Friday, November 16, 2007

Final Thoughts

Oh, woeful day! More than 72 hours have passed since we have last laid eyes on the meat and the maggots. With no leads, and nighttime temperatures below freezing, we fear there is little hope of a successful recovery. And so today, we bring our project to a close.

It will be a memory we'll carry with us for the rest of our lives, ladies and gentlemen. We shall forever cherish the day we went shopping, carefully hand-picking the perfect specimens. They were so pure and innocent! We will always recall the delightful victory on Day 10, when our adversaries finally broke down and pleaded for help. Never shall we forget the rise of the mighty Ant Empire, and its mysterious demise that continues to perplex us. And we will endlessly reminisce about the eventual triumph of the Maggot, a creature with the unique ability to amplify the stench of any and all rotting material.

The two of us made one final trip below the Wren Bridge today--the meat's hiding place which we had so carefully kept secret. The empty Hefty Serve 'n Store plate has disappeared, swept away by the wind, no doubt.

After sharing a moment of silence, we super-glued this sign to the concrete base of the bridge. It is our hope that it will remain there for quite some time, a lasting tribute to an unforgettable experiment.

In retrospect, we are pleasantly surprised the meat hadn't been removed sooner. This bridge is the only point of entry into Wren Hall, which is home to 150 students. In the height of its stench, the meat could easily be smelled from atop the bridge, depending on wind conditions.

150 students passing by multiple times a day, yet for 12 days not one of them called Facilities. For any Wren resident who experienced firsthand the meat's God-forsaken stench and the feeling of impending doom that accompanies it: we thank you for being strong, shaking it off, and casually going about your day.

We would also like to thank our dear rivals-in-prankdom, whose bathroom we so enjoyably stinkified for the first ten days of this project. If not for your inability to keep your living space clean, you'd have surely discovered the meat days earlier!

Last but most important of all, we would like to thank our faithful fan base. Your ever-amusing comments, suggestions, and criticisms contributed enormously to the entertainment value of this blog. You guys are the best!

Tragic it is that the meat vanished at such a pivotal moment. The maggots had so much potential! But then again, anyone who read the original Stinkymeat project already knew what was going to happen anyway! Although it took 20 days, the emergence of maggots meant that our meat had finally begun to follow the course of Mahlon Smith's experiment. So go back to his, read it and laugh once more for old time sake. We know we will.

Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened.
~Dr. Seuss

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Day 22 - Have you seen this meat?

(posted by Stinkographer 1)

News of our Stinkymeat's disappearance troubled me greatly. I knew I would be unable to put this tragedy behind me unless I was confident I had done all in my power to find the meat. Last night, I loaded up Microsoft Word and went to work...

VoilĂ ! By printing these two pages onto one sheet of paper and folding down the middle, it can be made to stand upright. It can then serve as a simple, eye-catching "table tent." Like so:

Phase 1 of our stratagem began bright and early. We used the library's color copier to make several hundred table tents, then proceeded to place them all over Tufts' main dining hall. It turned out that we had a lot more than we needed, so we bunched them rather close together...

Alas, upon returning a few hours later we discovered that almost every pamphlet had been removed by the dining staff! Outraged and dispirited, we had almost decided to abandon this publicity technique completely. It was at this moment, while walking back to our dorm, that we witnessed a most incredible spectacle!

Yes, this is exactly what it looks like! Decked-out in haz-mat suits and face masks, these individuals had pushed a nearby dumpster onto the residential lawn, emptied it completely, and were currently searching through the trash--for the lost meats, no doubt! I must admit, the unyielding dedication of our loyal fans truly astonishes us! Inspired by deeds of our devout followers, we elected to repeat the "table tenting" process several times throughout the day.

It was an epic battle of wits. By moving swiftly and taking cover underneath tables, we managed to stealthily evade the watchful eyes of the dining staff-- that is, until the hall's final hour of operation. Unfortunately, it was at this point that one of the ladies at the register spotted us dropping the pamphlets. Calling us over, she informed us that only registered campus organizations were allowed to place advertisements on the tables. I attempted to explain that we were part of a new campus organization called Stinkographers Anonymous. I don't think she bought it. We were sternly asked to remove the pamphlets before leaving.

Though our dining hall operation met only limited success, the cover of nightfall provided us with further opportunity to spread the word about the lost meat. Following in Mahlon's footsteps, Phase 2 of the publicity campaign entailed the time-honored college tradition known as "flyering".

We printed about 60 flyers, enough to cover all the key locations. Egresses to and from campus food hubs always experience particularly heavy foot traffic, so we concentrated our efforts around these areas. The two flyers seen here are above the side door to the Carmichael cafeteria...

This one has been strategically placed next to the entrance to Hodgdon good-to-go...

If someone has tried to eat or drink anything on that plate, it is highly probable that they will end up here. If the person in possession of our meat is reading this, please bear in mind that we will be delighted to take it off your hands regardless of its condition, no questions asked!

For our final task, we took to the streets. Realizing we still had an ample stockpile of table pamphlets, we decided to distribute our supply across the campus's many parking lots.

All vehicles were treated equally.

There is little more that can be done at this point in time. Even if we never solve the mystery of the disappearing Stinkymeat, I feel that our efforts today will help bring closure to our 21-day-long relationship with the meat. I we receive no word of its whereabouts by tomorrow night, we will prepare some concluding remarks. A Stinkymeat eulogy, if you will...

Continue to Final Thoughts

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Day 21 - Gone!?

(posted by a bewildered Stinkographer 2)

I just don't get it...

The familiar stench was strangely absent as I approached the plate tonight. When it came into view, I paused, blinked a few times, and looked again.

I could not believe what I was seeing. I stood there, dumbfounded, unable to comprehend how this happened. After a moment fear kicked in--fear for the safety of our beloved meat. I let out a scream, then frantically began searching the surrounding area. I tore through the bushes, upturned piles of leaves, pried open a nearby dumpster. Nothing. Nothing that even remotely resembled the unique texture and smell of Stinkymeat. I couldn't even locate a single maggot!

I returned to the plate and examined it thoroughly. It was inexplicably sandy, but a small amount of moist, stinky residue confirmed to me that it was indeed our plate. However, something is terribly wrong here: Who or what, in their right mind, would remove the meat from the plate??

I could not come up with anything. If the plate had been taken away, the answer would be simple: facilities received an odor complaint and cleaned up the mess. But facilities they wouldn't have left the plate! Nobody would have left the plate, because that would have entailed handling 20-day-old, maggot-infested flesh! How could the meat just disappear???

No, no that's just not possible... The fact that a cup, an open bag of plastic utensils, and an empty container of honey mustard have appeared just a few feet away from the plate must be a sheer coincidence. And yes, I've talked to Kareem. He seems to be in good health, and he hasn't asked me for money. So I know he didn't eat the meat.

I don't know. I just don't know how this could have happened. Any theories, faithful fans?

The most difficult part was breaking the news to Stinkographer 1. He's taking it real hard. His current intention is to conduct a campus-wide search campaign for the missing Stinkymeat. More on this tomorrow...

Continue to Day 22

Monday, November 12, 2007

Day 20 - Lots of maggots!!!

(posted by Stinkographer 1)

I skipped merrily towards the meat today, giddily anticipating my first glimpse of the maggots.

My heart sank when I first viewed the meat. The smell did not disappoint--it was indeed as bad as Stinkographer 2 had described it. However, I had expected by now there would be plenty of maggots crawling in plain sight. Frustrated, I looked around and found a suitable stick. I was determined. I wanted to see maggots, and lots of them.

I knew things were about to get ugly, but I never saw this coming...

Wow. I repeat: Wow. Maggot central! I had no idea how many were actually living under there! Flipping the chicken exposed literally hundreds of them! Truly an incredible sight--and sound! The countless maggots crawling through the hen's belly made a very audible noise, one that I can only compare to the sound you hear when mixing tuna fish and mayonnaise together (you're going to remember this the next time you order tuna salad).

I held the game hen in place for a good minute to snap photos. During this time, the majority of maggots took shelter in the vast labyrinth of tunnels they had carved through the chicken's flesh. For a while, my sheer sense of joy at the sight of maggots helped me to ignore the horrendous stench I had released by exposing their living quarters. However, the longer the hen's underside was exposed to the outside air, the worse the smell became. The gentle outside breeze no longer helped. When the stench reached a 9.5 on our 1-10 scale, I was forced to momentarily abandon the meat. It was at this point that I decided to leave the hen right-side-up for the remainder of my observations.

Not surprisingly, the ground beef appears to have suffered a similar fate. The maggots are everywhere!

Even the plastic around the giblet sack appears to be a suitable home for the maggots. It's interesting... ants may be able to ward off any and all competition, but maggots appear to be capable of thriving in an increasingly hostile environment. Even one that the ants have declared no-mans-land.

To quote our anonymous friend from day 15, "I cannot imagine this experiment getting any more wonderful, and yet, I know it will."

Continue to Day 21

Day 19 - Maggots!!!

(posted by Stinkographer 2)

Oh, what a beautiful sight! The meat is smelling more than ever now, though we had been mystified until tonight as to why this is so.

On first glance, things didn't seem to change very much from two days ago. As I examined the meat more closely, however, I began to notice some subtle differences. First on this list is the chicken's continued loss of verticality--parts of it appear to be deflating! Color change is also becoming apparent. The chicken, especially, is losing its yellowish hue and is becoming darker in color. Compare these observations with the similar photo on day 16 and you'll see what I mean.

In general, things are looking increasingly digested. The bacon is missing chunks, the giblets are now a solid mass, and the part of the pork chop once covered by the giblet sack is just... gross.

And then I saw them.

Peering around the edges of the ground beef, something white and squirming caught my eye. Overjoyed by the sight, I quickly snapped a picture and rushed back to show Stinkographer 1.

Do you see what I see?? I even zoomed in on one so there's no mistaking it. That, my friends, is a maggot!! No doubt about it. At long last, our patience has paid off! With no ants around to keep the flies away, the maggots must have finally gained a fighting chance!

Everything looks so...barren. Hard to believe that there's an entire class of living things that thrives on this kind of decaying mass. It looks disgusting and, well, dead, but it's so full of new life and new opportunity. There's a lesson in this somewhere, but I'll leave that to the Philosophy majors...

Continue to Day 20

Friday, November 9, 2007

Day 17 - Perplexingly ant-less

(posted by Stinkographer 1)

It just doesn't make sense! Why did the ants leave???

I inspected the plate very closely today, which was a real challenge because it is smelling incredibly raunchy. Although there were several ant carcasses scattered randomly throughout the plate, I spotted not one live ant on the meat. In fact, ant activity around the plate has seemed to have died down as well. There are not nearly as many as yesterday. Very odd...

An eye-level view. The meat is getting increasingly two-dimensional.

So far, we have made two conclusions. First, the ants' disappearance is in no way related to the temperature. Today was significantly milder than yesterday, pretty much the same as all the other days the meat has been outside... and the ants were always present and accounted for on those days. Second, there is almost definitely a correlation between the ants' presence and how badly the meat smells. Maybe the ants were somehow responsible for quelling the foul stench. On the other hand, maybe the return of the foul stench is what forced the ants to evacuate.

It's hard to see in this photo, but amongst the layers of cat food walks a large beetle. This is the first living thing we've seen on the plate other than ants since the brief "pork worm" sighting on dissection day. For the duration of my visit, this little guy was leisurely strolling around the plate without a care in the world. And he was not alone.

Here we can see another beetle making himself at home on the giblet sack's perimeter, slightly left of center.

So we have beetles. And we have stinkiness. I guess that's something.

And now, for some bad news: Stinkographer 2 and I are headed up to New Hampshire tomorrow for a fun day of hiking, rock climbing, and marauding. We'll be spending the night at the Loj, the Tufts Mountain Club's personal sanctuary, which is awesome in every way except that it does not have internet access. Unfortunately that means we'll be out of touch for a day, and also that the meat will not get photographed. Rest assured, however, that we shall return to Tufts Sunday night and at that time post our findings as soon as possible.

I must admit, I'm looking forward to seeing the effects of Stinkymeat withdrawal on Stinkographer 2, who will have gone three whole days without getting a whiff of the odor we are now so accustomed to...

Continue to Day 19

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Day 16 - Paradise lost?

(posted by Stinkographer 2)

The meat is smelling wonderful again, I expect as a result of our intrusive inspection. By wonderful I mean awful. But something was different today.

In a shocking turn of events, the ants appear to have abandoned the plate almost entirely. Over the span of just 24 hours, the once bustling meat metropolis has become a barren wasteland.

It was quite nippy outside today, and our first thought was that the cold might have driven the ants away. But this does not entirely make sense, for the plate is actually sitting right next to several large pipes connected to the Tufts steam network. These pipes radiate a large amount of heat--one of the primary reasons we selected this location.

Furthermore, it's not that the ants are gone. They're just no longer on the meat...

Just south of the plate, the ants are still showing a heavy presence in the area. Hundreds of them were dispersed around the entryway to their underground fortress when I took this photo.

Ants were also moving about the western perimeter of the plate. What you see here is a group of ants carrying away a white object. It is unfortunate that the photo is a bit blurry, because when I viewed this white object in person it looked suspiciously like a dead maggot! The fact that the maggot is dead is a bit discouraging, but it must have come from somewhere! Could there be more of them?? We're keeping our fingers crossed.

As we examine our photos in detail, it's really quite surprising how vacant the meat has become. While I noticed a few ant bodies on top of the bacon in this picture, they were actually all dead, as far as I could tell.

What happened overnight? Did all the ants on the plate get wiped out? Exiled? Abducted? Incinerated? An insect genocide, or "insecticide," if you will? Personally, I enjoy the speculation that this has something to do with the ruptured giblet sack. It's entirely possible that the queen, sensing a hazardous materials crisis, gave the order to evacuate.

Another interesting observation from the last photo: the bacon seems to be melding with the pork chop. It's almost as if it's healing over time. They did, after all, come from the same animal.

Continue to Day 17

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Day 15 - The aftermath

(posted by Stinkographer 1)

Yesterday's operation has successfully reinvigorated regions of oxygen-derpived flesh. Although the taste-bud-numbing blast of the giblet sack seems to have subsided, there is still an undeniable increase in scent even with the outdoor breeze. Using our previous 1-10 scale, I'd rate it a 7 in still air.

The plate has become even more filled with sand, and the ants are as lively as ever. All they need now is a flag to officially lay claim to their empire.

The contents of the giblet sack, previously moist and squishy, have quickly lost their mucus-like coating. Actually it's probably still there, but it has now dried and hardened. Low and behold, it seems that the giblets are beginning to clad the same leathery armor that has enveloped the rest of the chicken.

The great crevasse that my knife sliced into the beef may have formed the ant equivalent of the Grand Canyon, but that didn't slow them down. Blatantly ignoring safety standards, these bold mountaineers scaled down to the base of the abyss without the aid of ropes, harnesses, or locking carabiners. Ah, just imagine the incredible feats I could accomplish if I had six limbs...

Notice the stark contrast between the recently-uncovered section of pork and the part that's been exposed to the air for 15 days. To be honest, I'm not sure which looks worse.

Unfortunately, there was no sign of our worm-like friend writhing around in the pork area. Perhaps he (or she) has sought refuge beneath the punctured giblet sack. I'll remind Stinkographer 2 to check under there on his next excursion.

Continue to Day 16

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Day 14 - The Dissection

Today we decided to take matters into our own heavily gloved hands.

This is the meat prior to the first "incision." I think it's safe to say that the ants now reign over the entire plate. Overnight their armies stabbed westward into the final major territory--the game hen--and, not surprisingly, have started covering it with sand. This whole "sanding" process is really intriguing to me. They are literally terraforming their new world! Notice the "sand bridge" on the right side of the plate, linking the cat food to the earth below. Truly impressive ingenuity.

The ants are more numerous than ever before. However, all of the items are still mostly intact. We would soon find out why they were having such a hard time breaking ground.

Poised for the operation. Our surgical instruments will consist of borrowed dining hall silverware.

The Cornish game hen was surprisingly difficult to cut. Its skin had hardened into a thick, nearly-impenetrable exoskeleton. Yet another military interest in rotting meat.

As Stinkographer 1 pushed down on the chicken, a large quantity of the white, pus-looking goop oozed out from underneath.

It made a horrendous glurping noise as my compatriot pried it from the plate. While the top of the chicken has hardened into a formidable carapace, the bottom has decayed into a semi-liquid confection. The stench was indescribable. This was the closest I've come to throwing up since the beginning of this experiment.

We discovered why the ants were having so much trouble carting off the beef--it, too, had developed a protective outer coat. When we finally managed to cut it open, it actually looked similar to a burger grilled at too high a temperature--seared on the outside, pink on the inside. Perhaps now we can get some decent rotting.

The cat food had the same consistency that it did fresh out of the can. Other than some mild discoloration, it really hasn't changed all that much! Perhaps we should e-mail this page to people at Fancy Feast. Who knows, our experiment could be featured in their next commercial, boasting long shelf life!

If you look where the red arrow is pointing, you will notice a small white line on the moistened end of the pork chop. It is alive. We saw it wiggling around. My guess is it may have been there all along, because uncooked pork is known to harbor parasites. Who knows, we may yet see a proliferation of nasty crawly things...

And now, the moment you've all been waiting for: the giblet sack. It was surprisingly difficult to rupture.

Another suppressed gag reflex, at both texture and smell. I'm not sure what all those organs are, but there's a greenish-brown paste at the bottom that resembles gravy. At least in texture. As for the odor, it was quite comparable to the underbelly of the chicken. The only difference was that the chicken could be returned to its upright, less-smelly state. The giblet sack, on the other hand, was now wide open, and there was little to be done to reduce the vomit-inducing stench.

We had originally planned to slice through the bacon and the pork, but the stink emanating from the giblet sack was intolerable! Coughing and wheezing uncontrollably, we opted to vacate the area as quickly as possible.

Continue to Day 15

Monday, November 5, 2007

Day 13 - We ask the experts

(posted by Stinkographer 1)

Our latest theory is that the ants have colonized the ground beef. One small step for ant, one giant leap for ant kind.

They also appear to finally have taken an interest in the bacon.

Yesterday, Ms. Mellymel pondered whether the cold weather is inhibiting maggot implantation. I had been wondering the same thing, so I decided to make an inquiry at The Insect Question Page:
Hi, this is a rather odd question: I need to know if flies in the Massachusetts area will still be around to lay eggs on a meat specimen left outdoors in early November. This specimen is a compilation of beef, chicken, pork and cat food. These meats are uncooked and are being kept moist. At this point our specimen has been left unrefrigerated for 12 days. Thank you!
In less than an hour, I received a response from Doug Yanega, Dept. of Entomology at the University of California:
Yes, I rather suspect that flies will still be alive and well and active - as long as the weather is suitable on any given day...generally, flies will not be killed until there is a hard freeze. The problem is that their behavior and activity levels will be quite atypical...I'd be very surprised if the results you get running your experiment now would be similar to the results if you had started one month or more ago... Good luck!
He didn't seem the least bit confounded by my experimental methods. I wonder he's a Stinkymeat fan in hiding...

So the flies are still out there! That's great news! The problem is that the ants appear to have exiled any flies that may have been present. Like bouncers at some exclusive insect night club. Either that, or perhaps the flies did lay eggs, but the resulting maggots have since been devoured by the ants. I can see why--they looked so juicy and nutritious in the original Stinkymeat experiment. Don't knock it till you try it.

Seriously though, at this point I would recommend eating maggots over eating this meat. For those who may disagree, I would like to point out that the meat has been sitting outside for four days now, and no animal has dared to touch it.

One thing we've been noticing over the past few days: the area of the plate being overrun by ants is becoming increasingly... sandy. Or at least we think it's sand. The ground beef especially, with its many cracks and crevices, seems to be holding a lot of these white grains. One may at first point to the wind as a likely culprit, but the plate is in a fairly shielded location. Besides: the chicken, pork, and cat food have been affected very little by phenomenon. We have concluded that the ants are carrying the sand over in an attempt to to give the plate a homely decor.

The meat isn't smelling as consistently awful as when it was left to stew in its previous stink tank. Don't get me wrong--I think God would condemn us to an eternity in hell if we put the plate back into someone's ceiling at this point. Nonetheless, it's just not as bad out here. I suppose the wind is shifting the smell to and fro while we visually document the progress of the experiment, because I have definitely caught some foul, foul odors in my olfactory nerves while moistening the meat.

It's incredible how much rotting potential the meat still has. Almost every item is still basically intact. Even the ground beef seems to be withstanding the ants' assault with surprising fortitude. Perhaps it's about time we start poking around a bit...

Continue to Day 14
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