A couple of friends are running worthy projects at the moment, and I wanted to share them:
The BC Generations Project is a cancer-prevention project sponsored by the BC Cancer Agency, dedicated to understanding how environment, lifestyle and genes impact cancer rates and other chronic diseases. They’re trying to recruit 40,000 British Columbians (as part of a goal of 300,000 Canadians) between the ages of 35 and 69 (I, ahem, just barely qualify). There are no needles or test tubes involved. They just send you a questionnaire about your health, diet and lifestyle. You fill it out, feel guilty about your answers, and send it back to them.
In light of the hullabaloo about the long-form census, this seems like a small, low-effort way we can contribute to important research.
The fundraiser will involved 40 women – myself included – attempting to break the record in the Guinness Book of World Records for the longest hockey game ever played – 10 days of non-stop hockey. We’ll probably be playing in 4 and 6 hour shifts, with 4 hour breaks in between for sleeping/eating
So Beth might be playing 150 hours of hockey over 10 days? That’ll be impressive. It’s all in support of cystic fibrosis research. I encourage you to donate to the cause, and apparently the team is also looking for sponsors for the event.
This is either funny, banal or rude. Or all three.
I was reading this Slate article, discussing whether or not children were entering puberty earlier than they used to, when I encountered this paragraph:
With no objective blood test or scan, most experts consider breast budding and testicular growth the hallmarks of puberty’s beginning. Unfortunately, those measures are very subjectiveÃ¢â‚¬â€particularly for male children. Pediatricians guess the size of a boy’s testicles by touch and comparison to a rosary-like string of balls called an orchidometer, which is not very accurate.
How about that–not only does this sound like a medical device for measuring flowers, but it also looks like a rosary. To Google Image Search! You can tell me why there’s a hockey team listed among all those rosaries. Here’s what a set looks like:
I searched Flickr for pictures as well. All I found was this photo of sheepish Danish veterinarian, wearing a faux elephant orchidometer.
Wikipedia indicates that it was invented by an Austrian doctor in the 60′s, and “doctors sometimes informally refer to them as ‘Prader’s balls’ (after the inventor), ‘the medical worry beads’, or the ‘endocrine rosary.’”
I was curious about the origin of the term ‘orchidometer’. According to a couple of dictionaries, orchid comes from the Latin orchis, which refers to a, uh, tuberous root. That term in turn derives from the Greek orkhis, which literally means testicle.
And now your Friday is complete. If I’d known about the orchidometer a few years ago, when I was writing a play about balls, I might have included it.
I just watched a great TED talk by Bill Gates. He cogently explains the real threat of climate change, particularly to the world’s poorest 2 billion people. He goes on to describe the urgent demand for an energy breakthrough that can radically reduce the planet’s carbon emissions. He also discusses exciting innovations in nuclear power which, on the face of them, sound pretty convincing:
This is a little gross. If you don’t want to read about my sweat, you might want to skip this entry.
As I’ve mentioned previously, I’ve reluctantly taken up running. I run 5 km three or four times a week. When I get home from my run, I often have the oddest ammonia smell in my nose. It’s not like you can smell me across the room or anything, but I’m definitely aware of it.
After noticing this two or three times, I was all ‘what gives, body? Why do you smell like Windex?” So, I asked the Internet. This seemed to be the most cogent explanation:
The smell of ammonia in sweat is common among runners. Ammonia comes from the breakdown of amino acids (the building blocks of proteins) within the body. It is made up of nitrogen and hydrogen. The hydrogen atoms are converted to glucose and used as fuel. The nitrogen is a waste product that needs to be excreted by the body, and is processed in the kidneys to form urea that is excreted in urine. If there is too much nitrogen for your kidneys to deal with, it will be excreted as ammonia in your sweat.
The key to avoiding that ammonia smell is to ingest sufficient carbohydrates. If you eat an ample amount of carbohydrate with every meal, then you should have plenty to fuel your exercise activity. Even people who work out on an empty stomach should have some glucose in their bloodstream upon rising – unless they subscribe to the myth that cutting out carbohydrates before bed helps you lose fat. If you find that the ammonia smell persists (even when you consume carbohydrate with every meal), try having a low glycemic carbohydrate before you workout.
A little oatmeal, a small apple, or even a piece of sprouted grain bread can provide the fuel that your body needs. Remember, your body requires fuel to burn fat! So don’t think that providing some carbs before cardio is going to eliminate the fat burning process.
And here I thought the only side effects from exercise would be looser-fitting clothes and smugness.
Today I flew to Toronto for a speaking gig. I had this awesomely spacious window seat in the exit row. I was looking out the window as we descended into a bank of what the pilot called ‘medium-low cloud’, and spotted this odd, multi-hued circle in the distance. I wondered if it was just a deformity in the window, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t:
Yesterday I read a fascinating report about how archaeologists may have found the tomb of King Herod:
On the basis of a study of the architectural elements uncovered at the site, the researchers have been able to determine that the mausoleum, among the remains of which HerodÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s sarcophagus was found, was a lavish two-story structure with a concave-conical roof, about 25 meters high Ã¢â‚¬â€ a structure fully appropriate to HerodÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s status and taste. The excavations there have also yielded many fragments of two additional sarcophagi, which the researchers estimate to have been members of HerodÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s family.
Researchers said Thursday they have identified the remains of Nicolaus Copernicus by comparing DNA from a skeleton and hair retrieved from one of the 16th-century astronomer’s books.
The findings could put an end to centuries of speculation about the exact resting spot of Copernicus, a priest and astronomer whose theories identified the Sun, not the Earth, as the center of the universe.
A hair from one of his books? That is seriously CSI. If you follow the link, they’ve got a ‘facial forensic reconstruction’ of the man. He looks a little cross-eyed.
Brilliant! The Blinding Enlightenment of Nikola Tesla is an explosive, extradimensional and alarmingly theatrical exploration of one of the most formidable inventing minds of the past one hundred years.
The story, set in turn of the century New York, chronicles the career of Nikola Tesla, the inventor of alternating current, whose work in the field of electricity ushered-in the modern age.
The show was terrific. It’s the second Electric Company show I’ve seen, and they produce what feels like the most contemporary kind of theatre. It’s lively and detailed and a little provocative. The company draws on all the tools at its disposal–dance, song, gorgeous projections, clever staging–to render a satisfying if ephemeral vision of Tesla’s life. The show was exceptionally well-rehearsed, and the performances, staging and technical aspects were all a delight to watch.
In one scene, Tesla and Edison have a kind of singing and dancing duel at the World’s Fair. In another, Tesla walks among human-sized pigeons whose physicality is extraordinarily bird-like. The piece de resistance is a hilarious rendering of what early film looks like–all silent, flickering and performed at about double speed.
Plenty of Telling, Too Little Showing
One side effect of all this on-stage action is that the few ‘regular’ scenes feel banal and talky. This is probably reinforced by the play’s portrait of Tesla as an hermitic automaton. Very little character gets revealed–nobody really undergoes a change, in the classic dramatic sense. Two supporting characters thus feel pretty moot. In truth, I’d be happy to dispense with them, so that we just experience the dream-like story and stage magic for 90 minutes.
I also wanted a clearer explanation of Tesla’s inventions. The play takes pains to tell us just how extraordinary and ingenious the man was, but pretty much fails at showing us what he did. There’s plenty of talk about alternating current and direct current (wondering illustrated, I might add, with Slinkies), but nobody establishes why one is better. There’s passing mention of other inventions, but we’re mostly expected to take Tesla’s genius as a given. I’m not disputing that genius. But I do think it’s the play’s burden to explain it clearly.
All of these are minor criticisms. “Brilliant” has already played in Vancouver (though I gather the Belfry’s is a ‘revamped’ production). But if you get a chance to catch the show, I heartily recommend it.
Alas, the Nerd Bias Reigns Supreme
Incidentally, Tesla’s Wikipedia entry is proof that the online encyclopedia has not beat the nerd bias. I checked a bunch of other Wikipedia entries for towering figures–Ghandi, Mandela, Picasso among others–of the 20th century. Not one of them had an entry as long as Tesla’s.
Disclosures regarding my relationship with the Belfry: I just figured I’d take a shot at this. Let’s see…in my final year of university, I did an independent theatre history study course and wrote a history of the Belfry Theatre. So, you know, I’ve always felt a little indebted. I have written a couple short pieces that, years ago, were presented in the studio theatre there (also, indebted). I have friends and colleagues amongst the Belfry’s artistic staff. Our tickets to the show were comped, because Julie and I have done a very little ad hoc consulting for the Belfry. We seriously considered the Belfry as a venue for our wedding…the list goes on and on.
As you no doubt know, there’s been a great deal of online buzz about the Large Hadron Collider, and how they recently flipped the big on switch. My physics career ended at grade 12, so I really had no idea–aside from some PR-powered notions about the origins of the universe–what the LHC was for. Then I watched Brian Cox’s TED talk, and things became much clearer:
I should mention, in passing, that the ‘Large Hadron Collider’ is yet another example of poor naming. It’s what happens, in my experience, when the scientific or engineering term sticks and gets used by the general public. Other recent examples are ‘global warming’ and ‘network neutrality’. The names of things matter. It would be easier to get people to care if ‘network neutrality’ was commonly known as ‘network discrimination’ or even ‘network prejudice’. I can’t think of a better name for the LHC, but I’m pretty sure one exists.