Monday, April 28, 2008

Tick Season means Lyme Disease

Well, Seekonk seems to be tick heaven as half the people living in that low lying wooded area seem to have contracted Lyme Disease. I went for a very lovely stroll through the woods and, no surprise, when I woke up early this morning before the light to get a glass of water felt an itchy sensation near my bum and when I drowsily went to scratch it noticed that little tell tale flap of tick attached to me. After unsuccessful attempts with small medical scissors to remove the tick (they only served to cut off part of its backside) I tried the other method I was most familiar with: trying to burn it off with a burnt chopstick. But when that didn't work either, I went online to find out the best method for tick removal. I found one unsubstantiated claim that rubbing soap on it encourages it to leave, so I tried it but the tick didn't respond. I then found recurring websites that stated the following:

1. Do not use petrollium jelly, nail polish or nail polish remover, soap or other ointments to get the tick bothered enough to give up its host (you). While these methods may work, they may also incite the tick to regurgitate its meal, increasing the chance of injecting you with disease, even if it hasn't been 24 hours since it became so attached to you.

2. Do not try to burn the tick out. For the same reason. The stress of being burned can cause the tick to regurgitate saliva or gut contents, besides the fact that more often than not the tick will not remove itself... and the risk of burning yourself.

3. So how DO you remove a tick? The best way is to use good old fashioned tweezers. Get as close to the skin as possible and grasp the bugger firmly and pull straight out. Avoid jerky movements or twisting the tick. A firm, steady hand is all that is needed and is the best method. Jerking the tick or twisting it will only increase the chance of having mouthparts being left attached to your skin. Two reasons for getting as close to the skin as possible: one, you'll be less likely to upset the tick, and thus incite it to regurgitation, and secondly, it will remove easier the closer to the skin you grasp it.

Alternatively, a method used by fishermen may be employed which does not risk squeezing the tick's thorax. Use 18 inches of fine weight fishing line. The line is tied in a simple overhand knot that is tightened slowly around the tick's head. If the line is pressed against the skin while being gently pulled, the knot will tighten around the tick's head. Slowly pulling the ends of the line will then dislodge the tick from the bite site with a reduced chance of leaving the head attached. This method also works with sewing thread.

4. Once tick is removed, disinfect hands and site of bite and put the tick in a plastic bag and note the date on the bag (or on a piece of paper in the bag) and place it in the freezer. If you get sick later, you'll know precisely how long its been since you were bit, and you can have the tick analyzed later to see if the tick is really the cause for your flu like symptoms.

5. Its best to remove the tick less than 24 hours after being bit as this reduces the likelihood of contracting Lyme Disease or other tick caused illnesses.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

My devour is the same as your devour

So a student told the professor during lecture. Just about everyone in lecture agreed that they had the same devour as the professor, except for one student who really didn't see anything wrong with saying "The children and adults from mars told Klem that the cat might devour."

The professor was saying that without saying what the cat might devour, the sentence is incomplete. The student who raised her hand and said "my devour is the same as yours" was stating that she agrees that it doesn't sound right to leave no object after devour. Most the rest of the class also agreed. The professor told the student who didn't agree that his devour must be different from the professor's. You can't say "Tomorrow the world will devour" but you can say "Tomorrow the world will eat." So the question is, what is the difference between the two verbs "to eat" and "to devour" that make this difference? 'Ts interesting.

Elsewhile when the professor sees the students might not be entirely enthralled with the material being taught he writes on the board: "The large dog has shat on the elf" to get their attention. The effect works. This isn't a random sentence though. We have been studying ambiguity in sentence syntax. Most of the time the former pupil of linguist Noam Chomsky has the class laughing--part teacher, part comedian. A couple classes he actually brought in a pet elf a former student had given him to demonstrate the subtle syntactic differences in meaning in a given sentence: "Some angry guy smashed the elf on the table." What does this sentence mean? Well, it actually has several meanings. To demonstrate, Kyle climbed up onto the table/podium in front of lecture to differentiate that "some angry guy smashed the elf on the table" and "some angry guy smashed the elf on the table." See the difference? No? It's okay, I didn't either at first. I'll explain. So in the first, some angry guy smashed the elf while he was standing on the table. Whereas in the second, some angry guy smashed the elf that was on the table. We draw syntactic trees in class to differentiate between all the meanings a sentence like this has. Adjectives and prepositional phrases introduce ambiguity of meaning into sentences we take for granted as having one meaning, when they actually could have many. To show the difference in these two, Kyle climbs up on the podium (which he has a little bit of difficulty doing) and then, standing on the podium, starts smashing the elf. He then gets down from the podium and puts the elf on the table and then starts smashing the elf again. Then the elf starts singing a crazy tune about having no friends because it's a misfit... do you think the student who gave it to Kyle was trying to give him a hint?

Here's a picture of the fine professor:

They don't call it ZooMass for nothing.