Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Apple #159: Betta Fish, part II


First, a program note or two. On Monday, Google Finance picked up my entry on the Voice of Voice Mail, in which the company name National Semiconductor was mentioned. So the page put a link to that Apple on their page of NSM stock info. Consequently, this blog got a lot of hits from people in tech companies for a day or two.

Then I mentioned this event to a fellow blogger, Felix, and he kindly posted this news on his site. He gets way more traffic than I do, so a lot of his readers came over here to check out the Daily Apple. Thanks, Felix!

As a result of all this new traffic, the Daily Apple is closing in on getting more hits in a month than it ever has. Right now, it's just about at 350. The best month was in April of last year, when I wrote an entry on the Pixies.

Finally, about a week ago, I was using StumbleUpon to find new websites I might like, and I came across a site called Damn Interesting. It's similar to this blog in that it picks a different topic to investigate, but it faithfully adheres to the "each day" mantra, and it's written by about six different writers, and is far more professionally produced. I e-mailed the guy behind this site, Alan Bellows, telling him I was doing something similar and asking him to take a look at the Daily Apple and tell me what he thinks. Here's his reply:

I am a frequent Stumbler myself, it's a great way to find interesting stuff. I took a look at your site today, and it looks quite nice. You certainly put a lot more effort into the quality of your content than most, and it shows. Keep it up!

Thanks, Mr. Bellows!


Now, on to the fish news.

So I got a Betta fish about a week ago. Named him FishFish. I kept him in the little dish he came in from the pet store until the chlorine disappeared from my tapwater, which took about a day, and then I put him into his new bowl. He swam around and investigated everything very carefully for a while. The third day I had him, I came downstairs and discovered he had made a bubble nest! I was very excited because I had thought that maybe if I was lucky, he might make a bubble nest after I'd had him for several months or something. But never as soon as this!

The bubble nest looks like a bunch of soap bubbles. Usually the bubbles are all clustered together like this, and sometimes they are in clusters.
(Photo from Ikan Laga's blog which has tons of photos and information about caring for bettas.)

I started thinking that it was sad that FishFish's nest was just going to sit there without any little fish for him to put into it. Could I go to the store and get a female betta to help him fill his nest? Was his bowl big enough to hold another fish? How much time did I have to get a female to him before his nest went away? Would he never make another nest again?

I had too many questions, so I called the pet store where I'd bought FishFish. The woman who answered told me that she's had two bettas, and one of them never made a bubble nest, and one of them made bubble nests all the time. There isn't a "bubble nest season" or anything like that, as far as she knows. She said the nests last until you change the water, which in my case, is about a week. She also said that if I wanted to get a female, I'd have to keep her in a separate tank because once she spawned, he would try to chase her off, and since she'd have no place else to go, he'd fight her to try to get her to leave, and keep fighting her, until he killed her.

I decided I didn't have room for another tank in my already crowded kitchen, so my betta was left alone with his bubble nest. The bubbles slowly shrunk and slowly disappeared each day. I was changing about 25% of the water daily (based on advice I read online), and though I didn't suck up any of the bubbles into the turkey baster I use to remove some of the water, the bubbles seemed to be going away on their own.

Then last night, I did a complete water change (for some helpful instructions on how to do this, check out the California Betta Society and Rachel's Healthy Betta info). Before I went to bed, I watched him and it looked like he might be making more bubbles. But these bubbles looked smaller than the other ones, and they popped almost right after he made them. So I decided not to get my hopes up and went to bed. When I got up today, lo and behold, he'd made another nest! Very exciting, I think.

Here's what he does when he's making bubbles. He swims up to the surface and gulps in some oxygen. Then he drops down below the surface and his gills and the side of his body behind his head bulge way out. It looks like he's about to burp. But nothing comes out of his mouth at this point. He swims around for a while, and sometimes he opens his mouth very wide and sticks his lips out -- sort of the way you and I would parody a fish mouth -- but even then, nothing comes out. Then he swims up toward the surface and sort of spits out a few bubbles. They drift on their own to the sides of the bowl, so his bubble nest is really more like a bubble necklace around the surface of the water.

Obviously, I've watched him for extended periods of time. Because he can't tell me if he doesn't like the water in his tank, or his food, or anything else, I have to watch how he swims and try to interpret what he's doing to figure out if he's healthy and happy.

I've also read some things online about betta health, and there are a few pages in particular that I found especially helpful. If you have a betta who's doing weird things like swimming funny or spitting out his food, or has developed spots or anything, here are some sites I've found helpful:

Betta talk, Topic: betta spitting out his food
Betta diseases, and how to prevent them
Colors of bettas, with lots of pictures
Betta diseases, and how to treat them

Stuff I've been putting into my betta's water:

Water Conditioner
This takes the chlorine out of tapwater. With this, you don't have to let your tapwater sit out for a day; you put a few drops of this into the water, swish it around a bit, and it's ready to go. This particular water conditioner also has other stuff in it that's supposed to help protect your fish's scales and keep its color bright.

Aquarium salt
I added this after I read one of those sites on betta diseases and learned that even freshwater fish can benefit from a little salt in their tank, because the salt helps prevent diseases. I asked a vet-knowledgeable friend of mine if regular table salt would work, and she said no, because table salt for people has iodine added to it, and that wouldn't be good for the fish. Aquarium salt has other minerals instead of iodine that are more helpful. So I got a little carton of this. Because my tank isn't that big, and because the salt doesn't evaporate, I use only about ten grains of this, and only when I do a complete water change.

For more entries about betta fish, see betta fish care basics and betta fish and bubbles and feeding betta fish

Monday, March 27, 2006

Apple #158: The Voice of Voice Mail

Some time ago, I signed up for a cable-based voice-over-IP phone service. I went for the whole package: cable TV, cable internet service, and cable phone service. It's quite a good deal, actually, compared to what I was paying for dial-up and long distance. And I haven't experienced any outages or problems. When I pick up the phone to make a call, the dial tone quality sounds like the call I'm about to make will be really scratchy and annoying, but as soon as I start dialing, the scratchiness goes away and it sounds like a regular phone.

With the phone service, I also got voice mail. I have an answering machine, but if I get another call, call waiting will beep, but if I don't click over, that other call gets sent to voice mail. These are a lot of hypotheticals that have to happen. But the other day, it did happen and I investigated my new voice mail system.

Lo and behold, the woman's voice guiding me through the labyrinth of options was one I recognized from past jobs with large corporations. In discussing this with a friend, we wondered if there's one Voice Mail Lady who records all the messages for all the voice mail systems, at least throughout the country.

  • Answer: no. There are lots of Voice Mail Ladies. But they each have done a lot of voice recordings.
  • One woman is named Vicki Kline. She's done the "you're listening to" recordings for radio stations, she provided the voice for kiosks in Toys 'R' Us stores, she's done training videos for companies like Sara Lee and Easy Spirit, and she also provided the voice for Cincinnati Bell Telephone's voice mail system.
    • She lives in Blue Ash, Ohio near Cincinnati, and she is a voice-over actor.
    • She doesn't do character voices, but she does adopt different accents, depending on which part of the country her voice will be used.
    • She typically works from home in her recording studio, while wearing a bathrobe. She records her voice saying various things for one to three hours per day. The rest of the day, she is free to be with her family.

The face of voice mail, Lorraine Nelson
(photo from her website)
  • Lorraine Nelson's voice is probably the one most people have heard. She has provided the voice for Avaya's Audix and Nortel's phone systems. Chances are, at the place where you're working right now, you're using a system made by one of those two companies.
    • Ms. Nelson used to be a jazz deejay and a radio newscaster.
    • Now she runs her own company, Cornerstone Communications, in Portland, OR, whose primary purpose is to record messages using her voice.
    • All sorts of news articles keep saying she's 47, but these articles have been published over the course of many years. Either it's more accurate to say her voice is eternally 47, or I'm going to calculate that as of this date, she is now 52.
    • She says when she records herself saying things for voice mail systems, she is adopting a persona. "I'm not that nice," she says.

The other face of voice mail, Dr. Joan Kenley
(photo from Eagles Talent Connection)
  • Another female voice of voice mail is Dr. Joan Kenley. She has also done recordings for Nortel Networks, specifically for their Meridian and CallPilot systems. She is also the voice in National Semiconductor's talking cash registers, cars, elevators, and other electronic equipment.
    • She is a former actor and since becoming a voice mail lady, has been a celebrity voice three times on The Simpsons.
    • She wrote a book published in 1989 called Whose Body is it Anyway? Smart Alternative and Traditional Health Choices for Your Total Well-Being.
    • Also in 1989, she published a book called Voice Power, about how to improve one's speaking voice and empower one's professional life.
    • She is also a licensed psychologist who specializes in women's health and personal development.
  • Another woman who has recorded voice mail is Marsha Graham. She has provided the voice for Octel Communications' systems since 1991.
    • She used to want to be a singer, but after years of frustration, she started doing voice-over work for commercials.
    • Then she auditioned for the Octel job and was chosen from among 60 finalists.
    • She says she spends hours in her recording studio, working to get just the right inflection or the right mix of professionalism and warmth.
  • Jane Barbe used to be the Time Lady, who said, "At the tone the time will be..." Her voice was also a nearly-ubiquitous voice mail voice in the 1980s and early 1990s.
    • She used to work for Octel (perhaps Marsha Graham took over after she stopped?), and once upon a time recorded messages for Electronic Telecommunications in Atlanta.
    • People sometimes wrote her letters to say they dialed the Time number to listen to her voice when they were lonely.
    • She grew up in Atlanta and learned in drama school at the University of Georgia how to remove regional inflections from her voice. Much later, when she was making recordings for companies across the country, she was asked to adopt many different types of accents.
    • Her voice will be heard no more, as she died of cancer in July of 2003.
  • Many of these women reported that they've often encountered their own voices asking them if they would like to leave a message, or to "press two." Jane Barbe was quoted as saying, "Vocally, I get around."
Patrick Larkin, "The voice heard by thousands," The Cincinnati Post, March 21, 2000
Reed Tucker, "Who's the Voice of Voice Mail?" Fortune, November 26, 2001
Cornerstone Communications, About Us
Joan Kenley, Joan's Info
"What a job! The Voice You Love to Hate," Woman's World, June 3, 1997
Jane Barbe obituary, SouthCoastToday (online edition of The Standard Times), July 28, 2003

Friday, March 24, 2006

Apple #157: Barbara Harris

I know you'll be happy to hear that so far, my fish is doing well. He seems to like his new fish bowl, complete with tufty fake plastic plant. Today he ate FIVE food pellets. His first day here, he didn't eat anything.

Okay, on to business. The other day, I watched the movie version of Neil Simon's Plaza Suite. The movie was made in 1971 and starred Walter Matthau as the male lead in all three of the vignettes (a directing decision Simon later said he hated). In both the movie and the play, three acts, each with different characters, take place in the same room of the Plaza Hotel in New York City.

Barbara is the one being kissed, to the right of the word "Plaza"
(Image from cover of Plaza Suite DVD)

Barbara Harris appears in the second act, as a married woman coming to visit an old friend who is now a big-time movie producer. She wants to resist temptation, but Mr. Kiplinger's sweet-talk and his knowledge of all the famous people in Hollywood make it difficult for her to resist.

In this part, she's got her hair all fluffed up on top of her head, except in a disarray that may or may not have been meant to suggest she's a scatterbrain. She also wears these really snug brown gloves, with two little zippers on the back. There's a shot of her fist, knocking on the door of the suite. I liked her gloves.

Harris' head shot, from some time back:

(Photo from Wisdom Portal)

But it was bothering me, where I recognized her from. She had a sort of husky voice, and I recognized that scatterbrained, half-ditzy nature she was portraying. She reminded me of a friend of mine, yes, but there was more to it than that. So I looked it up.

Turns out, she's been in many movies, and she was also a pretty major figure in Broadway theater. But I recognized her from Freaky Friday. Eons ago (1976, to be exact.)

The latest cover of the original Freaky Friday movie, with really bad depictions of Jodi Foster in the foreground and Barbara Harris in the background, making a face.

Here's a better picture of Barbara Harris in a screen shot from the movie
(Photo from Ultimate Disney)

Harris was also in Grosse Pointe Blank (1997), apparently as a minor character. I can't say because I haven't seen it. And she was in Peggy Sue Got Married, playing Evelyn Kelcher, the supporting role to Kathleen Turner. That's another time warp movie, come to think of it. And Grosse Pointe Blank is sort of about nostalgia, too. Hmm, could there be a theme here?

She also played Fanny Eubanks in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, a movie about two con men trying to squeeze money out of unsuspecting women. In Family Plot, she was a fake psychic working with her taxi-driver boyfriend to scam people. That movie, by the way, was Hitchcock's last film, but it was more goofy than what you'd normally associate with Hitchcock.

Here's Barbara with Bruce Dern (another popular 70's actor) in Family Plot.
(Photo from

She's had more critical success in the world of Broadway, having been awarded three Tony awards, two for Best Actress in a Musical, and one for Best Supporting Actress, also in a musical. Early in her career, she was a member of "The Compass Players," which was a traveling improvisational theater troupe, the first of its kind. It later became known as Second City. Though her then-husband was its director, she was no slouch onstage and is generally considered to be one of the pioneers in women's improvisational theater.

She is reported to be teaching and directing currently, but I couldn't find any source that said where.

More pictures of her, all black & white, are available here. She does that stunned/startled look quite a bit, apparently.

IMDB, Barbara Harris
Movie Actors, Barbara Harris
Wikipedia, Barbara Harris

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Apple #156: Betta Fish

I got a fish today. I chose a Betta fish because it seemed like they're relatively easy to take care of. The one I picked out has a bluish-green body with some red mixed in here and there, and his fins are a bright turquoise blue. He seemed more active than some of the others, and I thought his coloring was especially pretty. I haven't named him yet, but I have taken to addressing him as Fishy Fish. As in, "Hey, Fishy Fish, how are you doing in there?" He can't answer me, of course, but he seems to be doing all right.

This is close to what my fish looks like, except the body of mine is a little darker.
This Betta's name is Troy. (Photo from Pet of the Day)

  • Bettas live in shallow ponds or rice paddies or even slow-moving streams in Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, and parts of China.
  • These parts of the world are pretty hot and humid, so that's how these fish like their water. If the temperature of the water in their bowl or aquarium drops below 75 degrees F, the Betta fish will get sluggish and listless and unhappy. They're happiest when the water temperature is around 80 degrees.
  • Even though they like it warm, they don't like to be in direct sunlight.
  • The males are extremely territorial, and if one male is in proximity to another, they will flare their fins most dramatically and try to fight each other for mating rights. If you do get more than one male, keep them in separate tanks. Also, it's best not to put the tanks next to each other where they can see each other, but put a little distance between them or perhaps a picture of a nice underwater scene or something.
  • Females, on the other hand, generally will not fight each other.

Female Betta. Notice how much shorter her fins are than the male's.
(Photo from Animal Port)

  • Since Thailand used to be called Siam, and since the males of this species often fight with each other, Bettas are also known as Siamese fighting fish.
  • Bettas have a special respiratory organ that allows them to breathe oxygen directly from the water's surface. In fact, they can only breathe at all if they have access to the surface of the water. What this means for you, the owner, is make sure not to put anything in the tank that will crowd the surface, and don't cover the tank, either. While many Betta owners say that aerators can help, it is not necessary to put an aerator in a Betta's tank for it to live happily.
  • It's important not to overfeed Bettas. They don't eat much food in a day, and if you're feeding them dried food meant for Bettas, maybe three or four pellets a day will be enough. You'll have to watch your fish to see how much he wants, but something in that neighborhood should be about right. If you put too much food in the bowl, the fish won't eat it, and the food will rot, which means it will produce toxins and mess up your fish's water.
  • It is also important to make sure your fish's water is fresh and clean. I've seen recommendations that say to change the water once a week, to change at least half the water in the tank once a week, or to change about 20% of the water each day. So there doesn't seem to be a hard and fast rule on this, but probably the cleaner the water, the happier your fish will be. But you don't want to go scooping up your fish into a little net and moving him to another tank every day, either. Based on what I've read, I'd say that changing half the water once a week is probably the least amount you could do and keep your fish alive.
  • You can't just put tapwater into the bowl, however. Tapwater has chlorine in it, and that will kill your fish. Some fish tank kits come with tablets that take out the chlorine (the kit I bought had these), and you can either use those tablets, or use springwater that's available in most grocery stores, or you can "age" the water from your tap. If you let tapwater sit out for 24 to 48 hours, the chlorine will dissipate on its own. Then it's safe to put your fish in the water.

These are the water treatment tablets that came with my kit.
(Photo from Aquarium Parts West)

  • The guy at the pet store also told me that the bacteria on the gravel at the bottom of the tank is actually good to have, to some extent. It helps eat up the refuse that your fish will produce. But that bacteria can get out of hand, so about once a month, it's a good idea to rinse out the gravel.
  • Don't use soap on the tank or the gravel or anything else you might put in the tank. To fish, soap is a toxin.
  • It's become popular to sell flower vases with lilies growing in them as tanks for Bettas. While this looks pretty, Bettas in fact don't really like to live in flower vases. Many people say that the fish will eat the lily roots, but they only do this when they are starving. Normally, Bettas prefer bugs or dried mosquito larvae (which is what most Betta fish food is made of). Also, the plant's roots release substances in the water that are toxic to the fish, or the plant may grow in such a way that the fish can't get to the surface where it needs to breathe.

This is a no-no. Although the fish can access the immediate surface of the water, the plant is crowding out the top of the vase, which restricts the oxygen that can get to the water's surface. Also, if any roots come loose they can rot in the water.
(Photo from Betta Talk)

  • Bettas do like to have a place to hide, or a little nook to call their own, so it's a good idea to give them some structured thing in the tank, like a plant or a shell or a hunk of rock that has a niche in it where the fish can hang out.
  • If you have a male Betta (and because of their coloring, most people buy males), you might notice that strange-looking bubbles are appearing near the surface of the water. These bubbles are your fish's way of building a sort of nest for any baby fishlings (or fry) he might have. When Bettas mate, the male first produces the bubbles, the female comes along and they do their thing, and then when she spawns eggs, he picks them up in his mouth and puts them in the bubbles he's made to keep them safe. So if bubbles appear in your fish's tank, it means he's healthy and he's looking to find a mate.

This Betta is in a large tank and has made huge bubble nest.
(Photo from Jim Sonnier's page)

  • If you're interested in breeding Betta fish, you'll do better if you give the fish a much larger tank, make sure you keep the water temperature up, and aerate the tank as well. Live plants will also help to improve the water quality.
  • Generally, Betta fish live for about two years. If its tank is especially well-cared for, the fish may live three years or longer.
For more on my betta fish see later entries on betta fish food and bubble nests and water treatment and more bubble nests.

Sources, Shirlie Sharpe's article on Siamese Fighting Fish
Ask the Vet, Betta or beta fish care
Aquarium, Betta Fish Vase
Wikipedia, Siamese Fighting Fish

Friday, March 17, 2006

Apple #155: Best Seller Blockbusters

A discussion came up at work today about which has the longer record of being on the best seller list: The Da Vinci Code or The Bridges of Madison County. Turns out, this is kind of a tricky question to answer.

First of all, it's important to note that "best seller" can be defined lots of ways. Lots of different publications keep track of their own lists, and they all count slightly differently, some include different independent bookstores than others, etc. No one list represents an exact count of every book purchased. All the lists are based on sample data taken from bookstores and distributors across the country. Those are just the national lists. There are also lists that are kept on a regional, or even state-wide basis.

Generally, most people consider the New York Times as providing the most authoritative list of sales on the national level. However, it's tough to find information about the length of time a book spent on the NYT list when it is no longer on the list. Information about what's been on other lists is sometimes more readily available. One of those other lists is produced by Publisher's Weekly, a magazine that exists to help bookstores and libraries decide what books to buy. When I've used their list's data, I've put a (PW) next to the numbers.

  • As of this week, Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code has been on the NYT best seller list for 153 weeks. That's just shy of three years.
    • BOMC - 161 weeks (PW)
    • BOMC - 150 weeks (NYT)
  • I'm going to postulate that since The Da Vinci Code shows no signs of slowing in popularity, if it hasn't beaten BOMC yet, it is going to do so pretty easily.
Looks like the Christian/art world mystery will beat out late-life love

  • Even though Da Vinci and BOMC have been blockbusters, they are chicken feed compared to these others:

The Winner and Still Champion
(this combines spirituality and love -- maybe that's the secret to a best seller!)

  • Here are some other titles that have also been on the NYT list for a long time, and they're still there and racking up the weeks:
Apparently, people are more interested in teaching their kids to get rich than they are in learning how to give birth to the kids in the first place.

  • Given that most books that hit the best seller list at all tend to stay there for only 2 weeks before sales drop off, the longevity of these titles is staggering.
The New York Times, Best Seller Index (originally accessed on March 12, 2006)
Jeff Elder, "Longest best-seller streaks," The Charlotte Observer, February 3, 2006
University of Illinois-Champaign Urbana, 20th Century American Bestsellers, Bridges of Madison County
Sean Rocha, "What's With All the 'National Best Sellers'?", October 15, 2004

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Apple #154: Formula One Racing

A very little-known fact about your intrepid Apple Lady is that as of last year, I have become interested in Formula One racing. Not racing the cars myself, of course, just keeping up on events. I happened to see on TV a broadcast of a race last year, and I saw a young guy named Fernando Alonso win that race. Two weeks later I watched another race, learning various things about the sport from facts and explanations given by the announcers, and Alonso won that race too. Since then, Alonso has been my favorite of the Formula One drivers. I was very glad when he won the championship at the end of last year.

Alonso wearing his team colors (photo by James Deakin) and Alonso in his winning car (photo from the Financial Times)

The sport is full of all sorts of insane extremes in terms of what kinds of equipment -- and the amount of money -- that goes into these cars. But what's keeping my interest in the long term is the battle for supremacy among the drivers. It's kind of like a race car soap opera, though without quite so many evil twins and devious plots. So I'll tell you a few of the equipment extremes etc., and then I'll give you some brief descriptions of the drivers. Maybe you, too, will be intrigued by the drama at work.

  • The first thing to know about the sport is that it is competed internationally, at tracks around the world, and among teams from around the world. Each team has two drivers who compete, and one or more test drivers.
  • The teams are not based according to nationality, but rather according to which manufacturer makes the car that they drive. For example, Fernando Alonso is from Spain, and his teammate Giancarlo Fisichella is from Italy, and they both drive cars made by Renault, which is based in France.
  • The teams compete, throughout the racing season, for two titles: the drivers' world championship and the constructors' world championship. The driver with the most points accrued in the season wins the drivers' title and the manufacturer whose cars have earned the most points wins the constructors' title. This is a way of recognizing that not only does driving these cars take incredible skill, but so does putting them together and maintaining them and making choices about tires and fuel.
  • Points are awarded depending on where each driver finishes each race relative to the other drivers. That is, first place wins the most points (10), second place wins the next highest points (8), third wins 6 points, fourth wins 5, and so on in descending order through eighth place.
  • You might think, wouldn't the best driver with the fastest car always win? Wouldn't each race turn out pretty much the same? While that's a fair assumption, there are all sorts of variables that figure into each race, choices that the drivers and the crew can make, and all sorts of things that can go wrong.

In 2001, driver Burti attempted to pass champion Michael Schumacher and bumped the back of his car. Burti's car rolled a few times after this, but even so, Burti exited his car with only a few bruises. (Photo from The Guardian)

    • Fuel: One of the biggest considerations is how much fuel to put in the tank. If you put in less fuel, the car will be lighter and can go faster. But then the driver has to make more pitstops to re-fuel, which burns a lot of time (30 seconds). So would it be faster for the driver to start out with a bigger load and make fewer pitstops, or would it be faster to carry less fuel and reload more often?
    • Tires: The choice of which tires to put on the car is one of the most critical decisions for a team to make. Tires that are softer give more grip on the track, but they wear out even faster, which means the driver will have to stop more often to change tires. In addition, each track has its own dynamics -- different curves, different surfaces, different demands it will place on the car and on its tires. A crew must decide what kind of tires to put on the car before the qualifying race begins, and then they are required to continue to use that same kind of tire throughout the qualifying race, the practice races, and the race that counts for points. And in general, the right tires can make even a so-so car race well, while bad tires can screw up everything.
    • Overtaking, or passing: Passing other cars so that yours is in front is obviously essential to winning the race. But it's tricky, since yours is not the only car that handles extremely well at very high speeds. When you're about to pass in the straightaway, you benefit from the bubble of air behind the car in front of you (slipstream). While your car is in that bubble, it doesn't have to work as hard to keep up or to accelerate. However, when you and the driver ahead of you both go into a turn, the bubble works against you, putting pressure on the wings of your car, making it less aerodynamic and therefore slower. Also, the driver in front of you might be an excellent defensive driver, meaning that he positions his car in the turn such that you don't have enough room, or the right angle, to be able to get by him. Calculating all these niceties of position and speed is one of the main things the drivers are doing throughout the race. Overtaking other cars could be extremely dangerous and result in horrific accidents. However, the drivers take it not just as a point of safety but a point of pride in accomplishing incredibly dangerous feats without contacting another car. Even so, crashes still happn.

Ralf Schumacher (brother of champion Michael)'s 2004 crash at turn 13 of the US Grand Prix. This crash gave him his second concussion in a year. (Photo from Getty Images)

  • Here's why are some reasons why it's so important to drive well:
    • Depending on the track and weather conditions, race speeds average from 195 miles per hour to 255 miles per hour. That's three times faster than most of us drive on the highway.
    • When the cars go into corners, the high speeds put up to 3.5 g of force (3.5 times gravity) on the drivers' bodies.
    • The cars get extremely hot, including the interior. Drivers can sweat up to 6.5 lbs of their body weight during one race.
    • Because drivers have to withstand such high forces, they keep themselves in top physical condition, with cardiovascular training as well as weight training, especially in the chest and neck muscles. It is said that preparing for a Formula 1 race is similar to preparing for a marathon.
    • Perhaps the best reason to drive safely:

Ayrton Senna's car, after his crash at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix. He was airlifted to the hospital, but his head and neck injuries were massive, and he died hours after the crash. (Photo from the BBC)

  • Some other facts about the cars:
    • Engines rev to over 19,000 RPMs, which puts a force on the pistons of about 9,000 times gravity.
    • Race cars consume over 53,000 gallons of fuel for testing and racing in a season. The cars can be refueled as quickly as 3 gallons per second. The cars' fuel efficiency averages about 4 miles per gallon.
    • While Formula 1 car brakes weigh half as much as passenger car brakes, they can stop a car going 100 mph in less space than it takes a passenger car to come to a stop from 65 mph.
    • The steering wheel is equipped with all sorts of electronic features and buttons to allow the driver to shift gears by pressing a button, and to adjust many other features of the car as well. However, the steering wheel must also be detachable -- easy enough to unsnap from its position so that the driver can exit the car within 5 seconds in case of an accident.
    • Helmets are made of materials that are lightweight, flame-resistant, and strong enough to stop bullets. They are shaped to reduce aerodynamic lift, which can be anything up to 33 lbs at racing speeds. Visors have anti-fogging coatings and are equipped with transparent strips that can be torn away when they collect too much dirt. They are ventilated and also filter out track debris. Drivers also wear a mandatory head and neck support system (HANS) around the collar, which reduces head motion by 44%.

Rookie driver Roland Ratzenberger from Austria also crashed at the same track as Senna, days before in the qualifying race. The front wing of his car failed, sending him into the retaining wall at nearly full speed. He was killed instantly. (Photo from a French site about the 1994 Imola race.)

Now here are the 2006 drivers and the drama:

Fernando Alonso

After his 2005 championship (Photo from 42, a blog in German)

  • Fernando Alonso was born in Spain in 1981. His mother worked in a department store at that time, and his father was an explosives expert for mining companies.
  • In 1996, he won the World Junior Karting title, and in 1999, he switched from karts to cars. He raced in a series of events and then signed onto a Formula 1 team as a test driver.
  • He continued to distinguish himself and in 2002 was signed onto Renault's team as a test driver. In 2003, he graduated to race driver for Renault and became the youngest ever pole winner. In his next race, he became the youngest driver to win a Grand Prix.
  • In 2005, he established a strong lead early in the season. Though his car was not as fast as Raikkonen's, he demonstrated adaptability, the ability to stay calm under pressure and yet react quickly. Despite threats from McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen, he finished comfortably in first.
  • He is the youngest ever Formula 1 driver's champion and the first Spaniard to win the title.
  • He won the first race of the 2006 season at Bahrain, moving up from 4th position to 1st.
Michael Schumacher

After winning the championship for the 7th time (Photo from

  • Michael Schumacher was born in 1969. His father was a bricklayer and his mother ran the local canteen. He made his debut in Formula 1 racing in 1991, at age 22.
  • He established himself as a man of shrewd racecraft, with superb skills in wet weather and raw speed. Despite being force to sit out for three races for a violation, he won his first Formula 1 race in 1994 (age 25), following the death of Brazilian driver Ayrton Senna in the San Marino Grand Prix.
  • He won again easily in 1995, but then he switched to Ferrari in 1996 and suffered a series of close finishes and upsets. He battled hard, but after running another driver off the track, many thought he was dangerously aggressive.
  • In 1999 he crashed and broke his leg, which sidelined him for most of the season. He considered retiring, but later in the season he came back strong.
  • In 2000, he won the championship again, and repeated his winning ways again in 2001, 2002, 2003, and 2004.
  • In most of the races in 2005, he pressed a consistent challenge despite equipment problems and remained a force to be reckoned with.
  • In the first race of 2006, Schumacher finished 2nd, 1.2 seconds behind Alonso.
  • His younger brother, Ralf, is also a Formula 1 driver, but he has been stuck with poorer cars and has suffered serious injuries in two crashes.
Kimi Raikkonen

Pronounced Kee-mee Rye-cone-en (Photo from Grand

  • Raikkonen is from Finland and is 26 years old. He signed on with McLaren in 2001 at age 22.
  • He struggled with car troubles for three years but was recognized as a very impressive driver. It was thought that he would be the first driver to upset Schumacher.
  • In 2005, he won several races during the season and frequently set fastest lap times. He nearly won the championship, but his car had technical troubles in a crucial race that put him too far back out of first place in points.
  • He finished third at Bahrain, over 19 seconds behind Alonso. He had, however, fought his way up from the 22nd start position.
  • Raikkonen is likely to be one of Alonso's closest challengers for the 2006 title.
Which driver would you pick to win?

The Official Formula 1 website
The Grand Prix Encyclopedia, Drivers: Kimi Raikkonen
The Grand Prix Encyclopedia, Drivers: Fernando Alonso
The Grand Prix Encyclopedia, Drivers: Michael Schumacher
Wikipedia, 1994 San Marino Grand Prix
(For more crash pictures, see Wigo's Formula One Crash Database)

Friday, March 10, 2006

Apple #154: American Sign Language

I had so much fun last time, learning about something totally new to me, that I decided I wanted to try it again. So I browsed through some online encyclopedias, looking for a subject that I knew little about and that intrigued me. I came across an entry for American Sign Language and remembered I've been curious how this lexicon of hand motions was devised. Also, if there's an American Sign Language, does that mean that there are other sign languages used in other countries?

  • American Sign Language is a visual-spatial language used in the United States and English-speaking parts of Canada.
  • It is said that ASL is the fourth most commonly used language in the United States.
  • There are other sign languages in other languages, such as Japanese Sign Language, British Sign Language (which is very different from ASL), Old French Sign Language, and more.
  • Regionalisms and jargon have developed within ASL, the same as they do in any language. For example, people in different parts of the country use different signs for "Christmas," and "birthday." Also, signs may vary depending on the signer's race, ethnicity, or even age.
  • ASL uses a grammar and syntax of its own. It is not simply a representation of written or spoken English in sign form, but in fact its grammar and rules of making words (morphology) are entirely unique. If you want to sign according to English grammar rules, this is called something different: Signed Exact English or Manually Coded English.
  • Just as in a written language that builds words from roots, or that modifies common chunks of letters with the alteration of one or two letters to create a unique word (e.g., dog, hog, frog, or mother to mother-in-law), so does ASL build signs for words from alterations to "root" signs, so to speak. For example, the sign for "daughter" combines the sign for "girl" and "baby." The sign for "rattlesnake" first uses the sign for "snake," followed by a shaking motion meant to represent the way a rattlesnake's tail moves.
  • Lots of schools and programs teach American Sign Language, but the institution considered the top of the heap for learning ASL or indeed many things related to deaf culture is Gallaudet University, located in Washington, DC.
  • Gallaudet University is named for Thomas Gallaudet, who founded the first school for the deaf in Hartford, Connecticut. In 1817, he brought a French teacher named Laurent Clerc to the United States, and Clerc began teaching French Sign Language to American deaf students. However, many of his students were already fluent in their own forms of signing. It is thought that today's American Sign Language is the descendant of this hybridization of signed languages.
  • Michigan State University's Communication Technology Laboratory put together the American Sign Language Browser, essentially an online dictionary that provides demonstrations of the signs for I don' t know how many words. Scads of them. This is not the only online dictionary of sign language, but it's one that includes videos.
  • I've always thought that making signs for concepts might be tricky, so I looked a few of them up. Turns out, it's not that hard to express concepts in a physical way that makes sense. Here are some of the signs that I found interesting: (you'll need QuickTime to view these videos)
    • Quaker: knit fingers together in front of torso and twirl thumbs "to represent someone waiting for spiritual guidance."
    • Make-Believe: close hand in a fist with pinkie extended (the sign for i), point pinkie to forehead and pull hand away in one, two jerks while leaning forward. Sort of looks like you're saying, "stoo-pid."
    • Persecution: make two fists but extend first finger and bend it (the sign for x in each hand), then gesture both hands forward in a kind of x shape one across the other very firmly. The sign is meant to represent pain being inflicted repeatedly or someone being tortured. The action does look violent.
    • Mischief: hold up first two fingers of each hand, bring hands to forehead and scrunch fingers the way people often do when they're making the signal for quotation marks. In this case, the fingers are meant to indicate the horns associated with devils.
    • Democrat: make the sign for d and shake or waggle the hand in front of the body. Looks sort of like scolding.
    • Republican: make the sign for r and shake or waggle the hand slightly to the side of the body. This also looks like scolding.
    • Feces: the fist of one hand is closed arount the thumb of the other, and the thumb is jerked out from within the fist.
    • Forgive: one hand is held palm up and the other hand brushes it off, to suggest that whatever was there has been removed.
  • If you want to learn American Sign Language, you have all sorts of options, from software and DVD programs, to online tutorials, to classes taught in local community centers, and college-level courses across the country. To get started, try a Google search for "learning american sign language."
Karen Nakamura, Deaf Resource Library, About American Sign Language
National Institutes of Health, National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, American Sign Language
Sign Media, Introduction to American Sign Language
Communication Technology Library, Michigan State University, American Sign Language Browser

Wednesday, March 8, 2006

Apple #153: Eero Saarinen

I realized the other day that I know hardly anything at all about architects. I can name a lot of famous painters and a few famous photographers, and of course I know of tons of musicians, but I don't know of very many architects at all. Frank Lloyd Wright and Mies Van der rohe are about it.

So I decided to teach myself something about a famous architect who is new to me. And I just picked a name, Eero Saarinen, because it's a crazy-looking name and I thought, maybe I'd learn something exotic besides.

Turns out, he was influenced by Mies van der Rohe, and is known as a modernist architect. His work is characterized by a similar clarity of design, yet his buildings often include dramatically curved, sometimes swooping roofs. He also uses lots of ovals or elliptical shapes, and he's a big fan of windows and allowing in natural light. I find the shapes of his buildings very pleasing and a welcome relief from all the rectangles and squares typical of industrial buildings.

After seeing photos and reading descriptions of his work, I am very impressed by what he's done. I'm also glad I learned about him.

  • Eero Saarinen was born near Helsinki, Finland in 1910.
  • His father was a noted architect, Eliel Saarinen, who was also the first president at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. His mother, Loja, was a sculptor who also made architectural models and was a photographer and a weaver as well.
  • In 1923, Eero emigrated with his family to the United States and became a citizen.
  • He studied sculpture in Paris and architecture in the US at Yale. Following a year of travel in Europe, he returned to the US and taught at his father's school, Cranbrook.
  • In 1937, he collaborated with another architect, Charles Eames, in designing furniture (later, he would name his child by his second marriage Eames, after his friend). They won all sorts of awards in The Museum of Modern Art's 1940 competition called Organic Design in Home Furnishings.
  • He finally settled into working at his father's architectural firm near Cranbrook until 1950.
  • He is best known for his creation of the TWA terminal at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York City.
      • The building has all sorts of sweeping, dramatic curves, wing-shaped overhangs, and oval shapes, all of which help to suggest flight and the sky.

Photos from Galinsky, a free service for people interested in modern buildings

  • He also constructed the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Missouri, which I think is far more impressive or at least notable, but for some reason, people always seem to mention the TWA Terminal before they mention the Arch. He was awarded the commission to build the Arch after winning a design contest in 1947.
      • The Arch is a 630-foot high single tapered curve made of steel. It stands on the bank of the Mississippi River in St. Louis and is meant to symbolize a doorway into the American West. It is the tallest memorial in the United States.
  • Other buildings he is known for include:
      • Dulles Airport in Chantilly, Virginia (near Washington, DC), which has one great big swooping roof over lots of windows.

Kresge Auditorium
(Photo by M. A. Sullivan, from Bryn Mawr's collection)

      • Kresge Auditorium at MIT, has a geodesic dome which is like a cap that is pulled down into points at opposite ends. The outer walls of the structure under the cap are all windows.
      • Kresge Chapel, also at MIT, is a non-denominational chapel that does not use any symbols that could be associated with any particular religion. The building is compact, circular, and high-walled, fairly unassuming looking from the outside.

Photo from Galinsky

      • However, on the inside, the brick walls curve in an undulating pattern, and natural light that descends from above the altar illuminates a decorative screen of golden metal rectangles that shimmer impressively.

Photos from Galinsky

Other buildings he created include:
      • John Deere Headquarters in Moline, Illinois, which was the first building to use weathered steel, which is left unpainted and allowed to form its own cinnamon-colored protective coating.
      • North Christian Church in Columbus, Indiana, has a single, needle-like spire that rises up from the center of a wide hexagonal structure.
      • Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana, has a high-pitched, tent-like triangular chapel that lets in extraordinary amounts of light, with a spire behind the chapel and a large curved lake with fountain in front of it.
      • Yale Hockey Rink, which has a very dramatically curved roof, sort of reminiscent of a skate blade except curvier, and a long bank of windows and doors beneath. Seen from above, it looks sort of like the shell of some prehistoric animal.
  • In addition to buildings, he also created many furniture designs (apparently lots of architects have designed furniture), primarily for Knoll International. Many of his furniture designs continue to be sold today:
      • In 1956, he made the Tulip Chair, the white fiberglass and aluminum chair with the pedestal instead of legs (he said that other chairs suffered from a "slum of legs"). I always associated the Tulip Chair with the 70's, but apparently it comes from the 50's.
      • He also made the Womb Chair in 1948, of molded fiberglass and designed so that you could curl up in it.

      • In 1946, he made the Grasshopper Chair, named because it sort of looks like a grasshopper's big bent legs. It is made of bent plywood with an upholstered seat.

  • He is perhaps best known for his TWA Terminal, which was completed in 1962. However, Saarinen died of a brain tumor in Ann Arbor, Michigan a year previously, in 1961. He was 51 years old.
Scandinavian Design, Eero Saarinen
Great Buildings Online, Eero Saarinen
Galinsky, architects, Eero Saarinen
National Park Service, Arch History & Architectural Information, Eero Saarinen - Architect With a Vision
R 20th Century, Eero Saarinen

Finnish Cultural Institute in New York, Eero Saarinen: Realizing American Utopia

Monday, March 6, 2006

Apple #152: The Psychic Friends Network

I've pretty much recovered from the flu. I still get sort of dizzy and woozy every once in a while, I'm still kind of forgetful and go into a mini-daze now and then, and my head still feels packed with some mysterious unbudgeable substance, which means that my ears also feel a bit too full and don't respond well to loud noises. The first time I got back into the car after being out of it for about a week, there was no way I could drive and listen to the radio at the same time. Too much stimulus, too much noise. Now I have progressed to being able to tolerate the radio while driving, but all I want to listen to are the soft, soothing sounds of AM oldies radio.

Today I heard a song sung by Dionne Warwick. I recognized her husky voice immediately. If I'm not mistaken, the song was called Deja Vu. This got me wondering, whatever happened to the Psychic Friends Network?

  • The Psychic Friends Network was first of all a wildly popular infomercial back in 1990. Dionne Warwick hosted a mock TV show, in which she interviewed her main Psychic Friend, Linda Georgian, and then invited various famous people and regular people to come onto the talk-show-like set and testify to how their Psychic Friend gave them the answers that led them to a happier, more fulfilled life, etc., etc.
  • It was an infomercial, but people watched it like it was a regular TV show. I know I did. I mean, I watched this thing many times. It was on TV a lot, but when I came across it, I didn't usually make the effort to change the channel. Time and again, I was seduced by Dionne's husky voice, the happy hugs among the fellow believers, the tears surprised to the surface by a psychic's uncanny ability to touch on just the right thing.

Hugs among the Psychic Friends
(Photo from a Hampshire College alum's page on PFN)

  • The goal was to get viewers to call the 900 number and spend $4.99 the first minute and $3.99 every minute after that. I never called. But a lot of people did.
  • The company rode the crest of its popularity for a long time, and then the next thing I remember was that the company was in trouble, it was being investigated for something maybe? And then it disappeared. What happened?
In researching the Psychic Friends Network and what became of it, I discovered that many of the people who touched it in some way turned out to be frauds themselves. It's all coincidental, of course, but you could say that in a manner of speaking, I found a Fraud Network. Read on.

  • In 1998, the Psychic Friends Network's parent company, Inphomation Communication Inc., filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
  • In the meantime, the guy who originally came up with the Psychic Friends Network, Michael W. Lasky, was suspected of using money from Inphomation's bleeding checking account and putting it into another business venture of his, the Harbor Inn Pier in Baltimore. That's Possible Fraud Guy #1.
  • Then the Psychic Friends sort of disappeared from the map after 1998. They poked their heads up again in 2003-2004 when Inphomation filed suit against the floundering MCI when it filed for bankruptcy as part of the whole WorldCom debacle (Major Fraud Company). Inphomation Communication claimed in its suit against MCI that they switched from AT&T to MCI in 1996 and soon discovered the MCI was not capable of billing and collecting on the long distance calls as they had claimed, and as AT&T had once done. By 1997, they were losing revenue, and another year later, they were in the red.
  • After some unsuccessful legal maneuvering, MCI settled the case by paying $4.1 million to Inphomation. Inphomation then used that money to pay off as much as it could to its creditors.
Okay, so we've got small-timer guy skimming the Psychic Friends' bank account. And we've got a connection to WorldCom. But wait, there's more.

  • Quite a few of the articles I found about the Psychic Friends' demise refer to an investigative article written by a guy named Stephen Glass who posed as a Psychic Friend so he could write about it for Harper's Magazine. Glass wrote that he soon discovered most of the people calling in were poor, usually minorities, in pretty big trouble financially and in need of genuine help, not a good soaking for $80 a call on average. Glass reported that he left his undercover work with a residue of shame in his mouth.
  • Glass was exposed later that year as a stunning liar regarding the subject of a different article published in The New Republic. After he was outed as a big fat liar, other magazines went back and reviewed his work, among them, Harper's. They said his facts seemed to be generally accurate, but they could not verify his sources or find many of the psychics he claimed to have worked with.
  • This makes him Fraud Guy #2: a guy went undercover and lied about being a psychic to "expose" people who were cheating others, and then this guy was himself exposed as a fraud of his own kind.
But what about Dionne Warwick? One of the most recent items about her in the news was that in 2002, she was busted at the Miami International Airport for possessing under 5 grams of marijuana.

Poor Dionne. I think she must have been originally tapped for the role on the PFN's infomercials because she added an "e" at the end of her first name on the advice of a numerologist. In spite of this, and her association with the PFN, and her marijuana bust, and the fact that Whitney Houston is her cousin, I'm not going to put her in the list of frauds. Instead, I'm going to say this: caught up with such unsavory people, and without a hit in decades, it's understandable that she'd turn to a little extra something to get her through her Psychic Friends-No-More days.

Maybe it would be better to remember her for the single "That's What Friends Are For," a Grammy-winning song she recorded in 1985 with Gladys Knight and Elton John and Stevie Wonder, as a fundraiser for people with AIDS.

Psychic Friends Network
D. Trull, "Psychic Friends Debt-Work," ParaScope, 1998
Matt Nisbet, "Psychic Hotlines profit on gullibility," CICAP, the Italian Committee for the Investigation of Claims on the Paranormal
"Two Baltimore Lawyers Help Bankruptcy Trustee for Psychic Friends Network Recover $4.1M from MCI," Bank Channel Media, November 30, 2004
"Psychic Friends to be sold," Baltimore Business Journal, July 3, 1998

Stephen Glass
Adam Penenberg, "Lies, damn lies and fiction,", May 11, 1998
Aida Edemariam, "The Storyteller," The Guardian, May 10, 2004, which includes a description of the process of fact-checking Glass' article about pretending to be a psychic on the PFN.
The Cheating Culture, Stephen Glass
Shattered Glass film about Stephen Glass' deception, produced by Tom Cruise, and starring Hayden Christensen as Glass

Dionne Warwick
"Dionne Warwick arrested for pot possession," CNN, May 12, 2002, reproduced at chat room
VH1, biography of Dionne Warwick, Dionne Warwick

Wednesday, March 1, 2006

Apple #152: Surprise, it's the Flu

So I went to the doctor today, not because I thought he could give me anything to make this especially nasty cold go away, but because the last couple times I called in sick to work, I sensed some testiness on their part, and I wanted to have a note from my doctor that said I was sick, so they would let me be sick in peace.

Turns out, I don't have a cold. I have the flu.

I always thought you had to be vomiting for it to be flu, but apparently, that's not the case. Here are some of the things the doctor asked me, and how I answered. If you're not sure whether you have a cold or the flu, maybe this exchange will help you decide:

NURSE: (after taking my temperature) Well, you have a little fever, 100 degrees.


I bet you had no idea.

ME: No idea.

(doctor comes in and takes over)

DR: Did you feel this coming on, maybe a little bit the day before, or did it come on all of a sudden?

I woke up on Friday and I was sick. I didn't feel anything the day before.

DR: Feeling dizzy, light-headed?

: Yes.

DR: Achy, chills sometimes?

(nodding) Yes. Pretty much everything except throwing up.

DR: Nausea too, then?

No, not really. More just not really interested in eating very much.

DR: Not much appetite then.

Not much.

DR: You're drinking some fluids now and then but not a whole lot?


DR: Over-the-counter medications sometimes helping, sometimes not?

: Yes. I've been taking a generic Ny-Quil, but I still wake up coughing three or four times a night. [usually this stuff knocks me out completely]

DR: They sometimes work, sometimes don't, then?

Yeah, they help a little bit, sort of.

DR: Mmhm. (looking into my throat) Yeah, there's some redness there. (feeling my neck) And a little bit of a swollen gland on the right side.


DR: (listening to my chest sounds) No sounds of bronchitis or pneumonia, so that's good. You have kind of a dry cough?

Most of the time it's dry, yeah.

DR: And you said you're feeling a little better today.

Today's the first time I felt any better at all. Every day since Friday, I've felt worse.

DR: You're feeling like you've been hit by a truck and you survived the hit, but you're lying on the ground asking, Why couldn't I have just died right then? [My doctor's a little bit nuts, I know.]

: That's how I was feeling yesterday. Like, if this isn't going to get better, just get it over with now.

DR: Yup. That's the flu.

He said it's possible that I could discover, after another few days, that a sinus infection may have snuck in underneath the flu. If the flu symptoms start to ease up and I find that I'm blowing my nose all the time and nasty-colored goo is coming out like crazy, then I have a sinus infection. If that's the case, then I'm supposed to fill a prescription he gave me for a version of penicillin. Otherwise, I'm just supposed to keep doing what I've been doing: sleeping, resting, drinking fluids.

He said he usually sees the flu around mid-February, but it seems to be showing itself about a week or two later this year.

Here are some basic things that signal the difference between colds and the flu:

  • Centered around the nose. Most of what's happening involves sneezing or a runny nose.
  • You might also have a scratchy or sore throat.
  • You may also have a headache, or more likely, you can feel the extra pressure in your sinuses. If you press on the flat places on either side of your nose, it hurts, or feels sensitive.
  • If you have a cough, there is goo involved. You can feel it moving around down there, or you're actually coughing the stuff up.
  • Your voice sounds all hollow or stuffed-up. This is because of the goo in your sinuses that's not allowing the air to flow around the way it usually does.
  • Within 1 to 3 days, nasal secretions thicken and turn yellow or green. This is not a sign that you should be taking antibiotics. This is simply part of the progression of the cold.
  • Usually subsides in 7 days with a symptom or two that may linger.
  • Are caused by rhinoviruses (nasal viruses) or up to 200 other types of viruses.
Antibiotics fight against bacteria, not viruses. This is why antibiotics will do nothing to make your cold go away! You need some bacteria to do various unpleasant tasks around your body, but antibiotics will kill all the good bacteria as well as the bad, so you could wind up turning your cold into something even worse! Don't take antibiotics for a cold!

FLU (influenza)
  • You don't have to be vomiting to have the flu.
  • You feel awful all over. Your body aches, you are incredibly tired or have a significant reduction in your usual energy levels, and you can't get enough sleep.
  • You feel dizzy or light-headed.
  • You're not that interested in food, maybe you're nauseous. Maybe you're vomiting -- but just because you're not throwing up, that doesn't mean it's not the flu.
  • You may also have a sore throat and headache.
  • If you have a cough, it's dry and "hacking." It's not a "productive" cough, or one where you're bringing up the phlegm.
  • You have a fever. Chances are, if you have the chills, you also have a fever. You may not know it, it might be only slight, it might not last as long as the rest of the symptoms, but at some point your temperature went above normal (98.6 F) to around 100 F or higher.
  • If you do have the flu, somewhere around the 2nd to 4th day of the illness (in my case, it took 7 days), the whole-body symptoms subside and the thing concentrates itself mostly in the respiratory tract, giving you one or more of the following: a runny nose, a cough, sore throat, ear infection, bronchitis, or pneumonia.
  • Most of the respiratory symptoms will go away within 7 days. The cough and tiredness, though, can last for weeks even after the illness is gone.
  • Caused by a single family of viruses, the influenza family.

The influenza family is an entirely different group of viruses than the rhinoviruses. Things like Cold-Eze and Zicam, which combat the way rhinoviruses work, won't do much against the influenza viruses.

And again, antibiotics kill bacteria, not viruses! So don't take antibiotics to try to kill the flu, because it won't work!

And don't invite the influenza family over for dinner. Hahahaha! (I must be feeling a little better if I'm making bad jokes).

My family doctor
Dr, Cold and Flu Differences
NIH, Is It a Cold or the Flu?