Vodka and Grapefruit

Unreal gets the lowdown on the Dirty Dog, meets plants who love a free lunch and finds a blogger who can't get enough Favre. Plus, Scientology's "volunteer ministers" are bringing relief to hurricane victims -- but not the kind you'd think.

The world celebrates Greyhound Planet Day on Sunday, September 18. St. Louis' commemoration takes place at the boathouse in Carondelet Park, where from 3 to 6 p.m. you can adopt an orphaned greyhound, get your greyhound's nails clipped or get a tracking microchip installed beneath his hide so he doesn't go chasing a rabbit to Little Rock.

But just what is a greyhound? Is it an oft-abused canine species? A large vehicle that gives poor people fresh starts in new towns? A refreshing cocktail? Or all of the above? We turned to local greyhound enthusiast Pat Brinkhorst for clarification.

Unreal: Why do you call it "Greyhound Planet Day"? Why not just "Greyhound Day"?

Pat Brinkhorst: Because it's actually a worldwide event.

Would Earth be a better place if it were populated by greyhounds instead of humans?

It would be kind of dull if it were all dogs, wouldn't it? The great thing about our planet is its diversity. But these poor guys are just being used and thrown away in a lot of places.

What is your opinion of West Memphis greyhound racing?

This is difficult. What we're trying to prevent are abuses of the animal. What we're trying to do is promote adoption.

An acquaintance once told me that fat greyhounds are called overweigh-hounds by greyhound breeders. True?

I have no idea.

Let's say you're a bartender and Jim Edmonds comes in, requests that you play Britney Spears' "Toxic" on the house stereo and orders a greyhound. What do you pour? And do you go ahead and play Britney Spears?

He would have to fill out an application. I'm not sure what you're talking about.

There's a drink called a greyhound.

Oh, I didn't know there was one. I'm a teetotaler; I'm not a party girl.

Do you think naming a bus line after greyhounds is exploitative?

Not really. They go fast. Greyhounds go fast. In fact, we tried to see if they would have a rest station with a bus as an advertisement for them and as a cooling station for us.

Do you find Greyhound's nickname, the "Dirty Dog," offensive?

I think that would be offensive for any person or animal, except if you were a rapper and you had a song, "Dirty Dog," about your friends.

Mistletoe Sucks

In honor of the new school year, Unreal highlights an area educator who's making a difference in the world of science: Dan Nickrent, a Southern Illinois University Carbondale botanist whose specialty is parasitic plants -- i.e., plants that freeload nutrition directly from other organisms.

The best-known example is mistletoe, but other specimens -- viewable on Nickrent's vast online database ( -- are far trippier. Some look like pretty, colorful warts, others like alien invaders. One produces red-and-white-spotted flowers that smell like death. Another creates a flower so strong it can displace concrete.

Nickrent, who has written an ode to one of his favorites, Rafflesia ("...She's a parasite inside a vine/Fifteen pounds does a flower weigh/No stems, no leaves, no dirty roots/ She's thrown them all away..."), insisted upon communicating with Unreal via e-mail.

If they just tried harder and learned to live on their own, do you think ultimately this would be better for parasitic plants?

You have the whole process backwards. These parasites have evolved from ancestral plants that once were free-living (nonparasites). Getting a "free lunch" on another organism is such a successful way of life that it has evolved over ten different times in flowering plants and innumerable times in animals.

In a sense, are not we all parasites, living off of the energy of other things?

You've expanded the terminology quite a bit. I'm a stickler for being precise in what I say, so I would not lump all living organisms into the category of parasite. There is a better term that encompasses organisms that derive their energy from other sources (i.e., don't manufacture their own food through photosynthesis). This term is heterotrophism (the organism is heterotrophic).

Does it bother you when people use the word "parasite" in a derogatory manner?

The negative connotation usually derives from animal parasites, such as tapeworms, head lice, and worse! Even within the scientific community, parasitic associations conjure up different impressions. For example, when I see a tree absolutely covered with mistletoe parasites, I say, "Wow, look at that great population of mistletoes!" When a forester sees the same tree, he may say, "Oh, that poor infected tree."

Count Us In

With hundreds of thousands in the Gulf Coast states of the U.S. homeless or without electricity from hurricane Katrina, Scientology Volunteer Ministers are being dispatched to the area to help with the emergency relief effort.... If you are not a trained Volunteer Minister contact us and we will train you in hours and get you involved with our relief efforts.

-- Posted at

Nothing quite brings out our humanity like a natural disaster. When we learned that the Church of Scientology was dispatching an estimated 1,000 "Volunteer Ministers" to the Gulf Coast, Unreal was eager to sign on. Still, pretty much all we know about Scientology is that personality-test thingie we took once -- and truth be told, we randomly filled it out.

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