Old-Timey Diseases Defined

Have you ever watched a movie or read a book that mentioned a vague disease and you had no idea what it was? When it happens to me, I typically just make up the symptoms and causes in my head... and I frequently learn later that I am very wrong!

So if you're like I am, hopefully these definitions will help you!

1. The Vapors
origin: Victorian times, mid to late 1800's
ailment: Nervous disorder such as hysteria, typically in women
symptoms: anxiety, depression, bloating, fainting, loss of appetite, tremors, digestive issues, gas, and behavioral problems
causes: sometimes psychosomatic, sometimes a result of cancers, depression, underlying infections, and lacing corsets too tightly

2. Scurvy
origin: 4th Century BC
ailment: Malnutrition, a lack of plasma in the blood
symptoms: Fatigue, nausea, muscle pain, bloody and swollen gums, loose teeth, anemia, bruising, dry skin, and rashes
causes: Vitamin C deficiency

3. Consumption
origin: Defined in 460 BC; though cases were reported much earlier
ailment: Tuberculosis
symptoms: Weight loss, low energy, poor appetite, fever, cough, and night sweats
causes: Passed from person to person by saliva or mucus

4. Gout
origin: First written description by Egyptians in 2600 BC
ailment: Severe arthritis
symptoms: Excruciating, sudden, and burning pain, and swelling, redness, warmth, and stiffness in the affected joint or tissue, and fever
causes: Too much uric acid in one's blood (either naturally or in foods such as liver, sweetbreads, anchovies, beef, lentils, cauliflower, etc)

5. Rickets
origin: Reported in ancient times, but defined around the Industrial Revolution
ailment: Malnutrition, the softening of bones
symptoms: Bone pain or tenderness, dental problems, muscle spasms or weakness, bone fractures, deformities, and growth disturbances
causes: Vitamin D deficiency, possibly also a calcium deficiency

Wow, I feel more knowledgeable, but I don't know if I feel better after looking up all of those diseases up! Thank goodness for modern diets and medicine!


How To Dry Out Electronics

In case your Thanksgiving was a little crazier than you thought, and your iPod ended up in a glass of water or you dropped your cellphone in the punchbowl, here are some tips for saving your electronics:

1. Turn off your device and place it in a bowl of uncooked rice. Make sure the room is relatively dry (near the shower isn't a good idea!), and let it sit until the rice absorbs all of the moisture.


2. Remove the battery and the SIM card. Pat the extra moisture off the device (don't use heat). Then soak it in rubbing alcohol and let it air dry for a couple of days.

It's worth a try at least! According to the experts at Lifehacker, these steps saved a Blackberry from a toilet and a cellphone from a swimming pool!


Tribute to Tryptophan

I thought today would be an appropriate day to learn a little bit more about my favorite food-related sleep aid: tryptophan!

Fast facts:

1. Tryptophan is an amino acid, necessary for adults and growing infants. It helps our bodies balance nitrogen and produce niacin, auxin, and serotonin (which we need for a good night's sleep).

2. Tryptophan is not only in turkey: it is also naturally found in milk, chicken, nuts, soy beans, eggs, fish, pumpkin seeds, chocolate, oats, and mangoes (among other things!).

3. Turkey doesn't actually have more tryptophan per gram than other poultry!

4. Typically, the more protein per gram a food has, the more tryptophan that food has, too. Which food has the most tryptophan per gram? Egg whites!

5. Most experts think that Thanksgiving-related sleepiness is actually a result of overconsumption in general, especially of carbohydrates (which can also, after several chemical reactions, produce melatonin, another sleep-inducing hormone).

So the turkey's tryptophan effects aren't as intense as I thought... either way, I say eat up if you can! There's nothing quite like a food-coma, regardless of what causes it!

Have a Happy Thanksgiving! Thank YOU for reading!

(information via MedlinePlus and Wikipedia)


Oscar The Grouch Is "In A Relationship"!

Apparently I didn't pay too much attention to Sesame Street when I was a kid! I didn't find out until last week at a trivia game night that Oscar the Grouch has been a committed boyfriend since January 3, 1983!

For those of you, like me, just (re)learning this, here is a picture of the happy couple, Grundgetta and Oscar (or "Grungie" and "Oskie" as they refer to each other!):

According to Grundgetta's page on Muppet Wiki, "she and Oscar, in addition to being a couple, are also best friends." However, according to Oscar's page, "a romantic relationship between two Grouches is understandably rocky". Isn't that how he said/she saids tend to go sometimes? :)


A Nurturing Leopard Seal

This is an incredible story. And it makes me want to have a pet Leopard Seal!

More of the story is available on the National Geographic website.

[via SerialBus]


"Love" Is Against The Law?

In Roseville, Michigan, an artist named Ed Stross was almost sentenced to 30 days in jail for painting the word "love" on a mural outside of his studio. He was found guilty of violating a city ordinance that limits signage on certain buildings, but the Michigan Court of Appeals overturned the verdict last week.

Although Stross is not in the clear yet - Michigan's Court of Appeals does want another trial to look at the case again. Apparently there is a disagreement over the constitutionality of the ordinance.

All for "love"!

I actually spent some time reading over the City of Roseville's Sign Ordinance, and I didn't see anything that prohibited painting words on buildings, unless he painted "love" too large or in the wrong spot. Then again, I lost interest around Item 9 (of 17). If you want to try to find the specific rule, click on the link above and read Chapter 264.

I did learn that any signs with moving lights are not allowed in Roseville. That alone makes the city much less appealing for me! :)


What Does A "State of Emergency" Mean?

With the autumn floods and hurricanes a'brewing, I have heard of several governors considering announcing a "State of Emergency". But what does that even mean? What happens after a leader declares it?

Virginia's government website gives a pretty clear answer. Here are some of their most common questions and answers about SOEs:


Q: What is a State of Emergency?

A: The governor declares a State of Emergency when s/he believes a disaster has occurred or may be imminent that is severe enough to require state aid to supplement local resources in preventing or alleviating damages, loss, hardship or suffering.

This declaration authorizes the governor to speed state agency assistance to communities in need. It enables him/her to make resources immediately available to rescue, evacuate, shelter, provide essential commodities (heating fuel, food, etc.) and quell disturbances in affected localities. It may also position the state to seek federal assistance when the scope of the event exceeds the [state's] resources.

Q: Does a State of Emergency declaration direct citizens to take any particular action?

A: No. The declaration empowers [the state's Department of Emergency Management] to act on behalf of the governor to employ the resources and assets of state agencies to provide immediate assistance to localities. Typically, the State Police, National Guard, and departments of Transportation and Health are called upon rather quickly to respond to the event, and other departments [or private agencies] are added as needed.

Q: Does a State of Emergency mean you aren't allowed to go anywhere or do anything until it's lifted?

A: The governor's declaration does not normally restrict citizen movements or activities. The state may limit access to affected areas due to concerns for public safety but will notify the public of these restrictions.

Q: How long will the State of Emergency remain in effect?

A: Basically, a State of Emergency remains in effect until it is no longer needed to provide necessary support to localities or until the threat of impending danger from the event has passed.


FYI. :)


Know The Secret Knock?

In case you don't have your own bouncer to guard your room, Steve Hoefer has invented has invented a device that will unlock your door if someone knows the correct "secret knock"!

If someone knocks out the wrong code, the mechanism ignores it and door stays locked. It can also be reprogrammed if the correct knocking-series gets into the wrong hands (har har).

ps. I bet it could also be helpful for those of us who have locked ourselves out on occasion!


Alien Hand Syndrome

We've all read horror stories or watched science fiction movies where a hand of one of the characters turns against him or others involuntarily. Apparently there's an actual syndrome that can cause that calamity!

Alien Hand Syndrome happens when there is unusual damage to the brain, sometimes following surgery, stroke, or an infection. Sufferers of the neurological condition usually retain feeling of the hand, but not the movement. Many say that their hand appears to "have a mind of its own", and it can "perform complex acts such as undoing buttons, removing clothing, and manipulating tools"!

Much like in movies such as Dr. Strangelove, the afflicted typically has to use his or her other hand to keep the "alien hand" at bay.

The human brain is unbelievable!


Closet Apartment

An out-of-work architect Sergio Santos was trying to find a cheap deal on a rental apartment. When even the bedroom of a house became too expensive, he asked to rent a walk-in closet in the house instead. Using his interior design skills, he turned the 5.5'-by-14' into a hip, comfortable living space:

"It's a legal rental. The landlord cut out a door so I'd have access to a kitchen and bathroom, which I share with three other tenants. I have a mini-fridge, a microwave, and a storage bin for dry goods. I made a loft for my bed, TV, and DVD player. My clothes hang on a metal rod.

I don't really get claustrophobic. I've learned to be comfortable in small places. If I keep the window open, I can just about see over the terrace and into the street. Next to my window is a bench—I call it my veranda. I've entertained as many as 11 people at my place. I can seat seven."

It's a pretty ingenious idea! He only pays $150/month in rent and word of his creativity has attracted new customers. Double win!


Remote-Control Bowling Ball

The new RC900 remote-control bowling ball by 900 Global makes "I hope I break 100" a lot more realistic for us amateur bowlers!

Marketed to kids and people with physical limitations, I think this could also be a nice $1500 present for anyone who wishes their video games were a little more like "real life". :)


The Berlin Wall

November 9th marked the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. I am old enough to remember seeing the historic moments on television, but also was too young to really understand the significance at the time. I just knew that in 3rd grade geography, I was taught that there was East Germany, West Germany, and the USSR... but in 4th grade they were called Germany and Russia...

Here is a history of the Berlin Wall in 10 points for those of you, like me, who only have a vague idea of what happened (of course, don't expect these 10 points to do this topic justice!):

1. After World War II, four major powers (the US, France, England, and the Soviet Union) controlled Berlin in four separate occupation zones. As time went on, the West side ended up using a capitalist system, while the East side was run by the Communist party.

2. In 1952, the East German government put restrictions on the border to West Germany because more and more of the Eastern population was emigrating to take advantage of the Western freedom. However, the restrictions weren't strict enough, and East Germany was worried they would lose all of their young educated population, so the wall was constructed in 1961.

3. Everything in Berlin (train tracks, cemeteries, roads, neighborhoods, etc) was separated by a 12' high concrete structure, barbed wire, anti-vehicle trenches, a 100-meter-wide gravel span (nicknamed "The Death Strip"), a second fence, guard dogs, and guards watching from 116 watchtowers and 20 bunkers.

4. Not only did emigration become impossible for the East Berliners, but also families were split, people who worked on the other side of the wall lost their jobs, and East Berliners could no longer freely travel.

5. There were 8 border crossings in the wall, which allowed visitors with appropriate visas and permits to travel to and from East Berlin (although anyone could be denied at the border for any reason) after December 1963. However, it was significantly easier for a West Berliner to enter East Berlin than vice versa -- mostly East Germans were only allowed to cross the border for family emergencies or business matters.

6. Guards were told in 1973 that people trying to cross the border illegally were to be considered criminals and should be treated as such. Despite this, about 5000 people successfully escaped, although about 100-200 people died trying to cross the wall.

7. On June 12th, 1987, on the 750th anniversary of Berlin, President Ronald Reagan said this in a speech to the General Secretary of the Communist Party, Mikhail Gorbachev:
"We welcome change and openness; for we believe that freedom and security go together, that the advance of human liberty can only strengthen the cause of world peace. There is one sign the Soviets can make that would be unmistakable, that would advance dramatically the cause of freedom and peace. General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization, come here to this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"
8. Starting in early 1989, a series of events led to the fall of the communist system: the first free labor union was started in communist Poland, Hungary removed its physical border with Austria (allowing 13,000 East Germans to escape to Austria), East Germans took part in mass demonstrations against the system, longtime East Germany's head of state Erich Honecker resigned, and more East Germans escaped through Czechoslovakia.

9. To calm things down, new leader Egon Krenz decided to allow refugees and travelers to cross the border directly at the border crossings with permission. The politburo spokesman G√ľnter Schabowski, though, was given this information without any instructions about how the plan would be carried out. At the press conference on November 9, 1989, Schabowski announced the new travel law, saying it was "effective immediately, without delay".

10. The East Germans saw this as a sign that the restrictions of the wall were finally being taken away. East Germans fled to the wall, and the guards, not knowing what they were supposed to do, allowed the masses to cross the border! West and East Germans, reunited at last after 28 years, celebrated in the streets. Visa-free travel was allowed after December 23rd, and German reunification officially concluded on October 3rd, 1990.

What an awesome way to end the 1980s!

(this info was compiled from the wikipedia entry. I am no historian, so please let me know if any of my facts are inaccurate!)


Bald Eagles - Safe Again!

For as long as I can remember, our glorious national symbol and distinguished bird, the Bald Eagle, has been close to extinction. Not anymore! According to Reader's Digest:
Bald Eagle populations in the Lower 48 states have increased 25-fold since the 1960s, thanks to an array of federal protections. America's national bird was taken off the endangered species list in 2007 and joins the American alligator, the Yellowstone grizzly bear, and the peregrine falcon as species that have recovered thanks to conservation efforts.
Yes!!! Conservation efforts work! I am glad my kids and grandkids will likely see a Bald Eagle in person one day. :)

Live long and prosper, little eaglets!


Inflatable Seat Belts

The Ford Motor Company recently announced that they are going to put a new safety feature in their Explorers next year: inflatable seat belts! The technology combines a regular seat belt with an airbag, and will increase the safety of backseat riders, particularly children and the elderly.

The new seat belts are wide and, according to test subjects, comfortable. When inflated, they distribute the impact over an area five times larger than traditional seat belts, which will lower the risk of serious injury substantially.

Yay for safety! Check out the video:


The "Bright" Side To Morning Sickness?

There's hope for nauseous mothers-to-be!

I heard on NPR's "Wait, Wait... Don't Tell Me" that a recent study concluded that mothers who experienced morning sickness during pregnancy gave birth to babies with higher IQs!

An article in the UK's Telegraph corroborates:

"The same hormones which make expectant mothers feel ill could help their baby's development, doctors believe.

Children were more likely to do better in intelligence tests if their mothers had experienced nausea and vomiting during pregnancy...

Scientists believe that the sickness could be a by-product of changes in the levels of certain hormones, known as HCG (human chronic gonadotropin) and thyroxine, during pregnancy.

These fluctuations help the body to ensure that a woman's placenta grows properly, delivering vital nutrients to her baby."

More research must be done to figure out exactly what's going on, but it's an encouraging start. Hang in there, sick moms, it may be well worth it!


Oklahoma! Slang

I recently saw a production of the musical Oklahoma! and realized that there are a lot of words in the script I didn't understand. :)

Here are a handful of those terms and their definitions:

1. Dutch Rub
An act of roughly rubbing one's knuckles across the top of another person's head with the intent of causing pain, often while pinning the other person's head with one's free arm. (ie. a "noogie")

2. Fascinator
A headpiece or hat, originally referring to a formal head covering made from wool, lace, feathers, flowers, and/or beads.
(from Forever 21)

3. Oh Foot!
The modern-day equivalent of "Crap!", etc. :)

4. Surrey
A horse-drawn, four-wheeled, two-seated carriage, with a canopy roof.

Please feel free to incorporate these into your daily speech!

"Oh, foot! I left my fascinator in the surrey. I could give you dutch rub for not reminding me to grab it!"


Purchasing Perspective

According to marketwatch.com, the Target Corporation (which happens to own one of my favorite retail chains) had a net income* of 2 billion, 214 million dollars in 2008.

That is $2,214,000,000 in one year,
which is $6,065, 753 each business day,
which is $433,268 each business hour,

which means that Target makes about $120.35 in pure profit every SECOND they are open!

I think I need to switch career paths! :)

*net income = sales - returns - cost of goods - total operating expenses


Unusual Ways To Uncork A Bottle

Hosting a fancy dinner and forget your corkscrew? This man demonstrates how to open a bottle of wine with your shoe:

(The magic happens about 40 seconds in)

Physics is amazing!

For those of you who prefer not to mix your footwear and drinks, you can also use a screw and a claw hammer to pop a cork. Click here for the Wired How-To instructions!

(via Lifehacker)


Good Gourd!

On October 3rd of this year, Nick and Christy Harp of Jackson Township, Ohio, brought a pumpkin to the annual Ohio Valley Giant Pumpkin Growers weigh-off. It weighed 1,725 pounds! That's almost ONE TON of pumpkin! According to the contest organizers, it beat the old World Record for the largest pumpkin by 36 lbs.

Can you imagine how long it would take to carve that puppy?

The owners have offered their pumpkin's dried seeds to anyone who would like them. It would probably take days just to bake them! Oh, and the pies! Hundreds of delicious pies from a 1,725-lb pumpkin! mmmmm....

I love this time of year. :)


Why Vote?

Today, across our great nation, is Voting Day! I encourage you (if you're eligible) to go out and exercise your right as American. We didn't always have the privilege of voting, and some here (just ask anyone under the age of 18 or non-citizens) still don't!

Here are some important dates in the history of voting, thanks to the City University of New York:
JULY 2, 1776
The New Jersey state constitution allows “all inhabitants . . . who are worth fifty pounds” to vote, including women and people of color. In 1807 the requirement is rewritten to specify only white men.

DECEMBER 3, 1800
Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr tie for president in the Electoral College. With no provisions existing for this situation, the House of Representatives votes for the president, electing Jefferson on February 17, 1801.

FEBRUARY 3, 1870
The Fifteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is ratified, declaring that citizens cannot be denied the right to vote based on “race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”

JULY 10, 1890
Wyoming becomes the first state to grant women full suffrage rights.

APRIL 12, 1892
The Meyers Voting Machine, the first mechanical-lever voting machine, is introduced in elections at Lockport, New York. The machine was designed to prevent voter fraud.

NOVEMBER 6, 1917
North Dakota, Ohio, Indiana, Rhode Island, Nebraska, Michigan, New York, and Arkansas all grant women suffrage.

AUGUST 19, 1920
The Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is ratified, guaranteeing suffrage for women.

MARCH 29, 1961
The Twenty-third Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is ratified, granting Washington, D. C. residents the right to vote in U.S. Presidential elections for the first time.

JANUARY 23, 1964
The Twenty-fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is ratified, ensuring that the right to vote in all federal elections cannot be taken away by the United States or any states due to failure to pay any poll or other tax.

MARCH 23, 1971
The Twenty-sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution gives 18-20 year-olds the right to vote.

MAY 19, 1975
The New York State Legislature approves a bill that allows voter registration by mail.

JULY 26, 1990
Americans with Disabilities Act requires full access to voting facilities for the disabled.
Summary: at different times throughout history, you could have been prevented from voting for any number of reasons - your race, gender, location, disability, past work, failure to pay taxes, failure to own land, or failure to be "worth enough" to count.

We live in a much freer and more fair time with regards to voting, and it has taken years and the efforts of thousands of people and the act of voting itself to get here.

We're not done, America. Use your voting voice to add more revolutions to this timeline!


How A Sewing Machine Works

I had to bust out my sewing machine last weekend to put some finishing touches on my Halloween costume. Every time I use it, I wonder, "How on earth does this work?"

Luckily for me, the good people at Bits & Pieces found this helpful animated gif to demonstrate the fascinating process:

Although I can see it with my own eyes, I am still amazed that it works! It's such a mechanical engineering marvel. :) And this technology has stood the test of time: this basic sewing machine function has been in use for over 150 years!