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The definitive host: October 2008

The definitive host

de·fin·i·tive host (duh-fin'eh-tiv) n. 1) An organism where a parasite undergoes the adult and sexual stages of its reproductive cycle 2) Someone you go to for interesting stories and/or facts, and puts on one hell of a dinner party 3) This blog, devoted to science and other geeky subjects

Thursday, October 30, 2008

C'est l'Halloween

Well, Halloween is coming. It's always been a favourite holiday of mine, as the concept and mythology behind it is so intriguing. It started my life-long fascination with that which cannot be explained. Being a trained scientist, I look for answers based on observations. However, the supernatural defies explanation. The mythology surrounding Halloween and demons and angels is utterly fascinating. Just look at the TV show Supernatural, it is just great.

Now, one of my favourite books, is Dracula by Bram Stoker. This book has enraptured me since the very first time I read it. I read it maybe once or twice a year, it is THAT good.

It deals with the archetypes of good vs. evil, and yet the evil is not quite defined. The evil, in Count Dracula, can be looked at in many different ways. Some see him as the personification of evil, others see him as a pure male, or a female/male hybrid, or even, the expression of wants and needs.

And once, in an essay back in fourth year, I compared Dracula to a blood-dwelling virus, like HIV. What can I say? I'm a Biology major, through and thorough.

One of the biggest dilemma's about Halloween, is that of what to be. What do you dress up as? Something fun? Something evil? Or, do you dress up as what you wish to be?

I've dressed up as everything from Superman, to Captain Hook, to an escaped mental patient.

And plus the MOVIES! Horror movies are a morbid hobby of mine. Try to scare me, I dare ya! I haven't been scared in a long time, as I have become desensitized to violence and gore, just something that happens when you have seen as much blood, guts and dissections as I have. I cannot remember the last movie or TV show that I was scared during, other than the Exorcist when I was a kid.

One thing which always gets me though, is that of a SURPRISE ENDING. Give me something unique, something original, something I have NOT seen before.

The best example is that of the movie SAW. The first one, the ending basically dropped my jaw. I had to watch the ending AGAIN... twice. And then, as soon as I could, I went to my brother and told him to WATCH IT.

David - Daniel, watch this NOW!
Daniel - Why? I don't want to.
David - Daniel. Seriously. I was left speechless
Daniel - Really?
*After the movie is done*
Daniel - *SILENT*
David - And?
Daniel - WOW
David - I KNOW
Daniel - That was great, amazing, awesome.
David - The best ending I have ever seen!

If you have NOT seen it, PLEASE do. It's not overtly bloody or violent, it is a psychological thriller and horror movie. And I implore you, do not seek out spoilers about the ending, it will ruin the experience.

Lastly, I was thinking about Halloween and I came up with this. I hope you enjoy it!

And lo and behold, there was darkness brought upon the world.
As the sacred night reared it's ugly head,
the veil between that which is real and that which is imaginary, was at its weakest.
It is the day where darkest dreams become reality,
fear becomes hope, identities are shrouded in mystery.
That who we are becomes shrouded by masks, revealing that which we wish to be.
What is your dream? What is your nightmare?
Can one be reconciled without the other?
Their existences are intertwined, one cannot exist without the other.
Good. Evil. Dark. Light.
One shall triumph, but the victory is short-lived.
The sun will beat back the rampant darkness, but, like all things,
the sun must set.
The darkness will rise again, only for the circle to repeat itself once more.
Ka (or destiny) is a wheel, it's purpose is to turn.


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Saturday, October 25, 2008

Why is this night different from all other nights?

That'll be one for the books!

But, let's start at the beginning. And the names have been changed to protect the innocent ... and the guilty.

One of the people in the program, Bangs, came up with an idea to carve pumpkins on Friday. I was actually excited for that, as I was gonna bring out the dissection kit (complete with scalpel, forceps, the works) and impress everyone with my mad skillz. You ALL know I got 'em!

Then, a good friend of mine in the program, Starbuck, came up with an apparently brilliant idea. She went to a 'funk' party last month, and it was "AMAZING!" So, we all agreed to meet up at Bangs' house for a bit and head on over to this place.

So, when I arrive, a whole bunch of people were already there, and we just sat and talked. Finally, Starbuck came with Buffy (another girl in our program) and sat for a bit before we decided to leave. When the time came, Starbuck called for some cabs.

Now, there were 10 of us and two cabs. Now, since cabs can only legally fit four, you think that it would go: four, three, three. Ohh, no no. We're MASTERS students. It went four and seven! Bangs said it best, "It cost us $8 for the cab ride, and $10 for the extra two people. I got no change back from the $20. How does that make sense?"

We arrived at the intersection, and walked to the club. I should have known something was wrong, as there was a total lack of wildlife and the smell of sulphur. Little did I know we had entered Dante's unknown 10th circle of Hell, Ottawa's Chinatown district.

There were people outside the club dressed in Halloween costumes, and, I'll be honest, it was a little weird. But, I figured they had just come from a party. Then, we walk upstiars and the distinct smell of bleach wafted through.
"Right. Starbuck mentioned that below this place was a Veterinary Hospital" ... the weirdness has just begun.

Taking cover, behind two cauldrons filled with candy was a witch. Behind her was the angel of death, and some sort of pagan woman sitting beside her. I pay my $7, and walk in to the room blasting with music.

"Ohhhh, WOW," was my first thought. Followed exceptionally quickly by, "WTF are we doing here?" It was a rave, and not just any rave, a Halloween rave, and not just any Halloween rave, A BAD Halloween rave.

Suffice it to say, everyone looked ridiculous dressed, no matter how you were dressed. You either didn't dress up and looked stupid, or you were dressed up and looked really stupid.

And then, Starbuck walked in. The look on her face was something I'll never forget. It was like some sort of perverted mix between horror, illness, shock, embarrassment and some shame thrown in for fun. She was NOT happy, and apologized profusely to everyone. She looked so sad and embarrassed, that quite a few of us gave her a hug and told her it was ok. Despite a mountain of evidence to the contrary.

Eventually, one of Starbuck's friends came and told us that they were going to another place. By then, a few of us were at a table talking and making the best of our predicament. "I want my $7 worth" said Bangs. I agreed, as did a few others. So, Starbuck and Buffy left to escape the new found discovered level of hell, while we all stayed and played "Never have I ever". For those not aware of how to play, someone makes a statement "Never have I ever... shoplifted", and if you HAVE done it, you take a drink. Fun game, with some interesting tidbits that were shared, none of which will be described here (in breach of our implied confidentiality agreements)...lol

Eventually, we all decided to leave to get some food. Now, I'll eat a lot of stuff, or at least try anything once. The only exception is fish, in which I am allergic too. So, wouldn't you know it, we ended up at a Vietnamese restaurant. The only thing that DIDN'T have fish was the water, and I still stayed away from that to be safe! Ever person around me ordered something with fish or shrimp in it, which made me uncomfortable and slightly nauseous.

The conversation was quite random, but more interesting things were discussed. I learned that Bangs HATES cats, and that another girl in the program, Shark, LOVED the movie Sharkwater (hence the nickname) because I recommended it!

After food, we all decided to head on hoe and I went for a walk with Shark and another girl from the program, Golbal, to their places and then I would catch a cab. We had a nice conversation about life, liberty and the night in general. After we got to Global's place, it was just Shark and I. And, during our walk, we discovered a beer bottle sitting upright.

"I really want to hit it," I said. "Go for it, but hit it against the wall" said Shark.

So, I kicked it, HARD, and it hit the wall, bounced, landed and only the neck of it was broken! So, we decided to do it again, and I hit it even harder, and it bounced off the wall, hit the pavement and shattered. "I love the sound of breaking glass," said Shark. Honestly, WHO doesn't?

And, I took a cab from Shark's place and got home at a totally unreasonable hour, but with memories that will last a LONG time.

Thank you Starbuck, for a night that, in all its ridiculousness, will live in the memories of all us who attended. Although, sadly, I don;t think you will ever, EVER live it down!

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Thursday, October 23, 2008

Braveheart madman


A court is a court, of course of course, unless that court is a court of course, unless that court is the famous Ottawa Court!

So, wanna hear what I did this week?

I FINALLY had my day in court!

It wasn't for anything I did (not for lack of trying), but the whole program went to the Ottawa courthouse to learn how to be a court reporter. Fun stuff, right? WRONG!

We went there last Friday, and got a tour and had the opportunity to observe some live trails. I gotta admit, that was sorta cool.

The first trial was the Mental Health Court, in which a man was being sent for two months in a psychiatric hospital. Apparently, he suffered from schizophrenia and had delusions that he was an inventor that was about to inherit some money.
While the trial was interesting, it was also a bit sad. It was nice to see someone getting the help they need, and I wish I could see the follow-up two months from now to see if he has improved.

The second trial was a second-degree murder trial, where witnesses were being questioned. I thought this would be exciting, but I guess in my life, I should have known better!
Here is a sample of what happened.

Crown: So, when you intervened during this 'incident'...
Witness: I didn't intervene then yo, I broke up the fight latah!
Crown: Ok, so, when you intervened during the first incident...
Witness: I didn't intervene. I didn't do nuthin then.
Crown: Thank you. So, during the first incident, when you intervened.
Witness: *Stares at the Crown* I..did...not...intervene
Crown: While you were intervening, did you see anything?

HONESTLY, it was about 2 hours of this. The Crown just kept asking the same questions over adn over and over again. It's like when a record skips, it's entertaining for a bit, but then it starts to grade your nerves. So, I did what any student would do, I started falling asleep ... IN A MURDER TRIAL!

Now, this week, we had to go to court on our own to investigate another trial and report on it. A few of us went into a domestic violence court, where there were 2 mini-trials occurring. I thought that it should be interesting to see a whole trial through to its conclusion. But, remember, what is the moral of the story? What I think will be interesting, is NOT. Trial 1 was adjourned because the Crown wasn't there ... the LAWYER WASN'T THERE! Honestly people, not very impressive.
Trial 2 was adjourned because the main witness could not be found. So, within a span of 2 minutes, I learned that the Canadian Justice System is kinda lazy, like me when I've eaten too much. "I could do it, but let's wait and see what happens in a bit."

Then, a friend of mine came up with an idea to go to the Criminal Courts to go see a marijuana growth operation trial. To be honest, it wasn't that bad. The Crown was a little over-zelaous at points with his expert witness and had to be reigned in, but it was ok. And, never forget, the company was great.
Nothing like having lunch surrounded by four pretty girls and being the only guy ;)

As for the rest of my Ottawa adventure, everything is still the same. My grades hover in the realm of mediocrity, my food choices are slim, the climate is approaching what I like to call the next ice age, my money is sinking faster than the Loonie and my workload is so dense that if it was stacked upon one another, it would have it's own gravity!

*Sigh* At least I have TV to keep me company... and with that, EVERYONE should watch the funniest show on TV right now. It's called, The Big Bang Theory, and it is on Monday nights at 8p.m. on CBS.

Here are a few clips below :)

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Sheldon is Batman (The Big Bang Theory)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Day In Which Democracy DIED

So, here are my adventures of what I had to do for an assignment on Election Day.

When all the MJ's were told of what we had to do, I got a burst of inspiration. "Maybe I should follow a candidate around on Election Day. I'm sure that would be interesting." Ohhhh, silly, silly David.

I told the professor, and he was VERY enthusiastic. Second mistake. A prof that is excited about something that you are going to do has a very high potential of being sorely disappointed.

So, I sent out emails to ALL the candidates in Ottawa South and Ottawa Centre. Of all the emails I sent out, like nine, I got 4 responses back.
Penny Collenette = NO
Paul Dewar = Nah, but you can come to his press events
Green party for Ottawa South = Sure
NDP for Ottawa South = SURE!

So, I decided to go to the NDP Ottawa South guy, and then I emailed my professor about when I should meet him, how long I should stay and if it is ok that I miss the quiz in the morning. He told me to forget the quiz and to have a good time!

I was told to call the NDP campaign headquarters on Election Day, and I figured that they would be busy from early in the morning until the polls close. So, like a good boy, I woke up at 7 a.m., had breakfast and called them at 7:30. No answer. Called again at 8.... NO answer.

Then I figured, they'll be in there by 9, so I'll just head on over there. After a brisk walk and a short bus ride, I arrive. And there's this house that is falling apart, and seemingly supported by NDP signs. The colour of the signs, like an orange Creamsicle, really hurts your eyes.
It's like the sun..... must...look...away!

And then, once my eyes adjusted, I knocked on the door. No answer. I called them. No answer. GREAT!
This went on for AN HOUR AND A HALF!!!!!! I was sitting outside the campaign headquarters, waiting, for an hour and a half. BUT, I did find time to do the puzzles and Sudoku's in the Metro and 24 hours.... ohhh yah.

Finally, a volunteer let me in, which I interviewed. Imagine John Lennon wearing a pink tie-dye shirt. And that's him.

The candidate eventually came, and I interviewed him. He was a nice guy, but he was dressed like he was going to audition to be a tree. Brown pants, and a dark green shirt with a brighter green jacket. I was waiting for a squirrel to jump out of his pockets to gather nuts for the winter.

Then, we went canvassing. In an apartment building. That's right folks, we went to EVERY DAMN APARTMENT in an apartment building. Out of over 200 doors, 21 answered and did NOT slam the doors in our face. There were some interesting people.

A man, in his underwear holding a small dog in one hand and a Kleenex in the other.
A man, who sounded like Borat, said "The resident, she is asleep. We were busy making good time. She is a tired now. I will let her know."
Or the woman who yelled at her dogs to stop knocking on the door.

After that, I walked back to my place and wrote the article.

Ohh, and in case you are wondering, the candidate lost SPECTACULARLY to David McGuinty .... he got 8% of the popular vote, compared to McGunty's 50%.
Yah, it was CLOSE ;)

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Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Fudge, Flask, Finger,Fungus, Feud, Fuse ... and other F words


Journalism is hell.

Not like real hell, but more like a figurative hell. One with keyboards a clankin' at all hours of the day, phone calls going unanswered, technological mishaps, pens burst, pencils snap... you know, like nightmare personified, but for J school students.

Well, as much as I thought I've learned from the past four-and-a-half weeks, apparently, it is NOT enough. I just got a swift kick in the arse back to reality.

In J school, we hand in a few assignments every week, and we get them handed back to us via email. I got one such assignment today. When I saw my mark, I'm pretty sure that my brain saw it and said: "DAMN! I do suck. I left Biology for THIS? Screw you, but I'm goin home!"

That's right.... the other, other F word... FAIL

I have never failed anything in my life, except for 2 things.
1) First test in first year Chemistry...42%. But, I worked my ass off in that course from that moment on, and that test ended up being dropped!

The rules state that if you spell a person's name wrong, you get an automatic F. I did not spell someone's name wrong. If you misquote someone, auto-F. Not this guy!

I misspelled the name of the election district. I said Ottawa Central, instead of Ottawa Centre. Ottawa CENTRE. Wouldn't Ottawa Centre be central too? I personally think that's a better name... less confusion.

Not that it's a big deal, as we get to re-write our assignments and get them re-graded. I finished the re-write, and I actually think it's a MUCH better article than it was originally.

So, there you have it. I am a big F. But, if you add one more vertical line to an F?
F + I = A!
Now you ever said math didn't have it's uses?

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Thursday, October 2, 2008

Stream of consciousness fun!


While going for a bit of a walk yesterday, I noticed that the leaves have started to change colour. While to abundance of greens, yellows, reds and oranges are very pleasant to observe, it means that the season that shall not be named is coming.

I like winter, I really do. Snow is pretty, skiing is a lot of fun (which I hope to actively do this winter) and it means the holidays are coming. However, I am not a big fan of the COLD! Anything below.... -15 to -20 C is just too cold. And how could I forget SNOWSTORMS! Anyone remember that big one in Toronto last year? I had to drive home in that after spending 25 minutes brushing ice and snow off of my car. It took me almost two hours to get home, instead of the usual 20 minutes!

That being said, there is something incredibly beautiful about the aftermath from a snow dump. The picturesque landscape is completely covered with snow, and if someone just threw a white blanket on the city. It can be, dare I say it, a bit romantic?

Anyway, that was a fun little tangent, right? Now, back to business.

Instead of doing work, I was perusing my Animal Encyclopedia (what? how could a Biology/Zoology guy NOT have an animal book?) and I was looking through the mammals section. It makes me very sad at the state of some of the animals. I have a great love and appreciation for every animals role in the environment and ecosystem. I cannot understand how someone can murder (yes, murder, not kill) a tiger, a rhino, a whale, sharks, etc...
I have loved animals, ever since I was a child obsessed with dinosaurs. The natural world is far too precious for us to waste.

While I have not established a direction for my life yet, science and animals shall be significant parts of it.

After all, what kind of man has a constant smile on his face when he sees animals at the zoo, on the discovery channel or in a book?

ME, that's who. And proud of it!