Advertise - Print Edition

Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Storks and slime molds and bird fluoh my!

Published: March 24, 2006
Section: Arts, Etc.

This past March 15th, 2006 (as opposed to the upcoming one), I became a third-degree uncle. Being a third-degree uncle is a lot like suffering a third-degree burn except it doesnt really involve fire or burning or having to get skin grafts. What it does involve, though, and in fact shares with a third-degree burn to a very large extent, is this: gas explosions.

If I remember correctly from what my mother once told me, my grandfather was once a tycoon in the gas business many a year ago sometime in the 40s or 50s (this was before the invention of wireless internet access), and one day there was a gas explosion and he suffered third-degree burns. Similarly, as a third-degree uncle, I know that at this very moment my third niece is in all likelihood cooking up her very own orchestra of gas explosions. Hence the analogy.

How did this happen? The two predominant theories to date are sexual reproduction and storks. And like most predominant theories involving sex and storks, the truth probably lies somewhere in between. I say this because my chemistry professor, Greg Petsko, is part of some top-secret committee on bird flu possibly involving the CIA, and hes always being called off to Washington DC about it. Call me a conspiracy theorist, but if storks really had nothing to do with it, why the heck would anyone care about bird flu?

I know what youre going to say. Youre going to say, WOW! I never thought of that! This is most likely because you are a blithering idiot.

My theory, endorsed by obstetricians and gynecologists throughout Antarctica (thats an entire continent, so dont think Im alone on this one) is that the storks are spying on us via a highly developed network of hidden cameras and state of the art bugging technology supplied to them by the CIA. See, when a man and a woman like each other, the stork drugs the woman with some kind of mild amnesiac that also has the effect of distending the abdomen. Then nine months later Dick Cheney tries to kill the stork and ends up shooting a guy instead. The stork, thankful for its new lease on life and wanting to show its gratitude by continuing the circle of life, then brings the baby to the delivery room.

At present, with bird flu attacking poultry farms throughout the world, the CIA is sending Greg to foreign countries in an attempt to perpetuate the human race, and personally, I couldnt feel any safer about our future knowing that its entirely in the hands of Greg Petsko. Why? Because in class this past Monday, he said the following: Youve just got to remember that a goddamn anion is negatively charged! I was always confused about that, and now Ill remember it forever. If you can help me remember that a goddamn anion is negatively charged, you can do anything. Good luck saving the human race, Greg.

The situation wouldnt be so complicated and precarious, though, if we didnt need storks to reproduce. For instance, my favorite method of reproduction is that of the plasmodial slime molds of the phylum Myxogastrida, which reproduce by getting blown into one another by random wind gusts, and that isnt even the coolest part.

See, evolution quickly discovered with these slime molds that to rely on random wind gusts to perpetuate the species and just hope that a male slime mold happens to get blown onto a female slime mold and that the female slime mold just happens to be in the mood at that very moment and also just happens to think that the guy that just got blown onto her just happens to be cute and a smooth talker was just too unlikely for the slime mold race to continue past a couple of generations. To fix this, evolution decided to give the slime molds fourteen different genders. That way, thered be a much higher chance that two different genders of slime mold would smack into each other and be too preoccupied by their curiosity about this new gender theyd never seen before to play hard to get. In this way, the slime mold population has been secured for nearly all eternity.

Back to the world of boring two-gendered mammals and bird flu, as things go, I currently have three nieces, all of a single gender. In order of intelligence and ability to read this article, they are Eden, Orli, and Amit. Eden is nine years old, and judging by her cutting intellect and perceptiveness, she will probably be a writer like me. Proof of this eventuality is that she recently typed up a three-page synopsis of her entire extended family on both sides and sent a copy to all of us via email. What she wrote about me is striking in its simplicity and truth, and I quote, Rafi is really weird and makes lots of crazy noises. Those non-uncles among you can never truly understand the joy I experienced the moment I read that line. Neither can I, since I was busy making crazy noises at the time.

Orli is next in line, weighing in at a hefty two years and four days old. Orli knows sign language, and thats totally true. Nurse, more sleep and I believe Neitzches superman theory to be indicative of the malfunctioning state of his syphilitic brain, are just a few of the things shes able to sign out with her pudgy fingers. I bet if you superglued a whole bunch of brown fur on her and stuck her in one of those groups of chimpanzees those linguists are trying to train to use sign language, youd probably have to shave every one of them before you figured out which one was Orli.

As for Amit, I still have yet to meet her, but Im sure shes very good at gas explosions.