Ramblings & ephemera

Some great gross parasites

Parasitoid Wasps From Charles Q. Choi’s “Web-manipulating wasps” (Live Science: 2 March 2011): Although parasites harm their hosts, they don’t usually kill them, if only to keep themselves alive. Not so with parasitoids, which ultimately destroy and often consume their hosts. Parasitoid wasps, which inspired the monster in the movie “Alien,” lay their eggs inside […]

What dogs give us

photo credit: Cia de Foto From Gene Weingarten’s “Murphy’s Law” (The Washington Post: 3 May 2009): [My dog] Murphy has a good life, which is the least we humans can do for a dog, in return for what they give us, which is access to the sort of innocence and trust and absence of guile […]

Roger Ebert on death

From Roger Ebert’s “Go gentle into that good night” (Roger Ebert’s Journal: 2 May 2009): What I expect will most probably happen [when I die] is that my body will fail, my mind will cease to function, and that will be that. My genes will not live on, because I have had no children. Perhaps […]

Why did Thomas Jefferson bring a stuffed moose to France?

From David G. Post’s “Jefferson’s Moose” (Remarks presented at the Stanford Law School Conference on Privacy in Cyberspace: 7 February 2000): In 1787, Jefferson, then the American Minister to France, had the “complete skeleton, skin & horns of the Moose” shipped to him in Paris and mounted in the lobby of his hotel. One can […]

The cochineal insect’s gift of red

From Allen Abel and Madeleine Czigler’s “Scandal, communism, blood” (National Post: 27 June 2008): The blood-red allure of lipstick is a gift of a parasitic insect that infests cactus plants, principally in Mexico and Peru. It has been known since Aztec and Mayan times that, when boiled, the body of the cochineal insect dissolves into […]

But we’ve always done it this way …

From James Bennett’s “Let’s talk about Python 3.0” (The B-List: 5 December 2008): There’s an old joke, so old that I don’t even know for certain where it originated, that’s often used to explain why big corporations do things the way they do. It involves some monkeys, a cage, a banana and a fire hose. […]

Protected: Taboo acts and language and how they work together

There is no excerpt because this is a protected post.

50% of people infected with personality-changing brain parasites from cats

From Carl Zimmer’s “The Return of the Puppet Masters” (Corante: 17 January 2006): I was investigating the remarkable ability parasites have to manipulate the behavior of their hosts. The lancet fluke Dicrocoelium dendriticum, for example, forces its ant host to clamp itself to the tip of grass blades, where a grazing mammal might eat it. […]

How the settlers changed America’s ecology, radically

From Charles C. Mann’s “America, Found & Lost” (National Geographic: May 2007): It is just possible that John Rolfe was responsible for the worms—specifically the common night crawler and the red marsh worm, creatures that did not exist in the Americas before Columbus. Rolfe was a colonist in Jamestown, Virginia, the first successful English colony […]

Denise-ism #62

Last night Denise was speaking to my Blogs to Wikis class about the legal implications of social software. She was going over exceptions to the 1st Amendment and was discussing obscenity and child pornography. “Child pornography is a completely different animal altogether. Especially if you’re using animals.”

An elderly Eskimo & his unusual knife

From Wade Davis’ “Wade Davis: an Inuit elder and his shit knife” (Boing Boing: 26 September 2008): The Inuit didn’t fear the cold; they took advantage of it. During the 1950s the Canadian government forced the Inuit into settlements. A family from Arctic Bay told me this fantastic story of their grandfather who refused to […]

1 Henry VI: moody-mad

From William Shakespeare’s Henry VI, part 1 (IV: 2): TALBOT: If we be English deer, be then in blood; Not rascal-like, to fall down with a pinch, But rather, moody-mad and desperate stags, Turn on the bloody hounds with heads of steel And make the cowards stand aloof at bay: moody-mad: furious with anger

1 Henry VI: Talbot’s deer metaphor

From William Shakespeare’s Henry VI, part 1 (IV: 2): TALBOT: He fables not; I hear the enemy: Out, some light horsemen, and peruse their wings. O, negligent and heedless discipline! How are we park’d and bounded in a pale, A little herd of England’s timorous deer, Mazed with a yelping kennel of French curs! If […]

My late May, 2004

From the email archives: On Sunday 30 May 2004 11:32 pm, Jerry Hubbard wrote: > How is everyone? Hope the storms did not harm anyone. My basement flooded twice, my tenant’s kitchen had water streaming in through the window frame, our backyard fence was blown down, the umbrella on our deck was blown off the […]

Why so many Google projects & betas?

From “Fuzzy maths” (The Economist: 11 May 2006): Google seems to use betas as dogs sprinkle trees – so that rivals know where it is.

Russian anti-tank dogs

From Damn Interesting’s “Let Slip the Dogs of War“: Nary does a modern movie depict the way the Romans used mastiffs with razored collars in battle, nor the fully armored Death Hounds … that the medieval knights would loose on a field to snap at the legs of opponents and dispatch the wounded that littered […]

Zombie ships adrift off the shore of Africa

From “Happiness: The Chinese zombie ships of West Africa“: We’re in the big African Queen inflatable, cruising alongside an anchored trawler. It’s more rust than metal – the ship is rotting away. The foredeck is covered in broken machinery. The fish deck is littered with frayed cables, and the mast lies horizontally, hanging over the […]

Which wires match the mouse test?

From Computerworld’s “Q&A: A lost interview with ENIAC co-inventor J. Presper Eckert“: What’s the zaniest thing you did while developing ENIAC? The mouse cage was pretty funny. We knew mice would eat the insulation off the wires, so we got samples of all the wires that were available and put them in a cage with […]

Forced to commit suicide by brain parasites

From New Scientist‘s “Parasites brainwash grasshoppers into death dive“: A parasitic worm that makes the grasshopper it invades jump into water and commit suicide does so by chemically influencing its brain, a study of the insects’ proteins reveal. The parasitic Nematomorph hairworm (Spinochordodes tellinii) develops inside land-dwelling grasshoppers and crickets until the time comes for […]

A repulsive jumbo shrimp

From The Honolulu Advertiser: Health experts are not sure what is causing Mantis Shrimp found in the muck of the Ala Wai Canal to grow larger than their normal size, but one thing is clear, they say: You shouldn’t eat anything out of the canal. State Department of Health signs posted along the canal warn […]