Monday, February 26, 2007

I was initially very suspicious about Wikipedia. I mean how well could "internet users" write an encyclopedia, a compilation of tedious academic documents? Actually, after some reports suggested the Wiki entries are approximately as good as actual encylopedias, I started using Wikipedia. Quite frankly, I've become a believer. Wikipedia is a very useful resource. Now people can forget about the validity of the site and start debating new issues such as entry relevancy. Check this out if you are bored. I found it slightly entertaining...

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Wormy world

This blog is titled “parasitesandrocknroll”, but it has been awhile since either parasites or rock n roll has been the topic of a post. Well, there was a bit about R n R in the last post (i.e. nine inch nails). Anyways, it is definitely time for a post about parasites! Most people think that maintaining biodiversity is a good thing. We tend to feel bad when things go extinct, with the exception of dangerous diseases like smallpox. Cute or furry animals are especially high on the conservation list. However, if we want to conserve biodiversity as a general goal, regardless of the creature’s charisma, we would more or less be protecting parasites (and by extension their hosts). Parasites easily outnumber free-living species. That can serve as a nice anecdote at your next dinner party…”by the way, did you know that there are more parasitic animals than free-living animals?”. It may impress your friends, though it would probably kill most conversations. Anyhow, let me provide some evidence to back up this claim. Traditionally, species have been determined by noting and describing clear morphological differences between them. Sounds easy, but this can be exceedingly difficult when looking at 2 mm long worms. Nowadays, though, it is relatively cheap and easy to sequence a critter’s DNA and assess whether there is gene flow between different morphotypes (critter’s that look different). Broadly, if there isn’t any evidence of gene mixing, you can be rather sure you have different species. I have two friends/colleagues that work in parasite systematics that have used this approach. The first I knew in Nebraska and examined a particular parasite that had been found in many different fish species…suggestive that it is actually many parasite species. Well, after looking at the DNA, there turned out to be 5 or 6 new, previously unrecognized species. The other friend worked on tropical fish (snappers (pic) check ‘em out) from the Great Barrier Reef. Same story. He examined an understudied group of parasites both morphologically and molecularly, and turned up 11 new species. These stories are definitely not unusual. Parasite species diversity is just grossly underestimated. Think about it this way. There are about 40,000 described species of fish. Each fish species will probably have a few unique parasite species; some will harbor an incredible diversity of parasites. For example, in one fish species in one lake, there may be more than 40 different parasite species capable of infecting it. So how many parasites are there? No one knows, but we can be sure that most animals on this earth are parasites. Indeed, we live in a very wormy world.

Sunday, February 18, 2007


To follow up on the last post, it seems that the readership of this blog is rather limited. So if nobody reads this, I can treat this blog as a kind of lonely throne, from which I can espouse any kind of vulgary that I please. I could say the most offensive thing in the world without reprisal!! But then, the question arises, what is the most offensive thing in the world? I suppose everyone could come up with some revolting, yet slightly entertaining, idea. Just think about it…

I titled this blog “Misc.”, so to continue with that theme, I’ll move on to a completely unrelated topic: Trent Reznor is an evil genius. I was never a big nine inch nails fan, but I respected and enjoyed some of their music. Well, I have a new found admiration of Reznor’s genius, the brain behind the band. The marketing campaign for NIN’s new album, dubbed “Year Zero”, is absolutely brilliant. First, at recent live shows, fans “found” USB drives in the venue’s bathrooms. On the drives was a new track from the NIN album, and, of course, it quickly circulated around the internet. What a clever and cheap marketing campaign; no need for you Myspace. Even more scary brilliant, though, is this aspect of the marketing. Apparently, on t-shirts sold at the concerts, there is a scrambled message that leads to a particular website describing a government conspiracy to poison the drinking water. The conspiracy deepens from there. There are a whole series of connected websites which present a grim picture of the near future: no civil liberties, a brutal church state, holy war. While the owners of the website nor the label would give away any information about relations between the sites and NIN, Reznor released a brief yet tantalizing statement about the concept behind the new album. Check it out and feel free to get sucked into the conspiracy. It is hard not to admire the unbelievable creativity underlying all this.

Finally, to add to the miscellaneousity (not a word) of this post, I found this article very interesting. It seems that the emotion of sympathy is strongest when associated with a single case or person. That intuitively makes sense; a murder or missing person case of a single, high profile or beautiful person usually makes more news that the multiple larger-scale atrocities going on around the world. To quote a Marilyn Manson song, “The death of one is a tragedy”. So we can strongly sympathize with a single person, yet our feelings don’t scale up to higher numbers. The visceral reaction from the death of 10,000 people or 100,000 people doesn’t really differ. Since I’m a scientist, I’m used to looking at numbers and letting them largely determine my conclusions. So 3,000 Americans have died in Iraq, well over 200,000 thousand have died in Darfur. Shouldn’t I consider Darfur a bigger tragedy worthy of more attention? I think this research suggests that these kinds of questions are not valid. For whatever reason, human emotions are not governed by numbers, so you just can’t rank tragedies. Well, I suppose the conclusion here is that morality issues are incredibly difficult.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Death to the blog

There has been a serious decline in the number of comments on the blog (even those of the perverse and anonymous sort). From time to time, in my more depressive moments, I wonder about the reasons for this trend. Is there no one reading? Are the musings posted here so irrelevant they elicit no response? Did this blog already become dull and uncool? You may be saying to yourself, “c’mon man, the blog was never cool”, and you’d be right. I acknowledge this. What I am hoping, though, is that the blog can maintain a neutral level of coolness, not being described as “lame” nor “bitchin”. Is that too lofty a goal? To be average? I, like so many of us, need reassurance that my aspirations are being achieved, at least a little. Thus, the occasional comment from any devoted readers will reassure me that the blog is at least “average”, and it will keep me from falling into a deep depression induced by blog failure. So to elicit some comments, I present a topic and some examples. Here we go: Ideas that seem good while intoxicated…

-using any pickup line ever conceived
-speaking another language
-calling all the phone numbers in your mobile
-singing karaoke
-singing to your girl- or boyfriend
-opening that bottle of vodka
-quitting your job to become a freelance artist
-writing an animated novel
-starting a pet store
-loaning money to a friend so s/he can start a pet store
-stealing signs or any other kind of petty vandalism
-making pancakes
-starting a blog

I’m sure there are plenty of other “good” ideas that are had when inebriated. Please enlighten me and other readers by posting them. And if you can’t think of anything at the moment, perhaps you aren’t in the right state of mind. That’s easily ameliorated though…cheers!

Thursday, February 08, 2007

I´m back!

I wanna say sorry that I haven´t posted anything in the last months. There are several reasons for my absence. 1. I had to study for the final exams (in fact, I still do) 2. laziness 3. I have to do all the decoration in our new apartment.

While Dan is sitting at the dining table studying German (He does that every day in the morning. Just as if he was in class. I´m very impressed.), I go to hardware stores (German: Baumarkt) and buy stuff. With stuff I mean things I would´ve never dreamt of buying. I remember the days when I went shopping with my mum and she wanted to stop "quickly" at the hardware store. We ended up being there for two hours and I was bored like hell. The only thing I was a little bit interested were the posters (boygroups, maps and half naked superblondes). However, now I´m really into hardware stores. Here is just a small list of things I bought in the last weeks: a kitchen sink, a board for the kitchen sink, a small table, loads of screws and dowels, a 100-pieces handcraft set (with hammer, pincers, etc.), wooden bars, curtains, potting soil, etc.

Now I´m getting on Dan´s nerves with my (almost) everday excursions to the hardware store.

You will ask: What are we supposed to learn from this post?

The answer: Don´t even try, you´ll be like your parents anyways?!

No, there´s nothing to learn from it. I just wanted to say, I´m back online and trying to post more details of our glamorous life in Leipzig :)

Take care,


Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Today, I'm gonna do some free advertising for The idea of the site/company is to satirize motivational posters or slogans. These "demotivators" present a cynical yet hilarious portrait of human existence, from realms as diverse as the business world to relationships. Here is just a smattering of posters from the site. I think my favorite is "Individuality" true.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Nothing like some liberal political cartoons to put things into perspective. The first quip is the best: we keep sending heavily armed 19 year olds, but the violence is increasing! Baffling. Yeah, when you put it like that, it does make a bit more sense...if only in an ironic, cynical kinda way.