Tuesday, 30 March 2010

the ugly man

our story continues where we left off, and today, indeed, i am approached by the observer. and he asked me of the whereabouts of a person named wally. to this, i could not fathom an answer, so he left me alone.

the observer will search for a hundred lifetimes, only to never find his angry man. and this, i will tell my kids who will tell their grandchildren, is for the best. one of the many reasons that this holds true, is that the angry man has gone on to his own tidings. his own demise, would be a better ends, but i am a romantic person, and as any good storyteller (not that i am one) will tell you that romance is the salvation of our lost hopes and dreams, though hopeless romanticism is only a feeding ground for reality. but we shall not change the simplicity in priori style - on with the observer and his newfound woes:

today, which is the tomorrow of yesterday, we will find the observer slightly disheartened and overwhelmedly depressed, because he cannot (and will never) find the angry man. instead, to occupy his time, i suggest he seek out the ugly man. and this is the story.

we diverge from the observer for now, and introduce the ugly man. this is an oxymoronic name, because though the ugly man has a horrible persona, he is, in fact, not ugly. by today's standards he is even considered not bad. true, he is not beautiful or handsome, or someone you would want to gaze at even for short lengths of time. but his appearance is not what is of import, and that is something that your parents may tell you at some point in your childhood (and though it is true that beauty is only skin deep, and to look beyond someone's facade is truly an admirable thing, you will quickly find that hormones and libido will override such amiable sentiments. so much for romanticism). but the ugly man, he has an awesome job; the ugly man is a baker.

in any case, the ugly man. he is of horrible person to meet. truly horrible. you would not want to meet him. but i told the observer that he should, because the observer is not like you or me - he is someone who is interested in the extremities of nuances in human nature (if not other things, as well). so the observer goes about his new business in trying to find the ugly man. he finds the ugly man in one of the oddest places - a parking lot. and in this parking lot you will find, oddly, that there are none bar one car, and even this does not belong to the ugly man. who knows what he was doing there in the first place. the observer, being the good observationist, looks at the ugly man from a distance. and he does this in the parking lot every day for 3 days and is impressed with what the ugly man has to offer - something that i will not elaborate upon here, but may warrant some writing in the future.

but on the fourth day, just like the angry man, the ugly man disappears. and nobody knows, to where he has gone. be wary of this situation because you will find that tomorrow, the observer may approach you and ask:

'do you know the muffin man?'

Saturday, 27 March 2010

the angry man

there is a story, which starts in a parallel universe from ours, where life is naturally endless and death is a rare phenomenon. in this universe, crime is of no consequence, but it is also without fruit, as there is no need for money, or food, or things of that nature. what people have is generally shared, and what people don't is usually not important enough to warrant a need.

this is, however, not to say that life in this parallel universe is perfect, or even enjoyable for the most part. in fact, it can be said as a rule of thumb, that across all the different parallel universes, everything comes with their own problems, and as a wise man one said: 'it's all about pros and cons'.

and i bring this up, only because, it is the wise man, who observes many things and comes to these conclusions, as he has traversed the multiple universes, time aplenty. he has come to many different theories of life and death, of living and dying. he has learned love and hatred, patience and chivalry. he has learned many things, most of which do not even exist adjectives to describe them. but, we shall save his story for another day, as today's story is about someone the wise man meets in this particular life and time. someone who is an angry man. someone we shall call wally.

it may have passed your noticing, but to reiterate: wally is an angry man. in a world closer to perfect than many others, it is with much irony that i state that he is probably angrier than the denizens of multiple universes combined. there is so much hatred in wally that it has become an artform, and to observe wally is to witness beauty in a very primal form. indeed, this is what the wise, old man does - he is an observer and so he watches, and takes it all in. the feral beauty, and tempest of anger that is wally, is just another singularity of interests in many worlds.

one day, the old man approaches wally, in an attempt to garner his friendship. indeed, this may not be the best of choices, you say. but the observer is a sage of sorts, and he has witnessed more than you ever will, so let us trust in his judgment, and see if the beastly wally is tamable by another human.

i regret to have built up this point, however, as the answer is a resounding 'no'. but the observer is not thwarted by simple disillusions. an angry man who is deathless is like a rubic cube to an infant; try it an infinitesimal number of times and you will progress nonetheless. maybe to success, maybe to demise, but progress nonetheless.

but, hark! today, the observer has gone, again to wally, with a novel approach. but wally is nowhere to be seen. so the observer travels the many different universes, in space and in time, in search of his lost, dear squall of emotions. his broken little train engine with which he has not even tinkered with enough to warrant a satisfactory conclusion. and tomorrow, the observer will arrive in our universe and meet no other than you. be prepared, for he will ask you, then:

'where's wally?'

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

you the man now, dawg

when i was (much) younger, and mathematics was more a passion than a nuisance, i used to dream of solving one of the millennium prize problems. though i was (and still am, to a small extent) motivated by the elegance and importance of such things, it didn't escape my notice that any person who solves a problem is awarded one million dollars. shit's crazy, i know. and, obviously, so are the questions.

i'm not going to pretend to know all the questions, or even what they're about. i mean, this is fields medalist material. goddamn.

anyway, i long since lost interest of these questions, without even giving them further thought. until recently, when someone showed me that gregory perelman had found a proof to the poincare theorem! though he had done this in 2006, the related acknowledgment was only instilled last week, and this is what brought him to our attention.

now, what's so great about this? someone solved some silly maths problem, big deal. yes, yes, normally this would be the case, but, personally, i found his eccentricity (and arguably, his take on mathematics as a whole) is... amazing. i have yet to read his story in detail, but from what i gather, here are the two things that put me to shame:

1. his unwavering hold on 'mathematical ethics', which, i think is his personal disagreement with the bureaucracy surrounding (and distorting) the beauty and purity of what he has done.

2. declining the fields medal and the reward associated with solving a millennium prize. like many people before him, a sign of protest and an epitome of dedication to the art, rather than the form of it.

mr. perelman, you the man now, dawg.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

or will you chose door number 3?

let us say, for entertainment value, that you are on a game show. one of those tedious, yet riveting game shows from the early 90s that puts contestants in irrational, hilarious and wtf situations, with promise of monetary and other worldly rewards.

now suppose that, you have bested your fellow competitors, ousted the sneaky prawns such that all that is left between you and your final goal is but yourself. then, the sh*t hits the fan, when you ready yourself for the next challenge, and find it to be a metaphysical one that defies the logic and consistency of normal game shows:

etc, as you host: ladies and gentlemen, this is astounding! there has yet to be anyone to reach this penultimate stage of the show, and for all the persons in the world, it is none other than [insert your name here]! truly amazing!

now, [your name here], this challenge will not test your mettle nor your mind, but rather your intuition and risk-assessment skills. and for that, you are given an infinite time to decide - how generous of us!

before you, you shall find 4 doors, of which you can only chose one. obviously (as per any of those old game shows) you will receive whatever is behind the door, and move on to the final challenge! are you ready, [again, your name]?

but, this would be without suspense, should the narrator (in his cheesy and condescending voice) not hint at what you may or may not win. and so, he does this, before setting you on your way:

of the four doors, there is one which holds one hundred billion dollars! an insane amount of money for sure, ! however, this 'dollars' are in a foreign currency (non-american, and for all that is important at this point, we can just say it is a hundred billion gaxian dollars), and you have no idea what the value will be after conversion!

another, which holds nothing, but, by opening the door, you will be secured a (again, undefined, but promised to be fulfilling and self-achieving) job for the rest of your life. i truly hope that it is not a game-show host, as this might put me out of a job [cue audience laughter].

yet another holds eternal happiness! wow, now i wish i were in your shoes, [guess whose name goes here]!

and finally... what, am i reading this cue card right? this cannot be! yes, ladies and gentlemen, [someone's name, i really don't care at this point] can potentially win the holy grail of all daytime television game shows - everything (s)he ever wanted! however, to open this door, there is a catch (one besides the catch associated with the latch on the door itself), that is [name] must wait, and not select any door, because this door will open by itself after an undetermined time! the producers have just filled me in that this time frame could range from miliseconds to an infinity, oh dear!

which will our hero(ine), [something goes here, and it could be your name, yet again], choose? oh, the drama, the suspense! we'll be back after this word from our sponsors, magical thumbtack-flavoured jell-o! yummy!

aside from the overly-irritating narrator / host, there is no more information for you. which will you chose? (don't worry, you're bound to win the goat, anyway, but do give it some thought).

Monday, 22 March 2010

molecular kanji

this is a poster that was given to us for sh*ts and giggles, last semester, and it represents the 20 essential amino acids. for those with any inclination, feel free to try and decipher it. and if you're not of a biochemistry background and are feeling extra keen, here's a link to the chemical structures so you can try to figure it out. exciting stuff!

p/s: if you're of a biochem background and don't have the structures memorised, shame on you!

Sunday, 21 March 2010

badass to the bone

in a previous post, i had listed my top ten movies of all time. for some reason, the recent years have yet to produce any super-awesome-rocket-chickens-and-laser-beam-jesus films. either my standards have changed, or (like my fellow cinema-enthusiasts testify) the scene is just getting that horrendous.

obviously, the first thing everyone is thinking now is, 'dude, wtf? we had avatar come out recently. AVA-FRICKEN-TAR'. and my response is: beautiful cinematography and elaborate cgi does not make a great movie. not now, not ever. case in point: star wars i, ii and iii. george lucas, there is a special place in hell, just for you. and as for avatar, come on guys. all you fanboys, get over it: the storyline was, by definition, horribaddible. the worst piece of crap, ever (well, not really, but for all the hype, i'm just going to start throwing rotten tomatoes, anyway). with a plot that's more predictable than a junior-high essay, and more cliches than this horrible blog, i left the cinema thinking 'ok, so i might have missed the next level of depth. it's going to sink in any time now...', and i'm still waiting. a good example that i'm going to pluck out of thin air is 'the matrix'. at first i thought it was horribly overdone (the 2nd and 3rd installations) and the symbolism was crass and forced, but after some contemplation, it wasn't as bad as i had made it out to be. but avatar. avatar. sweet blue-skinned jesus. i weep.

but, i digress, as always. this post isn't about avatar (though i have already come off hating on it, at this point). indeed, over this weekend, i have viewed a movie that has changed my thoughts on recent movie-going, and has instilled in me hope anew.

firstly, let me put it right out there: i am a huge fan of the trippy stuff. at the very least, it's my way of getting high without actually getting high. to the loyal readers (who exist in my head - they're real, goddamnit), alice in wonderland, as a novel, holds a place in my heart dearer than many things ever could. (incidentally, i have still, still, yet to watch the film. god forsake this thing we call time). this is flavour enough, but you'll also find that along these lines, my favourite film (of all time) is 'requiem for a dream'.

anyway, by now, you may be catatonic from the anticipation: what movie is so provoking, so revolutionary, so bat-shit awesome, with sugar-sprinkles and napalm-powered unicorns, that it edges its way into the forbidden land of fanciful entertainment, something that has fallen into myth and decrepit disrepair? and to answer this question, though it is none of the above is :
the lovely bones.

give yourself 10 points, if you had guessed this right. as the film is still quite recent, i'm not going to review it here, for fear of leaking spoilarz, which will probably piss some people off, having them arrive at my doorstep with baseball bats and metal poles, only to spit in my face without taking any action of physical assault.

i will say, though, that the buildup in this movie is super-duper-awesome. as my friend has pointed out, it's a bit draggy. sure, it is. but, i love some movies like this, not everything has to be 'blow-shit-up with action in-your-face from the start to end' and still be enjoyable. and it goes without saying, the symbolism is heavy, and analogies with metaphorical significance is lsd-laden, much like how alice finds herself stuck in wonderland - if wonderland were less psychotic and more blissful. if it had less delirium and were more shifting.

for me, the things that stood out the most in this film were:

1.plot - it's hard to come across a well-written plot nowadays, and you will hear me say this again and again. bravo. bravo.

2. soundtrack - movie soundtracks are generally really good nowadays. they fit the mood and enhance it significantly, they make you lose yourself in the moment and augment those feelings you find burrowing their way out of your heart at the most inopportune moments. but, to notice something that does its job best when you don't. and to miss it when it's not there. brilliant.

3. acting - the actors are not stellar-grade. they're known but not the creme de la creme. and this makes it all the more beautiful to see it acted out so well.

4. symbolism and metaphors - do i really need to say anything about this? the only downside may be peter jackson tried too hard with this one. but, really, i love it for everything that it is, and more than what it isn't. lotr under his direction was visionary, and i can only see more extravagant, and hopefully, brilliant stuff from him. watch for the bridging between limbo and the world, which effects (and sometimes affects) both the protagonist and supporting cast in ways that, though sometimes predictable, are very intuitive for somethings so other-wordly. i really cannot express myself due to a loss for words. (yeah, i'm now a fanboi :/)

5. buildup - movies nowadays seem to have a very stereotypical (and somewhat linear) buildup. it's very disheartening to see a tried and tested model being put to use just because people can't be bothered to stray from what works; and to see something new, specifically in that the buildup leaves you wanting at pivotal points in the movie. well, much kudos to the script-writer and director for making this so magical.

and now, before i rant on and on about how much this movie is awesome: the only reason i have not inducted this movie into my wall of fame -

the ending.

it is like building an underground cubby, laborously and meticulously, only to have it covered. or a duck-hunting-stalking-thingy, only to not even use it. or build a hundred bottled-ships, only to smash them into a million pieces. or write a horrible review only to publish it. or love an eternal love, only not to express it with a single word (this is an obscure reference to fermina, who is now a recurring theme in my blogging). but, as with all tragedies and downfalls of punctuative endings, they are all riddled and pockmarked with one thing - savage, feral emotion. unbridled feelings of a pure nature, that can withstand the test of criticism and cynicism, of disbelief and disheartening. and that, thought the ending is abrupt, and inopportune, and seems like a feeble attempt to tie together what the author has painstakingly built up, in a flash of acrid smoke and distasteful melodrama, is an unworthy, but acceptable ending. mind you, i can think of a dozen more appropriate (or at least, personally-likable) endings, none of which i think i could incorporate into the movie seamlessly, but may feel more beautiful an ending than the one chosen. and for this, my extensive essay here, is my lament. maybe some day, when my grandchildren have grand-grandchildren, this movie will be remade in all its glory, with an alternative ending which is more suitable and easier to palate without thinking 'wow, that was a disastrous attempt to just end it right here, right now'. true, the fact that none of the murdered women get their justice; true, that the broken family is somewhat reunited, though this is not elaborated upon - but i can live with these things, as a straying from a monotonous ending (and forevermore i shall love this movie because of this). but the lacklustre death of you-know-who. and the integration of a nonsensical (and awkward) first kiss, which is catering to the 5 teens who will enjoy this film anyway? and a half-dozen other thigs (which, again i should not mention as to not spoil the movie more than i already have). why? oh, why? maybe there's an extra layer of depth to his death that i have yet to comprehend, and it'll sink in soon enough. here's to hoping.

p/s: if any of you have braved the seas of dullness and actually read through this post in its entirety, not only do i applaud your tenacity for the random, but i apologise for breaking my succinct-rule, without fail, yet again. ah, the tragedy of being a horrible writer. this is why i should have been a mathematician instead.

p/p/s: for anyone thinking of getting me a birthday present, the novel would be a good choice :x just saying.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

passively devoted to you

she strives for perfection. which i find is truly odd, considering she is the embodiment of such things, and all things perfect. this is a concept very alien to me: there cannot be such perfection, as even in the wildest of dreams, and the most bizarre of fantasies, perfection is a myth conjured to mislead people to the (unattainable) promise of... perfection itself. let me elaborate: perfection cannot exist, for if it did, it would be sublime, and much like chaos, begin to encroach upon things other, leading to the perpetuation of perfection, and the inevitable creation of a perfect universe. and to think that this process is already underway, is mind boggling. surreal. maybe i am wrong, and there is some form of perfection. maybe chaos in itself is a perfection that we cannot yet understand. and maybe imperfection is perfect, because it meets the criterion of self-propagation (though it is in no way sublime). or maybe i'm going about this wrong. one so imperfect can only think about things for so long before getting bored.

she strives for perfection. which i find is truly odd, considering there is no way such things could creep into my life, without me even trying; and yet she has. and now the standards and expectations which come with having her so high above me seem distant and cumbersome. i feel lethargic, just thinking of the many chivalrous deeds which should and would be expected from association with perfectionism. ah, how worrisome all this has become.

a friend once told me, that the greatest measure of undying dedication, of eternal subservience, of perpetual devotion, is the ability to stand up for another, irrespective of who that person may be. not just to stand up in the physical sense, but, perhaps more importantly, metaphysically. but how could i, if i cannot even stand a simple confrontation. if i cannot even maintain eye contact (even in a figurative sense) in a conflict (even in one of wits). then, how can i be perfectly, truly, madly, deeply?

she strives for perfection, but i cannot, because i am a pacifectionist.

i really enjoy writing these fictional entries, which i have tried to end in jest (and introducing a nonsensical hybrid word). in fact, to add some spice to the writing method, i don't think of the word i'm going to mash up (or words, to be precise), until the very last minute. i hope people have a blast reading them as much as i do writing.

Monday, 15 March 2010

my big fight

prior to sunday, if anyone were to ask me if i had been in a fight, i would have to sheepishly say 'no'. without a moment's hesitation, too. this is a given subset of being nerdy all your life. i think, if you've watched zombieland, this comes under rule 17: don't be a hero.

but, as you may have guessed from the title, sunday changed all of this. it went down; sh*t got real; f*ck if i know situations and all that jazz. and it was pretty sensational, considering the cops had to turn up.


okay, so i exaggerate when i say it was my big fight. in all reality, i was just pretty much a bystander :/ but, hey, i was there, and it counts. not that i have to be all macho and be in a fight at some point in my life (it's certainly not on my bucket list. what, i've not told you about the list? another post for another day). but as my friend said, it certainly adds to the spice of life. something to experience.

obviously i cannot recount the whole situation, for fear of breaching the anonymity rule i have on this blog, but here's some highlights to keep things overly-dramatic: breaking and entering; theft; (obvious) verbal abuse, in which, ironically, there was no f word or any profanity for that case. there was a lot of 'if you're a man...' sentences, though. what else. oh, yeah, weapons! (baseball bat, wooden poles (wtf?) and metal... things). loads of spitting (someone got it to the face. oh, no you didn't, son). inappropriate(ly hillarious) attire, in which i give a case example. the 'leader' of one side wore jeans and red suspenders (with white, playing-cards spades) and no shirt. and he was skinnier than ally mc beal during her mentally-challenged times. i mean, wtf is this sh*t? some 3rd grade highschool ghetto scene? seriously. there was a taser gun somewhere in the mix, though it never got used. and an (awesome) chinese / vietnamese neighbour, with some crazy-ass triad tats who was talking about messing sh*t up. oh yeah, and as i mentioned earlier, the cops turned up.

anyway. aside from the extensive use of expletives i have used to heighten effect, nothing really went down. i guess part of it was because the cops turned up, and part of it was probably because, well, that's just how 'fights' go down in semi-civilised settings - all talk and no action, basically. not that i'm saying nothing would have happened. there was a pretty real danger of someone biting the dust, or at the very least, receiving a mild concussion. but, after all was said and (not much) done, everyone went their separate ways.

as for me, what was my role in all of this? what great scene did i enact? what stories of bravery and cunning do i now hold, to portray to grandchildren and scare the living sh*t out of friends? sadly (but proudly) nothing. like i said, rule 17: don't be a hero. i guess it's a testament to something that i played it safe. i did calm some people the f*ck down, and maybe in a very minor sense avoided some conflict (i can at least claim credit here, right? come on.) but i guess, if sh*t hit the fan, i probably wouldn't have had the guts to do much. probably not jump into the fight at any point, even if any of my friends were getting pummeled to sh*t. hmm. i don't know. but though that's probably the 'safe and logical' thing to do, i'm sure it doesn't rank very high in attributes you want in a friend who should always have your back. ah, well, i guess i'll never find out.

'til the next gruesome, bloody and gory fight (rawrrrrr!), stay in school, kids and keep it safe. remember to use protection. and stuff.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

take a hint

all my life, i've never really fit in with the crowd (this is the stereotypical line to use when you need to make yourself feel special, or at least non-conformist). i will admit, it is nowhere near the being outliers that some of the people i know face. i've met some pretty eccentric people my age. some extremists (not in the terrorists sense, though), some just plain wacky, and others, who just try too hard to be different. and somewhere along this spectrum of acceptance, i lie, probably nearer the 'that odd guy' end than anyone should be.

anyway, the point so far is that i'm a pretty odd person. kinda out there. not too weird, though.

and this semester i've met someone who proportions pretty well such that, how i seem to the normal person, he seems to me. everything's relative. and by autoimmune leprotic jesus, he gets on everyone's nerves. he's brash, blunt, uncouth. the makings of someone who makes more social faux passes than there are webcomic bookmarks on my web browser. just that much. sometimes it's funny to observe. other times i roll my eyes. literally. and sigh at the same time. and still other times, i show a minimal level of disapproval, which, in my body language is pretty much saying 'dude. stfu'.

anyway, i guess, now i know what it's like to be around me. well, what it must feel like to be someone else, around me. the constant 'holier than thou' attitude and unbased confidence that i'm always right. it all feels very. awkward. very distasteful. and the best part is, the way i can tolerate this is only by knowing that other people have done the same for me.

it's surreal, though, how he probably knows all this. knows how people are at the very least annoyed by his presence. knows how he does the same mistakes over and over again. knows how people are hurriedly eager to get away from being alone with him, or in a conversation, talk to someone (anyone) else. and he just plows through with gusto (which hints that it's not really apathy, but instead more of a 'deal with it' attitude directed [or forced] upon others).

at least, now, i can appreciate how other people put up with me (thanks so much guys,me love you long time). but, god, why? next time, just stab me in a face with a spork. preferably the plastic ones, so that if i do survive, i won't risk the potential of rusty-spork inflicted hepatitis. alternatively, here's something that may help someone (e.g. me) be less annoying. or use some common sense.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

the final frontier

assume that, the sun has reached the winter of its days. and at long, long last, that big, red (oxymoronic) giant has become so imbued, so expansive, that life on earth cannot yet be sustained. and so, humanity has become adept in sending its colonies to various new worlds, in the imperialist agenda of colonising new frontiers, where, of course, you snooze, you lose. finders keepers. if you dibs it, you get it. nothing screams motivation louder and harder (that's what she said) than potential resources and riches. that, and the survival of the human race.

as the people of the old world say their goodbyes to relatives and friends, sweet sorrows bring new beginnings. the boon of new life, of starting anew. the mystery and unexplained potential of untapped galaxies. so much excitement, much like the first time you enter the haunted house at an amusement park. excitement. horror. trepidation. shit-in-pants. as far as descriptive writing goes, there is much to be said.

but the importance of this is fleeting. there's been far too many post-apocalyptic movie scenarios to cover this contingency, even though we have yet to fathom the future technologies, cultural nuances, social interactions, economic situation etc etc. what concerns us for the now is how people would develop differently in entirely different settings. particularly with different time references. how valuable is a day to someone whose planet revolves around its sun in 23 earth minutes? a week? a year? how valuable is a lifetime of 3 years, 1 month and 4 days? of 1 month and 5 days? of 9 days and 2 hours? of 6 hours, 5 minutes and 3 seconds? everything is relative.

what would you do, if you found your life expectancy to be only a 13th of what you thought it would be? would you live life differently? would things change for the better, or worse? and would it be because of how you would live your life, or would it be reactive, to the life you are being forced to live by the cruelest mistresses of them all, time?

and contrary to the norm, i have given this much thought. and come up with the reasoning that... that. that is reserved for my own opinion, and maybe to be shared if the world is truly coming to an end.

Monday, 8 March 2010

great questions of the universe (return of the questions)

i'm so pissed that i couldn't get tickets to 'alice in wonderland'. QQ cashew. that being said, though, the reviews are not very encouraging. oh, deary me :( and to cheer us all up, we have courtesy of my colleague, amitabh bachchan, another great question of the universe!

the actual question that he posed is: are males or females the hornier sex?

but i think this is slightly inappropriate for discussion (although you are free to comment about this, as i am now intrigued to know the answer), and instead we pose a new question, who would win a match: sweet zombie jesus or cyborg buddha?

though the literal phrasing of the question is kind of something guys would debate while high on cocaine, the figurative meaning behind this is, indeed, what i am going for.

it is the debate between polarities (symbolised by the eternal fight between good and evil, jesus / father-god / holy spirit and satan, darth sidius and yoda, barrack obama and osama laden, himura battuosai and shishio, chihuahuas and extremely large cats) and unconditional neutralism (symbolised by buddha, the colour grey, switzerland, plain water and ...). not only in the pursuit of a unifying faith, or theory of everything, but in the personal-level questions, such as 'what should i have for lunch?' or 'at what time should i go to bed tonight?'. but, yes, there are many situations in which we ask ourselves, 'does this pertain to polar extremes, or does this fall into the middle-ground of both sides'.

for example, do you not often ask yourself if you need to take a shower? there is no arbitrary 1 or 0 situation which dictates showering, you have to take it in moderation, yes? that's not really a good example, but i hope i've conveyed my idea. and from this, we can hope to extrapolate a general consensus (if there is one) to every and all potential questions, and hopefully be able to narrow down the potential answers substantially.

actually i'm just ranting today because i thought it would be a good idea to take a break from the normal infectious disease crap. yay.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

calm it down. here, have some toxoplasmosis

yet another infectious disease post :/ i'm sure we're all hanging on the edge of our seats waiting to hear what horrors the microbial world holds for us today.

when i was an undergrad (which seems like ages ago. oh, how old we have become), i recall very distinctly learning of the organism toxoplasma gondii. although the physiology and pathology of said bug is interesting and all (not really, i lie), the thing that captured me the most is the ability for the protozoa to change the nature of its host. here, let me explain:

mice, are naturally afraid of cats. this goes by the observation, but for the more darwinian amongst us, you can easily place mice in canonical evolutionary pressure model: mice that are afraid of cats tend to die less, than those which do (duh) and therefore have a higher chance of reproducing, giving rise to progeny which have (inbuilt) ability to avoid cats. or other horrible predators. anyway, mice are scared of cats. pretty intuitive.

now, toxoplasma is a parasite of mice, amongst other things. and in infecting mice, they make their way to various organs of the host, and of particular interest to us, the brain. there, it effects the host mouse by physically and chemically altering the various nuclei and gyri (for the keen neuroanatomist, 10 points if you can recall which i am talking about), to make mice unafraid of cats. in fact, as my lecturer puts it, the mice frolick and prance around in the sun, basically begging for the cats to come over for dinner. and we all know, what's on the menu. this, in turn, helps the protozoa infect the cat, which happens to be it's definitive host (in which toxoplasma reproduces), and then the cat shits spores out, ready to infect various new hosts, such as other cats, mice, wildboars, pregnant women (of which toxoplasmosis is a particularly nasty disease to the unborn child, but that's another story altogether), stegosauruses, magical leopleurodons and fanciful unicorns.

in a nutshell, the toxoplasma has made mice bolder in order to perpetuate itself. amazing. this is a very awesome example of how a parasite directly influences behaviour, as opposed to only physiology (like giving you a runny nose and making you puke something nasty).

now, take this information and combine it with some newly published paper (remind me to link it, sometime) from czechoslovakia, which shows that toxoplasmosis in humans, may become benign (form spores in your brain, but not actually do anything. gives a new meaning to 'monsters in my head', doesn't it?) but cause us to be:
1. calmer
2. self-depressive
3. more extroverted
4. rebellious
5. more assertive
6. ???
7. profit
8. schizophrenic and who knows what other mental disorders

amongst other things. so. in conclusion. the next time, you feel like you need a little pick me up. or you can't find a pint of beer to give you that much dutch courage to talk to the hot chick down the bar. or you feel like you need to break someone's kneecaps with a sledgehammer. maybe you just need an intravenous injection of purified toxoplasma cysts. oh, yeah.

also, bonus question to add onto that 10 from earlier (you keen little buggers), why is mycobacterium such an oxymoron, myco- being the general prefix for fungi, and -bacterium the suffix for... yeah, you guess. don't cheat by using wikipedia or something like that. for shame.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

hindsight is 20/20

many years ago, when i was traveling in egypt, i had the unprecedented pleasure of meeting the acquaintance of some horrible bowel disease. back then, being the uninterested person i am sure everyone else is, on infectious diseases, i never gave it much thought. that, coupled with the fact that i was puking my guts out and shitting super-fluid diarrhoea. shit's nasty. but that's not the end of it. in fact, contracting the bug was pretty much the mere beginning. on the next day, i was to catch the flight back home, and i can attest to the shittiness of being in a confined space for 10 hours, and having to frequent the toilet every 3.29 minutes, if only to stare at my red-eyed reflection and convince myself that i am yet alive.

but, enough of the past, i am sure nobody is really interested in the graphic version of my illness (which involves green vomit, riddled with black specks [highly concentrated bile with activated charcoal pellets]. also, stomach cramps with pain i can only imagine rivals period cramps [for the female readers who think a man cannot empathise with this, you may have valid reason, but i stand by my simile]. etc etc).

in today's lectures we were hearing all about interesting protozoa, and their ability to host bacteria. a sudden epiphany came upon me as i sat dozing off in the air-conditioned lecture hall: i had a very distinct recollection of, on the day of contracting the bug, eating ice cream, bought in a dodgy alley. although the ice cream itself seemed very innocent (which i cannot say for the semi-paedophilic seller. but that's another story for another day), i also remember a drop of 'rain' dressing my ice cream (vanilla flavour, not really my favourite, but ice cream is ice cream). and i put two and two together (to give five) in this instant, my hyperactively imaginative memory now also recalling that there was an air-conditioning vent above me as i was licking that ice cream, wondering where the rain had come from in the summer of a cloudless-skied egypt. yes, it all makes sense now.

damn you, legionella.