Archive for February 7th, 2012
I used the 6″ lifters under the head (only) of the bed, so last night was my first on the slope. Not bad, though I don’t think I would want satin sheets. Still, quite comfortable and no night sweats.
If you know any men who shave daily but don’t actually enjoy shaving, consider giving them a copy of Leisureguy’s Guide to Gourmet Shaving. Based on the reader reviews, they’ll probably thank you, and it’s always fun to give a guy a gift that totally changes one aspect of his life—especially if the start of day becomes a source of enjoyment instead of a miserable time to get going.
Valentine’s Day is in one week, so you still have time.
Take a look. Little kids also need eye protection from UV.
I had not considered exercise as related to cellular housecleaning, but it makes sense—and somehow, for me, makes it easier to embrace exercise, probably because I’m tidy (not excessively tidy). Gretchen Reynolds reports in the NY Times:
When ticking off the benefits of physical activity, few of us would include intracellular housecleaning. But a new study suggests that the ability of exercise to speed the removal of garbage from inside our body’s cells may be one of its most valuable, if least visible, effects.
In the new research, which was published last month in Nature, scientists at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas gathered two groups of mice. One set was normal, with a finely tuned cellular scrubbing system. The other had been bred to have a blunted cleaning system.
It’s long been known that cells accumulate flotsam from the wear and tear of everyday living. Broken or misshapen proteins, shreds of cellular membranes, invasive viruses or bacteria, and worn-out, broken-down cellular components, like aged mitochondria, the tiny organelles within cells that produce energy, form a kind of trash heap inside the cell.
In most instances, cells diligently sweep away this debris. They even recycle it for fuel. Through a process with the expressive name of autophagy, or “self-eating,” cells create specialized membranes that engulf junk in the cell’s cytoplasm and carry it to a part of the cell known as the lysosome, where the trash is broken apart and then burned by the cell for energy.
Without this efficient system, cells could become choked with trash and malfunction or die. In recent years, some scientists have begun to suspect that faulty autophagy mechanisms contribute to the development of a range of diseases, including diabetes, muscular dystrophy, Alzheimer’s and cancer. The slowing of autophagy as we reach middle age is also believed to play a role in aging.
Most metabolism researchers think that the process evolved in response to the stress of starvation; cells would round up and consume superfluous bits of themselves to keep the rest of the cell alive. In petri dishes, the rate of autophagy increases when cells are starved or otherwise placed under physiological stress.
Exercise, of course, is physiological stress. But until recently, few researchers had thought to ask whether exercise might somehow affect the amount of autophagy within cells and, if so, whether that mattered to the body as a whole.
“Autophagy affects metabolism and has wide-ranging health-related benefits in the body, and so does exercise,” says Dr. Beth Levine, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator at U.T. Southwestern. “There seemed to be considerable overlap, in fact, between the health-related benefits of exercise and those of autophagy,” but it wasn’t clear how the two interacted, she says.
So she and her colleagues had lab mice run. The animals first had been medically treated so that the membranes that engulf debris inside their cells would glow, revealing themselves to the researchers. After just 30 minutes of running, the mice had significantly more membranes in cells throughout their bodies, the researchers found, meaning they were undergoing accelerated autophagy.
That finding, however, didn’t explain what the augmented cellular cleaning meant for the well-being of the mice, so the researchers developed a new strain of mouse that showed normal autophagy levels in most instances, but could not increase its cellular self-eating in response to stress. Autophagy levels would stubbornly remain the same, even if the animals were starved or vigorously exercised.
Then the researchers had these mice run, alongside a control group of normal animals. . .
The US at one time placed great emphasis on freedom of speech, but now we’re starting to pass laws that make some speech—e.g., advising a terrorist group to embrace non-violent means to achieve their goal—has been made illegal, with Obama and Holder arguing in favor of making some speech illegal. That’s Obama for you.
Spinoza covered this ground well long ago. Steven Nadler has a column in the NY Times:
aruch Spinoza, the 17th-century Dutch thinker, may be among the more enigmatic (and mythologized) philosophers in Western thought, but he also remains one of the most relevant, to his time and to ours. He was an eloquent proponent of a secular, democratic society, and was the strongest advocate for freedom and tolerance in the early modern period. The ultimate goal of his “Theological-Political Treatise” — published anonymously to great alarm in 1670, when it was called by one of its many critics “a book forged in hell by the devil himself”— is enshrined both in the book’s subtitle and in the argument of its final chapter: to show that the “freedom of philosophizing” not only can be granted “without detriment to public peace, to piety, and to the right of the sovereign, but also that it must be granted if these are to be preserved.”
Spinoza was incited to write the “Treatise” when he recognized that the Dutch Republic, and his own province of Holland in particular, was wavering from its uncommonly liberal and relatively tolerant traditions. He feared that with the rising political influence in the 1660s of the more orthodox and narrow-minded elements in the Dutch Reformed Church, and the willingness of civil authorities to placate the preachers by acting against works they deemed “irreligious,” “licentious” and “subversive,” the nearly two decades-long period of the “True Freedom” was coming to an end. The “Treatise” is both a personally angry book — a friend of Spinoza’s, the author of a radical treatise, had recently been thrown in prison, where he soon died — and a very public plea to the Dutch republic not to betray the political, legal and religious principles that made its flourishing possible.
In this work, Spinoza approaches the issue of individual liberty from several perspectives. To begin with, there is the question of belief, and especially the state’s tolerance of the beliefs of its citizens. Spinoza argues that all individuals are to be absolutely free and unimpeded in their beliefs, by right and in fact. “It is impossible for the mind to be completely under another’s control; for no one is able to transfer to another his natural right or faculty to reason freely and to form his own judgment on any matters whatsoever, nor can he be compelled to do so.”
For this reason, any effort on the government’s part to rule over the beliefs and opinions of citizens is bound to fail, and will ultimately serve to undermine its own authority. A sovereign is certainly free to try and limit what people think, but the result of such a policy, Spinoza predicts, would be only to create resentment and opposition to its rule.It can be argued that the state’s tolerance of individual belief is not a difficult issue. As Spinoza points out, it is “impossible” for a person’s mind to be under another’s control, and this is a necessary reality that any government must accept. The more difficult case, the true test of a regime’s commitment to toleration, concerns the liberty of citizens to express those beliefs, either in speech or in writing. And here Spinoza goes further than anyone else of his time: “Utter failure,” he says, “will attend any attempt in a commonwealth to force men to speak only as prescribed by the sovereign despite their different and opposing opinions … The most tyrannical government will be one where the individual is denied the freedom to express and to communicate to others what he thinks, and a moderate government is one where this freedom is granted to every man.”
Spinoza has a number of compelling arguments for the freedom of expression. One is based both on the natural right (or natural power) of citizens to speak as they desire, as well as on the apparent fact that (as in the case of belief per se) it would be self-defeating for a government to try to restrain that freedom. No matter what laws are enacted against speech and other means of expression, citizens will continue to say what they believe (because they can), only now they will do so in secret. The result of the suppression of freedom is, once again, resentment and a weakening of the bonds that unite subjects to their government. In Spinoza’s view, intolerant laws lead ultimately to anger, revenge and sedition. The attempt to enforce them is a “great danger to the state.” (This would certainly have been the lesson gleaned from recent history, as the Dutch revolt originated in the repressive measures that the Spanish crown imposed on its northern territories in the 16th century.)
Spinoza also argues for freedom of expression on utilitarian grounds — that it is necessary for the discovery of truth, economic progress and the growth of creativity. Without an open marketplace of ideas, science, philosophy and other disciplines are stifled in their development, to the technological, fiscal and even aesthetic detriment of society. As Spinoza puts it, “this freedom [of expressing one’s ideas] is of the first importance in fostering the sciences and the arts, for it is only those whose judgment is free and unbiased who can attain success in these fields.”
Spinoza’s extraordinary views on freedom have never been more relevant. In 2010, for example, the United States Supreme Court declared constitutional a law that, among other things, criminalized certain kinds of speech. The speech in question need not be extremely and imminently threatening to anyone or pose “a clear and present danger” (to use Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes’ phrase). It may involve no incitement to action or violence whatsoever; indeed, it can be an exhortation to non-violence. In a troubling 6-3 decision, Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project, the Court, acceding to most of the arguments presented by President Obama’s attorney general, Eric Holder, upheld a federal law which makes it a crime to provide support for a foreign group designated by the State Department as a “terrorist organization,” even if the “help” one provides involves only peaceful and legal advice, including speech encouraging that organization to adopt nonviolent means for resolving conflicts and educating it in the means to do so. (The United States, of course, is not alone among Western nations in restricting freedom of expression. Just this week, France — fresh from outlawing the wearing of veils by Muslim women, and in a mirror image of Turkey’s criminalizing the public affirmation of the Armenian genocide — made it illegal to deny, in print or public speech, officially recognized genocides.)
For Spinoza, by contrast, there is to be no criminalization of ideas in the well-ordered state. . .
Continue reading. This first law is just testing the waters, I imagine. Soon the rollback of the Bill of Rights will continue and perhaps accelerate.