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I’m Dyin’ Over Here

Okay, so I’m walking to my car with a small flock of office ladies, and two of them are exchanging stale bread. So I say, “stale bread?” And #1 says, “my husband likes to feed birds.”

And a third one pipes up and says, “you’re only supposed to feed birds puffins!”
And a fourth one says, “what’s a puffin?”
And #3 says, “I don’t know…isn’t that what Mary Poppins said? ‘Feed the birds, puffins a day’?”

I almost swallowed my tongue. I was a huge Mary Poppins fan, incidentally. Here’s a little something you can do that will affect your maternal relationship for life. Ask your mom, in a wistful tone, “Mother, if you died, what are the chances Dad would marry Julie Andrews?” Works a treat!

Oh, hey, and if you don’t read The Corner, you probably missed this:

“That morose day of Napoleon’s surrender…witnessed one of history’s grandest homophonic sentences, a homophone being, we might say, a verbal coincidence….Napoleon stood silent on the deck for a painful while and then muttered with resignation: ‘Cast off, it is time to go.’ Only the Corsican said it in his accented French which he had learned at the age of ten: ‘A l’eau, c’est l’heure’ [literally: ‘at the water, it’s the hour’ — stoaty]. A young British sailor standing on deck knew not the gilded tongue of mankind’s golden race. Under the impression that the fallen emperor was speaking English, the sailor was flattered by what he mistook for familiarity and later reported that Napoleon had the courtesy to address him, ‘Hello, sailor.’”

From a new book out called Coincidentally: Unserious Reflections on Trivial Connections. Looks like fun.

All of which puts me in mind of the Archive of Misheard Lyrics.
Yeah, I know you’ve been there before…but how long ago?

August 27, 2007 — 5:58 pm
Comments: 28

Evolution sucks

mosquitos in the underground

In the 1860s, trenches were dug that would be roofed over to become the first line of the London Underground, the oldest subway in the world. Into those first trenches snuck specimens of Culex pipiens — mosquitos to you and me.

This seemed like a bit of hard luck at first. To the mosquitos, I mean. C. pipiens lives on birds. Not that many pigeons sneak into the Underground. But the subway hosts many puddles, large and small, and the air is a constant temperature year-round. So, unlike their friends and relations above ground, subway mosquitos could be active (and breed) 24/7/365. All they had to do was learn to live off something else.

Like, you know, the millions of human beings who pass through the Underground every day. They took to this idea with so much enthusiasm, the subway variety was give the name Culex molestus. They bit the living shit out of people sheltering from the Blitz.

Turns out, all that breeding and biting, they really have evolved into a separate species. At least three separate species, in fact. The mosquitos collected at the Victoria, Bakerloo and Central stops are each genetically distinct (and, very likely, each station — and the sewer system — hosts a unique variant). The below-ground varieties are more closely related to each other than the mosquitos above and probably all derive from a single colony, with no movement of bugs from below and above. DNA tells us this.

It’s very difficult to get C. pipiens and C. molestus to breed — please not to be telling me how one forces unwilling mosquitos to screw — and any resulting offspring are sterile: which means they really and truly have parted ways genetically.

And here I thought the creepiest thing about the Underground was the way the tracks jog sideways occasionally to avoid a plague pit.

— 10:09 am
Comments: 44