Friday, April 28, 2006

Oh no, here comes the weekend....

Sorry for the lack of activity these past days. I have been encumbered with preparations for two major events happening this weekend. The first is the visit of my mother in law, Mrs McHaggarty. You may recall from an earlier post that she is a woman with whom I have a slightly difficult relationship. Several precautions need to be taken whenever she visits, including a complete inventory of all valuables in the institute before she arrives. The second major event is our annual survey of the local hedgehog population. This is an on-going project where we are monitoring the parasitic fauna of these nocturnal insectivores to detet any changes due to global warming. The results have not yet been published, so I am unfortunately not able to tell you anything more at this juncture.

A hedgehog, shortly before dissection

Other news....

Ravel (my trusty Romanian research assistant) has not reported in since the official ending of his official leave. He set off some time ago to traverse the route of Hadrian's wall after hearing from someone in the village that to do so would bring twenty years of good luck. I am becoming slightly perturbed, as he normally as reliable as Mrs Dr McC's weekly replacement of the Institutes toilet roll (partly used or not). He did send one postcard that arrived yesterday, where his unfamilarity with this system of holiday messages clearly showed.....

Hadrian's wall, defaced!

I will wait for another day or so before alerting the authorities - after all he is a fully grown adult and should be able to look after himself without too much trouble. If he is not back by Monday then I'll call the missing persons helpline, or something.

Must dash, I hear the sound of clogs (Mrs McHaggarty's preferred footwear).

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Medical humour?

I received notice today of a couple of medical chaps who have taken to fundraising via turning out what some might consider to be obscene material. Judge for yourselves by having a look here....

The Friday Project

The london underground song has a video of sorts. McCrumble Information Enterprises bring this information forward only to inform the public of what is going on, and therefore the sharing of this website and its material should not be considered as anything supplementary within the area of stimulation known widely as vulgar titillation.



Saturday, April 22, 2006

A Rough guide to England (2006 edition)

England is a nation of......

"overweight, alcopop-swilling, sex-and-celebrity obsessed television addicts",



Monday, April 17, 2006

Ladybirds and other bugs

You may remember Denise, my faithful and efficient receptionist. On the other hand you may not. She is famously shy and does not crave publicity in any form. The only known picture of her is one I submitted to this blog some time ago, and can be seen here. Since then she has carried out her duties with care and attention, shunning contact with the outside world as much as possible. Why that is the case I cannot imagine, for she has much to offer. For example, look at this beautiful picture of ladybirds hunting aphids on the buds of a Hungarian Oak tree. She took this picture this morning whilst out collecting hedghog scat (Ravel, my number one research assistant, is on annual leave and has decided to walk Hadrians wall for fun).

I had no idea of her photographic prowess, and am now thinking of promoting her to Official Photographer here at the institute.

In other news, we had an exciting moment this morning when someone from the nearest village turned up at the institute claiming to have seen my blog entry on how I became a celebrity (Part V), and to offer an explanation as to how someone in PNG could have contracted a botfly infection. He claimed that he was a judo fighter himself, and had once fought the former judo champion in South America, where botflies are endemic. Aha! I thought. That confirms my own suspicions, and those of Gorilla Bananas, that this was a case of an imported infection.

Which brings me neatly around to todays topic. Did you know that every so often there is an outbreak of malaria around Geneva airport? There has been a steady increase in the number of imported malaria cases in Europe over the years. An article published by the Wellcome Trust gives a brief history of European malaria (notice the photo - it appears on this recent post by Footeater...hmmmm). Re-emerging infectious diseases are a real concern for the future with the apparent inevitability of global warming, so make sure you take some prophylaxis whenever you go travelling.

(This travel advice was brought to you by McCrumble Travel - Experts in Prevention of Nasty Diseases whilst Abroad (Tm))

Friday, April 14, 2006

Me and Mrs McC

Having recently returned from Kenya, I thought I might share with you something of what happened. As with many of my trips to Africa, it was not without incident. I shall keep this post brief, as I have been chasticed in the past for blogging on far beyond the attention span of most readers. So if you find this post too long, please do not hesitate to make your feelings known.

McCrumble in the Jungle - Part I (of XXXVII)

We landed in Mombasa and were taken to my favourite hotel where I was to take part in a regional meeting of parasitologists. The next three days were spent by myself in an air conditioned office. Mrs Dr McC meanwhile cultivated a rather deep tan by sitting on the balcony of our room. Here she is a relaxed frame mind displaying her fine legs to the African sunshine.

My legs received no sunshine what-so-ever as the sunshine was kept out of the room (a converted disco) in which we were convening.

So far so dull then. But after the meeting was over, it was time for some R&R, McCrumble style. First we were taken on a one-night package to the local game park called Shimba Hills. The park was empty, save for a couple of herds of sable antelope. In case you've never seen one of these deer, here's a picture of a male. Yes, they are black. And aren't they magnificent?

The evening was spent in a lodge overlooking a waterhole that was devoid of visitors. The steak I ordered was undercooked, and the bar was empty. We shall not be returning.

The next day we were driven to Mombasa and taken to a car rental office in the middle of town. We had previously arranged car hire and recieved a new, shiny, bright white Suzuki Gyspy King!

We drove (slowly - this thing didn't have muchof an engine) up to Tsavo West park where we were booked in for 2 nights at one of the lodges. This place has a climbing frame for leopards:

So anyways, the next day we drove around the park quite happily and come lunchtime opened up the lunch boxes given to us by the lodge:

Now in the lunch box you will notice a sandwhich. This sandwich contained cheese that had been getting steadily warmer during the day, as we had left the lunchboxes in the boot of the car. It tasted good, but such was the smell that it began to attract the attention of a group of nearby cape buffalo:
Now, what you may or may not know is that buffalo are amongst the most dangerous animals in Africa. They can't see past their noses, but their sense of smell is so well developed that they could probably smell Gorilla Bananas' hairy armpits from 2km away. They could certainly smell our cheese, and within no time at all were literally breathing into the car!

Mrs Dr McC, not one to panic, calmy instructed me to 'Get the fuck out of here, Joseph'. I immediately tried to comply, but my lunchbox was rather large and somewhat difficult to clear out of the way. I had also removed the keys from the car to open the boot. So there I was trying to get my act together when suddenly there was an almighty thud on the passenger side. Other crunching thud like noises followed, immediately in front of me, on the driver's side door and to the rear of the vehicle. It was fast becoming most unpleasant, and I still hadn't got the keys into the ignition.

'It's the cheese they want!' shouted my astute wife, and that moment it occcurred to me that she might be right. If so, we had made a remarkable scientific discovery, since to my knowledge the published database of buffalo behaviour did not include a mention of a predilection for cows-cheese. But there was no time to ruminate on this potentially important observation. The buffalo were thumping their great bony foreheads into the car with seemingly muderous intent.
'GO NOW FOR FUCK'S SAKE!!!' screamed my normally cool spouse. I fumbled a bit more. The key was stuck down my pants. A buffalo stuck its head through the window, and I could feel its hot foul breath in my ears. It almost made me choke, but I somehow managed to suppress the reflux and drag the keys out of my pocket. It took a few more seconds to start the engine, but then it stalled and in one heart-stopping moment I realised they had probably damaged the engine. It was beginning to look like we had just taken (though sadly not finished) our last lunch together, and that we were to face Death at the hands of a mob of buffalo, something that is famously unpleasant. On top of that, I had a paper back at the lodge on the parasites of porcupines that I needed to finish and submit. Our harmless holiday in the Kenyan countryside was turning into a safari nightmare...

The car turned once, turned twice, turned three times. Sweat was running into my eyes. Buffalo were buffeting the car on all sides. I pumped on the gas, turned the key in vain and looked at my wife. She was trying (somewhat ineffectually I thought) to beat off a buffalo with her Marie Clare handbag. 'I love you Mrs Dr McC' I shouted, fearing that the end was near.

Suddenly, and just as I felt the sides of the car beginning to close in on us, there was an almighty 'CRACK!' sound from somewhere outside the car. We looked quizzically at each other, and then at the buffalo. They looked back at us for a second with their little suinty eyes and then were gone, leaving nothing but a cloud of red dust in their place.

'They sure can turn fast' I noted.

'Thank fucking fuck for that....' sighed my wife, followed by '.....who's that?

The dust behind the vehicle was clearing to reveal the shape of a man carrying a gun. 'Wow, 'I said, 'It must be the KWS. They got here in the nick of time.

'Jambo' I cried, close to tears with gratitude. The ranger waved back and smiled, but did not approach the car.

'Thankyou' shouted Mrs Dr McC. The ranger still didn't move, but instead just stood there, an enigmatic smile on his face. Mrs Dr McC raised her camera for a photo:

'Good grief' I said when moments later I saw the preview on the LCD screen of the camera. He's wearing a mask, and...look there, he appears to be....blind!'

My wife peered closely at the screen. 'Bloody hell, you're right' she exclaimed. 'Hey...Mister...!' But the ranger had already gone.

'Try the engine again' she said. This time, as if by magic, the car spluttered into life. Astonished, I gingerly pressed the acceletator pedal, placed the car into gear, checked my mirrors, indicated and pulled away. Half an hour later, as the sun was setting, the car, with two flat tyres, oil dripping from the chassis and steam hissing from the engine, arrived with its passengers back at the lodge. We alighted (with some difficulty as the doors were little more than twisted scraps of metal) and moments later were surrounded by concerned employees, who gasped in astonishment when they saw what was left of our vehicle:

'It is a miracle!' proclaimed one of the staff. 'But tell did this happen? '

We told our story to a rapt audience. At the end there was an eruption of excited whispers amongst the Kenyans. 'What's the matter? I asked at length.

'You are very lucky people indeed...' said the manager of the lodge. 'by your account you should be dead by now. But it appears the you have been saved by someone....a legend, an almost mythical figure of these parts. No-one has even been sure he existed until now. Some say he was a ranger gored to death by elephants many years ago who now helps stranded tourists. Others say he is a blind madman who stalks the parks and, when he senses people in trouble, he either shoots in the air to scare the animals or listens to the gory spectacle unfolding, depending on his mood. We call him "Wild Bull Tembo - the Unpredictable Blind Ranger who Shoots to avoid the Kill"....'

'That sums him up nicely' said my wife with characeristic curtness. I gave her a hug, and that night we we gave thanks to our saviour before making sweet

******This post has been edited by Mrs Dr McC*******

The next day we called the car hire company. In short they refused to believe our story, but luckily we were comprehensively insured against buffalo attacks. A subsitute car was sent and we finished the holiday without further incident. Interestingly, one side effect of our brush with death was that it rekindled, for a time, the passion that once tightly bound us, and three times more did we get

******This post has been edited by Mrs Dr McC*******

***********The end*************

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Disease mongering....?

You may have seen reports today that pharmaceutical companies are creating diseases to increase their profit margins. Let me assure you that this does not apply to parasitic infections, which are very difficult to create unless you are a qualified Class I certified Creator of Many Eons experience. They are bona fide diseases that cause an immense amount of ill health and mortality across the globe, mainly in developing countries (unless you are a sheep, in which case it doesn't matter where you live).

Pharmaceutical companies are disinclined to develop drugs against existing parasitic diseases despite the fact that they (the parasites) do, in fact, exist. This is because the cost of development and testing will never be recouperated. Take the trematode parasite known as schistosomiasis, or Bilharzia (after the chap who discovered it, Theodore Bilharz). This ancient disease is treated these days with just one drug, and no other compound is under commercial development. This is never a satisfactory situation due to the possibility of drug resistance eventually emerging - something that stymies the effectivness of just about every anti-malarial ever developed (quinine is still quite effective due to its restricted use). Incidentally, there is much more interest academically in the development of anti-malarial therapy, including within the US military who have lost many personnel to this deadly protozoan.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

How I became a celebrity Part VIII

Dearest bloggers

You have waited a long time to discover just what forces propelled me into the glamorous world of Celebrity Parasitologists. Well here is the truth, and nothing but the truth. Let this be a lesson to you all to be very, very careful out there.....

To summarise for those who have lost the plot, skipped episodes or not found earlier posts:

I, Dr Joseph McCrumble, was invited by a TV production company to act as consultant on a reality jungle programme set in Papua New Guinea (Part I). My brief was to support the crew and cast on the dangers that lurk in the jungle, but upon arrival I was inadvertently pushed into the role of 'camp medic' despite having no medical qualifications (Part II ). The atmosphere was tense throughout (Part III), and a series of mishaps ensued, including the unfortunate incident where I was forced to remove a botfly larva from the one functioning eyeball of a former judo champion (Part IV - Part V), and, during the grand final challenge (Part VI ), the unfortunate loss of our garrulous producer to the largest estuarine crocodile I have ever seen (Part VII). We join the action now as I overcome my distaste of walking along tightropes suspended over crocodile-infested swamps, to rescue two minor celebrities frozen with fear.....

Part VIII - The end, and a new beginning.

I had no time to think about the consequences of my actions. There were two people in mortal danger on that tightrope. I knew that the estuarine crocodile would either wait for them to fatigue and fall into the swamp, or simply snap at them for fun. The last time I had walked along a tightrope had been at high school when Toby the school bully had made me walk along a washing line suspended in someone's garden for a laugh (he laughed, I cried). Now I had to face that same fear of falling again, only this time the penalty was not a kick in the balls but imminent death in the jaws of a voracious predator. Both painful experiences, but at least squashed testicles can be reconstituted.

I first calmed myself using a method I learnt from a traditional Scottish healer who uses Majoric Tantric principles to place emphasis on removing the malevolent influence of the Fear-Spirit. On applying his patent-pending techniques, within a few seconds my heart rate was normalised, and my adrenalin output was at a manageable level. I therefore strode towards the tightrope without fear, climbed up the steps and put on my blindfold (I always was a stickler for the rules of a game). Using nothing more than my toes and fingers, I edged along the tightrope whilst holding onto the safety rope that ran above my head. As I moved along, I shouted words of gentle encouragment to the two stricken celebrities that everything was going to be alright. I could hear both of them wimpering, calling for their mothers, asking God for help.

'God isn't here right now, so I've come instead' I said cheerfully as I bumped into the miniature car salesman. He wobbled but didn't fall. 'Follow me and I shall lead you to safety' I continued in a firm and authoritative tone. 'Stay here and you will die. Use one hand to hold onto my shirt. Come now.'

My gentle but firm words had no effect whatsoever. The two shaking celebrities couldn't even muster up a word of thanks that I had come to their rescue (I realised this was due to their morbid fear rather than anything personal). But I still had a job to do. My next vocalisation was therefore required to be more forceful. I quickly assembled a few sentences in my head using the imaginary character of an American staff sargeant at an army training camp.


First, I must say that ordinarily I do not swear in public, but these were exceptional circumstances and I feel, therefore, that my swearing for emphasis was justified. Second, I must say that I was quite impressed by the american inflections I put into the barking of this order, and the two celebrities were most certainly influenced as it seemed to snap them both our of their frozen reverie. The miniature car salesman grabbed hold of my waist with one arm, almost winding me in the process, and the former folk singer in turn grabbed hold of the miniature car salesman (rather clumsily around his neck I thought). Thus entwined, I started to edge us all back towards the shore, ten metres away. It was slow going, and more than once did both minor celebrities almost lose their grip. But ten minutes later we we were all ashore to the (frankly hysterical) clapping and cheering the of the crew. The crocodile, meanwhile had disappeared, presumably to finish its meal of our former producer (RIP).

To cut a long story short, the next few days were a grim period. A local ranger was called in to dispatch the crocodile so that the producers remains could be retrieved. But all they found in the swamp was her hipflask and a prosthetic left foot (no one had any idea). Presumably the rich and varied fauna of the swamp had made use of all her organic parts. The surviving members of the crew, and all the celebrities (including the now blinded former judo champion) had to give statements to CID officers flown out in haste. We were then embroiled in a lengthy investigation which culminated six months later in a prosecution against the production company on charges of corporate manslaughter, fraud, breach of contract, etc. I was called in as a witness for both the prosecution and the defence. Oddly, it was my testimony for the defence that was later accredited with sealing the conviction of 3 exectutives and four other employees, with jail terms ranging from 2 - 8 years. No-one in the production company was left without a stain on their character. Each of the celebrity vicitims sued for between 1 and 10 million pounds sterling, but none of them recieved any money due to the fact that the company was already on the verge of receivership during the production, and the personal fortunes of the company directors was instead carved up amongst long-term creditors.

So is this how I became a celebrity? Was I plucked from scientific obscurity by my involvement in a hideous misadventure that was never televised, that left one person dead and many other scarred for life, that saw people thrown into jail populated by murderers and thieves, that left me bewildered and confused for months afterwards?

er, not as such.

It was the last day of the trial. The judge had passed sentence and those of us not under police custody were allowed to leave the building. I was walking back to my hotel near Kings Cross, minding my own business, when suddenly I was sent flying backwards by someone, a woman, crashing into me face-on. I landed on my coccyx and was immediately laid out flat as the woman fell on top of me, pinning my torso to the ground. Opening my eyes, I realised that I was being straddled by a rather attractive and slim woman of about 25 years old that I recognised from the television and papers. She was a former model and love interest of a minor royal who was in constant demand by the paparazzi due to her flamboyant lifestyle.

'Hello' I said, not able to think of anything more due to the throbbing pain in my lower back.

'Fuck' she said 'Get off me. They're right behind' Her breath smelled of alcohol and vomit.


It was already too late. The paparazzi had seen it all happen and within seconds were upon us like sharks in a pictorial feeding frenzy. A thousand images were captured in just the few seconds it took the former model to ungainly extricate herself from my prone body. They continued to take pictures as she re-assembled her hair and clothing, and as she hailed a passing taxi. Then they turned their attention back to me and took another couple of hundred shots of me trying to get up off the floor. A few of them followed me back to the hotel, asking questions like' What's your name? or 'How did you two meet?' or 'Is she a good shag then mister?' Not being used to such attention, I attempted to give fair answers to their persistent questions, and could only return to my room sometime later. Interestingly, none of them asked about the trial, despite the fact that it had garnered a modicum of media attention.

The next day I was passing a newstand on my way to Regents Park. To my utter surprise I saw pictures of myself and the former model on the front pages of three red-top tabloids. Picking one up, I read that I was the secret lover of the aforementioned woman and was trying to have sex with her, al fresco, when we were surprised by eagle-eyed reporters. Stunned by this revelation, which clearly wasn't true, I rang the paper to complain. They asked for an interview. I agreed, wanting to put the record straight.

To cut a long story short, the salacious and untrue stories continued. I went back to the McCumbernauld institute with two dozen reporters on my tail. For three weeks they camped outside the institute, harassing anyone who came in or out. Then I started receiving phone calls from other media outlets. I first recieved requests for appearences on game shows, but then, joyfully, eventually for a bona-fide science programme! This last request I was happy to fulfill, and I was introduced onto their programme as their 'celebrity guest'. And they wanted to know about parasites! It was the one type of media appearance I was happy to fulfill. The sucess of that appearance led to more requests, and it wasn't long before I became a staple guest on science programmes on several small but significant cable and satellite channels. On each programme I would be introduced as 'Dr Joseph McCrumble, Celebrity Parasitologist', and the moniker has just kind of stuck.

So now you know. Let my tale be a warning to you all to conduct vigorous background checks on any company before signing a contract. My time in the jungle may seem like an adventure to some, but the reality of that reality show was something far from herioc. But, also, please don't have nightmares. Such cases are rare, and only happen to the unlucky few. It was the result of greed and corruption. Greed is bad. Don't let it affect you.

********************* The End *****************

Friday, April 07, 2006

too busy to blog?

Hello all

Greetings from the Mombasa coast. Have been inordinately busy the last week or so - meetings to attend, animals to run away from, Mrs Dr McC to accomodate, hundreds of kilometres to drive etc etc. Will report all on return to the McCumbernauld Institute over the weekend. Keeping this post blissfully short as the hotel are charging me half the GNP of a small European state per minute of internet time.