Why I don’t go in the water: There’s always a bigger fish.


I’d be afraid of a 10-foot Great White…even behind a foot-thick wall of aquarium glass. Sure, I’d put a brave front up for the kids, but I’d also shudder the chill of the damned, as if a mariachi band — at that very moment — were collectively walking over my grave playing Besame Mucho Tiburon.

So, I’m fairly certain I would become paralyzed instantly if I saw a 20-foot Great White bite the first one in half.

“That cannibal thing is what great whites do; they’ll eat anything, including their own kind,” Hugh Edwards, a local shark expert, told Australia’s 7 News. “It would be sensible not to swim in that area for a little while.”

Dya think?

Not for the faint of heart…hit the read more button (or the link above) if you weren’t planning to sleep tonight anyway.

Continue Reading Why I don’t go in the water: There’s...“Why I don’t go in the water: There’s always a bigger fish.”

Puppies of Jenkintown: Soon to be ripped off by Disney edition

I shouldn’t be doling these out so softly, but I must admit that we are behind in our puppy-hunting.

The same walk to the town square as the last two entries yielded Kimba, named after Kimba the White Lion. Also known as the the cartoon Disney ripped off to create the Lion King, which happens to be one of Julia’s favorite Disney movies, of course. This site is somewhat exhaustive in its comparisons.

Kimba was a big girl and, after Julia (and Benny) got up the courage to pet her, we had a nice long discussion about copyright infringement and the difference between an homage and a rip-off.

No matter how many times it was explained, it went over my head entirely.

Anyway, here’s Kimba the Golden Retriever:

Please note that Kimba is not actually on fire or somehow effervescent, except in terms of charm and puppylike sweetness. That is: nice dog, but not outgassing…at the moment, at least. Apparently, Julia had been fiddling with settings, as is her right as an artist.

Puppies of Jenkintown: Bella, Greta and Karch

We had seen them around town often — I mean, how do you miss three jacketed miniature greyhounds? — so it was nice to finally capture them, or parts of them, to be precise, on camera. (Feel free to correct me on the breed, they’re probably Toy Bavarian Fleethunds or Giant Italian Racing Chihuahuas or something.)


From right to left: Bella (sans head), Greta and Karch (judging your soul).

“You know, Karch, like the volleyball player,” the owner said. Um, sure. Let’s go with that.

Puppies of Jenkintown: Rocket

Last week — or maybe two weeks ago, it all has become very hazy really, that immediate passage of time thing — Julia and I walked up the hill to see an open house jointly hosted by Jenkintown’s fire companies.

(Yes, a town exactly one square mile in area has two fire companies because, as it turns out, Catholic houses burn too)

We took a few pictures, but I really don’t have the time to post them all at once, so here is a new friend (with a cameo by Julia’s thumb) that we met at the town square. His name is Rocket

Continue Reading Puppies of Jenkintown: Rocket“Puppies of Jenkintown: Rocket”

Puppies of the Outer Banks

It is hard to believe that it has been over a month since our vacation to Duck, NC on the Outer Banks. I’m more of Jersey Shore guy, but the Outer Banks is a nice change of pace. It is quieter, that’s for sure, especially after Labor Day. Still, with basically one main road in from the North — and one two-lane road running most of the way from Kitty Hawk to Corolla — I can’t imagine how crowded it must get during the peak of vacation season.

Puppies, like this one: Apollo

…after the fold… Continue Reading Puppies of the Outer Banks“Puppies of the Outer Banks”

Near Death Experiences not paranormal, just a wiring issue

Near death experiences always seem start out the same way — there was a tunnel, then a light…

Paranormalists often point to the commonalities of near death and out-of-body experiences as evidence of the proof of an afterlife or astral projection. Turns out there is a more mundane — though fascinating — explanation. These experiences are common because that’s how we’re all wired in the noodle:

The doctors believe they are seeing the brain’s neurons discharge as they lose oxygen from lack of blood pressure.

“All the neurons are connected together and when they lose oxygen, their ability to maintain electrical potential goes away,” Chawla said. “I think when people lose all their blood flow, their neurons all fire in very close proximity and you get a big domino effect. We think this could explain the spike.”

It’s possible a cutoff of oxygen would trigger a similar but recoverable event that becomes seared into memory.

“Not everyone reports this light sort of business. What you hear most often reported (in near-death experiences) is just a vivid memory,” Chawla said.

Why I don’t go into the water…bone-eating worms at whale fall

That’s whale fall — what happens when an enormous cetacean corpse hits the ocean floor — not whale fail — what happens when Twitter breaks.

You see, when the carcass lands on the bottom of the sea, a whole host of unpleasant critters come out to eat it in a process that can take months — or even years if the whale lands in deep, deep water. Among those critters are members of the genus Osedax, bone-eating worms related to tubeworms or those guys you see hanging out by thermal vents…if you happen to go past a lot of thermal vents, that is.

Icky wormy death

Robert Vrijenhoek of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute first discovered these little red bone-munching guys while out in the ROV Tiburon, which is a vehicle with just an awesome name. Their press release provides a great read. (And, doesn’t he look like something out of central casting for ocean explorer?)

Sure, unless your diet has really slipped and you’ve reached blue whale proportions, you don’t have much to worry about from these critters (aside from the fact that you’d be dead and lacking cares, in general). But the fact that these guys are down there waiting…just waiting…gives me the creeps.

Even creepier is that all those little red wigglers you see in the picture above are all females. They’re not hermaphrodites. Oh no, that would be normal in comparison. All of these worms are actually giant masters over their microscopic male concubines. That’s right, mini sex slaves. Invertebrates with a dwarf fetish.

But, according to Vrijenhoek, “That was not the end of the weirdness. In looking at the worms under a microscope, we discovered that every one of them was a female. We didn’t find any males until I got another call from Greg Rouse. He said, ‘Bob, it’s worse than you think.’ I said, ‘What now, Greg?’ He said ‘There really are males, but they are microscopic. They are dwarfs!'”

Sure enough, living within the tube that enclosed each female were 30 to 100 microscopic male worms, each only about a millimeter long. Not only that, but the male worms were still in a larval stage of development. They were making sperm in one part of their bodies, while other parts of the bodies still contained the yolk droplets. As Vrijenhoek put it, “These males don’t feed. A male lives its entire life off the yolk that was provisioned by the egg from which it hatched. This is one of the few cases in the animal world where sexually reproducing individuals are barely more developed than eggs. It’s weird.”

UPDATE: Cancelled! One Month Only: The $100 Psychic Challenge!

I have in my grubby little hands a slip of paper that could grant your favorite charitable organization $100.

Last night, I did the somewhat unthinkable (or at least, unreasonable) for a self-avowed skeptic: I bought a Powerball ticket. I lost, of course, as do the vast, vast majority of people who buy these tickets. It isn’t a good investment of even one measly greenback — but hey, it’s a vice.

And speaking of vices, I also realize I drink too much coffee. I’m going to try to quit — or at least drastically cut back — and I reckon I’d easily spend at leat $100 over a given four months for coffee and other caffeinated beverages.

Still, my loss is your gain — provided you have actual psychic powers. For this month only, if you can guess all six numbers — originally chosen by the Powerball machine — I will give your favorite charity $100. If nobody successfully guesses, I’ll donate the money to the James Randi Educational Foundation.

Here’s how Powerball works, from their site:

Powerball® is a combined large jackpot game and a cash game. Every Wednesday and Saturday night at 10:59 p.m. Eastern Time, we draw five white balls out of a drum with 59 balls and one red ball out of a drum with 39 red balls.

I’ve been told that many psychics refrain from playing the lottery as it would be a crass abuse of their powers. Fortunately for you, I have a guilt-free method with which you can demonstrate your powers and be assured that a deserving charity gets the full total of the award in your name. In the very least, you’ll be able to keep that Randi guy from getting another benjamin.

I’m sorry that it couldn’t be more, but if I were rich — or good with money — I wouldn’t be buying lottery tickets.

Here are the rules:

1) You have until 11:59 PM (Eastern Time) on October 31, 2009 to post your guess of six Powerball numbers to this blog entry.
2) You must provide your e-mail address. One guess per person. (I’ll check IPs/emails).
3) You must indicate a 501(c)(3) charity in your post. Otherwise, I’ll donate it to JREF in your name.
4) The lottery ticket will be kept in my wallet. If my wallet becomes lost/stolen over this month, the contest will end. Void. Kaput.
5) Your sole hint: the Powerball ticket was purchased September 30, 2009
6) If, for some reason, I lose my main source of income this month, i.e., “my freakin’ job,” the psychic challenge will stand, but I will hold off on donating to JREF. Sorry Randi, Phil.
7) Payments will be made in four monthly installments, since this is coming out of my coffee money.

UPDATE (30 seconds later): A few quick edits for typos.

UPDATE 2 (1.5 hrs later, or so): Just to be clear, I am in no way affiliated with the James Randi Educational Fund. They neither sponsor nor sanction this brutal test of paranormal abilities.

UPDATE 3: Damn. I lost the ticket. It must have slipped out of my wallet. We’ll try again later. Skeptifail!