Monday, April 7, 2008
The results of the research, entitled "Episodic-Like Memory in Rats: Is it Based on When or How Long Ago," appear in the current issue of the journal Science.
William Roberts and his colleagues in Western's Psychology Department found that rats are able to keep track of how much time has passed since they discovered a piece of cheese, be it a little or a lot, but they don't actually form memories of when the discovery occurred. That is, the rats can't place the memories in time.
The research team, led by Roberts, designed an experiment in which rats visited the 'arms' of a maze at different times of day. Some arms contained moderately desirable food pellets, and one arm contained a highly desirable piece of cheese. Rats were later returned to the maze with the cheese removed on certain trials and with the cheese replaced with a pellet on others.
All told, three groups of rats were tested in the research using three varying cues: when, how long ago or when plus how long ago.
Only the cue of how long ago food was encountered was used successfully by the rats.
These results, the researchers say, suggest that episodic-like memory in rats is qualitatively different from human episodic memory, which involves retention of the point in past time when an event occurred.
"The rats remember whether they did something, such as hoarded food a few hours or five days ago," explained Roberts. "The more time that has passed, the weaker the memory may be. Rats may learn to follow different courses of action using weak and strong memory traces as cues, thus responding differently depending on how long ago an event occurred. However, they do not remember that the event occurred at a specific point in past time."
Previous studies have suggested that rats and scrub jays (a relative of the crow and the blue jay) appear to remember storing or discovering various foods, but it hasn't been clear whether the animals were remembering exactly when these events happened or how much time had elapsed.
"This research," said Roberts, "supports the theory I introduced that animals are stuck in time, with no sense of time extending into the past or future."
There are things that you think you should be able to do with your body. But if you’re like 99.9999% of people in the world, no matter how hard you try, you just can’t quite manage to do it.
Here is a list of things that are impossible to do with your body, and the few mutants who can do ‘em:
10. Raise One Eyebrow
I can raise both of my eyebrows in bewilderment on how some people can raise just one. In fact, I know only one person in my life who can do this: my mother-in-law, who said that her ability just came to her during the pain of childbirth - and that this superpower was very useful in raising kids. Well, her and of course Leonard Nimoy (Mr. Spock: "Fascinating, Captain"), Sean Connery, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, and Stephen Colbert.
Some people call this the eyebrow cock, and it is known as the universal sign of O RLY … I mean, skepticism. The ability to raising eyebrows may be an evolutionary trait: baboons, mandrills and cebus monkeys raise their eyebrows as a threat gesture. (Source: David Givens / Center for Nonverbal Studies).
For all of you who want to do this (and yes, geeks who want to imitate Mr. Spock: I’m talkin’ to you), it turns out that you can learn to raise one eyebrow. Here’s the trick, according to wikiHow:
1. Start by keeping one eyebrow down with one hand and holding one up with the other. Keep practicing this in the mirror so you can
detect the correct muscle movement to obtain one eyebrow up.
2. Once you are familiar with this and can do it quite well, try it with out using your hands.
3. Practice this in the mirror intil you get it just right
4. Scare and thrill people with your new talent!
9. Lick Your Elbow
Photo: Gussy (Luke) [Flickr]
I once read a trivia that said it’s impossible to lick your own elbow. And that 75% of the people told this immediately tried to lick their elbows.
Well! It’s obviously not so impossible for some people. Supposedly, Guinness World Records get about 5 claims a day from people who think that they are special just because they can lick their elbows (Source).
Patrick Ellison gleeking. Photo by Josh Devine [Wikipedia]
Okay, it is kind of gross but it’s fascinating. Gleeking (or gleeting / glicking) is like spitting - but not quite: the term means projecting saliva from the submandibular gland upon compression by the tongue.
Interestingly, the word gleek appears in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, where a character named Bottom says "Nay, I can gleek upon occasion." (The Bard meant it as "joke," though, not spit like a camel)
7. Twitch Your Nose
Y’know, twitch your nose like the witch Samantha Stephens of Bewitched.
Elizabeth Montgomery, the actress that played Samantha, actually got sick and tired of being asked to twitch her nose by her fans that she refused to do it after the series was over.
They should bring back Bewitched. I missed that show.
6. Wiggle Your Ear
Jeff Goldblum wiggling his ears [YouTube]
Your cat can do it. And so can the hippo and Jeff Goldblum. But only few other people in the world can wiggle their ears. It turned out that in 2006, scientists determined exactly why most people couldn’t wiggle their own ears:
"The mechanism behind ear movements is sophisticated," says Bastiaan ter Meulen, who led the ear wiggling study, accepted for publication in the journal Clinical Neurophysiology.
Unlike other facial muscles, ear muscles have their own accessory nucleus, a control area for muscle function, in the brainstem, says ter Meulen, a researcher at Erasmus MC, a university medical centre in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.
"Compared to animals, especially bats and cats, this nucleus is rather small in humans," he says. (Source)
But fear not, non-ear wiggling people! You can train yourself to do it. WikiHow explains:
Isolate your ear-wiggling muscles. You may be able to wiggle your ears, but it won’t be that impressive if you have to raise your eyebrows or look awfully surprised every time. You may not be able to move your ears without moving your scalp, but you should be able to learn to move them without moving your eyebrows. Practice wiggling your ears without moving any other parts of your face.
5. Touch Your Nose or Chin With Your Tongue
This is much better than a photo of Gene Simmons sticking his tongue out!
Photo: floyka [Flickr]
I betcha Gene Simmons of the rock band KISS could do both easily, but most people can’t touch the tip of their nose or their chin with their tongue. Rumor was Gene had a cow’s tongue grafted onto his own. But Snopes, ever the party pooper, set the record straight:
But, as Simmons wrote in his autobiography, his unusual tongue was indeed the work of Mother Nature alone, a feature whose distinctiveness (and value) he first realized in his early teens:
I was oblivious, for the first thirteen years of my life, that I was endowed with a large oral appendage, my superlong tongue. It really was longer than everyone else’s, and I was soon to find out that having a long tongue came in handy with the girls.
4. Strange Tongue Tricks
While we’re still on the subject of tongues, there are a few tricks that most people can’t do (just don’t get a tongue cramp trying to do all these, mmkay?):
Tongue tricks by YouTube user tinasandwich [YouTube Link]
Just go ahead and try to to the last one, the smiley face, like YouTube user a51a did [YouTube Link, shaky video but still!]
3. Sneeze with Your Eyes Open
Nope, you can’t sneeze with your eyes open (well, without forcing ‘em open with your hands, anyhow). Why? Because when you sneeze, the "sneeze center" in the brain "sends coordinated motor impulses along nerves controlling muscles of the abdomen, chest, diaphragm, neck, face, eyelids and various sphincters, as well as the mucus glands and blood vessels of the nose. All this happens automatically." (Source) You can’t help it.
Now, if you did force open your eyes, would your eyeballs pop out when you sneeze? Adam Savage of The Mythbuster risked his eyes doing the experiment:
The Mythbuster: Will Your Eyes Fall Out From Sneezing? episode [YouTube]
2. Tickle Yourself
We all have a ticklish spot or two, which are never a secret from the ones we love. Gentle tickling is fun - so one can be tempted to "auto-tickle" to amuse oneself. But alas, you can’t tickle yourself, and scientists actually know why.
Sarah-Jayne Blakemore of the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience at University College London explains:
The answer lies at the back of the brain in an area called the cerebellum, which is involved in monitoring movements. Our studies at University College London have shown that the cerebellum can predict sensations when your own movement causes them but not when someone else does. When you try to tickle yourself, the cerebellum predicts the sensation and this prediction is used to cancel the response of other brain areas to the tickle. (Source)
1. Toot Your Own Horn
I’m going to let Will Ferrell in the famous SNL yoga skit explain this one ("Look, I’ve done yoga everyday for three years … now I’ve finally reached my goal"). Or if you prefer something more literary: There once was a man from Nantucket …
All right, all right, this one’s only for the guys: Why do dogs lick their balls? Because they can. And apparently, so can 2 to 3 out of 1,000 men in the world, according to sex researcher Alfred Kinsey. (Source)
As stand-up comedian Bill Hicks once famously quipped:
"A woman one night yelled out, ‘Yeah, you ever try it?’ I said, yeah. Almost broke my back. It’s that one vertebrae, I swear to God, it’s that close. I think that vertebrae is going to be the thing to go in our next evolutionary step. Just a theory and a fervent prayer. Yeah, now all the guys are going, ‘Honey, I have no idea what he’s talking about. I think he’s a devil-child.’ That may be true, but guys, yoooo u know what I’m talking about. I can speak for every guy in this room here tonight, guys, if you could blow yourselves, ladies, you’d be in this room alone right now. Watching an empty stage." (Source)
Because Neatorama is a nice blog, I’m just going to let you read all about autofellatio over on Wikipedia (warning: NSFW, obviously).
Bonus: The Paralyzed Finger Trick
Okay, give this one a try: bend your middle finger like the picture on the left shows and put your hand on the table. Then lift your thumb, index finger, and pinkie. No problem, right? Now try the ring finger.
Stepanie Weaver of Science Made Simple explains why you can’t:
The tendons in your fingers are independent from one another apart from the ones in your middle and ring finger. These tendons are connected, so that when your middle finger is folded down you cannot move your ring finger. It feels like your ring finger is stuck!
Bonus: Draw The Number Six While Making Clockwise Circles With Your Leg
Think you can multitask? Try this: while sitting on a chair, lift your right foot off the floor and make clockwise circles. Then, while doing that, draw the number 6 with your right hand. You can’t help it: your foot will change direction.
Similarly: move your right leg in anti-clockwise circles and simultaneously draw the number 8 with your right hand.
Another tricky thing to do: simultaneously rotate the index fingers of both hands clockwise. Do it slowly at first, but then pick up speed. Try to go faster and faster, and pretty soon your two fingers will be going in opposite directions!
Bonus: Put Your Fist in Your Mouth
Well, the steps are easy enough: 1. Make a fist, and 2. Insert into mouth - but most people can’t do it, except the few (all women it seems) who have a) small fists and b) big mouths!
If you’ve got more things that seemingly easy to do but are actually
impossible, I’d love to hear them - please add them to the comment section.
He hadn't seen her in years, not since she left home for good. Then he found her — in the pages of a porn magazine.
By Robert Radin
I was paging through the phone-sex ads when I saw a picture of my sister.
I closed the magazine and put it down on the bed. I stared at the ceiling for what felt like hours.
It was the scar that gave her away. When she was 18, she was driving drunk and slammed her VW into a tree. Her head had cracked the windshield, leaving a deep scar between her eyebrows. No amount of makeup could conceal it.
She was on a page called "Party Girls Hotline." She was with two other women. They were standing in a line, sandwiched together. First there was my sister, then there was another blonde, then there was a brunette. The brunette was kissing the blonde on the cheek, digging her fingernails into her ass.
My sister was the only one who was looking into the camera. She had a fake smile and an orange tanning-booth tan. She was wearing a lei with green and yellow and pink flowers.
I told myself it wasn't my sister. The odds were too great. I taped the page that had the picture of her to the page before it so I wouldn't accidentally turn to it again.
Six years later I was in a Thai restaurant on Van Nuys Boulevard in Los Angeles for a family reunion of sorts. Amy and I were married by then, and we were there with our son. It had been a long time since I'd been back home. I'd moved to Massachusetts in 1991 to go to graduate school, suspecting, even then, that I wouldn't return to L.A. unless and until someone died. I bore my family no ill will; it was just that I couldn't be around them very long without feeling sick.
My mother was there, and my brother and his wife, and my aunt. I was spooning Pad Thai onto my plate when my brother mumbled something to me about our sister.
"You know she's doing porn, don't you?" he said.
I felt like the floor was giving way below me.
"I didn't know," I said.
"It's nasty, Bob. She's doing everything. Girls. Black guys. Gang bangs. Taking it up the ass."
"How do you know this?" I said.
"Because I saw it. I saw it with my own eyes."
"It's true, brother," his wife said.
"Are you sure it's her?" I said.
"It's her, Bob," he said. "You don't believe me, check it out for yourself."
He told me her porn name. It sounded like the name of a character from a Victorian novel.
"She's a whore," he said.
My wife and I exchanged a look. Don't worry, she told me with her eyes, we'll talk about this later. Just get through it.
Thank God my son didn't hear. My aunt had taken him to the bathroom.
I don't know if my mother heard. Part of me thought she had but was just pretending she hadn't. She seemed entirely focused on her food, a plate of shrimp and green chiles. I watched her peel back the shells with her fingers.
When we were growing up, I tried to be a good brother to my sister. I was always encouraging her to build model airplanes with me or to play Parcheesi, but most of the time my efforts just backfired. I was only four years older, but it felt like we were a generation apart.
When I was 10 years old, I was obsessed with the Beatles. My sister reacted the way most little sisters would: She told me the Beatles sucked. But every Saturday morning, as I sat on my bedroom floor listening to their records, she came knocking. I made her wait. It was only when she was pounding on my door, begging me please and apologizing for everything she'd said about the Beatles, that I let her in.
She always wanted to listen to the same song over and over again. Usually it was "If I Fell." She loved that song. She'd try to sing along with it, but her voice would crack every time she came to the bridge: And I would be sad if our new love was in vain.
There was one Saturday morning when she didn't knock on my door. I waited for her for a while. Finally, I went looking for her. I found her in her bedroom, in bed with my brother. He was lying on top of her. They were both naked.
I don't know what was happening between the two of them that morning. I don't know if my brother was molesting my sister; I don't know if it's even possible for a 9-year-old to molest a 6-year-old. All I know is that I felt left out. I felt like my brother had taken my sister away from me.
The relationship between my brother and sister would become even more troubling three years later, when my father died, only a day after being diagnosed with leukemia. The cancer had been spreading inside him for years, completely undetected. It was devastating for all of us, but it was particularly devastating for my sister. She had always been a daddy's girl.
After my father died, my brother spent entire nights in my sister's bedroom. I'd see him leaving her bedroom in the morning and I'd ask him what he was doing, and he'd tell me he'd had a bad dream and he didn't want to be alone. When I told my mother, she told me to mind my own business. She had gone from being a full-time housewife to a full-time secretary at a company that made nail polish. She was about to lose custody of my brother for various crimes he'd been committing — shoplifting, motor-vehicle theft, possession and sale of drugs — and she simply couldn't concentrate on anything else.
Eventually, my brother was designated a ward of the court and placed in a juvenile detention center. I thought maybe now my sister would get some of the attention he had been siphoning off for so many years. And she did — by imitating him. She dropped out of school, started doing coke and drinking, and developed a major case of bulimia. To support her habits, she stole cash and jewelry from my mother. She ran up my mother's credit cards and wrote checks on her accounts.
I was over at a friend's house one night during my senior year in high school when I got a phone call from my mother.
"Bobby," she said. "It's your sister. I think she was at the bowling alley. Maybe someone bought her a drink. I don't know."
My mother started crying.
When I got home, I found my sister lying on the kitchen floor. I knelt down. She had a black eye and a scrape on her right cheek.
"What's this?" I said.
"I don't know," my mother said. "Maybe she fell down as she was walking home."
The bowling alley was just down the street, but I knew there was no way my sister could have walked home in this condition.
I called her name, but she didn't respond. Then she started moaning, making the sounds of crying without the tears. I noticed a spot of blood soaking through her jeans at the knee. "We need to get her cleaned up," I said.
My mother's bathroom had a walk-in shower. The tub part was only about six inches deep, shallow enough that we could fill it with water without drowning my sister.
I lifted her up and carried her into my mother's room. I laid her down on my mother's bed.
"Why don't you take off her clothes, and I'll fill the tub," I said.
When I came back into the bedroom, my sister was lying there naked. She already had a woman's body, and I was ashamed to look. She had tiny cuts all over her chest and bruises on her thighs. She was dirty in places, covered in the grime of asphalt. I couldn't understand how she got like this if she'd had her clothes on.
I lifted her up, carried her into the bathroom, and lowered her down into the warm water. She seemed to be soothed by this. I knelt beside her to make sure she didn't roll over. She lay there floating in the tub for a long time. It would be many years before I realized my sister had been raped.
As bad as things got, we weren't completely estranged from each other during this time. I took her to her first rock concert — the Kinks at the L.A. Forum. When she turned 16, I taught her how to drive a stick shift in the parking lot of an abandoned supermarket. When she was 18 — just before her car accident — I took her down to the Beverly Cineplex to see Jim Jarmusch's Stranger Than Paradise. I had already seen it a couple of times and was so knocked out by it that I really wanted her to see it with me. I must have known this wouldn't be the kind of movie she would go for, but I think I was still trying to re-create that connection I'd had with her when we were kids, lying on the floor, listening to Beatles records.
After the movie, we walked through the mall food court.
"That was weird," she said.
We stopped at an upscale restaurant that had lobster tanks set up out front. We gazed at the lobsters, commenting on the terrible fate that awaited them.
"They scream when you cook them," I said.
"They're not really screaming," she said. "It's just the air escaping from the shell."
It felt like my sister and I were on a date that night. Not because I thought of her as my date, but because I could see that everyone else in the mall did. I wondered what they were thinking, if they thought we were an unlikely pair, me this nerdy hipster wannabe and my sister this blonde bombshell. I wondered if they were asking themselves, What does she see in him? They certainly weren't asking themselves, What does he see in her?
It wasn't long after this that my sister drove her VW into the tree. A nurse called my mother at work and told her what had happened. She told her it was nothing life-threatening. My sister had a deep cut in her forehead that would require sutures. My mother told the nurse not to do anything until she got there. When she hung up the phone, she called our family doctor to get the name of a plastic surgeon. But by the time she arrived at the hospital, it was all over: My sister had authorized the ER doctor to do the stitches. She couldn't wait for my mother's doctor; just the day before, she had met a guy who invited her to Palm Springs, and she didn't want anything to interfere with that.
After my mother contacted our family doctor, she called the shoe store where my sister worked to let them know my sister wouldn't be coming in that day. But when she spoke to the store manager, he had no idea who she was talking about. It turned out my sister didn't work there.
When my sister dropped out of school, she and my mother formed a tacit agreement: If she got a job, my mother would stay off her case. By the time my sister was 17, she'd been fired from countless jobs, usually because she never showed up for her shift. She kept telling my mother she'd gotten a new job or had been promoted at her old one. After a while, she just started inventing jobs, and my mother never asked her to produce a paycheck to prove it.
The accident forced my mother to confront another part of my sister's life she hadn't wanted to deal with. They fought in the recovery room at the hospital and all the way home. When my sister left for Palm Springs the next day, my mother told her she could never come back.
But, of course, she did come back, and with a dark tan. When they removed the stitches, there was a jagged scar between her eyebrows.
My sister was hysterical. Once she had been the girl with the perfect face; now it was impossible to look at her without seeing the scar. My mother tried to console her. She took her out to dinner. She bought her some costume jewelry. She told her she was willing to pay for a plastic surgeon. But then she started thinking again about how my sister had lied to her for so long. In the middle of their reconciliation, she was unable to hold her tongue. They fought, and this time it was my sister who said she was leaving for good.
It took a while for my mother to admit to herself that my sister wasn't coming back. When she finally did, she asked me to come over to the house and clean out my sister's bedroom.
What I found there shocked me: candy wrappers and soda cups and empty jars of peanut butter. Chocolate bars melted into the shag carpet. Homemade bongs, brown glass vials, used tampons, green plastic bags filled with vomit. And everywhere there were empty beer cans — in her closet, in her dresser drawers, under her bed. I hauled out 10 garbage bags of beer cans from her bedroom.
We didn't hear from my sister for a long time after that. Then, when she was in her mid-20s, she resurfaced, calling my mother to tell her she had gotten a job as an A&R rep for Capitol Records. She had a company car and her own expense account and sometime soon, when she could clear some space in her schedule, she wanted to meet my mother for lunch.
My mother would get many calls like this in the years that followed. My sister would disappear for an extended period of time, then she would call my mother out of the blue to tell her about some fabulous job she had. Once she said she was a production executive for Paramount. Another time she said she was doing PR for Pepsi and attending UCLA on a full four-year scholarship provided by the company because they loved her so much. They were fantastic stories, stories that didn't even verge on the credible, and yet my mother believed each and every one of them and dutifully reported them to me. I would ask my mother for my sister's phone number and address so I could get in touch with her, but when I called, the number was out of service, and when I sent a letter, it always came back marked Undeliverable as Addressed or Forwarding Order Expired.
I didn't see my sister again until the spring of 1998, when I got married. She was 32. She'd recently been in touch with my mother to tell her she was the head of marketing for Reebok and that they were relocating her to Fiji. My mother told her I was getting married and gave her my number. When my sister called to congratulate me, I managed to persuade her to fly out to New York with the rest of my family.
We all stayed at a little hotel in the Murray Hill section of the city. Amy and I had a room on the third floor. My mother and my sister and my aunt shared a room on the seventh floor. We went up to greet them after they checked in. Amy had never met my family before.
My mother opened the door. She had already changed into one of the muumuus she always wore at home. She gave us each a hug.
As my mother and Amy exchanged pleasantries, I scanned the room for my sister. I saw her kneeling on the floor behind one of the beds. Then all of a sudden she stood up and walked over to me. She was wearing black spandex leggings and a black spandex halter top. Her bleached-blonde hair was shocking, bright. She greeted me as if we had just spoken yesterday.
"Hey, Bob," she said. "How are you?"
I felt flushed for a moment, confused. When I hugged her, I could feel her hip bones pressing into my legs. I could feel the vertebrae in her back. I had to give her one of those half-hugs you give really skinny people for fear that a real hug would snap them in two.
And yet she had these breasts, this full chest that was pressing into mine. I wondered whether she'd had a boob job.
She broke from my embrace and went over to her suitcase and pulled out two grocery bags.
"These are for you guys," she said.
The bags were filled with candles. More candles than we could possibly burn in a lifetime. They were all different shapes and sizes. They were layered with different colors of wax, each layer bleeding into the next.
"Did you make them yourself?"
"Yes," my sister said.
"They're beautiful," I said.
That night my family and Amy's family went out to dinner so that we could all get to know each other a little before the wedding. My sister was wearing the same outfit from the hotel, plus a waistcoat and a pair of black stilettos. As we stood there in the foyer waiting for a table, I remember wishing she had worn a longer coat, something that would have covered her body.
She was holding a long black box that was about the size of a walkie-talkie. Her keys were attached to it. As we waited, she kept shifting it from one hand to the other, as if she were assessing its heft.
"That's quite a key chain," I said.
"It's a Taser," she said. "Like the cops use. It'll knock you right out." She handed it to me. It was heavy. It seemed like she could just as easily club a guy with it as stun him.
The restaurant staff pushed a few tables together. I wound up sitting across from my sister. I tried to get her to join the conversations of the people sitting around us, but she kept falling silent. Finally I realized I was going to have to try to draw her out on my own.
"When was the last time you were in New York?" I said.
"Oh, God," she said, "not since high school. Do you remember when Allen and Lenore invited me out here?"
I remembered. Allen was my father's brother and Lenore was his wife. They had both passed away several years earlier. I think Lenore came from some money, because they had an apartment on the Upper East Side. My sister was around 13 or 14 when they invited her out to visit. I remember feeling angry, because they had never invited me or my brother out to New York. I think it was because the last time they had seen us was at my father's funeral, and my brother and I were acting like animals. But their memories of my sister were different. She was a china doll back then, their beautiful niece. They imagined taking her out on the town and impressing all of their friends.
They had no idea what they were getting themselves into. My sister drank all their booze and cleaned out their refrigerator. She promenaded down Fifth Avenue with the two of them in tow, asking them to buy her every glittering bauble she saw. They were stunned by her total lack of grace and etiquette. She was supposed to stay a week; they sent her back after three days.
I pretended I remembered none of this. "Yeah," I said. "What happened with that?"
"It was really weird," she said. "Allen was really sweet. But Lenore hated me. It seemed like as soon as I got here, she had it in for me. I remember they took me to this restaurant to meet some of their friends, and in the middle of dinner, Lenore just stormed off. She just went to the bar for the rest of the night. Allen kept getting up from the table to try and get her to come back, but she wouldn't do it. She said she wouldn't sit at the same table as me. It was really uncomfortable.
"I still had a great time, though. The city was beautiful. We went to Central Park and the Guggenheim — I remember really loving that place. We went to Rockefeller Center and walked down Fifth Avenue. They took me to see Evita. I was just blown away."
As my sister spoke, I noticed her top teeth were worn away. Her front teeth were smaller than her incisors. Her incisors were smaller than her canines. Her canines were smaller than her bicuspids. It was the same with her bottom teeth, so when she closed her mouth her teeth didn't touch. I had heard about this kind of thing happening to bulimics. I had heard that the acid from the vomiting could wear away the enamel on the teeth, but this kind of pattern seemed strange to me. It wasn't until several years later, in a conversation with my brother's wife, that I learned my sister had been addicted to crystal meth. The drug had rotted her teeth away.
I looked at my sister and tried to focus on what she was saying. "Yeah, I don't know what it was, though," she said. Her eyes were glassy. "Lenore was really sweet. But Allen hated me. It seemed like as soon as I got here, he had it in for me. I remember they took me to this restaurant to meet some of their friends, and in the middle of dinner, Allen just stormed off. He just went to the bar for the rest of the night. Lenore kept getting up from the table to try and get him to come back, but he wouldn't do it. He said he wouldn't sit at the same table as me. It was really uncomfortable."
On the night of the wedding, my sister wore a form-fitting navy dress with a teardrop cutout over her breasts. She walked down the aisle with my brother. She stood under the chuppah as my wife and I took our vows.
At the reception she seemed jittery. I thought she probably didn't want to have to stand there and answer the typical party questions about what she did for a living. It's only now that I realize she was probably afraid of being recognized by one of my friends.
Toward the end of the night, we danced. She seemed surprised when I came to her table and took her hand and led her onto the floor. The DJ was playing a slow song by Otis Redding. As I held my arm around her waist, I could feel her shaking. Then she started to cry.
"What's wrong?" I said.
"I don't know," she said.
"Look at me," I said.
She looked at me, and for a moment it seemed like she thought I might actually have the answer, the words that would make everything right.
When my sister and I were kids, we played a game we called "Make Me Laugh." We'd go into the bathroom, and she'd sit in the bathtub and be the audience while I stood in front of the vanity and played the comedian. If I made her laugh, then we had to trade places. I'd usually open with some kind of shtick — an impersonation or a corny joke that would fall flat. After a few minutes I would resort to the one thing I knew would get her: I'd flare my nostrils. She'd kill herself laughing every time.
And so that night, dancing with my sister at my wedding, at a loss for words, I did the only thing I could think of to do. I flared my nostrils. And just like old times, she broke down laughing.
I haven't seen my sister since that night 10 years ago. I still have the porn magazine with the picture of her inside it. I don't look at it, not just because of her, but because of every other woman in there. I know that each one of them has a story similar to my sister's.
Amy wants me to throw the magazine away, but I can't. It's my only keepsake. I know that's a strange thing to say, but that's my sister's life; that's her work. The magazine is a part of her in some perverse way, or she is a part of it.
I know I will have to throw it away someday. Someday soon, because I don't want my son finding it.
The hardest thing of all for me isn't the thought of my son finding a picture of a naked woman and recognizing her as his aunt. It's the thought of him finding a picture of a naked woman and not recognizing her as his aunt. Of him not recognizing her at all.
The family of an Indian girl born with two faces, who has been venerated as a "gift from God" by local villagers, will not consult doctors to see if their daughter needs to receive treatment or corrective surgery.
The baby, who is yet to be named, was born to a labourer, Vinod Kumar, and his wife, Sushma, nearly four weeks ago in a village 35 miles outside Delhi. Since her arrival, the family home has drawn hundreds of visitors. "People have come in trucks and have been queuing at our doorstep," said the Mr Kumar, 24.
The reason for the crowds is the child's appearance: she has two pairs of eyes, two noses and two lips but only one pair of ears.
The child's 19-year-old mother, says that she has "accepted the way she is and so will the rest of the world. Why should [I regret], after all God formed her features and it is he who decided how she should be."
The family, who are poor and largely illiterate, do not believe modern science can help their child and are already building a small temple to the girl in the village.
Kumar said that when his daughter was born, hospital staff told the family that everything was normal. "So where's the need to get medical help? She's feeds through one mouth and sucks her thumb with the other. She's just a baby."
Doctors predict a difficult life ahead for the girl, who was born without any pre-natal care. They said it was an extremely rare case, with the baby having two skulls joined together, and that separating them was out of the question.
"The chances of survival are not very bright in such cases," Mukul Verma, a neurologist at the Apollo hospital, Delhi. "It is a developmental defect where two different things have been partially formed. It would require plastic surgery to try and remove one face. But then that all depends on how the brain is placed, as also the food and windpipes."
No foul play was suspected in 69-year-old Sonny Graham's death at his Vidalia, Ga., home, investigators said. He was found Tuesday in a utility building in his backyard with a single shotgun wound to the throat, said Greg Harvey, a special agent with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.
Graham, who was director of the Heritage golf tournament at Sea Pines from 1979 to 1983, was on the verge of congestive heart failure in 1995 when he got a call that a heart was available in Charleston.
That heart was from Terry Cottle, 33, who had shot himself, Berkeley County Coroner Glenn Rhoad said.
Grateful for his new heart, Graham began writing letters to the donor's family to thank them. In January 1997, Graham met his donor's widow, Cheryl Cottle, then 28, in Charleston.
"I felt like I had known her for years," Graham told The (Hilton Head) Island Packet for a story in 2006. "I couldn't keep my eyes off her. I just stared."
In 2001, Graham bought a home for Cottle and her four children in Vidalia. Three years later, they were married after Graham retired from his job as a plant manager for Hargray Communications in Hilton Head.
From their previous marriages, the couple had six children and six grandchildren scattered across South Carolina and Georgia.
Cheryl Graham, now 39, has worked at several hospices in Vidalia. A telephone message left Sunday at a listing for Cheryl and Sonny Graham in Vidalia was not immediately returned.
Sonny Graham's friends said he would be remembered for his willingness to help people.
"Any time someone had a problem, the first reaction was, 'Call Sonny Graham,' " said Bill Carson, Graham's friend for more than 40 years. "It didn't matter whether you had a flat tire on the side of the road or your washing machine didn't work. He didn't even have to know you to help you."
A man in New Zealand has been charged with using a hedgehog as a weapon, the New Zealand Herald has reported.
Police said William Singalargh, 27, had hurled the hedgehog about 5m (16ft) at a 15-year-old boy.
"It hit the victim in the leg, causing a large, red welt and several puncture marks," said Senior Sgt Bruce Jenkins, in the North Island town of Whakatane.
It was unclear whether the hedgehog was still alive when it was thrown, though it was dead when collected as evidence.
The police spokesman said the suspect was arrested "for assault with a weapon, namely the hedgehog."Mr Singalargh is due to appear in court on 17 April. If convicted, he faces up to five years in prison.
US sniper meets Bush with his pants down
It was asked to dismantle the back seat in all the rented buses. Instead Americans put there some strange black boxes. Experts suggested that these boxes might contain equipment that either fixed the location and movement of the bus or destroyed the electronic guidance of means of destruction.
An hour before the Bushes arrived in the airport the whole area was penetrated with the US security. Special Forces soldiers were placed almost in every 5 feet of the summer field whereas the snipers occupied the roofs of all the houses nearby.
Russian side also took the most serious security measures for the special guests. The road traffic was limited, and each 300 feet of the road to Vladimir Putin’s residence “Bocharov ruchey” was guarded by the representatives of Road Patrol Service. Everyone has been longing for the arrival of the №1 American plane.
The moment the plane was landing in the airport, there happened an awkward accident on the airport’s roof. The sniper that was watching the plane land in the airport from the airport roof gave his gun to the mate and slowly started to pull his pants off and empty his intestinal canal right there, on the airport roof, seen by photographers and journalists!
It remains uncertain what the sniper would have done if he had at that very time to maintain defense of George Bush. Perhaps he would be able to protest his president with a different type of gun.
Luckily, the US president had nothing to worry about, so the sniper confidently pulled up his pants took back the gun and confidently strode away.
One of the experts noted that sometimes when the snipers are not allowed to move for several days they have nothing to do but empty the intestinal canal right there, but this is an absolutely different case. So the US president might consider pointing to his security’s discipline or buying them a huge pack of diapers.
A lot of the English language seems to have been developed as some kind of elaborate practical joke. It's full of little sayings and idioms that on their face make no sense at all, and if traced back to their origins are downright horrifying.
Right or wrong, these 10 sayings have some of the strangest (and most unsettling) histories:
A common or ubiquitous benchmark. As in, "The rule of thumb is one part tonic to four parts gin."
Most say it came from ...
17th century English Judge Sir Francis Buller, who allegedly ruled that it was A-OK for a husband to beat his wife with a stick, given that said stick was no wider then his thumb.
This is the stuff that white trash dreams are made of.
So is that true?
As it turns out there isn't any record of Buller actually making this ruling, though he was known to be a big powdered wig-wearing dickhead to everyone around him regardless of sex. Still, roughly a year after the supposed ruling, British satirist James Gillray called out Buller in this cartoon, selling his thumb-width wife beating sticks:
So why would Gillray create this poster if the ruling it referenced didn't exist? Who knows. Maybe it was already an urban legend back then. The truth of the phrase is that it likely just refers to carpenters and tailors who, without a ruler handy, would just measure things in thumb-lengths. We tried digging up evidence that they were using actual severed thumbs for the task, but even that turned out to be too awesome to be true.
Accepting something difficult or unpleasant. As in, "You're going to have to bite the bullet and admit you killed that hooker."
Most say it came from ...
When engaged in war there are times when emergency surgery is needed: Legs have to come off or deeply-buried bullets need to come out. And sometimes, there's no time for anesthesia when the Nazis are bearing down.
So, rather then stabbing a patient in the arm to distract him from the saw going through his foot, the surgeon would supposedly shove a bullet in his mouth and ask him to bite down. Of course, you could use a belt or shirt but even in the throes of death it's important for a man to look like a badass. Thus, "Bite the bullet."
So is that true?
All signs point to yes. And thank God for that, as we would hate to think that a soldier being operated on with no medication in the middle of a battle is some kind of pussy-ass cloth biter.
But, notice how we said "All signs point to yes" and not a definitive "yes." Nailing down the origins of these sayings is an inexact science. The only other popular theory has to do with the preparation of bullet before firing (in old carbine rifles, you had to bite a paper cap off the cartridge so the spark could reach the gun powder).
That one would of course make no damned sense, since no one would equate that task with resolutely doing something unpleasant. You might as well say it's about that dude who claimed to catch bullets out of the air in his teeth. In fact, let's just go with that one.
One that is in a completely hopeless or useless condition. As in, "The new supervisor got his dick caught in the copier again. What a basket case."
Most say it came from ...
The supposed origin came about during World War I and was used to describe servicemen that had all of their limbs either surgically or explodingly removed--leaving them as nothing more then torsos that would have to be carried in a basket. Yes, like in that Metallica video.
So is that true?
Again, it's a yes and no answer. Yes, there were servicemen that went home sans all limbs during the World Wars, but only two documented cases and there were no reports of either of them being carried off in baskets of any kind.
Also, it was a 1982 horror movie
Confusingly, the earliest recorded uses of the phrase were from US military statements claiming no such limbless soldiers existed. One way or another, it doesn't seem like there were enough cases to create a whole phrase to describe them. Why have a term for something that doesn't exist? Then again we have a word for "leprechaun" so, why not.
To give someone a hard time. As in, "Yes, I'm late and I'm not wearing pants. Don't bust my chops."
Most say it came from ...
There was once a time in the world when it was considered cool to sport a long, ridiculous pair of mutton chop side burns. From America to England, Russia to ... some other place even further away than Russia, the civilized global population couldn't get enough of these peninsula-shaped patches of hair.
Then, these people got punched in the face--their "chops busted," if you will--and an idiom was born.
So is that true?
Even though there is no definitive proof to back this up, this seems to be the only theory going. Also, it involves stupid looking facial hair, so it has that going for it.
It's just too bad that as regal and dignifying as the chops were for our founding fathers they only made hippies in the '60s seem like unwashed piles of tie-dyed failures. To this day the only people able to successfully pull off mutton chops are old-timey gold miners. If you have the chops in question and you are not one of these three, please, shave now or prepare to have them busted.
A torrential rain. As in, "It's raining cats and dogs. Which sucks because my hat is made of pure sodium."
Most say it came from ...
In the 1500s human beings had the pleasure of living in homes with thatched roofs which, keep in mind, had the ability to repel winds no stronger than a burrito fart. In these strange times, humans for some reason didn't want their pets shitting in their homes and so they were always kept outside. The animals would keep themselves warm in the little nooks in the thatching on the roofs and store their food and porno up there for a rainy day.
When an especially rainy day did come along, the animals would either get washed off of the roof or would come leaping down looking for better cover. The story goes that the townsfolk would look out their window, see pets falling from the sky, and proclaim it to be "raining cats and dogs." Then they would probably burn a witch or something.
So is that true?
Apparently the saying didn't come about until the 17th century, not the 16th. Also, this story was popularized by a 1999 chain email that is entirely comprised of rather pungent bullshit. So, we'll just move on and call this a complete lie.
Unfortunately there are so many suggested origins of this one that it's hard to tell if any of them are more than legends mutated by time and people who like to lie. One story says 17th century sewage systems (if the town even had one) were prone to massive flooding, washing out dead dogs and cats that had fallen in. This would leave some to believe that dead animals were literally falling from the sky. Why the sight of a dead animal on the ground would cause anyone to assume it fell from the heavens, as opposed to just falling over dead the normal way, is anyone's guess.
Others claim it goes all the way back to Norse mythology (the storm god Odin had two hounds). Still others say it has to do with the freak occurrence of frogs or fish falling from the sky (after being swept up by storms and flung miles away) and that the saying "it's raining cats and dogs" is just a way to say it's raining even harder than the time it rained fish. Still it seems like a catchier idiom would have been, "It's raining bears!" or "It's raining human babies! Quick, catch the babies!" followed by frenetic screaming.
Anyway, there's no hard and fast proof for any of them so take your pick.
Being in such a strategically advantageous position that you can bend another person to your will. As in, "Once Hannah Montana's lawyers file suit, Disney's really going to have Cracked by the short hairs."
Most say it came from ...
The history behind "By the short hairs" is a strange one as the phrase (as it's used today) really has no history. One day somewhere in the world someone must have thought it would be funny to grab a dude by his pubes and refuse to let go--completely ignoring the poor fellow's yelps for mercy and womanly crying.
The grabber probably then realized that by putting this person in such a painfully precarious position he could then force them to, say, shovel the snow on the side walk, pay a long overdue debt or maybe just scream like a man having his pubes yanked like it was an S&M-themed tractor pull.
So is that true?
No. We made that one up because, as we stated, the reference to pubic hair has no history. When 'By the short hairs' was first coined it was referring to hair a bit north of the proverbial "junk."
The earliest documented usage of the phrase can be found in a novel written by the man that brought us The Jungle Book, Rudyard Kipling. His short nonfiction story, The Drums of the Fore and Aft had this quote:
"They'll shout and carry on like this for five minutes. Then they'll rush in, and then we've got 'em by the short hairs!"
It's explained elsewhere in the story that the hair being pulled is the hair on the back of the neck.
We know what you're feeling right now: betrayal, bewilderment and utter disappointment. We felt the same way. It's sad to see a phrase that brings to mind the violent pulling of pubes be debunked. But it makes sense, if you're walking around with your hand on some guy's pubes while he shovels your walk, aren't you the loser there?
So the phrase is being misused anyway. It'd make more sense to say, "Yes, we're up by 21 with just two minutes left! We're really making them touch our pubes now!"
Short end of the stick refers to getting screwed by chance, but wrong end refers to a misunderstanding. As in, "Whoops, I walked into the girl's locker room, and I'm a man. Looks like I got the wrong end of the stick. Or did I?"
(Cue funky bass riff)
Most say it came from ...
As advanced as their sewage systems were, the Romans still had not arrived at the toilet paper stage. In their public toilets, the pooper would rely on a sponge or cloth that was attached to a stick which rested within a bowl that contained a mixture of two-parts salt water and three-parts nightmares.
After a person had finished discussing the days events with their constituents, all while becoming a few pounds lighter, they would request the sponged stick to be passed along to them. If they weren't concentrating on the task, they would end up grabbing the end of the stick that was covered in the shit of 50 other guys. This was considered grabbing the "wrong end of the stick." Yeah, no shit.
So is that true?
This is another idiom whose history is contentious, but as a comedy website you'll have to work hard to talk us out of this one, since it radically changes the classic idea of a Roman bathhouse orgy from a swinging good time to the largest collection of unintentional Dirty Sanchez's ever.
There is, though, another origin that's widely held to be the true one. The origin pertains to walking sticks and accidentally grabbing the dirty, non-handled end, the "wrong end." OK, maybe. But ask yourself: If you somehow had a stick that was clotted with dirt on one end, and with the turds of a dozen Romans on the other, which would truly be the "wrong" end?
To be very happy. As in, "Uncle Bernie is pleased as punch now that he has his cocaine."
Most say it came from ...
Apparently the phrase spawned from an English puppet show that goes all the way back to the 1600s (Punch and Judy) which was written by a chemically imbalanced sociopath, or a 17th century Eli Roth. No two performances of the show were totally alike, but they all usually involved the same events:
1. Punch kills his infant child
2. Punch punches Judy until she dies
3. Punch goes to prison and escapes using a golden key (strangely, he doesn't kill the prison)
4. He then kills doctors, lawyers and a hangman
5. He kills Death, as in, the Grim Reaper
6. Then it all ends spectacularly as he kills the fucking Devil.
So, how does "Pleased as punch" come out of a killing spree perpetuated by a puppet? Well, Punch got a raging murder-boner off it all. That is to say that "Punch" was "Pleased" with killing his wife and baby among other things (read: he was the fucking Devil).
So is that true?
We here at Cracked are pleased as punch (see what we did there?) to inform you that this is, in fact, true. Punch and Judy is generally a summertime show put on for English children who have yet to learn the subtle differences between edutainment and infanticide.
An exact duplicate. As in, "That stripper's crotch is a dead ringer for your mom's."
Most say it came from ...
This origin holds that a "Dead Ringer" was a person that was prematurely buried and is supplied with a rope attached to a bell with which to draw attention to the not-so-dead guy in the totally-for-dead-people box.
Through some research we found that such a practice never actually existed, although there were instances of people being buried alive and there is actually a patent held for such a life saving device.
So why in the world would that term come to mean "exact duplicate?" Probably because it's bullshit.
So is that true?
No, sadly, it has to do with race horses.
Towards the end of the 19th century, race horse owners began to devise ways to fool bookies who would try to scope out the horses before a race. The trick was you brought two similar horses, one fast and one slow. The owners would run the slower horse around for all to see, thus driving up the odds against it. They have a friend place some bets, then at race time, whip out the fast horse.
So it was a "ringer" (slang for an illicit competitor in a sports event) and "dead" in that was dead-on, or identical.
Man, that's a bigger letdown than the short hairs thing. How about if we say the "dead ringer" horse was also a zombie?
The heart of the matter. As in, "Let's get down to the nitty-gritty, home skillet."
Most say it came from ...
Nitty-Gritty has two popular origins, both of which may make you feel like a sack of shit for ever using the term.
The first popular belief holds that the term originated from British slave ships and references the loose debris that would fill the bottom of these ships. Some go as far as to say that the term actually referenced the slaves themselves.
A second origin pertains to, yep, you guessed it, pubic lice (nit) and dried fecal reminisce on ass hair (grit).
So is that true?
Once more, no one can say which is true, if either of them. But, whether it's the tiny bugs on your tallywhacker or the horrors of slave ships, either way we really never want to hear grandma use it again.
Nitty-gritty commonly gets paired with "picnic" (which was said to have been a reference to lynching) in the realm of seemingly benign words that have full-blown (and probably incorrect) racist origins. Both racially charged stories are completely unfounded and have no concrete histories other then the folk tales that get passed down from screaming Grand Wizard to frightened onlooker.
Yes kids, language is awesome.