darthfar: (Default)
Perhaps the strangest book I've read this year:

Review here )


Want to know more about quorum sensing, or what happens after death? Check out these articles:

Small Talk in the Microbial World
The Processes of Death and Decomposition

[Yes, I wrote those as a student.]
darthfar: (Default)
At biology class...

Far: Okay, you do this one. Subject A's heart beats 50 times in 38 seconds. How many times does it beat in one minute?
Student: [works it out laboriously on paper because she's not allowed a calculator] Uh... 2,180...?
I couldn't help laughing. Although I shouldn't, because it really isn't funny at all. All I kept thinking was, What the hell are they teaching kids these days? I tutor biology, but sometimes I find myself teaching math as well because... apparently, whatever else they might be doing, school teachers aren't teaching their students manual arithmetic.

Semi-rantage follows )

Art Digression

Force, I am so good at starting twenty new art projects simultaneously (without finishing half of them), I don't know what to do with myself. Here's a work-in-progress for a portrait that I started for absolutely no reason, and now have absolutely no idea what to do with:

(Robson Green, because he rocks).


In the meantime, my *actual* ongoing projects are being put on hold... for no reason. Like, oh, the latest installment in the Stephen Garrity saga, or the webcomic my Tank-phobic friend and I are working on. Gah.
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I've just gotten my electronic paws on this book by a Dr. Johann Wecker, published in 1661, called "Eighteen Books of the Secrets of Art & Nature: Being the Summe and Subftance of Naturall Philofophy, Methodologicall Digefted", and lord, is it a treasure. The tome is a large, rambling work about, well, the secrets of nature and how to manipulate it, and contains some very interesting recipes for the aspiring arsonist (How to make Greek fire! unextinguishable torches! Making rockets!), equally fun things to do to unsuspecting people ("A light to make one Fart"!), and hilarious illusions to perform ("That Men may feem to have the Heads of another Creatures"!), and some actually interesting - if bizarre - garden advice (curing languishing peach trees and producing pipless grapes). But of course you know where my interest lies, so when I saw Books IV (Secrets of the Internal parts of Man, the Paffions, Reafon, and Memory) and V (Secrets of Life and Death; Remedies for all Difeafes in the body of Man, both Internall and Externall; old Age, Eating, Drinking, Venery, Sleep, Exercife, and beautifying the body)... well, to hell with unquenchable fires and making people seem like elephants! (where would I get the dolphin fat, anyway?).

Nestled amongst recommendations on how to make husbands and wives agreeable (carry a Quale heart with you) how to cure a person bitten by a mad dog (feed the patient the liver of said dog without his knowledge) and how to relieve tooth pain (hold it with your thumb and forefinger), were the following gems:

To make a Man bold and confident:
Take the heart of an Ape, and tye it about your neck, letting it hang juft over your heart, and it will increafe Audacity. (Lord Bacon)

Yes, it'll no doubt make you hold your head up high... in an attempt to avoid the stench of said decomposing heart.

To procure love:
All men will love thee, if thou carry with thee a Swallows heart: and a Woman will love him exceedingly, from whom fhe fhall receive the powder of a Pigeons heart in meat or drinke. Moreover if any one put but fome Hares gall under his head, he fhall fleep perpetually, but you fhall raife him well enough, if you give him Vinegar to drink. (Mizaldus Memor)

How to spike drinks to win affection.

An Oyle that kils Men with the ill fent of it:
Take Turpentine two Pound, yellow Brimftone one Pound, Affafetida eight Ounces, Serapinum fix Ounces, Mans dung eighteen Ounces, Mans blood ten ounces; mingle them and put them into a Retort, very well ftopt, and Diftill them at a very vehement fire, until all the fpirits be come forth. (Fioravantus)

I don't know about this guy, but I'd die of inhalation first if I were to make this concoction. (That, or get my teeth knocked out trying to find a willing victim for exsanguination).

To increase the ftrength of the body:
All Creatures that are long lived, are good to lengthen Mans life, and all that are reftorative, ferve to renew our lives, and reftore youth: which Phyficians have often proved, as it is manifeft concerning Vipers and Serpents. And it is known that Stags renew their age by eating Serpents; for the Phaenix is refstored by the neft of Spices he makes to burn in: the Pellican hath the fame virtue, whole right foot, if it be put under hot dung, after three Moneths a Pellican will be bred from it. Wherefore fom Phyficians with fom confections made from a Viper and Hellebore, and of fome of the flefh of thofe Creatures, do promife to reftore youth, and fometimes they do it as Medea did to old Pelias. Alfo it is believed, that a Bears blood fuckt with ones mouth from a frefh wound made, will make a man very ftrong, becaufe that Creature is fo mighty ftrong. (Cornelius Agrippa)

Pay attention, kiddies: Bambi eats snakes.
Also, you know very well why I included this section. ;)

A Cake against the Plague:
Take white Arfenick two ounces, red Arfenick one ounce, make a round Cake as thick as your finger ,with the white of an Egg, or mucilage of Gum dragan, few this up in a linnen rag, and lay it to your heart: you need not put your fhirt between: (for though Arfenick taken inwardly be mortall, it is not by any fecret venome, but onely by corroding, fo that you cannot call it poyfon) for if you apply it outwardly, it is certain that it refifts poyfon. (Jacobus Carpenfis).

This is also a very good way to slowly poison a lover who is far too attached to your mammary glands.

Headach, a remedy by Vomit:
Take twelve grains of Stibium (that's antimony to you ;)), made into very fine pouder, put it into four ounces of Claret wine and fo let it ftand thirty hours, fhake it every fix or feven hours; at the thirty hours end, pour the wine from the pouder fo long as it runneth clear; let the grieved drink it with a little Sugar, or Sirup of Violets: it mightily purgeth fuperfluous humours from the head.

Or: how to cure headaches by making you feel so sick you forget your head even hurt in the first place.

[It's scary that the early Romans used the same antimony for their gourmand practices - the idea being that, if you threw up what you've eaten at a banquet, you could then go back for seconds. And thirds.]

To ftench (staunch?) Blood:
Blood running immoderately out of any part of the body, will be preferently ftopt, if Hogs dung yet hot, be wrapt up in fine thin Cotten linnen and put into the Noftrils, Womens privities, or any other place that runs with blood. I write this for Countrey people rather then for Courtiers , being a remedy fit for their turne (Mizaldus)

And this is how you discourage people from bleeding immoderately in the first place.
I can only imagine the horror of having hogs' dung stuffed up your "privities" on a regular basis.

For the Toothache:
Take the dung of a Hog newly made, and as hot as you can get it, apply it to the place, and it cureth. (Dr. Matthias)

God help you if you tell anyone your tooth hurts.

Sore Brefts:
Take of March Sand a fmall handfull, put the fame into grounds of Ale, put thereto a pretty piece of Butter unfalted, and break it into pieces as big as Beanes, with the yelks of two new laid Egges, ftirre it well together, then thicken it with flower, put as much of this in a frying Pan as will cover the Breft, and when it is well fryed, fpread it on a Cloath, and lay it to the Breft as hot as the grieved may fuffer it; this will draw, break, and heal the Breft without the help of anything. (Dr. Mathias)

Smearing piping hot butter, sand and eggs on your breast makes it less sore. Sure, I believe you.

For a Bruife:
Take an old piece of rufty Iron, be it Horfe-fhoe, or anything elfe, lay it in the fire til it be red hot, then take it out of the fire, and let the Patient make water upon it, and take in the fume thereof at his Nofe and Mouth, ufing this three daies together morning and evening, adn it fhall perfectly cure him. (Dr. Clarke)

What's that? you want me to heat up an old iron, piss on in, and inhale the smell for three days, for this bruise on my knee? I'll wait for it to subside on its own, thanks.

For pains of the Collickm and inward Impoftumes:
Scrape the skull bone of the Patient, or file away fome part of it in that place where the future is in the forepart of the head, in the upper part like a Crofs; of that powder, with broth or water, or wine if there be no Feaver, give the Patient one dram, or half a dram at one time to drink; it will make him vomit and purge exceedingly: wherefor you muft give it before the Patients forces are fpent.

I don't even know what to say.

For a Dyfentery:
Mens bones made into fine powder and drank in fharp red Wine, cure all raging Fluxes of the Belly (Miz)

This no doubt also encourages the growth of the grave robbery trade. Or maybe it just solves the problem of what to do with grandpa.

That a woman may conceive:
If a woman cannot conceive, take Harts horn and pouder it, and mingle it with Cows gall; let the woman hold this over her, let her ufe copulation and fhe fhall conceive prefently. Or give it to the woman that mnows not of it Mare smilk, let her copulate that hour, and fhe fhall conceive prefently. (Albertus)

"Oh hey, Marge, why don't you hold this powdered deer horn and cow gall concoction over your head while we do the horizontal boogie." 17th century foreplay at its best.

To affwage Swelling:
Take of new dung and frefh Butter and fry it in a frying pan, then frpead it upon a cloth like a Poultis, and lay it on as hot as the Patient can fuffer it. (Probatum eft Dr. Johnfon)

I can't help but be amazed by all these recommendations of treating pain by inflicting more pain. Not to mention the singularly creative uses of shit.

For Burning and Scalding:
Take four ounces of the juyce of Onions, common Salt half an ounce, mingle them well together annoint the foar. (Lord Bacon)

And that's what's called rubbing salt into the wound.

A Caustick that will fuddenly eat through the skin:
Sometimes we are defireous to eat through the skin fuddenly, not trufting to fection: I have elfewhere defcribed a moft earlie Medicament, but now a moft effectuall: for it is made of Sope-water, or of a ftrong lee of afhes. It is made thus: pour on twelve pounds of ftrong lee upon quick Lime and Oke afhes, and let them drain through, then poure it again upon new Lime and Afhes, and do this fo often, until that the water will beare an Egg. Then adde to every pound, of Lee one ounce or half, an ounce of Vitrioll, and by degrees boyl it thick in a brafs Pofnet, until you can take it forth and make little Cakes of it: for it is taken forth by degrees with a fpoon, if this be well made, it will penetrate the skin in half a quarter of an houre. (Carden).

It frightens me to even imagine why anyone would be "desirous to eat through the skin suddenly", let alone willingly apply lime-&-sulphuric acid cakes to one's skin.

And my personal favourite:

To ftop bleeding at Nofe:
Take a Spider the biggeft you can get, put him in a fine linnen cloth, bruife him a little, and hold the fame up to the nofe of him that bleedeth, but touch not his nofe therewith, but let him fmell to it and it will work the effect.

To cure a nosebleed, sniff a giant spider. Tory, aren't you glad you don't live in the 17th century?

Oh my.

Who needs modern humour books, when one can find humour in ancient medical tomes?

[Marguerite, if you're reading this - this is a book that Joly must NEVER get his hands on, do you hear? ROFL.]
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What is the first thing one should do before trying out new media? Why, look up tutorials and tips, of course. Unfortunately, because I am a doint of the first order, I neglected to do said research beforehand... with the result that when I found out the following piece of information, it was too late:

(And because one of my professors had always stressed that "a negative result does not mean no result", here's that information on technique, Despard!)

1. Pencils do NOT go with soft pastels. Charcoal does. I tried it on a test sheet and bingo... the pastels just sort of skid over the pencil lines.
2. Nor does dark-coloured paper. (I found this out by trying said pastels on said test sheet). Because soft pastels are already muted in colour, so any attempt to apply them on brown paper results in... unsaturated bleargh.

I have thus unwillingly changed the Lucien Barbarin project to a colour pencils one.

Barbarinism )

But I did also break out the pastels earlier today - this time on white (cheap) paper. And considering I didn't even start out with a sketch (and in fact didn't even have any clear idea where it was going), but just built it up from shapes, it could have gone far worse than this:

Insert epic fail )


So a few years ago they decided to change the language for science and math subjects at school from the national language to English. Fine. I've always been of the opinion that science and math SHOULD be taught in English, anyway, given that the overwhelming proportion of reference and reading material for these two disciplines are English publications. Of course, the transition was far from smooth because all of a sudden, teachers who were previously teaching the subjects in the original language had to learn a whole set of different terms and spelling. ... And I've only just found out that the Ministry is now planning to switch it back to the original language. Moses on a bike! So what's to become of all the trainees at the teachers' training colleges, who are being trained to teach the subjects in English? LOL.

Oh, and let's not even go into textbook translations. I still vividly remember my argument with my 6th form biology teacher about the word "coenocytic", which the textbook hideously translated in one place as "senositik" and "koenositik" in the other, and which my inept teacher took to mean two different phenomena, when they were in fact referring to one. (At least he had the grace to admit, after doing his homework, that I was right). Or the fact that, should I continue with this tutoring thing, I face the prospect of teaching biology in a third language. ROFL. Fun times.
darthfar: (Default)
It would seem that I'm in some kind of minor demand as a biology tutor: a couple of people have already, uh, made bookings for next year. ROFL. Now, I have absolutely nothing against it - in fact, I love biology and evolution so much that you couldn't get me to shut up about it if you tried (and Force knows, you'd get an earful of anything from geology to forensics as well, depending on what we're discussing. The Bible has also come up several times in class, bizarrely; the few instances where I was glad I paid any attention in high school) - but even when I was in school, I could never understand why anybody would require help in biology, of all the science subjects. (Neither can my father, for that matter, LOL). I mean, yeah, I can see where one might need help in further math, say, or the application of physics formulae in calculations, but for me, biology is so straightforward that... gosh, there doesn't seem to be anything to need help in understanding, y'know? at least at high school level (and even at undergraduate level, all it takes is some time to sit down and think, and a decent head for remembering pathways, which is all kinds of retarded fun). So my first impression when I started was that it would be like, a revision class, which I felt slightly guilty about. And then I realised that, strangely enough, not everybody seems to be able to wrap their heads around concepts like respiration (even without the Embden-Meyerhof pathway to worry about; bad teachers at school, maybe? but how could a teacher possibly be so bad that... bah. I suppose if they can somehow *not* teach students to answer questions using the 5W+1H method, or to even plan a framework for their essays, they're capable of anything). It confuses me. At the same time, I'm also seeing kids with borderline passing grades get borderline As, so either I'm doing something right, or they've finally bucked up and started studying hard. I dunno.

It amuses me how, no matter how I've tried steering clear of teaching, it keeps pushing its way back into my life. If I believed in fate, I'd see it as a calling of some sort. LOL.


In other news, a friend who has sworn never to read The Brick has started on it. I've learnt that the best way of getting people to read something is.... quite simply, to buy them the book. God, it's sneaky, and it's playing with people's conscience, but... yeah right, like that's ever stopped me before.


... I have only just discovered the existence of the "Add to friends" link on journal pages. >.
darthfar: (Default)
Today's the fifth day of my mother's vacation in China1, and the fifth day my father and I have been taking care of our own meals2. My mother takes such good care in feeding us that it's never occurred to her that two people, who in their college days lived on bread, biscuits3 and bananas (perhaps more so me than my father, since I have far higher priorities than eating), can and will happily live off leftovers in the fridge for a good week. Except for yesterday, anyway, when we got tired of microwaving and went out, and Actually Ate Vegetables.

1 I agree that it is a highly fascinating place, but seriously, surely going to the same country three times in the same year must count as overenthusiasm?
2 Never fear, the master chefs of the microwave are here.
3 Crackers.


I am of the personal belief that education shouldn't stop at school syllabus, and that questions concerning anything pertaining to knowledge should always be welcome. Unfortunately, my weakness for making cross-subject examples and discussing practically anything and everything at the drop of a hat means that my biology class has a tendency to go desperately off-topic on occasions. Today's session managed not only to cover the exam syllabus, but strayed into topics that ranged from the evolution of hinged jaws and bendy necks in early tetrapods, and Ediacaran and Cambrian biota, to diffraction gratings and CD surfaces, and [facepalm] curveballs, Joe Jackson and the Black Sox Scandal. Perfectly entertaining and informational to my students, I'm sure, but I can't help but guiltily wonder sometimes how the parents feel about paying personal tutors to discuss Bjørn Lomborg and issue science fiction book/movie lists.


The Left4Dead 2 demo unlocks at 4 tomorrow morning for people who've pre-ordered the game4. YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS. I get dibs on Nick and the frying pan.

Bring on the zombies!

[On the other hand, the female Boomer-in-a-bikini in one of the gameplay videos was decidedly unnerving. That's got to be scarier than the original Boomer, the Tank, and the two Witches combined.]

4 And because we banded together to get the four-pack (a full USD16.24 cheaper than retail!), we're each getting an exclusive in-game baseball bat. Awesomeness.
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It is probably not the best course of action to hand-launder and bake leather gloves. After all the jokes my father cracked about my gym gloves being noxious enough to wipe out the indigenous aquatic life in our local lake, my mother decided that it was high time they had a bath (the gloves, I mean; I'm assuming that said indigenous aquatic life needs no further introduction to water). When I attempted to put them on today, I found, to my consternation, that they had somehow shrunk two sizes, and I could hardly wiggle a finger in. After some very determined pulling and squashing, I managed to get my hands in - just barely. I thus spent the next hour fighting the impression that I was working out with armadillo plates on my hands. Plates that were gouging the flesh out of my palms, at that.

I think I'm going to have to buckle, after all, and buy myself a new pair. Force knows, leather gloves should only have so many holes.


I just received the strangest email from an aunt today, one she claimed was proof that modern cannibalistic practices were well and alive. A cursory glance at the fifty-odd photographs confirmed that (1) yes, there was a corpse involved, and (2) there was a bunch of people in uniform (police and medical staff?) doing eyebrow-raising things to it, namely, dismembering and eviscerating it, and (3) oh hai, they're hanging around having lunch. I gathered, from the sequence of images, that one was supposed to arrive at the conclusion that said people made a hearty meal of their morning's work. Yum.

[Want to see a small selection of the pictures? CLICK HERE. Be warned: if you don't have a strong stomach, you might not enjoy what you see.]

While fried corpse might smell delectable, the email itself smelt fishy. Sure, you have photographs of them paring the corpse down to the bone, and sure, you have photographs of the group of people cooking and eating a meal together... but if they *were* indeed eating the corpse, where were the pictures of stir-fried fingers? of leg stew? or boiled head soup? Surely, if one were to be part of so exotic a feast, one would document the entire event, yes? The only photographs supposedly of the "cooking" process showed a couple of men boiling what looked decidedly like the corpse's hands in a large vat (unless they were deep-frying them, I can't think of a more unpalatable way of rendering meat of any sort than boiling them in water. Yuck), near what looked like stone body drawers; the lunch group, on the other hand, was out in the bushes - nowhere near the white building, it seemed.

So I did a little poking on the internet, and unearthed the following:

NaRa Saturday, August 29, 2009 22:58:00
In Thailand, there are several groups of volunteers that would go out and help transport the bodies of accident victims to the coroner office. The reason being is that the Coroner office in Thailand does not have enough manpower to go out and perform all the tasks of retrieving bodies themselves.

The pictures you are seeing came from an event hosted by one of the volunteer group mentioned above. Many times the bodies were never claimed, these bodies are actually stored in an unclaimed cemetary [sic]. But when they run out of space to buried the bodies, they would have to clean out the cemetary. The pictures here shows the volunteers actually cleaning the cemetary by removing the unclaimed bodies. This needed to be done to make space for the new bodies.

In order to maximize the space to keep the bones, they had to remove the remove the flesh (which later would be cremated) and only kept the bones.

These people have worked with the dead bodies for so long that it doesn't bother them to sit down and eat their lunch next to the bodies. The volunteers are NOT eating the corpse. They are just eating the rice with some stir-fry meat with ginger.
[Supporting news item here]

Okay, I figured it for an anthropology class out for a day of collecting material, but that's close enough. LOL.

It amused me. Here we have two sets of photographs that have absolutely nothing to do with each other, beyond the fact that the people in both sets are the same - one showing what, in the eyes of the majority, must constitute a defilement of a deceased person; the other, showing the partaking of a meal - and one automatically arrives at the conclusion that the meat from set A must have wound up on plates in set B. It is a strange thing, the human mind, that possesses the software to achieve closure by filling in gaps with information from previous experiences - the same software that gives us the power of deduction, of putting two and two together. Unfortunately, the same software that serves us can also work against us, leading us to see connections where there are none (which I can only liken to seeing animals in clouds and Ronald Reagan in a head of broccoli), simply because we're used to links and sequences. And so the viewer automatically - erroneously! - deduces that (forgive me) one (dead) man's meat is another man's protein source for the day. (And it is perhaps a resounding testament of man's tendency to always assume the worst). Not the nicest prank you can play on someone, but hey, that's dark humour for you.

And then I found the following post on another website, and all of a sudden it wasn't funny anymore:

Warning: The forwarded pictures are truly gruesome. Please do not scroll down if you cannot withstand the shock. They are definitely NOT for Minors.

Ambassador Keshi:

Is there anything the Nigerian government, through the Minister of Foreign Affairs Chief Ojo Madukwe could do on the diplomatic front to bring this serious matter to the attention of the Government of Thailand, may be through the Thailand ambassador to Nigeria or at the United Nations.

I will be forwarding the pictures to the Thailand Embassy in Ottawa, Canada and to the Office of the Minister of Foreign Affairs in Canada tomorrow morning along with a letter of concern of concern which will also ask for their comments on the issue. Individual Nigerians and citizens of other African countries should also be encouraged to bring this matter up with the Embassy of Thailand wherever in the world they may reside.

I believe that the citizenship of the victim, which is unknown of at this time, should not be be major consideration in our reaction. If the Thai hunters could do this to a full grown black man, can we imagine what they still do to the aboriginal peoples who still live in the tropical jungles of Thailand.


Because, all of a sudden, it's no longer humour of questionable taste; it's become malicious.

Wait, it gets even better:

From: OlakassimMD
Sent: 21/07/2009 9:36:11 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time
Subj: Re: [NIDOA] Fw: Thai people eating blackman

Dear All:

The scenes depicted in the pictures are truly disgusting not necessarily because the victim is a black man as they would still be disgusting regardless of his race. The pictures depict a group of hunters who after hunting down and killing a black man (as they would any animal) proceeded to dismember his body and then cooked some parts which they ate. All these acts took place in ether late 20th or early 21st century.

I believe we must embark on some steps to ensure that:

a) the Thai government authorities are made aware of this atrocity.

b) that human rights groups worldwide including at the United Nations be made aware of this incident.

c) that this matter be bought up at the United Nations so that all nations of the world could become involved in stamping out these kinds of primitive cannibalistic acts.

d) that the Nigerian government exact some diplomatic response from the Thai ambassador in Nigeria on the basis that the black victim could be a Nigerian.

e) try and obtain a translation of the text that is written in the Thai language.



In a message dated 21/07/2009 8:20:48 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time, adaejiagamba08@ yahoo.com writes:

Why are black people despised all over the world? Why do they see us as less than human? I hope the pictures below are not true, this is sickening.
Please those of you plying Thailand and its neighboring countries beware!!! We don't want any of our own to end up being eaten by barbaric cannibals
Wait, did I miss something? Where, in all these pictures, is there evidence that the corpse was hunted down? Where are the weapons - at least, weapons that can be associated with the few areas of trauma on that body (for a "hunted" corpse, he seems to be in terrific condition)? You'd also think that the group could dress a little more appropriately for the so-called hunt than medical whites and police uniforms... seriously. Oh, and that's not a even a fresh corpse, as should be evident from the livor mortis. So what, they let their corpses sit around a bit for better flavour? And how did the writer even arrive at the conclusion that "black people are despised all over the world" and "are seen as less than human" from that one set of photos, which showed only *one* individual (who, as we've already established, wasn't even eaten, but prepared for some kind of ossuary), rather than something more conclusive... say, a corral full of these folks, or multiple "hunting" events? Nice job of leaping to illogical conclusions there.

It makes me wonder what the authors of the emails are trying to accomplish. Because when you bring in actual racial and nation identities, you can't possibly have anything in mind that is any less than creating discord and persecuting a particular group of people that don't fit into your worldview - or, at the very least, attempting to solicit sympathy for your own group, that you do not deserve. What better way than to portray your targets as savages - or at the very least, morally and intellectually inferior? (Once you establish them as being inferior beings, you take away the guilt of committing crimes against them. History's littered with examples. Surely I need not name them).

[And indeed, what better horror, in this case, to inflict than that of the Ultimate Crime: desecration of the dead? Almost every modern culture1 has its own death taboo; while the details may vary, most of them involve having it ground into you that it's immoral to chop up old granny like a side of pork, and stir-frying her with the vegetables, - and any one or any group that violates this sacred code is automatically a force of terror to be dreaded or hated.]

It makes you want to throw your hands up in despair sometimes, doesn't it?

People, if you've received similar emails, if you're reading this, pass on the message. This is a hoax, and a particularly pernicious one. Don't spread the hate.

1 I say modern culture, because there are apparently still a few primitive cultures that practice ritualistic cannibalism, and I refuse to discuss them in the context of this journal entry because the people depicted are clearly from the "civilised" world.

darthfar: (Default)
Am nursing a splitting headache and a cough that only manifests at mealtimes. When I first came down with it, I thought I'd caught the bug that had been circulating in the family. But it's been a couple of weeks, everyone else has recovered, and I'm still hacking up a lung every time I eat. Gak.


Remind me again why I play Left4Dead exclusively with friends? Oh yeah. Because of the unchecked idiot infestation in cyberspace.

I was playing a round with a friend on Easy last night (it being said friend's initiation into L4D-for-PC), and I thought I set the game to "Friends Only". Apparently not. Some random person whose handle consisted of more weird symbols than letters joined. "Okay, sure," I thought, "I guess we could use another player".... until the fucker suddenly started shooting us. This wasn't a simple case of Friendly Fire; this was a serious case of, "I'm in here to wreck your game so DIEEEEEEEE!!!!" Thankfully for us, you can't kill a fellow Survivor on Easy however hard you try, so neither of us took damage, but - god! He(?she?) left before I could find the kick button. I wish I had the pleasure of expelling them.

It's almost tragic how all courtesy and good behaviour automatically melt into thin air the moment you give people the mask of anonymity.

At times like these, the NationStates legislation necessitating licences for minors to use computers becomes much less funny and suddenly far more appealing.


I've decided that I like Godfather II after all.

It wasn't an easy transition. In the first place, I'm more of a "shoot first, don't really bother with questions later" kind of gamer, rather than a strategist; the thought of a strategy-steeped GFII was what caused my reluctance to purchase the game in the first place. It didn't help that the graphics (when I started playing it) were ugly. Granted, they would've been acceptable three years ago, but compared with the most recent games (I need to devote a whole journal entry to Ghostbusters...), you could see it was sorely lacking. The fact that they killed off Aldo Trapani (the player's character in GFI), whom I'd grown accustomed to, in the opening sequence of the game did nothing to endear me to it. But once I got to the meat of the game - slamming people against the wall, smashing up stuff, taking wall cover and shooting enemies in the head - in other words, stuff I was actually good at - things started getting fun. A lot of the original game elements are still there - multiple weapons, execution styles, bribes, explodable safes, extortion weak points, contract killing - coupled with favours, special bonuses (like armoured cars and brass knuckles) and new "privileges" of being a Don: a crew that goes everywhere with you, whose members possess different skills; financial statements, territory management, crew management (do everything from dressing and promoting them to improving their skills, to even marking them for death!).

In Godfather I, any business you took over automatically became the Corleone's indefinitely. Not so in this game, as I learnt the hard way, from skimping on the money and posting too few guards at my first acquisition. Before the day was over, Carmine Rosato's men had declared war upon my new bakery and wrestled it back. The second fight broke out at La Maison Rouge, where I had at least posted five men; I wound up detouring to the place myself to turn the tide of the battle. Lesson learnt. Guards are good.

In retrospect, it does make sense having the game start with the player being Don, rather than some other schmuck working his way up the food chain, because there's a continuity that flows from the first game into the second. I still don't know what the hell the Don himself is doing running around the streets of New York, soliciting contract hits and extorting store owners, but hell, I don't care. It's fun. Maybe it's a little on the repetitive side, and I would've preferred a simple 2D map that was easily accessible while driving (is it too much to ask for the Mafia I-type map overlay?) rather than the snazzy zoom-in 3D one in this game - pretty, but oh so annoying when you're driving from point A to B, and suddenly forget the way - but I've no major complaints at this point.

Oh, and I'm still the worst driver on this side of New York. You'd think that, having played Mafia I two million times, I'd have at least learnt to navigate a computer car. But no, I still leave trails of fallen street lamps and dustbins and prostrate pedestrians in my wake. At least no cars have actually blown up yet.


I was regaling my students yesterday with tales of predatory fungi that snared hapless nematodes and sucked them dry. (We were still doing Dynamic Ecosystems). It brought back fond memories of that SF-horror story I wrote back when I was in school, about a mutated strain of Arthrobotrys that predated on humans, complete with utterly cliché laboratory scenes and DNA technology. (The story was titled, appropriately - if somewhat unimaginatively - "Fungi Imperfecti"). Good times. I'd post a link to it, but really - who'd want to read it?

My cousin and I once discussed how, in a certain light, pathology of disease was beautiful. Unfortunately, it's not an opinion I've managed to convinced anyone outside the realm of science and medicine to share.


I recently finished my epic (for me) comic rendering of the chapter Orestes Fasting, Pylades Drunk from Victor Hugo's Les Misérables. Since I'm not about to post the whole damn thing to dA, and I need a place to archive it, I might as well bung it here for the entertainment of anybody who might stumble upon it:

I don't really know why I chose to tackle that chapter (or, indeed, go beyond a single-scene rendering, as I'm apt to do). If pressed, I might grudgingly admit that it sort of saddens me how Grantaire can only reach out to Enjolras by means of the Ultimate Sacrifice, and how their reconciliation is only possible in the shadow of annihilation. Eh, it's something I just had to get out of my system.

I feel slightly guilty about making my (female) art beta cry over this, though. That's one person who isn't going to be reading Les Mis anytime soon.
darthfar: (Default)

After possibly scaring three of my students off pork and sushi forever the other day when I explained the life cycle of tapeworms, I've been mulling anew over mankind's tendency to overreact to microorganisms.

It amuses me when people get into a panic over microbes. Seriously. [The worst was when the world learnt about H1N1, and my community went right into a, "Don't talk to anybody; for heaven's sake, don't even leave your house!" frenzy. (I am not kidding, though I wish I were).] Oh sure, I agree, precautions have to be taken when a highly communicable disease is on the rise, or if there's a chance you might catch something from the lifestyle you lead or the food you eat. But there's a great deal of difference between precaution and paranoia, between making sure you boil your water and cook your pork chops well and put off your travel plans, and oh, say, swearing off meat all together, distilling your water and going about in a gas mask, y'know? [Oh sure, Ty and I were idiots in our second year of college when we swore off beef, but that didn't last long, because we eventually worked out for ourselves that life had to go on. LOL.]

Yet, if it only tickles me that people respond to any information about pathogens with panic, it annoys me when someone claims, "Microbes are bad!" And it enrages me when I see products like antibacterial soap and antibacterial mattresses and antibacterial underwear in the market. Seriously, WTF. You're surrounded by microorganisms, like it or lump it. They're the first to welcome you into the world, and they sure as hell are going to be the last to usher you out of it when you die. So what's all this about trying to get them off your walls and off your hands and your bed and your clothes? you can't fight them off forever. Nor should you1.

People, most microorganisms are good. You use them in industry, to make cheese and bread and alcoholic beverages. You use them in medicine, synthesizing insulin for people who've stopped being able to make them, and antibiotics, which are the golden bullets in the arsenal of medicine (even if antibiotics abuse has threatened to crumble its pedestal). In the lab, where you clone genes into them, or use their enzymes in DNA technology. Hell, they even perform community service, synthesizing vitamins in our gut, digesting oil spills and breaking down our wastes, so that we don't have to drown in seas of The Dead. And even those that don't do good don't generally bother us either. And yet, for all the good they do, people remain fixated with the minority that WANT TO KILL US SO WE HAVE TO DECLARE WAR FIRST OMG2.


I'd wax lyrical about how their so-called "war" against us isn't even personal (unlike most workplace spats), that they're just eking out a living, and that they don't even realise what they're doing, and how humans encroach on their turf and encourage their spread (and resistance), but really, that isn't the point, and besides, even *I*'m not naive enough expect that level of empathy from the common folk. The point is this: respect. There isn't enough of it on the human side of the human-microorganism relationship. I'm not talking about reverence of microorganisms. Reverence of anything is wrong, because it goes beyond the realm of logical thinking. Respect for anything or anyone, even your enemy, is all about recognising them for who they are and what they can do, and how you stand with them. In this case it's simply a case of not carelessly disregarding their potential (be it good or bad; the ones that do bad *can* get really nasty), but not going too far in overestimating their capacity for harm either. Unfortunately, it's pretty much a losing battle there. Medical professionals are trained to deal with them as nothing but adversaries; the general public know next to nothing about them (hell, even science students don't encounter them until the sixth form), until the latest epidemic hits - and then of course, all the bad stuff comes out. And we know the majority of the public never stop to think, or do their own research anyway...

Gotta get them young.

And maybe I should ease off a little on the enthusiasm in sharing the beauty of parasite life cycles. LOL.

Enough blathering!

1The only exception is if you really have reduced immunity, or you're caring for somebody who has.
2Abusing antibiotics and vaccines isn't the answer either.


Mother recently got herself a Nokia 6303. No frills, but it's sufficient for someone whose usage of phones doesn't extend beyond the realm of messaging and voice calls. Only annoying thing: she's not too keen on exploring the phone because she's afraid to break it. That about sums up her relationship with her PC, and why I'm called upon to do tech support several times a night. [No problem, except when I'm up to my neck in a major horde attack (haha), and I can't go on answering the same questions over and over...]

That's the key to mastering any new technology, isn't it? You can't be afraid of it, to begin with. Exploring your device on your own and experimenting will get you much farther than getting someone else to do something for you, or watching over their shoulder as they do it, because you'll not only be finding out what you should do, but what you *shouldn't* do. (A negative answer doesn't mean no answer!). And, as an added bonus, you might also find something you'd never have discovered if you played safe. And if you're afraid of damaging it... Hell, shit happens. Things break. You can deal with it when it happens. That's my motto anyway. ;-)

Oh, and a little thinking will get you places. If you know 6 x 9  = 54, you should also know that 9 x 6 = 543. I'm just sayin'.

3Unless you're operating in Douglas Adams' universe, in which case 9 x 6 = 42. Which is perfectly correct, btw. Just not in base 10 arithmetic.


I've been playing Godfather II, which a mate at the gym was nice enough to give me his copy of. Haven't played enough of it to be able to write a decent review of any sort yet, and it's hard to evaluate the experience objectively rather than succumb to the temptation of comparing it to Godfather I (you can't compare apples and oranges) and other mob-type shooters in general. We shall see.

In the meantime, meet Don Dominic, who probably looks more at home stacking books in the library than slamming people into cash registers, and commanding whole armies of made men:

Yeah, my player characters all tend to wind up slightly geeky. Gosh, I wonder why.


1. Why is it impossible to find Simpson's Forensic Medicine textbook in even the biggest bookshops?
2. For gizkas' sake, I helped my cousin get his copy for USD26 a few years ago. Now I check on Amazon and it's something like USD55 - WTF?
3. Where can I get a copy of the 12th edition for something even resembling a reasonable price? Granted, I've wanted my own copy for years, but I'm not paying through the nose for it either.

July 2016

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