Monday, July 12, 2010

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

How We Look At Animals

(Is this goat saying "I wish I could live in the wild where people can't touch me" or "I love all the free food and hot ladies!")

I'm getting ready to entertain my sister for the weekend so I'm looking at the different attractions around the city. Two of my favorites are the American Museum of Natural History and the Bronx Zoo which is no surprise because they both prominently feature animals. But it's the way they present animals that has me thinking. The Natural History Museum depicts dead animals in incredibly life-like dioramas and the zoo holds live animals in environments nowhere near the size they would have in the wild. Both situations are disturbing but I love them so much. Why? I'm not really sure. I think people should be able to experience all that nature has to offer. Hopefully, by experiencing it they'll have a greater appreciation for it. But it's hard to justify that appreciation by holding animals captive to obtain it. On the other hand, because of zoo breeding programs, species of tigers, pandas and elephants are being kept from extinction. So, I don't know. The Lehigh Valley Zoo used to be known as the Trexler Game Preserve and they had some injured animals on display that couldn't survive in the wild. It ended up being an interesting assortment of animals missing eyes or limbs but it felt good knowing that animals I were viewing weren't taken from a happy life in the wild. They've since expanded to become a full fledged zoo but I wish they would have stayed more a preserve.

Are there better ways to view animals that don't harm them as well?

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Death of the Space Shuttle Program

There are only 2 manned missions left for NASA's shuttle program. Last night, as I was falling asleep, Colbert did a bit on his program about it. He talked to the crew of the Atlantis in space. I actually started to tear up. I know people disagree, but I think manned missions are something worth spending money on. We certainly spend a lot more on things I agree on less (Iraq war anyone?). It's one of the few things this country participates in that I can be proud of. I guess the space program is better off in commercial hands. They certainly know how to get things done and on budget when profits are at stake. But I don't want space travel to be for profit. I want it to be something we do for the sake of knowledge and exploration. I want it to give people hope that we can be something greater than ourselves. The manned program may be more symbolic than anything. It is extraordinarily expensive and offers little in return. But I can't help mourning its loss. Instead of wanting to be astronauts, children will grow up wanting to be commercial pilots on Virgin Galactic if they even care about it at all. The program that spawned a generation of dreamers is officially dead. Colbert said it best in his closing statement to the crew of the Atlantis. "Thank you for pushing the limits of human exploration to as far as man can least until the funding runs out."

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Failure to Launch - Atlantis Crew
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorFox News

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Smelly Pee

Ah spring is here! The days are getting warmer, flowers are growing and my favorite green vegetable is in season, asparagus, which means I'll be producing a lot of smelly pee. The smell is a result of the methanethiol the body produces when it metabolizes the plant. It contains sulfer and is the same gas given off by rotten eggs and cabbage. Everyone's body produces this special asparagus pee although some people are unable to smell it. And the body produces it fast, within 15-20 minutes of having eaten it. The only thing I couldn't figure out when trying to answer this question is why other food items don't produce the same effect, especially something like cabbage that produces it on it's own when it rots. But I guess it has to do with the special way asparagus is composed.

Here's some other things that make pee smell:
Certain Medicines and Vitamins (B vitamins will make it orange)
Urinary Track and Bladder Infections
Diabetes (which will make it smell sweet)
Maple Syrup Urine Disease (which sounds frightening)

So if you notice something different after eating asparagus, you're fine. But if you have abnormal urine any other time and it persists, make sure to check it out. Especially, if it's coming out like maple syrup. Ew!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Horrifying Creatures From My Youth: The House Centipede

I could barely bring myself to post a picture here. This creature truly terrifies me like no other. I'd like to think I'm pretty immune to being scared by household pests. The occasional spider or pill bug doesn't freak me out. But something about the look of the house centipede catches me off guard every time. It's like it crawled out of some portal to another world that's hidden somewhere in my house. I'd like to say that learning about these creatures has taken the edge off, but it hasn't. Each one can lay around 100 eggs. Which means if you don't kill one when you see it, you could have a hundred little larva somewhere in your home (and you probably already do). They like cool dark places like basements and bathrooms but they can live anywhere as long as they get enough moisture. As they grow, the centipede molts and gains a new set of legs each time. They start off with 2 pairs then somewhere along the way grow another pair but it's stuck inside their skin until they molt and the legs become free. How disgusting is that? And they grow to be pretty large as far has Northeastern American pests go, 15 sets of legs and around 1 to 2 inches. I killed one when I was a kid and it's legs became detached but they were still twitching. Seriously, this thing is horrifying. They're insectivores and eat other insects (even some nasty ones like cockroaches and bedbugs). Although I appreciate spiders for taking care of my pest problem, the image of this monster grasping another bug and devouring it with all it's legs just creeps me out even more. The only thing I could find to like about it is that it has the nickname the "mustache bug" which is kind of cute and appropriate. But then I think about it crawling on my face and I'm back to disgusted. I think it tops my list of most horrifying creatures.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Where Science and Cuteness Intertwine

I just found the most adorable site on the web. I know that's a hard claim to make, but I feel pretty confident in saying it. ZooBorns is a site that has pictures of newly born exotic animals from zoos around the world and they are so freakin' cute! I love that they have it set up like a child's alphabet book with every animal from aardvark to zebra. You can also search by zoo so you can check out what cuties were born near you. It would be impossible for me to post all my favorites, so here's just a few:

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Minute Clinic? More like Miracle Clinic!

Health is science, right? Well, close enough because I need a platform to talk about something that I love. The appearance of drug store health clinics. Back when I was a lowly temp with no benefits or health insurance, medical care was a constant concern for me. And when I say constant, I mean constant. I would avoid obvious activities like skiing but then that extended to even less dangerous activities. Any where that I had the slightest chance of getting injured. I wouldn't stay out late because I could get sick. Every sore throat or cough was possibly pneumonia. At the slightest hint of illness I would call out so that it didn't get worse. But calling out sick as a temp meant that I lost a day of pay. Health care is so out of whack in this country that even though I was working full-time, I wasn't given benefits and I couldn't afford them on my own. But I made too much to qualify for medical assistance. To those of you who don't want your hard earned money going to the lazy poors, realize that the majority of people without insurance are working and more companies are taking away benefits every day. It's your daughters and nieces and neighbors. Anyway, that's a whole other blog post. Point is it was exhausting and depressing and scary. I didn't know what I would do if I got ill. But one day I did.

It started as a sore throat but it wouldn't go away. Then I tasted the distinct taste of strep throat and I really got worried. I didn't want to let it go because the infection could get worse and then I really couldn't afford to take care of it. I tried to look up free clinics in the city, but since I hadn't registered with them previously I couldn't get an appointment for a month. I was considering spending the $150 to go to a regular doctor just for them to write me a prescription for antibiotics I already knew I needed but even that would take 2 weeks and by that time I would either be better or much worse. After searching for a another option online I came across the Minute Clinic, a health clinic inside CVS. You pay a cheap flat rate, there's no wait and they treat simple illnesses from pink eye to urinary tract infections to strep throat. There aren't too many of them but there are a couple in New Jersey within driving distant from New York. It was great. There was nobody there (probably because it was midday). The nurse who assisted me was so sweet. I think she could visibly see how stressed I was. She wrote me a prescription for a generic which I was able to pick up at the pharmacy in the store.

After that I never had to go back to the Minute Clinic. I'm relatively healthy and I generally don't go to the doctor for every little thing. That was my only crisis. Since then I've gotten health insurance but a recent illness got me thinking about the clinic again. I debated going to a family doctor. I had never picked one because my insurance doesn't require referrals. But I remembered how miserable going to the doctor is, especially in the city. The waits are ridiculous, they don't know my past history because I'm not originally from here and they don't care to know it because they have so many patients to see. So I thought, what's the point? I don't need them for referrals so do I need them at all? Like I said, I don't get sick, so when I do, it's either something minor like strep, which Minute Clinic can take care of in 5 minutes the day I need to go, or it's a broken foot and then I'm going to go right to a specialist. And since Minute Clinic takes insurance, the choice was pretty obvious.

Right now there aren't many. And even in the years since I first went they haven't expanded much. I hope they become more popular so everyone has access. Or I hope health care in this country gets fixed so it's no longer an issue. Either way, something's got to give.