Got a mean aunt or drunkle? Your kids can learn from them

The Globe and Mail

(Lisa F. Young/Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Relatives? A lesson for you

“With the holidays fast approaching, many of us are bracing for our annual interactions with the family eccentrics and oddballs, particularly if those interactions will include children or teens,” the Chicago Tribune says. “The good news, experts say, is that as long as the relative isn’t physically violent or emotionally abusive, you have a lot of options, from debriefing a teenager embarrassed by an eccentric uncle’s harmless quirks, to teaming up with other parents to monitor a sharp-tongued great-aunt when she’s interacting with young children, to deploying a little humour when discouraging a hard-living relative from using profanity. The better news is that your kids may actually learn something about tolerance and empathy along the way.”

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Swinging to another beat

“At the Eastman School of Music [in Rochester, N.Y.] students toil away in classrooms and concert halls hoping to one day join music royalty like Yo-Yo Ma and Renee Fleming,” says The Wall Street Journal. “On a recent Saturday, however, a group of them filed into an industrial building with much different goals. ‘I love having this one hour where I don’t have to worry about anything except punching stuff,’ said Danny Ziemann, a 21-year-old senior double-majoring in music education and jazz performance. Here at ROC Boxing & Fitness Center, a no-frills gym, about 20 music students are subjects of an experiment by Eastman professor James VanDemark, a double bassist who believes boxing breeds better musicians. To test that theory, students are spending about an hour a week this semester with long-time trainer Dom Arioli, who has them work the heavy bag, hone their jabs and bang out pushups.”

You will meet a stranger?

“Imagine a ‘pre-social’ network,” says the New Scientist. “… Such a network would predict where users will go, how long they will stay and who they are likely to meet there. It may sound Orwellian, but a team which has developed technology that does this believes it could spawn a novel form of social network – one which tells its users where and when people with similar interests or habits are likely to congregate. The system, named Jyotish after the Sanskrit term for Hindu astrology, was developed at Boeing’s research centre at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. … [It] draws up maps of people’s movements by monitoring the connections their smartphones make to Wi-Fi and Bluetooth networks, which have ranges of 100 and 10 metres respectively – small enough to pin down users’ locations and thus who they meet.”

Leonard? It’s me, Sam

“Certain wasps have a remarkable ability to recognize the faces of other wasps,” Discovery News reports. “And much like humans, these stinging insects are more attuned to those faces than they are to any other shape, including the caterpillars they eat, a new study has found. … The wasps are ‘phenomenally better at learning wasp faces than anything else we tested them on,’ said Michael Sheehan, a graduate student in evolutionary biology at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. … To a set of untrained and fearful human eyes, all wasps look alike. But, if you’re willing to get close enough to a variety of paper wasps called Polistes fuscatus, there are obvious differences in the colours and patterns that cover their faces. Previous studies have shown that these wasps can both recognize faces and remember them for at least a week. Because this species lives in communities with multiple queens who must follow a strict hierarchy, the theory is they developed facial recognition skills in order to more accurately know their place in line.”

Carjackers foiled

Two carjackers in Florida gave up trying to steal a 2007 Nissan when they discovered the car was a stick shift, says Associated Press. “The St. Petersburg Times reports that a man and his girlfriend were leaving his workplace early Friday morning when two men pulled a handgun. The assailants said if the couple didn’t get out of the car, they would shoot. The men then jumped into the car and started it, but didn’t get far. Police say the carjackers couldn’t drive stick, so they gave up and ran away.”

Thought du jour

“Music with dinner is an insult both to the cook and the violinist.”

- G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936), English writer

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