Kissing and chemical weapons

February 15, 2009

A recent address to the American Association for the Advancement for Sciences has some interesting findings about kissing.  Being as non-romantic a caveman as likely exists on Earth (not to mention a long time interest in biochemistry) there were some interesting findings:

1.  Kissing releases chemicals in the brain that act on cortisol, which in turn reduces the feelings of stress.  That is, some of the “romantic feelings” one apparently feels while kissing isn’t so much romance, just general relief from stress.  This has long been suspected,  and really is not a surprise.

2.  Kissing may give partners a chance to unconsciously analyze each other’s saliva to determine their fitness as a mate.  I have my doubts …. I would need to see more studies on this before I accepted that this is happening too much.

3.  In men, a kiss raises oxytocin levels, and increases their feelings of wanting to form stronger emotional bonds.  Ladies:  if you want to really plant that hook into your man, you need to spend some time kissing.

4.  The oxytocin levels in women go down after kissing.  This is a bit surprising.  Oxytocin is, among other things, a hormone related to sexual excitement, so it seems that while there is a belief that kissing turns women on, it may in fact have the exact opposite effect.  Why?  Oxytocin, in addition to many other effects, also has a role in feelings of increasing trust and lowering fear.  So, would be lotharios need to be cautious:  kissing a strange woman will not put them into some kind of trance forcing her to fall madly in love.  Rather, it may induce a state where she is more willing to question what is going on (BTW …. oxytocin in women is also tied to feelings of good maternal behavior, so kids thinking that they can quell an angry mommy with a kiss on the lips should also think twice!)

5.  Can men fight back from this brainwashing?  It turns out they might be able to.  It seems that men have their own chemical weapons to deploy in a smooch.  The saliva of men contains (get ready for a shock) testosterone.  In addition to the obvious things, testosterone is a mild aphrodisiac for women.  So, a long wet, sloppy kiss might have an unconscious effect on that special someone.


Happy belated St. Valentine’s Day!



February 9, 2009

Showing how much he has learned about public relations, Alex Rodriguez has owned up to using steroids, claimed he was young and naive, and then blamed the reporter who wrote the story, lying that she had been charged with criminal trespass on his personal property.

I wonder if these athletes get their PR advice from whomever gave it to Mike Tyson (which I would suspect is one of the several voices that existed in Mike Tyson’s head).

First off, coming clean was good.  The part about young and naive was not so good, the firing back at the messenger was low class.

To wit:  Alex Rodriguez’ drug test, along with some 104 others which were found to be positive, were supposed to be destroyed after their use.  It seems that either Major League Baseball or the Players’ Union could have ordered these tests destroyed, but never did.

There is a lot of talk about the players’ union really screwing up.  I’m not sure I go with that.

If the tests were not destroyed, everyone on the planet knows that it was just a matter of time before a disgruntled employee, private investigator, government investigator, district attorney, overly curious fan, etc etc got their hands on them and outed at least some of those who tested positive.

Here is the question:  who stands the most to gain from those tests getting out?

–the media:  anything to keep a good story going;  though they clearly did nothing but taking advantage of what turned out to be a good source.

–MLB:  MLB has been crowing about how good their testing is, there is no need to dredge up what is supposed to be “the past”.

–MLB players:  interestingly, the honest players of baseball have the most to gain from this happening.  If the guilty are outed, the cloud that has settled over the entire game of baseball could clear away.  Right now, all players are under some ridiculous suspicion.  The honest are punished with the guilty.  If the names are released, there is a chance that the innocent can at least clear their names (not that you can prove a negative, of course).

I wonder if the union might have just let this go with the hope that the majority of players; the innocent ones, might finally be able to separate themselves from others.

There has been discussion about Hall of Fame voters writing off the past ten years or so of eligible players, given the doubt that exists over who has used performance enhancing chemicals.

Unions are generally designed to protect employees from employers, however there are times when employees are in conflict with each other.  What does the union do then?  I wonder if given the conflict, the union may have let this detail slide in an attempt to help most of their members?

Tales from the Front #1: How sharper than a serpent’s tooth

February 4, 2009

I have hoped for a while that one day I could write down my experiences in teaching in a book.  I’ve only been teaching fifteen years, and feel I have enough for a good one.  Today, while I was having lunch, I thought I needn’t wait, and that I could start putting virtual pen to virtual paper.


The first school I taught at was a little rough around the edges.  There were some truly great kids, but it was not a high accomplishing school, academically.  you had to be on your toes.  There were more than the usual number of fights, and quite a few kids got expelled or suspended for a myriad of reasons.

One afternoon in April, I was in my room after school (school had been out for maybe a half an hour, and I was grading.  Suddenly, I hear a blood curdling scream from out in the hall.  I knock over the stool I was sitting on rushing to the hall to see what is happening, fearing the worst (a knife?  a gun?).  I see a young lady running at full speed from the girls washroom, and not looking back.  As I arrive, a female colleague (a biology teacher) arrives too.  She slowly proceeds in, and I am continuing to think the worst (a body?).

She comes out after a moment with this “you’ve got to be kidding” look on her face.  She informs me that she discoerved what appeared to be a baby garter snake.  We laugh, because she was apparently thinking the worst too.  I volunteer to snap on the latex and go in and capture it to release it to the wild (I’m not even sure why I put the gloves on … I had handled dozens of garter snakes as a kid).  I snap on the gloves and go in and corner the snake, and pick it up by the tail.  Sure enough:  black snake, yellow- green racing stripes down the side:  one run-of-the-mill common garter snake.

As I am lifting it, the snake twists its head up and bites.  I let go of the tail, and gently grab the head.  The teeth had broken the latex, but had barely touched my skin.  No big deal.  I escort the snake to the door, and gently put him in the grass.

As I am walking back to show off my “wound” to my colleague, the assistant principal arrives.

The AP was a Doctor of Education, and insisted that everyone refer to her as “doctor”.  It was from that moment that, in deference to having to call her doctor that I started using “doctor” as a common greeting to anyone.  She even called me on that once when I called someone “doctor”, and she asked if that person had earned their doctorate.  Her heart was in the right place, but I always got the impression she was more into pomp and circumstance than genuine education and student welfare ….. but I digress.

She arrived and wanted to know what was going on.  We had a good laugh, but when I mentioned that the snake had bitten the gloves, her demeanor changed.

“We have to get you to the hospital.  Are you able to drive?”

I started laughing …. I explained that garter snakes were not poisonous, that I had handled them many times, that the skin hadn’t been broken, and I suspect not even touched.

She informed me that an accident had occurred, and that until I was cleared by a physician, I couldn’t return to work.

Needless to say, I was now upset, but more than able to drive to the emergency room at the local hospital.

I arrive, and inform them of a snake bite.

“Do you have the snake?”  “Are you sure it is not poisonous?” “Are you feeling dizzy?”

When they asked to see the bite, the admitting nurse that this was a joke.  I told her the story, ending with the part “not to be admitted to work until cleared by a physician.”  She said it might be a while.

Three hours later, I was admitted to a bed.  For the fourth time, I explained my story to a nurse who was rightfully more angry than I was.  I finally saw a doctor, who seemed to take it in stride.  I soaked my hand in what I think was iodine for 20 minutes.  The nurse returned and donned a pair of gloves, removed a band aid, unrolled it, and put it on my now dry finger.

Fortunately, the school paid workman’s comp on the hospital visit.  The good Dr. AP was in the science office promptly the next morning to receive my letter of clearance.  I then had to fill out an accident report.  I hope that whoever read that got to see the exorbitant hospital bill that accompanied that.  I still never got back the four hours of my life.

Tip to budding school administrators:  There is a difference between getting bitten by a timber rattlesnake, and grazed by a garter snake.  Rules are good, but common sense is a far more important thing to have, if you want to be a good leader.