Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

My next door neighbors' house caught on fire last Monday/Tuesday. They - Kevin and Kathy - had fire damage in the living room and smoke damage throughout the house. They and their three dogs (Tank, Dorie, and the bulldog, whose name I can't remember) and their three cats (Lefty, Gabriel, and Kitty) all got out, but their bird died. They got Lefty out right away, I believe, and then found one of the other cats at 3am and the final one at 8am.

I had almost fallen asleep. It was around 1:30am. I heard people talking outside and I thought it was awfully late for people to be out partying. Then I heard a siren coming closer and closer and then stopping somewhere very near, so I got out of bed and as soon as I got to the hall I saw lights flashing. I went to the window and peeked out and saw two fire trucks and a police car, so I threw on some sweatpants and went out to see what the heck was happening. Kevin and Kathy were standing on the sidewalk in their nightwear and bare feet and Kevin was coughing and having difficulty breathing. Firemen were running around and this loud generator was going and a spotlight was shining at the house and more vehicles arriving. It was so noisy. And smoke was just pouring out of their house. I could actually smell it in my house when I went downstairs before I ever went outside.

I knew they had three dogs and I was looking around for them and then an officer came up to me and said the fire started in the fireplace and they had gotten two of the dogs out. I asked if my house was in danger and she said, "Oh, gee, I don't think so." Very reassuring.

Kevin was taken away in an ambulance. Firemen started coming out of the house in their gear and carrying axes and other strange looking implements. Then Tank came out, very freaked by the noise and people and lights and smoke, and ran to the back where someone was holding the gate open for him. We (me and my other neighbors, Mary and Jerry) went over to Kathy. She said Kevin was suffering from smoke inhalation (he ended up staying in the ER until 5am) from trying to go back in to get Tank. He later told me that Tank has a kennel in the kitchen, but the smoke was so thick he couldn't find it.

Kathy's daughter Jen arrived and came running down the street to her mother and they cried and hugged. It just gave me chills. (Ironically, Jen's husband is a fireman.)

Finally things settled down a bit. Kathy and Jen went to sit in her car. I went back inside but I was just wired and my heart was pumping and my feet were frozen from standing on the cold sidewalk for an hour with no shoes on (this was the night it got in the 30s). The fire trucks left and the police cars left and the spotlight was turned off and just when I thought it was going to get quiet this van showed up and this guy started sawing wood panels to put over the windows. I stayed home from work the next day because I could not get to sleep.

The next day they spent moving out all their furniture and clothes and stuff. I asked if they needed some help and Kathy held up her hands and they were black. She said I didn't need to be messing around in the soot too. The Red Cross set them up in a hotel for a few days and the insurance guy was scheduled to come out. They've been back a couple of times since then getting more stuff. There is a sign on the window saying the house has been condemned, but I believe that's just until repairs are made and the place is cleaned up. I don't know when that will happen. I am assuming it still will.

My Kevin, my Mom, my half-sister Kim and Kim's daughter Christianna, and I went to see the Philharmonic perform on Saturday. It was supposed to be this piano award winner but she was ill so they got someone else to do the part and he was EXCELLENT. Such a light touch on the piano. You could really feel what the music was expressing. The current conductor is leaving at the end of the season and they have begun the search for his replacement. I hope they find someone as charismatic and talented as him. He really brought the Philharmonic up from where it was. Mom and Kevin and I are going to be going to the Bugs Bunny on Broadway concert in May. My understanding is they will play the music from the cartoons while the cartoons show on a screen behind the orchestra. I think that will be fun! Ride of the Valkyries starts the show. I was standing in my kitchen trying to remember how it goes and then it hit me - "Kill the wabbit, kill the wabbit..." The classics and cartoons, what a combination. :)

No new activity on the part of my carpet, as far as I can tell.

Friday, April 4, 2008

And the Hits Just Keep on Coming

My carpet is plotting against me.

If you've read a few of my past posts, you know I called my carpet "Pepto-Bismol pink" and declared I wanted to get rid of it. I think it has decided to get me first.

Three weeks ago my garage was broken into and some tools were taken. Now, I know I am partially to blame for this because the door had been broken for some time and I was going to replace it or get a lock rigged to it somehow and never took the time to actually do it. Now there are big locks on both back gates to the alley and the garage door. If someone wants in again, they're going to have to work for it.

Two weeks ago my second, "decorative" chimney was leaking water into the ceiling of my computer room. (See post from March 30.)

Last night I went to take a nice, hot, relaxing bath and discovered there was no hot water. Upon inspection, I discovered that my water heater had emptied itself on my basement floor. Now, I had never done any potty training with my water heater - I guess I just expected a mature water heater to know better. But perhaps old age has incapacitated it. It has a thermal blanket around it to help keep the water hot and I suspect that when I take that blanket off I will find the water heater has rusted through, because the water was coming out from between the blanket and the heater, and I have been experiencing rust in my water for some time.

Have you ever washed your hair in ice cold water? It is extremely unpleasant. My little fingees got numb. But I understand it is better on your hair than using hot water.

So I believe this is all part of a master plan thought up by my carpet to get me back for saying it is from the 1980s and needs to go bye bye. It figured if I had to spend my money on home repairs, I would not be able to buy new carpet, and it was correct. That's quite impressive thinking for a carpet. I take it back! I LOVE Pepto-Bismol pink! It's the best carpet in the world!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008


Mating invariably kills the drone, since his entire phallic area is torn from his body to remain inside the queen.

Australian researchers have discovered that honeybees can distinguish human faces. The insects were shown black-and-white photos and given treats whenever they recognized their subject. They also retained memory of that face, flying directly there with great accuracy (80%) for days after their initial experience.

Queens, predictably, do not feed themselves. They preen and devote themselves to reproductive duties. She’s bigger than workers, longer than drones; her slender waspish body is adorned with sparkling gold hairs. (For you language buffs, the Persian word for bee is Zanbur – “blonde woman.”)

In ancient times, and as recently as World War I, honey was used to treat battlefield wounds because it attracts and absorbs moisture, making it a valuable healing agent. …An organic substance with no caustic properties, honey contains vitamin and mineral elements that fight bacterial infection. Bacteria don’t seem to develop resistance to honey as they do to modern-day antibiotics!

Honey never spoils. Edible honey has been found in pharaohs’ tombs and in other archaeological sites.

On average, 21,000 germs per square inch are just on your desk – 400 times more than on the misperceived office toilet seat. Telephones have as many as 25,000 microbes per square inch, keyboards have more than 3,000, and computer mice over 1,500. Toilet seat: about 50. A toilet handle, however, can have as many as 80,000 bacteria per square inch.

You can download software from the SETI@home project (setiathome.berkeley.edu) to sift for alien signals from your home computer. Over 187,000 other people have already done so. SETI@home is privately funded, largely by the Planetary Society, a non-profit organization co-founded by Carl Sagan.

The most common birth month is August – with odds favoring a Tuesday afternoon.

In 2007, psychologist Frieda Birnbaum of New Jersey became the oldest woman (60) in the U.S. ever to bear twins. …An Austrian woman became a first-time mom at age 61, then bore her second child at 66. The oldest mother in the world to give birth was a 67-year-old Spanish woman.

The youngest known parents were a 9-year-old boy and an 8-year-old girl in China. …In 1930, Russia claimed the world’s youngest mother, just 6 years old. That record was eclipsed in 1939 by a 5-year-old Peruvian girl.

Biotechnologists in New Zealand have discovered cows with a gene that lets them naturally produce skimmed milk. The first “skimmed milk” cow, Marge, was found in 2001….

Pasteurizing milk destroys enzymes and cuts the vitamin content by over half. For generations, the advice has been “drink lots of milk for strong teeth and bones.” But although the U.S. produces and consumes more dairy products than any other country, we have the world’s highest per capita incidence of bone fractures and osteoporosis. Both Africans and African-Americans consume less calcium and milk than Caucasians but have greater bone density and fewer instances of osteoporosis.

Sheep milk fans applaud its “rich, bland, slightly sweet taste” and find it much higher in nutritional solids than either cow or goat milk. It contains up to 200% of the calcium, phosphorus, zinc, and B vitamins that cow milk provides. In 1993, the FDA approved the use of bovine growth hormone (BGH), a genetically engineered hormone that can increase milk production as much as 25%. Research shows a 700% increase in the risk of breast cancer in women, and a 400% increase in the risk of prostate cancer in men, with high levels of that growth factor.

Your Body:
Good health depends on balanced body chemistry, about an 80-20 alkaline-acid ratio. A wholesome ratio is 80% alkaline-producing foods (leafy and root vegetables, juice fruits, beans, other legumes, and tubers) and 20% acid-producing foods (proteins like meat, fish, and whole grains).

Women feel more pain than men.

Human brains continue to generate electrical impulses for more than a day after death.

…men have the same number of ribs as women. In each case, 24. One of every 20 humans has one pair more or less.

Your scalp has 100,000 hairs. Redheads have 90,000; black-haired people, 110,000.

…Humans are as hairy per square inch as chimps but don’t show it, since most hairs are too fine to be seen.

Healthy humans are capable of between 100 and 200 pounds psi biting pressure. Large dogs (Rottweilers, German shepherds, pit bulls) registered 320 pounds; wild dogs, 310; lions and white sharks, 600; hyenas and snapping turtles, 1,000; crocodiles, 2,500.

…many women lose sensitivity in their middle fingers when menstruating.

In 1998, researchers found a new mosquito species in the London Underground, descended from ancestors flying when the tunnels were dug 100 years earlier. Once bird feeders, they now feast on a menu of rats, mice, and people. For genetic reasons they rarely interbreed with above-ground colleagues. Their DNA varies from subway line to subway line.

One of the longest recorded sleepless stints dates back to 1964, when San Diego high school student Randy Gardner, supervised by Stanford University scientists, stayed awake for 264 hours and 12 minutes – a bit more than 11 days. It was previously believed that going without sleep for so long would cause serious mental damage. That proved untrue for Randy, who sacked out for 15 hours, then returned to his normal waking/sleep schedule with no noticeable aftereffects.

Insufficient sleep is linked to illness, diabetes, hypertension, psychosis, and mental decline. More than 18,000,000 Americans suffer from sleep apnea – the interruption of normal breathing for 10 seconds or more while asleep. This potentially dangerous disorder, left untreated, can lead to heart and respiratory problems or even death by stroke or cardiac arrest. Overt symptoms of sleep apnea are excessive snoring, gasping, and choking. Deeper symptoms may include high blood pressure and lowered metabolism (and consequent obesity).

A rat can tread water for three days, survive being flushed down a toilet, and return to the building via the same route. Adult rats can squirm through holes ½ in in diameter. They can chew through almost anything, with astonishing jaw power over 20,000 pounds per square inch – roughly 10 times the estimated biting power of a pit bull! (But you’re far more likely to be bitten by a human than by a rat.) Adult rats can leap 3 feet straight up and 4 feet outward, and climb almost anything with even a tiny paw-hold. They easily survive falls of 50 feet or more.

Rats are being trained to sniff out anti-personnel landmines and unexploded ordinance (UXO) that kill and maim innocent people in dozens of countries worldwide. Rats are faster, lighter, and nimbler than sniffer dogs.

They regulate their body temperature by constricting or expanding blood vessels in their tails. Although it takes up only 5% of the rat’s body surface, it dissipates 17% of its heat.

Cow’s tail to the west, weather the best; cow’s tail to the east, weather the least. Animals tend to graze with their backs to the wind. Since an east wind is more likely to bring rain, and a west wind good weather, the cow’s tail acts as a furry weather vane.

Crickets chirp faster in warm weather. Unlikely, but true. These little guys, who chirp by rubbing their legs together, are fairly accurate thermometers. Formula: count chirps for 14 seconds, add 40, and you have the local temperature in Fahrenheit.

When leaves are backward in the wind, bad weather is coming. Absolutely true. Trees grow in the prevailing (fair-weather) wind. In cyclonic (non-prevailing) wind, leaves are blown against their natural pattern and show their backsides.

Gran Canaria (Canary Islands) boasts of having the “best climate” with the least year-round variation of temperature (68 to 77 degrees F) and some 300 totally sunny days a year.

I got all these from a book I just finished and I can't remember the title! I'll get it up here if I can find it. It was by the editors of Discover magazine.