Oct 282011
 
What's the poop?

One of my favorite topics at the moment is the human microbiome. That’s the part of us that’s not human. Back in May, I wrote a post about it: A human body has about 10 trillion cells in it. And that very same human body (yours, for example), is also home to 100 trillion bacteria. Your mouth, your nose, your armpits, your navel, your skin and especially your gut are teeming with thousands of different species of bacteria. If you could separate out all those bacteria from the rest of you, they’d weigh 2 kilos.” I was suggesting (only partially in jest) that we’re actually being crowdsourced by a superior form of collective intelligence. Just last month, I wrote another post about how the gut microbiome plays an important role in mental health. I was wrong on one count. I mentioned a study that had found that excessive use of click here to read the whole dang post [...]

Oct 252011
 
A moment in the sun

Due to visitors, huge quantities of work that have piled up, and my growing obsession with trolling useless websites, I haven’t posted anything on Gydle for almost a week. I think I need to take a lesson from my cat. One of the cardinal rules of blogging is that you’re never supposed to write anything about your cat. Ever. I know this because the websites I’ve been trolling lately are those that purport to tell me about how I should be blogging. The other thing they all seem to find important is a blog’s ability to generate “traffic.” I wonder, though. It’s kind of like the question about the tree falling in the forest. If it falls, and there’s no one around to hear it, does it still make a sound? I was a philosophy major in college, and so I spent a lot of time pondering this question, with click here to read the whole dang post [...]

Oct 192011
 
Linguistic commutivity

I got the e-mail on Thursday. A translation for a client, due Monday. It was short and non-scientific, which can sometimes be a nice break. It’s good to diversify! I had a bunch of other stuff to finish up on Friday, but I said I’d do it over the weekend. Saturday at 7:15 am, I’m in the car with Luc, headed to his school for the PSAT.  We had discussed equipment the evening before.  Two pencils, an eraser. A calculator, just in case. A pencil sharpener. Fifteen minutes into the drive, I think to double check. “Do you have your pencils?” check. “Eraser? Pencil sharpener? ID?” check. check. Check. “Calculator?” Umm. Oops. What is it with my offspring and standardized testing? I utter a few choice expletives at high volume. At least this time, there’s no one else around to hear it. “I told you LAST NIGHT to get all click here to read the whole dang post [...]

Oct 142011
 
Pet oddities

Last week, an article in the local paper caught my eye: 143 Mexican redknees looking for good homes. Whoa. That’s a lot of tarantulas. But believe it or not, that was only the tip of the iceberg. In late August, someone tried to enter Switzerland with a suitcase containing 260 live Mexican redknee tarantulas loosely packed in plastic bags. Authorities confiscated the tarantulas and split them up between three zoos in Switzerland, one of which was the Vivarium in Lausanne. The picture accompanying the article showed a pile of McDonald’s salad containers, each of which presumably contained a tarantula. Whoops, that’s not my salad! The Vivarium’s director “fulminated” about the ridiculousness of the whole thing. The Mexican redknee is not an exotic creature. You can buy a baby one at a Swiss pet store for five francs. So the whole affair only stood to net the illicit importer about 1300 click here to read the whole dang post [...]

Oct 092011
 
Moment of beauty I

Not long ago, I did a guest post on the Running and Rambling blog. One of the best things about that blog is a series of entries called “Random Shots of Beauty” – pictures that Donald has taken out on his runs. I’ve decided to do a similar thing here. This first entry is a picture shot by my brother Rob last week, i.e. early October, near Santa Fe, New Mexico. It took my breath away. It should dispel the picture that many people mistakenly have of New Mexico as a hot, cactus-studded desert wasteland.  In fact, Santa Fe in winter is colder than where I live now, outside Lausanne, Switzerland. It’s higher in altitude, at nearly 7,000 feet (2,200 m). And in the summer, it’s appreciably cooler, drier and more comfortable than Baltimore, where we lived for seven years before moving here. It rivals Switzerland and Nova Scotia as click here to read the whole dang post [...]

Oct 062011
 
Greater expectations

The passing of Steve Jobs has rocked the world.  Tributes and retrospectives, quotes and video clips, comments and thoughts are inundating the Internet –  on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, on blogs, e-mails and news platforms. It’s sobering to realize that very few of us inhabited these places even just a decade ago. Now, largely thanks to Steve Jobs, we’re comfortably ensconced in this connected, vibrant community. And our lives are so much richer for it. I was thinking today about expectations. I wondered how Steve Jobs’ parents felt about him not graduating from Reed College.  Maybe it wasn’t that big a deal to them. Maybe they didn’t have an image of him as college-educated, so he wasn’t letting them down. But then again, maybe he was. At one point in his career, when he was leaving Apple, he said to a small group of employees, “I don’t wear the right kind click here to read the whole dang post [...]

Oct 042011
 

It’s that time of year again – Nobel Prize season.  Today the physics prize was announced, and all over the twittosphere science writers were tweeting about one of the recipients – the first Nobel Prize winner with a non-professional twitter account! (@cosmicpinot) Would it, could it out-trend the iPhone 5 announcement? How many followers would he have by the end of the day? (It went from 350-1,230 by the end of the day in Switzerland….) The physicist-tweeter, Brian Schmidt, is an amateur wine-maker from Australia; he also happens to be an astronomer who contributed to the stunning discovery that the universe is expanding at an accelerated pace. The mystery to it all is dark energy, which nobody understands yet. He shared the prize with Adam Riess from the Johns Hopkins University, who said, “The phone rang, it was 5:30 and it was some Swedish sounding people, and I knew they click here to read the whole dang post [...]

Oct 022011
 

I just got back from running the Morat-Fribourg race – 17.17 km over bucolic Swiss countryside from the charming walled town of Morat (Murten in Swiss German) to Fribourg. The race has historical roots; it supposedly retraces the steps of a courier who was spreading the news that Charles the Bold had been defeated in a nearby battle. This was back in 1476. The runner carried a branch from a linden tree. Like so many runners to follow him, he collapsed on arrival. They planted a linden tree to mark the event. I’m not going to get into Swiss history here because I would definitely be out of my depth. Who the heck was Charles the Bold and what was he doing in Switzerland? I’d just reveal my ignorance. (Wait, didn’t I just do that?) The race, however, is very popular. There are people who have run Morat-Fribourg every year click here to read the whole dang post [...]