Short, single-handed strikes
"In perhaps the most bizarre industrial action to hit Australia, Qantas engineers have decided to stop work for 60 seconds [Friday]as part of their worsening dispute with the airline," reports The Telegraph. "Not only that, two engineers have said they will conduct work for a week using only their left hands. … The two engineers, Melbourne's Wesley Bell and Vinko Vulin from Perth, said using their left hands when using screwdrivers, spanners and other tools wouldn't present any safety issues or threaten aircraft maintenance. Mr. Bell, the union's vice-president, works on Qantas line maintenance at Melbourne's Tullamarine Airport and said he was confident he could do his job left-handed from time to time. … But Qantas said they would investigate the action. 'We don't want this to become a safety issue,' a spokeswoman said. 'It's quite serious [even if]it sounds flippant.' "
Helen, the fleet's here
"Helen of Troy was just the beginning," says Psychology Today. "Men who view images of attractive women are more likely to endorse pro-war statements and to respond to images and words relating to war - but don't show increased general aggression, a study from the Chinese University of Hong Kong reports. Battle thins the competition: 'There are far more sperms than eggs, meaning some men must be eliminated from the mating game,' says researcher Lei Chang. 'This leads to male-to-male combat.' A pretty woman ignites those primal desires."
Book lovers' paradises
"Twice annually, Bill Gates schedules a week-long 'reading retreat' during which he does nothing but pore over the books and papers he's set aside during the year," Salon says. "He's not alone: The idea seems particularly popular in the U.K., where you can sign up at London's School of Life to receive a customized book list (they have 'bibliotherapists' on staff to compile one based on a telephone consultation) and lodging in one of several modern country houses. The website promises 'the perfect combination of great books and great architecture.' "
"Weight loss after pregnancy is a common desire for new moms," says The Huffington Post, "but some are taking it to a whole new level by trying to stay skinny during their actual pregnancies and losing as much weight as possible right after. The phenom is termed 'mommyrexia' and is defined as moms who gain less weight than is healthy for their body type during pregnancy, CNN reports. The health risks include premature birth for the baby. The trend is largely driven by the desire to emulate celebrities like Victoria Beckham and Bethenny Frankel who stayed svelte during their pregnancies, the New York Post reported."
"In December, 2009, a young snowboarder, Kevin Pearce, sustained brain damage from a near-fatal accident," says The Huffington Post. "Since he awoke from his coma, Pearce has had frequent, intense cravings for basil pesto even though pre-brain damage he had no particular fascination with pesto. Turns out, when a certain section of the brain's right hemisphere is damaged, some patients develop Gourmand Syndrome. This bizarre syndrome was first identified in the 1990s and it consists of patients being obsessed with food and 'fine eating.' Another sufferer of the syndrome was a Swiss political columnist who changed careers to become a food writer after a stroke."
Cultures and afflictions
"The American Psychiatric Association has conceded that certain mysterious mental afflictions are so common, in some places, that they do in fact warrant inclusion as 'culture-bound syndromes' in the official Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders," Slate reports. Estimates of their numbers range from 25 to 175. Some examples:
- Old Hag Syndrome, "a type of sleep paralysis in Newfoundland in which one is visited by what appears to be a rather unpleasant old hag sitting on one's chest at night."
- Wild Man Syndrome, "in which New Guinean males become hyperactive, clumsy, kleptomaniacal, and conveniently amnesiac."
- Koro, perhaps the best-known culture-bound syndrome, "in which the patient is convinced that protruding bodily organs, such as the male genitalia or female nipples, are retracting or disappearing into his or her body. … Descriptions of koro can be found as early as 2,000 years ago in China."
- Jiko-shisen-kyofu, "the East Asian … phobia that one's own glance will displease or offend other people."
Will cars share news?
"Scientists from the University of Bologna in Italy have developed software that lets cars 'communicate' with one another on the road," BBC News reports. "Similar technology has been used before but this time, said the team, cars would be able to 'know' what had happened kilometres ahead. Tests suggest it could reduce motorway pile-ups by 40 per cent. … Road tests of the software are imminent and will be carried out in August on the streets and motorways of Los Angeles in conjunction with car maker Toyota."
Thought du jour
"What is all wisdom save a collection of platitudes? Take 50 of our current proverbial sayings - they are so trite, so threadbare that we can hardly bring our lips to utter them. Nonetheless, they embody the concentrated experience of the race."
Norman Douglas (1868-1952)