Monday, January 30, 2006

Antidote to Phelps

God hates figs

Oh, I found this so funny this morning. :D

Friday, January 27, 2006

Rodney Mullen

So it seems he is a skater. King of freestyle. "The Mutt".


At least that mystery is solved. But I do not look like him... or Danny DeVito. :D

More Parasite Puppetry

Another parasite, Dicrocoelium dendriticum, which apparently controls an intermediate host in order to get to its ideal host :D.

Zimmer mentioned it, and I found this diagram of its life-cycle, although its effect on the ant is not clear from it. According to Zimmer, it dupes or controls the ant into clinging onto grass blades until eaten by a grazing animal.

Also the Euhaplorchis californiensis causes its fish hosts to jump and faff about, to make them more likely to be consumed by wading birds.

Fantastic. :D

Face Recognition

I found this most amusing this morning. Apparently I look like:

Hilary Duff
Ingrid Bergman
Rita Hayworth

And humourously enough:

Mark Hamill
Rodney Mullen (who?)
Salman Rushdie
Ahmed Shah Massoud
Harold Wilson
Mario Vargas Llosa

And most hilariously of all:

Danny DeVito! :D

Thursday, January 26, 2006


Britons unconvinced on evolution

A sample of 2000 Brits:

22% chose creationism
17% opted for intelligent design
48% selected evolution theory
and the rest did not know.

"When given a choice of three descriptions for the development of life on Earth, people were asked which one or ones they would like to see taught in science lessons in British schools:
44% said creationism should be included
41% intelligent design
69% wanted evolution as part of the science curriculum."

Which I find quite bizarre.

What is it they say about statistics tho? There are lies, damned lies and statistics?

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Parasite puppet masters

Return of the Puppet Masters

This is fascinating stuff.

The life cycle of the Toxoplasma gondii. It likes living in the guts of cats, and its eggs are shed (in the faeces, presumably). If the egg is picked up by rats, the parasite affects the rat brain in such a way that it is no longer panicked by the smell of cats, and more likely to be eaten, obviously. So the parasite gets to inhabit a new cat's innards.

Lovely! :D

I feel very excited by this. :D Is that strange?


When I'm feeling blue ...

Felt horribly down the last couple of days, but a bit lighter today.

I think talking with A helps. I missed her when she wasn't online much.

And, of course, that M has a day-off today. :D Woo hoo! Today won't be such a struggle and I can delegate some things his way. :D

Well, confession is good for the ...

Well, it's good for the conscience and good for the friendship, I think. A didn't seem to be angry about it, and said she was glad I tried to stick up for her.

So that's ok.

I'm glad I emailed her about it.

Love their rendition of "bu de bu ai"

Monday, January 23, 2006

Oh Lord it's hard to be humble

I said I probably wouldn't talk about anything personal...

I may have lied. but at least I can delete this post at any time, and indeed, the whole blog. And I don't think anyone reads it, yet, or possibly ever. :)

Feeling down.

My usual entertainment/escapism strategy of mucking about at my forums doesn't feel right somehow. I don't want to be there talking crap and making stupid jokes.

Also worried about my friendship with A. I feel like maybe I did the wrong thing and she'll be upset with me. On the other hand, she might not be. Not sure if I should discuss it with her because we try not to talk about the forum. And I don't know if she'll even have read the threads where her name came up. But lets face it, she probably has or will. She usually picks up on these things.

What happened was, someone was dragging her username through the mud again, and I felt I should defend her.


So anyway, I convinced myself just then to email her about it. I hope it doesn't backfire.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Omphalos. Not to be confused with Oompah Loompas

This also mentions Jorge Luis Borges' story of Tlon. I loved that story (from the book Labyrinths, I think). Great stuff. I must dig it out from one of the storage boxes.

And also "Last Thursdayism".

I like it in its circularity. (Is that word? It should be, if not).

I shall probably return to this.

I'm just putting up links/snippets so I remember what it was I was thinking about :D.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Scary beliefs, scary believers

There was a thread on a forum I frequent recently that caused one of the posters (D) on there to leave briefly, and her basic comment about it was that the lunatics have taken over the asylum. And on reading the thread, I can see what she meant. She is a sceptic, as am I.

I absolutely do not get how people can believe such stuff. It frightens me that they can.

It was about the paranormal and how someone believes their child can channel spirits. They were asking for ways to protect the child. D posted a different take on the situation and she was told she was being sanctimonious and that basically she was stifling their beliefs, I think. "Help, help, I'm being oppressed!" [/Monty Python]

I suppose it's hard for people to tell the difference sometimes.

But when you post somewhere that is not entirely peopled by believers, you will get opposing views and other ways of looking at things. No point getting shirty about it.

I don't understand the belief, it is so alien to me. Apparently those who don't "feel" these things don't have open minds, according to someone on the thread.

Which brings to mind, dear old Groucho: "Now there's a man with an open mind - you can feel the breeze from here!"

I didn't want to resurrect the thread, so I didn't contribute.

Pish and ebay

Dammit, got my first ever neutral feedback on ebay. #Sigh#

The person wasn't happy that I didn't leave feedback straightaway after his/her/its payment. It was merely a matter of time constraints and forgetfulness. So I could've been quicker, but it had only been a couple of days. I think it's ridiculous that he/she/it left a neutral over that. If the book had been damaged or in poor condition, or never delivered, or really slowly delivered, that would have been cause to get arsey.

Anyway, at least it wasn't a neg, and I suppose in after 150 transactions or so, you're bound to come across an arsehole eventually. The person had only 5 positive feedback and 2 negs, so you'd have thought he/she/it would be less eager with the strop button.

Oh well.

Friday, January 20, 2006


I dropped across this site Names & Areas which shows the amount of people with a particular surname in 1998 and 1881. So you can enter your own surname and discover how far your ancestors have spread and the areas they came from, most likely.

Discovered that my father's family name has been in the Westcountry for the most part. Which is no real surprise. And my mother's is from the North: she's a Yorkshire lass herself, no surprises there either.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Vatican statement about Intelligent Design

Vatican statement

"PARIS (Reuters) - The Roman Catholic Church has restated its support for evolution with an article praising a U.S. court decision that rejects the "intelligent design" theory as non-scientific.

The Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano said that teaching intelligent design -- which argues that life is so complex that it needed a supernatural creator -- alongside Darwin's theory of evolution would only cause confusion.

A court in the state of Pennsylvania last month barred a school from teaching intelligent design (ID), a blow to Christian conservatives who want it to be taught in biology classes along with the Darwinism they oppose.

The ID movement sometimes presents Catholicism, the world's largest Christian denomination, as an ally in its campaign. While the Church is socially conservative, it has a long theological tradition that rejects fundamentalist creationism.

"Intelligent design does not belong to science and there is no justification for the demand it be taught as a scientific theory alongside the Darwinian explanation," said the article in the Tuesday edition of the newspaper.

Evolution represents "the interpretative key of the history of life on Earth" and the debate in the United States was "polluted by political positions," wrote Fiorenzo Facchini, a professor of evolutionary biology at Italy's Bologna University.

"So the decision by the Pennsylvania judge seems correct.""


This was an exchange on one of my forums:

Basic rule: Whatever happens "works out for good" to the believer, no matter what it seems like to our fallible mortal eyes. Therefore God deserves all praise.

Corollary: Religion is the only industry in which product failure is entirely the fault of the end user.

Memory and plagiarism

The other day on a forum I frequent, a poster (P) told an anecdote about having heard someone calling a child "Tar, Tar" and discovering to her horror that the child was called Tarzan. P told this as though it was her own experience.

Then another poster pointed out that this was a funny anecdote told by Maureen Lipman.

So, did P plagiarise Lipman's joke knowingly or unknowingly?

One might jump to the conclusion that it was deliberate, but I am not sure it's as cut and dried as that.

It reminds me of reading a story in a newspaper's letters page some time ago, where someone was writing about an experience on a train where a couple had had sex in the compartment she/he was in, and no-one had complained until they lit up a post-coital cigarette: "Ahem, this is a no-smoking train." All very shocking and hilarious. 8)

But much better as told by Victoria Wood in one of her stand-up routines.

So was this letter-writer taking the michael out of the paper by seeing if they would publish a Victoria Wood joke as fact? * Could it be that the person had heard the anecdote and wrote in as though it was fact, because they had forgotten its source, or it had been relayed to them as fact by someone? Or was it a false memory?

It might seem that it has to be a deliberate hoax or knowing plagiarism, but may it also be possible that the person genuinely thinks they remember this happening?

"Despite how clearly you might recall something, you are don't have an accurate taping device in your head. Human memory is geared toward remembering patterns. When we get new information about a particular kind of pattern, then that data is spread throught our memories that our brain deems as matching the pattern. Hence, the memory is modified by new information.

When you recall something, your brain brings up the fragments that are stored about the events, and then fill in the missing bits with guesses that match the pattern. So your memories are mixtures accurate recollections and fictions your brain adds in. As memories age, they become increasingly fictionalized."

This rings true to me, because I know I had this memory of my gran scrubbing my neck with Ajax as a child. But I have come to the belief that this is a corrupted amalgam of several different memories. My neck was persistently dirty as a kid, cos I wouldn't wash it and it became a battle ground between my mum and I. She remembers forcibly scrubbing my neck with Persil. At around the same age, I used to go to my gran's regularly and she would get me to help with housework (which my mum never bothered with making me do, as I think I was a stroppy little bugger and she had working-mother guilt that made her reluctant to waste too much of our time together fighting). So anyway, gran used to get me to clean their bath with Ajax. It was a terrible old bath, with these blue stains, I recall, that nothing seemed to shift, but I think they did fade under Ajax. So here are the separate parts of a messed up memory.

I think gran got the "evil" role because of our strained relationship. 'Course, it is possible that I was polished with powdered Ajax, but I think it unlikely.

It's no wonder I hate having my neck touched, tho. :D

*If, of course, I am remembering this correctly and Wood was the original source. Makes me wonder. :D

Saw this the other day

Mezmer's Laws of Fate:

  • a: If you explain so clearly that nobody can misunderstand, somebody will.
  • b. If you do something that you think everyone will approve, someone won't.
  • c. No matter how many times you explain, no one is listening.

Mezmer's Maxims

Wednesday, January 18, 2006


Schadenfreude \SHOD-n-froy-duh\, noun: A malicious satisfaction obtained from the misfortunes of others.

Fantastic word, and something most of us are guilty of at one time or another.

On a somewhat related subject, I was just reading this about the detection of pleasure in people's brains when someone they have perceived to have wronged them is punished physically.

"The scans showed that both sexes experienced increased brain activity in the fronto-singular and anterior cingulate cortices – areas that the associated with the direct experience of pain – when watching other players receive a jolt of electricity. Researchers have previously shown that so-called mirror neurons will sometimes
fire in empathy with another person's experience.

Both men and women also experienced slightly less activity in these areas when cheaters were given a shock, which suggests the feeling of empathy was dependent on social behaviour.

But tellingly, activity dropped much more in men when watching cheaters being buzzed. In addition, several other regions of male participants' brains "lit up" instead – areas linked to the experience of reward known as the ventral striatum/nucleus accumbens and orbito-frontal cortex.

The results suggest that men not only feel less empathy for cheaters but experience pleasure when they are punished."

Brain scans reveal men's pleasure in revenge

Obviously, have to bear in mind that it was a small sample: only 32 people.

And to quote from the article again: "as Sloan also notes that any difference could be entirely cultural, rather than biological. "Just because it happens in the brain, it doesn't mean it's innate." "

A few quotes

"Imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, "This is an interesting world I find myself in and an interesting hole I find myself in. It fits me rather neatly, doesn't it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well, it must have been made to have me in it!"

This is such a powerful idea that as the sun rises in the sky and the air heats up and as, gradually, the puddle gets smaller and smaller, the puddle's still frantically hanging on to the notion that everything's going to be alright, because this world was meant to have him in it, was built to have him in it; so the moment he disappears catches him rather by surprise.

I think this may be something we need to be on the watch out for."
Douglas Adams

"It's hard to be religious when certain people are never incinerated by bolts of lightning."
Bill Watterson (Calvin & Hobbes)

"Science has never claimed to 'know' everything, or for that matter, anything, to any absolute certainty. That is its glory, not its shame."
James Randi


So, starting a new blog.

I'm just going to fill it with what occurs to me and links to things that I don't want to lose, quotes et al. I don't think I'll be talking about anything personal.

The name is due to one of my user names somewhere being hippo-related. I don't have a particular thing about hippos, btw: I wouldn't want people thinking I did, cos that would lead to all Christmas presents and birthday presents being soft toy hippos, china hippos and pictures of hippos.

That would be dreadful!

I knew an old lady who people believed had a great fondness for cats, and since they couldn't think of anything else to get her, all she ever got was cat-related. She did like cats, I grant you, but I feel not as much as all that... Not that I'm an old lady, but I will be one day, and I don't want to be forever saddled with a reputation for liking everything and anything hippoish.

I just chose the name hippo because it seemed like a good idea at the time. It could have been anything - got it?! :D

I do like the various senses I can draw from the name of this blog,

  • hippo-pernicious. Pernicious is such a great word. :D
  • a blend of hippo-Copernicus (if only I was that smart!)
  • and hippo-knickers :P.