Friday, July 25, 2008

Lookin' Good, Feelin' Good!

A few clever scientists tested what happens when the chest feathers of a few New Jersey barn swallows are darkened—the extension of a test three years ago that found males with these deeper colors mated more often, Science News reported.

So, marker in hand, rust-colored breast feathers transformed 30 lighter birds to among the darkest. The results? Males formerly exhibiting, well, “girlie-man” behavior turned quickly into Don Juans, with upped testosterone levels and some healthy weight loss. So does a more attractive appearance translate into improved body chemistry?

Kevin McGraw, a co-author of the study (published in Current Biology) and evolutionary biology professor at Arizona State University, thinks so. "Other females might be looking at them as being a little more sexy, and the birds might be feeling better about themselves in response to that." But he noted his surprise at the fact hormonal changes in the birds occurred within one week of their “transformations.”

Of the 30 male barn swallows darkened, testosterone rose 36 percent after seven days. This was during a time of year when testosterone levels normally decrease—as demonstrated by the 33 birds that didn't get the coloring treatment; whose levels fell by half. Perhaps most interesting is the fact hormones are usually in control, dictating changes in behavior and appearance. But perhaps this exchange is a two-way street?

"It's the 'clothes make the man'" idea, said lead author Rebecca Safran, an evolutionary biology professor at the University of Colorado in Boulder. "It's like you walk down the street and you're driving a Rolls Royce and people notice. And your physiology accommodates this." Other researchers suggest that because of the darkened color, those lucky birds mate more often, thereby altering testosterone levels. Maybe it's got to do with intimidations: Other males perceive this influx of dark feathers as a sign of a new pecking order, which boosts the swallows' hormone levels.

As for the weight loss, it's obvious: More mating means more exercise, which means more calories burned.

In a similar study with humans in 1998, die-hard male sports fans experienced a 20-percent rise in testosterone when their teams won. As Safran pointed out, barn swallows are "socially monogamous and genetically promiscuous, same as humans. There are some interesting parallels, but we do need to be careful about making them."

[Originally published at]

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Stamford's Rich History

Stamford’s Rich History

Stamford, Conn., was signed over to European settlers in July of 1640, and has been home to a mixed bag of historic landmarks, happenings and people ever since. Originally called Rippowam by the natives, the city has transformed itself in many ways not limited to its name. Signs of change in Stamford are visible; from new developments and renewal projects, to historic buildings still standing in the city, to a meticulous historical society determined to maintain the city’s old-world integrity and charm. Stamford has a rich history still available for you to see—you need only know where to look. Those of you traveling by foot may want to stroll Stamford’s South-End historic district, bordered by Penn Central railroad tracks, Stamford Canal, Woodland Cemetery, and Washington Boulevard. For information about other sites in Stamford, be sure to contact the city’s historic center (information listed below).

Stamford Historic Center
1508 High Ridge Road
(203) 329-1183
First stop on any tour of Stamford’s historic sites is the Stamford Historic Center, established in 1901, where you can treat yourself to some of the most knowledgeable historians in the area. Through September, you can also catch the organization’s current art exhibit, “The Lost Streets of Stamford”, which takes visitors on a visual tour of photographs documenting streets destroyed in Stamford’s urban downtown redevelopment plan, begun in 1952. Visit the center’s Web site for information on upcoming exhibits, volunteer opportunities, and more.

Sterling Farms
1349 Newfield Ave.
(203) 461-9090
Sterling Farms is an interesting example of urban renewal—and one of the best places in Stamford to sample delicious seafood. Once a 144-acre dairy farm servicing Stamford, the property now houses an 18-hole public golf facility.

Read the rest of this post here.

[Originally posted at]

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Main Street Pub Crawl: Stamford, CT

Main Street Pub Crawl

European cities and towns have historically used the pub crawl (or “gin” or “beer” crawl) as a social networking tool for people living in or visiting a certain area. Pub crawls, by design, blend communities, tourists, landmarks, and (of course!) drinking by guiding revelers along a given route to enjoy brief visits at a number of watering holes offering food, drink, entertainment, and unrivaled atmosphere. It’s a great way to reacquaint yourself with the place in which you live, or an excellent way to sample local fare and meet a lot of interesting people.

Spanning less than half a mile along Main Street, the below bars offer one of the best concentrations of excellent pubs in Stamford. From plasma televisions showing round-the-clock sporting events to island d├ęcor to outdoor patios, a few even have free wireless (not that you’ll be doing any work!), dart boards, and pool tables. And full menus to boot!

So grab some friends, and spend your next happy hour checking out some of the best spots Stamford has to offer. But be sure to call for a cab to get home!

1. Tiernan’s Bar & Restaurant
187 Main St.
Stamford, CT 06877
(203) 353-8566
Starting the pub crawl off on an appropriately Irish foot, we begin with Tiernan’s; noted for its wide selection of delicious imported beers and reputation for being the best venue for rock in Fairfield County. Sample the delicious Irish fare, enjoy live entertainment Thursdays through Saturdays, surf the Internet with Tiernan’s free wireless access, bask on the outdoor patio, or park yourself in front of one of eight plasma televisions. Happy hour runs 5-7 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, and there is never a cover charge.

Read the rest of this post here.

[Originally posted at]

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

News & Culture

Review of Yonder Mountain String Band's Mountain Tracks: Volume 5
[Click on article for larger size]


[Originally published in Playgirl, July 2008]

Playgirl Sex Tips with Country Icon Dolly Parton

[Click on article for larger size] See full Dolly interview here.

[Originally published in Playgirl, July 2008 issue]