Is This The Best Opening Paragraph Ever?

It’s from a piece on entitled: Sea Otters Are Jerks. So Are Dolphins, Penguins, and Other Adorable Animals, which deals – rather bluntly – with the fact that when anthromorphosized, the behaviour of some of the creatures we love to love, isn’t actually all that lovable.

And it starts, like this:

I’m going to ruin sea otters for you. Or at least I’m going to tarnish their reputation as some of the most charming little beasties in the seas. For as cute as they are while intertwining paws at an aquarium, frolicking among the wafting fronds of California kelp forests, or smashing sea urchins open with stones, some sea otters have developed the disturbing habit of humping and drowning baby seals.


And it doesn’t get any better as Brian Switek goes into detail as to the injuries sustained by the baby seals in these heinous attacks, because as we learn:

Strange as it may seem, mating is a relatively common cause of death for female sea otters as well. Male sea otters typically grasp the female from behind and bite her face, and this rough behaviour was associated with the deaths of about 11 percent of dead sea otters discovered between 2000 and 2003.

And if you think that sea otters are dodgy (in which case you’d be right, because they are), just wait until you hear about what dolphins get up to. (We’ve warned you about dolphins before.)

And then, there’s the Adélie penguin:

…the species shocked and horrified Levick so much so that his four-page report “Sexual Habits of the Adélie Penguin” was purposefully omitted from the official expedition findings and distributed only to a small group of researchers considered learned and discreet enough to handle the graphic content.

You can just picture the faces of that “small group of researchers” as they read the report:

Jesus – it does WHAT?!?!??!??!???!

The take-away lesson from all this, folks, is to ensure that you learn all about your prospective cute animal before you give it your unwavering support.
Because there’s nothing worse than proclaiming how wonderful the sweet little local Dassies are, only to have someone inform you that Procavia capensis is actually responsible for over 90% of the muggings in the City Bowl.


The Emerald Tea Lounge

Concord House (“the Pam Golding building”) on the corner of Summerly and Main Road in Kenilworth is being – actually, probably has been by now – demolished and will be redeveloped into offices and shops over the next 18 months.

The partial demolition revealed a previous incarnation of the building – The Emerald Tea Lounge – of which I can find absolutely no record on Google. Presumably, this means that it never actually existed, so why the sign, I wonder?

A bigger view here.

UPDATE: According to the Cape Telephone Directories, The Emerald Tea Lounge was open between 1953-56.


I think that this is some sort of paper wasp, and it was being very industrious as it began constructing a nest on the canvas over the patio. I pointed and I shot and I quite like what the new Sony camera has done with it, especially since the little bugger was moving about all over the place, nest building.

The nest has already been removed, before it got any bigger and before the wasp wasted any more of its valuable time.


Yes, I was at the rugby:


No, Province weren’t very good (and neither were the Sharks).
Yes, I was glad that I had Sheffield United’s victory (and a nice draught Milk Stout) to make me happy.

Are you listening yet?

It was about a year ago that I wrote the We’re All Buggered post, referring to antibiotic resistance and the potential threat of living in a post-antibiotic era. At that point, it wasn’t really news to anyone in the microbiological community: indeed, in that post I mentioned a seminar I attended ten years ago in Oxford, and even then it wasn’t really news to us.

But slowly, surely, these stories are beginning to infiltrate the media more and more often. And the reasons for this are fairly clear – scientists are becoming ever more concerned about the impending problems we are facing and moreover, a great number of the public are being affected by the issue, thus it’s becoming more relevant and therefore, more newsworthy.

Of course, if this problem wasn’t so insidious, we’d all be panicking about it already. If there were a 9/11 or a Hurricane Sandy – a single event – there would be far more awareness. (Not that awareness would really help anyway.)
But that’s not the case with the antibiotic resistance problem. It’s sneaking up on us and, for those of us in the know, it’s rather worrying*.

The latest “big name” to have come out with a stark warning is an associate director for the CDC, Dr. Arjun Srinivasan:

For a long time, there have been newspaper stories and covers of magazines that talked about “The end of antibiotics, question mark?” Well, now I would say you can change the title to “The end of antibiotics, period.”

We’re here. We’re in the post-antibiotic era. There are patients for whom we have no therapy, and we are literally in a position of having a patient in a bed who has an infection, something that five years ago even we could have treated, but now we can’t.

Quote via (take tinfoil hat along for some of the comments). Here’s the full programme on, with the suitably dramatic title: Hunting The Nightmare Bacteria. (Hint: it’s not difficult – just go to any major hospital and they’ll come find you.)

Jason Kottke suggests that drug-resistant infectious diseases should be added to the list of “disasters with no clear low point”, and he’s probably correct. Remember that Dame Sally Davies (the Chief Medical Officer in the UK) thought that:

“…the threat from infections that are resistant to frontline antibiotics was so serious that the issue should be added to the government’s national risk register of civil emergencies.”

and that puts it alongside threats like “explosive volcanic eruptions” and “catastrophic terrorist acts”.

As previously, I don’t expect this post to do anything to make a difference to the situation. There’s actually nothing we can do to prevent this now. I just thought that you ought to know.

Have a great weekend.

* The latter part of this sentence contains a fair amount of understatement.