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The definitive host: December 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

Saturday, December 27, 2008

They may take this train, but they will never take, our FREEDOM!

A very happy holiday season to everyone out there! I hope you all spent a great time with your families, loved ones, dogs, cats, sock puppets, whatever!

To catch you up, I finally finished my apprenticeship in Ottawa, as it continued to snow. I felt better, so I actually went in for those final days, and finished ALL my work.

Then, on Tuesday afternoon, I left with my fellow MJ student to the VIA train station. We got there about an hour and 40 minutes early, which I was instructed to do the previous night by a VIA Rail employee. So, we sat and played a few rounds of "pick a text message and see whose is better." We had limited options, ok?

During the wait, we heard an announcement that a train coming FROM Toronto to Ottawa was running an hour and 20 minutes late. We didn't pay it any mind ... mistake #1.

The train was supposed to leave at 5, and we boarded at 4:45p.m. All good so far.

At 5:02 p.m., we were told that we had to wait for the Ottawa bound train to clear the tracks, and that we would have to wait about 60 minutes.

At 6:20 p.m., we finally left Ottawa, 80 minutes behind schedule.

When we reached our first destination, we had to wait ANOTHER 70 minutes for another train to pass us. So, for those who were keeping track, that puts us 150 minutes behind schedule! So, instead of getting in at 9:30 p.m., we were going to arrive at 11:40 p.m!!!!!

In total, on the train ride, I spent basically 7 hours on a train ride that was only supposed to take 4 and a half!

There was one bright spot on the ride, however.

I brought along my favourite movie on DVD: BRAVEHEART!

It is, after many long hours of contemplation, my favourite movie.

That movie has everything: Action, Drama, Comedy, Blood, Scottish people, a crazy Irishman, some nudity, bagpipes, basically historically accurate (not quite, but pretty close) and, of course, the beautiful Scottish and Irish scenery.

Everytime I watch that movie, I enjoy it. Not many movies maintain a constant level of enjoyment. I would encourage everyone to watch it, as it has something for everyone. Bloody good violence for the guys, and a good, but not overly mushy, love story for that girls.

Watch it, you'll thank me later ;)

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Thursday, December 18, 2008

The One with the Foot Injury

Ever do something and think that your life could be an episode of "Friends?"

My life is not always funny, but always entertaining. I have an identical twin brother who knows me so well, that we don't even have to talk to know what each other are thinking. Don't believe me?
It is 6:25 p.m. on a Thursday, so my brother is sad that there is no new CSI on, happy that dinner is soon and probably thinking about cheese.
My sister is great, but in the mornings has a tendency to de-evolve and communicate solely via a series of grunts.
My mom and dad are a set of characters that I will not even go into here. Suffice it to say, it is where I get my wacky sense of humour, my love for movies and my addiction to all things cheese. Seriously, I need to develop a 12 step thing.

Let me paint a scene of something that actually happened to me yesterday.

I was at home, sick ... AGAIN. This flu is kicking my ass.

Anyway, I go into the kitchen to make myself some pasta, as it is the only thing my sore throat will let in. So, I am cooking and I walk towards the garbage to throw something out.

So, all I was thinking was, in a sort of sing-songy tune, "Hmmm, garbage, garbage ... throwing out the garbage." I take one step, two steps, 3 steps ... and then I yell out, "OWWWW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

I then proceeded to drop the garbage, limp over to the table and examine the pain on my right foot. Sticking out through my sock, is a tootpick, that has been bent in the middle, so one half is sticking through the sock and the other parallel to the sole of my foot. It almost appeared as if an ant had reached my foot and planted a FLAG POLE.

I yank out the toothpick ... OW ... followed by the sock. At first, I saw nothing, until little trickles of blood began to appear.

As skilled as an antelope, I hop down to the bathroom and wash of the foot. I pour Hydrogen Peroxide on it, and grit my teeth. With Hydrogen Peroxide, it doesn't hurt initially, it takes a couple of seconds ... ohhh, wait ... here it comes ... ahhhh.
The burning means that it is working!

Quickly, I grab a Band-Aid, put more Hydrogen Peroxide on the wound and place the bandage over the pierced foot.

I will have all you know, that I am perfectly fine now ... but yesterday, yesterday I limped around a bit.

Now, here's the kicker.

I DON'T USE TOOTHPICKS! The guy I live with does!

Sometimes I wonder, if I am at the epi-centre of a large cosmic joke.

"Let's throw this at David today and see how he responds.
Ohh, he's starting an apprenticeship? Let's make it really snow, give him a transit strike AND give him a bad flu. That'll be fin to watch!"

And before anyone posts angry comments, I KNOW I am not the epi-centre of the universe, and that the fates are not conspired against me. After all, you would have to believe in fate and destiny, right? ;)

One last thing, I am heading home for the holidays soon and I am greatly looking forward to it. Most of my friends from the program have already left, and I cannot wait to see my friends back in Toronto (you know who you are!)

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

'Tis the Season

First and foremost ... a little housecleaning!

The winner of my Holiday contest is:
*drum roll please*

AMANDA!!!! With an amazing 15/15!!!!

She blew everyone else out of the water! And for those of you who didn't participate and send in your answers ... I know who you are. What couldn't take a few minutes to answer 15 multiple choice questions? Honestly, I probably spend more time eating or yawning than it would have taken some of you to do it.

I can say, I am a little disappointed at some people for not participating.

Secondly, I have been at my apprenticeship for a WEEK. Here's what has happened:
- Immediately started writing stories
- Got my own phone and a computer inside a cubical where no one can see me
- Get treated with slightly less disdain than a student
- Transit strike
- Work from home for 2 days
- Walk over an hour to apprenticeship
- Get sick
- Walk to apprenticeship
- Call doctor's in the states and the Vatican about stem cells and invitro fertilization

Sounds like a hoot and a holler, eh?

Now, here is something I wrote during my apprenticeship, when I just couldn't do any more work.... I hope you enjoy it.

Ever get the feeling that the whole world is going to hell in a hand basket? That we are tumbling towards a dark abyss from which here is no return? The evilness and ill-will surrounds us at every turn? That people are inherently seeking to please themselves and not others?

I believe that we all get that way sometimes, and I was having one of those moments.

Sitting at my desk at my apprenticeship, feeling sick, cold and dreading the long walk home due to the transit strike, I began to surf the few internet sites that are permissible here.

I found the Toronto Star website.

During my search, I found something … a diamond in the rough.

Was it the fact that scientists achieved a partial face transplant?
Interesting, but no.
Was it the fact that a scientist believes Santa uses nanotechnology to travel all over the world, and to reverse-grow presents under the tree?
Weirdly no.
Or was it about Jennifer Aniston's gorgeous body on the cover of this month's GQ? Sadly not.

It is entitled: Acts of Kindness.

It is an absolute joy to read and a pleasure to right about. It consists of a collection of short stories about Canadians experiencing the phenomena of RAK (Random Acts of Kindness).

It put a smile on my face and warmed the dead are where my heart used to dwell, before Biology/Undergrad/Journalism sucked the life out of it leaving a dark and vacant hole where sadness, pity and loneliness dwell … and, I'm pretty sure, a family of raccoons and mice.

Thank you Toronto Star, for shining a light in the darkness and illuminating the goodness that some people show. Thank you.

Here is the link, read it and pass it on … after all, 'spread some joy instead of hate. 'Tis the season after all :)


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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Holiday Gift Competition!!!!

During my long, long bus ride home yesterday from my apprenticeship, I came up with an idea. I have decided to start a competition that is run via my blog. So, here it is:

Ladies and Gentleman, boys and girls, I would like to present to you the FIRST annual Musings of a Manly blog Competition! There will be 15 questions, which will get progressively harder. Lastly, you should send in an email to an account created specifically for this contest:


And there is a prize! Whoever wins it will receive a fabulous prize the next time I see them!!! The prize is a mystery, but, it's still a gift :)

So, here we go!

1) Which of these is NOT a mammal?
a) A rat
b) A lion
c) A chuckwalla
d) A gazelle

2) What animal kills more people in Africa?
a) A lion
b) A hippo
c) A cheetah
d) A giraffe

3) What is NOT special about platypuses and echidna's?
a) They both have poison
b) They are mammals
c) They lay eggs
d) The have hair

4) What is the world's largest fish, pictured below?

a) Basking shark
b) Whale shark
c) Whale
d) Great white Shark

5) What is the most amount of legs a millipede has been found to have?
a) 150-350
b) 350-550
c) 550-750
d) 750+

6) What is this freaky animal?

a) Olm
b) Tiger Salamanda
c) Great crested Newt
d) Axolotyl

7) What is the only poisonous snake in Canada?
a) Western Diamondback Rattlesnake
b) Coral snake
c) Massassauga Rattlesnake
d) Pit Viper

8) What is the most intelligent bird?
a) Blue Jay's
b) Crows
c) Pigeons
d) Parrots

9) What is unique about an Albatross?
a) Largest wings of any bird
b) Their colour
c) Almost never land
d) Lay many eggs

10) What is special about a black panther?
a) Has no claws
b) Has a pre-hensile tail used to climb trees
c) Is a leopard in disguise
d) Eats fish

11) Which animal has the greatest success of hunting in packs (pictured here)?

a) Striped hyena's
b) Spotted hyena's
c) Dingo's
d) African wild dogs

12) What is a Narwhal?
a) A large wolf
b) Males have tusks
c) They attack sharks
d) Eat worms

13) What is the largest rodent in the world?
a) A Capybara
b) A Degu
c) A Mara
d) A Hutia

14) What is the only dog that cannot bark?
a) Dingo
b) Australian Wolf-Hound
c) Chucacabra
d) Dhole

15) What animal has the largest penis in the animal kingdom, relative to its body size?
a) Elephant
b) Sperm Whale
c) Barnacle
d) King Ant


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Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Ultimate Interview - Holiday Edition

It was a cold December night, just like any other,
The only ones left walking, were holding another.

There was a light dusting of snow left-over from the previous day,
As the weather was fairly mild in its own particular way.

Walking home in the dark night, David pondered the mystery that is his life,
'Is this all there is?' he thought, 'Why is my life filled with such strife?'

The reasons David thought this were simple, as his school year ended with his freedom restored,
However my friends, David was bored.

David sighed with a breath, as his iPod sang,
When all of the sudden, he heard a very large *BANG*

'What the hell was that?' David thought, and looked for the source of the sound,
On his left, was a roofer, crawling around.

The roofer walked down the ladder, and approached David with a smile,
And he said, "I assure you my friend, I am not hostile."

David was speechless, and for those who know him, this is quite a feat.
As he stared dumbfounded, into the middle of the street.

The man was of the elderly sort, yet full of joy.
He was dressed in grey slacks and a white shirt, for all to enjoy.

The shirt was adorned with red suspenders, which complimented his red and white poof-ball hat.
His smile was large, and encouraged a friendly chat.

His belly was fat and his face full of joy,
As he stroked his beard, he said, "How are you David, my boy?"

As David shook his hand, and said, "How do you know my name?"
The man replied, with a smile, "Sorry David, confusing you was not my aim."

The man then said, without a pause,
"Nice to meet you David, I'm Santa Claus!"

As David examined the man, with his grin and his hat,
'Holy shit,' David thought, 'I'm crazier than I thought.'

"I'm sorry sir, but you must have been misled,
I'm not who you are looking for, I must head to bed."

"Nonsense," he said, with a twinkle in his eye,
"I have some wisdom which I'd like to imply"

"You fear that your life is headed in the wrong direction,
That this entire career change warrants further inspection.
You worry that all your new friends will start to ignore you,
I'm telling you now, this is not true.
The friends you make now, in this very school,
Will remain yours for a long time, so don't be a fool.
This part of your life serves its own special role,
and eventually you will reach your long-sought goal.
And what I say next, pass onto those you know:
Don't be afraid of new experiences, they teach you to grow.
The choices you make, will affect you in ways unforeseen,
If life is a play, this is all one little scene!
Before I bid you adieu, one more thing I must impart,
Be happy and healthy, and always follow your heart."

And with a flash of light, the man disappeared,
'Wow,' David thought, 'Wasn't that a bit weird?'

With the man's words still echoing in his mind,
meanings of the words, he did struggle to find.

David took a deep breath, in which to say it out loud,
"My dreams I shall follow," and with that, he vowed.

Such ends this story, which is fiction, I know,
But don't be afraid of letting your life ebb and flow.

A lifetime of experiences begin, and more,
with that one little step, out the door.

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Thursday, December 4, 2008

Four Months later ... and I'm still alive

Well, I finally did it.

I survived the first term as a Journalism Master's student! It was tough, both mentally and physically, but I survived.

If you have been following my blog, you know that this term has been exceptionally hard for some of us in the Master's program. You know the ones. We are the ones with no real experience, we possess degrees that give us unique knowledge, but don't help us in journalism. We stare blankly when people talk about ethics or the law and we always need serious help thinking up story ideas.

I have enjoyed my first term here in Ottawa. But, things could be better.

For instance, I live in an area densely populated with young families and the elderly. Seriously. Not a single person in my program lives relatively close to me.

Therefore, it is a real pain in the butt for me to meet anyone anywhere. I must always take the bus for at least 30 to 40 minutes to get anywhere, not that I mind too much. It just that sometimes, I just wish I could walk for like five to ten minutes and be there. Sometimes, in battle in my head, my tiredness or impending workload overtakes my need to be with my new friends. But, I still go out, just not as much as I would if I could.

My apprenticeship, where I am working at a prestigious science and medical journal, begins on Tuesday. This will be the TRUE test of if I can mesh two things:
my love for science and my improved (?) journalistic skills.

But, I am DONE for the year!!! A special song will be low this post, and I suggest everyone listen to it. It is called, "Still Alive." It is from the ending credits of a video game, and even if you don't get all the references, it is still absurdly funny.

Now lastly, I will address a request of a friend of mine.
She asked me, "David, why don't you blog about your thesis work last year? You totally should."

First off, to properly blog about it, it would take me a LONG time. However, a brief overview of my intense thesis work can easily be provided.

WAY back in second year university, I took a course about animals and I became friendly with the professor. I would sit outside the lab and read what out labs were about before we did them, and the professor would always walk by and we'd chat for a few minutes. Quickly, I learned a lot about him, and how we shared many similar interests. This was good news for some of my female friends, as they had MASSIVE crushes on him, and would giggle and swoon for any new piece of information.

Through our conversations, I mentioned to him that I wanted to become a Herpetologist. That is NOT the biology of Herpes, ok? NOT ABOUT STD'S!
It means the study of reptiles and amphibians, because I absolutely love reptiles.

I would continually seem him throughout third year, and in fourth year I took his fourth year course during the fall.

Then, over the Christmas break, I received an email from him. He said that he knows I am taking a fifth year to do my thesis, and that he would really like me to work with him. HE roughly came up with experiment, and through further conversations, I flushed it out and here it is.

I would be working with a species of frog known as Xenopus, AKA the albino clawed-frog. They have little claws, no pigment, mouths that look like they belong to Muppet's, and translucent skin. Yes, you did read that right, translucent skin!
That means that when I would feed them, I would see the food going into their bellies and stuff ... it was kinda gross.

My experiment was based off of salt on the roads. During the winter months, Ontario over-salts the roads to reduce ice, but when the surrounding snow melts, the water (with a lot of salt) flows into our rivers and streams. We wanted to test how high the salt concentration would have to be before the frogs died. Because, frogs are an 'indicator species,' if they die, others die.

I would examine a few things: The ion content of various organs, their protein content, their blood and muscle moisture, as well as examining different cell properties under the fluorescent microscope.

I already have a picture of one of the slides I made up on a previous post. Here is the link:

And now, I am going to sleep in and NOT set my alarm. That will be the first time since I got here in September when I did NOT have something to do ... pity it won't last!

And without further ado, here is the song:

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Monday, December 1, 2008

"I have a bad feeling about this"

Dark skies and cold weather. Sounds like a normal Canadian winter day, right?

Well, this day is special:

It is hailing ... not snow, but FIRE.
The sky opens up, and from its darkness erupts four figures riding horses.
Pestilence, War, Famine and Death ... the Four Horsemen.

The seals have been broken, and the apocalypse is upon us.

I am, of course, referring to the new development in Canadian politics. Apparently, an election held just a short time ago wasn't enough for some people.

Let me paint the scene from what I know so far:
Everyone dislikes Harper. Dion and Layton want to overthrow Harper. The Bloc are happy that they are being included. Dion and Layton want, with Duceppe's support, to form a coalition government and overthrow the Tory minority.

Honestly.... wtf?

Less than 50% of Canadians voted in the last election, that said, a Tory minority still resulted from the usage of the DEMOCRATIC PROCESS!!!!

It is honestly similar to children arguing about who gets to play with which toy during Kindergarten recess. Sometimes, the teacher gives one kid more turns than they should at a particular toy.

HOWEVER, just because you do not like the outcome of how something ended, does not give you the right to complain and attempt to usurp the process and change the decision!!!

What's going to happen? No one knows

What will the Governor General do? It's a tough decision ... but it's about time she did something other than dress nice, jet around the world and wave.

Sadly, the only way to know is to wait until next week when the attempted coalition (Layton, Dion and Duceppe) meet with the Governor General.

I'll be keeping an ear to the ground and a weathered eye on the horizon for the coming signs of the end of days.

Would make for a VERY interesting Christmas break though, eh?

And hey, this just occurred to me:
Four Horsemen ... For primary party leaders.

I'll let you decide who's who ;)

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