Women Of The World And Kurt Vonnegut’s Wife

This post was previously published on March 8, 2013. Today is year another March 8th, International Women’s Day…

Although barely noticed in the good old US of A, March 8th is celebrated around the world as the International Women’s Day. Good old Google, bless its loopy heart, celebrates International Women’s Day with a doodle of women from around the world, have you noticed?

Millions of Russian women – as far as I remember back when I used to be one – celebrate this day as it were yet another Valentine’s Day, invented exclusively for women – mothers, wives, lovers, friends. Flowers, attention and token gifts are expected from husbands, sons, boyfriends, classmates, coworkers and, generally, all those who – for one reason or another — sometimes, without any reason whatsoever — consider themselves MEN of at least 5 years of age with no upper limit. Women’s working conditions, struggle for equal pay, and nearly everything else that this day was designated to become since early 1900’s, gets often forgotten or relinquished to the effort of activists.

All pretty flowers and Umberto Tozzi crooning something sweet with the refrain “Te Amo” – the heart-melting words of love…

vonnegut lettersNow then, what Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., one of my favorite writers, has to do with any of it? Well, it might seem rather far-fetched, tenuous  connection at best, but at certain time of his life, Kurt Vonnegut behaved like your ordinary Russian husband on March 8th…

3 days ago, a book Kurt Vonnegut: Letters, edited by Dan Wakefield, came out. In it, very early on, because it is dated January 26, 1947, there is a hilarious document… Take a look. If your sense of humor is comparable to that of Mark Twain, Kurt Vonnegut and, well, mine, then you’d get a kick out of it too. Very fittingly, I’ve got the book today, March the 8th, on the International Woman’s Day. The text below is a courtesy of the Harper’s Magazine — the excerpt from the book was published in October of last year.



v3And purely for fun, I’ll throw in another Women’s Day Russian clip, featuring Russian men in various stages of dishabille, wishing women everywhere Happy Women’s Day and hoping to impress them with tastefully (or not) decorated areas below their waists. The lyrics  of the song… is unimaginative at best. Turn off the sound if it annoys you.

Please be warned that flowers and various props notwithstanding, a few male bare bottoms with no adornment whatsoever might be observed.

A Ride

A young man is driving a car on a dark and stormy night. Like in this picture. We”ll leave a stormy night to our imagination.

We''ll leave a stormy night to our imagination

Suddenly, he sees three people desperately trying to catch a ride. Again, keep in mind, it is a dark and stormy night. These are the following three people:kogo podvesti

  1. A sick old woman looking as though she is about to pass out;
  2. A longtime friend, a super-nice guy who once saved this young man’s life;
  3. An exceptionally attractive young woman (she must be glowing in the dark, for as we all remember, it is a dark and stormy night.) The young woman truly looks like a girl of his dreams.

Well, then, this is a dilemma: To whom of the three the young man should offer a ride? Say, his car is a two-seater, thus only one passenger can get an offer of a ride.a young man1What is your choice?

Should the young man choose an old lady? To deny a sick old woman a ride is cruel:  the woman is so frail, she might die without immediate medical attention.

It would feel really great to offer a ride to an old friend who once saved the young man’s life — an excellent chance of a small payback. On the other hand, what a pity it would be to loose his one in a lifetime chance to meet a soulmate…

This moral and ethical dilemma has been actually proposed during a job interview at one respectable international company.

Of the 200 applicants, only one candidate had no problem with the answer, and he was eventually hired. His solution was as follows: a young man

 “I would give the car keys to my friend and asked him to take the old woman to the hospital. And then see what a dark and stormy night has in stock for me and a girl of my dreams.”

Moral: Sometimes a non-standard thinking and creative approach us the key to a solution.



Catch A Cockroach…


Cockroaches, fortunately, are not an everyday occurrence in my life. However, if in the same day you come across not one but three stories related to cockroaches, perhaps, it’s worth mentioning.

The first story comes from China: One million cockroaches escape from Chinese farm.
At least one million cockroaches have reportedly escaped a farm in China where they were being bred for use in traditional medicine.

Unidentified wildlife enthusiast — cockroach sympathizer? —  broke into the enclosed area where the insects were held and cracked the terrarium open. To this day, residents of a small town next to the farm remember the event and curse the guy back and forth: instead of running into the unknown wilderness, cockroaches smartly decided to resettle in the town’s warm and comfortable apartments.

Another one was reported in BBC News Magazine: How cockroaches could save lives.

“Cockroaches are often associated with dirty kitchens and grimy bathrooms — scuttling away as soon as you enter the room and turn on the light. But pest controllers aren’t the only people interested in them — these insects are inspiring research into antibiotics, robots and mechanical limbs,” writes Mary Colwell in the article.

And on a humorous note, from the Russian source, comes a newspaper article Fortune-telling using a cockroach.

гадание на таракане

A fortune-telling with a cockroach.

This is an image of an article in an unidentified Russian newspaper, appearing, appropriately, in the section UNKNOWN or, rather, UNBEKNOWNST. Wanted to learn everything about yourself but didn’t know how? Read translation below (loose translation is mine with a few comments.) To glean the most benefit from it, you need to catch yourself a cockroach.

Thus catch a cockroach, any random cockroach will do — it’ll be YOUR cockroach. Now observe and scrutinize it carefully.tarakan

    • Is it healthy and vigorous? If the answer is yes then your house is in order and your family life is satisfying. (Healthy and vigorous cockroaches, like happy and orderly households with untidy kitchens. VG)cartoon-cockroach-vector-illustration-34820119
    • Is it appear weakly and lethargic? Your wife/husband should feed you better. (Or feed a cockroach. Ordinarily, cockroaches aren’t fussy eaters. VG)
    • Is it red in color? A redheaded person is in love with you.
    • Is it green? Rejoice! Money is coming to you.t1
    • Is it constantly moving its whiskers? You are full of energy. (If you don’t quite feel energized — try multivitamins. VG)
    • Is it frozen in its tracks? You must be a philosopher. (Yes, you are, even if you don’t know it. Pick a subject and start philosophizing. VG)
    • Does it look startled? You feel under-appreciated.
    • Does your cockroach looks frightened? You are a person who can stand your ground.
    • Is it bright blue, horned and speaks fluent English? Congratulations, you have delirium tremens.таракан7

Now carefully measure your cockroach.t1

  • If the length of a cockroach is less than 1 centimeter — then you are a reliable family person;
  • If it’s length is more than 3 centimeters — then you are a seeker. (What is it exactly you seek isn’t specified. You must know better. VG)

What can cockroach whiskers tell us? t1

  • The spread of cockroach whiskers equal to the length of your nose: You are an inquisitive person. (This discovery is possible if you measure your nose for the sake of comparison. VG)
  • One whisker is shorter than the other: You haven’t quite realized your tremendous potential. (Now run along and realize it. Make your cockroach happy. VG)
  • The total length of the whiskers is equal to the length of its body, multiplied by the square root of the diameter of its belly, divided by the logarithm of the number of its legs: Well, this might mean that you are a scrupulous and meticulous person. (Some rudimentary knowledge of math is necessary to come to this conclusion. VG)

And now pay attention to the cockroach’s legs.

  • If the legs are evenly distributed along its body:  You might need an appointment with psychiatrist. (Tell him/her everything. Show him/her your cockroach. You’ll feel better immediately. VG)
  • If the length and width of its legs are equal: This insect might as well be a bedbug. (And those little critters are bad news, unless you don’t know it already. VG)

Now set the cockroach free and let it run along as it pleases.hohmodrom_Tarakan

  • If the cockroach runs straight forward: The best part of your life is still ahead of you. (Good news if you ever doubted. VG)
  • If it runs to the left: Look forward to a heartbreaking encounter. (Might as well you’ll be hit over the head with a wet sack as you turn the corner of the house to your left. VG)
  • If it runs to the right: Be careful in your professional life — a backstabbing coworker sits to the right of you.
  • If it runs toward you: You are an intriguing person. (The person you intrigue the most might be found in every which direction. VG)
  • If it flops on its back legs up: It is dead. (Catch yourself another cockroach. VG)

Happy 25th Birthday, Ig Nobel!

Run by the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research, Ig Nobel is a jubilantly irreverent affair. It has become world famous for recognizing scientific achievements that “make people laugh, and then think”.

This year Ig turns 25. Since 1991, scientists have won for such various feats as levitating a live frog with magnets, teaching pigeons to discern between Monet and Picasso, studying the effect of country music on suicides and experimenting with Coca Cola as a spermicide.

This year’s Ig winners traveled from six continents to accept their trophies.

PHYSICS: Discovering that almost all mammals empty their bladders in somewhere between 8 and 44 seconds.собачки
A group of physicists from the US and Taiwan won for finding “the law of urination”: the principle that nearly all mammals empty their bladders in about 21 seconds (plus or minus 13 seconds), whether they’re the size of an elephant or a shrew.
слоникResearcher David Hu said explaining that gravity was the great equalizer: “the taller the pipe, the faster the pee”.  Link to video. Winners Patricia Yang, David Hu and Jonathan Pham, Jerome Choo recently amended their result: only those mammals whose weight exceeds 3 kg fall under its scope.

DIAGNOSTIC MEDICINE: Discovering that acute appendicitis can be identified by driving a patient over speed bumps.

The idea started as a running joke among surgeons, but Helen Ashdown decided to test it out while working as a junior doctor at Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Aylesbury. In a formal study of 101 patients, 33 of 34 people who were diagnosed with appendicitis reported pain travelling over speed bumps.Speed Bump

MATHEMATICS: Trying to figure out whether it was possible for a 17th and 18th century Moroccan emperor to father 888 children.

The copulative prowess of a 17th-century Moroccan emperor was the subject of a study by German and Austrian mathematicians who won a prize.

Intrigued by the story of Moulay Ismail, born in 1672 and dead at the age of 55, Elisabeth Oberzaucher and Karl Grammer sought to learn whether it would be physically possible for a man to sire between 600 and 888 sons as the fable alleges.ignobel-prize-2015-6-

“It’s a lot of work it turns out,” Oberzucher said. “Moulay had to have had sex once or twice a day, which you might actually regard as a low number, but if you think this is every day, every single day for an entire life, this is quite a lot.”

Moulay Ismael, who was also apparently known as Moulay Ismael the Bloodthirsty, was Emperor of Morocco from 1672 to 1727, and is reputed to have fathered almost 900 children during his reign.

BIOLOGY: Noting that chickens walk like dinosaurs probably did, when you attach weighted sticks to their tails.

“We cannot test it in a real T. rex or any theropod dinosaurs – but we can in a chicken,” Dr Vasquez told the BBC. “[The gait] is a little bit crouching and the steps are a bit longer, because the centre of gravity of the animal is changed… and they have to counterbalance the weight of the tail by stretching their neck a little bit.”


MEDICINE: Hajime Kimata (Kimata Hajime Clinic, Japan) and  Jaroslava Durdiaková (Comenius University, Slovakia) and her collagues awarded the prize for experiments to study the biomedical benefits or biomedical consequences of intense kissing (and other intimate, interpersonal activities). on-screen-kiss-chess-club-comedy

MANAGEMENT: Discovering that early experience with natural disasters can cause a lifelong fondness for risk-taking.ignobel-prize-2015-9-

Gennaro Bernile (Singapore Management University) and colleagues, discovered that many business leaders developed a fondness for risk-taking because they experienced natural disasters (such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, and wildfires) in their childhood, disasters that had no dire consequences for them.

ECONOMICS: Paying Bangkok Metropolitan Police officers bonuses if they refuse to take bribes.


PHYSIOLOGY AND ENTOMOLOGY: Awarded jointly to two individuals: Justin Schmidt (Southwest Biological Institute, US) for painstakingly creating the Schmidt Sting Pain Index, which rates the relative pain people feel when stung by various insects; and to Michael L. Smith (Cornell University, US), for carefully arranging for honey bees to sting him repeatedly on 25 different locations on his body, to learn which locations are the least painful (the skull, middle toe tip, and upper arm). and which are the most painful (the nostril, upper lip, and penis shaft).bee-attracting-comp31

Well, that’s a commendable dedication to science that should undoubtedly put Michael L. Smith into the ranks of scientists who risked their health and life in the name of science. An obscure Australian physician named Barry Marshall, for instance, drank bacteria-laden broth to discover the true cause of peptic (stomach) ulcers — a corkscrew-shaped bacterium known as Helicobacter pylori and point out the cure was a course of antibiotics. For his daring experiment he won a Nobel Prize in 2005.

CHEMISRY: Callum Ormonde (University of Western Australia) and colleagues, for inventing a chemical recipe to partially un-boil an egg.ignobel-prize-2015

LITERATURE: Mark Dingemanse of Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, The Netherlands and colleagues, for discovering that the word “huh?” (or its equivalent) seems to exist in every human language and for not being quite sure why.ignobel-prize-2015-2

Well, some years are better than others where wackiness and fun of Ig Nobel prize-winning submissions goes. I remember laughing much harder in prior years. Which makes me think… Ah, never mind. Might as well be that with the passage of years I’ve become a grumpier person. But then again, see for yourself and recall your favorite Ig Nobel winners:  Celebrating 25 years of wacky Ig Nobel Prize brilliance. 

20 March. International Day of Happiness

The General Assembly of the United Nations in its resolution 66/281PDF document of 12 July 2012 proclaimed 20 March the International Day of Happiness recognizing the relevance of happiness and well-being as universal goals and aspirations in the lives of human beings around the world and the importance of their recognition in public policy objectives. 

2 April 2012: In a high-level meeting on “Happiness and Well-Being: Defining a New Economic Paradigm,” organized by the Government of Bhutan, then UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon highlighted the importance of integrating human happiness into a new framework for sustainable development.

The high-level meeting met at UN Headquarters in New York. In his remarks, Ban commended Bhutan for recognizing “the supremacy of national happiness over national income,” noting that the country had adopted the goal of Gross National Happiness (GNH) over Gross National Product (GNP). Noting that GNP ignores the social and environmental costs of progress, he urged for a new economic paradigm that reflects the social, economic and environmental dimensions of sustainable development, which together “define gross global happiness.” Ban called for an outcome on sustainable development at the upcoming UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD, or Rio+20) that recognizes happiness and well-being as “fundamental goals in themselves.”

All 193 member states of the United Nations adopted a resolution calling for happiness to be given greater priority on a global scale, which the campaign is supporting. The first ever UN International Day of Happiness was celebrated on March 20,  2013.
Happiness is defined in so many different ways. Some say it defies definition altogether, others try to point out and emphasize the many steps to achieve happiness:

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November Birthdays


November Birth Flower: Chrysanthemum

So happened that past month and a half was a troublesome time for me and my family. Days and weeks gone by without me noticing the passage of time. My deepest apologies and belated best wishes to my November birthday friends and family, boys and girls, ladies and gentlemen. This brief post is a belated birthday card to them. And, while I’m at it, to everyone everywhere who has changed yet another year in November. Happy Birthday!

Jiri Kylian’s “Birth-Day”

Mozart: Birthday – Nederlands Dans Theater celebrates Jiri Kylian

Lollygagging By John Perry

kak-nauchitsya-ne-otkladivat-dela-na-zavtra-1036-15091Do you remember? In 1995,  John Perry, the philosophy professor of Stanford University, wrote an essay entitled Structured Procrastination, about harnessing the power of procrastination to get things done. Eventually, he expanded it into a book, The Art Of Procrastination: A Guide To Effective Dawdling, Dallying, Lollygagging And Postponing. The irony of it, the name of the publisher is… Workman.

In 2011, for his Theory of Structured Procrastination John Perry was awarded Ig Nobel Prize in Literature.

To be a high achiever, always work on something important, using it as a way to avoid doing something that’s even more important. (From “How to Procrastinate and Still Get Things Done,” John Perry, Chronicle of Higher Education. Later republished elsewhere under the title “Structured Procrastination.”)


But seen this way, today’s cacophony of anti-procrastination advice seems rather sinister: a subtle way of inducing conformity, to get you to do what you “should” be doing. Structured procrastination turns your rebellion into productivity, so you could argue it’s equally conformist. But at least it respects the existence of the urge. And it doesn’t let you forget a truth that most productivity gurus ignore: that just because something found its way on to your to-do list, it doesn’t necessarily follow that it needs to be done.

Photograph: Chris Madden for the Guardian

Photograph: Chris Madden for the Guardian

Russian discovered this too: Never put off until tomorrow what you can put off until the day after tomorrow, the saying goes.

Ig Noble 2014

IgThe 2014 Ig Nobel Prizes were awarded on Thursday night, September 18th,  at the 24th First Annual Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony, at Harvard’s Sanders Theatre. The ceremony was webcast live.

Jesus on toastNEUROSCIENCE PRIZE [CHINA, CANADA]: Jiangang Liu, Jun Li, Lu Feng, Ling Li, Jie Tian, and Kang Lee, for trying to understand what happens in the brains of people who see the face of Jesus in a piece of toast.

REFERENCE: “Seeing Jesus in Toast: Neural and Behavioral Correlates of Face Pareidolia,” Jiangang Liu, Jun Li, Lu Feng, Ling Li, Jie Tian, Kang Lee, Cortex, vol. 53, April 2014, Pages 60–77. The authors are at School of Computer and Information Technology, Beijing Jiaotong University, Xidian University, the Institute of Automation Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China, and the University of Toronto, Canada.

PSYCHOLOGY PRIZE [AUSTRALIA, UK, USA]: Peter K. Jonason, Amy Jones, and Minna Lyons, for amassing evidence that people who habitually stay up late are, on average, more self-admiring, more manipulative, and more psychopathic than people who habitually arise early in the morning.sleep2

REFERENCE: “Creatures of the Night: Chronotypes and the Dark Triad Traits,” Peter K. Jonason, Amy Jones, and Minna Lyons, Personality and Individual Differences, vol. 55, no. 5, 2013, pp. 538-541.

PUBLIC HEALTH PRIZE [CZECH REPUBLIC, JAPAN, USA, INDIA]: Jaroslav Flegr, Jan Havlíček and Jitka Hanušova-Lindova, and to David Hanauer, Naren Ramakrishnan, Lisa Seyfried, for investigating whether it is mentally hazardous for a human being to own a cat.

с кошками

REFERENCE: “Changes in personality profile of young women with latent toxoplasmosis,” Jaroslav Flegr and Jan Havlicek, Folia Parasitologica, vol. 46, 1999, pp. 22-28.

REFERENCE: “Decreased level of psychobiological factor novelty seeking and lower intelligence in men latently infected with the protozoan parasite Toxoplasma gondii Dopamine, a missing link between schizophrenia and toxoplasmosis?” Jaroslav Flegr, Marek Preiss, Jiřı́ Klose, Jan Havlı́ček, Martina Vitáková, and Petr Kodym, Biological Psychology, vol. 63, 2003, pp. 253–268.

REFERENCE: “Describing the Relationship between Cat Bites and Human Depression Using Data from an Electronic Health Record,” David Hanauer, Naren Ramakrishnan, Lisa Seyfried, PLoS ONE, vol. 8, no. 8, 2013, e70585. WHO ATTENDED THE CEREMONY: Jaroslav Flegr, David Hanauer, Naren Ramakrishnan


sobaka2BIOLOGY PRIZE [CZECH REPUBLIC, GERMANY, ZAMBIA]: Vlastimil Hart, Petra Nováková, Erich Pascal Malkemper, Sabine Begall, Vladimír Hanzal, Miloš Ježek, Tomáš Kušta, Veronika Němcová, Jana Adámková, Kateřina Benediktová, Jaroslav Červený and Hynek Burda, for carefully documenting that when dogs defecate and urinate, they prefer to align their body axis with Earth’s north-south geomagnetic field lines.

REFERENCE: “Dogs are sensitive to small variations of the Earth’s magnetic field,” Vlastimil Hart, Petra Nováková, Erich Pascal Malkemper, Sabine Begall, Vladimír Hanzal, Miloš Ježek, Tomáš Kušta, Veronika Němcová, Jana Adámková, Kateřina Benediktová, Jaroslav Červený and Hynek Burda, Frontiers in Zoology, 10:80, 27 December 27, 2013.

ART PRIZE [ITALY]: Marina de Tommaso, Michele Sardaro, and Paolo Livrea, for measuring the relative pain people suffer while looking at an ugly painting, rather than a pretty painting, while being shot [in the hand] by a powerful laser beam.people look at art

REFERENCE: “Aesthetic value of paintings affects pain thresholds,” Marina de Tommaso, Michele Sardaro, and Paolo Livrea, Consciousness and Cognition, vol. 17, no. 4, 2008, pp. 1152-1162.

ECONOMICS PRIZE [ITALY]: ISTAT — the Italian government’s National Institute of Statistics, for proudly taking the lead in fulfilling the European Union mandate for each country to increase the official size of its national economy by including revenues from prostitution, illegal drug sales, smuggling, and all other unlawful financial transactions between willing participants.

Natalia Fabia. Hookers playing poker.

Natalia Fabia. Hookers playing poker.

REFERENCE: “Cambia il Sistema europeo dei conti nazionali e regionali – Sec2010“, ISTAT, 2014.

REFERENCE: “European System of National and Regional Accounts (ESA 2010),” Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union, 2013.

MEDICINE PRIZE [USA, INDIA]: Ian Humphreys, Sonal Saraiya, Walter Belenky and James Dworkin, for treating “uncontrollable” nosebleeds, using the method of nasal-packing-with-strips-of-cured-pork.


REFERENCE: “Nasal Packing With Strips of Cured Pork as Treatment for Uncontrollable Epistaxis in a Patient with Glanzmann Thrombasthenia,” Ian Humphreys, Sonal Saraiya, Walter Belenky and James Dworkin, Annals of Otology, Rhinology and Laryngology, vol. 120, no. 11, November 2011, pp. 732-36.

ARCTIC SCIENCE PRIZE [NORWAY, GERMANY]: Eigil Reimers and Sindre Eftestøl, for testing how reindeer react to

kostjum-belogo-medvedjaseeing humans who are disguised as polar bears.Reindeer TVOKM

REFERENCE: “Response Behaviors of Svalbard Reindeer towards Humans and Humans Disguised as Polar Bears on Edgeøya,” Eigil Reimers and Sindre Eftestøl, Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research, vol. 44, no. 4, 2012, pp. 483-9.


ребенок-не-какаетNUTRITION PRIZE [SPAIN]: Raquel Rubio, Anna Jofré, Belén Martín, Teresa Aymerich, andfermented sausages Margarita Garriga, for their study titled “Characterization of Lactic Acid Bacteria Isolated from Infant Faeces as Potential Probiotic Starter Cultures for Fermented Sausages.”

REFERENCE: “Characterization of Lactic Acid Bacteria Isolated from Infant Faeces as Potential Probiotic Starter Cultures for Fermented Sausages,” Raquel Rubio, Anna Jofré, Belén Martín, Teresa Aymerich, Margarita Garriga, Food Microbiology, vol. 38, 2014, pp. 303-311.