Random Factoid O’ The Day

The sensitivity of the human eye is so keen that on a clear, moonless night, a person with 20/20 vision standing on a mountain can see a match being struck as far as 50 miles away. Much to their amazement, astronauts in orbit were able to see the wakes of ships.

Also:  I got a mandoline last week.  Orka (cheap end).  I have already cut off one knuckle and the end of another finger.  That sucker is dangerous and I am band-aid ridden.  But I am such a corner-cutter that it is very, very VERY hard to make myself use the holder as soon as I really should.  It’s the first kitchen accoutrement that I’ve ever been afraid of, unless you count the disposal.   On a positive note, I’m pretty sure these qualify as cook’s scars.  Yeah, baby, I’m bad.  I have the bad, mad cooking skilz and the scars to prove it.

The next bad thing

Researchers Turn USB Cable Into Attack Tool
CNet (01/19/11) Elinor Mills

George Mason University researchers will demonstrate a computer device attack using a USB cable at the Black Hat DC conference. Professor Angelos Stavrou and student Zhaohui Wang have written software that changes the functionality of the USB driver, enabling keyboard and mouse functionality to be added to the connection.

The exploit of the USB protocol, which can be used to connect any device to a computing platform without authentication, allows the attacker to start typing commands, click the mouse to steal files, and download malware. Although Macintosh and Windows machines will produce a pop-up message saying a new human interface device has been detected, there is no easily recognizable way to stop the process. Stavrou describes the compromise as viral.

“Say your computer at home is compromised and you compromise your Android phone by connecting them,” he says. “Then, whenever you connect the smartphone to another laptop or computing device I can take over that computer also, and then compromise other computers off that Android.”

The original compromise can result from downloading the exploit from the Web or running a compromised app, and antivirus software would not be able to determine whether the exploit’s activities are controlled or sanctioned by the user.


And then we have quotes from Stonewall Jackson 1824 – 1863(via Van at Quotes of the Day):

The time for war has not yet come, but it will come, and that soon; and when it does come, my advice is to draw the sword and throw away the scabbard.

I like liquor — its taste and its effects — and that is just the reason why I never drink it.

I like these two quotes as they illustrate an inability and perhaps even inadvisability to be moderate.  I have that problem.  It’s somewhat easier now that I’m a little older and my passions are flagging, but my general tendency is still all or nothing. [This is not to say I don’t do half-assed things all the time (cuz I do!) but they are normally more day-to-day routine things that I want to do in a hurry, like … pound a big nail into the wall because I don’t want to go dig through crap in the garage looking for the correct size.]

I think, as an adult, that I should be getting better at being moderate than I am.  Diets?  Eat everything or eat nothing.  That’s where I am.  I know better and it doesn’t seem to help a bit.  Drinking?  Binge or go dry, I’m good either way.  Fighting?  Don’t get in a serious fight with me because I will hold a grudge forever and you will ALWAYS fall asleep before I do.  And I have a bat under the bed.  Exercise?  Do it til my muscles bleed or lay on the couch all day.  And that  may the worst thing, healthwise.  I wish I had a little insight into why I’m like this.  Sometimes I think it’s some sort of shallowly buried death wish.

Here’s a possible current example [or it’s some other type of unexamined psycho-ness]:  I had major surgery 5 days ago … and moved heavy furniture Thursday night and Friday morning because I suddenly felt that things were in the wrong place and MUST be moved right now.  I normally don’t move furniture except when I change residences but it was suddenly making me crazy last night.    Poor Bob, he’s all NO YOU CAN’T DO THIS I WON’T HELP YOU.  TAKE IT EASY DAMMIT and so of course I’m doing it myself because he won’t help and then he HAS to help because it’s not in him to watch me do something like that and not help.   I guess if I feel like moving furniture I must be okay, anyway.  If I was still knocked down that  hard from the surgery I’d have no desire to move it, right?  Or maybe it was the drugs.

The room looks a lot better now, though.  Way worth it.

How a virus works

How the Flu Virus Steals Your Cells, from today’s EveryLearner Knowledge News email.  EveryLearner.com sends out interesting bits about the world on a regular basis.   You can try it free for a month here.


Right now, there is no bigger news than flu. So naturally, we want to know about it. Specifically, we want to know how the flu virus steals your cells, because that’s what all viruses–no matter how new–do. They nab your cells and use them for their own reproductive purposes.

They have to, because a virus is nothing more than a few strands of rogue DNA (or rogue RNA, DNA’s single-stranded cousin) wrapped in a protein coat to keep out the draft.

They are not cells, and they have none of the internal structures that cells use to go about the business of life, which is, generally, to make more life. No, viruses are just genetic material looking for a free ride–looking to hijack a cell and make its machinery do the virus’s bidding.

Rule for Viral Success #1:

Mutation, Mutation, Mutation

With so little to call their own, how have these biological pirates survived for so long? The answer lies in two traits that give viruses superb evolutionary advantages: superfast reproduction and genetic mutations.

Viruses live to reproduce. Although they must do this within host cells, once inside, viruses replicate with enough abandon to shame a rabbit. They quickly reprogram the machinery that cells use to copy their own DNA and use it to spit out copy after copy of themselves.

Genetic mutations add insult to injury. With so much reproduction going on, viruses can mutate almost as fast as they propagate. And massive mutation means that each new generation of viral invaders stands a good chance of gaining some new survival or targeting advantage.

Rule for Viral Success #2:

Pick a Likely Victim

Viruses invade all kinds of cells–plant cells, animal cells, fungi, even bacteria. Yet each virus tends to have a very specific M.O. Which cells look like likely victims to a virus depends on the unique proteins found on the virus’s protein coat and the protein receptors found on the poor target cell.

Some viruses recognize the general receptors that occur on many different kinds of cells. The virus for rabies, for example, can invade so many different kinds of cells that it can span species, infecting rodents, dogs, and humans. Flu is a pretty good species spanner, too.

Other viruses are more restricted and can invade only specific kinds of cells. The common cold virus, for example, can invade only the cells lining the human upper respiratory tract. It’s a picky thief.

Rule for Viral Success #3:

Make It an Inside Job

Viral entry mechanisms are as diverse as viruses themselves, which is why viruses often elude treatment. Some enter a target cell by binding to a specific receptor and passing through the host cell membrane to the cell interior. Others don’t need to enter the cell, but simply attach to the surface and use a needle-like structure to inject their DNA right in.

Once viral genes are inside, the virus begins its replication. It exploits the host cell’s supplies and machinery, forcing it to copy viral genes and synthesize more viral protein coats. Then, these two components come together to form copies of the virus that emerge from the host cell.

Sometimes they “bud” off the cell, like bubbles on top of a simmering stew. At other, more violent times, copies simply fill the cell until it can hold no more. It explodes, releasing its viral hoard into the surrounding area.

Either way, the viral progeny go on to infect new cells–and the cycle starts again. Disease symptoms can and do result from this cellular damage. Most often, though, the sickness you feel is the result of your immune system’s response to the foreign invader. And make no mistake, it will respond.

Rule for Viral Success #4:

Avoid the Cops

Your immune system’s first-responders act like beat cops on patrol 24/7. If they see anything amiss while walking the body’s beat, they make arrests. One kind of cellular cop, the phagocytes, will engulf strange viruses and digest them. Another kind, natural killer cells, recognizes suspect changes on the surface of infected cells and releases chemicals to disintegrate both virus and cell alike.

After spotting the infection, your body can launch a more specific and intensive attack. Proteins called antibodies surround, bind to, and neutralize viruses and other invaders in your bloodstream. Killer T cells mercilessly destroy infected cells and halt systemic infection. Both help your body remember the infection and mount a faster response to the same invader next time.

Still other players merit mention. When a cell does get infected with a virus, sometimes it manages to secrete small proteins called interferons that serve to warn neighboring cells of an imminent viral invasion. These “Paul Revere” proteins work by encouraging neighboring cells to synthesize proteins that can interfere with viral replication.

As if getting old weren’t enough

By Carla K. Johnson
Associated Press

CHICAGO – Older people who are depressed are much more likely to develop a dangerous type of internal body fat – the kind that can lead to diabetes and heart disease – than people who are not depressed, a disturbing new study found.

The connection goes beyond obesity and suggests some biological link between a person’s mental state and fat that collects around the internal organs, scientists said.

“For the depressed public, it should be another reason to take one’s symptoms seriously and look for treatment,” said study co-author Stephen Kritchevsky, director of the Sticht Center on Aging at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C.

People with depression were twice as likely as others to gain visceral fat – the kind that surrounds internal organs and often shows up as belly fat. It raises the risk for heart disease and diabetes.

Previous research has linked depression with those same health problems. Some researchers believe depression triggers high levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which promotes visceral fat. The cortisol connection may explain the findings, Kritchevsky said.

The research, published in Monday’s Archives of General Psychiatry, is the first large study to track people over time to see if those with depression were more likely to gain weight. Mostly federally funded, the study used data from 2,088 people in the ongoing Health, Aging and Body Composition study. That project is following healthy older Americans to find out how changes in bone, fat and lean body mass affect health.

The participants, all in their 70s, were recruited in and around Memphis and Pittsburgh in 1997 and 1998 and were followed for five years. Researchers screened for symptoms of depression at the start of the study and again at four follow-up visits.

They measured visceral fat with CT scans. They calculated body mass index, body fat percentage, waist size and the distance between the back and the biggest part of the belly.

There were 84 people with depression symptoms at the start of the study. They gained, on average, 9 square centimeters of visceral fat. In contrast, the 2,004 people who weren’t depressed lost visceral fat – on average, 7 square centimeters.

That variation “could mean the difference between developing a cardiovascular disease or not,” said lead author Nicole Vogelzangs of VU University Medical Center in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, in an e-mail.

Both groups, depressed and nondepressed, were overweight on average at the start of the study, with approximately the same average body mass index. When the researchers took into account other risk factors for obesity, including the depressed group’s higher visceral fat levels in the beginning, they still found a connection between depression and visceral fat gain.

They also found a similar link to visceral fat gain in people with recurring depression over the years. Adjusting for antidepressant use didn’t change the findings either.

Researchers didn’t make adjustments for poor eating habits, but they found no link between depression and BMI or body fat percentage.

“Since such an increase in overall obesity was not clearly found, we believe a biological explanation is more likely” than poor diet, Vogelzangs said.

The researchers did find hints of a depression link with waist circumference and the back-to-belly measurement – two other gauges of visceral fat.

That suggests depression has a specific tie with fat gained around the organs in the abdomen. The good news is visceral fat is easier to lose than subcutaneous fat, Kritchevsky said.

Dr. David Baron of Philadelphia’s Temple University School of Medicine praised the study, although he wanted to know more about the participants’ family history of obesity. The connection between brain and body makes sense, he said.

“Depression is a physical illness,” Baron said. “Maybe we should be even more aggressive in treating depression in this age group, whether through medication or talk therapy.”

Seasonal Handyman Special


1. Remove breasts, uterus, Fallopian tubes, and ovaries.
2. Create penis using abdominal wall tissue.
3. Form scrotum using skin of labia majora.
4. Insert plastic testicles.
5. For erectile function, insert fluid reservoir in abdominal muscles, fluid pump with release valve in scrotum, and inflatable cylinder down length of penis.

Ask The Doctor


…IN 1967, in a five-hour operation, Dr. Christiaan Barnard, the son of a poor Afrikaner preacher, performed the world’s first successful heart transplant on a human being in Cape Town, South Africa. After years of performing experimental heart-transplant surgery on dogs, Barnard decided to risk operating on a patient named Louis Washkansky, a 55-year-old man with diabetes and incurable heart disease, who faced certain death. The donor was a woman in her mid-twenties who had been certified brain dead after a car accident.

After his medical triumph, the debonair Barnard began jetting around the globe. In true celebrity fashion, he divorced his wife of 21 years, a nurse who’d supported him while he developed his career as a surgeon, then remarried several times. In 1986, he endorsed an “antiaging” skin cream, which turned out to be, in the medical parlance of the time, “like, totally bogus.”

Maybe it’s the vodka

Every once in a while we all produce floaters. Floaters are caused by increased levels of air and gas, such as methane, which make the stool less dense than usual. There are dozens more varieties of poo, and you would not believe how many people are secretly (or not so secretly) obsessed with their stool creations. X’s brother used to call him in to examine his works of art. Another friend happily remembered his personal best: a bowel movement that coiled around and poked its head out of the bowl like a cobra.

There is something about “dropping the kids off at the pool” that makes us all smile.

Now: That was obviously written by a male.
It made me laugh, but also grossed me out — one of my least fond memories of childhood was my father roping me in on a regular basis to admire his “works of art”. Gross. No wonder I’m so weird.