Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Feeling old? Take a pill.

People have been searching for the Fountain of Youth for centuries – and ultimately, what they've discovered so far is, you can’t really stay young or stop aging, but now scientists are trying to find a way to make people live longer by mimicking what they call the ‘longevity gene’.

This article from Reuters talks about the pharmaceutical industry’s push to develop a drug that will help people live longer. Scientists are studying centenarians around the world to figure out what in their genetic makeup has contributed to such long lives.

Clearly, as I think the article implies, long life is a factor of luck, having the right genes will help you live longer – of course coupled with a healthy diet and lifestyle. I find it interesting that the ‘answer’ to helping people live longer, healthier lives is automatically thought to be found in drugs. We can make a pill for that!

I have to admit, I find centenarians to be fascinating. What I’ve noticed about those 100-year-olds who appear in the news is that a good portion of them [well, okay, all] – have lived through world wars, many have even served in them. This certainly doesn’t equate to the safe environment the article cites as a factor in long life. Many of these people have held difficult or tedious jobs, they’ve existed at the poverty level in some cases, they’ve raised children and navigated our stressful society or even those deemed more stressful and managed to survive. So how do they really do it? Is it just luck? Good genes, good timing, good life choices? Or is it something the rest of us can really hope to emulate without having to fork over our Medicare Part D dollars for the ‘longevity pill?’

I wish the scientists would take a break from trying to develop new drugs and start really looking at longevity as something inherent in the human condition – something we can all achieve if we know how, not just if our (mandatory) health insurance covers it.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Some kind of nut

I’ve been trying hard to eliminate candy from my diet – not chocolate per se, which my research [and my own personal belief system] lists as a health food – but the readily available snack type candy that contains nothing more than empty calories.

That being said, I could not resist picking up a couple of single serving bags of Coconut M&Ms the other day. My husband has been talking about them since he first heard they existed so when I saw them at the local Walgreens, I couldn’t resist.

I ripped open one of the small bags as soon as I got home tried some. Cocunut M&Ms come only in white, green and brown – I imagine to evoke the tropical hues of the coconut – leaves, shell and meat. I’d have included a pale beige for sand and a bright blue for an island sky, but that’s just me.

As expected, the M&Ms are overly sweet, but they definitely taste like coconut. That’s quite an accomplishment considering that while the nutrition information warns they may contain both peanuts and almonds, there is no trace of real coconut anywhere in the package.

They’re good, but fortunately for me, not good enough to blow my new health-centric diet for. I could live without them. I wonder how could they might be though, if they actually contained coconut.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Ailment or evolution?

I struggled over finding the right title for this post – I really wanted to call it: Not racist? You’re sick … but I figured people would misconstrue that so I went with something a little less inflammatory.

Nevertheless, that is the real issue, apparently according to this article, which comes straight from the WTF Files.

Rare disorder erases all social anxiety – apparently a very rare genetic disorder is afflicting children with the inability to experience social anxiety and racist tendencies.
Can you imagine? NOT being shy, introverted, nervous in crowds or affected by the racial and cultural biases of your peers, parents and siblings is now a DISEASE.

Apparently, being predisposed to prefer people of your own color or ethnicity is normal. Kids who don’t feel that way automatically are somehow defective, as this study seems to point out.

The down side of this mysterious Williams Syndrome seems to be the following:

They will put themselves at great peril to help someone and despite their skills at empathy, are unable to process social danger signals. As a result, they are at increased risk for rape and physical attack.

So let’s break this down: They will put themselves at great peril to help someone

I guess all firefighters, police officers, emergency medical technicians, animal control officers, and general Samaritans who have risked their lives for others are all sufferers of Williams syndrome then.

despite their skills at empathy, are unable to process social danger signals.

So being caring and sympathetic and yet maybe a bit socially clueless is an illness.

As a result, they are at increased risk for rape and physical attack.

I guess the average kid walking on the street is in no real danger because they will instinctively run away from someone who is a different race than they are??

Then there’s this:

As a result, people with Williams syndrome are "hypersocial," Meyer-Lindenberg said. They do not experience the jitters and inhibitions the rest of us feel.

Good God, people. This illness must be conquered!! I’m off to find out if there is a fundraiser or something because those of us normal people who suffer constantly from jitters, inhibitions, shyness and fear of strangers MUST do something to help the less fortunate among us.

Let’s race for a cure. We must end Williams Syndrome before it’s too late.


I did some research on Williams Syndrome and actually it’s not the medical profession that screwed this up so much as the author of the MSN article, Robin Nixon, who failed to include the physiological symptoms of the disease and totally missed the point of the reason anyone would be studying it. Nixon, it seemed, wanted to go for the sensational value of a less than accurate headline rather than true scientific journalism.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Hook, line and sucker

Just like everyone else who has an e-mail account, I get SPAM constantly. The best junk-e-mails are those telling me I’ve won a lottery or asking me for help in getting buckets of cash out of impoverished Third World Nations. Those are a real hoot, especially for an editor since the grammar is usually atrocious.

The most insidious of the phishing scams, though, are the ones that seem to make every effort to really hoodwink someone. They provide convincing graphics and links to websites that look just like those belonging to businesses you may actually be dealing with. They tell you your account is suspended or will be shortly and you have to confirm your password in order not to lose access to your money, line of credit, etc.

I got one like that today that was so clever it screwed itself. Supposedly CHASE bank e-mailed to inform me that due to a software upgrade it was imperative that I update my customer information. The e-mail was emblazoned with the CHASE logo and told me my cooperation was ‘obligatory.’ Now right there they lost me – because in this economic climate, I’m predisposed to automatically NOT do anything a credit card company or bank wants me to do.

But I was bored and I was at work where none of my personal info is stored on the computer, so I clicked on the link and was taken to a very convincing facsimile of the CHASE portal website. The page was full of CHASE links, many of them active and looking very legitimate.

I decided to click on the ‘Learn more about online fraud’ link, which took me to a page listing types of on-line fraud including phishing. The phishing link took me to the page where CHASE lists all the phishing scams perpetrated on their customers and what did I come across? You guessed it, the EXACT e-mail I had received, supposedly from CHASE.

I’d just like to say kudos to the web-whiz cyber criminal who came up with this. Creating a phishing scam that actually links to a warning about the very phishing scam you’re perpetrating is sheer evil genius. You belong in the Super Villian Hall of Fame for this one.

Keep this up, and cyber crime will be extinct in no time.

Friday, April 9, 2010

None of what you hear

It's been a while, I know.

I wish I could say there hasn't been anything to write about, but it's more like there have been too many topics that could use a shot of reality that I've been overwhelmed.

Last night while watching TV, I came across something that irritated me enough that I decided I needed to blog about it. As a potential homebuyer/seller [hopefully this year] I have a marginal interest in the government's Home buyer's tax credit program.

The idea for this incentive was to make home buying more attractive [originally just to first time home buyers] in order to kick start the failing real estate market. Giving people money off thier tax bill - especially those who can now afford a home since prices are dropping and foreclosures are everywhere - seemed like a good idea to the current administration. You know, take from the poor and give to the rich type stuff - you lose your house to foreclosure and the people who buy it get a tax incentive. That's fair, right?

Well, then the rule changed, and people who were selling a home and buying a new one could also get some tax credit - not as much, but some. That made a little more sense. Draw people into the market, maybe those looking to downsize, or even up-size now that prices are more realistic. The whole plan is sort of like spitting in the wind, but hey, it makes people feel like the government is doing something to help. The problem is, the program expires on April 30th 2010, so if you don't have a contract by then, you're out of luck. The real estate industry is holding its collective breath hoping the program will be extended, but no word from Washington yet.

So last night, in the middle of prime-time there's a commercial touting in big letters and loud words, "The home buyer's credit has been extended and expanded!" Yay! Let's all rejoice, this is the news we've been wating for...

except, the fine print still says...Expires April 30, 2010.

Misleading much?

Surprised much?

Not me. All you potential home buyers out there, don't be fooled. Or better yet, don't be lied to and don't forget to read the fine print.