Vis-A-Virus

Dirty Little Secrets
About Hand Washing

For at least a century now, it’s common knowledge that one of the essential conditions for good health is to wash your hands often. That’s still true in the age of sanitizers and nothing like the virus du jour to highlight that. It’s also when most people realize that six seconds under running water doesn’t clean anything.
The personal care industry makes billions every year but we still prioritize appearance, voice tone, timing, and a series of other silly parameters to gauge whether the person in front of us is friend or foe. And yet they could kill us with a handshake. No wonder the doctor who became obsessed with cleanliness lost his mind.
What’s curious is that a dweller of any modern metropolis does value showering daily or almost, and depending on education, brushing their teeth a least twice a day. Somehow the initial step, though, and despite the usual comforts of contemporary life, like indoor plumbing, taking the time to wash up is treated as a formality.

It’s hard to understand how come such a crucial habit fell through the cracks of culture. Or that we even survived to this age. The evidence clean hands do save lives is around for so long, just like soap, and in the big scheme of things, time spent washing up is negligible compared to other human activities.
And yet, here we are, with the coronavirus wreaking havoc those very activities on a global scale. The benefits of this simple habit to improve global health cannot be overestimated and neither can the growth of the soap and cosmetics industry during the same period. Human awareness though went the other way.
FIGHTING GERMS WITH ALCOHOL
Hand sanitizers are an ultra-modern invention likely devised to quell germophobic anxieties and up to a few months ago, could be found at every counter of every food and retail places in America. It’s not so available anymore and for a while hoarders and mad-greedy merchants thought their price should be many times higher.
Amazon and other delivery companies – which by the way are making a killing – have stepped in to curb price gouging, but the initial widespread adoption of antibacterial soaps prompted a number of alarming studies about their long-term effects. That’s why the FDA banned Triclosan, despite industry efforts against it.
The current virus outbreak may potentially produce yet another unforeseen economic impact: to boost the moribund corn industry. A perennial recipient of government aid, corn depends on two factors for its commercial viability, subsidies and the fact corn syrup is now added to arguably 90% of American food. Thus the demand for corn-made alcohol is expected to spike.
AREN’T YOU FORGETTING SOMETHING?
But dirty habits die hard. Consider the study by late 2003 Ig Nobel Prize in Literature John Trinkaus of CUNY, published at the Annals of Improbable Research. It recorded public use of a hand-sanitizing station in the lobby of a teaching hospital, with heavy traffic of medical professionals, patients, and their relatives.
Of a total of 500 observations made, only three out of 108 healthcare practitioners stopped and used the station, which runs (more)
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Read Also:
* We’re Not Alone
* Blowing in the Wind
* Tiny Friends

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The Drone, the Bug & the Beat

Bottle-Loving Beetle, a Non-Stop
Beatle & the Beetle’s Real Father

What’s in a name? Much before early rock bands named themselves after insects, or what sounded like it, someone imagined a bug-shaped ‘people’s car,’ and even earlier in Australia, a certain beetle species was already wrongly accused of hitting the beer bottle too often.
But as Volkswagen ended this month production of the beloved ‘Fuca,’ as it was known in Brazil, some thought of crying, while others brought up that it’d outlived even the Nazis (well, at least, those Nazis). Thank goodness then that beetles, and the Beatle, are still going strong.
It’ll be a quick tour through completely different universes, where dreams get crushed by dictators, nature is forced to adapt, and human creativity is bounded only by prejudice. In the end, though, all three stories have something for everyone, for this is, after all, Thursday, and we’re not about to spoil your carefully laid out plans for the weekend.

THE WAY YOU LOOK TONIGHT
For a long time, most people who saw the Julodimorpha saudersii, known as the Buprestid (jewel) beetle infesting empty brown beer bottles, thought it was all about booze, the alcohol, or at least, the sugar left inside. Few noticed then that it wasn’t just any bottle, but only those with an indentation at the bottom that caused the buzz.
But it took Australian entomologists David Rentz and Daryll Gwynne to find out the truth about the misguided love story. It turns out that the males would ‘love long time’ the bottles, thinking they were mating and preserving their species, because the glass resembles the females’ shiny wings.
For that 1983 research, Male Buprestids Mistake Stubbies (the particular kind of beer bottle) For Females, they received the 2011 Ig Noble award for Biology. It made a lot of sense, as it fulfills the Improbable Research premise of entertaining and educate. There was fear that such silly drive would harm the species, but so far, they’re doing just fine.
You may say that love knows no barriers, and all that. But the most appropriate cliche, if there was ever one, would be the old, not everything that shines, etc. They will learn it. At least, be grateful Professors Rentz and Gwynne have cleared the species’ good name, lest not think that just because they’re Australians, well, you know.

THE JEWISH BEETLE
In the early 1930s, Josef Ganz, a Jewish engineer from Frankfurt, changed the history of the automobile by creating the first small family-car, the Maikäfer (May Bug in German). Its design was a triumph of ingenuity and anticipated in years the many Sedans that started getting mass-produced after WWII.
It was, though, a personal disaster for Ganz. He became a target for the Nazis and had to flee Germany, only to see his original concept stolen and given to Ferdinand Porsche to develop into what Hitler called, seven years later, the ‘people’s car,’ an effective piece of propaganda for the mass murderer’s regime.
According to Paul Schilperoord‘s The Extraordinary Life of Josef Ganz – The Jewish Engineer Behind Hitler’s Volkswagen, while Ganz was being hunted down, arrested and almost assassinated by the Gestapo, his (more)
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* Newspaper Taxis
* Racy Meals
* Beatlebarry

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Hairy Halloweeners

Zombies Are no Match to
People’s Phobia of Spiders

Halloween is upon us, and the walking dead continue to bury the traditional cast of goblins, ghosts, vampires and werewolves that used to dominate the season, in the hallowed ground of popular imagination. Only one creature packs a bigger fright punch than zombies: spiders.
They’ve been around for millions of years, more species are discovered every day, and unlike all other scary monsters, they’re very much real. And guess what? they’re growing bolder, scarier, and all research done lately has only increased our paralyzing fear of them.
For however beautiful creatures spiders may be, with their intense maternal feelings, their amazing stronger-than-steel silk-making abilities, and their endearing habit of liquefying their prey, they still can’t shake their reputation as overlords of both the crevices of the real world and of our most intimate nightmares.
Science has often come to the rescue of arachnophobes everywhere, who’re helpless to ward off their deep-seated fear of these crawlers. Discoveries in medicine and promising psychological therapies have been developed in order to find ways of soothing such fears, to not much avail, we must say.

For example, the lethal poison of the Brazilian Wandering spider, for which there’s no antidote, may one day replace Viagra-like therapies in the treatment of erectile dysfunction, according to a recent study. Great, right? But then, along comes the Trogloraptor Marchingtoni, or ‘cave robber,’ a recently discovered species with a horrendous set of claws, and we’re back into our fetal position.
CAN’T SHAKE THAT FEELING
Two separate studies about our fear of spiders and snakes, have concluded that, first, it may date back to early mammals, who had to (more)
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Read Also:
* Hallow Talk
* The Flours of Evil
* All Hallows’ Eve
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The Far Out Report

For These Gut-Churning News,
Laugh Only When You Breathe

So busy digressing about things too serious to skip, those worries and concerns transfixing our age, we often forget that life finds a way all around, and mostly despite, us. One more disgraceful news and we risk losing the ability of flexing the muscles of our smile.
So let’s pretend summer is really easy, fish are a-jumping, and if not cotton, then someone is high. Anyone would, coming across F.W. Murnau’s head, or a performance corpse, or an one-line obituary. In fact, reality often threatens to drive even comedians out of business.
Heard the one about Zimbabwean money? The currency is so devalued that someone can have, say, Z$35 quadrillion in his or her banking account, and still starve. A hot dog may cost a little beyond that. In the U.S., it does: all this money is worth only one dollar.
What about ‘dick pics?’ Even NSA whistleblower Eduard Snowden was surprised when told that what really scares Americans was not the fear of an all too powerful government, but having their nude pictures watched over by spies, who should be busy with something else, anyway.
But that sort of iconography is indeed dear to our fellow citizens. Take 1934 public enemy No.1, for instance. A photo of a dead John Dillinger may have created the biggest hoax about him: it looks as if he’s having a post-mortis erection right under the blanket.
Unlikely, of course. It was probably a fluke. But does it matter? His notoriety is now forever melded to his supposedly endowment, regardless if it has anything to do with guns or not. Go figure. And don’t forget to check the Skip Showers for Beef‘ campaign. You may thank me later.

GRAVE ROBBERTS & THE VAMPIRE
On to the main course. For fans of gore (and low-standards real life puns), the theft of F.W. Murnau‘s head is a full dish, to be savored with cheap wordplay and poorly concocted theories. But it really happened: the grave of the Nosferatu‘s director in Berlin has been desecrated.
Worse: news reports about it wound up adding further grievances to his family and fans of one of the greatest masters Continue reading

Lady Parts

The Botched & the Rumored,
the Unwritten & the Plain Bizarre 

It must be that red star that’s devouring a planet. Or the shortest northern summer on record. In just a few weeks, we’ve heard of an amateur who disfigured a century-old painting, a pen found in a woman’s gut, fears that bears like menstrual blood, and nails growing in someone’s head.
We don’t know about you, but it can’t be good when the most uplifting story in the news cycle is the one about a pen that still works after 25 years inside somebody. And that without even discussing the most abysmally ignorant and staggeringly cruel quote of the week, though.
That ‘honor,’ of course, belongs to Missouri Rep. Todd Akin’s medieval ideas about women’s anatomy and right to equality. The only benefit that came from that pseudo-controversy was to bring back the issue of reproductive rights as a way to gauge a politician’s real stand. Now, can we go back to tax havens and the destruction of the middle class?
To say that there’s a wave of obscurantism and irrationality threatening to cloud the brightest minds of our time, is not just inaccurate; it’s also to lend too much credence where there’s none. As a society, we already had this debate some three hundred years ago, and it’s settled: speak only if you know everything that’s been ever said about it before. Period.
If there’s one thing that the Enlightenment still speaks volumes about human nature and its innate aim at constantly improve itself, despite even nature, is that it doesn’t really need any magical thinking to do it so. No supernatural beings, no set of beliefs, no ‘spiritual hierarchy’ needed to be followed.
If you don’t know, experiment with it, as many hundreds, thousands of times that it’s needed, until you can retrace your steps and reproduce the same result. Nevertheless, or exactly because of this vast randomness we live in, each time we get it right, there’s no way back.
And the same holds true when what happens lies even beyond our unruly imagination. The proverbial, you can’t make this stuff up. That’s enough to keep us guessing, wondering in awe, no ghosts or apparitions necessary. Which doesn’t mean that one may not see or Continue reading

Take me There

Fair Fares & New  
York Taxi Drivers 

Being a vertical city, everything goes up in New York. Including cab fares. So if you’re coming over in September, bring extra change (or charge) to pay for your rides. They’ll cost more, even though they still won’t buy you a silent ride, or a clean backseat, or the fastest way to get to you wherever. Just pay up, tip well, and get out.
Such bluntness is the essence of what’s expected from this city, even though few still exercise it. Not much else reflects its gritty character as yellow cabs do, however. London motormen may have an encyclopedic brain; San Francisco drivers have their own app. But with one hand on the wheel while screaming in a foreign language at the Blue Tooth, New York cabbies can beat them all up.
We’re not about to give away the secrets for a pleasant ride for we still care for our own necks. Or as the locals say, spill the beans and you may sleep with the fishes. But even if there were anything pleasant about shaking from side to side in the backseat of a Medallion cab (if you have to ask, forget about it), we wouldn’t recommend you to dwell too much on it.
That’s because you may need to keep an eye on the driver at all times, lest he talks to you, during a break on his endless exchange on the phone, and you may not be paying attention. Besides, if you know what’s good for you, you’d better interject a few trajectory tips Continue reading

Divine Pests

If Our Saints Are Thugs,
Your Angels Must Be Insects

Let’s face it, there are way too many saints around. If one is not careful, it’s easy to get carried away and lose sight of who they are or whether they are prayer-worthy. Yet, the very choices that some exercise in the matter may be reason for concern.
Take Venezuela’s Holy Thugs, for example. They wore baseball hats, jeans barely covering their behinds, and high-caliber weapons on their belt. They are also dead, but still command a huge following in a country with arguably the highest murder rates in the world.
And who can blame John Coltrane worshipers? He too commands a hefty following. Thank goodness, his weapon was a jazz saxophone.
Now, heard the latest about angels? They can’t be vertebrates, some say, since they have wings, which are technically extra limbs.
At the end of the day, there are people who’d put anything on an altar and begin to pray. A few years back, Argentinian soccer great Maradona also had a church founded in his honor. Probably because at that time, the man was a walking death-defying act.
Not for us this business of kissing someone’s er picture, and ask for guidance. No easy job either, mind you. The cult of miracles as a path Continue reading