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There’s a lot in this month’s edition so let’s get straight in …

Science & Medicine

Medics are now saying that arthroscopic surgery for degenerative knee problems (ie. essentially arthritis) does not actually do any much good.

[TRIGGER WARNING] Breaking the taboo of talking about miscarriage.

Another new study shows that, against expectation, women who source online and use abortion drugs do so with very little need for emergency medical help.

And yet another on reproductive medicine … It seems the folk contraceptive “Thunder God Vine” (Tripterygium wilfordii, above) really does prevent conception.

On the physics of having a shit.

More new research has found that daily small doses of cannabis can slow brain decline with ageing – at least in mice.

And here’s yet another instance where it seems we’ve had it all wrong … apparently eating cheese does not raise the risk of heart attack or stroke.

It has long been thought that the way we categorise colours is cultural, but surprisingly it appears to be genetic.

Sexuality

Porn is allegedly having a “terrifying impact” on men. Girl on the Net lifts the lid and finds the evidence rather thin and attitudes biased.

Is the “Dildo of Damocles” daunting? What does/will happen when sex toys connect to the internet?

Environment

It is estimated that the Fukushima accident gave everyone on the planet radiation exposure equivalent to a single X-ray – although unsurprisingly those in Fukushima received rather more it was unlikely to be more than two year’s worth of background radiation, so tiny in the overall scheme of things.

Hedges are as important for the environment as trees, at least in cities.

In another non-obvious finding, research is showing that beaver dams keep streams cool.

History, Archaeology & Anthropology

There are some amazing things happening in palaeoanthropology at the moment, not least that researchers have discovered how to extract DNA from the soil around archaeological sites.

Another of those amazing pieces of palaeoanthropology is the number and age of the Homo naledi finds in South Africa.

At the other end of Africa, a 4000-year-old funeral garden has been discovered in Egypt.

In a recent, and rather more modern, find a rare medieval text printed by William Caxton has been discovered lurking in University of Reading archives.

One of our favourite London bloggers, diamond geezer, visits the Parisian Catacombs.

Finally in this section, another of our favourite London bloggers, IanVists, explores an abandoned railway tunnel used by the BBC in WW2.

London

Which brings us nicely to London itself … Londonist suggests some of London’s more secret places to visit.

Meanwhile Time Out tells us nine things we mostly didn’t know about Euston Station.

Lifestyle & Personal Development

The Guardian magazine on Saturday 27 May featured Laura Dodsworth’s upcoming book Manhood: The Bare Reality in which 100 men talk about manhood through the lens of “me and my penis” as well as having their manhood photographed.
This a follow-on to Bare Reality: 100 Women, Their Breasts, Their Stories
Pre-order Manhood: The Bare Reality from the publishers Pinter & Martin or from Amazon.
[Full disclosure: I was interviewed for this book and there’s a little bit of me in the article, although unless you know you’ll never find it.]

Following which here’s Lee Kynaston in the Telegraph on male pubic hair grooming. My only question is “Why?”.

The key to happiness is not knowing oneself, but knowing how others see us.

But then scientists and philosophers also doubt the ancient claim that vigorous self-examination makes you a better person.

Food & Drink

WFT is alkaline water? Oh, I see, it’s no different to what comes out of the tap.

If you like sushi, you might no longer as its popularity has brought rise in parasitic infections.

People

I wasn’t quite sure where to put this next item, but it is one for the railway buffs amongst us … Geoff Marshall (no relation) and Vicki Pipe are doing All the Stations: They’re travelling to every train station in mainland UK, documenting and videoing as they go. Their videos are all on the All the Stations channel on YouTube; watch the introductory video first to see what they’re planning.
[Geoff Marshall has twice held the official record for travelling the whole London Underground in the fastest time, so he had to be up for another challenge!]

Shock, Horror, Humour

And very finally here are some stories of what happens when scientists take research specimens through airport security.

More in a month’s time.

The Ancestors’ Commandments

I came across these a few days ago in a family history society magazine. I’ve tidied them up a bit.

The Ancestors’ Commandments

  1. Thou shalt use the same forenames for at least one person for every generation, preferably at least once in every family, just to cause confusion.
  2. Thou shalt wait the maximum amount of time before registering births and deaths, or better still somehow forget to get them registered at all.
  3. Thou shalt have two forenames, and use them both separately on official documents, but never together.
  4. Thou shalt change your forename at least once during your lifetime.
  5. Thou shalt use every conceivable spelling for your surname, and make up a few others as well.
  6. Thou shalt never use the same year of birth or birth date and always vary it adding a couple of years here and taking away a couple of years there.
  7. Thou shalt use the house name and country as your place of birth and not the village or town.
  8. Thou shalt completely disappear without trace for at least 15 years of your life and suddenly turn up again.
  9. Thou shalt use at least two different versions of your father’s name.
  10. Thou shalt not use family members as witnesses at your wedding(s).
  11. Thou shalt get married somewhere where neither of you live.
  12. Thou shalt not have all of your children baptised and shalt not always use the same church.
  13. Thou shalt move between counties at least once every ten years.
  14. Thou shalt move hundreds of miles from your home at least once.

Brilliant, aren’t they. And so, so true. I think Noreen and I each have a full house in our family trees.

Most Important People

I came across the attached article from the Naples Daily News (Florida) at the beginning of the year.

I don’t know I 100% agree with the author – well it is American! – as I think he has tilted the balance too far from the current norm and I think there is a balance to be struck. However from what I see around me the best adjusted children are those where the family apparently adheres, more or less, to his tenets.

Here’s an image of the article, and in case you can’t read it easily I reproduce the text below.

[ Image Removed ]


Naples Daily News, Sunday 1 January 2017

Your kids should not be the most important in the family

John Rosemond, Family Psychologist

I recently asked a married couple who have three kids, none of whom are yet teens, “Who are the most important people in your family?”

Like all good moms and dads of this brave new millennium, they answered, “Our kids!”

“Why?” I then asked. “What is it about your kids that gives them that status?” And like all good moms and dads of this brave new millennium, they couldn’t answer the question other than to fumble with appeals to emotion.

So, I answered the question for them: “There is no reasonable thing that gives your children that status.”

I went on to point out that many if not most of the problems they’re having with their kids – typical stuff, these days – are the result of treating their children as if they, their marriage, and their family exist because of the kids when it is, in fact, the other way around. Their kids exist because of them and their marriage and thrive because they have created a stable family.

Furthermore, without them. their kids wouldn’t eat well, have the nice clothing they wear, live in the nice home in which they live, enjoy the great vacations they enjoy, and so on. Instead of lives that are relatively carefree (despite the drama to the contrary that they occasionally manufacture), their children would be living lives full of worry and want.

This issue is really the heart of the matter. People my age know it’s the heart of the matter because when we were kids it was clear to us that our parents were the most important people in our families. And that, right there, is why we respected our parents and that, right there, is why we looked up to adults in general. Yes, Virginia, once upon a time in the United States of America, children were second-class citizens, to their advantage.

It was also clear to us – I speak, of course, in general terms, albeit accurate – that our parents marriages were more important to them than their relationships with us. Therefore, we did not sleep in their beds or interrupt their conversations. The family meal, at home, was regarded as more important than after-school activities. Mom and Dad talked more – a lot more – with one another than they talked with you. For lack of pedestals, we emancipated earlier and much more successfully than have children since.

The most important person in an army is the general. The most important person in a corporation is the CEO. The most important person in a classroom is the teacher. And the most important person in a family are the parents.

The most important thing about children is the need to prepare them properly for responsible citizenship. The primary objective should not be raising a straight-A student who excels at three sports, earns a spot on the Olympic swim team, goes to an A-list university and becomes a prominent brain surgeon. The primary objective is to raise a child such that community and culture are strengthened.

“Our child is the most important person in our family” is the first step toward raising a child who feels entitled.

You don’t want that. Unbeknownst to your child he doesn’t need that. And neither does America.


Photographs

As long-time readers will know, in between anything else happening I enjoy a bit of people watching. In the last week or so I’ve seen these.

Click the images for larger views

blokes
Blokes, Plotting
Pinner; July 2016

3_Witches
Three Nubile witches
South Ealing; July 2016

visions1
Visions of Babushka
Northfields, Ealing; July 2016

Weekly Photograph

This week a shot from way back in the archives. I took this on a visit to London Zoo back in 2008. Because it was a nice day the people watching was as good as seeing the animals. I couldn’t decide which were the better “inmates”.

Three Wise Moneys
Three Wise Moneys
London Zoo; June 2008

Click the image for larger views on Flickr

Weekly Photograph

Today Dora, my mother, should be celebrating her 100th birthday. But sadly she died towards the end of May, thus missing out by just over four months. As a tribute, and as this week’s photographs, I thought we should have what are I think the first and last images I have of her.

As far as I know I don’t have any photos from Dora’s childhood (but I should scour the family albums again), so this first is of a self-portrait in oils she painted when she was about 21 (she couldn’t remember exactly when), could be the earliest I have.

Dora self-portrait

The second is the last photo I took of her on her 99th birthday, a year ago. I have posted this before but make no apology for doing so again.

Dora at 99

Anyone interested can find my address at Dora’s funeral, and a few of her pieces of artwork, here.

We shall, of course, be drinking a toast to Dora later on today.

Ten Things #22

In a couple of days time my mother should have been celebrating her 100th birthday, but sadly she died earlier this year. So for this month’s Ten Things I thought we should do something to reflect on the momentous events my mother saw in her lifetime.

Ten Historical Events from My Mother’s Lifetime before She was 21 (in October 1936)

  1. Russian Revolution (1917)
  2. End of the Great War (1918)
  3. Spanish Flu Epidemic (1918-19)
  4. Creation of Irish Free State (1922)
  5. General Strike (1926)
  6. Universal suffrage for everyone over 21 in UK (1928)
  7. First talking films (1928)
  8. Wall Street Crash (1929)
  9. Hitler comes to power in Germany (1933)
  10. Accession of Edward VIII (1936) (but not the Abdication as that didn’t happen until December 1936)

And that is just the tip of the iceberg!

Ten Things #21

For this month’s Ten Things I thought we might have a bit more fun.

Over the years I’ve come across many strange, but perfectly genuine, names given to people. They range from the apparently ordinary (I once worked with a guy called Carl Marx) to the totally outrageous. Here are a few of the more outrageous.

Ten Remarkable Names of Real People

  1. About thirty years ago we had a vacation student working in our office who went by the name of Fanny Hyman
  2. … which I think is one step worse than the friend of a former colleague called Simone Kuhnt.
  3. Of course these aren’t all people I’ve encountered. Some, like the charity worker spotted in 2003, come from media reports. This lady was called Patricia Titti; I just hope she isn’t known as “Pat”.
  4. Continuing in this somewhat dubious vein, I once played cricket against a guy called Jimmy Riddle.
  5. Or again, back in 2000, there was a Urologist at the Devon & Exeter Hospital by the name of Brenda Wee. Which I think beats the urologist by the name of Jack Cox who once treated me.
  6. Going to the more mundane, we shouldn’t forget the former English rugby player, Austin Healey.
  7. But why is it that the medical profession seems to have more than its fair share of odd names, like the Canadian medic, spotted in 2001, by the name of Prof. Lester Grimspoon.
  8. Although to be fair the Victorians had their moments too. Doing family history searches recently I spotted Leonardi Da Vinci Williams (died 1846 in Lambeth).
  9. Oh but there are modern ones too, like Summer Helps whose birth was announced in the Times in 1997.
  10. Nevertheless I’m almost totally convinced that first prize must go to Patriarch Moran Mor Ignatius Zakka I Iwas, Supreme Head of the Universal Syriac Orthodox Church who died in 2014.

And there are hundreds more where they came from!

Book Review: Bare Reality

Laura Dodsworth
Bare Reality: 100 Women, Their Breasts, Their Stories
Pinter & Martin; 2015

Bare RealityThis is a fascinating book in which 100 women share un-photoshopped photographs of their breasts alongside honest, courageous, powerful and sometimes humorous stories about their breasts and their effect on their lives. The women come from all walks of life: from a Buddhist nun to a burlesque dancer; ages ranging from 19 to 101; everything from a 32AAA to a 36K bust; entirely natural through surgically enhanced and surgically reduced to bilateral radical mastectomy.

The cover blurb suggests the book will make you reconsider how you think and feel about your own body as well as those of the women in your life. And yes, it may for those who have not thought about these things before. Has it for me? I don’t think so, but the jury is still out. But these women’s perspectives and experiences are certainly revealing, intimate and at times moving.

The stories recounted cover the whole range:

  • I hate my breasts — I love my breasts
  • I wish they were bigger — I wish they were smaller
  • They’re totally non-sensitive — they’re so sensitive it’s painful
  • They don’t do anything sexually — they’re my most erogenous feature
  • Breastfeeding is so gross — I love breastfeeding
  • Breastfeeding is what they’re for — sex is what they’re for
  • I love bras — bras are the work of the Devil
  • I hated them, so a had them enhanced; now they’re horrible and I hate them more
  • I could never have them enlarged/reduced — can’t understand why everyone doesn’t have a boob job
  • This is the first time I’ve ever shown them to anyone — I’m nude all the time
  • How is it men never learn what to do with our breasts but my girlfriend just knows?
  • And of course, why are (most) men so fixated on breasts?

Probably everyone would agree there are a small number of real stunners (though we probably wouldn’t agree which ones) and there are an even smaller number of horrors (like one spectacularly bad boob job); but the vast majority are just breasts — normal breasts — just like you’d see on any topless beach; nothing to get hung up about.

Which is all very much as one might expect so I can’t say I was struck by anything at all surprising. Sad; pathetic; moving; joyous. Yes all of those. But no moment of “OMG how did I not know/suspect that?!”. And in a way I found that disappointing. I had expected there would be something profound about women and their breasts that had passed me by, but if so it isn’t revealed here.

That having been said I did find the book both interesting and compulsive reading. Whether you are male or female, if you want an insight into how women view their breasts this is a must read. I would commend the book to everyone, but especially to teenagers — of both genders, but boys especially — as an essential part of learning, understanding, cherishing and being completely comfortable with your, and everyone else’s, body. To which end we could now do with the equivalent books of male and female genitalia.

Oh, and do not expect the book to be titillating. It isn’t.

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆