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Find out about the habits of armadillos

This is a curious jelly wobble, which was suggested by @craigneale.

If you remember these adverts for Dime bars with Harry Enfield, then you probably shouted the word ARMADILLOS loudly at school! But how much do you actually know about these strange creatures. I’ve read a bit into them following the suggestion. There are loads of quirky facts, so here are my top 5:

  1. Armadillos are native to the Americas. The nine-banded armadillo lives only in the United States.
  2. Females give birth to identical quadruplets. All from the same egg, armadillos are the only animals to naturally clone.
  3. Females can delay the embryo implanting into the uterus until timings are right – for example when temperature and food supplies are optimum.
  4. Whilst all armadillos curl up in a ball for their armour to protect them as a defensive tactic, only the nine-banded armadillo jumps when it is frightened – up to three feet! Not great for the underside of a truck or car.
  5. With all their armour, armadillos are heavy. They can cross the bed of a river by holding their breath for 10 minutes. However, they can also swim by inflating their stomachs and intestines for bouyancy, and float across water.
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If you ever wanted to see how an armadillo curls into a ball….

There are hundreds of websites you can look at to find out more. Here are a few of the better ones:

Armadillos are the only animals, except humans, to have leprosy. They can even transmit leprosy to humans.

A humourous blog on the quadruplet birth thing

Buy an armadillo as a cute and cuddly pet, for £350

A song and cartoon about the jumping armadillo, not suitable for younger children.

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Cute – if only they didn’t transmit leprosy to humans

Go on, find out some interesting things about armadillos and post them on the Wobble a Jelly Facebook page.

Remember, you can tweet me suggestions @jelly_wobbler

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Go to work a different way

Have a think about your journey to school/work/shops today. How much of that journey do you remember? Do you remember scanning your Oyster card, who you passed by, turning left or right down a road? These thoughts struck me recently when I went around a roundabout and on exiting I couldn’t remember looking to my right to check for on-coming traffic. Then I tried to remember the entire journey and I couldn’t really remember much of it at all!

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) carried out an experiment by placing electronic wires in the brain of rats. They let them loose in a simple maze which had chocolate at the end as their reward. They found that on the first few runs their brains were a hive of activity – sniffing, scratching and experimenting with different routes. Over a week, the rats became efficient and found the chocolate with ease and directly. The electronic sensors showed that towards the end of the week they used their brains less – meaning they didn’t need to use them as much to get to the same goal. Source: Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit. This must be what’s happening in the mundane routines of our lives.

I began thinking about going a different way to work. It would be less efficient but it would get my mind going. On my way home from work the other day, I was parked on the M25 is standstill traffic. The radio suggested hours of delays, so I decided to take the next exit and try to work my way home on the smaller roads. I had no sat nav although I do think I have a good sense of direction, so I gave it a go.

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This sight pushed me to turn off the next junction and go home a different route

My initial feelings were those of stress. I didn’t know where the roads were going and they were bending, meaning my mental map of where I was could be skewed. I was mentally trying to figure out place names and where they sat in the geography of north west London – thinking if I went through x, that would be a stepping stone to y. The London Underground map was a visual in my head and I could see the lines snaking towards home.

When place names became more familiar (like destinations on the front of buses) I became more relaxed. That is until signs started to disappear, then panic set in! Eventually I made it, and it was an exhilarating experience. I have since walked #1 son to school various different ways – seeing different parts of the neighbourhood, engaging their curiosity and having fun not knowing what’s around the corner.

This great blog sums it up perfectly:

As soon as you vary the journey a little, you notice new things, you appreciate it differently, and you stop treating the commute as a necessary annoyance. Upon reaching your destination, you’re more likely to feel positive, alert, and ready to deal with whatever comes your way.

Here are some suggestions from the same blog – you don’t need to limit this to the daily commute!

  • Ride a bike instead of taking the bus. Changing mode of transport is just as effective;
  • Take the same route as usual, but look up instead of down at the pavement. Challenge yourself to spot things you hadn’t noticed before;
  • Make a point of studying a particular aspect of the route, like the distinguishing features on the front doors you pass, for instance;
  • Find three or four ways to get from A to B and never take the same route two days in a row;
  • Switch off your iPod. Listen to the world as you walk;
  • Switch on your iPod. Let the journey and the music be one. Listen to different types of music each day and see how it changes the way you feel;
  • Go further…walk the long way around to get somewhere. Leave more time and enjoy a leisurely walk off the beaten track. Who cares if you start off by walking away from your destination? You’ll get there in the end!

Go on, try it yourself! Post your photos and comments to the Wobble a Jelly Facebook page.

Remember, you can tweet me suggestions @jelly_wobbler

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Skip with a Skipping Rope

Here’s another task I haven’t done since school – probably primary school. It is the favoured training regime of a boxer – not a training session PR stunt of a boxer about to fight for a title belt goes without the hero skipping on a gym rope. So how hard can it be? I remember at school it was easy.

I went for the two-feet-in-the-air-at-the-same-time technique (as opposed to the less-than-flattering-skipping-whilst-running technique). And boy was it hard! I couldn’t last more than three minutes. My less than flat stomach wobbled about, and after the embarrassment my abs were screaming. I was short of breath and my lungs were tight. My 4 3/4 year old laughed to see such fun. I didn’t remember it being this hard at school!

According to this website on the health benefits of skipping, the effort it takes to jump rope for 10 minutes is the equivalent of running a mile in eight minutes!

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A not-very-flattering photo of me skipping

A new found respect for people who can skip. But especially for those who can do these….

Cool skipping  -video of some young types doing some freestyle skipping tricks.

A dog skipping. Yes, a dog!

And if you don’t have a skipping rope… use a nearby person instead.

Why not join a club. Have a look at the British Rope Skipping Association, under Affliated Clubs.

 

Go on, try it yourself! Post your photos and comments to the Wobble a Jelly Facebook page.

Remember, you can tweet me suggestions @jelly_wobbler

 

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Let someone else choose your meal at a restaurant

In my why section, I explain that the inspiration for this blog started as a result of choosing something different off of a menu. It forced me to try something I’d never normally try.

I still felt I was veering towards food I would like, so at a meal with some work colleagues, I decided to try something really different.

We played a game where you choose the meal for the person to your left. And so on round the table.

We briefed the waiter so that he would not repeat the order back so that we only knew what we were having when it arrived at the table. It was really quite exciting – not knowing what someone would order for you, and equally what the other person would think of the meal you’ve just chosen for them. It’s quite a conversation-starter.

I have played The Game know a couple of times – Paella (thanks Marcus!) and Pork Chop (thanks Craig!). Two things I probably would never have ordered, and was a nice change to the norm. I would say the food tasted nicer knowing the excitement and conversation it generated before the even came out.

Just be careful, it could go wrong. I ordered Bone Marrow for my colleague and didn’t go down well. And you may get something completely unusual….. Fried chicken and waffle anyone?!

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Go on, play The Game yourself! Post your photos and comments to the Wobble a Jelly Facebook page.

Remember, you can tweet me suggestions @jelly_wobbler

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Re-read a book you read as a child

For this task my first stop was raiding the bookshelves of my parent’s house. My eyes were drawn to Roald Dahl’s Matilda. The worn, bluey yellow spine brought back memories of re-reading the story multiple times, as I did with most Dahl stories. The yellowing pages were up-turned at every corner, proof-positive of a well-thumbed book.

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I wanted to find a book I remembered I liked, to see how the story differed from an adult’s perspective. There are two conundrums with this. Firstly, would it spoil the happy and fond memories of so long ago, now that my adult’s eye would analyse every sentence and happening. Or secondly, would it improve the story and the writing, being able to appreciate the story-telling, imagination and literature from a world-weary view.

So I read Matilda on a long-haul flight in under 3 hours, drinking in every word, illustration and colourful character. In a change to the norm of reading novels, it was a child-like, guilty-pleasure to read a story with pictures. The book was published in 1988 and I am fairly certain I read it first within minutes of it being published – over 23 years ago. And it certainly did not disappoint. The characters are so cleverly described, the names of whom are funny in their own right. The plot captivating, the motivations of the cast thought out. Even for this 33 year old, the getting-one-over-the-adults (especially a mean teacher) appeals so much to younger teenagers. It’s no wonder I loved it as a kid. And it really isn’t patronising, which is what I expected before I flicked open the first page. Words like ‘asinine’, ‘ethereal’ and ‘seraphic’, and phrases such as ‘lovely pale oval madonna face’, ‘the prostrate giant’, and ‘huge overstuffed grub, replete, comatose’ pepper the prose like a mad uncle – familiar but strange. There were a few gripes, particularly with speech, but it did not cloud the experience one bit.

Most of all, reading those yellowing pages on my business-class flat bed, seeing the faded corners of the pages that had been folded over by my 10-year-old self 23 years ago took me back to a memory of an excited boy, lying on his cabin bed, feet swaying in the air behind him, savouring every word, paragraph and chapter again and again. That was the best memory of re-reading Matilda.

If you want to read some silly analysis into the story, click here:

After reading the book, I feel obliged to go and see Matilda the Musical

Go on, try it yourself! Post your photos and comments to the Wobble a Jelly Facebook page.

Remember, you can tweet me suggestions @jelly_wobbler

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Pick up an earthworm

I am ok with spiders, daddy long legs and centipedes.

Fish, lobsters, crabs revolt me.

Worms, slugs and snails are somewhere inbetween. In my garden compost, whenever I dispatch my latest peelings, cut grass and egg shells, a multitude of worms drop down from the black lid. My first instinct is a squirm and my stomach turns a little. When my eldest boy became inquisitive I kept telling him there’s nothing to worry about, they aren’t scary and to “look how small they are”. Time to take my own advice and get over my mini-fear of them.

The worm I chose was fairly flat and plump. It was cool to the touch and a little bit slimy. I could see the cast inside and one end (possibly the head) began rising, as if sniffing the air. The middle contracted and the sensation on my skin was like when my eldest would spit out a piece of food he didn’t like.

Like the first time I touched the skin of a snake, it was all rather disappointing and really nothing to worry about!

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Here are 5 interesting facts I have since found out about the common worm:

  1. Charles Darwin spent 40 years studying earthworms. It only took him 3 years to write the Origin of the Species.
  2. They have 5 hearts, to help pump their white blood around their body.
  3. They never over-populate. They breed only when there is enough food to go around. Something us humans should take note of.
  4. They are asexual, which means they have both male and female reproductive organs. 
  5. As they travel through soil, the tunnels they create allows air and water to flow to lower parts of the ground.

Go on, try it yourself! Post your photos and comments to the Wobble a Jelly Facebook page.

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Write a shopping list with your “wrong” hand

From a very young age we learn to write with our strong hand. And we do so for the entirety of our life. But what’s it like to write with the other hand. It’s always there, and seldom used. So here’s my effort at writing with my weaker, right hand.

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What surprised me most was the level of concentration I had to give to this relatively simple task. It took me about 7 minutes to write this list, much, much longer than normal. The “s” was tricky, and my hand ached by the time I got to “gum”, particularly my little finger.

What is scary – probably due to the huge amount of concentration – it is neater and more legible than my strong, left-hand writing! I always hated when writing with my left hand that the ink smudges, and during school my hand was covered in ink. Not so with this, as the leading hand glides over ink-less paper!

I just found these articles about learning to use your non-dominant hand. Apparently it engages the brain, creating new neurological connections and makes you more creative!

How to write with your left hand (if right handed)

Benefits of using your opposite hand – Grow brain cells while brushing your teeth

“The non-dominant hand is actually linked to the non-dominant hemisphere in your brain – the one that isn’t exercised as often. There are studies that show that when you use your dominant hand, one hemisphere of the brain is active. When you use the non-dominant hand, both hemispheres are activated, which may result in thinking differently and becoming more creative.”

Go on, try it yourself! Post your photos and comments to the Wobble a Jelly Facebook page.

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