Updates no more

dimanche 29 juin 2014

Animals that don't Exist

The Sleepless Snake

The sleepless snake, Anguis Insomnis, is one of nature’s most mysterious creatures. When they are born, the baby snakes are a pristine white. But as they grow older, their scales become jet black. Starting from around the eyes, the sleepless snake has more and more of it’s scales turn black each time it sheds its skin, until finally, there is no white left.
Their venom gets stronger as they grow older, too, and when more than half of their body has turned black, the snakes change sex, from male to female.
The sleepless snake was given its name because of the fact that it never closes its eyes. But recent studies suggest that the snake truly never sleeps. A large number of animals had their brainwaves monitored for 24, 48 and 72 hours respectively ,by a group of researchers at the Shanghai institute for snakology, and none of them showed brain activity that might indicate sleep.
Today, the sleepless snake is found almost exclusively in central Asia. Hoewever, fossil records, combined with recent biomolecular findings, indicate that the snake once ranged through the whole Eurasian continent. It is believed that the last ice-age greatly reduced the snake’s area of distribution, decimating the population in Europe, and forcing it to seek shelter in the warmer south in Asia. As the climate got warmer again, populations spread north once more.
Under the Ming Zhao dynasty (714 B.C to 497 B.C), the snake was considered a sacred animal. Historians believe that the black makeup woman wore at that time, in varying degrees of skin-coverage, was an act to honor and revere the snake.
Ancient texts from the Ming Zhao attribute various powers to the snake. It is believed that its scales have the power to make one fertile. The white ones for the men, the black ones for the women, they were administered as-is, to be swallowed whole one hour before conception.
It’s venom was believed to hold the secret to immortality. The more potent the poison was, the stronger its powers were believed to be, and completely black snakes were worth a fortune. The texts indicate that the royal family kept thousands of snakes in captivity, to harvest for their medicine.
Recent studies have discovered that there might be some truth to the legends around the snake. A detailed analysis of its venom has shown that it contains a large amount of telomerase. Telomerases cut off the strands of DNA capping our chromosomes, called telomere. This telomere is a kind of buffer, before the important code on the chromosome. Every time cells divide and chromosomes get duplicated, they loose a bit of their telomere, and this phenomenon is one of the candidates who might be responsible for the aging of the body.
But when the venom cuts the telomere, the cell sees this as an attack, and restores the telomere to ~1.5 time their former length, more than compensating for the bits that were lost during normal cell activity. Although the venom in itself is highly toxic, if the telomerase where purified correctly, and dosed right, it might prolong life.

jeudi 26 juin 2014

Animals that don't Exist

The Bam-Bam Frog

The bam-bam frog, Bombina Bambam, is closely related to the European yellow-bellied toad, and is found most commonly in southern Europe. Except for the crab-eating frog, Fejervarya cancrivora, it is the only known modern amphibian which can live in saltwater. However, the crab-eating frog can only sustain short excursion into ocean waters, whereas the bam-bam frog spends the entirety of its life-cycle in the salty marches found on the Mediterranean shore. But its uncommon habitat is not the most striking feature of this marvelous creature.
The Mediterranean marshes are the ideal nesting places for a huge number of birds, and also a preferred spawning ground for fish, crustaceans, and other marine animals. As such, it is an extremely rich environment, abundant not only in food, but also predators. To be able to survive in such a competitive landscape, the bam-bam frog has pushed the characteristics of his ancestors to the limit.
Frogs are known for their well-developed hind legs, and the ensuing jumping power. In the bam-bam frog, however, this feature has been polished to its peak. The hind legs of the bam-bam frog make up as much as 90% of its total body mass, and allow the frog to break the sound barrier. The maximum velocity of a jumping bam-bam frog measured to this date is 398 m/s (1433 km/h or 888 mph). The loud “bang” produced when the frog breaks the sound barrier also gave it its name. This immense burst of speed, however, has two draw-backs, which evolution has addressed rather elegantly.
The sudden burst of speed, which allows the bam-bam frog to accelerate from zero to the speed of sound in a few milliseconds, puts a tremendous strain on its muscles, and its body is heavily compressed by the air in front of it. At the same time, remaining in mid-air exposes it to the avian predators that can be found in abundance in its habitat. To deal with this, the frog has developed a number of mechanisms.
First, in addition to an extremely stream-lined body, bam-bam frogs have a much thicker layer of mucus on their skin than other amphibians, and their secretions have a much higher viscosity than that of related species. Second, the bam-bam frog has a loose flap of skin on its back.
Under normal circumstances, the excess skin is held together by the mucus. However, when the frog jumps, its muscles release a huge amount of lactic acid to compensate for the effort. This acid, in turn, liquefies the mucus. The liquefied mucus allows the frog to endure the rapid acceleration by absorbing the brunt of the compression. As the mucus is stripped away by the air, the skin flap becomes loose, and unfolds like a parachute, slowing down the animal. This ensures that the frog can jump in a relatively small angle without excessive risk of collision, which allows it to reduce the time it spends defenseless in mid-air. This has caused the bam-bam frog to be known by another name, the “paratroopers”.
Nonetheless, it can happen that frogs jump straight up, in which case they are easy prey for seagulls and other birds while the float gently back to the ground. In Camargue, France, seagulls are known to follow herds of wild horses, waiting until the mammals stumble upon a cluster of bam-bam frogs, and then feasting on the stray frogs who have miscalculated the angle of their jump. It has also been observed on numerous occasions that the loud noises of a startled group of bam-bam frogs can attract predators from miles away.
Recent studies suggest that in certain places, land and air predators seem to collaborate in capturing the amphibians. Since the frog is less likely to jump when there are birds in the air, snakes have been observed to hunt the frogs more intensely when there are seagulls or other predators flying above. Whether this collaboration is intentional or merely coincidental has yet to be determined.

mardi 24 juin 2014

Forget about It

The person who I was isn’t the person I’ve become. Somewhere along the way, I changed, and became me. Somehow, at some point, I was pulled into existence, by actions over which I had no control. Yet they were my actions.
When you look back, it’s either because of something you miss, or because of something you’ve missed. There is no innocent reminiscing. It’s either guilt or pleasure, never mere contemplation.
Those who get caught up in the past cannot move forward. Fearing their old mistakes, or basking in the glory of days gone by, they are left behind. Reality knows only the present.
Like a thumb-movie, the minutes flicker by, and we change from frame to frame. There would be no sense to what we are doing right now without what happened before. Yet what happened before has already left this world. It only lives on in our memory. With each breath we take, we kill ourselves, and are born over and over and over.
As we stop remembering, the synapses retreat, one after the other. The past disappears. We can read about it, we can look at the pictures. We can talk about it with our friends. But the feeling is gone.
Memories fade with time, and time creates new memories. New synapses emerge, new connections are made, and the old world slowly slips into oblivion. Images that were once razor-sharp are now dull and blurry. Sounds have lost their meaning. Sentences have become words, disjointed and out of context. And emotions have become cumbersome obligations.

Long forgotten, lost in the chaos of our brain, a lonely neuron keeps on discharging his signal into the world.

dimanche 22 juin 2014

Animals that don't Exist

The Love-Bird

The common love-bird, passer Amare, has one of the widest distribution-ranges of any known animal, except maybe homo sapiens. Bright pink of color, it can easily be identified when displaying its mating-gown.
During other seasons, however, its feathers can have a vide variety of colors, making it a veritable chameleon of the avian world. From the deepest black to the dullest brown, the love-bird can live in any environment, blending in perfectly with the local bird-species. New findings suggest it can even change shape, but definite proof has to be obtained.
Many a scientist has thought he knew the answer behind the secrets of the love-bird. Yet it is precisely when we think that we understand this mysterious creature that, with a whimsical flip of its wing, it surprises us anew.
In ancient religions, the love-birds often were the subjects of cults and rituals, some of which have survived up until today. The Easter-eggs, for example,  are thought to have originally represented the eggs of a love-bird. A symbol of fertility and abundance, the eggs were supposed to cause a bountiful harvest, and strong children.
Another old custom was abandoned in 1817, when the last free members of the Kirara-tribe left their forest-homes to live in the settlements established on the chopped-down remains of their ancient hunting-grounds. The Kirara tribe stopped all their ancient customs once they left their forest, and much of the history of this scarcely-known tribe has been lost. Buz some eye-witness accounts of early anthropologists in the region still exist. Despite the colonialist views perpetrated in those documents, they still give us a valuable insight into Kirara culture.
One of them,Dr. Van Kraut, of the Amsterdam University of Birdology, wrote this fascinating entry in the journal he kept while visiting the Futch colonies, in 1654:

“The Kirara, savages as they are, nonetheless observe predictable rituals at regular intervals of time, showing some primitive form of organization. The most important one, I have been told, is the “festival of the bird”. It is celebrated every year, after the first Yellow Crabs have been caught in the underwater caves of the region. Luckily, I happened to be near the village at just such a time.
Cheering and shouting, the savages paraded their catch through the muddy square in the middle of their hut-circle. Then they deposited it on the ground, and their “medecine-man” broke it open with his stick. Contrary to the other villagers, whom were all half-naked, the “medicine-man” was wearing richly embroidered robes, hung with stones and feathers and fangs.
Once the shell of the crab was broken, and its tender insides exposed, the villagers retreated into the shadows and held their breath.
After what must have been almost half an hour, a small bird of the passer genus landed on the crab. At first I thought it was just a regular bird, but soon I noticed the faint pink hues in its feathers, and I became certain that it was one of the legendary love-birds. It looked around curiously for a few seconds, and then started pecking at the crab’s flesh.
After the bird had swallowed his first bite, the villagers run towards the square, yelling and cheering again, and the bird took off. After that, they cooked the giant crab in a pot, and each of them partook of its flesh.”

Van Kraut goes on to describe the ritual in more detail, but even from this passage, it is clear that the love-birds held a very important position within the Kirara’s mythology.
Another thing worth noting is that Dr. Van Kraut refers to the love-bird as a “legendary” animal, although they are some of the most well-known birds in the world today. It seems that at that time, in the western world the bird was known only through third-person accounts. Some attribute this to it’s amazing camouflaging abilities, while others say this proves that the love-birds have suffered partial extinction throughout their history, disappearing and reappearing for reasons unknown.
Despite its renown and its amazing ability to adapt, it seems that the love-bird populations are facing a similar challenge today. Without any discernable cause, it seems the love-birds are being affected by an unknown disease. Despite their  population remaining stable, the individuals have become more sickly, and their vivid pink seems to dull from year to year.
No one knows what is afflicting these marvelous creatures, and it is imperious that we discover the cause, and act now, lest these beautiful animals disappear before our very eyes.

jeudi 19 juin 2014

Animals that don't Exist

The Yellow Crab

The Yellow Crab, Lithodes flavus, is of the Lithodoidea family, and is consideredas being part of the king crab genus. However, he does not live in the atrctic waters, like his cousins. The Yellow Crab is found exclusively in the tropical underwater-caves of the southern hemisphere.
Because of this sheltered environment, Yellow Crabs can grow much larger than their northern relatives. The largest ever Yellow Crab that was caught weighted over 6 kgs, and there are thought to be even bigger ones living in the unexplored parts of the caves.
Underwater-caves are extremely dangerous to explore, as it is easy to get lost, or to damage ones gear in the smaller tunnels. This complex terrain, with it’s many holes and crevices, makes the perfect hunting ground for the Yellow Crab.
Used to live in deep waters, the absence of sunlight does not pose a problem to our stealthy friend, and he slips form shadow to shadow with ease, searching for his prey. The truly amazing thing about the Yellow Crab, however, is not his hunting-ability.
The limestone-caves which are home to this fascinating species are close to the ocean, and the water in them can be saltwater or freshwater, or even a mix of both. Over the five million years since it split up to form a separate species, the Yellow Crab has acquired the ability to live in both fresh- and saltwater.
When he is about to change form one environment to the other, his body freezes momentarily. It is believed that this time is needed to switch his metabolism from saltwater- to freshwater-compatible, or vice-versa.
Vivisection study of the animals is prohibited, since it is an endangered species, and scientists have yet to understand the underlying mechanisms of this phenomena, but multiple observations of the “switch”, both by teams of scientists as well as recreational divers, as well as sightings of the crabs in both saltwater and freshwater caves, leave no doubt to of ability.

This is the first installment of "Animals that don't Exist". I hope to be able to update thursdays and sundays. If not, I will get down on my knees, bow my head to you, and hope that you don't hit too hard.

mardi 17 juin 2014

Because Fútbol

The whistle blows. The players run. The fans cheer. The world cup is well on its way. One billion people are watching. And many more dollars were spent.
Brazil is said to be the capital of football. It is also a country were healthcare, schools and public housing are in dire need of funds. Where the Amazon basin is being deforested at an alarming rate, its precious ecosystem destroyed in an infinitesimal fraction of the time it took to grow. And it is host to the world’s greatest sporting event.
The massive protests anteceding the cup are a testimony to the dire situation faced by many in the country. But it’s all good, according to the FIFA. People will make money. The investments will be recouped manifolds thanks to the boon of the tournament. All hail the sport!
Except that those who pay are not those who gain. The people pay. The sponsors reap the benefits. The enterprises associated with the event. Coca-cola. Heineken. McDonalds. And all the rest.
Little commerces are shut down or pushed out of the way as the big screens are set up. The official stands. With the official products. And the people who paid for it all stay at home, watching the games on their television, because there is no money left for tickets.
And as technology keeps on progressing, soon your TV or laptop or smartphone will be able to identify what you eat, and what you drink. And the screen will go blank if you don’t show it your VISA card. Or if it isn’t a SONY. “Please only watch matches on official equipment. Because Fuck you.”

jeudi 12 juin 2014

Letters from the Northern Lands


My Love

All did not go right. As I was on my way to your sweet embrace, we came upon a storm. Strong blew the wind and hard fell the rain, blocking roads and rails, and we were forced to spend the night before we could go on. It seems the road did not want to let me leave just yet. One more time it reminded me that anything can happen, and that no destination is certain before you reach it.
Indeed, nothing is predictable when you travel, and the unknown waits at every turn.
I do not mind, though, having one last adventure before coming home. It was a great and glorious farewell, and I felt a warm glow coming from our forced delay. In a way, it could not have ended better. The worse is what we leave for, to be pushed around, drowned and rescued, and to learn to stay true to ourselves even during the most trying of times.
To bend ourselves to the unforeseen, abandoning the pointless, frustrating resistance, and embracing the change. We learn to let go, to stay calm, to embrace the madness of the unpredictable as a welcome escape from the mundane.
And so even the mundane becomes special.


This was the last instalment of "Letters from the Northern Lands". Sunday will be off, and starting next week a new series, "Animals that don't exist", will be starting up. Also, an illustrated book/pdf for "Letters from the Northern Lands" is in the making. I'll let you know when it's done.

And thanks for reading !

mardi 10 juin 2014

Land of the Free

There is nothing here. Empty space. No humans. No houses. No children that play in the streets. No shops. No barbers, no mechanics, and no whores. No nature, either. There is nothing.
Miles and miles of office buildings. Nobody lives in their office. There is no life there. Only work. Monotonous repetitions of meaningless tasks. Endless repetitions of pre-determined phone-calls. Barbarian use of social networking. Cold exploitation of human genius. All that and more. But no life.
People might think that the separation of business and private leads to a better existence. A happier life. But they're wrong. Separation of private and business just gives you an excuse to make mistakes. "It's just business." Your family might get evicted. Your friends might be forced to work in horrible conditions, barely making enough money to feed their family while working sixteen hours a day. A whole country will get fucked over for a few bucks. Because "It's just business".

There is no such thing as "Just business". There is no such thing as "Just 'anything'". Your actions will affect the world, just as the world will affect your action. What you do matters, and what you don't do matters, too.
So before you take action, take a good long look around you. Because no matter what you do, and no matter what you say, your actions are yours. And their consequences are too.

dimanche 8 juin 2014

Letters from the Northern Lands


My Love

I am on my way home. I have seen a lot of things during my journey, met a lot of people, and had a lot of experiences.
From the cold winds of the high north to the blistering sun of the south I have travelled.
From the lonely mountaintops to the bustling cities, I have crossed borders and rivers alike.
I have found peace and love, misery and hate. I have lived through it all, giving up when it went well, holding on when it was though.
Changing my plans everyday, I have been made and broken over and over.
Yet I will come back to you the same I was.
If it all goes right, my Love, I will sleep in you arms tonight.


jeudi 5 juin 2014

Letters from the Northern Lands


My Love

I have done a lot of distance today. Traveling south, meeting people along the way, sleep seems to be nothing more than an annoyance to which I must succumb from time to time. A whim of the body. And so once more I am tired, but happy to be on the road. On my way back home to you.
The land has gotten flat again, and golden fields spread far and wide. It is hot and sunny, and I shall take care to have enough water with me, for there are no pristine streams around here, just muddy green ponds.
I have had a long day and my mind is not yet working well, but the flickering lights passing by as we travel down the dark road kept reminding me of freedom.
A lot of people seem to have given up on freedom, exchanging it for safety or comfort, telling each other it was but an illusion.
But freedom does exist, my Love. In the open fields and the lonely mountains, in the busy cities and the rumbling roads. Freedom is everywhere to be found. All you need to do is step away from what you have. The more you leave behind and the freer you shall be.
I know now that I shall never be again as free as I was then. For I have you, my Love. And I shall not leave you behind.
But neither shall I forget what it feels like to be free. We shall be free together soon, my Love.


mardi 3 juin 2014

Making the Matrix

The beat is on. The can hisses as I crack it open, foam dripping down the side. I take a sip, and then light up a cigarette. My fingers find the keys, and I let them move on their own, eyes on the screen.
Ideas form scripts, scripts decompose into lines. Lines become words and statements, conditions and questions, fleshing out the details. Details morph into ideas, and the process starts over. A circle with no end.
My fingers keep hitting the keys, each new stroke counting down the time until sleep will finally get the better of me. A new line, a new function, a new script. Just one more. And then one more. And then one more.
It runs and breaks and If ix it and it breaks and I fix it and tweak and it breaks and I fix it and it works and I tweak it again. I gets bigger and then I whittle it down and then it gets bigger again. New ideas appear and write themselves down and get streamlined and create new ideas.
Hours pass and the sun goes down and the sun comes up again and the eyes become tired and the fingers sluggish and the mind numb. The coffee makes my hands tremble and the sound plays over and over the same record. And still I keep on coding.

dimanche 1 juin 2014

Letters from the Northern Lands


My Love

I have spent the day enjoying new friends, the warm sunshine, music by the lakeside and nice company.
Tomorrow I shall continue my journey south, home to you.
I am tired and happy tonight, my Love. Happy because I have found company again. I have found the beautiful melodies of drunken carousing again.
I am tired, so I shall not linger.
Tonight I dream of you my Love.