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mardi 30 décembre 2014

The Egg

So here I am. Back in the now again. Back where I started. Not quite, true, but at the moment, it feels rather like it. The old me is acting up. Old habits. Old songs. Old feelings. They all come to life in these old walls, and yesterday seems awfully close. I went a ways, though.
I forgot who I was, tried to become who I'll be. Those kind of things. I worked my ass off lazing around. I turned everything upside down, And in the end, I got spit out again. That's how it feels, at least. A long fight for nothing. Almost nothing.
I can feel the creature inside the egge stirring. The egg that I nurtured, that I incubated. That I left for dead, that I cracked. It didn't get out of it all without a scratch. It's damaged goods at best. But it's still alive. Still kicking.
Soon, it'll hatch

dimanche 28 décembre 2014

Animals that don't Exist

The Motivation Leech

The motivation leech, Hirudo nomoworkus, is a species of leech closely related to the medicinal leech, Hirudo medicinalis. Found mostly in Europe, this strange animal has, for reasons as of yet unknown, but presumed to be linked to human activity, spread as far as China in recent years.
Unremarkable at first glance, and undistinguishable from its cousin, the medicinal leech, it has only recently been identified as a seperate species, thanks to sequencing of its mitochondrial genome.
Motivation leeches, as their name suggest, provoke a drastic drop in motivation in ther victims. This has traditionaly been attributed to the loss of blood, but recent studies show that there are clearly other factors at work here, since patients who simply had the same amount of blood extracted from them through medical procedures showed no signs of demotivation.
Chemicals present in the saliva of the leech, and used to prevent pain or blood-clotting in the wound, are the prime suspects for causing a drop in motivation, but studies have yet to confirm this hypothesis. But although science has only recently identified the species, a careful reading of ancient texts suggests that some people where aware of its effects long before now.
Accounts of various important political figures, and their opponents, suggest that the leech was a popular way of getting rid of ones rivals. Cleopatra is believed to have used it on both Ceasar and Mark Anthony to persuade them to leave Rome and spend time with her instead. It has also been speculated that some versions of the “Tale of Genji” suggest that the famous japanese courtier has used an extract made from the leech when trying to seduce a particularly reticent courtisane.
Whatever the truth behind those stories, it does seems unlikely that the effects of the motivation leech have gone unnoticed to this day, especially since the animals were probably used alongside regular medicinal leeches for a long time. Why no scientist has made note of it before now, though, remains a mystery. Maybe they just never got 'round to it.

jeudi 25 décembre 2014

Animals that don't Exist

The Christmas Fever

The christmas fever, H2N5, is not technically speaking a member of the Animalia Kingdom, but it makes such a compelling story that we found it hard to ignore, especially given the season.
A virus close to avian and swine flu, christmas fever is extremely contagious and especially present during the holidays. The reasons for this seasonal appearance are multiple and complex, and make H2N5 an extremely interesting research subject.
Like most flu strains, a weakened immune system and overstrained body due to cold climate is the most easily identifiable factor in the seasonal appearance of the christmas fever. Stress and exhaustion due to last-minute shopping and organization, as well as social pressures, weakens our defenses even more, and favorises its spread. But what really sets christmas fever apart from other viruses is another factor alltogether.
The flashing lights and brilliant colors that are seen during the holidays are very stressful cues for our vision, which, in a natural environment, will rarely be exposed to the same range of colored lights as we are during christmas. This stress on the visual system is what gives christmas fever its in, since infections occur first in the ocular lobes, and from there spread to the rest of the body. Once that has happened, close proximity to people in shops or at parties, as well as a weakened immune system, take care of the rest.
Those affected by christmas fever will display a range of symptoms, from clinginess and high sociability (favoring the spread of the virus), to rapid mood swings, eating disorders and depression (further weakening our defenses).
To prevent infection, avoid crowded areas, looking at christmas lights, and making a fuss about the whole event in general. Contact with people who seem unusually stressed out or giddy is to be kept to a minimum, since there is a high chance that they are infected.

dimanche 21 décembre 2014

Animals that don't Exist

The Cola Bear

The cola bear, Ailuropoda cola (not to be confused with the Koala bear, Phascolarctos cinereus), is a species of bear found mainly in the highlands of the Andes, where his primary food, the coca plant, grows. A close relative to the Panda, the coca bear has a very specialzed diet, consisting almost exclusively of coca leaves, augmented by the occasional carcass.
Due to the destruction of their natural habitat, and intransigent coca farmers that shoot the animals on sight, the number of cola bears has been greatly reduced in the last half of the twentieth century. Today, the animals are considered endangered, and conservation areas have been put in place to protect the few remaining individuals. However, given the large amount of coca trees needed to sustain a fully grown bear, as well as their territorial and aggressive nature, these measures barely manage to save the bears from extinction. Luckily, in recent months, re-introduction programmes have found a rather peculiar sponsor.
The DEA has been cooperating with conservationists in South America to reintroduce the bear in regions that have become hotbeds of cocain production, in the hope that the animals will destroy the druglords' fields and lead the authorities to the criminals.
Whether or not this approach can be ethically justifiable (as mentioned above, the plan implies a large number of causalties for the bears if they do encounter coca farmers) remains a hot topic, but it has certainly attracted attention to the plight of this unique species. Let us hope attention will translate to action in the near future.

jeudi 18 décembre 2014

Animals that don't Exist

The Flaming Flamingo

The flaming flamingo, Phoenicopterus flammae, is one of the five members of the family Phoenicopteridae. It is, however, the only one of these to feed on land, and not in the shallow waters in which the other members of its genus find their sustenance. The flaming flamingos, unlike their cousins, do not filter water for small crustaceans or algae, but rather, they filter the air.
Found mostly in Africa, and some remote parts of the middle east, flaming flamingos usually aggregate near stale water, where air-born insects are in abundance. They then swing their long neck back and forth through the air, while keeping their beak open, to capture the mosquitoes and other bugs that serve as their main diet.
Just as with other flamingo species, the color of their plumage depends on their diet. Flaming flamingos can vary from rainbow-colored to dull gray, depending on the insects that dominate their local ecosystem. Their name, however, has another origin.
Always on the lookout for richer food-patches, flaming flamingos are invariably attracted by light, just as their prey is. When man started to domesticate fire, this proved to be a rather unfortunate trait. The large movements they make while capturing their prey meant that they almost always came too close to when they were attracted by a man-made flame, and would often catch fire. This has provoked a dramatic reduction in numbers of their population, and today, the flaming flamingo only occupies a fraction of its former range.
The spectacle of a burning flaming flamingo thrashing around screaming seemed to be both terrifying and fascinating to the ancient tribes of Africa, for they have attributed a special place to the bird in their mythology. The flaming flamingo is said to be the god of fire, and whenever he would choose to burst into flames in a village, it meant that either a great boon or great tragedy would descend upon its people. Even today, the animals are seen as sacred, although the advent of electrical lightning has greatly reduced the number of fire-related casualties.
Recently, the bird has been re-introduced in a number of countries in west Africa, in the hopes that this voracious insectivore would curb mosquito populations and diminish the risk of malaria. Whether or not this operation was a success remains to be determined, but early analysis shows promising results.

mardi 16 décembre 2014


The cold is on holiday, and the holidays are anything but. The weather is warm despite the season, and the heating makes it feel as if my home is a tropical island. Even outside, trees start budding, birds start tweeting, and here and there the occasional disoriented insect awakens prematurely from its yearly rest.

Despite everything they told us, winter takes its sweet time coming.

dimanche 14 décembre 2014

Animals that don't Exist

The Wine Rabbit

The wine rabbit, Oryctolagus cuniculus vino, is a sub-species of the common rabbit, and did not originally exist in the wild. It was first created through selective breeding in France, during the late fifteen-hundreds.
At the time, rabbit stewed in wine had become an absolute delicacy, and cooks were experimenting with a number of variations on cooking methods for this much-prized dish. Jean de la Rouille was one of them, and he started breeding his rabbits himself, and giving them only wine to drink until they reached adulthood, so that the taste would permeate the rabbit's flesh.
At first, most of the rabbits did not survive until adulthood, or when they did, where not able to assume their reproductive functions, due to the effects of the wine. But after a few generations, natural selection had come to the rescue, allowing only those rabbits with excellent livers as well as an overall tolerance to alcohol to survive and reproduce.
The rabbits made a sensation in Paris, and soon the whole of France was breeding them, and exporting them all over Europe. Of course, this massive wine rabbit population would lead to a few animals escaping here and there, but at the time no one took particular note of this. A few years later, however, the implications of wild wine rabbits became clear.
At the time they started reproducing in the wild, the wine rabbits had acquired a taste for wine that would drive them to steal bottle from cellars, and gnaw at wooden casks until they could drink the content. Bordeaux and Bourgogne were soon overran by the creatures, and they were declared a pest by King Louis XII after one of them had managed to infiltrate the royal cellars and drink the finest cask of the King.
Today, wine rabbits still exist in certain regions in France, and continue to be considered a delicacy, although they can no longer be bred in captivity (in the late twentieth century, they had been declared a protected species). Only the wealthy can afford to buy the few rabbits that can be shot each year. The rest of us will have to make due with its less tender cousin.

jeudi 11 décembre 2014

Animals that don't Exist

The Swiss Parasite

The swiss parasite, Parasitus helvetica, is one of the more elusive members of the central-European fauna. First mentions of its existence date back to the earliest creation of the Confoederatio Helvetica, but reports contradict on the origin and physical characteristics of this mysterious species.
Believed at first to be an invasive species, scientists soon discovered that the swiss parasite was endemic to the region. Despite large numbers of scientific papers on the subject, the majority of swiss still believe that the swiss parasite has origins outside of their national borders.
Campaigns to eradicate the swiss parasite have often been used by politicians to gain popular approval, and even today, the problematic seems to dominate swiss politics. However, due to the enormous confusion on its origins, appearance, or behavior, this often ends in unproductive debates about personal believes, instead of informative scientific discussions. We shall clear up some of these misunderstandings today.
The swiss parasite is, as mentioned, a species endemic to the country. Also contrary to popular belief, the swiss parasite is often not a scrawny, evasive beast, but rather an opulent individual living in plain sight. Although the less successful members of the species might live in precarious situation at times, natural selection has, over the years, placed the swiss parasite at the apex of the country's ecosystem, where he can suck and siphon out the life-force of a large number of preys at once.
The swiss parasite makes a show of defending his territory fiercely, not seeming to tolerate any intruders. But behind this purist exterior, he often lets other species enter his lair, to have fresh prey at his disposition. It is only once he has sucked the intruders dry that he chases them out in earnest.

dimanche 7 décembre 2014

Animals that don't Exist

The Deathly Raven

The deathly raven, Corvus mors, is as much a creature of legend as it is the most fascinating bird in the biological world. Numerous are the associations made between the raven and death, or the mystique and macabre in general. Writers such as Edgar Alan Poe or Jean de la Fontaine have always been fascinated by the animal, dedicating poems to it, or giving it prominent roles in their stories. But few, if not none, were aware that their fascination was not with the common raven, Corvus corax, but with its close cousin, the deathly raven.
For reasons that are as of yet unknown, the deathly raven has the ability to sense imminent doom and desolation. The common raven may be attracted by the smell of corpses, and, due to its highly developed cognitive abilities, may have learned which human behaviors antecede such feasts (a gathering of large crowds, for example), but theirs is a knowledge that follows logic, and which we can understand, as we are ourselves logical beings. Not so with the deathly raven.
The deathly raven has the ability to sense impending doom and despair, even when there is no physical evidence to suggest it. This, more than the minor morphological differences between them, distinguishes him from the other members of the Corvus genus. And this, too, was the behavior that so fascinated artists and philosophers that had a penchant for the macabre, such as Poe. And it is also what makes them easy to spot.
Ravens are, for the most part, communal animals that live in groups. Whenever one of them finds an abundant food source, he will call his murder, and soon the birds will be everywhere, cawing and making their presence known. The deathly raven, however, is a solitary animal.
It has been mostly on its own. A raven would appear, mistaken, as most would at first glance, for a regular raven. Then, an hour later, a day, sometimes even a week, something tragic will happen. During all this time, the deathly raven will silently stalk those concerned, as if observing them. Then, once whatever tragic event he was foretelling happened, he would leave, as if he just wanted to verify something. That is usually when his cousins crowd the scene, trying to get a meal out of whatever tragedy happened. The deathly raven, however, has never been spotted eating.
There is wide debate among biologists as to the cause of the deathly raven's particular behavior, but conventional science seems to have no hold on this strange creature. This has led to various myths associated with the deathly raven, and, per extension, to his cousins. Some people say the deathly raven does not need to eat, because he feeds on misery, which is why he is always present when a tragedy will happen. Others say he is but a scout for the murder, leaving to inform his friends as soon as carrion is to be found. Others still are convinced that he is a messenger of God, come to warn the righteous of impending doom.
What the truth is we do not know. There is little to be found about the deathly raven in literature, or at least, little that indicates that the author is aware of the difference between the deathly and the common raven. Some dispute its existence even today. Others, however, are convinced that secrecy is an integral part of its way of life, and that the reason why nothing has been written about the deathly raven is because the simple mention of him will attract the kind of tragic doom his presence usually foretells.

jeudi 4 décembre 2014

Animals that don't Exist

The Mine Bird

The mine bird, Serinus canaria mei, is a close relative to the domestic canary, and is estimated to split off from his cousin less than two hundred years ago. Nowadays, it is not uncommon to come across them in abandoned mines, and sometimes even natural caves.
Descendants of escaped canaries that the miners would take with them, they had to adapt rapidly to survive in their harsh new environment, and this has affected some of their phenological traits in a shocking fashion.
Their feathers have turned completely white, their brightness no longer able to serve as an indicator of fitness in the dark mines. Even flight has become almost useless in the narrow shafts, and with an almost total absence of predators. Mine birds also have significantly smaller bodies than regular canaries, which is probably due to the lack of food, and the constantly warm air which makes thermo-regulation much easier than in a changing environment. Their song, having become their only means of communication, has evolved into astonishingly complex arrangements, and recent studies suggest that it may have a much more varied role than in domestic canaries, where it serves mainly as a mating tool.
How many of these changes are purely phenetic, and how much are of genetic origin, remains to be determined, and scientists are in the process of analyzing the birds' genome and comparing it to that of household canaries. What we do know, however, is that mine birds that are raised in a lab with sufficient food and light are bigger and brighter than those found in the wild.

mardi 2 décembre 2014

Winter is Coming

The gray clouds are blotting out the sun once more as the leaves fall off the trees. Like naked bums they stand there with their empty branches, dying their yearly death. I feel like that would be nice.

Close your eyes and go to sleep, and let the cold and the snow and the dreary, dredgy months pass by until the sun is warm again. Until the days are long again.

The cold seeps into my room through the thin windows, through the crack under my door. The room fills with smells sweet and foul, fresh air being too cold to consider.

The world becomes dark and cold. People huddle together for warmth and feel more lonely than before. Drink up your whiskey to feel warm, if even for only a minute.

Winter is Coming