Let’s start by facing some facts. Superhero movies, and TV shows, are making so much money right now that there’s not a snowball’s chance in hell that Hollywood will stop making them in the foreseeable future. The good news is, if you don’t like them, there are many other options. If you do, then you’re golden and need not worry about much else. Well, global politics and famine and stuff, sure, but not movies. This year saw Marvel demur from attending San Diego Comic Con. They certainly had no need to be there. They could, and did, release trailers on Youtube from where ever they happened to be. And, let’s be blunt, I doubt any of them wanted to sit through fanboy theories about how Avengers: Infinity War should end. [Read more…] about Coming Attractions
Lilfe’s a funny old thing. You show up, with no input on when or where, you hang around for a while, then you die. Some make the most of their time here on this rock, other’s not so much. But, for some, choices are denied them. Somehow their bodies break down and cause them endless suffering. Yes, I’m aware some people’s brains break down as well, but today we’re just focusing on the flesh. You know, that tacky bag of epidermal tissue that tends to wrinkle and holds your bones and organs in. Anyway, a list of common diseases tend to roam the earth denying people their lives. They all tend to force the person to dramatically alter their lifestyle, eating habits, social constructs, and then they kill the person anyway. Some slower than others, but the end result is the same.
[Read more…] about Living a Little Healthier
Yesterday the World News Center’s official girlfriend and I joined the Center for Inclusivity as part of a group to allow parade participants to pass by a group of protesters without having to hear their hateful speech. And, dear God, was it hateful. This was our second year doing this and it seems to be becoming more important than ever for those of us not directly impacted by their hate to stand up, stand firm, and denounce it. For the record, it worked. Denied the ability to call marchers fags and dykes, admitting they refused to accept transexuals at all, and proclaiming anything else their limited vocabularies could disgorge, they took their megaphones and went home before the parade ended. So score one for the pride people. For that I am grateful. But listening to their litany of perceived affronts became draining after a while. Especially, as they blathered on, it became apparent they had no clue what they were actually talking about. It was just one hate filled fallacy after another. And, worse, it was scattered all across the bile spectrum. They were there to hate gays, of course, but also a laundry list of others.
Like I said, they hate the gays. They also, to a one, had an unhealthy fascination with anal sex. One man, an Indian who seemed unclear what was in the book he was misquoting, repeated this phrase numerous times in his allotted time; “There is a penis, you put it in an anus, are you insane?” He yelled it in case saying it wasn’t clear enough. All of the speakers seemed very concerned with this as well, clearly not realizing that anal sex is really popular with straight people too. If subtle jibes such as these didn’t persuade “the gays” to give up their “lifestyle” they resorted to name calling, body shaming (I lost count of how many people, including my girlfriend, they called fat), and pointing out that ALL homosexuals are severely depressed and kill themselves whenever they get the chance. Yeah, these assholes aren’t getting invited to any parties I’ll ever hold.
But that’s not all. They hate Muslims. With a dripping passion. Calling them animals and inhuman at every turn. You know, 9/11 ya’ll, but nary a word about the numerous people who’ve been killed by home grown terrorists. A number which far outstrips anything that happened on 9/11.
And, don’t worry, they didn’t forget the Catholics. Which was funny to me since the bible they cherry pick hate from is the one created by the Catholic church. Anyway, all priests are pedophiles. As are all gays. Therefore all gays are Catholic.
Got it? Yeah, don’t feel bad, neither did I.
That’s like “dogs scratch their heads when they itch, men scratch their heads when they think, therefore thinking causes fleas.”
I suppose I’d better not tell them about the gay saints Sergius and Bacchus. Not that they could pronounce their names anyway but they have enough on their hate plate for now.
They also added any allies to their pile. Cops who won’t kill gays for being gay? They must be purged. Businesses that serve gays? They must be shuttered. Boy Scouts who refuse to toe their restrictive line? They must be shunned as the moral deficients they clearly are. Religions which actually adhere to the teachings of Christ, who had nothing to say about “the gays” but a lot to say about false prophets, must be destroyed in fire.
These folks are really big into eternal fire. Almost as much as they are into anal sex. Plus they seem fond of guns too, 2nd Amendment Solutions seems to be a trademark of theirs, but didn’t have any yesterday.
Also, good news for the double X chromosomes among us, they didn’t forget women. Even going so far as to have their token representative from the Handmaids’ Tale there to remind women to dress down and be subservient. Or, as the witty one of the group reminded us, women need to get back in the kitchen where they belong. Let’s just say they’re not really enlightened and leave it at that.
Nor did they forget “the blacks.” Accusing them of all sorts of easily debunked myths. The odd part of this rant, which was echoed by all of them, is that black lives don’t matter because black women have abortions. Anyone else, not black, who has one was conveniently left out of their screed.
Thank God racism is dead.
Speaking of God, they thanked Him, conveniently ignoring the biblical Asherah, for presidents Bush and Trump. It is the latter who is helping bring back the moral America they pretend once existed.
I’ll ignore the lengthy litany of facts proving contrariwise here and just move on.
On and on it went, finally devolving into a bizarre form of Kabuki theater. They would ramp up the vitriol, those with us would ramp up the volume, the latter would drown out the former, and the marchers would come by and do stuff just to piss off the protesters. Men would kiss men, women would kiss women, one dude kissed me, many glorious asses, of all gender identities, took a moment out of their busy day to twerk in the direction of the Nazi wannabes, various and sundry middle fingers were raised, and, at the end of the day, all of the people who weren’t Nazi wannabes had a great time.
The thing about the protesters is that they’re not there to accomplish anything. They want a confrontation. They want someone to go off on them. They want proof that the people they marginalize are animals and should be treated as such.
They didn’t get that yesterday. They never have. I doubt they ever will. You see, unlike them, the people they hate are civilized.
The headline might seem a touch off putting but it was the best way I could think of to get the point across. While science fiction has long considered the idea that there could be some sort of mandatory maximum age (Logans Run, Star Trek: The Next Generation and others), the idea seemed ludicrous to most. We barely lived long enough to register as a flutter against the geologic scale of time, why would we happily kill ourselves? Way back in January of 2014 I wrote an article about how science had discovered a set of genes which could impact our lifespans. It was a more innocent time. The article more whimsical than worthy of serious consideration.
[Read more…] about Happy Death Day, Grandma!
Once upon a time your home was your safe place. The locale you could count on to allow you to decompress, relax, maybe sucka brewski and catch up on Game of Thrones. It’s the place where you, and your family, can sit, talk, and compare notes on the day gone by. Homes are, by hopeful definition, happy places. I truly hope yours is. But, as time has gone on, people have added more and more gadgets in their homes. To make life easier, more fun, more secure, or some combination thereof. You can talk to your gadget and it will do your bidding. You can monitor your gadget at your office or on the road to see who is knocking on your door in your absence. You can program music, set times on your lights, and all sorts of nifty things that make you feel as though you’re in charge. I’m sorry to inform you you couldn’t be more wrong if you tried.
Your devices, cool though they may be, are basically designed to let in thieves who want to steal your stuff.
No, I’m not kidding.
I’ll give you an example. Garage door openers. They’re cool, aren’t they? Especially when the weather’s shitty. Just push the little button, up goes the door, and you’re inside safe and dry. In the old days that was all that needed to be considered. Now garage door openers are connected to your home security system, have their own app so you can open, or close, the door from any location, and can provide data on the energy usage in the garage so you can adjust temperatures and so on accordingly.
All great features. But each uses wi-fi to communicate. And, unless you have set up a distinct network for each, which no one seems to do because it’s a hassle and requires unique passwords for each device, you’re home is open to anyone with a laptop and some basic software.
All of this has a name. It’s called the Internet of Things or IoT for short.If you click that link you will find an excellent article by Margaret Rouse explaining how to do the stuff you firmly believe you’ll never have to do. I was going to quote it but I’ve learned that fear is a better motivator than calm advice so, instead, I’m going to tell you how a glorified goldfish bowl brought down a heavily guarded casino.
Yes, this is true. And, yes, it can happen to you.
Oscar Williams-Grut, over at Business Insider, has the whole story.
Nicole Eagan, the CEO of Darktrace, told the WSJ CEO Council Conference in London on Thursday: “There’s a lot of internet-of-things devices, everything from thermostats, refrigeration systems, HVAC systems, to people who bring in their Alexa devices into the offices. There’s just a lot of IoT. It expands the attack surface, and most of this isn’t covered by traditional defenses.”
Eagan gave one memorable anecdote about a case Darktrace worked on in which a casino was hacked via a thermometer in an aquarium in the lobby.
“The attackers used that to get a foothold in the network,” she said. “They then found the high-roller database and then pulled that back across the network, out the thermostat, and up to the cloud.”
Robert Hannigan, who ran the British government’s digital-spying agency, Government Communications Headquarters, from 2014 to 2017, appeared alongside Eagan on the panel and agreed that hackers’ targeting of internet-of-things devices was a growing problem for companies.
“With the internet of things producing thousands of new devices shoved onto the internet over the next few years, that’s going to be an increasing problem,” Hannigan said. “I saw a bank that had been hacked through its CCTV cameras, because these devices are bought purely on cost.”
He called for regulation to mandate safety standards.
“It’s probably one area where there’ll likely need to be regulation for minimum security standards, because the market isn’t going to correct itself,” he said. “The problem is these devices still work — the fish tank or the CCTV camera still work.”
See? That’s the thing. If your stuff works you don’t think about it. The garage door opens, the fish are still alive, your central air unit adjusts your personal climate regularly and correctly, and so on. When you ask Alexa to play three hours of polka classics it doesn’t let you down.
But, and this is important, hackers no longer need to render a device useless to steal your stuff. in fact, the longer it stays active the more they can steal.
“But what can they get from me? My garage door doesn’t know any of my personal info.”
I hear that a lot.
And, you’re correct insofar as it goes. But I bet dollars to donuts you also have an app from your bank on your phone. And, if you’re like many people these days, you also have all your contacts, your schedule, and even more personal information.
If they get into your garage door app they have access to all of that. They will have bypassed your incredible password (usually either password or 123456) and have complete access to everything you carry with you. Given a little more time they’ll also have access to everything on your home computers, which hold the main programs, every time you fire up your computer to check the latest updates on Daenerys Targaryen.
You could easily wake up one morning and find your bank account drained, your friends getting wonderful updates from you telling them about the joys of Viagra, and your family signed up for a variety of expensive things you neither want nor need.
The latter will be items or tickets they will try to get refunded to a clean credit card. It’s easier to do than you might think.
Now you’re broke, turgid, and heartbroken.
And here’s the really shitty part. Unless you have state-of-the-art insurance there’s almost nothing you can do about it. You can stop the bleeding, of course, but getting anything back is nigh on impossible. By the time you discover it your money, and all your info, is in a different country.
And that’s the least of it. They now have your identity, financial history, and personal references. There will be a new you living it up in Moscow by nightfall.
As of this writing over 60% of businesses have no IoT protection. Worse, once in your system they can use it as a starting point to infiltrate your neighbors and anyone else they can cadge a signal from. One such attack shut down electric grids in Europe and America to the tune of $110 MIL.
All that from your garage door opener.
It’s hard to believe that once, not that long ago, movies about superheroes were so few and far between that any attempt to do the genre justice, no matter how lame, was heralded by fans as the best thing to happen to things in the history of things. And, as I noted before, those movies got co-opted by major studios, watered down, and turned into the movie franchises we know and love today. So far so good. I guess. At least the groundwork was laid for superhero movies to start tackling some real world issues. Wonder Woman managed to address, and then move past, the genocide of Native Americans in a single scene, but Black Panther hit the issues of racism and human trafficking head on and never flinched. To be fair to Wonder Woman it had a lot on its plate before the first scene was shot. Many were quick to dismiss a film directed by a woman, starring a woman, about a woman who is famously bisexual. That last part the film dealt with tastefully and with humor.
But now, thanks to the internet and proliferation of choices, an ugly subset of humans have reared their heads and seem determined to force issues that don’t exist. Mostly they want people to choose between Marvel and DC.
The theme runs like this; Marvel makes great movies for the whole family that tend to preserve traditional family values. You can also note that Marvel was the main bastion of white male heroes as an underlying theme there. DC, on the other hand, is a dark place filled with death and sexuality that should be forever shunned. DC’s whiteness is ignored in these cases for reasons I can’t fathom. It isn’t like Batman or Superman are minorities unless you want to stretch the illegal alien motif to its breaking point.
And this silliness isn’t happening in a vacuum. It’s out in the open on Rotten Tomatoes website and many others that allow fan interaction. Most have, to some degree or another, downplayed fan input to keep it from spilling over on their main pages. RT, for example, has no fan scores on its front page. You have to click the movie title to see those rankings.
Now, like all cliches, there is some truth there. Marvel espouses a lighter tone than DC. Marvel also uses the exact same color palette for every film. DC does not. Marvel marketed their films better than any other company, even before they tied up with Disney. And their marketing is consistent from film to film. Except for Black Panther, which caught a bunch of middle aged white guys with their knickers twisted. But they turned that to their advantage, so good for them.
However, there is one major difference between Marvel and DC that does not get addressed since doing so would add some much needed perspective.
Marvel released almost a dozen movies to introduce its universe. DC has, for all intents and purposes, released its universe and will now backfill in with character driven movies. Batman V Superman and Justice League were essentially one long movie to get all your favorites on screen. Marvel has done nothing with their villains but DC released Suicide Squad. While not an amazing movie by any measure, it did get the backstories and introductions out of the way for a slate of characters who will populate smaller films for years to come.
And, this must be noted, fans of DC have bought into this. You wouldn’t know it by the message boards but it’s true. The last five DC releases have earned well over two billion dollars. No matter how you cut that pie there’s plenty for everyone.
Marvel has earned more but, after Infinity War finishes, they only have two or three more possible tent pole films; Black Panther Two (assuming he survives Infinity War), Spiderman II (same caveat as Black Panther) and Captain Marvel. Antman & Wasp is not a major film, although I bet it’ll be a lot of fun. There’s nothing seriously planned for X-Men or Fantastic Four, Deadpool is slated to conclude its run after this movie, and Venom is going to be a hard “R” celebration of violence porn, which I will also enjoy. DC, on the other hand, has numerous films coming out that could each stand as a tent pole; Aquaman, Wonder Woman 2, Shazam, Batman, Cyborg, The Flash, Black Adam with Duane Johnson, the all female crime film featuring Harley Quinn, and, at least, four or five more.
In other words, the playing field is changing.
Okay, that’s a brief look at the business involved, let’s look at the franchises. It is entirely possible to like both of them. I do. My girlfriend, who is late to the superhero game as she never read comics, loves them all. Despite what you see online more people fall into this category than not.
Simply put, there’s no need to hate. The plan for each franchise is wildly different, and the execution of each, while occasionally flawed (I’m looking at you Iron Man III & Man of Two Million Killed), have given fans something they’ve been hoping for all along. a chance to see their heroes come to life.
Both franchises need to do more, much more, to embrace diversity and representation. And fans need to hold them to that. The good news is that fans are. They are doing so the only way Hollywood understands. With their pocketbooks. Little girls, and people of color of all ages, didn’t walk out of Wonder Woman and Black Panther, respectively, crying and hugging each other because there was a funny smell in the ventilation system. Those movies touched them, moved them, and promised more to come.
Hopefully much more.
And there’s another part of this that gets overlooked. DC has been building its television universe to the point that it’s now overflowing off of the CW and developing its own channel. Marvel’s attempts at television have yielded Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Defenders universe on Netflix. All great shows, but they need the cinematic universe to survive, at least by reference. The DC shows work as stand-alone properties. They even have their own Superman and no one blinked. Essentially they have a firmer foundation to build from. Thus they can bring Teen Titans to the screen, currently entitled Titans, and still have those characters appear in films with different actors.
DC, it should be noted, also has the best superhero cartoons out there. Marvel doesn’t even try anymore instead limiting its animation licenses to stuff for Disney’s kids’ channel. Fortunately there is no plan for Spider Babies or anything like that, but the shows do skew young and are brightly colored.
Whoo, that’s a lot of shit to parse. So what does it mean for fans?
Well, for one, it means there will be a hell of lot of superhero stuff they can enjoy if they can get off their high hobby horses and quit sniping. A boy can dream, can’t he? As for me, it means I’m going to be buying a lot of popcorn, continuing to ignore the trolls, and parking my fat ass in a comfy seat right next to my girlfriend to cheer on the capes and cowls as they appear.
The rest of you should try it too. It’s far less stressful and a lot more fun.
But you have to do it without my girlfriend. Get your own.
No matter what god or gods you believe in, if you’re a spiritual person you have some concept of what happens to you after you die. Religions are, after all, a guide for how to live this life so that your next will not be awash in torment. Even if you’re not spiritual, being nice to people and treating them with respect isn’t a bad way to count your days. All that being said many people think that science and religion are too disparate to be welded together. I’m not sure I agree. Both are looking for the ultimate answers to all things. It’s just that religion starts with the answers and back fills the discoveries in and science starts with nothing and looks to front fill their world. My guess is that, someday, they’ll meet in the middle. Then, who knows?
[Read more…] about Where Do You Go When You Die?
Humans have an amazing capacity for destruction. We blow stuff up, wipe things out, eradicate entire species, and still wander blithely along as though it’s God’s will or something. A single nuclear warhead could kill a couple million people in seconds. There are thousands of those bad boys dotting the Earth. If they all went off at once there are estimates that the top layer of the planet would vaporize. So there’s your happy thought for the day.
Back in September of 2012 I wrote a story about how we could all die a little more slowly, but still pretty damn quick, if all the bees disappeared. Essentially all pollinated plants would die, the animals that subsist on them would soon follow, and then we’re done. Figure about four years. Yes, there might be dystopian pockets of survivors, but the human race, for all intents and purposes, would be done.
Eijio Miyako, a chemist at AIST in Japan, takes the whole “end of the world due to lack of bees” thing seriously. And, unlike you and I, he’s a scientist and can do something about it.
Also, because he’s from Japan, his solution involves robot bees.
Stefan Kostarelis at Techly in Australia, tells us all about it.
In an example of life imitating art, scientists have come up with a technology straight out of an episode of Black Mirror: Bee-like pollinating drones.
A team at the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) in Japan engineered the devices using a combination of horsehair, $USD 100 drones and a sticky ion gel.
It’s pretty simple really – first, the drones fly into flowers much like a bee would. Inside the flower, pollen gets stuck to the drone due to the combination of the ion gel and horsehair. That same pollen is then shaken off into the next flower, and so on. It’s just your run of the mill birds and the robots bees.
Popular Mechanics reports that Eijio Miyako, a chemist at AIST actually created the sticky ion gel by accident in 2007. The gel, which Miyako considered a failure, sat unused for a decade. When Miyako picked it up again recently he was pleased to find that it was still sticky and figured it would be perfect for his new project.
Miyako is now the project leader behind the “Robo-bees”. In the video above, you can see the first time that a drone has successfully pollinated a flower, in this case Japanese lilies. Blink and you’ll miss it!
“What’s wrong with regular bees?”, you may ask.
The answer is “nothing”, except for the fact that they have reportedly been dying at an unprecedented rate. Although the death of bees was a mystery at first, we now have a better idea of why it’s happening. And as usual, it looks like we are to blame. Predictable.
In 2014, Time reported on a study from Harvard’s School of Public Health. It found that pesticides were the cause of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), which is the phenomenon in which worker bees just suddenly up and leave a colony without warning. The pesticides in question are those that contain neonicotinoids (NNIs) and they are partially or completely banned in the EU, Canada and the U.S.
Above, if you click on the article I wrote, there’s a link to Zom-Bee-Watch. When I wrote the article infected, and dangerous, bees were in very limited locales. They now cover about forty percent of the U.S. and are spreading. Those are bees that no longer pollinate. They just eat, breed, and die. Coupled with the drastic uptick in the number of bees just kicking the bucket this is a problem.
While “make a healthier planet” would be my go-to answer, robot bees can work in the interim.
So science marches on trying to make our lives better whether we want it to or not. One thing science has been assiduously working on is how to cure paralysis. Or, barring that, at least give the paralyzed a way to live normal lives. Two years ago I wrote about a scuba styled suit that a person could wear and regain total movement. It works. But issues with durability and cost have kept it from commercial production.
In the meantime, way back in 2016, a company called SuitX came up with an exoskeleton that worked, gave the person complete mobility, and allowed them to work a normal job. While flashier ideas have come and gone, SuitX is still here, working, and costs about as much as a car.
Signe Brewster at MIT’s Technology Review, tells us all about it.
Paralyzed from the waist down after a BMX accident, Steven Sanchez rolled into SuitX’s Berkeley, California, office in a wheelchair. A half-hour later he was standing and walking thanks to the Phoenix—a robotic exoskeleton now available for around $40,000.
The suit returns movement to wearers’ hips and knees with small motors attached to standard orthotics. Wearers can control the movement of each leg and walk at up to 1.1 miles per hour by pushing buttons integrated into a pair of crutches.
At 27 pounds, the Phoenix is among the lightest and cheapest medical exoskeletons. It also has unique abilities; the suit is modular and adjustable so it can adapt to, say, a relatively tall person who just needs mobility assistance for one knee.
A battery pack worn as a backpack powers the exoskeleton for up to eight hours. An app can be used to track the patient’s walking data. SuitX has mainly worked with patients with spinal cord injuries, who can use the Phoenix to walk again.
“We can’t really fix their disease. We can’t fix their injury. But what it would do is postpone the secondary injuries due to sitting,” says SuitX founder and CEO Homayoon Kazerooni. “It gives a better quality of life.”
The technology behind SuitX’s industrial and medical exoskeleton originated at the Robotics and Human Engineering Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley, which Kazerooni leads. He said his major goal is to build a version of the exoskeleton for children. Children with neurological disorders sometimes need intensive walking training or can risk losing their mobility.
The device could also have therapeutic benefits for people who have experienced a stroke or other motor injury, but more research needs to be conducted.
Since this article came out SuitX has made tremendous advances. Their goal is to make a suit that is as lightweight as possible that can still provide the support and mobility a person requires.
But not all research is being done in the areas of exoskeletons. In Australia they are developing a bionic spine which can control prosthetic limbs, mobility devices such as mechanized wheel chairs, and many other things that allow paralyzed people to become functional. It is, literally, implanted at the base of the patient’s spine and takes over motor control.
Partly based on that research scientists at the University of California came up with a cap that stimulates brain activity and allows a patient to walk unaided.
It’s days like this that make you proud to be human. Using the power of the patient’s mind, scientists have enabled a man completely paralyzed in both legs to walk again. And this astonishing feat didn’t involve the help of an exoskeleton or robotic limbs, and no brain implants were required, making this a first for rehabilitation.
The patient was a 26-year-old man who had no motor (movement) function in his lower limbs due to a spinal cord injury sustained five years ago. He also lost sensation below his injury, although he could just about feel when his bladder was full.
Describing the results in the Journal of Neuroengineering and Rehabilitation, the team’s goal was to allow him to regain voluntary control of his legs using his brain, but without the need for invasive brain surgery. To achieve this, the researchers created a brain-computer interface system using an electroencephalogram (EEG) cap to read patterns of brain activity while he thought about walking.
Next, he underwent training to learn how to acquire brain control of an avatar’s walking within a virtual reality environment. Once he achieved this, he then had to build up strength in his leg muscles that had deteriorated through a lack of use, which involved electrical stimulation combined with weight shifting maneuvers.
After his muscles were reconditioned enough to stand, it was time for the really hard work to begin. Instead of going for gold straight away, the team first got him to practice walking movements while he was suspended a few centimeters off the ground. As he thought about walking, his brain signals (read by the EEG cap) bypassed his damaged spinal cord and were pinged to electrodes that had been positioned around his knees, providing muscular stimulation. Nineteen sessions later, the man had improved so much that he was ready to put his feet to the ground.
Wearing a system that supported his weight and helped prevent falls, he was able to successfully translate what he had learned and walked unsuspended. Over time, his control improved and he was able to walk several meters.
An undeniably incredible feat, but whether or not such a system could ultimately offer benefits to the wider population will rest on future trials involving more people. Obviously everyone is different, as are their injuries, but it is hoped that this technology could benefit many people. However, it might not be suitable in some circumstances.
“It can be speculated that a very severe traumatic brain injury in tandem with a spinal cord injury could prevent this brain-computer interface system from working,” An Do, one of the study’s lead researchers, told IFLScience.
There is also, as always, room for improvement, with the technology requiring tweaking and streamlining, which Do predicts will take a significant amount of time. Do also said that the team is working towards developing a simplified version as well as a system that would involve a brain implant, which could potentially offer improved control.
The link in the article for the Journal of Neuroscience will take you to the doctors who are working on this. It’s not commercially available yet but candidates are still being accepted. Since it’s a study there is no cost involved other than travel.
But the absolute best news comes from the work of Dr. Edward D. Wirth III, chief medical director of Asterias Biotherapeutics. He has come up with a way to use stem cells to regrow euro pathways and allow a patient to regain full mobility with no artificial enhancements.
Spinalcord.com has the full story.
Scientists have begun using stem cell injections to treat those who have been paralyzed in accidents resulting in a spinal cord injury. In March 2016, Kristopher Boesen (Kris) was in a car accident that paralyzed him from the neck down. After the accident, Kris had difficulty breathing on his own due to his injuries and was told he may never be able to regain control of his limbs again.
Kris could undergo the standard surgery given to patients suffering from a spinal cord injury that would stabilize the spine, but it would most likely do little to nothing for his motor and sensory functions. Kris did not choose to do this surgery. Instead, he discovered a clinical trial being done involving treatment with stem cells which was looking to enroll patients just like him and decided to take the chance.
The clinical trial was being led by Dr. Edward D. Wirth III, chief medical director of Asterias Biotherapeutics. It involves injections of “AST-OPC1– an agent consisting of oligodendrocyte progenitor cells (OPCs) that derive from embryonic stem cells. OPCs are the myelin-forming cells of the brain and spinal cord that help nerve cells to function.”
This treatment is supposed to reduce the size of the injury cavity and replace the myelin coating of the nerve cells, stimulate nerve cell growth, and produce blood vessels that will bring oxygen and healing to the injured site. In order to participate in this study, Kris was required to be able to breathe on his own. With the help and care of his respiratory team, he was breathing without a ventilator and approved for the trial.
The National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center states that “each year there are approximately 17,000 new cases of spinal cord injury in the United States.” This study is just one example of how regenerative medicine is bringing hope to those who had thought they would never be able to move their limbs again. The procedure that Kris took part in was a part of a phase 1/2a clinical trial evaluating the safety of the doses being given to the patients. The AST-OPC1 cells being injected are developed by the Asterias Biotherapeutics based in Fremont, CA. These cells come from the embryonic stem cells that are found in the brain and the spinal cord.
The clinical trial is now at the 10 million cell level, which is the amount that was found to be most effective in the pre-clinical studies. In order to be involved in the study, “enrollees must be between 18 and 69, and their condition must be stable enough to receive an injection of AST-OPC1 between the 14th and 30th days following their injury. Keck Medical Center is one of the 6 sites in the United States that is authorized to enroll subjects and administer the clinical trial dosage.”
After 2 weeks, Kris was able to achieve some minor motion in his arms and hands. It took about 3 months, but he was eventually able to write his own name with pen and paper and accomplish a good deal of other normal daily tasks. Kris went from having complete immobility to being able to function on his own again.
If you, or someone you know, is interested in, and qualified for, this study please contact The Keck Institute via the link. They have six locations in the U.S.
ALl in all not everything’s bleak. Science is making great strides in many areas, whether people believe in it or not.
I know that people get so excited when something seems to agree with their narrow view that they neglect to check the facts. It’s why, and how, the Tea Party thrives. That being said, atheists and rationalists are allegedly the people who live on facts and facts alone. I used to count myself among their number until I realized that if I was the most evolved creature in the universe then the universe was fucked. Therefore, while I subscribe to no particular religion, I do believe in God. I also believe in facts. I understand that making fun of people who believe in God is fun to do and that American Evangelical Christians and the Taliban, two like minded groups, are easy targets. Still I do expect a little more out of my non-believing friends. If you are going to belittle me please do so based on reality. I can live with that. Anyway, about four Easters ago I wrote about the whole Ishtar meme that seems to captivate those people who hate believers and facts with equal verve. Since it’s popping up again I’m tossing this blog up again.
Last year I wrote about the history of Easter. Mostly how it came to get that name since there is no such word in the Bible. Long story short, the holiday got blended with the Pagan celebration of the goddess Ostara a/k/a Eastre. She was, still is I would guess, a fertility goddess so the whole rebirth / resurrection theme fit well with the pagans of the day. And, while odd at its face, the whole eggs, bunnies and resurrection theme has had it’s uses. As I also noted the tradition of handing out eggs replaced human sacrifice. So that was some good news for folks. And, since the traditions were already mangled, Eastern Europeans now celebrate Easter with some fun S&M. Because nothing says “Jesus died for your sins” like a day filled with a few rounds of spank and tickle with a smoking hot brunette. These are the same people who celebrate a child eating demi-god for Christmas, so it all makes sense to them.
Some folks wrote to me to let me know that I had missed the whole Ishtar connection. Since there isn’t one, no, I didn’t. I’ll let Megan Mcardle explain.
My unfavorite new Facebook meme is this bit of sillyness which has apparently been spotted everywhere from the feeds of my college friends to (allegedly) that of Richard Dawkins’ Foundation for Reason and Science:
I immediately knew that this was a bit of nonsense for the simple reason that Easter is an English word. The Greeks and Romans called it Pascha, which is why Easter is Pasqua in Italian, Pascua in Spanish, and Paques in French. How exactly did the name of a Canaanite fertility goddess skip all the way to England from the Middle East without stopping in Rome or Byzantium?
There was (is?) a goddess named Ishatr and she seems to, loosely, be the basis for the goddess Ostara mentioned above but that’s about it. You’re covering about 2,500 years to get from point A to point B just in the names. As to the whole litany of other things allegedly associated with her, they are just wrong. She was noted for killing her lovers, making the animals she had sex with impotent and pissing off Gilgamesh.
That’s not exactly how the story of Jesus’ rebirth goes. Trust me, I’ve read it.
Just because words are homonyms doesn’t mean they mean the same thing. Otherwise anti, ante and auntie would make for interesting families.
“Hi, this is my uncle and antimatter.”
Your great antediluvian.
One thing that amazes me is the fact that people seem surprised that Christian holidays have pagan associations. Christianity, for all its many faults, is the most inclusive religion in the world. Initially that inclusion was simply practical. They couldn’t just conquer everyone so they needed to meet them half way if they were going to increase the size of the flock.
And, yes, it is true that Christianity has been the source of some horrid atrocities as well. Just ask a Gnostic if you can find one. People will angrily point that fact out every Christian holiday too.
Face it, Christianity is a roiling dichotomy. It has been since Saul who became Paul donned his sandals on the road to Damascus. That isn’t going to change any time soon.
In the end I look at it this way; there are enough true things associated with religions that I don’t need to make any up. And if you think eggs and bunnies are weird, you just haven’t been to a good penis festival yet.
Back on March 17, 2011 I posted an often overlooked aspect of St. Patrick’s day. For example, every red headed Latin person you meet is part Irish. There is no exception to that rule. Why that is so is the subject I wrote about then.
Grab a cuppa and prepare to enjoy a bit of history you probably never heard about.
The little, poorly made, nameplate on my desk says World News Center. Since that is so, I feel it is my duty to look beyond the musty confines of my locale and imbue you with knowledge of the greater world around you. I can already hear some of you saying, “Hey Doofus! It’s St. Patrick’s day. We already get that. Wear green, drink beer! What else do you need to know?” Well, ye of little knowledge, you’d be surprised. St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland, for example, bears no resemblance to the Bacchanal celebrated in America. It’s a somber, religious, holiday where people pray for enemies to no longer taint their shores and for blessings to be laid upon their homes and families. To be polite, it’s not exactly a wild party.
More importantly to our blog here today, it’s a Catholic holiday. I point this out not to exclude any other religions but to explain something that happened around 150 years ago that is very important to a lot of people.
The Irish in America at that time were trying to fit in. Many joined the military. There they were subjected to abuse, both verbal and physical, by the Protestant leaders who ran things. Even so, they fought and died for their new country. They fought insurrectionists, they fought Indians, they fought anyone they were told to fight until 1848. That was when they were told to fight Mexicans. More specifically, Catholic Mexicans.
Combined with the abuse and torment heaped upon them by Protestant officers, that was too much for them to bear. The Irish, en masse, defected to the Mexican army. While almost none of the soldiers spoke Spanish, that didn’t matter. Since they were Catholic, and had their priests with them, the priests spoke Latin. Just like the Mexican priests did. Just like all priests did back then. All negotiations for land, intermarriages and service in the Mexican army were handled by the priests.
The Irish knew they would be facing a far superior force in the American army and that their future looked to be short. They did it anyway. What happened next is why there’s a Día de San Patricio in Mexico and other Latin countries to this day. Viva San Carlos has the rest of the story.
Dubious about why they were fighting a Catholic country and fed up with mistreatment by their Anglo-Protestant officers, hundreds of Irish, German and other immigrants deserted Taylor’s army and joined forces with Mexico.
Led by Capt. John Riley of Co. Galway, they called themselves the St. Patrick’s Battalion (in Spanish, the San Patricios) and fought against their former comrades in all the major campaigns of the war.
The history of the San Patricios is a woeful tale of angry, bewildered, naive, or calculating young men, from varied backgrounds, who deserted for a myriad of reasons and paid a fearful price.
The San Patricios, in the words of one Mexican general, “deserved the highest praise, because they fought with daring bravery.” But eventually, Mexico surrendered, ceding almost half its territory to the United States.
Each San Patricio who deserted from the US side was interned after the war in Mexico and subsequently given an individual court-martial trial. Many of the Irish were set free, but some paid the ultimate price. Roughly half of the San Patricio defectors who were executed by the US for desertion were Irish.
There are ceremonies there twice a year, on September 12 which is the anniversary of the executions, and on Saint Patrick’s Day.
It also clarifies the reasons for the war, and the active participation of immigrant people (most notably Irish but also Scots and Germans) who joined the Mexican side and paid for that decision with their lives.
The Saint Patrick’s Battalion in the US-Mexican War, has placed the Irish as a revered race in Mexico; even to this day, an Irish person in Mexico will be told a countless number of times about the famous ‘Irish Martyrs’ who defected from the US Army and gave their lives trying to save Mexico from US aggression from 1846-1848.
A main reason for their hero status in Mexico is derived from their exemplary performance in the battlefield. The San Patricios ultimately suffered severe casualties at the famous battle at Churubusco, which is considered the Waterloo for the Mexican Army in this war. Mexican President Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, who also commanded the armed forces, stated afterwards that if he had commanded a few hundred more men like the San Patricios, Mexico would have won that ill-famed battle.
The importance of these Irish renegades has not waned in Mexico over the years. In 1959, the Mexican government dedicated a commemorative plaque to the San Patricios across from San Jacinto Plaza in the Mexico City suburb of San Angel; it lists the names of all members of the battalion who lost their lives fighting for Mexico, either in battle or by execution.
A major celebration was held there in 1983, when the Mexican government authorized a special commemorative medallion honouring the San Patricios. First there was a special mass at a nearby parish, then school children placed floral wreaths at the plaque; the Mexico City Symphony played the national anthems of both Mexico and Ireland; Mexican officials eulogized the Irish Martyrs, and a few words were spoken by Irish Ambassador Tadgh O’Sullivan.
Beginning in 1993, the Irish began their own annual ceremony in Clifden, Co. Galway, John Riley’s hometown.
While the brave soldiers of Saint Patrick’s Battalion are not particularly well-known outside Mexico, it is clear that their god-like status in Mexico is enough to compensate for the attention they failed to receive in other countries. There is still a fond memory of “Los Colorados” the red-headed Irishmen who gave their lives in the struggle for Mexican sovereignty.
There are Irish names in prominent places – if you can recognize them. There’s “O’Brien City,” for instance, better known as Ciudad Obregon in the northern state of Sonora. Alvaro Obregon (1880-1928) was a famous and admired Mexican soldier and statesman.
Today few towns in Mexico are without a street by the name. O’Brien became the Spanish “Obregon,” just like O’Dunn and McMurphy are changed to American-English “Dunn” and “Murphy.” Sainte mait cuzat! (Irish for “Good health to you.”)
The story of the San Patricios has already been given the film treatment by Mark Day of California and it was shown on RTE earlier this year.
However it has also attracted the attention of Bill McDonald, producer of Silver, and he has shot a new version in Durango in Mexico, with Tom Berenger in the lead role as Sergeant Riley from Clifden!
More extraordinary again is that Prince Albert de Monaco, son of Princess Grace, appears as a member of the San Patricios’ famed artillery crew, “James Kelly”. Actor Mark Thomas, close friend of Prince Albert’s, had a role and involved the prince in the production since he was interested in the San Patricio story and in trying his hand at acting.
“One Man’s Hero” a film of the San Patricio Battalion (a Paramount Release) can now be rented at Blockbuster. It white washes the injustices of the US army against the Mexican civilian population and the burning of churches but at least acknowledges the event in history.
Finally Hollywood tackles the US-Mexican War with dignity.
Many of the Irish who did survive stayed in Mexico, raising families, building churches and becoming a part of the everyday fabric of Mexican life. Other Irish refugees settled in Puerto Rico. Again the priests handled all negotiations and, to this day, there is a San Patricio mall in Guaynabo.
It is also why there are many red headed Mexicans and Puerto Ricans in the world today.
As you can tell from the video below, the Irish have had a profound influence on the world’s gene pool. So, before you go out and dye the city green, take a moment to reflect on the meaning of the day and the many people who died so that you might celebrate it.