Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Apple #130: Bob Barker

So today, I was watching "The Price is Right." Some days I don't have to be at work until the afternoon, so I check in on this eons-old game show and shout bids at the TV. This morning, a guy in a Navy uniform got called up to be in the bidder's row, and while he was jogging up to the front, Bob Barker said, "The United States Navy. Ah, Petty Officer First Class." Yesterday, there was a guy named Brad who was from the Army, and I didn't remember Bob getting sentimental and deciphering his uniform. I thought, "Was Bob Barker in the Navy?"

Photo from the Cavalier Daily

The answer is, Yes he was. But of course, I have to share with you other interesting tidbits I learned about him as well.
  • "The Price is Right" has been on the air since 1972. Barker has been its host for 35 years. It is the longest-running game show in TV history.
  • Barker was born in 1923 in Darrington, WA. He spent his pre-teen years on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota, where his mother taught school.
  • His family moved when he was in high school to Springfield, MO, and he graduated high school in 1941.
  • At the onset of World Ward II, he enrolled in Drury College in Missouri on a basketball scholarship.
  • In 1942, he left college and joined the Navy. He moved up from Cadet to Ensign as a fighter pilot, but just as he was about to be assigned to seagoing duty, however, the war ended.
  • He remained on the Naval Reserve's rolls until 1960.

Bob Barker, 1945.
Photo from Naval Air Station, Grosse Ile

  • He went back to college at Drury in Missouri and while he was there, he got a job at a local radio station. He learned that he was most talented at hosting audience participation shows.
  • After graduating summa cum laude with a degree in economics, Barker moved to Palm Beach, Florida, where he got another radio station job.
  • The following year, he moved to LA to host his own radio program, The Bob Barker Show.
  • In 1956, he debuted on television as the host of the very popular "Truth or Consequences." He stayed on as host of that show for 18 years.
  • Two years later, he was hosting "The Price is Right." You've seen the rest, essentially, every weekday morning at 11.
  • When he's sick -- and he has been, only twice: once for a stroke and once for prostate surgery -- they don't have a replacement fill in. They don't tape any new shows and they just play re-runs.
  • Barker has been named twice in the Guinness Book of World Records as television's Most Durable Performer and as Most Generous Host in Television History. When he won the second moniker, the show had awarded $55 million in prizes. Since then, the show has awarded another $200 million.
  • Barker has won 11 Emmy awards for Game Show Host, which is more Emmys than any other performer has ever won. He has also won 2 awards for his role as Executive Producer of "The Price is Right," a position he has held since 1987.
  • He is a vegetarian and is a strong proponent of animal rights. He once went to Washington to meet with members of Congress to request that elephants be banned from circuses and traveling shows.
  • Barker and a fellow entertainment colleague donated $500,000 to Harvard Law School to fund courses on animal rights law.
  • He was accused in 1993 of sexually harassing one of the show's models, Dian Parkinson.

Dian Parkinson
(Photo from The Price is Right TV)

  • They had had an affair for three years (his wife had died in 1981), but Parkinson said it was harassment. Ultimately, she dropped the suit in 1995. Other lawsuits have raged on behind the scenes.
  • He has a black belt in karate and also earned a red belt in tang soo do karate under the tutelage of Chuck Norris.
  • Looking for pictures of him, I discovered that lots of people have named their dogs Bob Barker.

IMDB, Biography for Bob Barker, Bob Barker
"Bob Barker to face courtroom battle after model's suit ruled valid,", September 23, 2004.
For Bob's side of the story, read the transcript of this interview he did with Larry King on CNN

Monday, November 28, 2005

Apple #129: Elevator Music

I called a company today to ask them something fairly important and wound up having to listen to Muzak for three songs. The first one was a trombone-laden reproduction of Madonna's "Lucky Star." As I grew increasingly irritated, that fake song gave way to another reproduction so emotionally muted I could not identify it. I got to wondering, who thought up this nonsense in the first place? And what about the musicians? I pictured them showing up for work, unpacking their instruments and taking out the sheet music for "Lucky Star, Lite," tuning up, and actually playing this garbage. What must go through their minds? How does one get a job like this?
  • When some people talk about "mood music," they mean songs that, in their original incarnations, produce a soothing effect, such as "Girl from Ipanema," or "Clair de Lune." What I'm talking about are the re-arrangements, the muted trumpets softly wafting, without words, well-known songs like "Come on baby, light my.... fire," the de-boned and gutted versions of songs that once had fire and grit and spit, but have since been sanitized, corporatized, and rendered numbing and jelly-like. You can see what I think of it.
    • I'm not alone in my opinion. A former employee of the Muzak company, Jonathan Poneman, has called its music "aural fascism" because it anaesthetizes its listeners against their will.
    • Ted Nugent said in 1989 that he would buy Muzak for $10 million, just so he could destroy its tapes.
    • Even so, just this year, Muzak won "the coveted Best Booth award," at a trade exposition for innovative technologies and design in the retail industry. Their booth was a white and silver circular enclosure, with white 70's-aura round plastic table and chairs placed in the center. The walls were circled with glass shelves, which each held little glass vases of water, each vase holding one red rose. Precious.
  • Elevator music is so-called because it was piped into elevators in 1922 when they were first introduced, to help people feel less fearful about riding in the new contraptions.
  • Muzak is actually the name of one company that produces soothing mood music. To say you're listening to Muzak when you don't know who has produced the pseudo-music is akin to saying you've just blown your nose with a Kleenex, when really you might have used a tissue made by Puffs or any other manufacturer.
  • But it's a good bet that what you're hearing comes to you courtesy of Muzak. Somewhere between 90 million and 100 million people hear Muzak's plush tones at some point during each day.
  • Muzak got its start by piping music into homes in Cleveland in 1934, and then focusing its attention on transmitting music into hotels and businesses in New York City.
  • Muzak does not refer to the process of re-arranging popular songs by any such direct term as that. They call it "audio architecture." They define the phrase as "the art of capturing the emotional power of music and putting it to work for our clients to enhance their brand image." It ain't about music, folks, it's about sales.
  • According to Muzak's jobs pages, you can't work as a musician for the company. They offer jobs in sales, marketing, branding, finance, human resources, operations, design, and the wonderfully euphemistic "audio architect," but they employ no musicians. My guess is they contract out the actual performance of the music to various orchestras.
  • Here's one take on what it means to a music professional to work for Muzak. This quote is taken from an interview done by Paul Morris of the Jerry Jazz Musician, talking with Peter Levinson, who wrote a book about Nelson Riddle. Riddle was one of the most highly-respected and gifted arrangers in American music. He worked on songs made famous by none other than Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Judy Garland, Linda Ronstadt, and others. Here's what Levinson has to say about Riddle's involvement, late in his career, with the Muzak company:
    • Interviewer: An interesting anecdote in your book is that in his declining years Nelson Riddle actually worked for the Muzak Company.
    • PL: Yes. That is evidence of just how far down he had fallen. In other words, working for the Muzak Company was a job he had to take because he didn't have a lot of work in the 70's and 80's.
This was an admittedly snarky entry. I'll try to give you something more upbeat -- not saccharine-coated fake sugary-happy, but genuinely upbeat -- next time.

Sources's info on
Elevator Music: A Surreal History of Muzak, Easy-Listening, and Other Moodsong, by Joseph Lanza
CHUM Television, Media education for program entitled Sonic Power, Ted Nugent & Muzak
"Muzak Takes Best In Show Award: GlobalShop 2005," Send2Press, March 31, 2005

Muzak's unsurprisingly annoying website
Work @ Muzak FAQs and Jobs
Jerry Jazz Musician, Interview by Paul Morris with Peter Levinson

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Apple #128: Hello Hong Kong, part II

I think I figured out why I sometimes get hits from people in Hong Kong. There's a Hong Kong newspaper called Apple Daily. I think people are searching for that paper, and because search engines don't care about word order unless you put a phrase in quotes, my blog comes up on a list of hits, and some people check it out.

If I'm not mistaken, this is the Apple Daily's logo

I went to the Apple Daily's website, but since it was all in characters rather than Romanized script, I couldn't make out much of anything, except a front page photo of someone who was bleeding and had a sheet over him while uniformed people stood nearby.

Looking elsewhere, I learned that the Apple Daily is Hong Kong's second biggest selling newspaper. Some stories printed in other papers allege the Apple Daily has a pro-democracy, pro-Western stance, to the point of possibly losing some advertisers over its positions. According to folks on one chat room site, the Apple Daily is known for printing sensationalist stories. Others say that it is trying to shed that image in favor of more sober coverage, particularly of international news. It's hard to get an idea of what a newspaper is like, even if you can read it yourself, let alone based on what other people say about it.

Whatever the paper is like, I'm glad that people from so far away have stopped by. Hello, Hong Kong! (I'm waving.)

"Hong Kong: Sales of half-price Sun 'triple,'"
South China Morning Post, November 4, 2005
"Hong Kong: An Apple a day keeps developers away,"
South China Morning Post, April 22, 2004
Chatter Garden, Illustrations from the Apple Daily

Monday, November 21, 2005

Apple #127: Ferris Wheels

Driving home tonight, I noticed a Ferris wheel set up in the middle of a street downtown. I have no idea why it is there. It's not like there's a fair going on or anything. This I will have to investigate in our local newspaper. What I'm more interested in for the purposes of this blog, is why it's called a ferris wheel. I had a hunch that it was named after its inventor, and I was right.
  • The first ferris wheel was made by a man named George Washington Gale Ferris. Other turning wheels that carried people were built before Ferris's, but his is recognized as the first official ferris wheel.

George Washington Gale Ferris
(Image from

  • Ferris was a civil engineer. Before he made his wheel, he worked in the railroad industry and then became a bridge builder. He got to know a lot about steel, so much that he founded G.W.G. Ferris & Co., a company which tested steel used in bridges and railroads.
  • In preparation for the 1893 Chicago Columbian Exposition, which was to be held in honor of the 400th anniversary of Columbus' arrival in America, a bunch of engineers got together in 1891 to plan what marvels they might put together. The goal was to build something that would rival the Eiffel Tower.
  • Ferris was in the audience at this discussion. While he listened to what people said, he got an inspiration and drew a picture of it on his napkin. It was essentially an enormous bicycle wheel that people could ride.
  • The wheel was 825 feet in circumference and 250 feet across. It was supported by two 140-foot steel towers, which were connected by a 45-foot axle. The wheel had 36 wooden cars, and it was powered by two 1,000 horsepower engines. All of these dimensions were considered remarkable and impressive for the time. Many ferris wheels in use today do not approach these dimensions.

The original Ferris wheel
(photo from the Harrison Farm's blog)

  • To build this marvel, Ferris needed $355,000, which he managed to raise. The components were made in Detroit and shipped to Chicago by train on 150 railroad cars. The centerpiece alone weighed 45 tons. Altogether, the whole thing weighed 220 tons. Because of the sheer size and weight, the builders dug eight holes 35 feet deep and 20 square feet across.
  • Fully constructed and operational, the ride cost 50 cents. This was in 1893, when the average daily wage of someone who worked for the Pullman railroad company was $1.03. So basically, a lot of people were paying half a day's salary to ride the Ferris wheel. The ride made over $725,000.
  • However, almost immediately, other people started to make their own ferris wheels, and theirs were bigger, or taller, or carried more passengers. One guy's, Busset's, has cars specifically for first class passengers and other cars for smoking passengers.
  • Most crucially, Ferris's wheel was very difficult to disassemble and set up again elsewhere. Other builders managed to make theirs more portable.
  • After the World's Fair, Ferris's wheel was dismantled and was going to be used when the Columbian Exposition moved to New York City, but it would have cost another $150,000 to ship and rebuild the wheel. The wheel was eventually set up again, but it stayed in Chicago, on North Clark Street. Unfortunately, not enough people rode it and it lost money.
  • By 1900, Ferris was so deep in debt, he took offers for his wheel and sold it for $1,800. Finally, it was re-erected for the Louisiana Purchase Exhibition, but it again failed to raise enough money to pay for itself. In 1906, the original ferris wheel was sold for scrap iron.

This ferris wheel in Vienna has been in operation for over 100 years.
(Photo by Paula Funnell on flickr)

  • However, the concept of the ferris wheel was a hit. More than one hundred years later, any fair worth its cotton candy will have a ferris wheel.
  • Today, the ferris wheel at Chicago's Navy Pier is 10 feet higher than the original, has 4 more cars, but is 110 feet smaller in diameter. As of 1999, the world's largest ferris wheel is in London, checking in at 443 feet tall.

The London Eye, from the top of which riders can see for 25 miles
(photo from the World Guide to London)

Sources, Inventors, Circus and Theme Park Innovations
Columbia Encyclopedia, Ferris wheel
Christine Petone and Mary Lynch, "The Ferris Wheel"
River North Hotel, Chicago's Navy Pier
Nicole Huffman, American Studies Program, University of Virginia, Pullman Strikes Out, Wages and Rents

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Apple #126: Milo Radulovich

Recently I saw another movie, this one Good Night and Good Luck, about Edward R. Murrow taking on McCarthy during all the anti-Communist crap in the 1950's. Here's what happened, in the movie and in real life.

  • An Air Force Reserves lieutenant, Milo Radulovich, was working as a meteorologist in the Air Force. The Air Force had found out that his father subscribed to a Communist newspaper and his sister was "left-leaning" and opposed segregation.
  • Radulovich's father was from Yugoslavia and could not speak English, only Serbian. So he subscribed to a Serbian-language newspaper from his home. The Air Force assumed this meant all sorts of nefarious things about him.
  • Radulovich's sister had picketed a hotel when it had refused to give a room to Paul Robeson, an African American singer and actor and civil rights activist. The Air Force thus assumed all sorts of subversive things about her, too.
  • So the Air Force told Radulovich he was dismissed from the service and would lose his rank, pay, and benefits.
  • Radulovich decided he wanted to fight the charges at a hearing. After a difficult search, he found an attorney from Detroit, Charles Lockwood, who took his case pro bono.
  • Radulovich said much later that, at one point during those hearings, the Air Force's legal counsel took him aside and told Radulovich, "You're embarrassing us. Disown your father and sister, and everything will be all right."
  • But Radulovich did not do as the legal counsel suggested. Despite his and his attorneys' best efforts, the Air Force stripped Radulovich of his rank, pay, etc.
  • The Air Force's decision was reported in the Detroit News. Folks at Edward R. Morrow's show, See it Now, read the newspaper story and decided to produce a show on Radulovich's case.

If you haven't seen the movie and you don't want to know what happened next, stop reading now and go rent the movie. Otherwise, read on below.

Milo Radulovich, 1953
photo from The Detroit News

  • CBS didn't want to fund the show, so the producers paid to air it themselves. Everybody was nervous about how the public would receive a documentary that was clearly critical of the Air Force and McCarthyism.
  • But immediately after the show aired, the switchboards were flooded with calls in support of Radulovich. Viewers sent thousands of letters to CBS and Alcoa, the show's sponsor.
  • One month after the show was aired, the Air Force reinstated Radulovich.

After seeing the movie, I wanted to know what became of Radulovich after the Air Force reinstated him. Did he stay in the Air Force? What's he doing now?
  • Though the Air Force had reinstated him, he had trouble finding work. Several employers had blacklisted him.
  • His marriage was cracking under the strain, and he and his wife decided to leave Ann Arbor. He was pursuing a degree in physics at the University of Michigan at the time, but he and his wife thought he would have better luck finding work if he relocated.
  • They moved to California, but the move did not mend the marriage. He and his wife divorced.
  • Without a degree, he still had trouble finding work. But finally, Radulovich found a job working for a small weather-research firm in the San Francisco area.
  • Later, he was hired by the National Weather Service and reported on weather conditions specifically for firefighters.
  • In November of 2007, he died from complications related to a stroke. He was 81.
So it cost Radulovich much, much more than his Air Force Reserves salary to fight their dismissal. But because the See it Now program about him was one of the first public revelations of the truth about McCarthy's anti-Communist vendetta, his case is largely considered to be the beginning of the end of McCarthyism. And for that, those of us who might like to read newspapers in other languages or from other countries, and those of us who stand up against repressive practices owe Milo Radulovich our gratitude.

Kendall Wingrove, "The 50th Anniversary of the Case of Milo Radulovich, Victim of McCarthyism," George Mason University's History News Network, October 13, 2003
Jack Lessenberry, "Murrow, McCarthy, and a Michigan man named Milo," Toledo Blade, October 21, 2005.
Jack Lessenberry, "Radulovich's brave stand helped end McCarthy witch hunt," Toledo Blade, November 23, 2007.
Julie Morris, "The man who fought McCarthy's red smear," The Detroit News, May 5, 2004.
Douglas Martin, "Milo Radulovich, 81, Dies; Symbol of '50s Red Scare," The New York Times, November 21, 2007.
Kathlen Gray, "Milo Radulovich: He had a pivotal role in U.S. history,", November 20, 2007.
Rick Boeck, "The case against Milo Radulovich," Sacramento News & Review, October 20, 2005

Monday, November 14, 2005

Apple #125: Ginger

Something else my Australian friend and I talked about the other day was ginger.

Ginger root, available from Typical Dutch Stuff

I needed some for a soup I wanted to make; the recipe called for a little bit of gingerroot and all I could find at the store was a package with a whole bunch of roots in it. I said I hardly ever use ginger at all and it would have been a waste of money to buy that much ginger. She said she likes ginger a lot and that she'd like to teach more Americans to appreciate ginger.

She also said she once upon a time went to a "ginger factory" in Australia. I asked her how the plants grew, and she said she didn't see that part, just the part where they ground the ginger and also turned it into candy. Which she loves. She loves the candied ginger.
  • People call it gingerroot, although it's actually not a root. It's a rhizome, which is a plant stem with shoots above and roots below, and which is the reproductive part of the plant.
  • Ginger is one of the earliest spices introduced to Europe from the East. It's thought to have originated either in China or India.
  • Because the plant requires lots of moisture, it grows best in tropical climates. Today, it is grown commercially in China and India, and also East and West Africa, Japan, Brazil, Jamaica, Fiji and other parts of Southeast Asia, and Australia.
  • Even in places that have lots of rainfall, the growers sometimes also irrigate the crops, which then do even better with that extra water.
  • In Jamaica, which some people say produces the best ginger ever, crops are sown by two people. One person cuts the furrows and another person follows behind and drops in a hunk of root. You have to be careful not to plant them too far apart, or else weeds will sprout and choke the plants. With enough moisture, the plants will sprout in 5 to 10 days.
  • In some places like India, they plant other crops such as castor beans or gungo peas in between the ginger plants. (Now I'm going to have to find out what gungo peas are)
  • In Australia, ginger is grown by about 30 growers, and they make most of their income from processed rather than fresh ginger.

Ginger plants grown in a field, in Queensland
  • In Jamaica, the root is often first peeled, then dried in the sun. It is one of the few places that produces peeled/dried ginger, but this product is in danger of disappearing. Peeling ginger is a royal pain. It requires using a special knife with a narrow blade that allows you to mark the peel in between places where new rhizomes are sprouting. Then you have to carefully remove the thin peel in little bits where you've marked it. Most of the people who peel ginger in Jamaica today are elderly women, and fewer and fewer people know how to do it well, if at all.
  • If you want to grow ginger yourself, you can in your home. The keys are to make sure you give the plant lots of water, keep it warm, and harvest the roots from the new sprouts that shoot off from the main plant. For more specifics, see the instructions at eHow.

What your ginger plant might look like, if you grew one yourself (from Gernot Katzer's Spice Pages)
  • You also want to make sure you don't grow ornamental ginger, at least, not if you plan to eat it. There are over 1200 species of ornamental ginger, many of which actually flower. Some of them make flowers that look like little pink pineapples; some look like corn on the cob; and some look like baby pinecones that are yellow at the end and red at the base.
  • Candied, or crystallized, ginger is made by cutting the peeled roots into hunks or slices, then cooking them in sugar syrup and applying yet another, final coat of sugar. The result is a combination of a snappy, yet mellow flavor with definite sweetness from the sugar. If you want to make it yourself, try this one from Premier Systems

Crystallized ginger, as made by Holly Food Co., Ltd.

Growing Ginger in Jamaica
Ginger in Queensland, commercial production
eHow, How to Grow Ginger
Gernot Katzer's Spice Pages, Ginger (includes a discussion of the etymology of "ginger," a description of its flavor in various forms, and a catalog of how it is used in various cuisines)
Earthcare, Spices & Medicinals of the Ginger Family
The Great American Spice Company, Crystallized Ginger - Candied

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Apple #124: Some Non-Fiction Movie Trivia


Someone I work with is from Australia. She and I were talking at lunch today about Australian movies that we both like. Rabbit-Proof Fence was the first one we talked about. If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend it. Two aboriginal girls are taken from their families by government folks and placed in an orphanage/school run by whites. The girls escape and try to get home, across miles and miles of desert-bush land. It's based on a true story (the movie shows the girls, grown up to old women now, at the end), and it's jaw-dropping what lengths they have to go to to get home.

We also talked about Walkabout, a similar movie released years ago. In that movie, two kids are stranded in the bush and they meet an Aborigine, who helps them get home.

Then I remembered another movie I'd seen on TV, started partway through, and so didn't know the name of it. There was a girl, in constant conflict with her domineering mother. They lived on some sort of farm, or ranch or something, and the mom believed, like everyone else did, that this place required their lives. There was also a boyfriend, and arguments about going off to college. My Australian friend didn't know what this movie was either.

Turns out, the movie was called The Road from Coorain. It's based on a book of the same title. In it, the farm I thought I remembered was a sheep ranch, the mother is described by as "emotionally dependent, recently widowed," and the girl leaves the ranch for school in Sydney. The girl, Jill Ker Conway, grew up to become the first woman president of Smith College, and went on to teach at MIT. She wrote the book about her own life.

In the movie, Juliet Stevenson plays the mother. I've seen her in other Masterpiece Theatre performances, and she always does such a great job with the passive-agressive, messed-up women. I can't decide now whether I want to read the book or see the movie again.


Last night I went to see the recently released Capote. Philip Seymour Hoffman is so good I forgot I was watching an actor, and the movie itself is wrenching and brilliant.

In the movie, Truman's lover's name is Jack. Nobody ever says his last name. Jack announces at one point in the movie that he has just completed a novel. I recognized a lot of famous people hanging out with Truman, but I didn't know who Jack was. So I decided to look him up. It took quite a bit of searching before I found anything more about him than that his name was Jack Dunphy and he was Truman's partner for years.

Turns out, he had written a novel called John Fury: A Novel in Four Parts just before he met Capote in 1948. After they became an item, he wrote at least two more novels: Friends and Vague Lovers, and Nightmovers. One website said that Capote helped him get these novels published. Dunphy also wrote plays, three of them: Light a Penny Candle, Cafe' Moon, and Too Close for Comfort.

This is the kind of guy I feel bad for. He did the work. He wrote, and he got his stuff published. Not just once but again and again. But now, fifty years later, nobody remembers his writing at all. People know his name only because he was a famous guy's main squeeze. The last thing Dunphy published was Dear Genius: A Memoir of My Life With Truman Capote.

I know this information about Jack Dunphy is recorded elsewhere, in places probably much more official and lasting than this website. But still. It can't hurt to have it noted, just one more time, who Jack Dunphy was and that he was a writer and these were the things he wrote: John Fury, Friends and Vague Lovers, Light a Penny Candle, Cafe' Moon, Too Close for Comfort. And sure, to be complete about it, Dear Genius.

Masterpiece Theatre - The Road from Coorain, The Road from Coorain
IMDB, The Road from Coorain
National Women's History Project, Biography Center, Jill Ker Conway
Emanuel Levy's Film Comment, Truman Capote: Everything You Need to Know, Playwrights, Jack Dunphy
Daniel Mendelsohn, The New York Review of Books, "The Truman Show" -- if you want to know what a masterfully-written review looks like, read this.

Wednesday, November 9, 2005

Apple #123: Nasal Hair

I'm wondering, why does your nasal hair get longer when you get older? Especially since, for many people, the hair on their head starts to disappear?

This person isn't old enough yet
to be experiencing lengthy nasal hair.

  • The answer, in a word, is testosterone. This is a steroid hormone that controls the growth and maintenance of masculine characteristics, such as hair.
  • Apparently testosterone dictates all sorts of stuff that happens to your hair throughout your life. When you hit puberty, it's testosterone that makes the hair start growing in your armpits and pubic area. When you hit a certain older age, your hair may stop growing in, or even falling out, and again, it's testosterone to blame. Nasal hairs, same thing. Testosterone.
  • Specifically, testosterone gets converted to another substance that shrinks the size of hair follicles on your head. Because the follicles are getting smaller, the diameter of each hair gets thinner. Finally, the follicles close completely and no hair can grow out of them. That's basically what's happening when men start going bald or women start losing hair.
  • Strangely, even though testosterone is what's behind hair loss, it's also the culprit in more hair growth in places like your nose and your ears and eyebrows. Why that same follicle-shrinking thing doesn't happen in these other locations but it does happen on your head is not something I could find an answer to.
  • Many sources I've read on this subject say that long nasal hairs is something only men experience. But if I correctly remember the faces of some of my teachers, women get long nose hairs, too.
  • As it turns out, for women, as they age, their bodies produce less estrogen, especially after menopause. Without the estrogen to "oppose" or block the testosterone, the testosterone goes to work on a woman's hair follicles and may make it stop growing on her head, or grow longer in her nose.
  • So basically, if you've got testosterone, and apparently everybody does, your hair is going to start doing new things starting around age 30.
Vanderbilt Faculty & Staff Wellness Program, Men and Aging, Ear Hair: What Gives?
Pioneer Thinking, Female Hair Loss

Tuesday, November 8, 2005

Apple #122: Dachshunds

When I was growing up, my family had two dachshunds, first one who lived to be 16 and then another who lived to be almost 17. Because the first dachshund was in the house when I was born, I always sort of took them for granted, in a way. I put links to pictures of dachshunds up here before, but I thought it might also be nice to learn a few things about them.

  • Dachshunds were bred in Germany over the course of several hundred years for their particular long, low shape to make them good at hunting badgers. The word "dachshund" means "badger hound," or "badger dog."
  • Not only did their shape make it easy for them to burrow into a badger hole, the dogs were also bred for their tenacity and strength, essential if one is planning to engage in a fight with so notoriously stubborn an animal as a badger.
  • Dachshunds have also been used to hunt other animals such as foxes, rabbits, and even wild boars.
  • As most dachshund owners will attest, the dogs retain their feistiness today and may get in quarrels with dogs much larger than they are. As our vet once said, "Dachshunds have no idea that they're smaller than anybody else."
  • They are generally chipper, curious, and companionable. They like going for walks very much.

This dachshund is named Kevin. He keeps a blog about dogs in London.

  • The first dachshunds were brought to the US in 1887. By 1914, they were in the top 10 most popular entries in the Westminster Kennel Club Show.
  • When World War I hit, however, people were suspicious of anything German, and this included dachshunds and dachshund owners. Some dogs were even the victims of stonings. After the War, people came to their senses, fortunately, and the dogs have grown in popularity ever since.
  • Dachshunds may have one of three types of fur:
    • Smooth coat -- short, sleek fur, most typically pictured on greeting cards and the like
    • Longhaired -- soft, silky, wavy at the ends, the fur is longer especially under the body, from the ears, and from the tail. These types of dachshunds are generally considered to be more docile. In my own limited experience, this was the case.
    • Wirehaired -- coat is more similar to the smooth coat, except fur is coarser, thicker, and rougher.
  • Dachshund fur tends to take one of three color schemes: uniform reddish-brown color, uniform black, or reddish-brown with an overlay of black. Less often, dachshunds may be blue-black, cream, or dappled.

Smooth-haired Dexter, Willy, Pepper and Del, from people's eye view. All were adopted or rescued (see Modern Pooch).
  • Dachshunds come in two sizes, Standard and Miniature. Miniature varieties weigh less than 11 pounds, and Standards weigh over that, usually around 20 pounds.
  • In Germany, an additional category is used, called Kaninchenteckel, or rabbit dachshund. German breeders measure chest circumference as a means of determining type of dachshund, and this particular type's chest should not exceed 11.8 inches.
  • Because of the dachshund's long back, it is important to make sure a dachshund does not get overweight. Extra pounds can create a precarious sag between the stout but far-apart front and back legs. The undue strain on the dachshund's back can lead to back pain, slipped discs, even paralysis.
  • For the same reason, it's also important to keep your dachshund from jumping onto high places (which is most furniture, especially for miniatures). And when you pick up a dachshund, be sure to support its back.
  • Dachshunds will bond well with people, especially if they are socialized at a young age. They don't yip a lot, though they may have a neighborhood nemesis such as the postal carrier or the garbage collector.

  • They're fairly easy to housebreak and to train, or at least it seemed pretty easy for my mom to teach our dogs to do tricks or not to do Other Things.
  • Since dachshunds were bred to be hunting dogs, they might want to do things like go investigate Very Interesting Smells, or roll in stinky smells to disguise their own odor, or try to bury toy bones under the extension cords in the house. But in my experience, they don't tend to chew up your stuff or cause other damage to the house, the way some other breeds do.
  • Gergweis, Germany, has been dubbed the Dachshund Capital of the World. Here, dachshunds outnumber people 2 to 1. Tourists can rent the dogs by the hour to take them for walks.
  • Recently, the popularity of dachshunds has taken on a new form: Dachshund racing. Most breeding clubs oppose these races, due to the breed's predisposition to back problems, and also for fear that the same thing will happen to dachshunds as has happened to greyhounds.
If you're thinking of adopting a dachshund into your home, check out the Dachshund Rescue Web Page, which helps to find homes for dachshunds in need.

Dachshund Rescue Web Page, Dachshund Information
Steven Michelson, Dachshunds
Breeds of Dogs, Dachshunds
Wikipedia, Dachshund and Dachshund racing

Thursday, November 3, 2005

Apple #121: Hong Kong

I've noticed from my site statistics that every once in a while, a reader (or possibly, readers) from Hong Kong stops by. I thought I'd say hello by doing a little Apple on Hong Kong.
  • Hong Kong is a peninsula below the southern border of China, and several surrounding islands. The total area it encompasses is 1,103 sq kilometers, or 685 sq miles.
  • On this peninsula and its islands live about 6.9 million people. That's more than the populations of Los Angeles and Chicago combined.

Map from Yahoo Travel
  • Hong Kong was occupied by Great Britain from 1841, when China gave it to the UK after the Opium Wars, until 1997, or 156 years. Portuguese sailors were among the first Europeans to trade with Hong Kong, and a Portuguese cultural influence remains in Hong Kong to this day.
  • In 1984, China and the UK signed an agreement that would make Hong Kong became a Special Administrative Region of China in 1997. Under this agreement, Hong Kong operates almost autonomously from China, which is allowed to control only Hong Kong's foreign affairs and defense operations. This agreement is to stay in place until 2047.
  • The UK's influence can still be seen in the fact that people drive on the left, they use the British spelling of words like "colour" and "centre," and the country's deepest port is called Victoria Harbour.
  • Today, 96% of the country's population is Chinese, primarily Cantonese. The remaining 4% are mostly Filipinos, Indonesians, or Americans.
  • The name Hong Kong means "fragrant harbor." Or I should say, "fragrant harbour."
  • Hong Kong's official name, in English, is Hong Kong, Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China. Local folks who speak Mandarin call their country Xianggang.

Xianggang during the day (photo from CCTV)
  • Hong Kong's biggest industries are clothing and textiles, tourism, shipping, and electronics and plastics, including toys, watches, and clocks.
  • Its primary source of income, however, comes from the fact that it has one of the largest and busiest ports in the world.
  • As the world's 11th largest trading economy and with Asia's 2nd biggest stock market, Hong Kong is widely recognized as an affluent, bustling economy in Southeast Asia. Even so, just over 31% of Hong Kong's population lives in public housing.
  • Average wages across all industries are $US 1,370 per month. Income tax is 16%.

  • Hong Kong gets a lot of monsoons, and sometimes typhoons. In the summer, winds from the south bring moist, humid air. In the winter, winds from the north cool things off.
  • Hong Kong-ites have 5 AM radio stations and 9 FM stations. They have 4 broadcast TV stations and 4 airports.
  • People use smart payment cards called Octopus cards, which are used to pay fares for railways, buses, and ferries, and they are also used in parking meters and garages.
CIA World Factbook, Hong Kong
US Census, Population of the 100 Largest Urban Places, 1990
Hong Kong SAR Government Information Centre, Hong Kong in Brief
Wikipedia, Hong Kong

The Economist, Hong Kong Factsheet