Friday, January 11, 2008


("Veined Splendor", watercolor by Deanna Leonard)

The BBC's Magazine Monitor has a weekly feature, "10 Things We Didn't Know Last Week", featuring interesting and unexpected facts arising from daily news stories. They've compiled a list of 100 Things We Didn't Know Last Year for 2007. Here's several that caught my attention, some with comments by me.

There is mobile phone reception from the summit of Mount Everest.

Martina Navratilova has spent four years secretly working as an artist.

Only about half of China's population can speak the national language, Mandarin. (Useful for throwing back at xenophobes to think America will perish if English-only laws aren't passed.)

Antony and Cleopatra were ugly.

Astronauts wear diapers during launch and re-entry because they can't stop what they're doing should they need to urinate. (That still doesn't explain Lisa Nowak. Also found on her when she was apprehended were a wig, a carbon-dioxide powered BB pistol, a tan trench coat, a new steel mallet, a new folding knife with a 4-inch blade, 3 to 4 feet of rubber tubing, and large plastic garbage bags. My mind keeps wondering about the tubing.)

Adding milk to tea negates the health-giving effects of a hot brew.

The Romans had roadmaps. (But did only the women use them?)

The brain can turn down its ability to see in order to listen to complex sounds like music.

IP addresses will run out in 2010.

A bdelloid rotifer is a pond-dwelling organism that has survived 80 million years without sex. (Now I don't feel so bad...)

In Iceland, 96% of women go to university.

Relocating crocodiles doesn't work -- they come back.

(Another image from the wit of little gator.)

Wired Science has a video of a series of chemical reactions, discovered in 1973 by Thomas Briggs and Warren Rauscher, two high school science teachers, that over 35 years later has chemists still trying to discover how it works. They issue a warning: "This beautiful ballet of chemical reactions could make you trade your lava lamp for a magnetic stirrer."

In follow-up to a recent discussion here about children's books of the 50s and 60s, I discovered a website containing recipes from Trixie Belden characters, entitled Moms Has Outdone Herself Again: A Guide to Cooking the Bob White Way! Let me just ask, if you make the "Bobby's See-Crud No-Bake P.B. Treats", please send me a batch, okay?

A recent article at Utne about a groundbreaking program called Music Together offers a nice adjunct to Kat's recent guest post here about choirs. According to the article, "Music Together cultivates children’s musical development from infancy through kindergarten with classes where parents and kids sing, dance, chant, and play instruments together. Specially trained teachers, exposed to the latest research in early childhood music development, encourage the native ability in all human beings to make music and dance....The truth is that making music and exploring movement is for everyone. It’s not about performance; it’s about expression, celebration, growth, fun, emotional honesty, and community."

In the elementary schools I attended, we sang together often. As did my family. Even more bonding was the singing we did at breaks of lesbian political meetings -- revolutionary and women's music was perhaps the strongest fibers of our subculture, completely ours, not commercialized or altered to fit male perceptions. The only comparison I can made is ethnic music from a small but thriving ethnicity. And singing together made us one.

Cat humor seems to have taken over the internet. It certainly rules at my house. Neatorama has compiled a list of all their stories and videos related to cats in 2007, The Year in Cats and you need to just go there and entertain yourself. Some of them I've already covered at this blog (like Nora, the piano-playing cat), but check out the family of cats performing to a waltz; the Wolverton, UK cat named Macavity who rides the bus to a local fish shop; and Oscar, the nursing home cat who can predict which resident will be the next to die.

There's also a project underway to translate the Christian Bible into Lolcat. (I'm keeping the news of this from Dinah.) Here's an example from Genesis: At start, no has lyte. An Ceiling Cat sayz, i can haz lite? An lite wuz.