Saturday, February 20, 2016
Researchers Say Spinach and Blueberries Improve the Mental Abilities of Rats!
Naturally, this headline caught my attention. I've always been interested in rats, and most particularly in their mental abilities! It’s apparent to me that these rodents aren't nearly as smart as they ought to be -- and I have first-hand knowledge of that fact. I recall one rat from my childhood who, if his mental facilities had been up to snuff, would have turned tail and run when presented with the grim visage of my mother staring squint-eyed down the barrel of a twelve-gauge shotgun. Instead, this pest returned the stare and met its demise on our cellar steps.
The stairway didn't fare much better than the rat -- but that's beside the point.
It's obvious to me that our tax dollars are well spent in performing experiments on rats. Don't they deserve to have improved mental abilities? If rats were smarter, maybe they'd know enough to ring the doorbell when they wanted entrance to a house, instead of fighting their way through the less-than-sanitary conditions of a home's sewer pipes. Surely they would prefer to make their appearance on the front porch, instead of poking up through the water in the toilet bowl, especially when they can't be sure whether or not said throne is in use at the time. I wonder, too, how many times they have almost reached their goal, only to hear a thunderous WHOOSH that signaled a speedy trip back down the pipe to the rodent's point of origin.
What really interested me in the article was how scientists go about testing the mental abilities of rats. I have always associated rat tests with mazes, but not a single mention was made of that time-honored puzzle. Instead, the scientific conclusions were arrived at by another test. I quote the article in question.
"Rats fed with a normal diet that contained 2% freeze-dried spinach learned to associate the sound of a tone with an oncoming puff of air faster than those fed regular rat chow.... The test measured the interval between the sound of the tone and when the rats blinked."
Several questions come to mind. The first is, well…is there truly such a thing as rat chow? Is that something you can pick up at the Farmers' Union or at Agway? What is the size of the market for such a chow?
I confess to calling rat chow by another name: De-con.
Then, I wondered how these scientists induced their subjects to eat spinach. I know of only three people who actually like the stuff, besides Popeye. But then I remembered that these subjects were rats... rats that crawl through sewers...and I realized that spinach was probably a real treat.
As far as tones and puffs and blinking -- well, this seems like a bit of wishful thinking on the scientists' part. How can they be sure that the rats' blinking wasn't just an involuntary action? Maybe rats are prone to dry eyes, especially if they are confined to cages that are constantly being buffeted by blasts of air from well-meaning researchers?
Perhaps rats were already smart and they figured out that if they blinked properly like any respectable rat should, they would continue to be fed that delicious spinach instead of ordinary, humdrum rat chow.
Reading on, I learned that the antioxidants in spinach blocked the effects of free radicals. I'm assuming that free radicals are people like the members of PETA, who no doubt became enraged upon discovering that rats were being puffed at with air, and began campaigning for their release. Apparently, as long as the scientists can continue to supply their rats with spinach, these free radicals will stay blocked and the rodents will remain status quo in their exalted position as scientific subjects.
It seems that blueberries fight the decline in rats’ memories. Another valiant effort! What a joy to realize that part of the money that we send to the government each year supports this heroic endeavor. I can imagine the benefits now....
"Hey, Ralph! Do you remember that puff of air we got on December 12, 1996?"
"Sure do, Rudy! We flared our nostrils and blinked three times, just to mess with their heads! What a riot! We set them back six months, that time!"
"Yeah, Ralph, but at least it got us off that diet of freeze-dried spinach we'd been on for nine months, and into blueberries, instead!"
And this, my friends, is how our government allocates those tax monies we faithfully send to them each year on April fifteenth.
Thursday, February 18, 2016
Here, in “Writers Crushing Doubt,” hosted by Positive Writers, I’ll share how I crushed an overwhelming doubt and inadvertently won an award from the Maine Press Association.
I’d taken part in a local fund-raiser. On-stage before 100 friends, I read portions of my manuscript titled, “No, I’m not Pregnant…I’m just Fat – But Thanks So Much for Asking!” The crowd hooted and clapped, loving the tidbits I shared from my book.
To my delight, the owner of a neighboring bar asked me to repeat my performance at her establishment. Riding high on the triumph of that first recital, I agreed. Of course I would! I was a rising star.
I was the Big Dip. I just didn’t know it yet.
The proprietor neglected to tell me that my ‘act’ directly followed another. I arrived at the Plaza, ready and rearing to go. The swinging doors to the pub were closed but emanating from within were the sounds of raucous laughter and fervent applause.
“Excellent!” I thought. “Someone is warming up the crowd for me!”
The bouncer invited me to sit on the lobby’s sofa to await my turn. I sat. There was nothing to read except the local telephone directory. So, I opened my manila folder and reviewed my manuscript…
The manuscript I’d written about being fat.
Suddenly, the doors to the bar swung open. A stampede of forty men poured through. Leading those men were two women. Two naked women.
I should be more precise. Those ladies most certainly were not naked. They were bedecked in g-strings, pasties and high heels.
Nope. Not naked, at all.
Now, I have nothing against nakedness. We rural Mainers run around naked all the time! But we would never be caught in the nude wearing high heels. Rubber boots when we’re swamping out stalls, sneakers when we’re mowing fields – but never heels!
I was immediately nervous. I looked at the wall behind me, spying the poster I’d overlooked. A bachelor party! These women were strippers! No wonder the crowd had sounded so enthusiastic.
Now that the show was over, the men weren’t content to let the ladies leave. They crowded round them, practically falling over my feet – and their own – as they tried to get the ladies' phone numbers, tried to book ‘private’ parties…It was all quite ridiculous, really.
All that commotion over high heels!
I was completely ignored. It didn't matter that I, too, was a woman. Those girls were in a league of their own. I couldn’t compete for that male attention. I wore sturdy combat boots, not stilettos! And while I wore a “C” cup, I would never fit into a size “G” string! The closest I’ve ever come to wearing pasties was the time I had a bout of atrial fibrillation and was hooked up to an EKG monitor. Somehow, wires sprouting from metal nodules slapped haphazardly under and around my mams hadn't evoked the same response as dangling tassels.
The girls were standing with their alphabetized floss directly at eye-level. As curious I was to know what good it did (and where exactly it disappeared to) I couldn’t stare. That would be rude.
I picked up the phone book and pretended to be engrossed in the Yellow Pages.
Never have I felt so idiotic. I smiled politely when one beefy, red-faced man tripped over my military boots and landed in my lap in his attempt to get near enough to a dancer to give her switch a toggle. I scuttled sideways as another gent realized I had the best view in the house, and he plopped his sweaty bum next to mine.
I was completely out of my element! Embarrassed, uncomfortable, at a loss with what to do or say. What kind of conversation could I hold? I couldn’t talk about the weather because it was cold – and I was not going there! And the scenery? My view consisted of an intricate shaving pattern – and a tiny mole – displayed candidly in front of my eyes.
I wanted my mommy!
Finally, I was rescued. The proprietor appeared at my shoulder. She invited me inside. The bouncer hustled the girls away, and the wild and woolly men were escorted back into the saloon. They forlornly watched the starlets glide away to their dressing room.
Suddenly, I was on! There I was – frumpy me – dressed in bulky sweater, jeans and thick-soled boots…and what was I doing? I was talking about the trials and tribulations of being FAT to forty sexually-charged men!
Nobody laughed. No-one clapped. When I got to the segments which had made my first audience scream, not one of those men cracked a smile.
They’d just been entertained by dancing, tasseled, stringed beauties in high heels who offered lap dances – and I was cracking jokes about being FAT!
I wanted to die. Was my writing that bad? Remaining on stage was agonizing. Excruciating. When I finally got out of there – when I reached the safety of my truck and slammed the door shut – I swore I would never write another word as long as I lived!
But, then…something wonderful happened. Before I’d even managed to pull my truck onto the road, I was laughing; crying, giggling, snorting with hilarity! Oh, my God! I could see myself from the perspective of those men. Who needs a cold shower when you have Karen Bessey Pease? Got a little sexual frustration? Just stick Karen in front of a mic. Instant deflation!
It was an hour’s drive home. I cackled every single mile, every single minute of it. By the time I reached my homestead, I was okay. More than okay…I was pumped! I knew that painful, horrendous experience had great value and potential. I envisioned readers laughing as they lived the evening vicariously through me. Sure, it was awful! But it was also funnier than hell.
Laughter. It’s a gift, a tonic, a life-saver. The best medicine in existence. Sharing laughter through writing is how I crush my doubt…and write again.
Monday, February 15, 2016
We'd like to announce the winner of our SIX BOOK Valentine's Day contest. :)
Joanne Dexter Whitney is the lucky winner of one copy each of The Eggless Club, Bee Dazzle, Following Seas...and Grumble Bluff, Ashes and Home! Wooo-eee!
Thanks to everyone who 'liked' The Old Man and the Bee and 'joined' Grumbles and Grins. We truly appreciate your willingness to follow our writing and our adventures (whether small or great!)
Stay tuned for more opportunities to win prizes, read our prose and just have some fun. :)
Sunday, February 14, 2016
|Saint and Kaz at a book signing in New Portland, Maine|
We're in the final countdown! Enter now to win SIX (6) autographed novels, authored by Euene Saint and Karen (Kaz) Bessey Pease.
SIX...AUTOGRAPHED...NOVELS!! Just imagine...you'd have your birthday gift shopping finished for the year!
Included in this prize are The Eggless Club by Saint;
Bee Dazzle and Following Seas, co-authored by Saint and Kaz;
and Grumble Bluff, Ashes at Grumble Bluff and Home to Grumble Bluff by Kaz!
It's very simple to enter.
Go to the Facebook page "The Old Man and the Bee" and click 'like'.
Go to Kaz's blog, Grumbles and Grins (aka GAG) and 'join' (found on the bar on the right-hand side under 'Members'.)
It also wouldn't hurt to add a comment on either page telling us that you just entered. :)
Please invite your friends to enter, too. We're going to be "adventuring" and we'd love to have you join us as we go from being happy-go-lucky 'hobby' authors to stressed-out (but best-selling) ones. (You heard it here, first....) :)
Thursday, February 4, 2016
|Grumble Bluff on display at the New Portland Community Library in 2009|
Grumble Bluff was my first published novel. Even now, I remember the thrill I felt when I realized that people could actually BUY and READ my story. :)
Since then, I've had other published 'works'...novels I'm equally proud of...whether they were my own sole creations -- or products of a collaboration with another author.
I hope you will consider giving these novels a try. I believe you will be happy you did. :)
Last week I had the opportunity to participate in a fund-raising event at the Phillips Area Community Center.
It was an evening of “True Stories and Tall Tales,” emceed by Phillips’ very own Winona Davenport.
Headlining the event were four gentlemen; author Doug Dunlap of Farmington, Rep. Tom Skolfield of Weld, Maine Guide Niilo Sillanpaa of New Vineyard and Maine Guide Roger Lambert of Strong.
And then there was Me.
As you can see, I was in the Presence of Greatness! Doug and Tom wove comical down-home tales of Maine and Mainers; a subject near and dear to locals’ hearts. Niilo and Roger are master moose callers and seasoned hunters; stiff competition, indeed.
Why, immediately following the last time I tried a moose call, The F.A.R.M. was overrun by feral cats from across the western region of Somerset County! I haven’t received that type of response from an audience since the evening I practiced on my bagpipes up in the orchard. Shortly thereafter, the Township organized a protest and presented me with signed petitions demanding that I ship my pipes back to Scotland…and my kilt, along with it.
But back to Saturday night. I was nervous. It doesn’t matter how many times I stand up in front of a crowd, nor how small or large that crowd might be; I always, always get nerved up. I get grumpy in the hours leading up to the event, which results in my family being less-than-thrilled each time I accept an invitation to do “Stand-up.” My stomach gets upset, too…which can lead to its own set of challenges.
One of my biggest obstacles is that when I get anxious, I can’t remember what I want to say. I get a big “FAIL” when it comes to memorizing my lines. My shtick. Even though the words or the poems or the stories are mine…totally original and created by me…I forget everything I want to say.
So I cheat. I write it all down.
You wouldn’t think it would be possible to mess up if you’ve got the words right there in front of you, would you? But yes…it is possible. In fact, it seems to be par for the course.
One time, my contacts went all screwy. Dry eyes? A product of my nervousness, perhaps? Whatever the reason, those babies refused to float on my corneas and instead, they stuck to my eyeballs like they were super-glued in place. I couldn’t focus on the words in front of my face. So…not only was I stuttering as I tried to remember my lines, but my face was contorted, my eyes squinting, my eyelids flapping as I tried to read my typed pieces of paper. The audience probably thought I was having a seizure.
On another occasion, I brought a fan on stage with me. An abundance of sweat is an added effect of my nervousness…and few things are less pleasing than to watch sweat dripping off the nose of a person on stage; a person who is there to entertain a crowd, not repel it. When I stepped over to turn on the fan, I forgot that it was not only pointed directly at ME, but also at the podium which held my stack of papers. The very papers I intended to follow along on, as I spoke. The sheets went everywhere...and didn’t even have the decency to fall on the floor in some semblance of order.
Naturally, my non-existent equilibrium took an even greater hit as I scrambled around on the floor trying to scoop up the pages that were intended to assist me in appearing suave and in control. Another FAIL!
Each time something goes wrong…each time I stand before a gathering and make a fool of myself…I swear I’ll never do it again. Never, ever!
I arrived in Phillips well-situated within my Comfort Zone. I was grumpy. Jumpy. I had stomach cramps. A bit of a headache. My clothes felt uncomfortable and I knew I’d probably fall off my heels before the evening was over.
BUT! I had my sheaf of papers, printed in large “16 font” just in case my eyes decided to betray me. I wore my glasses instead of my contact lenses. I didn’t eat all day in order to keep my digestive track under control.
If only I’d remembered to staple my pages together.
Yes, half-way through my spiel…I dropped the page I was reading from. It floated gently to the floor, landing underneath a table where others were sitting. I immediately forgot everything I was saying. Didn’t have a clue what the topic of my story was. Without that cheat-sheet, I was lost.
There ensued some ungainly attempts on my part to retrieve the paper -- but by then, the others in my hand seemed to lose their order. I didn’t recognize a single word on the top page in my hands. I might have stammered on for several seconds…or for several minutes. It’s all a blur. The mind has a way of doing that – of protecting delicate psyches such as mine from the pain of reality.
But the show must go on, mustn’t it? Somehow, I recovered and moved forward with my silly tale. The gentlemen who shared the stage with me were gracious and kind, as was the audience. I survived.
And even though I keep swearing I’ll never put myself through that again… I’ll be speaking to a group of young ladies at next week’s Girl’s Talk banquet.
After all…the show must go on.