The grumpy guys
"A chap called Nico hit 50 recently and, according to his best friend Mark, often wakes up in a 'right foul mood,' " writes Jane Moore in Esquire (British edition). "His favourite possession is a large analog television that comes on, via timer switch, at 7 a.m. and clicks off at 11 p.m. 'If you stand in front of the TV, he'll peer around you to get a look,' says Mark, adding that Nico doesn't like socializing much, takes sporadic naps during the day, and that his 'main focus is his belly.' Nico is a [450-pound] silverback gorilla at Longleat Safari Park and Mark Tye is his keeper. … Research conducted late last year by the University of Glamorgan suggested men become more ill-tempered at the age of 52, and by the time they hit their sixties they are four times grumpier than women."
Return of the gladiators
"Accountants and bank clerks in Germany's oldest city have decided to forsake their familiar beer and sausages for tunics and swords instead and have joined the country's latest sports craze – gladiator duelling," The Sunday Times of London reports. "This is no mere re-enactment. Many of those joining in the fun in Trier's 2,000-year-old Roman arena end up with bruises and some with a broken nose. Courses at the gladiator school in the city have been devised with the help of historians to come as close as possible to the practices of ancient Rome. They combine martial arts training with the wielding of battle axes, swords, spears, daggers and casting nets. At the beginner's level, the participants use wooden weapons. These are replaced with real, albeit blunt ones when the participants have acquired enough skill to prevent serious injuries."
A family in Croatia have transformed their estate into a winter wonderland with more than 1.2 million Christmas lights, says The Daily Telegraph. "Every year the Salaj family mark Christmas by decorating their 17 acre property in the village of Grabovnica in Croatia. The family first started the festive tradition in 2002, adorning their home with 70,000 lights and calling their project a 'Christmas Story.' … [Now featuring] almost three miles of cables laid underground connecting the lights along with some 111 miles of wires placed in trees and shrubs, it takes around six months of preparation to create the final display."
What does a smile mean?
"For the past 100 years or so, psychologists have supported the notion that all humans have the same set of basic biological emotions," says Psych Central News. "But a new paper in Current Directions in Psychological Science challenges this belief and holds that some of our established security procedures may be misguided. In her article, clinical psychologist Dr. Lisa Feldman Barrett of Northeastern University said a current method to train security workers to recognize 'basic' emotions from expressions might be ill-advised, potentially placing individuals at risk. 'What I decided to do in this paper is remind readers of the evidence that runs contrary to the view that certain emotions are biologically basic, so that people scowl only when they are angry or pout only when they are sad,' said Dr. Barrett. The commonly held belief is that certain facial muscle movements (called expressions) evolved to express certain mental states and prepare the body to react in stereotyped ways to certain situations. … But Dr. Barrett (along with a minority of other scientists) thinks that expressions are not inborn emotional signals that are automatically expressed on the face. … 'There's a tremendous variety in what people do and what their bodies and faces do in anger, or sadness or in fear,' she said. 'People do a lot of things when they're angry. Sometimes they yell, sometimes they smile.'"
"It didn't take special training for workers in South Dakota to spot the fake $20 bills that were being passed off as real money this week," reports Associated Press. "Police say the phony bills were simply low-tech colour photocopies. Sioux Falls police spokesman Sam Clemens says the reason someone was able to get away with passing off about $200 worth of the bills is that he wrapped the phony ones inside of a real one then rushed out the door before employees could stop him."
Thought du jour
"Life is the art of drawing without an eraser."
– John W. Gardner, (1912-2002), American writer and politician