Friday, May 18, 2007

momma dog and tiger cubs/puppy

dog and tiger cubsWow, look how unique each of the cubs is...and YES I know one of those animals is a puppy! ;-D

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

"Life's short. Get a divorce."

Life's short. Get a divorce billboardI agree that it's not in the best of free speech and all.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

"Match Game"

"Price is Right" freak out!

poor dumb girl!


Sometimes I'll be feeling fairly content and then a shockwave hits reminding me that my parents and pets are older and could lose their health at any second.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Queen Elizabeth II's title

Here's her official title:

Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of Her other Realms and Territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith.


I had a dream last night about Hugh Laurie, the British actor who plays Gregory House on House M.D. I like him!! It is odd, though, to hear the difference in his voice between the timbre of his British accent and the timbre of his American accent.

Hugh Laurie/Gregory House

Friday, May 04, 2007

a daughter?

I had a dream last night that a friend gave us a little girl (I suppose the way one would give someone a dog or cat that he couldn't take care of anymore): her name was "Olive Gordon."

Jerry and I were on a flight to London and were dismayed to find that we couldn't sit together: Jerry was sitting in the ceremonial section, or something like that, so I couldn't sit by him. I was put out because there were so many people on the plane that I wouldn't be able to lean over into a free seat: all the seats were filled. In fact, there were so many people on the plane that folding chairs were having to be put was a big plane, obviously. Actually, it didn't come across so much as a plane visually, on the inside, as a big room.


Look at the legs on this colt!!!

long-legged thoroughbred colt

100 Oaks Mall, Nashville

100 Oaks Mall, Nashville, TNMan, I loved this mall in Nashville! I used to go a lot in the '70s: I bought a Steiff little bear with my own $3.50 (I still have it), and I bought a Johnny West-series General Custer. And I loved my blue Keds from JC Penney!

my daemon?

new fish tank for Joe

The Fish 'n' Flush!

Fish 'n' Flush toilet/aquarium

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Unitarian Universalist

I think we'd all be better off if we tried to think more humanely and more globally about religion.

Unitarian Universalist symbolHere's what the Unitarian Universalists believe:

There are seven principles which Unitarian Universalist congregations affirm and promote:

  • The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
  • Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
  • Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
  • A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
  • The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our
  • congregations and in society at large;
  • The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
  • Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.
Unitarian Universalism draws from many sources:
  • Direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all cultures, which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces which create and uphold life;
  • Words and deeds of prophetic women and men which challenge us to confront powers and structures of evil with justice, compassion, and the transforming power of love;
  • Wisdom from the world's religions which inspires us in our ethical and spiritual life;
  • Jewish and Christian teachings which call us to respond to God's love by loving our neighbors as ourselves;
  • Humanist teachings which counsel us to heed the guidance of reason and the results of science, and warn us against idolatries of the mind and spirit.
  • Spiritual teachings of earth-entered traditions which celebrate the sacred circle of life and instruct us to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature.
These principles and sources of faith are the backbone of our religious community.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

piratical eyewear!

My brother in law Jason as a Renaissance pirate. Looking good! (Especially the period eyewear!)

pirate Jason

mind-controlling cats?

originally posted by Carl Zimmer to the Loom on January 17, 2006:

The Return of the Puppet Masters

Are brain parasites altering the personalities of three billion people? The question emerged a few years ago, and it shows no signs of going away.

I first encountered this idea while working on my book Parasite Rex. I was investigating the remarkable ability parasites have to manipulate the behavior of their hosts. The lancet fluke Dicrocoelium dendriticum, for example, forces its ant host to clamp itself to the tip of grass blades, where a grazing mammal might eat it. It's in the fluke's interest to get eaten, because only by getting into the gut of a sheep or some other grazer can it complete its life cycle. Another fluke, Euhaplorchis californiensis, causes infected fish to shimmy and jump, greatly increasing the chance that wading birds will grab them.

Those parasites were weird enough, but then I got to know Toxoplasma gondii. This single-celled parasite lives in the guts of cats, shedding eggs that can be picked up by rats and other animals that can just so happen be eaten by cats. Toxoplasma forms cysts throughout its intermediate host's body, including the brain. And yet a Toxoplasma-ridden rat is perfectly healthy. That makes good sense for the parasite, since a cat would not be particularly interested in eating a dead rat. But scientists at Oxford discovered that the parasite changes the rats in one subtle but vital way.

The scientists studied the rats in a six-foot by six-foot outdoor enclosure. They used bricks to turn it into a maze of paths and cells. In each corner of the enclosure they put a nest box along with a bowl of food and water. On each the nests they added a few drops of a particular odor. On one they added the scent of fresh straw bedding, on another the bedding from a rat's nests, on another the scent of rabbit urine, on another, the urine of a cat. When they set healthy rats loose in the enclosure, the animals rooted around curiously and investigated the nests. But when they came across the cat odor, they shied away and never returned to that corner. This was no surprise: the odor of a cat triggers a sudden shift in the chemistry of rat brains that brings on intense anxiety. (When researchers test anti-anxiety drugs on rats, they use a whiff of cat urine to make them panic.) The anxiety attack made the healthy rats shy away from the odor and in general makes them leery of investigating new things. Better to lie low and stay alive.

Then the researchers put Toxoplasma-carrying rats in the enclosure. Rats carrying the parasite are for the most part indistinguishable from healthy ones. They can compete for mates just as well and have no trouble feeding themselves. The only difference, the researchers found, is that they are more likely to get themselves killed. The scent of a cat in the enclosure didn't make them anxious, and they went about their business as if nothing was bothering them. They would explore around the odor at least as often as they did anywhere else in the enclosure. In some cases, they even took a special interest in the spot and came back to it over and over again.

The scientists speculated that Toxoplasma was secreted some substance that was altering the patterns of brain activity in the rats. This manipulation likely evolved through natural selection, since parasites that were more likely to end up in cats would leave more offpspring.

The Oxford scientists knew that humans can be hosts to Toxoplasma, too. People can become infected by its eggs by handling soil or kitty litter. For most people, the infection causes no harm. Only if a person's immune system is weak does Toxoplasma grow uncontrollably. That's why pregnant women are advised not to handle kitty litter, and why toxoplasmosis is a serious risk for people with AIDS. Otherwise, the parasite lives quietly in people's bodies (and brains). It's estimated that about half of all people on Earth are infected with Toxoplasma.

Given that human and rat brains have a lot of similarities (they share the same basic anatomy and use the same neurotransmitters), a question naturally arose: if Toxoplasma can alter the behavior of a rat, could it alter a human? Obviously, this manipulation would not do the parasite any good as an adaptation, since it's pretty rare for a human to be devoured by a cat. But it could still have an effect.

Some scientists believe that Toxoplasma changes the personality of its human hosts, bringing different shifts to men and women. Parasitologist Jaroslav Flegr of Charles University in Prague administered psychological questionnaires to people infected with Toxoplasma and controls. Those infected, he found, show a small, but statistically significant, tendency to be more self-reproaching and insecure. Paradoxically, infected women, on average, tend to be more outgoing and warmhearted than controls, while infected men tend to be more jealous and suspicious.

It's controversial work, disputed by many. But it attracted the attention of E. Fuller Torrey of the Stanley Medical Research Institute in Bethesda, Maryland. Torrey and his colleagues had noticed some intriguing links between Toxoplasma and schizophrenia. Infection with the parasite has been associated with damage to a certain class of neurons (astrocytes). So has schizophrenia. Pregnant women with high levels of Toxoplasma antibodies in their blood were more likely to give birth to children who would later develop schizophrenia. Torrey lays out more links in this 2003 paper. While none is a smoking gun, they are certainly food for thought. It's conceivable that exposure to Toxoplasma causes subtle changes in most people's personality, but in a small minority, it has more devastating effects.

A year later, Torrey and his colleagues discovered one more fascinating link. They raised human cells in Petri dishes and infected them with Toxoplasma. Then they dosed the cells with a variety of drugs used to treat schizophrenia. Several of the drugs--most notably haloperidol--blocked the growth of the parasite.

So Fuller and the Oxford scientists joined forces to find an answer to the next logical question: can drugs used to treat schizophrenia help a parasite-crazed rat? They now report their results in the Proceedings of the Royal Society of London (press release). They ran the original tests on 49 more rats. Once again, parasitized rats lost their healthy fear of cats. Then the researchers treated the rats with haloperidol and several other anti-psychotic drugs. They found that the drugs made the rats more scared. They also found that the antipsychotics were as effective as pyrimethamine, a drug that is specifically used to eliminate Toxoplasma.

There's plenty left to do to turn these results into a full-blown explanation of parasites and personalities. For example, what is Toxoplasma releasing into brains to manipulate its hosts? And how does that substance give rise to schizophrenia in some humans? And even if the hypothesis does hold up, it would only account for some cases of schizophrenia, while the cause of others would remain undiscovered. But still...the idea that parasites are tinkering with humanity's personality--perhaps even giving rise to cultural diversity--is taking over my head like a bad case of Toxoplasma.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

phishing trip

Phishing: the act of trying to illegally obtain sensitive personal information, including usernames, passwords, and credit-card numbers, by pretending to be from a reputable organization.

The Anti-Phishing Working Group published a report in February 2007. These are the statistics listed in the report:

23,610 unique phishing reports were received
16,463 unique phishing sites were received
135 brands were hijacked by phishing campaigns
The United hosted the most phishing websites, followed by China, the Republic of Korea, and France.

identity theft preventative measures

According to Carol Lewis of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, it is important to monitor your annual credit report.

  • Call (877) 332-8228 or go to
  • In Massachusetts each resident is entitled to one free credit report every year and people should take advantage of that, Lewis said, to make sure their credit hasn't been damaged by hackers.
According to identity theft sleuth Ken Dunham of Verisign, consumers can protect themselves by:
  • Do not implicitly trust any media you get over the Internet--in other words, don't hand out your credit- or personal information to just an pop-up ad or random e-mail that is sent to you.
  • Follow basic best practices. Everyone should have an anti-virus program and firewall on their computers. Why? Because these things are free and can act as a stymie to some of the phishing e-mails that can reach you.
  • Be aware: you're on the Internet already, so click over to the news and check for current scams, and stay in touch with what is going on in the world.

identity stolen?

A short list of things to do, according to, if you discover your identity has been stolen:

  • Make an identity theft affidavit. The FTC has an official identity theft affidavit. You can download the affidavit at Make plenty of copies for yourself.
  • Contact the police.
  • Cancel your credit cards, ATM cards, and phone cards.
  • Call the credit bureaus. Ask them to issue a fraud alert and attach a statement to your report. Get copies of your credit report from each of the bureaus. You can ask that the reports be free of charge because you believe they contain inaccurate information due to fraud.
  • Report stolen checks. Contact your bank and the following agencies: Certegy, (800) 437-5120; TeleCheck, (800) 710-9898; TeleCheck (merchant services), (800) 366-1054.
  • Review your Social Security earnings statement. Look for evidence that your Social Security number has been used fraudulently. Get a copy of your Social Security Earnings and Benefit Statement and look for earnings for jobs you've never had.
  • If someone is using your driver's license number fraudulently, obtain a new number. Your should be prepared to show proof of theft and damage.
  • Take control. Do not waste time waiting for someone else to help you. Do not pay bills you are not responsible for. Be persistent with police, credit bureaus, credit card companies, and banks. Continue to call and write letters. Keep track of your efforts to stop the theft and reverse the damage.