Category Archives: Science

Believe It Or Not

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
                                                                             Hamlet

Unfortunately, while I like to believe that Hamlet has it right, I tend more toward Horatio.  Yeti, Bigfoot, Loch Ness Monster, aliens in Roswell…. not much room in my philosophy for some of these.  It’s not just that I have never seen them but there’s not any compelling evidence (to me anyway) that anyone has even seen them.  I suppose someday I could be proven wrong, but I’m not holding my breath.

So I was very surprised to see Bigfoot cavorting along a backyard fence as I was driving through Richfield!  I went around the block so I could see it again and then another time so I could stop and take a picture.  Like the underwear tree, the bigfoot intrigues me.  Why would someone put a lifesize cutout of a bigfoot in their yard?  Maybe the author of Harry and the Hendersons lives there??

This is the only movie that I know of about a “not proven” creature.  I’m sure there are plenty out there and most likely songs as well.  I’m thinking about that unicorn song by The Irish Rovers that was very popular when I was in high school.

Any good songs, movies, poetry for mythical beasts?

Frozen Food Day

I think I’ve mentioned that I got a fun “every day a celebration” calendar by Sandra Boynton for Solstice?  According to the calendar (verified on other sources), today is National Frozen Food Day.  Apparently Ronald Reagan decided in 1984 that we needed a day to celebrate frozen foods – there is actually a proclamation (#5157) to this effect.

Frozen Food Day caught my attention because I just watched a documentary last week about some of the great “inventions” of the 20th century.  It began with the Kellogg brothers and CW Post, battling it out for cereal sales.  When CW Post passed away, he left his company for his daughter, Marjorie, who turned out to be one smart cookie.  In 1929 she bought out the entire Clarence Birdseye company (one of the other great inventors in the documentary).  With the General Foods backing, the frozen food industry was able to grow by leaps and bounds. 

In our freezer there are lots of things that we have frozen: berries that we’ve picked, pineapple puree cubes (YA makes these), my sun-dried tomatoes, my jams.  I also keep my coffee and my Ralston in the freezer and we have lots of assorted fruits.  Waffles and cookie dough. Ice cream (Moose Tracks right now) .  Assorted things we find (mostly at Trader Joe’s).

This is too much for just our freezer upstairs so we have a small freezer in the basement as well.  It’s nice to have a spot for extras or the occasional bulk purchase.  I’m very glad that Clarence Birdseye developed the flash freezing process and even more glad that Marjorie Post put her considerable company and funding behind it.  Even enough to celebrate today!

Anything interesting in your freezer?  Any guilty freezer pleasures?

Folie a Plusieurs

One benefit of working as a mental health professional  in the middle of nowhere is the opportunity to see people with all sorts  of different diagnoses that one wouldn’t necessarily see in urban areas due to the increased specialization there. When you are the only game in town (or a 100 mile radius) you get to see it all.  Very few of my urban colleagues have seen Huntington’s Chorea first hand, tested people with Lewy Body Dementia  or Korsakoff’s psychosis, and also treated  children with PANDAS (Look it up. It isn’t as nice as it sounds).

The recent uptick in conspiracy theories and QAnon reminded me of a case I was privy to decades ago involving a shared delusion.  Folie a Deux is a condition in which one person with a Delusional Disorder convinces someone else without a Delusional Disorder that their delusions are real. It usually occurs in couples or close relatives.   It is rare.  It barely made the last edition of the American Psychiatric Association  Diagnostic and Statistical  Manual.  The case I remember is that of  one person in a couple having  the delusion that a member of a famous  Country Western singing group loved them,  and transmitted secret messages to them over the television.  The delusional person convinced their partner this was true, and both had to be hospitalized.

I wonder if APA is reevaluating the rarity of shared delusions in our current political climate.  It may be more prevalent than we previously thought.  I love the French terms for these conditions.  Folie a Plusieurs is the term for “madness of several”,  which we certainly have observed recently.  The treatment usually involves separating the truly delusional from the ones they have convinced about their delusions.  Then they can see what is really happening.

What are your favorite non-English terms?  Make up some fun and helpful  conspiracy theories.  

Polar Bear Glue

I was quite amused to read in the Fargo Forum the other day an  article about the problem tracking male polar bears in the Arctic.  Scientists who track animals typically track them with collars. Female polar bears have  have large heads and small  necks. Their collars stay on.   Male polar bears have small heads and large necks.  The smaller heads on the male polar bears means that their tracking collars slip off, rendering the tracking collar useless.   Leave it to 3M, and the lead researcher from White Bear Lake (how appropriate), to solve the problem.

3M developed Polar Bear Glue to stick tracking devices on the male bears’ fur that would track the bears until they shed their fur in the Spring.  The tracking devices could then be retrieved from their radio signals, and the bear travels documented. The test bears would be Churchill, Manitoba polar bears.  I have a soft spot in my heart about anything from Manitoba. Taking the Polar Bear Express from Winnipeg to Churchill is on my bucket list.

What are some inventions you would like to see for what P. G. Wodehouse referred to as “our dumb chums” to make their lives easier?  What are some of your favorite recent news items?

Choir During Covid

We had church choir rehearsal yesterday for the first time since March.  Our county is a Covid hot spot, and the idea of rehearsal made me somewhat nervous. Choir rehearsals have been superspreader events across the country.

I really had little to worry about, as  there were only six singers, plus the director and the  accompanist. We sat in the pews instead of the choir loft, two singers to a pew, socially distanced, with two pews in between each twosome.  The church bought these plastic dealies that go under our masks and prevents the masks from being sucked back against the lips when you inhale. We all wore masks. We were all glad to sing. We expect more to join us in the coming weeks, but I think we can distance and sing and perform. We really have to listen carefully since we can’t sit right next to each other, and the tenors  aren’t right behind us and the sopranos aren’t right in front of us. It is  a musicianship challenge.

I have always considered myself a risk take, but this was a little scary until we got started and I saw how things would go.

What kind of a risk taker are you?  Has Covid changed your risk tolerance?

 

The Importance of Pals

I was tickled to see the New York Times article last week about the benefits of baboon friendships.  Researchers have studied the friendship patterns of baboons in Kenya since 1971.  They noticed early on that female baboons with lots of gal pals lived longer than those with fewer friends. Male baboons have been harder to follow and study, but the evidence is now in that male baboons’ life spans are longer the more  platonic female friendships they have.  Female baboons groom both  their male and female buddies, thus decreasing parasites and strengthening bonds that reduce conflict.  The same lifespan and  platonic friendship associations  are noted in many social species from horses to dolphins to humans.  Let’s give thanks for our friends!

Who have been your best male and female friends?

Licorice Alert

Wouldn’t you know it!  Husband has Type II diabetes, and watches his carb intake very carefully. We rarely, if ever, have chips and such in the house. His blood sugar levels are quite stable and in the normal range. He loves to snack on figs, so I order organic Turkish figs for him from a place in New York that sells all sorts of dried fruit, candy, dried beans, baking ingredients, etc.

Husband doesn’t eat much candy at all, but has a love for black Finnish licorice.  I really like it, too, and we go through a one pound  bag of it pretty fast. The New York connection sells wonderful Finnish licorice, and the last time he ran out of figs, I decided to order three pounds of figs and, to save money, I bought a five pound bag of black Finnish licorice.

A few days after the licorice  arrived, a news story emerged about the dangers of eating more than two ounces of black licorice a day.  Some guy on the East Coast collapsed and died from heart complications from eating a pound of black licorice a day for months. Licorice root in any form apparently has a compound called glycyrrhizin that lowers potassium levels which can lead to heart arrhythmias. Even licorice tea can increase blood pressure. The guy who died apparently had a really poor diet, and was eating in a fast food restaurant  when he collapsed. His potassium level was really low, and caused his heart to fail. Husband’s potasium levels were a little higher than normal at his recent checkup, probably due to figs, which are high in potassium. His blood pressure is in the average to low range.

All this hasn’t stopped our licorice eating, but it sure makes us hesitant to eat too much at once.  The five pound bag on the counter might last pretty long time.

How do you respond to expert dietary  advice?  What favorite snack would be hard for you to give up?

New Toys

Husband’s new smoker/grill arrived on Tuesday. You can see it in the header photo.  It is quite the machine, something my dad would have called a “delicate piece of equipment” given all the complexity involved in using it. It is iron, true. It took two trips to the hardware store just to unpack it. We needed a tin snips to cut the thick, wire strapping that secured its protective wrappings. Then we found it was firmly attached to a heavy wooden pallet by screws that had odd heads needing  a bit with a square head for the electric screwdriver.  I am thankful I managed to remove the screws without stripping them.  What would we have done then?!

Husband has waited years for this grill with the same anticipation as a child waiting for a long hoped-for special toy at Christmas. His first smoked sausage and country style pork ribs turned just as he wanted.  We are truly blessed with good cooking equipment.

What is the most complex piece of equipment you ever had to operate? What is your favorite cooking vessel or utensil. 

 

The House of Orange

Husband informed me this week that the reason carrots are orange is a result of selective plant breeding in the 17th century as a tribute by Dutch gardeners to William of Orange.  Prior to this they were purple, white, and yellow.  This was a real surprise to me, as I assumed such activity  was a phenomenon of the 20th century.  What a wonderful thing to know!

What new things have you learned lately?  What would you change the color of, if you could? Got any good carrot recipes? 

RIP Grant Imahara

I saw the sad news that Grant Imahara has passed away, from a brain aneurysm at the age of 49.  Although he worked for 9 years behind the scenes and Lucasfilms and Industrial Light & Magic as well as winning the third season of Battlebots, he is probably best known as one of the co-hosts of Mythbusters from 2005 to 2014.

I started watching Mythbusters right about the time that Grant started and I was hooked from the beginning.  This was about the time in my life when I was really starting to embrace my interest in science or as my baby sister says “my nerd stuff”.  As I know I’ve talked about here before, I spent decades of my life trying to mask my intelligence.  Even though I was the “smart one” in the family and did well in school, I never highlighted any accomplishments and purposely didn’t gravitate to things that were too nerdy.

But by the time Grant came into my life I had begun to realize that being interested in science, being a big reader, watching shows like Mythbusters was nothing to be ashamed about.  I loved the show and I was always amazed at Grant’s ability to whip up a robot whenever it was needed, from a baseball pitching machine to a robot that could fling a metal rimmed hat at a statue (a la James Bond).

So I will always be grateful to Grant for helping me along a path that has made me happier – I (and the rest of the world) will miss him.

Anything around your house you would like a have a robot do?