Monday, November 30, 2015

Why does Rudolph have a shiny nose?


For generations children have been fascinated with Santa's reindeer, especially the beloved Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. While adored by millions, no one has ever known exactly why Rudolph has such a bright and shiny nose. 
However, in 2012 researchers in Norway and the Netherlands set out to find out why from a scientific perspective why a reindeer's nose may glow.

The team of scientists wrote a paper about their findings entitled, "Microcirculatory investigations of nasal mucosa in reindeer Rangifer tarandus (Mammalia, Artiodactyla, Cervidae): Rudolph's nose was overheated."

In order to conclude why Rudolph has a red nose, the team of researchers used a hand-held microscope to examine a variety of nasal linings. This included: Five healthy humans, two reindeer and an individual with a nasal growth, of the non-cancerous type. The scientists used infrared technology to examine participants.

Described as a "tongue-in-cheek" investigation, the scientists found in their experiment that reindeer noses contain a higher number of blood vessels than humans and that the massive amount of exercise they do once a year while flying at rapid speeds also has an impact.
Santa's reindeer are estimated to deliver to 100 million homes and travel about 650 miles (1,000 kilometers) per second, which is no small feat.

The scientists did reportedly admit this study is not conclusive and that Rudolph may have had a cold, a hangover or an infection. (The question begs asking - one can't help but wonder based on testing results, if it is due to the number of blood vessels, why aren't the other eight reindeer sporting shiny red snouts too?)

In December 2013 a group of scientists from Sweden also decided to get to the bottom of this age-old question. They used a thermographic camera to examine things a bit more. Their study can be seen in the video above. 

"Rudolph" is listed as one of the top best-selling secular Christmas songs of all time, only second to "White Christmas". Did you know "Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer" was originally written in the 1930s? It was later set to music after WWII. While Rudolph and his shiny nose are famous, his origin is lesser known

Friday, November 13, 2015

Avoid being a carjack victim during the holidays

Photo credit: Leigh Goessl
This time of year is often associated with a higher number of crime incidents, primarily associated with theft, whether retail or burglary. However, carjacking is one crime that also tends to increase. 

These tips are important year-round, but being theft-related crime tends to increase over the holidays, during the months of November and December it is a good idea to be more vigilant.

Knowing what to look for in will decrease the chances of your becoming a carjacking victim:
  • Pay close attention to your surroundings.
  • Always be on alert to any activity near your car.
  • Check the inside of your car before entering it.
  • Have keys in your hand as you approach your car.
  • If any suspicious persons are hanging around your car, keep walking.
  • Pay careful attention to people asking questions or handing out flyers, this could be a ruse.
  • Once in your car, lock it immediately.
  • If suspicious strangers are walking on your street, keep driving until they've gone.
Remember, anyone can be a target and carjacking incidents occur both during the day and at night. Experts recommend being alert at ATMs and if another car bumps yours, to keep doors and windows closed until police arrive. Washington, D.C. authorities note a car is replaceable, you are not. If a carjacker threatens you with a gun or other weapon, give up the car.

Carjacking is a very serious crime and, while it is impossible to avoid in some cases, being prepared with information and strategies can help keep you safer. Avoid being a carjack victim.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Poetry: Dreaming of You

I dreamed of you again last night
It caught me so off guard
Awakened me with such a fright
Feeling confused and marred

Images conjured in the mind
Of a place so far away
Timeline mixed up, stars not aligned
Confusion leads astray

In my dreams I keep seeing you
At a place that doesn't exist
Sky is foggy, grass full of dew
You are floating in the mist
tree in fog
Image credit: Leigh G.

Through the fog you seemed so clear
Yet standing far away
Despite distance you felt so near
Amidst those clouds all gray

Tried to reach you to say a word
But then you disappeared
Though I shouted you had not heard
Suddenly you reappeared

Reached for your hand to help me through
Then your likeness promptly faded
Your wings sprouted and then you flew
Visions became more jaded

Swiftly I awake with a start
The dream abruptly ends
Wakeful with thoughts dear to the heart
And hoping someday the heart mends

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Scam alert: $100 Bill on windshield


Scam alert!

As the busy holiday season kicks up in high gear, it is a good idea to watch out for fraud. Not that we shouldn't be on alert for potential scams at any time of the year, but this is the time we tend to be preoccupied. 

A ripe time for schemers to come in to try to take advantage of people.

Last year authorities in Maryland put out a warning to the public. This scam involved placing a $100 bill on car windshields. What happens is a shopper comes of out a store and finds a $100 bill on his or her windshield.

What the scammers are reportedly doing is hoping car owners have unlocked their cars and then get out to see what is on their windshield, leaving the door open. Next, the thieves jump in and take off with the car.

Snopes reported this type of scam as a hoax on its website, noting it has been circulating the web since about 2004. However, as is common with crime, "copycats" could easily be taking what was once a hoax and applying it in real life.

Either way, one can never be too careful. After all, 'tis the season for scams.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

'Tis the season for scams - watch out for these holiday frauds

As Thanksgiving Day arrives in the United States, it is not only the season to be jolly, but the season for scams for the next six weeks. This is a busy time of year. People are shopping, attending parties, and a flurry of other activity.  In other words, people might be distracted, which makes for a perfect scenario for a scammer to hatch a scheme to lure his or her prey.
Mobile with festive decorations
CC0 Image by beahohl / Pixabay

Scams that tend to circulate around the holidays include:
  • Phishing emails offering great deals (a good rule of thumb - if you haven't done business with the company - it's likely a scam).
  • Links on social media offering free or next-to-free goods. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Also many of these links may contain malware or other compromising attributes. If a deal is valid, it will be advertised on the official website or possibly in the media.
  • Fake charities. Schemers try to appeal to the generosity of people creating fake charities or finding other ways to steal money (or identities!). Always verify through a reputable source before giving cash, checks or credit card numbers.
  • Bogus apps. Mobile use is increasing at an incredible rate. Beware of questionable apps and always use official app stores when downloading.
  • "Year in Review" articles. These often contain interesting titles and are used as bait to lure users to click on bad links which may contain malware.
  • Videos. In the past, this has run rampant on Facebook. Watch out for video links that seem sensational or unbelievable.
  • Free gift cards. No company is going to give you a free $100 gift card (and in 2014 this one is going out from multiple "companies", I've received a ton of them myself).
  • Fake delivery notices. In Dec. 2014 the U.S. Federal Trade Commission warned of a fake “delivery failure notification” email scam at a time of year many people are expecting packages. There have also been other emails allegedly coming from popular retailers. 
According to ScamBusters.org, the time frame between Thanksgiving and Christmas is the "busiest" season for scams. 

It's a good idea to be vigilant at all times, 'tis the Season for Scams, be especially careful during the holidays.