Archive for October 14th, 2003

China Joins Space Club

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Diagram of Shenzhou 5 – “Divine Ship”

GOBI DESERT, China Oct. 14 China launched its first manned space mission
on Wednesday, sending an astronaut hurtling toward orbit and becoming the
third country in history to do so on its own four decades after the Soviet
Union and the United States.

The smoky tracer was visible against a bright, azure northwest China sky. The
official Xinhua News Agency immediately confirmed the launch and said the astronaut
was Yang Liwei, 38.

” China’s first manned spacecraft, the Shenzhou 5, blasted off from the
Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the northwestern province of Gansu at 9 a.m.
Wednesday (9 p.m. EDT),” Xinhua said. State television cut into its programming
to announce the launch.

from
ABC News

Losing Causes “Chemical Castration” of Fans

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What a difference
a day can make.  Yesterday after the game I was cackling maniacially,
skorfing down a bloody burger and
a Bloody Mary, watching Monster Truck Mashup on cable and searching through
my little black book for ex-girlfriends’ phone numbers (no consorting
with NY during Sox-Yanks playoff series).

Tonight I feel funereal and listless, ready to pull on my bunny jamies
and climb into bed to watch "The Golden Girls" on Lifetime.

It’s testosterone deprivation! Who knew? It turns out that when a fan’s
team loses, he can lose up to 40% of his testosterone, compared to a
fan whose team wins! Its been scientifically proven, by James M. Dabbs
Jr., professor of psychology at Georgia State University.

"A 1994 study of male soccer fans watching the Brazil-Italy World
Cup finals found that testosterone levels increased between 15 and 20
percent
in the Brazil fans after Brazil won, and dropped by similar amounts in
the Italian fans.

These changes affect both genders. Sociology professor Allen Booth of
Pennsylvania State University has tested female rugby players and found
that, prior to a game, their testosterone levels rose an average of 24
percent."

That must explain why so many of the women in Sports Bars have moustaches.

from the Boston
Globe

Prof Ordered to Remove Diploma Mill Site

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Under pressure from administrators at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, a tenured physics professor has shut down a Web site he created to make information available about the unaccredited distance-learning institutions often referred to as “diploma mills.”

The physics professor, George Gollin, says administrators ordered him to remove his site from the university server last month because proprietors of some of the online institutions mentioned on his site had threatened to sue the university over the Web material.

from the Journal of Higher Education (free)

Pass the Crispy Worms, Please

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Fortnum
and Mason have launched a range of edible treats for Halloween including
real worms, ants and scorpions.

The creatures used in the white chocolate ants, toffee scorpions and barbeque
worm crisps are farm raised specially for human consumption.

Fortnum and Mason claim the scorpions taste like "walnuts", the
American red ants used in their peppermint lollipops have a "spicy
pepper" flavour and the worms taste like "toasted popcorn".

Other products in the range include an intricately decorated chocolate
witch and a jar of giant hornet honey, with one of the largest species
of wasp in the world, the Giant Japanese Hornet, inside.

from Fortnum and Mason’s Web site

Ananova story

Stone Turtle Man

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Photo by Daisy Lin

Last week I took my class to Harvard’s Peabody Museum.  Their
assignment was to choose one object or exhibit in the museum and write
a detailed physical description of it.  I told them to try to describe
the object for a reader who would never see it, to paint a picture with
words so that it could be imagined with clarity and accuracy.

Of course, nowadays all of my students have clever little digital cameras
which produce excellent photos like the one above, and know how to insert
them into their word processing documents. I have noticed a corresponding
decline in the the detail of the descriptions.  I suppose I should
ban digital images from essays, except that I
am a big fan of them myself and a believer in the old adage about a
pic v. K words.

The object above is one of my favorites in the whole museum.  It
is called "Stone-turtle Man" and was created in Tenochtitlan, near what
is now
Mexico City, by

Aztec artisans. There are many levels of symbolism layered in this intriguing
sculpture.  The Aztecs believed that marine turtles and other aquatic
creatures were symbols of fertility and the afterlife.  The fact
that the image represents and anthropomorphic combination of man and
beast, it may represent a nahualli, a transforming animal spirit linking
a person to a deity.  In addition, many native Americans cosmologies
believe that the entire world is splayed on the broad arching back of
a giant turtle.

However, personally, I think the guy who created this little gem was
just a regular joe like me, who sometimes just wanted to crawl back
into some kind of a secure shell and let the world take a hike.  He
probably owed money to his bookie (gambling was big among the Aztecs) for betting on the wrong team in tlachtli,
the Aztec wall-ball game, sort of a cross between squash
and basketball, he hadn’t been home in days and his wife was looking
for him all over the jungle,his girlfriend
was
in
the middle
of a
six-day
sweat with
the village
shaman, his cretinous brother-in-law wanted to borrow his hammer and
chisel, he was overdue for his two weeks of gratuitous labor in the
King’s salt mines, and he was convinced that he was on the permanent
shit list of Macuilxochitl, the Aztec god of Sport and Gambling,
a.k.a. the God of Five Flowers.

So he brewed up some lotus-mushroom space soup and imagined he had a
magical carapace to crawl into where he could dream away, invulnerable
and inviolate, unreachable and secure.  I can relate, Stone-Turtle-Man.