Saturday, June 18, 2005

Brains.. Brains....

An interesting look at the sex differences of brains, a subject of long time fascination and relevance to me these days. Yes, it seems the stuff they thought in the late 70's and 80's seems to be true.
She began by studying the corpus callosum, the cable of nerves that channels all communication and cooperation between the brains two hemispheres.
Examining tissue samples through a microscope, she discovered that the more left-handed a person was, the bigger the corpus callosum.
To her surprise, however, she found that this held true only for men. Among women there was no difference between right-handers and left-handers.
"Once you find this one difference," she remembered thinking, "it implies that there will be a cascade of differences."
As she systematically analyzed the brains in her refrigerator, she discovered that other neural structures seemed larger or smaller among men, depending on whether the man had been right-handed or left-handed.

Speaking of brains, I've discovered a recent flaw in mine which I attribute to the brain worms. I can't really remember people's names anymore. Not just new people I meet, I've never been good at that and now it's hopeless. I mean people I have known for years. I recognize them, have a full set of memories etc., I just often use the wrong name or dont' remember the name at all. It's very weird.
So, if I'm talking to you and I don't use your name, that's probably why.


In the NYTimes. Danforth is now on my list. Too bad he's not actually in the Senate.

Moderate Christians are less certain about when and how our beliefs can be translated into statutory form, not because of a lack of faith in God but because of a healthy acknowledgement of the limitations of human beings. Like conservative Christians, we attend church, read the Bible and say our prayers.

But for us, the only absolute standard of behavior is the commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves. Repeatedly in the Gospels, we find that the Love Commandment takes precedence when it conflicts with laws. We struggle to follow that commandment as we face the realities of everyday living, and we do not agree that our responsibility to live as Christians can be codified by legislators.

When, on television, we see a person in a persistent vegetative state, one who will never recover, we believe that allowing the natural and merciful end to her ordeal is more loving than imposing government power to keep her hooked up to a feeding tube.

When we see an opportunity to save our neighbors' lives through stem cell research, we believe that it is our duty to pursue that research, and to oppose legislation that would impede us from doing so.

We think that efforts to haul references of God into the public square, into schools and courthouses, are far more apt to divide Americans than to advance faith.

Following a Lord who reached out in compassion to all human beings, we oppose amending the Constitution in a way that would humiliate homosexuals.

For us, living the Love Commandment may be at odds with efforts to encapsulate Christianity in a political agenda. We strongly support the separation of church and state, both because that principle is essential to holding together a diverse country, and because the policies of the state always fall short of the demands of faith. Aware that even our most passionate ventures into politics are efforts to carry the treasure of religion in the earthen vessel of government, we proceed in a spirit of humility lacking in our conservative colleagues.

Enough's enough

What is it with Jeb Bush and Terri Schiavo? Now he wants to go after Terri's husband, 15 years later?
"It's a significant question that during this entire ordeal was never brought up," Governor Bush told reporters in Tallahassee after faxing a letter to Bernie McCabe, the state attorney in Pinellas County, where Ms. Schiavo suffered extreme brain damage when her heart temporarily stopped beating in 1990.

In a statement on Friday, Ms. Schiavo's husband, Michael, called Governor Bush's actions "sickening" and said he had called 911 promptly.

The governor's letter could further prolong an exhaustively fought case that even many of his fellow Republicans said it was time to close after the autopsy found no evidence of foul play in Ms. Schiavo's collapse nor any sign that further treatment would have restored the functions of her withered brain.

I think he just can't admit he's wrong. This seems to be a common failing in the Bush clan.

Friday, June 17, 2005


An epic tale of rebirth

Mark: “?? I haven’t had corn in days, have I ???”

Cut back to 24 hours earlier

I have a big mouth that, one day soon, will be the end of me. To wit, I am in a German biergarten in the 1500-year-old city of Speyer. A beautiful city on the Rhine filled with history, architecture and well, German biegartens. I’m enjoying a wonderful pint of home brewed beer, interesting conversation, and it comes time to order some food. I brag that I always like to try a local dish when I am traveling. As always, the Imp of the Perverse hears me and prompts my hosts to say, “oh, well we have a wonderful regional dish that I think you’ll really enjoy. It’s called saumagen, and it’s delicious!”. Now I know that 98.8% of all German food is either sausages or chocolate (although I have yet to run into chocolate sausages…). Germans can make sausages out of anything; pigs, cows, lambs, chickens, ducks, bugs, apples, small churches etc. If Noah had it on the ark, the Germans later found it and ground it up for sausage. Fortunately, I can choke down almost any kind of sausage or sausage-related meat by product and feel pretty confident that I can handle this “saumagen” thing. “Is it a sausage?” I ask. “No,” comes the highly unexpected reply. “It is, how you say, a pan”. A pan??? Did they find some way of actually incorporating cookware into sausage form? My host makes a couple of signs with his hands and asks his companion, “How do you say aufgerfucked?” (He didn’t really say aufgerfucked, he said something else in German I didn’t catch/know. Aufgerfucked is, however, a more accurate term in my opinion”) “Patty”, came the reply. “Yes!, it is a patty”. Oh, okay, I think. I can eat a sausage patty. If Jimmy Dean can make them, I can eat them. When it comes time to order, I confidently tell the waitress, “Saumagen”. She looks incredulously at my hosts, who nod appreciatively and also order it. She looks back at me, clearly impressed. I suddenly realize I am in deep deep shit here. Impressing the waitress is *never* good.

2 beers and 20 minutes later, a steaming plate of saumagen and sauerkraut arrive. The ‘kraut is standard but good. As a youth with a polish grandmother, I have downed more cabbage products than any two Irishmen and more than most VFW fundraisers. Fine. Onto the saumagen. The disk of meat is about the size of my head and deeply pan fried. It looks pretty much like a Frisbee of fried meat-vomit, but not as appetizing. I cut off a piece, smile and pop it in my mouth. Chew, smile nod, chew smile nod as I look a my hosts. Swallow. “Delicious!” I proclaim. Satisfied, my hosts smile proudly and eat. I cut anther piece, pop it in my mouth and swallow it whole. This minimizes the time near anything like a taste bud and put it right into the reject hopper as fast as possible. Said hopper is going to fill fast and I am soon going to have a new, not entirely unexpected problem. This tastes as if I’m eating a vegetable filled Prada handbag, except without the deliciousness of the tanning acids. It is chewy beyond description, like that time I tried to eat a superball. I suspect though, this adventure will not end with as much grace as that one did (The official medical report used the phrase “passed harmlessly”).

“What’s in this?”, I ask with as much innocence as possible. I’m doing pretty well here and half of my head-size portion has disappeared from the plate, although my napkin is suspiciously bulky and stained with saumagen-like juices. Now is not the time to give up the game. “Sau means pig, right?” my host explains. I nod suggesting I had figured that much of it out, which honestly I hadn’t but could have based on my limited German. “And, Magen?” I prompt. My host looks to his friend and says,
“How you say totalishundtaglishaufgerfucked?”
“Wait,” I say. “Pig Stomach?”
“ja! It’s very high in protein! Actually it’s the second stomach where the vegetables are digested…”
I tune out after this point. ‘No wonder this was so chewy”, I think. ‘Well, I can’t lose the game now. I ate a goodly portion, I might as well finish it’.
“So this is like … haggis?”
“No, no, not so crude. We don’t empty the stomach so much as … truelyundcompletelyaufgerfucked… it”
“I see” I say, trying my level, Yankee best not to see at all…

I did not finish my meal, but did manage to remove more than 50% of it from my plate before claiming I was “stuffed”. The irony of this statement didn’t hit me until the car…

24 hours later, in the hotel men’s room
Mark: I didn’t eat corn or any other real vegetable this week. Just ‘kraut. … weird…. Don’t they feed all the corn and vegetables to … THE PIGS!!!???!!!

Thoughts while eating lunch in Germany

I once said, "I've never had a bad meal in Europe" now... This is the actual internal dialogue I had at lunch the other day with my German clients and coworkers.

That *really* doesn't look much like "1000 Island dressing", but I'll try it.

Christ that's a lot of pasta. Is there anything that doesn't have pasta in it??

Wow. While this is really horrible, I doubt it's actually poisonous

Oh, it's probably rude to throw up just now. Maybe I can hold it to the bathroom.

I just have to swallow this or my career is over.

Interesting, apparently the Germans spell the word "beef" the way we spell "chicken"

Note, no one actually forced me to get the sweet and sour chicken beef

This isn't pudding at all, it's gravy. I am eating gravy for dessert. Terrific .hmmm It's actually the best thing I've had all afternoon

Sunday, June 12, 2005

In UK and Europe next week

Leaving tomorrow 6am, getting into London around 10pm GMT. Kind of cool really. I should be back on the weekend.

Preach it Howard

Cheney is such an ass that being taunted by him only scores points *for* Dean in my book. I'm not a big fan of Howard, but having Cheney say stupid things about him can only improve his position.

I've never been able to understand his appeal. Maybe his mother loved him, but I've never met anybody who does. He's never won anything, as best I can tell,'' Cheney said in an interview to be aired Monday on Fox News Channel's "Hannity & Colmes.''

Dean was elected governor of Vermont five times between 1992 and 2000.

Yup, he's an ass alright.

The Big Book of British Smiles

The effects of methamphetamine addiction on teeth.
Not so good.

A bit too far

I got this from Andrew Sullivan and I have to agree, this is too far. The state has no business telling people what is too religious for a license plate.

Otolaryngology II

I saw the Otolaryngologist on Friday. My hope was they could give me a pill and things would straighten themselves out. Having had this particular hope smashed like a Cadbury Orange at Christmas a number of times, I was prepared for something worse.

If I can get the picture off my cameraphone, I'll post it. The image is of the speech pathologist, a thin, blond, good looking , perky woman in her mid-20s, holding the device they are going to use to examine my throat. The device itself is gun-shaped, around three feet long, has several long cords coming out the back end (attaching to a card full of monitors and power supplies) and something that looks like a drain snake in front. She is dressed in goggles and a white lab coat, her right hand firmly grasping the back of the device while the business end rests easily in her left. She looks, for all the world, like something out of a Ghostbusters movie.

"Hey, you look like a Ghostbuster!" I mention cheerfully.
"Hmm.. I suppose so.", she replies distractedly, adjusting nobs and dials on the device.

It's at this point I look around and notice all the laser warning signs. There are lots of them. I've done a lot for work with lasers over the years, so I'm very familiar with the signs. Like smokers are with the labels on packs of cigarettes. One reassuring says: "Warning! Neon/Helium laser 4mw cw". Which is about right for a NeHe. For reasons I won't go into, I'm fond of NeHes in the way that a lot of people are fond of certain breeds of dogs. A comfortable, warm fondness for years gone by and knowing exactly what to expect. In the case of a NeHe, it's like a small, mixed breed puppy giving me an "aw, isn’t that cute" kind of nostalgia. Then I read the line below it, it's apparently a mixed mode device. Now that I think about it, why does a NeHe need a power supply the size of a minivan... "Warning! Carbon Dioxide laser, 30W cw". Holy Fucking Shit! The owners of the puppy, while I was reaching down to pet it, let the rotweiler out! I read it 3 times to make sure I got it right... 30 fucking watts!!! This bad boy is serious. For reference, you need about 8w to set paper on fire or burn wood (it's very slightly more complicated than that, but unless you're a astrophysicist with a particularly prickly stick up your ass, you don't care.). 30 W will punch a hole right through you, your chair, the wall behind you and so on into space where, in 2000 or so years it reaches the Crab Nebula and blinds someone. Don't look directly into the beam my ass. Thus begins this internal dialogue "So this thing really is a Ghostbuster gun ,huh? Wow. Continuous Wave too (cw). That's really one angry, kick ass piece of equipment. What would they need all that power for? Especially at continuous wave? They told me the device goes into my nose and....

" Jesus Godfuck Mc Christ!!! They are going to use the laser to DRILL!! Drill in my head!!!!! AAAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!

but what I say is,

Mark (out loud)"Is this going to hurt?"
Blondy: "Oh yes!"
Mark (to self)"AAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!"
Mark (out loud)"a lot?"
Blondy: "No, not a lot. It just feels weird. It's a little uncomfortable having this up your nose like that, and it stings quite a bit, but mostly it's weird."
Mark: "what are all the lasers for?"
Mark: "That one there (pointing at the rotweiler)"
Blondy: "Oh, that's for surgery"
Mark: "Surgery? Not drilling?"
Blondy:"?? Drilling? no. what would we need to drill??"
Mark (out loud)"I don't know"...
Mark (to self)" Ahhhh. You know, I'm really quite a moron"

Things went fine after that. It was weird and uncomfortable, but nothing once you've been tasered for 2 hours. Upshot: You know that acid reflux disease they use to hawk zantex? Well it turns out it's real and actually fairly serious. It seems I have it. Apparently the brain worms re-wired the timing of the muscles in my throat and they have been unable to heal because I have this reflux disease, constantly throwing acid up into my larynx. Add to this the fact the brain worms also seem to have given me a hyperactive gag-reflex (no comments), the result is choking fits every time I get acid up in that part of my throat.

End result: They gave me a pill. They'll check again in 3 months to see if I made any progress. :) I'm very happy I can take a pill and make it better, but secretly, I wanted to see the CO2 laser fire up...