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Lausanne has a vivarium dedicated to reptiles, mostly snakes and crocodiles, and a few scorpions and tarantulas. Usually, I’m not easily fascinated by animals behind glass windows. Or rather after going through the repetitive set of tasks of (i) finding the animal and (ii) scanning the text in the infobox for something noteworthy 20 times, I simply tend to get bored a bit, even if the skin has an amazing texture. But on this visit there were at least two things to keep me from getting bored.

First, every Thursday you can witness the feeding of the crocodiles.Crocodiles largely feed on carrion, so dead rats and dead fish was good enough for them. Snakes on the other hand are more picky and for them the dead animals first have to be heated up to body temperature and possibly even be moved around a bit. This, unfortunately, we couldn’t see. But seeing the crocos chew on the rats and also bite each other a bit is in  certain sense “fun”.

The second thing, which really made the visit worthwhile, were the stories by the keeper in charge of the animals. He was in his mid-twenties, with an “alternative” look and very long, partly dread-locked hair. He was simply “cool” referring to the sense of
“relaxed” of the word. He didn’t bother to put on any gloves to throw the dead rats to the crocos and he was also completely relaxed while telling us the story behind the big bandages on two of his fingers. He had recently been bitten by a highly venomous snake. For a second I thought that this was a joke, but it sure enough wasn’t. This had happened while he was removing an old skin, recently shed by one of the snakes. Personally, I have now idea why I would want to reach into a cage of a venomous snake for any reason, but then who am I to tell other people how to do their job. Anyways, he was bitten in the finger but, fortunately, the snaked did not inject a lot of venom. So he “only” lost one phalanx on one of his fingers due to local poisoning. Some skin had to be removed from another finger to aid with the healing process. He also showed us a book with lots of pictures of extremities of snake bite victims. I never knew how many shades of black the human skin can turn into. For a fairly mild teaser, have a look at the pictures towards the bottom on this page or this one.

Another interesting trivia, which he told us is that sometimes people even die of bites of non-venomous snakes as they simply think the snake was venomous and then die of a heart-attack due to excitement. Also, I learned that the coral snake is one of the most dangerous ones as its poison does not immediately lead to any swelling or irritation, but the effect only settles in after a few hours, when you’ll die in a short amount of time.

Anyways, through all the stories and the dry excitement they were told with the snakes suddenly seemed a lot more “alive” to me and seemed to leave their cage just ever so slightly, hence the title.

Oh, apart from the croco feeding and the near-death experience story it was interesting to see some strange looking tortoises such as this one or this one.

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Despite a fair amount of experience in running more than 10k, I still have to figure out what the trick is to avoid getting blisters. Today after 21k my feet look like this.

I have a fair amount of callus and I have good shoes and good socks, but none of that helps. The speed also doesn’t seem to effect this outcome. I can run slow or fast (… by my standards), but the result is the same.

Admittedly, the blisters don’t really bother me, and I only noticed after my first marathon that I actually had blood in my shoes, but I still hope that at some point I’ll be able to get rid of this annoyance.

Last Sunday there was the Lausanne Marathon. Despite the fact that I had only been running four times in the four weeks leading up to the event, I decided to participate. After all, I’ll only be here for a here so this was going to be my one and only chance to have the road to Vevey blocked for traffic, just for me to run on.

As (i) I wasn’t sure if I’d be in decent shape but (ii) I was still confident enough that with a decent basic level of fitness and enough experience, I decided to join the pacemaker for 4h00. “Unfortunately”, this was one of the worst pacemakers I’ve ever seen in the sense that up to (at least) kilometer 7 we were 10-20 seconds to fast on every kilometer. So eventually, as the pacemaker for 3h45 was still in sight in front of us at kilometer 8, I decided to go for a little intermediate “sprint” to catch the group in front.

This turned out to be the right decision to make.

I’ve never encountered a better pacemaker! He was an entertainer, a tourist guide and a mentor. He’d point out tourist sights along the way. He’d provide a cheerful mood (and have the whole group greet his wife as we passed). He’d help you to run up every single hill by reminding you to take small steps and then reminding you again to loosen up your arms and shoulders while running down. He’d try to keep your mind of the “suffering” and “pain” by making you appreciate the sky, the nice weather, whatever really. Especially after about 3 hours I was very glad to be in such excellent company.

I guess most people care mostly about numbers when reading reports about sports events. So here are some stats.

My pulse was at about 155 during the first hour, at about 165 during the second our, at about 175 during the third hour and about about 185 for most of the forth hour. At the end I did a small sprint and it went up to 195. My maximum heart rate (measured last year) is about 205 and my anaerobic threshold is at about 185.

I finished the race in just under 3h43. See rank 528 here. Some finisher fotos you can find here.

This was actually the fastest marathon I’ve ever done, but this is mostly because I never cared to race during the last marathons I did (when I was actually in better shape), as those were simply preparatory runs.

It was also not the marathon I enjoyed the most, as especially the last 10 km or so were generally not really enjoyable and I wasn’t even relaxed enough to wave and smile at people. At least I still had enough energy to later go for a long walk in Morges with Katja and to dance a bit of salsa (… though only at EPFL so Katja could show some things to Sarah).

The most attention I got from the crowd (and from fellow runners) was from Chinese people … as I was wearing logos of the Team Tibet on the back and the front.

Not sure what I should aim for in the next marathon. Either a better time (I guess, 3h30 would be possible with a reasonable amount of preparation), a new costume (ideally even in a costume-only marathon), helping someone else (I’m still looking for a blind running partner …), or maybe as a pacemaker for 4h00 or 4h15 myself.

Oh well, but first La Marmite as part of the Course de L’Escalade in Geneva. I already know which costume to run in …

A tiny theater with about 35 seats in, what seemed to be, somebody’s basement.
A blind pianist. A creative pantomime/tap dancer.
A forgotten bird.

Those were the main ingredients to “L’oiseau oublié

As (I guess) most people I enjoy tap dancing performances … though this was the first one I’ve attended. But more than 60 minutes of non-stop tap dancing could haven been a bit on the dull side of life. So I was pleasantly surprised to see the dancer throw in a bit of pantomime performance and some (decent but not excellent) singing.

It’s always good to have multiple career options. So on Saturday I went to have nude pictures of me taken by a professional photographer/artist (Spencer Tunick). To add to the thrill a bit, the pictures were taken on the Aletsch glacier. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aletsch_Glacier

Ok, there were 600 other people in the pictures as well, but it was a start. It was also a welcome change to the “normal” pictures of me wearing neoprene. The event was organized by Greenpeace to raise awareness for global warming.

For me the whole experience was certainly interesting and a bit surreal, but far less exciting than I expected. In the end, you were (or at least I was) so concentrated on following the orders that a whole herd of gorillas could have passed through the crowd unnoticed.

For some reason, most people whom I’ve told about this experience, have asked me, whether it was cold lying on the glacier. Yes, it was cold. But not as horribly cold as one might think, as one had a small pad to put under the hip and some sandals to put under the shoulders.

Finally, links to some pictures.

In this one I’m standing in the upper left corner.

Here I’m lying in the center, 4th row or so, feet to the right, pointing down a slope.

I could also be in this picture somewhere, but I haven’t managed to find myself yet.

I hope I’ll be able to have this experience in just under 2 weeks. At least I’ve now registered.

The naked facts about global warming

If you’re in Switzerland, then why not come and join the event?

What I mean: In my (very limited) understanding, the human brain only needs a flow of blood with the right ingredients (oxygen, some nutritions) to work. Would it be conceivable to construct a machine which replaces the heart (as a pump) and various other organs (as filters, or oxygen enrichment plants) and to connect the human brain to this? [Assuming a “smooth” transition just as during a heart transplant.] Maybe it’s necessary to include the spine in this, but this would not change my principal question.

Is it impossible, because there’s a feedback loop between moods/thoughts and the ingredients of the blood (such as hormones)? But would the brain die because of this (when the organs suddenly don’t respond to demands of the brain anymore) or would it simply be in a constant “mood” all the time?

Probably any 1st year student of medicine can explain this to me. Anyone?

[Please note: I’m certainly NOT suggesting to do this. I just want to understand what’s wrong with this thought, to understand the human body better.]

[I was just about to post this question (and offer money for the answer) on http://answers.google.com when I realized that this service had been disabled. Why??]

The Swiss like brushing their teeth. Yesterday, shortly after lunch, there was almost a queue for a place a bathroom sink, as everybody was brushing their teeth. At the MPI, there were some individuals who also did this regularly, but brushing the teeth at work seems to some sort of rite here. Here, already two people rejected some chocolate, as they had just brushed their teeth.

I will buy myself a second toothbrush on the weekend and then join the joy-rite.

I once tried to complement a (female) friend of mine by telling her that she has “strong legs” (because when we go swimming together her leg stroke is at least 30% more effective than mine). But, as it turns out, this is not the kind of compliment that most women like to hear. Long, yes. Thin, yes. Strong, no. Now I know.

Funny thing: today she repaid the compliment by remarking that, while cycling together, she noticed that my legs had gotten visibly stronger. But somehow my macho-ego would have preferred to hear the same thing in reference to my upper body. Oh well, I guess we still have to learn how to compliment each other. 😉

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