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Archive for April, 2014

Does not mix with driving

Does not mix with driving

I mean, updating your Facebook profile and taking selfies while driving on a busy Interstate? There’s such a thing as tempting fate once too often:

A woman has died in a head-on collision on a US highway just seconds after she posted selfies and updated her status on Facebook, police have said.

At 8.33am on Thursday a post appeared on 32-year-old Courtney Sanford’s Facebook timeline which read: “The happy song makes me so HAPPY.” At 8.34am police were called to reports of a crash.

Officers said Ms Sanford was alone in her car when it crossed the central reservation, crashed into a recycling truck and burst into flames, forcing the other vehicle off the road.

She was on her way to work along Interstate 85 in North Carolina at the time, and police said they found no evidence that drink, drugs or speed were factors in the collision.

The link to Facebook only emerged this weekend after friends of Ms Sanford came forward to tell police that a number of her posts online appeared to come from a similar time to the incident itself.

Sad news, made all the more so by the fact that she was so happy at the time and that the urge to share her happiness lead to her death.

As someone who’s nearly been clobbered several times while driving or walking by people on their cell phones, all I can say is that I hope this serves as a warning to people who think they can cell, or text, or play on the Internet while driving. You can’t.

Pay attention to the road!

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Or a case of cross-cultural unintended communications?

Regardless, look the official logo for the World Cup in Brazil and tell me that isn’t a face-palm:

That’s just marvelous. Brazil’s contribution to bad logo design. 😀

PS: If anyone happens by this cobwebby corner of the Internet, is the face-palm a gesture of embarrassment in Brazil? Or is this something a Brazilian would just not have noticed?

PPS: Once again, the embedded tweet has trouble displaying. If you don’t see it, try reloading, or just click the link.

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book cover odd thomas

“Odd Thomas,” written by Dean Koontz, is one of those books I wanted very much to enjoy, but just didn’t. It is the kind of story I should have found gripping, but, like a spirit almost ready to leave this world behind, I often found myself close to “letting go.”

“Odd Thomas” is the name of the title character, a short-order fry cook in his early 20s in a fictional California desert city who has an unusual ability: he can see the spirits of the dead, those who haven’t been able to “move on” for one reason or another. They cannot talk to him, but some do find ways to communicate with him, in order to lead him to the person or persons who killed them, or otherwise solve the mystery of their death. Odd uses this ability to aid the small local police department. The local police chief is a good friend and knows of Odd’s talent, as does Odd’s girlfriend, “Stormy,” and a few close others. (His parents are not among that group.)

The plot surrounds Odd’s realization that something very bad is about to happen in his town, “Pico Mundo,” when he sees a somewhat disconcerting man and then begins to notice “bodachs” luking about town. Bodachs are creatures (Odd isn’t sure if they’re spirits, demons, or something else) that appear when bad things happen. Odd frequently sees one or two, but now dozens and even hundred are appearing. They don’t involve themselves in the disaster, but they like to watch, and their growing numbers give Odd an urgent sense of desperation to prevent whatever they’re here to “enjoy.”

No spoilers, but there is a serious threat our hero must prevent. He succeeds, but only mostly and at great cost to himself and others, fitting for a horror novel.

My problems with this book are twofold: first, I’m convinced there is a superb short story hidden within this plodding, overwritten novel. I only wish Mr. Koontz had realized that. I often found myself thinking “get on with it.”

Second, the writing style put me off almost completely. Told first-person from Odd’s point of view, his narrative is very straightforward, almost formal, and at times overly descriptive, like a talented but undisciplined young writer. His own personality is odd, of course, and studiously even-tempered, polite and again formal. While Koontz makes clear why he made these choices over the course of the novel, I found the execution off-putting, almost dull, and even annoying.

Others obviously disagree with me; this is the first book in a popular series and it has been made into a movie. But, in comparison to the works of masters of horror and occult fiction, such as Charles Beaumont, Richard Matheson, and Ramsey Campbell,  I found “Odd Thomas” bland and  lacking.

Not recommended.

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I knew it!

"Health hazard"

“Health hazard”

Vegetarianism is bad for you

Population-based studies have consistently shown that our diet has an influence on health – a diet rich in fruits and vegetables is recommended.

But some people go overboard and just eat meat. Or just eat vegetables. Evidence for health benefits of exclusive diets is scant. Vegetarians are considered healthier, they are wealthier, they are more liberal, they drink less alcohol and they smoke less – but those are a lot of variables in health that don’t necessarily result from being a vegetarian.

A cross-sectional study taken from the Austrian Health Interview Survey AT-HIS 2006/07 found that vegetarians are actually less healthy than normal eaters. Subjects were matched according to their age, sex, and socioeconomic status leaving 1320 people – 330 vegetarians, 330 that ate meat but still a lot of fruits and vegetables, 300 normal eaters but that ate less meat, and 330 on a more carnivorous diet.

After controlling for variables, they found that vegetarians did have lower BMI and alcohol consumption but had poorer overall health. Vegetarians had higher incidences of cancer, allergies, and mental health disorders, a higher need for health care, and poorer quality of life.

As a result, vegetarians take more medications than non-vegetarians.

Now, as the article points out, this is just one study and, if anything is certain in life and science, there will be other studies showing just the opposite.

Still, this is one of those moments that gives me way too much satisfaction. There is an annoying subset of vegetarians (1) who take their dietary choice as a sign of their moral superiority. Not all, of course; some are vegetarian for religious or health reasons. But, there is that smug faction, and shoving a grapefruit in their face is a temptation I cannot resist.

Yes, I am weak.

And I take my steak on the rare side of medium-rare. Don’t want to get cancer and go insane, after all.

Footnote:
(1) And bicyclists. No, you do not in fact own the road and the sidewalk.

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