Don't forget to feed the hamster while you're there.
Thursday, October 29, 2009
Don't forget to feed the hamster while you're there.
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Sunday, October 25, 2009
And yet maybe there's something to it.
Friday, October 23, 2009
Playing in the park was special too.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
In the limited series of Minnesota Cats, today’s Cat of the Month is ...da dut dada!...Tigger!
Ah, yah, a tiger-striped cat. Don’t look at me; I didn’t name him. Not an orange one, though. Brown-black-grey.
One fine day Mom & Dad went down to the pound, because ours was a house that could not go catless for long. Mom couldn’t make up her mind - or I think it was Mom; I wasn’t there. I had to work or study or go on a date or something; it may have been Dad - so they came home with two cats. Two cats are better than one! Especially if you plan to keep them inside all the time because you’re tired of cats going out forever.
Tigger was the sidekick cat. Casper gets to be Cat of the Month in November so more on him then.
Tigger was cool. Nothing perturbed Tigger. You could sling him over your shoulder, use him for a scarf. Put him in ridiculous positions. Knock him off the bed in your sleep. Best, you could reposition him on your lap when you had to reach for the remote, or your foot was falling asleep. Most cats won’t let you do that. They get all huffy you’re disturbing them and go off. Only to be back in 10 minutes to put your other foot to sleep. My current cat Natalie will even growl and smack me if I try to wiggle life back into a toe.
And he ate everything. He wasn’t a fat cat by any means, nor particularly large. But he weighed a ton. You go up to an ordinary-looking cat, expecting maybe 12 pounds, and wrench your shoulder out of joint because this guy was made of lead or something. So we called him Iron Guts, for the density.
The big flaw with Tigger was his shyness. He’d hide if strangers came around, didn’t like the limelight. So when the house caught fire, the two cats ran out of the basement to escape the flames. The whole neighborhood was gathered around in the street, though, and Tigger was so afraid of all those people, he ran back inside.
And that was it for living at home. We moved into temporary lodgings, and I moved from there into my first student apartment, closing two decades of sharing the family house. From now on, all cats would be my personal responsibility.
Saturday, October 17, 2009
One of the interesting points in discussing evolution is that people tend to think of it as something that happened long ago. Evolution 'set' living things the way they are and that's it. And thus any evidence for evolution is to be found in the fossil record, and only in the fossil record.
Plenty of evidence is found in the fossil record, but that's not the only place to find it. Even back in my own university days, there was the classic story of moths in London. Used to be they had light-colored wings. As pollution turned the tree trunks on which the moths rested all black, the moths stood out and were easy prey. Over time, darker moths survived and eventually matched the tree trunks. Then people started coming out of the industrial revolution with a wish for clean air, the pollution was cleaned up, and London tree trunks are no longer black as coal. Dark moths, finding themselves easy prey like their light predecessors, disappeared, while lighter ones survived. Today moths in London have light coloring again.
It's easy to see how an animal or plant that is better at surviving and reproducing than its brethren gradually comes to dominate its ecological niche. This is true in the wild, and it's true for domesticated species. Just take dogs. Dogs we like the look of get special opportunities to breed. We force their evolution into various strange forms by selecting individuals. It's the very same thing as frogs evolving in a pond, only speeded up by the heavy hand of human dog-breeders and with endpoints that apply (naturally) only to the special case of domesticated dogs.
Thing is, selective pressure applies to humans too. We might like to think of ourselves as exempt, but not at all! There's a lot of time involved in natural selection. You have to pass your genes on to children, who grow up and have children of their own, so for people it takes 15-40 years for a single round of selection. In the modern age, we change our environment much faster than that.
You can see the effects of being poorly adapted to 21st century life in the type 2 diabetes that is rampant in many first-world countries, notably America. But this doesn't affect all groups equally. People who come from places that were more recently similar to an older way of life, where periods of feast and famine were regular and severe are harder hit by diabetes today. Their metabolism hasn't had as much time to adapt. It used to be advantageous to be able to eat huge amounts of food and store that energy as fat that would be consumed metabolically during times of famine. The fatties could survive, for example, the harsh Arctic winter, whereas thinner people could not. Eventually developing diabetes wasn't much of an issue compared with a serious annual risk of starvation. Now that food is abundant all the time, the craving to eat is still there, the ability to store fat is still there, but the crisis never comes and the diabetes does.*
Friday, October 16, 2009
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Monday, October 12, 2009
Friday, October 9, 2009
One day my group was having its quarterly meeting in the conference room whose windows are in the top right of the above picture. There was a tremendous amount of noise, and quite a lot of alarming vibration. It got so bad we had to move. Afterwards, I went outside and found the reason: just as we were having our meeting, they were dismantling the entryway!
This is the new entrance.
Yes, patients get lost!
Most people arrive from the back now; you only go this way to get to the regular hospital just behind me from here, or to the medical school.
Just go straight through the waiting area, and behind the pillar with the fire extinguisher (conveniently located right in the middle of everything!) is the door to the lab.
When everything is done, the old front will be hidden by the new hospitalization building on the left. Our little building is scheduled to become the parking area to the right, and the lab will be moved into what used to be the operating theaters in the old building. Only, nobody has reserved any money for converting that space, so we'll see!
Thursday, October 8, 2009
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
Saturday, October 3, 2009
Lunch was at a random tourist place on the main square. The national dish is of course mussels and fries, but I'm rather tempted by a local dish: Rabbit in the Flemish Fashion.
I don't expect much from this place, depending as it does on seducing tourists away from the restaurants to either side, but I'm pleasantly surprised to be served two large peices of rabbit in a delicious sauce. Wonderful. Good idea.
The only thing is, next time I must insist on a table indoors. Where smoking is forbidden. This heated terrace is quite toasty and out of the wind, but when the guy at the next table lights up, the cloud of pollution comes right for me.
The shops are having a big sidewalk sale day, so I take advantage for a couple of gifts and a top I'll wear tomorrow. I hope not to get too lost walking back to my boathotel to drop the load off. One thing I haven't found yet is a good book of photography of Bruges. They've got a cheap paper version, but the printing is awful. The only hard-cover I've seen is terribly overpriced for an unexceptional collection of images. On a sunny day I could do better myself.
Though Bruges is not an inexpensive destination. I spent more than 30€ on lunch, and I shopped around - that was typical for a restaurant meal (dinner will be a snack in my room!). My cute hotel (a converted barge) I got a great deal on online, or I'd never be staying there. So maybe the book prices I find outrageous are just the way it is here.