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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.

(i) your appartment has less than 30m² but still …

(ii) you have to search for your passport for more than 20 minutes.

What surprises me most about myself is my reluctance to change my approach to searching. I usually always start by asking myself: “Where would a normal person put X?” In this case of a passport the answer to this was some sort of drawer or a box dedicated to valuables. Of course, that’s not where I found it. That just wouldn’t be me.

It was in a big travel bag full of books, CDs and photographs. This bag was in turn covered by a family pack of toilet paper. Now that’s exactly the kind of place where a person like me keeps his passport.

When will I finally learn to look in these kind of places first?!

Wow! 109 views in a single day (yesterday) and 448 views in one week (last week).

Admittedly, about 40% of those views are from people searching for nude/naked or Spencer Tunick (and they end up at this entry), but still this means that probably each week about 10 hours of productive working time is lost due to people reading this blog.

Isn’t this great news?  🙂

Why doesn’t one hear constantly about virtual impostors? What I mean is this:

Suppose somebody without a strong “web presence” and without his/her own homepage really pisses me off. [I usually don’t get mad, but let’s suppose nevertheless.] Then it would be extremely easy for me (and for any other computer geek) to create a fake homepage for this person and to make sure that this homepage is found on Google when searching for that person’s name. Now on this homepage one could put some, for example, links to gay porn sites under the header “My favorite sites”. [For some reason most people would feel insulted, if you consider them to be homosexual, which I personally find extremely silly.]

If this is well done, it might not be immediately obvious that this homepage is not “endorsed” by this person. [Just as neither this nor this page is endorsed by the White House.] Such a page could cause a serious damage to the reputation of this person.

Why does this not happen all the time? Or does this happen constantly on a large scale (… I don’t mean a dozen of cases per year …) and I’m just not aware of it?

Only once or twice per year I hear about cases where somebody (usually somebody’s ex-boyfriend) posts somebody’s (usually somebody’s ex-girlfriend’s) private telephone number, email address and address in a rather “dubious” forum/chat room, along with the offer of various free services. But this kind of evil “revenge” would be even harder to track, if you just go to some random internet cafe or use some software to anonymize your IP address while pulling this “prank“.

So either computer geeks are simply too nice and/or grown-up, or people are actually not as vengeful as one might think … or maybe just not creative enough.

PS: This post is a great test for the comment spam filter, as undoubtedly there will be lots of automated spam comments, given some words used in the text.

We recently discussed differences between “good manners” in Switzerland and the rest of the world. Overall, nothing really too shocking. I guess most things are reasonably standardized within Europe.

What did surprise me was how little most people question the (non-)sense of these rituals.

Most people would jump to defend “good manners” by claiming that they are a sign of respect for the other person(s). True – but only to a certain point in my opinion. Of course, when somebody talks you should show some respect and try to listen (and the other person should show respect and not exploit your patience). Of course, you should greet others to acknowledge their presence … but already their the dilemma starts.

In (at least the French part of) Switzerland it is really customary to follow up the “salut”/”bon jour” by an almost obligatory “ça va?”/”comment allez-vous?” … to which you’re obviously obliged to reply by stating that you’re doing just fine, before you return the ball into the other person’s half by repeating this empty phrase. This even happens in text messages on mobile phones and on the radio when random listeners call in to a show. I don’t like this.

Of course in 90% of the cases the other person doesn’t really care, how you are, and he doesn’t need to. Still, if he enjoys these kind of things it’s his right to pose the question. But what really annoys me is that I then have do something dishonest and play along. I’m not sure where the sign of respect is in this whole thing. It seems more of an insult to me.

Even if it’s a friend it should not be the first thing to ask IMO. Personally, I need a bit of time to “warm up” and build up a certain connection before I feel comfortable to reply (and ask) honestly. It’s happened to me before on various occasions that friends about whose state of well-being I really care first reply to my ping-pong question by stating that they are fine, only to tell me 1 minute later that they are actually not feeling too well at the moment. In email communication it’s slightly different though. There this “warming up” phase is more difficult to achieve and obviously I can take all the time I want before replying to a friend. And here I also have more of a liberty to ignore it if I don’t feel like given an honest answer (which is never just a simple “Fine. Thank you.”).

Overall I guess good manners (just like other rituals) help people to make sense of the world by providing some guidelines and fixed patterns. They also help to reinforce the distinctions between social classes. But I don’t think that most of them help to create an atmosphere of warm, honest and relaxed inter-human communication.

Paternity tests have become a standard procedure in legal battles concerning “who’s your daddy”. Usually, such a test is good enough to settle the case with a confidence of at least 99.9%. Unless two of the “candidates” in question happen to be twins …

Having unprotected sex is a bad idea. Having unprotected sex with two twins on the same day doubly so. Holly Marie Adams is now unsure about who’s the father of her little daughter and DNA paternity tests don’t really help.


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