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(Jupiterimages/Jupiterimages)
(Jupiterimages/Jupiterimages)

Blame your mom for those winter blues Add to ...

Your mom and the weather

“If you relish the cosiness of winter or cannot wait to escape to warmer climes, blame your mood on your parents, not the weather,” says The Sunday Times of London. “This is the message from psychologists who, exploring how weather affects mood, found a surprisingly high number of people inherit their attitudes to sun or snow from their mother. The study, published last week from the American Psychological Association, identifies four types: summer lovers, summer haters, rain haters and the thick-skinned who ignore it all. And they found that how we react to weather runs in our families. The scientists asked nearly 1,000 Dutch mothers and their adolescent offspring to keep a ‘mood diary’ over a year, and compared their responses with weather reports. They found that 16 per cent were much happier than usual on sunny days but 26 per cent became more anxious and uncomfortable on hot days – these people were happier in sleet and showers. But nearly half of us are not significantly affected by seasonal weather changes.”

Reckless teens

“It’s been widely observed that teens are far more prone to risk-taking than adults – basically, they have adult bodies without adults’ sense of caution or restraint,” says The Boston Globe. “Now a group of psychologists is theorizing that this isn’t just a deficiency, but has an advantage from an evolutionary standpoint. Adolescence is a crucial period for one’s social and sexual future, they argue, and doing risky but cool things is one way for adolescents, especially those at the margin, to improve their lot. So, instead of simply condemning adolescent ‘bad’ behaviour, the psychologists recommend strategies that change the social/sexual hierarchy from rewarding badness to rewarding goodness. For example, they recommend overturning much of the age segregation in modern society … in favour of cross-age mentoring.” The study appears in a forthcoming issue of Developmental Psychology.

Those marvellous feathers

“Birds run hot,” says the Wilson Quarterly, “hotter than mammals, their bodies always within a few degrees of the temperatures that can kill them, and a bird in flight produces up to 20 times its body heat at rest. ‘What’s more,’ biologist Thor Hanson writes in his new book Feathers: The Evolution of a Natural Miracle, ‘they manage to do it while fully encased in feathers, nature’s finest insulation. It would be like running marathons dressed in a sleeping bag.’ So with rare exceptions – the penguin is one – birds have tracts of bare skin that function as radiators. Under the wings are the largest of these patches, called apteria, which cool birds in flight. Chances are that the rooster that you see flapping his wings isn’t showing off – he’s cooling off.”

Beware excited dogs

– “A 78-year-old Florida man was shot in the leg during a hunting trip when his dog bumped a loaded rifle, causing it to fire, officials said,” United Press International reports. “The man, Billy E. Brown, was deer hunting with two friends and his bulldog early Saturday outside Wesley Chapel, Fla. … Authorities said Brown and one of the other hunters were driving down a rough, rocky road in a pickup truck to their hunting stands when Brown’s dog, Eli, got excited and bumped a Browning .308-calibre rifle.”

– This month “a Utah bird hunter was shot in the buttocks after his dog stepped on a shotgun laid across the bow of a boat,” says Associated Press. “Box Elder County sheriff’s deputy Kevin Potter says the 46-year-old Brigham City man was duck hunting with a friend when he climbed out of the boat to move decoys. He left his 12-gauge shotgun in the boat and the dog stepped on it, causing it to fire. It wasn’t clear if the safety was on. Deputy Potter says the man was hit from about 10 feet away with 27 pellets. He says the man wasn’t seriously injured, in part because he was wearing waders.”

Why stop signs are octagonal

“We have the Mississippi Valley Association of State Highway Departments to thank for the stop sign’s iconic shape,” says The New York Times. “In 1923, the association developed an influential set of recommendations about street-sign shapes whose impact is still felt today. The recommendations were based on a simple, albeit not intuitive, idea: The more sides a sign has, the higher the danger it invokes. By the engineers’ reckoning, the circle, which has an infinite number of sides, screamed danger and was recommended for railway crossings. The octagon, with its eight sides, we used to denote the second-highest level. The diamond shape was for warning signs. And the rectangle and square shapes were used for informational signs.”

Bureaucratic record?

“It is a whopper of a book,” reports Scandinavian Press. “At 23,675 pages, it is the thickest book in the world and a shoo-in for the Guinness World Records. As for the contents, they are just as noteworthy. It is Denmark’s unemployment fund Min A-kasse that has published the book containing the entire legal framework around which the country’s unemployment insurance funds are administered. The idea is to spark a debate about the growing bureaucracy in the unemployment benefits area. Fifty years ago, unemployment benefits legislation was just 421 pages long. By 2000, the legislation filled 17,000 pages. Another 7,000 pages have been added since then to the cumbersome and complicated mire that bureaucrats and the unemployed have to wade through.”

THOUGHT DU JOUR

“I wonder what kind of bird Humpty Dumpty would have hatched into, eh? Sadly, we’ll never know.” – Harry Hill (1964- ), English comedian

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