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Late-blooming words, walking on water, hic, hic, hic Add to ...

The last condo?

A U.S. salesman with a doomsday plan is taking money for what he promises will one day be a comfortable, nuke-proof bunker in the Mojave Desert. Robert Vicino, who runs the Del Mar, Calif.-based company Vivos, is already taking reservations for the bunker, to be located in Barstow, Calif., Associated Press reports. He says the 13,000-square-foot underground structure will include an atrium, gym and jail on the inside and sloppy joes and pearl potatoes on the menu. Half its 132 planned spaces have already been reserved. Experts say the demand for bunkers is growing because of strong earthquakes, terrorism and predictions that the world will end in 2012 when the ancient Mayan calendar ends.

Late-blooming words

In her review of There's a Word For It by Sol Steinmetz, Erin McKean of The Boston Globe writes: "And in addition to … peeks at words that eventually took off, there are plenty of words that still haven't had their moments in the spotlight - obscure coinages to describe things you didn't know there were words for. There's smaze (1953), a mixture of smoke and haze, coming nearly 50 years after the more-successful smog, which originated in London … and menticide (1951), the practice of breaking a person's will, considered as a stereotypical behaviour of totalitarian governments."

Walking on water?

"It may not be the kind of miracle found in the Bible, but three athletic young adventurers have sparked an Internet furor by claiming to have walked on water," Tony Allen-Mills writes in The Sunday Times of London. "They call it 'liquid mountaineering,' a new sport that is not only challenging the laws of gravity but is also encouraging thousands of fans to slip on watertight shoes and run as fast as possible into the nearest lake. Most get two or three steps in before collapsing in a cloud of spray. Yet Ulf Gartner and his friends Sebastian Vanderwerf and Miguel Delfortrie have produced a video claiming to show 'one of the most impossible-looking activities that anyone has ever seen.' More than two million people have viewed the YouTube video in the past fortnight."

Happy or healthy? Choose

"When people are under chronic stress, they tend to smoke, drink, use drugs and overeat to help cope with stress," Science Daily reports. "These behaviours trigger a biological cascade that helps prevent depression, but they also contribute to a host of physical problems that eventually contribute to early death." That is the claim of James S. Jackson, a sociologist at the University of Michigan, and colleagues in an article published in the May issue of American Journal of Public Health. The theory helps explain a long-time epidemiological puzzle: why African Americans have worse physical health than whites but better psychiatric health. "People engage in bad habits for functional reasons, not because of weak character or ignorance," says Mr. Jackson, director of the university's Institute for Social Research. "Over the life course, coping strategies that are effective in 'preserving' the mental health of blacks may work in concert with social, economic and environmental inequalities to produce physical health disparities in middle age and later life."

Hic, hic, hic

"Lots of species, other than humans, get hiccups" Susan Blackmore of the University of Plymouth reports in BBC Focus magazine. "… This annoying experience happens when something irritates the diaphragm into a sudden contraction, pushing air up into the lungs so quickly that the epiglottis in the throat shuts. Almost any animal with this kind of breathing system can suffer the same result, including all mammals. Kittens often get hiccups, although they don't make much noise, while adult cats and dogs sometimes do if they eat too fast. Horses get loud hiccups and all sorts of animals have been filmed hiccupping including squirrels, otters and even a porcupine."

Reviews are panned

Worker satisfaction in the United States appears to be at an all-time low, Tara Parker-Pope writes for The New York Times. "The Conference Board reported that just 45 per cent of workers are satisfied with their jobs, down from 61 per cent in 1987. … Employees are unhappy about the design of their jobs, the health of their organizations and the quality of their managers." Samuel Culbert, a clinical psychologist who teaches at UCLA's Anderson School of Management, says too many people work in a "toxic" environment, and the title of his new book throws a spotlight on one of the culprits: Get Rid of the Performance Review! Annual reviews not only create a high level of stress for workers, he argues, but end up making everybody - bosses and subordinates - less effective at their jobs. He says reviews are so subjective - so dependent on the worker's relationship with the boss - as to be meaningless. He says he has heard from countless workers who say their work life was ruined by an unfair review.

Thought du jour

"A clever person solves a problem. A wise person avoids it."

- Albert Einstein

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