also makes it seem like it’s fairly easy for someone with knowledge of antiques to find items for a cheap price then turn around and sell them for big bucks. Ask somebody in the business for real...it's not that easy!  
     When it comes to prices, they usually look ridiculously high and it's hard to believe anybody would actually pay the exorbitant prices quoted. That's fake, of course. They are always buying advertising signs...usually badly damaged...at hard to believe prices.  There is a market for advertising signs, but collectors want them in good condition, not all bent up with scratches, dings, rusty and half the paint missing.  The retail price for a good sign is probably half what they offer for the junk on the show. 
     Of course Wolfe really does sell antiques and they actually do have a dinky building on a side street "back home." Mike and Frank come across as genuinely nice guys, but a 2014 article in USA Today carried a story about an auctioneer in Greenville, South Carolina that got skinned by Frank.   That hurt!
     Why do I watch such an obviously faked show? Probably for the same reason people watch murder mysteries where it's all fake because nobody actually gets murdered. It's entertainment.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Left and Right Pawed Dogs and Hair Whorls

     A 2009 study of dogs found that 80 percent have typical whorls in four places: chest, rump, elbows and back of the front legs. About 20 percent have additional whorls, as many as ten altogether, on the head, shoulders and abdomen. 
     Some researchers theorize that there is a link between hair whorl direction and side preference. They found that left-pawed dogs have a counterclockwise chest hair whorl; right-pawed dogs' chest whorls go clockwise. But some dogs don't fit the mold and are opposite. 
     According to a guide dog school in Australia, the exceptions, right-pawed dogs with counterclockwise whorls are twice as likely to successfully complete the guide dog program from which only 40 percent of the students graduate. Homeless dogs and shelter dogs had significantly more counterclockwise whorls than non-shelter dogs, suggesting that there may be a relationship between hair whorls and temperament. The whorls can be either a plain, less common, whorl or tufted. The placement and directions of the whorl is linked not only to the dog's temperament, but to whether they are right or left-pawed. 
     As mentioned, statistically right-pawed dogs that have counterclockwise whorls on their chest are twice as likely to make the grade as guide dogs. Like humans, dogs and many other animals are right or left-pawed, and some are even ambidextrous. Generally, male dogs have a left paw preference. 
     There are a number of ways to determine paw preference. 

1) Place a treat under a piece of furniture and just within reach of the dog to see which paw it uses to dig it out. 
2) Watch which paw the dog uses to hold a bone with while chewing on it.
3) Place a piece of adhesive tape on the dog’s nose and she which paw it uses to remove it. 
4) Watch which paw the dog uses first in stepping forward. 

     Research studies have connected paw preference with certain behaviors and temperaments. A 2006 University of New England study found the way dogs use their paws may be a sign of how they react to noise. Ambidextrous dogs are likely to be more reactive to noise such as thunderstorms and fireworks. 
     While this research may seem rather pointless, it helps save time and money when it comes to selecting dogs that have to work for their living. It can also help when selecting a family pet to know if the dog is likely to be smart and loving or if it's likely to be ill-tempered. 

Article from Ozpets on dog paw preference.  
How about paw preference in cats?

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Some People Are Just Mean

     I read something the other day on a Christian blog that got me to thinking about mean, hateful and even evil people that rings true even if one is not a Christian. 
     The blogger pointed out that we find it difficult to believe that such individuals actually exist. We can’t imagine someone deceiving us with no conscience, hurting others with no remorse, spitting out fabrications to ruin someone’s reputation, or pretending to be someone or something they are not in order to take advantage of others. But, the sad truth is such people do exists. 
     How do you recognize such a person? Here are some signs to look for: 

1) They are experts at creating confusion and contention. They twist the facts, mislead, lie, avoid taking responsibility, make up stories, and withhold information. 
2) They are experts at fooling others with smooth speech and flattering words, but if you look at their lives, you find no real evidence of anything good. Their speech is all smoke and mirrors designed to deceive.
3) They crave, even demand, control and they are their own highest authority. They reject feedback, accountability, and make up their own rules to live by. 
4) They play on the sympathies of good-willed people. They demand mercy but give none themselves. They demand warmth, forgiveness, and intimacy from those they have harmed with no empathy for the pain they have caused and no real intention of making amends or working to repair any damage they have caused.
5) They have no conscience, no remorse. They delight in harming others and sometimes masquerading as someone of noble character 

     The longer you try to reason with them or show them compassion, the more you become a pawn in their game. Even if they say they are sorry their goal is to escape the consequences of their actions and they hope to be granted immunity from those consequences. They believe forgiveness entitles them to reconciliation and will pressure their victim to comply. They often know what they are doing is wrong, but simply don't care. 
     It's best to avoid these people in so far as possible and not fool ourselves by saying they are not that bad or that they are changing when repeated evidence shows otherwise. When people like this show you who they really are, believe them the first time.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Sugar Consumption

     There are two types of sugars in American diets: naturally occurring sugars and added sugars. Naturally occurring sugars are found naturally in foods such as fruit (fructose) and milk (lactose). Added sugars include any sugars or caloric sweeteners that are added to foods or beverages during processing or preparation. This can include natural sugars as well as those that are chemically manufactured such as high fructose corn syrup.
     The major sources of added sugars in American diets are soft drinks, sugars, candy, cakes, cookies, pies and fruit drinks, ice cream and sweetened yogurt. Unfortunately, it's not possible to tell by looking at the nutrition facts panel of a food if it contains added sugars. The line for “sugars” includes both added and natural sugars. Naturally occurring sugars are found in many ingredients. However, reading the ingredient list on a processed food’s label can tell you if the product contains added sugars, just not the exact amount if the product also contains natural sugars. 

Sugar-Free – less than 0.5 g of sugar per serving 
Reduced Sugar or Less Sugar – at least 25 percent less sugars per serving compared to a standard serving size of the traditional variety 
No Added Sugars or Without Added Sugars – no sugars or sugar-containing ingredient such as juice or dry fruit is added during processing 
Low Sugar – not defined or allowed as a claim on food labels 

     If the product has no fruit or milk products in the ingredients, all of the sugars in the food are from added sugars. If the product contains fruit or milk products, the total sugar per serving listed on the label will include added and naturally occurring sugars. 
     Over the past 30 years, Americans have steadily consumed more and more added sugars in their diets. The American Heart Association recommends limiting the amount of added sugars consumed to no more than half of a person's daily discretionary calorie allowance. For most American women, this is no more than 100 calories per day (about 6 teaspoons) and no more than 150 calories per day (about 9 teaspoons) for men. 
     For most people, experts agree that some added sugar in the diet is fine, but most Americans consume way too much. The average intake is nearly 66 pounds of added sugar per year. Children and teens are particularly at risk with children and adolescents obtaining about 16 percent of their total caloric intake from added sugars. With as many as 11 teaspoons of added sugar in one 12 oz. soda, a single serving is close to double most people's daily sugar allowance! Even a leading brand of yogurt, supposedly a healthy food choice, has 7 teaspoons of total sugars, most of it added. 
     Research shows that for some people eating sugar produces craving and withdrawal, along with chemical changes in the brain's reward center. Using brain-scanning technology, scientists at the US National Institute on Drug Abuse demonstrated that sugar causes changes in peoples' brains similar to those in people addicted to drugs such as cocaine and alcohol. These changes are linked to a heightened craving for more sugar.
     Consuming too much added sugar over long periods of time also can affect the natural balance of hormones that drive critical functions in the body. Eating sugar increases levels of glucose in the bloodstream, which leads the pancreas to release insulin. Higher levels of insulin, in turn, cause the body to store more food calories as fat. Insulin also affects a hormone called leptin, which is our natural appetite suppressant that tells our brains we are full and can stop eating. Imbalanced insulin levels, along with high consumption of certain sugars has been linked to a condition called leptin resistance in which the brain no longer "hears" the message to stop eating, thus promoting weight gain and obesity. 
     To make foods low fat, many food companies replaced the fat with added sugar. People are consuming excessive sugar in the form of fructose or high-fructose corn syrup which is a highly processed form of sugar that is cheaper but 20 percent sweeter than regular table sugar. That is why manufacturers favor it. High-fructose corn syrup is found in almost all types of processed foods and drinks today. 
     The problem is that is the human body is not made to consume excessive amounts of sugar, especially in the form of fructose and it metabolizes fructose differently than sugar. Dr. Robert Lustig, a professor of Clinical Pediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology in the University of California says that our body can safely metabolize at least six teaspoons of added sugar per day. But since most Americans are consuming much more than that, almost all of the excess sugar gets metabolized into body fat. 
     Some of the effects that consuming too much sugar are: 

Liver damage. The effects of too much can be likened to the effects of alcohol. The liver is severely taxed which can lead to damage known as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. 
The body is fooled into gaining weight which affects insulin and leptin signaling. It fails to stimulate insulin, which in turn fails to suppress the hunger hormone, which then fails to stimulate the the desire to stop eating. The result...you to eat more and develop insulin resistance. 
Metabolic dysfunction. These include weight gain, abdominal obesity, decreased HDL and increased LDL, elevated blood sugar, elevated triglycerides, and high blood pressure.
Increased uric acid levels. High uric acid levels are a risk factor for heart and kidney disease. 
One study found that fructose is readily used by cancer cells to increase their proliferation. 
Alzheimer's disease is another illness that can arise from too much sugar consumption. 

     What can a person do to avoid excess sugar consumption? Increase healthy fats, such as omega-3, saturated, and monounsaturated fats. Some of the best sources include organic butter from raw milk, virgin olive oil, coconut oil, raw nuts like pecans and macadamia, free-range eggs, avocado, and wild Alaskan salmon. Drink pure, clean water instead of sweetened beverages like sodas and fruit juices. The best way to gauge your water needs is to observe the color of your urine (it should be light pale yellow) and the frequency of your bathroom visits (ideally, this is around seven to eight times per day). 

Nine signs you are eating too much sugar

Animation Software


     An animation has far greater impact than an ordinary picture and offers many more possibilities to creators/artists, enabling them to convey greater meaning to users. An animated format can also hold a lot more content which is almost impossible for a normal static image. 
     There are a lot of image file formats but only three are popular and widely used on the web. These are JPG,PNG and GIF formats. Among these three formats, GIF is the only file type that supports animation. A GIF file can contain a single image, but to animate an image it will need at least two or more images/frames combined, which can then be displayed for a few milliseconds successively.  A GIF animator program makes this process easy. It usually takes only three easy steps, choosing a couple of images, putting them in desired sequence and setting frame rate, looping and other settings. The result is combined into an animation file. 
     One such program is GIF Animator.  A single-user personal license is $29.95 and the business license is $49.95, but there is also a free version which should be satisfactory for most users wanting to make simple animations for their laptop and are looking for a program that require no special training or knowledge. While you can use GIF Animator in conjunction with Paint, PaintShop Pro or Adobe Photoshop, it is a stand alone application. The program is Windows XP/Vista/7/8/10 compatible.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Just a Rant

NOT my spokesmen!
     Two things I want to stay away from on my blogs are politics and religion because they are so inflammatory. As far as religion is concerned, as Samuel Reshevsky once said about Bobby Fischer and Judaism, "He has his beliefs, I have mine." I am willing to share my faith IF someone is interested. If not, people are entitled to hold whatever religious beliefs they want. As for politics, the US is a free country and people can vote for whomever they want and say whatever they want. 
     But, my problem is with people who refuse to accept the fact that, like it or not, Donald Trump is the President of the United States and act like idiots because Mrs. Clinton didn't win. As for my Christian friends on Facebook, I wish they would follow the Biblical instructions given by the Apostle Paul when he advised us to pray for those in office and give them their proper respect. Never were we told to ridicule or rail against them on social media. 
     I am also tired of Hollywood celebrities spouting off. The list of Hollywood celebrities who think we care about their political opinions is endless. They get paid to entertain us and nobody cares what their opinion about anything else is. These folks aren't living in the real world; they are out of touch with those of us who don't live in a make believe world and who struggle to pay the bills. 
     Charlie Sheen recently railed against White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer for wearing a green tie. Apparently Mr. Spicer's choice of ties annoyed a lot of people. How childish can you get? 
     The former Two and a Half Men star tweeted that Spicer should use the eyesore around his neck, tied in a Windsor knot, to “asphyxiate” himself, adding “Bro, that s***** Windsor should b remodeled to asphyxiate u. U R a shameful husk. crawl back into your mom you baleful noxious shoat,” Back at you Sheen! 
     This was coming from the same Carlos Irwin Estévez, known professionally as Charlie Sheen, who had his contract for Two and a Half Men terminated by CBS and Warner Bros. in March 2011 because his personal life made headlines that included reports of alcohol and drug abuse, marital problems and allegations of domestic violence. Sheen has also publicly revealed that he is HIV positive. He is unqualified to be a spokesman on anything. 
     Then there's that buffoon Michael Moore. For example, see his message to Hillary Clinton on Youtube HERE
     How do you explain these people? In Smart People Are Good at Being Dumb in Politics pop psychologist Jesse Marczyk, Ph.D. tries to explain it HERE.

Sergeant Preston of the Yukon and The Klondike Big Inch Land Promotion

     Challenge of the Yukon was an American radio adventure series that began on Detroit's station WXYZ and was first heard on February 3, 1938. The title changed from Challenge of the Yukon to Sergeant Preston of the Yukon in November 1951, and remained under that name through the end of the series and into television. The television series was broadcast between 1955 and 1958. Though no plot lines were re-used from the radio show, they were generally built upon the same themes. 
     Richard Simmons (NOT the Richard Simmons of exercise fame!) starred as Sgt. Preston and was supported by his dog Yukon King and horse Rex. Driving a dog sled with Yukon King, the "swiftest and strongest lead dog, breaking the trail in relentless pursuit of lawbreakers in the wild days of the Yukon," "On King! On you huskies," Preston would cry as he set off on a mission. At the end of an episode, he'd turn to his faithful furry companion and say, "Well, King, this case is closed." 
     Richard Simmons (August 19, 1913 – January 11, 2003), known as Dick Simmons, was an American actor born in Saint Paul, Minnesota and his family later moved across the Mississippi River to Minneapolis. There, he attended West Side High School and then the University of Minnesota.While attending the university, Simmons competed in fencing and swimming and also acted in a few theater productions. 
     Simmons left the area in the 1930s to launch his film acting career in 1937. He soon became an MGM contract player. Many of his minor movie roles went uncredited through the 1940s. One even included his portrayal of a Mountie in King of the Royal Mounted Police
     Starting in 1943, he began appearing in credited roles. From 1943 through 1949, he would appear in seventeen films, of which ten listed him in the credits. Simmons interrupted his film career to serve as a Flight Officer pilot with the Air Transport Command in World War Two. 
     During the 1950s he appeared in several films and television series, at times uncredited. In 1952 he played the co-pilot in Above and Beyond.
     Following the end of the series in 1958, he continued to have a successful acting career, mostly in television series guest appearances, through 1982, with his last role being in CHiPs, a television program about the California Highway Patrolmen who rode motorcycles.
     In 1967, Simmons was cast in the episode "The Girl Who Walked the West" of Death Valley Days and in 1969 he had another role as a silver mining operator who served from 1876 to 1880 as a Nevada state senator in "How to Beat a Badman". 
     Sgt. Preston of the Yukon was mainly filmed in Ashcroft, Colorado. Following a custom of the period, the show took its theme music from the classical repertoire, in this case the overture to Emil von Reznicek's comic opera Donna Diana. 
     In 1955, the Quaker Oats company gave away land in the Klondike as part of the Klondike Big Inch Land Promotion which was tied in with the television show. Genuine deeds each to one square inch of a lot in Yukon Territory, issued by Klondike Big Inch Land Co. Inc., were inserted into Quaker's Puffed Wheat and Puffed Rice cereal boxes. 

     The Klondike Big Inch Land promotion was a marketing promotion created by Bruce Baker, a Chicago advertising executive. Quaker Oats bought 19.11 acres of land in the Yukon Territory of Canada for the price of $1000 and printed up 21 million deeds for one square inch of land. On advice of counsel, Quaker Oats set up and transferred the land to the Great Klondike Big Inch Land Company to make the company the registered owner and manager of the deeds. Starting on January 1955, 93 newspapers across the United States ran advertisements that read "Get a real deed to one square inch of land in the Yukon gold rush country" and, "You'll actually own one square inch of Yukon land". The promotion instructed people to mail a form along with a box top from either Quaker Puffed Wheat, Quaker Puffed Rice or Muffets Shredded Wheat to the Quaker Oats company. 
     In turn, a 5 by 8 inch deed to one square inch of land in the Klondike was sent back. In February 1955, Quaker Oats was blocked from trading the deed for a box top by the Ohio Securities Division until it received a state license for the "sale" of foreign land. To get around the injunction, the company stopped the trade-in offer and instead put one of the deeds in each box of cereal produced. 
     Because none of the deeds were actually registered, the documents were never legally binding and owners of these deeds were never actual owners of any land. The deed excluded mineral rights on the property. Due to $37.20 in back taxes, the land was repossessed by the Canadian government in 1965, and the Great Klondike Big Inch Land Company dissolved in 1966. The land is now part of the Dawson City Golf Course. To this day, Yukon officials receive inquiries bout the deeds. The land office of the Yukon currently contains an 18-inch thick file folder of correspondence regarding the promotion. 
     Not only do people who still have their deeds not own the land now, they never did. That's because each individual deed was never formally registered. My "deed" disappeared decades ago and I sometimes wondered about this. 
     Simmons, who had Alzheimer's disease, died Saturday at a rest home in Oceanside at the age of 89.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

US Navy Hospital Corps

A common cry in battle
     “You guys are the Marine’s doctors; There’s no better in the business than a Navy Corpsman….” legendary Lieutenant General Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller, US Marine Corps. The numbers speak volumes: 22 Medals of Honor,174 Navy Crosses, 31 Distinguished Service Crosses (US Army Decoration), 946 Silver Stars, 1582 Bronze Stars, 22 Ships named after Corpsmen and 2012 Corpsmen killed in action since President William McKinley established the rating by an act of Congress on June 17th 1898. 
     Few military organizations can look upon their histories with the same degree of pride and awe as the Navy Hospital Corps. Since the establishment of the Navy medical department in Colonial times and the commissioning of the Hospital Corps a century ago, Hospital Corpsmen and their forerunners have proven themselves ready to support Marines and Sailors by giving them aid whenever and wherever necessary. 
     Known by both Marines and Sailors as “Doc,” Corpsmen have served everywhere the Navy and Marine Corps have served or fought since the Spanish American War. Often, especially in combat, Corpsmen are the only medial help available. 
     To ensure that the members of the new Hospital Corps were adequately trained in the pertinent disciplines, a basic school for corpsmen was established at the U.S. Naval Hospital in Norfolk, Virginia in 1902 with a curriculum that included anatomy and physiology, bandaging, nursing, first aid, pharmacy, clerical work, and military drill. 
     World War Two resulted in a massive expansion of the Hospital Corps and schools were established at Great Lakes, Illinois, Minneapolis, Minnesota and in New York at Columbia University and in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Corpsmen who served on small vessels such as destroyers were trained at the Pharmacist Mate School at Hampton Roads, Virginia. Corpsmen also served with the Marine Corps. 
     Of all the Corpsmen in World War Two, those serving with the Marines perhaps had the most gruelling assignment. As they appeared on the beaches in the Pacific, they became targets themselves as they braved fire to reach fallen comrades. At place like Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Peleliu, Saipan, Tinian, Kwajalein, Iwo Jima and Okinawa Corpsmen often died in greater numbers than the Marines; Hospital Corps casualties in the 4th Marine Division at Iwo Jima, for example, were 38 percent. 
     Things changed after World War Two when the title of Pharmacist Mate was changed to the titles of hospital recruit, hospital apprentice, hospitalman, hospital corpsmen third, second, and first class, and chief hospital corpsman with senior chief and master chief hospital corpsman being added in 1958. Also, the red Geneva cross which had marked corpsmen for 50 years was replaced with the original symbol of the winged caduceus. 
     Disproportionate to their numbers was their heroism. In Korea, Hospital Corpsmen earned 281 Bronze Star Medals, 113 Silver Star Medals, and 23 Navy Crosses and all five enlisted Navy Medals of Honor were awarded to Navy Corpsmen serving with the Marines.
     The most dangerous role for Corpsman in Vietnam was in the field with the Marines and SEAL teams. Fifteen Corpsmen were killed in action when the Marine headquarters in Beirut, Lebanon was attacked and destroyed by a suicide truck bomber on October 23, 1983.
     Today Corpsmen perform as assistants in the prevention and treatment of disease and injury, assist with physical examinations, provide patient care, and administer medicines, perform laboratory, pharmacy, and other support services. They are involved in administrative, supply and accounting procedures within medical departments. 
     They serve as instructors for both medical and non-medical personnel in first aid, self-aid, hygiene, and medical records maintenance. They assist in the maintenance of environmental health standards, and are prepared to assist in the prevention and treatment of casualties and in the transportation of the sick and injured. Corpsmen are also trained as technicians perform specialized functions such as x-ray technicians, lab technicians, etc. 
     The Corps encourages the idea that "Marine" is an earned title and most Marine Corps personnel take to heart the phrase "Once a Marine, Always a Marine". They reject the term "ex-Marine" and in most circumstances those who are no longer on active duty are often still referred to as "Marine."  According to Commandant Alfred M. Gray, Jr., referring to a Marine by their last earned rank is appropriate.  I am proud to have served as a Corpsman with the US Marine Corps.