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Phone and split, sit and die, perfect non-attendance Add to ...

Phone and split

"We've all heard the warnings about using cellphones behind the wheel; several recent studies have shown that even hands-free mobiles are more distracting to motorists than driving drunk. Now a paper in Family Science Review points to another chilling threat posed by phoning and driving: Do it and you might get dumped," Matt Palmquist writes for Miller-McCune magazine. "According to University of Minnesota professor Paul Rosenblatt's paper, communication with family members suffers for the same reasons car calling is hazardous to driving - it slows motorists' reaction times and reduces their attention spans. … The spouse or partner who isn't driving might cut conversations short out of concern for the driver's safety, which the driver might interpret badly, while poor reception or road noise can contribute to vital missed dialogue."

Sit and die

"Unlike most bad news, this one is best heard standing up: people who sit more than six hours a day are more likely to die earlier," the Orlando (Fla.) Sentinel reports. "That's even for people who exercise regularly after long sit-a-thons at the office and aren't obese. That's the sobering news from a new study that tracked more than 100,000 adults for 14 years. Researchers from the American Cancer Society in Atlanta followed 53,000 men and 70,000 women and asked them to fill out questionnaires about their physical activity. Even after adjusting for body mass index and smoking, the researchers found that women who sit more than six hours a day were 37 per cent more likely to die than those who sit less than three hours; for men, long-sitters were 17 per cent more likely to die."

Why big dogs seem smart?

"There are theories galore about why some dog breeds appear to be smarter than others," Larry O'Hanlon writes for Discovery News, "but new research suggests that size alone might make a difference. All larger dogs appear to be better at following pointing cues from humans than smaller dogs, which makes them appear smarter. It's possible that bigger dogs appear smarter not just because they are bred for taking orders, but because their wider-set eyes give them better depth perception. As a result, they can more easily discern the direction a person is pointing. This latter hypothesis was tested by researchers in New Zealand, who think there might be something to it." Their results are published in the September issue of the journal Behavioural Processes. Other researchers point out that canine behaviour has been bred for different roles. "One expects larger breeds, selected for working roles, to be more likely to go to where a handler points," said dog behaviourist Benjamin Hart of the school of veterinary medicine at the University of California, Davis. Small breeds like terriers are bred to react quickly and scramble after fast-moving rodents, he added. "The (smaller) reactive breeds are going to be less likely to patiently sit still while a person pointing finally points."

Perfect non-attendance

"A worker was paid for 12 years without ever showing up for work at a Norfolk, Va., agency funded by federal, state and local money, officials say. Norfolk mayor Paul Fraim told CNN on Friday that when a new director took over at the Norfolk Community Services Board recently, she was 'doing her due diligence' when she discovered the hooky-playing employee was on the books. … The employee was terminated. … CNN affiliate WAVY said that the employee, a woman whose name was not released, 'earned' somewhere between $300,000 and $480,000 [U.S.] not including full benefits, from the board over the past dozen years."

Source: CNN.com

Word watch

- Face: Facebook is trying to trademark this word, Techcrunch.com reports.

- I mog di: In Bavaria's national language, Bairisch, there is no word for love. The phrase "I love you" is literally "I like you."

- Skitching: A dangerous skateboarding street stunt during which the rider hitches a ride by holding on to a moving vehicle.

- Tibiwangzi: Some young people in China and Japan are forgetting how to write in their ancient character systems, Agence France-Presse reports. "Character amnesia" is caused by the constant use of computers and mobile phones. The Chinese word for the phenomenon is tibiwangzi, or "take pen, forget character."

Other sources: BBC News, Chicago Tribune

Dancing scholars

In Britain, one in four lap dancers has a degree, new research shows. "A study of the industry showed that the majority of dancers were attracted into the profession by the money," Heidi Blake reports for The Daily Telegraph, "with all the women interviewed having finished school and gained some qualifications. … Many were aspiring actresses, models and artists who hoped to use lap dancing as a lucrative platform for breaking into their desired industry. Unemployed arts graduates who had been unable to enter their ideal careers since university also made up a sizable proportion of the lap dancers interviewed."

Thought du jour

"Even in a palace, life may be lived well."

- Marcus Aurelius

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