Thursday, October 28, 2010

Danger, Will Robinson!

Yesterday, I was talking on the phone with my mother who had just purchased a new vacuum and was reading the owner's manual. She told me that not only did the instructions tell her to not vacuum up hot ashes, but that the cord contained lead and other things that may cause cancer, birth defects, and god-knows-what, and that she should wash her hands after handling it. Say what?

Are we talking about a modern day cleaning appliance, or a nuclear science experiment? You'd think in this day and age it would be safe to purchase and use common household items that weren't deemed to be "carcinogens known to the state of California"!

This question ties into my ongoing fascination with hazard signs. If you knew of all of the dangerous activities, machinery, chemicals, and situations that are lurking around every corner ready to assault you, you'd never leave your house.

Loud noises. Thin ice. Slippery things when wet.  High voltage cables overhead. Tsunami hazard zones. Men working overhead. Dangerous places while machinery is in motion.  Wet floors. Bio-Hazards.  Oh yes, and the ever-present Pedestrian crossing ahead.

Here is why I love living in Hawaii reason #46: people do not take hazards seriously (the one exception is the ocean - Dangerous shorebreak, Sharp coral, Sudden drop off, Slippery rocks, Man-o-war, Jelly fish). These are no laughing matter.

I'm talking about other daily hazards; working in a restaurant kitchen in flip flops, riding a bicycle while holding a surfboard, having your rear view mirror so loaded up with dead flower leis it is impossible to see 63% of the windshield, and lastly, Pedestrian crossings.

Aloha from Hawaii!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Nature versus Nurture

I have Created In My Likeness. I'm not proclaiming to be godlike or have special superpowers. I'm not even claiming that they share my genetics or even look like me. But I have utilized the power of "habit" and created two likenesses that mimic my character, drive, and productivity.

Yes, I have created two Saturday Couch-potatoes. Their names are Koko`o and Bean and I have successfully turned them into me. We sleep in late (not arising at the normal 5:30 am alarm clock setting), do nothing but lounge around all day, and eat when we're hungry instead of at mealtimes. Sometimes we all even stay in our p.j.s all day!

I never knew that dogs could sleep so much during one day. Out of the 12 or so hours that we spend "awake" (that means not in bed sleeping at night), they probably sleep about 7 of them. Plus the 7 or 8 hours at night. That means that they sleep roughly 63% of each day! Is that healthy? 

Anyway, I feel badly that they have become accustomed to my laziness. I think it would help if they could actually talk. "Hey, why don't we go run at the beach today?" might come out of their little mouths, guilting me into activity.

For now, their needs are silent and only involve "calls of nature" (interpreted by me as furtive glances toward the sliding door). I have nurtured them completely away from their instincts of hunting and chasing.  Perhaps I can cultivate this even further and teach them how to make meals in a crockpot or even operate the washer or vacuum.

But for now, we are just enjoying another lazy Saturday, sitting all in a row, listening to the activities of the neighborhood drifting in through the window.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Why is the color blue associated with baby boys?

In honor of the recent spat of baby boys born to my friends in the past month, I thought I'd provide the answer to a question I know you all are clamoring to know the answer to: Why is the color blue associated with baby boys?

The association of colors with babies undoubtedly started as an attempt to identify the gender of that one group of humans to whom the cliche "they all look alike" often applies.

But why blue for boys? In ancient times, it was believed that evil spirits lingered over nurseries and that certain colors possessed the capability to combat evil.  Blue was considered the most powerful color, possibly because of its association with the sky and, thus, heavenly spirits. Since boys were then considered the most valuable natural resource to parents, blue clothing was a cheap form of insurance.

Evil spirits apparently couldn't bother with pestering baby girls.  Not only were girls not dressed in blue, but they had no color to call their own until centuries later.  Our association of pink with girls stems from European legend, which professed that baby girls were born inside of pink roses.

European legend also holds that baby boys are born in blue cabbage patches - yes, the same patches that spawned the doll craze of Christmas 1983.

Welcome to our world new baby boys! You know who you are.

From Imponderables: the solution to the mysteries of everyday life, by David Feldman

Monday, October 11, 2010

Getting dressed in the dark

Aside from the risk of committing a major fashion faux pas, there are countless reasons not to get dressed in the dark, especially in Hawaii. As we move into shorter days with the darker mornings of fall and then winter, I’d like to offer a countdown of reasons why NOT to don your wardrobe without the lights on.

Ants in your pants. Actually, make that bra. This just happened to me. For some reason, my friendly neighborhood ants like to throw a party on my lingerie shelf in my closet. Here they not only scurry around underneath my unmentionables, but they decide to set up shop and start producing mini-me ants by the thousands. It is gross. Just when I think I’ve evicted every last one of them, they give me a surprise party in my bra. I don’t notice them until it is too late and the “get the effin’ ants off of me” dance begins.

Cockroach in your shoe. What is it about cockroaches and shoes? This even just happened to one of my coworkers. He was casually chatting with us one morning at the office, got a horrified look on his face, and went dashing out of the office in fear of the worst. Luckily it was only a cockroach…

Cane spider on your towel. Ewe. Before getting dressed, it is wise to check your towel before rubbing it on your bare, wet body. I cannot explain why these giant palm-sized spiders like the bathroom so much. Maybe it is the plush, warm terry cloth they dig. Or the clean, smooth feel of the fiberglass shower.  Even before you check your towel, better turn around in the shower and check the stall. They may be smaller than you, but you are completely naked and without defense.

Jumping geckos. Gack. These are seemingly harmless creatures that, in fact, help us with some of the before-mentioned pests. But why, oh why, do they have to always be where you are reaching? And why, oh why, do they always jump toward you and brush against your arm, leg, foot, etc.? This spastic specimen usually does no harm other than increase your blood pressure and cause minor heart palpitations.

Stepping on the dreaded centipede. Although it is commonly felt that these are strictly an outdoor-pest, one occasionally finds them inside one’s house. I have experienced an in-the-dark-encounter with a centipede and it was definitely something that I will always remember. I knew instantly what bit me and the pain was excruciating.  I have friends that have also experienced this pest in reasons 1 and 2 and the results were not friendly.

There are many more reasons I could list, but I’m still uncomfortably itching with phantom ants. So, if you live in Hawaii, or just plan on visiting, heed my warning. You can ask anyone who lives here and they will regale you with stories of their own. I’ll be following this list up with others like: Why you don’t want to walk across your yard in the dark, Why you shouldn’t walk barefoot in the dark, Reasons to shake the tree before cutting the bananas, and others.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Battle to the death

Last evening I waited a little too long before I drew the screen door across all of the unwanted creatures of the night. On this fateful evening, my true nemesis entered into my abode, undetected, and started wreaking unfettered havoc upon my person. This assailant? Aedes albopictus; the Asian Tiger Mosquito, vector for dengue fever. Cue music: Duhn dun dunnnn...

Okay, well, it would have been poking tiny little bloody holes of dengue fever in me, if dengue fever were here in Hawaii, but fortunately this is not the case.  But it was poking tiny little bloody holes in me all evening and by the time I was ready for bed I was covered with bites and bruises (the bruises from slapping myself silly trying to get da little bugga).

How in the hell does this world-class irritating pest not only elude my whacking but decide when and where to bite me at my most vulnerable spots? Well, apparently, this is not a process for thought at all. A mosquito brain is about the size of the period at the end of this sentence. Not a lot of room in there for decision-making. They actually rely on chemistry. I happened upon an article that was so interesting to me I have to quote from it with abandon.

"Chemical traces in the air tell a hungry adult female mosquito that an appropriate victim is in the vicinity". Apparently, even if you wear a repellent, they can get confused, but they still find you.  And by "appropriate victim" I think that this means which person has the least amount of clothing on.

"The pricking is a complex business, involving a flexible tube made up of six highly specialized mouthparts". Some of these parts are serrated and they are used to saw through the tissue. Yuck. I'm picturing steak knives with suction tubes.

"A successful mosquito will suck up about one-millionth of a gallon of blood. That doesn't sound like much, but it may amount to four times her original weight".  That would be equivalent to Uncle Billy Bob guzzling  about 1,067 Bud Lights at one go!  "Stretch receptors in her bulging abdomen send full-tank signals to her dot-sized brain, which tells her to disengage and get away". I wish I had stretch receptors. Hmmm. Sounds like a good diet invention.

Fortunately for me, I was able to end the miserable tormenting. Unfortunately for it, I shortened her month-long life by hopefully, um, a month. I'd like to boast that I've helped saved humanity from this nasty pest, but I just read that mosquitoes have been around for about 79 million years. Definitely longer than humans. But not longer than cockroaches. But that is another story...

Saturday, October 2, 2010

When reading is not really reading

I worked the Library Book Sale yesterday evening and discovered something interesting. Firstly, that the sales amount set on the books were ridiculously under-valued (50 cents each), but secondly, that people are crazy and will buy just about anything if the price is right.

20 year old tour books? Of course. 10 year old text books on physics? Absolutely. How to redecorate your house with that modern touch (circa 1991)? Why not? People were leaving with huge and heavy boxes filled with books they will regret lugging home as soon as they begin to unpack them. Personally, I restrained myself (as my bookshelves are mostly double-parked with books as it is) and left with three books as gifts (two of them cookbooks), a popular paperback that I have never read before, and a tabletop book about stars (I don't think this will go out of date at the speed of light like some books).

I looked up this book-buying phenomenon and there is actually a name for it: Bibliomania. This is an obsessive-compulsive disorder involving the collecting or hoarding of books to the point where social relations or health are damaged (probably your back from sorting, hauling, and lifting them). Then I found out that this is only one of several psychological disorders associated with books!  

I'm sure that there were quite a few normal people (at least in appearance and behavior) at yesterday's book sale) but I question the ones that went out with multiple book-laden boxes. On one occasion, while I was tallying a gathered pile of books for payment, the book-collector was still grabbing random books from the nearest table! Once, I even made a suggestion to one fellow that he reinforce his bookcase since none of the books he was purchasing was under six pounds each!  During a lull I discussed this weird book-buying frenzy with my fellow-cashier and, to be honest, she was mostly glad that the books were going out the door. She suggested that perhaps those people were planning on opening their own book store. Perhaps.

Or, perhaps, they are suffering from bibliophilia (the usual love of books), bibliophagy (book-eating), or even bibliotaphy (book-burying)! (Yes, Wikipedia is my friend). And don't forget biblioginormosity (huge book collecting - okay, I just made that one up).

Whatever the case, the Kapa`a Public Library thanks those patrons and we ask that they kindly never return any of those books. We are non-judging Friends of the Library and thank them for their support. And, possibly, suggest that they seek some support themselves.