Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Investing in the Future

Good Afternoon Ladies & Gentlemen,

Last night was pretty good. I went to the gym for a few hours and did a Yoga / Pilates class (stop laughing) and met a sweet blonde girl from New Orleans who just moved to town a few months ago…so I introduced myself and we talked about the Big Easy and the city, culture, people, food, Mardi Gras, etc. but yeah…I didn't make a move or anything…because I'm a wuss. Well, that and it just didn't seem like the proper time. We'll see if we run into each other again…and who knows, maybe if we're in a situation where it's not in the middle of a calm, quiet and relaxed class, I'll get dem digits. Stranger things have happened. After that, I made some rice & vegetables with peanut sauce…and watched the season 4 premiere of Heroes. Apparently I need to watch Season 3 to find out exactly what's going on. Oh well. Here's the news…

One Bank Doing Well - Applications from would-be donors at a Loveland, Colorado sperm bank (about 40 minutes from Denver) have spiked in recent months, jumping from about 150 applications in a year to 400 since September. Betsy Cairo of CryoGam Colorado (tell me it's not pronounced Kry-O-Jam) told Denver station KMGH-TV that there have been 172 applicants in January alone. Cairo says it's the economy, adding that there aren't that many applications during good times. Dr. Eric Surrey of Denver's Colorado Center for Reproductive Medicine said he's noticed an increase in women volunteering to become egg donors as well, but not as much as the number at CryoGam. Cairo would not say how much a sperm donor can earn (it wasn't much at all in Utah…but I'll let you know if it's worth it out here if I find a place closer) but added it's not as easy as it sounds. Of the applications received since September, only four donors have been accepted. Wow, that's one percent. So yeah, maybe if your 401k isn't doing too hot, maybe you need to make a deposit elsewhere. I mean…from my point of view, you're making a little money for helping out men & women in need who want to have a baby or scientists who are trying to cure illnesses and learn more about the human body…AND you get to jerk off. Once you get past the awkwardness (magazines, seemingly clean room that you're in…but you know what goes on in there, looking at yourself in the mirror afterwards saying "I'm a star. I'm a star. I'm a big big star." and then thanking everybody on the way out for a job well done…while walking around with a million or so of your heirs in a cup) it can make you a few bucks. At least enough to pay for cable or something. No need to thank me, just pay it forward.

Dr Moreau - Then again, you may want to reconsider when you read about some things scientists do with your donation. A new British study says that it may be futile to try producing stem cells by putting human DNA into cow or rabbit eggs and making hybrid cloned embryos. The animal eggs don't reprogram human DNA in the right way to generate stem cells, researchers report. "Instead of turning on the right genes, it turns out the animal eggs actually turn them off," said senior study author Dr. Robert Lanza of Advanced Cell Technology in Worcester, Mass. Another scientist disputed that conclusion. The idea of using animal-human "hybrid" embryos drew fire last year in Britain as authorities pondered whether to let scientists try it. Opponents objected to mixing human and animal material and worried that such research could lead to genetically modified babies (ya think?). Hybrid embryos have been made elsewhere (Wyoming?), but there's no widely accepted report of getting stem cells from them. Animal eggs are attractive & available because human ones are hard to get for research (human females always playing hard to get). Scientists prize embryonic stem cells because they can develop into virtually any cell of the body. By inserting a person's DNA into an egg and growing an early embryo, scientists hope to extract stem cells that are a genetic match to that person. That would help in disease research and enable scientists to develop transplant tissue that avoids the risk of rejection. For the new work, Lanza and colleagues put human DNA into human, cow and rabbit eggs and grew them into early embryos. In embryos from human eggs, they found that patterns of gene activity resembled those in ordinary human embryos. But with the human-animal hybrid embryos, the patterns were much different. The work was funded by Lanza's company and several institutions collaborating on the research. It was published online Monday by the journal Cloning and Stem Cells. "The idea that this is the nail in the coffin for hybrids is grossly overstated," declared Stephen Minger of King's College London, who has permission from British authorities to pursue making hybrid embryos. He cited a 2008 study that reported key genes are in fact turned on in embryos made with cow eggs, although the efficiency is low. That study concluded that cow eggs could be useful if techniques to use them were further developed. Minger suggested Lanza's team looked too early in embryonic development to see the activation. Lanza, however, said he found the 2008 study to be unconvincing. So there you have it. Scientists are making animal-human hybrids. Soon we shall see a race of super intelligent monkeys and then…well, you've seen the movies. All of you who may be excited about bat-men or spider-men or some kind of wolverine-man, don’t be so hasty. Have you seen "The Fly"? The last thing that anybody needs or wants…is Jeff Goldblum with super powers. Anyway, good luck scientists. Hopefully you find that stem cell stuff that you're allegedly looking for…but I'm still watching the Redcoats. They used to rule half the known world…and now they're down to half of their island. I think they're looking for a way back to an empire…with super strong bull-men…and athletic rabbit secret agents (explains Bond's sex drive now).

Bees: Not Just Great Spellers - While honeybees might not take home any math awards, new research reveals the social insects can grasp numbers, telling the difference between two, three and four dots. Higher than that, the bees' calculators seem to go kaput in experiments. The honeybees couldn't reliably distinguish between four dots and five or six. In the lab experiments, Shaowu Zhang of the Australian National University and his colleagues had honeybees (Apis mellifera) fly through an entrance of a Y-maze marked with a pattern of either two or three dots, which were signposts to a reward. Farther into the maze at a sort of "fork in the road," the bees had to choose between two patterns by correctly matching the number of dots. So if a bee began through a two-dot entrance, the bee would then have to choose the two-dot pattern over a three-dot one to locate a sugar-water reward. After a bit of schooling, the bees were successful at the feat of distinguishing two and three dots about 80% of the time. And while the bees could pick out the three-item pattern from four about 70 percent of the time, they didn't consistently do four-to-four matches when paired with three, five or six-item patterns. It might be a stretch to say the bees were counting, but in some ways, they weren't easily fooled. Even when the researchers changed the pattern, shape or color of the dots, the bees still managed to distinguish between the different numbers of items, suggesting the bees weren't relying on their other senses to find the treat. "Bees can definitely recognize the difference between two, three and four, although four a little less reliably," Zhang said. "This is a process known as ''subitizing,' which means responding rapidly to a small number of items." This subitizing limit of four is similar to what has been found in humans, according to study researcher Jürgen Tautz of the BEEgroup, Biocenter, University of Würzburg, in Germany. For example, if you walked into a parking lot and saw a group of two, three or four cars, you would immediately know the number of cars without having to stop and count them. That flash of knowing would involve subitizing. The limit has other practical implications: "How do you keep track when you do handwritten lists? You make maximally four vertical lines, and then you cross them with the fifth one," Tautz told LiveScience. For bees, this ability to discriminate between small numbers likely helps the insects to navigate in the wild where they can travel over distances as great as 6.8 miles (11 km) to a food source, and then find their way back to the hive and out again later to the same spot, Zhang said. So along the way, the bees might navigate by distinguishing between, say, clumps of two trees versus three trees or other natural landmarks, Zhang said. Next, the researchers hope to run experiments to figure out whether the bees can actually perform elementary arithmetic such as adding. I wouldn't hold my breath on that one. I'm not saying that bees aren't intelligent enough creatures…but good luck proving they can find X on a right triangle. "It's right there."

Chimney Sweep - Firefighters in Vermont had to get creative when faced with a man stuck inside a chimney. Assistant Fire Marshal Thomas Middleton said police were called early Sunday by a woman who said she heard someone yelling for help near 144 Church Street in Burlington. They followed the voice and footprints on a snowy roof to find the unidentified man in a chimney. He told them he didn't know how he got there. (Nice!!! "I just woke up and there I was...hangin' upside down in dat der chimney.") He was stuck in the chimney for about four hours. First, they tried to pull him out with a rope, but it didn't work. Then they tried syrup…because that's what they do in Vermont…but ended up just having pancakes. Then they had to disassemble part of the chimney to get to the man, whose name isn't being released. He was taken to Fletcher Allen Health Care for evaluation…and is being described as a jolly man with a white beard and wearing a red velvet suit. Okay, that last part was made up…and the part with the syrup…but I assure you, the rest is true. A real tribute to our race right there. He should have to dress up as Santa every year now and have kids cough, sneeze and piss all over him for two months out of the year during his probation. Just an idea.

Well, that'll pretty much do it for today. Tonight, I'm going to do a Spinning class (Bike riding) and see how that works out. Who knows? Maybe I'll see the New Orleans lady in there. If not, I'll more than likely see other girls in biker shorts. Win-win, baby!!! Have a great day everybody!!!

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