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February 21, 2007

BehindTheMedspeak: 'Survival of the Sickest: A Medical Maverick Discovers Why We Need Disease'

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This new book explores the fact that bad genes persist even though evolution is supposed to weed them out.

Long story short: There's enough good in the bad that in the big picture, the good/bad outweighs the bad/bad.

Much more here at the author's (Dr. Sharon Moalem) website.

Read excerpts from three of the book's chapters here.

    From Chapter III

    IF you're of Asian descent and have ever had an alcoholic beverage, there's a fifty-fifty chance your heart rate shot up, your temperature climbed, and your face turned bright red. If you're not Asian but you've ever been in a bar frequented by people with an Asian background, chances are you've seen this reaction. It's called Asian flush or, more formally, alcohol flush response. It happens to as many as half of all people of Asian descent, but it's uncommon in just about every other population group. So what's the story?

    When you consume alcohol, your body detoxifies it and then extracts calories from it. It's a complex process that involves many different enzymes and multiple organs, although most of the process takes place in the liver. First, an enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase converts the alcohol into another chemical called acetaldehyde; another enzyme—cleverly called acetaldehyde dehydrogenase—converts the acetaldehyde into acetate. And a third enzyme converts that into fat, carbon dioxide, and water. (The calories synthesized from alcohol are generally stored as fat—beer bellies really do come from beer.)

    Many Asians have a genetic variation (labeled ALDH2*2) that causes them to produce a less powerful form of acetaldehyde dehydrogenase—one that isn't as effective in converting acetaledehyde, that first by-product of alcohol, into acetate. Acetaldehyde is thirty times as toxic as alcohol; even very small amounts can produce nasty reactions. And one of those reactions is the flushing response. That's not all it does, of course. After even one drink by people who have the ALDH2*2 variation, the acetaldehyde buildup causes them to appear drunk; blood rushes to their face, chest, and neck; dizziness and extreme nausea set in—and the drinker is on the road to a nasty hangover. Of course, there's a side benefit to all this — people who have ALDH2*2 are highly resistant to alcoholism. It's just too unpleasant for them to drink!

    In fact, the resistance to alcoholism is so strong in people with ALDH2*2 that doctors often prescribe alcoholics with a drug called disulfiram, which essentially mirrors the ALDH2*2 effect. Disulfiram (Antabuse) interferes with the body's own supply of the acetaldehyde dehydrogenase enzyme, so anyone who drinks alcohol while taking it ends up with something that looks an awful lot like Asian flush and feels truly awful to boot.

    So why is the ALDH2*2 variation so common among Asians and virtually nonexistent among Europeans? It's all about clean water. As humans began to settle in cities and towns, they got their first taste of the sanitation and waste management problems that still plague cities today—but without even the possibility of modern plumbing. This made clean water a real challenge, and some theories suggest that different civilizations came up with different solutions. In Europe, they used fermentation — and the resulting alcohol killed microbes, even when, as was often the case, it was mixed with water. On the other side of the world, people purified their water by boiling it and making tea. As a result, there was evolutionary pressure in Europe to have the ability to drink, break down, and detoxify alcohol, while the pressure in Asia was a lot less.

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The book costs $17.13 at Amazon.

February 21, 2007 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Dogirondack Chair

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From the website:

    Dogirondack Pet Bed — Throne For the King or Queen Of Your Castle

    The Dogirondack is a comfortable napping spot for your best friend.

    Made of wood with a painted red finish, it comes with a comfy black cushion and removable water and treat bowls nested in the armrests.

    Small chair is for pint-sized dogs up to 25 lbs.; large chair is for medium and large dogs over 25 lbs.

    Small measures 20"H x 30"W x 25"D.

    Large is 23"H x 44"W x 33"D.

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Put up a big-screen TV playing a DVD of cats racing around and you're all set.

Small costs $159, Large $199, both here.

Arf.

February 21, 2007 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Official bookofjoe Sweater

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Pictured above, it was just unveiled at the Giles Deacon show during British Fashion Week, which concluded last Friday in London.

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Cathy Horyn, in yesterday's New York Times, wrote that "Mr. Deacon's show had some terrific moments, in particular oversize cardigans and boleros that looked as if they had been knitted on tree-limb-size needles."

Let's see... knit one, purl two... but I digress.

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Above

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and

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below,

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other delectables from Deacon.

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Sigh.

February 21, 2007 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Body Tuning

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If that's what you need then physical therapist Shmuel Tatz is the man to see.

He calls what he does "body tuning" and many of the world's finest musicians swear by him.

I first learned of him in Stuart Isacoff's Wall Street Journal article of January 31, 2007, featured here on February 4, 2007.

Though his studio is located in Carnegie Hall, he doesn't limit himself to the world's elite: anyone can pick up the phone and make an appointment: 212-246-7308.

Have a computer?

What a pleasant surprise.

But I digress.

Email him: tatzstudio@yahoo.com.

Tell him I sent you and you'll get the red carpet treatment.

February 21, 2007 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Who killed President John F. Kennedy?

After more than 43 years, 40 seconds of previously unknown footage of JFK's Dallas motorcade, taken just before shots rang out, suddenly appear.

The version shown here is clearer than that above at YouTube.

What really happened that day?

Only many years from now, when a working time machine is finally available, will the answer become known.

February 21, 2007 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

IDEO Method Cards

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"51 Ways of Learning About People" from IDEO, modern master of human-centered design.

$49.

February 21, 2007 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

'Fail Better' — by Zadie Smith

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Part 1 appeared in The Guardian on January 13, 2007.

It's far better read from the printed page than on a computer screen (of course, what isn't?) so I recommend printing it out.

Besides, Part 2 has already been disappeared from the Guardian website, and you never know when Part 1 will follow it down the memory hole.

An aside: any reader who happens to have Part 2 in digital form or knows where it can be found online, would you be so kind as to send such to me so I can add it to this post?

Smith's audible book entitled "How to Fail Better" was recorded live at the 2006 New Yorker Festival.

It's 80 minutes long and you can listen to a 10-minute-long free sample here.

The full 80 minutes will cost you $7.46.

Here's a link to a page full of links allowing a deeper exploration of this superb author's life and work.

FunFact: She was born "Sadie Smith" and changed her name to Zadie when she was 14.

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FunFact #2: "Fail Better" is from Samuel Beckett's "Worstward Ho."

[via Colleen E. Daly]

February 21, 2007 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Have you noticed...

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... that I seem to have abandoned the default 200-pixel-wide graphics that were pretty much standard here, in favor of all manner of larger pictures and whatnot?

You wouldn't be the first.

Just look at yesterday's posts, for example.

Several things have led to the new look.

1) Internet speeds are, on average, getting faster, which means larger graphics don't slow page loading nearly as much as previously.

2) Screens are getting larger, so the smaller pictures seem more and more out of proportion.

3) YouTube — since YouTube's embedded movies are 425 pixels wide (by default), any post using one automatically features that wide a graphic frame.

4) I've grown more and more impatient with featuring pictures and illustrations whose import and meaning can't be appreciated unless the small thumbnail is clicked to enlarge it — why should you have to work? That's my job.

That's pretty much it.

February 21, 2007 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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