mm305: Google Health: 1984 for the 21st Century

March 4, 2008

MUDGE’s Musings

We’ve written previously (here and here, for two examples) of our awed admiration for Sandy Szwarc, whose blog, Junkfood Science is in yr (justifiably) humble svt‘s humble opinion, one of the absolute gems of the ‘Sphere.

Her furious concerns include the wrongheaded, conventional wisdom “obesity crisis,” and the distressingly distorted reporting of much medical research.

Last week, she published a simply dazzling comprehensive analysis of the implications of Google Health.

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mm283: Cause and effect: an ongoing medical mystery

February 12, 2008

MUDGE’S Musings

Coffee is bad for you; oh, wait, no it isn’t. Not so fast, it’s bad. No, it’s good.

Remember that scientific tennis match?

Now the latest medical hacky sack: artificial sweeteners.

Artificial sweeteners are used to assist weight loss; oh, wait, they cause weight gain.

What is wrong with this picture?

Just about everything.

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mm281: No! Don’t take away my Diet Mountain Dew!

February 10, 2008

MUDGE’S Musings

As a charter member of the Boomer cohort, health issues are never far from top of mind.

Embarrassed to admit that, at dinner with the closest of friends the other night, our various afflictions comprised the sum total of the conversation for the two hours the four of us were together.

Not our kids (except relating to their health); not politics (what presidential election?); just visits to this chiropractor (by now a virtual member of our friends’ family); that specialist; these MRI results. Ugh.

Never again, that!

But, typical.

Imperceptibly, somehow when I wasn’t paying attention I joined that group of health-obsessed codgers that I used to make such cheerful fun of. Anyone have a pill to treat depression stemming from participation in excessive health-related conversation?

–Coming right up, sir!

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mm276: Fat Tuesday, and Skyhawks

February 5, 2008

MUDGE’S Musings

Fat Tuesday

This headline just popped out at me today:

Fat People Cheaper to Treat, Study Says

So I took a look, and after reading a couple of paragraphs, as I’ll suggest you do, I asked myself a question.

Fat People Cheaper to Treat, Study Says


By MARIA CHENG | AP Medical Writer | 4:00 PM CST, February 5, 2008

LONDON – Preventing obesity and smoking can save lives, but it doesn’t save money, researchers reported Monday. It costs more to care for healthy people who live years longer, according to a Dutch study that counters the common perception that preventing obesity would save governments millions of dollars.

“It was a small surprise,” said Pieter van Baal, an economist at the Netherlands’ National Institute for Public Health and the Environment, who led the study. “But it also makes sense. If you live longer, then you cost the health system more.”
In a paper published online Monday in the Public Library of Science Medicine journal, Dutch researchers found that the health costs of thin and healthy people in adulthood are more expensive than those of either fat people or smokers.

I asked myself: “This is prime Sandy Szwarc territory; I wonder what she thinks of this research?”

Sure enough, her highly informed take was featured on her wonderful blog, Junkfood Science.

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mm275: Republic of WalMartia?

February 4, 2008

MUDGE’S Musings

It’s a big target (as it were): Wal-Mart. The 800-lb. retailing gorilla that everyone (in a blue state) loves to hate.

This nanocorner of the ‘Sphere© has done its share of W-M disparagement: a tongue not-so-deep in cheek look at Wal-Mart’s function as armory to the red state militia; a look at rising prices in China, Wal-Mart’s sweatshop of choice; Wal-Mart’s key role in the rise of the compact fluorescent bulb; and most recently, a casual backhand at Wal-Mart in the context of another (supposed) 800-lb. gorilla in its business, Starbucks.

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mm274: Overdue: decriminalize marijuana use

February 3, 2008

MUDGE’S Musings

As expounded upon in this space several months (and 100 posts!) ago (here and here), MUDGE has no patience whatsoever with the U.S.’s other failed war.

And whether you care to believe it or not, this long-held position comes not as a result of this child of the 60s’ own recreational habits. We’ll cop to other vices, but not recreational pharmaceutical use, ever.

Unaltered reality is quite exciting enough for yr (justifiably) humble svt, thank you very much.

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mm270: Health trilogy

January 30, 2008

MUDGE’S Musings

As yr (justifiably) humble svt trudges around this excessive winter in his oh-so-elegant cam-boot (complete with exposed sock — wow! is it cold!), nursing his partially torn Achilles and worrying that his odd appliance-forced gait is causing new compensatory aches and pains in his lower back, health is very much on his mind.

And as a charter member of the Boomer cohort, one would expect no less. And since we are such a huge demographic, health news, never in short supply, can now be, appropriate to the season, officially classified as a blizzard.

A blizzard of health related news. This nanocorner of the ‘Sphere© proudly brings you its all-health news SASB©.

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mm268: Sometimes it’s personal

January 28, 2008

MUDGE’S Musings

Yr (justifiably) humble svt has been practicing this hobby? trade? avocation? for nearly nine months. Early on, I was exposed to the Prime Directive of Blogging: Thou Shalt Blog Daily!

Okay, started (seriously) 07-May-2007… tonight it’s 28-January-2008… timeanddate.com (as discussed previously) … 266 days … this is mm268 (and there have been some WCW’s and decimals) and WordPress.com tells me that I’ve produced 293 posts up to now: I have met the Prime Directive of Blogging. 293 posts in 266 days. Whew!

With some difficulty. Take this week, for example. And by week, I’m referring to the past seven days, actually just the past six will do.

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mm251: Stem cells – Lab harvests from embryos non-destructively

January 12, 2008

MUDGE’S Musings

Stem cell research is simultaneously a neocon hot button, and one of medical science’s most promising magic bullets.

As a prototypical aging Baby Boomer, yr (justifiably) humble svt has made stem cell research a frequent topic in this nanocorner of the ‘Sphere©:

Stem Cell Research: Support it now!

mm251: Stem cells – Lab harvests from embryos…
mm230: Stem cells…
mm:221: The dread disease … Old age
mm201: Stemming the tide of ignorance
mm200: Stem cells: Unlike oil… alternative source
mm172: Diabetes: Not so Simple, Simon!
mm171: Maintain your brain!

George III, our presidential protector of evangelical Christian values (and please don’t confuse him with the facts), has stifled medical research based on stem cells, on the grounds that the source of the research material was purported to be aborted fetuses.

Recently, researchers have concentrated on finding less controversial sources for stem cells. The latest breakthrough was reported in Friday’s Washington Post.

washingtonpost

Lab Cites Stem Cell Advance

By Rick Weiss

Washington Post Staff Writer | Friday, January 11, 2008; Page A04

Scientists in Massachusetts said yesterday that they had created several colonies of human embryonic stem cells without harming the embryos from which they were derived, the latest in a series of advances that could speed development of stem-cell-based treatments for a variety of diseases.

In June, scientists in Japan and Wisconsin said they had made cells very similar to embryonic stem cells from adult skin cells, without involving embryos. But that technique so far requires the use of gene-altered viruses that contaminate the cells and limit their biomedical potential.

By contrast, the new work shows for the first time that healthy, normal embryonic stem cells can be cultivated directly from embryos without destroying them.

Of course, the Bush administration is not taking this advance at face value.

But that is not likely, said Story Landis, who heads the National Institutes of Health Stem Cell Task Force, which oversees grants for studies on the medically promising cells.

The embryos Lanza used, which were donated for research, appear not to have been damaged, Landis acknowledged. However, she said, “it is impossible to know definitively” that the embryos were not in some subtle way harmed by the experiment. And “no harm” is the basis of the Bush policy, she said.

The science in question was a technical tour de force:

“It is a technically impressive piece of work,” said Douglas A. Melton of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute. “They’ve demonstrated their ability to isolate human embryonic stem cell lines without destruction of the embryos” — something few scientists thought possible just a few years ago.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Lab Cites Stem Cell Advance – washingtonpost.com

Lest we lose site of what all of the shouting is about, Wikipedia has a useful research timeline.

The possibilities for using stem cells to provide breakthrough solutions to what have been incurable, mysterious and tragic diseases such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, ALS (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, sometimes called Lou Gehrig’s Disease) and diabetes are compelling. And the tragedy has been compounded by the typically ignorant, anti-science stance of the Bush administration.

When will evangelicals wake up and learn that science isn’t the opposite of religion, that the two are not mutually incompatible?

Meanwhile, January 20, 2009 (as this is written, 373 days, 6 hours, 46 minutes, 40 seconds from now) cannot get here soon enough!

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE

Note!: the link to Bushtimer.com used above is for clever illustration purposes only and represents no commercial relationship whatsoever. Left-Handed Complement should be so fortunate as to ever collect remuneration of any kind for this endeavor. I can link, so I link. It’s technology. It’s cool. It’s an artifact of Sequitur Service©. Deal with it.

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mm236: If Bt corn is controversial, genetically modified wine is sure to be cataclysmic

December 29, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

“Wine is constant proof that God loves us and loves to see us happy.” — Benjamin Franklin

Europe’s concerns with genetically modified corn hit the news, and this nanocorner of the ‘Sphere©, earlier this week.

The best magazine on the planet, The Economist weighs in with a GM story that, in the same way a short piece in the same year-end issue highlighted a troubled future for beer, explores science’s impingement on that nectar of the gods, wine.

A research team in Italy has just published the complete genetic sequence for the pinot noir grape.

So what, one might ask…

Dr Velasco’s efforts have discovered a treasure trove of information for technologically oriented winemakers. His group has found hundreds of genes that encode enzymes which produce flavourings and aromatic compounds. That will help both those who want to make flavours more consistent and those who want to add novelty.

Further, those seeking genetic solutions for bacterial and viral infections that have limited the ability to grow wine grapes in certain locations, now have the genetic ammunition required to design precise solutions.

economist[3]

Grape genetics | Vine times

Dec 19th 2007 | From The Economist print edition

The pinot noir genome is sequenced. GM wine, anyone?

THE battle between those who think character comes from nature and those who think nurture is the key is not confined to students of humanity. It lies at the heart of winemaking, too. For European growers, the variety of grape is important, of course. No one would mistake cabernet sauvignon for sangiovese or riesling for chardonnay. But grape varieties are normally propagated as cuttings; in other words, clones. What creates a wine’s character, they argue, is the terroir—that mysterious combination of soil and microclimate that gives appellations contrôlées their cachet. In other words, the essence of a wine lies in its nurture.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Grape genetics | Vine times | Economist.com

In an opinion piece in the same issue, the editors of Economist are quite amusing while exploring the implications of highly precise genetic manipulation on wine.

Genetically modified wine

Unleash the war on terroir

Dec 19th 2007 | From The Economist print edition

An oenological wish-list for the drinking season

… Why should sauvignon blanc be stuck with boring old gooseberry and cabernet sauvignon with cassis? Genomics could beget some novel wine flavours and combinations to ensure the wine really does go with the food: pinot noir with cranberries, pork, and sage and onion stuffing, perhaps….

A gene for producing acetylsalicylic acid, better known as aspirin, would help to prevent heart attacks and blood clots. You could get your doctor to supply your daily half-bottle by prescription. The aspirin’s analgesic effect would head off hangovers before they even started. Caffeine could be added to keep drinkers awake during boring dinner parties. And it may even be possible to insert a gene to produce sildenafil citrate, the active ingredient in Viagra. For many men that would help to prevent the ultimate wine-induced humiliation.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Genetically modified wine | Unleash the war on terroir | Economist.com

War on terroir.” WIWICWLT! These guys at the Big E” have a sense of humor that we always appreciate.

Wine as nutraceutical. What a concept! This season of the year, a sparkling beverage fortified with an analgesic to counteract Champagne’s notorious hangovers would fly off the shelves of one’s local beverage emporium.

And now, within reach. Don’t you just love science?

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE

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