Saturday, February 18, 2006

Pour, sip, read. Pour, sip, read. Damn.

Just a cautionary note for readers:

I ordered two Bill Bryson books on a Barnes & Noble gift card. Both of them arrived in the mail yesterday. I picked them up from the same apartment office that holds my bookshelves today.

"I'm a Stranger Here Myself" is a very, very funny rendition of what it's like to move back to the US after two decades in Britain. I was giggling at the beginning and laughing so loudly at the end I was afraid I'd bug the neighbors.

Especially endearing was his description of having all his belongings spray across an airport floor: "My hair, concerned and unable to help, went into panic mode." Possessed of Panic Mode hair myself (note: gorgeous ringlets only happen past eight inches in length; before that, hair stands on end), I snorked and snorked and snorked some more.

But: Oh, dear. "In A Sunburned Country" made me want to go to Australia. So much so that the only thing keeping me from running up the credit cards was the bottle of Dalwhinnie, and that to such an extent that I just eyed it balefully and said out loud, "Dear sweet Jesus. Is that how much Scotch I've had? Oy." Pour, sip, read is likely to be my M.O. for the next day or so.

Mom testifies, hand on heart, that the only thing keeping her from Oz is the idea of flying there coach-class. DVTs, apparently, are enough to keep at least one Parental Unit in the Pacific Northwet. One of my colleagues, on a long-term assignment to the cardiac care unit, is planning to go there for three months--at least--in a few weeks. I doubt she'll ever come back, working as she will be in a place where men outnumber women three to one. And she's a natural blonde, too.

I must go to Australia. Beer is the national pastime and the national drink; it's been compared favorably with the state in which I live. Geographic state, I mean, not the state of pour-sip-read. Australia has a whole lot of venomous critters, which means I'd fit right in.

It would only cost me US$2830 for a non-stop. Maybe I could get the credit limit raised.

Edited to clarify: Mom writes that it's not the threat of DVT that's stopping her from flying to Australia again, rather, "it's the idea of having to see a movie like 'Titanic' both over and back.'" Having been subjected to "Dick Tracy" on the way to Denmark and "Titanic" en route to somewhere I can't recall, I sympathise.

Does Qantas have films of cute lil' ol' platypi?

And, (query for those better-versed in monotrematics than I), what exactly is poisonous about a platypus's spurs? What sort of poison is it?


Anonymous said...

Holy kamole! Out of curiosity, I Googled "Platypus poison," and learned the following things:

The structure of platypus poison is briefly discussed at, where you can also see a fine 19th-century print of these animals.

Platypus poison acts directly on pain receptor cells. (As opposed to causing tissue damage that the pain cells pick up on, I assume. That's very fifties-science-fiction -- I remember reading in some collection about an "aesthetic," something that makes pain hurt worse.)

Platypus and some spider venoms contain mirror-image proteins -- the regular pain-receptor protein that does the work, and a smaller amount of the "flipped" version that, one researcher thinks, acts as a stabilizer and preservative. I am trying to think how this connects to CJD and my eyebrows are starting to hurt.

Part of the problem with the poison is that it just gets driven in so darn hard. Platypi are extremely strong and can cause a lot of tissue damage when they spike you.

The spur is just above the platypus's heel on each hind leg. I am trying to think of a pun about Achilles's heels and failing.

Platypus poison also causes a drop in blood pressure.

If you ever need to handle a platypus:

"Platypus should never be handled, except in an emergency - for example, to extract a fishing hook that has become embedded in a platypus's bill. In such a situation, the platypus can be restrained by holding its body flat against the ground while the hook is carefully removed - ideally by a second person." My solution would be to toss the platypus a copy of Body Piercing magazine and run the other way, but perhaps I'm not appreciating the ecological repercussions of this problem.

"If it is necessary to pick up a sick or injured animal (for example, to place it in a secure bag or box before taking it to a veterinarian) the safest technique is to grip the platypus by the middle or end of its tail (but not the tail base, which an animal can reach with its spurs). To reduce struggling, cover the animal's eyes with a folded towel or item of soft clothing while it is being handled." I can't imagine swinging a platypus by the end of its tail while someone else tries to keep a folded handkerchief on its forehead, can you?

The spur thingy that they use to stick you is *articulated.* In other words, the platypus can swing it out from its leg, ready for action, like a Terminator II extra.

If you get spiked, the swelling at the site can be "spectacular" and last for months (!)

Also, if you put ice on the wound, it will probably hurt more. ... What kind of vengeful God invented these guys? I'm waiting to find some article somewhere that says if you take aspirin for the pain your skull will explode. Crimeny.

Lioness said...

Could it be that we have to pee on it, as with jellyfish? MAybe it denatures proteins, who knows. I looked this up a few weeks ago, funnily enough, and here's what a summary of what I found:

"platypus venom is a cocktail of various toxins, the major portion of which is made up of proteins which resemble no other to date. These have been named the defensin-like proteins, or DLPs, because their three dimensional structure resembles that of an antimicrobial peptide known as beta-defensin."


I also want to go to Australia. NOW.