Alain de Botton: A kinder, gentler philosophy of success

I found this absolutely fantastic TED talk via Thejeswini:



There are far too many brilliant quotes to choose one as a teaser. Truly one of those instant epics that we'll refer to frequently for a very long time to come. As always, I'm too lazy for structure, so here's ever-reliable SoC.
  • de Botton's definition of a snob is perfect. Superiority complexes, looking down on people, elitism, etc. are all important features, but quick judging is a very important part of snobbery. I am reminded of this little anecdote I read a long time ago:
    It is reported that former British Prime Minister David Lloyd George was once introduced by a chairman who jokingly said, "I had expected to find Mr. Lloyd George a big man in every sense, but you see for yourselves he is quite small in stature."

    Not amused, Lloyd George rebutted, "In North Wales we measure a man from his chin up. You evidently measure from his chin down."

  • His insight into the fixation on society-set emotional rewards was bang on target - as was the one on fearing ridicule and low-opinion more than the direct consequences of failure themselves.

  • Equality causing Envy - brilliant! Absolutely true! Equality is the necessary cause, randomness is the sufficient one. "Anyone can do anything" is pernicious!

    I also think it applies to positive emotions - I think people can only fall in love with people who they somehow imagine to be 'equal' to themselves. Extending it a bit further, I think any kind of engagement happens only on the premise of equality. The fact that you cannot engage with everything is a glorious gift - "The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents." - H.P.Lovecraft

  • Meritocracy-illusion bashing - absolutely agree. I have never understood why Meritocracy is held as such an achievable (oˆ Shreevatsa), infallible ideal, when there is no way to reliably measure merit. I won't comment on the ideal itself, but surely there should be no misunderstanding that such a thing is even remotely possible!

    Of course, in the very limited context of education in India, 'Meritocracy' has a very specific and mostly sensible meaning. But while the other options available are worse, that doesn't make this good - just marginally better. It is carrying the problem of giving opportunities to deserving people one level further - to the level of measuring peoples' deservedness, and I am utterly unconvinced that any exam has that kind of resolution. I'm not in the least comfortable with that, and find it dishonest that we wring our hands saying "We can't do any better, can you?" and think we've solved it.(In this context, I am reminded of Churchill's quote - "Democracy is the worst kind of government, except for all the others that have been tried.").

  • "Nothing at its center that is non-human"  - My thoughts exactly! "Escape from the human anthill" is a brilliant way of putting it.

  • "Your ideas of success are sucked in from others" - Absolutely! Related must-see documentaries: 'Century of Self' and 'The Merchants of Cool'.

    I remember seeing a trailer for Mad Men in the Wabash 9 theatre in July 2007, and one quote from it was branded onto my memory. The protagonist is a successful advertising executive in the heady 1960s, when the true power of PR was being discovered. His secretary tells something naive about love, and looks straight into her eyes and says in an inimitable tone: "The reason you haven't felt it is because it doesn't exist. What you call love was invented by guys like me to sell nylons." I didn't (want to) believe it then, and neither do even today, but there's something to the idea. (The line is in the first episode, which you can find on Sidereel).

  • "It's bad enough, not getting what you want. But it's even worse to have an idea of what it is you want, and find out at the end of a journey,that it isn't, in fact, what you wanted all along." - That could be the headline of my blogdungsroman :-)

There were some ideas I wasn't too happy with - the one about showing sympathy for a guy with a Ferrari for being 'insecure' sounded extremely naive and somewhat self-deceptive (or maybe condescending?). The needless focus on the idea that every successful man has some aspect of his life where he wasn't successful also made it seem like he stubbornly didn't want to believe there could be a successful life without a stain. The talk could have done without that bit of whining. Overall though, it's hands-down fantastic :-)

As a person, too, he is quite interesting. For one, I absolutely love his acquired British accent. Acquired accents tend to be more 'perfect' than natural ones, because there is an active effort in identifying what defines the accent. There's a kind of maturity, power, smoothness and elegance associated with his British accent that I can't quite explain. The few minutes starting from 10:00 are just brilliant in this aspect!

His family is Swiss, and is insanely rich. His father was one of the founders of UBS' Global Asset Management group, and left the family £200 million in a trust fund. The wiki claims that in spite of that, de Botton has made a living solely out of his book sales. Do take a look at his wiki page - his books, especially everything he has written after, and including, The Art of Travel seem very interesting.

In one of his interviews, he says this:

Why did you pick Cambridge?

I was attracted to the prestige of either Oxford or Cambridge and picked Cambridge because I liked the flat, rather Dutch quality of the surrounding countryside. I also hoped that I would meet beautiful and intelligent girls with whom to have long conversations about love and truth. It didn't quite turn out that way, in fact rarely have I felt more starved of female company than at Cambridge.

LOL :D Anybody's who has thought that of any university and met with that fate is hereby instantly promoted to the highly coveted rank of "Co-suffering Comrade" :P

(Harsh's epic jab to this: "I see you've been flying Virgin America too" :D )

"Anything else you worship will eat you alive"

Just one of those days when I remember something in the shower, and feel compelled to write about it.

Exhibit A:

The Mukunda Mala is a fantastic poem in praise of Lord Krishna. The author, Kulashekhara Azhwar, is one of the 12 canonical Azhwars. The poem is notable not just for the evident devotional meaning, but also for little 'easter eggs' of grammar, meter and figure of speech in every nook and corner. Here's one of my favourite verses from there:

नाथे न: पुरुषोत्तमे त्रिजगताम् एकाधिपे चेतसा
सेव्ये स्वस्य-पदस्य दातरि परे नारायणे तिष्ठति |
यम् कन्चिद् पुरुषाधमम् कतिपय-ग्रामेशम् अल्पार्थदम्
सेवायै मृगयामहे नरम् अहो! मूढा वराका वयम्! ||

naathe na: puruShottame trijagataam ekaadhipe chetasaa
sevye svasya-padasya-daatari pare naaraayaNe tiShThati |
yam kanchid puruShaadhamam katipaya-graamesham alpaarthadam
sevaayai mRRigayaamahe naram aho! muuDhaa varaakaa vayam! ||

(This is from Shreevatsa's excellent Sanskrit transliterator page. The really nice part is how all the standard schemes are right in one place, and updated in realtime. Very easy to fix errors and type quickly)

The broad meaning, deliberately translated to be very general, literal and simplistic, is:

"Our refuge, the best of those filled with life, the overseer of everything, he who is very easily accessible by the heart, the granter of great bliss, is sitting right in sight. And yet, we struggle hard to seek and serve some silly king, who at most can throw us some money - surely, we are fools!"

The tone is hard to translate, but I think it is a self-critical ruing, though not in pathetic sense. It almost becomes exhortative in the choice of words near the end ('to seek to serve' - sevaayai mrigayaamahe). The censoring is about choosing the 'right' thing to struggle for.

Exhibit B:

David Foster Wallace's absolutely fantastic commencement speech at Kenyon College, about leading a compassionate life:

Because here’s something else that’s true. In the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And an outstanding reason for choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship – be it JC or Allah, be it Yahweh or the Wiccan mother-goddess or the Four Noble Truths or some infrangible set of ethical principles – is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things – if they are where you tap real meaning in life – then you will never have enough. Never feel you have enough. It’s the truth. Worship your own body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly, and when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally plant you. On one level, we all know this stuff already – it’s been codified as myths, proverbs, clichés, bromides, epigrams, parables: the skeleton of every great story. The trick is keeping the truth up front in daily consciousness. Worship power – you will feel weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to keep the fear at bay. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart – you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out.

(The speech is really amazing, and worth every minute of your time.)

Exhibit C:

Russell's brilliant essay, 'On Youthful Cynicism', for other commonly glorified things that will also eat you alive. The parts about Progress, Beauty and Truth are particularly amazing. The introduction of the idea of 'comfort without power' being a cause for unhappiness made me look around in my head to make sure ol' Bertie wasn't peering into my head with a time-traveling legilimens spell.

Exhibit D:

[oˆ Mukund] In Africa they won’t feel lonesome tonight - Very nice article, contrasting the individualism of the West with the more communal environment of Africa. It is written with a positive bias towards Africa, but the points it raises are still valid.

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A joke about God goes thus - 'Devaru iddana?' 'DevaraaNegu illa' ( 'Does God exist?' - 'I swear to God, No.').

:-)
I was reading the corporate history of the parody newspaper, The Onion, when I stumbled upon this chronology:
  • 1922: Onion Radio founded.
  • 2009: The Onion and all corporate holdings sold to a Chinese conglomerate, Yu Wan Mei Amalgamated Salvage Fisheries and Polymer Injection Corporation.
  • 2009: The Chinese conglomerate, Yu Wan Mei Amalgamated Salvage Fisheries and Polymer Injection Corporation, having felt misled in its acquisition of The Onion, has placed The Onion up for sale less than one week after purchasing the paper.
Yu Wan Mei Amalgamated Salvage Fisheries and Polymer Injection Corporation, ROFLMAO!! I don't remember laughing so much at a wiki article since the Uncyclopedia article on the Top 100 Worst Movies of all time!

It turns out they've made it extremely elaborate. The website for the corporation is absolutely hilarious, and has fantastic attention to detail. Everything, right from the y-axis having the dependent variable to the random stock pictures and the absolutely fantastic Chinese-English quotes ("This is why SATISFACTION is synonymous with YU WAN MEI.", "ROBUSTNESS IS UNAVOIDABLE with the consumption of YU WAN MEI products."), random quotes from the CEO ("Fish Time Is Success Time") and random others (“To Extract The Entrails, One Must First Extract His Ego”, “Capital Proliferation Cannot Be Stopped”, "Eternal Solutions for Yesterday and Tomorrow", "Internationalized Style of Management"). They even have a super fantastic promo video!




There is even a product line up, and the best of it's products is the Yu Wan Mei Device:




The description reads "The device has been completed and is now available for sale. Code 41-Virtue-00B"


Coming back to the Onion, there is even the CEO's statement on the disastrous acquisition, "Why Did No One Inform Us Of The Imminent Death Of The American Newspaper Industry?". I LOVE the laboured English drenched in metaphor. It reminds me of this fantastic short story by Anil Menon, "Love in a Hot Climate" (small PDF), which has English 'more Indian' than Indian English. In one of those now-ungooglable articles, I read about how caricatures strike a chord because they are more real than the object they represent. The caricature of a politician with a big nose has such a big nose that it tickles our subconscious identity of him. People skilled at making caricatures have a knack for identifying what it is about a person's face that makes us identify him.


:-)

Story

You want a story? Here's a story. A formula for the roots of a quadratic equation is simple enough to be taught to sixth-graders. But how about one for a cubic equation? Just one more degree and you have a story full of intrigue, challenge, vagaries of fate, lots of money, misunderstandings, medieval curiosities and finally sweet revenge by a disciple.

(All quotes below are sourced originally from wiki article on Cubic polynomials; I just followed the links to the later parts.)

In the early 16th century, the Italian mathematician Scipione del Ferro found a method for solving a class of cubic equations, namely those of the form x3 + mx = n. In fact, all cubic equations can be reduced to this form if we allow m and n to be negative, but negative numbers were not known to him at that time. Del Ferro kept his achievement secret until just before his death in 1526, when he told his student Antonio Fiore about it.

Whoa! Negative numbers not known, formulae kept secret for life, a final change of mind on the deathbed, a lucky student,...

In 1530, another mathematician Niccolò Tartaglia announced that he could solve cubic equations. He was soon challenged by Fiore, which led to a famous contest between the two. Each contestant had to put up a certain amount of money and to propose a number of problems for his rival to solve. Whoever solved more problems within 30 days would get all the money. Tartaglia received questions in the form x3 + mx = n, for which he had worked out a general method. Fiore received questions in the form x3 + mx2 = n, which proved to be too difficult for him to solve, and Tartaglia won the contest.

Aww.. poor overconfident young Fiore, who lost so badly that his name is now almost ungooglable, and the fiendishly lucky Tartaglia. Grr, do we want revenge, or what!

Later, Tartaglia was persuaded by another mathematican, Gerolamo Cardano to reveal his secret for solving cubic equations. In 1539, Tartaglia did so only on the condition that Cardano would never reveal it and that if he did reveal a book about cubics, that he would give Tartaglia time to publish. Some years later, Cardano learned about Ferro's prior work and published Ferro's method in his book Ars Magna in 1545, meaning Cardano gave Tartaglia 6 years to publish his results (with credit given to Tartaglia for an independent solution).

Cardano's promise with Tartaglia stated that he not publish Tartaglia's work, and Cardano felt he was publishing del Ferro's, so as to get around the promise. Nevertheless, this led to a challenge to Cardano by Tartaglia, which Cardano denied. The challenge was eventually accepted by Cardano's student Lodovico Ferrari. Ferrari did better than Tartaglia in the competition, and Tartaglia lost both his prestige and income.

Take that, vile Tartaglia, you beater of poor students in public contests and usurper of their meagre RA stipends, you! Revenge is a dish best served cold, particularly by a disciple! (And apropos of Revenge: "Today, I was thinking about the expression 'revenge is a dish best served cold'. Then I considered that 'revenge is sweet'. I've come to the conclusion that revenge is ice cream. MLIA")

The story ends there. But as all good stories, there are layers upon layers of history and depth to everything, and they lead to more stories of their own. For example, why was the origin of the story, Del Ferro, so secretive?

Instead of publishing his ideas, he would only show them to a small, select group of friends and students. It is suspected that this is due to the practice of mathematicians at the time of publicly challenging one another. When a mathematician accepted another's challenge, each mathematician needed to solve the other's problems. The loser in a challenge often lost funding or his university position. Del Ferro was fearful of being challenged and likely kept his greatest work secret so that he could use it to defend himself in the event of a challenge.

Ha! And to think today's profs whine about losing tenure and not getting an NSF Career award :P

But as every good story-within-a-story, there's a lovely big red button begging to be pushed to take you deeper:

Despite this secrecy, he had a notebook where he recorded all his important discoveries..

Ahhhhhh, now that's a few more hours of wikiing :-)

OK, enough about this old guy. Let's look at another guy with character. What about this Cardano chap? He had to do quite a bit of self-justification and 'miserable pettifogging in the court of his own conscience' when he went ahead and published Tartaglia's work in spite of his promise. What of him?

He was born in Pavia, Lombardy, the illegitimate child of Fazio Cardano, a mathematically gifted lawyer. In his autobiography, Cardano claimed that his mother had attempted to abort him.

Assuming Cardano's psychological problems weren't the cause of this, imagine how it is to live knowing that.

He went on to do a whole lot of work, like being the first to describe Typhoid fever, publishing many results in algebra and probability, building several mechanical devices like the combination lock and universal joint, being instrumental (heh) in the development of high-speed printing presses through his work on hypocycloids (Mukund note), etc. Top notch all-rounder, fits the image of a Enlightened European Engineer+Scientist perfectly.

Significantly, in the history of Deaf education, he said that deaf people were capable of using their minds, argued for the importance of teaching them, and was one of the first to state that deaf people could learn to read and write without learning how to speak first.

And yet, in the same Enlightened Europe, a thought like that was so unconventional that it had to be noted down. But tragedy looms:

Cardano's eldest and favorite son was executed in 1560 after he confessed to having poisoned his cuckolding wife. His other son was a gambler, who stole money from him. He allegedly cropped the ears of one of his sons. Cardano himself was accused of heresy in 1570 because he had computed and published the horoscope of Jesus in 1554. Apparently, his own son contributed to the prosecution, bribed by Tartaglia. He was arrested, had to spend several months in prison and was forced to abjure his professorship.

:-( Grr, that vile bastard Tartaglia. Richly deserved his fate of penury, didn't he? What of him, anyway?

Niccolò Fontana was the son of Michele Fontana, a rider and deliverer. In 1505, Michele was murdered and Niccolò, his two siblings, and his mother were impoverished. Niccolò experienced further tragedy in 1512 when the French invaded Brescia during the War of the League of Cambrai. The militia of Brescia defended their city for seven days. When the French finally broke through, they took their revenge by massacring the inhabitants of Brescia. By the end of battle, over 45,000 residents were killed. During the massacre, a French soldier sliced Niccolò's jaw and palate. This made it impossible for Niccolò to speak normally, prompting the nickname "Tartaglia" (stammerer).

Ouch, he doesn't seem much like a villain anymore :( Reminds me of an article a long time ago about how in most of Indian mythology, there is no villain or bad guy or Evil. Good people just assumed the role of the villain temporarily, just to let God have a little bit of leela. In the end, it's one big happy family.

Thinking a bit, what I find most amazing about this whole story and array of characters is that like life itself, it's all spectacularly pointless. What was all the fight for? A closed form solution for cubics? Why? Today, if you give me a cubic equation, the first thing I'll think of doing is to graph it with Wolfram Alpha. Um no, actually the first thing I'll do is to try to convince you that we're both better off by not solving that equation and chilling out instead,



but I'm assuming you didn't fall for that. Graph it, read off the roots and be happy in life. One might object that I am able to do so because of the efforts of all these people, but that is beside the point, that the exact thing these people were fighting for is no longer useful; further, one can always counter that every single fart of every single ant since the beginning of creation has been necessary for me to able to be sitting here and being able to graph cubics. Causality is a very tricky devil.

And that gives me an opportunity to quote one of my most favorite lines:

Life is like arriving late for a movie, having to figure out what was going on without bothering everybody with a lot of questions, and then being unexpectedly called away before you find out how it ends.

:-)

Osmosis Jones

I was speaking to Vimal about the subjects of my past two posts (Path of Love, More worms), and was reminded of one of the most wonderful animation movies I have seen, Osmosis Jones. I'm surprised how few times it comes up in conversation -  I never even remember talking about it in the past 3-4 years!

Ever since I was a kid, I remember constructing elaborate fantasies about how my own body works. I always imagined me to be some kind of a planet, and there are lots of 'little people' going around doing their job. Brain cells, "immune cells", liver cells - all of them were characters in this big world called me. Sometimes they used to break out of character and talked about their lives! I still do that, but it's mostly when I'm sick and I imagine epic battles taking place.

Osmosis Jones is ALL that, and much much more! It's the story of a white blood cell, Osmosis Jones, a 'cop' in the City of Frank Police Department (FPD) in the City of Frank. Frank is a zoo keeper who couldn't care less about his health. Life's as usual in Frank, till a mysterious and very dangerous intruder gets in - and it's up to Frank and his new friend Drixenol the cold pill to stop him! Jones' great-great-grandfather was a celebrated hero who fought the measles in his day, and there's been a Jones on the force ever since his ancestors came over on the umbilical cord. He's  determined to save Frank in spite of opposition from the Mayor of Frank, who is Frank's complacency personified. Fantastic stuff!

Everything about the movie is fantastic - the plot, the voices, the music, the jokes, everything! And it has its  tearjerker moments, too! Fantastic stuff, every minute of the 1.5 hours is gold. There are tons of copies floating around, here's one.

Thinking a little further, the amazing part about the movie is really the attention to detail. I think this movie beats even Futurama in that department. Everything is amazingly well thought-out and consistent. The brilliant bits are very subtle, and you'll most likely miss them in the first viewing. But even if you don't observe any of them, the movie will still be a nice, fun experience. When you do observe something in the middle of the movie, you go "Fuck, that's brilliant!" and you go back, and you see that it's been there all along. For example, in the Mayor's office is a statue of a sperm cell, and the plaque below it reads "Our Founder" :-)


In another instance, Jones and Drix encounter a virus and Drix is about to shoot it, but Jones stops him, saying "Hold it, this one's on our side. He came in on a vaccine and ratted on the Flu, and is now on our Virus Protection Program".

In a seedy bar near the Liver-more area, a sign reads "No cilia, no cytoplasm - no service!", obviously displaying the area's stark racism against non-Frank cells.

There's a rock band playing in a bar, and it's called 'Kidney Rock' (and part of the full song). Also, earlier in the film one immune cell tells to another sitting in a cop car, "Y'know, this weekend I'm taking my girl down under to the kidneys to see the stones!". The other cop says, "Good, they might be gone soon!"

In one of the scenes, the Mayor is asked by a journalist, "What is your opinion on the latest fat housing crisis?". He replies in a typical politician's drone, "We're beginning construction of a third chin". The Mayor then announces a trip to a chicken wings festival, and there is great cheer through out. The loudest cheer comes from the locality of "Love Handle", which has a sign next to it, "Frank's fastest growing community!" like a housing advertising sign!

The awesomeness only increases as the movie progresses. After a turn of events where the Mayor calls Drix a 'TEMPORARY relief cold pill', Drix gets disillusioned and books his tickets to the Bladder. He's almost got there, and is boarding the ship scheduled for 9:47 Pee 'Em  when Osmosis comes to the dock and tells him the villain's still out there, there's more work for them to do and tries to cheers him up. Drix is still depressed, and says "I can't do anything, I'm just a cold pill. I'm useless.". To which Osmosis replies, "Come on Frank, you can do it! I've known sugar pills that cured cancer, just because they believed!" BRILLIANT! Just BRILLIANT!


After a very heroic and close rescue, Osmosis' girlfriend (of course he has one) sighs with relief, "Thank Frank!"

Fantastic movie. Go see!

IMDB collection of quotes from the movie.
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The real world is no less amazing:


White blood cell engulfing a bacterium. Just look at the chase! Go Osmosis!

Look at how at 0:03 our Hero thrusts abruptly - "And take THAT.. dang the little bastard is fast". Near 0:07, there's a second bacterium - "Hey, what's this, ANOTHER one? Damn. Should I...? Uh let me just extend a bit over, I can get him... naah, I gotta nail the first one". And at near 0:15, "Aha! Got you now, you sonofa.. DANG can't any o' these RBCs stay STILL? Now you really got me mad!!". This should be set to music, and there should be a commentary!

--

It never really rubs in, but when I do stop and think for a minute, I'm always amazed at the human body.  I'm this walking-talking-thinking universe of 10000 billion cells, all of them alive! Reminds me of this Groucho Marx quote: "Life, n.: A whim of several billion cells to be you for a while."

It's a sobering thought, knowing that so much is happening within each one of us. A billion movies could be made about how T-cell #14,567,933 just pwned that bacterium in your gut, only to discover that his co-pwner just got digested, and how an injudicious choice of pizza topping by the big guy above caused a genocide of 60 million stomach lining cells wiping out friends and family, but ONE guy survived it all, and... :-)

The single best pep-quote I have read ever is this (paraphrased, don't know source): If ever you're feeling down, if ever you think you're not good enough, just remember the first goddamn thing you did in life was to win a race against 300 million motherfuckers!

:-)

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Update: I'm reminded of a very nice article Karthik wrote at >> : "Why are you producing so few red blood cells today?"


More worms

Some stuff I thought were related to my previous post: The second most amazing disease I've encountered so far is the Plague. The mechanism of transmission, and the circumstances that lead to finding it are also amazing. From the wiki page:

It is mainly a disease in the fleas that infested the rats, making the rats themselves the first victims of the plague. Infection in a human occurs when a person is bitten by a flea that has been infected by biting a rodent that itself has been infected by the bite of a flea carrying the disease. The bacteria multiply inside the flea, sticking together to form a plug that blocks its stomach and causes it to starve. The flea then bites a host and continues to feed, even though it cannot quell its hunger, and consequently the flea vomits blood tainted with the bacteria back into the bite wound. The bubonic plague bacterium then infects a new victim, and the flea eventually dies from starvation.

As an aside, one of the classic 'punishment births' in Indian mythology is a preta, a state defined by voracious, unsatisfiable hunger.

Easily the most mind-numbing disease I've read about is Syphilis. [You can wiki it, but the page contains graphic images of diseased penises. I suggest you disable images and then load it if you are not sure]. Here's a paraphrased, simplified and dramatized version of the diseases's effects: The victim gets the bacteria via sexual contact. In a few days, a few small, painless boils appear near the point of contact and elsewhere. In most cases, they are hard to even find. They go away without any incident in a few weeks.  Nothing happens for the next few months. Then, lesions appear throughout the body and go away without incident again in a few weeks. In most of cases, people don't even bother to visit doctors because the symptoms are not debilitating in any way. Even if they do go to a doctor, it is very hard to diagnose because the symptoms are extremely commonplace and similar to tens of other simpler diseases. It's for this reason that Syphilis is called 'the great imitator'.

Next, the disease waits for as much as 30 years before manifesting itself seriously! This stage is precipitous, and many large organ systems fail at the same time, including drastic changes in the victim's personality itself. Imagine that! 30 years!

Another reason why Syphilis is amazing is the history of cures people have attempted for it. One of them was mercury fumigation, and here is another one of those all-time-epic articles about mercury: The magical properties of Mercury.

The Path of Love is never smooth

Easily the single most amazing thing I have read about animals in my entire life: Reddit page on the Emerald cockroach wasp.

Make SURE to read the comments too - they are the reason why reddit is amazing.

And you thought your sex life was bad :-)

Update (23 Dec): Here's a somewhat 'corresponding' version about plants: "Sorry, Vegans: Brussels Sprouts Like to Live, Too"
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The title is from the classic song, Finite Simple Group of Order 2

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