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health

Odd Lots

  • Happy New Year, gang! My prediction: 2024’s gonna to be a wild ride across the board. If popcorn weren’t so fattening I’d buy a pile of it.
  • The Quadrantids meteor shower is tonight. The shower’s characteristic behavior is having a brief peak but an intense one. The predicted time of the peak is 7:53 AM EST, which would be 6:53 CST and 5:53 MST on 1/4/2024. That may sound awfully early to some of my night-owl readers, but Dash typically wakes us up by that time. I intend to be out watching for it, even though we have a first-quarter Moon—and it might rain. Hey, if you don’t play you can’t win.
  • The JWST has begun showing us how many odd chunks of stuff are drifting around the galaxy without actually orbiting stars. Some of these rogue planets are in pairs, orbiting one another. Fascinating long-form piece on the phenom if astrophysics—or writing science fiction—is your thing.
  • Here’s a dazzling video of a volcano erupting in Iceland. It’s unique because it shows the very beginning of the eruption, which almost resembles a sunrise. But then, boom! It gets spectacular!
  • Sports Illustrated was buying articles generated by AI, with authors also invented by AI, right down to the author headshots. Futurism called them on it, and all questionable articles vanished. That doesn’t mean a few weren’t so ridiculous as to stand out and may still be there.
  • Old timers like me will recall text user interfaces (TUIs) which, when we got started in computing, were what was on the menu. (It was a one-line menu.) Here’s a fun Substack piece about TUIs, and how in truth, modern GUI programming editors in IDEs don’t really give us much that we didn’t already have back then. Hell, when I was at Xerox in the early 80s somebody was passing around a Pac-Man game written in text mode for a 24X80 display.
  • Alas, Bill Gladstone, who founded Waterside Productions, passed on to higher realms on 12/27. Waterside is the agency that represents my book-length nonfiction via agent Carole Jelen. We acquired a fair number of books through him during the Coriolis years. He knew what he was doing, and the world could use a few more agents with his savvy.
  • New research suggests that red meat is not fatal. Body weight, not meat consumption, appears to cause the inflammation behind much cardiovascular disease. It’s carbs that put the weight on, as I’ve found over my past 25 years eating low-carb.
  • Back before Christmas I was over at Total Wine buying vino to honor the Bambino, and was standing in the (long) line for the checkout beside a spinrack of hard liquor shooters. Most were things I’d heard of. But there…does that little bottle say it’s peanut butter and jelly sandwich whiskey? Yes, it did—so I bought one. Hey, 99c is cheap thrills. Carol and I tasted it when I got home. I expected to spit it out, but…it wasn’t half bad. From Skatterbrain, though Total Wine tells me it’s no longer available. Maybe the shooters were market research, and it flunked. So it goes. Alcohol is a volatile business…
  • Cheap thrills? There’s a cheap ($10) red blend called Sheep Thrills, which was vinted in Italy but bottled here in the US. I bought some. Like PB&J whiskey, it wasn’t awful, but I still don’t recommend it. Too thin, too dry.
  • I assumed that Skatterbrain’s PB&J whiskey had to be the weirdest whiskey in America. Silly boy. Have a look at this. Sorry, I’ll pass.
  • If you’ve ever wondered what shallots were, well, here’s how to tell a shallot from an onion. I like the notion of shallots as heirloom onions (imaginary band name alert!) and Carol and I are going to try a few recipes that might tempt Tennyson’s Lady of Shallott. Ok, sure, it’s the Lady of Shalott. Maybe that’s the British spelling. Or Tennyson’s spellchecker wasn’t working. Yes, ok, I’ll shut up now.

Odd Lots

Odd Lots

Odd Lots

  • Here’s a longish research paper from the NIH National Library of Medicine exploring studies of the effects of light at night (LAN) on various body functions. One of the most startling is the degree to which night work correlates to obesity and Type II diabetes. Less clear but more concerning are links between LAN and certain cancers. The message appears to be: Sleep at night, in the dark. Carol and I do that, and have all our lives.
  • Hating the Other evidently heightens activity in our reward centers. The late Colin Wilson explored the issue, and claimed that in modern society we have to give ourselves permission to hate the Other…but once we do, hating the Other is delicious and hard to stop. This explains a lot about tribalism in modern politics, 90% of which is about hating the Other–and an important reason why I don’t write about politics.
  • Virginia Postrel has a related article on her Substack, about the role of what she calls “purity” and its relation to cancel culture. She mentions Gavin Haynes’ notion of a “purity spiral,” which I think nails the whole purity business. It’s an effort to outbid others in pursuit of an unattainable ideal. It is thus more evidence supporting my notion that idealism is evil.
  • I’ve always wondered why music in a minor key sounds sad, spooky, or creepy. Here’s one of the better online essays on the subject.
  • I include this (slightly) related item because it asks a question I’ve never heard asked before: What is the most evil chord in music? I would guess it’s the chord that runs around with a chainsaw, cutting treble clefs in thirds, and playing hob in a minor key.
  • I wonder how I got to be 70 without ever hearing about raccoon dogs, which are neither raccoons nor dogs. They’re an interesting, albeit invasive, species of canid found in the Far East. The Japanese call them Tanuki, though I don’t recall them coming up in conversation when I was in Japan in 1981.
  • Speaking of my 70th birthday, my writer friend and collaborator Jim Strickland brought a Cabernet Sauvignon to our dual birthday party on July 16. I tried it and found it…not bitter. That was a first in my wine experience, granting that once I tasted a few bitter specimens, I basically stopped trying them. The wine in question is from Daou, vintage 2020. About $20 at our Kroger-affiliate supermarket. Quite dry, but no oak, which spoils all the other flavors for me..
  • Well. Ever heard “Bohemian Rhapsody” played on several disemboweled scanners and piles of 5″ floppy drives, plus the occasional phone modem? Here’s your chance.
  • In case you don’t yet have enough interesting things to read, here’s the Smithsonian’s history of the hard hat.
  • Back in June, people in San Francisco reported that anchovies were falling from the sky. People did not report anyone running around the city’s streets holding a pizza and hoping for free fish.
  • Hey, this was evidently a banner year for Pacific Coast anchovies. My guess is that with no one putting them on pizzas anymore, their depleted populations have rebounded.
  • After using it since 2005, LiveJournal has canceled my account there. I don’t think anybody was reading it anyway. It was a mirror, and I have better backup schemes now.

Odd Lots

  • I hurt my back and had to cancel a trip to Chicago to see family, and then to Chattanooga for Libertycon, which is the only con I go to anymore. Now, two weeks before my 70th birthday, I have to remind myself that, weight training or no weight training, lifting and carrying heavy things can be a hazard to your health.
  • Health, yeah. New medical research from South Australia shows a causal relationship between low vitamin D levels and dementia. Vitamin D has a number of benefits, most of which have been known for years. Carol and I have an ace in the hole: We’re in Arizona, where cloudy days are rare, so we get a lot more sunlight than we used to. And we take a 5000 IU supplement every morning, mostly because we’re not kids anymore, and D synthesis declines with age, sunshine or no sunshine. Bottom line: Don’t be D-ficient.
  • I dunno, but it sure looks like all the recent Corvettes we’ve seen here around town look like a car that some giant foot stepped on. Not to be outdone by Chevy, Cadillac is fielding the same profile. We giggle every time they go by.
  • I’ve never heard of “foot pool” before, but it looks like a lot of fun. Most of the activity I see mentioned online are from the UK.
  • Bet you never wanted to read the history of canned wine, eh? Well, here it is. I clearly remember drinking a can of white zinfandel among friends circa 1971. Nothing about it seemed odd to me then, as I had yet to encounter conventional wine culture.
  • New research suggests that THE MOST HIDEOUSLY DANGEROUS DEADLY DRUG IN THE ENTIRE COSMOS DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT has anticancer properties. More research is planned, if the poor researchers are ever allowed to lay hands on the stuff.
  • Can we literally throw things into orbit? A startup named SpinLaunch has built a small-scale proof-of-concept launching machine, and has managed to throw a 9-foot payload up as high as 30,000 feet. Fuel, water, atmosphere, clothes? Though the article does not state an acceleration in g’s, it’s gotta be intense, and way beyond what living material can stand. But for provisioning space stations it could be just the thing. Good luck, guys.
  • Wow. I didn’t know this: Big dust clouds near the center of our galaxy taste like…raspberries. Oh, and they smell like rum. Alas, it’s just the ethyl formate talking.
  • A new research paper out of the New England Journal of Medicine has found that in a small trial of a new drug called dostarlimab, with a cohort of 18 colorectal cancer patients, the remission rate was…100%. Dostalimab is a monoclonal antibody originally intended to treat endometrial cancer. Researchers think it may be a much more general cancer treatment, and new studies are planned.
  • And here’s another: A study conducted at the University of Toronto showed that toddlers who grew up with dogs (but not cats) appear to have some protection against Crohn’s Disease. The article doesn’t say that having a cat nullifies the protection, only that growing up with cats has no similar effects.
  • Finally, Amazon must have thought I was Geoffrey Chaucer. Or that the man was WAYYYYY ahead of his time. (Read the page closely.)

Odd Lots

  • Pertinent to my last two entries here: City Journal proposes what I proposed two years ago: To reduce the toxicity of social media, slow it down. What they propose is not exponential delays of replies and retweets to replies and retweets until those delays extend fifteen minutes or more. Like a nuclear reactor control rod, that would slow the explosion down until the hotheads cooled off or got bored and went elsewhere. Instead, they suggest Twitter insist on a minimum of 280 characters to posts. That might help some, but if the clue is to slow down viral posts, eliminate the middleman and just slow down responses until “viral” becomes so slow that further response simply stops.
  • A statistical study of mask use vs. COVID-19 outcomes found no correlation between mask use and better outcomes, but actually discovered some small correlation between mask use and worse outcomes. Tough read, but bull through it.
  • While not as systematic as the above study, an article on City Journal drives another nail in the coffin of “masks as infection prevention.” Graph the infection rates in states with mask mandates and states with no mask mandates and they come out…almost exactly the same.
  • Our Sun is getting rowdy, and getting rowdier earlier than expected. Cycle 25 is starting out with a bang. Recent cycles have been relatively peaceful, and nobody is suggesting that Cycle 25 will be anything close to the Cycle 19 peak (1957-58) which was the most active sunspot max in instrumental history. What Cycle 25 may turn out to be is average, which mean 20 meters may start to become a lot more fun than it has been in recent (slow) years.
  • And this leads to another question I’ve seen little discussion on: To what extent are damaging solar storms correlated to sunspot peaks? The huge solar storm of 1921 took place closer to the sunspot minimum than the maximum. The legendary Carrington event of 1859 took place during the fairly weak Cycle 10. As best I can tell, it’s about individual sunspots, and not the general state of the Sun at any point in time.
  • NASA’s Perseverence Mars rover caught a solar eclipse, when Phobos crossed the disk of the Sun as seen from Perseverence. The video of the eclipse was sped up, but it really is a startling image, especially if you know a little about Phobos, which is decidedly non-spherical.
  • I found this very cool: An online, Web-based x86/x64 assembler/disassembler. Although intended for computer security pros, I found it a lot of fun and it may turn out to be useful here and there as I begin to revise my assembly book for the fourth time.
  • Skipping sleep can lead to putting on belly fat, which is absolutely the worst place to have it. Get all the sleep you can, duh. Sleep is not optional.
  • How many stars are there in the observable universe? It’s a far trickier and sublter calculation than you might think. But the final number looked familiar to me, and might look familiar to people who do low-level programming.

Odd Lots

  • I got caught in an April Fools hoax that (as my mother would say) sounded too true to be funny: That Tesla canceled all plans to produce its Cybertruck. (Read the last sentence, as I failed to do.) I like Musk; he has guts and supports space tech. About his Cybertruck concept, um…no. It looks like an origami, or else something that escaped from a third-shelf video game. The world would go on without it, and he might use the money to do something even cooler, whatever that might be.
  • Oh, and speaking of Elon Musk: He just bought almost 10% of Twitter, to the tune of about $3B. He is now the biggest outside shareholder. This is not a hoax, and I wonder if it’s only the beginning. Twitter is famous for suspending people without explaining what they did wrong, sometimes for things that seem ridiculously innocuous. A major shareholder could put pressure on Twitter’s management from the inside to cut out that kind of crap. It’s been done elsewhere. And boy, if anybody can do it, he can.
  • Nuclear energy has the highest capacity factor of any form of energy, meaning the highest percentage of time that energy producers spend actually producing energy. I knew that from my readings on the topic. What shocked me is that there is in fact an Office of Nuclear Energy under the DOE. I’m glad they exist, but boy, they hide well.
  • The Register (“Biting the hand that feeds IT”) published a fascinating article about how C has slowly evolved into an Interface Definition Language (IDL). C was never intended to do that, and actually does a pretty shitty job of it. Ok, I’m not a software engineer, but the way to build a new operating system is to define the IDL first, and work backwards from there. C is now 50 years old, sheesh. It’s time to start again, and start fresh, using a language (like Rust) that actually supports some of the security features (like memory protection and safe concurrency) that C lacks. This is not Pascal sour grapes. I’m studying Rust, even though I may never develop anything using it. Somehow, it just smells like the future.
  • Drinking wine with food (as I almost always do) may reduce your chances of developing type 2 diabetes. It’s not taken up in the article, but I have this weird hunch that sweet wines weren’t part of the study. Residual sugar is a real thing, and I’m drinking way less of it than I did 20 years ago.
  • People have been getting in fistfights over this for most of a century, but establishing Standard Time year-round may be better than year-round Daylight Savings Time. I’m mostly neutral on the issue. Arizona is on permanent DST and we like it fine. The problems really occur at high latitudes, where there isn’t much daylight in winter to begin with, so shifting it an hour in either direction doesn’t actually help much.
  • There is Macaroni and Cheese Ice Cream. From Kraft. Really. I wouldn’t lie to you. In fact, I doubt I would even imagine it, and I can imagine a lot.
  • Optimists live longer than pessimists–especially older optimists. Dodging enough slings and arrows of outrageous fortune somehow just makes the whole world look brighter, I guess.
  • Finally, some stats suggesting that our hyperpartisan hatefest online has pushed a lot of people out of political parties into the independent zone–where I’ve been most of my post-college life. 42% of Americans are political independents, compared to 29% who are Democrats and 27% who are Republicans. I’m on Twitter, but I don’t post meanness and (as much as possible) don’t read it. And if Mr. Musk has his way with them, I may be able to post links to ivermectin research without getting banned.

Odd Lots

Does Zinc Interfere with mRNA Vaccines?

During my reasearch into how SARS2 mRNA vaccines operate, a very odd notion occurred to me: Can zinc ions interfere with vaccines?

It’s an important question for Carol and me. At the advice of our doctor, we’ve been taking zinc supplements and an OTC supplement called quercetin now for well over a year. We’d been taking it for months before we got the Pfizer vacc.

(If you’ve not read up on mRNA vaccines yet, this short explanation for laypeople is the best I’ve seen so far.)

The Pfizer vacc is the first of its kind. Vaccination is the process of familiarizing our immune systems with a specific pathogen. This is generally done by injecting weakened or fragmentary pathogens into the patient. The immune system reacts to those weakened or fragmentary pathogens and develops enough familiarity with them to attack the little devils on sight.

Making large quantities of a whole or partial pathogen is a slow business. Because time was of the essence, Pfizer used a new mechanism called mRNA, which literally creates a sort of crude virus using RNA sequences. This RNA virus enters human cells in the patient and begins manufacturing parts of the target pathogen. In the case of SARS2, it’s the spike proteins. Our immune systems then recognize the spike proteins as enemy action, and kill anything having that specific spike protein.

I twitched a little when I figured this out. We’re infecting ourselves with a virus that makes virus parts in our own cells, thus avoiding the delay of having to generate gazillions of doses in vitro. It’s an elegant solution, sure, and we were able to get it on the street in record time. There are a lot of fistfights going on right now over the issue of serious side effects. I’ll leave that discussion to others. The issue here is fundamentally different from that of side effects.

Carol and I had plenty of zinc ions in our systems when we were vaccinated. The quercetin (taken daily) is a zinc ionophore. It “escorts” zinc ions into a cell. Zinc really doesn’t like virus replication, and stops it cold. This is how some clinicians have been treating COVID-19: by giving patients zinc and a zinc ionophore as soon as symptoms appear.

My question is simple: Can zinc + a zinc ionophore block the mRNA vaccine’s spike protein replication process?

Don’t say, “Of course not!” I doubt that question has even come up yet, given the media’s mad-dog attack job done on a certain zinc ionophore called HCQ. We don’t know. If you’ve seen somebody take up this question elsewhere, send me a link. I’ve begun to wonder if the shots we were given actually took, and if they did, to what extent. We reacted to the shots, which is a good sign. That doesn’t mean the generated immune response wasn’t weak, brief, or both.

The issue isn’t whether the vaccines work. The issue is whether we were in fact fully vaccinated at all. And y’know, about things like that I’d really like to be sure.

Omicron as Variolation

My Irish grandmother Sade was a very funny woman, and if I have any gift for humor myself, it came down from her through my father. She had funny words for things, and it was years after she died that I realized that a lot of them were real words. “Oinchek” (or close) meant “goofball” or perhaps “dumbass” in Irish slang. “Redshanks” were Irish and Scottish mercenaries of the 16th century. Sade used the term for imaginary creatures who dug up her tomato garden; we pictured them as mice in red pants. “Gomog” hasn’t turned up in my research and may be Sade’s coinage, but it’s another term for “goofball.” Then there’s “omathaun,” (simpleton, fool) which I thought Sade invented until I heard it used in Disney’s Mary Poppins. And last week, when I first heard of the “omicron variant,” I initially read it as the “omathaun variant.”

Heh. In some respects, all the variants have been omathaun variants, judging by mainstream media reactions. Oh yeah…I keep forgetting…say it with me now…we’re all gonna die!!

Fecking ijits. (You can figure that one out for yourself. Sade never used it in our hearing but it’s real.) The South African researcher who identified the omicron variant told the media that the symptoms of omicron are “unusual but mild.” Reading her description, well, it sounds like the common cold. Milder, even. In fact, the symptoms are at such variance from COVID-19 that my first reaction was, is SARS2 really behind it? Evidently that’s been established to most everyone’s satisfaction. And that’s a good thing.

Omicron could end the pandemic.

Work with me here. I have no citations to offer; this is pure speculation on my part. Omicron appears to be what evolutionists and epidemiologists predicted long ago: a mutation that spreads easily but causes a less serious disease. What it leaves in its wake is natural immunity, which doesn’t exist according to the media, but to everyone with half a brain and some education, it does. (You can get thrown off of Twitter or Facebook for even mentioning it.)

If omicron really is SARS2, then a person who gets it, stays home for a day or three and then recovers, may come away with immunity to all variants of SARS2. The fistfight over whether natural immunity is stronger and longer-lasting than vaccine immunity is ongoing. Given that the CDC no longer states that the vaccines impart immunity at all, I’m betting that natural immunity is indeed stronger and broader and longer-lasting.

As Edward Jenner discovered circa 1790, people who had recovered from a mild disease called cowpox (many of them women who milked cows) didn’t get smallpox. Jenner found that deliberately infecting people with cowpox imparted immunity to smallpox. Jenner invented vaccination, which for a long time was called variolation, after variola, the scientific name for the smallpox virus.

Omicron may finish off an inadvertent ongoing regimen of SARS2 variolation. A great many people around the world have already fought off SARS2 and are now immune to it. Vaccinated people who get breakthrough infections will come away with immunity. Those who haven’t been infected will probably get omicron eventually. They may not even realize that they had it. Omicron may “fill in the cracks” of SARS2 immunity, and turn the damned thing from pandemic to endemic, like flu. People still die from the flu every year, and we don’t go into a screaming panic over it. Or…omicron could make SARS2 rare enough that it mostly disappears. Where’s SARS1 these days, anyway?

The comparison may not be germane; I don’t know. The important thing is to read news from many sources (including international sources) and not panic. From all I’ve read (and I read a lot) the end of the pandemic is definitely in sight.