Talking turkey with Butterball’s hotline

This is the first American Thanksgiving I’ll be away from Amy, but it’s not such a big deal because it’s too damn hot in Brisbane at this time of year.

turkey.headWe used to run the food safety hotline in Canada, and had all the inquiries you could imagine.

So do the staff at Butterball’s Turkey Talk-Line.

What started in 1981 as a group of six home economists answering calls has grown into a staff of more than 50 food and nutrition experts answering questions via phone, email, online chats and social media.

The hotline is open from early November to the day before Christmas and receives more than 100,000 questions per year. But, not surprisingly, the volume of questions peaks on Thanksgiving day, when the group answers more than 12,000 calls, Sue Smith, co-director of Butterball’s Turkey Talk-line, told USA TODAY Network.

Some of the questions:

• A mother returned home from work to find her husband thawing a frozen turkey in the bathtub while simultaneously washing up the kids. “The kids were like, ‘The water’s cold!’ because, you know, it’s a frozen turkey,” Smith said.

• A woman called the Talk-Line whispering her questions. When asked to speak up, the newlywed explained she was hiding in the closet from her mother-in-law, whom she was trying to impress.

• A young man hosting his first Thanksgiving called the Talk-Line while in a grocery store. A turkey expert stayed on the phone as he walked the aisle, advising him of all the items he’d need to buy.

• A landlord called panicked because his oven was too small to cook a turkey. He eventually was able to “rent” one from a tenant for $25. He thought he’d have to interrupt them every 10 minutes to baste it, but called the Talk-Line to learn that Butterball turkeys come pre-basted.

butterball• A woman lost power one hour into cooking her turkey and called the Talk-Line. The hotline talked her through transferring her turkey to her gas grill to continue cooking. What accounted for the outage? The caller’s neighbor had crashed into a power line while hang gliding.

But not all calls are quite that dramatic.

“How do I thaw my turkey?” is the most commonly asked question, according to Smith. One way is to put it in your refrigerator several days before Thanksgiving. It take one day for every 4 pounds, Smith said. But if it’s too late for that approach, the fastest way is to thaw it in water.

I post this only because anything cats will increase my blog hits: Our cats, ourselves

Razib Khan writes in The New York Times that it’s commonplace to call our cats “pets.” But anyone sharing a cat’s household can tell you that, much as we might like to choose when they eat in the morning, or when they come inside for the night, cats are only partly domesticated.

lasercatsThe likely ancestors of the domestic dog date from more than 30,000 years ago. But domestic cats’ forebears join us in the skeletal record only about 9,500 years ago. This difference fits our intuition about their comparative degrees of domestication: Dogs want to be “man’s best friend”; cats, not so much.

Domestic cats are not just wildcats that tolerate humans in exchange for regular meals. They have smaller skulls in relation to their bodies compared with wildcats, and are known to congregate in colonies. But in comparison with dogs, cats have a narrower range of variation in size and form.

Wesley C. Warren, an author of the study, notes that domestic cats have excellent hunting skills, like their wild ancestors. This, too, supports the notion that cats are only semi-domesticated.

Comparing the genomes of the wildcat and the domestic cat added much to what we had known. Michael J. Montague, the lead author, told me he’d anticipated that the two genomes would be very similar, but our study found a specific set of differences in genes involved in neuron development. This brain adaptation may explain why domestic cats are docile.

cats.sink.jun.13

Exploding poop topples building in China

A cesspool filled with excrement has exploded in central China, injuring 15 people and knocking down a building, state-run media reported.

7427ea210acc15dcc5ed01The blast was apparently sparked by a local man burning waste close to the cesspool, igniting methane gas which was emanating from the pit, the Xinhua news agency said late on Sunday, November 23.

The incident in Zhangjiajie city, in the central province of Hunan, caused a residential building to collapse and three of the injured had to be hospitalized, Xinhua said.

China’s urban infrastructure has often been hastily built with little regard for safety as hundreds of millions of people have moved from the countryside to cities in recent decades.

All aboard the poop bus, now farting around UK

The GENeco Bio-Bus runs on biomethane gas produced by human waste (and food waste, but that’s way less fun to talk about).

poop.busThe Bio-Bus, which made its maiden voyage in England this month, seats up to 40 people. The bus can travel up to 186 miles on a single tank of gas that “takes the annual waste of around five people to produce,” GENeco said in a statement. The bus itself doesn’t actually smell like a bathroom, as impurities in the biofuel are removed to reduce — or almost entirely eliminate — any odors in the vehicle’s emissions.

An oral history of the poop emoji (this is barfblog)

I’m not cool or hip at all and emojis have not been part of my personal communication toolbox.

I only see them when I get texts from Schaffner. img-thing

But this is barfblog and we like all things puke, vomit and poop, so here you go:  Lauren Schwartzberg’s, The oral history of the poop emoji (or, how Google brought poop to America).

My favorite excerpt:

“How many millions of occasions are there when [the poop] is the perfect response to whatever anybody says? In a world where you can only like, star, or plus-one something, don’t you just wish that you could put a pile of poop on things? Sometimes it feels so right.”

Just don’t eat it. At least the uncooked kind.

 

We’re all hosts on a viral planet: Viruses help keep the gut healthy

Drunken graduate student discussions about the role of viruses in human development have taken on new importance now that researchers studying mice have shown that a virus can help maintain and restore a healthy gut in much the same way that friendly bacteria do.

kellysheroes2t1oddballThe work “shows for the first time that a virus can functionally substitute for a bacterium and provide beneficial effects,” says Julie Pfeiffer, a virologist at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas who was not involved with the study. “It’s shocking.”

Our bodies are mostly microbes, with each of us hosting a hundred trillion bacteria as our so-called microbiome. These bacteria appear to play a role in everything from our weight to our allergies. But viruses also lurk in and around those bacteria—and they vastly outnumber the microbes.

Like the microbiome, this “virome” may be important for human health. One recent study, for example, found that viruses that are abundant in saliva may weed out harmful bacteria. Kenneth Cadwell, a virologist at New York University School of Medicine in New York City, wanted to know what viruses in the gut might be doing. In particular, he was interested in a group called noroviruses. Although they are notorious for causing epidemics of diarrhea on cruise ships and disease in lab mouse colonies, some noroviruses infect mice with no ill effects.

Reminds of this scene from 1978’s Animal house, but I could only find the clip in this other language.

Kissing transfers 80 million bacteria, scientists say

French kiss, tongue swapping, tonsil hockey: whatever it’s called, people like to kiss.

imagesAnd while a 10-second “intimate kiss” can transfer 80 million bacteria from one mouth to another, according to a new report in the journal Microbiome, that’s nothing compared to the trillions of bacteria we all carry.

A team of Dutch researchers recruited 21 couples who happened to be visiting the Artis Royal Zoo in Amsterdam on a summer day. All 42 volunteers (whose ages ranged from 17 to 45) allowed the researchers to wipe their tongues with a cotton swab several times. They also agreed to spit into sterile tubes and answer questions about their kissing habits.

The researchers found that the particular community of bacteria living on a volunteer’s tongue was more similar to the bacteria on his or her kissing partner’s tongue than to a stranger’s tongue. They quantified this using a measure called the Morisita-Horn index, where 0 indicates complete overlap and 1 means no overlap at all. The MH index value for kissing couples was 0.37, significantly lower than the 0.55 for strangers.

231127Then the volunteers engaged in some public displays of affection (a 10-second kiss “involving full tongue contact and saliva exchange”) and had their tongues swabbed again. According to the bacterial analysis, a fresh kiss barely budged the similarity index value. That suggests that the overlap in tongue bacteria is probably “a long-term effect of couples living together” – sharing meals, toothpaste and other items from daily life.

In a further test, some of the volunteers were given a probiotic yogurt drink spiked with a marker bacteria. Researchers swabbed their tongues and asked them to kiss their partners. Then the partners had their tongues swabbed. Comparing the contents of the yogurt-drinkers’ swabs and their partners’ swabs, the researchers calculated that a single kiss can deposit 80,000,000 bacteria from one tongue to another.

Shaping the oral microbiota through intimate kissing

Microbiome 2014; 2:41

Remco Kort, Martien Caspers, Astrid van de Graaf, Wim van Egmond, Bart Keijser and Guus Roeselers

http://www.microbiomejournal.com/content/2/1/41

Abstract

Background

The variation of microbial communities associated with the human body can be the cause of many factors, including the human genetic makeup, diet, age, surroundings, and sexual behavior. In this study, we investigated the effects of intimate kissing on the oral microbiota of 21 couples by self-administered questionnaires about their past kissing behavior and by the evaluation of tongue and salivary microbiota samples in a controlled kissing experiment. In addition, we quantified the number of bacteria exchanged during intimate kissing by the use of marker bacteria introduced through the intake of a probiotic yoghurt drink by one of the partners prior to a second intimate kiss.

Results

Similarity indices of microbial communities show that average partners have a more similar oral microbiota composition compared to unrelated individuals, with by far most pronounced similarity for communities associated with the tongue surface. An intimate kiss did not lead to a significant additional increase of the average similarity of the oral microbiota between partners. However, clear correlations were observed between the similarity indices of the salivary microbiota of couples and self-reported kiss frequencies, and the reported time passed after the latest kiss. In control experiments for bacterial transfer, we identified the probiotic Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium marker bacteria in most kiss receivers, corresponding to an average total bacterial transfer of 80 million bacteria per intimate kiss of 10 s.

Conclusions

This study indicates that a shared salivary microbiota requires a frequent and recent bacterial exchange and is therefore most pronounced in couples with relatively high intimate kiss frequencies. The microbiota on the dorsal surface of the tongue is more similar among partners than unrelated individuals, but its similarity does not clearly correlate to kissing behavior, suggesting an important role for specific selection mechanisms resulting from a shared lifestyle, environment, or genetic factors from the host. Furthermore, our findings imply that some of the collective bacteria among partners are only transiently present, while others have found a true niche on the tongue’s surface allowing long-term colonization. 

Frog in a blender? People in Peru are drinking frog juice

The Titicaca water frog is very large and entirely aquatic and makes its home in the high-altitude rivers that flow into Andean lake for which it is named.

frog.blenderIn addition to being named a critically endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the frog, according to the Associated Press, is also believed by some Peruvians and Bolivians to be a cure for human maladies as wide ranging and seemingly unrelated as asthma, osteoporosis, fatigue and a low libido.

So say some Peruvians who make a habit of turning the amphibians into “juice.”

“I always come to drink frog juice here because it’s good for the children,” Cecilia Cahuana told the AP at a frog-juice bar in Lima. “For anemia, bronchitis and also good for older persons.”

Oh Aggies: student had sex with sheep ‘because he was stressed about his exams’

From the university integrity files, a student had sex with a sheep because he was stressed about his exams, he told police.

The 23-year-old computer engineering major was caught with a ewe in a barn on his California university campus.

A passing student heard noises coming from the agricultural department barn at 3.30am on Tuesday.

Fresno State caretakers said the sheep was being treated by a local vet, ABC7 reported.

Student Marisa Burkdoll, who helps care for the campus horses, said the incident was “sick”.

“It’s just kind of disgusting and revolting and personally makes me angry,” she said. “I mean why would you do that?”

The student responsible was charged with sexual assault of an animal at Fresno County Jail, and has since been released.

He told the authorities he had been drinking, and was worried about his midterm exams.