Tuesday, December 16, 2008

For new readers: Gdańsk Zoo revisited

Read the groundbreaking and painfully honest report from the Gdańsk Zoo which earned me the Radom Zoological Society's 'Golden Gnu' prize for investigative journalism 2008. Originally posted on my previous blog on Motime in August.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

CDHNs groundbreaking Christmas-modified First Aid course

With Christmas coming up, innumerable perils present themselves. We get stuck in chimneys, overdoze on marcepan pigs, suffocate inside our Santa masks, and the persistent noise of sleigh bells cause our ear drums to explode. But first and foremost, Christmas is the one time of year when we gather to celebrate our blood ties. Uncles, nephews and grandparents pop up from everywhere, with all the extra conflict potential that this entails. Your grandfather has just added Septic Arthritis to his already impressive collection of ailments – and this year he’s determined to take it out on YOU!

To prevent yet another unresolved inheritance dispute emerging around the Christmas dinner table from having fatal consequences, it is our sacred holiday duty to brush up on our First Aid skills. So take a few minutes to read this – the life you save might be if not your own then at least your third cousin’s.

Is it safe?

1. Safety First
"Professional rescuers practice universal precautions when providing medical care to victims."
Often ignored. If your uncle Viggo has been subjected to a severe thrashing from your other uncle Torkjell, reducing the former to a blood-soaked pulp whose only sign of life are some idiosyncratic movements bearing an ominously close resemblance to final death spasms, we tend to rush to help him. But don’t let your eagerness to help get the better of you. First you make sure that the source of danger, in this case the fierce Uncle Torkjell, is removed. But how to accomplish this? Uncle Torkjell has been nursing a fierce hatred for Uncle Viggo ever since the latter made fun of his cowboy outfit at his 11th birthday party. He genuinely enjoys beating up the hapless Viggo and will not hesitate to deal similarly with anyone that seeks to put obstacles in his way. Here I suggest as the only possible remedy: immediate distribution of Christmas presents. Uncle Torkjell might be no spring chicken, but boys will be boys, and the idea of unwrapping his new Sony Playstation3 will dampen his sadistic impulses – at least until the novelty fades off.

2. Determine if the Victim is Awake
"Probably the biggest indicator of a serious medical emergency is an inability to wake a victim."
How to determine if your ‘patient’ is sleeping? Here, paradoxically, the otherwise annoying phenomenon of snoring lends us a helping hand. Uncle Viggo – fat, drunk, unkept; your archetypical snorer. However, the ability to snore is also influenced by the position in which you sleep. If you sleep on your side, airways are more open and you snore less. Hence, to release Uncle Viggo’s snoring potential, we must put him on his back. His airways will then be partially blocked, which facilitates snoring. If snoring ensues, you can safely conclude that the 'patient' is not awake.

Or can you? Alas, you must be alert to the possibility that the 'patient’ might be faking injury just to make a fool out of you. Could it be that all the other family members have planned a little practical joke at YOUR expense? How to distinguish genuine snoring from fake one? Easy, dear Reader. Your Aunt Gunhild is a certified snorer whose nighttime snoring reaches such giant volumes that her husband Kåre had to seek refuge in a mental hospital. Drop a sleeping pill in her aquavit and place her next to Uncle Viggo. Then observe whether Uncle Viggo’s snoring is affected by Aunt Gunhild’s snoring. If he is just faking, he will have substantial difficulties maintaining his own snoring rhythm. So if his snoring becomes synchronised with Aunt Gunhild’s, we can draw the conclusion that Uncle Viggo has subjected us to inauthentic snoring.

(It must however be added that the current field of snoring science has not reached consensus on this issue. Researchers from the snoring laboratory at the Nelson Mandela College of Nocturnal Health points to the well known fact the menstruation cycles of two women who live together will be synchronized. ‘The same applies to two adjacent snorers’, they maintain.)

What if the ‘patient’ is not your uncle, but your cousin’s sympathetic fiance Kasia? After choking on an almond, she is apparently lying unconscious on the floor. Or is she just observing the time-honoured tradition of female misbehaviour? If yes, you run the risk of ending up the laughing stock of the Christmas party by giving first aid treatment to a perfectly healthy person! Your duty as a first aid expert is to establish the truth value of her apparent lifelessness. Place both hands on her breasts and squeeze them firmly. Lack of reaction from the ‘patient’ points to loss of consciousness, and allows you to proceed to step 3. (Researchers from the First Aid Battalion at the Joseph Mengele University in Drammen, however, argue that it is still too early to proceed and that you should double check by touching other strategic parts of her body first. I will leave this to the discretion of the individual first aid expert, in the firm conviction that each will act in accordance with his or her conscience.)

3. A is for Airway and B is for Breathing
"If a victim is conscious, ask him or her to speak. The ability to speak directly correlates with an airway. If a person's airway is blocked, he or she can't speak."
A tricky one, as it poses no great difficulty feigning an unability to speak. How can we ascertain that we are not being made fun of yet again? A simple but effective method exists. Subject the ‘patient’ to prolonged tickling of armpits. If the idea of touching Uncle Viggo’s sweaty armpits with your fingers holds no particular appeal to you, I suggest that you uproot the Christmas tree and tickle him with it. The ‘patient’ will start laughing and beg you to stop, making it obvious for everyone that his so-called blocked airways were nothing but an evil lie.

If tickling does not produce the expected results, we might be dealing with a person whose airwaves are blocked. Place Uncle Viggo in the recovery position.

Again, if the prospect of dealing manually with Uncle Viggo’s obese body does not overexcite you, you can avoid direct body contact by putting on your Santa boots and try to kick your uncle into the recovery position.

Some individuals are not capable of producing coherent speech even if their airways are open, notably persons in a high state of religious fervour. If the sounds uttered resemble Arabic, we are in all likelihood dealing with a Muslim. If not, the God-fearing miscreation is probably a Pentecostal busying himself with speaking in tongues. The only way to deal with these deviants is to pull hard on their tongues with both hands until they come to their senses and realize that speaking in tongues is not protected by Freedom of speech.

4. C is for Circulation
"Look at the victim's color and feel his or her skin temperature to see if he or she has signs of circulation. If there is no breathing or circulation, start CPR."
The patient might need nutrition, so avoid spilling ketchup like the stupid person on this photo

How to administer CPR?

First, look around to see if there are any interestingly looking women (to whom you are not worryingly closely related) lying around who are also in need of first aid. Women have a longer life expectancy than men, so from the perspective of social and economic efficiency, there is a strong case for giving them priority. Uncle Viggo has only a few years left in the frozen food inventory at REMA1000, and so will only be a drag on the welfare state for most of the rest of his life.
If, however, after searching through the neighbouring farms you still haven't found any qualified female patient, you have no choice but to deliver CPR to your Uncle Viggo. But take precautions! Mouth-to-mouth is unhygienic and a recipe for transmission of diseases. Is lip contact needed at all? The Henry Rinnan Academy of Foot-and-Mouth Disease in Levanger argue convincingly that a bicycle pump does the same trick. This method has the added benefit that the victim can work the pump himself. As the main expert on first aid, you must always be in tip top shape and cannot exhaust yourself unnecessarily by sitting there pushing a bicycle pump like some kind of Reodor Felgen.

If you happen to be dressed up as Santa Claus, make sure that you leave the room in a discreet manner and remove your outfit completely before administering CPR. How can you expect your little ones to continue believing in the existence of Santa Claus after they’ve seen him do all kinds of weird things with uncle Viggo’s inanimate body? Two wrongs don’t make a right. It’s enough that you have one near dead family member lying on the floor; you don’t want a child’s broken heart on your record of Christmas-related crimes too.

5. While Waiting for the Ambulance
"As the ambulance is responding to your emergency, there are some things you can do to help emergency crews find you. Make sure to try to do as many of these things as possible to prepare for the ambulance's arrival"
With New Year’s Eve just around the corner, every family worth their salt has a basement full of fireworks, ideal for drawing the ambulance’s attention to your house. Let one of the kids fire up some powerful rockets so that the ambulance will locate you from afar. When the ambulance arrives, make sure to put away Christmas snacks, juleribbe and all the presents and hide your women from view. Ambulance personnel, severely displeased at having to work on Christmas Eve, might well conduct themselves like a unit of Red Army soldiers liberating their Eastern-European neighbours from the Nazis.

That’s it, dear Reader, 5 simple steps towards a casualty-free Christmas this year!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

CDHN's very special Babórka-present to its readers: THE MINERS

On the occasion of the annual Miners’ Day here in Poland, the glorious Babórka festivities, CDHN is proud to announce the publication of its first ever poem. The reading of the poem should preferrably be preceded by a toast and 3 times hurrah for our underground working class heroes!


The fireplace roars, laughter abounds
Ten miners at Gunnar’s place
Perfect bodies, no abundant pounds
A mere pimple would be a disgrace

Well-built men in the prime of their lives
Gathered on Friday night
And no, they do not miss their wives
Amidst male buttocks so tight

Gunnar’s wife Astrid briefly appears
To leave a cookie tray
Gunnar commands her: ‘Bring more beers
And then be gone far away!’

For in the company of mates from work
Wives are but a waste of space
‘He who chases women is a jerk!’
Declares Truls with a dignified face

‘Kåre, let a log on the fire be thrown!’
Says Gunnar, unbuttoning his shirt
‘Behold, pitmen! See how my biceps have grown’
From digging out coal in the dirt’

Nine pairs of eyes in amazement stare
As the shirt is consigned to the floor
An immaculate chest all covered with hair
Can a collier ask for more?

‘I took evening classes in the history of art.'
Says Torleif, wiping sweat from his brow
‘Hence, I have knowledge to impart
If the company may kindly allow’

‘I’ve seen ancient sculptures in Greece and Rome
Of consummate beauty and grace
Yet, why did I stray so far from home
At perfect proportions to gaze?’

‘When my workmate’s body is a masterpiece
To which no sculpture can compare
Let fire swallow my books about Greece!
For the beauty I seek is here’

‘And I’, says Einar, ‘have read them all
the sagas the Icelanders wrote
But neither Rafnkjell, Egil nor Njål’ –
Einar pauses to clear his throat –

’Exuded such power, such vigour, such force
As Gunnar in topless state.’
Kjetil interrupts with a voice so hoarse:
’He resembles Alexander the Great!’

Kåre announces, ‘Kjetil, my friend
in the sauna you showed me your chest
Why not display it once again?
To its splendour I gladly attest’

Kjetil obeys, followed by Truls,
Viggo, Reidar and Finn
Sweaty miners, mighty as bulls
Eager to show some skin

Shirts discarded on wooden floor
But helmets remain on heads
‘Trousers’, says Viggo, ‘what are they for?’
And throws them on the bed

His thighs are the talk of the mining town
The mining season’s number one hit
The excited colliers gather around
Like they once did down in the pit

Last week in the mineshaft he flashed his thighs
For all his colleagues to admire
Legs worthy of the Nobel Prize,
Thighs that can trigger a fire!

Many a miner in bed that night
To that perfect moment return’d
Two muscular thighs; a splendid sight
Ah! How the miner yearn’d

Once more to lay eyes on such flawless limbs
To revel in their beauty anew
More muscular than anything seen at the gym’s
Legs to which eyes stuck like glue!

Today the prayers of men have been heard
As Viggo at last understands
With legs like his, it is indeed absurd
To walk around wearing pants

By his workmate inspired, with flames in his eyes
Kåre the driller bursts out
‘Underpants are shackles in woollen disguise
Not fitting a miner so stout’

‘Begone! Ye chains around my legs
I curse you in Scargill’s* name
My athletic body for freedom begs
It refuses to hide in shame’

‘We, Prometheans from the bowels of the earth
The noble excavators of coal
For cent’ries the upper class ignored our worth
Our bodies they sought to control’

‘By wrapping us in trousers, sweaters and socks
Our nakedness hidden from view
But now the collier, as strong as an ox
Nudism seeks to pursue!’

‘Soon, fellow miners, on the May day parade
We will march for the 6-hour day
Red flags, banners will all be display’d
But clothes will be put away’

‘Only our helmets will remain
Safety must come first
That apart: not even the heaviest rain
Can stop us; or may we be cursed!’

‘Indeed, the bashful days are gone,’
says Finn, ‘Let’s march down the street
With nothing but our helmets on
And give the public a treat.’

‘Let eyes feast on masculine flesh
Revel in our dangling jewels
Relish the sight of male meat so fresh
Adore our reproductive tools’

‘In triumph we will stroll down the street
And gain the people’s respect
But for our strategy to succeed
There is one thing we must not neglect’

‘Practice! Let’s commence without delay
To our boxers bid a last farewell
May we start rehearsals for that glorious day
When miners ring the victory bell!’

*Arthur Scargill, legendary leader of the British National Union of Mineworkers from 1981 to 2000.