Thursday, August 31, 2006

Game Boy system still hanging in there

We are in the golden age of portable video games. Nintendo’s DS Lite keeps delivering innovative new software, attracting an audience that didn’t previously have much interest in games. Sony’s PlayStation Portable has stumbled, but it’s still a solid alternative for players who want handheld versions of their favorite console games. And sooner or later, Microsoft is bound to come out with a portable Xbox.

Add in all the games that are available for cell phones and personal digital assistants, and you never have an excuse to be bored while waiting in line at the DMV. And we haven’t even mentioned the granddaddy of handheld game devices: Nintendo’s Game Boy.

Seventeen years after its introduction, the Game Boy is still hanging in there. Sure, it’s been through a lot of changes, as the chunky, black-and-white original has slimmed down into the credit-card-sized, color Game Boy Micro. But it’s outlasted three generations of home consoles and helped keep Nintendo afloat even as the company’s GameCube struggled.

The greatest threat to the Game Boy is that it’s likely to finally be superseded by Nintendo’s own DS. But the DS plays Game Boy cartridges — so even if you can’t buy the actual hardware, the Game Boy abides. And publishers continue to release new games for the old warhorse — although the offerings can be inconsistent.
“Summon Night: Swordcraft Story," by Irvine, Calif.-based Atlus U.S.A Inc., combines good old-fashioned dungeon-crawling with the whimsical humor that’s becoming an Atlus trademark. In the game, which retails for $29.99, you assume the role of a kid (a boy named Cleru or a girl named Pratty) who aspires to become a “craftlord,” a master weapon builder.

To find material for your weapons, you must venture into your friendly neighborhood labyrinth to kill monsters and steal their loot. After you’ve forged a weapon, it’s off to the arena to compete against one of your fellow “craftknights.” It’s lively, fast-paced action, and the challenge of forging and improving your weapons is rewarding. Eventually, you’ll stumble across a conspiracy involving the powerful craftlords and the mysterious death of your father, rounding out a satisfying role-playing adventure.

B-Daman, for those of you who don’t watch Saturday morning cartoons, is a nifty little tabletop game in which two robots shoot marbles at each other. It has inspired comic books, anime and now a video game, "Battle B-Daman,” also by Atlus. In the game, which sells for $29.99, you play a kid named Yamato who, naturally, sets out to become the greatest B-Daman player the world has ever known. (He was also raised by cats until he was 6, which is indicative of the sort of goofy comedy that permeates this game.)

The fights are too simplistic — mostly, you’re moving left and right, trying to shoot your opponent while avoiding his marbles — and there’s not enough variety from one battlefield to the next. Still, it’s kind of addictive, and you may feel compelled to keep fighting just to collect all the cool doohickeys you can add to your robot.

Every few months, someone notices the popularity of “casual games” — like chess or solitaire — and whips up a compilation for those of us who want something like that for the Game Boy. It’s a great idea, and it’s too bad they almost always screw it up. THQ's latest offering for the Game Boy — “Games Explosion!” — is the latest such failure.
You’d think it would be easy to program the old logic puzzle Mastermind, for example, but here they’ve made the pegs so small you can’t tell what color they are. There are equally inept translations of bowling, darts, checkers, sudoku and a dozen other games; you can easily find far better versions for your cell phone. “Games Explosion!” — which sells for $19.99 — does offer the only commercially available simulation, as far as I know, of tic-tac-toe, which may set a new standard for the lamest game ever published.

Rap Lyrics Translated / Rapping For Dummies / How to Rap for Dummies

Have Fun:


First things first, I poppa, freaks all the honeys

Dummies - playboy bunnies, those wantin’ money

Those the ones I like ‘cause they don’t get nathan’

But penetration, unless it smells like sanitation

Garbage, I turn like doorknobs

Heart throb, never, black and ugly as ever

However, I stay coochied down to the socks

Rings and watch filled with rocks


As a general rule, I perform deviant sexual acts with women of all kinds, including but not limited to those with limited intellect, nude magazine models, and prostitutes. I particularly enjoy sexual encounters with the latter group as they are generally disappointed in the fact that they only receive penile intercourse and nothing more, unless of course, they douche on a consistent basis. Although I am extremely unattractive, I am able to engage in these types of sexual acts with some regularity. Perhaps my sexuality is somehow related to my fancy and expensive jewelry.


And my jam knock in the Mitsubishi

Girls pee pee when they see me, Nava-hoes creep me in they tee pee

As I lay down laws like I lay carpet

Stop it - if you think your gonna make a profit


I enjoy playing my music loudly on my car stereo. Apparently, women enjoy this also because they become sexually aroused when they see me driving. Oddly enough, when I visit the Native American reservations, some of the more sexually promiscuous Indian women attempt to seduce me in their homes. Their intent is to divest me of my earnings. Such actions are unacceptable.


Don’t see my ones, don’t see my guns - get it

Now tell ya friends Poppa hit it then split it

In two as I flow with the Junior Mafia

I don’t know what the hell’s stoppin’ ya

I’m clockin’ ya - Versace shades watchin’ ya

Once ya grin, I’m in game, begin


Understand this fact: you can have neither my money, nor my weapons. I suggest that you inform your peers that we engaged in violent sexual acts. Currently, I am rapping with my associates, the Junior Mafia. I’m having some difficulty understanding why you refuse to approach me. I am attempting to make eye contact with you through my expensive glasses, and as soon as you respond with a smile, I will approach you.


First I talk about how I dress and this

And diamond necklaces - stretch Lexuses

The sex is just immaculate from the back I get

Deeper and deeper - help ya reach the

Climax that your man can’t make

Call and tell him you’ll be home real late

Let’s sing the break


I prefer to open the conversation with light banter about my wardrobe and jewelry, then I like to discuss my collection of expensive cars. This is more than enough to convince you to have sexual intercourse with me. I am able to insert my penis further into you when I enter you from behind. Furthermore, you will be able to reach orgasm. I understand this to be a problem with your current sexual partner. He needn’t be concerned about your whereabouts. Please phone him and inform him that you won’t be home for a while. By the way, please sing the chorus of the song for me also.


She’s sick of that song on how it’s so long

Thought he worked his until I handled my biz

There I is - major pain like Damon Wayans

Low down dirty even like his brother Keenan

Schemin’ - don’t bring your girl ‘round me

True player for real, ask Puff Daddy


Your current love interest no longer wishes to hear your fabrications about the length of your member. After I had sexual intercourse with your woman, she became enlightened as to the proper way it is supposed to be performed; violently and immorally. It would be in your best interest to keep your woman away from me as my sexual prowess is very strong. If you are unconvinced, ask Puff Daddy.


You - ringin’ bells with bags from Chanel

Baby Benz, traded in your Hyundai Excel

Fully equipped, CD changer with the cell

She beeped me, meet me at twelve


Despite the fact that you attempted to win her at her doorstep with bags full of expensive clothes and a car (the lower end model Mercedes Benz which you financed by signing over your current vehicle) containing an expensive stereo and a cellular phone, your woman has contacted me through my pager indicating that we should rendezvous at midnight.


Where you at? Flippin’ jobs, playin’ car notes?

While I’m swimmin’ in ya women like the breast stroke

Right stroke, left stroke what’s the best stroke

Death stroke - tongue all down her throat

Nuthin’ left to do but send her home to you

I’m through - can ya sing the song for me, boo?


You, on the other hand, jump from job to job, barely able to maintain payments on the Mercedes Benz you purchased for your woman. Meanwhile, I continue to engage in sexual intercourse and commit lewd osculatory acts with your women. My only remaining option is to request that she leave my home and return to you because I have reached orgasm and no longer have a need for her presence.


So, what’s it gonna be? Him or me?

We can cruise the world with pearls

Gator boots for girls

The envy of all women, crushed linen

Cartier wrist-wear with diamonds in ‘em

The finest women I love with a passion

Ya man’s a wimp, I give that ass a good thrashin’


The ultimate decision rests with you. Whom do you choose as your sexual partner. I can take you on cruises around the world. I will dress you in the finest jewelry and footwear. You will be envied by women worldwide in your fine clothes and jewelry. There is a special place in my heart for beautiful women. I will defeat your man in an altercation because he is effeminate.


High fashion - flyin’ into all states.

Sexin’ me while your man masturbates.

Isn’t this great? Your flight leaves at eight.

Her flight lands at nine, my game just rewinds.

Lyrically I’m supposed to represent.

I’m not only the client, I’m the player president


You will be dressed in finest clothes on the runways of Paris. I will fly you to every state to shop for fine clothes and jewelry. You will enjoy sexual intercourse with me and your man will be forced to pleasure himself through manual stimulation. What a life! I’ll return you to LaGuardia in time to catch your 8 o’clock flight. The timing is perfect because I have scheduled a date with a second woman who arrives at the same gate at 9 o’clock. I’ll seduce her in the same way that I seduced you. I rap well and I am a positive reflection of my home town. Not only am I a sexually deviant, misogynistic, immoral, wealthy, male prostitute, but I also sit on the board of directors of the organization that governs others of my kind.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Concurrency is easy

We understand concurrency
A deep understanding of concurrency is hard-wired into our brains. We react to stimulation extremely quickly, in a part of the brain called the amygdala, without this reaction system we would die. Conscious thought is just too slow, by the time the thought "hit the brakes" has formed itself, we have already done it.

On a motorway, I mentally track the positions of dozens, or hundreds of cars, this is done without conscious thought. If I couldn't do this I would probably be dead.

The world is parallel

If we wish to write programs that behave as other objects behave in the real world then these programs will have a concurrent structure.

This is why we should program in a concurrent programming language

And yet most often we program real-world applications in sequential programming languages. This is uncessarily difficult.

By programming in a language what was designed for programming concurrent applications (like Erlang) concurrent programming becomes a lot easier.

Erlang programs model how we think and interact

We don't have shared memory. I have my memory, you have yours, we have two brains, one each, they are not joined together. To change your memory I send you a message, I talk or wave my arms. You listen, you see, your memory changes, but without asking you a question or observing your response I do not know that you have received my messages.

This is how it is with Erlang processes. Erlang processes have no shared memory. Each processes has its own memory. To change the memory of some other process you must send it a message and hope that it receives and understands the message.

To confirm that another process has received your message and changed its memory, you must ask it (by sending it a message). This is exactly how we interact.

Sue: "Hi Bill, my telephone number is 45 67 89 12"
Sue: "Did you hear me?"
Bill: "sure, your number is 45 67 89 12"

These interaction patterns well-know to us, from birth onwards we learn to interact with the world by observing it and by sending it messages and observing the responses.

People function as independent entities that communicate by sending messages

That's how Erlang processes work, and that's how we work so it's very easy to understand an Erlang program.

Erlang programs are made up of lots of little processes all chattering away to each other - just like people.

An Erlang program is made up of dozens, possible thousands or even hundreds of thousands of small processes - all these processes operate independently. They communicate with each other by sending messages. Each process has a private memory. They behave like a huge room of people all chattering away to each other.

This makes Erlang program inherently easy to manage and scale. Suppose we have ten people (processes) and they have too much work to do, what can we do? get more people. How can we manage these groups of people, easy just shout instructions at them (broadcasting).
Erlang processes don't have shared memory, so there is no need to lock the memory while it is being used. Where there are locks, there are keys, and when there are keys the keys will one day get lost and what happens when you loose a key? - you panic.

Distributed software systems with locks and keys always go wrong.

If somebody dies other people will notice

I I'm in a room and suddenly keel over and die, somebody will probably notice, well at least I hope so. Erlang processes are just like people, they can on occasions die. Unlike people when they die they shout out in their last breath exactly what they have died from.

Imagine a room full of people, suddenly one person will keel over and die and just as they die, they say "I'm dying of a heart attack" or "I'm dying of an exploded gastric wobbledgog". That's what Erlang processes do. One process might die saying."I'm dying because I was asked to divide by zero", another might say

"I'm dying because because I was asked what the last element in an empty list was"

Now in our room full of people we might imagine there are specially assigned people whose job it is to clear away the bodies. Let's imagine two people Jane and John. If Jane dies then John will fix any problems associated with Jane's death. If Jane dies then John will fix the problems. Jane and John are linked together with an invisible agreement which says that if one of them dies the other will fix up any problems caused by the death.

That's is how error handling in Erlang works, processes can be linked together. If one of the processes dies, the other process gets an error message saying why the first process dies.

That's basically it.

That's how Erlang programs work.

What we've learnt so far

Erlang programs are made of lots of processes. These processes can send messages to each other.

These message may or may not be received and understood. If you want to know if a message was received and understood you must send the process a message and wait for a reply.

Pairs of processes can be linked together. If one processes in a linked pair dies the other process in the pair will be sent a message containing the reason why the first process died.

This simple model of programming is part of a model I call Concurrency Oriented Programming. You can read more about this here.

Monday, August 28, 2006

The Myth About Homework

Think hours of slogging are helping your child make the grade? Think again


Sachem was the last straw. Or was it Kiva? My 12-year-old daughter and I had been drilling social-studies key words for more than an hour. It was 11 p.m. Our entire evening had, as usual, consisted of homework and conversations (a.k.a. nagging) about homework. She was tired and fed up. I was tired and fed up. The words wouldn't stick. They meant nothing to her. They didn't mean much to me either. After all, when have I ever used sachem in a sentence--until just now?
As the summer winds down, I'm dreading scenes like that one from seventh grade. Already the carefree August nights have given way to meaningful conversations (a.k.a. nagging) about the summer reading that didn't get done. So what could be more welcome than two new books assailing this bane of modern family life: The Homework Myth (Da Capo Press; 243 pages), by Alfie Kohn, the prolific, perpetual critic of today's test-driven schools, and The Case Against Homework (Crown; 290 pages), a cri de coeur by two moms, lawyer Sara Bennett and journalist Nancy Kalish.
Both books cite studies, surveys, statistics, along with some hair-raising anecdotes, on how a rising tide of dull, useless assignments is oppressing families and making kids hate learning. A few highlights from the books and my own investigation:
• According to a 2004 national survey of 2,900 American children conducted by the University of Michigan, the amount of time spent on homework is up 51% since 1981.
• Most of that increase reflects bigger loads for little kids. An academic study found that whereas students ages 6 to 8 did an average of 52 min. of homework a week in 1981, they were toiling 128 min. weekly by 1997. And that's before No Child Left Behind kicked in. An admittedly less scientific poll of parents conducted this year for AOL and the Associated Press found that elementary school students were averaging 78 min. a night.
• The onslaught comes despite the fact that an exhaustive review by the nation's top homework scholar, Duke University's Harris Cooper, concluded that homework does not measurably improve academic achievement for kids in grade school. That's right: all the sweat and tears do not make Johnny a better reader or mathematician.
• Too much homework brings diminishing returns. Cooper's analysis of dozens of studies found that kids who do some homework in middle and high school score somewhat better on standardized tests, but doing more than 60 to 90 min. a night in middle school and more than 2 hr. in high school is associated with, gulp, lower scores.
• Teachers in many of the nations that outperform the U.S. on student achievement tests--such as Japan, Denmark and the Czech Republic--tend to assign less homework than American teachers, but instructors in low-scoring countries like Greece, Thailand and Iran tend to pile it on.
Success on standardized tests is, of course, only one measure of learning--and only one purported goal of homework. Educators, including Cooper, tend to defend homework by saying it builds study habits, self-discipline and time-management skills. But there's also evidence that homework sours kids' attitudes toward school. "It's one thing to say we are wasting kids' time and straining parent-kid relationships," Kohn told me, "but what's unforgivable is if homework is damaging our kids' interest in learning, undermining their curiosity."

Kohn's solution is radical: he wants a no-homework policy to become the default, with exceptions for tasks like interviewing parents on family history, kitchen chemistry and family reading.
Or, in a nation in which 71% of mothers of kids under 18 are in the workforce, how about extending the school day or year beyond its agrarian-era calendar? Let students do more work at school and save evenings for family and serendipity.
Bennett and Kalish have a more modest proposal. Parents should demand a sensible homework policy, perhaps one based on Cooper's rule of thumb: 10 min. a night per grade level. They offer lessons from their own battle to rein in the workload at their kids' private middle school in Brooklyn, N.Y. Among their victories: a nightly time limit, a policy of no homework over vacations, no more than two major tests a week, fewer weekend assignments and no Monday tests.
Why don't more parents in homework-heavy districts take such actions? Do too many of us think it's just our child who is struggling, so who are we to lead a revolt? Yup, when it comes to the battle of homework mountain, we've got too many Indians and not enough sachems.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

The Infant Grammarian. The genius of baby talk

By Emily Bazelon

My 3-year-old son, Simon, sees no point in the to be verb. "This my Superman costume," he says. "Where my Batman boot?" I've always assumed he's just making a small-child's mistake, and if I don't correct him, that's mostly because it's too much bother. According to a new book by the Yale linguist Charles Yang, however, Simon is mirroring the grammar of a different language. Hebrew doesn't bother with is or are. When kids leave out the subject in the sentence "Where going?" they're thinking like a speaker of Chinese, which drops topic words in some contexts.

Like almost everything in linguistics, Yang's idea stems from Noam Chomsky's theory that the human capacity for language is innate. Chomsky identified a "universal grammar," meaning a way language generally works, that humans are born with. Other linguists argue that the distinctions among languages can be described by a few dozen rules, or parameters, that involve binary choices: In English you state the subject; in Chinese you sometimes don't. And so, Yang argues in his new book, The Infinite Gift: How Children Learn and Unlearn the Languages of the World, that the mistakes Simon and his peers make aren't the processing difficulties of an immature brain. They're the trial and error children go through as they discard the structure of other languages in favor of their own. "Only the grammar actually used in the child's linguistic environment will not be contradicted, and only the fittest survives," Yang writes.

The idea is a clever one. But aspects of it have met with skepticism since other linguists started working in this area years ago. Most children have the rudiments of English grammar down by their third birthday, even if they don't use it. And research has shown that they are surprised and put off when adults mimic childlike speech. Ask your 2- or 3-year-old "Want go school?" and he's likely to make a face at you. "Kids seem to know they're speaking funny and differently from adults," says Paul Bloom, a psychologist at Yale who thinks the errors of baby talk are about short attention span and poor articulation, not parameters or grammars.

Still, Chomsky praised Yang's work and book via e-mail, and Yang's ideas may explain some of the speech patterns of small children. And he reinforces a point that there's other support for: Children carry the tools of speech with them and can sort out the finer points of language with less intervention than many parents think. To be sure, not every speech delay or error falls within the spectrum of normal development. But for most kids, the mistakes they make at age 2 will be gone by age 4. Whether they're on the early or late side of that window is probably meaningless.

Consider this example of handicapping a child's speech development: In her book The Nurture Assumption, Judith Rich Harris tells the story of a 1933 experiment that a psychology professor and his wife conducted on their child. The couple wanted to see if a chimpanzee baby reared with a human one would act like the human. So they brought a 7-month-old chimp, Gua, to live with their son, Donald, when he was 10 months old. Gua didn't much copy Donald. But Donald started barking for food like Gua. At 19 months, most American children can say more than 50 words and are beginning to form phrases. At 19 months, Donald could speak only three words. At that point, Gua went back to the zoo. And Donald went on to learn to talk—well enough to earn admission to Harvard Medical School.

Harris also points out that the hearing children of deaf couples learn to speak fluently. And immigrant children learn the language of the country they live in and speak without an accent, even if their parents speak to them at home only in their own native tongue. "Parents do not have to teach their children the language of their community; in fact—hard as it may be for you to accept this—they do not have to teach their children any language at all," Harris writes. Kids need to hear speech to learn it, but they don't necessarily need to hear it at home. And they don't need their parents to correct them. The effort we put into teaching our own children to talk—speaking clearly and in short sentences, praising their early words, monitoring their grammar—are, as Harris puts it, "a peculiarity of our culture." Linguist Steven Pinker has studied societies in which parents rarely talk to their infants and toddlers other than to scold or make a demand. Their 2-year-olds are behind on language compared to Western kids, but by age 4 they catch up.

So, what about the questions your child's pediatrician asks each year: At 2, how many words does he know? At 3, how complex are his sentences? It's going too far to dismiss all of this out of hand. My children's former pediatrician wonders about the empirical support for the age-based markers of speech development, but he figures that it's a good thing to encourage parents to engage their children and stimulate their developing neurons. There are other benefits to early speech: Simon is hugely strong-willed, so it was an enormous relief when he could express his wishes verbally. I may not always like what he has to say, but I prefer the words to incoherent wails of frustration.

Some parents address this problem creatively. Before their children can talk, they teach them to sign words like milk and more. I admire them. But I'd never be organized enough to join in. And while I'm all for neurons firing away (who isn't?), the intense focus on young talkers often seems to me overblown. "She has so many words!" we coo about precocious toddlers—code for "she's smart" or "you're smart too, since you're her mother." Then there's all the comparing of notes about how much or how well our children speak compared to other children. But if early speech is more like a party trick than a measure of intelligence or aptitude, then the cooing and the comparisons generate more anxiety than light.

I like Yang's book for making me listen differently to Simon's odd sentence constructions and for its laid-back message. "You will see that children are infinitely better at learning languages than we are," he promises in the first chapter. "And you will see that the 'errors' in their speech are inevitable and will go away in due time." I don't have to feel like a slacker for overlooking Simon's faulty English grammar. Instead I can marvel that he was born knowing how to learn Chinese. Lucky baby, to have a human mind.

Friday, August 11, 2006

The Top 10 Craziest Science Stuff you didn't know

You can Hypnotize Chickens

A chicken can be hypnotized, or put into a trance by holding its head down against the ground, and continuously drawing a line along the ground with a stick or a finger, starting at its beak and extending straight outward in front of the chicken. If the chicken is hypnotized in this manner, it will remain immobile for somewhere between 15 seconds to 30 minutes, continuing to stare at the line.

You can have an erection once dead

A death erection (sometimes referred to as "angel lust") is a post-mortem erection which occurs when a male individual dies vertically or face-down – the cadaver remaining in this position. During life, the pumping of blood by the heart ensures a relatively even distribution around the blood vessels of the human body. Once this mechanism has ended, only the force of gravity acts upon the blood. As with any mass, the blood settles at the lowest point of the body and causes edema or swelling to occur; the discoloration caused by this is called lividity. Sorry, no photo for this one!

Your hand can have a life of it's own

Alien hand syndrome (or Dr. Strangelove syndrome) is an unusual neurological disorder in which one of the sufferer's hands seems to take on a life of its own. AHS is best documented in cases where a person has had the two hemispheres of their brain surgically separated, a procedure sometimes used to relieve the symptoms of extreme cases of epilepsy. It also occurs in some cases after other brain surgery, strokes, or infections. The HAND is after you!

Don't laugh too much, it can kill you

Fatal hilarity is death as a result of laughter. In the third century B.C. the Greek philosopher Chrysippus died of laughter after seeing a donkey eating figs (hey, it wasn't THAT funny). On 24 March 1975 Alex Mitchell, a 50-year-old bricklayer from King's Lynn, England, literally died laughing while watching an episode of The Goodies. According to his wife, who was a witness, Mitchell was unable to stop laughing whilst watching a sketch in the episode "Kung Fu Kapers" in which Tim Brooke-Taylor, dressed as a kilted Scotsman, used a set of bagpipes to defend himself from a psychopathic black pudding in a demonstration of the Scottish martial art of "Hoots-Toot-ochaye". After twenty-five minutes of continuous laughter Mitchell finally slumped on the sofa and expired from heart failure. His widow later sent the Goodies a letter thanking them for making Mitchell's final moments so pleasant.

A weapon could make you Gay

Gay bomb is an informal name for a potential non-lethal chemical weapon, which a U.S. Air Force research laboratory speculated about producing. In one sentence of the document it was suggested that a strong aphrodisiac could be dropped on enemy troops, ideally one which would also cause "homosexual behaviour". So that's how they got Saddam!

It's true, Men can breastfeed

The phenomenon of male lactation in humans has become more common in recent years due to the use of medications that stimulate a human male's mammary glands. Male lactation is most commonly caused by hormonal treatments given to men suffering from prostate cancer. It is also possible for males (and females) to induce lactation through constant massage and simulated 'sucking' of the nipple over a long period of time (months).

Bart Simpson's Tomacco (half tomato, half tobacco) was possible

A tomacco is originally a fictional hybrid fruit that is half tomato and half tobacco, from the 1999 episode "E-I-E-I-(Annoyed Grunt)" of The Simpsons; the method used to create the tomacco in the episode is fictional. The tomacco became real when it was allegedly produced in 2003. Inspired by The Simpsons, Rob Baur of Lake Oswego, Oregon successfully grafted a tomato plant onto the roots of a tobacco plant, which was possible because both plants come from the same family.

It's OK to have a third nipple

A supernumerary nipple (also known as a third nipple) is an additional nipple occurring in mammals including humans. Often mistaken for moles, supernumerary nipples are diagnosed at a rate of 2% in females, less in males. The nipples appear along the two vertical "milk lines" which start in the armpit on each side, run down through the typical nipples and end at the groin. They are classified into eight levels of completeness from a simple patch of hair to a milk-bearing breast in miniature.

You can die on the Toilet

There are many toilet-related injuries and some toilet-related deaths throughout history and in urban legends. In young boys, one of the most common causes of genital injury is when the toilet seat falls down while using the toilet. George II of Great Britain died on the toilet on 25 October 1760 from an aortic dissection. According to Horace Walpole's memoirs, King George "rose as usual at six, and drank his chocolate; for all his actions were invariably methodic. A quarter after seven he went into a little closet. His German valet de chambre in waiting heard a noise, and running in, found the King dead on the floor."

Picking one's nose and eating it might be healthy

Mucophagy (literally mucus-eating, also referred as picking one's nose and eating it) is the consumption of the nasal mucus, boogers, and other detritus obtained from nose-picking. Some research suggests that mucophagy may be a natural and even healthy activity, which exposes the digestive system to bacteria accumulated in the mucus, thereby helping to strengthen the immune system.

So what crazy science stuff do you know? Comment it!

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

The Top 10 Reasons to Be a Librarian

By Martha J. Spear

As a high school library media specialist, I have the good fortune to work with, and sometimes mold, young people. If I’m lucky, I discover what they do after graduation. Recently, one of my favorite students informed me that after earning her humanities degree at a tiny private college, she was pursuing a master’s degree in museum studies. Congratulating her, I jokingly said, “Watch it. That’s awfully close to a master’s in library science.” She laughed and said: “Oh, I’d never do that.” Somewhat defensively, I replied, “You could do worse.”

Long after this brief conversation, I wondered, where did we, as librarians, go wrong? Why is there such an onus on this profession that a bright, young person would choose, well, any career but that of librarianship? I think it’s sad. Librarianship has much to offer, and I think we can do better in promoting our profession. Toward that end, I present my top 10 reasons for being a librarian.

10. Ever-changing and renewing

The single thing I like most about being a librarian is that it is, to paraphrase Ernest Hemingway, a moveable feast. I’ve been employed in academic, public, and school libraries in three different states working in technical services, public services, and classrooms, and with street people, teachers, and young adults. I’ve booked psychics, mountain climbers, rock musicians, and landlords for programs. I teach, catalog, book talk, advise, troubleshoot, demonstrate, connect s-video cables, and shelve . . . in a single day. What I learned in my master’s program bears little resemblance to what I actually do in my library today. Yet the principles remain; and, through conferences, professional literature, and networking, I hold my own. If the new books don’t excite me, the new technologies do. Most importantly, I learn something new every day. Can you say that about working at McDonald’s?

9. Romance

Okay, so I may be stretching things a bit here. I married a librarian. (For the record, we met in a singles group; but our paths would have crossed in local library circles eventually, I’m sure.) My case may be extreme, but there is help for the lovelorn in libraries—either in the wonderfully interesting colleagues we meet (see reasons #2 and #7) or in the books and resources libraries offer.

8. Useful skills

I did not enter library school with a soaring heart. I viewed the degree less as graduate school and more as a kind of trade school. Truthfully, my library education was both. I learned the value of organization (I finally put my massive LP collection in alpha order by artist). I discovered the importance of collection development, equal access to resources, and intellectual freedom. I learned valuable skills in locating and using information that serve me to this day, whether I’m helping a patron write a paper on the Manhattan Project or figuring out the best place to buy a teakettle online.

7. Great conferences

Librarians host good conferences. I love the hustle and bustle of ALA Annual Conference. I consider my state conference to be so necessary to my mental well-being that I often pay my own way. My husband’s ties to the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions have taken us to Nairobi, Tokyo, Havana, and elsewhere. What better way to see the world and recharge the professional batteries? Conferences are blessed events, and you don’t have them when you work at Wal-Mart.

6. Time off

Librarians may not get great pay, but we do generally receive liberal vacations. As a public librarian, I got six weeks off and as a school media specialist . . . well, you don’t want to know. In any case, these vacations have made it possible to visit Paris in April, and Beijing in September, and to spend five weeks in Scandinavia. And when I’m not away, I’ve been able to repaper my hallway, paint the family room, and put in a patio.

5. A job with scope

As a child, when people asked me what I wanted to be, I have to admit I never said librarian. Although I used and enjoyed libraries, it never occurred to me to actually work in one. I did say that I wanted a job with scope. I am not sure what I meant by that then, but I know what it means now. It means being a librarian. I do dozens of different things every day. It’s not a desk job and it’s anything but routine. When you work with people, changing technologies, and always-new resources, how could it be?

4. It pays the rent

As a librarian, I will never get rich. However, it has allowed me to live alone (without the dreaded roommate), subsist moderately well, and be employable in different markets and in changing times. I have made a living as a librarian for almost 25 years and I’m not on the street corner selling pencils yet.

3. Good working conditions

I’ve worked in factories where I stood on my feet for nine hours. I’ve worked in kitchens where I came home smelling of puréed peas. I was a production typist where my derrière routinely fell asleep, not to mention my brain. In a library, you’re clean, dry, warm, and working with people who are generally happy to be there.

2. Cool coworkers

I love librarians (also see # 9). We are intelligent, cultured, well-read people who bring a myriad of skills, backgrounds, and interests to the job. Most of my fellow librarians, myself included, have degrees and/or work experience in other areas. I backed into librarianship after realizing that a major in English and German wasn’t going to make me very employable. I know librarians who are former attorneys, truck drivers, teachers, and factory workers. This experiential, intellectual potpourri makes for an interesting mix. And librarians are readers. The conversational gambit “Read any good books lately?” is met with a din around librarians.

1. Grand purpose

As librarians, we support the freedom to read. We champion the right to access information for all people, regardless of race, creed, religion, or economic disposition. Libraries are everyone’s university. These may feel like clich‚s to the converted (us librarians), but they remain truisms.

In sum, I feel very much like Evelyn Carnahan in the film The Mummy. To refresh your memory, our leading lady is in the midst of describing—and defending—what she does for a living to a roguish male. They have been drinking.

Evelyn: Look, I—I may not be an explorer, or an adventurer, or a treasure-seeker, or a gunfighter, Mr. O’Connell! But I am proud of what I am!

Rick O’Connell: And what is that?

Evelyn: I am . . . a librarian!

I couldn’t have said it better.

This article originally appeared in American Libraries, October 2002, p. 54–55