Friday, May 31, 2013

Human Hair

This post was inspired by the fact that my daughter got ahold of the scissors last night.  I wondered about hair, and how it works, how fast it grows etc., because she cut her hair down to the scalp in some spots

Encyclopedia Brittanica explains it this way:
"The number of scalp hairs, which grow about 0.5 in. (13 mm) per month, averages 100,000–150,000. The hair shaft (above the skin) is dead tissue, composed of keratin. Only a few growing cells at the base of the root are alive."

SOOOO, my daughter basically has a shaved head right now, and a rate of 1/2 an inch a month, to get back to where her hair was, it's going to take about a year and a half.

hair. (2012). In Britannica Concise Encyclopedia.

Thursday, May 30, 2013


Had some adventures tonight which I will detail more later. One thing involved was a large container of catnip dumped all over the floor of our living room and a cat covered in shaving cream.

So I wondered how catnip works.  Because Tony always jokes that it's cat weed, and that it makes our cats stoned.  I'm not sure that's exactly a correct comparison, so I wanted to do a little research.

Catnip Facts:

  • Catnip contains 14 different chemical components which cause a reaction in cats
  • Some cats do not react to catnip
  • The catnip response only lasts about 15 minutes
  • Catnip is actually an effective mosquito repellant
  • Kittens younger than 8 weeks will not react to catnip even if they possess the gene which causes reactions in adult cats. (When they reach adulthood, they WILL react)

Catnip and the Catnip Response
Arthur O. Tucker and Sharon S. Tucker
Economic Botany , Vol. 42, No. 2 (Apr. - Jun., 1988), pp. 214-231
Published by: Springer on behalf of New York Botanical Garden Press
Article Stable URL:

Wednesday, May 29, 2013


Simba is one of our new cats. 

He has extra toes on his two front paws which is known as polydactyly.

I thought it was interesting that polydactylism is actually a dominant trait.  Basically, if either parent  has the gene on both arms of the autosome (non-sex chromosome) for it, a child will express the trait.  I remember learning about this in my biology classes in high school using Punnett squares and it was one of my favorite parts of the course, although I can't put my finger on why.  For those of you interested in the scientific definition, see below.

"Polydactylism (also known as 

a congenital anomaly characterized by the presence of more than the normal number of fingers or toes. The condition is usually inherited as an autosomal-dominant characteristic...."

a pattern of inheritance in which the transmission of a dominant allele on an autosome causes a trait to be expressed. Males and females are usually affected with equal frequency. If both parents are heterozygous (Aa), each of their children has a 50% chance of being heterozygous, a 25% chance of being homozygous for the dominant allele (AA), and a 25% chance of being homozygous for the recessive allele (aa); children with either of the first two genotypes will express the trait of the dominant allele. If one parent is homozygous for the dominant allele, all of the children will express the trait. Achondroplasia, osteogenesis imperfecta, polydactyly, Marfan's syndrome, and some neuromuscular disorders are transmitted through autosomal-dominant inheritance...."

polydactyly. (2012). In Mosby's Dictionary of Medicine, Nursing, & Health Professions.

hyperdactyly. (2012). In Mosby's Dictionary of Medicine, Nursing, & Health Professions.

autosomal-dominant inheritance. (2012). In Mosby's Dictionary of Medicine, Nursing, & Health Professions.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Fox and the Hound

With the recent kerfuffle about Netflix losing it's rights to Nickelodeon (described here) we noticed that we picked up some classic Disney cartoons.  So we watched a few!  My daughter has decided Dumbo is my favorite movie, I'm not sure why.  We watched it once....

We also watched an old favorite: The Fox and the Hound.  And I noticed something interesting in the credits.  It was apparently one of the first movies for Corey Feldman (as young Copper, who has my favorite line delivery "I'm a HOUND dog!") and Kurt Russell (as grown-up Copper), both of whom were child actors who worked fairly extensively in commercials and television before moving to the big screen. 

In honor of the movie, here are some other interesting tidbits.  Big Mama, the owl, is voiced by Pearl Bailey, a well known Vaudeville and Broadway performer who won a Tony for her performance in the all-black production of Hello Dolly in 1968.  By the time the Fox and the Hound came out in 1981 she was considerably less well known, although still busily writing novels, releasing records and working in television and on stage.  Interestingly, she went back to school late in life and earned a B.A. in Theology in 1985 at the age of 69.

The movie is based on a book of the same name, although the story was considerably 'lightened up' for the movie (In the book at least one character dies.).  You can read about the author here or in the Wikipedia article here.

The film was "the most expensive animated film produced at the time, at a cost of $12 million." (Wikipedia)

Interesting fox fact of the day: A fox has several chromosomal differences from others in the family Canidae and thus cannot cross breed with dogs or other canines. 

Some interesting links

Monday, May 27, 2013

Into the Woods as a movie?

I love Stephen Sondheim.  His work is biting, brilliantly conceived, complex, revelatory and generally amazing. 

I also love Joanna Gleason in her creation of the role of the Baker's Wife in Sondheim's Into the Woods (for which she won a Tony).  So, I was excited when I heard that there was a movie version of Woods in the works, but less so when I heard the role of the Baker's Wife was being played by an actress who is best known for her non-singing movie roles, Emily Blunt. 

From what I can find in various online sources, Blunt had a relationship with Michael Buble, a well known Canadian singer who has a lovely voice but nothing in her various online bios indicate that she herself sings. CORRECTION:  I found this video from a show she was in

While this is lovely, I don't know.  I need to hear some more.  Because the Baker's Wife sings.  A LOT.  She's really, with the Witch, the core that holds the show together.

Skip to 4:06 here, supposedly that's Miss Blunt doing background vocals.

So I'm still not sold on her....holding out hope that she can pull it off.

 The Witch is being played by Meryl Streep.  One of my favorite actors ever.  Stepping into a role best known for being played by one of my OTHER favorites, Bernadette Peters.

Unfortunately, as much as I love Meryl, she demonstrated rather clearly in Mamma Mia, that she really doesn't have the strongest singing voice.  Luckily for her, most of the Witch's songs are more about acting than singing, but the list builds, you can see why I'm slightly concerned that one of my favorite musicals is going to get BUTCHERED. 

Johnny Depp as the Wolf, that one I can see.  Really only there for a bit, just the one major song really.  He's being under-utilized in that role if you ask me.

The Prince's  Jake Gyllenhaal,  and Chris Pine.

Jake sang on SNL, and despite his obvious playing it for the laugh, his voice is not terrible.

According to sources, Chris really sings here

And it's not bad, but it's awfully low for someone who is going to be playing on of Sondheim's Prince's.  I want to know how his upper register sounds, because, if you compare that video, to THIS

As Rapunzel's Prince, which it appears he is?  Maybe.  I haven't looked at the sheet music in too much detail, but on the surface, it seems his range is more suited to Cinderella's Prince, at least they way the notes are divided in "Agony".  There, I could be wrong....

I'm not familiar with James Corden who is listed as playing the Baker.

No word on Cinderella or Little Red yet.  Cinderella is pretty important to the story, Little Red, not as much.  The only major male role left is Jack, who has a pretty challenging song in "Giants in the Sky"

Others agree with me apparently...we are nervous for this movie....

SOOO, not sure this is learning today.  More commentary.  Back to 'knowledge' tomorrow!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Random learning of the day

We've recently become enamored of a place here in Springville called Yummies which sells frozen custard. The lady who waited on us when we first ordered it told us a little bit about it how it was different from 'regular' ice cream, but I couldn't remember, so I hit up Wikipedia to see what it said the difference was.

It seems that the major difference between the different types of ice cream like products available these days (and in different cultures even...I learned some quite interesting cultural types exist like the Japanes mochi ice cream and Turkish dondurma) is the amount of butter fat they have in them.

UPDATE: Yummies is no was demolished to make way for the new Springville library about a year ago.  They do still have a little 'outlet' in the Provo mall.

The old building was kind of neat looking.  A friend at Backstage took this picture
Yummies Photo by Jennifer

Saturday, May 25, 2013

New Goal

I'm going to try to post SOMETHING that I learned on this blog every day.

So here goes, day 1.

My friend Sue at work is studying to be a citizen, and she has a civics lesson manual for the naturalization test.  I have been quizzing her.  Today I learned that Pennsylvania actually shares a TEENY TINY border with Canada.  There are 13 U.S. States which border Canada.  A couple of them are obvious, but if you look at a map, it's interesting to see how 4 of the 5 Great Lakes are actually divided in half, and because of that Canada shares a border with Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York.