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16 December 2010 / Liz Johns

Sleep A Bit Less, Live A Bit Longer, Or So They Say

Tired? Me too. I could do with a couple of extra hours sleep per night. Or could I?

I’ve always found 8 and a 1/2 hours sleep to be the optimum, but a survey done a few years back by a couple of researchers in Japan revealed that people who sleep roughly 7 hours a night live longer than those who sleep more. They found that those who slept 8 hours a night had a “significantly higher mortality than those who slept 7 hours” with mortality risks increasing the longer the snooze. Moving in the other direction, it was only when people reported having 4 hours sleep or less a night that increased mortality was again noted.

So we might be better off with 7 hours sleep a night, but there are some animals out there who need far less than that and some that need far more. The beloved giraffe is the shortest sleeper amongst mammals. They sleep only 1.9 hours a night on average, and often that is taken in smaller naps. As well as needing an incredibly short sleep per night, they mostly sleep standing up, twisting their necks back and resting their heads on their backs. Read more…

5 December 2010 / Liz Johns

‘Tis the Season to be Sneeze’n: Except for Animals, Right?

A glorious summer is with us already, and so soon. We’ve barely dipped our toes into December and already we’ve enjoyed at least two weeks of jandal and sunscreen weather. And even today’s cloudy coolness hasn’t spoilt the summer mood. But there is something that spoils the summer mood, at least for some of us. Hay fever (or allergic rhinitis to use the correct terminology).

Rhinitis means “irritation of the nose” and is a derivative of rhino, meaning nose.

As I rub my itchy eyes and watch the sheep dip their noses deep into the seeding grass, I wonder – why aren’t the sheep sneezing? Or any of my other pets either? They all seem immune to hay fever. I guess it’s just people that are affected by the spring and summer pollen and grass seeds, right? Read more…

27 November 2010 / Liz Johns

Do You See What I See? I Guess It Depends Where Your Eyes Are.

We know the chicken crossed the road to get to other side, but how did he do it safely? Easy, by looking left and right at the same time. No left-right-and-left-again rule for this chicken. Anatomically designed with eyes on the side of his head, he was able to see panoramically, which in this case means that he could see to the left and to the right at the same time without moving his head.

Like Having Eyes in the Back of your Head

I always wondered what it would be like to have the vision of an animal with eyes on the side of its head. To be able to see in different directions at the same time. Only being able to look forward is rather limiting at times. I’ve seen my parrot tilt his head and stare intently at something on the grass, but then thought, how do I know that he’s focusing on the ground, maybe something way up in the sky has caught his attention instead? Maybe there’s something in the grass and something flying up high and he’s watching both. I’ve tried to imagine what this ability is like and noticed that if you try to see what’s to your left and to your right at the same time (without moving your head), that your brain gets so lost in this impossible task that it stops its mindless chatter for a brief moment and you think of nothing. A useful aid in meditation don’t you think? Read more…

20 November 2010 / Liz Johns

Bird Evolution – Dinosaurs Not The Solution???

PLEASE READ MILOS BABIC COMMENT BELOW – It gives a different and what I believe now, more accurate viewpoint on the bird-dinosaur debate.

Sometimes, a ‘fact’ comes into human knowledge and, for some unfathomable reason, takes root as a certainty. And few think to dispute it. Take for example the concept that a swan can break your arm. I’ve heard people say this with absolute belief, but come on – a swan breaking a human limb? What does it do, twist its neck around your arm, conduct a clever twisting movement and snappity-snap, one arm broken? Seems a tad difficult to believe.

Hearing is believing

Another piece of information that has been taken up with enthusiasm without any regard for evidence is the idea that birds evolved from dinosaurs. The concept of the ‘dino-bird’ is very popular, not only with the common man, but with much of the bio-scientific community as well. I have to admit, it does sound great, birds evolving from dinosaurs, and I’d love it to be true that our feathered companions were once our dinosaur predecessors, but it is in fact, unproven, and quite likely, totally false. Read more…

11 November 2010 / Liz Johns

Do Animals Have Good Taste and What the Heck is Umami Anyway?

It’s all a matter of taste. You like sweet. I like savoury. She likes umami. Um-what-i? It’s the fifth taste apparently and it is difficult to describe. It’s defined as the flavour of  ‘delicious taste’. No, I don’t understand what it is either, but let’s move on. The taste of food makes us enjoy eating, and for many of us, too much eating. But how so with animals? Do they get the same taste enjoyment out of their food or do they simply use food as fuel to live? Read more…

6 November 2010 / Liz Johns

How do Cats find their Way Home? They Take the Train, Of Course.

We’ve all read or heard those stories where cats have wandered away from home and are subsequently discovered many, many kilometres away. Or, of owners who have moved house to another part of the country, their cat has gone missing and is found right back at the original house. “How amazing that they walked so far? How did they know which direction to take?”, we exclaim. But don’t be fooled by this, cats aren’t that daft, they don’t walk those long, tiring distances – they take the train! “They don’t!” Okay, perhaps not all of them, but SOME of them take the train.

"Cat" for adoption. Lively, adventurous, but keep away from train drivers.

Like “Cat“, who stepped off the mid-afternoon Tranz Metro Waiarapa train at Wellington Central Station, much to the surprise of the station guards.  They apprehended him (not without a struggle and few deep scratches to the train driver) and took him to Wellington SPCA. No one saw Cat get on the train so it’s unknown which station he came from. He’s a grey, male short-hair, approximately 2 years old and lives somewhere between Masterton and Wellington. Know him? If you do, get in touch with Wellington SPCA.

Read more…

25 October 2010 / Liz Johns

The Latest in Sustainable Interior Decor – Egg Tray Wallpaper

Doesn't my colouring look great against these egg trays.

Now, I’m not normally one for setting trends, but I think I’ve stumbled upon something here that’ll become the leading light in eco-interior decor. Egg tray wallpaper. Before you scoff, ponder on the advantages that egg tray wallpaper has over traditional papering . Firstly, it’s cheap, really cheap. Each tray costs only about 60 cents. Secondly, you can purchase recycled egg trays so you’ll be able to proudly declare that you’re helping to save the earth. Also, egg trays are very easy to secure to the wall with PVA glue (the ‘friendly school glue’), so you’ll have the walls decorated in half the time of conventional wallpapering with a quarter of the mess. And finally, egg trays provide a modicum of insulation and a smidgen of sound proofing. And you will have, let’s face it, a uniquely decorated room.

You too could have walls like these!

My reason for decorating a room with egg trays (see pics) didn’t stem from any earth-friendly compulsion or lack of money, it was mainly an experiment to see whether I could sound proof a room with egg trays to muffle the occasional, but excruciatingly annoying bird song that emanates from my darling parrots. (Yes, they have a room of their own in the house, is that not normal?) The result of this experiment was a very slight, but barely noticeable reduction in noise. So not a great success. But the parrots themselves have great fun climbing around the walls and chewing the cardboard egg trays, so they’re pretty happy about their new decor.

Those torn egg trays behind me? Nothing to do with me.

All in all, I think egg tray wallpaper could be the latest in sustainable interior decor. If it catches on, remember, you saw it here first 🙂

19 September 2010 / Liz Johns

My Car Won’t Start. Have You Checked for Rats?

Personally, I like rats. Both the domestic ones and the wild ones. They’ve got such cute faces, haven’t they? But I agree that they can cause big problems.

The other week I went to start my car and was not surprised in the least that it didn’t start as it had been standing for about five or six weeks and the car has a history of battery issues. Anyway, I got it jump started and took it the garage to get a new battery. There was something else wrong with the electrics, so I left the car at the garage. A few days later, the mechanic rang and told me that he’d discovered the problem – there was evidence of rats living in the car and they’d chewed through some cables! I was, to say the least, quite surprised.

Read more…

19 August 2010 / Liz Johns

If Humans Could Adopt Any Animal Trait #3 Fur

Somehow and somewhere along the evolutional route, humans lost their fur. Left only with a few tufts of strategically placed hair on our bodies, we humans are the hairless animals, the skinned variety. No sleek fur, curly wool or fine feathers for us and I personally think it’s a great shame. Why?

Having Fur Would Make it Easier to Get Ready in the Morning

What a drag, every morning, showering, putting on make up  (for the ladies), shaving (for the gentlemen), selecting clothes to wear, putting them on . . . it’s all too much and too time-consuming. If we were furry all over, we could get up, shower, blow dry and be done. Granted it may take a little longer to blow dry a body of fur, but I still believe it would be quicker and easier to get ready for the day. Read more…

10 August 2010 / Liz Johns

If Humans Could Adopt Any Animal Trait #2 Hibernation

Okay, so some people love being awake, filling their days with all the enticements the world has to offer. Some people hop out of bed in a spritely fashion, eager to start the day, wondering hopefully what will unfold. Others, well, not quite so chirpy to see the day again and finding it just a little bit of an effort to grind through the daily requirements. The latter group (of which I am a long-standing member) do not bounce out of bed like they’re one of life’s yoyos, they prefer the seductive hug of the arms of Morpheus; they look forward to the bliss of falling asleep at night and are quite loathe to leave their warm, soft beds when morning arrives.

It is with this group of people in mind that I am recommending the human adoption of animal trait #2 – Hibernation. Read more…

6 August 2010 / Liz Johns

If Humans Could Adopt Any Animal Trait #1 Purring

Image courtesy of designfart.blogspot.comYou bump into an old friend on the street, you are delighted to see each other, you smile, laugh, share some news, how great would it then be if you could purr your contentment. Yes, my first choice in the adoption of animal traits to enhance a human is . . . . purring.

And here’s why.

Purring would make for a good night’s sleep. I am often lulled to sleep by the purred duet of two of my cats and I find it immensely restful and calming. I’ve found it’s the best remedy for sleepless nights, far better than the recommended, but ultimately useless, herb and tea concoctions. Imagine then how useful it would be if we could purr ourselves to sleep. Read more…

26 July 2010 / Liz Johns

Beyond our Animal Nature and Along the Moonlit Path

There’s an incandescently wonderful full moon tonight and the whole place is illuminated. It’s something that always amazes me, how a full moon can light up the night so clearly. I’ve spent most of my life living in cities or suburbia where street lights and building lights dull the night sky and the influence of a full moon is lost. Now, living in a rural location where there are no street lights and the neighbours’ house lights are out of view, a clear sky and full moon is a spectacular sight. I can see across the valley to the alpacas on the hill, I can see cows in my next door neighbour’s field, I can see the road, the pine forest, the bush, my bemused sheep who are still out at 11.30 at night eating. The moonlight casts such a gentle light tonight, it looks like a silvery-blue frost has settled across the valley.

Read more…

24 July 2010 / Liz Johns

Where’d Everybody Go? The Art of Animal Camouflage

Ever had one of those days when you just wanted to blend into the background? Just wanted to sink into the sofa and disappear? Here are some creatures that can do just that. Well, maybe they couldn’t disappear against the sofa, but put them in their own habitats and . . . hey, where’d everybody go?

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21 July 2010 / Liz Johns

News Bite: Guido Cagnacci’s Painting ‘Death of Cleopatra’ Declared a Fake

The famous artistic depiction by Cagnacci of Cleopatra committing suicide with an asp has been declared fake. No, not the painting itself, but the subject matter. German historian, Christoph Shäfer, has cleared the asp of alleged assisted suicide and revealed his belief that Cleopatra most likely took her own life using a combination of lethal poisons. Read more…

15 July 2010 / Liz Johns

The Nightly Visits of Patrick the Possum

One the joys of living in New Zealand, for me at least, is experiencing the delightful, nocturnal company of the possum. (Let me pause whilst all the Kiwis take an audibly sharp intake of breath.) Yes, this Aussie creature is classified as a pest in New Zealand and possums are openly killed, but I’m not going to expand on the whys and wherefores of this action (maybe another time when I get my soap box out), this post is merely to introduce you to Patrick. Patrick, my friendly-neighbourhood Possum.

In the beginning, Patrick used to mooch around just outside the back door, stealing the leftover chook food. As the back door is left open for the cats to come in and out at night (even though there is a perfectly good cat flap in another door) it wasn’t long before Patrick invited himself in to search the house for tidbits of food, and after that he started visiting every night. I know he visits, even though I don’t always hear him come in, because of the tell-tale signs in the kitchen the morning after, apples with bites taken out of them, half-eaten bananas and the previous night’s dinner plates mysteriously devoid of all leftovers. Read more…