Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Are You Hairball Aware?

Cat owners will tell you they have more than their share of Hairball Awareness, especially when they unexpectedly "find" said hairball with the bottom of their bare foot. While that is certainly so, I have recently discovered that hairball production is not the sole proprietary domain of cats. And in honor of April 30, 2010 being National Hairball Awareness Day - celebrated (?) on the last Friday in April every year - let me share with you what I have learned.

Not Just for Cats Anymore

That's right. Hairballs are not just cat fancy. Cows get them, too. So do goats and other cud-chewers. (Note to self: remember "cud-chewer" for the next time I need a really good insult.)

People can get hairballs, though it's not common, and we can't expel them as easily as a cat. In fact, we can't expel them at all. Hair cannot be digested or passed by the human gastrointestinal tract, nor can it be vomited up. When a hairball gets large enough to block things up, surgery is often the only way to get it out.

More Than Just Hair
When is a hairball not a hairball? When it's made of something else, of course. Doctors call a mass of stuff that gets stuck in the gut a bezoar (say "BEE-zor"). And each type of bezoar has a specific name. Oh, yes, there are types. Five of 'em:
  • Trichobezoar - hairball (Think: what's left in your shower drain after your shower, only bigger. Much, much bigger.)
  • Phytobezoar - ball of non-digestable food parts, like celery, grape skins, saurkraut, or gum. (Interestingly, a new medical treatment for this particular bezoar is meeting with some success: ingesting Coca-Cola in a prescribed manner. Yep. It seems the carbonic and phosphoric acids in this popular soft drink can dissolve some phytobezoars, if they're not a serious case.)
  • Diospyrobezoar - specialty phytobezoars made of persimmon parts. (I've never eaten a persimmon. Now, I probably never will.)
  • Pharmacobezoar - formed from amassed pill capsules
  • Lactobezoar - mass of undigested milk, most commonly found in pre-term babies on highly concentrated formula

Middle Ages Snake Oil Salesmen?
Though most of us wrinkle our nose and let out an involuntary "Ewwwww" when we think of hairballs, people haven't always thought they were cringe-worthy. Let's do a bit of connect-the-dots, and you'll see how.
  • First dot: the word "bezoar" comes from the Persian word p├ódzahr, which means "protection from poison."
  • Second dot: The Middle East - which includes what was then known as Persia - introduced 11th century Europe to ground up animal hairballs (a.k.a. bezoars), which were believed to cure poisoning, epilepsy, and the plague. In fact, bezoars remained a popular medicinal remedy right up through the 18th century.
  • Third dot: China has used cow bezoars for 2,000+ years, most notably to treat diseases of the mouth. (Is it me, or has China done just about everything well before everyone else? I guess when a culture has been around as long as China's has, they have a lot of "been there, done that" moments.)

So. Bezoars as medicine. If I follow this correctly, stuff is put in the mouth - that may or may not be food - and is swallowed. The may-or-may-not-be-food gets stuck in the gut. This continues until the accumulated may-or-may-not-be-food is compacted and has to be removed from the gut (one way or another). Then, the may-or-may-not-be-food (which is now a bezoar) is dried out, ground up, and put back in a mouth - yours, to be precise. All to make you feel better.

I'll never understand medicine.

And now go forth, secure in the knowledge that - cat owner or no - you are truly Hairball Aware.

Note: The source below has interesting information on hairballs, but be aware that there are photos of actual hairballs from both animals and people. At the bottom of the page are three photos of a surgery that show removal of a rather large hairball from a person. Please use discretion before sharing this one with the kiddos, or if you are in any way squeamish.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Something to Jump Around About

First, I'm not who you think I am. My name is Sonic, and my mom is letting me be Guest Blogger for today. I like frogs, and April is National Frog Month, so I decided to research frogs. Here is what I found out:

Know Your Frog and Toad
No, no. Not the book! I mean the real things. Did you know all toads are actually frogs, but they do have some ways to tell them apart? You can find frogs everywhere in the world except Antarctica. You can find true toads every place but Australasia, polar regions, Madagascar, and Polynesia. You can also find toads in Australia and some South Pacific Islands, but they aren't there naturally. People brought them there. Frogs tend to lay eggs in clusters, and toads tend to lay eggs in long chains. Frogs have smooth or slimy skin and like wetter places, but toads have dry and warty skin, and prefer dryer places. Frogs have long, webbed hind feet for jumping and swimming, and toads have short hind legs for walking instead of hopping. (I did not know that before!)

Just Frogs
Here's some cool stuff I learned about frogs:
  • A frog can change the color of its skin depending on what's around it.
  • Frogs can lay up to 4,000 eggs all at one time.
  • Frogs have teeth, but only in their upper jaw.
  • The African Giant is the biggest frog there is. It can grow up to 26 inches long and weigh up to 10 pounds!
  • Bullfrogs can live for 30 years!
  • Frogs get their water by absorbing it through their skin, instead of drinking it.
  • A group of frogs is called an army.
  • Only male frogs can croak.
Ways to Celebrate
I wondered how I could have fun during National Frog Month. I found a few suggestions at How to Celebrate National Frog Month:
  1. Make a frog pond in your backyard, so you can watch them close up.
  2. Learn the life cycle of a frog.
  3. Visit a wet place where a frog might like to live, and see if you can find any to watch and listen to.
  4. Play leap frog.
You could also visit the Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy's National Frog Month blog page. It has a link to a Frogs and Toads crossworld puzzle that you can print and fill in.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Hearken! Talk Like Shakespeare Day Approacheth.

Greetings, mistress or sirrah! Allow me to tell thee my name: Eclipse Firebright. Thou canst perchance tell I am not thy regular blogger, and t'would you believe it? I'm not! I am, rather, the belov'd daughter of this blog's most noble usual scribe. So get it through your head, you idle-headed foot-licker! I am guest blogging for Take Thy Daughters and Sons to Work Day, and hark, for there is a reason for my curious (and partially insulting) tongue. April 23rd is Talk Like Shakespeare Day!

Indeed, t'will be Talk Like Shakespeare Day, introduced to the world in 2009 by Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley in honor of what many historians believe to be the Bard's birthday - April 23rd. Many of you may have seen or read his great works, and noticed the curious dialogue. In fact, Shakespeare is single-handedly responsible for introducing over 2,000 words to the English language!

Want to join the fun? Now you can, using a few easy steps from the TLSD official website:
  1. Say "thou" or "thee" instead of "you," and "ye" for "y'all".
  2. All dudes are sirrahs, girls mistresses, and friends cousin.
  3. No longer call tormentors jerks. Try jackanapes, canker-blossoms, and poisonous bunch back'd toads.
  4. Don't use "it", only use "t", like 'tis, 'twill, and 'twon't.
  5. When in doubt, add "eth."

Now that you know how to talk like Shakespeare, you must learn to insult like him. Yes, insult. Ol' Bill and his Elizabethan era buds thought up some pretty potent insults, and enjoyed them immensely. If you want to study up on the insults slung by one of history's biggest meany mouths, try The Encyclopedia of Immaturity, by the Klutz company. Page 169 has a whole do-it-yourself chart of ready made Shakespearean insults. Need a comeback fast? Head on over to Shakespearean Insult Generator, which you can use to get the perfect insult in seconds.

So now, thou hast mastered talking like Shakespeare. Not bad for a spleeny folly-fallen bladder! As the greatest Bard and insulter in history once penned, "All's well that ends well..."

Web Sources:

Book Source:
Title: The Encyclopedia of Immaturity: How to Never Grow Up - The Complete Guide
Authors/Illustrators: The Editors of Klutz
Pages: 412
Reading Level: Ages 8+
Publisher and Date: Klutz, a subsidiary of Scholastic Inc.
Edition: School Market Edition
Language: English
Published In: United States
Price: $19.95
ISBN-10: 1591745438
ISBN-13: 978-1591745433

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

How Does One Define the Indefinable?

April 9th will soon be upon us. And you know what that will mean...only 6 days left to pony up your taxes. April 9th also happens to be National Cherish an Antique Day. Which begs the question:

When is "antique" status officially attained?

And the answer is:

It depends.

Surely, you weren't expecting a more cut-and-dried result? That hardly ever happens here at Bugs and Bunnies, and besides, where's the fun in only one possibility?

As it turns out, there are several definitions out there for "antique," and which one you use depends on the situation in which you happen to be. ChaCha.com, for instance, answers the question this way:

"Since 1980, the unofficial definition of an antique is anything made before the outbreak of the Second World War."
If that's the case, then technically, both of my grandmas are antiques. While it's true that at least one of them loves any excuse for a party, I'm pretty sure both of them may be a smidge offended to be the guests of honor at a "Cherish an Antique" party. Even if it does have the word "cherish" in it.

You know what, though? I'd still like to throw them that party. I'll figure out what to call it later. For now, we need to delve deeper into this definition-of-antique thing.

On ehow.com, it says that in 1930, the United States legislature defined "antique" as anything older than 100 years. 100 years? That totally leaves my grandmas outta this antique gig. (But not by much...) A bit further on, it says that anything old - that is newer than 100 years - is defined as a "collectible." So, according to this, while my grandmas don't qualify as antiques, they can join Club Collectible.

But a consolation prize isn't really what we're after, so let's keep looking. Besides, "antique" has a much nicer ring to it, don't you think?

Unfortunately, further digging just makes things even murkier. Answerbag.com lists Webster's definition of "antique" as:

"belonging in the past."
How's that for arbitrary? Even so, maybe we can hammer this one out. Let's see: I have one grandma who owns a computer and an email account - and knows how to use both. And my other grandma is totally old-school, relying almost solely on actual, handwritten letters and cards to keep in touch. It seems in this case, then, that only the grandma who's holding on to the past gets to join the Antique Par-Tay.

Well. I'm gonna recuse myself on this one. A granddaughter can't choose between her grandmas. It's unseemly.

Moving on, we have about.com, which defines "antique" thusly:

"a work of art, piece of furniture, or decorative object made at an earlier period, and according to many customs laws, at least 100 years ago."
Well, now. This one just up and slams the door in my grandmas' faces all kinds of ways. My grandmas are not furniture. My grandmas are not objects - decorative or otherwise. And my grandmas are not 100. (Yet.)

Oh! Hey! Possible loophole: Sometimes, my grandmas wear flowery blouses or hats, or jewelry. Donning any of those could designate the wearer as "a work of art," couldn't it? This might be the one, I think. I mean, nobody wants to be a Grandma Basher, now, do they?

Oh, all right. That may be a teensy bit of a stretch. But I really wanna throw my grandmas a party on National Cherish an Antique Day. Luckily, I have one last option to check out. A quick Google search for "definition of antique" brings up a whole page of definitions. This one caught my eye:

"...any piece of furniture or decorative object or the like produced in a former period and valuable because of its beauty or rarity."
Hmmm. Produced in a former period and valuable because of its beauty or rarity. This could work. My grandmas are both women of, shall we say, a very certain age. My grandmas are both just lovely, inside and out. Plus, they're the only two women in the entire world whom I can call "Grandma." That, my friends, makes them not only rare, but also much more valuable than any old antique.

And I cherish them both.