Sunday, July 31, 2011

Vampires And Other Immortals—Part 1 of 2

Vampires are big business these days, thanks in part to such popular book and movie series as TWILIGHT in addition to various television series. Of course, vampires have never really been out of style. They were popularized in literature by Bram Stoker's 1897 novel, DRACULA, but stories of vampires go back many centuries before that.

Where did the concept of vampires come from? The answer to that question exists somewhere in the space separating science and superstition. Some sources claim the stories of vampires began with the Romanian prince Vlad Tepes who lived 1431 – 1476 and fought for independence against the Ottoman Empire. His methods of dealing with his enemies included slowly impaling them on stakes, drawing and quartering, and burning them alive. It all seems very brutal and sadistic by today's standards, but not all that uncommon for those times. The same methods were used by the Catholic Church during the Spanish Inquisition and by other rulers and powerful leaders during the Middle Ages to torture and kill their enemies.

Bram Stoker is said to have patterned some of his Dracula character after Vlad Tepes as the birth of the modern fictional vampire. However, the roots of real vampires have very different origins. Stories of vampires are a worldwide phenomenon with localized versions of vampires coming from almost all cultures. Before science progressed to the point where it could explain such things as weather patterns and germ theory, any bad event that did not have an obvious cause could be blamed on a vampire. The mythical creature was an easy answer to the age old question of why bad things happened to good people.

Superstitious villagers took their belief that something had cursed them and put it together with their fear of the dead and came to the conclusion that recently buried people who had risen from the dead to do evil deeds were responsible. They dug up graves and were surprised by the way the corpses looked. Not understanding the process of decomposition, they assumed bodies immediately turned to skeletons.

Even with the original vampires being long gone, the cultural phenomenon of vampires continue to fascinate the world. And it isn't just the macabre and horror stories that draw on the vampire character. We have several examples of vampires being used as objects of humor. Certainly Al Lewis' Grandpa character on the old MUNSTERS television series. We have comedy movies such as LOVE AT FIRST BITE and Mel Brooks' 1995 film DRACULA, DEAD AND LOVING IT.

And in the last 20 years or so we are just as likely to see the vampire on television and in movies as the drop dead (pun intended) gorgeous sexy hero as we are in the role of villain.

Even children have been caught up in the commercialism of the vampire world. There's General Mills' Count Chocula breakfast cereal, marketed to children. And not even the long running award-winning children's television series SESAME STREET was able to ignore the vampire allure. One of their popular Muppet characters is The Count, complete with black Dracula style cape and fangs.

Vampire movies have been around since the days of silent films with the 1922 classic, NOSFERATU featuring a grotesque frightening looking vampire before Bela Lugosi showed us his charming and suave version of Count Dracula.

What are your favorite vampire movies?

Next week (Sunday, August 7) I'm going to post Part 2 of Vampires And Other Immortals with a Top Ten list of immortals from myths, literature and movies.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Words Of Wisdom From T-Shirts

For the most part, T-shirts seem to have a lot to say. They tell us where their owner went on vacation, what school he or she attended, what kind of car they drive, where they work, what organizations they belong to, what causes they support, and a multitude of other miscellaneous information. Some are serious and others are just fun. I've collected several interesting T-shirt sayings and I'd like to share them with you.

Wine improves with age. I improve with wine.

Everyone has to believe in something. I believe I'll have another glass of wine.

I love to cook with wine. Sometimes I even use it in the food.

Hand over the chocolate and no one will get hurt.

At what age am I old enough to know better?

I before E except after C … weird?

National Sarcasm Society … like we need your support.

If we knew what we were doing, it wouldn't be called research.

If I'm talking, you should be taking notes.

Why can't I be rich instead of good looking?

To err is human, to arrrrrgh is pirate.

Searching for the meaning of life, but will settle for my car keys.

Paddle faster, I hear banjo music!

I'm often confused with my evil twin.

Flying is the 2nd greatest thrill known to man. Landing is the 1st.

I'd be a vegetarian if bacon grew on trees.

Awww, another Whiners Club meeting already?

Disheveled…not just a look, it's a lifestyle.

I used to care, but I take a pill for that now.

I'm confused…wait, maybe I'm not.

Sarcasm. Just one more service I provide.

Where's the switch that turns you off?

Inside every older person is a younger person wondering what the hell happened.

Deja Moo…the feeling you've heard this bullshit before.

Don't worry about what people think. They don't do it very often.

Everything I say can be fully substantiated by my own opinion.

I am the Grammariam about whom your mother warned you.

Ending a sentence with a preposition? That is something up with which I shall not put.

I'm always late. My ancestors arrived on the Juneflower.

There. Their. They're not the same.

Nostalgia isn't what it used to be.

Old age comes at an inconvenient time.

Irony. The opposite of wrinkly.

And finally, seen on a Harley Davidson T-shirt: You won't see a motorcycle parked in front of psychiatrist's office.

Have any of you come across any fun or interesting T-shirt sayings you'd like to share?

Sunday, July 17, 2011

10 Odd Ways To Get Rid Of Flies

We're in the thick of summer. In addition to mosquitoes (my blog posted on Sunday, June 5, 2011), there's also that pesky little problem of flies. They're everywhere—not only outdoors, but they also follow you into the house if you leave the door open one little second longer than necessary.

I came across an article listing 10 sure-fire home remedies for dealing with flies, sure-fire ways of getting rid of them—ways that may or may not work.

1) Fabric Softener Sheets
As a home remedy, hanging fabric softener sheets on the clothesline is said to repel flies. Unfortunately, after hanging the sheets then sitting next to them to enjoy a cold summer drink will only make your neighbor think you're nuts. The flies don't seem to be bothered at all.

2) Plastic Bags Filled With Water
The claim is that clear plastic bags filled with water and hung by the doors will disorient the flies and they'll leave. Oddly enough, there seems to be some validity to this one during the day. But come twilight, the flies totally ignore the bags of water as if they weren't there at all.

3) Crushed Mint
Here's a home remedy that's rumored to work for everything from getting rid of ants to curing headaches so it's no wonder that it's been suggested as a method of repelling flies. This was tested by crushing mint leaves and leaving them in a cup on the table. Even though the flies didn't land inside the cup, they continued to buzz around it, so they weren't actually repelled.

4) Lavender-scented Candles
This one is a yes-it-works and no-it-doesn't. Test showed that a 3-wick candle with a heavy concentration of scented oil seemed to work in keeping away the flies, while smaller single-wick candles with a weaker fragrance didn't work.

5) Sugar Trap
This home remedy claims that if you pour a quarter cup of sugar into an open mason jar then fill the jar halfway with water, the flies will be attracted to the sugar which will cause them to fall into the jar and drown. Well, as they say, it looked good on paper but the reality wasn't as good. The flies simply walked down the side of the jar, took a sip or two, then flew out.

6) Dish Soap Trap
Similar to the sugar trip, pour an inch of liquid dish soap into a jar, then add an inch of water. This one was good news—bad news. Floral scented soap didn't work that well, but the fruit scented one seemed to do the job of attracting the flies to their doom.

7) DIY Fly Paper
This do-it-yourself procedure says to cover heavy paper in syrup or honey, then sprinkle it with sugar and place the sheets of paper around the area with the fly problem. Sounds straight forward enough. However—as the temperature rises the heat melts the honey creating a disgusting sticky mess nearly impossible to clean up.

8) Clove-studded Apple
Your house will smell like Christmas, but unfortunately you'll still have the flies.

9) Basil
Makes a great centerpiece for the table, but doesn't do a thing to keep the flies away.

10) Fan
Place a box fan with the air directed toward you. This acts as a wind tunnel for the flies. Combine this with the soap traps and you have a winning home remedy.

Of course, there's always the tried-and-true method of having someone posted to 24 hour duty with a fly swatter to handle the situation.

Or you can procure a nice selection of frogs.

Does anyone have any sure-fire solutions for keeping flies away from the picnic table or away from the door? Please feel free to share them.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

7 Reasons Your Brain CAN'T Spot A Liar

Think you can always spot a liar? That you're able to successfully call someone's bluff? According to a study in the journal of Psychological Science In The Public Interest…you're probably wrong. Research shows there are several factors that contribute to our ability—or more accurately, our inability—to tell when we're being deceived.

Here are 7 of those factors:

1) Liars Get Ignored: The Ostrich Effect
One reason deception goes undetected is because we don't want to uncover the truth. Quite often it's because the lie is easier to handle. This has been referred to as hiding our head in the sand, or the Ostrich Effect, and often leads to more serious lies which have more serious implications.

2) Liars Don't Have Pinocchio's Nose
Do you think someone's lying because he or she won't look you in the eye? Because beads of perspiration stand out on the forehead? According to research, there aren't any tell-tale clues specifically related to lying or deception. One study examined 158 different clues believed to be associated with lying and of these 118 showed no connection to deception.

3) Liars Are Hard To Spot
Are you still convinced you can always spot a liar? You'll need a very good eye because studies show that contrary to popular belief there are very few behavioral differences between honest people and liars.

4) Liars Know How To Embed Their Lies
Liars are smart. Instead of telling an all-out huge lie, they usually mix their lies with enough truth to make them plausible. Another form of this is to embellish on the positives rather than to say something negative about someone.

5) Liars Try To Fool You
This undoubtedly seems obvious, but one problem in spotting a deception is that liars use strategies that appear truthful.

6) Liars Don't Tell Us If We Caught Them
When we get feedback on a completed project it allows us to make improvements next time we tackle a similar project. This isn't the case with deception. If we don't know when we've been fooled, we can't learn how to detect the deception the next time.

7) Some People Are Just Good Liars
Some people have perfected this ability. Very little research has been done on the features of a good liar. One of those rare studies did identify 6 features that might play a key role in whether a person is particularly adept at lying.
   A: People whose natural behavior disarms suspicions
   B: People who don't consciously find it difficult to lie
   C: People who do not experience fear, guilt or delight when lying
   D: People who are good actors and display an honest demeanor
   E: People whose attractiveness may lead to assumption of honesty
   F: People who are good psychologists and have a sense of what others want to hear.

Hmmm…I guess the bottom line is that we all need to remain vigilant rather than automatically accept everything at face value. But if not, could I interest you in a bridge being constructed between California and Hawaii, some ocean front property in Arizona, and some swamp land with oil underneath it that I have for sale? :)

Sunday, July 3, 2011

10 Question Quiz About Fireworks Safety

July 4, Independence Day—on this date in 1776, the Declaration of Independence was approved by the Continental Congress, setting the 13 colonies on the road to freedom as a sovereign nation. The U.S. Constitution, the document that emerged from the 1787 Philadelphia Convention, is the oldest national constitution in the world.

As always, this most American of holidays will be marked by fireworks, parades, and backyard barbecues. Fireworks displays are common throughout the world and are the focal point of many cultural and religious celebrations. Fireworks were invented in ancient China to scare away evil spirits, as a natural extension of the Chinese invention of gunpowder.

With 4th of July fireworks comes the concern for safety. A reality for the holiday is that fireworks cause thousands of injuries, and even some deaths, in addition to enough fires to make July 4 the day with the most reported fires across the United States according to the National Fire Protection Association.

So…how much do you know about fireworks safety? Here's a 10 question quiz to test your knowledge. Correct answers are at the end.

1) How hot does a sparkler burn?
a: 212 degrees
b: 600 degrees
c: 950 degrees
d: 1200 degrees

2) What portion of 4th of July fires are caused by fireworks?
a: 10 percent
b: 35 percent
c: 50 percent
d: 90 percent

3) Which age group has the most injuries reported from fireworks?
a: under 20
b: 20 – 40
c: 40 – 60
d: 60+

4) You should skip buying fireworks in brown paper packaging as that could be a sign that they're made for professionals, not consumers.
a: true
b: false

5) What percentage of firework-related injuries in 2008 occurred between June 20 and July 20?
a: 1 of 4
b: 1 of 3
c: 2 of 3
d: 100 percent

6) If a pack of fireworks has not fully functioned, you should cautiously relight it.
a: true
b: false

7) What's the best way to dispose of a used firework?
a: throw in trash
b: use hose or bucket of water to soak them then throw away
c: bury them

8) Last year what was the most common fireworks injury?
a: fractures and sprains
b: contusions and lacerations
c: ear injuries
d: burns
e: eye injuries

9) According to a U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission investigation, which of these were common reasons for fireworks injuries?
a: holding fireworks in the hand
b: mischief
c: debris or smoke from a malfunction
d: errant flight path from a malfunction
e: early or late ignition from a malfunction
f: all of the above

10: Never light more than how many fireworks at a time?
a: 1
b: 2
c: 3

And now, for those of you who want to see how well you did on the quiz—

1) the correct answer is d…1200 degrees F, hot enough to burn certain metals and ignite clothing.

2) the correct answer is c…50 percent, when shooting fireworks keep a bucket of water or sand available.

3) the correct answer is a…under 20, children 10 – 14 are more than twice as much at risk for fireworks injuries.

4) the correct answer is a…true.

5) the correct answer is c…2 out of 3

6) the correct answer is b…false, any malfunctioning fireworks should be soaked in water and then thrown away

7) the correct answer is b…use hose or bucket of water to soak them and then throw them away

8) the correct answer is d…burns

9) the correct answer is f…all of the above

10) the correct answer is a…light just 1 at a time.

Happy…and safe…holiday to everyone.