28 May 2010

"Hypersensitive Immune System"?

Our good friend Kris, in Australia, posted a link to a fascinating article that indicates people (like me) with severe allergies and asthma have a statistically significant reduced rate of various and sundry cancers. WTF? Is it possible that a lifetime of breathing problems (that almost killed me at least twice) might afford me some kind of protection?


According to the article, which you can read here, people with severe allergies and asthma have hypersensitive immune systems that react to all kinds of things that don't bother the usual person. These reactions somehow protect us from cancers and toxins.

I'm not sure I buy the connection offered in the article -- that we sneeze out cancer-causing toxins. So many cancers are genetic and not environmental that I don't see how the act of sneezing helps. Rather, I think there is something on a genetic level that is either turned on or off that makes or prevents some occurrence in the body that defends against cancers and, coincidentally, makes us sneeze.

Either way, a reduced risk of cancer is nothing to sneeze at.

23 May 2010

The Economist For Me, Please!

I have been reading the weekly news magazine The Economist on and off for about 20 years. Although it originates in England, it is the best printed source of news to be found anywhere in the world.

Just recently, I noticed the magazine's motto which appears on its masthead. It says that it exists to take part in a severe contest between intelligence, which presses forward, and an unworthy, timid ignorance obstructing our progress.

If only other "news" organizations had the same motto.

You can visit their site here.

[Disclaimer: I have no affiliation with The Economist other than being a satisfied reader.]

13 May 2010


From a voice encryption device to the mainstay in today's hip-hop music, who would have ever thought the vocoder would have such an interesting journey?

You can hear more about this interesting instrument here.

06 May 2010

One Down, Two to Go

Three years ago, I wrote this blog entry listing the three things I wanted to occur in my lifetime: humans on Mars, life discovered on another planet and proof that Neanderthals have descendants living on our planet right now.

According to research just announced, it looks like I finally have my wish on one of them: Yes, you who are reading this (if you are not of African descent) could be part Neanderthal. Yippee!

It seems new analysis of DNA taken from three bone samples proves that some of the Neanderthal genes live on in some people. I have always suspected Neanderthals walk among us because the two species existed on the planet at the same time for at least 10,000 years -- plenty of time for a Homo sapien Romeo and a Neanderthal Juliet to come together on some metaphorical balcony of love and reproduce.

Of course, the question has often been, if they did reproduce, were their offspring viable (could have children of their own)? If this new research stands, then the answer would be "yes" -- at least one time. That's all it would have taken for some Neanderthal DNA to get passed on.

You can read more about this fascinating discovery here.

03 May 2010

Radio Icon Turns 100

A lot is being made over the fact that Norman Corwin turns 100 today –- and he is certainly due much attention. Corwin was, at one time, the most influential writer / producer of dramatic radio shows during the golden age of radio drama and comedy (roughly, the 1930s through 1950s).

Working for CBS radio, Corwin wrote some of the then-most-important radio programs heard anywhere on the dial. In 1941, he penned a piece to honor the 150th anniversary of the Bill of Rights that was heard by an astounding 60,000,000 people –- at a time when the country’s population was only about 100,000,000.

While I understand the importance of Corwin’s work –- then –- I have a hard time respecting his work today. As with much of the propagandist writing of the day for radio (and theater and film) there is a bombastic quality to his work that, frankly, would get it laughed off the radio or screen or stage were it produced today. There is a lack of subtlety to all of the Corwin pieces I have heard that is cringe inducing. Yes, his works are of their times, it is just hard for me to get my mind around how people could have thought his works were examples of great writing.

That said, there is no denying his influence, or his well-deserved place of honor in the annals of radio history.

If you are not familiar with Corwin -- or even if your are -- NPR today did a nice retrospective of Corwin’s work which can be found here.