What to watch: Between, S1 E2

rbc_micrograph

Red blood cells, erythrocytes, under a microscope. Image by Drs. Noguchi, Rogers and  Schechter via Wikimedia Commons

Another one of the Canadian/Netflix on demand series, Between season 2 became available in June. A virus kills all inhabitants aged over 21 in  a US town called Pretty Lake. The town is quarantined and the children and young adults are left to fend for themselves,  leading to a YA “Lord of the Flies”. Of course, there’s a government conspiracy, which creates an unlikely situation of supply airdrops absence.  But despite a few plot holes, The characters are compelling, the plot moves along nicely.

Unfortunately, unlike in my favorite human cloning series, Orphan Black, the science of Between is completely bogus. A scientist who sneaked into Pretty Lake with  an experimental vaccine looks at something round and red swirling on the screen (red blood cells?) and the vaccine represented by a yellow  shimmering circle around them. He says that the virus sits inside cells and eats them  from inside out, which is represented by churning and undulating cells as if an alien is trying to get out. The cells resist the virus until the 21st birthday date when boom! cells collapse and the person dies.

21 is the age of adulthood in the US when you suddenly allowed to drink, while you could marry, drive a car and join the Army before that magical date. From the biology point of view, 21th birthday is a completely arbitrary date. A  virus wouldn’t know when precisely you were born – it’s virus, not a notary. In the absence of a document, it’s difficult to even estimate a persosn’s age – people who don’t have their birth certificate pass as underage for years and a convincing fake ID would age you.

Yes, there are viruses, which cause diseases in  (mostly) children, for example, notorious mumps, measles, and rubella viruses. This apparent age specificity is caused by  children’s underdeveloped immune systems as it’s still possible to get infected as an adult if you miss the childhood infection or not vaccinated. Assuming, that it’s possible to create a virus, which targets adults, it should hit anybody who reached an age of puberty, which can vary between 10 and 20 depending on the environmental conditions.

It’s the general condition of your body that would matter to a virus, not your birthdate. We all heard about a sprightly 90 yeas old, who run marathons and know 30 y.o. who look and have the health conditions of people of twice their age.

 

Nutricosmetics: snake oil now in a pill form

IrynaIlkavets2016_SamsungGalaxyTabS2_Tabletki1
IrynaIlkavets2016_SamsungGalaxyTabS2_Tabletki1

Nutricosmetics: ingest before breakfast, repeat twice during the day. Pay $60+ per month.  (Image by Iryna Ilkavets, Samsung Galaxy Note 2, CC-BY)

In The Stylist beauty issue, there is a feature article about nutricosmetics, defined as “beauty products you ingest rather than apply”. The rationale – skin/hair/nail are growing things, which you can supplement from outside (the usual “beauty products” – lotions and creams) or from an inside  – in a pill form. Sort of spray on the leaves fertiliser vs. fertiliser in the soil for your plants.

Sounds good if you don’t pay attention to the caveats mentioned in the article:

A)  As the skin is outside of the body, whatever product you are eating, you need to saturate the body from within to get to the skin.

B) The air conditioner argument. Your body is like an air conditioner – when it overshoots the set temperature, it compensates by cooling, sometimes overshooting in the other direction but eventually returning to the balance. So if you try to increase the concentration of say, vitamin A by eating a lot of it in one go, after a short spike the excess is removed via urine, and there is an actual drop in its concentration. And if it accumulates, you skin turns orange and it becomes toxic.

Let’s have a look at the products mentioned in the article about nutricosmetics:

Lumity – £90 ($135) per month for a cocktail of lysine, arginine, and glutamine. These are aminoacids,  building blocks of protein. I don’t have a problem with this, except that you should be getting enough aminoacids from you food. And if you want to top up just in case, you can buy aminoacids in any health shop for 1/10 of the Lumity  price. Continue reading

Follow the leader: Carol Tice and Linda Formichelli’s Pitch Clinic

As expected, I’m unable to republish my review about  Carol Tice and Linda Formichelli’s Pitch Clinic in the established blogs about writing. The market of “help for bloggers” can sustain only so many players. They all know each other, they all guest post and support each other, which is good for them.

I’d had a similar situation when I wanted to complain about a property lawyer who made a mistake. Nobody wanted to represent me, as they preferred a long-term relationship with the other  local property lawyers to a small potato case.

More unexpectedly, I was blocked from BlogHer – an aggregate blog where I tried to republish as they accept previously published pieces. They considered the review spam. When I tried to argue that it’s an honest review (which I consider neutral, maybe on a slightly positive side), they told me that sometimes paid bloggers write a push piece disguised as a review and apparently my post looks like one of those.

If it looks like a duck, if it quacks like a duck, it’s a cat disguised as a duck.

Carol Tice and Linda Formichelli’s Pitch Clinic (Autumn 2015)

Saint Jerome - patron saint of writers and tranlators - in his study. Image by Domenico Girlandajo (1480) via Wikimedia Commons.

 

While reputable periodicals shed their staff, the Internet is full of courses for aspiring journalists. While the content mills pay $5 for a thousand words and numerous “pay-per-click” just promise to pay when your post goes viral (at approximately the same odds as you winning a lottery), the courses promise to teach how to be paid $1 per word.

I’m usually skeptical about  “get rich quick” schemes. However, as a beginner freelance writer, I subscribed to blogs of the US authors Carol Tice and Linda Formichelli. They have great advice for aspiring writers in exchange for the ads of their products – books, mentoring and online courses.

Marketing of the course, Pitch Clinic, was a free lesson in itself.  I subscribe to both Carol and Linda’s newsletters.  I was bombarded by promotional emails:  “The course is coming soon”,  “registration open”, “you still have a chance”, “we have a great editor who will look at your proposals”, “and another great editor”.  At last, I was seduced by the offer that if I finish all the assignments on time, I will get all the money, $300, back.

How the Pitch Clinic works

You get access to a forum where you listen to pre-recorded lectures and collect handouts such as a flowchart how to write Letter of Introduction (LOI).  The forum software was irritating, the “watch this topic” bookmarks slipping all the time. But the support system was excellent,  correcting my mistakes such as posting in wrong places, changing the title, etc. almost immediately.

First, you submit your “pitch idea” The idea should be approved by one of the mentors, media professionals including Linda and Carol.  You can provide up to 3 ideas, but only the first one is approved. As a result, I was stuck with a topic, which the more I worked on, the more I disliked it. Continue reading

Why do we bury our dead: transmissible Alzheimer’s revisited

A protein molecule is like an origami: it folds and folds in mysterious ways until you have a 3D structure. But beware of incorrect folding, it gives your aggregation and diseases . Image by OpenStax College [CC BY 3.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons

In my earlier post, I wrote about a finding that transfusion of a contaminated protein, growth hormone, led to the patients developing “mad cow disease” (CJD) but – more unexpectedly – Alzheimer’s disease.

The good news is that the finding, as it often happens with much-publicized results, is not a fluke. It’s been confirmed by an independent study. The bad news  – there’s a new way of Alzheimer’s disease transmission in town.

The Swiss scientists studied people who were transplanted tissue that covers the brain and spinal cord, called dura. Seven of dura recipients died from CJD. Their brains were studied postmortem – the only way to diagnose CJD – and five of them had signs of Alzheimer’s. The patients were too young to acquire this disease of old age.

This finding can be confirmed by a third independent group in Japan, although it’s as  yet unpublished.

There’s need to panic. Just as HIV is not transmitted by touch and cuddle and kiss, short of injecting or transplanting the diseased matter, there is no way you will be infected by interaction with an Alzheimer’s patient. The doctors do not use hormones or dura purified from cadavers anymore. They were replaced by synthetic replacements, which don’t have diseases seeds.

On the other hand, surgical procedures are not designed with CJD and Alzheimer’s ‘seeds’ in mind. The seeds are very resistant to the usual sterilisation treatments, which kill bacteria and viruses. They are just incorrectly folded protein and don’t need DNA for reproduction. With the number of old patients who have more chance of having Alzheimer’s rising the chances of seeds, transmission raises as well, unless the doctors do something about it.

Men’s Skincare: The Unusual Suspects

A stinging nettle plant. Image By Júlio Reis (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Men have it easy if you consider the volume and degree of bullcrap associated with products targeted to women. Maybe the marketers think that men are less inclined to believe bull or they are more critical or more scientifically minded. Or afraid to scare off men, who for centuries survived without skin products beyond hair grooming. But as the number of men’s grooming products increases to include eye creams and moisturisers the bullshitters are moving into the new territory.

Take the Autumn/Winter Style Issue of  British  ShortList magazine. One its features were about men’s grooming products, which contain unusual ingredients.  Some of the ingredients don’t raise my eyebrow – I know about the vast spectrum of biologically active compounds, which plants accumulate. I would never argue that, for example,  Camomile extract does not soothe skin irritation, or that tea tree oil inhibits blemishes.

But let’s have a look at the list, assuming that the title ingredients are not present in “homoeopathic”  e.g. “name only, no substance” quantities.

Continue reading