25 October 2008

The only way is UP!

I got this in my inbox this week and thought it worth sharing.

Lovers of the English language might enjoy this. It is yet another example of why people learning English have trouble with the language. Learning the nuances of English makes it a difficult language. (But then, that’s probably true of many languages.)

There is a two-letter word in English that perhaps has more meanings than any other two-letter word, and that word is ‘UP.’ It is listed in the dictionary as being used as an [adv], [prep], [adj], [n] or [v].

It’s easy to understand UP, meaning toward the sky or at the top of the list, but when we awaken in the morning, why do we wake UP?

At a meeting, why does a topic come UP ? Why do we speak UP, and why are the officers UP for election and why is it UP to the secretary to write UP a report? We call UP our friends and we use it to brighten UP a room, polish UP the silver, we warm UP the leftovers and clean UP the kitchen. We lock UP the house and som e guys fix UP the old car.

At other times the little word has a real special meaning. People stir UP trouble, line UP for tickets, work UP an appetite, and think UP excuses.

To be dressed is one thing but to be dressed UP is special.

And this up is confusing:

A drain must be opened UP because it is stopped UP.

We open UP a store in the morning but we close it UP at night. We seem to be pretty mixed UP about UP !

To be knowledgeable about the proper uses of UP , look the word UP in the dictionary. In a desk-sized dictionary, it takes UP almost 1/4 of the page and can add UP to about thirty definitions

If you are UP to it, you might try building UP a list of the many ways UP is used. It will take UP a lot of your time, but if you don’t give UP, you may wind UP with a hundred or more.

When it threatens to rain, we say it is clouding UP . When the sun comes out we say it is clearing UP. When it rains, it wets UP the earth. When it does not&n bsp;rain for awhile, things dry UP.

One could go on & on, but I’ll wrap it UP , for now. My time is UP.

Oh…one more thing:

What is the first thing you do in the morning & the last thing you do at night?


23 October 2008

Happy Halloween!

17 October 2008

Why we see spooks, ghouls & long leggety beasties!

Vampires, ghosts and witches are all utterly real – at least to those who witness these horrifying apparitions, explains Roger Highfield.

In pagan times, the last evening of October was "old-year's night", when disembodied ghouls and spirits staged a carnival, and bonfires were set on hilltops to scare them away.

'Vampire legends are quite widespread, although current Western ideas about vampires appear to have originated in a kind of vampire-craze in the 18th century'
The souls of the dead revisited their former homes, while ghosts, witches, hobgoblins and demons roamed far and wide. Today, science can shed new light on the darkest horrors of Hallowe'en.

The legends and superstitions are remarkable because they are not fantasies - the latest research shows that the terrifying creatures that populate the annual celebrations are utterly real to those who see them.

They are the bizarre products of flawed and faulty neurological processes, holding up a distorted mirror that allows us to glimpse the stranger recesses of the human mind.

Take vampires, ghosts and witches. One clue to their origins comes from studies of sleep paralysis, a penumbra of consciousness when sufferers sense the presence of a nearby threat, either in the process of falling asleep or awakening.

Some sufferers hear indistinct voices and demonic gibberish, while others experience hallucinations of humans, animals and supernatural creatures. The condition gets its name because a common element is a striking inability to move or to speak, or the sensation of a weight on the chest.

This is because the brain paralyses the sleeping body to stop us acting out our dreams. Not surprisingly, these bizarre experiences are accompanied by terror.

Recent studies suggest that sleep paralysis may strike about 30 per cent of us at least once. One expert, Allan Cheyne, of the University of Waterloo in Canada, has studied around 40,000 cases from around the world.

He finds that there are often reports of a "sensed presence", such as a spectral figure or ghost, or even an elderly person dressed in an old-fashioned costume. This phenomenon, Professor Cheyne believes, is as old as humanity.

In Newfoundland, sleep paralysis is called "old hag", because it is linked with visions of an ugly old woman squatting on the chest of a paralysed sleeper.

The Chinese refer to it as "gui ya", or "ghost pressure", while in the West Indies there was "kokma", when a ghost baby bounced on the sleeper's chest and attacked the throat.

In ancient Japan, a giant devil was blamed. In fact, sleep paralysis probably gave us the term "nightmare".

The monsters we now associate with Hallowe'en arose, then, because people made sense of this experience by drawing on what seemed plausible in the culture of the time. Hundreds of years ago, witches, demons and ghosts got the blame. In the 1980s and 1990s, people were more likely to report alien abductions.

"Aliens have become merely the latest actors in the ancient drama of the sleep paralysis nightmare," says Prof Cheyne, though he adds that most sufferers "conjure up rather ancient and traditional demons and ghosts".

But how about the vampire - the most familiar night predator of all, condemned to rise from the grave to feast on the blood of sleeping victims?

"Vampire legends are quite widespread, although current Western ideas about vampires appear to have originated in a kind of vampire-craze in the 18th century," says Prof Cheyne.

"In contrast to the suave and urbane vampires of fiction portrayed by Bram Stoker, however, vampires of legend are typically described as repulsive, bloated, and unshaven, with long nails, and tattered funereal clothing." His survey of sleep paralysis revealed hundreds of cases of such vampire imagery, "though a small percentage of the total".

In 1998, the Spanish neurologist Juan Gomez-Alonso linked the Dracula legend to rabies, caused when a virus invades the nervous system and inflames the brain. Symptoms include insomnia, an aversion to water, mirrors and strong smells (though not specifically to garlic), and an increased sex drive.

And rabies, of course, is transmitted by bat and other animal bites, reflecting how the victims of vampires usually become vampires themselves.

"This plausibly accounts for things associated with the 17th- and 18th-century scares," says Dr Tim Taylor, an archaeologist from the University of Bradford who appears in a Hallowe'en documentary, Real Vampires (Discovery Channel, 9pm tomorrow). "The light-sensitivity and fear of water lead to shunning the village priest, with his shiny crucifix and holy water."

Dr Taylor has come up with an even more intriguing idea to explain why we remain fascinated with vampires: it is hard-wired into our brains because our primate ancestors used to show their fangs to demonstrate their status and say: "I am an alpha male and I want sex!"

Gorillas and chimpanzees still do this today, he points out, although humans "now say 'Look at my Jag' instead". Men don't bare their incisors any more because big teeth are, as Dr Taylor says, anatomically incompatible with the evolution of our big brains two million years ago.

But the memory of this evolutionary throwback lingers, not least in the sexier Dracula that prowled around the Hammer Horror films.

Other monsters, such as ghosts and witches, are born in parts of the brain that make sense of what we see.

This has been revealed in studies of people losing their sight who are untouched by the brain diseases, such as Alzheimer's, that are known to cause hallucinations: their visions are conjured up when the brain attempts to make sense of degraded visual information.

These are called Charles Bonnet hallucinations, after the Swiss naturalist who reported his grandfather's strange experiences and later went on to suffer the hallucinations himself.

Dominic Ffytche, of the Institute of Psychiatry in London, found patterns in these visions. Rather than witnessing anything and everything, the patients' apparitions usually fall into a handful of categories, including distorted faces, costumed figures and other bewildering apparitions.

"I'm sure ghosts, fairies and witches all relate in some respect to these disembodied hallucinations," he says. Phantoms were typically small and wore period clothing - 40 per cent saw figures in costume.

"These could be Edwardian costume, knights in armour, military uniforms, Napoleonic uniforms and First World War uniforms," says Ffytche.

"They often wear hats." As for why these apparitions seem to like the same costumes, whether witnessed by patients in India or in Britain, "it is something to do with the brain's visual representation of the human figure - but we do not yet know what".

The disembodied, or distorted face of a stranger with staring eyes and prominent teeth is seen by about half of patients, sometimes only in an outline, like a cartoon. The faces "are often described as being grotesque, or like gargoyles," Ffytche says.

As the brain is starved of sufficient information from an eye that is going blind, it compensates with abnormally increased activity and conjures up hallucinations from the random firing of nerve cells.

His suggestion is that the hallucinations occur when the brain's lateral occipital region alerts us to the possibility that what we are looking at might be a face, an idea backed by brain scans at Yonsei University College of Medicine in South Korea.

This region detects a face's component features - eyes, nose, lips and chin - but does not register where they are. It does not care if a chin is on the forehead, or a pair of eyes under the nose.

Unusual activity in this region seems to make it insensitive to the position of each feature and, says Ffytche, creates "the characteristic distortions of the gargoyle and the over-emphasis of facial features, such as the prominent staring eyes".

People who suffered from Charles Bonnet hallucinations centuries ago bequeathed us the banshees, goblins and crones that stalk Hallowe'en today.

So on a dark Winters night, when you hear things go bump in the night or see shadowy figures, don't be afraid - it's only your mind at work!

14 October 2008

The Spoiled Under 30 Crowd!

When I was a kid, adults used to bore me to tears with their tedious diatribes about how hard things were when they were growing up; what with walking 25 miles to school every morning ... uphill BOTH ways …yadda, yadda, yadda.

And I remember promising myself that when I grew up, there was no way I was going to lay a bunch of garbage like that on kids about how hard I had it and how easy they've got it!

But now that I'm over the ripe old age of thirty ( and how!), I can't help but look around and notice the youth of today. You've got it so easy! I mean, compared to my childhood, you live in a Utopia! And I hate to say it but you kids today you don't know how good you've got it!

1) When I was a kid we didn't have The Internet.
If we wanted to know something, we had to go to the library and look it up ourselves, in the card catalog!

2) There was no email!!
We had to actually write somebody a letter ... with a pen! Then you had to walk all the way across the street and put it in the mailbox and it would take like a week to get there!

3) There were no MP3's or Napsters!
If you wanted to steal music, you had to hitchhike all the way to the record store and shoplift it yourself! Or you had to wait around all day to tape it off the radio and the DJ would usually talk over the beginning and mess it all up!

4) We didn't have any fancy Call Waiting!
If you were on the phone and somebody else called they got a busy signal, that's it!

5) And we didn't have fancy Caller ID Boxes either!
When the phone rang, you had no idea who it was! It could be your school, your mom, your boss, your bookie, your drug dealer, a collections agent, you just didn't know!!! You had to pick it up and take your chances mister!

6) We didn't have any fancy Sony Playstation video games with high-resolution 3­D graphics!
We had the Atari 2600! With games like “Space Invaders” and “Asteroids” and the graphics were horrible! Your guy was a little square! You actually had to use your imagination! And there were no multiple levels or screens, it was just one screen forever! And you could never win. The game just kept getting harder and harder and faster and faster until you died! Just like LIFE!

7) When you went to the movie theater there no such thing as stadium seating!
All the seats were the same height! If a tall guy or some old broad with big hair or a hat sat in front of you and you couldn't see, you were just plain out of luck!

8) Sure, we had cable television, but back then that was only like 15 channels and there was no onscreen menu!
You had to use a little book called a TV Guide to find out what was on!

And there was no Cartoon Network either!
You could only get cartoons on Saturday Morning. Do you hear what I'm saying!?! We had to wait ALL WEEK for cartoons!

9) And we didn't have microwaves…
If we wanted to heat something up, we had to use the stove or go build a fire...imagine that! If we wanted popcorn, we had to use that stupid Jiffy Pop thing or a pan with HOT oil and Real popcorn kernels and shake it all over the stove forever.

10) When we were on the phone with our friends and our parents walked-in…we were stuck to the wall with a cord, a 7-foot cord that ran to the phone - not to the phone base, the actual phone. We barely had enough length to sit on the floor and still be able to twirl the phone cord in our fingers. If you suddenly had to go to the bathroom - guess what we had to do.....hang up and talk to them later.

That's exactly what I'm talking about! You kids today have got it too easy. You're spoiled. You guys wouldn't have lasted five minutes back in 1980!

13 October 2008

God has a problem granting a wish!

Found this great story over at Greenrose, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did :-)

A man riding his Harley was riding along a California beach when suddenly the sky clouded above his head and, in a booming voice, the Lord said, "Because you have tried to be faithful to me in all ways, I will grant you one wish.

The biker pulled over and said, "Build a bridge to Hawaii so I can ride over anytime I want." The Lord said, "Your request is materialistic, think of the enormous challenges for that kind of undertaking; the supports required reaching the bottom of the Pacific and the concrete and steel it would take! It will nearly exhaust several natural resources. I can do it, but it is hard for me to justify your desire for
worldly things, take a little more time and think of something that could possibly help mankind."

The biker thought about it for a long time. Finally, he said, "Lord, I wish that I and all men could understand women; I want to know how she feels inside, what she's thinking when she gives me the silent treatment, why she cries, what she means when she says nothing's wrong, and how I can make a woman truly happy?"

The Lord replied, "You want two lanes on that bridge or four????

9 October 2008

A House Break In!

A man breaks into a house to look for money and guns.. Inside, he finds a young couple in bed. He orders the guy out of bed and ties him to a chair.

While tying the homeowners wife to the bed the convict gets on top of her, kisses her neck, then gets up and goes into the bathroom.

While he's in there, the husband whispers over to his wife: 'Listen, this guy is an escaped convict. Look at his clothes! He's probably spent a lot of time in jail and hasn't seen a woman in years. I saw how he kissed your neck. if he wants sex, don't resist, don't compl ain.....do whatever he tells you.. Satisfy him no matter how much he nauseates you. This guy is obviously very dangerous. If he gets angry, he'll kill us both. Be strong, honey. 'I love you!'

His wife responds: 'He wasn't kissing my neck. He was whispering in my ear. He told me that he's gay, thinks you're cute, and asked if we had any Vaseline. I told him it was in the bathroom. Be strong honey. 'I love you, too.'

8 October 2008

The Latest Ig Nobel Awards: Slime moulds can solve puzzles and other astonishing research honoured!

Slime moulds can solve puzzles! This astonishing revelation is one of 10 pieces of real research honoured this year with Ig Nobel Prizes. The spoof alternatives to the rather more sober Nobel prizes were presented in a ceremony at Harvard University.

Other winners included studies that showed Coca Cola was an effective spermicide; and that fleas on dogs jump higher than fleas on cats!

Marc Abrahams, editor of science humour magazine Annals of Improbable Research, which co-sponsors the awards, said: "The prizes are intended to celebrate the unusual, honour the imaginative - and spur people's interest in science, medicine and technology." All the research is real and published in often prestigious journals. Unlike the recipients of the more illustrious awards, Ig Nobel winners get no cash reward.

The full list of winners is (to see fuller articles on each, click on the white text):-

Nutrition: Massimiliano Zampini and Charles Spence for their study showing that food actually tastes better if it sounds crunchier.

: The Swiss Federal Ethics Committee on Non-Human Biotechnology and the citizens of Switzerland for adopting the legal principle that plants have dignity.

Archaeology: Astolfo Gomes de Mello Araujo and Jose Carlos Marcelino for demonstrating that armadillos can turn the contents of an archaeological dig upside down.

Biology: Marie-Christine Cadiergues, Christel Joubert and Michel Franc for showing that fleas on dogs can jump higher than fleas on a cat.

Medicine: Dan Ariely for demonstrating that expensive fake medicine is more effective than cheap fake medicine.

Cognitive Science: Toshiyuki Nakagaki, Hiroyasu Yamada, Ryo Kobayashi, Atsushi Tero, Akio Ishiguro and Agota Toth for demonstrating that slime moulds can solve puzzles.

Economics: Geoffrey Miller, Joshua Tyber and Brent Jordan for discovering that the fertility cycle of a lap dancer affects her tip-earning potential.

Physics: Dorian Raymer and Douglas Smith for proving that heaps of string or hair or almost anything else will inevitably tangle themselves up in knots.

Chemistry: Sheree Umpierre, Joseph Hill and Deborah Anderson for discovering that Coca-Cola is an effective spermicide (it was shared with C.Y. Hong, C.C. Shieh, P. Wu and B.N. Chiang who showed the opposite).

Literature: David Sims for his passionately written study "You Bastard: A Narrative Exploration of the Experience of Indignation within Organizations."

6 October 2008

The Sarah Palin Flow Chart

I came across this on ph33r and loathing and several other blogs and thought it was just too good not to share :-)

2 October 2008

Making a Memorable Exit!

The Mexicans may have their Day of the Dead, but the West is more cagey about the idea of kicking the bucket. It's something we all have in common but it still takes us by surprise. A new book 'Thinning the Herd', celebrates the sublime and the ridiculous that happens when a life ends. In extracts from the book, we tip our hats in particular to the famous - and the sometimes unusual ways in which they met their end.

ATTILA THE HUN(406-453)was one of history's most notorious villains. By 450 he had conquered Asia, destroying every village in his path and pillaged the countryside from Mongolia to the outer edges of the Russian Empire. He died of a nosebleed on his wedding night. The men who buried him and his treasures in 453 were put to death immediately so that the feared barbarian's grave would never be discovered.

British actor GEORGE SANDERS(1906-72) won an Acadamy Award for his role as a sarcastic theatre critic in All About Eve. He also played the lead in the 1956 film Death of a Salesman, and a schoolteacher who takes his own life in Village of the Damned. According to the short note found in his room where he died, he killed himself because he was bored.

After having been shot in battle, Mexican revolutionary PANCHO VILLA(1878-1923) turned to a journalist who was nearby and shouted: "Don't let it end like this! Tell them I said something!"

General JOHN SEDGWICK(1813-64), Union commander, was killed in battle during the US Civil War. His last words were: "They couldn't hit an elephant at this distance".

As JOAN CRAWFORD(1905-77) lay on her deathbed, her devoted housekeeper - and probably her one true friend in the world, fell to her knees and began to pray out loud for the legendary actress. Crawford turned to her immediately. Propping herself up, she said: "Damn it, don't you dare ask God to help me!". She was dead before her head hit the pillow.

ALBERT EINSTEIN(1879-1955) spoke his last words on his deathbed but we will never know what they were - his nurse didn't speak German.

The daring French philosopher VOLTAIRE(1694-1778) frequently refuted the fiercely held religious views of his times, despite the strict censorship laws of 18th century France. When a priest at his deathbed asked him to renounce Satan, he replied: "Now, now, dear man, this is not the time to be making enemies".

French grammarian DOMINIQUE BOUHOURS(1628-1702) was a stickler to the end. His last words were: "I am about to - or I am going to - die. Either expression is acceptable".

In the last years of his life WALT WHITMAN(1819-92) searched the depths of his soul for something glorious, a few brilliant and patriotic words to leave behind as his legacy for all of humanity. He gave up, finally, uttering only one word before dying: "S***".

Extracts from 'Thinning the Herd: Tales of the Wierdly Departed' by Cynthia Ceilan (Michael O'Mara Books, £10 - now £6.60 from Amazon).

1 October 2008

One for the ladies :-)

Question: What is the difference between men and puppies?
Answer: Puppies grow up.

Question: Why do men always have a stupid look on their faces?
Answer: Because they are...

Question: What do men have in common with ceramic tiles?
Answer: Fix them properly once and you can walk all over them - Forever.

Question: If you drop a man and a brick out of a plane, which one Would hit the ground first?
Answer: Who cares?????

Question: What did God say after he created man?
Answer: I can do better than this! And then he created woman!!!.

Question: What's the difference between an intelligent man & a UFO?
Answer: I don't know, I've never seen either.

Question: What are two reasons why men don't mind their own business?
Answer: I) no mind ii) no business

Question: Why did Moses wander in the desert for 40 years?
Answer:! Because even back then men wouldn't ask for directions.

Question: What is the difference between men and pigs?
Answer: Pigs don't turn into men when they drink...

Question: What makes men chase women they have no intention of marrying?
Answer: The same urge that makes dogs chase vehicles they have no intention of driving.

Question: What do you do with a man who thinks he's God's gift?
Answer: Exchange him!!

Question: Why do men like smart women?
Answer: Opposites attract.

The Aussie Builders Joke!

Two Aussie builders (Phil and Eric) are seated either side of a table in a rough pub when a well-dressed man enters, orders a beer and sits on a stool at the bar. The two builders start to speculate about the occupation of the suit.

Phil: - I reckon he's an accountant.

Eric: - No way - he's a stockbroker.

Phil: - He ain't no stockbroker! A stockbroker wouldn't come in here!

The argument repeats itself for some time until the volume of beer gets the
better of Phil and he makes for the toilet. On entering the toilet he sees that
the suit is standing at a urinal. Curiosity and the several beers get the
better of the builder.

Phil: - 'Scuse me.. No offence meant, but me and me mate were wondering what
you do for a living?

Suit: - No offence taken! I'm a Logical Scientist by profession.

Phil: - Oh! What's that then?

Suit: - I'll try to explain by example... Do you have a goldfish at home?

Phil: - Er... Mmm . Well yeah, I do as it happens!

Suit: - Well, it's logical to follow that you keep it in a bowl or in a pond.
Which is it?

Phil: - It's in a pond!

Suit: - Well then it's reasonable to suppose that you have a large garden

Phil: - As it happens, yes I have got a big garden!

Suit: - Well then it's logical to assume that in this town if you have a large
garden then you have a large house?

Phil: - As it happens I've got a five-bedroom house...built it myself!

Suit: - Well given that you've built a five-bedroom house it is logical to
assume that you haven't built it just for yourself and that you are quite
probably married?

Phil: - Yes I am married, I live with my wife and three children.

Suit: - Well then it is logical to assume that you are sexually active with
your wife on a regular basis?

Phil:- Yep! Four nights a week!

Suit: - Well then it is logical to suggest that you do not masturbate very

Phil: - Me? Never.

Suit: - Well there you are! That's logical science at work!

Phil: - How's that then?

Suit: - Well from finding out that you had a goldfish, I've told you about your
sex life!

Phil: - I see! That's pretty impressive...thanks mate!

Both leave the toilet and Phil returns to his mate.

Eric: - I see the suit was in there. Did you ask him what he does?

Phil: - Yep! He's a logical scientist!

Eric: - What's that then?

Phil: - I'll try and explain. Do you have a goldfish?

Eric: - Nope.

Phil: - Well then, you're a wanker..