Thursday, March 30, 2006


This is my favourite comic strip.
Guess who I relate to the most.....

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Animal Encounters III

Hello and welcome to another riveting edition!
This week, I'm glad to have:

The Northern Pine Snake


There are four types of pine snakes that can be found in the United States. The northern pine snake is found in the Northern and Eastern-Central regions of the country, in areas with sandy soils and dry upland forests. The population distribution of this pine snake is spotty and all indications suggest that pine snake abundance is decreasing throughout the Northeastern region. As a result, all states in which they are found have listed them as either endangered or threatened. The northern pine snake is known for being secretive and is therefore challenging to study and detect. This species of snake, which rarely climbs vegetation and prefers to be on the ground, has the ability to tunnel underground and excavate its own nests, summer dens and places to hibernate. Therefore, scientists believe that it prefers the more pliable sandy soils and forested areas of the Pinelands.

Argh! Too fast!

The northern pine snake can grow to 5 feet to 7 feet long and has a black and dull white pattern. They can live up to 21 years in captivity. There are dark blotches along the top and sides of the body which are less distinct in the front part of the body and more distinct in the hind part. The belly is white with rows of black dots along either side.

My shielded nose!

This species of snake has a small pointed head with a tipped snout and thick neck, which are helpful when it moves soil around or burrows. It also has a special scale at the front of its snout that shields its nose and protects it as it tunnels underground. In fact, much of its time is spent hidden underground.

Check out my black tongue!

The pine snake is a nonvenomous constrictor. It kills its prey by coiling itself around it in order to suffocate the animal. Pine snakes are known to eat mammals as large as rabbits, as well as small rodents and birds. They are usually most active in early morning or late afternoon when they leave their burrows to hunt. Pine snakes are egg-layers and typically lay their eggs in underground nests that they excavate in open sandy areas. Eggs are usually laid in mid-summer, and adult females have the tendency to re-use their nest sites year after year.

Never do this at home

Photographing a snake is one of the hardest things I've ever done, especially when you've got a shitty camera like mine. Its also pretty dangerous. Thank god Cassidy is nonvenmomous. Its a she, and today, she was very active (must be her feeding day). We've got two Northern Pine snakes in our section, Cassidy and Fluffy. Cassidy is the bigger of the two. She's about 1.5m long, and she's very fast and very muscular. She was getting very moody towards the end and was making hissing noises at the camera.

Er....time to go

So thats probably it for now. Perhaps next week, if the weather's good, I might be able to get a special guest!

Friday, March 24, 2006

Work in Progress.....

Oh dear! How time flies....its almost the end of term again! And its just 3 more months before I graduate! I will cease to be a student very soon....a day which I have been dreading, but also looking forward to at the same time. A phase of my life will end and another will begin.....but I'll handle that when the time comes. In the mean time, I've been looking out of the windows of the main lab where I work/study/live/suffer and I've noticed a subtle change in the Wills Memorial Building.



It seems that there are now small little insects crawling all over the Wills building. According to the university website, the 215 foot, Grade II listed tower is now undergoing essential repair and restoration work that should be finished by October 2006. That means when I and hundreds of other finalists graduate in June/July, it will still be covered in ugly scaffoldings.
No more pretty pictures of graduates in their gowns and happy parents with the magnificient Wills as a backdrop = Bad publicity = What a pity...
Interesting Fact: The Wills tower houses the fourth largest bell in England! And it has many gargolyes which caricature contemporary members of the University's staff.

Well....who knows? Maybe miracles can happen and they finish everything by June....

Happy Easter holidays everyone!

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Animal Encounters II

Hello and welcome to the 2nd edition of....Animal Encounters!
This is a weekly special edition and it's about animals at the zoo where I work! If you missed the 1st edition, click to read it. Now, without further ado, let me introduce my guests for this week:

The Penguins

There are thought to be 17 species of penguin. All are black and white with flipper-like wings and are unable to fly. Penguins all come from the southern half of the world, living along the cold coasts of Antartica to the Equator. The largest penguin is the Emperor penguin at 1m tall, and weighing up to 30kg.

"Er..Skipper...someone's taking pictures!"

Penguins feed at sea, chasing fish at high speeds. They swim with porpoise-like movement, jumping above the surface from time to time to breath air. This also confuses predators like leopard seals, killer whales, and sharks. Penguins can collapse their lungs when they dive in search of fish, usually at depths of up to 20m. Normally they hold their breath for up to 3 mins.

"Well...act cute & cuddly boys"

Have a look at the penguins. They have light fronts and dark backs. This colouring camouflages them when swimming. Seen from below, their white tummy blend with the white sky; from above, their backs blend with the deep dark water. Other animals, like killer whales, camouflage themselves in the same way.

"Cute & cuddly...."

Penguins keep themselves warm by two ways. They have a thick layer of body fat (blubber), and special feathers which are oily at the top but fluffy at the bottom. This fluffy part traps warm air close to the skin, and the oily part makes a waterproof layer over the top.


We've got two different species of penguin at the zoo. One is the African Penguin and they come from Southern Africa.

African Penguin

The other is the Gentoo Penguin and they are the 3rd largest penguin. They breed in the sub-Antartic regions like the Falkland Islands.

Gentoo Penguin

So that's about it fellow readers! I hope you've enjoyed this week's post. Look out for the next exciting edition of....Animal Encounters!

"Aw crap!"

On a side note, I've received an offer from the firm which I had an interview with on Wednesday in Bath! And my final year project is finally falling into place, with my poster presentation coming up next week! It seems everything is going pretty smooth after the past few weeks of misery....almost unbelievable. Such a big can be really unpredictable.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006


I went to Bath today for an interview. This is the third time I’ve been there and it never fails to impress me. It is a very charming and pretty city, Georgian in style. Most of the buildings in Bath are made out of Bath stones, which give the city its distinctive colour (sandy colour). Do you know that the whole of Bath is designated as a world heritage site by UNESCO? Now that’s a very impressive feat.

Bath Abbey

Two thousand years ago, with most of the world at their feet, the Romans recognised the unique qualities of Bath and settled there. They chose well. Set in a sheltered valley, surrounded like Rome by seven wooded hills and nourished by Britain's only natural hot springs, it is a natural haven. And it still is. Those thermal waters that first attracted the Celts and Romans are the source of life, inspiring the creation of a spa complex. However, the spa complex has been plagued by several problems….like leaking tiles…contractors pulling out…so on and so forth. Its original opening date was in 2004. It is now rescheduled to be opened in 2006.

Bath by day

Despite its problems, Bath remains a very beautiful city, with all its charming Georgian houses and shops, rich in history and heritage. It is a place which I would definitely recommend visiting at least once in your lifetime.

Bath by night

As for the interview, I think it went pretty well. I should be hearing something from them in a week’s time! Fingers crossed…..

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Animal Encounters I

Hello readers!
Today's post will be a special edition! Every Saturday, I'll try to take some pictures from the zoo and I'll post them here. And I'll start to give my 10 cents or 10p worth. So welcome to the first part of Animal Encounters! For today, I'm honoured to have as my very first guest:

The Chilean Rose Spider

This is Bella (means beautiful lady in Italian). She's a Chilean Rose Spider from...Chile! She's from the Tarantula family and she's about the size of my hand. If you observe her closely, she's got a reddish tinge to her, hence the word 'rose' in her title. Besides having eight legs, spiders have an exoskeleton, that means their skeletons are on the outside. We humans have our skeletons on the inside, hence the word endoskeleton. She has two little black structues behind called the spinnerets, where the silk comes out from. In the wild, they spin their webs on the ground, not in the trees as they're too heavy to be jumping about. They've got their own little hole in the ground where they spin their web about. Any insect walking near the hole will step on the web, triggering the vibrations. They'll then jump out of the hole to ambush their prey, sinking their huge fangs in to the prey. Their venom does two things: it kills the prey, and it contains some enzymes which digest the insides of the prey into a mass of globbery fluid. Hence a spider sucks it food up, it does not chew its food.


Over in the zoo we feed Bella crickets and very small children......and in the wild they eat insects like grasshoppers, crickets, and so on. The larger tarantulas are big enough to hunt birds...whether they really eat (or suck) the bird up is a mystery to me. I always get asked some standard questions: Is it poisonous? Answer: All spiders are poisonous. They need it to kill their prey, unless you come across a vegetarian spider...... Question: If it bites me, will I die? Answer: No, but it'll be painful......just like bees and wasps stings, if you're allergic to it, you could develop swellings and go into shock.

Oh my, what big fangs you have!

Also, again observing closely, you can see that Bella's pretty hairy. She's able to flick those hairs into the air when aggitated. And when those hairs get into your eyes, they can cause blindness. Mostly they tend to get into noses and skins, which will then proceed to cause massive irritations. It is a self defence mechanism to deter larger predators. What other facts can I say? Well their blood is blue and their piss is colourless. We've got four Chilean Rose in our collection, Bella, Xena, Gabrielle, Flossie. They're all lovely females. Females tend to be larger and live longer. By the way, never ever pick up spiders in the wild! In other words, don't try this at home kids!

So, thats about it folks! Tune in next week for another exciting edition of.....Animal Encounters!

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Significance of Birthdays....

As I prepare to go to the Highbury Vaults to have some celebratory drinks in the honour of my good course mate's birthday, I question the significance of birthdays to ourselves. Before I continue, let me state that I've never....I repeat never... ever known so many birthdays happening in such a short period of time (Feb-Mar) until this year. I just had mine 2 weeks ago, and 2 girls in my Spanish class just had theirs too (amazingly, one of them a day after mine!). A friend's brother just had his too. I'm honoured to know so many fellow pisceans....its the sexiest sign to be ;-)
But apart from all that, what is the birthday worth to us? It is, after all, the day we were brought into this world. One could say that it is a sacred day. The Sri Aurobindo Society states :

"It is truly a special day in one's life. It is one of those days in the year when the Supreme descends into us - or when we are face to face with the Eternal - one of those days when our soul comes in contact with the Eternal and, if we remain a little conscious, we can feel His Presence within us. If we make a little effort on this day, we accomplish the work of many lives as in a lightning flash. That is why I give so much importance to the birthday - because what one gains in one day is truly something incomparable… My child, it is a very very special day, for it is the day of decision, the day one can unite with the Supreme Consciousness. For the Lord lifts us on this day to the highest region possible so that our soul, which is a portion of that Eternal Flame, may be united and identified with its Origin."
That was quite a lenghty explaination, but in short, it means that it is sacred and hence one should treat it with respect and make full use of it. The states:

"A Jewish birthday is a very auspicious day. Our sages tell us that on a person’s birthday his “mazel” is dominant. Indeed, according to the Talmud, the miracle of Purim is largely credited to the fact that Moses’ birthday occurs during the month of Adar! Two of our major holidays celebrate birthdays: Rosh Hashanah is the birthday of Adam, and Passover is the collective birthday of the Jewish Nation (see Ezekiel, chapter 16). Your birthday is a day to express gratitude to G-d for bringing you into this world, entrusting you with the mission of illuminating it with the radiance of Torah and Mitzvot. This day, which is akin to a personal Rosh Hashanah, is the appropriate time to recommit to the mission at hand, resolving that the added maturity and experience gained during the past year will cause the following year to be even more productive and fruitful."
In short, pretty much the same thing as the one above. So in the light of all these religious context, how do people spend their birthdays? Some go out and get so drunk that they wish its not their birthday the next morning. Others throw a big party. Some treat themselves to a nice milkshake ;-) or a really posh full body massage. As for me, I didn't want to do anything as I had too much work to do that night (lazy excuse you might say), but due to my pushy housemates, we ended up having a surprisingly nice dinner and quite a few bottles of wine (so much so that one of them got a bit too talkative). I guess it all boils down to the individual in the end. Sure, friends might treat you extra special on your birthday, but you can only be 21 once in your life (25 in my case). You are who you want to be. You can be 8, 18 or 80.
So for tonight, how will it all end? Will we drink like there's no tomorrow? Will we all scream, shout, laugh, cry to vent our happiness at the anniversary of a birth? Will we end up like hedonistic cavemen with pints in our hands? Probably not, as we are all responsible final year students........;-)
Happy 23rd birthday Tom!

Why blog?

Yes. Exactly. Why blog? I ask myself this question. Is it to show off?To become a narcissist? Is it to impose my views and values on my readers? Or is it for friends to keep in touch with me?
Well, to tell the truth, for me at least, its none of these.

I question and find out more about myself by posting my thoughts. I find out how I think and function. I recall funny situations and remember quaint things. Basically, I stop to smell the "mental" flowers instead of rushing on. It is true. By writing down my daily thoughts, I put myself down on a path of self discovery. If you find my posts interesting, feel free to post your comments, and I'll try to respond. However, I must warn you "Rita Skeeter" types that I'm not here to dish the dirt on people. Don't expect any scandalous facts or rumours to surface. This is a place for light hearted musings on life, people, animals, situations, basically anything under the sun that catches my attention.

So yes, what was the question again?

My secret identity

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Birth of the mighty mouse!


Welcome to my very first blog, devoted readers!
Hmm...where do I start? A place for some light hearted musings.
Well, I'll start by describing today then....I've got a poster presentation for my project coming right up in 2 weeks time! And I've got a job interview in a weeks time, where I'll have to give a 10 min presentation. Plus I've also got a Spanish presentation to give also in a weeks time. Presentations....presentations....presentations.....its driving me nuts. I can't wait till the end of term.

Anyway, I guess thats the way to test your character isn't it. I remeber walking past this grand georgian house on my way to the zoo (I volunteer there) every Saturday. And inscribed on its walls is this line: " Conflict tests the Warrior" I've been walking past this house for the past 3.5 years and every time I pass it, it reminds me of my army days where we have motiffs or sentences like these to boost our morale (or just irritate us).

Here's one: "Yesterday was the only easy day" and "Tough times don't last but tough men do"
How about " For honour and glory"?
And the favourite of my unit : "Fear what you can't see"

Sigh...the good old glory days....for my new readers...don't worry if you can't catch up.....I'll slowly reveal my history to you.....all the more for you to stay tuned! So let me end my virgin post by saying : The best is yet to be...... ;-)