Remember to Doodle to Remember

. Saturday, February 28


The folks at the School of Psychology at the University of Plymouth released study results that point to doodling as a way to increase retention. They took a boring recording of a list of names and locations and asked people to listen to the long list and remember which were heading to a party. Half of the study participants were asked to color in random shapes while listening, while the control group did nothing but listen to the long list of names. The result was that those who doodled while listening named, on average, 7.5 of the 8 names going to the party, while those who didn't doodle listed only 5.

While it seems a bit odd to 1.) listen to a long list of names, and 2.) be told to do something that is usually unacceptable as a matter of course, the point of the study was to illustrate how something bad can actually be good. Put another way, doodling while listening to someone drone on and on prevents the mind from slipping into daydreaming or "zoning out" by giving the mind a cognitively undemanding task to perform. It's just enough to keep the mind present.

Boring teachers take heart: If your students are doodling, they are retaining more!

Sure Could Use a Little Good News

. Monday, February 23

I've been keeping my eye on the headlines as usual, and for the last few days, I haven't found anything that hasn't been pounded into the ground. Even that cartoon-in-poor-taste is still making the rounds.

It makes me wonder. Could we have another strike in the making, only this time it's news reporters instead of flaky Hollywood actors? Or maybe everyone is hunkering down to weather the depression and there really isn't anything happening?

Maybe, it's more that my own eye has grown too accustomed to all the bad news. Hm. That must be it, because I sure could use a little good news today.

The Secret Order of the Skull and Bones

. Wednesday, February 18

Now this has me a bit spooked. I love a good conspiracy theory, but I don't really expect them to be too close to reality, if you know what I mean. Buried in an article today about the 100th anniversary of Geronimo's death is this little bit about the "secret" order of the Skull and Bones. It seems as though Pres. Bush and John Kerry, along with other powerful government officials and industrialists are a member of this secret society linked to Yale University. The secret society is so conspiratorial that it has a fake corporation to cover its financial tracks, and its member list is very, very closely guarded.

The whole thing really had me going.  Until....I did a Google search. Turns out this secret society has it's own web site with a non profit domain. Very interesting...

Oh, go ahead. Laugh at me if you want. I really thought I was onto something there for a second or two!

Dead Chimp Cartoon Causing a Ruckus


The NY Post did it again. I love it when the news is in the news. This cartoon by Sean Delonas appeared in today's Post on page 6, and oo boy is the fur flying. It's a take-off on this week's story about a chimp named Travis who went berserk and mauled his owner's friend, an act that ended with a dead chimp. Now, some say the cartoon makes light of the mauled woman and dead chimp. Others think it means Obama should be assassinated. Still others think it's a major insult to compare Obama to a dead chimp. And, of course, Al Sharpton has to pipe in with "troubling at best given the historic racist attacks of African-Americans as being synonymous with monkeys." The Post says it's just a parody of the tragedy of the dead chimp and a mock of Washington's efforts to ease the economic crisis. The kicker comes with the Huntington Post's interpretation: "At its most benign, the cartoon suggests that the stimulus bill was so bad, monkeys may as well have written it. Most provocatively, it compares the president to a rabid chimp."

Get over it! It's a stupid cartoon created by someone who likes to push buttons, and it ran in a stupid newspaper on page 6. At best, it's fit to line the floor of a bird cage. At worst, it's a tasteless attempt at levity. Is it worth getting angry or indignant over? Maybe it's time to grow tougher skin. No wonder the new AG Eric Holder calls us all a bunch of cowards when it comes to racism. No one dares utter a word for fear of saying something politically incorrect.

Crude Down, Gas Prices Up - Huh?

. Monday, February 16

Get this! As if we weren't gouged enough last year so that Exxon et al could make record profits, it's happening again this year. The excuse is different, but the end result is the same - higher prices at the pump.

Crude prices have dropped, so you'd expect pump prices to follow. Instead, it's a matter of which crude prices have dropped. As it turns out, the price per barrel of crude that we are privy to is based on the stuff produced by West Texas Intermediate. That crude is the primo stuff, and it is now less expensive by about $10 per barrel than the crap stuff we import. Of course, the stuff that "we" import goes to the refineries along the east coast and into our gas tanks. West Texas is sitting on stockpiles of the good stuff.

Even though the premium, less expensive stuff is sitting there, refineries can't get to it because of the limited pipelines. Refineries around the Gulf are connected, but that's it, and there's no plans to build more. Why? Because there's no guarantee that pricing will stay as it is for very long, with a year the projected length before things return to the way it was.

Adding insult to injury, and keeping our gas prices rising, the refineries have slashed production so that they aren't sitting on product no one is going to use. Because of this, the price at the pump should reach $2.50 by spring.

The reasons be damned. Exxon is still raking in record profits. Now tell me who holds the reins to the economy!

Now it's a Staph Infection?

. Sunday, February 15

It appears possible that Michael Jackson had reconstructive surgery on his nose, and is now suffering from an MRSA-style, antibiotic resistant staff infection that has spread throughout his face and body. MSNBC picked up the story from the British newspaper The Sun who investigated after the The Times of London reported Jackson's inflamed skin. There is also mention that Jackson has an "Alpha 1-antitrypsin deficiency" and is in need of a lung transplant, an allegation his private doctor debunks by saying the 50 year old singer is in perfect health.

I have to wonder, after years of watching this eccentric display a myriad of mental health symptoms, why no one has suggested he sees a shrink. 'Talent' does not always equal 'crazy,' though it's pretty clear Jackson has the crazy part down quite well.

Traffic Control Needed in Space

. Thursday, February 12

Earth's orbit is now so cluttered that two satellites, one US, one Russian, smashed into each other over Siberia on Tuesday. With a 500 mile orbit, the concern is about debris and what other space objects may be affected. The space station is at a 270 mile orbit and believed to be out of harm's way, but Hubble and other Earth observing satellites are at a higher orbit and may be impacted. The biggest concern is for space shuttles that have to pass through orbiting debris safely, and now there is so much garbage in space that it is a large concern, over and above the dangers of take off and re-entry. Oh, and it was the Russian satellite that was malfunctioning and caused the collision. The other was a sat phone satellite, which is causing spotty service that is expected to be resolved soon. The major subscriber - the US military. It's time for traffic control in space.

22 Dogs in a Car Seized

. Monday, February 9

At about 7 p.m. CST, the AP released a very short blurb about the 22 dogs in this photo. In Pottsboro, TX, an incoherent woman locked herself in the car with the dogs, a pot of water, a blanket and a whole lot of waste. The police tried to serve the woman a warrant for the seizure of the dogs, but the details are scant, with no way of knowing whether the dogs and woman were already in the car, or whether the woman gathered them all up and put them in the car when threatened with their removal. The ammonia level in the car registered at 23 ppm, when people start experiencing health problems at 12 ppm. The SPCA took the dogs to shelters to await a Feb. 16 hearing, when a judge will decide custody. No charges against the woman were filed, and authorities contacted adult protective to see to her care.

Looking at the photo, you see a roll of paper towels, an umbrella and a wind-up alarm clock on the dashboard. There's also a rabies tag on one of the dogs, but there is no way to tell what condition they are in. I shudder to think about the circumstances that brought this about, and though it may be wishful thinking, my fingers are crossed that we don't see more instances of futility like this again.

Tylenol Cold Case Reopened

. Thursday, February 5

Meet James W. Lewis. Back in Sept. 1982, seven people died after taking cyanide-laced Tylenol. Lewis sent a letter to Johnson & Johnson demanding $1 million to "stop the killing" and spent 12 years in prison for it. However, no one was ever charged with the murders. On the anniversary of the murders in 2007, pressure mounted to reopen the case and touting new forensic advances, the FBI searched Lewis' home. The investigation is, again, ongoing.

Lewis isn't exactly squeaky clean. He spent 2 years of a 10 year sentence for tax fraud that was dismissed. In 1978, he was charged in a dismemberment death, but the case was dismissed because cause of death couldn't be determined. In 2004, he was charged with the rape and kidnap of a woman who refused to testify, and Lewis spent 3 years in prison awaiting trial.

Let's hope they get the slime bag this time around.

Watch the Feet

. Wednesday, February 4

In 1904, Eadweard Muybridge used video to record the way a horse walks and gallops. This classic sequence is widely used and accepted, and accurately shows the horse's progression of footfalls that keep the animal balanced. As it turns out, all four-legged animals use the same footfall sequence, with the timing of those footfalls the only difference.

A recent study, however, has found that half of the depictions of four-legged animals walking in museums, text books, anatomy books, catalogs and toys are wrong. If done correctly, models of quadrupeds walking would not fall over. Stability comes from the correct sequence of footfalls as left-hind, left-fore, right-hind and right-fore, which leaves 3 feet on the ground at all times. The researchers decided it was carelessness and ignorance of biomechanics that caused such a high rate of error universally, around the world.

Interestingly, the highest rate of accuracy in depicting four-legged movement was found in Hollywood productions of imagined animals such as in Jurrasic Park and Lord of the Rings. Now, if only toy manufacturers and text book authors were so imaginative...

The questions that come to mind about this include why some egghead thought this topic was important enough to warrant applying for and receiving a research grant to conduct the study, and why he couldn't see the benefits of eye-hand coordination development in children trying to keep their toy horse upright. Just imagine how slow and boring the news would become if we saw an increase in irrelevant studies like this. Or, maybe it isn't irrelevant. Who knows?