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Phrase of the Day: Helicopter Parents

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We originally ran this story back in February. Today a talk-show producer in New York asked us for more stories of very involved "“ or over-permissive "“ parents. If you fall into either category, they may want you on the show.

I really like the phrase "helicopter parents." While it's been around for a while, it's new to me.

My first job after college involved answering the phone in my alma mater's Office of Student Development.* During orientation, students and parents were given pens with my phone number beside the words "Need Help?" I did not realize this for months.

"We're planning a trip over fall break," a concerned parent told me early in my tenure. "Does my son have a lot of studying to do around then?" After politely explaining my limited psychic powers, she turned it up a notch. "Well, can't you call his professors and find out?"

"Get out a pad and write this down," an angry dad once ordered. "I'm giving you instructions for installing an air conditioner in my daughter's window."

One mother asked for her daughter's mailing address. Armed with a phone book and aiming to please, I filled her in. "What are you doing?" she scolded. "How do you know I'm really her mother?" She had called to test me.

I can't believe the term "helicopter parent" never came up. But now it's everywhere. And not just on campus.

According to a survey of the young and employed, "25% said their parents were involved in their jobs 'to the point that it was either annoying or embarrassing.'" The Times' Lisa Belkin wrote about a mom who contacted the CEO of the PR firm that employs her daughter. She wanted his help planning her a surprise sushi lunch.

This area is rich with anecdotes. If you've been buzzed by helicopter parents "“ or you are a helicopter parent "“ we want your stories.

*This statement is not true. My first actual job after college was power washing, staining and painting decks. I spilled an inordinate amount of paint in my hair and was quite happy to accept a job with internet access.

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FRED TANNEAU/AFP/Getty Images
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Animals
Fisherman Catches Rare Blue Lobster, Donates It to Science
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FRED TANNEAU/AFP/Getty Images

Live lobsters caught off the New England coast are typically brown, olive-green, or gray—which is why one New Hampshire fisherman was stunned when he snagged a blue one in mid-July.

As The Independent reports, Greg Ward, from Rye, New Hampshire, discovered the unusual lobster while examining his catch near the New Hampshire-Maine border. Ward initially thought the pale crustacean was an albino lobster, which some experts estimate to be a one-in-100-million discovery. However, a closer inspection revealed that the lobster's hard shell was blue and cream.

"This one was not all the way white and not all the way blue," Ward told The Portsmouth Herald. "I've never seen anything like it."

While not as rare as an albino lobster, blue lobsters are still a famously elusive catch: It's said that the odds of their occurrence are an estimated one in two million, although nobody knows the exact numbers.

Instead of eating the blue lobster, Ward decided to donate it to the Seacoast Science Center in Rye. There, it will be studied and displayed in a lobster tank with other unusually colored critters, including a second blue lobster, a bright orange lobster, and a calico-spotted lobster.

[h/t The Telegraph]

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Courtesy Murdoch University
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Animals
Australian Scientists Discover First New Species of Sunfish in 125 Years
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Courtesy Murdoch University

Scientists have pinpointed a whole new species of the largest bony fish in the world, the massive sunfish, as we learned from Smithsonian magazine. It's the first new species of sunfish proposed in more than 125 years.

As the researchers report in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, the genetic differences between the newly named hoodwinker sunfish (Mola tecta) and its other sunfish brethren was confirmed by data on 27 different samples of the species collected over the course of three years. Since sunfish are so massive—the biggest can weigh as much as 5000 pounds—they pose a challenge to preserve and store, even for museums with large research collections. Lead author Marianne Nyegaard of Murdoch University in Australia traveled thousands of miles to find and collected genetic data on sunfish stranded on beaches. At one point, she was asked if she would be bringing her own crane to collect one.

Nyegaard also went back through scientific literature dating back to the 1500s, sorting through descriptions of sea monsters and mermen to see if any of the documentation sounded like observations of the hoodwinker. "We retraced the steps of early naturalists and taxonomists to understand how such a large fish could have evaded discovery all this time," she said in a press statement. "Overall, we felt science had been repeatedly tricked by this cheeky species, which is why we named it the 'hoodwinker.'"

Japanese researchers first detected genetic differences between previously known sunfish and a new, unknown species 10 years ago, and this confirms the existence of a whole different type from species like the Mola mola or Mola ramsayi.

Mola tecta looks a little different from other sunfish, with a more slender body. As it grows, it doesn't develop the protruding snout or bumps that other sunfish exhibit. Similarly to the others, though, it can reach a length of 8 feet or more. 

Based on the stomach contents of some of the specimens studied, the hoodwinker likely feeds on salps, a jellyfish-like creature that it probably chomps on (yes, sunfish have teeth) during deep dives. The species has been found near New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, and southern Chile.

[h/t Smithsonian]

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