Wednesday, July 29, 2009

How Do You Ruin California?

Answer: By turning it into a prison state!

My paternal grandfather dropped out of school after the 8th grade but his eldest son, my father, got the equivalent of a PhD. In our family, getting a higher education was a primary goal. Although we had very little money, my father insisted his five daughters go to college. This meant, when I was growing up, we never had a new car, I wore second hand clothes and we ate out in a restaurant on average once per year. When I first enrolled at UCSD in 1967, with my father paying my tuition, it was one of the best and most affordable colleges in the U.S. At that time higher education in California received 16.8% of the general fund while corrections received 4%. How times have changed! The latest state budget has only 9.7% going to higher education while the allocation for corrections has risen to 7.3%. Study after study show that healthier, longer lives (and lower health care costs) are directly correlated to education. If fewer and fewer Californians can afford college, more and more of them will end up in prison or dead prematurely. This is a sorry state indeed! Sphere: Related Content

Monday, July 27, 2009

Do the Good Die Young?

You be the Judge!

Audrey Hepburn, who played innocents in most of her films, died of cancer at age 63. Bette Davis, who played tough broads, also died of cancer but not until age 81.

How else do the #3 and #2 stars on AFI's 100 years ... 100 Stars list compare?

Audrey Hepburn
Academy Award nominations for Best Actress: 5
Oscars for Best Actress: 1 for Roman Holiday (1953)
Top grossing film: My Fair Lady (1964) with $531.2 million/($76.0 million) in all-release domestic box office (in equivalent 2009 $'s/(unadjusted $'s))
Top salary: $7.6 million/($1.1 million) for My Fair Lady (in equivalent 2009 $'s/(unadjusted $'s))

Bette Davis
Academy Award nominations for Best Actress: 11
Oscars for Best Actress: 2 for Dangerous (1935) and Jezebel (1938)
Top grossing film: Watch on the Rhine (1943) with $137.5 million/($5.6 million) in all-release domestic box office (in equivalent 2009 $'s/(unadjusted $'s))
Top salary: $1.4 million/($200,000) for Hush... Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964) (in equivalent 2009 $'s/(unadjusted $'s) Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Man Bit by Spider Becomes Superhero

It's comic con in San Diego and I'm sorry I'm not there. So, to tie in with the convention and continue the theme of death from spider bites, I thought it worth noting that some good things can come from spider bites - such as the creation of the super hero Spiderman. I mention this mainly because the design website that has the best anti-smoking images around HERE, also has some very cool Superhero artwork HERE Sphere: Related Content

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Watch out for deadly spiders!

Summer is one of the peak months for deadly spider bites. 18% of all 32 U.S. deaths, tabulated by the CDC 2002 through 2004 from venomous spider bites, occurred in the month of July. The spiders to look out for are the hobo, brown recluse and black widow. Information on what they look like can be found on the NIOSH website HERE. I've found two black widow spiders at my house. One was living under the roof and the other was hiding in the rose garden. Not only are they nasty for eating their lovers after mating, they make the ugliest spider webs I've ever seen. Worst of all, their venom is 15 times stronger than a rattlesnakes. More information on these unpleasant creatures can be found on the National Geographic website HERE.

photo from NIOSH Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Deadly Sea Monsters

Photo by Roy Caldwell;

Quirk, the publisher who brought you the popular book Pride and Prejudice and Zombies has a trailer here for their Quirk Classics #2 Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters. Contrary to appearances, most octopus are harmless, except for the Hapalochlaena lunulata which resides in tide pools in the Pacific ocean. It is one of the most venomous animals in the world with a toxicity 10,000 times greater than cyanide. The odds of getting killed by one, however, are nearly nil.

For more info on deadly sea creatures, see the Cause of Death book chapter on accidental deaths by Flora and Fauna and check out the California Academy of Sciences website and Australia's Great Barrier reef website on what to do if you're bitten by one Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Michael Jackson R.I.P.

The world has lost another gifted performer prematurely with the death of Michael Jackson at age 50. Although his death appears to have been accidental, and may or may not relate to use of the surgical anesthetic Propofol for insomnia, until the autopsy results are in what killed him is not yet known. What is clear is that it was too early for a male living in the U.S. According to the CIA World Factbook, the average U.S. male's life expectancy in 2009 is 75.65 years, 25 years more than Michael's life. Of course, if Michael Jackson had lived in Afghanistan, his life would have been longer than normal, given the average life expectancy of an Afghany male at 44.47 years.

I was lucky enough to meet the "King of Pop" at a Lucasfilm picnic in 1982 (as photographed above) several years before he starred in the short 17 minute George Lucas, Francis Ford Coppola 3-D film collaboration Captain Eo for Walt Disney Attractions in 1986. He was clearly an exceptional talent who will be missed. Sphere: Related Content

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Did you know insomnia can kill you?

According to the book Cause of Death, 3 people died from insomnia in 2001. Having recently experienced a bout of insomnia myself, which resulted in my canceling an event I was looking forward to, I did a little more research on this silent killer. According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), there are two types of insomnia. But there's an even scarier type called Fatal Familial Insomnia which is caused by a prion similar to that which is responsible for mad cow disease. In the case of insomnia, however, as with many other afflictions, the cure is often worse than the disease. Many more people die accidentally from drug overdoses trying to "cure" their insomnia (and other disorders) to the point that accidental drug overdoses are now the second cause of unintentional injury, second only to motor-vehicle crashes. There's an interesting podcast from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) here on that. So, having thrown away my sleeping pills, I may need to give up eating beef as well! Sphere: Related Content

Face It. We Can Go Anytime. But In So Many Different Ways!

Cause of Death is a great reference tool for writers, entomologists (some insects kill a lot of people) and anyone interested in health and death-related information. After all, we will all bite the dust, check out, buy the farm and kick the bucket but where we live, our sex, race, age, genetics and habits will ensure we will exit in our own unique way.

I can see this book being useful for people creating fiction where they need somebody to die, and fast.” - Cause of Death book review 'Where To Find Ingredients For Your Next Death Scene'

Death By Numbers

A Book In the Hand