Parasites Practicing Mind Control -Toxoplasma

Ladybug Cow (aka Cowccinella Novemnotata), climbing the wall of the Talbott Hotel
Ladybug Cow (aka Cowccinella Novemnotata), climbing the wall of the Talbott Hotel under direction of Toxoplasma Gondii…

Wild, just wild. Fascinating stuff, and we are just discovering exactly how powerful these microorganisms actually are…

An unassuming single-celled organism called Toxoplasma gondii is one of the most successful parasites on Earth, infecting an estimated 11 percent of Americans and perhaps half of all people worldwide. It’s just as prevalent in many other species of mammals and birds. In a recent study in Ohio, scientists found the parasite in three-quarters of the white-tailed deer they studied.

One reason for Toxoplasma’s success is its ability to manipulate its hosts. The parasite can influence their behavior, so much so that hosts can put themselves at risk of death. Scientists first discovered this strange mind control in the 1990s, but it’s been hard to figure out how they manage it. Now a new study suggests that Toxoplasma can turn its host’s genes on and off — and it’s possible other parasites use this strategy, too.

Toxoplasma manipulates its hosts to complete its life cycle. Although it can infect any mammal or bird, it can reproduce only inside of a cat. The parasites produce cysts that get passed out of the cat with its feces; once in the soil, the cysts infect new hosts.

Toxoplasma returns to cats via their prey. But a host like a rat has evolved to avoid cats as much as possible, taking evasive action from the very moment it smells feline odor.

Experiments on rats and mice have shown that Toxoplasma alters their response to cat smells. Many infected rodents lose their natural fear of the scent. Some even seem to be attracted to it.

Manipulating the behavior of a host is a fairly common strategy among parasites, but it’s hard to fathom how they manage it.

(click here to continue reading Parasites Practicing Mind Control –

Photo Republished at How to keep your cat indoors and prevent the escape

Pippin and Da Bird

My photo of Pippy and Da Bird was used to illustrate this post

Switch your cat to scheduled feeding if you didn’t already. How can this help? Simply – if you feed your cat on a schedule, his energy will be more focused, his rhythm of the day will be more clear to him, and his need to wander outside will be minimized (stating you do play with your cat before meals for at least a little bit). Also, you can schedule a meal every time you leave home, so your cat is busy as you head out. Besides, if your cat escapes, it will be easier to call him back by just rattling his food pack if he’s on a scheduled feeding. Short play before each meal will help to keep your cat indoors. Photo swanksalot, CC BY-SA 2.0

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How to keep your cat indoors and prevent the escape

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Caboodle Ranch – Colbert Show

Stephen Colbert had a funny exposé on Craig Grant’s Caboodle Ranch, in Lee, Florida

In Lee, Florida, Craig Grant trains his 650 cats to take over America’s government, law enforcement and failing schools. (05:32)


The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
The Enemy Within – Caboodle Ranch
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog</a> Video Archive

If the video won’t load, go to the Colbert Show’s website directly, it might work better there

Craig Grant tells how he started the Caboodle Ranch

I was renting a two bedroom condo by the beach with my son. It had all the comforts and conveniences of home. Nice furniture, a short walk to the beach and close to work. Then my son moved out on his own for the first time. He left his cat, Pepper, with me because he couldn’t take it with him. I didn’t like cats but I agreed to keep him. I wasn’t used to being alone and I guess Pepper wasn’t either.

We slowly began to get along. A couple months went by and I found out Pepper was pregnant. Oh great, now what? She had five kittens. I wanted to give them away because I didn’t want my beautiful home destroyed, but my son told me they had to stay with their mother for 8 weeks. Over that time I learned that every cat had his own unique personality and it wasn’t long before the kittens were swinging from my curtains. I didn’t care. Something had changed… I didn’t want to give them up.

But with six cats, complaints started from the condo owner and the neighbors. I knew I had to look for other places to go. They weren’t safe in the neighborhood. I found a B.B. lodged in the side of one of my cats and another was bitten by a pitbull that I know was set loose on purpose. Something had to be done. I wasn’t sure what to do at first, so I built a shed in my son’s yard and lived in it for a while. Then I found an advertisement in the paper from a realtor offering five acre partials on a tree farm; owner financing, low money down and low monthly payments… the problem was that it was 100 miles west of Jacksonville. I drove out to see it and I loved it.

Over the next months I bought five more partials. I now have 25 acres. I cleared a small area and bought an office trailer as a shelter for my cats. I put in a pet door and padded shelves for them. We moved out there in November of 2003, the day after Thanksgiving. By that time I had 11 cats. I had taken in abandoned and stray cats from the neighborhood and areas that I work as a contractor. I had 22 cats by the spring of 2004. I moved the shed out to the property and made a little cabin out of it. I thought it would be for me, but many of my cats wanted to sleep next to me… so I moved back into the office trailer where we had more room.

(click to continue reading Caboodle Ranch: About Us.)

Pippen in Meat Locker

Pippen in Meat Locker
Pippen in Meat Locker, originally uploaded by swanksalot.

every time I open the refrigerator, Pippen comes running. Usually he just flops in front of the door, this time he leaped up into the meat and cheese drawer. Nut-ball.

Lots of fun smells I suppose.



Pope ensconced in purple

Pope ensconced in purple
Pope ensconced in purple, originally uploaded by swanksalot.

Office cat living the highlife, modified with CameraBag, using the Helga setting1


I don’t really know much about Holga cameras, other than they seem popular in the digital age, probably because they introduce an element of unpredictability into a photo. I’ve heard musicians add a bit of static (or vinyl record static, more precisely) into their digital music files for the same reason. A bit of analog signal in a digital world.

I’ve never used a Holga, but several iPhone applications emulate the process, as do some Photoshop filters.

The Holga is an inexpensive, medium format 120 film toy camera, made in China, appreciated for its low-fidelity aesthetic. The Holga’s cheap construction and simple meniscus lens often yields pictures that display vignetting, blur, light leaks, and other distortions. The camera’s quality problems have become a virtue among some photographers, with Holga photos winning awards and competitions in art and news photography.

The Holga camera was designed by T. M. Lee, and first appeared in 1982 in Hong Kong. At the time, 120 rollfilm in black-and-white was the most widely available film in mainland China. The Holga was intended to provide an inexpensive mass-market camera for working-class Chinese in order to record family portraits and events. After the cameras began to be distributed in the West, some photographers took to using the Holga for its surrealistic, impressionistic scenes for landscape, still life, portrait, and especially, street photography. In this respect, the Holga became the successor to the Diana and other toy cameras previously used in such work. A Holga photograph by David Burnett of former vice-president Al Gore during a campaign appearance earned a top prize in a 2001 White House News Photographers’ Association Eyes of History award ceremony.

Recently the Holga has experienced a revival due to the gaining popularity of toy cameras.

  1. Helga not Holga, probably due to copyright reasons []

Reading Around on July 4th through July 5th

A few interesting links collected July 4th through July 5th:

  • Can I Get a Witness? | TPM – yet more evidence that the Washington Post is in a death spiral”But it is bizarre to say that Palin is uncomfortable in the role of the victim. In fact I’m not sure I’ve ever found a better use for this much over-used word. As Noam Scheiber explained in one of the earliest and perhaps most insightful profiles of Palin, victimhood and resentment are Palin’s twin touchstones. They define who she is.”
  • Cat M.D.s prevent heart attack fatalities | The Daily Blank – Image by swanksalot via Flickr “Owning a cat could mean the difference between life and death. The University of Minnesota recently released a study that the risk of dying from a heart attack is 40% higher among people who have never owned a cat, compared to people who have.”
  • Confirmed: God is slightly gay – “Behold, the ongoing, increasingly startling research: homosexual and bisexual behavior, it turns out, is rampant in the animal kingdom. And by rampant, I mean proving to be damn near universal, commonplace across all species everywhere, existing for myriad reasons ranging from pure survival and procreative influence, right on over to pure pleasure, co-parenting, giddy screeching multiple monkey orgasm, even love, and a few dozen other potential explanations science hasn’t quite figured out yet. Imagine.

    Are you thinking, why sure, everyone knows about those sex-crazed dolphins and those superslut bonobo monkeys and the few other godless creatures like them, the sea turtles and the weird sheep and such, creatures who obviously haven’t read Leviticus. But that’s about it, right? Most animals are devoutly hetero and straight and damn happy about it, right?


  • Daily Kos: State of the Nation – Palins Poetry – Awesome.
    “The following is the complete text, directly transcribed, of the portion of Sarah Palin’s resignation speech available on video. The text is accurate and unaltered; a portion of the speech is missing from the beginning because the video does not start until then.The lines have been transcribed, however, in the form of vers libre poetry, which seemed appropriate under the circumstances.”
  • War: Retreat of the 20,000 — Printout — TIME – “Retreat, hell!” snapped Major General Oliver Prince Smith, commander of the 1st Marine Division, with which he had fought on Guadalcanal, New Britain, Peleliu, Okinawa (TIME, Sept. 25). “We’re not retreating, we’re just advancing in a different direction”

    Wait, you mean Sarah Barracuda Palin flubbed a quotation, again? She needs to stop letting Trig vet her speeches

Pippen gets Famous

Omnivore's Dilemma

Michael Pollan and my cat1, featured in an LA Times blog…

There are legions of people who love books, and who love cats, and have a habit of photographing them together. You may like books and not like cats; I know it’s possible. But this post, my friends, is not for you. This post is for people who think that Pippen, above, is awfully cute when confronting the “Omnivore’s Dilemma.”

[From Books and cats: a love affair in photos | Jacket Copy | Los Angeles Times]

Of course, Pippen prefers the taste of rabbit to corn

  1. when he was but a kitten []