Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Just in case you wanted to know what I had for soccer players and balls.

HELP! The world cup is haunting me.

Cold rooms are worse than computers

My brother used to have a cartoon that said “to err is human, but to really screw up requires a computer” (at least that’s how I think it went). Computers have a reputation of crashing at the worse possible times, e.g. after several hours of important work. I’m learning that cold rooms are a bit like this. I’ll elaborate a bit. Cold rooms aren’t usually “rooms” per se, but more like oversized refrigerators; often they’re big enough to walk into. If everything worked like it should, the temperature should be easily adjustable and constant. Right now, I’m trying to do an experiment that requires some animals to be kept at a constant temperature of 10 C…not too demanding for a room that should be able to get much colder. Two days into the 2 week long experiment the temp in the “cold room” had shot up to 20. Wonderful. The fans responsible for moderating the temperature had iced up and stopped working, so I had to stop the experiment and allow everything to defrost. After the ice melted, the room seemed to be working better, so I was confident about trying the experiment again. But again, after a couple days at 10 degrees the fans started to ice up. Malfunctions like this always seem to happen when you are trying to do an important experiment, and they are responsible for substantial stress. These problems have forced me to totally redesign my experiments on the fly, which is not very easy to do. When experimental design is rushed, something might be overlooked resulting in some disastrous mistake that undermines all you’re trying to accomplish. Fear of wasting time, energy, and opportunities is giving me plenty of reason to be stressed. Technology is great; I often need cold rooms for in my work. But I think I’ll hesitate to design another experiment that requires the use of cold rooms…just for my own well-being.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The other day, I bought four CDs for the price of three. (wow:)) I told Dan about my purchases but he wasn´t impressed when I mentioned the artists. Especially he didn´t approve Billy Idol´s Greatest Hits. Why not? I don´t know. Billy Idol is an embodied decade. The 80s. And there´s nothing bad about that. I have to admit that I don´t like his new songs very much. As all the 80s stars, he probably recorded his recent album because money was needed. Anyways, "Dancing with myself", "Rebel yell", "White wedding" or "Hot in the city" are musical milestones he wrote with his congenial guitarist. And I´ve liked what he did with his upper lip. Rock´N´Roll! Btw the other CDs are by Goldfrapp, The Pogues and Richard Ashcroft. Dan doesn´t even know them;)

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Looking for treasure in Jyväsjärvi

Everyday I spend about 1-2 hrs in Lake Jyväsjärvi looking for infected isopods. During this glamorous work, which draws baffled stares from most passersby, I have found a whole bunch of stuff that isn’t supposed to be in a lake. Here’s a list of things I can recall from memory: a variety of bones (probably from cows), trash (of course…especially bottles), heavy duty gloves (for ice fishing?), 3 tires, a few tennis balls, uncountable shoes of all different styles, a full bag of carrots, a horse shoe, and a dead dog. I’ll elaborate on some of these. The first time I found a bone (the pic), I was really wondering what it came from. A colleague of mine tells me that there used to be a slaughterhouse a few km upstream of Jyväsjärvi, so I assume the bones must be from cows. Actually, now that I’ve noticed them, I spot these bones all over the lake…I could probably build a cow skeleton if I was so motivated. Not so sure how some of the other stuff gets into the lake, such as the tires, shoes, and food items. I guess people just toss it into the lake for fun. A colleague once found a coconut in the lake. It’s not a native Finnish plant, so I’m guessing someone wanted to test whether coconuts float. The dead dog was and still is really disgusting. When you look at it you want to turn away but you just can’t. I now refer to the area I found it as Dead Dog Bay. I find all this stuff along the shoreline. I can’t even imagine all the stuff that is at the bottom of the lake. The maximum depth of Jyväsjärvi is about 35 m, and, based on my basic understanding of limnology and water currents, I think most of the stuff that goes down there doesn’t come back up. I like to think that there is some really amazing treasure at the bottom of the lake and not just a big pile of rubbish.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Everyone knows the current president of the U.S.A. isn't so smart. However, we have all come to take this fact for granted. Sometimes we need to remember just how much of a moron he is. Check out this article. It points out several good examples, all from the same news conference, demonstrating what a horrendous leader he is.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

The evolution of...pop culture?

I swung by the website of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, a light-hearted take on the intelligent-design vs. evolution fiasco in the U.S. I was reading some of the hate mail, which is entertaining yet absolutely stupifying. People go absolutely bonkers when you even remotely tease their faith. But I don't wanna write about that; this debate is a hot button issue for me considering my chosen career field so I could go on and on. Instead, just go to the website and check out the New York Dolls video that is posted there. Yeah, those punk rockers from the 70s wrote a light-hearted song about evolution called "Dance like a Monkey". The song is catchy and the video is pretty funny. If you like the song, you can download it from the roadrunner records webpage. I reckon (one of Ines' friends thinks the word "reckon" isn't used there you go) that the entrance of the ID vs. evolution debate into the realm of pop culture diminishes its seriousness. At least that's my hope.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Why does the Virgin Mary keep turning up in foods? Some employees at a chocolate factory in California claim that a “statue” of chocolate drippings looks like the Virgin Mary. The article is here. I also remember that recently someone sold some french toast on ebay that apparently had a portrait of Mary fried onto it. In my opinion, these observations seem to raise questions, not so much about faith and religion, but about human psychology. First of all, how can you convince yourself that something looks like the Virgin Mary? Ok, everybody sees weird stuff from time to time, but I have never found any kind of religious symbol, signal, person, etc. in my meals. Even if there was ever something there, I probably wouldn’t notice it before eating it. Second, how can people find such deep significance in such random occurrences? Assume for a minute that this is some kind of sign from the mother of God; what’s the message? Eat more chocolate? Eat less chocolate? Don’t worry, be happy? I’m not anti-religious and I don’t want to attack anyone’s purportedly meaningful encounter with Mary. I just wonder whether people even consider what they are seeing and why? Psychology research seems to suggest that people (everyone whether religious or not) tend to think what they want to, and this extends to our visual perception as well. We have a tendency to see what we want to, without even being conscious of it. This may or may not explain why people seem to find spiritual significance in the strangest of circumstances. Think what you want…I won’t try to stop you.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

The pond that tried to eat me

In a previous post, I briefly described one of the field sites (Niemijärvi) from which I collect isopods. There is a small wooden bridge that goes over the pond/swamp and I usually just use a net to collect isopods from the bridge (see pic…not from today). Yesterday, I did just that, but only managed to collect a few isopods. This morning I returned, but with my rubber boots so I could wade into the lake and collect from areas away from the small bridge. Sounds like a good idea, right? Nope. I took one step onto a seemingly dry piece of ground and, next thing I knew, I was up to my knee in mud. In such a situation, your natural reflex is to push hard with the other leg to try and pull yourself out. That’s what I did. Can you guess what happened? Yeah, I was immediately in mud up to both my knees. At that point I stopped to think about how to get out of there without surrendering my boots to the swamp. I leaned back, found a spot to put my hands where they wouldn’t sink, and pulled one leg out. Once it was out and on solid ground, the other leg came out without too much effort. Great way to start the day…covered in mud with little success in collecting more isopods. Tomorrow I won’t leave the bridge.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Physicists are weird

If anyone is interested in a new perspective on reality, check this out. First off, I can’t claim to know enough about physics, current scientific consensus, or quantum mechanics to say whether these ideas have any validity. However, I still think that it is interesting to see the world from different perspectives, regardless of whether or not they’re “right”. Basically, if I understood the cartoon on the website, the idea that we live in 4 dimensions (with time as the 4th) is a considerable oversimplification of reality. Here, I agree with him. Every organism is constrained by their own sensory mechanism, and I believe humans are no different. We can only perceive what we need to…that’s why we can’t smell as well as dogs, see as well as eagles, or hear as well as owls. We must be missing a whole lot of the events transpiring in the universe. I’m getting sidetracked, but the point is we only can comprehend 4 dimensions, because that’s all we need to. The cartoon goes on to explain what the higher dimensions would be like. To be honest, I got a bit lost here. None of these ideas are easily grasped, but the whole conceptual framework seems to draw on observations from quantum physics (the stuff happening at sub-atomic level). A long-existing concept in quantum physics is that some subatomic particles, electrons I believe, cannot really be described as particles. They exist as “waves of probability”. This essentially means that you can guess where in space the particle may be, but you can’t be sure. When you consider every possible spot a particle may be, then you’re considering lines crossing into other dimensions. I don’t really understand how the dimensions are stacked onto one another, but the point is that they are connected. When we get to the tenth dimension, it is composed of an infinite amount of universes with all possible timelines. Then, the superstrings vibrating in that dimension have consequences for all the other dimensions, including the ones we seem to be aware of (i.e. time and space). Weird to even try to comprehend. I wonder where physicists get their ideas, and, more importantly, how they can possibly test some of these ideas. As I said, I can’t say how “correct” this theory is, but I am pretty certain than any accurate explanation of physical reality will be pretty wild. Thanks to Lukas for sending me the website.

I have a new favourite sport. MINIGOLF. After the approx. six weeks of me being a football ...ehm..I mean soccer fan, I needed new sense in my life.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Field Season

I’m studying isopods (pic) and a parasite that uses them as intermediate host. I collect these isopods from two different sites in Jyväskylä. One is Lake Jyväsjärvi and the other is Lake/Pond Niemisjärvi. The parasite isn’t found in Niemisjärvi because the fish definitive host can’t live there; the pond is too small. From Jyväsjärvi, I can collect infected isopods. Around this time of the year, the isopods are small but growing, and they are just starting to get infected with parasites. For my research, I need to collect infected individuals. This is far more difficult than you’d expect. From the number of worms you find in fish, you would think that there must be thousands of infected isopods. While this is probably true, they are not so easy to find amongst the hundreds of thousands of uninfected isopods in the lake. Today I probably looked at 300-400 isopods from Jyväsjärvi, and none were infected. Wasted hours? It sure feels like it. The other frustrating thing is that the isopods aren’t big enough yet. I visited Niemisjärvi today for the first time in about a year, and the isopods are there, but they’re tiny. A colleague and I are planning to do an experimental infection of isopods (i.e. give uninfected isopods parasite eggs to eat), but we know that the small, juveniles don’t get infected. Thus, we just have to wait for the isopods from the lakes to grow. We have to hope for warm weather, because animals grow faster at higher temps (there’s a limit, of course, and the rule doesn’t apply to endotherms [birds and mammals]). Also, if it is warmer, the isopods will eat more and probably get infected more frequently. Let’s hope, for the sake of my sanity, that Nature cooperates. Unfortunately, Nature rarely fits a predictable schedule. If it did, my life would be too easy. This is also why ecology is much more difficult than, say, molecular biology. Anyways, it seems like these little creatures are gonna cause me a lot of stress over the next 2 months.


Friday, August 11, 2006

First of all, I have to say that I’m addicted to the internet. The internet was down in my flat for about a day and a half, and I was just lost. I couldn’t talk to Ines on the internet phone. I couldn’t read the news. I couldn’t send files between my work and home computer. I couldn’t download anything. I couldn’t blog! It was kinda scary. I need to stock up on some decent literature for the next internet loss.

Since my internet was gone, I haven’t been thinking of anything clever to write on the blog, so I’ll just talk about some miscellaneous stuff. First, something about parasites (surprise). I was dissecting fish this week to collect some worms. Here’s an interesting thing about parasites: they are nearly always aggregated to some degree. That means that most of the parasites are found in just a few hosts. To illustrate, this series of numbers represents the numbers of parasites taken from individual hosts: 0, 0, 1, 0, 2, 0, 1, 0, 50, 1, 0, 7, 0, 18, 0, 2, 0, etc. See how most of the parasites are in just a couple hosts? It kinda makes opening fish up like a treasure hunt. Did we catch that fish with 100 worms? The one that was eating the wrong critters and/or has a bad immune system? Parasites that infect humans have the same distributional pattern….just in case you were wondering. I feel like I should spend more time outlining and explaining the negative binomial distribution of parasites, but I don’t want anyone to fall asleep before the next topic (there is always time for other blog posts about parasites).

Second topic is rock n roll (Homer: I’ve finally tapped into that spirit of self-destruction that makes rock n roll the king of musics.). I checked out a band called “The Bronx” today because thePRP gave them a good review. It reminds me a bit of Refused, a modern fusion of punk and more straightforward rock. Also, The Blood Brothers have a few new songs up on myspace that are awesome. If you don’t know The Blood Brothers, maybe you should pass on this…they are an acquired taste. On the other hand, their new songs are bit tamer and more focused than their older stuff, so, what the hell, everyone just check it out. Yet another band that should be checked out is Dresden Dolls. They released a new album a while back, and the few songs I’ve heard from it are pretty cool. Not my usual style, but sometimes you have to try new things. Ok, I’ll stop dropping band names…after all, I’m not the rock expert on this blog.


Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Adorable, yet vicious

Be warned, some evolutionary rambling will follow! Meerkats are those cute little desert mammals that were made famous by the Lion King movies. Remember…the meerkat and the warthog were buddies. I don’t remember their names, though I do remember they sang Hakuna Matata (no worries for the rest of your days). Anyways, real life meerkats are really interesting creatures. They live in small social groups, and they cooperate together in various ways, e.g. adult group members will teach young meerkats how to capture scorpions by disabling the scorpion first and biting off its stinger. Cooperative behaviour has always been considered a challenge for evolutionary theory. After all, if your primary goal is pass on your genes, why spend time being altruistic? This problem has been considered by many biologists (including Darwin himself), and a variety of non-exclusive solutions (e.g. kin selection, reciprocal altruism, multilevel selection) have been proposed, tested, and supported to various degrees. So why are meerkats so nice to each other? First of all, there are usually altruistic towards close relatives (kin selection), and second the group’s continued existence seems to depend on cooperation (multilevel selection). That’s all fine and good, but it turns out that these critters have a darker side too (I’ve always enjoyed the more cruel and twisted aspects of nature, because it undermines many people’s preconceived ideas about how the world “should” be…probably why I’m fascinated with parasites). During the breeding season, pregnant meerkats will actively try to kill any other pups, so that their own pups will receive all of the benefits of the group child-rearing, i.e. more time can be spent on your kid when there are fewer babies to raise. Furthermore, when the dominant female gets pregnant, she will chase and harass other females so much that their stress levels prevent them from becoming pregnant. Seems like females aren’t so cooperative when it comes to deciding who’s gonna reproduce. Hakuna matata? Not when you’re a subordinate female keen on starting a family.


Sunday, August 06, 2006

The American’s opinion of Football/Soccer

This is a post Ines and I have planned for awhile, but we just never got around to writing it. It seems like an appropriate time though, because the World Cup just ended and the American Football season is only a few months away. Before I start talking about soccer (I’ll use the word soccer to avoid confusion, not because it is the “right” word for the sport), I must admit something. I love American Football. There I said it. If that makes me barbaric or uncivilized in anyone’s eyes, so be it. In Nebraska, people are wild about football, and I was raised in this tradition. That’s why I was happy to see Nebraska ranked in the preseason top 25 (barely)…go Cornhuskers! Onto the topic of soccer…In the U.S., soccer is the most played sport by children, hence the term “soccer moms”. So why isn’t it more popular? As kids get older, social/peer/parental pressures (not sure if that is the right word) encourage people to stop playing soccer and instead play more popular sports like basketball or football. I don’t really know why that is. Americans have no reason to dislike soccer. Sure it isn’t a full contact sport like hockey, but it does take considerable skill and athletic ability (far more than baseball for example). For whatever reason, though, the reputation of soccer as a “wimpy” sport probably is not gonna change anytime soon (it would help if players weren’t always faking injuries…that’s really annoying). My sister gave me an article that pondered the possibility that the football-soccer divide is just another case of American exclusionism. Probably true. Americans always like to be different, e.g. not using the metric system. Personally, this year’s World Cup helped me learn to appreciate soccer. I don’t know if I’ll ever be passionate about the sport, but I can definitely watch it now and not be bored. That’s a first step. And to end, a Simpson’s quote…TV advertising soccer game: “It’s all here! Fast-kicking, low-scoring, and ties, you betcha!”

I´m sorry, I can´t provide a Simpson´s quote to start my story for reflection about soccer/football. But I can say that I, as a German, would never say I LOVE a sport. Even German men say that they like football (in this case soccer) very much, but they wouldn´t use the word "love" ("lieben"). It´s a very strong expression in German, some don´t even use for their partners. Obviously this doesn´t hold true for Americans. Dan loves football (the American version). I´ve made fun of the football-soccer divide since I´ve known him. Everytime I talk about football (British) I "translate" it into the American language. Since the World Cup not only Dan has started to appreciate European football, but also many German women did. And not only because of the good looking German players (well, maybe that was the only reason for some, who knows). I found myself cheering for the German team everytime they played, I had a scarf that said "Deutschland" on it and I even carried a small black-red-golden flag in the trunk of my car (no one saw it though). Before the World Cup, I couldn´t have ever imagined showing so much patriotism. Well, fortunately, it´s over now.
This post should be about American football as well: When we visit the US last Christmas, we watched a Cornhusker game in a sports bar. Dan and me were wearing red sweat shirts (partner look- ridiculous). And I had also bought a red cornhat. I tried to be a "real" Cornhusker fan. I have to admit, it didn´t work well. I don´t understand the rules of the game- though Dan has tried to explainthem to me many times and I even attended a presentation he gave on football. Furthermore, a bunch of red dressed people cheering for players, who play a very brutal looking, not very gracile sport, make me suspicious. Hence, I´ll never be a real football fan. Be it the European or the Amercian version.
But I can see one similarity between the sports, the intellectual ability of American football players enjoys the same reputation in the States (as far as I know from the teen movies:)) as the brainpower of soccer players in Germany.

Yo quiero Taco Bell

Everyone knows that when you come home from the bars after having a few beers, you have to eat something. It is just one of those side-effects of alcohol. But what is the best “drunk food”? Well, last night I decided that it surely isn’t crackers with cheese and pickle relish. Thinking ahead, even after a few drinks, I thought to take a picture of this creation. Looks good, doesn’t it? It ‘passes’ as acceptable drunk food (what doesn’t?), but it is far from being the best. The best drunk food is always greasy. Here in Finland that means a trip to the Grilli or Hesburger where you can get burgers, fries, sausages and about anything else that is deep-fat fried. In Germany, drunk food is often döner kebab, which is soooo good late at night. But back in America, we get our greasy drunk food at Taco Bell (at least in Nebraska). I don’t know if Taco Bell can really be considered Mexican food. Think of what it would be like if Mexican cuisine sold its soul to Ronald McDonald, and you’d be getting close. There were always horror stories about what someone, somewhere found in their bean burrito or where the meat is actually coming from (carne de burro was my favorite theory). Though the food was terrible for you and your digestive system, after some beers the craving always came. Yo quiero Taco Bell! (that phrase is probably trademarked, so nobody tell the company about this blog) My old roommate, Frosty, and I would often ‘run to the border’ (another advertising slogan of TB) after a good party. Our favorite food was the Grande Meal, a mix and match combination of bean burritos, soft tacos, and hard tacos (10 total) with nachos on the side, for about 10 bucks. Yeah, it was grande, and we always reveled in devouring all that greasy goodness. The next day, we always had a bit of a stomach ache to go along with our hangover. We never learned our lesson though. We kept going to Taco Bell when intoxicated for 3 years (even the gentle cajoling of Gill, Frosty’s wife now, never dissuaded us from eating too many tacos). Such is the power of alcohol and its ability to impair judgment.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Besides the fact that Noah didn´t have to sort out any parasites because they probably survived in fish intestines in the water (Dan you should really know that), I don´t wanna talk about parasites or any biblical fairy tales in this post.
Since Dan has written so many post in the meantime, I feel the pressure to write something about Rock´N Roll. But I have a good reason not to post so much: After ten hours of journalistic work, I´m out of words. Does anyone else know that feeling? Being creative is a job for me now and doesn´t come easy at home in my freetime.

Today I was watching "Charmed" on TV. In the opening sequence, the good looking witch sisters were sitting in a car eating red liquorice. You can think about the series whatever you want, but they have an efficient product placement. All I´ve wanted during one hour of the show was red liquorice. The craving didn´t go away. So I went to the store. Of course they didn´t have any red liquorice. Therefore I bought something else chewy, mentos and green spaghettis...lots of it. When I came home with all my purchases, I´ve noticed how much TV (not only commercials) influences my shopping habits and my whole life. Anyways, speaking of spaghetti. If someone of you is following the debate about evolution and intelligent design, please keep the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster in mind and check out. I´m thinking about converting...

Friday, August 04, 2006

Science marches on...

My first experiences with parasites and research involved a species that went by the moniker Corynosoma constrictum (see pic). The adult worms live in the intestines of ducks, but at Nebraska I was studying the parasite in its intermediate host (the critter which gets eaten by ducks), an amphipod. Though the parasite was never really easy to work with, and thus it drove me a little insane every now and then, I was quite fond of the creatures by the end of my tenure at the University of Nebraska. As any biologist would probably tell you, you grow to respect and admire the species that you study. They attain somekind of personal significance for you (don't ask me why though). Well, in an interesting twist of fate, Corynosoma constrictum no longer exists. No, it wasn't a victim of global warming or pollution. It didn't go extinct, it has just been renamed. A new paper in the Journal of Parasitology has called for the genus Corynosoma to be split into two new genera. One group of species will retain the name Corynosoma (species from marine hosts like seals) and the other group will now be known as Pseudocorynosoma (species from freshwater hosts, like ducks). The species that received my research attention for nearly two years, thus, is now named Pseudocorynosoma constrictum. Yeah, I must admit it's a little sad, but even when I studied the parasite I had a feeling that the taxonomy was wrong. Thus, I'm glad that someone has turned their attention to these parasites and are "fixing" their systematic affiliations. It isn't glamorous biology, but it is necessary and rather difficult. As one of my old previous professor's used to say, a fundamental question in biology is "what is it?" Seems so simple, but the answer to that question is complex and always changing. Keeps science interesting though...


p.s. While I'm on the topic of parasite taxonomy...I wonder how Noah sorted out the parasites on his big boat. Were all the free-living, recognizable animals infected with all the species of parasites (every animal species in the world harbours multiple parasite species)? Seems like a lot of extra work to make sure that the two individuals of each species also were loaded with parasites. Biological taxonomy is something we haven't even come close to sorting out yet. It's like the world's biggest knot. I thus have to come to the conclusion that Noah was one hell of a biologist.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Time for a parasite story. As some of you may or may not know, there is a very common protozoan parasite infecting humans going by the name of Toxoplasma gondii. It has a pretty complicated life cycle, but here are the basics. To reproduce, the parasite needs to get into the gut of cats. After reproducing in the intestine of cats, oocysts are shed into the environment. These oocysts can infect a staggering number of species, including humans. In this host, which is sometimes people, the parasite develops into a dormant stage and essentially just waits for transmission to cats (i.e. you being eaten by a cat). Many of these dormant stages reside in the brain, but they aren’t really harmful in people, so the parasite isn’t a large health concern. Like many other parasites, T. gondii isn’t as passive as you’d expect…the parasites seem to alter host behaviour in a variety of different ways (increased neurosis and risk-taking among others). Given that this parasite occurs all around the world but at different levels of abundance, one might ask if this parasite can explain cultural differences. Well, Kevin Lafferty has done just that in a paper published in Proceedings of the Royal Soceity (a really good journal). To make a long story short, his conclusions were suggestive of a relationship between cultural traits (again neurosis) and Toxoplasma prevalence. This is a very cute idea, though I have to say the study doesn’t really show that much. Even in the abstract, he says that “non-causal correlations” may explain these patterns. Furthermore, we all have to remember that correlation doesn’t mean causation. In other words, neurotic cultures may be more prone to infection with Toxoplasma, not the other way around! Basically, a whole hell of a lot more work would be needed to make the connection between culture and brain parasites more conclusive. But imagine if he’s right...wouldn’t that change your world view a bit? Well, it wouldn’t be too mind-boggling for me because I already recognize the power of parasites. Though, I doubt that parasitology courses will ever be a required part of cultural studies.

Now I really want to know if I’ve got Toxoplasma in my brain…

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Entertainment news

I never intended the blog to be used for ramblings about entertainment news, but there were a few new bits recently that I just can’t resist commenting on. And I (Ines) will add something to Dan´s comments.

1. Lance Bass of N’Sync is gay. When I was in high school, boy bands reigned supreme. Of course, their music was not well-liked by hormone infused teenage boys, and we expressed this distaste by indiscriminately labeling any member of a boy band as a homosexual. It seems that we were right at least once. Yes! Long before N´Sync were popular in Germany, we had two very successful bands called "Caught in the Act" from the Netherlands and "Boyzone" from Ireland. In each band was one gay guy. Of course, no one knew they were gay. But they ended up as a couple. And the bands split up.

2. Mel Gibson was picked up for drunk driving. I only mention this because it undermines a joke from the Simpson’s episode in which Gibson guess stars. At one point Gibson says “I speed all the time, but cops never give me a ticket” before lamenting “Its hell being Mel”. See how relevant the Simpson’s can be? Today, I was in charge of our newspaper´s soft news. I wrote something about Mel Gibson. He didn´t only drink and drive. He also insulted the policemen in an antisemitist way. American newspapers predict that his career is over.

3. Rockstar supernova. Tommy Lee (Mötley Crue), Jason Newstead (Metallica), and Gilby Clarke (Guns and Roses) are forming a band and they need a lead singer. Where can they find him/her? Reality TV of course. Personally, I don’t really see the appeal of joining a band with a bunch of musicians that haven’t been popular since the 80s (or at best the mid 90s). Then again, I’m not a TV executive or a washed up rockstar.

4. MTV turns 25. Amazing isn’t it? Check out the top moments list. Seems like the majority of the most memorable moments occurred after the network sold its soul and stopped playing videos. Also, isn’t it strange how something can begin as a countercultural phenomenon and then move into and even dictate main stream pop culture? I would almost say that the cartoons on Adult Swim are moving in a similar direction, but I think they’re too weird to become “normal”.

5. Pam Anderson married Kid Rock. Gross.

Dan and Ines