Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Man's best friend: Dog owners' love for their pooches rivals motherly affection

By Daily Mail Reporter

Dog owners get the same surge of emotions when looking at their pooch as mothers do with their infants, scientists say.

In a trial they found the owners experienced a burst in the hormone called oxytocin when playing with their pets. Known as the 'cuddle chemical' or 'love drug', it has been found to dampen stress, combat depression, and breed trust in humans.


Playing with dogs releases the 'love drug' oxytocin, according to new research

Biologists Miho Nagasawa and Takefumi Kikusui from Azuba University in Japan, were inspired by their own experiences.

'Miho and I are big dog lovers and feel something changed in our bodies when gazed (upon) by our dogs,' Mr Kikusui told New Scientist.

They recruited 55 dog owners and their pets and took a urine sample from the owners before and after a half hour laboratory play session.

Some owners were put in a control group who sat in a room with their dog and were told to completely avoid the gaze of their pets.

Dog-owners who spent an average of two and a half minutes making eye contact during the play session, experienced a 20 per cent rise in their oxytocin levels.

But the group that avoided looking at their dog were shown to have a slight drop in their oxytocin levels.

Those who spent longer gazing at their hounds tended to rate their relationship with their pet as more satisfying than those who only held a short gaze during play.

Kikusui said that a flood of the cuddle chemical could explain why playing with dogs can lift moods and even improve symptoms of anxiety and depression.

They even suggested that oxytocin might have played a part in the domestication of dogs from wolves, about 15,000 years ago.

'Maybe during the evolutionary process, humans and dogs came to share the same social cues', such as eye contact and hand gestures, said Mr Kikusui.

He added: 'This is why dogs can adapt to human society.'

Original here

Olivia Newton-John's partner 'staged his own death to avoid debt repayments and is alive and well,' U.S. investigators claim

By Daily Mail Reporter

The former partner of Olivia Newton-John, who was believed to have drowned at sea nearly four years ago, staged his own disappearance, private U.S. investigators have claimed.

Patrick McDermott is said to be travelling along the Mexican and South America coastline under an alias to avoid paying debts and enable his teenage son to cash in on a $151,000 insurance policy.

McDermott was 48 years old when he disappeared after boarding a fishing charter boat called The Freedom in California in June 2005.

Olivia Newton-John and boyfriend Patrick McDermott.

Patrick McDermott, pictured here with Olivia Newton-John in 2005, just months before he allegedly staged his own death in an apparent boating tragedy

U.S. Coast Guard officials concluded that the cameraman had most likely drowned in a boating tragedy - which Newton-John, his parter of eight years, has always accepted.

But suspicion remained over McDermott's disappearance after it emerged he filed for bankruptcy before his disappearance.

He also owed thousands of dollars in child support payments to his ex-wife.

Olivia married John Easterling in 2008

Olivia married John Easterling in 2008

The explosive new claims will be detailed in U.S. network NBC's current affairs show Dateline this week.

The show hired a private investigators agency in March 2007 to find McDermott and now believe they are getting close.

'He's alive - there's no doubt in my mind, this guy's alive,' lead investigator Philip Klein told the programme.

'Maybe in his mind if he stages his death, the insurance policy will pay off his debts and he can leave his child a gift by pretending he's dead.'

Klein claims that McDermott's life insurance policy 'is in full force and effect. The premiums have been paid every month. There has also been an inquiry by a person or persons in an attempt to possibly file a claim on the insurance money.'

Klein's agency set up a website called

But it was actually a ruse to find McDermott by showing investigators the locations of people logging on to the site.

Klein began tracking hits from what he believes was a boat travelling along the Mexican coastline as far as South America.

'Sayulita, Mexico, is where many of the hits were coming from,' Klein said.

'We got to Sayulita, we began to show his picture around to witnesses in the area, and we found people who said, "Yeah, I know him, he comes here all the time." We have witnesses, including five Americans, willing to give us signed affidavits that they've seen him.

'He asked waiters to put him in corners, he had changed his appearance once or twice. He's moving as a lone wolf.'

'The rule of thumb is always this - when you're running you are always looking over your shoulder and we're going to catch him looking at us,' he said.

'We fully anticipate he's going to go underground for a while," Klein said. "But when he raises his head, he's not just going to have 20 eyes looking for him, he's going to have a million eyes looking for him.'

The investigator said that Newton-John, who declined to be interviewed for the Dateline programme, apparently was also accessing the site on a regular basis for updates on efforts to find McDermott.

'The most unusual hits we've gotten were Olivia Newton-John when she was on tour in Asia. Every hotel she was registered at and staying at there were hits from that hotel on that night where she was staying,' Klein said.

He said his team had 'confirmed' sightings of McDermott from at least 17 witnesses across Mexico.

In 2008 Grease star Newton-John married John Easterling, founder and president of natural remedy firm, Amazon Herb Company.

Original here

Is She Cheating?

By Steve Calechman

You have a great gal. So great, in fact, that she attracts packs of men who try to capture her attention or, worse, coax her out of her clothes. They could be platonic friends. Or they could be interlopers, scourges bent on emasculating and circumventing you. What to do?

"Everything starts with having ground rules, open communication, and strategies for how to proceed," says Janice Levine, Ph.D., a psychologist in Lexington, Massachusetts, and the author of Why Do Fools Fall in Love?. Either blowing your lid or turning a blind eye could create more problems than addressing the situation head-on.

The following tips will help you know if there really are signs of a cheating wife or girlfriend and stand your ground without devolving into a raging, soon-to-be-single maniac. Read on: Your love life could depend on it.

Worry when … she's focused on pleasing him, not doing her job.

Not when … he's a kindhearted mentor. His motives could be sincere, and if she's happy at work, she'll be happy at home, says Jeffrey Bernstein, Ph.D., a psychologist and the author of Why Can't You Read My Mind?.

Your move: Lead with concern for her, not your issues. If she thinks you have an agenda, she'll become defensive and fail to see any negatives, just to prove you wrong. Say, "It seems your boss is really helping you. How's that going?"

Worry when … they talk frequently and secretly. Regular contact sends up flares. Covertness fires a cannon.

Not when … she has a once-a-year, 15-minute phone call. There's a lot of history some good.

Your move: Calmly say, "I have a problem with the relationship, because I don't understand it. Can you tell me what it does for you?" suggests Jackie Jaye Brandt, M.F.T., a psychotherapist in Universal City, California. You're not being invasive, you're just gathering information. An ultimatum leads to resentment or abandonment. Be ready to walk out the door if she picks him.

Worry when … she drops his name in subtle or obvious comparisons to you. If he initiated the breakup, there's a big chance she's holding on to the fantasy.

Not when … it might be just fond memories, so the threat could be all in your head.

Your move: Say, "I just need some reassurance here." She should respond definitively that you're her man, Levine says. If she pauses, follow up with "I'm not trying to control you. I just want to be with someone who knows what she wants." She needs to think it's something to fix. If she doesn't, walk.

Worry when … she spills intimate details about his life. Chances are, the sharing goes both ways. "The relationship should be friendly, not familiar," says Rita DeMaria, Ph.D., a marriage and family therapist in the Philadelphia area.

Not when … he's just pumping her up. It's his job to give her encouragement and attention.

Your move: Once again, share your discomfort and watch her response. If she's open and says, "I didn't realize that," she's not drinking in the man's attention, and she respects your feelings. If she's defensive, she might be guzzling it, so back off for a few weeks and see how she deals with it. It's up to you how far you push.

Worry when … she's ignoring the situation because she hates conflict. That's bad for your relationship, because this issue will recur.

Not when … she's simply working at her own pace to let her admirer down easy.

Your move: If you've given her pace a chance, let her know you're uncomfortable. Offer to help. If she allows you, meet the guy: Put your arm around her and introduce yourself as her boyfriend. That should be enough. If it's not, say, "I think it would be best if you limited contact with her," Levine says. Use restrained strength, not tough-guy tactics.

Original here

8 Customers Everyone Hates

By Guy Mayer

Let's face it: most of the people reading this have had jobs in the service industry. Waiter, barista, the shoe guy at the bowling alley. Everybody does it at one point in their lives. A low point.

After all, no matter how much you love people, dealing with customers still pretty much sucks. Here are the ones that all of us in the customer service brigade have learned to hate:

The Stoner

Distinguishing Characteristics:

Tomato Eyes, Jamaican flags.

Now don't get us wrong; there's nothing wrong with the occasional trip to Stoneyville. If you can keep the fact that you're high as a kite discreet, more power to you. However, once your being stoned out of your gourd interferes with other people's jobs, you've crossed the line. Especially when it handicaps you from making the crucial decision of what you want on your nachos.

"What happens now?"

Enter the Stoner, the guy who has no shame at all for being ripped off his ass. This dude is weaving in and out of reality, absolutely baffled as to how he got into Taco Bell. Now, we understand your situation : You're the hungriest you've ever been in your life, but you're also, in your condition, borderline useless. Unless you've planned ahead (you didn't) you'll have to make a monetary transaction involving you and another human being.

But it's not like the extraordinarily complicated system of menu-order-wallet-money changes once you've decided to puff the magic dragon. This is something you've been doing on a daily basis for a good part of your life.

"I'd like eleven hundred tacos. And then eight tacos. Please."

Come on guys, either wait until after you've got your food to smoke, or get a grip for the 30 seconds it takes to order a churro.

Suitable Punishment in Hell:

Being constantly stoned out of their minds. While this may not seem like much of a punishment, they will then be made to solve riddles, with each wrong answer resulting in a swift kick to the nuts.

The Soapbox (a.k.a Captain Linger)

Distinguishing Characteristics:

Having no company, reeking of desperation.

Some people have no friends, no one they can chitchat with about the stupid things that they can both relate to. To remedy this problem, some of these people go out and actually make friends. Others simply go to their local coffee shop to talk to strangers working behind a counter, people who don't know/care who you are and are literally forced to listen to you in order to earn a paycheck.

"I'd like to tell you about all my feelings."

Taking full advantage of their captive audience, the Soapbox will proceed to bore you to tears about uninteresting details from their day, their iguana's ailing health and their arsenal of closed-minded opinions and politically incorrect jokes that you have to chuckle at because your boss is standing right next to you.

They will then linger for the next twenty to thirty minutes, talking to you while you're helping other people, trying to hide your waning interest in whatever the hell they were talking about. Sorry dude, but there's a difference between making small talk and forcing someone to listen to your nonsense. Lingerers, as a rule, have not yet discovered the Internet and blogging.

This will absolutely change your life.

Suitable Punishment in Hell:

Chihuahuas grafted to each shoulder, constantly barking in their ears, with no possible escape.

The Anchor

Distinguishing Characteristics:

Dust forming on shoulders.

Ah yes, the sweet victory of coming to the end of a long line. It took forever to finally get there, so what do you do now? Do you make sure that you finish whatever it is you've been standing in line for quickly and efficiently, out of consideration for those that are in your former predicament?

Fuck no! You lay anchor! That means your job is to waste your time and everyone else's, savoring the moment by asking pointless questions, making brilliant insights ("I'll tell ya, I was just standing in line") and commenting on how the place is run ("What you've got is an inefficient floor plan"). The Anchor is also the master of not taking no for an answer. They refuse to believe that the person helping them isn't just arbitrarily withholding the answer they're looking for.

"I know it's not on the menu, but can I have a functioning motorcycle?"

The logic is that if they ask a question that cannot be answered enough times, the answer will magically conjure in the clerk's mind, or that the out of stock product will magically appear.

"Do you still have the eggnog milkshakes?"
"No, that's just for the holidays. It's June."
"Really? Are you sure?"
"Quite sure."
"Because I could really go for an eggnog milkshake right now."

"It's just I'm craving eggnog, know. Are you sure?"

The Anchor is most commonly found at information kiosks and anywhere you can ask a virtually endless amount of questions, multiple times. Think the old Jewish lady from Harvey Pekar's American Splendor, or any middle-aged businessman who's taken one too many leadership seminars.

Suitable Punishment in Hell:

Being reincarnated as an actual anchor.

The Micromanager

Distinguishing Characteristics:

Neurotic behaviors, darting eyes.

You will encounter this customer if you work any place where your work area is visible to the public (i.e. a coffee shop, bar, deli, Subway). This sort of environment is supposed to reassure the customer of the care that is going into their product, and is not meant to be an open invitation to critique sandwich making abilities.

The Micromanager has zero faith in your sandwich-mastery and isn't the least bit shy about expressing this verbally. It doesn't matter that this is your job and that after working here for the last couple years you kind of got the hang of how to spread mustard. The Micromanger is with you every step of the way; telling you how many pickles make the best sandwich and why its way better to cut it diagonally.

If you're going to be involved with every single factor of making something, why not just make it yourself? In fact, if the managers were all that smart, they'd hire this guy as the human equivalent of a training video.

"When you cut the tomatoes, whisper to them."

Suitable Punishment in Hell:

Spending the rest of eternity in a cell with their in-laws, where their every action will be criticized.

Cellphone Shitheads

Distinguishing Characteristics:

Either a) Glued to a cellphone, or b) Having the appearance of a schizophrenic engaged in a one-sided conversation with themselves.

The advent of personal communication devices has given birth to a relatively new species of horrible customers: the Cellphone Shithead. Apparently there are people who have not caught on to the fact that talking on the phone in a store is both obnoxious and extremely rude. Sometimes they will up the ante, and choose to engage in a phone conversation while simultaneously ordering food, paying for said food and ultimately eating food, all while giving a play by play to the poor bastard they're talking to.

"Let me just call my bro and tell him I'm eating."

Seriously people, we don't want to listen to you shouting at your phone through a mouthful of hamburger. The Cellphone Shithead's coup de grace, however, is when they have the audacity to give the "just a minute" finger when you ask them "how can I help you?"

Suitable Punishment in Hell:

A bluetooth permanently grafted to skull, but the only person on the other line is Fran Drescher.

The Ticking Timebomb

Distinguishing Characteristics:

Steam billowing from ears, hooves.

As soon as T.T.T. comes through the door, you sense a disturbance in the Force. You feel the wind shift and realize that there's a storm coming, one that's about to rain an ungodly amount of shit on you and everyone within earshot. The Ticking Timebomb enters with an enormous chip upon their shoulder, and its only a matter of time until they snap.

Try as you may to please this customer, they'll find something to explode with rage over. Oh shit, the cold cook forgot to hold the onions on the salad, here comes the hurricane. The Ticking Time Bomb has now transformed into the Fire-Breathing Dragon of Rage. Sure to be insulted are: you, the restaurant, the food, the prices, the service, the management, the consistency, the wait, the lighting, the music, the bathrooms, that horrible smell and how weak his wife's margarita is.

And being that the customer is always right, you have no choice but to bend over and take it like this is Cell Block D. Nothing you do can possibly console the F.B.D.R., and your only hope is that he'll punch you in the face so that you can a) karate-chop his ass, or b) sue him for punitive damages.

Suitable Punishment in Hell:

There is an entire circle of Hell devoted to these people, and their punishment is that they have to live around each other.

The Procrastinator

Distinguishing Characteristics:

Blank stares, preoccupation.

When you arrive at a business establishment and begin your journey through the line towards the register, it is wise to take advantage of this free time and figure out what the fuck you want to eat. The Procrastinator, however, finds this concept foreign.

"Apparently I've been in some sort of line. Huh."

Seriously, you've been waiting in line for ten minutes now--just now-- you notice there's a menu? All this time, the Procrastinator's been too occupied texting, rocking out to his iPod or chitchatting with his stupid friends. The world starts and stops at the Procrastinator's convenience and, when the Procrastinator is your customer, there is not a damn thing you can do about it.

Suitable Punishment in Hell:

Spending the rest of eternity in a line waiting to get into Heaven, while some guy at the front of the line forever tries to decide what color robe he wants to wear.

The Dinosaur

Distinguishing Characteristics:

Crotchety behavior, dementia.

Don't get us wrong, there's actually quite a few cool elderly folks, like Grandma from Garfield. For some however, keeping up with the times seems as pointless as watching Deal or No Deal. Meet the Dinosaur, who among other things doesn't seem to realize that inflation is a very real and constant thing, prices adjust over time and that's that.

Unfortunately, the Dinosaur believes that there is a worldwide conspiracy involving inflating prices in order to scam them out of their pensions. But that's not all. This conspiracy also includes you personally removing or replacing the old products that they've grown so fond of. Why would they show patience for companies putting a fresh face on their products every now and then, when they can tell you that "Goldbond hasn't changed their packaging for the last hundred years, and they're doing alright."

But if there's just one concept that the Dinosaur cannot grasp, it's the fact that you, the lowly clerk, have absolutely no control over what is on the shelves. Of course bitching at you is like a parent going to their child's elementary school and complaining about poor educational standards to the janitor. They're talking to the wrong person; you could honestly give less than a shit. But you can't tell that to them.

Not even close to giving a shit.

Original here

Chipotle Employee Just Gave Guy In Front Of You More Rice

Chipotle Employee

The Chipotle employee displays flagrant and irresponsible rice favoritism.

CHIPOTLE—In a lunchtime incident significant enough to warrant you pause, an employee at the fast food Mexican restaurant Chipotle has just dispensed to you a smaller serving of rice than the customer ahead of you.

Though it appears likely the less-generous helping of rice was a simple oversight on the part of the employee, and was in no way a personal slight against you, you reportedly cannot help but think that you deserve just as much rice in your burrito as any other paying customer.

Since noticing the rice disparity moments ago, you have considered a number of tactics to rectify the situation, including hesitating slightly before advancing to the beans and meat in order to convey your concern; staring intently at the other burrito in hopes of drawing attention to its incongruent size; and simply asking the Chipotle employee for a little more rice.

Witnesses at the scene are currently waiting for you to move down the line.

"Black beans or pinto?" the employee has just now asked you, seemingly unaware of the heaping amount of rice spilling forth from the tortilla only 18 inches to the left of yours. "Sir?"

Adding to your frustration are new reports that the customer behind you has received the same amount of rice as the customer ahead of you, thereby confirming your suspicion of wrongdoing. However, if an earlier incident at the coffee shop or yesterday's conversation with your landlord are any indication, you are expected to take this lying down, like you always do.

Your meek body language and resigned facial expression also suggest a high probability of inaction on your part, possibly owing to your fear of "causing a scene" in front of a bunch of strangers whom you will never see again and who would undoubtedly side with you had they seen the uneven rice distribution. A mental catalog of past Chipotle experiences currently racing through your head—including that time the woman gave you spicy salsa when you specifically asked for mild—likewise supports the belief that you are going to get screwed yet again.

"Peppers and onions?" the employee has asked, your burrito moving irrevocably further from the rice station.

As the opportunities for additional rice become bleaker, you have resorted to communicating your displeasure in a number of passive-aggressive ways. These include glaring at the employee when he looks away and providing somewhat curt burrito-filling instructions, such as "Chicken" and "Yes, pinto beans," in an apparent hope that your cold tone of voice will make him realize that a terrible mistake has been committed.

So far, however, none of these tactics has caused the Chipotle employee to look down at the burrito next to yours, notice the startling imbalance in rice, apologize profusely, and fill your burrito accordingly.

More shockingly, birth records indicate that you are a full-grown adult presumably capable of communicating your thoughts and desires to an unthreatening 19-year-old burrito-assembler. Yet you reportedly continue to avoid even the most minor confrontation, despite the ramifications it may have on your upcoming sour cream and cheese allocation.

If consulted, the Chipotle employee manual would surely verify that this is a clear breach of company policy, which dictates that a scoop and a half of rice be provided to every customer regardless of age, race, or inexcusable cowardice. Therefore, all sources confirm that you should stop acting like a little bitch who allows the entire world to walk all over him and just say something already.

"How's the rice today, good?" you ask in a pathetic attempt at sarcasm that draws only a slight nod from the employee and does nothing whatsoever to achieve rice equity. "Mild salsa please. No, mil—yes, that's fine."

As of press time the opportunity to demand more rice is long past, and the flour tortilla has been handed off to the employee responsible for adding the final garnishes of corn, tomatoes, and—holy shit, look how much guacamole that fucking woman is getting.

Original here